The Learning Room and an Amazing Book Review!

January  10 – 21, 2011

We have been spelling, spelling, spelling around here. Next Friday is the spelling bee. We got a late start this year because they didn’t have the lists prepared and I admit, I feel a bit nervous this time around. I know Gabe will do great but his competitive edge will either make for a really great day for him or make him miserable despite all our talks about good sportsmanship and just doing your best. But, really, I’m not that nervous for him. He’s gotten through three pages of list words at the fourth grade level and is aceing all his tests on spellingcity.com. Who I’m really nervous for is Lily. She wants so bad to do well and keep up and is getting frustrated with herself (she is not a naturally good speller) at still having to work on certain words over and over and over again. I’m trying to be as encouraging and supportive as I know how.

On the positive side, our Little House studies are going fantastic. We read two chapters yesterday and Gabe was begging for more. They really enjoy doing the lapbook work and we listened to some jigs yesterday (like Pa played on his fiddle) and we had quite the group of bouncing kids jigging around the house (bet our downstairs neighbors loved that!). Along with jigging we tried our hand at making maple syrup candy with our plethora of snow days. The kids gobbled it up but it was too soft. Would have been better had we had a candy thermometer. They also loved sampling the difference between “real” maple syrup and the hybrid stuff from the store. They noted the difference in flavor and had fun reading the ingredients label but thought each were equally tasty…especially when compared to the sample of more-common molasses they had which they thought tasted like medicine.

Speaking of snow…there has also been quite a lot of sledding going on around here. We have a perfect sledding hill next to our house and my husband has felt extra inspired to be taking the kids out in it. Better him then me, I say! Although, I did sneak outside for a few pics and to rescue my baby who was standing in a snow pile up to her knees, stuck, with tears iced to her cheeks. As much as you want to be a part of the gang at 20 months old, some things aren’t quite as much fun as anticipated!

But our most favorite part of the past 2 weeks…

This little gem of a book that I found on clearance (1/2 price!!!!!) at Barnes and Nobles.

It showcases all the elements in order, like a field guide, with a picture of each elemant in its natural state on one page and then a brief history with pictures of how and what it is used in on the opposite page.

It also showcases a mini-map of where it is on the periodic table; its atomic weight, density, radius, and crystal structure; and where it lies on the atomic emmission spectrum.

It is written by an author, Theodore Gray, who truly is passionate about this subject (a true living book!) and has a knack of drawing you right in despite the fact that you’re learning college level science! Case in point:

The very last column is the noble gases. Noble is used here in the sense of “above the business of the comman riffraff.” Noble gases almost never form compounds with each other or with any other elements.

Or

Alkali metals react with water to release hydrogen gas, which is highly flammable. When you throw a large enough lump of sodium into a lake, the result is a huge explosion a few seconds later. Depending on whether you took the right precaustions, this is either a thrilling and beautiful experience or the end of your life as you have known it when molten sodium sprays into your eyes, permanently blinding you.

Or

Almost everything you see in this book is sitting somewhere in my office, except that one thing the FBI confiscated and a few historical objects. I had a great time collecting these examples of the vibrant diversity of the elements, and I hope you have as much fun reading about them.

It is truly one of the most fascinating books I’ve looked at! And, to put the icing on the cake, it comes with a bonus DVD that plays The Elements Song by Tom Lehrer (a mathematician who wrote satirical educational songs, all of which I find greatly amusing!) . This song is already on our much-played science CD and the kids LOVE it! As the DVD is playing the song, you see the pictures of the elements flash on the screen then find their place on the periodic table. My husband bet the kids that whoever can memorize it first will win $10! If you listen to the song here you will know what a challenge that will be! Phonics? Pisshhh. That’s nothing on pronouncing ununoctium or yanomanmite!

My husband decided that we go through the book with the kids as a full science course. The kids seconded that vote. Then the kids decided (their idea…really, I didn’t even suggest it) that they draw a picture of each element. I just added the nice touch of putting a mini blank periodic table for them at the bottom of the page to “map” where that element is found. They thought that was a great addition and today a new science notebook was born! I loved how their first pages turned out and I would love to show you except my camera is on the fritz. (Hmm…maybe I’ll try scanning?) Gabe even mentioned today that even though they were doing school during their free time (a consequence of not finishing morning chores on time) that it was okay because this was cool and not really like school at all so he didn’t mind missing any free time.

Oh, how my homeschooling mom’s heart went pitter patter just then! Blessings this weekend!

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9 thoughts on “The Learning Room and an Amazing Book Review!

    • It really is amazing. In fact, just today (Saturday) my 7yo girl said, “Mommy, we didn’t do our element today.” And I said, “Baby, we don’t have school today.” She seemed truly bummed. Then (because of snow) church got cancelled for tomorrow so she excitedly asked (this is hours after our previous conversation), “Mommy, can we do an element tomorrow then?” This is what we strive for in homeschooling!

  1. Pingback: Field Guides as Living Books « simply necessary

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