Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Watch Our Bean Plant Grow Up Close

Spring is almost here, and we are getting excited! To get us ready for spring, Little BBQ picked out two books on gardening, How Groundhog’s Garden Grew by Lynne Cherry and Strega Nona’s Harvest by Tomie De Paola.  Both books were a lot of fun. Strega Nona’s Harvest focused more on sharing your harvest while How Groundhog’s Garden Grew focused on how seeds grew into plants.
 Being inspired by the groundhog book we decided to watch a bean plant grow using the method outlined in 101 Great Science Experiments by Neil Ardley. We checked on our bean plant daily and watered it as needed. One week after planting the bean, we had a little bean plant. We identified the parts of the plant. Then, to observe the plant closer we used a handheld microscope to view the different parts of the plant.
The leaf with a vein running through it:
The furry stem:
The slick root:

Once it gets warmer outside we plant to plant our bean plat outside, and if we get a harvest, we will share our harvest just like in Strega Nona’s Harvest. 
Materials to watch your bean plant grow modified from 101 Great Science Experiments p 60
1 paper towel
1 dry bean
1 clear glass jar
1.       Wet the paper towel and squeeze out the excess water.
2.       Lay the glass jar on the side, and lay the bean about halfway down the glass jar. 
3.       Place the paper towel in the glass jar and along the backside of the bean. Mold the paper towel to the bean so that it provides support for the bean when you turn the jar back up right.
4.       Water the bean as needed when the paper towel gets dry. 
5.       Watch your bean plant grow!
6.       Identify the roots, stem, and leaves.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Book: Terrible Storm

On our usual weekly library run, Little BBQ picked out the book, Terrible Storm by Carol Otis Hurst.  The book is about the blizzard of March 1888 that left the north east covered in a thick layer of snow for 3 days.  The book is about two men with opposite personalities and that ended up waiting out the snow storm in opposite but unpleasant ways.  For a preschooler, the book this really brings into the light the idea of opposites.   With Little BBQ I asked if he would rather be in a room full of people or a room full of animals, and he responded a room full of animals, so for our art project corresponding to the book he drew a picture of himself in a room full of people, the opposite of what he would have wanted.  To make the snow, he took the eraser end of a pencil and dipped into white paint. 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Sketch it Tuesday: Things that grow on the farm

This is our first time participating in Sketch it Tuesday.  Little BBQ has begun drawing pictures where you can actually identify things in his drawings, so I decided that this would be a cool thing for us participate in.  Little BBQ is a perfectionist, so he wants his sketch to be perfect. I am trying to encourage him to go with the flow. The sketch is of a strawberry, grapes, and a leaf.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Noncontact Method of Painting with Watercolors

Little BBQ is a hands on learner. He loves to get his hands dirty and create something. I am always searching for some fun new projects for him to dive try out.  I came across a watercolor book at Goodwill. The book, Watercolor: Red Yellow Blue by John R. Koser is written for adults, but I have been able to translate some of the techniques for young artists. One activity that we have been doing is called noncontact method.  In this method, parts of the canvas are covered by mat board so they will not get paint on them. Then a tooth brush is used to splatter paint onto the open areas of the canvas. Mr. Koser uses primary colors to create his paintings. To create a green section, he would splatter paint yellow and blue. By doing this he is adding depth to his paintings.  Within his paintings you can see some of the primary colors come through instead of a solid block of green.  By doing splatter painting, he is adding texture to his paintings.  The noncontact method allows him to block off complete parts of his painting to focus the colors into one section. For example, if he wanted to make a red barn, he would block off everything but the barn and splatter paint red on the barn. To add some lighting effects, he could add a little bit of yellow where light is shining on the barn and a little blue to create some shadows. In the end, you will end up with a very unique looking barn.
For Little BBQ, this is too much information, but I did want him to focus on the mixing of colors.  When we did his color blocking, I allowed him to use up to 3 paints per section so we could make observations about the colors and how they mix together. We also discussed which colors were more dominant.  I allowed him to add as much or as little color as he wanted to each color block.  Like all preschool art, it is far from perfect. You can see sometimes he smashed the paper too hard when he went to cover it up causing the colors to smudge together. Another time he put the wet toothbrush on top of his work causing the water stain to stay on the paper. These are usual things for preschool art. I think at this age the act of doing the process, exploring, and observing is far more important that the end result.
Materials Needed (inspired by Watercolor: Red Yellow Blue pp 82-83)
1 crayon or pencil in any color
1 sheet of construction paper or other heavy weight paper
Scissors (I cut the paper for Little BBQ since he does not have the coordination to make sharp turns while cutting)
1 sheet of white paper
Old toothbrush
Watercolor paints (you can use a full set of colors or just the three primary colors)
Water (to rinse the toothbrush)
1.       Draw a picture on the construction paper. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It can simply be some scribbled lines.
2.       With the help of an adult, cut the individual shapes out of the paper. Make sure to save the cut out shapes.
3.       Tape over the cut lines on the paper to make the construction paper stronger.
4.       Place the construction paper over a sheet of white paper and cover up all the cut out holes with the corresponding cut out shapes except for one hole.
5.       Using the toothbrush, splatter paint the exposed hole. You can use up to 3 colors in each hole.
6.       Once a hole is filled with color, cover it with the corresponding cut out shape.
7.       Uncover another hole and continue repeating steps 5, 6, and 7 until all the cut out holes are filled with paint.
8.       Remove the construction paper, and your painting is finished!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Very Hungry Little Caterpillar

