Sunday, January 29, 2006

Asian Festival

Yesterday, we went to the Asian Festival at the Houston Zoo. There was an 80% chance of rain, so we were thankful that the rain held off until we left the zoo! And, they had moved the festival events indoors, but we are still grateful that we got to look at the animals without getting wet.

We got to watch several Lion Dances. I had never seen these before and was surprised that only 2 men were "in" each Lion. They did some acrobatic "stunts." For example, the man at the "head" would jump on the shoulders of the man at the "tail." I was also amazed at how the Lion opened and shut his mouth, blinked his eyes, and wiggled his tail. It was wonderful! We were on the front row & got to pet the Lion which is supposed to bring good luck for the coming year!

We also watched a Dragon Dance - the men "carrying" the dragon had to run pretty fast around and around the stage and even through the crowd!

Alex was pleased to learn that she was born in the Year of the Dragon, so she got to see "her dance." And, I was born in the Year of the Dog, so this is "my" year!

Here are some other things we did:
  • watched kids perform variety of martial arts - incredible!
  • had Alexandra's name written in Chinese & Japanese (in picture, Chinese is on left)
  • made a red envelope (filled with money when we got home)
  • Mommy made a pink oragami swan
  • watched Chinese watercolor painter
Afterwards, we went on the carousel and looked at some animals. (We'd also started the day with a train ride & learned to sit further back to avoid the fumes next time!) We both look forward to attending this event again next year!

Spelling Bee

On Friday, Alex was in her first spelling bee. I was so nervous! She seemed full of confidence. She spelled some 3-letter words correctly, including "pat." Then, they went on to 4-letter words. She spelled "rope" which surprised me because we haven't worked much with "silent e!" Well, she missed on the word "slam" because she spelled it "salm." She came in 3rd place and she was proud of herself and so are we! (there were 4 contestants, and she was the only kindergartener). The picture above was taken at the spelling bee. She is holding her new doll, Jess, and American Girl doll who is homeschooled just like Alex!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Whales, Part 2

Today we "finished up" our study on whales. From The Mailbox's January Theme Book, we did several things including making a book about whale behavior (breaching, tail lobbing, etc.).

We had made some whales out of paper lunch bags, and they actually turned out pretty cute. (It's hard to see the blue one in the picture). We used these to discuss whale body parts and to demonstrate different whale behaviors.

Yesterday, we made these cute origami whales from DLTK.

The last thing we did was some demonstrations and experiments with salt water, fresh water, and "blubber" (we actually used lard). We got these ideas from The Mailbox Theme book, but I have seen the one with the "blubber bag" several places, including on-line. Basically, you use 2 ziplock sandwich bags to make a glove filled with lard. Then, you stick one hand in the "glove" and insert both hands in ice water. The hand in the "blubber glove" is protected from the cold and feels comfortable, while the other hand is painfully cold. Great demonstration!!! We also talked about the fact that penguins at the South Pole have blubber, too, and that is one reason they can survive in the extreme cold.

(added later...) Today we finished watching Free Willy and loved it! Besides being a great, touching movie, it also shows great footage of orcas. We plan on watching Free Willy 2 when we can get it from the library.

Monday, January 23, 2006

China, Part 1

We started our study of China today by reading "Look What Came From China" by Harvey and "Chinese New Year" by Schaefer. We're amazed at all of the things that started in China!

After our reading, we went through a box of things from China that a friend loaned us. Her husband travels to China fairly regularly, and this box contained things he'd brought home. The photo above is of Alexandra dressed in a silk shirt and holding a bell.

We both are excited to study China and plan on making lots of crafts! Also, our zoo is planning an Asian Festival this weekend to correspond with the Chinese New Year. We are planning on attending and hope the forecasted thunderstorms don't occur!

