Friday, April 29, 2016

It's Raining Diamonds!

One of my favorite things about homeschooling is that I get to go to school all over again!  I love learning new things along side the kids.

We studied some interesting facts about Neptune today.  Did you know that scientists believe that the conditions on Neptune would actually result in diamond dust falling from the sky??  Yes, it rains diamonds on Neptune.....maybe.

So, we also learned that there are vehement storms on Neptune, much like those of Saturn and Jupiter. Our project today was to create a cloud in a jar, as there are clouds and storms on Neptune.  We did this by pouring very hot water from a tea kettle in to a quart canning jar.  We then dropped a lit match into the jar and quickly covered the top of the jar with a ziplock bag filled with ice.

Here's the result.  A cloud in a jar.

The coolest part to watch was actually when we removed the ice bag and the cloud came swirling out.  I tried to get a picture.  You can't see it that well.

Are Park Days Worth it?

Our park day was cancelled last week due to a down pouring of rain!  So we headed out yesterday to a local park to try again.  Again, the weather wasn't fantastic but we were looking forward to meeting up with friends and getting outside.

I confess that I was feeling tired and contemplated skipping this outing.  This park has water and it can be a real pain to bring home wet, sandy, hungry, tired kids that don't feel like hiking uphill at the end of the day.  I wasn't sure I was up for it.

Sometimes it's easier to just stay home to let the baby nap and send the kids outside to find their own fun.  But I'm glad we went.  I'm always glad that we go.  It's just the going that can be a struggle sometimes.

But where else can you join a pickup a game of tag or hide and go seek?  Or climb trees or bang out Mary Had  Little Lamb on the park "drums" with sticks.  Where else can you find about 12 slugs within 3 feet of hiking trail and repeatedly ask the young hikers to please not stab them with sticks?  Where else can you watch your 8 month old squish her toes in the sand for the first time, or watch your son test his balance on a fallen tree over the water, or your daughter enjoying a book in the dappled shade of a newly leafed tree?  Or new friendships forming as 10 year olds scale moss covered trees together?

Yes, on the upward hike back to the car there were moans and groans, tired legs, forgotten water bottles and impromptu wardrobe changes mid trail to compensate for unplanned dips in the lake.  But I still think it's worth it to put down the books, gather the troops, pack up the car and drive to the parks.  These are the days, memories, and friendships that we will always cherish.  These are the days when I am glad my kids are not in school.  They are here with me, squishing their toes in the sand.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

A Spoon Full of Sugar

A little sugar helps the Assessment Day go well.

Yes, that's right.  I eased the burden of annual assessments with a little sugar in the form of some frozen yogurt today.  Our state requires annual assessments of all homeschoolers ages 8 and older.  We used the CAT and did just the math, reading, science and social studies portions. Half way through the testing we took a break and got a treat before heading out to the library and the park

I always tell the kids that the test is more for ME so I can know how I'm doing as a teacher. That seems to help ease any concerns they may have.

I don't actually put a whole lot of stock in testing. It's a picture of one moment in time along a life-long journey of learning.  But the skill of taking a test is one they need to build.  So I don't mind it as much as some homeschoolers may.

These kiddos worked hard today.

This was his first testing experience. Working hard at his desk.

This one is too young for testing so we spent the day reading stories in between my proctoring.
This one worked at the dining table

ANd this one was testing at the kitchen table

It turned out to be a blustery April day.   We felt especially cold after eating our fro yo.   But we headed out to the park to play anyway.

Um, he said he was too cold to get out.  Wearing shorts on a windy day after eating frozen yogurt = hiding in the back of the car to stay warm?  Ok....

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Need Another Reason to Homeschool?

It's late. I'm tired. I wont' take long to say this. But I have seen no less than TWO articles today about transgender bathroom laws in different states: VA and NC.

I can tell that this transgender bathroom thing will just keep coming up over and over again until the whole country is forced to  pretend that it's ok for naked boys and girls to shower together, or for men and 15-yo girls to use the same restroom.  The left is very good at using the ware-down tactic. They hammer and hammer and hammer away until the nation is so weary of the debate and so afraid of being "unfair" that we all just cave to the nonsense.

But if you ever needed another reason to homeschool, this just might be the one.  Check it out.

Transgender Boy Sues School for Accommodating her Bathroom Needs.

Pinewood Derby 2016

One thing I love about the scouting program is the effort to include whole families in the pack meetings and special events.

