Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Human Body Study - Skin

 Today we continued our Human Body study with skin.  We talked about sweat and evaporation and how they cool us.  They recalled how a wet sock feels cold. Then we used a dab or rubbing alcohol on one wrist and a dab of water on the other to show that different things evaporate at different rates and have different cooling ability.  The children made matchbooks for their Human Body Lapbook with a diagram of skin and a paragraph inside retelling some of the things they've learned about skin.  

Friday, February 17, 2012


Ruthie's new goldfish made a good nature journal entry today; a bit of color on a dreary day.  She had to look carefully at the details in order to be able to draw it in her notebook.

"He has huge black eyes.  He has an orange body"

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Reading Record Sheets

"The most common and the monstrous defect in the education of the day is that children fail to acquire the habit of reading."  Charlotte Mason

"The more that you read, the more things you will know, the more that you learn, the more places you'll go.  Dr. Suess

Our family loves to read so it has never been an issue to get the children to read, but I noticed a couple years ago that left to themselves my children would usually choose easy fiction over other reading material.  I wanted them to have a balanced diet in their reading so I designed a checklist for them with six categories.  Following are two versions we've used with success.  Feel free to copy them if you'd like to try them or make your own with your own desired categories. Just click on the titles below.

Reading Record Sheet

Reading Record Sheet 2

After Christmas we did a major cleaning and reorganizing which included our school room and all of our book shelves.  I've been collecting books for the 20+ years we've been home schooling so there are plenty to choose from.  I organized one of our shelves to fit the categories on their lists making it easy for them to select books.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Impromptu Creativity

We were pretty much done with our academics for the morning and lunch was still a few minutes off. I decided to read them another chapter of Just so Stories by Rudyard Kipling. I chose the story about the crab and the sea that explained tides. They had applied their minds well to the varied subjects we had covered.  Before school started I had been making a paper chain of  ten figures to demonstrate the religious demographics for Bangladesh
(8 1/2 figures brown for muslim, a little more than one figure in orange for the 12% Hindu and a yellow arm for the  less than 1% Buddhist and Christian).  Our 8 year old daughter was fascinated with how you could cut figures from an accordian folded piece of paper and get a whole string of little "people".  Since she had the construction paper out another girl started making a card for Grandma and another started a cutout picture of underwater creatures. And Anna stepped in to help John get the "door" to fit on the paper mail box he had started complete with a red flag attached by a brad.  It struck me how home schoolers have time and lots of creativity for these impromptu pursuits .  I feel blessed to know and love these particular creative people and to get to spend time with them daily.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Flip Side of Progress....

The big drill to the right rotates in the hole and comes out full of dirt which is then spun off on the pile.  The large metal tube next to it was vibrated into the hole by a large vibrating weight on the white Terex (see photos at the bottom of the blog).  A highline manager, also watching from our driveway atop the hill, told us that the cage was to be part of the base that holds the pole.  There was  a long length of rebar behind the equipment that will line the hole before the cement is put in.  
A new power line is going through our area - going through the corner of our property actually.  We've all been saddened as the swath of trees has been cut out.  It doesn't look the same!!  Our six year old son ranted for some time the other day about how they didn't have any right to ruin the neighborhood like that!  The price of progress is high.  More or perhaps cheaper electricity for someone will be gained but miles of forest had to be cleared to run the line.  Today however he had the enjoyment of watching some of the big machines that make that progress possible and I think he enjoyed that more.  The power company had hauled in gravel to build a landing on our neighbor's hillside and moved several heavy pieces of equipment there in preparation for placing a corner pole where the line will briefly link into an existing line.  We spent an hour or more just watching them work before coming home to draw and write about what we had seen.  It reminds me that every cloud has a possibility of needed rain.  Every hard Monday has the possibility of building character in me and my children.  Every dark, disappointing experience can be a platform for me to see our powerful God at work if I will stop ranting and take a closer look.
This picture shows the whole boom.

 It only took a brief moment for this big machine to vibrate the metal tube into the ground.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Gingerbread Houses

We've started a tradition of making gingerbread houses over the New Years holiday.  We were expecting company some time around New Years who had been in on this adventure with us another year so we decided to wait until they visited this year.  But when they finally visited later in January their stay was too brief to include making gingerbread houses so we finally got around to making them ourselves this week.

