Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Work in Progress Wednesday


Collars for Choreography team.


The rats need some new cage furniture.


Boston Favorite Cake from The Fanny Farmer Cookbook.  It involves separating eggs, whipping the whites, then folding them into the batter (action shot above).

Then frosted with the butter frosting we use for the Christmas cookies.  Other decorations and candles still to come.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Science Co-op Week 5

We started off the hour with a review of Newton's first and second law (okay, actually we started off the hour with a discussion of Halloween costumes, and also the comparative advantages of various lightsabers).  I then wrote on the board the third law: For ever action there is an opposite and equal reaction.  The kids copied it onto their papers.

I had thought it would be really cool to have something like an air hockey table so we could boing the pucks around, but transporting the one from our basement wasn't a possibility (my high school physics teacher used an air hockey table under a strobe light to illustrate vectors, and I always remember that as one of the coolest things that happened in high school science).  Annabeth recalled that we had an air hover puck that had its own battery-powered motor that allowed it to "float" on any smooth surface  sort of like this one.  The room we're in for class is carpeted, so we couldn't use it on the floor.  We tried to get a little table top action, but the puck kept flying off the table; the back would pop off and the batteries would fall out.  But the kids had all seen or played air hockey before, so they had an idea off how it worked -- if 2 pucks collided they'd go zipping away in opposite directions.

Next, I had everyone put on safety glasses for our main demonstration.  The safety glasses turned out to be a Huge Deal.  First of all, one of the younger boys had to go get his own pair from his mom (I'd brought enough for everyone, but he wanted his own).  He arrived back in the class while I was explaining that our family owns so many pairs of safety glasses because we're very conscious of eye safety (and one of the girls was disclosing that her father was cutting wood over the weekend WITHOUT safety glasses, and her mom kept telling him to put them on).  The boy explained that his dad was wearing safety glasses RIGHT NOW in the lab he worked in (dad is a PhD chemist); the son was obviously really, really excited to wear glasses like his dad.  And as the class progressed one of the girls kept exclaiming, "I feel like a real scientist!"  Sort of a change of pace from working with the middle schoolers last year.  Although one of the boys in this class wore them on top of his head instead of over his eyes (I tried correcting him.  Later I saw him standing to one side rubbing his eye as though he'd bopped himself and looking like he was starting to cry.  I asked him if he'd hit his eye, and he claimed he was fine, and that he hadn't hit his eye.  I'm pretty sure he had but was afraid he'd get in trouble, or at least get a big ol' "I TOLD you to put the glasses on," and preferred to suffer alone rather than admit he'd been wrong).

Main demonstration:  Put water in a plastic film canister, put part of an Alka Seltzer tablet in water, put lid on, watch lid pop off.  A classic.

We started by just putting the Alka Seltzer in water (I used half tablets) and timing how long it fizzed -- about a minute.  Then I dumped that out, put the same amount of water in, put another half tablet, put the lid on, then started discussing something or the other (it's an enthused bunch full of ideas of other things we should try) and after about 17 seconds POP! the lid went flying off, causing some kids to jump.  One boy asked if we could try it again, but not put the lid on so we could see what happened ... um, isn't that what we did first?

Anyway, forging ahead, we went outside so the the kids could try this on their own (although the room has a high ceiling, it seemed to be wise to move this outside).  A mistake I made:  I should have gone over the procedure multiple times, writing it out on a portable white board or something.  Because once we got outside everyone was sooooo excited that it was a little hard to control who was doing what when.

I put the kids in groups of 2 or 3 (I assigned these basis on Annabeth's advice about who would work well together while actually getting something done).  I had a couple of kids who said they didn't want to actually DO anything, and I told them it was okay, they could just observe their partner.

Round 1:  Fill canister halfway with water, put in half tablet, put on lid, countdown to lid popping off (we didn't have enough watches or clocks for everyone, so I reminded them that Galileo used his pulse and they could simply count steadily).

Round 2: Fill canister 1/4 to 1/3 way with water, put in half tablet, put on lid, countdown to lid popoff.  Does this take longer or shorter?  (I had tried to engage them in predicting which it would be.)

Round 3: Fill canister 2/3 to 3/4 with water, put in half  tablet, put on lid, countdown to lid popoff.  Faster?  Slower?

Bonus round:  Fill canister halfway, put in half tablet, put on lid, put lid-first into plastic tube that's sealed at one end, hold facing some direction other than at me, shoot canister out of tube.

