Monthly Archives: February 2012

All in a Day’s Work

One of AV’s jobs at the S.C. Aquarium is to identify specimens that are brought in by patrons.  He has become adept at skull ID and even asked for this App for Christmas. (I can not encourage you enough to get this app!)  He also uses the Skulls Unlimited Catalogue (worth getting, too)!

Recently, when we were hunting we ran across a partial skeleton. AV put it aside to work with at the Aquarium.  It took about four hours to assemble these front paws.

Initially we thought it was a fox.  As he assembled the bones, it became obvious that the paws were not formed in the manner that we thought the fox’s would be formed.

AV’s boss was great and began looking for a coon’s paws.  No dice. He found an image made in the 1700’s that was not good enough quality to use as a road map.

So back to matching bones from scratch.  Eventually almost all the bones were assembled to form the two front paws of the coon.

I think he is ready for the archeology trip next week!



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Filed under AV, Biology, Practical Life - Elementary, Projects, Science, Students

DW: Sugar Gliders Compered to Flying Squirrels

Sugar gliders and flying squirrels look alike and live a similar life style.  My family and I discovered a creature in the attic.  We narrowed it down to two animals, a sugar glider and a flying squirrel.  Using observation and information at hand, we discovered it ate nuts and formed a theory of which animal it was.

Sugar Gliders compared to Flying SquirrelsSugar gliders are marsupials.  They are native to Australia and Indonesia.  Sugar gliders are rare because people will cut down trees, and destroy sugar gliders habitat.  Since sugar gliders live in cavities in the trees, the cut down trees will leave the sugar glider falling to their doom.  For these reasons, it is illegal to even to touch or get to close to a sugar glider in Australia.  Sugar gliders feed on insects and fruits.  Sugar gliders also eat sap, nectar, or anything else sweet.  Export or breeding of sugar gliders is illegal, but people export them illegally.  Now people in the United States are breeding them, and sugar gliders have  become popular pets.

Flying squirrels are found all over the North American Continent.  Flying squirrels are common, but are not see because they are nocturnal.  They make nests in birdhouses, tree cavities, high-up holes, abandoned buildings, and attics.  Flying squirrels feed on nuts, fruit, sap, bark, seeds, and insects.  There are many predators to flying squirrels such as: owls, cats, raccoons, snakes, and fishers. Flying squirrels are often pets.

Both flying squirrels and sugar gliders are similar in size.  If you held both a sugar glider and a flying squirrel together they would fit into you hand.  With eyes to big for their body it makes them look super cute.  These eyes help them see in the dark.  The both have a flap of skin and a flat tail to help them fly.  The flap of skin is called the patagium, and stretches the front wrist to the back wrist.  They both have extremely soft fur.  Their tail not only help the fly, but adds to it’s cuteness.

Although sugar gliders and flying squirrels have a lot in common, they also are different in many ways.  For starters sugar gliders are marsupials, flying squirrels are squirrels.  They both live on opposite sides of the earth.  The facial markings are different, sugar gliders have a stripe down their face ending on their back.  Also their ears are pointy, like elves.  The foods they eat are different than the other.

You might have guessed, we thought it was a flying squirrel.  The flying squirrel is now released and back into the wild.  So it was a happy ending, because we learned about something, the squirrel learned something (never go into an attic.) And we had an experience we would never forget.


Filed under Biology, DW, English Language, Science, Students, Writing

JV is on the Etsy

JV has worked to start his Etsy Shop for Josiah’s Dry Goods.  It is a work in progress.  Please stop by and help him make it better.

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Filed under Montessori

BW – The whole story first

BW has been working out division using the stamp game. If the math was not too complicated he could work out one digit divisor problems (ie: 452 divided by 5).  So, in the fashion for BW to settle into deeper learning, I pulled out the racks and tubes and we began two unit divisors (ie: 45672 divided by 46).  He is overwhelmed.  This is good.  He needs to be beyond his on logic to not be distracted from his work.

(He is cleaning up the work here. I couldn’t grab the camera until he had completed his problem.)

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Filed under BW, Mathematics, Racks and Tubes - division, Students

Circles and Crosses

G. K. Chesterton is fascinated with the imagery of circles and crosses.  He spends some time on the topic in Orthodoxy.  (Incidentally this book convinced me of the need to have a fairy tale focus in the late Casa and early Lower against Dr. Montessori’s advice – I think it is a modern world issue.)

