Saturday, October 23, 2010

Lost Egypt: Ancient Secrets, Modern Science

We discovered earlier this week that the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History was getting ready to open a new exhibit about ancient Egypt and archaeology--which fits in *perfectly* with our current history studies!  They had a members-only opening yesterday (our museum membership was a gift from Aaron's parents, and it has been WONDERFUL!), so we quickly planned a field trip.

We really, really enjoyed the new exhibit. They had a good mix of displays that were detailed and informational enough for adults and hands-on activities for kids.  One area had several interactive displays that showed how archaeologists analyze artifacts found in a dig, then had kids look at a sample "dig-in-progress" and determine what had probably happened at the "site" based on the artifacts present.  Another area had some pottery pieces that the kids had to assemble to make a jar, showing how hard it can be for archaeologists to sift through and fit together pieces of artifacts.  They also got to build a pyramid (with wooden blocks) and experiment with sand in an enclosed wind chamber to see how the sands in Egypt shift to cover/uncover monuments and artifacts.  

The completed pyramid (with our Flat Stanley exchange "visitor")

They got to experiment with pulling blocks of stone on a flat surface vs. on runners with slats underneath and figure out which was easier and why.  And of course--there was a mummy.  Not a famous one, but it was still a mummy!  

The boys had a good time, but I think it will take another trip or two for them to really catch enough of the history stuff to really make connections with what we've been studying.  They did catch some of it (due to my constant, "No--stop and LOOK at this!"), but mostly they were interested in going from one hands-on thing to the next without really stopping to see what they were doing.  It was still exciting to begin making those connections, though.  We saw jars that were made sometime between  3800 and 3200 BC.  I was glad that we'd been working on memorizing history sentences to go along with our studies, because Connor was able to see that those jars had been made before Upper and Lower Egypt had been united into one country, and even before the Sumerians up in Mesopotamia were writing with cuneiform!  We were able to look at some photographs from different sites in Egypt and connect them with people we had studied.  We checked out scenes from tomb paintings and were able to recognize gods and goddesses we had read about.  We saw statues, amulets, and other artifacts from tombs--great concrete examples of things we've read about.  And lots and lots of hieroglyphs!

And there were several things that looked interesting to me (like displays explaining how scientists use various kinds of imaging to examine mummies) but that I didn't really get a chance to check out in detail because of the short attention spans of my short companions.  I was excited to make another connection of my own, however.  I recently read the book The Murder Room: The Heirs of Sherlock Holmes Gather to Solve the World's Most Perplexing Cold Cases by Michael Capuzzo, which features (among other people) the forensic artist Frank Bender, who sculpts faces based on skulls that have been found to help identify crime victims or give faces to the long-dead discovered by archaeologists.  Anyway, there were four busts based on mummies (the mummy they had on display as well as 3 others whose images were used in the different displays about how scientists study mummies), and 3 of them--including the one based on the mummy that was there--were done by Frank Bender!  

Unfortunately, I didn't get many pictures.  I discovered when we got there that I'd left the memory card for the camera at home.  Aaron brought it when he met us for lunch, but by then we'd done most of the Egypt stuff (we went back up later for another crack at the pyramid).  Also, photography was prohibited in one section of the exhibit.  I'll have to make sure we bring it the next time we go and get some pictures of the other hands-on activities.  I'm sure we'll be back there in the next couple of weeks!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Our Weeks in Review: 10/11 - 10/22

I didn't get to a week in review post last weekend (it was a crazy weekend!), which was a bit frustrating, because we actually had a really productive week!  This week has been pretty good too (including a surprisingly productive school-at-the-park day, which we'll have to try again!), so I think I'll just lump it all in together in one post. *grin*

Math: In the last two weeks, we've done lessons 65 - 70 in RightStart B, taking a couple of extra days to work on the "two fives" strategy and the 8's trick for addition.  The only real problem he's having is being willing to stop and listen long enough to realize that what I'm trying to teach him is *different* from what he was doing the other day.  Then he gets frustrated because I have to correct him (which is a whole 'nother issue . . . the whole idea of getting something wrong???  I'm afraid we have quite a row to hoe there.)  Anyway, he's got many of his addition facts memorized, and he can figure out the rest using the strategies he's learned so far.  We'll be playing lots and lots of RS math games to solidify the rest of the addition facts. 

