Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Homeschool Math: The Decanomial Square and Its Extensions

Just yesterday, I told a friend that if I'd had preschool to do all over again, I'd have skipped Montessori and saved the money.

When I said that, I was thinking of 1) how expensive Montessori was, and 2) how I'd primarily thought of myself as using it for childcare and social experiences, and so I'd perhaps have been better served with a a cheaper alternative.

It didn't take much reflecting on my statement, however, to realize that I was wrong. I'm glad that we didn't continue with Montessori, of course, because homeschooling has been vastly superior to any available alternatives, but Montessori, I think, has deeply affected how my children view learning, and how I mentor and mediate their learning.

Montessori is where I developed my firm philosophy of--other than screentime limits--never disturbing a busy child. Children's focused concentration is precious and not something to be lightly interrupted. That focused concentration, whether directed at "work" or play or nothing at all, as far as you can tell, is children thinking deeply and hard and they'll later be able to apply that focused concentration to their other work and studies.

Montessori is where I first saw work plans, and now I couldn't imagine our homeschool without them. For the kids, a work plan is expectation management, empowerment in how they're going to conduct their day, and a good model of clarity and organization that leads to a solid work ethic.

Montessori is where I became firmly convinced of the vital importance of hands-on manipulatives, especially for math. We think of math as cerebral, but it's also visceral and and intuitive and sensorial; you may know how to do long division on paper, for instance, but when you physically do long division, you understand how it works for real.

Much of our own math manipulatives, then, are Montessori-style, even if I create them myself and alter them from the specified Montessori format. The decanomial square, for instance, is a physical model of the multiplication table. In Montessori, kids compile a slightly abstract paper model (Montessori relies on the reinforcement of the color coding of numerical values, which kids have long internalized by this time, so that they can get away with having a less concrete representation) that they then will recreate with the bead manipulatives that they use. Kids can do some really sophisticated extension work with this material, including bringing out some of their old preschool manipulatives (the pink tower and the brown stair, in particular) to make clear the relationship between all of these different ways of representing numbers.

We use Cuisenaire rods instead of the Montessori bead materials, and we sure as heck don't have a school's worth of them to build ourselves a decanomial square with, so I didn't want to use a decanomial square that relied on color-coding to impart much of its crucial information. Instead, I wanted to make it gridded with centimeters throughout, and make the relationship of each piece to the number that it represents (as well as its area and perimeter and the length of each side) clear that way.

Thank goodness that my husband is a graphic designer!

Matt designed the decanomial square that we used (we need to figure out how to best format it for a home printer, and then my goal is to make it available for sale if there are any other Montessori-obsessed homeschoolers out there), and although he color-coded it to our Cuisenaire rods, I printed it onto cardstock in shades of grey, on account of I'm too lazy to replace the color ink cartridges on my printer. Syd then helped me assemble the pieces into the complete square and then cut them out.

In a Montessori setting, you would model the assembly of the decanomial square in an organized way, but I'm mean, so I gave it to the kids as a puzzle, with no other clue than that the finished piece would be a perfect square. I made them figure it out completely without my assistance, and wouldn't you know it, but they eventually (after some griping, and then some settling down to get to work) did present me with a perfectly assembled decanomial square!

That process was one complete math enrichment work for one school week, but last week we played some more with the decanomial square, extending our understanding of what it can offer. First, I had the children build the square again, which they did this time with minimal fuss (other than losing the 2x2 square, sigh, which we actually really needed for this lesson. Oh, well... I do intend to replace this particular model with the colorful one as soon as I can get Matt to replace the ink cartridges for my lazy ass, so then this entire greyscale one will be just spare parts).

Then, I demonstrated one of my favorite equations in all of math: the Pythagorean theorem. Will has encountered this before, and Syd has worked with squares before, so it was a good lesson for them both. I set up the 3x3 square and the 4x4 square at right angles to each other, and told them that these were two sides of a right triangle, sides a and b. They needed to find the square whose side made the perfect hypotenuse, or side c.

And they did!

A squared plus b squared equals c squared! If you worked hand-in-hand with a good graphic design program, it wouldn't be hard to print out physical models on the spot of the hypotenuse of various other right triangles. You could print out a square with sides exactly 5.3851640713 cm long, for instance, to go with your 2x2 square and 5x5 square.

