Saturday, February 23, 2008

Cabbage Juice, Anyone?

Next week's science at our house involves using purple cabbage juice to test the pH of certain substances. There are different suggestions out there of how to get purple cabbage juice, and even substitution ideas. Here's a quick and easy way we did it. (And, though it may be suggested that red onions work too... I found that no, in fact, they don't, and I'm still burning candles to get rid of the boiled red onion smell. ;)

First I started water boiling in a kettle on the stove. While it was heating, I chopped cabbage. We only need two cups of the solution, so I just used half a head of cabbage.

I chopped it into small pieces.

I put it into a eight cup bowl.

Once the water was boiling, I poured it over the cabbage, just enough to cover it.

This is what it looked like after about 15 minutes.

It didn't get much darker, but this is how it ended up 30 or so minutes later.

I then strained it into a jar, and ended up with more than I thought so I needed two jars! Once site suggested pouring vinegar over the leftover cabbage and using it as a relish. Um, we didn't do that, but if it sounds good to you... go for it! I read said to store it cold, so it's now in our garage refridgerator awaiting our science experiments next week!

The procedures we will be doing are in our BJU Science 6 book, but here are some sites which offer fun ways to test acidity with cabbage juice:

Zoom Activities: Cabbage Juice Indicator

Children's Museum (Connecticut)

Coal Education

Cabbage Patch Chemistry

Suzy's World (exceptionally clear explanations)

We'll see how it turns out. It should be "pHun!"

Thursday, February 21, 2008

What Kind of House Are You Building?

Originally posted Feb. 13, 2007.

"A wise woman builds her house,
but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down."
Prov. 14:1

God has whispered this verse into my spirit so many times as a mom, in the midst of a tirade against my children or while being self-indulgent. "Are you building your house or tearing it down right now?" Oh, how convicting. There is no more satisfying feeling than knowing that I am actively engaged in building my house. There is no feeling more awful than knowing that I am tearing it down with my own hands. As moms, we have the power to do both.

I've been thinking of this verse in a new light lately, though. I've been considering it as it applies to homeschooling.

If you think of someone literally building a house, you think of the expertise they bring to the project. Some homes are brick, so you would want someone with masonry skills to do the work. If you wanted a sided home, you might hire a different contractor to do it, not necessarily a bricklayer. I've seen some gorgeous stucco homes (there is a stunning one in my neighborhood) which involves a totally different set of skills. Any of those types of homes are nice. They fulfill their purposes- to provide shelter for those who inhabit them. Though there are certain advantages to each different style (cost, energy efficiency, regional tastes, etc.) mostly it's personal preference which leads to one choice over another.

Much has been made over the past 20 years or so about "learning styles" of children as it pertains to effectively educating them. That has been a particular interest of mine, as it was the topic for my "research proposal" that I wrote for my masters degree. As homeschooling moms, though, I think we must take it a step further. What about our teaching style? Are you sequential, textbook-y, unit study-ish, holistic, scheduled, loosey-goosey? Whatever you are, however you are wired, I believe it is God-given, and it is your "building style."

Much frustration would come to the bricklayer who was hired to do a sided house. So, too, for the mom who buys curriculum for one type of "house" when that's not her style or expertise. A bricklayer could possibly build a sided house, but it would not be as quality a job since it is not his area of expertise. A thematic unit-loving mom would go nuts trying to implement a structured school-in-a-box approach. She could do it, but it might not be done as well as someone who loves how those fit together and enjoys that approach. Similarly, someone who loves writing her own curriculum would be frustrated following someone else's plan for the year. She could make it work, but the end result might not be what she was aiming for. What kind of house are you building? What kind of house are you gifted to build? Go with that! God did it! Our loving, sovereign General Contractor knew just what kind of house you were to build for your family and gave you desires and skills that fit it perfectly.

