Monday, November 26, 2007

Happy Holidays!

Hi, everyone. Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! We had 8 family members here - some from each side! So, we had quite a full house with 11 people. It was a wonderful time.
My husband brought in the Christmas tree, ornaments and decorations. And, my mother-in-law and Alexandra helped me to get the house ready for Christmas. It feels so great to have this done! (Weeks before I'm usually done.) And, the house looks so festive! We even took some family photos in front of the tree, so here's a photo of Alexandra and... gasp!... myself.

With this busy Christmas season, we'll be doing less school. And less blogging. I will try to keep up with the blogs I usually read and write some when I can. Enjoy this wonderful season of the year!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Thanksgiving Myths: Misconceptions about the Pilgrims and their famous feast, debunked

I loved this article that was posted by Kris Bordessa, author of "Great Colonial American Projects", over at Paradise Found.

This November, children all over America will don black construction paper pilgrim hats in honor of the first Thanksgiving. But are they hearing the real story?

Myth: The pilgrims were the first colonists in the New World.
Fact: The famous pilgrims that we associate with Thanksgiving arrived in 1620 – thirteen years after the first successful English colony was established at Jamestown, Virginia. Spaniards built the first permanent colony in North America in 1565 in St Augustine, Florida.

Myth: Once the Pilgrims landed in the New World, they left the Mayflower behind.
Fact: The Mayflower arrived off the coast of Massachusetts on November 21, 1620 which left little time to build homes before harsh winter weather began. Anchored off the coast, the Mayflower was home to many Pilgrims throughout their first winter in the New World.

Myth: Pilgrims dressed in black and white with buckles and pointy hats.
Fact: Black is a very hard color to achieve using natural dyes – the only source of dyes available during colonial times. Colonists lucky enough to have black clothing reserved it for Sunday church services and special occasions. During the rest of the week, Pilgrims were more likely to be found in earth tones.

Myth: The feast celebrated in autumn, 1621 was the first Thanksgiving.
Fact: Native peoples on this continent have celebrated the harvest and given thanks to their creator for thousands of years.

Myth: The Thanksgiving feast included mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie.
Fact: It’s more likely that the feast included wild fowl such as turkey, swan and eagles; venison and seal; vegetables like pumpkin (perhaps stewed), peas, beans and carrots; and fruits and nuts.

Myth: The Pilgrims prepared a lovely feast and invited the Native Americans to Thanksgiving.
Fact: The Pilgrims did not call this feast Thanksgiving. It was more of a harvest celebration. For them, Thanksgiving was a day of prayer to thank God when something really good happened. As for the food, much of it was likely brought and prepared by the natives.

Myth: The Pilgrims and Native Americans sat together around a table for their feast.
Fact: Historians believe that about 90 native Wampanoag people joined the 50 or so Pilgrims at Plymouth Plantation. With so many people eating, seating was limited and they didn’t even use forks!

Myth: After the meal, the Native Americans went home to their village.
Fact: The harvest celebration lasted for three full days and included eating, drinking and playing games.

**Adapted from the new book Great Colonial America Projects You Can Build Yourself by Kris Bordessa (Nomad Press, 2006). Ask for it at your local book store or find it online.  This article may be reprinted in its entirety as long as the end credit is included.

The Knight's Tour

I've been wanting to have Alexandra learn how to play chess for quite awhile. But, I barely play and, honestly, I haven't found it that enjoyable. Last week, though, we went to an intro class (basically a sales pitch) for chess books, etc, by Chess Coach Steve Schneider. I really enjoyed the class! He starts you out with just one pawn and you play pawn games. Very fun!

So, I bought the game (above) and the "Basics" book. Last week, we learned how to play various pawn games - and the skills to win at those games! Today, we started with our second piece, the knight. And, we learned a fun game called knight's tour.

We both really enjoyed this game. (You can find lots of versions of it online.) In our game, we each used a 4x4 grid of the chess board. Then, you fill each space with some kind of marker (we used citrus erasers). Then, remove one piece and place your knight. Using the legal move of the knight (basically an L-shape where you move 2 squares 1 way and 1 square another way), you try to collect as many pieces as you can. But, you can only move to a space where there is still a space - you cannot move to an empty square!

Alexandra beat me almost every time. (We'd take turns playing and see who got the best score.) We moved the starting square of the knight to different spots to see what worked best.

Overall, it was a really fun game... AND, it taught Alexandra how to move a knight.

