Thursday, June 30, 2011

Useful Tips and Advice

Tips & tricks for taking over the world efficiently,
By Motym Valtapaz (known to the world as Your Future Master).

Takeover tip # 1: First, eliminate your rivals. Doctor Doom, Lex Luthor,
Supercalifragilisticexpiallidocious Man, you should defeat them all one by one. If you should miss this very important step, all of the other villains will gang up on you so they can destroy you and then take over the world themselves. Instead, defeat them one by one.

Takeover tip # 2: Stay secret. After all, what's the use of getting all tied up with fighting superheroes if you could just avoid them? Beat the heroes when it's too late, when the world is already under your control, meaning that you are at your maximal power. Then the only way they can save the world is by fighting the very army they used to serve!

Takeover tip # 3: DO NOT attempt to destroy the world. That would be contradicting yourself. Then there wouldn't be any earth to rule! Instead, work on more simple punishments if the people on earth get too annoying. If a whole country rebels, just give it a small earthquake or two and broadcast that it “was only a taste of your power” is as scary a voice as you can, not blast the whole thing to tiny smithereens. Taking over the world requires extreme patience.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Happy Birthday, Grammie Ann!

Happy birthday to one of the most dedicated readers of my blog!  Happy birthday, Grammie!  I wish I could come visit you today and give you a big hug!

Instead, you'll have to settle for this long distance hug and something gingery, coming to your mailbox (hopefully today)!

Have a great day!
LOVE, all the Zoomlians!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Blog Keeping

I've been on a real reorganization rampage (try saying that 5 times fast).  First the basement, then the home school room, then a massive toy cull, followed by a book cull, followed by a reorganization of the living room.

And now the blog!

I went through and pruned all the dead links and added some new ones. I dropped the (unschooling) Sandra Dodd link because while I agree with her about many things,  I found that some of the things she was advocating (particularly regarding tests), while amusing, were not what I wanted to advocate!

I found the gem of a blog,  Journey into Unschooling!  I've been following it a few months and never fail to find it a source of amusement and inspiration.  She also does brilliantly clear tutorials for many of the fun and funky things she does. 

I've also added Toad Haven under home school links.  It's kind of a blog and kind of a fount of the useful, amazing, amusing, and thoughtful.  These people ooze real life education, and I mean that in the best possible way!! 

There are also some new favorite sites, particularly Johnnie's Math Page, a 7-12 portal, and the Physics Game page.


Friday, June 24, 2011

Haiku Madness

Having the Emperor home for the summer is marvelous! One of the many fringe benefits is random extemporaneous poetry. Over breakfast.

This morning it was Haiku.

From Klenda:

One tree says to two,
"Maple, I would pine for you."
I pick up my axe.

From me:

I struggle for words
Trying to scan this haiku
Almost got it.

From the Emperor:

Seedlings slowly grow
Amid tall, leafless giants--
Remnants of the flames.

Can you tell who was the English major?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

US History: Diorama Madness

I wanted to wrap up some of the eras we have been studying, so I asked the Zoomlians to each pick an era and make a diorama. So far, three have finished and they each made a different kind of diorama.
Mxyl made what I think of when I say, " diorama."

He did the Civil War with these cool paper soldiers which you can download for free. We had to shrink them by 50% to get them to fit, but we were very pleased with the results!

Note the dead soldier on the bottom!

Klenda did a "peephole diorama" which was very difficult to photograph. This is where you cut a hole in the end of a covered shoe box and make a scene lit by "sky lights."

She did the Wild West, specifically, Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. That's Buffalo Bill on the horse. Can you see Annie Oakley?

Zorg did this somewhat alarming diorama of World War I. He did it in a bin that is viewed from the top so that he could make trenches and tank deterrents.

In the foreground, you can see an unexploded shell, the crater of which has partially collapsed a trench.

I thought the guy caught in the wire was a great touch, but Grammy pronounced it disturbingly realistic. I think I agree!

Leena is still working on her 1920s diorama. My sweet nine year old Sunshine Girl wants to do a speakeasy...

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day!

This Father's Day, we decided to give the Emperor the Royal Treatment.

He got a cape (which can double as his Super Dad cape). It says: His Royal Dadness! All Hail!

He also got a really magnificent crown and a medal, both of which announce, "Number 1 Dad!"

