Early Girlie Homeschool


Second Grade Preface

Early Girlie started to burn out at the end of October, as virus season hit hard this year. She missed school most of November, often sleeping in and not being very focused while at school. We started homeschool unofficially before Thanksgiving break, and officially in December. 

Some of our favorite things came into play immediately. The new Peanuts movie is being released, and the comic series by Charles Schulz continues with its 50th anniversary of A Charlie Brown Christmas in 2015. The Charles M. Schulz Museum has a bunch of activities aligned with the Common Core, so it was easy to find some worksheets and activities I knew E.G. would love.

The vote went in today to get rid of Common Core and let the State decide on educational goals...and it's the same day I turned in our Educational Objectives. Oh well. I only picked the things that made sense.

Nov / Dec Lesson Plans:

Charles M. Schulz Museum - Identifying inner and outer traits. Peanuts coloring pages.

The Orchestra printing / spelling / coloring activity book.

Playwriting script basics: Title, synopsis, character list, scene descriptions. Using "CURTAIN" instead of "The End." Write an original work.

Thanksgiving Maths: Male / Female (Boy / Girl) guest list tally and totals. Thanksgiving food people ate tally & total, and favorite foods bar graph. "Thanksgiving Games" our family played tally and total. I also have a few Neighborhood Walk tally and totals to be sure we get outside for some exercise and notice the world around us. We've been inside a lot!

Venn Diagrams comparing topics both chosen and assigned. Her chosen topic: Tenor Opera Singer and Santa Claus (both are: men, wear costumes, have low voices, big belly, lots of fans, and people travel just to see them). 

Letter writing revolves around the holiday season, with Santa letters, letters to her classmates, family. I send photo cards to her medical team. It's important to keep their spirits up during the holidays, to believe in healing and miracles.

Early Girlie liked the idea of having her own special job around Christmas. She filled out an Elf Application (found on Pinterest) and I'm hoping Santa will leave her a list of chores...meaning I don't have to!

Winter Science with Experiments:

1. Why do cranberries pop open when heated? (air, heat, expansion).

2. How do pinecones open and close?

3. Oil and water interactions (green and red tinted).

4. Dissolving candy canes. 

5. Peppermint oobleck (a non-Newtonian fluid that has properties of both liquids and solids). 

Other Science topics: We'll be studying reindeer and woodland creature adaptations in December. We have deer, rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, and birds in our backyard, so I have some backyard observations that will keep us in "science mode." A beautiful, oxygen-rich trip to the Botanical Gardens will invigorate us. I have seasonal plants and birds in store for January, along with a trip to the National Aviary. 

How Our Lessons "Work"

The book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie is a great example of what our homeschool day is like. One thing leads to another, and some things are planned while others are not. 

I'm an art therapist, and there are probably differences in my approach, since I'm not a classically trained teacher. I was taught to have a few goals and a plan, AND be fully prepared to leave it by the wayside if something better comes up in the moment. I was taught to be in the present moment, and help people link past and present for clues on what they have learned. Also, I'm only supposed to take 10% of a session's time for "teachable moments". I step it up to 25% when I'm with young learners, who need help spelling, writing their ideas down quickly, etc. I believe students should lead 75% of the lesson. I'm there to guide the process.

I do write STEAM curriculum, but it's always been hard for me to treat subjects as separate. I tend to tie in art and language lessons in whatever we're doing, because it's what I know best. One of the essentials to remembering a concept (to the point of it being an ingrained part of you) is relating it to your own experiences. This process, called linking, is something Earlie Girlie happens to excel at. She also excels at distracting herself and everyone around her. During homeschool, I have to balance her constant distractions with insisting we make a conscious choice to finish a project, or pause a project with a plan to go back to it. The concept I'm still learning: when is it linking to the subject, and when is it distracting from the subject? 

