Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Homeschool Science: Identifying Fossil Shark Teeth

We did this project months ago, but I didn't post it because I was waiting for 1) a lovely, sunny day or 2) the spontaneous appearance of a light box to re-shoot the slightly blurry, slightly dark shark tooth photos.

That day may or may not ever come, Friends. But going into the umpeenth rainy day in a row, today, I've decided that I'm no longer going to wait for it. So my shark tooth photos are slightly blurry and slightly dark. I'll live.

Our shark tooth identification project came after our trip to Bay Front Park, in Maryland. This was one of the big treats of our sharks unit study, and after spending so long learning about sharks, Will and I, especially, were super stoked about finding ALL THE SHARK TEETH!

And after you find them, of course, you can identify them!



This was another project in itself, requiring discernment, organizational skills, and, let's face it, some imagination. I'm sure there MUST be a definitive fossil shark tooth identification guide out there somewhere, but we satisfied ourselves with the best one that we could find online, and we managed to get everything sorted-ish using it:






I'm not confident in all of our identifications, but I'm confident in many of them. A future project is to label them and mount them in our specimen boxes.

I'm just waiting for that one magical, sunny day so I can get good photos of them first!

May, perhaps?

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Work Plans for the Week of January 17, 2017: Kid-Led Learning and Girl Scout Cookies

Hallelujah for short weeks!

Don't you feel like there should be a three-day weekend in every month? Give you something to always be looking forward to?

I say this as I visualize the yawning maw of the rest of January, all of February, and half of March before the kids and I go on our next big adventure (I currently have nascent Spring Break road trip plans!). Between now and then we have the National Mythology Exam, a Science Fair, almost another month of Girl Scout cookie season (which is practically a 20-hour-a-week job for the girls AND me), and ideally lots of non-stressful events, as well.

We thoroughly enjoyed our last three-day weekend for a while. This was the first year in forever that we didn't do community service on Martin Luther King, Jr Day (I hate that we didn't, but both Matt and I were feeling kind of puny this weekend, and I was really feeling the call to just have family time), but we did watch, as we have done forever, his speech at the March on Washington. Will and I made brownies--

--we watched the season finale of Sherlock (with help from Luna)-- 

--we inexplicably watched many Youtube videos of milkshake recipes and then even more inexplicably chose this one to recreate (no, we didn't put on the French fries. Yes, we DID put on the bagel bites. I have no reasonable explanation for this. Oh, and this channel actually isn't kid-friendly, as they swear and flip things off. I watch it with my kids anyway), Syd logged at least seven more hours walking the streets and selling Girl Scout cookies, leading to this Monday-night victory dance--



--because even if you don't feel well you still have to help your kid meet her goal, and Will and I spent an evening at fencing class, because even if you don't feel well you still have to fence (Matt tells me that this is very much untrue, but hey, I felt better after fencing than I did before, so there you go).

Now that we're in the zone of our four-day schoolweek, I'm just gonna mainline Dayquil  to keep going, as today alone I've got a webinar about shopping mall cookie booths, another fencing class, and another Girl Scout cookie selling neighborhood walk to take Syd on, in addition to Math Mammoth and Analytical Grammar and Greek mythology.

Our daily work this week consists of regular progress in Analytical Grammar (for Will) and Junior Analytical Grammar (for Syd), the next chapter of Wordly Wise (for Will) and a daily word ladder (for Syd), journaling or writing to a prompt, typing practice, and, for Will, progress in both her online SAT prep through Khan Academy and her online Red Cross first aid class.

Books of the Day this week include some leftover reading from the kids' essay research (they'll each be learning about the other kid's famous person), some living history, Oliver Twist for Will and a graphic novel version of the Star Wars original trilogy for Syd. Memory work consists of more Sonnet 116, review of the Days of the Month poem, and the Greek and Roman gods and goddesses.

And here's the rest of our week!



TUESDAY: In Math Mammoth this week, Will is moving into more integer work, and Syd is deep into fractions. Syd needs more hands-on help with her work (mostly because she likes to stubbornly argue for the correctness of incorrect answers, sigh...), so fortunately Will's work is pretty cut-and-dry. It's hard to handle two stubborn whiners at once!

I'm fast-tracking our mythology study from now until the kids take the National Mythology Exam. We can expect to cover mythology every school day now, and as part of our ten minutes of memory work that we do on the first car ride of every day.

