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)

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Door County, WI (Day 6) - LOTS of photos

I know this is taking a long time for me to post about our trip to Wisconsin. We just did so much! Day 6 was a very full day, so I have lots of photos...

The sunrise from our cottage on Lake Michigan

Wild turkeys! We saw wild turkeys quite a few different times. I've only seen them once before, so this was a thrill for me!

Cattails bursting open

These flowers were solar powered and followed the sun. They were near our turn for our cottage, so we saw them often and liked to see which way they were pointing.

The beautiful state park which was in full fall colors. I think we only saw 2 other cars during our time here and it was so spectacular! One of the highlights of our trip for me.

We saw probably more than a dozen deer in this park and often they would just stand still. I took TONS of photos of them. We also saw deer almost every night as we drove home.

More deer. The deer weren't very close to the road, but I had my zoom lens to help me out.

Alex and I climbed this watch tower

And here was the view from the top

It was cold up there, so Alex went down first. (Plus, I was taking photos and she's younger and quicker!) I liked this shot from the tower looking down.

And, I LOVE this shot of her in the rental car. You can even see the trees reflecting in the top window.

I was trying to get a great show of Alex and her baby cousin

And a shot of just Alex

Another shot of Alex. Too bad it was pretty cold and we weren't able to play at this park very long. (It is in the state park.)

Later, we stopped at a candle factory and watched them making jar candles. And, Alex dipped her own candles. I also bought a few other candles.

There were corn fields EVERYWHERE in both Iowa and Wisconsin. We were surprised that they were still harvesting and most fields were still full of corn. One night, we even saw them harvesting at night using lights on their farm equipment!

We stopped at a dairy and watched them hooking cows up to be milked. Alex and I had fun playing this "milking game."

Alex, Nana and I toured this lighthouse. The tour lasted about an hour and we were the only people on the tour! The lady giving the tour was great and talked directly to Alex most of the tour. Alex asked lots of questions and we all learned a lot about lighthouses!

That night, we went to a fish boil - a Wisconsin tradition. They put the fish (and potatoes and onions) in the kettle, prop boards around it and add some kerosene and the flames shoot high in the sky. Then, they serve us dinner. I didn't much care for the fish - I guess I just prefer mine fried or grilled, but I'm really glad I tried this!

Later that night, Alex was playing her Nintendo DS and her cousin thought it looked like fun. :-)
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