Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Pictures from Galveston

I scanned in these photos from Galveston last week. I might try to scan a better quality.

This first photo is of a large hermit crab Alexandra found. After she found it, we realized there were lots of them crawling around on our mud "path." I've never seen a hermit crab out in the wild before, and this was really neat!

This photo is of Alexandra holding a periwinkle - a type of snail. If you look closely, you'll see lots of them on the tall grass.

This is a photo of Alexandra being carried by David, the man who carried her for so long. You can see our guide (light blue shirt) pulling the net we used to collect whatever we could find.

The above photo is of a blue crab we found in the net. It was neat to open the net each time and see what we'd caught!
This last photo was taken in the much clearer water near the sandy beach. The kids really enjoyed wading in the water and looking for shells.

Washington-on-the Brazos

A couple of weeks ago, we spent the day at Washington-on-the-Brazos, the birthplace of Texas. We had two main parts of our day: first, we spent time inside learning about how children lived in the mid-1800's. Then, we went to a living history cotton farm and got to look at the plantation, slave quarters, cotton field, etc. I got some of our photos back this weekend.

The first photo is of Alexandra carrying two water buckets. She was actually too short to hold them off of the ground, but I think this was a boy's chore anyway.

Second, is a photo of Alexandra brushing the cotton.

After playing inside, we went outside to the living history farm. (I'm having computer problems so I'll finish this later!)

Rainbow in a Cloud

On August 27th, we were swimming in our pool and Alexandra said she saw a rainbow. I looked up, and there was a rainbow ON a cloud - not in the sky! I had just read about these and was amazed to see one. They're called circumhorizontal arcs. I didn't think I'd have time to get my camera, but it ended up lasting for about 20 minutes, so I took a couple of photos unsure of how they'd turn out.

There is a picture of a better one (ours never looked this amazing) at the following site:

How neat it was to learn about something and then see one in person within a few months! And, doesn't God make beautiful things for us to marvel at?

This same night was also the night we saw a hummingbird and I decided to get a hummingbird feeder. We've had it up about a month and it is emptied regularly, but we've only seen a hummingbird at it twice.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Changing Caterpillars

Yesterday, on our daily "nature walk" which my dd calls "playing discovery",we found a group of 14 caterpillars. They were on one of our plants (sorry, I don't know the name of it) and they had stripped several branches. I'm wondering if that means they are a pest?

We brought in 7 of them to watch. The caterpillars were very small - maybe one inch long. They were yellow with a black head, some black hairs (or spines?), white stripes along their bodies, and some of them had an orange spot behind their head. I looked for several hours online and in books at the library trying to identify the caterpillar, but I was unable to identify them. Also, most of them had their "tail" ends up in the air and I'm very curious as to "why." (My camera is getting very weak and with the caterpillars being so small, I could not get a clear picture.)

Today, I was amazed that two of the caterpillars who each had an orange spot behind its head had molted and were now black with a large red head and small yellow and white stripes! (see photo) They still have black "hairs", too. Very cool!

And, the ones that didn't have "orange spots" now have them! So, I guess they're the younger ones and they'll all turn black with large red heads. I'm confused as it seems like a smaller black "head" "fell off" and they have new, red heads. Can anyone explain this?

I can't wait to see what happens next! The 7 outside are staying on the same branch, so we've been able to watch them, too. I've also taken a few photos with my in-law's camera of both the yellow and the older black caterpillars and I hope to see if they turned out tomorrow.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Salt Marsh, Sand Dunes, and a Beach at Galveston

On Wednesday, Alexandra and I went on a field trip with some other homeschoolers to Galveston. We were in a class that visited a salt marsh and then went to a beach that had sand dunes. It was a long day, but it was a lot of fun.

We went to the salt marsh, first, and discussed the purpose of a salt marsh (home for marine life - especially babies, protection, filters the water, holds flood waters) and discussed that estuaries are where salt water mixes with fresh water. Then, we headed off through the mud after being taught the stingray shuffle.

The first thing Alexandra found was a large shell - with a hermit crab in it! We were very excited as we noticed these hermit crabs everywhere! Then, we saw periwinkle snails on the grass - 100's of them! They are about the size of a shooter marble and they were climbing up the stalks of grass.

