Monday, August 29, 2011

Science: Learning about Plants, lesson 7.3: Pollination

We had fun learning about pollination!  By the time we "officially" did the lesson, we had come across pollination already in our reading, so Connor was pretty much able to explain the basics.  We read more details in  The Life Cycle of a Flower by Bobbie Kalman and learned about wind- and self-pollinated plants in addition to insect/animal pollination.  Then we got to the fun part!

We "acted out" pollination using cornmeal, pompoms, and other tidbits.  First we bent the ends of green pipe cleaners (cut in half) to make pistils and added tape sticky-side up on the top to make sticky stigmas.  Then we dipped q-tips in cornmeal for pollen-covered stamens.  Each of the boys chose a dark-colored pompom for his "insect" and brushed it up against the q-tip like a real bee or butterfly would brush against a real flower, observing the "pollen" transfer.  Then they flew their insects to a pistil (imagining it was in another flower) and brushed against its sticky stigma and noticed how the cornmeal stuck to it.  They had fun and wanted to try it several times!

(The medicine cup held the cornmeal.  It was the perfect size--deep enough to dip the q-tips in, but small enough that we didn't waste lots of cornmeal.)

The next part of the activity demonstrated wind pollination.  First we used a glue stick to create a sticky spot (maybe 2-3 inches in diameter?) on a small piece of black paper.  Then each of the boys got his own q-tip and dipped it in the cornmeal to make a pollen-covered stamen.  They held the q-tip carefully over the paper and blew on it gently to imitate wind blowing on a flower.  The "pollen" stuck to the paper, letting them see that it blew off and demonstrating how the wind blows pollen around and carry it to another flower.

We also made notebook pages that included some of the pictures of our project as well as narrations from each of them about pollination.

Science: Learning about Plants, lessons 6, 7.1, and 7.2

I posted about both of these lessons (lesson 7 was several days long) in the week-in-review posts, so I'll do a quick summary here and then link to those posts for pictures and more details.

Lesson 6: Carnivorous Plants
We watched several videos online about venus flytraps and pitcher plants, then made notebook pages.  Later we also read parts of Venus Flytraps, Bladderworts, and Other Wild and Amazing Plants by Monica Halpern.  More info on what we did in this post.

Lesson 7.1: Life Cycle of a Plant
We read From Seed to Plant by Gail Gibbons and then they filled in a simple plant life cycle diagram.  More info in this post.

Lesson 7.2: Flowers
This lesson took several days.  We read parts of The Life Cycle of a Flower by Bobbie Kalman (different parts on different days depending on what our focus was), examined and pulled apart several flowers to see the parts, and colored and labeled a diagram of a flower.  The boys also made lego models of flowers on their own.  More information in this post.

We also spent another day reading about flowers and making a notebook page with more interesting facts they learned.  More info in this post.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

How We Spent Our Afternoon

Ever since seeing some videos of Rube Goldberg machines at the museum and on YouTube (here is one of our favorites), the boys have wanted to make "one of those things where one thing makes another thing happen," according to Brennan.  In case you're not familiar with Rube Goldberg machines, they are long, intricate chain-reaction machines that are usually built to accomplish a ridiculously simple task--in our case, turning off the light.  If you're interested, you can read more about Rube Goldberg (a cartoonist whose drawings of ridiculous machines weren't originally meant to be built) at

So today was finally the day.  I think I have a few hairs left, although I would advise anyone local not to rely on my patience too much for the next few days or my head might explode!  It was fun overall, but when Brennan accidentally set it off before I had the camera on for what ended up as our first successful finish (after 5 or 6 unsuccessful attempts), I thought I was going to cry!  Here it is (finally caught on video) in all its glory:

Like I said, it was fun, but I think it'll be more fun in a couple of years when they are old enough to do more of the work (like setting up dominoes again and again) themselves!  We'll be gearing up for one more (hopefully just one more!) time when Daddy gets home!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Our Week in Review 8/1 - 8/6

Getting school done this week was like pulling teeth.  We managed to get most of it done, but I'm really thinking that I'm going to have to go to a more hard-nosed schedule.  Or at least ban legos until school is done for the day ("Just a minute, I'm almost done!  I just need to add one more piece . . . almost done . . . No! Just a minute!!").  The other thing that gets old is the, "Okay, Mom!" (they've been switching from "Mommy" to "Mom" over the last week or so.  Sniff.) when I let them know that we're starting or getting back to work after a break--which is then followed by grumbling, griping, and attitudes when the timer goes off!  Once we get going, things generally roll along fairly smoothly, but getting started can be rocky.  At the very least, a more consistent start time would probably help (and here I see the "FINGER OF BLAME" pointing squarely at me!).  Need to work on that.  Anyway, on with our week!


Math: He finished lessons 22 through the first part of 25 in RS Math level C, continuing review, practicing skip counting (3's and 4's so far), and introducing multiplication.
Working on multiplication with the abacus.  Loads of enthusiasm, as you can see.

History: We only got one day of history done this week, partly due to the pulling teeth issues and partly due to a change in my plans.  We'll regroup next week.  We read/he narrated section 3 of chapter 26, "Rabbit Shoots the Sun," and he colored the comic strip from the AG.  Later on he made his own booklet of the story.  Which, of course, I can't find now to take a picture!

