Monday, June 7, 2010

I've Moved!

Hi All!

Just to let you know, I've consolidated all of my blogs into one.  So I won't be posting here anymore, but you can still find all the previous Dressel Academy posts on the new on the link at the top that says 'The Academy and it will take you to all homeschool related posts!

Click HERE to go to the new site.  Make sure to become a follower over there too!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

"Babies" (the movie) Review

Oh. My. Goodness....these bambinos are SO ADORABLE!  

Today, for Mother's Day, my daughters (ages 5 and 10) went to see the new documentary "Babies" together.  
The premise of the film is that filmmakers follow the lives of 4 babies from birth through about 18 months.  The four babies are from wildly different cultures and countries.  

As described on the 'Babies' film website

Ponijao lives in Namibia with her family, including her parents and eight older brothers and sisters. Ponijao's family is part of the Himba tribe, and lives in a small village with other families.

Mari lives with her mother and father in Shibuya, a busy metropolitan area within Tokyo, at the center of all of the city's noise and excitement. Mari is an only child and lives a contemporary urban lifestyle.

Born in Mongolia, Bayarjargal, usually called "Bayar" for short, lives with his mother, father, and older brother Delgerjargal ("Degi") on their small family farm.

Hattie lives in San Francisco, born to very ecological, "green" parents.  Both of Hattie's parents are equally involved in her day-to-day life, fixing her meals, taking her to play groups, and spending time with her around the house.

And the synopsis (also taken from the film's website):

The adventure of a lifetime begins…

Directed by award-winning filmmaker Thomas Balm├Ęs, from an original idea by producer Alain Chabat, Babies simultaneously follows four babies around the world – from birth to first steps. The children are, respectively, in order of on-screen introduction: Ponijao, who lives with her family near Opuwo, Namibia; Bayarjargal, who resides with his family in Mongolia, near Bayanchandmani; Mari, who lives with her family in Tokyo, Japan; and Hattie, who resides with her family in the United States, in San Francisco.

Re-defining the nonfiction art form, Babies joyfully captures on film the earliest stages of the journey of humanity that are at once unique and universal to us all.

I LOVED this film.  It was poignant, real, natural and touching.  It was four families...mainly mothers...who deeply love and care for their children, albeit in very different ways.  It was four babies who are remarkably similar in their development and wide-eyed wonder with the world even despite their vastly different settings.
I think this is a great movie to see with your children...boys and girls...probably ages 5 and up.  (My 5 year old was thrilled with the movie for about the first hour.  Then she started to get a bit restless)  The movie is full of educational "springboards" (see below) and a cultural and familial experience for children of all ages.

NOTE:  There is some natural/tribal nudity in the film.  All four mothers are shown at various times breastfeeding and partially undressed.  The African mother never wore a shirt as is custom in her tribe.  The babies, as well, are filmed in various states of undress (baths, etc.) and the babies in Mongolia and Namibia didn't wear diapers, often their bottoms were exposed.  I did not experience this nudity to be disturbing to my girls...though I did take the time to mention to them that this kind of nudity was showing the natural part of being a mommy and a baby in those various cultures.  However that is something to be aware of depending on your personal comfort level with your children viewing nudity of that kind.

The educational components of this film abound...and there are many ways you can expand on the material in the film to support further learning.  These few initial ideas that came to mind for me:

  • Cultural Studies (for each of the cultures represented)  We've been studying Story of the World Vol. 1 this year, which began with a study of nomadic lifestyles.  After seeing this movie, my older daughter and I discussed what a 'yurt' is and why that type of home is symbolic of a semi-nomadic lifestyle.  
  • Geographical Study (where is Japan, Mongolia, Namibia & San Fransisco?)
  • Home Economics (elements of taking care of babies)
  • Global Art (making braided necklaces like those seen on the Namibian baby, or a cloth swaddled doll like the Mongolian baby)
Besides my positive review, some of the "pros" gave these reviews:

Ann Horaday, Washington Post - "Mesmerizing"
Mary Pols, Time magazine - "Charming!  This film's message was loving and clear."
Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times - "Wonderful!"

Watch the trailer here:

Friday, March 5, 2010

Featured at the Homeschool Classroom

The Homeschool Classrom

I'm the Guest Blogger over at The Homeschool Classroom today...come check out the post full of Great Homeschooling Links!

Friday, February 19, 2010

When Kids Teach Themselves...

I love has fostered a constant environment of learning around our house...nearly everything we do - even the 'fun stuff' (not that education isn't fun...but the non-school know what I mean!). 