Monday, January 16, 2006

The Titanic & Icebergs

After reading about icebergs while studying Antarctica, I thought we should read about the Titanic. Here are the books we have read or are reading:

  • "Tonight on the Titanic" by Mary Pope Osborne (Magic Tree House book) - fiction
  • "Titanic" by the Osbornes, a Research Guide companion - non-fiction (this book has a good explanation of icebergs)
  • "The Titanic: Lost... and Found" by Donnelly
  • "The Heroine of the Titanic: A Tale Both True and Otherwise of the Life of Molly Brown" by Blos (added May 2006) - good book for kids about the "Unsinkable Molly Brown"
  • "The Sinking of the Titanic" by Matt Doeden - a cartoon-style book - we read in July 2006 - really enjoyed it
We also made an iceberg and put it in the pool to demonstrate how you can only see a small portion of an iceberg above water. We used a small toy boat as the Titanic and had it run into the iceberg.

Whales, Part 1

Today we started a study on whales. Even with my science background, I was surprised to find that dolphins are actually whales! So, we might have to study dolphins next week!

Non-Fiction Books:
  • "Whales" by Gail Gibbons - good intro (minus the "millions of years ago" pages)
  • "The Wild Whale Watch" - Magic School Bus Chapter Book
Fiction Books:
  • "The Whales' Song" by Sheldon - cute story about a grandmother telling a little girl about how the whales would sing to her when she was young

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Rosa Parks & Ruby Bridges

After reading about MLK, Jr., we started reading books about Rosa Parks & then Ruby Bridges.
Alexandra & I both really respect both of these ladies. She hopes to meet Ruby Bridges some day. Here are some books we both enjoyed:

Rosa Parks:
  • "A Picture Book of Rosa Parks" by David A. Adler (we love all of these "picture books" by Adler!)
  • "I Am Rosa Parks" by Rosa Parks with Jim Haskins
  • "If a Bus Could Talk: the Story of Rosa Parks" by Faith Ringgold
Ruby Bridges:
  • "The Story of Ruby Bridges" by Robert Coles
  • movie: "Ruby Bridges" - great movie - we both enjoyed it alot

Nature Day

We went to our first Nature Day with our local homeschool group. It was a beautiful "winter" day here in Texas. I think the temperature was near 70.

Some of the things we did:
  • watched finches at the birdfeeder
  • sketched near the water
  • watched a garter snake slither by the pond (see photo)
  • used nets to scoop water in the pond (caught a snail's shell)
  • observed a lethargic bee up close
  • 3 mom's stepped in a "surprise" present from a dog (including me!)
  • used binoculars - a lot!
  • ate lunch outside
  • made new friends
It was a lot of fun and we both can't wait until our next monthly Nature Day!
P.S. After seeing the snake, we checked out the book "S-S-Snakes! by Penner, a Step Into Reading Book Level 2

Wacky Cake

We tried out a co-op this week that studies American Girl and Keepers at Home. Unfortunately, we just don't have the time to add this to our schedule right now, but we did have lots of fun! The girls (ages 3-8, I think), each made their own "Wacky Cake." This is a cake where you use only one pan. First you mix all the dry ingredients in the pan, then make 3 ditches like a happy face (see photo) and add the wet ingredients in the ditches. Then stir it all up & bake! It turned out great.

We also discussed diligence and created a decoupage plaque. Lots of fun!

Monday, January 09, 2006

Antarctica & the Penguins

We have been doing a very brief study of Antarctica with an emphasis on penguins. This picture of a penguin was one Alex did of "DLTK's Easy Penguin Craft" found at:

Our main book about Antarctica has been: "Antarctica: A New True Book" by Lynn M. Stone. We also enjoyed: "Discovering Antarctica: Plants and Animals" by June Loves.

A wonderful book about an early Antarctica explorer, Sir Ernest Shackleton, is "Sea of Ice: The Wreck of the Endurance" by Monica Kulling. It is amazing how much these men (& animals) went through.

For fun, and many, many laughs, we've been reading "Mr. Popper's Penguins" by the Atwaters.

