Christmas in Canada

A few notable bits from our time learning about Christmas in Canada.

  • Meatball Stew – We made pasta to go along with it since the meatball stew didn’t seem very filling on its own. Ani and Cameron were not fans of the cloves in the meatballs. The recipe did not call for salt or pepper and it most definitely needed at least salt (and I’m not usually one to salt my food). Overall it was actually pretty decent and much better than we expected.
  • Ani made four maple leaf ornaments out of construction paper for our tree. She also made a Canadian goose and insisted it be put up at the top since we have no angel or star for our tree.
  • Meat and Potato Pie – We were going to have the meat and potato pie for dinner Sunday… until we realized that the nearly *7* hours required to cook it would make it ready at nearly 10 pm. So we ate it on Monday. Jamie and Ani liked it. Fritz absolutely loved it and ate two plates of it. Cameron didn’t like it because of the potatoes. I don’t know what my problem with it was (I have trouble eating dinner anyway due to my nausea being worst in the evening), but I took one bite and threw up. So Cameron and I had cereal instead.
  • Christmas in Canada is a lot like Christmas in the US. There are a few unique customs, particularly in the Maritime provinces. Most of them relate to the unique ethnic groups and appear in Christmas celebrations elsewhere in the world, too.
  • We haven’t made the fruitcake yet. I think I’m a little afraid of making it.


Five in a Row

We’ve been doing Five in a Row for three weeks now. It’s been fun. It’s nice light school. We’ve done The Story About Ping, Lentil, and Madeline so far. We have yet to actually do it 5 days of the week and Cameron is sick of reading the same book every day by Wednesday (though by Friday he is enjoying it again). It would take a lot to make it reasonable for the main part of school for a child Ani’s age I think, but for pseudo-breaks, I love it and so do my big kids!

Done With Dinosaurs

We finished our dinosaur unit today. The kids had lots of fun with it, but we are all ready to move on. The remainder of what we did is:

  • Finished reading Jurassic Park
  • Read The Lost World
  • Read Magic School Bus Chapter Book #9, Dinosaur Detectives
  • Discussed map skills and followed coordinates to map out a path
  • Discussed how body temperature varies throughout the day and took our temperatures each hour for 6 hours and then graphed the results
  • Played Dino-Mite card game (many times!)
  • Tried to predict where a drop of water dripped on the back of the hand would go
  • Discussed largeness of prehistoric animals and insects
  • Discussed differences between herbivore, carnivore, and omnivore teeth and determined humans are omnivores
  • Built four wooden dinosaur skeletons (brachiosaurus, T. Rex, stegosaurus, and triceratops)
  • Identified model dinosaurs using Dinosaur Dictionary
  • Used the projector to enlarge and trace dinosaur models
  • Assembled Dinosaur Museum
  • Cameron copied an entry in the Dinosaur Dictionary (this was totally Cameron’s idea and not assigned)
  • Ani used information from Dinosaur Detectives to write a short report on T. Rex (this was totally Ani’s idea and not assigned)
  • Ani used information in the Dinosaur Dictionary to write a short report on Maiasaura (also Ani’s idea and not assigned)
  • Assembled dinosaur notebooks from all the papers they have worked on through the dinosaur unit

We are planning to begin reading the kids’ Dinotopia series tomorrow. The kids liked the Dinotopia TV mini-series (they saw that a few years ago) so I think they’ll enjoy the books as well.

Dinosaur Museum

The “big finish” of our dinosaur unit was to build a dinosaur museum. We’ve still got another week of wrap up to do to finish up completely, but I set out the dinosaur museum pieces on the dining room table Friday and told the kids to arrange them however they saw fit. The only direction was “build a dinosaur museum.”

The pieces were some plaster of Paris “fossils” they had made and painted, some flat wooden dinosaur shapes they had painted, a cardboard T Rex skeleton, four wooden dinosaur skeletons (T Rex, stegosaurus, triceratops, and brachiosaurus), and several small plastic model dinosaurs. From those pieces they created their museum. They then proceeded to take turns being the museum curator and the visiting kid asking and answering questions about dinosaurs.


They even got Fritz into the action and took him on a tour of their dinosaur museum.



