Friday, August 31, 2007


Using KONOS, we've been studying "explorers" this week - specifically Leif the Lucky and Marco Polo. We've read some great books, watched the Nest video about Marco Polo, and done a few hands-on activities. Our favorite was making a spice chart. It was Alexandra's idea to glue 2 pieces of paper together and make "flaps" to uncover each spice. (In photo, my flaps are open & hers are shut.)

Favorite Marco Polo resources:
  • Marco Polo (Nest Entertainment video)
  • Marco Polo by Graves - this book is 96 pages, but we read it in one setting - good book
  • The Adventures of Marco Polo by Smalley - a cartoon book - cute, but not as much information

Thursday, August 30, 2007


While at our local homeschooling convention, I attended a seminar on spelling given by Andrew Pudewa of Excellence in Writing Institute. I was amazed by what I learned! (And, I was happy that he recommended either his own spelling program or AVKO, which is what we're using this year.)

Alexandra always wants to practice spelling using a spelling bee format - and this is a great way to practice! I wanted to share what I'd learned from Mr. Pudewa, and his website did a nice job of summarizing:

"Spelling is the correct retrieval of sequentially stored, virtually random bits of information. To spell well, students need to correctly retrieve that information.

When we look at a word we see it as a whole. But spelling is sequential, and the correct sequence can be missed when seen as a whole. Spelling the word out loud, letter by letter, ensures accurate storage of the correct sequence in the brain. Hence, auditory input is the best possible way to store spelling information accurately."


Tonight, I found this dead dragonfly on our driveway. I was amazed at his large size! H wasn't as colorful as most of our dragonflies - this one is mainly black. But, his wings are incredible! (Try clicking on it to enlarge it - wow!)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

UV Beads

Today Alexandra and I tested some UV beads using some Steve Spangler experiments. I was doing this in preparation for a group science day, but a storm rolled in at the wrong time.

We tested our sunscreen with the beads. I didn't let it "soak", so maybe we should try that (actually, the website says to put them in a baggie and coat the baggie), but there was only a tiny difference between the beads "wearing" sunscreen and those without. I also tested my sunglasses. Wow! The beads didn't change colors at all!

We also thought it was neat that I was doing these experiements in total shade! I could even do it near the window which is in the shade. And, it was a fairly cloudy day. However, when it was raining and I decided I wanted to take a photograph, I had to open a door and step outside to get a good color change.

Steve Spangler's site has quite a few other ideas and I'm sure we could come up with some of our own - like testing our clothes! Have fun with science!!!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Last week, we went to Ft. Worth to the Amon Carter Museum for their biannual homeschool classes. Alexandra had a class with other children around her age, and I got an incredible class with the other parents. We took their fall class last year and I had one of my favorite classes of my life! (That one was on the history of photography - wow!!!)

This fall's class was mainly about how artists use places that have a special meaning to them as subject matter. For instance, American artists in the early 1800's followed Thomas Cole, the Father of the Hudson River School of Artists. They wanted to stop copying European art and do some uniquely American art. They primarily painted outdoor scenes of America with plenty of water, sky, forests, and mountains.

We also talked about Charles Demuth (as they are having a special exhibit) and his paintings of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Demuth was part of the first truly unique American art form called Precisionism. This was in between WWI and WWII and focused primarily on industrial scenes, was very geometric and "flat." Some of his friend Georgia O'Keefe's paintings were also done in the Precisionism styel, but hers were painted mainly of her home in New Mexico.
When I went online to read more about Precisionism, the first painting that came up was this well-known painting of "The Figure 5 in Gold".... by Demuth!!! I think Alexandra & I might have to try to recreate this, or something similar with other numbers that have more meaning to us.
I can't wait for the next class! And, they will be adding a 3rd class this year, based on ages, and Alexandra's class will be on Georgia O'Keefe! I can't wait!!!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Getting Dizzy!!!

Oh, cool! Blogger just added a new video button to the posting page so I thought I'd try to post a short video. We were visiting my mom, sister, niece, brother & his girlfriend this weekend. Alexandra and her cousin rode on a Carousel that also has a teacup that goes round & round & round. What a way to get dizzy!!! (Well, they didn't seem dizzy, but I would have gotten sick!)

First Day of School - 2nd Grade!!!

Today we started 2nd grade!!! I had to take some "official" photos.

