Saturday, September 30, 2006

Turtles and a Day at the Beach

(Picture above: The baby turtles. These turtles are almost 2 months old. They are kept separated because sea turtles are not social creatures and also so they can watch how well they are eating.)

On Thursday, we went with some friends (mom & 2 dds) and spent a day in Galveston. Our first stop was a sea turtle facility. We got there early and, as it was raining, they let us come in and look around. We saw baby turtles (almost 2 months old), yearlings, and 2-year-olds. We were the only people there for most of the "tour." It was very interesting. To me, the most interesting part was how small sea turtles brains are - about the size of a pea! We saw a skull & the hole for their brain was so small! Because of this, though, they don't learn anything new. Everything they need to learn is by instinct. So, they don't have to un-learn anything from their time at the facility and can easily be released into the wild.

Our next stop was the Aquarium, at Moody Gardens. Wow! None of us had ever been there. It was much larger than I thought it would be and we were there several hours. Some of the highlights were: feeding time with the penguins, the touch tank, the snake & dangerous animal exhibit (one of my friend's dds decided snakes weren't so bad after all & we went through this part twice!), and watching the sea turtle eat squid (it had to "fight" for it against the fish in the tank). We would have loved to stay here longer, but we wanted to hit the beach & we had to be back for ice skating.

The last place we went was to the beach. The water was pretty nice, although we only waded. I've been to the beach quite a few times & have rarely seen a pelican. We saw lots & lots of pelicans! I was very excited. And, we watched a sea gull preparing to eat a fish - it would let it go in the water, catch it again, let it go, catch it... about 10 times! I guess he finally ate it. And, we saw sea gulls fighting over food - they don't share very well!

It was a great day at the beach and I felt bad that I haven't taken Alexandra very often. So, we'll be going more regularly! And, there are so many more things to do in Galveston.

My camera needs replaced, so I didn't get very good pictures. My friend got great pictures, though, so I'll share some of those when I can.
(Photo above: The men feeding the penguins. It was neat to see the men in the exhibit actually feeding the penguins by hand! They also threw a bunch of dead shrimp in the water & we got to watch the penguins swimming through the water, eating their lunch. And, after the men left, they left a big basket of fish. One penguin kept grabbing fish & throwing them on the ground as if he was looking for that "perfect" fish. If I had known my pictures of the penguins would turn out so well, I would have taken more!)

We read Sea Turtles by Gail Gibbons. Except for the evolutionary aspect, this was a great book that taught us both a lot about sea turtles!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Magnifying the Sun

We are starting Exploring Creation with Astronomy for another taste of science. (I was a science major & just can't get enough!) I just ordered the book, so we are using the free on-line chapter, Chapter 2 - The Sun, while waiting for it to arrive.

Our first experiment was to go outside with a magnifying glass and make a small circle of light on a leaf to heat it up. The book said this experiment was best done during summer. Well, I didn't have high hopes of anything spectacular happening. I honestly thougth we might see a little bit of browning on the leaf, but that was about all.

Alexandra held the leaf while I carefully aimed the sun with my magnifying glass. I was so surprised when she screamed, dropped the leaf, and jumped up! I thought I must have burned her! But, she had just been startled. The leaf had smoked and there was a hole burnt all the way through!

After I realized my daughter wasn't injured, I decided to have some more fun. :-) I kept burning & burning leaves. (And, I realized how dangerous this could be! Thankfully, my daugther was more scared of it than ready to try it on somebody's skin.) I even started burning pictures.

Alexandra finally got brave enough to see if she could burn a hole in a leaf, and with a little help, she was able to do it on her own. We were both amazed at how powerful the sun is when concentrated like that! And, it's also a good reminder of why you shouldn't look directly at the sun. Your lens in your eye is just like that magnifying glass! And, your retina doesn't have pain receptors and can be damaged and you can be blinded by looking directly at the sun.

We read the book, About Space (We Both Read) by Jana Carson - we're enjoying these books. It wasn't really just about the sun, of course, but I wanted to add it to the blog somewhere as we're starting to study more astronomy.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Cow's Eye Dissection

A few weeks ago we watched a cow's eye dissection at our medical museum. Today, we watched an on-line video of a cow's eye dissection that was really good! It also has other information about the eye. We plan on studying the eye and vision in the next week or so, and this website is a great resource:

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


We've also been studying about blood this week. I got interested in this when we went to our medical museum and Alexandra got to play in a tent of "red blood cells" which were really red balls.

