Friday, July 31, 2009

Volcano Week

We studied volcanoes in school this week. We touched on beginning geology. We talked about how volcanoes form, the types of volcanoes and where they are found. We talked about the structure of the earth, and about the three main types of rocks.

Our list of books this week:

Hill of Fire by Lewis (We used some activities from the unit study here and lapbook activities here)
Volcanoes by Branley
The Adventures of Polo by Faller
Eyewitness Books: Volcanoes and Earthquakes
Magic School Bus Chapter Book: Voyage to the Volcano by Judith Stamper
Magic Tree House: Earthquake in the Early Morning by Osborne
Magic Tree House: Vacation Under the Volcano by Osborne
Volcano! by Nicolson (I like this one because it lists easy science experiments inside)
Braving Volcanoes: Volcanologists by PetersonThat Crazy Eddie and the Science Project of Doom by Cox
Into the Volcano by O'Meara
That Crazy Eddie and the Science Project of Doom by Cox

We examined some rocks closely and talked about their texture, color, and about how shale will flake off in layers. Thing One asked to smash the slate, which led to me learning a secret of little boy happiness. I gave him the hammer and permission to smash any rocks he wanted. He loved this so much, he even asked to do it the next day as well.Of course, we had to make a baking soda and vinegar volcano. We took an small empty bottle and wrapped it in crumpled aluminum foil, and put the whole shebang into an old roasting pan. Add a few teaspoons of baking soda into the bottle, mix your food coloring into a small pitcher of vinegar, and pour the vinegar into the bottle. Do you see the joy on his face? It was worth getting everything in my dining room stained red.
We got a really nice intense red color from food coloring paste (versus liquid).Friday afternoon, I pulled out my nice acrylic paints and some small canvases and let the boys paint real paintings. Here's Thing Two who insisted on having the biggest paintbrush. These are Thing One's:
And Thing Two's:
I'm so proud. I think they are fantastic. They are going on the wall as soon as they're dry!

See you next week, when we explore BUGS!

Maverick Stars

I've been working with Bonnie Hunter's Maverick Stars pattern on a baby quilt. I finished this little gem at craft night last night. I'm quite happy with it. I think the only thing I'd change is that next time I'd make it larger.
I added white sashing between the blocks to space out the stars a bit. I looked for multi-colored fabric in my stash of novelty fabrics for a border but just didn't like any one enough, or didn't have enough of any one. So I decided to piece a border with leftover 2.5 inch squares.
For the backing, I used up a piece of fabric I have never liked but I thought went well with this quilt. It has little kids' faces on it.
My next decision was how to bind the quilt. I didn't want white, or black, or any solid color. I wanted multi colored to blend with the scrappy border. So I found a chunk of pretty obnoxious teddy bear fabric that had the right colors and made binding from that. I think it turned out nicely!
And this came 100% out of my existing stash! I love it when I can finish a project without buying anything new.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Airplane Week

We had kind of a lazy airplane week. I feel bad because I just didn't put the effort into filling workboxes that I usually do. I did a good job on Monday but was lazy the rest of the week. I'm starting to think that a good homeschool schedule for us might be three weeks on, one week off, year round.

Thing One has been saying for a year that he wants to be a pilot when he grows up. Specifically, a fighter pilot. Monday, I researched what it takes to become a pilot, and what a pilot does in his job, and I made workboxes about each of those steps.
Overview of a pilot's training and job duties, why it's a stressful job

School-I asked a few questions of each boy like what's 2+2, sing the ABC song, etc. You could present them with a diploma and a graduation hat, if desired.

Pilot Training School-They sat in their chairs and pretended to fly a plane as I narrated what to do.

Health Check-up- I was the doctor and used the play doctor kit to certify them able to fly.
Pilot License-I printed out a photo of each child, their name, address, etc on the back, and put them together back to back and put contact paper over each one. You could also use an old badge holder. I also gave them "pilot's hats" which were just two hats out of our dress up bin.
Checking the Weather and Aircraft-We pointed to today's weather on a chart, and then pretended to check the outside of the aircraft (our chair) and fuel it up.
Planning Routes-I made a Departure/Arrival Chart on a piece of posterboard. Thing One looked at our US map and decided what city he wanted to leave from, and where he wanted to land. We wrote these on our chart, plotted the cities on a dry-erase US map and he drew lines between them. We compared which routes which were longer, shorter, etc. We also wrote times on our chart, and discussed AM and PM, noon and midnight.Seating Chart-I made a very simple plane diagram with four rows (A, B, C, D) and four columns (1, 2, 3, 4). I made up silly passenger names like Angry Alice, Bald Bart, Perky Pam, etc and wrote them on index cards cut to fit inside the boxes on the chart. On the back of each card, I wrote a letter and number (4D) and Thing One had to put these on the right place on the chart. He also had fun reading the names. I also made pilot, copilot, and flight attendant cards to put in the Cockpit and Flight Attendant sections of the chart. I think this would be fun to do with stuffed animals, too, on a large sheet of paper or a sheet or just mark the floor. Just tape the chart coordinates on the bottom of each animal. Payday-I put some play money in the workbox for their salaries