Hmmm, maybe that's another set of models that Matt should design for me?

Most of our work, however, involved using the pieces of the decanomial square to build equations (pre-algebra for the win!). We set out one piece of the square, then covered it completely by puzzling together other pieces--

--then wrote an equation to represent that model:

For instance, one equation might read:  5 squared (ugh, I wish I could find the superscript hotkey without looking it up! Soooo lazy!) = 4 squared + 4 + 5. (I didn't mention it, but do you notice that this is also the Pythagorean theorem? So cool!) Another might read: 3 squared = 3 + (2x3).

That was the extent of this particular extension lesson, but there are so many more things to do with the decanomial square, and we'll be revisiting it often throughout algebra and geometry and possibly into trigonometry. I'm currently on the lookout, for instance, for a cheap version of the Montessori pink tower (you *can* DIY it, but with a to-do list as long as mine...) so that we can have physical models of the cubes represented in the decanomial square.

When I've finally gotten my hands on one, I'll be VERY curious to see if the kids remember it from their own Montessori preschool days. Between the two of them, I wouldn't be surprised if they'd built it a hundred times over the years that they were there.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Work Plans for the Week of September 26: An End to Rocks and the Revolution (But Not to Civics)

Don't tell Will, but next semester, I'm going to be upping her schoolwork load.

Twelve has been kind of a magic number for this kid. The kid who used to struggle daily, constantly, with her deep desire not to do anything that anyone else wanted her to do, nor to do anything at all tedious, is now my kid who gets all her schoolwork done every day, quickly, without prompting. She can get an entire day's schoolwork done in two hours or less if she puts her mind to it, and she usually does!

That would be just about an ideal amount of time for a younger kid, but now that Will is middle school-aged, I think she can handle more, especially since she's getting her current workload done so easily. Syd, on the other hand, is having a hard transition to ten, and the current workload is already more than she's willing to do without fuss. So after our vacation, the kids will come to the new semester with redesigned work plan templates, and they won't be completely identical.

And Will's will have more work on it. Don't tell!

Last week's school week went well, especially with that mid-week romp up to the Children's Museum to break it up. We also finished up our shark dissection, Lordy Hallelujah, played at the creek with friends, did interesting things to rocks, and Syd made us candy sushi:

The kids learned how to play lacrosse (neither of them liked it, but at least now they know!), they've both just almost got the prime numbers through 100 memorized, and I think this strategy for our American Revolution notebooks is going to work:

Books of the Day for this week include some shout-outs to current and upcoming studies (Syd loves the Goddess Girls series, and Will likes the I Survived series, which is a little hard-core for Syd). Daily work includes probably our last week of having Scratch on the work plans--Will has just about made it through Coding Games in Scratch, and Syd, who has long abandoned the book in favor of making daily cartoons in Scratch, likes it enough that I think she'll keep it in mind for her screen-time, if she can ever get over her Roblox obsession (and here I thought that I hated Minecraft. There's always something worse!!!). The kids will also be alternating their cursive/journaling with replying to pen pal letters--they need to write at least two replies this week--and are expected to each earn $50 for vacation spending money this week. I make a special list of chores and prices for vacation money-earning, including as options chores and activities like doing extra work in math or composition, and crap like finishing up craft WIPs and helping me go through their fall wardrobes, etc. And finally, Will should be finishing Wordly Wise book 6, earning herself a treat (I keep trying to remind the children that treats can also be things like a trip to the indoor trampoline park or the library or an extra hour of screen-time, but they inevitably ALWAYS choose a) doughnuts or b) ice cream. Sigh...).

And here's the rest of our week!

MONDAY: In Math Mammoth this week, Syd is learning about ratios and Will is finishing percents. I'm pleased about this, because our math enrichment this week will fit both of them very well!

We're finishing up Song School Spanish this week. I have several Spanish curricula to explore for next semester with Syd, although fortunately over the weekend I found a couple of Mandarin texts that will work to flesh out Will's Mandarin classes. I'd hoped to start her on one of the textbooks this week, but the weekend got away from me and I forgot to include it in my lesson plans. Oh, well!