For example, we began today with examining cranberries and watching short documentaries on how they're harvested and how bees help pollinate the crane-shaped flowers. She liked splitting fresh cranberries open and insisted on noting what they taste like (sweet, then sour, then bitter). We moved to the kitchen to examine how they pop open when heated. She only got to watch, not stir or get too close, because cranberries that pop open are painfully hot! I thought this was all very interesting, but she was getting that bored and distracted look. I asked her what was wrong.

She said my experiment was very nice, but...is there an experiment she can do too? Maybe something with water? (Uh, oh, I was leaving her out!) That lead to the dissolving candy canes. I explained that usually it's done with three different temperatures of water, but I had her set up the experiment. She chose three cups, one with baking soda, one with coarse sea salt, and one with warm water. She asked me to write her hypotheses: 1. The candy cane will change taste. 2. The stripes will not stay on; 3. The water will change to red. We do a lot with watercolors and egg dying (see previous science works), so her guesses are educated. She showed me that she does understand what happens when food coloring and liquids mix. 

During the candy cane experiments, we observed that her hypotheses were correct! We also noticed some unexpected things. The candy cane in baking soda water lost its color the quickest. The one in salt dissolved the slowest. She asked to taste it, which didn't occur to me. She noted that the one in plain water tasted the same while the others changed to a "disgusting" taste. She viewed dissolving with melting as very similar, so I wanted to do more to show how it's different.

The candy cane experiments inspired me to ask Earlie Girlie to design her own candy cane as a review later this week. Model Magic is the perfect medium, since it looks like a candy cane. You can draw on it with marker, or paint it and blend your own colors. She can make a design on paper, as well as a 3D form. Although it's a relatively easy art project, it will give her a sense of accomplishment and I can challenge her with a more difficult project based on the same concepts later.

After cleaning up, she asked to trace letters in baking soda. I prompted her to add in her spelling words as I was dissolving cornstarch in water for crockpot pepper steak. I was showing her how the cornstarch dissolved in an equal ratio of water, but using a different ratio makes something else happen (that's a math-science combo). This prompted me to show her the oobleck! I used 1 cup of cornstarch and 1/2 cup of water in a bin. We played with that for over an hour. I was just as intrigued by the stuff, both relaxing and mind boggling. The candy canes were still handy from our dissolving experiment, so I threw two of those in for fun. We watched the stripes start to marbleize the oobleck. We passed globs and balls of oobleck to each other, seeing how it transferred from solid to liquid to solid states. She noticed that oobleck felt and looked a lot like cupcake icing. So she asked if she could design her own cupcakes later. Suddenly, she remembered we had made dairy free cupcakes in the freezer downstairs, so we washed up and got those out to thaw. We returned to the ooblecks, and a bunch of Model Magic and salt dough holiday projects popped into my head.

All of the kitchen experiments and tasty dinner lead us to watch the next episode of MasterChef Junior (one where they prepare fish). She was intrigued by fish she'd never heard of and begged me to make fish tomorrow. She counted the types of fish she'd tried so far and liked: salmon, tuna, perch, cod, trout, halibut, and two types of sushi. That prompted me to have us do a fish graft, add how fish survive in the winter to our science list, make out a new grocery list, and inspired another art project. We can draw or paint fish and then add a layer of waxed paper with a hole in it to show how fish survive in winter. We could also walk to the koi pond with new appreciation.

While I was mainly focused on doing one science experiment a day, lumping them together made sense and kept her engaged for hours, until well after dinner. 

This is what happens when we start with a plan and let inspiration lead the rest of the way. Learning feels joyful, exciting, and very natural.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Star Wars (Disney / formerly owned by Lucas Films) is releasing the much awaited-for continuation of the film saga this December, 2015. 

I remember seeing Star Wars on the big screen in the 1980's with my Dad. My brother and our neighborhood friends went with us. We were too small to keep the theater seats from folding up on us. But we sat there, folded in half, perched on the ends of our seats, or standing, in awe of this view of space and planets, and characters who made us laugh. What a great blend of suspense and humor, of heart and mission. 

