Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Gettysburg Address

Tonight, Alexandra and I read Lincoln's Gettysburg Address... twice. I read it to her and then she read it (with help). Since I didn't enjoy history much as a child, I'm just amazed at her love for it. And, reading "real books" and picture books, is such a better way to learn history than from a text book!

I just love homeschooling and that we can follow whatever interests she has at the moment. In fact, I'm wondering about my plan to do Story of the World next year, as I love going off on our tangents and not having a plan to follow. But, I do know, that if SOTW doesn't work for us, that we can always go back to what is working for us. And, I'm so happy to be learning and appreciating history right alongside my daughter. I would have never guessed that a 5-year-old would enjoy the Gettysburg Address!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Math with an Abacus

(photo: Alexandra learning double digit addition with carrying using her abacus. She often dresses up during school, and the robe was part of her princess outfit this day.)

We have used RightStart ( math since the beginning and I think it's a great program. It uses an abacus as a primary way to teach addition and subtraction.

I was amazed last week as I introduced double digit addition with carrying and she understood it so well! While using an abacus, they can actually see why they need to "carry." For example, when you have more than 10 "ones" beads, you physically trade them in for a "ten" bead. I think it's a great way to learn!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Cooking Dinner

We had such a fun day today! Alexandra slept in today and then we cleaned house (she helped me vacuum & mop). Then, we made sock puppets - they turned out cute! Later, we went to the library to make "clothes pin animals." She made a butterfly & I made a lizard. And, we went shopping for Nana's birthday.

When we got home, Alexandra helped me make dinner! I'm trying to cook more & we're trying out some recipes from "30 Day Gourmet." You make larger batches of food & freeze some for later. Tonight we tried "Taco Rollups." Alexandra made one batch & I made the other. We thawed some frozen bread dough & then pushed it out flat. Then, we spread shredded cheddar cheese on it followed by taco-seasoned meat. Then, we rolled it up (I had to do this part), cut it in slices, and baked it. It was fun & pretty good, too! But, very messy. :-) I'm glad she likes to cook!!!

Swim, girl, swim!

The summer swim team has come to an end. It's a happy time, and a sad time. We now get to be on more of a "summer" schedule, but we'll miss our friends and all the fun that we were having!

Alexandra did wonderful at Divisionals! On her freestyle, she cut off more than 7 seconds!!! More than an 18% improvement!!! Then, on her backstyle, she dropped almost 10 seconds!!! About a 23% improvement! Wow! It doesn't get much better than that. And, she was less than 1/2 a second from qualifying for an invitation tournament with her backstroke. What a great way to end the year! And, I can't wait for next year to see what she can do!!!

(photo - Divisionals is an indoor meet at a high school. While the girls waited for their turn to swim at Divisionals, they played card games & played with Polly Pockets.)

P.S. Several days after this post, the coach (our neighbor) brought over Alexandra's Divisional ribbon! Out of 76 girls (6 & under), she placed 15th! And, the top 15 get ribbons. So, this was her first (of many, I hope!) Divisional ribbon. She was also very happy because it was... pink!

Monday, June 26, 2006

Long Books

During this "school year", we read our first long book - The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Since then, we've read several of these longer books that take more than a week to read. I am getting my lists of books to read from 3 main sites: Sonlight, Ambleside, and a "Good Books" list from Here are the books we've read this year:
  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis (just a wonderful book)
  • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum (Sonlight Kindergarten)
  • Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard & Florence Atwater (Sonlight 1st Grade)
  • The Chocolate Touch by Catling (with our chocolate unit)
  • James & the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl (when we saw the play)
  • Capyboppy by Peet (Sonlight Kindergarten)
  • Dolphin Adventure by Grover (Sonlight K)
  • Dolphin Treasure by Grover (Sonlight K)
  • Homer Price by McCloskey (Sonlight 1st grade)

And, we're currently reading:

  • Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi (Good Books list - Kindergarten)
  • The Velveteen Rabbit by Bianco (Year 1 Ambleside)

