Wood Works!

Our Destination Imagination team has been struggling with the technical difficulty of joining three 4’X8’  very HEAVY boards together into one unit and creating a platform on which the three boards can spin freely during their theatrical performance.  If you have been following the story you may remember that during their State competition the boards collapsed on the actors who then had to hold them up, with a smile, for the rest of the performance.  Now our team will be exhibiting their project in a local gallery.  This time the boards cannot fall down!

Frustrated with all their previous efforts, the boys are now getting serious.

They have borrowed a friends wood shop and are finally using the correct tools. (Previous efforts included trying to hot glue the boards into place!)

Math skills are actually useful!  Who knew?

Destination Imagination:  It is possible to learn a new skill and be successful!

And now for the real test.  Truth and Quantum have built a beautifully engineered base and top.  Will it fit the boards?  Will it be stable? Will it rotate?  Can the team actually put the whole thing together?  The anxiety level is high.

It works!  The boards are upright.  Quantum is afraid to .move.

Kimono of 1000 Cranes:  Dressed for Success!

Team I.C.E. (Imagine, Create, Empower) is ready for their first gallery opening, Kimono of 1000 Cranes.  It is very exciting to see all their wonderful backdrops and props on exhibit with other works of art.

Oh!  And don’t forget the famous Can-Can dancers!  They have a starring role as well.

Let Me Count the Days:  Homeschooling is watching your children start with a dream, struggle through successes and failures and finally share their dreams with the world.

“It’s My Cooking Day!”

Here, as everywhere, we have some very hungry kids.  They are learning to cook and they love it.  They love being able to choose the food, cook it themselves and then serve their “creation” to the family.  We find that when the kids choose the meal they are concerned about preparing something healthy and balanced.  They take responsibility for choosing foods that are both delicious and healthy.

Scooter is so excited today.  He screamed, “It’s my cooking day and I am cooking Chinese!”  He studied the Chinese New Year in nursery school, wore a dragon costume and practiced eating with chopsticks.  Since then he wants every meal to be Chinese.  I sliced the beef but Scooter marinated the beef and is stir frying it himself in the wok.  He also has rice boiling in a separate pot.

Cooking in a wok is the perfect choice for a young child.  It is safe, easy and allows the child to create a sophisticated meal for the family.  I bought the vegetables pre-sliced and chopped at the grocery store.  These are a little more expensive but enable Scooter to do all the “cooking” himself.

Scooter just needs to add the vegetables, one at a time, and stir.  He feels like the worlds best chef.

A beautiful family meal prepared by Scooter, age 5.

And yes, he loves his vegetables.

The competition is fierce and Bounce is eager to have his turn.  First words of the day, “It’s my cooking day today!”  He is making another kid-easy meal.  He is sautéing sliced chicken (pre-cut) in butter.  He will add all his own spices.  He is also cooking spinach cheese tortellini and corn-on-the-cob.  These are easy as all you need to do is boil water.  He will later add pesto sauce to the tortellini.  Delicious.

Bounce is particularly concerned about dessert.  He knows that a good dinner should include a great dessert and he is determined to bake and decorate his own cake.  He tries to keep it a surprise from his older brothers and sisters but they can smell the wonderful warm sugary smell of cake throughout the house.

Bounce’s dinner is a great success, and so is his cake!

Let Me Count the Days:  Homeschooling is teaching all of life’s skills and teaching the joy of serving others.

Word for Word: Scrabble Nationals

Happymess has just returned from the excitement of participating in this year’s Word Whirlwind, otherwise known as the National School Scrabble Championships (N.S.S.C.).

This year’s competition was held in Orlando, Florida.  Universal Studios provided a great background for Giant Ambitions.

Quantum joined a local library Scrabble club this year and discovered that he really enjoys both words and strategy.  After months of studying and extensive time playing, Quatum and his teammate are ready for the big time:  Scrabble Nationals.

Here they will meet their matches, literally.  Children grades 4-8 are arriving, Scrabble boards in tow, from all over the U.S. and Canada.  It will be two days of tension on the high seas of words.