We also made some simple styrofoam prints of some of Thing One's airplane drawings. I cut cardstock to postcard size so we could mail these for our postcrossing project. These turned out really cute. The only step added to my basic directions are that I taped Thing One's drawing onto the styrofoam, and he traced over it with a dull pencil, pushing hard into the styrofoam.
Our airplane reading list this week was:
Miss Mouse Takes Off by Ormerod
Cam Jansen #12 The Mystery of Flight 54 by Adler
Airport by Barton
Eyewitness Books Flying Machine by Nahum
Strange and Wonderful Aircraft by Weiss
Feathers, Flaps and Flops by Zaunders
Moon Plane by McCarty
DK Experience Flight by Platt
Goosebumps How I Learned to Fly by Stine

We listened to:
Most Amazing Truck, Train and Plane Songs (Music for Little People)
My Green Kite CD by Peter Himmelman

We watched:
Bill Nye the Science Guy's video about Flight
Reading Rainbow Bored with Nothing to Do

We made several paper airplanes. I have to admit that none of them flew worth a darn, but Thing One had fun with them. We had fun experimenting with how to improve their flight. Paw Paw sent Thing One a neat book of paper airplanes recently called Pocket Flyers by Ken Blackburn & Jeff Lammers. They are pre-printed sheets that you fold into tiny paper planes. I love that there are multiple sheets of each plane.

We wrote a few interview questions for Paw Paw because he used to be an air traffic controller, drew him a nice picture of airplanes, and stuck it in the mail.

We learned about an early aviator from Brazil called Alberto Santos-Dumont. You can learn more about him here. There are some nice links and activities on this site. This was a nice opportunity to learn about Brazil and do a bit of geography with our globe and map.
Friday we went to the College Park Aviation Museum. We had been there several times before. I made a scavenger hunt for Thing One to do while we were there, based on things I knew were there (map, model plane, goggles, etc).
Daddy let Thing One play "Flight Control" on his ipod. This is his new obsession!
The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
That's all til next week, when we learn more about volcanoes!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Self Portrait

"My challenge to you, should you choose to accept it, is to post of picture of yourself without makeup and without your hair styled." See more here.

I like the laundry basket in the background. Completely unintentional but very representative of my life right now.

I've got a wierd poofy hair thing happening this morning, due to wearing a headband all day yesterday. No concealer to cover up those big purple bags under my eyes. That's the makeup I don't usually let myself be seen without. My youngest has inherited my slightly crooked eyes. I am now finding gray hairs in my eyebrows on a regular basis. I have no idea how much gray is on my head, I haven't had my natural color since high school. I'm in the process of growing it out and am sooooo in hate with it right now. I'm about one bad hair day away from cutting it all off again. I need someone to talk me down from the precipice.

Yes, folks, at 36, it's not pretty. But it's beautiful.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Current Quilting Projects

I finished two quilts last week. The first was a baby gift for our new nephew.
I realized halfway thru piecing that all my blue and white four patches were turned 90 degrees. But there was no way in heck I was going to rip all those seams and re do it. I don't think the baby will notice. The scrappy border was fun to make.
The second is a quilt for my youngest. This was a block of the month at my guild, and I actually sat down and made a bunch of them at the same time. This is the first quilt I quilted on a longarm sewing machine. It was a good first quilt for that, since I practiced making a different design in each jar, and in each lid. This week, I'm trying to finish another baby quilt. It is made of Maverick Stars from Bonnie Hunter's website. She gives excellent directions. (Before you click on that link, think twice....I promise you will spend hours there. Don't say I didn't warn you.) These are so great for using up scraps, especially 2.5 inch squares, and smallish triangles.
Aren't they cute? They are so fun to make. I get very bored making the same block over and over. These are each different, even though they are made the same way.

I think I will put sashing between each blocks, to space them out a bit. Give they eye a place to rest. There's a lot going on in this quilt.

