## Friday, March 30, 2012

### Calculating Molecular Weight

For those of you who enjoyed our Flower Chromatography, we decided on a follow up activity to help us learn more about the dye molecules. We did a Google search to find the molecular formulas of each of the dyes using their trade names like Blue #1, Yellow #5, etc. The result typically showed us a chemical formula and the chemical structure of the molecule. I stopped short of pulling out the organic chemistry model kit (that'll be next!) which is right on a nearby shelf, but I did have the kids try and figure out the molecular weight of each compound.

Hardcore. I know.

But, Dan suggested that we find out how big the molecules are and molecular weight is a great way to quantify that information. We want to see if our observations match what we find out about the size of the molecule.

Here we go.

The first thing I had the kids do was write down the chemical formula for each dye. R11 wrote them down herself and I jotted them down for I9. We pulled up the Web Elements site and we talked about which elements were in our compounds. Also, we looked at all four and observed what elements they have in common and which are not the same. Red #3 is the only dye that had iodine in it. Fancy that.

We also noticed that the dyes are all large carbon molecules.

In order to find molecular weight, you multiply the atomic mass by the number of atoms of that element in the formula for the compound. Once you have the mass of each element represented, you add them all together. So, that covers multiplying and adding decimals.

 I do not have huge skills in the area of making printables. I'm more old school than that. We use a lot of loose leaf paper around here. I ought to do a post on that!

 We also used a book version of the table- sure would love a big poster!

 The kids did the work themselves, but I wanted to give them some structure on how to solve the problem. They are only in 4th and 6th grade after all! I decided making a copy of my first sheet was prudent so both kids could have a worksheet.

As we looked at the Periodic Table of the Elements we talked about the groups of elements and where they are in the table. We talked about how the atoms of particular groups behave and what that means for how they interact with other atoms.

We aren't finished with our calculations yet and we need to check them against the known listed molecular weight. Once we've done that, we can talk about how the dyes behaved compared to each other and if that correlates at all with their size based on molecular weight.

This activity was an experiment based on a fun idea and it turned out to slide right in line with our study of Thomas Edison and our study of decimals. Because, of course, most elements do not have atomic masses that are whole numbers. Sneaky, huh? I love it when a plan comes together!

Stay tuned for more results!

## Tuesday, March 27, 2012

### Co-op Math Class

I'm teaching a math class at co-op this semester. We have a wide age spread (grades K-5) with three stations. Thankfully, I have two great helpers who work with two of the groups and I work with the third group of older kids. The younger kids switch stations part way through class so it works out well.

The aim of the class is just to enjoy math through puzzles, activities, and games. I'm pretty sure we're being successful so far.

 This week I took the math chips which were a huge hit. Who can resist the fun of circles with numbers on them? What can you do with them? Read on!
 This story is terrific to begin sorting buttons and talking about their properties.

 Love buttons and I love trays for containing buttons!
 Fantastic math book if you have kids who love numbers!

The "math wise" older kids range from 1st to 4th grade and I finally stumped this week with a tangram challenge! Score one for the co-op math mom! Each week I read to them from the Cool Math book and teach them a new number trick. Then we play a game or do another activity. Favorites games so far are Corners and Equate.

## Monday, March 26, 2012

### Blog, She Wrote is on FaceBook!

With the 5th blogiversary of Blog, She Wrote coming up in a few weeks (and a new blogging opportunity that is in the works), I thought I would see how readers respond to a Blog, She Wrote FaceBook page. The page is public so if you are not on FaceBook I think you can still read there. If not, please do not worry! I will be posting as normal here on the blog. The FaceBook page is for sharing posts from the archives and for short bits of news and interest. And, of course, I'd love it if you all could comment there and say hello!

I'm still getting to know my way around over there, but it's mostly finished. I just need to add a Pinterest button (once I have something there worth seeing!) and maybe another custom button. For right now, you can see other sites and bloggers that I enjoy and I have the posts here feeding automatically to the FaceBook page.

Buttons for my blog will be here shortly and I'll let you know when they are up later this week. For now you can hit the links here in this post and I have the Blogger widget in the right hand sidebar in my Connect category.

