Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Fun with Ant Hills

Today in school we read Scholastic's The Magic School Bus Gets Ants In Its Pants- A Book about Ants. Bean enjoyed this book about Ms. Frizzle and her class shrinking down in their magic school bus to learn about ants and their jobs!

The back of book features a neat project for parents and kids to do together. Fortunately for us, and unfortunately for our poor yard, we have no shortage of ants around right now. Red ants in fact, which seem quite resistant to all treatment we have tried so far, but that is another story for another day. Red ants and all, no humans or ants were harmed by this experiment!

The project in the book called for filling several jar lids with different foods, specifically honey, salt, maple syrup, and flour. We had ran out of honey, so I substituted some brown sugar.

The instructions told us to place the lids in a circle about one yard from the anthill, and then to answer some questions. First we made some hypotheses about what we thought would happen, and answered the questions based on those. Then we went outside to observe!

The questions were as follows: 1) How long does it take the ants to find the food? 2) Which food or foods do the ants seem to like best? 3) What do you notice about the way the ants travel to the food? 4) How do you think the ants tell one another about food?

We sat and waited and in under a minute the ants had found the brown sugar.

We waited a little bit longer, and after about a minute the ants went for the flour.

The ants still had not gone near the salt or the maple syrup. The ant in the brown sugar must have notified the rest of his buddies because we now had a steady little stream of ants going to the brown sugar and carrying little pieces of it back to the hill.

After five minutes there were still no ants in the salt, or the maple syrup.

After our five minute time period was up we answered our questions and compared our hypotheses to the actual outcome. What we found was that we were mostly correct on the first question-ants would find the food in a minute or less. On the second question, Bean had thought they would find the maple syrup first, when it ended up being the brown sugar. For the third question Bean had guessed that a lot of ants would come to the jar lids. We noticed that for the most part it was one ant who found the food first and then more would show up. On the fourth question, Bean had guessed they would wiggle to tell the others. Clearly, they did have some communication which is why after the one left the hill, the rest came to start carrying the sugar back to the hill. Overall, we were surprised that they never came close to the maple syrup, and that they seemed interested in the flour.

It was a fun little experiment, and was very easy since it was just basic household staples. We learned some things about ants and were able to work on our very basic scientific method.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Field Trip to Kingsley Plantation

On Sunday we decided to take a family field trip to Kingsley Plantation on Fort George Island. The plantation includes a barn, main house, garden, slaves quarters, and dock area. I went to the National Parks website and was able to print Bean out a kid's map of the area, which also provided some brief information on each of the stops at the plantation. Additionally, the park website also had some activity sheets the kids can fill out during and after the trip.

Kingsley Plantation is named after Zephaniah Kingsley who purchased the plantation in 1814. Zephaniah's wife Anna managed the plantation. An interesting tidbit about Anna, was that Zephaniah bought her as a slave in 1806 when she was thirteen years old, and by 1811 he had married her, freed her from slavery, and had three children with her. Anna managed the plantation until somewhere in the 1830's when her and the children moved to Haiti because of the American discriminatory laws that were enacted when the United States took control of Florida that would threaten their family. She eventually returned to Florida, where she died in 1870.

Our first stop was the gardens where we learned about the major crops grown on the plantation, which were: Cotton, indigo, sugar cane, potatoes, and several others. We also came across this cute little gopher turtle.

Our next stop was the barn, where they kept cows and chickens. Additionally, they stored tools and some slaves worked and slept in the barn.

The barn was made out of tabby, which is a concrete made from oyster shells, sand and water. The look of it was really neat.

After the barn we headed down to the kitchen, which along with the main house, were unfortunately closed to the public.

The kitchen was connected to the main house which is where Zephaniah Kingsley and previously other plantation owners and their families lived. The home was actually built in 1798, which makes it the oldest plantation house that is still standing in the state of Florida!

The plantation is situated along the St. Johns River. The grounds are so beautiful here, I could have stayed here all day!!

On our way back from the dock, we saw a park ranger and she told us that the activity sheet Bean was filling out would actually allow her to become a junior park ranger when she completed it! We sat down on a bench to finish her worksheet and the ranger came back and looked over her sheet, asked her some questions, and had her recite their pledge "explore, learn, protect". Then she pinned a junior park ranger badge on Bean. She was so excited!

To top off our day of fun when we were leaving Ft. George Island, it is a pretty long narrow road with tons of beautiful mossy oak, hickory, and palm trees. Up ahead in the road we saw some big birds and when we got closer we realized that it was a group of peacocks, which is apparently referred to as a "muster"-who'da thunk it? I was so excited to see them I nearly screamed, and then another car was coming down the road so we had to hurry and drive on, but not before I caught a couple not so great pictures!

We had a great day and I am excited to go back, and explore the rest of our state parks!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Adventures in Ancient Egypt

This past week we learned all about Ancient Egypt. Using both Story of the World and Galloping the Globe as well as some other wonderful literature resources we really learned a great deal about this country and its rich history. I can definitely say I learned as much as my little one!

We started off with basic map work of the country and drawing the flag. From there we read a few great books I had picked up from the library.

Cleopatra by Diane Stanley was a great read. Although packed with a lot of information, it really kept Bean's interest up. There was a lot I did not know about Cleopatra, she was quite the woman. I love for Bean to learn about strong female historical characters! Girl power!