Last night we all went to see my son compete in the Pinewood Derby!  My oldest was out babysitting and she hated to miss it.  She got an earful later though.

before the race started we had a fun surprise.  One of the members of our church is a racer and has a REAL race car! He brought it to show it off to the kids. I am not at all impressed by cars. I never have been.  But it was cool to get up close to one of these things and learn a little bit about the car, gear, and physics of racing.

The owner of the car brought it inside of a mega huge RV that was brand new.  He opened up the back of the RV and the kids were able to get up on the end of it and listen while standing next to the car.

I snuck up in the back and took pics from inside the RV looking out.

We headed inside for the Derby.  This was my first time watching a derby and it was pretty fun.  Of course there were super fun snacks and a lot of energy from the announcer of the races!

The anticipation!

The cheering section

He won second place over all.  :)  And he got a special award for best use of color.  Don't be deceived by his nonchalant look.  He was super excited to participate and win second place!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Nature Inspired Art

We moved up the date for our next art club because some of the kids will be out of town next week.  My goal for the lesson was to help the girls understand that artist must be good observers and that observing nature can inspire lots of great artwork.

We started by looking at an example of nature inspired art work.

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In Flanders Field by Robert Vonnoh

We had fun noticing all the details and colors in this painting.

Then we played a little game that required the girls to use their powers of observation.  It's a common game.  They had all played it before but it was fun.   I set out a bunch of random objects and game them some time to study it.  Then I covered the objects with a blanket and secretly removed an item.  Then I unveiled the set of objects again and asked them to guess which object was missing.  They were pretty good at it!

Then I sent the girls outside to find an object from nature that they would like to study and draw.  They all came back with dandelions!  Of course.  So cute.

I gave each of them a magnifying glass and we spent some time looking at our dandelions and noticing all of their details: The colors, shapes, lines, textures...

We also had a fun time figuring out how to use a magnifying glass!  Things got a little silly.

Here's the dandelion from my sweet little 5 yo.  Love it.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Family Book Club: Gold Rush Kid

Finally! We finished our read aloud book and had our book club last night.  Here's the book we read

I love reading historical fiction, and this one is set fairly close to home, so it was even more fun to learn about.

So, in planning our book club there were SO many topics that could have been covered, but so little time to hold the meeting!

I ended up sharing a little bit of the geography of the area.  The National Park Service was very helpful in providing maps and background information.

To help the kids understand the weight, size and cost of an outfit I used information from THIS SITE and shared bits about Mont Hawthorne's outfit.

When I was reading the book, I got a little impatient reading about Soapy Smith.  I wasn't really interested in his dealings.  But during my prep and research I discovered that he was an actual person and he really did do the horrid things described in the book!  That was eye opening for me and made his "character" much more real.  So I wanted to share more about him with the kids from THIS SITE.

By that time, the kids were sick of talking and wanted to get on to the fun stuff!  I was ready for that too.

I had invited two other families to come to the club, so my plan was to set up six stations, each of which would be supervised by one of the parents.  We ended up with only 4 parents present, but it still worked out and the kids had a super fun time!

The stations were
1. Photo Booth
2. Chilkoot Trail
3.  Mizz Mulrooney's
4.  Pan for Gold
5. Try Your Luck
6. Cook Your Grub

I gave each parent a little blurb about the station and how it was supposed to work.

I'll give more details on each station and how they worked in a sec.

I asked the kids to bring a sock to act as their "poke" (small leather money back for carrying gold nuggets) because I just didn't have time to make anything cooler for the poke.  To get them started I filled their pokes with 5 nuggets each.  The nuggets were rocks that I had washed and spray painted gold.

Then I gave each of the kids a Klondike Passport and folded them into mini books.  I wanted to use a cool western font so I downloaded a font called Saloon Girl.

Here is the passport template:

Here's what it looks like folded up.

Here's a little video on how to fold your mini book into a passport.  I did it a different way but this works too!

The kids got a sticker in their passport for each station they completed.

I split the kids into three teams by ages.  The teams were

Klondike Kids
Stampede Studs
Skagway Sweethearts

I assigned my oldest daughter to be a team leader for the Klondike Kids (5 year olds) so that they wouldn't get lost or confused or hurt as they went along.  Each team had a "schedule" that told them which station to go to and in what order.

