Monday, March 31, 2008

new unit study - Hawaii!!

Now that we're back from spring break we're making the leap from studying Alaska to studying Hawaii! We're headed there in about three weeks so I thought this would be a fun way to prepare for our trip.

Here's the book we read today to get an overview of the state (and for me to see which subjects caught their eye for further study)...
A is for Aloha
Thankfully, what caught their eye was exactly what I thought would... marine life and volcanoes. I had planned on those subjects for our science for the next few weeks.

After reading the book, we made a map. This time (unlike our map of Alaska), I turned the creation of the map over to the kids. We weren't marking out an exact trail like we were for the Iditarod course so if it wasn't perfect, it would be okay.

So here, the discussions begin...
after everything was drawn and labeled... they moved on to coloring...
The finished map...
I thought it turned our really nice! They worked so seriously on it for most of the afternoon.

The map they copied from came from the Hawaii State Quarter Lesson Plan for Grades K-1 on the U.S. Mint Kids site. We're not actually going to be using that lesson plan since it is more about transportation instead of the State of Hawaii. We'll be using the Grades 2-3 lesson plan instead.

Then this afternoon I went to the library and went a little crazy. I really should NOT bring Clara's big tote bag when I go the library because I tend to fill it. And although it seems reasonable enough to carry out of the library... a couple blocks later on our trek home, the weight really begins to become quite noticeable! LOL! I can't wait to go through the books tomorrow... we have books on sea turtles (something the kids picked up from the book we read today), coral reefs, sharks, dolphins, whales and volcanoes! Fun stuff!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Easter Egg Hunt!

I just randomly decided to visit the CurrClick site this morning and discovered that they were having an Easter Egg hunt! I think it said that there were 41 eggs hidden on their site with discounts up to 75% off certain titles PLUS 7 of those are for free products! I think I've found four free products so far... two of them I downloaded as they go along with what we plan on studying next year. So, approximately $22.00 in free products so far! I should have been keeping track of how many I've found but I'm thinking I've only found about half of the eggs so far. I've got to start my day.... but I'll be back there to hunt again later!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

the northern lights

This afternoon we started a little study of the northern lights.

As a light start to this study, we read this book...Aurora: A Tale of the Northern Lights by Mindy Dwyer

It was a nice, light whimsical story... however, this is the author's story, not a regional folk tale. It was a great story with beautiful illustrations though. The kids both seemed to enjoy it.

We also looked at the photos is this book from the library...
Aurora: The Mysterious Northern Lights by Candace Savage

I checked this book out solely for the photographs but there is a lot of good information in there also. I wasn't planning on it, but we read several sections as we browsed our way through the book. I might have to pull it out again and see what else might be fun to read aloud.

Then we come to this book...
Arctic Lights, Arctic Nights by Debbie Miller

When I requested this one from the library, I was expecting a book on the Northern Lights. I was disappointed at first to see that the Northern Lights were only mentioned once in the whole book. But then, I really took a look at the book....
This is a story about how drastically the amount of daylight changes in Fairbanks, Alaska, near the Arctic Circle. Since Alex had just covered graphing in his last math book, I saw a potential project as I looked through the book. First of all... we looked up Fairbanks and the Arctic Circle on our map of Alaska. Then, using my graph paper I mentioned in my previous post, I had Alex plot out the sunrise and sunset times.

After that, Alex and Clara connected the dots and colored the graph to reflect the amount of daylight versus night...
(the book runs from Summer Solstice to Summer Solstice)

The kids really enjoyed this and I think we may make bar graphs with the high and low temperatures next!

fun find today...

Okay... so it's not terrible exciting but if you need some graph paper in a pinch (we're getting ready to start a graphing project and I realized I didn't have any graph paper) this site is a very exciting find...

Free Online Graph Paper Generator

I was able to choose my paper size, line weight, square size and number of rows and columns to make my own custom graph paper for the project we're working on today!

Apparently, some days, it takes very little to make me happy! :-)

Monday, March 17, 2008

a good book and blubber

How's that for a post title? LOL!

After lunch we worked on our Alaska/Iditarod study again. This is our last week of this unit study. Next week we go to Missouri for Spring Break and when we return we'll be studying Hawaii (fun! I just picked up some books at the library today!).