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Going Classical

After reading The Well Trained Mind 2 weeks ago, I decided to try classical education. I've been working hard on what curriculum we will use, and I think we have it figured out. I'll be ordering it soon.
Here is the curriculum we plan on using:

  • Math: RightStart Level C (we completed A & are almost done with B and I think it's a wonderful program)
  • Language Arts: First Language Lessons - I still have not actually seen a copy of this, so I hope it works out. It is for 1st & 2nd grade, but I'm planning on doing it in one year. I'll see if that is possible when I get it.
  • Spelling: Saxon Phonics 2 - a friend shared this curriculum with me and I was really impressed with it. Besides being a great spelling curriculum, it also introduces a lot of history.
  • Latin: Prima Latina - I wasn't sure if we should start Latin this early, but we're going to give it a try!
  • History: Story of the World 1 (with workbook) - I think we'll love this. It has lots of activities and lists extra books we can check out from the library.
  • Piano: Music for Little Mozarts - I'll teach her this.
  • Science: we might finish Apologia Botany. We will also probably do some more lapbook studies from Hands of a Child, but this will not be one of our main "cores" this year.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Don Quixote

On Saturday, after our rained-out swim meet, we went to see the ballet of Don Quixote. We had read several books about Don Quixote, but they weren't very much like the ballet. The ballet was mainly a love story between 2 other characters, and "the Don" just came in and out of the story. It was a wonderful, funny ballet. It lasted over 2 and a half hour with 2 intermissions!

Afterwards, Alexandra got to go backstage to look at the props (incredible!) and get autographs and photos. This picture if of Alexandra and Don Quixote.

Last year we had family season tickets to the symphony and this year to the ballet. We're thinking about getting tickets to the opera next year....

swim team update

On Saturday, we had our last 2-team competition. Next weekend is our last meet - divisionals!Alexandra did so well! She swam fast on her relay. And, she took almost 4.5 seconds off of her freestyle! What a great job! (photo below: Alexandra waiting her turn to swim - blue swim cap, blue swim suit - in center of photo)

We have about a 2 hour break between freestyle & backstroke, and during this time it began to rain and thunder. They can stop the meet for up to 2 hours, but after about 20-30 minutes, they cancelled the meet. It was a good call as it rained & thundered for hours. The girls had fun and were screaming, but it was all in fun. They even played out in the rain before it was thundering.

Well, our tent was pretty flooded and all of our stuff was wet. It was actually kind of funny and we were all joking about the mess. Towels and blankets were soaked and it was hard to find everything as we'd piled things up in the middle of the tent.

It worked out well for us as we had time to go home and get ready to go to a ballet, Don Quixote!


On Sunday, we finished our lapbook for volcanoes. We had a lot of fun and learned quite a bit while putting it together.

One afternoon last week, we exploded our volcano. We had a kit called Exploding Volcano by Becker & Mayer. It was really helpful as we didn't have to build a volcano - we just snapped it together. And, it also came with 2 tubes to keep the vinegar & baking soda separate until you were ready to mix them. It had a 3-piece foam top that should explode of the volcano, but it only worked the first time. I think I might have mixed it stronger that first time. Another possibility is that we weren't cleaning and drying the pieces well enough between explosions.

We had lots of fun & exploded our volcano 8-9 times. We worked outside and I let Alexandra do all the pouring, so it was kind of messy, but fun! The mosquitos were really biting me, or we would have stayed out longer. By the end, we switched from red & yellow lava to blue and then green lava (as you can see in the photo).
  • Voyage to the Volcano (Magic School Bus Chapter Book) by Juduth Stamper - we love the Magic School Bus!
  • Volcanoes (a Let's Read and Find-Out Science Book) by Franklyn M. Branley - I like these science books
  • Volcanoes (a True Book) by Paul P. Sipiera - another good series
  • Danger! Volcanoes (a See More Reader) - has some great photos
  • Volcano! by Ellen J. Prager (National Geographic Society) - has a cartoon dinosaur that tells about volcanoes - some good information
  • Vacation Under the Volcano (Magic Tree House) by Mary Pope Osborne - Jack & Annie visit at the time of the Pompeii Explosion
  • Hill of Fire by Thomas P. Lewis - great true story about a volcano that builds up in Mexico
  • Eruption! The Story of Volcanoes (DK) by Anita Ganeri
  • Magic School Bus Blows Its Top (video)
  • Pompeii: Lost and Found by Christensen (added Sept 2006) - we really enjoyed this book

