Thursday, May 31, 2012

New Road

Today we are going to an orientation at a local home-based charter school. I had been stalking researching their site for about a year, admiring their connectedness and regular field trips. What I love is that they offer extracurricular classes (like horseback riding, for goodness sakes!), the use of materials, and field trips in which the whole family is invited. Being part of a home-based charter school also helps to ease the judgements of our well-meaning family and friends who worry about "socialization."

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Discovery Destination (Northern San Joaquin County)

Using an earlier post about field trip ideas (Field Trip Brainstorm), our family enjoyed a discovery destination on Memorial Day.

Here's how it works:

I modified a  regular die with small paper cut-outs with the directional letters N, S, E, and W. We also took along:
- a twenty-sided die to calculate minutes (thanks to my lovable D&D nerd-husband)
- a tangible road map of California
- a GPS
- snacks and drinks

We're lucky enough to live at the crossroads of many highways and byways, which could have taken us in any direction. Our first rule was that the initial roll would predict which freeway to take (instead of going street by street, though you can do that too if you want to likely stay in town). Aidyn's first roll had us going North for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, we rerolled and followed the dice's instructions after that. We could have ended up anywhere.

Eventually, "Mr. Dice" (as Aidyn referred to them), the wielders of fate, delivered us to this random feed store on the outskirts of a little town. We stopped in and explored, meeting and greeting kittens, chirping chicks, ducklings, and dwarf rabbits. We never would have met these adorable creatures had the dice not delivered us there. We also saw interesting things roadside that we might not have noticed had we not done this: gorgeous country houses, intimate family-owned wineries, and olive farm, a hidden golf course, and a public greenhouse.

I am probably unable to fully catalogue everything that Aidyn learned during this trip, but in doing a discovery destination, we worked with directions, moved around in our little world, and learned to let chance take us where it did.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Exploring Eclipses

With an annular eclipse just weeks aways, we read a book about eclipses. I asked Aidyn what his hypothesis was for an eclipse to occur, and remarkably he mentioned that the shadow of the moon has to do something with it.

We learned that the one we will see is called an annular eclipse, which means it's ring-shaped.

To further understand how the small moon can "cover" the gigantic sun, we held a penny between our pointer finger and thumb and moved it across our line of sight. Objects such as the window (which is definitely larger than the coin) were obtructed by the penny. Now Aidyn has a real sense of how something so small could obstruct a much larger object: our relative distance.

Afterward, we read Under the Sun by Ellen Kandoian. This beautifully illustrated book gently examined the way our earth moves around the sun and how each living being shares the sun.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Blasting Off to Tomorrowland

Trekking through Tomorrowland couldn't have come at a better time. A solar eclipse is expected on May 20th, and the whole month of May has me reminiscing about Star Wars (as May was the month it was released in theaters).

Our general plans include reading books about space, space travel, the planets, earth, other outer space topics, and the ocean. We also have some movies (both entertaining and edu-taining) lined up for viewing. In anticipation for May 20th, we're talking about and learning about solar eclipses, and Aidyn is licking his lips imagining our upcoming cake-making craft (we once made a Mars cake when he was 3, and he still remembers it!)

The rides and attractions within Tomorrowland include:

Star Tours: The Adventure Continues
Captain EO
Space Mountain
Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage
Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters

Photo from:

End of the Rabbit Trail

Last weekend, we finished up our Critter Country Unit Study, our first study of many Disneyland-themed units. We covered many topics extending far beyond the little land within the Happiest Place on Earth.

Combining Easter with our unit, we studied rabbits during the first week. We read an assortment of rabbit tales, such as:

The Little Rabbit by Judy Dunn
One Brown Bunny by Marion Baur
 Gail Gibbon's wonderful Rabbits, Rabbits, and More Rabbits
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo
The Fierce Bad Rabbit by Beatrix Potter

His kindergarten class also learned a bit about rabbits, and Aidyn brought home more rabbit crafts. To further soak up some wabbity knowledge, he made a lapbook with rabbit classifications, the diet of rabbits, and a compare/contrast chart of rabbits and hares.

Here is our lapbook.

We also made papier-mache rabbits. Aidyn made a traditional white rabbit, while his dad chose to make a Quasimodo-Rabbit, and I went for a fantasy-purple bunny. The project took us some time as we literally made them from newspaper scraps, egg cartons, tape, mod podge, and paint.

On the eve before Easter, we did the usual dyeing of eggs and also snacked on "bunny cookies."

During the second week, we shifted gears and focused on Br'er Rabbit tales. I researched a bit myself since I had little knowledge of the Gullah culture and their use of the trickster character. I found some wonderful resources including We enjoyed listening to some stories told in a Gullah dialect. We also shared some silly Br'er Rabbit stories and even acted out one about the trickster and Br'er Gator.

During the third week, we spent time in the Hundred Acre Woods, reading about Winnie the Pooh. We read some classic Pooh stories, and even took a field trip to a local river and played "Pooh Sticks."

We concluded the unit learning about bees and how they pollinate flowers and make honey. As a tasty treat, we also sampled honey-laden snacks. As a final wrap-up for the woodland area of Critter Country, we watched the Disney animated classic Bambi and checked off all the woodland creatures in the film.

Our jaunt through Critter Country was also sprinkled with bluegrass music, both kid-friendly tunes and a sampling of classic bluegrass music from The Carter Family. In October, when we walk through the real Critter Country and catch Br'er Rabbit up to his old tricks on Splash Mountain, I hope Aidyn will remember our little play and how hilarious and tricky that bunny was. As we ride a bee hive through the Hundred Acre Wood, I hope he recalls our afternoon playing Pooh Sticks and the calm evenings reading about Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin.

On to Tomorrowland!