Monday, October 28, 2013

Review Week: 6th Grade Study of North America

We took Columbus Day off, so this was a short week for us. I decided to review what we have learned so far while studying North America before moving on to Week 9: South America. We also included some home-ec and planning skills this week as we prepared for my daughter's birthday which included a safari theme and a trip to Aloha Safari Zoo.



We used our 50 states flashcards and Canadian flashcards with our guessing game to help review. My daughter loves these! We also played the MFW geography game for North America. Games work well for us :) I also let her review with the online games we used before. She also had a couple pages to complete for North America in Exploring World Geography, so we finished those up as well.


For ecosystems, I used the questions at the end of the chapters in Properties of Ecosystems (POE) to review the chapters we have covered so far. For zoology, Lindsey has been completing the notebook pages for each unit we study so I didn't feel it was necessary to review these.

We did see many animals we have learned about when we visited the zoo for her birthday. We took one of her friends with us and both girls had a great time. The Aloha Safari Zoo was wonderful! Lindsey identified the grizzly bear before seeing his sign because he had a hump on his back. She could tell me about the ungulates, skunks, porcupines, and other animals too. We fed carrots to a giraffe. We also fed bread to camels and other animals on the safari tour.



We worked on capitalization in grammar this week. Grammar is probably Lindsey's least favorite subject. I started giving her a sticker for each sentence she completes correctly instead of just one for the page, and things went much smoother this week. Time for me to stock up on stickers!

Safari Birthday

She helped plan the menu and decorations for her birthday party. We made cake and cupcakes, Jello Jigglers shaped like alligators, and she turned a cheese-ball into a lion. I made homemade pizza for our main coarse. We also had animal crackers of coarse, popcorn, and pretzel sticks (twigs). We used some animal print balloons, green streamers, animal plates and cups, flamingo straws, a zebra striped tablecloth, and several of Lindsey's stuffed animals to decorate with. We hung stuffed monkeys from the chandelier, and put a small stuffed parrot on top. Here are some photos from her party:

Friday, October 18, 2013

Week 8: Canada | Building an Igloo



Bonjour et bienvenu! (Hello & welcome!) We continued learning about Canada this week. Some of our highlights for week 8 are below.

Celery Experiment

In order to see how xylem tubes carry water up to the leaves of a plant we did an experiment. 

Using two stalks of celery, we removed the xylem tubes from one stalk of celery and placed the stalks in water to observe the results. We added blue food coloring to the water. It was a little tricky to remove all the xylem. After a little while in the colored water it was easier to see the xylem we had missed, so we removed the rest.

After a couple days the stalk with the xylem intact was still straight and crisp, but the stalk with the xylem removed had wilted. This experiment worked well for us.


To help us learn the provinces of Canada, I printed flash cards from Discovering the Continents: Animals Of North America by Koumi Books that I found at CurrClick just as I did when we studied the US states and we played our guessing game. You can read about the game in my week 4 post here.

We also used online games from Sheppard Software to help us learn Canadian geography -

 Visitor Guides

We learned more about Canada and what it would be like to visit there by looking at visitor guides - - We especially liked the ones for Inuvik and Iqaluit, they have some great images and include info on the Inuit. We also looked photos and video of Quebec at and learned more about Prince Edward Island at 


Lindsey is continuing to learn French using Duolingo (and I'm brushing up on mine). She is doing quite well with it. I think studying a French speaking country has encouraged her too. I will note that when learning the phrases for food, beer and wine are included. I didn't think it was a big deal considering she already knows the words in English. One of the practice phrases asks something like "Would you like some wine?" - after translating it my daughter answered the computer with "Non, merci." Good practice should we ever visit our dream destination of France. This was also a good moment to reinforce what we have taught her about the dangers of alcohol and how to say no even if pressured by her peers. Now she can say no in two languages ;)

 Canadian Dinner

For our Canadian dinner, Lindsey made chocolate chip pancakes and of coarse we ate them with butter and real maple syrup. Yum! (I forgot to take a picture) Then for dessert we had vanilla ice cream with maple syrup on it. We didn't make the blueberry dessert in A Trip Around The World, but might try it another day.


