Saturday, January 29, 2011

Book Review: Carschooling

I have had this book for quite a while now and absolutely LOVE it.  Carschooling is a book that I find I am often recommending, not only to homeschoolers, but also to parents whose children are in traditional school settings as well.  I suggest to those who find themselves traveling often as well as those who take trips across town a few times a week.  It is full of fun and unique ideas that cover a wide range of subjects including: language arts, math, social sciences, science, geography, visual and performing arts, foreign languages, physical education and health, and even recess.  There is also a chapter that shares a bunch of ideas that do not fall in the traditional school subjects, such as vocational training and home economics.  For those who are new to the concept of carschooling, there is a chapter to introduce you to the ins and outs of learning on the run as well as chapter to help you get your vehicle and yourself organized so that every trip is a learning opportunity.

We used this book extensively on our cross country trip in the summer of 2009.  The family loved playing several of the games suggested in the book, but especially enjoyed License Plate Equations and Pave the Way With Palindromes.  We also discovered a love for audio books during this road trip and the book has a wonderful list of resources as well as some ideas for turning the stories into additional lessons.  My favorite part of this book is that many of the activities need little to no equipment and can be played time and time again whenever the feeling strikes.  I also like that there is something for everyone in the book, including a section on Road Kill Zoology, complete with the warning that it is not for the squeamish. 

We are preparing for yet another cross country trip in the late spring and I will not be packing this book.  Yes, you read that right.  I will not be packing it, because it's home is in my van, right under the front passenger seat.  We use it ALL the time, every time we are going to be in the van for an extended period of time.  On our shorter trips, we often find ourselves playing the games we already know from the book. 

It is rare for me to HIGHLY recommend any book, as I am a big fan of borrowing from the library to save both money and resources.  However, there are certain books I insist on owning simply due to the amount that I use them and the value I get from it.  Carschooling is one of those books. It is so chock full of ideas and information, that if it did not have a home in my van, it would be shelved with my reference books. Of all the book reviews I have done, I HIGHLY recommend this book to EVERY parent, homeschooler or not, whether they travel or not.

I did receive a copy of this book for free from the author in exchange for this review. However, this review is my own personal opinion and is unaffected by others. I had originally borrowed this book from the library and loved it so much I was preparing to buy it when this opportunity was presented to me.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Jackie Robinson and part of Penguin unit postponed

Due to life circumstances, I am postponing the Jackie Robinson unit and the remainder of the Penguin unit.  We have still been working on school for those weeks, but not on specific units.  My husband is a full time student and we spent much of last week preparing for the new semester and this week, we are trying to adjust to a new schedule.  It appears this is what our life will be like over the next few years.  As each new semester starts, we will need to adjust to his new schedule.  Not a big deal, but it definitely affects my ability to plan lessons.  I will be back with the next unit, Chinese New Year, either later this week or early next week.  I may also switch back to posting a few subjects each day, rather than posting the entire unit in one day.  If you have a strong preference for having the entire unit posted at once, let me know and I can e-mail it to you separately.

Penguins (Partial Unit)

- For younger readers, read If You Were a Penguin by Wendell and Florence Minor.  Older readers can read Penguins Strange and Wonderful by Laurence Pringle.  Write down 10 facts that you learned.

- Write a story about penguins that uses at least 5 facts that you have learned.  You can use the picture found here: for your book cover.  Lay the cover page over several blank pages and then cut along the outline of the penguin to make a penguin shaped booked.  When the book is complete, you can either staple the pages together or bind them some other way.

- Use a website or books to find out the average height of several different types of penguins and make a bar graph showing what you learned.  Some types of penguins include: Emperor, Fairy, King, Adelie, and Rockhopper.
- Practice percentages by playing this game:
- Practice number places with this game:

- Watch March of the Penguins to learn more about the life of an Emperor Penguin.

