Viking Age

We have been studying the Vikings for history the past few weeks. I don’t recall learning much of anything about the Vikings when I was in school, and I distinctly remember being surprised when I learned (in upper elementary) that they were real people and not just a mythical civilization. Maybe I just wan’t paying very good attention to my teachers.

The kids (and I) are having a ton of fun discovering how amazing the Vikings were and reading the sagas and histories of the Viking people. I would guess that my children’s favorite fact they have learned about them so far is that four days of the week are named after Viking gods or goddesses. (Tuesdays – Tiu, Wednesday – Woden, Thursday – Thor, and Friday – Freya.) We have also read the biography of Leif Erikson who sailed to North America in 1000 a.d. and wrote detailed sagas about his short stay there. (Take that Columbus!) And some Scandinavian fiction like Sticks Across the Chimney and The Children of Noisy Village.

We also learned a song about the capitals and countries of Scandinavia as well as a song about Greenland. Both songs are incredibly catchy, and they have been stuck in my head for weeks. I may want to box my own ears, but at least I will not forget the capitals or attributes of the Scandinavian countries. Ever. Seriously – the song is stuck in my head right now. Help.

This is Melora's map of Scandinavia, which goes along with a painfully catchy song.

This is Melora’s map of Scandinavia, which goes along with a painfully catchy song.

The kids have also been doing some pretty fun Viking crafts. We had already studied Vikings in less depth two years ago and had made Viking shields and swords. We may have to do it again, though. It was so much fun!

Isaiah painting his Viking shield.

Melora’s shield had to be pink!

Baby Clara with her Viking sword – so fierce!

Um, terrifying!

This year Isaiah made a dragon ship out of Legos

Isaiah build a lego long ship, a lego Viking loom, and several Viking weapons.

Isaiah built a lego long ship, a lego Viking loom, and several Viking weapons.

And the kids worked as a team to build a long house. We cut the rounded ends off tongue depressors for the siding and used grass for the thatched roof. They looked up Viking furnishings in a few of their books and got busy making the inside look as authentic as possible.

Using rubber cement (in place of daub) to stick the tongue depressors onto the cardboard wall

Using rubber cement (in place of daub) to stick the tongue depressors onto the cardboard wall

Hanging from the center rafter is the cooking pot on a chain that is constantly kept hot over a fire.

Hanging from the center rafter is the cooking pot on a chain that is constantly kept hot over a fire.

Melora made the beds using yarn to simulate the woven blankets that Viking women would make on looms.

Melora made the beds using yarn to simulate the woven blankets that Viking women would make on looms.

Our nearly completed longhouse!

Our nearly completed longhouse!

All done!

All done!

We’re nearly done with Vikings for the year, and there are still a few crafts and activities I want to try. They were truly an amazing people (although Melora has pointed out several times that they could have been a lot nicer,) and it’s wonderful to explore something new with my kids!

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Let it rain

Our science this summer has all been related to meteorology so far. We are using Sonlight Core C, and one of the huge benefits to Sonlight’s curriculum is that it comes with an instructor’s guide (a.k.a schedule and notes) so that I don’t have to take away teaching time to try to find materials, write down a schedule, or arrange a coherent curriculum myself. Another benefit to the instructor’s guide is that it’s very adaptable. The meteorology part of science this year isn’t scheduled to begin until week 17, but since we’re doing a summer session of school, I wanted to do as much outside as I possibly can. So, I just rearranged the binder, and viola! Meteorology now begins in week 1, and science lessons happen outside every day!

Well, almost every day. As it so happens, this has been the rainiest spring and summer that I can personally remember in Minnesota, so we have had a fair amount of inside days as well. But never fear – rain is definitely a part of meteorology.

To go with our rainy weather, we created a water cycle in a jar. We took a giant empty pickle jar (thanks Costco!) and put very hot water in the bottom. Then we covered the top with plastic wrap and put an ice pack on top of the plastic wrap. The warm water evaporates, rises, hits the cold ice pack, condenses, and falls as “rain” again!

Melora is observing a water cycle in a jar. She is wearing those hilarious glasses because she decided that they help her see better.

Melora is observing a water cycle in a jar. She is wearing those hilarious glasses because she decided that they help her see better.

We also have taken many post-rain walks to see how our neighborhood looks, and, of course, to stomp in puddles.

Judah takes puddle stomping trips very seriously.

Judah takes puddle stomping trips very seriously.