We're really enjoying our basics book. They said they'll be having sale prices before Christmas. Here's a link to the website! The book teaches basic chess along with other fun games (like the pawn games and knight's tour) and has fun activities, too.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Jamestown Part 4 of 4

We really enjoyed studying about Jamestown, John Smith, Powhatan, Pocahontas, John Rolfe, etc. I think we've finally finished it up and are moving on to the Pilgrims. We've done several projects during the past week.

We started by playing like we were archaeologists. I bought this vase for $1 at a dollar store and then used a hammer to break it into pieces. I was trying to be careful not to break it into too many places, but it was actually pretty thick and I had to hit it quite a few times. Then, we used Aileene's Tacky Glue to piece it back together. We had to let it dry after almost every piece, so this took a few days.

I was surprised at how hard it was to get the pieces to match up. By the time we got to the last 3 pieces, they wouldn't really fit! It was a great learning experience about what a tough job this is!

We went "back in time" and did this cute little project for The Lost Colony of Roanoke. It comes from "Colonial America: Easy Make & Learn Projects" by Scholastic.

We also made this neat model of Jamestown. It also came from the Scholastic book (above) and was much easier than the online model we'd started last week. This one took only about an hour to complete.
Other resources we've enjoyed:
  • The True Story of Pocahontas by Penner (Step Into Reading book)
  • Pocahontas by d'Aulaire
  • Pocahontas Nest video - we actually haven't watched this yet, but we watched it a "long" time ago and have really enjoyed the Nest videos
  • Making Thirteen Colonies by Joy Hakim - we're really enjoying this book - we've even used it 2 nights lately for bedtime reading! this is a long book and we've been reading 2.5 hours and are still near the beginning - great review for us and an intro to the Pilgrims
  • Where Americe Began: Jamestown, Colonial Williamsburg, Yorktown video - this video shows a lot of what you would see if you went to these locations today - we only watched the Jamestown portion
  • The Real Story of Jamestown video by Discovery Channel - this video examines a drought that occured at the beginning of the Jamestown settlement and how they think this might have been the real reason there were so many deaths

alka seltzer

Here's a retry of posting the video of Alexandra & the Alka Seltzer experiment.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Houston Zoo

On Thursday, Alexandra and I decided to go to the zoo. She has asked quite a few times to ride on the paddleboats, and I finally agreed! (Why did I wait so long?) We had a lot of fun. She couldn't quite reach the peddles, but a few times she scooted forward and helped me out a bit. It really wasn't as hard as I thought it'd be and we had a nice time watching the ducks and enjoying the beautiful weather.
After docking our boat, which isn't easy, we went into the zoo.
We usually start at the Aquarium since it is one of our favorites and just inside of the gate. When we looked in the chambered natuilus aquarium, we saw a hand feeding them! They were actually grabbing food (squid?) from this person's hand, though we couldn't see the person. Well, I tried to get my camera out quickly, but I was too late. But, I really like this photo I got. To me, it almost looks like a painting. And, if you haven't tried it, it is pretty hard to photograph through an aquarium! As we walked around the rest of the aquarium, we saw lots more fresh food.
Here's a description of a chambered nautilus from the Smithsonial National Zoological Park.

Chocolatey-brown zebra stripes adorn the nautilus's smooth, white shell. It expands its living space as it grows, adding internal chambers in a perfect logarithmic spiral coated in mother of pearl. The body is situated in the last chamber, and about 90 slim tentacles and a large eye peer out. The tentacles, which bear little anatomical resemblance to the suckered tentacles of squid, function mainly in smelling and manipulating food. When imperiled by predators, the nautilus withdraws into its armor and seals the door with a tough, leathery hood.
Next, as we walked towards some of the other buildings, we spotted these leaves all over the strollers for rent. Almost every leaf had lots of growths on them in many colors - white, brown, yellow, and light red! Galls! :-) I looked up in the tree and there were tons of these galls! I am not good at identifying trees, so I don't know what kind it is. But, what an amazing site! (Hopefully, the tree was OK.)
We got a kick out of the squirrel sitting on the back of this elephant topiary. Alexandra spotted him as he was eating an acorn or something. He got scared away as I took photos, but was back again with another meal in a few minutes. You might have to enlarge this one - the squirrel is on the elephants back close to his tail.
We had one of the docents to ourselves as he talked about reptiles. I've seen this once before, but did you know a turtle's backbone and ribs are on the underneath of his shell? Pretty neat, huh? And, this is a big shell. You can see that man's belt near the top left of the photo.

Alexandra had fun posing with the elephant - a place where lots of folks take photos.
I was really pleased how this photo of an iguana turned out. It is difficult to take pictures through the glass! Here are some intersting facts I found at the San Diego Zoo's website.

