Sunday, September 28, 2014

Mind Blowing Science: Colorful Jiggly Crystals

What the My First Mind Blowing Science kit includes for making Colorful Jiggly Crystals:
citric acid
baking soda
red cabbage powder
polyacrylamide crystals
3 plastic cups
2 measuring spoons
stir sticks

What Mom needs to get from the kitchen:
a pitcher of water
a plate to catch spills

1)Fill 2 cups 3/4 full with water.

 2)Add baking soda to the first cup and citric acid to the second cup.

 3)Add red cabbage powder to both cups.

4)Pour 1/3 of the red water and a 1/3 of the blue water in the third cup.

5)Add 2 scoops of polyacrylamide crystals to each of the cups.

6)Cry when Mommy tells you that you have to wait for an hour to see what happens.

7)Help Mommy take cake out of oven. 

7)Make a collage cow.
8)Check your crystals.

I love this quote...

In school, you learn lessons and are given tests.
In life, you are given tests and learn lessons.

I don't know who to credit for this saying, but I'm happy he or she said it.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Mind Blowing Science: Color Changing Liquids

A few months ago, my 3-year-old received a Clifford Science Kit for her birthday. After doing all of the experiments in it, she wanted more. She wanted a box filled with things to mix together, so I did some research and decided on the Poof Slinky product My First Mind Blowing Science kit. I chose this kit because 1)it was a chemistry kit, 2)the reviews said it included the science behind why the reactions occurred, unlike some children's kits which are marketed more as science magic, and 3)because it had most of the ingredients included (many children's science "kits" are colorful cardboard boxes containing next to nothing...and a pipette).

Color Changing Liquids is Activity #2. (Activity #1 was "Dancing Powders," which is essentially the vinegar and baking soda volcano. The majority of children's kits include the vinegar and baking soda volcano because children love it. I am not children. Vinegar and baking soda teach nothing about volcanoes. But I digress...)

The kit came with citric acid, baking soda, red cabbage powder, 3 plastic cups, 2 little spoons (different sizes), and stir sticks. All you need is water and a plate. I like a kit that can be used as soon as you open the box. What if a child receives this on Christmas and wants to play with it immediately? He or she can. With most kits, the list of what is included in the kit is shorter than the list of what Mom needs to get.

Together, we poured water into two cups.

My daughter added a scoop of red cabbage powder to each cup.

Red cabbage is a natural dye.
She put a scoop of baking soda in one. The water changed color to bluish purple (below). She put a scoop of citric acid to the second cup. It changed color too; it got redder.
A is for Acid (citric acid) B is for Base (and Baking soda)
She mixed some red water and some bluish purple water into the third cup and it changed back to purple. It did not fizz or bubble as the instructions said it would.

If the solution is blue, it is basic. Slightly blue = slightly basic. Purple = neutral. Pink = slightly acidic. Red = very acidic. (Green is very basic, but we never had green water.)

The Lady of Shalott part 2

Here is part 2 of Tennyson's poem, including images and definitions. (For part 1, click here.)
No time hath she to sport and play:
A charmed web she weaves alway. 
charmed is charm-ed
alway: always
painting by John William Waterhouse

A curse is on her, if she stay
Her weaving, either night or day, 
a girl weaving on a Rainbow Loom

       To look down to Camelot.
She knows not what the curse may be;
Therefore she weaveth steadily, 
Therefore no other care hath she,
       The Lady of Shalott. 

She lives with little joy or fear.
Over the water, running near,
The sheepbell tinkles in her ear. 
sheepbell: a bell worn by a sheep
Before her hangs a mirror clear,
       Reflecting tower'd Camelot.
And as the mazy web she whirls,
She sees the surly village churls,
churls: peasants
And the red cloaks of market girls
       Pass onward from Shalott.

