Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Studying Japan

We had a great time studying the country of Japan. Of course, we have been in Asia for awhile, so the unique looking language, difference in culture, and the eastern religions had been covered about as much as I planned to go over them. So while "in Japan", we decided to look at a few other things.

We began with origami. While origami might be the art of paper folding, it was the art of the pounding headache in this house. The girls gave in quickly and so did I on many of the projects. I was so determined to a get a few completed that I found myself folding paper in the middle of the floor one night JUST TO SAY I DID IT. Because I am nutty like that.

Then we moved on to volcanoes, specifically looking at Mt. Fuji. I branched out of my "norm" and we decided to make a volcano lapbook from homeschool share. I am not a lapbook person, but this one looked like the kind of thing you could come back to over and over to learn from. So we did it!

The girls had a great time making them. Of course, they had even more fun playing school with them for the rest of the week!

And we spent the week singing about volcanoes. I still find this song enter my mind sometimes and we all sing along. It is quite catchy and silly!

National Geographic had an excellent video on volcanoes at our library! We loved it! The best part was learning about a volcano is Japan that erupts over 400 times a year. (yes, that is often twice in one day) Families sit and watch the "volcano report" the way we might watch the weather report. They built ashmen (instead of snowmen) in the street and had to spend time shovelling ash the way we might shovel snow. It was quite fascinating!

Finally, we ended with another get together with our friends. This is always our favorite part!

T (age 5) gave a presentation on her favorite book during our study, "A pair of red clogs."

K (age 7) had really enjoyed learning about volcanoes, so she decided to use her lapbook to "teach the group" about volcanoes.

I have no idea where she gets this innate ability to teach...*wink

I am glad we have kept up with presentations this year. They have been a unique way for my children to grow.

Then comes craft time! The kids know that our get togethers mean they are going to probably get messy and make some fun stuff. And of course, it is so helpful to do this because I wouldn't get to these things at home most of the time.

Then there was food! Yummy edamame, noodles, and even homemade Miso Soup! YUM!

Truly, I am so thankful for this group! We have had such a fun year! This is a precious group of adventurous, creative, and fun women!

Last, but far from least, is the great literature we enjoyed! Below are some of our picks. My favorite find was the Eye Wonder: Volcano book! We have gotten hooked on the entire series of Eye Wonder books. They are the perfect reading level for my oldest daughter and we all enjoy the pictures.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Studying India

Our next stop in Asia was the country of India. We had a great time learning about the people in the various states in India.

I think our favorite activity guide was this downloadable book from the Kids of Courage website. I bought it at a homeschool fair for a great price, but you can also download and print it for free!

We printed out the map of India in the beginning and discussed the country, one state at a time. The book includes information about each state as well as activities. One activity was making flowers out of tissue. The girls had a blast with this and we made flowers all morning while praying for the people of Arunachul Pradesh.

We completed Rangoli designs that can be printed at this site. We used colored rice to make the designs because they use rice powder in India.

Of course, each country ends with a get together with our fellow globe trotters!

In India, Diwali is a main Hindu festival that is celebrated with lights. We didn't talk a lot about the history behind the festival at home, but we did look at some of the amazing light displays that take place in India. It is truly beautiful. So our first activity was decorating small clay tea light holders. We added sequins, glitter, and beads.

Next we broke into two groups. The girls were able to dress up in an Indian Sari, or at least as close as we could get. Boy, they are hard to tie!

The next station was the baking of Indian Naan bread. The dough was prepared ahead of time, so the girls were able to roll it out and brush on the butter! Then we sprinkled it with poppy seeds.

While the bread was baking, our entire group gathered to listen to presenations. K (age 7) told the group a little bit about what she learned about monsoon season in India.

T (age 5) shared some information about the Taj Mahal.

Next, we were able to enjoy our bread. YUM!

The girls were so inspired by the fun day with our friends that they begged to eat on the floor that night. It wasn't my original plan, but we went ahead and moved dinner to the floor. Here we are eating flank, asparagus, and roasted red potatoes on the floor. Not really a traditional Indian meal, but we had fun!

We enjoyed a lot of great literature during the week, which you can see below. Our favorite (if we had to pick one) was "One Grain of Rice".

With each country, I have been able to find one tale that is similar to a tale we are familiar with. It has been fun to compare the two stories. This time we compared, "Puss in Boots" with "Jamil's Clever Cat".

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Our Co-op: An update

The co-op we joined this year is working out to be the perfect fit for our family.

Both girls love their PE, art and music classes! I love that they are able to participate in these activities with other children. After all, playing kickball with just the family isn't quite the same!

Every week when I walk in the gym there is new equipment being used. I have seen scarves, bowling equipment, scooter boards, balls, cones, bases, basketballs, and a ton more. The PE class looks like the girls are being exposed to so many activities and having a blast while doing it.

As a family we have studied the artwork of Claude Monet and Henri Matisse so far this year. It has been a relief to know that it isn't something I have to get done. They do plenty of wonderful art at their co-op, so anything we do at home is a bonus.

Their music class at co-op is the only music they participate in right now, and that is fine for our family. At some point, they will take piano lessons, but for now it is nice to have that subject lifted off of my daily requirements!