And I don't think He randomly assigned kids with learning style a,b,and c to a mom who's teaching style is x, y, and z. He didn't just put us all together and say, "Well, good luck with that!" chuckling to Himself as He walked off. He knows the blueprints for the house He has called you to build, and He has given you the raw materials. He will make it work! I am just now discovering in my 8th year of homeschooling that some of my frustration over the years has been from following someone else's blueprint, or building a brick house when God gave me stucco abilities. I'm sitting on a pile of bricks, with "Masonry For Dummies" books strewn all about, when what I'd really like to do is grab my trusty trowel and stucco like I know how to do. (Okay, an over-abundance of symbolism, but hopefully you get what I mean!)

However, having to work at it doesn't mean you're doing it wrong. Building a house is hard work. But the key question is: Is the house being built? Is there progress? Perhaps if you are building along and finding holes and leaks, it's time to go back to the drawing board and see if you are building according to the right blue prints, using your God-given giftings and preferences not someone else's. Or maybe you just need to go back and patch up some spots and work more diligently in the future. God will honor our attempts to work hard at something. I don't believe He will honor our attempts to get out of working at it, or to make it easier on ourselves, though. Only through prayer will you know if you're building the wrong kind of house or if you're just not being diligent in the work you've been doing.

Your "house" will not look like mine, and mine will not look like yours. But may they be functional and beautiful, built to the glory of God.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

What Every Kid Wants for Valentine's Day...

A day off!

Nothing says "I love you" like meeting Gram at Starbucks for a muffin and a latte. And for Gram and daughter to go shopping at a favorite mall to shop for some much-needed clothes. And for mom and son to spend the afternoon at the library and the Army/Navy store. And then for everyone to meet back at home for a wonderful Valentine's day dinner with Dad.

Oh, yeah...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Chinese New Year

Xin Nian Hao!

It's not too late to celebrate Chinese New Year!

It officially started last Thursday, but my daughter's Chinese friends say that they are celebrating it for 15 days.

Last week we had a small Chinese New Year Party with two other families. Here's the group, the girls dressed in their "qi pao," Chinese party dresses. Their American Girl dolls were dressed for the occasion as well! I posted a slide show on my other blog, but I thought I'd post over here about the resources and games we used.

My daughter used this site at to create each party guest their own Chinese name. We put them on name tags, and it was interesting to see how each person's name truly reflected their character!

After the guests arrived and put on their name tags, we sat and read a story. We read the book Bringing in the New Year by Grace Lin. It is a beautifully illustrated and easy to understand story of a Chinese family. The explanations of the customs are clear and understandable for a wide range of ages, as we had preschoolers up to a 14 year old at our house, and all enjoyed the book. One of my friends even pointed out how we can "adapt" some of their customs and put them in a Christian context (instead of sweeping out last year's "bad luck" we can sweep out bad habits and sins that have accumulated over the past year, etc. A very interesting discussion!)

We then made some "Year of the Rat" picture frames and Chinese lanterns that I ordered from Oriental Trading Company. We used sticky dots from the craft store as well as glue sticks and they worked great... and we didn't have to worry about glue drying.

We made up a "Ladybug Game" (sort of like a "cake walk"...we got the ladybug idea from the Chapman's book, Shaoey and Dot, a favorite among the families who were at the party who have precious daughters adopted from China). We laminated some ladybugs and taped them in a circle on the floor. Each ladybug had a differen number of dots on its back. We played some Chinese music while everyone walked in a circle.
When the music stopped each child stopped on a ladybug and counted the number of dots on its back and we drew a number out of a bag. The child on the corresponding number won a prize. The prizes were items we bought in China while we were there, but also a Chinese New Testament and some coins with John 3:16 in Chinese. As each child won a prize we removed that number and ladybug, so each child got a chance to win. (This photo was taken after most of the kids had won and were sitting on the stairs with their prizes...)

We also played a story game, the "Left/Right Game." The children sat in a circle while my daughter read a story she had written. There was a gift to pass around while the story was read. When she said the word "right" (or "Wright" or "write") the gift was passed to the right. When she said "left" it was passed left. It was a cute story she wrote about the "Wright family" and how they celebrated Chinese New Year. (Story below.)
When the story stopped, whoever was left holding the gift got to keep it. In this case, it was a wonderful set of small figures from China representing the 56 people groups. The winner was so excited, because his sister is from one of the people groups!

