Tuesday, April 15, 2014

7 Resources for Learning About the Human Body

One science/health topic we have come back to again and again in our homeschooling studies is the human body. Following are a few of the resources we have enjoyed using.

Note: These are all more general resources, but we also tend to study one particular component in depth each time we revisit our body study. Right now we are reviewing the skeletal system. (So, look for a similar post of resources for exploring bones in the near future.)

Picture This: Human Body by Margaret Hynes
This very thorough and cleverly illustrated book explains everything from cells to nerves to DNA. Covers all the major body systems in an easy-to-understand way.

American Girl: The Care and Keeping of You
Agent E is a huge fan of the American Girl historical fiction books. When I saw this I knew she would love it. We have looked at it together, and she has read most parts of it on her own. A lot of it talks about things she wont be dealing with for a few years at least, but its an informative, fun and accessible book about body changes.

Who Has What? All About Girls’ Bodies and Boys’ Bodies and 
What’s in There: All About Before You Were Born by Robie H. Harris
Straightforward and kid-friendly and just overall lovely books. Appropriate for very young children, although the Senior Agents are also amused and enjoyed reading these tremendously.

We discovered this website a while back when Agent J became a patient at one of the Nemours locations near us. (She sees a pediatric pulmonologist for her asthma, which she may not even have, which . . . okay, don’t even get me started.) Anyway, the folks there are great and we were pleased to find this site. The girls love watching the videos about the body and puttering around the site, which also covers illnesses, safety, and a whole bunch of other topics.

Agent E loves these (free) Kindle games. The first (as the title would indicate) is a puzzle where you place body parts in the correct spot. You can choose bones or organs, and easy to difficult (basically with and without “hints”). The second is sort of a set of virtual flash cards with interesting, obscure, and sometimes downright bizarre facts about the human body.

What resources would you suggest for learning human anatomy in the elementary years?

Linking up with List It Tuesday, co-hosted by Angie at Many Little Blessings and Kris at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

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Friday, April 11, 2014

7 Quick Takes Friday: Activities, Clutter, and Perspective

Hello and welcome, friends. Happy Friday. As usual, I’m sharing seven random thoughts about my week and linking up with other 7QT peeps.

1. Do your kids participate in any organized activities? Mine do not, and I find that most folks look at me like I have at least four heads when I share this information. When did it become “necessary” for young children to have something they “go to” or “do” on a regular basis? How did it get to the point where if you don’t encourage this you are the oddball parent?

2. Related to number one, I’ve also had to explain to someone recently that yes, my children do get plenty of exercise even though they don’t have P.E. as part of a school curriculum or participate in an adult-led team sport. Really. It’s a special at-home program called opening the patio door and kicking them outside into the back yard. (Not literally. You know what I mean.)

3. Earlier this week I shared this post about eliminating mental clutter, particularly where social media and online reading is concerned. While I think that eventually I will start adding back in a few of the things I deleted, for now I am getting used to a much smaller feed and spending a lot less time distracted by the online world of over-information. I even found time to read four actual, paper, turn the pages books in the last two weeks, something I hadn’t done in an embarrassingly long time.

4. In regards to number three, pages and blogs and websites are one thing, but personal Facebook friends are a different story. I quietly “unfriended” about a dozen people recently. I have a few basic guidelines with Facebook friends: Relatives (even ones I see rarely or don’t even know well) almost always stay. Same with Navy connections; I don’t burn bridges where that is concerned. Local friends that I actually see and/or spend time with, definitely. What gets iffy is when I friend someone local I don’t end up ever seeing/talking to again outside of Facebook. And of course there’s that whole issue of long-ago friends, college and high school and earlier, and then it becomes tricky. I found that I had “friended” some people from my past out of pure curiosity, not a genuine interest in keeping in touch. Yet, I still feel weird letting these connections go. Darn you, Facebook, for making this so awkward.

5. Took all three Agents for haircuts yesterday. The Senior Agents were fine, but Agent A . . . let’s just say I probably should have tipped the poor stylist more than I did. Had my turn today . . . haircut and pedicure while the Agents hung out with Miss Erika, Best Babysitter Ever. Win-win.

