elementary school Archives - Eva Varga

February 9, 2017

Travel has always been a major part of our homeschool lifestyle and we consider ourselves to be World Citizens. We do our best to immerse ourselves in other cultures while also learning more about our own nation’s rich history and geography. When I learned of the opportunity “to travel to Switzerland” with the CASE OF ADVENTURE Switzerland Unit Study, I knew it was the perfect fit for us.

Cuckoo Clock Secrets in Switzerland unit study @EvaVarga.net

Whether your family enjoys traveling or has never traveled overseas, you’ll love how Cuckoo Clock Secrets in Switzerland makes learning come alive.

Cuckoo Clock Secrets in Switzerland is the first book of the CASE OF ADVENTURE travel series. It centers around a homeschool family that travels regularly. Upon reading the first chapter, your kids will dive into adventure with Ren, Rome, Jake, Libby and Tiffany as they discover an ancient coin and a mystery connected with a cuckoo clock which takes them to the beautiful land of Switzerland. In their quest to solve the puzzle, they unearth some fascinating history and recover a lost fortune.

Switzerland Unit Study Resources & Ideas

We’ve have always had an eclectic, Unschooling approach to educating our children. Many of our most enjoyable learning experiences have been unit studies using a novel as our spine.

Some of our past unit studies include:

We thereby relished in the opportunity to explore Switzerland in a unit study based on the novel Cuckoo Clock Secrets in Switzerland. It was a relaxed way to stay engaged in academics through the holidays.

I began each morning reading aloud a chapter or two and then the kids would dive into the investigation suggestions (IDAs) at the end of each chapter. Several videos related to the content were suggested for each chapter. We thereby learned how cuckoo clocks were made, how ropes are made for mountain climbing, relative distances, the Protestant Reformation in Switzerland (a huge part of the mystery), and the process of cheese making.

Huge metal vats of curds and whey were stirred with big metal arms and the curds cut into small blocks with wire slicers and then reheated. 

“How does the milk change into cheese?” asked Rome of Frau Von Allmen. 

“They add a culture to the milk. The culture is a bacteria which changes the cheese as you heat it,” she replied. 

cheese factoryUpon reading about the family’s visit to the large cheese houses in the village of Gimmelwald, we revisited our own experience in cheese making at a local cheese factory. Inspired, we also enjoyed making cheese fondue and sampling a variety of Swiss cheeses we found at our local grocer.

To coordinate with our science studies, I asked each of the kids to write an expository essay describing how a cuckoo clock functions – describing the simple machines within. As I shared our activities with family over the holidays, we learned that Grandma Raandi (my mother) has one she says needs a little repair that she would be willing to give us. We haven’t yet got our hands on it (she doest live locally), but we look forward to applying our new knowledge soon. We’ll keep you posted. 🙂

I love how living books can encourage further investigations and explorations of topics. Following these little rabbit trails are what make homeschooling so unique. After immersing ourselves in the Cuckoo Clock Secrets, it is no wonder that Switzerland has now bumped up on our “must see” countries list.

Switzerland Lapbook Activity Packs & Printables

If you are pressed for time or if you are inexperienced in putting together a unit study of your own, CASE OF ADVENTURE makes it easy. In addition to the great novel, they have also put together a wealth of activities and downloadable resources. Destination Switzerland is available now and Scotland will be available soon.

Switzerland Unit StudyVisit CASE OF ADVENTURE to purchase the Destination Switzerland Unit Study as well as download the FREE Maps Pack and Money Pack to use for your geography studies. You will also find the Mega Travel Activity Pack that goes along with any novel in their series. Filled with spy gear and codes – this activity pack will bring the mystery to life, especially for younger kids.

My kids have never been very keen on lapbooks and we don’t have a color printer. Thus, what I appreciated best in the activity packs was the teacher manual which provided all sorts of amazing tips and suggestions for integrating Switzerland studies into our daily activities.

