Monday, March 31, 2008

Who Dun It?, aka Biology Lab 3/31

A crime scene, could be in anyone's home but today it is in ours.Someone has broken into the kitchen and vomited. How rude is that! S/he also left a blood stained calling card and a knee high stocking with hairs.
Shoshie, a CSI fan(atic, in the past) hands out the plastic gloves so everyone can gather the evidence.The evidence is bagged, labeled and sent to the lab.

This is a multi-week lab from Forensics in the Classroom. We are doing the Cafeteria Caper, adjusted to our kitchen. This group of forensic lessons centers around biology/biochemistry which made it perfect for an end of year project. Much of it will review genetics, chromosomes, Punnett squares, as well as detecting carbohydrates and protein. And it should be fun. Today was just the set-up.

There were some interesting theories as to who committed the crime and why. We'll just have to see what the evidence shows. PRM

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Boy Scouts

Two years ago, Noach started going to Cub Scouts with a friend from Religious School. They were Web I. Now he is ready to"cross-over" to Boy Scouts. He has not been an altogether enthusiastic Scout but he goes to the meetings and almost always has a good time once we get there. Camping? Not really his cup of tea. But he will go.

We searched hard for the right Boy Scout Troop. The one associated with the Cub Scout Pack was okay. Most of his den were going to that one. He has an older homeschooling friend who is in a very good troop, but also a very large one. They do lots of high adventure camping and require a 50% participation in the camping to qualify for advancement. It is an impressive group but I was afraid Noach would get lost.

Then we found a new troop. This will be their 2nd year. After this crossover, there will be 10 boys. The leader is a very quiet, patient man. I know I felt comfortable when we visited that troop. I had the awkward task of asking whether a Jewish kid would be comfortable in his troop. Some troops are quite Christian and tightly bound to the church which sponsors the troop. We need a troop that is more diverse. The scoutmaster reassured me and so far, he has been right.
This weekend Noach camped with the new troop. He was excited about doing it. At least he said he was excited but he didn't look quite so excited. He planned to help with the cooking and did so. The leader told me he got a little bit homesick just at bedtime but dealt with it well.JP and I traveled to the campsite in the late afternoon for the district cross-over and Arrow of Light presentations. It was fun. There was lots of fire. Solemn drumming and singing. Canoes with torches.Then Noach's name was called and his new Scoutmaster gave him his Boy Scout epaulets. And now he is a Boy Scout. I hope he finds it rewarding. And fun. PRM

Busy Saturday

I really should have been working on my taxes or just cleaning the house BUT I spent several hours re-organizing my science materials. This was motivated by my purchasing some chemicals for biology lab that I already had but could not find.
I also made lists of the contents of each box to keep inside so I'll be able to look at it and know that I do or do not have a certain supply.

No more searching futilely for a 250ml beaker. I know where one is.

Sheep's heart? Check the Biology box list.

Now on to the taxes tomorrow. Or not.

And why doesn't the school area look less cluttered? PRM

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Educating the New Voter, Pt. 2

This is our Congressman, Howard Coble. Congressman Coble was a very early critic, for a Republican, of the war in Iraq. "The conservative North Carolina Republican recently said it was time to start pondering a phased U.S. withdrawal from Iraq." This is from the San Francisco Chronicle, January 2005. Since his initial criticism, he has not failed in his willingness to cast his vote right along with the war proponents. He said one thing but has consistently voted the opposite. I naively expected him to be true to his words but I was disappointed.

So now, as every 2 years in the 10 years that we have lived here, it is time for someone to replace the old codger in the Congress.

In following our ongoing Educate the New Voter curriculum, Yakov, Shoshie and I wandered over to Guilford College to hear a debate between the 3 Democratic candidates Tuesday night. There were only about 40 people who showed up. A political sciences professor moderated and 2 local reporters asked questions.

Johnny Carter was, from our viewpoint, an unlikely choice. But he made a good impression. He presented himself as a strict constitutionalist. He seemed to have rational opinions about immigration and healthcare. He was strongly against the war.

At the end of the debate, Yakov had a chance to ask him an important question that only our family heard the answer. Having followed the candidates weekly as we have been doing, looking at the candidate's website for example, Yakov knew that Mr. Carter held some beliefs that would not appeal to us and yet, he had been so appealing. So Yakov asked him his opinion on prayer in the schools. He seemed to look us over before answering. He said he was a believer and could pray any time he wanted, as could schoolchildren. (good so far) If prayer is led in the school, then who would decide what kind of prayer would be led?(Ok) Before you know it there will be Christian prayers and Jewish prayers and Islamic prayers. And we don't want those people to take over and then they will have everyone down on a prayer rug.(Oops)

Yakov likes this guy, Jay Ovittore, a young man who has been very active for a number of years in local Democratic politics. He's a musician, so is Yakov. He has that facial hair thing, so do all of Yakov's friends who can grow it.

