Monday, October 12, 2015

Columbus Day And Donuts on a String (Real World Math)

If you're just waking up to realize today is Columbus Day, don't worry, BrainPop has you covered.  Their feature (meaning free) film for the day is on Christopher Columbus, and strikes a nice balance between celebrating the accomplishments of his discoveries, and discussing the controversies of his actions.

We celebrated the day with a donuts on a string challenge for breakfast...

...which has less to do with Columbus Day (or Canadian Thanksgiving - which we'll be celebrating later in the day with a Peanuts inspired popcorn and pretzel lunch) so much as knocking another fall tradition off our leaf list.

But, here's a real world math problem for you from our morning to yours:

Given eight foot monkey bars, and children from four to six feet tall...

...what is the average length of string needed, to loop through donuts and tie to the monkey bars... order to give each child a donut hanging at a challenging, but still reachable height... be eaten with no hands (given that the teenagers in the group will inevitably pull the donuts off and eat them by hand after the first few attempts at a bite)?

Happy Columbus Day!

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Playdough Lady and the Wordless Book - Sharing the Gospel with Preschoolers.

When my oldest children were preschoolers, we attended a largish church in Oregon.  They remember that church fondly, and some of their favorite memories revolve around the "Playdough Lady" - their name for their preschool Sunday school teacher, who set her classroom up with play dough for the early arrivals to play with, until it was time for Sunday school to start.

She would allow the children to free play, and always had a number of interesting cookie cutters or accessories.  As the children played, she listened, and sometimes talked, and generally got to know each of the little ones in her class, in a very special way.  They loved it.

It dawned on me the other day, as I was putting together the lesson for the week, that I could be our church's "Playdough Lady". Happily, the classroom I have, has been set up with play dough in mind, and has linoleum, instead of carpet, under the table.  The last church we were in was completely carpeted, and the janitor had posted "No PlayDoh" signs in every classroom.

Now, with freedom to play, I packed up several cans of dough as well as a few cookie cutters (from what I'm sure you know is a good sized collection) to take to class.  I tried to pick cutters that could lead us into review of the last few lessons - sheep for David, a small and large gingerbread man for David and Goliath, the bear that David had to protect the sheep from, and a few hearts as a lead in to our week's verse - God will always love me Psalm 107:1.

I had a hard time at first deciding on color choices, but I've worked it out now, and the colors I've chosen are not by accident, but rather follow the colors of the Wordless Book - a simple Gospel presentation for children...

...because as I've been thinking about teaching the preschool Sunday school class, I was reminded that it was a preschool Sunday school teacher who first told me I was headed to hell! 

Looking back I'm not sure if she was trying to share the good news of the Gospel with me, or just put the fear of God into me, so I'd sit still.  Either way, I headed straight home that day, very upset, to tell my mother what the teacher had said.  Mom explained, that it was true, not just for me, but for everyone.  We were all going to hell unless we asked Jesus to forgive us for our sins.

We used to talk more about hell, fire, and brimstone in church, than we do now, so it wasn't so much shocking, as it was enlightening.  Up to that point, all I'd heard about God in my three years of church going, was that He loved me - I had no idea I might not be acceptable as I was.  It was a relief to hear that no one could be good enough for God, and to find out that Jesus had already paid for my sins and all I had to do was admit I was a sinner - that I had done things I knew were wrong, and be forgiven. At least, that's how I understood it then.

As much as I'd like the children in my class to remember a teacher who listened, and talked to them, and had play dough to play with, what I really want them to remember is the truth of I Timothy 2: 3-6,

This is good and pleases God our Savior, for he longs for all to be saved and to understand this truth: That God is on one side and all the people on the other side, and Christ Jesus, himself man, is between them to bring them together,  by giving his life for all mankind.
This is the message that at the proper time God gave to the world. (TLB)

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Mystery Puzzles - Excercises in Reading Comprehension

We worked on a number of puzzles, together as a family, during Grandma's visit. 

Our favorites by far were a couple from the Bepuzzled Mystery Puzzle series (non-affiliate link).  They turned out not only to be challenging puzzles (the picture on the box is not what the puzzle actually looks like),
but also a great reading comprehension activity for the entire family.  Each puzzle comes with a short mystery story.  After reading the set-up for the mystery, you are instructed to stop reading, and put the puzzle together.

There is no picture guide for the puzzle, as the completed picture contains clues to help you solve the mystery.

However, as details from the story are represented in the puzzle, the story also contains clues to help in piecing together the puzzle.  The more attention you pay while reading the story, the easier it will be to put the puzzle together. 

Once the puzzle is complete, you can scan the picture for clues to solve the mystery (you might need to reread the story, at this point to refresh your mind to any forgotten details), before reading the solution (printed upside down and backwards) to the story to see if your guess is correct.

