Archive for the ‘Abeka Academy Weekly Journal’ Category

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Well, John has reached a major milestone in 7th Grade A Beka Academy DVD Program 1 Homeschool:  he completed his science project!  (Yes, I am very happy!)  This project is really a big part of 7th grade science.  He began it in October and just completed it this week.  There were several components to this project including a research paper, a scientific experiment, a display, and an oral presentation.  John is, of course, our oldest son, so he gets the “privilege” of trying out all of these great things first!  By the time Kara works on one of these projects, it’ll be a piece of cake–yeah, right!

John’s project was about DNA.  The goal of his experiment was to determine if the amount of extractable DNA in fruits and vegetables increased with the number of chromosomes.  Sounds complicated, doesn’t it?!  Basically, he liquified 6 different fruits and veggies, and then using a process involving soap, rubbing alcohol, meat tenderizer, and other household items, he extracted the DNA from the liquid.  The DNA collected in a layer, and then he measured the depth of the layer.  This was not as easy at it sounds because sometimes the layers were pretty well defined, and other times the DNA “blobbed” making measuring pretty difficult.  He then charted the measurements with the number of chromosomes to see if there was any correlation between the two figures.

Fortunately, John has a Dad who is an economist and works with charts, trends, and the like all of the time.  Dan helped John analyze the data, and then John and I worked together to make the display according to the directions given to us by A Beka.  It was quite the process…..

So, what were the results?  John determined from his experiments that there was a very slight correlation between the number of chromosomes and the amount of extractable DNA, but this correlation was so slight that it is statistically insignificant.  In order to be conclusive, the experiment would have to be conducted many, many times and measured with highly sophisticated equipment that we just simply do not have access to in our house!  😉

So that’s one science project down, and, if my figuring is right, we should have 29 more to go….. Yes, all five kids will have these kind of projects each year from 7th grade through 12th grade. That means that we will be doing science projects every year until 2022!  There will be a few years where 4 out of 5 kids will all be doing them.  What will that be like???  Our house is going to look like a laboratory!

I am going to add a slideshow of John’s project along with a video of him doing his oral presentation.  He worked very hard on this project, and I am proud of him for sticking with it and doing such a great job! (By the way, the sound on the video will probably need to be turned up.  The room we were using had a lot of echoes.  Sorry about that!)

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow: DNA Extraction Project
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Ugh!  I am SO behind on my blogging again!  We have been extremely busy the last couple of weeks.  This time of year always gets so hectic with school and scouting projects.  John’s science project is nearly finished, and he will be giving his oral report to Brock’s Webelos group tomorrow night.  The pine car derby is Saturday, so we have all been working on cars.  Those silly things sure take up a lot of time!  Hopefully things will slow down a little in the next week or so, and then I will try to catch up my blog with what all has been going on.

In the mean time, the kids have all had memory verses due, so here is our video installment for January 2010:

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Here we are:  half-way through our school year, just returning from Christmas break.  It was good to take several days off from school.  I’ll admit it, we were barely hanging in there right before Christmas!  The kids and I had lost a lot of focus and were in great need of a change of pace for a few days.

The break (both from school and of my fingers 🙂 ) gave me time to evaluate where we are and think about where we are going.  I determined to refocus my own priorities and am challenging the kids to buckle down on their studies now that we are back in school.  This includes setting aside unnecessary distractions until our work is done, and putting our full energy into the tasks God has given us.

Really, home schooling and parenting  are  my greatest responsibilities and privileges. They are truly missions given to me by God, and I need to treat them as such.  They are worthy of my concentration, devotion, and best effort.

So, as I thought about my life over the Christmas break, renewing my own commitment to our school was one area that I wanted to address in my own life.  I have a couple of other areas that I am taking specific steps to work on as well, but those will be discussed in future entries.