- Put together a fundraiser in order to foster a Yellow Eyed Penguin chick for 1 year.  It costs $20 for 1 year of fostering.  You can learn more here:  Ideas for a service project include shoveling driveways/sidewalks for neighbors, helping with chores around the house, or making and selling penguin themed crafts.

- Penguins have blubber to help keep their bodies warm.  To experience how blubber works, get a cup of ice water.  Place your finger in the water to see just how cold it is.  Then coat your finger in a thick layer of shortening and place it in the water again.  Humans do not have blubber to protect their bodies from the extreme cold.  Hypothermia and frostbite are 2 issues that people face when exposed to extreme cold.  Learn about the symptoms of either one of these medical issues and create a poster telling others how to avoid getting them.  Also be sure to learn how to treat the issue you choose.

Social Studies
- Penguins live in a variety of climates and locations.  Based on your earlier research (reading, writing, math), make a list of all the places where penguins live.  Then use a world map to locate each of these locations. 

Friday, January 7, 2011

Benjamin Franklin

- Read Benjamin Franklin, American Genius: His Life and Ideas. Choose at 3 of the activities listed in the book and do them.

- Benjamin Franklin was a great inventor. Many of his inventions are still used to today and many others have been improved on to become products we use today. Choose one of Benjamin Franklin's inventions and write a short report on it. Try to answer when he invented it, why and how he invented it, if he worked with any other people on the invention, where he invented it, if we still use it, or any form of it, today, and any other interesting facts that you find. Some of his inventions include: bifocal glasses, the Franklin stove, the lightning rod, and the glass armonica.

- "A penny saved is a penny earned", is a saying from Benjamin Franklin. It means that if you do not spend a penny, it is the same as earning it. If you invest (see vocabulary words) that penny, you can earn more money on it as long as you leave it in the bank long enough. The money you earn on your investment is called interest (another vocabulary word). Interest is money that the bank gives you for letting them hold onto your money (they are actually borrowing it from you, but you will learn about that much later in your education). Take a "field trip" to a bank and speak with a bank representative about interest and how it works. If you do not already have one (and you have your parent's permission), see about opening your own savings account.

- For a fun activity about electricity and circuits, have an adult help you with the lesson plan listed here:
- Benjamin Franklin founded the first public library. Contact your local library and find out if there is any service project you can do for them. Some ideas: help prepare craft materials for an upcoming program; wipe down book covers; help clean up toys in the children's room, or help out with a program for younger children.

  • invest- to put money into something in an attempt to earn even more money
  • interest- money paid in exchange for borrowing money
  • taut- tight
  • alternate- switch back and forth
  • apprentice- a person who works for another person in order to learn their trade
  • brayer- a small roller used for inking
  • bifocals- eyeglasses that have 2 types of lenses, one to see close and one to see far, in one lens
  • armonica- a musical instrument invented by Benjamin Franklin that uses a series of spinning glass bowls that the player runs moistened fingers over; also called a glass harmonica
  • Philadelphia- a city in Southeast Pennsylvania
  • colonial- refers to the early years of the US, when the colonies still belonged to England

- Another famous saying from Benjamin Franklin is, "An apple a day, keeps the doctor away." This tells us that a healthy diet will help us to avoid bigger medical problems. It is recommended that we eat 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Keep a journal of all the foods you eat for one day. Are you eating the recommended amount? Look through a cookbook or look online for a recipe that is fruit or vegetable based and make it for your family.

Social Studies
- Ben Franklin spent a lot of time in Philadelphia and there are a ton of sites there that one can visit to learn more about Ben Franklin and his life. For those who cannot visit Philadelphia, I have listed an alternative activity that involves Netflix and another one that does not.
- Watch episode 10 of Liberty's Kids (currently available for instant streaming on Netflix) to learn about Benjamin Franklin's involvement in the Post Office. Many, if not all, of the episodes at least mention Ben Franklin and help teach about life before and during the Revolutionary War. I highly recommend watching the entire series at least once.
- Play the True and False game on this website: This will be easier if do the reading assignment first. There are a few other games as well that will help you learn more about Ben Franklin.

