January 28, 2014

Battle of Hastings

My sister, Kami, is a seamstress who likes to make authentic period clothing.  Remember my Halloween Scottish outfits?  Yep, she made them.

 Below is a "Heidi" outfit Kami made for my niece who lives in Switzerland.

Below are my very favorite outfits Kami ever made.  Such adorable gnomes!!!  For the record, Sebastian's outfit is modeled on a traditional Norwegian outfit.

Here's the traditional Norwegian outfit.

If you're not impressed by gnomes, here is Dread Pirate Sebastian.

Because my sister likes to look at authentic costumes, she is a big fan of reenactments of any sort.  When I told her that I was starting our Viking unit she immediately emailed me some great links to Viking reenactments.

Then she sent me a link to an incredible reenactment of the Battle of Hastings.  Truth be told, I didn't know what the Battle of Hastings was or its significance until last week.  If you don't know either, it is the battle that the Saxons lost to the Normans, allowing the Normans (French) to take over England for a time.  Tonight we read in our Barbarians! book that the Battle of Hastings came quite soon after a Saxon vs. Viking battle wherein the Vikings lost, signifying the end of the Viking era.

I hope I didn't lose you in all that.

If you are interested, here is the amazing youtube video about the reenactment--the largest reenactment ever, involving thousands of participants.  It was awesome to watch.

The Battle of Hastings reminds me of another spectacular history reference--the game "Timeline."  Each player is given four or five cards (or more if you want the game to last longer) with a picture and brief description of an event on the front.  One card is drawn as the reference point then each player takes turns placing their cards in the right order using the first card as a reference.  Basically you are putting together a timeline.  I had the Battle of Hastings once in a game and I had no idea what that was.

You might think this game is only for older kids, but my 8 year old beat us all once.  The pictures on the front of the card are very helpful in narrowing down when something happened and you don't need to know the exact date, just the date in relation to the cards already in play.

It is one of my favorite games ever.  Unless we play "Timeline: Discovery and Invention," which is not my favorite game because I lose every time.  Grr!  Historical events are the easiest and science discoveries are the hardest for me.

I *highly* recommend this game.  You can find it here: http://www.amazon.com/Timeline-Historical-Events-Card-Game/dp/2914849869/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1390964960&sr=8-1&keywords=timeline.

A fun resource for Vikings is this BBC site: http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/primaryhistory/vikings/who_were_the_vikings/.  I let my children play around on it for an hour the other day.  I don't know if they learned anything but they sure had fun!

January 22, 2014

Build a Flower

Pinterest has really increased my ability to find fun activities quickly.  Thank you, dear sisters, who forced me to learn how to use it.  I'm what some people might call "technology resistant."  In fact, my hubby gave me his old cell phone for Christmas.  It is a buy minutes as you go type thing.  I was EXTREMELY resistant to having a cell phone because I resent deeply church meetings where half the time is wasted by someone "quickly" looking something up on their blasted cell phone.  Among other latent cell phone hatred issues.  I only agreed to carry a cell phone with me when I'm in a vehicle because I get lost so often and my sweet husband worries about me.  To placate the man in charge of protecting me and my children from all harm (to the best of his ability), I now have a cell phone in my purse. 

Ahem, I do believe I got off topic there for a moment.  What I was saying is that I like Pinterest for homeschooling endeavors.  It is where I found the idea for making a 3D flower.  You can find the original idea here: http://crayonbits.blogspot.com/search/label/Plants.

The crucial ingredient for this flower is the muffin cup.  It really adds a bunch of pizzaz.  You can use straws or pipe cleaners for the stem.  We used beans (again, cheap) and hot glue for the seed things in the center.  I know, I know--I've already forgotten what they're called and we just studied it.  Argh!!

Pollen, the beans were pollen.  See, I knew Miriam would remember for me.  Thanks for your diagram, baby girl.

After the kids made their flowers they had to make a gazillion bouquets of flowers (neither labeled nor attached to a sheet of paper).  That worked out beautifully as we had put together some Christmas things for some of the elderly ladies in our area but we didn't have enough for everyone.  The bouquets filled in nicely so when we went caroling, all the sweet ladies had a present from us as well.

Another fun day of homeschooling!

PS Today was actually a really fun day of homeschooling.  I got distracted watching some of my favorite show numbers from musicals (I was one of the music kids in school) on youtube and the kids and I spent twenty minutes laughing at some of the best ones.  For example, "A Girl Who Cain't Say No," "Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better," a bunch from Hugh Jackman's Oklahoma (fabulous!), "Sobbin' Women" (of course), "I'm Going to Wash that Man Right Out of My Hair," etc.  Then we spent the next little while dancing and being crazy.  No, we didn't get our planned Viking activity done but who cares--music is always most important at this house.  :)

PPS Watch this Hugh Jackman clip immediately, it will brighten your day.  The kids and I watched it twice, laughed uproariously, and then I immediately posted it to my family's website.  It is that funny.

