Thursday, October 31, 2013

School's in! - Fall 2013

We started our school year at the beginning of October and things are moving fast! Olivia asked to learn cursive this year. She was required all summer to read aloud to her brothers. They loved it and it helped with her reading skills. Don't worry, she liked it too. It fits her personality well. :) She is doing copywork both to work on her handwriting and on spelling. We are using Spelling Wisdom by Simply Charlotte Mason. We highly recommend it-simple and effective. She does a lesson each day out of Primary Language Lessons and we still incorporate plenty of narration to round out her language arts learning. For math, Olivia just finished part of the Life of Fred elementary series, specifically Apples to Goldfish. She will pick up with the series probably next spring or summer. Now she has started doing Math Lessons for a Living Education published by Queen Homeschool. Olivia gives it good reviews and so do we. We choose to put her in a level that is a bit of a review but has also help to clean up some places were she was sloppy or frequently making mistakes. Since she was ahead in math, we are totally okay with this. 

Our main foundational curriculum for Bible, History, Science, Music and Art is My Father's World - Rome to the Reformation this year with Olivia. It covers a long stretch of some very interesting history, starting with the founding of Rome and following the events through the Roman emperors, the time of Jesus, the Holy Roman Empire and tons of early church history. 

We started the year by talking about how Roman children would have been educated and the tools they used. One was a wax writing tablet. Rather than use wax, we made some out of clay and cardboard. 

Olivia and I played some games that they would have played to pass the time. This one was called "Odd or Even." You had to guess the number of stones (odd or even) the other person was holding in their hand. If you were right, you took one stone from them. If wrong, you had to give one up. The winner is whomever has all the stones at the end. Olivia whupped me.

We also looked at Roman art, which consisted mainly of mosaics and frescoes. I found an online mosaic maker that Olivia has fun playing with.

The Bible and how we came to have it is another topic for this year's MFW. Olivia has been reading her Bible for years, but now she has to find particular verses, read them and be able to explain or discuss them in her own words. We started out the semester by actually looking at the different sections of the Bible and how they relate. We looked at how the Bible is really 66 separate books divided into 6 volumes all put together into a single binding. We made our own "library" out of matchboxes with one box for each "volume."

Then we put slips in each volume that had the names of the books contained within each volume.

Our science this semester is about the human body and all its various systems and functions. In this experiment, we were seeing how some things can pass through cell membranes while others couldn't. The beans were large molecules while the salt mixed with them represented smaller molecules. The sieve is the cell wall. By pouring the beans and salt through the sieve, we saw the beans get stopped by the cell wall while the salt passed right through. It became a good study of respiration, too. The beans were the red blood cells while the salt was oxygen. The sieve then represented the capillary walls. As the red blood cells go into the lungs (the jar) oxygen gets mixed in. once the blood travels to the muscles (the bowl) the oxygen passes through the capillary walls and  into the muscles.

The kids also made "cells" with jello for cytoplasm and a grape for a nucleus.

We then looked at the brain and nervous system. Olivia loved learning how different parts of her brain did things without her thinking about it. 

We did some experiments like balancing on one foot and trying to make your left hand and left foot go in opposite directions (bet you can't do it!)
You can balance on one foot, but not if you put the opposite shoulder against the wall... 

We also studied the five senses. Olivia made a flap book with flaps representing all 5 senses.

Here, we tested both taste and smell by eating lemons and then trying to identify foods while holding our noses.

In addition to MFW's science, we found a book at the local used book store that was songs about the body with a CD. The kids have loved it. There was a song called Brain Power which the kids, esp Ezra, continue to sing each day as they go around the house. I love that God put that free resource in our paths to enrich our schooling. Also, Olivia is doing "Our Animal Friends" from the Discovering Nature Series published by Queen Homeschool. She is really enjoying this science. It is story based and requires her to do some research and further learning. Just about each week she has to write a story or a report on an animal. This has been very good for her writing skills. Writing is not something she just enjoys or is a naturally strong gift like reading or art. But she has really kept a good attitude and has come so far.

