Monday, March 30, 2009

Science Workshop

Monday afternoons for us are spent at our Science Workshop. It is a class for home schoolers and kids get to do some hands on science. During the fall the focus was on engineering and Physics types experiments. This term has been a biology focus. The kids have enjoyed learning all about plants and animals. Today's lesson was Sophie's absolute favorite. They got to dissect sharks.
Everyone had to have their gloves and goggles on for this one.
They got to really look at all the different parts of fish.
Henry is looking for the teeth of the shark.
Then the real fun begins. The kids took turns cutting the sharks's skin so they can look at all the inside parts.

Eventually they were able to take each of the different organs out of the shark. They took out the huge liver, stomach and even the heart. Sophie said they even cut open their stomach and saw inside some sort of shell in there. These sharks are bottom feeders eating crustaceans.
I am so glad they get to do these things at the workshop. I don't think I would be able to walk them through such dissections. So anyone in the bay area and can find a Schmahl Science workshop that takes place near them. They are great and well worth the cost.

So Long, Sweet Ladies

Last week our butterflies started to come out of their chrystalis one each day. We never were able to catch one as it was breaking out they always seemed to show up after we went out for a bit. We have enjoyed seeing, watching, and even handling these beautiful butterflies.

But since butterflies life spans aren't that long we knew we needed to let them go. We have been seeing so many butterflies fly by, all headed in the same direction, while we have been outside on walks or at the park over the last week. We found out that the painted ladies are all migrating up to Oregon right now so it was the perfect time to let our three little ladies free.
Each of the kids held one and stepped outside on the porch. The butterflies just stayed there on their hands for quite some time.

We walked further out on the driveway to get them into the sun and they opened their wings and seemed to soak the sunshine in for a little bit. Then one at a time they took flight.Henry's was the last to fly away.
We went back inside to finish doing some school and Ian sat down to play and started to cry a little. "I'm sad our butterflies had to go", he said. It was sort of sad to see them leave. We have watched and watched them for a few weeks as they grew and grew as caterpillars and then waited and waited while they were in their chrystalis. The four days we kept them in their little butterfly habitat didn't seem long enough.

I think we are going to order some more caterpillars so we can watch the process again.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Are we done yet?

We had a pretty good week, especially since last week ended up being a very light week of school work. We just didn't feel like staying inside last week. The kids wanted to be outside in all the sunshine. I didn't blame them, the weather has been perfect, sunny but not hot. However, this week we did accomplish quite a bit. Not everything I think we should have done but still, we did a fair amount of work.

The end of the school year is coming and the kids can feel it. Not that we ever really stop doing school. It is always easier to just keep the schedule going during the summer rather then take months off. But we are getting to the end of all our books. Infact Sophie finished her Singapore Math 2b book this week. She was so excited and even completed the entire last review on Friday. It was long and took her some time but she wanted to finish the book this week. She is so excited to start the 3A book. It is pink! We will see if we jump into it right away. I am thinking of just some fun Family Math games for a bit.

I haven't been having Ian do his math book. Instead we have just been focusing on his writing and reading. It would help a lot if he could read. He just isn't that motivated. But we are finishing up his Explode the Code primers. He only has a few pages left and that is that. He then will jump into the Explode the Code 1 book.

We of course have been reading and looking at birds the last bit, and that is our science. We have taken a break from planets and space. We will come back to it but we needed a change. And since the Outdoor Hour challenges are going to be about birds for the next few weeks I figured we could use that as our focus. We haven't kept up with the challenges the last few months. Birds has been a hit with the kids, at least Sophie and I. The boys usually read some of the books with us but they are more interested in climbing trees and riding their scooters when we go outside so they don't really look for birds. Maybe I need to find our binoculars and take them on a bird hunt. Tools like binoculars are always helpful in keeping their attention. As long as they each have a pair.

We went through two chapters of Story of the World this week. We learned about the Maya, Aztec and Incan people. We covered each but focused a bit more on the Incan because we haven't studied them before. We read a number of books and looked at pictures of Incan ruins, especially Machu Pichu. The 2nd chapter we covered was about Montezuma and Cortez and the Spanish taking over. We watched a number of videos. One for each of the three civilizations and then one about the spanish conquest and the end of the Aztec empire. We will be heading back to Europe in our studies next week.

As usual I fall short on Language Arts. Sophie doesn't write enough but I don't know how to change this without making her, and forcing her to do it. Which would only make her angry, hate it and fight with me. So I just have to be content at the moment with having her read aloud to me and then narrate a bit back to me. Even this is a struggle. I tried to have her silently read a passage and then narrate what she read but I could tell she just skimmed it and then couldn't tell me much and she missed most of what the passage was saying. So this is something we need to work on. Reading comprehension and hopefully some writing. I know she reads very well it is just that she doesn't take the time to read carefully for understanding.

