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.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Psalm 23 - Preschool Sunday School

Our lesson in Sunday school, this week, was on David playing the harp for Saul, but really more about his time as a shepherd, playing the harp, writing songs/psalms, and focusing in specifically on Psalm 23.

We started out making craft stick and rubber-band harps (an idea from Toddler Sunday School Crafts) to play while we sang our Sunday school songs. 

I pre-glued the craft sticks, so the children just had to add rubber-bands, and decorate the sides with markers.  They don't make much noise, but they are fun to hold up next to your ear, and pluck away at while you sing "Little David Play on Your Harp".

As we talked about what a shepherd is and what he does, we played a game of "protect the sheep".  The children blew through straws to knock lions, wolves, and bears (gray, tan, and brown pom-poms) away from the sheep (white pom-poms), while trying to keep all the sheep together on the table.

Then we used some of the white pom-poms and bendy straws to decorate pictures the children drew of a shepherd.  I quickly wrote the beginning of Psalm 23 at the top of each page, and then we set them aside to dry...

...while we moved on to a snacktivity to help us better understand the Psalm.  First, each child made a sheep of their own (slightly modified from those at WHOSTHEFARRIS) using a jumbo marshmallow, a mini marshmallow, two pretzel sticks, and one mini pretzel.

We broke the pretzels in half (it's a good idea to have extra pretzel sticks on hand)... make 4 short legs to stick into the bottom of the marshmallow.  I let the children push the pretzels into the marshmallows on their own - and they really did a good job.

Then, we stood the sheep up, and pinched the fronts, to make a sticky part (having wet wipes ready, is a must)...

...that we kind of pushed the mini pretzels into, so they would hang down, like heads.

Then we tore the mini marshmallow in half, and used half to stick to the backside of the sheep for a tail...

...and the other half, torn in half again, for ears.

We placed our sheep on plates next to green pastures (green frosted graham crackers), and still waters - cups of water, that first we jiggled around to make waves, and then we held them steady, to still the water.  Of course, I poured too much water into one cup, so we could talk about cups "flowing over" - with more water than we need.

As we ate our high sugar snack (I would have loved to have come up with something healthier -these are other people's children, after all - but I was at a loss) we talked about how sheep like to eat green grass, and drink fresh water almost as much as we like frosting and marshmallows.  The Shepherd (Jesus) leads his sheep (us) to all the good things they (we) need. 

And when things do get frightening (like when the sheep were surrounded by lions, and bears, and wolves) the sheep know the Shepherd has his staff (like we had our straws) to keep the sheep (us) safe, and where they (we) belong.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Seeing Science With the Eyes of a Poet

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”
W.B. Yeats

 Our week has been filled with wonders - rainbows, dragonflies, and rabbits in the yard - just the sort of things that usually lead us into science studies and adventures.

However, our week started out with a visit from our favorite fall insects, wooly aphids (or fairy bugs as we like to call them).  Up close they're not much to look at, but zooming through the autumn air, quickly, with newly formed wings, moving from summer to wintering trees - they look like a snowstorm of fairies.

Watching the girls (and D) jump up from lunch to rush outside to catch a fairy bug or two, I couldn't help but think that sometimes it's nice to take our scientist caps off, and to think like poets.

Instead of labeling our photos, or searching out BBC-ish documentaries about our finds, for the rest of the week we tried to match what we saw to poetry.

So, for the dragonfly sunning himself on our sidewalk we read...

by Alfred Lord Tennyson

"Today I saw the dragon-fly
Come from the wells where he did lie.
An inner impulse rent the veil
Of his old husk: from head to tail
Came out clear plates of sapphire mail.
He dried his wings: like gauze they grew;
Thro' crofts and pastures wet with dew
A living flash of light he flew."

And, when the sun shifted just enough in the sky to wash our walls and entryway in morning rainbows, we found...

The Rainbow Never Tells Me
by Emily Dickinson

The rainbow never tells me
That gust and storm are by,
Yet is she more convincing
Than Philosophy.

My flowers turn from Forums --
Yet eloquent declare
What Cato couldn't prove me
Except the birds were here!

 And, for our fuzzy friend, nibbling the grass out front, while we couldn't find just the right poem, we found a poem by an author who, we are sure, would have loved our guest as much as we do.

We Have a Little Garden
by Beatrix Potter

We have a little garden,
A garden of our own,
And every day we water there
The seeds that we have sown.  

We love our little garden,
And tend it with such care,
You will not find a faded leaf
Or blighted blossom there.

Because sometimes to think like a scientist, you have to start out as a poet, don't you think?

“The pursuit of truth and beauty is a sphere of activity in which we are permitted to remain children all our lives.”
Albert Einstein

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Cinderella Review

I didn't go to see Disney's live action Cinderella when it was in the theaters.  The girls were mildly interested in seeing it, but all of the reviews we read made it out to be a very traditional retelling of the fairy tale. That sounded boring to me.

Now, after watching the movie on Instant View, I'm wondering if those original reviewers had even seen the film.