So, today we talked about what keeps some arctic animals warm in such cold temperatures. To illustrate the usefulness of a layer of blubber, we made a blubber/crisco mitten. It was pretty fun for the kids to see the difference their layer of blubber made.

Here's Alex trying out the hand with the mitten... (the sink was full of ice water - I ended up dumping our entire tray of ice from the ice maker in there)

This is Alex pulling his unmittened hand out before it froze :-)
(if you're wondering why Clara is holding a bag of rubber bands in the photo above... well, your guess is as good as mine)

Clara takes a turn...
I guess these are out of sequence because we actually read this book first and we even actually read it right before we took a break for lunch...
Togo by Robert J. Blake
I have to say that this was by far one of my favorite books we read during our Iditarod study. This one I definitely had to stop a few times to compose myself before I could continue reading. I really enjoy finding good picture books with good solid information. Not fluffy simplified books where bad things are really glossed over. Don't get me wrong, this isn't a graphic, disturbing book... but it sure doesn't gloss over the hardships they went through either. It seemed to be the perfect mix for my two... enough detail for them to appreciate what it took for the teams to get to Nome but not so much that it upset them.

I think tomorrow we'll study the Northern Lights!

two free lapbooks!

I just got the CurrClick weekly newsletter and this week's freebie is the Hands of a Child History of Sports lapbook.

Also, the Hands of a Child website posted their quarterly freebie today... the Amelia Earhart lapbook.

Fun stuff!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

good clean fun!

Yesterday afternoon we got back to our study of the Iditarod and Alaska. After looking at some Inuit art sculptures online, we decided to try to make our own out of bars of Ivory soap.

Here's Alex working on his first carving...
Clara took a slightly different approach to "carving"...

Alex suffers for his art.... lol...
Look! A rabbit! :-)
Here's my polar bear...
This is Clara's. She said that it's a Buddha from the Art Institute... but I think it's this guy from the Field Museum...
Alex did a second carving, a baby polar bear for the mother polar bear I carved...
We also read this book...The Great Serum Race
This was a really amazing telling of the original race to get serum to the city of Nome. It is a picture book but the writing is amazing. It really kept me and the kids on the edge of our seats to hear what happened next. A really gripping tale.

Lance Mackey has made it to Nome so we're just looking for our mushers to make it in... but we still have lots of Alaska/Iditarod activities left to do so we'll keep on working on it all up until Spring Break and then, when we get back, we'll start a unit study on Hawaii!!! That way our trip at the end of April can be a week long field trip! :-)

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


... is now...

I didn't realize that it was changing until I got my weekly newsletter from this in my inbox this morning. I've been meaning to type an email singing it's praises but hadn't gotten around to it. Perhaps today is the day to do that.

I started out just downloading their weekly freebies, specifically lapbooks. But lately, I've been venturing beyond the lapbooks. I have to say that it is an amazing resource for homeschoolers. They have all kinds of workbooks available (and so much more, but I haven't explored it all yet). I had been ordering regular printed workbooks when I placed my curriculum orders. With two kids, I would spend too much time running up and down the stairs to Jeff's office to photocopy pages on his little printer/scanner/copier combo thing. Plus it was an ink jet printer, which is not a big deal but I have gotten used to my laser printer. Now, with the workbooks I've ordered from CurrClick I just walk over to my printer and print two copies. Right now we're using the Spelling Grade 1 workbook with both kids (for Clara to learn and Alex for extra practice). I love being able to just click print when we want to use the workbook.

I have a whole wish list of stuff from there. I really want to do some learning center type things. Folder games and stuff that they can choose from and take to their seats to work on individually while I work the other one on something. I think this will be HUGE for Clara. She's two grades behind Alex so she doesn't have as much work as him. BUT she insists on being at the table with us the entire time we're working. Which is a good thing except when I'm constantly stumbling to find stuff for her to do. I'm thinking about some of these Take it to Your Seat books. I have a few "center" books that I've purchased but the thought of being able to just load the printer with paper, choose which pages to print versus standing there while the super slow copier combo thing scans and then prints just makes me happy! LOL!

Anyway... CurrClick is a great resource if you have multiple children or want/need to photocopy stuff from workbooks and have limited access to a copier.

Enjoy! Warning though... it's hard to stop once you get started! :-)

Monday, March 10, 2008

anyone want some seed cake?

