Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Blood and Guts

For science this winter and spring, we are using Blood and Guts: A Working Guide to Your Own Insides by Linda Allison. This is A Brown Paper School book, a series that also includes some great math titles like Math for Smarty Pants, The I Hate Mathematics! Book, and The Book of Think.

Blood and Guts covers the major body systems and has a nice handful of experiments and activities to do, including dissections. The physiology is good, though the simple line drawings don't really capture anatomy well.

I am pairing this up with The Body Book by Donald Silver. This book is filled with reproducible pages to be used to make large organ models. This book better covers anatomy, especially if you decide against dissection. It has more activities and some physiology as well.

Together they make a nice middle school human body unit.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Ursids burst

This is for you night owls in the northern hemisphere. Ursids is an annual even causing a few shooting stars to come from within Ursa Minor. This year, however, the show could be spectacular in the earliest hours of Dec. 23. Ursa Minor remains above the horizon in the northern hemisphere for the entire night, thus the event cannot be seen from the southern hemisphere.

Here is a NASA article about it. It predicts the most likely time to see the 8P/Tuttle debris, shed in 1405, is 0229 EST. Here is more information from Meteor Showers Online. If it wasn't so incredibly cold up here I might consider getting up for the event, but don't hold your breath.

On the west coast it will only be 11:30 pm on the 22nd and probably a bit warmer, though my sources in WA tell me it has actually snowed out there too!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Ice storm

What happens when a southern rain storm meets a northern cold front right over New England? You lose power for 6 days. I am certainly glad my husband bought that generator 15 years ago so we could have heat, light, and refrigeration, sometimes even water (when we shut everything else off.)

It was like luxury camping with no packing and a real bed. Still, I think I would like to schedule things like that.

Now we are getting a foot of the ol' fashioned white stuff. White Christmas anyone?

The ice storm caused quite a bit of damage, but a bit of beauty as well:

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Game Review posted for Totally Gross

I just posted my review of Totally Gross! The Game of Science at Games for Homeschooling.
The boys and I certainly laugh a lot and learn quite a bit of trivia playing this game. It does have a good measure of the gross and impolite.

The game ends with a little hands-on experiment, I feature I really like. Today, ds#1 had to weigh himself and figure out how much he would weigh on the moon (the card tells you that it would be 1/6th of your weight on Earth.)

As you will see on my gaming blog, I gripe a bit about the cheap components of educational games. I buy many other board games in the $20 price range with far more durable and aesthetically nicer parts, and they are more interesting games to play. Unfortunately, we pay for the educational value alone, which, in some cases, can be achieved with a home made game for far less money. I can't imagine writing up all those trivia questions, though.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Butterfly Award

Rockhound Place awarded this to me--thank you so much!

Here are the rules for this pass-it-along award:

1. Link to the person who gave you the award.
2. Post the graphic.
3. Pass the award on up to ten other bloggers whose blogs you consider cool.

Here is my list of 8 cool blogs that (mostly) are "small" in that they don't have thousands of visitors each month and dozens of followers. May they all some day be so blessed!
  1. Adventures on Beck's Bounty
  2. Alasandra's Homeschool Blog
  3. Tonya's ...Everything I've Got
  4. Laura's Four Little Monkeys
  5. Prince Andrew and the Queen Mum's Growing Fruit...part 2
  6. Shez's Homeschooled Twins, the host of Cool Homeschoolers
  7. Cheryl's Talking to Myself
  8. Jessica's Trivium Academy

Friday, December 5, 2008

Living Science for middle school?

A cornerstone of a Charlotte Mason education is the "living book." What are the elements of a living book?

Books written by a single author with expertise and enthusiasm for a subject;

Books well written in an engaging style such that they are an enjoyment to read;

Books with high quality information, both in morality and depth.

Any book that does not contain these elements is considered twaddle. As ds#1 comes to the end of his elementary school years and I search for more engaging science material, I have come to find that the living science book selection for middle school is quite meager. Yes, nature books you can find in abundance, but as Comstock points out nature study is not science. It is the difference between bird watching and ornithology, the magnifying glass and the microscope. And what about the physical sciences?

Browse your local library collection for the older age group and here is what you are likely to find:
  • Experiment books galore. Most of them do a poor job of putting experiments in context, or explaining the "informing ideas" as Miss Mason would say. These are but reference books for us.
  • Biographies. Many of these are living books and are a must on our list; most, however, contain little actual science.
  • Textbooks and other similar compilations. These are antitheses of living books.
  • Nature books.
  • Books about the human body, a lot of them, and rarely with any experiments.

The industry is clearly more excited about glossy photography and eye-popping illustrations than it is about content and writing. What concerns me most about content is that the middle school literature contains little more depth than the elementary literature, and is thus far behind high school textbooks.

You can search the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks (standards) by grade and subject. I compared the grades 6 through 8 standards with those for high school. Is it my imagination or does there seem to be a huge gulf between them? Perhaps I should start eyeing those high school standards more often and searching for books that will bridge that gulf.

A good way to get living books is to be quite specific about a topic. While a search for "ocean" is apt to get you a whole lot of twaddle, looking specifically for "tides" or "currents" will more likely turn up something more in depth and engaging. Don't be afraid of "feeding" your children these advanced concepts. Just like literature, children "hunger" for interesting learning. Don't settle for the Great Illustrated Classics version of science!