Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Things I Never Thought I'd Have To Say, Part 28,301

"Bagel, stop eating Sonshine's art prints."

Baby Yoga

I'm under orders from the rheumatologist to do yoga three days a week. I really enjoy doing yoga; it helps with my pain levels tremendously, and that and the B vitamins keep my appetite in check, for some reason I don't understand. (I'm trying to lose weight.) So whenever I get up a little earlier than the rest of the family, I put on my yoga video and do some yoga.

I often wake up to find Knuckles has crawled into bed with me and FH during the night. He doesn't sleep well and has a lot of problems with stuffy sinuses, and he seems to do better sleeping in with us, so when he wakes in the middle of the night he comes into our room and nestles down in between us. So when I wake early, he sometimes does too. He will come downstairs while I'm doing yoga, so I've had him try doing yoga with me. He especially likes sun salutations.

Can I just say, a 2-year-old doing yoga is just about the cutest thing in the entire universe. He goes into downward-facing dog pose and I just want to shrink him down to bonbon size and pop him in my mouth. If he got any more adorable, my head would just explode!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

What is T.E.S.L.A.?

T.E.S.L.A. (Totally Educational Science Learning Activities) is our science club for kids ages 7-11. Its objective is to let kids explore what Galileo called "the book of the world". Therefore it has an informal, hands-on style, with an emphasis on experimentation and encouraging kids to question and make up their own experiments. It is meant as a counterweight to typical school science courses, with their heavy emphasis on book-learning, or as a sort of lab supplement to homeschool science curricula.

Each T.E.S.L.A. meeting lasts about an hour and consists of very brief (5 minute) lessons followed by reinforcing experiments, and ending with 10-15 minutes of "free experiment time". Thus most of the time is taken up by experiments and science play. Most months the lessons are structured around a theme, such as Properties of Matter Month or Sun Month; but since we're just in it for the fun experiments, they don't have to be structured at all.

T.E.S.L.A. Lesson Plan: The Light Waved At Me

What is T.E.S.L.A.? Click here.

students will learn about light waves and play with light.

piece of string or light rope about 2 yards long, one for every two students
piece of paper or posterboard
white ceiling, screen, wall, and/or blackout curtain
polarizing film (2 squares for each student, big enough to fit over the business ends of their flashlights)
a flashlight for each student (students can bring their own)
color gels (red, green, blue)
a light source for teacher to use (flashlight works fine; make sure it's bright)

Advance Prep:
Cut the polarizing film into squares; try all experiments first so you don't look like an idiot when something doesn't come off the way you wanted it to.

Lesson 1: What is a wave?
Select two students to hold the ends of one of the strings. Show the students how to make a wave. Explain what a wave is.

Experiment 1: make your own wave
Each pair of students gets a piece of string to make waves with. First, students have unstructured play with waves. Then students will be encouraged to make waves large and small, waves fast and slow. Then students will make waves that are small and fast, small and slow, large and fast, large and slow. Explain that small/large is called amplitude and fast/slow is called wavelength (fast wave = short wavelength). Encourage students to make waves up and down as well as side-to-side.

Lesson 2: Opaque and Translucent
Explain that light can travel through some things and not through others. Things that light can travel through are called "translucent". Things that light cannot travel through are called "opaque".

Experiment 2: What is opaque, what is translucent?
Students shine their flashlights onto various objects in the room to discover whether they are opaque or translucent. Students are amazed to discover that their hands, eyelids, and cheeks, as well as posterboard and grapes, are translucent.

Be sure to allow ample time for students to play the chasing-beams game with their flashlights. All children are contractually obligated to play this game for a minimum of five minutes whenever more than one flashlight is turned on in the same room.

Lesson 3: Light waves can be controlled
Explain that we see because light waves bounce off objects into our eyes. We can control what we see by controlling the light.

Experiment 3: polarizing film and gels
Students place two pieces of polarizing film over their flashlights, and then rotate one with respect to the other to observe color change. Explain that each layer of polarizing film is blocking light that is waving in one direction. Add a color gel to that mix and notice that the film can be rotated to block the light completely.

Please note that if the flashlights were turned off between Experiments 2 and 3, students will be obligated to play the chasing-beams game again.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Are Cloth Diapers "Good For The Environment?"

I should preface this by saying that one of my least favorite phrases is "good for the environment." This is because both "good" and "the environment" are way more complex than the thought processes of most people who use them together in the phrase. The world is never full of solutions simplistic enough to be caught up entirely in black-and-white thinking.

Specifically, whether or not a particular practice is "good for the environment" depends largely on how you define "good"-- usually this is some metric being lower -- and how you define "the environment"-- are we considering air pollution? water pollution? carbon footprint? some combination of factors? Environments, it must be remembered, are almost entirely local. A low-carbon process that pollutes a lot of water is not a good choice for a desert environment, while a process that conserves water but produces a lot of air pollution is not so good for a place like Cache Valley in winter, where inversions trap the increasingly-polluted air.

