Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Sam Houston Folk Festival

We went to the Sam Houston Folk Festival on Saturday. There was so much to see and do! I took lots of pictures, so I think I'll just post some and write briefly about each one.

This picture is of a lady making lace! I've never seen it done before, and I was amazed at how time-consuming it looked. I kind of agreed with her (after her demo) that it was more time consuming than difficult. I don't think I'd have the patience for it. :-)

This man was demonstrating how he makes Windsor chairs. We saw lots of craftsmen, but this was something I hadn't seen before.

They also had a Scottish area at the event, because Sam Houston was part Scottish. This is one of the men we met and talked to briefly. Most of them were wearing their tartans.

This is one of Alexandra making a candle. She did several crafts. Her favorites were making a candle and making a necklace the way they used to make ropes.

This picture was taken while watching some African dancing.

We talked to this man for awhile. He was the one that told us they were getting to have a battle re-enactment.

This man was very nice. He showed us how they loaded their rifles and then he & 3 other men fired them (with blanks, of course).

The battle re-enactment. This is the first time I've seen one of these in person! Actually, not quite as exciting as I thought it'd be. But, it was very loud. They even shot the cannon.
Book: We read Sam Houston: American Hero by Crawford - good book

Print Making

On Friday, the Houston Museum of Fine Arts came to our local library to do a craft time. The instructor taught us, kids and adults, how to make prints. It was so much fun! I think the grown-ups had as much fun as the children.

We used a stylus or pencil to etch into a piece of styrofoam. Then, we used a roller to apply paint to our design. Then, we placed a piece of paper on our etching and gently rubbed it to transfer the paint. The results were wonderful! I'll have to scan a few of them. And, I plan on doing this again! It's be a great way to illustrate a book or poem, too.

The 2 pink prints were made by Alexandra - she made at least a dozen! :-) I made the black one - I made 3 altogether.

Monocots vs. Dicots

In Botany today we were studying the differences between monocots & dicots. We talked about their seeds and then discussed that when you see a flowering plant, the easiest ways to tell them apart are as follows:
  • monocot leaves have veins that run parallel to each other while dicots have veins that branch
  • monocot flowers have petals that come in multiples of 3, while dicots come in multiples of 4 or 5

After discussing this, we went into our backyard to find monocots & dicots & to sketch them in our Botany Journal. The first photo is of Alexandra sketching her flowers & leaves. The 2nd photo is of a monocot - I believe it is a type of Iris. The 3rd photo is of a dicot- I believe it is a type of jasmine. It grows over our fence from our neighbor's yard and smells wonderful and attracts a lot of bees. (Someone please correct me if I'm wrong on these names!)

It was another beautiful day outside and we are having so much fun learning about nature!

Friday, April 21, 2006

Strawberry Picking

Today we went strawberry picking. It was a wonderful day for it. We actually had thunderstorms this morning from 6 am until about 7:30 am. I had decided we wouldn't be going, but Alexandra asked if we could still go. I decided to give them a call & they said since their ground was mostly sandy, most of the water had run off and it was a beautiful day to be out there. So, we went! The weather was wonderful! It's been around 90 here for the past week or so, and it was only in the low 70's! And, lots of clouds! Beautiful!

The strawberries were smaller than in past years. There were also less of them, but that was kind of nice as we got to pick longer. Last year, there were so many we didn't even make it down half of one row before our baskets were full. We walked down 4 long rows today!

A few other neat things: we watched the bees, I found an easter egg left over from a hunt this past weekend - with a dollar bill inside!, we looked at how the blackberries were forming from the flowers, and we scared a lot of grasshoppers as we walked back to the main building and watched them jump.
We both had a lot of fun, but it was a very long day. After picking strawberries, we went to McDonald's to eat, shopped at a "new" homeschool supply store, and then went to our library to make some wonderful prints! (More about that soon...) After that, we stopped and got a pizza & a movie to have a "girl's night" since Daddy is in Canada. We had a picnic on the floor of my room while watching the movie (cartoon of "Tom Sawyer") and then had straberries with sugar & Cool Whip for dessert. What a fun day! And, we'll be busy tomorrow too...