I'm excited to have finished our rocks and minerals text last week, so that this week we can move into the Syd-friendly rocks and minerals science kit that I've been looking forward to. We're starting it this week, with the plan that the kids can finish it when we come home from vacation but before we begin our new semester, and I'm really, really, REALLY hoping that it's as user-friendly and adapted for independent work as it looks.

Are you as excited about tonight's presidential debate as I am? We've got a big night planned of me and Will racing home from fencing and then all of us eating pizza in front of the TV and cheering/jeering. To that end, the kids will be reading the pages on the debates in Election 2016, and then watching clips of other debates from previous years to help them understand what they'll be looking at and should be watching for tonight.

We've got a lot of chapters in From Colonies to Country to get through this week, but they're all about the Constitution, so it should work to read/listen to them as a unit. On this day, the kids will be working on what they can complete from the Junior Ranger book for the Germantown White House in Philadelphia. Do NOT let me forget to gather up all of these half-completed Junior Ranger books and take them with us on our road trip!

TUESDAY: I LOVE the videos on Brainpop, and so do the kids! I'm surprised at how often I find relevant videos there, especially in the sciences and history. The kids really enjoy the videos, and I like that there's a quiz afterwards to confirm that they've understood the content. On this day, the kids will be watching the Brainpop video on the Constitutional Convention.

In other news, I just had a panic attack upon writing that previous sentence, when doing so reminded me that I had NOT yet reserved our tickets to tour Independence Hall!!! You will be relieved to know that I immediately went to remedy that, there were happily tickets available, and now we're all set. Now you just need to help me convince the rest of my family that we do need to go look at the Liberty Bell again, as well. They claim that we've already seen it; I claim that we're going to be just across the freaking street, People! Come ON!

Step 3 of the Cadette Finding Common Ground badge asks the Girl Scout to analyze a civil debate. Can you think of a more perfect activity to do on the day after the Clinton/Trump debate? Will loves politics, so this should be right in her wheelhouse. For the Junior Social Butterfly badge, Syd and a sister Scout are planning to host a tea party for the other Girl Scouts in our troop. I'm going to encourage her to press flowers on this day, as the girls decided they wanted to give pressed flower bookmarks out as party favors but flower season is nearly over, but I'm also planning to encourage her to search Pinterest for tea party ideas, so who knows what else she'll come up with?

WEDNESDAY: This American Revolution coloring book is actually a nice review activity for our unit, and will be pleasant for the kids to work on while we listen to our chapters in From Colonies to Country; don't you just love coloring while listening to audiobooks? I don't expect them to finish on this day, but I think that it will actually make a nice activity to work on while on our road trip.

Will is almost finished with the Finding Common Ground badge, which I've been really pleased with; it's a great one for a tween, all about how to handle conflict and work and communicate with others--can you think of someone who doesn't need more practice in that? For this activity, she has to study a historical compromise, working out why it was necessary, how it came about, and what would have happened if it hadn't. Since this is our Constitution week, I'll be limiting her to either the 3/5 Compromise or the Connecticut Compromise, either of which will add a lot of interesting insight and context to her understanding of American history.

Syd isn't particularly enthusiastic about the Inside Government badge, especially compared to how much Will loved that one at her age, but it's loo relevant to not do right now in election season, at the end of our American Revolution study, and on the cusp of our road trip to the nation's capitol. I'll leave how she interprets each step up to her, then, and see what activities she chooses to do.

THURSDAY: I am really stoked about our math enrichment for this week, and I know that the kids are going to be, too! It'll be pretty involved, but the basic concept is to both graph and record the fractions/decimals/percentages/ratios of the various colors of candies in various small bags. It will be a lot of real-world work that should make abundantly clear the relationship between all of those ways of representing amounts, and, well... candy!

FRIDAY: Yet another field trip day! We'll be attending our VERY well-loved Children's Farm Festival, which, to be fair, is by now a little young for the kids, but they adore it so much that I have to take them, at least for one more year.

SATURDAY/SUNDAY: Ballet, Chinese, attending either a ballet performance or a local play (all the fun things are on the same weekend, dang it!), working on the world's most difficult to assemble tree house, and napping. Lots of napping.

What are YOU up to this week?

