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Archive for March, 2011

While it’s fun to participate in Wordless Wednesday posts, I think my readers benefit more from me writing some sort of explanation for some of our entries. My last two wordless wednesday posts were showing maps Satori drew, but no explanation how. So this post is designed to explain Satori’s mapping passion. She started making maps of the United States and the world by hand last year. Usually she gave up halfway through, as the maps took on a distorted look. Understandable when a 5-6 year old draws a map by hand.

Last summer I read the book The Core by Leigh Bortins, a classical education approach to homeschooling. Her Geography chapter really grabbed me. The book is definitely worth its $10 from this chapter alone! She convinces you that new geography students (even from age 5) should start mapping and drawing the world. She then gives instructions on how to approach this, using the “Great Circles” and starting off drawing blobs. She shows examples of maps drawn totally free-hand by students who’ve really practiced. This became a dream of ours. Early this year, we took her idea, made our own blank sheets with the Great Circle lines and proceeded to draw the world with continents as blogs. (I should find some of those and share photos.) We plan to work more with this concept this year and I’ll blog in more detail.

In the meantime, something sparked a love for geography and maps for Satori in the past half year. If she’s not writing stories, she’s drawing maps. When we got our new whiteboard this month, the first thing she drew was a map of the United States. She started it by freehand, but it quickly got out of control.

The opposite wall just happened to have two huge maps we got cheap from Costco. They are laminated, so I was able to use a dry-erase marker to outline the lines of latitude and longitude. (Easily washed up a week later.) This divided up the map into manageable chunks!

Noticing that the top of Kansas aligned with a line, we started from there. Satori proceeded to draw all of western and central states quite accurately! By the time we moved it upstairs and away from our grid map, she attempted the eastern states, but they weren’t as accurate.

I guided her in making this map, by having her sometimes put dots where state borders should end, corresponding to the map grid. This made things much easier to draw.

 

You can see the end progress here (some of it has been erased).

For fun, I see no problem having my daughter trace maps to start off giving her some confidence. She loves doing this and churns out a few maps a day. I took this a few nights ago of her tracing Africa.

We’re using the Artograph 10-inch by 12-inch LightTracer Light Box. It was Satori’s Christmas gift from my parents (her grammy/grampy). It’s about $38 on Amazon. We love it, but the only thing we wish it had was some sort of clamp so we wouldn’t have to tape our papers to the box. Satori goes a little wild with the tape and then her map rips easily when she takes it off. There’s a larger 12×18 inch one for about $65.

Here’s some photos I took earlier this month of tracing the United States.

Satori also loves to memorize the geography of countries, so she’s able to label the United States and (now this week) Africa.

We’re on a real geography kick this spring, if you couldn’t tell. I’ll soon be making a page where I list all our favorite geography resources.

I aim to get back to The Core’s method of mapping by freehand. I am aware that there are two programs for sale tackling “mapping by heart”, but I haven’t been convinced enough to purchase them yet. For now we’ll practice using the Great Circles (or our grid latitude/longitude lines) when making freehand maps, while looking at a sample map. Eventually we’ll start drawing by memory.

 

Someone asked whether you can flip the books back and have it still lie flat. Here’s what they say on their website:

GBC ProClick® spines allow pages to lie flat with 360° rotation and let you easily add and remove sheets.

Image from GBC ProClick website

Here’s an image of one of our books with the pages flipped back and it is lying flat.

Another view. Since these spines do have a tiny vertical “spine”, there is an small gap but it doesn’t hinder the books ability to lie perfectly flat. I did look around our homeschool for the comb binders and found some on our old MUS books. They have a very thick spine which prevents the books from lying flat. The bigger the book, the thicker the spine, and the less they lie flat. The advantage is that you can put a label on the spine.

After I got done posting about the ProClick yesterday, I thought I should have included some close-ups of the spines themselves. What appealed to me most about the ProClick is that you can easily zip them back open and insert more pages. Hopefully these photos will help you see how the spines open and close.

You can click the rings together with your own hands or use the tool. I find it just as easy to zip them up manually. They do include a zip tool to zip/unzip the spines, which is fun to use.

Another Africa notebook we made yesterday showing both the back and cover…

We made a few more books for Satori today. She requested I make her a writing journal, so I had her pick out a nice cover, and then we were able to make this beautiful book in a few minutes. I turned away for a moment, and then found this nice thank-you note on top of her new journal.

