Sunday, October 18, 2020

School Stuff and Other Learning Opportunities

 I absolutely LOVE homeschooling.  I feel like it is such a blessing year to have all three kids home!  One of my favorite parts about homeschooling is the flexibility to include outside learning opportunities, such as field trips and learning from the many amazing resources around us.  The kids are so engaged, we get to make so many cool connections with people, and we get to do it together!   Here are some examples of fun things we have gotten to learn, in addition to our "curriculum".

Learning From Those Around Us

While we have talked before that it would be nice to live in a neighborhood with a lot of kids, the silver lining is that we have a lot of older neighbors that have fascinating stories.  One of my goals this year was/is to connect with and learn from our neighbors, and then tie in writing assignments for the kids about what we learned.  Even my reluctant writers are so much more engaged when they are writing about what they learned from a person we have talked to, creating a book about their life, or writing a thank you note about what they enjoyed from our experience, especially when they get to include a picture!

Belgium, Adoption, and More

I think I mentioned in a previous post about our neighbor, Mr. James, who was adopted from Belgium when he was Summer's age.  In kid-friendly language he taught the kids a lot and brought along photo albums, his adoption and other papers and samples of the nuts he used to use to play games in the orphanage.  He talked about the experience of being adopted, the hardship of not speaking any English, and more.  We spent the next few days writing down and illustrating stories we learned and made Mr. James a book.  The kids were all very excited about making it, and I heard no complaining about needing to write!  I'll include a few of the pages they chose to make after hearing his stories.

Mr, James showed us his adoption papers, along with many other relics from his past.

Vietnam War, Japan, and More

The kids loved hearing stories from another neighbor, Mr. Ken.  Mr. Ken fought in the Vietnam War, as a result of the draft.  He spent a lot of time in Japan and learned a lot about Japanese culture.  The kids learned what it would have been like to go to school in Japan at that time, as well as seeing some characters the Japanese use to write.  All the kids were fascinated to learn that Mr. Ken was a part of a team that helped with "code breaking" communication from the enemy and were glued to his story about the times when Russian planes would "tail gate" Mr. Ken's plane with the goal of intimidation.  Mr. Ken brought along many pictures to share as well.  The day after meeting with Mr. Ken, we together ended up reading more about the Vietnam War as the kids had so many follow-up questions about that area of the world, why the war was fought, and why it was so "unpopular" with the American people.  Everything was more meaningful after talking to someone who had experienced both the draft and the war, as well as the reactions of Americans when he returned home.

Mr. Ken showed us pictures of him in his Navy uniform.

The kids also enjoyed making a book for Mr. Ken.....

Giving Mr. Ken his "book".

Gardening, Vegetables, and More

Our neighbor Mr. Louis has a giant garden!  He knows so much about planting and growing things!  He taught us so much about how he starts the seeds in March in a way to ensure they get the right amount of water (putting the seeds in cups with holes in the bottom and placing them in a pan of water), how he gives them just the right amount of light (moving the light as the plants grow), and how to safely transition a plant to the outdoors (putting them outside in the morning light but pulling them back in during the hot afternoon sun, to start).  He showed us different kinds of plants, how two plants cross pollinated, and how he ploughs his dirt.  

Physics, Construction, and More!

Grandpa and Grandma have been teaching the kids so much!  Grandma has been teaching them about Psalm 23 from a shepherd's perspective, and we have all learned a lot!  Grandpa and Grandma have both been working many hours building a tree house with/for the kids (the kids are SO excited!).  Grandpa used this as an opportunity to teach the kids many science lessons, such as which direction to place boards to give the most support along with how to use a tube with water to make boards on either side of a tree level.  The kids love learning from Grandma and Grandpa!

Learning how to use a tube with water (which will always settle level) to make boards on either side of the tree level.

Learning that boards can support more weight when placed in a certain way....

The kids tested the strength of  "popsicle stick boards" in both a parallel and perpendicular longwise position by placing quarters in a cup hung on the stick to see which bore more weight before the stick bent.  The direction of the stick shown in this picture was much stronger than the alternative.  They saw that this was how Grandpa designed the treehouse supports....

"Helping" Grandpa put the tree house supports in the direction that holds the most weight.

