Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to all of my readers! I hope you are all enjoying your holiday.

I wanted to share a service project that my son did this Thanksgiving to help those less fortunate in our community. Every year (for the last 20 years), my son's karate school has done a kick-a-thon to raise money to feed the needed Thanksgiving dinner. They collect the money and buy food, package into large baskets and deliver it to families in need in our community. I thought this was a very worthy cause and I thought it would help my son understand that there are many people who need a little help every once in a while. I thought it was especially good for him to see that there are people in need right here in our town, these are our neighbors.

He was eager to collect donations from family and friends. Each person donated per kick and then he performed a whopping 1000 kicks in one 45min class! He was able to raise enough money to feed three families Thanksgiving dinner this year. I am so happy that he had this opportunity for service, sometimes kids forget how good they have it.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Taking a Holiday

We are taking a break for the holiday this week. We have been schooling since mid-August with only one day (Labor Day) off. I think we have earned it and quite honestly, we need this break. B(22mo) will be hanging with me all week as usual but she will get some added attention as T(7yrs) will be attended a couple of local holiday camps. Then we will be hosting Thanksgiving dinner at our house for the first time ever on Thursday. I have never actually cooked a full Turkey before, plus timing everything else.... Wish me luck!

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving and check back with us soon. I will try to post some pictures of our fun while we have a break. Here is one to get started. T enjoyed flying his kite after we finished school on Friday. Isn't it amazing how something as simple as a kite can bring so much joy!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Verbs and Drawing

We took a little time to work with grammar last week. We have been working through the Montessori R&D Language Manual I for Elementary. Honestly, we are behind because T does not enjoy grammar.  I have decided that I will give him lessons in grammar even if he doesn't choose them because it doesn't seem like he will ever choose them. Sometimes in Elementary, work becomes required.

We tend to do several lessons at one time. The lessons are usually quick and fairly simple so we can usually do several in one day. T is in his second year of Elementary so he "should" be working with the command boxes now according to the scope and sequence in our manual, but we didn't use this manual at all last year so we had to start from the beginning. I am now doing the year 1 sequence quickly so that hopefully we can start the command boxes in the spring. We also have skipped a few of them lessons because I do not feel they are needed by T. We skipped labeling the miniature environment, because we do not have a miniature environment and there is also a lesson on labeling the classroom which is exactly the same.

This time he was working on animals and their sounds. There is a lesson with animals and their sounds for primary also but this is focusing on the noun and the verb rather than just matching. We also have the article included when he recorded his work in his language journal.

I hand wrote the labels with several animal names in black (nouns) and the sounds they make in red (verbs) and the headers "Animal" and "Sound". T matched them and then wrote complete sentences in his journal for each animal.

Sorry for the odd angle of this picture, if you click on it you can see an enlarged version. In his journal he would copy the first combo as "A wolf howls". He wrote each work in its proper grammar color (light blue article, black noun, red verb) and labeled with their symbols above. I only had him use the symbols at the top since every sentence was in the same order.

T has decided recently that drawing is super fun! I find this amusing because he has never shown any interest in drawing in the past. I remember as a preschooler he went to a Montessori school, all the little girls in the class loved to draw and none of the boys were interested at all. I was a little surprised at this difference at such a young age but maybe boys just need a little time before they find this as joyful. I think for T it is more about learning to sit and concentrate on something for long enough to draw because when he was a preschooler he was always on the move.

I was thrilled at this new love of drawing and pulled out our Draw Write Now books. I bought these a while back because they have one that focuses on the polar regions and my son LOVES polar bears. He was interested in learning to draw them and that is how I found this set of books. I bought the first 4 in the set last year but T was not interested in them (other than the polar bear in one book). Well, with his new interest, I pulled them out and he had a blast drawing all afternoon and even on the weekend.

There are two in particular that we used because they are themed for Autumn. Book 2 focuses on Christopher Columbus, Autumn Harvest, and The Weather. Book 3 focuses on Native Americans (T's fave), North America, and The Pilgrims (Thanksgiving is next week).

I really love these books because they give step by step instructions for drawing, there is a small amount of writing that is great for copywork, and there is history/science included in each section as well.

I wanted to share this particular page with you fellow Montessorians. As you know, we are working through the Great Lessons and we will soon be coming up on the Fourth Great Lesson which is about the origins of Language and Writing. T found this Native American writing to be very interesting, he even cut out his paper to resemble an animal hide.

