Monday, September 28, 2015

To Do in Hawaii

I know you know that we've been studying Hawaii for months now, so I KNOW you know that I have a definite list of things that I want us to see and do while we're there! Here are the things that we're definitely going to do, the things that we're maybe going to do, and the things that we're not going to do even though I want to:

We are definitely going to do these things!
  • Attend a luau. The kids' grandparents are going to treat us to an evening at a luau, and the kids are VERY excited. We haven't booked it yet, but we're probably going to attend either the Sunset Luau or the Haleo Luau.
  • Explore tide pools. I mean, of course! I'm also looking for tide pools that you can snorkel in, because that's something that we want to learn on this trip. Possibilities include the Kapoho tide pools
  • See the petroglyphs. There are petroglyphs in Volcanoes National Park, but I'd also like to check out some of the other spots where they're found. This one isn't far from where we'll be staying on the Big Island.
  • Spend a day at Volcanoes National Park. Honestly, I want to spend our whole trip here! The kids are going to LOVE this place, and they have a Junior Ranger badge!
  • Summit Mauna Kea. Matt and I are going to do this while the kids' grandparents babysit, and I am so excited!
  • Touch the southernmost point of the United States. While it's not the southernmost point of US territory (that's American Samoa), Ka Lae is the southernmost point of any US state, and it's theorized that it might be the original settlement point of the Polynesians to Hawaii. It's also close to the green sand beach, which is a maybe.
  • Visit the Bishop Museum. It's an ASTC Passport museum, which means it's free for us, and it has Hawaiian historical and cultural exhibits. 
  • Visit the Pacific Aviation Museum. It will provide the hands-on experience of World War 2's air warfare that we need, and Will LOVES aircraft and flying.
  • Visit Pearl Harbor. THIS is the entire reason behind our months-long study of World War 2! I've already purchased our tour tickets, and we need to remember to print the children's Junior Ranger books, as they're not available on-site. We plan to spend up to a full day here.
  • Visit the Pu'ukohola Heiau National Historic Site. It will add context to our study of Hawaii's monarchy, AND there's a Junior Ranger program!

We are maybe going to do these things!
  • Hike a lava tube. I think it would be excellent, and the kids would love it, but we'll just have to see how it fits into our days.
  • Hike to the lava flow. I SUPER want to do this, but the organizer told Matt to call closer to our trip to see if they'd even be running the hikes then, and I also don't know if they're kid-friendly. This one, for instance, is something like 10 miles, and is too intense for me, much less the kids.
  • Find Ernie Pyle's grave in the National Cemetery. It's not mandatory, though. We'll see how our days go.
  • Tour a coffee farm. I would LOVE this, but I don't think it would be more special than any other farm to the kids.
  • Visit a green sand beach. Papakolea Beach is one of only four green sand beaches in the world, but getting to it is probably more of an ordeal than grandparents should muster.
  • Visit the Waikiki Aquarium. Will read the biography of the monk seal KP2, who now lives at the Waikiki Aquarium, so we might go to see him. We just visited an aquarium in Chicago a couple of months ago, however, AND if we're going to see sea life, I'd rather do it on the Hawaii beaches, so we might not.
  • Watch whales. I'm not sure if the season has even begun yet, and again, this is something that we could possibly do in California.

We are not going to do these things, even though I want to!
  • Take a helicopter tour. The kids would freaking LOVE this, but it's too expensive to work into the budget. Another time!
  • Take a surfing lesson. I think the kids would love it, but Matt says there are plenty of places to try this in California, which we visit more often.
  • Tour the Hawaii state capitol building. It has beautiful architecture, and Will was struck by the fact that some of the senators and members of Congress wear Hawaiian shirts and leis to sessions. If they were in session, we might have seen about stopping by so she could see them, but they're not.
  • Visit the Polynesian Cultural Center. I'd like to take the kids there, but it's just too expensive. I'm hoping that we can have some of the same sort of cultural experiences at the national parks, however.
  • Visit the USS Bowfin. The kids' grandfather used to be a Navy officer on a submarine, so it's something that I'd like them to learn about, but it doesn't look like this museum lets you really get inside the submarine and explore.
I'll be taking a couple of travel guides with me, so I'm sure this list will expand, but I'm keeping my hard priorities--volcanoes, sea life, family, BEACHES!!!--in my head, so that I don't overschedule our trip.