Their science classes have been a blast for both of them. I am so thrilled because our science really lacked any "POW" to it last year. Honestly, I had no idea what we were missing until we began science this year. It is by far their favorite subject! Best of all, I don't have to plan the lessons!

T (age 5) has learned so much about God's Creation. We have had a great time doing nature activities during the week when we follow up using her homework assignments. She has studied light and was able to see a dissected cow's eye in class, something her mommy wouldn't do at home for sure...LOL! She has also studied clouds, weather, senses, plants, trees, and rocks.

K (age 7) has taken a HUGE liking to Science this year and I truly believe it is because of this co-op! She is inspired by what she is learning! During her cave exploration unit, she and T made pretend spelunking hats (see picture) and wore them all of the time. We even built a huge "cave" in the basement to explore together. She has also studied the rain forest and volcanoes. Currently her class is studying the earth and rocks. Everything about her science class has captured her mind. We see it all day long in the way she plays.

I am so thankful that these co-op classes have inspired my girls to learn aboout God's amazing planet and His creation!

Both girls enjoy their Language Arts classes as well, though I have to admit that they take second place to science. K learns a different virtue each week. We look up bible verses and complete activities that relate to reading assignments. It has been wonderful for me to have some Language Arts activities already planned for me each week! T works on phonics skills and interacts with literature in class, but hasn't had homework for Language Arts this year.

Overall, I am quite sure we have found our home for a few years! It has been a perfect blend of fostering the joy of learning AND taking some of the burden of homeschool planning off of my plate!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

China Study

We began our Galloping the Globe unit with the study of Asia. Our first stop was China.

We had a blast talking about the Emperors, the Great Wall, and reading some wonderful literature.

The Pet Dragon: A Story about Adventure and Chinese Characters by Chrisoph Niemann was by far the kid's favorite book! The basic story is about a girl with a pet dragon. Her father kicks the dragon out and she goes searching for him. The wonderful part about this story is that the illustrations are done around Chinese Characters (their written language). You begin to "see" the word in the character because of the illustrations. It is amazing how many you learn by reading this book.

And of course, tracing paper is a lovely bonus if you want to write pages and pages of Chinese Characters...

While "in China" we read about missionaries, Eric Lidell, Gladys Alyward, and Hudson Taylor. What amazing stories of courage and God's calling.

After three wonderful weeks of studying China at home, we got together with our friends for a day of fun celebrating the end of our study.

The kids each gave a short presentation on something they enjoyed learning about during our study. K (age 6) talked about the Chinese Characters she learned and some history of the written language. She is working on using notecards this year and still making some eye contact.

T (age 5) shared information on the Great Wall of China using a picture that she drew of the Wall. At her age, she and I come up with three questions for her to answer for the group. I sit in the audience and ask the questions and she gives the answers. It has proven to be a gentle and effective way to introduce the skill of presenting.

Arts and crafts time was a hit! The kids made dancing dragons and Chinese lanterns.

Then we moved on to playing with Tangrams, which were invented in China. The girls enjoyed these immensely!

Finally, it was snack time. And what better way to eat it than with chopsticks! (Thank goodness gummy bears are sticky anyway!)

At the end of our time together, the dancing dragons inspired a marching parade, which ended outdoors with all of the kids gathered together.

We had a great time studying this country, praying for the people and learning a little about the history.


Other literature books we loved:

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Our First Day of Co-op

We joined a different homeschool group this year. We moved on from Classical Conversations for two main reasons. One was financial and the other was the need to focus more on elementary school type learning. The Memory Work was great, but I found that I was skipping a lot because my kids were so young. The science projects were over their heads most of the time, even though they often had a "wow factor". I wanted to find a group that would take something off my plate and enhance learning at their level.

After talking to a friend, we joined a co-op that was a little farther away, but fit our needs perfectly! Our new co-op began in September and the first day was a hit!

The girls were ready and eager to go in the morning, even though it was a bit early for us to get out the door. (all four of us must be in the car by 8:30 AM)

The girls attend morning chapel from 9:00-9:15. They do general things like say the Pledge of Alligence and more involved activities, such as learning the Lord's Prayer in sign language.

Then the move on to PE. The kindergarten through second grade has gym class together, so my daughters are there at the same time. They played a get to know you game with movement. Each person introduced themselves and did an action with their name. The game continued to build as each person added on an action.

Then they each head to their own grade level classrooms. I put K (age 7) in the second grade classroom, even though she missed the cutoff according to the state. We felt like it was the right placement for her at this time. T (age 5) heads off to kindergarten.

They both have music class. The second grade is studying the orchestra and classical music. K did a lot of this last year, but not in nearly as much detail. T's kindergarten class joins the pre-K and first grade classes for music. They basically sing songs together and have fun.

Both girls have art class during the day. The art activities usually coordinate with their science lesson or language art story.

Each grade level also has a language arts class. K is studying, "The Children's Book of Virtues" for the first 11 weeks. T's class usually does kindergarten phonics games and other reading activities.

Finally, they both have science class. The science classes are amazingly in depth, including homework assignments. T is spending the first half of the year studying God's creation. K's class began by studying the rainforest.

At the end of the day, the girls come to the nursery to join their brothers and I. They were tired, but had a blast on their first day!