 Following is the Betty Crocker recipe we used for the dough:
1 1/2 cups dark molasses
1 cup packed brown sugar
2/3 cup cold water
1/3 cup shortening
7 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground allspice
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Heat oven to 350.  Roll dough 1/4" thick on floured board.  Use the following pattern to cut out the pieces (or like one of our creative little girls did to make a minature - cut your own).  Windows and doors can be cut out in any shapes that suit you but it is nice to have a pattern so that the roof and side pieces fit the ends. Unless you want to make this a math lesson, then they could meaure and figure how to make the sides and roof fit the peak ends.

We like to use crushed hard candies (we used Life Savers this time) to fill in the windows before we cooked them for stained glass windows. Line your cookie sheet with foil or baking parchment paper as the pieces are hard to remove (especially if you have candy windows).  
Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges.

When your pieces are cool you can make the frosting by beating the following ingredients together until they make a nice, spreadable, paste:  1 pound of powdered sugar, 3 egg whites, and 1 teaspoon of cream of tartar.  Keep this covered when you aren't using it as it hardens fairly quickly.  Use a frosting bag or a plastic bag with a small hole cut in the corner to squeeze the frosting onto the edges of the pieces so you can "glue" them together.  We did the four sides of the house and the four sides of the chimney then waited overnight until it was dry to add the roof pieces as the weight of the roof otherwise seemed to break the house apart.  When the roof was dry we "glued" on the candy decorations.  

These can be set out on display for awhile and then eaten bit by bit.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Wheel On the School

     We just finished reading The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong again.  We've read it before, but our younger children didn't remember it and the older ones didn't mind hearing it again.  It all begins when Lina begins to wonder why they don't have storks in their little dutch fishing village.  She writes a little piece about it and the teacher lets her read it aloud and encourages the whole class to begin to wonder why. 
     The first paragraph says, "To start with there was Shora.  Shora was a fishing village in Holland.  It lay on the shore of the North Sea in Friesland, tight against the dike.  Maybe that was why it was called Shora.  It had some houses and a church and tower.  In five of those houses lived the six school children of Shora, so that is important.  There were a few more houses, but in those houses lived no children--just old people.  They were, well, just old people, so they weren't too important.  There were more children, too, but young children, toddlers, not school children--so that is not so important either."  As the story continues the whole village becomes important as they all begin to work together to bring storks to Shora. The adventures seem to follow non-stop, but for me, one of the best things is that the adults in the story become "important".  To quote the book, "The boys stood there, wanting to tell Janus things but finding no words to express the amazing surprise inside of them.  Janus had become real; he had become a part of their village.  He wasn't a fearsome ogre to be hated and outwitted.  Even the yard with its forbidding high fence somehow looked different now.  Lina could have told Pier and Dirk what it was.  Lina would have said that it was just that Janus had become important in the same way that old Grandmother Sibble III had become real and important.  He had become a friend!"

This is only one of several wonderful books we've read by Meindert DeJong.  If you haven't tried this author yet, I highly recommend this book by him.

Tracks and Trails

 One of our married sons just had twins born prematurely and our recent days for school have been much interrupted here lately but Friday brought the relief of a day home with time to devote to learning together.  I woke to a world enveloped in frost. I knew right away that a nature walk would be our first priority.

We bundled up, grabbed the camera and headed out. 
John was first up the trail.
The Girls wanted to check out the frost first.
   Along the trail we noticed a track trail
heading off to the right.   
 As we entered the woods tracks were
everywhere. It would be a day
to note tracks.

A good closeup of the
rabbit tracks.
Note the rabbit trail
to the left.

We came upon several obvious deer trails....
Ruthie thought this might be a deer bed.
Our trail was dotted with tracks
Note the cloven hooves
in the deer prints.

As we came out of the woods into the field we could see the frost crystals everywhere.
Sarah Studies the frosted grass up close.

After warm days and cooler nights the frost crystals were spectacular!

Our path wound toward home and we noticed other trails leading off through the field.  I wonder where they go?  Maybe next time we'll follow and see where they lead....

But I want to get home now and record in our nature notebooks some of the wonders of the morning.