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India in Salt Dough (Another Way to Geography in Homeschool)

It’s been a while since I just rambled about our homeschool.  I so enjoy helping you out with ways to get lit into your own days that I forget sometimes you want to know what’s going on with me and my Littles.  One of the fun things about being a homeschool blogger is sharing homeschool experiences, though, so here’s what we’re up to.

As you may know, we decided back in January to cool our jets and take our time studying Asia this semester rather than trying to squeeze in Asia and Africa both.  It was the best homeschool decision I made this year, hands down.  We have really enjoyed truly diving into the history, culture, and geography of each country, as well as including wildlife and geology into each lesson.  The Littles have both exclaimed on various occasions how much fun they’re having and have even begged to keep studying a country once I feel we’re done because they are enjoying it so much.

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What kind of homeschool mama would I be if I didn’t comply with that?!  Oh. Yeah.  That’s why we do this, right?  To get our kids to love learning and look forward to it and all that yummy goodness.  I mean, one of the thousands of reasons.

We’ve been studying India this week and today is our last day.  I thought it would be fun, since India has a pretty diverse topography, to make a salt dough map of the country.  You know by now how much I love salt dough.  It’s cheap, easy, and fun.  It dries on its own.  It’s malleable.  You can do anything with it.  Throw it at your kids if you want (no, before it hardens).  It won’t hurt them.  But if they’re like my kids, they will throw it back, so be prepared for all-out war.  Which can maybe lead to a lesson on warfare?  See, I’m thinking this through.

You can do this for any country, of course, if you really want your littles to remember where different land forms are.  Here’s what we did:

Basic Salt Dough Recipe:

2 cups flour

1 cup salt

1 cup water

Mix the flour and salt in a bowl.  Add the water slowly, stirring as you go.  If the dough gets sticky, add a little more flour.  You want it to resemble play-doh.  Knead the dough for a couple minutes.  Roll it out to remove air or impurities.  Done.

Print out a decent-sized map of India

We used this one.  We printed it, cut it out and put it on a larger piece of paper to use as a guide for our basic landform.

Make your map

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The Littles then used their salt dough to lay out a basic form of India.  Once that was complete, they added the Eastern and Western Ghats, the Himalayas, the Deccan Plateau, the Satpura mountains, the Ganges River, and the Ganges Plain.  They made a little star to mark New Dehli.  Then they painted their creations.

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This project was fun and easy and the Littles left with India’s topography a little more salt-doughed in their heads (instead of cemented.  Get it?).

You would miss my cheesiness if I reined it in.  Admit it.

Love wins,

KT

 

14 Fabulous Sites for Free Homeschooling

14 fabulous sites for free homeschooling

Sometimes, life hands you a blog post.  I had intended to write about something very different today, but last night a woman I like very much pm’d me on Facebook.  Her daughter is about to start homeschooling her own littles, and she wondered if I could advise them where to go to get free curriculum.  I started getting the list together for her, and I realized this list might benefit a whole lot of people, even veterans looking to spruce up their schooling plans.  So rather than pm her back and keep all this yummy goodness between us, I thought it might be a good idea to share it with you, too.  I’m cool like that.

Continue reading

Confessions of a Homeschool Perfectionist

We have been having a blast with our China unit study.  I am extremely pleased with how well my first attempt at this has turned out.  Of course, it was an arduous planning process, because as anyone who knows me personally can tell you, I’m a perfectionist when it comes to this homeschool stuff.  Oh yeah, it may be the only place in my life where I am a perfectionist, but it is the one area where I am so hard on myself I almost get out the hair shirt some days.  You know, the one religious penitents used to wear to punish themselves for screwing up?  That is Homeschool Lit Mama, all the way.  I can’t bear to be the slightest bit unprepared or to go easy on us.  I want my Littles to be over-prepared for life and up for anything.  Do I put that pressure on them?  Oh, hell no.  I put it onmyself.  They just think they’re having fun and learning.  I’m the one under all the stress!reading great wall

So I took F-o-r-e-v-e-r planning this unit study so I didn’t miss anything.  It kind of seems silly, I know, because with unit study, you can grab anything related to your topic and throw it into the lesson.  But I had to make sure they were getting history, geography, science, art history and art practice, garden history, current events, reading, and writing.  And whatever else I could find.  China’s history about did me in.  China has the longest cultural history in the world, and if you want to cover all the cool things that have happened there, you’d better plan a college course.  I wanted to do it in 2 weeks. Feeling my pain?

Nevertheless, I think I did it without even realizing it.  So far we have studied China’s geography and topography and covered roughly the first 1000 years of its history, along with 5 of the spiritual philosophies that came into being in that time.  And even though I feel like I’ve missed some things, yesterday when Middle said, “Mom, this is awesome.  I love China,” and Littlest said, “Yeah, China’s a blast,” well, I knew I was doing something right.  So, thank you, Littles, for helping your mama be able to breathe again.

littlest paintingmiddle paintingI posted the other day about the Rainbow Mountains we made in honor of China’s Zhangye Danxia Landform Geological Park–a fascinating and beautiful piece of topography–and about the salt dough Great Wall we are constructing.  We also made Chinese dragons by cutting 2 sections out of a cardboard egg carton and gluing them together.  Then it was just throwing on some tempera paint, gluing on some googly eyes and a piece of raffia for the tongue, and cutting out some wings to glue on.  The Littles decided their dragons were too long for just one set of wings, so each dragon got two pair.