The Very Hungry Little Caterpillar art activity

Once a week we go to the library and stash up on books to read for the week. Last week we got the classic children’s book, The Very Hungry Little Caterpillar by Eric Carle. The book has wonderful colored pictures a very simple story that early readers can read by themselves.  The hole through the food is ingenious and Little BBQ’s favorite part. The book also teaches children about the life cycle of a butterfly.  I used the book to help teach Little BBQ about sequencing of events. We discuss what comes first in the life cycle of the butterfly and relate that to how human babies grow up to be adults. To end our study of the book we did an art project showing the life cycle of a butterfly. The leaf cut outs were leftovers from a thankful tree that we completed around Thanksgiving. The egg is a marshmallow. The little caterpillar is made of a series of marshmallows. The big caterpillar is made of pom poms, and the butterfly is made of a coffee filter and a twist tie. 

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Feeding Birds in Winter

We recently moved to a new house. While the inside of the house is great, I was concerned that the backyard had no signs of life. No birds outside singing in the morning. No squirrels running through the trees. Nothing. Not even insects. My lifeless yard made me antsy. Was there no sign of life because a predator is hiding in some not so distance trees, was there a pollutant causing all the wildlife to die, or was there a shortage of food for the animals?

To bring life and energy back into my backyard, Little BBQ and I made some bird food for the birds. Since it is winter time here, we took wild bird seed mix from the store and mixed it with peanut butter because the birds need the extra fat during winter time. Then, we placed the food inside orange peels. Finally, we set the food outside and waited.

…and waited

…and waited some more.

Weeks went by and still no signs of life. Was our backyard cursed? Had all the animals in the area died? I was nervous. Finally after 4 weeks some life finally began to appear. First we had a small bird.

Then we got a very small squirrel.

And finally lots more birds.

Little BBQ’s new job is make new bird food whenever the old food runs out. We also practice taking pictures of the animals. Little BBQ is learning to focus a camera. We also make observations about the animals. From watching the animals we have learned about sharing. The animals take only what they need. They do not hoard. They seem to have faith that another food source will pop up if they need it. Everything in our yard seems more harmonious. In the morning there is a flutter of activity from the early morning birds. During lunch time a little squirrel makes his presence known. Feeding the animals has provided us with a fun and educational wintertime activity.

Field Trip: Chicago Aquarium

One of the best things about a homeschooling group is that you can score awesome deals with group rates. Our homeschooling group managed to get a group rate of $7 per person to the Shedd aquarium in Chicago, IL. Normally tickets would have cost $26.95 for adults and $19.95 for children plus $2 extra for the dolphin show (which was included in our $7 ticket.) However, there are some things that I wish I knew before I got to the aquarium just so I would be a little more prepared.

