Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Stop Motion Animation

Alex and I went to a Halloween party at the Children's Museum last night. One of the neatest things we did was to make our first stop motion animated film!

Our idea was to have a story where the cat was going to attack the bird but the dog stops the cat. This was harder than we thought! We took over 100 photos, and the video was only a few seconds long. Also, in this clip, the man helping us has it where it keeps circling back to the beginning, so it is hard to tell where the story starts. And, he was in charge of taking the photos (we moved the characters) and we couldn't see what was happening so I got my hand in a few shots.
I was excited to see how the process works, though. And, he was using a free program called Monkey Jam. I just need to buy a camera for the computer and we'll be ready to try a "real" show!

Wonderful Weekend

We have had a wonderful weekend!

FRIDAY: Alex and I went to see A Midsummer Night's Dream put on by a local homeschool group. They are rhetoric students using Tapestry of Grace and they were GREAT! The show was 3.5 hours long! And, I even asked Alex if she wanted to leave during either intermission, but she didn't! I was so glad we'd prepared by reading and watching versions of this story before seeing it performed in Shakespeare's own words as it is sometimes hard to understand what is being said. But, these kids were great!

SATURDAY: Alex and I went to a Haunted Homestead. She dressed as Cleopatra and I thought she looked great! It ended up not being very scary, which was great for me! But, they'd given out most of the candy by the time we got there and Alex only got 5 pieces.

SUNDAY: We all went to the Texans game. It was Military Appreciation Day, and besides winning (Go Texans!), we had some other treats. Among them:
  • Former President George Bush and Former President George W Bush were there as Honorary Team Captains! (Oh, how I hated that I'd JUST taken my camera out of my purse for the previous night!)

  • Neal E Boyd, last year's "America's Got Talent" winner, performed "I'm Proud to Be an American." It was amazing! (And, I think he is amazing!)

  • The Silent Marine Corps Drill Team performed. We've seen them twice before and they are amazing!

  • The US Army Parachute Team, the Golden Knights, parachuted in carrying and American flag and the game ball.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Alex got to wear her Halloween costume Saturday night to a Haunted Homestead (for kids) and tonight to a party at the Children's Museum. I've been surprised that several kids about Alex's age had no idea who Cleopatra was!!! Anyway, I love her costume. :-) (I found a photo of Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra online to do her makeup.)

Emmissaries of Peace

We bought a subscription to Colonial Williamsburg's Electronic Field Trips (CW EFT) from Homeschool Buyer's Co-op for 2009/2010. We recently had our first EFT which was entitled "Emmissaries of Peace." Here's a short description of this lesson from their site: "During the turbulent era of the French and Indian War, the Cherokee people struggled to preserve their independence. Follow Cherokee leader Ostenaco and Virginian Henry Timberlake on their 1762 journey from Chota (the capital of the Cherokee nation)."

With CW EFTs, there are several different parts. The shows air live on a particular day, so you should do the background reading and activities ahead of time. (I didn't realize that, so we got that backwards this time.) With "Emmissaries of Peace", we read the historical background which was about the history of the Cherokees and particularly their interaction with Eurpeans.

Besides the very interesting background, we also had several activities to do. Alex and I really enjoyed the activity where we compared Cherokee and Colonial life. She read about the Cherokees and I read about the Colonies and we both did a presentation. There was also a lesson on Cherokee symbolism. In addition, there were 2 interactive online activities: one about negotiating a treaty and another about the Trail of Tears.

On the "live" day, there are actors in the studio portraying various people from the program. They play the show in 3 clips and during breaks students can email or call in their questions. They also have additional time to call in their questions after the show is over.
We really enjoyed learning about the Cherokees especially since Alex is Cherokee. She is a direct descendent of two of the primary men in this episode of history, Ostenaco and Lt. Henry Timberlake. Ostenaco's daughter had a child with Timberlake, and he is Alex's direct ancestor! The drawing at the top is from 1762 when Ostenaco traveled with Timberlake to London.