Jeff Dunn posted a Lenten thought over on Internet Monk that deals with the circle and the cross.  We are in a geometry kick right now, so this discussion with some modification lent itself to a elementary lesson.  I commend the “adult” version over at Internet Monk to you as it contains an idea that I removed in the “children’s” version.

 Circle and the Paradox

Materials:     Paper x 2               Drawer of Circles                    Pencil

Purpose:  To provide a thoughtful Lenten lesson to the elementary age child using materials that they know so they will be reminded of it when they use those materials.

The Lesson:

The circle is the basis for most higher mathematics. It led to what we now know as advanced geometry and calculus. From the circle we get the wheel which, along with gears (also circles), puts the world around us in motion. The circle, if drawn properly, is a perfect shape. There are 360 points, or degrees, in your circle, each one equidistant from the center point. If you draw a straight line from the center point to the any point on the circle, you have the radius. A line that goes from one point on the circle to another while passing through the center point is the diameter. The distance around the circle is called the circumference. The ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter is measured as pi, an irrational number, meaning its digits never repeat and never end. It short form, pi is equal to 3.14159. Modern computers have been able to measure pi in digits exceeding a trillion without the sequence repeating.

Please choose a circle from the drawer of circles.

This circle will be the only thing on the paper.  Choose where you would like to place the circle carefully.  I’ll give you a minute to ever so carefully trace your circle.


Let’s look at our circle.  The circle is about as perfect of a shape as you will find.

It seems perfectly plausible to make the circle the symbol for the Christian life. Many of us want our Christian lives to be like the circle. We have Jesus as our center, and everything revolves around him. What is wrong with that? We use the Bible as the radius, checking and rechecking verses in the Bible to be sure we are staying in proper orbit around the center, Jesus. Each point in our lives, all 360 of them, must stay in the proper place, otherwise we might become warped in our thinking. Then we will not be able to turn like a circle should. We will be “out of round.” If that happens, get the Bible and find out where we have gone wrong. Our goal is to stay a perfect circle.

Can you make the circle bigger?  Not a circle in your mind.  But the circle on the page.

Give the time for the children to mull this over and provide ideas.  Guide them to the thought that the only way is with an eraser, but that they have worked so hard to carefully trace it.  It seems such a shame.

There is no growth, of course. We can’t make our circle any larger–we would have to deconstruct it first, and that would involve great pain, great stress, incredible turmoil. No, that is not what we want at all. Peace–that’s what a circle is. Perfect and peaceful. Why mess with that?

When something can’t change it is called finite.  The circle is a finite shape.  It cannot grow larger or smaller. Look again at the circle you drew on your paper.   If I took my pencil and added a dot – one point – on the circle do I have a perfect circle any longer?

Give the time to think this through and listed that it would be a slight oval or ellipse.  Hmmm.

Ahh so it won’t be a circle.  In order to make the circle even one degree larger, you will have to recreate the entire circle. You can’t just stick another dot in there and make it larger. A circle is 360 degrees period.

If you want a circle with a larger diameter, you have to start over. Circles may be a perfect shape, but they cannot change. They are stuck being what they are.

Let’s make another drawing on the second piece of paper.  You must listen carefully. This is not going to come from the geometric cabinet.


Draw one vertical line.  What is a vertical line again?

Give the time for the children say that it goes up and down the page.

It doesn’t have to be perfectly straight.  You can make it as long as you want it to be.  What looks like a good length to you?

Now, starting about a third of the way from the top of this line, draw a horizontal line through the vertical line. Make it as large or small as you like.  Do you know what a horizontal line looks like?

Pause and wait for the children to answer or demonstrate.  (The reason for this is so that the child who doesn’t know is given a chance to learn from the group.)

What have you drawn?

Listen to the responses.  Remind the children this is not a shape because it isn’t a closed figure like all the geometric shapes.  Discuss the differences “Wow.  You made yours so much longer on your vertical than your horizontal.”  “I wonder if there is only one exact way to draw a cross?”

Yes this is a cross. A cross is not a perfect shape. Euclid did not use a cross when he developed our modern theories of geometry. It is not perfect in any sense. Just two lines that intersect somewhere.

