Thursday, September 30, 2010

Because we are huge penguin geeks in this household...

Fossil of humongous ancient penguin found.

Wednesday Parkschooling: Math and History

I'm trying to make Wednesdays park day around here. Yesterday, we headed up to our secluded table near the nature center and did some math, and some reading about ancient China.

We started out making up problems about birds, and nests and eggs, since they were all around to inspire us. Of course, talk of nests and eggs led Paleo Boy off on his usual tangent, and things evolved (devolved?) into dinosaur math.

Here's an example of what we were doing:

Fifteen pairs of oviraptors each make a nest and lay 6 eggs. In three of the nests, 2 eggs get broken. In 4 of the nests, a troodon comes along and steals one egg.

How many eggs were laid?
How many eggs hatched?
After the hatching, how many oviraptors were there, all together?

He managed this without yet knowing multiplication, by figuring out that ten nests with 6 eggs is the same as 6 tens, or sixty; and the other five nests would have half as many eggs (thirty), so there were 90 eggs laid.

Then he subtracted out the losses, and remembered to double the 15 (adult pairs) and add it on to get his total number of dinos.

I was really pleased at his understanding of how to work the problem. He still doesn't have his math facts down cold, but he knows how to figure things out, and I think that is a vastly more important skill...

He did not want to stop doing math!

But eventually, we moved on to history, and read a couple of books about Ancient China. One was a fairly detailed biography of Confucius. It was fun to watch Mikro actually make connections between Confucius' teachings and Jesus' "Do unto others..", and the Declaration of Independence -- before the book pointed them out! This is really the boy's strength. He sees connections, and synthesizes things together. Watching him learn is really a treat. I wouldn't miss this homeschool journey for anything!

We had a picnic lunch, and after we were done with the academics for the day, Mikro met a new friend and played tag and dinosaurs and raced around the playground. He had a great time, and had to be pried away to go pick up Dad from the train station...

Can you believe I forgot to take a single photo?

Tuesday-- Mad Science

Science class on Tuesday was about oceans. The kids did bouyancy experiments, learned about the layers of the ocean (e.g., sunlit zone, twilight zone, etc.), did an experiment contrasting toothed whales and filter feeders, and got to look at specimens of fish, starfish and squid.

After class, we read some books about oceans...

Just Following Orders

(The sticker says: "Place sticker on forehead. Smile." First time I've obeyed a banana...)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Pow Wow

On Saturday, Mikro went to his first pow wow. It was a super hot day, with no shade, and as we sat watching the dancers, Mikro was feeling the heat. I bought him a bandana and soaked it in our ice chest, then tied it on him as a do rag. A little later, he was raring to go and even got up and participated in the dancing.

Friday was my birthday (ouch, I feel old. 44 didn't bother me, but 45 does...), and with birthday money from my mom and mother in law, I bought myself something really special. It's a beaded pouch with a Tree of Peace design. I love it! Mikro wangled a coyote mask, a rattle and a martin skull out of me.

And mmmmmm, fry bread... One of these days I have to figure out how to make gluten free fry bread for Mikro...

Friday Science & Nature

On Friday, we set out early for science, hoping to have a little time to explore before class. We wandered until we located the beach, and found lots of interesting things to look at: dead horseshoe crabs, a big claw from some other sort of crab, seashells, and a cool feather.

Science class was about floods, landslides and avalanches. The kids used a ramp, rocks and test tubes (stand-ins for trees) to simulate an avalanche, and tested changing conditions such as the steepness of the ramp, the amount of material sliding, etc. Then they took a hike to the museum's flood pit (a sandbox with a hose attached to a trash can, which dumps in a flood), where they built a sandcastle and flooded it, then built a castle and tried to come up with ways to protect it from flooding (they tried moats, sand walls, etc.)

Ireland and the Titanic at Grand Central Terminal

The Irish tourism board had a special event at Grand Central Terminal on Thursday and Friday. Mikro and I stopped in and enjoyed performances of step dancing, fiddling and bagpipes, and an exhibit on the Titanic, which was built in Belfast.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Hand Feeding a Dragon

Mikro got to hand feed his Baby Beardded Dragon today for the first time ever. She loves arugula, and happily took it right from the boy's fingers!

Here's a ridiculously short video, and a couple of photos. I think this made Mikro's week.

We measured Amicus today, and she is now 10 inches long. She was about 5 inches when we got her. So in three months, she has doubled in size. (She's also much wider.) A happy and healthy dragon.

Homeschooling in the News

There have been three articles in the past couple of days.

There's a piece in the NY Times about possible closure of NYSED's Office of Non-Public Schools, which has run interference between homechoolers and overreaching or ignorant school district personnel, who either misinterpret the state homeschooling regulations, or think they are free to invent their own special, additional requirements, just because. You can read it here.

CNN has a video and a companion article which recognize the growth of secular homeschooling! Wow, progress! It is actually positive!

And the Wall Street Journal has an article about "school refusal", in which psychologists caution against "well meaning parents" homeschooling in order to help kids with anxiety disorders.

While the well meaning psychologists dismiss homeschooling, the comments are surprisingly favorable. As a person with an anxiety disorder, I can tell you that forced exposure to triggers never helped me any, and I doubt it helps kids with school anxiety. Being so overwhelmed and stressed can't possibly be good for children (or adults, thankyouverymuch.) It saddens me that the psychologists interviewed apparently can't think outside the box enough to see the benefits of homeschooling. Oh, wait-- they don't teach thinking outside the box in schools anymore, do they? Or perhaps they lack the compassion to realize that sacrificing someone's mental health in the name of making the "normal", societally approved, choice is folly. Or maybe they are just too knee jerk accepting of the socially maladapted homeschooler myth to be able to see the tremendous advantage that homeschooling can give an anxious child, allowing him/her to able to learn without the unnecessary distraction of sheer terror, or the "solution" of being drugged into compliance. Grrr.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Park is Our Classroom...

Today, we went to the park and tried out Mikro's solar beads from Mad Science. Check out the pretty colors they turn when exposed to sunlight...

At the park, we took a nature walk, and enjoyed the beach.

And, of course, there was a playground to visit...

And fun to be had with static electricity...

Tuesday Science: Weather

Science class on Tuesday was about the weather. The kids learned about temperature, wind speed and direction, weather symbols, and types of clouds. They got to experiment with an anemometer and a windsock. Their take home was a set of sun beads.

After class, we hung out at the library, read down our fines, and enjoyed a bunch of books about clouds, thunderstorms and hurricanes. Mikro also discovered Max Axiom, Super Scientist Graphic Novels. He sat on the train going home, eating up Cell Life, and bubbling over with enthusiasm. "Hey mom, this is cool! Listen to this!" And he regaled me with information about ribosomes, mitochondria, ATP, mitosis and other things I never heard of till high school biology. My kid is a bio geek, what can I say? He comes by it honestly. (Mom will be reading the comic book as soon as she can get her paws on it...)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Video: Heron Catching a Meal

Here's a short video I shot on Friday: Great Blue Heron grabs a bite to eat:

Nature Nearby

Nature Nearby. Bugs found in our yard or at the local park...

Growing wild in the neighborhood:

We collect bugs that are already dead. We don't kill anything for our collection, though I must admit we have a few accidentally kept-in-a-bug-jar-too-long casualties in our little mini-museum. These guys we found on the road, while taking nature walks:

Nature *at* home: Amicus is growing, and that means shedding. Today we gave her a bath to help her get the old skin off...