And, yes, Alexandra has a big yellowish bump on her forehead and 2 black eyes from bumping heads with a friend last week (who also got a black eye). Poor girls! They were playing hide & seek in the dark and didn't see each other. Ouch!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Goodbye, Emma

Little Emma, Alexandra's hamster, got sick on Wednesday afternoon right before a trip to my mom's. We started her on antibiotics and other meds. My sister, a vet, met us at my mom's on Friday night and was sad to tell us that Emma had a large tumor and there was nothing more we could do. Emma passed away yesterday (Saturday) afternoon. Alexandra is missing her little friend very much and we were all so sad to see her pass away so young. We'd had her less than 4 months and she was only about 5.5 months old.
Goodbye, Sweet Emma!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Piano Lessons

Alexandra started piano lessons yesterday with a "real" piano teacher. I have taught her off and on for about 2 years. But, we've never stuck with it and never gotten very far.

So, we signed her up for lessons. For the past few weeks, she's practiced almost daily and had me "give her a lesson" 4 or 5 times a week. She has been speeding along! So, now I'm worried. She's got 2 songs to practice all week long.... How's that going to work?

The teacher suggested we come in for lessons twice a week, but we just can't add anything else to our schedule right now. I think I'll just use a supplemental book and teach her out of that, too. So, she can do her regular practice, and then gets a "bonus" of mom teaching her a "real" song.

That's my plan for now! So, we'll see how it goes!

By the way, this brings back lots of memories for me. I started taking lessons at about Alexandra's age. Besides recitals, my first "public" performance was when I was in 3rd grade - I played "Up On the Rooftop" in the hallway of our elementary school while ALL the kids in the school sang for our parents. Later, I went on to play for school & church choirs, accompanied various singers & instrumentalists at competitions, and was the back-up piano player for our church. I love to play the piano! I played hour after hour after hour in junior and senior high. I'm so glad Alexandra is so interested, too! I hope she retains her love of the piano like I have!

Monday, August 20, 2007

735 Kids

This weekend, we went to our local homeschooling convention - one of 2 large conventions they have in the Houston area. This is the 2nd time I've been, but last time I didn't listen to any of the speakers and Alexandra didn't come with me.

I learned a lot in the classes and spent a lot while shopping. Alexandra had fun in the children's program. At the end of the convention, the children got together and sang some songs they'd learned. The Children's Program had served 735 kids!!! And, there had been 192 teen helpers! Now, that's a lot of homeschoolers!

I'm so happy we homeschool in Texas where there are so many homeschoolers and so much freedom. And, I'm grateful to the homeschoolers who have paved the way in Texas.

To those of you who live where the environment isn't so homeschooling-friendly, I'm so glad that you are out there making the road easier for those who will come along next - like our children! I don't know how you do it, but keep up the good work!

Another Cute Spider

Last night, I found an orange spiny-backed orb weaver in our backyard! So, here's my 3rd little spider to add to my collection. Now, I've got photos of white, yellow & orange spiders. I need to keep looking for a red one. I wonder if there are any other colors?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Toad vs. Worm Video

Since I couldn't load the video on my blog, I thought I'd see if this link would work! This is the video I took last week of the toad in my yard trying to get a worm for breakfast. Hope it works! Could someone let me know if it does? I can see it, but I'm not sure if it is because it is my account or if anyone can see it. Thanks!

Squirrel Nest

Last night as we were swimming, Alexandra spotted a squirrel in our backyard tree. This isn't really that unusal, but we hadn't seen any in awhile and she pointed it out. Then, we noticed it was carrying something in its mouth. So, we watched.

The squirrel was breaking off small branches of leaves and adding them to his (her?) nest! We've had 3 squirrel nests in that tree for quite a few years. I guess they must reuse them. We had 2 baby squirrels several months ago, so maybe it is about time for a new litter!

I really enjoyed watching the squirrel go back and forth, gathering leaves. (Alexandra got a little tired of it and wanted me to play with her instead.) She does want to do some research to see if we were watching the mommy or the daddy. So, I've just requested a few books from the library.

On another note, the weather will be quite a bit cooler today. We have been over 100 for about 5 days now. With all of our humidity, those temps are pretty rare. But, with Tropical Depression Erin making landfall to the south and west of us, we are expecting lots of rain and highs in the mid-80's.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Nature Shirt

Just Call Me Jammin' had posted about some nature shirts she made with her children several months ago. This weekend, Alexnadra and I finally made her a shirt. It turned out so cute!