We have had a great few weeks in our New Testament Studies. We have been very slowly reading through the last week of Jesus's life and yesterday finished the Gospels. It has been really good to break down that last week into each event and read each of the different accounts of what happened. We finished our week with watching The Lamb of God video. We are a little early for it to be an Easter study but it is just how it happened.

I can't say we have done anything specific for art or music. The kids haven't really been listening to anything except audio books all week. They are currently listening to Homer Price and Centerburg Tales both by Robert McCloskey. They are very fun stories but I think after the 9th or tenth telling I am ready to move on, but the kids aren't. I even brought home a few new audio books for them to listen to and they don't seem to want anything else except Centerburg tales. I guess it is the best thing to listen to when playing with Legos or Knex.

No we are not done yet. We are always learning and will never really be done but it does feel good to be finishing a few things while still plowing ahead in other things and staring new things too. That is what learning is all about.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Outdoor Hour Challenge - Starting our Bird Focus

We started our Focus on Birds last week. Rather than jumping right into the Handbook of Nature study or a non fiction book about birds I picked up a great story book about birds Albert. After reading Albert the kids were all excited about learning more about cardinals and I just so happened to have a book about cardinals that I had borrowed from the library. I also broke out a coloring book of all the state birds and we counted how many states have the cardinal as their state bird. We then discussed what our California state bird is. We don't see either Cardinals or Quail in our neighborhood so of course we talked about what birds we do see. Since we almost always have a bird feeder outside our front window we are well acquainted with the House sparrow and once in awhile we see a House finch.
We then went on a walk around our block to see what other birds we could see. We could see and hear a lot of Crows in the trees they often sounded like they were talking back and forth. Somehow I forgot to take a picture of them. I think we are going to have to focus on them next week since we have so many of them around. We saw a lot of pigeons too.

We could hear a lot more birds chirping away in the bushes but we couldn't see most of them.We did try to peek into the bushes to see them but they quickly scattered. We did see a few clumps of twigs wedged in the bushes that must be a nest. I think they are sparrows like we living in our carport and visiting our bird feeder. We needed a new feeder since our last one was rather weather beaten due to all the rain and wind we have had recently. (It was being held together with tape). We actually put up two new feeders. And both were filled at the beginning of the week and a few days later......
this is all there is in each of the feeders. We have had quite a few birds visiting.

Also as part of our focus on birds I decided to also learn a little about John James Audubon. I picked up a number of picture book biographies about Audubon. Today after reading one of these books Sophie decided she needed to give drawing birds a try so we broke out some field guides and other books and she set to work and I decided to join her.

Here is my drawing of a Mocking bird. One of the birds we see all the time in our neighborhood. They are hard to get a picture of however. I am glad the field guides had a good picture of one.

Here is Sophie's drawing of Humming birds. We saw some on our walk yesterday. They sure loved the bottle brush bush so she added a bottle brush to her drawing.

We are enjoying our focus on birds. We listen and look for birds all the time. Sophie spots different ones all the time. I am showing her how to look them up in the different field guides we have collected. It will be a fun few weeks as we take some time to study each of the different birds in our neighborhood.

I know we are supposed to look for Robins, Cardinals or the House Finch as our Challenge for the next few weeks. We don't usually see Robins around our neighborhood but do see them as some of the parks we visit so we are going to have to make sure we go to those parks and hope some robins are about. We don't get cardinals where we live so we will have to content ourselves with books about cardinals. We do see a House Finch every once in awhile visit our feeder so we will have to keep a close eye to see if they come around. We haven't seen them a long time.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Not Covered

Today we have officially started Sophie's Orthodontics. This was something we knew we would be dealing with the day she was born. And earlier this year our Cranial Facial Doctor told us that Sophie had finally lost enough teeth and was at an age to move ahead with the next surgery. But before the surgery could be performed she would need the orthodontics to move her teeth to make room for the bone graft that would be put in her gums. I know it sounds horrible and I cringe to think about what this means for my little girl. The idea of her having to go through this surgery and especially the bone grafting just makes me.... I don't know a bit scared for her and worried about the pain that it will cause.

We saw the orthodontist who is experienced with cleft pallet corrections for a consult a few months ago. Sophie had some very extensive x-rays taken of her teeth, jaws and whole head about a month ago. But today the real work began. Sophie had to go in and get spacers put in to prepare her teeth for the "appliance" as the Orthodontist called it. She also made molds of her teeth so they can make the extender to fit her mouth. We get to go in again next week for more spacers and such and then finally in two weeks she will have the extender put in place.

