Sunday, June 28, 2009

Spiritual Sundays: Where I'm From

Have you ever stopped to think about where you're from? I'm not talking about the geographic location, though that can be important- I'm talking about the sights, the sounds, the smells, and the tastes of your childhood. These are the things that have made you who you are.

If you had a difficult childhood, these things might have been pushed back into your subconscious, and it may be hard to recall the good among the bad. You might even question whether it's worth exploring, but I assure you that it is.

If you had a happy childhood, then these memories are probably readily available to you- they may even be things you chat about with your family members on a regular basis, so you don't think to write them down. But I think you should.

Last week I attended a very uplifting Enrichment Meeting where we learned about writing our own, "Where I'm From" poem. As we got into the class, I leaned over and said to my friend that it should be called, "How to Write a Poem That Will Make People Cry," because I assure you, the tears began to flow and the goosebumps on the arms rose as we listened to the beautiful array of "Where I'm From" poems that were shared. 

Let me assure you, these were not poems from poets- rather, they were from ordinary women who just sat down to write following this template. Yet the power of the simple imagery and the effect of the descriptive words was enough to give you chills and put a lump in your throat. 

I wrote down several thoughts for my own "Where I'm From" poem, and today I sat down to write it. I will share just a few lines with you, because I hope to give this as a gift to members of my family, some of whom read my blog and I want to save the whole thing for them. Here is just a sampling:

Where I'm From

I am from the Morgans and Lees of Virginia. I am from the white-blossomed dogwood tree, the ruby red cardinal, and the quiet rushing of the Shenandoah River. I am from the horse farm, the house in the desert, and the “double-wide” on the mountain at the turn in the long dirt road.

I am from wood shavings and alfalfa hay, the creosote fence, the salt blocks in the field and the squeaky metal swingset. I am from the fallen willow, the daffodils by the stream, the gravel driveway, and the most loyal and sweet floppy-eared Doberman in the whole world. 

I am from cuddle bears, Legos, barbies, the marble chess set, the furry mustard-yellow bedspread, and mom’s cast bronze horse with the little chain reins that I wasn’t supposed to play with but always did...

Once I started, the ideas began to flow and it was hard to stop. The important thing is to try to pinpoint why these things are important or special to you and use words to describe those qualities. Was it the sounds of objects/people, their tastes, smells, or the feel of them? These are the things that will turn it from a list into a poem.

I would encourage each of you to take the time to explore where you're from and get it down on paper, whether the memories are painful or pleasant. In doing so, you will certainly gain a sense of self, and create a treasure that will bless you and your family for generations to come. For more about writing your own "Where I'm From" poem, check out this website.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Weather Week Continues....

With a rousing game of Weather Bingo!

I made up these little weather bingo cards for the kids, with pictures depicting various weather words. From left to right, top to bottom they are: temperature, rain, hot, wind, sun, tornado, thunderstorm, cold, clouds. This was Starlet's card, but for Monkey I made it a little harder by changing out "thunderstorm" for "pressure" (I drew two arrows pointing to each other). I made the cards different so that they wouldn't always be getting bingo at the same time.

I went over the cards with them to make sure they understood the pictures, then I gave them each a handful of pennies to use as markers and we tuned in to the Weather Channel. Every time they heard one of their weather words, they put a penny on the correct space. Monkey had fun helping Starlet do her card, and it was a great opportunity for them to work on their listening skills.

Whenever one of them got three in a row, vertically, horizontally, or diagonally, they said, "BINGO!" and I gave them a mini marshmallow. They each got bingo 5-6 times, and they loved it- they didn't want to stop playing! It was a lot of fun. :-)

Cuteness Alert!

Believe it or not, I was at DOLLAR TREE today and I found this way cute bag!! They had a bunch of them- for a DOLLAR! It has one main pocket and then two outer pockets (the patterned fabric). Okay, so I know it's not the greatest quality, but for a dollar- how can I resist? 

They had several other very trendy colors and patterns available as well, so go check it out! I have no idea what I'll use this bag for, but it's slightly bigger than my purse, is just the right size for diapers and wipes (or a good book if I have the chance to go to a doctor's appointment alone). It's just a good size. I'm sure I'll find some use for it. 

Just wanted to share! So cute!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Summer of Science Week 2: WEATHER!

