We’ve reached that point in our school year when the kids ask me every morning how many days we have left. As of today, the answer is 9. There was much rejoicing about that, even though they know full well that we’ll be doing a our usual June session. I think they’re just excited about their annual end-of-school ice cream breakfast.
This week the kids read about the life cycle of a ladybird beetle (aka the ladybug). The specimens in our ladybug garden have entered their pupa stage. They haven’t been as entertaining as they were last week, when they were very active little larvae.
The last of our trio of caterpillars finally entered his chrysalis stage this week, so now the three of them are all busily metamorphosing in the butterfly hatchery. I’d never given much thought before to exactly what goes on inside the chrysalid, and I kind of wish I didn’t now know that the caterpillars completely liquify themselves before they reform into caterpillars. It’s an amazing and totally gross process.
First, the caterpillar digests itself, releasing enzymes to dissolve all of its tissues. If you were to cut open a cocoon or chrysalis at just the right time, caterpillar soup would ooze out.
I’ll never look at a butterfly the same way again. Nature can be pretty creepy.
I see a wing!
This week we talked about the Black Plague. It was a pretty bleak history study.
Poppy seems to have the same issue I have with reading in that she reads too fast and then can’t remember what she read five minutes later. So this week she started a reading journal, in which she’s supposed to summarize each chapter as soon as she’s finished reading it. I feel kind of bad for doing it, because I certainly wouldn’t want to interrupt my reading time to jot down any thoughts, but I think it’ll be good for her in the long run.
Most of the kids’ extracurriculars are winding down, too. Poppy’s last soccer game is tonight, Pete’s it tomorrow, and Poppy’s ballet recital is this weekend. I’m looking forward to having less running about for a few months.
Monday is the last day of this session of our homeschool co-op. It seems like it went really quickly this time. Poppy’s been taking a class on Weaving and one about Fairies, and Pete’s taking Puppets and my class, Superheroes 101.
The Superheroes class has gone OK, but the disparity of abilities and attention spans when you’re dealing with the 3- to 5-year-old age group is always a little challenging.
Poppy discovered that we could access ebooks from the library on the Kindle! She’s been reading “Magic Tree House #37: Dragon of the Red Dawn” on it.
I checked out a very-incomplete copy of the first level of Hooked on Phonics to try out with Pete. Most of the cards and all of the little books are missing, so he’s just been working his way through the main book. He’s doing really well with it, though; I think it’s building his confidence on the reading front.
I panicked a little bit yesterday when I read the instructions for the kids’ Ladybug Land kit. They said to take the larvae out immediately, and I’d left the poor things in their envelope for days. They were pretty still when we put them in their biodome. They perked up pretty quickly, though, and now there are about 20 very creepy ladybug larvae creepin’ around in there.
This week in history we read about the Rus people, for whom Russia was named. We read a Russian version of the Cinderella story called “Baba Yaga and Vasilisa the Brave,” and the illustrations of the creepy old witch lady were extremely creepy. I was a bit worried it would give Poppy nightmares, but so far so good on that front. (Pete didn’t even want to look at the book after he heard me say the pictures were creepy.) Our craft activity this week is supposed to be a traditional hat called a kokoshnik, but we haven’t quite gotten to it yet.
The trading post at the end of our backyard Silk Road.
Last week, though, we did do an activity! We were talking about the Silk Road, so I set up a little path through the backyard that led the kids through the desert to a couple of oasis settlements (complete with Oreo cookies) and ultimately to a trading post. They spent a good part of the afternoon journeying to and from Peking with a variety of treasures.
Poppy has been on an American Girl kick lately. She read two books about Kit last week, she’s read through the most recent issue of American Girl magazine at least a dozen times and she picked up the entire Molly series at the library this week.
Speaking of the library, every time we go there Pete checks out as many “Arthur” books as he can carry. Usually he leafs through them, I read one or two to him and then we take them all back for a new armful. This week, though, we sat down and read all 537 of them in a row.
