Monday, January 14, 2013

A New Journey

Yeah, it's been a while.  And I've been missing this blog and all my blog buddies terribly! 

Do you even want to hear my excuses or shall we just move on to the new plans?  :-)

Oh, OK, here's the first excuse.  I lost my camera.  Happily it has been found, but for several weeks I wasn't able to take pictures of our daily work.  And without loading the photos every evening, I wasn't prompted to post about our activities.

The second excuse is that our adoption did not go as smoothly as we'd hoped.  I'm not going to go into a lot of detail here; I'll just say that November and December were hard months for our family.

Third and final excuse: I have recently become a working mom.  Well, sort of.  I'm spending several days each week helping out at our family business, and it has thrown our entire schedule out of whack.

Not that I wasn't sympathetic to working moms before, because I was.  But now I really get it.  My hat is off to those of you who work full-time, because just going in part-time has been overwhelming for me!

My kids are old enough to do a lot of their schoolwork independently, but I still feel like academics have suffered here at the Super-Awesome School this winter.  Besides, I really miss doing school with them every day.

And we are all eating way too many frozen dinners and dinners out.  (The waitress at our favorite local Mexican restaurant doesn't even take our order anymore, she just smiles, waves, and tells the cook we're there.)

So why all the upheaval in the Sparklee family?

Because it will be worth it!

In the coming months, we are transforming our family business (a small hotel) into a natural history-themed resort, complete with art galleries, science exhibits, classes for kids and adults, a spa, the coolest pool you've ever seen, and a restaurant that serves fresh, local food.  It's an exciting project that has captured the imagination of our entire family.

Researching and developing our business plan has been an amazing opportunity for our kids!  They are now on a first-name basis with some of the leading scientists in the country.  They've enjoyed behind-the-scenes tours of multiple museums.  They have sifted through style boards, choosing their favorites from among the carpet and wallpaper samples.  They have worked with professional artists, brainstorming ideas for everything from logos to pool design.  

They have sat through some very, very boring meetings as well.  Because any big idea worth pursuing takes a lot of planning and coordinating, budgeting and compromising.  

So even as I say academics are suffering, I'm not too broken up about it.  We're perpetually behind in math, just barely keeping up with history and science, and grammar and German went out the window some time ago.  But they are getting an amazing education as they watch an idea go from "wouldn't it be cool" to "let's make it happen."

I still plan to dedicate this blog to our daily homeschool activities, especially our unit studies and hands-on projects.  But I'll be starting a new blog as well, so I can journal about the new business.

Can't wait to share our new journey with you all!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Summer to Fall



Our backyard "mystery tree" in August


September





First dusting of snow, September





October





After a huge windstorm, October





Today, October 20, with a front moving in


It's hard to believe it's the same tree.  It has changed so much in only three months!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Our Week in Pictures

Also known as the lazy mom's guide to homeschool blogging...

 What we're reading.


 
Vocabulary Bingo.   


 A few more things for our Time Capsule.


Measurements, and three things that represent you.


  Nature, knowledge, and creativity.


 And pugs in the sun.


A reference I made for the kids using bookmarks from abcteach.


 Practicing multiples...

...and playing integer games.


 Korean food!
 

 Cereal and sign language.


No matter how busy we are...

 
...there's always time to be a smart-aleck!

Hope you had a great week, too!



Sunday, August 26, 2012

Our Cell Unit Study So Far...


We began our unit study on cells by watching this amazing video.  If you haven't seen The Inner Life of the Cell before, it really will blow your mind.  (The one below has music but there is a version with narration.  We plan to watch it later, once we're more familiar with some of the vocabulary.)



Then we quickly reviewed a book we read last year: Enjoy Your Cells by Fran Balkwill.  (This is a GREAT series, but for some reason the books are getting harder to find!)  Looking through the book one more time refreshed our memories so we could do a KWL chart together.


After we jotted down what we already knew, we wrote down what we wanted to learn about cells.  Our questions were:

What is the largest cell in our bodies?
What is the smallest cell?
What do the different organelles do and how do they do it?
What is the cell membrane made of?
How do cells move?
What the heck is a motor protein? (That big crazy structure in the video above.)
What do microtubules do?
How do cells reproduce? 


We got out the cell models that we made just before the summer break and referred to the organelles as we read this article from The National Institute of General Medical Sciences.
Then we watched a couple of BrainPop movies about cells.



We read the first four chapters of Powerful Plant Cells by Rebecca L. Johnson and completed a plant cell labeling sheet from Enchanted Learning.

