Thursday, February 19, 2015

Unit Study-Rocks

People assume you must have a certain personality in order to successfully homeschool your kids. I myself felt nervous and wondered if I had the rigid backbone (I thought I needed) to keep everyone on task throughout our school day.

Sure, it takes some planning and organization, but the beauty of homeschool lies in the flexibilty, the surprises and the deeply discounted dinosaur fossil excavation activities at TJMaxx!! I'm constantly in awe at how our unit studies come together. I start with a few books from the library and opportunities arise. When we decided to study rocks, I did not know we'd be visiting the Mammoth Caves, we'd be discovering our own geodes and fossils and I certainly didn't plan on finding this $5 excavation kit!

One of the benefits of homeschooling is having a flexible schedule. My mom had some time off in February and since we weren't able to celebrate Christmas with them in Tennessee, she flew us out last week. Honestly, it was the perfect time for us to visit that particular area. We had two great field trips which matched up perfectly with our two unit studies!

After we got settled, we set off to tour the Mammoth Caves in Kentucky. I remember visiting the caves when I was a kid. The experience has stayed with me all these years and I was excited to show the boys. Our rock unit study began with volcanoes, mountain formations, and the 4 types of rock. We then moved into geodes and cave formations. This field trip was perfect!!

Seeing stalactites and stalagmites in person was a highlight for everyone. We learned about the fragility of limestone and mining and cave creatures. We even saw fossils stuck inside the cave walls.

After our cave field trip, the kids were inspired to look for geodes and fossils in the creek at my parents' house. We spent a warm February day wading through chilly creak water, discovering fish, crawdads and strange rocks.

We weren't sure what this little creature was, but he was fun to catch!

This fish wasn't afraid of us. We got so close, we could almost touch him! If you look beneath it and to the right a bit, you can see that some animal died in the creek and fossilized into the stone creek floor!! It was so cool to point this out to the kids!

Our rock and fossil collection, including our very own geode which we found in the creek and cracked open to find crystals! 

Time spent with cousins is time well spent.

Other activities:
Before finding our own geode in TN, I bought 12 geodes from Amazon to break open with friends. These were truly magnificent and well worth the $20.

We visited our rocky beaches.

We went hiking with friends to some rock caves.

We visited the Seattle Science Center to see the Pompeii Exhibit!

We built sand volcanoes with friends. Bury a plastic cup into the sand, put baking soda in the cup and pour red colored vinegar in to make it erupt! You can do this with snow or flour and water!

I baked dinosaurs and "fossils" into handmade stones. We buried them in the sand near the volcano and the kids excavated the area.

Rock recipe:2 Cups flour, 1 C salt, 1 C cheap coffee grounds and 1 C water. Mix together into a playdough consistency, form a ball around an animal, jewels or rocks (whatever you want to dig up!) and bake at 200* for 4 hours to dry them out. They are very strong!!

We made our own fossil imprints with shells, clay and plaster.

The Magic School Bus is on Netflix and has a few episodes about volcanoes and rocks. There are a few videos out there about Mt. Saint Helens, too including one from PBS NOVA channel. Additionally, we used these books for our springboard:

Rocks and Minerals by Tomecek
Caves by Ellen Labrecque
Mammoth Cave National Park by Ruth Radlauer
Volcano: The Erruption of Mt St Helens by Patricia Lauber
Eyewitness Volcanoes by Susanna Van Rose
Vacation Under the Volcano by Mary Pope Osborne

I created three discover boxes for this unit as well:
Kinetic sand and our rock collection
Red colored Kosher salt, a Toob of "fossils" (found at Michaels Craft Store) and some paint brushes
Regular Kosher salt with shells, sea glass and stones

You can have the kids make charts and graphs of what they find which is a great way to incorporate a math lesson!

There is SO much you could do with this unit study: rock candy, growing crystals, learning about ice, looking at sand under a microscope, baking clay necklaces and making jewelry. The question is, how much can you pack into a 2 month unit study??

When I told Dan that our next unit study was about rocks, I started laughing. It sounded so boring!! But let me tell you-we could easily continue this unit study another month or two. If you're new to homeschooling or you have young kids, pick a topic they're interested in, grab books from the library and see what happens. You'll be surprised at how you suddenly notice the resources that have always been there!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Robbins Homeschool Academy-A Full Day of Learning

Last year I was just getting started with homeschooling my children. My two goals: teach my 5 year old how to read and teach my 4 year old how to focus on one thing at a time for up to 40 minutes. I'm proud to say that it was a success, ha! This year has been a bit more academic as the boys showed more interest in things like biology, key historical people and math concepts. Still, I'm only schooling my 1st grader while my 4 year old mostly works through Montessori play.

This is what our usual homeschool routine looks like on any given day. Of course, the baby usually messes things up depending on her teeth or naps. We've been learning flexibility and to never actually schedule out your day, but rather, stick to a routine.

After breakfast, the boys are given their morning habit cards where they are reminded to 1. brush teeth, 2. get dressed, 3. put dirty clothes in the hamper and 4. make their bed. 

Once they complete their cards, they are to come straight down and begin their art lesson. Right now, each boy works in their own sketch book while copying or tracing certain drawing figures. It's very simple and the boys LOVE to draw so it's easiest to begin our day this way. We listen to music during art, I clean up from breakfast and get Ruthie settled and playing on her own.

After art, we move to the couch for reading time where we cover Bible, science, geography, history, poetry, French and Literature. We also add math books (like Life of Fred or Sir Cumference stories), or biographies on specific musicians or artists.

Depending on time and teething conditions, Ruthie may or may not join us for reading.

After reading time, we're back to the dining room table. Elijah works on phonics and writing (Explode the code-he will complete 2-3 pages a day) as well as math. We are currently using Math U See but are phasing into Singapore next month.

Lazarus does a little bit of writing practice (Dollar Store workbook-he just wants to be like his big brother!). The bulk of his work is hands on-sorting, counting, cutting, and lots of projects involving tape, ha!! Here, he is sorting tiny objects into the slots with the corresponding letter.

While the boys begin their table work, I get to cuddle Ruth and have a quiet moment for myself.

Following lunch, we do some science at the kitchen table. We've been doing a lot of chemistry lately, so this particular day, we stuck to our discover boxes. The boys dig for fossils and dinosaur bones.

They also dig for stones and we work together to identify them in our guide.

Afternoons are also great for hikes or trips to the beach. Now that Ruthie naps once a day, we have more time to be outdoors!

We bring our guides and journals with us. The boys always have questions I can't answer, ha! We also bring our nature journals and bird journal. I never know when they'll be inspired so I want to be ready.

Winter sunsets are super early so we always stay until the last drop of light is gone.

We're home just in time to scrub those dirty heads and eat a slow cooker dinner.

Wrestle Ruthie a little bit, just to make sure she's worn out and ready for bed.

Dan reads to the boys while I put Ruthie to bed. Currently, the boys are going through the Narnia series as well as the Old Testament (almost done with Exodus!).

As I look forward to next year, I know our routine will be different, especially with a busy toddler on our hands and a revolving door of foster children. I'm so thankful for the advice given to me by veteran homeschool moms-take it easy during the younger years. Explore, create, inspire and teach them to LOVE learning. Work on character traits and encourage your children to BE who they ARE (at that point in time-we know it's always changing, haha!).

{photos by Joy Prouty at Wildflowers Photography}