December 9, 2013

Some Plant Books We've Read So Far

We've been doing a fair amount for our plant unit but I haven't posted anything because my cord that allows me to upload my pics to the computer isn't working.  I asked my techie husband (he's a computer programmer) for help and he said, "That cord always seemed junky to me."  Hmm.

In the meantime, here's a review for some of the books we've read so far--all available from the Davis County Library System.

We really liked this book: Look What I Did With a Leaf by Morteza E. Sohi.  The book discusses how to make pictures out of leaves, including how to prep your leaves.  We tried this (pics to come) but we waited a tad too long in the season and couldn't find many high quality leaves.

Autumn Leaves by Ken Robbins was chock full of pretty fall photography.  It was extremely helpful to us when we made our Types of Leaves chart.  This is a great book for anyone, whether you're studying plants or not.

My children adore the book Plantzilla by Jerdine Nolen.  We've checked it out before but had to read it again for our plant unit.  This is not an educational book--but it is loads of fun.

Freaky Plant Facts: Extreme Greens by Ellen Lawrence is not as "extreme" as the cover makes out, but it does showcase some really interesting plants.  I read this book and Plantzilla on our "build interest" first day of the unit.

Another good one that we read on the "build interest" day is Celebritrees: Historic and Famous Trees of the World by Margi Preus.

The next four books we read on the same day and then made a 3D model of a flower (pics to follow eventually).  I liked them all and would recommend reading all four, even though From Bird Poop to Wind and Flip, Float, Fly cover the same material.  I thought the two books reinforced each other without boring the kids because they are polar opposite in style.
 Once There Was a Seed by Judith Anderson and Mike Gordan.
 The Magic School Bus Plants Seeds by Joanna Cole.
 From Bird Poop to Wind: How Seeds Get Around by Ellen Lawrence.

Flip, Float, Fly: Seeds on the Move by JoAnn Early Macken.

The rest of the books we've read for plants have not been recommend worthy.

December 5, 2013

Field Trip: Oolitic Sand Gathering

 Geologic information: Oolitic sand is an unusual sediment that is found in and around the Great Salt Lake. Instead of forming from grains of mineral fragments washed down from higher ground, this sand formed within the Great Salt Lake. It is composed of tiny, light-brown, rounded oolites.
 An oolite has a shell of concentric layers of calcium carbonate that precipitated around a nucleus or central core. The nucleus is usually a tiny brine shrimp fecal pellet or a mineral fragment. Oolites form in shallow, wave-agitated water, rolling along the lake bottom and gradually accumulating more and more layers.
 In addition to the Great Salt Lake, oolites also form in Baffin Bay (Texas), the eastern Mediterranean Sea, the Persian Gulf, and the waters surrounding the Bahamas. Although oolitic sand is collected for its uniqueness, it has also been used to dry flowers and as flux in mining operations.

 My husband wanted some for his fish tank and I wanted some for the terrariums we are making during our plant unit.  Plus, we just really like field trips!

Posted information was found at:

December 3, 2013

Germinating Plant Unit

 We are almost completely finished with rocks (we're still working on our rock song) and have moved on to botany or plant biology or plants.  You can call it whatever you want.  We started out by reading through the book Eli is so happily holding up in the photo below.  I bought it at Smiths.  It was on a stand in their produce section.  I am positive there is a better fruit and vegetable encyclopedia out there somewhere, but this was handy and I'm lazy.
 My kids really loved looking through the pictures and talking about why different plants were put into the different categories.  I tried to interest them in some of the nutritional info but it didn't spark their curiosity.  Next time.
 After reading through the vegetable guide, we read, "Tops and Bottoms" by Janet Stevens.  It is really cute and my children loved it.  We did several activities based around the book.  I downloaded a teacher's unit materials and I highly recommend it--totally worth the $4.00.  You can find it here:
 Above: A tops and bottoms matching game.  Below: Harriet liked the book!
 Below: My niece, Ruth, was our visiting scholar.  She liked the glue.

