Thursday, March 28, 2013

4-H Cloverbuds: Quilting, Sewing and Build-A-Bear

This months theme for 4-H was quilting/sewing.   For our discussion, we looked at the seams on our clothing, discussed how people used to make their own clothes, and how every left-over scrap of fabric would be used to make quilts.  We looked at some quilt patterns, and then they used squares, rectangles and triangles of scrapbook paper to make their own quilts.

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I brought along needles and thread to let the kids try some sewing if they wanted to, but this particular day ended up not being a good one to hand them sharp objects, so anyone who finished early was able to make St. Patrick’s Day decorations.


Our field trip for this month was a trip to Build-A-Bear.   Our leader showed the kids the little needle and thread she carries around to make repairs, and the tiny pair of scissors hanging from her name badge.  She also had them look at the stitches that were used to close up the back of the bears after they are stuffed.  This was Vicki and George’s first time at Build-A-Bear (I had been there before with Steph) and they really loved it.  George is already planning his next two Bears.

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We had a special heart covered dog made for Steph to bring to school and know that she had our love and hugs with her.

Next month we are taking a trip to the Fish Hatchery and learning more about fish and fishing.

Human Body: Digestive System

Our next body system was the Digestive system.   The kids started off by watching The Magic School Bus For Lunch and then we read about it in our various encyclopedias.  

We looked at a poster we put together from Scholastic Human Body Projects that told about each stage of digestion, and also read through the notebook page from REAL Science Odyssey.


One of our encyclopedias mentioned that the small intestine is approximately 15 feet long, so I gave the kids approximately 15 feet of yarn and had them stand apart to see how long that was.  We then bunched it up to show how the intestine sits in the body.


George completed the lab worksheet from RSO, then wrote in his journal about the digestive system.  He drew a picture for each stage but only commented on the rectum/anus picture - “EWWWW”. 


We finished up by playing the Chewed Up Food race game at Scholastic.  The game involves putting the organs of the digestive system in the correct places before the time runs out.  I ended up helping them because the liver and pancreas were included and we didn’t really say much about those.

US Geography – New Jersey (part 1 of ???)

Since we are finally getting some decent weather and the field trip possibilities are looking bright, I decided to go ahead and start our study of New Jersey.  This is the first state we are covering as we learn about US Geography.  We are starting with NJ because it’s where we live and we will be spending the most time on it.

We started by finding New Jersey on our US street map and highlighting it.   We noted how NJ is found in the Northeast region, and the Mid-Atlantic sub-region.


We then moved over to our large New Jersey map where we noted some of the feature of our state.  We are surrounded on three sides by water, making us a peninsula.    The Hudson river divides the Northeastern part of the state from New York, then the rest of the eastern half is on the Atlantic Ocean.  As you round the tip you enter the Delaware Bay, which narrows into the Delaware River, which separates New Jersey from Pennsylvania.

I asked George if he remembered when we went rafting on the Delaware River and he didn’t.  When I looked up the pictures, I realized why – it was 3 years ago.  (that trip can be seen here)

We marked our house, Grammy Kaye and Pop-pop Hugh’s house, Grandpa Charlie and Grandma Kathy’s house and Granny Franny and Pop-pop Nelson’s house on the map.  Since George knows it takes 2 1/2 hours to get to Granny Franny’s that gave him an idea of how large (or not) the state is.


We read NJ Facts and Symbols and learned some basic information about our state.  After, I had George look through the book to tell me what information to add to our Fact Poster.  We will continue to add to this as we learn more.



I’m not sure how long our New Jersey study will take.  I have to take advantage of living in a state where you can drive from one end to the other in a day, so we will be doing lots of field trips as we learn about the history, the land, and the people of our state.

Friday, March 22, 2013

2 Week Wrap-up

Although this is a two week wrap-up, it’s actually only slightly more than a weeks worth of work.  We had a couple of social activities last week which kept us from getting as much done.  I kind of love that we actually have an amount of work that is typical now.  Our more structured schedule is really working well for all of us.

We learned about the Circulatory System in Science.


We continued to work on numbers in Spanish.  Vicki continued to work on the numbers one to ten, but George learned numbers up to 39.

We continued working on my cell phone number for memory work.

Both kids are continuing to work on the map sections from Evan Moor Beginning Geography.  George will finish first and I will wait for Vicki to catch up before we start Landforms, since there are more projects I want to do in that section.

Art this week was more appreciation than application, although the theme was still lines.  We looked at and discussed the paintings The Purple Robe by Matisse and People and Dog with Sun by Miro.  We discussed the various lines used in each painting.

Purple Robe Art Print

Vicki also discovered our color paddles which I had stuck in the drawer with our art books, and spent some time playing around with different color combinations.   She called combinations like orange and purple “mud".