Although if ever there was a human who could find a way to do ALL THE THINGS, I am crossing my fingers and hoping that that human is me!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Newborn Baby Gown to American Girl Doll Outfit

This hack of a newborn baby gown into a complete American Girl Doll outfit *does* work, although I'm not nearly as pleased with the outcome as I am when I make the much simpler newborn baby onesie to American Girl Doll T-shirt. A baby gown, even the newborn size, is just roomier than a onesie, I guess, so although the skirt works fine, the shirt is too loose:

Anyway, here's the complete outfit:

And even though you might think that simply cutting off the bottom half of the baby gown would be simpler than making a skirt from scratch, you still have to make a casing for the elastic, pull the elastic through, then finish sewing the casing closed.

It's actually much simpler, I think, to make my favorite double-sided wrap skirt with Velcro tabs, and that skirt looks nicer, as well:

Ah, well... there's much to be gained just in the process of experimentation, and Syd, at least, doesn't seem to mind the fit:

That purple/My Little Pony Skirt and grey/Dalek skirt are both in my pumpkin+bear etsy shop, by the way, along with rainbow candles, a beeswax moveable alphabet, and a couple of sets of bean bags, among other treats and treasures. After we get back from Hawaii, I need to shift my shop prep into high gear for Christmas, because those sales are my Christmas budget, and I suppose that my own kids would like something besides rainbow candles and bean bags for Christmas, sigh...

Monday, September 21, 2015

Work Plans for the Week of September 21, 2015: World War 2 and Hawaii!!!

School went peacefully last week--

--although the fact that we took a spontaneous day off to hike with some new friends necessarily meant that we didn't try to accomplish everything on last week's work plans. What didn't get done last week, however, will have to be put on hold until the middle of October, because this is our last week of school until after our vacation, and we are spending it focusing on Hawaii and World War 2!

Well, and the unusual plethora of outside activities that we have this week, including THREE Girl Scout events, two library workshops, and a playdate on top of our regular volunteer work, playgroup, and classes.

Books of the Day this week are all things World War 2 and Hawaii. Memory work for the week consists of the vocabulary from the weekend's Mandarin class (I was correct that the second go-round of the class is really helping the material click for the kids; Syd, in particular, is feeling much more confident), chapter 2 of Wordly Wise (Syd is in book 4 and Will is in book 6), a page of cursive each day (Syd uses the secular version of New American Cursive book 2, and Will uses Teach Yourself Cursive, although she's got some extra copywork on cursive capital D today, after she made an utter hash of it on Friday), and since I want Will to review fractions terminology this week, I'm asking Syd to practice her newer ballet moves, just so nobody can declare that their work is unevenly distributed.

In addition to the kids' daily chores, I am also requiring each kid to have $50 of her own spending money to take to Hawaii. Syd has twice that but won't spend it, and Will generally earns only enough money each week to buy herself a ring pop or cotton candy at the drive-in, so I think they'll both be working from the list of "Hawaii chores" that I've made for them. I'm requiring them to earn 1/8 of this total each day, as well as complete their schoolwork and regular chores, to unlock their hour of screen time.

And here's the rest of our week!

MONDAY: We've got our weekly volunteer gig later, but we should have time to both begin Wordly Wise and finish today's Math Mammoth (Syd is still in multi-digit multiplication this week, and Will is still in fractions) before we go.

Good thing, too, because this afternoon is all about party prep! I wanted to finish off our brief unit on Christopher Columbus with fanfare, so we're having a family Columbus party tonight. The kids are I are going to make baked potato boats (basically a baked potato cut in half with a chopstick mast stuck in), a Jello ocean with gummy fish swimming in it and orange slice boats sailing on it, a carved watermelon boat, and a batch of brownies cut and formed into a boat... somehow. There will also be games, which I'm imagining will be mostly along the lines of tying ropes to Rubbermaid bins and pulling each other along in them. And I'm contemplating a family driveway art project of the Atlantic Ocean and its bordering continents that our cardboard Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria can sail across, but we'll see if we're uninjured enough after our Rubbermaid bin races to deal with that.

TUESDAY: Do NOT let me forget to go to the hardware store for a diamond Dremel bit tonight, because tomorrow, after reading about petroglyphs, we're going to carve some!

I'm looking forward to playgroup as my chance to chat with other adults while the kids run around, and we'll likely head to the library afterwards to read and do math until it's time to drop Syd off for her Girl Scout workshop making friendship bracelets.

WEDNESDAY: This morning will see us right back at the library for a homeschool workshop on programming, and I'm contemplating just staying downtown all day until Syd's ballet class that evening. We like the audiobook version of Story of the World, though, so we'll have to find someplace where we can listen to chapter 28 so that the kids can answer the quiz questions (I make them into tri-fold brochures for them, and then after they answer the questions they fold up the brochure and decorate the front). Chapter 28 only mentions Pearl Harbor briefly, but it's necessary context for our trip there.

