Tuesday, October 27, 2009

New Curriculum!

We started our new program yesterday and it was fantastic! Today was great too, except that I have almost no voice, so I couldn't do much reading aloud. Indy was so excited when the new books arrived and wanted to start that day. I had to put the Instructor's Guides together and get myself prepped first. We are still missing a few books, but have enough to do most of the daily assignments. Indy loved doing the map assignments and looking up all the places we've been (and it's a big list).
As I mentioned before, we're doing a program by Winter Promise. If you've never dealt with them, let me just tell you have have amazing customer service. They are the nicest, most helpful and friendly people you can imagine.
I really like the books that are included in our program (Oliver Twist, The Three Musketeers, Anne of Green Gables, Swiss Family Robinson and a host of others that I can't wait to read together) and there are sooooo many activities suggested in the IG that we are going to have a hard time choosing which to do. Our first "cultural gathering" is going to take place next week and is an English Tea and a celebration of Guy Fawkes night (which happens to be next week!). Indy is so excited. We're going to have some of his friends over (dressed up of course) and he's going to wear a tie (which he loves to do).
There are days (especially when I'm sick) that I think about how much easier things would be if I just sent him to regular school, but the days I get to watch him figure something out or get excited by something new he's learned, I remember again why I do this.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Field Trip to Saalburg

Last Friday Indy and I went with our local hs group on a field trip! This time we went up to Saalburg (about 10 minutes north of Frankfurt) to the reconstructed Roman fort. Kaiser Wilhelm II, when he wasn't ticking people off and starting wars, was very interested in the Roman history in Germany (and probably a few other countries) and had the fort reconstructed on the site of the original ruins. He did take a few liberties, though. The crenelations on the outer wall are too narrow for the Roman weapons, but Wilhelm thought they looked better slim, so slim they were built. The buildings that have been reconstructed are now used mostly to house artifacts found on the site. Just a little ways from the fort is the Roman Limes (LEE-mess) which was the northern border of the Roman Empire.

The entrance, with the Emperor Hadrian, who had the Limes and fort constructed. Apparently Hadrian really liked walls.

They have some interesting interactive things for people to do, like try on chain mail. I think it weighed about as much as Indy.

This was one of the highlights for Indy. It's an entire Roman Legion composed of Playmobil soldiers. Indy has quite a few Romans, but not quite a Legion.

The back gate.

This barracks room (the part behind the glass) housed 8 soldiers. Eight! See the bunk bed? Four on the top bunk, 4 on the bottom. Yikes!

To make the buildings look more "Roman" the army would cover the stone with limestone and whitewash, then use brown paint to make the brick lines. They did this to every building and the outer wall! They must have had a lot of time on their hands. You can see a small patch here on this building.

Here is an entire building done up to look "Roman."

Indy in the guest house outside the fort.

We had a lot of fun and learned a lot of interesting stuff about the Roman experience in Germany.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Change in Curriculum

One of the cool things about home schooling is that if something isn't working, you can change it. We started doing Sonlight Core 1 about 8 weeks ago and I was really, really hoping we'd love it, but it's just not a good fit for us. I was disappointed that it didn't work for us, but after much research (hours of scouring the internet), I decided we'd change from Sonlight to Winter Promise. We're going to use their Children of the World Theme with Language Arts 2, Horizon Math and the World Around Me Science. I'm hoping this will be a good fit for us. I'm going to continue with Story of the World 1 (which I had added to Sonlight) and see what happens. He likes SOTW and so do I. WP is a literature based curriculum, so we'll still be doing a lot reading together and he's excited about that.
Sonlight fortunately has a fantastic return policy, so now I just have to pack it all up, ship it back and wait for my refund.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Celebration and Field Trip 2

Oh dear. I had such good intentions of updating this blog more often and then, well, life went on. What has been going on? Well, school! The schools on post here started back on August 31 and Indy and I celebrated "not going to 'regular' school." We went to a local cafe and had HUGE strawberry milkshakes. What a lovely (and delicious) way to celebrate homeschooling.
A few weeks ago we got together with our local hs group and went on a field trip. And what a field trip it was! We first met up at the Mauer Rathaus (city hall) where they have a small museum devoted to finds in the area, including the jawbone of the Heidelberg Man (which we visited on our first field trip).

Indy outside the Rathaus


The X on the photo marks where they found the jawbone:

After we left the Rathaus we went to the site where they found many of the remains. You can't see where the jawbone was found (it's on the other side of the mountain), but many things were found on this side as well.

From there we drove up to Messel just south of Frankfurt to visit their museum and the famous fossil pit.

This is the fossil of a very small ancestor of the horse. They were only 10-20 inches from the ground to their shoulder. IIRC, 74 of them have been found in the fossil pit.

The weather was no cooperating, but we didn't let that stop us. Just as we left the ticket office of the pit, the bottom dropped out of the sky. I tried to take photos, but it was raining so hard the pictures were all blurry. This is the group at the gates of the pit:

The pit itself:

Indy in front of the pit:

Our guide showing some of the recently found fossils. She said they find birds, beetles and bats almost daily, and about 1 crocodile a month. It's a busy place!

He was really excited. I promise.

The guide handed everyone a piece of fossil and told them to take a really good look at it.

Then she told them it was fossilized poop. The kids were all grossed out.

