We’ve crossed another state border


But of course we had to stop at the Monroe zoo, which is AWESOME.  If you’re ever in Monroe, LA and you have a few hours to spare stop in and wander around.  It’s the perfect size for little guys, and it has a super neat train and boat ride, which sadly weren’t working when we went there.




The coolest part for the teacher in me was their “Small World” exhibit.  I know that’s not what they called it, but it had great explanations for how different insects make their sounds, and all sorts of other hands on ways to learn about insects.


My kids loved the nocturnal animals exhibit because they got to see all of the bats and other night animals.  Batman is currently quite obsessed with bats (which is ironic considering his nickname).



We traveled on for all of an hour and crossed the Mississippi.  Incidentally, I accidentally put the wrong initials in my phone to check the distance and was quite shocked to learn we had 19 hours to go, and then realized it was taking me up to Michigan……


I didn’t get my usual picture at the state line, but instead got a picture of us in front of the river.  The kids were suitably impressed by the size of the river.



We stopped in Vicksburg at the Coca-Cola museum there.  Coke was first put in  a bottle by the drug store there, and they helped with a lot of the early advertising campaigns.  Batman, who loves Coke, was quite happy to go through there and pose in front of the Santa coke ads.  And by the way keep an eye out next week for a post about Coca-Cola and Georgia (it was invented in Georgia, so it was one of our Georgia activities).  Batman was very disappointed he did not get to drink a Coke from the Coke Museum.  Poor guy.

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Of course the kids favorite thing about Vicksburg is an awesome park that is a block South of the Coke Museum.  I mean look at it.  It’s got a couple of awesome playscapes, wonderful water play area, and there’s a whole art area that I didn’t get a picture of.  Or, as my kids called it “Mommy, that’s the labyrinth.”


And now we’re in Jackson, MS and at our hotel for the night we’re about to leave and go to my grandparents house.  I can’t wait to see everyone.

Science Sunday: Insect field trip

Also known as, something that probably shouldn’t have been done at the beginning of November, but what the heck, that’s when we finished our study of insects.



Now, I have a very distinct memory of going to the Zilker Botanical Gardens this spring and seeing an amazingly large numbers of insects.  I noted this and intended to go back and look for more when we were actually studying insects.


Fast forward a few month and I spent a good month and a half playing tag with my friend who I wanted to go with for this excursion, and didn’t really move as fast as I 017should have.  So, we finally set out in November, yes I meant to write about this earlier, but was feeling lazy and November was crazy.


Our main discovery while we were there was monarch butterflies, which I was perfectly happy with because I love them.


020So, our first part having been a dismal failure we continued on to our next part of the field trip.

This was much more successful.  We successfully had a wonderful nature walk where the kids discovered all sorts of stuff, and many different things.




We checked out the natural wildlife in captivity.  Don’t you just love Batman in his hat?  That really cracks me up.





But as always the dinosaur dig was a huge hit, and the kids LOVED it!  And of course were absolutely filthy by the time we got home, so baths were necessary.






The cool new part for me was the discovery that the Austin Science and Nature Center has a whole new exhibit about weather and air pressure and stuff.  Most of it went over the kids heads, but they enjoyed looking at it.




And, the kids have discovered the trade in center where you can bring in cool things you find like plants or rocks and stuff and have the people help you identify it and earn points.  Those points can then be used to trade in for “cool stuff,” read animal skeletons and dead bugs.  I’m okay with the skeletons, not so much on the dead bugs.


Oh well.


And that finally concludes all of our insect studies, all 4 months or so of it……..

Science Sunday: Insect records


We’ve slowly been working our way through insects because I wanted to be able to do butterflies much earlier this year, leading us to follow our science book backwards, but I digress.

Princess discovered about 4 or 5 lessons worth of life cycle printables I’d discovered and printed off.  Mostly for insects we hadn’t discussed yet, but a few for ones we had discussed.


