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Archive for May, 2009

I just got the email from Homeschool Buyers Co-op and Microsoft is giving away FREE software developer and design tools to high school and university students, as long as they belonged to an approved high school. But the Homeschool Buyers Co-op, always looking out for homeschooler’s rights, have received 200 access codes just for homeschoolers!

Now, I just had to mention this, as I had a rewarding and fun career in Microsoft programming before becoming a mother. 🙂 It is a career I may return to in the future… I used to buy a “student package” with all this same software for just $249, when it would’ve cost tens of thousands for me to practice and learn at home. They are offering it FREE and you can start downloading within minutes of your “order”. BUT PLEASE, only take advantage if you have a child who WILL use it.



For web programming as I did, students will want Visual Studio 2008 and SQL Server 2008 Developer editions to start getting hands-on learning. Creative kids might like Expression Studio. If your child loves games, maybe he or she will love to try Game Studio to develop their own PC/Xbox games!

Last I checked, there were only 15 access codes left, but they’re going fast.

Homeschool Buyer’s Co-op is a great place to get deals on software, subscriptions, you name it. I’ve gotten our BrainPop Jr. subscription and someday might get Rosetta Stone Spanish program from them. Highly recommended!!!

Just a quick update before we head to bed, we spent all afternoon/evening at Denver Botanic Gardens. They have a Prehistoric Dinosaur theme going on, and tonight was Members Only night!

I could’ve just kicked myself for not lugging along my favorite Nikon D700 camera and a few professional lenses. Instead I brought my D300 and the 18-200mm VR lens. The quality doesn’t even come close to what I could’ve gotten.

I think I’ll have to do this over, but they only have member night once a month. I hate shooting in mid-day.



We’re rowing The Salamander Room as an intro to the animal kingdom, so this week we’re going over a cursory review of the vertebrates of the Animal Kingdom. I plan to go over this all more thoroughly in the fall, but since we’ve already read a lot of books on mammals, amphibians, and such, I thought it would be easy for Satori to view the Animal Kingdom visually. So I wanted to create a large project fast and easy.

I’m sure there’s many ways to make an Animal Kingdom Classification board, but if you wanted to use our idea, you’ll need a large white board, some ziplock bags (you can make your own pockets too), pictures of different animals (from Internet/magazines), glue, tape, scissors…

I took a large white project board and found this Animal Classification website to cut our colorful explanations of each type of animal. I printed it out on cardstock, here’s our 5 main groups:

Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom

I glued them to our board and taped up zip bags underneath them. Then Satori got in on the action by sounding out “animal kingdom” with me to spell it out on top.

0905-animal-kingdom-016 0905-animal-kingdom-021

All ready to go!

0905-animal-kingdom-023For our animals to classify, you can use many sources to print out animal pictures – Internet, cut from magazines, etc… I had on hand this All About Animals Photo Library from Lakeshore Learning which I purchased for $39.95. It was a worthwhile investment as we love our animals and want to learn about them. It has handy sorting/classifying cards, but most importantly, it has animals of all kinds! Amphibians, insects, mammals, birds, you name it.

All About Animals Photo Library

All About Animals Photo Library

After I selected a handful of animal cards, I handed them to Satori to put them in the right animal place. It has been awhile since we read our Mammal book, so I caught her trying to stick the whale and dolphin in the fish category (she said they have no hair), but we got them in the right place eventually.

Humpback Whale - mammal

Humpback Whale - mammal

Satori also had a bit of confusion now and then on Amphibians verses Reptiles, although just a month ago, I would have too! So while I thought we had learned about amphibians, it’s apparent we’ll have to learn a little bit more about amphibians and reptiles and their differences. A few major differences are that amphibians have moist, smooth skin, lay eggs in water, and have both gills and lung, goes through metamorphosis… Reptiles have scaly/dry skin, lay hard eggs on land, have just lungs, and do not go through metamorphosis.

Frog - amphibian

Frog - amphibian

And here’s the big view of our new Animal Kingdom Classification board with our animal classifications filled out.


We had a lot of fun doing this project, and most importantly, I could see how much Satori knew about her animals. I have a bunch of DVDs lined up on animals, and now we’re heading off to the library to get some animal books! Later this week, we’ll go over some classification exercises, I should’ve done these first, but oh well.

Satori and I got a lot of shrieks out of this Frilled Lizard.


With all our trips/traveling, spring cleaning, and me working on our prehistory stuff, we’ve been slacking on the rest of the learning stuff, most importantly, the 3 R’s. I even took our curriculum off our homepage as I felt like a hypocrite saying we did all that when we haven’t been, hehe. But things are slowing down now, balance can be achieved, and life back to normal. With the upcoming event of Satori getting her own computer to work on, and us making a little “office space” for her, we’re psyched to take the next step.

