Sunday, January 27, 2013

Mamatography 2013 Week 3: Planets and Pets!

Welcome to Mamatography Week# 3! This week, we learned about the the sun and planets, watched our leopard gecko shed (and eat!) her skin, and cuddled our pets.

A blurry shot of Aidyn painting our solar system.

Aidyn's remote control car ramp.

Watching our leopard gecko, Sabor, shed her skin.

It was so neat watching her delicately peel the skin off.
Cuddling his cat, Sammy, who looks less than thrilled for the attention.

Aidyn and the very comfortable Meggie, our 10-year-old cat.

We love our pets!

Tomorrowland: Learning about the Sun and the Planets in our Solar System

This week in Tomorrowland, we focused on our humdrum star, the Sun, and our nine, ::sniff:: eight planets in the solar system. We had already learned about the Moon and space vehicles, astronauts, black holes and weightlessness. Now we were excited to learn about our solar system.

We had some pretty amazing videos playing during "break times," which helped us learn about our Sun.

We love Bill Nye, the Science Guy.

This is a really well made, short video showing a real up-close image of the Sun.

And I would like to apologize ahead of time for when this song by They Might Be Giants becomes lodged in your brain.

We used Howard Trammel's book, The Solar System , to learn about the Sun and the planets "near" us.

As we learned about the Sun and each planet, Aidyn painted them. We taped together two pieces of black construction paper, and I brought out several acrylic paints for the planets. I also laid out different painting tools to closely capture the size of each planet: Q-tips, cotton balls, bottle caps, the tip of a slim paintbrush, etc.

He wanted to make sure he got some sun flares in there!

We also watched another Bill Nye video about the planets:

Aidyn also watched one of his favorite Magic School Bus episodes: The Magic School Bus Gets Lost in Space, a great video to learn about the basic composition of the planets.

For pure fun, we watched several videos about Tomorrowland in Disneyland and some favorite Disney songs befitting a unit study on space:

"A beautiful tomorrow is only a dream away..."
Tomorrowland (1967)

And the heart-string tugging classic, "When You Wish upon a Star."

"If your heart is in your dream, no request is too extreme."

What I want Aidyn to walk away with during a Tomorrowland unit study, besides some information about our universe, is the hope for a beautiful tomorrow and how dreams so often sculpt the realities of tomorrow.

There were many mornings during our Tomorrowland unit study that he burst into the living room, telling me his dream about flying into the universe on a space pod that he and his friends built.

We certainly had a fun time learning about the universe in Tomorrowland. Our next stop is inspired by the Finding Nemo Submarines in Tomorrowland for a unit study on the ocean, Earth's own liquid space, where I'm sure we'll uncover as many mysteries as we found in the universe!

Check back to see what we do!

Do you and your child(ren) have a favorite space attraction in Tomorrowland? Space Mountain, Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, Star Tours, Astro Orbitor, Captain EO...? If so, I would love to hear about it!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Tomorrowland: Learning through a Space Journey

Now that we've learned all about our closest neighbor, the Moon, we began learning about space travel and even made a slight detour into black holes (not literally, of course!)

We read a simple book, Space Vehicles by Anne Rockwell and David Brion, which introduces different space vehicles including space shuttles, lunar rovers, and satellites.

Afterward we used Childcraft's A Look Into Space to learn about the close relationship between science fiction and eventual reality by comparing illustrations from Jules Verne and H.G. Wells to modern images of rockets, moon explorations, and astronaut life.  This led to a discussion about fiction vs. non-fiction.

Somewhere in there, Aidyn asked about white holes. I skipped a few chapters and read the section on white holes to him.

We learned how black holes originate and that their gravity is so strong it pulls everything into it, even light. If one were to go through a black hole, they would travel through a wormhole and eventually emerge through a white hole.

We also read about how astronauts get by in space and the effects of weightlessness on the human body.

Much to Aidyn's delight, we conducted a science experiment to test the effect of "weightlessness" when it comes to drinking liquids. First he positioned himself in a chair so that his tummy was higher than his head. He tried drinking juice and had a difficult time "drinking up." Next he tried drinking from a straw and, though it was much easier, he still had to slurp to get it up and through his body.

