Saturday, November 10, 2012

she lives!

 I know, I know!!!  Where the heck have I been?!?!  BUSY!!!!  Busy with a baby who refuses to let me even turn on the computer, never mind actually sit here and DO something on it!  Busy with dog rescue stuff that I've gotten far too deeply involved with!  Busy with the boys' RIDICULOUS schedules (thank heavens they each only do one extracurricular activity a piece -- but that one piece may very near well kill me!).

But I'm hear to at least make an attempt to rectify that.  I really REALLY want to be posting here, because we've been doing some AMAZING things homeschooling wise!!!  And of course, Rosebud's been growing like a veritable weed:
Yes, shes almost 10 months old and is quickly working her way towards toddlerhood (sob!) -- she's not walking quite yet, but she COULD if she really gave it a try -- her balance is great, and she can stand up on her own in the middle of a room and bounces like that, picks up stuff and waves it around like that, etc.  She's crawling all over creation, and cruising when there's something to hang onto, and she WILL take a step to me if I'm within a step of her, but she drops and crawls otherwise.  She's pictured above with one of the aforementioned rescue pups.  She LOVES animals (reminds me a lot of Zoo Boy that way), especially kitties and penguins (don't even ask), and she's taking a Music Together class that she absolutely adores.  She also loves to eat and will eat absolutely anything (which is a new experience for me, mother to the two pickiest eaters in the world), and puts her 8 teeth to very good use.  She's very go with the flow, loves joining her bothers on adventures, and wants to be outdoors all the time. 

We've been having a great time with our Darwin/Evolution unit -- we spent the end of September learning about Charles Darwin's early life, then launched on board the HMS Beagle with him and spent all of October exploring the world and creating a ship's log (and a scale model of the Beagle!), visiting Mystic Seaport to climb aboard similar vessels of the era, learned about navigating with sextants and collecting scientific specimens, and visited Mystic Aquarium a couple times to see the sorts of sea creatures they encountered on their voyage.  Now we're into the meat of Evolutionary theory and in addition to reading about it at home and watching documentaries about it, we've been visiting museums to see examples of the fossils Darwin had to work with, and to compare prehistoric life with life today, including comparing primates and humans.  The boys are pictured above at an exhibit about Darwin at the Peabody Museum at Yale, New Haven, CT.  While writing up some observations about principles of evolution yesterday, Zoo Boy exclaimed "I love this, I'm so glad we homeschool!"  ME TOO!!!

We are of course well into Nutcracker season now, which means J is spending all of his free time at the ballet school either in class or in rehearsal.  (Above in his pre-professional trainees class during parent observation week this week.)  He's again dancing the role of Fritz, as well as being in the corps for the Chinese dance.  He was offered an additional role (soldier) but actually turned it down, he didn't feel like he could handle a third role at this point.  He's always had a much better handle on his own limitation than I ever have had on mine.  He turned 12 this past month, and is definitely entering a whole new phase of maturity.  He's just started reading the Narnia series of books, after having finished up the Harry Potter series this fall. He's also taking a museum Chemistry class, which is he is loving, and he really enjoys taking Clara to her Music Together classes, where he is an active participant with her.

Zoo Boy tested for his Green Belt, which is the first of the Advanced ranks, in Karate a few weeks ago, and is currently at the dojo at least 3 times a week for classes and activities.  He wants to make a career out of this, and will be looking into starting on the road to instructor training soon (when he turns 10 this winter).  He's also taking the same museum Chemistry class as J (and also loves it), and also very much enjoys playing with his little sister.  He recently adopted two little kittens after the tragic death of his cat, Candy Corn. (He named the kitties Candy and Corn in her honor, which was all kinds of sweet.)  He's working on finishing up the Heroes of Olympus series, having already read the Percy Jackson series and the Kane Chronicles (he really enjoys Rick Riordian's books), and is planning on starting The Dark is Rising series next, which our friend Laura loaned to us as she thought he would enjoy it.

Above, the boys on Halloween this year.  I remember when they were little and dressed up as Winnie the Pooh and Tigger -- what happened to my sweet, innocent boys???  Ah, well, there's just no stopping them from growing up.  Jacob actually put his Zombie Jogger garb to good use, participating in a Flash Mob (to Michael Jackson's "Thriller") at a charity run on Halloween weekend.

So I've done it!  I've managed to post a blog post!  And at least give you a cursory look into what we've been up to.  I've missed a lot of stuff, like Monday Homeschool Classes and Science Fridays, but hopefully I'll be back SOON to post about those things and more details about our amazing Darwin/Evolution unit.  In the meantime, if you're really missing me, you can find daily real-time photos of our doings on Facebook -- just leave me a comment with your email address and I'll send you my real name so you can search for me there.

