My oldest son turned 11 this past week. It seems like just yesterday that he was a newborn baby in my arms. My whole life has centered around him and his siblings every since the day I first laid eyes on this baby boy eleven years ago.
He loves everything about robots and space. For his birthday, we bought him a telescope and the Lego Master Builder Academy (MBA) kits. One of the kits discusses the process of building robots, and one of the kits in the series builds space ships. The Lego MBA is being shipped and will be here in a few days. Lego only started shipping this new product in June, and though we pre-ordered it before his birthday, we knew it would not arrive in time. He also was going to go out of town to Indiana to visit a cousin graduating high school. So we plan to have a birthday party for him next week, and enjoy his be-lated gifts. We are also planning to take him to a science museum to learn more about robots in space next weekend.
Another exciting development is starting a lego club with several local homeschool boys and girls who all plan to go through the MBA kits too. My son is excited about this new adventure, and the fun will last for the entire upcoming year as we study these subjects with the club. You can read stories about the Lego and Robotics Academy 4H Club posted on this website. We will also do a space unit study and a robot unit study to enhance what he is learning.
A while back, I had gotten him a STRUXX Robotics building kit. It builds 4 different robotic models. He looked it over one afternoon, chose the model he wanted to build, and started to build it. But about 30 minutes into the process of sorting his pieces and becoming familiar with the building manual, he quit. That was just not like him at all. He is normally very patient and loves to learn new and complicated things. But on this day, he was frustrated and set it aside for several months. I guess it was more challenge than he was up to at the time. He first thought one of the key parts was missing, and after searching for it for a half-hour or so, he lost heart and he just gave up.
This week, for his birthday, he pulled it out again and built the entire 625+ piece robot in just under 6 hours. Its main components of the structure are the long rods and small ball and socket joints that make up the whole body. The actual motor comes pre-assembled, so it is just a matter of attaching it. There is a pulley system to be attached also, which the motor moves to operate the movement of the head. There is also a control center to be attached on the head which sends a remote signal to the motor to turn the head and controls a pre-recorded growl of a dinosaur and other sound effects, and controls the eyes lighting up.
Once he broke it down into manageable sections (head, tail, legs and feet, hands, body), he made quick progress of the building kit.
This is a wonderful product for following a sequence of steps to get a desired outcome. It was also great for eye hand coordination, matching and recognition of pieces, logic, and reading. I love providing him with hands on opportunities like this. Kits like this are great for making learning fun.
He had to follow the blue prints in the manual exactly to build each component.
As he completed one set of steps, he would set that section aside and begin the next set of steps. His confidence grew with each section he completed.
He set his own goal with this, and wanted to complete it before Dad got home from work. I never imagined he would do this project all in one day.
After he built the different body parts, he joined them together. He was thrilled when it was time to put the head on this monster.
But this part took more strength and was more awkward than he had planned. As you hold it up, it has to snap into the ball and socket joints exactly. The head was slightly complicated to attache, and he felt some pressure to get it right, as it is what the robotics operate and must be correctly matched up.
Next came the process of hooking up the robotic components to the dinosaur structure. You can see how serious he was in learning how this mechanism worked and hooking it up correctly to the structure and to the pulley system that operates the movements.
“Be afraid, be very afraid.” This is a monster!
It can growl, turn its head, chomp its teeth, and its eyes light up to be very scary.
Thankfully, Daddy got home just in time to save us all from being eaten by this ferocious monster T-Rex.
Dad was very proud of our son’s accomplishment too. Our boy is really growing up.
Happy 11th birthday little man. You did a great job building this robotic dinosaur and I can’t wait to see what you will build next. You are a great helper, you are smart, and handsome too. Most importantly, you love Jesus. Daddy and I are very proud of the wonderful young man you are. We love you.
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Our Christmas 2009 was very special. The weather turned cold. It snowed. The children were able to make snowmen, and snow ball fights, and slide on a small hill. When they were tired, they came in and enjoyed hot chocolate. Later they went out again. That was a lot of fun. There is something so special about the first snows and the quiet crisp cool air.
