Saturday, November 24, 2012

Our Solar System Unit

Welcome to the Moon
I've had a few people ask me what curriculum we use for homeschool preschool, and how I plan our units.  The answer is that we don't use a set curriculum, and I make it up as we go. I thought I would give you a little look into our latest unit on the Solar System, and how it came to be.

I have been planning to study space with the kids for a while, so I have been pinning ideas on a Pinterest board, hitting the library and collecting books and resources from thrift stores and the Target dollar section for a while.  Things like this:

Space has been a topic in our house since Matias received Space Legos for his birthday.  We started our unit by listing everything we already knew about the solar system, and listing some questions we'd like to answer.  Then we read through a few of our books, and did some of the space jigsaw puzzles from the Solar System book.  Then we took our our space cards and arranged the planets (and dwarf planets) in order in Matias' pocket chart.

Space Legos
Planet cards
We also painted, cut and glued rockets from a fun printable craft site, LearnCreateLove.

We researched the relative distance between the planets and then colored and cut out the planets and spaced them in the correct ratio throughout our house.  Poor Pluto (who we decided to include, despite his downgraded status) had to hang from the tire swing outside, because our house just wasn't long enough! This was a great math activity that the whole family helped with...and a good opportunity to practice REALLY big numbers!

I love the website 1+1+1=1, and used a bunch of her themed printables for a memory game, planet sorting and some handwriting practice.  The kids love writing with dry-erase markers, so we did quite a few letter tracing and word writing sheets.  

As luck would have it, Matias got some AWESOME space-themed birthday gifts, so we broke those out as well.  He and Matt found a website that diagrams the night sky minute-by-minute, and they placed the glowing planets and stars around his room in accurate positions. They made the stars into constellations: the little dipper, cassiopeia and cygnus.  

We also had the chance (on a beautiful Indian Summer November day) to try out his Green Rocket.  

Too excited to hold still for a picture
Assembling the rocket and launcher

Figuring out how to aim it
It is easier to stomp on the launcher when someone is holding your hand so you don't fall over.  Besides...they weren't quite sure just what it was going to do, and holding hands makes you braver!

It flew REALLY far!  
To play a bit more with our ideas, we created a moonscape sensory bin.  First we watched a YouTube video of the first moon landing.  Then we mixed "moon sand" and "cloud dough" along with some tinfoil, some egg cartons, a flag, a few astronauts (Buzz and Neil) and some homemade lunar landing modules.  We talked about how to make craters and made a great mess.

So by now, the kids had learned quite a bit about space, so we decided to have a little space celebration.   We watched The Magic Schoolbus: Lost in Space and enjoyed a treat of Astronaut Ice Cream.  The movie and snack totally took me back to my childhood...I always used to buy astronaut ice cream at the museum shops when I went on a field trip. The kids decided it was also pretty awesome.

So there you have it- our space unit.  We worked on this for about two weeks, off and on.  We tend to go in spurts where we will spend a few hours on a topic one day and then take a day or two off.  Though I leave out the workbooks and games and books, so the kids dig into it on their own even when we're not officially working on it together.  It didn't take too much effort to put together because I had been collecting things for a while...a few hours perusing the interwebz and printing things off, a trip to the library and one order from Amazon Prime (love).  I have to say, the Internet has revolutionized homeschooling- I have videos, information and the work of a thousand other dedicated teacher moms at my finger tips, and I try to take advantage of that!  Why reinvent the wheel?!  

Hope you enjoyed this INCREDIBLY long post...if you made it this far, congratulations.  You're out of this world :)

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