Thursday, May 31, 2012

Random stuff we've been up to... (getting caught up)

This is a rather long and photo-heavy post, but it's all of this random "stuff" I've been meaning to post about, so I am just gonna throw it all out there and finally get caught up.  A photo-purge, if you will.  So what have we been up to...?
Doing some math, aka playing with Inchimals.  Love these!

A little geography play with the Tag Map.  Monkey got this for his birthday, but Bug is much more into it.  Go figure.

An idea found via Pinterest - glow sticks in the bathtub.  It was a big hit!

Bug's favorite pastime - driving cars on the bookshelf/window seat.  I found this awesome "road tape" - so simple and fun!

My poor, "unsocialized homeschooler", getting picked up for a go-cart ride by B, a friend from the neighborhood.

Monkey is still reluctant to practice writing, but we have hit on a great way to practice written communication without pen and paper - texting!  He loves sending texts to Dad and Grandma.  I let him try to work out what to say and how to spell things on his own, just giving him hints when asked for help.

Bug, trying to homeschool the dog.  "Look Noodle, that's a kitty."

A delicious lesson about fractions!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

A moment to remember...

Shane took a rare day off today, and this afternoon all four of us went for a lovely stroll on the Towpath Trail.  As Monkey & I walked along hand-in-hand, we spontaneously developed a secret code based on # of hand squeezes.  It started because I decided to teach him an idea I remembered reading on 100 Ways To Be Kind to Your Child (item #18), that 3 squeezes = "I love you".  His whole face lit up and he was immediately thrilled by this new form of communication.  He quickly began coming up with meanings for other increments of hand squeezes.  At bedtime he added a few more, and we are now up to distinct meanings for 1 through 8.  I was going to share the list here, but I think I'll let it stay secret - just between us.  Well, I'll share one he came up with that melted my heart a little.  I won't tell you which number it is, but one of them means "Coolest Mom Ever".   :*)

Try making up your own secret codes - I can't believe how much fun and special such a simple thing turned out to be!

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Transit of Venus and My Homemade Telescope

This post has two purposes:  to make sure everyone is aware of a really, really rare and cool astronomical event coming up, and also to share a bit about my homemade telescope.

The really, really rare and cool event you should know about is the Transit of Venus.  That means that Venus will be directly between us and the sun, with its silhouette visible against the sun if you look at it through a specially equipped telescope (which I will discuss more in a minute).  The event will be visible here in North America on the evening of June 5th, 2012, and it will be visible in other parts of the world on the morning of June 6th.  This will be the last time in your lifetime that it will happen, unless you live until 2117.  Transits of Venus happen in pairs spaced 8 years apart (this one in 2012 is the second of a pair - the first was in 2004), with more than 100 years between each pair of occurrences.

Why is this cool?  I find it fascinating to be able to observe astronomical stuff - especially rare stuff - in person, with my own eyes.  It's incredible to watch something as it's happening, noticing changes every few minutes - realizing that stuff is going on up there above your head!  Also, Venus is very similar in size to Earth, so it's a chance to view and comprehend the actual relative size of the sun to our planet - again, with your very own eyes.  (Disclaimer:  if you plan to view this event, please be sure to read the SUPER IMPORTANT WARNING at the end of this post.)  I was fortunate enough to see the 2004 Transit and I took the following photos using the very low-tech method of simply holding my unsophisticated digital camera up to the eyepiece of the scope.

My stepdad, Bob, and me with our telescope, just after observing the Transit.  We viewed it at a gathering that was organized by a local astronomy club.  You can see the solar filter covering the end of the telescope.

Here's another picture of us with the scope, taken the very first time we used it, up in Canada.  You can see a hint of sunrise in the background - I made everyone get up EARLY so we could look at Jupiter and Saturn.  It was worth it!

Now that I'm thinking about it, I can't remember what exactly inspired us to build the telescope back in 2003.  We just thought it would be neat to have one, I guess.  I hunted around online and found these plans from NASA's Telescopes in Education website (we used the ones for a 10-inch mirror).  Most of the materials came from Home Depot, except the mirrors, which were ordered through Coulter Optical (although it appears they don't offer 10-inch mirrors anymore?) and the eyepieces, which I got from Orion Telescopes.  So, I was in charge of planning, purchasing, and painting, and Bob did most of the actual construction.  Also, once the telescope was complete, I was in charge of figuring out what to point it at, and how.  My favorite book by far, that I used to teach myself how to use my scope and learn my way around the night sky, was Nightwatch:  A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe by Terence Dickinson.

So, our project was a success and the scope works beautifully.  These are a few of my favorite pics I took through it - again, by simply holding my digital camera up to the eyepiece of the scope.  Most (all?) were taken in 2003.

Almost but not quite full moon


Thin crescent moon

The Sun, with a few sunspots visible.

Sunspots, on a different day.

My three best images of Saturn.  None of them do justice to the image you see when actually looking through the scope, but at least it's recognizable!

And this blurry thing is Jupiter.  If you squint you can make out a hint of a stripe or two.  And those small blurry dots to the right are some of Jupiter's moons.  Again, totally doesn't do justice to what you see when you look through the scope yourself, but I had to try!

