Saturday, October 31, 2015

Halloween Stuff

 The Boy Scouts had their Scary Movie Night last night. 

Besides watching a scary movie (Jurassic Park this year), they dress up for fun. 

This, obviously, is Zorg as Darth Chickenus.

I was going to pun on that, but I chickened out.

 And we've been carving pumpkins.

I'd like to go on record that I love Minecraft.  It is now my favorite thing ever.

Everything about Minecraft is square and easy to cut into a pumpkin.

Each pumpkin comes out exactly as the kid envisioned it.  

Thank you Minecraft!  I've never had such an easy Halloween in my life.


Leena did Bionicle on her pumpkin, and it's all complicated curves, but that's fine because she did it entirely on her own.

On the back she carved the Bionicle motto: Unity, Duty, Destiny.

Did I mention that she and Klenda have joined the crew at Bionicle Comedy Central?  They have!

Klenda is carving her pumpkin using her wood carving tools, and she isn't done yet.  I'll update with hers when she finishes.

And, of course, I'll post actual costumes tomorrow.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Awesome History: Greeks and Romans

This was another combined class, because we won't have class next week.

Our art project was making mosaics with post-it notes: easy peasy lemon squeezy, but definitely a temporary installation, especially if the glue on your post-its is a little old!

Still, it lasted long enough for pictures, and it was fun, easy and open ended.

I really like projects like this where we don't tell the kids what to make - it lets them be more creative.

This was about  the technique the Romans and Greeks used: making pictures out of shapes, so it didn't matter what they chose to represent.

And they came up with all sorts of fun and unique images.

Come to think of it, they represented the same kinds of things the Greeks and Romans did: battles, animals, and people.

 The active activity was gladiator fights.

I decided to add realism by randomly throwing wild (stuffed) animals into the arena.

No stuffed animals were harmed in the making of this picture!
And our snack was nectar and ambrosia, the food of the gods!

Around here, ambrosia is a kind of fruit salad with marshmallows and covered in whipped cream (or Cool Whip, which is fake whipped cream).  We used pears, apples, plums, cherries, and bananas.

That went over well!

Story of the World chapters 23-29.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Awesome History: Minoans, Persians, Early Greeks and the Olympics

 This was a class that combined two weeks since we had missed a week with sickness in the co-op.

I had intended to do a baking soda and vinegar volcano (for the eruption that wiped out the Minoans), but it got skipped for lack of time.

We acted out the story of Solon, Croesus, and Cyrus.

For our art project, we wrote our names using the Greek alphabet.

And then we had the Table Setting Olympics!

Which we do every six years, evidently.

For a snack we had pomegranates, hummus, feta, olives, and crackers. Yum!

This was Story of the World chapters 18-22.

Monday, October 26, 2015

The Pear Story

 I went up to visit my folks in NJ this past weekend, and it was gorgeous!

The weather was crisp and the trees were aflame with autumn glory.
 And the pears were "ripe."

Let me back up and tell you about the pear tree.

You've heard the Christmas carol, right?  The one with the partridge and the pear tree?

Well, when we moved into the house back in 1980, there was a wonderful older woman living next door who knew a truly astonishing amount about the birds and plants of the area, as well as wood and garden lore. I'm getting to the pears.
 She still lives there, and she is still wonderful and spry and ridiculously knowledgeable, even if she did stop mowing her own lawn when she turned 92.  This story does involve pears.

One year, she received a partridge and pear tree themed Christmas card.  It had an actual pear seed in it.  She planted it.  Given that she seems to be able to make anything grow, it grew.

When it was 4 feet tall, she gave it to my mom, and my mom asked if I would like to plant it. I did.

That's it, the 30 some foot (10 meter) tall tree that my Dad is in front of.

And it's covered with pears.  I didn't think until now to be mildly surprised that it is actually a pear tree since the card people could have stuck an apple seed (easier to get and looks the same) in there with none being the wiser.

But here's the thing: nobody grows pear trees from seed, because they are open pollinated.  They are all grafted so that you can select the exact kind of pear you want.

This tree happens to grow pears that are small, weirdly shaped, scabby looking, and hard as rocks.  They never soften, even with freezing, and they seem to be too hard for even the wildlife.

For a long time, we thought they were useless.  Until my dad thought to juice one and discovered they are extremely sweet.  Then I cooked some and found that they are soft and delicious when cooked!

Well that changes things!  We shook lower branches, grabbed fruit with cultivators, and finally beat the branches with poles and hooks as far up as we could reach.  My dad figured out how to strap together pieces of molding and a hand cultivator to get some of the high up pears.  It's a wonder none of us got beaned by a pear, but it was a lot of fun!

We've gotten 3 bushels of pears off the tree so far, and have made pear butter and pear sauce.  It's the first I've made that doesn't need added sugar.

Dad, hatching a plan to get more pears
Which all goes to show that some of God's gifts are hard to recognize.

I thought the pears were bad because they were so hard, but it's that hardness which makes them impervious to insects and allows them to keep all winter without going bad.

I'm sure there's a lesson in there about raising kids.  

Still, I'm kind of glad that card didn't come with an egg...

Friday, October 23, 2015

Biology: Circulation, Respiration, and Excretion

This week we did the heart and circulation in one class and respiration and excretion in the other.  For my students who took anatomy and physiology two years ago, it was a quick review, and for the rest, it was a quick intro.

The fun thing about biology as a general course is that it's a wild ride across all aspects of biology: dipping your toes into the great stream of life!

One thing the kids found very interesting was comparing their heart rates to the heart rates of a gerbil. Yes, Leena's gerbils are now very tame: stranger with a stethoscope? No problem!