The mud was hard to walk in even before we got in the water. The first few steps into the shallow water were hard to take - it made you feel like you were just learning to walk. As we got into the water, Alexandra was scared (the fact that we had to learn the stingray shuffle and that they said there was a 99.9% chance that you'd fall in the water didn't help). It was also cold and sprinkling. A kind homeschooling dad offered to carry her and his son gave her his jacket. I was amazed that this gentleman carried her for over an hour!

Some of the kids pulled a large net behind them while another child walked in front of the net to "kick up" whatever was at the bottom of the marsh. We caught: lots of shrimp, lots of small baby fish, a few pike fish, some tongue fish (a lot like a flounder), lots of small baby crabs, one large blue crab, and lots of sea snot - which looks like just what it sounds like.

Again, I was amazed at how hard it was to walk around while shuffling in the mud. There were lots of holes - at time I'd step into one and the water would go up to the bottom of my shorts. Also, at times my foot would get trapped. They warned us not to pull our foot out of our shoe or you'd never find your shoe again. We saw evidence of this - unclaimed shoes that washed up on the beach. A few times I got stuck in mud that came to the top of my socks. You have to wiggle your heal, then pull your toe up first to keep your shoe on your foot.

After the marsh, we went to the beach. At the beach, they discussed the importance of sand dunes - both to the animals that live in it and the people who are protected by it. We looked at some of the different types of plants that grow on them - some are not native.

Then, we combed the beach for shells and whatever else we could find. We found: lots of shells (there'd been some flooding about 9 days earlier), a man-of-war, a dead hawk, lots of pieces of oyster, pieces of sand dollars, and our best find: horse manure. Actually, this was kind of funny. I found it when Alexandra and I were by ourselves. I asked her what she thought it was - it was mainly in little round balls. She said she didn't know and picked some up and it broke up in her hands. I called over the gentleman, David, who'd helped us before. David is a farmer and knew immediately that we'd made a wonderful find: horse manure. Yuck! Thankfully, our guides had hand sanitizer.

Photo #1: a piece of oyster on the left and a piece of a large lightning whelk shell covered in worm tunnels on the right side (we learned to identify some shells and things, too!)
Photo #2: top 3: shell (I don't remember it's name), piece of lightning whelk piece, piece of sand dollar; bottom 3: piece of sand dollar, piece of shark's eye shell (what's really neat about it is the little hole at the top - we learned that when you find a shell like this, it's because the organism had been eaten by a snail the uses its tounge and some acid to "drill" a hole and then eat the organism!), a piece of an angel's wing shell

Here's a great site I came across to help identify shells and other things found in Galveston:

I did a little more research online about shark's eyes also known as moon snails. The teacher told us their tongue has little teeth - the teeth are called radula. These types of snails are predators called "drills." They drill a tiny hole in the shell of their prey. They can also be cannibals and I'm guessing our little shell of a shark's eye was eaten by another shark's eye or some other type of "drill."

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

What I'm Learning This Week

God has been teaching me two things this week about homeschooling:
  1. Homeschooling is not a race.
  2. Homeschooling is about more than academics.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Benjamin Franklin Part I

Our museum is hosting a wonderful Benjamin Franklin exhibit. We haven't seen it yet, but we have started reading about this amazing man. Here are a some of the books we've enjoyed so far:
  • The Many Lives of Benjamin Franklin by Aliki - a cartoon book - this is where I got the idea to make our own book of Ben's sayings with our own illustrations
  • How Ben Franklin Stole the Lightning by Rosalyn Schanzer - good book with cute pictures
  • A Picture Book of Benjamin Franklin by David A Adler - we always enjoy these books
  • Now & Ben: The Modern Inventions of Benjamin Franklin by Gene Barretta - cute book that shows a lot about how the world was different in Ben Franklin's time
  • Ben Franklin and the Magic Squares by Frank Murphy - cute book about magic squares, and they're fun to play with, too!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Friday - Play, Museum, Spider & Genealogy

On Friday morning, we got up to go to a play of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. It was a very cute play done in a small theater. There were suprisingly only about 20 people there, and I think they were almost all homeschoolers (school-aged children & their moms).