Friday, September 23, 2016

Homeschool Geology: The Acid Test for Carbonate Rocks

One of the freedoms of homeschooling that is deeply important to me is our ability to do projects that are not watered down in deference to a child's age or level of experience. If I think that my second-grader can handle writing a ten-page research paper, then that's what I can mentor her to do. If I think that my fourth- and sixth-grader can handle a six-month study of World War 2, then that's what we study for six months. If I think that my fifth- and seventh-grader would be interested in dissecting a shark (and they are!) or can safely handle dangerous chemicals, then I buy them a preserved shark specimen AND a small bottle of hydrochloric acid.

Unfortunately, some materials can be difficult for a homeschooling parent to purchase. For the shark specimen, for instance, I super wanted the pregnant shark triple-injected with latex that Will was absolutely drooling over, but Carolina Science doesn't ship to residences (seriously, though--what mischief could I possibly get up to with a preserved shark in my own house?), so I had to settle on this less desirable, poorer quality shark from Home Science Tools. Home Science Tools also let me purchase hydrochloric acid, something else that Carolina Science won't, sigh, so that the kids and I could use it to test rock and mineral specimens.

Hydrochloric acid is useful for positively identifying carbonate rocks and minerals, which we have a lot of here in Indiana. Yay, limestone! To perform this test at home, you will need:
  • hydrochloric acid
  • very small glass bottle. You can also use a small plastic squeeze bottle, but I felt more confident storing hydrochloric acid in glass.
  • three eyedroppers. These are a dime a dozen (sometimes literally, if you keep your eye out for deals!), so I disposed of the eyedroppers that the kids used for the hydrochloric acid and the dilute solution. When we work with the acid more extensively, I might just rinse them well and store them separately.
  • rock samples. I had the kids choose their own samples, but I sneakily made sure that there were some carbonate rocks in the mix.
  • safety gear, including goggles, gloves, and sleeved shirts. We used safety goggles, non-latex gloves, and long-sleeved shirts or hoodies. If I ever see a good deal, I would like to invest in lab coats, as they're the ideal protection for experiments like these, but until then... hoodies!
To set up the experiment, we removed everything from the kitchen table, covered the surface well in old newspapers, and I laid out all of the supplies to be easily accessible. Nobody is knocking over a full jar of hydrochloric acid on my watch!

Next, I lectured the children on what we would do for a hydrochloric acid spill or exposure to skin, eyes, or mouth. I lectured them until they began to look worried, and then I dwelled a little longer on emergency eye wash procedures, just for fun. There are also some good Youtube videos on lab safety, if you want someone else to worry your children. For bonus points, there's a great scene in Parks and Recreation in which one of the characters has to demonstrate how to use an eye wash station--it's super funny AND provides added incentive to be extra-safe in the lab so that you never have to experience one for yourself!

Next, we made the dilute solution of hydrochloric acid. If your kids are studying fractions, decimals, percents, and/or ratios, this is a great time to have them use them in a real-world situation. A good solution is 10% hydrochloric acid; you can translate that into fractions and decimals, and have the kid figure out how that works out into actual drops of hydrochloric acid and water. Ratios are deceptively tricky, in that a 10% solution of hydrochloric acid is NOT a ratio of 10:1 water to hydrochloric acid, right? It's 9:1! Yay, math!

The kids took turns measuring out the solution (and it was the older one who managed to slop hydrochloric acid all down the side of the bottle, sigh), and then I agitated it to mix it.

To test the rocks, all you have to do is dispense a drop of the dilute solution onto its surface and observe carefully to see if any magic happens:

And here's the magic!

There are more interesting things that you can do with this experiment, such as looking at the effervescence through a magnifier, or grinding the reactive rocks down and then dropping the solution onto them (hint: they'll be even MORE reactive!), or comparing reactions between the solution and vinegar. 

And don't worry: I already told Will that no, we will NOT be combining hydrochloric acid with bleach to make chlorine gas. Although it *would* make our trench warfare LARPing even more realistic...

Monday, September 19, 2016

Work Plans for the Week of September 19: A Revolution, A Field Trip, and Shark Innards

Last week's school week started strong but petered out before the end (mostly thanks to the fact that we added a new item to our list of broken stuff around our house: now it's the oven, washing machine, dryer, my camera AND MY COMPUTER!!!!1!!!!), so I had to move a couple of Friday's activities to today, alas. Fortunately, none of them were from the units that we're busting our butts to finish before our vacation, so it's no biggie.

