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Like all of you, I'm a number of things to a number of people...Navy wife, homeschooling mama, educated woman and aspiring writer. Read my thoughts on all of it here. Please feel free to leave your thoughts on all of it too!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Library Unit

It's official. Gebel Family Homeschool has completed it's first unit study! I don't know if the kids retained anything we learned, but I had fun...and that's what matters, right?

Originally, our Library Unit this was going to take two weeks. During that second week I realized we still had plenty left to do and expanded it another week. And what, you may be wondering, did we learn and do in three weeks of studying libraries? Glad you asked...

Especially since we just moved back to Washington, I wanted to get to know our local library. I recommend this even if you think you know yours...maybe you can get behind the scenes a little more and find out something new! As it turned out, our local library is part of a system of nine libraries. The Kitsap Regional Library is having a Tour de KRL this summer, inspired by one of the librarian's husbands who biked to all nine branches. It's not too late to take your tour. It's a ton of fun!

Here are our passports. Each of the kids got one. When we got a stamp from each branch each of us got a canvas bag. The kids are very excited to have their own book bags for library books! I'm pretty thrilled not to have to carry all the books anymore too.

During the first two weeks we not only visited each library, but also tried to see a little of the area where the library was located. Having lived here for six years before moving to Georgia, I'd never been to Manchester. As it turns out, they have a small public beach that you can see Seattle from. It's a short walk from the library and perfect for a picnic!

Aside from our travels we made two care packages. I know they don't have anything to do with libraries, although we did include books in both. I want my kids to learn the art of letter writing. We don't often do Thank You notes, but I want them to be able to hand write a note home from college or to a lonely great aunt. There's something wonderful and personal about letters. With that in mind, we're trying to write one a week. We wrote two in three weeks, this time around, but I'm good with that!

We'll try to pick up the pace from here on out! The two we wrote first, though, were to Uncle Nick and Aunt Mary. Uncle Nick is in the Army and currently in Afghanistan. We miss him and the kids ask about him all the time. I thought sending a little homemade love his way would be appropriate.

So, we made cookies and banana bread and put some little toys and books in a box and sent it all his way...along with letters and pictures by the kids.

Aunt Mary got the second group of letters and a little care package of her own for a few reasons.

1) We miss her too. She's Uncle Nick's wife (Mary's actually my sister) and living in Germany with their little one, Lu.
2) I don't think I sent them anything for Christmas. I know it's July, but that's why it's perfect to send a little something now...no one else will be.
3) Mary's so excited about our journey into homeschooling!!!! I really wanted to share some of our first projects with her.

As most of you probably know, dipping quills in ink was one of the early methods used to painstakingly make books. So, we made berry ink to write with! I found a simple recipe online (1/2 cup berry juice, strained, 1/2 tsp. vinegar, 1/2 tsp salt). We used blackberries. Then we wrote!

I made "quills" out of stir sticks, which worked pretty well, but the kids didn't like having to dip after each letter. I kind of liked the time it required and could have found it relaxing if the kids hadn't been whining. I'm odd like that though.

Next we tried q-tips. They didn't need to be dipped as often, but made very thick letters.

Finally, we tried fine paint brushes. These were a hit!

Here's a look at my letter. You can compare the three methods. You can also see that I didn't greet my sister with "Dear Mary," which, let me assure you, got me in trouble with my very detailed son, Jace!

The kids had a good time writing the letters, but Jace took it a little further.

He gave himself a moustache!

And then he tasted the ink. He asked if he could first. All the ingredients are technically edible so I let him.

I don't think he'll be drinking the leftover ink! Good, I can write something with my stir stick quill and relax...

So, anyway, what else did we do? We categorized books by size, subject, fiction or non, whose they were, alphabetically, ones we'd read and not read...any way we could think of. We thought of those ways by brainstorming. We came up with tons of ideas! Love all the ideas, kids...well done. After we put them in stacks based on whatever method we counted them, wrote the numbers in tally marks and regular digits, added them up, and graphed our results.

We compared all the libraries we knew, including our old one in Georgia and Grandma Foote's in New York. We talked about how libraries are all the same and what differences they have. We learned about what libraries offer other than books, both in material (magazines, DVDs, reference books) and activities (speakers, read alouds, classes). We learned about Melvil Dewey and his way of classifying books. Did you know that it originally included fiction books as well?

We read. Jace read a few books on his own and summarized them for us, either in writing or by telling us about them. We read lots of books together. Here's a partial list:
The Library Book: The Story of Libraries from Camels to Computers - Maureen Sawa
The Librarian of Basra - Jeanette Winter
I Believe in Unicorns - Michael Morpurgo
Magic Tree House #14, Day of the Dragon King - Mary Pope Osborne
Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World - Vicki Myron (only read excerpts)
Bob the Alien Discovers the Dewey Decimal System - Sandy Donovan

The last thing we did was write our own story and make a book from it. Another early method of book making, used by the Chinese, was to stamp pages. We didn't stamp whole pages, but instead used stamps as part of our illustrations.

The kids dictated the story and I wrote a rough draft for them. Then we made a few changes and decided on a title. They did a great job. I'll put the story in another post....I have a feeling this one is getting long!

The most important part, though, is that "they ALL lived happily ever after." And, after our first official homeschool unit, so are we.

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