I'm also fast-tracking our Animal Behavior MOOC. I've been breaking my brain trying to come up with hands-on extensions for these lessons every week, but I've finally decided that if I'm going to have them take an outside class, then I should just let them take it, you know? We do plenty of hands-on activities every day, so I'm going to stop treating our MOOCs as a spine, at least for the rest of this one, and treat it as the complete science unit that it's meant to be. That will work well with Will, and I'll just see how it goes for Syd.

It's the same with Story of Science. I bought the Quest Guide, which comes with extension activities that the kids can do mostly independently, so I'm going to stop fretting that I'm not doing more with it. In general terms, I have got to chill. OUT.

Really, the kids should be working on their business badges, since those are the ones that go best with cookie season, but the first award in Syd's Agent of Change Journey actually asks her to research a heroine, so we're going through that award, at least, to enable her to piggyback onto her essay assignment earlier this month. Will is independently working through the Bookbinding Badge (also, how cool is that?!?), but I might ask her to take a look at the business badges today and see if she's interested in starting one of those, as well.

We've got our homeschool playgroup today, cookie selling this afternoon, and fencing for me and Will this evening!

FRIDAY: Now that I've stopped adding extra activities to perfectly good curricula, the rest of the week is really just more progress on that curricula. I'll be there to mentor and assist, of course, but I'm happily anticipating seeing how the week will progress with so few mom-led activities.

One of my main mom activities is apparently playing chauffeur, with daily door-to-door cookie selling for both kids and horseback riding and ice skating lessons for Will. At least we're listening to an excellent audiobook in the car this week!

On this day, we WILL be doing one more mom-led activity: re-making the paper and scissors polygons that Syd and Matt and I made over winter break, but that somebody has clearly put into the recycling bin since then. Either that, or they hid them so well that I can't find them.

We will also be watching the inauguration on Friday, sigh--I still can't believe that this is happening--and then probably attending a protest to the inauguration that evening. Possibly the first of MANY protests to come. I know of one mom who is so certain that this is the first of many protests to come that she's actually started a protest scrapbook for her child. We're not going that far, but I'm trying very hard to have handmade pussyhats for everyone by that day.

SATURDAY/SUNDAY: We'll miss the Women's March in Indy on Saturday, as Syd's ballet is starting back up again. I'm sure we'll do more door-to-door cookie selling. Despite my New Year's Resolution we haven't hiked since New Year's Day, primarily because it hasn't stopped raining since New Year's Day. I'm pretty sure the lack of fresh air is at least partly behind my feeling kinda run-down and puny lately (it's also partly Trump's fault, because his very existence gives me anxiety), so I may need to insist that we all put on hip waders and slop through the three feet of mud covering everything non-concrete, regardless of the fact that doing so puts us all at the risk of slipping through a sinkhole.

Or I may spend another weekend lying in bed, watching movies, and eating impractical milkshakes. As a post-inauguration activity, that sounds fine, too.

A note from Syd: Hello! Would you like to buy some Girl Scout cookies? With every package bought, my troop gets to do something fun. Cookie money can be used on volunteering or it can be used for fun stuff like spending the night at the zoo. You can buy Girl Scout cookies from my Digital Cookie Shop by asking my mom for the link, and you can donate to Operation Cookie Drop by clicking this link [Mom note: Every $4 buys one box of cookies for Operation Cookie Drop]. Thank you!

Friday, January 13, 2017

Manipulatives That Stand the Test of Time

I've had the idea for this post in my head for quite a while, as my kids get older (upper elementary and middle school--yikes!) and I see that although we've used some manipulatives just a time or two, or a month or two, or even a year or two, other manipulatives have been part of our regular rotation since the children were in preschool.

There are even a couple of manipulatives that I never purchased or spent the time making, thinking they'd be used only sporadically, and have simply wished that I owned several times a year since the kids were young. Silly me!


You probably know by now that these and Base Ten blocks are my FAVORITE math manipulatives. We have used them endlessly. The kids have less patience for them now that they know that whenever I whip them out, there's generally a much quicker algorithm waiting for them as soon as I'm done, but nevertheless, they're vastly useful when a kid is having trouble understanding a concept. Two days ago I used them to help Syd understand decimal multiplication--let the ten bar equal one, and you've got several decimal options available to model. And seven years ago, I used them to help Syd understand addition within 5!