Super remembered seeing something about a dancing plant, so we searched for it and finally found information about the Desmodium gyrans.
PSM V18 D524 Desmodium gyrans in diurnal and nocturnal state

We found three YouTube videos showing the plant moving.  This one is probably the best.

We ended the first day of our study with this fun video.  We have the Here Comes Science DVD-CD and we absolutely love it!




If the neighbors didn't already think we're crazy, I'm sure they do now.  Come on, everybody!  Sing along!  Photosynthesis!  AAAA-AAAAH!




Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Our August Tree Study


We spent this week's Outdoor Hour studying a tree in our backyard.  When we first moved here 11 years ago, we actually considered removing this tree.  It was so scrawny and sickly, we didn't think it would make it through the first winter.


I'm so glad we kept it!  It's a wonderful shade tree now, and a lovely place to sit.  We have never known what type of tree it is...so we decided to find out!

 

The leaves are dark green, simple, and toothed.  They alternate on the twig and have small veins coming out of a central vein.  The tree makes fluffy yellow-green catkins in the spring, and these long "fruits" in fall. 


The bark is rough and papery.  This made me wonder if the tree was in the birch family, but our tree book only listed "white birch," and the trunk is definitely not white.  This photo isn't the best (standing under a shade tree on an overcast day) but the trunk is reddish-gold with some black spots.


We were surprised to see that our tree already has a few yellow leaves.  Our nighttime temps haven't been cool enough to change the leaves...I suspect the yellow ones are just an anomaly.



 We also observed some strange-looking leaves.  We pulled them off for further inspection.  We couldn't find any insects on these leaves, so we don't know what caused the bumps and discoloring.


We did find insects other places, however.  Hi, little guy!


This mosquito hawk was so well-camoflaged, it actually startled me!


We brought some leaves and bark inside to look at them under the microscope.  The bark was sparkly, bumpy and whitish under magnification.  The leaves were interesting--under 10X they were shiny and we could just make out the cell walls.  Under 20X we could see individual cell walls!


The kids did leaf rubbings but weren't happy with how they turned out, so they glued leaves and bark to their notebook pages.  Then we visited the Arbor Day Foundation and tried to identify our tree.  Based on all the identifiers, we have a water birch (red birch.)  


I'm not convinced...our tree is very tall and according to Wikipedia, the red birch is a "shrub or small tree."   Also, our tree doesn't match any of the red birch photos that I found. 


Oh, well, we'll just have to keep trying to identify our "mystery tree."  In the meantime, the rose bush next to it is getting ready for a fall bloom.  Dude fashioned a flower press from two heavy books and pressed a rose for his nature notebook.

We'll revisit our tree in September and see how it has changed. Hope you are finding time to enjoy nature, too!



Monday, August 20, 2012

First Day of 7th and 5th!

7:30 am

Mom is caffeinated, has a load of laundry going, and is pulling today's work out of the files...

 


 
8:15 am

Kids are up, dressed, and having breakfast.  Then Dude feeds all the animals while Super puts away clean dishes and gives the dogs fresh water.



9:30 am

Gomez is all settled in for the first school day!

We start by filling out a fun First Day Questionnaire.  This is one of several things we'll put in our Time Capsule (to be opened at the end of the school year.)



10 am

First Day goodie bags!



Some new school supplies, Tic Tacs, a cute little journal, a mini Slinky, thinking putty (a.k.a. Silly putty) and a note from Mom.



 10:30

Kids happily organize their workspace...then we head out for Nature Study.   (More on our Tree Study in another post.)





11:40

Lunch...and an impromptu science experiment.  Dude wants to see what would happen if:



 he measures exactly four inches of Silly Putty...



...uses a pen and the Slinky to hang the Silly Putty off the table for five minutes...

 

 ...and then measures it again.  Amazing what a couple of cheap toys can inspire!


12:30 pm 

A few math review sheets and a sorting activity.




Uh, Gomez?  Trying to work here...


1:30 pm

Grammar Voyage: the introduction.  Then a nostalgic voyage for me.  We read one of my childhood favorites: The Captain's Dog


Super is in charge of jotting down the adjectives and Dude records the verbs.  Until they get tired of it and just listen to the wonderful story.



 2:15 pm

Kids listen to Raptor Red while doing handwriting practice.



 2:30 pm

A snack and free reading time.





Wake up, Gomez, it's almost time for karate!

Other than the goodie bags, this is a pretty typical day for us.  We alternate between nature study, science, and history.  We do math, reading and language every day.  

Between karate, swimming, scouts and our homeschool group, there is usually something going on in the afternoon.  And Gomez always joins us for school!

Hope you had a great day, too!


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