THURSDAY: The mapwork for chapter 28 provides more useful context, so we'll work through that and Math Mammoth before we head off to our Girl Scout meeting! Will has horseback riding afterwards, and Syd and I have a couple of projects that we need to finish up--the curtain that she wants in front of her bunk bed, and the decorated front door of her doll house.

FRIDAY: Syd has a friend coming over to play on this morning, which means that neither kid will likely get this schoolwork finished. However, I would like them to research at least one more Hawaiian plant or animal that we can look for on our trip, and I would like them to have a little more knowledge of Japanese war planes, in preparation for the trip the the Pacific Aviation Museum that we're going to take in Oahu.

Will, in particular, is going to be a busy girl, with both a library workshop and a Girl Scout event on this day. With her occupied, however, Syd and I should be able to finish up our own projects before the weekend!

As for me, I need to get all of my writing assignments written and all of our vacation plans made, make sure I'm on-track with a couple of longer-term assignments, and finally finish up registrations for my Girl Scout troop, while apparently playing kid-chauffeur all over freaking town.

I have often noted that, good thing, writing can be written anywhere! And so can Girl Scout paperwork... yay.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The DIY Pinata Racket

Even knowing that this project was mostly an excuse for two children to split an entire bag of candy, I'm still a sucker for a kid-initiated, kid-made project, and so when Syd put balloons and candy on the shopping list so that she could make herself a pinata, I assured her that it was a wonderful idea.

And it was. Of course.

For the paste, Syd used a recipe from The Incredible Secret Formula Book, and while it was a more elaborate recipe than I would have chosen, she was able to make it independently and it worked great.

Don't you think so?
She also mounted the pinata herself, although I have no idea how.
Puffball and I stayed far away from the action.

And then they ate their candy, cleaned up their mess, and found some other mischief to get into.

It was another successful engineering project in another successful homeschool day!

Friday, September 18, 2015

The Monarchs and the Mexican Sunflower

I think that I've griped before about the fact that we have only one flower in our garden this year (and two tomato plants, two peppers, two basil, and two milkweeds).

But... what a flower! If you only have one flower in your garden, THIS is the flower for you!

It's called a Mexican sunflower. Friends gave the start to Syd for her birthday this year, and I have since asked for detailed instructions, suitable for the noob that I am, on collecting and saving the seeds from this plant, because I never again want to have a garden without a dozen or so Mexican sunflowers. It's that good.

We've seen cabbage whites drawn to this Mexican sunflower. We've seen swallowtails. We've seen hummingbirds. We've seen several species of butterfly that we haven't yet identified. And we've seen monarchs. So many monarchs!

I love how well you can see the pollen in these pictures. I'm glad we have so many butterflies, because we have not seen a single bee in our gardens this year.

The milkweed plants live in the same tiny garden as this Mexican sunflower, and although I've never seen the monarchs look interested in them at all, Syd claims that she saw a caterpillar on the milkweed as she was weeding around the plants one evening. I haven't seen any caterpillars for myself, although there's definitely caterpillar poop resting on a couple of cupped milkweed leaves, and some other leaves have definitely been munched on.

Do caterpillars leave their milkweed and do any wandering? I don't know, but I'm attempting to tread lightly in the garden, just in case.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Hands-on Rounding, or, I cannot Make This Concept Any Clearer

Rounding is just non-intuitive.

Not only do you have to wrap your head around the fact that you're going to pretend that a number is a different number, but you have to remember that even though it's called rounding DOWN, you don't round down by subtracting 1 the same way that you might think that you round up by adding 1 (that's not *really* how you round up, but if you're nine, that might be how you've explained it to yourself).

Oh, and rounding up if the digit is 5? That doesn't actually make sense; it's just a convention to memorize.

I wanted Syd to understand the concept of rounding, not just memorize a rule that doesn't make sense to her, so using this post on hands-on rounding as a spine, we went over it again from the beginning.

The post doesn't mention using a hundred board, but we've relied on our hundred board a lot throughout Syd's entire math education, so once again we began a lesson by having Syd build it:

I've got three sets of these 1-100 tiles, two DIY sets and one for the light table/overhead projector, so I could leave the 100 grid intact and give Syd a second set of tens to use in making a number line between two consecutive tens:

This part was all review, as she had no trouble with any of it.

Syd built a number line between two consecutive tens a few times, each time with me handing her the numbers in between at random. We then reviewed rounding to the nearest ten by noting on each number line which consecutive ten a number fell between, and which consecutive ten it was closer to.

Numbers ending in 5, of course, round up merely through convention, as we also discussed.

