Saturday, December 24, 2011

Last Weekly Update of the Year!

We haven’t done much traditional school work in the past few weeks.  Lots of games, lots of reading and LOTS of Christmas crafts.  Georgie’s reading is improving at a very rapid rate and he’s now reading Level 2 readers quickly and easily.  I may have to make reading to his sister an official part of our school day.


Our last two Christmas crafts were making paper strip candy canes and salt dough ornaments.  I found about 4 completely different salt dough recipes online and used the one that used the least amount of salt since the only large container of salt we had was sea salt.   Despite over 30 minutes of baking, the ornaments never became completely hard but I still let the kids paint them and we’re going to attach a few of them to the presents going to the grandparents.



We had the last day of homeschool bowling for the Fall session this week and the kids received their participation trophies.

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We finished up the week with a trip to the movie theater to see Chipwrecked.  This was the first time these guys have been in an actual movie theater in over 2 years, when we saw Up in theaters.   That was such a traumatic experience that we blocked out all the details and only retained a strong feeling of dread at the thought of bringing these two into a movie theater again.  But, they are more than two years older now and it was a school day so the theater was likely to be empty or full of younger children, so I decided to take a chance.  They did pretty good.  At least I don’t think they disturbed anyone but me.  Georgie kept turning around to wave to the pretty girl in the row behind us and danced around at the end of the movie but all in all it was pretty good.   By the time they have the free movies next Summer, I may even be willing to do it again.

at movies to see chipmunks

Sunday, December 18, 2011

More Christmas Crafts

We have been doing lots and lots of Christmas Crafts.

We decorated foam stars and ornaments with glitter glue and stickers…..

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crayon resist Christmas trees (which didn’t work well because the kids didn’t do enough crayon and I evidently watered down the watercolors too much).


Ornaments using sticky boards and tissue paper squares.  This one is Georgie’s.  Each piece of tissue paper carefully placed.


These two are Vicki’s.  The one on the right was Georgie’s until Vicki threw a handful of tissue paper at it and he had to start over.


A wreath from a paper plate, bowtie pasta and pompoms.  The symmetry tells you this is some of Georgie’s work.


popsicle Christmas trees….

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There’s more to come.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Painting with Shaving Cream

We’ve been doing lots of Christmas crafts in the past couple of weeks and we’ve done two different ones that involve shaving cream.

We started out with a technique that is supposed to give a marbling effect.  I cut out various shapes from cardstock – stockings, trees, ornaments and stars.  I put a small amount of foam shaving cream in a bowl and (my first mistake) let the kids take turn picking colors.  It would have been easier, and much less messy, if I either made them agree on one set of colors to use for all the shapes or given them each their own bowl of shaving cream to chose one set of colors for all their own shapes.  Instead I “cleaned” the shaving cream between each set of shapes so they could all be different colors.

We added of few drops of paint in two or three colors to the shaving cream and the kids lightly swirled it around using children’s butter knives.


We then placed the cardstock shapes on the shaving cream/paint and lightly pressed down.   The cardstock was removed and the excess shaving cream removed using a ruler.

Vicki decided right away she preferred using the knife to just transfer plops of paint and shaving cream onto her cardstock shapes.  At which point, I did end up getting a second bowl of cream for Georgie to use.


I evidently didn’t scrape off enough of the shaving cream (the paint appeared to be coming off as well when I scraped too close to the cardstock) and we ended up with a slightly puffy look to our shapes.  Which was great except that any touch either flattened it right out or caused it to flake off.


The kids enjoyed this enough that they kept asking to do more.  I found it messy and the results somewhat disappointing.   I think marble painting (where a cardstock shape is put into a container, paint covered marbles are added and rolled over the cardstock) produces a nicer effect and is a LOT less messy.

Our second project was using a mixture of shaving cream and Elmer’s glue to make puffy paints.   I drew the outline of a snowman on dark colored cardstock with chalk and allowed the kids to paint it using this mixture.


The kids then used pompoms, paper circles and googly eyes to decorate their snowmen.  Georgie also did some embellishment using chalk.IMG_7340


I don’t know if I messed up the “recipe” even though it wasn’t very complicated (equal parts shaving cream and glue) but our snowmen weren’t as puffy as our other shaving cream paintings.

