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':

Valentine's Day Cards for Kids - Handmade, 'Green' & Sugar-Free!

CLICK HERE to read the post & tutorial about the V-Day cards my kiddos made for their co-op featured on Gonna Want This-Handmade...a handmade review/giveaway/tutorial blog!

PS - I was a contributing writer on The Homeschool Classroom yesterday...check it out HERE!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Gettin' that brain THINKING!

Inspired by the THINK Challenge, but not having it timed right in my week or academic plan to participate in the actual challenge that week, I came up with my own. 

My goals were to provide a project that:

**Got my kiddos to think outside the box
**Had them do problem solving on their own (no help from Mom!)
**Use trial & error to become successful!


Here's what I did.  I got a couple of sandwich size baggies and then went through my HUGE craft box to select some random items and put them in the baggie.  For example, one baggie included a bunch of bread twist ties and plastic beads, amongst other stuff.  The other bag had popsicle sticks and foam shapes. 

I set out some 'free for all' items on the table like construction paper and glue.  Then I gave each of my older two their 'baggie-o-goodies'.  Finally I had them pick a slip of paper out of a cup.  On the slips of paper in the cup I had written various themes.  John selected "Summer" and Laura picked "Animals". 


1 - The creation must represent the theme in a way that can be easily explained to the viewer.
2 - Every single item in the baggie must be used in the creation
3 - Any of the 'free for all' items can be used...unlimited.
4 - Mom can't give ideas or suggestions
5 - Have fun and be creative...think outside of the box!

Here were their creations!

John's "Summer" Creation:  An Apple Tree!

Laura's "Animals" Creation: A Giraffe!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

I am thinking about getting this book to use with my 5 year old Sassafrass...has anyone had any experience with it?  It gets pretty good reviews online and a friend of mine has just started using it with her son with good success.

It is going for $14.96 on Amazon right now, and at that price I may just have to get it and see what I think. 

BUT if you have had any experience with this book/program, leave a comment and 
let me know about it!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Physics Circus!

We went on a field trip with our homeschool co-op this past Monday, to the Physics Circus, put on by the University of Minnesota Physics professors.  The intention behind the event is to dispel the commonly held belief that physics is boring and that all physics profs or students are nerds.  Though I hate to admit it, I will...I had a wobbly belief that physics is boring and that so are the physics profs!  AND I was kinda scared of physics too - all of which explains why I never actually TOOK physics in high school or college!

But I am now a convert...and I think I missed out on some major physics fun in my early days!  I think I will have to live vicariously through my kids' learning!

So how do a bunch of college professors make physics fun and interesting for a 4 year old, 10 year old and 12 year old (not to mention a physics-dumb 35 year old mama)? 

CLICK HERE and watch several of the videos of the various experiments...SO FUN!

My faves are:  Hoot Tubes, Boiling Flask, Barrel Crush (super duper cool...made me jump in my seat!), "Monkey & the Hunter" (anything involving shooting a cannon whilst dropping a person several feet HAS to be cool!), and the Giant Puffer (my son is currently working to figure out how we can do a "home sized" version of this one)!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Make It With Letters: Featuring "B"

When I explained to Sassafrass how to write a capital B, I said it was like drawing a line, and then a butterfly wing.  We enunciated the B sound and how Butterfly started with B.  Then as Sassafrass practiced writing her B's I heard her say under her breath "Line, Butterfly wing...Line, Butterfly wing) as she wrote the letter over and over again.
SO that gave me the idea of what to make with her letter B - a Butterfly!  Her sister decided to join in and make one too!

First we cut out two capital letter B's from bright red construction paper and pasted them on the blue construction paper - drawing a caterpillar in the middle.  THEN Sassafrass chooses her embellishments!

Angie glues on embellisments like beads, pom poms and sequins to decorate her 'butterfly wings'!

And there is the "B for Butterly" works of art!! 

Other ways to teach "B" to your pre-schooler:

Are you teaching a preschooler?  What ideas did you or will you use to teach your child all about Letter B?  Leave a comment and let me know!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Make It With Letters: Featuring "A"

With a four year old in the house, we have preschool homeschool going on!  Preschool homeschool consists of about an hour or so of activities every morning for Little Sassafrass.  I don't use a curriculum, but purchased one of those all-in-one preschool curriculum workbooks from Sam's Club.  Then I supplement the worksheets with crafts, games and activities.

Sassafrass has been learning all her letters in depth this year - including the sounds and upper/lower case recognition.  One thing that we've enjoyed doing is figuring out how to make some sort of picture craft using either the actual letter we are learning this week or something related. we go along I'll get pictures of what we make with the letters and do a post on it, along with links to other preschool ideas for that letter theme.  Should be fun!

Letter A provides folly for a lot of, alligator, ape, but we decided to go with...ANT!

I had a plethora of egg cartons piling up in my recycling bin, so I decided to think about what kind of craft we could do to help learn Letter A using egg cartons. egg-carton ant!

All the kids AND I put together an egg-carton ant.  So I cut up a carton for a dozen eggs, making each 'ant' three egg cups long.  We then painted our 'ants' however we wanted to.  As you see, some are very traditional all brown...others are wildly colorful!

Once the paint dries, we used glittery pipe cleaners to poke through the top of the egg cup on one end to create curlique antennae!

Then we wrote the word "A - N - T" on the side, one on each egg cup, stressing the way the letter A is written and the sound that it makes (click on the picture above and note the detail on the side of the red ant).

Then our ants went on display...the ONLY ants I will allow in the kitchen!