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Forbidden Gardens

Last week, we went to Forbidden Gardens in Katy, TX (http://www.forbidden-gardens.com/ )with one of our homeschool groups. I took this photos with my regular 35mm camera & scanned it. Unfortunately, the scanned image doesn't look as good as the original. I had a lot of other very good photos and I'm still trying to figure out how to get them on this blog better.
There are 2 main parts to Forbidden Gardens. The first part is a 1/3 scale replica of the First Emperor's 6,000 piece terra cotta army. Emperor Qin had these statues buried to protect him "in the afterlife." The real ones in China are each unique and were posed for by his soldiers. We learned so many fascinating things about this buried army!
The 2nd main part is a miniature replica of many of the buildings in the Forbidden City, the home of the Imperial family. Again, the guide told us many fascinating things!
Besides these two main sections, there were other items to see. We saw their weapons, learned about their armor (they had to make their own, earn each piece, and it was a sign of cowardice to wear a helmet!), saw how they made the buildings in the Forbidden City (no nails or screws, they put it together kind of like Lincoln Logs), a shoe of a lady who had her feet bound (how they actually did this was different than I thought), and other things. I'll try to remember more details and add it later.
The only book we read about it (in fact, we're still finishing it), is The Emperor's Silent Army: Terracotta Warriors of Ancient China by O'Connor. In fact, the author said she wrote it because she hadn't found any other book about it for children.
Update: A friend we were with emailed me a few pictures, so I added them in June.


I wasn't blogging near as much last fall, and this week I came across some of Alexandra's drawings that are precious to me. We studied Shakespeare briefly while studying about England. The photo above is of Alexandra's drawing of Queen Titania. The picture below is her drawing of Puck. Both were her copies of children's drawings in "A Midsummer Night's Dream for Kids."

Here is a list of our resources:
  • A Child's Portrait of Shakespeare by Lois Burdett - A great intro to William Shakespeare's life.
  • A Midsummer Night's Dream for Kids by Burdett - Ms. Burdett produces Shakespeare plays with her very young children (around 2nd/3rd grade if I remember correctly). In her series, Shakespeare Can Be Fun!, the books are illustrated by her students. Alexandra drew all of the main characters from this play by choosing her favorite illustrations from this book and trying to copy the kids' drawings. I just loved the book & loved Alexandra's enthusiasm. I was surprised that a child barely 5 could enjoy Shakespeare so much. She was saying, "I love Shakespeare!"
  • Shakespeare for Children CD by storyteller, Jim Weiss - Includes "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and "The Taming of the Shrew."
  • William Shakespeare: the Master Playwright by Middleton (a What's Their Story? book) - We like this series and this was another good biography.
  • Stagefright on a Summer's Night (Magic Tree House) by Mary Pope Osborne (added May 2006) - Alexandra loves the Jack &Annie & this book ties in nicely with Shakespeare

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Cascarones (confetti eggs)

Today at our library Alexandra made cascarones. I wasn't familiar with these eggs that are a cross between Easter eggs and a party favor. I read about them at this site: http://texas.allinfoabout.com/sanantonio/fiesta_cascarones.html .

The librarians had already washed the egg shells. Alexandra dyed the eggs just like we dye Easter eggs. She stuffed them full of confetti through the hole on the top and glued a piece of tissue paper on top of the hole so the confetti wouldn't fall out.

According to the website, the proper way to use the egg is to crack it over someone's head, but not to smash it on their head as this could hurt. I'd read on another website that this is supposed to shower the person with good luck.

The next day, Alexandra had me crack a few of these over her head. And, of course she had to crack a few over mine, too.

Nature Day

We belong to a local homeschool nature group. Once a month, they take a field trip. We just signed up in Januray and today we went on our second outing with them. It was fun and educational.

One highlight of our day was the Cypress Swamp. The first photo is of Alexandra taking a picture of the cypress trees. Her Aunt Conni had given her a disposable camera when we went to Kansas City and she still had some pictures on it.

I was interested in the cypress knees as I'd never seen cypress trees & knees before. I looked up cypress knees at wikipedia when I got home since I wanted to learn more about them. The knees are part of the roots. Their purpose is uncertain, but scientists think they might serve the purpose of getting oxygen to the roots of the tree. They also might be for stability.

