Category: kids

We had a short week, since we spent Friday traveling to South Carolina for my dad’s wedding. But even with just four days, we were able to read several resources about ancient Egypt.

Funniest line of the week: I was reading aloud about daily life, including what people would have had available to eat and drink. They grew a lot of wheat & barley, so there was plenty of bread and beer. Even the children drank beer. Jonas got bug-eyed. “The kids could drink the beer?! Man… I wish I was an Egyptian!”

Projects: We had a lot of geography to work on this week – a world map with labels for the continents and oceans… a fold-out flip book of geography terms, definitions, and pictoral examples…  and a salt map of Egypt!

It turns out that salt maps take a l-o-o-o-n-g time to dry, so we’ll finish the salt map with paint and labels next week.

We also made an Egyptian paddle doll. Children in Egypt would have fashioned these out of wood… ahh, how cuddly. Ours is cardboard, and our beads are plastic while children long ago would have used clay or wood beads.

We didn’t plan to take Labor Day off (especially since we took Friday the 31st off) but when Mama wakes up with laryngitis, school plans go a bit off the rails. We muddled through math and called it a day. The rest of this week will be chock-full… Stay tuned. 😉

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The last two weeks of homeschool have been awesome. In fact, in Jonas’ words, “it was the bomb!” (I think he picked up that phrase from a movie, haha.) Our second week of school covered the events of the Tower of Babel and we became familiar with the geography of ancient Mesopotamia.
The kids each made a model ziggurat. After a first layer of brown paint, we mixed salt into a second batch of paint and coated the ziggurats with that mixture to add “realistic” texture.
I read a great tip about map work with kids this age – especially boys. Often, their handwriting is still on the large-and-laborious side at this age, so using preprinted sticky labels is a great way to allow them to demonstrate that they know the locations of the map features without becoming frustrated at trying to print all those words in those small spaces.

In our research of the ancient Sumerians, we learned about cuneiform tablets and cylinder seals. We made our own “cylinder seals” out of cardboard tubes and yarn. Once they were dry, we dipped them in paint and rolled them down a long sheet of paper. Jonas was SO EXCITED to see that “it worked!” — the images we’d formed from yard really imprinted!

Susannah was home with us on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and she participated in making the ziggurats and cylinder seals. I also had some “new to her” activities, like printing letters in our cornmeal box. She was in tactile child heaven! I am consistently impressed by how much Susannah already knows about letters and numbers. She has absorbed so much information just through play and by being nearby her older brother’s work. 

  On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, she was off to “Parents’ Day Out” at Settle. Once again this year, she loves it! On Friday, she picked a couple of dandelions from our yard to take to her teacher. It was so cute; brought back memories of many a sweaty fistful of weeds flowers I received in my school-teaching days.

On Tuesday the 21st, we had our first get-together for a new “preschool & primary playgroup” for our homeschool group. It started out really well, with seven families coming to Chautauqua Park to play and fellowship. It ended early for us, when Susannah slipped away and crossed a very busy street by herself. I managed not to have a heart attack or a panic attack, and we made it home safely.

Week 3 covered the lives of the Patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. We traced the travels of these men and their families from Ur in Mesopotamia, to the Promised Land, and then into Egypt.

Project-wise, we made another map and a family tree; inserts for our lapbook; added to our timeline; played a card game about ancient Middle Eastern hospitality customs; watched a VeggieTale take on the story of Abraham (“Abe and the Amazing Promise”) and the DreamWorks animated story of Joseph, and shopped for ingredients to make a meal fit for a Patriarch!

Thanks to an awesome Pampered Chef chopper that Mimi gave me for Christmas, the kids were able to safely chop the onions and garlic for our stew:

         

I cooked the onions and garlic in olive oil under careful supervision. Then we added 4 cups of beef stock, 3/4 c of washed lentils, and 3/4 c of rice. After it came to a boil, we put a lid on the stockpot and let it simmer until the lentils and rice were soft.

While our meal cooked, we donned our costumes. (There are suggestions in our curriculum for making tunics and whatnot, but my sewing machine is broken. This is a make-do costume: a Daddy t-shirt for a tunic, playsilk for a belt, scrap fabric for a head covering, and Mama’s elastic hairband to hold the head covering in place.) Susannah briefly wore the head covering Jonas picked out for her (pink fabric with a purple elastic) but wouldn’t hold still for a picture. And I had a “head covering” from the scarf my sister-in-law brought me from India with a blue elastic.

