Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Great Number Rumble is a Great Resource

During this six-week mish-mash, experimental, go-where-we-will homeschool session, we are game to try anything! Last week was a fun start while we mixed science up with art, got into a good book by Gary Paulsen, explored the secret life of a honey bee hive, and started gathering information about some endangered animals. What's so different this time is that we are not following a unit study, so nothing really relates........technically. But that's okay! It's still learning and it's kind of liberating - I highly recommend being liberated now and then.

If you have been following this blog, you have probably read accolades about the joys of a living math approach, one that is detailed in this site, Julie Brennan more than convinced me that this is a realistic and thoughtful approach to laying a solid foundation for a healthy math brain. So far so good and we'll continue skipping down this path.
For this six-week session we're reading a story about a school district that decided to cull math from the general curriculum. You could almost hear the collective shrieks of delight from the students jump from the pages when the announcement was made by the principal. Every student was rejoicing, even the teachers were breathing a sigh of relief at the thought of not having to deal with math. One student, however, was appalled at the new development and decided to convince the principal and all concerned parties that math is vital to EVERYTHING!

Sam, the pro-math student, uses each chapter to prove his point. Art, music, bicycles, computer-generated graphics (i.e., movies) nook is left unexplored. Plus sprinkled in amongst all of this interesting stuff are short biographies of famous mathematicians going back to the Greeks as well as thought-provoking sections on the weirder things that involve math.

Here's the book. I've highlighted it in a previous math post, but didn't get too specific. Now that we've cracked the cover, I can truly give it a thumbs up:

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Delightful Cultural Experience with a Mongolian Family

Today we hunkered down to watch a DVD from Netflix called The Cave of the Yellow Dog.

In a word......wonderful! It's one of the most poignant movies I've seen about family and culture and life in general. There are so many things I admire about this film!

On Max's level he watched a present-day family struggle for survival and livelihood in Mongolia. The children (three youngsters ages seven (maybe) down to age one will captivate you.

Because it's 1:15 a.m. and I should be in bed, I'm going to cut and paste the description from Amazon here:

"Equal parts documentary, children's story, and narrative drama, Cave of the Yellow Dog is a beautifully filmed adventure that the entire family will enjoy. It's unique on many levels, the most notable being that the charismatic family portrayed in the film are an actual family, and none of them are professional actors. The eldest daughter (played by adorable Nansal Batchuluun) appears to be about 6 or 7 years old. Her life is nothing like that of an American first grader. She goes away to school, returning home during the summers. Nansal cares for younger sister and brother, telling them about how homes in big cities have toilets in the house. She collects dried dung for the family's fire pit and helps her mother cook. And when her father goes to town for a few days, it is Nansal who takes over his chore of leading a herd of sheep to graze in a fuller pasture miles from her home. Nansal is mature for her age, but she is still a child who can't resist cute animals. So when she finds a small black and white pup holed up in a cave, she adopts him and names him Zochor (the Mongolian equivalent of Spot). Her father--worried that the dog may have grown up feral with a pack of wolves--forbids her to keep the puppy and the viewer is never certain whether Nansal and Zochor will be able to remain together. What sets Cave of the Yellow Dog apart from films such as Lassie and Old Yeller is the breathtaking buttes, vistas, and scenery showcased in the film. Watching the apple-cheeked children squeal with laughter as they play in front of their yurt--their collapsible and movable home--viewers get the sense that they wouldn't choose any other life, even though theirs seems filled with hardship for those of us accustomed to the comforts of modern-day living. The Palme d'Or winner at the Cannes Film Festival, this movie is heartwarming and pragmatic at the same time. --Jae-Ha Kim"

You'll develop a deep sense of appreciation for these amazing people and their way of life.

Of course we took time to remind ourselves where Mongolia on the map! Max is also wondering about Buddhism and what that's all about. I smell a unit study on world religions at some point!

