Saturday, April 22, 2017

Syd Art Update: LOTS More Disney Art Studio, and Homeschool Art Curriculum Queries

Syd is my kiddo who sits are our homeschool table and draws, all day, every day. I ask if she's finished her math and she instead shows me the five pages of mermaids that shes' drawn. I ask to see where she is in her grammar and she shows me fourteen unicorns instead.

Will is really into adult coloring books, and both kids enjoy their dad's weekend art lessons, but Syd, in particular, is also very prone to immersing herself in some particular art or craft and spending hours at it every day. For the past couple of weeks, its been the Disney Art Studio sets that I first reviewed almost six months ago. They were popular with the kids for weeks, then got set aside on the playroom shelves, as things do, waiting, as things do, to be rediscovered. And Syd has rediscovered them with a vengeance!

Here are a few of her creations that I found and photographed the other day:
Syd found the Palace Pets set confusing at first, because these pets aren't canon to the stories, but it's actually teaching you how to draw different animals, and they're just themed on a princess. Once she saw that she could now draw an adorable bunny, she was all about it.

I like the way that Syd draws HER Rapunzel, not the movie version.  
Matt and I struggle a bit with creating a systematic art curriculum for the kids. Should he do a step-by-step development of certain skills? Teach a lesson every weekend that's related to something that we've studied that week (if so, this weekend he could teach the children how to draw Celtic knots! Or have them study shadows, based on our study of Stonehenge! Or spheres, and do a 3D model of Aristotle's celestial spheres!)? Do a completely separate art history unit? I follow a lot of art teacher blogs,  so I know that there are supporting philosophies for all three approaches.

For now, though, the approach seems to be, "Oh, you want me to do art with the kids today? Hmmm... what should we do? Okay, how about this totally random thing?" and of course it goes swimmingly and the kids love it. I should probably continue to let it be an impromptu daddy/daughter thing, since it's going so well, but at some point I'm sure that one needs a systematic development of skills. Perhaps not in the fifth grade, though? Or the seventh?

Ugh. Feel free to tell me how you handle art in YOUR homeschool!

Friday, April 21, 2017

Most of a Day at Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park

I had not intended to stay the entire day at Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, and that would have been entirely possible if the children had done what I had told them to, and worked on what they could do in their Junior Ranger books ahead of time in the car. Although the [grumpy] Ranger had grumpily informed me, when I told him of my plan, that one wouldn't be able to complete any of the book away from the battlefields, you could actually fully complete over a third of it anywhere you liked, as many pages asked only for close reading of informational passages--a crucial skill to develop, but something that can be done without standing next to a cannon.

But only if your kid actually does what you asked and works on the book that you made a special trip to obtain for her so that she could work on it in advance. Otherwise, you will stand next to a cannon for an hour while she matches soldier ranks using textual evidence and composes pretend diary entries, etc.

But at least you'll have beautiful weather to stand in!

I love this picture, because can you see it? She's trying to follow the soldiers sight line.

I like these displays that help you visualize what the battle looked like where you're standing.

Inside the visitor center, we discovered that our favorite national park orientation film of ALL TIME is now The Campaign of Chattanooga: Death Knell for the Confederacy. Will and I watched it once, then came out basically wailing to each other, "OMG, CALLAWAY!!!!!!! NOOOOO!!!!!!!" And then we found Matt and Syd and shoved them into the theater to watch it, too. Some random bystander watching this looked at Syd and then said to me, "You know that movie's pretty gruesome." I was all, "I KNOW! CALLAWAY!!!!!!!" and then he pretty much backed away from me, smiling nervously.

Sorry, Stranger Trying to Help Me Parent!

The visitor center also fed my obsessive desire to buy land just outside of national parks in order to conduct my own amateur archaeological digs, because they had a whole exhibit on Civil War treasures found by random people!

Good for them. Looters SHOULD get jail time! Or, not jail because I don't think jail is a very good solution in most criminal contexts, but some sort of highly supervised probation/re-education/community service!
See how the tree healed over the bullet hole? The caption said that sawmills stopped accepting trees from the area because they were so studded with bullets.
It felt like a long and cranky drive up to Lookout Mountain Battlefield Visitor Center (especially with a husband who stubbornly refused to accept my gracious backseat driving, grr!), but once we were there, it was well worth it.

