Friday, November 30, 2012

Walt Disney Unit/Lesson Plan

I guess I never posted this unit. This went along with our trip to California at the end of November. (I will date it as such.) We were at Disneyland for 2.5 of these days, and we did our school in the car and in the evenings or mornings at Philip and Allison's house. It was really fun to read some more about the plans and design behind Disneyland before going there---it brought a lot of things to our attention that we probably wouldn't have noticed otherwise. And the boys were FASCINATED with the theme park construction/imagineering books we read. There weren't really any books specifically for children (at least not at our library) but they actually preferred the level of detail in the adult-level books. I read them the most interesting parts and just summarized ideas from other parts. And we found a few videos online that were equally interesting. The history of animation is a pretty fascinating subject in itself, but our favorite parts were really the detailed explanations of how they design and build the theme park rides. Though I'm not a huge fan of "thrill rides" in any form (I like the quiet, sweet rides---Small World, for example), I found myself with a new appreciation for them after reading about their history and behind-the-scenes efforts to make them effective. I can get into the stories they're trying to tell more than I can get into the thrills. :)

Sam taught the children about forced perspective and some other design techniques used at Disneyland. (We loved that. So ingenious!) And this unit also led to a bunch of really good conversations in the car with the older boys about what kind of leaders are the most effective, what kind of workers we'd like to be, what kinds of things we can create to add value to the world, etc. (These weren't moralizing sorts of conversations---just interesting. There probably are no simple answers to any of these questions.) It was fun to have Sam with us for these discussions!

I just love the chance (or maybe, the impetus?) our homeschool is giving us to learn about everything! We didn't WANT a "break" from school during this trip because it was MORE fun to have books to read and things to talk about. There are so many things I would never have bothered to research or look into if we hadn't had a unit on them.  And yet those things have added so much to our enjoyment of the things around us! Having something absorbing to discuss together during the long car rides is an added bonus.

Forced perspective! Beautifully executed.

I love this face

Sweet big brother and happy little sister

We loved the rain!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Hare Krishna Lotus Temple field trip

We've admired this Hare Krishna temple from afar for many years now, but I've never actually been inside it until now. It was a great place for a field trip---not least because of the friendly llamas, peacocks, and bunnies walking around outside!
Such a nice llama!
The white peacock was lovely, and the other one's blues and greens were so brilliant I almost couldn't believe he was a real bird!

The temple itself was also lovely, and interesting. A nice lady gave us a tour of the worship hall/shrine area. She wasn't, hmm, the most knowledgeable student of her religion, I suppose ("And this is Lord Shiva. He's the god of . . . well, I can't remember exactly, but I know he's, like, really good for women!") but she was very kind and she let us wander all around and look at everything. The place was totally deserted on a Monday morning, but there is a vegetarian buffet and gift shop downstairs, and our guide said they get 80,000 (!!!) people there for the Holi festival! I know I used to always see students wandering around BYU all colored from celebrating Holi, but I never wanted to brave the crowds myself.
She said they don't bathe and dress the statues every day here, but they do so regularly. We loved the flower garlands and the little offerings we saw.
Here is the whole space---very light and open. I loved the intricate relief designs (peacocks and flowers) in the dome, and the patterned floor.

Outside we saw this interesting little cart.

We liked the various little architectural details, like these wrought-iron peacocks over the doors

and these elegant carvings on the outer walls.

A nice elephant ("Baya-yama!" yelled Daisy, throwing her arms around his leg).

We availed ourselves of this little playground on the temple grounds. The children loved playing and watching the animals.
Another view of the temple
And this was taken later that night as we were driving home. It looks so pretty all lit up!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Indian Miniatures

We learned that miniatures were a popular art form in India between the 10th and 12th Century, so when I found these tiny canvases (and easels!) at Hobby Lobby, I knew we had to try painting our own miniature paintings. The picture above is supposed to depict Balarama, our favorite Indian elephant. (One of our favorite books for this unit was Balarama, a Royal Elephant, and you should hear Daisy squeal "Baya-yama!" whenever she sees an elephant now. It's so cute.)
Seb and Abe both painted peacocks

What a fun art project!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Indian spices and Yoga

One day we tasted a bunch of "Indian" (not sure if that is right---maybe I should say, commonly used in Indian cooking?) spices. They are so lovely on the plate, aren't they? And so fragrant. I loved the little assemblage of flavor and color.

Malachi looks like he doesn't like it, but that's just his Concentrating Face. (Sam glares when he tastes something he likes, too.) The children even wanted to try pinches of the spicy red pepper! And they liked it, too!