And, of course, he got a mob of kids proclaiming him, "Your Majesty!" and catering to his every whim. What more could a Dad ask for?

Actually, each kid got him a little something ranging from juggling balls (the Emperor is an incorrigible juggler) to a shirt with all the kids hand prints on it (as opposed to all the times he's gotten a chocolatey fingerprint on his tie on his way to work).

He's having a great Father's Day!

Speaking of which, has anyone else noticed that Father's Day isn't an exact parallel to Mother's Day?

I happened to catch the president's weekly radio address, and he used part of it to talk about Father's Day. It was nice, and all. He used it mostly to encourage dads to be good fathers. Not that that's wrong, of course, but I suddenly realized that's the general message on Father's Day: step up to the plate, be a good dad.

Think about that for Mother's Day. Can you imagine if someone said for Mother's Day, "Remember that being a good mom is about being there for your kids. Make time to do stuff with them - go to their games, make cookies with them, and help them with their homework."

Wait! Wrong message! The Mother's Day message isn't, "Step up to the plate and be a good mom," it's, "Thanks for all you do." That seems to me a cultural double standard.

For the record, for all you dads, and especially for the Emperor: "Thanks for all you do!"

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Great Falls

Every so often, I think I am taking time off from home schooling, but it never seems to happen.

Yesterday, with the sun shining and highs in the 70s, I thought we'd take the day off and go to Great Falls.

We did go to Great Falls, and we had a wonderful time... but the kids were curious about the rocks: were they igneous, sedimentary or metamorphic?

I guessed sedimentary because I could see the layers - wrong! They were mostly metamorphic.

And then they climbed all over the place, which was too much like PE (at least it got my heart rate up), and then we found the ranger station and it had all kinds of exhibits...

But I guess it's OK because we did have a nice time, and, after all, they are such deer children...

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Zoomlians at the Zoo

With the sudden turn to nice weather (a 25 degree drop), I wanted to go out and do something before it gets hot and humid again.

Since we had missed the zoo on Oob's birthday, I thought we'd give it another try.

We had a fabulous time! I had brought the sketch pads, and I asked the kids to draw three things. It's funny how some kids can barely manage three drawings, while others go crazy.

Zorg went crazy! Here you have his pictures from the reptile and invertebrate collections.

I particularly like the gharial, komodo dragon (who looks like he's eating a crab), the ape (whose hair really did look like that), and the nautilus (bottom right).

I am always amazed at how accurately Zorg draws from life.

I think the nautilus were my favorites this time, and not just because they are tentacled cephalopods. There were maybe a dozen in the tank and about five of them were clustered at the glass on one side, clearly watching us. It was actually a little creepy, but fun!

My usual favorites, the elephant shrews, were napping.

On the other hand, the reptiles were more active than I have ever seen. Every single snake was moving around doing interesting things. OK, that was creepy too, but we had gone to the National Zoo specifically so that Choclo could see a cobra. Ironically, they no longer had a cobra, but they did have a false water cobra which slithered about satisfactorily.

It was a great visit, except that I broke the two hour rule (we stayed 2 1/2) so things started to break down on the way back to the car. I patched things up by sharing a cotton candy. Actually, that much cotton candy is about right for 6 kids (and $4 for a treat for 6 was a great price!)... but I was wiped out for the rest of the day. I guess two hours is right for me, too!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Happy End of Easter

The Easter Season ended last Sunday with the feast of Pentecost.

But the day before Pentecost, as I was excavating the homeschool room, I ran across the egg dying kits I had bought on clearance the week after Easter.

Oh yeah, we never dyed Easter eggs this year. Hey! It's not too late, it's still Easter!!!

So we had a great time dying, and then ate the eggs for lunch.

I thought no more about it until the Emperor asked at dinner, "Why are Choclo's hands green?"

Umm, would you believe last ditch Easter celebration?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Lunchtime Conversation

Leena: Mom, who first discovered that cows make milk?

Me: Baby cows. (pause) Come on, that was funny!

Klenda (with an absolutely straight face): I am just barely restraining my amusement.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Seven Quick Takes: Excavation of the Homeschool Room

1. Following up on last week's success with the basement, I am attempting to sort out the homeschool room. It's not quite ready for prime time, but at least I've cleared out our museum again.

Plus, now you can walk into the room!! To be fair, a lot got dumped in here from the basement, but still, who knew there were all these narrow wooden planks at the bottom of it all?

