Thursday, July 18, 2013

Nim's Island - how we did our first Unit Study in the middle of summer.

With four children between 10 and 3 y.o., homeschooling is beginning to be a challenge. I have 3 children reading at 3 different levels. I have a bookworm reading way over her grade level. A communicator at heart with a super memory that gets bored easily, my DD10 is constantly learning and needs to be challenged all the time. My only son is 7 y.o. Although he can read well, he is NOT the bookworm his sister is. He prefers lots of physical activities, computer games and interaction with people. DD5 is an independent learner. She is beginning to read and loves to cuddle and craft. So how does a mom teach 3 kids that are reading and one that thinks that can do everything everyone else is doing??

I decided to try a Unit Study to see how it goes. ( if you are wondering why the heck I am doing this in July. Well... we homeschool year round... we do mostly 2 hours of formal school a day, so we keep our learning on rolling rain or sun shining, holiday or work day! :) Anyway, back to the Unit Study. My plan is to read Nim's Island book, do lots of activities from vocabulary to science experiments; have the kids watch videos and do hands-on projects of cutting and paste to fixate the content and have them do independent research and learning on the web.

Hopefully it will go well... Here is how it actually went...

 July 01st 

We read Chapter 1 and worked on vocabulary according to Nim's Island Unit Study posted on Homeschool Share Website. As I read the chapter the kids colored Nim's Island Map that I printed out. I also using Half-a-Hundred Acre Wood's Lapbook and Unity Study files that she created for Nim's Island. If you are in doubt where to begin, I would download and begin with Brandy's lapbook. It's thorough and includes many activities for older and younger children.

DD10 did not enjoy looking up vocabulary in the dictionary. She does all her vocabulary learning intuitively and did not like this structured method. DS7 got tired of the cutting and paste quickly. DD5 got distracted many times. I am really working on her attention span and listening skills.

After we put our supplies up, we sat down and watched the following videos on the computer:  The Secret Life of Plankton video; Video Plankton Recorder (another video that shows how they record all the images/ videos of Plankton); Wild Kratts video on Up the Food Chain. The kids already knew a lot about Plankton so it was mostly review and lots of narration and presentation to Mom.

Because we had a playdate we had to stop here.

July 2nd 

Orally, we reviewed the characteristics of animals and how they are classified. This is new information to DD5 who is still learning how to distinguish between mammals, reptiles, birds, fishes and amphibians. We classified the animals introduced on Chapter 1. We then read Chapter 2.

As suggested on Nim's Island Unit Study, we talked about personification in literature and what it is.
 DD10 and DS7, on the computer, read and studied the different ocean zones and  Deep Sea Creatures on Sheppard Software Website . They read and learned more about Coral Reefs at Biomes of the World.

DD5 studied animal classification and played a few games on Sheppard Software Website. We all watched a video on Coral Reef. We also watched Reef Life of the Andaman. ( this movie is about the coral reef located on the Andaman Sea near Thailand and Myanmar). After 30 minutes, the girls were ready to go do some physical activity outside. DS7 kept on for another 15 minutes or so. It's long movie - it's over an hour and half long, but well worth the time. Would be a great movie to watch on a rainy afternoon.

Again we had to stop here because of another playdate, although the kids wanted me to keep reading. Maybe tomorrow, we will read chapter 3 and 4 before we do any other activity.

July 03rd 

We began doing an activity on Personification. Here is another set of worksheets for older children. And here is a great site to teach Figurative Language with worksheets, online quizzes, examples and more.

Grandpa and Grandma got to sit in for this reading and help the kids with their worksheets. After that I read chapters 3 and 4 to all. We answered questions and reviewed our knowledge on animals, volcanoes, rainforest and more. We talked about relationships over the internet and how unless you know someone personally you can't tell how the person really is.

We then moved to the computer and watched:
* How are Islands Formed? - such a cool collection of photos. This is a collection of photos of a couple yachting in the South Pacific and their witness to a new island being formed.

* How an earthquake caused a tsunami in Japan in 2011. Explanation of how earthquakes happen deep into the ocean floor. and then  Rare video on Japan Tsunami 2011 . My kids are very vocal... so they have to explain everything they are learning. The whole time we are watching a movie or listening to a speaker, they need to vocalize what their brains are absorbing or how they understood the information. It can be pretty hectic sometimes, when 2 or more are wanting to talk at the same time. I wonder what would happen in a classroom setting? We are working on taking turns, patiently waiting, listening more than talking and not interrupting. Did I tell you that parenting is hard?

Then it was time to go to the park.

July 08th 

After a long break due to the 4th of July holiday, we resumed again by recapping the previous chapters and reading chapters 5 and 6.

