Thursday, December 18, 2008

Great Teachers

I have 3 wonderful teachers in my life.
  1. My piano teacher (and my daughter's) - She has a PhD in Music Education Research. Besides teaching me piano skills beyond anything I ever dreamed I could do, she has taught me about education. She also teaches me about music history - about the way the piano has changed over the years and how it affected the music that was written. She's taught me about composers and about music styles. She is passionate about music and music history and I always leave wanting to learn more.
  2. A history teacher at one of our museums - We go to 1 class a month "for Alexandra", but every time I learn SO much! History was always my least favorite subject as a student, but this teacher is a wonderful storyteller and she's passionate about history. I leave each of these classes wanting to learn more!
  3. An art history teacher - We get to go to 1 or 2 classes at an art museum every year. The kids are divided into age groups, and the adults and small children stay in the auditorium and a lady teaches us about art - photography in particular. Again, she weaves history into our studies and is so passionate about what she's teaching. I get to spend 2 incredible hours listening to this teacher... and I leave wanting to learn more.

So, I've been reading an article tonight about teachers and I'm realizing what makes all 3 of these women wonderful teachers: they are passionate about what they are teaching and make their students want to learn more!

So, how can I be a wonderful teacher to my child? How can I help my child want to learn more? And, am I passionate about what I am teaching? Just some questions to ponder for now.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Gingerbread House - Excel Style

After seeing a classroom doing something similar, I decided Alexandra could use a lesson in Excel - and make a pretty Christmas picture. So, I found a gingerbread house at Math Wire and broke it down into more squares to make my project work.
Then, I started with the Excel basics. I taught Alexandra how to open Excel and then explained about cells, columns and rows and how they are named. Then, I taught her about the "fill" button and how to select cells to be colored in. After that, we made our own pictures. I also taught her how to name & save her file and how to name her tab and move between pages.
Next, came our step by step lesson.
  1. Select the entire page to format (click on button by "A" & "1")
  2. Click Format > Row > Height > 20
  3. Click Format > Column > Width > 4
  4. Go to "borders" and add the border that looks like a window - this will outline each cell so it is easier to fill in. (At this point, the page should be filled with squares. We'll be working with columns A - S, or A - T if you change the margins).
  5. Fill in row 1 & 2 with background color (A-S)
  6. Fill in J & K on Rows 3, 4, & 5 with chimney color and the rest of those rows with background color.
  7. Continue giving directions row by row. (Actually, Alexandra decided she wanted to decide where her windows were, so I helped her get the general outline of the house and she finished it on her own.)
  8. Select the entire page and go back to "borders" and remove all borders. Then, you can put the borders back on the windows or any other place you'd like them.
That's pretty much it! Below is my house after I removed the highlights around each cell.

Below is Alexandra's gingerbread house. I like that she used different colors than I did, a welcome mat, and even added a window box under the upstairs window!

Also, she taught me something! (Yes, that always seems to happen!) When you are using the "color fill" or "border" buttons, you can actually drag and drop them closer to your picture so you don't have to keep going up to the toolbar! In the above photo, you can see her "border" menu on top of her house. On my 1st photo, you can see the "color fill" menu by my house.
I've also created a snowman we might work on tomorrow. And, I'm busy searching for and creating other lessons for both Word and Excel. If you know of any or have posted any, please let me know! Thanks!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Friday's Free Downloads!

This nativity lapbook by Angela Frampton is free TODAY! Also, from Knowledge Quest, the story of Good King Wenceslas.

(I got both links from The Old Schoolhouse Magazine's Freebie Friday Newsletter.)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

99 Things on the Wall Meme

I found this meme over on Barb's Harmony Art Mom blog and really enjoyed it. If you decide to use it, please leave a comment so I can read your list!

Items I have completed are in purple.

1. Started your own blog.
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band (junior high band)
4. Visited Hawaii (Maui - twice)
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland/world
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo (part of a duet at a friend's wedding, but part of it was a solo)
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty (I've seen it, but haven't been to the top)
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort (in elementary school at lunch time - well, the "big boys" built it, but I got to go in it - it was kind of like an igloo)
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person (as a teenager with my family)
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke (only at home!)
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling (SCUBA diving in Maui last December - one of my greatest thrills!)
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud (many times as a child)
54. Gone to a drive-in theater (my husband and I went to these quite a lot when we were dating)
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching (off of Cape Cod about 6 years ago - Alex was so small she fell asleep)
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma (and then promptly fainted and was out several minutes)
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper (in High School when our academic team went to nationals)
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House (I've seen it, but never went in it)
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating (yikes! no thanks!)
88. Had chickenpox (and measles at the SAME TIME - I ended up in the hospital)
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury (I've been rejected for a jury)
91. Met someone famous (Barbara Bush and Alex met her, too)
92. Joined a book club (started one for girls)
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee (only when I stepped on one while barefoot!)

