Monday, March 6, 2017

Around the World: Mexico and Southwestern U.S.

 Do you know the best way to improve your homeschool without spending any money on new curriculum or special lessons or classes? Make friends. Do things together. Ask them for help when you need it. Enjoy the benefits. 
This month alone, we've celebrated Valentine's day with two different families, had a tour of the local natural history museum, participated in our co-op science class, and taken part in a STEM activity organized by a university research scientist/ homeschool dad. I'm so grateful for my friends.
When I was planning our row of The Gullywasher by Joyce Rossi, which is set in the southwestern United States or Mexico, I remembered that my friend Laura's grandparents were of Mexican heritage. So I asked her if she would share with us about Mexico and the Mexican-American community in Texas.

She and her family threw us a regular fiesta starting with Mexican hot chocolate and Empanadas de Camote. Laura remembered eating these empanadas with a sweet pumpkin filling every time she visited her grandparents in Texas. There was one bakery that made the best empanadas around. They were so yummy!
 Then for dinner, her twelve-year-old daughter made us homemade tortillas and her husband Ben made us fajitas. We brought the chips, salsa, and gaucamole for a yummy feast! Laura shared some more stories about her grandparents' life as migrant farm workers and immigrants.
Two days later, the whole family contracted some cold virus that left us feverish and coughing for the rest of the week. But we did soldier on with the help of videos, audiobooks, art, and a lot of siestas.

This was the first time we had studied the history of the Southwestern United States, which used to be part of Mexico. We learned about the Mexican War, the Alamo, the Sante Fe Trail, and  Mexican culture. On Presidents' Day, we decided to learn a bit about the president during the Mexican War:  President James Polk. We also read/ listened to Meet Josephina and read a book about Josephina's world. We also watched videos from Travel with Kids featuring different parts of Mexico, and a Reading Rainbow episode called Meanwhile Back At the Ranch. We also learned about Tall Tales and read the story of Paul Bunyan.

We got up just enough energy to take out our watercolors and make desert paintings.

For science, we learned about clouds and storms. We did the Mystery Science lessons Have You Ever Watched a Storm? and How can We Predict when it's Going to Storm? For the experiments, we made a gas trap/ cloud in a jar, and a mini Storm Spotter booklet with various clouds. We've studied clouds several times in science, but this time it really seemed to click. The older girls have been noticing clouds and predicting whether it's going to rain. The weather was beautiful the week we were sick, so we did get outside some to enjoy the sun and watch the clouds.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Around the World: China

In February, our travels with Five in a Row took us to China with The Story about Ping by Marjorie Flack.
Our studies coincided with Chinese New Year, so we learned a bit about the holiday by reading in DK Children Just Like Me: Celebrations and reading a folktale from the library about the lanterns. We also made a neat dragon book about Chinese New Year and some lanterns with Chinese numbers from History Pockets: Ancient Civilizations. Ella also happened to be learning about Chinese folktales in her writing curriculum, so it dovetailed nicely.

We learned about the Yangtze river and watched an episode of Travel with Kids where the family takes a cruise on the  Yangtze. In art, we drew pictures of water with colored pencil and practiced some of the techniques the illustrator used to make reflections of the water. They turned out beautifully, but I didn't get pictures. We also watched Mulan and Mulan II just for fun.

We had our biweekly co-op science class on Ocean creatures, and I was teaching this week about Mollusks. We learned about resonance and why it seems like you can hear the ocean in a seashell. So I followed it up with a lesson from Mystery Science on Why are Some Sounds High and Some Sounds Low? We made sound waves with jump ropes to demonstrate the frequency of different sounds.
Our tea party was pretty simple this time. I bought some rice cakes, which have a prominent place in The Story about Ping, and mandarin oranges, a traditional food to eat at Chinese New Year. We drank green tea in our Chinese tea pot and pulled out our lucky cricket candleholders.

  We also made red paper lanterns and fans to decorate.
 Last year, my friend Jenny gave me some traditional Chinese clothes that her girls had outgrown. They would wear these at Chinese New Year every year. We really enjoyed trying on the silk outfits for our tea party (well, the girls did at least.) Ella was pretending to be a Chinese grandpa. Thanks, Jenny!