Sunday, July 29, 2012

Science Lesson: Simple Machines

We will be incorporating chores and responsibilities more diligently for our girls in the upcoming weeks. So before I got into the nuts and bolts of our agenda,  I wanted us to start talking about the notion of work and how things get done in our world. So we spent part of the day playing with and constructing some simple machines.

The six types of simple machines are:
-lever wheel and axle
-wheel and axle
-inclined plane
We only got to the first four today.
We started with this pulley idea inspired by KidsActivitiesBlog:
 Dad was super helpful with today's activities. We tied a heavy text book with rope and then looped it over a rolling pin. We loved comparing how heavy things felt when using our hands vs the pulley. 

Next up was the lever:
 We used a slab of wood placed over our rolling pin and discussed how easy it was to lift objects by pushing down on the opposite side.

We also had Dad make us a slingshot since it is a lever as well.
We then shot mini-marshmallows all over the house.

We also made a really simple wheel and axle using cheerios and a paintbrush.
 We discussed the cheerio's ability to spin while it was on and off the axle.

The last machine for the day was the inclined plane.
As you can see little sister much preferred climbing to pushing textbooks. Possible foreshadowing?

I'm really excited to show the girls how these machines are all over their playgrounds as well:

1. Inclined plane= slide
2. Wheel and Axle= steering wheel found on jungle gym
3. Lever= see-saw, although those are hard to come by these days
4. Pulley= we will bring some rope and improvise
5. Screw= swings and so many other objects in park are attached by screws
6. Wedge= used to keep door open in the park's restroom

We also watched The Little Engine That Could video to tie in the idea of a good work ethic. More on this in upcoming posts.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Tisha B'Av

           Tisha B'Av is this Sunday and it is a day that commemorates the destruction of the two Temples in Jerusalem and the many tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people. It is a day of deep sorrow and mourning. We hope that we can search deep within ourselves to truly mourn for these losses even though they happened so long ago.

Discussing these topics with young children can be tough. Here are some ideas I got from a wonderful article in the Insider Newspaper:

- For younger children, illustrate the Temple’s destruction and the feelings associated with it by having them build a temple using blocks, then have an adult or older child knock it down. That could spark a discussion about what they are feeling. Are they angry? Are they sad? Relate their feelings to what the Jews might have felt when the Temple was destroyed.

 For older kids:
-Talk to them about how American Jews for the most part don’t have to hide their Jewishness. Then, read books about Jewish families in different cultures and in different times which demonstrate how the Jewish people didn’t always feel as comfortable as they do today.

-According to the Talmud, the major reason why the first Temple was destroyed was idol worship. 
Today we too have idol worship, whether it’s our phones, our houses, our cars. Use this period to talk about what’s really important to your family.

-The Talmud says the second Temple was destroyed because of baseless hatred. That theme is very relevant today, even for children as young as kindergarten age. Use a birthday party as an example and ask youngsters whether they should invite everyone in their class. Or, if they didn’t invite everyone, what they would do if someone came anyway.

-You can also tie the concept of loss into contemporary tragic events. Unfortunately there are too many to list.

-Talk with your children about what they can do to strengthen Jewish life.

To keep your little guys busy while you are fasting and mourning, you may want to try some of these activities that have kept my girls engaged for quite a while:

I bought these at Target and I'm not sure who loves them more, me or the kids

 The markers go on your window looking almost clear and then slowly crystallize to get the above effect. So fun and super easy to clean.

  Make ice cube boats using ice cube trays or cups. We got this cute tray at Target before July 4th.

Let your kids put these little guys in a water table, bath, or sink full of water and let them watch their boats melt away. Or as my girls did, lick them till they disappeared.

Here are some more home made activities:

 Our baby girl still has trouble stringing with flimsy ropes, so we used these items above to help her string the pool noodles. You can find these fun twists at Amazing Savings. They are like thicker and fluffier pipe cleaners.

I stuck wooden dowels (you can probably just use pencils) into a block of foam that came from a UPS package. My girls then placed metal washers over the sticks. This really kept them occupied for a while. WARNING: CHOKING HAZARD. I would only let my little girl play with this under my close watch.

 This can also be turned into a math activity like the one seen here:
See & Solve Manipulative Kit

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Parshat Matot-Masai and sticking to your words

In last week's Parasha, Moshe teaches the people about annulling one's vows. So I spoke to 'A' about the importance of "sticking to your words". We do a lot of negotiating in this house and lots of deals are made, so keeping to your word comes up repeatedly. 

We made this lesson into a visual aid:
 I printed a picture of 'A' and put it into a clear sheet protector. We then hot glued Velcro pieces all over it. So now every time she sticks to her word, we will really stick her to her word using the Velcro.

And of course, mom and dad have to stick to their words as well. 

Homeschool Mission Statement

I decided we should have a mission statement to help keep ourselves balanced and focused during our homeschooling journey. It will be revisited and revised as needed. So here goes our first draft: 
  •  The environment we create for our family will be a balance of learning and living. Much of our learning will be a byproduct of living a meaningful and exciting life together.
  • We will learn through a Torah lens. Our Jewish studies will not be a half day affair or something to be graded. Torah learning is in everything we experience and discover.
  • We will socialize our children to treat all people with dignity.

Monday, July 16, 2012

What about socialization?

Since we started entertaining the idea of homeschooling, the most common question we have gotten is, "What about socialization?".

Since we are only 3 weeks in to this adventure, I'll let the experts and homeschool veterans answer this question.

