Feb 28, 2010

Robots - Part 3

And the final Robot to add to the collection -

Again created by KM and AM!

Feb 26, 2010

A Day with Clay

It doesn't get much better than a day with clay, a great teacher and friends!

Feb 25, 2010

Review - Big Universe

I was contacted by a representative from Big Universe to do a review of their site and at first I was very excited at the prospect! Here is a description of their site -

BigUniverse.com is an award-winning education website for grades K-8. This engaging web community uses beautiful picture books to instill the love of reading, writing and learning, while providing an anywhere-anytime, standards-based, education resource that connects teachers, students and parents.

Our products and features include:

  • Big Universe Reader™ - Read hundreds of fiction and nonfiction children's books from today's best publishers and take optional quizzes to assess comprehension.
  • Big Universe Author™ - Create, print & publish animated e-books using an easy-to-use writing tool and 7000+ images.
  • Big Universe Community™ - Safely share your bookshelf, recommendations and published books with your peers only or thousands of other members.

Sounds fantastic doesn't it! The concept of the site is a really appealing one and the site is easy to maneuver and get around for the most part. Some of the icons are a bit confusing, but you can get to understand them quick enough. I checked out quite a few books on different levels and there are some aspects that I liked, but some that I really didn't. I liked having the books instantly available. I also liked the create and share features area. My daughter had a good time making little skits and using the clip art to create comic strips. There were however some serious flaws in the Read section.

In my opinion here are the biggest problems -
  • The site is listed as having materials for K-8 - there is one title listed for 7th & 8th graders. That's it one! I can understand that if they are hoping the future to have more content available for the 7th & 8th graders, but really the site should be promoted as K-6 with more grades to come, or something along those lines. This one book is not secular in content, has no quiz or assessment for it and is listed in the 6th grade level as well.
  • Irrelevant questions on the quizzes - I tried out a quiz on a book that was at a 1.3 level, the topic of the book was weather and I was astounded when one of the quiz questions asked like - "How many kids are on the float on page 3?" and "The animal on the rain coat on page 5 is a ______ . " Why on earth would you ask these questions. MAYBE, I could understand if you had the book in front of you and you wanted to see how perceptive the child was being, but you can't even look back at the book while taking the quiz. It is like they are asking for the kids to get frustrated with it!
  • Content of User Created Books - While they do distinguish between the user created books an publisher books, if the kids are looking to find information it could be very easy for them to get confused. After looking at some of the user created books that are listed as non-fiction, I would not feel comfortable allowing any child to use this area for research or educational purposes.
It is my opinion that this site should be revamped as two different sites. One for budding authors to be able to create and share their work and one for your published books to be accessed and used for educational purposes. I was hopeful that this site was new, but it has been around for a few years ~and from what I have seen ~ without much changes, so at this time I would save the $9.95 month for anything but this!

Feb 23, 2010

Meet the Masters - Matisse

Here is a pic of Matisse, one of MY all time FAVES, creating! So this week we worked on some incredible pieces replicating Matisse's paper cut out methods.
This is KM's favorite ~

This is MY favorite ~

We had paper ALL over the work room for quite a few day -

Here is KM's personal favorite -

And here is mine -

Feb 22, 2010

Movie Review - Percy Jackson and the Lighting Theif

I mentioned way back we found out that they were making this movie how excited we were to see it! KM and I read EVERY book and were very disappointed when we found it was being released over Feb. vaca because we were not going to cram into a theater to see it. So we had to wait.....

but I have to say....IT WAS TOTALLY WORTH IT!!!!

This is one of the best movies that I have seen in a long time. Unlike many movies that have been made from incredible books this one was as close to the mark as I think it could get using living actors. The graphics and special effects were incredible. Medusa's snakes were the pinnacle of the movie for me, it truly looked like Uma Thurman had snakes crawling out of her head!

I don't want to be a spoiler so I will just say that the few tweaks that they did for the movie were understandable in my opinion. KM was a bit annoyed that Annabeth was not blonde, but really she had NOTHING else bad to say about the movie.


I will also mention that CJ - who did not read the book ~ also thorougly enjoyed it and hopes for sequels!

Feb 18, 2010

Unschooling Video

Bopping around the blogosphere I came across this incredibly interesting video interview of Astra Taylor and her life as an unschooler. It is an incredible glimpse into a really wonderful perspective of the system.

I can't wait til her movie Examined Life becomes available on Netflix streaming on the 23rd!