July 09th 

I had the children read and learn about different sea turtles and the marine iguana so we could compare and contrast them. A couple years ago I purchase from our library a second hand set of the Wildlife Explorer. Someone had collected and filed these cards into 6 huge binders. They are like an encyclopedia about animals, their habits and behaviors. There are beautiful pictures and lots of great facts. Something I would have never bought or collected, but for $10.00 I figured it would be a great resource for our homeschooling library. So out came 3 cards for 3 different sea turtles that live in waters were Nim's Island could potentially be. Also out came the card for the marine iguana. From what I read in the book and the fact card, this is the only iguana that fits Fred's profile.

We then used the Graphic Organizer website to print Compare and Contrast Worksheets, as well as a Venn Diagram. We used the Venn Diagram to compare the Green Turtle and the Leatherback Turtle. We never got to the compare and contrast worksheet. Hoping to use this one tomorrow to compare iguanas and turtles. This should be fun!

I read Chapters 7 and 8 and then we watched a video of baby turtles hatching and racing to sea. Begin at the 8min mark of the video. Here is another short video of just 3 minutes of more turtles going to sea. Another great video of a Leatherback Turtle going back to sea after laying eggs in South Africa caught by a family at the beach.

We talked about adrenaline and how it interferes with us feeling pain. I need to look up a video that explains more about adrenaline and how it affects our bodies.

July 10th 

We began by watching a video on Food Chain on BrainPop. I printed out some worksheets out of this lesson plan to teach The Food Chain at elementary level. I printed these for DD5 and DD3 since the subject is already old for DS7 and DD10. While the little ones worked on the worksheets, the 2 older ones watched a couple of videos on Adrenaline: Fight or Flight response. Another helpful video from Bozeman website explaining what happens internally in our body. They also watched how your brain suppresses pain. (this last one is very graphic. Please preview before showing to small children.)

I read Chapters 9, 10, 11 and 12.

July 11th 

We began by writing down the similarities and differences between Selkie (the seal) and Fred (the iguana). We used the contrast and compare sheet I had printed out to do that. We reviewed the differences between animals and all their uniqueness.

I read Chapters 13 and 14. Then we began working on matching the vocabulary and it's definitions and gluing them all and our drawings to a poster board. Instead of doing lapbooks I like to do ONE big poster board so I can hang it up in the kitchen and the kids can appreciate all their hard work as well as showcase it to whoever comes by to visit us.

July 12th 

We talked about similes and metaphors and found them in the book. I finished reading the last chapters and we watched the movie. We had already seen it a half dozen times before reading the book, but now it was different as we compared it to the book and discussed why sometimes a producer/ writer or movie maker chooses to adapt or change the story when turning a book into a movie.

We ate popcorn, ice cream and snuggled.

All in all, it was a great Unit Study. I think I will definetly try to incorporate a Unit Study like this once a month. It's a lot of work but it's fun for the kids. There is a lot of hands on projects and the poster board completed showcasing their work is always a plus.

Sorry I didn't take more pictures. We were so busy learning and enjoying ourselves that I forgot to take more photos.

Additional links that we did not have time to use:

Rainforest from Dynamic2Moms

Liberty Hill House Unit Study Posts -

The Educator Guide for Nim's Island

Dynamic 2 MOms Unit Study on the Rainforest -

I hope this post was useful and please comment if you have questions or enjoyed something in particular.

More coming this month:  A garden update and a mixed media journaling class that I am hosting at our Public Library. So stay tuned!


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Learning Log of June 2013

Wild blackberries in our front yard.
June was another crazy month. 
We didn't do any math, although I wanted to.
 I didn't enroll the kids in any extra activities like summer camps, but it felt like I did. I decided to try some Unit Studies with the kids and they have been intense. Besides those couple hours a day of "school", they went to Vacation Bible School, had a lot of playdates at our pool and read books.
 I am so tired. 
I remind myself often that I get to rest 
when I get to Heaven!.
I hope you find something useful and interesting.
We are at the moment doing an Unit Study on Nim's Island. I am recording each day hoping to be able to put a post up with lots of resources and links.
 Pray for me! hahahahaha

 Books Read Aloud to All

* Read by DD10 to her siblings: Meerkat Mail by Emily Gravett; Buglette the Messy Sleeper by Bethanie Deeney Murguia;
* Read by DS7 to his sisters: Nightime Ninja by Barbara DaCosta; Pluto visits Earth! by Steve Metzger;
Our poster display of our Unit Study on Africa.

* Mary Slessor  - Forward Into Calabar by Janet and Geoff Benge - Christian Heroes Then and Now - I love this series. As we read this book we created a poster about it as the result of a Unit Study. We covered the Geography of Africa, History, Medicine, Culture and Bible. We watched a couple of videos on Malaria.

