Saturday, November 06, 2010

Weekly Wrap-Up.....Norway's Snow Treasure

I love homeschooling. 

Let me describe our Tuesday this week. We've all be struggling with either really bad allergies or a nasty head cold, or a nasty head cold on top of bad allergies. Anyway, we dragged through school last week. Sweetling especially had it rough because she was congested, tired, miserable, and at the dojo for 2-3 hours several nights last week preparing for her junior black belt testing on Saturday.

(Which, by the way, I must now stop and say my baby girl is a junior black belt!)

On Monday, we managed to get out the door to co-op, only because co-op was having a jammie day. Midway through the day Toa of Boy got brought to me because he wasn't feeling well.

On Tuesday morning, (you thought I forgot all about what I set out to describe, didn't you?) On Tuesday morning, I woke up at 8:30 only because the phone rang. It was the Jedi calling to tell me that he thought we should take a sick day, or at least take it easy that day. I headed upstairs, and I was the only one awake.

At 8:50, I was still the only one awake, and I was in my jammies. I called the leader of our 9:30 women's Bible study to let her know that we were taking a sick day.

We eventually all had breakfast, and then did nothing till lunch time.

But lunch, we were still in jammies but feeling a little better.

After lunch, I rallied the troops to the couch, and we read two chapters of our book, Snow Treasure.

The book, set in Norway shortly after the Nazi invasion, is inspired by true accounts of children who carried gold bullion on their sleds in order to get it past the Nazi sentries and loaded onto ships hidden in fjords, where it was then sent to America for safe keeping.

We had just read to where the plan is about to be put into place. The children of one of the villages where gold has been sent for safekeeping have been divided  into teams. Each day, 19 children were to carry 4 gold bricks weighing a total of 75lbs and travel 12 miles from the snow cave where thirteen tons of gold was hidden, past the Nazi sentries on the road, and then to a small inlet of one of the fjords. They were to spend the night in a nearby farmhouse, and then the next day hike back up to their village.

In a flash of brilliance, I had everyone, including me, go get paper and pencil. So, say I, if there are 13 tons of gold, and a ton weighs 2,000 lbs and the children carry 75 lbs of gold, and there are 38 children, with 19 children sledding down every many trips will each child have to make, and how long will it take to move all the gold if everything goes exactly as planned?

The math session crashed and burned quickly. Toa did amazing things with math far beyond his second grade level. He made one error because he was doing things in his head. He added 1200 and 225 and got 12,225. I set up the numbers for him vertically, and explained about place value, which we have done before. I told him to add the two numbers vertically and see what he got. He gave me that stubborn stare and did nothing. I repeated my instructions. I got a blank stare. I sent him to his room and turned off his computer.

Sweetling figured out that it would take ten trips per child and looked to me to verify her answer. I hadn't figured my own problem that way, so I told her I didn't know....that I had only solved it by how many days it would take to move the whole load down the mountain. She then got a little frustrated with me. I offered to look at the problem she had worked with her if she'd like, but she just flipped her paper over and started working again, with a few little noises of frustration. I was then informed that "Ponyo is tired of math" in a little Ponyo voice.

But a bowl of ice cream fixed everyone's moods. Over ice cream I told them how proud I was on their efforts with the math and that I knew it was a difficult problem. They were greatly encouraged, more by the ice cream than the pep talk. Still, after ice cream, we tried again with the math, and this time everyone, even Toa, worked through the problem successfully (we think. We think it should take them 19 days to move the gold down the mountain, though on the 19th day, a smaller number of children will need to sled.)

Then I said, we know that the German's invaded on April 9th, and that the first group of 19 children were ready to start sledding with their gold on April 11th, according to the story. So, if it takes 19 days, when will they be finished? Let's set up a calendar. Of course, we didn't know what day of the week April 11, 1940 was....or did we? Sweetling had an algorithm in her Math for Smarty Pants book that lets you find the day of the week of any given date in the 20th century. I asked the kids if we should get the book out to figure out what day of the week it was....and was shocked when both kids were really and truly eager to do so. (It was a Thursday.) And, making a quick calendar, if everything went exactly as clockwork, the children should be finished moving the gold on Monday, April 29th.....if the snow held.

From there, we went downstairs and got into Daddy's free weights. We loaded up a sturdy laundry basket with 5 and 10 lb weights until we had 75lbs in the basket. The kids took turns pulling it back and forth across the floor. None of us could imagine trying to get that amount of weight on a sled, pulling it through the woods, and sledding down an mountainside with it.

As far as I'm concerned, it was a perfect homeschool day. It was flexible for the fact that no one was feeling well in the morning. It was full of reading and spontaneous hands-on projects. It contained challenging, real world math applications. We had history and geography. And, most importantly, both children were truly interested and excited about the lesson (with one minor sinus-congestion induced hiccup, which was remedied by ice cream.)

Other fun things we've done the past couple weeks:


Used to decorate Norwegian furniture and houses, this is a bright and colorful technique. It is full of scrolls and fanciful flowers. After looking at several examples of the art through google, we got out our sketchbooks and  lightly doodled a free flowing design of scrolls and loops. Then I got out my chalk pastels, and we added color, softly blending the pastels together.

Here is Toa's piece:

And here is Sweetling's:

Again, this was a nice project for a week where no one was quite feeling up to par. It was very soothing and relaxing. (The blending turned a little more smudgy than anticipated. I bought some paper blending stumps at Hobby Lobby yesterday to avoid this problem in the future.)