Here are some other ways that we've used them over the years:
As with most of the other manipulatives that I'll show you, I've occasionally expanded our collection over the years, as we've needed them for more and more advanced work. In a perfect world, I'd have enough to build an entire decanomial square from them, but we're at the point now where we have enough to do most of what we want to do.


This is the other math manipulative that I do not know what I would do without. I consider them indispensable, and again, I have expanded our collection several times, especially with more thousand cubes. These blocks, which consist of a 1cm cube, a 10 cm bar, a 100 cm flat, and a 1,000 cm cube, are brilliant for leading a kid into an intrinsic, whole-body understanding of the Base Ten system. You have to have them to understand what you're truly doing when you add or subtract multi-digit numbers. You have to have them simply to model numbers. We use Base Ten blocks and Cuisenaire rods as a single tool, with the Base Ten blocks representing all the powers of ten and the Cuisenaire rods often (although not always--for borrowing and carrying, you should only use Base Ten blocks) to represent all the numbers in between.

Here's some of what we do with them:

Decanomial Square

We came to the game a little late on this one, as it took me literally years to decide that I wasn't going to find exactly the decanomial square that I wanted. Instead, I had Matt make one for me. 

Anyway, you can start using this one as soon as your kid starts learning the multiplication table (or before, of course, as a puzzle or to model repeat addition as area), because it works quite well as a visual multiplication table of area models. However, it's also great for all kinds of area and perimeter studies, as well as how to form equations, and is an easy demonstration of the Pythagorean theorem.


You can use the decanomial square with Base Ten blocks and Cuisenaire rods, and I am constantly in search of a cheap Montessori-style pink tower so that I can also use it to demonstrate cubes.


These are the priciest of our manipulatives, a cost that I absorbed by making this the kids' big combined Christmas present one year when I'd had a good winter in my pumpkin+bear etsy shop. Although we started using these just for free play to build for fun--which we still do!--these building materials should see the kids through high school, and they're used in universities, and even grad programs, to model some amazingly sophisticated concepts.

Here's some of what we've done with them:

Hundred Grid and Number Tiles

This, on the other hand, is easily handmade (here's how to make the grid, and here's how to make the tiles), although we do have a set of number tiles made for an overhead projector that we use on our light table. You can use the hundred grid and number tiles from the time a kid is wee, simply for naming numbers, ordering them, and counting on. You can use them for skip counting. You can use them for multiplying. If you make a second set of number tiles to match a multiplication table, you can use them for memorizing the table and for playing various multiplication games. 

Here's some of what we've done with them:

We haven't used the hundred grid lately, although I won't rule out finding another use for it in a later unit. Even if we don't, though, using it from the age of three through the fifth grade is a good amount of use!

Pattern Blocks

We used pattern blocks a ton in preschool and lower elementary, but it's actually only recently that it's occurred to me how useful they can be in upper elementary and the middle grades. We recently used them in Will's lesson on congruent and similar figures, and considering the fact that they've been using these same simple shapes since they were wee, that's a pretty darn good run!

Here's some of what we've done with them:

Here are some outside links to activities that we've done but that I haven't blogged about, myself:

If you, too, are really into hands-on work for older kids, I'd love to know what manipulatives you use and how you use them.

And if you see a Montessori-style pink tower going for cheap, let me know immediately!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Our Nutter Butter Horse Cupcakes

Everybody has a different capacity for helping out with different kid activities, you know? Like, I am deeply involved in Girl Scouts and our town's inclusive homeschool group, I'm willing to pitch in practically full-time during Syd's performance rehearsals, I do fencing with Will, I'm occasionally on volunteer duty at the Children's Museum of Indianapolis, but I'm that mom who just drops off her kid for horseback riding lessons and Pony Club meetings. I have no presence to give there. It's the kid's social time and horse time, anyway--I have no desire to be there to distract her from the very few hours a week that she's willing to look away from her books and be out in the world.

I'm telling you all that so that I can tell you that when the leader of Pony Club sent out an email with a list of parent volunteer positions that she needed help with, I did not choose co-leader or accountant or hostess or any of the other duties that are what she really probably *actually* needs help with, but rather, I snapped up the volunteer position of Snack Mom.