We had some yummy Chinese take-out from our favorite Chinese buffet in our town. We have made friends with the owner and his wife... His wife is from the province in China that we visit. She helps my daughter with her pronunciation and is very helpful to translate any shirts we buy at Target (or wherever) that have Chinese writing on them... I want to know what they say! We ate lunch at the restaurant and then ordered take out for the party for later. We gave her one of our coins with John 3:16 on it, and she read it with interest. We hope to get to know her better in the future. My daughter has been learning Scripture in Chinese and we want to get her to help her with her pronunciation. What a great opportunity to let God's Word speak for itself, and perhaps open the door for the gospel.

After crafts, games and food, the kids played for awhile upstairs and then we had fun cranking the Chinese "hip hop" music (that we found on iTunes) and then popping party poppers. It was a great time!

If you'd like to learn more about China or Chinese New Year with your kids, here are some additional resources:

Kids On Mission: China

Kids of Courage

Activity Village

Enchanted Learning

Apples 4 the Teacher


Left-Right Game

The Wright family was preparing for the Chinese New Year. For the Wrights, if you did not celebrate Chinese New Year, than that was just not right. The Wright family lives in Fuzhou, China, but they soon left to travel right up the coast to Shanghai, China, where the rest of the Wright family members were left waiting for them to begin the celebration. The Wright family finally arrived at their family's house which was on the left of the street, right across from the market place. Their family was preparing for the New Year by sweeping out the bad luck left over from the last year. Uncle Wright decided to write a good luck poem to hang on the left of the door outside. Grandma Wright gave the little Wright girls a fresh hair cut, and Auntie Wright left to fetch their new gowns. Next, the entire extended Wright family began the celebration right away with a huge feast. The Wright's feast had just the right amount of food to feed each Wright, but left plenty of leftovers for tomorrow. After everybody was finished eating, the Wright family members left the kitchen to stand right outside and pop firecrackers. When there were not any poppers left, there soon came the best part of all, the dragon dance. Each Wright family member left any bad thoughts behind and gathered around as Auntie Wright colored in the left and right eyes of the dragon. The dragon's eyes were now opened so that he could see. The music began blaring from the instruments being played right to the left of them, and the dragon began its dance. Left and right, left, left, left and right and left it swayed. It followed the sun right then left, then right and right again. Left it turned, swaying further and further left, right. Right as the music started to calm down, the dragon reared to the right and came to a halt. The Wright family roared in laughter and applause and each Wright hugged all of the other Wrights. Right at the end of the clapping, each Wright left their places and gathered closer, singing and shouting, Xin Nian Hao! Yes, the Wright family was right, the old year was left far behind and the New Year was finally here.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Election Resources

With Super Tuesday upon us, and amid all the continuing coverage of the caucuses, debates and primaries, the election is in front of our kids at every turn. What a great opportunity to use this time to teach them about it first hand!

I know there are some great resources out there in book form and online, and I'm in the process of scoping them out. I thought I'd share what I've found so far...

If you are a Republican, there is a fun website coordinated by an oh-so-together mom I've "known" for years on the Well-Trained Mind Yahoo group. The site is called and you can join and access it for $5 for an individual or $10 for a family. This site will provide age/grade appropriate lesson plans and interactive activities throughout the election process. We joined today, and I'm currently trying to figure it all out, so I can't post any more details than that! My kids are the perfect age to enjoy logging on and participating in some of the activities, so hopefully it will prove to be useful in the months ahead.

Another resource I've ordered is a Presidential Election Process labbook e-book from Knowledge Box Central. I ordered the 6-12th grade one (linked with the title), but there is one available for K-5th grade here.

Enchanted Learning, which I've loved for years, also has some fun printable election activities here.

I know this is only the tip of the iceberg ballot box, so if there are others you've heard of or are using, let me know!


Blog Widget by LinkWithin