You spread some things from nature (we used leaves) on a dark shirt and then use a spray bottle to spray full-strength bleach on the t-shirt. Wait about 5 minutes and check to see if it is done. If it is, put in the washer immediately to wash. We washed it 2 times - once without soap and then a second time with soap. Let me know if you make your own creation!

Monday, August 13, 2007

spinning webs & catching worms

I've tried to upload a photo I recorded last week, but so far haven't had any luck. So, I thought I better go ahead and post what I do have, even though the video was much better than the photo !

On Thursday morning, within about 20 minutes, Alexandra and I saw 2 incredible sites. First, we watched a spider spinning its web. This was the second spiny-backed orb weaver we'd seen and they are right next to each other. (Now we've found a 3rd in a different part of the yard!)This one is white, while the other one was yellow. And, this one is about 1/2 inch, while the yellow one is about 1/4 inch wide. If you enlarge this photo, you can see that he has completed the outside of his web, but the inside is not finished. We watched him go around and around his web pulling the threads out with 2 hind feet and then connecting it to the "spokes." It was an amazing site!

Then, just minutes later, I came across this little brown toad and started taking his picture. I took about 20 photos and they all turned out blurry! I was trying to keep my distance so I wouldn't scare him. And, I was trying to show how well camouflaged he was in the dirt. Well, all of a sudden, he grabbed a worm! (He's sitting on it in the photo.) I kept taking photos and finally took some video (which turned out well). He kept grabbing the worm and throwing him in the air. We probably watched the 2 of them for about 5 minutes when I accidentally scared the toad as I tried to get a little closer. So, my daughter was happy that the worm got away. (She even had made a sign that said "Go, worm, go!" and was cheering for it! :-) What an amazing, natural experience!

(Try enlarging it.)

Lastly, I wanted to share this photo of the smaller spider. I was having such a hard time focusing on him as he's so small. I finally thought to use a mist bottle to mist his web. It had a beautiful effect and my camera would now focus on the web instead of on the fence in the background. I love this photo!

Hope you have a nature-filled, awe-of-God-filled day!


I took a video this week that I'd like to add to my blog. I'm wanting to use something besides YouTube. Is there anything else? And, if so, how do you do it?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

More Backyard Finds

This week, I've been having more fun with photographic nature walks in our backyard.


cicada shell

live cicada - this photo actually turned out pretty funny. I was kind of in a precarious position with one leg on the spa and the other on the windowsill. I got closer and closer to this little guy as I took photos. All of a sudden, he took off flying (& buzzing, of course) and hit me in the face. Boy, did I scream!!! And, scared poor Alexandra to death. I think she thought I'd been hurt, but I kept telling her I was fine. She did not think this was funny, but I did.

Steve Spangler Science

We recently received our first order from Stever Spangler Science. What fun! We ordered a glow in the dark squidy which I made work like magic after watching Steve's video. We ordered color changing UV beads that I'll be using with our homeschool group. And, with a few other things, we ordered these 6 baby soda bottles with rack and guide.
Did you know Steve calls these baby soda bottles because they will "grow up" to become 2 liter soda bottles? They actually take these and heat them and blow them up in a mold and they become our 2 liter bottles!

Anyay, Steve said just give the kids some and let them go. I gave Alexandra some ideas of things she might want to put in them and she spent about an hour, mainly on her own, mixing up her own tubes and then showing them to me. We plan on doing a lot with these little tubes. They're lots of fun! And educational, too!
Steve's site has lots of experiments and videos that look like lots of fun. If you've never seen his site, check it out!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

100 Children's Books

My FFiend at Boys+ Academy shared this list of 100 Children's Books. It is the result of a 2007 parent and teacher survey. Another website, Painted Rainbow, has invited others to play along by highlighting which ones you've read with your child(ren). Here's my key