What is killing me is that this orthodontics procedure is necessary before her surgery (which is fully covered by our Health coverage) but health insurance doesn't cover the orthodontics. And dental doesn't cover the orthodontics either because it isn't really braces, it is a special procedure. So we end up picking up the entire bill for this one. And we have already been told this is only phase 1 of 3. It was somewhat breath taking to see what the estimate was for only this phase. I signed that contract and gave them the down payment but it is daunting to think how expensive this is going to be. I should be more grateful for the Health coverage we have which so far has completely covered all her surgeries (four so far) and doctor visits (which have been too many to count). We are really blessed to have the plan that we do. Thank goodness my husband has a stable job that provides this coverage with little out of our pocket.

It has never even been a question that we would do these orthodontics for Sophie. We were warned the first time we even saw the plastic surgeon, when Soph was only 1 month old, that the orthodontics wouldn't be covered. It is something we have always known was in the future. It has just always been something "in the future" and now we find it on us now. She will have a beautiful smile at the end of these years of extenders, braces and a few surgeries. That will be worth every penny!

For now she is already complaining about the pain the spacers are causing but is being so good about everything. The orthodontist's assistant said she was very cooperative and nice today.

Sophie is a trooper.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Wordful Wednesday - Favorite Genre

Cocoa over at Chocolate on my Cranium gave us the topic of books again for this weeks Wordful Wednesday. This time however we are supposed to discuss our favorite genre. This was actually harder for me then I thought it would be. If you look at the list of books I have read recently you would come to the conclusion that I don't read anything that couldn't be found in the children's section of the library. My mental state at the moment is only able to take in simple reading I guess. Teen fiction or young adult novels have been the bulk of my reading the last few months. I can honestly say Fiction is by far the majority of the books I read. I read non fiction too but usually have a novel going at the same time. I usually stick to classics because they have stood the test of time and I don't have to worry to much about some of the content slipped into more modern novels.

I think by far I do enjoy Historical fiction the most. If well researched and written it also teaches me a bit about the time period that the story takes place in. In the past I have enjoyed Sharon Kay Penman's Medieval novels such as the Here Be Dragons series, which is all about Wales, or Time and Chance which is about William II and Eleanor of Aquatine.

Another great author in this genre is Anna Seton. She has written Katherine which is also Medieval, ( I must really like this time period.) and tells the story of the Katherine who's children take over the royal line in England. I have read several of her other books as well but Katherine is my favorite.
Just to throw in one more medieval book. I finally read Ivanhoe last fall and really enjoyed it. It is interesting to see how our modern ideas of Robin hood were influenced by Sir Walter Scott's depiction.

Just to change time periods. I have recently enjoyed a few western stories as well. But that may be considered a different genre but to me they were historical. My favorite that I read was The Virginian. I read it two years or so ago and liked it so much I had our book club read it and they all loved it as well. I am going to encourage my boys to read this one some day. You can learn a lot about being a man from the Virginian.

Of course I always go for book from the Regency or Victorian times. Anything by Jane Austen, Elizabeth Gaskell, or Charles Dickens is always a good read (and clean! Thank Goodness). I am such an Austen fan that I also read a lot of the sequels and fan fiction that are inspired by her stories. The best of these has been Jane Fairfax. I enjoyed reading Emma but this one gives us the Emma story but from Jane Fairfax's point of view. I loved it and even bought a copy so I could read it again whenever I wanted.

I actually don't read many novels that take place in modern times. (Unless you consider James Herriot or P.G Wodehouse are modern) I guess I like being transported to another time and place when I read. I haven't ventured too much into fantasy (Children's fantasy yes) or Science Fiction. But I am sure when and if I do I will enjoy the trip.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Butterflies, Explorers, Music and Sunshine.

Our week went a little better this week than last. I think mainly this is due to the fact that I just didn't stress and let things flow the way they would. Sometimes I try to make school work happen the way I envisioned it should and it just doesn't work with my kids. They have such minds of their own.

History - We read our Story of the World Chapter which was about Christopher Columbus and Magellan this week. We listened to the audio book Who was first by Russell Freedmen. It reviewed a bit about the Vikings which we had already studied and talked about other people or groups that may have come to America before Columbus. It was very interesting. We read a number of books about Columbus and one about Magellan.