Another book we thoroughly enjoyed this week was Hatshepsut, First Female Pharaoh. Bean could not wait for us to read this. Lots of fascinating info in this book, and we split the reading into two days, and learned a great deal! I wouldn't call myself a history buff by any means, but apparently this first grade history might have me changing my ways!

After reading Hatshepsut, we decided we would make pharaoh collars. The book I had initially seen the idea for this is used felt for the collars, but we substituted yellow construction paper and that worked out just fine. I cut a template out of four pieces of construction paper, and let her decorate each one with die cuts and sequins. Once they were dry we pieced them together and let her try it on!

At the end of the week, we read a book called The Day of Ahmed's secret by Florence H. Parry. Bean enjoyed this book about a young Egyptian boy who surprised his family with his new ability to write his own name. Bean was fascinated that this little boy had a job and worked to support his family.

After we read this book, we decide to make a cartouche. I cut some construction paper out -a bit wonky because the hieroglyphics printed out a bit larger than I expected, and I didn't feel like trying to shrink them! I printed out a chart with the whole Egyptian alphabet from and then I found the individual hieroglyphics from this website:

I had already printed out the letters for her name, so we just went through the alphabet chart and then she picked out the appropriate letter and glued it on her cartouche.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Our First Grade Curriculum

After lots of going back and forth and pouring over websites and curriculum catalogs, I finally chose our first grade curriculum.

For the subject of Language Arts, I broke it down into Spelling, Writing, Reading, and Grammar.

Spelling- I plan on purchasing Spelling Workout B, until then we are using the Dolch Sight Words for First Grade. I have Bean copy and read the words on Monday, copy sentences I wrote with the spelling words in them on Tuesday, on Wednesday I make her a computer generated word search, on Thursday we copy and review the words, all in preparation for a spelling test on Friday!

Writing- We are using Writing with Ease. It seems a bit brief to me so far, but I see the value in it, and obviously we have only been using it for a week and a half so I will give it some time before formulating a real opinion!

Reading-Basically for everything we study during the week, I go ahead and reserve as many relevant books at the library a week beforehand. I make sure to get books that she can read independently, as well as books that I read aloud to her. Plus, Bean goes along with me and I let her pick out whatever books appeal to her for her reading time.

Grammar- Now for grammar, we are doing narrations on books we read per The Well Trained Mind. Combining these with using Writing With Ease-I think we should have a good grasp on grammar.

I am very excited about our choices for History and Geography.

I chose Story of the World Volume 1 for our History. There is a lot of talk about the pro's and con's of this series. I don't care about any of that. I find it very informative, Bean enjoys it when I read the text to her, and she retains an impressive amount of information for something you can't quite believe is interesting to a six year old! We also bought the activity book and it is a great help and time-saver. I love how it lists related this point all I can say is I am a fan!

Ever since I heard of Galloping the Globe, I have wanted to get it for this coming year. While it is not quite as extensive as I thought it would be (in hindsight my expectations may have been a bit over the top!). Similarly to The Story of the World, it has lots of resources listed for related literature, Bible Stories, etc. The activity CD, contains all the relevant PDF's. I am looking forward to the Christmas around the world section. A few countries have recipes included and others you can find in the cookbook they refer to in the book. We are trying to coordinate our countries in GTG with the countries we are studying in SOTW for extra emphasis. When we finish with this program I would like to get their Cantering the Country program.

We are taking a more eclectic approach to Math this year, which I guess does not differ greatly from our approach last year. We have tons of lessons and books I have received from my elementary teacher mother in law, as well as other random workbooks, and printables. My approach with Math is to follow our state standards, as well as the Core Knowledge Series, and beef that up as I see fit.

For science I am using an interest-led approach this year. Again, keeping in mind the state standards and the Core Knowledge Series advice, there are a ton of free curricula, printables, etc. out there for the taking. We studied a lot about plant life last year, and so far this year we have studied the human body. Bean will also be taking the monthly series of classes our local zoo offers, which will hopefully be a lot of fun for her!

We mix up some art and music in there, and there you have it! We shall see how this all works out for us!

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The Beginning...

We are a week into our journey of first grade. As this is our second year in the world of homeschooling, I feel pretty good being able to say I feel a bit more comfortable with things this year. While I still have tons to learn, and I realize that every new year will bring its own challenges, I am noticeably not as anxious as I was at this time last year.

Last year, if we got everything done on our list for the day I was in a mad rush to print out more worksheets, because we had to devote "x" amount of time to our studies. Don't get me wrong, last year we had plenty of creative free time, I am just a little more relaxed about things this year. I realize that the lines blur between me being a parent and an educator, and that ideally we are always learning-not only in "school" hours.

This brings me to my goal for homeschooling-instilling a love of learning in my daughter. So often, and I speak from experience, we are just learning to pass a test, to make the grade, etc. When learning is looked at as a chore, or something to just get us over the hurdle-we can't possibly see the joy in it.

Now, I realize all of this has something to do with my perspective as an adult, but I love learning now. My daughter and I will be reading a book together and already in first grade there is so much I am learning! Now, perhaps I lost a lot of information my brain didn't deem necessary to keep at the forefront of my brain over time, but I am almost certain we never learned half of what the bean and I are studying together!

Here's to a great year!