I can't imagine a lovelier place to desecrate with carnage:

I'd thought that Matt was safely somewhere else, so that he wouldn't have to see our little Riptide once again trying as hard as she can to break her fool neck. When she finally came away from the ledge, though, and we hiked a little further down the trail, we came upon Matt, standing and glaring at us both, with a clear view of that overhanging rock ledge behind him. Oops!
Although we spent hours longer here than I'd intended to, it actually worked well in that it tired the kids out so much that they barely fought with each other at all on the long drive back home. I finished reading my book, I made next semester's homeschool plans with the kids (informing Will often that no, she didn't *have* to take grammar OR keyboard OR home ec, since I could just enroll her in the local middle school where those classes aren't offered, if she'd prefer...), I planned out a lot of improvements that I doubt that I'll actually have time to make to the garden, listened to a lot of country music on the radio (I LOVE driving through Nashville!), and--not exactly before we knew it, but before we were completely beside ourselves in misery--we were home again, back in our own snug beds with the dog and the cats and the chickens and a home-cooked breakfast in the morning.

Traveling with the family is my favorite thing, and so is coming home afterwards!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

An Afternoon at Ocmulgee National Monument

Ocmulgee National Monument is outside of Macon, Georgia, and it made a good waypoint between Savannah and our evening plan to sleep somewhere north of Atlanta but south of Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Battlefields.

We've studied the Mississippian mound builders before, and visited their sites at Cahokia and Spiro Mounds, and they always impress and fascinate me:

In these parts of the country I'll sometimes spot an unusual rise on a farmer's back field and wonder if they have an unattended mound there--just as I do with homesteads that abut these battlefields that we visit, I wish that I lived there, too, and could play amateur archaeologist on my property.

This is the Earth Lodge:

It was originally excavated and restored by CCC boys like my Pappa, and was excavated to the original floor, which was carbon dated to around 1015:

You're obviously not meant to walk on the mounds, of course, in order to keep them protected, so I always appreciate it when you CAN walk on one!

When the kids and I were studying the prehistoric residents of North America, I had SO much trouble finding solid, in-depth resources suitable for their ages--some dry elementary textbooks, a few good picture books were about it, other than some notable exceptions that I eventually dug out. It fit in with my memory of my own childhood, in which I learned very little about prehistoric (or current) Native Americans, but the lack of material was nevertheless shocking. It turns out that to REALLY learn about these prehistoric Native Americans, you have to go to one of their sites. The museums associated with most of them are amazing, containing more good information, all in one place, than I've ever found in books or documentaries. It's a shame that I can't simply photograph every single exhibit and caption... can I?

I photographed a few:
This explains why I ate so much cornbread as a kid!
These pots are coil pots, smoothed and then stamped. Syd sat riveted in front of a video in the next room that showed exactly how they were made. Matt bought them a little bag of clay excavated from the site, and the kids made their own stamped coil pots from it the next week.
The kids earned their Junior Ranger badges here, and it was overall an excellent detour, even if, by this time, we are all beginning to feel the end-of-vacation pull towards home.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Work Plans for the Week of April 17, 2017: Climate, the Celts, and CAMPING!!!

We had just the kind of school week that we'd all been needing last week--a relaxed one! I'd planned on a three-day school week, but that evolved into a two-day week after some friends came around one day to hang out with us; the kids played freeze tag and did whatever else kids do, while the moms dug saplings out of my side garden (I know! What kind of friend just picks up a shovel and helps someone dig up saplings for an hour?!? A GOOD one!) and then bummed around the old dump out in the back of my woods looking for vintage bottles.

And then we ate cookie dough. Which my friend ALSO brought. You want her phone number now, don't you?

We also had a super relaxing Easter holiday, with, yes, the epic Easter clue hunt that the Easter bunny always sends the kids on (this year, they had a Caesar cipher to solve, and one of the clues was separated into five different eggs, all of which they had to find to solve it--mwa-ha-ha!), bunny-shaped cinnamon rolls for breakfast, egg-dyeing--

Have you ever drawn on hot eggs with crayons? It's really awesome, and easy to do when you've only just boiled your eggs because you're not prepared.

--cheese and crackers served picnic-style on our bed for lunch while we watched the black-and-white King Kong, during which I fell asleep and napped for two hours!!! (this is a huge accomplishment, because the sleep log in my Fitbit is normally a tragedy), some dad and daughter time working on Will's dog house, and then a kid and mom made Easter dinner--

These bunny rolls would have looked "better" if an adult had made them, but I wouldn't trade kid-made bunny rolls for the world!
Matt made us this cocktail, which was only okay--it would have been yummier with a frozen banana tossed in, I say!