We’ve had a lot of changes in our life over the past couple of years. And the finances have remained tight. We did not have much extra money this year to travel, to shop, or do freely with. We had been getting settled into our home we bought the end of October. Moving requires a lot of finances. Due to finances, we have rented since moving to North Carolina. But the timeing was right and now we were in a home of our own. For Christmas we did a few basic decorations. We put up a few lights on the front outside, some greenery on the porch rails, and wreaths with bows on the lights by the front door. The kids thought this was great and really enjoyed decorating the house. Any time is a fun time to bring out the tools and work with Dad.
With our school work in December, we studied the history behind some of the traditions in our Christmas holiday. I did a lot of research on line and put a unit study together for the children. I like doing unit studies because each of the children can learn the subject and do activities on their own level, yet we are still all together focused on the same subject. Also it gives them a break from their workbooks. In some ways they just don’t enjoy their workbooks. Especially our third grader. But he does enjoy doing unit studies. I did find seveal places where you could purchase a unit study already put together, but I had the time to do the research for a Christmas Unit Study and Christmas Lapbook myself. I also found several crafts online that we really enjoyed making. Ultimately the most important reason we celebrate this holiday is because God gave us Jesus Christ as our savior. We celebrate His birth as the center of this holiday. As we studied about Christmas, we made a Christmas Lapbook to reinforce our learning.
If you are interested you can check out some of these resources for curriculum, stories, unit studies, lapbooks, and much more:
CurrClick Curriculum In A Click
Squidoo All About Robot Lapbook, Unit Study, and Robot Products
Then we put up the Christmas tree. The children made paper ornaments, paper stockings, and christmas decorations. They hung their paper stockings on the fire place, and their ornaments and decorations on the tree. Home made. It was lovely. On Christmas eve, our oldest boy, age 9, filled the paper stockings with miniture candy bars and candy canes. Overall, it was a very nice holiday. I would say we avoided the hussle and bussle of the holiday. With no travle plans and little money to spend, it pretty much puts some limitations on the whole event. We found other ways to make it special with the children. We had a birthday party in honor of our Lord Jesus Christ. The kids decorated the dining room with ballons, made a birthday card, and we had cake and ice cream. We sang songs. Each of us blessed the Lord and gave him sincere prayer from our heart.
For Christmas, we set aside a small amount to spend for our family. We were able to order the children gifts on line from Amazon and when the UPS man came a day or two before Christmas, the children were ecstatic with joy. He ranks pretty high. The baby recieved a rocker. The toddler recieved a baby doll and little peopleand furniture for her doll house. The older three boys had expressed a lot of interest in robots so we came up with a robot theme. Each of the three older children recieved a very nice robot, a book of a fictional story about a robot, a movie with a robot, and sticker pages to design a paper robot. They were delighted. We did some research and we were able to find the robots for up to 70% off retail, so it didn’t tap our budget too much.
The oldest boy’s robot is able to be put together in three different forms. So later he can take it apart and rebuild it a different way. It is an Erector Spy Robot, with a built in camera, voice, sound and light effects. He can guide it all over the house from the computor and see and hear what the robot is seeing and hearing. It is able to opperate even when you are not home and can watch over your home when you are gone, and you can take your laptop computer with you and control it and watch it from where ever you are at. Dad helped him build the model that resembles a scorpion on tracks. It has computer software so that he can learn to program the robot too. The other two boys got a robot that was already assembled and they act human like and roam all over the house. They are able to do more commands than I can mention and it was a really good investment for all of them to learn about.
Their gifts were more of an investment in their education than anything else. It is hard sometimes to encourage them to study. They just don’t enjoy the repetiveness of some of their workbooks in writing and math. They want to be doing things that are active, not sitting and writing. As parents, we try to find things that will encourage their reading, writing, and math skills without them necessarily feeling overwhelmed. It is a goal that is hard to acheive sometimes. I’ve done a lot of reading about boys being pushed to study to hard to soon and it actually makes them rebel against school. I don’t want to set them up for failure. But I hope I can challenge them to learn the skills they need by incorporating what they are interested in learning about and motivating them with this.
We want to encourage their interest in electronics and robotics and plan to include a unit study and lapbook to further their understanding. I have a lot learn myself. I am busy researching information to include in our unit study. I will post more about the Robot Unit Study and the Robot Lapbook in a future post.
I hope you had a blessed Christmas and are looking forward to the blessings in the year ahead.
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