Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Homeschool Highlights: January

January had some highs and some lows.

Let's talk about the highs first, shall we? We finished our science unit on bats. Such fascinating creatures they are. For example, bats usually have only one "pup" per year. They leave their pups in these HUGE bat nurseries while they go out to hunt and then have no problem finding their very own little pup when they return based on smell alone. Oh, and they bathe them daily with their little tongues. Very sweet. Did you know that bats live for an average of 30 years? I didn't. Thirty! They have such a bad reputation, those sweet little creatures. I have a new appreciation for them as does Sam. He decided they are now his favorite animal and spent a good part of a couple afternoons trying to figure out how he could invent wings so children can fly. We set lofty goals for ourselves in this house.

Going along with the flying creatures theme, we did our own mini unit on owls and dissected an owl pellet. Yep. I spent $6 for owl puke. I ordered the pellet from Copernicus Toys. I was pretty sure it would be fun. We were not disappointed. Here are a few pictures for you...

Those are vole bones.

We've read some really good books this month. We finished Indian Captive by Lois Lenski. Quote from Amazon:

In this classic frontier adventure, Lois Lenski reconstructs the real life story of Mary Jemison, who was captured in a raid as young girl and raised amongst the Seneca Indians. Meticulously researched and illustrated with many detailed drawings, this novel offers an exceptionally vivid and personal portrait of Native American life and customs. A 1942 Newbery Honor book.

A friend gave Sam the book Hatchet by Gary Paulsen for Christmas. I read it first (as is our custom) and could not put it down. This is a story about a 13 year old boy who is flying over the Canadian wilderness in a small place. The pilot, the only other person aboard, has a heart attack and dies. The plane runs out of gas and crashes into a lake in the middle of nowhere. The rest of the book tells the story of how this boy survives. Full of adventure, courage and ingenuity, this book is a fun read-aloud.

One note of caution for some- the boy was taking the plane trip to visit his father for the summer. His parents are divorced. He knows the "secret" of the divorce- that his mother was seeing another man. In the entire book, there is probably only a few full pages that deal with this issue, but one memory is recounted where the boy sees his mother kissing the other man. I decided this was not appropriate for my 7 year old to read even though he was chomping at the bit to read the book by himself. Instead, I read it aloud to about the half way point (passed the discussion of the "secret") and then turned the book over to him to finish. He loved it.

Another wonderful read was The Cabin Faced West by Jean Fritz. This is the story of a girl whose family leaves their comfortable life in the east to settle in the wild west. She missed her friends, her school and her tea parties. Slowly Hamilton Hill, on which their cabin was built, grew on her as did her love for the vegetable patch she helped care for. This was a lovely read with a wonderful surprise at the end.

We've read several children's books on the Iditarod in the past month and are having so much fun learning about the race. A major highlight for the whole family was watching Iditarod: The Toughest Race on Earth, a Discovery documentary of the 2008 Iditarod race (Netflix carries it). What an entertaining way to learn about the race, the dogs, a number of the mushers and the huge event that the Iditarod is.

And, we made our Alaska map. Well, mostly Jamey and I made the map. Sam was out of sorts that day. You know, my-sister-had-a-birthday-and-I'm-insanely-jealous-and-out-of-sorts kind of day. He did help outline and label. Sometimes, you just have to take what you can get.

The not so fun parts of this month have been the times when Sam has decided that singing, making loud noises, dropping his pencil and, in general, being disagreeable is more fun than doing his school work. Then, there are the lovely moments when he's said things like,

"I hate school."
"I wish school was never invented."

And, my favorite,

"I would rather be at the dentist."

And Sam HATES the dentist.

So, to recap. A lot of fun stuff + A handful of not-so-fun stuff = 3 3/4 pencils (out of 5)

And, I'm sorry, but there are no pictures out there in internet land of 3 and 3/4 pencils, so you'll just have to use your imagination:-).

Pin It


  1. Sam's comments made me snort! So cute...easy for ME to say, right?

    I think I may have read Hatchet years ago. But now I want to read it again. Strange to have such mature situations in a children's book, though, isn't it?

  2. 2 things...

    1) We dissected owl pellets on Christmas Eve... right before we ate appetizers...

    2) Is it just me or is your pencil collection getting smaller and smaller each month? Perhaps spring vacation is in order?

  3. For the dogs, the Iditarod is a bottomless pit of suffering. Six dogs died in the 2009 Iditarod, including two dogs on Dr. Lou Packer's team who froze to death in the brutally cold winds. What happens to the dogs during the race includes death, paralysis, frostbite (where it hurts the most!), bleeding ulcers, bloody diarrhea, lung damage, pneumonia,ruptured discs, viral diseases, broken bones, torn muscles and tendons and sprains. At least 142 dogs have died in the race.

    During training runs, Iditarod dogs have been killed by moose, snowmachines, and various motor vehicles, including a semi tractor and an ATV. They have died from drowning, heart attacks and being strangled in harnesses. Dogs have also been injured while training. They have been gashed, quilled by porcupines, bitten in dog fights, and had broken bones, and torn muscles and tendons. Most dog deaths and injuries during training aren't even reported.

    On average, 52 percent of the dogs who start the race do not make it across the finish line. According to a report published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, of those who do finish, 81 percent have lung damage. A report published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine said that 61 percent of the dogs who complete the Iditarod have ulcers versus zero percent pre-race.