This was the *best* picture I could get
of them, post-haircuts. (Yeah; I know)
6. May I indulge in a mini-gripe? Thanks. I find myself cringing when I hear any reference to “making learning fun." Learning IS fun. What we need to do is stop making it so damn boring. (~end rant~)

7. Closing on a more serious note. It shouldn’t take someone else’s tragedy to change your perspective, but yet it often does, doesn’t it? This week a family on my husband’s ship lost their three-year-old son. Head injury from a freak accident . . . just . . . unbelievable. Needless to say all of Agent A’s three-year-old-little-boy-isms have been much more understandable and tolerable the last few days. So sad and scary and heartbreaking. 

Go hug those babies.

Linking up with 7 Quick Takes Friday hosted by Jennifer at Conversion Diary.

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Monday, April 7, 2014

Letting Go of Mental Clutter

I’ve been having some issues with my eyes lately. Nothing too worrisome. . . I’m probably just getting old and need reading glasses. I did (do) have a non-serious infection in one eye that is clearing up with drops. 

But for the past few weeks I’ve really noticed how tired, red, and irritated my eyes get when I spend too much time on the computer. (Ahem.) I just can’t do that kind of close work frequently anymore, and therefore ended up with kind of an unintended break from blogging, commenting, interacting as much as I’d like. 

I don’t mean to go all blessings-in-disguise-nothing-happens-by-accident on you, but I do think this is/was ultimately a good thing.


Because it forced me to evaluate what I really want to look at when I’m online and what is simply mental clutter. I had to admit to myself was how much time I spent following pointless leads and wasting brain space. I began to notice how often I click on links, blogs, and pages that get me riled up for no reason, even when they are well-intentioned and even when I agree with them completely.

I simply don’t have time to do this when I only break out the laptop once a day for a limited amount of time.

I’m sure I have mental clutter in other areas of my life that could use a good spring cleaning as well, but for the purposes of this post I’m focusing on what I read/follow online. (Mostly Facebook, but only because I’m still so new to Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest that I haven’t managed to mangle those yet.)

Oh, I’ve tried this before. But to be perfectly honest, my past attempts were akin to rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Yes, it made me feel better temporarily. Yes, it looked nicer and neater and more streamlined. But, in the end it was still a disaster.

So, even though it’s something I’ve done previously with mixed results, I once again completely re-evaluated what I’m reading/spending time on and why. I considered things like the following:
  • Are those positive parenting, don’t yell at the kids, find the joy in motherhood, here are some helpful tips pages motivating me? Or giving me one more thing to file away under am I doing this right? Are they truly uplifting, or just adding unnecessary stress?
  • What about following/reading articles on vaccination and other science-related topics? Is it doing me any good to get in a huff over this daily? Do I need to nod my head along with folks who agree with me?
  • Here’s one that was hard to look at: group homeschooling blogs. Were these really helping me in my journey, or giving me too much information to process? Do I really need to take this in every single day? Do I need to read other peoples’ problems/questions on a regular basis? Do I feel compelled to respond?
What did I do differently this time? What did I cut out of my social media world now that I couldn’t see as contributing to the problem in the past?

For starters, I stopped reading all of the above. With very few exceptions, I no longer have these “encouraging” articles coming through my newsfeed. Even the really “good” ones which promote all sorts of positive things and give terrific suggestions and which I’ve felt connected to for years. I no longer have the desire to take in this much information, no matter how relevant and useful it may appear on the surface.

I also limited the number of personal blogs/pages I follow on a regular basis to about 30. This number will likely increase, but for now I want to concentrate on supporting individual parenting/homeschooling bloggers I feel I can relate to on some level. I’d rather have a few interesting blogs to read than a newsfeed full of mediocre ones.

I made a conscious effort to not follow interesting-sounding links that have nothing to do with my personal life. (So long, HuffPost and Thought Catalog and Buzz Feed.) I don’t have time to read about/think about problems I don’t have. 

