Monday, August 31, 2015


Just a quick post - it seems it is the year for cicadas to be everywhere again! In the same day, we found a cicada exoskeleton attached to a deck post and then found a recently deceased cicada on the deck. So what do we do? Bring them inside and look at them under the microscope, of course!

This pic was just taken with my phone:

What nature have you found to examine recently?

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Moving, Chaos, and Still Here

We moved - a while three blocks from where we used to live! I seriously underestimated and thought we'd take about a week to get settled in because it was such a little move. Of course, we still had to pack everything we owned into boxes and then unpack it all, figure out where it went, and organize it. A month later and the house is finally looking "lived in" instead of "pure chaos".

Though I haven't been blogging, we have been schooling. There should be another history unit posted in the next couple weeks, our first religion unit will be completed and posted, and we're 2 weeks in to a 6 weeks Living Things science unit.

Meanwhile, here's the new homeschool space:

Looks rather like our old homeschool space. That's the fun of modular furniture. Actually, there's a big difference. Before, homeschool and play space were all together in one room. This house has a big enough bedroom for The Kid to hold all of her toys and her art desk! The homeschool desk is tucked in a corner of the dining room, still central to our daily living. It was a bit interesting to sort out what went into her room and what went into the homeschool space. Which space does the Lego Education kit go in? How about the Snap Circuits? Do we put all the books in her room or in the living room or dining room? A few weeks in, everything finally has a place and I can even mostly remember what went where!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Fairy Tale Project: Puss in Boots

July's fairy tale project centered on Puss in Boots. The Kid loved this story so much that even though I only meant for her to choose about 3 of the versions I picked up from the library, she read all 5! Here are the versions we read:
I note that there is a DreamWorks movie named Puss in Boots. However, that character of Puss isn't really related to the classic story but rather a prequel to the Shrek movies. I my daughter wasn't so very sensitive to violence in movies, we probably would have watched it anyway!

She would talk about even small differences between versions, like which title Puss gave his master. We spent a lot of time appreciating the illustrations in the books - I especially liked Fred Marcellino's and The Kid was especially drawn to the swirls in Steve Light's. By the time we got to the narration, she had to spread it out over two sessions because she gave such a detailed account of the story.

The skill I chose to work on with her for this narrative was chunking a story into "parts". Because she gave such a detailed retelling, I asked if she wanted to do multiple illustrations and make a full Puss in Boots book of her own. She did, so then we talked about dividing up her narrative onto separate pages, one "chunk" of related narrative for each picture - kind of like the forerunner to understanding dividing a long story into chapters. Along with this, we discussed how stories are set up, the action builds, there is a climax, and then things are wrapped up.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Ancient History: Sumer and Akkad, Babylonia, Assyria

I started out meaning to do this as three separate units: Sumer and Akkad, then Babylonia, then Assyria. But so many of the resources we used discussed all of the civilizations together, so I ended up doing the same.

We started the unit by reading:
  • Usborne Internet-Linked Encyclopedia of World History pages 110-113
  • Story of the World: Chapter 3
  • Story of the World: Chapter 5
After that, we went through one of the following periodically while continuing to work our way through other resources of interest:
  • Usborne Internet-Linked Encyclopedia of World History page 132
  • Story of the World: Chapter 7 
  • Usborne Internet-Linked Encyclopedia of World History pages 146-149
  • Story of the World: Chapter 8
  • Story of the World: Chapter 16
  • Usborne Internet-Linked Encyclopedia of World History pages 150-151
  • Story of the World: Chapter 17
    • I note that Chapter 17a is about Nebuchadnezzar's insanity. SOTW uses the Bible as a primary source for this story, and it is the only historical reference that seems to refer to his madness. While I did include the story here, I discussed it as one of the places where the historical narrative may be true or may be myth.
Nonfiction books we enjoyed:
  • The Tigris and Euphrates: Rivers of the Fertile Crescent by Gary Miller (956.7 Mil)
  • Write Around the World: The Story of How and Why We Learned to Write by Vivian French and Ross Collins (411 Fr)
  • The Ancient Near East by Rebecca Stefoff (939.4 Ste) - Chapter 1 covers Mesopotamia

