Wednesday, November 1, 2017

October Wrap-Up

I'm hoping to eventually get back to posting more often, but for now once a month is about all I can manage.  We are definitely keeping busy around here.

School is going well.  Squidy isn't appreciating the time he has to put in to Algebra.  He says it's not that it's hard, it's not that he doesn't understand it, he just finds it "tedious" and doesn't understand why he has to do so many problems.   He's doing Foerster's Algebra and it's a LOT of word problems.  Multi-part word problems.   I am spending a lot of time telling him how much time is typical for 7th grade (homeschooling or public schooling) and pointing out that he still has it pretty good.

Writing has consistently been our problem subject.   I like the idea of doing projects, ala Brave Writer, but while they are more likely to enjoy the projects, they need more actual instruction in the mechanics of writing.  We are giving Wordsmith (for Squidy) and Wordsmith Apprentice (for Vicki) a try.  It has a fun, creative, project-y feel to it but still offers incremental instruction.

We're still a little light on History.  We've been watching the Egypt episodes from the Great Courses  course - The Other Side of History: Daily Life in the Ancient World.   We will do a few projects after we finish with Egypt.

On the other hand, the kids are doing a TON of science.  We were light on 4-H this month because our location was refinishing the floors and we had to cancel one meeting.  We did an activity on Acids and Bases for the session we did have. 

We started with a discussion of what is meant by pH and what are acids and bases.  pH is the scale that measures acidity/alkalinity. pH stands for potential Hydrogen.   If a substance produces more hydroxide (OH) molecules in solution, it is a base and is alkaline.  If a substance produces more Hydrogen (H) molecules in solution, it is an acid and is acidic. 

We then tested a variety of household substances for pH using two different methods:  cabbage indicator and litmus papers.  We tested citrate, baking soda, alka seltzer, borax (which had to be put into solution first), conditioner, dish detergent, ammonia, vinegar, diet coke, milk, tap water and well water.

I have also started offering science classes to local homeschoolers.  Vicki is taking two of my classes - Getting Messy with Science and Crime Scene Investigation, while Squidy is just taking the CSI class.

Messy Science began with a discussion of the Scientific Method and an experiment to determine what combination of soda and candy will produce the biggest release of carbon dioxide gas.  We compared 4 different sodas: Coke (sugar and caffeine), Diet Coke (artificial sweetener and caffeine), Sprite (sugar, no caffeine), and Seltzer (carbonated water); and 3 different candies: Mint Mentos, Mint Tic-Tacs, and Nerds.  In order to obtain measurable results, we used smaller bottles of soda, weighed out the same amount of each candy, and captured the released carbon dioxide gas into balloons, which we then measured to compare. 

Our hypothesis was that Mentos and Diet Coke would produce the most gas.  In this case, Coke and Nerds actually produced the most.  We discussed what effect the nucleation sites, size of individual candies, and mint flavoring seemed to have on our results.

Week 2 of Messy Science, we discussed Physical versus Chemical reactions.   We used acetone to dissolve styrofoam and made shapes out of the resulting "plastic".  We made Elephant Toothpaste by using yeast as a catalyst to convert Hydrogen Peroxide to water and Oxygen, and we made "plastic" by reacting warm milk with vinegar.  Vicki wanted to make sure the class lived up to it's name.  She's always liked getting hands-on with everything.

Our most recent class we did some Candy Chromatography in honor of Halloween. 

CSI started with the crime scene set-up. 

Mary was having dinner at home with her friend Susie, who works at a daycare center.  Also present were John, the chef who cooked the meal and Brian, Mary’s housekeeper who was doing laundry.
During the course of the evening, Mary’s jewels disappeared! 
You are Crime Scene Investigators who are tasked with processing the scene and solving the crime.

Your suspects include everyone who was present that night.

During the first class, they processed the crime scene.  Taking pictures, examining evidence, gathering trace evidence, swabbing "blood", and lifting fingerprints.

Our second class, we identified the unknown powder found at the scene by testing knowns with iodine, vinegar, and pH indicator.  Our unknown ended up being cornstarch, which could have come from Susie (cornstarch baby powder), or John the chef.

In addition to our group science activities, Squidy has continued working on getting the Nitrogen cycle started on his fish tank.  We weren't making much progress so ended purchasing some chemicals to help get it started.   Ghost shrimp and a snail were added over the weekend and we will be going soon to pick out his betta fish.

The kids are still doing Tai Kwan Do as their main PE activity.  They had a belt test this month and are now Brown Belts!   

We've been struggling a little bit finding other PE activities.  Swimming lessons last year were such a total bust, both in the learning aspect and the exercise aspect, that we decided not to waste the money this year.  Too much waiting around, not enough actual swimming.  

The kids yoga at the Y, despite being advertised for ages 7 to 12, ended up mostly preschoolers.  Neither of the kids were comfortable in the class, and they weren't doing any actual yoga, just running around.  

We've done some hiking, Squidy takes a walk to the bus stop to meet the kids coming home from school each day, and we've dragged out the old Wii Fit to help us get through the colder weather.

Of course, since this is a wrap-up for October, we have lots of Halloween!

We started our Halloween activities with a trip to pick out pumpkins and check out a corn maze.  This maze was HUGE.  Squidy went off by himself for a little while and when we met back up 15 minutes later, he was done and ready to leave.  It took us another hour to find our way out.

It was a neat maze with activity stations, bridges and riddles but it was just too big unless you were super-excited about corn.   Previous years we've gone someplace closer to home that is about a 10th the size, but is big enough for the kids to go off and have an adventure, yet easy to get out of when you've had enough.  Lesson learned.

Squidy turned his pumpkin into an Elekin.

In a long tradition of picking out costumes that it is impossible to just buy at a store - Vicki dressed as Funtime Foxy and Squidy was a Decidueye.

We did a Mad Science lab at our local Trunk or Treat to advertise our 4-H Club and my science classes.  

The kids also enjoyed a party at TKD, and Trick or Treating around Gramma Kaye's house.  This year Squidy decided he was old enough to go T or T'ing by himself.  Since it's basically one street with a small cul-de-sac off one side, we agreed he could go alone.  Vicki and I did cross paths with him a couple of times.

A common theme with Squidy lately has been wanting to do things by himself, with friends if possible, but definitely without parents or siblings.  There aren't a lot of opportunities for him to get this independence but we are trying to offer it when we can.

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