Friday, August 31, 2012

Prehistory and The First Dog

This week, we traveled back in time. Way back in time.

We spent a week learning about prehistoric man (and woman, and child, and even dog!) through books, videos, projects, and play-acting.

Throughout the week, we rowed The First Dog by Jan Brett. Brett is an amazing writer and illustrator so, despite this book not being available on, it was super easy to row it.

The story is about a cave boy named Kip who finds Paleowolf following him around, sniffing and whining for his leftover Wooly Rhino Rib and  getting him out of trouble with the other dangerous animals. It's not until Paleowolf saves Kip from the Saber-Tooth Cat that he realizes that he and Paleowolf would make excellent companions.

Day #1: Art

On early Monday morning, I made a cave behind our living room couch. I cut apart paper bags, crinkled them, smoothed them out and makeshift-wallpapered them. When Aidyn woke up, he climbed around in his cave, and that is where we read our book for the first time.

Afterward, we cracked open Cave Paintings to Picasso,  a children's book about art. I read about the cave art discovered in Lascaux, France by four boys and their dog. As I read, Aidyn colored a picture of cave art for our timeline.

On Monday, we also watched Walking with Cavemen, a spectacular show about early man, starting with Australopithecus afarensis.

Of course, the episodes garnered many questions.
Why did they live in trees?
Why did they have so much hair?
How did they change?
How long did it take us to change like that?

He was particularly irritated that it did not show a clear metamorphosis, that it just jumped from one species to another. We consulted The Best Book of Early People to see a clearer progression of our march through time.

Day #2: Math and Science

While reading The First Dog on the second day, we counted the different illustrations of wolves, mammoths, and sabor-tooth cats. Afterward, we counted the bone beads and arrowheads we had picked up at The Bone Room In Berkeley and made patterns and letter shapes.

Aidyn also watched an episode of Bill Nye the Science Guy on evolution. Here's part one of the episode we watched:

We kept up the dialogue about cave people and read Mammoth by Patrick O'Brien.

We learned all about mammoths and that they were one of the last prehistoric creatures to die off!

We also read a chapter or two from The Magic Tree House: Sunset of the Sabretooth  each day.

Day #3: Language Arts/Poetry

On Day 3 of reading The First Dog, I asked Aidyn to keep an ear out for descriptive words. I gave him some examples, and he was able to locate others pretty quickly. We discussed the power of description, how it can help us visualize sights, scents, sounds, tastes, and feelings. We compared the two sentences:

I have some food.
I have a big bowl of steaming, hot, buttery popcorn.

He was eating a bowl of celebratory ice cream at the time so he went into a full-on description of its yummy goodness. Then we read two poems about color, "What is Pink?" by Christina Rosetti and "What is Orange?" by Mary O'Neill. After discussing them, we talked about the color brown and what it looks and feels like. The result was this dictated poem:

Brown looks like beans, a roof, worm food, and caramel.
Brown sounds like dust.
Brown feels like dirt and mud.
Brown smells like mud and poop.
Brown tastes like dirt and the "worms in mud" that my Mama makes.

Inspired by Bill Nye, we also conducted a light science experiment. In his episode, Bill Nye explained that some plants have adapted to survive practically any condition. Moss is one of those die-hard plants. We found some moss growing near our home. As instructed, we tossed some clumps of moss in the blender with some milk and liquified the poor thing.

Aidyn, adding the milk.
Apparently it is hilarious to disintegrate moss and taunt it to survive.
After, we poured it outside. And now we play the waiting game to see if moss has, in fact, evolved to survive any kind of harsh treatment.

Day #4: light animal study

On the fourth day of reading The First Dog, Aidyn made a wolf mask and colored a wolf picture for a mini-book. He roamed in his cave and play-acted as a hungry paleowolf.

Later in the day, we played History Bingo, with cave people-related words and phrases in the boxes and pulled questions from a hat. Types of questions included: What did scientists name the Australopithecus afarensis skeleton they found? Early people used this type of plant as a wick for stone lamps. Homo habilis was the first to use stones as what?
In our freetime, we also watched a couple episodes of the Walking with Beasts series, particularly the one on Australopithecus and sabretooth cat. We also watched Clan of the Cave Bear twice, though I kept alert to fast-forward through certain scenes.
We also ate "cave food." I made roasted mini-mammoth legs (chicken drumsticks) and wild turkey soup (a mix of celery, carrots, onion, turkey, broth and wild rice).
We had such a blast learning about early people and prehistoric beasts! I could have probably stayed with the subject for another week, but he's bugging to move on to Egypt.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom Unit Study

For the first week of homeschool, we started with a gentle unit study of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault (same duo who wrote one of our favorites, The Ghost Eye Tree) and illustrated by Lois Ehlert who has illustrated and written many beautiful children's stories.

