project learning

Night at the Museum Fair

This past weekend, our homeschool group held a Night at the Museum fair.  The children picked a character from one of the Night at the Museum movies to be for the fair.  They would hopefully dress like the character, present a "museum" type display for the character and then if they chose they could give an oral presentation. 

Jack chose to be Teddy Roosevelt.  


For his display he made a model of the Badlands. 



He also drew a map of Sagamore Hill. 




He gave an oral report, detailing the major events in Teddy Roosevelt's life starting with his birth and ending with his death. 


Some of the other presentations were: Jedidiah Smith, the Egyptians, Tyrannosaurus Rex, Capuchin monkey,  and Escher.  





This was a really fun activity and I am looking forward to doing it again. 

Explorer fair

Our homeschool group tries to have at least one fair each month. We give the fair a theme, but are somewhat open to how it is interpreted by the children. They can do any project they want, or no project at all. They can give an oral presentation along with it, or they can just put their project on the table for display.  We try to have these fairs at park day where it makes it more convenient for the members who live farther away to make the trip.

This past week, we had an Explorer Fair.  Jack chose to do his presentation on Teddy Roosevelt.  To prepare we read a couple of short biographies and also watched a documentary about Teddy;s younger years.


For his presentation, Jack first showed a teddy bear and explained the story behind the naming of the teddy bear. Then he gave an oral presentation about Teddy and some of his adventures, including his camping trip with John Muir in Yosemite.   Then he read the quote often referred  to as The Man in the Arena.

Other fairs we have had in the past include: biography, wonder of the world, literature, science, math, geography, history, and Christmas traditions around the world.


Two other children gave presentations on Neil Armstrong and Eric the Red.

I guess I am having a hard time getting in the groove of blogging again, but here is to new beginnings.

Here is an update on how our 5th grade year is going so far.  The Charlotte Mason method is working so well for us this year. We are really trying to embrace it and it feels like coming home. It just fits.  While we aren't using Ambleside Online, we do use some of their suggestions and then use the method and make our other curriculum choices fit. 

Starting today we are back to our full schedule with all of our subjects. It only took us three months to add them all in.


This is our basic schedule. I print a copy out each week that he can use as a checklist each day.  Each day I go through and add what specific lessons he does for each subject in our FunSchooling planner.

We have planned more activities with friends this year including a nature study group and a book club in addition to our weekly park day and field trips.

For the nature group we are being really low key with planning. We go and the kids explore. I was kind of worried about our lack of planning and direction. As the weeks have progressed though, I see the kids really doing well with it. I was worried without direction it would turn to playing and nature study would be forgotten, but that hasn't happened. If anything each week they are doing more and more.

Our first book club meeting will be this week. For the first book I let Jack choose and he picked The Candy Shop War by Brandon Mull.

This was a favorite author of his older siblings. You might have heard of his other series Fablehaven.  At this meeting the kids will choose from 4 other books for the next meeting.

We also have at least one fair per month with our homeschool group. For example, this week we are having an Explorer's fair. The children will pick an explorer, or an aspect of exploring to learn about and do a project or presentation for the fair. We have had some fun with these in the past. So far this year we have had a biography fair and wonders of the world fair- Jack did the Dalai Lama and Eater Island for those.








Our project learning group has been studying owls the past couple of weeks.  Everyone watched this documentary:

Then last week we did art projects based on owl anatomy.

First we had owl skulls:


Alex made this demo out of model magic, small pastic cups and ping pong balls.  This was to demonstrate the owls head and eye movement.

We made wing models out of paper and brads:

We also made feathers our of paper and coffee straws.

This week we dissected owl pellets:





We bought our owl pellets here and would highly recommend them.  We have done this once before and our pellets didn't have near the bones that these did. We also had a wide variety of bones from different animals. I will post pics once we get the bones all clean and mounted.


We have been studying worms this past week for science. 


First we went out to find some earthworms.


Then we set up a jar with some dirt, leaves, grass and other small matter. 


The next day we did some experiments with two worms. We were having a hard time finding our earthworms in the bottle so we went out to the worm bin and grabbed a couple of red worms.



We did a lab worksheet for these tests to add to our science notebook. We are using Pandia Press REAL Science Odyssey Life Level One for our curriculum.  I tend to add a lot of extras on to our curriculum to follow Jack's interest.  Jack also drew a worm and labeled it and then wrote the Latin name for the phylum and the meaning to add to his notebook. We didn't make a worm jar with the different layers. We have had a worm bin for over a year now and he understands the process well.


Next we dissected an earthworm. This wasn't part of the curriculum, but he was interested so we did it. This was quick and really informative.  Questions he had were:  Why does a worm have a gizzard? Why does a worm have 5 hearts?

We will print the pictures out to put in to his science notebook along with his questions and the answers that he finds.






Learning about snakes.

We have recently started a weekly project learning group within our homeschool group.  We are still learning and evolving with project based learning and some of our members have never heard of it before, but they like the idea. 

We have been meeting once a week for a few hours. After many attemps to get things rolling, we decided to provide a framework to  steer the projects for the time being.  We decided to use the Harry Potter series to steer our project topics.