That being said, it has been discovered that if you stipulate that "good for the environment" means "low in carbon emissions," a British study shows that cloth diapers are only "good for the environment" if you wash them in warm water, air-dry them, and use them for more than one baby.

Of course, you would only care about that if (1) you believed that carbon emissions contribute to global warming, and (2) you don't already have a much better reason to use cloth diapers.

I'm not currently using cloth diapers (I have enough headaches to deal with, without having to figure out when I'm going to have the strength to haul pails full of stinky diapers down the stairs and wash them) but there are two major reasons that I can see for using them, besides environmental concerns. One is cost: once you've bought the diapers, you've essentially prepaid for everything but the detergent, and detergent is cheaper than dirt. You get them for a baby gift, you never have to spend a dime on diapers again, so there will never be any months when you have to eat beans and rice to afford the diapers. The other is security: in a TEOTWAWKI* situation, your baby will continue being diapered long after all the other ladies have run out of disposables. You can store a year's supply of diapers in two 18 gallon Rubbermaid bins, if you go with cloth. Preparedness is security. That's why I still have 18 gallon Rubbermaid bins full of cloth diapers, and I'm not getting rid of those things until I get a tubal ligation. When the fecal material hits the rotary air mover, I'm going to have a LOT of friends in the neighborhood.

* For those who haven't encountered this acronym yet, it stands for "The End Of The World As We Know It".

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Carnival of Cool Homeschoolers

I am in the Carnival of Cool Homeschoolers this week!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

T.E.S.L.A. Lesson Plan: pHerfect!

I thought it might be a good idea to start posting my lesson plans for T.E.S.L.A. on my blog. Maybe there is a homeschooling parent (or a teacher who doesn't wet her pants just thinking about administrators lecturing her about liability insurance) who would like to have them.

Today's lesson is called "pHerfect!" and it is about pH. The T.E.S.L.A. format I've come up with goes as follows. There are always two very brief lessons, each of which is followed by at least one experiment, and an activity that generally results in something to take home. It lasts about an hour.

Objective: to make students aware of pH, testing for pH, and natural pH indicators.

Materials: various household substances (see list under Experiment 1)
100 pH testing strips or litmus paper
poster of color key that came with the testing strips
1 head of red cabbage
baking soda
coffee filters
handwash station (if indoors, this can be a sink)

Advance Prep: puree half a large head (or 1 small head) of red cabbage. Cover with boiling water, steep for 10 minutes. Strain and press out as much liquid as possible. Soak coffee filters in liquid for 2 hours. Remove coffee filters; reserve liquid. Hang soaked filters to dry.

Lesson 1: What is pH? pH is a measure of how acidic or basic things are. How do we test pH? We use this special paper called litmus paper. It changes color according to the pH of the substance. Here is the color chart poster showing what color this paper will turn. This is how we test things [demonstrate, lay out rules for testing: divide into groups, no pushing, take turns, do not remove substance from table, if you get some on your hands please wash at handwash station, etc.]

Experiment 1: pH testing. Students will record the pH of each substance they test on a piece of paper located at each station. Substances can be tested more than once by different students. The results will be reviewed at the end of the experiment.

Station 1: water
distilled water
tap water
bottled water
spit (self-provided)

Station 2: solutions
baking soda solution
apple juice

Station 3: fruit/veg

Station 4: apple varieties
Red Delicious
Golden Delicious
Granny Smith

Station 5: household chemicals
soapy water
phosphoric acid

Lesson 2: anthocyanins I made this purple liquid from red cabbage. Red cabbage, along with many fruits and vegetables, gets its color from molecules called anthocyanins. These molecules change color when mixed with acids and bases. [Demonstration: two identical beakers or glasses with some diluted cabbage infusion. Add vinegar to one and baking soda solution to the other. Vinegar will turn it red and baking soda will turn it blue.] This is why hydrangeas change color according to whether their soil is acidic or basic.

Experiment 2: mixing acids and bases with infusion of red cabbage. Students (with adult help as appropriate) will mix some of the liquids from Experiment 1 with dilute red cabbage infusion and compare the results with the previous pH measurements and with the other red cabbage results. Students observe that more acidic substances turn redder and more basic substances turn bluer.

