Friday, April 30, 2010

And it turns out...

...the tsunami story may be true - it's at least based on a genuine legend.

Week 27, day 5

Friday: Geography. With one thing and another, I wasn't ready to start school until 11 am, and since I get complaints if we start school in the morning and have to do more after lunch, I simply decided not to start until after lunch. Today we studied Japan. At lunch time, to whet the kids' appetites for learning about Japan, I demonstrated the only origami I know how to do: a paper balloon. I ended up making one for each of P and E, and I taught Ari how to make one as well. I checked out a children's story book from the library about a Japanese boy whose American-born mother introduces the concept of a Christmas tree (decorated with origami cranes). The illustrations were beautiful. We read the book before doing any other school, and I had to keep taking the book away from them because looking at the illustrations kept them distracted while we were going over our memory verse, calendar, and P's reader and math worksheet. We located Japan on the Markable Map, and noted how it's entirely surrounded by the ocean, and thus fish is an important part of the Japanese diet. We read most of the children's atlas page about Japan and the Koreas, which only briefly mentioned North and South Korea and spent most of its time on Japan. We also read "The Giant Wave" in the Lion Storyteller Bedtime Book. It's a story about how an old man who lived at the top of a hill saw a tsunami coming and set his rice fields on fire so the villagers below would climb the hill to help put out the fire and thus escape the tsunami. In the LSBB version, he sees the actual wave coming, but of course in that case there wouldn't be enough time to react. I saw another storybook version in the library in which the old man more realistically sees the ocean being sucked back. The fact that there are two different versions of the story makes me wonder whether it's based on a historical event. The Child's Book of Art has several Japanese paintings, which we enjoyed. We looked at a picture book of Japan from the library, and I suggested that P make her book at that point. She asked permission to do it on Saturday instead, so I'll hold her to that. For dinner, I made vegetarian sushi (no, vegetarians don't eat fish) with rice, avocado, and carrots wrapped in sheets of nori. It's kind of fiddly, but I started getting the hang of it. The kids were pretty good sports about trying it: E looked at it, announced "I don't like that!", and then ate four.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Week 27, days 2-4

Tuesday: Science. Today's theme at Titmouse Club was turtles. Informal survey: does "turtle", to you, connote (a) a shelled reptile that lives in or near water but not a shelled creature that lives exclusively on land, or (b) any kind of shelled reptile? The docent chose (b), and it seems that some of our library books do, too. Other than that, the presentation on turtles was interesting and included a turtle skeleton in a plexiglass box (so that the children could examine it without damaging it) and a live box turtle (which I would have called a tortoise). Although turtles breathe air, they are able to hibernate in the mud underwater for months - how do they do this? Perhaps they absorb oxygen from the water through their skins, and it's enough to keep them alive if they don't do anything. It's similar to the question of how bears can sleep for months without needing water, which I remember being lectured about but not fully understanding in Order of Magnitude Physics.

On the nature walk, the children fed turtles with crackers. There was a water bird - a heron, perhaps - which caught a crawfish while we were all watching. Later on, as we explored a different section of the path, we saw a water snake swimming upstream, and found another live box turtle, which helpfully turned itself into a box by folding up its bottom shell.

Our formal school time went smoothly, but I didn't add any extra science items because the kids had a dentist appointment. Since the dentist is near Bear Creek Park, we stopped there and the kids played for a while. We also briefly looked at their emus, rheas, and buffalo.

Wednesday: Math. Today was another meeting of the homeschooling group I found a month ago. The theme this time was basically the fun one can have by dropping Mentos candy into a 2-litre bottle of Diet Coke. It causes the carbonization to bubble out all at once, resulting in somewhat explosive behaviour. Diet Coke is not sticky, so if it gets on the child who drops the Mentos in, the mess is easier to clean up. The leader had brought about 20 bottles of Coke, so although P was intimidated by the thought, E had a chance to perform the experiment himself. He got some diet coke on his hands, though nowhere else, and felt quite proud of himself. As soon as the homeschooling group meeting was over, it was time for P's ballet lesson.