This program ended with the Trail of Tears. One of Alex's  female ancestors survived the Trail of Tears and Alex's family still has the land she was granted in Oklahoma.
I highly recommend this program. The next program airs live on Thursday, Nov 19th (though members can watch the video segments before or after) and is entitled "A More Perfect Union." The site reads: "Witness the conflict and compromise that accompanied the ratification of the U.S. Constitution. Join young eighteenth-century observers, unseen by convention delegates, as they travel from state to state tallying the vote. Learn about the ratification process and Americans’ growing interest in their fledgling nation’s new government."

To the Opera

Houston Grand Opera offers a student-adapted opera for children in 4th-8th grades. We're excited to be going this year for the first time. (If you live in Houston, there might still be tickets available. Tickets are just $10 each.) I was really excited when I got a call last week from a volunteer docent who said she'd be coming out to tell our students about opera in general, this particular opera The Elixir of Love, and show clips from this opera!. I was thrilled that they were willing to do this for just 10 homeschoolers! And, we only had 6 here for the presentation. The lady was wonderful and I'm excited about going to see this opera.

Alex has been to see 5 or 6 operas for children with Houston Grand Opera to Go. In fact, we went to see Hansel and Gretel just a few weeks ago. Three years ago, we also went to our first full-length opera,  which was also Hansel and Gretel. It was incredible! (Next week's production will be shortened to 2 hours.)
I've been enjoying yet another of Jimmie's Squidoo pages, Opera for Children. I've requested a few books at the library. And, her page reminded me to look for clips of the opera online, like the one above which is a short summary with brief clips of this opera. The opera is sung in Italian, but there will be English subtitles. Also, we know the basic story now, so it'll be easy to follow. It is a comedy and has lots of lively music, so I hope all of the kids (and moms) have a wonderful time.

Monday, October 26, 2009

As You Like It

We LOVED seeing A Midsummer Night's Dream Friday night - all 3.5 hours of it! It really helped that we knew the story beforehand. Tomorrow, we have a chance to see As You Like It. I went back to Jimmie's Shakespeare for Children Squidoo site and watched the BBC videos (below). We also made the Shakespeare doll she had linked to (above). It is from the Toy-A-Day site. Isn't it cute?

I would like to watch a movie production of both A Midsummer Night's Dream and As You Like It. Does anyone have any recommendations? I'm wanting something child-friendly. Thanks!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Anatomy of a Snail

Last week, I found this neat snail outside of Alex's classes. I have never seen a snail like this! The snails we had before only had 2 sets of tentacles - this one has 3! So, I did some research.

I really liked this Snail Investigations site. They have pages for Snail Facts, Snail Anatomy, Snail Life Cycle, Snail Investigations, Snails as Pets, Snail Tales, Snail Crafts, Snail Links, Snail Photos, Snail Games, Teacher's Guide, Snail Home, and Schoolyard Safari. Alex and I enjoyed going through many of these pages. But, it didn't answer my question about the extra pair of tentacles.

The apple snail website talk about the cephalic tentacles, which I believe are the ones without eyespots, and the labial tentacles or labial palps. I believe from this site that both of these sets of tentacles might have olfactory (or smell) organs.

With more research today, I believe our snail might be a Wolfsnail. I found a book with a photo that looked similar: Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator. Our library has the book, so I'll be checking it out. The last thing I learned tonight was that The wolf snail eats slugas and other snails that it catches by following the slime trails that prey snails leave behind. (from this site)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Midsummer Night's Dream

We have a chance to go see A Midsummer Night's Dream this weekend. It is being performed by a local group of high school homeschoolers (who use Tapestry of Grace). We 'studied' this Shakespeare play several years ago, but we are busy refreshing ourselves!

We are reading A Midsummer Night's Dream for Kids by Lois Burdett. I still love these books!

