Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Compost 101

As the result of the need to present a short demonstration for the 4-H Fair, the Dirt Detectives dusted off their presentation skills and made a short video afterwards, so their mum had something to remember it by.

But guess what? It's also educational. So I'm sharing it, in case one of you wants to learn about composting. Because composting is, in the words of my old pal Martha, a good thing.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Review: Math Dictionary For Kids

The Essential Guide To Math Terms, Strategies, and Tables.

by Theresa R. Fitzgerald

Grades 4-6 (new edition)

When I first opened this updated dictionary, I wondered a bit at its method of organization. Instead of one large reference dictionary (as I was expecting) it was organized into the various mathematical categories: geometry, measurement, decimals, etc. So if I were looking for the definition of numerator I would have to go to the section marked Decimals, Fractions, Percents, and Ratios. I did, and there it was: “The number that is written above the line in a fraction. It tells how many parts of the whole are being considered.” There was an accompanying illustration with a fraction and an arrow pointing to the numerator. Which makes vastly more sense when you think about it, because not only does this contextualize the term for the student (numerator = fractions), but it eliminates the need to thumb through masses of other distracting concepts, as well as avoiding the possible pitfalls of having to cross-reference anything unfamiliar (ie: “Numerator: See also Fraction”). It was all there in one neat, concise, well-defined chapter.

In fact, it was so neat and so concise and so helpful I briefly bewailed not having had it years ago, when we first started homeschooling. The Quick Reference Guides, for example, were exactly what we’d needed. They remind the student briefly as to the hows and whys of some of the more trying math concepts kids encounter around grade 4: decimals, fractions, multiplication, and division. No long complex explanations or strange formulaic scribbles, either: this math dictionary does it simply and economically - just the ticket for most math students.

And if you’ve ever been confronted by that peculiar item known as the geoboard (as, ahem, I was), you will be thrilled to see that there is a truly excellent chapter entitled Learning With Manipulatives. Not only does the author explain the many (impressive) uses for the geoboard, she also demonstrates how to use graph paper, Base 10 blocks, hundred charts, mirrors, pattern blocks, tangrams and tiles. This section is, like the dictionary portion, generously illustrated with diagrams, pictures, and visual examples, so there’s no mistaking what to do with that bag of second-hand tangrams your friend gave you, or how to build geometric solids at home (tip: miniature marshmallows work great but leave the toothpicks rather sticky).

In addition, there are also measurement conversion tables, square root charts, prime number charts, and more. And it’s all in one neatly bound soft-cover volume. This dictionary is an invaluable and inexpensive guide for any young math student.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Long Time No Write

It's raining right now. Fall is a day or two away - official calendar fall, that is. The weather is still warm during the day, warm enough that light clothing is still the order of the day, so I'm not too sad.

Well, not yet. Give me a few more weeks of rain and I might alter that statement a bit.

We've let up a bit on 4-H summer madness around here, what with our fall fair officially over and school officially started. We're thinking about getting out the bird feeders so our resident bird population leaves off on the sunflowers, still waving languidly in the front garden, but these guys are grouchy about having to wait. Look at them - the glares I have to brave every time I go outside. Wait, is that a unibrow?

The garden did well, once the heat came our way. This was, as I've said before, the worst summer in memory. Yes, there were a couple of weeks there when it was hot, even at night, but for the most part most of my garden cronies are not thrilled with the state of their gardens this year. Things that did well? Tomatoes, pumpkins, peppers, berries (the blackberries were positively rhapsodic), tree fruit, beans and peas. Things that didn't do well? Cucumbers (pathetic, sob), eggplant, hot peppers, gourds. That said, for once I got the jump on the rain (and by extension the Potential Late Blight season) by bringing in most of my tomato crop while we were still basking in sun. The rest - the giant Roprecco plum tomatoes from the seeds my friend Samantha sent me - I wrapped in large sheets of plastic. So they are all out there sitting snugly while the rains drip softly down.

And in the meantime the birds sit. And wait. Expectantly. No pressure now, guys.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Angry Bird Tomato

There he was, just sitting in the garden, no doubt plotting revenge on all the little green tomatoes pigs around him.