I was put off by his manner which seemed strident. And combative. I felt like he was trying too hard to look and sound like a grownup. He repeatedly referred to our soldiers as "our boys and girls." I thought that was demeaning. And I'm sure he doesn't intend to demean them.

I liked most of his policies. He was a bit too moderate for me but I guess I will have to deal with it.

This is Teresa Sue Bratton. I went to the debate prepared to like her the most. Like me she is a physician from Tennessee. In fact I have wondered if we went to the same high school. See, I am evaluating these candidates from a very enlightened viewpoint. Did I know her younger sister in high school?

I agreed with most of her policies, except for her healthcare reform. I think we need to get rid of the big insurance companies. They are not patients and they don't deliver care. They stand between and try to figure out how to take the patient's money and keep the doctor's. Why do we need stockholders in healthcare?

The kids were put off by her manner, like a teacher, figuratively wagging a finger at everyone.

Also on Wednesday, Obama was in Greensboro. I had a previous obligation to stay at the hospital with a friend whose son was having surgery. And frankly, I doubt we could have gotten tickets. I would like to hear him.

Hilary is in Winston-Salem today and Bill is going to be in High Point, Salisbury and many other locations tomorrow. But I'm not sure I want to see them.

This is so confusing. The only consolation is that I feel very confident that it will be better in January, no matter who wins.PRM

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Wordless Wednesday

This morning, watching the bird feeder

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

I love the smell of snark in the morning

"The President carries the greatest burden, obviously."

Maybe not so obvious. I suspect that 4000 families feel burdened. Children burdened by the loss of a mom or dad. Parents burdened by the memory of burying a child.

Speaking of the all-volunteer force, he said, "I am struck by the caliber of the people who do what they much they are committed to the cause to defend the nation."

Unspoken, "You didn't see George and me volunteering. We aren't that noble*." PRM

*I say noble but I suspect that Cheney and Bush feel superior to these soldiers. They were too smart to volunteer. In fact they were just too privileged and didn't need to join. And Bush got a National Guard post that was, at that time, a cushy way to stay out of danger.

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Voyage of the Beetle

I am always on the lookout for good science books to read aloud, ideally to do along with whatever we are studying at the time. On Darwin's birthday, back in February, Becky at Farm School had an extensive list of books about Darwin. I very promptly ordered this one.

The Voyage of the Beetle: A Journey around the World with Charles Darwin and the Search for the Solution to the Mystery of Mysteries as Narrated by Rosie an Articulate Beetle by Anne H. Weaver, illustrated by George Lawrence.

Pheww, what a title. Reminds me of On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life by Charles Darwin. And, of course, the reminder is intended.

Noach and I have been enjoying this book about Darwin. The beetle device reminds me of the books by Robert Lawson, using Ben Franklin's mouse or Paul Revere's horse as narrator. The young Darwin was a collector of beetles so a rose chafer beetle is a good voice for this book.

It is such a pretty book, from the lovely illustrations to the choice of cream-colored paper which give it an aged look, like a diary from the 19th century.

And the author is true to the history of Darwin's thinking. There was no "Eureka!" moment when evolution and natural selection came to him in a sudden insight. Rather he collected data and pondered its meaning for some time before coming to his conclusions. And, of course, he waited even longer before publishing them.

Some comical stories from his life engage the younger reader. Once while collecting beetles, Darwin put one in his mouth in order to free his hands to grab yet another specimen. As a defense tactic, the beetle in his mouth squirted foul juice. Sounds disgusting. Just what a boy likes to hear.

Finally, there are timelines of the Beagle's voyage and Darwin's life, a glossary and bibliography. And I always appreciate a list of further reading on the subjects in the book and this is amply provided.

I loved this book. It is a treasure, good science, good history and so pretty. PRM

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A conundrum for Shoshie

In her following the the gubernatorial race, Shoshie has noticed

Raleigh, NC – Bev Perdue today announced her plan to create the Justice for Sterilization Victims Foundation as one of her first acts as Governor. The goal of this Foundation will be to provide justice and compensate those survivors and descendents who were forcibly sterilized by the state of North Carolina between 1929 and 1974.
She wonders how many descendants there are.

