Wednesday, February 25, 2015

World Thinking Day 2015: A Trip to Mongolia

In our council, the Girl Scouts celebrate World Thinking Day with a giant Geography Fair. It's even more fun than a regular academic fair, because more kids working together means MORE elaborate displays, MORE games and activities, MORE food to taste, and MORE presentations--what homeschooler wouldn't love that?!?

My troop, led by another mom who speaks the language, has traveled there, and thus has lots of knowledge plus cool souvenirs to share, presented on Mongolia. The girls all worked on different parts of the display, and it came out really well--very informative, very elaborate, but clearly kid-made all the way through:

As you can see, we've got photos and facts about Mongolia, info about Mongolian horses and Genghis Khan, the Girl Scout motto in Mongolia, its map and flag, demonstrations of a game played with sheep ankle bones, and food samples of fried bread and salty, milky tea

I'm impressed that I managed to get photos of the display as a whole looking like that, because most of the time it looked like this:

Yeah, there were a LOT of kids there. 

Fortunately, my troop has enough kiddos that the girls could trade off offering food samples, stamping passports, demonstrating the game (that's what my two mostly did)--

--and visiting all the other countries at the festival. They also presented a puppet show of a Mongolian folk tale, including making the decorated curtain, making the puppets, and practicing telling the story over and over and over again so that they could do it unscripted.

It was an awesome experience for the kids, and just the kind of cross-curricular, high-intensity, immersive, FUN academics that I like for them to have.

In our family, we also used the weeks when we were preparing for this festival as a short unit on Mongolia, so the kids researched and did their display as part of their schoolwork, researched Mongolian horses, completed the Story of the World chapters on Genghis Khan, and learned to recognize Mongolian music (there's a ton on Spotify!). Here are some of the reading/watching/listening resources that we enjoyed during this unit:

Monday, February 23, 2015

Work Plans for the Week of February 23, 2015: Fashion Show, Field Trips, and Final Cookie Orders (Yay!)

I have GOT to finish the kids' Trashion/Refashion Show entries this week! I was thrown off my game by a full day last week when, no matter how many times I sewed it, Will's T-shirt biketard simply. Refused. To. Work. Now that I've got that nailed down finally, I keep telling myself that all the rest of the design and sewing will go much more quickly, but still... must get it done this week. That Thursday Free Day is going to be the final leg of the race, no matter what.

In addition to these lesson plans, the kids' daily work will include, as always, chores, typing practice, keyboard practice, Chinese practice, and a daily book or documentary of my choice, to be read/viewed and then discussed with me. Those selections include a picture book biography of Georgia O'Keeffe that I thought that Syd would enjoy, a photo/essay book on fossils that I thought that Will would enjoy, a couple of books and videos for more Chinese language practice, and some selections on ballet or Sleeping Beauty, the theme of Syd's Spring ballet recital.

MONDAY: This time last week we were in the middle of a blizzard, and all outside-the-house activities were happily cancelled, but today we'll be happy to be back at our regular volunteer gig now that everything is plowed and cleared and the snow is piled up where it ought to be--a foot deep on the grass, perfect for sledding and forts and snowpeople in our free time!

In Math Mammoth this week, Will is studying decimals and Syd is studying area, perimeter, and volume. On this day, I'll be showing Will how one can use our Base Ten blocks as decimal manipulatives (hint: the hundred flat equals ONE), and Syd will be helping me tape out a template for the capes that she designed in masking tape right onto the floor. I'm hoping that she and her sister can sew these capes themselves, or at least baste them by hand for me to sew...

Will has the outline for her essay on historically black colleges and universities written, so this week she'll be writing that essay, then editing it. And yes, I do make suggestions in colored ink all over her rough draft, just as I used to do with my freshman comp students. Syd also has a book report to write on this day, and both kids need to write some thank-you notes to some extra generous Girl Scout cookie customers.

I've set aside time for the kids to have a Hoffman Academy keyboard lesson today, but I think that I'll actually give them the choice to either take a new lesson or complete the worksheets from the last few lessons--I got lazy about printing the worksheets for them, because for a couple of weeks in a row they'd just seemed like busywork, but now that I look back at the pages that they missed, I think that they'll want them for the rhythm and note identification.