The second picture is also of the Cypress Swamp. There were 2 trees with faces. Alexandra LOVED these!

Since we'd studied carniverous plants a couple of months ago, we were excited to see 2 different types of pitcher plants. We looked inside 2 of them and think we saw a bug at the bottom of each. It was really neat to see these growing at the edge of a pond!

I found an inchworm on one of the girls backs and the kids watched it and played with it for about 10 minutes. Alexandra wanted to measure it (I had a ruler in the back of a nature guide) to make sure it was an "inch"worm. It was 3/4 of an inch, so she figures it must have been a baby. The above picture is of some of the kids observing our "baby" inchworm.

We also got to watch 2 large bunnies. They were munching on something that must have been delicious because they hardly moved while all of us tried to watch them. And, we weren't the quitest group!

It was a beautiful day to be out. The temperature was in the low 80's with a slight breeze. It was overcast most of the day and the majority of the time we were walking in the shade of the trees. We can't wait for the next nature day, which won't be until next fall.

Saturday, April 08, 2006


For Botany, we are using Exploring Creation with Botany by Jeannie Fulbright. We started the 2nd chapter about seeds last night. We soaked some seeds to peel off the seed coat, open them up, and look at the baby embryo and other parts. I had some beans from a bag of bean soup that we've used for a couple years for crafts, so we used these. It was a lot of fun sitting outside with our magnifying glass and looking at these little baby plants. And, this is how we found our first roly poly which I also posted about.

Roly Poly (Pillbug)

Last night we were sitting outside by the pool doing Botany and I saw a roly poly! Well, I had never seen any in our yard before, but now I think it's because I haven't paid a lot of attention. We had our magnifying glass, so we looked closely at it. Then, Alexandra put it into her bug habitat and named it Polly. While searching through the grass we found quite a few ants, a bright green, curled-up inch worm (or something like that) which we think was dead, and 2 more roly polys. Their names are: Spot & Sarah. We looked them up on the computer to find out more about them. What a great time we had studying nature!

  • Pillbugs by Donna Schaffer
  • Rolypolyology by Ross - great book about how to keep your roly polys alive!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Shapes & Symmetry

Two more math concepts we are covering are shapes & symmetry. We are following the "Building Shapes" plan from the Math Forum website: http://www.mathforum.com/varnelle/kgeo3.html .

There are 3 parts to each activity
  1. Manipulative (using shapes as in the above picture)
  2. Technology (using a website - on this activity we created hexagons on the computer just like these hexagons using the foam shapes)
  3. Paper/Pencil (this time we actually used crayons to color the shapes we had made)
They also include books to read, but some look to young for us. And, two of them we just read a week or two ago, so we're skipping them. We are breaking theri 5 lessons into 3 days.
Day 1: We were creating hexagons using the following shapes: triangle, rhombus (or parallelogram), and trapezoid. Great review as we haven't used these terms in quite a while! And, she really enjoyed it. I was ready to give up and not do the last part, coloring. But, she wanted us to do it, so we did!
Day 2: We worked with rotational symmetry using our foam shapes and the computer applet. Rotational symmetry was something we've never discussed.

Day 3: We used the applet to make pictures with line symmetry. We also are covering symmetry in our regular math program, RightStart. For line symmetry, we used colored tiles. I made a picture on one side of a line, and Alexandra had to make the "mirror image." Then, she checked it with a mirror.


Lately, we have been doing quite a bit of math outside of our regular math curriculum. We love our math curriculum, RightStart, but I decided to slow down and do some other things "on the side." Most of this started with the Living Math I came across.

So, this week we read "Sir Cumference and the First Round Table: a Math Adventure" by Neuschwander. The book tells about the parts of a circle (circumference, diameter & radius) in an entertaining way.

The next day, I decided to try something I'd read about on-line. You are supposed to mix food coloring or tempera paint (probably a much better idea) with liquid soap and water. Then, you blow some bubbles with a straw and pop them on a paper. It is supposed to leave a pretty circle. Ours didn't.