I’ll be posting about all our other Christmas crafts in the next week.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Lego Art at the Museum

Our local museum is having a special exhibit of works by artist Nathan Sawaya – The Art of the Brick.  The exhibit features large sculptures made out of Lego bricks.  The kids had a great time viewing the sculptures (they were amazing!) and then heading down to activity stations where we could make our own Lego creations.




Vicki made one little display and lost interest in building.  Instead she played with some of the other toys that were in the classroom.


She tried to interest Georgie in the dragon but he told her he was too busy making his art.


Georgie and I made some houses for a Facebook picture contest the museum is sponsoring.



The museum is having a big Toy Festival the week after Christmas that I’m hoping to take the kids to.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Wrapping up Prehistory/Dinosaurs

We finished up Prehistory with some fun dinosaur activities.   The kids and I have really enjoyed doing our prehistory unit.  We didn’t get to all the activities I had planned, and it took WAY longer than I intended it to but we all learned a lot and had lots of fun.

Our wrap-up started with us playing a game where we matched up some of our small plastic dinosaurs with flash cards (from Target Dollar Spot).  Vicki was upset because the pteranodon (her favorite) didn’t have a mommy.  For most of the dinosaurs I had two of each kind in the size we were using but pteranodon I only had one.   So, I had to pull out one of our larger dinosaurs so that they could play together.


Georgie really stretched his reading skills telling the information on the back of the flash cards to Vicki and I.  We were able to match up all of our dinosaurs and after we were done the kids played with them for a while.




The kids painted some wooden dinosaurs models I picked up from the craft store.  We didn’t use the paints that came with them since they were just boring old green, brown and red and Vicki had to have pink and purple, while Georgie needed yellow and orange. 

Vicki painted her dinosaur, her shirt and the table.



We also did an excavation kit where you dig a dinosaur skeleton out of a block of plaster.  The kids enjoyed doing this but it was a lot of work, very messy and they needed a lot of help.  I pulled out some extra tools – toothpicks, brushes, a small screwdriver and a screw – since I didn’t really want them using the chisel that came with the kit.  It had a fairly sharp blade on it which just seemed to be asking for trouble.  Georgie was very excited whenever bones were uncovered and had the most fun doing the delicate work of getting the plaster out of the cracks.  Vicki mostly used the hammer and a screw to chip away at the main block.





After all the bones were excavated, they snapped together into a full skeleton.  There were no directions for this part but we were finally able to get him all together with just two broken bones (one toe and one arm).


We finished up by pulling out our Charlie’s Playhouse timeline and reviewing all the creatures we had studied.  Georgie wanted to color a picture of his favorite, Cooperaceras, but since mommy has no drawing ability at all and there seems to be a shortage of coloring pages for Permian Period critters, he had to settle for a nautilus instead.


I still haven’t decided what we’ll be doing now as far as History/Geography/Science are concerned.  For the next few weeks we’ll just concentrate on getting through the holidays but after that I have to decide between: 1) return to our world geography/cultures and habitats study (possibly with a quick review of what we’ve already covered), 2) do unit studies using Magic Tree House and Magic School Bus chapter books,  3) do US History and States Geography along with unrelated science topics.  I have everything I would need to do any of these plans, I just have to pick one.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Liberty Science Center

The kids and I had a great time at the Liberty Science Center today.  I haven’t been there in years since I thought the little guys were still too young.  While that was true for some things, they were able to enjoy the vast majority of the exhibits.  Both kids had their own cameras and really enjoyed taking pictures themselves.  (I don’t think Vicki’s camera actually worked but having it along kept them from fighting over Georgie’s.)

We started at the top in the Our Hudson Home gallery, which had exhibits pertaining to the Hudson River ecosystem and the way people interact with it.

There was a virtual crane operator game where they could try unloading containers off a ship….


a scoop to try dredging the sand on the bottom of the “river”…


and tanks with a variety of species that are found in the river.  Vicki really liked the turtles….


while Georgie liked the Striped Bass (maybe because I told him that’s what Daddy catches).