Drawing diagonals and discovering the star inside a pentagon

Coloring designs using the shapes created by the diagonals

Playing addition war
Oh, and he came up with the best excuse yet for not doing what I wanted him to do in math.  We were working on the 8's trick (adding 8 + a number by taking 2 from the other number to make the 8 into a 10 and then adding the 10 to the leftover from the first number) on the abacus.  He was resisting a bit, but I knew he understood the concept, so I asked him to do it mentally.  In RS, kids are supposed to visualize the abacus in their minds as the first step in doing problems mentally.  So I told him the problem and asked him to do it in his head.  When he seemed to be having trouble, I reminded him to "see" the abacus in his mind and enter 8. 

I asked, "Can you see 8 on the abacus in your head?"

He replied, "No, I can't."

"Well, why not?"

"I sold it."

He sold the abacus in his head.  After staring at him incredulously for a second, I just about died laughing.

Oh--and he did finish his math lesson.  I guess he had a spare mental abacus lying around somewhere.  Stinker.  *grin*

Reading:  He started reading Who Was King Tut? by Roberta Edwards.  Once again, he was a bit resistant at first because we were doing something new with this book.  He reads the first couple of pages of the chapter to me, then he finishes the chapter on his own and comes and tells me about it (narrates).  Oddly, it was the reading out loud to me that was the sticking point.  He still reads out loud often, but I hadn't *required* it recently.  Once he got over that, he was fine.  We've missed a couple of days, so he still hasn't finished it.  We need to get moving on that!

History:  We're still on chapter 13 in SOTW.  We've kind of camped out here for a couple of weeks because he's really starting to get interested in Ancient Egypt.  We read the second section of the chapter, which was about Amenhotep/Akhenaten and King Tut.  Between Hatshepsut and King Tut, there's a lot of really interesting stuff to do with this chapter!  We read Hatshepsut, His Majesty, Herself by Catherine M. Andronik in two sittings, and a hands-on art project sprung spontaneously from each.  When we read about how Hatshepsut put together a trading expedition and then had artists paint the praises of the successful trip in her temple, they wanted to paint pictures of the trip too:

Then we were inspired to look up pictures of the obelisks she had raised in a temple built by her father, and we checked out the hieroglyphs on one of the obelisks.  I pointed out the cartouches (a cartouche is an oval surrounding a set of hieroglyphs--these are the names of pharaohs), and we looked up Hatshepsut's cartouche and then checked to see if we could find it in any of the pictures of the obelisk (we did!).  Then we pulled out our handy dandy SOTW activity guide, found the hieroglyphics/alphabet page, and Connor made a cartouche with his name in hieroglyphs.

THEN, as if that wasn't enough history excitement for the week, we found out that the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History was opening a new exhibit about ancient Egypt and archaeology, and that October 22nd and 23rd were special members-only preview days!  So we spent all day today at the museum . . . and I'll make a separate post about that!

Science:  He's learned about mockingbirds (his choice--the state bird of Texas) and beavers over the past two weeks.  He was fascinated to discover that mockingbirds can imitate other birds as well as different animals and even car alarms!  We chose beavers after seeing a dam (or rather, as we learned, a lodge) and some gnawed trees at a local pond, and we realized that a hole near the path around the pond may be the beaver's "escape tunnel" back to the pond.

Grammar:  He worked on labeling nouns and action verbs in simple sentences, and he also memorized our phone number--very timely, as I had just realized a day or two before that he hadn't ever learned it.  Oops.  I love First Language Lessons!  He's also been working on memorizing the pronoun list, and he's almost got it.

Latin:  He finished chapter 18 (review) and began chapter 19, which names parts of the body.

Spelling:  He finished All About Spelling Level 2, Step 2.  I have GOT to get a magnetic dry erase board for spelling.  The tiles are driving me nuts!

Copywork/Handwriting:  Cursive is still going well, since he's very self-motivated and he still has to concentrate.  Print copywork (and writing for his other subjects), not so much.  If I sit right there with him and remind him to be careful, correct him as he goes, etc., he can do it.  I think it's a combination of needing to review some of the letters a bit and rushing through it.  I'm thinking of taking a few days this week to review/practice printing.  I think part of the problem is that he really learned to write on his own before we even started handwriting, AND he does a fair amount of writing on his own now (he makes books. *grin*) which I don't correct, so he's gotten used to mixing random uppercase letters in, he's forgotten that certain lowercase letters are tall or go below the line, etc.  So I guess we'd better get to it!

Math:  He finished lessons 19 and 20 in RS A.  Getting "formal" school done with Brennan has been a little hit-or-miss over the last couple of weeks.  He's still been getting plenty of learning in by sitting in on a lot of Connor's stuff (especially history--have you ever taught a 4-year-old to say, "obelisk?"  *grin*) and reading or trying to read just about everything he sees.  When we *did* get math done, we "officially" introduced the concept of addition (which he's actually been doing for a long time--another product of eavesdropping on Connor's lessons!), he learned how to determine quantity by putting objects in groups of 10 rather than counting one by one, and he worked with patterns on the geoboard.