P is being promoted from the PreK/K ballet class to the elementary group next academic year, and she and her classmates who are being promoted with her are invited to join the "big kid ballet class" on Tuesday next week instead of Wednesday. It'll be a 2-hour class instead of 1 hour, which Ari likes because it gives him more time to go fishing with E, and I like because it gives me more time to run errands.

After P's ballet lesson, I simply had her read her reader and do her math worksheet. I also started printing out a math game, but we only got a far as gluing the scoops to cardboard. We played it on Thursday, and E enjoyed it as well, because addition with manipulatives is just right for his level of understanding right now. It might be a bit simple for P, but she doesn't mind.

Thursday: Bible. This was the last week of CBS until September. The kids heard the story of the apostle Paul's shipwreck. Once we got home, we discussed the story with their Opa, who gave them more details. We went upstairs and played the "Add It!" game I printed out yesterday, using pennies as manipulatives. I played around with making a triangle shape out of the pennies, because I had happened to grab 21 of them. The kids liked this so much, I decided to do the same thing with pattern blocks, and then I got distracted playing with patterns of triangle numbers, perfect squares, and how to make a hexagonal figure with side n inches using n^2 hexagons of side 1 inch (you have to break some of them up into pairs of trapezoids). I played with them for about an hour while P commented, "It's okay, because when Mommy gets distracted we get more time to play." I did explain a bit of what I was doing with triangle numbers and perfect squares, but P wasn't interested for long. If I want to make excuses for getting distracted, I can tell myself that now my kids know that Mommy thinks geometry is fascinating (which they already knew because they see me working my way through Euclid).

Once we finally got started doing school, I introduced John 14:6. We discussed the exclusivity of Jesus' claim in this verse - he is the only road to God, the source and creator of truth, and the one who gives us life (our verse from last week). You can't claim that he was just a "good teacher" without grappling with what he says in John 14:6.

After introducing a new catechism question, we moved on to our calendar, P's reader, and her math 5-a-day. Once that was over, I read the story of Paul's shipwreck from my Bible. The vocabulary is a bit too advanced for P and E, but since they'd just heard the story that morning, they were able to follow pretty well. In the evenings, we've started reading them a passage from Mark and discussing what it means, so they're gaining comprehension that way too.

After school, the kids asked to watch "Cinderella". Although the only computer available doesn't usually play DVDs without siezing up, it did this time. We've decided that watching a video 2 times a week won't kill them, so that's roughly what happens - once on Sunday afternoon, and once during the week. It adds up to about half an hour a day of screen time, which I think is acceptable.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Week 26, day 5 and Week 27, day 1

Friday: Geography. We learned about China. I was able to find two library books at about my children's listening level. After we located China on the Markable Map, we read "The Ivory Wand" from Stories from Around the World and "The King's Hawk" from the Children's Book of Virtues. We looked at the children's atlas page for China, and read our library books. After lunch P made a book with the flag, a map which I traced, and pictures of the Great Wall of China, a panda, Chinese New Year (with a dragon puppet), lots of people, and a person eating rice with chopsticks. For dinner I made a ginger-garlic tofu stir-fry and sweet-sour cabbage with rice. Yum!

Monday: Language Arts. We played another hundred chart game today as part of P's 5-a-day review. This time, instead of simply saying the number she had to colour to make a pictue (a sailboat), I had her count beans. I had prepared bean sticks - popsicle sticks with 10 beans glued to each of them - as well as a hundred flat composed of 10 popsicle sticks glued together, and used combinations of these and individual beans to have her count what number she had to colour in. She found it a bit tedious, but began to recognize patterns ("57 is in the 5 row and the 7 column"). You can see that I'm enough of a math geek that I sneak extra math into the days that aren't officially math days. Hopefully this will rub off on my kids and they'll love it too.