Yet for the Christian, the cross is where our lives end, and where they begin. You cannot be a Christian without the cross.

And the place where the two lines intersect? That we can call the paradox of Christianity. An intersection of two ideas that don’t go together.  Christian paradoxes are things that our minds can’t understand but faith allows us to know is truth.

God becoming man. Now really–how can the God who created the entire universe shrink himself to become a newborn baby?


God the man suffering and dying. Again, how can that be? How can God, who is the creator of life, succumb to death?


There are many other paradoxes that form the teaching Christians are to follow. To be rich, you must become poor.


To live, you must die.


The weak person is the strongest.


You want to get even with an enemy?

Pause. Love him.

Remember my circle.  Remember how I cannot grow in my circle. It is finite. It cannot be other than what it is.

But look at the cross you drew. Use your pencil and extend one of the lines, any one you like.

While the children are drawing continue.  Draw it to the edge of the paper. Then onto your table, across the floor, out the window, across your lawn to your neighbor’s house. The lines of the cross are infinite. They can go on forever.  They can cross nations and continents and our galaxy into the corners of the universe.


So this day you must choose. Do you live in your safe, perfect circle?

Or do you embrace the cross of paradox?

There is safety and predictability in the circle. And when people look at you, they see symmetry. A circle is nice and neat and tidy. People will look at you and see a good person. The circle is a place where you can have a nice, safe life.

Or do you choose the cross?

Two lines, unevenly drawn, that intersect in paradoxes.


Now before you choose one should think carefully.

The cross challenges you.  There are challenges to what you think is right.


Things are turned upside down from what you think they should be.


You are called to believe when you can’t see. You are told to trust when it doesn’t make sense. And here is the kicker. The cross means your death. It is the death of you being in charge. Death of you controlling what is right and what is wrong. It means you are dead—and the life you now live is Christ Jesus living through you.

Pause.   Pause.

Is our God a tame lion?


No!  He won’t do as you please. He will lead you to places you didn’t think you should go. He will not stay nice and round.  People, especially people  that like neat and tidy lives in their circle, will tell you just how wrong you are to be doing what you do.


The only consolation you have is that you will be walking the way of the cross with Jesus.


And really, what else is there to consider?


Filed under Montessori

DW – Hydroponics

The trip to the hydroponic garden included the entire home school group.  It was extremely cold that day, but as soon as I walked into the greenhouse I began to wish I had worn shorts and a T-shirt.

The first thing I noticed were the tomato vines with tomatoes along the bottom; the owners had wrapped them among the bottom so when the tomatoes were ripe they were easier to pick. Down one row they had planted cucumbers, huge cucumbers.

Among the cucumbers there were ” bee hives.” Bee hives were actually cardboard boxes full of bees and larvae.  Every couple of months they have to replace the hive.

Not only do they grow tomatoes and cucumbers, they also grow lettuce and basil. After our tour we bought lettuce, tomatoes, and a cucumber. The lettuce and tomatoes were delicious on a salad. You could taste the difference between the store bought ones and the hydroponics.

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Filed under AV, Botany, BW, DW, gardening, Going outs (Field Trips), JV, MMcC, Practical Life - Elementary, Science, Students

Plants! Plants! Rulers!

We are working through the Montessori Botany Lessons using the Botany Charts.  I’ve asked the children to create their own renditions of the charts. This helps me assess what they have taken from the lessons and helps them work through precision in the elementary.

Here is an excellent video discussing the purpose of the charts and the proper order for discussions: first the real world and then the impressionistic chart.

Along with these charts there are a series of demonstrations (not experiments).  BW couldn’t bear to allow his bean seedlings to die.  Initially we were looking at root hairs and the way they grow.  To do this we inserted five seeds into a small glass beaker filled with sand.  We covered the glass with dark papers and made sure the sand was damp.  In no time, BW was excited.  There they were – all five sprouted!

We’ve gone ahead and planted them in a pot.  BW has named them and drawn a key so he can keep track of his names.  He then measures growth each time he visits.  This is where we are.  He is carefully watching the growth of the plants.  He is observing how beans grow their leaves.  There was a near casualty to one of the five which has brought us to additional discussion meristematic tissue.


Filed under Art, Botany, BW, DW, gardening, Practical Life - Elementary, Science, sketching, Students