I, who hate to cook, whose husband will sometimes bring home pizza for dinner without even calling me first, because he rightly assumes that of course I didn't cook, who, when I do have to cook, will half the time "cook" by simply heating up leftovers for the children and then hours later make myself Ramen, or a microwaved baked potato, volunteered for Snack Mom.

It was the job on the list that looked like the least work.

The job also appealed to me because I sensed in it the potential to create adorable, horse-themed snacks, and that's exactly what I did for my Snack Mom debut, the Pony Club Christmas party.

Normally, I wouldn't throw sugar at a bunch of overexcited, horse-loving little girls, but the Pony Club party included a pizza dinner, so I volunteered to bring both a healthy fruit salad (my "I'm too lazy to cook for your potluck" specialty!) and the dessert.

I'm really going to be in business once I make or buy a horse-shaped cookie cutter, but until then... well, I don't know how people made adorable things before Pinterest, but I'm sure glad that I have it now!

The kids helped me make these horse cupcakes, with a couple of modifications:

1. Matt's one job was to buy the Nutter Butters before he left for his business trip, and I don't know how he possibly managed to screw up buying a cookie whose main claim to fame is that it's nut-shaped, but he somehow purchased the ONE package of Nutter Butters that weren't nut-shaped, but round.

???

I was already stressed that day, and when I opened the package and saw those round cookies I just blinked at them for several seconds, then thought, "Well, now what?" We only had an hour, tops, to get the dang cupcakes and the fruit salad and the gift that I'd JUST learned Will had to bring ready, so I couldn't drive ten minutes to the store, spend ten minutes buying the perfect cookies, and drive ten minutes back.

As Tim Gunn might say, however, desperation is the mother of making it freaking WORK, so I chopped a bit off of one side of each cookie, stuck them together with frosting, and called it adequate:



It probably would have looked better if I'd used the transparent gel that the original tute calls for, or if I'd covered the seam with a licorice bridle as this tute for no-bake horse cookies does, but I don't own either of those things, and ten minutes to the store. Ten minutes in the store. Ten minutes home. We're making it work.

We did have candy eyes and black icing (I have never been able to find a food coloring that does a good black for me), so at least the other essentials were covered.

The kids were so excited to decorate these cookies like horses that the cookies had to be strictly divvied out. I showed them the photos of the finished cupcakes from the tute, but didn't give them any other instructions, so they happily made the project their own:





And here are the finished cupcakes!

I can't decide if they legitimately look like horses, or if they only look like horses if you know that they're supposed to be horses. I was supposed to add cashew halves for ears, and probably shouldn't have let Syd color the frosting pink, but that's what she wanted, and she's the one who made the frosting from scratch AND frosted all the cupcakes that she baked herself, so there you go.

Anyway, if these showed up at your Pony Club party, even if you couldn't tell that they were horses, at least you could tell that they were homemade!

P.S. A message from Syd: "Hello. Last year, I used the cookie money I earned from selling cookies to spend the night at the zoo with my troop. We spent the night at the dolphin tank, and we got to see the zoo before anyone else got to see it that day. Then we spent the whole day at the zoo! Here is a picture of me being groomed by a flamingo:

This year, I hope to use my cookie money to buy toys for the pets at the animal shelter. You can help me reach this goal by buying Girl Scout cookies on my Digital Cookie by asking Mom for the link. If you want to donate cookies to the soldiers [Mom note: through Operation Cookie Drop], then here's the link. Thank you!"

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Tutorial: How to Cover Test Tubes with Polymer Clay

These test tubes covered with polymer clay didn't turn out perfectly, but they did well enough that I know what to do differently next time, and they're super cute.

You will need:

  • glass test tubes. I have quite a collection for our homeschool, although they often find themselves diverted to other uses, often to propagate our wandering jews and lavender (random aside: I took a half-dozen cuttings from my lavender plants this fall to propagate, and for the first time ever, all six failed! I can't imagine what I did wrong. Had the plants already gone dormant, do you think, and that caused it? Were the cuttings that I took too woody? Is it possible to have too much rooting hormone on a cutting? If you have any insight, please let me know!)
  • Sculpey. My kids both LOVE super-soft polymer clay, and we've had a lot of luck with Sculpey. In fact, Syd has requested that I again purchase this exact set the next time I'm in a craft store and have a coupon burning a hole in my pocket. I will, but first I'm going to make her use the luster dust and food flavoring that I've already bought her. Y'all, my kid might be a craft supplies hoarder.
  • Sculpey tools. You can get by with an x-acto knife and a toothpick, although over the year or so that the kids have gotten into Sculpey, I've collected a few tools recommended for working with polymer clay--this cutting set, some dental picks, a plastic rolling pin, etc.
  • glaze. This is optional, but it really does make a world of difference in the look of your finished piece, and it's supposed to strengthen it some, too.
*I use Amazon Affiliates for these product links, which means that I get a small commission from purchases made through clicking them. I use my Affiliate commissions to buy kid stuff, craft supplies, and fencing lessons!*