Norway in a Nutshell

Sometimes, well often times, its hard to get an understanding of a place just reading about it and looking at a few flat pictures. So, I found a nice travel video from Rick Steves' Europe. We still have on cue a "Secrets of World War 2" documentary about the Norwegian underground, and another documentary on vikings. They might be part of a lazy Saturday tomorrow. We were holding of on watching them till the Jedi could join us.

Norwegian Explorers

There have been many. Including Thor Heyerdahl, whom I had never heard of before, but whose voyages most captured the imagination of Sweetling and Toa. We traced the possible routes of the explorers on a large wall map of the world.

And still other things:

Due to not feeling well, we skipped our nature walks the past two weeks. So no pinecones or conifers.

Sweetling started reading Hans Brinker or the Silver Skates for literature. (Which the Jedi, being of Norwegian descent, had a minor objection to, since the Netherlands are not Scandinavian. I argued that there was ice, lots of ice, in the story, but the Jedi was not mollified. That's ok, we're going to France next week, the Jedi will have plenty more to gripe about soon.)

Of course, the belt testing for Tae Kwon Do was huge. Not only did Sweetling test for and receive her junior black belt, but the Jedi also tested and received his junior black. (Junior black being the belt that is just one rank lower than black belt.) And Toa tested for the first time and received his yellow belt. The pictures of Sweetling are still on the Jedi's system, but here's one of Toa breaking his board.


Yes, I know that many other homeschooling families don't participate. That's why I put this at the very end, so that anyone who wants to stop reading now can, without missing any of the cool school stuff we did.

We don't trick-or-treat from door to door. Not because I have any ethical objections to it, but because when we live in a day and age when a parent should check the registry of sex offenders for the neighborhood, one must question the wisdom of walking around the same neighborhood accepting candy. Likewise, when the local fire and police station offers free x-ray machines to check for needles and razor blades, and when parents need to go over the candy batch with a magnifying glass to check for tampering....well, you get the idea.

But, we do like dressing up in costumes, getting candy, and generally having fun. So each year I'm challenged to find an activity that is reasonably safe and still fun. 

I do also try to avoid the more macabre decorations and costumes. I am after all, related to elves and fairies, and have to uphold my fey heritage. 

This year, Sweetling found and checked out Family Fun's Tricks and Treats from the library. She asked me to sit and look at the book with her, an event which hasn't happened in a long, long time. So I did. And there were lots of great Halloween party ideas. They had much more to do with spiders and witches than I usually go for at Halloween, but she was so excited by the concept of organizing and planning a party, that I went with it. There wasn't anything gruesome or wicked in what she was selecting anyway. A Halloween party was definitely in the works.

Of course, we still hadn't resolved what to do for costumes. The first year Toa was home with us, Sweetling and he went as WordGirl and Captain Huggyface. Since then, they've gone with theme related costumes. But this year, we couldn't come to a costume consensus. Some good ideas were tossed around, but no agreement reached. Finally, Sweetling, fed up with the debate, announced that she was making her own costume, and that it was going to be a surprise. She went into her room and closed her door. She worked on her costume in secret for several days. Here's what she came up with.

 Uncertain as to what or who she is? That's ok. That is also in keeping with Sweetling's long standing tradition of obscure costumes, my favorite of which is still when she went as a neutrino, the "ghost particle". This year she is Strong Bad, a character from the online Homestar Runner cartoon. See the resemblance?

Just to clarify, yes, that is a complete hood that she has hand sewn out of felt. And yes, those are green eyes, which she has made out of plastic green mesh.  I told her how impressed I was. If she had come to me and asked me to make this for her, I would have told her the task was way too difficult for my sewing ability. But, fortunately, no one told Sweetling how difficult this might be. She just jumped in and did it, with no pattern, no directions, no measurements. 

With Sweetling's costume completed, we were then left with Toa of Boy needing a costume. There was a brief discussion about Toa of Boy going as Strong Bad's sidekick, The Cheat.  

But in the end, Toa decided he wanted to be Pikachu, so he was. Here is the picture before the tail got ripped to pieces in the bounce house.
 We went Trunk-or-Treating on Saturday at a local church, which is where the tail got ripped off. (Even without the tail, everyone recognized Pikachu, and Pikachu himself wasn't upset about he tail....he was only distraught that he had to come out of the bounce house for the rest of the torn and mangled stump of a tail to be removed.)

On Sunday (Halloween) we had the party at our house. Since we were starting shortly after church, we served a lunch of worms on a bun (hot dogs sliced long and thin and boiled to make them curl up) and wizard's salad (honeydew melon sliced in crescents and star fruit). 

Our guests....

 Pinkie was a birthday present, which I thought was ingenious. She's wearing a huge bow and ribbons, and a large happy birthday gift bag, with the bottom cut out and suspenders attached. 

Mario and Luigi had never met each other before the party, and the families had no contact with each other before this day, so they were each delighted and surprised when the other showed up in costume. They became great buddies for the day and action poses had to be made.

 Pikachu didn't want to be left out of the action shots.

 After photos and lunch, we went on a spider pop hunt in the front yard and played a game of Witches' Brew tag. Back inside, we played Mummy Wrap and also Ghosts and Goblin....all ideas we got from Sweetling's library find. Then some of us made caramel apples while Mario and Luigi went out to the back yard to defeat Bowser. 

All in all, a great time was had by everyone. And the only major clean up I had to do after guests had left was to take down the spiderwebs. Here is just one small portion of the spiderwebs, which the girls had a great time making.

Hop, sled, or boogie your way over to Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers to read about what other families are doing.

1 comment:

Giggly Girls said...

What a lot of learning you got out of that. We're going to be studying WW2 later this year. I'll have to look for that book.

Your kids did an amazing job with their costumes.