Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Geometry Solids, Owl Pellets, Lego Stories, Diagramming Sentences and The Nutcracker

Here are just a few of the things we are working on presently...

Geometry Solids:

This was a made-up-by-me lesson for T. He is a very hands-on-learner. Text makes his eyes glaze over in a hurry. Here he was doing a geometric solid exploration. I asked him to create prisms, pyramids and other polyhedrons out of paper. Then we explored how circles can help us construct regular polygons.
Later we will calculate and derive formulas for solid volumes and surface areas using our paper solids. To be honest, I haven't reviewed how our Montessori album says to do this, but I figured we just tackle this subject this way since T already likes to make little 3-D objects out of paper. (T, S, and D all like making messes with paper and scissors.)

Now moving away from a Montessori-centered curriculum, I am quickly realizing that T needs an entirely different curriculum than that which can be found in a book. I think one of the reasons Montessori has worked so well for us is that I haven't required a lot of expressive writing and the curriculum is highly manipulative-focused. T is clearly a kinesthetic learner who loves visuals. Text and verbal language just aren't his modes of communication and knowledge acquisition...AT ALL. The above geometry exercise worked well for him because it was experiential and very hands-on. I set him up with a "problem." How do you create a regular hexagon using this circle? He needed some prompts, but then he realized that we could use isosceles triangles to create our hexagon. Trial and error, hands-on, movement, problem solving, manipulation, and visuals are what drives his learning style. So, these are the kinds of learning experiences I am seeking to find and put in his path.

It is hard for me to let go of the linear progression and book-learning I personally prefer. But this teaching style doesn't work for T; he wastes time, takes for-EVER, and doesn't retain a darn thing. I am searching science kits, computer programming, and other experiential learning opportunities for him.

 Lego Story Starters:

The Lego Education Story Starter program is an attempt at a new writing sequence for T. I set aside our classical writing program, and went back to "before-the-basics." He really needs a TON of one-on-one help with this. These two pages required more than an entire day's attention and coaching from me. (Like more than 10 hours of my time.) T just doesn't understand how to express thought in a logical manner. I've known expressive language is a huge challenge for him since he was 2 years old. But now that composition is starting to be very important in the upper grades (past where he is now but coming up soon) I am wondering if he will be able to write what he needs to write in a few years.

So, Lego has this education arm which has developed a bunch of education programs that utilize its building bricks and include instructional support and assessment metrics. The product packages are generally designed for groups of 8+ students but they do sell uber-expensive sets for a smaller homeschool class environment. We didn't get the package...but I did manage to adapt their lesson plan to fit our needs, sort of.
 The end goal is a comic-book style story with photo visuals, text, and dialogue that illustrates a story from beginning to end. The Story Starter curriculum outlines scenarios and the child builds a visual with Lego bricks. He takes pictures of the 3-D brick scenes and then heads to the computer to post-edit, lay-out, and add text.

Lego has also developed software that makes it super easy for the child to independently upload their photos, drop them into their document, and add text. We did our spread in MS Word. After watching me align, crop, and add text boxes and bubbles, T was able to do much of this on his own (without deleting my entire computer.)
T was able to come up with a very simple storyline from the Story Starter prompts and a lot of help, and build and photograph what he needed to illustrate his story. Drafting the text was SUPER, SUPER, SUPER difficult. Who, what, when, why, how questions are like non-existent in his brain. I am never sure what is going on up there. It was like 100 questions to literally PULL the story out of him, "who was doing what and why." In the end, we created a pretty cool looking product. I am NOT looking forward to coaching him through the next one.

Diagramming Sentences: 

This is one of my new most favoritest books ever. EVER! You need to get it from the publisher, but I sooooooo, sooooo, highly recommend it for those looking for something laid out from A to Z in the sentence diagramming world. Eugene Moutoux, the author, has his own website here, and he has a ton of really great info on his site. I wasn't sure if I'd like the book, but it is really, really, really, helpful. Both T and S are using this now and we all like it.

Both T and S have had some exposure to the very beginning basics of sentence diagramming. T has had more Montessori lesson experience than S. But this book starts off with simple baby steps so it was easy to start on page one and progress. (We haven't gotten that far yet.)