All but one news source, gone. (For the record, I chose BBC World News, which I only follow on Facebook. They tweet stories/headlines obsessively—it was overtaking my Twitter feed—but share a manageable amount of main stories on Facebook.) I found that most other news entities, particularly U.S.-based ones, were often sharing a lot of “excess” in the way of entertainment and other unimportant non-news. I need to know what’s going on in the world, but I don’t have time to weed through chatter to get to the basics.

I want what I interact with online to rejuvenate me, not stress me out further. I’ve had to accept that sometimes what I think is “helping” me become a better parent, a better homeschooler, a better whatever is just . . . not.

What helps you to keep the mental clutter to a minimum? What are you still reading/responding to that it’s time to let go?

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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Homeschooling Notes, March 2014

I never really wrote a summary of any kind for February, unless you count what I shared in this day in the life post. In January I still thought I was going to be All On Top Of Things and writing weekly updates. That didn’t last long, and the last one I wrote was for the third and fourth weeks of the month. (Yes; I had to combine them. See? I couldn’t even do that right.)

Anyhoo . . . I think that monthly updates are more my speed, and they are also easier to write and make coherent, as we tend to take more of a long view when it comes to schooling around here. It’s hard to parse exactly what we do day-to-day and week-to-week, but when I look at a larger chunk of time (like a whole month) I can sit back and say, hey . . . we did actually learn stuff.


We are continuing to work through the third grade math workbook we started in December. This month we reviewed multiplication and division facts, as well as estimating, greater than/less than, and place value.


Not as much reading happened this month compared to others. Oh, she still read about 15 fiction books (averaging one every two days) but in months past that number has been more like 30. I think the renewed interest in the outdoors (of not just Agent E, but all three) contributed to this. Some of the time she would have normally been in her room reading (e.g., late morning, or early afternoon following lunch) she has been in the back yard instead.

I think I’ve also come to the conclusion that her “dislike” of writing is not that she doesn’t enjoy the process of stringing words and stories together itself, but that she does not like the physical act of writing. She might be holding the pencil weird, or just not enjoy the actual fine motor movement of printing, or tense up for whatever reason. I don’t know what (if anything) to do about this. Maybe I just need to teach her how to type. Anyone else have a child who sounds like this?

The Agents have been doing this a lot

For science we had this crazy idea that we would study every topic mentioned in Here Comes Science. We quickly realized this was too many subjects, so we concentrated on just a few: the color spectrum, cells, and the scientific method. We also spent a good deal of time talking/reading about dental hygiene and taking care of the teeth. (And yes, it included a semi-disastrous trip to the dentist, probably worth a post of its own.)

Social Studies

We had kind of a lofty goal this month to study both the War of 1812 and WWII . . . and we only got to one of them. It’s really hard to get into the details of war with a 7-year-old. I never really quite know what is enough vs. too much information. But, she can tell you who the U.S. fought in the war of 1812, what we were fighting over, and how long it lasted. (Which is probably more than many adults know.) We used Caroline’s American Girl study as a starting point for talking about what the (very young) United States was like at that period in history. Agent E was particularly fascinated and amused by the options (or lack thereof) for communicating and traveling across continents.


Agent E once again renewed her interest in film production. We’ve been reading books on movie magic and special effects and watching some YouTube videos that show behind the scenes of some familiar shows. We even found a book of annotated scripts of the original Star Wars trilogy that we followed along with. I also gave the Senior Agents our old video camera and let them have at it. Results were predictably hilarious. 


Agent J continues to expand her reading list . . . she is now reading some of the same fiction books Eva read at the end of first grade/beginning of second grade. She spends lots of time playing outside, creating art in various forms, and, you know, being five. She is also working on her own comic book, which I cannot wait to see.

Up for April

For math we are going to concentrate on adding and subtracting larger numbers (up to four digits, with carrying and borrowing). We will continue to work on writing in some capacity . . . maybe I will try a typing lesson. For science we are going to return to our study of the human body. We’ll try to get back to World War II and likely continue our study of movies as well. I may even try to show Agent E how to use some of the movie editing functions on iMovie, but that might be a bit much right now.

Hope you and your students are having a wonderful April so far.

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