Most iguanas are herbivores, eating fruits, flower buds, and young leaves. Some species also eat the occasional juicy mealworm or wax worm! At the San Diego Zoo, our iguanas are fed a fruit salad that includes dark leafy greens and a variety of fruits, while some species are also fed insects like crickets, mealworms, and wax worms. But because wax worms are high in fat, they are considered the “dessert” part of the menu at the Zoo! Speaking of food, iguanas themselves are eaten by a variety of carnivores, including humans. Green iguanas are bred and raised on farms in Central and South America to be eaten by people.

In the Children's Zoo, there is an aviary to walk through. We saw 2 doves and quite a few parrots. This dove was sitting "hidden" in a tree pretty near our walkway.

This beautiful bald eagle is named Liberty. He was shot when he was 2, so he cannot fly except to get up on his different perches. He's made a permanent home at the Houston Zoo since 2000, and we usually see him sitting at about this same spot.

I'm glad we decided to go to the zoo as I really wasn't feeling up to it until we got there. It ended up being a wonderful day. And, I found it hard to believe how few people were there at 3:30 pm when the weather was in the low or mid 80's! Hope you all are having nice weather and getting out to enjoy nature!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Mrs. Gallon

Today we made a Mrs. Gallon (I'd actually seen this as Mr. Gallon). We were studying liquid measurement and I thought this was a great visual for both of us, as I can never remember how many cups are in a gallon or how many pints are in a quart. And, it was a fun project!

We started with a full piece of construction paper for the gallon, cut a sheet in fourths for the quarts, a sheet into eights for the pints, and another into sixteenths for the cups.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Alka Seltzer

We had a wonderful day today! Most everything went smoothly and we had a lot of laughs along the way, too. We didn't get to everything, but we did get a lot done.

I decided to have some fun with science today. I had come across a Alka Seltzer's website a few weeks ago while looking for a chemistry experiment. So, today we experimented (aka "played") with Alka Seltzer. I actually started this lesson by having Alexandra watch this video.

We talked about how chemical reactions can be sped up by adding heat or by increasing the surface area of the two chemicals reacting. So, we tested cold vs. hot water and a whole Alka Seltzer tab versus a broken up one.

Then, we decided to try lemon juice and vinegar. We just had fun mixing different amounts of ingredients and seeing how quickly they exploded the lid off of our film canister. We really got excited when the lid flew high or made the whole canister flip. We had a wonderful time! Science is fun. :-)

Unfortunately, even after downloading for 30+ minutes, I somehow only got part of my daughter's video. I'll try again tomorrow...

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Dressed Up for Halloween

I can't believe I haven't already posted a photo of Alexandra on Halloween night! She was dressed in a kimono that her uncle, my brother, had brought back for her from Japan. I need to have her put it on again in the daytime and go outside and get some better photos. It's a beautiful kimono.

Boy or Girl?

How do you tell a male Monarch from a female?

Do you see how the butterfly above has 2 dark spots on his lower wings? This is a male.

Do you see how the butterfly above doesn't have the spots? This is a female. Now you can impress your friends. Just kidding! :-)

Pond Fishing, Poison Ivy, and Asp

Our nature group went on our monthly Nature Day a few days ago. We had 38 in attendance! Our group is really growing. Sadly, I didn't get a lot of great photos this time. But, thought I'd share a few highlights.

I love this idea! We were on a group led tour this time - we usually walk on our own. Anyway, the docents gave us some saltine crackers to break up and scatter in the water to feed the little fish. Then, we used nets to catch some of the fish and put them temporarily in a small bin filled with water. (The rule was the kids had to lie on their bellies so they wouldn't fall in - great idea!)It was fun to try to catch the fish and to get to see them up close. We were hoping to see and catch a turtle, too, but we didn't.

The guide also helped us to identify poison ivy. Most people know "leaves of 3, let it be." And, probably "If it's hairy, it's scary." But, I'd been seeing a hairy, leafless vine a lot lately, and I wasn't sure if it was poison ivy. The docent told us it was! There is even some growing on a tree right next to the park the kids play at every week!

Lastly, I got very excited to find two more puss caterpillars, or asps, on a tree. I got to show lots of the grownups and kids these cute, but potentially painful, caterpillars. I was so surprised to see them as I'd never seen them before and now I've seen 3 in 1 week!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Jamestown Part 3 of 4

Yesterday, we used 2 more computer sites for our Jamestown study.

We watched a wonderful video called John Smith's Voyage of Discovery. We'd been reading in Surviving Jamestown about how John Smith would keep his small boat out of arrow range while traveling down the River. I had NO idea how wide the river was! I believe the movie said it gets to be 35 miles across at its widest point. Can you imagine riding in a little boat, in unknown lands, with all of the dangers they were facing? I don't think I have explorer blood in me.

