Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Human Body: The Cell

We had a great time starting our human body study with learning about cells.

The first thing I did was set-up our book basket with our general human body books, and our science encyclopedias with the human body sections marked.   The full list of books can be seen here.


We started by watching The Magic School Bus Goes Cellular.  We have the boxed set of all the Magic School Bus episodes on DVD, which I’m looking forward to using for many of our science studies.

We had a great discussion about cells and read the sections in our Science Encyclopedia and in What Your 2nd Grader Needs to Know on cells.

After getting some background on cells, we started with our demonstrations.   We are using REAL Science Odyssey – Life (among other things).    Our first lab was examining “one cell that is big enough to see without expensive equipment” – an egg.

First they examined the outside of the eggs, then we cracked them open to note the cell parts (the yolk and the blastodisc).


Despite thinking the egg was “yucky” both kids kept poking it, and Georgie even touched it with his tongue.  He then came up with an elaborate plan to make a drink out of the egg for me to taste.  If it was yummy, we could then start selling egg drinks.   I hated to burst his entrepreneurial bubble, but I informed him that some people did eat raw egg drinks but that I would not be taste testing them.


My original plan was to use these eggs to make my lunch but after the little fingers did their exploring, I changed my mind and had peanut butter instead.

Our next demonstration, involved building models of plant and animal cells.  RSO gives directions using gelatin, grapes, and other fruit to mark the main parts of the cell.   Since we didn’t have any gelatin, I decided to make ours using craft materials.  I used the diagrams, and glossery of terms from Enchanted Learning (plant and animal). 

First we did our animal cell models.  We started with half of a styrofoam ball.  The kids colored the outside blue to represent the cell membrane, and colored the cut top yellow to represent the cytosplasm.   A ping pong ball with a hole cut in the side represents the nucleus with a nucleolus of clay sitting inside.  

Centrosomes, lysosomes, and vacuoles were represented by varying colors and sizes of pom-poms.  Golgi bodies, mitochondria, and endoplasmic reticulum were made from play-doh.  Rough ER was dipped in small white sprinkles.


If I were to do this again, I would use something smaller for the nucleus, and use paint instead of markers to color the styrofoam ball.  I didn’t want to have to wait for paint to dry, but the marker didn’t show up very well.

Both kids made animal cell models and, to show that plant cells have many of the same parts, we used the parts from one of them to build our plant cell.   This helped make it very clear which parts were only found in the plant cell.

We used a plastic container and the first thing we did was line the inside with play-doh to represent the cell wall.   We then lined it with plastic wrap to represent the cell membrane.   We discussed how cytoplasm would fill up the entire cell but didn’t have anything to represent it on our plant cell.  After moving the pieces from the animal to plant cell (and discussing each part again using the Enchanted Learning glossary), we added the two parts only found in plant cells – chloroplasts represented by green play-doh, and amyloplast represented by little round candies.


Next we discussed some of the different kinds of cells found in the human body and Georgie colored in a page from Scholastic Human Body Projects describing nerve, bone, red blood, skin, intestinal and skeletal muscle cells.


Finally, Georgie went on the computer to Cells Alive to explore plant and animal cells in more detail.
The rest of our Human Body Lesson Plans can be found here.  Next we will be exploring the Skeletal System.

This post is being shared through Share It Saturday.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Human Body Lesson Plans Available

Georgie has messed up all my science plans by requesting to learn about the Human Body.  I just finished putting together a plan and posted it to it's own page, link on the left sidebar.   We will begin this week with Cells.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Weekly Wrap-up

First the fun stuff….

We began the week with a trip to our local mall to prepare for a 4-H Cloverbud scavenger hunt.  This was part of our Photography unit (the meeting part of which can be seen here).  I went over to the mall on Monday to take pictures which were turned into a check-list of things for the kids to look for.   When found, they took turns taking pictures of the group with the item.  

mall scavenger hunt

The actual scavenger hunt was a lot of fun (and fairly chaotic).  The kids were even given stickers from the girl working Build a Bear.

We started our United States History study this week by setting up our timeline and learning about the first people to come to the Americas.  More on that can be seen here


Coming up…I will be completely scrapping my science plans in favor of interest led.  George has asked to learn about the Human Body (which we did a couple years ago but they don’t remember) so that’s what we are going to do.  He so rarely asks to learn something specific that I feel I should take advantage of it.