Okay, the above is the THEORY of what we were doing.  In reality, the kids were so excited that they kept coming up with new things they wanted to try ("can we put in a whole tablet?" "No, the reaction would be so fast you can't get it covered and put in the tube before it would blow -- REMEMBER YOU GET ONE VARIABLE, AND THAT'S THE AMOUNT OF WATER -- EVERYTHING ELSE IS A CONTROL!!!").  The Alka Seltzer tablets kept falling apart into tinier pieces, we had water sloshed everywhere, at the lower water levels the lids sometimes didn't blow off (not put on well enough?  slower reaction meant the gas could leak out enough that it didn't need to POP?), kids were filling the plastic tubes with water and throwing canisters and Alka Seltzer in to see what would happen, one boy flipped the canister upside down on the pavement with the plastic tube over it and waited for the entire thing to go flying (okay, actually that was partially my idea) ... the girl who didn't want to participate was plastered on the ground in the field next to the parking lot counting down with her lab partner as they waited for their canister to blow (I think they were pretending to be a bomb squad).  The boy who didn't want to participate was jumping with excitement shouting to his lab partner that it was his turn to put in the tablet and put on the lid ....  You know, I'm not sure they got the point of what was SUPPOSED to happen, but they sure experienced a lot exciting discoveries.  I know that I discovered that several dozen Alka Seltzer in a quart or two of water, over the course of a half hour or so, gets amazingly sticky.  Who knew?

And then I happened to glance at my phone to see the time, since I estimated this would take 15-20 minutes and we could then go play on the playground, and discovered class was OVER.  Oops.  Everyone grabbed something, we zoomed back inside.  Maybe next week we'll try to go over what we learned.  I'm pretty sure it was memorable.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Homeschool Update 9/24/11

- New curriculum rundown:

Ananbeth has started Key to Decimals.  She's starting with book 1 because, hey, why not -- it's easy peasy, and if there happens to be some super-simple concept that she doesn't know (and didn't even realize she didn't know) she'll catch it.  I'm not grading it at this point.  She thinks it's great fun.

She's also started Pandia Press Middle Ages Level 2.  So far she thinks it's more fun and interesting than not.  She enjoyed researching various saints, she zipped through all of A Door in the Wall in a couple of gloomy, rainy days, she hasn't been so thrilled with researching the various monastic orders (although I think that might be because she insists on looking for long, dull articles about them -- if I were in charge I'd look in a children's Catholic resource to find something short and to the point, but she doesn't want to do things that way).  I made a very stripped down timeline for her to use -- drew a vertical line on cardstock, labelled it with a century, punched holes to fit in a 3-ring binder (which will need to be held sideways to view the timeline), and POOF, done.  I was pondering doing something swankier, but she commented, "it's just a history program" with an eyeroll.  You know how you hear about people making superduper timelines that their children can treasure for the rest of their lives?  Not happening here.  So if that's what you're looking for, move along.

In the meantime, Thalia has made a solid start in Jensen's Format Writing, discovering that it isn't really that difficult to crank out some paragraphs once you sit down to do it.  The challenge, of course, is actually beginning the work.

Old curriculum rundown:

- Chapter 6 of Dave Ramsey DONE.  We're halfway through the course.
- I actually helped on a physics problem, although I'm a bit fuzzy on why my solution worked.  Overall, the course involves many phone calls back and forth amongst the students.
- No clue on what's happening with Notgrass History, Writeshop, or Shepherd's Life Science.  These are all co-op classes, so mostly this week  I just asked if the homework's done.
- Also, theater, and technical theater I don't have much to do with other than find out what happened each week so I can jot them down to form a course description (well, what happened other than XYZ and ABC got in trouble with the teacher, since it's fairly apparent that I'll be hearing that pretty much every single week about those same two adolescent boys).
- Much cooking and discussion of cooking now that the weather's cooler.  Should we have a half-credit cooking class?
- Thalia is driving more and more places.  Which isn't a class, but it's a learning experience.
- She'd really like a Spanish class, but we've ruled out Rosetta Stone and Visual Link.  Not ready for dual enrollment yet.  What other choices exist?

More Weekly Reports at Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers, a veritable font of homeschool ramblings.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Snapshot of the Reading Life

Recently completed:

Heads You Lose by Lisa Lutz and David Hayward. I like Lisa Lutz's Spellman Files series, so I thought this would be appealing. Woops, wrong. It was contrived and annoying. I finished it out of a (probably misguided) desire for completion more than out of a desire to see what happened to any of the characters. Because, in the end, I didn't care -- not about the characters, not about the authors. Sorry, not much more I can say.

