Category Archives: Messes Worth Making

Ideas and encouragement for hands-on learning

The Geography Guessing Game

Here in our home, we love simple games that you can play while everyone finishes dinner. It allows us to linger together around the table and our girls love any challenge where they might be able to stump Daddy! We have developed different guessing games that are wonderful to play on long car trips or while waiting at the dentist office. It makes learning fun, rather than seat work.
We love playing games as a family, and simple guessing games are one of our favorites!

When they were little we played a game with our girls that we coined, “The Animal Guessing Game”. One person would think of an animal and everyone would have to figure out which one it was. The girls learned basic animal categories, like mammal and reptile, and loved the challenge of coming up with something that would take a long time to guess.

We have enjoyed this game so much, so we have expanded it as the girls have gotten older and have started them on the “Geography Guessing Game”. As you would expect, this game is much more challenging for everyone, including the adults! The other day at dinner, I asked that we please allow the globe at the table. I needed help figuring out some of these places!

We start by allowing one person to pick a place that they want everyone to guess. It can be any land-form, city, country or body of water. We allow them to pick anything they can think of that is a place on the globe. So far we have not narrowed the field any closer than that, but over time it would be fun to focus on the areas that we are learning about in our Tapestry studies. Mike almost stumped me last time when he picked a place that he said was connected to a large body of water. I forgot the Nile River dumps into the Mediterranean Sea!

We help our girls to narrow down the possible places to guess by teaching them to start by asking the broad questions. This also allows us to teach them basic geography categories.

Here is a graphic that will help explain how we narrow down the place on the map: We love playing games as a family, and simple guessing games are one of our favorites!

It is a wonderfully simple game that promotes learning about places and having fun as a family!

These are some other questions we have helped the kids come up with as they are trying to solve the place a person is thinking about:

  • Is it on a continent?
  • Is it an island?
  • Is it man made or God made? (i.e. city or land-form)
  • Is it a mountain?
  • Does it border an ocean?
  • Does it have four seasons?
  • Is it hot and sandy?
  • Is it mostly ice?
  • Did explorers travel to it or around it?
  • Does it have mountains around it?
  • Have we ever been there?
  • Would we have to fly on an airplane to get there?
  • Is it something we learned about recently in history?

Not only do these questions help the game, but they help the kids think about all the details of the place they are guessing. Instead of geography being purely about looking at a map, it becomes a fun framework to play with as kids have to evaluate a globe and guess what someone else is thinking. For the person who has the place in their head, they have to know enough to answer any question posed to them! It allows them to show their knowledge about a place on a map, which still keeping the family stumped.

We are enjoying playing this game together. I am learning so much myself by having to remember all the countries, and water ways. We hope you enjoy playing this game with your family!

Check out how we include geography with our history studies in our three week sample here!

Making a Model of the Nile River

Here is how we made a model diorama of the Nile River for our Tapestry of Grace history homeschool studies.As I shared in this blog post, I am not a craft person, but I value the learning that happens through hands-on activities. So, I want to share what we do so you can be inspired to do more hands-on “imperfect” activities with your kids!

In our Tapestry of Grace studies, we have been learning about ancient Egypt and the daily life of the Egyptians. I have been enjoying the book selections and delighting in seeing my kids come to love what they are learning. From our readings, the kids have come to realize that you can’t understand Egypt until you understand the Nile River.

We read aloud these books and enjoyed the descriptions of life near the Nile.

  • Kingfisher Atlas of World History: This is my favorite atlas for younger students. The maps and illustrations are superb and help tell the story about the geographical area.
  • The Nile River: This is a fun, simple book that explains details about the Nile.
  • The Great Pyramid: This book talks about building a Pyramid, but the importance of the Nile flows through the whole story. The illustrations are beautiful!

After reading these books, I realized that the best way to help solidify all that the kids have learned about Egypt would be to allow each child to recreate a Nile River as a model.

Supplies:

  • Disposable baking pans, found at any local grocery store
  • A bag of dirt or sand (we couldn’t find sand, so we used some leftover gravel we had.)
  • Tin foil
  • Sticks and weeds from around the yard
  • Left over seedling cups (the kids found them in the garage and thought they looked like pyramids.)
  • Water color tablets (this is not necessary, but I had them on hand and turning the water blue was fun. We could also use the red tablets to turn the Nile to blood during our reenactment of the plagues of Egypt!)

Although initially I thought we would do this project in the house, I quickly realized that we should set up in the garage. It is a messy process when you let the kids build it themselves!

We started by putting down a layer of dirt and gravel, and then made the tin foil into a river basin. We made one side of the river higher than the other to show how the river would flood down the mountains of Ethiopia and bring all the nutrient rich dirt with it.Here is how we made a model of the Nile river for our Tapestry of Grace history homeschool studies.

Then, I sent the kids out to the yard to gather leaves and grass to add some interest to their river banks. I think their favorite part was finding things that they thought would fit into their diorama and make it look more like the Nile. Here is how we made a model of the Nile river for our Tapestry of Grace history homeschool studies

They each got to add the water to demonstrate the flooding of the banks.

Here were their different finished products!Here is how we made a model of the Nile river for our Tapestry of Grace history homeschool studies

The kids loved the project, and flooding the diorama helped them better understand how the Nile would flood every year to help crops grow.

If you want to see a few other ideas of how to do this project, see the links below:
http://minabema.blogspot.com
thehmmmschoolingmom
http://creeksidelearning.com/our-week-spent-going-down-the-nile/

Crafts: A Mess Worth Making

crafts-a-mess-worth-making

When I first had kids, I was committed to having a fabulous, craft-filled home. I strongly believed that children learn best when they engage their hands as well as their heads. In my childhood home, we had an unfinished basement with an old table and shelves overflowing with leftover fabric and yarn, beads, paint and paper. Old shoe boxes and spice boxes were saved because there was no telling what kind of house you could make for your small toys with them. As a kid, it had seemed like an Aladdin’s Cave filled with treasures and things yet imagined. As a young mom, I had visions of recreating these same delights for my children.

Naively, I thought these creative childhood outlets would occur in a simultaneously neat, clean, organized home. With childhood blindness, I seemed to remember my childhood home as being perfectly neat at all times! I was sure that if I just required my children to clean up after themselves, our home would also remain a perfect oasis of neatness.

But, somehow, those adorable babies of mine grew into active toddlers and then school-age children. Even as they have grown, they have yet to fully embrace my standards of neatness and tidiness. They delight in messes and when I tell them to clean up, they look around blankly at all the things scattered across the floor and ask, “What mess?” Add in homeschooling and it feels like there is always something out of place!

Fortunately, principle has won over my naive ideas of a perfect home. I accept that having a rich learning environment means there will be a certain amount of mess. Even on the best days when everything looks ready for company, there will still be a clay creation drying on the counter, a new painting hung on the refrigerator, or the most beautiful shoe box doll house sitting on a bedroom floor.

One of the strongest forces that has changed my perspective of crafts and messes was my second-born daughter. She lives life in each moment to the fullest! She loves a good, hands-on mess. She has a hard time sitting still to read her phonics book, but pull out clay, beads, and glitter glue and she will make an amazing creation. I have to adjust our learning environment so that school does not become drudgery to her, empowering her to learn in the ways that she learns best. As her mom, I get to embrace her God-given personality and adjust our home environment in small ways so that she can grow to be the best person God has made her to be.Making the Nile River diorama

As I have made those adjustments, I have come to realize how much hands-on learning benefits my other children as well. They are growing and developing better as students because I am creating a richer learning environment.

As I began to plan for more messy learning activities, a friend and I decided to get together for a small co-op. With a weekly meet-up in place, it was a lot easier to make sure I planned history activities. With five kids all excited about a craft, I couldn’t skip a week! The increased kid-to-parent ratio on our co-op days also forced me to choose crafts that did not need high parental involvement. The older kids had to be able to do the project on their own. Over the past few months, we have made some amazing messes, and have learned so much along the way.Making Papyrus

With all that I have learned personally, I have not suddenly become an amazing crafter.  I still dislike mess, and the hands-on learning activities that we do are NOT picture perfect. We allow the kids to make their own creations, including their own mistakes! Although the activities are based in history, the kids will still add their own flair. I am pretty sure glitter glue was not added to clay lamps in Biblical times, but the kids love adding their own touches!

On this section of the blog, I am going to post the occasional craft that shows what “good enough” looks like for us. These are not Pinterest-perfect crafts, but each time, my kids have loved the project and learned through doing, so I have accomplished my goals. I hope that these crafts will give you vision to add some hands-on activities into your home, even if you, also, are not a crafty mom! In our home, we have found that these projects truly are a mess worth making.