Next in US History will be Native Americans. 

I am postponing our Geography study for a month or so.  Since we are going to start with our home state, New Jersey, I want to take advantage of the many field trip opportunities we will have.  Trips to Thomas Edison’s lab, to the shore, to High Point, etc.  Unfortunately right now it is WAY too cold to be running around outside.  These trips will be much more enjoyable in March or April.

On to our core subjects…



For handwriting, Vicki is continuing along with HWT K and practicing writing her name.  She can form the letters well but has trouble aligning them with the lined paper correctly.

For phonics, she is up to Lesson 39 in OPGTR.  We are almost done with the CVC words and will move right into blends.  She does well but is still sounding out most words one sound at a time.    I’m sure speed will come with practice.

She completed 10 pages in ETC this week.  I realized that I was expecting her to do a lot more writing that I had with Georgie at the same age so I let her use some pre-inked stampers to mark her answers. 

I updated our character UNO cards from Kelly’s Kindergarten with high frequency words and she loves playing so it’s great practice for reading.


George read the last 4 Magic Tree House Merlin missions this week.  I borrowed a few other books from the library for him to try.  How to Train Your Dragon ended up being too hard for him but he likes the Bailey School Kids, although I think they are too easy.

He’s been on a notebook kick this week.  He’s been carrying around a notepad and pencil wherever he goes, just to write down random things.   He went through a few of the Magic Tree House Fact Trackers that we have and wrote down a random fact from each of them.

I think this is just one indication about how much better he is getting with handwriting.  We are still working through the HWT 2nd grade book and he is showing a lot of improvement.

We are progressing quickly through AAS2.   He spelled all the words for Steps 16, 17 and 18 this week.

Our Spectrum workbooks for Language Arts (Grammar) and Writing are still going well.  I think once we finish these up we will be switching to Brave Writer.  I want something that combines grammar and writing so they work together, as well as something we can use long-term.  I already have The Writer’s Jungle and am reading through it, and will probably get a subscription to The Wand. 



Vicki is doing both Evan Moor Skill Sharpeners Math K and MM 1A, and doing well with both.  MM just introduced the concepts of greater than and less than.

We’ve been drilling simple addition using numbered dice, playing cards and a few of the old file folder games I had from George’s kindergarten year.   I think I didn’t emphasize memorizing and quick recall of the facts with George enough.

I hope to start Time with her soon.


George’s math is more complicated.   He is starting multiplication but still needs to work on speed with his addition and subtraction facts.   He understands concepts so quickly that I made the mistake of not pushing memorization, when both are necessary.

To drill addition and subtraction he is doing math riddles involving carrying and borrowing from Scholastic Addition and Subtraction Riddles, playing Xtra Math on the computer, and playing games using numbered dice and playing cards.

Multiplication is being covered in his regular Math Mammoth, in Beast Academy where he’s working on the skip counting chapter, and through a few games I set up for him.   This week he used a Gum Ball Bingo board from one of our Scholastic books, and cardstock gumballs with x2 equations on them.  He matched up the equations with the correct answer.  I have similar boards and discs made up for x5, x3 and x4.


Other topics he’s covering from MM are fractions, time and order of operations.

He is also continuing to do the puzzles from Algebra Readiness Made Easy 3rd Grade.   He completes these in about 30 seconds without having to work through the hints.  I may take a look at the 4th grade book when they have another Dollar Days.  The regular price of the book is $18.99 so I really hope they offer it for $1.

Math is one of the things that George usually likes me to sit with him to do, and do a lot of the writing for him.  But, this week he did a bunch of it on his own.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

US History – Arrival of the First People

We finally were able to start our US History Study.

I started by helping the kids understand the concept of history and how things can change over time.  Georgie is pretty good with this concept since he often mentions how there weren’t computers when mom and dad were young.  

We’ve had a timeline up over our fireplace for a few months and we added some family dates to it.  Starting with the most recent, we worked our way backwards from Vicki’s birth in 2007, all the way to Pop-pop Nelson’s birth in 1933.