Monday, June 12, 2006

Pollinating Flowers

After taking last week off because of art camp, we are back "in session" today. We only did school for about 1.5 hours today, which is pretty normal for us but I'd like to see us do more. We covered Bible, Math (RightStart), handwriting (Bible verse) and Botany. I had also planned to spend time reading aloud to each other and working on our newest unit, Volcanoes!

In Botany, we were studying pollination. The project was to go and take the pollen from the anther of one flower and put it on the stigma of another flower. We used our hibiscus flowers which have just started to bloom. We were amazed at how much pollen we could get from the anthers! And, the stigmas were sticky and held the pollen just as they should. Alexandra was having lots of fun and went back and forth between the only 2 flowers we could get to today.

This 2nd picture shows the pollen we placed on the stigma. We'll be keeping our eyes on both flowers to see what, if anything, happens!

Art Camp - Day 5

I finally took pictures of the last 2 works of art Alexandra did in "art camp" last week. The last day of class they used oil pastels and water colors to do "under the sea" pictures. Alexandra's picture included a mermaid.

The last photo is actually of the first project Alexandra made. They had a piece of clay that they were to etch. Alexandra's etching is of herself on the ice skating rink. The teacher then baked the clay and they painted it later in the week. Then they made the construction paper "frames" which are edged with glue and glitter.

Your Story Hour

About a week ago, I received Your Story Hour Volume 7 in the mail. This was our first time to hear this series that I found recommended on a blog I read. Wow! Were we impressed! The stories are great.

On the way to and from "art camp" last week, we listened to stories about: Joan of Arc (twice), John Bunyan (author of Pilgrim's Progress), Louis Pasteur, and George Washington Carver. Each story is 30 minutes long, but some of the people have 2-3 stories recorded about them. The tapes are done with at least several actors, and I've enjoyed all of them except one little child whose voice I don't care for very much.

I did have to stop one story. I believe it was about Dwight L. Moody. He was on an ice flow and was getting ready to kill some of his dogs to keep him warm throughout the night. I'm not sure what happened next, but I did turn it off.

There was also one story that we started, but weren't enjoying very much. It was the story about Pilgrim's Progress. We will probably try it again later.

The CD sets are expensive - I found them the cheapest at Rainbow Resource for $36. But, you get 12 one-hour CD's and they teach a lot of history. They are also speak a lot about God and how these men and women relied on and gave credit to God.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Counting Crocodiles

We read the book Counting Crocodiles by Judy Sierra. In the book, a monkey is pretending to count some crocodiles. The book never tells you how many crocodiles are in the water, so I asked Alexandra to figure it out. (Marilyn Burns has children do this with several different books.)

Alexandra wrote the numbers 1 through 10 at the top of the page. (The monkey 1st sees 1 crocodile doing something, then 2 doing something else, etc. up to 10 crocodiles). She then added the 1 and the 2. Then added the 3 and the 4. And added those two totals together. I had to help her twice - once because she skipped a number at the top (from her list of 1-10) and once because she added incorrectly. I was still very proud of her for coming up with the correct answer. It was quite a bit of work! Then, she decided to make a "55 crocodiles" ribbon out of her answer. Way to go Alexandra! You do deserve a ribbon!

Grandfather Tang's Story & Tangrams

Yesterday we read Grandfather Tang's Story by Ann Tompert. We got out our tangrams to recreate the pictures. This is a photo of the 2 fox fairies Alexandra and I made. Alexandra quickly grew tired of making the tangram pictures and wanted to act out the play. So, we acted it out... twice. She wanted to act it out again, but I was ready for lunch. We'll have to do it again sometime.

