Saturday, August 31, 2013

Adventures in U.S. History Week 26

I started the week by sorting a whole bunch of library books I got for the next couple weeks.  I love our library!  And so far this year I've only had to pay less than 50 cents in library fines.  Considering I consistently have over 50 books checked out at a time…that's pretty good!  It helps that I can manage our books, due dates, holds, and renewals online!!


We learned about the Santa Fe Trail, Oregon Trail, and the Gold Rush this week.  Many people in our area made a lot of money outfitting wagon trains headed west.  William M. Paxton, who recorded the history of this area 150 years ago, said that of the many people who left our county with gold fever, most were never heard from again.  Very few returned, most died, a small handful made it rich and stayed out West.  He lamented the loss of so many of the county's fine people.

We have two student desks, a child-sized table, and a spacious kitchen table…yet Miss M consistently chooses to do her school work in the middle of the hallway or on the kitchen floor!  Go figure.  At least she's comfortable!

Learning multiplication on the kitchen floor.
She's working away at learning the 2 and 3 times tables.  I plan to supplement her Singapore Math with Math Mammoth's Multiplication 1 book.  It seems to do a more thorough job of introducing the idea of multiplication and the various angles to approach it from.  Plus, you can never have too much practice with something as basic as the multiplication tables!  It's a product I received for review, so keep an eye out for that in the coming weeks!

We've been learning all about Tchaikovsky this year.  We'll go see the Nutcracker in December, but for now Miss M dressed up in her ballet clothes and watched a DVD called Prima Princessa Presents Sleeping Beauty that we got at the library.  It held her attention a lot longer than I thought it would!  We also borrowed the Royal Ballet version without commentary from spunky Prima Princessa.


Miss M finished Level E in Spelling Power this week!  Since Level E is approximately a 6th grade level, I won't be having her do any more spelling this year.  It's getting to the point where some of the spelling words should really be vocabulary words.  We'll pick up again with Level F when we start 3rd grade in January or February.


In science we've been investigating solids, liquids, and gases.  We did some fun experiments with fizz…making raisins dance…and a fizz-on-your-tongue powder that reminded me of a cross between Pixy Stix and Pop Rocks!


We finished off the week with a little nature exploration in our backyard.  It was nearly 100 degrees all week, so we didn't go on a long walk.  But we did enjoy the sunflowers blooming in the corner of the backyard!


We're still enjoying our studies even though I've started to keep a mental count of our weeks left.  I'm excited to finish and excited to start our next year a few months after that!  Oh, and I'm excited that the "bers" are starting soon…happy September…happy fall! 



Our adventures from previous weeks:



Sunday, August 25, 2013

Adventures in U.S. History Week 25

Hello again!  We're glad you're joining us on our adventures!  This week we traveled from Iowa to Wisconsin and then on to the California Gold Rush!

We had a fantastic time marching around the kitchen singing "You're a Grand Old Flag" and listening to "Stars and Stripes Forever."  When I first started marching, the kids looked at me like I was nuts, but it wasn't long before they joined in on the fun!

In science we learned about atoms and molecules.  Frankly, I think the whole concept went a little over Miss M's head, but she had fun anyway.  We built H2O molecules out of marshmallows and toothpicks and filled a cup with them.

A "water molecule" made of 1 large hydrogen marshmallow and 2 small oxygen molecules.

Then, when Hubby came home, Miss M presented him with a glass of "water."  It was quite a hoot!


Friday was a nice day with a whole string of hot days in the forecast, so we made sure to take a nice long nature walk.


We discovered many different types of grass seeds.  Many of them were prairie grasses that grew well over my head.



We discovered some white berries on a tree and later identified them as dogwood berries!  Inedible for humans, but not toxic.  Many of our local birds love dogwood berries!


Then I was seduced by the beautiful weather and the begging of my children, so we climbed a grassy hill and went into the woods.  This turned out to be a foolish move and you'll see why in a minute.

Little Guy climbing an unmowed grassy hill.
The woods were cool and shady.  We were swarmed with mosquitoes and spotted several varieties of mushrooms including the well-known Amanita muscaria, a beautiful but poisonous toadstool.


When we arrived back at home, we were amused by some "traveling seeds" that had attached to our socks.  I snapped a shot of some on my foot and then bent down to pick them off.  That's when I noticed dozens of itsy-bitsy, teeny-weenie ticks all over my feet!  They were on the kids too!  No doubt we walked right through them in that tall grass.  We rushed inside and stripped and bathed.  Thankfully, no one was bit and all's well that ends well!


