Friday, June 28, 2013

Fun with Bubble Wrap

I know, playing with bubble wrap is far from a new idea, but that is exactly why these activities are so much fun for kids - Bubble Wrap is awesome.  Of course you will want to be aware of safety concerns - watch your kids with the wrap and only do these activities with kids that won't attempt chewing on the wrap or wrapping it around their heads or faces..

For the Jumper:
Lay out a long piece of bubble wrap and then do the bunny hop on it.  Make sure the bubble wrap is securely fastened to the floor so it doesn't slip underneath you (ouch!)

Strange Sensation:
Squirt Shaving cream onto a large sheet of bubble wrap and then push the cream around on it.  Pop a bubble now and then while you're at it.  You can also try popping the bubbles with feet at the shallow end of a pool for a very different sensation.

For the Artist: 
Paint right onto a "page" of bubble wrap and then use it like a giant stamp or print to transfer a textured version of your child's artwork onto paper. These wind up looking really cool and you can make multiple "copies" if the paint is heavy enough to begin with.

 You can also mix this and "Strange Sensation." by dropping a little paint into the shaving cream and folding the color in gently in separate bowls for each color.  Have your child use the shaving cream as though it is finger paint on the bubble wrap and then "stamp" the art onto paper to dry.
For the Story-Teller:
Imagine a long sheet of bubble wrap is a road that takes you through another world and walk down the road together.  While you walk, encourage your child to tell you what he/she sees in this "other world."  Again, make sure the bubble wrap is securely fastened to the floor so it doesn't slip underneath you (again, ouch!).

For the Scientist:
Compare bubble wraps of two different sizes.  Drop plastic eggs (the kind that open) filled with m&m's or gumdrops or other small candy on both bubble wraps  (one with really big bubbles and one with smaller bubbles).  Do this over and over again and record how many times the egg pops open on each vs. how many times the egg stays closed.  Does either wrap better prevent the egg from popping open?

You can also use differently sized bubble wraps as a "lens" and look at how light bends through the bubble wrap.  Start with a poster board with the child's name written in large block letters and bubble wrap with fairly large bubbles on it.  Have the child hold the wrap over the letters and see how it changes their look.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Medieval Livelihoods

What you did in Medieval Europe dictated almost everything else about you. What you wore and ate, how you slept and how much mobility you had was all dependent on what you did for a living.  We didn't do a lot of "lessons" in any formal way about the different livelihoods.  However, we did attend a tournament at both the Renaissance fair and Medieval Times, dressed the part for a noble family and for a free-market family, and ate a Medieval Feast.  As usual, we did some surfing on the web, watched some videos and read plenty of books on the subject as well.  These were some of the most useful and informative resources we encountered along the way.

At Medieval Times

Videos to Watch

As always, please preview any videos and other resources before sharing them with your kids.  Links can become broken at times, and what is appropriate for a twelve year old, may not be for a six year old.  Also be aware that many online videos today now have commercials at the beginning that may or may not be appropriate and change depending on the viewer.  I cannot control these factors.
Terry Jones Medieval Lives - The Peasant, The Monk (sexual content), The Damsel (sexual content), The Minstrel, The Knight, The Philosopher, The Peasant, The King.

Feudalism  Clear and Brief Video describing the basic concept of feudalism. 

Worst Jobs in History (Royal) - Much of this one is most relevant to the end of the Medieval era or post middle ages.  However, it does feature makers of lances, link makers (for chain mail), and purple makers.   There is a bit about "the business of making babies,"  that really isn't a big deal, but wanted to give you the heads up just in case.  Preview it to be sure if it is right for your goals and child. 

Worst Jobs in History Medieval, you'll get a much wider range of specific jobs to the Medieval era than the Royal version.  Its examples are a lot less directed at clothing than the Royal version.
The Barber Surgeon worst job is pretty gruesome.