I've also been looking at Jimmie's Squidoo site, Shakespeare for Children. It is loaded with information about Shakespeare, so please check it out!  On the site, she has some nice, animated versions of Shakespeare's plays. Alex and I watched these before, and I thought I'd add them here for easy access. I'm looking forward to this play and we're ready to study more Shakespeare!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Learning Multiplication Facts... by Playing Online Games!

We have another website that we've discovered in the past few weeks that we are LOVING. It is called Alex LOVES playing on this site.

There are quite a few different games. Two of our favorite games are: Patty's Paints, where you get to "paint" your own car after every round, and Math Models, where you "earn" clothes for your models. At the end of Patty's Paints, you get to race a car around a track! And, at the end of Math Models, you get to use the clothes you've earned to dress your model.

One thing I really appreciate about is that you can choose what facts you are working on. For example, Alex has been working on just her 9 facts for the past week. And, she is getting much faster!!!

There are other things on this site. There are timed quizes so you can compare your 'before' and 'after' times. There are videos. There are games you can play in a classroom or with other kids. And, I know there are things I haven't even discovered.

The novelty might wear off with this program, but there are lots of games to choose from. And I am so happy that Alex is having fun and improving her math fact skills!

If your child is struggling with learning there multiplication facts, you might look at Jimmie's post. She has some great ideas, and the comments are a valuable resource, too!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Favorite Co-op Class?

I want to teach a class at my daughter's co-op in the spring. Actually, 2 classes - possibly even 3. I've been struggling with the decision of 'what' to teach to 4th-6th graders. So, far I've thought of:
So, I'm really torn and having a hard time figuring out what I should do. I want it to be lots of fun. I also know that the 2 things I think Alex needs more of are science and geography, so this should play into my decision. I like the idea of creating my own study, but this is also more work.

Do you belong to a wonderful co-op? Do you have a favorite co-op class? I'm just really struggling with this and would love some input. Thanks!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Salt Dough Map of Israel

Today in Mystery of History we made a salt dough map of Israel. Making the dough was so quick & easy! We just mixed a cup of salt and a cup of flour and then added a little water at a time until it was "mud" consistancy. We were surprised at how STICKY the dough was, though! It was really hard to work with. After it had set for a few hours, it was a lot easier to play with. Next time, we need to add less water or wait a few hours!

So, our map didn't turn out great, but we did have fun and learned some basic geography of the region! We labeled the Mediterranean Sea, Dead Sea, Jordan River, Sea of Galilee, Masada and Qumran. It was a nice review as we talked about some of the places we've learned about this year.

We finished our 5th week of Mystery of History and added 3 more figures to our timeline. While talking about Masada, something I wasn't familiar with, we ordered "That the World May Know: Faith Lessons on the Life and Ministry of the Messiah" from Netflix. It has a section about Masada.

We are continuing to enjoy this curriculum, but I really need to actually DO more of the activities!  I'm glad we did this activity today. We are switching our schedule so that we do science on  Mondays & Thursdays and history on Tuesdays & Fridays, so hopefully I'll feel we do have time to do more of these wonderful activities.

Artful Thursday: Jackson Pollock

Last week, we did our 2nd "Artful Thursday." Our focus was on abstract artist Jackson Pollock. We read the book by Mike Venezia, "Getting to Know...Jackson Pollock." I also picked up the book "Action Jackson" from the library today, but we haven't read it yet. We also watched the YouTube video posted at Boys+ Academy.

Pollock is famous for spreading large canvases on the ground and dribbling paint. He had a very messy style of art, and we got messy trying to paint like Pollock - note Alex's new, blue hair!
Here's Alex's leg after we finished painting.

We tried 4 different ways of painting with tempera paints. In the above painting, Alex squeezed paint out right out of the bottles!

In this painting, Alex covered marbles in paint and rolled them around in a box.
In this painting, she used a stick to apply paint to the "canvas."

And, in this painting, she used a stick (skewer) to apply paint in a splattering motion.
Painting like Pollock is definitely a lot of messy fun!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Spelling City

We are using various things for spelling this year. Our spelling list comes from: a curriculum, Alex's misspelled words, and words we are using in other subjects. This week, we started using a wonderful FREE program called Spelling City. The teacher (aka mom) types in the spelling words and then the student (or mom) has several choices: you can pick "teach me", "play a game", or "test me."