1. Clean and dry the outside of your test tube, so that the polymer clay will adhere well. Use rubbing alcohol or vinegar, although if you use alcohol, make sure that you dry it completely, as rubbing alcohol will dissolve the polymer clay.

2. Roll out a very thin sheet of clay, then wrap it around the test tube. Cut off the excess, then use your fingers to smooth the clay and rub away the seams.

3. Use more clay to embellish the clay-covered test tube. Have fun with it!

I really like how Syd sculpted a flat bottom as a stand for her test tube. It worked perfectly!
4. Bake the clay-covered test tube. Follow the instructions on the package of clay. Don't worry about the test tube--it's made to be heated!

5. Let cool, then glaze. Both of the mistakes that I made with this project came after the clay was heated and then cooled. With Syd's creation, I cracked the top of her test tube by trying to force a clay stopper that she'd made onto the test tube. I guess the clay expands a small bit when it's baked? Lesson: if you want a stopper, cut down a wine cork. With my creation, I'd sculpted a groove around the rim of the test tube to make a place to put a wire noose, so that I can hang it. Again, I used too much force twisting the wire tight, and I cracked off the clay above that groove. Lesson: be SUPER gentle with the finished project. Clay is brittle! Hemp twine would have been a better choice.



I don't totally know what to do with these pretty test tubes. Syd is using hers as a bud vase, and right now I've got mine hanging from my desk lamp, as it's the perfect size to hold the black pen that I like to use for check writing and envelope addressing, but I'm very, very open to more ideas for how to use them, if you've got any!

The next thing that I want to make is this octopus tentacle, although I want to glue the tentacle to the cork, glue the cork to the bottle, add an eye pin, and wear it as a pendant. I wonder if it would look even more awesome if I poured resin around the tentacle, as well?

P.S. A message from Syd: "Hello. My name is Sydney. I'm a Girl Scout. Do you like cookies? So do I! You can buy some Girl Scout cookies for you, your friends, and family by asking my Mom for my Digital Cookie Shop link. This year, there is a new cookie called S'mores. It is a graham cracker cookie with marshmallow filling and chocolate. It is all-natural ingredients. If you would like to donate that cookie or the seven other types we sell to Operation Cookie Drop, which donates those cookies to the soldiers, click this link (Mom note: Every $4 donation buys one box of Girl Scout cookies for active and retired American soldiers, and patients in military hospitals)."

Additional Mom Note: Throughout Girl Scout cookie season, I'll be offering the bottom of each blog post to my kids to craft a sales pitch. They don't call Girl Scout cookies the world's largest girl-led business for nothing! Especially after last year, when the girls in my troop got to experience what amazing things they could do with their cookie profits (more on that in a future cookie pitch, I'm sure), they are on fire this year. They've got big goals, they know exactly what they want to do with their profits, and my challenge is to continually find opportunities for them to stretch their marketing, budgeting, goal-setting, communication, visual design, and math abilities. Just as I did in the past two years, I'm looking forward to watching them visibly mature in so many different ways in the next two months.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Homeschool Math: Marking Giant Circles in the Snow (and Measuring the Radius of a Signal)

It was snowing up a storm on the day that I'd planned for us to explore acoustic signals in animal communication, specifically how to measure the range of a signal.

Snow was absolutely perfect. It meant that I didn't have to get out the upside-down spray paint!

But first, it was really important that we play with the dog. You understand.