Online Resources

The Gode Cookery

Medieval Clothing

Friday, June 21, 2013

Sarah Plain and Tall - A Literary Unit

Sarah Plain and Tall is a wonderfully simple tale that offers opportunities to consider character traits and first person point of view.  This classic children's chapter book has even been turned into a fabulous movie by Hallmark and Stars Glenn Close and Christopher Walkin.  We read the story at the end of the school year and addressed it in a fairly casual way (you know, Spring Fever sets in and all . . .) but I think she still got a lot out of reading this elegant story. 

The Book

I took the book as an opportunity to study "character" and had Alice draw a portrait of each character as she read about them that incorporated representations of things they enjoyed as well as character traits.  For example, when making a portraiture of Sarah, she drew what Sarah looked like but also had to include: that Sarah talked and told stories a lot, that she liked blues and grays, that she sang to the kids, that she had a favorite pet cat named seal and that she loved the sea and probably missed it terribly at times.  On the other hand, Papa had closed lips because he didn't talk much and  a serious expression - I think you probably get the idea.  Any time Alice added a new element to a portrait, she had to defend her choices by explaining to me what clue was given in the book to indicate the character trait being depicted.

We also took a bit of time out to discuss the idea that wherever you are there is something to miss.  Since Alice and I spend part of the summer away from home, we discussed the things from home we miss most while we are away (Daddy especially).  Then we discussed the things we miss from our summer locale when we return home.

Since Alice has seen a variety of ecosystems now (because of our domestic travels), we were also able to take the opportunity to make a connection to science by discussing the shore ecosystem with which Sarah would have been familiar and how it is similar too, and different from the prairie ecosystem Papa and the kids were familiar with.

Lastly, and perhaps, most importantly, the book offers up chances to discuss the process of grieving.  The moments about grief are minor in the book and perhaps lost on the very young reader, but for students and children that have suffered the loss of a parent, this book may be a good opening for discussions about the process of moving on if read together.

The Movie

While watching, we discussed the differences between the movie and the book (which are relatively minor).  Alice was able to tell me what parts of the movie she may have made different choices about and which parts of the movie were in keeping with the spirit of the book - even if the book and movie were different. 

The theme of grieving is brought out much more strongly in the movie so moments that are subtle enough to be lost on young children come more to the fore during movie viewing.  Watching the movie was a wonderful tool in considering this important human process and discussing the mixed emotions each of the characters are feeling at different moments in the story.