Star Wars Fate of the Jedi: Ascencion Book 8 of a 9 book series written on a rotating basis by 3 authors. If you ever wondered what Star Wars would be like if it had been written as a bodice ripper, this is the book for you. And, just like a bodice ripper, you can skip through it without losing track of the plot because there's just not a lot of plot there. Really. About 50-100 pages from the end I gave up, skipped to the last chapter or so, wrapped up the parts of the story that probably matter for the next book (oh, okay, Abeloth does THAT -- no big surprise there; the Sith do THIS -- again, no surprise; and Vestra is up to THAT -- huh, coulda written that myself; and Luke and the Jedi are pretty much up to the same ol' same old), and returned it to the library. But I shall persevere through to the final book because, yoohoo, STAR WARS!

Currently reading:

How to Become a Straight-A Student by Cal Newport. I think I've been reading this forever, although it's only been about 4-6 weeks. Really, it's a decent guide on how to organize your study time for maximum effect. It would be great for a college student to read, preferably before the beginning of the semester. It would probably be helpful for high school students. But, like I say, I'm not sure what's in it for me, other than being able to recommend it to people the appropriate age and occupation -- which I can already do, therefor no need for me to finish the book. Maybe I just like it because whilst reading I can fantasize about having been that clued in during college.

How to Be a High School Superstar by Cal Newport. Takes some of the same concepts from the college book (above) and applies them to high school so that kids have plenty of free time to develop "interestingness". Also purportedly claims to explain how to develop "interestingness". I'm only about a third of the way through, and this one is worth finishing to see where he's going with it. Homeschool theoretically could be the PERFECT for giving kids huge blocks of time to develop "interestingness", but plenty of homeschool kids aren't making the leap. C'mon, you've all heard the stories of homeschoolers who, given free rein over their time, fritter it away on various meaningless pursuits and are barely literate years later. I suspect Cal Newport doesn't have magical words of inspiration for those kids -- I suspect the inspiration to be a Superstar has to already be present, and Newport simply gives a way to channel it. But, hey, it looks like it will be an interesting read. And I'm attracted to the way the author challenges the status quo, stating that the typical way people try to make college applications stand out is really downright silly. But, will my love of all things status-quo-challenging blind me to the flaws in his premise? Hmm....

For the Love of Physics by Walter Lewin. I picked this up at random from the New Book shelves at the library, attracted to the cover picture of a guy swinging on a pendulum in a classroom. I often like science biographies (Lives of a Cell, for example). And the fact that I'm currently teaching physics to a bunch of grade-school-age kids adds to the attraction. Wow, this book is great for inspiration. Admittedly I can't show the exact same demos in my itty-bitty co-op class -- I don't have access to the swanky equipment to drag into the classroom -- but his enthusiasm for his subject is infectious. I wish, though, that the book had an appendix that listed out all the YouTube videos and cool websites he mentions in the text, since as it stands now I have all sort of crappy little bits of paper stuck in pages since I'm often reading the without an internet-connected computer by my side. Really, if you like reading about science topics, this is a book you don't want to miss.

Okay, there are probably more bookmark-ridden books languishing around here. But these are the ones I've been carrying around with me lately, and continue to carry around.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Co-op Science Week 4

I was operating in a state of exhaustion this week, and didn't even write out a lesson plan. Fortunately Newton's second law is pretty straightforward, so it was pretty easy to wing it.

 I started by defining force, mass, and acceleration, writing each word on the board and then discussing. For "force" I pushed on various things (the wall, one of the kids, etc.). Easy and obvious. For "mass" I explained that it was little more complicated, but it has to do with how big and heavy something is BUT it isn't exactly that -- it's more along the lines of how much STUFF (matter) something has. I had a styrofoam cooler and a black ice pack -- the black ice pack was smaller in dimension, but weighed more while we're standing here on Earth. I chose those objects, by the way, because they I saw them in my house while I was pondering how to explain the concept. For "acceleration" I talked about the accelerator on a car and the acceleration lane on a highway. I also explained that scientists have much more precise definitions of these things that take direction into consideration, but we weren't going to worry about that now since we're just after a broad picture.