As a group you all have to arrive and enter as a group on time otherwise your slots can be given to other groups. Parking is a $1.50 an hour with the parking meters that take quarters only or $16 for the day for the parking lot. The other catch to entering as a group is that you are assigned a specific time to eat lunch in the group cafeteria. You can not eat early or later. To help make lunch smoother the aquarium does allow you to bring in your sack lunch at the beginning of the day and put it into a bin labeled with your group name so you don’t have to carry your lunch around all day. Once you get to lunch, you have 30 minutes to eat. Normally 30 minutes would be plenty of time to feed myself, but when I am feeding an infant who wants to feed herself, a preschooler, and myself, I felt rushed, but that is not the aquarium’s fault. Our group was 28 people so we were suppose to share the cafeteria with another group, but they never showed up to lunch, so we got to eat by ourselves. After lunch we had the option to put our lunch pails back in the bin labeled with our group so we didn’t have to carry our lunch boxes around. The other catch of a group rate is that you are assigned a time to see the dolphin show. Again you can not be late.

Overall these are not terrible demands. In fact most school kids would find this schedule very lax, but homeschoolers are not known for punctuality, schedules, or structure (or at least our group is not.) We were a chaotic blob. In our group there are the extremes. We have people who are perpetually early and people who are perpetually late and the people who are completely random. We have people who follow strict curriculum for their homeschooling and we have unschoolers who learn on their own unique path. If anything, going on field trips with so many diverse people makes you learn how to work with different types of people. For me starting my journey into homeschooling and parenting has taught me to be more flexible. As a scientist I thrived on making experimental plans. When plans went awry, you followed plan B, C, or D. I have found that kids and in particular homeschooled kids do not work like well oiled machines.

My son, Little BBQ, is highly sensitive. He hates loud sounds and as I have learned on this trip he hates blue lights. Yes blue lights. This is the same little boy who goes to sleep every night with a light on because he is scared of the dark. White lights are good, but blue lights are bad. He was also petrified of the fish at the aquarium. However, he is not scared of the fish at the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden. What is the difference? I am not sure. Little BBQ was so excited to go to the aquarium that I was sure that he was going to love it, but he turned out to be paralyzed with fear. Upon entering the aquarium he informed me that he wanted to go home. Eventually after some coaxing from an older member of our homeschooling group he warmed up to the aquarium a little bit. His little sister Miss Bubbles got kicked out of her stroller so Little BBQ could watch the fish nestled in his little cocoon of safety in the stroller. Thankfully Miss Bubbles liked the fish and did not mind being carried everywhere.

I thought Little BBQ had finally warmed up to the whole aquarium experience because he finally out of the stroller and was free roaming around with the rest of the kids when it was time to attend the dolphin show. Little BBQ sat down with his best friend and prepared for the show with the rest of the kids. Then it happened. The blue lights came on as the dolphin show started. Little BBQ got up and bolted for the exit with tears filling his eyes. One of the dads in our group who can be equated to a giant teddy bear ran after him and gave him a giant bear hug until he calmed down. One of the other moms who also had a child who was sensitive at the preschool age was able to decipher what was bothering Little BBQ. He told the other mom that the blue lights were, “too loud.” So there you have it. Little BBQ hates blue lights. Instead of going to the dolphin show Little BBQ hung out at the gift shop with teddy bear dad.

Later that day we were walking around the polar exhibit having a great time. Little BBQ played in the hands on exhibit with the other kids; he had a blast. Then we decided to walk on to meet up with some other people in our group when we saw the dreaded blue lights again. Little BBQ immediately freaked out. At least he is consistent. I had to carry him for the rest of the trip to keep him calm. We were able to avoid the blue lights by going through the other side of the polar exhibit. Luckily, Miss Bubbles did not have a lot of anxiety that day and let someone else carry her while I carried Little BBQ.

On this trip I learned more about my sensitive son, and I was secretly happy that Little BBQ wanted me the second time that he got scared of the blue lights since he generally gravitates towards males for comforting (dad is the ultimate comforter for Little BBQ is this house.) I also was relieved to learn that I am not the only person with a sensitive child. I have read books on sensitive kids and read about other parents with sensitive kids, but I had not actually met anyone else with a sensitive child. Likewise, I am relieved that my friends with a sensitive child now have a teenager who is well adjusted and unique in his own right. It is also nice to have someone around who understands and can offer some good advice on ways to handle the situation. Most parents have told me, “just make him deal with it,” but for Little BBQ the things that he is sensitive to are very real for him even if they are not very real for us. All of our realities are unique. We each perceive the world around us differently. There is no well beaten path or a road less traveled. We all have own unique ever evolving path.

