So I have been asked in email and comments how we made our shirts for the 4th of July. It is SO simple and cheap, maybe someone reading this will enjoy doing it as well.
I went to our local (well...over an hour away is "local" for us! Hahaha!) Hobby Lobby and purchased white Tshirts for $3.99. We then went to the aisle where they have clothing paint and dyes, and there they have small spray bottles (not aerosol, pump spray) of tie dye colors for $2.99 each. I went to the wood aisle and found wooden stars for use in gluing on wooden things in a package for $.99 each.
Back at home, we spread the shirts out and put the stars on each shirt in whatever pattern anyone wanted, then sprayed the dye over them to create a field of blue. Leave the stars on, then on the bottom half of the shirt, create vertical creases in the shirt. It doesn't have to be perfect, it is tie dye!! Then spray the red dye over it and straighten out the creases...and waalahhh....red and white stripes! It was so easy to do that Joshua was even able to do his all by himself, although I helped a little creating the creases. The kids LOVED having matching shirts for the parade, and surprisingly we received some of the best compliments on them. I can't take credit for this idea as we made some like it a couple of years back for our friend's citizenship party and I found the idea on the back of a more expensive kind of dye. However, for the fun of it and as a way to bring the holiday celebrations a little more interest, we all talked about making them for other holidays as well...St. Patrick's Day, Halloween, etc. As we go about explaining the holidays to the girls, this is a cheap way of making them seem more interesting.
As you all know by now we are studying geography this year. I am using a workbook for map skills, and then we are doing our own thing creating a binder and learning about continents and various countries and landmarks. Our goal is not to memorize facts, etc. but to learn general knowledge...what race of people live where, gaining familiarity with terms and major cities and landmarks, and being able to place at least the basic places on a map. Prior to beginning our studies the girls had no concept of what "Asian" was (Right now, every single Asian person is Kazakh to them), where black people might live (in general), what a lake is even in Russian...they know the word but not what it is as compared to an ocean, pond, etc. So we are really working at a basic, fundamental level and are slowly gaining some ground even if at moments it feels like we are not :-)
My main goal though is to teach how to compare and contrast information, to begin to relate learning to other facts that are known and understood. This is in an effort to build some logical thinking. For example...why do people die at younger ages in some countries than others? What does sanitation and clean water have to do with mortality rates? What is different in the lives of people living in the desert versus those living in the city? Sounds simple...it really isn't when you get into a deeper dialogue and when you consider much of this is not understood. With Matthew I take it to a different level, asking him to look things up online for statistics, having him look up history of landmarks to share with us, and we all guess at what we think the population is, etc. and see who is right...contrasting it with Kazakhstan or America.
I found the COOLEST book to use to help show real life in other countries. It is called "Material World: A Global Family Portrait". You can find it on Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/Material-World-Global-Family-Portrait/dp/0871564300/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1278386803&sr=8-1
This book shows families and their possessions in many different countries, gives a little bit of information about them and what their life is like. The families put their material wealth out in front of their house and it is photographed and listed so you can compare and contrast lifestyles with families in other countries. We looked at a family in Mali tonight as we study Africa and African countries. We looked it up on the map, then looked at the photos and had a 30 minute discussion about this family we saw. We learned the man had two wives and we talked about how it would feel to be one of those wives and whether they would fight or not. Josh instantly came up with "I think one wife would be jealous of the other!". We learned that this family made $251 per year and that really surprised everyone. This book is fantastic for creating interesting opportunities for conversation about our own lives, the lives of others, and how incredibly varied the peoples of our world are.
We are also using the National Geographic Atlas for Young Explorers which has internet links to cool web sites and is the best Atlas I could find...it has maps on opposing pages that are political as well as a physical map, making it easier to explain about landforms and where they are in certain countries. A Dorling Kindersley titled "Children Just Like Me" also gives us reason to learn about kids in different countries as we map them, and it is interesting to look at. So far the kids are thoroughly enjoying what we are doing, and I hope it continues...I stole the Material World book away from Matthew so he didn't read it all up in one sitting..hahaha! For our kids with less language, the photos help us explain concepts, and I am finding that keeping expectations high but realistic is the way to go...we are talking about literacy rates, infant mortality rates, etc. and all 5 kids are easily understanding it when I explain it in basic terms.
We just began the new phonics program with Kenny today, and had the girls do it along with us as they too need this reinforcement even if presented in a different manner. Basically it is word patterns with colored letters for the repeating patterns, reinforced with letters superimposed over a picture illustrating the phonics sound. You have your child look at the picture without worrying about the sound as much, trying to get them to create a mental picture to associate with the sound, and then instead of saying "it sounds like..." you show them the picture and picture association does the work for you that those with auditory processing disorders struggle with.
I'll be darned, watching Kenny and the girls together was like watching night and day differences. The girls easily read the word lists once they heard the sounds. We all watched how Kenny's eyes kept going back to the picture to figure out the sound, the girls never once did that because for them it was all auditory. Just this very first day I could see how Kenny's brain was working differently as he associated the picture with the sound...it was a total trip to watch and even the girls got a kick out of it! I hope as time goes on we find this really works long term to help him grasp those sounds that have not been able to sink in.
I share a lot of this stuff, not because I think the vast majority of you will find anything even remotely interesting here, but because I know there are other parents out there who are homeschooling kids from these background who might like to know what is working and what is a total flop for us. Maybe it will help them in ways we have not been able to find help with anywhere.
So there you go, the most boring post of the year!