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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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Yesterday I went with Erika to the last session of the National Gallery of Art's winter "Stories in Art" program, where they looked at Chuck Close's fingerprint painting, "Fanny/Fingerpainting." They also read Leo Lionni's "Pezzetino" and tried their hands at fingerprint painting. Erika had a good time, and I think this has really been a good series for getting her thinking about how art is made.

Some pictures of the festivities )
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Today we went down to the National Gallery for a kids' program I hoped Erika would enjoy. She got to do it with her friend Molly, who is just barely not-too-old for the program.

It started out with a visit to see Gerhard Richter's "Abstract Painting 780-1", where the kids were guided through several exercises in observing the painting, including looking at it from top to bottom, side to side, wherever their eyes wandered, and through "binoculars" formed by the hands. That last was actually surprisingly effective in helping you to focus on the details! She asked the kids questions about various aspects of the painting, and it was interesting to see what different kids saw in it -- bugs, trees, a house, a pirate ship, etc.

Picture of Erika viewing the painting )

The next stop was a corner of one of the "Small French Paintings" galleries, to hear the Leo Lionni story, "Little Blue and Little Yellow." On its surface, this story is about color mixing, hence its connection to the Richter painting. I thought it was pretty cool that the kids were having storytime surrounded by art; I happened to notice that a self-portrait of Paul Gauguin was right behind me.

Finally, they took the kids to a big open room with lots of brown paper taped down on the floor, and gave them what appeared to be Crayola Color Wonder paper and paints along with some small squeegees, so they could experiment with Richter's technique.

Erika painting )

Erika had a good time, and I thought it was a well-done program. We will definitely be trying to get back for the second and third programs in the series - it's amazing that stuff like this is available for free!
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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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Today was jam-packed with preschool "homeschooling" activities (aka normal stuff people do with their preschool-aged children). In the morning, we made and played with play dough and went to the "twosies" program. That's sort of a typical library storytime, with a craft project added in and no more than 10 kids. The children's librarian runs it 3 or 4 times a year for a month on Wednesdays; I suppose this might be our last time through it.

In the afternoon, Erika and I made fish collages ) while Karl was napping. Erika is in this phase where she really likes to copy whatever I do with art projects.

This evening, Erika had her first piano lesson with dad, using the My First Piano Adventure book we got from Amazon. It seemed to go pretty well.

To keep Karl busy while they did that, I played Mighty Mind with him. I really wish that product didn't have such annoying marketing, because it's a great game! I actually recently ordered "Super Mind" from the same company, so we'd have two sets of tiles and some more advanced puzzles.

The only thing in there that I really think of as "homeschooling" is the piano lesson, because that's something we probably wouldn't have thought of doing at home if we hadn't decided to homeschool Erika next year.


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August 2014

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