Sunday, August 31, 2014

Apologia Science - Astronomy

Earlier this year, we posted some pics from Olivia's early work in the Apologia Astronomy curriculum set. We continued throughout the summer and recently finished it. It really was an excellent study of each planet within our solar system as well as touching on broader subjects like stars, galaxies and comets. It even covered more peripheral topics like light, astronomical distances, space stations and space travel. 

The experiments were all very relevant and lots of fun. 
 When studying about the cloud-covered gas giant planets, we made a cloud in a jar.
 When we talked about the freezing points of various liquids (helium, methane, and water vs saltwater), she made ice cream.

 When we talked about space travel, we made an Alka-Seltzer Rocket. 
 And, yes, it really worked!

  She did research on each planet and wrote out some interesting facts. 
 She did a study on whether Pluto should be a planet or not. She argued (quite convincingly, to me) that it should be considered a planet and that they were wrong to change it in 2008 to a dwarf planet.
 We talked about constellations and looked up which ones were the most recognizable in our area. We then drove up towards Pilot Mountain, away from city lights and managed to spot quite a few of them. We even saw a shooting star!
 She then used the brightness gauge she had made to determine which star in the sky was the brightest. Vega and Altair were both among the brightest we could see.
 When we talked about space travel and distances, she did a rather math-intensive worksheet on how long it would take to visit each planet and then get home. Amazingly, the answer was 83 years!
As one of the last topics, she learned about the International Space Station and how they live on it and do experiments. We built our own model station to look at and play with.

Overall, this was one of the most interesting science topics she's done and one that she had a lot of fun with. The curriculum was very comprehensive and explained the rather difficult concepts in ways that made it easier for her to grasp. One thing that we did realize is that she's ready to move up to the regular notebooking journal rather than the Junior version.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Playing with Balls

When we do fitness as a family, there are often exercises that involve rolling, tossing, bouncing or kicking balls. Naturally, when Emma and Irene see them, they want to play, so we spent a few minutes earlier in the week letting them do just that. 
 We did work with Emma on catching as well as kicking.

 Irene, however, needed no encouragement to throw herself at the ball as soon as it came near. :)

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Art in Our Home and our Homeschool

In this house, we seem to go through spurts of letting the kids do art (the kind with paints and messier mediums) and then we have times that we don’t do much art for a while. Of course the kids adore making art and it is oh so good for their creativity, but it requires that we, as parents, step back and allow them space to make their art. And inevitably that means making messes too.

We took the kids to ArtQuest’s Family night and they got to paint, make clay creations, and spend lots of time building with blocks. It is a wonderfully free event that happens once a month for 2 hours. 

 Ezra and Gabe

 Emma and Olivia

 Ezra's Star
 Gabe's colorful piece
Olivia's stars and hearts

Then for the last few weeks at home we have started back using our most favorite art curriculum to date. Artistic Pursuits! Olivia is the only one that has done any of their lessons before. She has completed The Way They See It (here) and Elementary Book 1, which happened to go well with some of our more ancient history studies. This is the first time that the boys will sit in on the lessons and be allowed to explore with the art materials and mediums. The curriculum’s focus is to develop skills of observation and to fully and freely involve the student in the creative process. We have done the first 3 lessons in the Elementary Book 2 so far. The two artists we have covered are Cimabue and Giotto and the lessons individually focused on using watercolor, gold leaf, and oil pastels. It fit quite nicely with our history studies which led up to and included the beginning of the Renaissance. 

Here we used similar paints to those that Cimabue and other artists used to create frescoes in wet plaster. While we weren't doing them in plaster, the water-based paints were the main focus of the lesson.
 Gabe's Garden and Olivia's beehives

Gold Leaf
Here we were emulating how Giotto used real gold leaf to accent his pictures.

Oil Pastels 
The idea here was to emulate Giotto's scratching pictures on stone by layering oil pastels on chipboard. First we colored the board with a light color and then overlaid it in black. Once that was done, we used a sharp tool (in this case, a wooden meat skewer) to scratch off the black to reveal the lighter color beneath.

“We cannot measure the influence that one or another artist has upon the child’s sense of beauty, upon his power of seeing, as in a picture, the common sights of life: he is enriched more than we know in having really looked at even a single picture.” --Charlotte Mason, Home Education, 309 

We have been doing a picture study of Giotto using the Simply Charlotte Mason picture study portfolios and a book that Rebecca found from the library called “The Glorious Impossible” by Madeleine L’Engle. We don’t necessarily agree with her writings that went along with each painting, so we skipped most of them, but the procession of frescoes was a wonderful study of his work. While studying his work, we also read the story of his life. He was a shepherd boy who scratched amazingly realistic pictures of his sheep on rocks and was taken as an apprentice by one of Florence’s most prominent artists of the time. As he grew in his art, he developed a new style of painting and became greater than his master.

As a comparison, we looked at paintings by both Giotto and Cimabue that had a nearly identical themes. While both were great artists, it's clear that Giotto's (on the right) shows more life-like figures and has a more three-dimensional perspective to it. This was a rather large step forward in style and became an example for the artists of the Renaissance to come. We chose to do 2-3 picture studies a week for the last several weeks. That just seems to work better for our kids than just doing one a week.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Fun With Flour

Our good friend, Lacey, invited us and some other friends to come make "Moon Sand" using just flour, oil and a couple of drops of lavender essential oil. Not ones to pass up an opportunity to get their hands dirty, our kids jumped right in. Here is the instructions for making your own.

 Emma was a little tentative at first, but after seeing Rebecca demonstrate, she decided it must be ok.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Blueberry Picking

It's that time of year again! I really can't recall how many pounds we picked last year, but we were down to our last few so we knew it was time to go get more. This is one of the best things for the kids to pick because there are tons of them that they can reach and they can eat their fill while doing it. This year everyone got into the act. Seriously! Irene was even picking from her perch on Rebecca's back.

The people at Watts Blueberry Farm in Belews Creek are just so fantastic and their bushes are so wonderful that we keep coming back. This is our third or fourth year going to them exclusively (though I think we may have picked a couple of early-season pounds at Buttermilk last year). The haul so far this year? 15lbs. We'll be going back again. It will stay blueberry season until mid-September or so depending on the weather.