Sometimes a troop of damsels glad,
damsels: girls
An abbot on an ambling pad, 
painting by Bermejo
 abbot: the head of an abbey of monks
ambling: walking slowly and in a relaxed way
Sometimes a curly shepherd lad, 
lad: boy
Or long-hair'd page in crimson clad,
page: attendant to a knight
in crimson clad: wearing red
       Goes by to tower'd Camelot:
And sometimes thro' the mirror blue
thro': through
The knights come riding two and two: 
She hath no loyal knight and true,
       The Lady of Shalott.

But in her web she still delights
To weave the mirror's magic sights,
For often thro' the silent nights
A funeral, with plumes and lights
       And music, came from Camelot:
Or when the moon was overhead
Came two young lovers lately wed;
I am half sick of shadows,' said
       The Lady of Shalott. 
On this site, there is a Lady of Shalott image that was done by a 5th grader. It's awesome. And wouldn't you know it, it's from an Ambleside school! The pictures were done as part of the UK's Power of Reading project.
One of my fourth graders asked if Shalott was a real place. Here's what I found:
Tennyson based "The Lady of Shalott" on a 13th century Italian romance titled Donna di Scalotta, based on Elaine of Astolat (or Ascolat). (Astolat is not a real place, but if you google "Astolat Great Britain map," you will discover that there is an Astolat Business Park in Surrey, an Astolat Pub, an Astolat Electrical Services, and a bus stop named The Astolat.) Tennyson didn't think "The Lady of Scalott" sounded soft and pretty, so he used Shalott instead.
Another thing my students wanted to know was how the Lady did human things like eating and sleeping and going to the bathroom if she wasn't able to stop weaving. Oh, those curses...

Teach Your Preschooler to Read...with a hammer

I don't believe in making children sit in a desk to learn to read, which is totally the opposite of how I am made to teach in my full-time public school job.

At home, I teach my preschooler how to read in every possible position (sitting, standing, lying down, downward dog), but at school, my 30 students sit at desks, packed into our classroom without space to have an area on the floor to gather. (A couple of years ago, I only had 26 - only, ha ha - and the absence of two 2-seater desks made such a difference. I was able to have a rug so students could gather for read-aloud time.)

At home, the only thing that is routine is that we use the same book (Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons), while at school, to demonstrate that I am an "effective" teacher, I am supposed to stick to a strict routine. I don't. Though I like very much for some things to be predictable, I need to keep things interesting for myself. I need to be learning too.

Yesterday, at 4 p.m.-ish, we did our reading lesson. My 3-year-old (3 years 4 1/2 months) has been enjoying doing lessons outside, so we sat on the back porch. She had been playing with her tools, and she insisted on holding a hammer while she read. She sounded out words by tapping under each letter.

We also snack. Sometimes we have popsicles. Sometimes Trader Joe's Cinnamon Schoolbook letter cookies. Yesterday was a sliver of pumpkin spice bundt cake.

When children are taught to read from basal readers, filling out worksheets from the basal reader's corresponding workbook, they come to learn that reading is a time of day. It's something you do while sitting up straight; it's something done while uncomfortable. Public school breeds reluctant readers.

This is a term used by booksellers. "Reluctant Reader Interest" is a category of books that includes twaddle like Diary of a Wimpy Kid. I'm going to tell you why I hate Diary of a Wimpy Kid - the most checked-out, asked-for book at my school library. The main character, Greg Heffley, the character the kids relate to, is not a "person" I want my child to emulate. For example, he cheats off the "smart" kid's test.

Some people argue that children who read Reluctant Reader books are still reading. Yes. True. But when they're reading Reluctant Reader Interest books to the exclusion of good books, there's a problem. You've got kids seeking comfortable books, books that don't challenge them to grow as a reader or a person, because the experience of reading has been made so uncomfortable.

I wish I had a really big porch, a lot of popsicles, and a lot of hammers.