Lesson and Project Ideas

Reading and Story Structure

Portraits: As described above, I did have Alice do portraits.  She had to pick out clues to the characters that included not only what each character physically looked like, but also what things they liked and character traits such as stubbornness.  We have also studied portraiture in her art history studies.  In those studies we looked at how various artists such as Johannes Vermeer and Angelica Kauffman incorporated the interests and stories of the portrait subject into their portraits.  She and I reviewed a few of their paintings.  Then we looked at a few caricatures to gain some insight into how to depict character traits in her portraits.  As you read above, I then had her pick out "clues" as she read and add to her portraits as she went through the story.  For each addition I had her verbally "defend" her choices, but if you are more formal about it, you can have kids include a list of quotations from their reading in the caption to help in their explanations and defense of their portrait choices.
Story Bumps: Simply create a list of the challenges faced by the characters as they move through the story.  Accepting Sarah, Missing Home, Surviving the Storm . . . At the end of the book, ask kids to "map" the story bumps on a graph - which bumps were faced in a repeated ongoing way?  Which bumps were specific to one individual and which were experienced by everyone in the story.  Can they show that on their maps? 
Conceptual Questions/Discussion Questions:
  1. Who is the Narrator in this story?  (Introduce the concept of first-person narrative with this question as an in).
  2. Why do you think Caleb asks about his mother singing so often?
  3. What is the worst thing about Caleb according to Anna?  Why is this important to understand?
  4. What time of year is it in Chapter One?  How do you know?
  5. Why do you think Papa forgot the old songs?
  6. Why does it matter if Sarah Sings?
  7. Are the three family members nervous about meeting Sarah?  Include at least two quotes as evidence to support your answer.
  8. When Anna says, "But Caleb talked to Sarah from morning until the light left the sky."  What do we learn about Caleb?
  9. Why is it important that, "At least Sarah can hear the ocean"?
  10. What does Papa make into a dune and how do you think his efforts make Sarah feel?  Why do you think this?
  11. What does it tell us about Papa that he makes the dune for Sarah?  Why do you think this?
  12. What is winter like on the Prairie?  Discuss both the pleasant and unpleasant parts.
  13. Why does Anna know the chickens won't be for eating?  Why aren't they?
  14. What do you think about the idea that there are always things to miss no matter where you are?  Is the idea true or not?  Explain your answer.
  15. Did Sarah go to the barn in Chapter 8 wishing for an argument really?  What do you think is going on here?  Why would Anna say she was going to go have an argument?
  16. Why does Sarah stress "We", when she says "we will fix the roof."?  Why is this surprising to the other characters?
  17. Why does the idea of Sarah riding to town alone upset the children so much?
  18. Why hadn't Momma come back when a wagon took her away?
  19. Why are the colors missing from Sarah's picture?
  20. In chapter nine, why was it exciting to Caleb to see dust?
  21. Why do you think Sarah gave colored pencils as a gift to the children?
  22. What does Sarah miss from the Sea?
  23. What would Sarah miss if she left the Prairie?
  24. Would you have ended the story the same way?  Why or why not?
  25. What do you think the most important story bump was and why was it most important?

Research and Writing Projects

Get to Know the Seashore:  Have your kids pick out all the animals and aspects of the shore Sarah discusses and research one or two of the animals (such as scallops or seals) discussed.  Students can then make a  "book about the sea" to share with Anna and Caleb to teach them about Sarah's Sea.  In a classroom setting, each student might make one page with an illustration and description of their subject that is more elaborate than one might expect if one child is making an entire book alone.

Teach Sarah About the Prairie:  Instead of making a book for Anna and Caleb, have students focus on the prairie.  Ask the students to pretend they are sending a book to Sarah before she arrives with all the wonderful things about the prairie she can look forward to and a few things to be ready to watch out for.  Perhaps there are pages about the different wildflowers one can find on the prairie, one about sheep, about plowing fields, planting and growing and some of the favorite crops Caleb and Anna might enjoy in their food, another about coyotes and finally, one about tornadoes.

My Own Story: Use the whole writing process starting with brainstorming to have kids write a first person story about an event in their own lives.  In our case, Alice is writing a story about our summer travels.
Pen Pals:  At the beginning of the story, Sarah is essentially a pen pal with the whole family.  Why not strike up a relationship with another school and create pen-pal opportunities for your classroom of students (or, if, like me, you are homeschooling see if you know anyone that has a niece or nephew the age of your child that lives much further away - perhaps there is even an old friend that has moved away).  Despite email, it is still super nice to receive real mail (and there are times when addressing an envelope and sending a more formal snail-mail letter is especially nice still today).  Teach your kids letter format (which is also still used in formal emails) and help your child/children address their envelopes, stick a stamp on it and send it off.  Switch to email later if a relationship is struck up that is ongoing.


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Summer Reading List 2013

With the traveling we do in summer, one would think there would be no time for reading at all, but between time in the car and time lounging on the shore there is still time, even if we don't do as much bed-time reading.  Besides, keeping the kids reading over their summer holiday helps keep them fresh and ready for when school begins again in fall.