I saw Bonnie Hunter speak at my guild meeting last year. She is amazing. I like her scrap system. She preaches that you pay the same amount of money per yard for those scraps, so use them up! I spent an entire week last year, about two hours per day, cutting my scraps into strips and squares. I used many of those squares in these stars.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Styrofoam Prints

I needed to make a bunch of baby cards for upcoming births, so I decided to try a technique I've been wanting to experiment with to streamline the process. Of course, you don't have to limit this technique to card-making, you could use it for a kids' craft, or fabric printing or any other kind of surface design.

To make these prints, you will need a clean styrofoam meat or vegetable tray, acrylic craft paint, a paintbrush, a palette (I use a paper plate), some paper or blank cards to print on, and a mark-making tool or two. You can use about anything to make marks. I have here a toothpick, a pencil, a chopstick, some ceramic and printmaking tools, a corn holder, and a nut pick.
Start by cutting your tray into a piece that is the same size as your card, or smaller. Make sure you have cut off any pieces with marks on them, like a recycle symbol or manufacturer's mark (these will show up in your printed image). After your styrofoam is all trimmed, you'll have a nice piece that is flat on both sides. You can use each side to make a separate design if desired.

Use one of your mark-making tools to draw a simple picture. Don't get too complicated. Don't forget to reverse any writing!You'll end up with something like this:
Cover the styrofoam with fairly thick paint. You may want to go back over the lines quickly with your mark-making tool at this point, just don't let the paint dry.

Press the painted side onto your paper, trying to get even pressure all over. When you lift it off, try to lift straight up and off so you don't smudge the image. I like to make a test print on scrap paper first. Now go and rinse the paint off in the sink. You can totally re-use these! Here are some of my printed cards:I took my paintbrush and touched up that line by the letter "Y" so it wasn't so distracting from the word. I left all the other imperfections, though. I like that handmade look. I plan on fancying them up with some bits of ribbon, and writing "Congratulations on Your New Bundle of Joy" on the inside.
I hope you try some of these prints! I made a set of eight cards, four pink and four blue, in half an hour! Can't beat that for a fast, fun and cheap craft.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

Why I Love Our Town

We are sooooo lucky to have a farmers' market that meets a two minute walk from our house on Sunday mornings from Memorial Day to mid-October.

It is the home of:

Fresh fruits and veggies
Live plants
Occasional treats like pastries or artisan bread
Visiting dogs
Live music
Civic events, like a day when firetrucks, ambulances and police cars come out for the kids to see
Community events like corn roasts, build a scarecrow, free snowcones
Knowledgeable local growers

Right now, there are cherries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, cantaloupe, peaches (REAL peaches), corn, squash, cucumbers, eggplant, onions, herb plants, potted and cut flowers, fair trade coffee, honey, salsa, preserves and jellies. Non food items for sale include rain barrels, gourmet doggie treats, and green cleansers.

Often, my husband and I will take turns taking the kids to the market to give the other spouse some quiet time alone. As much as I love those days, I love the days we all go together even more. It's so fun to walk over, all of us hand in hand, and explore the sights, sounds, smells and textures of the market.

Parrot Week

What the heck do you plan for a whole week of parrot themed activities? Well, I'll tell you what we did.

I asked Thing One what it is about parrots that interest him and that helped me figure out where to go with our studies. He wanted to know more about talking birds.

Our book list:
Princess Penelope's Parrot by Lester
Beastly Feast by Goldstone
Talking Birds by Flanagan
Parrots by Altman
We listened to Nonsense Poems and Stories on CD by Edward Lear
We had a pirate day. We read pirate books and dressed up like a pirate.
Our pirate book list:
Pirates Eat Porridge by Morgan
Tough Boris by Fox
Pirates by Lamm

For crafts, we stuck feathers in a styrofoam ball and glued googly eyes on it for a parrot head. We printed out some parrot bookmarks, colored them, and laminated them.

We looked at and felt real feathers, looked at a picture of different sizes and shapes of feathers, and learned the parts of a feather. We talked about the different ways that feathers help birds, and the different ways that people use feathers. We talked about types of beaks and why different birds have different kinds of beaks.

We watched silly videos of birds talking and playing and bathing in the sink on We watched volume one of David Attenborough's Life of Birds but Thing One declared it "boring." I think he doesn't have quite the attention span for it yet. I thought it was fascinating.

We played a parrot game, where one person was the bird owner and one person was the parrot and repeated everything the owner said.