Phonics:  I finally found our Rotten Banana game (from Kelly's Kindergarten, a little over halfway down the page), so we've been playing that to solidify final consonant blends as well as reading lots of early readers.  We'll be moving on next week!

Handwriting:  He's finished with the uppercase letters and has started on the lowercase.  He has a little trouble understanding why I want him to keep practicing the uppercase letters!

Eavesdropping:  I knew he'd been listening in on a lot of Connor's stuff, but I didn't realize how much of the grammar he'd picked up until I asked him to name some pronouns for me yesterday.  I knew he knew a few (he often points them out when he hears them), but he floored me by reciting almost the entire list.  He's also been doing a lot of tagging along in history, which came in handy during our museum trip today!

Bible:  Last week we learned about God calling Samuel to anoint David as the next king of Israel and about David and Goliath.  That transitioned nicely (and unintentionally--Connor had been asking to memorize this one) into this past week, when we started memorizing and learning verse-by-verse through Psalm 23.  

We played a game where they (the sheep) had to move blindfolded through an obstacle course by listening carefully to my (I was the shepherd) instructions, and we talked about how sheep follow the sound of the shepherd's voice and how they will be safe if they follow, but if they stray away from the path, they could get hurt.  And then we talked about all of the spiritual implications of those ideas--following God one step at a time, learning to "hear" His voice, getting into trouble if we don't follow, etc.  They made pictures with sheep in green grass by still waters, and we discussed how God provides for us just like a shepherd makes sure the sheep have grass to eat and water to drink, and how we can rest and trust God just like the sheep trust the shepherd.

So overall it's been a good two weeks, school-wise.  And Connor asked today when we were going to study ancient Greece (he'd just finished reading Hour of the Olympics, a Magic Treehouse book by Mary Pope Osborne)--he was excited to learn that it's coming up soon.  And I'm excited that *he's* excited!  *grin*

More on our awesome museum trip to come!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Apple Tasting

We're starting an apple lapbook based on the book How to Bake an Apple Pie and See the World, and we did our first activity today--an apple tasting.  The boys helped me pick out one of each of 7 different varieties of apples, and today we tasted each one.  We decided whether they were sweet or sour (or neither) and whether or not we liked each one.  The clear favorite was the honeycrisp apple (too bad they're $1.97/lb!!), and the red delicious was definitely the least liked.  Brennan still held out for Granny Smith as his favorite, though I suspect that's because it was his proclaimed favorite before today rather than because it was really his favorite one that he tasted today.  The only one he asked for more of was the honeycrisp!

Then they wanted to plant a couple of apple seeds.  Not sure they'll do too well in this climate, but hey.  What can it hurt, right?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Finally--our Farm Lapbooks!

We finished these a while ago, but I just took pictures of them Saturday.  We had a lot of fun learning about farms, and as usual, I can't do anything the easy way, so they're pretty detailed.  Most of the things in each of them are the same, but there are a few things that I tailored to each of the boys.  Here we go!

Connor's Lapbook

Orange flap open

Green flap open

Blue flap open

Clockwise from top left: "Different Breeds of Horses" flag book (, "Farm Animals" barn shape book (I used the barn outline here but changed the pics),  "Egg Story" sequencing book (, "Apple Life Cycle" sequencing cards (
"Farm Jobs" exploding book, "Little Red Hen" story sequence cards (, "Types of Farms" layer book, "Books We Read" accordion book.  Not opened: "Farmers in the Bible" triangle book

"Barnyard Songs" accordion book (L), farm field trip book

"Farm Buildings" flag book, story narration matchbooks

Bible verse copywork (left, Psalm 104:24), "What Does It Come From?" tri-fold book with matchbooks inside (, "From Plant to Food" cards under "cultural" category in free materials)

Clockwise from top left:  "Farm Tools and Machines" tri-fold book, "Crops Grown in Texas" shape book,
"What is a Farm?" trapezoid shape book, "Farm Words I Know" fan book
"Types of Crops" shutter book

"What Horses Eat" accordion book (L;, under the "Science" section ), "Animal Families" tri-fold (top right; I made the mini-book myself, but he found the names for male/female/baby animals here at Enchanted Learning), "Why Do Farmers Grow Crops?" matchbook (bottom right)

"Where Does It Grow?" layer book (got this idea here but made my own version)

Brennan's Lapbook
(just a few pics to show different mini books)

