Monday, February 28, 2011

A Reminder Needed By This Painter Who Doesn't Paint

A friend posted this beautiful video to her journal. It made me cry. I am a painter who seldom paints, a potter whose hands have not been dirty in far too long. As Mikro grows and becomes more interested in art, I dare to hope I can change that.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Nature Nearby

We've been experiencing cabin fever here, and I am thrilled that the weather has finally cooperated enough for us to be outside a bit lately. We are fairly starved for nature at this point. Maybe that's why we are noticing the little things, the everyday bits of the wild that peacefully coexist with suburban humanity, as well as the occasional gift of the truly wonderous...

Here are some things we noticed:

Ducks and geese. We see them all the time, but have you ever taken a good look at a duck's feathers? Snapping turtles have remarkably piggish snouts. Squirrels are fun to watch, even as they raid the bird feeder and make a huge mess. Crows will give up on attempting to drive off birds of prey in the absence of reinforcements. The lone crow in the photo below ended up sharing a tree when his friends did not respond to his calls for assistance in banishing the intruder... There are fun patterns to be seen in the simplest things, the bark of a tree, the clouds... sometimes even the trash. Mikro found a bit of foil underfoot, smashed into a perfect heart shape. Lizards have so many different types of scales on their bodies, in different shapes, sizes, colors and textures. And icicles grow in odd places...

More Science Linky Love: Chemistry & Physics

Science for Kids

Reel Science

Celebrate the Interntional Year of Chemistry

Color Me Physics coloring book pdf

Color Me Physics activity book

Physcis Quest

Free Education PDFs from NASA

Physics songs

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Hudson River Landscapes at Beczak

Today Mikro painted Hudson River landscapes at Beczak Environmental Education Center. First the kids did an acrostic for HUDSOn, looked at Hudson River School paintings, and then went outside and sketched the Hudson. They came back in and painted the river, either from memory, or using their sketch for reference. In Mikro's versions, the yellow stuff is marsh grass, and the black stuff is the Pallisades cliffs across the river from Beczak.

Here's what it actually looks like across from Beczak:

And here's my attempt at drawing a tugboat. I took artistic liberties and set it further up river, nearer where we live.

Here are some links for Hudson River School activities:

Lesson Plans & Activities

Art, Artists and Nature: The Hudson River School: Activities

On the way down, we saw a bald eagle flying over the river. I snapped a shot, but it is pretty far in the distance... Click to enlarge...

Friday, February 25, 2011

Mathtacular! Review

Just wanted to pass along a math resource that we are really enjoying here: Mathtacular! DVDs. Mikro is really enjoying them. They start right at the beginning, with counting, and go up from there. The 4th volume is intended for grades 4-6. Everything is presented in a very concrete way, using manipulatives and games, and with humor.

I'm trying to make sure the basics are really cemented into Mikro's head, and he still has the occasional hiccup with regrouping... This has been a good review and jumping off point for playing with manipulatives.

After about 45 minutes of watching, Mikro turned to me and said "Math isn't work, it's fun!" Best reaction I've gotten to anything math related other than Dreambox, which he really likes. There are also some printables on the discs, but I haven't looked through them yet... and we are only part way through the first disc. So far, though, this is a keeper!

Sonlight has a bundle deal going right now for the first 3 DVDS or for all 4 DVDs, with a level 4 workbook and answer key. They are much cheaper than I've seen them elsewhere. (I didn't get anything free or a commission or any other benefit from Sonlight or Mathtacular or anyone else for posting this review. I just bought the DVDs and found them to be worth sharing!)

Illustration Friday: Layers (Late)

We were hoping to be done with our artwork for Illustration Friday in time to submit it before the new topic got posted, but I wound up having to deal with some heart-stopping stupidity by one of our banks, and it delayed us past the deadline... So I'm going to post what we have here. Neither of us was able to finish up as we had hoped to, and our glue resist projects are still in the early stages, waiting for the glue to dry so we can paint them or pastel them...

Anyway, here are the progress shots.


Mikro was inspired by his love of paleontology and our visit to the Explorations in Time website, and wanted to do something with different strata levels and fossils in the earth. He did a pencil sketch and then added watercolors.

I found a glue painting project for Luscious Landscape Layers on Crayola's website, which used a glue resist technique. I thought it would be fun, and suggested to Mikro that we both give it a go. Unfortunately, the glue is taking forever to dry... I used a little photo-editing magic to pop out the glue lines.

My Pitt Pen drawings were just concept sketches that I hoped I would have time to develop, but it didn't happen...