Grandma with a power tool!

Even with just a platform, the kids LOVE being up in the treehouse!  The made a pully out of a bucket and jumpropes to bring things to the top, and love playing and reading up there!  They have all three found creative ways to climb the tree to get up!

What a fun project!  Thank you Grandma and Grandpa for the belated Christmas present!!!!  Although COVID changed their ability on WHEN they built it, us homeschooling this year really proved to be the perfect time to complete it!

Art, the Grand Canyon, and More!

We have a special lady from our church, Ms. Polly, who loves art (she makes the VBS backdrops and more!) and loves to share her love of art with kids!  When a friend of mine (who is also homeschooling this year for the first time!) reached out to Polly to see if she would do art classes for her kids and mine, Polly agreed!  We were blown away by how much she taught our kids in the first session!  She recently returned from a trip to the Grand Canyon with a ministry that taught about the geology from a Christian perspective, and she brought pamphlets, books and a demonstration of the canyon's layers made out of food, to teach the kids about God's creation, the flood, and art.  She did a phenomenal job and the kids got to make "Canyons" out of pastels under her direction.  

Thank you Ms. Polly!

Animals, Apple Cider, and More!

One of our old neighbors, who have now since moved but whom we still love and stay in contact with, grew up on a farm in Buffalo.  Her parents still live there and have animals, make their own syrup, keep bees for honey, and more!  When I was thinking about a fun field trip idea, their names came to mind.  Mr. Virgil was so kind to host us for an afternoon at the farm, and the kids absolutely loved their time there!  They learned how to make Apple Cider on a 100 year old apple press, they harvested eggs from chickens, they fed horses and cows, they learned how bee keepers keep honey, and more!  Probably one of their all time favorite things was climbing up in the hayloft and swinging on the giant rope!  On our way to Buffalo, we stopped at Lake Rebecca Park Preserve, which had an amazing playground a beautiful hiking trails.

Colton asked me to take a picture of him wearing his "acorn hat" can hardly see the hat!

The kids had NO trouble finding things to write about the next day in school as they made thank you notes for Mr. Virgil, and it provided a natural lesson on how to address an envelope :)

Mr. Virgil, this may have been our favorite field trip yet!  Thank you!

Field Trips

We have found some fun places to "field trip" to on Fridays!  Most of them were 30-60+ minutes away, and we had never been to any of them!  

We visited Minnesota's Great Ball Run - the kids decorated wooden balls, hiked up into the woods, and raced balls down 400 feet of handmade ball "track".  It was amazing!  Colton especially was inspired to try making a ball track at home out of materials in his room!

We drove to Fawn-Doe-Rosa, an area where wildlife runs free and you can get up-close encounters with animals such as deer, geese, goats, rabbits and more and feed them.  They also got to see wolves, mountain lions, and many other wild animals.

We toured Gibbs Farm.  We had the most fantastic tour guide who made history come alive as he told the story of Jane Gibbs, who lived in this area around the time of Laura Ingall's Wilder.  It was amazing to see life during that era!

Jane had "four" families.  Her mother died when she was young (her first family), and she was put up for adoption (her second family).  She lived with the Dakota Indians for a while in her late teens/early adult years, and they became her third family.  Her fourth family was her own husband and children, and they settled on this plot.

This rocker bench was made by Mr. Gibbs for his wife, and she would put a wrapped baby in the side portion and then rock and sew or otherwise "multi-task" :)

This was the parlor where they would receive guests.  It was added on later.  Our tour guide told us fascinating stories about many items in each of these pictures - the kids were so engaged and asked so many questions!

"All tucked in tight" came from tightening the strings that held the mattress up.

Curling iron (stuck in the lamp) was how they used to curl their hair!

Family heirlooms made from human hair from their family members - UGH! :)

Center - how they would toast bread (it looks like a cheese grater).

Bathtub in the back corner - family baths once a month from oldest to youngest.  By the time they bathed baby, the water was black.  This was where the saying, "Don't throw out the baby with the bathwater" came from.

We learned how they used ashes from the fire to make soap, and how long it took to make butter.  Their life was seriously so full of hard work for the most basic of items!