One of the things I love about this book is that there are tons and tons of practice sentences that I didn't have to draft. I don't have the children draw each sentence though, especially T who writes slower than a snail. We do practice outside on the sidewalk with chalk. We'll put together our diagramming lines on the sidewalk. I'll call out the short sentence, and then they'll repeat the sentence, saying each part as they hop from indefinite article, to the subject, to the predicate, to the attributive adjective, to predicate nominative. It is kind of funny to watch them do this. (It is like 80+ degrees here today, so hopping around outside can be done comfortably in shorts and a t-shirt.)
 We also use white boards and dry erase markers to practice our sentence diagramming. Somehow children love dry-erase markers a lot. T likes whole body movements. Using a large whiteboard allows for whole body movements, and so does sidewalk sentence diagramming hop-scotch.  (The example above is S's work and I think it is on a piece of paper I laminated, not the big white-board.)

T seems to like this work since it is all about logical classification and he is pretty strong in advanced grammar concepts and sentence diagramming.

This book is pretty thick, it has answers to everything, and very good definitions and explanations of each rule. I am terrible at this kind of thing. I was never taught how to diagram a sentence in grade school. So for a complete novice like me, this book is just exactly what I needed!

 Owl Pellets:

We did this a couple of weeks ago actually. I purchased the jumbo owl pellets from Home Science Tools and the kids got to work dissecting them and finding out what owls cannot digest. (T said that he remembered from the book Poppy, by Avi, that Mr. Ocax threw up a pellet after he ate Poppy's friend Ragweed and Poppy was able to collect her old friend's earring. Then T sighed and set to work pulling apart his owl pellet, probably thinking about Poppy and Ragweed.)
 Okay, I purchased two jumbo pellets for each kid not really knowing what was going to be in these things, nor how much time it would take to dissect one. My kids are 10, 8-almost-9 and 5. Everyone but my science girl was done after one jumbo pellet. I was also done after one owl pellet. And we now have more rodent bones bumping around in a plastic container than I know what to do with. They freak me out each time I see the container again. My advice: get one jumbo per child, or a large one will do. You will literally find 2-3 complete animals in a single jumbo pellet, skull and all.


Kindergarten Grammar

 D has finished up the elementary verb grammar boxes and we introduced the preposition. I gave the initial Montessori-style lesson asking him to put his stuffed dog Chase, "on the chair," "under the chair," "over the chair," etc. He thought this was funny. A preposition is a word that describes relative position between two things.

Then I introduced grammar symbol, the green bridge, which stands upside down on our grammar tray from Montessori Outlet. I made some sentences for him and he used our grammar symbol stencil and assigned each work their appropriate symbol. Then he wanted to act out each sentence, like a command card, but S didn't want to be stuffed into a box.

Stamp Game Division...or not 

I went away for 5 minutes and this is what D did with the stamp game. He was supposed to be finishing up his division with the stamp game. (8988/14=   )


And, D is working hard on his Minecraft activity book. I seriously do not understand what the Minecraft craze is all about.

Flute, flute, flute...

S is preparing for her next flute recital and is working on the Spanish Dance from Tchaikovsky 's Nutcracker in addition to her other tone exercises and Suzuki pieces.

We practice about an hour once a day, almost every day. She has lessons for 30 minutes once a week, and has been playing now for a bit over a year. (She started playing the assembled instrument last September.) S just loves her teacher who is a performer and recording artist in the time that she is not teaching. With hard work S has progressed to about half way through the Suzuki Flute Book 3. She knows all of the 12 major scales and we are working on tone quality.

We are also trying to sort out some flute stuff now. She has an Azumi Wave-Line Flute which has that bend at the top. She started playing when she was 7 and her arms were too short for a regular student flute. This wave-line flute reaches low D and goes up to high A. The Suzuki music she is doing now extends lower and reaches higher than her flute. Typically, one would just upgrade to a larger flute. But S is still very small. She is 2-months away from turning 9, but our last measurement indicated that she is still two keys-worth-of-arm-length away from being able to fit a larger flute. So, what to do? This is something we'll be exploring in the months to come, while making sure that she gets enough calcium, green juice, and sleep so that she can grow and grow and grow.

A special thank you to a special someone for your very kind and wise flute wisdom. :) It is very much appreciated.

And that is what we've been doing!

Friday, November 4, 2016

Growing Bacteria - Microbiology in 3rd Grade?

  S is my science girl. She loves, loves, loves all things that require gloves and goggles. We talked about how to prepare petri dishes and how to inoculate them with bacteria. We will be staining these samples and looking at them under the microscope as well. We will also be preparing some antibiotic test samples too. We talked about antibiotics, how bacteria can be beneficial and harmful to humans, and how to prevent and encourage the spread of bacteria. We talked about bacterial resistance and sensitivity, and then we got to work growing some bacteria. Or well, S got to work. The boys were talked out by then.
  S wrote down the steps in her notebook how to prepare the agar and petri dishes. Then we set to work re-hydrating our agar and preparing our petri dishes.