We have created a “cloud in a bottle”, made cloud diagrams out of cotton balls, and on one rare dry day, I just doused the kids with a hose and we pretended it was raining!

My favorite rain activity so far, though, has been making rain sticks. They may not be scientific at all, but they are super fun! (And really easy.) We made ours out of mailing tubes, nails, rice, dried beans, and duct tape.

Melora is pounding nails into her mailing tube so the rice slows down and bounces a lot in the rain stick.

Melora is pounding nails into her mailing tube so the rice slows down and bounces a lot in the rain stick.

I decided against giving Judah actual nails and hammers, but he thoroughly enjoyed pounding on his high chair tray with the toy tools!

I decided against giving Judah actual nails and hammers, but he thoroughly enjoyed pounding on his high chair tray with the toy tools!

One of the parts about this craft that was so great is that there was at least some part of it that almost all the kids could participate in. Even little Clara was able to pound the nails once she got a little help at the start. Isaiah was able to make his completely independently.

Clara hit my fingers more times that I care to remember, but thankfully she hit them pretty gently each time.

Clara hit my fingers more times that I care to remember, but thankfully she hit them pretty gently each time.

After all the nails were pounded in, we added either rice or dried beans. For our tubes, we decided that about a cup of either sounded best. I think it would have been fun to try other things, like popcorn kernels, barley, or lentils too. The kids were too excited to wait for me to find such things in the pantry, though, so rice and beans it was!

Isaiah's rain stick with all the nails pounded in. (Isaiah's - and probably any 7 year old's - idea of a great time!)

Isaiah’s rain stick with all the nails pounded in. (Isaiah’s – and probably any 7 year old’s – idea of a great time!)

This is what the inside of the tubes looked like after we had pounded the nails in. I used about a half pound of nails in this one, and if I had to do it again, I would actually use about twice as many.

This is what the inside of the tubes looked like after we had pounded the nails in. I used about a half pound of nails in this one, and if I had to do it again, I would actually use about twice as many.

Clara had to stand on the table to fill hers with rice because she's such a shorty!

Clara had to stand on the table to fill hers with rice because she’s such a shorty!

Melora and Daddy filling up her rain stick!

Melora and Daddy filling up her rain stick!

Then came the extremely important and delicate task of plastering the sticks with fancy fun duct tape. (The duct tape itself actually is extremely important to keep the end caps on and the nails from coming out the sides. The fancy funness is just important so as to avoid a lame rainstick.)

Guess who picked plain duct tape...that's right - nobody!

Guess who picked plain duct tape…that’s right – nobody!

Our three amazing craftsmen and their rain sticks! *Not pictured: sleeping Judah and his rainstick made by Momma.

Our three amazing craftsmen and their rain sticks! *Not pictured: sleeping Judah and his rainstick made by Momma.

So here’s to rainy school days!

Happy 4th!

We had a great 4th of July this year. Michael was home, which was enough to make it a great day, and we had nothing pressing to do – only fun!

Bomb Pops! Our kids are now hooked.

Bomb Pops! Our kids are now hooked.

We hit up a parade for the first time with our kids. The parade was pretty adorable, but amazingly small for something in the twin cities. I was so thankful the kids had not been to any parades before, or they would probably have been pretty disappointed. As it was, they were quite satisfied by the marching people (not in costumes, not on a float, not playing musical instruments) and local government officials waving little flags from their convertibles. Only one person in the entire parade even had candy to hand out, but again – the kids were thrilled. They couldn’t believe they actually got candy! Plus, they were each given a flag, which was pretty great!

Front row seats for the bittiest parade ever!

Front row seats for the bittiest parade ever!

Our walk/wagon ride to and from the parade was lovely. What a beautiful independence day!

Our walk/wagon ride to and from the parade was lovely. What a beautiful independence day!

We had all the required Independence Day food – grilled steaks, corn on the cob, and a sheet cake decorated like a flag!

The kids were pretty disappointed that I didn't fit 50 stars and 13 stripes on the cake. I knew I shouldn't have taught them the historical symbolism of the flag!

The kids were pretty disappointed that I didn’t fit 50 stars and 13 stripes on the cake. I knew I shouldn’t have taught them the historical symbolism of the flag!