    Iditarod dog kennels are puppy mills. Mushers breed large numbers of dogs and routinely kill unwanted ones, including puppies. Many dogs who are permanently disabled in the Iditarod, or who are unwanted for any reason, including those who have outlived their usefulness, are killed with a shot to the head, dragged, drowned or clubbed to death. "Dogs are clubbed with baseball bats and if they don't pull are dragged to death
    in harnesses......" wrote former Iditarod dog handler Mike Cranford in an article for Alaska's Bush Blade Newspaper.

    Dog beatings and whippings are common. During the 2007 Iditarod, eyewitnesses reported that musher Ramy Brooks kicked, punched and beat his dogs with a ski pole and a chain. Jim Welch says in his book Speed Mushing Manual, "Nagging a dog team is cruel and ineffective...A training device such as a whip is not cruel at all but is effective." "It is a common training device in use among dog mushers..."

    Jon Saraceno wrote in his March 3, 2000 column in USA Today, "He [Colonel Tom Classen] confirmed dog beatings and far worse. Like starving dogs to maintain their most advantageous racing weight. Skinning them to make mittens.. Or dragging them to their death."

    During the race, veterinarians do not give the dogs physical exams at every checkpoint. Mushers speed through many checkpoints, so the dogs get the briefest visual checks, if that. Instead of pulling sick dogs from the race, veterinarians frequently give them massive doses of antibiotics to keep them running.

    Most Iditarod dogs are forced to live at the end of a chain when they aren't hauling people around. It has been reported that dogs who don't make the main team are never taken off-chain. Chained dogs have been attacked by wolves, bears and other animals. Old and arthritic dogs suffer terrible pain in the blistering cold.

    The Iditarod, with all the evils associated with it, has become a synonym for exploitation. The race imposes torture no dog should be forced to endure.

    Margery Glickman
    Sled Dog Action Coalition, http://www.helpsleddogs.org

  4. I'm still working on my map... we have had a few life 'distractions/interruptions' other than my obvious distraction of internet... I'm also waiting on my turn for the netflix movie you mentioned(wouldn't it be cool if I got the copy you returned?) You know how sometimes a 'best laid plan' just doesn't go like you planned.
    Also, if you get a chance to respond in your comments on this post- have you been getting e-iditarod updates? I think I may have misdirected something.
    We did a little snail watching, but our schooling has been going well, just not photography worthy. I'm bummed they didn't have a 3.75 pencil pict.. :) You inspiration on the flying creatures & american history tho, has lit a fire around here. Thanks for the heads up on Hatchet.
    and another thing... Your blog is extremely inspiring, and if I have to limit my blog reading time, I don't think I'll ever stop reading yours- :) You do live 'the whole idea' of living simply as it unfold, through God's plan, as it comes. That's what I think the writer I mentioned the other day misses. I try not to sound critical of writers when I mention them... I was also a little tired the other day, too tired to be blogging...
    OK, better go! Dinner time- :) Love the food breakdown in your sidebar. So nice to see your smiling face! As pretty as I'd pictured-

  5. Margery,
    Thank you for your comment and your obvious interest in the welfare of these dogs. I published your comment so my readers can read/learn about a different perspective on the race.

    Thank you for all your sweet words:-). I just got the first eIditarod email yesterday, I believe it was. Could your spam filter have gotten it by accident? Let me know what you think of the documentary.

  6. I am looking forward to reading through your homeschooling posts. Our 5 year old grandson may be living with us full time through September and we (mostly my wife) are hoping to work with him on many subjects. Right now he stays with us a few days each week which gives us the opportunity to teach him. He can write fairly well, has excellent memorization skills, but still needs some work on learning to read...he is so close.:)

    Anyway, I just wanted to let you know how great I think it is that you are doing this with your children.

  7. Mr. H, An excellent book for teaching reading is "The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading" by Jessie Wise (http://www.welltrainedmind.com/store/the-ordinary-parent-s-guide-to-teaching-reading-paperback.html). This is what I used to teach Sam (and will use for the girls as well). The lessons are super short (5-10 minutes a day), build nicely on each other and both you and the child look at one page per day, together. There is no extra workbook or pages to print out or copy. If a child is ready to read, this is an excellent resource.

    And, I am in no way suggesting that you or your wife are "ordinary". Quite the contrary:-). What a wonderful opportunity to help lay some of your grandson's educational foundation.

  8. Thanks so much for the 'good read' suggestions, along with your valuable comments. Good clean reading is so important for children! I still censor what my 14 yr old reads. As much as possible that is.
    All of a sudden my 8 yr old has taken off with reading like no other. Keep the suggestions coming.

    Aunt V.

  9. I never knew that bats lived that long! We have bats that live in our shutters and enjoy the multitude of flying insects they eat each night! I am glad that you are teaching your kids to respect and admire these amazing creatures. :)

  10. I like your map! I live right close to the Iditarod trail. :) I didn't seen Fairbanks on the map, just the trail where FBX is. :)

  11. Laura S., Welcome! We will add Fairbanks to our map. I would love to hear some of your experiences living so close to the trail. Comment with them here if you like:-)!


Just a friendly reminder, if you know me personally please try to refrain from using my name. There are those who may try to locate me, break into my pantry and steal my pickled beets. Thanks:-).

Please choose the Anonymous option if you prefer not to sign in to comment.

Related Posts with Thumbnails