January 31, 2011

San Fran: Earthquakes

The next few posts will be a little weak in the content area. I'm sorry. My brain sort of fried when it came to cool activities for San Francisco. So instead of fun activities, we mostly read books.

When talking about San Fran, some obvious topics arise. Like earthquakes. The following are the books we read on the subject. (I was, quite frankly, disappointed by what I found at the library. I should have gone in person and chatted with a librarian rather than just looked online because really, they have to have better earthquake books than what I found.)

If You Lived at the Time of the Great San Francisco Earthquake by Ellen Levine. This was a good read. I should warn you though--the first few pages are a tad slow. Even I was bored. But the middle of the book really picks up and is way more interesting. So skim the first few pages--maybe summarize for your kids--but read the rest.
Natural Disasters: Earthquakes by Luke Thompson. Not a terrible book but didn't explain what an earthquake is as well as I would have liked. I spent some time looking up youtube videos about earthquakes and I didn't find any great explanations there. Maybe plate tectonics is just really hard to explain in a simple way.
Shock Waves Through Los Angeles: The Northridge Earthquake by Carole G. Vogel. I should have stopped with the first two books. This book has a few pictures of people bleeding and one pic of a boy and his mom at a funeral (the dad and brother in the family both died). My kids were . . . overwhelmed, I think. It was too much. I started to get really concerned faces and they wanted me to assure them that we didn't live where an earthquake would happen (which, of course, we do live in earthquake country), and I could tell it was too much.

So we closed the book and ended the discussion and I did my best to distract them with other, more pleasant, things.

Little lesson learned by me.

PS: There are other things you can do with earthquakes, like make a family earthquake plan and practice it a few times. Or you can call the fire department and find out about earthquake field trips. Around here there is a van you can go in and it starts shaking and gets hot and basically fakes an earthquake so the kids can practice climbing under the counter. Or you can put together some hygiene kits to send to earthquake survivors. I'm positive you could make a model of plate tectonics out of clay, if you really wanted to.

Just because I'm pregnant and lazy doesn't mean you have to be!

Our Favorite Geography Items

There are very few things that we have for our homeschool that fit the "can't live without" category. Well--actually, we could do without everything except the library. And possibly youtube.

However, among our favorite items, the Leapfrog Interactive Globe (we have the Odyssey III), is definitely at the top of the list. The thing is awesome. We have competitions finding continents, oceans, countries, etc. We listen to music from each country (my children do this for hours). And mostly, my children just like touching the globe with the magic pen and listening to whatever info the globe spits out.

It is wonderful!!

You can read more about it here or here.

I realize that Leapfrog no longer makes this globe, but I'm sure you could find it somewhere. Or maybe just a different interactive globe?? Find one that allows you to compete to find places. And plays music. Seriously.

Also out-of-print is our very favorite atlas: National Geographic World Atlas for Young Explorers, 2003 edition.

I love, love, love this atlas. It has awesome pictures, has a picture of every country's flag, just enough info without being overwhelming, and large maps of every area in the world. My children love to look through this atlas for fun. So do I.

You can buy this book, even though it is out-of-print, or you could get the third edition.

I'm not sure if the third edition is the most recent edition, but it is available on amazon, so I assume it is.

The point of this post. These two items make up the majority of our geography curriculum. The picture you see below--where Miriam is figuring out where something is on a flat map and then finding the same location on a globe--is an activity she came up with on her own during free time.

Yeah. Exactly.

Sometimes the right products really can make a huge difference.

January 30, 2011

San Francisco: Day One

For day one of San Fran, I wanted a good intro book. I thought I couldn't find one. Both the books from the library were longer than I would have preferred, but without another option, I brought them home.

We only ended up reading one, and it held my children's attention far longer than I expected. In fact, I read a lot more of it than I expected.

Bravo, Deborah Kent, author of Cities of the World: San Francisco.

My favorite part of the morning is when we would read about something in Kent's book--for example, Fisherman's Wharf, and Miriam would say, "Oh, I learned all about that in [such and such book]."