And I saved the best for last. We got to visit a friend who owns a 12 year old African Meyer parrot named Oscar. The boys got to pet and hold him. He knows how to shake hands which they thought was soooo cooool. They fed him tortilla chips.
We tried a new kind of puzzle for our treasure hunt this week. I put a clue into code that had five letters in it "Mom's room" (five counting the apostrophe). Each day after finishing his first workbox puzzle, he got the key to one letter in the week-long puzzle (?=M for example). By the end of the week he had the puzzle solved and found the treasure chest. I gave him a "Canadian Oreo", a maple cream cookie that daddy brought back from Canada this week.

We also found a venus fly trap at the local garden center and Thing One is so excited about his new "pet." He is thinking up a name for it, and chasing house flies to feed it.

Summer Post Projects

We recently discovered the postcrossing project and signed up immediately. I was the kid who had five foreign pen pals growing up and looked forward to every letter. I hope that my kids have the same passion about correspondence, but for now, I think I am living vicariously through them! So far we have sent postcards all over the world and have received about ten really nice postcards from all over the world. It's so exciting when we get a new card in the mail, and read it together. It's a great chance to discuss geography, so we always look up the country on our world map and globe.

Being five years old, Thing One doesn't write very well yet and certainly not well enough to write tiny letters on a postcard. So in order to expedite the process, and give him a way to participate, we have collected postcards from our town and region, and he gets to pick the card. I try to help based on the recipient's requests (certain people want certain kinds of cards). I print out the addresses with the post code attached and he pastes them onto the cards. Then he narrates what he wants to say and I write it for him. We usually wait until we can request three or four addresses at a time then prepare them all as one workbox, then make a trip to the post office to purchase stamps as another workbox.

We have also been doing a project called Making Friends. This site has cute paper dolls that you can customize to look like yourself and reflect your interests and hobbies. Through their Friends Across America program, you can send yours off to someone else and get someone else's in return. We do about two of these as a workbox per week, and then when we have ten completed, we stick them in an envelope and send it off to the address on the site. We received our first packet of friends last week, from a Brownie troupe. Thing One liked reading about each girl's interests.

We are also doing some package exchanges. One is with a friend's child, with the theme My Town. Thing One has a set of world landmark flash cards that he really likes, and dad came up with the idea of making landmark cards for our town. Thing One really wants to laminate them! It's so funny what makes them excited. We will probably include some brochures, a city map, maybe some regional snacks.

I also signed up each of my boys to participate in an online exchange with kids their own age. These packages can contain anything you think your partner might like to receive. These will contain more fun things, but I am considering some regional or city-specific items too, and information about our family since these are strangers.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Our Postage Stamp Garden

We live in a suburban townhome and we have a tiny yard. But I am determined to make the most of what we have. This is the first house we have owned and the first place I've ever had any bit of land we can call our own.

The first year we moved in, we ripped up the existing brick patio, and relaid it to a much smaller size, giving us about ten more square feet of grass. Our intention was to sod this bit that used to be patio, but since Thing One liked to dig in it so much, we just sort of let it turn into a digging hole. I'm so glad we decided to let the hole stay. He (and now Thing Two as well) loves it soooo much. They have spent endless hours playing with their trucks and digging tools.

The next year, We added a flower bed down the length of the yard on one side, and a small flower bed on the other side of the yard. We only planted a few herbs and some sunflowers that first year. We discovered that the sunflowers grew great, and all faced into our neighbors' yard. So the next year we planted them on the opposite side of the yard and were actually able to enjoy looking at the blooms! Thing One helped me plant a bunch of tulip, daffodil, iris and hyacinth bulbs. Bulbs are suck an easy gardening project for little ones. They bloom fairly well and have come back each year. It is such a joy to see those shoots come up when the spring starts thawing the ground. And I do love having vases full of flowers I grew myself!

We planted lots of flowering vines like Morning Glory and Clematis, to make the most of our vertical space. I stapled up a plastic net along the length of the fence that the vines cling to. I also planted a jasmine but it has yet to bloom. DH planted a rosebush but it only lasted one season.

I have planted a few vegetables here and there. Cherry tomatoes flourish, and I had a gargantuan bell pepper one year. My regular tomatoes never seem to do well and our okra and cantaloupes never made much to speak of. My herbs do well each year.

We put up a simple compost bin. It is four wooden stakes with a strong plastic net wrapped around it. We love watching the birds, and the occasional chipmunk, rifle through the compost. Sometimes seeds we throw in there germinate and we get mystery plants. This year's mystery plant is looking like a zucchini. This is what the zucchini looked like last week:
This is what it looks like today!