  • Purple - Not Read
  • Red - Read
  • Blue - A Favorite
  1. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
  2. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
  3. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
  4. Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
  5. Good Night Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
  6. I Love You Forever by Robert N. Munsch
  7. Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
  8. Oh! The Places You Will Go by Dr. Seuss
  9. The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton
  10. The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
  11. Skippyjon Jones by Judy Schachner
  12. Thank You Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco
  13. The Cat In The Hat by Dr. Seuss
  14. The Lorax by Dr. Seuss
  15. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo
  16. The Mitten by Jan Brett
  17. Crunching Carrots, Not Candy by Judy Slack
  18. Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willlems
  19. Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
  20. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
  21. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst
  22. Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman *** we wore this book out :-)
  23. Corduroy by Don Freeman
  24. Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes
  25. Stellaluna by Janell Cannon
  26. Tacky the Penquin by Helen Lester
  27. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
  28. The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
  29. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr.
  30. Click Clack Moo: Cows That Type Doreen Cronin
  31. Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson
  32. Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr. Seuss
  33. Junie B. Jones by Barbara Park
  34. Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  35. Make Way For Ducklings by Robert McCloskey
  36. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
  37. Piggie Pie by Margie Palatini
  38. The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper
  39. The Monster at the End of this Book by Jon Stone
  40. The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo
  41. A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon
  42. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett
  43. From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
  44. Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
  45. Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
  46. Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathmann
  47. Olivia by Ian Falconer
  48. The BFG by Roald Dahl
  49. The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn
  50. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  51. The Sneetches by Dr. Seuss
  52. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
  53. Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel
  54. A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  55. Bark, George by Jules Feiffer
  56. Bunnicula by James Howe
  57. The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
  58. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
  59. Charlie the Caterpillar by Dom DeLuise
  60. Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes
  61. Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary
  62. Frederick by Leo Lionni
  63. Frindle by Andrew Clements
  64. Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel
  65. Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney
  66. Harris and Me by Gary Paulsen
  67. Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion
  68. Hop on Pop by Dr. Seuss
  69. How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss
  70. I Love You, Stinky Face by Lisa McCourt
  71. Is Your Mama A Llama? by Deborah Guarino
  72. Jan Brett’s books
  73. Knots on a Counting Rope by Bill Martin Jr.
  74. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  75. Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton
  76. Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney
  77. My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett
  78. My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss
  79. My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
  80. No David! by David Shannon
  81. One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss
  82. Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
  83. Stephanie's Ponytail by Robert Munsch
  84. Swimmy by Leo Lionni
  85. The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes
  86. The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Warner
  87. The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper
  88. The Empty Pot by Demi
  89. The Five Chinese Brothers by Claire Huchet Bishop
  90. The Giver by Lois Lowr
  91. The Grouchy Ladybug by Eric Carle
  92. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
  93. The Important Book by Margaret Wise Brown
  94. The Last Holiday Concert by Andrew Clements
  95. The Napping House by Audrey Wood
  96. The Quiltmaker's Gift by Jeff Brumbeau
  97. The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
  98. The Story About Ping by Marjorie Flack
  99. The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka
  100. Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

Looks like we have some books to check out. Let me know if you add this list to your blog so I can take a peek!

Chocolate Shakes

Alexandra and I made chocolate shakes the past 2 nights. We modified an online recipe a little. The shakes are delicious, though runnier than I'd like. I wonder if it would help to just not blend it as long. Here's the recipe:
3/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbs chocolate syrup
3/4 cup ice cream (vanilla)
1 tsp sugar

Just combine and blend for about 10-15 seconds and enjoy! (This was enough for the 2 of us to share.)

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Strawberry Banana Smoothie & Ham & Cheese Pie

On Monday, I tried 2 new recipes I found on Kelli's There's No Place Like Home blog. The first was for ham & cheese pie. Both Alexandra and my husband loved it. Alexandra ate 3 slices! The crust is made with refrigerated cresent roll dough and the pie's main ingredients are Montery Jack cheese and diced ham. Kelli had linked to another blog, so you can find the recipe here.

I also found this recipe for strawberry banana smoothies through Kelli's website. (Again, she'd found it somewhere else). I only used 1/2 a banana instead of 1 banana and Alexandra still thought it tasted too much like banana. (But, I loved it!) So, next time, I'm going to double the amount of strawberries, pour hers, and then add the banana for mine. I froze the leftovers for popsicles. (Alexandra came up with the banana on the side as a decoration. She also put 5 slices around the top as a flower, but the photo didn't turn out. She loves to watch the cooking channel!)

Sewing Lessons

A friend taught me some sewing basics a few months ago and now I'm trying to teach Alexandra. She is helping to cut things out, pin, and working the pedal. She also sewed her very first button and did a great job! I guess she can take over that job. We made a cute little pink purse. It isn't perfect, but we did a pretty good job. I need to get a photo of the finished product. This photo is of her expert button sewing skills.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Nature Walk in the Park

Since I had so much fun with my camera in the backyard yesterday, I decided to take Alexandra to our local park today for a nature walk with our cameras. I planned on leaving about 8:30 before it got to hot. We ended up leaving at 10. It was hot, but at least we were in the shade!