PPPS I don't actually have anything else to add--I just think it is fun to get carried away with extra thoughts and PPPS is funny.

PPPPS Even funnier.

January 21, 2014

Jello Cell

I know a lot of people have made various edible cells and that would have been fun, but we made an almost edible plant cell using the directions found in Janet VanCleave's book Plants.  She has loads of great ideas in her book and we did several of them, but not nearly as many as I planned due to unexpected craziness before Christmas.  

We used lemon jello, a cranberry for the nucleus, and a variety of beans for organelles.  Beans are cheap.  When we finished the kids drew and labeled their own cell on paper and then they ate the jello. Weirdos.

Looking at examples of plant cells for their own diagram in the book World of Plants by Usborne.  I highly recommend this book as a reference.  The pictures were awesome and everything was laid out really neatly and well. This is one I want to buy for my own collection.

Harriet loved squishing the jello around.  She turns three in February (how did this happen??) and she has decided, most firmly, that she can do all the school stuff the older kids do.  I love her diagram.  I also love the note she carefully wrote for me the other day; asking me to spell out all the words, followed by her carefully writing down each letter (no, they didn't look like letters but they looked lovely nonetheless).  She also reads with me, which consists of her picking a book she has memorized and reading it to me by carefully moving her finger from one word to the next as she tells me the story.  I love this age so much!
This kid is in the loud stage where he sounds like he is dying if everything isn't just exactly how he wants it.  He's also started fighting against naps (he's five, but my kids all needed naps until then) for the first time.  He used to tell me when it was nap time and then go lay down.  I only have him nap about every third day, but that is pushing his capacity to cope.  Today I made him lay down and he yelled and screamed like he was being eaten by cannibals and then slept like one of the dead for three hours and still went straight to sleep at his 7:30 bedtime.  I might need to bump his nap schedule back to every other day.  I swear motherhood is about carefully orchestrating everything just so to prevent and redirect and anticipate.

After we made our cells I broke out the microscope for the first time --  oohh, ahhh -- and the kiddos went nutso they loved it so much.  I bought a set of pre-prepared slides so we looked at all the plant slides in the set.  Unfortunately, the microscope had to be put away before the children wanted it to because I got tired of the jostling and muttering and open hostilities about whose turn it was and how long each turn had been and who was going next.

One highlight of the day for me was harassing my son, Cowen, about letting me poke him with something sharp so we could look at blood under the microscope.  I had to niggle him a little about his masculinity being called into question if he refused.  He couldn't let the girls be poked!  That wouldn't be gentlemanly.  He conceded the point about the girls readily enough and eventually said I could poke him (I didn't).  I loved the manful squaring of the shoulders and sweet stoicism.  I adore boys.

Random side note, if you have a man-child and haven't read Why Gender Matters by Leonard Sax, you should repent immediately and go read it.  It is a really fantastic look at the actual physiological differences between boys and girls (way more than I ever dreamt) and some of the emotional/mental differences as well.  When I taught education students at a local university, I always had them read this book.


January 14, 2014

Tree and Leaf Identification

I cheated and bought a kit.  I want you to know that up front before wondering how in the world we found such beautiful samples, etc. etc.

I bought the one from Home Science Tools.  Here's a linky: http://www.hometrainingtools.com/tree-leaf-identification-kit/p/BE-TREEKIT/

I don't know if it is worth the price for you people who can actually look at a leaf and figure out what sort of tree might have produced such a leaf.  As I've said so many times before, I am not a scientist.  I put up with science because it is my children's favorite subject.  I am also not a naturalist.  I love being outdoors and take my kids hiking two or three times a week three seasons of the year, but I still can't tell you the names of anything that we see (except when we run into moose--even I know what a moose is).

My point is that the kit was worth the money to me because it made my life easier.  We made a fun poster, the kids loved looking through the identification guide, we justified two or three hikes by gathering leaves, and in short--we had a lot of fun with the kit.  We also tried to dry leaves and make pictures out of them but we waited a hair too long and the leaves were all a little too dry and brittle.  Next spring, summer, and fall we plan to try again.

And yes, I am trying to catch up so my posts are a little brief.  Sorry about that.

Rock Cycle Using Crayon Shavings

A long time ago the children and I ended our rock unit by trying to use crayon shavings to illustrate the rock cycle.  I am not going to go into the gory details but suffice it to say that I don't recommend it as a profound educational idea.  The pinterest pages and cutsie little blogs all made it seem not only possible but easy.  Ha.  It was neither possible nor easy.

Fun, though.