We’re so excited about the possibilities and can hardly get any actual schoolwork done! We plan to make notebooks for her drawing lessons next. We’ll be making tons more journals of course as well, as writing journals are Satori’s absolute favorite things in the world.

I’ve found myself purchasing tons of eBooks and PDFs versions for our curriculum. I print them out and place them in a Staples Better Binder. That habit was getting too expensive, especially at $9 per binder. I also found myself loving spiral bound books, as they lie flat. So I was open to some new ideas…

Yesterday I took the splurge and purchased a ProClick P50 Binding System. I found the best deal at Office Depot, where I got it in-store for just $50. I got some sturdy back covers, glossy front covers, and some combs, and the total came to under $100. You can use your own cardstock for covers though, so the fancy covers aren’t necessary.

Right away I bound my History Odyssey Ancients book that I hadn’t been using as it was just loose papers that I had filed away a year ago. Now, I have a beautiful, glossy history book!

One thing I am losing over putting them in binders is the ability to place a label on the spine. I have colored tape that I rolled around a top coil, so we’ll see how that works in identifying them if they’re all on the shelf.

Here’s a look at how thick it is, with the clear front cover and black, sturdy backing.


A look at the device itself. It looks very simple, and it is – yet it’s very sturdy and weighted, so you stick the papers in, and then run the top thing over the papers to punch the holes. This inexpensive version will punch 6 papers at a time, but I normally like thicker or glossy papers, so I only punch 3-4 pages at a time to make it easier. It’s super easy to run the top over the papers if you give it a manageable job.

I purchased two boxes of spines, for 45-page and 85-page capacity. If you do use covers, that lowers the capacity. There are only three sizes of spines that I’m aware of, and the 110-page capacity spines I could only find in boxes of 100 for $50. I decided to wait on those.

I love these special ProClick spines because you can open them back up, take out, reinsert papers, and then zip them back up! They feel nice and sturdy, and they look great. Books now lie flat.

I asked for some ideas over at the WTM last night… Thanks ladies! I finally found a use for the beautiful scrapbook papers I had been collecting just because they’re so pretty, even though I’m not a scrapbooker! The spines are easily cut. So I made a cute mini-notebook on Africa for Satori to use.

I made this template super quickly last night, but hey she totally loves her new notebook! She even slept with it last night. 🙂 We’ll be putting all 53 African countries in here (more on that later).

Another great idea is to put the spines on top, which makes it easier for a child to write in a workbook.

Since the spines hold up to 85 pages (110 if I purchase the bigger size), not all complete programs will fit. Some people split their programs up into different volumes. Also, an affordable option is to purchase 3:1 spiral coils (Thanks Paula for this idea), which are both more cost effective and hold more paper. The con is that they won’t click back open. This is a good idea for larger teacher’s manuals.

Just in case you haven’t heard, Math Mammoth is on sale now at the Homeschool Buyers Co-op for half off! I blogged about this last month, but the actual sale wasn’t on until this month of March. It hit the 50% off mark sometime last week and the offer is good through this Thursday (3/31). This is a worksheet-based program that teaches math straight to the student. I have not found a better combination of affordable, easy, and effective math for the elementary years.

We’ve been using Math Mammoth Light Blue 1A/1B as a supplement, but there are tons of families happily using it for their main math program. We’re now ready for MM grade 2, so we’ll be getting the Light Blue Series Package PDF download. This includes the complete elementary mathematics curriculum for grades 1-6 for just $64.00 (plus $1.95 service fee). That’s $11 per year of very effective math program! It includes the Soft-Pak bonus software where you can generate even more worksheets.

There are other packages to choose from, including the Blue Series, Download or CD options, and more. Head on over and check it out!

Daddy gets treated to a school day almost every Saturday, with Miss Satori as his teacher!

He gets to learn subjects like Spanish, Latin, Spelling, Science, History, and this week they even learned Gym/PE. Since he doesn’t know Spanish, but has been in Mexico/Latin America all spring, his Spanish lessons have come in quite handy! Here he’s learning parts of the face in Spanish, as well as his numbers and colors.

She gets the idea for the schedule on the whiteboard from her Monday Colorado OPTIONS class for homeschoolers. They put her in the Kindergarten class where the students learn the letter A and how to write it and what sound it makes. She pokes fun in private about that, but we do not attend for the academic aspects. I make sure she is respectful to the teacher and other students, even though she is working several grade levels above them. Other than the babyish lessons, both Satori and I love having her attend the all-day class. They do learn things we haven’t focused on at home that require more people, like music and PE.