Next, some hands-on examples of the concept of Newton's 2nd law. We talked about how easy it was for H to zip that Barbie car across the floor in last week's class, and tried to picture how tough it would be for her to push MY car across the parking lot. That's an example of a greater mass needing more force to move it and attain the same acceleration. Then I whipped out a slingshot and pulled it back just a little to send a pingpong ball going a short distance; next pulled it back more so the pingpong ball bounced off the opposite wall and halfway back across the room (this was wildly popular) for another example of varying force, but this time holding mass constant so acceleration became greater. Finally, to demonstrate 2 different masses reacting to gravity, we did the ever-popular impact-crater demonstration, which oddly enough not one of the kids said they'd ever seen -- I put flour in a cake pan, covered it with a layer of cocoa, set the entire thing on a drop cloth on the flour, then dropped a pingpong ball and a golf ball in it at the same time. I explained to the kids that I hadn't tried it at home, but my hypothesis was that the golf ball would hit harder and make a bigger crater (again, this was wildly popular in that I admitted that I hadn't tried it out ahead of time -- plus the way the flour poofed all over our shoes -- I let one of the kids try it a second time, then fielded about a zillion questions about whether we could bake a cake in class sometime).

Next, I wrote out a simplified version of the law on the board and had them copy it onto a piece of paper for their booklet of Newton's Laws: The acceleration of an object depends upon its mass and the applied force. The kids who were stunned and horrified by the copying-off-the-board concept last week seemed less so this week.

After everyone had finished copying, I erased the board and wrote F=MA, which I explained, emphasizing that it was an incredibly important math equation, and that their parents would probably recognize it if they went home tonight and said they had studied it today.

Some of the kids were asking if they were going to draw something on their papers again this week (last week I had them draw or write about one of the demonstrations we did). I said they could use the space to design their next project it they wanted. Because we were going to apply our knowledge of force, mass and acceleration to CATAPULTS. I used AmiMental's blog post for my inspiration, although I tweaked it a bit (homeschoolers tweak everything, it seems), using slightly different supplies.

Really, I should've added "measuring tape" to the list of supplies -- as kids finished their catapults they lined up and shot them off. We laid popsicle sticks on the floor to show where the various cotton balls hit.

I pretty much joined them in the building this time, helping kids who were drawing a blank on how to go about this to brainstorm ("hey, how about if we do THIS", or "do you think it would help if you added something here?"). Some of the boys built slingshots, claiming that they were a type of catapult. Um, not really. But I also said we'd probably be doing more with catapults later on when we get to machines, so I just sort of rolled my eyes and moved on.

Many of the kids handed in their creations at the end of the class period. I wrote their names on them, and plan to save them for our Open House display later in the fall.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Weekend Report

Most of the weekend was spent messing with the bathroom. A couple of friends came over to help pull out the old vanity and sink top, and carry them to the garage. Then they decided to start pulling up the peel-and-stick floor, only to discover that it had been stuck on to luan that had been screwed into the floor and then painted grey. The paint made it almost impossible to find the screws. So that was quite an adventure to get up off the floor. So many floors in this house have been just plain weird.

Of course, this involved taking the toilet out AGAIN. We took it out last week to get the wallpaper remnants from behind it, and paint the wall blue.

ANYWAY, Annabeth and I spent Saturday night assembling the faucet and putting it on the sink. Then we set the sink top onto the new vanity.

Here's a plumbing tip -- have the smallest person in the family do the under-the-sink work. Here's an action shot of Annabeth installing the little doohickey that makes the drain stop go up and down:

Also, the sink doesn't have shut off valves (what's up with that?), so we had to keep turning off the water in the house. Rick wanted to install valves when we put it in the new sink, but, alas, Lowes doesn't stock the correct size for our pipes.

There was also much laying of backer board in preparation for tiling the floor.

In the meantime, Thalia went camping with her Girl Scout troop. It was an all-weekend campout, but I picked her up on Saturday so she could go to ballet.

This was her first ballet class at this place with this teacher. Wow, really big class, which is Beginning Ballet for Teens. The teacher seems really excellent -- they had a two-way mirror, so I sat out in the hallway and watched. Thalia's foot strength has diminished over the summer, but overall she "got" a lot of the stuff right away because so much of it's similar to Irish Dance.

Then a visit from my brother and sister-in-law, who had come to town to see the zoo, Botanical Garden, and Butterfly House. They stopped by to say howdy. They declined the offer to have supper together, saying they'd eaten so much in the last couple of days (Amighetti's, Joey B's, Charlie Gitto's, and some pancake place) (Oh, total digression -- when they said they were going to the zoo and the Botanical Garden I told them they should go out to eat on the Hill, and suggested Amighetti's for a sandwich, plus go somewhere for toasted ravioli. "Rick says if he only has 24 left to live he's going to have a sandwich from Amighetti's" -- bear in mind Rick is gluten-free and doesn't eat most of the stuff they put in the sandwich. So, we were talking about where all they'd been to eat, and Rick was saying that toasted ravioli is also on the 24-hour list, and the pancakes sounded pretty good so he'd consider adding them to the list also, and we started calling it the "Rick Death Tour of Restaurants".) So they went back to Forest Park to see the hot air balloons, and we continued doing bathroom rehab.