The other site was an interactive artifact dig. We pretended we were at a dig in Jamestown and we uncovered 5 artifacts. Then, we measured the artifacts, read about them, and tried to date them. At the end, we tried to decide what year these artifacts were buried. (And, we got the answer right!) There is also a building module at the same site where you try to recreate a Jamestown building from archaeological evidence.

There are several more things I want to do for Jamestown, so we're going to continue it next week. I think we'll read more about archaeology. And, we're going to pretend we are archaeologists and put together some pottery shards. I've read about an activity where you buy a ceramic vase (I think we'll hit a dollar store) and then put it in a brown paper bag and break it into pieces (I think we'll try to only make a few pieces - maybe buy several vases so we can get it right). Then, you become an archaeologist and put the pieces back together. Has anyone tried this? Any ideas or suggestions? And, any tips on what kind of glue to use with Alexandra? Thanks in advance!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Jamestown Part 2 of 4

Today we continued reading Surviving Jamestown. We are really enjoying this book!

We also watched some videos and played some games at a National Geographic site called On the Trail of Captain John Smith: A Jamestown Adventure. This is an informative, fun site. We especially enjoyed the fishing game, the boat race, and identifying local nature in different environments. If (or when!) you study Jamestown, you'll want to check this out!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Cool Feet

I saw this brown Katydid the other morning on a hose in our pool. I took some photos and, as often happens, was startled when I looked at them.

First of all, I love the drop of water on this top photo.

And, secondly, check out thos feet. They're like little hooks! I'm glad he's small! (You might want to enlarge it.)

Jamestown Part 1 of 4

We started studying Jamestown this week. The main book we are using for this study is Surviving Jamestown: the Adventures of Young Sam Collier by Karwoski. (Could someone talk me through how to add a photo of a book off of Amazon? I did it once a long time ago, but I've forgotten.) Anyway, this is a historical fiction book that really brings this time in American history alive. It's a pretty long book and will take us about 7 hours to read. We're about half way done and really enjoying it.

Another resource we used for this study, and will continue to use for early American history, is Great Colonial American Projects You Can Build Yourself by Kris Bordessa. I downloaded it free from WOWIO, but I have also ordered a copy from Amazon since it wasn't very expensive and I find a "real book" easier to handle. We read part of Chapter 1 including some review of the explorers and the Lost Colony.

We started building a model of Jamestown that we'd downloaded free from Homeschool in the Woods, but it was a lot of work and Alexandra and I decided to "give up." My friend Robin at Martin Zoo, though, finished it - wow! So, we looked at her model she posted here.

Also, my real-life friends over at The Odyssey School is just completing their 7 week (or so) trip of the east coast. They visited Jamestown and shared some comments and photos here, here, and here. I want to plan a trip to Virginia this spring!!! We'll see...

We dropped out of the KONOS group a few weeks ago, but are planning on continuing to study early American history this year. We are going to loosely follow the plans on the Our Los Banos site. We are working on Week 13 right now (Roanoake, which we already studied, and Jamestown), and hope to start on Week 14 (Pilgrims) next week.

Sorry there aren't any photos to post! We'll have more projects coming soon...

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Puss Caterpillar

I've already posted these photos of this caterpillar we found Saturday. But, Marjorie and Theresa posted comments identifying this little cutie. (Thanks, ladies!) He is NOT something you want to mess with!

He's called a Puss Caterpillar or Asp. He has one of the MOST severe stings of all caterpillars! (Doesn't he look harmless and cuddly?) Here's a site with more info.

This is a good time to remind your kids (and grownups, too!) that you shouldn't pick up unidentified caterpillars! Thankfully, I was using my senses this day and told my daughter that we shouldn't touch it because some caterpillars sting. She actually almost touched it accidentally as it was on a railing, but my husband noticed it and quickly said something. So, stay away from these guys! They say its sting is worse than a bee or wasp!

Multiplication Bingo

Alexandra is really getting her multiplication tables "down!" And, our current favorite game is multiplication bingo. We each make our own boards - 5 squares by 5 squares. We use all kinds of things for markers - this is what makes it so fun! We've used Skittles, candy corn, erasers (I have lots of different ones as they're so much fun), etc. Then, you use 2 dice.

Originally, we were using two 6 sided dice. Then, I bought a blank 6 sided dice and, using pencil, marked it with 2, 2, 3, 3, 5, 5 - the numbers she was working on. We would roll this dice and a 10 sided dice (which has 0-9) and multiply them. (We were using a 4 by 4 board at this time.)