After the play, we went to the Children's Museum which we rarely go to these days. We had a coupon for free admission we'd picked up at the library. It was a little hectic until about 1 pm and then it slowed down quite a bit. We stayed until 2:20 and then drove home.

Alexandra fell asleep on the way home and I let her sleep until 4:30. I let her watch CyberChase until 5 & then we went outside to "play Discovery" where we look for critters, etc. We found something foamy on a leaf which I think must have been an egg sac and we found some itty bitty mushrooms, I think. They were so cute - they had little silver, flat discs in the middle.

The most exciting find was a small spider. He was so cute! (this isn't my photo, of course, but ours looked just like the red one - I know they're spiders, but don't they make you want to smile? Photo from: http://photos1.blogger.com/blogger/6506/1290/320/SpinySpider.jpg) I'm just amazed at God's diversity! And the beauty He's made in even a spider!

This spider was about the size of a half of a pea. He was a bright red and had black "horns" sitcking out all around him (Alexandra called him a sun bug, because she thought they looked like sun rays) and a happy face in the middle! I was so excited to once again find a name for our new find. (Again, we used www.whatsthatbug.com) He is a spiny orb weaver. They come in lots of bright colors. We're just having so much fun with nature! Isn't God's world amazing???

Later that day, a lady called me about genealogy. I haven't done much genealogy in about 5 years, but this lady got me very excited about it. I spent many, many hours doing research before I became a mom. Anyway, we talked for about 30 minutes and then, that night, I stayed up very late and did research online for 5 hours!!! Online research is a lot easier than it was 5 years ago, and I'm having a lot of fun. I think I'm getting back into it, but we'll see. I don't want it to eat up all of my time.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Thursday - Decluttering

Well, today I decided we needed to declutter. I let Alexandra watch tv this morning around 8:30 while I got to work. About 9:00, she wanted to join me. We worked hard and I finally went upstairs to have a shower at 11:30.

After that, we had lunch, Alexandra read me a book, and then we had rest time. When we got up, we finished putting some stuff away and did about 45 minutes of "school" - just Bible study & some workbooks that we'd "found" today.

We went outside for about 20 minutes to "play discovery" as Alexandra is now calling the time we look at nature.
  1. First of all, we found four mushrooms! It's been raining a LOT the past few day and I guess they enjoyed the rain.
  2. Secondly, we looked at the moss that is growing on our tree. There is also some kind of fern-like plant growing off the side of the tree that I'd like to know more about.
  3. And, lastly, we found a bug. I went to www.whatsthatbug.com and found out that it is a true bug called a leaf footed bug. I was proud of myself for identifying him! (It's the same website I used to identify my assasin bugs.)

We then ran to the grocery store, came home and gobbled some dinner (didn't have time to cook, so grabbed some fast food, unfortunately), and then we were off to ice skating lessons. After lessons, we came home and had dessert, and then it was bedtime!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Wednesday - Ben's Sayings

I thought I'd just continue this week to show more about how our days really work.
(photo above of Alexandra working on Phonics while our dog, Pandy, watches on)

Today, I let Alexandra sleep in since I thought she needed it. She got up a little after 8:00. (I usually wake her at 7:30.) After breakfast, I read a book about nutrition (something we needed to do for a Keepers badge) and then read a book about Ben Franklin. I was excited to have a "Mommy Inspiration" - one of those rare times when I get an idea of my own, not something I've read! We are now making our own illustrated books of "Ben's Sayings." Alexandra did "An apple a day..." and I did "Early to bed..." I'm very surprised at how many of our sayings are attributed to Ben!

After that, we played a game on the computer about plant dichotomy. Then, I took a late shower while she played on the computer. Then, we went downstairs to practice the piano (My new system of teaching her songs by ear instead of reading music is really working. I'm doing this because she was complaining that it hurt to play with her left hand and it hurt to play with her pinky. Well, now she can play real songs and there is no more complaining!)

