{Ocean Waves in a Bottle & Sun Scholars Giveaway!}

child testing how waves work with DIY ocean in a bottle

Princess Pea is turning 5 next month - ack! (Slow down, slow down!) The debate about the best time to begin your child in school is raging, both on the internet (read here and here) and in my head, but I have come to a decision that I believe is the best for Princess Pea and our family.

I've mentioned before that we love her Hungarian preschool because it is 100% play-based. Although she moved to a new preschool when we moved house in February, her new one is of the same philosophy. She settled quickly and happily into her new class. We also love that as long as the weather is nice, they seem to spend pretty much the whole day playing outdoors.

On the other hand, she will eventually (probably in 1st grade) go to the private school where we work, which has a strong academic focus, even in the early childhood department and particularly in kindergarten. So entering in 1st grade might be a bit of a shock to her playful, little system. As well, the art and music programs at our school offer wonderful experiences to develop creativity and imagination of the kind that her preschool system is unable to provide, mainly due to lack of resources.

So the compromise we've (more or less) decided on is to keep her in her play-based preschool, while homeschooling her on the side in some of the skills that would be expected of her if she were at our kindergarten. That way, she will learn the skills, but still spend 95% of her day playing, creating, and  imagining, and will still spend lots of time playing outdoors (as opposed to two 20-minute blocks of outdoor play time).

So, with this plan in hand, I've decided to start a first 'unit of study' (gosh, it feels weird to say that in reference to my own little Princess Pea!) built around an ocean theme. We are planning an upcoming mermaid-themed birthday party, so there's lots of interest in under-the-sea life around here at the moment. I'm going to latch on to this current interest as a means to incorporate some of the kindergarten standards and benchmarks.

I'm still in the early planning stages, but my plan is to incorporate a little literacy, a little numeracy, a little science, a little art, a little music (yikes! not my strength at all!), and a whole lot of fun inquiry into this ocean theme.

I'll share more about my plans as they develop, but in the meantime, I wanted to share with you a great resource. Whether you homeschool, summer school, or just want some ideas of fun, educational activities to do with your kids this summer (or any time, really), you might be interested in the Sun Scholars Summer Program, offered by Rachel over at Sun Scholars.

Rachel has been kind enough to share the program with me to try it out, and to also offer a free copy to one of you lucky Mama Pea Pod readers!

I've been going through the downloadable program, and the first thing I noticed is how well-planned and organized it is. Rachel has thought of everything! She has built a curriculum around weekly themes (including a 'beach' one that will tie in nicely with our ocean theme). Each weekly theme includes some hands-on activities in each of the subject areas - literacy, numeracy, the arts, science, etc., and is organized into daily activities that are printed on individual cards that you can print out, keep in a binder, and take out as you need each one. The curriculum is designed for multi-aged learners, so even if your kids are different ages, you can pick and choose which activities to do, or follow the suggested modifications for each different-aged child. The package comes with a handy list of supplies you'll need, to help you get organized in your planning, and many printable materials, too.

So, to introduce our ocean theme, we followed the instructions given to make ocean wave bottles. These are so cool! At first I thought about skipping the oil in the ingredients, but I'm so glad I didn't, as it really creates the wave effect, making the water roll, just as a real wave would out in the ocean. We had so much fun with these! We used some empty water bottles, a handful of sand from the sandbox, water, blue food colouring, some blue glitter, and some cooking oil. We also popped in a couple of shells, though you can't see them as it turns out.

young children making ocean in a bottle

We've also tried the squishy bags and the strawberry mice. We filled ziploc bags with shaving foam, a bit of glitter, and a few drops of red and yellow paint. As the girls squished them, the paints blended to make - surprise! - orange. While Sweet Pea squished and squashed and rustled the bag, enjoying the sensory play, Princess Pea attempted to write letters in the foam, through the bag. It was all fun and games, until she squished it a bit too hard and it squirted out and a spot hit her in the mouth - yucky! (Mummy's fault for not following all the instructions and taping up the end of the bag - oops!). Older kids could practice spelling words with them, too.

And when Daddy Pea brought home a big carton of strawberries for a treat, what better treat than making them into cute strawberry mice? These snacks are part of the unit built around the story, "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie". I didn't have all the same items on hand as in the suggestions, so we improvised a bit. How cute and fun! A great way to get kids helping out in the kitchen. They could even use them to reenact the story or make up a play of their own before eating them up for their snack!

Other activities that have caught our eye include making a family tree, testing out sound energy with musical glasses, experimenting with colour-changing milk, and making a beach bucket cake!

If you're interested in finding out more about the Sun Scholars Summer Program, head on over to Rachel's blog, Sun Scholars. And if you'd like to enter to win a FREE copy of the summer program (in digital format for downloading), just leave a comment below telling me a fun activity that you plan to do with your kids this summer!

This giveaway will be open for a week, closing on June 2nd at 8pm, GMT+1. A winner will be selected through Random.org and will be announced here in a blog post. The chosen winner will have 48 hours to contact me to claim their prize, or a new winner will be selected. For additional entries, you may share this post on Twitter (tag @mamapeapod) or Google+. Be sure to come back to leave an additional comment for each entry to be counted.

Good luck and happy learning!