Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween! (and eleven)

The kids are ready to roll -- Dinosaur J and Skeleton Zoo Boy say to have a very Happy and Safe Halloween!

Also, a reminder to you folks, there have been some Halloween Candy recalls recently, due to the Melamine problem -- if you good on "candy recall" you'll get about a thousand hits to relevant sites. But basically anything put out by the major candy manufacturers (Hershey, M&M mars, etc) is considered "safe". (Well, not poisonous anyway, I don't think anyone's teeth or waistlines are safe!!) Our basic tactic will be to toss out anything not from one of those companies.

And as a special Halloween Treat, here is our brief study of the number "11" from today -- the significance of which is it's the first number with repeating digits, so we really didn't have too much to say about it other than to just do a drawing that represents the number. In keeping with the holiday spirit, we did a drawing of 11 pumpkins. This first one is mine.

This next one is J's. Neither boy decided to turn their pumpkins into Jack-o-Lanterns. My guess is that had more to do with all of J's new toys calling to them than the fact that they wanted to keep their pumpkins in tact.

Here's Zoo Boy's pumpkins. He took special care to make sure that each pumpkin had a different kind of stem (although it looks like I managed to cut the stem off of the two little pumpkins at the top of the page).


From tiny egg to life on earth,
Nine is the months until our birth.

based on Number Quality Verses, Enki Education 1st Grade Academic Activity

The last of our digits, we covered "9" during the 2nd half of this week. We read the story "The Golden Apples and the Nine Peahens", a Bulgarian Folk Tale about the youngest of 3 sons who discovered the thieves of his father's golden apples -- a flock of nine peahens, led by a magical peahen who transformed herself into a princess to talk with the prince. After 3 nights of visiting with her, the peahen princess is driven off by a witch, so the prince visits her at a lake for 3 nights, then follows her to the castle in which she lives (where they fall in love, get married, and live happily ever after, of course!). It's a lovely story, and the kids again were on the edge of their seats for it, and did a great job with a thorough recall the next day. We discussed the fact that 9 is a triplet -- it is 3 sets of 3. In the story, we found the obvious 9 (the peahens), and then the triplet (3 sons, 3 nights under the apple tree, 3 nights at the lake).

I suggested a led-drawing from the story, since the only significant "9" we could think of in our lives was the length of human gestation which, while cool enough, is a little beyond the scope of what I was looking for us to draw as a simple representative of "9"! We also discussed that 9 is the last single digit. Here's my drawing, of the 9 peahens in the golden apple tree. (The peahen princess, not yet transformed to her human form, sits with the prince.)

J was only too happy to have a led-drawing, and drew his own version of what those peahens were doing. He took it a step further and went ahead and depicted the transformation of the ninth peahen into the princess. (He also told me ahead of time what the princess looked like in his mind -- very descriptive, and VERY cool to have that sort of proof of his comprehension of the stories!)

The Map Man had taken the day off from work to help us celebrate J's birthday yesterday, so he played along and did his own story drawing.

Zoo Boy chose NOT to draw anything at all, but rather wrote the words "J next year", indicating that the "9" to him represented J's age as of his NEXT birthday.

We drew our "9"s today, along with our dots, and a 9-pointed star. One of the things about "9" that we discussed is that it's three tripled. (Three sets of "3".) So our 9-pointed star was three sets of a triangle (our geometric figure for 3). As I showed what we were drawing, Zoo Boy asked for dots to follow, then showed his own understanding of the triplets -- he said to indicate the order to follow the dots in, I could us 1, 2, 3; A,B,C; and Do Re Mi. Pretty clever, I thought!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

pigs and politics

Ok, I just couldn't resist combining these two topics. Here's a photo of our brand new piglets, who we picked up from the farm where J celebrated his birthday today. I resisted the temptation to name them after politically relevant figures, and instead let Zoo Boy pick out their names. I'd like to introduce Red Oak (on the right) and White Oak (on the left), or as The Map Man fondly refers to them, The Oak Sisters.