We finished “Gone-Away Lake” early this week, and the kids immediately asked if there was a follow-up. And there is! It’s called “Return to Gone-Away,” and we’ll be starting it as soon as I pick it (and 400 more “Arthur” books) up from the library.
Our caterpillars finally arrived, so the science lessons have resumed! Poppy and Pete drew some lovely pictures of the ‘pillars this week. I’m looking forward to seeing their illustrations as the project moves forward.
Pete started tae kwon do last Friday. The kids have to get six stripes on their belts before they’re eligible to test for the next level, and yesterday his instructor gave him his first stripe. It was, he said, for “being a very good listener in class.” I really like their system because two of their stripes will come from me, as his mom and his teacher. Their classes for 4- and 5-year-olds emphasize Courtesy; Doing Your Best; Not Whining; and Keeping Your Room Clean. All things of which I am in favor.
It is gray and rainy here today, and I am having a very hard time focusing on anything other than the chaos going on in Boston. I’m scattered. I hope next week is far less newsworthy than this one’s been. I’ve spent a lot of this week praying, hugging the kids (excessively, if you ask them) and embracing our routine.
We’re right about in the middle of “Gone-Away Lake” by Elizabeth Enright. It’s a kind-of-weird story about a couple of kids on their summer vacation who find a dilapidated, mostly abandoned summer village and befriend the elderly brother and sister who still live there. It was published in 1958, and despite being weird it’s been a pretty peaceful and comforting read. The kids are really enjoying it.
Poppy is very close to the end of Spellwell AA. I’m considering giving her a break from “formal” spelling lessons once she’s finished it.
Poppy’s McRuffy curriculum introduced multiplication this week, and I’m hoping it helps her wrap her mind around the concept. I think she gets it in principle, but she’s been very reluctant to memorize the multiplication tables. Poppy was very surprised that McRuffy did fractions before multiplication. It was the other way around in Teaching Textbooks.
Pete’s book started him on addition this week, and he breezed through the lessons. That’s the benefit of seeing your older sibling’s education in action, I guess.
I’m waiting for Insect Lore to send us some ladybugs and caterpillars, so we didn’t do any “official” science this week. The kids did do a little engineering on their own, though, in what they called “The Invention Lab.” They raided the recycling bin and made all sorts of gadgets for a game they were playing with some toy cars. Pete also invented a blueberry dispenser, which allows you to pour your blueberries from an old root beer can into a bowl with little-to-no blueberry loss! They spent a few hours on their projects, and today is the first day this week that I haven’t had to step over recycling detritus to get to the kitchen.
We read about the Mongols this week in “Story of the World.” Poppy wrote about what she learned on her blog. We talked a little bit about the legend of Mulan, and they watched the Disney version of the story. We also made some Chinese paper lanterns, using this Martha Stewart video tutorial as a guide. Of course I didn’t have any double-sided tape on hand, so we used pink duct tape. We used paintings the kids made earlier in the week to form the interior cylinder. I like the way the painting kind of peeks out from behind the fringy stuff.
This week in “Story of the World,” we talked about the Diaspora, or the scattering of the Jewish people after the Romans kicked them out of Judea. Our project was to do our own responsa, which SOTW tells us is how the rabbis communicated their beliefs and ideas via letters to the scattered people. Poppy and I tried to communicate only through the written word for an hour, but we only lasted about half an hour. She said the hardest part about it for her was not being able to say “I love you” to me (melt), and I found it difficult because by the time I’d finished writing something to her she was already thinking about something entirely different. It was an interesting experiment.
Pete is gaining confidence in his reading. He’s a few books into the third set of Bob Books, and every now and then he does a little spontaneous reading while we’re out and about. I don’t think it’s entirely dawned on him that the can read, if that makes sense, but he’s nearly there.
Poppy, meanwhile, is reading everything in her path as long as it isn’t something suggested by her mother.
In read-aloud news: Rockford is very slowly making his way through “The Hobbit” with the kids, and I’m reading “Gone-Away Lake” by Elizabeth Enright with them.