Friday, September 26, 2014

What Childhood Looks Like In Our House

nap time in circus tent on bed with ballerina teddy bear and Mommy-made baby quilt
playing Candyland with Daddy in Tinkerbell and Belle costumes

Thursday, September 25, 2014

This Week

Eating ice cream at Ikea
Cleaning ice cream off the showroom floor at Ikea
One habit we have been working on is cleaning up. While at Ikea, knowing better, I let my three year old carry what was left of her ice cream through the store. In an Ikea-haze, I didn't see my daughter accidentally drop her cup on the floor. Still talking to my husband about furniture, my daughter pulled the paper napkins out of my hand, and I kept talking. Then my husband pointed to our child on her hands and knees, cleaning up her mess without either of us having told her to do so. It was a beautiful moment.
My daughter's Frida Kahlo hair-do

This week, her Bible class learned about Zaccheus. We've watched A LOT of Veggie Tales, so it shouldn't surprise me that, on the car ride home, when telling me about the wee-little man who climbed the tree with his bag of money to see Jesus, she insisted the man attached to her popsicle stick was named "Zucchini."

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

What I'm Reading

"What ineffable twaddle!" I cried, slapping the magazine down on the table; "I never read such rubbish in my life."
Twaddle. A favorite word among Charlotte Mason-ites. The above quote is on page 17 of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's A Study in Scarlet. A week ago, I started reading Doyle's first Sherlock Holmes book. After watching the Sherlock and Elementary, I needed to read the book that started it all.

I'm fascinated by Doyle's range of knowledge. One bit of information that - as a school teacher who writes on white boards daily - struck me as particularly interesting is: "When a man writes on a wall, his instinct leads him to write above the level of his own eyes." (page 28) It's true. When I write something on the board, I start writing at forehead level!

In addition to Doyle, some of the other books I'm reading are BOB Books (my 3 year old is especially enjoying the Rhyming box because of the trio of rhyming puzzles that go with each book), Robinson Crusoe (with my students), Macbeth for Kids (Shakespeare Can Be Fun series, with my students), Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, and - last night - The Poky Little Puppy.

I LOVE The Poky Little Puppy. I had forgotten how much I loved it. I love it so much that when my very very tired daughter fell asleep with three pages to go, I continued reading aloud to the end.

What is it about this book that I find so endearing? The illustrations; the repetition; the innocence; rice pudding; a "greatly displeased" mother-dog we never see who is firm but loving; the phrase "roly-poly, pell-mell, tumble-bumble" - the only real way to describe how puppies go downhill; chocolate custard; second and third chances; strawberry shortcake; forgiveness; a dog who can write (the mother-dog makes signs); the book's portrayal of motherhood; the way the mother-dog slaves away in the kitchen to make her children good things to eat; the way the puppies go down the hill "roly-poly, pell-mell, tumble-bumble" - which is the only real way to describe how puppies move.

The Lady of Shalott part 1

I've been reading Alfred, Lord Tennyson's "The Lady of Shalott" with my fourth graders, one part per week. This week, we read Part 3 - the cliffhanger! (They all wanted to know if there was a part 4 - success!) I told them they had to wait until next week. 
My students don't have exposure to rich text, so to help them understand the poem, I show them pictures and define certain words. 
 Here is Part I with images and definitions...
Part I

On either side the river lie
Long fields of barley and of rye, 


That clothe the wold and meet the sky; 
wold: a piece of uncultivated land, an area of hilly land in the country
And thro' the field the road runs by
       To many-tower'd Camelot; 
The yellow-leaved waterlily
painting of waterlilies by Monet
The green-sheathed daffodilly 
Tremble in the water chilly
       Round about Shalott.

Willows whiten, aspens shiver. 
willow tree

The sunbeam showers break and quiver
In the stream that runneth ever
By the island in the river
       Flowing down to Camelot.
Four gray walls, and four gray towers
Overlook a space of flowers,
And the silent isle imbowers 
imbowers: surrounds or shelters
       The Lady of Shalott.

painting by Waterhouse (1888)
Underneath the bearded barley,
The reaper, reaping late and early, 
Hears her ever chanting cheerly,
Like an angel, singing clearly,
       O'er the stream of Camelot.
Piling the sheaves in furrows airy, 
sheaves: bundles of grain stalks tied together
Beneath the moon, the reaper weary
Listening whispers, ' 'Tis the fairy,
       Lady of Shalott.'