--after which we all lay on my bed like slowly digesting slugs and watched the new Doctor Who.

So yes, it was a relaxing day!

So what if a few things that I'd wanted to do last week didn't get done. We're starting this week feeling relaxed and refreshed (at least I am!), and that's way better for our productivity... and, fine, our mental health... than getting all the things done last week would have been.

I do plan to get all the things done this week, even though it's also just a four-day school week, as on Friday, the kids and I will embark on a camping trip with our Girl Scout troop, leaving poor Matt home alone to walk the dog and work on the tree house, but mostly to play video games and eat giant sandwiches all weekend.

Our memory work for the week is the dreadfully slow-going list of common prepositions (these just will NOT stick in the children's heads!), the also slow-going and non-sticky list of helping verbs (although Syd has used this memorized knowledge recently, so I know it's sticking somewhat), the names of the Platonic solids, the names of Jesus' twelve apostles from the Christian Bible, and a review of Shakespeare's Sonnet 116.

Books of Day are mostly books on the Ancient Celts, fairy tales and a couple of factual books and one graphic novel retelling of Beowulf. Other daily work consists of one lesson a day in Junior Analytical Grammar for Syd, ten minutes a day journaling or writing from a story starter prompt (I'm going to see if the kids will actually write this in cursive for a change, to save them having to do cursive copywork separately, but if they "forget," then cursive copywork it will be!), typing practice on,  progress on their MENSA reading lists (Will generally reads an entire book, while Syd usually reads a chapter in her current one), Wordly Wise 7 for Will and a word ladder for Syd, a Hoffman Academy lesson or keyboard practice for both kids, and for Will, SAT prep through Khan Academy.

And here's the rest of our week!

MONDAY: Story of Science this week is again on Aristotle--he's quite the important guy! On this day, the kids will read the chapter in their textbook and answer the reading comprehension questions in their Quest Guide. We'll also be stargazing for 30 minutes every clear night this week, an activity that I bet we can also manage to do on our camping trip!

Will doesn't have grammar daily for a while, as she's finished her first season of Analytical Grammar and is instead working through 2-3 lessons a week in the Review and Reinforcement workbook. Once a week, then, I've been giving her the quick-and-easy logic reinforcement of a mind bender to complete. I do them with her, and Syd has been asking to do one, too, so I've been giving her one from the lower level book.

The table of symbols for the decanomial square is one activity that we played with friends last week instead of doing, so we'll do that today, instead. I'm eager to show the kids how to use the table, with the decanomial square manipulatives as illustrations, to make equations. I think this will make Will's Math Mammoth units this week on solving two-part equations make much more sense. Syd is still working on fraction calculations in her Math Mammoth, so I might have to pause her lessons for a more hands-on look at dividing fractions--I remember that I had to spend a long time on that unit with Will.

There is SO much to do to prepare for our weekend camping trip, from practicing with the tents (as this is a Girl Scout trip, the girls will be expected to do most of the jobs) to figuring out a group menu and buying the supplies and reminding myself how to work the EZ-Up that I'm going to use instead of a dining fly to printing out the Junior Ranger books that we'll be working on there to give the kids a head start. And I haven't even mentioned packing! We definitely need to be working on getting ready every day this week!

TUESDAY: The kids' request to study Medieval history is about to get a little more complicated, as Matt and I just this weekend re-ran the numbers for the billionth time, re-re-re-reviewed our budget, and then booked our summer vacation to Greece!!!!!!!!!!! MUCH more on that later,  but if you know me at all you know that I am physically incapable of taking my children on a vacation without making them study for it first, so next week will commence a unit study on Greece, whose history will have to play nicely with both the non-Greek bits of Story of Science but also ALL the Medieval bits of our medieval history study. I'm not willing to ditch a subject that the children requested, however, and Will has said that history and science are the *only* school subjects that she likes (sigh...), so they WILL place nicely together. I will MAKE them play nicely together.