We don't care that much for the "teach me" part, but it could be useful. They basically say and spell the word for you. The "test me" part is pretty straight forward. But, what Alex is really enjoying is the "play a game" section.

I have been having Alex use the "alphabetize" section to practice, well, putting things in alphabetical order! We have both enjoyed Hang Mouse - if you mess up too many times, the cat will catch your tail! (We had to do it once, just to see what would happen!) Today, we played Crossword. There are a few glitches in it (the words kind of touch each other), but it still works. And, I love how this program comes up with its own sentences! So far, we haven't seen any problems. (And, several of the programs are printable.)

So, I'm not sure how long it will be until the novelty wears off, but for now Spelling City is making spelling fun in our house!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Raccoon Scat Recipe

I got the recipe for the fake raccoon scat we enjoyed at a recent nature event when we played "Who Dung It?" (see post). I know some of you might have a need to make a batch of raccoon scat. :-)

Also, I found a note here that you can use Rasinettes as deer scat. Yum!

Also from this post, "Raccoons are omnivorous, which means they feed on a wide variety of plant and animal foods. What they eat depends on the time of year and what is available, so their scat, which is another word for poop, can vary quite a bit. Their diet can include acorns, corn, wheat and other grains, wild grapes, black cherry, pawpaw, giant ragweed, blackberry, pokeweed, apples, crickets, grasshoppers, earthworms, crayfish, carrion, young turtles, frogs, turtle and bird eggs and, of course, garbage."

Raccoon Scat: A Tasty Outdoor Snack!

3 Tbs butter
1 12 oz bag marshmallows
1 12 oz bag semi-sweet chocolate morsels
10 oz of raisins or craisins (berries)
2 cups crispy rice cereal (insects and crayfish parts)

1. Melt butter over low heat in a large saucepan

2. Add marshmallows and allow to melt, stirring often. Once marshmallows are mostly melted, add chocolate morsels and stir until everything is melted.

3. Add raisins, craisins and cereal to mixture, stir (Amounts are approximate and may need to be adjusted until you get the right consistency.)

4. Use a spoon to scoop out cookies onto waxed paper or cookie sheet

5. Form to look like raccoon scat

6. Allow to cool

Makes approximately 30 yummy cookies!

Friday, October 09, 2009

Messages in the Mailbox: How to Write a Letter (Guest Post by Alex)

I liked this book partly because I love animals and half of the characters are animals. The book is almost18 years old but the pictures are good. There are examples of letters and the page with the headline "congratulations" has really funny letters. Here is one of the funniest things written to a new mommy elephant.
Dear Ellie,
Congratulations on your new baby. His picture is cute! I'm sure he will grow into his ears. See you soon.
Best wishes,
I suggest you read this book. - Alex

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Donald Duck in Mathmagic Land

Alex saw this movie at a class recently and we watched part 1 of 3 today. It's entertaining and educational! You can find part 2 & 3 on YouTube.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Praying Mantis & Tree Frog

I found 2 of these tiny praying mantises last week. I was photographing one, and someone suggested I have Alex put it in front of her fact so I get her in the photo, too. I love how it changed this shot! Also, I was telling the students & parents that this was a baby mantis when one of the teens pointed out that it could be a male as males are smaller than females. I am glad he pointed that out, but after looking online, I'm not sure the males are THAT much smaller. And, since I found 2 of them, I think they might have been babies after all. Any thoughts?

I also caught this little tree frog who was hanging high up on the house. Unfortunately, he wasn't too happy and was "startled"... all over my chin. Yuck. :-) I love his little feet!

Winter's Tail Virtual Field Trip

On Wednesday at 1 pm (ET), you can go on a virtual field trip to meet Winter the Dolphin. I read about this event on the blog, Serendipidity. You can also find more information on Jill's, The Well Read Child.