The little isle is all inrail'd
With a rose-fence, and overtrail'd
With roses: by the marge unhail'd 
marge: margin or edge
The shallop flitteth silken sail'd, 
 shallop: a small open boat
flitteth: moves quickly
silken sail'd: with silk sails
       Skimming down to Camelot.
A pearl garland winds her head:
She leaneth on a velvet bed,
Full royally apparelled,
       The Lady of Shalott. 
(All images are in the public domain.)
For part 2, click here. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Trying Out Her Halloween Costume

Here is what my three-year-old said while trying on her Halloween costume: "I don't have any pockets. Where am I supposed to put my keys?"

Saturday, September 20, 2014

My 3 Year Old Monologuing

A little promotional notebook and pen set that my husband got at a car show inspired my three year old to deliver a five minute monologue. You would have thought she was a project manager competing on The Apprentice. Here's some of what she said...

"First, we need a slide, then we need stairs. And we're going to need a railing. And I'm putting this all on the schedule. So that's you, you, and me." (Said pointing at Daddy, Mommy, and herself.) "And we're all working together. And the rocket ship will come in the mail. And we need supplies. The battery will come in a package. So that's check, check, check. It's all on the schedule. We're on planet earth. And we're going to the moon."

"Mom, I made you soup."

My three-year-old made me soup. I started eating it and she yelled at me to stop. It was too hot. I said okay and pushed it to the side. She yelled, "Don't touch the bowl!" Okay. When she told me it was cooled off, I took a bite and announced that it was very alphabetty. "And cuppy," she said. "Yes, and cuppy," I replied, stirring my soup. And then I found the secret ingredient: mermaid.

To Sew or Not to Sew

My daughter in her Dupioni silk christening gown.
My 3 year old wants to be a penguin for Halloween. She has said this every day for a week, so last night, I decided to shop for costumes.

When she first told me she wanted to be a penguin, I looked at sewing patterns and ideas for handmade costumes. But then she told me she wanted me to be a mommy penguin.

Every time I make a costume for my daughter, the fabric and notions ends up costing about $100. (I like the good stuff. When I made her christening dress, I used Dupioni silk. I had never sewn silk. I had also never made a christening gown, and I probably never will again.)

Our budget doesn't have room for two handmade penguin costumes, so our costumes will be store-bought.

While shopping for mother-daughter penguin suits, I came across this - my favorite - review:
"The wings have holes for your hands, if you need them for dexterity. I made pancakes while wearing the costume, without burning the costume or the pancakes."

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Urinary System Lesson for Preschoolers

A mom-friend taught last week's home(pre)school group lesson on the urinary system. She explained that each of us has two kidneys (represented by the kidney beans) that filter blood and produce urine and a bladder (represented by the yellow sticker) that holds the urine until we go potty,  Daddy helped our daughter (age 3 years 4 months) with her picture (note the red high tops). The best part was that Daughter retained the information she learned! The next day, she said her bladder was full and that she needed to hurry to the potty.

Only in Santa Monica...

A real billboard here in sunny Santa Monica

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Reading Robinson Crusoe in a Public School 4th Grade

I am currently reading aloud Robinson Crusoe to my public school fourth grade class. While the "reading level" of this book is much too high for my students, they can follow the plot, they like the plot (last year's students listed it as one of their favorite things we did during the year), they get exposed to well-written sentences and a lot of new vocabulary, they finish something "hard," they may someday encounter this book again and be undaunted, the list goes on...

One night last week, I realized the word "negro" - though it wasn't a problem last year - was going to pose a problem this year. And I was right.
While I was in view of the Moor that was swimming, I stood out directly to sea with the boat, rather stretching to windward, that they might think me gone towards the Straits’ mouth (as indeed any one that had been in their wits must have been supposed to do): for who would have supposed we were sailed on to the southward, to the truly Barbarian coast, where whole nations of negroes were sure to surround us with their canoes and destroy us; where we could not go on shore but we should be devoured by savage beasts, or more merciless savages of human kind.
Last year, I didn't have a student yelling the "n" word at the rest of my students or calling me a racist in front of my class. This year I do.