Almost immediately, as the kids arrive, they unpack their boards and tiles and begin to play.  There are Scrabble games in the hallways, on the floor, in spare meeting rooms.  These kids love playing Scrabble.  School Scrabble is a team sport and the kids are eager to try their skills against one another.  There is a real sense of camaraderie amongst these verbose and competitive kids.

But finally, the real competition must begin.  Teams “square up” and check “distribution” to ensure that they have the correct number of every tile.  These kids keep careful track of each tile that is played and they are keenly aware of what tiles their opponents may hold on their “rack.”

The Number 1 ranked team starts off the day winning a $100 prize for a 104-point word:  ficklest.  Let the games begin.

Each team is allocated 25 total minutes of playing time.  Once the games begin there is almost totally silence.  Partners confer with one another through whispers and gestures.  They rely upon one another to find “bingos (8+ letter words) and to spot “phonies” (false words played by opponents).

The all-important leader board consumes the attention of team members.  As each team completes their round the placements are shifted.  Teams eagerly wait to see where they are placed, to view their “spread” (cumulative points won) and to determine the ranking of their next opponent.

The evening of Day One is spent at an ice cream party and, you guessed it, more games!  Word-crazy kids play a series of board games, but Scrabble continues to be the most popular.  In this more casual environment, kids pick their own partners and opponents.  It is an opportunity for the novice to challenge the leaders.

Famous Scrabble Masters are on hand to share their wisdom and love of the game. Joe Edley, author of Everything Scrabble, is closely watched by a group of Scrabble students.  He shares some secrets.  The School Scrabble Champions are eager to try to beat him.

Day Two brings many more rounds of Scrabble and the competition for the very top slot is getting fierce.  A single careless error can be costly.

Quantum and his teammate have finished their final game.  They are ranked number 20, with an impressive spread of +282.   After two days of Scrabble against some tough players they feel very satisfied.

Now it is time for the final round.  This game is played between the Number 1 and the Number 2 team to determine the final ranking.  The game will be played in a separate room but the play will be filmed and projected live in a special theater.

We all pile in eagerly to watch and to shout advice from our seats, which the actual players cannot hear.

The National Champions for 2012 are announced.  This team is a pair of 8th graders who won this same championship when they were in 5th grade!

This has been a great weekend and a pleasure to watch hundreds of kids for whom the WORD is still sacred.

Let Me Count the Days:  Homeschooling is discovering a new world of people committed to the love of words.

Good Friday: The Truth Will Set You Free

This Good Friday members of our congregation volunteered to make their own creations, Stations of the Cross.

As we follow this traditional path of Jesus’ last walk we remember not only His suffering but also the very human needs of those closest to us: our family members and our congregation.

Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped; but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant.

Bless all who, following in his steps, give themselves to the service of others.

We have seen him without beauty or majesty

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.

There followed after Jesus a great multitude of the people, and among them there were women who bewailed and lamented Him.

So clothe us in your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of You.

My eyes are spent with weeping; my soul is in tumult; my heart is poured out in grief.

Love flourishes only in the realm of freedom.  The perennial doctrine of free will has been under attack, particularly in the last twenty years.  Free will has been whittled down to a tiny fragment.  Nobody seems to believe they are free.  We don’t believe we have personal responsibility, that we are “able” to respond freshly and freely.  Thus we play the victim or look for whom to blame, anything so we don’t own our own freedom.  But Jesus on the Cross, neither plays the victim nor creates victims.  Now that’s free will!

Richard Rohr

Let me Count the Days:  Homeschooling is the freedom to allow our children to develop their own “gift of faith.”

Motivating the Student: Powering the Quest for Scientific Knowledge

Motivating young students to search for difficult answers to complex scientific questions can seem like an insurmountable challenge.  HappyMess is sharing a detailed synopsis of our Solar Energy curriculum because we really saw an evolution in the minds of our young scientific team, The SolarNauts.