She was super excited about them and proceeded to cut it out and put the whole thing together with a little help from me.  Since it all follows the same life cycle (egg, larva, pupa, adult), she mostly got them put together on her own, with only a little help.

Now, it’s not cut out quite as prettily as the ones I did by myself, but I’m much prouder of these.  Because my THREE YEAR old did it all by herself.

Doesn’t that make your mommy heart sing?

I know it does mine.

For those who are interested, here’s links to where I found these.

General list of insect resources
termite (who my boys really liked because the boys actually got to live in the colony)
ladybug (Princess’ favorite one)

Admittedly a lot of those you can find on your own just by following the chain of links once you start on the first one, but it’s handy sometimes to have it all listed together somewhere.

Science Sunday: Why do water striders walk on water?

We read about how water striders walk on water.  Well, obviously you can’t just walk on water, so how do they do that?


Answer: they bend the rules.




Supplies needed: small bowl of water, a piece of toilet paper, small needle





Procedure:  rip a piece of toilet paper into fourths.  Place the toilet paper on top of the water, and gently place the needle on top (like in the photo above).


Now, if you’ve done this right, the toilet paper will be saturated by the water and the needle will float on the surface of the water.  It’s very cool.





Why does this work?


Because water molecules have a very strong molecular bond they want to stick together.  So, the surface tension of the water holds the needle up, if you do it correctly.


That is why the water strider is able to walk on water.  Great wow factor to your kids.



Then we of course had to see if it would work with a normal piece of paper, and it did. 


So, now we know how and why water striders can walk.

Science Sunday: Fireflies


This past week we’ve read about all sorts of beetles, from ladybugs to fireflies.  As soon as I realized we were studying them I tried to look up to see if there was any sort of experiment to explain how they light up.
I came up with nothing.  I saw lots of “go out and count how many fireflies you see,” type of thing, but we don’t really have them here in Texas.
So, I decided instead to have us be pretend fireflies.  This worked out super well because one of the episodes of “The Cat in the Hat Knows A Lot About That” was about fireflies so we incorporated that as well.

First we got our glowsticks and broke them.  Or rather the kids attempted to, and I ended up breaking them.



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Then we went down to our local elementary school playground and took turns flashing our lights to signal different things.  The boys refused to flash their lights to get a girl to come to them because, and I quote “I don’t want the girl to come and eat me.”  That teaches me for telling them about how some females eat the male of their species.


But, they had a lot of fun flashing their lights to warn about spider webs, or other dangerous things.  I of course was the spider.  Why do I always get to be the bad guy?


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And of course we had to try out the cool effect of waving them around in the complete darkness.


Seriously though the glowsticks were probably a lucky find for explaining fireflies because just like the fireflies glow it’s a chemical reaction and it doesn’t heat up like our lights do.  It’s a very efficient process as far as energy conversion goes.


Downside to this experiment now the kids are trying to convince me I need to let them walk around with them forever.  Oh well.


Have you ever had a lucky find that worked well for you?  I love finding those from time to time.

stART: Grouchy Ladybug, or “If you read a homeschooler a book”

Oh, wait that’s a silly title.  Oh well, I’m sure this will crack you up.


008 Before I start the “directions” here’s the supplies:


file folder, construction paper, index cards, 1.5” square punch (optional, but makes life easier), paper cutter (again optional, but makes cutting easier).


If you read “The Grouchy Ladybug” to your kids, they might decide they want to play the ladybug game.


When they go to find it they’ll discover it’s no longer where it was, because a mean Mommy gave it to Goodwill because they kids weren’t playing with it (cough cough, no idea who this mean Mommy is).



So, they’ll start to make their own.  First they’ll draw their figures.




Than they’ll draw the aphids for the ladybugs to eat.  That’ll remind them that they’re hungry.





So, while they cut their papers they’ll sit there and talk about how hungry they are, and “Mommy I know I just finished breakfast, but can I have more food?”




But maybe the ladybugs are even more hungry than they are, so they start to count the aphids.





