Books We Are Using This Year
  • The Story of the World: Ancient Times (Vol. 1)
    The Story of the World: Ancient Times (Vol. 1)
    by Jeff West,S. Wise Bauer,Jeff (ILT) West, Susan Wise Bauer
  • Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding: A Science Curriculum for K-2
    Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding: A Science Curriculum for K-2
    by Bernard J Nebel PhD
  • Math-U-See Epsilon Student Kit (Complete Kit)
    Math-U-See Epsilon Student Kit (Complete Kit)
    by Steven P. Demme
  • First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind: Level 4 Instructor Guide (First Language Lessons) By Jessie Wise, Sara Buffington
    First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind: Level 4 Instructor Guide (First Language Lessons) By Jessie Wise, Sara Buffington
    by -Author-
  • Drawing With Children: A Creative Method for Adult Beginners, Too
    Drawing With Children: A Creative Method for Adult Beginners, Too
    by Mona Brookes
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Entries in Legos (5)


Lego pyramids

What can't we do with Legos? We already have a Kenyan city, near the trees of Wangari and the snows of Mt. Kenya, and a train that carries visitors south to Victoria Falls, and now we have the Pyramids of Giza. All three. Creating Pyramids doesn't really require a lot of "how-to" but here's how we did anyway.

We started with a flat sheet and built a base that was 28x2 on all sides. For each subsequent layer we stepped in one row. In order to make it usable for play he needed to be able to reach the inside so we left a doorway by not finishing one wall, and we also made the tip removable. No sooner had we finished the first pyramid than he mentioned the need for three pyramids if indeed this was to be Giza. That took a bit more doing, since we were running of materials, but we managed it. The only thing we couldn't do was make the tip easily removable, since we were out of the smooth thin pieces, but the other two pyramids are smaller (as they are in Giza, mind you), and that step wasn't as necessary.

Appropriately we happen to have one mummy, one pharaoh, one safari explorer, and two explorer pilots in our minifigure collection. The camels, however, were our own creation. Don't laugh.

To make the tip removeable we stabilized it with two platform pieces, then limited the point at which it snaps in place to just one side by using thin smooth strips on three of the sides and just one dimpled strip on the fourth side.


The Two Cars, add on

I realized that in my Two Cars post failed to include pictures of our finished road and of Calvin's journal entry from the auto show. This concerned him so I'm playing a little catch-up here.

Behold, the magic of cardboard and poster paint with a little Playmobil and Lego fun mixed in.

And the auto show in Calvin's own words:

"We went to the auto show in Detroit. We saw a hybrid. We saw an engine, and we saw many pistons. We rode the people mover."


Rowing Katy

There's a lot of lingo in the homeschooling world and I guess I am expected to say that this week we rowed our first book with Five in a Row. I love learning from books. I first discovered this curriculum on the sites of other homeschooling moms and was drawn to it because it's just a list of general guidelines for doing exactly that, and because it is holistic in nature. The basic premise is that you read one book daily for a week and base a week's worth of learning around that one book. I'm not big on measuring a week's worth of learning, nor am I big on strict rules, but I'm new at this and I love suggestions. Many of the suggestions in FIAR are things that we've already been doing—talking about the illustrations in books and the vocabulary in them—but I'm finding many of the suggestions to be good brainstorming jump starters. This week we read Katy and the Big Snow, by Virginia Lee Burton, and had a great time doing some of the suggested activities and more. We will never limit learning to five days, five reads, or really in any way, but we both really enjoyed the spring board.

Sunday—read book, talked about Katy's antics and the massive amounts of snow; began a weather chart for recording the daily weather throughout the week (we used personal observation and for temperature); talked about maps, the globe, and the compass rose.

Monday—Talked about the importance of all the different people/businesses in a city. Make a list of these and talked about them in relation to our own village. Built a city out of blocks. Calvin really loved building the city out of blocks, as you can plainly see, so we continued to add to this and play without throughout the week (and it's still taking up the whole room as we speak). We also noted the weather on the weather chart.

Tuesday—Defined personification as a literary device and identified its use in the book. Tried our hands at it by drawing characters and captioning. Created vocabulary cards for the words "emergency," "patient," and "drizzle" (Calvin's choices) using our own definitions and illustrations. Built Katy out of Legos (best part of the whole week, I think). Noted weather on chart.

Wednesday—Talked about the medium used by the illustrator (also Virginia Lee Burton) then tried our hand at her style using markers (ink) and crayon (charcoal pencil) in limited colors with only broad details. Kept weather chart.

Thursday—Played a bit with counting by fives and added many marker and crayon drawings to our collection. Weather chart.

Friday—Talked about maps and the compass rose some more. Printed and colored a compass rose and a map of Dexter Village. Went into the village for lunch and identified all the businesses in town and on the map. Went to the library to journal about the differences between Geopolis (Katy's city) and Dexter, and to look up other books by Virginia Lee Burton) and compare the illustrations (we came home with The Little House). Back at home we assembled our lapbook of Katy and the Big Snow and wrote on the weather chart.

Saturday—finished our week long weather chart, compiled the results, talked a little about ratios, and created a Katy and the Big Snow lapbook (not your typical lap book, but more like a folder in which he is keeping all his Katy creations, complete with Calvin-made cover).

Sunday—just for fun we drew a map of the inside of our house and had a big scavenger hunt.

For the most part these activities were chosen by Calvin, and by no means were they the only things we enjoyed all week, but Calvin really enjoyed rowing, and I think we'll do it again. Our way.


A train, one brick at a time.

Calvin got his first electric train for Christmas. He'd been talking about an "El train with doors that work and people that ride on it" for quite some time. Being that specific but without an actual item in mind could have been the end of that wish list item, but his Gram and Grampa found something near enough to fit the bill. And Lego (plus grandparents) comes to the rescue again. It's the Lego City Passenger Train, and while it's not elevated, it looks like the Chicago El insomuch as it's not a locamotive but a modern inner city train. He was able to assemble it entirely by himself (although we assembled the mechanics) and I love that this gives him a greater understanding of the toy itself. A better connection to it, if you will. In any case he's pretty in love with it.



I've heard that all parents are faced at one time or another with a very important decision. The decision between Legos and Playmobil. My understanding is that everyone has to plant themselves firmly in one camp or the other by the time their first born is five. For the past couple of years we've given Playmobil a try, and I find myself really liking the pieces—they're well made and almost realistic—but I also find them constraining in a way that Legos would never be. So we're putting one foot firmly in each camp.

And that's not really what this post is about. Calvin got his first Lego set, an electric truck, for St. Nicholas Day this year and it took him less than half an hour to assemble it by himself. I found great joy in watching him decipher the picture directions, making errors here and there then fixing them, asking for help only a handful of times when he couldn't get a piece to snap down. It was a great moment, and that's what this post is about.