I'd hoped to post a bunch of stuff about our plant activities today but things didn't go quite as planned and my camera battery died.  Where is the cord to recharge?????  One of many great mysteries in my life.  Hopefully my hubby will find it for me tonight and I can post some pics tomorrow.

October 30, 2013

Favorite Online Resources

I am not a fan of online learning.  I know it works well for some people but I don't want my children spending any time in front of a screen.  That being said, I'm a real person with a real life and real children so periodically I stick my children in front of the computer to watch Dinosaur Train while I blissfully work sans children.

As for schooling, there are several online study enhancers that I really, really like.

In brief, xtramath is a free program for computation practice.  There are four courses (for lack of a better word): addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.  You sign your child up for one of the courses and then that child takes a placement test.  Once a baseline has been set, your child can log on whenever and do his computation practice.  Each session lasts about 7 minutes.

I like xtramath for so many reasons, including the lack of bling.  This is not a free program funded by copious advertisements that wiggle and flash and otherwise distract.  It is free, but there are no ads.  I also love the email I get every week that updates me on how my kids are doing and what progress is being made.  I usually don't share that info with my kids, but now and again I'll say to one of them, "You haven't been improving in xtramath.  I expect you to improve by ____  points by the next report."  This helps prevent undue time wasting.

I've found that xtramath works best for my younger children if they sit on my lap and call out the answer and I input the answer.  Otherwise, the sheer joy of getting to be on the computer goes to their heads and they don't pay any attention to the math.  My oldest child is really motivated by the number of smiley faces she can get in a row so I haven't had similar distraction problems with her.

The best part of this program is that my children are really memorizing their math facts and not, like their mother, just faking their way through.  Miriam knows her multiplication tables better than I ever did.  (I would like to point out, however, that I am still faster than her on any and all multiplication problems that she doesn't have memorized because she doesn't have my fabulous coping strategies.)

Not to oversell xtramath because, obviously, it is only as effective as the child wants it to be, but the last thing I really like about it is that after a certain number of seconds the correct answer pops up.  This is a downside for kids who can't key in their answers quickly (another reason I input the younger kids' answers) but overall is a great idea as none of my children get frustrated.  Simple but significant.

Moving on to my second favorite online resource:

I have a feeling that music is way more awesome than I realize.  We use only its simplest function--a rote memorization aid for the notes.  As you can see in the picture above, you input which notes you want the student to practice, the notes appear and the student clicks on the correct names of the notes.  My children are required to get 25 notes correct every day.  Cowen and Emeline just practice one octave, but Miriam's up to two or three.  You can include accidentals but I don't bother.

The only downside to this website is that my children have figured out how to change what is being practiced and think it is hilarious to limit their practice to one note.  Ha ha, guys.  Despite some flaws, this is the best way I've found to drill notes online.  (No ads--no bling.)

We do other online learning.  My kids' computer teacher--through the Harmony Options Day program--uses for typing practice.  I haven't played with it much so I can't give you a real opinion on it.  My kids don't mind it and the oldest two practice typing for 10 minutes a day when I remember to remind them.

Our favorite online resource is Rosetta Stone.  Miriam is currently studying French and Spanish.  Next year she wants to study Chinese as well.  The program is ingenious in how it has you speaking in sentences so quickly.  We have a little thing called Friday Translation around here wherein Miriam has to translate one page of a children's story from Spanish to English.  She doesn't make the mistake of creating direct translations but instead creates sentences that we would actually say.  Part of that is talent (she loves languages) and part of that is Rosetta Stone getting you into conversational language so quickly.  I highly recommend their programs.

That's about it.  Like I said, I'm not such a huge fan of screen time but I think these programs are of high enough quality that they add rather than distract from real learning.