HappyMess has spent 9 months guiding a diverse group of 7 students through the process of scientific inquiry.  After reviewing our incremental steps we noticed that our success was partially due to the process.  Our team used a truly multi-disciplinary approach to arrive at their final goal:  a comprehensive (grade appropriate) understanding of the fundamentals of energy, solar energy in particular.  The steps are listed here in order of execution.

Competition The SolarNauts, our Elementary Destination Imagination team, are competing in the Science Challenge, The Solar Stage.  These (young) students are learning to do their own scientific research and writing, no easy task.  They are struggling to grasp concepts such as renewable vs. non-renewable energy sources, composition of fossil fuels, creation of electricity and the existential nature of energy itself.

The competition focuses their energies, gives them specific goals and really motivates the students.  They need to work as a team, be creative, scientifically accurate and be able to demonstrate their knowledge through a theatrical production.  They are motivated because it is fun to work as a group and they want to win.  These two factors make them determined to do their very best each time they are together.

Library We began our research the old-fashioned way, at the library.  The SolarNauts chose books on energy, renewable energy sources and experiments with light and electricity.  We read these books both as a group and individually.

Unexpected Favorite Book: The Day-Glo Brothers, by Chris Barton. This fascinating picture book tells the story of the Switzer brothers who, through a combination of hard luck and tenacity, discovered the chemical formula needed to create Day-Glo paint, thus changing the color of our world and leaving an indelible color imprint on the 1960’s.  We really recommend this book.  It is totally relevant, educational and motivating.  The Day-Glo Brothers shows how science can be entertaining, fun and useful in so many diverse ways.  It will change the way you look at color as it demonstrates the chemical changes that occur through exposure to sunlight.

Engineering Our next step in the process of scientific exploration was to attempt to build a solar powered toy car.  This task proved to be too difficult (delicate wiring to be done by tiny hands) but along the way the team was able to see for themselves how a solar panel would generate power which could travel through the wires to a small engine.  The solar powered engine moved gears, thus turning the wheels of the car, and causing it to “drive” across the floor.

Art As part of our understanding of light and illumination The SolarNauts created luminaries to experiment with the way light is displayed through color and how an image changes when it is lit by background and foreground lighting, seen in the light and seen in the dark.  To create the luminaries we used black card stock.  The children left the card stock “whole” but cut designs out from within the card stock, thus creating a negative space design.  They then filled the cutouts with tissue paper collages.  When the room is darkened and the luminaries are lit from behind only the tissue paper images are visible, thus creating a stained glass effect.  The results are quite striking and the kids were pleased.

Puppetry We studied shadow puppets as part of our further inquiry into light and illumination.  In this area our very Favorite Book is William and the Magic Ring by Laura Robinson, published by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.  This is more than a book.  It is actually a spiral bound theater for your home.  The book describes itself as, “a shadow casting bedtime story.”  It comes complete with a flashlight.  Each page is a board that creates a shadow image on the wall of a darkened room.  The story tells the tale of a boy who is frightened by the shadows in his room only to discover later that they were made by ordinary parts of his bedroom.   We read this book, in the dark, repeatedly.  Then we got out our black paper and scissors and made our own shadow puppets.  It was a great lesson on light and dark and storytelling with a surprise ending.

Discussion Our team discussed solar energy.  The information was complicated and definitely required repeated exposure.   When we were together we read our science books aloud.  Each student had the opportunity to explain the reading to one another.  We studied energy from multiple angles and it was clear the students were still only slightly grasping the complicated topic.  We had a long way to go.

Internet What science project would be complete without Internet research?  We found multiple interactive websites on both solar energy and electricity.  Our two favorite solar energy websites were http://www.eia.gov/kids/energy.cfm?page=solar_home-basics and http://www.going-green-challenge.com/solar-energy-for-kids.html .

The electricity website we found most helpful was http://www.sciencekids.co.nz/gamesactivities/electricitycircuits.html .  This website allows students to build virtual electric circuits and turn lights off and on with the flip of a virtual switch.  The Internet proved to be a great resource for images of all sorts of solar powered vehicles and solar panels.  These images provided concrete pictures of both current and future solar technology and allowed our students to begin to visualize how the components of energy work together.  We were beginning to understand.