Welcome to Week 2 of our Summer of Science where we are learning about WEATHER! Weather is my son's absolute favorite subject, especially tornadoes, so he is really excited about learning this week.

We did our library trip yesterday and picked up a lot of fun books and a couple dvds all about weather. We started off yesterday by reading a book of "Weather Words" by Gail Gibbons, and then I had the kids each draw a picture of their favorite weather word. 

Today we decided to use a neat book on fun weather experiments to start exploring. Our first experiment was very basic- I had the kids hold their hand in the shade, and then hold it in the sun and talk about what was different. We learned that the sun gives off heat. Then we set up our little sun plate to track the sun's movements across the sky during the afternoon:

We are marking the location of the stick's shadow (it's a skewer through a paper plate, by the way) every hour to see how it changes.

Next, we tried an experiment to see if air has weight. We got a ruler, tied a string in the middle, then added an air-filled balloon on one end and an empty balloon on the other end. We could see that the balloon filled with air was heavier than the empty balloon. Cool!

Also this week, I've had the kids keeping a "Weather Log" in their notebooks. Each day I have them draw a picture of what the weather is that day.

Our next experiment was very exciting, and had I not had my hands full I could have taken pictures of us doing it, but I wanted to be sure everyone was safe. We boiled a pot of water on the stove, and then I held a pan of ice cubes over it. The water vapor in the steam met the cold pan and caused condensation, which formed water droplets that "rained" back down into the pot. I explained to the kids that this is how the water cycle works- water on the earth gets heated by the sun and evaporates, turning into water vapor. The water vapor rises and meets the cold air high in the sky and condenses to form clouds. The clouds become heavy with water droplets and it begins to rain. 

I showed them some good diagrams in one of the books to illustrate it, and then for my son I drew the circles and the arrows and wrote the numbers on his page and had him draw pictures for each step of the water cycle in the circles. Then I wrote down the words, "lake", "cloud", and "rain" on a separate piece of paper next to the numbers 1, 2, and 3 and had him copy them into the correct places on his page. He did a great job and earned a sticker!

For Starlet I kept it a little simpler and asked her to draw a picture of her favorite part of the water cycle. Can you guess what it is?

Rain! She also got a sticker for her work. After all that experimenting, we took a break before quiet time to read a story called "Storm Cats" about two cats that meet when they get scared during a thunderstorm. Just a fun story that went right along with our theme.

Tomorrow and Friday we'll learn more about BAD weather!

Monday, June 22, 2009

New Promo Code!

Hey guys, this is a good one! Time to plan all those fun summer dates with your sweetie, or give yourself a night off from cooking and take the family out to eat! Weekly Promo Offer 300 x 250

Click through this link and use the promotional code DISH at checkout.


Friday, June 19, 2009

A Rockin' Fathers Day!

Well, since we were in a "rockin'" mode anyway this week, I thought, why not bring some rock fun into Father's Day? So I let each child choose 3 rocks from their rock collections to paint for each of their 3 grandpas. Each grandpa will get a little piece of foam with two rocks glued to it (one from each child) and the words, "Grandpa, we think you ROCK! Happy Fathers Day!" I will probably also write the kids names next to the rocks they painted.

Here is some of our rock painting fun (well, right after they painted the rocks and decided to paint pictures too):

And here's one more fun idea for Father's Day- we have lots of great brothers-in-law (the kids uncles) and we will be seeing many of them on Sunday. I wanted to do something for them, but keep it economical, so I found these giant Hershey Kisses at Big Lots for $2 apiece and I made these little cards to go along with them:

The poem at the bottom reads, "Hugs are nice, and high-fives are too, but on Fathers Day only a KISS will do!" I also wrote, "Happy Fathers Day" on the little 'flag' coming off the Hershey Kiss. 

Are you doing anything thrifty and fun for Fathers Day? Leave a comment and share!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

More Adventures with Rocks & Minerals...

It's my little geologist Starlet...magnified... :-)

This morning we met up with some friends for a playgroup at a local park, and so to continue our first week of Summer of Science on rocks and minerals, I decided we could use the opportunity to do a little rock hunting. I gave each child an egg carton and had them collect rocks they thought were interesting. Here is Monkey's collection:

We dropped by the store on the way home to pick up some magnifying glasses so that we could take a closer look at our specimens (as you saw Starlet modeling above) and then we went home and after lunch we opened our boxes to see what we had found.