Then, we did Bible study and it was time for lunch. After lunch we had rest time and then we did phonics (2 lessons to make up for Tuesday). We then got started on math. I've been copying all of the worksheets and finally asked myself, "Why? Just so I can resell it?" So, we decided to write IN our workbook. Alexandra wanted to go back to the beginning, so now we're having a pretty major review. She did get through a lot of worksheets today, though.

After math, we gathered our library books & dropped them off & then went to a ceramics studio to paint pumpkins. We did this last year, and when I unpacked them they meant so much that I thought we should do it again.

We painted our pumpkins (we can pick them up on Monday), then came home and cooked dinner & ate. Afterwards, Alexandra read some SOTW to me. Then, we had dessert & she took a shower. In bed, we read some more SOTW and part of another book about Ben Franklin.

Now, she's in bed and I'm on the computer checking emails, catching up on my blog, and researching Charlotte Mason.... more changes???

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Tuesday - Light & the Solar System

Well, our new "plans" didn't last very long. We didn't even get through math, reading and writing. Actually, we only got to reading - and didn't finish that! I decided we needed to stop saving all of the best stuff until all of the more mundane things are out of the way. So, we started some science.

We started by making our "scale model" of the solar system. I'm using something I found online where you use a ball for the sun and a peppercorn for the earth. It turned out really neat! You can really see the size between the small, rocky, inner planets and the larger, gaseous, outer planets. And, of course, the sun is enormous! We were then supposed to take them outside and pace off the distances between them. But, we decided to glue each "planet" to an index card so they'd be easier to see and they had to dry. So, we'll try to do the outdoor part tomorrow.

Since yesterday we'd read about the sun and light, I decided to do a few experiments with light. I have a book called My Big Science Book and it had quite a few projects. Here's what we did:
  • showed how light travels in a straight line by shining a flashlight on a mirror and seeing it reflect
  • showing how light can bend through different materials by putting a red brush in a glass of water - from the side, the brush looks broken where it exits the water & from the front, it looks huge in the water & then much smaller where it exits the water - very neat! (photo below)
  • we tricked our eyes by writing while looking in a mirror instead of at our hand - this was quite hard! (picture below - my handwriting looked like I was about 5 years old - like Alexandra's!)
  • we made shadow puppets to demonstrate how light moves in a straight line
  • we demonstrated a solar eclipse with a flashlight, tennis ball, and globe

After school, we went to our Keepers of the Faith group, which is kind of like Girl Scouts. We're studying nutrition, and each girl brought a healthy food they'd never tried. Alexandra only liked the crab apples which we'd brought (they were a big hit, but I found them very sour). We also tried stuffed grape leaves (I think), dates, and edible flowers (it was kind of like eating grass). The girls also practiced stretching, warming up, weight lifting (1 pound weights),and exercising.

Afterwards, the children went outside to play. We had fun watching some minnows in a pond. We also found a barely alive cicada and the girls really enjoyed playing with him. We also picked seeds out of a seed pod.

I got very excited when one of the moms spotted a red-tailed hawk that landed in the park with us! It was so big! And so close! We watched him for 2 or 3 minutes. At one point he made a small hop and about a minute later, he spread his wings and flew away. It was such a sight - and I didn't get a photo! I had my camera with me, but I was out of film!

Monday - Changing Our Daily Plan

With homeschooling, it seems we are constantly evolving our methods. This weekend, I decided to make another change. We are going to concentrate on Reading, Writing and Arithmetic and then one extra subject per day. Of course, we're also doing our Bible study, but I'm trying to not think of this as school.

So, yesterday (Monday), we started out with a piano lesson. She was getting very frustrated with her lessons, so the past week or so I've been teaching her songs that she can memorize. I also bought some new curriculum and she picked out the theory book. I think this is going to work!

Anyway, we had a 30 minute lesson and she started learning a new Christmas song. When some family comes in a few weeks, we're going to have her first recital.

After piano, we had our Bible study. She is learning the books of the Bible and is almost finished! We are also reading through Genesis. We were reading about Noah's sons and all of their children. I told her not all parts of the Bible are exciting (but they're useful!), but we were excited to see, listed in Noah's descendents, a man named Egypt and a man named Akkad (a city we've studied about in SOTW). Lastly, we did her BSF study on Romans.