Sunday was church, followed by a meeting for the mission trip to the Dominican Republic that Thalia will be taking over Spring Break. They started meetings about this in August. Yesterday was about all the notarized paperwork, including things like what to do with her body if she drops dead in a foreign country -- yeah, you have to sign off on that. Things left to do: get a passport (someone advised us to simply wait until she was 16 to get the 10 year renewable version), find out her blood type which we can find no record of but it's not a big deal because we need to go to the doctor anyway for things like typhoid and malaria vaxes, get some sort of compressible packing system so she can haul along all of her own bedding, come up with about $1000 more to pay for airfare and lodging to add to the $500 we've already paid. Also, the kids who have been before were giving the scoop to the kids who are new to the experience -- the odd stuff like "take those powdered drink mix-ins, because the purified water starts tasting weird after a while", "really, you'll only want to wear sports bras", "the first year [XYZ] only took one pair of underwear for the entire week, so the 2nd year we threatened to all take underwear for him in our own luggage unless he packed more". In other words, those things adults don't think to put in the handouts.

Then home and back to church for choirs.

Hmm, when I write it out here it doesn't sound like so much. But really, it was exhausting, especially the bathroom stuff. And after messing with the pipes so much I'm so grateful every time I turn on a faucet and water comes out -- indoor plumbing is a wonderful thing.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Weekly Report 9/16/11

I'm writing this during a bathroom remodel, a visit from relatives, picking up Thalia from camp, taking Thalia to her new ballet class, going to a DR meeting about the trip during Spring Break, etc., so it's even more disjoint than usual....

New curriculum purchased this week: Key to Decimals and Key to Percents. Time to bid adieu to Life of Fred, which will soon be appearing on the "For Sale" boards at the WTM.

Also new is the Pandia Press History Odyssey Level 2 for the Medieval time period. I haven't actually purchased that yet, but plan to get the e-book, which is currently on sale. This does't replace anything.

Those are both for Annabeth, who is also working on Writeshop in co-op. She emails her drafts to the teacher during the week, the teacher looks them over by class time and hands them back for re-writes. So far that system is working well, other than the grousing about the actual writing process. This week Annabeth wrote about a pet, which took an amazing amount of time since she couldn't decide WHICH pet (rats? cats? and we have pairs of each, so which one?). She eventually decided on our black cat, who is certainly full of personality (I used to call her a Sith Lord, but I think the Sith aren't quite so dumb as she tends to be, even in that scene where the Emperor got so caught up in the fun of killing Luke that he didn't notice Vader was about to toss him over the railing (give me a break, like this uber-powerful guy would be that clueless about sensing Vader's intentions in the Force)).

And for science she had her first test in Shepherd's Life Science. For the record, Apologia science tests are a lot easier to grade than Shepherd's Life Science. The answer book for Shepherd's tends to ramble on and on. I was glad I knew this stuff anyway, so I could just read the question and decide if I liked the way she answered it. This is also a co-op class, but the teacher isn't responsible for the tests -- frankly, the tests are optional in our co-op.

Since the Key to ... books just came in late in the week she worked on RightStart Geometry for most of the week. She says she's sick of triangles at this point. But, hey, it will make Jacob's Geometry so much easier for her years from now that she had to slog through these endless lessons.

Speaking of which, in Junior Analytical Grammar she needed to list the helping verbs on a test. Wow, how many dozens of times did we recite those in First Language Lessons? So it was incredibly easy for Annabeth to storm through that section of JAG.

Thalia's life continues to revolve around Kinetic Physics. In other mathy news, she's completed her first test in Lia'ls Intermediate Algebra, which has been pretty straightforward.

We' completed Chapter 5 of Dave Ramsey, learning about opportunity costs (a phrase we use a lot around here) and "90 days same as cash" deals (which we always use effectively but apparently most people don't -- who knew?).

She's got a slow start in Jensen's Format Writing; and continues to tolerate Notgrass World History, holding on to the belief that it will get better once they're out of ancient history.

Oh, and phys ed. -- I haven't mentioned this lately. Part of phys ed is weight lifting, right? You should've seen her carry the new bathroom vanity up the stairs a couple of days ago. Wow, It was really impressive.