(By the way, I was "racist" because I told a student not to crawl under his desk to go to the sharpened pencil cup, and instead ask the person sitting next to him if he could please scoot in his chair a little so he could pass. This student's response was to exclaim that I was racist. Moments earlier, a different boy - the boy sitting on the other side of the child who called me a racist - had crawled under his desk, and when I told this boy not to crawl under his desk and instead go around, his response - the appropriate response - was, "Okay.")

Before I read the above paragraph of Robinson Crusoe, I projected the United Negro College Fund's homepage on my whiteboard. I explained that the United Negro College Fund is an organization that helps black students go to college. I also said that the word negro is different than the "n" word we don't use.

And then he said it out loud. Loudly. Twice.


"That's racist!" he yelled.

I should have ignored it. I could have ignored it. But I was angry. Every year - this is Year 11 - students say, "That's racist," in regard to something that isn't, and I whip out a dictionary and read the definition of "racism" and try to - you know - educate them. Today, I projected the definition on the whiteboard and was just about to discuss the words in the definition when he started calling the girl who sits across from him fat and ugly and telling her she had a big head and needed to get her hair done because it was ugly.

These are the some of the challenges of trying to "CM" a public-school classroom.
Today, I read students the very exciting part in which Robinson and Xury kill the lion:

Xury, looked frighted, and said, “Me kill! he eat me at one mouth!”—one mouthful he meant.  However, I said no more to the boy, but bade him lie still, and I took our biggest gun, which was almost musket-bore, and loaded it with a good charge of powder, and with two slugs, and laid it down; then I loaded another gun with two bullets; and the third (for we had three pieces) I loaded with five smaller bullets.  I took the best aim I could with the first piece to have shot him in the head, but he lay so with his leg raised a little above his nose, that the slugs hit his leg about the knee and broke the bone.  He started up, growling at first, but finding his leg broken, fell down again; and then got upon three legs, and gave the most hideous roar that ever I heard.  I was a little surprised that I had not hit him on the head; however, I took up the second piece immediately, and though he began to move off, fired again, and shot him in the head, and had the pleasure to see him drop and make but little noise, but lie struggling for life.  Then Xury took heart, and would have me let him go on shore.  “Well, go,” said I: so the boy jumped into the water and taking a little gun in one hand, swam to shore with the other hand, and coming close to the creature, put the muzzle of the piece to his ear, and shot him in the head again, which despatched him quite.
 One student was absent.

This is a site that has leveled each chapter of Robinson Crusoe. For example, Chapter 1 is listed as 7.9, Chapter 6 is listed as 6.6, and Chapter 12 is listed as 9.3. The site lists the book (as a whole) as a grade 12+ reading level.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Using Pictures to Teach Writing

One-third of my public school fourth grade class is designated EL (English Learner). To redesignate as a different, longer acronym, my students must pass the CELDT (the California English Learner Development Test). The CELDT has reading, writing, listening, and speaking components, all of which must be graded with rubrics developed using psuedo-scientific methodology. Because of state mandates, I must teach a daily 45-minute English Development lesson. Some people follow the English Development teacher's manual that pairs with the Language Arts basal reader. I don't.

Today, I projected Vermeer's "The Milkmaid" on the whiteboard. This is the third Vermeer we've looked at so far. I asked my students to tell me what they saw, and to use complete sentences.

"She is pouring milk," said one student.

"Who is 'she'?" I asked.

The students gave me short sentences, most of which began with expletives. No, not that kind of expletive. I was referring to the phrases "There is..." and "There are..."

There are baskets. There is bread. There is a table. There is... There are...


Make two columns. Label the left column THERE IS... and fill it up.

a basket
a woman

the right column WHAT IS IT DOING?

A basket...holding bread.
A woman...pouring milk.
Sunlight...coming in the window.

Then go down the right column, replacing each ing with an s.

A basket holds bread.
A woman pours milk.
Sunlight comes in the window.

Next comes sentence expansion! Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?