Language Arts
- Ben Franklin was the publisher of the "Pennsylvania Gazette", one of the most successful newspaper of the colonies. Visit this website: and create your own family or classroom newspaper.

- Another saying of Ben Franklin's is, "God helps them that helps themselves." What does this statement mean to you? Do you agree or disagree with it?

- A game similar to jacks was commonly played in colonial times. This game was called jackstones and was played with small stones or small fruit seeds, like apples or pumpkin. On the first turn, the player tosses a small stone into the air and scatters the seeds on the ground in front of him, catching the stone before it lands. The next player then tosses the stone in the air and picks up as many seeds as possible and catches the stone before it lands with the same hand. Play continues until all the seeds are picked up. The one with the most seeds wins. Play a few rounds of jackstones with a friend or family member, or practice by yourself.
- Hopscotch was another common game played during the colonial era. Draw, or find, a hopscotch board and play for a bit. If you live in a colder climate, see if it is possible to draw or paint a board on a large piece of cardboard or ply wood or even the basement floor (GET AN ADULT"S PERMISSION FIRST!!!)

Domestic Arts
- Make a whirligig, a toy common in the colonial days. Find a large, circular button and then string 2 1/2 feet of string through the holes of the button and tie the ends together. Then hold each end of the strings and twirl the button until the string is taut (tight) and then pull apart, letting the button spin. Alternate (switch back and forth) between pulling and relaxing to keep the button spinning.

- Benjamin Franklin spent many years working as a printer. Practice the art of printmaking by making your own prints. To do this like Franklin did, you will need to get a brayer (a small roller), but if you do not have one, there are other ways to do this project. Find, or make, some alphabet stamps. Arrange them to spell a short word, like your name. Then using a brayer, apply ink to the stamps and place the paper on top of the wet stamps. Gently apply pressure to the paper by placing a block on top the paper. Carefully remove the paper by lifting it straight up off the stamps and allow it to dry. If you do not have a brayer, you can apply the stamps directly to the ink and apply them to the paper one at a time.

- Learn about the armonica, a musical instrument invented by Benjamin Franklin, by watching this video:

  • lightning- el relámpago
  • glasses- las gafas
  • newspaper- el periódico

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Free Chinese New Year Study Kit

As I posted a few days ago, I will be posting a unit in a few weeks on Chinese New Year. Today, I came across (thanks Money Saving Mom!) a free Chinese New Year Study Kit from Panda Express. It includes:
  • Panda Express’ Year of the Rabbit DVD
  • Year of the Rabbit Fact Sheet
  • Jade Emperor’s Interactive Game & Activity Sheet
  • Chinese New Year Decoration Art Activity
  • Lai See Activity Sheet
  • Bookmarks (with a Free Kids Meal with purchase coupon attached)
I am still planning to post my study unit, but I am letting you know about this as I may, or may not, use activities in it for the unit. According to the website, this must be ordered by midnight (CST), January 8th.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Elvis Presley- Part Two

Vocabulary/Spelling words
-Be able to define and to spell these 10 words:
absorption-to take something in, as in the gelatin takes in the water forming a sticky gel
poverty- being poor and having little money, food, and other needs
Mississippi-a state in the southeastern part of the US
Tennessee-a state in the southeastern part of the US, north of Mississippi
Elvis Presley-a singer from the 1950s-1970s, known as the King of Rock and Roll
Memphis-major city in Tennessee; where Elvis settled and later died
Tupelo- a city in Mississippi; where Elvis was born
military-armed forces; in the US consists of the Army, the Navy, the Marines, the Air Force and the Coast Guard
Graceland- the name of the estate owned by Elvis; currently a museum honoring Elvis' life
gospel music-intense, joyful music sung in churches, particularly in the American South

Social Studies
- If you can, take a visit to Graceland. If, like most of us, this is not possible, take the video tour, led by 12 year old Curtis, of Graceland: Write down 10 facts that you learned about Graceland, Elvis, or Elvis' family.
- Print out the Graceland Activity Book:!userfiles/editor/docs/EPE_ChildrensBook.pdf and do the activities that are in it.