"When the grass was tall (summer), a man left his teepee to go hunting deer. He crossed the mountains, swam the river, camped under the stars and stayed three days."

He walked around with it most of the day reciting what it said. I think he will enjoy learning about early writing.

If you haven't tried the Draw Write Now books yet, check them out. There are eight books each with three themes including drawing instructions, short sentences for copy work and unit study content. You can buy each book individually, as I did, or you can buy the entire box set of all 8. The box set is cheaper if you want them all, but I had already bought a few before I knew about it and I didn't want to pay to get doubles. You can see examples and tables of contents on their website as well as buy them there. I bought some of mine on Amazon, others at a local bookstore. I have seen the box set show up on Zulily (discounts on toys/clothing/educational materials) in the past. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Hiking and History

Come and join us on a hike through history!

Our family took a lovely nature hike over the weekend. We live in the South (USA) where there are many Civil War Battlefields that have been marked for historic purposes. One such battlefield is not too far from our home and is inside of a State Park.

The park offers wonderful hiking trails alongside a creek. As you hike the trail you pass by the ruins of an old textile mill that was burned during the Civil War. There is also a nice building that house items that were found in this are as well as items pertaining to Civil War times.

First we stopped by the building! The kids really enjoyed it. T(7) loved the guns, swords and relics that were left behind. B(22mo) loved the live animals, turtles and snakes.

This is a petroglyph, a form of writing/drawing on a stone. A intro to the 4th Great Lesson perhaps.

Buttons and a breastplate, Arrowheads, Locks and keys, Pieces of pottery, A hand formed brick and burnt pieces of thread and wood from the burnt mill.

Gears from the mill

Civil War dress and weaponry

Civil War swords and revolvers.
After we were done looking indoors we started our hike. The weather in our area is perfect for hiking right now. We often have very hot summers but fall and winter are wonderful for being outdoors.

Beautiful Autumn Colors

About a mile into our hike we came to the ruins of the old textile mill. We spent a while looking, T was very interested.

We continued on our hike through the woods admiring nature's glory.

I believe this is a Great Blue Heron in the creek

We took a close look at some Fungi

T loved this giant leaf

B (22mo) rode on Daddy's back in a carrier most of the time but she did get out and walk when we were on flat ground.

T loves hunting for shells.

More Fungi. We had a ton of beautiful Fungi this summer but we didn't get a chance to take pictures so we snapped a few shots this time.

This is my favorite time of year!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Little Fossil Fun

We have been doing lots of work with fossils, dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals. I decided to do something a little more fun to keep T interested. In my last post about the Coming of Life follow up work, I mentioned that we attempted to make plaster fossils using a kit which did not go well. Instead of trying again with plaster, I decided to go the tastier route and make Fossil Cookies. You can't go wrong with kids and cookies right? I got the idea a while back from Chasing Cheerios.

We decided to do peanut butter cookies because they are easy and I was planning to have both kids help make them. B is not quite two yet so easy is better. It turns out that she decided to take an extra long nap today so she missed the cookie making. I used a simple peanut butter cookie recipe.

1 cup smooth peanut butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg, beaten
Sea salt for sprinkling on top

Mix everything together in a large bowl. Place 1 tablespoon scoops of dough on an ungreased (we used parchment paper lined) baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 mins until the edges are golden.

T ended up making the cookies much bigger than planned so we only got 11 cookies. This should make about 18 cookies if they are 1 Tablespoon each. Smaller would have probably been better because ours lots some detail when they grew in the oven.

T measured and mixed the ingredients with very little help. As we were making our fossil prints we talked about how fossils are made and what type of fossils we were making. The cookie fossils are mold fossils because the animal dies and leaves a cavity behind.

There are many things you could use to make the imprints in the cookies. We chose to use some of our Safari Ltd, Toob animals. I recently purchased the Dinosaur Skulls Toob and we also had the Coral Reef Toob still in the package. I washed them thoroughly before using them. I think the sea creatures made better fossils but T really liked the skulls. The only thing I do not like about the Dino skulls set is that the names of them Dinos, which are embossed on each skull, are VERY hard to read. The color and the small spaces make them difficult even with a magnifying glass.
You can click on all pictures to make them larger.

