Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Russia Unit Schedule and Lesson Plan

When I found out I was going to get to go to Russia with Sam, I of course wanted to learn more about the country, so I selfishly decided the children and I would study it in school. :) We did a lot of the unit after Sam and I got home, so I had pictures and other things to show. But before we left, we invited my cousin Heidi and her husband David to come over for dinner and be Guest Speakers for us. (She majored in Russian, and he lived in Moscow for awhile and has a PhD in Russian Literature, so they were a great resource.) I had been to St. Petersburg when I was 15, so I had vague memories of Catherine the Great and Peter the Great, and I had learned about the October Revolution and so forth in AP European History (one of my favorite classes in High School)---but, as has happened with too many things, it was all quite distant and jumbled in my mind. Luckily, the information was in there and ready to come back with a bit of review, so talking to Heidi and David helped a lot.

I also read (on my own---not to the children) two very useful books on Russian history--John Lawrence's A History of Russia and David Remnick's Lenin's Tomb. In addition to all the other (mostly children's) books I checked out from the library, I felt I had a pretty broad platform of knowledge on which to base this unit. I still can't for the life of me read the Cyrillic alphabet, though (even though we learned the letters/sounds, a little bit, from some of our books).

Sunday, February 17, 2013


I forgot to post about the day we talked about names. I LOVE learning about names, so this was really fun for me. (When I was about eight or ten, I remember just PORING over the baby-name pamphlet my mom had brought home from the hospital when she had me. It was not extensive at all, but I read and re-read it, underlining my favorites, naming my stuffed animals, and asking my mom which names she'd considered for me.)

For this unit we read through a bunch of baby-name books and talked about name meanings, origins, symbolism, and the different ways people might choose a name for their baby. And of course all the children wanted to hear over and over again about why and how we chose THEIR names and what they meant. They loved looking through name lists Sam and I made when we were expecting them (and our complicated rating systems, ha ha). I could discuss names all day, so I loved it too.

I told them they could make their own name lists however they wanted. It was funny to see how they went about it. Daisy (top left) spent a long time writing many complicated symbols, which she immediately and without hesitation read off to me for transliteration. Among her ideas: Octospider, Pencil, Plutey, Flimley, Delivery, and Ham the Astrochimp.

Sebby (top right) had all of our own names on his list, several common words (Nose, Binocular,  Gorge) and some more unconventional choices (Clawfat, Maundy, Ranos). He had "Coyote" on there, but my favorite was Coyoté---pronounced Ky-o-TAY. Fancy.

Malachi (bottom right) had his list divided under headings of girls and boys. He thinks the most beautiful name in the world, for a girl, is "Snowflake." He has wanted me to name the baby that for a long time now. He likes Flower, Butterfly, Bunny, and Baby Penguin too. For boys, he likes bird names (Robin and Warbler) as well as "Oktapus," Rocketship, and Mark ("or Marker, for the long-name").

Abe's list (bottom left) was a complicated, multi-page affair accompanied by symbols ("excellent," "No!", "needs thought," etc.) I think the top two that emerged after all that were Oberon for a boy and Hyacinth for a girl. He is very partial to "Doctor" (which is what he keeps begging me to name this baby) as well. He, being a thorough and order-loving boy, also left a space on his last page for "Actual name I chose for my baby." We'll see if he revisits and updates this list when he has babies of his own. :)


Babies Unit Resources and Guest Speaker

We had my awesome midwife, Cathy, come over and be a Guest Speaker for us. She brought some of her big Fetal Development charts, and a really cool model of a baby which you can put inside a uterus. It has an umbilical cord and a placenta you can snap it to, and then you put it inside an amniotic sac, then inside the uterus (sweater-like material with turtleneck-like cervix at one end, showing muscle banding on the outside). I wish I had a picture of it! So that was wonderful, and she showed us all her equipment and demonstrated for the children, on me, how it worked---stethoscope, blood pressure monitor, thermometer, urine test strips, Doppler heartbeat monitor, etc. They usually like to watch her work when she comes over for my prenatal visits, but this time they were free to ask ALL their questions and she let them work some of the equipment. They LOVED it.

Cathy also gave them a homework assignment to study the effects of Doppler/Ultrasound on the baby, and we learned many interesting things as we completed that assignment. Lots of conflicting information, which gave us a great opportunity to discuss evaluating the trustworthiness of sources, and how if you want to understand a subject better, you have to read LOTS of viewpoints about it and not just confine your reading to one or two sources (A couple of the more interesting links are here and here if you are interested).

One of my favorite books on childbirth is this one pictured here:
It's one of the only books I've ever found that shows home birth, and certainly the only one that strikes what I think is the right balance between being really weird or new-agey (I've seen a couple of those) and showing birth as a natural, non-scary, non-medical process that the whole family can participate in. The pictures and the tone are peaceful and beautiful.

My absolute favorite Baby book in the whole world, though---and the kids' favorite as well; we probably read this one EVERY DAY of the unit---is "Baby, Come Out!" It's about a baby that is so happy inside her mama that she refuses to come out, in spite of her whole family trying to persuade her. I think I partly love it because it reminds me so much of Junie's birth, but mostly I just love the charming illustrations and the story. It is so sweet and funny. I love it! We have our own copy and I want to buy a few more to give as gifts.