The language arts component of the day went smoothly. P is becoming easier to reassure that she will be able to do various assignments. I'm really glad I bought the Sonlight language arts curriculum, because by myself I know I'd be pushing her too hard and she'd be constantly frustrated with me and herself. When reading her reader, she saw that one of the pages had 2 sentences on it instead of the usual 1, and complained until I told her to just do one at a time, whereupon she did it perfectly. She was also supposed to sort a stack of 12 words by subject (emotion words, names, body parts, clothing items), an activity that we did last week and she struggled with it. She informed me that she didn't want to do it, then agreed to try if I helped her as much as she needed. She then did the assignment with no help at all, and finally declared, "That was fun!" We read a chapter of Little House on the Prairie, and P dictated a report of how life would be different if she lived at the same time as Laura and Mary. The chapter had described how they did their laundry while camping with their covered wagon, and P's report mainly focused on how a mother would solve the problem of a child playing outside and getting dirty. Now that it's properly summer, this is an experience she and I have quite often, but she knew that back then the "just go put it all in the washing machine" solution wouldn't have worked. I feel like she's expressing herself more clearly and systematically than she did at the beginning of the school year.

Letter of the Law

Today, at lunch, we all happened to sit down together (Ari, P, E, both my inlaws, and myself). As is our custom, we all held hands as we gave thanks for the food. When this happens, the rule is that each child is to remain silent and hold the hands of the people adjacent to him/her, which prevents the child from digging into the food before the prayer is over. I had made open-faced sandwiches with peanut butter and honey for the kids, and after the prayer was over it was clear that E had only kept the letter of the law. A groove was evident in the peanut butter on his bread, and a long string of peanut butter hung from his nose.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Week 26, days 3 and 4

Wednesday: Math. Some days, the kids seem to resist me at every step, and this was one of them. We started the day with a game of Uno for E's benefit. His view was that it was fun; my view was that it helped him practice matching colours and numbers. However, after the game it was hard for both kids to settle down into paying attention. It may be better strategy to hold out game playing as a reward for good work. After our review, it was almost time to get ready for ballet, so we filled up the remaining time with "Addition War" - like regular War, but drawing 2 cards at a time and letting the greatest sum win. P found this difficult and thus not as enjoyable as regular War. I had removed all the face cards, but may also remove the 7s, 8s, and 9s to make it easier for her next time we play. In the evening, Ari commented that it sounded like I'd had a hard day with the kids, to which I heartily agreed. He suggested shutting them alone in their room if they refuse to do the things I ask them in school, until they're ready to receive the blessing I'm trying to give them.

Thursday: Bible. This was the next-to-last week of CBS, so soon we'll have more time on Thursdays for school. The kids learned about how Saul/Paul was let down from the walls of Damascus in a basket. I wish I knew where my personal photos from Damascus were, but I did describe to them visiting the traditional site (it includes a piece of artwork depicting Paul landing right next to a sleepy-looking Roman soldier, which my brother and I found a bit unconvincing). I introduced a new memory verse and catechism question, and then E wandered off downstairs. Since I generally include him in our calendar update, I asked P to do her reader instead. When she flatly refused twice, I used Ari's suggestion of leaving her alone in her room to entertain herself. It didn't take more than 60 seconds for her to come downstairs and inform me that, in my absence, she'd read her reader aloud to herself. I don't believe her to be deceptive, and I'm pleased with how well this strategy worked - she co-operated happily the remainder of the day. I hadn't made a 5-a-day worksheet for her, so I had her play with the Think-It-Through Tiles instead. We used one page from the book that came with it (a sequencing activity) and one page I made (an addition activity). I also taught her how to add a sequence of numbers that have differing numbers of digits (for example 120 + 3 + 34) and get them lined up correctly. She struggled a bit with this, so I plan to review it again today before putting it on a 5-a-day for her. When E returned upstairs, we updated our calendar and I read them the story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus and of the Great Commission. At the children's request, we also read "Please" and "The Girl Who Touched the Stars" from the Children's Book of Virtues, and I read them the first three chapters of Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder (they wouldn't let me stop at just one or two chapters). Stopping and reading a story when the kids start to get antsy is a good strategy, a fact I need to remember more often.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Week 26, day 2

Tuesday: Science. Today's theme at Titmouse Club was fish. The kids learned about some of the differences between fish and other aquatic creatures (whales, octopus), and how fishes' senses differ from ours. They painted pictures of fish to make fish puppets (by taping the pictures to popsicle sticks). On the nature walk, they had the opportunity to wave nets around in the water, resulting in their catching lots of mud. Net fishing requires more finesse than the average preschooler can muster.