And now for one last political comment before the elections. You all know how I'm voting. I'm pretty sure I know how you all are voting (well, those of you that I actually know anyway!). But I came across a link to an article on Jennifer's blog that I hope she won't mind if I swipe from her, because I thought it was good enough to share with all of my friends -- Reps, Dems, and everyone in between. It's written from a Christian point of view, but I hope that won't stop any non-Christians from reading it -- I certainly found plenty of common ground with the author, and it helped remind me that there really IS quite a lot of common ground to be found between even those of us with extremely opposite political and religious beliefs. I would ask that each of you read this before you go into the polls on Tuesday, and make your own list of "moral priorities" and think about how the candidate you are voting for stacks up.

Click here to go to the article "My Personal 'Faith' Priorities for this Election," by Jim Wallis.

And while I'm stealing interesting and thought-provoking political items from Jennifer, here's a really cool on-line quiz to test your Political Compass. I fall in the same political quadrant as the Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, and Ghandi. That sounds about right.

Educate yourself. And vote. It's your voice -- use it!

J's birthday today!

My baby is eight, I can't even believe it....

We celebrated with some homeschooling friends at a small local farm stand, where they have a petting zoo, a corn maze, a hay maze, a pumpkin patch, etc. They were wrapping things up for the season (they close tomorrow), so we had the entire place to ourselves.

We also had a private hay ride, which was a bunch of fun. The guy even took us twice around, just because.

J's guests all crowded 'round while he opened his presents. From left to right we have J, Fluffy, Zoo Boy, R, Little J, D, and B. It was a fun group of kids!

Those specks way down there in the corn field/maze?? That's my kids. Uh huh.

They spent a lot of time playing in the entrance of the hay maze, where there was a great big pile of straw, just perfect for scrambling over and creating "hay bombs" to throw at each other.

As you can see from the photos, we had a gorgeous -- but chilly -- day, and fun seemed to be had by all.


A rainbow of colors across the heavens,
And therein lies the magic of seven.

from Number Qualities Verse, Enki Education 1st Grade Academic Activity

The first half of this week was spent exploring the number seven. We read the classic Western European Fairy Tale "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" to introduce seven, and the kids were on the edge of their seats during the telling. They followed up with a very detailed recall the next day, and enthusiastically identified the "7"s (there were many!) in the story, as well as readily finding two significant "7"s in their lives -- the 7 days of the week, and the 7 colors of the rainbow.

As has been my routine, I chose to draw from the story, but also brought the significance of the rainbow into my drawing as well. Although neither of the kids chose to draw from the story with me, both were very interested in watching how my drawing progressed and made suggestions and comments the entire time.

Both of the kids decided to draw rainbows as well, but each had their own personal take on the concept. J drew a "rainbow of eyes", as he called it. I'm not sure of the significance of the eyes (there are seven, each in a color of the rainbow), and honestly, they creep me out a little, but you sure can't fault the kid on originality.

Zoo Boy went with a more traditionally shaped rainbow, but as you see, he added his own energy to the way the colors were represented on the page. He also added the words "my brother" which, though perhaps seeming as deep as J's drawing, really only meant that J was 7 years old -- for one more day.

Here is Zoo Boy's written number "7", as well as his dots and his geometric figure. J's are above.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

week #3, block #2 (school year week #7)

It was the 3rd week of our first math block, and we continued our work on Number Qualities with the story "The Evil Giant" (which J summarized and illustrated here), which led us to a discussion on doubling, and we worked with the numbers "6", "8" and "10". We continued using our Pumpkin Patch Adventure Circle on most days, occasionally choosing to replace it with an organic circle on our morning walk, depending on the day and the weather. It was unseasonably warm this week, so we needed to take advantage of the mild weather as much as possible. Practice work for the week included handwriting practice, Zoo Boy's reading book, Pumpkin Pumpkin by Jean Titherington, and J's reading book Owl at Home, by Arnold Lobel .

