Saturday, April 30, 2011

Other Things We Did While on Holiday

Lots and lots and lots of rides... including "It's a Small World" (left)
Checking out the alligators.

A bit of mini golf.
A wonderful children's science museum type place called Wonder Works.
The kids LOVED the ropes course at Wonder Works.
Kennedy Space Center -- we were SO sad not to see the launch (which was postponed to four days after our visit instead of while we were in Florida).

Friday, April 29, 2011

Check out the garden now!

DD checks out the gardens...

but sadly it's not ours. Any guesses as to where we are?

Here are a couple of other hints.

Yes, the past 10 days or so we've been down in Florida with Grams and Gramps. (Posts were set to go off automatically during that time.)   We had such a wonderful time! We were all healthy and enjoyed getting away. Best of all I feel much more rejuvenated.  I don't know about the rest of you, but I definitely get tired and worn in this homeschooling life and always need a shake up to the routine to help me appreciate things all the more.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

LD found a turtle

Today LD found a turtle out in the yard. We think it is an Eastern Box Turtle.

We learned quite a bit about these critters:

*Turtles can live 50-100 years.
*Turtles as a species have been around for 250 million years.
*Turtles eat insects, earthworms, millipedes, beetles, caterpillars, fruit, mushrooms, berries and vegetables.
*The plastron or lower shell of the turtle can help identify its sex. Male turtles' lower shells are concave (goes in) while the females' lower shells are flat or convex (rounded).
*90% of the time, males have red or orange eyes while the female have yellow or brown eyes.
*The approximate age of a turtle can be estimated by counting the growth rings on the plates (best done on the bottom shell or plastron).
*Turtles "brummate" or hibertnate in the winter by digging into the dirt.
*Turtles are territorial, so if they are removed from their territory they will try to return to their original site (aimlessly if they are taken from the area).
*Turtles lay 1-7 eggs in their clutch.

We think this box turtle is a male. We're guessing this is a fairly young turtle (6 years or so) after counting the growth rings.

Last week we found this small snake (the dandelion shows how small it is) while weeding. I think it is a Rough Earth Snake. I'm certainly no expert on snakes, though and it could be a Smooth Earth Snake.  Yesterday we saw a huge (well to me that is -- it was about 3 feet long) Black Rat Snake in the grass.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Human Body (Preschool Unit) -- bones/the skeleton

ED has been doing a new unit on the human body.  I'm using Everybody has a Body. It has such a wonderful array of hands-on activities for preschoolers.  DD has been enjoying them as well.

This puzzle was called Look Into Your Body All About You From the Inside Out with Floor Puzzle Skeleton (affliate link).

ED has been putting this skeleton puzzle together for several days now.  The book that comes with it has really intrigued her too -- so we've actually talked about digestion, the heart and things like that as well.
The x-ray hands activity below came from Everybody has a Body .  She made x-rays of her hand.  First she made handprints, then we cut them out -- and we looked at some real x-rays we have.
ED has really been wrestling with this concept that she has bones inside her hand... she keeps asking why she can't take off her skin to see the bones... how neat to watch them think about new concepts (and how is it that I hadn't talked about bones/skeletons with her much before this? The poor third child!!!).
Somewhere there's an x-ray of my hand. I broke my pinkie finger playing field hockey a few years back, but I couldn't find that. :(
X-ray hands
Disclosure:  Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase.
Update: Last year we revisited the skeletal system again (The kids were in Grades 1, 4 and 6).  We did a half dozen a new activities you might be interested in.  Plus, we have a skeletal packet with notebook pages and various pages I made for the kids. Find out more about this over at our new location,

You can see the activities we did last year and can find out more about our packet at this post:
Skeletal System Worksheet Packet; 6 Hands-On Activities About Bones

30+ Page Skeletal System Packet!


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Hamburger Plant Activity-- Garden Science Unit

Knowing we'd be doing the hamburger plant activity and to get us into the proper mood, we had hamburgers for dinner the night before!

This activity came from the instructor's manual of the Junior Master Gardener program.

The next morning we drew pictures of an imaginary hamburger plant.  The purpose of this activity was to discuss the origins of many of the ingredients in a hamburger. When you trace things back, even the hamburger/cows depends on plants.

LD's hamburger plant was so logical -- with the buns at the top and bottom and the various ingredients falling onto one-another to make the finished product. My hamburger ingredients were willy-nilly everywhere -- kind of like my haphazard organizational skills!!
Here we discussed the origins of all the hamburger ingredients with the bun's main ingredient coming from wheat, the burger/cow depending on grass (and grain), mustard coming from a mustard plant, etc.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Gardening and our new gardening science curriculum

Gardening continues to be a rewarding part of our home life.  We all have an incredible enthusiasm for our new gardening adventures!   

Here's a glimpse at our veggie garden. I put in planks to keep ED and the others from wandering all over the garden. They enjoy balancing along them and have claimed certain sections for themselves!

We already have quite a large number of lettuce plants (since that's one of the first things you can plant!) I wonder how much we'll actually eat and how much we'll try to give away!

We also transplanted some tomato plants and hope it's not too early for them. (The milk jug is there to help protect it.)

While we were working in the garden, ED was digging in the dirt and uncovered a toad!

A little while later we spotted another toad when we were moving a rotten log.  The kids made a habitat with tissues, grass, sticks, etc.
While still working in the garden I moved some weed cloth aside and LD saw a snake. We took a picture and then I managed to get a shovel underneath the loose dirt and flung it into a bin to take it away from the garden.

I believe this is a northern brown snake -- non-venomous.
The northern brown snake eats things like earthworms, slugs and spiders.
LD spotted this bug. I don't know what kind it is, but it sure is bright green!
 It's now been a couple of weeks since we planted our 50 strawberry plants.  All but one of them survived and are doing really well.  Since we eat a lot of fruit -- we're pretty excited about this.