Another great book about tangrams we read is Three Pigs, One Wolf, and Seven Magic Shapes by Grace Maccarone. It also has drawings of how the tangrams go together to make various pictures.

In July 2006, we read The Warlord's Puzzle by Pilegard. It explains the Chinese legend of the origin of tangrams. Cute book.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Forbidden Gardens photos

A friend that went with us to Forbidden Gardens emailed me some photos (yeah!), so I thought I'd post them as a current blog. These photos are from the trip we took in April.

This is a photo of Alexandra and 2 of her friends at one of the statues before we entered the actual displays.

These terra-cotta figures are 1/3rd actual size, and yet they still take up so much room! It's hard to believe they were all made and buried just to satisfy one emperor.

This is one of the terra-cotta soldiers. With the real ones in China, each man is unique.

This is a picture of Alexandra and one of her friends looking through a gate into the Forbidden City.

This is a picture of the miniature model of the Forbidden City.

This is a photo of Alexandra at the picnic we had after our visit. It was taken by one of her friends.

Art Around the World - Greece

At our local art museum, they are having 3 classes per week for kids this summer that focus on art around the world. On Thursday, we went to our first class. We missed story time because of swim team, and I'm not sure if the stories are related or not.

We did go to Creation Station where you create your own art. They were making "Grecian pottery" out of clay. They taught the children how to make pinch pots and coil pots. Alexandra made a coil pot and then painted it black. It also has 2 handles which are kind of hard to see in the photo.
She also got a passport and a passport photo to record her art "travels" this summer. And, she got a "stamp" (sticker) for Greece.

The 3rd part of each day's travels is sketching in the gallery. We both got camp stools, clip boards, pencils and erasers (you could also get colored pencils) and headed to the Greek portion of the library. We both sketched a horse with a rider, but I accidentally got black paint (from the pottery) on Alexandra's sketch. We both had so much fun! I'm glad she enjoys art so much, and that we have such a child-friendly art museum.

Art Camp

Alexandra is going to a multimedia "art camp" this week. She is really enjoying it!

Day 1: Picasso

On Day1 , they studied Picasso. Alexandra used oil pastels to create a 2-sided picture. On the left is her Picasso inspired picture of herself in her bed. She told me that Picasso used different shapes for things. For example, her doors are triangles instead of rectangles. On the right is a "regular" picture of Alexandra in her own bed.

Day 2: Georgia O'Keefe

On Day 2, they used water colors to paint flowers like Georgia O'Keefe. The teacher said she loves Georgia O'Keefe and her dog is named Georgia. They learned that O'Keefe likes to paint very large flowers and usually uses a dark border on the flowers to separate them from the background. Note the large flower that has a dark outline to separate the blue flower from the blue background.

Day 3:
On Day 3, they discussed jungles. Alexandra used oil pastel powders, which were very messy. (I'm not sure if I got the name of them right.) She painted a zebra, 2 butterflies, a bird, a tree, and a snake.

Day 4:
On Day 4, they talked about things that move. Alexandra and a new friend, Hailey, decided to do the same picture. They both painted a barn and a tractor. Since they both wanted a different color for the barn, they decided to paint one half purple and the other half green. Alexandra also put sequins for the chicken's eyes, the barn's doorknobs, and the tractor's lights.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Day 22: Butterfly Release Day

(Photo below is of Alexandra holding the butterfly's food bowl that has one piece of watermelon in it - the butterfly is "drinking" from the watermelon)

This evening, we went outside to release our butterflies. Of the 5 caterpillars, one died as a caterpillar and 2 never emerged from their chrysalites so we only had 2.

We went in the backyard and unzipped their tent. One of them flew away almost immediately. The other went to the piece of watermelon and started to drink. So, Alexandra got the bowl of watermelon out and we expected the butterfly to fly away, but it just kept drinking. Alexandra excitedly put her finger next to the butterfly and it crawled on her! She even touched his proboscis. It was exciting and I took lots of pictures.

