Friday, July 29, 2016

Our Family Vacation 2016

The joke is "You might be a homeschooler if your family vacations are extended field trips." And for us this is so true!

We just got home earlier this week from a trip to southern Louisiana where we visited my husband's family and enjoyed some wonderful learning experiences together! Now that we have finally dug out from under the insane mountain of laundry we brought home with us, I wanted to share a bit about our trip with you!

Getting there is always part of the fun. We split our trip down there into 2 travel days (it is roughly a 12 hour drive for us total). Along the way Big Brother watched for license plates from different states, played travel bingo with me, and listened to audiobooks. We also made a few interesting rest stops including taking selfies with a huge rocket at a Welcome Center in Alabama!

Little Brother handled the drive surprisingly well. This was his first out of state road trip! We went prepared with a bag loaded with snacks, books, and toys for him. He seemed to enjoy looking out the window and seeing new things and listening to audiobooks and music CDs. Throw in a couple good naps along the way and a stop midway down to play on a playground with some Alabama cousins, and for a 2 year old I must say he handled this trip like a pro!

We visited several very interesting places while in Louisiana:

Global Wildlife Center

I was very much impressed with this place! Thousands of animals roam free over 900 beautiful acres. Visitors are taken on tours in tractor-pulled covered wagons to touch, feed, and learn more about the animals up close! Our boys are both hopeless animal lovers, so this was a wonderful experience for them. Big Brother was excited to get to see both bactrian and dromedary camels on the tour since he had been studying about these in our Egypt/Desert unit study this summer. He was also able to feed a giraffe along with many other interesting animals! We toured at a good time of year because we got to see several baby animals like a new baby giraffe and a baby zebra. (We were warned NOT to feed or touch the zebras because they are quite moody and able to bite straight to the bone with 500 lbs of pressure! Ouch!)

If you ever happen to be in Louisiana, I would definitely recommend making a trip to Global Wildlife! For more information, click here.

Nottoway Plantation

The Civil War era has always been one of my favorite historical periods. So a trip to the deep South would not be complete for me without exploring some part of that history.

There are many of the old Southern plantation homes that have been restored to their former glory and turned into museums and tourist attractions. A few years ago we visited Oak Alley Plantation with its breathtaking views. This time we toured the largest antebellum plantation home still in existence in the South: Nottoway Plantation in White Castle, Louisiana.

The 2 hour drive from my in-law's house to Nottoway was an adventure in itself! We passed through bayou country, crossed the mighty Mississippi River, drove on dirt roads through fields of sugar cane, and passed under an alley of beautiful live oak trees. The scenery was fascinating!

We were able to take a self-guided audio tour of the mansion and grounds at Nottoway. It was amazing!

My favorite room in the mansion was the lovely white ballroom!

Once a thriving sugar cane plantation, Nottoway is now a resort. For more information, click here.

Bass Pro Shop

Ever since our last visit to Louisiana 4 years ago, Big Brother had been looking forward to another visit to Bass Pro Shop in Denham Springs, Louisiana. These stores are located in many places all over the country, and it is so much more than just a sporting goods store! It is more like a free aquarium and museum with some fun thrown in!

We enjoyed seeing many fish, a huge alligator snapping turtle, and lots of mounts. A staff member happened to be conducting a free fish workshop while we were there, so we were able to listen in on some of that.

What Big Brother really wanted to enjoy at Bass Pro was the shooting gallery upstairs. He had saved a coin pouch full of quarters for just this purpose, in fact! Our whole family had fun up there "shooting" at outhouses, skunks, and gators with special laser guns.

Besides all of these special activities on our vacation, the boys were able to enjoy spending some time with my husband's family whom they don't get to see very often. They got to visit and play with a whole host of cousins, trapse through the woods where their Daddy used to play when he was a little boy, sample some crawfish casserole, play with various pets, splash around in a kiddie pool, eat lots of pizza, taste homemade ice cream, visit with their great-grandmother in a nursing home, and enjoy Sunday School and worship services with family. Little Brother also really enjoyed getting to play guitars with Grandpa!

And that was our family vacation this year!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

An Update on Our Progress Through Egypt!

Today we are on Day 25 of the AWOA lesson plan! Big Brother was sick much of last week, so we took a few necessary days off. We had planned to finish our 30 day Egypt unit this Friday before we leave for vacation next week, but it looks like we will be finishing up the week after vacation instead. And we are fine with that! Flexibility is one of the many blessings of homeschooling.

So here is an update on our progress:

We finished reading The Golden Goblet yesterday. Big Brother and I both enjoyed this historical fiction book set in the ancient Egyptian city of Thebes very much. We feel as though we have made a new friend in the main character, a lonely little boy named Ranofer. Through reading this story we have not only learned more about life in ancient Egypt; but we have also increased our vocabularies and learned about the elements of literature.

I have been very happy with the writing instruction Big Brother is receiving with this program so far. I love that he is given time over a few days to prepare, write, edit, and rewrite his assignments. He is a reluctant writer, so breaking these assignments into manageable daily steps really helps. I was very pleased yesterday when he presented me with the final version of his first expository paragragh. The assignment was to write a paragragh comparing and contrasting two main characters from The Golden Goblet. Following the instructions in our lesson guide and with minimal help from me, he was able to craft a very nice paragragh! He had a perfect topic sentence, several good supporting sentences, and a concluding "clincher" sentence that tied the whole thing together. This was a major accomplishment for Big Brother, and I am pleased to give him a well deserved A!

For science he is currently creating a Desert Booklet. He is in charge of deciding what information, pictures, etc. is included in this booklet. So far he has created beautiful booklet pages including What is a Desert?; a map marking the main deserts of the world; a report on camels; and reports on the Sahara, Gobi, and North American Deserts. I have allowed him to practice his budding typing skills by typing some of these reports. When it is finished at the end of our unit, I will bind his booklet so that he has a nice keepsake to show for his hard work.

We have done a lot of reading and watching videos about Egypt. Some of Big Brother's favorite books to read for fun lately have been library books from the "You Wouldn't Want to Be..." series. He has read every book our library has in this series related to Egypt!

We played a fun spelling game earlier this week using our dry erase board and a flashlight. I would write 3 words on the board with only one of them spelled correctly. At my signal, he had to shine the light on the correctly spelled word then spell it aloud. Picking out a correctly or incorrectly spelled word from a given list is an area where Big Brother has always struggled on standardized tests, so I was glad to be able to practice this skill with him using an engaging game.

Big Brother has memorized Psalm 23 & 24 over the past few weeks. He has created nicely illustrated booklets for each chapter. To help him practice the verses, I typed and printed each one out. Then I would cut the verse into several pieces and mix up the words. He would then have to put all the words for the verse in order, glue them onto the page in his booklet, then draw a picture at the bottom of the page to illustrate the verse.

Little Brother is a busy boy! His latest fun thing to do (O.K. besides unrolling toilet paper all over the house) is use dry erase markers either on his marker board or in a little dry erase ABC & 123 book he has. One morning this week I noticed he was on a page that was covered with numbers. I absent-mindedly said, "Can you find all the 2's on that page?" and walked off. A few minutes later, Little Brother proudly plops his little book in my lap. I was shocked to see the little fellow had indeed found and put a mark on every single 2 on the page! He also enjoys gluing pictures into his Egypt ABC booklet. I try to help him feel included in school as much as possible.

Well, just now Big Brother has informed me that he is finished with his math assignment for today. I promised to take him for a morning swim for P.E. before we finish up the rest of our work this afternoon. Sometimes getting some energy out early in the day makes the rest of it go more smoothly. And hey, it is summer after all!