Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Home Game Library

Do you collect and play games?

Many homeschoolers naturally collect books. They visit the library, thrift stores, book stores and somehow end up with an endless supply of books. Well now is a great time to start a new collection. Games!

The paradigm for how I view games has just gone through a transformation. In the 80's, when I grew up we all had the same games. Many of us have memories of playing Monopoly, Clue, Candy Land, Chutes and Ladders, Sorry and Life. Today, there are as many games to choose from as books. Ok, well maybe not quite as many, but the number is rapidly increasing.

Have you recently visited a unique Toy and Game store and wondered why you have only heard of a few of the games? I have, and have felt very overwhelmed by the variety of choices. Fortunately, many stores now offer the opportunity to try out the games during their game days, but an even better way to try out a variety of new games is to attend a gaming conference.

Over the weekend, we (my husband, son and I) attended our first gaming conference to promote my skip-counting card game Speed! While there I was stunned to find there are gaming conferences all over the state giving gamers the opportunity to participate in conferences many weekends of the year.

It turns out there are five primary interests of gamers; board and card games, role playing games, minitures, collectables, and comics. Many of the gamers have interests in more than one area, but others stick to a focus. Because my game and interests fall into the board and card game category, that is the area we explored.

At gaming conferences, attendees have the chance to try out a variety of games. Very reasonably priced tickets can be purchased for one day or the entire weekend. The tickets grant access to the convention's library of games as well as game tables set up with a "game master" that instructs first-time players in the rules of a game. In addition, game designers attend the conventions with their prototype games seeking advice for tweaks before production.

It didn't take long for my husband and son to decide I would be taking care of our "Speed!" table, while they would roam the conference exploring as many new games as possible. Since this was our first experience at a gaming convention, they decided that their favorite table was actually a promotion table. There were over 30 unopened games on the table. Anyone attending the convention could play those games. If they played an entire game from start to finish, they could put their name into a raffle for that game. Well the boys ended up playing five games from the table and winning two of the games they played. The $70 win value, more than covered the $30/person ticket price for the entire weekend. They were all smiles.

Before attending the conference I knew there was a bigger variety of games available than when I was a child, but had no idea of the extent. I was blown away by the choices and a little overwhelmed at first. But approaching a new game like a new book was key. You will not read everything in the library in one day and you won't play all the games either. That's the fun of it. Playing or reading something new and then sharing your experience with friends discussing a book at a book club, or playing a game during game night.

If you have an opportunity to attend a gaming convention, I highly recommend the experience.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Revolutionary War Video Series

Last week I wrote about Liberty's Kids; an animated Revolutionary War series for Kids. This week I'm recommending the History Channel Series The Revolution.

With a 9 year old and a 15 year old both studying American History, it's interesting to compare resources. The main difference between the series for children and the series for adults is the specific battle strategies and the violence. Being that my older daughter watched Liberty's Kids several years ago, the adult series was a good review.

This series is available at our local library. It was highly beneficial, but other American Revolution series could be substituted. The Revolution series contains thirteen 45 minute videos telling the complete story of the American Revolution. The last two videos in the series were a summary of the entire revolution.

Over the years, my 15 year old has read many historical fiction novels and the book This Country of Ours and has gained a very good understanding of American History. Now that she's in 10th grade, she has been documenting her knowledge in preparation for college by taking CLEP exams. American History is next on her list.

Over the next 6-8 weeks she plans to review American History and videos are one source of information. In addition to Revolutionary War History, she is watching a video PBS Documentary about Andrew Jackson, has been researching treaties and events and will continue to read.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Liberty's Kids - American History Videos for Kids

Liberty's Kids is an animated series for kids which covers the American Revolution.

It begins with the Boston Tea Party and ends with We the People. Each episode in the 40 episode series covers a major event of the Revolutionary time period such as The Battle of Bunker Hill, Paul Revere's Ride and The Intolerable Acts. The 20 minute long episodes are perfect for short attention spans and an easy introduction to American History.

William J. Bennett's Children's Book of America and Jean Fritz's American History Short Narrative Stories are nice companions for the videos.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Fiber Field Trip

My daughter and I went to Fiber Festival.

Each year at the end of August, the Michigan Fiber Festival is held at the Allegan County Fair Grounds. Fiber comes from furry animals and is used in a variety of crafts. Sheep by far are the stars of the show, but rabbits, alpacas and other animals are also included. The festival lasts for five days with full day, half day and mini workshops offered on four of the days and vendors from around the world on three days.

Workshops in knitting, crocheting, weaving, felting, dying, basket making and soap making were offered. My daughter and I each signed up for two different full-day workshops.

1. Wet Felting

My favorite workshop was using wet-felting techniques to create a wall hanging. Beginning with a pre-shrunk length of fabric, we added bobbles, yarn, ridges, and voids to our sheet before soaking it with soapy water and agitating it to make it stick together and shrink.

In this class each student started with a blank canvas and created unique designs. Everyone's wall hanging turned out vastly different. The commonality was the various techniques used to create the designs. Because of the free flow and creativity offered by this class I was immediately hooked with the craft. (It was the first time I ever wet felted.)

2. Braided Rug

By braiding together lengths of clean fiber, felting them in a washing machine cycle with hot water and cold rinse and then sewing them into a circle we created rugs. This technique results in beautiful rugs that will last a lifetime. The complete technique is explained in the teachers book The Shephard's Rug.