I hope you'll join me over at the Blog, She Wrote FaceBook page!

As always, thanks for being a Blog, She Wrote reader!

## Saturday, March 24, 2012

### Flower Chromatography

The woman in the floral section of Wegmans said it wouldn't work. The daisies I was trying to use for a little dying project had already been watered- they would not take up the water she said. I thought this was odd since my bundle included flower food which presumably enters the stem and travels upward- after I've bought the flowers which were already hydrated. Undaunted, I carried them home and about 4 days later we started our project. Oh...it worked.

We saw some fantastic results too!

 Our colored flowers...Tricia over at Hodgepodge suggested the idea...I'm just a science girl though and this activity screamed chromatography to me.(and I can't help sharing good science when I see it!)

 The blue was the most brilliant of all.

 See how the purple split into the blue and the red...a few days later it all looked purple again.

 We might have to try this again with some different colors...they'd make a nice Easter decor.

 For the record, I bought these daisies with the necrosis. This wasn't my fault.
 Good science deserves some data collection...

 I decided to model this for the kids so they could see how to put the observations on paper in a way that made sense. Then I had them the write about how they set it up and what they observed at the end.

This was a fun activity and it yielded some good science! We noticed that the primary colors showed up first and dyed the best of all the flowers. We also observed that the secondary colors split into their primary molecules and traveled at different rates. In the purple flowers, the blue got to the tip of the flower first and it was followed by the red and eventually it turned more purple as the red got closer to the end. The same thing happened in the green flowers- some of the flowers never did turn all green. They looked blue and yellow with the yellow trailing behind the blue.

Now I used to think this was based on the size of the molecule. For instance, the blue molecules are the smallest and they can travel to the end faster. However, Dan pointed out that things are more complicated in a living system like the flower vs something like chromatography paper (or something like a coffee filter). While he was doing graduate work he started working on a project to optimize some diffusion type work that would allow faster DNA readings. As the research group worked with molecules they began to find that the slower molecules appeared slow because they could meander into places along the way the other molecules could not. Then they could continue on and eventually reach the end of the paper, etc.

Our results certainly show this! In the purple flower, the red did some meandering while the blue shot out of the gate and reached the finish line first. However, eventually the red joined up with the blue and the longer we left the flowers, the more evident this became.

Pretty cool stuff and a great way to show kids the behaviors of molecules!

Next up...dying some wool yarn. Easter egg dye style!

## Wednesday, March 21, 2012

### First Day of Spring!

We spent the first day of spring having a lovely walk at the arboretum at the Cornell Plantations. We needed to be out for a realtor open house (remember our house is on the market) and most of the kids wanted an outdoor outing. After all, it was the first day of spring and it was unprecedentedly warm! In fact, the arboretum doesn't normally open for vehicle traffic until the end of April. Golf resorts and other outdoor destinations can't argue with the freakishly warm March weather so they just opened up and started the season.

 Honestly...this is color is about a month ahead of schedule. Even forsythia aren't out until mid-April normally.

 We wound around all over the place- there are lots of paved pathways for good walking.

 What a surprising find on this college campus walk...

 Those trees make it look like a normal March around here!

 Our navigators always prefer to have a map in hand. There will be great plans on our next visit.

We had a nice two mile walk, but I did eventually head back to the car. Next time we go, we'll do some more exploring. There were people walking everywhere. Who can resist?

My plan is to return once a week over the next month or so to see the changes in the plants leafing out and blooming. I'll be sure to take some of these same shots.

Happy Spring!

## Sunday, March 18, 2012

### The Real Life of Decimals...

One of the best homeschool strategies I've developed over the years is to select reading material from various sources whether they be books, periodicals, or other items and just leave them out around. I have some key spots for maximum exposure. The coffee table, the library shelf, and the kitchen table work very well to attract attention. The kids know the library shelf has some good finds on it and I will leave a book open on the top and inevitably the kids will stop and have a look.