Power Point Presentation One of our (slightly older) team members created his own power point presentation to explain solar energy technology.  He then presented this information to the group, becoming a team teacher as well as a team member.  His confidence encouraged the other team members.  If he could learn it then so could they.  Our team returned to the Internet and began to excitedly find new images of solar technology and do further research on child-oriented science websites.  They were beginning to understand that the information existed and that they could find and understand it..

Interview One of our fathers has a career in the renewable energy sector and made himself available to discuss current solar technology. Our group came to understand the current limitations on use of solar power and solar panels.  They also were surprised to learn that their team “invention” of collecting photons in outer space and sending them to earth via solar energy beam was actually something that scientists are contemplating for the future!

Electric Circuitry One of our favorite tools for teaching about electricity and circuitry is the Snap Circuits set.  Bounce built countless small electronic devices from this set including a light, a doorbell and a little revolving helicopter that could spin and fly. This set really teaches the fundamentals of circuitry. You can follow the directions for building 100 projects or, as Bounce did, you can create your own projects once you understand the basics. Snap Circuits helped Bounce understand how the Electric Grid works.

Prototype Creation The SolarNauts designed the Beam Machine. This prototype of the future would be a working solar photon collecting station floating in outer space.  The Beam Machine would collect photons, convert them to thermal energy, then to electricity and ultimately send the electricity from the space station (Beam Machine) directly to earth’s electric grid via a high energy laser light beam.  They built their Beam Machine out of refrigerator boxes.  These boxes were covered with various recycled materials to create solar panels and photovoltaic cells.  Plastic water bottles turn water into steam, creating thermal energy.

Display Board At the center of the Beam Machine is a scientific display board. The team created this display board to demonstrate their understanding of current use of solar space technologies.  Many space stations currently collect photons to power their stations. Future technologies are anticipating the creation of “solar elevators” which will be able to transmit electricity from space to earth. The SolarNauts board highlights these ideas while also creating a clear portrayal of how their own design, the Beam Machine would work.  Team members later took this board to their respective schools and used it to teach other students about solar energy.

Field Trip No research project would be complete without a field trip. Our SolarNauts visited a local farm which is partially powered with solar energy. This farm uses solar panels to collect energy which is then converted to electricity. The farm typically creates about one third of its needed electricity. During the summer months the farm sometimes generates excess electricity.  Excess electricity is then sold to the electric company, through the electric grid.  The farm also uses solar power to create thermal energy to heat the solar hot water heater.

Eureka!  After months of studying, reading, discussing and building the kids finally understood!  They saw real solar panels, real electric panels, real thermal panels and they understood just how they all worked. The SolarNauts happily explained the science behind the hardware and the farmer was surprised by their knowledge.

This farm also creates its own biodiesel fuel from used vegetable oil.  The farmer gave a complete description of how he can power all his vehicles with old oil from restaurants’ French fry machines. The SolarNauts were very impressed that anything as disgusting as old vegetable oil could still be useful and good for the environment.

"I learned that chickens stink!"

 Of course, the best part of the trip was seeing all the animals.

 

Favorite Science Books After all our research and our many library books we finally stumbled upon our Favorite Energy Book, The Shocking Truth about Energy by Loreen Leedy.  If you read only one book on the subject it should be this one. The Shocking Truth about Energy is a captivating picture book that describes all the most salient scientific points in simple terms using appealing and educational illustrations. This small book told the whole story and reads like a bedtime story, not a book filled with “facts”.

Our second Favorite Science Book is Catch the Wind, Harness the Sun by Michael J. Caduto.  It gives simple explanations of complicated facts and is filled with surprising and simple experiments that will inspire your children.  Our favorite:  to better understand the impact of electricity in our modern world, Spend 24 Hours Without Using Electricity for Anything!  This is the type of simple experiment that has immediate meaning to children. Catch the Wind, Harness the Sun is filled with numerous, more complicated, but equally achievable experiments.  You and your students will certainly enjoy this book.