TUESDAY: We'll actually be gone for most of the day on this day; we'll be helping with seed sorting at the food pantry where we volunteer weekly, and we'll be sledding with friends, AND the kids have Science Club (and hopefully I have a date at a Mexican restaurant!) that night.

The kids, especially Will, love animals so much that I think they'll be excited to start this zoology unit on this day. We'll be using Zoology for Kids, and the first lesson is an introduction to animal biology at the cellular level, and it asks the kids to make an edible animal cell model--yum! We'll be doing it cookie cake-style, and I plan to require them to also make an edible plant cell model, so that they can see the similarities/differences.

WEDNESDAY: In addition to horseback riding class, the kids and I have a field trip to a local wild animal rescue center on this afternoon--they are going to be SO excited. We'll slog through one, two, or three First Language Lessons lessons, depending on how long each one is, and hopefully the Trashion/Refashion Show garments will be finished--at least *almost* finished--by the end of this day.

THURSDAY: If not, I'll be ignoring the kids all morning while I finish them on THIS day!

FRIDAY: It's early for Easter eggs, I know, but I have an experiment with dyeing brown eggs that I'm desperate to run, and I know that the kids won't care whether or not it's off-season.

The kids have a couple of larger orders of Girl Scout cookies to add notes and prizes to, wrap up for mailing, write addresses on, and calculate postage for. If it needs to be done anyway, might as well do it as part of school!

This Prima Princessa ballet DVD might be on the baby-ish side, I'm suspecting, but it's supposed to provide an excellent narration of the story as told in the Sleeping Beauty ballet (as opposed to the Disney movie), so I think that it'll be a worthwhile experience, and it's also supposed to include some little ballet moves for the kids to do along with the video, which will be nice for Will, who's never taken a ballet class in her life, to try out and get the feel of.

While Will takes her final ice skating class of the season, Syd can write thank-you notes to the relatives who generously mailed us their unwanted black or white T-shirts that will hopefully by then be part of our 100% completed Trashion/Refashion Show garments!

SATURDAY/SUNDAY: Saturday, as usual, will have Matt spending part of the day taking Syd to ballet and both kids to Chinese and doing something fun with them in between. Sunday will hopefully be a day at home for everyone!

Because now that we've got our two favorite sledding runs nice and packed down, it would be a shame not to spend half the day, every single day, out on them!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

My Latest: Trains, Rainbows, and Sandwich Boards

I thought that I'd have a T-shirt biketard to show you, and I do have it, but the tute for it will have to wait until I sew Syd's--it turns out that T-shirt fabric works as a leotard really only for kids whose bodies are still straight little noodles, NOT for kids whose bodies have hips and waists and itty bitty busts, so although Will's biketard will work fine for play and for her runway walk at the Trashion/Refashion Show, it won't work for actual aerial silks or gymnastics use, so I don't need to write you a tutorial for making a non-functioning biketard.

I bet you could figure out how to make a non-functioning biketard all on your own.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Our DIY Aerial Silks Rig

For playing such a large part in our daily lives, this DIY aerial silks rig of ours is something that I haven't really shared as such yet. Part of the reason is that Matt and I put it up during a busy time (Nutcracker season!) and then modified it during another busy time, so I didn't have hours to spare to describe the process and the tools and the supplies in the loving, obsessive, undoubtedly-tedious-to-read detail that I usually expend.

Another part, though, is that this rig has fit so seamlessly into our lives, become such a natural, integral part of it, that I honestly don't spend much time noticing that giant swath of fabric hanging in the middle of our big hallway. The kids play on it and around it off and on all day, expending fabulous amounts of energy, calling me to come and see some new trick or skit or performance. I pass by it dozens of time every day, admiring a kid or pausing to give her a push or toss down some more mats or stopping to tie it up out of our way, only to pass by again an hour later and see it hanging down again after another unnoticed playtime.

It was actually only as I was going through some photos from the year so far that I noticed over and over again batches of photos that I'd snapped of the kids on their rig, and realized that I haven't yet been super braggy (well, I *have* been super braggy, but perhaps not in an overabundance of photos) about it here!

