Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Mad Science, Clay, and Cartoons

Yesterday's Mad Science class was about being a detective and learning how to classify evidence found and put clues together to try and solve crimes. The kids learned about "circumstantial evidence" and worked on their memory skills, too. Trash left by 4 different "suspects" were collected in bags and the kids needed to remember who left what and what the suspect might have been doing at that time. The next mystery-solving-activity was matching up different scents to 5 new "suspects". The kids were given bottles of various scents and then has to smell each of the suspects (stuffed animals) and match them up. It's so fun to work in groups like that. W's table has 4 or 5 boys who all work together really well. Looking forward to next week!

W is also still focusing heavily on claymation. A new batch of clay and a downloaded computer animation program has lit an even bigger fire. He has already made over 15 8-second movies starring characters such as "Big Mouth" and "Crazy Bug-Eyed Pointing Guy". He explained to me how he does it - repeating things the instructor from the Museum of the Moving Image said. Ha! I knew he was paying attention. He spent hours and hours on this the other day, getting so excited that it actually worked. He makes the characters and adds various props. I can't figure out how to save his movies, but when I do I'll post one or 2 here.

W's fascination with cartooning hasn't waned at all either.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Museum of the Moving Image

I scheduled a homeschool tour and class at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria. I actually did it. I haven't booked a trip in ages. J has been more or less lukewarm on homeschool group participation - she has a large, core group of best friends (schooled and homeschooled) that she prefers to spend time with apart from the structured homeschool group activities, but she was willing to go. I know that homeschoolers are harder to find between the ages of 12 and 15, but we got a great group together. This museum is wonderful. We started with a tour that was all about the evolution of film and video games. The kids listened intently and got to try out almost everything. They re-dubbed popular movies with their own voices (that was funny), they cranked and watched a movie from 1902 (A Trip to the Moon) on a kinetoscope, they learned about animations and made their own stop-motion movies (W LOVED this part - he was able to participate in a bunch of things). Finally the kids had a 45-minute workshop on using the Scratch program to create their own video games. It's a crude program made by some MIT students a long time ago, but it's cool. We all hung out afterwards at the nearby Panera for a great lunch. The kids had a fun time eating and laughing together. And then before we knew it, it was almost 4pm. This may have inspired me to book more teen trips.

On Tuesday, we went to another awesome Mad Science class. This one was about being a detective. We looked at different fingerprints (which was a great follow-up to the NY Hall of Science class a few weeks ago), learned about blood types, and used different senses to figure out what was in various boxes. The blood type part was really great. We all put drops of synthetic blood in different wells in a tray. Adding another chemical may or may not cause a reaction (in this case jelling up) and this determined what type of blood each table got (A, B, AB, or O). The Mad Science instructor is so funny and engaging, that all the kids loved it again. J spent the hour completing 2 chapters of LoF math and reading a few chapters of her book.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

A MAD Morning in The Museum of Arts and Design! W's first of 2 art classes were held at this museum right smack in the middle of Columbus Circle. I've never noticed the tall, white, single building before. Now it's the first thing I see, lol. Inside, there are lots of sculptures, made of various materials. Mainly paper, wood, and fabric. So interesting. And so many beautiful pieces. W's class was about using paper to create things based on a concertina (accordion) folding technique. The kids envisioned cityscapes and cut out their own from long pieces of colored paper. These were collected at the end of the class and were all looped and hung together from one main point so it just looked like this cascading, colorful, city mosaic-mobile.

Before they began their project, we were taken down to a couple of the galleries. Huge pieces, some the size of a whole wall, were hung throughout the 5th and 4th floors. The kids all sat on the floor and discussed what they were looking at. They were asked what it reminded them of, what was used to make it, and what was the feeling surrounding it. W enjoyed this a lot. At the end of the class his friend's dad told me saw W doodling some cartoon characters and he was impressed. It turns out he's a cartoon artist. He decided that it would be a great idea to create a cartooning/art class for these 4 or 5 boys (including his 2 boys). How lucky is that? Hopefully we can get this started really soon!

Check this out: It was 44 degrees at 4:44pm yesterday.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Science Week

Monday was another great homeschool day at the New York Hall of Science. We got there around 10:30am to catch a chemistry demonstration. We watched how liquid nitrogen can freeze water in 30 seconds and make a latex balloon shatter like glass. There were discussions about the properties of matter and we saw how boiling water in a soda can creates a vacuum when immersed in ice water. W's class was at 11am and this one was called "Journey Into Microspace". He learned all the main parts of the microscope (eye, nose, arm, stage, light, base) and checked out different micro-organisms (diletus, volvox, euplotes, paramecium, amoeba, blepharisma, etc). After his class, he got an awesome certificate and we stayed to explore the science center for another hour.