Worldview: CASE OF ADVENTURE is not a fully secular curriculum. There is mention of Christianity, bible study, and prayer but the curriculum and activities that accompany the novel are not a Bible curriculum.


Follow CASE OF ADVENTURE on Facebook and Instagram to learn of future titles and activity ideas. You will also find them on Pinterest. If Twitter is more your style, follow Karyn Collett, the author.

Take advantage of the Special Launch Discount of 25% off entire cart for 10 days only – use coupon code: 25LAUNCH (February 1-11, 2017) or enter to win

Please note the discount is applied to the downloadable products only, not the print book from Amazon.

May 11, 2015

As a former public school teacher, I had presumed all along that I would enroll my kids in a brick and mortar school in the fall of their fifth birthday. I hadn’t really given any thought to homeshooling – at least not consciously.  As the kids grew older, somewhere along the line, what had been a little whisper in the back of my mind grew ever louder. I began to wonder if there wasn’t a better way.

My daughter came to me and said, “I want to learn Chinese.”

My son stated, “I want to be like Bach!”

How can I encourage the passions of my children if they are obligated to attend school 180 days of the year? The little thought in the back of my mind telling me to through modern convention out the window and educate my children at home was now the only voice I could hear.

Why We Homeschool @EvaVarga.netWe started homeschooling nearly 10 years ago. My daughter’s friends were showing off their new laptop lunch bags. Their mothers could talk about nothing other than what school they had enrolled their child and the new school outfits they had purchased.

With the exception of one of my husband’s colleagues whose children were in high school, I didn’t know anyone who was homeschooling. I began our journey alone. I had been blogging for a few years already about the trials and tribulations of marathon training. Coincidentally, one of the marathon running bloggers I followed had recently graduated her youngest from homeschool high school. Her family’s story and her words of encouragement were just what I needed to take the leap of faith.

I thereby began a homeschool blog in hopes of connecting with others. In addition, I wanted a way to document all that we were learning and to share our successes – and failures – with our extended family. Back then I wrote a post detailing Why I Want to Homeschool. Delightfully, the reasons I listed then are the same today.

1. Spend more time together as a family. We have certainly been able to connect more regularly. We are not tied to a school schedule and can accompany their dad when he has out of town business. Most recently, we enjoyed a day in San Francisco that provided us with lessons in both local and world history.

2. Allow children time to learn subjects not usually taught in their school. While there is a Mandarin immersion school where we presently live, Mandarin was not an option when we first began our journey. The time we have been able to devote to language studies far surpasses what would have been possible otherwise. Here’s a peak at one of our early lessons, I Like Fruit.

3. Allow children to learn at their own pace, not too slow or too fast. We school year round and as such we continue moving forward as their skills improve. They both excel at math and reading presently, but were both late readers.

4. Spend a lot of time out-of-doors. Nature study was a weekly part of our curriculum in the early days. Though our science curriculum is more in-depth now, we continue to incorporate time outdoors and regularly journal our nature observations. One of our most memorable outings each year is our annual ladybug hike.

5. Children learn life skills in a natural way. I’ve encouraged my kids to take part in household chores and cook since they were little. They love to prepare new dishes – often Chinese dishes they’ve learned from their Mandarin teacher. My son has even begun to market his skills at detailing cars to earn money for his dream of purchasing a baby grand piano.

6. Children will be more willing to take risks and be creative

7. Children will not learn to “fit into society,” but will, instead, value morality and love more than status and money.  There have been many occasions whereby adults will inquire whether we homeschool. Upon my affirmation they always reply, “I thought so. Most kids today don’t communicate with adults like yours do. You’ve done a great job.”  My kids know they are different. They are proud to be able to recite historical events or passages from Shakespeare. They can even recognize other children who homeschool in group settings.

8. Field trips can be directly tied into the child’s own curriculum.

9. Volunteer service activities can be included in the family’s regular schedule. My son is passionate about music and volunteers regularly to play the piano at a local retirement home. My daughter, on the other hand, is encouraged to do her part to improve the environment and is collaborating with resource biologists to study the impact of invasive turtles.