We did get most of our schoolwork done, though, mixing up a full day at the art museum and outings with friends and the making of treats and lots of play time and reading time with awesome stuff like shark dissection--

--which we're going to be doing more of this week, and building the decanomial square--

--which we're going to be playing more with this week.

Books of the Day include more novels (including Regarding the Fountain, which I am SUPER excited to introduce to Syd), more random non-fiction books (Matt found the Illustrated Encyclopedia of Weaponry and thought that Will might like it. I think he's right!), and several selections on civics, political parties, how the government works, and the like. We're really pushing hard on our civics study, which I'd like to continue through Election Day.

Other daily work includes journaling for Syd, cursive copywork for Will (she was putting zero effort into her own journaling, so I have to think up a better daily creative writing assignment for her for next semester), progress in Wordly Wise (Will is on track to finish Book 6 before we leave for our road trip, but Syd is taking a snail's pace through Book 4; I may be more strict with her progress next semester), and work in Scratch (Will has mostly abandoned this, but Syd is still making a new cartoon almost every day, so I'm going to keep encouraging it at least through this semester).

And here's the rest of our week!

MONDAY: Will resumed Mandarin class last weekend. Syd may or may not attend with her; at first, she flat-out refused, but since Will reported that two of their friends are also in the class this semester, she's now said that she'll "try it" next weekend. Regardless, Syd has also said that she wants to continue our Spanish study after we finish Song School Spanish next week, so I'm currently researching options for that.

For now, however, both kids are continuing their work in Song School Spanish, and for this week, at least, Will is sharing her Mandarin review with Syd.

In Math Mammoth this week, Will is continuing in percents, and Syd is doing an entire week of fractional problem solving before she moves into ratios next week.

Friday's science is one of the subjects that we simply did not get to on Friday (we got caught in a rainstorm on the way to the library, so that when we got home it felt far more appropriate to put on pajamas and read comic books than it did to finish our school work), so we'll be reading the unit on sedimentary rocks and using a dilute solution of hydrochloric acid to test rock samples today. We also begin our study of the internal anatomy of the shark today with the digestive system.

We had a fabulous family trip to the George Rogers Clark National Historical Park yesterday, including conversing with the world best and most enthusiastic park ranger, so today, while the kids listen to our chapters in History of Us, they can use the brochures and postcards from the site, as well as the information that they learned, to make a page for George Rogers Clark in their American Revolution notebooks. This will ideally be practice for what I'd like them to do with the other sites that we'll be visiting on our road trip.

TUESDAY: We missed our homeschool group's playgroup for our field trip to the Indianapolis Museum of Art last week, so Syd, at least, is very eager to get back to playgroup this week. Will doesn't anticipate playgroup the way that Syd does, but she's got her own friends there, and she enjoys herself much more than she'll tell you she does.

History of Us is actually a little light on all of the actual battles of the American Revolution, and I'm not sure, either, how many of the battlefields we'll actually go see on our trip (many of them really are, unfortunately, simply grassy fields in the middle of nowhere), but I at least want the kids to be able to put the battles in geographic and historical context, so they'll be completing this battlefield map/timeline and then memorizing the information.

Syd's Inside Government Girl Scout badge is one of the studies that I'd like to get completed by Election Day, while Will's Animal Helpers badge is simply one that she started with great enthusiasm and then lost interest in, meaning that she just has a couple more activities for me to encourage her to do. Both badges are good cross-curricular unit studies that the children can work on mostly independently, so yay!

WEDNESDAY: Field trip to the Children's Museum!

THURSDAY: Of course the second that we committed to working a weekly voter registration table, the laptop that I intended to rely on to do this voter registration began to catastrophically fail. I'm hoping I can baby it along to do the work we need to do on this day, and then by next week, I will ideally have a brand-new laptop to zip through the work!

I'm banking on the fact that one day of dissolving rocks with hydrochloric acid will not be enough for my little scientists. Even if it is, I'm betting we can find some other cool stuff to dissolve--for one thing, Will did lose a molar recently...

The kids built the decanomial square last week, so on this day I'm hoping to explore some extension activities with them--equation creating, pattern making, cubing, etc.

FRIDAY: After reviewing our From Colonies to Country chapters, the kids will zoom in on the Articles of Confederation with this Brainpop lesson.