We learned how in the winter they would cut off a large chunk of ice and keep it in the cellar with straw or sawdust on it, and it would stay frozen all year.  They would cut off chunks to keep in the ice box to keep things cold.

The school room was fascinating!  The young kids sat closest to the fire.  So fun to picture school in this room and learn what school was like!

There was also an area to learn more about the Dakota Indians, which was also very cool!

Service, Fundraising, and More

One outing we planned into our fall was a service opportunity.  The ministry of Sheridan Story (now called Every Meal) hits close to home with us, as it is a ministry that provides weekend meals to school age kids with food insecurity that live in our own community.  The younger kids and I used to deliver meals at their home school, Southview, when Summer was in kindergarten, where we would take the white bags of food and place the correct number next to each teacher's door.  The teachers would then discreetly place the bags of food in the kids' backpacks who didn't have enough food on the weekends.  Because this ministry is so close to home, and helps kids the same ages as our kids, it has proven to be a great way for our kids to think about someone other than themselves.  This year, Summer and Colton were both old enough to help pack meals (you must be 8+), so a friend and I signed up our kids for a volunteer slot (Grandma and Grandpa hung out with Larkyn!).  The kids decided they together wanted to raise money to pay for the meals they packed, and decided to do an art sale.  They saved up lots of art work, made fliers, went to Uncle Eric's work at Metro Sales to copy the fliers (thanks Uncle E for the free color copies!), spent a long time delivering fliers around the neighborhood and sharing their mission idea with all who opened the door, and then set up an art sale with all donations going directly to provide food for kids their own age with food insecurity.    Family, friends, neighbors (those we knew and didn't know), showed up SO generously to support the kiddos, and they ended up raising $952.75!  The kids excitedly took this money with them when they volunteered.  I was so impressed at the stamina, excitement, and great attitudes of the kids during the 3 hour volunteer shift!  They were dancing, singing, and non-stop working with great enthusiasm on the assembly line the entire time without a single word of complaint!  

Colton is holding up a picture of Larkyn in this photo to include her in the event!

Writing, Research, and More!

We have had so much fun learning from all of the people and places around us, but also at home!  I am loving the math curriculum and games, the way history is coming to life through Story of the World, the way the kids are getting such a rich understanding of our solar system in science, and are growing in spelling, Spanish, piano, and more.  One of the areas all three kids are especially enjoying right now is research.  They all three LOVE to read and they have really enjoyed picking things to learn about.  Currently Summer is researching Eleanor Roosevelt, learning how to take notes on notecards in her own words, while citing the source, and then forming those notes into an autobiographic narrative to act out to our "class".  Colton, who LOVES the Who Would Win series of books, is creating his own Who Would Win book for two animals he chose to research, wolves and bears.  He is currently almost done finding information on each of the animals to compare/contrast, and then will form his facts into a  "fight" narrative in book form to see "who would win" if a pack of wolves were pitted against a bear.  He plans to incorporate facts about each of the animals in his story as he develops it.  I am curious "who will win!"  Larkyn is our horse girl!  We found many books about horses at her reading level at the library, including a book about how to draw horses.  She has been busy drawing and making her own diagram of parts of a horse, and is doing really well at reading facts and then writing them in her own words to answer certain questions we created together before she started researching.  We will "edit" her rough draft soon, and she will write her research findings in her best handwriting this week.  

Larkyn, reading about horses in one book, finding words in the diagram on another book, and labeling them on her diagram that she drew.

Colton finding facts about wolves and bears to compare and contrast in his favorite research spot, the basement guest bed adjacent to our school room!

Summer finding many interesting facts about Eleanor Roosevelt, and making lots of "hot colored" notecards!

In Other News....

A few random things as I close out this post....

Colton finished out his soccer season and LOVED it.  He was so sad for it to end. 

Larkyn lost her two front teeth!

Auntie Kristin gave Larkyn her Samantha doll!  Summer (who has my Kirsten doll) and Larkyn were both ecstatic and have been LOVING playing dolls!

Cousins picking and eating raspberries at Auntie Kristin's house!  We love our cousin park playdates and are so grateful for this year of us schooling at home to be able to see our cousins more often!

I am so, so grateful for this year to be home - all 5 of us - Paul working from home, the kids schooling from home, and me teaching at home!  What a blessing year!


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