We also watched some fun videos about space throughout the day, in between phonics and math work.

Our favorites include:

Why is it dark at night?

Carl Sagan - Pale Blue Dot

and Bill Nye - Outer Space

We are having a blast learning all about space. Our next stop is the Sun!


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Tomorrowland: Learning about the Moon


" A vista into a world of wondrous ideas, signifying man's achievements... a step into the future with predictions of constructive things to come.  Tomorrow offers new frontiers in science, adventure, and ideals: the Atomic Age, the challenge of outer space, and the hope for a peaceful and unified world."
-Walt Disney 

Tomorrowland captures the cosmic world of our vision of the future. It allows us to meander through what Walt Disney called "the living blueprint" of the future. And it's true. We can whirl on the Astro Blasters, rocket through the stars on Space Mountain, entangle ourselves in the Star Wars universe on the updated Star Tours: The Adventure Continues ride, and peek at the fascinating new developments in Innoventions.

Tomorrowland offers the opportunity to learn about the great big universe with the freedom to question how, why, and how can we get there?

Our first destination in the far reaches of space was our cold, dry and solitary moon.

Literature: Imagining a trip to the moon

We read Dan Yaccarino's imaginative picture book, Zoom! Zoom! Zoom! I'm Off to the Moon!  in which a young boy dons a space suit, straps himself into a rocket and blasts off to the moon. This book, which is an enjoyable read-aloud for little ones or an independent read for early readers, captures the whimsical fantasy of flying to the moon, complete with the mounting excitement of a countdown to blast off and the thrill of exploring the surface of the moon with a lunar rover.

We also read Martha Alexander's You're a Genius, Blackboard Bear, a cute picture book about a boy who, upon hearing a story about the moon, gets ready to travel there with his blackboard bear, a chalkboard drawing of a bear who comes to life and interacts with the boy. Among many things, this heartwarming book helps young learners understand how space travelers must prepare for such a journey.

Ideas for Imagining Your Own Trip to the Moon:

  • Make a space suit
  • Make a suitcase from construction paper and use cut-outs/stickers of items to pack for the trip
  • Talk about how a trip to the moon would be (how long do you think it would take to get there? Would you miss your family? What would you see outside the window of your rocket ship? What would bring back from the moon? Would you like to live there?)
  • Make your own instrument panel for a space rocket. What kinds of buttons and levers would you need?
Science: Moon Study

We read from Childcraft's A Look into Space to learn how the moon began. We learned about the four theories of how the moon might have been formed:

  1. Fission- as a chunk of Earth that separated from it.
  2. Coaccretion- a gathering of dust and gas to form a moon
  3. Orbital capture- Earth's gravity capturing a traveling moon
  4. Giant impact/collision- an object colliding with Earth and the subsequent material forming a moon.
Aidyn most agreed with the giant impact theory and explained it to me in his own words.

We also read "The Man in the Moon Tells His Story" from Childcraft's A Look into Space. This engaging story is told from the man in the moon's perspective as he explains the basic composition of the moon, from the maria caused by lava from long ago to craters formed by colliding meteoroids. We also learned that the moon has no atmosphere, wind or rain so imprints made in its dust can stay for many, many years. We read about the moon's phases and how it looks full and bright sometimes, like a crescent other times, and how sometimes we cannot see it at all.

When we read about the moon's gravity causing the water on Earth to bulge, Aidyn gasped and said, "The moon makes the waves!"

Ideas for a Hands-On Moon Study:

  • Paint your own moon on a sheet of black construction paper. Use gray paint (or a combination of white and black) with a tablespoon of flour mixed in for that "wet snow" consistency. Once it's painted, use a bottle cap to create craters. You can apply a little black paint to the craters to create maria.

  • Make a moon out of play-dough. Mix 1 cup of all-purpose flour, 3/8 of a cup of salt, and 3/8 of a cup of hot water in a bowl. Knead dough on lightly floured surface for at least 5 minutes. Ball up your dough into a moon shape and create craters with bottle caps.

