Wednesday, May 13, 2015

A Happy Mothers Day

I think about getting caught up on my blogging a lot.  Really, I do.  Maybe some day I will.  For now, here's some snapshots, some better than others, from last Sunday afternoon.  We had a picnic lunch, the kids played on the play equipment, and then we walked through the gardens.  It was lovely to see some spring flowers blooming.

Her little legs were tired by the end, but M was a trooper.  The older two enjoyed exploring all the nooks and crannies of the gardens.  To finish the walk, the path led past a hedge of roses that was in full fragrant bloom.  It was the perfect ending to the afternoon.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015


This year I decided we ought to have our own Thanksgiving feast.  We did this when K was in kindergarten and the kids enjoyed it so much.  For some reason that was the only year we did this activity, and K and T didn't seem to remember it at all. 

It was a very simple celebration; we made Pilgrim hats for all of us- there was an extra girl one, so M was thrilled to wear one also.  I popped popcorn in the air popper while the kids excitedly watched, then we ate it picnic style on the floor.

A couple stuffed animals were recruited to be Indian guests.

The kids loved it, and the whole batch of popcorn was gone in a flash.  We will have to be sure to do this again next year.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Mike Mulligan

In November T was happy to turn to the power and tenacity of a hardworking steam shovel with his next row, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel.  We started off with a review of personification, which the kids have become very adept at recognizing.  In fact, as we talked about how Mike named his steam shovel Mary Anne, we discussed the fact that he and K also last summer gave the vehicles we had the names  "Boom", "Douglas", and "Snow White".  They still refer to the vehicles by these names.

T was interested to learn about steam power and the machines and vehicles that used to use it.  I referred him to B, who was happy to give a more technical explanation (pistons and valves and such) than I ever could.  We discussed old and new machines, and we brainstormed lists of machines that used steam as well as ones that used diesel, as diesel is the "new" technology mentioned in the story.

"Mike Mulligan and Mary Anne built the foundation neat and square."  We reviewed what a square is and found some around the house, measuring them to be sure that they were, in fact, squares.  T also enjoyed making some squares on a geoboard.

Another activity was to discuss road engineering and the way Mike and Mary Anne lowered the hills and straightened the curves to make better roads.  We see some good examples of lowered hills as we drive to church each week, and I pointed these out the next time we drove through them.  I also poured some sand into a bin and made "mountains" for T to make roads through, which he very quickly did so.  I think he must do this frequently on his own in our sandbox.

Another highlight of this unit was to discuss how steam does work for us.  We made a pinwheel and the steam from a boiling tea kettle made it twirl.

After we did this experiment, T wanted me to take an "explaining" picture where he struck a pose, pretending that he was telling all about how the pinwheel worked.

Then a few days later we were able to visit the same steam engine we saw when K rowed this book.  It was still big, still impressive.  T wondered why some of the spokes on the wheels were partially covered. 

Another explaining picture:

Other topics covered included house construction, drawing trees, and vocabulary.  I think there were others, too, but you can look at the post of K's row to see what they were.  This row was a lot of fun and T seemed to pick up and retain a lot of information.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Pumpkin Runner

K's next Volume 4 row included a visit to Australia and many other topics of study.  We started rowing The Pumpkin Runner at the end of October and started off the unit with a test of pumpkin buoyancy.  K made predictions of which of a variety of pumpkins we'd collected would float and which would sink.  It turned out that they all floated, which was hugely surprising to her.

Another activity was an exploration of running and rowing.  I thought it would be interesting to explore whether there is a difference between in the best techniques for running a marathon compared to running a sprint race.  There definitely is.  Apparently it's good to run on your toes in a sprint, as this video demonstrates.  Then for comparison, we watched some footage of marathons.  I found coverage of the 2013 Melbourne Marathon, and the commentator, of course, has a lovely Australian accent to listen to as you watch the contestants run mile after mile (sorry, kilometer after kilometer) in a much more flat footed style.  We also watched some videos of team rowing.  Then we went outside and K tried running a sprint on her toes and a marathon of multiple loops around the house.

The book says that Joshua's ranch was 10,000 acres. This being a tall tale, the story describes how he loved to run from one end to the other as he took care of his sheep.  One day we took a drive to see just how big 10,000 acres really is.  B figured out a nice loop that we could drive outside the city limits, and it was a big area.  It took 45 minutes to drive.  At about the halfway point we stopped to take a picture.  It was cold with a bitter wind, so we quickly hopped back in the vehicle and kept driving.

