Sick, Sick, Sick

Cameron started coming down with a mild cold Friday evening. Ani got the mild cold on Sunday. Fritz decided to one up his siblings and came down with a yucky case of croup on Monday. Of course the kids got sick on a weekend when Jamie was out of town on travel. Thank goodness he got home last night since we ended up sleeping in shifts while the other took care of the baby.

Even More Dinosaurs

We only have another couple weeks or so left for the dinosaur unit. It’s been a lot of work, but also a lot of fun. The kids have learned tons and I’ve noticed they’ve incorporated what we’ve learned into their play and discussions. They are enjoying me reading Jurassic Park to them. Here’s what we’ve done since I last updated about our unit study:

  • Listened to Dinosaurs Before Dark (Magic Tree House #1) book on tape
  • Read several fiction and non-fiction dinosaur books we checked out from the library
  • Read pages 111-220 of Jurassic Park
  • Discussed dinosaur droppings (size)
  • Discussed dung beetles and talked about the dung beetles on the display in the entrance to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History
  • Discussed lysine and what amino acids are
  • Drew a dinosaur (Cameron drew a Stegosaurus; Ani drew a T Rex with a mostly eaten meal and pools of blood at his feet) and labeled the page Dinosauria (Cameron)/Dinosauria – Terrible Lizards (Ani)
  • Read Let’s Explore Dinosaurs
  • Completed science project backboard; Cameron wrote parts and Ani wrote other parts (see picture below)
  • Discussed cloning and the advantages to making a genetically engineered creature a certain way (they both agreed a second Fritz would be nice but they’d make him potty trained, able to talk, and never to grow bigger than he is now)
  • Grew four grow in water dinosaurs
  • Discussed number graphs and made one
  • Discussed bell curves and made one
  • Played Dinosaur Snap (this has become a regularly played game over the last several days)
  • Discussed dinosaur sizes and compared the sizes of the dinosaur models and arranged them by size
  • Discussed zoos and issues with animal care and running a zoo
  • Discussed problems presented in Jurassic Park and brainstormed ideas to solve them
  • Made and painted plaster fossil models
  • Discussed gizzard stones
  • Looked through Dinosaur Dictionary
  • Discussed fractals, Mandelbrot, and Euclid
  • Started Triops growing
  • Put together cardboard T Rex skeleton
  • Painted several wooden dinosaur shapes


Entering the World of Standardized Testing

Yesterday Ani entered the wonderful world of standardized testing. I had ordered the first grade CAT-E Survey (we only need to prove progress in math and language arts in VA) from Seton a couple days ago. It arrived in yesterday’s mail. Ani decided to do it last night. An hour later she was done with all five parts of the test and got every answer right (so now I am curious what her percentiles will be). Very painless though she thought the whole bubbling in answers thing was strange. Now I get to send it back for scoring and send a copy of the scores to the county’s superintendent’s agent by August 1st. Of course I still wonder if they ever even got my notice of intent for the year since I never received an acknowledgement letter in return (not that they have to send one anyway). I wonder if they’ll be confused when I send in her test scores. Cameron will be added to our notice of intent for the 2007-08 school year, but he won’t need to be tested until 2008-09 due to his age/birthdate.

Natural Talent

My big kids’ gymnastics classes have evaluations on the sixth or seventh day of each 8 week session. Today was evaluations. It was the fourth class my kids have gone to. It seems Ani and Cameron view gymnastics in two different ways. For Ani, it is something fun to do with other girls. For Cameron, it is all about the gymnastics itself.

After Cameron’s class his coach spoke to me and said Cameron has natural talent. In fact, today he got on the parallel bars and the rings for the first time ever and still scored a 3 (out of 3) on those skills. His coach told him what to do and he did it. The only things Cameron got 2s on were cartwheels and the two high bar skills. For everything else he got 3s. We were under the impression Cameron was a level 1 (the classes are all lower odd/upper even levels combined), however his coach evaluated him as a level 2 and he still scored that high.

Cameron’s coach said not only is Cameron good, he has excellent listening skills, too. The most important thing, however, is he said Cameron listens to correction and internalizes it and the next time he does it he fixes whatever he did wrong and does it right. The coach said at Cameron’s age that is uncommon to find. The only thing Cameron lacks is the terminology, but that will come in time. After all today was only lesson number 4.

And so we have options. Cameron is free to move up in levels. Unfortunately his current coach only does level 1+2 boys. He’d have to move to a different coach if he went to level 2+3. His current coach also does boys pre-team. He said he handpicks the boys for his pre-team group and he would love to have Cameron move into it if that’s what Cameron wanted to do. That would mean 4 hours of gymnastics a week in two 2 hour blocks and competing starting in a few years. It’s not really the direction we want to go at this time. I’m actually inclined to leave Cameron where he is for now. His coach is meeting him at his level and letting him progress anyway even if he may be a little above a “typical” level 2 at this point and the class “maxes out” at level 2.

I must say I am thrilled for Cameron to even have been invited to join the pre-team. So often Cameron is overshadowed by his sister. They are so close in age as it is and academics come so easily to Ani. Gymnastics is something that allows Cameron to shine.


(Sorry about the quality. It’s hard to get good pictures in the gym since the camera isn’t sure what to focus on with all the equipment everywhere plus where I am allowed to be is so far from where the kids are working out.)