Tibetan Prayer Flags

This week homeschooling has been very slow because Little BBQ has been sick. When Little BBQ is sick, he does not want to do anything but sleep. It really stresses and freaks me out when he is sick because he is such an active little kid. He is the type of kid that can barely sit through dinner, and when he is sitting, he is fidgeting. Now that Little BBQ is feeling better we can continue on with our schooling. We started a small unit study on Tibet. Little BBQ picked some books about Tibet from the library last week, so we have been enjoying some Tibetan folklore.

One of the stories that we read was “Yeshi’s Luck” from the book Tibetan Tales for Little Buddhas. The lesson in the story is that we don’t know what life is going bring us; things that at first might seem bad can be good and vice versa, so we should just take life as it comes at us. I really wanted to focus on this story this week because Little BBQ has an explosive temper because he is a very passionate child. While I love his passion, I need to teach him different ways to cope with his temper other than throwing things or hitting things. Contained in the story is a chant, “Om Mani Padmé Hung” that is pronounced OHM MAHnee peMAY hoong. The chant means, “the jewel is in the lotus blossom.” Every time an event occurs in the story the father repeats this chant to clear his mind. I am trying to teach Little BBQ to do the same thing whenever he feels a temper tantrum coming on. Little BBQ really likes the chant and says it really slowly to really annunciate the different sounds in the chant. So far he has said the chant after he has a temper tantrum and not before, but it is a start.

The other cool thing that the story highlights at the end is prayer flags. In Tibet, people write prayers on pieces of bright colored cloth and put them on a string and hang them outside (Rose, 2004, p 4). We obviously don’t know any Tibetan prayers, so we put things that we are thankful for on our Tibetan prayer flags. Some things that Little BBQ included on his flags were, “mommy, daddy, little sister, pink, food, kitties, and sun.” I also wrote a poem on one flag that was contained in the story. The poem is posted below.

Life is like a potter’s clay
changing shape from day to day.
As stars sparkle in the sky
light and dark go quickly by.
What’s the future, no one knows.
Be at peace with how life goes.

(Rose, 2004, p 23)

I am having Little BBQ memorize the poem. When things upset him, we discuss the poem. The poem is really beautifully and speaks to us all on those hard days when life seems to take a turn for the worse. I think our whole family can learn a lot from the Tibetan culture. I hope you enjoy our paper version of Tibetan prayer flags.

Field Trip: Indianapolis Museum of Art

I am very proud of Little BBQ. We went on our first field trip with our homeschooling group. He was very well behaved at the museum. One of the coolest things about the Indianapolis Museum of Art is that you can take as many pictures as you want as long as you don’t use a flash. The only exception is that no photos are allowed to be taken on the Contemporary Art floor. I gave Little BBQ one our old cameras so he take pictures just like all the big kids in the group. Four families went on the field trip and Little BBQ was the youngest member of the group. The other kids were all in middle and high school. The oldest member of the group did an amazing job of taking Little BBQ under his wing. He showed Little BBQ how to use his camera and made sure that he stood still on the escalators while I pushed Miss Bubbles in her stroller on the elevators.

I am also impressed that Little BBQ managed to get a few photos that were not too blurry. All of the photos contained in this blog post were taken by Little BBQ. We started off the day walking through the gardens where some outdoor art was displayed. Then we ate our picnic lunch and viewed all of the indoor art. Everything in the Indianapolis Museum of Art is free of charge except for special exhibits. When we went there were no special exhibits, so it cost nothing except for gas on the long trip there and back.

Little BBQ liked the African pots the best. He kept telling me they were dirt. After we got home armed with Little BBQ’s pictures we flipped through them and discussed what he saw at the museum. We looked at map of where the different artifacts were from that Little BBQ photographed. We also looked at his garden pictures. I asked him what he liked about each of his pictures. He seems to gravitate towards things with lots of color so he took several flower pictures. Of course there were the mandatory self portraits of his feet, shirt, and face that come with every batch of pictures taken by a three year old, but overall I was impressed with his ability to take pictures.

