Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Glass Blowing Fun in Tennessee

I have been trying to figure out how to post the pictures from our family vacation.  What is holding me back in narrowing the pictures down to a "normal" amount.  There are so many great shots of the kids, family, and about 674 pictures of the amazing views and scenery.  Last week we visited the Gatlinburg area of Tennessee along with my cousins and their families.  Our cabin was located in the beautiful Smokey Mountains and the views were absolutely breath taking.  The drive to get to those views, however, was not my cup of tea.  I have definitely had enough motion sickness and pure fear of falling off the side of a mountain to last me awhile. While in the area, we visited the Dollywood theme park (2 days on the theme park side and 1 day on the water park side).  While at the theme park, we happened on a glass blowing demonstration type area.  It was also connected to a glass store where I practically grabbed my children, tethered them to my side, shoved their hands in their pockets, and repeatedly instructed them not to touch any thing.  It appeared the glass blowing demonstration was over for the day but I thought I would ask any way.  To our luck, the glassmith over heard my questions and offered to give us a demonstration.  As homeschoolers, we are constantly looking for hands on learning experiences for the kids.  From our experience, when someone has a craft or skill and they find out we are a homeschooling family they are more than willing to give the kids an on-the-spot lesson.  Plus, our kids are very inquisitive and always have lots of questions.  We asked him if the kids could help in any way and he told us they could assist him in making an ornament.  Absolutely, sign us up!!! We told him we only wanted one ornament (for our Christmas tree) but wanted all three kids to participate.  He said that would work out well and each child would have the opportunity to blow into the tube causing the glass to expand and take shape into a ball.  First, we needed to select two colors. Hold up - wait a minute!  When you have three kids there is absolutely no way only two colors can be picked, let alone agreed on.  So, we quickly went with the multi-color option.  :)
Getting the rules and guidelines of where to stand and what to do.

So many questions at this point about the temperature of the fire.  Lots of oo's and aww's form the kids (and the adults). :)  At this point, we were drawing quite the crowd of other spectators.

First he rolled the molten glass in white glass pieces and then the multi-colored pieces.

Each of the kids took turns blowing into the blowpipe as the handler sculpted the glass.

While the kids blew into the tube this was happening on the other end.  And this is the point that my phone died - ugh, NO!!!!!!

Due to glass being crazy hot, we were not able to take the ornament with us.  They assured us they ship all over the world and our ornament would arrive safely to our doorstep within a week.  So you can imagine our excitement today when the UPS guy rang our doorbell.  Rolled in bubble wrap, placed in a box, and then that box placed in a million packing peanuts in a larger box sat our beautiful ornament.  

The kids were beyond excited to see their creation.  I would have taken a picture of their faces but I needed both hands under their hands to insure the ornament did not find our floor. :)

We did have a moment of disappointment when we realized the top loop was broken off.  This would have been the part for a ribbon and then placement on our tree.  I tried to put a positive spin on it and ease their disappointment (and mine).  I told them we could some how display it on a shelf  where we could enjoy it all year.  Also, it is very heavy and I am not sure it would have been safe on the tree.

It is disappointing that the loop is broken but the memories that went into this project are so beautiful.  The kids made it together and they learned a lot in the process.  My husband also joined in and I stood to the side taking a million pictures and videos (which is my happy place).  :)

Just for fun here are a 2 of the 674 pictures of the mountain view from our cabin.  Actually this first one may be a picture my cousin Erik took.  He only took 802 pictures of the mountains! :)

Now if only that were the view I woke up to every morning.... awww....


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Kindergarten Calendar Time

Well, we arrived back from an amazing vacation in the Smokey Mountains and now we have one week until our lessons begin.  Our homeschool calendar follows more of a year-round schedule which enables us to take breaks throughout the school year.  When most of our area starts school (late August) we will be taking our first week long break - and it will be wonderful! :) This year we will have a 5th grader, 2nd grader, and kindergartner.  Let me just say for the record the lesson plans that have taken the most time, preparation, and organization have been for our kindergartner - hands down. One area I have recently updated is our calendar wall.  I have used the same classroom calendar for the last three years and it is beginning to look really "loved".  I didn't want to purchase a new set but did find some great additions from Erica at Confessions of a Homeschooler.  I used her K4 Curriculum last year and loved every bit of it.  This year we will be using her Road Trip curriculum for our Geography lessons.  Erica's curriculum is super fun and very thorough. It truly amazes me how many lessons can come from simple calendar activities.  It is not just reviewing days of the week or months of the year.  We count, skip count, tally, record weather, graph, work with time and money, learn number words, solve problems, work on place value, etc. etc. etc. :)  I love calendar time and it will be a sad day when we no longer need it in our school day.
Clock, main calendar, 100 Days of School Count and place value, time, money using the date, weather, days of week pocket, seasons pocket

