Monday, May 23, 2016

Work Plans for the Week of May 23, 2016: Abraham Lincoln, and the Gold that's in Them There Hills

I made it through last week, and perhaps I do feel better with it behind me. Mac's death is less of a shock that I keep reminding myself of every second and more of a constant ache in my head and my gut. But on Tuesday, I spent an entire hour and a half at my fencing class without thinking of him, and I also felt happy, as I beat the advanced fencer who was my opponent in my very first ever electric fencing match. Everyone was excited for me, nobody knew that I was grieving, and the adrenalin did me good.

The fact that somehow during the match I jacked up my knee also did me good, I think, since I wasn't able to run around like a maniac to distract myself for the rest of the week, and instead had to slow down, rest my body, and consequently think the thoughts and feel the feels. Yuck, but I'm probably the better for it this Monday, when I probably am going to start running around like a maniac again.

As usual on our weeks off from formal work plans, I required the kids to continue with a lesson in Math Mammoth and a required reading assignment every day, and then I tacked on a couple more little assignments for them each day. We played a lot with our Zometools:

The kids both completed the web version of the Denali National Park Junior Ranger book (and now both REALLY want to go there to meet the huskies in person!), finished their animal posters that they began the previous week, Syd made cupcakes, Will mowed the lawn, Syd had a friend over, Will mowed over that friend's polka-dotted hoodie, and we spent a day in Indy, visiting the Children's Museum (we're going to start volunteering there in July!), buying sheet metal, and detouring to our favorite international grocery and buying a stupid amount of foreign junk food. Chili lime churritos--nom!

Cursive this week is copywork from a poem in the Story of the World v. 3 activity book, the one in chapter 42 about gold. The kids can earn a couple of extra bucks for memorizing it, and Will might want to, because it mentions a despotic monarch, the type that she's a fan of. Books of the Week consist primarily of non-fiction about Sutter's Mill and Abraham Lincoln, the two brief unit studies that we'll be undertaking this week. There's no Project of the Week this week, as it's a short one, and I'm hoping that this time we can actually play with the Sculpey that I want to be our open-ended material of the week, since last time that I suggested it Syd countered with Perler beads AGAIN. Well, she already knows this week that we can't do Perler beads, as I still have to buy the three shades of brown that I need to complete my Perler Bead Doctor Whooves that's in progress on the playroom table, so Sculpey will simply have to suffice.

And here's the rest of our week!

MONDAY: We were supposed to be just getting back from a weekend camping trip today, but we had to cancel that trip after rain that was NOT forecast as late as Thursday insisted on pissing down all of Friday afternoon and evening and much of Saturday morning. Of course just as we decided that even if it stopped raining right that second the forest would stay too wet to enjoy for the rest of the weekend, it stopped raining right that second and the rest of Saturday and Sunday were gorgeous. Today is gorgeous, too, goddamnit. I really needed that camping trip!

So instead of packing up our campsite this morning and then coming home to shower, eat, sleep, and veg, we're going to our volunteer gig at the local food pantry as usual, stopping by the library so that the children can sign up for the summer reading program, and sitting down to schoolwork. In Math Mammoth, Will is finishing up ratios--which she FLEW through, thank goodness, since I'm still traumatized by how much trouble she had with multiplying and dividing fractions--and moving on to decimals, which she already has a good grasp of so should hopefully also fly through. Syd is finishing up geometry this week by reviewing perimeter, area, and volume, and then she'll move on to fractions next week.

For our American Revolution unit on this day, we're reading From Colonies to Country about the War of Jenkin's Ear, the important takeaway of which is that it becomes clear, during this war, that so many countries are never going to be able to peacefully occupy North America. The children each have a copy of this early map of North America, and they'll label the colonies on it and we'll discuss who "owns" what, where the Native Americans are, what's going on in Indiana at the time, and why this setup is unstable.

This week's California unit is focused on Sutter's Mill and the Gold Rush. The site of Sutter's Mill is actually called Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park, and it's unlikely that the grandparents will actually be able to take the kids there, as it's a bit of a hike, but it is a possibility, and you can't study California without studying the Gold Rush! Even though it's a state park, the place does have a Junior Ranger program, although don't tell the children that since you have to buy the patch for it yourself, we won't be completing this one and mailing it in if they don't happen to go there. Patch or not, a Junior Ranger book is a good way to get a good overview of the park and learn some of the vital information about its history and cultural context.

The kids both LOVE the PBS series, Nature, so I try to make a point to put a Nature film fest into our school week every now and then, to keep us caught up. We sit on my bed, eat popcorn, and color, and it's a darn good time.

TUESDAY: A few weeks ago, Matt helped me design centimeter-gridded paper models for all the squares from 1 to 12, and the kids colored them and cut them out, and we talked about them a little, but most of that lesson was about the making. On this day, we'll bring them out again for more exploration. There are interesting discoveries to make with these square models on the topics of area, perimeter, volume, ratios, and even decimals and fractions. And since they're done in centimeters, I can break out the Cuisenaire rods and Base Ten blocks for more interesting explorations.

The kids have studied Abraham Lincoln off and on throughout the years, but on this day, we need another brief, biographical overview of him in preparation for a field trip that I set up for our homeschool group at our university's special collections library. They have an extensive collection of Abraham Lincoln artifacts, including copies of the life models that Daniel Chester French molded as he was preparing to sculpt the Lincoln Memorial, and I'm really excited for all the kids to see them! Enchanted Learning is always a good place to start when you're looking for this type of topical overview, and we'll be using Abraham Lincoln: A Book for Fluent Readers, with more memory work drill on that information during our daily ten minutes of memory time in the car.

Although Matt will do one of his popular history lectures on the Gold Rush one evening this week (we'll have to abandon our usual evening pastime of following the adventures of Frodo, which we also make Matt read to us while we color or mess with each other's hair), much of this week's Gold Rush unit will be taught by other sources--Story of the World on Thursday, and the PBS website on this day. I haven't previewed these games from the American Experience website, but if the kids don't care for them, I do have other options with PBS Kids or BrainPop.

Alas, Will and I don't have fencing again until June, but we DO have our homeschool group's playgroup on this day--yay!

WEDNESDAY: Field trip day! I am VERY excited about heading back to the special collections library, where I used to work as a Reading Room attendant and handle all the lovely books, manuscripts, and artifacts, and afterwards, I have plenty of other adventures planned on the lovely, lightly-populated summer campus. Perhaps the library's puzzle collection will be open, and so we'll play with puzzles. Perhaps we'll bring leaf presses, sketchbooks, and portable watercolors, and go on a tree identification walk for Will's Girl Scout Cadette Trees badge. Perhaps we'll go bowling in the student union. Perhaps we'll visit the greenhouse. Perhaps we'll eat in a dormitory cafeteria, although the cheapskate in me tells me that that's unlikely. Perhaps we'll follow the campus' meandering creek from border to border, and the kids will play and stomp in the water while I read. Perhaps we'll visit the art museum, or I'll show them the racist mural in one classroom where I used to TA. It's pretty graphic, and basically what they spoof the entire time on Parks and Recreation.

THURSDAY: We had some great lessons on the chemistry and crystal formation of minerals, and on this day we'll move on to looking at the eight most common minerals. One of my reasons for doing this unit study is to help the kids get interested in getting their large rocks and minerals collection (ie. their giant, heavy box of random rocks) organized, so we'll also be dragging that beast of a box out and seeing if the kids have any of these most common minerals already. If so--organize and label them!

We've taken a break for a few weeks from our cooking curriculum, partly because I couldn't be bothered to mentor it and partly because the last two recipes haven't been great--in fact, the kids' attempt at quiche was given entirely to the chickens. To get back into the groove, I'm asking the kids to remake the macaroni and cheese, which was a big success, and then we may try the quiche again, or we may move ahead. Either way, I'll likely be curating the book's recipes a little more, and not just blithely assigning the next one as we go.

Story of the World v. 3, chapter 42 has an excellent summary of the Gold Rush, and so this will be the main information that we study. My activity book for that volume has reading comprehension questions that allow the kids to basically memorize all of the relevant information (I include them in our memory work time in the car), and the mapwork, which we'll also be doing on this day, provides good geographic context.

FRIDAY: I am liking NaNoWriMo's Young Writer's Workbook a lot more these days, primarily because it's grab-and-go and the children are finally getting into it. Yay! Election 2016 is also meant to be grab-and-go, but I can't stand not providing enrichment activities, so after their reading selection, which covers the kinds of stances and issues that presidential candidates take, I'll be having the kids research what issues are important to our three remaining presidential candidates and their stances on them. I'll also expect the kids to identify what issues are important to THEM, and their stances on them. I'm very interested to hear what they come up with!

The kids did really enjoy our craft time last week, so on this day they'll be helping me review another craft book. None of us have ever crafted with paracord before, and I'm looking forward to it. Will is looking forward to a ping-pong event at the public library. Has she ever played ping-pong before? I have no idea. Maybe it's a latent skill!

SATURDAY/SUNDAY/MONDAY: We may try to reprise our failed camping trip, but I'm a little leery of the Memorial Day weekend crowds, so we also may not. Maybe there will be a good movie at the drive-in, or maybe Matt and I will go see Captain America in an indoor theater. Maybe we'll get my giant metal magnet memo board up (this last weekend, we cleaned out the garage and mowed the lawn instead).

Or maybe I'll do what I did this last weekend, which is read, eat delicious things cooked on sticks over our backyard campfire, and putter in the garden.

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