Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Our Postcrossing Journey

Ten months ago my family and I embarked on a postcard journey when we signed up at Postcrossing.  I thought this would be a fun summer geography project for the family.  And honestly, I expected it would be the most fun for my two younger children, but it has turned out to be quite the opposite.  Yes, they enjoy getting a new postcard in the mail and reading it but my 14yo daughter has proven to be the most interested.  And since it has been ten months, it has obviously become more than just a summer project. 

Postcrossing is a random exchange generator that is easy to use.  Once you sign up you must start the exchange by sending cards out.  You can send up to five at a time.  After your first postcard is received at its destination, your address goes into the loop to be given out to another postcrosser so you can start getting them too.  This basically becomes a pattern with you sending cards and then receiving them so that as long as you are regularly sending cards, you are also regularly getting new ones in your mailbox.  You are not required to send cards any more often than you wish so you can easily take a break from it if you get busy or want to go on vacation without having to update your postcrossing account.

The website also keeps track of all the people you have sent to and received from so that you can easily go back and look over the places your cards have come from, how far they've traveled or the number of days it took them to reach their destinations.  I've noticed that most cards travel at about the same speed but there are a few countries whose mail systems run a bit slower on average. 
The simplest way to turn postcrossing into a geography tool is by marking the world map with a dry erase marker whenever you get a new card in the mail and also marking where your cards are heading to with a different color marker. The postcrossing site places a little flag beside the name of the countries listed which I personally love because the repeated use of the website causes our brains to register the flag images over and over, making them familiar to us.  To expand on the educational value of the program you can, with a little more planning, tie in a study of the area by picking up books about the country you are receiving the card from, trying recipes from the area, practicing handicrafts, creating lapbooks and/or going on a field trip to the zoo to check out animals from that part of the world or to the local art museum to see art from the region.  We just keep it simple around here for now. :)

My daughter especially enjoys writng out the cards that we are sending. She tries to write a little something about whatever the picture is on the front of the card, something about our family and a note of encouragement from the Bible as well. Each card is chosen carefully to match the recipient as closely as possible. Often people have special interests that we can accommodate. A baseball fan might receive a card with a picture of Fenway Park, for someone who loves animals we can usually find a card featuring our region's wildlife or farm animals or for the person who enjoys cooking we have even found some neat recipe postcards from our locale. My daughter and I have made it a habit to pick up postcards whenever we can because they are not that easy to find in our town so we watch for them, especially while on field trips.

We love the ease of use postcrossing offers, the fabulous cards we receive from all over the world and the flexibility we have in sending out cards at our own pace.  Now we have found other homeschooling families in the blogosphere that want to exchange postcards.  We are excited to add this exchange to our postcard journeys!  If you'd like to link your blog post about postcarding to this meme or you just want to read how others are using postcards in their homeschooling click on the link below.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Student of the Week

Okay so this is partially to show off that my dear son made student of the week at our co-op and partly to share a little about something that seems to be working.  About a month ago, one of our Moms suggested we start giving a "Student of the Week" certificate.  Since this has been in place, our kids have been participating more, quieter when someone is speaking and helping out with clean up a lot more too.  I have been so impressed with the results.  It wasn't even our intention when we started it, that the award would encourage better behavior.  At least I hadn't thought of that, maybe the mom who suggested it did, but I didn't.  So I'm excited. 
I'm excited to see my son paying more attention in class and offering more to our discussions.  I was excited a few weeks ago when one of our youngest little girls stepped out and recited her memory verse without being anywhere near her mom, a great feat for this child.  I get excited every time I see one of the kids wash the table without being told.

It doesn't take much to incorporate either.  We have certificates and a bag of candy.  Each week the winner gets one package of candy of the mom's choosing and the certificate.  There are a few signs around the house that remind the kids of what we are watching for (cooperation, homework completed, obeying house rules, obedience, listening, humility etc.) and that's it.  Simple and so rewarding!

Monday, March 21, 2011

It's A Girl!!!!

Our pastor and his wife had their first baby last night!  The baby weighs 6 lbs. 8 oz. and measures 18 inches long.  We are so thrilled and excited over here that we can hardly concentrate on our school work.  So what's a mom to do if she can't go immediately to the hospital to see the new babe? 

Do baby math!

I got out the food scale and a tape measure and let the kids use the baby stats for a short math project.  A sack of flour or a bag of potatoes would have been real handy but I have neither.  The kitchen is quite bare right now so we had to be creative.  We piled up things from the fridge and the food cabinets into a bag.  The best part of the project was when we couldn't find something to make the last 2 ounces, the kids had to fine tune their weight estimation and try different things, much smaller things.  My daughter tried a stick of butter (in its dish) and found it to be too heavy.  My son went to looking high and low all over the house for odd things, usually coming out too high as well.  Finally my daughter found the tea bags and she added one at a time until she reached exactly 6 lbs 8 oz.  Then they carried the grocery bag in their arms like a baby and measured out 18 inches so they'd have an idea how long she is. 