Zoo Boy enjoys flipping through his Good Book to review the numbers we've already covered.

On Monday we had our Homeschool classes. We had our Community Circle with a small but enthusiastic group, and J and I learned a new Folk Dance. Then Zoo Boy attended my Paws-n-Claws class, where the topic was Canada Geese, while J played soccer.

Tuesday and Wednesday we stuck close to home, and got a lot less accomplished than I would have thought we would. Some days are just like that, and Zoo Boy and I were still getting over our colds. On Thursday, the boys had a really great museum class about owls. And on Friday, as pictured here, we met some friends at a playground/park, and the kids had a fun time hanging out with their friends R and little J, fellow homeschoolers. It was a gorgeous day, the last we might get for awhile, and we took good advantage of it.

Friday evening found us sitting fire-side, as usual, with a big bowl of popcorn (also as usual!) to read our Nature Story for the week. This week it was "Little People", from the Enki 1st Grade Nature Stories collection. The kids liked the story, but I didn't have any time to follow up with recall or artistic story work the next day, so it was mostly just something to read by the fire this week, a cute tale about fairy folk and how they use their mushroom friends as protection against being seen by "big feet" (people).

On Saturday night we went to a costume party, and the kids declared Sunday as "Pumpkin Day" and came up with some fun activities for that. Also on Sunday, we had a visit from an internet friend of mine -- here's a photo of my friend J and I during that visit. I just love getting to meet my cyber-friends in real life! Thanks for coming up, J!

Story Time books for this week were Pumpkin Day, by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace; Leaf Man, by Lois Ehlert; and Fletcher and the Falling Leaves, by Julia Rawlinson, illustrated by Tiphanie Beeke. Our chapter book was Owls in the Family, by Farley Mowat, which the kids and I are absolutely loving.

Monday, October 27, 2008


The bigger the number, the greater the trouble
Except when the little one you can double.
If you pair two fives, you can count again,
Before you know it you've built up ten.

based on Number Qualities Verse, Enki Education 1st Grade Academic Activity

We finally finished up working with "10" this morning after a busy weekend where we couldn't find time for school work. We were still working with The Evil Giant doubling story that we read last week and used to work on "6" (two "3"s) and "8" (two "4"s). The kids had no problem identifying the "10" in the story, despite the fact that it's been a week since they've heard it. They readily pointed out that there were five girls who married five boys to make ten. (Or looking at it another way, five children of the fisherman who married to make ten.) Then we quickly found the significant 10s in our life -- ten fingers and ten toes.

Here's my drawing -- I drew the girls holding hands in a circle, with the boys around the outside of them (which matches up really well with our geometric figure for this number). I also threw in my hands, for good measure.

J decided to draw his hands/fingers, then turned them into a turkey and a peacock.

Zoo Boy decided to draw his feet/toes, but chose to be lazy about it and only draw one, then just indicate that there are two sets of them by drawing an arrow. Not much of an artistic process here....

Zoo Boy's number, dots, and geometric figure (J's is pictured up above). I drew numbers around a circle to help both of them with the figure, which is a 10-pointed star (made by overlapping two 5-pointed stars).

Sunday, October 26, 2008

pumpkin day

J declared today "Pumpkin Day" (based on the book "Pumpkin Day" by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace, one of our Story Time books this past week), so the boys helped The Map Man make Pumpkin Pancakes, according to the recipe in the book. (Basically you just add pumpkin to any pancake mix.)

They then enthusiastically dug into the pancakes and both declared them to be delicious (and so they were!). J has asked that we have pumpkin pancakes for breakfast every Sunday (our traditional pancake day) from now on. Zoo Boy said he wasn't THAT crazy about them, but it's easy enough to make him some regular pancakes while making J his pumpkin pancakes. And for those of you keeping track, that makes a new food for J!!! WAHOOO!!!!!