Language Arts
-Using all the letters in Elvis' name (Elvis Aron Presley), make an acrostic that tells about him and his life. An acrostic is when you use each letter in the word as the first letter in a word or phrase about the main word. For example: I will use Elvis' nickname, The King, and write an acrostic below.
Traveled a lot
Elvis Aron Presley

Nice hair

-In addition to singing rock music, Elvis is also famous for the many gospel songs he sang. One gospel song he sang is How Great Thou Art. You can see him perform it here. Read the lyrics to this hymn, and write about what the words mean to you. Make a list of 10 things that show how God is great. If you follow a non-Christian faith, which verses, if any, fit with your beliefs?

-Play some music by Elvis and dance to it. Move with the music. You can find many songs by Elvis on You Tube and iTunes. Some good dance songs include: Jailhouse Rock, Hound Dog, Blue Suede Shoes, Johnny B Good, and All Shook Up.

Domestic Arts
-It is rumored that Elvis liked grilled peanut butter and banana sandwiches, possibly with bacon in them. With an adult's supervision, make one of these for yourself and see what you think of them. As with all recipes, be sure to read through all the directions first and have all your ingredients ready before you start. First, take two slices of bread (Elvis likely used white bread, but you can use whole grain to be healthy) and butter one side of each slice. Then, spread some peanut butter on the unbuttered side of one of the slices. I find it is easiest to now put that slice, butter side down, on a hot griddle or frying pan. It is important to always grill sandwiches over medium-low heat so as not to burn them. Next, spread some mashed banana (sliced banana would work, too) on top of the peanut butter and sprinkle on some crispy, crumbled bacon (or use whole strips of cooked bacon) and top the sandwich with the other slice of bread, butter side up. Grill the sandwich for a few minutes, usually about 5-7, and then carefully flip the entire sandwich over to grill the other side. The other side will only take about 3 minutes before it is golden and crisp. Remove from pan, cut in half and let cool slightly. Be careful when you first bite into this sandwich as the banana, especially if you used mashed banana, will be very hot.

- Elvis filmed several movies in Hawaii and performed concerts there many times. It was one of his favorite places to be. The lei is a popular symbol of Hawaii and is used to greet visitors. While they are traditionally made with real flowers, that can be a bit expensive, so we are going to make our own leis with paper flowers and plastic straws. First, get a length of string long enough to make a necklace that will fit over your head. Then, cut out several small flower shapes (about 1.5-2 inches across) from various colors of construction paper. Also, prepare the straw pieces by cutting straws into pieces about 1 inch long. Now, simply string one straw piece followed by one flower and continue alternating until you have filled most of the necklace. Tie the two ends together and you have a lei!

-Print out the lyrics to the song (I Just Want To Be Your) Teddy Bear by Elvis Presley and then sing along to the song here.

-Learn these 3 words in Spanish:
guitar (la guitarra)
music (la música)
singer (el cantante)

Elvis Presley- Part One

-Elvis Presley's Love Me Tender (especially appropriate for younger students, as this is a picture book set to the words of Love Me Tender)
-Shake, Rattle & Turn That Noise Down!: How Elvis Shook Up Music, Me & Mom ( a graphic novel about the author's introduction to rock music)

- Elvis appeared in 31 films during his career. Watch Follow That Dream
(currently available on Netflix's Instant Queue) and write a short report about it. Briefly tell what the movie was about and what you liked and disliked about the movie.
***A note about Netflix***
I LOVE Netflix and use it as a home schooling tool regularly. It is reasonably priced, especially compared to cable. We currently use the 1-out-at-a-time and unlimited streaming plan and pay about $10 a month. I know they are also currently offering a plan that does not allow for any physical discs, just unlimited streaming, which is less expensive than our plan and one we are considering switching to. You do need to have a way to stream the movies, such as a computer, a Wii, a Playstation 3, or an Xbox360 AND high speed internet. I will try to note when I suggest a movie, as to whether or not it is available through Netflix and if it is currently available for instant streaming or physical disc only. Any which way, most of the movies I will recommend will likely be available at your local video store and/or library as well.