That being said, we are going to do the Medieval history study a LOT more slowly than I had previously thought we would. I'd assumed we'd do a chapter a week in Story of the World volume 2, with a hands-on activity or project every day, likely, but this week we're only studying one third of chapter 2, specifically the material on the Ancient Celts. Even so, we're managing to spend three days of our four-day school week on the Celts, and we may do more with them next week. The Ancient Celts are just too interesting to zip past! On this day, the kids will read/listen to chapter 2 of Story of the World volume 2, and then do the reading comprehension questions from the activity book. We may or may not actually do the mapwork that covers the entire chapter--I've got more specific mapwork in mind for the Anglo-Saxons that we'll meet later in this chapter.

Even in this four-day school week, I can no longer put off the second science unit that the kids wanted to study, so we'll move slowly through that one, too. The text that we'll be starting with, Explore Weather and Climate, is a little simple, but I can increase the level of instruction during our lessons and with supplemental reading and viewing and projects. While the kids work on this fruit pizza climate zone map, for instance, we'll actually also be reviewing biomes, which we studied last summer. The further activities that we'll do next week will include more hands-on hard science.

WEDNESDAY: We HAVE to get this darn chili recipe made--for one thing, the meat that I've set aside for it will go bad if we don't! This is another Tuesday project from last week that hopefully will finally get done.

Perhaps it can be our celebratory dinner after we spend the evening LARPing. The kids LOVE it when we LARP for school--the best was World War 1 trench warfare, but we also made up an amazing Escape from Alcatraz game last summer during our California unit study. I forgot to blog about it because I didn't have any photos from this night-time game, but it was ridiculously fun, and terrifyingly nerve-wracking, so I'll tell you about it sometime if you're interested. Anyway, I wanted to think up some game of Ancient Celts vs. Roman soldiers, but couldn't come up with anything great that involved just four players (other than Capture the Flag, maybe, but the point of the activity is that the Roman soldiers should have too much territory to defend and the Celts should just be invaders, so Capture the Flag doesn't automatically work), so I've decided to make the kids do the planning instead of me. They'll have to come up with a LARP game whose rules fit with what we know happened between the Romans and Celts, and then, because neither of them would agree to being stripped to the waist, painted in woad (or blue clown makeup...), and having their hair gelled up in frightful spikes, I'll just let them do it to Daddy! He'll be a wonderful Celtic warrior! Of course, they'll have to do battle while wearing tunics, so they'll look pretty cute, too...

Syd has yet to research her baking project for the week, so I don't yet know what that's going to entail. Last week, she wanted to make Jolly Rancher cotton candy using her sister's cotton candy maker. Um... Jolly Rancher cotton candy is DELICIOUS!!!!!!! I'm pretty excited to see what we're going to get to taste this week.

Today is the day that Will is going to go over our week's expenses and tell us what we're doing wrong with our lives. The Budgeting badge seems so dry to me, but she's really seeming to enjoy it.

THURSDAY: One of the celestial phenomenon that Aristotle had to work REALLY hard to explain with his celestial spheres model is retrograde motion, the weird backwards jog that planets appear to take when Earth passes them in its orbit. This can be an extremely hard concept to visualize--unless you go out on the driveway and visualize it! We'll be doing a live model demonstration as well as watching a couple of videos that I think make the concept very clear.

All the stargazing this week (assuming that the nights are clear) are premised on both this study of the planets in Story of Science and the Celts in Story of the World. Story of the World doesn't cover Stonehenge, which was already long built by the time we enter the story, but we're going to study Stonehenge, because 1) it's valuable background information to the religion and lifestyle of the Iron Age Celts, and 2) it's freaking awesome! I don't have all of the resources pulled for this lesson yet, but I do know that we'll be building some models. I mean, how could you not?!?

Syd is still working on the Scribe badge, and I'm hoping to compile her writings into a book that we can have printed for her. This kid has such a creative mind!

FRIDAY/SATURDAY/SUNDAY: Camping camping camping!!! While Matt holds down the home fort, our Girl Scouts are going to have the time of their lives, spending part of their Girl Scout cookie sale profits on this trip that they've been looking forward to for nearly a year. We'll get home on Sunday night--will we see a completed tree house upon our arrival? Will Matt have finally repaired my treadmill? Will the side yard be free of saplings?--and then take Monday off so that I, for one, can finally get some sleep. And then we'll be back at work on Tuesday!

What are YOUR plans for the week?

Friday, April 14, 2017

24 Hours on the Coast: Fort Frederica and the Beach!

We had a choice between Fort Sumter and Fort Frederica, both about equidistant from our hotel, both in interesting spots to explore for the day. Fort Sumter is more historically important, but you have to have a reservation for the access ferry, which you have to also pay extra for, and Fort Frederica, although relevant, is further south, so just that much warmer on this just-at-the-cusp-of-spring day, and it has, I discovered during my research, an award-winning Junior Ranger program.