It being summer vacation though, and Satori still being preschool for another year and a summer, we can take things easy. 🙂 I think she should start kindergarten fall of 2009, but her birthday isn’t until November, so it’s technically not until fall 2010 until she is supposed  to start. I have a little goal of getting her to read on a 1st/2nd grade level by the time she’s 5 though, I know she can do it. I’ve thought hard about all the pros and cons, and decided there’s no reason to stop her from learning how to read if I feel she wants to and is ready.


Phonics Pathways

But which book… I didn’t like our reading books though, the Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons felt too awkward for me, it just wasn’t my style. Satori would take the book and mimic me, almost in a taunting manner, showing off how simple it was for her. The Leapfrog videos I blogged about earlier taught her the basics in just a few hours, so the first lessons in this book was painfully embarassing. So I got The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading and… meh… (EDIT 2 years later: This actually became  our reading program, we loved it!) Finally, last week I got Phonics Pathways book and we’re going to try that one for now. The first lessons will be mostly review, but I want her to have this stuff down pat before we progress to new stuff.


After 10-15 minutes of reading, we moved on to math. I still love our Math-U-See curriculum, but here too we are not learning anything new, just getting basic skills down fluently. Since a few months ago, Satori can now count to probably 40, and a few weeks on this, she’ll be counting to 100. We’re still on the Primer (first workbook of MUS), and just finished lesson 7 today. Lesson 9 is when we start actually learning new things… Then she’ll get more than just the boring green squares to play with. 🙂

Working on  Math-U-See

Working on Math-U-See


As for the third R – wRiting, we’ll continue with our Handwriting Without Tears (HWT), another thing we haven’t progressed past the first few lessons with. Satori’s handwriting naturally has gotten so much better, without absolutely any guidance for me, but I do want to teach her the proper skills and form good habits before we move on.

A very rare rainy weekend for us in Colorado. We had the pleasure of my parents visiting yesterday and today David got to stay home and we all relaxed. I spent much time catching up on Facebook, something I’ve never really got into, this blog is time-consuming enough! Really enjoyed catching up with my sister, high school friends, and other friends I’ve lost touch with over the years. I snuck down to Boulder for a few hours to catch a movie, but then we hung out together.


After grilling out our tofu dogs, we had a family coloring night – and since Satori and I are studying the pre-dinosaur period, we used this coloring book tonight. I simply find it fascinating how many niche coloring books there are out there! You saw our Galapagos book, now here’s “Before the Dinosaurs”, which is appropriate as we learn about the Ordovician through Permian periods the next few weeks. 🙂

Before the Dinosaurs - coloring book

Before the Dinosaurs - coloring book


With these awesome Prismacolor pencils, it was so easy to get detailed. Satori amazed me how careful and intricate she was carefully drawing.


Even David got into it, and he originally wanted to use clunky crayons!


At the end of the night, we had about a dozen new coloring pages to add to our Prehistory Binder. Satori loves it.

And to check up on our caterpillars, wow, they are getting HUGE! I think they’ll be ready to start their cocoons later this week.


Over memorial weekend, I brought over my new portable backdrop set and took photos of the cousins – Brady, Beckett, Peyton and of course Satori. To view a larger image, click on the photo.





Peyton and Satori





Today we went on a hike through the woods. I was hoping to find examples of the first land plants that covered the land about 475 million years ago – mosses, lichen and ferns. We found plenty of examples, even up on a high altitude mountain of our home. I won’t bore you with our photos of moss and lichen, but just wanted to share some photos of our mountain spring. I am always amazed at the vividness of the fresh new leaves of the aspens.

Aspen leaves

Aspen leaves



Here I’m getting a little creative with the post-processing, but just wanted to show off the new bright green aspen leaves against the dark evergreens.


Can’t forget a pic of Satori…

Found these things growing down by the stream, anyone know what they are? They’re just about 4-5 inches tall here.


When I first heard that our Colorado home had a mountain stream, I was psyched and imagined my dad fishing along a serene mountain stream. When we moved here, it was just this tiny brook at the bottom of our property. Here it is with all of spring’s gushing melting mountain snow.


Have to hurry, daughter is demanding my attention… Before plants ever got on land, of course they were in the sea. And as we’ve seen in our movies about the beginning of the earth, the very oldest fossils of life are these stromatolites, about 3.5 billion years old, built up by colonies of cyanobacteria.  (Cyanobacteria was also found in our saltwater reef tank, so we remember what that looked like.) On our vacation last month we got to see fossils at Johnson Farm Dinosaur Discovery in Utah, and mom thought to snap a pic.