For other homeschooling parents of young children I urge, no beg you, to join a homeschooling group. It probably has been the best decision that we have made so far in our homeschooling journey. Joining a group allows your child to interact with people of all ages. One of the mothers in my homeschooling group commented that she loves that her high school son can comfortably interact with 3 year olds to 40 year olds because he is constantly interacting with people of all ages. For Little BBQ on this trip the older kids taught him to respectfully enjoy art and use a camera. I hope one day that Little BBQ can return the favor to a younger homeschooling student one day. Posted below are more pictures that Little BBQ took on his trip.

Books we read this week:

Box Assemblage

This week for math Little BBQ has been working on the concept of enclosure. For a young learner, “enclosure is when objects are grouped together and fenced or held together as a unit” such as a dozen eggs in an egg cart (Math Arts p151.) To explore this concept creatively Little BBQ made a box assemblage. We took box from my canning jars and went outside. Little BBQ was allowed to collect outside objects to place inside of his assemblage (a 3-D collage.) As we were gluing the objects inside of his box we discussed the fact that all the items inside the box are now together as a unit instead of a single leaf or rock they are a unit composed of lots of leaves, rocks, sticks, and grass. We also brainstormed other things that come as unit like eggs, bags of apples, and berries inside of boxes. Overall, the project was a lot of fun. I think this is a fun way to creatively learn about enclosure.

Math Art

Materials (modified from Math Arts p 163)

A cardboard box
Small objects to put inside the box (we used items from nature)


1. Choose the small objects to be placed inside the enclosure.

2. Place the objects inside the box.

3. Rearrange the items until the young artist is satisfied with arrangement.

4. Glue the objects inside the box.

5. Display the assemblage in a special place.

This post was featured on Carnival of Homeschooling
Books that we read this week:

Field Trip: Fire Station

This week I took Little BBQ to a fire station for a tour with our local moms group. I wanted him to understand the seriousness of fire. When Little BBQ was about 3, we had just moved across country by less than 3 days, and I was very pregnant with Miss Bubbles. I went to talk to Dr. Lazy Palate in the bathroom while he was shaving. I left Little BBQ in our new living room with his toys for less than 3 minutes. In our new living room was a gas fire place. We were under the impression that it was a wood fire place. We were completely wrong. In less than 3 minutes, Little BBQ had opened up the glass doors to the fire place, turned on the gas fire, and threw his toys inside the fire. The smoke detector went off. We go running through the house looking for Little BBQ. We ran in his room. We screamed his name. He did not respond.

After going to Little BBQ's room, we run into the living room to see tons of smoke. Dr. Lazy Palate drops to the ground and sees Little BBQ in front of the fire place giggling; I leave to go outside since I am pregnant. Turns out Little BBQ is happily throwing his toys in the fire. Dr. Lazy Palate ran and grabbed Little BBQ and brought him outside to where I was located. Then, he ran back inside and got some water and extinguished the fire. As it turns out it was actually a very small fire contained inside the fire place. The fire was super smoky because the vent hood was not open. In the end, everyone was all right and the smoke from the fire dusted every cob web in our new house.

Since this incident we have locked the glass doors to the fire place so Little BBQ or Miss Bubbles can not get into the fire place. We have also talked extensively to Little BBQ about fire and taught him to get out of the house if a fire occurs and where he can meet us. He knows our address, our phone number, and an emergency number. He can also get to our neighbor's house easily.

Taking him to see a fire station and truck was just another way we keep reinforcing fire safety. I want him to understand that there are serious consequences for lighting fires and that fire can hurt people. At the fire station, a firefighter discussed fire safety with the kids. Then the kids got to sit in the fire truck. As a treat, a firefighter turned on the lights on the fire truck for the kids to see. I highly recommend taking your kids to a fire station or teaching them about fire. It could save their lives one day.