Huh... Snow??? Here???

Yep! It's been snowing in the Houston area!

We have lived her 13 YEARS and this is the FIRST time I've ever seen it snowing at my house! And, yesterday it was 75 degrees! It's just very crazy. And, Alex had to go play in it... in her SHORTS and FLIPFLOPS. (At least she'd put on a jacket by the time I took this photo.) It snowed heavy for about 15 minutes and then a light snow for about 45 minutes more. Incredible! (I have a video, but I haven't been able to post it)

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Think! Club - Windmill

Alexandra and I had our Think! club yesterday. Unfortunately, neither of the other 2 girls could attend. This week we made windmills out of the following: 2 pieces of paper, 2 straws, 1 button, 6 inches of thread (we cheated and made this piece longer, but after sewing it was probably 6 inches or less) and a button. This was a lot of fun and took quite a bit of "think"ing!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Lesson 1: Aquatic Animals

I missed the 2nd meeting of our science co-op, so the other moms painted Alexandra's box for her Ocean Box. The Ocean Box is a year-long project for Exploring Creation with Zoology 2: Swimming Creatures. You are basically adding one sea creature to the box for each chapter you study.
So, for part of our 3rd meeting, we worked on finishing our Ocean Boxes so we could start adding the creatures. One of the moms brought the ingredients for salt dough. The kids each made their own dough and after much kneading they put in their ocean floor.

The also decided to add a small island to the top. One of the things we'd discussed this week was the ocean floor and its parts - the continental shelf, continental slope, continental rise and abyssal plain. So, we designed our Ocean Box floor with those areas.


This year we are doing a science co-op with 2 other families with a total of 8 children. For our curriculum, we are using Exploring Creation with Zoology 2: Swimming Creatures. But, the other families had been working with cells, so our first meeting finished up their cell study.

We meet every week and each family is expected to study the material ahead of time. Our time together is for show and tell time, review, and doing projects. The moms take turns leading the group - sometimes one mom will do most of a meeting and at other times we each take a turn.

For this first session on cells, I was in charge of showing the kids real cells. I used a toothpick to scrape cells from the inside of my cheek and stained them with some methylene blue. The slides turned out well and each child was encouraged to look at his/her own cells. I took a photograph by placing my camera at the top of the microscope and just taking a photo. I was amazed at how well they showed up. (Thanks, Robin, for the idea!)

I also reviewed the organelles of a cell while the children drew in their notebooks. Then, another mom made these incredible candy cells! She came up with some great candy to make the various organelles and we placed them all in a jell-o cell.

The jell-o didn't stay together as well as we would have liked, but it was still a great model. And, the kids learned a lot about cells and were great at answering our questions!

Polio & Scholastic Magazines

First of all, I wanted to say a word about my 'blogging slump.' I have been posting for over 3 years and have posted over 750 times. But, lately, I just really haven't felt like blogging! A big "thanks" to those of you who are still hanging around. I hope to get over this slump soon! And, just a reminder that you can use Google Reader (or something simliar) to keep track of the blogs you read without checking on each of them daily. It will let you know when they've posted something new.


One of Alexandra's favorite parts of school are the Scholastic magazines she gets. We get 4 of them. One is the weekly Scholastic News. The others come out every month or 2 - Storyworks (literature & grammar), DynaMath, nad SuperScience. We both enjoy all of these magazines and you can order them through Scholastic. They are even running a "half off" special for the 2nd semester and it expires at the end of the year.


So, a few weeks ago we read a story in StoryWorks about a girl with polio. The story was told about the author's cousin who she'd always seen photos of as a flower girl in her grandmother's wedding album. Then, "not long ago", she learned this "little girl" had polio and never walked again.

Throughout the article, the author tells more about her cousin and polio. She is even trying to track down relatives of this cousin.

