May 30, 2012

First Weather Experiments

 Look at those cuties pouring over their science book.  Just makes a homeschoolin' mom feel proud.  :)
 In the above pic, Miriam is adjusting the angle of two thermometers to see if the angle at which the sun's rays hit the earth really affects temperature.  Super cheap thermometers aren't the greatest though, and while there was a temp difference, it was pretty insignificant.
 There is our homemade thermometer.  It never worked.  My hubs came home and said it was because we hadn't sealed the top adequately.  Good learning lesson for the rest of us to follow the directions more carefully.
 This is the sealed thermometer experiment, meant to show how the atmosphere keeps us from freezing each night.  Let's just say I've had better luck with experiments.
 The flower was the best and most successful of our experiments.  In the book A Drop of Water by Walter Wick, the author talks about the unique properties of water, including the fact that water will go up into straws and things even though that appears to go against gravity.  Then he suggested dying a white carnation.  We didn't have a white carnation as I hadn't planned on doing any of the activities in that book, but we had a pink rose handy.  It was really interesting to watch the flower change colors--even for me!
 The next two pics are the kids doing their "water art" by painting on a piece of paper with water.  We then took the paper outside to see how long it would take for the water to evaporate.  Hardly any time at all.

This bottom picture has nothing to do with science.  I just think it is funny that my children had a nervous break down when we arrived home after running errands because we were almost to the end of Ella Enchanted and they didn't want to wait until another car trip to hear the end.  I brought the cds inside to stop the hysterics and my two oldest stayed riveted to the computer listening to the last few chapters.  You have to love a good book on tape.

May 25, 2012

Sun and Water Cycle Books and Some General Weather Books

 I'll be posting a little bit about our Adventures With Weather soon, but in the meantime, here are the books we've read so far.  We started with the sun and the water cycle.  The best book we've read about the water cycle for little kids is Once There Was a Raindrop by Judith Anderson and Mike Gordon.  Loved it.  Great length, good info, good illustrations.  Solid choice.
 I Call It Sky said Will C. Howell is a pretty, short, and well-done picture book with little verses about all the different kinds of winds; breezes, gusts, etc.  We all liked it but it was a "fun" book, not particularly educational.
 Sun and Us by Jillian Powell was excellent.  It has a bunch of good facts about the sun with good illustrations that kept my kids' interests.  Great overview about the sun.
 Weather Detectives by Mark Eubank jumped around too much for me, so I've used it as a reference for experiment ideas but haven't read it to the kids.  It has a lot of great experiments!
 Miss Mingo Weathers the Storm by Jamie Harper is really cute.  The shy little groundhog gets put on the spot and tries to predict the weather for the hike to uphold groundhogs' reputations as weather-predictors.  Of course, he gets it wrong, and snippy little alligator continues to remind him of his error.  There is a lot of weather information throughout, mostly about how animals deal with the weather.  We all really liked it.
 Weather by Seymour Simon is one of my very favorite weather books that I've read for this unit.  However, it was too advanced for my kids.  I tried to read a little of it to them and lost their interest pretty quickly.  However, if you are doing a weather unit with older elementary kids, check this out!
 GOLD STAR BOOK!  This book is so fabulous.  The photography alone would sell the book, but the information is presented equally well and in just the right amounts for kids.  Several properties of water are explained and the general ideas of condensation and evaporation are illustrated.  The kids and I had a great discussion prompted by reading this book, and because of that, it took about twice the amount of time to read it than I had expected.  I didn't mind.  :)
You can tell from the title what this book is about.  A Drop Around the World by Barbara Shaw McKinney follows a drop of water through evaporation and condensation and purification, from being rain to being snow, to getting drank.  Very nice.
 Learning Ladders: Weather by World Book is a great overview for little kids.  It briefly explains what weather is and how it affects the seasons.  We read it very first and it was a great place to start.

Rain by Kay Davies and Wendy Oldfield was another great book for little kids.  Good pics and good information.  We read it on the day I introduced the water cycle and it was perfect.

Wild About Weather by Ed Brotak is our major text.  We've been reading it aloud and it is interesting and engaging, organized well, and packed with fun experiments.  Love it.  Gold Star Book!

May 24, 2012

4th Grade History Projects: Persia

Miriam just completed her second 4th Grade History Project about Persia.  We focused on Arabian Nights for her readings, which included: Genies, Meanies, and Magic Rings by Stephen Mitchell and Shadow Spinner by Susan Fletcher.  Miriam enjoyed them both but she was most impressed with the Mitchell book.  

I have given her ideas for projects, but she came up with this one on her own.  One day, out of the blue, she said that she wanted her project to show the difference between the sorts of things found in ancient Persia and our present time.  She was annoyed when we (hubby and I) pointed out that some of her ancient picture contained items not found until Medieval Times, but then she "changed her mind" about what the picture actually showed, so it was all good.

May 21, 2012

My Favorite Phonics Program for FREE!!

Hello Homeschooling World--I have an announcement!  I was responding to a question from a friend about phonics programs and googled the one I use--and love--to send her a link.

What do you think I found??

You guessed it!!!  The entire program is available for free online!  It was already cheap, but apparently Utah State stopped trying to make money off it at all.  Or this is entirely illegal.  Regardless, I'm printing off the last ten books I didn't get originally!  Yay!!

Here's the link:

Happy reading!