The Spice of Life

As you can see by this blog, I love to cook. I want to transfer that passion for cooking on to my son, and thankfully he has taken quiet an interest in cooking. Cooking is special because you have to do it to sustain yourself, so the better you are it then the more enjoyable the experience is going to be. I want to teach Little BBQ about spices and the way they melt together to creating exciting culinary achievements. To help him appreciate spices we did a spice collage today. We smelled and identified each spice before he was allowed to dump it on his collage.

He really liked the scent of cinnamon, but he was not a fan of curry which is ironic because he loves Indian food. The end result was a highly fragrant collage that is hanging in Little BBQ’s “art gallery.” This activity was another great rainy day activity.


Paper (we used red construction paper but you can use any type of paper)
Variety of ground herbs and spices (we used oregano, curry, lemon pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, paprika, mustard, and garlic)


1. Make a glue picture or pattern on the paper.

2. Smell an herb or spice and identify the herb or spice.

3. Place the herb or spice on top of the glue.

4. Brush off any excess herb or spice into a trash bag.

5. Repeat steps 1-4 until the picture is complete

Rain Dancer

This spring has been super rainy, and super rainy days mean lots of time indoors which is pure torture for an active preschooler. I have been so desperate for ideas for things to do that I have scoured blogs and even bought some books to help me find some rainy day inspiration. I finally found an interesting book called Science Arts by Mary Ann F. Kohl and Jean Potter. The book combines two of my favorite things, art and science. As a kid I remember all the beautiful pictures found in science books such as volcanoes, cells, animals, metabolite pathways, and all the other things that intrigue a young student. I remember wanting to be a medical illustrator, but my art skills were less than stellar. I even had an art teacher tell me I was talentless. He was probably right, but I still love all the pretty pictures in science books. And even better, I have made my own pretty science pictures over the years using microscopes and stains. I love the marvels of modern science that let me see our world even when our eyes don’t allow us to.

Now I am mother of two children, and I want them to appreciate science and art as much as I do. I want them to get excited about the world around them. I want them to discover both art and science. Today I let my son explore diffusion through art. It was another dark rainy day, and I was excited when I saw this activity called, “Rain Dancer” in the book Science Arts because it actually used the rain in the activity. The age recommendation was age 4 and up, but I decided to let Little BBQ try it anyway even though he is only 3.5 years old. He was a little young to understand the concept of diffusion, but he did enjoy the process of doing the project which was great. We are definitely going to save this activity for another rainy day.

Modified from the book Science Arts page 24:


Rainy day
White paper (we used computer paper)
Kids paint

Art experiment:

1. Paint the white sheet of paper.

2. Put the painted paper outside and let the rain hit the paper.

3. Bring the paper back inside after 5 minutes or until desired amount of spreading has occured.

Little BBQ tore the paper trying to bring it inside, but the concept is still there.

Science Concept Learned:

Diffusion occurs when the water droplets hit the paint on the paper. The pigments from the paint are in high concentration on the paper, but the pigments begin to diffuse or spread out across the paper once the water hits the paint.

This post was featured on Carnival of Homeschooling. and Homeschool Showcase #60

Color Wheel

This week Little BBQ has been studying the color wheel. I made a simple color wheel template by tracing the bottom of a cup six times in the shape of a circle. Then, I gave Little BBQ paints in the three primary colors: red, blue, and yellow. I instructed him on which colors we were going to put in each circle and allowed him to choose the order that he painted his color wheel. When it came to the mixed colors, we talked about how the secondary colors are made from the primary colors.

He did well with the project. At first, he did not understand why we going to mix the colors. He wanted me to give him his entire paint set and just let him free paint, but I explained to him that we were going to try something different today. We also did a test run on a piece of scrap paper to show him that he needed to paint within the lines. Overall, he did well. He got a bit out of control with the red, but that is to be expected at age 3. Little BBQ was really proud of this project; he hung his color wheel up in his room.

The Colors of Spring

I love spring with all the wonderful flowers in bloom and the nice warm weather. On these beautiful spring days, I love to take learning outside. Today my 3 year old preschooler did a project on the colors of spring. We went outside and picked up pieces of nature for our collages. We made it a point to find all the different colors that we could to represent all the different colors of spring. Then, we came home and mounted our findings on corresponding colored construction paper. This simple project taught observation skills, sorting, eye hand coordination, and identification of things in nature (the names of different flowers).

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