We rowed the book for five days. At the start of each day, I would read it and we would focus on a specific aspect of the book.
Day 1: Rhyme and Palm Tree Art
On Day One, we found the rhymes in the story and made up new ones. Then Aidyn painted a "forearm and palm" tree.

Day Two: Math

On the second day, we counted the letters in our names to see who had the most letters and who had the least letters.

Day Three: Patterns and Kitchen Fun

On the third day, we made an ABC pattern on the board and created ABC Kabobs. Prior to the lesson, I chopped up apples, bananas, and cantaloupes. Aidyn strung the fruit pieces in ABC order and devoured them happily.

Stringing away.

Speaking of food, we also snacked on these beauties:

Pudding cup base, smashed graham cracker sand, Pirouette mint wafer trunk, and Fruit Roll-Up leaves.

Cashew butter graham cracker sandwiches and Granny Smith apple leaves.

Day Four: Music and Collage Art

On the fourth day, we listened to a musical version of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.

We also watched some videos about Lois Ehlert's art. It garnered many "oooo"s and "awww"s from Aidyn.

We then set out on a nature walk to gather supplies for our own collages. When we got back, we made these:

Aidyn's Yellow Man.
Mama's Ocean Scene.

Day Five: The Science of Coconut-Smashing

To the beat of Hawaiian music, we whacked open a coconut.

After the nail failed to do much, we switched to the chisel.

 Pouring out a little bit of coconut water.
In order to completely crack open the hard shell, we had to wrap the coconut in a towel and demolish it with a hammer. Aidyn proudly assumed that task.

This has to be the winning shot.

Afterward, we scraped our teeth on coconut meat and shredded some up for later.

We had a blast with Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, and while Aidyn was a little sad during our "last" reading of it, I'm sure we'll come back and read it again.

Many of these ideas came from Homeschool Share.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Field Trip Friday: The Bone Room and The Great Stoneface Park in Berkeley

This Friday, Aidyn, his grandma, and I ventured to Berkeley's  Bone Room and their quaint (but Great!) Stoneface Park.

The Bone Room is a natural history store full of sticks and stones and feathery plumes. The place is packed with the unusual, everything from real human skulls and radiuses (radiusi?) to freeze-dried lizards and fossil dung.

Oh, yes.

We decided to make the trek because we just finished reading the first two chapters of Story of the World and learned about fossils and other little things that creatures leave behind. Earlier in the week, Aidyn made a mold of his hand after we watched an episode of Beakman's World on fossils.

We mixed a 2-to-1 solution of Plaster of Paris.

The hardest part for Aidyn was keeping still for 15 minutes. It was a challenge in patience.

Anyway, we went to the Bone Room to check out some real bones and fossils. There were counters full, shelves full, drawers bursting full, and little jars full and stuffed creatures mounted everywhere. Probably to scare the hell out of  amuse people like me, they had a gigantic Burmese python that looked like this one we saw at a library program a couple months ago:

We all had fun picking out little treasures to take home. Aidyn plucked a T-Rex flip book and a scorpion necklace (with a real, but thankfully dead, scorpion), his grandma purchased a spider necklace, and I grabbed some bone beads (for math next week, of course), obsidian arrowheads, a scorpion bottle opener for David, and a antique-y looking poster of the human skeleton.

We had lunch afterward in a cozy, colorful taqueria,

and, to get the wiggles out, we found a fitting park called The Great Stoneface Park. Nestled in the hills of a quaint neighborhood in Berkeley, a small corner of the natural face of the mountain is preserved. In the middle of these gorgeous homes, large (and I mean, large) boulders and oak trees remain.

Aidyn wasted no time scaling up the trees and rocks like the proud Capricorn goat that he is.

Here's a good shot of Aidyn and his grandma.
And here's Aidyn and I.

He was so in his element.

Here he got a little wistful and asked if we could move there so he could climb this tree forever.

And to think he could have been sitting at a desk all day.



Monday, August 20, 2012

First Official Day of (Home) School

Today was Aidyn's first official day of first grade, at home, with all the freedom to do as we please, learn as we please, and wriggle and talk as much as we please.

We started a tradition this year to bribe the heck out of start the new year off with some Christmas-type levels of excitement. Thus, David and I spent the weekend finding cool and insanely cheap edu-toys for Aidyn to open up on first-day-of-school morning.

The stash included a croquet set, a Mind over Matter science box, a ruler, a compass, gigantic watercolor paper, Silly Sentences boards, a cool medieval chess set, a box of rainbow Nerds, a parachute, Magic Message markers, a calculator, and a Rubik's Cube.

After the gift-opening extravaganza, breakfast, and a change of clothes, we played with his parachute, billowing it up and scurrying under it. Then we went on a long morning walk, which he felt fit to record on our camera. (I will spare you the viewing of the 30+ minute video of grainy, shaky video. You are welcome.)