Since the first thing that happens in The Sorcerer's Stone is Harry's encounter with the snake, we decided that snakes would be our first topic.  For our first meeting on snakes, each of the kids researched something about snakes that they wanted to learn about.  My brother is a snake enthusiast and brought two of his snakes to tell about and let the kids hold.




Seeing the snakes and being able to hold them was a real learning opportunity. I love the fact that there were a few people who were scared of snakes, or too scared to hold them that by the end of the afternoon were holding them.   That was the best part.  For people to learn and get over their fears of these wonderful creatures.

After the snakes had gone, the kids took turns telling everyone else about their research.  Jack had researched spitting cobras and told the group about them.  After that the group discussed what we would do the next week.  We all decided to dissect snakes. 



Don't worry I will spare you the pics.  It was a wonderful learning experience.  We had kids from 6 years old to 17 years old  dissecting. The 6 year old rocked it. She was so involved and asking questions about everything.   It was an amazing opportunity to learn about these animals. 

So thankful for our fun, crazy homeschool group.

Da Vinci

This past week we went on a field trip to a nearby city with our homeschool group to see the Da Vinci exhibit.




It was a very fun, hands-on exhibit.


The kids were in awe of everything that DaVinci had done.



The kids were all inspired and ready to go home to make things.


We have done this field trip once before, about nine years ago. It has always been one of my favorites.

Science fair

A few weeks ago we had our homeschool group science fair.   The way we do these is really laid back- no awards, no rules, pretty much anything goes.  We just want the kids to get excited about learning and sharing their work with others.  We also want them to get comfortable sharing their work by giving a presentation, but that is not required. 


Jack did a project on the different types of rocks.  He made a project board and set out his rock collection from our science curriculum.  He chose not to talk about his project.  He was really happy with his drawing in which he was trying to show the three types of rocks and how they were formed. 

The other projects included- rocket velocity and different types of fuel,  fire and carbon dioxide, g-force, and  non-Newtonian fluids.  The kids had a blast looking and each others projects and learning about new things. 


magnetic slime

I recently saw this post on Frugal Fun For Boys on magnetic slime.  I knew this would be right up Jack's alley.


This was really easy and quick to make.




It was super messy, but tons of fun.  Jack played with it for days.  Ours was rather thick and we tried to make it thinner the next time around.  We didn't have a  lot of success making it thinner, but it was a great science exploration. 

For the recipe and directions be sure to check out the post on Frugal Fun for Boys.

the car

My husband recently bought and started a new project car.


It is a 1928 Pontiac. 








There is so much character in these old cars.  I've seen a restored car like this, but it just isn't the same.   Right now the plan is to steampunk the car.  All the kids and the neighbors are excited about this and ready to jump in to help.  We'll see how it comes along.

After one week it looks like this:


Of course our neighbor who is a expert at these things says all the hard work is done and now comes the fun part.  I hope he's right!

November 9 2012

*pic from Monday

First thing this morning I broke the carafe for my coffee maker. Not a good way to start the day.  Jack and I headed out to find a coffee maker. Mine was so old I couldn't get a replacement carafe.  We ran into a store for some jewelry supplies. When he saw the office supply store he asked if we could please get a pencil sharpener that works.  We eventually found a new coffee maker and headed home. Perfect timing for brewing coffee as the weather outside turned. 

We made disgusting slime from a kit I picked up at the store. When you poke your finger into it, it makes a farting noise. Hilarious if you are the right age. Mythbusters for a couple of hours. Pizza was requested for dinner.

With all the time I have had this week to think, I am thinking again about project-based learning. We haven't been working it in like planned. My excuse is we are too busy. But that is an excuse. Anytime I have an excuse, I start to question whether or not it is valid because we always tend to make time for what is important to us.  And I want some project learning. I think Jack wants it too. He doesn't say that exactly, but he has ideas. I would like to see him follow through on those ideas. I would like to see him LEARN how to follow through on ideas. So I've been spending some late nights reading, taking notes and thinking about it a lot. And I've come to realize that we can make the time. We can make it happen.


project learning


Look what I got in the mail this week. I haven't been so excited to read a book since the last Harry Potter came out.  I have had it for two days and I am almost finished, but I know I will be reading this over and over as I strive to really get how to incorporate project-based learning into our homeschool.

We just happened upon one such project today.


Yesterday, Jack was a bit bored and I was busy getting some projects done. I remembered that I had this science kit stashed away and pulled it out for him to work on. He really enjoyed it, especially the pulley. So we talked about pulley for a bit and he said he would like one for the tree house.


I told him I would be more than happy to provide the materials if he came up with the plan.  He researched tree house pulleys on the internet, looked at a bunch of pictures and then drew his plan. We went out in search of supplies. He was very specific with what he needed. When he did act stumped I tried to remember to ask him questions instead of giving him the solution.  It will be a learning experience for me to step back that much. :)


When we got home, he went right to work.  I was impressed. this is a kid who just started tying his shoe two months ago and there he was tying knots.

Once he had the pulley tied up, he measured the rope.


Then it was time to tie the hook on the end and clip on the bucket.


And then it was time to try it out.


Sorry for the sideways view, I always forget that you can't turn videos after they are filmed.

I think the best part of all of it was him beaming and telling everyone that he made the whole thing by himself.  we also have a lot of rope left over and I see a few more projects in our future.