Once home, P and E wanted to play with a new game E bought with birthday money from his great-grandparents. Chutes and Ladders has some educational value for a 4-year-old (counting, some adding, cause and effect), so I let them play the game until lunch. After lunch, we played again, and this time everyone seemed to hit every chute, so we ended up starting school later in the day than I'd hoped. While we were in the middle of our review items, my father-in-law came up to tell us that he wanted to show us some pictures of the volcano when we were ready for a break. I used this as incentive for P to stay focused on finishing her math 5-a-day.

The pictures were stunningly beautiful. My father-in-law talked to the kids about how, in some of the pictures, you could see the heavier rock particles raining out as the lighter ones rose in billows of ash (for example, in pictures 12 and 14 in the second link). We also discussed how it was hard for the people and animals to breathe through the ash, but how volcanic ash enriches the soil and helps plants to grow. Once we'd looked at the pictures, I decided to do an experiment with the kids to demonstrate static electricity (to give them some idea of why there's so much lightning correlated with the ash cloud). We blew up a balloon, rubbed it on a wool sweater, and made each child's hair stand up (even B's; he looked on with his standard expression of mild astonishment). I managed to get it to stick to the ceiling as well. I also ripped up a piece of paper into tiny scraps, and combed E's hair with a plastic comb which then picked up the scraps of paper. We tried to actually see a spark by rubbing 2 balloons on the wool and moving them closer to each other, but I suppose it was too humid - in any case, that experiment failed. I couldn't get the balloon to stick to the ceiling downstairs, which may mean it's more humid downstairs? It did pull the kids' hair up, though.

Later on, we read a library book about freshwater fish. The book contained much of the same information as the kids heard at Titmouse Club in more detail, but both kids sat still through the entire book. I was surprised, because I would have estimated it at about 3rd grade level, but when a child is interested in a subject you can never tell how much they'll be willing to concentrate. The book suggested an experiment in which you turn off the lights in your fish tank and the room it's in, and then turn on a flashlight next to the fish tank to see how the fish react. When we did this, each time most of our guppies seemed to slowly gravitate toward the light beam. We have more guppies than we can count. Yesterday the only female of the four we bought in August that didn't promptly turn belly up finally gave up the ghost. However, she probably gave birth to more than a hundred babies over the course of her lifetime (most of which became lunch for their fathers and half-siblings as well as for her), so I comforted a distraught P with the idea that the dead female had lived a full guppy life. Also, a number of the now-grown baby guppies are female, so there's hope that our guppy population will continue to be larger than we can count.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Week 25, day 3 and Week 26, day 1

Wednesday: Math. Since I turned Tuesday into a math day, I turned Wednesday into a science day. We went to Titmouse Club in the morning, where the theme was baby animals. They had tadpoles and a baby turtle in buckets of water, and birds' nests for the children to gently pass around and examine. The children made caterpillars out of pipe cleaners and beads, and on the nature walk we saw a snake and two frogs as well as releasing the tadpoles and turtle back into the wild. I had ideas for science experiments, but the children had other plans which turned out to be valuable as well. After our review items, they asked me to read How to Dig a Hole to the Other Side of the World. Then P asked me to teach her to tie a bow. It's a long time since we last bought her shoes that require this skill, but she's now old enough that I thought it wouldn't be an exercise in frustration to teach her. My mom got her an Usborne book with laces to practice tying on each page, and we went through the book tying each bow. She really needs much longer laces to practice with, because the ends kept getting pulled out with the loops, and the bows turned into square/granny knots. Nonetheless, it was a good learning experience for her, and by the end she was able to do it without much help from me.