It was a great trip and we had tons of fun and learned an awful lot.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

First week back and a field trip

Ah, school! We are officially back session and so far, so good. We are using Sonlight this year and we are enjoying it. I've had to do a lot of tweaking to it, but it's nice to have most stuff just laid out for me. I open the schedule book and off we go. Heaven! There is a lot of stuff included in this program, but I've already started supplementing it. This is a Christian curriculum, but I actually prefer not to include religion in our homeschool. Why did I choose Sonlight then? Well, the fact that it's literature based and comes with fantastic books is the main reason, but again, having the schedule laid out was a HUGE plus. The biggest disappointment with the program was that the first 17 weeks of language arts (reading done by Indy) was from the Bible. Indy was so not happy about this. He wanted to read all the other books that were included. He knows his Bible stories and really, really, really did not want to read nothing but the Bible (seriously, every day for 17 weeks!). I knew this would not instill a love of reading in him, which is what I'm really trying to do this year, so I ordered a bunch of basic readers from Amazon, took out one of the blank scheduling sheets Sonlight so thoughtfully provides and made up my own LA program. He's so happy with it. I did leave in some of the Bible stories for him to read because he should be well versed in certain stories (for cultural references if nothing else), but 17 weeks? No thank you.
I've also added a section on world religions (using The Usbourne Encyclopedia of World Religions) because I think it is important for him to know about more than just Christianity. He finds the concept of other religions really interesting. We're also supplementing a world cultures program (using Children Just Like Me). He loves CJLM. I find it funny because it was published in 1994 and the fashions are early 90's awesome.
We're currently reading Charlotte's Web for our read aloud and it is great. Story time is his favorite time of the day. We leave the school room to go cuddle up on the sofa and read. I know I'm going to cry though. Charlotte dies, people! She dies! Hope I didn't ruin that for you. ;)

On Friday we took a field trip downtown (I promised him a field trip for our first week) to the Kurpfalz Museum. The jawbone of the Heidelberg Man is there and as we're working on prehistoric stuff (well, not yet, but we will) I thought it would be fun. He loved it! Unfortunately they don't let you photograph inside the museum (boo!) so I couldn't take any cool shots inside.

Indy waiting at the bus stop for the number 29 to the Bizmarkplatz. He's very excited.

Here we are!

We stopped for lunch at a cafe first (priorities people!). Indy ordered a Margherita pizza (cheese and basil). Look how big that thing is!

I had 2 bites! Indy ate the whole thing!

Outside the museum in the courtyard.

After we saw all the cool stuff (and there is lots of cool stuff there, including artifacts from when HD was a Roman encampment), we went to the cafe that is in the courtyard for a little desert. Indy loved the fountain.

In addition to some postcards we bought to show what we'd seen (since I couldn't take pictures-bitter much?) he HAD to have the Emperor's ring. He wore it all day at the Roman Fest the next day and told everyone he was the ruler. He's so humble, my boy.

Something he liked more than the fountain and the ring:

By the time we headed home, it was about 5pm and the evening entertainers were coming out to make their money. This guys was awesome! The 'dancing' puppet cracked us up.

The musicians were really good, but the dancer was a bit loopy. She kind of scared me. Plus her dancing style totally didn't match the music. Whatever.

There were actually about 7 more entertainers out, but I decided not to take pictures of them all. If you take photos, you kind of have to give them money, and well, some just weren't that good.
All in all, it was a great field trip. We saw tons of cool stuff and it helped him to relate more to the stuff we've been reading about. Go field trips!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Egg-cano

It's funny how learning happens. Sometimes the funniest things can become a teachable moment and sometimes the funniest things can bring back something taught months earlier. Yesterday I was making Indy's breakfast and he was in the kitchen waiting impatiently watching. I was making him an egg and turkey bacon wrap (his favorite breakfast) when the steam building under his egg became too much and a small hole opened up to release it. Indy got CRAZY excited. Crazy, I tell you. He started telling me how it was just like what happens in the earth when a volcano explodes. He went on to explain about magma chambers, epicenters, shifting plates, vents, conduits and all manner of other things. We studied volcanoes in August of last year! I could not believe how much he remembered. I was so proud.
I would have taken a photo of what we termed the "Egg-cano" (it did look like a yellow volcano shooting steam) but Indy was hungry and impatient and I was afraid it might burn. And after the great taco shell fire of 2009 (taco shells can catch fire if they fall on the element, did you know that?) I didn't want to chance it.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Summer Break and still learning

Ah, summer break! No worksheets, no sight words, no lesson plans. Just relaxing, having fun and....learning? Wait, what? Yes, that's right, just because school is out, doesn't mean learning can't still happen. On our trip to Disney last week we went to The Land in EPCOT and road the boat ride through the garden where they grow most of the food they serve in the 2 restaurants they have (in the Land-there are obviously way more restaurants in EPCOT). At the end of the ride, tey tell you that if you'd like a guided walking tour of the gardens to check at the desk. Well, that just sounded interesting, so we decided to do it. I am so glad we did! It was really cool. They do all sorts of experimental growth, hydroponics, aeroponics (which I didn't even know existed), grafting, and other things I can barely remember. They're also working with NASA for experimental plants to be grown in space. It was all very Star Trek. :)

This is Harry, our very cool guide. I told him to smile for my blog and he was happy enough to do it. He's just graduated with a masters in botany and works primarily in the grafting garden (IIRC).

This is an herb garden. Very vertical. Great for small spaces. Also, there's no dirt in the containers. Just sand and nutrients.

Pepper "trees"

These pumpkins are grown from a single vine (looks like a tree). While they are young, they put these plastic cases over them, so they grow in the shape of Mickey! They also do this for the cucumbers so when they are sliced, you have perfect little mouse ears in your salad. Man, they think of everything!
This brussel sprout plant has never been in dirt. It gets rotated through this trough like thing (you can see the conveyer the background) that sprays water and nutrients on the roots as it passes through. Neat.
Indy got to feed the fish. I didn't tell him we would be eating the fish later. Yikes.

This is a tomato "tree" which was amazing. The tomatoes off of it were delicious too.

We had fun and learned so much! What a great summer learning experience. Indy didn't even know he was learning. Awesome.