(uh oh, there's no way for me to spellcheck this -- I'm doomed!!!)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Darwin -- the early years

We spent most of the week learning about Charles Darwin's childhood, and London and the surrounding countryside in the early 1800s. The boys drew pictures of London during that time period (J's above and Zoo Boy's below).

Then, for comparison, we drew pictures of "The Mount", the house in Shrewsbury where Charles Darwin spent his childhood:

J's drawing above, Zoo Boy's below

And then we made Shrewsbury cakes, a tasty treat that Charles Darwin enjoyed as a boy, from an authentic 1808 recipe:

The boys loved making and eating the little cakes (which really are more like cookies), and honestly, so did I. (Have I mentioned that I love homeschooling??) We even used gluten free flour and an egg substitute so that Rosebud could enjoy them with us. (We're holding off on introducing wheat and egg -- and dairy and corn -- until she's over a year old -- an allergy precaution since I have some life-threatening food allergies. Never had to worry about that with the boys, they didn't want to eat until they were over a year anyway!)

The main book we're using as our text for the next 8 weeks is Darwin and Evolution for Kids: His Life and Ideas, with 21 Activities. (The Shrewsbury cakes recipe was in this book, too.) I'll mention the supplemental books we're using as we come to them. If anybody wants a list of my resources and a schedule of how I'm using them, leave your email address in the comments and I'll be happy to send them along!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Old Sturbridge Village -- homeschool day

Wednesday was Homeschool Day at Old Sturbridge Village, so we packed up and headed up there for a day of classes, demonstrations, and general 19th century fun. Above, at the Sawmill, which was operating on this day.

J took a class on Textiles in which he sewed a "wallet", which was a basic carry-all that men used to carry their uniforms, shoes, bedclothes, etc, during the War of 1812 (which was the general theme of the day). Zoo Boy took a class about Remedies and got a good feel for the types of concoctions that were used around the home and medicinally back in the early 1800s.

Both boys also spent time exploring the things they most wanted to see in the village -- Zoo Boy (above) spent most of his time while J was in class in the Blacksmith shop, not surprising to me as he's expressed a deep interest in it on each of our visits. J chose to visit the farm while Zoo Boy was in class. Both boys explored the homestead houses throughout the rest of our visit, and we sat down with good friends for lunch in the Bullard Tavern. And J convinced me to buy a book about the Wells family and it's connection to OSV. (My maiden name is Wells, I'm not sure if these are relatives of mine or not, I guess we'll find out when we delve into Genealogy in December!)

Gorgeous weather, awesome venue, great friends, and all around good time was had by all. I'm so glad its Fall -- I LOVE HOMESCHOOLING!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

large scale timeline field trip

Tuesday afternoon we headed out (with our time-traveling buddies) to Northwest Park in Windsor, CT, which boasts a fairly straight mile-long road through old tobacco fields. At the start of the road, we declared "now", and then began traveling back in time, accounting for 10 million years with each pace. (Above, the kids at "now", awaiting time travel.) We dropped weighted index cards for each major event we wanted to account for (those sames sorts of things we noted on our timelines at home). The below photo depicts the last 65 or so million years. The big bang awaited us about a mile away at 13 billion years ago. 1,300 paces were counted in between.

The kids' favorite part was when we were done, blasting ahead through time to reach the present again, gathering all the major developments in the history of our universe and the evolution of our planet along the way. Very fun! And I think gave them a real appreciation for just how MUCH time we're talking about.

finishing our timelines (for now)

We started the week where we left off -- with the meteor that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs (at least in theory). Above, the boys work on creating a 3-D mixed media meteor Below, they put it up on our wall it the appropriate spot.

We drew some of the major events from 65 million years ago forward, and then identified where on our timeline 65 millions years was -- about half an inch from the end! -- and quickly realized that there would be NO WAY to post up the 9 events we wanted to depict in that one tiny space, nor would there be any way to get a feel for what order they happened in. We needed a new scale! Our Billions of Years scale was just not the right size for what we needed to show.

So we picked a new wall, and painted on a new time line, this one in Millions of Years Ago:

The we took all of our fabulous drawings and put them in the right locations on the timeline:

So here is our finished (for now) timeline, going back to 65 million years ago, and highlighting mammals spreading, the earth being covered in rainforests, whales evolving, the rainforests shrinking, grass spreading, apes evolving, the first early humans, the use of tools, and the taming of fire:

One last field trip (and a large scale timeline), and we'll let timelines rest until the end of the block when we'll create yet another scale timeline for human evolution, and then finally one for recorded history, into which we'll fit all of the cultures we've studied up to this point, and add in those we study in the future.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Science Friday kickoff

This year our Science Fridays co-op is focusing on Animal Studies. We kicked off our year with a field trip to Mystic Aquarium, in Mystic, CT. We all bought memberships, too, so we can enjoy going there all year long. This year we expanded the co-op to include 4 families (one family is not pictured above).

