Saturday, September 3, 2016

BLISS (Or What We're Doing for 5th Grade Home School)

Welcome to BLISS!
What's that?

Blossom Lane Institute of Spunky Sparkle.


That's what we decided to name our home school this year. She came up with the spunky sparkle part, because she's all about that. And I love the acronyms. I couldn't resist this one. It sums up what I want our school to be, which is anything but dull and pointless. We're happy to be together.

Every morning we point to the glittery BLISS letters on our school supply bins and chant: "Blossom Lane Institute of Spunky Sparkle!" Then we give a high five and say, "Welcome to BLISS!" 

That's how we start our day. It's the best. And if we hit a little rough spot and get cranky, we go back to our happy chant and start over again.


This year, as with the last two, I only have my youngest daughter home for school. It's been so much less complicated teaching just one than several at a time. She's in 5th grade, so I just love getting to dig in deeper with her.

She will probably go to public school next year. So that means I need to make sure she's up to speed on all of her basic skills, as well as teach her whatever content I want to make sure she gets before I send her off to middle school.

Here's our plan...

For math, we do flash card and oral drill to keep her multiplication facts fluent. She's finishing up a basic math workbook from last year, and then we'll move on to Spectrum 5th Grade math. She does Sum Dog and other math game web sites on-line.

For language arts, she has a Spectrum 5th grade Reading comprehension workbook, a Grammar Minutes workbook left over from last year, the Writer's Express text that I used with some of her older siblings, and a writing prompts journal. I have other resources available for later in the year, but this is enough for now. She's doing creative writing on her own a few times a week on the computer.  Plus, she chooses a novel to read on her own for literature. Right now it's Mr. Popper's Penguins.

I keep her daily books and flash cards in a basket on the floor so I can reach in easily and hand her the next one when we're working together in the morning. I marked the top of each one with the subject so I can find them easily from the top at a glance. I also have a larger basket with other resources we don't use daily but want to have handy.

The real fun for me is social studies. This year we'll be in a world geography co-op on Mondays where she will learn about culture and mapping. There isn't any homework (yay!) so the other four days we get to do our own thing. Last year my goal was to cover world history from the earliest civilizations up through the Middle Ages. We didn't finish the Middle Ages, so I decided to pick up with that again and go as long as we want. Then we'll move on to the Renaissance and Reformation era, which I'm guessing will take us up to Christmas or even beyond. I want to take the scenic route through this period of history since there is so much to learn. We love art and music, and I have a bunch of great children's biographies and historical fiction with important concepts! The public schools do world history in 6th grade, so I'm not worried if we miss some of the later time periods. However far we get, I'll at least leap frog forward to World War 2 and Holocaust studies at the end of the year.

One of the key resources we are using right now is What Really Happened in the Middle Ages, a collection of short biographies compiled by Terri Johnson. So far we have read chapters about Theodora and Alcuin.

This one below is from my own childhood in California. I have several in the series. I wondered as a young home school mom over 20 years ago where these had gone. Oddly enough, I found them in my grandparents' attic in Pennsylvania. I have loved using them with each of my children here in Florida. They are easy to understand with great words to learn for vocabulary. 

So far with both of those books, I have started a spiral notebook for copy work. I jot down several phrases or sentences with key facts for each story and she copies them either while I read to her or later on. I encourage her to use her best handwriting, and pay attention to spelling and punctuation. She also does oral narrations of whatever we read, telling me what she remembers from the story. These are Charlotte Mason approach methods. 

Here is a sampling of some other books we'll be using for the Middle Ages and then the Renaissance and Reformation era.

For science, we are taking the opposite approach. In the past, we've done unit studies on various science topics but they haven't been very comprehensive. I don't know where I found this 5th grade text, but it's a thick and visually attractive book with chapters on all the major science topics to fill in whatever gaps she has. So far we've learned about cells and part of classification for living things.

Our whiteboard easel always comes in handy for science.

We also had a membership at the Orlando Science Center, which just expired, but we managed to pack in four visits in the first few weeks of school, once with two of my grandchildren.