  • Once you make some Moon Dough, spread a layer into a round cake pan and drop "meteoroids" onto it from different heights. We used medium-sized rocks, but you might want to use marbles, tennis balls, golf balls, etc. Doing so helps us understand how craters on the moon are made.

To learn even more about the moon, we watched a few videos from NASA about the evolution of the moon...

... and what it would be like to live there.

Literature: Chapter book read-aloud about space

We read the goofiest book about a wacky space pirate entitled Ned Feldman, Space Pirate by Daniel Pinkwater. This illustrated chapter book follows nine-year-old Ned who discovers a space craft in his kitchen. A two-foot tall sort-of-human space pirate named Captain Bugbeard takes Ned on a trip around the universe.

While this story does little in the way of teaching contextual facts about space (unless there really ARE gigantic space chickens on alien planets), it is wildly imaginative, fun, and so enjoyable that it can be finished in one sitting (if your voice holds up).

Phonics and Reading Instruction: -oo- words and space words

  • While learning about the moon, practice your -oo- words. Teach your child that many -oo- words sound impressed ("Oooooo!"). Make word strips of the following words:

moon  soon  spoon  zoom  moo  boot  loot  doom  raccoon  cartoon
boom  loom  room  root  toot  boo  coop  loop  
  • Learn space vocabulary. We are using Read, Build, Write! Mats from Homeschool Creations. She also has Star Wars vocabulary available. Instead of printing several mats, I printed one and put it in a transparent sheet protector. We build words using phonics tiles and write with dry-erase markers.

 We've just begun learning our way through Tomorrowland. There is still so much more to cover!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Mamatography 2013 Week Two: Birthday and Moonjellies Party

This is Week Two of the Mamatography 2013 Challenge, which isn't too late to join!

We had a week with a birthday, a moonjelly party and time spent learning about jellyfish.

My sweet husband's 31st birthday.

Aidyn in love with his Nintendo 3DS.

My husband and I.

Painting jellyfish.

Moonjelly painting party!

Night of the Moonjellies

We spent what seems like a very short week with Mark Shasha's Night of the Moonjellies, a poignant story about seven-year-old Mark who discovers something "that feels like jelly" on the beach as he makes his way to his Grandma Mary's seaside diner, Mar-Gra's. He helps his family run the busy diner, helping to fill ketchup, mustard and relish containers and keeping the straws well-supplied as his grandma, aunt, and cousin serve delicious comfort foods. Later, Mark's grandmother takes him to the place where all the other jellies float about in the sea, and the sight is dazzling and unforgettable.

This story became an instant love after the first reading, and I am sure we will row this treasure again.

Social Studies: Geography- New England

After the first reading, I asked Aidyn if he knew where this story took place. Surprisingly he shouted, "New England!" Many of our FIAR reads have New England settings!

He colored the story disk and happily placed it near New England. 

Social Studies: Responsibility

We discussed how responsible Mark is, even though he is only seven years old. I found a wonderful idea from School Time Snippets to make a Tic-Tac-Toe Responsibility Chart.

He has small chores like "Pick up your toys" and "Wipe the doorknobs" as well as personal grooming responsibilities and school responsibilities. As soon as he makes three in a row (and finishes his school work), he can use his electronics again (which means access to his Nintendo 3DS).

Language: Make a List

I printed an adorable hamburger book from Homeschool Share, and we listed all the yummy foods mentioned in Night of the Moonjellies. For vocabulary practice, I wrote the words on a white board as he listed them, and he wrote them in the hamburger book.

Art: Warm and Cool Color Palette

After reading Night of the Moonjellies on the third day, we looked back at the illustrations and talked about warm and cool colors and perhaps why Shasha might have chosen certain colors for specific objects. For example, the inside of the diner was a warm hue of golden-yellow, but when it was closing time, it was a serene blue. We talked about how warm colors can symbolize warmth, light and activity and how cool colors can symbolize coolness, darkness, and mystery.

Art: Watercolor Jellyfish

This absolutely adorable idea came from Deep Space Sparkle. It's described as a 4th grade activity, but we were able to handle it well.

His favorite part was when we got really messy and splattered paint everywhere!

So much fun!