Not to make light of a horrible practice from the past, but it does give one pause. PRM

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Nearly Wordless Wednesday

Ahhhh, vacation.
Rather than reminiscing, I should be PLANNING. That's harder.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Biology lab 3/17

It was pulmonary lab day. I used Breathing and Holding Your Breath Lab as a guide.I always modify for my group but this was the starting point.

First we made model lungs. This would be appropriate for a much younger group but the teens seemed to enjoy it as well.

A balloon makes a better diaphragm but we used a vinyl glove. A glove fingertip is the miniature lung and the stiff cup mimics the stiffness of the chest.

One of the teaching points was that the brain detects a fall in blood oxygen level and then, stimulates a diaphragm contraction that creates an intake of air, or a breath.

So they timed how long they could hold their breath. Then hyperventilated room air, thereby raising their blood oxygen level, and compared how long they could hold their breath again. Each was able to hold it a bit longer.

Then they breathed into a bag, dropping their oxygen level, and could not hold their breath as long afterward.

Each kid was encouraged to develop his own technique for this. I like this one.

Finally we measured lung capacity by doing water displacement. The competitive swimmer had the best lung volume.

Then we brought in pizza. It was a pleasant day and the kids could eat on the porch. The teens jammed in the basement. Yakov was home and always wants to take any opportunity to play with the lab drummer. PRM

Friday, March 14, 2008

Happy Birthday to me

Sometimes you know before you start that you just shouldn't read that blog post. Similar to the knowledge that you just shouldn't EAT that cake. And equally ineffective. The title alone was a warning, Book Shopping, at Farm School.

Well, birthdays were mentioned in the intro. It's beshert. It is MY birthday. And Bookcloseouts. I could avoid Amazon, ca and Chapters but not Bookcloseouts. I have a discount coupon from my order last month, the one where I ordered our next choice for everyone else in the local book club and forgot to order a copy for myself. Now I am reading a library copy, which is undeniably cheaper. But, surely, I cannot let that coupon expire unused.

Let Me Finish by Roger Angell. The library doesn't have a copy, I've already looked. I read an excerpt several months ago and wanted to read more.

Cooking in a can. Perfect as a gift for the Cub Scout, crossing-over to Boy Scout, who also wants to be a chef. In fact the only thing about campouts that appeal to him is the cooking. And maybe eating.

The coupon only applies if the total amounts to $35, so further searching is necessary.

Science Experiments You Can Eat by Vicki Cobb. More cooking. And I enjoyed her blog post at this site, Interesting Nonfiction for Kids.

Israeli history for Noach, A Promise Fulfilled and Israel: The Founding of a Modern Nation.

Walking the Bible for children and the last copy for adults for myself. I read part of this when we were in Israel and would like to finish it. I am always picking it up at the local Barnes and Noble when it is on the Buy 4 for the price of 3 shelf. Usually I can only find 3 I want on that shelf.

Tamar by Mal Peet. I saw this mentioned on the February reading list by Sherry at Semicolon and checked it out on Amazon. Sounded like it would fit in my Young Adult category of the 888 Reading Challenge. And not found in the local library.

So, yesterday, it was Happy Birthday to me. You can never have too many books. Actually you can. I may be proof. PRM

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Educating a new voter

Yakov will be 18 before the election in November so he is eligible to vote in our May primary. He registered yesterday through Rock the Vote.

So we have taken on the job of educating him on the local and statewide races. I split up the work between the 3 kids. Every Wednesday at lunch, we sit down and talk about what's happening in the assigned races. Yesterday they were showing me the relevant attack ads and we were discussing their effectiveness. Also we are noting the web presence of the candidates.

Yakov is covering the Senate race in which we are hoping to replace our female Bush-clone, Elizabeth Dole, with someone good. There are 2 main Democratic contestants and a few interesting, if somewhat scary, outliers. I like Jim Neal who strikes me as a good progressive candidate and I am all over progress. The other likely contender is Kay Hagan who is not so progressive. She lost me when she said she would have voted for telecom immunity. Not me. Somebody has to stand up to these people and I want a Senator who will do just that. Since presidential power has been expanded so, I want someone who is willing to stand up to a Democratic president as well. I don't want to elect an Obama-clone or Hillary-clone either. And certainly not a McCain-clone.