May 18, 2012

4th Grade History Projects

Now that Miriam is in 4th grade I thought it was high time she started doing a little more work.  More work to me means more reading!  Also, I wanted Miriam to learn to fill out book reports as she fights writing only slightly less now than she did when she was 5 and first learning. 

My other purpose was that I wanted Miriam to learn to synthesize information.  It is a critical skill for research papers and critical thinking.  I taught my 7th graders how to write a research paper and none of them had rudimentary synthesis skills.  By that I mean none of them knew how to take information out of a book or off the internet and use it to create something new--like a research paper.  Not that I'm blaming their prior teachers--its just that there are so many requirements now that teachers have to pick and choose and research isn't a top priority in the elementary grades. 

Since I'm an English and history teacher, I'll just own the hubris and say my subjects are the most critical!  Especially the ability to research and evaluate sources, aka critical thinking.  I think 4th grade is the perfect age to start. 

To introduce synthesis in a more structured way (I'm sure you've been doing it all along with your kids without labeling it) I told Miriam that she had extra assignments for history.  I made it a big deal in that she was old enough to do something special and I showed her a bunch of special project options that involved crafting.  She was won over in about 3 seconds flat.  For each area of the world, I require her to read two books and then take the information she learned from those books and create something new.  She also has to fill out a book report for each of the books. 
 For Mesopotamia I had Miriam read To Ride the God's Own Stallion by Diane Lee Wilson and Mesopotamia edited by Sherman Hollar.  It was a pretty heavy duty non-fiction, longer than any other non-fiction she's read.  There was no whining and periodically she'd call me over to see something or tell me about something she'd learned.  I'll admit, I was impressed.  I'm aiming for one non-fiction and one fiction for each geographical area, but I'm flexible. 
Miriam chose to make a ziggurat for her special project.  I let her use a razor blade, the first time ever, and she felt very grown up.  This project took a little bit more of Mom's involvement than I am hoping for in the future.  However, she did learn things that are important, like how to measure and plan and make a paper model first to iron out the wrinkles.
Then she painted.  And played.  And played.  And painted.  She's the only girl I know who can talk to herself--well, the paint bottles were talking--for two hours while painting.  It was hilarious to listen to.  The blue parts are the Tigris and Euphrates River. 
Voila.  A ziggurat. 
Cowen is already begging to get to do special history projects. 

Day 3 of Mesopotamia: Cuneiform and Ziggurats

 Day 3 of History Group involved writing in cuneiform.  Julie softened up the clay and formed it into "tablet" shape and wrapped it in tinfoil.  That was brilliant because the kids didn't waste a lot of time getting the clay ready and they weren't as tempted to make snakes.
Cuneiform and its translation can be printed off the internet.   That's what Julie did, and she had pages on the table for kids to reference.
The littles didn't really try to write anything--they just had fun using skewers to write in clay, but Miriam wrote her name and age.  She took it very seriously.

After cuneiform we made ziggurats out of cake.  I probably should have cut the cake in half, but I didn't.   The result was rather tipsy ziggurats.  Nobody complained.  I also shouldn't have made my all-time favorite dessert when I'm supposed to be cutting out sugar.  Oops.  Yeah, I ate some.  Maybe a little more than "some."  Best building materials I've ever eaten!

Eli iced his ziggurat then licked off the icing and iced it again.  I always suspected we were related and now it is absolutely confirmed.
We have new members in our history group!  Welcome Topher, and welcome Colleen, Topher's mom.
I love food, so cake ziggurats make perfect sense to me.  This was definitely a well-received activity.  You should all try it.  Then eat it.  Yum.

May 16, 2012

Mesopotamia Day Two: Chariots and Bricks

 I'm starting this post with a gratuitous picture of Lady Harriet.  She's 15 months now and walking.  What a darling.  She naps during History Group.  That is most helpful.
 For the second meeting of History Group we made chariots.  Archeologists believe that the Sumerians were the first people--that they know of--to invent the wheel.  To prep my kids we read a library book about wheels and talked about all the things we do today that require wheels. 
 Julie was the one who put this activity together and I forgot to take a picture of her original mock-up of the project done with paper.  The dimensions would be helpful, I realize.  I'll do better next time.
 We made the chariots out of foam board and strengthened them with modge-podge.

 I'm not sure why Eli's hair looks so exceedingly orange.  I didn't change the photo in any way, so the lighting must have been weird!
 Along with the cut-out foam board, neatly labeled, Julie also provided dowels to be used as axles and wooden wheels that attached with push-pins. 
 We ran out of time so the kids painted their chariots on a later day.

 The chariots all turned out very cute and the kids love them.  They have held up for two weeks now, without any of them falling apart, so that's pretty miraculous.

I was supposed to have the kids make bricks during that meeting of the History Group, but instead I had the kids watch a youtube video about brick-making.  The chariots took the whole time.  Just an FYI if you do this activity, it takes awhile (about an hour).

While searching youtube for videos about bricks I hit on the greatest BBC show ever.  Well, maybe not better than Are You Being Served? but a really great BBC show.  It is called Come Outside.  You might have already heard of it.  The brick episode can be found here.  The show has a lady who takes her dog around in an airplane investigating and exploring different things.  There is an episode on wool and sewage and soap and carrots and lots of other things.  It is fantastic.

PS  I was mostly joking about Are You Being Served?