With my friend Shil getting married in Pennsylvania during a three-day Indian wedding bash, the time is right to take a family road trip across the U.S.A. I’ve been dreaming about a cross country road trip for years. Major bucket list item, here I come.

In preparation for the trip, the kiddos and I are learning about the geography and patriotic symbols of the United States, parts of a car, how to read maps (left and right, compass rose, landmarks, etc), tall tales (Paul Bunyan, Johnny Appleseed, Davy Crocket, Pecos Bill), and we’re having lessons relevant to the states through which we’ll be traveling. For example, we’ll be doing a series of lessons on Georgia O’Keeffe when we study New Mexico.

Yesterday we looked at a picture of the U.S. flag online, talked about the symbolism of the colors, discussed how every country has its own flag (and made a tie-in to the upcoming Olympics in London), talked about the numerical importance of the stars and stripes (Katie made the connection between 50 stars and 50 states), and finally, we colored our own flags.

Then we watched a short instructional video on American symbols on BrainPOP Jr.

After that, we looked at the anatomy and coloring of the Bald Eagle, and we colored our own.

Later in the afternoon, Katie completed a “Where I Live” packet from Enchanted Learning (all of my printables were from there yesterday). I loved this packet, because she had practice sentences to write for each page, i.e. “I live on the 3rd planet.” Each page went from bigger to smaller: planet to continent to country to state to a page where she drew her own house. Much of that was review to her, except for the part about continents, which we haven’t really discussed. She also is working her way through identifying states as states, and not countries. It can be confusing, given how much of our globe looks.

She has been using her LeapFrog Tag U.S.A. map (we also own their world map). We use this map together sometimes, but the beauty of it is how intuitive it is for her to use on her own. I love the LeapFrog Tag system generally, but the maps are especially useful teaching tools. She loves her maps, which include games, music from different regions, and information about geographic points of interest. She surprised me today by already knowing how to read the directions on a compass rose. When we were studying Arizona, I posed the question (after defining the word “borders” for another question on our printable), “What state borders Arizona to the north?” I did not expect her to know; rather, I thought I would ask her the question and we’d talk it through. Instead, she consulted her map and immediately replied, “Utah!”  The Tag system, we feel, has been worth the investment—these digital natives are born to soak up all that technology has to offer.

We did focus primarily on Arizona today:

1) We watched two short videos from BrainPOP Jr.: a) desert climate and b) Pueblo Indians

2) We looked up information and examples of kachina dolls. We talked about their colors and materials, and we related them to the doll the girl sacrifices in The Legend of the Bluebonnet (one of our favorites, and one will we use when we get to our studies of Texas). We found a YouTube video (about 3 minutes) that showed two Hopi men making kachina dolls and turquoise jewelry and talking about their process.

2) We studied a close-up but simplified map of Arizona (Enchanted Learning), talked about the map legend, and read through and answered questions together based on the map.

3) Amie and Boppa then happened to join us for our art project. We used these Southwest Indian stencils and these Fun with Desert Animals stencils to paint desert designs on pottery, wooden blocks, and paper.

Eric stenciled a desert lizard on his wooden block and then painted free form on his pot, while Katie chose a kachina doll, roadrunner, and Hopi flute player for her pot.

We also experimented with sponge printing a Navajo quilt pattern stencil. Amie made a desert print on some paper with a gila monster and a jackrabbit. I played with the coyote and a Native American bird pattern. These stencils were extremely fun! In fact, I will probably bring them out several times during the unit: we used tempura paint today, but I think we can also try crayons and pencil shading. With free shipping through Amazon Prime, these stencil booklets cost about $3.00 for both. A favorite purchase.

I almost forgot: the kiddos worked on Montessori trays this morning…

Eric started with tweezing (pom pom balls in compartments into a bowl)…

Katie used a spoon to scoop rice from one bowl to another….

They switched…. Katie had a better time with this than Eric, for whom I think I need better toddler-friendly-actual-Montessori-type tweezers. He did a few, but then used a spoon to scoop the rest.

Eric did several spoonfuls of rice, but then took the initiative to complete the transfer simply by pouring one bowl into the other (very neatly, I might add). Guess he found the more elegant solution. 😉 He’s pretty adept with his spoon, anyway…

Finally, Katie has been working on her drawing this year. At the start of the year, she could not draw people.  She could add to a drawing of mine arms and legs (or eyes, or other things I asked of her—a great game to play with a little one), but she could not draw a whole person by herself. She’s been working on drawing through a variety of means, and she did this piece a couple of nights ago on an iPad app (meant for practicing drawing) with her finger. Bill took a picture of it so we’ll always have it. She has been drawing up a storm on normal paper, too. I love to see her express herself and her skills are growing.