Saturday, September 25, 2010

Trip ... Day Five and Six

On our second to last day, we went back to Great Falls Park to go on the C&O Canal ride. I love historic reenactments, and this one was a favorite of mine as a child.  The Canal is run just the way it was during the 1800's. We went through a lock twice and the crew was in period dress.

They taught us how a lock opens and fills or drains. The captain even had a display that the kids could handle.

Preparing to open the lock.  The person doing this job needs good balance.

Did you know that it takes a female horse and a male donkey to make a mule?  It does not work the other way around and two mules can not reproduce.

Mules on the tow path.

Tom Sawyer got to blow the horn that calls out the lock keeper at the end of the ride.

On our last day, we attended the International Children's Festival at Wolf Trap National Park.  My Mother took me to this Festival every year when I was a child.  We saw several performances from all around the world.  However, the kids liked the musical instrument and petting zoo exhibits the best.

The musical instrument exhibit was hands-on, so the kids got to try out several different instruments, including  trombone, trumpet, violin, saxophone, and percussion instruments.

The kids also enjoyed working on a mosaic.

We had a wonderful trip and the kids got to experience lots of new things.



Washington, D.C. Trip ... Day Four

We started day four off by going to an international grocery store. This is one of the things I love about the Washington metro area.  There is so much diversity.  You do not have to go more than a few steps outside your front door to experience a different culture than your own.  When we went to the grocery store, can you believe I forgot the camera?! So, I can't share the crabs running around in the big metal table with the women catching them self-serve style or all of the strange live fish that you can buy for dinner. However, here are pictures of what I bought.

A large selection of different noodles (mostly gluten free). My Tom Sawyer will be in Heaven for a few weeks.

We tried the two new fruits I bought right away. They were cactus fruit and Korean Melon. We liked the melon fruit much better but both were sweet and tasty.

Little Red Ridinghood really liked the Korean Melon.  We will have to get that again someday.

We next went to George Mason University so we could show the kids where we (Mommy and Daddy) met. We drove them crazy with stories of here is where we ate breakfast; this was the spot of our first study group; we used to sit on this bench between classes ... you get the point.  Their eyes were a bit glazed over by the end of our memory tour. LOL

We finished off the afternoon with a quick walk in the rain around Great Falls Park and a visit to their Nature Center.

The day was completed with an evening of play at their cousins' home.  What a busy and fun day.  Just two more days to go ....



Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Trip Day Three ... Nature in the City

My outdoor kids were in need of a touch of nature and down-to-earth experiences by day three, so we headed off for Theodore Roosevelt Island.  This Island was one of my favorite places to go with my Father as a child.  Do you see a theme developing here?  Yes, I built this trip around what we would be studying this year and a few of my favorite childhood stomping grounds.  My Dad came up with this excursion.  This Island is a nice little escape from the hectic pace of the city.  However, you can not forget that the city is all around you, because even on the Island, the approaching planes are soaring above your head every 1 to 2 minutes.

If you have time, there is a two mile trail around the Island that takes you past lovely little wetland habitats.  We saw a Blue Heron and lots of butterflies.  Tom Sawyer also spotted several lizards.

I love this picture of my husband and daughter.

As you wind your way into the interior of the Island, you find a beautiful stone park and memorial to Theodore Roosevelt.

The basins behind Tom Sawyer were filled with water when I was a child. I am not sure if it is the country's budget woes or the drought that have them empty today.

We had a picnic lunch and a fantastic game of charades tag in the shadow of Theodore Roosevelt.  We then moved on to the National Aquarium.  This is a tiny aquarium that was a real dive when I was a child but was taken over by the Baltimore Aquarium a few years ago.  Boy, what an improvement!!  It is still really small but now very nice.

The little turtle rode on the big turtle's back for a long time.

We finished off this very busy day with a quick tour of the Old Post Office Tower.  This is a really nice alternative to going up in the National Monument.  There is almost never a wait; it is free; and if you have a child afraid of heights like we do, you can leave quickly.

You can see our Tom Sawyer is afraid of heights.  He lay in the fetal position while I ran around and took a few quick shots.

Then I took him down the stairs at his request instead of the elevator.  The open, see-through stairs scared him even more.  I knew he wasn't too thrilled with heights but was surprised at how scared he became in the tower.

The Capitol Building at the end of Constitution Avenue

I hope to have the last three days of our trip up over the next few days.



Trip Day Two ... The National Building Museum

Day two of our vacation found us at the National Building Museum. This is a really cool museum with gorgeous architecture throughout.  The building was originally the Civil War pensions offices.  It is modeled after two Roman palaces.  Our reason for visiting  this grand building was the Lego exhibit.  Anything Lego is at the top of my Tom Sawyer's must-do list!

