Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Carnival of Homeschooling

The 57th Carnival of Homeschooling is up at Palm Tree Pundit. Anne has done a very nice job with the Carnival this week, organizing it by the connections families are making in homeschooling. Some are connecting with history (like us), some with math, science, geography, grammar, and then a few with the educational establishment and a lot are making connections with educational philosophy and methods. You are sure to find something that connects with what you are doing in your homeschool right now.


Friday, January 26, 2007

Help! I'm Holding a Haggis!

If you are the master of ceremonies/host of a Burns dinner about to carry in the haggis and then you realize you need to find the man with the scotch, what do you do? You can't just sit it down next to the coats! You spot a boy and hand it to him - "Take care of this til I get back!" Julius was pretty pleased to have the honor of holding the haggis. It was heavy, but he wasn't giving it up.

Tonight we experienced another rite of passage in the Scottish community. We got to attend a Burns dinner, well, the parents got to spend time behind the scenes and the kids danced on stage. Held near the birthday of the poet Robert Burns this dinner honors the poet and all things Scottish. One of the hallmarks of the night is the piping in of the haggis. There is a certain way to go about this ritual and the reading of Burns' poem "Address to a Haggis". Then there's dancing and music. The Reid School of Highland Dance was part of the evening's entertainment as well as Charlie Zahm.

While the girls were getting changed in the dressing area, Julius spent some quality time with one of the fathers outside in the hall. They were reading from a display case about the history of different American Flags. I knew the "Don't Tread On Me" flag really impressed Julius as later on he treated me and another mom to an informative talk about its meaning. (Yet another example of how they are learning all the time.) After the dancing was through most of the dancers and parents had a social time at the diner across the street. This group is a great bunch of people, there is only one thing that could have made it better, really brought our family's two cultural interests together. Come on, click it! You won't believe Gung Haggis Fat Choy!

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Chinese Children's Song

As we get close to Chinese New Year, I thought it would be nice to share some of our favorite Chinesepod lessons. This one is a children's song that, according to the hosts, every Chinese child learns. "Searching for a friend..."

菜鸟115 Baby Talk - Friends Song
Visit ChinesePod.com

Just a note, some lessons on Chinesepod contain adult subject matter (things like getting a date) so supervise accordingly.

Here are some of my links related to China.


Thursday, January 18, 2007

Thurmont, MD

Another edition of how their brains work. At breakfast the other day we had toast and jam (oh, so creative aren't I?). Julius began asking questions about how high was Mt. Everest, and what was that in miles and oh, so is Mt. Everest is in the Thermosphere?

I inquired as to why he was thinking about all this. I knew his geography book was talking about the atmosphere... He pointed to the jar of jam sitting in front of him. His grandmom had bought it for us at a farmer's market in MD. The address on the jar was Thurmont, MD. He separated the two parts of that town and wondered if Mount Everest was in the Thurmosphere (=thermosphere). To figure that out he needed to know the height of Mt. Everest and then he realized since he knew the height of the thermosphere in miles, he needed to convert feet to miles. Not only was this a great "word problem" it involved conversion and the discovering the appropriate factor (5280 feet in a mile), it showed a knowledge of word roots (mount and mountain), and it demonstrated that his brain was taking in the content of the geography book. He knew Mt. Everest was high, but as high as the thermosphere?

I was impressed. Not so much in that this is my son.(As it turns out he got some of the facts wrong and thought the thermosphere was much lower than it actually is - Mt. Everest is in the Troposphere (and the book had touched on that).) Still, I'm impressed by the capacity of the human brain and its ability to make sense of things and ask good questions of itself. Wow! Something as simple as the name of a city on a jar of jam can generate this kind of brainwork! We often say they are learning all the time. Here's another evidence that it is true!

I should point out that to find some of the answers to his questions we needed to look on-line. (I have long since forgotten the height of Mt.Everest - although we were close.) That led me to discover this wonderful website of interactive panoramas! They would be a fabulous aid to anyone studying geography or history. It practically puts you right there and gives you a sense of the size and proportion that you can't achieve through normal photos. The panorama from the top of Everest let us see that there were clouds below the peak - which makes sense because Everest's peak is in the middle of the troposphere, the part of the atmosphere where all of our storms and lightening occur. From there we discovered a sister website with special themed panoramas. We spent the next hour looking at bridges from all over the world and some paragliders in France. Tech note: Open in full screen for the best effect - you'll need a fast connection (don't even try with dial-up) and updated Quicktime to view the panoramas.

Do tell which are your favorite.

Thursday, January 11, 2007


Before I start to tell you about the quilts we saw today; I have this little reminder, it's International De-lurking Week. So: Sheryl put together another cute graphic - Delurk - in cyberspace no one can hear you read! And in order to give you something to comment on, take a look at these quilts!

Crafts and homeschool meet again as we drive down the road to Montgomery County Community College's new Art Center in Pottstown (16 High St.). My friend and I dropped the boys off at a friend's and picked up her daughter. It was a girls only outing. Not to be sexist, but we thought the girls would get more out of it if the boys weren't constantly pestering to leave. First off the space was beautiful. The building is a converted factory and it has been renovated into a nice gallery. The quilts were selected from the Loose Threads Quilt Guild in Spring City,PA. I used to be a member of this guild and was excited to see the work of so many hands that I used to know. The first picture is a watercolor quilt by Eileen Frankil. These types of quilts use very small squares of (usually) floral fabric and create a design or picture by playing with the placement of lighter or darker squares.

This Ginkgo quilt was a monochromatic challenge quilt. So, there was a our first homeschool vocabulary word of the day - monochromatic. The idea of the challenge quilt was also new. My six year old also got some reinforcement in the identification of trees by their distinctive leaf shapes.

