Monday, October 24, 2016

The Adventures of Maya the Bee & Riding in the Dymaxion

Last week we were busy busy bees in the homeschool co-op. So busy that we were still using today to finish up our Great Inventors and Physics MLBs! Here is a snapshot of what has been going on:

Yoga (and the introduction of the Yoga Pretzels deck as a solo or partner work choice for independent work time), Farm Day, Handwork

The ASL lesson introduced new Halloween-themed vocabulary. We also reviewed all of our previous vocabulary. For kids who still need to practice their American Sign Language ABCs, we added a book to the foreign language section of independent work choices: Stripe Presents the ABCs. Our ASL teacher also suggested that families check out the Deaf Professional Arts Network website and enjoy watching some ASL Music Videos!

Gardening (pick green tomatoes, check on seedlings in the cold frame, thin radishes)

A new read-aloud story:
The Adventures of Maya the Bee by Waldemar Bonsels
We are blessed to have a leather-bound first edition copy from 1922! (I'm delighted to see that not only is this fine book still in print but it has not been simplified to eliminate the beautiful old-fashioned language. The vocabulary is fantastic: "trodden sward" instead of lawn, for example.) I'd also like to quickly point out that the Farm Day staffers have a full child-sized bee suit for those children who would like to work with their hive boxes!

Geography: Enjoying the beautiful weather outside with a Parts of the Biome Jars lesson. So interactive and fun that the kids wanted to do it again and again! We followed up on it today by completing nomenclature booklets.

Poem (we enjoyed the sweet verse from the board book Can I Have a Hug?), Math Facts (introducing positive and negative numbers on the number line, skip counting up and down), Morning Pages

Extra Lesson - the Montessori stamp game as it is used for static addition and static subtraction, dynamic addition (carrying) and dynamic subtraction (borrowing). It is helpful for the older students to have a solid grasp of these materials so that they can help out younger students. Explaining something to someone else requires you to have a full personal knowledge of it, to present the concept in small sequentially-ordered parts, and to observe the other person's mistakes and identify and remedy their flawed thinking. There is also a Decimal Stamp Game, which I don't yet have, for hands-on practice with the operations with decimals.

Catapult Challenge!
(And I hear they plan to build a trebuchet out at the farm...)

Physics: Heat, Magnetism, Electricity

bag of 50 assorted ceramic magnets

lodestone/magnetite mineral, 1/2 kilogram

iron filings, 1 lb. package

A Note:
Our Electricity work focused on static electricity but I'll also be introducing the snap-circuits "alternative energy" set for an independent work choice.

Our final Great Inventors: George Ferris, Tony Sarg (and enjoying marionettes and stilt-walking), Bob & Joe Switzer, Buckminster Fuller

Mr. Ferris and His Wheel

Balloons over Broadway:
The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy's Parade

The Day-Glo Brothers:
The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer's Bright Ideas and Brand-New Colors

Some of our families were able to attend the STEM Night at the local middle school. And ALL of our children went on Friday to ride in the replica of Buckminster Fuller's Dymaxion car and to have a tour of his geodesic home (the real one, NOT a replica) right here in Southern Illinois. After the field trip we had another incredible surprise! The students were thrilled to learn that one of our classroom grandparents KNEW him from her childhood and they got to ask her questions about her memories of meeting Bucky Fuller.

(And thank you to that same grandparent for the donation of the large roll of paper. It will come in very handy for this week's special Halloween lesson... the Haunted House of Speech. Click on the link for a sneak preview. This was an amazing lesson I learned from my colleague at the Montessori school.)

Thank you so very much to all of the parents who scheduled time to come in and have your child share a one-on-one presentation of his/her work. It was very special to watch. Our Expo didn't work out as planned but we still ended our Science block with an amazing experience: our fabulous Field Trip Friday!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Capital Letter B

Today we had the second part of a two day lesson.

T is for TOWER
B is for BUBBLES

In the last lesson, I introduced T is for TOWER by reading The Duchess Bakes a Cake by Virginia Kahl. We built tall towers with turrets using blocks.