October 27, 2013

Farrier Field Trip

 This is my parent's place and my parent's horses and my parent's son (aka my brother Wyatt).  I'm editing a paper for him and he paid me in advance by giving a horse shoeing demonstration.
 We're studying the Middle Ages this year--I think I've mentioned that.  Around 900 AD iron horseshoes were introduced and had a profound impact on fighting.  Horseshoes allowed for a more viable cavalry.  Therefore, we needed a farrier demo.  Thanks again, Wyatt for shoeing a horse for me!!
 The kids were pretty excited.  None of the kids who attended, except mine, had ridden a horse.  The littles lost interest in the shoeing after a bit, but they came rushing back for the riding portion of the activity.  The older kids watched the whole shoeing demonstration and were also pretty thrilled to ride.
 The cats were also a big hit.

 I wish I had pictures of the riding but I was busy leading a horse and riders around the corral.  After the riding we all went on a hike up a canyon in the Wellsvilles by Mendon.  It was gorgeous.  Unfortunately, the younger kids were pretty tired and I packed Harriet almost the whole time.  She's no lightweight.  Still, it was beautiful and the weather was amazing and I was with good friends.  It was a lovely day.

October 21, 2013

Igneous Rocks--Yummy!

 I highly recommend that you all start studying magma and igneous rocks immediately as it is a delicious field of study.

We took a bag of chocolate chips and melted them to create magma/lava.  Then we let the magma cool on a plate to see how igneous rocks are formed.  We put the rest of the magma on ice cream to see what happened when magma cooled down faster.
 You know what happens when magma cools down quickly?  The experiment ends and you get to eat sooner.  It is awesome.

Oskar had fun too.  Cutie patootie.

October 19, 2013

Renaissance Faire that Wasn't

 We tried to go to a Renaissance Faire recently.  My sister, Kami, made us these fabulous Medieval Scottish costumes and we are studying the Middle Ages this year so it was only logical to go.
 It was freezing.  Literally.  It snowed.  We arrived, paid our money, watched the Bird of Prey show-- which was excellent--and then tried to tough it out until the jousting.
 See the cool costumes?
 Harriet at the Birds of Prey show.
 A jester.
 Some of the vendor tents.

While we were trying to tough it out until the jousting, it started to rain.  A downpour of epic proportions (for Utah).  I huddled in a jewelry tent with five of my children, the tent owners, and some very disturbing jewelry featuring skeletons, and waited for it to end.

We waited.  And waited.  And waited.  And waited--while trying to keep Oskar and Harriet warm enough and the other kids from breaking anything.  Finally, when it started to rain/snow the King (that was his costume and he had knighted someone) came in and said that the jousting was cancelled because it was too dangerous for the horses.

That made the decision to leave really easy except that I had no idea where Miriam was.  This is a normal state of affairs, so I wasn't worried.  I had last seen her by some other tents so we headed into the freezing rain to try and find her in that general direction.  Three steps out a woman stopped me and asked me if I was missing a redheaded girl.  God gave me and Miriam both red hair as a natural tracking system.  He is perfectly wise.

I followed the woman to the tent for lost children, retrieved my daughter and headed to the van.  When we were all inside and the heater was revving up I said to Miriam, "I'm surprised you ended up in the tent for lost kids.  That isn't your style."

To which Miriam replied, "I know!  It surprised me too!"

The girl is hilarious.  Apparently some well-intentioned adult noticed Miriam was on her own, asked her where her Mom was, then hauled her off to the lost child tent because Miriam freezes under pressure and couldn't come up with a coherent answer like, "I've spent 99% of my life lost.  No worries."

The kids were all so disappointed, especially Cowen.  He was aching to see the jousting.  I felt bad so I stopped at Kents on the way home and bought some hot chocolate and whipped cream in a can.  My kids were amazed and overjoyed.  We had bean with bacon soup and a hot chocolate confection to warm us up.  Then I let the kids play with baking soda and vinegar.  I know we did another crafty thing after that but I can't remember what.  Then I popped popcorn and let the kids watch a movie.

Not a complete loss of a day, but a little disappointing nonetheless.