Gabe is doing various reading, writing and math activities. He does calendar, clock, and weather pages each day. He is also working on writing his letters which he enjoys. He and Ezra are doing Saxon K math which involves lots of manipulatives and they both look forward to doing it. Also, he does sight words and reads from a Pathways reader but these are his least favorite and we still are taking that very slow. 

We're doing Five in a Row, Volume 1 with him. This is right up his alley. He enjoys to be read to, he enjoys retelling stories and he enjoys making up stories. Well, we are really doing this as a family. We read the week's chosen book at the lunch table and read it every day for a week or two. There are various activities to go along with it, usually having to do with history, geography, science, math, art, literature and social studies.

The first one we did was The Story of Ping, which was a favorite of Olivia's, too. We did bunches of activities like matching pictures to story pieces, counting Ping's family members, geography of China, and all sorts of fun stuff about ducks. Rebecca took him and the other kids to the Bog Garden so they could see the ducks in person. This is actually a place we go a lot but this time around we talked more specifically about the mallard ducks, their habits and environment.

We looked at how preening makes the duck's feathers waterproof by spreading oil on them. 

For art, we looked at how to draw reflections and movement

The second story we did was Lentil. For this one, we found Ohio on the map, played the harmonica in the bathtub, learned She'll Be Comin' Round The Mountain, and went to Guilford Battleground to see the monuments and statues.

And, in a surprising coincidence, we studied taste which involved sucking on lemons again, just like Old Sneep in the story.

We even studied music and math by cutting a lemon (whole note) into halves, quarters and eighths.

I think the neatest thing so far is that Ezra, despite not really doing "school" gets to participate in all these activities and hear the stories, so he's really picking up a lot for a 3-year-old. I imagine when we do this with him, he'll just fly right through it. :)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Chicken Update

Our adventure with the chickens continues to make our lives interesting. We've had some recent problems with pests. We've lost 2 laying hens last month and so I bought a trap and a pellet gun to try to "take care of" the culprit. Sure enough, the first night I caught a raccoon. I thought our troubles were done... The next night, we were out and didn't get home until 10pm. I walked back to set up the trap and found one broiler dead and noticed another one missing. I set up the trap and was going about cleaning up the dead chicken when out of the tree next to me falls a gnawed chicken leg. Seeing as how the one in my hand still had both legs, I quickly figured out that the raccoon had taken the other one up the tree with it and was still up there. I could just see his eyes shining when I shone the flashlight up in the branches. Rebecca kindly stood guard at the tree while I got the pellet gun and, shortly thereafter, the second raccoon was removed from the equation. Surprisingly, the next morning, there was yet another coon in the trap!

All was quiet for a couple of days until one morning we found this fella in there. Opossums are just as deadly to chickens as raccoons, so we were glad to get rid of him, too. It's been another 2 weeks and we haven't had another visitor in the trap. Hopefully, we won't ever.

The Delaware broilers are growing quickly now. These pictures were taken at about 7 1/2 weeks. We'll harvest them at 12 weeks (the week before Thanksgiving), so I need to start getting together the stuff I need to do it. It's obvious now that we have 2 hens and 2 roosters, so we're thinking to pardon one hen, maybe 2 since we lost 2 layers. The roosters, however, get no mercy. Sorry fellas.

Our Reds are very tame now. They chase me around as I walk in the yard and will squat down to be scratched or picked up when I get close. They'll do it for the kids, too, which is exciting for them.

 Getting a scratch.

It's funny to see them fluff their feathers after getting some attention. 

As the season changes and things get cooler and darker, we expect our girls to slow down or stop laying altogether. We could put artificial lights in the coop, but we feel like they need a rest, just like we do, so we'll just have to buy our eggs elsewhere over the winter.