To end the activity on this day, Syd and I played a game with two 10-sided dice. One of us was "Rounded Up" and the other was "Rounded Down;" we each took turns rolling the two 10-sided dice, making a number from it, then deciding if that number rounded up or down and giving a point to the correct category.

Although the points go to the correct category regardless of whose turn it is, when it's your turn to roll, you can do your best to build a number that gives you the point. It's tricky, though, because you can't always build a number that goes your way!

I let this lesson settle for a few days while Syd worked on different concepts in her Math Mammoth, then we had another lesson on rounding to the nearest hundred and thousand.

Syd didn't seem confident in building a number line between two consecutive thousands, so I had her do so using the hundred flats from our Base Ten blocks as physical markers, with each hundred written on a torn piece of paper--use what you've got! I then used a domino to mark a place on the line--9,600, say--and gave Syd another domino to use as a game piece to hop to each thousand:

The thousand with the fewest number of hops to get to it, obviously, is the thousand that the number is closer to.

After this, we turned to our light table, and I asked Syd to build another number line between two consecutive thousands:

I used the dry-erase marker to modify the 0-100 tiles to make them into numbers in the thousands (30, for instance, became 5,300), then asked Syd to place them on the number line. She found this a LOT harder than working with a number line between two consecutive tens. Her number line got so wonky, in fact, that I abandoned the tiles work, gave her a different number line--9,000 to 10,000--and asked her to simply draw in the hundreds in between.

As she did so, I noticed that she did not have 9,500 in the middle--actually, it was very close to 9,000---so I asked her to check her spacing. She was VERY not happy with this, because she knew then that she'd made an error, and she HATES making errors.

Aside: That's an attitude that we work on a lot, by the way. I see it as a very destructive type of thinking that will keep her from establishing a strong and persistent work ethic, so I speak constantly of the fact that knowledge and skill do not enter one's brain by magic, but instead require a lot of training to achieve. When one has the correct answers immediately, one is not learning, but reviewing. Learning is the space in which we try to spend much of our school days, I tell her, and we know that we are in that space if we are struggling and making mistakes.

Hopefully one day that will sink in!

Because Syd was tipped off that she'd made an error, all of her will became focused not on finding and correcting her error, but instead on defending it to the death. She insisted her spacing was perfect. I noted that there was only a finger's width of space between each integer up to 9,500, but that the others on the way to 10,000 were really far apart. She decided to deliberately misunderstand me, and began screaming that I wanted her to write everything with one finger in between, and that was impossible. I excused myself to my room, and told her that she should choose another activity, and we'd finish the lesson later. I then read quietly for an hour while Syd screamed the house down in the next room.

Of course, eventually one must finish one's schoolwork if one wants an hour of screentime, and one DOES want this hour, so much, much, much later, Syd went back to work with a good attitude renewed:

I was still pretty over it, so Matt finished the review with her, and then they played the same dice game, this time with four 10-sided dice, with the goal, again, to decide if the number rounded up or down to the nearest thousand:

Afterwards, I quizzed Syd by throwing out more numbers, and she was able to round them all correctly! She was also SUPER happy to do so, because she knew that she was getting them all correct.

Have I mentioned that this child exhausts me? Oh, my word, she exhausts me!

But, of course, so does the other one...

Monday, September 14, 2015

Work Plans for the Week of September 14, 2015: Hawaii!

School last week went reasonably well, even though Syd did spend one entire afternoon melting down over rounding to the nearest thousand. I'm starting to think that these meltdowns are a short circuit of her brain working in the background, however, because when Matt sat down with her in the evening to work on the concept with her some more, she had it completely mastered.

The kids happily read their Books of the Day--

--didn't fuss too much over their memory work, spent the evening in our bomb shelter while air raid sirens blared, and tried out my pattern block stained glass template idea, which, while it worked okay, in the end the kids preferred simply playing with the pattern blocks:

We also managed to spend the last reasonably warm afternoon of the year at the lake, which was just what we all needed.

This week, we're focused on Hawaii, because a vacation isn't fun unless you study for it! I'm also introducing 1941 events in World War 2, finally, so that next week we can immerse ourselves in Pearl Harbor. Memory work for the week consists of the spelling words from last week's Wordly Wise chapter (I think it's going to take us two weeks to complete each chapter--one for grammar, and one for spelling), bee anatomy, the eight major Hawaiian islands, Mandarin numbers 1-5, and, for Will, fraction terminology. I should have included multiplication terminology for Syd, but I didn't take a look at her Math Mammoth for the week until after I'd written the kids' memory work onto our chalkboard, and I'm too lazy to redo it.