There are a number of different puzzles in the series - even one based on a Sherlock Holmes mystery with the complete story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle included (I couldn't have been more thrilled).

We found the 1000 piece puzzles were more suited to the teens, than the younger children in the family, but everyone enjoyed the stories.  In fact, we had almost as much fun reading the story together, as we did in putting the puzzles together, and solving the mystery through the clues in the puzzle. 

I really can't think of a better introduction to the mystery genre, especially for teen readers, and puzzle lovers in the family.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

David And Goliath - 5 Smooth Stones Snack Idea

This week in my preschool Sunday school class, we studied the story of David and Goliath.

Our story started with David helping his family by delivering bread and cheese to his brothers on the battlefield.  I had a few small loaves of bread and some spreadable cheese (out of the fridge) as a visual aid for the children.

This was not our snack, because as I suspected, the 3s and 4s thought the bread smelled funny, and the cheese looked icky.

So after we read the story, and played a game where we stacked up nine blocks (for Goliath's 9 feet), and then threw a smaller block at them, to knock them down (because it seemed like a natural thing to do), and then measured ourselves next to a nine foot measuring tape, and made craft stick puppets of our families (to compare with David and his brothers) as directed by the Lifeway Sunday school lesson...

...the children counted out a snack of five smooth grapes, and five wrinkly raisins each (with extras on hand for the hungry children), and we talked about the difference between smooth and wrinkly - and why David would have chosen five smooth stones instead of rough ones for his sling shot.

Then to finish off the lesson, we listened again to "Little David Play on Your Harp", while I traced silhouettes of the children out on a roll of paper, to cut and put up on the wall next to a 9 foot cut-out Goliath (which I hope to have hanging for review, next week).

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Fall Science - Leafy Insulation

The children had a fantastic time raking up a small pile of leaves...

...for playing...

...and jumping...

...and burying each other in.

While they were taking their respective turns in the leaves, they noticed it was very warm inside the pile.  So, never one to miss an opportunity for science, I ran in and grabbed a couple of thermometers for them to experiment with.

First, they left one thermometer on top of the pile of leaves, and buried the other in the leaves.

After about fifteen minutes, they checked both thermometers.  The temperature outside was about 69°F.  Inside the pile it was only 60°F.

The children thought that was because when they were inside the leaves, the leaves were holding in their body heat, but on their own, the leaves were not generating heat.  To test this, A (age 14) offered to let the younger sibs bury her again, but this time with one of the thermometers placed on top of her...

...with the other, again, on top of the leaf pile.

This time around, she didn't think it was as warm inside the pile - until we removed the leaves, and the cooler, outside air, hit her.  According to the thermometer, she had been wrapped in a toasty 80°F blanket of leaves...

...while the air outside remained a nice, but slightly chilly 69.

It turns out leaves work very nicely as insulation for keeping heat in, or out - depending on what you're going for.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Lunar Eclipse - What Makes a Blood Moon Red?

We realized there was a lunar eclipse going on, last night, in a very last second kind of way.  My mother mentioned, after a phone call with one of my siblings, that they had to get off to go and see the lunar eclipse. 

I did a quick computer search (we couldn't see the moon through our windows - as it was still very early in the evening), realized it was the super-moon eclipse, and the last of the tetrad of "blood moons", and the last total lunar eclipse until 2032 - clearly we didn't want to miss it

We threw the kids - some with shoes, and cameras in the van, and went out in search of the moon.  We found our neighbors gathered in a nearby park, which afforded a view of the moon rising.  It was great, because being more prepared than us, they had arrived while it was still light enough to set telescopes up on tripods, and were nice enough to share with the children (while we ran back for coats and the rest of the shoes).

G (age 16) was working with a newish camera in the growing dark, but managed to get three pictures she was happy with.  They don't capture all the craters we could see, but they do give a nice image of the shadow.

What makes a blood moon red?  The best explanation I could find was right in Google search.

Earth's shadow is red at the edges for the same reason a sunset is red: When sunlight is scattered by passing through Earth's atmosphere, the other colors of the spectrum are removed.

I think we'll be repeating the Blue Sky - Red Sunset experiment from Science is Fun, today.

It's great to be a homeschooler!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Owl Cookies - Another Fun Fall Family Tradition

We made a batch of adorable owl cookies, yesterday (click here for the recipe and instructions).

We make them every year as a family, and it's always a hoot.

This year, with Grandma visiting, and a busy day, we were a little discombobulated, and so were our owls.  Not only did I roll the dough backwards (chocolate maple on the inside instead of vanilla).  I see now from looking at the pictures, that we all placed our dough slices...

...upside down from normal, too.

Still, the cookies were yummy, and we enjoyed the tradition together... woo cares about a few mistakes.