Here is a sweet video (low-res, but we liked it anyway) of baby animals that we watched one day

One day we studied all the infant reflexes. Then of course the children wanted to talk about adult reflexes, so I got out my drumsticks and showed them the knee-jerk reflex (I used to sit in back and practice making my knee jerk when I was bored during band class; I am very good at finding the correct tendon with my drumsticks:)) and they LOVED that. So we watched this video about how it works. A bit technical but we still found it interesting.

We found a few videos showing the infant reflexes (this one was pretty good) but nothing quite as comprehensive as we wanted. When we have the baby we will try to watch them in real life!

There are a million resources for showing fetal development---all those sites that promise to track your pregnancy week-by-week, etc. Here are a couple, but there are others.

This is an interesting video on how ultrasound works

We watched this movie (on DVD) for movie night. Sam and I had seen it before but the children hadn't. It's so cute! I love watching how similar babies are across cultures, even in spite of their totally different circumstances.

A couple more books about pregnancy/childbirth/babies:
This one is quite comprehensive (lots of good pictures; the text is largely too complex for children) and a good reference
We also liked this one (it contained some fun activity ideas too)

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Infant CPR

This may have been our favorite day of the Babies Unit. Before we started the unit I was looking around online seeing if there were any Infant CPR courses we could use as a field trip. And it turns out none of them are for younger children (there were a couple for age 12 and up; most were for 15 and up!). I'm not really sure why they don't teach CPR to younger kids, honestly (seems like ages 8 and up would be totally capable!). It is not complicated at all, and maybe they think the kids will do it wrong, but it doesn't seem like it would be WORSE for them to do it wrong than for them not to do anything at all! And I guess younger kids may not be babysitting yet, but it's not like you could only use CPR if you were the sole caretaker. Anyway! In my search, I saw that the fire station had these "CPR anytime" kits you could buy. It's the CPR course on video, plus a little blow-up baby to practice on. The kits were $40, which I was prepared to spend because I thought it would be so useful. I've been in CPR classes lots of times and I've always planned to teach it to my kids.
But when I called about the kit, the secretary told me they had a bunch of last year's kits left over, and she could let me have one of those for free. Yay!
The video was great. One of those perky narrators and lots of chances to practice, plus zippy music to perform your chest compressions along with. :) It taught us how to treat a baby who is conscious but not breathing (Abe is doing back blows above; I don't know what Sebby is doing!) and then what to do if the baby loses consciousness. Malachi was able to remember and perform all the steps, and even Daisy got the general idea, though she wasn't really strong enough to do the chest compressions. The baby has a little clicker in its chest so you know where to put your fingers, and can hear a click when you are pushing hard enough. We loved our little inflatable baby.
After we were all pretty competent, we role-played a whole bunch of different situations. The children LOVED this. Their favorite part was when you are supposed to tell someone (if you aren't alone) in an urgent/serious voice, "You! Call 9-1-1 NOW!" and, the video instructed us "Say it like you mean it!" They loved that so much.
Sebby listening for breathing

Malachi blowing into baby's mouth and nose (you can see the chest rise and fall if you're doing it right)

Chest compressions for a conscious baby

Baby being carted off in a stretcher once the ambulance arrives

I felt like this was a really worthwhile activity, and it makes me feel like Abe and Seb will be more competent babysitters (they really did master the skills, I thought), not just for me, but when they babysit for other families. And I like the fact that we now have the DVD and the baby to practice on periodically, in case we forget what to do.

How to fold Handkerchief Babies

On one of the days we were talking about babysitting, I taught the children how to make these little handkerchief babies my dad used to make for me in church. He always carried a handkerchief, and since most people don't anymore, maybe this isn't even a useful skill, but I've always had good memories of my dad making these babies, so I wanted to pass the knowledge on! They are supposed to be two little twins in a cradle. (We made this other kind of handkerchief baby during our pioneer unit---they are cute too, but they require some sewing. The handkerchief babies I'm talking about now are just folded, like origami.)

Here's how you make them:
1. Fold a handkerchief or bandana diagonally in half, into a triangle
2. Roll it up from one corner, stopping at the halfway point
3. Roll it up from the other corner to meet the first roll
4. Fold the rolled handkerchief in half from the top
5. From the top (pointed) corner, pull just one side apart from the other side
6. Keep pulling, not quite all the way
6. Flip it over---now the babies are "face down" in their cradle
7. Lean the babies back against their cradle so they are "face up." Nestle them in and rock them back and forth!

Here is Malachi sweetly rocking his little babies. :)

Friday, February 15, 2013

Diapering contests

Abraham is the only one of the children that changes diapers for me currently (although no more diapers now! For a couple more months anyway! Hooray!) but I've thought for awhile that Sebastian is certainly capable of it. For when we get a babysitter outside the family, I've usually kept a pack of disposables on hand, and either of the older boys can handle those, but the cloth diapers are just a little trickier (more tucking and tugging required), so we needed some practice.

