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 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.


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


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!

Not Back to School Blog Hop

Monday, August 13, 2012

This is what happens...

...when you spend the day at the museum, then totally cave in the gift shop and let your kids take home a couple of souvenirs.

 I didn't ask them to make these diaramas--in fact, I didn't even know they were doing it until they showed me their finished projects!

 So maybe it's not such a bad thing to be a pushover sometimes?


Saturday, August 11, 2012

Super-Awesome Classroom

Welcome to the Super-Awesome Classroom of the Super-Awesome School of Super-Awesomeness!*

Our classroom has changed a lot over the years.  Not surprising, since my kids have changed a lot over the years, too!

These tables used to be lined up so the kids could do most of their work together.  This year, they each requested their own workspace, so I put them corner-to-corner.  You can just make out the empty clothesline on the far wall, waiting to display this year's art and other creations!

 We try to keep the tabletops pretty simple.  A placemat works as a pad to write on.  Most of their supplies are kept elsewhere so they have plenty of space to work. 

Here is Super's tabletop.  She has a placemat, a new box of 64 crayons (yay!) and a few German flashcards.  Apparently she decided to tape a reminder about the order of operations here, too. (Dude keeps a multiplication chart on his table.)

A dollar store napkin holder keeps reference cards handy: shape properties, poetry response prompts, flashcards for making plural nouns, etc.


Super's table is closest to the heater because she is always cold in the winter!

The table in the middle holds each kids' filebox, nature journals, the hole punch, and their giant history binders (looking kind of empty after we cleaned last year's stuff out!)


Other everyday supplies are kept in this area.  The blue drawers hold lapbooking supplies, markers and colored pencils, rulers and tape measures, empty folders, new composition books, etc.  The white bookshelf has reference books, a couple of workbox-type activities that I put together, the microscope, and our "brain breaks."  
(Those are the little activities we do when we need to refocus or just take a quick break.) 

This was quite a find!  A local bookstore was going out of business (very sad) and I asked if they had any shelves to sell.  This awesome rotating bookshelf shows off the beautiful covers of our art books!

This messy bookshelf holds all kinds of things: a few art supplies, some of my teaching materials, the kids' binders, and other random stuff.  Past projects of every kind are displayed on top.  You can see my disorganized pile of posters and maps in the corner, plus a comfy reading chair covered in a beloved blanket.

This is the extent of my planning "system."  I use a Word document to plan our days, normally about a month in advance.  This year, to my complete surprise, I'm actually prepared through November!  Everything I need for those plans (worksheets, manipulatives, books, whatever)  goes into these files.  On the left: math up to 11/16.  On the right: everything else up to 11/16.

This shelf is right next to my desk and it holds a few math games and whatever books we are using at the moment.  As we finish a science or history unit, these books will get put away or returned to the library, and new books will reside here.

Culling a ton of books over the summer allowed us to add this great reading nook.  As you can see, Gomez really enjoys hanging out here.  He doesn't read (as far as I know) but he enjoys cuddling with readers! 

I'm not posting a picture of my desk because it's so clean and organized, it would only make you feel bad.  In other words, it's a total pigsty at the moment!  And every moment.

We love our classroom, but like most homeschoolers, we can learn anywhere we want!  As long as the weather is warm, we'll be spending plenty of time here as well.

Can't wait to see all the other amazing learning spaces on the blog hop!  Have a fantastic year learning with your families!

*This is what you get when you let a 1st and 3rd grader name their school.