After reading the article, Alexandra and I called my mom to ask her some questions. Her dad had polio when he was young and we wanted to know more about it. He did not become crippled from his bout with polio and my mom didn't know a lot about it. But, I was surprised to learn that my mom and her siblings didn't receive the polio vaccine when it first came out. She says she didn't get the vaccine until she went to work at a hospital as a teenager.

Next, I went online and found an amazing homeschool blog entry that a mom wrote about her mom's struggle with polio. This homeschooling mom said she didn't even realize her mom was disabled until she was about 8 years old. Sadly, I cannot find the link to this story again. It was powerful and brought quite a few tears to my eyes!

I also checked out 3 books from the library which we've enjoyed:
  • Dancing with Katya by Dori Chaconas - This is Alexandra's favorite and we've read it twice. It's a picture book about a girl whose little sister develops polio. They used to go out by the pond to dance and the big sister wonders if her little sister will ever dance again.
  • Close to Home (Once Upon America book) by Lydia Weaver - This is a fiction book about a little girl whose mom works for Dr. Jonas Salk as they try to find a polio vaccine. One of the little girl's classmates is crippled from polio and another classmate's mom is terrified that her daughter will get polio so they live with all of their house windows nailed shut.
  • Healing Warrior: A Story about Sister Elizabeth Kenny by Emily Crofford - This book is a true story about a nurse in Australia who makes up her own method of treating patients with polio... and is successful. We're still reading this book, but are really enjoying it.

If you have any posts or resources you'd like to share about polio, we'd love to hear about it! This has been a fascinating topic.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Next trip...

Hi, everyone. I know I haven't been blogging much. I really have lots to share, I've just been making time for other things - like reading and my old hobby, genealogy! Now, that's addictive! (At least to me it is!)

Anyway, we have another trip in the works. In January, Alexandra and I are headed to...

San Diego!!!
So, if you have been there (or even live there) and have any suggestions, please let me know! So far, we're planning on the zoo, whale watching, and going to see the sea lions.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Saturday's Fun

Alexandra and I have had a great Saturday. We started by taking a "gingerbread" (or graham cracker) house class and eating a few of the toppings. Then, we went to Downtown Houston to see Houston via Colori. During this free event, various people and groups decorate squares on the street to raise money for The Center for Hearing and Speech.

Some of the artists (MOST of the artists) were incredible and I'd like to try this at our house sometime. They used pastels.

I thought I'd just leave some photos today... they're pretty self-explanatory! (Oh, and a few of them are of activities they had for the kids.)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Think! Club - Apple Carving

Our Think! Club had fun again on Monday doing a challenge from the Think! blog. This challenge was to carve apples into something recognizable using only toothpicks and your teeth. We had 3 girls and 2 moms and we all enjoyed our carving time!

Some of the kid's apples:

And, the mom's projects:

Saturday, November 15, 2008

ALEKS review

I've talked about ALEKS, the online math program, several times over the past few years. Someone on one of my yahoo groups just asked about it and I wrote a somewhat lengthy reply and thought I'd share it.

I thought I'd chime in with our experiences with ALEKS, too. We've used ALEKS several times over the past year and my daughter has used it for 3rd - 5th grade math.

While she loved ALEKS and could "fly" through their program (she just turned 8 and was in 5th grade math last year as a 7 year old), I have found some problems with it, too.

Whenever a child learns a new concept, they only have to get 3 problems right for the program to say they have mastered it. As a parent, you can have the child do the "extra" problems, which brings it up to 5 total problems before a concept is considered "mastered."

Although they say they program is supposed to be using artificial intelligence to figure out what concepts your child needs extra work on, I have found them to be very biased towards certain types of problems. For example, when you print out a worksheet for them to practice on, they will usually give you 21 problems. I have found that for several grades they almost always gave my daughter a Venn diagram - which she has no problem with. But, they rarely gave her multiplication problems - which she could use review with.

Also, even when she missed a problem after "mastering it", as long as she could figure out the right answer, they returned it to her "mastered list."

I think ALEKS would be a wonderful supplement. My daughter had "hated" math until trying ALEKS and loved all the new and exciting problems it gave. She loved that the 21 problems on a worksheet were each of a different kind (i.e. NOT 21 addition problems). And, she would actually spend several hours doing math some days.

But, I also feel it led to a false sense of what she knew. And, even though she "catches on" to math concepts quickly, she needed more practice than just a few problems - especially when it comes to the "biggies" like multiplication and division.