I picked out several books for Miriam to read about San Fran and she liked them all.

In The Boxcar Children: The Mystery in San Francisco by Gertrude Chandler Warner, Miriam learned "all about" Fisherman's Wharf and cable cars.

In Good Luck, Ivy by Lisa Yee, Miriam learned "all about" Chinatown.

From Into the Firestorm: A Novel of San Francisco, 1906 by Deborah Hopkinson, Miriam learned all about the 1906 earthquake. This is the only one of the three that I read, and I quite enjoyed it. Good historical fiction for the younger crowd.

There is also a Magic Tree House book about San Fran: Earthquake in the Early Morning. Miriam really likes that one as well.

After reading the Kent book, we colored a map of the United States, paying special attention to California. The following is Miriam's map. I thought it turned out super nice. Yes, I wrote in the state names for her but she had to find the states in the atlas and then point them out to me before I would write it in.
I use this website for map outlines. That wasn't the greatest link as it goes straight to USA map outlines. Here's the link to outline maps for the whole world. If you don't like this site, many options come up when you google "outline maps."
After looking at all the pics of Fisherman's Wharf--I really wish I was eating seafood right now!! San Fran has definite travel appeal--and that is saying something for me. Usually I only want to go places with no people. But the seafood. And a chocolate factory. Oh, my.

January 26, 2011

Another Baptism Prep Idea

I found a copy of Baptism is the Key: My Baptismal Covenant by Jeni Brinton Gochnour at Deseret Book, but they also sell it on amazon (where it qualifies for free shipping).

The book is only 14 pages long but it was worth the money. Very worth it as it is not a book in the traditional sense, but a collection of activities suitable for sharing time. So the first page has a picture of John the Baptist with a cut-out where you can slide a list up and down. The list has five things John the Baptist taught about baptism.

Now that Miriam and I have read a lot about baptism, I told her it was time for her to teach her brothers and sisters what she has learned. Every week for the past few weeks she has prepared one of the activities from the Gochnour book and then presented it in a brief "Baptism Moment" during Family Home Evening.

Miriam loves this because it involves lecturing her younger siblings and putting together a crafty-thing. I like it because my only job is to photocopy the activities (I will be reusing the book with younger sibs) and put them in her Baptism Binder. Miriam does everything else on her own. She picks the activity, colors it, puts it together, and practices what she wants to say in FHE. I try to not help with that last one, but I also want to make sure she understands the concepts, so I've usually gone over the info with her for each activity at least once before she presents it. Just in case she missed a critical idea.

Miriam even used one of these activities for a talk in primary. Very useful stuff. There are 13 activities total and I imagine they can be used in a variety of ways. If you think of something awesome, make sure to share with us!!

January 25, 2011

Japan Wrap-Up

We concluded our unit on Japan today. I'm putting everything about Japan that I haven't blogged about yet in this post. Sorry if it is confusing, but I want to move on to San Francisco without feeling behind. (Without feeling behind in blogging. My "must do before baby is born" list is getting longer by the minute. Panic sets in several times a day. I really hate the "nesting" phase.)

One of our Japan days was dedicated to maps. My children had never labeled and colored a map before and Miriam was annoyed with me that I didn't have an example of what the end result should look like, so she wrote too big at the beginning. Oops. Poor teaching. Always, always model when possible.

Still isn't the pic below heartwarming? I love how intently Miriam is studying the atlas. I love mapping. Love, love, love mapping and maps in general. Miriam's friend, Rachel, is beside her. I didn't post a pic of Rachel because I haven't had a chance to ask her mother for permission. Still, I was impressed with Rachel's neatness. I think mapping really appeals to us type-A personalities. Everything so neat and orderly.

