School Projects

Fun Projects

Monday, September 29, 2014

August and September Pond Study and other School Projects

Fall is my favorite season, and with only a day left in September the season is officially under way.  We are waiting for news from my sister that her apples are ready to pick and I am scoping out the different pumpkin places, so stay tuned for lots of reddish-orangish projects around here.  Until then, you can check out how the pond has changed over the past two months.  We'll start way back in August (which seems ages ago) and move forward in time until last week.

Week 32
 Week 35 (weeks 33 and 34 missed due to our vacation)
We found grapes growing into our yard from the neighbor's yard!  That will definitely go down as a "POND STUDY HIGHLIGHT".
 Week 36 - pond study in the rain
Week 37
Week 38
Week 39 - the kids pointed out that prior to the leaves changing color during this week, the pond hasn't really changed in appearance in the last two months.  In between slapping mosquitoes they made the claim that the pond was just a little bit boring right now.
If science isn't your thing, how about a few social studies projects?  For those of you who are interested in such things, I am not a "Project-based Homeschooler", an Unschooler, or a "Unit 
Study-er".  If, however, I encounter a project that the kids can do mostly on their own that would enrich their textbook studies, then I am all for it.  For example, Ian's history book (The Story of the World, vol. 1) suggested having the student try to build a shelter like a nomadic person would have built to live in.  That was right up Ian's alley, so I sent him outside with a tarp (I live in the city - there aren't many tanned animal hides available for authenticity) and a reminder not to touch my garden stake collection.  He came back inside a long time later with the realization that being a "cave man" wasn't all it was cracked up to be.  I'm thinking that next I should send him out to hunt and gather his own meals - it might create an appreciation for the food we have so readily available to us (and that I put on the table for him.....).
Not to be outdone, Brynnie was interested by a project suggestion in her study of the State of Maryland.  It seems that Maryland has a historically unique fishing fleet called the "Skipjacks" that are involved in harvesting oysters from the Chesapeake Bay.
Brynn decided she wanted total independence on this project and collected her supplies and solved her problems without any help from me.  It was a big girl moment for her!
I was rather relieved when the boat did float - she would have been devastated if it hadn't.
Happy "doing educational stuff" everyone!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Fall Planting

Welcome to Autumn - or as we like to call it here in the Midwest: the last few nice days before winter.  I can feel the Polar Vortex looming, so I decided I better get outside and transplant a few plants and plant a few Daffodil bulbs before the soil freezes six feet deep.  My little buddy Cam decided he was big enough to garden this year, which was fun until he also decided he was big enough to handle the shovel un-aided.
 At that point it became less fun and more a calisthenic workout, but the bulbs got planted and my skill didn't get bashed in so we'll call it a success.
With the outdoor gardening done, it was time to turn my attention to the indoor plants, namely my husband's childhood companion Ricky Henderson.  Yep, the plant has a name.  No, there are no other plants with personal names in our house.  Ricky is special.
Anyway, Ricky had experiences a growth spurt over the summer and desperately needed a new home, so I painted one more terracotta pot.  (For other painted pots, see here.)  Aaron laughed at me because I painted an already orange pot a different shade of orange, but I ignored him because he just doesn't understand.  Then I used chalk to draw a loopy line all over the pot and after mixing together varying amounts of white and yellow paint I used a pencil erasure to make dots on the line.  Despite his mocking of my color choice, Ricky's owner approved of the final product.  We shall see if Ricky does.....
Happy fall chores everyone! 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Master Bathroom Reveal

At one time (roughly 2.5 years ago), this eye sore was counted as one of two bathrooms in our house.  It had no shower, there were three layers of spider-infested shower curtain "window" treatments, the plastic tiles were stuck on over another layer of older tiles neither of which were waterproofed, there was no heat and both the toilet and sink leaked into the basement.  This list only begins to describe the disgusting-ness of the room so I suspect it is needless for me to say that we never used it as a bathroom.  It gives me hives just to remember it.
Then, about 2,5 years ago as I mentioned, we gutted the interior of the house (see some photos here) and the bathroom was temporarily gone.  I think the house actually breathed a sigh of relief.  

Fast forward to today.  That pink petri-dish is only a distant memory and a brand new master bathroom has been installed in place of it.  The new bathroom is clean, appropriately grouted, not spider infested, opens to the east instead of the south, does not leak at all, currently has no window treatments (I do intend to change that, but not with three layers of ruffles) and is heated.  I think the house is happy and I know I certainly am!
One more thing, before I wrap up here.  I would like to point out that along with doing all the building and installation work himself, Aaron built the vanity too.  He probably won't like it that I mentioned it, but I felt like bragging just a bit.  Nobody had a vanity that I liked in our price range, so he learned cabinet-making just to get me what I wanted.  He is kind of a nice guy to keep around the house.
Happy remodeling, everyone!