3. Dying the Shibori Way
Dying the Shibori way is like advanced tie dye. Instead of just using rubber bands to create designs in fabric dipped into different dye baths, the Shibori method uses stitches. To create her chicken my daughter sketched her design and then used various stitches which included sewing lentils and beans into the fabric before dying. After dying all the stitching was removed.

4. Rug Hooking

This sheep was created from a kit supplied by the teacher. While my daughter enjoyed the class, she said the technique could have been easily learned with a book. There are many on Amazon.

Fiber festival is not a typical school field trip, but when you encourage your children's interests nothing really is typical. We can't wait to return next year and my 9 year old daughter is looking forward to her first class at fiber festival as well.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

American Revolution for Kids: Soldiers

We read a few books about soldiers and made a tri-cornered hat.

The British soldiers wore red because it disguised the color of blood. To Americans they were known as Lobsterbacks or Red Coats. As professional soldiers, they were sent to America to keep law and order and enforce British rules. On top of being soldiers, they often accepted work in America to supplement their income. Therefore, they were liked by some and loathed by others. After all the country was at war and Americans were not all on the same side.

As tensions rose, they were sometimes taunted and teased in public. These incidents led to some of the most well known scuffles of the war including the Boston Massacre. As the war continued, more and more soldiers were sent to America. There were too many to house in British facilities, therefore many were boarded with families in private homes. To Americans rebelling against British rule, this was a gross injustice.

When the founders wrote the Declaration of Independence they wrote up a list of complaints against the British Government. One complaint on the list was the required quartering of British Soldiers at the expense of the Colonists. The book, The 18 Penny Goose, illustrates this complaint through the eyes of a child. When British soldiers came through Letty's village, she was worried about her ducks and wrote the soldiers a note. This easy reader is perfect for kids ages 5-11.

Contrary to the British, the American soldiers were not professional fighters. Instead, they were farmers, merchants and craftsmen. They worked their day jobs and then grabbed their muskets, scythes or other weapons and went off to defend themselves against tyranny. Since they could be ready to fight at a moments notice they were known as minutemen.

The book Sam the Minuteman tells the story of how one minuteman and his son were involved in the first battle of the Revolutionary War.

After reading a little about American and British soldiers my daughter made a tri-corner hat. The basic idea was to cover a piece of cardboard in the shape of a triangle with a circle in the middle for the head with fabric.

 First she made a band of white fabric to fit her head. Next she cut out a piece of cardboard with a circle hole in the center for her head.

 Then she cut a large circle of fabric. She draped the fabric over her head and then placed the cardboard overtop.

 The loose fabric was brought over the cardboard and stitched into place. Then she added a few feathers.

For more American History book/project ideas, please see our History Page.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

George Washington and John Hancock

We read about John Hancock, George Washington and made Liberty Punch.

John Hancock

Everyone knows who George Washington was, but what do you know about John Hancock? He was the first person to sign the Declaration of Independence, but what was his role in the American Revolution?

John Hancock inherited a shipping company and was therefore one of the wealthiest residents of Massachusetts. He used much of his personal wealth in the fight for American independence. Because the British were placing taxes on imports to America, he became a smuggler during the days of the American Revolution.

Reading the book Will You Sign Here John Hancock? by Jean Fritz we learned that John Hancock wanted everyone to like him. He was a great host to both influential Americans and foreign dignitaries. He served as a member of the Continental Congress and was governor of Massachusetts.

George Washington

There are many biographies about George Washington, but sifting through them all we were able to narrow them down to three picture book biographies perfect for elementary age children.

We especially enjoyed the two Jean Fritz biographies. In George Washington's Breakfast, a young boy goes on a search to determine what George Washington may have eaten. After searching libraries, museums and his own attic he does arrive at an answer. Then he begins to wonder about lunch. George Washington's Mother was equally entertaining. How would you feel if your son wanted to join the Navy or the Army? What would you do if he decided to run off to fight a war? This book makes George Washington's Mother into a human we can relate to while enabling children to learn about several other reasons George Washington is a hero of America's past.

Liberty Punch

Along with reading biographies of famous Americans, we referenced some of the activities from The American Revolution for Kids. My daughter made Liberty Punch to celebrate American freedom.

The simple recipe mixed raspberry tea, ginger ale and mint leaves. She liked it so much she made it twice.

Check out these great blog hops for more educational activity ideas.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Writing an Oxymoron - Honest Politician

My daughter wrote a sentence with an oxymoron - honest politician.

Since art is a favorite subject for my 9 year old, I have been working to deeply incorporate it into her curriculum. This year she is using the book Teaching English Through Art for writing two days per week. The other days we work together to write and edit stories, descriptive works and other forms of writing. The book has been a big hit!

This week her assignment was to write a sentence containing an oxymoron. (An oxymoron is two words put together that don't normally go together.) The book gave several examples to choose from. With the presidential election only days away honest politician seemed like a natural choice for her.

Her sentence reads "Honest politicians are very rare. Hillary Clinton is not honest."

The other night at dinner, she added, "I hope Hillary doesn't win because I think I want to be the first female president. Or maybe I want to be a clothes designer."

Whoever wins, I hope will preserve Constitutional Freedoms.

Happy Election Day!
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