Our Friday Spanish books remain a big hit. We're a little tired of Sandra Boynton and Bill Martin, Jr., but I've got some Dr. Seuss that I think will work well as a substitute.

The Bicentennial Patch is another special patch program just for this year, since 2016 is Indiana's Bicentennial. We do all of the activities required for the patch (outdoor activities, healthy living, arts and culture, and history) pretty regularly, but we could probably stand another visit to a state park or IU sporting event.

SATURDAY/SUNDAY: We're back in the groove of a thousand and one Saturday extracurriculars, so I'll attempt to spare my family yet another Sunday day trip and let them lie on the couch and work on their tree house. Except... there is the local university's fall ballet that we *could* attend, and there's a play coming out this weekend that I'd like to go to with Matt, and it *is* about time to go to the apple orchard...

What are YOU up to this week?

Friday, September 16, 2016

Cruise to Alaska Day 10: Victoria, Canada

Y'all are going to be so sad that these are the last photos from our cruise! Fortunately, it couldn't have been a more beautiful day, and I could not have been more excited that I was finally going to Canada!

It finally occurred to me that I should take some photos of the ship that we've been on for the past 10 days!

Canadian flag!

And here I am in Canada!
Matt came, too.

We did a bunch of sightseeing, including a giant bus tour around the entire city (which included free gardening tips, and that is why I've been putting banana peels around my rose bushes--they like the potassium!), but we also went to high tea at the Empress, which is a thing.

Look at all the noms! I ate that entire dish of clotted cream pretty much by myself.

This is The Empress. I want to come back to Victoria, stay here, and also buy a tea set.

And here's the Parliament.

Anytime we ramble, we always make it back to the ocean, and generally I have disheveled hair.

Random food truck. 
We stayed out in Victoria so long that we missed our fancy dinner reservation, so we made do with one last beautiful dinner out on deck. I love my face in this photo. I have been trying so hard this year to do well without Pappa, and then without Mac, as well, and just really sucking at it. There's been a lot of stress, a lot of extended family drama, a lot of toxic personalities coming my way, a lot of sadness, and I'm having trouble working out how to cope, because my support system died. The other day I wasn't coping well and when Matt asked, gently, if I was feeling sad, I snapped at him, "I am ALWAYS feeling sad!" That wasn't fair, and it wasn't true, but it is true that I am sad every day, sometimes for Pappa, sometimes for Mac, sometimes I can't distinguish, sometimes I'm angry, and sometimes I don't know what to do with myself. But I look at my face here, and I also think, okay. I am definitely, genuinely happy right then. I am definitely, genuinely happy every day, as well. I can do this. I have photographic evidence.
I have no idea when I'll next go on a vacation with Matt and without the kids. It's not something that I'd say that I need to do every year, or even that often, but it was 1000% worth it, and if you've got kids, and you've never taken a vacation with your partner and without the kids since you had them, I am telling you right now that I strongly recommend it. I make no bones about the fact that I am primarily a mother, and I think that Matt would also say that he's primarily a father, and that's great--I wouldn't love him the way that I do if he wasn't. Raising our children is THE most important thing to us.

But you also want to have a relationship apart from the kids, you know? You want to be able to send them out into the world, then sit down at the breakfast table alone with your partner, and know that you still have something to talk about every morning aside from the kids. You want to be able to sit alone at that table and have something to think about besides them, as well. So I needed this trip. I needed to relax, without being someone's caregiver. I needed to remember that I can still have fun, and not worry about where someone else's shoes went and how many granola bars to pack and who might need colored pencils and who might need an emergency book. I needed to take some deep breaths, bum around with Matt and not go to a single hands-on museum, drink dirty martinis and behave shockingly, and smile just exactly like that over my after-dinner cappuccino.

But just so you know... I smiled even bigger when I finally got my kids back into my arms!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Work Plans for the Week of September 12, 2016: Civics, Art, and General Washington

Yes, it's another four-day school week in a string of four-day school weeks! (And yes, I peeped into my planner and noted that thanks to another training session at the Children's Museum of Indianapolis next week, that will be a four-day school week, too!)

Fortunately, these four-day school weeks do seem to be working well for us. I'm somehow managing to fit all of my weekly work plans into four days instead of five, and we've still had time for play groups (although, to be fair, I DID spend much of my precious mom-time at last week's playgroup planning our first shark dissection for this week...), afternoons at the beach, ice cream with Dad, long walks and short museum visits with friends, and, fine, math and science and history and vocabulary, too.