How to play: start at the purple square, roll the die and move that many spaces.  After you have moved get a question card (sneaky Mommy throwing review questions in there).  If you answered the question right you get an aphid.  If you land on a NO space then move back 2.


And chances are if you make a Ladybug game they’re going to want to read the book again………


Head on over to A Mommy’s Adventures for more art and book projects.

Science Sunday: Insect Camoflauge

So, I saw this idea on a Science Sunday post from Along the Way. I immediately knew I had to do this sometime.  Well, this week in our science text we read about how some insects use crypsis (a fancy word for camouflage, which itself is a fancy word for hiding in plain sight).

I had each kid collect 3 small toys (I was going to do this with insects, but I didn’t manage to buy some at the store, so these worked just as well).

Then I started hiding the toys while they theoretically hid their eyes.  Yeah, kids don’t do that so well.


While I’m cleverly hiding the toys in such clever places as under the old baby swing.  I made a great discovery, and had to take a break from hiding to talk about an actual real version of an insect doing exactly what we were pretending to do:

Can you find the insect?

It’s the brown twig like thing amongst the grass.  That’s right, I managed to find a walking stick.  And the kids had the hardest time finding it.  So, we talked about that for a while, and they each got a chance to touch it gently.  And then I continued hiding stuff.


My personal favorite was the blue policeman on the blue swing.  I had to point him out.


And much like finding Easter eggs my kids are not very observant when looking for stuff.  But, they really enjoyed this, and they agreed things like the penguin were easier to find because they didn’t blend in as well.  But, the brown dog in the middle of the brown dirt was much harder to find.

Then we talked about why some animals want to be found, and I was impressed because they remembered that it “was saying don’t eat me, don’t eat me, I taste bad.”  Gotta love the kids way of saying it.

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And then we found these.  You can’t tell in the picture on the left, but that fly looking thing is almost 2 inches long, it’s HUGE!  And that, I found out from someone else’s post is a cicada casting from when they molted their exoskeleton.
Either way, I still thought both of those were very gross.

And, then we got a VERY real life example of hiding in plain sight when Princess quite excitedly brought out my wedding ring I’d carefully put up on the counter to keep it safe while I did some gardening, and then lost it somewhere in my lawn.  After spending 3 HOURS searching for it, I still haven’t found it.  And 2 of those hours were with another friend and her son’s metal detector.  Tomorrow, I’m hoping to rent a bigger metal detector and hopefully find it.  Seriously, my finger feels weird without it.

Sigh, so things learned this week: bugs use hiding and advertisement to keep from being eaten, and don’t keep jewelry where Princess can reach it.  Little magpie.

Hmmm, as I write this on Friday Linky tools is down, so I’ll have to come back tomorrow sometime to add that in.


Science Sunday: Insect parts


Today’s Science Sunday is brought to you courtesy of my husband.  Can I just say he is the coolest husband ever?  I had to go to the dentist on Monday and asked if he’d be willing to read and discuss one of the sections in their science text book, and not only did he do it, but he went above and beyond the call of duty.


I was so amazingly proud of them when I got back.  I’d say it was almost worth getting that filling, but that would be a total lie.  Look at their drawings of the different body parts.  They did a good job of remembering what it was and being able to explain to me what makes an insect (3 body parts and six legs on the middle body part).



Of course being my kids they turned to the next page and drew all sorts of pictures.  I particularly like Batman’s (in the middle) with the insect that is attacking people, I think.  I’m not entirely sure, he explained this big long epic narrative to me about 3 days ago.


So, did any of you get to have some delightful experiences like that?  I love when things like that happen.

Science Sunday: Insect Mouths


I bet that got your attention didn’t it?
Basically insects have three different types of mouths: chewing (think ants, caterpillars, crickets); sponge (fly is the primary example I can think of); and sucking (butterfly, mosquito).
Purpose of experiment: to see how the different insects eat (inspired by this post from the Work Plan).