 If you want to learn how to do this, either look on YouTube, or go to Home Science Tools' website here for brief instructions.

 These are her inoculation diagrams illustrating the patterns she can use to ensure recognizable growth. (If you use the bacteria swab to create a recognizable geometric pattern on the agar petri dish, you can see what grows along that swab pattern. Spots of growth in other areas are likely from accidental bacteria that have flown into your dish.
And these are her inoculated dishes waiting incubation. I took one biology course during the course of my 19 years of schooling. Chemistry with all the redox reactions, organic hexanes, and physical entropy properties were more my thing; but, growing things like bacteria, viruses, and fungi, were not so much. Preparing these is petri dishes was an entirely new to if you really want to know the correct way to do any of this...please refer to a reliable source. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Photography in Different Light

 If you've been following the blog for a while, you probably kind of get what my photo "style" is like. It's bright, white light, with high contrast, and retouched where possible. I feel this style suits my straight-forward personality well. Yes, I do a lot of post-editing and the shots I post are very rarely raw. I actually don't remember posting a raw photo, in the last several years.

Anyway, it took me a while to actually develop that style. After a few years of practice, I started to "get" lighting, and I figured out how to capture quality raw photos that modify well. So, to change it up a bit, the other week I took the camera outside in the evening when the light was low and had a really warm in quality to it. Wow, what a challenge it was to get good shots. I probably had the wrong lens for the job, but even so, I had a lot of trouble judging where to put the light, and how much light I needed to get a good raw image. Ha! A new challenge to tackle!

Here are a couple of my shots. Post-edited of course, because, let's face it, I am not very good at this yet.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Piper Raspberry Pi - The You Put It Together Computer

Sounds like a dessert? Welp, it is a computer, that you physically put together and learn how to hard-wire to get past Minecraft levels and save the world. I'd write more about this but I don't know much more. I ordered it, and T took it from there...

Late one evening, I heard, "hey, Mom...I saved the world." That's wonderful, little man.

Go here if you want to know more about this and where to buy it.

It is expensive. T had a great time with it and I learned that I have a kinesthetic/visual learner on my hands. So much for book learning.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Lava Lamp Science Activity

I presented this lesson in density to our Wednesday co-op. And then D wanted to do it again at home. Since I had purchased enough vegetable oil to fry three turkeys we made another oil and water lava lamp, a blue one, at home.

My quick co-op lesson was an off-shoot from the Montessori God With No Hands great lesson. In that lesson, we begin with God who created everything. And, God gave everything in the universe rules to follow. Heat would make particles rise, and cold would make particles fall. Some particles wanted to stick close together with other particles, and other particles didn't feel like mixing--ever. Our co-op group discussed briefly that particles that stick closer together tend to sink and go underneath particles that like to stay further a part.

Then we got down to the oil-y reality of things and brought out the oil, water and food coloring. We made our oil and water layers and discussed how the water particles want to stick closer together and that is why they sink to the bottom and the oil particles like to be further apart and they rise to the top. We also discussed that the oil and water particles really just don't like to mix--at all--ever. Then we got to seeing all this in action.

  • tall cylindrical see-through container
  • water
  • oil
  • food coloring
  • Antacid tablets

Put everything together as follows...
 Pour water into the bottom of tall see-through container. You'll need enough water to get about a 1/2" depth.

Drink any extra water if the container is too full.

Add 10 drops of food color to water.

 Mix the food color into the water, if necessary. Here we are using a metal chopstick.
 Slowly add oil to the top of the water. Add the oil slowly so that the oil will stay at the top instead of trying to mix into the water.
 Have your older brother supervise if you aren't sure when to stop pouring. You can fill it almost to the top since there is no foaming action in this activity. But do leave a little head room (haha, no really, there really is no foam when the water solution effervesces) because the popping gas bubbles tend to splatter the oil onto the sides of the container a tiny bit.
 Take your action tabs...
 Smile for the camera...
 Drop your action tab into the container, make sure it sinks into the water layer, and it will start to bubble.
The gas bubbles will make droplets of water rise upward in the oil and because the water is more dense than the oil, the water droplets eventually sink once again when the gas is released.
 Don't cap this activity while the mixture is releasing gasses. Well, you can cap it if you want to clean up a blue oily explosion when the entire activity eventually bursts. For the lava-lamp effect, an adult can lift the container and shine a flashlight under the bottom of the clear container. It looks pretty cool and everyone liked it a lot.

Now, I have to figure out how to dispose of this activity. Any ideas?