Sunday, May 31, 2009

Peaceful Ponds

Below is a review I wrote about the Peaceful Ponds unit by Cindy & Melissa. I was really very impressed with their nature study and plan on buying more of these studies! I'll use them with our nature group, too.
We finish school on Thursday (yeah!) and I think we'll go visit a pond on Thursday morning so we can use some of these amazing resources and finish our school year with some fun. I am ready for a break, though I know we'll continue to learn all summer. We have a very busy, fun-filled, education summer planned... including our biggest trip yet! (Stay tuned...)

I just finished reading Cindy & Melissa's Peaceful Ponds nature study unit. Wow!

I loved how they explain how nature study is useful to all kinds of homeschoolers, not just Charlotte Mason followers. I also really enjoyed their articles titled "Why Study Nature", "Where to Study Nature", and "Gearing Up and Being Safe." Their "Why Study Nature" article had an amazing list of things you learn while studying nature - everything from growing closer to our Creator (what could be more important than that?) to improving discrimination and memorization skills and much more!

They have TONS of ideas of things to do during a pond study - I counted almost 100 ideas between things to do "in the pond", "around the pond", "hands-on activities", and "writing and research ideas!" They also give recommendations on books to read while doing a pond study, Bible lessons that tie into ponds, and even poetry, artists & picture studies, & composers & music reference... all that tie into ponds.

Besides all of those ideas, they also give ideas on including both younger & older children & suggestions on using this nature study with a nature club or a co-op.

I highly recommend these
NaturExplorer studies. They are packed full of wonderful information and are easy to use whether you are wanting an in-depth study or just a few ideas. Cindy & Melissa have done a fabulous job and I know you and your family will enjoy these studies! I can't wait to get started!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Expedition Africa - starts Sunday!

The History Channel will start a new, 8 part series called Expedition Africa this Sunday, May 31st. This series "retraces the 1871 journey of Henry Morton Stanley through the African interior in search of the famed Scottish explorer David Livingston."

This series looks amazing, though I will preview it as it also looks pretty scary. Four modern-day explorers attempt to retrace the steps of Stanley through the perilous African continent. There are video clips about the series at this link. And, there are lesson plans at this link. According to the site, this series would be helpful for "studying history, global studies, geography, social studies & world cultures."

If you have access to the History Channel, you might want to check this out! (Again, I haven't seen it yet so I would recommend previewing these episodes.)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Mud dauber nests

Last week, we had a couple of mud dauber nests. My father-in-law was in town and he took them down for us.
This one was made right over our sliding glass door into the backyard. This photo was taken on Wednesday.
Two days later, the mud dauber had sealed this nest shut. When my father-in-law scraped it down, we found 4 spiders in the nest. These spiders would have provided nourishment for the baby mud daubers.

Here's the other nest that was built over one of our windows. I really think they're pretty! I love the different colors of mud in this nest!This one appears to have been abandoned as we didn't find anything in it and it hadn't changed in several days.

I found a neat YouTube video of a mud dauber making its nest, but I'm having trouble embedding it. They sure do work hard on these nests! And, it is neat seeing them make the balls of mud.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Documenting Ladybugs

Over the past several weeks, Alexandra and I have been documenting our ladybugs almost daily. We've never seen anything like this!

It started in early May with quite a few larva on our spa. They were eating some kind of bug, which I've since determined were wooly aphids that are probably on my neighbor's jasmine. Anyway, about a week or so later, we discovered more larva and pupa on our chimnea. And, last week we discovered even more on the grill and pool equipment. One day last week, we counted over 50 ladybugs between the larva, pupa, and adults!

So, we've been documenting the life cycles of of our ladybugs and I have taken HUNDREDS of photos. I still haven't waded through all of the photos, but I'd like to share some of our photos with you all. Enjoy!
LARVAL STAGE - A ladybug larva molts 3 times thus it goes through 4 instars. I would like to learn to identify each stage (there is a definite size difference, but they also just appear different.) And, I would LOVE to be able to identify what type of ladybug (or ladybird beetle) each larva will be as an adult. If anyone has a resource, I'd love to know!
Here's a fairly late instar.
And, you can see this larva looks quite different.
Above this larva, you can see 2 wooly aphids. It was actually pretty amazing to watch these little guys eat -they are good hunters and eat a lot!

Here's a great shot of a larva starting to pupate. I love how you can see the legs folded under.
Here's a pupa.
And another one. Do you see how different they look? I like that this one looks like it is cracking, but it stayed like that for days.

