Saturday, August 9, 2014

Moving With Children - Playing as We Pack

Moving can be difficult for children.  Watching as their home is dismantled, and packed can be unnerving, and unsettling.  With just a few short weeks left, before a cross-state move of our own, we've been looking for ways to alleviate the younger children's anxiety, and build excitement for the adventure instead.

Packing is a lot of work, but taking time to add elements of play to the process has really been paying off. 

Take for instance the board games.  Instead of shoveling them straight from the shelves into boxes, we decided each game, and puzzle (as much as time will allow) needs to be played, or put together again, before it's packed.

Then, after we get moved into our new house, we will try to play each game once more, as we unpack.

Playing through the games has been time consuming, but it has given the younger girls something to do, other than watch while I pack.  They get to help by playing.  The more games they play, the more they get to pack into the boxes.  They're enjoying the challenge, as well as the chance to play a few of their favorite "forgotten" games.

And, besides distracting the younger children, playing all the old games has helped to reinforce a sense of family togetherness for our teens, who while not anxious, aren't exactly sold on the idea of a move yet, either.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Homeschool Supply List

We returned from our road trip just in time to fall down the rabbit hole of house inspections, appraisals, preliminary packing and house hunting, to go along with a pending offer on our home.  I'll be back to posting in a hit and miss style for the next few weeks, until we either move get moved to a new town across the state, or settle back into our routine here, if the sale should happen to fall through. 

I do have a few back to school apps, games, and books I'd like to share, and will hopefully get around to writing reviews for them.  In the meantime, I'm pulling up the school supply list I posted a few years back.  Glancing down through it all, it still looks about right for the things we like to have on hand.

The big stars of this time of year are, of course, the crayons, glue, and notebooks on fantastic back-to-school sales.  I'm a big believer you can never have too many of any of them. They don't go bad, and there is nothing worse than paying quadruple the price later in the year, because you didn't snatch enough of them while they were on sale.

On top of paper (which includes card stock, printer, lined, and construction paper), printer ink, extra pens, and pencils, and any additional rulers, scissors, calculators, or general supplies you can find on the "back to school" lists posted in the stores, there are a few supplies, that are really must haves for homeschooling. Most of them don't go on sale with the regular school supplies, but can be picked up throughout the year, and now is as good a time as any to check your supply cupboards, or closets, and make up a shopping list to keep on the fridge. 

This is by no means a comprehensive list.  But, with these things on hand, you ought to be ready for just about all of the craft, history, math, or science projects coming down the pike.

  • food coloring - buy it in bulk if you can!
  • straws - bendy, and straight.
  • balloons in all shapes, sizes, and qualities.
  • rubber bands - again, in all sizes.
  • paper clips
  • a stapler, and staples
  • paper fasteners - one box will last a long time
  • all kinds of tape
  • string, and yarn - of various kinds
  • glitter
  • pompoms
  • paint - though you can often make that yourself
  • marbles
  • ping pong balls
  • paper plates
  • glass canning jars - several in each size is nice
  • a couple of small mirrors
  • some sort of magnifier, and magnifying glass.
  • a prism, or two (this is always fun, not always necessary, but you only need to buy it once)
  • batteries
  • a small hobby motor (Radio Shack, or science supply stores sell this sort of thing - and usually with accompanying wires, and tiny light bulbs, which are also handy)
  • an ice cube tray - even if your refrigerator makes ice.
  • yeast
  • alum
  • cream of tarter
  • flavored, and unflavored gelatin
  • packets of unsweetened Kool-Aid (these are probably on sale now, too)
  • marshmallows - large, and small
  • a large supply of vinegar, and cooking oil
  • coffee filters
  • a box of borax
  • a handful of nails, nuts, bolts, screws, and the like.
  • and every recyclable imaginable - keep some of every box, jar, lid, bag or can you would usually put out at the curb - sooner or later, they'll come in handy. Just don't keep too many, or you'll never be able to find what you need.
  • paint brushes in a variety of sizes and types.
  • craft sticks.
  • clothes pins
  • wooden skewers, or wood dowels of various sizes.
  • cork of various sizes (you can find those in hardware stores, or with fishing supplies).
  • googly eyes.
  • sheets of fun foam
  • sheets of felt (like the ones you find in the kids' craft section at Walmart)

There are more things I'm sure, but often you can substitute, and make due with what you have on hand. Remember, when Isaac Newton needed a telescope, he made his own, starting by making his own mirrors. Then, when he needed more sophisticated equations to explain what he was seeing - he invented calculus. Sometimes necessity can be a good thing.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Summer Fun 2014 - Multi-Media Doodle Table

We often cover the table in paper for day long, open ended, doodling with crayons, or colored pencils.  Just for a change, yesterday, I added a few more mediums to the mix.