Writing Now it is time to put it all together. The competition actually calls for all this information to be put into the context of a theatrical presentation. That means writing a script. The SolarNauts divided this task with two members writing the script and a third member writing a theme song. Remaining members collaborated on an opening song to introduce the play and provide set up time. Writing the script required creatively integrating all the scientific knowledge while solving a fictional problem. We won’t tell you the whole plot here as we can’t reveal all our surprises while still competing, but the team managed to create a story which highlights the need for solar energy while also providing a solution to current solar energy inadequacies.

Mother Earth costumeTheater So now that the script is written and the team has learned all the words to the songs they are ready, almost.  SolarNauts now need to make their costumes, sets and props.  This is the fun part.  The team each made their own costumes, designing, gluing and examining themselves from every angle.  Everything they create must be done by themselves.  A component of this competition is that part of this play must be performed in the dark.  Yes, the dark.  The SolarNauts sprayed all the clothes with glow-in-the-dark paint so they would be visible in the dark. They covered lanterns with colored cellophane to create mood lighting. They used glow sticks and flashlights to illuminate their Beam Machine.  The youngest members of the team dressed in phosphorescent clothing and posed as “photons” while other orange-suited SolarNauts tried to “capture” them as an energy sources.  The play was ready to be performed.

Running down the road with the Beam Machine"We made it!"Teaching Our team never wants the final performance to be the dress rehearsal. With this in mind, rehearsing is a key component of the competition and performance process.  The SolarNauts received permission from the local nursery school to perform their play one time for each individual class.  After 6 performances, and many question and answer sessions The SolarNauts were set for the big time:  an evening parent performance to be followed by a pot-luck dinner party.  By this time The SolarNauts were confident in their performance and also articulate about their subject matter:  solar energy.

The 5 AM UHaul

State Competition The big day is finally here. But, are we worried?  Not a bit.  This team has researched, studied, learned, written, created, rehearsed and performed.  They re-glued a few broken props, did one trial run through of the performance and they were ready.  The stage was set and this time when the lights went off the team was truly in the DARK.  Their sets glowed, the flashlights illuminated the set and before we knew it the performance was flawlessly executed and the cast members were saying their final lines,  “We saved planet Earth just in TIME!”. Hooray!  Our goals are achieved.  The SolarNauts have really learned the material and are able to teach others!

SolarNauts discuss their Solution with AppraisersAnd The SolarNauts reached their goal! 

They are now this year’s State Champions!  Next stop Global Finals where they can compete with teams from around the world!

Let Me Count the Days:  Homeschooling is using as many different approaches as possible to allow our students to be inspired by their own education.

Team I.C.E. Wins First Place in Two DI Challenges and National History Day!

We had a busy but exciting weekend, with the Destination Imagination state tournament and the National History Day district competition both this Saturday.  My high school team, which competes in both competitions, split up into two factions and tackled their challenges.

Destination Imagination, a theater-based competition that stresses teamwork and problem solving, requires teams to choose from five annual “Challenges” or sets of rules they must adhere to while creating their skits.  Eager to push themselves even more, my high school team, Team I.C.E. (Imagine. Create. Empower.) took on two challenges for the 2011-12 season: a rare feat.  For each challenge they were required to present a skit and do a top-secret “Instant Challenge” that wasn’t revealed to them until just before they began.  Instant Challenges can range from building a tower to performing a skit—Shhhh, we can’t tell you what it was until after the competition season.

With two main Central Challenges and two Instant Challenges, the team had a lot to do at the tournament.  Their first challenge was “News to Me:” an improvisational challenge.  The team researched six articles in advance.  At the tournament, one of their articles was selected.  This article was “Hunger Games: Importance for our Generation.” (The team had gone to the midnight premiere and read all the books, so they were prepared.) Team I.C.E. was also presented with a headline for a news story they hadn’t researched: “Nice Wheels: Student Invents Motorized Couch.”  The challenge was to make up a story about how one news event caused the other to occur.  The team had four minutes to decide that the students invented the motorized couch to get to the Hunger Games, because they were too young to drive a car.