The relationship between this kid and her dog is my favorite thing.
 Our measurement of the radius of a signal was a little wild and woolly, but basically, it goes like this:

1) We set Will up in a clear spot, with Mozart playing on her tablet at a level of about 60 decibels (as measured using an app on my phone--what would we do without technology?). Will had one end of a rope, and Syd had the rest of the rope, feeding it out as she backed away, to the point at which she could no longer hear the music. She might be able to hear a little bit of the sound, but she shouldn't be able to understand what she was hearing. The information of the signal should be lost.

2) When she reaches that point, she and Will keep the rope taught between them as Syd shuffles her feet around the circumference of the circle that the radius makes:

3) When she's back to her starting point, the kids use a tape measure to measure the radius of the circle that they've created:

With this information, you can calculate the diameter that measure the full linear distance of the signal, or the circumference that is the outer edge of the signal, or the area of the circle in which the signal can be understood.

And look at what a lovely circle they've created!


To play with our understanding, I had the kids go into our woods and perform the same experiment to find the radius of the signal:

My hypothesis (which I didn't share with the kids) was that the radius would be shorter, as trees and brush would be in the way of the signal. Actually, however, the kids found that the radius was longer than it was in the open field!

New hypothesis: the woods is further away from the road and the houses than the field, so is less subject to ambient noise that interferes with the signal.

 We marked our giant circle in the snow as a tool for a science project, but of course this is the perfect activity for geometry units. Get yourself a nice, big, snowy field, and you can make those circles in the book come to life, as well as practice the real-life measurements and calculations that are always so much more interesting when they're done on anything other than paper.

And if you have a dog to take on your adventure?

So much the better.

P.S. Here are some other ways that we've explored circles in our homeschool:

P.P.S. Willow--"I want to go to Costa Rica with my Girl Scout troop. To do that, I have to sell 1,000 boxes of cookies. My cookies are the best cookies. Buy my cookies! You can buy cookies for the American soldiers here (Mom note: every $4 buys one box of Girl Scout cookies for active and retired military, and those in military hospitals), and you can buy cookies for yourself and your family by asking Mom for the link to my Digital Cookie Shop (Mom note: you don't have to be local to use Digital Cookie. They ship anywhere!)."

Additional Mom note: The Costa Rica thing is real! Two girls in my troop, including Will, are saving their cookie profits, allowances, and likely doing a series of bake sales in order to earn the money for a 2018 Girl Scout trip to Costa Rica. I'm told there will be visits to the rainforest, a volcano, a local community for service and cultural activities, etc. Girl Scouts is pretty freaking awesome.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Work Plans for the Week of January 9, 2017: Poseidon and the Girl Scouts

Last week, we finally got something that Syd has been desiring for months:

Snow!!! Can you believe this was our first real snow of the season?

It turns out that Luna likes snow almost as much as Syd does!


We got most of last week's plans done, even with the distraction of snow and the Friday Girl Scout meeting that wiped the two introverts of the family out for the rest of the day. Will was a rock star, though, and led the entire meeting of eight girls completely independently, earning herself the Leader in Action badge for the Brownie Wonders of Water journey. 

You know when a kid does something cool, and THEY know that it's cool, and so they're super proud of themselves, and they're so proud of themselves that even though they tend to play their emotions close to the vest you can actually tell that they're proud?

Yep, it was like that. 

We've got our first five-day school week in what feels like forever this week (and we won't have a five-day school week next week, either, on account of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day), but I'm trying to keep my expectations managed, because fencing and ice skating are starting back up, so that cuts into our free time quite a bit, AND it's Girl Scout cookie season, and, as usual, both of my girls have big goals (Syd wants to buy toys for all of the animals at the shelter, and Will is trying to earn money for a hoped-for Girl Scout trip to Costa Rica in 2018). 

Memory Work should pick back up more regularly again this week, as well, as extracurriculars and cookie selling mean time in the car, so we can hopefully get Sonnet 116 nailed down, as well as review fraction terminology, the order of operations, and spelling words. Books of the Day include some YA literature and sci-fi for Will, fairy tales, The Whipping Boy for Syd, and Material World, because if the kid is going to visit a third-world country, she should start learning what that looks like. 

Our keyboard is broken, so there's no daily keyboard this week, but other daily work includes typing practice, Analytical Grammar/Junior Analytical Grammar, Wordly Wise for Will and a word ladder for Syd, and also for Will, SAT prep on Khan Academy and an online Red Cross first aid class. 

And here's the rest of our week!


