Thursday, January 28, 2010

Yikes! No time!

Mr. Popper's Penguins; the Egyptian pharaoh Menes; measuring angles; fractions to decimals; bacteria experiments; Galileo Galilei; the animal kingdom; make your own pop-up book kit; speech club; swimming; ceramics; a new glockenspiel; a trip to the library; independent reading. Whew!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Helping Haiti

Anyone in the mood for brownies, sugar cookies and root beer was in luck today!

The kids recruited a couple of friends and set up a snack stand on the corner. We were lucky to have a warm(ish) day, so lots of people were out. When the sun started to go down, the kids broke down their stand and sold the rest door-to-door. At the end of the day, they had earned $20.60. Dad and I had agreed to double their earnings, so the kids will be sending $41.20 to Unicef tonight. They are proud of themselves, and we're proud of them, too.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Drop Everything, We're Studying Haiti

We'll be spending most of the day talking about Haiti and earthquakes. Enchanted Learning has an outline map of Haiti and its flag. BrainPop has a couple of good movies and activities, and we'll be visiting some of National Geographic sites here and here. The Mercalli scale is explained here. The USGS has good resources for kids here and here. A good simple explanation of the Richter scale is here. And a news article explaining what happened in Haiti can be found here.

It's nice to have the freedom to scrap our plans and focus on current events. The new plan seems more relevant than Ancient Egypt, mixed fractions and eukaryotic cells today. The kids are also planning a bake sale to raise money for Haiti.

If you come across any other good resources, please let us know!

Friday, January 8, 2010

This Week at the Super Awesome School

We had a fun, productive week here at the Super Awesome School!

Laura as a young woman

Our Laura Ingalls Wilder collage and timeline is shaping up. Super and Dude don't want me to post it until it's done, but here's a sneak preview. We watched a YouTube video called "Alone in the Wilderness" and then the kids wrote a description of how they might feel if they were there. (I know, it's Alaska, not Wisconsin. But it's not easy to find the Big Woods in Wisconsin anymore!) Both kids were very interested in how the log cabin was constructed. It reminded them of a certain toy they used to play with when they were younger!

Dad helped the kids with their Mesopotamian timelines, and then they read Gilgamesh The King by Ludmila Zeman. Since they were already familiar with the story of Gilgamesh, they found this version lacking in detail (but beautifully illustrated.) To begin their Egypt unit, Dad had them watch the Discovery Channel's "Engineering an Empire," and then they read Ghosts of the Nile by Cheryl Harness. They are really excited about next week, because they will get to "make stuff," as Dude puts it.

Super's version: I love the little deer running by!

Dude loves to draw flies buzzing around Enkidu.

We did two cool science experiments this week. We combined seltzer tablets (solid) with water (liquid) to make carbon dioxide (gas); then we tried to catch the carbon dioxide in balloons. We experimented with different amounts of water and Alka-Seltzer and tried to fill up the balloons as much as we could.


...and after!

Later, we used a different solid and liquid (baking soda and vinegar) and tried to funnel the gas toward a candle and put it out. It was hard to put the candle out but we discovered that it was much easier to blow out a match. Then the kids wrote about the experiments in their science journals. Phrases like "totally exploded" and "went kaboom" were used, but it was really more like "ran all over the table" and "made a mess."

For our French lesson this week, the kids made mini-books called Les Animaux de la Foret. (How I love!)

Editing our rough draft

My favorite writing resource, Mastering the Mechanics, recommends doing lots of modeled writing for kids. So...I wrote some boring sentences on the whiteboard and after the kids proofread them for spelling and punctuation, we worked together to make the story more interesting. Once they caught on, they wrote their own paragraphs about our trip to Yellowstone. I was really proud of what they came up with.

Big numbers don't scare us!

Our math review went well, and since they finished it early, they got a break from math today. Next week we're going to continue with fractions, but we'll do lots of multiplication fact practice as well. I'm really pleased with Math on the Level so far, and my favorite quote of the week comes from Dude, who said, "I LOVE 5-a-days!"

