Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Blog Break

I will be taking a break from this blog for now. Just really busy with life! I'll let everyone know if and when I return!


Monday, May 18, 2009

End of Co-op; Beginning of Photography?

Today was the end of the trimester at co-op. While it is nice to have a long break ahead, Greg and I will miss teaching.

One of the highlights this last trimester was a photography class I took as a student during one of my free hours. It was fun getting to know our camera better and learning tips for different kinds of shots. But it has increased my desire to pursue photography as a serious hobby, which would require a better camera.

Given Greg's shaky job status, and that our camera does a decent job, it's hard to justify buying a new one. At the same time, I get frustrated at its limitations. Certain lighting situations produce awful results on ours while giving fantastic pictures on one student's pricey camera. Who knows? Right now it is a desire, but I will be content with what we have.

In the meantime, here are some shots I took as part of my homework:

Bark using macro setting (for close-up detail)

Through a red twig dogwood, whose leaves are not yet hiding the beautifully colored branches for which it is known.

Silhouette shot: Taken against the sun.

Landscape that turned out very dull.

Same picture edited in Paint Shop Pro. Black and white, increased contrast.

Edited again, this time hue and saturation tweaked.

This sounds totally guyish, and I usually don't notice cars, but I love the interior and exterior design of our car. Here is the steering wheel area. Edited to black and white with high contrast.

OK. Now, my girly side coming out. Lol! I just love the light through the pink curtains and colors.

A bridge over a swamp at one of our parks. Edited to be sepia.

Same bridge with Kylen and Greg. Edited hue and saturation.

Wooden sign at the park.

Diagonal lines. Those are fallen leaves still hanging around after winter!

Lesson on shooting animals. The fold in the background cloth is annoying, but I love the look on the dog's face.

Capturing animals in action. Heavily cropped.

Lesson on portraits. Hubby's head is tipped back a bit too far, emphasizing nostrals too much.

Our final lesson. We used a square frame made of plastic pipes with a sheet draped over it. The front is open, and spotlights are used on the sides. The light gets diffused nicely through the sheet. I LOVE the effect. Might have to have Greg build me one of these contraptions.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Money Fun

Money Fun was the fourth class. (No need to cover Class #3, as it was DEGO Day, a term coined by one my students meaning Domino + LEGO. A theme combining two past favorites and fairly self explanatory.) This one required an absorbent amount of prep time, as there was a tremendous quantity of information to wade through and my money knowledge was very sadly lacking. I had great difficulty selecting which facts to include, making sure it was at their level and not too tedious. In the end, I think it was a bit much for their attention spans. Still, the class went quite well. I tried to balance facts with visuals and activities.

We started with a brainstorm session of synonyms for money (refer to a thesaurus) followed by the history behind one term: “bucks.” Hint: It has to do with hunting and trading. I rolled quarters down the table and asked the kids to grab ‘em as they went by. Unfortunately, this proved too tempting for many students and they kept taking other’s quarters despite repeated warnings. I talked a little about the manufacture of U.S. coins, explained how their edges came to have ridges (this is quite interesting), and gave examples of things that can be done with them. We had a contest to see who could keep his coin spinning longest.

Next, I gave a short history on our paper money and showed printouts from the Bureau of Printing and Engraving. I talked about sheets of bills and shredded bills, past and present denominations, and shared a little money trivia. Things like the largest denomination ever (1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 in 1946 worth about twenty cents at the time), oldest known paper money (China, of course; 140 B.C.), and the World record for the largest bill.

Crisp new dollars, straight from the bank, were distributed. This is an age that really appreciates a buck, and I got quite a reaction when they found out they could keep them. I briefly touched on defacement and counterfeit laws, showed examples of money origami, and walked them through the steps of making a triangle from a dollar.

My husband is from Europe, which proved convenient for this class. His collection of foreign currency came in handy for show and tell! I gave each student a 2009 edition Disney dollar. We took a vacation there a few months ago, and I purchased extras for future use. By the way, for the Disney fanatics out there, this is a fun thing to collect. They change their designs each year in denominations of 1, 5, and 10.

This theme is worth doing again, though I might try and reduce the quantity of factual material.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Group Game Day

My second co-op class was Game Day. Unfortunately we had to stay home due to flu, but I sent a list of games for my assistant. I will only share those that the kids enjoyed most.

Four Corners
This was their favorite. I remembered it being one of my favorites from grade school and was happy to find it on the internet, as the rules were a bit fuzzy. I am thrilled they liked it so much. I only wish I could have been there to see it played! Like a little, happy piece of my childhood being reenacted before my eyes.

