Saturday, July 30, 2011

Noor has an Art Mentor!

We recently found an art mentor for Noor, as she's been asking us to find someone who knows more about the graphic programs she enjoys using.  Daniel Moyer, animator and unschooling dad appeared, and the two of them have been having a fantastic time (over Skype--Yea! Technology!) exploring Adobe programs and general art techniques.

With Dan's encouragement, Noor worked a bit this week on lighting, shadowing and depth perception

Today, they worked on a lot of different techniques, and I found this one really neat: Noor found a photo of a cat and then traced her lines over it. I can see how that would be very helpful for animation sequences.

Blood Volume in various mammals

Human Adult         Human Child             Cat

Some time ago, Noor asked how much blood a cat has in it's body, because she wanted to discern how realistic some of the Warrior Cat battle scenes are.  We looked it up and learned that a 9 lb cat has approximately 1/2 pint of blood (8 ounces).

We were just talking about that again, because I told some folks that Noor learned this information due, in large part, to my willingness to let her watch gory videos, which piqued her interest in anatomy. I just asked Noor if she remembered what she had learned, and she did. Thinking about it, she said she was curious how that amount compares to the human body.  We found a few different answers, but the range for an adult body is 7-10 pints, and 5 pints for a 5 year-old child.

We talked a bit about volume too, and how the shape of the container effects our perception.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Salt & Sugar Crystals and other things close up

A few nights ago Michael and Noor made rock candy. Here's a photo from today (three days later). They used some natural food coloring, which is why the color is so dark.

This is what the crystals look like up-close:

Here's a magnified view of the raw, organic sugar they used:

By heating the water and making a solution, the molecules bound together creating the chain of crystals in the first photo.

We also looked at Himalayan salt, or halite (rock salt): 

and epsom salts under the scope:

Since the microscope was out, Noor pulled out some of her recent insect specimens to look at as well:

A piece of a Swallow Tail's wing she found on the ground

A bee's head:

a stink bug:

looking at a dead moth, we were surprised to see this creature (as yet, still unidentified).  Noor thinks it is laying eggs, because it was doing a lot of tail wriggling

the head of the same moth:

Monday, July 25, 2011

A Picture Speaks 1000 Words (Well, 883, to be exact): What Unschooling Looks Like at 9:17 PM at our House

One of the most important things I’ve learned as an unschooler is to recognize that I have a choice, not just one or two choices, but many many choices regarding my actions and reactions. When I use my relationship with my family as a guide--what choice best supports learning, trust, love--I’ve found that finding solutions to everyday conflicts, both large and small, is quite simple. My daughter has learned that too!
Last night, after Michael and I watched a video with Noor, she decided that she wanted to re-watch it.  Neither Michael or I wanted to sit through a repeat, so we told her that we’d love to sit and watch something, all of us together, but we’d prefer to watch something else.  She was sure she only wanted to watch her show.  We were sure we didn’t (we’d watched the same episode more than a few times with her already).
Without missing a beat, Noor offered a very workable solution: “I don’t mind if you guys watch something else,” Noor said.  “But I’d really like us to all sit together.  I can wear my headphones and I want to keep working on legos.” 
Michael nodded agreement and brought the laptop into the study so we could all sit together.
Every so often Noor would pause her show and we’d pause ours so she could share bits about her ongoing lego creation. At one point, Noor stopped watching her show for a few minutes and came and watched ours.  We paused the shows a bit later because she had to go to the bathroom and asked Michael to keep her company.  We stopped the shows yet again while Michael made us all bowls of ice cream with bananas, walnuts and chocolate sauce.  And, we paused our show another time to talk about something funny Noor noticed while she was watching her video.
An hour-long show often takes about two hours to watch in our house, but that’s okay.
When I realized how lovely the scene in our study was, how it spoke volumes to living in partnership with our children, how finding solutions where there are no winners or losers, only happy content members of a family who all feel their needs are being met and that their desires are respected, I decided to take a photo.  The scene in our study seemed to me to speak 1000 words about the joy unschooling has brought to our lives.
Standing on the stairs, looking down, my vision widened and I saw how the “mess” on our desk addressed so many other concerns parents have when they first encounter the principles behind unschooling.
Often, new-to-unschooling parents are afraid that if they remove regulations on TV/computers, food, and sleep, that their children will do nothing but “eat handfuls of sugar and sit in front of a screen all day and night.”
We’ve been in the middle of a heatwave, here on the East Coast.  It’s been HOT, too hot to spend much time outside, too hot, even indoors (very old and inefficient AC), to do much of anything but sit around.  Yet, even still, our lives have been rich and full of learning.  Surrounding Noor as she plays with Legos and watches videos on Netflix, are the signs of many of the things she’d thought about during the day: her bug habitats were frequently studied and adapted, the bug net is close, in case she sees something interesting fly by the window, there is a book my brother lent me, “Plato and a Platypus walk into a Bar: Understanding Philosophy through Jokes,” that as I was reading and laughing out-loud over, Noor paused what she was doing to ask what was so funny.  I read a few jokes to her and we talked about logic, specifically, about Aristotle’s Law of Noncontradiction.  Because one of the jokes was about a Rabbi, we also talked a bit about Judaism, religious jokes, and about the different Rabbis we’ve known, and about how some Rabbis are women.  Also on the desk is a new book about Manga, one of Noor’s many interests, her swimming goggles, a book I checked out from the library with math games, a snack Noor prepared, our cat Oliver, a plate/alter with things Noor used to cast protection spells, Noor’s US passport (she was thinking about making a new one, for her own imagined country), a diagram of invented Lego pieces she drew, and some crystals we made a few months ago.  Noor pulled the crystals out earlier in the day to look at, and they reminded her of the saffron rock candy a friend recently brought for her on a trip to Iran.  When Noor was talking about the candy, and how delicious it was, Michael suggested that they look up a recipe to make some, which they did. Afterwards, they looked at the crystals under our microscope (look at the cool!).

