The Giant Egg and a Science Lesson

Yesterday I found the biggest egg I have ever seen, in one of the nest boxes of our backyard chicken coop.  I was planning to make eggs for lunch today, so I called the boys to see when I cracked the egg because I was sure it would have 2 yolks.  And it did, but it must have been inside the hen too long because there was opaque white material in the egg as well. It really did look like two eggs seamlessly fused together, from the outside.  And when I first cracked it, there were two yolks, but one was fragile and broke before I could take a picture of it.  We didn’t use the egg, it  just looked too strange so I was afraid it might be spoiled.  Anyhow, my 7 1/2 year old started asking questions about chickens laying eggs, and then about how babies grow and how they get out of their mother’s body.

I’m not very proficient with unschooling, I’m more of a fan of curriculum and workbooks, but this was the perfect opportunity to give it a try, so I went with it.  I found a copy of Hello Baby! that my mother gave him when his little brother was born.  The book explains, among other things,  the basics of how the baby develops with diagrams and some short descriptions.  We looked at his old ultrasound pictures. We looked at pictures from my baby shower so he could see my belly when I was pregnant with him.  I showed him this animation which shows simulations of how the baby develops, and I showed him this medical animation of childbirth to answer the “how does the baby get out” question.  We talked about the uterus, the placenta, the amniotic sac, the umbilical cord, and the birth canal.

My son wanted to know about what happens to the umbilical cord and I explained, even found a photograph of a baby with a cord clamp still in place, but I haven’t yet been able to find a video of the pulsating umbilical cord or a cord being clamped and cut.  It do want him to know that the cord should not be cut until it stops pulsating, even though many medical professionals clamp the cord immediately after birth.  A friend on FB shared a link to her blog, which shows a beautiful video of a home waterbirth.  The video is made with a collection of still photographs.  It is rather discreet as far as birth videos go, as the water blurs the images slightly when the baby emerges.  I feel comfortable allowing my son to view this, it is really well done.  There are even pictures of the new baby’s siblings admiring the newborn boy as well as pictures of the family together after the birth.

But back to what started our discussion, we also looked at photographs of developing chick embryos. We discussed how developing mammals are different from developing birds, and how they are similar.  I explained how the yolk sac functions much like the placenta, to nourish the growing chick.  I told him that the chick has tiny blood vessels that travel from its body to the inside surface of the shell to provide oxygen, something that we noticed when one of our own backyard flock hatched out some chicks last summer.  For a good explanation of how the eggs are formed inside a female chicken, we found factsheets on the anatomy and physiology of the reproductive tract of a female chicken.  I highly recommend this source, as there are some great photographs of the ovaries with developing eggs and also a the oviduct and vent.  These are from dissection, and they are well labeled.

I was very pleased with our first experience using an unschooling approach.  I’m impressed with the resources that are available on the internet.  Only one site that I used to teach today was completely new to me, but I was grateful that I was able to pull together the resources needed for our study very quickly.  Including items that we had around the house such as the photographs, book, and ultrasound pictures, worked very well for us too.  My son was very interested and asking well thought out questions.  I highly recommend trying out this approach, even if you are a curriculum lover like I am.

Here are two photos of our June backyard hatching, the youngest members of our flock.  They are now 7 months old and laying their own eggs.  Enjoy!

Using the Math-U-See Skip Counting and Addition Facts CD

We just got our Math-U-See (MUS) music CD for learning the skip counting and addition facts.  The songs are sung by a children’s choir.  I think the music is pleasant to listen to, though it can easily get stuck in your head and drive you nuts.  “Choc-late eight is taking two, not from me, just from you, choc-late eight is taking two, with his vacuum”  (To the tune of London Bridge).  I always say passing it on helps get rid of it, LOL.  I like the fact that they use Bible references in the songs, although the CD also has songs using Science and Literature facts for those that prefer it.  Or for public school classroom use.  My 5 year old is picking up some of the skip counting facts, and we have only had the CD for 4 days.  I like to use it in the car.  We also played games with some of the addition facts songs.  There is a song about building a wall using ten, and you stack the manipulatives.  A ten bar goes on the bottom, then you build each layer using the unit bars.  For example, the second layer of the wall in the song uses the six and four.  I found that once I heard the song enough times I was able to use the included songbook and just sing it without accompaniment.  This allowed me to sing the song slow enough so my son could find the appropriate manipulatives to build the wall.  You have to hold onto the wall as you build it though, or they will fall over easily.  The pieces do not stay together tightly.  We also did this with the song about adding to nine.  It was fun for both of us.

I have two criticisms of MUS Skip Counting and addition facts.  In the songs with the addition facts, sometimes it is hard to understand the children that are singing.  And Steve Demme’s quirk about saying 11 through 19 as ten-ty one, ten-ty two, and so on is included in the songs.  Most of them also say the number as what our English language uses, but I think one or two do not.  And since the children are hard to understand at times, a child listening to this may become confused.  Sometimes it sounds like they are saying twenty-four instead of one-ty four, or thirty-three instead of one-ty three.  So if you aren’t careful, your child may think nine plus five is twenty-four or nine plus four is thirty-three.  But if you sometimes sing acapella with the songbook you could reinforce the correct answers.  All in all, it is good and my child likes listening to it.

