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.


Friday, November 18, 2011

Weekly (?) Wrap-Up

This wrap-up is the first in almost a month (besides our Halloween post).  Things have been chaotic around here since the snow storm but we are slowly getting back into a routine.   Of course, the holidays coming is going to totally mess with our routine all over again but c’est la vie.


I’m going to start this wrap-up with the stuff both kids have been doing together since I think those are the more interesting activities, at least lately.

The kids have been participating in a homeschool bowling league for the past few weeks.  At first I wasn’t sure if they were enjoying it.  They both ran off in between every frame, Vicki would start complaining that she was too tired after one game and every single week (even when the other two members of our team were absent) we were the absolute last team done.  By a lot.  Like 30 minutes after everyone else.  But at this weeks bowling the kids seemed a lot more into it.

Georgie really wanted to get a strike and this week he finally did!  His previous “method” of bowling was unusual and varied.  He would toss the ball sideways and have it zigzag down the lane (or land on the divider between lanes and have to wait for a bowling alley employee to come get it off) or spin around and toss it or dance up to the line and drop it or sit on the floor and push it.   None of these methods were working real well for him (what a surprise).  He has never tried the classic between the legs shot and he isn’t quite strong enough to bowl properly with his fingers in the holes, swinging the ball with one hand.  I told him he needed to send the ball straight down the lane and harder if he wants to get a strike.  His new method, of holding the ball in both hands and throwing it straight out, worked well for him and his scores this week were an 81 and an 82 (his average is a 47).


Vicki didn’t score as well this week but she didn’t complain about being tired and had a good time.  She has actually been better than Georgie at getting the ball down the lane until now.


Even if the bowling itself isn’t a big thrill (although Georgie was very excited about his strike) the kids enjoy the time with other homeschoolers and it’s a great chance for them to socialize.

We started doing some Thanksgiving crafts this week.  I am a big fan of foam sticker craft kits.  The kids love them and the mess is usually limited to a pile of backing papers all over the floor.  Which makes them great to pull out when I want to avoid big messes and drying time.  I know these kits aren’t always popular since they are considered “cookie cutter” crafts and don’t give kids a chance to be creative.  Not really a problem with my guys.  Anyone who has read here for awhile will know how little my kids care about the “proper” way to do crafts.  

We did two different craft kits.  The first was a scarecrow.   This is what the “suggested” finished product looks like….

scarecrow craft

and here’s what my kids did, Vicki’s…..


and Georgie’s.


The leaves, glittery pumpkins, acorns and saying stickers actually didn’t come with the kits.  I have a variety of foam stickers in many, many themes and I pulled out the ones left over from last fall.

The other sticker project we did was turkeys.  Here is the “suggested” finished project…

turkey craft

Vicki’s turkey (complete with V’s for Vicki)….


and Georgie’s.


We watched a couple of Thanksgiving videos on Discovery Streaming, read The Magic School Bus at the First Thanksgiving and we’re working on The Magic Tree House Thanksgiving on a Thursday.

In an attempt to encourage more independent reading, I moved the kids’ books again.  They are now on the bottom three shelves of one of our living room bookcases, so right at kid level.  I also moved their Tag reading system, maps and games down.  This did result in much more interest in both the books and the Tag.   Although one book was already sacrificed to Vicki’s destructive tendencies.


Georgie is continuing to do well with all our subjects.  We are doing much more dedicated school time but I am hoping we can get into a better routine once the holidays are over.  He is currently working at either a first or second grade level in all subjects.


We are up to Lesson 70 in OPGTR and Book 3 in ETC but Georgie is reading above the level of both of these.  He does sometimes have to take a minute to think about whether to put the silent e at the end  of a word but this seems to happen only with spelling, not when reading. 

He’s been on a real reading kick since I moved the books down.  I have eight new circles to add to his bookworm, including a couple that he read during a wait at the doctor’s office.  I love that he will now pick up a book to read wherever we are.  He is still reading mostly Dr. Seuss level books but he did pick up a longer Stage 2 reader while we were at the doctor.  After the holidays, I want to see if I can encourage him to try some of the beginning chapter books we have.

reading at doctors office

We haven’t made much progress in AAS the past couple of weeks but we should still be moving on to Level 2 right after the new year.

