Tornado in a Bottle

Last week we did the Download N Go Twisting Tornadoes. I’m not sure it was the best idea considering how anxious Fritz gets (particularly about weather). But he picked it and we did it. The boys’ favorite part was the tornado in a bottle we made. They played with it all week.

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Download N Go Expedition China

We did the Expedition China Download N Go last week. We learned all sorts of things about China, the most interesting being that all of the cities we learned about are exactly 12 hours off of our time (eastern) and the temperatures were very similar to our own. For some reason Cameron was fascinated by the fact that there is golf in China.

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After we finished the five day study, we went to a Chinese restaurant for dinner. The first thing we were greeted with when we walked in was a lovely water display.
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After we ate lots (and lots – it was a buffet) of food, we had fortune cookies.
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Another really fun study!

Download N Go: George Washington

Since we are switching to Calvert this fall, we’ve decided to do a “light” version of school for the summer. As part of that, Ani has started joining Cameron for his Download N Go lessons. Last week we learned all about George Washington.
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Even the guinea pig joins us for lessons sometimes.
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For three years we lived just a few miles from Mount Vernon, but we never went there. Now we live an hour away, but since the kids learned about George Washington, we decided it was time to take a field trip to see his house. So we went there on Saturday.

When we woke up, our 5 weeks without rain had ended. It was pouring. But the forecast was promising so we went anyway. By the time we got there at 10:30 it was only drizzling and a couple hours later the rain was gone completely. As it turned out, it was a perfect day to go because the rain kept the big crowds away, but the weather didn’t turn out too bad after all (2-3,000 instead of a typical 5-6,000 this time of year).

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(No pictures inside the mansion itself… they don’t allow photography in there.)

With George, Martha, and two grandchildren.
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We watched a really cool video. It had two screens, one flat and one rounded. When the cannons went off lights in the theater flashed and the seats rumbled. Fog filled the front of the room at certain points and it even snowed on us while they were at Valley Forge. The kids loved the snow.
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The education building had a room for kids about 3-8 years old. The kids got to be George, Martha, and two grandkids.
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They got to play with a big dollhouse made to look just like Mount Vernon.
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They got to see the different “faces” of George Washington.
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They even got to dress up like colonial people.
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The hands-on part of the education center had really neat dioramas.
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We went down to the farm after we finished at the education center.
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They have a really nice round barn there.
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There are lots of animals including sheep, oxen, hogs, and mules.
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Once we finished at Mount Vernon, we went to the gristmill and distillery just a few miles away. Those were two of George Washington’s money-making ventures (he was an excellent businessman).

Right outside the gristmill are two millstones. They were never used for grinding grain, however. The furrows are too deep for that. They were used to grind seashells to be used for roads. The pattern of the furrows is the same as on the wheat grinding stones.
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It’s amazing how the water wheel in the gristmill automated the whole process of grinding grain over 200 years ago. We got to watch the whole process from grinding to cooling to sorting (bran, coarse, fine).
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The distillery is very interesting too. The gristmill was rebuilt in the 1930s by the state of VA. The distillery is much newer. They didn’t even start the archaeology research on the site until the late 90s. They knew it was there in the 1930s, but, of course, it would have been distasteful in the time of prohibition to advertise that our first president made (and sold as a wholesaler) common whiskey.
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I wasn’t sure it would be worth the price to go to Mount Vernon ($51 for all of us and the little boys are still free), but as it turned out, it was totally worth it. If you live in the northern VA area or are visiting it’s definitely worth visiting (and go to the gristmill and distillery – it costs a little more than Mount Vernon proper alone – because those are absolutely fascinating!).

Simply Soccer

A couple weeks ago Cameron needed to pick his next Download N Go study. I gave him a few choices and we settled on Simply Soccer. A perfect choice since the World Cup started at the same time he started his study.
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He learned about the history of soccer, some famous soccer players, how to play soccer, and, his favorite, about the RoboCup where robot teams play soccer against each other. He was so impressed by those robots that he has decided he wants to try to build some robots.

Pizza Party!

Last night Cameron threw a pizza party to go along with the Pizza Party Download N Go unit he completed last week.

Cameron and I worked together to make everything from scratch, though Cameron is quick to point out that he did not make the cheese from scratch. As part of the Download N Go unit he learned how mozzarella cheese is made and watched a video about it so he knows now that there’s a lot more to it than just buying a bag of pre-grated cheese at the store.

Cameron made the menu and decided who he was going to invite. In attendance were the six of us and my parents, my aunt and her adult daughter, and two of Cameron’s friends from church.

We had old-fashioned lemonade to drink. Cameron and I juiced a bunch of lemons and added water and sugar.

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We made six pizzas. The night before, Cameron and I made the crusts for five of them and baked them part of the way. I’ve never found a really good pizza crust recipe before, so this one made me very happy since it was quite yummy. We made sauce using cans of tomato sauce and added various herbs like basil and oregano to it. Super easy.

We topped one pizza with regular cheese, one with extra cheese, one with pepperoni, one with various meats (bacon, pepperoni, sausage, and ham), and one with various vegetables (bell pepper, mushrooms, and black olives). We also made a breakfast pizza topped with bacon, egg, and cheese.