I am hoping we will get the opportunity to see these 2 soon. Neal has a major electability problem, he is gay. This is North Carolina, after all. It was only a few years ago that we were listening to Jesse Helms warn us about the "homer sexuals".

Shoshie is following the gubernatorial race. There are a number of candidates and it has been difficult to narrow our focus so far. Yesterday we were comparing attack ads in this race. Each has a website to debunk the other's positions and claims. The funniest was a poem embedded in a blog on Fact Check Perdue. This was posted December 21st and was written in the style of T'was the Night Before Christmas.

More rapid than eagles the attacks, they came,
Trumped up and untrue, they tried to name names;
"He did it, he did it, It’s all Moore’s fault!

And the smoke coming from Bev’s ears looked like a wreath;
For the facts from Roanoke Rapids might have been a little smelly
But they seemed to be pointing to the Perdue campaign’s belly.

This is about Bev Perdue who has been saying bad things about Richard Moore, one of her opponents. Her website is Know Moore. It's not as poetic.

Noach is following the Lt. Governor's race. This one is not very exciting and Noach is, of course, the most enthusiastic political student of the lot. I need to re-assign him before he loses interest. PRM

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Another crusader

JP wondered what you get for $4000.

I'm thinking about 10 hours with a divorce attorney.

I will not post the picture with his wife. She doesn't deserve it. PRM

Starfish dissection 3/10

Unwilling participants
I read the guide on this page and adapted it for my own. Then I laminated the instruction sheets so they could be wiped off and used again. I also found some pictures of dissected and labeled starfish and laminated those.
Girls at work
Ambulacral grooves

Friday, March 7, 2008

The joke's over. Bring back the Constitution.

So says the bumper sticker on the back of my car.

I have been quite distressed by the infringement on our constitutional rights by the current regime and the absolute lack of outcry by the public. So my teens and I are now among the, no doubt few, Americans who have actually read the Constitution and all the amendments. We have been doing this for the last 2 weeks, reading it in chunks and discussing. It has been enlightening. The kids always bring such fascinating, thoughtful comments to the table when we do things like this.

These are some of the resources we are using

1. The real thing, such as this one, The Constitution of the United States. There are many versions online and I cannot find the one I used but I chose one to print out and write on.

2. This book, The Meaning of the Constitution by Angela Holder. JP gave this to me a year or more ago. I read the Constitution and the commentary in this book to help me open the discussions. It was from about 1997 so some of the new issues that come up are not considered. LOTS of examples.

3. I love Russell Freedman books and that includes this one.

4. Several Cobblestone magazines including "Voting Rights", "The Balance of Power" and "The Congress".

5. The following website

6. And this one which is not complete but the Constitution page has some good material.

We aren't quite through but this is a start. PRM

A mother worries

Yakov will be spending 7 weeks in Israel this summer with his Jewish camp program. As you can imagine, the news yesterday has made me uneasy. I know that extraordinary efforts will be made to keep him safe but a mother worries. PRM

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Nearly Wordless Wednesday

Homeschool Field Trip - Geometry, Nutrition and Drug Awareness

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Spring is coming -Follow up

February 12

March 3

February 12

March 3, almost a bloom.

Biology lab 3/3

Cow eye dissection was done by me per instructions found here. There is a video to watch and the site has written instructions as well. This was a bit disgusting. I had to do it as only one teen volunteered to dissect and he was a little too enthusiastic, KWIM. He has a tendency to be a bit too blunt in his dissections. And I think he was bluffing.

The lens is on the left. It is fun to read print through the cow's lens, which should magnify the image. Our specimen was too opaque to see anything through unfortunately.

The blue-green back of the eyeball is tapetum, which is light reflective and enables night vision. It's what makes the cat's eye shine in the headlights. I guess a cow's eye would shine in the headlights, too.

"Arrgh, I see me retinal capillaries".

I found instructions here to visualize your retinal vessels but I had to alter them. I couldn't get the original technique to work for me. Pirate eye patch was just part of the alterations.

I used this site to map our blind spots.

Then we went to lunch. I'll try to add a picture of the kid's shooting pool under a Miller Lite sign. Just another homeschool field trip. PRM

Monday, March 3, 2008

Biology lab today

The living room is vacuumed and the bathroom cleaned because it is lab day.

Shoshie may share her comparative anatomy project
cow eye dissection
blind spot mapping
retinal vascular visualization
then, lunch out as usual?

Mystery class follow-up -Pictures later

Finally, the Y and Cub Scouts.

It's nonstop Monday. PRM