Next we read the book Then and Now, and discussed the different ways things have changed.  When we started reading the book, George noticed the chimney sweep and observed “It’s like Charles Dickens time!”.  He learned about Charles Dickens from reading one of his Magic Tree House books (A Ghost Tale for Christmas Time).  I’m glad to see he is retaining something from his reading and is able to apply that knowledge.


My version of the book is from 1990, so we also had fun pointing out all the things that are currently different from the Now pages.  George mainly noticed the television was much bigger (thicker) than ours are (we have all flat screens), and there were no computers.  I pointed out the big boom box radios instead of modern mp3 players.

We discussed all the different ways that we know about what is was like in recent history including stories passed down in families, writings, and photographs.  We then discussed how we knew about history farther back in time.  Since it hasn’t been that long since we did prehistory, George had a few suggestions but we still read through the “What is Archeology?” section from Story of the World.

We read from The Complete Book of United States History, “People Arrive in the Americas”, which discussed the land bridge that possibly allowed people to come across the Bering Strait during the last Ice Age.


At the end of the lesson, it suggested doing a research project on Ice Age animals.  Since I’m pretty comfortable with Georgie’s ability to do Internet research (and I didn’t want to let him near the computer until we had done everything else I wanted to accomplish), I had him use the Magic Tree House Fact Tracker – Sabertooths and the Ice Age to get information on Sabertooth tigers and Wooly Mammoths.


He looked up a few facts on each that we then wrote on index cards. 

Wooly mammoths:
-over 4,500 frozen mammoths have been discovered in Siberia
-belong to the elephant family
-were found in Siberia, Europe, and North America
-had long, shaggy hair that could get as much as 3 feet long

Sabertooth tigers:
-were big, fierce cats
-named for their large canine teeth shaped like sabers (swords)
-these teeth could get about 9 inches long
-the most common type is called Smilodon.

I pulled out our globe to show the kids where the Bering Strait is located.  Since all our maps are oriented so that Alaska and Russia are on opposite sides, the globe  made it much easier to see how close they really are.   The kids grabbed some of the toys from our Prehistoric Life toob and had the mammoth and sabertooth tiger  marching across the land bridge and fighting the cavemen for food.


I also pulled out “The First People Arrive in America” map from our Scholastic Interactive 3-D Maps: American History.  I didn’t actually put the map together to be 3D since the kids had the toob figures.  While they played with the map, I asked them some questions about our lesson from the “Teaching with the Map” section. 

We finished up by watching a short video about the arrival of the first peoples from The McGraw-Hill video library and playing the Ice Age Challenge game at the Simon Fraser University Museum of Archeology and Ethnology site.


Over the next few weeks (months?) we will continue our US History studies by learning about Native Americans.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Weekly Wrap-up

We are definitely getting into a good groove with school.   This week we found a new social outlet for Georgie, did a science unit on one of our project days, and completed all three days of core subjects. Well, except we still haven’t (re)started spanish, literature, music or art.

On Sunday, we found the perfect social opportunity for George -  Pokemon League!   Georgie has been into Pokemon for slightly over a year but only recently has become interested in learning to play the card game by the rules.   Last Sunday he went to his first league meeting.  He played about 7 rounds against slightly older kids who helped him out with the rules.   He played nice, didn’t whine when he lost, and had a great time.


For Science this week, we explored Magnets.  More on that can be seen here.


I’ve been trying to find some more books for Georgie to read.  He only has 4 more Magic Tree House Merlin Missions until he’s finished all the currently published ones.  They are currently on order at my local library so by the end of next week, he should be done.   Although, there is a chance that Georgie may not have read all the earlier Magic Tree House books we have (he’s being very vague on that point).    So far I have gotten him to try Bailey School Kids and Wayside School.   He’s not sure if he likes either but he was willing to give them a try.  Since he reads for an hour every night, I really need to find something for him.

For our second project day, we played a few of our board games.   One of my favorites is Very Silly Sentences.   This game is easy for both kids to play without either of them being bored or needing too much assistance, and both of them learning.  Georgie can get reinforcement on parts of speech, while Vicki practices some reading.   Unfortunately the flimsy cardboard die that comes with the game has been very abused, resulting in it landing on preposition every second or third roll.  I decided to take one of the 12 sided die from our Math Dice set and color 6 sides to match our Silly Sentences die.