The major problem is that heating up crayons in tinfoil is a tricky business.  We used boiling water and timed how long the little foil packets were in the water.  Unfortunately, no child managed to put the exact same amount of shavings in his or her packet as his or her peers so each packet melted  a little differently.

Here is a good blog post from someone who made it work: http://mommaowlslab.blogspot.com/2012/01/science-thursday-crayon-rocks.html

While we didn't get quite the perfect igneous vs. sedimentary vs. metamorphic crayon rocks, we sure did have a great time!  If it looks like fun but you aren't studying rocks, just call it an art project.  :)

January 12, 2014

Christmas Books

I know I have been MIA.  I could tell you the long version but I won't.  Suffice it to say, I've had some really good reasons and I'm glad the holidays are behind us and normalcy is returning.

To celebrate, I'm posting!  Yay!  The first post will be about books because there is nothing I like more than discussing books.  More specifically, the books I gave my children for Christmas.  I would say the books my husband and I gave our children but that would be a lie--I pick out the Christmas books because I'm obsessive about that sort of thing.

First, the Russell Freedman collection.  Are any of you Russell Freedman nuts?  We are.  More specifically, my eight (almost nine) year old son is a Freedman nut.  My son, Cowen, really likes nonfiction.  His favorites are anything that involves cowboys, Indians, or George Washington.  I gave him four new Freedman books for Christmas.  Below are pictures of some of the Freedman books we own.

I've posted about Out of Darkness before.  It is one of our favorites.

Immigrant Kids is another favorite around here.  We all like the photographs.

I bought the Marco Polo book for school this year as we're talking about the Middle Ages.  It felt appropriate and the book is gorgeous.

The Life and Death of Crazy Horse is the book Cowen has looked at most since Christmas.  I really recommend this author for high quality nonfiction.
Costco had a bunch of these American Girl Doll collections during Christmas.  The set came with all the Caroline books plus a mini-doll and little board game.  While I am neither for or against American Girl Dolls, I am impressed with the quality of most of the books.  Some of the books are better than others and I haven't read the Caroline books, but Miriam did learn about a war she didn't know about before and she was THRILLED beyond words when she opened the present as Caroline is her favorite doll.  Success.

We LOVE the Josefina books at our house. So much so that I got both Josefina Javelina and A Very Hairy Christmas for Harriet for Christmas.  I don't read these books aloud, oh no.  I have my husband read these books aloud.  He is fluent in Spanish and Portuguese and he is a very dramatic actor so the Spanish words get special emphasis with a correct pronunciation.  The kids are in stitches throughout the readings.  Love these books!

My daughter, Emeline, is an enormous Poppleton fan.  In fact, two years ago she chose to be Poppleton for Halloween.  Poppleton is a pig whose best friend is a llama.  Enough said.  They are early reader books and are in that absolutely sparse category of enjoyable early reader.  We gave Emeline four Poppleton books (I'm not sure how many there are altogether--at least eight) curtesy of abebooks.com.  I didn't pay more than $3.00 for any of the hard-bound books.  Emeline's face looked like a Christmas light turned on inside her when she opened her package.  Success.

We Are in a Book! by Mo Willems is hilarious.  I am not a huge fan of Willems' pigeon books (is that a character flaw?) but I love his Elephant and Piggie books and Knuffle Bunny, of course.  I originally purchased this book for Cowen, my eight year old, because I knew he would think it was hilarious.  He shares my sense of humor.  Then I started worrying that he might think it was a baby book so I gave it to Eli instead, so that Cowen would read it.  Moms are tricky like that.  I should have stuck to my original plan.  Eli likes it (Eli is five), but Cowen has it memorized and laughs hysterically every time he recites it.  Priceless.

Oskar got Rocking Horse Christmas because he has a rocking horse on his stocking and his first Christmas ornament is a rocking horse.  I didn't plan that.  I did plan the book matching the other two things.  As for the book, the children love it.  We saw it first at the library a few years ago and brought it home where the children pored over the illustrations by the hour.  The story is okay but the pictures are fabulous.  My kids were all super excited when they saw what Oskar had received.  I let him play at unwrapping the present then unwrapped it for him and then put it immediately out of his reach.  When you're older, baby boy, you'll be allowed to hold your book.  :)

Last, but not least, is the book I received for Christmas.  I might have hinted a little--if you call putting a Deseret Book coupon in my hubby's hand and telling him to drive to the store and buy Women and the Priesthood hinting.  I have not read it yet but I have read another essay that Sheri Dew wrote on the subject.  I am so excited to read it!  I have so many thoughts on this subject!  If anyone else is reading it soon, make sure you comment here with your impressions and thoughts.  I want to know what you think of the subject and what Sheri Dew has to say.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and thank heavens we have a break before any other major holidays!