Thursday, January 14, 2016

A Homeschool Day to Celebrate New Snow!

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Three nights ago, I woke up in the wee morning hours to the sound of ice pelleting on the roof and windows. It sounded pretty wicked. Luckily though, it shortly change from the pound-pound-pound or raining ice and hail, to a more friendly, slushy sleet. And even better, when I re-awoke and peeked out of the window into the still morning darkness, I saw what could only be snow. Snow! Snow! Snow! FINALLY! Listen, if you live in Michigan, you've got to have some sort of expectation of snow, a lot of snow. If you're a kid living in Michigan, a snow-less winter must be one of the most depressing things imaginable, so I'm really glad that we finally got it.

When all was said and done that night, we were left with about 3" of the powdery stuff. This was the first real snowfall of the year. There was a tiny bit after Christmas, but it didn't count and disappeared right away. It's mid-January now, and streets and sidewalks and lawns without snow make no sense to me.

I knew that Noah would be excited (and I was too), and that we just HAD to incorporate the snow into our homeschool day. So here's what we did!

First, when I woke Noah up, I announced that it was a "Snowy Fun Day" and that we'd only be focusing on our core learning subjects today, so that we'd have lots of time leftover to go outside and play. Then I mentioned that our science learning would have to do with snow and that we were going to do some experiments.

Next, I presented Noah with a hot chocolate assortment that was situated on our big kitchen table, surrounded by the school books. This was enough to get him enthusiastic for the day. Noah chose the salted caramel hot cocoa which is a very good one indeed.  Oh, and we picked what we thought would be our best snow building anthem for the day. It's called "Snow Gnomes." (You can play this song while you read this post).

We began with math. On this day it was all about finding the measurement of angles. In his workbook, I placed one small "Cinnamon Red Hot" candy, you know those red sprinkles, on top of each practice question. I told Noah that along with the snowy theme today, it was all about staying warm too, and that these cinnamon candies would do just that. (I don't know, I was just trying to get creative and fun with the whole wintery thing.) He loved it and math went down without a hitch.

After math we did some reading comprehension, some writing and a bit of social studies, and then it was science time! We discussed our plans: Go outside and build a snowman and a snow fort and to "snow paint." The plan sounded good.

First we made "snow paint." I have a few empty squirt bottles laying around for just this kind of thing. You fill them half-way with water and then you or your child can pick the colors they would like to paint with. Take some liquid or gel food coloring and squirt enough coloring into the bottle to get your desired color intensity. Next, put the caps back on, TIGHTLY,  and shake vigorously to combine the water and food coloring. After this you'll want to unscrew the top and then fill the bottles the rest of the way up with water. Adjust as needed with more food coloring. I've found that having super vibrant, high intensity water shows up better on the snow.

Before we headed outside, it was time to do some preliminary "snow" learning science. You can find information about EVERYTHING online. Great, vibrant, educational resources, all for FREE! Here are some of my very favorite science websites to use with your children, whether for fun, to supplement what they're learning at school or for your homeschool!

 Weebly, an "interactive learning site for education, " just might be my favorite. It's super easy to navigate, simply click on the icon button for your preferred subject. Then you will be taken to a page with lots and lots of topics for that subject area. Click on your topic of choice and you then have your pick of various fun, interactive games, learning material and quizzes. It's great!

I also think CK-12 does a really nice job of providing nice learning material for all of your studies, including science. I especially like their Doppler Duck simulation to explain why ducks make a "V" shape in the water when they swim.

If you've heard about Mystery Science, that you know what a cool resource this is. Mystery Science provides what they call open-and-go science lessons to inspire kids to love science. Each lesson begins with an intriguing question to answer like: "How could you win a tug-o-war with and elephant?" That's followed by an "exploration" video that teaches about invisible forces, and how using force, motion and even magnetism, can help you to do amazing things. The learning portion includes quiz questions throughout and it's followed by an experiment that you can do at home. Print off their supply list and collect easy to find items at home to carry out your experiment. 

The best part, Mystery Science is regularly $99 for a school year membership, but right now, you can sign-up for FREE, no credit card needed, just an email address, and you will receive access to the whole site through June 30th, 2016.

For Noah, one of his favorite ways to learn is with short, engaging video content. We love the following, again, free Youtube channels when it comes to learning about science and other subjects.

Many of us already know and love the "Crash Course"channel by Hank Green. Each awesome video is a crash course in a different subject and topic from politics to anatomy to chemistry and world history. You name it, there's probably a crash course. Hank and his fellow teachers relay information and learning via fun animations and peppy lectures. 

Did you know though, that there is a "Crash Course Kids" channel!!!? Yep, the newer, younger sib of regular Crash Course, Crash Course kids is just as informative and entertaining, but aimed at a younger set. I'd say elementary school children. It's great, have a look.

In A Nutshell is another Youtube science channel for kids (and adults too). This small team of creators set out to make science look beautiful, because as they say, science IS beautiful!

And finally, SciShowKids is one more animated animated channel that brings science concept to kids in a great format! We watched this channel on our snowy day to learn about how snow is made. Did you know that every single snowflake begins with a tiny particle of dust or pollen with water vapor frozen around it? This is called a "Seed Crystal." We also watched an episode on engineering snowmen, and why we need to make sure our snowmen have a strong base. It was a lot of fun!

For the record, we weren't able to build a snowman because this was such light, dry snow. It wasn't very good packing snow and we were able to get snowballs going. But.... Noah did do some snow painting, he made a "snow chair" and a"snow castle" with a dog area. We were outside for a loooooong time.