Science - We read a few books about Asteriods, Meteorites and Comets this week. But mostly we have been reading books about butterflies. Our caterpillars climbed up to the top of the cup this week and have formed some nice crysalis. We are still waiting for the fourth one to finally form before we transfer them to their little habitat.
This was taken early in the week when they were just hanging from the top and hadn't yet changed.

There were originally 5 caterpillars in the cup when they came but one mysteriously disappeared. We think he must have been dinner one night for the others.

Math - Sophie has been flying through the last few sections in her Singapore Math books. We did Graphs and Geometry this week. Both were very easy for her and she enjoyed playing with pattern blocks and Tangrams this week as part of geometry. She is getting really close to finishing the 2B book. She sees the light at the end of the tunnel and is running to the finish.
I am not doing a whole lot of Math with Ian at the moment. He needs more help with reading and writing before trying to solve math problems so his math book tends to just sit on the shelf. But all the kids enjoy the math games and activities we try to fit in.

Language Arts - Again not our strong point this week. We didn't do any of the formal Grammar lessons. But Soph did write in her notebook about our Science Club class we went to on Monday and also wrote on her blog. When her National Geographic magazine for kids arrived this week she read me some of it and then wrote about her favorite article. That is about all I can claim as actual writing work. She just really didn't want to do copy work this week and I didn't want to fight about it so we did something else instead.
Ian is close to finishing his Explode the Code primers. He has just a few more letters to work through. He also did a number of worksheets that were all about vowels. Explode the code primers have stuck to consonants and we haven't done any vowels yet so we really worked on vowels and what those 5 letters are. Sophie of course had to chime in and tell us about how Y is also a vowel.

Music - I was just going to continue our study of Haydn through March since we didn't finish the biography we have of him. We we never picked it up. Instead my kids have been listening to all the Classical Kids CD's we have floating around. We listened Tchaikovsky Discovers America, Beethoven Lives Upstairs, Mr. Bach Comes to Call and even Mozart’s Magic Fantasy. (Sophie spent the rest of the day singing magic flute songs after listening to the Mozart. She loves the Queen of the Night's songs) The kids just love these CD's.
This week at the library while glancing through the book shelf of all the new books I spotted this book...
This was a great biography of Vivaldi and after reading it the kids decided we needed to listen to The Four Seasons. I got out our CD and they danced and danced and put on quite a show. They were birds, leaves and snowflakes dancing to the music.

Art - I know we colored a lot this week and drew a lot of pictures. Ian has been drawing a lot of pirate maps lately. But nothing formal was done. We did break out the paints again this week so the kids could paint their race tracks that they made last Saturday at the Home Depot's kids workshop.( April's project is going to be a bird house... fun!)

We have been spending a lot of time outside this week. The weather has been so nice. Sunny but not hot. The kids have been out playing in the yard, shooting baskets, building little worm and slug habitats, riding bikes and climbing trees.
On one of our rides around the neighborhood the kids decided they needed to roll around in the sour grass that covered the yard of one of our neighbor's houses. Then Henry got the great idea to climb the tree. If there is a way to get up into a tree he will find it. Then the other kids of course had to join him. I am sure glad we have nice neighbors.

We also went to the park twice this week. I came home with a rather brown neck after our first park trip so knew it was time to be diligent about sunblock and hats again. When heading out for the next park trip I tried to find all our sun hats. Those that I could find looked rather worn so I knew we had to go and get some new ones. Hurray for Longs Drug Store. They had some great ones on sale this week!

That about sums up our week.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Outdoor Hour Challenge - Winter Tree Study

I have been very lazy the last few weeks and we haven't been doing any formal nature study. Or even informal really. We certainly spend a lot of time out of doors but nothing that I would really call nature study. But we have been noticing the changes in the tree we picked last spring. We picked a birch tree that is right outside our door and that I park under everyday, so we can't help but look at it.
This is our tree a few weeks ago between rainstorms. Sophie made the comment that the water droplets all over the branches looked like Christmas lights. The trees really do sort of glitter when the sunlight peaks out behind the clouds and hits those droplets the rain left all over the branches.
This birch tree in particular was beautiful because of the way the branches droop and all the catkins hanging on each. There is just a lot for the water to cling to.

The last week or so our tree has been telling us that spring is on the way. Sophie was the first to spot the new leaves popping out all over.

This is our tree today. It doesn't look that different than it did a few weeks ago when standing far away. When you get up close you can see the green leaves popping out that really make us feel like spring is here.

Henry decided he had to get a really good look at the tree. He loves to climb trees and has decided this is his new favorite for climbing.

This little guy gives every tree he comes across a try. He just loves to climb trees.

It is hard to believe that in just a few weeks our tree will look like this again.