My daughter is an enthusiastic artist. Her favorite YouTube channel is Art for Kids Hub which features drawing videos. She has hundreds of drawings in her portfolio. We organized all of her art supplies into a rolling cart which she stores in her bedroom closet. I think she spent far more on art supplies as the school year started than we did on other school materials. She has dabbled in acrylic paints. We'll do more tie dye this year, and we're both going to learn how to use a wood burning tool. She's already a pro with a hot glue gun.

Like me, she is also an art museum fanatic. We have visited six of the local museums, some of them more than once. Last week, we took a spontaneous trip to one of our favorites, the Morse Museum of American Art, which claims the largest collection of stained glass work from the studio of Louis Comfort Tiffany and his colleagues.

One craft project that we did is making calming glitter jars. That's definitely a lot of spunky sparkle!

She also loves to cook, so she's done several kitchen projects like pancakes, eggs, cookies, smoothies, and other yummy treats. Of course I'm glad she gets extra hands on practice with planning, reading instructions, measuring, food safety, and other practical skills. 

So that's what we've got going so far!

Related posts:

God bless!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Calming Glitter Jar

My youngest daughter is about to start fifth grade at home this week. Last week on her birthday, she went out to breakfast with Daddy near where he works. Afterwards, he brought us to his office so she could meet some of his coworkers. One of them, on hearing that she loves to draw and had received art supplies for nearly all of her presents, showed her a recently completed project, a calming glitter jar. You can turn the jar over, and the glitter will swirl and float gently down, which is both beautiful and relaxing to watch.

We decided to make some. Since we were going to be visiting one of my adult daughters the next afternoon, we decided to bring the project over to her apartment and let her do it with us. Here's how we did it.

We bought a dozen store brand mason jars at Walmart for about $8. These were cheaper than Ball, and had no embossed writing on them, which made them perfect for the project. We also bought clear glue and some bottles of glitter. We also bought food coloring and some extra sets of glitter packets at the dollar store.

We filled our mason jars most of the way with hot tap water and then poured in some clear glue. I started with only two ounces, then added another ounce. It could still use another ounce of so. If you are buying a five ounce bottle of glue, you might want to dump the whole thing in. More glue in the mix means the glitter falls more gradually through the water when you turn the jar over. You can use this step of the process to talk about viscosity. See, we can turn this into a science lesson as well as an art project!

Please note that it has to be clear glue (or glitter glue) or you won't be able to see anything when you shake the bottle.

I screwed the cap back on and shook thoroughly to mix the glue and water. Then I took the cap off again and added glitter. I mainly used large holographic blue glitter. Then I added in fine glitter of other shades of blue, as well as silver and gold. A mix of sizes and and shapes and colors makes the texture more interesting as the glitter swirls in the water.

You can also add a tiny drop of food coloring if you wish. Just an eensy bit or it will get too dark! If you want to get it just right, try formulating the color saturation before you add the glitter! (And while you have the food coloring out, you might do some other experiments, like adding different colors to a tray of milk and swirling them around. More science fun!)

Put the lid back on and shake it again. 

This could be the end of the project, if you like. However, if you are like me or my youngest daughter, you might continue twiddling with it. You can also super glue the lid on if you like. I didn't, because I still want to be able to play around with adding more glue and some big silver glitter.

Here is my jar with all of the glitter settled to the bottom. 

Here I've turned it over and shaken it a bit, so all of the glitter is swirling down and around and up and around and down again.

This is my adult daughter's version. She chose not to use food coloring.

My youngest daughter made hers purple, and we made an extra one with reds, pinks, silver and gold to take to her home school evaluation that evening. It made a creative gift for her evaluators.

She's going to make another one for Daddy.

I love the calming glitter jar on my desk. I find myself shaking it several times a day. It really does the trick at helping me pause and quiet my thoughts. All of the sparkly motion fascinates me.

Apparently the calming glitter jar can be a big help for anxious children, too. Many therapists have their child patients make them during their visits. 

I imagine that playing with the jar might be great hand-eye occupier for a fidgety child too, maybe during read aloud time. So this is a craft project that can make a lasting contribution to your school room.

If you are worried about the glass jar breaking, use a plastic water bottle with the label removed.

One of the blog posts where I found instructions is here: Calm Down Glitter Jar at Happy Home Fairy. You can find various other instructions on YouTube.

Happy shaking!


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