There are the expected elements - the prince, the ball, the pumpkin carriage.  And, there are a number of nods to Disney's animated classic - a cat named Lucifer, a mouse named Gus-gus, and a good deal of "bippity-boppity-boo" type magic, and even a little bit of singing (though it is, thankfully, not a musical)

But, there is also an added depth to the characters, fodder for good discussions about arranged marriages... 

King: I know you love the people, Kit. But I also know that your head’s been turned. You’ve only met her once, in the forest. Prince: And you’d have me marry someone I've only met once tonight.

 ...second marriages, and the difficulties of international and inter-familial relationships, with Buddhist underpinnings (to live is to suffer, but we must continue on with kindness and courage), all set against a very lovely rococo inspired background (the homeschool mom in me really loved that!)

In fact, we've been sifting through Google images of Watteau...

"The View"
...and Fragonard all day today...
"The Swing" match up against images from the movie (my younger girls love that the scene below takes place in a "secret garden", too).

All of us enjoyed the acting, cinematography, tone, music, and special effects of the movie.  This came as a big surprise to me, because as I mentioned, I really expected to be bored by the tired old, already done story.  Instead, I found myself wrapped up in a fresh, fun, and lively retelling.

What I absolutely love most about this version of the story though, is that we finally get some insight into the wicked step-mother.

Married for love, then widowed, she marries again for the sake of her daughters.  Unfortunately she finds the man she married is still very much in love with his late wife.  After over-hearing that he finds her and her daughters "trying", she is left alone, widowed again, with his beautiful, sweet, innocent daughter (who, he just happened to mention, takes after her mother), in a house filled with memories of her rival.  That's enough to make pretty much anyone a bit bitter, if not cruel - and she is still cruel, if in a slightly more sympathetic way.

All in all, I'd have to say I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the entire twinkly, flirtatious, infatuation-filled, but modernly grounded flight into fairy tales and fancy.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

I Samuel 15 Sunday School Snack - Torn Robes and a Kingdom Torn Away

I took over the preschool Sunday school class, at church, this month, and thought I'd start sharing from time to time some of the snacks, games or crafts that have really worked well with the class.

For instance, when telling the story of Saul's disobedience, and Samuel's message, that the kingdom would be taken from Saul, from I Samuel 15:

22 Samuel replied, “Has the Lord as much pleasure in your burnt offerings and sacrifices as in your obedience? Obedience is far better than sacrifice. He is much more interested in your listening to him than in your offering the fat of rams to him. 23 For rebellion is as bad as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as bad as worshiping idols. And now because you have rejected the word of Jehovah, he has rejected you from being king.”
24 “I have sinned,” Saul finally admitted. “Yes, I have disobeyed your instructions and the command of the Lord, for I was afraid of the people and did what they demanded. 25 Oh, please pardon my sin now and go with me to worship the Lord.”
26 But Samuel replied, “It’s no use! Since you have rejected the commandment of the Lord, he has rejected you from being the king of Israel.”
27 As Samuel turned to go, Saul grabbed at him to try to hold him back and tore his robe.
28 And Samuel said to him, “See? The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to a countryman of yours who is better than you are. 29 And he who is the glory of Israel is not lying, nor will he change his mind, for he is not a man!”

I found a fruit roll-up cut, with kitchen scissors, into the shape of a robe (or long shirt) worked very nicely for a visual aid, and snack.

I used one during the story, unrolling it while I was telling the story, and tearing it (as dramatically as possible) when I reached the part about Saul grabbing hold of Samuel's robe and tearing it - just as the kingdom would be torn from Saul's family.

Then, I passed out baggies with pre-cut, and re-rolled robes for the children to use to retell the story to me, as I helped them to unroll, and peel the fruit snacks from the paper, before they (also very dramatically) tore off pieces from the robes to eat.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Mini Fall Pinwheel Cakes

My mother's 84th birthday gave me a good excuse to try out a fall tea party idea (with the girls' help), that I had been thinking about since first seeing...

...the Duncan Hines "Perfect Size" cake mixes on our store's shelves.  The mixes come with their own disposable baking pan, and enough cake and frosting mix to make a small cake meant to serve 2 to 4 people (perfect tea party size).

We made 4 cakes in all - one vanilla with chocolate frosting, and three lemon.  Before we frosted the cakes though, we added a few drops of red and yellow food coloring to one of the lemon frosting mixes, and a whole lot of red to another, giving us brown, yellow, red (or a reddish pink), and orange frosted cakes.

We sliced each cake into eight small pieces...

...and then removed slices from each cake, piecing them back together on fresh plates, into pinwheel patterns.

We used a butter knife to gently slide the pieces together, before cleaning any stray frosting smears from the plates with a clean, damp rag...

...and we were all ready to celebrate a fall birthday with Grandma.

I was worried that cutting the cakes several hours ahead of serving, would cause them to dry out where the slices weren't pushed completely back together, but the little mixes are quite moist, and our pieced together cakes stayed fresh and nice even into the next day, when we finished off the leftovers.