Tri-colored heron


Nutria. I had never seen or heard of these animals until we moved to the Houston area about 10 years ago. This invasive rodent has webbed hind feet and bright yellowish orange teeth. They can weigh over 35 pounds! I would guess this one is over 15 pounds. Cool Fact: The female nutria's "mammary glands" are on her back so she can swim as she nurses!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Homeschool Open House 2007

Less of Me - More of Him has started a homeschool open house for everyone to share about their homeschooling plans for the coming year. More than 150 homeschoolers have already shared their plans, so I thought I'd add mine. It's something I've been meaning to do anyway!
We have one child, a daughter who is almost 7. We decided to homeschool her around the age of 3, so she's been homeschooled from the start. This will be her "2nd grade" year - our 3rd year of "real" homeschooling.
I've been pretty laid back and flexible the past 2 years, and plan to stick to more of a schedule this year. We do most of our homeschooling at the kitchen table, on the couch, or with Alexandra at her "desk." In the past, we've been very busy with field trips, but I plan on cutting back on those this year.
We've never stuck to a daily schedule, but this is our plan for the coming year:
  • 7:30 - wake up Alexandra!
  • 8:30 - breakfast and Bible time
  • 9:00 - math
  • 9:45 - reading
  • 10:15 - language arts (spelling, grammar, handwriting, narration, dictation, etc)
  • 11:00 - KONOS
  • 12:00 - lunch
  • 12:30 - KONOS
  • 2:00 - done!!!
For math, we are using Horizons for the first time. We are using AVKO's Sequential Spelling, LLATL, and a variety of other things for language arts. And, we are using the online KONOS co-op for science and history. This is a very fast paced, fun group that should help me stick on schedule.

One day per week Alexandra will be taking enrichment classes. And, she'll also be taking karate 3 times per week, gymnastics 1 time a week, and probably continuing with Keepers (which is like Girl Scouts).

That's our plan! So, check back if you'd like to see how we're doing. We are opening the school doors on August 2oth!

In Our Backyard Today...

Alexandra and I were in the backyard swimming and playing for over 4 hours today. I went on a walk around the yard with my camera, and here is what I found:

A beautiful yellow spiny-back orb weaver spider! This is the 3rd we've found in our yard - all in the past 12 months. We found a black one and a white one, and now this yellow one! This is the first time I've gotten a good photo as I now know how to use macro. This little spider is probably 1/4 inch long - very tiny and very cute! Doesn't he just look like a smily face? :-)
Next, we saw this beautiful common blue damselfly (or is it ringed?). Alexandra named her Pixie Dust and she stayed and played with us for several hours. This took a lot of patience to get this photo! If I would have bravely taken my camera in the pool, I think I could have gotten a closer shot. Anyway, I did read up on the difference between a damselfly and a dragonfly: damselflies rest with their wings back, like this one, while dragonflies rest with all 4 wings spread out. Also, damselflies are usually smaller.
I had to take this photo really quick, but "Pixie Dust" landed on Alexandra's head!!! (right near her part)

Next, since it had dried off, I decided to try and photograph some of our mushrooms. These are my favorites. I borrowed a library book and might try to identify these later.

After dinner, we went outside again - Alexandra wanted to swim and I wanted to take more photos. There was a circumhorizonal arc in the sky! But, it was faint and didn't photograph well. I did post one earlier that I'd seen, though it is faint, too. This is the third one we've seen!
And, I think I've mentioned that we now have lots and lots of toads because of all of the rain. Well, most of them have been really small - about the size of a dime or penny. The one I found tonight was much bigger - photo is of Alexandra holding him.

This is my favorite backyard find: a happy little girl enjoying a summer afternoon.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Japanese Videos - Online!

Under the "video" tab, we watched some great videoes about Japan at this site.

We enjoyed the following videos:
Giesha Story "Sakurako" (talks with a geisha and shows her putting on makeup, getting dressed, and dancing)
Taiko Drums Festival (love it!!!)
Tsukiji fish market (kind of gross, though, with them cutting up the fish)
Mt. Fuji Climbing - Let's Climb!!! (neat to see KIDS climbing the mountain! at least at the lower parts) (and, I like how they get a "stamp" on their stick as they climb)

I don't recommend:
Onsen: Open-air bath

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Toad Haven

For the past few months, I've been reading a wonderful website called Toad Haven. Jennifer is an incredible homeschooling mom of two. This family does so many incredible things! From trips to experiments to great websites, I have been amazed at all she has to share. I love how her site is broken down by categories. And, it is searchable, too! Her website is an amazing collection of resources!
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