Playing Kickball with Sensory Integration Dysfunction

My 5 year old son played kickball for the first time today, and it wasn’t pretty.  Since our church offers weekly group activities for the homeschooling families, we decided to start bringing our son for “Fun Fridays” with gym and other activities.  So we went for the first time today.  The group played kickball, and it really brought back a lot of memories of what gym class was like for me as a child.  At first I watched my confused little boy try to participate in the game.  He can’t seem to keep his eyes on the ball so I could see I would have to be more hands-on and help him out.  To kick the ball, Jamie waited for the ball to come to him and stop, then kicked it.  But then he didn’t know to run.  When he was told to run, he ran out past first base and kept going into right field.  After some explanation, he knew to stop on the bases.  But to keep his attention on the game so he would know when the ball had been kicked again and he could go to the next base, that again required hands-on intervention.  Yelling at him to run was useless unless it was accompanied by a push in the right direction.  He, like me as a child, seemed to have no idea what was going on.  He found it confusing when the teams changed places also.  At first he was placed in the far right field, but he sat down on the ground there.  The next time his team was in the field we put him between the pitcher and third base.  He never happened to be looking if the ball came to him, even with repeated admonitions to “watch the ball”.  Then when he saw it he would kick it, even after repeated instruction to pick up the ball and throw it to a base.  (I don’t suppose if he did manage to get the ball in time that he would know which base to throw it to.)  When he did see and go after the ball he tried to wrestle with one of the boys on his team to get it.  Needless to say, the other team scored big when that happened.  It was a challenge for him to keep his eyes on the ball even when it was his turn to kick.  It will be interesting to see what his appointment with the behavioral optometrist next month shows.  I had a little talk with him later to discuss the object of the game for kickball.   He hadn’t realized that he was trying to win for his team rather than winning individually.  Not surprising.  Of course this is one of the disadvantages of playing a game with a group of mixed ages, the younger ones that have not played before can drag down their team.  I would have hoped that Jamie could have played better since I was standing right behind him to help him.  But it seems that neither watching nor listening are his strengths.  Strange as it seems, this same child is doing mostly first grade work academically.  We will have to see how things go next week. 

Homeschooling, potty training, and my husband’s new diet

Jamie did a little better with homeschooling this week.  I told him that he  cannot watch TV while he eats breakfast.  Instead he must do all his schoolwork before he gets TV or computer privileges.  We were only allowing him 1 half hour show before, but it seemed to affect his school performance so I decided to make him wait.  I also started using the reward chart I got from Scholastic.  He puts on a sticker for each subject we work on, under the appropriate day of the week.  This encourages him to try to read a little bit too, at least until he memorizes where everything is located on the chart.  We are working on memorizing the unit bars in the Math U See manipulative set.  Each number one to nine has a different colored bar with the appropriate number of squares on it.  I started yesterday and he knows them already.  I expected it to take a week or two, but once we colored the workbook picture of the unit bars he seemed to know them.  Today we played some games suggested in the teachers guide.  “If you’re happy and you know it…” grab a five, Simon Says “put a three on your nose” and things like that.  Jamie really wanted to play musical chairs.  I couldn’t figure out how that related to learning the unit bar values but he suggested putting a bar on each chair.  Then he told me the value of the unit bar in the chair whenever the music stopped and he sat down.   I kept changing them around too.  It was sooo much more fun than doing the workbook.  Next week we will work on addition.  I think that is pretty good for just starting Kindergarten.

Reading is still a challenge.  I’m trying to make it a “just right” level of challenge, but he really balks.  He understands phonics very well, but it seems to be a visual or attention issue that is holding him back.  His OT says that she feels he has difficulty tracking objects with his eyes and covers one eye sometimes when he colors,  so we made an appointment with a behavioral optometrist to see if there is a problem.  I know he is young still, but I also know he is quite capable of reading many words if he would just keep his eyes on the book.  His phonemic awareness is very good, and he only gets confused about whether the vowels are short or long.  If I could start again I would never have taught the long vowels when I first taught him the sounds the letters made.  But once he gets some of the rules down he should figure it out.  (Like an “e” on the end makes the “a” say it’s name, and that sort of thing.)  I’m going to order him a spelling book from Modern Curriculum Press and we will alternate that with phonics/reading.  Spelling is basically phonics in reverse, so it should help.  The book is a little below the level he is working at, so it should improve his confidence too.  I understand that the book starts with matching words that begin with the same sound, and moves on to some of the phonics rules later in the book. 

Samuel is doing a little better with the potty.  He actually went independently to his little potty when I had him in just a t-shirt, and had a bowel movement.  Another day I thought he was ready and he went again on the small potty.  He doesn’t wet much anymore, he has that down cold.  Even most nights he is try, I stopped using diapers at night.  I’m hoping to get him into Head Start in the fall, I just got through the first part of the red tape and now we will wait and see if he qualifies for a spot.  Apparently his receiving Birth to 3 services almost guarantees him the spot.  It does seem easier to work with Jamie on school without Samuel distracting him.  I think it will be good for both of them.  And the lady from Head Start claims that they can finish potty training him, LOL.