Here are the kids scooping the "guts" out of their pumpkins. I was pleased to see The Map Man set this up outdoors, since the smell of pumpkin insides is something that really bothers me, and has bothered the boys in past years. Outdoors made it a doable task for them -- high five, Map Map!

The boys carefully planning the faces to carve on their pumpkins. They've had a lot of practice with our Pumpkin Patch Adventure Circle.

And here they pose with their finished Jack-o-Lanterns.

Happy Pumpkin Day to everyone!

costume party

Thanks to my sister inviting us, the kids were able to attend a really cool costume party at the YMCA where she works. Here they are, Zoo Boy the skeleton and J the dinosaur, waiting in line for one of the activities at the start of the night.

J draws a face on the ghost lollipop he made.

The kids are in this photo somewhere. This was the gymnasium, darkened, with strobe lights and a smoke machine. The kids were turned loose with glowing necklaces to chase a huge soccer ball around the gym and try to make a goal.

Our little skeleton takes a rest on a large bouncy ball in the "ball room".

J participated in the costume parade. He also climbed on the climbing wall while Zoo Boy went to the pool to ride in the scary boat ride through the spooky swamp. It was scary, so J decided to skip it. After doing it, Zoo Boy wished he had skipped it! But he was VERY insistent on riding it.

Both kids had a blast! And we enjoyed watching them enjoy themselves.

Friday, October 24, 2008


The bigger the number, the greater the trouble,
Except when the little one you can double.
If you pair two fours you don't have to wait
In no time at all, you've built up eight.

from Number Qualities Verse, Enki Education 1st Grade Academic Activity

We've been working with the number "8" the past couple of days, feeding off the same story, The Evil Giant, that we used for working with "6", since "8" is a doubling of "4" (the way "3" was a doubling of "6"). The kids caught onto the "double" and saw it easier this time, so they are definitely getting the hang of the concept. We didn't do another story recall, but we did look for the "8" in the story and found it -- 4 daughters, who each married a prince, so it doubled the 4 to 8. We also talked about 8 in our lives, and the kids readily identified a spider as having 8 legs (4 on each side -- two sets of 4 is 8), and the number of planets in our solar system, which at first I didn't think was a direct double, but the kids both pointed out that there are 4 inner planets and 4 outer planets, separated by an asteroid belt. Hence, 4 on each side of the belt, is 8 total. COOL!! (Never have I been so grateful to scientists for de-planetizing poor little Pluto!!)

Sticking with tradition, I drew from the story.

J was too excited about the other "8"s in our lives, and chose to draw a spider and the 8 planets.

Zoo Boy also drew the planets, as well as the sun, the asteroid belt, and Pluto too, just for good measure.

Today we wrote the number (a toughie, what with the extreme mid-line crossing and all!), our dots (2 sets of 4, of course!), and our geometric figure, which was an 8-pointed star, made up of two squares (the geometric figure for "4" from last week). Zoo Boy asked right away for me to draw in dots and numbers for him to follow, and he was able to draw the figure correctly the first time. J has not had any problem with any of our geometric figures to date.

who hoo?

The boys had a museum class on owls yesterday, taught by the awesome Ms. Sarah. Here she shows the class (all boys!) some photos of the various species of owl. She also played the calls from them, and the kids had a chance to practice sounding like owls. (My two are the 2nd and 3rd from the left.)

The kids painted with owl feathers as their brushes. (J in the foreground, Zoo Boy at the end of the table.)

Then they got to hang out with the resident Barred Owl.

And then the very BEST part of the class -- they dissected owl pellets (you know, the furball that owls cough back up after swallowing and digesting their prey, which contains all the hair and bones of that critter). Here J picks fur off a small skull so he can compare it to other skulls.

Zoo Boy works on identifying a bone that he found in one of his owl pellets with the help of a poster that shows various bones of various owl prey species.
Zoo Boy enjoyed it so much, he decided to bring home the bones he found in a little plastic baggie. All day he's been pulling it out to look at the contents and talk about the owl class. HUGE hit!