A Boy and a Chair

Fritz is now eating some people foods and stands around us during dinner begging for bits so we decided it was time to get him a chair to join us at the table (we don’t have a high chair). So we went to Toys R Us last night and got him a booster chair. We put it together and hooked it to a chair and sat him in it to try it out. He LOVED it! First he sat in it playing with a toy and then we gave him some bits of bread to pick up and eat. In all, he was in the chair over an hour and still perfectly happy sitting there when we got him out. Ani just put him back in the seat and he’s just as happy in there now as he was last night.


Things Kids Say

The other day Ani was playing with Fritz and she flipped him over onto his back on the floor and got on her hands and knees above him. She said “I am the predator. You are the prey. I am going to eat you!”

We were talking about dinosaurs that still exist and I said there is the coelacanth but it’s rare to see since it lives so far down in the ocean. Ani asked if it lives as far down as sharks do. I said farther. Cameron said that was impossible because the angel shark lives on the bottom of the ocean.

My first baby is 7 today!

Ani’s 45 1/2″ tall and 38 pounds now. Still petite, but she grew 3 3/4″ and 3 pounds in the last year.
Happy 7th birthday Ani!
(The thing she is holding in her picture is a tube of sparkly Barbie lip gloss Cameron gave her for her birthday. She’s already had a tea party with her tin tea set and is now playing with the sand castle Moon Sand set we gave her.)

Figuring Out What to Use

Unit studies are so fun. We enjoy them, but they are tiring to me. Jamie suggested using other stuff for normal school and occasionally doing unit studies for fun. That’s probably the best idea. Of course picking something that both kids will enjoy and respond well to is difficult.

We are using Handwriting Without Tears, Math-U-See, and Latin for Children. We’re not stopping those. It’s everything else that is up for grabs.

Today Ani informed me it is time to do “real” school again. That’s her typical pattern. After a few weeks of a unit study or unschooling or whatever she begins to really miss more academic fill in the blank sorts of things. Really, anything I choose with blanks to fill in will make her happy provided I don’t underestimate her ability level and bore her to death. But since I don’t want to do two completely different sets of school with Ani and Cameron I can’t just pick any old fill in the blank thing.

So I started talking to Cameron. He told me he likes the dinosaur unit but he would like more “real” school. I asked him if he liked Handwriting Without Tears. He said yes. I asked him if he liked Math-U-See. That got a very emphatic yes. I asked him if he liked Latin for Children. Well, I can’t be three for three. He said he likes some of it but not all. Which is totally fine since it’s well above his level and I’m happy to hear him recite some of the vocabulary and chants. It turns out what he likes about HWT and MUS are the blanks to fill in. Yes, it seems my school allergic child is beginning to like “real” school.

I’ve been trying to make sense of Sonlight’s website. I like the literature-based approach. I like that while it’s packaged and planning is done it can still be purchased a la carte. I like that it can be used for multiple ages and levels. I hate their website. I ordered a catalog which I understand makes a whole lot more sense. While I’ve been at it I’ve been ordering lots of catalogs from homeschooling supply providers. I love “reading” homeschool stuff catalogs so I’ll have fun anyway (suggestions for places to request catalogs from are welcome!). At the gym yesterday I was talking to a woman who has three kids, ages 7, 10, and 12, that she has homeschooled throughout. They use Sonlight. She said she envisioned herself as a unit study homeschooler. In the end it turned out unit studies were too much, burned her out, and not what ended up best for her kids all the time. She supplements with “fun stuff.” Even packaged curricula don’t have to be all or nothing.

Eventually I’ll get this all sorted out. I still very much love the classical approach, just not necessarily the way it worked for the Wise and Bauer kids. Maybe I’ll just consider myself uber-eclectic. For now, at least, we’re learning about dinosaurs and having fun doing it.

Dinosaurs, Dinosaurs, and More Dinosaurs

I haven’t updated what we’ve been doing in our dinosaur unit for some time now. I remember now why we stopped the unit studies in the first place. They are super fun and we love doing them. They work well. But they are tiring and I burn out quickly. Some of the things we have done over the past few weeks:

  • Checked our chicken bones in their vinegar baths most days and recorded the results
  • Read pages 52-110 of Jurassic Park
  • Discussed topographical maps
  • Listened to Lyrical Life Science topographic map song (during which the children did some “dino dancing”)
  • Made topographical maps using the information on page 53 of Jurassic Park
  • Discussed post-mortem contraction and looked at contracted raptor “fossil” plate
  • Cameron wrote problem, hypothesis, and procedure on science project backboard
  • Ani wrote the information under problem, hypothesis, and half of procedure on science project backboard
  • Dino Dig (see picture below)
  • Discussed chaos theory and demonstrated it with dripping/running faucet
  • Used the Let’s Explore Dinosaurs book to determine which model dinosaur was a sauropod (which led to Ani trying to identify all of our model dinosaurs)
  • Discussed warm vs. cold blooded
  • Made a fern “fossil” rubbing and labeled it
  • Discussed and made a line graph
  • Discussed egg teeth
  • “Hatched” a Hatchin’ Grow Dinosaur
  • Assembled and glued Dino Dig skeletons
  • DNA kit (extracted DNA from an onion)
  • Listened to Dinosaur Rap CD

Ani and Cameron excavating dinosaurs. Ani got a T Rex and Cameron got a Triceratops.