 
To go with our lentil stew (which, Jonas remarked, “even looks old!”) we had goat cheese and crackers, and dried figs. When I posted this on Facebook, Jonas’ grandmother asked if he really ate that. And actually, all three kids ate every bit of it. The excitement of having shopped for the ingredients and helped with the cooking probably helped – but it really was tasty. They cleaned their plates and went back for more.

Over dinner, we talked a bit about the lives of the Patriarchs and the example of faith they set for us. We also talked about some of the practical parts of life in the Old Testament – like the fact that they probably scooped up their stew with hunks of bread. At that point, Jonas abandoned his spoon and ate the rest of his dinner with his crackers.

When Chris got home Friday night, he asked Jonas how school had gone. “OH,” he raved, “school was just awesome.” I can’t help but smile when I hear that! Now that the children of Israel are in Egypt, over the next three weeks our studies will turn to the Nile, pyramids, Pharoahs, mummies, and eventually to the coming of Moses and the Hebrews’ exodus from slavery. As Jonas puts it: “WOOHOO!”

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On the way to pick Jonas up from karate, I had another great conversation with Susannah. This time, her thoughts turned to marriage. She said something about marrying one of her friends… and when I suggested that might not be possible (since the friend is a girl), she rebutted with: “Well, if I find a boy to marry I will marry a motorcycle boy. Or a truck boy.”

“What,” I asked, “makes you like motorcycle boys and truck boys?”

She grinned and beat her eyelashes at me. “Mama! They are fast!”

“Hmmm. I guess they are. How do people know which boy they are going to marry?”

“Well, Mama, they just like him and then they dance.”

“I see,” I replied. “So when you get married, what are you and your motorcy le boy going to do?”

“I will kiss him and make a wish.”

“A wish?!” 


She gives me that coy smile again. “Boys like to kiss and wish with their girls!” 


I must know: “When you get married, what will your job be?” 


“A princess!” 


A-ha. And his? “Just… go work at his work.” 


Indeed. “And how old do you think you’ll be, when you get married?” 


Without a moment’s pause, she throws out: “Ten.”

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A new week, a new science “es-perience” (as Susannah calls them). I’ve been aiming for Thursdays, but this week that was a pretty busy day. We had a guy here all morning to install DirectTV and Chris got his great news about the boards and Miss Deanna came to babysit so the grownups could go out to celebrate! Hence – science got pushed back to Friday. Luckily, the kids had a blast so I think the wait was worth it.

How about a little exploration of magnetism? I did a unit on magnets for my science portfolio for National Boards, so putting this together brought back some fond memories.

First, I gathered some “household objects” on a little tray. I told the kids we were going to guess if each item was magnetic or not. (With a classroom of first graders, I wrote the names of the items. Mostly for Susannah’s benefit, we just placed the real objects on the paper. For a tactile & visual learner like her, this allowed her to better grasp which things “moved” to the opposite box when we checked.) We examined each object and made our guess. As with most kids in this age group, Jonas and Susannah thought that anything made of metal would be magnetic.

When we checked each item, there were a few surprises! The “Finn McMissile” car and the “silver” ring were actually painted plastic, so they didn’t stick to our heavy-duty magnet. The metal spring in the clothespin was magnetic, but the coin, key, and nail were not.
To unlock the mystery of why some metal objects “stick” and others don’t, I pulled out a library book and we read the first few pages together. (It will be a good one for Jonas and I to finish next week, but it was text-heavy and not grabbing Susannah’s interest.) Did you know that it’s mainly iron, cobalt, and nickel which are magnetic?

The next part of our experiment was “the best part” according to both kids. I gave them each a new horseshoe magnet, a piece of construction paper, and a handful of paper clips. Susannah mainly just slung hers around, which is about all I expected from a 3 year old.

Jonas worked carefully with his, trying to figure out how to maximize the number of paperclips he could attract. He discovered that if he made a big pile of the paperclips and put the horseshoe into the pile, then sloooowly lifted it, he could add more paperclips one-by-one. I think his grand total was around 27!