Winter’s Tail chronicles the amazing true story of Winter, a two-month dolphin who lost her tail after becoming entangled in crap trap. Winter was rescued off the coast of Cape Canaveral and brought to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, where she was treated and had to learn to swim again, using a prosthetic tail. Beyond all expectations, Winter has thrived and has become an inspiration to the disabled and able-bodied alike. Winter’s story delivers an important message of hope, friendship, and universal acceptance. (from the Scholastic site)

On the Scholastic website, you'll also find an excerpt from the book, Winter's Tail, and a teaching guide. There is also more to see and do at Winter's website.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

MoMA Collection Online... and Our Next Trip...

We will be headed on our next trip soon... to New York City! One of our stops will be the Museum of Modern Art. Today, I was doing some research on some of the artists and pieces of art work that we'll see and I came across a link to MoMA on Barb's blog. I am using the site to print out some of the artwork we'll see and I'll be making a matching game.

But, YOU might enjoy this MoMA site to review art on your own! (I enjoyed 'testing' myself to see how much I've learned the past few years... I did pretty good! I'll be testing Alex next week.) You can go to the "Browse the Collection Online" section  and use the "browse filter" button to select "highlights." This button shows some of their most famous pieces of art! (Note: You might want to browse this site without your child as you never know what you'll come across!) You can also create your own account and make your own set of "collected works." This is what I'll be showing Alex instead of risking running into something I'd rather her not see. I think this would be a great review for anyone who has been studying artists.

(Photos are of 2 projects we did in the past relating to artists at MoMA: Jasper Johns and Picasso. Other artists we've studied that we hope to see artwork by include: Warhol, Lichtenstein, Nevelson, and Chagall.)

Artful Thursday: Cool/Warm Colors & Frank Lloyd Wright

This week, Alex and I started something I'm going to call Artful Thursday. I honestly don't know if I've heard of that term or made it up myself, but I thought it sounded like fun! This week, we spent the morning doing art, but I might change it to the afternoon.

We started by talking about warm and cool colors. We used water colors and Alex made this "cool color" painting of a bird and a squirrel.


I copied what Mrs. Smith did on her post at Art with Mrs. Smith (which is where I got the idea) and did warm flowers.

Next, we talked about Frank Lloyd Wright. We recently listened to the book on tape of Chasing Vermeer by Balliet. Now we're listending to the sequel, The Wright 3, which is about Frank Lloyd Wright. In the story, they talk about Wright's building, the Robie House in Chicago. They also talk about his "art glass" windows. So, when I saw this post by Barb, the Harmony Art mom, I decided we'd do our own "twist" to this project and make Wright windows instead! (You can look at Barb's post for step by step instructions... thanks, Barb!)

I did print out my drawings from the site she linked to, Chantal's Stained Glass. I found that with the black glue, you really need very basic patterns so I skipped a lot of the lines. Also, Barb used transparencies for her clear surface while I used page protectors, since that is what I had handy.


The photos of Wright's work that I found were very neutrally colored, so I tried to recreate that. Since then, I've found that he really did some colorful work! By the way, according to this site by Julie Sloan, Wright did not like his glass work to be called "art glass." During the late 1800's, a building boom spawned a retailing invention, the mail order catalog. By 1910, those catalogs offered what was called 'art glass' windows. They were cheaply made and so Wright preferred the term "leaded glass."

Here's another site where you can see quite a few examples of Wright's Leaded Glass. They give examples from 4 of his buildings. I found it really interesting that he'd stick to a 'theme' in each building, so the glasswork would be similar inside of that particular building! I like the balloon and confetti theme of the Coonley House.  I might have to try something more colorful like that! I also found it interesting that Wright was one of the most prolific stained glass designers. He designed possibly 4,000 windows or more!!!

I enjoyed working on this dolphin 'stained glass', too, though it isn't a "Wright stained glass." I need to finish this one! And, we really did have fun creating art!
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