On the health front, my husband started on the Cinch Inch Loss Plan this week. Basically you replace breakfast and lunch with shakes. Their shakes are very high in protein to help you feel full, and high in leucine to prevent loss of muscle mass. There is a snack bar included in the plan for a snack, to get you through between shakes. There is also a metabolism boosting vitamin supplement and energy tea mix. My husband told me the first day that he did not feel hungry on the plan and that he felt like he had more energy. He even played with the kids right after coming home from work, which is unusual for him. Stay tuned to find out how well it works for him.

Seeing improvements in 5 year old Jamie

This week I have noticed that Jamie seems to be gradually improving in several areas.  I had increased his b-complex to a full tablet a couple days ago. I still have to use a little “tough love” to get him to take it, as in making him drink the crushed tablet in juice before he can have breakfast. But he is getting used to taking it every morning anyway, and I have seen some positive changes. He is fighting a little less during the transition from play to homeschool activities.  His focus and attention are much better. 

Jamie is doing very well reading the “floating notes” in his piano book and playing them with fairly accurate timing.  That is, he is playing the half notes and quarter notes shown in the music more accurately than in previous weeks.  He is picking up the new songs more easily, and seems to be doing a better job reading the music instead of trying to play by ear or memorize the pattern of the song if there is one.  I’m really glad I chose to start piano with him.  I thought with his fondness of music he would take to it, it’s nice to be right sometimes, LOL.  I don’t really know much about piano, but I’m having good luck using The Music Tree beginner book to teach him. 

Jamie is also focusing longer on math and handwriting.  Today he even asked to do more math after I had done one page with him and was satisfied that it was enough.  He wanted to bring out “decimal street” and build numbers on it.  This is something unique to the Math-U-See books.    Once we finished that and moved onto handwriting, he asked to write the number 10 after we had practiced what I had prepared for today.  We are using Handwriting Without Tears for that.  Usually I don’t have him write in the workbook, but just on the magnetic “slate” and the little chalkboard one.   He is now doing better writing in the book, which is a good sign.  I know that writing on the chalkboard is using more of the large muscles of the arm, while writing in the workbook uses the small muscles of the hand more.

Samuel is coming along with the potty training too. He actually told me he needed to go yesterday, and had a BM in the potty instead of on the floor or in his training pants. He is getting very independent, he actually told me to “Get out” after he sat down. LOL.

The pill swallowing cup, and other adventures

I must say, this Oralflo cup I bought was a joke, and is going to be promptly returned.  I patiently explained to 5 year old Jamie to take a big drink and tip his head back, but he kept sipping around the pill.  Then when he did get the pill in his mouth he would not swallow it, but mouthed it and complained about the taste.  After more explanations and a little yelling, I gave up and crushed his 1/2 b-complex tablet and put it in a half cup of apple juice. I explained that he must drink this before breakfast, and after sipping he pronounced the taste acceptable and drank the juice. I guess he was relieved to stop trying to swallow a pill. Later I tried the pill cup to take one of my own vitamins. Now I can swallow half a dozen vitamins at once, but this cup really made it more difficult just to swallow one small capsule. No wonder it didn’t help Jamie. It’s a good thing they have a guarantee, now I’ll find out if they stand behind it. $12 is a little much for a plastic cup that doesn’t help Jamie swallow vitamin pills.

Doing school this morning with Jamie was a challenge. He just didn’t want to do anything except his music, and even that was a challenge for following directions. But we got through our phonics, handwriting, and math anyway. I don’t get what is so hard for him, we only work on each subject for about 5 minutes. And he is totally capable, just lazy I guess. I like using curriculum, but I wish there was a way to keep things fresh and avoid the routine becoming too monotonous. He really liked it better when we first started. I prefer to do a little school through the summer so we have more flexibility to take days off during the regular school year, so that is why we are doing it now.

We have had a few days of rain, so today I had the boys outside after lunch.  I noticed that the sandbox was full of water, so I dumped that off after bailing with buckets until I could lift the edge.  Does anyone have kids that cover the sandbox?  I am going to ask my husband to drill a few small holes in the bottom, as I believe the cover leaks anyway.  They had a nice time playing in the wet sand afterward, until I came in to check my email anyway.   

And then there are the potty training issues with 34 month old Samuel. He won’t wet himself if I remember to take him to the potty every couple of hours. But he refuses to have a bowel movement in the potty. Today I had him bare bottom for the morning, as it had been 2 days. He started to have a BM then stopped and called for me. I put him on the potty but he refused to finish. So several hours later when I put pants on him to go outside, he went ahead and finished. I cleaned him off with the garden hose, but he just thought that was fun.

So by then I was about used up. We had already had lunch “I don’t want that lunch, Mommy.” Time for nap. I hope they both go to sleep today, I could use the quiet.  Days like this I think the old woman in the shoe knew EXACTLY what she was doing!  LOL.  On a good note, I managed to get oily stains out of a shirt by using our new liquid laundry detergent as a prespotter.  One battle won, anyhow!