Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Jackson Pollock

Yesterday the kids had a museum program, led by the amazing Ms Anne, all about the abstract "action painting" artist, Jackson Pollock. Ms Anne read a book about Pollock's life, and showed prints of some of his paintings (which the kids had fun interpreting what they saw in them). They discussed how each painting made them feel.

They then got to practice the sorts of things Pollock did to create his "action paintings". Here the kids use wands (which they pretended were paint brushes) with streamers (which they pretended were paint) to create "paintings" in the air.

Next, they created 'drip paintings' on the floor by dropping and throwing various colored pieces of yarn.

Then they used a computer program featured on a website about Jackson Pollock to create a cooperative work of art -- each kid got a turn adding colored drips and splotches to their creation.

And finally, and of course best of all, they got to create their own action paintings. There were a whole rainbow of paint colors to choose from, and dozens of different sorts of "tools" to use for applying the paint. The kids really got into it. Eventually Zoo Boy abandoned the provided tools and used his hands instead.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Part of the kids' Museum Explorers class this week was making butter. The fabulous Ms Nicky showed a couple of styles of butter churns, including a glass one that the kids made their butter in, starting with heavy cream.

First they discussed where the cream came from. They learned proper milking technique on "Chester", the museum's plastic cow. Then they took turns shaking the cream up before pouring it into the butter churn.

Zoo Boy takes a turn at the churn. Each of the kids had several turns. Ms Nicky had several turns. The moms in the room got at least one turn each. We were just starting to worry that it wasn't going to happen before class ended, when suddenly, voila! It was butter!

Ms Nicky carefully separates out the butter and the buttermilk. She put the butter into cups for the kids to take home (and add a bit of salt to so that it tastes more like what they are used to from the store), and let kids sample the buttermilk (which was to most of their likings), and sent home the rest of it with a mom who wanted to make buttermilk pancakes out of it.

J proudly displays his butter. We brought both boys' butter home, spread it on bread, and enjoyed it!

monday classes

Our Museum Explorers class this week focused on the farm. The Fabulous Ms Nicky introduced the kids to farm helpers, such as this corn snake, in addition to traditional farm animals (via plastic museum replicas) and the various vegetables grown on farms.

The kids meet some real live farm animals, a pair of chickens. They also made butter (which I will blog about next -- it was cool enough to deserve it's own post!).

In our munchkins class, Zoo Boy worked diligently to decorate his ocean-themed coat hook.

The finished hook -- I'm impressed with his out-of-the-box thinking, making the purple dolphin jump out of the water (up the hook post).

The Map Man helped Zoo Boy hang the hook at an appropriate height, and now Zoo Boy proudly hangs up his own jacket. Wish I'd thought of this sooner, sure beats him dropping his jacket on the stairs!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

summary week #29, spring #5

It was another incredible week weather-wise, with temps more like those found in June than in mid-April. We of course took advantage and spent as much time outdoors as possible!! Here's a photo of J and his buddy B walking past Zoo Boy along the lake that borders the museum property, where they played three times this week.

The kids check out a Madagascar Hissing Cockroach at their Earth Day classes. They also had their usual weekly homeschool classes, and a great private class at our favorite park about vernal pools. It was a classy sort of week!

Zoo Boy, ready to head out to the vernal pool.

We started our new Adventure Circle, Five Little Ducks, this week, and it was a big hit with the kids. I'll try to get a post up about it this coming week. We'll do it for at least 3 weeks, maybe longer depending on how things are going. Our curriculum story this week was "Tiddelick the Frog", an Aborigine folk tale about a giant ill-humored frog who drank all the world's water, and what the animals finally did to get him to release it. Seemed like a natural for Earth Day week!

J scooping up water critters in the vernal pool.

I've been reading through some of the Enki Education 1st Grade materials this week, in preparation of starting a 1st Grade block for J in a couple of weeks. I had been hoping that we could do a combined 1st grade for the boys, but recently I have been having the feeling that J is ready for "more" now, and I know in my heart that Zoo Boy is only just now really ready for the K materials, so will need a full year of K next year. So I'll try to balance working in the two grades and hopefully be able to combine them back together again during 2nd and 3rd grade. Of course, I'm sure both kids will dabble in what the other is doing as we go along anyway.

The weekend was both fun and educational. We attended a sheep and wool festival, and went to a family member's cooking-themed birthday party, where the boys got to make cookies and decorate potholders, place mats, and aprons. Fun was had by all!