Last weekend I planted two apple trees and a peach tree. And -- I also managed to get the five raspberry plants planted as well.  The raspberries just look like sticks in the ground at the moment, so they aren't worth a photo!

We have a lot of garden areas and I have probably spent 10 hours carting and spreading truckload after truckload of mulch.  Whew!  Hard work, but it sure is rewarding!
Yay! The strawberry plants are thriving (so far!)
LD has been interested in plants for well over a year now -- closer to two years if I think back about it.  I came across a gardening program/curriculum and decided to give it a go. It's called the Junior Master Gardener Program. It is designed for kids in grades 3 to 5.  It incorporates lots and lots of hands on activities, songs, science experiments, writing and more.  There are individual activities and community oriented projects. It just came in the mail and I am absolutely thrilled (and LD is beside himself too. He jumped right in!)! Here is their power point tutorial from their website if you are interested in learning more.

Since I knew little about it, I didn't know whether to buy just the handbook or the instructor's guide as well. I'm glad I got both. The instructor's guide has lots more of the hands-on activities.  The instructor's manual is 365 pages. 

Chapters include
1) Plant Growth and Development
2. Soils and Water
3. Ecology and Environmental Horticulture
4. Insects and Diseases
5. Landscape Horticulture
6. Fruits and Nuts
7. Vegetables and Herbs
8. Life Skills and Career Exploration
Each chapter of the Junior Master Gardener  workbook begins with a colorful picture and discussion of the topic.

The activities are quite varied -- observing and drawing, planting, exploring & looking for things, doing experiments, doing crafts and on and on.

Here are a couple examples from the beginning of the workbook:
Create a craft
Find plants with different types of roots
Count the rings on the stump
Find different leaves outside
Draw them in the boxes on that page

I was going to share our first couple activities, but I'm out of time and need to save that for another day/another posting.

If you are gardening with your preschooler and are interested in a preschool curriculum -- be sure to check out the wonderful activities over at homeschool creations.  She made a wonderful Garden Preschool Pack

I learned about the HSV Garden Challenge and have been thoroughly enjoying checking out other people's gardening progress. There are links to more than 100 people's gardening adventures.  Thanks to the people who organized that -- how amazing to link in with great community of people! 

Friday, April 22, 2011

What to Know When You Buy Salmon...

There is so much to consider about buying salmon. I sure didn't realize any of this so thought I'd share.

1) Salmon are carnivores. In the wild they start eating microscopic plants and animals. As they get bigger they eat tiny crustaceans (krill) which gives them their pink color and then larger fish.

2) Farmed salmon is a nice gray color.  Hmmm... but salmon farmers resort to cosmetics to change it to that nice pink color in the grocery store.  Dye is added to feed pellets. Salmon absorb this into their flesh.  Farmed salmon is *supposed* to be labeled "color added" but many sellers ignore this. 

3) Farmed fish eat the equivalent of dog food -- tiny pellets with soy protein, wheat, vitamins, fish meal, meat and bone meal.  Fish meal (ground up fish) and fish oil in the feed have much higher levels of PCBs. Farmed-raised fish eat these pellets from the beginning and so accumulate PCBs and other pollutants from the time they are tiny. So, farmed-raised fish accumulate higher levels of PCBs than the wild ones that roam the ocean.

4) Most salmon is imported. The coasts off of Europe have much higher levels of PCBs in their waters than elsewhere. Just something to keep in mind when you shop for fish. Fish is *supposed* to be labeled with its country of origin (though US ships fishing off the coasts of Europe would be labeled American... so ultimately it's a bit difficult to trace exact origin).

I've just brought out some highlights from a small section of an amazing resource book I've been reading called, What to Eat by Marion Nestle. I've had it checked out of the library so long I think I might need to buy this to have my own copy!

One last thing, the book  also said that pregnant women and children should probably not to eat albacore tuna (along with swordfish, shark, tilefish, and king mackerel) because of the methylmercury (from industrial waste). The tuna lobby worked hard to keep these recommendations/advisories widely known.  Albacore tuna is the expensive canned kind... and seems to have up to 3 times more methylmercury than the "chunk light" (cheaper) tunas you find in cans.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Another book series LD is enjoying

We found another book series that has LD really engaged.  The books are called Andrew Lost and they follow the adventures of a young boy who builds a shrinking machine.  He, his cousin and their robot get lost on the neighbor's dog -- in the midst of blood-sucking monsters (fleas).  They continue on to other adventures 2) in the bathroom 3) in the kitchen 4) in the garden etc.  This series has LD really engaged again -- so while the reviews on Amazon aren't spectacular, I think he'd rate them highly. Besides, he has had some pretty interesting tidbits to share with me!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Ancient Mayan Indian Unit: Wood Animalitos - Oaxacan (Mexican) Folk Art

We continued to read The Corn Grows Ripe (about a Mayan boy and his family) this week and talked about life Mexico.

We read about these imaginative creatures called Alebrijes at this art lesson plan website. In Mexico these are carved from one piece. Since we had lots of woodscraps (I bought lots of wood craft kits of cars, bird houses etc. for 50cents back in December), this seemed like the perfect craft for us!

DD's creatures
ED's creature (left)

Hubby's relatives were missionaries in Brazil years ago.   In fact, his grandmother grew up in Brazil.  Some branches of the family returned to the US and some still live in Brazil.  Last week, Uncle J and Aunt M came back from a visit to Brazil.  They brought LD some Indian weapons and a loin craft.  Very timely! LD was very excited. Thank you Uncle J and Aunt M!