IMG_1714 IMG_1715




Vicki did three pages from Handwriting without Tears (pg 15, 16, 17) and practiced writing her name this week.  When she takes it seriously and really tries, she’s getting pretty good at her name.  Unfortunately, that isn’t too common.

She is still working through Explode the Code 1.   We were up to pg 44, but I realized this week that we had accidentally skipped a few pages.  So this week she did pages 21 through 24 and 44 to 47.   I let her do however many pages she wants in ETC, whether that is none or 10.

We are up to Lesson 36 in Ordinary Parents Guide to Reading.  She’s doing very well and can usually read all the words with little prompting.   I set up her sentence pad this week for her to review at random times.  Each week it will be changed to reflect the words that were learned the previous week.


We added more words to her word book and read through all the words that were already there.


We played the Character Uno that I downloaded from Kelly’s Kindergarten.    The original cards are “Sight Words Uno” but the thing I love is that these are in a Word file and the words can be changed.  I updated the file with the words Vicki has learned up until now.


All About Spelling – Georgie worked though Step 13, 14 and 15.   When doing Step 14 he said his mouth was too tired and he decided he wanted to write the words down.   He’s getting much better with the quantity of writing he’s willing to do.

He did pages 34, 35 and 36 in Handwriting without Tears

He did pages 46-51 in Spectrum Language Arts which covered quotation marks, colons in time, and abbreviations.

In Spectrum Writing we covered choosing a main topic.

He read Frogs are not Toads from Evan Moor Read and Understand with Leveled Texts, 4th grade.  He’s getting better at these reading comprehension assignments.  I love that they introduce a lot of new vocabulary and cover things such as homonyms, synonyms and alphabetizing.  He does still complain if the selection is more than 2 pages long.



Vicki is continuing to do well with Math Mammoth 1A.   She does one page a day and this week we did pages 23-25.  I’m considering starting her with time and see how she does.

She is also doing one page from Evan Moor Skill Sharpeners Math – Kindergarten.  These are pretty easy for her but they cover different topics like graphing and subtraction, while MM is currently all addition.

She practiced addition in a variety of ways this week.  
-using a Bubble Gum Bingo board from our Scholastic 15 Fun and Easy Games for Young Learners: Reading.  It is a blank board that can be used for letters or numbers.  I filled in the 11 gum balls with numbers between 2 and 12.  Vicki rolled two numbered dice and colored in the gum ball with the resulting sum.  This was a big hit and she even said “I love this game!”.
-using playing cards, we each flipped over a card and she added the numbers together or we worked on one set of facts by flipping over cards and adding each one to the same number.

We played around with her 100’s chart.  I would point to a number and ask her what it was, then I asked what is “one more than 34?” or “ten more than 67?”  She did very well and enjoyed it quite a bit.


George is continuing along in Math Mammoth 3A and 3B doing a variety of topics.  This week he did 3A – pages 149 (money), pg 66-68 (order of operations), pg 131 (time) and 3B – pg 23 (borrowing), pg 155-156 (fractions).

We are continuing to slowly work through Beast Academy 3A.  We started the chapter on skip counting this week (after skipping most of polynomials).

George is continuing to enjoy his puzzles from Algebra Readiness Made Easy Grade 3 and I started giving him pages from Addition and Subtraction Riddles again to give him further practice with borrowing and carrying (since this seems to be something he forgets quickly when it’s not reviewed).

George has been doing practice drills on paper and using Xtra Math on the computer.  While these drills should be fairly quick, he played games to make them more interesting.  This weeks page had three columns.  He started at the bottom of each column and pretended it was a challenge.  The first column was climbing to the top of the mountain, the second was a worm trying to get up a hill and the third was a raccoon climbing up a tree.

Next week we will have a 4-H field trip, work on some US History, and hopefully get started with spanish, art, music, and literature.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


We did a quick science unit this week on magnets.  We used pieces from the Evan Moor Giant Science Resource Book, Evan Moor Science Experiments for Young Learners, and this magnet kit from Lakeshore Learning.


