Monday, December 15, 2008

the rabbit trail continued

After reading my last post, a friend of mine sent me an email about another fun resource...

(It is currently a free download at CurrClick)

I downloaded it today and looked over the stories included in it. She had specifically mentioned a chapter titled "The High Schooler Who Created an Incredible Secret Code". I printed this today and Alex and I read it aloud with Clara listening. It was definitely an inspiring story, I can't wait to read others in the book. I think it is really cool for kids to read about other kids who have done amazing things... especially in the world of academics.

Anyway... just wanted to share this free resource!

rabbit trails

I know I always talk about my "favorite" thing about homeschooling... and with every post it's something different. Well... today one of my favorite things about homeschooling is the freedom to follow "rabbit trails".

I decided to document one of Alex's recent trips down a rabbit trail.

It started with this book...

It was given to us by a friend.... totally random book to read. After reading the book, Alex came to me to tell me that it was cool... in the book the kids communicated by Morse Code. He thought this was a made-up code for the book, so when I told him it was real, he got very excited. I found a key for the code online and printed it out for him.

The next thing I knew, he was a note writing machine...

He was busy writing notes for me, Jeff, Clara and his friends. He loved writing them and decoding the notes we wrote back.

On my next trip to the library, I picked up a couple of books for him...Top Secret: A Handbook of Codes, Ciphers and Secret Writing

and another book I can't find right now (but I hope I do before it's due!).

In these books they give examples of many different secret codes and brief histories of these codes. In the book I can't find, it mentioned a special code that was part of an old radio show called The Shadow. He wanted to know what I knew about it.... which happened to be very little.

So, we went snooping around the internet and found that the episodes where available as free downloads from iTunes...
So now, we've had exposure to an old time radio drama!

The trail continues though. He was looking for a new book to read and chose this one...
Wright 3

Codes played a role in the first book of this series (Chasing Vermeer) so that piqued his interest to start this one. I have a feeling that this book will take us down a path that includes looking at books of Frank Lloyd Wright's work and perhaps a trip to the Robie House for the Wright 3 tour.

It's been a fabulous learning adventure... an adventure started by one random book but lead us down a path that benefited us in so many ways.... history, spelling, grammar, logic, math, etc. And it was all done with passion and excitement... not just skimming the surface... but diving down deep. I can't even imagine what the difference would have been had I assigned him a report on the topic of Morse Code instead.

Now this rabbit trail is leading me to add more books to my Amazon wish list.... sigh.

Here's my most recent addition...
The Cryptoclub: Using Mathematics to Make and Break Secret Codes

We aren't at the end of this trail yet... I can't wait to see where else we have to go! :-)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

a new read aloud

We have been rocketing through read alouds lately! We ended up reading the Kit book I mentioned before in one sitting yesterday. We're still working on the lapbook though.

So, we were once again out of read alouds. Thankfully yesterday was library day. I know I'm a little slow, but I just realized that the chapter books also have holiday stickers on the spine. I have known that the picture books had these for years... but yesterday was the first day I had noticed them on the chapter books. This was a HUGE help in my search. The first book I pulled out with the Christmas Candy Cane sticker on the spine was this...

The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus

I had never heard of this book before. The book is GORGEOUS! The illustrations are just incredible. I had no idea that L. Frank Baum (the author of The Wizard of Oz books) had written a story about Santa Claus.

We're only about four chapters into the book but so far the kids are completely entralled by the story. Who wouldn't be though? It's a fabulous fairy tale set in a forest no mortal has ever entered, complete with wood nymphs, fairies and other mythical creatures.

I have to admit that I was a bit reluctant to read a book about the life of Santa at first. But after starting this book, I have no problem with it. It truly is written like a fairy tale where although it captures your imagination and you want, in your heart, for it to be true... it is just a little too fanciful for you to accept that it could be true. Does that make sense? I hope it does, at least a little :-)

We'll see how the rest of it goes, but so far we're loving it.

crisis averted

Yesterday we were on the verge of a total math meltdown. Alex has just started 3 digit x 2 digit multiplication in his math curriculum. He started working in his book and after several mistakes and attempts at erasing said mistakes on the first problem he was ready to quit. His page was now too messy for him to think straight when making another attempt at the problem. We were about to see tears.

Then, I had an idea... every night at dinner Alex had been asking us to give him 2 digit x 2 digit problems for him to work on for fun... he had been working these out on his white board.... so, why not let him work these new problems out on his white board?

He was receptive to this idea and started to work...
During this time, Clara was working through issues of her own...
... hair issues, that is. She was having a very bad hair day :-)

Suddenly, a hint of a smile returned...
It relaxed him so much to be working on his white board. He could write larger and mistakes completely disappeared when erased. Since his work would be gone when he moved on to the next problem, we checked each answer as he finished the problem. That way he could still look at his work and see where the mistake was before it was gone.

