Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Terror in Teddy Town

or Natural Selection in the Teddy Graham World

Teddies are a peaceful species that have lived separately from other cookie species for several generations. There are two kinds of Teddies, those that react to stress by holding their arms up, squealing and running for cover and those that react to stress by having what looks like a temper tantrum with arms rigidly at their sides, feet apart and standing still.

A band of monsters have entered the Teddy homeland. These monsters include the infamous Teddy Muncher, Grrrrrrr, Graham Grinder and Fluffy and they have chocolate cookie on their minds. With each raid, they reduce the population by 4 Teddies but always the ones who stand there with their arms at their sides looking defiant. These monsters are not interested in unnecessary chasing. Shortly the Teddy numbers are replenished by a method not to be discussed. But alas the monsters return as well.

This reduction and replacement continues for several generations but over time the monsters find fewer foolish Teddies to consume as the smart Teddies become the dominant form. So they move on and leave the Teddy World alone.

Well, at least that's one story. You can create your own. This website has a similar story. For the older student to demonstrate the gene shift that takes place this pdf. is better.

Science and cookies, a good combo. PRM

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Well, this is exciting

The college acceptances are coming in. Makes those 6 weeks of torture during the late fall/early winter seem worthwhile now.

In the end Yakov sent 7 applications. He has not heard from 2 of them but he has 5 acceptances. One well-thought-of small liberal arts college seem to pursue him with frequent emails, even a phone interview at their request, all before he had even sent in all his documentation. Yesterday he received the BIG envelope from them. This morning, for the first time, I looked in the envelope and he had overlooked a letter offering him a merit scholarship.

I cannot deny that some of my excitement is a feeling of having accomplished something myself. I did it! I got my son in some FINE schools. I didn't do the academic work and certainly didn't do the application but I directed much of the operation.

And I will do what I need to again next year for Shoshie. She will not need the direction from me that he did. She is much more self-directed and frankly just pays more attention. And as she has seen his success in the last few weeks, she has been more motivated to study hard. PRM

Friday, March 27, 2009

Proud tax-paying citizens


"They want more of my money?"
"Why did I bother going to work? So I can give it away?"
Just another learning experience. Maybe not the most pleasant. PRM

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

DNA -> Chromosomes-> Genes-> Trait

The next step in the study of biology with my younger students was to translate the DNA into actual traits one can see. Once again the people from the University of Utah provided a great activity, A Recipe for Traits.

Paper strips of symbols represent genetic code for the characteristics of a dog. The students pick the different strips, arrange them like genetic code, and translate the strips into characteristics of a dog, body and head shape, color,etc. Then they draw their dog. This is harder to describe than to do. They are holding up their genetic code, each short colored strip is a gene. They also are showing their drawn dogs. The pictures were taken with Shoshie's phone so they aren't the best. But the kids had fun. And may have learned something. PRM

Laundry day

Folding towels is one of those tasks best done while watching television. But I rarely watch television so the towels are not often folded.

Soooo, I was thrilled to find that Masterpiece Classic is offering David Copperfield for online viewing through March 29th. Episodes 1 and 2 are available at this website. I watched Episode 1 Sunday afternoon. This morning I spotted a full laundry basket and knew just what to do. I was unable to finish the second episode so I may have to wash some more towels later.

This production of David Copperfield was one of Daniel Radcliffe's first big roles.
He is cheek-pinchingly cute in this. Zissa punim.

Check it out. And you, too, can have a drawer full of folded clean towels. PRM

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Saturday nights at the theatre

Last Saturday night our family saw this.It starred the man who was Jesus in the 1973 movie. He's 65 now, not exactly the young rabblerouser that one thinks of as Jesus. His voice was a little weak, not terrible, and it did get better after the first few songs. Otherwise it was a very good production. Mary Magdalene and Judas were especially well done.Last night, we saw this. With Topol. I hope I have that much energy in my 70s. It was a beautiful production. The hardest part was to keep from singing with the cast. That was a problem last week as well.