MONDAY: We somehow managed to put off that demonstration from Story of Science AGAIN last week, and I have no idea how. Or why. And that's just super awesome, because it involves water, and until the plumber comes (please please please today!!!) we don't even HAVE water in the kitchen this week. So... great time for a water-based, messy experiment. 

I have had to start a rule that only a parent can check off an assignment as complete. For a long time, I had trusted the kids to complete their independent work independently, then check it off when done, but recently they've been neglecting to give me their completed work to edit, say, in math, and then continuing the next day on the next day's assignment, which means that sometimes they were continuing mistakes that they'd started making in the previous assignment, and they've been "forgetting" to do more distasteful parts of their work, such as diagramming the sentences in Analytical Grammar/Junior Analytical Grammar, and then pitching a fit when I finally see their work and tell them that they have 40 sentences to diagram. So there's going to be more supervision until good habits get re-established.

In Math Mammoth this week, Syd is continuing with calculating fractions, and Will is finishing her review of the order of operations and moving into calculating integers. 

I took a Mental Health Afternoon on Friday, so the kids didn't outline their essays as planned; fortunately, we've still got plenty of time to complete the essay-writing process this week before the deadline for the contest that they're both entering. Here's how we write outlines

This week's Greek god is Poseidon, with no extra activities other than the trading card. I absolutely must sit down this week and plan out our studies for the theme tests on the National Mythology Exam. I've already left it too long, so the next few weeks may be mythology-heavy. Good thing the kids enjoy it so much!

The kids did their observations for their long-term assignment in our Animal Behavior MOOC, but they didn't take good notes. I don't know what good they thought that would do, but yay for homeschooling, in that we can repeat assignments that didn't get done correctly the first time! We'll try again this week, sigh...

TUESDAY: Today is rough draft day for the essays. Rough draft day is the worst day. Remind me that it gets easier after rough draft day.

I could probably wring some more hands-on activities out of Module 3 of our Animal Behavior MOOC, but I feel like the kids have grasped the important aspects of animal communication and signal behavior, so I'm ready to have them finish the viewing assignments and take the test.

Will's work on her Cadette Journey made me suddenly realize, with a sinking feeling in my stomach, that Syd also wants to earn her Bronze award this year--actually, she *needs* to earn it this year, as she bridges in the fall--and to do that, she also needs to complete a Journey! Fortunately, there are two other Juniors in our troop who also want to complete a Journey and earn the Bronze, so she'll have some company. Regardless, we're going to start busting through the Agent of Change Journey, which actually fits really well into our current studies, since the Power of One award, which comes first, is all about women who've made a difference. That's the same topic that Syd is writing about in her essay this week!

Our Tuesday homeschool playgroup may be meeting at an indoor playground an hour away. I don't feel enthusiastic about this, but I guess we'll be able to knock out our Memory Work, and then listen to our next in-car audiobook, sigh. We finished the entire Dark is Rising series last week, so we're ready for a new adventure! Sword in the Stone, perhaps?

WEDNESDAY: Rough drafts are all about simply vomiting the words out, so it's good to have a couple of days of editing and crafting that final draft, doncha know?

THURSDAY: Over winter break, Syd, Matt, and I worked through creating all of the regular polygons, from the triangle through the dodecagon, from Paper and Scissors Polygons (more on that another time). The goal on this day is for the kids to help me mount and label them for display, because they turned out so awesome!

FRIDAY: Matt and I are designing a printable decanomial square in centimeters, ideally to offer for sale on Teachers Pay Teachers. On this day, the kids will help me cut out and mount the pieces to foam core, both so I can test the design and hash out good instructions for others to use the material, but also so that we can have our own nice copy. The decanomial square is a mad useful manipulative, especially for upper elementary and middle school!

Hopefully, I'll have kept the kids on task better for their Animal Behavior MOOC's observation assignment, so that they'll actually have the information to complete this step. I'm very curious to see what queries they each come up with!

SATURDAY/SUNDAY/MONDAY: We've got a couple more weeks until ballet starts, so it's one more long free weekend before the real late winter grind begins. The kids will for sure sell Girl Scout cookies every stinking day. I kind of want to go to the zoo. The cookie selling is cutting into our family hiking time, but maybe with a long weekend, we can squeeze it in. And with Matt home an extra day, he'll probably want to help me build shelves for my record album collection, don't you think?

What are YOUR plans for the week?

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