There was so much to see, some traditional patterns like Grandmother's flower garden (during which we discussed the names of polygons) and we especially liked this picture quilt. The quiltmaker covered the whole quilt with a tulle fabric that had little sparkly things in it. It made the picture have a sense of snow about it. Gorgeous little details - like the careful choice of fabrics for the grasses and the tree (not in my picture) and the silver thread used to embroider the blades on the ice skates - added much to our admiration and amazement. The girls kept commenting on how long it must have taken to make these.

The girls spent some time after we had looked at all the quilts up close sketching details they found interesting.

So there you have it, math terms, a little history in the origins of patterns, art and even a little nature. This wasn't intense instruction but I find that images are powerful communicators and that a trip like this will reap fruit in the days and weeks to come. If you are local and want to go, hurry, this exhibit is only up til the 29th of January. Open during regular business hours. If you aren't local and want to see some more pictures check my craft blog - I'll be putting them up soon.

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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Very Simple Machine

I have a couple of lazy kates courtesy of my son and his k'nex set:

You need something to hold the bobbins when you are plying yarn (two 1 ply yarns together make a 2 ply yarn. A real lazy kate usually has something to hold the tension as well. He had tried that last time, but this simpler design really works better. It keeps the bobbins where they belong. I loved how thrilled he was to help me out by making them.


More on Keeping A Homeschool Log

I've recovered from my minor panic and have reconstructed enough that things don't feel quite so bad. The reading log is up to date and I've been keeping better track of things - for this week anyway.

Found this post from Jennifer of As Cozy as Spring with a link to Elizabeth who is using a blog format for recording a list of daily learning activities. Although, I don't think it is necessary to go into that much detail to satisfy PA homeschool law, I do think it has benefits for other reasons, as Jennifer puts it:
"....I realized how little I am keeping track of what we are doing. This leads to a lot of guilt because I consistently underestimate how much we have progressed."
She also mentions that it is an easy way to share with her husband what has happened during the day. For me it is not so much guilt that comes but confidence that wanes. When I have a few words written down it boosts my confidence; I recall all the wonderful things that they have learned and it keeps me motivated. It is really when kept up to date a good memory tool.


Carnival of Homeschooling

The Carnival is up at Homeschool Buzz. A great diversity of posts this time, your sure to find something relevant to you!


Sunday, January 07, 2007

Ain't No Potato....

...like a Farm Show potato! Yep, yesterday we went to the PA Farm Show, largest indoor ag fair in the country, 91st year or something close to that. We got the usual baked potatoes and milkshakes, we saw ducks, chickens, goats, alpacas, horses, steer, and cows. We learned about amphibians and reptiles, alternative energy, whittling, the plight of the American Chestnut, and the importance of buying local. We saw the 800 pound butter sculpture, bought maple syrup and apple cider, hot mustard and maple sugar candies. I picked up some fiber - direct from the lady farmers themselves. We met some friends and explored the main exhibit hall. And, we saw the rodeo! The farm show is going on through January 14th - so git on out to Harrisburg! Yeeeeeee HAW!

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Friday, January 05, 2007


I live in PA, I'm supposed to be keeping a contemporaneous log of what resources I'm using and what the kids (8 and over) are doing. Umm, I've blown it. I've waited too long and now it is hard to remember what we did since Nov 15th! I looked through my blog and got a couple of key dates down, but I wanted to share too many of those Ted Talks and so it isn't such a good record of what we've done. And, to top it off, I realized that I never recorded the details of the school days for Julius. I marked that it was a "school day" but I never wrote in what he was working on. I've gotten the book lists up to date so I know a lot of reading was occurring, and math was pretty regular, plus I know that the end of November and beginning of December was working on crafts involving math and art and writing. Erin isn't so bad, I kept a good record of what she did each day, at least the subject area that it pertained to.

So, if anyone out there remembers anything that I've talked about my kids doing in November or December that has educational significance, please let me know.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Little plants

It all started a few years ago at Brandywine Battlefield. There was a woman talking about medicines from plants and how they were used in the 18th century. There has been talk on and off about the topic and finding out more. There was the planting of an herb garden and a perking up of the ears when someone mentioned the use of a plant in healing. The interest broadened to include other plants. Fungi, mosses and liverworts were of latest interest and were studied in the most depth of any so far. This is due, I believe to a slight change in how Erin processes information as she's developed a greater capacity and desire for details. Topping off her Christmas list was an encyclopedia about the medical uses of plants - that's what I mean by greater capacity and interest in details!

Grandmom came through this past weekend with the book. We've been treated to the explanations of the various ways of controlling acne and how aloe is good for healing burns and cuts. As I noticed her getting throughly engrossed by the book, I encouraged her, but also set up a parameter, "No herbal medical treatments unless approved by Mom!" (Some of the warnings in the book were very serious.) She's gotten little jars to store aloe pieces and a lemon juice face wash. We may order some lavender buds to make lavender pillows to aid in sleep and mood.

In the meantime, she also got a new terrarium from a family friend which she has filled with some pieces of moss, a rock or two and a shell. She loves the little gardening bag with small tools that came with the terrarium and is diligently misting her plants daily.

There is no way I could have planned this. Medicinal herbs isn't a topic that is normally covered in school. Even the fungi, mosses and liverworts would have been a footnote in a middle school botany text. This is the essence of how learning happens in our house. Interests sprout up through experiences and interactions with people and I feed and water them the best I am able. In the areas of history and science especially it is easy to get caught up in making sure content is "covered" but I've found that these are the areas easiest to let interest govern and foster and nurture delight in learning and exploring. You never know what they might end up discovering. (Video of a Ted Talk by Eva Vertes, as a 19 year old researching cancer.)

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