Thursday and Friday: Camping! One of the advantages of homeschooling is that spontaneous vacations are easy to take. We'd been trying to get together with friends of ours who live in Austin for a camping trip, and this last weekend was the only one that would work for both our families. I had a commitment at church on Sunday morning, so we couldn't spend Saturday night camping, so we decided to make the 4-hour drive to Enchanted Rock worthwhile by camping Thursday night as well as Friday. It rained a lot. Ari used an entire container of lighter fluid to get the fire going on Thursday night as the skies poured down torrents on the wood, but we ended up being able to roast our hot dogs and heat our sauerkraut (a family tradition for our first dinner on a camping trip). Both kids climbed to the top of Enchanted Rock without help both on Friday and on Saturday, but more impressive is that our friends' 2 oldest kids also managed on Saturday, and their oldest is younger than E. Their baby was born less than 3 weeks after B, so a lot of our time was spent chasing after the total of 6 little ones, but it was really great to be able to spend time with them (particularly on Friday night after all the littles were asleep). Camping, and life in general, is educational in itself. I helped P and E recognize quartz and feldspar in the granite of Enchanted Rock, and when I asked P what kind of places plants were able to grow on the rock, she correctly answered, "The places where soil can get stuck." On the drive to Enchanted Rock, Ari talked to the kids about nuclear weapons and how they helped end WWII, but how the stockpiles that the USA and Russia amassed later on made the Cold War more scary. Back home on Sunday, E commented, "I'm glad the Cold War is over." I'm guessing most 4-year-olds aren't familiar enough with the history to feel that way.

Monday: Language Arts. Today went fairly smoothly. On P's math 5-a-day, I only had 4 concepts to review, so for the 5th question I wrote, "Play a game with Mommy!" The game involved colouring in squares on a hundreds chart to make a picture. I called out the number to shade, and P shaded it without help while I showed E where to shade his. The result was, in the first case, a smiley face, and in the second case, a candle. Both kids enjoyed this activity, and it's good for number recognition, so I can see us doing it again in the future. For language arts, the new letter was V, so while we were making our letter sheet, we discussed the volcano in Iceland and how it's wreaking havoc on European flights. P read her reader easily and happily did her copywork under the table. I assume by the time she's ready for college the thrill of working upside down will have worn off, so I've decided to let her do it as long as she wants and it doesn't damage the quality of her work. She was supposed to write a "Fairy Tale Smash-Up", taking characters from 2 fairy tales and putting them together into a single story. In her story, Goldilocks arrived to help Cinderella get ready for the ball and thought the fairy godmother's choice of dress would make Cinderella too cold, or too hot, or just right. P has something of an obsession with Cinderella. There were serious tears over my putting my foot down and refusing to let them watch the Disney Cinderella movie this morning, so my refusal extended to the remainder of the day and probably tomorrow, certainly if the crying didn't stop. Since we don't own a TV, we haven't made any kind of rule limiting screen time, but Ari's aunt loaned us a pile of videos (including Cinderella) and the kids have become rather addicted. It's time for us to establish clear limits, I think. Imaginative play and story reading is so much better for them.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Week 25, day 2

Tuesday: Science. Actually, I decided to switch Tuesday and Wednesday this week and do math today. Titmouse Club is available on both Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and I was invited to a women's meeting at church this morning. Since my mother-in-law is out of town until tomorrow afternoon, I can take the kids to Titmouse Club tomorrow instead. After the meeting at church was over, we did all our review items. I'm impressed at how easily P is reading her readers now compared to how she did at the beginning of the year. Sonlight's readers are going at just the right pace for her so that she feels confident each time she picks up a new reader. For our math lesson, I didn't introduce a new concept, but worked on the idea of "fact families". For example, 1+4=5, 4+1=5, 5-1=4, 5-4=1. The Math on the Level Yahoo group tipped me off to the idea of "fact family hexagons" - you put the 3 numbers in the family on a hexagon on 3 of the 6 sides. Then you make a "hexagon house" that covers one of the sides, and the child has to come up with the hidden number to complete the family. The orientation of the number on the hexagon gives you a clue as to whether you need to add or subtract. We made a few hexagons and worked through why they work using Cuisenaire Rods. By lunch, P had had enough, so school was over for the day.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Week 25, day 1

