Tag Archives: unit studies

New Year’s Around the World

No matter if we’re home together or visiting other family members, we usually celebrate on New Year’s Eve with games, snacks, movies, fireworks, and of course, staying up until midnight. This year, as we get ready for the festivities, we thought it would be interesting to find out how the rest of the world welcomes the new year. Here’s what we discovered:

In England, New Year’s Eve customs are quite similar to our own here in America. Many people celebrate with parties either in their homes, restaurants, or pubs with friends and family. They also watch fireworks displays, and at midnight sing “Auld Lang Syne”. They count down with the clock and toast the new year. Sound familiar? It did to my kids!

But here are some other things we learned:

In Scotland, New Year’s Eve is known as Hogmanay, and it’s an evening full of traditions. One of the customs is called first footing, or being the first person to cross the threshold of a home after midnight. This “first footer” will bring all the luck of the coming year with him, but there are some criteria he must meet. Ideally, he will be tall and handsome with dark hair, but he cannot be a doctor, a minister, or a grave digger. It’s also traditional for the first footer to carry a lump of coal to signify life, comfort, and warmth, along with a cake to represent prosperity.

Omisoko, New Year’s Eve in Japan, is one of the country’s most important holidays, coming second only New Year’s Day. Buckwheat noodles, called toshikoshi soba, are eaten to ensure longevity and prosperity. Families gather to watch the Red and White Song Festival, a television program that features singers whose songs were popular during the year. As the clock approaches midnight, many people visit the shrines and temples. Getting up to watch the sunrise on New Year’s Day is another important tradition, as viewing the first sunrise is considered a good and proper start to the new year. Popular foods for New Year’s Day include fish, fish eggs attached to seaweed, black beans, and kelp. New Year’s postcards sent to friends and family are delivered on New Year’s Day, and children receive monetary gifts in special envelopes.

In Mexico, Año Nuevo (New Year’s Eve) is celebrated by decorating homes in red ( improved lifestyle and love), yellow (blessings and good employment), white (improved health), and green (improved financial situations). Families often celebrate with a late-night dinner of turkey and mole. If Mexican sweet bread is served, it was usually baked with a coin or charm inside the dough. It’s tradition that whoever receives the piece with the coin  will have good luck in the coming year. When the clock strikes midnight, 12 grapes are eaten — one at a time with each chime of the bell – and a wish is made with each one.

People ring in the New Year in so many different ways! What interesting New Year’s traditions do you have in your family?

 

Photo by Matthew Hull

All About Egypt

This year, my younger children are  going to be diving back into world history. Because we did a little bit over the summer, I decided to start off the new school year by reviewing ancient Egypt. While we’re using the Story of the World by Susan Wise Bauer as our primary text, we’re also supplementing with some great books from the library. And, as always, I’m learning a lot right along with them!

If your family is studying ancient Egypt, here are some resources you might like to look into:

Books:

Ancient Civilizations – Egypt by Christy Steele.  A nice book to read aloud together or assign as silent reading for older elementary students. Includes a glossary in the back.

The Great Pyramid by Elizabeth Mann – The story of the Pharaoh Khufu and the construction of the Great Pyramid. Contains both actual photos and traditional illustrations. While older students could read this book  on their own, it’s one I would choose to read to them, as we could go over all the information as it’s presented.

Tutankhamun by Robert Green – A book full of information about King Tut and the discovery of his tomb. Contains  interesting photos, including one of Tut’s mummy and one of the dig site at the Valley of the Kings.

Great Ancient Egypt Projects You Can Build Yourself – To add in some hands-on learning, check out this book with projects such as making boats, papyrus, bread, jewelry, and hieroglyphs.

 

Other Resources:

Ancient Egypt Unit Study and Lapbook by Jodi Small – Contains a library list and over 30 “minit” books.

Ancient Egypt Lapbook by JoAnn S. – Includes a reading list, activities, crafts, and cooking ideas.