We made one of the neatest models I've ever read about for our study about blood. We made "blood" out of candy. I found the directions on several websites.

Here are the ingredients:
  • red hots - red blood cells
  • mini-marshmallows (or white jelly beans) - white blood cells
  • corn syrup - plasma
  • sprinkles - platelets
As we added the various ingredients, we talked about what fraction of blood each part really makes up (RBCs and plasma each make up "about half" and there are very few WBCs and platelets). And, we talked about the function of each part. Afterwards, Alexandra was the teacher and taught me. I even heard her on the phone tonight explaining it to her Nana and Papa. What a great lesson that I think we'll both remember for a long time! (sorry for the blurry picture!)
Great video: Human Body for Children: All About Blood and the Heart (Schlessinger)
Books we enjoyed:
  • Magic School Bus: Inside Ralphie - A Book About Germs
  • A Drop of Blood by Showers - WONDERFUL!!!
  • Circulatory System by Frost - very easy, short book, but still good
  • The Circulatory System (A True Book) by Stille - great series!
  • Hear Your Heart by Showers -
  • Ouch! A Book About Cuts, Scratches, and Scrapes by Melvin Berger - good book about cuts & how they heal

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


After seeing the Golden Orb Spider at Alexandra's astronomy class, I thought it'd be fun to learn more about orb spiders. So, we picked out 2 good non-fiction books and also read some books about Anansi who is quite a character. We'd also read some books about him when we studied about Jamaica.
We also made our own web art by dipping chalk into water and then drawing on black paper. It makes a cool effect and it is fun to watch the art dry.
  • Spinning Spiders by Melvin Berger - good book, good pictures, good author
  • The Orb Weaver (from The Library of Spiders) by McGinty - another good book - we especially enjoyed the "Did You Know?" blurbs on the sides of some pages
  • several Anansi books by Eric A. Kimmel
  • The Magic School Bus Spins a Web
  • Bug City Video Series: "Spiders & Scorpions" - Schlessinger

Egypt & Our Apple Mummy, King Manzana

With SOTW 1, we have been studying Egypt the past few weeks. SOTW recommends making a chicken mummy, but I really didn't want to do this. So, I read online about making a mummy out of an apple, which sounded a lot better to me.

Well, our mummy King Manzana (Spanish for apple) is still "drying out", so we'll have to wait and see what it looks like. We put a slice of apple in a cup and poured a mixture of salt & baking soda over it. We also put a slice of apple in a cup without the mixture as a control. I talked with Alexandra about what a control is and she came up with her hypothesis.

We did quite a few crafts about Egypt last year, so we just talked about the pyramid we'd made of sugar cubes and didn't repeat it.

Here are some books about Egypt that we've enjoyed:
  • The 5,000-year-old Puzzle: Solving a Mystery of Ancient Egypt by Walker
  • Croco'Nile by Gerrard - cute story
  • Mummies, Pyramids, and Pharoahs: A Book About Ancient Egypt by Gail Gibbons - very good book - an author we like, too
  • Mummies Made in Egypt by Aliki - good book about mummies and another author we've enjoyed
  • Mummy Riddles by Hall & Eisenberg - Alexandra loves these little riddle books
  • Mummies Made in Egypt by Aliki - Reading Rainbow (video)
  • Valley of the Golden Mummies (Smart About History series) by Holub - this series is fun & informative

Great web site:

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


We've been reading about dinosaurs because of our dinosaur class at the museum this week. Here are some books we've enjoyed:
  • Cam Jansen and the Mystery of the Dinosaur Bones by David A. Adler
  • We Both Read About Dinosaurs by McKay
  • Dino Dung: the Scoop on Fossil Feces by Karen Chin
  • Digging Up Dinosaurs - Reading Rainbow video
  • Fossils Tell of Long Ago by Aliki - it does reference "millions of years ago", but it also has some good information

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Cuneiforms & Heiroglyphs

Yesterday while studying SOTW1, we made our own Sumerian Cuneiforms & Egyptian Heiroglyphs.

To make the cuneiforms, we used air-drying clay & a screwdriver. cuneiforms have lots of triangles and you make them by wiggling the screwdriver back & forth. This was kind of difficult, and Alexandra decided it was easier to just use our alphabet. I wrote out Alexandra.

We also had stamps for the heiroglyphs, so we didn't have to paint them - that would be very hard! Alexandra spelled out her name & a few other words on some papyrus we'd bought at an art store.

Walking Stick

I think this might be the first picture of me that I've published. This is me holding a large walking stick. His tiny claws were pretty prickly and when the docent took him from me, he was hanging on.

Above is a close up. This walking sticks defense is to arch his tail up and look like a scorpion to scare away its predators. Pretty cool!

What do Archaelogists do?

Today, Alexandra & I went to an Archaelogy class and then a Dinosaur class at our museum. For the archaelogy class, we got to play like we were archaelogists by doing a survey & excavation... of a chocolate chip cookie. The chips were our artifacts. First, we had to make a grid & record the artifacts we saw, then we dug the artifacts out without breaking them (hard to do!), and then we placed them on our grip.

Next, we got to do some analysis by using pottery shards to figure out the diameter of their openings. The teacher gave us a scale sheet for us to use. This was a wonderful example of what archaelogists do.

And, lastly we used a plastic skull and a guide to try to determine if our skull was a male or female. We got it right! (This is our Mr. Skull)

Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches

OK, I know this will gross some of you out, so you might not want to read this!

We went to the Insect Zoo at our museum with some friends today. We were amazed to see a Madagascar Hissing Cockroach giving birth to LIVE baby cockroaches - NOT eggs! Then, we watched in amazement (and were kind of grossed out & saddened) as a male cockroach ate one baby. Then, he tried to eat another... but it got away half eaten! Their legs are all towards the front, so the back-half of its body was gone, but it had all of its legs. We lost track of this poor baby, who I'm sure didn't survive long, and where unable to find it later.

We watched for about 10 minutes and the mother gave birth to about 30-40 nymphs. When we came back about 30 minutes later, we only saw about 15. I guess the male ate some more, but was surprised to read on a website that the cockroaches will NOT eat the nymphs - well, I guess that site is wrong.

I read that these cockroaches are oviviviparous. That means the eggs hatch INSIDE the female, where she carries them around safely for about 60 days.

In the photo, the female giving birth is at the top, center. She is very dark & hard to see. The little white things are the nymphs (babies). I believe the smaller dark cockroaches are other babies that have already molted and gotten darker.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Remembering 9/11

Our local high school has just started a fundraising project of putting flags up in neighborhoods. Six times throughout the year, they will put up over 2,000 flags in our neighborhood by our mailboxes. They are large - about 4x6 foot. The first ones went up this afternoon in remembrance of September 11th. It was quite a site to look down the street & see so many flags.

Alexandra got out some chalk, which we haven't used in about a year, and we were inspired to make our own flags on our driveway.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Problem We All Live With by Norman Rockwell

When we went to the fine arts museum this week for a homeschooling class, we got to see "The Problem We All Live With" by Norman Rockwell. Norman Rockwell has long been one of my favorite artists, and it was amazing to stand there and study this picture. There are details that you usually dont' see when you look at the picture in a book.

I copied the following from the Phoenix Art Museum's website: This work depicts Ruby Bridges, who was one of the first African American children involved in the initiation of school desegregation in the deep South during the early and middle 1960s. Ruby attended the Frantz School in New Orleans. Federal marshals were assigned to protect the six-year-old from the mob that assembled outside the school on a daily basis. For months she was the only student because of a total boycott of the school.
The Problem We All Live With was Rockwell's first image for Look magazine. It appeared as a story illustration in January 1964 and signaled the start of a new era for Rockwell. His hard-hitting pictures addressing the Civil Rights struggle were clear departures from earlier patriotic subject matter. He continued to depict social and political issues until several years before his death in 1978.
Alexandra enjoyed the picture, too, as we had studied Ruby Bridges a few months ago. I'm checking out the movie and a few books to remind her more of Ruby's story.
We also enjoyed looking at the pictures in Norman Rockwell: Storytelling with a Brush by Beverly Gherman. It was fun to try to come up with the story behind the picture.