The kids have both been working on new concepts recently. Poppy’s McRuffy Math introduced fractions a few weeks ago, and Pete is starting to learn to tell time and use coins. Big doings ’round here.
We finally finished the first section of Nancy Larson Science 1 this week. It was all about human development and life stages, and I have to say it was less engaging than I’d hoped the curriculum would be. We’re going to skip around a little and do the insect section next. I’m hoping there will be more hands-on activities involved.
Our homeschool co-op had a talent show this week, and both of the kids participated. Poppy recited the Preamble to the Constitution, “Toasting Marshmallows” by Kristen O’Connell George and “Sunflakes” by Frank Asch, and Pete did some freestyle dancing to the “Ghostbusters” theme song. They were both fearless and awesome. Some of the other kids played piano, sang, did tae kwon do and played guitar (not all at once), and one girl did a crazy-impressive routine with hula hoops. Pete was astonished by that one. I heard him whisper “But you can’t do that” to himself when she added the third hoop.
The kids have been taking an art class at a local art studio for the last few months. Poppy loves it, but I’m afraid Pete is going to get kicked out. There was an incident this week with the sprayer and a ruined screen print.
Lots of weeks ago my friend Elizabeth asked if I could share some of the math apps that Poppy’s been using on her iPod. And then I got distracted and wrote about brisket, beans and pickles instead. And then last night I remembered that I never answered Elizabeth.
Instead of focusing just on the math apps, though, I thought I’d just go ahead and tell you about all of the edu-apps on Poppy’s iPod. And so here we are, and here they are.
Educational apps for a 7-year-old girl
GeoDash: Wild Animal Adventure is from National Geographic, so it has to be good. It’s free, but (as Poppy notes below) additional “chapters” cost extra.
“You get a little animal called Geo (he’s a robot), and he’s trying to go through a portal,” Poppy says. “You need a key. There are special powers like the Cheetah Power that makes you go two times faster. I think it’s a great game for someone who really likes National Geographic, except you have to pay for the chapters in the Amazon rain forest. You get facts and cards to help you learn about the animals.”
Playing Go Car Go makes me laugh out loud. I like to build cars that do ridiculous flips and smashups, though, so I don’t think I’m playing it as it’s meant to be played. It’s 99 cents.
“It’s a game sort of like Bad Piggies, except you don’t have a pig,” which doesn’t clear up a thing for me, but that’s how Poppy describes it. “You’re trying to build a car that can get to the finish line without stopping. If you stop for a certain amount of time, an octopus comes and takes your car apart. I think it’s a very good game for someone who likes to build things.”
Motion Math: Wings is the only math app Poppy has continued playing. It’s $7 for every level.
“Motion Math: Wings is the same company who made Hungry Fish (we have it on my Daddy’s iPad). It’s a very fun game for learning math,” says the girl. “You tilt the device to steer the bird. I like that you get to collect feathers and twigs and bird blasts.”
I think Poppy has learned more from Presidents vs. Aliens than from any other app on her iPod. She knows all of the presidents by sight now, which is more than I can say for myself. (And also you get to fling presidents at aliens.) It’s 99 cents.
“This is a very good game for learning about the presidents, but here’s a part I don’t really understand: When you answer a question right, you get a president head that you shoot at aliens. That’s very weird,” says Poppy. “I would recommend it for someone who’s trying to learn about the presidents and especially for someone who doesn’t know much about them but would like to learn more. I found some presidents I didn’t even know had been president, like William Henry Harrison and Harry S Truman.”
Poppy has gleaned a lot of info from Stack the States, too. It’s worth the 99 cents.
Poppy says: “Stack the States is from the same company as Presidents vs. Aliens and Mathamateer and Stack the Countries. (We’ll talk to you about that later.) Stack the States is a game where you answer questions about the states. Every time you get a question right you earn a state, and you have to make a stack of states to reach a goal. I think it’s good for someone who wants to learn about the states.”
Stack the Countries is a relatively new addition to the iPod, so I can’t vouch for its efficacy just yet. Poppy seems to like it, though. It’s $1.99.