John’s DNA science project is in its final phases.  We will be working on his display and he will be putting together his oral presentation during the next few days.  We have all learned a lot!  I told him that if he’ll get his presentation well-polished, I’ll try to make a video of him explaining his work to put on this blog soon.

My fingers are doing SO much better!  This week I have seen nothing short of miraculous progress!  I went back to the clinic for a check up this week on it, and the nurse practitioner said that unless problems develop, I don’t need to come back.  The fingers are healing well, they just need time to heal completely.  I am able to do most tasks normally now, which is a major improvement from just a few days ago.  I can even type with both hands and play my violin again!  Yes, my fingers do still hurt from time-to-time, but they flex well, and the swelling has gone down considerably.  Isn’t God’s ability to heal absolutely amazing?!

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Our school year is rolling right along!  John is really involved in his science project now, so we are pretty busy.

This past weekend John and I decided to do a trial run on his DNA extraction experiment before we actually start the procedures for his project.  I am so glad that we did because we found little things here and there that we needed to clarify in our process so that his project will be consistent with the appropriate controls.  Mostly these adjustments were using precise measurements, timing, etc. so that the exact process will be duplicated with each of the fruits and veggies that he will be testing.  I also had this question in the back of my mind whether this whole experiment would even work, so I was excited to try it out.  I don’t know what we would do if we couldn’t even get the DNA to extract!  Thankfully, though, the process works beautifully.

We used split peas for our first trial, and although these results won’t be an actual part of his project, it was well worth the time, effort, and mess to go through it in an “unofficial” way before we get down to the nitty-gritty of his research project.

Another science project milestone has been met:  the research paper.   Wow, what a project!  John wanted to type his paper this year, and I had no problem with that.  In fact, the ability to do word processing is a vital skill today, so this was a good learning activity for him to go through.  He did all of the typing himself.  His dad and I helped with some of the formatting, inserting pictures, etc., but the rest of it was all his own work.  He designed a really neat cover for his paper on the computer too.  I am hoping to figure out a way to post his completed paper soon.  Here is a picture of him working away on it:

Typing the Research Paper

So, things are pretty busy at the Prairie Family house. It’s a good thing that Christmas break is coming. We really need a few days to catch up on things!

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Well, this is long overdue!  I actually took these pictures several weeks ago, but I just got time today to get them edited and sorted through!

Anyway, I used to have the kids’ school pictures taken professionally each year, but it just got to be too expensive.  So a couple of years ago, I started taking them myself–with varying degrees of success!  😉  This year the kids all cooperated, but my poor camera has seen better days.  It just doesn’t seem to focus right no matter how I have it set.  I really need to get something different–these days with the kids will be gone all too soon.

I made a Smilebox slideshow of the pictures I ultimately chose to use for this year’s school pictures, and then I included some of my other favorite shots at the end of the slideshow.

Click to play this Smilebox greeting: 2009/10 School Pictures
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Yes, this is a Thanksgiving paper!  We are enough ahead of schedule, that we are pretty close to Thanksgiving in our schoolwork.

This week I am going to write about something that I really don’t notice much, but that does come up from time-to-time:  Kara’s hands.  Kara had multiple birth defects, some of which have been corrected, and some of which are permanent.  Her hands are permanent.  When she was born, her fingers on both hands were fused together ( a condition called syndactyly.)  In fact, she had quite a bit of syndactyly on her feet as well, although that didn’t cause her nearly as much trouble as her clubbed foot which we had corrected after her adoption.  She had already had surgery on her hands when we met her, so her fingers were already separated.  She was left with very functional hands, but with permanent deformity on both.  Her left hand is missing her thumb and one finger, and even though her right hand has all of the digits, they are all misformed and of differing sizes.  This really has not affected Kara in any way, and she functions so well that most people don’t even notice her hands!  So, on a day-to-day basis, it is not something that we think about much.