Music is a big focus in this home and we always enjoy live music which we, at least the adults, see too rarely. PRM

PS I can't seem to make the font uniform. Sorry.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Some random thoughts or rants

1. From E. J. Dionne's column in the Washington Post today,
Conservatives have argued for decades that the sins most dangerous to our society were rooted in lust when in fact they were rooted in greed.
Conservatives always seem to worry about the government meddling in our lives but they want government in our bedrooms, want government defining our relationships. They want government to limit knowledge of science or medicine.

2. When the homeschooling community went beserk about this case last week, I wondered what was really going on here. Now we know - religious cult. When the World Nut Daily is on the case, I know the truth has to be somewhere else.

3. Finally, I think this is me. Well, not the waistline, but otherwise, true, so true. PRM

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Nearly Wordless Wednesday

The White Sands, not snow. We're thinking about our next vacation. Maybe back to the southwest. PRM

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Chewy DNA

This week we did this lab, Have Your DNA and Eat it Too, from the Utah site. We used cinnamon Twizzlers and Dots. I can't recommend the Dots; the indistinct color differences and number of each color in the box was problematic. I wanted to show how DNA can be replicated with minimal mistakes but even in 3 boxes of Dots I didn't have enough green dots and yet had many, many red dots.Candy and science, a good combo. I need to think of some way to use chocolate, though. PRM

Monday, March 16, 2009

Best birthday present

this year.

Last year when this was current on the internet, I learned about it from the blog GeekDad, a personal favorite of mine. I made everyone in my family, except I seem to have missed Yakov, watch the segments with me. I loved this. It was funny and smart. The music and lyrics were clever.

Now I have my own copy. Last night we all, including Yakov this time, gathered around and watched. Today we are quoting dialogue to each other, singing some of the songs. And we still have the movie commentary IN SONG to look forward to, perhaps tomorrow night.

What fun. It is always delightful when you find something that the whole family finds amusing. PRM

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

DNA Isolation

And our own DNA, at that. This lab never fails to interest kids, in my experience. I have isolated DNA from peas several times but have only once before tried human DNA isolation from cheek cells.

The pea DNA lab that I have used many times, and that never fails, comes from this site, http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/labs/extraction/howto/, a site with many good labs and tutorials. This website, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/teachers/activities/2809_genome.html, provided the outline for how I did the lab Monday. I am just not good at following directions as written, so of course, I altered it a bit.

Before lab, I prepared

  1. a 0.9% salt water solution, mixing 2 teaspoons of salt in a liter of water
  2. a 25% solution of dishwashing detergent, mixing 1 part detergent to 3 parts water
  3. chilled isopropyl alcohol

We started by reviewing general genetics and cell structure. DNA has to be liberated from within the nucleus of the cell, so both the cell membrane and the nuclear membrane have to be broken. These membranes are made of lipids and proteins. Soap binds them, just like it does with the lipids, or grease, on your dishes. This disrupts the membranes and the DNA is released. DNA is soluble in water but not in alcohol so we will be able to see the DNA as it separates in the alcohol.

Also before lab, I

  1. Added about a teaspoon of detergent mixture to a test tube for each participant. These were placed in a baby food jar which served as the test tube holder.
  2. Poured about a teaspoon of the salt water in a small paper cup for each participant.
  3. Poured 2 or 3 teaspoons of alcohol into 2 paper cups and placed back in the freezer. These cups can be shared.