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But the challenge didn’t stop there.  Extra! Extra! This just in!  The team had an additional one minute after their four minute set up time to decide how to incorporate an unexpected “One Minute Glitch: OMG!”  Their glitch: all skit characters are on a reality TV show.  The team appropriately added drama, and a cameraman, to their skit.

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Time to perform!  And don’t forget that human scenery!

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A machine for analyzing news data

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A bike

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And a boat (with a built-in radio, of course, so the team could sing an original song.)

The judges were impressed with their teamwork, and Team I.C.E. did very well—and had a ton of fun.

After that, it was time for the team to present their prepared skit for their second challenge, “Coming Attractions.”  For this challenge, they had all season to create an original four-minute skit (with just one-minute set up time) in the style of a movie trailer, incorporating the cultures of two different nations, an original soundtrack and a special effect.  The team studied France and Japan, and incorporated the cultures by creating a giant pointillism painting (pointillism is a form of French art) and folding 1000 origami cranes (in keeping with the Japanese tradition that completing this task earns the folder one wish.)  Their skit also included “Can Can” dancers, made from cans, of course, a mime, a haiku performed in Japanese, and original songs.  The team used personification of abstract ideas to express how understanding other cultures conquers fear of them, and their special effect was a hot air balloon that lifted their hero, Willy Makeit, into the air.

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Their dress rehearsal…

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…and their performance for the judges.

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Uh oh! Their backdrop had some technical difficulties.  The team fixed the problem quickly and went on with their skit, scoring very highly regardless of the issue.

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Team I.C.E. won first place in both challenges, and will be advancing to the Global Finals in Knoxville Tennessee in May!  They have tons of work to do to polish up their skits and raise money for their trip, but they are really excited.

And what about National History Day?  The team earned first place for their website “All’s Faire in Laissez-Faire: The Industrial Revolution and Social Reform.”  The website addressed the annual topic: “Revolution, Reaction and Reform in History.”  In addition to preparing a website and doing tons of primary source research by visiting historians and private collections, they also had to document it in an extensive (ultimately 81 page long) annotated bibliography.  They will be advancing to states!

Here’s their website:

71553612.nhd.weebly.com

And a link to their “News to Me” improv performance:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fm4Q56APCuQ&feature=youtu.be

It was a great day overall.  Go team!

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Let Me Count the Days: Homeschooling is Learning Through Competition

Destination Imagination: Splatter Paint Pollock Comes Alive!

The modern artist is working with space and time, expressing his feelings rather than illustrating.

Jackson Pollock

 

Our Destination Imagination Senior Level team is alive and well.  They paint, glue, sing, create and compose.  This year they are faced with the seemingly impossible challenge of creating a 4-minute thriller introducing the audience to multiple cultures and leaving us all hanging on the edge of our seats, literally.

Think this looks innocent enough?  Look again.  Team I.C.E (Imagine, Create, Empower) is just getting started.

One thing they are sure they want to share with us is their love of spontaneity.  The disorder in our house is a true testament to this endeavor.

As a final memento to their Destination Imagination experience they have created a video that encapsulates their team experience.  And what better way to show their love for one another than to splatter paint everywhere?

If you are brave you may want to check out their I.C.E Productions Video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nsNKW9ybrVE

This group has really formed a very supportive team.   They have their ups and downs but they are learning to resolve conflicts, make compromises and share both the limelight and their various talents.

What better way to make friends than to struggle with an international challenge, study art, culture and language; laugh, create and perform while also learning complex construction techniques and unusual improvisational styles?

This Destination Imagination team has truly learned so much this year.

Please leave your paintbrushes outside, if possible.

Let Me Count the Days:  Homeschooling is not minding when your sink is multi-colored and so are your floors, walls, doors and clothes. 