As you can see the molds were much deeper before we baked them, but some of them still looked great after baking.

Once the cookies were finished we went a step further and made a cast fossil. A cast fossil is created when a mold fossil is filled in. Many fossils in museums are casts made from mold fossils. We used carmel which we had leftover from making carmel apples. I was planning to use chocolate, which I thought we had, but someone had eaten it.
Starfish cookie

I layered plastic wrap over the cookie and them put the carmel on it so it wouldn't stick. Then put in the freezer to harden

Star fish, mold fossil, cast fossil

We cut out the starfish cast to make it easier to see.
Just as we were finishing up, B woke up from her nap. Perfect timing for a yummy cookie!

FYI, if you have a small child, I highly recommend the Learning Tower. You can see both kids standing on it in the pictures above. It is adjustable and helps boots them up to the counter safely. T is 7 years old and fairly tall for his age and he still finds it useful on the lowest setting (first pictures) when he is working at the counter. B, almost 2, is on the top setting in the last picture. I got mine used but here is a link to their website if you are looking for something like this.
The Learning Tower

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Coming of Life Follow-up work

We have really been enjoying learning about prehistoric life with our Second Great Lesson. We have done a little work on the Kingdoms of Life but my son was much more interested in prehistoric life so that is what we are working on now.

As you may have noticed, we love field trips! Following the First Great Lesson: The Beginning, we visited a nearby museum that focused on Geology. We touched on prehistoric life while we were there but there is another museum nearby that has more info on this subject. After we did the lesson and looked at the Timeline of Life for a couple of days, we ventured to the museum to learn more.

The museum has a spectacular display in the center lobby with two huge dinosaurs. The very long Argentinosaurus which stretches 140 feet long and the large carnivore Giganotosaurus which stands 23 feet tall. The Giganotosaurus may have hunted in packs and actually preyed upon the Argentinosaurus.

Giganotosauraus (jig-a-not-a-saur-us)
I think my son understands just how big the dinosaurs were, even without the Montessori dinosaur charts that we were missing in our lesson LOL.
Argentinosaurus head/neck
Center of the Argentinosaurus
Tail of the Argentiosaurus behind the Giganotosaurus
Not only does this museum have awesome dinosaur displays, but there is also a Timeline of Life room. I didn't get good pictures of this because I didn't have my "good" camera with me and it is a dark room with lighted displays.

My son loved the giant Sea Scorpion: Eurypterus hanging from the ceiling. There were small aquariums with scenes from each of the periods in the Paleozoic Era. 

A small series of displays showing how a fossil is formed and discovered.

There is a "play" area for the kids to explore which included a section on archeology. B found some dino bones.

More dino bones to explore

We continued our work at home. We used a science kit to create some fossils at home. Unfortunately, the materials in the kit were not great. I have posted before about my disappointment in The Young Scientists Club kits. We have had a few that were good in the past and I bought a bunch of them thinking they would be fun. After using several of them, I've found the materials to be quite poor, so bad in fact that it made it so that the experiment could not be performed. This fossil set was actually a replacement kit I got because I complained to them about others. I have decided never to buy these kits again. The ideas in the kit are fine but the materials included are not usable. If you would like to do this, just buy the plaster and skip the kit.

We made plaster of paris fossils using a small plastic dinosaur. The plaster was supposed to take 10mins to set but it took over an hour and even then it didn't hold the mold. It took 2 days to dry (I took it out of the cup and flipped it over after one day to dry the back). It also cracked around the mold. 

We also made a cast fossil that did not turn out at all. It was made in sand and the plaster pouring into it. This one never dried at all and we just threw away. We might just buy plaster and try it again another day.

Another part of the kit were these small pictures that show how a fossil is formed. They were in random order and he had to cut them out and put them in order.

We read this book before doing the kit, so he didn't have a problem putting it in order. This is a really nice book that explains fossils well.
Fossils tell of long ago

This morning, T decided he wanted to explore the Timeline of Life again. He also went through our pile of prehistoric life library books most of the morning. He drew some of the creatures he had discovered.

Then I suggested that he choose an organism from each Era to study more closely. The first one he wanted to work on was the Saber toothed cat (Smilodon).

He researched his selection in our books and the Timeline and made an outline of information he had found.

And he drew his own picture of the Smilodon (including its insides, ribs, heart, stomach, etc)