Yellow flap and blue flap that was under it both open

Green flap open
"What Grows on a Farm?" triangle fold-out book (top), "Animals on the Farm" fan book (center), "Is It a Farm Animal?" shutter book (bottom), "Life Cycle of a Pumpkin" sequence cards (bottom right;

"Farm Machines and Tools" tri-fold (top), "Animal Families" T-book (bottom)
Clockwise from top left: "Seasons on the Farm" quilt square book, "Types of Farms" layer book, story narration matchbook, "Egg Story" sequencing book

Here are some of the books we used:

Our Farm by Michael J. Rosen

Farm Animals by Angela Royston

All About Farm Animals by Brenda Cook

Farms by Jason Cooper (Great Places to Visit series)

Farmers by Dee Ready

All Kinds of Farms by Ann Larkin Hansen

Busy Farm by Gabby Goldsack


Haystack by Bonnie Geisert

Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown

Whew.  Actually, after looking over all this and getting everything together to post, I don't feel so bad that it took us such a long time to finish it!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Our Week in Review 10/4-10/8

 I feel like we've found our groove--it's been a good week, and we got a lot done.  And it was (mostly) pleasant!

Math:  He's got his 9's addition facts.  He doesn't exactly have them memorized yet (that will come as we review and play RightStart's math games!), but he can stop and figure it out mentally pretty quickly and consistently gets them right.  I really like the way that RS teaches addition.  Once he "got" adding 9 to another single digit number, we immediately moved on to adding 9 to 2-digit and 3-digit numbers.  All the previous work with place value made it easy for him to see how to apply the same strategy to larger numbers.  Then we moved on to "sums equal to 11" (all the ways to add 2 numbers to make 11) which was also easy since we spent so much time solidifying the sums equal to 10.  He also had fun with the geoboard this week making congruent and incongruent rectangles.

Reading:  We finished The Family Under the Bridge!  It was a great book, and I think we'll have to revisit it when he gets a bit older to really dig into it with more depth.  I also had a head-slapping moment this week.  Connor is very independent (just like mom, hence the need for head-slapping: I should have known better!), and one day I gave him the option to write his narration down himself.  I'd been holding back on this for several reasons--I was afraid he'd get halfway through it and give up, or that his writing wouldn't be able to keep up with his ideas and the quality of his narrations would suffer (MY writing can't keep up with his ideas, which I think was one of his sources of frustration with narrating!).  Or, that it would be harder for me to guide him as he narrates if he's writing--it's always his ideas, but I'll often prompt a bit if he gets stuck, or ask a question so that he remembers a major point, and I'm also working on helping him learn to hone in on the important points as he narrates.  Anyway, I finally decided to just let him try it.  He was so excited, and he did great!  It was a little long, but not really much longer than narrations he often dictates to me (when you take handwriting into consideration).  He loved the independence of it, and I was still able to guide him some as he wrote.  I think we'll keep on trying this, or at least give him the option when he narrates.  I'll have to print some paper with appropriate lines, though!
Writing his narration

The finished product

History:  We only got one day's worth of history done this week.  I was subbing one day at the high school here in town, so he did mostly independent work supervised by Daddy that day, and I didn't have anything history-wise on hand that he could do on his own.  We read and he narrated SOTW chapter 13, section one about the New Kingdom Egyptian pharaohs Thutmose and Hatshepsut.  He chose to narrate about Thutmose, I think mainly because the reading talked about how he conquered so many areas but stopped at the Euphrates river because he didn't want to tussle with the Babylonians.  He had learned about Babylon during a Bible study last spring (my mother-in-law did a study of Daniel for the kids in childcare while the moms were doing Beth Moore's Daniel study), and then we'd covered it in history a few chapters previously. So any time Babylon comes up, he's interested!  We also had fun looking up pictures of statues of Hatshepsut (one of very few female pharaohs)--and her mummy!  He thought she looked kind of gross. *grin*

Science:  We finished up learning about snails, and here again, giving him a bit more independence paid off.  He filled out most of his notebook page himself, and he also wrote a narration about periwinkles (a kind of sea snail) on his own.

 He also worked on his spider lapbook.  He's finished all the stuff I had for him, but he's still got a bit of room in it, so we'll have to see if we can find something interesting to stick in that spot!

Grammar:  More action verbs this week!  He did a couple of worksheets the day that I subbed, and he did really well.

Spelling:  We didn't get to spelling this week.  It was on the agenda yesterday, but I ended up having to take Brennan to the doctor, so it didn't get done.  We're still not really into the groove with spelling yet, but he's pretty far ahead, so I'm not too worried at the moment.  Better next week!