New for memory work this week are cursive workbooks for each kid. Syd has New American Cursive book 2 (the secular version), and Will has Teach Yourself Cursive. I'll be asking them to complete one page every day, and neither seem too bummed about it... yet.

Books of the Day consist of books on volcanoes, caves, a couple of animal biographies, and a graphic novel for Will about a Holocaust survivor. Other than a few children's biographies, I'm planning to go very light on the Holocaust, and even then, that reading will be mostly for Will.

And here's the rest of our week!

MONDAY: Math Mammoth should be pretty straightforward for both kids this week, with Will starting a unit on fractions and Syd starting one on multiplication. They've studied these concepts before, of course, so hopefully they won't struggle too hard to extend their knowledge. If something does trip them up, however, we can do the hands-on enrichment of it next week.

The kids' Mandarin class starts this weekend, and while I don't expect that we'll always be working ahead like this, the extra review involved in making flash cards ahead of class can't hurt.

Last week, the kids got a good foundation of what volcanoes are, and why and how they work. We'll be doing more reading/viewing on the subject, but the last volcano activity before our trip is to research the location of the Ring of Fire and mark it on our big world map. Alternately, I actually have a map with volcanoes and earthquake sites already on it, so if we're low on time, we might just put that on the wall and then discuss it. After all, we'll be getting some hands-on knowledge of volcanoes soon enough.

We've got our regular volunteer gig at the food pantry later today. I won't be dropping Will off at the library afterwards as I usually do, as she's in trouble for leaving a library book outside (again), so she'll instead be spending the afternoon doing chores to pay it off. Mwa-ha-ha!

TUESDAY: I mostly want the children to understand that Hawaii once had a monarchy, and that it was overthrown (by non-native citizens), so on this day, we'll be reading and discussing this infographic on Hawaii's monarchy, and watching this documentary on Hawaii's last queen. In Hawaii, I'm hoping that we can visit at least one royal site.

This day is a short one in terms of our own schoolwork, since we've got our homeschool group's playgroup and the kids' evening robotics class. But if you consider that the children are going to be spending two hours at a ROBOTICS CLASS, then you can understand why I'm keeping our own work short. They've got to have time to play!

WEDNESDAY: I messed up my spreadsheet here, when I tried to copy and paste something, so you can't see that Syd has a Friday Zone taping on this day. It's Halloween-themed, so she and I have been making her Halloween costume early, in preparation for it. I'm sure that I'll be happy next month to have it already done, but right now it's kinda stressing me out! She and I will spend the entire afternoon on campus, then, since she's also got ballet there a couple of hours later and a couple of buildings over, making this another short day for our own schoolwork. Good thing that being part of a television production is so educational!

And no, Will wanted no part of that television production. Sigh...

Although we're mostly focused on Hawaii and World War 2, I wanted a couple more enrichment activities to cement our experience visiting the Nina and Pinta, so the kids and I are going to attempt to make these cardboard models. I printed one set of instructions at the regular size, and another set 10% larger, so hopefully we'll be able to muddle them together with lots of cardboard and even more hot glue. Wish us luck!

THURSDAY: The last extra activity that I want the kids to do for Will's Girl Scout Cadette Comic Artist badge is to create a week's run of comic strips, just like they read in the newspaper every day. I'm going to suggest that they collaborate and make it a funny version of their own lives, as many comic artists do, but I won't insist.

We'll be continuing--and ideally finishing!--our cardboard models on this day, and the kids will research and put Columbus' voyage on our world wall map. They've read descriptions of his voyage many times by now, but really being able to see it in context is always the best.

FRIDAY: The kids will put the 1941 timeline cards in their World War 2 notebooks on this day, and then over the weekend Matt will give us a history lecture that unpacks those events. Next week, we'll focus on Pearl Harbor!

That papier mache unicorn head that we began last Friday probably won't be completely dry until this day, so we can work on the bottom of it and perhaps smooth the sides a little more. It might be ready to paint next Friday?

I want the kids to become experts on a few different Hawaiian plants and animals that they can then be on the lookout for during our vacation, so I'll have them doing a few of these infographics in the next couple of weeks.

As for me, I'll be spending my week completing a Fluttershy costume, starting on the whopping seven Crafting a Green World posts that I need to write and schedule before our vacation (as well as the three that I need to write for this week!), working on a commissioned project that I also need to finish before we go, working on Girl Scout registrations that I ALSO need to finish before we go, and deciding if I'd rather spend the time sewing more shorts or the money buying more shorts for Will, who has already grown out of all of her summer clothes.

It's okay to be stressed out, though, because I'm going on vacation pretty soon!


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