Imagine sleeping in the ice and snow! We learned about igloos and they are not always made of ice. Then we looked at Hotel de Glace (Quebec's Ice Hotel) - - and watched some videos about the hotel on YouTube. Virtual Tours are available on their website under images. This video below includes the building of the ice hotel which is seasonal (Jan - Mar) and rebuilt new each year. There are several videos showing the ice hotel in different years, you may want to preview them before showing them.

This is another video we watched that gives a tour of the hotel. The details are amazing!
(There is a toast in the bar at the end.)

Igloo Building

After learning about these wonderful ice structures, it was our turn to try building a simple model of one. Our Trip Around The World book suggests building an igloo from sugar cubes, but that's not something I keep on hand... Lindsey decided to build one using marshmallows and toothpicks instead, and another one using Legos.

It's harder than it looks to build with marshmallow, but also lots of fun! When building the initial arch, she built up each side evenly and I held them in place as she added marshmallows across the top. We built it on a paper plate to help us get a round shape. Once it was completed I was able to carefully move it off of the plate. I think it would be fun to include one on top of a winter themed cake ;) If you don't have toothpicks, you can use dry spaghetti noodles instead (just break them to the lengths you need). If you try building with marshmallows, let us know how it turns out.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Week 7: Canada | Food chains, Inuit, and bears - Oh, my!

Bonjour! This week we entered Canada.


We are studying bears this week. I learned 2 things that surprised me; polar bears have black skin and bears don't actually hibernate (they enter a state of dormancy). Lindsey enjoyed learning that polar bears and grizzly bears sometimes mate to create pizzly bears. She thought pizzly bears sounded funny and kept giggling at their name. In the zoology notebook Lindsey created a fun cartoon poster showing what to do and what not to do if you meet a bear in the wild.


We learned about food chains & food webs.

There is a great episode of the Wild Kratts - Episode 130: The Food Chain Game - that fits perfectly with our lessons. After watching it, Lindsey decided to create a food web using her stuffed animals :)

We didn't have any stuffed plants, so we started with what ate the plants. She used our cat's toy for a fish. First she created some food chains, then combined them into a food web. There are several animals that eat insects (represented by the ladybug) and fish (represented by the cat toy).

When we weren't sure who ate what we looked them up. We weren't sure who ate the smelly skunk, but discovered both bears and owls eat them. It was a fun way to look at the food web.

Screenshot from EcoKids
She drew a picture of an arctic food chain - including seaweed, fish, a seal and polar bears.

Lindsey created several food chains and food webs online. The online resources we used are listed below.

Great online resources for food chains:

Build a food chain game at EcoKids:

Build a food web at Scholastic:

Build a food web for desert, coniferous forest, deciduous forest, or tropical rainforest:

Information on arctic ecosystems including a really nice food web graphic:


We learned about the Inuit in Windows on the World and then we found an Inuit version of Goldilocks by Jan Brett called The Three Snow Bears at our library. I always love the illustrations in Jan Brett's books. This story was delightful. Lindsey enjoyed reading it to me and then read it again later to her dad.

The Inuit are known for carving soapstone. For art this week Lindsey tried her hand at soap carving and carved a nice little polar bear cub from a bar of Ivory soap. She even gave it texture for the fur.

It turned out awesome!

She liked carving it and plans to carve some more animals out of soap. An owl to match her bathroom shower curtain is next on her list.

Several really nice examples of Inuit carvings can be found here:

Maple Trees

I have a maple leaf shape for my cookie press, so we made spritz cookies. Yum! Lindsey learned about the Canadian flag, the maple leaf as a symbol of Canada, and colored a Canadian flag picture. We also read Maple Syrup Season by Ann Purmell. It's a very good book that explains the process and all the terms used for making maple syrup. It brought back childhood memories of maple syrup being made at my grandma's house. My cousins and I would scoop snow into bowls and when the syrup reached the right stage my grandma would pour some onto the snow just like in the book.