Then, we went to reading which today just consisted of phonics. On Monday's, we do a "Spelling Bee" and she did so well!!! Spelling has not been a real strong point for her, but she's getting much better! Then, we did the rest of our phonics lesson which was kind of a review lesson.

For writing, we each wrote a letter to my mom. Last week, she started writing letters for handwriting and she's really enjoying it. I think the people receiving the letters are, too! I only correct her sloppy letters, missing capital letters (or capital letters in the middle of a sentence) and her punctuation. We were going to do some reading, too, but I knew we were a little rushed for time.

Next was math. We start with what I call "Speedy Math" - timed worksheets covering addition. Some days she enjoys these, and some days she doesn't. Today was a "doesn't", but we got through it. Afterward, we worked on subtraction. We were working with a strategy for subtracting 9 or 8. She's been picking up on this pretty well.

After math we had lunch and then 3 friends came over, 2 brothers & a sister. We've never had them to our house to play before, and it went really well. The kids mainly played some board games and Wedgits.

Then was rest time - Alexandra watches a movie & I take a short nap.

Then, for this day, we were concentrating on astronomy. Today's reading was about the sun. We talked about solar flares & sun spots. We also talked about auroras, and I got on-line and found some photos & videos of them. Very neat! Lastly, we talked about light - about black light & white light & light waves. I thought it was still pretty confusing, so I'm going to try to find some books at the library.

After astronomy, I cooked dinner, we ate. I finished first, so I read to her from the Magic Tree House's "Space" book. And then it was off to our Bible Study.

We came home & talked & had dessert with Daddy. Then, we went to bed and read a chapter of Little House in the Big Woods. That book ties in so well with the Living History museum we went to last week. We didn't turn off the lights until about 10:05, but we had a great day!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Update on Caterpillar

I posted my questions about my caterpillar's identity to two groups I belong to - a nature group & a Charlotte Mason group. Several ladies quickly came back with the answer - I had found a Sphinx Moth caterpillar! I wish I would have saved him!

I was surprised to learn that these caterpillars burrow in the ground to pupate. And, I wish we would have tried to watch him change into a moth! Anyway, it's been a wonderful, nature-filled day. We've spent a lot of time in the yard looking for other fascinating bugs. We found and identified some orange assasin bugs. One of them was eating a fly! We also found something that might be a wheel bug. And, we found a small, metallic blue fly - my sister told me what he was, but I've forgotten. We also killed some aphids on our milkweed. We're happy that they are doing very well now, although they only have a few leaves.

Fat, Horned Caterpillar

(Picture above is of "our" caterpillar - the right side is his face, and the left side has the horn. I actually thought the horn was on his face until he started crawling!)

This morning, when Alexandra came downstairs, she asked why our dog was outside barking. I really hadn't noticed, so we went outside to check it out. Well, she was barking at something in the grass, so I thought we'd cautiously check it out.

I saw this very plump, brown thing that looked like a tail to something. I was a little nervous, but I picked up a large piece of bark (I couldn't find a stick), and touched it. It turns out the "tail" was an entire body - of a big, fat caterpillar!

I was still afraid to touch it as it had this large "horn." I was calling it a unicorn caterpillar. I finally got brave enough to pick it up and it whipped around like it was trying to sting me. I was still a little afraid, so we got a bug box to put him in.

I tried to find a picture of him on the internet, and so far I've only discovered that he is a "horned" caterpillar. I did find the email of a man that I'm going to contact and ask for help.

We took him back outside to photograph. I really thought he was almost dead as he only moved when I grabbed him, but eventually found out that he must have been "playing dead." I'm sure both my daugther and I and our dog gave him quite a scare. He finally started crawling around.

He is brown on top and about 2 inches long. I took a ruler with me, but he was usually curled up, and when he finally stretched out, I forgot to measure him. I did measure his horn to be 1 cm. He's brown on the top with some spots, and green on his underside.

I just love all of the neat things we are finding... right in our own backyard!