Such was the case with a magazine article my daughter read the other night. It could not have been a better time to have found it- completely God ordained I'm sure. She has been struggling with decimals in math lately and had done some practice work for me earlier in the day. She sat down in the evening and began reading the magazine I'd brought home from the store that very day.

 One of my favorites- a local magazine...look and see what is available where you live! Great field trip ideas, local wildlife and other items of interest.

 After reading several articles, she stumbled upon this one about a winery not too far away. When she finished it, she told me all about it and how the vintner was all worried about losing 168 bottles of wine- wine bottles that needed to be accounted for. It turns out she misplaced a decimal point and was only missing 16. The author even said, "What a difference a decimal place can make!"

 R11 is working on Life of Fred Decimals and Percents as part of her living math approach.

What a great living math story at just the perfect time!

I encourage you to seek out resources for your kids and leave them out to be shared. My kids always know something good is around.

And my effort to rotate and find more print material is always worth the effort- a total homeschool win!

## Saturday, March 17, 2012

### Investing in Moments that Matter

I don't know about all of you, but the weather in upstate NY this March has been amazing. I'm considering that March came in like a lion due to rain and thunder on the 29th that led to snow the next day. So, I'm expecting it to leave like a lamb for sure, but to think the entire middle of the month could be a lamb too? What a gift!

Needless to say, we are all hit with spring fever....about two months early. R11 had some of her dolls out yesterday for a photo shoot in the yard. She had asked me if it was ok to do some blogging about their adventures if she could do the post as her writing assignment for the day. Given that I'm trying to get R11 to make friends with her blog, of course I said yes. Besides, who can resist dolls out for an afternoon?

 Inspired by this doll blog, we tried a new hair do on Felicity.

 She also changed from her wool riding outfit to her spring pinner apron dress.
 Tools for the trade...according to the book, orthodontic rubber bands are just right. I9 to the rescue! He was more than happy to donate his.

 A while ago R11 received the doll hair kit as a gift.

 After writing her blog post, she let me help her edit it. You can see the final result in the photo shoot link above.
 Well uh...sure I can try that one. Who needs the DVD when you can read the manual?

 Samantha is in progress here...face mask rubber bands working excellently...

 The finished pony tail veil...did I miss my calling or WHAT?

 Addy's hair needed some attention so I carefully combed it and re-did her big braid. It's pretty close...

I can't tell you how delighted R11 was that I spent time with her yesterday and today playing dolls and helping her fix a few up-dos. I'm pretty excited she did some cute doll blogging with some writing. What a therapeutic time for both of us investing in our relationship and it was cool that her brothers got to help out here and there. Some seasons at our house are busier than others, but I am thankful for the time we have to savor small moments.

## Wednesday, March 14, 2012

### Cubbies...the New Workboxes

So, I'm not sure where to begin with this post. It's been a long time since I've reported on what's going on with or into our workboxes. The last time I posted on them specifically, I was describing some adjustments I made to our system. Back in January, I showed you a glimpse of how I'd removed the top two racks of boxes so the binders could lay flat on the rack. Still, they were hard to maintain and difficult to keep neat. Recently, you know that we cleaned and reorganized our school room in preparation for selling our home. Workboxes are not pretty- especially when there is no IKEA around the corner. I removed them from our school room and we put up two sets of cubbies.

If you've been following along in our workbox journey, then you know I eventually came to the conclusion that they simply do not work for us as they were intended. What I thought would help me to pull more off the shelf and keep the kids doing a variety of things, really only produced contrived work that wasn't always necessary or really even edifying. For certain, workboxes do not match our relaxed style of homeschooling.

The reality is I don't need my kids to have 12 boxes worth of activity per day nor sometimes even six. We are more in the 3-4 activity range with time afterwards (and sometimes in between) to pursue interests. Actually, this is probably a hallmark of our homeschool- that our kids have time to pursue what they are passionate about. We want them to develop their interests and play them out so they know what they love and what they are good at. Dan and I especially value the time they have just to explore, play, imagine, read, invent, build, and interact with each other. Setting out 12 activities, whether or not they are well intended and purposeful, is contrary to one of the things we value the most in our homeschool.