Miriam and her map.
Cowen's map. Like I said--this was my kids' first time mapping. Cowen was a little disappointed with his map when he saw mine and Miriam's. He's a pretty neat kid by nature, so he knew his map wasn't quite right. I convinced him that it was fine for a first attempt BUT his next map would be loads better. I was also able to help him understand that the colors on maps help a person easily see where things are, so the colors have to be chosen carefully and kept in the right location.
Emeline's map.
My map.

After we finished our maps and hung them up on the wall, we practiced finding Japan on the globe. Good times.

Here are a few more books that we used that I liked.

First, An Illustrated History of Japan by Shigeo Nishimura. My kids thought the book was really boring until we hit WWII. However, I found it very useful because it was such a condensed version of Japanese history. I don't know much about Japanese history before WWII, so this book was great. My kids sat through it, but don't expect riveting. Just expect helpful.
Boys are gruesome little devils. The following two books really played to the gruesome factor and my son (and husband) loved them both. We didn't do any samurai activities to go along with the books, but there are plenty of samurai helmet crafts available online.
Real Samurai: Over 20 True Stories About the Knights of Old Japan! by Stephen Turnbull.
Samurai by Caroline Leavitt.

The following is a list of all the websites I used for the Japan unit:

http://japanesetranslator.co.uk/your-name-in-japanese/ (translates English names into Japanese characters)

http://www.activityvillage.co.uk/flower_origami_for_kids.htm (I didn't do any origami with all the kids, but Miriam and her dad made a few flowers, a dog, and a Japanese girl in an kimono)

http://www.activityvillage.co.uk/sadako_sasaki.htm I didn't end up doing anything with this story, but I loved it, and if I was more on top of things--I would have planned something special to go along with this girl's story.

http://www.activityvillage.co.uk/japan_for_kids.htm If you scroll down the page far enough you find a youtube music video that helps you learn to count from 1-20 in Japanese. My kids and I stunk at it, but we watched it several times and had a lot of fun trying. I highly recommend.

This website has a ton of info about Japan in a child friendly format. It is a little tough to get all the kids situated so they can see the computer screen, but it was still fun and worth it. My kids especially liked listening to the Japanese words and taking the quiz.

http://homepages.sover.net/~johnd/schools.html This website has a bunch of pictures of kids at a school in Japan. I thought this was great because in Japan the kids help maintain their school buildings. Awesome. Also, we learned about a pianica--an instrument that is a mix of a harmonica and a piano. My children and I were fascinated by this new-to-us instrument so we spent 20 minutes watching youtube videos of people playing pianicas in bands and on street corners. My children also insisted we find out how much one would cost and if you can buy them in the States. You can. Amazon.com has several varieties.

http://www.activityvillage.co.uk/japan_for_kids.htm And here is the website where I got most of my coloring type activities. It has a ton of ideas--way more than I used.

Also at the library (currently unavailable at Netflix) is a movie called Big Bird in Japan. I can't remember if I mentioned it before. It was a good movie because it was shot in Japan so my kids could get a sense of the countryside. If you have access to the Davis County Library System--you should check this movie out.

There you go--the rest of the Japan stuff.


January 24, 2011

Japanese Writing

We did a lot with Japanese writing for this unit.

Not good Japanese writing, but our best efforts nonetheless.

Our first lesson in Japanese writing was taught by a new friend of mine--Sarah. She served a mission in Japan and was willing to show us how to write a few words.

Then, I found this website that translates English/American names into Japanese characters. Since I don't speak/write any Japanese, I cannot verify how accurate this translator is--but, it was sure fun to type in names and see what happened.

You can find the website for the translations here.

After we'd played with the translator for awhile, we printed off all the names in our family so we could practice writing them. (Cowen was unavailable--so we chose Kenny from the list of closest names since that is Cowen's grandfather's name.)

Small note--to print, I dragged the name itself to my desktop. You can't cut and paste into Word because Word won't recognize the letters and if you print the whole webpage you waste a ton of ink. There is a little help box to help you figure out how to print on the website.

Here's what my name looks like.

Here are my efforts to write my name.