 

 

opening pic - completed dragonsThis project went great with the book we’re reading for this unit, Garden of the Purple Dragon (affiliate link) by Carole Wilkinson.  This book is actually a sequel to Wilkinson’s The Dragon Keeper, (affiliate link) but we had it on hand so we decided to read it.  We’ve found that it stands alone pretty well, and we’re enjoying it thoroughly.  It’s set during China’s Han Dynasty (c. 206 BC), so we’re putting history into context with it, something I love to do.

We’re keeping our history straight with a butcher paper (okay, it’s freezer paper) chart we made up that separates China’s history into Ancient, Imperial, and Modern China, and then further into Dynasties.  The Littles write the noteworthy historical facts on the chart as we learn about them.  Littlest learns better with hands-on stuff and Middle learns better by reading, so this exercise helps them both retain what they’ve learned.

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We studied the history of art in China and used a great resource from The Art Curator for Kids to study the work Poet on a Mountaintop.  (BTW, I Adore Cindy at The Art Curator for Kids.  Check her out even if you’re not studying China.  This site is Amazing.)  The free printable about this gorgeous example of Chinese brush painting is a good way to get your littles thinking about aesthetics and Chinese culture.  Then we did some brush painting of our own, even throwing in some Chinese language practice.IMG_20150915_105335865_HDRIMG_20150915_110423825

 

IMG_20150915_110553939Finally, we made wontons and egg-fried rice for dinner last night, to learn a bit about Chinese cuisine.  Okay, we are Huge Fans of Chinese food around here, so this wasn’t our first rodeo.  It was, however, the first time the Littles put together the wontons themselves.  Their scattered mama forgot to take pics of this awesome feat, but at least I remembered to capture the finished product.

littlest chinese foodIMG_20150916_180216982So even with me getting in the way of myself by trying to do things perfectly, it has turned out to be a fabulous unit study, and we have learned Tons about China, and we still have tons more to go.  The important thing here is that they are having so much fun they’re actually Voicing It to me.  During Class.  I know!  It’s super amazing.  So now I’m wavering in my decision to stop doing unit study after Japan.  Because I may drive myself nuts by the end of the year, but if I can just reign myself in a little bit, this may be the year they Remember Forever.

What’s a Lit Mama to do?  Stay tuned…

Love wins,

KT

P.S.  If you have any advice for me on how to get a handle on my perfectionism (other than Ease Up, which I hear all the time), I am all ears!!  Let me know in the comments.

ROY G BIV (Or How to Make Your Own Rainbow Mountain)

Our Asian unit study has led us on all kinds of interesting adventures and rabbit trails so far.  This particular adventure fascinated all of us.  Rainbow mountains?  Really?

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These mountains are amazing in their true form, but people tend to mess about with the colors in the pics, super-saturating them to make them look like true rainbows.  Which would really disappoint travelers who go to China to see these cool land forms.   I guess.  Who could be disappointed by something so fabulous? Here’s an image that has been tampered with:

altered rainbow mountainsHere’s the deal.  These mountains are part of the Zhangye Danxia Landform Geological Park in China. They are believed to have been formed by the folding of oceanic crust, perhaps buckled by the movement of tectonic plates. The color is caused by the erosion of red sandstone, which forms peaks and stratified outcroppings. Its present appearance is caused by its special geological structure combined with long-term desert conditions–freeze-thaw peeling and wind and water erosion.  This weathering has exposed rock layers of different colors, sizes, textures, and patterns to reveal this wondrous rainbow-like view.

After learning all we could about the geology of the mountains, we made our own Rainbow Mountains.  Here’s how:

You Need

4-6 BowlsIMG_20150910_105025341

Spoons (same number as bowls)

A sturdy piece of cardboard for your base

Baking soda

Food coloring

Water

Directionsadding color to rainbow mtn

  1. For each color, put 3-4 heaping spoonfuls baking soda in a bowl.
  2. Add 3-4 drops of food coloring to the baking soda.  Then add a teaspoon or 2 of water (this helps the food coloring spread.  Don’t add too much water or you’ll get damper baking soda than you need.  You can add more food coloring if your color isn’t dark enough.
  3. You can mix primary colors–such as using red and yellow to make orange or red and blue to make purple–in your extra bowls if you want more than the standard 4 colors that come in the average pack.
  4. Stir your baking soda with a spoon until the color is mixed throughout.stirring rainbow mtn
  5. Pick a color to start with (we followed the rainbow–Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Violet.  We skipped the indigo, so we didn’t quite finish our ROY G BIV acronym.)
  6. IMG_20150910_110132694Form the base of your mountain with your chosen color.
  7. IMG_20150910_110801763Add layers until you’ve created an entire mountain of color.

 

 

 

This Was A Messy Project.  But in the end, it was a great way to discuss stratification, folding, tectonic plate movement, and different types of soil and bedrock.  So it turned out to be a really thorough geology lesson.  And it was Really, Really Fun.  Just look at the laughter.

finished rainbow mountainI’ll take it.  Every Day.  Today the reason I love homeschooling is that we can laugh while we learn.  What a fantabulous way to spend a morning.

Love wins,

KT