10. Scheduling can be flexible, allowing travel during less expensive and less crowded off-peak times. We love to travel and we’ve been fortunate to see some pretty amazing places in the world. We make travel a priority in our home. I have just recently begun to share anecdotes and tales of our traveling adventures. Hop over to read about our trips to Scandinavia, China, and most recently South America (Ecuador and Peru).

11. Testing is optional.

12. A more relaxed, less hectic lifestyle is possible.

13. Most definitely, it is fun.

We’re aren’t alone. Visit iHomeschool Network’s Why We Chose to Homeschool linkup to read more.

September 1, 20106

We bid summer adieu once again with our third annual Summer Art Camp this week. I’ve seemingly exhausted my repertoire of ooey gooey messy art activities so this year we brought camp to our home (rather than the neighborhood park).

You can read about our first art camp here, I sadly didn’t blog about our second year of art camp, however.

I gathered everyone on the carpet for introductions and in doing so also explained my expectations for their behavior: no running around … we are here to explore our creativity in art, not to play – though there would be time for a little of that – but I expected everyone to give 110% and not rush through the projects. Setting the stage early proved to be worthwhile … everyone behaved beautifully and their artwork was excellent!

The first activity we did was to create traditional medal-backed buttons with the words “Third Annual Summer Art Camp 2010 :: Bidding Summer Adieu” around the perimeter. It was a great little ice-breaker and provided a nice souvenir to celebrate. In years past, we’ve created T-shirts but I thought these were more memorable and could be saved like race medals.

We then moved on to Zentangles which were indeed a hit with both the kids and adults. Creating Zentangles is one of my favorite art activities and provides for an easy way to entertain busy bodies at the doctors office, in the car, or on the airplane.  On a white board, I provided a sampling of patterns that could be repeated within the subdivided areas of their canvas (simply a square piece of cardstock). [Admin Note :: The website encourages artists to purchase their starter kit but we simply used permanent markers (Pigma Micron pens work best) and standard cardstock.]

I was impressed that everyone really took their time to see their project through to the finish.  Some choice to use a single color while others chose to use many colors.  Interestingly, this was the one and only project that inspired the moms to give it a go as well.  I was delighted that I was able to introduce them to a new art form … but I must give thanks to my friend Kristin, who first introduced me to Zentangles earlier this year.  🙂

We concluded the first day planning for our Alfombras or carpet mosaics.  I first learned about Alfombras from a Honduran friend of mine and as we studied Central America earlier this year in Passports Club … I knew I wanted to give this a try.  When I was planning this activity, I didn’t really know how to proceed.  My father has a small sawmill and I was able to obtain a large quantity of sawdust which I then dyed with RIT clothing dye (we used just 4 colors:  red, blue, green and orange).

The kids were then encouraged to plan our their design on newsprint in advance.  I showed them numerous images of Semana Santa Alfombras in Central America … pointing out details of the mosaic style and repeated patterns.  Suffice it to say, the kids ventured in their own direction putting their own spin on the idea.  Many created images of what they were interested in … MeiLi created a planet, Buddy created a mosaic of our recent trip to Todd Lake, a couple of the girls created hearts, flowers, and ladybugs.  The boys were more ecclectic … a rocket ship, Crater Lake, and another boy took the word alfombras literally and created a small ‘carpet’.

I had assigned each of the kids a full square on the sidewalk in hopes they would fill up the entire square with their design but like most children’s art, they created a small picture leaving a lot of ‘open space’.   It is difficult to encourage them to use the entire canvas.  I suppose we need a lesson specifically on this!

I discovered this website as I was typing this up .. I didn’t realize until too late that pine needles are frequently placed down first and that other media (flowers, vegetables, etc.) are also used.  We’re definitely going to give this another try.