Eventually I had to go inside to make lunch, and I asked Noah to come play in the backyard. He didn't want to, he didn't want to leave his snow castle, so I had to sweeten the deal. I told Noah that he cold build a BIG snow fort on the deck by throwing a tarp over some chairs. He thought that was REALLY cool. I pulled four of our patio furniture chairs out and then draped a tarp over them. Then, Noah decided to make a lemonade slushy with his Zoku shake maker cup and he laid down and took a nap in his fort. Until I got nervous and was like: "Don't fall asleep on the snow!"

Even Josie got outside. See her new "stick" from our backyard!?

Noah and his slushy made it back into our warm kitchen eventually. He settled in for some more reading. This time it was a choose-your-own-adventure type book, set during the Civil War. We've been learning American history and have talked about the civil war, so I decided to give this book a try.

It's called: The Civil War: An Interactive History Adventure and Noah was riveted. You're a solider in the civil war, and each time you re-read the book, you make a series of decisions that hopefully work in your favor. Are you a rebel solider or part of the union? This is your first decision and so on and so on- through battles and other personal events. Noah must have read through three or four times in a row. The only thing was, I was surprised by how violent and gory some of the events that he told me about from the book were. For example, being shot or having to eat rats due to lack of food. I guess though, that was the reality of civil war times. I thought that I might purchase The Revolutionary War: An Interactive History Adventure next, but after talking with Noah, we both agreed that while being a very interesting concept,  these books might be better suited for teenagers and up.

Switching gears back to coming in from the cold. Guess what came the other day to make our house feel even more cosy for the winter? I have recently acquired and obsession, no, a total FIXATION with my little nightlight/wax warmer. I'm new to them and I love mine because 1.) it's not as  big a fire hazard as burning a scented candle, and 2.) the melts give off more of an aroma than candles, at least I think. For fall I went with Candlecopia's all natural, phtalate-free, soy wax tarts in the scent Pumpkin SoufflĂ© . Oh my gosh, read this description: "Mouthwatering notes of butter, sugar, and spices complete this irresistible bakery fragrance." NOTES OF BUTTER!!! Kind of perfect, wouldn't you say? It was amaaaazing. While I'll could never grow tired of something that smells like pumpkin and cinnamon, after two months straight, Noah and I were ready for a change. You know, transition from a fall scent to a winter scent. Aren't we sophisticated?

So, I poked around online for more naturally scented soy melts. Etsy has a bunch and you can also find them on Amazon. I chose this "Drizzle Melt" by Swan Creek in the scent Vanilla Pound Cake. Oh my goodness. THIS is the soy wax melt JACKPOT! I don't know, all I can say is that it smells like I'm baking sugar cookies 24/7 now. I know this isn't for everyone (I'm careful to turn my warmer off before Jon gets home), but if you like "baking smells," these melts are a dream come true. *swoon*!

Sitting in our warm, vanilla pound cake smelling kitchen, we continues with the snow day theme. Have you ever seen this Usborne book - Improve Your Survival Skills? Maybe you're like me and had a copy as a kid! I remember it being one of my favorite books. I loved all of the Usborne books actually. I'm a real non-fiction kind of gal. I enjoyed this one so much so, that I found a copy of it for Noah online.

And here was one of my favorite pages in the who book. I dreamt of making "snow shelters" with a sleeping bag, a little candle and an air hole in it. I made Noah review this page for our snowy day. Safety first! LOL.

We also had aspirations to make pine cone bird feeders this day. The kind that you dip in peanut butter and then roll in bird seed and hang from branches. We went out into the backyard, and I showed Noah a big pile of pine cones in the back corner. Jon had been tossing them here for months, in a small, fenced off area so that Josie wouldn't eat them. I filled an entire bucket with pine cones.

My Mother and Father-in-law gave Noah this book a year or two ago and I just fell in love from the moment we opened it. Isn't this adorable? "Cooking for the Birds: Recipes to Attract and Feed Backyard Birds." 

It gets even more cute. Using things like suet and peanut butter, seeds and dried fruit, you can even make your birds a "bird-day Cake!" Complete with a carrot candle and pumpkin seed flame.  

Or how about a banana split? How much fun would it be to watch birds eat a bird version of a banana split!!!?? (Thanks Mom and Dad. We love this book very much.)

So that's our snowy day in a nutshell. (Pun intended.) That evening we sat around as a family and played The Scrambled States Card Game.  This is a FANTASTIC and fun way to help your children learn the states and their capitals too. In fact, Noah gave this game, and I quote: "7,000 out of 10 stars!" I think that means that he reeeeeally likes it. Players take turn pulling cards with questions about states on them. The first person who has a state that matches the requirements and slaps their card down quickly, wins the round! It's lively and makes everyone laugh. I highly recommend. :)

(This is a picture from playing the other night. We just keep playing it!)

Finally, I'd like to end here with one of my favorite "homeschool gems" as I'd like to call them. Little tips. Do you remember how exciting it was when your teacher would hand out the Scholastic Books catalogues? And how OVER-THE-MOON excited you were when you'd find out one day that THE ORDERS HAD ARRIVED! Oh my gosh, I don't know about you, but for me, it was as great as having a birthday! Well, I have some awesome news for you homeschoolers! Did you know that Scholastic's Reading Club is also open to homeschools!  Yep! It's free to sign-up and within no time, you'll receive the catalogues of your choice in the mail. We already placed our first order conveniently online. In a week, our books arrived in a big, exciting box! Noah was thrilled. Hooray for reading, and Scholastic too! \(^-^)/

Until next time, once in a while, take time to go outside and play in the snow! :)


Anonymous said...

Read Nathan Hales's graphic novels about historical events ( author, not the patriot). They are entertaining as well as educational. Nathan Hale also has some things on you tube and the kids really enjoy the books.

Lauren said...

FANTASTIC!!!! Oh thank you so so much. That sounds right up Noah's alley. I will go search the library/online for them now. I love tips like these. Really appreciate it. xo