Other books we've enjoyed:

  • "The Emperor Penguins New Clothes" by Perlman - we read this many nights in a row
  • Penguin Pete books by Pfister
  • Tacky books by Helen Lester - Alex LOVES these - very funny
  • The Magic School Bus Chapter Book - "Penguin Puzzle" - about penguins, the Antarctica, and icebergs
Movies we watched:
  • "March of the Penguins"
  • "The Pebble and the Penguin" - very cute cartoon movie about an Adelie Penguin who is trying to give a beautiful pebble to his girl - since we didn't study other penguins (besides the Emperor penguins from March of the Penguins), I was surprised that these male penguins present a pebble to a female, and if she accepts it, they are mates for life!
  • Mr. Popper's Penguin - cute movie evidently based on a picture book of Mr. Popper's Penguins
Alex also came up with something very cute by herself. We were playing with balloons and she placed one between her knees. We ended up waddling around like penguins and even trying to jump like they do.
I had really wanted to do this neat penguin study I'd found called Easy Make & Learn Projects: Penguins (Grades 1-3) - maybe we'll still do it sometime. I also had some other projects in mind, but I think we'll move on to our next topic in a couple of days.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

We've been reading some books about Martin Luther King, Jr since his birthday will be celebrated next week. Here are the books we've enjoyed:
  • "Young Martin Luther King, Jr." by Joanne Mattern ("A Troll First-Start Biography)
  • "A Picture Book of Martin Luther King, Jr." by David A. Adler
  • "Marin Luther King, Jr. and His Birthday" by Jacqueline Woodson
  • Our Friend, Martin
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. (a Great Americans for Children movie) by Schlessinger
"Our Friend, Martin" was a great movie and Alex watched it several times. This was a great movie, but I do think I should warn other parents. Although most of it is a cartoon, there are real news clips throughout the movie and some of them got a little graphic (ex. policemen spraying hoses at people). I fast forwarded through parts of it. But, I did think the movie did a great job explaining how racial relations used to be in the South and depicting Martin Luther King, Jr's life.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Ice Penguins

This is just a quick post - I wanted to post a picture of the penguins we made today. I think these are extra special, because the way we made them was my idea! I didn't "steal" it from anyone! (extremely unusual!!!) :-)

Anyway, we made these kind of like the snowmen we made before. We froze water in balloons, cut the balloons off, and used salt to stick the 2 pieces together. Then, we used felt to "decorate" them - Alex made a girl "bride" penguin, complete with pink lips! I made the boy penguin. If anyone ever figures out an easeir way to decorate them - the felt isn't very easy - please let me know!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Spelling Bee Practices

Alex has been practicing for her first spelling bee, which will be held later this month. She loves these practices so much, we even play "spelling bee" at home to practice her words. She is a great speller!

Monday, January 02, 2006

Houston Zoo Lights

For the first time, we visited the Houston Zoo during their Winter Wild celebration. At night for 2 weekends, they stay open late and have lots of lights. It happened to be quite cold that night, but we had lots of fun. We got to do some crafts and Alex decorated a sugar cookie at Mrs. Claus' Kitchen. I enjoyed a cup of hot chocolate. We both walked through a tunnel where it was snowing!

We both thought the best part was the ice carver. A man used a chain saw and carved a penguin out of a block of ice. As he carved, ice sprayed the crowd. The kids, including Alex, got up close to get as ice-covered as possible. She loved it! I took a couple of pictures, but they didn't turn out well enough to show up on our blog - too dark!

We'll have to do this again next year!

Pioneer Day

On November 2nd, we went to Pioneer Day at Jesse H. Jones Park & Nature Center. There was so much to do! We'll have to go back next year and try some of the things we missed.

Some of the things Alex did:
  • weave on a loom
  • make a rope
  • make a beeswax candle
  • make a paper bonnet
  • dress up as a pioneer girl
  • ride on a hayride
  • write with a quill
We also just got to watch a lot of people pretending to be pioneers and see some of the types of buildings they lived in. It was lots of fun! And, we had even more fun since Nana was in town and got to come with us!
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