So here I am, super braggy about our aerial silks rig:
You can see here that I had Matt hack off the middle of our exposed beam and drill through a higher exposed beam to mount this rig. The ends of the exposed beam look janky, but we kept the cedar facing, so if we ever want to permanently remove the rig, we can nail the cedar facing back up to the beam ends and it will look exactly as it did before.
I believe that this is called a "Princess Sit?" I've resigned myself to the fact that in every photo that I share of this rig in action, you'll be able to see random clutter in my hallway. Shown here: plywood for a future mounted Hot Wheels track, Galileoscope, fire extinguisher, box of World War II letters, plastic crates stolen from the back of Kroger's, and, of COURSE, a ladder.
This is the Twizzler. It requires tricky balance, and both kids were very pleased when they mastered it.
 I especially love how this rig encourages cooperative play between my often competitive, often bickering, often jealous children:
I made Syd this Avengers leotard out of a T-shirt

The kids saw their instructors performing this two-person stunt at the winter showcase, so of course they practiced it, too!

 Check out the muscles on my kids--one can pull up her sister while hanging upside down, and the other can pull herself upside down while hanging onto her sister!

 The reverse is a little harder:

 So they decided to do this instead:

 And it turns out that the reverse of that is a little harder, too!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Our Girl Scout Cookie Booth: What's Working, and What's Not

My Girl Scout troop had our second cookie booth last weekend, and all last week, my two worked hard to implement what they'd learned from our first cookie booth at Wal-mart and make some improvements. 

It was decided that MORE color and MORE decoration would draw MORE attention, so working from a rainbow theme, the kids decided to pin play silks in rainbow colors to the front of the otherwise plain blue felt tablecloth:

That orange, by the way, had to be made fresh--where did our orange play silk go?!?

And there was also some hijinks involved in the construction:

The kids also noted that a Girl Scout who wasn't tied to the table could potentially entice over customers whose path wasn't carrying them right by, so I introduced them to the concept of the sandwich board. I'll have a full tutorial over at CAGW later, but in short, Will and Syd each composed a poem about Girl Scout cookies, painted them onto large pieces of cardboard--

--and then the Girl Scouts who manned the booth all took turns wearing it:

Seriously, how CUTE is that?!?

And here's the booth!

I love that you can really tell that it's kid-constructed, even though our troop is on the younger side. It's messier than it would be if the parents were controlling it, of course, but cookie selling is a girl-led business, after all, and it's wonderful to watch the kids visibly growing in skills during the course of the sale. One kid learned to count back change. One kid, who at the start of the booth was too shy to speak to customers, by the end of the booth was eagerly asking each one if they wanted their cookies gift-wrapped.

I also have to give props to how incredibly patient every single person who came by our booth was with the girls. One woman stood by and smiled as I demonstrated counting back change to a kid, then put everything back so that she could do it herself, then put everything back and demonstrated it again when she couldn't figure it out the first time, then put everything back and let her try again until she got it correct. Another couple let me hold a shy kid by the shoulders and prompt her with every single thing that she said so that she could get the hang of interacting with customers. More than one customer asked a kid a simple question ("Which is your favorite cookie?" or "Do you like being a Girl Scout?") and stood patiently while the kid took absolutely ages to think up the answer that she wanted to give. Not a single person acted a bit fussed to be dealing with these eager, fumbling, unsure, learning-as-they-went, clumsy kiddos.

And, of course, I'm learning as I go, too! Some things that haven't worked out so far:

  • offers of free gift wrapping, Valentine's cards, ribbon, etc. This might work if the kids used the offers to up-sell cookies, or entice customers over to our table, especially with those pre-Valentine's Day booths, but the kids in my troop are too young, and already have too much in their heads that they have to say. 
  • our stock. I don't know if our council is unusually short-supplied this year, or if this is a perennial problem, but I have not been able to get cases of cookies from them when I need them--I'm currently wavering about whether or not to cancel a cookie booth tomorrow, on account of we're out of Thin Mints and there are no more to be had. And don't even get me started with the gluten-free Toffee Tastics--they're apparently sold out nationwide! Next year, I'm going to make a much larger pre-order, and try to avoid dealing with restocking as much as possible.
  • change. MORE dollar bills! ALL THE MORE dollar bills!
  • prizes for buying five boxes. The prizes are kid-made and super-cute, and everyone is pleased when they've been told that they've earned one (most memorable prize-related moment: the five college women who came up, one woman planning to treat each of her friends to a box of cookies, who were so stinking thrilled when I told them that, due to the special circumstances, I'd let them EACH pick a prize, and who made such a happy fuss about picking their prizes, that every single kid at the booth was beaming by the time they finally completed their purchase and walked away), but again, the kids had too much to think about to market the prizes or try to up-sell the customers into them.
Some things that have worked out well:
  • the booth itself. The kids put a huge amount of effort into decorating that booth, and although I don't necessarily know that it drew in any sales, we did get loads of compliments about it, so I know that it was noticeable!
  • free samples. Another parent was in charge of this, and it definitely brought in some sales. Considering that we paid for the cookies that we gave away using money from our troop's donation box, it was well worth it. Next time, I'll suggest only offering samples of cookies that we need to sell more of--I have more boxes of Rah-Rah Raisins than I'm comfortable with this late in the season, but I'm flat-out of Thin Mints, dang it.
  • that donation box. Always have a troop donation box! Lots of people have put their change into it, and it's money that goes straight to our troop, with no required cut to our council.
  • that sandwich board. Again, I don't one hundred percent know if it brought in any sales by itself, but it definitely let people across the foyer of the grocery store know that there was a cookie booth nearby, and it gave the younger kids, especially, something to do when their brains got tired of focusing on customer service.
  • "Please buy Girl Scout cookies!" I don't know how you can sell cookies without assigning a kid to make eye contact with passers-buy and call this out. It's essential, and I think it's a great experience for the kids.
Speaking of cookies... my kids are still hoping to collect donations for Operation Cookie Drop, which gives Girl Scout cookies to our soldiers. Four dollars buys a box, although more or less is also welcome. The Paypal Donate button is at the top left of my blog. If you've already donated--thank you! You can be on the lookout for a thank-you email, written by the kids, in your email inbox one day soon, as soon as I can entice them away from sledding and balloon animals (yes, that's a thing right now) and board games and building blocks.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Work Plans for the Week of February 16, 2015: Mongolia and Hoosier Heroines

Half an hour into our Monday, and the schedule's already blown, thanks to a combination of snow (yay!) and car trouble (boo!). We'll actually be having a little staycation here at home today and Tuesday, and I'll just wait and see if I fill up those out-of-the-house spots with schoolwork here, or simply let them be. After all, one must have ample time for snowmen and sledding, mustn't one?

In addition to the written schedule, each day the children also have independent practice in typing, piano keyboard, and Chinese, and they each have a book assignment, ranging from Mongolian folk tales to picture books of Chinese characters to a bizarre 1950s-era children's how-to manual, which actually explains, step by step and remarkably clearly, how to do things like clean the house and write a thank-you letter and make a grilled cheese sandwich, etc. I usually just have the children talk to me about the book that they've read, but this week I'll also be asking them to write Chinese characters and make me a grilled cheese sandwich.

MONDAY: No Hub, no Girl Scout meeting. However... snow! In math, I'll be demonstrating to both children the Girl Scout cookie booth essential skill of counting back change. Next year, I'll be demonstrating this skill to all my Girl Scouts BEFORE our cookie booths! Our troop's two oldest girls (both named Willow, incidentally--it was wonderful, at our last cookie booth, to call out "Willow!" and have TWO big helpful girls at my disposal!), can handle money and make change with an adult standing at her elbow to supervise, but they both simply subtract--fine for the easy math of multiples of four, but one day out in the world the math won't be so simple.

This week's horse breed is the Abaco Barb. I'm really pleased with the infographics that the children have been producing for their horse research; I feel like this is a useful skill well learned!

Syd is starting a block of short story writing; I'd like her to produce a few written and illustrated picture books this spring. Will is engaged this week in another odd little essay prompt for a local contest--she's really improving in her ability to write to a prompt, and after this season of essay contests is over, I look forward to asking her to choose her own subjects for essays, as well.

TUESDAY: No Robotics Club. However... snow!