Above, Zoo Boy in the touch tank. Each week we are focusing on a different Ecosystem/habitat, for the most part following the documentary mini-series Planet Earth. They will watch an episode, choose an animal to study during the week from that Ecosystem (with the aid of a research form asking for pertinent information about the animals), then will bring their filled out research forms and a picture of the animal the following week. They'll share the info with the others in the group, then together they will write a Naturalist Fiction story, each being responsible for the realistic behavior of their animal in the story. The adults will type up the stories, and the kids will add it along with their research forms and photos to their Science Friday notebooks. We'll also take monthly field trips to view some of the animals we are studying live.

Above, Zoo Boy pets a Cow-nosed Stingray, the animal he has chosen to study this week. J decided to study Jellyfish.

Above, J and Laurel's girls in the Birds of the Outback exhibit, always a favorite.

We're off to a very fun start with our Science Fridays!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

evolution -- timeline of the Universe

Our main math focus during our evolution unit is based around time (and place value). This past week we read three books, written by Jennifer Morgan and illustrated by Dana Lynne Andersen, that together covered the entire passage of time (since time began 13 billion years ago). Then we began creating a timeline for the Universe on our hallway wall. First we painted a long line, which we labeled "Billions of Years", then divided it up into 12 equal segments, and labeled the time starting at "O" at the beginning of the first segment and ending at "13" (and "NOW") at the end of the last segment.

Then we drew pictures representing the major developments of the history of the Universe and pinned them up along the timeline where they occurred.

First we read the book Born With a Bang: the Universe Tells Our Cosmic Story, and drew the Big Bang (and put it at "0"), the formation of galaxies (which we located at "1"), then the formation of the Milky Way galaxy (located at "2"), as above. We also drew the super nova of our "mother sun" (at "7"), the birth of our Sun (at "8"), and the formation of the Earth (between "8" and "9"), as below.

We then read the book From Lava to Life: The Universe Tells Our Earth Story, and then drew some of the major events in the history of life on our planet. Placing this drawings was more challenging, as the scale in the book was based on Millions of Years Ago, and our timeline is Billions of Years, so we had to convert from Millions to Billions, and then count back from the present to figure out where the events belonged on our timeline. First was the first life forms (bacteria), which was located at "9" (the very end of above).

This was followed by the development of Eukaryotes (located at "11"), then the development of plants (at between "12" and "13"), animals (again between "12" and "13"), and Dinosaurs Ruling the Earth (between "12" and "13", but sometime after the development of plants and animals), as above. Already the boys are feeling how crowded it's getting that last Billion Years and are seeing the need for a different scale.

We finished off the lesson for the week by reading the final book in the series, Mammals Who Morph: The Universe Tells Our Evolution Story. We'll start this coming week by creating a more appropriate timeline scale to fit the major evolutionary events. We'll also have fun doing some 3-D art work to represent the meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs (or did it? Some controversy there....).

Kids in the Kitchen -- Birds in a Nest (With Blankets)

The kids made "Breakfast for Dinner" last week, choosing the classic poached egg dish "Birds in a Nest" with cheese "blankets". J really enjoyed his, Zoo Boy not so much, although he gave it a good shot. (The Map Man and I of course devoured ours, yummy!) Both boys decided to take us up on our offer for sweet and sour shrimp from the Chinese place down the road in addition to their meal, confirming for us that they really HAVE added another protein source. Wow, talk about success, only two weeks in and they really are trying and actually EATING new foods!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

evolution paintings -- day #5

Sorry to have posted a whole bunch of these all at once, the week got away from me! But I wanted to catch up before next week starts!

These are our final evolution paintings, depicting chimpanzees (sort of) and early humans. This is where my general artistic incompetence begins to show! But we had fun with it anyway. Our inspiration for all of our evolution paintings this week was the book Our Family Tree: an Evolution Story by Lisa Westberg Peters, illustrated by Lauren Stringer. Go buy a copy, the story is beautifully told and Ms. Stringer's illustrations are FAR better than ours! As usual, my painting is at the top, J's in the middle, Zoo Boy's at the bottom.

Quoted from the book:

"After an asteroid shattered the calm and a layer of fine dust settled on everything, we changed again.

On the outside, we looked more and more like we do now, but we still walked on all fours. We climbed tree trunks with our thumbs and thumbnails, toes and toenails. On the inside, the bones of our hands looked almost the same as they do today.

After the earth cooled and the forests shrank, we left the trees to live in the open grasslands.

On the outside, we walked upright on two legs, with our two arms free for using tools. On the inside, we had large brains, but not as big as they are now."

