Monday, December 14, 2009

Birding or Burglerizing

We were running a few errands around town when we spotted a hawk. We quickly pulled over to watch. The kids noticed that the hawk was diving near a bush that had sparrows flitting in and out of it. We hoped to get to observe that behavior closer, so I pulled around a building and inched forward slowly (in our honkin' big suburban). It was pretty exciting. All of us were whispering (inside our honkin' big suburban). All of us were trying to be inconspicuous (in our honkin' big suburban).

As we poked forward from behind the building enough to see, I put it in park. The hawk was perched on top of the chimney, watching the shrubbery below. We were parked near a dumpster, watching the hawk above us.

After we had been there only a few minutes, a man was dropped off for work. As he walked into the building, he stared at us and (in the words of my children) gave us mean looks. I didn't worry about it. Less than a minute after that a woman with her arms crossed came out and peered our way. She kept peering. Finally she started walking towards us. The hawk flew away up into a tree.

I realized that we were not wanted.

I pulled forward to leave. As I did so, I rolled down the passenger window. I smiled and explained to her that the children and I were birding. We had been observing a hawk, but that he had flown away now so we would leave. She started smiling and looked for the hawk. She then explained that they often have people who use their dumpster without permission. She was checking to see we weren't doing that.

So... our first confrontation during birding. We never even left the (honkin' big) suburban and we still made a stir.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Cacao & Cocoa

We have been studying the Aztecs, Incans, and Mayans the past two weeks along with our study of Renaissance Europe. Fascinating people groups! So advanced in many ways. One wonderful way they were ahead of the white people across the pond is that they had cacao beans. Suh-weet!

For a little historical taste lesson, we tried some roasted chocolate covered cacao pieces (because I couldn't find any whole raw cacao beans locally and I don't plan ahead sometimes). While the chocolate covered cacao was yummy, I had a different lesson in mind: making the drink the Aztecs made.

So, we sucked all the chocolate off so we could start out a little closer to the original gig (Don't worry, each kiddo had their own bowl of slurped and then dried cacao. We didn't 'share'!)
A day later (so the cacao could thoroughly dry or because Mama was busy until then... whatever), everyone decorated their drinking vessels with either Aztec or Incan style artwork. (I didn't insist that they stick to the typical Aztec and Mayan colors. Or artwork. My bad.)

We ground the bits to bits (I'm hilarious, I know). We poured boiling water and rice milk (Ok, ok, the Aztecs and Mayans didn't use rice milk. Just water, usually... man, you all are sticklers!)over the bits and let the mix soak awhile, then we strained out the solids. Each student then chose how to flavor their drink. Their choices:vanilla, honey and/or ground chili. Everyone picked vanilla and in the end chili too!
We "whipped the drink until it was frothy".

We drank. We were not impressed. I think the roasting of the cacao beans before we started or experiment/recipe altered the taste. Thankfully, I had a chunk of Abuelita's Chocoate on hand. So, we supplemented our drinks with some finely ground chocolate chunk.

In the end, we made frothy drinks just like the Aztecs and the Mayans (ok, maybe not just like, but ya' know... pretty close), discussed the difference between cacao, cocoa and coca (an Incan thing, I'll tell you about that later... no worries, we're not going to be doing anything illegal even if it does involve the plant that cocaine is made from).

It was entertaining and memorable!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Freezing Temps

We had a little impromptu lesson on the temperature for freezing liquids. And a little impromptu lesson on refrigerator temperature and how to adjust it. Lastly, a lesson on the beauty of a frozen egg.

Homeschooling is grand.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Thanksgiving Crafts

This year I decided to do a little craft during Thanksgiving week school days. If you know me in real life, you know that this is outside my comfort zone and right into the "I love my kids and want to do more fun things with them" zone. Nothing too fancy. Stuff I mostly had here at the house. It was fun and put a little holiday in our days, especially since we had school Monday through Wednesday (what a mean teacher...they'll thank me when we're done mid May, though). The kids enjoyed the fun and I did too! Whodathunk it?