Since that didn't work, we decided to try something else I'd read about. We added more food coloring and Alexandra blew a lot of bubbles. Then we laid a piece of paper on top. The results were OK, but not wonderful. Next time, we'll try the paint!

So, next we tried using an old-fashioned compass, which worked much better. Then, today I came across our RightStart Geometry kit which we have never used. Inside was a Safe-T Compass - it is wonderful! I'd never seen one before. We drew some circles and then Alexandra measured their radius, diameter, and circumference (using a piece of yarn). It worked pretty well!


We are now studying Rainforests, which is a spin off of studying about chocolate.

  • Rain Forests (a Magic Tree House Research Guide) by Osborne & Osborne - as usual, a great book with an overall view of Rainforests - includes chapters on layers, plants, creatures, people, gifts & saving the rain forest
  • About the Rain Forest (We Both Read) by Johanasen & McKay - We've never read one of these before. The left side is for the parent to read & the right side is shorter for the child to read. It has some great photos & information about some neat animals, plants, etc.
  • Exploring the Rain Forest" by Klum & Odoo - great longer book (62 pages); I was surprised that Alexandra picked it up & wanted me to read it & sat through all but the last 3 pages! Neat information about different animals, etc, & it's told as a story about the author's trip through the rain forest with his photographer
  • The Great Kapok Tree by Cherry - tells the story of a man who is going to cut down a tree in the rain forest & falls asleep - the animals then talk to him & when he wakes up he leaves the forest & doesn't cut down the tree
  • Inside the Amazing Amazon by Don Lessem - we didn't read this book, but it has great, fold-out pictures of the different layers of the Amazon - it also has about 8-10 fairly short descriptions of various plants & animals that live in each layer - we used it like an "I Spy" book
  • If I Ran the Rain Forest (The Cat in the Hat's Learning Library) by Worth - I just discovered this series of Cat in the Hat books and we are loving them - they actually go into quite a bit of detail & are fun
  • Red-Eyed Tree Frog by Cowley - cute, short book about a tree frog and what he eats for dinner & what might eat him - great pictures!
  • Really Wild Animals: Totally Tropical Rain Forest (National Geographic Kids Video) - cute video with "Spin" the Earth narrating. Definitely made to entertain children with humor while educating them (& us!) about Rainforests.
  • Biomes of the World in Action: Rainforest Biomes (Schlessinger) - We've been happy with most of the videos from Schlessinger, and this one is no exception. It says "Grades 5-8", but my dd5 really enjoyed it! There is also a teacher's guide included and also available on-line.
  • Wonders of the Rain Forest (Zoo Life with Jack Hanna)
Well, this is one of those studies that kind of fizzled out for me. We were trying to do an Evan-Moor pocket book about rain forests, but I have lost interest. I told Alexandra that whenever she wanted to do more, just let me know. On Thursday, we plan on seeing the IMAX film, Bugs!, about insects in the rain forest. That'll probably be our last thing for now. I'm kind of sad that I don't even have any pictures to show! Maybe we'll do some more later...

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Authors, Books & Libraries

In preparation for making her own book, we are reading about authors this week.
  • Roald Dahl: The Champion Storyteller (What's Their Story?) by Shavick - fascinating story & life!
  • Author: A True Story by Helen Lester (author of the Tacky the Penguin books we loved - we will now read more of her stories!) - GREAT story! Funny! Tells about her writing from the time she was young until she was being published. We highly recommend.
  • My Writing Day by David A. Adler - we love this author and his autobiography for kids is a fun read, too. We liked finding references to books we've read.
  • In Flight with David McPHail: A Creative Autobiography by David McPhail - when she was longer, Alexandra and I both loved "Pigs Aplenty, Pigs Galore" which we first saw on Between the Lions - this book really shows how he makes books from writing the stories, dealing with the editor, making the pictures, etc - good book to let kids see what an author/illustrator does to get a book published
  • Firetalking by Patricia Polacco - nice story about her life & a little background about some of her books - we are going to check out her book, Meteor!, after reading this autobiography

We are also reading about the history of books and the library.

  • Books and Libraries by Knowlton - great book explaining the history of writing, books & libraries in various places
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