Today, we started by having breakfast and reading the very charming Rhymoceros by Janik Coat.

Then we played rhyming games, taking turns. He gave me a word and I had to give a word that rhymed with it; I gave a word and he had to come up with a rhyme. Then I would say pairs of words and he had to tell me if they rhymed or if they didn't. Both of these activities were very difficult for him.

Then I told him we were going to bake a cake just like the duchess! We preheated the oven to 350 degrees. We took our daily nature walk and harvested 10 green tomatoes from the garden and 6 ripe persimmons that had fallen from our persimmon tree. We also found deer droppings.

Back inside we put together the batter for the One-Dish Chocolate Cake (vegan). He carefully scooped and leveled the dry ingredients and poured and measured the wet ingredients. After we popped the cake into the oven we set the visual timer for 30 minutes.

We added T (Tower) to the main lesson book and then it was time for B is for BUBBLES. We recalled how the duchess's cake had risen higher and higher. I explained that the ingredients in our batter would create bubbles and they would make our cake rise so it would be light and fluffy. We took a clean mixing bowl and I demonstrated the mixing of baking soda and vinegar to make bubbles. I gave him a half cup of each to play with. After he was done experimenting, we took our visual timer outside so we could monitor it while we set up for our art activity (Popped Bubble Art).

Outside we mixed three bowls of purchased bubble solution with red, yellow, and blue liquid paint and then strengthened the colors with food coloring. Each bowl had a bubble wand in it. We set out a piece of heavy watercolor paper and blew the bubbles toward the paper so they would land on it and pop. It was a beautiful Autumn day and perfect weather for enjoying outdoor art. Naturally, he kept checking the visual timer carefully to see when our chocolate cake would be done.

While we waited for our painting to dry outside, we worked more on balance and coordination with the walking blocks (gross motor) and the salt tray (fine motor). Finally the cake was done. When we took it out of the oven and tested it with a toothpick in the center, we could see the places where the bubbles had risen and popped.

We set the time timer again for 30 minutes and waited for the cake to cool. After a snack, we added B (Bubbles) to our main lesson book after practicing it first with the block beeswax caryons. The straight line of the B is the bubble wand, then a small bubble above and a medium bubble below. (I discovered that this wording is important. When I told him to make a large bubble below, he made it way too big).

Finally, we made Old-Fashioned Bubble Bath to take home. He had great fun helping me crack and separate the egg. And we cut pieces of the still-warm cake to enjoy. It was a lovely morning!

    Old-Fashioned Bubble Bath
    from Real Simple magazine

    In a clean container, mix together ½ cup mild liquid hand or body soap, 1 tablespoon sugar or honey, and 1 egg white.

    Pour the entire mixture under the running water as you draw your bath.

    Honey is a natural humectant, which will attract and retain moisture in your skin. The egg white helps create stronger, longer-lasting bubbles, for a nice, fluffy bath.

    For extra-dry skin, consider adding a tablespoon of light oil, such as almond or light sesame.

Recipe List

Open tabs in my browser are driving me crazy again.

I usually make my weekly menu by googling recipe ingredients which I have on hand and want to use up; then I leave all the recipe tabs open and make a grocery list, shop for it all, write all the recipe titles in two columns on the chalkboard in my laundry room, and then work my way through printing recipes, cooking them, and pinning on Pinterest the "keepers."

And, yes, I'm feeding myself plus four kids. Three of whom are growing teens or pre-teens... and they eat more than I do! So don't be shocked by how much food this list includes. :-)

Here's the upcoming menu for the week:

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Capital Letter T

Today we started the Capital Letter T. Of course we first played outside, did our nature walk, dug for worms (W is for Worm), and fed the rabbit a carrot. Then we read our story:

The Duchess Bakes a Cake

by Virginia Kahl

We proceeded to build a large block castle -- using our beautiful rainbow blocks -- with plenty of tall towers topped with turrets.