Our read-aloud for this week was James and the Giant Peach.   The copy we have of this book was originally Stephanie’s, yet I don’t think I’ve ever read it before.  George is enjoying the read-alouds way more than I expected him too.  He would cheer when I would get the book to start reading, and groan and ask for more when I wanted to stop.  Although, unlike when we did Dr. Doolittle, he never asked to read more on his own.  (I’m glad since I really wanted to see how the story ended).  I tried to do the song parts as more of a spoken poetry, but George told me I had to do them “more song-ey”.  I’m not sure what our read-aloud will be for next week.

We spent a little bit of time outside this week looking for signs of Spring.  Vicki did help me replant some crocuses that keep coming up in random places instead of the flower beds.


But a few days later we were able to look for deer tracks in the snow.


Spring is really slow coming this year but we have had a few birds…..


the hyacinths started to come up…


but the rhododendron buds are still tightly closed.  I’ve been planning nature studies lately and I’m glad to see we have these broad-leaf evergreens right in our yard.  One of the things I’d like to do is look at the same areas of the yard once each month and see how they change.


One of our social activities was 4-H Cloverbuds.  We learned about Sewing and Quilts (I haven’t done a full post about this yet since I’m waiting until after our field trip next week).  For our craft activity, they used scrapbook paper cut into triangles, squares and rectangles to make their own quilt patterns.


There were also St. Patrick’s Day stickers for anyone who finished their quilts early.




Vicki finished uppercase letters in HWT and moved on to lowercase.  She seemed excited by the switch for the pages on c and o, but s gave her a lot of trouble.  Her last uppercase page was the entire alphabet and she did a great job with all the letters.  She is now exactly 1/2 way through the kindergarten book.

She made a mistake in her ETC and said to me “I’m sorry teacher.  Can I call you teacher?”.  She’s starting to get better at the spelling sections of ETC.

She has been playing with some of our foam stickers each morning and has started writing stories to go along with her pictures, the way George always does.  She used some jungle themed stickers with snakes, monkeys, vines and trees.  Her story:  “Once up a time, there were snakes and a crocodile in the jungle.  One snake was climbing a hill and one was in a tree.  There were three monkeys on vines that they were going to have for dinner, dessert and lunch.  The only thing the snakes eat is monkeys and elephants but there were no elephants there.”

Vicki is up to Lesson 48 in OPGTR and we’ve started reading through some Dr. Seuss books together.  This week we alternated reading in Fox in Socks and Great Day for Up.  She also read many of her TAG books this week.



George is continuing to do fairly well with spelling.  This week’s lessons taught about contractions.  He did get two words wrong on this week’s test – they’re which he spelled there, and together which he spelled togheter (which is probably closer to how he pronounces it).  We will go over those words again next week. 

George had comic strips to write in his Spectrum Writing book this week.  He had so much fun with these, I may print out some paper with blocks on them for him to do more.  He is almost finished with this book and I don’t plan to get another workbook since we are moving into doing more Brave Writer activities.

“Weedman is stuck on an island in the ocean.  Super Build comes and brings stuff and builds him a house.”


“Weedman’s (a different Weedman) house is on fire.  Super Water comes and puts out the fire.”


George decided to also get creative with his handwriting this week, until I explained to him the purpose of handwriting was to write the letters correctly.   Between all the embellishments he did here, and on many of his other worksheets this week (drawing people on the maps in Beginning Geography) it’s no wonder his hand was hurting a lot this week.


George is still really enjoying The Wand activities.  This week covered a couple more irregular verbs, and homophones.   He is doing a great job with the copywork (much better than his HWT) and doesn’t complain about it at all.   I spent a lot of time trying to decide if I wanted to use the French Dictation for memory work or for listening.  Since memory isn’t something that is a problem for George, I decided listening may be the way to go, since that seems to be more of a problem for him.   So, even though we were doing Week 3 using Frog and Toad Together, I used the copywork from Week 4 as our French Dictation.  He was able to fill in all the blanks on the harder selection with only two readings.

He is continuing to do well with Evan Moor Reading Comprehension 4th Grade.  This week he learned about bombadier beetles, The Copper Scroll, and Canberra and Washington DC.  He’s never gotten more than one question wrong and if asked can correct himself.



Vicki is still working on Addition in MM1A.  She is definitely starting to have some of the facts memorized and is starting to answer much faster, without looking at the numbers on her bulletin board.   We did start doing some drill using playing cards.  I printed out a page with a card size square on top.  I gave her all the black number cards (Ace through 10) and I put one red number card in the box.  She would then put down all the combinations that added up to the number in the box.  The second day I pulled it out, she declared “I LOVE this game!” so hopefully it will help cement some more of the facts.

She’s also enjoying the Evan Moor Skill Sharpeners Math 1st grade.  These pages usually have much fewer problems per page than MM so I’m more likely to have her do the writing herself on them.  The exception is when MM has number lines.  She really enjoys writing the little jumps on the number lines.