“This is like a huger version of Stack the States,” she says. “It’s kind of like you get huger states, only this time they’re countries. This would be good for someone who’s learning about the world.”
This was one of those weeks where I would’ve like to have stayed home every day. (And by “one of those weeks,” I mean it was a regular week. I have hermit-istic tendencies.) Alas, the children have activities every day but today. I think all the running around on the other days makes today all the sweeter, though, especially since it’s 20-something degrees and icy outside and I don’t have to leave the house at all.
This is the best Viking ship I’ve ever had a hand in building.
I found the Vikings fascinating when I was a kid (still do), but they didn’t seem to capture Poppy’s imagination all that much. The only thing she was really enthusiastic about in history this week was building our Viking longboat, which we did this afternoon following the instructions from LooLeDo.com. They also have a nice video about the process:
Pete has been asking for awhile now if I’d order a handwriting curriculum for him, so I finally got McRuffy’s Kindergarten Handwriting. And he hated it almost immediately. I’m not sure what he was expecting, but I’m pretty sure he didn’t think I’d make him redo his work if he rushed through it.
It’s looking like Poppy might not get to her 1,000-page goal for the BookIt program this month, even though she finished two Magic Tree House books this week. She didn’t want to read anything that wasn’t one of the MTH books she had on hold at the library, and she had to wait about a week for them. So she’s fallen behind quite a bit. Maybe next time she’ll just read something else in the meantime!
Pete hasn’t quite mastered this week’s Bob book, so we’ll keep at it next week. He’s picking out words here and there on signs, etc. We’re making progress.
Pete practiced dribbling in the garage earlier this week, and Rockford reports that he had a very good basketball practice. His first game, last weekend, went well. He passed the ball both times it was in his possession, and his team did pretty well. They don’t keep score at this level, so I can’t tell you for certain whether or not they won.
The heat at the ballet studio went out moments before Poppy’s ballet class this week, so she had a very chilly 45 minutes. Picture eight little parka-clad girls leaping around the studio.
Poppy completed the requirements for her first American Heritage Girls badge this week. It was the “Internet Adventurer” badge, and it took her about half an hour to complete. She read most of the handbook this week and has decided that she wants to earn almost every badge.
Twice a year, our homeschool co-op gets together to decide what classes will be offered for the upcoming session. The brainstorming meeting for the spring session is coming up in a few weeks, so I asked the kids what they might be interested in studying. Poppy said she’d like to study puppets, pets, baking, sewing, snow and candy, and Pete would like to further explore robots, superheroes and ham.
I’m not sure exactly what we’d do in nine sessions of Ham Class, but I’ve been thinking about (and Googling) some of their other ideas and I think some of them are feasible and might even be fun.
“Control” by Gabriela Camerotti.
For this one we would probably spend the first half of class talking about and watching videos of different “schools” of puppetry — shadow puppets, puppetry around the world, etc — and the second half making some kind of puppet. Then we’d spend the last couple of weeks working on a puppet show to perform at our co-op’s end-of-session demo night. We also have a local puppetry group that I’d like to contact to see if they had anyone who might come over and do a demonstration for the kids.
I’m pretty sure that what Poppy was envisioning when she suggested a candy class was a solid hour of eating candy. Which isn’t exactly what I’d offer. I’m thinking we’d do some geography by trying candies from around the world and mapping common candy bar ingredients; a little chemistry by examining the properties of different kinds of sweetener; and a bit o’ history by researching the origins of popular candies. And the ace-in-the-hole on this idea would be a field trip to my favorite local chocolatier. I’m betting I could drum up a few willing chaperones for that one.
We could start every class with a Candy Math exercise.
“Avengers” by Andrew Becraft
This one has quite a few possibilities. We might spend a few weeks talking about different mythological heroes, we could develop our own superhero personas and we could study real-life heroes. I think this one would be a hit with the little guys.
Robin Lady’s “The Superhero Project” is a fully-planned unit for fifth- to eighth-graders. Pete would be pretty upset if I taught a superhero class that he was too young for, but I think there are some ideas I could mine here for a class for younger kids.