Fiction and myth books we enjoyed:
  • Pepi and the Secret Names by Jill Paton Walsh and Fiona French
  • The Three Princes retold by Eric A. Kimmel (398.2 Three Princes Kim) 
  • Ishtar and Tammuz: A Babylonian Myth of the Seasons by Christopher Moore (398.2 Ishtar Moo) 
  • The Seven Voyages of Sinbad the Sailor retold by John Yeoman, illustrated by Quentin Blake (398.208 Arabian Nights Yeo) - this was done as a longer read aloud 
  • The Gilgamesh trilogy by Ludmila Zeman: Gilgamesh the King, The Revenge of Ishtar, The Last Quest of Gilgamesh (398.208 Gilgamesh Zem)
  • Note: I would have liked to have included an Aladdin story, but my daughter was pretty much done with this time and place, so we moved on.

Documentaries we enjoyed:
  • Ancient Civilizations for Children: Ancient Mesopotamia (935 Anc) - This has several bibilical references

Activities we enjoyed:

  • Making a clay tablet with air-dry clay and trying to write in our own form of heiroglyphics
  • Baking sebetu rolls (recipe found on page 80 of Ancient Egyptians and Their Neighbors

Following along in history? Go back to the main Ancient History page.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Fairy Tale Project

I'm a big fan of the BraveWriter Lifestyle. We do Poetry Teas. I would relax on grammar and writing instruction a la BraveWriter, but The Kid won't stand for that - she wants more more more. But the only "formal" writing projects for first grade will be NaNoWriMo and a huge fairy tale project. The general idea of BraveWriter's fairy tale project is to read and/or watch multiple versions of a fairy tale, then have the child narrate the fairy tale and illustrate it. I decided to have this one project from Jot It Down take our full year, with one fairy tale per month.

Month 1: Rumpelstiltskin

Month 2: Puss In Boots

Yet to come: Three Little Pigs, Jack and the Beanstalk, Sleeping Beauty, Pied Piper of Hamelin, Snow White, The Ugly Duckling , Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel

    Tuesday, July 7, 2015

    Fairy Tale Project: Rumpelstiltskin

    Our first BraveWriter fairy tale project subject was Rumpelstiltskin. While I've always kind of liked this story, it turns out that The Kid does not. We therefore only read two versions:

    • Rumpelstiltskin adapted and illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky
    • The Girl Who Spun Gold by Virginia Hamilton, illustrated by Leo Dillon
    This did give us two stories that are similar in basic narrative but very different in cultural background.  After reading them both, I asked The Kid to narrate the tale. She grumpily told me that she did not remember the story. I asked her to just start talking about anything in the story and she did give me about 8-10 completely disjointed sentences, covering the basics of the story.

    So the skill we ended up focusing on this month was ordering. I took the disjointed sentences of her narrative, printed them out and cut them up - one sentence per strip. I then asked her to help me put them in order, like a puzzle. Did this event happen before or after that one? I read it out to her after she put them in order and she was satisfied with her story, which I then reordered on the computer, printed out, and she was happy to illustrate.

    Tuesday, June 16, 2015

    Spanish Immersion

    I probably should have written this post a couple of months ago, before details could start fading from my mind. This past February, The Kid and I took off for an adventure - four weeks in a foreign country, just the two of us.

    We started out by flying into Guatemala City. We were met there by a driver who had been arranged in advance for the ride to San Pedro La Laguna on Lake Atitlan. The ride was supposed to take three hours but somehow ended up taking five and we arrived well after dark. Fortunately, The Kid was work out from a day of traveling and slept at least half the drive. We were brought to the homestay we would be living in for the following three weeks. We briefly met some of the members of the household, then went to sleep.