A parent could fret, seeing a child sit and watch videos and draw on the computer for hours at a time, that the child isn’t learning.  But if the parent widens her view, as I did looking at the desk, she will see signs of learning everywhere, including the video.  

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Noor has her own blog!

Noor started her own art blog today

She'll be posting her drawings and animation and as well as coloring pages of her work for other folks to enjoy.  Check her out and leave her a comment!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Saffron Rock Candy and Dates from Iran

Nahid just returned from her annual trip to visit her mother in Esfanhan, Iran.

As usual, she brought us yummy goodies.

The rock candy is colored and flavored with saffron, so we looked at pictures of Crocus sativus, the flower the spice comes from
Crocus sativus is the world's most expensive spice.  Saffron are the stigmas from the crocus sativus flower

There are only 3 stigmas (referred to as saffron threads) per flower. Saffron is hand harvested so you can understand why it is so prized and so expensive.  It takes about 13,125 threads to weigh one ounce.
According to Wikipedia, the average retail price for a pound of Saffron in Western countries is $1000/pound, so $62.50/an ounce.

It is debatable where Saffron originated, some sources claim Persia (Iran). This map shows where it is currently cultivated. 
 —  Major growing regions.
 —  Minor growing regions.
 —  Minor producing nations.
Noor thinks she'd like to go to Iran with Nahid, so we talked a bit about how difficult it is for Nahid to travel there, even with an Iranian passport and how much harder it would be for us with American documents.

Killing Jar

We have a stack of old Boy Scout books that Noor likes to browse and which are great for ideas on everything from insect collection and identification to wilderness safety.  In the manual for the Nature Merit Badge, she found instructions for making a "Killing Jar" to facilitate growing a collection of insect specimens.

She measured the diameter of the jar and traced the lid, recognizing that she needed to make the cardboard layers a bit smaller to fit through the opening.  The bottom layer of cotton balls are wet with nail polish remover.

She promptly caught a wasp that was hanging out on the window and it died very quickly.

The book we have was printed in 1970, but the copyright is 1952.  We wondered if the newer books still have this project and if so, if it is still called a "Killing Jar."

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Cicada Metamorphosis

A few nights ago, Michael found a Cicada that was still in its nymph stage. This is pretty rare, as we usually only find the skins or the adults.  Noor put her (we think it is a female because she doesn't sing) in a bug habitat and kept an eye on her.  This morning, Noor noticed some shaking and movement and realized that she was shedding her skin. Excitedly, she came to get us so we could watch too.

About 5 hours after she emerged from her shell, her color changed from white-ish and bright green to a darker molted brown.  Her exoskeleton has also hardened significantly from the time she emerged.

Newlin Grist Mill

Our visit to Cheyney Creek yesterday was well timed, and we had the oppertunity to watch the blacksmiths at the Newlin Grist Mill. 

We learned about the different kinds of coal used for blacksmithing and what life was like for Pennsylvania blacksmiths in the late 1600s through the 1800s.

The blacksmith made Noor a nail and told her that while he may be able to make about 30 nails a day, the slaves in Philadelphia were able to make hundreds.

We also saw a rushlight clip and learned about this free, short-burning source of light made from twisted rushes soaked in bacon fat.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Diving and Swimmer's Ear

A whole lotta this.........


Gave Noor a case of this........

Swimmer's Ear Overview
Swimmer's ear — also called otitis externa (say: o-ty-tus ek-stur-nuh) — is different from a regular ear infection. Usually, when people say a kid has an ear infection, they mean otitis media (say: me-dee-uh), an infection of the middle ear. This sometimes happens when a kid gets a cold.
But swimmer's ear happens when bacteria grow in the ear canal, which is a passageway to the eardrum. In that canal, you'll find delicate skin that's protected by a thin coating of earwax. Most of the time, water can run in and out of the ear canal without causing a problem. For instance, you don't usually get swimmer's ear from taking baths or showers.
Bacteria get a chance to grow when water stays in the ear canal and it washes away the protective coating of earwax. A lot of swimming can wash away that wax protection and lead to these wet conditions in the ear canal. Bacteria grow and the ear canal gets red and swollen. Sometimes kids can get an infection in the ear canal even if they haven't been swimming. A scratch or other irritation to the ear canal can also lead to swimmer's ear.

Picture of the Ear Structure


Finally got the computer up and running so I could upload photos from our whirlwind 1000+ mile two week vacation. Lots of word games in the car, Mancala with grandma, fire, bear and water safety conversations, wild plant identification, border crossings and currency exchange, reading the Declaration of Independence on the 4th of July, Noor found the largest insect she's ever seen, swimming in lakes, rivers and swimming pools, hanging out with Abbey, Grandma and Grand dad, kayaking, hiking, sleeping under the stars, thunderstorms and map reading........

Camping at Jamaica State Park in Vermont

Sweet sisters...

Apple Press from 1917 in Stowe, VT (was in use until 2003)

Dobsonfly captured at Jamaica State Park, VT

US-Canada border crossing in North Troy, VT

Dragonfly expedition

Grandma, grand dad, Abbey and Noor on the bank of Lake Memphamogog