We spent a couple days learning about the country of Australia, and K enjoyed putting together some of the Australia minit books from  She was also interested in learning more about the Sydney Opera House and was especially intrigued by how they are able to project decorative designs on the outside in honor of various occasions.  We made an Australian meal of lamb chops and pumpkin soup.  I added a side dish of red potatoes to round out the meal.  It was a tasty meal!

This was a fun book to row.  We actually spent eleven days on it, so these were just some highlights of our activities.

Friday, March 27, 2015

The Story of Ferdinand

T's next row was Ferdinand.  I love the detailed, humorous illustrations in this book.  Since this is another case of doing basically what we'd done when rowing this with K, I'll just post some pictures from this time.

 One activity was to discuss the relationship between the size of an object and its distance from the viewer.  K was recruited to help out by holding up a felt figure while standing on the far side of the yard while T held another identical in size close to me.  I took a photo so he could see how objects farther away appear to be smaller and higher on the picture plane.

Toddler M was outside with us, and just at that moment she decided to walk across the yard to join big sister.  Then she decided to come back.  As she tromped along, I kept snapping pictures because she was illustrating the concept perfectly.  Meanwhile, K and T patiently waited for me to say I'd taken the picture.

Both kids loved looking at this series of pictures after I had the photos developed and put them in T's FIAR notebook.
"As the years went by Ferdinand grew and grew until he was very big and strong."  In the book illustration Ferdinand is humorously shown next to a growth chart carved onto a tree trunk.  We talked about growth charts and I dug out one we'd started years ago.  It was interesting to compare how tall T is compared to how tall K was at his age.  (He's taller.)

I was also able to find some of his stats from babyhood on up, and he made a chart showing his growth in inches throughout his life.
It is so interesting to notice the differences and similarities between the times we first rowed these Five in a Row books with K to how it is rowing them now with T.  They are definitely two different and distinct children.  Last time we rowed Ferdinand, T disliked the vultures in the pictures.  This time he was intrigued and we spent a day learning about them.  I think he liked them less when he found out what their diet is, though.
I also tied cork to a branch so we could read under a "cork tree" on our last day with the book this time.  T thought that was so funny and didn't want me to take it apart when we were done.  It's the simplest things sometimes.  After discovering that cork floats, I questioned him whether he thought there might be any way to make it sink.  He thought cutting it into smaller bits might make it sink because that would "take the air out of it."  He was surprised that didn't work, and we looked at a piece under a microscope to help him get a better understanding of its structure.  Here he is with his cork tree, floating cork and cork minit book from homeschool share.
Since that's all the pictures I have for this row and because I'm so far behind in updating this blog, I'll close now.  Stay tuned for K's next row!

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Gullywasher

In the first half of October we rowed The Gullywasher.  This is a beautiful book with stunning watercolor illustrations that takes place somewhere in the Southwest or Mexico.  Abuelito, Leticia's grandfather, tells her a tall tale about one very big storm in his past.
My notes from what we did during this unit are pretty sketchy, so briefly, here are our activities:
~ learned about the geographical features mesa and gully.  We found examples of these in the book, and K drew a picture with both.
~ learned about Mexico and its culture (Mexican Hat Dance, Spanish words, etc.)  Homeschool Share has a nice Mexico lapbook that K enjoyed putting together.
~ reviewed tall tales and read some new ones that K wasn't familiar with.
~ talked about light waves and reflections.  While at the river and then a park for T's rows, we stopped and admired the reflections in the water.


~ learned about the flora and fauna of the desert.  I introduced the term stomata and had K look at a houseplant leaf under a hand microscope.  Typical houseplants release quite a bit of water through their stomata, but desert plants were created quite differently in order to survive in their arid homes.  We looked for the desert plants and animals pictured in the book and made a list of them.  We also read through some library books about desert plants and animals.
~ read cowboy genre storybooks and learned about what life was like for cowboys. 
~ learned about sand.  Leave it to Five in a Row to make this a topic for exploration and in the process, find out what a fascinating topic it can be!  In Gramma's Walk we had learned that the sand on ocean beaches can be many different colors.  This time we learned more specifics, such as what sand is made of, how it's made, and products it can be made into (glass!).  A fascinating book we checked out from the library was A Grain of Sand.  Author and photographer Gary Greenberg has developed a micro-photography technique to magnify grains of sand 200 times.  The result is an amazing collection of photos showing the mind-boggling array of colors, textures, and shapes found in grains of sand around the world.  Who knew!
~learned how to draw a sombrero and reviewed shading.  K also wanted to watercolor a picture of a storm like the illustrations in the book.  After the watercolors were dry, she cut out her sombrero drawing and glued it onto the painting so it looked like the sombrero was blowing away in the storm as it did in the story.  This turned out well!
~ made a meal of sopes, which seemed to be a version of fry bread, complete with fixings.  They were delicious.  Unfortunately, I again forgot to take a picture.  I had also intended to include a lesson on peppers as we prepared the meal, since we still had pepper plants producing in our garden.  However, we didn't get to this as preparing the sopes took all our time and attention.
This was a fun book to row with some memorable topics to learn about!