We still have one cubby per student on the top row. Three whole student cubbies are shown above along with a piece of the fourth. That's where the binders they keep their math journals in are located along with things that don't fit on the school table in front of them- for example, the nature journals. For E13, that is his WinterPromise binder and his Mystery of History text. I put things I want the kids to see or try in there sometimes. J6 picked out some books to read and he keeps them there.

J6 has a game in his cubby too and I can rotate that game out or put any other activity there. During his school day he might be assigned a FIAR activity, a copywork page, and a math assignment- along with reading to me. Keep in mind J6 is a fluent reader and he drives a lot of what he does between and after his assignments for the day. He spells well and has gotten excited about writing his own sentences and forming the spelling. His handwriting has improved since the beginning of the year. He does not need a lot of reading and spelling drills and he loves working independently whenever possible. This is one student whose education, for sure, cannot be contained within a set of 12 boxes!

The rest of what the kids need is in the Desk Apprentice- a completely beastly desk organizer. BUT, with four kids and four side slots and four pencil cups...this is a good deal for us. It takes up way too much room, but then again we haven't had the piles growing on the table since then. It's a trade off. We keep the kids' main binders in the middle so they can put things away without getting up. In the side slots is loose leaf paper/writing paper, their assignment books, and their Life of Fred books. Then they each get the pencil cup to the right which house favorite pencils, a high lighter of choice, and a pair of scissors.

Anything else the kids need while they work is close by and easy to grab whether it's reference books, markers, colored pencils, glue or rulers. I'm very pleased with how easy it is to access everything we need for school and that it all has a place so it can all be returned neatly.

So, there you have it....true confessions. I will still keep my workbox tab there for folks to reference. I just felt it was time to update everyone on where I am with the concept. I'm rather glad I tried them out. It really helped me to solidify my place on the homeschooling spectrum.

How about you all? Where do you fall on the spectrum?

## Sunday, March 11, 2012

### Arabic

E13 is having an interesting year at homeschool co-op. This semester he is taking Arabic which is offered by a former homeschooler who just graduated from college and is back home. By all accounts she is doing a fantastic job and I'm sure the kids will learn a lot.

He works on assignment each week using a DVD and pronunciation guide and there's written homework. Typically, our co-op is not too hardcore, but it's fun to see this little class get plenty of exposure.

 Of course Arabic is read right to left and the book is bound the same way.

 He has one unit per week and there are ten sessions- just enough to finish the entire book.
It's been a nice tie in with E13's WinterPromise work on the early church and the Middle Ages. We've been reading in Mystery of History about the influence of the Arab world on Spain and the rest of Europe and Arabic was spoken widely because of its ease of use apparently.

## Saturday, March 10, 2012

### Busy Hands

It's that time of year again. Our homeschool co-op has just begun again. Monday will be our third session already. The kids are busy taking fun classes like: Kid Concoctions, Cut & Create, Graphing, Arabic, Tissue Paper Flowers 2, Games, FIRST LEGO League, and Knifty Knitting. R11 is taking the loom knitting class and last week she finished up her first project- a hat. Then her 6 year old brother asked to learn and by the time she helped him, he'd had it mostly figured out.

 The life of a homeschooler...she read how to finish her cap with a pom pom and sat down to read about the weather in our Cobblestone Magazine. I had to snap that moment in time!

 J6 really grooves with the loom knitting! He carries his water bottle in style now.
He's halfway through a hat and I think Miss R needs her loom back to work on her next project. Wait till you see all the fun things the busy hands here make! It's good to have busy hands in March. Some days you can be outside and other days it's just muddy.

## Friday, March 9, 2012

### Of First Graders and Book Recordings

J6 has a special project going. He's been recording his readings of a few classics in an effort to take over Jim Weisse's story empire. He asked Dan the other night if he could go international with it.

 I caught him after lights out recording 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. He's working the headlamp. A few brothers were providing the sound effects.

 Next day he was on to Treasure Island. Every time he had a moment to himself you could hear him reading.
He is eagerly looking forward to having Dan help him rename the audio files this weekend with his full name so that when he turns on his player, he can choose his own name from the list of offerings. Look out...he's going places!