NASA and other science resources backed up some of my beliefs that science fiction often inspires real technology. If you can dream it, you can one day make it. If you read about great inventors, you discover that they blend imagination with information to discover things about our universe.

Check it out! http://www.nasa.gov/feature/nasa-and-star-wars-the-connections-are-strong-in-this-one/

For Early Girlie Homeschool, this is where is where Death Star fact and fiction meet.

Mimas is a moon of Saturn, discovered by William Herschel in 1789. About the size of Spain, it is the smallest astronomical body that is known to be rounded in shape because of self-gravitation. It also happens to look a lot like the Death Star! This is supposedly by coincidence, because the dip in Mimas wasn't fully visible until 3 years after Star Wars: A New Hope was created. Science fiction has influenced a lot of today's technology, which is why it's important to study along with other subjects. If you can dream it, you can (eventually) make it. 

Saturn is estimated to be about 891 million miles away. I learned this in honors astronomy in college. What I remember is that the Earth is 1 AU Astronomical Unit away from our Sun. Saturn is about 9.5 AU away. So I used AU's for some simplified math. We used Montessori beads to show representation of big numbers, and models of the planets to show relative size and distance. We brought out the LEGO Millennium Falcon and mini figures, since she loves interacting with characters while absorbing information. Even for an adult, it's hard to fathom 891 million miles. Unless you own a Millennium Falcon, it's not something you think about. We talked about how many miles away her favorite places are, using Google Maps. She LOVES Google Maps. 

My generation grew up with these beloved characters. I'll be going to an early screening of the new film, and in preparation, we baked some R2D2 cookies and talked about what she remembers from the films, and about real droids, and real war situations.

Our personal interaction with the characters:

She's only seen one of the movies so far, and has met the characters during Comic conventions. We did meet Peter Mayhew, who actually plays Chewbaca and was 7'5" in real life! He was in full costume, and bent down to tell us that Early Girlie is "adorable". Her dad claims to forever proud of that moment. Normally, he's at a table signing photographs next to the character, so it was the first time I'd seen him standing, and in costume. I always assumed his height was a special effect! We've talked to the guy who made a remote control to-scale R2D2, taking it to conventions to interact with guests. He rarely speaks a word and doesn't walk close to his droid, preferring to remain anonymous. 501st Legion is an international organization of fans who dress in replica of Star Wars villain attire, particularly Storm Troopers. They act as body guards and high-five kids who do not seem the least bit afraid of them. Rebel Legion's "Rebels for A Cause" raises money for children's charities in partnership with conventions worldwide. During Steel City Con, they dress as the heroes and offer games like nerf shooting at a villain for $1. They have raised thousands of dollars for Alex's Lemonade Stand, aimed at finding cures for childhood cancer. This is where fandom and charity meet in a way that makes sense. Everyone wins. 

People from all over the world still celebrate the saga. It's influence in our culture is mind-boggling. Harrison Ford is a household name, in part by his role as Hans Solo. Hospitals are using droids to help with laundry, surgery, and nanotechnology is a booming industry. Even NASA has created robots inspired by the films! Ok, our R2D2 cookies are warm, which means it's time for math. If you have 16 warm cookies, and 2 people, how many can each person eat before they cool off? See, it's educational.

Check out some of the activities we did! Those are Pillsbury R2D2 cookies, so we didn't bake from scratch, but we did use them for math and for talking about droids. Using familiar watercolor techniques (crayon wax resist and salt for texture), E.G. created her own version of Mimas / the Death Star during a sunset. We used the Patchwork Death Star as a collage pattern from Melinda at quickygranolagirl.blogspot.com. I have magazine pictures in a box that I use for various projects, so we dug through those to come up with the pieces for Mimas and Princess Leia collage.

May the force be with you!