Tuesday was the first of a series of 10 Mad Science classes with the homeschool group. W loves the Mad Science workshops - he hasn't done one in a few years, but he remembers how fun they were. It's basically an hour-long science class "performed" by a comedian with a trunkload of props and lots of hands-on stuff for the kids to do. The price was right, a bunch of his friends signed up as well, and it's right in Queens - definitely a yes for us. This class was all about spies and gadgets. W was in a group of 5 other boys his age and they got to try out different gadgets. First was a metal detector. Small pieces of metal were hidden under a big layer of newspaper and each child had to find where they were. The next gadget was a pair of night-vision goggles. They used these to see a page of objects in the dark and see how many they remembered. Then they all got to try out walkie-talkies. They learned about channels and frequencies, too. W loved it and can't wait to go again next week.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Callback Craziness

J's callback for Professional Performing Arts School was today. I drove her and B right to the school. The letter said it might take a few hours, so it was easier for B to go today since I had work tonight. It ended up taking over 7 hours. She handed in her academic record, test scores, a 4x6 headshot, and her callback letter before the audition. The callback audition was a couple more intense ballet and modern classes, and for some - an interview. There were about 15-20 in her group and more than half of them were sent home. J and about 6 others made it to the interview stage. They let her down to get something to eat, but she went right back upstairs again - bringing her pizza with her. This interview was based on J's academics. They misplaced her paperwork, so the questions were scattered and the whole thing was a bit rushed. She felt good about all of it, though. As usual, she made friends so the day didn't feel so long. Now we wait about a month.

In other news, Game Day in the West Village was awesome this week. J made more friends and is so excited to know there really are still a LOT of homeschoolers out there her age, lol. I'm planning on being a part of more Manhattan stuff so she gets to see them more often. I scheduled a trip for 7th to 10th graders coming up right here in Queens. J isn't so interested in participating in many homeschool activities and classes anymore, so we just found something interesting and booked one ourselves, lol. If this one goes well, we'll do another one.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Makin' Stuff

B took W to the Home Depot Workshop for Kids yesterday. He was really looking forward to it since he hasn't been there in a long time. The project was a wooden block calendar. He also got to make an adorable wooden wagon.

W has been in major creativity mode lately. It started a few months ago with clay animation, then pencil sketching, and now cartoon drawing. He's not making actual cartoons, just interesting characters. He has been watching videos on the computer on how to draw different expressions, bodies, eyes and mouths, and backgrounds After using mainly old, lined, notebooks, we took him to Michael's and got him a nice art pad and drawing markers of different thicknesses. I'm glad he's all into drawing now since we'll soon get back into nature journaling. I think new drawing notebooks just for that will be next on the list to buy.

Friday, January 01, 2010

What Are We Reading?

We are taking our time getting through AO Year 2. We've just started Week 7. We took a lot of December off and some time around Thanksgiving and Halloween, which slowed us down a bit. W has had a lot of homeschool group classes throughout autumn as well. January is awesome for us because, like September, it's a time for new beginnings. It's the time where you get to re-evaluate what works and what doesn't and re-assess your goals. We've been lucky. The AO curriculum and TT5 are both working out very well for W. So far, there's nothing we want to change. We just want to try and get in more nature study, more art projects, and more French. We tend to move a lot faster in the winter and spring, so I think we'll finish the entire Yr 2 curriculum by summertime (it should work out great since my new thing is taking off December, April, and August). Here's what W and I are currently reading/studying:

Our Island Story (hist) - The Norman kings of England. We're enjoying British history, especially since recent research on has uncovered relatives in England as far back as the mid-1600s.

A Child's History of the World (hist) - Castles in the Dark Ages

The Little Duke (hist) - Young Richard is starting to accept the responsibilities of his dead father

The Burgess Animal Book (sci) - Porcupines, Beavers, Gophers

Tree in the Trail (geog) - Closing in on the 18th Century

Understood Betsy (lit) - Betsy is starting to appreciate and feel more independent with the relatives she dreaded living with. With initial hesitation to this being a "girl book", W has now claimed it as his favorite.

Romeo And Juliet (lit) - Romeo was just thrown out of the Capulet's party.

Farmer Boy (lit): The new teacher taught the bullies a lesson

Doctor Dolittle (lit): The doctor and his animals just escaped from the African king's prison.

Artist Study: Wrapping up Sanzio (Italian Renaissance), now starting John Singer Sargent (American 1856-1925), then Claude Monet (French Impressionist) in the spring.

Composer Study: Finishing up Ralph Vaughan Williams (20th Century British), now starting Edvard Grieg (1890) & Jean Sibelius (nationalists). Then it's Maurice Ravel (1915 - Impressionist) in the spring.

Nature Study: Done now with insects & invertebrates, now we're starting trees. It will be garden flowers and weeds in the spring.

Poetry: Finishing up with Walter De La Mere and we're beginning Eugene Field and James Whitcombe Riley and then some Christina Rosetti in the spring.

French: Having so much fun with this. J has decided to continue French study in high school.

Math: Rounding & estimating to the nearest hundred, word problems, and now, Roman Numerals (up to M)

Master Reader: Reading and spelling drill. Breaking big words into small chunks, 2-syllable words with 2 consonants inthe middle, words with 3 consonants in the middle, 12 essential sight words.