I love the weather station from Confessions of a Homeschooler.  Each day of the week has seven types of weather to choose from.  At the end of the week you could graph or use tally marks to determine what type of weather occurred the most, least or not at all.

I love this so much I decided it needed a close up. :)

I have used this sheet in the past.  It covers so many lessons at once.  All of the sheets are laminated.  My daughter will fill in each sheet using a dry erase marker.  This will definitely save on paper and printer ink.

Looking forward to working on time and money this year.

Each day we will place a star over the number of school day.  Then we will move to the bottom sheet and use the specific number for place value practice. 

I plan to use the blue numbers for days that have already occurred in the month.  At the start of each day we will replace the green number with a blue number.  By the end of the month all numbers should be blue.  This will allow us to discuss how many days have occurred, how many are left, how many Saturday's (for example) have we had, how many are left for the month, and so on and so on.

Again, I found all of the calendar "extras" at Confessions of a Homeschooler.  Please hop over to her site and take a look.  You will love what you find! :)

Monday, July 6, 2015

Traveling with Kids - DVD's and Buc-ee's!!!

We are in full vacation prep mode.  Our family leaves in two days for our traditional Cousins Vacation.  My three cousins and their families along with myself and my family meet up every other year for a week long vacation.  We started our beloved tradition in 2009 and since then have added 4 children (totaling 8 adults and 11 short ones),  a cross country move, drivers ed for the oldest of the short ones, a few gray hairs, maybe a wrinkle or two and about 1.5 million memories.  You can bet that I will be sharing lots and lots of pictures once we get back home.  

This year we are driving to Tennessee to stay in a beautiful log cabin/house near Gatlinburg.  It is beautiful but the drive is looooooooong.  Since we live in South Texas just about every vacation spot has a loooooooooong drive.  

It is imperative that my sweet, mild mannered, always calm and quiet children (ummmm, let me just imagine okay) do not drive my husband and I completely up the wall on this very short drive of 19 hours.  In order to do that we must plan and craft at least 27 Pinterest worthy road trip activities....


Let me re-phrase that.  We must load up every one's favorite movies, buy stock in batteries for the head sets, and pack pillows and blankets.  Let's just say I have learned the hard way! :)

So, these sweet, mild mannered children of mine would never even dream of arguing over which movie should be watched.  But if my children were the type to whine, cry, or pout I would maybe use an idea like this... (hypothetically speaking of course).

1.  Type a list of the movies which the kids picked to pack.  Print two copies of the sacred list.  This list will determine the happiness level of your journey. :)

2.  Cut one list into small strips containing the titles of each movie.

3.  Place the strips in a small baggie.

4.  Grab a nifty CD case from when you actually carried CD's in your car.  Load each of the DVD's into the case and leave the actual cases at home to save on space.

5.  Tape the second list to the outside of the CD case so it does not get lost in the black hole of a vehicle that has endured hours of traveling, eating, sleeping, and stops at Buc-ee's.  If you do not live in a state which has Buc-ee's truck stops all I can say is I am need to move. :)

6.  Only parents may draw a movie title from the baggie.  The said movie is the only movie that will be played in its entirety.  If any child in the vehicle does not agree with the said movie they may take it upon themselves to take a nap, look at a book, or be quiet and enjoy the free ride. :)

*Now, you may notice that the movies are color coded.  This is because I had each of the kids select four movies and I typed them in their color (I use color coding a lot).  That way when I am "drawing" movies from the baggie I can kind of judge and keep track so that things appear 100% "fair" at all times.  No one touches the list or CD case unless they are over the age of 25 which means I just barely made the cut. :)

I have used this system for a long time and for our family it works.  When you are in a confined space with one another it is best to stick to what you know works, especially when you have sweet and mild mannered children.