After writing our names in Japanese for awhile, I sat the children on the couch and read them two books. The first is called The Art of Japan by Shirley Glubok. I don't really think that highly of this book. The pics are all black and white and the whole presentation is a little weak. However, I couldn't find much at the library so I was working with what I had. To my surprise, my children really liked the book. We didn't read it all, but we talked about the ways the Japanese artists brought in nature themes and tried to create a peaceful feeling. We also talked about Buddhism as a lot of the art is religious in nature. In short, although the book isn't great, it is still worth getting if you can't find something better.

In the art book, the author mentions calligraphy and includes several pictures of paintings that incorporate calligraphy.

Obviously, we had to try some of our own. Since I anticipated that, I also had another library book on hand called 1-2-3 Calligraphy! Letters and Projects for Beginners and Beyond by Eleanor Winters.

I didn't think the layout of the calligraphy book was that great either. However, it had the alphabet in several calligraphy styles and that is all we needed.

I can barely write legibly, let alone write beautifully. Here's my sad attempt.
It doesn't really matter, though, that my attempts were pitiful. It made the children feel better about their own attempts. Calligraphy is tough for little ones who are just learning to master basic penmanship. Despite the less than stellar results of our efforts, we certainly enjoyed making the effort!

January 20, 2011

My Two Year Old's Current Favorite Books

I know, I know. A two year old is a very unpredictable creature and just because my son loves these four books, it in no way means your two year old will also love them.

However, considering how many times I read these a day--I thought I might as well share. You never know--your two year old might love them also.

Eli's very favorite book is The Bunny Book by Richard Scarry. It is an older Golden Book and a little gem I picked up from DI. The pictures are charming and have a lot of visual interest and the ending is sweet. Love it.
Most of my kids fall in love with David when they hit three or four. Eli already thinks it is great fun to say, "No, David!" and "Uh-oh!" and "The cat doesn't like it!" I'm sure you've all read the David books, but if you haven't--they are awesome. David Gets in Trouble by David Shannon.
My SIL discovered The Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen and immediately bought a copy for me and all my sibs. It is about a glum fish who thinks his mouth is made for pouting when really his mouth is made for smooching. Charming. Even more charming is watching my little son carry around the book while making kissing faces/noises. Cute, cute.
Eli's other favorite book is Sometimes I Like to Curl Up in a Ball by Vicki Churchill. The pictures are so wonderful in this book. My children love to act out the different pages and love turning the book around to look at the tree and the funny faces. Really, this is a keeper. Get it in board book form as it really appeals to the small people crowd.

keeping it fresh...

luke has a hard time getting motivated to finish things.
so i have to get creative.
today, i wanted luke to draw me a book.
so i promised him i would make him
a "computer book" of his drawings.
upon hearing this, it was game on.
(and bonus - he decided to write the story all by himself.)
these are the best "computer renderings"
of his pictures that i could do...
they're surprisingly accurate.
the little lost chick.
all of the eggs hatched.
one egg didn't hatch.
there was a boy who wanted a baby chick.
the egg hatched and the boy stole the chick.
in his room was so cool, she decided to live in his room.
the chick and the boy were playing chess.
now the boy has lots of chicks.
they are playing ball.
the end.

tomorrow, we'll work on the proper spelling
and sentence structure of his book.
for now, he's as proud as a peacock of his book
and the "computer book" i made him to go along with it.

give it a try.
you won't regret it.
and besides, you'll have a keepsake to store away.

ps: all i've been hearing this week is that
luke and charlie want a baby duck.
allllll weeeeek loooong.
i've been saying no a lot.
i think this is luke's way of saying that
i might be pushing him to drastic measures
in order to get his baby duck.

so, if anyone's baby duck goes missing this week,
let me know.
i'll go look in his cool room and return promptly.

becky from hellofromhades.blogspot.com

January 19, 2011

letting go...

one of the things i've learned about teaching
is that you have to let them learn at their own rate.
and when they make mistakes, do not diminish what they do
by correcting them too quickly.
specifically, when children write words incorrectly -
let them.
their creative process and the feeling of accomplishment
they get from making their first sentences are more important
than a fleeting lesson.
this doesn't mean we aren't going to practice this sentence
in its correct form tomorrow -
it just means we're going to let them be brilliant
for what they are today.

becky from hellofromhades.blogspot.com

January 18, 2011

Japan: Folk Tales

I took some time off blogging to celebrate my birthday weekend in style. On Saturday, we took the kids to the aquarium in Sandy to finish off our fish unit. I know--a little late. But, Christmas got crazy so better late than never.

