Thursday, August 14, 2014

Our Nesting Geography Project

As we launch into a new school year, I'm also making some shifts with blogging here.  I'll try to write in more detail soon, and I am still hoping to finish a few posts from last school year that I already have the pics for (and was catching up on when my computer CRASHED and DIED! ugh).  
Anyway, the long and short of it is that I am not going to try to just keep up with the regular stuff of our weeks.  I don't have a lot to add into the mix of super talented, creative school bloggers who I basically just gather and sometimes adapt ideas from.  So, I'm pretty sure the grandparents are the only ones who truly benefit from all the details of our school week, and I can send them photos. :)
So, I'm going to try to shift to writing about things that are unique to us or to our life here in Nepal and a few projects I am excited about launching.  

This is one of the projects we started months ago and finally finished.  I have seen several ideas for "nesting" geography kinds of projects, mainly with boxes (which wasn't terribly feasible for us) or just with papers layered on top of each other.  I kind of wanted to combine the two forms and still make them fit inside of each other but use something more accessible to us than the boxes.  So, I decided to just use construction paper and make little pockets, getting larger with each expanding level.  (A note of hindsight here is that I might at least measure the biggest one first and then scale down from there, as by the time we got to the biggest one, we didn't have any construction paper big enough.  It kind of worked out because I had some cool Nepali handmade paper that I used for the largest two levels, but just to mention it.)

I think in the States you would basically have (from most specific to broadest) house, maybe neighborhood, city, state, country, continent.  That is 5, maybe 6, levels.  We ended up with 10 due to the way geography is labeled here.  So, that is why it took us awhile to finish because Isaiah got a bit weary with it after about the midpoint, and I ended up finishing it myself and then using it to just talk about with him.  
I actually really enjoyed this project personally because, as someone who didn't grow up here, I really didn't understand the hierarchy of the geographic labels here.  (And, for any of my Nepali friends who might see this, please forgive me if I have STILL made any errors in this!)  Many of the layers were a bit difficult to complete, as maps showing the clear boundary lines were hard to find, and there were a couple of the layers that seemed like we would be one but turned out in looking and digging that (I think) we are actually a different one.

Anyway, the idea is super simple and not entirely original, but I just put a photo of our house on the smallest level and then kept making bigger and bigger construction paper pockets and gluing a map on the front for each successive level.

For any who are interested, here is the breakdown of our Nepal geography:
The two obvious ones are that we are on the continent of Asia in the nation of Nepal.

Nepal is divided into five regions, and we are in the Central Region.  
Each region is divided into zones, and we are in the Bagmati Zone.

Within the zone, there are districts, and we are in Lalitpur.  
I actually listed the next level on the same pocket, as I could not, even with quite a lot of digging, find a map with lines of the municipalities shown.  Some said they thought we would be in Patan municipality, but it seems we are in a more recently defined one called Karya Binayak Municipality.
In the next level, VDC stands for Village Development Committee, and the name of ours is Sainbu.
I don't really know the name for it, but basically the level that is comparable to our town is Bhaisepati.
I have left the next two levels tucked in in the photo, as it feels a bit odd to put our exact location out into the general blogosphere, but it contains the name and a photo of our "colony" (which would be something like a subdivision or housing development in America) and then a photo of our home.

Many thanks to multiple Nepali friends who had the patience to help and TEACH ME for this project!

Monday, August 11, 2014

A New Year

I used to be a teacher.  I mean, the kind that got paid and listed that as my profession and all.  And, I was a good one.  From my training and experience and amazingly talented teachers I worked with, I learned a lot and refined my craft.
In this season in which I find myself teaching again, but this time it's for my own children as a homeschooler, I find that my former life as a "professional" teacher brings both advantages and disadvantages with it.  That is likely a whole post in itself, but one of the shifts that I have found difficult is the start of a new school year. 

 The beginning of a new school year, both as a student and then as a public school teacher, was always a big deal.  In my days as a teacher, as that first day approached, my emotions would kick into high gear.  I was excited for the possibilities of a new year and for the chance to try out new ideas, but I was also crazy nervous.  I am, as I've mentioned before, a type-A planner who is a recovering perfectionist.  So, I would plan my brains out and run every detail over and over in my mind and tweak and tweak and work and work with loads of late nights thinking and preparing and praying.  Have I mentioned that my professional teaching days were before having kids of my own...and largely even before having a husband?!  Me and my own little workaholic, introverted tendencies left to my own devices to "perfect" all my plans for the coming school year.  

