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We were supposed to meet my parents at the Maryland Science Center today, but after they had to cancel, we decided to go anyway.

The kids had a great time. Karl especially loved the musical ball machine, though this one is different from the one I knew as a child at the Franklin Institute or the one at the Boston Museum of Science, in that it is kid-powered. Also, instead of using pool balls, it uses smaller balls, a couple of which are much heavier than the others and wind up going down a completely different path in the machine. I thought it was very well done, and Karl loved it.

Erika especially liked the pneumatic tubes in the children's section (kind of like a children's museum inside a science museum). You could write messages on pieces of paper, stick them in the capsules, and shoot them across the room through the tube.

A couple of pictures )

We will definitely be going back!
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This week I visited the used book sale at the Wheaton Library, and came out with a pile of great stuff, including a 5-year-old DK/Merriam-Webster Children's Dictionary, the third- and fourth-grade volumes of the "What Your X Grader Needs to Know" series (I already had K, 1, and 6, so now I just need 2 and 5 for a complete set), and a couple of Dr. Seuss books.

I feel as though Erika has turned a corner in reading. She's realized that she can easily read many words in books for small children, which makes sitting down to try to puzzle the rest of the words out more interesting. She's also exhibited some interest in reading together, asking for help with words she doesn't know. My sense is that reading is likely to take off pretty quickly for her now that she's reached this point. Today at the Natural History Museum, she read a simple book she'd never seen before in the gift shop. Yesterday, she read the entirety of "Hop on Pop," a book I don't think she'd ever heard read aloud, without much help. She's also picked up the BOB books again, which she had set aside after reaching a point where they became too difficult; this week she read books six and seven in Costco collection 3 -- I think these are toward the end of set 4 in the regular BOB book boxes.

Today we went back to the Natural History Museum with John, so he and Karl could go off on their own while Erika and I spent more time drawing in the Mammals exhibit. Erika spent about 45 minutes drawing before she'd had enough. She drew a tiger, a walrus, a panda, a caracal, a giraffe, a fennec, and some kind of hopping mouse -- I only had time to draw the walrus, the giraffe, a fox, and the beginnings of a zebra during that time. I'm amazed at her endurance for drawing.

Afterwards, we went up the Old Post Office Tower, where the kids enjoyed looking out at the city. I particularly liked watching the airplanes take off and land at National airport.
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This morning, we decided to head down to the Natural History Museum -- our fourth major outing in the last week (we've also been to the zoo, the American History Museum, and the College Park Aviation Museum). I'm amazed at how much easier it is to take the kids to a museum by myself than it was even a couple of months ago. Karl still lacks patience, but it's a lot better than it was. Erika even managed to sketch in the Mammals exhibit while he played on the iPod for 15 minutes.

We tried to see the new exhibit on human prehistory, but the electricity was out in that part of the museum, so we've decided to go back tomorrow (!) to see it. We did get to watch a tarantula being fed in the insect zoo, and the kids got to hold a giant cricket and pet an Australian Stick Insect, which Erika thought was especially cool. Karl's particular wish was to see the Mammoths, so we visited the Ice Age exhibit, which I'm not sure I'd ever seen before. The giant ground sloths were quite impressive, and Erika loved the saber-toothed cats.

Later in the afternoon, Erika had me read to her from the encyclopedia on saber-toothed cats, foxes, arctic foxes, and wolves -- obviously, that encyclopedia is getting a lot of use here. She then went on to draw foxes based on the pictures in the encyclopedia. She's been focusing a lot on drawing realistic back legs on her animals lately, and I'm pretty impressed with how it's been going.

We even managed to get another reading lesson in; it was number 76 in the Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading. She read the sentences in the lesson more quickly and easily than usual, too. Yay!
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I just discovered a fantastic podcast from the British Museum and the BBC -- A History of the World in 100 Objects.

It's a series of 10-15 minute lectures, each on a single item in the British Museum's collection. So far they've done 30, ranging from a stone knife almost TWO MILLION years old, to a fabulous gold lion coin from 2500 years ago. The person doing most of the talking, Neil Macgregor, is the curator of the British Museum, and in the podcasts I've heard so far, he does a great job.

I am loving this both because it is increasing my knowledge of history, and because I love the British Museum. I'll definitely have a greater appreciation of certain objects next time I go there!

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