Thursday, September 24, 2015

BFSU A-3: Air is a Substance and the Concept of the Atmosphere

I neglected to take any pictures today. Oops.

Yesterday we had something come up that interrupted our planned science day, but we did have time to watch some videos, so we watched the BrainPop video on Atmosphere and took the quiz. My kids really enjoy doing the quizzes (so much so that they fight over who gets to answer the questions..sigh) and I like the chance to review the concepts taught. Today we did the lesson from the book. One thing we didn't do was make a ruler balance and test the empty balloon vs. inflated balloon weight. I got out our digital gram scale and thought that would be sensitive enough. It wasn't. We did do the experiment where you crumple paper in the bottom of a cup and then submerse it (straight down, with the opening facing down) and the paper stays dry because of the air pocket that forms.

We finished up by watching the Bill Nye episode about Atmosphere. It was kind of a simpler lesson than some of the others, as we have done experiments with air before in our co-op.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Media/Experiment Day

These sciences lessons are great, but there is a lot to cover. I think I'll have to be better at splitting up longer ones. Today I decided we would do a Media Day and watch some relevant videos/read books that we hadn't had a chance to get to yet. We also got our first Tinker Crate delivery and it was somewhat relevant (carbon dioxide activities) so we decided to do a couple of those as well. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Story of the World, Volume 2

We started volume 2 today, having quickly finished up the last several chapters of volume 1 last week. It started with a recap of the end of the Roman Empire, so I wanted to do an activity to make it a little more fun. I chose the "Make a Roman Signum" suggestion from the Activity Book. It was quite a hit, and really didn't require too much. I think I'm going to try and do history crafts more often. The kids enjoy them and it seems to bring an energy into our homeschool that isn't otherwise there. The kids were in good spirits and joking quite a lot today. Of course they may not be related, but it's worth experimenting with. The boys had a little too much fun making their dopiest faces for the picture. Zion pretty much nailed the idea of leading troops into battle, though! 😀

Solids, Liquids, and Gases and Change with Temperature (A-2)

We did this lesson after A-1/B-1, but I guess I forgot to post about it. 

Started by asking the kids what the three states of matter were, which the older two knew. Then we went through and listed examples of each. 

We talked about the molecules and how they are arranged differently in each state, and did a little activity I saw online where we all linked arms in a circle and wiggled a bit to represent the solid, kept arms linked and flowed around the house to represent the liquid, and unlinked arms and just moved independently to represent the gas. That was silly but they all liked it. 

We watched a BrainPop movie about Matter Changing States, the Crash Course Kids 3.1 video "What's Matter?" and later watched the Bill Nye episode Phases of Matter. 

I got worksheets from a website (I'll try and find the name) and had Zion & Clive complete the worksheet and had Leif do a sorting worksheet of pictures. They all seemed to rather enjoy the worksheets, which was a bit surprising. 

Then Zion and I did Notebook pages (which I still need to get punched and put in a notebook...) 

I also sang them a silly song about solids/liquids/gases to the tune of The Wheels on the Bus. 

We talked about how most liquids are water based, and how states of matter  change based on temperature. We used water and candle wax as our main examples, but also talked about metal and glass and lava/rock. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Distinguishing Living/Biological, Natural Earth, and Human-Made Things (B-2)

We did the bulk of this lesson outside on our front porch so it was easy to observe a mix of biological, natural earth, and human-made things. We started out by reviewing what we covered last week (states of matter), and then I said we were going to learn about another way of organizing things and introduced the idea of living/biological things. Right then a spider crawled by our feet, so that was a fun introduction. We saw a bird fly by, and also talked about the trees and plants. I talked about how items made by living things are also biological, and of course Leif eventually mentioned poop. We then moved into talking about natural earth items and found them a little harder to come up with than biological things. Dirt, rocks, mountains (which Zion pointed out are made of dirt and rocks), volcanoes...I mentioned air and water. Then we talked about human-made items and after a bit it came up that all things are made of either biological or natural earth materials. Zion was surprised to learn that rubber comes from a tree, but Clive and Leif seemed to know that already (maybe from Wild Kratts). Each kid had a paper with three sections labeled with each of the groups and they took notes or drew pictures of the different items we mentioned.

We came inside and watched this video: Cookie Monster discusses living vs. non-living . I was hoping for a BrainPop or Bill Nye video on the subject, but hadn't been able to find one. We then brought up the remaining characteristics of living things listed in the book.

Final point I brought up was technology and we discussed early human technology (arrowheads, spears, pottery) and modern day technology. We looked at the tags of everyone's tee shirts to see where they were made. Each of them were made in a different place. Vietnam, Cambodia, Guatemala, and the USA. We looked through this article about inventions inspired by nature. We skipped over some of the more detailed/complicated examples.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Finished up A/B1

Yesterday we wrapped up our discussion on classification by talking about how things are organized at Costco (a familiar store for us). We brought up how they don't just have all the dairy products together because some need to be refrigerated and some need to be frozen. I hopefully made the point that different organizational systems are chosen because they work. We talked about possible ways to organize clothes. 

We watched the BrainPop video on Classification and took the quiz. We also watched the Crash Course Biology video on Taxonomy. My 6 yo commented that he didn't really understand much of the Crash Course video, but I figure it is still exposure and good for something. Plus I'm sure that the older two picked up more from it. There is also a BrainPop Jr video that we didn't watch but might as a review next week. 