Handwriting is still the hardest subject to do with him.  He plugs along with it but it’s the subject he’s most likely to “forget” how to hold a pencil or ask if he really needs to do all of it.  I’m going to start offering him some copywork to do between HWT lessons. 

He is easily doing the second grade Scholastic Reading Comprehension.  He seems to really enjoy reading the passages and answering the questions.  Once he finishes with the second grade level, I may get Writing With Ease and see if he can make the transition to a more formal dictation/narration.


We have moved onto MM 2a for clocks.  We should be doing all level 2 shortly after the new year.  The only part of this he still resists in the Shapes and Measuring.


We have mixed results the last couple of weeks.  Vicki started off very cooperative and excited about doing school.  There were a few days where she actually asked to “do more paper stuff”.   Some of the novelty seems to have worn off (or she was just in a mood) since the last couple of days she was very uncooperative.  I am not pushing her to do anything at this point and if she doesn’t want to do it, I put it all away.  The problem is that she will be uncooperative with everything, including games that are supposed to be fun but educational, then scream that she wants to do school when I put it away.  The one thing she’s always willing to do is play with her Unifix cubes or the HWT capital letter pieces.


She was playing with her tangram puzzles one day and came to the realization that two squares could replace a rectangle and two triangles could replace a square.  So, she is learning. ;-)

I’ve been looking around trying to find a good reading program for Vicki.  She is doing well with Get Ready for the Code, which is great reinforcement for letter sounds, but I would like something that begins to work on blending.  The All About Reading Level 1 Teacher’s Manual sample has recently been added to the website and may fit the bill.  AAR is from the same people, and uses some of the same principles, as AAS.  I really love AAS so I thought I’d see if Vicki seemed ready for AAR.  I looked at the Pre-level when that came available but thought it would be a lot of repetition to things we were already doing.  I printed off the first 5 lessons of AAR Level 1 to try it out in the next few weeks and see if Vicki is ready.  We did a little bit of Lesson 1 and she did okay but was hesitant with the blending.  This was also one of the days she was not in a cooperative mood so I’m going to give it a little more time before deciding.  If we do  go ahead with AAR, I will probably wait to order it until I’m ready to order AAS Level 2 for Georgie.

I’m sure things will continue to be chaotic for a few weeks a least with all the usual holiday fun (and some home repairs and renovations).  At this point I plan to keep up with math and language arts as much as possible, finish our dinosaur study and then just do fun holiday crafts and activities until after the new year.

I’m still trying to decide what plan to go with at that point.  We thought our living situation was going to change into one even less conducive to projects, I was planning to do some unit studies using Magic Tree House books.  Since that plan has changed, I could return to our geography and habitats study that was put on hold back in April or we can start our US History and states study and return to World Geography when we start Ancient History after that.  I have all the materials I need for any of those options so the decision won’t be an easy one.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Postponed Halloween

We are finally getting back to our normal routine after the disruption caused by the “freak October snowstorm” that hit the Saturday before Halloween.  

Our museum was holding their annual celebration that day so we ventured out into the snow to check it out.   The kids are old enough to be picking their costumes based on their latest interests so my days of making their costumes are over for now.  Vicki dressed as Jessie from Toy Story 2 and George was Wario, the Mario Brothers antihero.

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The museum had lots of fun craft activities to do.  The kids painted pumpkins….



made Halloween lanterns (we may have to do these more often, both kids were able to do most of the cutting once I drew lines on the paper for them)…..

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lollipop ghosts, and masks with gems, glitter, foam stickers and feathers.



The museum has a new, temporary exhibit right now of  Brain Teasers - “an exhibition of hands-on puzzles designed to challenge visitors’ problem solving skills”.  The kids (and daddy) had a lot of fun trying to solve the many puzzles.  While daddy was able to do most of them, they were pretty advanced for the kids.  They still had fun trying.



By the time we headed home from the museum, our neighborhood was completely cut off due to downed trees and wires.  We went over to Granny Kaye’s house and ended up staying six days waiting for power to return to our house. 

Thanks to the heavy, wet snow on trees that were still full of leaves (some haven’t even changed color yet) many trees fell and pulled wires down with them.  Most of the towns in our area postponed Halloween activities until Friday for safety reasons.  The kids were impatient but we did finally get to go out Trick or Treating in Granny Kaye’s neighborhood.   The best part was coming home for a tasty snack.