  1. Take a toothpick and gently scrape the inside of a cheek.
  2. Then, while holding the toothpick, swish the salt water in the scraped cheek, and spit the water back into the cup.
  3. Stir the toothpick end in the cup and then pour the cup contents into the test tube. The paper cup can be folded to form a spout for easier pouring.
  4. Place a stopper in the end of the tube and, holding the tube with a thumb on the stopper, carefully rock the tube back and forth for 2 minutes to mix the solutions. This needs to be done slowly to avoid breaking the DNA strands into smaller pieces.
  5. Tilt the test tube and pour the cold alcohol down the inside of the tube to form a layer of alcohol on top of the soapy layer. Try to avoid mixing the layers.
  6. After watching the tube for a minute, put a glass rod or toothpick in the tube and gently swirl the rod. Strands of DNA should be visible and sometimes may be wrapped around the end of the rod. You may be able see the DNA if you click on the photo.
  7. The DNA may be kept in a small tube with some alcohol solution.

Science is fun. PRM

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A History/Literature/Humanities Plan

I mentioned on the Secular Charlotte Mason yahoo list that we had largely done history and some science without textbooks. Several people asked me to share our plan and this post is an attempt to do that for history. We have always read literature that matched, either in time period or theme, with our history. Also, at times, we have included art and music resources so a more accurate description of our program may be a humanities course.

I am listing the resources we used for 2 different students, my daughter and my son. No one student read all the books or watched all the movies and lectures that I mention here. My son has always read history on his own and had a very complete knowledge of the flow of history, especially Western history, before he was in the 9th grade. My daughter, a more literature oriented kid, actually preferred to read a textbook for the narrative of history. She supplemented with art and music resources. American History is not completely covered in this plan, either. My son is completing an American History/ Literature course now and my daughter will do it next year so that plan is still being developed.

Depending on the resources used, this is a 2 or 3 year course.

The first thing you need is an enthusiastic reader for a student.

Textbook - The Human Odyssey by Jackson Spielvogel. My daughter has wanted to keep reading this because it gives her an outline that she likes. This is a highly readable text and, for my money, qualifies as a "living book".

Annenberg Media Courses, free at learner.org. You have to register to view the videos.
The Western Tradition
Art of the Western World

Teaching Company Courses

The Iliad of Homer, Herodotus: the Father of History, and The Aeneid of Virgil by Dr. Elizabeth Vandiver.
History of Ancient Egypt by Dr. Bob Brier

History Readings
Selections from Herodotus, Livy and Tacitus
Byzantium: The Early Centuries by John Julius Norwich
Life in a Medieval Village by Frances and Joseph Gies
A World Lit Only by Fire: The Medieval Mind and the Renaissance: Portrait of an Age by William Manchester
Life Along the Silk Road by Susan Whitfield
The Last Knight: The Twilight of the Middle Ages and the Birth of the Modern Age
King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa by Adam Hochschild
A History of Russia by Nicholas V. Riasanovsky
Stalin: Russia's Man of Steel by Albert Marrin
Mao Tse-Tung and his China by Albert Marrin
Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler
The Last Valley: Dien Bien Phu and the French Defeat in Vietnam by Martin Windrow
The Battle for the Falklands by Max Hastings and Simon Jenkins
Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond

The Iliad and the Odyssey by Homer
The Aeneid by Virgil
Apology by Plato
The Trojan Women by Euripedes
Oedipus the King by Sophocles
Beowulf, translated by Seamus Heaney
Grendel by John Gardner
The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer
The Inferno by Dante
The Prince by Macchiavelli
Julius Caesar, Hamlet, Twelfth Night by Shakespeare
Great Expectations, A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
Everything written by Jane Austen, read multiple times
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekov
All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Marie Remarque
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Movies, videos
Apocalypse Now by Francis Ford Coppola
Antigone, a 1961 film

We also used Story and Structure by Laurence Perrine and Thomas Arp and Perrine's Sound and Sense by Thomas Arp.

That's all I can think of today. I will update as I remember more. PRM

Monday, March 2, 2009

Snow day pictures

Should I stay or should I go?

My view from the deck

Only about 4 inches of snow and not likely to last long but it is pretty this morning. The small trees in the front had blooms on them yesterday.

No lab today so no lab blogging later. Last week Noach and I went to Tennessee to help my mom and to visit with relatives so blogging has been rare already. PRM