Another day we talked about yoga, and tried some out. It all seemed to go pretty well . . . 
until I introduced a position called "London Bridge."
This immediately resulted in Sebby bossing everyone around and moving them into various configurations to try to construct all the OTHER bridges he likes. I kept trying to explain that the point wasn't really architectural accuracy, but rather gentle stretching and mental alertness and relaxation, but it was futile. Seb really had had no use for those other things, but building human bridges he could get excited about! The children also enjoyed contorting themselves into various poses that made them fall over on top of each other. Yes, very relaxing.

This is the Golden Gate Bridge. Abe is tired of being posed by Sebastian.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Taj Mahal Models

This was one of those projects that was never intended to get as complicated as it did, but the boys were so absorbed and excited that I was happy with where it went. First of all, we had an excellent book about the Taj Mahal, by Elizabeth Mann.

The illustrations were really fun and detailed---like this one of the workers and donkeys hauling up irrigation water from the river, to fill the aqueducts. Seb and Abe were fascinated by those details.
Here is a picture of the pillars they built beneath the main sandstone platform beneath the structure. This was to prevent it flooding during the rainy season (and to elevate it to an even more pleasing prospect above the river)---the flood waters would simply flow harmlessly under the platform and then drain away. Again, the boys love this type of information.
Then there was this great fold-out diagram of the entire complex (tomb, mosques, gardens, etc.) which all the children wanted to examine minutely for hours on end. For boys who love to draw maps and plans of everything, this was totally perfect.

So it was a great book, and I had wanted to follow it up with some model-making, but preferably something simple that the children could do themselves. (The older ones, that is. For the younger ones I had this coloring page):

I found lots of rather complicated and/or expensive models to make, and some paper ones that just seemed to require cutting and folding way too delicate for me to do well, let alone a 10- and 7-year-old. Finally I found this pattern, which was simple, if not as elegant as some of the others. It just requires cutting and taping in a few places. (I also considered trying this one, but didn't get around to it.) I figured it would at least give the children a chance to visualize the structure three-dimensionally, and note the multi-angled symmetry.

After they'd taped on the Taj Mahal and the minarets, though, Sebby said he needed some pillars to set his on so it wouldn't get flooded during rainy season. And then Abe said he needed a sandstone platform to go under the marble platform. And then Seb said he needed some channels that could function as aqueducts. So I got out the beads and the cardboard and the glue (our craft supplies are limited :)) and they got to work in earnest. I was really impressed with the level of detail they achieved with their limited supplies!
You can see the aqueducts here, and the pipes carrying water to fill the fountains and irrigate the gardens. You can also see that the sandstone platform is elevated, and the marble platform elevated above that.
Seb also included the water spouts along the main fountain channel, and the foot-washing basins on the platform outside the mosque and guest-house. And inside the mausoleum itself, he made a small coffin and pasted a few pictures of intricately-patterned flooring.

Abe's front gate is suitably imposing and elaborate, as are his side gates, and his flowers and fountains are arranged with great beauty and symmetry in the gardens. Lovely!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Diwali celebration and Rangoli

It was a fortunate coincidence that the festival of Diwali fell during this unit. We probably would have celebrated it anyway, but now we had the stamp of authenticity. :)  One of the most fun things we did was drawing these rangoli on our front walk (a sign of welcome to guests and to the goddess who visits). I've never really been a fan of sidewalk chalk, but maybe I've never had any that was good before? Not that this was anything special (it was Crayola) but it seemed softer and more colorful than the stuff I've used before. We spent all morning perfecting our geometric designs. There are some amazing pictures of real rangoli---it's such a cool art form. Ours were definitely basic, but still quite beautiful, we thought :)
We colored some with markers on paper, too (there are lots of designs online)

But the chalk drawings were the most fun.
Daisy's is the Taj Mahal, I think.

Seb made this amazing peacock that took up two whole sidewalk portions.
The eyes on his feathers were so beautiful!

The final results were very festive!

And that night when we had candles lighting up all our rangoli, it was even prettier. We loved it! The boys were SO excited for Sam to come home and see how lovely everything looked.

For our celebration, we cleaned the house (as they do in India! We didn't whitewash anything though) and lit candles everywhere. We made naan and coconut dal (I don't have the recipe written up yet, but here is another good one) and mango lassi for dinner, and it was all QUITE delicious. We ate by candlelight and then watched "The Jungle Book" afterwards. Fun!

Links we used: A video showing some Diwali celebrations Fun to read for the kids (they love the monkey king!) and they liked the coloring pages too.
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