Sunday, October 10, 2010

She blinded me with SCIENCE!

Last week was a busy one. Monday's destructive storm led us to discuss and research rainbows. This was the storm rolling in about three hours before it pummeled my car with hail.

Here comes...The Nothing.

I wanted to post pics of the hundreds of dents in my car but I can't seem to get the lighting right. Insurance is going to cover it once we can afford the deductible. Until then, my car will look like it was attacked by toddler-sized vikings wielding tiny war hammers.

We spent a lot of time playing our favorite board game Monopoly Junior (great for learning math and reading). It's true that my goal is to unschool but I still tend to think of our activities in terms of what curriculum subjects they cover. It feels like a weakness sometimes, but it takes time to unlearn the public school system's definition of education. Kylie still has the option to choose what she wants to learn for the day. She always wants to "play school", so that's what we do. Obviously, it's nowhere near the rigid structure of an actual classroom. If she loses interest in something I ask her if she wants to do something else. Sometimes she refocuses on what we are doing, other times she chooses a different activity. Sometimes she chooses to torment Molly.

I see your Siamese and raise you $20.
We even had a third player this week. Of course I tend to question my sanity when I find myself playing childrens' board games with plastic toys Polyethylene-Americans.

Quinn? It's your turn. What are you looking at?

Back in September I setup the telescope to take a gander at Jupiter since it was so close (only 398 million miles). Kylie was stoked about the whole thing. She wanted to look at the moon too of course. With Jupiter and three of it's moons clearly visible in the eyepiece, I let her take a look. Her response was unexpected. She pulled away quickly with a look of fear on her face, "I don't want to look at it anymore." I asked her what was wrong, but she said that she just didn't like it. It seemed to give her a case of the heebie jeebies. I guess the transition from seeing a point of light in the sky to seeing a planet with three moons around it was too much for her. The moon was a big hit though. She wants to look at it all the time now.

Our exploration with the telescope led to more questions about space. She's beginning to learn the order of the planets, and yes I included Pluto. I grew up in a 9-planet solar system and I don't recall boarding a spacecraft and traveling to another star system since then.

Every time she walks up to my desk she picks up our handheld GPS (used for geocaching) and starts tinkering with it, so I finally started to explain satellites to her. This video was very helpful in an entertaining B-movie kinda way. This one however was "boring", but I recommend it because it just looks cool to have it up on your monitor when someone walks into the room. Finally, we had a brief lesson demonstrating how small we really are compared to other stars. She's still trying to wrap her head around the fact that our sun is a star, but she'll get it.

Friday was another Creature Teachers for Tots day. This time the theme was Australia. We saw a Brush-tailed Kangaroo named Cricket, a Sugar Glider, a Blue-Tongue Lizard and a Parrotlet named Blueberry. She also brought two Pacas (again from South America) because she likes them so much. Blueberry was my favorite. Parrotlets are basically miniature parrots that can learn to talk and everything. They're about the size of a small parakeet. The strap around Kylie's neck has a pouch at the end of it containing a sugar glider.

I can kill you with my brain. -Blueberry
The other animals would not cooperate for photos, so I didn't get any good ones. Cricket kept fleeing in terror, slamming herself into chairs and walls so they had to put her back in her carrier (poor thing). The sugar glider would not look at the camera and seemed hell-bent on escaping. I tried desperately to get a shot of the lizard's blue tongue, but no luck. The kids still loved the guinea pigs the most.

A split second before Blueberry attempted to remove my hand.
We finished the week with learning about volcanoes at church on Saturday and a Greek Festival on Sunday. The sermon wasn't about volcanoes. Kylie just decided that she wanted to learn "more science" while we waited in the coffee bar. "Something underwater" she said. I thought undersea volcanoes might be cool, which led to better videos featuring Mount St. Helens.

The Greek Festival was a bit disappointing. It seemed like your basic church picnic. But it's ok. I got to try "flaming cheese" and re-visited lamb (which was much better when I was a kid for some reason). I guess Greek food just isn't for me.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Rodents Aplenty

This week we were in animal overload. My mother-in-law was out of town so we were taking care of her cats (four I think...only one of them ever comes out to visit). Thursday we visited our local dairy farm for the $5 tour. We learned a lot. Specifically that the farm has more than 1000 dairy cows and that our local area has nearly 20,000. They even have their own store in town that sells dairy treats. The tour included a sample of their ice cream. The butter pecan (or old-people ice cream as my oldest daughter would say) is excellent. Kylie tried the cookies'n'cream, but was too in love with one of the farm's rabbits to care about the ice cream.

Kylie handled this chicken like she had been doing it all her life.
She provided Coco the retired horse with
some tasty carrots and much brushing.
The hay ride was very interesting. Did you know that they
put maple syrup on the hay to make it taste better for the cows?
Of ourse the rabbit stole the show.
Kylie didn't want to leave.
I got her away from the rabbit long enough to help feed
the babies.
We missed seeing a calf being born by one hay ride. They said that their record for baby bovines (because they aren't cows until they are pregnant) in one day is 15. We will definitely go back for the full tour. Maybe we'll get lucky and get to watch one being born.

Today we went to our favorite library for a special animal visit. The price seemed high at $30, but that price includes four Friday "classes", each with animals from different parts of the world. Today was the first Friday with animals from South America and a special surprise from Africa. Of course we didn't know this prior to the visit. When we first arrived I was worried because the lady setup a small pen and started putting Guinea Pigs in it. I was like, "Thirty dollars for this?" It must have been one of those under-promise-over-deliver techniques, because I was floored when she brought out the African Porcupine. The looks on the faces of all of the mothers were priceless as they scrambled to pull their children back from the pen. I couldn't stop smiling. It was really cool to see one up close and touch it.

The list of animals included: a Patagonian Cavy, a Paca (only 3 days old), the African Porcupine, multiple Guinea Pigs and a dove that had been rescued. The guinea pigs were actually genius because it gave the kids something to cuddle while they looked at the less cuddly animals. We were very impressed with the program. The lady running it actually keeps all of the animals at her home. I forget what she called it, but she's actually in the process of some kind of special project with endangered species. The Paca is one of them (but not officially).

I asked Kylie to ham it up for me. I just couldn't get over
the baby porcupine.
Ahh, yes. The rarely seen passionate kiss shared between
an African Porcupine and a Paca.
What a great week! The unschool year is off to an amazing start!