Feb 16, 2010

Blue or Green?

So KM asked a WHILE back if she could put streaks in her hair. CJ and I went over this many times, each changing our minds several times. Finally we decided that since I had died my hair purple, blue, pink and orange, shaved parts of my head, pierced ears ~ and other body parts ~ behind my parents' backs MANY times when I was younger we really didn't see the harm in it as long as I had the control! So, we ordered the turquoise dye that she wanted -

and gave it a go, following the directions on the bottle....

and you could just barely see it! She was happy, but of course a bit disappointed in the outcome!

Now I know she has dark hair, but I was a bit against bleaching it to begin with. I consulted a few hair dresser friends and they suggested that I try a chunking kit. So for take 2 the process was a bit longer....

and she got a bit impatient!
Here was the results after nearly 2 hours!

And here were the results the next morning:

So she got green hair instead of blue and it does have a sort of blue tint to it, but as you can see she is VERY happy with it!

Once this color fades - it should only last about a month, the chunking will last longer, so we can try the blue again and since it won't take as long, may be able to get the real blue effect that she wants. Just in time for us to go to FL and freak out her Grampa when he sees his "little" granddaughter with BLUE hair!

Feb 15, 2010

Inventions & Inventors Unit Study

In History we just finished up Story of the World Volume One and decided to take a break from the series and do a 5 Week Unit Study on Inventions & Inventors. We will be using multiple sources including -
If you know of any interesting resources - PLEASE don't hesitate to share!

Feb 12, 2010

Product Review - Mission Paragraph from Hands of A Child

I took Hands of a Child up on an offer that they had made a few months back to review a project pack for them. Having used their products before I was very excited to try something that would boast KM's interest in this area. Here is my review -
I was very hopeful that my reluctant writer would really be engaged by this method of presentation. However she quickly found many issues with the product including, spelling and grammar errors, poorly written examples and while some activities were extremely simplified others were far more advanced at an earlier stage than it seemed they should be. The format has you writing full paragraphs before the process has been completely explained. My daughter became very frustrated with the pack before she was even halfway through it.

I was greatly disappointed with this product. I submitted my review to Currclick as per my agreement with the Hands of A Child representative that had contacted me. I also attempted to submit the review to the Hands of A Child site, but it is not allowing me to for some reason. I have used many other project packs from this company and have liked them all, so please don't let this one review deter you from the publisher completely!

Meet the Masters - Hokusai

This week we covered the life and work of Katsushika Hokusai. KM was very intrigued by the simplicity of this artists' works. Our favorite was The Great Wave -

She was also very intrigued by the stamps and created her own using the symbols for hearts and clouds - when combined would be translated to her heart is on a cloud, such an appropriate symbol for her -

We then made the Tempera Ink and tried out the methods that were outlined to make houses and bamboo trees.

KM is very excited to try some more of these methods on a larger scale this weekend - I will let you know how they turn out!

Feb 11, 2010

Slowing it down through Level 2A -

KM began Level 2A in her Piano Adventures a few weeks ago and was having a bit of difficulty getting into the groove with this level. ~~~ Just a reminder, she is teaching herself how to play and there is no one here that knows how to play, so although she refuses to take lessons with someone, she does get a bit frustrated at times. ~~~ We discussed and she decided that she was going to work through this level at a much slower pace than she did with the previous levels. So she takes her time and does one unit in the lesson book - taking as long as she needs to master the tunes - then moves onto the same unit in the Tech & Artistry and Performance books again at whatever pace fits. Here is a sample of her level 2A skills -

Feb 8, 2010

Ancient Civilizations - DONE!

We have finally completed the Giant Lapbook that we began last spring when we started studying the ancient civilizations! We have a had a LOT of fun completed this, but we are also BOTH rather glad that it is over! All graphics and cuts that were used were from the History Pockets series created by Evan-Moor. While we did not do every part from the books we did do a TON of them! KM is very proud of what she has produced!

We will be taking a break from our History Time Line for a little bit to do a 5 week unit study on Inventors! I will keep you posted and be sure to share links for any useful sites!

Feb 7, 2010

Meet the Masters - O'Keefe

We completed the unit on one of my favorite artists - Georgia O'Keefe this week. The image above is KM's favorite, which is entitled Red Canna and was painted in 1923.