The first part of the exhibit was filled with marvels in Lego construction.  The Lego artist had created many famous landmarks including Falling Water, the Sears Tower, the Capitol Building, and many others.

They were really amazing to see.  Tom Sawyer was thrilled with part one of the exhibit and then he saw part two....the kid building section!!!  A child's dream come true.  There were huge piles of Legos in every shape and color just waiting for us to create our very own masterpiece.  Each of us got busy creating our own building to put in the kid cityscape area.

Even Grandma and Grandpa got into it.

After a lovely lunch at The National Gallery of Art (NGA) and a shopping spree for homeschool art in the NGA book store with my Stepmother's employee discount, we walked through some of the galleries.  We found Leonardo da Vinci's Ginevra de' Benci. She was as beautiful as I remembered her as a child.

We finished off the day with a shopping spree for the children at a Lego store.  There are two of them in the Washington, D.C. area.  My pocketbook is relieved that there are none in our area.  However, using coupons, we got out of the store with very happy children and the budget still intact.  Luckily, my children know not to even consider looking at the big expensive Lego sets. LOL

This concludes day two.

Day three coming up....



Monday, September 20, 2010

Trip Day One ... Monticello

This past week we travelled to Washington, D.C., to see our family, as only my Mom lives near us.  On the way, we decided to stop at Thomas Jefferson's home.  It was a perfect, sunny day with gentle breezes.  We were given the homeschool discount, which was a significant savings.

The sun was in our eyes so the kids were not very photogenic in this picture.

The house tour was great.  Unfortunately, the children's tour was no longer being given since kids are supposed to have returned to school by this time of year ~ Gasp!  However, our tour guide did his best to keep our children engaged and pointed out interesting things to them.  After the tour, we walked through the gardens.  Thomas Jefferson loved farming almost as much as books, I think.  The gardens were lovely and producing all sorts of foods that I have never seen growing.

Did you see the garden house off in the distance in the last photo?  I wouldn't mind having one of those...LOL! I wouldn't mind the view either.  When we were standing inside the garden house, it was easy to imagine Thomas Jefferson thinking about his seed collection and eagerly anticipating the harvest.

Next, we went to the children's discovery room. What an excellent addition to Monticello. This room did not exist when I visited as a child. Everything was hands-on, and the kids were able to interact with many replicas of Thomas Jefferson's things.  In the bedroom corner, the kids got to write with a "polygraph" which makes an exact copy while you are writing a letter.

The girls spent some time in the log cabin. I believe this was slave quarters. I was not really paying attention, because I was too busy drooling over the large collection of Thomas Jefferson picture books.

What happens when you tell children that have been in the car for five hours that it is time to get back in the car for two more? They take a really pitiful picture with Thomas Jefferson....

More on our trip to be continued ...



Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Leonardo da Vinci Party

We had a small party to celebrate Leonardo da Vinci this past weekend.  It was a blast!  Leonardo loved to throw costume-themed parties when he was alive.  One of his favorite themes was the planets.  We decided to have a planet-themed party in his honor.  We all dressed up as our favorite planet.

From left to right~  Goldilocks came as Venus, Tom Sawyer as Pluto the God of the Underworld, I as Mother Earth, Lady our dog as a comet, and Little Red Ridinghood also as Venus.

From a sensory standpoint, Tom Sawyer could not take the face paint until group pictures because the paint itched too much.  Here is the full effect of his outfit. He is grimacing, and Grandma helped him take the paint off immediately after this photo.

Timothy came as Mars the Warrior God (far left) and my husband came as Uranus-First Father (in the far right).  We also had the pleasure of Grandma coming to the party.  She came as Jupiter, God of the Sky.

Leonardo da Vinci was a vegetarian, so we had a completely vegetarian dinner.  We had minestrone soup (his favorite), fruit salad, rolls, and homemade apple pie.  It was delicious.  During dinner, the kids told what they have learned about Leonardo so far and tested out some of Leonardo's favorite riddles on the family.

After dinner, we showed Grandma what projects the kids have done so far and then went outside to break a homemade piñata.  The pinata was a sun to complete our theme of the planets and reinforce that Leonardo was another early great thinker who realized that the Eart revolved around the Sun.  The piñata was filled with licorice (Leonardo's adopted son's favorite treat) and pennies.  I should have made the pinata thicker than two layers.  It broke with the second child, but we all had fun anyway.



Friday, September 10, 2010

Want to Know a Secret ...

A few posts ago, I said we would be spending the month of September on Leonardo da Vinci. That is true but a little deceiving.  I gave the impression that we would spread out our studies over the entire month.  Although we will be doing a little bit of Leonardo throughout the month, most of our goals will be completed by the end of this Saturday. Furthermore, we are technically on a school break this week and next. 