Finally, we ended the day with a spectacular fireworks show right in St. Paul. This was the first year we had tried the Harriet Island fireworks and happily also the first year that the loud firework noises didn’t bother any of the kiddos!! We thought that because the fireworks were so highly rated and popular that traffic and crowds would be pretty nasty, so we made sure to get downtown pretty early. We didn’t have any troubles, though, and snagged a great spot. We brought bubbles, popcorn, lemonade, and sparklers to entertain the kids while they waited, and they enjoyed all of the above plus the fun of running around in a park and being so tired that it makes everything funny!

Clara provided pre-fireworks entertainment for everyone camped out near the science museum!

Clara provided pre-fireworks entertainment for everyone camped out near the science museum!

Happy Fourth of July everyone!

Magic

We have been hitting up the library summer programs a few times a week here – they are so fantastic! We have already been to a folk singer’s concert, an exhibition by a national yo-yo master (I had no idea there was any such thing,) and most recently, a magician named The Amazing Brodini.

On the way to the magic show, Isaiah suddenly realized that I hadn’t packed his hat. His top hat. His perfect, black, magical looking top hat. He wanted me to turn around immediately because it seemed imperative that he wear his top hat while we watch the magician.
“Really Isaiah? Won’t you be able to enjoy the magic show without your top hat?”
After a long pause, he decided, “Maybe a little, but I would enjoy it so much more with my top hat.”

So we turned around and got it.

We still arrived early for the show, and as soon as we walked in Brodini looked at Isaiah and said, “That is the coolest had any kid has ever worn to one of my shows. Ever.”
He then proceeded to chat with Isaiah, teasingly call him Hat Man, and use his hat for a pretty amazing magic trick. He also chatted with Isaiah, Clara, and Melora after the show and happily showed them how he did a few of his tricks as well as watching Isaiah’s own magic trick. Finally, before he left, he gave Isaiah a few special magic props, “So when you’re a famous magician, you’ll remember me. Okay Hat Man?”

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Summer School!

I could have mentioned that her sign was upside down, but I thought it was cuter this way.

I could have mentioned that her sign was upside down, but I thought it was cuter this way.

Melora assures me that there is a huge difference between K-4 and K-5, so I had to be very careful when making her sign.

Melora assures me that there is a huge difference between K-4 and K-5, so I had to be very careful when making her sign.

Is it really possible that he's in second grade? It doesn't seem possible to me!

Is it really possible that he’s in second grade? It doesn’t seem possible to me!

We’ve started our first week of the school year in June this year. Michael and I talked about the benefits of year round schooling and decided they were just too good to pass up. Specifically, we loved the idea of having short chunks of school (six weeks average) separated by a few weeks of break to rest and re-group. It can be pretty challenging to try to juggle school and home life all day long, so having a few weeks to catch up on cleaning or to fine-tune lesson plans between the busyness of school weeks on a regular basis is something I really look forward to. Plus, with this extra flexibility in our schedule, we can have an extra long Christmas break, the entire week of Easter off or more, and the week of each kids’ birthday off to do fun stuff and party plan! A typical school year is 36 weeks, so if we plan on having 6 week sessions with 2 weeks off in between, we have still only come up to 48 weeks and have 4 weeks of vacation to play around with!

We’re also hoping that without a long summer break the kids won’t lose the information they have learned the year before. It seems to be working so far. Usually I would need to spend the first week doing mostly review, but this week when I tried to review ancient history with the kids, they kept cutting me off by finishing my sentences (in a slightly condescending way every now and then – “yeah, we know this Mom!”)

Reading is always more fun with a captive audience, (although this particular audience also has the tendency to try to sit in the books being read.)

Reading is always more fun with a captive audience, (although this particular audience also has the tendency to try to sit in the books being read.)

Clara identified her numbers and then put the cards in order for her math lesson (which she insists on to be like her older siblings.)

Clara identified her numbers and then put the cards in order for her math lesson (which she insists on to be like her older siblings.)

Melora practiced some math making chocolate chip cookies, because cookie math is the best math ever.

Melora practiced some math making chocolate chip cookies, because cookie math is the best math ever.

Another benefit is that we get to do a lot of outside school, which is a rather rare event for the normal Minnesota school year. We’ve already done some meteorology outside and started “field journals” to take with us on our nature walks. We have three monarch caterpillars (named Beuford, Pewanna, and Johnny by the kids) that are growing as we read about caterpillars and butterflies, and my hope is to catch tadpoles to watch as well. We get to read books on the grass, do math as we picnic, and play as we learn.