Monday: Language Arts. For most of the morning, P seemed to have the attitude of Kipling's commissariat camels ("Can't! Don't! Shan't! Won't! Pass it along the line!"). We took it slowly, and our school time oozed into the afternoon, but we got through all I had planned for the day. First she finished her Russia book from Friday with pictures of Sputnik, onion-shaped domes on a cathedral, and a Russian brown bear. After reviewing the memory verse, updating the calendar, and doing her math 5-a-day, she did most of the worksheets left over from last week's language arts. When it came to this week's copywork, she announced that she would copy the words, but not read them. At that point, B had a need (he seems to have produced 3 times his normal amount of diaper-related output today), and when I got back from changing him, P had finished the entire copywork. I diplomatically finagled an agreement out of her that she would read what she'd written before doing her reader, and she did both sets of reading easily and confidently. After lunch, we looked at a book of poetry and P wrote her first (unrhymed) poem. It used good imagery: the grass and wind play with fallen leaves like children playing with toys. I was pleased with her. We then had to read almost the entire remainder of the poems in the book, but they're lots of fun so I didn't mind. We played "Go A to Z", a variation on "Go Fish" that uses alphabet cards, as well as a memory matching game with capital and lowercase letter cards. That officially ended school for the day, but P wanted to play War and E wanted me to read the Berenstain Bears' Big Book of Science and Nature. I ended up reading 2 entire sections: "Nature Walk" and "Science Fair". This took until almost time to start making dinner, but the kids wanted to make Papa Bear's balloon-propelled jet. I had tried this several times with no success, so I decided to delight them with a different demo. I cut a piece of drinking straw, threaded it onto a string, stretched the string across the room and attached it to the walls with tape, blew up a balloon but didn't tie it, taped the balloon to the straw, and let go. The balloon was supposed to fly along the string like a rocket. After a few attempts I discovered that the ideal nozzle angle is for the open end to be aimed up so the balloon tries to fly down instead of up and into a spin. It worked beautifully once I figured that out. The kids, inspired by the balloon idea, went outside and got each other soaking wet with water balloons while I cooked dinner, so my demo even indirectly kept them out from under my feet. Score!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Week 24, days 4 and 5

We didn't do school on Wednesday. It was my birthday, and during school time Ari had scheduled a flight lesson for me! Hooray! Once I've filled out the "Alien Flight Student Program" paperwork (certifying that I don't have a terrorist's fingerprints) I can start taking regular lessons and hopefully get my private pilot's license. This is exciting! When I was a teenager in Jordan, I flew gliders but never got to solo. I was bitter at the chauvanism that was largely to blame for this, but always wanted to take it up again once I was in a place where I was likely to succeed. That's what the USA is known for, and here I am! Ari had to convince me that it was an okay thing to do with our money, but it'll basically cost our tax return, so I've quit arguing and I'm really happy I get to do it.

Thursday: Bible and music. We actually didn't get to doing P's piano lesson or other music, though we did review both our hymns (Holy, Holy, Holy and Up From the Grave He Arose). E has thoroughly memorized the words to Up From the Grave, and yells it with excitement repeatedly. I like this a good deal better than his dragon roaring. We introduced a new catechism question and memory verse. We read the Resurrection story and about Thomas' doubts. Since we didn't do our math day on Wednesday, I acquiesced to P's request and taught Roman numerals. She was interested in this because the grandfather clock downstairs has Roman numerals instead of regular ones, and P was unable to tell time on it. So I introduced the numerals from I to XII, and she grasped the pattern quickly. I explained IV as "one before five" and XII as "two after ten", etc, and she remembered the pattern the next day and told me. Once we'd gone over the numerals once or twice, we went downstairs, I pulled up a chair in front of the clock so she could get close enough to see, and she went around and told me what all the numbers were, twice. I really enjoyed teaching her a math concept that was already relevant to her daily life.