I purchased Around the World in 180 Days by Sherrie Payne - Although I am not following it to a T, I am using it as a guide and reading books and trying to do Unit Study with the children. So far so good! We began our journey in Africa. We covered West Africa when we read Mary Slessor and then East Africa when we read about Salva Dut. Hoping to return to learn more about the rest of Africa.

* Hunwick's Egg by Mem Fox
* Wilma Unlimited by Kathleen Krull - we followed up with a video about her on YouTube. Check out the video section.
* The King's Drum and other African Stories by Harold Courlander - these are stories from Africa. We read this to supplement on more cultural information on Nigeria, the country Mary Slessor was missioning at.
* Quilt Alphabet by Lesa Cline-Ransome
* Never Take a Pig to Lunch and other  Poems about the Fun of Eating selected by Nadine Bernard WEstcott
* Marvelous Math - a book of Poems selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins
* Lucky Jake by Sharon Hart Addy
* The Treasure Map #1 - Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson 
* Curious George and Friends - Favorite Stories by Margret & H.A. Rey
A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Parker -  Based on the life of Salva Dut and the struggles of people in Sudan, this book tells the story of one of the Lost Boys of Sudan and the people there who struggle to get water everyday. At times, the book's content was heavy for the heart of little children. Use discretion when deciding if this is the right read aloud for your family. We watched a video of Salva Talking to Children about Water in South Sudan.

Is there anything better than reading on Mom's bed?
Audio Books

* The kids have been listening to  worship music, Jonathan Park and Little House on the Prairie CDs.

DS7 independent reading list:
DS7 did a lot of swimming. Reading, not so much.

*The Duckling Gets a Cookie!? by Mo Willems
* C D B! by William Steig

This month was a struggle to get DS7 to read more... I know he read other stuff but he almost refuses to let me know what he read, if he read. :( Ugh! Breakthrough: I found out that he prefers books about real people instead of made up characters. I got to find some biography books proper for kids. Any suggestions?

DD10 independent reading list:

* Encyclopedia Brown - Boy Detective by Donald J. Sobol
* Enccyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Secret Pitch by Donald J. Sobol 
* Encyclopedia Brown and the Cause of the Mysterious Handprints by D.J. Sobol
* Encyclopedia Brown Sets the Pace by D.J. Sobol
* Encyclopedia Brown Gets His Man by D.J. Sobol
* Encyclopedia Brown Lends a Hand by D.J. Sobol
* Encyclopedia Brown Carries On by D.J. Sobol
* Encyclopedia Brown Tracks Them Down by Donald J. Sobol

* United Tweets of America - 50 STate Birds by Hudson Talbott
* Ghosts of the White House by Cheryl Harness
* How do you get a horse out of the Bathtub - profound answers to preposterous questions by Louis Phillips
Flying Side Kick competition. DD10 mean kick!

* The Dragon's Eye by Dugald A. Steer- Dragonology Chronicles - volume 1
* The Dragon Diary by Dugald A. Steer - Dragonology Chronicles - Volume 2
* The Dragon's Apprentice by Dugald A. Steer - Dragonology Chronicles - volume 3

Did you know you can make omelets in a rice cooker?
* The Vanishings -  Left Behind series - book #1
* Second Chance - Left Behind Series - book #2

* Nory Ryan's Song by Patricia Reilly Giff
* Meerkat Mail by Emily Gravett
* The Pot of Wisdom - Ananse Stories by Adwoa Badoe
* How do you get a Horse Out of the Bathtub? by Louis Phillips
* Sundiata - Lion King of Mali by David Wisniewski
* When Jaguars Ate the Moon by Maria Cristina Brusca
* Funny Frank by Dick King-Smith - DS7 won this book at one of our Summer Reading Programs at our library. Of course DD10 grabbed it quickly and devoured it. It's a cute book... I might have to read it aloud to the little ones. :)

* Life of Fred books - DD10 finished the last 2 books I bought: Cats and Dogs. Now she wants the rest!

Activities at Home

My homegrown tomatoes!
*One morning we found a finch inside one of our bathrooms. How in the world did he get in? We have no clue. But the whole situation was another proof of how gifted my DD10 is with animals. She did not flinch and entered the bathroom with a light towel and captured the bird. Then she brought it out in her hands and let it free outside. Cool and collected. Amazing! In her own words, "I am an animal rescuer!" :)

* No Singapore Math, no Logic of English, no Phonics, no ClickNKids. No formal school! Am I freaking out yet?? Trying hard to relax. :) Just reading books, watching videos, doing hands on projects and creating a unit study based on the books we are reading. It's been fun but intense! (Did I forget to tell you that we "school" year round? Just in different ways according to season.)