Thankful Turkeys using our hand shapes
Popcorn Balls (since the Wampanoag tribe introduced popcorn to the Pilgrims and covered it with maple syrup) Chocolate Pilgrim Hats (since they look stinkin' adorable)
(Wee Babe found an unattended Pilgrim hat)

Our homeschooling neighbors even joined us for some of the fun.

Did you make anything during Thanksgiving with your kids (besides the meal, I mean)?

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Very Fat Caterpillar

Last week our neighbor brought this to us and we were giddy. Seems it doesn't take much to make us happy around here. He was the biggest, fattest, coolest caterpillar we've ever seen.

We couldn't identify it with complete confidence. It looks a lot like a Lunar Moth caterpillar, but not perfectly the same (based on Internet descriptions).

We hung out with him for awhile. I took a bazillion photos and was basically entranced. I loved watching him walk. I even videotaped him walking and then pooping (a bonus!). I'm sparing you that little video. Let's just say, we didn't know caterpillars pooped such big poopies (I just use a form of the word poop four times, aren't you happy?)!Such beauty. Seriously. What a creative Creator we have. After an hour, we let him go. We don't have the best track record with caterpillar to chrysalis to moth/butterfly experiments.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Cardboard Castle

The Boy and Princess had to make a castle out of cardboard for an assignment during our study of the Middle Ages. They enjoyed the work and the chance to be creative. I got a kick out of seeing what they felt was important to "tell" about castles. This was their first real 'project' (so shoot me). Pretty good for a first and for no parental involvement, don'tcha think?

Royal Tower

King and Queen with their pet peacock

One of the peasant hovels from the villages near the castle

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

My Artists

Princess and Faith won first and second place, respectively, in the county fair for their art. We made these canvases to hang in thier rooms this past summer (using Crayola Twistables Slick Sticks). I was proud of their work and their effort at the time. Now I'm thrilled they were recognized. Many smiles when the ribbons were brought home.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Creatures I

Faith and Cutie Pie spent a lot of time looking for animals this past week. They collected two kinds of caterpillars, a praying mantis, and a lizard. We didn't have anything to keep the lizard in, so he was set free pretty quickly. We can't find our insect reference book, so we have to use the Internet for identification, which is not as easy as I thought it would be. Feel free to suggest a good insect identification reference book for us to keep on hand.

(Excuse the poor photos, I'm having camera issues.)

Caterpillar #1: Currently unidentified, found Nov 3, released Nov 5

Caterpillar #2: Currently unidentified, found Nov 3, released Nov 5

Praying Mantid: commonly called praying mantis; adult; grayish brown; 2 and a half inches long; eats flies, crickets, honeybees and moths; has compound eyes; can turn his head almost all the way around; found Nov 5; released Nov 5.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Coat of Arms

The Boy had to design a coat of arms for an assignment. He decided to put it on a shield. I'm proud of his design.

Here are his reasons explaining the symbolism:

Peacock Feather= beauty, knowledge and power
The Wheel of Catherine= ready to endure trials for the Christian faith
lances= honor
dragons= protection
lightning bolts = swiftness
blue edges= water (I just like it)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Ye Ol' Renaissance Festival

(This post is different from the one posted on Mama's blog)
We had one of our best field trips ever last week! We went to the Texas Renaissance Festival. It was a wonderful way to start wrapping up our study of the Middle Ages. We'll be starting to focus on the Renaissance (which actually started at the end of the Middle Ages [the High Middle Ages]... if you didn't know that, consider it a free lesson from Morning Star Academy) in two weeks.

