Sunday, December 25, 2011

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Christmas school plans!

I hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving! Ours was just wonderful from start to finish. Mark is a little sore from a morning football game with the boys and friends and we all ate a tad too much pie, but I think we'll recover nicely. And tomorrow, Christmas decorations!

I thought I'd put up a quick post about our Christmas school plans, because they start next week, and if you want to join in, you might want to print them out before that.

Each year, we try to do a special study for Christmas. One year, we studied the names of Christ. One year, we studied the symbolism of the twelve days of Christmas. This year, we plan to make a Jesse tree. If you're not familiar with that, it's a series of readings that start in Genesis and go right through the Old Testament, showing how everything points to Jesus. Each day, you hang a little ornament with a picture that reminds you of the story. There are many versions online, but we chose this one, from A Holy Experience, which has beautiful ornaments to print out and laminate. Ann's writing is just beautiful too, although since it isn't the way I normally talk, I'll kind of put it in my own words for the kids.

Of course we'll be listening to Christmas music until we can sing it in our sleep and we'll be reading all of our favorite Christmas books, along with some new finds, which I will list here very soon!

Happy Thanksgiving, all!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Our Week with Ping

Ping holds a special place in my heart because this Five in a Row unit was the very first thing that Z-Man and I ever did in the way of "official" homeschooling. This week, I was so happy to re-visit it with Little Man!

Some of the things we did:
  • Found China on our huge, shower curtain map from Target. That was a great purchase.
  • Read about China in our atlas and found the Yangtze River.

  • Tried our own colored pencil sunsets, using one of the pictures in the book as a guide.

  • Read the book, Ducks by Gail Gibbons and learned about different types of ducks.
  • Learned how preening makes the duck's feathers waterproof and did an experiment where we tried to mix oil and water.

  • Read the book, Floating and Sinking by Franklyn Branley, and did our own buoyancy experiments, using this chart from We discussed what a hypothesis is and I taught Z-Man, who couldn't resist tagging along, how to calculate percentages.
All in all, a great week of fun and learning!

Friday, November 11, 2011

First Snow!

Remember that post I wrote three days ago, with the temperatures up in the sixties? Well, today it snowed.

It started like this.

It quickly progressed to this.

Naturally, even two or three flakes in the air makes it all but impossible to concentrate on writing one's letters and numbers.

Ah, now that's better.

Notice those lovely, yellow leaves still obstinately hanging on the tree? Their companions have long since been raked to the curb and swept up by the city trucks.

Ah well, maybe in the spring.

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Beautiful Fall

We've had a gorgeous fall here in New York this year. This week the temperatures are forecast to be up in the sixties. In November! It just makes you want to get out there and soak up every last bit of sunlight before winter hits.

We've had lots of leaf-pile jumping here and some lovely nature walks.

We took a picture of this unusual goose so that we could try to identify it when we got home. It's a juvenile Brant, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and it was apparently just resting on it's way from the Arctic tundra to the coast of Virginia or North Carolina.

I hope you're all enjoying a lovely autumn!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Fun and Messy Pastels

We tried pastels this week for some great, messy, artistic fun. I found 30 pastels tutorials at Hodgepodge. The instructions were easy to follow and I think the results were stunning! The tree reflections tutorial is number 15 in that link if you'd like to try it.

Little Man, hard at work and sporting a green cheek and multi-colored sleeve.

To LM's way of thinking, if it's a picture of trees, then it should have as many trees as he can fit on the page.

Z-Man wasn't quite as into the mess, but we had baby wipes on hand for clean-up.

I think they both did a great job.

And I gave it a shot too.

We'll definitely have to try some more of these great tutorials!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Day at the museum

To wrap up our study of photographer Ansel Adams, the boys and I went to an exhibit of his work! Thank you, Mom, for financing our field trip!

We couldn't take pictures inside, but the boys were happy to pose on the front steps for me.

Before his death in 1985, Mr. Adams selected a group of photos that he felt best represented his work and this show contained about two thirds of those, in addition to some of the camera equipment that he would have used. It was wonderful to see the prints up close.

Among those we saw were Monolith: The Face of Half Dome and

Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico.

Our favorite biography in this study was Ansel Adams: America's Photographer.

We also watched a nice interview from 1983 on YouTube here. It is in four parts and that link takes you to the first. The other three can be found on the right side of the screen. I can't really recommend the Ric Burns PBS documentary. It seemed to me that they misrepresented him and there were a few things that weren't suitable for younger viewers.

All in all, we have enjoyed this artist study immensely and I think we all have a new appreciation for the art of photography.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The beautiful Adirondacks!

We are so blessed to live near the Adirondack Park!

The view of Fourth Lake from the top of Rocky Mountain.

Us at the top, having a snack.

The boys climb like mountain goats but they scare me sometimes.

Back in the town, a lovely moon rise to end a perfect Autumn day!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Science Day!

A state park in our area hosts an amazing, annual science day where groups of students visit different stations to learn about everything from earthworms to acid rain. There are many stations and each group visits six. Our homeschool group visited:

-A station where we tested solutions with cabbage juice to see if they are acid or base.

We then tested the lake to see if it had been affected by acid rain. We were happy to see that our little sample of lake water turned blue/green, which means that it was a base.

And then, of course, we had to mix acid (vinegar) and base (baking soda) because who doesn't love that sudden volcanic eruption!

-A Zoo station where we met Matilda, the eastern box turtle. We learned that her kind are the only turtles able to completely close their shell, transforming themselves into little "turtle rocks." The only thing able to get them open at that point are crows, who pick them up, fly high into the air and - are you ready for this? - look for a parking lot in which to drop them. Ugh.

-An animal CSI station - this one was so clever!

We learned how an animals skull can tell us whether they are prey or predator, and then we visited some "crime scenes" to sift through the evidence and determine who the victim and the attacker were.

In some cases, samples of "scat" showed us that the victim had themselves eaten another animal that day.

-A paper recycling station where we made our own recycled paper, complete with shredded leaves, flowers and cinnamon. This is one we want to try at home!

-A forest recycling station where we learned about earthworms, bacteria, fungi and the decomposition of leaves and fallen trees.

-At the final station we met several beautiful owls, falcons and a turkey vulture.

All in all, it was a fun and fascinating day made even better by a game of beach football at the end!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Our Ansel Adams Photo Safari

We're continuing our artist study with Ansel Adams this semester. Our study is very simple - we look at some of the artist's work, discuss it, and read a biography or two. Today we took advantage of the lovely September weather and went out in search of high-contrast nature images to capture in the style of Ansel Adams.

And then we waded in the river to cool off.

I'll leave you with a poem that seemed just perfect for today:


by: Helen Hunt Jackson (1830-1885)

      HE golden-rod is yellow;
      The corn is turning brown;
      The trees in apple orchards
      With fruit are bending down.

      The gentian's bluest fringes
      Are curling in the sun;
      In dusty pods the milkweed
      Its hidden silk has spun.

      The sedges flaunt their harvest,
      In every meadow nook;
      And asters by the brook-side
      Make asters in the brook.

      From dewy lanes at morning
      The grapes' sweet odors rise;
      At noon the roads all flutter
      With yellow butterflies.

      By all these lovely tokens
      September days are here,
      With summer's best of weather,
      And autumn's best of cheer.