Friday, October 2, 2015

Fourth Grade Home School and Lots of Links

Hello again friends!

I've already done two photo posts of our school year so far, which you can find here!
Here is a subject by subject update of the most recent several weeks of school.

Social Studies

We have been studying Ancient Egypt for the past few weeks, but haven't made quite as much progress as I would have liked. Part of this is because my sweet new granddaughter was born two weeks ago. I actually planned a lighter schedule with less school days, so we just didn't have as much time as our standard three weeks for a unit. 

I have a lot of related resources on my shelf, but we didn't use many of them because it turned out that they didn't suit our purposes. Some of them were a bit much for her interest and comprehension levels, and others just duplicated each other. In the end, I decided to use the Ancient World textbook mentioned in a previous post as our core resource. 

She also enjoyed Tut's Mummy Lost and Found, a Step Into Reading book suitable for 2nd grade and up. We have an older version that didn't have the full color photos as this one available on Amazon. Then we just read a little and looked at pictures in other books like Eyewitness Ancient Egypt. 

This is an example of reducing my reading expectations to fit reality. Rather than getting an in-depth look at Ancient Egypt, I chose to be satisfied with a basic introduction. If she is aware of the main concepts, can recognize visual images, and knows the meaning of basic vocabulary words, that is good enough for me. I also made a word search for her using Puzzlemaker with these words: archaeologist, architect, astronomer, Cairo, delta, dynasty, Egypt, flood, Giza, Hatshepsut, hieroglyphs, Horus, Isis, kingdom, mummy, Nile, Osiris, papyrus, peasant, pharaoh, pyramid, sarcophagus, scarab, slaves, sphinx, Tutankhamen.

In addition to the books, I bought a Jim Weiss audio CD from my friend Jessica Ivey called Egyptian Treasures: Mummies and Myths. We haven't finished listening to it yet, but it's good! Listening in our van while we're out and about is a great way to make the most of our time. (Jessica would like to sell off her stock of CD's that she purchased to sell as a mission trip fundraiser, and I'd be glad to put you in touch with her.)


We are continuing with our Skill Sharpeners science work book. I like to find YouTube videos to go along with the topics. Right now, she is finishing up the unit on earth science so she watched this clip: "What is a Glacier?".

Our history units cover a bit of science, too, such as how a mummy is prepared, or how a pyramid is built. How did the workers get the massive stones to the top of structure? They used ramps, an example of an inclined plane.

Since my daughter also wanted to find out how household items worked, we checked out some library books on simple machines used at home, as well as more general ones on levers and inclined planes that are used in so many modern objects.


I have to get a little creative with teaching math - and let my daughter be creative too.

In our Guinness World Records math book, a word problem about really long lizards asked her to convert 15 feet 7 inches into just inches. I told her that she needed to multiply 15 times 12 and then add the extra seven inches. For some reason, she couldn't wrap her brain around this even though I went through the basic concept with smaller numbers. "One foot has 12 inches. Two feet have 24 inches. Three feet have 36 inches..." and so forth. No deal. I would need to try the hands-on activity approach. My tape measure wasn't in my tool box, but then I remembered a telescoping surveyor's measuring rod that belonged to my late father-in-law, who was a civil engineer. I got it out of the storage room and extended it to about 20 of its 27 foot range. The feet are divided into tenths, rather than inches, but I figured we could work around that. I showed her how long 15 feet was, and reminded her that each foot has 12 inches. I counted by twelves up to 180 inches as I walked along the rod. She started grasping how foot to inches conversion works. 

Then she had the bright idea of getting out her toy car collection and measuring how far each one could roll alongside the rod. If one traveled 7 feet, we multiplied 7 x 12 to get 84 inches. If it went 9 feet, it was 108 inches. Not only did she have a blast, she enthusiastically made a nine minute video on my iPhone of the whole process as she described what we were doing. She got it!

Another recent breakthrough is that I found a whiteboard & chalkboard easel on clearance for $7.50 at IKEA. She loves to do math problems on it and make more iPhone tutorial videos.

One of my main math goals this year was for her to finish learning her multiplication tables fluently. We plugged away at it little by little with flash cards, apps, and web site games. Finally, she was ready for the One Minute Math Multiplication B drill book and now the facts are coming easily for her! On each page, there is a featured multiplication fact. In the photo above, there is a 7 x 8 and an 8 x 7 on every line, mixed with review of earlier facts. She is zipping through them happily. We tried timing the pages, but she gets rushed and flustered that way. It doesn't take her that much longer when I don't time her and it sure is more accurate, so there's that to think about.

Language Arts

We've kept up with our Daily Grams and BrainQuest workbooks, but I realized we were lagging on independent literature and creative writing for a few weeks. Today I told her to pick out a chapter book to read by herself. She chose an adaptation of Little Women and we set the timer for 20 minutes of independent reading. She read two chapters out loud. Yesterday, I told her to write a paragraph on anything, and she chose, "If I Could Have Three Wishes." Ice cream truck anyone? She asked me what I would wish for. I said I would like to have all of my children be happy, well-adjusted, kind, and responsible. She groaned and told me to think of something fun instead. That didn't take long. How about an all expenses paid trip to meander around European art museums and the countryside for a few months? Yep, that would be me. Awesome field trip, eh? Someday - in my dreams at least!

Fine Arts

Talako Indian Dancers
Speaking of art museums... My daughter loves them, too! That makes me a very happy mommy. Last Friday, after watching a performance of the Talako Indian dancers in a park, we went to the nearby Cornell Fine Arts Museum on the campus of Rollins College. It's not a big museum, but it's free. One of the exhibit rooms was not suitable for children due to mature photographic content. Oops! However, in another more family friendly area, they provide clipboards and art materials so kids can sketch sculptures.  

The next day, we went to the Artlando festival. We weren't impressed with the outdoor booths, but the Orlando Museum of Art was offering free admission during the festival. She had already been begging me to go there, so this was a big win! We're planning a trip to the Albin Polasek art museum soon.

Look closer at the detail from the left hand side of "Just Discovered" by Carlos Vega. Stamps!

My daughter took this photo of the Chihuly glass piece.

So we love art appreciation, but she's also REALLY getting into drawing. She found the Art for Kids Hub channel on YouTube and she's been drawing from their lessons every morning. This is such much better than using a how-to-draw book - of which we have plenty - because of the motion and interaction. Art is also good therapy for her. It gets her brain into a calm and creative mode before we start the rest of school. Here are two of her birds, colored with oil pastels.

Blue Jay


I took several hours this week to update her school records with all of the books read and work book pages completed. Then I planned out what we need to work on next, which is a unit study on Asia. I do all of this in Evernote on my laptop, which makes it easy to update from my iPhone Evenote app since the files are synced. I love Evernote for so many things!

That's it for now!


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