Books of the Day for this week include some leftover books for my research into next session's Greek mythology study, more novels that I think the kids might like, and a couple of books about sharks. Will liked the Mythmaker book on J.R.R. Tolkien so much (thanks for that great recommendation!) that I've given her the one on J.K. Rowling, and Syd liked the first Princess Tales book so much that I've given her the second.

Other daily work includes journaling for Syd, cursive drills for Will, work in Scratch for both, and progress in their Wordly Wise.

And here's the rest of our week!

MONDAY: I had a long weekend getting lots of things done, so today's school work is hopefully mostly stuff that the children can do independently. I sent out the assignments for the 2016 Children's Pen Pal Exchange last night (so if you registered, you should have received an email from me!), so much of the kids' work today will consist of catching up on their correspondence, if you will. Will has already written her pen pal letter, so she can finish up the last of her birthday thank-you notes while Syd writes her pen pal letter, and then they can make envelopes, stuff them, address them, and off they'll go!

Song School Spanish remains an excellent curriculum choice for this session. Will is absorbing a lot of vocabulary, thanks, as well, to the Spanish-language books that we read each Friday, and Syd is enjoying the study so much that she wants to continue to study Spanish next session (part of the reason is that she does NOT want to continue Mandarin, but I'm probably going to make her continue that, as well).

In Election 2016 on this day, the kids are going to learn about the electoral college. We've discussed it several times already, so I'm hoping that they won't find the concept as obtuse as I found it at Will's age. We'll be watching this TED-Ed video after the reading, and then playing a game in which each child will represent exactly half of the voting populace, will also be assigned half of the states, and then will vote in opposition to each other on something (something that probably involves what Will likes to refer to as "sugarnoms," on account of we love our sweets!). They'll record their states' votes on this actual electoral college voting map, and we'll see who wins!

In Math Mammoth, Will is breezing through percentages and Syd is slogging through advanced multi-digit calculations.

TUESDAY: It's Homeschool Day at the Indianapolis Museum of Art! We're going to see all the sites, take an art lesson, and play bicentennial-themed mini golf.

We're also going to get back home in time for Will and I to go to fencing that night!

WEDNESDAY: It might be overreaching to try to finish the three different civics badges that the Girl Scouts offer (Junior Inside Government, Cadette Finding Common Ground, and multi-level I Promised a Girl Scout I Would Vote) before the November election, but on the other hand, I can't imagine a better time for it, since politics is in the air! I had hoped that we could find a local mediator to help Will with the mediation activity from her badge, but we're having some communication issues (humph!), so I'll have her complete the activity in which she researches a national conflict, instead.

On our road trip, we'll be visiting Washington Crossing State Park, but on this day, we'll do some guided study on a large-format printout of the Washington Crossing the Delaware painting.

The big event of this day, however, is the beginning of our shark dissection! We'll be studying the shark's external anatomy in great detail, identifying features and observing them through our USB magnifier. I also might take samples and make microscope slides.

Mental note: I really want to buy a more powerful microscope!

THURSDAY: Well, last week's voter registration booth was an eye-opener: as Will put it, "It's like we said, 'We're doing voter registration!' and people heard, 'Tell me about your craziest political theories!'" On the ride home afterwards, the kids were consumed with wondering why one guy, in response to my telling him about a hunting/fishing amendment that would be on the ballot, said, "If I don't mind cows being electrocuted, why would I mind hunting?" (he also declined to register to vote).

"Why would he electrocute a cow?", they asked. "Does he think that they electrocute cows in slaughterhouses? I thought that they knocked cows on the head in slaughterhouses! Should we look it up?"

No, I informed them in no uncertain terms. We would NOT be Googling slaughterhouse practices. Our ready referencing does not apply to slaughterhouses.

We all have assigned ourselves the job of figuring out better ways to present our offer of voter registration this week.

Even though this is one of our most exciting weeks in our American Revolution study--all those battles!--I don't have a lot of great ideas for interactive activities to explore them more deeply. What I wouldn't give for an obsessive model-maker to make me a detailed topographic map and a bunch of intricately-painted little soldiers for us to play with!