I was a little surprised that Vicki recognized the sea urchins.


Our next stop was the Math Midway which was a temporary special exhibit.  Vicki played around with a light and mirrors to show reflective properties….


and they both enjoyed changing the height of supports on a roller coaster to see how fast the car would travel and which set-ups gave the best ride.


Vicki did some geometry puzzles….


and Georgie did a drawing using a harmonograph, a pendulum based drawing tool.


In the Wonder Why gallery they explored the properties of fluids….


and some optical illusions….


did some stop motion animation using blocks…


and had fun being able to see sound waves.


We learned about different forms of energy at the Energy Quest exhibit.    There was a game to learn where the best place was to find oil.  Little model oil rigs were moved to different locations to see if oil would be found.


They were able to make models of different carbon based molecules….


and see how waves can produce energy.


The Eat and Be Eaten exhibit had a variety of animals and showed how they caught their prey or avoided becoming prey.  Vicki really liked the Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches.


In another gallery, George had a great time playing a video game where you could choose to be a microbe or a T-cell – trying to cause an infection or stop one.  He loves all things computer and video game so he played this for quite a while.


Vicki made a virtual microbe by choosing various options for cell shape and type.IMG_7184

Also in the Infection Connection was a giant model of a nose that would sneeze periodically but the kids both avoided that one.

At the Communication exhibit, they learned about how the brain processes information and Georgie made some digital graffiti. 


Both kids had a great time being silly making digital recordings that they could play back and vary the sound quality.

There was a special exhibit on water where the kids could change around the pipes leading to different fixtures found in a home to see what would be most efficient.  Of course, Georgie needed to take a rest sitting on the toilet.


The exhibit had an interactive station where you could choose to see how many gallons of water are used doing various common household things.  It’s time to fix our dishwasher since hand washing takes WAY more water than using a dishwasher.

The Science Center has a special gallery just for kids from 2 to 5 years old.  Georgie is 6 but Vicki is 4 so we were able to hang out there for a while.  This room had a lot of really fun things to do.

The main feature of the room was a huge contraption where the kids could turn a wheel to use a pulley system to send balls on a ride up to the top where they would twist through a maze of tracks before returning back to the bottom.

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Another wheel activated an air cannon that would shoot the balls up to a target at the top of the structure.


There was a rock wall that Vicki enjoyed “painting” with water….


and tracks where you could build cars and race them down but where Georgie decided he wanted to see how fast the balls from the maze would go.


Vicki played xylophone on some large stones….


and built model bridges with some blocks….


while Georgie spent a lot of his time hanging out in a climbing structure….


or playing on a responsive floor.  This floor reacted to pressure and had a bunch of games for the kids to play like Frogger and Asteroids or just moving piles of balls or swirl colors around.  Georgie liked pushing pool balls into the pockets.


There was also a giant rice bin with scoops and measuring cups where Vicki played for a while.IMG_7227 

The last exhibit we saw was all about Skyscrapers.   There was a shake table where they could build a building then see if the design was strong enough to survive an earthquake. 

Georgie operated a crane to try and move metal plates around and insisted I take his picture standing in a steel girder that was bent in half.



This section also had an exhibit where kids could walk on a steel girder 18 feet above the floor.  In this case, I was glad the kids were too young to fully participate.  They had to be 48 inches tall and Georgie is only 45.5 inches tall (thankfully).

Here are just a few of the many, many pictures Georgie took with his camera at the Science Center. 

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The Science Center was a lot of fun and we had a great time.   They do homeschool weeks a few times a year but from what I hear they get pretty crowded.  I was surprised that there were actually a few school groups there today but it still wasn’t bad at all.   The kids were able to take their time and really enjoy the various exhibits.

On our way out we drove into Liberty State Park to get a closer look at the Statue of Liberty.  Georgie saw it from the car on the ride in and really wanted to get a closer look.  It was a cold rainy day so we didn’t get any closer than we could in the car but next Spring I’ll have to take the kids on the ferry to Ellis Island and the Statue.  I’ve lived my whole life in New Jersey and I’ve never been to either.