Friday: Geography. This week's country was Russia. We marked it on our Markable Map (P was able to write Russia inside the country, since it was big enough for her handwriting to fit, and I had E trace the borders). We read the story of Baba Yaga from Stories From Around the World after I reassured them that it would end happily. A year ago, I knew P was not ready for it, but now she enjoyed it. E got scared in the middle, so I reassured him that it would all end well for the main character. We also read the story of the persistent frog in The Lion Storyteller Bedtime Book, in which a frog trapped in a pitcher of cream keeps kicking until it turns into butter and he can hop out. We looked at a library book about Russia, and ended up in an in-depth discussion of the Cold War. Ari, who was editing in the next room, found our discussion so riveting that he left his work and joined in. At first both P and E thought the Cold War referred to all Napoleon's troops dying of cold (there was a dramatic picture of that in the book), which I thought was a completely reasonable conclusion to come to. To clarify, I made the analogy of a fire, all set up and ready to blaze as soon as a match was lit, being a "cold fire". The kids have helped Ari make fires in the fireplace often enough that this was a helpful mental picture for them. We also talked about the space race - since this was my obsession throughout childhood, the fact that the book we used barely mentioned Sputnik didn't cramp my style any. P started making a book about Russia - she wrote the title, drew the flag, coloured a map I drew, and drew ballet dancers and a matreshka doll (the Russian nesting dolls). I meant for her to finish it today, but instead we all went on a 4.5 mile hike along the bayou, which was thoroughly worthwhile.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Week 24, day 2

Tuesday: Science. We had fun today! The theme at Titmouse Club was butterflies, and the children were given milkweed plants to take home as well as doing a butterfly craft. On the nature walk we saw two large frogs and two water snakes. Very cool. On P's 5-a-day math review we discussed how 9-7=2 and 9-2=7, and investigated similar patterns. After lunch, I read most of the Eloise Wilkin Stories to P and E while B napped. When he finally woke up, we headed to HMNS to enjoy the butterfly center. It was really a fantastic place - I'd never been there before (it costs extra, but totally worth it). There's a "hall of entomology" before you get into the butterfly greenhouse, with a wide variety of impressive live insects in plexiglass cages - Atlas beetles, hissing cockroaches, giant katydids, jewel scarab beetles, and more. The butterfly greenhouse itself had probably 30 different species of butterflies, about half of which we saw today. The kids observed the proboscis on several butterflies extending as they fed and then curling up once they were done. They also saw a beehive where you could see the bees hard at work putting their honey into the comb and flying out through a sealed tube to the outside to gather nectar. In addition, there was a large caged green iguana (it was actually orange, but the species name is green), which coexists with the butterflies because it is herbivorous. They let it out at night after the visitors are gone, lest it bite in self-defense. Once we got back to the hall of entomology, we noticed that there was a chrysalis section with several hundred chrysalids in the process of metamorphosis. We saw a freshly emerged butterfly whose wings were still completely crumpled, and one that was almost ready to fly but still just a touch wrinkled. When the butterfly center closed, the rest of the museum was still open, so we went to the hall of gems and minerals. A docent informed me that it was the best in the world, and I'm willing to believe him - it's arranged in stunning beauty, darkened except for individual lights illuminating each impressive mineral sample. It's fascinating for someone like me with some geology background, and eye candy for small children as well. If I didn't have small people to keep track of, I could stay all day, and P would have been willing to stay longer, but E was getting restless, so we went home.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Week 24, day 1

Monday: Language Arts. This morning, we spent a good half hour outside before breakfast. For Easter, the kids were given, among other things, wire mesh boxes for capturing bugs (with several chocolate bugs inside, which were removed and eaten). So once everyone was clothed, we headed outside to collect pill bugs and earwigs from the decaying wood chip pile left over from Hurricane Ike. I actually pulled about 200 weeds (literally, I counted them) from my square foot garden, which is designed to be weed free unless you stupidly place it directly under a reproductively precocious bush in the springtime before moving it to a new state. I made a bit of a dent in the number of weeds, maybe getting 40% of them.