Update: I came across an interview with Ruby Bridges on a PBS site.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Sun & Shadows (& Golden Orb Spiders)

We started a new class today at an observatory. It is a 9 month astronomy class and today's topic was the sun & shadows. We did several things:
  • We went outside 3 different times to see what was happening our shadows. The children each got a partner to trace their shadow and they were amazed as their shadow moved & shrank. We're going to have to do this same thing for an entire day.
  • We got to look at the sun through both a sunspotter (picture below) where we saw a sun spot and through a large solarscope (housed in the building pictured futher below). I found the solarscope very neat as we saw both the sun spot we'd seen earlier and we could see solar flares (on a tv screen)!!! Very cool!
  • The kids went in a dark room and saw what makes day & night by using a globe and a flashlight.
  • They made a bracelet with some special beads that change color when in UV light. We're going to see what happens on a cloudy day!
  • We also saw LOTS of Golden Orb Spiders. We even saw one feeding! Unfortunately, my photos didn't turn out, but I found the picture above at: They were large - some of them almost as large as my hand! The teacher told us that they aren't poisonous, and I hope they're still there in October so I can get a picture.

(This is the sunspotter - you can see what the sun looks like on the white surface. It was surprising how fast it moved & you had to adjust the sunspotter.)

(This is the building that houses the solarscope. The roof of the building opens up just like the large telescopes.)
Some books about the sun we've enjoyed recently:
  • What Makes Day & Night by Branley - has a couple of neat experiments
  • The Sun by Branley

Monday, September 04, 2006

Bird House

On Saturday, we went to our 2nd Home Depot Kid's Workshop and made a bird house! Again, I was surprised we could make it by ourselves. This time, besides using the hammer, we had to use wood glue & screws. :-) Alexandra did a lot more of the work herself this time - including some hammering. She's going to be doing it with little help from me before long!

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Mary Anning

Alexandra will be taking a class about dinosaurs at our museum in a few weeks. This week, we've read 3 books about Mary Anning.
  • Mary Anning: Fossil Hunter by Sally M. Walker - This is my favorite of the three, and I think it is the most complete.
  • The Dog That Dug for Dinosaurs: A True Story by Redmond - This book is about Mary's dog and how he helped her search for fossils.
  • Rare Treasure: Mary Anning and Her Remarkable Discoveries by Don Brown - another nice book.
  • Mary Anning and the Sea Dragon by Atkins - I didn't enjoy this one as much, but maybe it is just because we'd already read the other 3 and it was, of course, pretty much the same story

This photo is of Alexandra and Nana doing a "fossil dig" last September. We've spent quite a few hours digging our dinosaur skeleton out, and still haven't completed it. I think we'll have to get it back out & work on it some more. We'll play we are Mary Anning & her assistant!

Updated 9/20/06 - Yesterday, we took this "fossil dig" outside. It was a beautiful day and it reminded me to be thankful we homeschool! Anyway, we worked more on digging out this fossil. I'm amazed at how little we've done in so much time. But, we read Mary Anning only uncovered about half the size of her hand every day!!! That would take a lot of time and patience! But, I can also see how exciting it is I had a VERY hard time quitting and I wanted to keep digging and see what we'd find next!

I guess I got a little pick-happy and I broke off one foot and one toe. So, I told Alexandra I should just stick to the bristle brush & let her do the picking! (But, I really have so much fun with the pick...)

Leonardo Da Vinci

Back in November, Alexandra and I made this model of Da Vinci's flyer while studying about him, but we have come across two other very cute books.
  • Leonardo and the Flying Boy by Anholt - cute book about 2 of his assistants who steal his flyer to test it - at least a partially true story
  • Uh-Oh, Leonardo! by Sabuda - cute story about a current-day mouse who builds one of Da Vinci's models and it turns out to be a time machine. It takes her back in time to meet the "real" Da Vinci (mouse) - very cute!

Ogden Nash

One of Alexandra's favorite parts of our school day this year is reciting poetry. We are using a curriculum, but we've aded some poems that we liked, too. One poem (from the curriculum) is Celery by Ogden Nash. Although this isn't one of my favorite, I do love Ogden Nash.

I decided to see if the library had any Ogden Nash poetry books for children. I found two very cute books that are actually Ogden Nash poems that have been illustrated. Alexandra and I both enjoyed them.

  • The Tale of Custard the Dragon by Ogden Nash, illustrated by Lynn Munsinger
  • Custard the Dragon and the Wicked Knight, same
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