So, if anyone in your household has the remotest interest in astronomy, research your community's resources - a local astronomy club, science museum, or maybe just a nerdy friend with a telescope - and don't miss this chance to see the Transit of Venus on June 5th - that's 3 weeks from tomorrow!

Here are a few links with more info:

Sky and Telescope

SUPER IMPORTANT WARNING!  If you do plan to view this event, make sure you have the proper equipment to do so safely.  The links above have lots of information about that but, basically:  don't look at the sun with your naked eyes, and don't look at it through a telescope, unless the scope has a proper solar filter.  That means a filter that fits over the light-gathering end of the telescope, NOT the eyepiece end.  Eyepiece-type solar filters are very dangerous because they can fail (due to the extremely hot beam of focused light that your telescope points at them), causing the beam of light to enter your eye and can cause permanent damage / blindness.  That would be bad.  I use a filter similar to this one.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Dear North Carolina:

This video puts my feelings into words better than I could have done myself...  (disclaimer: bad words)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Quick question...

Ok, you may have noticed that I added a photo to my blog's header.  Here's my question:  is it displaying properly for you?  My mom said it loaded ok for her, but then it disappeared and there was just a black box.  She was viewing it on a PC using Explorer... I'm using a Mac and have viewed it in both Firefox and Safari and it looks fine.  If it doesn't appear correctly, does anyone have any suggestions for how to fix it?  Thanks for your help!  :)

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Cleveland Zoo - April 5, 2012

In early April, we took a trip to the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo with some non-homeschooling friends whose kids were on spring break - specifically Monkeyman's friend, S., who Monkey used to hang out with quite a bit.  They haven't gotten to hang out much since S. started public school and Monkey didn't, and they were quite happy to see each other, and had a great time together.  The Cleveland Zoo is wonderful.  It's SO much bigger and nicer than the Akron Zoo, which we visit more often due to its closer proximity to us.  They have a larger variety of animals, and their enclosures seem nicer too.  Overall a great excursion, although I was pretty whooped by the end from chasing Bug, and then carrying him once he got tired (he wants no part of the stroller anymore - quit using it long ago).

I love the Orangutans.  I could skip the rest of the zoo and just watch them all day.

Look at those eyes.


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Take-Apart Day - March 30, 2012

Still catching up!  Back in March, we participated in one of the most fun activities we've done yet.  For "Take-Apart Day" everyone brought in old/unused/broken appliances, gadgets, electronics, etc. to take apart.  We saw cameras, printers, phones, a blender, a sewing machine, and more.  We chose to take our old, obsolete computer, which has been sitting in our damp basement for quite a few years (since 2003 I think?).  I figured that since Monkey has such a deep love of computers, it wouldn't be a bad idea to let him see what makes them tick.  Also, the boy LOVES using tools - he got his own tool set for Christmas and was quite pleased to have a reason to use them.  (Disclaimer: I have a degree in computer networking & maintenance so I was able to describe to Monkey what each of the parts were, and safely guide him in his disassembly.  Please use caution and/or have a knowledgeable person around if you decide to do this at home!)

Photo credit:  Michelle B. (or whoever was using her camera!


Here you can see Little Bug delightedly banging on the outer case of the computer with a hammer.  He sure loves "helping"!  Photo credit:  Michelle B. (or whoever was using her camera!)

Monkey and his buddy, E., working together.

Photo credit:  Michelle B. (or whoever was using her camera!)

McKinley Museum in Canton, Ohio - March 28, 2012

We went to the William McKinley Presidential Library & Museum in Canton, Ohio at the end of March - it was the first time going there for all of us.  We went with a couple of good friends of mine and their kiddos (they aren't homeschoolers, but I *am* trying to recruit them to the dark side - bwahahaha!)  It's not a terribly big museum, but I was quite pleasantly surprised with how much great stuff it contained.  The first floor had a lot of hands-on, science / nature stuff, and the second floor had lots of historical stuff.  There is also a planetarium, but we skipped it out of consideration of other people who wanted to enjoy the planetarium.  I am dying to take Monkey in one, but I know Bug wouldn't have the patience to sit through the whole presentation.  Overall, the kids had a blast, except they were once again running in opposite directions pretty much the whole time.

The view driving in.  That building is the Presidential Library.  We explored around it but didn't go in there.  The main museum part (not pictured) is in a larger building to the left.

Monkey is controlling a robotic arm to pick up sponges.

This chair was connected to a regular vacuum cleaner.  When turned on, it demonstrated that the suction created by the vacuum was strong enough to lift the chair with a person sitting in it.

Park Day - March 22, 2012

Just a fun, unseasonably warm park day.  Temps in the 80's in Ohio in March?!  Kids wearing shorts?!?  Yep.  Kiddos played on the playground a bit and then our group went for a walk down a trail that led to a pond and went around it.  Bug was super excited to see turtles, fishies, and ducks in the water.

Photo credit:  Michelle B.
Photo credit:  Dara B.

Photo credit:  Dara B.

Bug, examining the clusters of fish (frog? turtle?) eggs the kids discovered in the water.