Next week, pancakes with maple syrup are on our menu...

Movie Night

Our librarian recommended a Disney movie to us called Iron Will. It's about a young boy who enters a dog sled race to try to win money to help his mother and pay for college. It takes place in 1917 and they race across Canada from Winnipeg to Saint Paul, Minnesota. We watched it Friday and it was good. It's rated PG. If you have younger kids it might not work for you, but it was a neat look at dog sledding for us. (I was also glad the animals don't talk.)

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Week 6: Mexico, Central America, & the Caribbean | Our Fiesta

Hola amigos! As we continued our study of Mexico this week, we prepared a Fiesta.

We created woven place-mats with drawings in the squares to decorate our table. We made miniature burro pinatas - so cute! We cut designs out of tissue paper to create Mexican papel picado banners and used fishing line to hang them. We decorated the sombrero pinata we started last week.

Here's a closer look at our fiesta mats. You can find the lesson plan for them free at Crayola -  - we used colored pencils instead of crayons. If I had a laminator, I would laminate them. (It's on my wishlist)

The super cute mini pinata instructions, including a printable template, can be found at Alpha Mom -  - instructions for mini sombrero pinatas are also included. We used the elastic string option that allows the pinata to be pulled open without breaking it. We saved them and will use them again for future occasions (like cinco de mayo). Instead of tissue paper, we used paper streamers that I had on hand and folded it to create double rows of fringe. For the candy inside, if you choose light weight candy they stand up easier. We used small boxes of milk duds inside our mini burros.

Our traditional pinata would have resembled a sombrero better if we had a skinnier, more pointed top and a wider brim. However it probably held more candy this way, and we used what we had on hand to create it. We had fun breaking it open :)

We prepared a lot of food!

Lindsey made cinnamon crisps (pictured right) for our fiesta dessert and they were really good. This is the cinnamon crisps recipe she used from Taste Of Home  -  - there is also a recipe for fruit salsa. We didn't make the fruit salsa this time but might try it in the future.

We created a Mexican buffet so everyone could create their own taco, burrito, or fajita. Options included flour tortillas, corn tortilla chips, beans, taco beef, chicken fajita filling, cheese, lettuce, sour cream, etc... We also included taco salad, cheese quesadillas, chips and salsa, and lemonade for our drink.


We also wore our sombreros and danced around the living room singing our songs from weeks 5-6. Then we watched the Disney movie "The Three Caballeros". We enjoyed our fiesta celebration and had fun learning about Mexico.


We finished our study on turtles and tortoises this week and returned Speedster the baby turtle to his home at the lake. Lindsey did a great job taking care of the baby turtle. She even read to him. She wrote about taking care of him in her zoology notebook pages.

She was sad to say goodbye to Speedster and will miss him, but she knows he will be much happier with his turtle friends and family at the lake. I took this picture of her holding Speedster just before she released him back into his home. Now when we visit the lake, we will look for turtles swimming near where Speedster was released and maybe she will see him again someday as he grows into a bigger turtle.


We are still using Khan Academy for math and it is working pretty well for us. So far she has mostly been reviewing skills. She has also been working with negative numbers and adding negative numbers which she was only briefly introduced to last year.


We've been studying the desert, oases, and learning about transpiration. We learned that most desert animals are nocturnal. We also learned how some animals, like the desert tortoise, estivate in summer. We did an experiment to observe transpiration, placing leaves in a plastic bag in the sun for an hour and observing the condensation. This experiment worked well for us.

We love to hear from you, please comment below.

Next week we head north to study Canada! 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Week 5: Mexico, Central America, & the Caribbean

Lindsey got her passport and we traveled South of the Border to Mexico this week!
Okay, I confess. We really only drove to South of the Border in Dillon, South Carolina - but we are pretending we are in Mexico :)

Middle Beginnings Week 5: Mexico

We had fun visiting all the brightly colored, giant concrete statues, and posing for photos with them at South of the Border.