Just 'cuz, we read about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch on Wikipedia. We postponed our museum field trip because a playdate sounded more fun. We'll be hanging out at the library tomorrow, and on Sunday, we'll attempt to make a vinegar pie. (I have been assured that it's a lot better than it sounds!) Hope you had a great week, too!


Thursday, January 7, 2010

Engineering marvels

Trust me, you do NOT want your city to be attacked by these!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Thief Lord

Super: Do they watch TV in Venice?

Me: Sure, they have TV's there.

Super: So, instead of Honda commercials, do they show boat commercials?

I don't know if we'll finish reading The Thief Lord in time for our book club meeting--it's SO long and even though it's pretty good, we're getting a bit tired of it. This book is wordy. This book has 53 chapters. It's 2 inches thick and I have to admit, we are tempted to skip the next half inch or so!

I feel like we "cheated" a bit by watching the movie tonight, but at least it gave the kids an opportunity to see lots of great Venice scenery. In my younger days, I backpacked through Italy and spent a few days at a youth hostel in Venice, and I've tried to describe the city's magical atmosphere to them. But the movie actually shows the beautiful buildings, the Piazza San Marco, the canals, and even the water taxis and police boats.

Dude: I give it 3 1/2 stars. I was going to say 4 but I would like it better if they didn't change some things in the book.

Super: Four stars. I liked it. They didn't stay original to the book, but I liked it.

Mom: A bit choppy, but I'm sure it's hard to fit a 347 page book into a two hour movie. And I thought the kids were better actors than the grownups! Four stars, I mean stella.

Back to School Tomorrow!

Our super awesome science lab... Bwah ha ha ha!

The Christmas tree decorations are down, the new toys and clothes that Santa brought are put away, and the January lessons are (mostly) planned. Super and I are still suffering from this icky cold, but we're not too sick to start school. I'm actually really excited to get back on schedule, and I think the kids are ready, too. They've had a good break, but are already asking what we'll be doing this month...

Dude got an awesome chemistry set for Christmas, and Super got a giant Elements of Science kit, so we'll be using them in addition to our NOEO lessons. (Little do they know that all those nonfiction books we read over the break were part of our science curriculum! Heh, heh, heh!) Both kids are fascinated with the aurora borealis now; I guess I'll just have to put Alaska on our "someday" list!

Since we've been reading Little House in the Big Woods together, I thought it would be fun to make a Laura Ingalls Wilder collage/timeline, to put the story in historical perspective. I happened to mention to Dude that Coca-Cola was invented the same year that Rose Wilder was born, and he got really excited about the project and started calling it "our soft drink unit." (Maybe we'll celebrate its completion with a Coke!) Of course the best way to get Super interested is to relate it to animals somehow, so we'll be making a book called Wildlife in the Big Woods. We'll be studying bears, wolves, and other animals mentioned in the series.

We plan to cook some pioneer-style food as well. I have a terrific resource called The Little House Cookbook by Barbara M. Walker. In addition to the historic recipes, the author gives an honest assessment of what dishes are actually good to eat, as opposed to the ones that are more, um, "educational." We already tried making butter, and we'll be having a johnny-cake breakfast soon, and baked beans and blueberry pudding for dinner one night.

Santa brought me a word wall chart!

I'm really excited to start the year with our new Math on the Level curriculum. I set up the record keeping system over the weekend and made a couple of week's worth of lesson plans and 5-a-days. Long before I read about this curriculum, I had started making mini-practice sheets for the kids because it was clear that they didn't need tons of repetitive drill. We called them "quick six" sheets. It really boosted my confidence to find that Math on the Level uses a similar system! Our first week will consist of lots of review, from subtraction with rounding to multiplication word problems. And we'll get some fraction review with our Little House cooking projects. I don't want to jump into a new topic the first week, but if it looks like we're moving too slowly, I can always adjust the pace.