The book wraps up nicely at the end as well, but I'll save that (and the very beginning) for your reading pleasure! (In the back it also has further explanation about the simplified descriptions in the story, as well as a simple timeline which is serving as a sneak peak into what we'll be working on next week! Stay tuned!!)

evolution paintings, day #4

Our evolution paintings continue, on Thursday we painted a progression, starting with first leaving the water while still being dependent on it, the second half way up a hill, no long dependent on water, and a third a small mammal at the top of the hill. I liked the way these came out! Mine is above, J's next one down, Zoo Boy's at the bottom. Our inspiration was the book Our Family Tree: an Evolution Story by Lisa Westberg Peters, illustrated by Lauren Stringer.

Quoted from the book:

"When families of green plants and insects began living on the land, we followed them.

On the outside, we still had scales, but we looked like huge salamanders. We crawled out of the sea on legs, two on each side. We didn't stray far, and we returned to the water to lay our eggs. On the inside, we had lungs to breathe oxygen, like we do now.

As all of the continents on earth slowly joined into one, we left the water completely.

On the outside, we looked like hairy lizards. We hunted all day and had sharp teeth to tear our food. On the inside, our blood ran warm, almost as warm as it does today.

In one of the earth's darkest times, nearly all life went extinct, but many families survived. Ours was among them.

On the outside, we were small and furry. We hid or slept during the day, and we scurried about at night. On the inside, we made milk for our babies, the way we do now."

evolution paintings -- day #3

On Wednesday we painted the next in our series of Evolution paintings, inspired by the book Our Family Tree: an Evolution Story by Lisa Westberg Peters, illustrated by Lauren Stringer. My painting is above, J's in the middle, and Zoo Boy's at the bottom.

Quoted from the book:

"As the seas rose and fell, our family changed again.

On the outside, we had scales to protect us, and fins -- two on each side -- to swim against strong currents. On the inside, we had spiny backbones that helped us move as freely as we do today."

kids in the kitchen resumes -- chili dogs

We re-started up our successful cooking program, Kids in the Kitchen, from last fall. J wrote about it in his journal and agreed to share:

The kids chose and wrote out their recipe and shopping list, and shopped for all the ingredients. We insisted on organic for everything and grass fed for the meats, so it was off to Whole Foods in West Hartford. After successfully procuring all of the ingredients, they got to cooking.

J browned the mushrooms, while Zoo Boy browned the ground beef.

This was followed by the rest of the ingredients over the next 2 hours (I got bored with taking photos). J also drew a picture of the chili cooking in his journal:

Unlike last year, the kids are actually in a good place for trying and actually adding new foods into their diet. Zoo Boy ate about half his chili dog (amazing!), and J, after tasting and deciding it wasn't his cup of tea, asked for the leftover shrimp from the night before (also a new food for them this week -- we're on a roll!).

I have to say, I've never made chili before, but this was DELICIOUS! I'm adding it to my recipe collection, I'm sure I'll make it again - SOOO much better than canned chili, and everything organic, whee!! And lucky me, I've been getting to eat chili for lunch all week.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

evolution paintings, day #2

We're painting pictures of evolution all week, using the book Our Family Tree: An Evolution Story, by Lisa Westberg Peters, illustrated by Lauren Stringer. My painting is above, J's is below, and Zoo Boy's on the bottom.

Quoted from the book:

But then the earth changed. Land rose from the oceans. The air filled with oxygen. Life changed, too. step at a time, some cells joined together, and became plants. Our cells joined together, and we became animals.

On the outside, we were squishy and soft, like worms. One the inside, our cells had many shapes -- square like boxes, pointy like stars, round like ripe seeds -- the same way they do now.

For this painting, we began with Prussian blue along the outside edges, then used gold (again, we're out of yellow, otherwise I would have used that) to fill in the center, then taking our brushes along the edges of the paper to create green plants. Then using orange and crimson, we created our prehistoric worms.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

evolution paintings, day #1

We're taking our inspiration for our start of unit paintings from the book Our Family Tree, written by Lisa Westberg Peters, illustrated by Lauren Stringer. First is my painting, next is J's, and at the bottom is Zoo Boy's. Between their two paintings is a quote from the book.

When we began, we didn't look like people. We didnt' have two eyes to blink or ten toes to wiggle. We were just tiny round cels in the deep, dark sea.

On the outside, we were so small, we were almost invisible. But on the inside, we had the same kind of spiraling genetic code for life we have today.

And that's the way our family stayed -- generation after generation, year after year -- for millions of years: tiny and round, floating in the sea.

To make our cell paintings, we washed the entire page in Prussian Blue, then use the brush to remove round spots for the cells. Then we painted in the spots with Cobalt blue and used gold over that to define the outline and structure of the cells by blending a bit to bring in greens and brown. We finished with higher pigmented gold spots. I love the way these came out! And I love that Zoo Boy arranged his cells in a smiley face -- it does my heart good to seem him so excited and happy about the start of our school year.