We started by discussing how magnets have poles, and that like poles repel while opposite poles attract.  We took two bar magnets (actually from our rock and mineral test kit), tried to push them together, and felt the resistance when we tried to touch the same poles.


Next we tested a variety of objects to see if they were magnetic.  We had paper clips, binder rings, a key, crayon, pencil, pompom, button, chalk, bobby pin, and nail.


We then added a few more metal objects – coins, tacks, and a piece of aluminum foil – and discovered that not all metal objects are magnetic.

Next we tested the strength of our various magnets.   Using an experiment sheet from the Lakeshore kit, we placed a magnet at one end of a ruler, then slowly pushed a binder ring closer and closer until it was drawn to the magnet.  We found our large bar magnet was the strongest and our ring magnet was the weakest, at least when it was laid down on one side.  When stood upright so one of the poles faced the ring, it was much stronger.  This led into a discussion about how the poles of a magnet were the strongest part.


We discussed how the earth is a giant magnet and that a compass worked by being attracted to the North Pole.

We put a magnet close to the compass and watched how the needle swung around.

We tested our magnets to see if they could make things move through various materials, such as paper, cloth, a wood popsicle stick and a glass.


We finished up with reading two books about magnets, the guidebook that came with our Lakeshore Learning kit and the Let’s Read and Find Out What Makes a Magnet?


Both books had good information in them.  What Makes a Magnet? is more of an experiment book than informational.  If you are not prepared to pull out a bunch of stuff and do the experiments, it’s probably not a good first choice to read.  We skimmed through a lot of it since we had just completed the experiments.

The Magnets book from our kit was more descriptive but was a little dated.  My kids didn’t know what the picture of a video tape was. 


Friday, January 11, 2013

Weekly Wrap-up

Our FIRST Weekly Wrap-up of 2013!  We had a fun, busy, productive first week back.   

I believe part of our productivity was due to some changes I made to our set-up.   Rearranging seems like a constant, ongoing process here, but I think I may have finally found an arrangement that will work long-term.  One of my goals with this new set-up was to have dedicated spaces for the kids to do school.  Spaces that were not used for anything else, so they wouldn’t need to be cleaned off or moved in order to do school.

First, we moved back into the living room.  The living room offers us more options for hanging posters, maps and timelines, and more shelves to store supplies, manipulatives and games.   I used two height-adjustable folding tables we already had (and had used in the past by setting them up each day), and set them up on either side of the fireplace.   I then replaced their folding office boards with bulletin boards that hang over the tables.  This will make swapping out information easier.

Vicki has her name, typed on HWT-style lines, the HWT alphabet and number guide, a hundred chart with the even numbers highlighted, and a guide to show the difference between b and d.   I also plan to post any words she is working on each week.  (the 4 small objects hanging at the top of her board are Shrinky-Dinks).


Georgie has his full name on HWT-style lines, the HWT letter and number guide, a place value chart, a multiplication chart, a hundreds chart, the days of the week and months of the year, and some grammar hints.   Our flip-over date cards also sit at the top of his board.


I also changed the format of our week.  I felt like we had too many weeks where we didn’t get to our fun subjects – science, history/geography, art, music, literature.  So, I decided to do a bit of a block schedule.  On Monday, Wednesday and Friday we will do all our Math and Language Arts subjects, as well as Spanish (all three days), Literature (Monday), Art (Wednesday) and Music (Friday).  On Tuesdays and Thursdays we will do Science or History/Geography or have a game day or have a project day or have a field trip day.  Since our 4-H meetings are on Tuesdays, this will make planning easier and hopefully things will be postponed less often.

I already found an extra benefit to this plan – when Georgie took too long finishing up his work on Monday this wee, he was able to finish it first thing in the morning on Tuesday.  This kept my plan from getting to off track and may actually allow me to plan farther ahead.

Of course, this was our first week back, and we had 4-H and a playdate this week, so we didn’t actually get to any of the fun subjects.  But, we did get to every bit of the math and language arts I had planned, so it was all good.

So, what did we actually do this week?  First the fun stuff….

We had a 4-H Cloverbud meeting where we had some Photography fun, including a dress-up photo shoot.  More can be seen about that here.