Falling in Love…with Books

When the student is ready, the master appears. 
 – Buddhist Proverb

We have been reading to Bounce since birth.  He has chewed on books for breakfast, he has written on books at naptime, we have read countless stories at bedtime and finally, in Kindergarten he began to read them himself.  The process from beginning reader to, “I love this book and I can’t put it down until I have read every last word,” can take years.  During this time, like a sapling, the young reader must be constantly nourished and encouraged.

This school year, 3rd grade, I decided that my first priority for Bounce was learning to love reading.  If your student is a reader, with easy fluency, expansive vocabulary, and is endlessly enticed by the written word then, and only then, they can learn ANY subject.  Without the ability to read fluently, every subject is a struggle.

Bounce began the year as an adequate, steady but uninspired reader.  We took a multiple step approach.  My favorite way to develop early reading skills is through reading aloud.  When your child reads aloud you can really hear the words he/she knows and those they stumble over.  The child must also anticipate the story as they read so the inflection is correct.  Clear diction becomes necessary if others are to enjoy the story.

So how do we accomplish this in our busy household?  With the Greatest of Ease.

Bedtime on the top bunk Bounce is assigned to read all of Scooter’s bedtime stories, aloud, to Scooter.  Scooter and Bounce both love this system.  Scooter loves to pick out his favorite books and will happily choose 10 to 15 books for bedtime.  No self-possessed parent would be able to read 15 bedtime stories every night.  However, Bounce is happy to do all this reading.  The longer he reads, the longer they can both stay up.  The more books they read, the more time I have to get the rest of the family organized.  Everyone wins, Scooter learns to love stories and Bounce, well, he is just getting better and better at reading each night.

Don’t have a younger sibling handy? How about a neighbor or cousin?  Elementary school children can also read aloud at library programs designed for toddlers.  Ask your local librarian for suggestions.

Bounce and I also read You Read to Me, I Read to You books by, Mary Ann Hoberman.  These are perfect for developing readers as the words are slightly more complex but the rhyming couplets can help the reader “guess” difficult words.  These books are alternating read-alouds.  Parent and child can share the reading and enjoy the story together.

Meanwhile, I choose a more difficult book and read this aloud each night to Bounce.  The purpose of this book is to create interest in complex plot lines and encourage understanding of more sophisticated grammar and vocabulary.

This year we read Pinocchio:

https://homeschoolhappymess.com/2011/10/18/pinocchio-a-captivating-cautionary-tale-for-read-aloud-bedtime/

We have also read A Christmas Carol, unabridged, by Charles Dickens and Wind in the Willows, unabridged, by Kenneth Grahame.  I am NOT a fan of abridged books for children.  Abridged books discourage the later reading of the original book.

My suggestion:  If a child is not ready to read the original do NOT read a picture book version, do NOT read an abridged version and most definitely do NOT see the movie.

The child should have the joy of reading the real story when they are intellectually ready.  If they already know the plot of every story what will motivate them to struggle through a difficult text when they are older?

 Treasure Island is an excellent example.  The original version of this book, by Robert Louis Stevenson, uses challenging vocabulary and the story is presented in an unusual manner..  The story, however, about pirates and adventures at sea, is very exciting.  This is a book that is definitely worth the struggle.  The student who reads this book will be much better prepared to read other challenging material.

Surprisingly, another book that fits perfectly into this category is Winnie the Pooh, by A.A. Milne.  Many children have grown up watching the TV version of this book.  Few children have had the opportunity to enjoy the original.  This book, and the others written as sequels, utilize difficult vocabulary and is an excellent read-aloud book to encourage children to pay close attention to the story and to understand the meaning of words.

Another excellent series for developing word appreciation is Peter Rabbit, by Beatrix Potter.  Children are captivated by the darling illustrations, but even more important is the fact that these little tales are literary gems.  Each story has a defined plot, clear moral and an unapologetic use of formal English.

