Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Free Milkweed Seeds

I saw in a homeschool magazine about this site where you can get free milkweed seeds to start your own butterfly garden. When I went to the site, I read the following sad news:

"Monarchs need your help NOW! During the past few years, over 75% of the wintering Monarchs from North America froze to death in Mexico as a result of three days of rain and sub-freezing conditions. There is also a Nationwide shortage of milkweed. These freak weather patterns and destroyed habitats kill millions of helpless Monarchs. Habitat must be protected now to ensure their survival, before we see the day when this miracle of nature is only a memory. The Monarchs need your help NOW. Please plant seeds and ensure their survival. A Milkweed in every yard!"

So, they're offering free milkweed seeds (though there is a suggested donation of $2) so they can plant milkweed to help save the Monarchs. We only have 2 milkweed plants in our backyard we planted last fall and they are being rapidly eaten. There are so many mosquitos around it, that we haven't spent much time looking at it. But, a few days ago, we made a quick trip and found a monarch caterpillar under the very first leaf we turned over. So, I think we'll add a few more milkweeds to our garden!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Mosquitos & the Hunt for Mushrooms

I've been wanting to take photos of all the mushrooms in our yard but the rain just keeps coming and coming. We are finally having a little bit of a break, so I went out tonight. Even with bug spray, the mosquitos are horrible! I took some photos, but tried to do it so quick that they didn't turn out. I did get this cool photo of a little bitty fly. (It looks neater if you enlarge it.) Anyway, I'll try again in a day or two. I'd also love to go to a park or somewhere and go on a mushroom hunt later this week.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Daruma Dolls

We used a neat product called Rigid Wrap (you use it like paper mache) to make Daruma Dolls as we finished up our Japanese studies. We also went to Benihana this weekend for a Japanese meal.

Alexandra had never been and I've only been once - about 10 years ago. It was so much fun! If you haven't been before, they cook at your table, and it is quite a show. We had about 5 courses and liked almost everything. Alexandra especially enjoyed the fried rice and her chicken. I loved my shrimp and steak. What a wonderful finish to our study!!!

Museum Candy Fun

Our health museum is having a candy exhibit this summer. We went to a "show" which was really fun. I saw my first, live demo of Mentos in Diet Coke. Wow! What an explosion! I might have to buy the little dispensor to do this "science demo" on my own.

Alexandra had fun jumping on a huge "tongue." Each colorful circle represented one of the 4 tastes and it would say what taste (ex. salty) when you jumped on it. I loved one of the signs near the exhibit. This is what it said: "Could your schoolbooks be wrong? You may have learned in school that your tongue has taste zones. Each zone was supposed to recognize one of the four basic tastes: sweet... sour... salty... bitter. You might have even seen a tongue map like this. (shows traditional tongue map) Well, guess what? If you jump on the tongue, you'll see that receptors for all four tastes are scattered everywhere. Taste receptors are in the taste buds. Researchers have known since the mid-70s that the tongue map was not exactly right. But it's been printed and reprinted in textbooks since the late 1800's." Wow! It also says we might have a 5th taste called "savoury" which tastes meaty flavors.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Solar S'mores

We had some sunshine this weekend! (In between the rain.) So, we got out our solar oven and tried again. This time, yummy success!!! The temp in the oven got to 140 degrees! (I had taken some advice and put the oven on the driveway - I think this really helped!)

Saturday, July 21, 2007


Alexandra started her goal of reading 1000 minutes on June 15th. This week, on July 19th, she reached her goal and earned her prize... a new Webkinz. She has been reading more than ever so this has been a great incentive for her. We are starting up a new 1000 minute goal. Way to go Alexandra!!!

Friday, July 20, 2007


My friend, Ms. S, let me borrow some of her things while we're studying Japan. One year, for Halloween, she made one of her daughters a kimono and some geta (wooden clog shoes worn in Japan)! I thought she did a wonderful job and Alexandra was so happy to try these on and clomp around in them.

While studying Japan, I've enjoyed some of the posts at Ping Magazine. They have one called "Clacking with Your Wooden Japanese Clogs" that has some great photos of Japanese shoes. I especially loved some of the clogs which they use for certain jobs, like for planting rice and making tea.

Solar Oven

We decided to make a solar oven after reading about it at martinzoo. Since she did such a wonderful job of showing you how to make it, step-by-step, I won't duplicate it. Basically, you take a pizza box and line it with aluminum foil. You also cut a "window" out of the top and line it with Saran Wrap. Then, you're ready to take it outside and cook!