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

BFSU A/B-1 Organizing matter

I had each of the kids gather 7 assorted items, and I did the same. Then they worked on figuring out how best to categorize the items. It got a little heated, as things tend to when both my oldest kids are involved.

As categories were suggested or tried I wrote them on the white board. After unsuccessful attempts to come to consensus, we decided to let each person have their own attempt to categorize. Here are the results: 

After we finished, Zion wanted to try sorting them by color. 

The sock and the cast iron bird statue seemed to be the most challenging items to find a good grouping for, according to the kids. 

We then walked around the house and pointed out how things are organized and grouped together. 

This part of the lesson took a lot longer than I anticipated, but the kids were enjoying it and pretty engaged, so I think it was time worth spending. We will hopefully wrap up when we have our next science class. 

Monday, February 9, 2015


For Poetry Teatime today we read haiku poems and discussed how to write one. These are the ones the kids came up with:


Chase it chase it dog.
Accidental backflip, oops!
Who put that hole there?


Ok here's a haiku
about a turkey vulture
that's all for now

My giraffe farted
And it was very stinky.
His butt exploded.

I wrote a few, a couple of them inspired by my boys talking (you can probably guess which ones).

Elephant, large, gray.
Eats pounds of grass daily.
Makes many big poops.

Tugging and twisting
A brave battle fought daily
Getting toddlers dressed.

Round, brown, and crunchy.
To dip and dunk, delicious.
More Oreos, please.

Long grasses swaying
The smell permeates the air.
Big elephant fart.

The kids really enjoyed it, and I was happy to see that Spud wanted to copy his over again because his first draft was quite messy. Then they wanted to laminate them and make frames with colored electrical tape. Sometimes things turn out better than you expected!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Fresh Start

Ah, January. It's a good time to evaluate how things are going. How grateful I was for Christmas break this year to take some time and make some changes. I think what works for me and homeschooling is to steadily make gradual improvements by tweaking areas as necessary. It's really hard to change up a LOT of things at once. Keep what works, fix what doesn't.

Spud is rather behind in writing. After trying a variety of different approaches, I was able to figure out that he needs the following:
1. Clear instructions
2. Predictability
3. Not to feel pressured to be overly creative
4. Not to feel worried about mistakes in spelling and other mechanics

I asked for input on the Well-Trained Mind forums and had several people recommend Essentials in Writing as a potential fit. I read some more detailed reviews and it was mentioned to be good for the reluctant writer. We have been taking a Brave Writer approach to more things, but I realized that the writing assignments given were a bit too open ended for him to feel very confident with them, and it was a bit too dependent on me to give very clear instructions, which is not really my strong point. I can explain things well, but Spud wants things EXPLICITLY DETAILED, and he has very little patience for adding things like, "Oh, I should have mentioned XYZ," or the like. So a scripted curriculum works best. We are two days into Level 3 of EiW (I opted to start a grade level below so as to give him more chances to succeed before it gets beyond his understanding) and so far so good. I actually asked him if he would be willing to do two lessons/day since they are short (at this stage) and he agreed to that.

To address his other major issues with writing, handwriting and spelling (the big one!), I ordered a Handwriting Without Tears cursive book and pulled out the Logic of English materials I bought 3 years ago but didn't really get into at all. It was too much for Spud (then a 1st grader) and wasn't very essential for Noodle (then a 4th grader), so I shelved it. I actually think it's going to be really beneficial for Spud now and he is going along with it nicely so far. He is actually excited to be doing the cursive book, which is kind of amazing since he's never been a fan of handwriting. I told him I wanted him to learn cursive so he could at least read it, even if he chooses not to write in cursive. I think he likes the novelty factor of it.

Both Noodle and Spud have been using Teaching Textbooks for Math this year.  Sometimes it would go well for Spud, sometimes not. Finally, after another math meltdown yesterday I told him we were returning to Math-U-See for him, because he did well with it and it worked. He got very frustrated with the spiral nature of TT, with a ton of review in each lesson. I told him that with MUS it was set up to be a lot easier to move forward once material is mastered, so I think he will be glad to use it again, even if right now he's still kind of bothered about it.

Sprout is doing Math Mammoth 1 for Kindergarten math and he likes it quite well. He is also doing Dreambox, which he likes okay. I was doing Life of Fred with him, too, but he didn't seem to love it.
Additionally, he is working through Explode the Code 1.5, HWOT Numbers & Letters for Me, Rusty & Rosy Learn With Me (we paid for a subscription because it worked so well for him for preschool), reading BOB Books and I See Sam books, and joining us for Story of the World - Ancients and Spud for science.

The twins are going to a babysitter in the mornings for about 2.5 hours. From Sept-December they went 3 days a week, but that sitter moved and we found a new one, so now they are likely to go 4 days a week. It has been a huge help to have them out of the house while we do Math, Language Arts, and History/Science. Since they still take pretty good naps, we get another 1.5 hours or so in the afternoon to have some good school time. It has been a sanity saver.

Oh, just to finish out what we are doing for curriculum: Noodle is using Uzinggo for science, which I have been pretty impressed with. We are focusing on Life Science this year, and I think they do pretty great coverage for a middle school level.  She isn't super into science, but she enjoys it well enough.