Hope this helps!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Think! club

I started a "Think! Club" based on the Think! blog. We only had one other mom and daughter this week, but I think we might have several more girls this coming week.

We did 2 of the challenges. One was to use paper clips and build something recognizable. I ended up buying paper clips at the last minute and they were shaped differently and kept breaking - but we still had fun.

The 2nd challenge we did was to make a boat of tin foil and straws and see how many pennies it would hold before it sank. Mine held 285! It was fun and we're looking forward to our club this coming week. If you haven't checked out this blog with her weekly challenges, check it out! It's fun!!!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Nature Day at Meyer Park

Last Friday, we had our monthly Nature Day. It was a beautiful day in the mid-70's. We had a small group, but a lot of fun and interesting discoveries!
I've posted about our local nutria before, but we enjoyed feeding them on this beautiful day. Note the orange teeth, bare tail, fingers, and webbed hind feet.
This is what greeted us - lots of nutria, ducks and geese! I've never seen the nutria being so "friendly" before.

There were 5 baby nutria! They were so cute! I guess he's kind of hard to see in this small photo, but he's near the bottom of the picture a little to the right.

Here's a sign they've posted about nutria in the park. It says:

The nutria is a large rodent that lives near water. It is native to South America, but was introduced into many parts of Europe and North America to be raised for their fur. Nutrias have brown fur with a somewhat white tipped muzzle, orange teeth, small ears, webbed hind feet, and a long, hairy tail. They areabout 14" long from the nose to the start of the tail. The tail is 12" to 17" long. Nutria can weigh up to 20 lbs. and live along the banks of lakes, marshes, ponds, and rivers and are very good swimmers. They are herbivores with large appetites and usually have a negative impact on other species because they often over harvest edible plants. A male will live in a den with two or three females and their offspring.

I saw some vultures sitting in a tree by the water. As we got closer to where they'd been, we saw this nutria (I believe) skeleton! (The skull is on the lower right) I know some of you might think this is disgusting - sorry! I just thought it was neat that it was picked "clean" but that the fur was lying around it. Vultures play such an important role in cleaning up the environment.

Isn't this beautiful??? It's a hornworm and will become a Sphinx moth. It was BIG!

Lots of palmettos (something I couldn't identify before!)

Turkey Tail Fungus

Very camouflaged stink bug! I wouldn't have seen him, but I saw him land and "ran" over to the tree to take some photos.

So, that was our nature day. What have you been doing outdoors this fall?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Madison Farmer's Market (end of WI trip)

On Day 8, I actually forgot my camera! (Can you believe it?) Anyway, we were in Madison, WI and spent the day eating out, at a free zoo (very neat little zoo!) and at the University of Wisconsin's Geology Museum. I have never been to such a large university and I found it incredible! (I went to a small school.) Alex even wants to go to college there now!

On Day 9, we drove back to Kansas to catch the plane ride home on Day 10. Our "big" event of the day was the Farmer's Market in Madison, WI. WOW!!! It was huge! And, it was in the square around the capitol buidling, so that was neat, too. So, I'll leave you with some photos from the market...
Capitol Building (Madison, WI)

Cheese Curds for sale - I thought these sounded GROSS - but, we had them fried several nights and they were incredible!!! Kind of like cheese sticks, but even better! Yum!

Some veggies - we actually ended up with quite a lot of fruit and baked goods - oh, they were yummy!!!

I saw a lady taking photos of these and I thought... great idea!!! (I really like this shot)

And, another pepper shot! (I like this photo a lot, too)
And, that's it for our trip to Wisconsin!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Day 7 - from Door County to Madison, WI

Day 7 was our last day in Door County, WI.

I started my day early to get photos of our last sunrise in our cottage on Lake Michigan.

I walked out to get a closer photo of "our" lighthouse - the one we could see from our cottage

We took a ferry to Washington Island which is off the north end of Door County

Alex on the ferry - though it was cold out, I found I had to stay outside or get seasick...

Alex enjoyed feeding this little guy at a petting zoo on the island

We weren't even sure what he was... does anyone know?

When we got off the island, we drove around a little before heading towards Madison for our last few days of vacation. I think my sister-in-law pointed out this bird - a kingfisher!!! I've never seen one before and was thrilled... I just wish he was a little closer! (This photo was with my zoom lens)
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