Both have had at least one class of their new dance classes (ballet and tap), as well as musical theater, improv/acting, advanced musical theater, and technical theater. Thalia continues to thrive with her new voice teacher, which isn't to say the old one is bad but she gels so well with the new person. We're pondering whether we should continue piano lessons on top of all of this, considering they're both in at least one choir also -- it feels like we're spending plenty of time on music and performance arts already.

You can find out how other homeschool families have spent their week at Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers, undoubtably featuring more coherent wrap-ups than this.

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Rats of Summer

In case you were wondering what the household rodents have been up to lately, they've been:

Exploring trash cans.

Nothing like a can of trash -- a little piece of heaven on earth.

Eating seasonal veggies and fruits in the mornings. Also beans, which are a favorite. But Em will forego the beans if fresh raspberries are available. Later in the day they get Debbie Ducommon's Molasses Mix (Emily likes this, Farley is neutral), and in the evening they get Regal Rat (Farley likes this, but I think part of the attraction is that it's easy to carry around the house and hide).

Looks like this particular morning they had black beans, a little cucumber, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, mixed greens, and some grapes.

Remember when American Girl carried the Angelina Ballerina books and dolls? And the dolls were really fairly plump, just like the characters in the books (and unlike the current dolls and videos, which frankly look like anorexic rodents drawn by idiots). We ended up with loads of the stuff, including clothes, which actually sort of fit Emily. Sort of.

Better yet, we can also use the balance beam and stage we got from American Girl.

And when not pursuing her stage career, Farley likes to ride around on Annabeth's shoulder.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Co-op Science Week 3

This week we started talking about Isaac Newton, discussing his first law.

I introduced the concept by saying that Aristotle thought there must be force to have motion, but it appeared to him that the force must continue for the motion to continue. I demonstrated while talking by pushing a Barbie car across the carpeted floor, which came to a stop due to friction, of course. The kids totally understood, and could envision what would happen if we put the Barbie car on an ice rink, which would have less friction, which is what Galileo also figured out (well, not a Barbie car on an ice rink, but the idea that circumstances could exist in which other forces didn't slow the object down).

I'm having them write out a simplified version of each law, so for this week they copied off the board:

"An object at rest rends to remain at rest.
An object in motion tends to remain in motion in a straight line at a steady speed."

I demonstrated various activities that showed the concepts, also introducing them to the word "inertia". For a body at rest staying at rest we:

Put an index card on a glass, put a quarter on top of the index card, then flicked the card away. The quarter plopped into the jar with a satisfying plink. I also tried doing the same with glass bottles and dice, but couldn't get it to work there -- it had worked at home.

Stacked quarters, then flicked a quarter at the bottom of the stack and thus moved the bottom quarter of the stack. I couldn't do this at all, but one of the girls (who happened to come into the room early while I was setting up) was a champ, and could exchange quarters that way -- I had her demo this trick.

I also asked if they'd ever done that thing with the coins where you stack them on your elbow and then catch them with your hand when you drop your elbow. We used to do that when I was their age; one of the kids knew what I was talking about.

And, OF COURSE, I put a book on a piece of fabric on the table, then whipped the fabric out from under the book ... then tried it with a plastic plate ... then, yes, a breakable dinner plate with silverware and a glass (didn't put any liquids in the glass, instead using a beanie baby to add weight). This was by far the most popular demo. I tried it with a towel and the beanie baby, figuring the friction would send the animal flying, but, hey, it worked just fine.

Then I had the kids try whatever they wanted of these demonstrations at various stations in the room.

Afterwards they were to draw a picture of or write a couple of sentences about whichever activity they wanted to remember. I wrote titles for each on the board (some of the 3rd graders, especially the boys, seemed to be cringing at the concept of having to write, so I think having them copy my words as desired is just fine).

Moving on to a body in motion staying in motion, I spun a hardboiled egg and a raw egg. We looked at how fast I could get them to spin, and how quickly we could get them to stop. We discussed why. Some kids got it immediately (liquid inside the raw egg), some didn't.

We bashed the Barbie car into the wall and watched Barbie, Ken, and Kelly fly out of it. One of the girls was a pro at this, apparently having much experience with this concept at home -- she knew just how to place the dolls for the maximum effect.

Went outside and ran past a target on the ground dropping tennis balls on it, seeing if we could hit it, sort of like old bomber pilots trying to bomb a target (yelling "use the force, Luke!" was optional). The kids took turns doing this, with the others supposedly observing from the sidelines. One of them likened it to the car -- "the tennis ball stays in motion forward just like the dolls in the car stayed in motion." Wow, that's was an excellent way to describe what he saw!