Author Background:

After the fourth day of reading, Aidyn asked what the flap at the back of the book was. I explained that it was a snippet about the author, and he said he wanted to know about him. We read that Mark Shasha grew up on the coast of New England to which Aidyn gasped and said, "Just like Mark! (Gasp!) His name is Mark, too. Maybe the story is about him when he was little." We read on and discovered that Mark Shasha had always been fascinated by the sea and sea creatures, which explains the poignancy of his moonjelly portrayal.

Math: Learning about Money

Since Night of the Moonjellies mainly takes place in a business setting, we skipped a few chapters in our math book to learn about money.

  • Through Enchanted Learning, we printed pages about coins, specifically pennies and nickels.
  • Aidyn colored a picture of an enlarged penny, and we learned what all the markings on the pennies meant such as the year it was minted and where it was minted (by either the letter D, S, or P under the year). We looked through 100 of our own pennies and found that the vast majority, 99 out of 100, were minted in Denver.
  • Coloring Lincoln on the penny led to a zillion questions about the 16th president. Aidyn requested a video about him, which he watched during a break. Later, he and his grandma (a Lincoln expert!) talked at length about the assassination and John Wilkes Booth.
  • Aidyn colored a picture of an enlarged nickel, and we also learned all of its markings. Again, most of our 20 nickels were minted in Denver, though we had four from Pennsylvania and one from San Francisco. (Turns out Thomas Jefferson was not as fascinating.)
  • We played with money, counting it, comparing coins, and singing "The Money Song."   


We must have sang this song a million times!

  • Aidyn learned to skip-count by 5s using the nickels.
  • He also learned how to count change consisting of a combination of nickels and pennies.
  • We played store and I "sold" his erasers to him. I labeled them with different prices (that would need a combination of nickels and pennies to buy), and he bought them all!
Science: Jellyfish

We saved the fun stuff for last. Aidyn loves science and animals, but most non-fiction books about either are dry and boring. Luckily we found Jellies by Twig C. George, which is engaging and easy to understand.

Memory Making: Night of the Moonjellies Party

During the week, Aidyn made a menu of items from the book and named his establishment Aidyn's Best Restaurant.

On Friday, he accompanied me to the grocery store where we bought all the necessary ingredients to make hamburgers, hot dogs, fries, banana milkshakes and crab (since they didn't have lobster) rolls.

On Saturday, we invited his friends over for our Moonjelly party. They mostly hung out and played Skylanders and other games, but when it was lunch time, Aidyn handed them the menu and took their orders. I was the cook, and Aidyn played the waiter.

After everyone was full, we painted jellyfish. Aidyn taught the course, and the kids had a blast.

They covered their faces because Aidyn wanted to pretend to be underwater.

 We had a BLAST with Night of the Moonjellies, and I feel like we only skimmed the surface.

Many of my ideas came from Delightful Learning and the FIAR forums.

Next up for us is a Tomorrowland: Space and Ocean unit study. Check back to see what we do!


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Mamatography 2013 Week One: Birthday Memories

This year, although a little late, I am taking part in the Mamatography 2013 Challenge with Momma Jorje and Diary of a First Child to take a photo every day of our day-to-day life and post once a week.

As I said, I'm behind and haven't taken many pictures in the last week and a half. My first entries are from two days before the new year but from a very special day: Aidyn's 7th birthday.

Adventure Time birthday cupcakes made by yours truly!

My big seven-year-old.

Waiting to sing "Happy Birthday" was literally the only three seconds Aidyn and his friends were still and relatively quiet.

Gift time!

And one Christmas 2012 throwback.

I'm looking forward to sharing more snapshots and seeing what 2013 brings. It's not too late to join yourself!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Word-Building with Phonics Tiles

So my highly kinesthetic first grade boy squirms like a wiggle worm and dissents any type of phonics worksheet. Because I am teaching him how to read, I've had to find alterative methods to pique his interest in learning to read for himself.

One way that has proved fruitful and delightful is word-building with colorful phonics tiles.

Right now we're working on long vowel sounds, which can get confusing for a new reader to get that -ie and -igh make the same sound. Here's what's worked for us:

1. Make flashcards showcasing the phonics sound you're teaching.

Right now we are working on long u sounds.