Some of those habits weren't healthy in any context, and leaving the profession was, in part, due to a need to break some of those patterns.  And, yet, I find some of it still creeps up in me so easily.  I no longer live in a reality that allows me to just spend an entire month or two planning.  Whether we take a summer "break" from school or not, these kids are still with me all summer!  All day.  Every day.  I know that, but sometimes I have a hard time adjusting to that reality.  I like to plan, and honestly, I am good at it, and I think that is a gift.  Sometimes, though, I have a hard time walking in grace when I haven't had the time I wanted to (not sure that would ever actually be reached) to make the plans and "perfect" them.  "Winging it" is NOT my strength!  It is not comfortable for me to jump into something without the level of planning and thought I wanted to give it.  As the start of this year approached, I could feel myself getting really nervous, anxious even.  I prayed for the kids, for our school year, and for the anxiety even, but it was not easy to shake.  I wish I could say I had found the answer or total victory somehow, but the truth is that it is an ongoing battle for me to trust that God knew I would have a busier summer than I expected, that God knows more than I do what my boys need, and that God is much, much bigger in the lives of my kids than my ability to plan and teach. 

The thing is I'm not really suggesting that I need to totally abandon all of that mode.  In some ways, it is an easier route to just try to detour around things in my life than to plow through them and allow actual transformation (and not merely avoidance) to work out in my life.  God has given me gifts to plan and to think critically and analyze issues and scenarios and methods, and I take joy in investing that in my boys' lives and the lives of others.  I think it is even a gift that I don't settle easily into being satisfied and am looking for refinement constantly.  Don't you find it true that sometimes our greatest strengths and our greatest weaknesses have awfully similar roots?

I'm never going to be one of those people who just lets go of the idea of a first day of school  We certainly could with homeschooling.  But, I like beginnings and ends.  I like defined fresh starts.  I thrive on routines, and I make good plans.  And, I even think some level of nervous excitement, of wondering what a new year/season holds, is healthy.  It's anticipation.  It is celebrating events and marking time and seasons together as a family, though we now have the freedom to determine more of when and how those happen. 

I need to allow my own heart and mind to be renewed, in the midst of it, to let go of my expectations of "perfection."  That is the real kicker.  If we have to start a couple of subjects two weeks into our school year, not only is it not going to ruin that perfectly polished start I had envisioned, but perhaps it is even for the better as we all settle into a new year.  The freedom of homeschooling (which can be both wonderful and terrifying for someone like me) is that we can choose what we want it to look like.  It doesn't have to (and really shouldn't) look like my old classroom days, but it also doesn't have to look like someone I'm not or some imposed definition of what freedom means.  I don't have to chuck the "first day" plans or excitement or devalue the time and effort of planning.  I just need to be able to release my controlling grip and walk in the grace of knowing that I am not now nor will I ever be "perfect."  Gulp.   

So, my kids oblige me (mostly) with some cheesy first day photos, and we move ahead into a new year, embracing who I am as a teacher while I see the white slowly fading from my loosening grip and press through the refining fire to more clearly reflect His image, using the gifts He has given me.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

F is for Frogs

We were running out of steam a bit with our curriculum for the year, to be honest.  Thankfully, the boys were both pretty interested in frogs, but we were definitely doing less specific to our kindergarten curriculum but trying to press through and finish up the core things and have a sense of completion of all the units.

I found a great Frog Unit online, and we used a few random pieces of her notebooking pages, and it also had a great list of resources such as videos or links for information.
Isaiah was particularly proud of his Frog Life Cycle paper and even wanted to make a video to show and tell about it.  Check him out in Part 1 and Part 2. :)
video video

Isaiah actually came into the room when I was looking at my Pinterest board for frogs and some windows I had open from it.  He saw this idea and really wanted to make it.  He absolutely loved the finished product, and it is a fairly simple thing to make, but it definitely wasn't a project that we could do as much, so it felt a bit more difficult than it actually was.  He did enjoy putting on the spots and eyes himself and then played with it quite a bit.

I don't usually post much that I haven't taken pictures of, but since the boys were REALLY enjoying the Frog and Toad stories, I printed one of the FREE printable board games from First Grade A La Carte, and we had fun playing it.  She has them for multiple stories.  What a fun free resource!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

B is for Butterfly

I saw instructions for making your own butterfly feeder, and the boys were super excited about the idea and really got into making it and trying to place it in the perfect spot.  Sadly, in spite of our enthusiasm, it didn't really seem to work for us.  We did manage to attract a lot of bugs but no butterflies. :(  Maybe someone else will have better luck with such a project.  I'm still glad we did it because especially my older one has a really hard time when something doesn't work out according to plan and his perfect ideals (um, no idea where he gets that from, sigh).  So, it was good for both of us to try something and still value the process and exploration, even when the results weren't what we wanted them to be.