National Bird Day - Jan 5

Birds do play! E.G. and another little girl gave them a workout. The penguins swam, bobbed up and down and followed them throughout the exhibit. A penguin named Elvis sang with them. A little brown owl played peek-a-boo with Earlie Girlie from his tree stump. The parrots said hello, whistled, and mimicked our voices. We saw different habitats, and many different species of birds. Overall, a fun day at The National Aviary.

The staff gave us a lot of fun facts about the birds we saw and answered questions we had. The penguins were the most fun, playing along and showed great interest in her bright purple coat. The staff showed us how the penguins like to track people and objects. They get bored like anyone else, so she showed E.G. how to put her fingers up to the glass and see if they would follow her. Soon enough, one and then up to three penguins (Disco, Owen mostly) were following her and playing! She heard one of them by the name of Elvis, do a bird song, or call.  We saw them at feeding time, with a short presentation. They are fed by hand, to keep the water clean and to keep track of who eats what. While most of us would eat one or two burgers in a sitting, these penguins eat the equivalent of 15 or 16 burgers at one time! They are tiny but have high metabolisms and can eat a lot of food. The penguins we saw are from South Africa, where they have snow every seven years. Here, their rocks and water are heated to about 50 degrees. 

At home, E.G. created rhythm stories about the animals we are studying. She did a pencil drawing of a snowy owl. Her spelling words of the week include polar animals, so they were included in her story. We studied flocking patterns and discussed what we had learned about birds from our fun visit to the Aviary. 

Wildlife Conservation & Reverence for Life


The Irwin Family

Today we watched short videos of Bindi Irwin, her brother Robert, mother Terri, and father Steven. Earlie Girlie knows Bindi from Dancing with the Stars, where she won the mirror ball trophy, along with everyone's hearts. She took the opportunity to explore and express her feelings through the dance process. Bindi has gone through the loss of her father, the famous Crocodile Hunter, who was killed by a stingray barb in 2006. He was setting up an oceanography film, and at the time had supported Bindi's career as an actress and conservationist. Humble yet exuberant, Bindi is an inspiration, a voice of love and kindness.

Growing Up Wild is a series of short films featuring each of the animals in conservation at Australia's Zoo, hosted by the young Bindi and Robert. They are an engaging, enthusiastic pair. Bindi explains, "When you see the animals up close and learn to love them, then you want to protect them. While it's fine to read and watch them on screen, getting up close and personal is important."

An official ambassador at Australia's Zoo, Bindi's family is responsible for building up one of the world's biggest wild animal hospitals and conservation expertise. Bindi is also Australia's official tourism spokesperson, inviting everyone to visit the land down under. She uses her celebrity status in positive ways. Bindi's mission: "To be the change I want to see in the world."

Be the Change You Want to See in the World.


History: Albert Schweitzer (1875 - 1965)

January 14, 1875: Albert Schweitzer was born. His philosophy of "reverence for life" describes the idea that all life must be respected and loved, and that humans should entere into a personal, spiritual relationship with the universe and all its creations. He won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1952, for putting his theory into practice with leprosy and African sleeping sickness.

The German theologian, musician, philosopher and Nobel Prize-winning physician worked as a pastor and followed his dream of becoming a missionary in Africa. He was a concert organist. He used the money he earned from concerts to pay for his eduction. He also wrote books. One was about composer Johann Sebastian Bach, and The Quest for the Historical Jesus.  He and his wife traveled to Africa to help the sick. During World War I, they were sent to a French internment camp as prisoners of war. They were later released. He used his peace prize money to start a hospital. Along with fellow Nobelists Albert Einstein and Bertrand Russel, he spoke and wrote about the harm of using nuclear tests and weapons. (Source: History.com, 2009). 

On this day, coincidentally, we studied two people who felt passionately about respect for all life, finding a deep attachment to living beings, and conserving the animals of earth. Our lessons included writing biography poems, and exploring some of E.G.'s lifetime dreams. In science and math, we studied conservation, and looked at populations of different species. 