But then, the butterfly fell to the ground and didn't fly away. I finally realized that the butterfly could no longer fly.

Yesterday, when we'd come home from art class, I heard wings flapping. I went and looked in the butterfly tent and saw one of the butterflies with its wings stuck on the watermelon. I had to pick him up off the watermelon to free him.

Well, as we looked at the butterfly, I realized his wings were stuck together. I pried them apart, but he still cannot fly. He does have better balance, though.

(Photo above is of the butterfly on Alexandra's wrist in front of her butterfly shirt)

So, I guess we're keeping this one until "the end." I'm sad that he got hurt, but it will be nice to study him some more. We've enjoyed "our" butterflies, and Alexandra wants to do this again some time.

Reommended book: Starting Life: Butterfly by Llewellyn - Great book about Monarchs. It's also fun because the pages are cut different lengths like tabs.

(Update: The butterfly died on Thursday.)

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Visit from the Tooth Fairy

(Picture above is of Alexandra today with her new smile - complete with tounge poking out of new "hole.")
Last night we had our first visit from the tooth fairy! Alexandra was, of course, so excited. I was afraid she wouldn't fall asleep, but she did. She is only 5.5 and she thought it was neat to be the first of her friends to lose a tooth.
All day yesterday it was clear that her tooth would be coming out very soon. She could bend it straight back. I even took pictures, but I don't think most people would like to see them. :-)

After I tucked her in bed last night, she said she was afraid it would fall out during the night and that she'd swallow it. I knew it could probably come out, so I told her we should give it one last try. We went into the bathroom and I bent it - first all of the way back, and then all the way forward. It popped out and fell on the floor! She was so excited and ran to the stairs to tell Daddy.

After taking some pictures, blood and all, we cleaned her up a bit and went downstairs to show her new smile to Daddy. Then, she said she needed to write the Tooth Fairy a note.

So, she got to stay up late writing a note. She had a special box she put the note and the tooth in and then put the box on her window sill.

In the morning, she discovered the Tooth Fairy had come! The Tooth Fairy had left her a $5 bill, a note, and some fairy dust! There was even fairy dust in her bed, on her face, and on her leg. She was so excited, but said she wished we'd have taken a picture of the tooth itself.

Below is a copy of the note she wrote the Tooth Fairy. I spelled a lot of the words for her. She did want the note to see Pleease, like she's begging. :-) The picture at the bottom is of the Tooth Fairy. I took a few photos, and each time I cut some of it off. The note says: "Dear Tooth Fairy, Pleease take my tooth. I've been waiting a long time for this to happen. Alexandra"

Ice Skating

(Picture above: Alexandra outside of skating rink wearing her ice skating outfit minus the black jacket, blue mittens, and rented ice skates. The pictures in the rink didn't turn out very well.)

On Thursday, Alexandra started lessons for her newest sport - ice skating. Alexandra had been ice skating twice before she started skating in February. Those previous times were near Christmastime as a local mall puts up an outdoor ice rink. Both times Alexandra used a "walker" and only made it around the rink once. She hated it!

We made some new homeschool friends and they started taking ice skating lessons and were loving it. So, in late February, we finally went skating with them one day. What an amazing difference! The 2 young girls taught her how to skate! By the end of that day, she was skating without holding on to the wall!

Since then we've been about 6 times. She's been loving it so we decided to do lessons this summer. They started her out in the very beginning class for 3-5 year olds. It was way too easy.

Today we took one private lesson to have her tested and put in the appropriate group. She passed through all 4 "Tot" levels and is almost done with Beginner 1, which is for 6-8 year olds.

Best of all, she's really enjoying it. I can't wait to see where this goes. I've always loved ice skating and hope I can some day watch her doing spins and jumps! And, I'm learning from her and her friends, too. Maybe I'll do spins and jumps one day!
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