Here are some links to shed light on the topic:

1. To make a long story short-

2. Does school based socialization really mimic the real world?-

3.Research on the academic and social development of homeschoolers-

4. Some interesting stats on homeschooling-

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Little Sis makes Big Strides

Seems like little sister is learning more than I would have ever imagined. So here is the speech therapist in me talking, but little sister is 18 months and a few weeks ago she was only saying a couple of very simple single words. Since this homeschooling agenda has started, I have been making an extra effort to give her special 1:1 time with mom to read books, play etc. This usually happens at 6:30 in the morning when big sister is still sleeping. And this past week she has shown me how much she is blossoming and she is amazing me every second of the way. 

She is now saying some three word phrases, following directions , and taking the initiative in our religious development. How, you ask? Well one day this week the morning was a little busy and I skipped our usual routine of washing hands and praying. But at 5pm, little sister made sure I remembered.

 She went over to the bookcase on her own, pulled out our siddurim (prayer books) and handed them out to me and her big sister. She then walked over to the dining room table where we usually pray and started calling out "sit down, sit down".  So we did and we prayed.

Then big sister said she needed to use the bathroom and little sister followed suit pulling at her diaper. She then sat on our little potty and actually made!
She then walked over to the sink and started to do netilat yadayim (ritual washing of the hands). It gets even better. She walked out of the restroom to say the blessing on washing hands. See video below:

Little sister is clearly learning through observation. Can't wait to see what other tricks she has up her sleeves.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Parshat Pinchas and Coral Reef Helpers

We continued discussing marine life with a focus on coral reef. 

Here is our hand print ocean life poster:
The idea for the multicolored hand print fish came from

To make this craft, 'A' decided to cut coral reef out of construction paper. So she did. She kept cutting and cutting and cutting. She was so proud of all the little squares she made. This was perfect since we just learned from the book below that there are hard and soft corals.So her squares were the hard coral and her fingerprints were the soft coral.
This book gave a great simple explanation on all the important relationships that keep the coral reef alive and healthy.
If any one is interested, here is a mini lesson on some of the symbiotic relationships that take place in a coral reef:
1. Cleaner shrimp use their claws to pick stuff off the fish's body. The fish gets a good cleaning and the shrimp enjoys a meal of fish trash.

2. The clownfish's bright colors reel in fish food for the anemone and the anemone protects the clownfish since clownfish are the only fish that are immune to the poison of sea anemone.

I then connected the idea of coral reef helpers with the story of the daughters of Zelophehad. The daughter of Zelophehad needed help to make their case that they should be allowed to inherit their father's land. They sought the help of Moses and through his aid, they were able to gain legal rights to the land.

We discussed how important it is to help others in all different types of scenarios.With older kids, this story is a perfect way to lead into a conversation on women's rights.

We then watched the video “Parshat Pinchas: Women Standing up for their Rights in the Bible” to provide a visual explanation of this portion of the Parasha. I skipped the beginning portion of the clip when I showed it to the girls:

This was followed by a paper doll chain craft to depict the daughters. The girls didn't really feel like decorating. But, it's still a physical item that will be brought to the Shabbat table to help springboard a conversation about the parasha.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Marine Life

Started the day with a review of last week's themes (evaporation and transportation). 
We created 3 different scenes for the girls so they could organize their transportation toys by place of travel. 

Used pillow stuffing for clouds.

My 18 month old was able to help decorate this scene using painters tape and a little guidance from me.

 Didn't have any toy boats, so we made these out of shapes I cut from foam and some Popsicle sticks. 

We have been mentioning evaporation throughout the week. We connected the idea to our bathing suits drying in the sunlight, the residual water disappearing in our bathtub, and when "painting" with water. The girls enjoyed using paintbrushes dipped in water to "paint" their chalkboard.

 'A' kept checking back on her art, to watch evaporation make her watermarks disappear. 

Since we were talking about water, I brought out our water table and decided to explore some marine life ideas with the girls. 

We filled one balloon with some air and the other with a marble and discussed why the air filled balloon  would float and not the other. You can expand this to many different objects and conversations on density, water displacement, etc.

Since 'A' loves jellyfish, we turned her umbrella into one:

 I tied strings to the corners of the umbrella to represent the tentacles and the girls ran around the house trying to eat each other and me with their umbrella jellyfish.

 By opening and closing the umbrella, the girls saw how a jellyfish squeezes its body to push jets of water to help propel it forward. 

 We then made our own aquarium style jellyfish using a water bottle, plastic grocery bag and blue food coloring. This was inspired by Click the link for a full tutorial as well.

 Unfortunately, my pictures don't do it justice. It looks much cooler in person.

We then made a sensory box using a plastic storage box, some blue rice we had made months ago, and fake flowers that we painted to represent coral reef. 
This kept the girls' hands busy for a long while and me busy vacuuming when they were all done.
The instructions for the colored rice can be found here:

Yay for carryover! While playing with the sensory ocean box, 'A' lifted the fake water and shouted, "It's evaporating!"

Monday, July 2, 2012

Parashat Balak and Homeschool Park Day

Started the day with a quick summary of the Balak story from this week's parasha. Using some random figurines we had around the house, 'A' and I  role played the story. 

We then made a paper bag donkey to depict Balaam's donkey. Instructions here:

The discussion about Balaam and his donkey was used as a springboard for talking about transportation and how it has changed throughout history.

 I rolled out two lengths of butcher paper and outlined roads on each. The girls used toy cars rolled through paint to drive through our modern road.

They used horse and donkey figurines dipped in paint to stamp through the roads from the past.

 Our transportation lesson continued when we went outside to look for anything we could find that had wheels. The girls found cars, strollers, garbage cans, and of course our neighbors bikes:

The lesson ended with a homemade ramp and a comparison of how things move with and without wheels.

This was all done by noon. Later in the afternoon, we were off to our first park day with the NYC preschool homeschoolers at Prospect Park. I had a great time meeting other families and the girls had a blast climbing trees and running around with the other kids.

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