There were tall Pedros, a small Pedro, turtles, jackal-ope, horses, coyote, cactus, a dinosaur wearing a sombrero, a wiener dog, alligator, flamingo, and many more!

We rode up 300 feet in the elevator to the top of the giant sombrero tower & enjoyed the view.

Then we played a few games in the arcade. We played both 18 hole mini-golf coarses, rode the bumper cars, the carousel, and drove antique cars around the track.

We went shopping and bought sombreros. We also bought a Mexican flag, a tote bag, a kaleidoscope, a rubber duck wearing a sombrero, a South of the Border wooden ruler, and a serape and mini maracas for Felicity (Lindsey's American Girl doll). We wore our sombreros to lunch at The Sombrero Restaurant where we ordered chips & salsa, and quesadillas.

We were the only ones on the mini golf coarse and rides. The stores and restaurant weren't very busy either. I remember stopping here with my family on our summer vacation to Florida when I was a kid and I remember it being crowded in the shops. Maybe it was slow because we were there on a Friday in September instead of during vacation season, but I was surprised to see it so empty. We enjoyed our visit.


We gave Wee Sing Around The World another try and listened to the songs for both weeks 5 & 6. Happy that we did, it went much better. We had fun with them & played them several times throughout the week as we danced around the living room wearing our sombreros. Tingalayo is still stuck in my head.


In our zoology study we wrapped up canidae (canines) with the sight vs. smell experiment. It uses lemon jello with food color added to half. Subjects smell the jello and guess the flavor, then taste it and guess the flavor. With only 3 people in our family (2 of us knew about the experiment) I'm not sure how accurate it was. I played along and guessed that one was berry. I think the overall concept was still learned. Plus Lindsey got to use her South of the Border ruler to draw columns for her data chart :)

Tip: Use liquid food color. I used gel because it's what I had on hand, but it didn't dissolve well. Our colored jello didn't end up very red.

We decided to use the animal tracking stickers in the back of the zoology notebook on the maps in the Flags of the World book. We are also adding the small flags to countries as we study them. These pages are ideal for stickers & we will be able to add them to the notebook when they are complete.

We were planning to study reptiles next since we are learning about desserts in ecosystems. I had already told Lindsey we would be skipping the pet lizard.
So we are on our nature walk Thursday afternoon...

We found a baby turtle on the path near the lake. We rescued it, afraid someone might run over it on their bike. Lindsey says, "Mom, turtles are reptiles! He's not a lizard, can we keep him? Please!!" I really like turtles, so I relented and said we could keep it for a week to observe it and then we had to return it to it's home.

She named the turtle Speedster and looked up what type he was and how to care for it online. I discovered turtles are covered in Lesson 11 and keeping a pet turtle is in the book. We are covering the turtle and tortoise part of the chapter, but will come back to the crocodilians and amphibians later.

We believe Speedster is a slider. Lindsey found a rock and a stick and created a habitat for the tiny baby turtle. We bought some food pellets for baby turtles and also gave it some lettuce. Speedster is smaller than a quarter and likes to swim.


We started playing the geography game this week and it was a hit. I'm wishing I had a laminator though, adding it to my wishlist. I'm thinking once Lindsey learns all the countries for North America, I may add some flag cards to the game to challenge her a bit more.

She is making good progress on the Exploring World Geography worksheets. We are actually ahead of schedule on these.


Lindsey decided on a sombrero pinata and we started on it this week. Since we worked on it at the kitchen table, we ate dinner on the back porch. We used school glue thinned with water in a plastic shoe box to run our newspaper strips through. We layered the balloon (leaving an opening to fill it with candy) and let it dry overnight. Then we did a second layer and let it dry overnight again. After it was well covered and dry we popped the balloon and filled it with candy. Next we covered up the hole. Next week we will decorate it.