Priority Reading - The Books that WILL get Read this Summer:

The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint Exupery

This is one of those all-time classics that every child should experience.  I purchased an anniversary edition that comes with a set of disks where the book is narrated by Viggo Mortensen.  I did this, this way, thinking it would be a nice change of pace during our long drive to have a book for both of us to listen to off and on.  Boy was I right!  Mortensen's reading is beautifully done.  His calm and soothing voice fits the story well, and he reads it with the same subtlety the author used in writing the tale.  It was especially nice that in addition to my teacher's discount, it was another 25% off in store.
If you aren't familiar with the story, it is a bitter-sweet story about a lonely prince that leaves his little planet and falls to Earth during his travels where he encounters the narrator that is in the middle of the Sahara having survived a plane crash there.  It can be used as a great introduction to a number of philosophical questions if you wish or enjoyed as a simple tale purely for the entertainment the tale itself provides.
70th Anniversary Edition On sale at the time of publishing!

Amber Brown Wants Extra Credit -

This book was an unexpected gift from my Aunt, to Alice for her seventh birthday.  I was not previously familiar with it, but Alice has been reading it to me and what a riot!  If your daughter likes the Clementine books, she'll like these too.

Nicki - Ann Howard Creel

This is an American Girl Adventure from one of their newer series for older readers.  It is about a girl helping to train a service dog and has a follow up story titled, "Thanks To Nicki."  Since Alice just got a puppy this spring, I thought reading this story would be particularly related to our current experiences and busy-ness (sorry for my hiatus from the blog, by the way - there have been a number of factors preventing me from sitting down and writing every day as I was doing - I'll write more on that later).  The story is written with the same care and quality one expects from the American Girls Collection, but is about a modern girl with a modern life and the dog she is training, Nicki.  There is a lovely appendix with the true story of two sisters raising puppies for service dog training and their experience with this important work as well.

Stone Fox - John Reynolds Gardiner

This is another bitter-sweet tale, but in a very different way from The Little Prince.  Inspired by a true story, this short novel for kids is mostly fiction with only a grain of truth, but what a ride!  Since the story takes place in winter and is about a sled race, it is particularly good for the hottest days of your summer break.  I'm hoping Alice will read this one to her Grandfather - who I think will enjoy the tale too.

Who is JK Rowling - Pam Pollack and Meg Belviso

The "Who is" and "Who Was" series presented by Grosset and Dunlap is a great selection of books written at a beginning- third grade level about a selection of famous figures from presidents to authors and artists to scientists.  I wouldn't recommend this particular one until after your child has already read the first three Harry Potter books though because it does give a tid-bit away in discussing how important good names are for Rowling's Characters.  the list includes Remus Lupin and Sirius Black and could be a give-away for an astute young reader.  We have also read "Who was Harriet Tubman,"  "Who was Martin Luther King," "Who was Amadeus Mozart," and others. 

Choices I have provided, she may or may-not get read this summer

Who Was Roald Dahl
Who Was Charles Darwin
Who Was Sacagawea
Who Is Jane Goodall
Pinky Pye
The 100 Dresses
Babe the Gallant Pig
The School Mouse
The Search for Delicious

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Ancient and Medieval Peoples

Some Different Groups of People To Know

Angles - The Germanic people living in what we now call England post Roman Occupation of England.  The  group co-mingled with the Saxons and are usually referred to as Anglo-Saxons and founded much of what we now consider "English."

Burgundians - An East Germanic Tribe that eventually settled in the South-Eastern part of what is Modern day France.  Clotilda, wife of Clovis was a Burgundian and played a role in his conversion to Christianity.

Franks - This was a group of people considered "Germanic" because of their initial language and lifestyle as they swept into Western Europe.  The Franks, settled in what was called Gaul at the time.  The area was re-named France after its Frankish population during the Middle Ages. 

Huns - This group of people came out of Asia before the fall of Rome.  Attila is their most famous leader and is known for being a fierce fighter.  The Huns were expert horsemen and had superior bow technology for the day.  They were nomadic and attacked various villages and settlements as they moved through Europe.