Unfortunately, with all of the rain we've been having, we haven't been seeing much of the sun. We did try to cook some mini pizzas last week, but the temperature never got about 85 degrees. It was pretty cloudy. So, we are waiting for a sunny day (with rain forcasted for the next 10 days at least) so we can try some s'mores... yum! We did go ahead and cook our pizzas in our little oven, and they turned out great. We tried both English Muffins and bagels, but I liked the bagels better.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


We are getting ready to practice writing in Japanese and I remembered we'd had Alexandra's name written in Japanese & Chinese at an Asian festival about 1.5 years ago. It is neat to see the difference. "Alexandra" is written in Chinese on the left and in Japanese on the right.

Galloping the Globe

I got a comment asking me about Galloping the Globe (GTG) and KONOS. My daughter is getting ready for 2nd grade and will, unless plans change, be using Volume 2 of KONOS (with the online co-op). We used GTG for Kindergarten and SOTW for a lot of 1st grade.

I LOVED GTG and highly recommend it. And, I would recommend starting KONOS after GTG. We didn't complete GTG, but we really learned a lot from what we did. And, it was so much fun!

There is a GTG yahoo group. The year we were doing it, the group was wonderful. They didn't seem as active this year, but hopefully this coming year will be more active again. And, you can always read the archives.

I think I've posted all of my GTG posts under "geography" if you want to look at some of them. I have changed the way I blog quite a bit, so it'll look different than it does now. :-)

Hope this helps!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Butterfly Box

On Saturday, we went to one of Home Depot's monthly Kids Days where they can build things. This time, they gave each child a choice of what to build from four projects. Alexandra chose to build a butterfly box!

I highly recommend these Kids Days. The kids get to learn how to use tools (like hammers) and read instructions. I learned about wood glue this week, too. And, Alexandra made such an improvement in her hammer skills this time! The helper showed her how to hit softly until the nail gets in a little ways and then hit hard to finish it off. What a lesson! We'll be adding it to our butterfly garden.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Safe Side

On another blog I read (I didn't write down which one - sorry!), they recommended Stranger Safety video by The Safe Side. I borrowed it from the library and watched it on my own before sharing it with my daughter. I wanted to make sure it wasn't too scary.

Well, my daughter and I both love it. I watched it with her and we had some great discussions. I like, for example, how it compares strangers (which they call "don't knows" because you don't know them) to a dog you don't know. It might look cute and harmless (like the chihuahua they use in the video), but you can't tell just by looking. So, you always ask before petting a dog. In the same way, you can't tell if a person might try to hurt you just by looking at them. So, you need to have your "Safe Side Adult" with you or you shouldn't be talking to a stranger.

The DVD also covers not answering the door, your "personal space", not giving out personal information, and not going with anyone who isn't on your "approved" list. On the website, they also have a music CD you can buy and a guide you can download.

The whole video is funny, but it still gets the serious points across. I think it's important to teach our children about stranger and danger and I highly recommend this DVD! There is also one about internet safety.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

What's That Bug?

My photo of the pair of Golden Orb Spiders has been published on What's That Bug? (Right now, it is on the front page. Just search for "golden.") This is a wonderful site that helps people identify bugs they find. And, it is neat just to browse through the pages and see how wonderfully diverse God made creation!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Golden Orb Spiders

I hope this doesn't bother too many of you out there! While we were blueberry picking last week, we came across this beautiful, large (the female is probably 2.5 inches) pair of Golden Orb Spiders. We'd seen lots of these spiders last fall while doing Alexandra's astronomy classes. But, I've never seen a male before. Isn't the size difference neat? You should be able to enlarge it by double clicking on it. You can even see the hairs on her legs! Wow!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Happy Birthday to...

...MY BLOG!!!

My blog is 2 years old today. I can't believe how much we've done in the past 2 years.... the friends we've made... the lessons we've learned... the experiments we've done... the new skills... new experiences... Back then, I was "officially" just starting to homeschool, though I'd been unofficially homeschooling for a few years. Now, I'm a more seasoned homeschooler getting ready to start teaching 2nd grade!

I know in the beginning, the only ones reading my blog were a few family members and a few ladies from the Galloping the Globe curriculum we were using. (By the way, it is a wonderful curriculum - one of the best things we've done! And, through it, I met one of my best friends who I now co-op with, Ms. S!)

So, here's a link to my very first post back on July 8th, 2005. Thanks for reading!!!
- Dana

P.S. I'd love it if you'd leave me a comment on this one so I can see who all is out there... still reading. :-)

Squid and Octopi

We read about squid & octopi as part of our Japan studies. Alexandra has really been interested in them, especially the squid, and has been reading a lot of books. I'll post her favorite books later, but for now I thought I'd share some on-line resources... mainly videos:
  • Octopus escapes from small hole
  • Octopus vs. Moray Eel
  • Amazing Octopus at Toad Haven, one of my "new" favorite blogs!!! Incredible!!!
  • Giant Squid: 1st time video-taped alive in water
  • Giant Squid: 1st time video-tapes alive being caught
  • Octosquid? a possible new species found a few days ago

Also, I have a post from over a year ago when we studied some about various cephalopods like squid, octopus, cuttlefish, and nautilus.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Pickin' Blueberries

We went blueberry picking today. Since we've had so much rain, there haven't been a lot of pickers and they had TONS of berries. Alexandra LOVES blueberries! They also had blackberries, but none of us like them much. And, you can pick their flowers, too. (I was trying hard to get a great photo of this large bumblebee - I might crop this photo and see what it looks like as it's pretty good.) Alexandra did step in some fire ants and got a few bites which wasn't fun.