But the coolest part about it is seeing my kids choose activities that foster learning themselves.  Like when they are given TV time and they choose to watch "How Stuff Works" on Discovery Channel instead of Hannah Montana.  Or they do their Spelling City games for FUN during free computer time instead of playing their favorite mindless game. 

The other day La La was playing outside for quite some time, all by herself.  Every time I'd glance out I'd see her cavorting amongst the pine trees.  Later she came in with a tupperware filled with nature's goodies and asked us all to gather about so she could tell us of her findings. 

She spread out her wares before us...a sprig of pine needles, a pinecone bud, pincones of varying sizes, some closed, others open, and one that was shriveled and old.  She deducted the steps of the life of a pinecone from her findings and was largely correct. 

Later she 'hid' her tupperware of findings outside on the deck to keep it away from her younger sister.  When she brought the bucket back in, she was amazed that the previously open pinecone was now closed.  She wondered aloud why that may be.  Enter Google (because I didn't know the answer!) and we discovered that pinecones open as they dry out and close when they encounter moisture.  Pinecones were ancient barometers! 

Learning that wasn't even part of the lesson plan...I LOVE IT!!! 

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Make It With Letters: Featuring "G"

Figuring out how to make a 'Giraffe' out of the letter G was using up way too much of my brainpower, so I looked for something simpler and came up with a double 'G' letter activity! 

Sassafrass and I worked together to cut small strips out of green construction paper.  I cut the long strip and she used her safety scissors to cut that long strip into smaller strips.  Pretty soon we had a nice small pile of 'green grass' for our use!

We got out the glue stick and Sassafrass glued her letter G and g to half sheets of green construction paper and then began covering her capital G and lowercase g with Green Grass.

Fun and simple!

More ways to teach letter G to your preschooler:

Monday, February 15, 2010

Science Experiment: Plant Root Systems & Water Distribution

We are currently in the midst of doing water experiments, which the kiddos LOVE.  Pretty much ANY experiment they are big fans of!  We've done osmosis and from there moved on to figuring out how the heck HUGE plants like trees get water to all parts of the plant. 


1-2 stalks of fairly fresh lettuce for each participant
1 drinking glass per participant, preferably clear
Food coloring (drops, NOT gel - blue or red work best)

Thinly slice off the bottom of each celery stalk to reveal fresh plant.  Fill up the glass with water - about 1/2 way.  Then put 5-10 drops of food coloring into the water and stir with a spoon. 

Have student write down what they have done so far, and draw and color a picture of what their celery looks like 'before'.  Have them create a hypothesis of what might happen to the celery after 24-36 hours in the cup. 

Place the stalk(s) of celery into the water, making sure that the leaves are sticking out of the water.

Place on a shelf where they will not be bothered for 24-48 hours. 

Later come back and check out the plants.  They should have obvious coloration extending up the celery stalk - even the portion that was not submerged in the water should be streaked with color.  At best, the leaves will also show coloration. 

Talk about how water is sucked up through channels in the plant, and then delivered to the leaves.  Explore plant root systems and view images of various roots.

Take it further by going on a nature walk and discuss the type of root systems various plants have and how they would distribute water internally like the celery did. 

Finally have students determine if their hypothesis was correct and to draw a new picture of what their celery stalk looks like (with color!) and write a description as well. 

This Carnation-Color-Change experiment is a great idea for how to take the learning further...and something I think we will do once carnations are back in season!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Make It With Letters: Featuring "H"

Sassafrass' favorite thing to write with letter H is my name (Holly) and now she provides me with lots of cards and pictures that say my name instead of 'Mommy'.  Hmm...I'll have to work on breaking that habit!  But for now it is pretty cute!

But for Make It With Letters Day during 'H Week', we made a HOUSE!  (I based my ideas on those I found HERE)


We pasted a cut out 'H' onto a blue piece of construction paper.  I then cut out some other shapes like a triangle and a circle.  Sassafrass identified the shapes and then decided where it would be good to use them in her picture.  She also thought a cloud would be a good idea too, so I cut out a fluffy white cloud and she glued it on.  (After-the-fact idea:  it would be fun to use cotton balls for clouds...then they'd really be fluffy!)
We then talked about what is included on a house, like windows and a door.  I served as Sassafrass' illustrator.  She told me where windows should go - even describing that the one in the middle should be a circle window and the one on the door should look like 'a pie, except half of it is gone'  :)

Her bedroom was in the upstairs and of course there was a 'Welcome' mat outside!  She added the flowers herself!

Here are some other ideas to use when teaching your preschooler the letter 'H':