    For three weeks, I walked to a Spanish language school for four hours in the morning. A few minutes before arriving at my school, I would drop off The Kid (who was 4 years old at the time) at a small local preschool. The preschool was Spanish immersion for The Kid simply by way of no one there speaking any other language. After school I would pick her up and we would do the walk up the ridiculously steep hill to the homestay.

    After a couple days of preschool, The Kid was expressing a lot of frustration. She already knew the basics in Spanish, but the rapid speaking pace and not being able to switch to English was taking its toll. This was when I realized that the survival skills that came more naturally to me had to be explicitly explained to her. When she didn't know how to say something well in Spanish, she didn't even know where to start. If she wanted to play on the slide, but didn't know the word for slide, I taught her that she could point, refer to its color, and use me gusta (I like) or quiero (I want). To this day, The Kid swears she learned no Spanish at the preschool because there was no direct Spanish instruction. But by the end of the three weeks of homestay and preschool, she was regularly correcting me and supplying me with vocabulary.

    There were a couple things I hadn't taken into consideration before going. The first one to become apparent was a difference in safety standards. The bathroom in the homestay was up a set of stairs - very steep, uneven, stone stairs with no railing. Those stairs made me nervous, but for The Kid they were simply impossible. We quickly came up with her being able to walk up them but needing to go down by sitting on them and scooting down on her butt - something she hadn't done since she was a year old at home. There are no sidewalks, no shoulder to the roads, and drivers are... unpredictable.

    But worst of all for The Kid was the lack of parks - there was one teeny playground, but no green spaces. No where other than stone floors or the street to practice cartwheels. Technically, there was a "park" in front of the church, but the actual green spaces were all roped off to keep them pretty and people were only allowed on the stone paths. There were none of the child-friendly spaces that we are so accustomed to at home - no children's museum, no library, no public pools. Our afternoons consisted of taking a walk to get ice cream or go to a restaurant for an afternoon snack and maybe a bit of wifi. We could watch the boats on the lake, but the lake was not really safe for swimming. The area was very polluted in general and The Kid developed a cough she couldn't fully shake until we left San Pedro.

    The homestay was fantastic. They were helpful, they all doted on The Kid, they patiently helped us along with our Spanish. Maria was a great cook. The Kid is an adventurous eater and found a lot of new foods to enjoy (and a few she didn't care for so much). Really, the people in general for fantastic. The teachers were very helpful. Random strangers on the street would stop to talk. The people made this trip fantastic.

    For the next part of the trip, we took a shuttle van to the airport and flew to Flores. Flores is a really neat little town in the middle of a lake. It's a bit more touristy, and therefore somewhat less good for immersion because many people would just switch to English when they heard me struggling along in Spanish. But the lake was clean and easily swimmable, the weather was a bit warmer, there was a bit more to see and do... Unfortunately for us, The Kid took sick the last day in San Pedro and was pretty worn out, so we were limited. But we enjoyed what we could.

    Then another shuttle van to Tikal. We stayed in a hotel just outside the ruins. The first day we took a guided tour and then the next two days we just paid our entrance fee and hiked around. Tikal is a fantastic Mayan ruin site situated in a tropical forest. Climbing one of the temples was a highlight of the entire trip for The Kid - you could see the entirety of the Gran Plaza from up there!

    The Kid just reminded me: Though Lake Atitlan is high elevation with no malaria risk, Tikal was lowland tropical forest. There were definitely mosquitos! And the malaria risk meant she had to swallow malaria pills; this was the first she had ever had pills that needed swallowed. It was a bit of a trick to get them down at first.

    After Tikal, we returned to Flores for one night and caught an early shuttle to Belize City - five hours in a van with the oddest border crossing setup I've ever seen. In Belize City, we met up with The Husband in the airport, took a short hop over to Ambergris Caye, and enjoyed a week of fun and sun.

    I love travel - getting to stay in a place long enough to get to know it. This trip was successful enough that we're planning to do a similar one next year.