That was enough adventuring for one week.  See you next week!



Our adventures from previous weeks:




The rest of our adventures:

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Adventures in U.S. History Week 24

When two small children wake up in the morning and ask for a tea party for breakfast, sometimes their mama just has to say yes.


Our Monday morning lessons were attended by a feathery visitor, this beautiful young oriole.  It was content to stay there for 15 minutes or more!


Last week at the museum we got to see a telegraph machine and this week in history we learned all about Samuel Morse!  We also learned about Florida and Texas.

Miss M got a new Bible verse this week and learned that Jesus is the Lord of lords and the King of kings.  To honor His position as the authority over all authorities, she made a royal crown.  To prepare for this craft, she made a whole bunch of glue dots with Elmer's school glue on an aluminum foil covered cookie sheet.


We let the glue sit until it was completely dry, about 24 hours.  Then Miss M colored each dot with Crayola markers.  I wasn't at all sure this process would work, but it came off without a hitch!  


I cut a crown shape from yellow construction paper and wrote the memory verse on it.  Miss M decorated it with the glue dot jewels she had made!


We perched the crown atop our globe to signify Christ's authority over all creation.  Miss M loved this activity!




This week we learned the words to You're a Grand Old Flag.  I remember learning it in 5th grade!  We also had an impromptu marching parade around the kitchen and through the house when we put on Stars and Stripes Forever.  Making memories like these is one of the reasons we homeschool!


We haven't been making it out for our nature walks every Friday.  Some days it's just too hot and humid!  But nature has a way of finding us even when we don't go out looking for it.  This beautiful butterfly enchanted the kids before it flew off to get a drink from our hummingbird feeder.




Our adventures from previous weeks:




The rest of our adventures:



Adventures in U.S. History Week 23

Our week for studying Missouri finally arrived!  Along with it: Maine, Arkansas, and Michigan.  We skipped the taste testing scheduled on Wednesday in favor of some character training due to bad attitudes (both kids' and mama's).  She did it before in 1st grade anyway, so no big loss.

Somehow, I managed to get through the whole week without taking a single photo!  Not sure how that happened…but to make up for it, I brought my camera along on our field trip to the Pony Express Museum in St. Joe, Missouri.  (It's actually St. Joseph, but no one around here actually calls it that…not if they're natives anyway!)


We listened to Adventures in Odyssey on CD on our drive to St. Joe.  Everyone, even Hubby, got caught up in the story.  When I was about 8, we didn't have a TV at our new home in Florida.  We didn't know anybody and didn't have any neighbors.  There certainly wasn't any internet to entertain us then either.  I remember listening to the Christian radio station's radio dramas as often as they were broadcast.  Though technology has changed a lot since I was a kid, I'm glad my kids get a chance to experience some of the joy of radio drama too.


At the museum, we saw life-sized replicas of Pony Express riders, horses in their stalls, and oxen pulling a covered wagon.


This sign by the covered wagon described all the different kinds of supplies pioneers would need to take with them.  It was fun reading about each item and looking for it inside the wagon.


One whole section was dedicated to miniatures depicting the different types of terrain and difficulties the Pony Express riders faced, from flatlands to mountains, from herds of buffalo to attacks by hostile Indians.



After exploring a replica Pony Express station, the kids tried mounting up on saddles and we discussed what it would be like to ride long hours on horseback.  There was an interactive display of types of horses and whether or not they'd make a good choice for the Pony Express.


Nearby was a working well and water pump.  A plexiglass window in the floor allowed a look right down into the well!


I thought it was fascinating that the founders of the Pony Express gave each of their riders a Bible to carry with them.  The riders were typically young men from 17-21, but some were as young as 11!


It's a running gag that the Pony Express was just another failed business in a long line of failures in St. Joe, MO.  The Pony Express was put out of business just 18 months later by the telegraph.

Miss M tapping out her name in Morse Code using a telegraph key.
I loved this painting of the stringing of telegraph wires across the prairie!


Next we came upon a station to make crayon rubbings.  And beyond that was a children's play area set up with dress-up clothes, a school room, and kitchen (including an adorable child-sized cook stove and iron pump).