Every now and then, though, we are reminded.  Like when Kara was learning to tie shoes.  That was a trick!  She didn’t have enough fingers to tie them like I do, so we had to invent her own way–and it works just great!  Other times were when she learned to hold a pencil and began learning to play the piano.  She always manages to figure out how to get along and adapts accordingly.

This week in school we had another “hand encounter.”  She was supposed to trace her hand to make a Thanksgiving turkey.  It didn’t even dawn on me that this would be different for Kara because of her fingers.  She is right-handed, so the video teacher said to hold her pencil in her right hand and trace her left hand.  She asked me if it was all right for her to hold her pencil in her left hand and trace her right.  I asked her why, not even thinking about the obvious!  She said that if she could do it her way, her turkey would have all of its feathers!  Of course, that was fine.  I told her if she could manage the pencil in her left hand, to go for it.  Well, as usual, it was no problem for her, and I think her turkey came out just adorable!  In fact, we have done several handprint art projects over the years, and I think her special hands make very cute projects!

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Last week I wrote about how our electricity going out for over an hour really threw a wrench into our school day.  Well, October must be the month for technical difficulties, because today we had two more problems!

Cosette has complained all week that her DVD’s were skipping, getting stuck, etc.  I just assumed it was a recording problem, and told her to do her best.  Well, this morning the video completely froze!  We couldn’t get her class to play at all!  It would go straight from the beginning of one class back to the menu or skip to the next class.  I decided that it was worth trying the disk in a different DVD player, so we took it upstairs in our living room to try it out.  Lo and behold, it played just fine!  So, I guess the problem was not the disk, but the player.  Really that was no surprise since she was using one of our older units–and those units get used a lot each day!  So, I temporarily let Cosette move her school to the living room.  She didn’t mind being able to relax in my recliner for a change!  😉  She did admit, however, that running up and down the stairs for questions, books, papers, etc. got pretty old very fast, and she is ready to get back to normal.  After school we went to Wal-Mart to pick up a new DVD player.  I got it all hooked up so it will be ready to go tomorrow morning.

Believe it or not, that was not our only technical problem today!  Brock finished his classes early today, so I decided to put Luke on his system so that he and Kara could finish up their classes at the same time rather than taking turns with their one television which is what they usually do.  Luke was thrilled to get to use the “big boy” desk and headphones.  When his class was done, though, he forgot about the headphones, and as he got up to come upstairs, they pulled off of his head and pulled the cord right out of the headphones!  Ugh!!  Oh well, we were already going to Wal-Mart for a new DVD player anyway, so I just added another set of headphones onto my shopping list.

I am thankful that this equipment usually works well, and that replacements are not that expensive anymore.  Being able to pick up a new DVD player for less than $30 and new headphones for less than $5 is a blessing!

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Well, this picture is a common sight these days:  John sitting on the couch with his books and note cards.  He is making great progress on his DNA research paper, and this phase will soon be over (hopefully!)  I think he only has 15 more cards to do before he will be ready to begin writing his first draft.

This week marks the end of our first quarter of the school year already.  The youngest three kids are on a 6-week grading period, so I sent in their progress reports a few weeks ago.  John and Brock, however, are on a 9-week grading period, so I’ll have to put together their tests, quizzes, etc. to send in this weekend.  It’s a big job getting all of that organized, but it’s nice to empty out the folders and start a new grading period too.

We had a strange day today.  There are very few things that will keep us from having school.  Certainly not the weather!  It can be blizzarding up a storm, and we can still get down the stairs!  😉  One thing that does affect us, though, is the electricity.  We really depend on that for our school with the DVD players.  Well, today the electricity suddenly went out, so that really threw off our school day.  We waited a few minutes to see if it would come back quickly, but it didn’t.  So, I had the kids work on their seatwork, reading, etc. while we waited.  The electricity ended up being off for over an hour, but we were able to still squeeze in all of the classes since we did some of the off-camera stuff during our unexpected interruption.  It sure did make for a mixed-up day, though!  I wonder what “regular” schools do when the electricity goes out…..

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