Monday, March 28, 2016

Youthful Ingenuity

It amazes me sometimes just how smart our kids can be. Giving them free time to be able to create on their own can often yield surprising results.
  This is Ezra's glider, "Big Wings."
 Here he built a jet with a launcher, "Kinda like an aircraft carrier except it's smaller than the plane."

 And lately, the kids have been fascinated by Star Trek, so Gabe made this interpretation of the USS Enterprise. I didn't really see the resemblance until I opened it and found "The Bridge".

 I thought is was both hilarious and ingenious that Gabe had "Kirk" in the chair and all the other guys at their stations.
 In other news, Ezra is a huge fan of Falcon from Captain America: The Winter Soldier, so he tried to make himself some wings out of paper.
 They weren't very durable, so I made him another set from an Amazon box we had laying around.

And finally, I woke up from a nap one afternoon to find the kids out in the back yard playing under this tent they had made from a parachute, outdoor chairs and a garden stake. They lined the floor with empty chicken feed bags. Again... Ingenious.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Winter Term 2016


With the new year comes a continuation of the kids' history lessons. Over 3 terms, we covered everything from the Oregon Trail all the way up to space flight.

We used the Simply Charlotte Mason Curriculum to do our history, both American and World.

For American History, we started with the Oregon Trail (you can play the classic game online!, The California Gold Rush and the events leading up to the Civil War, including slavery. As with previous terms, Olivia continued to write essays about each of the major figures we studied. Her writing has improved in both content and form, though she usually has to write a rough draft first so we can catch mistakes and make sure she's not rushing through them.


As we've gone through the various periods of history, the d'Aulaire books have been a wonderful resource that we've all enjoyed reading. These two were no exception. Buffalo Bill gave the kids a look at the Wild West era while Abraham Lincoln gave us a great view of Lincoln's early life, both as a boy and a young lawyer before becoming President. Another invaluable book that we added (it wasn't part of the SCM curriculum) was Abraham Lincoln's World by Genevieve Foster. Her books not only tell of the subject in great detail but intersperses his story with events and people who were also active at that time.

One of the read alouds from this period was Sarah, Plain and Tall. It tells the story of a family in the late 1800s West who has lost their mother and so their father begins a correspondence with a woman from Massachusetts. When she comes to visit, she changes their world. It's really worth a read if you haven't.

A really cool part of history this term was that we got to study was the invention of some of the things we take for granted today like the telephone and the light bulb. We read all about how Alexander G. Bell and Thomas Edison spent many years of their lives working on hundreds and hundreds of inventions, sometimes competing against each other to be the first to achieve something. It was while reading about these men that we did our Electricity and Magnetism study.

As we finished up the term, Olivia read The Story of My  Life by Helen Keller. She has read about her before, but since this was the time period in which she lived and she had dealings with Alexander Bell, we thought it was appropriate for her to read. 

We also too a look at the construction of one of the most iconic bridges in the world: The Brooklyn Bridge. Elizabeth Mann's book had amazing illustrations of how the bridge was built and the story of the man who brought his vision to life.

Later, we studied another of our country's great presidents: Teddy Roosevelt. The book was really meant for older children, but we did it as a read aloud at the table and the kids really enjoyed it. They may not have fully understood everything, but, as always, they surprised me with how much they retained.

For world history, we studied such figures as Marie Curie, Alfred Nobel and Otto Von Bismarck. We read about China opening to trade, the Opium Wars, the Boer War and the construction of the Suez Canal.

One of the historical figures we spent a little more time on was Louis Pasteur. The kids really enjoyed hearing about his work on vaccines for diseases like rabies.

However, the real highlight of world history was reading about George Mueller. Mr Mueller ran an orphanage in England and always trusted God to provide for their needs. He never once asked for a donation, but was able to build a home for more than 300 orphans.

For Geography, we read Tree in the Trail, which is the story of a cottonwood tree spanning more than 300 years as it stood along the Sante Fe Trail and saw buffalo, Native Americans, Spanish conquistadores and American settlers traveling along the trail. Even after the tree died, it lived on as a yoke for oxen and became and enduring symbol of life on the frontier in the 1800s.

Some other fun stuff we did included seeing a live presentation of Peter and the Wolf at a local high school. The kids really enjoyed it because they got to meet the various instruments up close. No surprise, Ezra went straight for the drums... :) The kids also did a yoga program called Cosmic Kids Yoga. They do a wide variety of themed yoga routines that really appealed to the kids. I would say the favorite is the Star Wars episode. :)

Finally, for art, we did some art appreciation with the Come Look With Me books. The kids would look at the paintings in the books and then we'd go over some questions about each painting that had to do with their observation of the painting, i.e. the colors, the subject matter, and perspective.