They had guessed that larger animals would have faster heart rates because thy have to push their blood so much farther.  Actually, the opposite is true: because of the law of cubes, larger hearts push much more blood, and therefore don't need to beat as often.

 We also had fun with the blood pressure monitor.  You know how you're supposed to take your blood pressure only after you are resting and still?  What happens when you take your blood pressure while you are trying to pick up something heavy?  After jumping jacks?  When you stand up quickly?

We also had a good time with respiration.  I think I've shown how to do this lung model before, but it's a great way to show how our lungs work on air pressure.

We also used a finger gauge to look at how oxygenated our blood was when we held our breath.  They were surprised: our bodies really don't want to let our oxygen levels drop very much at all!
Of course we've been using Just Bob (our anatomical model) to look at all these body systems.

We also talked kidneys, and our secondary excretory system, the skin.  I used a little hand sanitizer (alcohol) to illustrate evaporative cooling.  Cool!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Biology: Nutrition and Digestion

First we talked nutrition: proteins, fats, carbohydrates, and calories.

Then we talked about physical digestion: breaking food into smaller pieces.  We ground up some bath salt crystals in a mortar and pestle, and tried dissolving equal amounts of large crystals and ground up small crystals.  We talked about the importance of maximizing surface area  for chemical reactions.

We also talked about chemical digestion: breaking food down into absorbable nutrients.


We did a couple of experiments here.  One was to try iodine on a wide variety of foods.  Based on their observations, I asked them to come up with which nutrient the iodine reacted with.  They correctly said, "Complex carbohydrates!"  I love these kids!!

We also did an emulsification experiment.  Each kid  had a jar of 1/4 cup of oil and 1/4 cup of water, and we tried 5 different possible emulsifiers (left to right in the picture): nothing, egg white,, egg yolk,  whole egg, and mustard.

Emulsification is pretty critical.  If oils and fats aren't broken down into smaller particles, they tend to coat the food and disallow digestion and absorption.

And, of course we talked about all the parts and pieces of the system as shown here:

I'm sorry I can't seem to embed any  videos, but you can follow the link.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Poem of the Week: When the Frost is on the Pumpkin

Yes, I might have pumpkins on the brain... 

I promise, this is the last pumpkin post until jack-o-lantern time! 

Autumn really is one of the most beautiful times of the year here: lots of sunny crisp days.  

And this morning was our first frost! 


When the Frost is on the Punkin

By James Whitcomb Riley
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock,
And you hear the kyouck and gobble of the struttin’ turkey-cock,
And the clackin’ of the guineys, and the cluckin’ of the hens,
And the rooster’s hallylooyer as he tiptoes on the fence;
O, it’s then’s the times a feller is a-feelin’ at his best,
With the risin’ sun to greet him from a night of peaceful rest,
As he leaves the house, bareheaded, and goes out to feed the stock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.

They’s something kindo’ harty-like about the atmusfere
When the heat of summer’s over and the coolin’ fall is here—
Of course we miss the flowers, and the blossums on the trees,
And the mumble of the hummin’-birds and buzzin’ of the bees;
But the air’s so appetizin’; and the landscape through the haze
Of a crisp and sunny morning of the airly autumn days
Is a pictur’ that no painter has the colorin’ to mock—
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.

The husky, rusty russel of the tossels of the corn,
And the raspin’ of the tangled leaves, as golden as the morn;
The stubble in the furries—kindo’ lonesome-like, but still
A-preachin’ sermuns to us of the barns they growed to fill;
The strawstack in the medder, and the reaper in the shed;
The hosses in theyr stalls below—the clover over-head!—
O, it sets my hart a-clickin’ like the tickin’ of a clock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock!

Then your apples all is gethered, and the ones a feller keeps
Is poured around the celler-floor in red and yeller heaps;
And your cider-makin’ ’s over, and your wimmern-folks is through
With their mince and apple-butter, and theyr souse and saussage, too! ...
I don’t know how to tell it—but ef sich a thing could be
As the Angels wantin’ boardin’, and they’d call around on me
I’d want to ’commodate ’em—all the whole-indurin’ flock—
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Big Pumpkins

Here are Choclo and Oob's pumpkins snuggled up in the red chair, with Zorg's Iron Man vs. Hulk pumpkin nearby.

And here are Leena's Earth Pumpkin and Klenda's Winged Wolf.

In other pumpkin news, we have a Brode Galeux D’Eysines, which means "Embroidered with warts from Eysines."  Can you guess which one  that is?

I think it's beautiful, warts and all.  It's also supposed to taste great!

The other two are the bright orange "Cinderella," and the tawny "Fairy Tale," two of the best tasting pumpkins I've ever had.

From my experiments pies last year, Cinderella had the best combination of flavor and texture for pies, and Fairy Tale had the best flavor, well, ever.  It's the only pumpkin I've ever eaten raw (slice it thin, it's amazing!).

Friday, October 16, 2015

Ultimate Autumn Dinner

 We had somehow acquired a basket full of unusual small squashes.

I think it happened because I couldn't resist small children pestering me for squash at the grocery store!

But then, I wasn't sure what to do with them all.

I ended up slicing them all into eighths and oven roasting them with butter, sausage and a touch of brown sugar.

Then everyone got a slice of each squash with a side of sauteed apples.  Squashalicious!

Everyone looks serious here because they are trying to determine which squashes they like best.

The winners were Buttercup, Sweet Dumpling, and Butternut, with a few extra votes for White Acorn.

Now we just need to try the big squashes!