A basket holds bread. What kind of bread? Delicious bread. Where is the basket? On the table.

A basket on the table holds delicious bread.

 A woman carefully pours fresh milk.

In the morning, sunlight comes in the kitchen window.

Those are much better sentences than "There is bread. There a woman. There is sunlight."

Little victories...

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Add This to the Reasons Why We're Homeschooling...

Three of my female students told me that a boy in the class (the boy who is presenting the biggest challenge of my teaching career - and I'm in Year 11) pushed each of them (using both of his hands, not an accident) while they were lined up before school this morning.

Later this morning, I discussed this situation with the counselor's aide. His response was, "Uh oh, he's started liking girls."

As the mother of a daughter, I never want my female child treated this way by a male child. I most certainly don't want someone in authority to dismiss a male child's abusive behavior as natural, or to teach my daughter that males should be allowed to abuse females because it's "natural."

Non-homeschoolers question how homeschooled children will be "socialized." Not like this, that's for sure.

My students are nine-years-old. I have already - and it's only September 9th - had to have the talk with them about how I don't tolerate students talking about "boyfriends," "girlfriends," and students "liking" each other. I tell them every year that this is inappropriate for elementary school. (One of my girls last year told me that her mother told her she could have a boyfriend when she had a job, her own place to live, and her own car. I told her that her mother was a smart woman.)

This is how public school children are socialized: nine-year-olds spending their school time focused on who "likes" whom. No wonder there's no time for Latin or Plutarch! Or math to mastery. Or grammar. Or, or, or...

Add this to the reasons.

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Music Lesson

The Music Lesson by a nine-year-old girl
The Music Lesson by Johannes Vermeer
Our painting of the week last week was "The Music Lesson" by Johannes Vermeer. (Here is how I do picture study.) Above is my favorite copy.

Yes, I have favorites.

For my review of the documentary Tim's Vermeer (in which this painting has a starring role), click here.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Psalm 23

This is my daughter (3 years, 4 months) reciting Psalm 23. We've been working on this passage one verse a month since the beginning of March.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Freeway Driving

While taking the freeway to Target this morning, my three-year-old said of Los Angeles, "You can see the whole kingdom from up here."

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Froot Loop Atoms

How to make a model of an atom using Froot Loops...
Here is how to make atom models using Froot Loops, or a generic version of that type of cereal. Start with a Periodic Table. I like this one because it shows a graphic of each atom, including how many electrons are on each shell/in each energy level

Understanding a little bit about atoms is essential to understanding electricity, so here are some atom basics: An atom is made of protons, neutrons, and electrons. Protons have a positive charge, electrons have a negative charge, and neutrons have no charge. An atom's nucleus is made of protons and neutrons. An atom's electrons are outside the nucleus on shells (they do not orbit the nucleus; to understand how electrons are attached to the atom, read this). Each shell can only have a fixed number of electrons. The first shell can have a maximum of 2 electrons. The second shell can have a maximum of 8 electrons. The third shell can have a maximum of 8 electrons.

I don't go further than that with students in elementary through middle school.

Last week, my fourth grade students each made three atom models: hydrogen, helium, and carbon. 

Hydrogen (Atomic Number 1) has one proton and one electron. It has no neutrons. (Note that each model has a key to show which color Froot Loop represents which particle.)
Helium (Atomic Number 2) has 2 protons, 2 neutrons, and 2 electrons. This model shows that a nucleus has protons and neutrons.

Carbon (Atomic Number 6) has 6 protons, 6 neutrons, and 6 electrons. We made this model to demonstrate that each shell can only have a fixed number of electrons.
This student glued all his protons together and all his neutrons together.
Tomorrow, I'm going to let students make the atom model of their choice. I limit them to atoms with fewer than 4 shells, so they can choose any atom from Atomic Number 3 to Atomic Number 18 (from Lithium to Argon).

Lastly, you don't need the above sheet to make these models. Children can just use a marker to draw their shells on a piece of blank paper.

The Periodic Table image above is from Wikimedia Commons and is by DePiep.