Ancient Egypt Lesson Plans and Classroom Activities
by Mr. Donn – lots of lesson plans featuring the geography, history, religion, art, and daily life of ancient Egypt.

Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery for Kids
– Ancient Egypt – online activities featuring ancient civilizations, including Egypt.

 

Photo by embalu

Around the World

This summer, we have a lot of friends traveling all over the world. My niece and her husband came back last month from Rwanda, our neighbor just returned from a trip to Turkey, another friend is on her way to Australia to finish school, and another niece is set to go as a missionary to Uganda for a year. We also have friends who are long-term missionaries in Paraguay. What amazing adventures! Not only do these trips make the world seem much smaller, but they offer great opportunities for learning!

When someone we know travels to another country, it provides a more personal reason to study that country. We can study the culture, language, people, cities, government, religion, landscape, flora and fauna, and cuisine of a particular nation with our friends and family in mind. We’ll discover what they’ll see and experience while they are there.

But even better, we’ll also be able to learn more than we ever would from books or online. We’ll be able to take what we’ve learned from reading and ask them about it. They’ll be able to give us details that would be hard to find in a typical report. For example, we learned that many Australians are very laid back, and use the phrase “No worries!” quite often, even in situations when the average American would be stressing out.

If you have a friend of family member who will be traveling soon, try creating your own unit study about the country they will be visiting. Start off with basic maps and facts about the country. Then tap into your friend’s experiences. If your friend has  a blog or Facebook page, visit it often with your children to see where he is and what’s he’s doing.  Find the cities where he’s been and have the kids mark them on a map. If he posts photos, include those in their notebooks as well.  If he’s staying a while, have them write letters, and add any they receive in return.

So even if you’re not traveling around the world this summer — no worries! Your children will have a great learning experience anyway!

 

Photo by xandert

Beaver!

Last weekend, we met extended family in the mountains of Tennessee for our annual Family Reunion Campout. The group included a grandmother, thirteen (grown) kids and spouses, twenty-four grandkids and three spouses, five great-grandchildren, two friends, and — a beaver!

For many years, we didn’t see much wildlife around the campground, but within the last five or so, we’ve seen quite a lot. We’ve come upon a rattlesnake, a deer, hatchling turtles, and this year, a beaver! It was swimming above the water in the river when someone spotted it, and we all ran over to the bridge to see. You might have thought that with so many people there it would go under and disappear, but it didn’t; it just kept going along against the current until it was so far upriver we couldn’t see it anymore.

Now, what’s a homeschooler to do with an event like that? Why, make a lesson from it, of course! And while you may not have seen a beaver recently, you may still have a young beaver fan at your house. If so, here are some resources to check out:

WEBSITES:

Beaver Unit Study – based on the book Paddy the Beaver by Thornton W. Burgess.

Beavers – Wetlands & Wildlife – This website was created by the friends and associates of conservationist Dorothy Richards to continue her efforts to educate others about beavers. Lots of interesting information here.

“Beavers”
– More beaver facts in this National Geographic article.

“Beaver Family”
– National geographic video featuring a beaver family through the seasons.

“How Beavers Build a Lodge” –   This BBC YouTube video shows amazing footage of beavers building their home.

BOOKS:

  • Beavers by Helen H. Moore
  • Building Beavers by Kathleen Martin-James
  • Beavers: Where Waters Run (Northword Wildlife Series) by Paul I. V. Strong
  • The Adventures of Buddy the Beaver: Buddy Explores the Pond by Carson Clark and Jim Clark
  • Beaver – The Life Cycle by Bobbie Kalman
  • Beavers (Kids Can Press Wildlife Series) by Deborah Hodge and Pat Stephens

With so many resources,  it’s time to get busy — like a beaver!!

 

Photo by Carlson

One Pelican at a Time

Last year, I had the opportunity to illustrate a book that’s special in more ways than one.