* Swimming, lots of swimming! Playdates and pool parties. We had an uncle come visiting and we spent the whole weekend grilling, swimming and having fun! The kids even put up a show one night with dancing, banners and lots of tumbling and karate tricks.

* DD5 and DD10 have been sewing up a storm. We had some relatives from Brazil visit and DD10 made a stuffed mouse and a wallet out of felt to give as gifts.

* The little girls (5 and 3 y.o.) helped me finish painting the wood slabs for our metal benches.

* Taking care of chickens. They are growing by leaps and bounds and the kids love to chase them around and catch them and hold them to death. The poor chickens! :)

* Helping in the kitchen; grilling outdoors; cleaning house; organizing the garage; watching tv, playing games on the computer, painting fingernails, doing hair, and so much more.

Enjoying the pool with friends!

Field Trips/ Activities Outside Home

* Karate classes and pool party promoted by the Karate School at our local Water Park. 
Painting, painting and painting!

* Tumbling Classes.

* Summer Reading Program at our local Public Library - We had Animal Tales, The McWane Science Museum, a storyteller and the local theater performers come visit. We also learned about coal mining and the machinery used to extract the coal.

* Trips to the park to play tennis and explore.

* Shopping at Walmart with Grandparents.

*Vacation Bible School at a friend's church.

Websites/ Links we found and used/ Apps

Playing wolves using the tent as their den.
* Graphic Organizers - Now that I have 4 children between ages 3 and 10 y.o. I am trying to incorporate more Unit Studies/ Notebooking activities that we can all do together in one sitting. I have 2 children that read and write and 2 youngest ones who love to draw and color. So I found this website that provides all these graphic organizers that can be used by the children to communicate what they learned from the book I read to them, or they read by themselves. Check it out!

* Science Resources - graphic organizers for scientific themes, glossary studies, games and other resources.

* The Blog Post that I am hoping to use with DD10 to help her finally understand multiples, factors and primes. There are also online games as well as the printable board games.

* More Math help at HelpingWithMath.Com - prime and composite numbers, multiplication table charts and more.

Enjoying family time!

TV shows/ Videos/ Movies/ YouTube

* Courageous - we watched this before a couple of times, but rented it again from Netflix to watch
Our performers!
with Grandma. We love the sense of humor of the movie. I highly recommend this movie and all the others from these producers.

* The Three Investigators in The Secret of Skeleton Island

* Tangled

* MErlin - The BBC TV series. Seasons 1, 2, 3 and 4. I found the DVDs for SEason 1 at our library and after reading a few reviews decided to watch them with the kids. Although it's full of magic and sorcery, there is a clear distinction between good and evil and very clear moral lessons. The good thing is it's NOT scary. So far no se*ual innuendos or too many romantic encounters until you get to Season 2. It's very addicting and the kids can't wait to watch the next episode. We are having Merlin marathons some days.They are enjoying relating the show to the real story and legend.

* Videos of Wilma Rudolph on YouTube

Watching Salsa videos... learning Spanish!
* Oh, Noah! videos on PBS that teach Spanish. Also through Walking by the Way post about how to learn Spanish I found the Salsa videos.  DD3, DD5 and DS7 sat down and watched these with me. Great videos if you are wanting to teach your kids Spanish.

* Jackie Chan Adventures on Netflix again!

* Wreck It Ralph - If you are a gamer  you might enjoy this movie, but my DH and I fell asleep. The kids enjoyed it. The review said this was better than The Toy Story 3. I don't think so.

Animal Tales at our library again.

 Mom's Eclectic Reading List

Is there anything better than ice cream in the summertime?
* Wondering how to foster some good writing in your kid?? Then read this SERIES on How to Become a Writing mentor to your child.

* Do Hard things by  Harris brothers.- If you got a teenager at home, I highly recommend you and your child to read this book. I think this book can be highly motivational to a young adult looking for his/ her place in the world. I was so challenged when I was young and I think it really directed my life. It taught me to never give up and try hard things.

* What a Son needs from his Mom by Cheri Fuller - I am not done yet, but so far I am enjoying this book. I learned new information about how to relate to my son. It's a fine line between guiding your son and letting him exercise his independence. I am really enjoying the section of how to pray for my son.

* Fertility, Cycles and Nutrition by Marilyn M. Shannon - if you have any womanly issues this is the book to read. I highly recommend it. Check out the reviews.
What have you been up to?? How is your summer coming along?

DD3 drawing beautiful butterflies for Grandpa!