George has almost finished the multiplication table chapter from MM3A, and we just added in the place value chapter from MM4A and the fractions chapter from MM4B.  He thought both the new chapters were “too easy” but he is still at the parts that are mostly review, so we’ll see how they go.

He’s enjoying the skip counting chapter in Beast Academy and actually chose to do a couple pages on his own (those are something I usually sit with him for).   He did get the correct answers but definitely not in the intended way.

He has almost finished the Scholastic Algebra Readiness Made Easy 3rd Grade book so I’m hoping they will have another Dollar Days soon so I can pick-up some more logic puzzles for him.  We’ve done a few grid puzzles from Evan Moor and he seems to like them but there aren’t many.

He’s also almost done with his Scholastic Math Riddles – Addition and Subtraction.  He usually does well with these but if there’s too many days in between, he forgets all about how to borrow when doing subtraction.


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Human Body: Circulatory System

The next body system we learned about was the Circulatory System.   We started by watching The Magic School Bus Works Out DVD, while the kids ate lunch. 

The RSO lab for this unit involves making a model of blood.  They recommend using corn syrup for plasma, red hot candies for red blood cells, lima beans for white blood cells, and dry lentils or yellow peas for platelets.  Well, I always seem to change these around based on what I have available so, of course I did again.  We actually didn’t have any of the above items in the house and since they are not items we would normally use, I didn’t want to go out and buy them just for the experiment. 

Instead I used water with yellow food coloring for plasma, strawberry fruit snacks for red blood cells (they actually were shaped almost exactly like our description says red blood cells are – round, flat with a slight indentation in the middle), and small, very old round cake decorating candies for platelets.  Those are the parts that worked okay.   

What didn’t work so well was using some very old, stale mini marshmallows for white blood cells.   When I added them to our jar, a bunch of powdery white stuff came off and turned our plasma all murky.  So, I rinsed it out and tried again using white pompoms for our white blood cells.  This was actually a much better idea since white blood cells are a lot larger than red blood cells.  They did work much better but I think I added too much yellow food coloring the second time since our white pompoms turned yellow almost immediately.    I also didn’t rinse the jar out well enough because things were still somewhat murky.


Oh well, the kids enjoyed it and seemed to get out of it what they were supposed to.  George did a nice job on the lab sheet naming the parts by what they do.


We then tried to see our pulse by putting a toothpick through a marshmallow and resting in on our wrists.  They were unable to hold still enough to actually balance the marshmallow on their wrist, so instead I had them feel for their pulse in the underside of their jaws.  Both were able to feel it that way.

We read about the Circulatory system in our Science Encyclopedia, in our Scholastic Kid’s Encyclopedia: Science and in two books borrowed from the library:  A Drop of Blood and Your Blood and Its Cargo.   The second book was a little too involved for them but they liked the first one, although they kept asking why the guy in it was a vampire.


We finished up with watching some videos.    Kids Biology. com had a brief video of a beating heart.   George prefers the videos at Kids Health. org.  They are on the silly side but contain good information, and are about 2 1/2 minutes long.


We also watched Schoolhouse Rock – Circulation on youtube.  George thought it was pretty funny, liked the music, and had to shake a leg when they talked about your foot going to sleep.


Friday, March 8, 2013

Weekly Wrap-up

Another week done and things are going well.  We’ve done school consistently 4 or 5 days a week since the new year, and have even managed to add some new stuff. 

For memory work this week we worked on my cell phone number, since if we are out in public and get separated, this is the number they will need to know.   I have foam puzzle pieces from Walmart that I use occasionally to play phonics and math games with Vicki.   This week I arranged the numbers 1 through 0 as a keypad and had the kids jump from number to number practicing.


George has been reading lots of Calvin and Hobbes and has been asking all week for a box so he could make a time machine or a transmorgrifier.    He finally found a box and they took off to the past.   After a while, they saw a pteranodon flying around, and Vicki was narrating “I’m looking through my telescope…a mean dinosaur is coming!!  I’m ready to go back to the president!”


We learned about the Muscular System this week and, just because I forgot all about it when we did the skeletal system, we put together a model skeleton that I bought along with a book at a Scholastic Warehouse Sale.

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We did another Art lesson on lines from How To Teach Art To Children and read Harold and the Purple Crayon.  George drew his own story about a man, a bear and an alligator.


We worked on numbers in Spanish and used our foam puzzle pieces again to practice, along with pages from our Complete Book of Spanish workbook.  The workbook comes with a lot of exercises for each section so I split them among the two kids, with George doing the pages that are harder or have more writing.  We do a lot of Spanish orally while doing our memory work each morning.

Both of them completed a few pages from Evan Moor Beginning Geography.    George is working on map symbols, while Vicki is working on directions (North, South, East, West).