I used to use pins, but the Snappi is easier, and I'm more confident having the children use that.

And I have a couple diapers with snaps, so Malachi got to practice with those.

Of course the hardest part of diapering is doing it to a wiggling baby, but I felt like this was a useful exercise even on the stuffed animals. The boys did really well. And they liked having diapers on their animals; they thought it was cute. :) When the baby comes I will certainly put them to work---and I'll feel confident that they can do it!

Swaddling contests

I wanted the children to learn some practical baby-related skills during this unit, so we did several activities related to that. I figured it can only make them better babysitters someday (and Abraham is already quite good!). First we learned how to swaddle, and then we had contests for who could do it fastest, tightest, etc. We talked about soothing babies, how to tell what they need, different ways to keep them happy, and what to do when they just won't stop fussing. ("Never shake a baby!") We may have manhandled the "babies" (mostly stuffed animals) a little, but such is life. We had lots of fun. :) Nothing is sweeter than watching my babies take care of their babies!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentines Day Party

I didn't plan for the Babies Unit to be going on over Valentines Day, but it was kind of fun to be talking about love and babies at that time. We had a Valentine's Day party where we didn't do much regular school work, but we did have some good discussion about what are different kinds of love, who we love, how we show our love to different people, and so on.

We had lots of fun making these heart animals, for which we got the idea here. They were simple enough to make and the kids had fun making up their own too. Since we were doing this ON Valentine's Day, it meant all our valentines got to their recipients late, but oh well.

I believe in simple---I mean really simple---parties, so the only other craft we did was these paper swirl roses, which are the easiest thing ever. You just cut out a spiral of paper, roll it up, and stick a pipe cleaner through it. No gluing or anything. The instructions and template are here.

Then we just made caramels (the recipe is at that link as part of the Homemade Twix bars) and then melted chocolate and poured it on top. We sprinkled sea salt over the chocolate, cut them into heart shapes and boxed them up for people. They were SO good. The chocolate didn't stick to the caramel that well, I'm not sure why. It kind of slid around. But it didn't matter because they tasted so good! Yum!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Baby demonstrations

This was a fun day. We had SO many books on babies and pregnancy for this unit. (And I sorted through SO many more at the library. There are a lot of really lousy ones (the ones meant for teenagers, for some reason, were often particularly bad), but we still found lots of good ones---or ones that were good enough if I sorted through them a bit and left out the lame parts.  Anyway, one of the books suggested some fun activities. One of them was to cover yourself up with a blanket and have someone hold down all the sides with you trapped inside. As you wiggle around and try to stretch out in that tight space, you have some sense of what it feels like to be inside the uterus. And the other people can see how funny it looks from outside as you move around in there! :) The children loved doing this and wanted to act out numerous variations---twins, triplets, etc.
To demonstrate the function of vernix (that slippery white coating that helps with "waterproofing" the baby's skin, we rubbed zinc oxide ointment (diaper cream) on our hands and then tried to wash it off. It didn't really rub off in the water at all!
We also took turns palpitating a baby doll inside a pillowcase, to have some idea of how doctors or midwives can tell which way the baby is facing inside the womb even without using ultrasound or Doppler. Abe was quite good at it!

Another interesting demonstration is going into a dark room and shining a flashlight through the fleshy part of skin between your thumb and forefinger. The dim, reddish light you can see is similar to the amount of light the baby can distinguish in the womb. The children also enjoyed shining the flashlight into my belly toward the baby and seeing if they could make the baby wiggle. :) We did quite a bit of poking and prodding and talking to the poor baby during this unit. I hope he or she didn't mind it too much!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Endocrine System

We started the unit off with the Endocrine System, since hormones are such an important part of pregnancy and the menstrual cycle. I drew this picture the first day and then we had these horrible Endocrine people leering at us from the window for the whole unit. (The boys made me draw a balloon above the boy's head to explain why his hair was sticking up so much.) I accidentally left this picture up even when the babysitter came over one day. I hope she wasn't too traumatized by it.

From this lesson plan, I got the idea of explaining how hormones work using acid and base reactions (It's on pages 7-8 of this .pdf file). You just use purple cabbage juice as an indicator and drip different acids and bases into it. You explain that squeezing the cotton ball is like releasing a hormone into the bloodstream. As the hormone reaches different organs, it causes them to secrete other hormones or to perform in specific ways, just as each acid or base causes the cabbage juice to change to a different color. It seemed like a nice simple way to teach that somewhat abstract concept.
Plain cabbage juice
With various solutions added (baking soda, bleach, lemon juice, vinegar, etc)

This site is a good one for looking at different body systems---you can view the body in 3D and rotate it all different directions, as well as limit your view by system or body area. Very interesting and useful.

We also filled in this worksheet I found online---it has a copyright on it but it's only through 2001, so hopefully it's okay to use. Although I could certainly have used my own scary endocrine people above to make my own worksheet! :)

This video on ovulation and the menstrual cycle was good, and the boys found the animations very interesting.
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