Even More Dinosaurs

We only have another couple weeks or so left for the dinosaur unit. It’s been a lot of work, but also a lot of fun. The kids have learned tons and I’ve noticed they’ve incorporated what we’ve learned into their play and discussions. They are enjoying me reading Jurassic Park to them. Here’s what we’ve done since I last updated about our unit study:

  • Listened to Dinosaurs Before Dark (Magic Tree House #1) book on tape
  • Read several fiction and non-fiction dinosaur books we checked out from the library
  • Read pages 111-220 of Jurassic Park
  • Discussed dinosaur droppings (size)
  • Discussed dung beetles and talked about the dung beetles on the display in the entrance to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History
  • Discussed lysine and what amino acids are
  • Drew a dinosaur (Cameron drew a Stegosaurus; Ani drew a T Rex with a mostly eaten meal and pools of blood at his feet) and labeled the page Dinosauria (Cameron)/Dinosauria – Terrible Lizards (Ani)
  • Read Let’s Explore Dinosaurs
  • Completed science project backboard; Cameron wrote parts and Ani wrote other parts (see picture below)
  • Discussed cloning and the advantages to making a genetically engineered creature a certain way (they both agreed a second Fritz would be nice but they’d make him potty trained, able to talk, and never to grow bigger than he is now)
  • Grew four grow in water dinosaurs
  • Discussed number graphs and made one
  • Discussed bell curves and made one
  • Played Dinosaur Snap (this has become a regularly played game over the last several days)
  • Discussed dinosaur sizes and compared the sizes of the dinosaur models and arranged them by size
  • Discussed zoos and issues with animal care and running a zoo
  • Discussed problems presented in Jurassic Park and brainstormed ideas to solve them
  • Made and painted plaster fossil models
  • Discussed gizzard stones
  • Looked through Dinosaur Dictionary
  • Discussed fractals, Mandelbrot, and Euclid
  • Started Triops growing
  • Put together cardboard T Rex skeleton
  • Painted several wooden dinosaur shapes


Dinosaurs, Dinosaurs, and More Dinosaurs

I haven’t updated what we’ve been doing in our dinosaur unit for some time now. I remember now why we stopped the unit studies in the first place. They are super fun and we love doing them. They work well. But they are tiring and I burn out quickly. Some of the things we have done over the past few weeks:

  • Checked our chicken bones in their vinegar baths most days and recorded the results
  • Read pages 52-110 of Jurassic Park
  • Discussed topographical maps
  • Listened to Lyrical Life Science topographic map song (during which the children did some “dino dancing”)
  • Made topographical maps using the information on page 53 of Jurassic Park
  • Discussed post-mortem contraction and looked at contracted raptor “fossil” plate
  • Cameron wrote problem, hypothesis, and procedure on science project backboard
  • Ani wrote the information under problem, hypothesis, and half of procedure on science project backboard
  • Dino Dig (see picture below)
  • Discussed chaos theory and demonstrated it with dripping/running faucet
  • Used the Let’s Explore Dinosaurs book to determine which model dinosaur was a sauropod (which led to Ani trying to identify all of our model dinosaurs)
  • Discussed warm vs. cold blooded
  • Made a fern “fossil” rubbing and labeled it
  • Discussed and made a line graph
  • Discussed egg teeth
  • “Hatched” a Hatchin’ Grow Dinosaur
  • Assembled and glued Dino Dig skeletons
  • DNA kit (extracted DNA from an onion)
  • Listened to Dinosaur Rap CD

Ani and Cameron excavating dinosaurs. Ani got a T Rex and Cameron got a Triceratops.

More Dinosaur Unit

Ani’s been at my parents’ since Tuesday evening so we haven’t been doing school most of the week. We didn’t do much school on Monday since Jamie was off from work. Here’s what we did do this week:

  • Made three vinegar baths (full-strength, 2:1, 4:1) and put chicken bones in to soak
  • Talked about the scientific method
  • Wrote problem, hypothesis, procedure, and materials used for chicken bone/vinegar experiment
  • Every few days we’re checking on the bone to see what is happening with them
  • Read 9 pages of Jurassic Park
  • Predator/Prey math: 10,000 duckbills to 25 T Rexes; did other calculations based on 400:1 ratio
  • Looked at animal cards and discussed their predator/prey relationship
  • Discussed three periods of the dinosaurs
  • Sorted Dino-Mite cards into periods

“I want to do school!” – 1/11 & 1/12

I never thought I’d hear two things out of Cameron’s mouth. But I heard them both today. This morning I was on the phone with my mom and Cameron said “Get off the phone, Mommie. I want to do school!” And then when we were finished with school, he said “Can’t we do more? I love doing school!” I am thrilled. I have found what works for him. It’s working for Ani, too. And we’re all having fun to boot. In the last two days we:

  • Reviewed meanings of fact/non-fiction and fiction (as we read Jurassic Park we often pause to discuss what is true and what is made up for the book)
  • Discussed Watson and Crick and the amino acids of DNA (adenine, thymine, cystine, guanine) and how they appear in A-T and C-G pairs
  • Completed the DNA model (see picture below)
  • Read 31 pages total of Jurassic Park
  • Looked up the basilisk lizard on-line
  • Labeled a page BASILISCUS using rubber stamps and drew a basilisk lizard
  • Discussed dinosaur and bird toes; looked at a picture of an eagle and discussed how the toes look like dinosaur toes might have looked
  • Traced Ani’s and Cameron’s middle three fingers held out like the eagle toes; kids added claws and colored the toes
  • Looked up Costa Rice on-line and discussed the different animals, plants, and habitats as well as where the country is in Central America
  • Drew and labeled the DNA model
  • Discussed how the dinosaur world was and what oxygen and carbon dioxide are
  • Oral math: $50,000 for two years equals how much per year; discussed easy way to figure the answer by remembering that two quarters equals 50 cents and one quarter equals 25 cents, so half of 50 is 25 making the answer $25,000
  • Discussed how a character in a book can be based on a real person
  • Watched several Discovery News Podcasts about Jack Horner and paleontology
  • Made “fossil” rubbings using fossil plates


Back to School – 1/10

I wasn’t planning on going back to school (we took a nice long Christmas break) until next Tuesday, but the kids really wanted to go back to school now so today we started our dinosaurs unit.

  • Discussed fact/non-fiction vs. fiction
  • Discussed what science fiction is
  • Learned the terms paleontology and paleobotany as well as paleo, ology, and botany
  • Discussed what the term dinosaur means
  • Read and discussed quotes at the beginning of Jurassic Park
  • Read intro of Jurassic Park
  • Painted the styrofoam pieces of our DNA model
  • Read prologue of Jurassic Park
  • Discussed parts of the dictionary entry of raptor
  • Made pages for their Dinosaur Notebooks (Ani copied entire definition of raptor; Cameron copied shortened version of definition of raptor; both drew a picture of their concept of a raptor)

Ani painting part of the DNA model

Christmas in the Holy Land

We finished our Christmas in… unit this morning. Now we’ll take off a couple weeks or so from formal school. Not that the Christmas in… unit has been all that formal.

We read the book over the course of the week. This one is a little different from the others. On Monday we read the last chapter which is about how Christmas is celebrated in Bethlehem. The rest of the week we worked our way through the Nativity story. It was very interesting to read the scriptural version followed by an explanation and historical perspective starting with Mary learning she’d be mothering the baby Jesus and ending with Joseph, Mary, and young Jesus settling in Nazareth. It was a lovely story to learn in depth the week before Christmas.

We made a Christmas wreath. It’s basically a rice crispy treat made with corn flakes and green food coloring. Of course I couldn’t have any (and I LOVE rice crispy treats) since Fritz is sensitive to corn (and so the corn flakes and the corn syrup in the marshmallows).
The kids insisted they needed to put a candle in the center of the wreath which meant they needed a huge glob of the stuff right in the center. Somewhere in there it really is somewhat a wreath shape. The kids were so proud of it, though, since they did the shaping all by themselves.

And then there were the candy cane cookies that weren’t. We decided to try to alter the candy cane cookie recipe so I could eat them. This was apparently a bad idea. The kids made the cookies with their dad. Instead of butter (Fritz is sensitive to dairy) they used coconut oil. Instead of egg (another food Fritz is sensitive to) they used oil and baking powder. And then there was the problem of not having red food coloring. In one of his exploration experiments Cameron used up the red food coloring. And the blue. And the green was used up on the wreath. So that left a little bit of yellow. So the two colors of dough were pale yellow and not so pale yellow. So far so good. The batter tasted pretty good. Pale yellow dough was flavored almond, not so pale yellow dough was flavored peppermint.

But then we discovered a problem. Jamie tried making snakes out a bit of each type of dough and then making it into a cane shape. The dough sort of made snakes decent enough, but it broke when he tried to form it into a cane. So he decided candy sticks it would have to be. The kids chose to make cookie patties instead of canes or even sticks. And so the cookies were baked and they didn’t turn out half bad despite not being red and white and not being shaped like candy canes.

It’s been fun learning about Christmas in Ireland, the Philippines, Poland, and the Holy Land. I’m looking forward to learning about Christmas in four more places next year. In among learning about Christmas in those countries, we learned to sing the first verse of Adeste Fideles (in Latin) and Ani has learned to play a simplified version of We Three Kings. And now we look forward to a week at the zoo (aka my parents’ house packed with us, my parents, siblings and their spouses, nieces and nephew, and uncle – 16 people in all).