Peter Pan Lesson Plans:

* History of Peter Pan and Tinker Bell (Characters and stage play created by J.M. Berrie, 1902. Animated film by Walt Disney, 1953. Ballet by Jorden Morris, 2006.)

* Acrostic poem PETER PAN

* Compose a short story based on Peter Pan.

* Tick Tock Crocodile Inspired Lessons:

Telling time Crocodile (worksheet by DJinkers, found on: http://www.abcand123learning.com/2011/05/what-time-is-it-mr-crocodile.html).

Digestion. Edible vs. inedible food and objects. What do crocodiles really eat? Draw and discuss what's in side Tick Tock Crock's stomach. What do crocodiles really eat?

* Geography: London, England.

* Geometry of Big Ben using blocks, 2D cut outs, outlines. Use Big Ben in a landscape.

* Science of Shadows / Drawing and depicting shadows / Shadow puppets.

* Following the Leader (song, physical exercise, music).

* Using lyrics from the soundtrack as text and inspiration for visual art.

* DIY pan flute with drinking straws.

* Costumes and Disneybound (attire inspired by famous works). 

* Pixie dust sand art.

* You Can Fly! Beginner piano arrangement and vocals.

The Chemistry & Math of Baking

I admit that I love to bake, and that's why I found ways to incorporate math and science in the most delicious experiments. Ever since I was little, it was the one thing my mom let us do in the kitchen. She taught us how to roll cookies, how to cut down on the sugar and fat, and how to trouble-shoot recipes when batter seemed too gooey or stiff. My friends and I would bake cookies at each other's houses in the winter, when it was too cold to go outside. Grandmothers, mothers, and daughters, friends and neighbors would gather together to make homemade treats - peppermint humbugs, pies, cookies, breads. It's pretty amazing to put a bunch of food in a bowl, mix it together, and then watch it transform in the oven. I have many years of fond memories from this kitchen, and I long to pass on some of the wonderful traditions.  

Learning how to read instructions, gather supplies and organize and clean your way through baking is wonderful practical life experience. We made a grocery store list and looked for coupons as needed (more math and reasoning skills!). Earlie Girlie was in charge of gathering the measuring cups and spoons, and helping me read and find all of the ingredients. I showed her how to organize and clean as you go.  

The challenge Earlie Girlie and I have is being 100% dairy free, which means altering my favorite recipes, and trying out new ones. We played with making smaller batches as well. We used prunes instead of oil in chocolate based treats like brownies and cake. The most fun was the Depression Cakes! We made vanilla, chocolate and carrot depression cakes, which use vegetable oil, vinegar and baking soda instead of eggs, milk, or butter. It was the most delicious carrot cake I've ever had! Oatmeal raisin cookies with added flaxseed and chia seeds were also a big hit. She had fun with the lattice pie crusts (apple almond and cherry). It was a great way to explore patterns, and we extended the work by weaving paper and yarn in art. Pizza is something we often make at home with veggie cheese or no cheese at all. Pies and pizza enable easy discussion about fractions, division, and subtraction. You can see on the pizza how I showed her different ways to divide 1/2 of a pizza. Who knew math could be so delicious?

Lunar New Year / Chinese New Year

Happy 2016 - the Year of the Fire Monkey!

Exploring other cultures and traditions is so much fun! Since she loves parades and knows children from all over Asia, Earlie Girlie was interested in a batch of lessons I planned around this tradition. Many cultures celebrate the New Year in similar ways, yet also have distinct traditions. We studied the moon and moons of other planets during our Star Wars lessons, so celebrating the moon did not seem that farfetched to her. We made some Chinese dragons with tissue paper smoke, using traditional colors and adding our own flair. I wanted to teach her easy paper-folding techniques. Her dad helped her create instruments that historically belong to Chinese culture. I found lots of fun worksheets and adapted them to study the Zodiac stories, lanterns, poetry, loud noises and parades. 

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