And, even another one. Can you see the little spiky "things" that it is attached to the wall with? They're pretty strong.

And another one. I would also like to figure out what type of ladybug would emerge from each pupa. If I get another chance with ladybugs, I'll mark each pupa (put a sticker next to it) and wait to see what emerges - they usually come out in the morning, so I don't think it'd be too hard.

Here's a newly emerged ladybug!

And another one. This one was really tiny! I still haven't quite figured out if ladybugs just get their spots later on. Does anyone know? Most of the ones we find early in the morning are spotless or have very faint spots.

And another. I need to identify all of these. :-)
Like I said, I actually have hundreds of photos, but I will only share a few more sometime soon. I did find my first GRAY ladybug and that was a real treat!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Cindy at Our Journey Westward and Melissa at In the Sparrow's Nest have just released a new series of Christian nature study ebooks!
They currently have 12 ebooks available. Each study will include "nature study ideas, hands-on activities, research ideas, writing ideas, project ideas, lessons about the topic that relate to other subject areas, artist and composer study tie-ins, literature lists, internet links, notebooking pages and more!!"
Would you like to try out one of their studies for FREE? You can go to both of their blogs (linked above) and enter their contest. They'll be giving away 6 free studies. (You can find the details for the contest on their blogs.)
I am really impressed with the way both of these ladies study nature with their families and with others, so I know these will be wonderful guides to help each of us study God's creation.

Monday, May 18, 2009


About a week and a half ago, our nature group went on a wonderful Nature Day to the beach! We have a member who builds sand castles - and she offered to teach us! We had at least a dozen families attend this wonderful event.

Above is the castle Ms. Dawn built before we arrived. She would teach us the basics of building towers, building arches, building "balls" (I'm not sure what to call them, but they are on the tops of the towers), and carving.

Ms. Dawn first demonstrated how to build using the dribble method. Basically, you get some really wet sand and just dribble it out of your fingers. The water in our gulf is REALLY dirty looking, but Ms Dawn said all of the silt helps to act as a glue and is great for sandcastling!

Next, she showed us how to build a tower. You start by picking out your location (it helps to know when high & low tides are!) and digging a hole -with a big yard shovel! Then, she uses what is called the pancake method. Basically, you have a trench and then a big hole where you mix sand and water like pancake batter. Then, you use your hands and drop "pancakes" - one on top of the other. That's how you build your tower!

Here's Alexandra with her little shovel and pail. I borrowed a big shovel to start our sandcastle. Oh, and we mixed in seaweed with the sand to make it stronger!

Alexandra and I went with some friends, Mrs R and her daughter HorseRider. The girls and I built the center tower in this photo, and that's almost all we did. Then, the girls were off to play in the water! Mrs R added the balls to each tower. I carved the door and I think we both helped carve the sides of the tower. (You use things like kitchen knives to carve!) Then, I added the stairs.
Mrs R really enjoyed herself and carved this neat face on the side of our castle. She worked for several hours on our castle. I walked around talking to the moms and looking at all of the neat critters the kids were finding - fish, shrimp, even a live clam!

Here's a photo of Alexandra playing in the water.

And, this is a castle that a family spent several hours building. The dad really got into this and had a lot of fun. I think he has a new hobby!
Unfortunately, I was afraid of ruining my camera so I took my daughter's instead (since it would be cheaper to replace). Well, for some reason, it wouldn't take any photos! (Though it is working fine now.) So, I've gotten some photos from my friends -but they emailed them and they are smaller than usual. I hope to get some full-sized photos soon.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Staying Busy

Whew! We are having fun, but staying pretty busy right now with end of the year things!
  • I had my piano recital a few weeks ago. I was nervous, but did OK.
  • Alexandra has started "summer" swim team and that meets 5 days a week, including at 6:45 on Saturday mornings! (She's taken off the past 2 summers, but we're both enjoying doing it again this year - it just keeps us busy!)
  • On Monday, we'll finish up a 7 week, post-Classical Conversations, co-op and I am teaching a great class on Inventors. (I'll post ASAP)
  • Alexandra has her Classical Conversations Awards Banquet and Choir Recital next Friday - and I'm the accompanist! So, I'm busing practicing!
  • We are planning a BIG summer trip - I'll tell you about soon - but I've been researching places to go, things to do, etc.
  • And, we our having a family reunion at the end of June. I've done genealogy for over 10 years (though not much since Alexandra was born) and I'm busy getting my information together so it can be shared with the family. (The photo above is of some of my husband's family taken in 1880!)

