Saturday, April 30, 2011


Finally!  That one's been hanging on for a while.  The lisp is totally adorable!  *grin*

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Our Square Foot Garden Adventure

As I sit here trying to remember just what it was that made me want to try a garden this year, I'm having a hard time putting my finger on it.  I know part of it was wanting to work on eating better and hoping that growing our own veggies would encourage that.  And of course, the educational value of it, especially since I knew we'd be studying plants this spring.  Nothing like hands-on learning!  I suppose the other contributing factor was hearing that the square foot gardening method was simple and could be done on a small scale (remember the cucumbers, mom? *grin*).  So, off to the library I went!

After reading Mel Bartholomew's All New Square Foot Gardening, I was chomping at the bit.  It really sounded like something we could do--so much less intimidating than plowing up a section of the yard, figuring out if the soil was good for planting (probably not, from what I've heard) and treating it if not, and then spending lots of time planting, weeding, watering, harvesting . . . the smaller scale and simplicity of the square foot method sounded like fun.  Plus, each square would be small enough that we could try several different things--surely *something* would work!

So we decided to go for it.  We got the supplies to build a 4x4 ft. square (divided into 1 sq. ft. sections, as you'll see) for me and a 2x4 ft. rectangle for the boys to share.  The initial outlay this year was a little expensive (for our budget, anyway!), but pretty much all we should need to pay for in the future is compost, seeds, and any plants we want to buy to transplant.

Aaron built the frames (thanks, hon!) and then we put together the soil mixture suggested in the book, filled the frames, and watered the soil.

A few days later (after Aaron had added the grid to mark out the square foot sections), the boys and I got busy planting seeds.  I let them choose what to plant in their squares (keeping in mind the growing season and nixing a couple of things that would've been too much for the small space).

Connor chose carrots, johnny jump-ups, marigolds, and lobelia, while Brennan chose lettuce (which he won't eat!) and zinnias.  The bigger plot has (or will have!) carrots, lettuce, marigolds, cilantro, cucumbers, and petunias.  After just a couple of days, we started seeing sprouts!  (I do have pics, but they're really hard to see.)

We bought some strawberry plants already started and transplanted them, along with some petunias (I had gotten the petunias to use one of them in a science lesson, and I figured we'd just plant the rest in the garden).

After about a week and a half, we had some pretty good sprouts--we were all excited. *grin*
Brennan's zinnias are definitely the front-runners, size-wise



Connor and I will be working on thinning seedlings, planting cucumbers, and adding to his garden journal tomorrow, so we'll get some more pictures then.  We also have a tomato plant (in a container).  I had planned to plant our own or transplant a small one, but when I saw one already well along (with flowers and even a few tiny tomatoes already growing) that was less expensive than what it would cost to get the stuff to do it myself, I figured we'd go that route.  

So far we're having fun, the boys are getting some hands-on learning about plants, and hopefully we'll get at least some home-grown produce out of it!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Our Week in Review, 4/18 - 4/22

We've had a pretty good week--lots of fun, hands-on science, including a field trip to the botanic garden.


Math:  We're continuing to review, making sure he's comfortable with a few things (especially subtraction) while we relax a bit before starting RS level C.  We've been playing lots of the RS card games to work on facts memorization.  He's definitely got his addition facts down.  Subtraction isn't there yet, but it wasn't covered extensively in level B (RightStart's scope and sequence is different from most tradition math curricula--lots more subtraction coming in level C!), so he's doing fine.  I think he's realizing (thanks to the way RS teaches partitioning numbers) that if he knows an addition fact, he also knows related subtraction facts (i.e., if 8 + 2 = 10, then 10 - 2 = 8 and 10 - 8 = 2).

History: Taking a mini-break from Greeks to peek at what the Medes and Persians were up to during the same general time period (SOTW chapter 21).  We only got the first section done this week (reading and narration), so we'll finish it Monday and then head back to Greece for a few more chapters.

Reading (literature): Continuing with Black Ships before Troy.  Today he really enjoyed the story of how Odysseus sneaked into Troy to steal the "Luck of Troy" (a stone the Trojans believed was from Athena and would keep them from defeat as long as they possessed it).

Grammar:  He finished FLL lessons 84 and 85 this week, which included addressing an envelope (practicing abbreviations, capitalization, etc.).  I still need to get it in the mail to Nani and Papa!

Spelling:  He finished AAS Level 2, step 11 this week.  

Latin: Review games with the flashcards--we've played Go Fish, Memory, and Charades.