## Thursday, March 8, 2012

### Spring for a Day!

If you live anywhere on the east coast of the US, then you know that yesterday was a pretty nice day! Even here in NY it was 62 degrees on March 7th which is pretty cool. I decided it was time to get out for the day and have some fun- especially given we've been hard at work on our house (we listed on Monday!).

We spent the afternoon at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Here's a peek at our fun time! (pardon the cell phone pictures- I broke the memory card for our Canon)

 Lots of birds are back in town. It was fun to hear all the chatter there yesterday. Check out this terrible picture of a great blue heron its nest. Yes, that's him there standing on the nest.

 After we had walked a while we sat for some reading- R11 pulled out her sketch easel (home made) and made some drawings.

 This is one of five books we have going right now for read alouds- We started Swallows and Amazons yesterday. We are looking forward to some really fun summer adventure with this one! We stopped and read this for a bit while out and about on the trail.

 Then it was back to walking...I9 was our navigator and chose a new route.

 J6 loved seeing the changes in the wetlands- still some ice down there, but it is fast fading already. For the moment. I keep thinking winter is going to come in earnest at some point. I guess maybe not this year.

 Hi friend! We must have seen 20-30 red winged blackbirds in the trees on an island near the observatory. This is my very favorite bird call- what says spring and summer more than the red-winged black bird call? Go ahead and hit that link to have a listen.

 At home we followed with a game of Equate- great math game.
All in all, it was a great homeschooling day! Over the next 24 hours we'll be back to weather reality for a NY March, but it was a fun day of spring for us.

I'm going to spend the next long while focusing on our school and having a good time with the kids. It's long over due after a month of preparing our house to sell.  I'll be able to step up the blogging along with that. I already have some posts to share!

## Friday, March 2, 2012

I've blogged a few times about it, but E13 has been using the One Year Adventure Novel as his writing program this year. He's on the downhill side of 8th grade at this point and we plan to revisit OYAN in another couple of years to experience it again and see how his writing has matured. I cannot say enough about this program! We have learned so much about story and what makes a good book. I highly recommend it to all homeschooling families. Actually, I would recommend this program to any family regardless of their schooling choices. I challenge any of you to look at any story the same way after going through this curriculum. It has been a great talking point for E13 and I to discuss all stories old and modern and how they fit the model Mr. S shares in his lessons.

The program consists of 78 lessons each with a video lesson segment, a text reading, a workbook page/or novel writing portion, and read alouds from various adventure novels. Sometimes they are novel excerpts in the text but we have also been reading Prisoner of Zenda regularly.

E13 loves this program and R11 can hardly wait until it's her turn. We've recently added the forums to E's routine and he's had fun reading what other kids are writing and it's been fun for him to see other kids his age enjoying some of the same tastes in stories! On the forums, you can also read the work of other students which is pretty cool as well.

Not so long ago, he finished the summary of his novel. Would you like to see it?

Things are grim in Andwarda. Gestronza Vordyke, a former military leader, threatens peace and security. A collection of agents are trying to stop him, but things aren’t going well. Enter Colter Hargrove, a young, thirteen year old boy. After his parents are kidnapped by Gestronza, he joins the agents, bringing new hope to them. But will Colter be strong enough to beat Gestronza? Or will Vordyke get his revenge? Find out in E’s compelling adventure novel.

I've been doing this along with E13 and had started a novel, but I did not enjoy the turn it was taking so I took some time off. My job as mentor is to talk with him about his work and to evaluate it. For example, his premise for why his villain was vile was sort of weak. Through discussion we were able to come up with a premise much more compelling for why his villain has it in for the "agents". That's what I'm here for...to coach this process. I can't emphasize enough how valuable this has been for our homeschool.

At the end of the course, when he's finished his book, we plan to publish it with an online publishing service. This will be a fun way to have it in print and have others read it.

Stay tuned for more updates. He's finished the writing and creating ideas within the boundaries Mr. S created. Now he's working on individual scenes through disasters and dilemmas that will take him through his novel. Pretty exciting stuff and such a well thought out process we have thoroughly enjoyed.