So why are we doing so much school during a school break?  For one thing, I think that 180 days of learning is ridiculous.  We learn every single day that we are alive. However, the government school system says we must educate our children for only 18o days. So, I record 180 days.

Secondly, taking a school break takes the pressure off of me to feel like I need to teach all of the subjects we do each day.  Seven subjects a day can be hard on the kids and myself if it is non-stop with our really busy schedule.  So, I schedule in recorded school breaks when I know life will be very busy.  But, instead of dropping everything, I  concentrate on one or two subjects.  I then record them on a sheet to be filled into my government recorded days at a later time.  In other words, when life  throws me curve balls (which it does a lot), I can go back to my list and pull some of my educational  lessons and fill in the blanks. An example would be...someone is throwing around a bad attitude, I have a cold, and three doctor appointments that day.  We are scheduled to homeschool, but how much good stuff is really going to happen? So I do the basics and then go back and pull from my list an art class and a science class or whatever I need and fill in the blanks.  Seven subjects are complete; the kids are happy they were not pushed too hard; and I am happy that I have another good recorded day, despite the chaos. If I have to tell the government that I only homeschooled for 180 days (preferably with a calendar similar to the school systems), then I might as well record the very best days while I am at it, right?!  Our family is just really into learning.  We take Sunday afternoon drives to interesting places like a fish hatchery, walking a labyrinth, or seeing an art show, or the kids might do a service project. Since most of our fun activities are also educational, they can be put onto the list to fill in some place falling short on a government recorded day.  For instance, last Sunday we visited a nearby state park to hike through an educational forest with "talking trees".  The trees talked about botany and what each kind is used for in industrial purposes.  This will easily fill in as a science project some day.

This is not to say that Leonardo da Vinci will be showing up in my school records for months to come.  I will plan on recording all of these current studies by the first week of October.  While we are on vacation in Washington, D.C., I will be recording everything educational that we do there as well.  The National Gallery of Art has a lovely DaVinci that I have enjoyed since childhood when I grew up in the area. We have studied this painting this month and now the kids will be able to appreciate it in person.  Why shouldn't I record awesome field trips like riding on the C & O Canal or touring the Building Museum just because they do not take place on our government recorded days?  That would be simply ridiculous...

Anyway, in answer to some who have asked how I do what I do, this is a peek into how.



Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Art of Drawing Things Apart ...

We are having so much fun with our study of Leonard da Vinci.  Today, we learned how to draw an object from it's complete form and then take it apart and draw each part of it. We took apart a video cassette.

First, I taught the children how to draw a 3D rectangle.   That was more of an undertaking than I expected it to be.  Then the kids did their drawings of the video cassette.

Next, they took all the screws out and opened the case up.  Above is a photo of Goldilocks using a small screwdriver to open the case. As they took each new part out, they drew pictures of each item. They became very excited when they got to the video tape.

Once we had drawn all the parts, I was done with the lesson.  However, my kids were just getting started.  Insert the rabbit trails that make homeschooling so great!  They wanted to know how far the video tape would stretch.  They had already separated the two rolls by cutting them apart, so we decided to just learn about long distance measuring with one of the rolls, approximately half of the total length of tape.  We took the roll outside to stretch it.  To our amazement, it stretched a distance of four houses in a city block 3 times!!!!  To work out the math, the kids measured one sidewalk square and then multiplied that by how many squares the tape covered, multiplied three times more for it stretching three times over the distance. Since we crossed over 4 driveways, we meaured those, multiplied that total by three, and added that figure to our total as well.  There was a grand total of 798 ft of that portion of video tape!

I was proud of them for figuring out this math problem on their own.

The children then used the video tape for projects. They cut some into streamers to dance with, used some for crafts, and even got entangled in it, laughing hysterically.  As I've wondered so often, why do we even buy toys anyway?



Friday, September 3, 2010

The Legend of The Indian Paintbrush ... FIAR

We rowed through The Legend of The Indian Paintbrush this week.  The kids really enjoyed this book and loved the activities we did around it.

We learned about pictographs and made up some of our own sentences using them.  We also built a Plains Indians village.  This was really fun and also an easy kit! The kids even painted a flat piece of cardboard for the scenery.  This set has already provided some great play time.  The kids have their own characters and are developing a story to go along with them.

We also made sunsets using crayons and then painting over them with watercolors.  Below is Little Red Ridinghood's sunset.

Our field trip with our FIAR group was to a great ceramics place called Fired Up!  We only had 8 kids this time.  The kids picked their ceramic pieces and then their colors.  Everyone really enjoyed painting them.  Tom Sawyer was proud of his work and maintained himself the whole time. Even though he still insists that he will be an artist when he's grown, sometimes art can be very stressful for him because he is such a perfectionist.

We had a great time as always.