Reading: Still going through Aesop's Fables.

Grammar: He finished lessons 102 and 103 in FLL this week, reviewing verbs and working on memorizing the poem "The Goops."

Spelling: He started step 17 in AAS level 2 (words with "or").

Latin: He finished lesson 3 and began lesson 4.  I'm loving having some more independent work--after we go through the actual lesson, he can make his flashcards on his own, which takes him a good 15 minutes since he draws pictures.  He had the verbs "amo" (I love) and "adoro" (I adore) for lesson 4, and for his cards he drew the states Nevada and Mississippi since they're the states that fall in love in the book Scrambled States of America.  Loved it!
Writing Latin vocab words for practice

Writing: He did week 20, days 2, 3, and 4.  And just as I'm really thinking about going ahead and moving him to book 2 in Writing with Ease, he made several errors in copywork this week.  I know he can do it; we just need to review, emphasize, and enforce doing careful and accurate work.  I'm pretty sure the errors were at least partly due to the "pulling teeth" issues too.  Nothing like an attitude on a 7 year old.

Memory Work:  We're starting to get back into the groove with memory work.  This week (mostly still the same as last week): 1 Peter 1:24-25, catechism question, Latin prayer (sanctus), plant unit memory work, history chant, and the poem, "The Goops."


Math: He finished lessons 54, 56, and 57 in RS Math level A, reviewing tens and ones, adding ones, traditional names for tens (twenty, thirty, etc. instead of two-ten, three-ten, etc.), and partitioning 100.  He also finished adding to a graph showing how many tiles of each color we pulled out of the box.

Fashion accessories are a must when doing math.

Especially for a goofy boy!

Phonics: We FINALLY moved on this week!  He's been working on adding suffixes (-y and -ing) to short vowel words--you have to double the consonant if there's only one after the vowel (i.e., "sit" becomes "sitting" and "bed" becomes "bedding," but since there are two ending consonants in "rest" you just add the -ing to make it "resting).  He's catching on pretty quickly.

Handwriting: This week he has been copying our Bible verse (1 Peter 1: 24-25).  I drew a smiley face on one of his papers the other day, and now he wants smiley faces more than stickers. :)

Reading (literature): We're still making our way through The Adventures of Peter Cottontail.  This week Peter is trying to figure out why all his animal friends are telling him goodbye for the winter.


Science: This week we read more about flowers and made notebook pages with pictures and a couple of things they learned about flowers.  We also took a little detail and read a bit about simple machines.  They've been clamoring to make a Rube Goldberg machine, and I thought it might help us with ideas to include.  We don't have church tomorrow night, so maybe tomorrow afternoon we'll give it a shot!
Connor's notebook page.  He dictated his narration and I wrote it: "Flowers have to be pollinated before they can produce seeds.  Flowers also can smell very sweet or they can smell like dead animals!"  He specifically dictated the exclamation point. *grin*

Brennan's notebook page.  He wanted to color a picture rather than draw--he dictated the narration and I wrote it for him: "Flowers make seeds.  The seeds fly out and land and make a new plant."

Art: We actually got an art lesson done this week!  The lesson (from How to Teach Art to Children) was a review/application of what we learned a few weeks ago about vertical, horizontal, and diagonal lines.  They divided their papers into three sections and filled (or partly filled) each with a different kind of line using paper strips.

I feel like today's post was a little whiny!  Still, better to admit to the bad days/weeks than to pretend we don't have them.  Anyway, I'm ready to regroup and hit the ground rolling on Monday.  Strictly enforcing a 9 AM start time.  And maybe no legos.

Trying something new--linking up to the Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers Weekly Report.  Check out some of the other homeschool blogs and see what they've been up to this week!

Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Read to Me: Amy Krouse Rosenthal + Books = Love

I discovered Amy Krouse Rosenthal's children's books a while ago and was instantly smitten.  Sweet, imaginative, and delightful with a quirky twist, the ones I've read have jumped quickly onto my "favorites" list.   I couldn't choose just one to review, so here are a couple!

The first one I read was Little Pea, a tale about a small pea whose life would be perfect if only his parents wouldn't make him eat all his candy before he can have his vegetables for dessert.  The boys giggled at the topsy-turvy situation, especially when Little Pea's favorite dessert was revealed.  Little Hoot (about an owl who wants to go to bed at night like his other animal friends but whose parents make him stay up and play) and Little Oink (a pig who loves being neat but whose parents strictly enforce "mess-up time") are in the same vein and are also not to be missed.

A recent favorite find is Rosenthal's This Plus That: Life's Little Equations.  It doesn't tell a story.  Rather, the book explores different "equations" involving ideas, people, actions, and objects. Page after page is filled with sweet, funny, and imaginative combinations; one of my favorites is, "somersault + somersault + somersault = dizzy."  Vibrant, playful illustrations by Jen Corace (who also illustrated Little Pea, Little Hoot, and Little Oink) perfectly capture the tone of the book.

Rosenthal's books are too good to be missed--if you haven't come across them already, be sure to check them  out!  You can find more books (including a few for grown-ups) and information at her website,