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For dessert we had what can only be described as sugar overload. We made giant cookies (one sugar, one M&M) and covered them in icing (vanilla on the sugar cookie, chocolate on the M&M cookie). Then we topped them with sprinkles, Butterfinger pieces, Nerds, chopped up Twizzlers, Gummi Bears, Reese’s Pieces, M&Ms, Skittles, and Hot Fudge Sauce. And as if that wasn’t enough, we served them with whipped cream and mini Oreos.

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Cameron came up with the idea to have cards out labeling what each type of pizza was. He helped me make those, too.

It was quite a wonderful party. Everyone had fun and the pizzas were delicious. As we’ve done more of the Download N Go units, I am even more pleased with them and glad that I went ahead and got a whole year of them. They are really fun and Cameron’s learning a whole lot.

Download N Go, A Review

A couple weeks ago we decided to try out the Download N Go unit studies from The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. They are made by Amanda Bennett. I had gotten a free one on Amelia Earhart when I signed up for something so we decided to use it with Cameron. It was a huge success. Cameron learned about Amelia Earhart, The Wright Brothers, airplanes, and flying over the course of 5 days. We decided to get a subscription for a whole year of the unit studies. I’ve downloaded the available ones and they all look so awesome. Over the next several months, Cameron will be learning about everything from whales to spring to Ireland to soccer to pizza. Quite a fun variety.

The studies are not exactly download and go, but it is pretty close. They do require a little bit of preparation. Once it is downloaded, you need to print it out. There are a few things within the study that require cutting and pasting and then there are lapbooking bits that you may or may not choose to prepare ahead of time. Here is how I set it all up. The example study is the one Cameron is working on this week, Kite Capers.

I print the pages double sided and three-hole punch them and put them in a two-pocket three-prong folder (which by the way are super hard to find in any store around here currently). I write the name of the study and Cameron’s name on the front of the folder.
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The study includes lots of links (those are in blue on this example age) and space for the kids to answer the questions. Cameron has trouble spelling and writing so he writes the shorter answers and I write the longer answers for him as he dictates to me what he wants to say.
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I print the pages so the first page of each day starts on a new sheet of paper even if that means the last page of the previous day is only printed on one side.
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Sometimes I print them in color, sometimes I print them in black and white. They are much prettier in color of course, but don’t absolutely have to be in color.
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There is usually some science bits included in the study even if it’s not a science-focused topic.
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For the studies that are more science-focused there is usually at least some social studies related bit in it.
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Each morning I go through the day’s links and open them in my browser in order so they are ready to be viewed as soon as we get to them. The links range from fun videos like one of lots of people flying kites and this one of the song Let’s Go Fly a Kite from Mary Poppins…
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…To various websites for more information to learn about the subject or activities related to it.
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There are lots of recommended books to read for each study topic. I pick one or two for each day and check them out of the library. This requires a little bit of advance planning to be sure I have all the books I need when I need them.
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Each day has extra activity options as well. Some are simple coloring pages like the one below. Others include things to make or recipes to cook. I pick the ones that I think Cameron would enjoy the most or get the most educational from.
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Cameron writes the answers directly into the study booklet I’ve made. Once the 5 days are over the folder goes on the shelf where the lapbooks are stored and become a nice little presentation of what he learned.
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Within the study there are occasional cut and paste activities. I cut the pieces out and paper clip them to the page they will be glued to.
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Often there is a little bit on a state within the study. Cameron gets to learn a little about the state (Kansas in Amelia Earhart, California in Kite Capers, for example) and glue in the flag, bird, animal, etc. for that state. I cut out the pieces and paper clip them to the page.
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Throughout the study there are lapbooking activities. I cut a file folder a little bit and three-hole punch it so it will fit nicely in the folder. Then I cut out and attach all the lapbook pieces so they are ready for Cameron to fill in as he gets to them.
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Occasionally there will be activities in the Wolf Cub Scout manual that goes along with the topic of the study. I add those in to be done during school time making it easy for Cameron to complete the electives and earn his arrow points. An example is making this kite. Went perfectly with the Kite Capers study.
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Completing a day of Download N Go takes anywhere from one to two hours give or take a few minutes. The days aren’t extremely well balanced as far as time required goes, but they are extremely well balanced as far as each day having a topic within the bigger theme for the study. I totally recommend these studies. They are aimed at K-4. I’d say they are perfect for about first to third grade. They seem a little hard for a kindergartner and too easy for a fourth grader. They certainly make it easy to do school. Just add language arts and math and you have your core subjects. They are very fun and interesting to my 8 year old 2ndish/3rdish grader. I couldn’t ask for much more.

The Download N Go studies sell for $7.95 if you want to get a single one, $30 for a four-pack making each one $7.50 (plus you get a free study on birthdays), one semester (19 studies) for $114 making each one $6, and $190 for a year (38 studies) making each one $5. If you purchase a semester or year you get a free study on birthdays, a free study on summer, and Amanda Bennett’s Unit Study Journal and Unit Studies 101 free.

I am not affiliated in any way with the Download N Go studies nor am I receiving anything for writing this review. I simply am a happy customer who bought the full year pack and am looking forward to doing the remaining 40 studies with my son, as well as with my younger two sons once they are old enough for them. (Forty studies are remaining for us because we have completed Amelia Earhart, bought 38 and got two more free – birthdays and summer, and got Autumn Treasures free last fall as well but never completed it.)