25 June, 2010

Prehistoric Painting

This week, we have been spending some time in the "Valley of Man" in southwestern France.  In this region, there are hundreds of caves with prehistoric paintings on the walls. These paintings are mainly of animals such as bison, deer, and horses in shades of red, black, and brown. 

These caves are Earth's first art galleries and this artwork has been around for thousands of years! We visited the Font de Gaume Cave. This Magdalenian era cave was discovered in 1901 and contains paintings of bison, reindeer, mammoths, and horses. After our visit, the kids were fascinated by the drawings and wanted to make their own prehistoric masterpieces.
So, in today's Learning Together activity, we will make our own prehistoric paint to create paintings inspired by the world's first artists.

You will need...
  • at least 2 different colors of dirt
  • self-seal plastic baggies
  • small jars, such as baby food or yoghurt containers
  • paint brushes
  • vegetable oil or water
  • a stick 
  • some paper or rocks on which to paint
Collect different colors of dirt and place it in the plastic baggies.

Place different colors of dirt in different jars and, using the stick, stir in the vegetable oil or water until the mixture resembles the consistency of thick finger paint.

Paint! Don't worry about getting dirty. Remember, you are painting with dirt!
Click here to learn more about prehistoric cave painting and to see photographs of cave paintings.

16 June, 2010

Getting Fresh

This week, my family and I are traveling in the Basque region of Europe. Today, we are in Donostia-San Sebasti├ín, Spain, and we spent the morning at the market. Back home I usually do my grocery shopping without the kids. If I bring them along on a shopping trip, I forget what I came for and end up coming home with cereal with cartoon characters on the box. Today was different. 

The food at this market was fresh. Really fresh. In fact, all of it was just picked, caught, or still crawling around (as in the *vivo* crab in the above picture). Usually, I have to repeatedly tell my five year old to stop grabbing the groceries. Not today. She kept a safe distance away from the lobster that waved at her with its elasticized claws. My girls were transfixed as a woman skillfully gutted a fish, but were not at all tempted to touch that. Those fish sticks...That's where it comes from?

Today, I was reminded, along with my children, of something. Our food may eventually end up in a bag or a box, but it doesn't begin that way. It comes from the ground, from the vines, from the ocean. It is planted; it is grown; it is caught. It is harvested; it is picked; it is filleted. It is inspected; it is prepared; it is packaged. Our food, it is a process. However, it shouldn't simply be processed because then we lose our appreciation for it.

11 June, 2010

Write It Out

It is officially Day #2 of summer. We made it a whopping 6 hours until we had our first (ahem) squabble. Oh, what to do? Take away a privilege? Time out chair? Take away their silly bands? (gasp)
Why should I have to resort to those old, tired out punishments when I can sneak in a little bit of learning into their consequences?
A mom-friend of mine told me about a fool-proof punishment she used last summer. When her kids misbehaved, she had them write out their multiplication tables. They came back to school the next year with them memorized.
Brilliant. I just love it when the punishment fits the crime.

07 June, 2010

Travelers, Start your Engines

One of the most crucial aspects of planning a family holiday is searching travel websites to compare airfare, hotel rates, train fares, cruise rates, and rental car/car for hire rates. A great travel search engine is comprehensive, accurate, and user-friendly. All of the websites I have listed are free of charge as well. Today's Get Out will feature the best travel search engines on the web.
  •  Best Fare Compare Website
 Momondo.com is a Danish site that is recommended by Frommers, Telegraph UK, CNN, N.Y. Times, and many others. It is an especially great travel search engine for travelers because it compares flights as well as high-speed rail fares. It also includes city guides for more than 30 cities in the world. The site does not sell airline tickets or hotel accommodations. It is a fare compare tool.
Also try: www.kayak.com

  • Best Accommodation-Only Fare Compare Website
If you are searching for a hotel room, Hotelpricebot.com is great because it is so comprehensive. It compares hotel rates among Travelocity, Hotels.com, Expedia, Priceline, and many other lodging search engines.
If you are traveling in Europe, also try www.trivago.co.uk/ .
If you are on the lookout for a home or apartment rental for your family holiday, Homeaway.com is a super resource. You can search for rental homes in popular vacation destinations around the world. Homeaway also has international affiliate websites for twelve countries.
Also try www.self-catering-breaks.com/
  •  Best Car Rental/Car for Hire Fare Compare Website
www.bnm.com/ (BreezeNet.com) searches more than 50 car rental companies for the cheapest rates. In my experience, the rates on this website have been just that.
Also try www.sidestep.com/.
  • Best Travel Guide Website
www.bootsnall.com/  is catered toward independent travelers. The website serves as a network of travelers and includes travel blogs, travel guides, message boards for travelers to post questions, as well as links to travel services.
Also try www.igougo.com/.

04 June, 2010

The "Goal" World

 Just because summer is approaching quickly (it is June already?!) and schools will adjourn for summer break doesn't mean that kids should take a break from learning. Summer is a wonderful time to encourage your child to choose to learn about topics that interest him/her. 

In this week's literacy activity, I hope you will do just that. Ask your child what he/she would like to learn more about this summer. You never know what will come out of his mouth! A friend of mine told me recently that she asked her son that question. His answer? He wanted to build robots! She is encouraging him to do this by providing materials and plenty of free time. When I asked my girls what they wanted to learn more about this summer, geography was high on their list. So, we bought a giant world map and plastered it on one of the walls in their room. But how to make it fun?

The answer came in the mail. In the sporting magazine my husband subscribes to. Evidently there is a little something called the World Cup (of soccer/football) going on this summer. So, 32 teams from all around the world will compete in South Africa for a month's worth of matches and the winner earns a giant trophy and world-wide bragging rights. I smell a geography lesson here (dressed in cleats).

I bought ball-shaped stickers and the kids placed one on each of the 32 countries. As we follow the matches, we will track the teams' progress. We will also try to identify the capitals, flags, and location of each of the countries. When a country is eliminated we will take off the soccer ball. Geography+Sports? GOAL!!!

Click here to find out more about the World Cup 2010.