Olivia did a whole new math program this term. SCM has a really neat program that teaches students how to run a business. Olivia ran her own virtual bookstore. I did a post about it here. Once she finished it, we gave her a book called "This is Not a Math Book".
Rather than typical math stuff, the book combined art and math by working with patterns, shapes and artistic (though still math) things like fractals. There were some very cool but also very difficult activities in the book.

Gabe has continued doing his Life of Fred Books and has an absolute blast hearing the stories. He's powered his way from Butterflies all the way into Edgewood!


For science this term, we're reading through this book. It tells the story of a brother and sister in the NC mountains who observe all the various changes that the forests go through in the fall and winter. We took the time to go out and make some of those same observations near us.

Olivia has continued with A Nature Walk with Aunt Bessie and is still enjoying it very much.

With Ezra, we started a new reading curriculum from SCM called Delightful Reading. The idea behind it is to get him to recognize words and build sentences with them using recognizable pieces of literature like short passages from the Bible or a simple poem like "Rain" by Robert Louis Stevenson. The curriculum comes with the words from each passage on heavy, laminated cardstock that have to be cut out individually. Then, after I read the passage to him, we practiced putting the cut out words in the right order. At first he really got frustrated with it, but then I decided to try a different tack. I put the words randomly on the table and then placed the bags (which have labels that have the full line that belongs in that bag, i.e. "All the rain is falling down") on the table and told him to put the right words in the bag. After a couple of days of doing this, it built his confidence to the point that he was able to go back to making the sentences as I read them to him.

He has continued doing his Rod and Staff workbooks along with his sight words each day. He gets very frustrated when he gets things wrong, so there are days when he does better than others.


Yep, Emma's started school! We're doing simple, basic ABC stuff with her, so we pulled out the Alphabet Art book and have started working our way through every letter.
 Each letter has a "letter" activity that involves decorating the letter with something having to do with the letter like "Apple As", where we carved the end of a carrot into the shape of an apple and used it as a stamp on the letters.
 Then there's a crafty project like this bee with tissue paper on the body.

She has so much fun doing this! Hopefully that love of school will continue. :)

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Peach Blossoms 2016

 It's the time of year that everything is in bloom and this year, we were lucky enough to get permission to go out to Buttermilk Creek Farm in Alamance County and see the peach trees up close. 
 It's no surprise that the trees were literally buzzing with honeybees hard at work.
 The kids were able to get up close and examine the trees and blossoms.
 They drew pictures in their nature journals and made observations about the trees.

 They also found a ton of peach pits on the ground from last year's harvest.
 The blossoms were just so stunning, it was hard to leave them behind.
But we'll be back in a few months to collect them when they've become big, ripe peaches!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Buffalo Creek/Latham Park

Every day at the breakfast table, we've been reading a poem from Wendell Berry's New Collected Poems. Recently, there was one that talked about a river flooding and the effects that the flood had on the land around the river. It says, in part:

And the water reaches a height
it can only fall from, leaving
the tree trunks wet.
It has made a roof
to its rising, and become
a domestic thing.
It lies down in its place
like a horse in his stall.
Facts emerge from it:
drift it has hung in the trees,
stranded cans and bottles, 
new carving in the banks
 - a place of change, changed.
It leaves a mystic plane
in the air, a membrane
of history streteced between
the silt-lines on the banks,
a depth that for months
the man will go from his window
down into, knowing
he goes within the reach 
of a dark power: where
the birds are, fish

Arounf the same time that we read this poem, there was a rather heavy thunderstorm. In Greensboro, we know the Buffalo Creek tends to flood in heavy rains, so we took the kids over to Latham Park where they could walk beside the creek and see the effects of the most recent storm.
The creek has a very silty bank that was spongy and showed where the creek had cut through the surrounding earth. You can see how the debris from the most recent storm has clumped around the base of the trees, kind of like the poem describes.
 Under the Wendover bridge, you could see debris lodged as high as 8 feet above the normal height of the creek!
The kids like walking on the sloped area under the bridge and if you look behind Gabe, you can see even more debris lodged all the way up to the bottom of the bridge! It was very much a reminder of the power that the water can have, just as Berry described at the end of that poem.

Amazingly, we found recent evidence of a beaver! 
You could see his teeth marks in the bark of the fallen tree

A nearby pine was dropping some huge cones.
The kids thought this tree was amazing because it had 4 trees (though one had been cut down) growing all together from the same stump. I thought it was amazing because I got them all to smile at the same time! :)

Friday, March 4, 2016

A Day at Triad Park

Rebecca took the kids out for a play day at Triad Park.
 They have these giant artificial boulders that the kids love to climb.

 Olivia ding her "conquering explorer" pose.

  Gabe's loose clothes make him look like he's made of jelly. :)

 They took the opportunity to roll down the hill a few times. :)

 They finished off the afternoon with a walk through the woods.