Hopefully we'll finish the glue resist this weekend, and do better next week!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Nature Nearby: The Birds Return!

I went outside to grab a package (chemistry curriculum and some other homeschool goodies), and saw a bunch of birds up on the hill. Our feeders needed topping up, so Mikro helped me with that. Then we sat in the car and watched. It was insane! We had so many birds I'm sure I must have missed some in my count, but here's what I was able to scratch down:

Thursday, February 24, 2011, 1533-1623. Cold, clear, residual snow in feeder area 0-4 inches. 40 F.

1 herring gull
2 mourning doves
3 brown headed cowbirds
5 crows
1 redtailed hawk
1northern mockingbird
1 white breasted nuthatch
1 song sparrow
1 purple finch
11 red winged blackbirds
28 grackles
152 starlings

We got to watch the crows mob the raptor and chase it off. I have seen this many birds in the park, but this was a first for my yard!

Amicus Grows: A Size Comparison

Seven months ago, we gave tiny Amicus a bath:

A couple of days ago, I took some photos of a more recent bath. You may be able to make out that same rock in the lower right hand corner of the bath tank...

She has certainly grown!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

What we've been up to lately...

I'm playing with wordle:

Mikro has been creating poems with an online version of Magnetic Poetry:

and finishing off our massive pile of library books! Today is the first day in 2 years that we haven't had a single library book out. But then, I ordered a bunch of stuff for our next few topics of study, so we have plenty to keep us busy. We are still on Ancient India, but will be moving along to Ancient Japan soon, and from there to the Aztecs, Mayans and Incas, and then Ancient Africa.

We also got a few new living math books, and some math DVDs, and we have IXL and Dreambox online.

Mikro has been reading Hank the Cowdog for fun, and the library system's online collection of Tumblebooks as well.

We've been having fun with Amicus, but she is grounded to her enclosure until a new harness/leash comes, because she took a flying leap off the bay window and hid herself under the couch, scaring the daylights out of me.

Our other family pet is Shelly Red Streak, a red eared slider turtle. Unfortunately, Shelly is a timid soul and acts afraid of us. We wish she was friendlier, but she seems not inclined to have anything to do with us, apart from begging for her dinner. She's a pretty girl, though.

Today Mikro did a rocketry teleclass online, and we are studying Newton's 3 Laws of Motion and doing related experiments with Aurora Lipper's fantastic Supercharged Science program.

And tonight, we are enjoying Survivor and Face Off as a family.

Monday, February 21, 2011


Saturday Feb. 19: Cold (approx. 35 F), very windy, clear, residual snow 2-9". Observed 1345-1415

7 Dark eyed Juncos;
1 Mourning Dove.

Sunday: Oops. Too engrossed in the Daytona 500 to do a count... Congratulations to young Trevor Bayne & the Woods Brothers 21 team!

Monday: Cold, snow is over, but is being blown off the trees. 34 F, some wind, new snow on the ground 6", total snow height 6-14 inches. Observed 1645-1705.

3 House Sparrows;
1 House Finch.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Great Backyard Bird Count, Day 1 and Other Fun

Today was the first day of GBBC. Mikro and I were thrilled to have a beautiful spring-like day for it. Kev says it was 65 degrees in NYC! We took our sketchbooks and my camera out to the Blue Beast (my car) and used it as a bird blind.

Today's Count:
Friday, Feb. 18, 2011 1357-1455
60 degrees F, sunny, clear skies, residual snow cover 3"-12".

1 seagull (We have to check the bird book to figure out which species);
2 House Sparrows;
3 Mourning Doves;
2 Downy Woodpeckers;
4 American Crows;
and I heard a white breasted nuthatch.

Mikro tried drawing some birds, and I gave him a quick drawing lesson...

And then I let cabin-fevered boy loose to play in the sunshine. He goofed around with a garden spade in the snow, pulled some weeds and turned them into imaginary creatures with complex adaptations to their environments, and just generally ran around and had fun. We have been indoors too much lately, courtesy of the nasty winter weather. It was great to have a break from it, though I hear there is snow in the extended forecast...

But there were also signs of spring...

Back indoors, there has been lots of playdoughing going on. Mikro made me a really cute little gnome, but Mr. Gnome had an unfortunate accident with a hot cup of tea and ended up rather the worse for being dunked. As did I, since I discovered his plight by drinking the tea, which tasted horrible and chemical-ish...

And we've both been doing a fair amount of drawing. I really liked Mikro's crocodile! And he is almost done with the pile of overdue library books. Hurray!