When we finished, we drew and wrote on an “Experiment Page.” (Of which I meant to snap a picture, but apparently I forgot!) Jonas completed his independently; Susannah dictated her words and scribbled a bit of a picture. 
This didn’t feel like as much of an “experiment” to me as last week’s cluster of water experiences, but the kids really enjoyed it. And since my plan for this summer really is just to expose them to as a bunch of  hands-on science projects, I guess it was a success. Plus, I know it’s important to start introducing them to the scientific method. This lesson used “guess and check” terminology and we recorded our question, our materials, our procedure, and our results on the Experiment Page. I’d give us a B+ for this one. 🙂

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For our second week of science experiments, we actually did several quick and easy activities to explore the properties of water (and a little bit of phases-of-matter while we were at it).

Surface tension is awesome. We filled a translucent cup with water and talked about how if we added more water, it would surely overflow. Then I produced a handful of paper clips, and we hypothesized that adding metal paper clips would cause the water to spill out as well. Jonas, Susannah, and I all took turns adding one paper clip at a time, and guess what? It never did overflow! (According to the directions, it eventually should have, but we didn’t have enough paperclips.)

Next, we observed condensation. The kids each filled a cup with ice and water and set them on the deck rail. We came back to check on the cups after two minutes’ and five minutes’ time had elapsed and took note of the fine haze and large water drops that eventually covered the outside of the cups. Amazing!

To experience evaporation, we dipped both hands into a pitcher of water. Then we held one hand still and waved the other hand through the air (some of us waved more enthusiastically than others). Can you believe that the waved hands dried faster than the still hands?

We went inside for the next part of our experiment. A pan full of ice + heat from the stove = water! A pan full of water + continued heat from the stove = steam! We talked a little bit about molecules, but that’s a little beyond the 3-6 year old brain, so I didn’t harp on it too much.

The final project for today was to make yogurt popsicles. We talked a little bit about how to classify yogurt (since it takes the shape of its container, it must be a liquid) and what might happen if it spent a few hours in our freezer. It was hard to wait, but after lunch we tasted the frozen yogurt and decided that it’s pretty delicious as a liquid or a solid!

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It’s Volcano Day!

As I’ve mentioned before, Susannah is a little bit obsessed with volcanoes right now. For weeks I’ve been thinking that we ought to make a baking soda volcano for her, and today we finally did it.

First, I pulled up a great short video about the earth science behind volcanic eruptions.

 I assembled our ingredients and brought everything outside to the deck. We used the vase as the center of our volcano. (If I were doing this again, I’d use something a little bit shorter.) The directions I found online worked great.

I filled the vase most-of-the-way full with warm water. Jonas added red food coloring,  and Susannah put in 6 drops (okay, one generous squirt) of dish detergent. I poured a heap of baking soda into a small ramekin, and each kid added one tablespoon to the vase.

Then we heaped soil around the vase to make the cone of the volcano. (Some online sources recommend making salt dough for your volcano, and I can see why. My vase was pretty tall, so we couldn’t get the dirt to heap high enough to meet the opening, at least working on the cookie sheet. Still – for a 3 and 6 year old, it was close enough.)

The final step is to slowly pour vinegar into the vase. I used apple cider vinegar because it’s what I had on hand, and look at that lovely “lava flow!”

Jonas and Susannah were thrilled and Pax was inquisitive. He even lapped up a little bit of the foamy “lava,” poor dumb pup.

After the lava finally quit flowing, we wrote about our experiment. Susannah used the large doodle pad and I wrote her words; I was really suprised at some of what she retained! Jonas wrote on lined paper and illustrated on construction paper. His text said, “Volcanos. Do not tuch lava becus its hot. What we yoused. We pute bakeing soda in the volcano then we put the drit on the vase. Then we put the vinagr. Eruption lava.”

They had so much fun, and it was so simple, that I think I’ve decided to have a Scientific Summer. It wouldn’t be too hard to pull ideas for 8-10 experiments and do one each week. If we write & draw about each one, we’d have a neat little book by the time school starts back in the fall!

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Meet the author

MICHELLE NEBEL

I write uplifting women’s fiction woven with threads of faith, grace, and Southern hospitality. My blog is where I share a glimpse of my life, and I hope you’ll find the thoughts here encouraging!

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