Monday, January 19, 2015


I've been enjoying revisiting our *old* Five in a Row books with T.  Our next row, in mid October, was The Story about Ping, the classic story of a wayward duck.
Since I'm so far behind in blogging, here are just our favorite activities (and the ones I have pictures for):

Ping has a mother, a father, two sisters, three brothers, eleven aunts, seven uncles, and forty-two cousins.  How many are in Ping's family?  An activity to figure this out was to count out the total with paper duck cut-outs.  When I did this with K, I had her color the ducks according to relation to Ping, then count up the total.  As with a similar activity with Harold and the Purple Crayon, once she had found the total she ready to move on to the next activity.  T, however, wanted to stop and act out the story.  He built a shoreline and a boat out of blocks, called out "La-la-la-la-lei!" and had all the paper ducks march up the ramp to the boat.

 I think the standing up block on the shore was the Master of the Boat.

We learned about ducks, that they come in an array of colors and patterns, each variety with its own call.  One interesting fact is that the reason they are able swim in frigid water is they have no blood vessels in their legs.  A few days later we took a field trip to observe ducks at the park.  We brought clipboards, paper and pencils, and the kids sat down in the grass and sketched a pair that were standing still in the water.  They seemed to be sunning themselves, preening, and taking little naps.  We didn't get very close for fear of frightening them away- they were standing so nice and still, very helpful for beginning nature observers.

The kids were proud of their drawings and were excited to put their pictures into their nature journals.  I'm not sure how successful they would have felt if the ducks had been moving more and swimming around.  After the drawings were completed, we walked down to the water, which of course scared the ducks away.  But one can't leave a pond without throwing in a few rocks first.

Then we went to a different area of the park where we were really able to see waterfowl up close.  Lots of people come to feed these ducks and geese, so they are not afraid of humans.  I have memories of going to feed the ducks as a child and being intimidated by aggressive, insistent, and hungry geese; but these birds must be well-fed  because they were definitely much more polite.

Something funny that happened while we were at the park involved squirrels.  As we walked toward the parking lot, we saw two squirrels chasing each other up and down the large trees.  We watched as one raced in front us and up the trunk of a nearby tree.  The other squirrel, who was already higher in the branches, charged down straight at him.  They tangled, and one of them fell out of the tree with a thud.  I hadn't known squirrels fell out of trees, or that such a small body would make such a loud sound hitting the ground. We were standing there with our mouths open when he popped up, raced up the tree, and it happened again.  The two squirrels chased around in the branches above our heads before one was knocked down near us.  This time the defeated squirrel ran away to another tree and the show was over.  You never know what you're going to see on a field trip.

The final activity I'll share was having a Chinese meal after learning about China.  We ended up getting Chinese takeout instead of going to a restaurant because T wasn't feeling well.  The kids had fun trying to use chopsticks.

Here is another picture to show that M wasn't being left out:

It was a delicious meal, though T, unfortunately, was only able to eat a little.
We had a good time with this row, it was one with memorable moments!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Pumpkin Patch

In early October we took a field trip with a homeschooling group to the pumpkin patch.  Here are some pictures from our day there.
I took this first picture in a hurry because most of the children had picked their pumpkins and it was time to get back on the hay ride.  Some friends were near us, but M was in a longstanding Highly Suspicious of New People phase, hence the baleful stare.
Tall kids.
It took a few tries, but we were able to get M to go put her face through one of the openings like big brother and sister.
The kids always love climbing on this tractor.
Another fun farm play structure.
Putting pieces of bark in the truck, one by one.  Or maybe she was taking them out.
Figuring out the tire swing.
Not pictured, but there was also an educational pumpkin talk (a homeschooling family runs this farm), a petting zoo visit, and lunch with fresh pumpkin donuts and apple cider.  Yum!
It was a lovely day in the country.  We've enjoyed going to this pumpkin patch every year for several years now.