Isaiah named his caterpillar Beuford, Melora named hers Pewanna, and Clara named hers Johnny, "Because," she said, "you can't keep Johnny down."

Isaiah named his caterpillar Beuford, Melora named hers Pewanna, and Clara named hers Johnny, “Because,” she said, “you can’t keep Johnny down.”

We’re also making sure that the kids’ summer has all the good stuff a summer should have – soccer, t-ball, the zoo, the arboretum, friends, parks, lakes, playgrounds, library reading programs, gardening, strawberry picking, sleepovers, trips to Grandma and Grandpa’s house, and some time to just sit around outside and get bored!

Judah playing peek-a-boo at the arboretum

Judah playing peek-a-boo at the arboretum

Isaiah and Melora are both in soccer and t-ball this year!

Isaiah and Melora are both in soccer and t-ball this year!

So far, I’m loving it, but I fully expect to get to the end of our six week session a crash a little. Thank goodness for the two weeks of break!

ESCHEL

The kids had their first day at ESCHEL which stands for East Side Christian Home Educators Ltd. In short, it’s a homeschool co-op. The teachers are paid and the homeschool parents drop off their kiddos from 10-1 on Mondays. Clara is in the preschool class for 2-3 year olds, Melora is in the K4 class, and Isaiah is in the first grade class. He actually has three teachers and is combined with the second graders for art, writing, and gym.

The kids love being with other kids, having a break from home, and getting to learn stuff that is difficult to learn at home. We don’t have a gym of our own, nor do we have enough kids for a decent soccer team. 🙂 Art is something I’m trying to get better about doing with the kids, but truthfully, I get out the art supplies for a fun project and then turn into a bit of a monster as I stress about paint on the walls, clay stamped into the carpet, or marker marks on the table. It’s never quite as picturesque as I think it will be.

So off they will trot every Monday morning to have fun with their friends and do some art with a teacher who isn’t a huge grump. And I will have a few hours to…organize my school week? fold laundry? nap? I guess we’ll see!

First Week

This year we are studying the first part of world history, but we began with sort of a quick overview of how people all over the world today live differently. The kids learned about how clay was first discovered as useful for making pots and writing tablets, and they got to try their hands at making their own coil pots and writing tablets from some play-dough.

Isaiah also started his first reader of the year, which is Clara and the BookwagonIt is, of course, very popular with Clara, who has to remind us about 20 a times a chapter, “That’s me!” So cute!

Isaiah and Melora have two different sets of curriculum this year, but because my kids seem to like each other a lot, they want to do everything together. So am picking and choosing what I want to do from each set of curriculum (Sonlight Core B and Sonlight p4/5) and mixing it altogether.

Melora’s science is mostly from The Berenstein Bear’s Big Book of Science and Nature and is very simple with a great introduction to a lot of natural science, including the four seasons. The first week focused on winter, so one day we pulled out the bins of winter clothes and did some fun winter activities, made all the more fun for being out of season!

We did one of our favorite go-to science activities of making “instant snow” which is actually a polymer used in disposable diapers. We just measured out some of the dry polymer, added water, and watched the snow instantly grow and poof right out of the measuring cup. The plus side is that the snow doesn’t melt and can be vacuumed up when we were done playing with it. The downside is that it can’t be eaten like real snow.

Then we cut out snowflakes and sang a few Christmas carols.

Isaiah’s science has a little more depth to it, but it’s still pretty fun for all the kids. He is beginning the year by reading The Usborne World of Animals which is packed with great information and gorgeous photography. The Usborne books seem to work really with Isaiah because they always give lots of extra information in the captions or in side notes that he enjoys cataloging away for some future use! We also also going through a science activities book and DVD, and we’re starting with a bunch of science activities with magnets. So we began by reviewing what kinds of materials are attracted to magnets, and once we had tested our magnets on several metallic and non-metallic objects around the house, we set up a game. We cut out pairs of paper socks and decorated them to match. Then we put paperclips on the socks and strings on our magnets and went “fishing” for sock pairs. The kids enjoyed the game so much we added paper fish and a paper shark into the mix.

Judah has been enjoying school too. At least, he has been enjoying the activity going on all around him. On a normal day, I just put him in the sling and try to do as much as I can with him in there. It also works out to sit on the couch and read for long periods of time while he nurses. He likes to be around his siblings no matter what they are doing, so he’s pretty content. And of course, if things get a little boring, he can always just take a nap on the floor.