Other more traditional art activities included watercolors and chalk pastels.  Again I was impressed with their creativity and work.  Our two days of art camp have always been a highlight of our school year (and indeed it is one of the things we do to kick off the new academic year).  This year was particularly enjoyable, however.  The kids are getting older and more can be expected of them.  I set high expectations and they rose to the occasion.

August 27, 20083

To bid summer adieu and as an opportunity to get our little friends together, I took inspiration from Shez at Homeschooled Twins and coordinated a messy art camp. We met down at the local park for two days of messy art activities. I had four projects planned for each day and as can be expected of any endeavor with children or adults for that matter, some were more successful than others.

Monday ~ Day One

Plaster Masks: The first activity we undertook was to create plaster masks. Not everyone was willing to do this – some of the kids were a little apprehensive and scared. What surprised me was contrary to their typical personalities, Buddy volunteered to be first and Sweetie opted to have her hand cast (in the form of a fist for Taekwondo) rather than her face. Despite the reassurances of those who were first, there were still a few who chose to sit this one out. The masks turned out very well – much better than I had anticipated.

Bubble Burst Painting: While the adults cleaned up after the plaster activity, the kids busied themselves with an attempt to do bubble art on a roll of paper I had hanging up between the pillars. I was unsuccessful finding a dozen or so small bubble wands – the kind that come in the small bottles of solution. I didn’t want to buy the small bottles as I had earlier in the summer purchased a gallon size jug of bubble solution – it just seemed like an unnecessary expense. In retrospect, I should have. It would have been easier had the children each had their own bottle of colored bubble solution and their own wand.
Anyway – what we used instead were large wands that were dipped into a shallow bowl (I had added food coloring to the bubble solution). While this typically makes great bubbles, it was near impossible to get the bubbles to actually POP on the paper. The kids got to slinging the ‘wands’ at the paper and making splash/splatter marks rather than bubbles. The end product didn’t turn out as I had expected but the kids had a great time nonetheless.

Marble Painting: An easy activity in concept. Place a small square of paper into an aluminum tin with a few marbles. Squirt in a few colors of paint and roll the marbles around to disperse the paint. I was busy cleaning up messes and didn’t really pay attention to how much paint the kids were squirting into their tins. Turned out – they squirted way too much. Their ‘canvases’ had to dry overnight they were so thick with paint.

Glubber: The kids loved this one! I distributed a ziploc baggie to each and assisted them with adding 1/4 cup of warm water, 1/4 cup of Elmer’s glue, and a few drops of food coloring. They mixed this around (baggie zipped of course) and to that I added a 1/2 teaspoon or so (it wasn’t exact) of Borax. They mixed this as well and soon a solid was formed. They removed the solid and played around with it for some time.

Here are a couple of links for more information if you’d like … White Glue Putty and Glubber & Glue Putty. What is great about this is that it can be adapted for many ages – for upper level students, the kids can investigate polymers… set up an experiment to determine how different amounts of Borax affect the outcome… etc.

Wednesday ~ Day Two

Painting Our Plaster Masks: I didn’t get a chance to take photos of the kids as they were working, but I did get a few photos of the end product. The masks turned out great!

Sand Collage: This was perhaps my favorite of all the activities… easy, colorful and very engaging!

Flour Paper Collage: Essentially, this project required the artist to smear flour paste onto their canvas (watercolor paper). They then tore and scrunched up colored tissue paper and placed it onto their paper in a colorful, textured collage. This was a highlight for many – but a few of the boys (surprisingly!) didn’t want to get their hands all gooey. I loved this activity and will likely do it again with my kiddos.Pastels: A simple, last minute change lead us to cancel the parade. It was really windy and we were concerned our banners would have been ripped apart and our art work carried off with the gusts. Instead, I handed out paper and chalk pastels and allowed the kids to quietly draw whatever they desired.Park Structure Play: As the kids finished their projects and between clean-ups, the kids enjoyed climbing on the structures and playing with one another.

It was a very successful camp and I am already planning for next year! Hopefully, the weather will be more cooperative and we can actually do the parade as planned.