So, I have not forgotten my blog friends! I hope to have lots of interesting posts coming soon. Thanks for waiting around for me! :-)

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Our Backyard This Weekend

While Alexandra and my husband swam Sunday evening, I walked around the yard taking some photos. (It is stilll too cold for me!)

This is the center of one of our sago palms - I believe these are baby leaves forming.

Our bush beans have gotten huge! I can't believe we're actually successfully growing veggies!

I've photographed these tiny spiders several times. They come in several colors and I love the "happy face." They're called spiny-backed orb weavers.

And, our sunflowers! I was really afraid they weren't going to sprout, but they did! So, we'll see how we do with these. They are our first sunflowers ever, too!

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Bible Bee

Have you signed up for the Bible Bee? The Bible Bee just started this year and you can still enroll until May 15th. The Bible Bee competition will take place on September 12th at locations around the country. 100 finalists from each age group (ages 7 to 18) will advance to the finals in Washington, D.C.

From the Bible Bee website:
What is the Bible Bee?
The Bible Bee is a refreshing and motivating Bible memory competition for children and youth. It is very similar to a spelling bee, except contestants are required to recite Bible passages and facts rather than spell words.

We were able to download the study materials Friday and there is a LOT to memorize. But, memorizing scripture (your choice of versions for this competition) is one of the best ways we can spend our time!

Ephesians 5:15 & 16 "See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil."

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Zap! Surgery

Yesterday, we went to The Health Museum to visit the Zap! Surgery: Beyond the Cutting Edge exhibit. Before our trip, we spent some time learning about the 5 surgical techniques that were highlighted by this exhibit.

ENDOSCOPY - For endoscopy surgery, the surgeon uses a small tube which they insert into the body through a small incision. The tube has a camera on it for viewing and for taking photos. They might also have something on it to take a biopsy or retrieve a foreign object. It is minimally invasive and patients often receive consious sedation.

Online, we watched a few short YouTube videos which used endoscopes. And, we discussed the time I went to the ear, nose, and throat doctor and we both got to watch as the doctor put an endoscope through my nose and down my throat to have a look around. She was able to watch that video and remembers it.

This was one of my favorite exhibits at the museum because we got to pretend like we were surgeons and try to manipulate items as a surgeon would.

GAMMA KNIFE - This is the techinque I was least familiar with. Basically, this is used to treat brain tumors. They put a kind of hat on the patient that has 201 holes. They decide which holes they need to shoot the radition through to kill the tumor while not damaging healthy tissue.

Before we went, we watched the BrainPop video about the electromagnetic spectrum to learn about gamma rays.

On one exhibit, we were able to figure out which of the "holes" (we only had about a dozen) we needed to use to kill the tumor without damaging the healthy tissue. Our surgery was a success!

LASER SURGERY - We watched a BrainPop video about lasers which led us to talk about some of the uses of lasers - holograms (we found out there is a store in Houston and wanted to go, but didn't make it), Lasik (which led us to discuss that Alexandra's great grandpa had Lasik), bar codes (we see these all the time, right?) and to play with your pets (we might pick up a cheap one at the pet store)! I also learned that laser is an acronym that stands for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation.

At each exhibit, you could watch a short video about the type of surgery (about 3 or 4 minutes). There were usually several options and she chose the "tattoo removal" video. Pretty neat!

ULTRASOUND - We looked at Alexandra's ultrasound image from her baby scrapbook. And, we watched a video about ultrasounds at How Things Work.

At the exhibit, they talked about how ultrasound can be used to break up kidney stones in a process called lithotripsy. The patient actually lies in a water bath and the ultrasound waves are aimed at the kidney stones until they are broken into small enough pieces.

CRYOSURGERY - This is a method where you super freeze tissue to kill it. We talked about how I've had this procedure to remove a few things from my skin and that "yes", it does hurt.

They had a very COLD room where you could watch a short video about cryosurgery.

They had a Zap! Jr room where they had even more hands on activities set up. Alexandra and I enjoyed playing a very large game of Operation!

We also went on a "ride" where you went through a body and saw some things that needed surgery. It was one of those little "vehicles" that moves in all directions and kind of makes you sick. :-) This was Alexandra's favorite part of the day!

It wasn't part of the Zap! exhibit, but I enjoyed the Cells 4D video - very cool graphics and it reminded me of a lot of things I studied many years ago. :-) In the 4D theater, they have lights that flash all over the room, breezes (strong winds!) that blow, and you even get wet! It's quite the experience. (Oh, and we watched a BrainPop video about "cells" before we went. We should have watched "immune systems" and "mitosis", too. )
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