Also for fun this week, I introduced the kids to Shrinky Dinks!  Both of them received different kits for Christmas – Vicki’s was a forest jewelry set and Georgie’s was a monster set.    Vicki loved watching them curl up and shrink in the toaster oven.


As for our regular school work….



Vicki no longer has her word wall so I made her a word book.  Each page has a grid with a box for each letter.  When we add new words Vicki will add a post-it note to the correct box.  Each day she will read through the words already there as review.


HWT – pg 12, 13 and 14; wet/dry/try name on blackboard


ETC – pg 37 through 43, which brings us to short /u/ words.

OPGTR – Lesson 36

We are still using the Hubbard’s Cupboard emergent readers, and I downloaded the I See Sam readers onto my tablet to get a little more variety in our practice reading.



Georgie is doing very well with reading.  Mostly Magic Tree House books read at bedtime.  He has currently read through book 42 or 43, at a pace on one every night.    Since he is reading them fairly quickly, and I haven’t had a chance to make a trip up to my favorite used book store in Connecticut, I’ve started checking them out of the library for him.  We picked up the latest batch Tuesday when we were there for our 4-H meeting.   And while I was setting up the room and we were waiting for everyone else to arrive, Georgie sat down and immediately started reading.

Georgie….sitting still….and reading….voluntarily….in the middle of the day.  A real milestone for him.


AAS – we are up to Step 12.  He has been able to spell all the words so far on the first try.  Since he is evidently a pretty natural speller, after we finish AAS2, we may switch to Evan Moor Building Spelling Skills since I already have the Teacher’s File Box and I can try out lists with him until we hit words he doesn’t already know.  (after a post on TWTM forums, I discovered he was able to spell squalid).

HWT – pg 31-33.  He’s getting slightly better at writing neatly, and on the lines properly. 

Spectrum – We are continuing along in our Language Arts (Grammar) and Writing workbooks.  Once we finish these I think we are going to switch to the Scott Foresman Grammar and Writing Handbook.   I like how it has both Grammar and Writing in one book and they work together.

Reading Comprehension – we are continuing to use Evan Moor Read and Understand with Leveled Texts.  He is doing much better with the Grade 4 texts than he was before the holiday break.



Vicki is doing one page from Evan Moor Skill Sharpeners Math Kindergarten and one page from Math Mammoth 1A each day.   We’ve also been doing addition drills using numbered dice and playing cards.


George is doing 2 or 3 pages from various chapters in Math Mammoth 3A or 3B each day, along with 1 page from Beast Academy 3A.   We also do some drill to help him build speed with his addition facts, using flash cards, dice or playing cards.

He still LOVES his Algebra Readiness Made Easy puzzles and I plan to bring back his Addition and Subtraction Riddles (both from Scholastic) so he can continue practicing carrying and borrowing as we move further into multiplication.


Next week I’m hoping to add in our extra subjects, along with more games.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

4-H Cloverbuds – Photography

We had some photography fun at Cloverbuds this week.  
We started out talking about cameras, how they work, and learning some hints for taking good pictures – not moving the camera until the picture is captured, not putting a finger or anything else in front of the lens, etc.  

I have an old 35mm camera that I showed the kids and told them all about how way back when we couldn’t see our pictures as soon as we took them, we’d have to use up a whole roll of film, and send it to be developed.  Sometimes we had to wait days or even a week to get our photos.   The kids decided they definitely preferred digital cameras.

The kids then had a great time with a costume photo shoot.  I bought a bunch of our dress-up stuff and my old camera – a Canon Power Shoot with titanium case.  Sturdy, drop-proof and easy to use, so perfect for a bunch of 5 to 7 year olds to use.  We have a pretty decent selection of dress-up stuff - Steph’s old dance costumes, some animal costumes made by Grammy Kaye, hats, gloves, mardi gras beads.  The kids had a great time dressing up, getting their pictures taken, then taking pictures of the next model in line.


IMG_0447 IMG_0448 IMG_0463b IMG_0474b IMG_0479b

After the photo shoot, they made picture frames using foam, popsicle sticks, foam stickers and markers….


and had the chance to look at their photos on the computer.


In two weeks we’ll have our photography field trip – a mall scavenger hunt.