We eventually took on our front yard. It was a simple slope when we moved in, with an azalea bush and a dogwood tree, both in pretty sad shape. When the dogwood tree fell over and crushed what was left of the azalea tree, we knew it was time to decide how to proceed. We debated about what to do with it for at least a year.

We eventually decided to do three tiers. The top will hold a bench eventually, and was planted with ferns. The middle tier is the smallest and holds a few miscellaneous plants. Perhaps next year I will actually plan what I want to plant on this tier. The bottom tier is just grass so we have a bit of front yard space to sit upon.

The best thing about our yard is all the wildlife. We keep bird feeders full in the winter, sometimes right outside our front window, sometimes in the back yard at the patio door. The squirrels and chipmunks always find them, too. In the spring, we start seeing tiny bunnies in our clover in the back yard. They often eat our plants too, but they are so darned cute. Right now, a chipmunk is burrowing tunnels all underneath our patio, and the bricks are collapsing in random places all over. It's very aggravating!

Next year, I am considering putting in a small bed on the outside of our back fence. It's a sunny south facing spot that would be great for veggies or flowers. My husband usually does the hard labor of building the bed, so I'm not sure he's thrilled at the idea, but he sure does like fresh veggies and herbs, so I think I can sweet talk him into a little bit of sweat equity with promises of tomato bread salad and fresh pesto.

Chesapeake Bay Week

Thing One actually let me choose the theme, and I went with one that Daddy suggested, the Chesapeake Bay. We started the week by looking at maps of the area, and discussing definitions of a bay, saltwater, freshwater, brackish water, estuary, marsh, tributary, watershed, and pollution.

We talked about animals and birds that live in or near the bay, and fishes and shellfish. Our book list this week:
Olly the Oyster Cleans the Bayby Allen
Chadwick the Crab and his Chesapeake Bay Friends by Cummings
Chadwick the Crab and the Garplegrungen by Cummings
Awesome Chesapeake, a Guide for Kids by Bell
Chesapeake ABC by Cummings
Chesapeake Rainbow by Cummings
Life in an Estuary by Walker
Finding Birds in the Chesapeake by Aiken
Bella Baxter and the Lighthouse Mystery by Mason
What the Sea Saw by St Pierre
My Grandpa and the Sea by Orr

We listened to some new music. Of course, I played "Sitting on the Dock of the Bay" by Otis Redding, and we checked these cds out of the library:
Ratatouille soundtrack (I love this cd, think we'll be buying it, it's just fun, all the songs are about food, one of my favorite things)
Come and Make a Circle, Susan Salidor
Wiggles, Wiggle Bay
Nickel Creek, self titled (I picked this for the Lighthouse song, and because it has a cover of one of our favorites, The Fox)

We talked about the Bay Bridge and watched a dvd about how it was designed and built (Modern Marvels Vol. 13). The same dvd had an episode about lighthouses, so we watched that one, too.

We visited the National Wildlife Refuge Visitor's Center, which was recently renovated. I was disappointed to see all the same exhibits we have seen before, but it's been several years since we visited and it was all new to Things One and Two. The big hits there were the touch tables (animal pelts, bones, and antlers), the kids' area with puzzles and books, and the tram ride. The tram ride was a forty minute long tour of some of the refuge. I learned a lot and I think the boys did too. Thing One said the tram ride was his favorite thing we did this week.

We made a wave jar with oil and water colored blue. This is from the book Simple Nature Experiments with Everyday Materials by Anthony D. Fredericks. I used an old empty plastic mayonnaise jar that I had been saving to use as an estimation jar. We also grew some magic crystals.

We examined some seashells closely. When Thing One saw this one, he exclaimed, "It's just like the wand of Dianthus!" (from The Magic Tree House books). We made several fish crafts. We made a little mini-aquarium with the cutout that came out of a fish stencil, and part of the packaging from something or another I saved that looked like an aquarium.
We made a fish puppet from a kit we had. We did an anatomical puzzle of a horseshoe crab and read a story about how horseshoe crabs are harmless.

We walked a friends' dog this week, and there is a little pond in her neighborhood. It's a mess of a pond full of algae and litter, but it turned out to be a great week to hang out there. We were discussing algae as part of the food chain, so it was nice to be able to show it to Thing One. We also spied frogs, turtles, red winged blackbirds, dragonflies, and tons of cattails and a few blackberries.

I had hoped to actually go to the bay this week, perhaps take a boat tour or go to the beach. I have to admit that I don't like the beach. I have never really cared for all that sand everywhere. I'm more of a mountain hiker and forest explorer kind of person. But it feels selfish to live this close to the bay, study it for a week, and not go see it.