Once he reached the correct answer, he wrote it in his workbook...
Yesterday was another one of those days where I really appreciate the fact that we homeschool. He was so close to hating math and feeling like 3 digit x 2 digit multiplication was beyond him yesterday... but with one little change (working on a white board instead of paper) he happily breezed through the rest of his assignment.

Monday, December 8, 2008

December Read Alouds

I know I have Farmer Boy listed on the right, but the kids voted to "pause" the book for the month and read Christmas books instead.

First of all... I got the bright idea to read A Christmas Carol aloud to the kids. See... Clara had chosen the Barbie Christmas Carol movie for her movie pick last weekend. Although I thought it was a well done movie, it was not quite the same story. The kids said that they would like to hear the real story, so I found our copy of the book and the shelf and started reading. Ugh.... the language was too much for them. Their eyes glazed over a page or two into the book.... so we abandoned the book. So they at least get some exposure to the actual story, I downloaded an audio recording of the story from Kiddie Records.

So, now I was without a Christmas book. On my next trip to the library I started looking around for a new read aloud. I ended up with two. First off is this book...

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

So far, so good on this one. Although the kids in the book are so out of control that it gets to Alex a bit. It's a short book so I'm hoping we'll be getting to the "best" part of the Christmas Pageant so Alex can relax some.

The second book I picked up is this...
Kit's Surprise: A Christmas Story, 1934

We'll probably use the lapbook kit I got from CurrClick as we read the book. Needless to say, Clara is very excited about this read aloud.

The Nut Tapper

I mentioned last week that we were doing a Christmas/Nutcracker theme for this month...and that one of the things we had planned on seeing was The Nut Tapper (the field trip version). Well... we went last Thursday and had a fabulous time.

It wasn't like we had expected (somehow we had expected people tap dancing to the original ballet score) but we thoroughly enjoyed it. The show was bright and exciting with fabulous dancing, beautiful singing and infectious energy!

They followed the basic story of the Nutcracker.
With a battle between the Nut Tapper and the mouse king...
But they incorporated many different styles of dance... including Mexican Folk Dance...
and Flamenco...
The kids had a really great time.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

another (free!) nutcracker resource...

The Nutcracker Suite for Children

I meant to post this yesterday but forgot all about. Okay... I didn't forget ALL about it, I thought about it and then couldn't remember where I had tucked it away on my hard drive after a fit of downloading a few months ago. Today I found it!

If you would like to download it too... I got it from Kiddie Records, it's week 50 of their 2006 list.

If anyone else out there is doing a Nutcracker study this month, I would love to see/read what you're doing as well!

Monday, December 1, 2008

a theme study for December

Okay... I wasn't going to do it. We were on a good roll with everything we were doing with school. The plan was to just keep on rolling with the norm through December. Well... that was before the tree went up and all of the Christmas stuff came out! We are going to keep going with our normal stuff (scaling back a bit on SOTW though) but we're going to be doing a special theme for the month. Since today is December first and this obsession just came to me on Saturday, it had to be something easy, something that I had resources for already so we could hit the ground running today.

After some brainstorming, I had an idea! See... this summer I got this "brilliant" idea (that was sarcastic) to create a ballet themed year long study for Clara since she LOVES ballet. It's easy finding curriculum ideas for Alex that goes along with what he loves since he loves building and engineering. Clara was tougher so I thought I would try a ballet theme. Well... I began acquiring materials but quickly realized once school started, that I didn't have enough stuff to do what I wanted.... so it was just sitting on a shelf labeled "Clara"... sigh.

BUT.... now, here I was looking for a theme for December... what better use of that stuff on the shelf than a Nutcracker study???

So, here are some of the resources we already had...
Add ImageDK Read & Listen: Illustrated Book of Ballet Stories

This is a beautiful little book that includes all of the stories on CD. It includes several famous ballets, including the Nutcracker.

Favorite Ballets Coloring Book

Clara loves to color pages in this book as we do our read alouds... but thankfully, she had not gotten to the Nutcracker pages yet.

Nutcracker: The Music Game

We haven't played this yet... but I thought it could be fun.

And, so we don't overdo the ballet thing for Alex, we will add in some composer study...

Tchaikovsky Discovers America

This is another resource I had already purchased.... and now get to put to use!

Now on to other resources...

Again... to not overdo the ballet stuff for Alex, I thought we would expand this a bit and do a little "Christmas Around the World" by reading some about Christmas in Russia. I have these two books to pick up at the library...

Baboushka and the Three Kings

Christmas in Russia

Another motivation for this study is that over Thanksgiving we saw a preview of what looks like a beautiful production of the Nutcracker that is going to be on PBS HD.... Great Performances: Dance In America: San Francisco Ballet's Nutcracker. I couldn't find more info on it... but while looking through the Great Performances site, I found this which looks like fun....

Build and Color Your Own Nutcracker Stage Production

Add to all of this that we're going to see the Nut Tapper this week and the dance school that Clara goes to is putting on their own mini production of the Nutcracker... I think we'll be all Nutcrackered out by the end of December! :-)