Family Story Time books this week were Rooster's Off to See the World, by Eric Carle; The Tin Forest, by Helen Ward and Wayne Anderson (my very favorite story book about recycling, and using imagination and ingenuity to create beauty out of junk!); and The Princess in the Forest, by Sibylle von Olfers.

wool festival

Finally! The last of this week's catch up posts. Hopefully I can figure out a way to blog about all the fun, educational opportunities we keep coming across in a more timely manner so nobody has to wade through acres of posts! But, in the meantime, keep scrolling down and reading to find out about the rest of our adventures this past week!

Saturday we took the kids to a local sheep and wool festival. Here is J, the Llama, ready to learn how wool goes from a fiber animal and eventually becomes a sweater (or a hat, or a purse, or a felted toy....)

Zoo Boy (in the front in the blue) checks out some 4-H sheep. Both boys were really interested in both the sheep and how that wool growing on them gets removed and processed into usable things. Even though they are growing up on a sheep farm, our current flock are hair sheep, which means they don't produce any wool, so this was the first chance for the boys to really see this side of shepherding.

Zoo Boy finds a good perch to watch the sheep shearing. The Map Man and I have decided to buy the boys their own wool lamb this year so that they can explore the entire process themselves. At one time I ran a small cottage industry selling wool from our sheep (and rabbits), but we disbanded the business when the kids were born (just too many strains on our time). But I've always planned to get back to it someday, and this seems like a fine time to at least introduce the kids to one of the coolest things going -- growing and eventually wearing your own wool!

One of the sheep being sheared. After watching the wool being removed, we watched some people carding wool, then the spinners turning it to yarn, and also plying it. We then visited various people throughout the festival who were dyeing, knitting, crocheting, weaving, and felting. By the time we were done, we'd seen just about every way of using wool imaginable! The kids were interested throughout.

Of course, their favorite part of the day were the ox cart rides! But we're not buying them a team of oxen. Well, at least not this year....

vernal pool adventure

Our little Friday social group arranged a class through our favorite park to study vernal pools. So on Friday we donned our waders, grabbed our nets, and headed out to a vernal pool in the park to see what we could find! Ms. Catherine, one of the park's educators, headed up the adventure, and brought along plenty of containers to get a close-up view of our finds, and field guides to help identify them.

Zoo Boy enthusiastically plunged in, and found a variety of interesting critters, including a wood frog, a newt (in the eft stage), and a dead Northern Water Snake. He also literally plunged in literally -- he eventually fell in (inevitable, really, given that his waders were at least 3 sizes too large for him) and spent the 2nd half of the class without pants.

J examines the muck he pulled up off he bottom of the vernal pool. He found a really cool Predatious Water Beetle, as well as some mosquito larvae, and a spring peeper tadpole. Ms Catherine caught a couple of spring peepers for us to look at as well. She also brought us some skunk cabbage leaves to smell. Cracked me up how everyone was clamoring to take a whiff on her cue of "oh, this smells just awful!"

Ms Catherine helps the kids identify the critters they caught. Zoo Boy, now pantless, wanted to know the names of everything and spent quite a bit of time watching them in the tray. Before we left, we released all the amphibians back into the pool, rid ourselves of the dead water snake, and then packaged up the invertebrates and some plant samples to examine more closely back at that nature center.

Back at the center, the kids looked at some of their smaller finds under the microscope. What a fabulous class!

Later that evening, I asked the kids what they learned at the vernal pools class. J said that he learned how to catch water creatures in a vernal pool using nets, and rattled off a few of the names of what we caught. Zoo Boy said that he caught a giant salamander and rode on it's back around the vernal pool. Hm. I must have been looking the other way when that happened.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

earth week

I apologize about the plethora of posts -- I've already posted here and here about the beginning of our week. This will be the last "catch up" post for today, but I have a couple more to do tomorrow as well. Bear with me!

Tuesday was Earth Day. In preparation, J and Zoo Boy baked "earth" cookies (sugar cookies dipped in green and blue sugars). The cookies were cute (and yummy!) and we shared them with Zoo Boy's homeschool preschool class on Monday (which was on the theme of Earth Day).

On Tuesday and Thursday, the boys participated in a 2-part class at the museum entitled "Earth Day, Every Day". On Tuesday, the topic was global warming and how it affects endangered species. Here the kids meet an endangered species -- a Box Turtle.

Ms. Sarah and the kids set up an experiment about the melting polar ice -- they made an iceberg (by floating an ice cube in water) and a glacier (a funnel between the ice and water, acting like the insulating properties of the earth's surface). By the end of the class, the iceberg was completely gone, the glacier was hardly melted at all. Which is bad news for Polar Bears, who depend on ice flows to catch their primary food source (seals).