WEDNESDAY: YES horseback riding! You'll notice that aerial silks hasn't been on my list of weekly classes for a few weeks. At a recent Family Meeting we discussed extracurriculars; although I'm willing to enroll the children in whatever they're interested in and want to work at, I've noticed that the children lose their appreciation for these opportunities when they're signed up for more than one a day, and so I asked them to make some choices, assuring them that they could revisit these choices at the end of every session. Both children chose to drop aerial silks classes for the time being (they still spend ages of time on our at-home rig each day, and I might explore Youtube to see if there are any demonstrations or tutorials that might appeal to them), and Syd also chose to drop horseback riding. Instead, she'll be taking gymnastics on Thursdays. I found these choices so interesting because, of course, both children could have continued in horseback riding, and both children could have taken gymnastics, and in previous weeks I think they'd both have been eager to. I think they took our discussions of their schedules and their commitments to them that we'd been having in preparation for our Family Meeting to heart, however, and I could see them really thoughtfully choosing only what they really wanted to do.

For whatever reason (probably because I kept scheduling it for Fridays, which is the least productive time to put the "serious" schoolwork), we keep not listening to the Story of the World chapters on Mongolia and working on the comprehension questions. We MUST do it this week, however, as World Thinking Day is on Sunday, and my Girl Scout troop, thankfully led in this by another mom, is presenting on Mongolia. The mom has done an incredible job teaching the children about Mongolia and organizing their displays and presentation. My two need to create displays on Mongolia's map and flag this week, and I can't pass up the opportunity presented by this unit to cover those Story of the World chapters. After all, who doesn't like learning about Genghis Khan?!?

Syd's Minecraft Homeschool session is over, so while Will is working on her essay, I'm filling in Syd's extra schoolwork slot with activities that I know that she'll especially like--playing a game with me, and doing a craft project. I'll also need her help with her Trashion/Refashion garment off and on this week, so easy, fun little "assignments" like those won't interfere with any work that I need her to do on that.

THURSDAY: After the madness of the past few weeks, I'm relieved that this looks to be our only hectic day this week. Gym Day will likely include some extra World Thinking Day rehearsal, and the start of gymnastics class overlapping with a Girl Scout cookie booth will definitely require some juggling. Math Mammoth (decimals and geometry), a keyboard lesson with Hoffman Academy, and, for Will, the writing of a rough draft are the only added things to this day.

FRIDAY: I was pleased that the children rated math class as one of the extracurriculars that simply couldn't be dropped (ice skating is still also on Fridays, but only until the end of this session. Our rink is only seasonal, sigh); they love their teacher, and many of their closest friends also take the class, which devotes a full hour to board games at the end--how could that NOT be a hit?

We're still using First Language Lessons for grammar. In addition, these Word Ladders are a fun way for a kid to practice a little logical deduction and stretch her spelling skills while her sister is on the ice.

SATURDAY/SUNDAY: The children love their Saturday tradition of Sydney's ballet class, something "fun" with their father (last week it was Wonderlab, and the week before I believe that it may have been a buffet restaurant), and then Chinese class. Our local indie theater is showing all the Oscar-nominated short films as a film festival this weekend, so we'll likely be attending that, and then Sunday is World Thinking Day!

And hopefully by Sunday, I'll also have this Trashion/Refashion show garment in hand...

Sunday, February 15, 2015

My Latest: Bookmarks, Play Dough, and Reusable Tri-Folds

My tutorials on Crafting a Green World this week all came from projects that I had to do, anyway. I made another couple of batches of rainbow play dough for an etsy order, reminding me that I'd never before shared my fool-proof play dough recipe on CAGW:

My secret ingredient is powdered tempera. It makes the play dough as vivid as a crayon and as light as fluff.
Helping the children prepare for their Girl Scout cookie booths, I also realized that I'd never shared the long-promised tutorial to make the reusable chalkboard tri-fold display boards that we rely so much on for so many things:

As part of their Girl Scout cookie booth, the kids wanted to make bookmarks from old cookie boxes to give away as "prizes" to customers who bought at least five boxes of cookies, and their bookmarks turned out so cute that I posted them!

I'm pretty impressed with myself that I managed to whip out THREE tutorials during one of my busiest weeks.

Next week, I've got round-ups in the works for rainbow crafts for St. Patrick's Day and train-themed crafts just because, and maybe, just maybe, I'll have another leotard or cape-related tute, because although I've been deeply focused on Girl Scout cookie business so far this month, I MUST buckle down on the kids' Trashion/Refashion Show garments--I've only got a couple of weeks left to get them done, photographed, and submitted!!!


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