It's almost like there was once a floor there.

Our collection of Things -the-Kids-Have-Found-or-Made continues to grow.

Klenda and I put together the Visible Woman over the course of several Girls' Nights.

Mxyl found the deer skull while on a scouting expedition.

Not that it has anything to do with wanting to get the homeschool room in order, but did I mention I'm doing my portfolio review at my house in a few weeks?

2. The best part of excavating is the rediscovery of new and exciting things I can use. I found a ton of stuff that Choclo and Oob can do while the older kids and I are doing homeschool blocks.

It's such a happy thought that they are productively occupied instead of, I don't know, mixing random ingredients and then cleaning up with toilet paper and fruit.

I know in this picture, Choclo looks like he'd rather be smashing more eggs, but I'm confident that he's really happier playing the Noah's Ark balancing game with Firelord.

3. We also discovered the crystal growing kit that Zorg had gotten for Christmas. Perfect timing! Zorg, ever happy to slip on a lab coat, was able to do the whole thing (except for the boiling water). The crystals will be full grown in a few more days.

4. And then I found these beautiful blank books for Klenda and Leena, as well as some cool pad and pen sets for Mxyl and Zorg.

What is it about beautiful stationary? I found these pretty little books absolutely swoon-worthy, and I am not really one for swooning.

5. I found a Foxtail ball and book which someone gave us a long time ago. I tucked it into Zorg's homeschool drawer. I love tucking things into the drawers and waiting for them to be found.

Zorg found it this morning after all his work was done and went out and played it with Oob for a long time.

6. This is the bear Klenda made for a friend's baby brother. She hand sewed the whole thing by herself!

The baby loved it and started kissing it as soon as she gave it to him. How's that for a reward for your labor?

7. Not in the homeschool room, but Zorg graduated from Cub Scouts! Congratulations, buddy, and welcome to the world of the big Boys!

More with Jen!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Busy Busy

After a mere 10 years of living in this house, we finally cleaned out the entire back basement!!!
The before photos are above each after photo.

Missing are about 25 contractor sized garbage bags of trash or donations!!!

This was our big summer project, so getting it done two weeks before the Emperor gets out of school feels like a major coup!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

US History: Roaring 20s

We are having a great time with the roaring 20s (and I'm hoping we don't crash at the end!).

The kids favorite aspect is the music and dance. Six Zoomlians trying to do the Charleston, how fun is that? They look almost exactly like this:

They were also quite interested in Prohibition, especially in the idea that alcoholism went up because hard liquor was the only drink available (as opposed to the less alcoholic beer and wine).

We went down to our "wine cellar" (under the stairs in the back basement) and took a look at the alcohol concentrations in beer (3-6%), wine (12%), and brandy (40%). So they learned how to tell the alcohol concentration in a drink, the dangers of drinking too fast, the relationship of alcoholic effect to body mass, how the body removes alcohol, and why it's against the law to drink before 21. The things you learn in home school!

It's been so fun to do a period of time where we have so much primary documentation (movies!).
We watched Duke Ellington, Lucky Lindy, and Mary Pickford. Mostly we gawked at the clothes, cars, hair, hats, and swim suits of a bygone era.

Which reminds me, we also talked about women getting the vote (and how that related to the short hair, short skirts, smoking, and so forth) and the Harlem Renaissance (as the beginning of a wider acceptance of African Americans and as an enrichment of American culture).

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Horsing Around

Our dear friend invited us to her barn to let the kids do a little bareback riding - how fun!

Mxyl shows off his balance.
Choclo and Oob were a little less stable, so to speak, but they loved it!

For the rest of the day, all I heard about was their love for Pumpkin Pie (the pony's name).

He was the most sweet and patient pony ever.

Zorg and Lena rode Chico.

I think Leena's smile says it all!

Klenda and Mxyl rode Sugar.

Klenda's doting grandmother gave her riding lessons for Christmas and is sending her to a riding camp in a few weeks. I think the lessons are paying off already, she looked really comfortable, even without a saddle.

Thank you so much Becky!!!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Friday, June 3, 2011

How to Fight Your Evil Clone

How to Fight Your Evil Clone in Three Easy Steps
by Mxyl

1. Duel him with light sabers.

2. Realize that you are too evenly matched.

3. Finish him off with a Force blast.

Any questions?