Wednesday, February 24, 2010


We're taking a week to do some 'lite' science work, in this case revolving around snow and the water cycle. We read "Crystal," a story from the Enki Education Grade 1 Nature Stories collection. After recalling the story today, we painted while being inspired by the poem that is included with the story. Above is J's painting, below Zoo Boy's.

These paintings were all done with a single color. We started by covering the entire paper in blue using four kinds of brush strokes to match the movements described in each verse of the poem (sweeping back and forth, twirling around in a spiral, repeated downward movements, and a wide circular stroke). Then we used cotton swabs to dab small points of paint off the paper. (Since this was wet-on-wet painting, the paint feathered back in and it made for some pretty convincing looking snowflakes.) Then we used cotton balls to dab off paint for our "snowbanks" in the bottom half of the painting. Below is my painting.

If I were to do it again, I would have left out the large circular brush strokes, as I think we would have wound up with a pretty cool snowy landscape without that odd arcing structure in the middle of it all. But they still made interesting paintings regardless, and I really wasn't intending on creating a scene, I was just showing the effects of the various brushing methods.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

and now for something completely different

Interesting sledding conditions.

(Don't you worry, those kids'll have plenty to sled on again in another minute or two, it's snowing gangbusters out there....)

Did you know that glass marbles were first made in Italy??

(What did we ever do before Google???)

The Map Man working from home during the last "big snow storm". (Which amounted to about 2 inches, I think. Stupid Weathermen.)

(I just thought his co-workers ought to know what that looks like -- although he claims it's pretty much just like being in his office, which has me wondering about his perks....)

Zoo Boy and friend in a 1700s school room. Watching a DVD on a portable player. Very historically accurate, don't you think??

(They were waiting for their siblings to get out of a REALLY cool program at the Noah Webster House.)

A spider teaches a Native American woman how to weave.

(There was a loom at the historical program he was at today and it reminded him of a story we read last year, or maybe the year before. So he drew it.)


(I have to admit, after seeing this, I'm kind of glad we've got 'em.)

An eyeball.

But, wait! That's not the oddest thing you're going to see here.

This is.

(He claims this is comfortable. Is it any wonder his dance teachers were happy to get him involved with their school?)

We now return you to our previously scheduled program....


Apparently the boys had Pokemon on the brain when they did their journal entries this morning (J's above, Zoo Boy's below):

Saturday, February 20, 2010

snow fun

Just wanted to share some of our recent winter fun.

J showing of his skill on his "mini luge".

Zoo Boy blazing a trail in a saucer sled.

J says he won the gold medal, just like Lindsay Vonn. Cosmo celebrates with him.

J draws himself holding a gold medal.

Zoo Boy working on his own medal, for snow-angel-ing.

Yup, obviously another gold for team USA!

J gives their giant snowman a hug.

While Zoo Boy chose to give him a headache instead.

Meanwhile, Mommy is disgusted with how poorly her camera is handling the snowy scenes, and combined with its past pitiful performances on the video front, is seriously considering her options....

St Francis, chapter 4

We read the final chapter in our St. Francis story on Thursday, recalled and drew our story pictures on Friday, and wrote our our summaries today. Here's J's drawing of Francis praying in the cave.

J's summary. The outrageous thing about this is that, halfway through, he suddenly sprung up from the table and began vomiting. But after he finished being sick, he immediately returned to the table to finish his work. I assured him that it could wait until another time, but he insisted that he felt much better and wanted to finish what he started. That's quite a work ethic! (He's fine now, by the way, it was just "one of those things" apparently!)

Zoo Boy's drawing, of Francis getting a quilt from his house to bring to the lepers. He wants to make it clear that thoes are not horns on Francis's head, but rather a table he is standing in front of.

Zoo Boy's simplified summary. Not only is his writing getting clearer/more readable, he's also taking much less time to write a sentence.