So where are we now?  Bounce has irrevocable fallen in love…with reading.  He reads day and night and has progressed from the Magic Tree House series, by Mary Pope Osborne, a great first “chapter book” series to Flat Stanley, by Jeff Brown, to Raold Dahl, the mainstay of the elementary school reading experience.  He has read Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Twits, James and the Giant Peach and George’s Marvelous Medicine.   Currently he is reading an all-time favorite, Matilda.

Bounce says, “My favorite books to read are books about reading (Matilda)”

What better statement could I hope for?  I am thinking that soon he may be ready for Inkheart, by Cornelia Funke.  This book is the ultimate children’s book about books.

For more on Learning to Love Literature by Happymess:

https://homeschoolhappymess.com/literature-art-is-the-looking-glass-through-which-we-see-our-lives/

Let Me Count the Days:  Homeschool is teaching a love of books by reading books that are worth loving.

Akeelah and The Bee: Inspired to Learn

Tonight we watched one of our all-time favorite “educational” family movies: Akeelah and The Bee.

This film features a young 11 year-old girl, Akeelah, who hails from a disadvantaged neighborhood.  Her verbal precociousness lands her, against her will, in a local spelling bee.

As she progresses in the spelling bee ranks she struggles with her relationships, her self-confidence and her natural ability versus vacillating determination.

“What do you see here, Akeelah?”

“I don’t know, uh, a really long word?”

“No, Akeelah. Within every long word is a series of short words.”

Through exposure, in this film, to an extraordinarily large range of complex words our Happymess students have been inspired to learn the Latin and Greek word roots and to really concentrate on the origin and variation within word groups.

This movie epitomizes the hard work that is required for success.  It clearly shows how difficulties can be overcome through belief in oneself and through community support.  Best of all, it inspires a love of learning and an appreciation for the importance of an excellent vocabulary.  This is truly a heart-warming family film.

From our family to yours:  this film is perfect for those mid-winter doldrums when you just need to relax and be re-inspired before tackling those remaining workbooks.

Let Me Count the Days:  Homeschooling is sharing a film that the whole family enjoys and counting it towards tomorrow’s lesson plan. 

Color My World with Sunshine

We are studying the earth, the placement of the continents and the energy sources necessary to power our lives on planet earth.

Bounce, and his friends, have created their own world powered by an outer space solar energy gathering machine entitled “The Beam Machine.”

We started our study of the earth and the continents by doing numerous jigsaw puzzles.  As Bounce spent time with each puzzle he was able to recognize the variations in geography, topography, climate and lifestyle customary for each region.

 Adventure Bear proved to be particularly adept at puzzle making.  We like this puzzle series by Ravensburger (Family Puzzle #13 464 9).  The box contains 4 puzzles of earth, each with varying number of pieces and each mapping a different element:  animals, peoples, vegetation and politics.  When combined they form a composite view of our world.

 Next Bounce created his own map of the world.  He studied various Atlases and found that the world can be diagrammed in multiple ways, each showing a different aspect of planet earth.   Here he is studying time zones.

 Making a Bounce-sized map of South America gave him the opportunity to study every contour as well as the mountain regions, political divisions and river systems.  We like the Rand McNally Schoolhouse Intermediate edition of the World Atlas.

 

What study of geography would be complete without creating our own version of the world?  We used an old round tablecloth (plenty of pre-existing stains) as the “globe.”  Bounce drew the continents and then painted the land and the sea.

The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists who are dedicated to justice, peace and brotherhood.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Let The Sun Shine In

Now that Bounce has the world in his hands, it is time for him to understand our energy resources.  After studying various fossils fuels and non-renewable energy sources, Bounce decided to concentrate on learning more about solar power.

Bounce created a poster board to illustrate current solar technology and also depict an alternative technology that could connect with current electric grids to enhance the use of solar power.

He included his luminaries to illuminate his life sized solar energy prototype.

Here is his world and electrified urban skyline powered by imaginary solar power technology, The Beam Machine.

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.

Nelson Mandela

Let Me Count the Days:  Homeschooling is imagining the impossible and building the dream in our minds and hearts.