Hubby and I sat down on some chairs and let the kids' imaginations have free rein.  They picked cherries and strawberries, gathered eggs from chickens, taught school, set the table, cooked stew, washed the dishes, and had a grand old time!  Seriously, it was worth the price of admission just to let them play in the play area!

School Teacher Miss M

Little Guy cooking a vegetable stew.
At the end of the day we came home with these two sweet ponies for my two sweet children.  It was a wonderful field trip!






Our adventures from previous weeks:

Adventures in U.S. History Week 22

I got a bit behind in my blogging about our weekly Adventures!  I'm going to catch up now because I know there are lots of other homeschool mamas out there looking for ideas and inspiration in their own homeschool adventures.  I hope to stay caught up after that!

This week we learned about George Washington Carver.  He was an African-American scientist who developed hundreds of uses for peanuts, soy beans, pecans, and sweet potatoes.  His innovations were a great boon to southern farmers.  To honor his contribution to history, we made sweet potato pie.

Miss M mashing sweet potatoes for sweet potato pie.
The recipe was included in our Teacher's Manual for Adventures in U.S. History by My Father's World.  And oh, my stars!  It is so good!!

Delicious sweet potato pie!
We learned about why a body needs a head and why Jesus is called the head of the church.  The human body is one of Miss M's favorite subjects and she spent several hours pouring over human anatomy books.  Unfortunately I didn't take any pictures of that part of our week!  And we didn't get around to making a quilt to go with our study of covered wagons, but that's okay.

At the end of the week we took a trip to the county fair!  Miss M and I had each entered some items.  Last year it was so hot that we didn't go to the fair at all.  It was a much more tolerable temperature this year!

This is about as good a family picture as we're able to get these days.
The first thing we did at the fair was to visit the exhibit room.  I always enjoy seeing the variety of items people enter!  One year I won first place for my loaf of yeast bread…of course, it was the only entry in that category!  You just never know what there will be from year to year!




Each of Miss M's items received a ribbon!  A blue first place ribbon for the skirt she made.


A red second place ribbon for her Get to Work Apron.  She said she thought this one would win first place and was surprised that the skirt did in stead. 


And a white third place ribbon for the Hello Kitty figurine she painted with her Nana.


Hubby's parents went to the fair with us and in typical grandma fashion his mom started bragging on Miss M to any stranger who happened to be standing nearby.  It's always so much fun to enter items into the fair!


Afterwards we rode some carnival rides.  Miss M and I made the mistake of riding the Spider Octopus. Our mismatched weights caused the car to spin out of control the entire time so that we both came off it a bit green.  Hopefully that's out of her system for a while.  At least until she's a teenager, right?

It was mostly a week of the same-old, same-old.  We're chugging our way through the murky middle section of our school year.  But we have some really fun and exciting weeks coming up!  Next week we get to Missouri…the one Miss M has been waiting for!



Our adventures from previous weeks:




The rest of our adventures:


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Review: Typecrush {a word game}


Here on Sycamore Hill we love all kinds of games, but especially word games!  Typecrush is a brand new word game with a single rule: whoever solves the first word gets to choose the next word.  And, boy, is it fun!!


How to Play 

  • Spell a word making sure no one is looking.
  • Flip the letter circles over to hide your word.
  • The rest of the players try to guess the word using the letter frequency chart.  This chart groups letters by how frequently they appear in the English language and they are the clue you need to solve the word puzzle.



This game is wonderful for any age, from the beginning reader to the avid logophile.  It can be made simple by adding extra hints ["it's a color word"] or by more complex by giving no clues as to the type of word.  Hubby and I discovered that longer words are actually easier to guess than short ones!  He really killed us when his word was toe.



We've had a lot of fun playing Typecrush!  Under certain lighting conditions two of the colors are hard to distinguish from each other, but as long as the lights are turned up it's not a problem.


We didn't use the game for anything other than it's intended gameplay, but you could easily use it to practice spelling words, to teach letter recognition or play memory.  My kids wanted to use the little disks as miniature frisbees, but I put a stop to that.



The packaging and design is very appealing!  It makes me happy just looking at the nice colors and holding the little disks in my hand.  Perhaps I'm easily pleased, but life is too short not to enjoy the simple things!

Typecrush is made and assembled right here in the good old U.S. of A. from 100% recycled material!  It is available from the publishers for $25 (with free shipping) and comes with everything you need to play.  As a member of the Mosaic Reviews Team, I received a free copy for this review.  Go see what the rest of my team thought of the game!


Check out my honesty policy.