Brennan really wanted to play, even though he's not "officially" doing Latin.  He's going to know it all before he "officially" does Song School Latin!

Handwriting:  He did cursive X and Q this week.  He's been doing his copywork in print since the WWE lines are much bigger than what he's using for HWT, so I need to get him doing some copywork on the side in cursive.

Memory Work:  Memory work has mostly been a bust this week.  We've been pushing it to try to get the basics done, and I think we only got to memory work once (maybe twice).  We'll do better next week!  Here's what we're working on:
Ephesians 6:13-18, books of the New Testament, catechism question, "O Worship the King," "Mr. Nobody" (poem), pronoun list, definition of a verb, definition of a plant, Latin phrases, and history chant.


Math: We've done better about getting math done this week!  He's been working on RS A lesson 36 (we broke it up into several days), working on writing equations with tally marks and then numbers.  We also played a smashing game of Go Fish today.  *grin*

Making an abacus bracelet
Phonics:  He's continuing to work on -vce words (magic "e").  

Handwriting: His copywork this week included a sentence about him and the parts of a plant.

Reading (literature): Continuing to read aloud The Adventures of Reddy Fox by Thornton Burgess.  I've also been reading him Uncover Nature (Hide-and-Seek Visual Adventures) by Olivia Brookes, which we've really enjoyed.


Bible:  We've been focusing on Jesus' entry to Jerusalem, the Last Supper, and the crucifixion this week, mostly just reading and discussion.  We did do a fun activity to go with the triumphal entry (from Little Hearts for His Glory--Heart of Dakota's K/1st grade program).  We spread jackets on the floor to cover the "path" and then they pretended to be donkeys trotting, galloping, walking, etc. along the path according to the instructions I gave.

Science:  We're continuing our plant study, learning about the parts of a plant and focusing on roots (follow links for the details!).

We've got a busy weekend coming up (no soccer, though--thank goodness!), but hopefully we can head into next week ready to go!

Science: Learning about Plants, Lesson 3: Roots

Today we learned in more detail about different kinds of roots and what roots do.  We read the information about roots on p. 11 in What is a Plant?, and just before he started mowing the yard, Aaron brought us a week he'd uprooted that was a great example of a plant with a taproot.

Then we started a couple of experiments that will (hopefully!) let us learn more about roots.

First we extracted some avocado pits and looked at them, noticing the flatter side and the more pointed side. I told the boys that we were going to put them in water so that they'd begin to sprout, and I asked which end they thought would sprout the root.  Brennan said the pointed end and Connor said the flat, which worked out nicely since the experiment was to try it both ways.  It's supposed to take several weeks, so I guess it's good that we'll have plenty of other things to do in the meantime!  This experiment is from Flowers and Seeds by Ramona Bates.

We also started an experiment from Experiments with Plants by Salvatore Tocci.

 We soaked some lima beans and then put them in two glass jars between the side of the jar and some paper towels.  We added water to soak the paper towels and put one of them by a window to watch for the stems to sprout.  The other is the one we're watching for the roots (which should come first).  Once we see the roots growing down, we'll turn the jar upside down and see what happens to the roots.  We'll do the same thing to the stems when they start growing in the other jar.

There's another root experiment that I want to do with them in this book that shows that a plant's roots absorb water, but it calls for a potted plant, which I don't have a the moment.  So I'll be picking one up soon!

They also did a lot of leaf rubbings with leaves we collected the other day at the botanic garden and last Saturday at a local park.  Doesn't have much to do with roots, but some of the leaves were starting to get dry.  I think we're going to go ahead and press some of them tomorrow.

And more sprouts in our garden!  We're going to need to thin some of them soon.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Exploring and Letterboxing at the Botanic Garden

Today was the perfect day to spend at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden--a nice, cool day after several days in the high 90's (I think we even hit 100* once).  We enjoyed a picnic lunch by a pond with a healthy turtle population, and the boys shared quite a bit of bread from their sandwiches.

Red-eared slider

We also did some nature study, checking out different plants and collecting leaves and other plant specimens for our plant unit.

checking out honeysuckle (again)

Nature study!  He's drawing a swamp rose.

Brennan drawing the fountain

Aaron got some really good pictures:

 There are a bunch of letterboxes hidden in the garden, and after lunch, we had a great time tracking some of them down--I think we ended up finding seven.

Great family time--what a wonderful way to spend the afternoon!  Oh, and Aaron got a kick out of a bumper sticker we saw on a van parked not too far from us: