Monday, June 13, 2016

Work Plans for the Week of June 13, 2016: Bridges and Back to Work!

Although Will and I have been on a half-day schedule, Syd has taken a full two weeks off of school. She did this instead:

Now that her ballet intensive session is over, I kind of feel like summer has actually begun. Now we can go strawberry picking and to the lake and camping like all the other families have been doing these past two weeks!

Even with one kid spending half her time in leotard and tights, the past two weeks offered the kids some much-appreciated down-time, with plenty of time to read and relaxed screen-time rules and LOTS of Sculpey play and audiobook listening, and also some sneaky science that I sneaked in. We disassembled a TV, for one thing:

Will and I spent an afternoon trying to figure out her dang boomerang--throwing a boomerang is hard, yo! There was rock tumbling, gardening, and still time for hiking. There was a lot more exploding and burning stuff with homemade fuses and fuel:

I turned off the video, because I thought that the show was over, but we'd actually spiked this newspaper ball with some leftover potassium nitrate and sugar mix, and it was quite particularly awesome how moments later, the entire ball burst merrily into flame!

Obviously we also poked at it:

We're back to work with a vengeance this week, knowing that next week we'll be off again thanks to day camp. This going-strong-and-then-taking-a-break type of schedule will continue for most of the summer, and if it works, I'm not opposed to keeping it going in the fall. We'll see.

Books of the Day this week consist mostly of juvenile non-fiction selections on the French and Indian War, the Golden Gate Bridge, and Abraham Lincoln, with a couple of living books to pad them out. The Open-Ended Material of the Week is still Sculpey, because Syd, in particular, still spends hours creating with it every day. Syd is still working on the secular version of New American Cursive 2, while Will now does copywork every day for her cursive assignment. They're both still working through Wordly Wise at their grade levels, and I'm conflicted between carrying on our slow progress that also includes memorizing each word's spelling, part of speech, and definition, or allowing them to continue through the chapters in a more speedy fashion so that they can start the next grade level in the fall. We'll see.

And here's the rest of our week!

MONDAY: In Math Mammoth, Will is finishing up her decimals unit and Syd is finishing up geometry and moving into fractions. They're both moving through their current units easily, and it's been a nice break from the extensive hands-on work that is required to get them through some units. Phew!

History, on the other hand, always involves extensive hands-on work! This week in our Revolutionary War unit study we're beginning coverage of the French and Indian War. Over the weekend, we watched part of The War that Made America--the kids didn't love it, but consented to watch with us through the chapter on Fort Necessity, which is what we'll be studying this week. And yes, I've also added Fort Necessity to our big fall road trip--I mean, we drive RIGHT BY IT! AND THEY HAVE A JUNIOR RANGER BADGE!!!

In other news, we will be on this road trip forever.

Our activities for this chapter also come from the curriculum materials on the Fort Necessity National Battlefield's website. On this day, I'm again handing the kids the 1750 map of North America and asking them to label the 13 colonies while we listen to History of US ch. 3, and then we're dialing down to complete a more detailed map of the Forks of the Ohio area. It should make a lot of sense to them, having watched that segment of the documentary.

When they're in California visiting their grandparents, the kids REALLY want to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge, so of course we have to do an entire study of bridge engineering! This unit took an annoying amount of work to create, but I think it's going to be really educational, and the kids are going to love it. On this day, we'll discuss the basic components of bridges, the basic problems that a bridge has to solve, and the basic definitions of a beam bridge and an arch bridge, primarily using this book. The kids' challenge will be to construct models of beam and arch bridges using our building blocks.

A shift at our regular volunteer gig, and work begun on Father's Day presents and cards will make up the rest of our school day!

TUESDAY: I usually like to have the kids' hands-on math lesson be more hands-on, if you know what I mean, but the rest of our school week is VERY hands-on, so this lesson will instead be a chance for the kids to play around with the math games in my Educational Links. There are a lot of cool activities there for them to explore.

This chapter in History of US is really dense, so we'll listen to it again on this day, and then do another activity from the Fort Necessity National Battlefield curriculum materials, this one designed to let the children learn more about the Native American people involved in the French and Indian War. 

The truss bridge, or rather beam bridge with trusses, is the focus of our bridge engineering on this day. Trusses are pretty common on bridges, so we'll discuss their merits, check out some pics on Google Images, and then work together to make one of these out of popsicle sticks. I'm thinking that we'll set it up and test its weight by piling something on top of it--cans of vegetables, perhaps? Chickens? Books?

WEDNESDAY: At last--suspension bridges! We'll be talking about suspension bridges--and the Golden Gate Bridge in particular, of course--and then recreating this Scientific American activity of building and comparing beam and suspension bridges built from drinking straws and thread.

Will wants to earn her Girl Scout Cadette Trees badge next. Don't tell her, but I'm adding quite a bit to this badge to turn it into more of a botany study. The first activity, though, asks her to think imaginatively about trees, so both kids are going to design an actual tree house that we can actually build in an actual tree on our property. I'm sure it will require plenty of modifications, but my plan is for us to actually build this as the final activity for her badge. I have ALWAYS wanted a tree house!

Syd is still working through her Young Writer's Workbook, but Will is in the process of actually writing her story. I wasn't sure how I felt about arbitrary word counts, but I can see how it's encouraging her to stay with her story, keep thinking about it and writing it, and add in plenty of details.

THURSDAY: This day's reading in our rocks and minerals unit covers the Mohs Scale of Hardness. Identifying actual rocks and minerals is pretty hard, but I'm hoping that if we go through the process gradually, we'll end up with conclusive IDs for most of the rocks and minerals. I'm encouraging each kid to pick out at least a dozen specimens from their ridiculously huge collection, and we'll do all our work on these, recording results as we go. So for this activity, the kids will attempt to rate each of their specimens on the Mohs Scale, and we'll see what happens!

Did you know that Junior Forest Ranger is also a thing? The book includes a good section on forest fires, which is one of the things that Will needs to learn about for her Trees badge, but if your kids fill out the book and mail it in, I guess they also receive a free pin and access to special online activities.

Since by now we'll have covered the main types of bridges, on this day we'll have a challenge: I'm thinking that I'll give each kid 100 popsicle sticks, hot glue, and zip ties, and challenge them to build the longest, sturdiest bridge that they can. They'll have to choose between long and sturdy, of course, but otherwise I'm curious to watch their problem-solving processes.

FRIDAY: As an environmentalism tangent to the Trees badge, I'm having the kids help me review 23 Ways to be an Eco Hero on this day. There's a wide variety of projects available, so hopefully each kid will be able to find something that she can use to end the school week on an extra fun note.

This software developer has, bizarrely, a load of bridge-building simulations. The kids both love sim games, and Will especially, so I think that they'll have fun trying these out. They'll be very valuable if they offer lifelike modeling with realistic physics.

We've done a lot of research into the existing presidential candidates, but the kids had so much fun playing around with creating their own pretend presidential candidates that I've decided to use that as our focus for the rest of this elections unit. You know that by now, the remaining candidates are pretty much just going to say the same things over and over, but HitlerTrumpCat? You never know what's going to come out of HIS mouth!

SATURDAY/SUNDAY: I'm hoping that we'll get some fun summer stuff done in the afternoons this week--don't swimming and strawberry picking sound like the best ways to spend the day?--but we have to save some fun stuff to do this weekend, too, especially on Father's Day! I'm not going to spoil any surprises, but we HAVE been wanting to go visit the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial...

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