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Our Latest U.S. History Reports

Celebrating James Madison's birthday - March 16, 2011
 I've really enjoyed our Wisdom unit, particularly the portion on the founding of our country.  My goodness, our founding fathers must have been pretty wise to have accomplished all that they did with so many differing opinions of how the country should be governed!

Over the past few weeks we have studied George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson as well as many of the signers of the constitution.  Since it would be nearly impossible to study them all individually, the children at our KONOS co-op were assigned to study and report on one signer each. 

My 8yo son and my 6yo daughter wrote reports on James Madison and William Paterson.  They also prepared posters so that they would have visual aids when giving their oral presentations at co-op which I am very happy to have finished so that they can use them at our homeschool group's upcoming academic fair. 

There are loads of biographies available for James Madison.  DS used one of the generic ones from the library as a reference and he read completely Jean Fritz' The Great Little Madison as his main source. This was probably the longest book he has read as yet and at times I admit, he really felt overwhelmed by it.  I had to push him quite a bit to get his reading done.  At one point I told him that if he finished his chapter for the day by a certain time, then I would read the next chapter to him before bed.  This worked as a pretty good incentive and when we snuggled up to read he was listening intently and even asked for another chapter.  Now this could have been because it would have allowed him to stay up a bit later but I can't deny the interest he was truly and honestly showing as well as the retention he later showed.

As for William Paterson, we didn't have great luck finding any biographies in our library system so we opted for online bios.  I chose 3 different bios of varying lengths, avoiding Wikipedia.  I had my daughter read the mid-length one and the shortest one and I used the longest in-depth bio for myself as a teaching tool.  It was quite a struggle for the 6yo to understand but I went ahead with it anyway for 2 reasons.  1. This is good stuff!  She'll remember bits and pieces, terminology will become more familiar to her and over time she will have a better understanding of her country's history.  2.  She insists on doing these reports!  Even when I tell her that only her brother needs to do a report because after all she is just six, she just can't accept it.  She likes giving reports.  It cracks me up!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Spelling Counts

There has never been a question in my mind as to whether spelling is important nowadays...

Hands On Carnival is Up

Happy Pi Day!
The latest edition of the Hands On Homeschool Blog Carnival is up over at Mountaineer Country.  Lots of submissions this month so you are sure to find some inspiration.  Enjoy!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Wisdom and Government - Weeks 1 and 2 of 4

Last week we started the government portion of our wisdom unit, actually early government.  There are four weeks in this subunit and we have divided it up as follows: 
Wk 1 - The state of the country after the war and just before the Constitution, George Washington
Wk 2 - The making of the Constitution, Parliamentary Procedure, Ben Franklin
Wk 3 - 3 Branches of the government, men who were present for the writing of the constitution
Wk 4 - Thomas Jefferson and Monticello

Here's the rundown of what we did at KONOS co-op last week:
  • prayer and pledge of allegiance
  • Each family reports on a portion of George Washington's life in a short drama. (Pg 29 Act # 2)
  • Discuss Shay's Rebellion and Whiskey Rebellion using Bible to answer questions. (Pg 30 Act # 4)
  • Make book from George Washington's Rules of Civility and discuss. (Pg 29 Act # 3a)
  • Discuss Federalist Papers and read the first couple entries. (Pg 30-31 Act # 8)
And here's the rundown of what we did this week:
  • prayer and pledge
  • Each child shares either an epitaph or an acrostic that they have written previously this week. (Pgs 32 & 34 Act #'s 16 and 21)
  • Have the kids tell what they know about Benjamin Franklin and discuss his printing business.  Make block stamps using wax.  This one was pretty difficult.  It was especially hard getting the wax smooth and even.  I would maybe try sanding the wax down to an even surface and then somehow heating it to make it smooth but I haven't experimented enough to tell you for sure if that would work.  This was a great activity and I would do it again but I would do some experimenting myself before having the kids attempt it.  For us it was definitely a discovery project and it took a great deal of our 3 hour co-op time.  (Pg 34 Act # 19)
  • Learn about Parliamentary Procedure and hold a mock meeting.  (Pg 36 Act #'s 28-30)
All of our activities came from KONOS Volume II.  Let me know if you need help finding anything!

Friday, March 11, 2011

DD and Friends

Along with the rest of the girl's group, last week our oldest daughter played guitar and sang Light the Fire as a special at our church.  Here they are altogether afterward and I'm sure much relieved that it was all over with for that day.  They'll be doing it again for a talent show tonight!  Please say a prayer for our girls.