Dad plans to teach history on Wednesdays, and he'll also start with a review. The kids will look over the timelines they made and discuss what they have learned so far, from the Stone Age to the Ancient Sumerians. Then, it's on to Egypt and Greece!

We learned about Van Gogh's life and paintings last semester, and we'll move on to Monet and Cassatt soon. We never got a chance to do our Van Gogh art project, so that's on the agenda for Friday, along with a museum field trip. A lot of our favorite exhibits seem to be ending this month, so we're trying to catch a few things before they're gone.

Every spelling workbook we've tried so far has been uninspiring, so I'm making a change to AVKO Sequential Spelling. I really like the theory behind it, but I haven't seen it in practice yet. We'll do the first lesson tomorrow and see how it goes (actually, we'll probably do the first 5 or 6 lessons, judging by the difficulty level.) I'm hoping it will make it easier for the kids to do spelling together, instead of maintaining two lists.

We'll continue with the writing practice techniques from Mastering the Mechanics. I still feel like writing takes a back seat to math and science. This year we need to strive for more balance in that area. They get some writing practice working on their science and history notebooks, but not as much as they need. It should be easy to work some writing opportunities into our Laura Ingalls Wilder author study.

As requested by the kids, we'll be taking an imaginary trip to Africa later this spring. I found a couple of great ready-made unit studies and I'm already working on our book list. Super has been interested in lions (and other big cats) for a long time, and both kids really love elephants, so it should be a fun unit for everyone. In addition, Dude wants to make a lapbook about the history of the automobile. Not sure where that came from, but I found some great books for him already. Super isn't sure what her next lapbook will be. I'm betting on an animal of some kind!

The kids will need some time to prepare presentations for their speech club, and Super will probably do drama club again this semester. She and I are really enjoying our mother-daughter book club, too. I'll be teaching at least one French class for our co-op, and we'll continue our Tuesday tea parties where the kids write letters to their pen-pals. If we do just half the things on my master planner, we're sure to have a fun and fascinating semester. I can't wait to get started!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!

When I was a kid, I always wanted to stay up until midnight to ring in the new year. Nowadays, if it's the new year somewhere in the world, that's good enough for me! We drank our champagne while we cooked dinner, and were in bed by 10:30!

We're starting 2010 with colds here: fevers, sore throats, runny noses, the whole wonderful deal. But you know what? That's OK. Really, I'm taking it as a reminder to slow down and stop trying to do everything perfectly. This year I'm trying to turn down the stess-o-meter and make more realistic goals for myself and our family. There will be time to learn; we don't have to cover the entire scope of human knowledge this month! There will be days when the kids are excited, cooperative, and interested in their work and there will be days when we just plod through the lessons and eventually give up and go to Starbucks. There will be days when our house is a chaotic mess, and there will be days when I (almost) feel like I've got it together. This is life, and the more I try to control every detail of it, the less I enjoy it.

Last night Dad and I cooked a great dinner together. This is one of our goals for 2010: to spend at least one evening a week in the kitchen together. We used to have a lot of fun trying out new recipes, especially ethnic cuisine. Over the years we have made Thai dishes, Indian curries, German pastries, Japanese tempura, and even sushi. Somehow, cooking together moved to the back burner (sorry!) and the goal became just getting dinner on the table. This year, we're hoping to put the fun back into it, get the kids involved, and enjoy being in the kitchen together. Last night we made a super easy eggplant parmigiana from Mario Batali's Molto Italiano cookbook. It was fun to cook together (especially while sipping our champagne six hours early!)

This morning we're sipping our coffee, blowing our noses, and watching the Rose Bowl parade together. (Ohmygosh! Did you see the snowboarding bulldogs?!) At some point, I might maybe possibly work up the energy to do a bit of laundry or pick up the living room. But if I don't, that's OK, too.

We have so much to be thankful for: our family, our home, our freedom, our happy, peaceful days. This wonderful country, this beautiful world. May we never lose sight of what is truly important. Make 2010 whatever you want it to be, and have a happy, healthy, fun, peaceful, delicious, sensational year!