We were working on symmetry this week, and as with most math things, it seemed to come pretty easily for Isaiah.  We did a couple of activities with a friend, and for this one, I just cut a body out of construction paper for each, a few different shapes as wing options, and some various shapes and sizes of sparkly craft foam (which was, by the way, a super exciting find in a shop here!).  Isaiah was actually really upset because, somehow, we ended up not having a mirror image of the blue triangle to complete his symmetry.  He was quite unsettled about it.

The same day with friends we made some simple butterfly masks using the templates from Deceptively Educational.

Isaiah really enjoyed making the butterfly life cycle out of pasta and a few other things.  I got the idea from this post.  Our pasta, leaf, and bean options look just a bit different, but they worked well.  One significant change that I made is that the original picture in the post I saw had the bottom two pictures reversed, which works for the left-to-right reading paradigm, but it loses the cyclical visual.  So, I changed the placement of ours and added arrows around the edge of the plate to show the cycle.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

R is for Rock

Rocks are so simple and so fun, are they not?  Especially my little one cannot seem to get his hands on enough rocks.  He always seems to be filling his hands and his pockets with them.  So, it wasn't hard to really come up with much to make it an appealing week!  They kind of hold their own appeal, at least for my boys.  
Isaiah is an observer and a details kid, so we did a lot of observing and classifying.  Isaiah likes anything about being a detective, so he fancied himself a rock detective for the week.

When we went on a walk to find and collect rocks, I had to cut them off as the bag I was carrying was about to rip from all the rocks they found that just "had to" come home with us.
Now, I grew up on a farm, so I grew up playing in dirt, but there is something about city dirt and grime that kind of just grosses me out.  Add to that the fact that litter is a big problem here, so there is often garbage laying around even in the midst of what would be a nice open green space.  So, just as a matter of practicality, I was pretty determined to wash any and all rocks that were going to be brought into the house.  But, instead of washing them myself, we set up a big bucket of sudsy water, and it turned out to be Zeke's favorite activity of the week.  (It's possible I was just being a little crazy, but I did actually rinse and then soak the rocks in bleach water first.)  I gave the boys sponges and old toothbrushes, and Zeke asked to wash rocks EVERY day, multiple times a day. 
Actually, once I brought the rocks in the house, I set up a bin for Zeke for washing and polishing, which I failed to get a picture of, and I had a smaller container of water, some rags, a toothbrush, and some baking soda.  The boys used the baking soda and water to polish rocks.

They had each picked out one large rock on our rock collecting walk, and I let them paint them.

 I also had a set of smaller rocks from awhile ago that I had written the letter of the alphabet on, so I pulled those out and an alphabet printable for him to match up the letters (both capitals, so a simple matching), which he also loved.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Z is for Zebra

Z was definitely a lighter week for us.  Given that I'm still in catch-up mode with posts, I can't even remember exactly why, but we didn't do a whole lot beyond the basics.  
One of the things that was part of our curriculum was to draw an outline of Africa and then color, cut, and attach the African animals from the sheet that was included.  Isaiah was really adamant to find out exactly where in Africa each of the animals lived so that he could put them on the map in the "correct" spot.  I tried explaining that several of these animals are found throughout Africa, but he really wanted to look up each one and place them on a particular spot on the map.  Thankfully, he did at least settle for placing it somewhere within a region as long as he saw on a map online that that particular animal actually lived in that area.
It was also a good chance to mark a couple of specific countries on the map and pray for some friends living there.  My cousin and her husband are in Senegal for a year, so we looked at their blog, marked Senegal on the map, and then prayed for them.  Also, one of the families on our team was working on opening the office for our business in Kenya, and they actually had pictures on facebook from a safari, so we got to look at pictures of many of the animals WITH them!  And, we got to pray for them and for Kenya as well.

 The math concept for this unit was tally marks.  There was a practice sheet included, but I decided to also have Isaiah practice with something he was interested in.  One of his very favorite things is Zita the Spacegirl, so we took one of the books and started tallying the number of frames (it's a graphic novel) in which each of the characters he chose appeared.  He actually took to tally marks really easily.  It wasn't much work at all, which was nice because I honestly find it such a boring task that I was glad to not have to dig into it too much.

We also printed out blank zebra pictures and used q-tips to paint black stripes on the zebra.  Unfortunately, what seemed like a quicker and easier activity (and which Zeke enjoyed), Isaiah actually ended up really frustrating Isaiah.  I'm not sure if it was the task or his mode for the day, but he was really struggling with it not being "perfect" as he had imagined somehow in his mind.  That is an ongoing struggle for him, and sometimes it appears during projects or activities that I don't expect it to. 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Fire Trucks for Tots

Again, revealing how behind I am, we took the opportunity during the time of my little guy's birthday (LATE FEBRUARY!) to put a little more focus and effort into an interest-based unit for trucks!  

