Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Week 2, day 1

I hadn't informed P and E about Labour Day, but our plans pretty much precluded doing any school. We spent the day in College Station, TX with Ari's grandparents, parents, and youngest brother & his wife & son. Taco salad and swimming took up most of the day, and it was a fine time of interaction with wonderful people.

Last week, not thinking about Labour Day, I had told the kids that on Monday we could return to the Houston Museum of Natural Science, which we visited the Friday before we started school. We had the foresight to purchase a membership, and I intend returning to the museum with the kids about once a month. Wanting to come as close as I could to keeping my word, we visited the museum this morning instead. I abandoned my daily workout and shower, thinking that the earlier we started, the less crowded it was likely to be. My general strategy for museum visits is that school groups are less likely to schedule large tours the day after a weekend ends, and thus Mondays (or this Tuesday) are likely to be the best days for us to visit.

On the way to the museum, we reviewed catechism and memory verses, and I had them start memorizing the Lord's Prayer. Since we say this each week in church, I thought it would be a relevant passage to memorize. I suggested reviewing the days of the week and months of the year, and P declined, so I asked her if the return journey would be a better time. She agreed that that would work, and it ended up being quite acceptable. This time, I took the precaution of insisting to E that he be absolutely silent while P and I worked on the lists, and we got through them a few times. It seems to me that pre-agreeing with P a time to work on them, and ensuring E's silence, are likely to be a fairly successful strategy.

We arrived at the museum at about 9:45. There was one school group there today, but we pretty much avoided them and almost had the place to ourselves. The kids wanted to look at the dinosaur skeletons first, but P was thoroughly distracted by the trilobites. I can't blame her; the museum has a beautiful collection. Kids love big numbers, so I think trilobites are made even more interesting by the fact that they swam around hundreds of millions of years before the dinosaurs. We looked closely at the hadrosaur and Tyrannosaurus Rex skeletons before moving on to the mastodon and giant ground sloth, which apparently both inhabited this vicinity a long time ago. P in particular felt scared of them, and wasn't completely relieved by the fact that they were herbivores, and extinct.

Next to the fossils was a docent who performed a chemistry demo. His spiel was clearly from a memorized script that wasn't designed for children as small as mine, but they got a lot out of it. P later described to Ari and her grandparents how a hard-boiled egg sank in plain water but floated in salty water, how a base turned a red liquid blue but an acid turned it back to red, and how boric acid turned Elmer's glue into a solid that bounced. E was impressed by the demonstration of the gel that is used in diapers - a small quantity of powder was placed in a beaker, water was added, and the beaker was inverted - the water had become a gel that stayed in the beaker. Alas, our progress in potty-training is not yet at the point that this demo was completely irrelevant to his life. At the end of the demo, during which I had needed to grab each child at least once to keep them from wandering off, P looked at me wide-eyed and said, "Chemistry is interesting!"

From that demo we moved into the energy display, which mainly focuses on the oil industry but has a small section on alternative energy at the end. The most memorable portion of this was an "elevator" that pretended to shrink you down to 7 inches and take you down to the bottom of an oil well. The room shook and hummed while the movie host claimed we were rapidly descending, and I had to reassure both kids that this was not really happening. I don't think they grasped much of the content, though we did discuss how natural gas is cooled and turns into liquified natural gas for transport, and we interacted over the wind energy display, which E particularly liked.

Adjacent to the energy display is a Foucault pendulum, which slowly swings back and forth but precesses with Earth's rotation, progressively knocking over pegs arranged in a circle as the day goes by. We didn't stay long enough to see it knock over a peg, but the kids were mesmerised for several minutes. We ascended two floors, closer to where the pendulum attaches to the ceiling, and entered the Hall of the Americas.

The Hall of the Americas focuses on native peoples from the Arctic down to South America, with artifacts from the Inuit, from Pacific Northwest tribes, the Southwest, the Plains, the Maya and Aztec, and more. The children were getting tired by this point, but were interested in the Inuit sealskin outfit, the Pacific Northwest masks, and the Mayan jaguar statue, and P remembered that the video showed that chocolate is made from beans. On our way out, we looked more closely at where the pendulum attaches to the ceiling yet one floor higher, but it was clear that we were reaching sensory overload as well as lunch time. Having a membership to the museum is a good thing, because I know we can come back any time we want without paying any extra, so I don't feel compelled to push the kids past their endurance level.

After lunch, we conducted our calendar observations (hot, partly cloudy - the temperature is of course not the same if you observe it at 1pm as if you observe at 10am) and read the story of Noah's ark. Although I like their Bible storybook quite a bit, I was annoyed at the drawing of a dinosaur emerging from the ark. I just didn't want to go there, so I was relieved that the kids didn't notice it (it was in the background). Eventually they're going to have to hear about the young-earth creationist/old-earth creationist/theistic evolution/atheistic evolution thang, but right now I'd rather not deal with it. I just change the storybook rendition when necessary (it tends to be worded more young-earth than the Bible, which is more ambiguous), taking shameless advantage of the fact that the kids can't read yet...

We looked at this week's picture dictionary page and made a letter poster with catalog pictures, encountering some dissent as to the placement of the pictures on the page. I eventually removed the picture on which the kids could not agree (resulting in strenuous protest), we placed all the other pictures, and (as was my plan) there was only one reasonable space remaining for the bone of contention.

I had a midwife appointment at 2pm, so this was all we really had time for before then, but I brought along a couple of colouring pages for them to work on during my appointment: a Texas flag and map page (I intend to work on U.S. geography later this week, and thought we'd start with where we are), and colouring pages of last week's letter. P wrote her name and E's, using lowercase letters, and only reversing one letter. She's making progress!

E fell asleep on the way home, and I worked with P on this week's copywork (her last name) and a few pages in her handwriting workbook. Then we played a game I obtained for free from Ari's aunt, which involves plastic pieces with letters on them which snap together. P enjoys making impossibly long nonsense words and having me read them to her. E woke up, and we read library books for most of the time before dinner.

Tomorrow, I'll be busy for much of the morning, so we'll see how much school happens. Doing some in the afternoon worked well today, so I suppose it will tomorrow as well.

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