Now, we have 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 9 on our 6 sided dice. Today, I bought some more 10 sided dice and I think we're ready to play that way. We'll actually use the "0" as a 10 so we can multiply from 1-10. I also bought a bunch of 6 cent erasers so we'd have something new to play with - they are cute little citrus fruits.

It is so important to me to make math fun for Alexandra! The more games, the better!

Monday, November 05, 2007

We have butterflies!!!

Yesterday, we had our first butterflies emerge. It was so neat!!! We never got to see one actually climb out of its chrysalis, but we caught several within minutes of emerging with their wings still curled up.

We've now released 6 butterflies! Above is our first. I carried the lid out and Alexandra reached in to have the caterpillar crawl on her finger. (This photo is taken "blind" - I couldn't see the screen, but it turned out pretty neat!)

Now it's on her finger! But, it was still not ready to fly. It takes about 5 hours for its wings to be ready, and it had only been about 3. So, he walked around some.

And hopped up on her shirt!

We finally set it on the milkweed plant. I was really surprised at her spotted body! I thought it would be solid black, but it matches the edge of her wings, huh? (I'll post later about how I know this is a girl). I'm also curious as to why the butterflies seem to have only 4 legs. Don't all insects have 6??? Where are the other 2???

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Weekend Hike

On Saturday, we went on a family hike. On the way, we happened to pass near a hot air balloon festival and saw over 20 balloons! Alexandra had never seen anything like this and was thrilled.
Then, off to our hike! There was no one around so we had the place to ourselves. We thought these fruit were pretty neat looking. The bush had some very large thorns on it. I don't know what it is, so I'd love it if anyone could help me out on this one!
Alexandra looking into the water to see what she could find. The surface of the water was covered in little tiny green "things" - algae? They kind of looked like tiny round leaves.
Update: This is probably Duck Weed - thanks Theresa!
We found 4 caterpillars on these tall grasses in the water. They'd eaten a lot of the grass. You can see one dark caterpillar near the middle, and a lighter brown near the lower right hand corner. They were big and fuzzy.
There were 3 of these mud creations on trees in one area. Perhaps someone had made skeletons for Halloween? Or maybe this one is a face with a beard?
We have lots of Spanish moss around here. It just hangs from the trees.
The mosquitos were horrible. We had sprayed, and I actually only ended up with only one bite. But, anytime you stopped on the second half of the trail, you could see and hear the mosquitos surrounding you. So, when Alexandra saw this cool "thing" on a leaf, we just picked it up and kept walking so I could photo it out of the trees. At first, she thought it was a caterpillar. Now, I think it is a gall. I've seen photos of some very fuzzy galls like this one. Isn't it neat?

This was the neatest find of the day - found by my husband on a railing. A very cool caterpillar which I haven't been able to identify. He was about 1 inch long.

Update: This is a Puss Caterpillar with a nasty sting! (Thanks, Marjorie & Theresa!) It has a nasty sting. Read more in my post here.

Here's a side-view. Isn't it amazing looking??? What a creative God we have - even just the caterpillars are so different and incredible!

Enjoying our day!

At the end of the day, we headed near the water for some fresh seafood. I had shrimp - yum! Anyway, on our way upstairs, I saw this guy breaking oysters open and then washing them. Now that is fresh seafood!

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Almost Butterflies....

Wow! I have taken so many photos the past week or so. So much to share! But, I have to start with this. I think we'll have a couple of butterflies tomorrow morning!

Before the butterflies emerge, their chrysalis becomes transparent. Well, I looked tonight and are first 2 are transparent! You can actually see the orange, black & white butterfly through their chrysalids!!! :-)

Usually, early in the morning, the butterfly will emerge and it takes about 5 hours for the wings to dry out. At least, that's what I've read. (In the photo, the 1 ready to emerge is on the left. Try enlarging it - so cool!!!)

Also, I had two other things I wanted to mention about the caterpillars. We saw how they make a little defensive move when another caterpillar (or finger) gets too close. They kind of jerk the front half of their body up in the air. I can see how it might be scary!

The other thing is about the silk disc where they finally attach themselves. From what I could tell, though they "spin" this disc with their hind end (is this called a spinner?), they then turn around and use their mouth to gather this all together and make a little spot to attach themselves. (You can see where they're attached in the photo.) Then, I believe they kind of crawl over this disc keeping it between their legs until their hind legs reach it. Then, they "stick" their last prolegs in it and start their J-shape. Again, this isn't something I've read - just observed. I'd like to read more about it and see if my observations are correct.

Hoping to show you some photos of the newly emerged butterflies tomorrow!
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