My drawing, of Francis washing the first leper he came across by the river.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

knight all day

It's been all about the knights around here these days. A cardboard and duct tape castle has arisen in our living room, guarded by brave Sir J and gallant Sir Boy. They've been spouting on about chivalry and quests and damsels in distress. They wear their personalized capes day in and day out. They wield swords and design shields, and gallop about on stick horses. They speak in very formal Olde English, and plan jousts with imaginary lances. They claim to be from lands with very exotic made-up names. They present me (and I've been declared a Queen, I'll have you know!) with defeated rivals so that I might grant them mercy.

J with his self-designed shield and sword (only an active imagination can magically turn a plastic flute into a medieval weapon....).

It's all a very natural consequence of our focus on the Western European culture and reading about St. Francis' early days dreaming of being a knight in the village of Assisi, Italy. But I added fuel to the knightly fire by choosing King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table, by Roger Lancelyn Green, as our read-aloud chapter book to go with our theme. The boys are enthralled with this book, particularly J who claims "When you read us that book, it's like we're all IN it, having those adventures."

They've been known to shout out advice to King Arthur as we read ("Don't believe her, she's a liar!"), and after I'm done reading, they jump right up and race for their capes and swords and spring right into play. Which to me is a clear indication of how well this story is "meeting" them. They act out scenes from the story, and make up endless unique quests and adventures. All of their creative energy seems to revolve around this book at the moment.

They've even assigned related character roles to the wild birds we feed at the feeding station on our deck. This is King Cardinal. He has a Queen (Queen Cardinal of course). The King has knights of course, Sir Junco, Sir Chickadee and Sir Titmouse. And the Queen has servants -- the plethora of house sparrows who frequent our feeders. Princess Blue Jay drops by every so often to convey her royal greetings, and yesterday we enjoyed a brief visit from Prince Nuthatch.

Even the Pokemon figures have gotten into the act -- here is the King (out in front of everyone else), his empty throne next to the Queen guarded by legions of loyal knights.

The really cool part of all this to me is that these stories have been told for centuries, and have been inspiring this same exact sort of play in little boys for just as long. Seeing my children embracing this universal connection quite literally gives me goose bumps.

But alas, I may not tarry at the computer any longer, I must away to serve my noble knights who sit at meat.

St Francis, chapter 3

J's drawing from the 3rd chapter of our St. Francis story, depicting the feast celebrating Francis' arrival home after being held as a prisoner of war. I'm finding it extremely interesting to see the parts of the story the kids are choosing to draw. Not surprisingly, J is choosing the happiest parts of the story. Different parts of the story are more appealing to Zoo Boy.

J's version of our chapter summary. This is a LOT of writing, and was not all accomplished in one sitting -- we broke it up into three writing sessions over the course of two days, and he wrote one paragraph at a time. We fortunately had the extra day this week (no Monday classes due to the holiday), so it was no problem, because the kids wouldn't hear of a shorter summary, they wanted to make sure all the important points were covered.

Zoo Boy's chapter drawing, of Francis being held prisoner in the dungeon. He really liked that there was dungeon in the story. Like I said, different things appeal to him than appeal to J!

Zoo Boy's writing -- he wrote one sentence (a much briefer summary of each paragraph on the main summary) each writing session. For him, this is a whole bunch of writing.

My chapter drawing, of Francis giving all of his coins to the beggar.

white out

Ok, I was waiting to post until I had a link to send you to:

Is Shaun White not the most OUTRAGEOUS thing ever?!?!?!

If you missed his gold-medal run (and his follow-up "just for fun" run, in which he outscored himself!), you can watch by clicking here. (It's safe, it's the NBC official site.)

Is everyone else losing a LOT of sleep watching people strap boards to their feet and throw themselves down mountains????

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

stopping by the woods

Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening
by Robert Frost
(1st poem-inspired painting is J's, 2nd is Zoo Boy's, 3rd is mine.)

Whose woods these are, I think I know
His house is in the village though.
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of they year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

These woods are lovely dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep.
And miles to go before I sleep.
And miles to go before I sleep.

journal entries

This week's journal entries, J's is above (showing the influence of what we've been spending our spare time watching lately), and Zoo Boy's is below (he chose to draw a Pokemon):