First we tried eating with a sponge mouth.  We all agreed this was very hard to do and we wouldn’t get much food if we had to eat that way.

As a side not, I think it would have worked better if I had more thoroughly saturated the sponges beforehand.

Next we tried to use a proboscis like a butterfly has on the plate, and agreed that butterflies would not really be able to eat from this.


Then we tried it in a flower to suck up the nectar.  This worked so much better.  It was still a challenge to try and get them not to use their hands.  But, eventually they mastered it.

I have no pictures of the chewing, because obviously that is how we normally eat, and figured pictures were rather unnecessary, and potentially gross depending on my kids’ manners at that moment.
Results:  The kids all agree that they like chewing food the best.  The straw was fun, but it was challenging to get in without using their hands.

Oh, and look what I found in my garden (picture from here):
001And he would be why my tomato plant has produced NOTHING.  As soon as a leaf grows he eats it, and he was huge!  About 5 inches long, and when I found out what he was I was going to transplant him somewhere else, but he had already gone underground to form his cocoon.  But in the meantime the kids had a lot of fun observing him.  Sigh, that’s going to be a rather useless plant.

But look what I did successfully grow!  And it actually tasted good, unlike say the bell peppers I grew last year, which tasted all weird from the horrid drought and heat.  Hurricane Alex did good for us in the rain department.  The entire time we were out of town Texas was getting rain.

Sigh, Superman just woke up and came downstairs with the announcement, “Nobody talk to me,” guess my blogging time is done for now.

Science Sunday: Crickets

004 This was one of those experiments that had Jeff and my Mom shaking their head for a while. On Jeff’s day off I made him go with me to the pet store to pick up crickets. Why? To observe them. And we found out all sorts of stuff in the process.
First, in order to keep them alive I had to find out what they eat. I found out they are primarily carnivores, and if you don’t feed them enough protein they will eat the other crickets.

Ummm gross!

005 So, we dropped by my Mom’s and confused the heck out of her by asking for a handful of dog food. Then we headed back to the house, and put the crickets in our butterfly pavilion, and the kids had a blast watching them!

What all did we do with them?

We watched them a lot. We noticed they could climb up the walls. Then we read about them and discovered that’s because of their feet. They’re sticky, like a tree frog (that’s Superman’s observation).

They have chewing mouths. Insects have three different types of mouths: chewing, sucking, and sponge mouths. Flies have a sponge, butterflies have sucking, and crickets and ants have chewing mouths.

And, they had already eaten one of their own by the time this picture was taken.

Crickets do not like cold. We repeated our experiment from here. As a side note, I’m thinking we’ll repeat this with the caterpillars that finally came in. They showed the results of cold much better than the roly polies.

After we took them out of the fridge (after accidentally leaving them in way too long), they didn’t move very much. We left them on our table for a while, and they weren’t warming up.

010So, I took them outside and they warmed up real fast. And boy were they moving then. That’s when we started keeping them outside. 


009 And this picture has less to do with crickets, but something else we learned. Ants like dog food. And they can chew through our pavilion. So, when we went out to observe the crickets that day and discovered the whole thing swarming with ants and all of the crickets up at the top of the cage. That’s when I declared an end to this experiment.

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So, the kids happily went with me as we ran through the drizzle to find a good place appropriately far away from our house (so they didn’t come back, that was the deal I made with Jeff).

010 And as with all excursions we do. What would it be without climbing on something? So, they happily spent five minutes or so climbing all over the rocks near the sinkhole.
Until I said it was starting to rain too much, and I wasn’t really dressed to be soaked.

So, that’s our observation of crickets. I’m trying to decide if I want to risk our caterpillars to see how they do with the cold. I’m worried they might not recover like the crickets did. In theory they should, but after waiting so long to get them I don’t want to risk killing them.

As you probably noticed in the butterfly post, I did not end up trying the caterpillars in the refrigerator. Maybe next year.