An award-winning version of our favorite family vacation activity?

We drove south to Fort Frederica!

Check out this bagatelle game. We studied this during our History of the Video Game unit years ago, and even made a DIY version, but this one looks even more DIY-able than the one that we made. I want it!
What's that in the shelter behind Syd?

It's a soldier lying down on the job!

Are you wondering what the kids are wearing in these photos?

Along with their Junior Ranger book, they're requisitioned a uniform hat and haversack equipped with necessary supplies--

--as well as important information necessary to the completion of the Junior Ranger books:

This Junior Ranger experience was just as awesome as I'd been led to believe.

We also found another historical garden that I felt jealous about--

--and yes, I did get Will to sneak me another lavender cutting. It's sitting on my desk right now.

Speaking of Will... you are not going to believe what that lucky girl found here:

Another painted rock! We're going to have to set up a little rock painting station here at home next week, so that she can create her two replacements and set them off into the world.

On this day, our first really, truly beautiful day in Georgia, the kids began talking about how they wished they lived in Georgia. It took just four hours of nice weather to get them wanting to immigrate from Indiana! To be fair,  it snowed TWICE in Indiana while we were gone, at the same time that it looked like this down in Georgia:

Heck, I was ready to move, too, especially to a nice little beach house under a tree covered in Spanish moss, but I told the kids that before we moved, we had to come back to Georgia in August and see how much we liked it then.

Wanna bet that we'll still want to move down there from Indiana then?

Fort Frederica had a much smaller and recreated fort, far different from Fort Pulaski--

--but Will still claims that forts are her favorite places to visit. And even without a giant for to explore, we still had a fabulous time wandering the grounds:
Creepy old cemetery is creepy.
Before and after Fort Frederica, we hit a couple of beaches on the coast, because even though the water was freezing and sometimes so was the air, obviously nothing was going to keep us from the beach!

Heck, we barely got our stuff in our hotel room the previous night, before we headed back out to explore the beach that it faced:

Her favorite pastime is chasing seagulls.
On these Georgia and South Carolina beaches, we found a lot more critters than I've ever seen on a beach before. And not just critters in their shells, although there were plenty of those--

We observe them and then put them back, so they can carry on with their little critter lives.

--but also plenty of these!
dead cannonball jellyfish

There were SO MANY dead jellyfish on the beach! We were flummoxed, but apparently it really is just a thing that happens.

To a kid, though, you know what a bunch of jellyfish on a beach means?

It's time for jellyfish funerals!!!

Here's one I got a picture of before the jellyfish was interred. Each memorial reads "Jellyfish 2017-2017. Good jellyfish."
I mean, surely my kids aren't the only ones who like doing this...

Weirdly, though, the dead horseshoe crab that we found the next day on the beach of St. Simons Island did not get the same treatment:

This inscription reads "Seagulls eat here," and there's an arrow pointing to the dead crab. Okay.....
The best critter sighting, though, happened on our first night at Hilton Head. We were walking along the beach near sunset, and we stopped to examine someone's abandoned sand castle. Everyone had turned away from the water to look at it, but I happened to turn back for a second, something in the waves caught my eye, and I pointed and screamed, "DOLPHIN!!!!!!!"

We raced to the water's edge, me hoping the dolphin would surface again so the kids could see it. We stood there, eyes peeled, and then...


It was a busy dolphin, making its way north up the beach, never more than this far from the shore, never waiting more than a minute to surface again. We chased it on foot, pacing it at a jog, sometimes stopping to have to look for it again, sometimes discovering that it was suddenly way ahead or suddenly way behind us, sometimes discovering that it was surfacing right in front of us. I even managed to take one short video of it:

We must have followed that dolphin for two miles, at least. Eventually, Will and Matt fell behind and Syd and I kept on for nearly another mile before we noticed how far back they were, how dark it was getting, and how much farther back our hotel must be, and sadly let the dolphin go on its dolphin business without our escort. 

Oh, my goodness, it was a long walk back to Matt and Will--

--and it was a long, long, LONG walk back to our hotel, and pitch dark by the time we finally made our way there, but everyone knows that things like that are just the welcome price that you pay when magic finds you.


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