I also deeply admired the mother's way of being with her children. In any situation that would drive many of us nuts, she was entirely positive and loving. Her children are lucky beyond words and from outward appearances, it looks like they have so little. Which in the end turns out to be more than most!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Artful Science Thanks to Brown Paper School

This next six-week session of homeschooling is going to be a giant, wonderful MISH-MASH of activity. I have no plans for an organized unit study this time. We are taking a break from organization and flying headlong into impulsiveness! So far, on Day 2 out of 30, we've already ended up in places that weren't even remotely planned. In this way I admire unschoolers and can understand how that concept in action can be effective. I'm still a little too much of a controlling freakazoid when it comes to thinking about letting go completely, though. Maybe next year.

Anyhoo, not that I need to bore you with the inner workings of my mind here. I'm writing this particular post to exclaim the wonders of a book we are giving homage to this session - a book from Brown Paper School Publishing (see a former post about this publisher, one of my favorites). Here it is in itty-bitty format (sorry for the wee picture - you can click on the link below it to get to Amazon for more information):

It's been sitting on the shelf for several months now and caught my attention. Just what the doctor ordered, if there is a doctor that orders such things - art and science mixed together!
Today we messed around with chromatography, water-soluble markers, filter paper and water. We watched colors separate and climb up the paper into some pretty terrific designs and learned how chemists use chromatography to identify compounds in a lab. The entire first section of the book is devoted to exploding colors. You'll also get exposure to fantastic elastics, wet and creepy stuff, water's weird skin, unmixables, movies on the brain, one-eyed crazies, making it big, looking alike, balancing the impossible (sounds like a mom's to-do list, eh?), and forces that are with you.

I guess this book will more than qualify for the science portion of the next six weeks (or longer, probably). We're going to steadily work our way through it and see what happens.

It's available for a penny on Amazon, used. I say, anytime you see a Brown Paper School book, snap it up! They are gems, the whole lot of them.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Behind the Scenes in a Beehive

This is a wonderful graphic novel that buzzes about the life of a honeybee. We read through it almost to the end today and are saving the summary/scientific definition section at the end of the book for tomorrow. What better way to detail the life of bees than by having the bees share their story in a comic book format? Well, comedy certainly does factor in, but much of the text is ecologically serious and scientifically accurate, thanks to author, Jay Hosler, a biologist who has spent his career studying bees. He also happens to be a cartoonist with a zany sense of humor (what could "bee' better?)

You'll become attached to the main little bee, Nyuki (which means 'bee' in Swahili), and her silly, somewhat annoying behavior; you'll discover that just below the surface of Nyuki's life story is a message, one that applies to ALL life. Nyuki learns that life is not to be feared, but to be lived! Nyuki's development from hapless hungry larva to busy forager has much meaning and you will see this as you travel through the story. It's a pleasurable experience, this book! One we won't soon forget. And now we know so much more about the community of honey bees and how important they are to one another and to keeping life on Earth properly balanced.

If you wish to examine the structured science offered in Dr. Hosler's book, please visit his website and click on each chapter heading. You'll find a detailed list of concepts covered.

I did cover two of Dr. Hosler's other books in a previous post, a post about graphic novels (post here), and recently discovered yet another of his books which looks to be just as intriguing - it's about the biology and evolution of eyeballs! I like the way this guy expresses himself! Here's a picture and description of this unusual book:

"Optical Allusions is the cure for all those clamoring for a painstakingly researched, scientifically accurate, eye-themed comic book adventure. WRINKLES THE WONDER BRAIN has lost his boss's eye and now he has to search all of human imagination for it. Along the way, he confronts biology head on and accidentally learns more about eyes and the evolution of vision than he thought possible. And, as if a compelling story with disembodied talking brains, shape-changing proteins and giant robot eyes wasn't enough, each tale is followed by a fully illustrated, in-depth exploration of the ideas introduced in the comic story. Following in the tradition of the author's first two books, Clan Apis and The Sandwalk Adventures, Optical Allusions uses humor and adventure to weave an unforgettable story about the wonders of seeing." Quote taken from product description on Amazon.

Definitely invite Dr. Hosler's humor into your home learning environment!

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