We started school at a decent time, reviewing our hymn ("Up From the Grave He Arose") which the kids both sang with enthusiasm. We went over our memory verse and catechism question from last week, updated our calendar, and P did her math worksheet. This was a review week for language arts, so P did a few review worksheets before getting tired of that amount of seatwork. She read her new reader with hardly any difficulty, and did all of the copywork for the week. She mostly did it upside-down under the table, but her handwriting was as tidy as when she was sitting properly, so I'm categorizing this habit as "reason #x to homeschool". By the time she'd finished that, both P and E were super restless, B was waking up from his nap, and I decided that we'd done enough school for the day. However, P and E were given Peter Rabbit chocolate bunnies and post-it notes by my parents (thanks, Mom!) and we read the stories of Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddle-Duck from our Beatrix Potter treasury. I need to make more of an effort to read stories like that to them, because we all enjoy it.

Also, The Onion makes me laugh. It made me think of this post on outsourcing parenthood.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Week 23, day 5

Friday: Geography. It being Good Friday, I baked hot cross buns in the morning and we had a late, leisurely breakfast. Then Ari read the crucifixion account in Mark aloud to the 4 of us (B was asleep, but he wouldn't have understood it anyway). By this time it was fairly late in the morning, but we did all our review items and started on geography. We looked at the rest of Europe this week - since I don't know a whole lot about Central and Eastern Europe, and I'd like to get to the rest of the planet this year, I lumped it all together. We labelled the correct region of the Markable Map "Central and Eastern Europe", and glanced at the several atlas pages covering that region. I had found library books on Marie Curie (from Poland), a family that moved to the USA in the early part of the 20th century to escape the pogroms in Poland, and on traditional festivals in the Czech Republic, in addition to books about Poland and the Czech Republic. Since I spent 4 days in Prague while I was an exchange student in Denmark, I was able to add interesting details and personal stories to some of the pictures of the Czech Republic, so P decided to make her book about the Czech Republic. She wrote the title (we discussed how Czech spelling conventions are different from in English, and I told her about my amusement at the Czech word for ice cream: "zmrzlina" - apparently vowels play a different role in the Czech language than in English). She coloured a flag and a map I drew (showing the shape of the Czech Republic in the middle of Europe). She also drew pictures, including the Charles Bridge, a beer, a woman engraving a crystal bowl, and a castle. For dinner, we made Czech potato pancakes from a recipe in one of the books.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Week 23, days 3 and 4

Wednesday: Math. After finishing our daily review, I went over 2-digit subtraction with P again, with manipulatives (beans in groups of 10 glued to popsicle sticks, and individual beans). We then worked several problems on the board, and she made up a few by herself. I told her to make each digit in the second number smaller than its corresponding digit in the first number, and as a result she was able to solve all the problems she came up with. She then worked several pages of a Kumon workbook with dot-to-dots and colour-by-numbers. The dot-to-dots went from 1 to 70, and she enjoyed the challenge. Meanwhile, E did a few pages of his Kumon mazes workbook, which he did fairly well.

Thursday: Bible and Music. Today was packed full of activity. We went to CBS in the morning (I reviewed our hymns on the way), and the kids learned about Jesus' resurrection. Their craft involved a piece of card shaped like a cross, which they folded into a cube to represent a tomb containing only a piece of paper with the words, "Hallelujah! He is risen!". I intend to read the Crucifixion story with them tomorrow when we eat hot cross buns. In the afternoon, Ari and I had an appointment we couldn't bring the kids along for, and then we went to a friend's house for tea. She's a British lady from our church who lived in Dubai in the 1980s, and we really enjoy her and have a lot in common with her. When we got home at about 5pm, the kids played in the sprinklers for a while before getting cold and coming inside. I decided to skip our calendar update, and to just have P do her copywork and math worksheet. She has now grasped the two-digit subtraction, but it confused her that I also asked her to solve 12-8 (she got 6, by answering 8-2 instead). I explained why that didn't work, and she solved it using manipulatives instead. This will take practice, I think.