Here are my little firefighters in the favorite feature from our time...the box fire truck!  Somehow, much to my surprise, as I actually write this a few MONTHS later, it is still sitting in our living room with only a few minor casualties and still a favorite.  More on making it later in the post.

I put together a little fire sensory bin with a base of tissue paper and some other red, yellow, and orange things tossed in there.  I also included two sets of magnetic letters for the word "fire."

Ezekiel enjoyed the bin a lot this week!

You can also see some cards from the fireman pack from Homeschool Creations in the background.

Of course, big brother got in on the action as well.  He had been dreading his "word work" lately, and while he was playing with this bin, I decided to dump some more letters into the bin and have him search for the letters to form the words he was supposed to make for his lesson.  He got really into it and even made up a song--"Savin' Letters...from the fire...that's our job!"

We did a dot marker fire truck and some fire truck counting (using the clip art from Royal Baloo's pack and a road we already had printed out).  We also used a few other activities like the cutting from her great Zoomin' Movin' Alphabet Letter F pack.

We had a really big box that our electric piano had come in, and those are a rare treasure here, so I had been saving it for a fun project, and I really wanted to try to make it into a fire truck for Ezekiel's birthday.  I found two posts about people who made cardboard fire trucks here and here.  I adapted them, based on what we had around.  I was glad for the idea to hot glue the edges of the box together to stand up.  I used our piano box and one other box, cutting a window out of the other box and hot gluing it to the front part of the piano box.  Buying enough red paint to paint it didn't seem feasible here, so I bought some of the big sheets of handmade red paper that is common here and glued that around the outside.  We attached a few styrofoam packing pieces that my son painted on the top to make the "flashing" lights, and I painted a few things around the outside (ladders, buttons and knobs, headlights, and a "badge").  
I hot glued a few random bits and bobs (plastic bottle caps, a styrofoam plate, some random plastic gear-looking thing we had saved) on the inside for the controls.
I have been absolutely shocked how well this has held up, even a few months later, as it attracts the attention of every kid that comes in our house and has been a continued hit!

For our co-op group that Friday, I was with the little ones and took a few of our books and printables about fire trucks, and we also made this fire truck craft, but I decided to give it some texture and use some varied materials, so I cut the wheels and pieces free-hand from colored paper, and then I used a shiny yellow paper for the lights, wax paper for the windows, foil for the front grill, cut up drinking straws to form the ladder, and pipe cleaners to roll up for the hoses.  The kids had a good time with it, but I think it was just a bit above a few of them, though they seemed to still enjoy it; it just required quite a bit of help. And, I should have taken some stronger glue for the straws and pipe cleaners, as they kept rolling around.  Here are a few of the finished ones.
Zeke's was a little more "abstract," but he still seemed quite pleased with the project! :)

Another big highlight of our week was a visit to the fire station.  As I combed through posts about activities for a fire truck or firefighter theme, almost all of them gave the obvious suggestion of a visit to the fire station.  Well, when you live in a foreign country and aren't really sure how any of that works, it seemed a little daunting.  But, we had seen it before, so we decided to just show up and see what we could see!  You would never do that in the States!  But, it is kind of the way things more commonly operate here, in general, so we gave it a try.  Success!  We walked up and saw that the gates were just sort of opened.  We hung around for a few minutes, peeking in, and at one point, a young guy just walked past us through the gate, and we asked if we could go in, and he nodded and walked on.  So, in we went! :)
No one seemed to mind our being there.  There was a group of guys all circled around in the courtyward, playing a common game that kind of looks like carrom.  They just continued on with playing, so we just wandered around, looking at things.  
A couple of guys were washing one of the trucks, so we watched that for a bit.

My Nepali language skills are sadly limited, but finally, I got up the courage to ask if the boys could go inside the truck that they were washing, and they were glad to let them. 
We continued our roaming and checked out the various trucks there.

There were definitely some distinctly different sights, especially given that we've only been inside a station in the U.S. when it is a special "open house" day or some special event where things are specially set up and cleared for kids to visit.  
I wish my Nepali was good enough to translate this for you, but it gives a little taste of what the script looks like for some lists and schedules here.
I was a little tentative to poke our way into all the rooms, but here is the cooking area, which is an open set of shelves with metal pots and most likely a single burner attached to a gas cylinder.  The room on the right is the sleeping quarters.  The big wooden pallets are the beds.

Here is one of the trucks that was parked in the station, which I'm going to assume isn't one that would be taken out much these days. :)

The boys thoroughly enjoyed our visit, and it felt like some sort of brave adventure we had undertaken to just go on in and explore the station ourselves!  

It was a great week, culminating in the birthday celebrations for my little man!  Happy Birthday (you know, a few months late!) to my Zeke!

Linking up this week with the Tot School Gathering Place from 1+1+1=1.