Grimm's Color Charts Rally Building Blocks Set

On Saturday we will bake an Impossibly Easy One-Dish Pantry Chocolate Cake and add T (T is for Tower) to our main lesson books.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

"This Pizza Box is in Second Person"

My daughter remarked to me Friday night at dinner (which was hot 'n' ready pizza from Little Caesar's... yes, I just wanted FOOD!), "This pizza box is in second person." While she was eating she noticed the phrases like "Tell us how we did and enter for a chance to win free pizza for a year!" and "Take our survey at"

Yay! Our point of view lesson for Morning Pages stuck! We had a great time doing point of view with picture books. Kids are familiar with the idea behind first person and third person, so they only needed quick examples, but the question of "what might second person be?" required a longer story. It was a great lesson, and hearing the stories enlivened our water & snack break time after yoga on Friday morning:

More notes from week eight:

    Yoga, Farm Day (including archery!), ASL

    Philosophy: Friendship

    Gardening: looking at the luxuriant foliage of the pineapple plant Natalie started from a pineapple top last school year (How to Plant and Grow a Pineapple Top blog post from 17 Apart), checking on our cozy little seedlings in their straw bale cold frames

    Extra Lesson: What's It Worth? Add and Subtract Positive and Negative Numbers

    Poem ("How Doth the Little Crocodile" by Lewis Carroll), Math Facts, lesson on the Montessori fraction circles material which we just received (our box of Waseca Biome material has also just arrived... there is a delay because the materials are hand-made... and we eagerly unpacked the Biomes of the World Mat), Morning Pages, making parent invitations for the upcoming Expo of student work!

    Handwork: each student has individual projects including making knitting needles, finger knitting, potholder weaving, sewing felt gnomes, sewing a stuffed felt shark, knitting a horse, and corking

    Art: sprinkle dyeing wet white wool felt with unsweetened Kool-Aid powder to dye it swirly fantastic colors! This felt will be used to make our dragon puppets

    Great Inventors: hearing stories for Elijah McCoy, Chester Greenwood, Ada Lovelace (and celebrating Ada Lovelace Day), and Margaret Knight. Also... designing our own inventions, sketching them, and creating materials lists so that we can build prototypes. For those who don't have an invention they want to pursue, we have a Catapult Challenge!

    NOTE: If you want a simple and fun activity to do at home on a rainy or snowy day -- and which will encourage problem solving, creativity, and scientific thinking -- try the Boat Float Challenge from this set of STEM Challenge Cards. All you will need is a roll of aluminum foil, a bathtub with some water in it, and about 120 pennies. Ada Lovelace Day (which moves around by the way; find out the 2017 date here) is described as follows:

      Ada Lovelace Day (ALD) is an international celebration day of the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). It aims to increase the profile of women in STEM and, in doing so, create new role models who will encourage more girls into STEM careers and support women already working in STEM.

    So any STEM activity would be a good follow-up to learning about this extraordinary woman! In fact, for those in Southern Illinois, The Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois in partnership with SIU College of Engineering is hosting a Family Stem Night at Carbondale Middle School on Thursday, October 20th 6:00-8:00pm. Come out and learn about robotics, technology, chemistry and aerospace. There will be fun freebies and DIY ideas to continue your science enthusiasm at home. To register, please contact Leah Hooper at


    • finishing Sound with four activities from 175 More Science Experiments to Amuse and Amaze Your Friends (Sound Waves, Seeing Vibrations, Vocal Vibrations, Make a Sound Cannon)
    • introducing Light with activities from Physics is Fun! (The Properties of Light, The Propagation of Light, The Nature and Properties of Color)
    • finishing Light with activities from an older version of the NEED StudentWorks curriculum guide (Protractor, Light 1, Light 3, Light 7, Light 8, Maze 1, Maze 2)

    You can find the newer version of this curriculum packet here (PDF). This went along with their Greek Mythology and the Forms of Energy curriculum, which is also still available although it has been slightly modified from the earlier version as well.

THANK YOU to the family who has donated a copy of The Girl Who Never Makes Mistakes. This book is a great fit with our study of Inventors. And I also appreciate the kind lady who will be custom-designing and sewing a Handwork tote bag for each student! I so appreciate everyone's support!