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Entries in Evolution (8)


Once Upon a Time there was 

Watching The Three Billy Goats Gruff today on stage, the troll asked the audience for their advice: should he let the littlest goat go? My son alone in the audience said "no!" When I asked him why not, he told me his concern that if the troll didn't eat the first food that came along, then he might not get another chance and so might not get enough to eat. But of course.

We had a great time at the play, but what I loved most was hearing his thought process. We didn't read a whole lot of fables or fairy tails when he was younger. It wasn't really an intentional omission, just that we had so many other wonderful things to read, but the more I think about it the more I dislike fairy tales anyhow. They seem beautiful at first glance, but they're awfully one dimensional. Gregory Maguire had the right idea when he took the traditional tales and turned them on their heads, showing the "other sides" of the stories in books like Wicked.

Calvin's thinking that the troll is also worth a life is a refreshing thought, one that bucks convention and has many elements in it from our recent discussions on evolution. All living things have to eat, and meat eaters are not evil, they're just hungry like the rest of us. Even better, like Maguire he had to willingly go against the tide to say "no" in an audience of "yeses" and to me that right there was worth the price of admission.



We are squarely in the Jurassic period around here now. We completed the species list and felt creatures for the Triassic, and then we watched Allosaurus, a special episode of BBC's Walking with Dinosaurs. Who could ever have believed a carnivorous Allosaurus could be a sympathetic character. We're all a little in love with Big Al now, so I know what felt creations are on my plate for tomorrow. This newest exploration we're on—the trip through evolution—is really the first time that I've utilized multi-media as a learning tool. When Calvin was younger we sometimes watched the Old School Sesame Street shows (volume 1 or volume 2), or sections of Planet Earth, but until now the TV or computer were merely rare bits of entertainment. I still don't view the TV as an educational tool, but entertainment is a part of learning, and vice versa, so when we found the BBC series that was kind of a match made in heaven, and we have two great iPad apps about evolution and dinosaurs as well now. They've been good jumping-off points.

Today we made Triassic felt and started Jurassic felt, we did a dinosaur puzzle, we played Allosaurus all morning. We both practiced the piano, and we did some math and map worksheets together. We practiced drawing, we sorted and shelved books in the library sale room. For Calvin the past few days have been full of sudden mental leaps, and even though phases like these always bring with them an over-tired, grumpy attitude, I have come to understand the cycle over the past few years: a sudden onset of grouchy, crazed behavior, even after plenty of sleep, has almost always been a sign of expanding mental capacities with him. He does this at least twice a year. In the past I've panicked, wondering what had happened to my usually cheerful son, but I've since learned to be patient and to look for the newest achievements.

Patience is something I am learning with motherhood.


A little light reading

It was too cold, too wet, and too windy to join the homeschooling group at the park today. Maybe on a different day, but not with the sniffles still hanging around. But we did get to try out our new furnace finally, though it was so quiet we forgot to notice. And a cold, rainy, windy day is a great time to curl up with a good library book. After reading Who Was Charles Darwin, a decent book for this reading level but not stellar overall, everything has been "Origin of the Species this" and "Origin of the Species that", so that when we went to the library this morning we just had to look it up and check it out. An illustrated copy, nonetheless.


Evolution—we are here

An update on our progress towards U.S. History by way of the evolution detour. Or actually backtrack, since it's not really out of the way, I suppose. This is turning out to be a really fun exploration. Discussing ages of evolution with Calvin—exploring, researching, sometimes explaining—I've had to look more closely at my notions of life and death. I spent the better part of my college years studying exactly this topic, and still I feel like I am only now really seeing it for its most basic lessons. But that's a post all its own. For now, an update:

The timeline has been keeping us busy. So far we have populated each period of the Paleozoic era. Calvin chooses the critters and designs the scenes, then I get to work with cutting and gluing. Mostly we've been using Evolution, The Story of Life, by Douglas Palmer and Peter Barrett, for sketches. We're really enjoying the process, and even my sore neck, from bending over the pieces, is worth it when we play with them either on the timeline or on his felt board.

Designing the Permian period

The timeline is hanging in our upstairs hallway where the light isn't good for photos, but here is our progress up to yesterday, populated through the Devonian Period.

We've just discovered Back in Time, an app for the iPad that has given us no end of pleasure, starting with the big bang and passing through all the events between then and now with pictures and info and lots of buttons to tap. Less hands on, but equally fun, we've been reading and re-reading The Story of Life, by Steve Jenkins, and Life Story, by Virginia Lee Burton (reviews here), and watching and re-watching the BBC Walking With videos. They've definitely taken some liberties with those, but we are enjoying them nonetheless.

And thanks to said new app and the book Bang! The Universe Verse, plus a push from the recent arrival of BFSU (Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding), we've taken on the idea of matter. All those life forms that are evolving had to come from somewhere, right? This is only cursorily related to the evolution exploration right now and has more to do with the arrival of the BFSU book, in which the states of matter is amongst the first topics to look at (along with classification of stuff, and that we really have down), but when I think about it, clearly they're related. Well, actually all of life, and thus all study, is related, and isn't that the point? So tomorrow we'll be freezing, melting, and steaming water, and other fun experimenting.

And because we're not unit study or subject immersion learners, there are lots of other things going, too, like a little piano, a little math, a lot of reading, a little playing with food in the kitchen, a lot of board gaming, and a little outside play. The workboxes are going well (I'll write about that sometime soon), and we're happy and busy much of the time. Still, sometimes the old fear of not knowing what we're doing will creep in grab me around the neck...until I look around, and then, in one great big "oh, yeah" moment, I'm fine again. Evolution it is.


Oh no! The tomatoes!

There is an exuberant energy that comes with learning something new. Upon grasping a grand new concept or coming to the end of a good book sometimes I just want to get up and run around the house to burn off the sudden vibrations running through my whole body. I see this in Calvin, too, but often when he's that excited all it does is make me feel tired. I must be getting old.

The sudden dances of joy today were frequent and bright. For starters, any science activity that involves water and dye is pretty massively exciting. And there was an Amazon delivery today. That's like Christmas come early! A science non-curriculum book for me, Prehistoric coloring books for Calvin, and a new game for us all. We try to pick up new games every so often and the new addition today was Shut the Box, something that we're addicted to already. Who said math had to be boring.

Math-U-See is going well for us still, although I'm frustrated that they provide no extra practice sheets. I've been searching out some pretty good free sites for printing practice pages, mostly clocks from this site, and dinosaur addition color by number pages from Enchanted Learning. If only I could find the Burgess Shale color by addition page I'd be all set.

And a walk outside later in the day. Actually we've been tied up in the house quite a bit the past two days with the sniffles. We even missed this afternoon's homeschool gathering at the park in order to get some extra rest. We have tickets to tomorrow's game and I want us all to be well enough to go and enjoy it. But with so few outside days remaining we had to get out for at least a little of this one, which foiled this little bugger's plan of eating our tomato plants right down to the ground. He was sleeping so we snipped off the branch he was on and dropped him in a box to observe for a few hours before taking him over to the field and dropping him off. I just couldn't kill him, but I really hope he doesn't find his way back.