Friday, May 18, 2012

Teaching the Universe

The Universe was our first major unit topic for our re-entry into the homeschooling world.

The topic sounds daunting but I happen to be a mayjah cosmology/astronomy nerd so it was an easy unit to build for me.

First, I brainstormed about all the topics we wanted to cover in studying the Universe and broke them down into daily lessons over three weeks.
I like to follow a "three weeks on, one week off" method for my unit studies for two reasons. One, I use the unit to find out what the kids are interested in learning next. I have a basic outline in my mind but if the kids responded neutrally toward the particular unit then I know I need to go in a completely different direction. The Universe unit was one of those units. Nothing excited me more than space and dinosaurs when I was little. It seems, nothing bores my kids more than space and dinosaurs. I thought I would transition the birth of the Universe into the birth of the Earth and go into a nice, long Earth Science/plate tectonics/first creatures on the planet unit but the kids could not be less interested right now. Upon survey I found that they want to do Human Anatomy next.
So the week off gives me just enough time to plot a new course and gather all my resources for the next unit.

The other reason (warning TMI incoming) is that my brain is super foggy during my *ahem* lady time o' the month and I found that I am a terrible teacher that week and no one learns anything. So it's best to take that time off to rest our brains and plan for the future.

So anyway, Week 1 was focused on origins and bodies found in the Universe, Week 2 focused on our solar system and detailed looks at each planet and Week 3 focused on Earth, the Moon and the Sun. This easily tied into telling time and we touched on some Earth science. Here are some good jumping off points and extras for building this unit:

The Origin - Read Genesis. Watch videos about the Big Bang. Discuss both according to your belief system. Here is a neat, short video by TEDed that talks about the vastness of the Universe and beyond:

The Fabric of Space - Most adults don't really have their arms around this concept but it's important to teach because it helps explain things like gravity. Check out this video for a crash course. I recommend reading some Michio Kaku for this unit, also. He explains cosmology so incredibly simply. When my oldest asked me "What is gravity? My teachers just said 'it holds objects to Earth' but that really doesn't explain what gravity is" I was prepared. Kaku explained it as visualizing space as a giant sheet and the earth as a bowling ball in the middle. The fabric (of space) is bent toward the bowling ball (earth) so if you roll objects around on the sheet, they will be drawn in toward the bowling ball.
We grabbed a sheet and a globe and did it ourselves.
My daughter said, "Mom, you explained in five minutes what I could never understand in years of asking at school."

Homeschooling FTW.

Black Holes and Nebulae - If you can get your hands on the IMAX Hubble movie then watch it. I took my kids to see it a year or so ago so they had a basic understanding of what a nebula is. We did a simple art project using black construction paper, chalk and white paint. We looked at picture of nebulae online and then made our own:

To introduce kids to black holes, check out Kids Astronomy. And if your kids are morbid like mine, watch this video by Neil deGrasse (most badass amazing astronomer why isn't he more famous?) Tyson on exactly how you would die if you entered a black hole:

Galaxies: Kids Astronomy has a great intro again. It is also interesting to note that our solar system actually bobs up and down in our Galaxy, not unlike the movement of a carousel! We will be in alignment with the center of our galaxy this year.

This pretty much took up the first week of our studies. We went to the library and each kid chose three space and universe related books to read over the course of the three weeks. On the weekends, they restated what they learned - or "taught" what they learned - to the rest of us. We did plenty of other activities with this unit including making homemade meteors and having a meteorite hunt in the back yard! We also held hands to explain how moons stay in orbit and made a sundial!

I hope this gets you thinking about how to build a unit. I will be posting the first week of all of our units regularly. For me, with kids of different ages, it is the easiest way to teach all of us at once. I start the morning with our unit and then we separate for more focused studies like handwriting, math, typing etc.

For now, it's time to build our Anatomy Unit. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

We're Back

Our home education journey is back on track.

Stay tuned for updates.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Hi readers...all four of you.

So I am no longer homeschooling.
No it is not by choice. I am livid actually.

It seems MEH supports homeschooling when it's someone else but is not willing to be supportive when it means he has to give up some of his freedom.
Without his committment to watch the kids, I can not earn money for my bills. If I can't pay my bills then...

So with a heavy, burning, bitter, angry heart I enrolled all three kids into school. =*(

This blog is officially rendered useless, I guess. As is my profile.

Thanks for reading anyway...


Sunday, July 31, 2011

Menu Planning Keeps Mommy Sane

I am a HUGE fan of menu planning.

My grocery budget is teenie weenie, about $102/week for all four of us. When I sat down and did the math I nearly fainted and I did cry - honestly.

I am a foodie. I have always been a foodie. I refuse to resort to eating hot dogs and EasyMac to stay within budget.
Here's where menu planning kicks in,

Each day of the week has a "theme" and, in almost every case, the leftovers from one meal work in the next day's meal. 
For example: On "Fish Friday" we had fish tacos which used red cabbage in the recipe. Later, on "Soul Food Sunday" we used the rest of the cabbage in coleslaw. The roasted potatoes that accompanied our meatloaf from "Meat Monday" became potato soup for "Soup Tuesday." 

Before meal planning, making dinner felt like being on an episode of Chopped.

I would open my pantry and I could hear Ted Allen warning me: "Ok Jessica in your kitchen you have: mirin, bananas, tilapia, brussel sprouts, and cheetos. You have 30 minutes. Your time starts now!"

Now I sail through the week, knowing exactly what I am making for dinner, having everything I need to make it, with plenty for us and a little extra for when MEH decides to drop in and make himself at home. 

Here is our weekly line up. What's yours?
Meat Monday
Soup Tuesday
Brinner Wednesday - Breakfast for Dinner
Leftover Thursday
Fish Friday
Sammich Saturday
Soul Food Sunday - this usually includes cajun food for when I am feeling homesick

Get the Wiggles Out

Another rainy day.

If you live anywhere near the Southeast you know how hard it is to get the kids out in the sunshine for some Phys. Ed.
Problem is, they're in the house bouncing off the walls and you are thisclose to checking yourself into a mental institution.

Mine have been wrestling all day, like a bunch of lion cubs, and with downstairs neighbors I knew I had to find a way to help them get their wiggles out without hurting neighbor relations.

It's on days like these that I turn to youtube.

Dr.Oz and Real Age have a great series of workouts based on the
YOU: On a Diet book.

These workouts are calm - no bouncing and jiggling required - but it helps expend that pent-up energy and is definitely a way to meet those homeschool Phys. Ed requirements. 

We grunted and whined through the workout. The kids were almost completely calmed down. 
Project Runway, however, was completely energized by the workout (D'OH!) so we had to have a dance party to finish the job. Cue my Pandora "Glee" station.

Now both Project Runway and Baby Gaga are down for the count. I'm using this quiet period to do some homeschool planning and making a loaf of milk bread with Prof. Fox. 

Mission Accomplished.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Sneaky Teaching

Admittedly, starting my homeschooling journey in the summer was not the best idea for my family. I decided I was ready to take the plunge mid-March and by the end of the school year I was BURSTING with ideas and activities. I had written half of our Unit Studies, had bookmarked well over a hundred homeschool blogs and websites, and had carefully mapped out and scheduled the next six months of our lives.