Sunday was my birthday and Monday was a holiday.

Not much schooling got done.

However, we have been reading up a storm. You might like what I did with all these Japanese folk tales, or you might not. Whatever. Even if you don't use the books in the same way I did, some of them are DEFINITELY must-read books whether you are studying Japan or not.

The Boy of the Three-Year Nap by Dianne Snyder. Such a great book! I would say worth the inter-library loan fee. We loved it. (Clever, hard working.)
The Beckoning Cat: Based on a Japanese Folktale by Koko Nishizuka. This book wasn't profoundly great in a literary sense. However, it does explain why Chinese restaurants have all those waving cats everywhere. I've often wondered. My children loved this story and immediately wanted to draw/make beckoning cats of their own. Definitely worth the read. (Kind, generous, humble, polite, loyal to parents.)
The Crane Wife by Odds Bodkin. This was my least favorite of the stories we read. However, it is a good moral tale in that the protagonist does the wrong things and it ends up badly for him. A good read, but don't pay an interlibrary loan fee for it. (Selfless, keeps promises, loyal.)
GOLD STAR BOOK!!!!!!!!! Bokuden and the Bully by Stephen Krensky is by far the best of the books we read. My children loved it, I loved it, my hubby loved it. Read it!! (Humble, polite, clever.)
The Warrior and the Wise Man by David Wisniewski. This is a good story in that it has two main characters--one that makes good choices and one that does not. I like moral tales that compare the results of both choices. Besides, it was perfect for what we did with these stories. (Polite, humble, generous, clever.)
GOLD STAR BOOK!!! My children adored the book The Two Bullies by Junko Morimoto. Both of the characters were anti-heroes, and my kids giggled through the whole thing. Great "don't be like this" book. Very, very fun. (Courage, humility.)
The Samurai's Daughter by Robert D. San Souci. If you have a daughter, you definitely need to add this one to your mix. It is a Mulan type of tale--where the daughter acts with courage and grace and loyalty and all ends well. My daughter loved it. (Courageous, loyal, selfless.)

Okay--so what is up with all the words in ( )? While we read these books, we made a master list of the traits we felt Japanese people admire based on what happened to the characters in the books. We figured, if a character is brave and loyal and good things happen to that character in the end, then Japanese culture must approve of/respect those character traits. And the opposite for the anti-heroes in the books.

My children picked up on this very quickly. We read the first book and then talked about the main character. What did the main character do? Would you describe his/her actions as brave? What about humble? (We had to go over what humble means several times before my kids got it.) I introduced a lot of the descriptive words in the beginning to get the kids' juices flowing.

Then, with the second and third books we did the same thing. I wanted a nice little list before I did anything else.

With the fourth and subsequent books, I stopped after every few pages and asked the kids if they thought good or bad things were going to happen to the characters based on their behavior/character traits/choices. The kids were 100% accurate in their predictions. We also discussed which character traits the characters were demonstrating. As my children liked adding new character traits to the list, they paid a lot of attention to the stories and the characters' actions.

By the time we read The Two Bullies and The Samurai's Daughter (the last two we read and perfect sum-up books), the kids were quick to point out the a the two bullies were the opposite of good Japanese people and that the Samurai's daughter was a pretty much perfect example of a good Japanese person.

I recognize that you can do this with any books, but these Japanese folk tale books lend themselves perfectly to this activity.

Our completed list.