Barring having thousands of dollars' worth of manipulatives, we'll make do with this interactive map of the Battle of Trenton.

We've played with the decanomial square before, but long enough ago that it's definitely worth revisiting. It's a great way to explore multiplication and square numbers, and hopefully the free play will encourage the kids to think more deeply about multiplication and how it's represented.

FRIDAY: We are close to being done forever with our Draw Write Now set, but every time I pull them off the shelves and think about selling them, I come across a couple of lessons that fit neatly into whatever we happen to be studying at the time. And that's why on this day, when we review History of Us and its chapters on Valley Forge and George Washington, the kids can also learn how to draw him! We'll be visiting Valley Forge on our road trip, but it shockingly does NOT offer a Junior Ranger Program. Weird, right?

We're also going to visit Mount Vernon, so we should be well-steeped in George Washington information by the time we return home.

We've got another unit on sedimentary rocks, before we move on to metamorphic rocks and then to review. LOTS of review, because I'm not sure how much of this text Syd is absorbing at all, sigh. Regardless, she'll know a lot about carbonate sedimentary rocks by the end of this day, after subjecting them to a dilute solution of hydrochloric acid, mwa-ha-ha!

We'll also do a little more with shark dissection on this day, whether it's to complete our study of the shark's external anatomy or to finally make a cut and move on to musculature. Or maybe take a sample and subject it to a dilute solution of hydrochloric acid...?

SATURDAY/SUNDAY: Oh, my gosh, this weekend! Nutcracker audition. World music festival. Drive-in movie. Hopefully a day at the George Rogers Clark national park. Maybe a nap?

And then another four-day school week next week!

Friday, September 9, 2016

Cruise to Alaska Day 9: Cruising the Outside Passage

When I looked at my photos after we were home, I thought, "Huh. Did we do nothing but eat on this day?"

And then I came to these photos:

The wind was blowing at 40 knots, and you couldn't breathe when you faced into it.

Oh, that's right! It's cold and windy on the ocean off of the coast of Alaska! Best stay inside, eat stuff, drink champagne, listen to the string quartet, etc.

Life can be tough, yo.

You won't get any photos of breakfast, on account of Matt and I slept until 10:30 (tough life, remember?). Thank goodness for the coffee bar, so that we could sustain ourselves on caffeine, sugar, and carbs while lying in bed and watching Iron Man 3 on DVD. We were lounging so hard that we even missed the cooking demonstration that Matt had been looking forward to--it was just too much effort. Pants. Shoes. Better stay with pastries and caffeine and movies...

We did eventually find something important enough to get us out of bed: lunch! Here's my Very Important Lunch--

It is formally known as A Taste of Italy. Lots of nice cheesy things, and prosciutto-wrapped cantaloupe. Nom.
--and here's Matt's:
You can act like he has less food than me, but he also had, like, sixteen more courses than me!
Later that afternoon Matt went to work out, and I was going to meet him there, I swear, but then a pod of white-sided dolphins began to swim alongside the cruise ship, leaping and playing right outside our window, so I sat and watched them, enraptured. I don't know how long they swam with us, but Matt got back in time to see them for a few minutes before they swam off, so it was a long time.

We DID go to the lecture on the Deepwater Horizon, and then later, just before the string quartet concert, some random guy called me over to sit by him, said that he'd seen me taking notes during the lecture, and then engaged me in happy conversation about it. Interestingly, he'd taken a cruise to Valdez just prior to their oil spill, so we had a lot to discuss.

I forced Matt to attend the string quartet concert with me, and then he forced me to fulfill our reservation at the super-fancy steak restaurant. I hadn't been looking forward to it, because after my comfy day I dreaded the exercise of conversing with a large table of strangers, but instead we were placed at a cozy table for two, exactly centered on the giant picture window looking out the aft of the ship:
Best view on the ship, especially over a nice steak and lobster dinner.

Matt had oysters Rockefeller, and then the Kobe beef and crab mini burgers, and greatly amused me when he asked the waiter if he should use a knife and fork or his hands to eat them.
We weren't even necessarily hungry for dessert, but somehow we made do:

It's funny, because at the time I was a little disappointed that we didn't have any high adventures to experience on this day. I didn't even realize at the time, but I see it now: it was the perfect vacation day.


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