Once we got back in and hydrated, we started our row of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault.  Today was Language Arts day, so after we read the story, we hunted down the rhymes and created our own:

"'M is looped,
N is stooped,
O is twisted alley-oop,'
what else rhymes with 'oop?'"

Aidyn: "Hmm, poop?"

Yes. Classy education.

After we got the laughs out of us, Aidyn painted a real palm tree.

Get it? Okay, maybe the laughs weren't completely out.

For snack, we munched on these beauties:

To make your own limp-as-a-wet-noodle palm trees, all you need is a pudding cup, some crushed graham crackers for sand, a rolled Pirouette wafer, and Fruit by the Foot or Fruit Leather.

Then we got rolling.

We worked on two pages of math, a page of language exercises, and two pages of phonics.

During "break time," Aidyn unpacked his science box and tested out both centrifugal force and gravity, even though neither were on the agenda today.

Here's Aidyn presenting the awesome power of gravity to hold up his dad's heavy belt. We also transferred a yellow ball to a blue cup WITHOUT TOUCHING IT and only using a green cup. There might be a show later.

For lunch, we chomped on

a graham cracker-cashew butter trunk and Granny Smith leaves.

We also started Story of The World and a gentle introduction to history. We cuddled on the couch and perused his own history via his baby book. Our science unit wove in nicely when we read about the human body and how it changes as we grow. We looked at pictures of Aidyn as a little squirt and now as a string bean. It's hard to deny how much he's grown when comparing the two.

How much do we love homeschool?

Dis much.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

70s Saturday Morning (and Weekend!)

This last weekend we traveled back to the 70s and ending up spending the whole weekend there. Our toy selection shrank to include only a table tennis net, paddles, and a few white balls, but we probably had more fun with our converted dining room table than our Nintendo Wii.

Our Saturday morning line-up looked as follows:

The Pebbles and BamBam Show
The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour
Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?
Sigmund and the Sea Monster
Pink Panther
Land of the Lost
Hong Kong Phooey
Challenge of the Superfriends

as well as grainy commercials like this one.

We ended up having company on Saturday and Sunday morning so we had an informal table tennis tournament. On Sunday morning, we replayed the cartoon line-up. Later that afternoon, we went to a relic of a place, probably one of the last surviving of its kind, a forgotten old hangout....a roller skating rink.

The place looked like it had been preserved in the 70s. The building was a dull tan color with decorative swirls of dark brown. Only a few cars spotted the parking lot, but the building appeared abandoned. Inside were old arcade games, those yellow and red tables and booths one would see in 70s restaurants, gnarly carpets, and a wide open rink with only a few skaters rolling around.

To be honest, I hadn't skated in 16 years or so. When I put them on and attempted to stand, they felt more slippery than I remembered. It took us all quite awhile to push ourselves out there and embrace the possibility of falling, but we did it.

Ok, so after awhile I got a tad bit cocky and attempted to do some serious-bend-my-knees tricks.

Aidyn had a blast and even requested a pair of skates so he could keep practicing.

Spending the weekend playing table tennis, watching those old shows, and capping it off with a trip to a roller rink really gave us the 70s feel. Of course, we have Granny to attest to the accuracy of our experiences. If she feels like she transported back in time, it's a solid win.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Field Trip Friday: Pier 39 in San Francisco

We don't normally get sucked in to tourist traps, but, when we do, Pier 39 is a good choice. I have loads of wonderful childhood memories walking the pier, laughing at the sea lions, and getting a chocolate butt from the Chocolate Heaven store. Really.

On Friday, we drove Granny and Aidyn's cousin to AT&T Park to watch the Giants play the Rockies. Once we finally weaved out of the traffice jam, we whirled around the Embarcadero and parked at Pier 39.

Ok, so it was in the triple digits where WE live, but when we got out the car it was 69 degrees and cooooold.

I'd remembered what Mark Twain had said about SF: "The coldest winter I ever had was a summer in San Francisco."

You summed it up perfectly, Mark.

After a three-hour drive (mostly due to traffic) and chilling temperatures, we huddled inside for some classic Clam Chowder Bread Bowls.

Aidyn, aka Mr. Cool Dude, slurping that clam chowder like a San Fran pro.

Afterward we made a beeline for the sea lions because it was getting darker and colder fast, and we wanted to see them before we refused to go back outside.

The picture is terribly dark, but I promise there were sea lions there! Aidyn climbed up some wooden steps for a better view and mostly remarked that he could "smell them."

If my hands weren't frozen, I would have taken more pictures, but you'll just have to use your imaginations, all two readers, you.

We scoured every store we could, scarfed down the most delicious chocolate crepe in the world, tried on wacky hats, oohed and awed over some magic tricks, marvelled at the city lights, and arfed like sea lions in the bumper-to-bumper traffic on the way home.