To begin, four corners (or general areas) of the room are labeled from the numbers one to four. One player is designated to be "It" or "The Counter." This player sits in the middle of the room, closes his eyes, and counts to ten. The remaining players choose any one of the corners and quietly go and stand there. When "It" has finished counting, he calls out one of the numbers. All players who had chosen that corner are out of the game and sit down. Then, "It" counts again and the remaining players move to a different corner.

The last person to still be in the game wins, and usually becomes the new "It."

If "It" calls out an empty corner, he either calls a new number right away or the players rotate to a new corner, according to different versions of game play.

Players form a circle, facing each other. Someone begins by pointing to another person in the circle and saying "ZIP!" That person then points to yet another person and says "ZAP!" That person points to another person and says "ZOP!" This continues, but the words must be said in order: ZIP, ZAP, ZOP. If someone makes a mistake and says a word out of order, that person is out of the game. Eventually, the circle dwindles to only 2 people, who are staring at each other, yelling ZIP!, ZAP!,ZOP! Until one of them makes a mistake.

Depending on the number of players, you will need to cut several comic strips into separate panels. I had 9 students and used three comic strips, three panels each. I printed my own after searching on this web site and this one. It took some time to find ones that I thought were both funny and appropriate for my age group. The best candidates seemed to be Peanuts, Garfield, Rose Is Rose, and Winnie the Pooh. Calvin & Hobbes and Dilbert might be good for older kids.

After separating the panels, mix them up! Have all the students face each other, perhaps sitting around a table so that they can’t see each other’s backs. Use clear tape to attach one panel to each back. On “GO” they must get up and arrange themselves in the correct order so that the comics can be understood.

I had two black and white strips and one in color. I thought the color comic might have an advantage, because it would be easier to distinguish from the other two. To make it more even, I used a marker to outline each of the black and white panels, using two different bright colors for the two comics. I also had a problem with the lettering in the comics printing out clearly and traced over all the letters with a fine black tip pen.

This game was a bit short, so it might be good to take twice as many comics and do two complete rounds.

Other old favorites were 7-Up and Simon Says.

Award ribbons or stickers can be handed out to all the students at the end of class for good sportsmanship.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Fun with Communications

The last two times I taught Just for Fun at co-op, I did regular posts on my themes in case they might be helpful in providing fun ideas for other homeschooling parents.

There have now been seven classes! Time to catch up!

Our first day was titled Fun with Communications. After discussing the definition of this somewhat intimidating word, we brainstormed methods of communication, meanings of common facial expressions, hand/body gestures, and examples of animal communications.

Did you know that when gorillas are angry they stick their tongues out at each other?

Or that fireflies use light patterns to reveal information such as their location to nearby fireflies? This was some fascinating stuff!

I told them about language games such Back Slang and Pig Latin, including how their names would be pronounced. (Mine would be Harraf and Arrah-Fay respectively.) We chatted about Braille and sign language. There were a couple of games whose names I made up after researching and not finding a formal name:

Lazy Tongue Language (LTL): Talking while your tongue is hanging out. Looks and sounds very intelligent. Of course, we all had to try it.

Fan Talk: Talking while repeatedly covering and uncovering your mouth to simulate talking into a fan.

I printed Morse Code guides on cardstock, four to a page, and handed them out to the students. After going over how it works, lights were turned off, and I used a flashlight to spell out a word. They had to figure it out using their guides, which they were allowed to take home.

We finished with fun ways to write. I handed out sheets of paper and decorative pencils, another little item they got to take home (party supply store has bins with lots of variety). Backwards writing, upside down, tiny, big, picture, and code writing (subbing each letter for something else) great for secret messages in clubs.

Then I passed out edible paper and let them write on it with edible ink. They could consume immediately or take home in a baggy. This was a novelty item at Wal-mart during Valentine’s season, but I have also seen edible paper in a Klutz kit. Googling would probably turn something up.

This class went very well! A keeper that I will probably do again!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Mother's Day 2009

We began Mother's Day with food, and there is hardly a better way to start than that! AND, this was food I didn't prepare! Though Hubby cooks a yummy breakfast, and Kylen is an aspiring chef, this meal didn't come from them. I was treated to a marvelous ballroom brunch buffet! So many things to choose from, I didn't know where to start! Tables and tables with breakfast dishes, salads, carved meats, appetizers, fruit . . .
The baked salmon was melt-in-your-mouth scrumptious!
Desserts! All kinds! Big and small! Cakes, tarts, eclairs! I was over-whelmed!

Then we did this:

I'm still sore today! After picking out plants (including a Japanese maple, as you can see in our trailer above), we came home and did a tremendous amount of yard work. One of the few really nice days we've had since winter, and I wanted to make the most of it! We cleaned out the garden beds and added more dirt to them, pulled weeds, spread new bark, and savored the sunshine!

Our tree finally has leaves!

I prepared a new pork chop recipe for dinner that turned out delicious. At the end of it all were two wonderful cards from my boys. It was grand!