The Greenhouse Effect

The other class we went to at our natural science museum this week was about how the weather has changed and the greenhouse effect. I was amazed at how he made it so simple to understand. And, that he didn't preach "doom and gloom." He said that some scientists believe we are heating our world up, and some don't - that we should read about it and find out more on our own. But, he did explaing how energy from the sun heats up the earth, but that a lot of the heat is bounced back into space. And, how different colors (like the green of the rain forests versus the white of the poles) reflect heat differently. And, I thought he did a great job of explaining how the sun beats more directly on the equator, so it's hotter, and less directly on the poles, so they're cooler.

He had them draw a diagram (above) that shows the sun and how its energy bounces around. And, he talked about how in the Ice Age, temperatures were cooler. Do you know that world-wide the average temperature during the ice age was only 5 degrees cooler??? Then, he took us out in the museum to look at some Ice Age skeletons and fossils.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Galveston Photos

My friend just sent me some photos of our recent day-trip to Galveston, so I thought I'd put a few here. She has some amazing photos! My favorite was of a pelican - I think it could be on a calendar! So, I don't want to "steal" it and put it here. :-) Thanks, friend!!!

This is the turtle we got excited about watching. We even saw him eat some squid! And, we could tell it was a "he" from the time we spent at the turtle barn earlier in the day. You can tell it's a "he" because only the male's tails extend past their shells.

7 Wonders of the Ancient World & 3 Types of Rocks

Yesterday, we went to our monthly classes at our natural science museum. One of the classes dealt with the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Besides discussing them and looking at pictures of them in a book, we did 3 things:
  1. Cut out pictures of each wonder and glued it on a map
  2. Talked about the 3 types of rocks and their properties (as the wonders were made out of rocks)
  3. Showed how an armature (like a frame) helps statutes be stronger by showing how a wire helps a notecard hold more weight
I thought they were good projects and especially like the mapwork. Also, the teacher had asked us to read about the 7 wonders, the 3 types of rock, and to look at the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea before class, so it was a great way to reinforce what we'd studied.
Some books we enjoyed:
  • Let's Go Rock Collecting by Roma Ganse
  • The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World by Bentley - we looked at pictures & discussed them
  • Seven Wonders of the Ancient World by Curlee - read the whole thing in one sitting! It's a pretty big book with stories about each of the wonders - our teacher did tell us that their interpetation of Colossus at Rhodes was probably incorrect - he actually stood kind of like the Statue of Liberty with a torch

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Nature in Our Backyard Part 2

We have been out checking on our caterpillars daily. We are actually down to one caterpillar, but it is growing fast! It is striped white, black and yellow - a Monarch. I didn't realize that butterfly weed was the same as milkweed, so a Monarch caterpillar makes a lot of sense!

Our hummingbird feeder
We got a few more plants from our new friend and are hoping it is enough for our caterpillar. All of those yellow eggs we saw turned out to be aphids. Oops! We're hoping to see more ladybugs around as they come to eat the little aphids.

We've seen our hummingbird several times, but haven't been able to take a picture of him yet. He has a green back & a yellow belly - I think. The feeder is in the far corner of the yard & I've been trying to sneak up on him, but he flies away.

We are just having so much fun with nature in our own backyard! Well, except for the mosquitoes which have been horrible. We are both are wearing lots of beautiful bite marks.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Nature in Our Backyard

A few weeks ago, a lady from our nature group gave us some butterfly weed. Tonight, as Alexandra & I watered it, we saw 2 tiny caterpillars (about 0.4 cm) & about 40 yellow eggs! I think the caterpillars are white with black stripes, but they are so small that it is hard to tell. We can't wait to watch them grow!

Also, on Wednesday, we put a hummingbird feeder in the backyard. By Friday morning, it was empty! I really thought that it either had a leak or the wind had blown it out. But, when we went to add new "nectar", a hummingbird buzzed right by my ear! We haven't seen him again yet, but we're watching!

And, tonight we watched a hummingbird moth fly around some of our flowers for about 10 minutes. He wasn't even bothered by us. I hope this wasn't my "hummingbird" from the feeder. We shall see.
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