Here's what each student thought about the day and one thing that was new or reinforced about the Middle Ages:

HB: I liked the unusual and exciting experience of seeing real people dressed up as people would have back in the Renaissance, and talking like it too. It was always "Yes, Milady"; "No, Milady"; "This way Mi'lady"...Mi'lady was tacked onto the end of almost every sentence. Unless you were a boy. Then it was Mi' lord. Or occasionally peasant. I also liked that almost everything sold in the shops were made by hand. If they weren't made by hand, then they were unusual and looked as if they would have been used in the Renaissance. One thing that wasn't quite reinforced but not quite new was that I realized that they were actually quite "modern" back then. They had books, they had clocks, they had pottery and glass. Admittedly, these things were not as good as they are today, but still...they had them.

The Boy: I knew that if someone fell off jousting, they wouldn't sword fight, even though that's what they did when we watched. I knew that the Ren Fest didn't do the jousting right because jousting matches happened as separate events and were sponsored by nobles. It was still my favorite part of the festival. I thought that all the people were really good actors. I thought Tartanic was awesome (said in a great Scottish accent).

Princess: I thought it was really fun. I liked how all the stuff was really cool. I learned that they made clocks work by weights. I liked the rides the best.

Faith: I really loved the jump. And the swings. And the fight. I liked the big guy with the stick thing. Going there was fun. Seeing the Big Bad Wolf was really cool. It was a human dressed up. I got in front of Daddy. It was sorta scary. I liked the pioneer days field trip better.

Cutie Pie: I really like the rides. I wanted to ride all of them. I danced a little bit on the stage with Tartanic but then decided it was too loud so I sat down with my ears covered. I had so much fun. I don't know what the Middle Ages are. Is that when you turn eight?

Wee Babe: Elephants are super cool! I learned that they have trunks. I loved having an elephant trunk slurp be on the face. Mama thought it was disgusting, but I couldn't have enough of it. There was lots of room to run, but my family seems to have control issues because I wasn't allowed to dictate the walking plans. I have no idea what the Middle Ages are and I couldn't care less.
Well, there you have it. The summation of The Texas Renaissance Festival through my students' eyes.
What say ye? Was ye' ol' Renaissance Festival worthy?

Thursday, October 29, 2009


Wow, are birds interesting!! We are studying birds this semester as part of our Apologia: Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day science curriculum this year and we have discovered the fun in birding.

This post is the place where we will submit photos and info of birds we have seen. It's sort of our Life List. We will update this occasionally, keeping a running list, but we will also be posting birds when we add them to our list in individual posts.
Turkey Vulture

Black Vulture

Northern Cardinal

Red-Shouldered Hawk

Northern Mockingbird

Monday, October 12, 2009

Living History

At the last minute, my neighbor and I decided to take our kiddos to a local living history day. It was a little crazy, but fun and educational. Usually, I'm a stickler for only taking field trips that pertain to what we are studying, but... I figured why not.

The kids enjoyed listening to and watching (or nearly getting scalped by) the Mountain Man the most. If you don't count the beach and the biology lessons there, this was our first field trip of the school year. Since it was free and very close to the house, I put it in the win column.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

First Post

Well, I finally did it. I started a blog for our homeschool. I think we'll all enjoy posting here about what we're learning and doing as a family.

For anyone who might be interested and for my future questions, here is the curriculum we're using this year:

HB: Tapestry of Grace, Year 2; Potter's School, Logic; Teaching Textbooks; Apologia- Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day; Greek and Latin Roots

The Boy: Tapestry of Grace, Year 2; Wordly Wise; A Reason for Writing; Spelling Power; Apologia- Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day; Teaching Textbooks

Princess- Tapestry of Grace, Year 2; Wordly Wise; A Reason for Writing; Spelling Power; Saxon Math;

Faith- Little Hands to Heaven; Little Giant Steps; (soon to be) Right Start Math; (soon to be) The Love of Reading

Cutie Pie- Little Hands to Heaven; Little Giant Steps; (soon to be) Right Start Math; (soon to be) The Love of Reading (maybe)

Wee Babe- lap training 101 and Binky exchange 101