Smells like high school Science fair project time

We homeschool all of our kids, but our high school students take a few classes with a wonderful enrichment program. This year, Meg is taking Chemistry, British Lit and Economics outside the home, and Josie is taking Biology and General Lit and composition.  Which brings us to the current season we just survived, known as Science fair project time....

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It was high school Science fair time here at {Home}  which resulted in much angst/ late nights/ trips to the art store....flies in my know, the normal types of stuff....

Meg leans towards life-science type projects, and she tries, mightily, to bring horses into the equation.  After the gold-fish training science experiment last year, I issued the proclamation that we would have no more Science fair experiments involving live subjects (after a whole batch of highly trained goldfish died two weeks before her project was due).  Famous last words!!!  Meg's newest experiment involved mom using her credit card late at night to order 200 blue bottle fly pupae.

homeschool world is crazy world sometimes.

it gets better, they lived in my fridge for weeks.  In the butter compartment in the door.  I got to see them every time I opened the fridge.  good times.

So, her experiment involved testing the efficacy of different fly repellents.  She compared a popular insect repellent for families, an all natural insect repellent, and a horse insect repellent.  We had 50 flies in 3 containers, plus a control container, and then the fly repellents applied to fly paper on the bottom of the containers.  Meg researched the chemical make-up of each repellent and explained the process of how they worked on the flies.  It was interesting.  [minus the weekend she left and several escaped and spent several days loose in my house]

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Josie's Biology Science fair project was a 3-d model of a red blood cell.  She constructed a model and researched/wrote a report.  She used wooden embroidery hoops, red mesh and pom-poms.

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We purchased two sets of big wooden embroidery hoops (because each set has two different sized hoops so they fit inside each other- we wanted them to fit exactly the same size) and then she painted them red.  She used hot-glue to attach the red tulle/mesh purchased at the fabric store, and then put big red pom-poms inside to represent the hemoglobin, and a few of them had small white pom-poms attached to represent oxygen.  She labeled the different cell parts with little paper signs attached with toothpicks.   The only difficulty was making the distinctive donut-hole dimple in the center, she used thread, but it wasn't very convincing.  If we had more time to re-plan, I think we would have used darker red paint to make a shadow look for the center, or maybe a darker material in the center.  We decided to leave it alone, we didn't want a failed attempt on our hands right before Science fair day.

And so, whew!....done!

Using "spine" texts for homeschooling

homeschool books

I am 13 years into this homeschool journey.  One thing I find myself coming back to, again and again is the use of a "spine" text for our studies.  If I could go back and do it all over, I would trust more in a spine text- to keep us moving, and then branch off into creativity as mood and time permitted.

I'm an eclectic homeschooler - loving a little bit of this and that and not afraid to try different things.  I am unorganized, creative- when my lack of organization doesn't hamper me, and lately- I think I might have A.D.D. -which I joke about, but only because if you don't laugh at yourself, you'll just cry, or be a grumpy head...  I wish I had realized my A.D.D. problem years ago, I think knowing I had a problem would have prompted me to lean harder on books/texts that work for me.  Strict schedules, I already know from failed attempts, over and over through the years- don't work for me.  A road-map, though, seems to work best.

I've gone back, over and over, to The Story of the World series for History.  Even when I have ventured into the world of boxed curriculum, with their beautiful and enticing schedules, I have chosen programs that utilize STOW because I realized, years ago, that this text simply "clicks" with me.

I think the magic of The Story of the World series is that it centers on a text that "gets it done".  The kids love the narrative, that is a big plus, but the magic is the fact that despite whatever chaos/boredom/lack of organization/ crisis  I am in the midst of (and believe me, it's a rotating string of events for me) I can pick up a volume of STOW and just read what is next.  If life is perfect and the stars are aligned, I can branch out and add in library books listed in the activity guide, or even do some of the activities.  At the very least, when chaos reigns supreme- I can read aloud, have the kids narrate and do a map page.

A thing of beauty.

I wish I had been more faithful to this method, I just didn't realize the genius in this structure- genius at least, for this A.D.D. mom.

At the tail-end of my homeschooling journey, I finally looked into the "What my ______ grader needs to know" series.  It is part of the Common Core series, which, to put it simply, is a set body of knowledge (or a scope and sequence) proposed for the entire country to use in public schools.  There is much debate about this idea, but you can see the advantage it could have for testing purposes and for families moving to different districts or different States.  This series by E.D. Hirsch follows the idea of the Common Core.  I started looking through it last week, and realized it could have worked for me in the same way that STOW works for me, by providing a spine or road map I could follow- to keep me moving instead of standing still.  Looking through the series, I saw good content for History, Literature,Culture, Geography, Science and the arts.  The content for Math and Language Arts, I felt, was not presented in a teachable way.  I think this series could be a really good spine for a homeschool family, and very economical too- a viable choice instead of the expensive boxed curriculum sets we all love to lust after.  (raising my hand- guilty here!)  I am thinking about using this series with Amie and Demi for geography, culture, Literature, Science and maybe the arts.

The beauty of a spine is the ability to slow down and branch-off when you want to delve into a subject more thoroughly or more creatively.