Here it is...
It's sitting on my kitchen counter right now along with this sad specimen...
For the past 8 weeks Alex has been in a homeschool science class at the Notebaert Nature Museum here in Chicago. It's been a fabulous experience! It was a small class (started with 10 students, ended with nine), so there was lots of personal attention. They partnered for all of their projects, changing partners each week. So, it was good experience for them... learning to work with others.

They did all kinds of great thinking experiments... like the seed olympics. They had to study the different ways that seeds travel and then design and built their own seeds to compete in the different events. Alex stayed up way too late one night drawing prototypes... he was so excited about that project.

They also studied trees which tied in nicely with our trip last week to go maple tapping (the same mom who arranged the science class also arranged the maple tree tapping trip).

They studied soil and earthworms too.

If you're wondering about the seed cake above, they gave the kids certain materials to work with and a certain volume to end with and let them create their own "recipe" for the perfect growing medium. I can't remember all of the choices but there were pebbles, sand (I think), clay, plant material, etc. Then they planted seeds in them to see how they grew.

Like I said before, it was a fabulous experience... one I hope we get to be a part of again next year!

Yay Alex!

He just completed the second grade level book in Math-U-See today... tomorrow we start the third grade one!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

maple tree tapping

... right here in the city! Who knew?

Today our homeschool group made a trip to North Park Village Nature Center to go maple tree tapping. We couldn't have had a better day for it! Although it was chilly out, it was good and sunny. We also had a fabulous guide who did an amazing job with the kids.

After selecting our maple tree, the kids took turns drilling a hole into the tree. Here's Clara drilling...
And now Alex's turn...
After the hole was drilled and cleaned out, the kids took turns hammering in the spile (that was my new word for the day... that's the fun of homeschooling, I'm learning too! LOL!).

Apparently sap runs best on a warmer sunny day after a really cold night, so today was perfect! The sap was just dripping out of the tree.

So, we all took a taste (dripped onto wrists instead of dirty hands)...

I couldn't believe how thin and watery the sap was... and as for taste, just a mildly sweet water taste.

Here's our tree, tapped, labeled and collecting sap...
After the tree tapping we continued on our nature walk. Then we came upon an area they call the story tree. It was this play structure made of fallen trees and logs. They kids seriously could have stayed there all day.

Also out on the trail the kids got to identify animal tracks and scat. AND we saw a COYOTE!!! Can you believe it? We were all amazed. Our guide said that she knew that one was supposed to be in the woods but that she had never seen it before herself.

After our walk we went back to the nature center to watch a short movie on how maple syrup is made while we ate popcorn drizzled with maple syrup and crackers with maple butter... yum!

The capper on this adventure was seeing deer on our way to the bus stop.... not just a couple but at least SEVENTEEN deer! It's not like I've never seen deer before but I just never expected to see them in the city of Chicago! The kids stalked them for, oh gosh, probably an hour... they had the time of their lives! They were all so excited and couldn't stop gushing about the experience.

I love days like today! :-)

Tuesday, March 4, 2008


Things are getting pretty exciting here lately! The Iditarod officially started this past weekend so we check the status of our mushers constantly throughout the day. Current standings has Alex's musher (Gerry Willomitzer) in 3rd, our family's musher (Hugh Neff) in 7th and Clara's musher (Jennifer Freking) in 67th place. It's been fun to move our little dots along the trail.

After lunch we worked on our Iditarold stuff some more. First off was some work from our Hands of a Child Sled Dog lapbook. We learned about how dogs and mushers communicate. We had a lot of fun learning the terms mushers use to guide their dogs.

Here's Alex filling out a part of the lap book....
And Clara watching...

After the lapbook work, we sat together to read this book...Akiak by Robert J. Blake
It was such a great story! I don't know if it was just because I haven't been feeling well lately... but man, that story had me tearing up! I'm such a sap!

After the book, the kids set to work on building an igloo out of sugar cubes. I totally forgot to have something on hand to "glue" the cubes together so today they just worked on their overall design. I'll get them something to hold it all together in a day or two and then the real building will begin.

Well... that pretty much covers our school day today (well... except for our typical bookwork we did before lunch)! Hopefully we'll have more Iditarod fun before the week is over.