- Elvis was born in Tupelo, Mississippi and later moved to Memphis, Tennessee. According to Mapquest, and today's maps, these two cities are about 110 miles apart from each other. One mile is made up of 5280 feet. How many feet apart is Tupelo, MS from Memphis, TN? A mile is equal to about 1.6 kilometers. How many kilometers apart are these two cities? For more practice, visit Mapquest and find out how far each of these cities are from your own home and convert that distance to both feet and kilometers.
- Elvis was born January 8, 1935 and died August 16, 1977. Some people believe that Elvis did not actually die in 1977 and that he is still alive somewhere. If that were true, how old would Elvis be on January 8, 2011?

-Elvis was well known for his looks, especially his hair. To get his hair the way he liked, he needed to use hair gel to style it. Learn about absorption by making your own (with an adult's assistance) hair gel. To do this: dissolve 1/4 tsp unflavored gelatin into 1/2 cup warm water and stir until smooth. If you want to make this a scented gel, use sugar-free flavored gelatin or add a few drops of an essential oil to the water before stirring it. Extra gel should be stored in the fridge. The gel forms because the gelatin absorbs the water and swells up, creating a sticky goop that will hold your hair in place.

- Elvis grew up in poverty. As an adult, he often gave money to people and organizations that helped those who were struggling financially. Find an organization in your area, such as a food cupboard or soup kitchen, that assists those who are struggling financially. Contact them and see if you can come in and provide a few hours of service. At a food cupboard, you may help fill orders or stock shelves. At a soup kitchen, you may be able to help serve food to the hungry or clean up after a meal is served. With your parent's permission (and hopefully with the whole family) follow through on providing the service.

-As an adult, Elvis gained a large amount of weight, most likely due to his poor food choices and hectic lifestyle. According to Larry Geller, Elvis' hair stylist and friend, shortly before Elvis's death, he had decided that he wanted to embark on a healthier lifestyle. They (Elvis and Larry) planned to go to Hawaii, one of Elvis' favorite places, and begin a diet free of junk food and full of fresh fruits and veggies and fresh juices. They would exercise, play sports, and meditate as well. Unfortunately, Elvis passed away before they could make this dream come true. What are 5 changes you could make to improve your health? You could work on physical health through a healthy diet and exercise, emotional health through yoga and meditation or journal keeping, spiritual health through prayer and scripture reading, or any other thing you can think of that will help you live a healthier life. Choose one of these changes and actively work on it for 1 month. It may help to keep a journal specifically about the changes you make so you can see how much changes in that time. Continue working on the changes you chose until you achieve all of them.

Back Again

I had to take a break to re-evaluate how I was putting together my units and sharing them. I write my units in Microsoft Word, but cannot figure out an easy way to copy them from there and paste them here. The other ways I have tried to do it, take entirely much too long and were keeping me away from far more important activities, such as my family. I am planning on posting again starting this week and while I still cannot do it as planned, it will be much easier than trying to reformat all my other units and get them up here. Here is a run down of the planned units for the next several weeks:
1/3-1/9: Elvis Presley
1/10-1/16: Benjamin Franklin
1/17-1/23: Penguins
1/24-1/30: Jackie Robinson
1/31-2/5: Chinese New Year
2/6-2/13: Valentine's Day
2/14-2/20: the Human Heart
2/21-2/27: John Glenn
2/28-3/6: Barbie (yes, THAT Barbie)

Each unit is purposely planned for the time it is due to relevance in some way. In many cases, it is due to the holiday falling in that time frame and in some cases it is due to birthdays near that time. However, most of the units would be appropriate any time of year.

Thank you again for reading along and hanging in there with me.