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Erika has played TransAmerica with other people a couple of times, but I played with her for the first time today.

She beat both John and me at the game, and we were playing to win. She read all of the city names herself. I am impressed. Every time Erika learns to play a game, without accommodations, that adults actually find interesting, I am struck again by how much I am enjoying this stage.

In other events of the day, when she was having a total meltdown earlier today, and I asked her what would help, she wanted to watch a nature show on TV -- turned out to be a David Attenborough Wildlife Special about polar bears. I didn't get to see the whole thing, but the part I did see was terrific. They had a camera inside a polar bear den in the winter, so you got to see a tiny little baby polar bear with its mother. I'd never seen that before.

We also talked a bit about the day-to-day routine of we'll be doing in homeschooling when we start up officially in two weeks, and she was excited by the idea of a checklist for the things we'll aim to do during the week. I thought it might be useful for both of us -- for her so she could get some idea of what we're trying to get done, and for me so I would feel accountable for making sure the activities that take more prep work on my part actually happen. My idea is that she could have a fair amount of flexibility about what she wants to do when, something I know is important to her, but with an eye to making sure we more-or-less meet our weekly goals. If that doesn't pan out, we'll re-evaluate.
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We had a fun weekend! On Saturday, we headed out early to help with a stream clean-up effort in honor of Earth Day. After 45 minutes and two bags of trash, we called it quits and took the subway to the University of Maryland for Maryland Day.

It would be possible to spend an entire day at Maryland Day and not run out of things to do, but our kids didn't have that much stamina, so we focused on the arts area. We participated in a movement class, watched a modern dance performance, and enjoyed the instrument petting zoo, where the kids got to try different musical instruments. Erika especially enjoyed the clarinet -- she says she wants one. :-)

This afternoon, Erika and I finished up her pretending to be a paleontologist kit, in which she dug up dinosaur bones.

Pictures of paleontology )

I was impressed with her attention span for this project, as it was pretty difficult to get the plastic bones out of the plaster. She probably spent at least five hours on it, spread out over the course of three or four days.
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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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Today we got a Judy Clock used from someone on Homeschool Classifieds, and of course the kids wanted to use it right away. While Karl was napping, Erika asked to do math, so I suggested that we do some work on telling time.

I'd been planning to use the Math Mammoth Clock Worktext with Erika next year, but since she was interested today, I bought it and printed out the first few pages. Of course I could have just talked with her about it and let her play with the clock, but I find that Erika is much more willing to do enough work with an idea to really get it when we use someone else's curriculum. She doesn't respond well to having me suggest that she needs more practice with something, but she's willing to put in the practice when it was the curriculum author's idea. The concepts in the Math Mammoth workbook made sense to her, and she even successfully wrote things like "half past seven" and "six o'clock." I think it likely that she'll continue to be interested.

After we'd worked with telling time for a while, she asked to do some number line work, and then did half a page of Miquon as well.

She also finished lesson 49 in the Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading today, which we started using a few weeks ago when she expressed interest in a more formal approach to reading instruction. She seems excited that tomorrow, we'll be starting initial consonant blends -- something she's certainly encountered before, but not with the same degree of depth. I'd say that she doesn't particularly LIKE the Ordinary Parent's Guide, but it is helping her make progress with reading.

Right before dinner, the kids were watching an episode of a German TV show, "Die Sendung mit dem Elefanten," which happened to feature a science experiment. It involved lighting a candle in a plateful of water and then putting a glass over the candle to watch the candle extinguish and water get pulled up into the glass.

We decided to duplicate it after dinner and have further discussion. Some photos of the experiment )

Erika seemed to have a pretty good understanding of what was going on, especially since John was able to remind her of recent conversations they'd had about the three things fires need.
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Yesterday started off with swimming lessons for both kids, alternating with time at the library. Erika and I began at the library, where we read a book called, "Boy, Were We Wrong About Dinosaurs". Interesting book, and worthwhile for me because so much has changed in the 30 or so years since I last knew very much about dinosaurs.

Erika really impressed me at swimming. She's taking a course called "Pre-Beginner 3," which is the first class where they really learn independent swimming and work in water too deep for the kids to stand on the bottom. It was the third session, and in the previous two, they'd been working on the basic crawl. Erika was doing pretty well with it, managing to propel herself forward in a reasonably straight line more or less on the surface of the water. Then yesterday, the teacher introduced swimming on one's back. Erika took to that very well, and seemed to be having a great time. I was amazed watching her swim back and forth on her back, without any help from the teacher. At the end, Erika told me she'd enjoyed swimming because she was able to do everything. This was a far cry from five minutes before swimming started, when she told me that she didn't like anything about swim lessons and they weren't fun.

In the afternoon, we went down to the National Gallery of Art, where we looked at some impressionist paintings. Erika and I had read about Van Gogh in the Usborne Book of Famous Paintings, so we made it a special point to see a couple of his paintings, and happened upon a self-portrait of Paul Gauguin. We also looked at some Monet, Renoir, and Cassatt before the kids ran out of steam.

Continuing in the art theme, this morning John and Erika stumbled into doing some shared art. They did a series of crayon drawings of the seasons, taking turns adding elements to the pictures. Erika also drew a picture of a carnivorous dinosaur.

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