After that we had about 10 minutes left, it was a glorious day, they'd been in various classes for 2 hours, so I said they should go to the playground and maybe explore forces there on the slides and all. Or whatever. Mostly they should run and yell and have fun before their next class.

I collected all of their papers so they didn't get lost. We'll make booklets of Newton's Laws which we can display at the open house later this fall.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


-- Getting ready on Friday night for the ACT the next day is sort of like getting ready for a feis, but involves things like sharpening #2 pencils instead of polishing shoes.

-- Getting up early on Saturday to go to the ACT is like getting up early to go to a feis, but with a calculator instead of a wig.

-- Driving downtown on a Saturday morning to go to a feis, I still crave peanut M&Ms, which were my snack food of choice during that last entire year of feiseanna. But since I was just dropping off a couple of dresses I hadn't loaded up on snacks.

-- A new choreography team is being formed. Which needs new collars. At first I thought she said there would be 60 dancers -- WOWZA! I DIDN'T KNOW YOU COULD HAVE A TEAM THAT BIG! Then I realized that she'd said 16. Anyway, time to get some more crochet thread. I'm not sure how many of which size, and what the time frame is (Oireachtas? Nationals?) These things shall be revealed unto me over time, but in the meantime, I can sort of guess that a couple in each size probably would be a good idea.

-- Overall, going to a feis is more fun if you can just spend some time talking to friends and then leave whenever you want. Although sometimes you miss seeing people that way. Also, no wig pictures for Ami, alas.

-- When the ACT admission ticket says dismissal is at 1pm, they actually mean that it could be a half hour earlier. Which means we could've made it to ballet.

-- The head of ballet at the place Thalia is going thought the ACT was more important than a dance class.

-- The essay prompt on Saturday's test was the same as the one Thalia used as a practice essay Friday.

-- You know those mints I'm always eating? The ones I kept crunching on, and then the one molar felt like it was starting to split from chomping on something so hard, and I had to have the filling removed and replaced, and spent most of the summer paranoid about chewing on that side until I got it all taken care of? Yeah, those. Whole Foods has stopped carrying them. At least, the one store has. I might have to drive to the other store and check there. This is serious. I need those mints.

-- The blue the kids chose for the bathroom is a really fun blue. The plan is to put fish clings on the walls. I thought it would be cool to hang plastic fish from the ceiling on little wires. And maybe paint the ceiling to look like you're inside of a fishbowl with a giant person peering in (no clue how you'd accomplish that, but wouldn't it look cool? I wonder if the guy in charge of the theater sets could figure it out -- since they're not doing Nemo this year after all he might have some fun fish ideas he wanted to paint somewhere.)

-- Annabeth wants to be a cat for Halloween. Again. For the fourth time. Out of 12 Halloweens. One third of her life as a cat (well, her Halloween life). Negotiations continue.

Friday, September 9, 2011

More Random Bits

Life seems to be comprised of disparate pieces right now. I'm not seeing a unifying theme, just little bits and pieces jumbled around.

Thalia is supposed to start her new ballet class tomorrow in U City. It starts at the same time she is dismissed from the ACT, which she's taking in an entirely different place that's at least half an hour away. So I've had to call the head of the ballet department AGAIN to say if she shows up at all it would just be for the last few minutes, which is likely not worth it. This is a place with a major, major phone tree, and never a live person with which to speak. So I'm emailing this woman (not even her teacher, who I've no idea how to get hold of) or calling her repeatedly, leaving messages. She must think we're totally troublesome twits, and the class hasn't even started yet. Sigh.

But we have all the proper attire. Except Annabeth's tights ended up not fitting for HER ballet class, which is at a different school. So we'll need to trade those in. More niggling details. And the time of her tap class might change. Or not. The teacher is amazing though -- if you're in the area and thinking about tap, this is the place to be.

The ACT ... do we have number 2 pencils? Correct calculators? Somehow I thought she had the earlier dismissal (12:15). But, no, it's 1pm. So, from 8am to 1pm she's testing. Blech. Really, it's just a trial run. We've put various school things on hold so she could prep for this. I'll be glad when it's over and we can move forward. We had talked about a birthday party this weekend, but she decided she'd be too wiped out.