Take-Home: coffee filter soaked in cabbage infusion and dried (homemade litmus). Extra time can be filled having students cut the filter in strips. Students should be encouraged to come up with their own experiments to do with it at home, here are some suggested ones:
  • measure the pH of your spit, then chew gum and measure it again. Later on, brush your teeth and measure the pH. Measure the pH of your spit immediately upon waking.
  • compare the pH of various fruit juices. Is there a relationship between pH and how "tangy" a juice is?
  • measure the pH of your urine (get parental permission first)
  • measure the pH of your bath water with and without bubble bath, or before and after bathing
  • see if adding sugar, salt, baking powder, or other substances to water changes its pH

Friday, October 10, 2008

I Got Cheated!

Fall is my favorite season. The weather is cool enough to call for snuggling opportunities, but if it snows, it doesn't stick. There are big piles of leaves. The harvest is gathered in and there's a sense of cocooning, wrapping up snugly for the winter's big transformation. The hecticness of the holidays is not yet upon us, but we are still dreaming of sugar plums in the planning.

Sadly, I got cheated out of a goodly portion of my fall. We had 80 degree weather up until last week, and tomorrow they are forecasting the first snow of the season. Yeah, it won't stick. But it's not fair. I could have had weeks of 60 and 70 degree temperatures, but in just a couple of weeks we've gone from late-summer 80's to late-fall 40's and 50's.

I demand my fall weather!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Hardy Har Har

Sonshine: "Why do they call it 'debate'?"
WH: "Because after 'debate' comes 'de switch.'"

Monday, October 06, 2008

A Moment In The Day

Sonshine has finished his literature lesson, so for his break he's devising a new substitution cipher. He was into Playfair ciphers for a bit, but he couldn't find a friend who was interested in passing coded messages that were encoded that way, so he went back to substitution ciphers.

My Mom Has A Blog

My mom has begun blogging! Check out her Family Center blog, especially if you are in the Logan, UT area. The Family Center does really good work. They have a lending library of educational toys, books, and videos, plus parenting classes and more!

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Enhancing Mashed Potatoes

Somehow I can never think far enough in advance to make side dishes to go with my entree, so I use a lot of "quick" side dishes that can be made in the fifteen minutes between when I think "Oh crap, I don't have any side dishes" and when dinner is served. One of my old standbys is mashed potatoes from flakes. I like mashed potatoes. However, FH is really picky and he's decided that mashed potatoes from flakes do not meet with his approval unless they are larded with dairy products, which a third of the family can't have. He especially hates them when they're made with rice milk (the very same rice milk that he insisted we had to buy because he refused anything made with soy milk).

So today I "enhanced" the mashed potatoes. I used soy milk to make it creamier, and then I added about a half tablespoon of miso (to an 8-serving batch) and a sprinkle of garlic powder. I thought they tasted nice. They had a bit of that "cheesy" or "sour creamy" taste to them which was really nice. The family liked it too, and even FH approved.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Bad Influences

Remember Bagel's little stuffed rat, Mr. Squeak, who has a reputation for mysteriously running away and being found in strange places? Well, now he's been found in strange places with Sonshine's stuffed armadillo, Armadillo. Also, Armadillo's been found in strange places all by himself, places he couldn't have just fallen into off of Sonshine's bed.

We think Mr. Squeak is being a bad influence on Armadillo.

Worst. Criticism. Ever.

I usually don't post about politics on this blog. Oh, I've got plenty of political opinions-- I just don't foist them on people who read my blog. But I just couldn't resist posting this because it's so absurd.
There are plenty of people out there—not only English teachers but also amateur language buffs like me—who believe that diagramming a sentence provides insight into the mind of its perpetrator. The more the diagram is forced to wander around the page, loop back on itself, and generally stretch its capabilities, the more it reveals that the mind that created the sentence is either a richly educated one—with a Proustian grasp of language that pushes the limits of expression—or such an impoverished one that it can produce only hot air, baloney, and twaddle.

I found myself considering this paradox once again when confronted with the sentences of Sarah Palin, the Republican vice-presidential nominee.
Yes, because the single most important thing in a candidate for national office is whether or not they speak in perfectly diagrammable sentences. But I guess when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. I do wonder, though, if she bothered to diagram the sentences of anyone other than Palin, or Palin's sentences when not speaking extemporaneously. It seems to me that spoken English, especially in an interview format as opposed to a formal speech, produces disjointed, wandering sentences by its very nature.

Honestly though, if she's got time to diagram the candidates' sentences, there's plenty of real work to do over here at the hermitage.

Friday, October 03, 2008

A Moment In Time

There's nothing finer than tucking a small sleepy child into a cozy spot on a rainy day.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Princess Watches The Debate

Princess was quite interested in last week's presidential debate, and she's got the vice-presidential debate on in the background while she plays. I asked her, "How's Sarah Palin doing?"

"Joe Biden is copying her! They're talking about energy and she's saying 'we support it' and he's saying 'yeah yeah, we support it too.' "

Ah, a ten-year-old's political commentary. So fresh!