Station One: The Photo Booth
I loved putting this station together.  I wanted it to look somewhat authentic so I went to a local antique shop to look for props.  Everything was so overpriced!  I explained my situation to the store owner and he was so kind!  He let me take the items I needed on loan and I will bring them back later this week. Of course, he has my check for $125 as collateral....but still, I felt so fortunate! I took an old rope, lantern, washboard, barrel, wide flat pan, miner's helmet and a pickax.  I think the pick ax didn't actually make it out into the photo booth,unfortunately. Details...details.
I also added in a little western cowgirl hat and bandanna for effect.  I had my daughter make up some mustaches and hats on a stick.  And then I found this really cool tutorial on how to make dynamite props.  Super authentic looking! (It fooled my husband...)

So here's the station before the kids came:

And here are pics of the kids using the photo booth

While the kids were at the photo booth I asked them to give a one-or-two sentence statement about their experience looking for gold in the Yukon.  My intention was to write up their comments in an "article" and create our own little version of The Alaskan news paper.

Here's how the paper turned out (two separate pages)

Station Two: Chilkoot Trail
The kids had to lug a bunch of nonsense items up the deck stairs, but they had to do it in multiple trips just like BIlly and Ed.  When they got to the top the Canadian Mounties (my husband) inspected their outfit and stamped their passports, but only for a price!

Station Three: Mizz Mulrooney's
Here was a chance for the kids to earn back some of their gold!  Instead of chopping wood, I had them washing socks with a plunger type hand washing mechanism and some fels naptha soap.  They had to rinse, squeeze and hang the socks by hand as well.  They also had brooms to do some sweeping.  They earned lots of money here.  I wasn't really worried about anyone showing up to the cafe with no gold to buy their snack.

Station Four: Pan for Gold
This was probably the best station!  This was the heart of the experience.  I asked the dad in charge to hide 10-12 pieces of gold for each team in the sand.  To make the experience more authentic I also froze some gold nuggets inside of ice cube molds and hid a few of those in the sand too.  I kept them cold in a cooler off to the side of the sand box and refilled the sandbox between each team.  If the kids found an ice cube nugget, they had to use really skinny screw drivers (like mini ice picks) to chip away the ice and get the nugget.  It was hard and took some time! But those kids wanted their gold!

Station Five: Try Your Luck
This was my station. I picked it because it was inside and I had the baby with me.  She was getting super tired and cranky so this allowed me to sooth her and care for her in between teams.  The gist of this station was to give the kids an idea of the value of gold, then and now.  But also to show them how easy it was to be conned out of their money by slippery characters like Soapy Smith and the like.

I set up a cup and ball game for the kids. They won money for guessing where the ball was hidden and lost money for an incorrect guess.  Some kids got it right!

Then I used a food scale to weigh one ounce of nuggets (rocks) and show them how much an ounce of gold was.  I then told them the current price of gold .  Yesterday it was $1,233.75.  Then I showed them a big thick heavy book and asked them to make a guess about how much the book would cost in today's money if it were made of solid gold.

The younger girls went WAY over.  The older girls were WAY under. The boys were closest and my 8yo won.  he came in with a guess of 23K and the answer was 28K.  Incorrect guesses had to pay me money and correct guesses won money.

Station Six: Cook Your Grub
The closest thing I had to a folding Yukon stove was a sterno stove.  I wasn't sure if we'd have enough time for each team to boil water and cook a hot dog or anything else on that tiny little stove.  So I also had a big bag of marshmallows and let them pick if they wanted to boil a hot dog (one third of a dog) or roast a marshmallow on that little flame. Of course they all picked the sugar.  I should have just left the dogs in the fridge.
Since one of our families couldn't' come my daughter sort of helped to man the station, seeing how there was a flame involved.  I'm happy to announce there were no accidents.  I had the sticks soaking in water for along time to make sure they wouldn't burn.  Everyone loved this station, but it did cost some nuggets!!

Oyster Cafe
When we had all made it through the stations we met up on the deck at Oyster Cafe for some grub and to hear the winner of the guessing game announced.
For eats we had:
raisin cups with a few chocolate chips - cost 1 nugget
Biscuits - 2 nuggets
jam cups - 1 nugget
baked beans in a cup- 2 nuggets
watering hole - free.

None of it was homemade. I just didn't have time yesterday since we were in our co-op classes until 2:30 pm and book club was at 6:30.  But nobody complained.  Most of it got eaten up and the kids had fun paying nuggets for their grub.

By then it was getting dark and kids were getting very dirty and tired!  So we wrapped it up pretty quick and said goodbye to our fellow prospectors.

It was a fun night.