This week, we are vacationing with the whole Korn family on Oak Island, North Carolina. They have been coming here for years and this year, we planned it so that all of Patrick’s siblings could be here together. Bo really wanted to continue to do “school” while we were here, so we chose a beach themed book called Night of the Moonjellies by Mark Shasha. This book is a story about 7-year-old Mark who helped his grandmother at her food stand in New England. He finds a jellyfish on the beach on the way to the stand one morning and his grandmother takes him out on a boat to return the moonjelly to the ocean after a busy day working at the stand.
Besides my own children were my niece Lucy (almost five) and my nephews Conley (almost 4), William (2) and Jameson (17 months). William and Jameson only did the school thing when they were interested.
On Monday, it was a little rainy, so we were stuck inside in the morning. I brought some individual white boards to replace the chalkboard at home and I had Maggie practicing O’s while Bo and Lucy (who are pretty much the same age) wrote out the word “ocean.”
In the book, the boy has many responsibilities at his grandmother’s food stand like filling the ketchup containers, replacing napkins and straws and helping to make onion rings. So we talked about what a responsibility is, why it’s important to have responsibilities and then I had each child choose a responsibility for the week. Wiping tables, helping with dishes. Maggie really wanted to cook. We created chore charts and I bribed them with treats when they completed their job for the day. (Swedish fish, of course. Keeping with the ocean theme.) I never saw children more willing to do work.
On Tuesday, we went out to the beach. We started by comparing the dune with the beach. (“There is grass on the dune.” “There is water on the beach.”) Then we discussed the purpose of the dune – to prevent the water from getting to the houses and causing damage. We saw a lizard in the dune and watched that for a minute. Then we went down to the beach and played all morning.
While we were there, we collected shells for our fossils (more on that later).
We also tried to find as many creatures as we could. Daddy caught a shark, so we touched the shark (feeling how rough the skin felt if you rubbed it in the wrong direction) and looked at the way it swam and watched it munch on minnows in the tidal pool. We caught some sand crabs and put them in a bucket.
We dug into the sand where we saw an air bubble and found a clam. Then Bo found a shell in the tidal pool that had something attached to it. He was very excited about it because it did something (I don’t know what) that made him think it was alive, so we put it in the bucket with the crabs. Later we came back and it had opened up. It turned out it was an anemone!
We came in for lunch, and I mixed up some salt dough from a recipe I found on Pinterest. It worked pretty well except it was a little wet (my fault) and we had to use lots of flour to keep the shells from sticking. A few of the kids lost interest pretty quickly, but Bo was determined to use every bit of that dough to do a million different things. Handprints. Finger prints. Shells. We ended up with a lot of fossils. (And one case where Lucy wrapped the shells up with the dough instead of just leaving the imprint.) I had doubled the recipe for the dough, which in hindsight I didn’t need to do.
Wednesday was a later night because we spent the morning all over the place. And it was math day. We started by making some jellyfish. The jellyfish had tentacles on them with numbers and the kids had to glue the correct number of pom-poms on the tentacles. They loved the glue.
Then we did some fishy math with some goldfish crackers. Maggie and Conley had worksheets with numbers written on them and I asked them to put the correct number of goldfish next to the numbers.
Bo had a more complicated sheet with a plus sign and an equals sign. I put a number of crackers on each side of the plus sign and he had to give me the answer by doing the math and putting the correct number of crackers on the other side of the equals sign. I found myself wishing I had made it more complicated by putting the unknown in a different place. Maybe he’s too young for algebra?
Then we used colored goldfish crackers to categorize by colors. I had Bo do a bar graph type organization so we could compare the numbers of each color. Of course the kids got to snack on the goldfish when we were done.
Thursday morning snuck up on me. (Beach time always seems to accelerate as you work through the week. How is it Sunday and Monday went so slowly and boom it’s Thursday already?) The kids were anxious and excited about school this morning and they kept asking what we were going to do. We started by having Patrick read the story for a change of pace and so that I could get everything together for our session.
We talked about jellyfish today. How they have no brain, no bones, no lungs, etc. and they are mostly water. We talked about their tentacles and how they use those to stun their prey and pull them into their “bellies.” (I figured gastrovascular cavities was unnecessary for four year olds.) We watched some You Tube videos about jellyfish and watched how they moved. I decided that the word “bioluminescence” was not too much for four year olds. (Especially when Lucy started explaining to me what echolocation is.)
We started by making jellyfish out of paper bowls. There were ones like it on Pinterest with coffee filters, soda bottles and other things, but I had paper bowls. It was simple, but I should have had more ribbon (or maybe used crepe paper) and figured out a better adhesive for the ribbons because they kept coming off. I probably would also have painted the paper bowls, but I didn’t think about that until afterward. But the kids liked them and of course started wearing them as hats. They were super excited to show them off.
Then we painted with watercolors. Maggie enjoyed this so much from the Peter Rabbit study, so I brought them down to the beach. I was going to try to do jellyfish paintings like this, but the watercolors needed so much water to drip down the page like that. It was hard to keep five kids from drinking the paint water, let alone get them to follow directions. But they liked painting and painted for a good long while. Lucy and Bo painted beach scenes and the others were happy just to get some color on their page.
Finally, for fun, I gave them all glow bracelets, reviewed the idea of bioluminescence and we went and closed ourselves up in a dark bathroom to play for a while. They had a lot of fun with this and even ran down to the dark basement to play when I got tired of supervising them in the bathroom.
For our last day, I wanted to spend the day on the beach since it was our last chance to do so. We read the story, talked about our five senses and used those five sense to make observations about things on the beach. “Sand feels crunchy!” “The ocean tastes salty!” “The sea shell smells like nothing!”
Then we talked about how the grandmother creates a keepsake for the main character to commemorate the “night of the moonjellies” and I handed out little jars for them to create a keepsake of the beach. Bo was determined to get both wet sand and dry sand and was utterly confused that he couldn’t keep the dry sand dry. Lucy and Conley put some shells in theirs. Maggie liked how she could shake hers up and get the sand and water to mix and then if she let it dry, it would separate again.
The week was a great success and the kids were awesome to work with. They continued to volunteer to do chores and earn Swedish fish all week long and they were super excited for school every morning. It was a little crazy with all those children, but it was fun to see how the wide range of ages played out.
When we were driving home on Saturday, we stopped at an exotic fish store in Richmond and saw all kinds of colorful fish. Maggie and Bo loved the sting rays and they even had a shark.
And finally, to close up the week’s lessons on responsibilities and sea life, we went to the store and bought Bo a beta fish. It is his responsibility to feed it and take care of it. He has named it Fire Red, Fire Ice and Siamese Fighting in the past 12 hours. I am not sure what name he will settle on, but we’ll see how this pet thing goes. (Not that we don’t already have chickens, rabbits and a dog…)
As fun as all those crazy kids at the beach were, I will admit that I am a little relieved to be going back to just my two next week with the classic Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise-Brown. Just for my sanity’s sake. 😉