While straightening up bookshelves last week prepping for the appraisal I realized how much Waldorf curriculum I have on the shelves that I'll never look at again in my life. I'm listing the books online for sale. So far 2 books have gone, which is nice. It's a weird time of year to sell curriculum, though. I figure I'll just keep re-posting it until it goes.

Oh, and other odd online thing -- the place I'm posting the books, which is a homeschool forum, suddenly has a plethora of questions about Irish Dance. Which I've felt compelled to answer, since it's confused newbies. "If my daughter isn't starting until now, when she's 12, how quickly can she move up?" Um, it depends on how hard you work at it, how much you compete. Here's how it works, blah blah blah. "How can I tell if it's a good school?" Well, what you consider "good" someone else might consider "living hell", so, again, it depends on what you want to accomplish.

I've done nothing, absolutely nothing, towards next week's co-op science class. Too focussed on the appraisal and the ACT to think that far ahead. I should do a little towards each event each day, I know, but I tend to get obsessive and focus on one thing at a time.

Actually, last week I was mostly obsessed with Girl Scouts. Weren't the new books supposed to arrive at the Council shop this week? I need to call and get Annabeth signed up as a Juliette, and ask how she's supposed to do cookie sales. She might have to be part of a troop for that, which I consider sort of silly. Does the troop get the money? Can we pick the troop? I have a sneaking suspicion that I won't find out on my first phone call, and it will take a while before I find someone at Council who actually knows how this works. So I keep putting it off.

And today we're going to try to pull a mirror off of the bathroom wall -- it's been glued there for 30 years. I've been reading online horror stories about people getting major injuries from the broken glass when they attempt this, which hasn't been a really good lead-in to the project.

Then tomorrow the ACT, and maybe swing by the feis to offer Thalia's solo dress(es) for sale. This was going to include a drive by U City as a scouting mission, but maybe now I won't do that after all. I need to rethink how tomorrow will work, now. Assuming we haven't all been hospitalized for flying mirror shards piercing our bodies, severing tendons, etc.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Random Bits

What we've been up to that we've been too busy to write about:

1. Refinancing the house. Lots and lots of paperwork. When we got the original loan we basically said, "Hey, we'd like some money, and we promise we'll pay it back!" Or something like that. In the intervening years the loan procedures have tightened up a lot, and we need to provide copies of our last dental check ups, along with affidavits detailing how many clean pairs of underwear are currently in the dresser drawer. So, lots of signing of papers, delivering of papers. An assessment of the house, which means it should be relatively clean, which has meant lots of cleaning. That's what we spent the Labor Day weekend doing -- cleaning, throwing out stuff, taking stuff to Goodwill.

2. Signing up for classes. Life was simpler when we just signed up for a boatload of Irish Dance classes, and then tried to figure out how to fit in piano lessons. Now we're figuring out where and when to take ballet and tap and voice and musical theater and piano lessons. Also, assessments for which level of tap and ballet. And what is the dress code at THIS place and THAT place? Yeesh.

3. Signing up for Girl Scouts. Or not, as the case may be. Thalia had thought she'd stay in until she completed her Gold Award, which she had sort of thought she'd storm through this year. But now Physics Class has happened, and, well, when you take physics pretty much all you have time to mess with is physics (well, and all of that stuff mentioned above, plus babysitting one morning per week). So, we'll see where we go with this. In the meantime, much weirdness has occurred in Annabeth's troop. I had sort of heard about it last year, but ignored it, figuring it didn't involve me (thankfully). Now, however, the repercussions are hitting, and it DOES involve Annabeth and some of the other girls (the weirdness was a parental thing, as is so often the case). So it looks like she's going to be doing this year as a Juliette, which in this Council is known as PEG. Looking on the bright side, this means we can pick out the Journey we want to do, do it how we want to do it, then move on to the Silver Award. I look forward to going at our own pace, which should be more streamlined. But she's disappointed that she won't be camping with her friends. Current plan is to return to the troop next year, which is why we're even bothering to do anything at all this year. The Journeys have no intrinsic appeal, and we wouldn't mess with them if we didn't see extrinsic reward -- in contrast, the old badges were pretty cool, and we would've done them whether we needed to or not.

4. Hot weather. Dry heat. At the beginning of August we had hot and humid, and at the end we had dry heat. I've decided that once you're over 100F or so, it doesn't matter if it's humid or not -- either way you're miserable.

5. Gah! Cool weather! Annabeth needs long pants! To my knowledge, long pants are not manufactured and sold in her size. She really really really wants store bought pants -- the charm of homemade has worn off. Alas, it's the only way to get pants that fit her. Time for panic sewing!