First I covered the table with a plastic backed, disposable, paper tablecloth.  Then, I marked off a bunch of cattywampus squares with painter's tape.  Finally, I dug through the craft closet, and pulled out tempera paints, water colors, pastel chalk, markers, and our usual crayons, and colored pencils.

I told the girls, that within each shape they were free to draw, or paint whatever they wanted, whether it was a picture, a series of pictures, shapes, or just color - but they could only use one medium in each marked off space.  So, if they wanted to switch from water colors to tempera paint for instance, they needed to move to a different space.

They had a great time experimenting with each medium, working away, circling the table for more than an hour.  In fact, given enough time, I'm fairly certain there would not have been a blank inch left to be seen.

The only things I might do differently next time, would be to cover the table with butcher's paper, instead of a paper table cloth, to work better with wet paints, and I might set out a greater variety of paints in lieu of the largely ignored crayons, and colored pencils.  It's more fun to experiment with a medium you don't use everyday.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Summer Fun 2014 - Tossing Water Balloons into Swinging Buckets

We were inspired by Anita Yasuda's Explore Space! 25 Great Projects, to try throwing water balloons into swinging buckets. 

Actually, Yasuda's book called for throwing a ball into a moving bucket, as part of an Mars mission lesson.  We dropped the lesson, added an extra bucket, switched out the ball for a batch of water balloons, and ended up with a great summertime challenge.

To play, simply hang one bucket  per child, or team, from a swing-set, tree branch, or overhang.  We looped a long jump rope through the handles of the buckets, and the hooks on our swing-set to hang ours.

Give the children water balloons (as many as you can stand to fill).

Set the buckets swinging.

And, instruct the children to throw as many water balloons into their respective buckets as possible.

When all the balloons are gone, check the water level in the buckets.

The one with the most water in their bucket is the winner.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Summer Fun 2014 - Magnet Powered Car

Tape a refrigerator magnet to the back of a toy car.  Hold another magnet up to the first, so that like poles are facing each other, and allow the repelling force to push the car along, without ever touching it yourself.

This simple, but entertaining, and easily expandable project, along with 49 other intriguing ideas, with short blurbs explaining the science behind them, can be found in Bobby Mercer's Junk Drawer Physics:  50 Awesome Experiments That Don't Cost a Thing...

...which, as it happens, can be downloaded for free as part of Amazon's Kindle Unlimited Program - a program we are happily trying out for free for 30 days.  I'm not sure yet, if I like the subscription program, but I can easily recommend Mercer's book.  It's well organized, full of interesting projects, many of which we haven't seen before, and contains just enough science to pique our curiosity (and no, I'm not on Mercer's payroll).

Monday, July 28, 2014

Social Studies Unschool-Style

When it comes the easiest subjects to unschool, I'd have to say social studies and history top the list.  You can't turn around without bumping into them.  And, in this age of electronic media, so much of history is ready to play out in our living rooms, with just the click of a mouse.

This morning for instance, T(age 16) was up before the others, and plopped down next to me on the couch just as I was turning on the computer to catch up on the morning's news.

Paging through the headlines on AOL led us into an article on North Korea threatening the a nuclear strike against the White House and Pentagon, which contained the following quote from Hwang Pyong-So, director of the North Korean military's General Political Bureau:

"If the US imperialists threaten our sovereignty and survival... our troops will fire our nuclear-armed rockets at the White House and the Pentagon - the sources of all evil."

T was taken back by the harshness of the rhetoric.  I reminded him that it hasn't been that long since our own president was calling the Soviet Union the "Evil Empire".  On a whim I googled "Reagan's evil empire speach", and we spent the next half hour watching it.

It's an amazing speech, if you haven't ever watched the entire thing, I'd encourage it. It's hard to imagine how our philosophy of government could have changed so much in the short time since it was made.  Of course, that thought led us to a clip of presidential candidate Bill Clinton on the Arsenio Hall Show in 1992...

...and, in fairness to the man, a quick clip of a more grown-up post-presidential Clinton on Fox News.

Then, just for fun we clicked a side video, and joined Robin Williams for a look forward, and look back at the beginning of the Obama presidency.

Which led us nicely back into today's headlines:

"Robin Williams Checks Into Rehab For Continued Sobriety"

By which time, the others were up, and ready for breakfast.