This weekend she put Daddy to shame as she showed him how she learned almost all the African countries (and some of the capitals) this week. She laughed when he didn’t know where Senegal was. (She seemed to have forgotten she didn’t even know what Senegal was a few days ago.) This week I showed her Shepperd Software Geography website on Africa and we did their tutorial on North Africa, West Africa, and Island countries. I made it a bookmark on her computer.

The next morning she woke up and brought up the website, and proceeded to teach herself the rest of Africa. She woke me up when the computer was calling out the country names – Angola! Uganda! Kenya! Eritrea! I then quizzed her on an iPad app, and she knew most of the countries! I had been trying to teach myself every night for a week, and she gets it in one morning. It’s amazing how quickly young kids can memorize. Daddy was amazed at how quickly she learned Africa too.

More about this later, and I’ll post the resources we’ll be using to go more in-depth on learning our world countries.

The past few weeks we’ve been learning about Mollusks and Echinoderms with R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey – Life. As always, I learned tons along with my daughter. Echinoderm comes from Latin and means “spiny-skinned”. I’m so glad we are studying Latin, it comes in so handy when figuring out words.

Today we used a banana to demonstrate echinoderms. Satori is forming a sea urchin below.

An extra info page gives us more information about echinoderms. Here’s where we learned they all have five major muscles. In most sea stars this is very obvious, but in not so obvious in sea cucumbers and urchins. With an urchin, the muscles fold back up and join at the top, like in Satori’s banana peel above. The mouth is on the bottom and has five parts.

 

For sea cucumbers, the muscles run along its body.

After we read the included pages on echinoderms, we supplemented with books and videos. Here Satori is watching a video on echinoderms from Discovery Education Streaming.

Last week we learned about mollusks. Now for RSO – Life you are supposed to keep several creatures as pets, such as earthworms, snails, roly-polies, and butterflies. We will not be doing so, so that’s why we’re supplementing with so many books and videos. So far, it’s been working out just fine!

Instead of keeping a snail, which I doubt we’d find in our area right now under the snow, we learned as much as we could about snails. Since snails are mollusks, as well as octopus, clams, squid, and oysters, they have a lab where we find the similarities between these very different creatures. The first page was a graph we filled out that compared a snail to a clam, oyster, sea jelly, earthworm, and beetle. Here’s the second page where we conclude that snails are most like the clams and oysters in the mollusk group.

Second lab was examining snail parts and labeling the diagram. By this time, we were familiar enough with snails to fill out the anatomy page.

The next month we’ll be learning all about arthropods. However, due to a trip to the Grand Canyon that we’ll be taking in May, we may simultaneously add in R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey – Earth and Space as well. I’ve heard great things about it, so we look forward to digging in!

I’m documenting some of the things Satori did today and last night. I find these fun to look through years later. Usually Satori wakes up before me and by the time I come downstairs, she is writing in a journal or in a blank book. Today was no exception. This page on “My favorite stuff” was so cute. She spells journals as “jurnles”, I’ll have to show her how to spell that, as it is one of her favorite stuffs.

I don’t correct any spelling/grammar in her independent creative works, but make mental notes on what we might have to work on. If she has a word she uses often in her writing, I might show her how to spell it. I’ll probably show her how to spell these words: different, journal, and coral. I think I’ll pass on anemones for now, I hardly know how to spell that one.

This week in our RSO science studies we’ve been learning about animals, last week it was mollusks and this week echinoderms. I realized that tide pools host many of these animals so we’ve been reading a few books on tide pools. Satori gets very excited when she learns new things. She took out her watercolor pencils and wrote and drew what she’s learned.

Here is a painting of Satori and I at a tide pool. We are trying our best to convince Daddy that we must visit tide pools in Oregon. I have never been to one and this is something I’d love to see. We have a big trip scheduled in May, but we were planning on going to the Grand Canyon. We’ll try hard to reschedule that for when we study Earth next year and get him to see that a tide pool would really be cool!

We also read a bunch of books and watched a few videos on coral reefs. She loves to tell the story about how when she went scuba diving in my belly before I knew I was pregnant. Luckily she turned out ok, even after two pina coladas that night!

I love her colorful reef picture.

Needless to say, our floor is covered with books and pictures and pages about corl reefs and tide pools this week. 🙂