What else we completed this week…..



Vicki finished three pages in Handwriting without Tears and worked on her name this week.  She still has trouble making her letters a consistent size but she is much more likely to voluntarily write things outside of school.  She did a lot of drawing this week and she signed her pictures and addressed a few of them to “dad”.

She is up to Lesson 45 in Ordinary Parents Guide to Reading and did 5 pages from Explode the Code Book 2.   I’m definitely going to slow down ETC so that it is more review rather than new teaching.   She has been playing on Starfall every day and I think I’m going to get a subscription to More Starfall so she can use it for math practice, as well as having more phonics options.


George is spending a lot of time complaining about the longer sentences in his Handwriting without Tears book but he is also showing a lot of improvement. 

He is really enjoying The Wand activities and asks all the time if we are going to be doing them that day.  He is doing MUCH better with the copywork than I expected.   He thinks the French Dictation is a memory test and doesn’t even want me to read it before he fills in the blanks.   I’m not sure how to get around that without using different passages for the copywork from the dictation.  Since each book is used for two weeks at this level, I might be able to use Week 1’s copywork with Week 2’s dictation, and visa versa, but I’m not sure.

He wanted to read more Frog and Toad than we were doing as part of school, so in addition to Frog and Toad Are Friends he read Frog and Toad All Year Long.  We will be using Frog and Toad Together for The Wand activities next week.  I’m so glad he’s finally reading through some of the many books we have on hand.

He completed another lesson from Evan Moor Skill Sharpeners Spell & Write.    A few of the words were a little harder for him (Finally!) but he was able to spell them all by the end of the week.    This week’s grammar topic was subjects and predicates.

Daily Reading Comprehension Grade 4 is still going very well.  He has no trouble answering the questions, even those where he has to infer the answer.



Vicki is doing well with learning addition.   She continues to do one page from Math Mammoth 1A and one page from Evan Moor Skill Sharpeners 1st Grade each day.  I like the Evan Moor since it introduces a variety of topics like non-standard measurement and graphing.

We do additional drill using playing cards or dice that are printed with numbers rather than dots (so she can’t just count).


George reached 100% for his addition facts in Xtra Math and has moved on to subtraction.   He didn’t start off real strong but he said it was because he kept forgetting it was now subtraction instead of addition.

In addition to Xtra Math, he does a few drill problems each day to help with memorization.

He does well with carrying when doing addition but seems to forget about borrowing in subtraction every single time.   Once he is reminded, he knows what to do but he definitely needs to work on doing it right from the beginning.

He is working on multiplication tables in Math Mammoth.  Next week we will be adding topics from other chapters back in.

He LOVED doing the skip counting mazes in Beast Academy and was upset that there was only two pages of them.  I’ll have to check around to see if I can find more.

He is almost done with his Scholastic Algebra Readiness Made Easy Grade 3 book.  I need to find a new set of logic puzzles for him to do.  He’s been doing some puzzles from the Evan Moor Never Bored Kid books but those will run out soon since there are a lot of other things in those books that we are not using.

Steph is home on Spring Break next week and we have 4-H but we will still do at least a light week.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Human Body: Muscular System

Do you know what the largest muscle in the human body is?  How about the strongest?

The kids thought it was hilarious that the largest muscle is the gluteus maximus (your butt) and were very surprised to learn that the strongest is in your tongue.

We started our study of the muscular system by watching The Magic School Bus Flexes It’s Muscles, and reading from our various encyclopedias and Bend and Stretch: Learning about Bones and Muscles.

After discussing what we read, I had the kids try and hold completely still – using no muscles at all. 


George thought it was super hard and Vicki said her finger kept twitching.  We then talked about how even if they held perfectly still, there were still muscles in their body working.   The involuntary muscles that controlled the heart beating, breathing, blinking and swallowing worked all the time without us thinking about it.

We flexed our arms and felt the movement of our biceps and triceps muscles, and discussed how muscles worked in pairs since muscles only pulled and relaxed, but never pushed.

We used paper towel tubes, and rubber bands to make a model of an arm and show how muscles pull to make your arm bend (from Evan Moor).


We looked at a picture of a muscle cell that Steph sent us.  She took it while while using the microscope in her Human Anatomy class in college.  George thought it looked like Mars.


We then went to the computer and the kids watched a very short video at Kids Biology. com and a much more comprehensive one at Kids Health .org.

George tried the Muscle Hustle game at Science but it was pretty hard to get the hang of it.  That led to a discussion of “no wonder it’s so hard for babies to learn to walk” since they have to coordinate all the muscles.

George finished up by writing some muscle facts in his research notebook: 

-There are over 600 muscles in the body.
-There are 3 types of muscles: smooth, cardiac and skeletal
-Muscles pull but don’t push

Next will be the Circulatory System.