Written by Nancy Stewart, One Pelican at a Time tells the story of two best friends, Bella and Britt, who experience first-hand the terrible effects of the Gulf oil spill. As the girls watch the clean-up efforts, they see their long-time friend, an old brown pelican, dive into the oily water. They run for help, then follow the workers as they catch the bird and take it to the bird sanctuary to recover. A few days later, the girls return and help wash off the pelican in a huge bucket of sudsy water.

For children who live far from the Gulf, the story helps them better understand the oil spill and the effect it has had on the wildlife in the area, as well as the work that must be done in order to clean it up. The author’s notes at the end include a brief description of the actual spill in 2010 and how it has hurt both the people and animals that have made that area their home.

Another reason this story is unique is because the two main characters in the book — Bella and Britt — are modeled after two sisters! When I was looking for models for my illustrations, a wonderful family volunteered; they had two girls, one adopted, both the same age.  Their mom helped too — she’s the ranger in the story. For them, the book also represents a fun family memory!

So if your children are studying conservation and the environment, check out One Pelican at a Time. It would be a great addition to any unit study about nature and our role in caring for it.

Snake!

This past week, my six-year-old was playing in the backyard, when he discovered a snake close beside him. He called to his sister who then called to me, saying there was a baby copperhead in the grass.  I rushed outside and caught it by the head with a stick; on first glance, it did look like a copperhead.  I told my oldest son to bring something to “take care of it” with. He came from the house with a container to put it in — not quite what I had in mind — so we pushed it into the clear little bowl.

The snake immediately flipped over, opened its mouth, and dropped out its tongue! It was playing dead!  Though the copperhead would have wanted it’s life spared, they don’t know that trick. A few years ago, we had found a much-larger, black-colored snake that did the same thing. This snake was a hognose snake.

Just to be sure, I did a quick Internet search of photos and found pictures of hognose snakes that are similar in color to copperheads — and just like ours. Through the bowl we looked at his nose; it was a little upturned. We now had a confirmed hognose on our hands.

Much relieved, I took out the snake so the children could hold it. When we found the previous snake, we learned that hognose snakes aren’t poisonous, rarely bit, and can make good pets. The snake cooperated; within a few minutes, it was no longer frightened.

That was on Sunday…we still have the hognose. His name now is Snake-ily, and he lives in our house. Fortunately, we had a “spare” reptile set-up in storage, so he’s very comfortable and doing well. And next week, we’ll be starting a unit study about snakes. 🙂

Sylvan Dell Publishing

One of my late night hobbies is writing and illustrating for children. I enjoy writing articles, poems, and stories, and I’d like to illustrate my own picture books some day. Writers will tell you that to have a book published, you have to study the market and know who publishes the type of story you’ve written. As I’ve researched the different publishing houses, I’ve discovered Sylvan Dell, a small publishing company established by homeschoolers with education in mind.

Sylvan Dell publishes picture books about science and math — subjects such as the planets, sea turtles, rivers, and odd and even numbers are presented in a fun and enjoyable way. What makes these books different from other picture books, however, is that they are purposely created to be used in the home or school classroom. To reinforce the educational component, the company also adds three to five pages of extra activities and information in the back of every story. Now, though, they’ve added even more – their website also offers free online reading and math quizzes, teaching activities, and crafts.

And that’s not all.  For the past two years, the company also sponsored a writing contest for homeschooled high schoolers. Students followed the guidelines to create their own picture books, and winners received cash prizes and possible publication. I haven’t found information about a contest this year, but I hope they continue – what a great opportunity for students interested in writing.

I’ve found a number of Sylvan Dell books in our local library, and my children have really enjoyed them. It’s easy to take one of their books and create a unit study around it, especially for younger elementary students. So if you’re looking for a science lesson for your little one, check them out! Their titles can be found on their website at www.sylvandellpublishing.com.

By the way, I’ve only sent one picture book manuscript to them to consider for publication, and it was rejected. Ah, well!  They still publish great books!