Moors - Islamic peoples that occupied Northern African regions, the Iberian Peninsula and parts of Southern Italy for part of the Medieval Period.  They are not really a self-defined people as are many of the other groups listed here, but did develop a specific culture and presence within Medieval-European awareness. (Saracen is also used as a word to describe anyone that practiced Islam.  While the two words weren't used synonymously, they both mean essentially the same thing today - with Moor being slightly more specific).

Normans - Peoples of North Germanic and Scandinavian Origins that settled in what is now Northern France and from which the area now called "Normandy" derives its name.  The Normans played a HUGE political role throughout Europe during the Medieval Period.

Ostrogoths (Austrogothi) - Participated in significant trade with the Romans.  However, they also had periods of war with Rome.  As the Huns moved in to the area the Ostrogoths had inhabited, many tried to escape into Roman-conquered land creating tensions.  After subjugation by the huns, the Ostrogoths and Visigoths worked together at times and Ostrogoths played a role in the weakening of the Roman empire.

Saxons -  This was part of the group of people that would eventually give rise to the Anglo-Saxons that gave us English.  However, there are still many questions about them today.  Britain AD episode 2 discusses the finding of the Saxon Hoard that gave us much of what we do know about the Saxons today.

Vandals - This group of people has an interesting story behind it that may surprise many of us today because they were much more peaceful than most of us might imagine. 

Vikings - These Scandanavian People also played a major role in European History and are often known for their violent raids and war tactics.  They were a race in search of new-lands and is now widely believed to be the first group from the Old World to have landed in the North American Coast.

Visigoths - Counterparts to the Ostrogoths this group originated in much the same way, but developed its own independent culture in the years the group ruled over Hispania.  The Visigoths were one of the groups to have sacked Rome during its decline and are most known for their defeat of Rome (As are the Vandals).

Byzantine Romans - The Eastern half of the Roman Empire that remained after Rome and Western Europe fell came to be known as the Byzantine Empire.  It was actually populated by individuals from many of the ethnicities listed above, but all its populace practiced the culture and traditions of the late Roman Empire in terms of its economic and political structure.  However, most of its emperors after Constantine practiced Christianity rather than Roman Paganism.

Video Resources 

As usual, preview any film links before using.

There are a number of videos that may be useful in your quest to understand the groups of people that took over Europe during the Early Medieval Period.  I especially enjoyed Terry Jones and his series, Barbarians (Link to Episode 1: The Primative Celts).  Terry Jones gives a different view than the typical one taught in school of these different groups of people in a very real analysis of what we really know about the groups of people he covers.  Of course, he does it with a wonderful sense of humor and makes light of our misconceptions about Rome's old neighbors.  I HIGHLY recommend this series for those of you teaching about the period - even if your kids are too young to appreciate the series themselves.  For later episodes, simply look for the episodes in the suggested list below the video viewer on the page.

Although the History Channel often capitalizes on melodrama, their documentaries do provide information about the individuals and periods covered.  The Series, Barbarians, gives a picture of what some of the groups listed above, were like at the end of the Roman Empire and beginning of the Medieval Period. There is an episode for the Franks, Vikings, Saxons and others.  Many can be found on Youtube. 

Secrets of the Dark Ages - Barbarians

Treasures of the Anglo Saxons BBC Movie: Another home run by the BBC.  This documentary makes clear what we do know about the Anglo Saxons and their beliefs and way of life and how we know it.  It does include one Anglo Saxon myth that is not a pretty one and includes both sex and violence so as always, preview the movie before including the movie with your on-going activities with your child/children.

King Arthur's Britain is an interesting "Archaeological Journey" into what life may really have been like during the Early Middle Ages in "Angle-Land" or England. 

The Not So Dark Ages also narrated by Francis Pryor - This video focuses largely on misconceptions held by many about the "Dark Ages" and why we know our traditional story of the period is probably inaccurate.  I HIGHLY recommend anyone teaching about the period see this, even if they don't share the video with their pupil/pupils.

You Might Also Find, "Rome's Neighbors" helpful for similar resources.