Thursday, October 27, 2011

Service Project of the Day

We belong to a very small UU congregation which cannot afford to hire a cleaning service. So members take turns helping with cleaning efforts.

This morning we met up with another church member to give the place a good clean out. We dusted all the cobwebby corners, rescued about 30 spiders and 20 centipedes and gave them a new outdoor home, swept, mopped and scrubbed. The boys were very good workers.

Afterwards we stopped to have a fast food breakfast treat, which is very rare. The boys chose this instead of being paid $3 off the for-pay chore list.

I will encourage Thing One to write an article about it for the church newsletter, and hopefully we will help encourage other church members to come and pitch in as well.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Genie Unit Study

Thing One has been reading Dragonball Z books for a while now. After reading about the character Majinn Buu, he was interested to learn more about jinns (or djinn or genies). So I've been putting together a quick unit study.

The Arabian Nights retold by Neil Philip (I would suggest this for older children 10+, or preview it to see if it is appropriate for your family. It deals frankly with sex, violence and is written from a Muslim perspective.)
Arabian Nights: Three Tales retold by Deborah Nourse Lattimore (more friendly for younger children)
The Unce Upon a Time Map Book: Take a Tour of Six Enchanted Lands by B.G. Hennessy (includes a map of Aladdin's kingdom)
Grandmothers' Stories: Wise Woman Tales from Many Cultures retold by Burleigh Muten (includes a story about a Senegalese Djinn and a midwife)
The Tale of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves by Eric A. Kimmel
Be a Genie in Six Easy Steps by Linda Chapman and Steve Cole (this is a 326 page novel appropriate for older kids)
The Genie in the Book by Cindy Trumbore (118 page novel more appropriate for a read aloud)

Here is a very useful list of Aladdin movies on IMDb.
Scooby Doo and the Arabian Nights
There are also tons of versions of Arabian Nights and Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves available.

Mapwork of Muslim countries
Discussion of Islam, the Koran and what Muslims believe about jinn
After reading many stories about genies, I had Thing One compare and contrast descriptions and make drawings of what he imagines a genie to look like.
If you had three wishes, what would they be?

I think our most fun craft was Meringue Genies (borrowed this idea from

Ours turned out really cute! I halved the recipe. The recipe doesn't specify how much cream of tartar. I just put in a pinch. We used raisin eyes and red sugar sprinkles (because that is what we had in the pantry).

You could put together a fun notebooking or lapbooking project or even a poster. I am considering expanding this unit study to include Sinbad the Sailor as well.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Chemistry is Fun!

We have been having an awesome time with our new curriculum, Real Science 4 Kids: Chemistry Pre-Level 1.

I can't say enough good things about this curriculum. It is so easy to do, and so much fun! The text is well written, has colorful, engaging illustrations, and communicates complicated ideas well to young readers.

Some of the experiments require quite a bit of preparation but are well worth it.

Family Newsletter

We have started doing a monthly family newsletter. It includes short articles about what we are up to as a family, what we are doing in school, and gives the boys a way to publish their artwork and creative writing.

We mailed out our first issue at the end of September, and have received a wonderful response from our family and friends. The things love getting praise for their efforts, and the grandparents love having a brag sheet to share with their friends.

One of the most fun things about the newsletter is that Thing One is including a long story he wrote in serial form. We sent out chapter one in September's newsletter, he's already planning to send a "bonus chapter" in January because that is his birthday month. He is learning so much about how to use a word processing system on the computer, and also how to draft, edit and publish his writing.

We plan on inviting "guest columnists" to write articles for us as well. My uncle is a composer, and the boys want to learn about his creative process. I want to request stories and recipes for the holidays.

I hope this will be a way for our very spread out family and circle of friends to grow closer.

Service Project

We have started helping out our local food bank twice per month. We go by a local warehouse store and pick up any donations, and drop them off at the food bank. It is a simple task, loading and unloading, and it only takes an hour our of our morning, but we feel like we are really helping people. We all agree is it silly to have all that food go to waste.

I did a year of service in AmeriCorps after I finished my bachelor's degrees. It made a huge impact on my life to so much direct service. I want my kids to experience the challenges and the joys of community service.

Coincidentally, we read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl this week. (I wish I could plan my lessons so well and thoroughly, but sometimes I just rely on synchronicity and luck.) If, like me, you hadn't read this gem in 20 years, consider revisiting it. It discusses hunger and poverty in a very relatable way.

Ancient Greece Unit Study

With Thing One's interest in Percy Jackson, a study of ancient Greece seemed appropriate this fall. I put together a list of ideas for lessons, using several resources.

Usborne Book of Greek Myths
Story of the World Volume I, text and activity book
Kingfisher Book of the Ancient World
History Pockets Ancient Civilizations
Greek Mythology Activities

Some of my favorite ideas:
Use a compare/contrast chart to compare creation myths.
Go for a nature walk to look at the changing leaves, and talk about the story of Persephone.
Go for a spider hunt and talk about Arachne.
Read about Atlas, and discuss what an atlas is, find some at the library.
Plant narcissus bulbs and read the story of Narcissus.
Read about Daedalus and Icarus, and make candles.
Read about the chimera and make up your own mixed up animals.
Read about sirens and play with sound.
Read about Theseus and the minotaur, and go to a corn maze.
Learn about Greek architecture, and make a gingerbread parthenon.