-just some thoughts, from a mom who is looking back now...

Do you have some favorite tried and true texts or programs you come back to over and over again?

the mad curriculum shopper


I went to the local hotel showing for Abeka books today.  I needed to order Biology books for Josie's Biola Star Biology class, and health books for the semester of health she needs to complete.  The cool thing about these hotel display meetings is that you get free shipping on your order. Boo-ya!  The uncool thing.... the curriculum lust and self-doubt I begin to experience as I look at all the books displayed.  I don't know about you, but I begin to re-think the approach I was perfectly happy with yesterday.  I'm good with the grammar and Math I have picked out, and yet, I begin to wonder if I have deprived my kids by not following the sequence of offerings they have displayed so nicely.

We are in the midst of some highschool Math-angst here at Home...major review going on at our house to prepare the girls for their courses for 2012/ 2013.  I am unhappy with Josie's retention and scared stiff about Meg taking Geometry this coming year.  I got a 'D" in geometry.  I was also in 9th grade and my teacher couldn't hear and would yell at me when she made me stand up and recite proofs.  Yeah, good times there...  anyhow, I started leafing through Abeka's Geometry and liked the traditional flow of it all.  I was sorely tempted to buy it and have her do two Geometry programs: Math-U-See and Abeka Geometry, you know to attack it from all theoretical angles.

If Math curriculum is good, even more would be better!! 

And heck, while I was at it, let's throw in Abeka Algebra II for Josie to do along with her Math-U-See Algebra II.. piles of curriculum for all my kids!!

The solution manual for the Geometry was $60 and some dollars.  So, I did what I had to do and called Sky.  He talked me down.

Hey, I figure if Mr. Civil Engineer is happy with what we are using, who am I to doubt?

it'll be okay, right?  Whimper....

do any of you run in circles each year doubting your curriculum choices?  Tell me it's not just me....

Nature Walk


I love birds, I am always looking for them.  This week, I looked out my window and noticed a great deal of activity over at the basil bush in the garden.  I looked longer and spied the bright yellow flash of the American Goldfinch.  We've have mostly boring birds here in the heart of Orange County...the bright yellow goldfinches are an exciting visitor.  Look very closely at the center of the photo and then gaze downwards, you will see a few.


I think the secret to bird-watching with kids, is to call their attention to the interesting visitors they just don't notice.  To my busy kids, the birds fluttering in the gardens just register in their busy brains as "birds" if asked, they would probably guess they are sparrows.  I like to call them over, ask them to watch for a bit and then tell them about what we are seeing. If I am not sure which bird we are looking at, we will go grab a handy bird guide. When I get really stumped, even with the bird guide (sometimes birds all look alike!) then I run over and ask our bird-expert next-door.  (my golden neighbor, whom I  adore)


We have had some beautiful, warm weather lately here in So. California, so we headed to a favorite, wild-ish park near by.  The kids and dog romped, played and explored. I kept a look -out for birds and took photos.

I love this bridge, such scope for childhood imagination :)


Here is a typical view of our river beds, here in So. California.  They are almost always dry.  A big rain storm with a full river bed is an exciting treat.  Just thought I'd share this view with those of you living in other States with freely running water.  The thought of running, bubbling, babbling brooks and rivers makes us a little giddy. ...Something to be dreamed of.

a few of our favorite birding books here at {Home}:

around the house

We started our new Science program this week.  I decided to go with R.E.A.L Science Odyssey from Pandia Press.  We will be doing their Chemistry level 1 program.  It consists of a textbook and student workpages that I can copy for each child.  They will put these pages into a notebook.  I will forever, *be* a worksheet girl... The experiments use items that can mostly be found around the house.  There are several lists in the book warning me of items to collect for each week.  There is a also a handy chart showing how to approach each week: what to read, when to do the experiment, which worksheets to complete.

So far, we take turns reading the chapter out-loud, together -then we work  on the worksheet.


The first chapter was about what chemistry is, how everything is made up of chemicals, and how a chemist learns about/tests chemicals.


The kids then went around looking at chemical lists on items we have around the house.  The list on our sunscreen was pretty was the list on a cereal box.

Next up~ the experiment: coming in a future post :)

Operation Occupy my Kitchen is officially over.

My kitchen is now {red} and I have open shelving. { love }

Unfortunately, since my children are in charge of keeping the kitchen clean, it is never actually clean, so no photo for the blog. **sigh**

photos coming soon, after I clean it myself....

Our Gluten-free adventure is going well, Sky and I are the most faithful, with Amie next.  I have cheated a few times, and while my reactions haven't been horrid, I still feel much, much better when I am gluten-free. Sky has actually had stronger reactions to straying. Amie doesn't seem to be bothered with gluten, I always suspected something disagrees with her because of a few symptoms she suffers from, but I don't think it's wheat now. Dairy, maybe?  It's really, really hard restricting a kid's diet...


Sky came home from Costco with this for me. {swoon} how I love that man!


He brought home 2 bags, which did not last long. Not long at all...unfortunately, they were a special item and our Costco doesn't have anymore.

Popcorn, Indiana ...

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