According to this geology field guide, nearly every rock was some form of granite! Which I found ironic, considering how much it costs to get granite countertops...

I then had the kids pick a few of their favorite rocks and trace their outlines into their notebooks and then try to color them as accurately as possible, including the various colored specks. We talked about the colors and shapes of the rocks as we did it.

I had Monkey take this a step further by having him write the word "granite" next to his pictures, and we talked about how granite is an igneous rock, so he wanted to write "igneous" also. Oh, and I pointed out that the stuff in pencils is actually a kind of rock too, and I found a photo of graphite in the book to show them. They thought that was cool.

Here is his completed journal entry for the day:

It was a fun and simple activity for the day. I think later this afternoon we'll watch one of the dvds we got from the library, and maybe tomorrow we'll try some rock experiments...

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Welcome to Week 1 of Summer of Science: Rocks and Minerals!

I'm not sure if I mentioned this in an earlier post, but this summer I have decided to do a casual little homeschool project with my soon-to-be-kindergartener and preschooler that I have dubbed "Summer of Science." You see, my kids ask me questions nonstop, especially my son (the one starting kindergarten), especially about science and the world around us. So I have broken down the broad world of science into about 10-12 different topics to go along with each week of summer. 

I say "casual", because I'm not following any kind of curriculum, I'm just making things up as we go, utilizing internet and library resources to come up with fun exploratory activities for us to do. I'm trying to coordinate with things we do in the summer anyway, like going to the park, the children's museum, the beach, a local petting zoo, etc. and incorporating these activities as "field trips" for our various topics. Last week on our vacation we had the opportunity to tour Shenandoah Caverns and later do some "gem mining" at the resort, so I thought that studying rocks and minerals would be a natural choice for this week. Here's what we've done so far today!

Step 1: Start talking. We talked a little bit about how caves are formed before we toured the caverns, so Monkey and Starlet started thinking about it- we checked out a great kids' book from the library by Gail Gibbons called Caves and Caverns. (incidentally, Gail Gibbons writes fantastic kids' books on science topics of all kinds) 
Today while we were out running errands I started asking the kids questions, like pointing to the sidewalk and asking if they thought it was made of rock (one yes, one no). I asked them to come up with some of their own questions, like, "What is the hardest rock on earth? What about the softest?" I also pointed out pumice stones in the drugstore, and we talked about if rocks can float, and what rocks might be used for.

Step 2: Library! Before leaving the house this morning I had searched the library's online catalog for books and dvds on rocks and minerals. I took my list with me to the library and the kids helped me pick out several items for us to read and watch. Here's our haul:

Step 3: What do we know? What don't we know? When we got home, I sat with the kids while they were eating their lunch and went back to a few of the questions we'd talked about while we were out. Each one of them has their own "Summer of Science Journal", and I asked them what their questions and thoughts were on rocks and minerals and wrote them in each of their notebooks for them, so that later, after our "research", we could go back and fill in some answers.

Step 4: Learn! While the kids finished their lunches, I pulled out one of the books and read to them all about rocks and minerals. They got a little excited as we went along and some of their questions were answered in the book. Once we were done reading, we went back to their notebooks and I reviewed the questions we'd written down and they told me the answers they'd learned from the book we'd read, and I wrote them down as well.

Step 5: What did we learn? I needed some time to prepare for our next activity, so I gave the kids the assignment to draw a picture in their notebooks of one thing they'd learned from the book we'd read. Monkey drew a great picture of a diamond, since he thought it was cool that diamonds are the hardest rocks on earth. I wrote the word "diamond" on a separate piece of paper for him and had him copy it onto his picture (gotta keep those letter recognition and writing skills up during the summer!). Starlet drew a great picture of a mountain. 

Step 6: Have some fun. I thought it would be really fun to make our own rock candy, so I found a recipe for it here. Apparently it takes several days to several weeks to do, so we won't see results for awhile. But it was fun to get it started. I'll keep you updated as the process progresses! Here is where we are so far:

So that was Day 1- I'm hoping in the future to start with our library trips on Mondays so we have more time over the course of the week to do all this stuff. I was just trying to get caught up with all the post-vacation stuff earlier this week, so we got a late start. Tomorrow we'll be heading to the park to do some rock collecting- I'll keep you posted!

Are you homeschooling at all this summer? I'd love to hear about it- leave a comment and share!

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