We had a lot of fun trying out her techniques of shading, scaling and watercolors. Here are some examples of the works we did -

KM was a bit creeped out by the fact Georgia collected bones from the desert, but once we got past that fact, she seemed to really enjoy this unit!

Feb 4, 2010

New Routine -

--- things are really feeling good around here. I had briefly mentioned that we were trying a new routine in a previous post and have gotten TONS of questions about it! I am glad to say that it is working out nicely and I now feel rather comfortable disclosing it.

It really isn't that big of a deal, but has made a HUGE difference around here. Instead of switching gears CONSTANTLY through out the day as we go from subject to subject - we have decided to do one subject each day. As of right now it looks something like this:

We are finishing up our math program which is mostly review, so it really isn't anything that needs to be done daily. The next math that she will be doing in our spring session is a new program that I think will also work well with this system. However once she gets back into Teaching Textbook for Algebra 1 in the summer we will tweak it so that she does Math everyday and electives on Mondays so that we will have a four day week - leaving Fridays open for field trips.

So far it has been really productive and gives a good flow to the material! It seems like it was just the right time to switch things up!

Feb 2, 2010

African Tribal Hunting Masks

KM finished her Geography unit on Africa by creating an African Tribal Hunting Mask -

And then got silly traipsing around in it!

Feb 1, 2010

The dust is starting to settle...

...and things are starting to feel like they are getting a bit back to normal around here...or as close to normal as it ever is around here!

We are starting out on a new leg of our adventure and some things have changed a bit ~ mostly for the better.

The biggest change is that I am no longer watching the Littles on a regular basis. They are doing wonderfully on their new adventure and I can feel more like an aunt again! KM misses them, but is really enjoying some of the perks of this change.

One of those perks being a much needed change in sleep schedules - KM had been getting a bit spacey and with all the changes going on with her physically at this age, I thought I would check in with her doctor to see what he thought. His first suggestion was to make sure that she was eating, drinking and sleeping enough! Most kids don't get the benefit of being homeschooled and not HAVING to get up at the crack of dawn, so his first suggestion was to go a few weeks letting her wake up on her own schedule. This at first FRIGHTENED me IMMENSELY - I thought for sure she would sleep til 2 in the afternoon and want to stay up til 3 in the morning, but of course her Dr quickly added, that this should not change her bedtime! She should still try to get to sleep at a reasonable hour and then her body should naturally begin to set its own rhythms. Of course I also began researching on my own as well and found a number of articles that went into great detail to explain the differences in the circadian rhythms of teenagers. - Here is one - and another - and one more!

This really made me think - "Okay yet another INCREDIBLE benefit of homeschooling!" When KM first began homeschooling we had to teach her how to acknowledge the needs of her body that she had suppressed for so long at PS. Simple things like drinking when she is thirsty, eating when she is hungry, etc. rather than waiting for the teacher to say it is time to do those things and you better do them or you may not get a chance to do them again for HOURS!

For the first week there were a LOT of late mornings, but she did seem much more awake and refreshed in the afternoons and evenings, with far fewer "duh" moments - by this I mean, "what did I walk into the kitchen for? oh yeah I need to eat!" sort of thing - I also started to see the natural switch and she is now sleeping wonderfully and awaking refreshed and ready to start at a reasonable time. With this extra time in the morning, I can get more of MY things done like chores and exercise and such, before she even gets up! It also gives her more time in the evening to hang out with CJ and I without feeling so exhausted.

Another benefit is that since we don't have the Littles ~ and all that must be brought along with tiny children ~ to haul around with us, it is so much easier to just up and go whenever the mood hits us! We can go for a snow hike today because it is sooooo pretty out and the weather is just right! We can just pop out to a matinee movie because we put the lessons off until tomorrow. We can scrap the history book for the afternoon and get the grocery shopping done so that we can have friends over in the evening. It is just so freeing! It has felt like we were missing this true freedom aspect of home learning because we were always trying to get the hard core "WORK" done on the days that we didn't have the girls so that when we had them we could play, do art and have fun little kid time. However now we get to have fun "tween" time!

Please don't get me wrong I LOVE my nieces with all my heart and would do anything for them, but it was just time for our paths to split for a while! I will however let everyone know how they are enjoying their new journey.

AS ALWAYS we are also tweaking our curriculum a bit, but we haven't worked the kinks out quite yet so I will have to let you know about that in another post! Anyway, thanks so much for hanging in there while it was quiet and all the great emails of encouragement and concern! My readers are so WONDERFUL!