Latin:  He did chapter 17 in SSL.  The vocab in chapters 16 and 17 have been words relating to Christmas, so he made a Christmas card and labeled his picture with Latin words as suggested in the book.  It was all I could do to keep him from plowing on through to Chapter 18!

Copywork/Handwriting:  He hasn't done any copywork since we started cursive.  I need to get back to doing that with him, though--his printing has been VERY sloppy lately (see narrations above!).  The problem is that he is *very* resistant to fixing mistakes/sloppiness or rewriting, so I've been avoiding it a bit.  Sigh.  I really need to bite the bullet!  Cursive instruction is going well.  He's really enjoying putting letters together--he's done lowercase c, a, and d so far.

As part of our revised schedule/routine, we take some "recess" breaks and some "school" breaks.  The recess breaks are true breaks where he can go play outside, play in his room, etc.  But I was finding that giving him too much time to go play while I worked with Brennan was leading to a lot of resistance when it was time to get going again.  Plus, he was missing out on the fun/interactive independent activities I used to plan for him to work on during those times.  So we instituted the "school" breaks.  During a school break, he can choose from an assortment of fun, independent activities (file folder games, puzzles, workbooks that he enjoys, wikki stix, etc.) until I'm ready to work with him again.  He likes getting to choose, and it's much easier to get him back on task than when I'm trying to tear him away from Legos or playing outside.  Here he is playing one of our file folder games--"Snail Mail."  He has to read the directions on each piece of mail (2 north, 3 east, one south) and figure out where to deliver all the letters.  I found this game (and many others!) at .

Math:  He worked on RS A lessons 17 and 18 this week, learning about 10s and equilateral triangles.  Let me tell you, it's fun to hear him say "equilateral."  *grin*  I love the way RS teaches 10s.  The students learn to think of 20, 30, 40, etc. as 2-ten, 3-ten, 4-ten, and so on, which really helps them understand how numbers work and how to manipulate them.  The concept works really well with our straw-counting activity that I mentioned in this post, because he can *see* that 20 really is two tens.  RS includes activities to help them grasp the concept as well.  Here, he's building two tens with tally sticks (and again, I love it, because it's laying the ground work to show that each of those 10's is made up of two 5's) and then entering 6-ten on the abacus.

Phonics:  We're still on final consonant blends, reviewing and practicing for fluency.  He can pretty much read any of them, but sometimes he gets a little distracted and reads the incorrect vowel sound.  I'm planning to pull out some games next week to help with the review/practice.  I need to find my Rotten Banana cards--a fun review game that can be used for almost anything.  I don't know where I put them--they've been missing for a while . . . 

Science:  He finished his spider lapbook!  He had a lot of fun learning about spiders.  I just have a couple of pics--I'll post more in a few days.

Handwriting:  Still loving it, still frustrated that I won't let him sit down and do the whole book!  He worked on  Z, O, Q, G, and 2 and 3 this week.  

Bible:  Our big hands-on Bible activity this week was with our lesson on Ruth.  We talked about how God provided for Naomi and Ruth and blessed them by allowing Ruth to be King David's great-grandmother and an ancestor of Jesus.  After we talked about how much hard work it was for Ruth and Naomi to get and prepare food, we made bread, pointing out how much easier it was for us to do it with a mixer, a gas oven, prepared flour, etc.  They really enjoyed it, and it was a great tie-in to a science experiment we did with yeast a few weeks ago.  We had put yeast, warm water, and sugar into a bottle and then waited and checked later to see that the yeast had given off gas as it multiplied, inflating the balloon.  I was able to explain how the yeast did the same thing in the bread dough to make the bread light and springy, and they got to see the dough rise. And it was a yummy snack!
Adding ingredients

Punching down the dough after 1st rising

Separating dough into balls for rolls

After final rising

Fresh out of the oven

Taste testing


It was definitely a hit!

We also finished reading aloud The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett and began The Enchanted Castle, by Edith Nesbit.  They *loved* The Secret Garden, which surprised me a bit (but also thrilled me, since it was one of my favorite books as a child!), Connor especially.  We had some really good talks about all the secrets that are revealed in the book and how many things and people change and grow just like the garden.  We've just gotten into The Enchanted Castle, but I think it's going to be really good.  I was a bit nervous at first because of the vocabulary (it was written in 1907), but they seem to be hanging in there pretty well.  I'm always amazed at how much they just absorb.  

We've also started Little House on the Prairie (this is our school time read aloud; The Enchanted Castle is for bedtime), which, believe it or not, I never read as a child.  We finished Little House in the Big Woods a couple of weeks ago, and we've enjoyed the first few chapters of Little House so far.  I love reading aloud with them!