Monday, September 8, 2014

She May Have Caught the Bug

I've heard there is a **NEW AND TERRIBLE SUPER VIRUS THAT WILL KILL US ALL** floating around out there right now, and I just want to reassure you that it is not the bug I am referring to in the title.  I am instead referring to the projecting bug, which it seems that my oldest daughter Brynn has caught.  Several years ago she was infected with the germ when a friend of mine gave me a cute white dresser (thanks Becky).  The germ lay dormant for several years until I voiced a thought: "Brynn, don't you think it might be fun if we painted those lines in the dresser a different color?"  The little germ began to grow and spread and every so often would manifest a symptom - "Mom, remember when you said we could paint my dresser.....?  Remember? When can we do it?"  I applied remedies and fever suppressors: "Oh, we will....sometime.....soon."  Still the disease took hold and started to become serious, so I decided it just needed to run its course.  We would do the project. 
 Initially my plan was to paint the carved lines pink and leave the rest of the dresser white, but then my little pink princess decided to become a little blue tomboy and the plan changed a bit.  We decided to paint inside the lines blue, starting with dark blue at the bottom and ending with a light blue at the top.
 We used plain old acrylic craft paint, 100% blue for the bottom drawer, 3 squirts of blue plus 1 squirt of white for the second drawer, 2 squirts of each for the third drawer, and 1 squirt of blue plus 3 squirts of white for the top drawer (a very precise and scientific method of paint measurement, I assure you).
 We worked on the dresser through the whole week, doing one drawer at a time.  I did the lines, Brynn filled in the spaces, and when she wasn't looking I went back and smoothed out the glops.  It was a perfect system.
 We put the finishing touches on yesterday afternoon, and this morning she is thrilled to have a whole new dresser.  CURED!  (Or maybe the virus has just gone dormant again, waiting to be reactivated by some project inspiring remark.)
 Happy painting, everyone, and remember to wash your hands if you don't want to catch germs!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Success in the End

 Last week I posted about my aborted attempt to do the "Annual Stepping Stone Project".  I'm still not certain how I so terribly under-estimated my supply purchase, but I think I'll blame the kids: they distracted me at a critical mathematical moment.  It is at least a good working theory, since it takes the blame away from me.  Anyway, last week the two boys and I made their stepping stones while the girls watched.  Smallest son absolutely refused to stretch out his fingers and squash them into the mud, so before he had time to think about it I grabbed his foot and stomped that into the cement.  He will never trust his mother again.
 Still, I got a good print and eventually Cam recovered enough to push in the decorative stones (without getting his fingers dirty).
After 8 times, Ian could probably do this project on his own now.  He waited patiently for the mold to be filled, made a perfect hand print, carefully wrote in his name and age, and then neatly added his decorative pieces.  It is a sign that there is hope for his future.
 After a week of waiting (and hoping, and asking about trips to Hobby Lobby, and reminding) the girls finally got their turn.  They had fun - except for when Cam tried to "help".
Everything went smoothly this time around, and a new set of stones has been added to my garden border - just in time for the end of the gardening season.
Happy Labor Day (and stepping stone making), everyone!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Oh Bother

Well, we are back from our family vacation to Yellowstone and I really should be back on track, but I'm not.  I'm getting that "SUMMER IS ALMOST OVER AND WE NEVER DID......" feeling; not to mention feeling a little stressed that I still have a bit of preparation to do so that I will be ready to start school next Tuesday.  Sigh.....this happens every August, so you'd think I'd have some list or other prepared to handle it, but I don't.

Today, the plan was to do our annual "Make Stepping Stones" project and then play in the pool and eat popsicles and try to stay cool during the first heat wave of the summer.  Well, first it was foggy, then rainy, then looked like rainy all morning.  We couldn't make the stepping stones or play in the pool because of the lightening.  Finally, after nap time, the weather cleared up and we headed out to do our project.  It was then that I realized I had made a big mistake: I had incorrectly remembered the sizes of my stepping stone molds and consequently under-estimated the amount of cement mix I need - by half.  Uffda.  So, we decided to let the boys make their stepping stones today (Because Cam, the baby, was very impatient and a boy) and the girls would make theirs when I got more mix.  I'll share all the pictures then.  If you still want to see stepping stone pictures, you can look at the projects from the last few years here, here, and here.

Happy end of summer, everyone.

Monday, August 4, 2014

June and July Ponding

August is here! Can you believe it?  We leave on our road trip to Yellowstone National Park and other points West on the morning of the third day from now (I know that sounds a bit like I am talking out of Lord of the Rings, but really it is how I am trying to stay sane while being asked constantly "WHEN ARE WE GOING CAMPING???").  Between preparing for the trip and spending a lot of time with family this past weekend, there hasn't been a lot of projecting going on.  However, I do have two months of pond visits to review, so prepare to see a lot of cattails.  Before we do that, though, you have to protect yourselves from the mosquitoes because they have been so bad this summer I am almost convinced they will fly through the screen at you!
Week 24 - Early June - all the plants were growing very fast.  Week by week we tried to figure out which person the cattails had grown taller than - first Cam, then Brynn, eventually Mommy and even Daddy.
Week 25 - we had a lot of rain, so the pond was overflowing. 
My usually dry vantage point for taking pictures was well underwater:
And this was also the week we discovered that the pond contains leeches (or blood-suckers if you prefer).  Thankfully we did not discover this by going wading!
Frogs are much friendlier.
Week 26
Missed Week 27 due to Independence Day activities
Week 28
This is the week that the mosquitoes got really bad.  Despite uncomfortably warm skin-coverage AND large doses of bug spray, our observational period lasted about two minutes, because I actually inhaled a mosquito.  The kids tried to be good sports but it really was miserable.
Week 29 - there's a kid in this photo - can you see him?
There he is!
Week 30 - the weather was drier in July, so the pond water level is getting lower and lower and the kids are venturing out onto the mud a bit further each week.
Week 31 - the water is almost gone, there are frogs everywhere, but a lot fewer mosquitoes, so today's visit to the pond lasted a bit longer then the past few.
 Despite her best efforts, I managed to keep Blair from dunking herself in the muck.  That girl!
Happy August everyone!  I'll see you again in a few weeks, when I am recovered from our "vacation."