At the end of the class, the kids donned painting smocks and painted reusable canvas lunch bags with fabric paints. (That's Zoo Boy in the front left corner and J in the front right.) They were pretty proud of their bags, and can't wait for an opportunity to take a picnic lunch somewhere in them.

On Thursday, the class resumed, the topic being recycling. The kids spent the bulk of the class making self-directed projects out of a vast selection of "garbage" materials. I was thrilled to see both of my guys dive into creativity with reckless abandon.

playin' with the Podunks

Monday's Museum Explorers class was all about the Podunks, the Native American tribe that lived on the farm lands of The Five Mile Tract, as it was called back then, prior to the European Settlers moving in. The fabulous Ms Anne showed the kids all sorts of really cool artifacts that really helped them get a feel for what it was like living life as a Podunk.

J tries out the heavy mortar and pestle, both made from rock. These were used by the Podunks for grinding foods, such as corn to make flour. They also passed around baskets and pieces of bowls used for food gathering and cooking, and a hollowed-out gourd that was used for carrying water.

Zoo Boy checks out the museum's collection of arrowheads. They also got to handle an axe head, which was quite large, and were able to try their hand at using a flaking tool (made from a deer antler) to shape a piece of quartz the way the Podunks did. We also examined earrings and pendants that the Podunks made by shaping rocks and smoothing them. And we got to play with "stone dolls", pieces of stalactites that the Podunk children found and played with.

The kids especially enjoyed using some of the instruments that the Podunks made, like this drum (made from an animal hide stretches across a round from a tree trunk), and the rain stick (made from plant materials).

We also found out that the Podunks didn't last long after the European Settlers arrived -- they had made enemies amongst the other local tribes prior this time period and were absorbed by other cultures fairly quickly once the Settlers began occupying their lands. Sad to think that a once thriving culture could have disappeared so quickly.

our week and what we did with it

Yes, I know! I've been missing in action this week. But between the ridiculously beautiful weather (which is coming to a crashing halt today), starting with our new Five Little Ducks adventure circle (details to follow at some point!), and preparing to start with some 1st grade Enki Education work for J, there's just been no time to get on line and write about it all! But the camera shutter was clicking away, and I'll spend some time over the next couple of days catching up. Meanwhile, here's how we spent much of our week:

We did a bunch of this.

And a little of this.

And some more of this.

And a whole lot of this.

The stuff we did in between I'll blog about in the next several posts!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

spring break

Since we didn't take much of an educational break last week, during our "planned" spring break, we decided to actually take a BREAK this week and spend as much time as possible just hanging around doing nothing. We succeeded fairly well, although honestly, I'm sure just as much learning happened this week as any other. But anyway, this was our OFFICIAL spring break week.

Every day this week, the weather was absolutely GORGEOUS, and we took good advantage of it by spending a large chunk of time each day outdoors. We started the week by noting some of the signs of spring in our own yard, and taking a trip to our favorite park for a nice hike in the woods as well as some visiting with friends.

The following day we trekked up to Forest Park to check out the zoo, meet some new animals friends, spend some time playing on the playground, and just soak up the sun and warm temps.

Wednesday the boys spent a day with The Map Man at Stanley Park, doing some hiking, some exploring, and some playing. We also got some visiting with family in during the later afternoon/early evening.

Thursday we hooked up with homeschooling friends for some playground fun, and another great hike at the Laurel Marsh.

Friday and Saturday were just spent hanging around the farm, catching up on spring chores and doing our best imitation of home-bodies.

I had to laugh when I looked at the long-range forecast for the coming week. Another gorgeous week is predicted. Is there no end to the beautiful spring weather??? It's bound to rain at SOME point, April showers and all....

Saturday, April 19, 2008

spring heat wave

Whew! We've got a bit of a heat wave going on around here, boasting our first days in shorts. It's a little TOO warm, in fact, but I assure you, I'll take this over icy winter weather! So will the sheep, who are happy to see the grass growing again. I'm personally more excited about the forsythia in bloom!

The boys have spent quite a bit of time just bumming about the farm yesterday and today. It's good weather for that, I have a lot of post-winter clean up type work to do, and they do a good job of keeping themselves occupied yet always within shouting distance. I'm not real sure what they are up to in this photo, but after taking the picture I wandered closer to get a look and wound up only seeing this:

Hm. Those smiles look a little TOO innocent, if you ask me!

The heat didn't keep them in shade, though, and they stripped off their shirts when they got too warm.

"Is it summer yet?" Zoo Boy has been asking every day since the last of the snow melted away. He can't wait to go swimming at the lake again. Soon enough, my little water bug, soon enough.