Afterwards, we stopped at our local homeschool store and I bought the rest of our curriculum for next year - yeah! And, I had a friend I'd been trying to hook up with for a few months. Well, we ran into each other at the store. (Isn't God amazing?) The girls got to play for at least an hour at the little play area. And, we got to catch up and talk about our girls and homeschooling.

Audiobooks at Wendy's

This week, I read that Wendy's was giving out audiobooks instead of toys this month. We went there for lunch today and Alexandra got the one she wanted most - The Magic Tree House's Dinosaurs Before Dark. There are 4 different books-on-tape. I love that Wendy's is doing this, kind of like Chick-Fil-A has done several times with stories on tape. Way to go, Wendy's!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Origami, Candy Sushi, and Zen Garden

We did some origami today for our Japanese study. Pretty hard for a 6-year-old. Actually, it was pretty hard for me, too. The solid sheets were from the kit in the photo - we got it at Half Price books. The carp is from this free site that has lots of pre-printed pages to fold.

We also had fun making candy sushi from Family Fun. I'm not much of a rice person and didn't workd up the courage to try real sushi. We only fixed up 1/4 a recipe of rice crispies and this was pretty tasty (except the red licorice didn't taste good with the mix.)

And, this photo is of a zen garden Alexandra made a few days ago. We found this little kit at Dollar General for $1! It didn't include a plate and I love this plate Alexandra chose for $1.50, I think. I chose a brown one, but I think hers looked much better.

Happy 4th!!!

We were so thankful it stopped raining for the 4th of July night and we got to shoot off fireworks. We are able to shoot off fireworks at our house and usually have friends or family over, but this year it was just the 3 of us. Alexandra loved shooting off some confetti poppers. And, we all enjoyed a night of fireworks. Hope everyone else had a happy 4th, too!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Japan, cont.

We're about halfway through our 2nd week of our 3 week Japan KONOS study. Some highlights from this week were making carps for Boy's Day and eating Japanese style - complete with Green Tea, rice, and rice cakes. We are having lots of fun learning about Japan and we've both learned so much!


I finished the kimono earlier this week. I'm very happy with it - except for the fact that it is shedding everywhere. And, we have to pin it shut. :-) But, didn't it turn out nice? (Reminder: this is only the fourth thing I have EVER sewed... and only the 2nd on my own!)

But, she is really enjoying her costume, and we're loving our study of Japan! We will likely continue our online virtual co-op this fall.

Young Scientist at Work

We just started some germ experiements with a Magic School Bus kit we bought. For some experiments, we're using test tubes. For others, we had to cook up some agar to put in the petri dishes and we're busy...experimenting!

I don't know if I mentioned it before, but when I was in college I did scientific research for a few years. I LOVE science! :-) If I could go back to college and do it again, I wouldn't have become a teacher, but a research scientist. What could be more fun???

So, we're having lots of fun. I'll make sure and let you know some of the results. So far, there hasn't been much acitivity except on the yogurt experiment. That culture is really growing!

Monday, July 02, 2007

To Buy or Not To Buy

Recently, someone left a comment on one of my frog entries. We bought some frog eggs through a science company back in February to watch them go through metamorphosis. The comment was asking if Iwould recommend buying the eggs. My answer: No. :-)

When I bought the eggs, I figured that when they became frogs I could release them. This is not the case. You are not allowed to release them both because you could be introducing new disease and possibly a new species to a pond. I understand this now, but wish I would have known before I got started. I now have 4 "pets" that I wasn't really prepared for keeping.

They are actually costing quite a bit of money, too. From the tank & things to go in to the tank to the weekly cricket bill - around $8. (I have 4 frogs)

My suggestion would be, that if possibly, you find local eggs that you can release back into their habitat when you're done with them.

Hope this helps! And, if you have any further questions, please ask away. I hope to take some new photos of our frogs soon. They are getting quite big!

Also, if you click on "tadpoles to frogs" on my sidebar, you can see more of our froggy adventure!

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Yard of Toads

In the 10 plus years we've lived at our house, I've only seen a couple of toads. This week, we've found 8 of them! Although they were all small, this was the smallest. He was about the size of a dime! (He's sitting in my hand) What fun we've had finding these little toads!
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