Seven Days: 4/25-5/1

Now that the malaise of the first trimester is past, I’m trying to get back to my blogging.  One thing I’ve been wanting to add is a weekly review of what my kids have been doing.  I got this idea from Erin at Bluebirdbaby, but I can hardly call my series “Project 52” since I’m starting at the end of April!



  • Celebrated his eleventh birthday.
  • Received an Arduino board, and started learning how to program it.
  • Started the first piece in Suzuki Violin Book III.
  • Cut down saplings in the Pokey Woods.
  • Impressed us all with his Minecraft hockey arena.




  • Enjoyed spending time with Grandma and Grandpa G.
  • Climbed a tree in the Pokey Woods.
  • Had his first spring hockey practice.
  • Spent most of his free time playing, drawing, or talking about hockey!




Yeast Project

Welcoming Thomas for a guest post this weekend.

bread picture small - Copy

We decided to do this yeast project after I forgot to put the yeast in bread.  First we looked at the directions from sciencebob.com.  The website said to get a bottle and fill it with about one inch of warm water.  Then it said to add one packet of yeast and swirl it.  After that we needed to add a teaspoon of sugar and swirl that.  Finally we put the balloon on the bottle and put in in a warm spot.  Here is a cool timelapse of the twenty minutes that we left the bottle in a warm place:

How does this work?

The yeast eats the sugar and releases a gas called carbon dioxide.  Carbon dioxide is the same gas that we release when we exhale.  Yeast does not have to eat sugar. It will also eat flour or sugar-related things.  The carbon dioxide makes holes in whatever the yeast is in, as seen below.

This bread has yeast in it.



This bread does not.


No holes (well one or two not from yeast)

After the twenty minutes were up, we took a drop of the yeast solution out of the bottle. We looked at the solution under a microscope.  Here is a picture of the solution taken by focusing the camera lens in the microscope view:


This was a fun project, but I hope I don’t forget to put yeast in bread again!


An Interest-Led Learning Expedition

Our sailing sloop, Infinity

Our sailing sloop, Infinity

History credits Christopher Columbus with opening the “Age of Exploration.”  We studied Columbus in the fall, and while the results were not as epic as the beginning of an age, our study did open the way for more exploration.  Our learning expedition kept us engaged up until the holidays, and now it seems that we have moved on to other areas of study.

The decision to study Columbus was mine.  I admire those teachers and homeschool parents who provide stimulating environments and provocations and then gently guide their students to take the initiative in project-based learning.  I have never become one of those teachers or parents.  My students, and now my children, have always seemed to need just a little bit more direction to keep them on track.  As I homeschool my boys, I always try to have areas of study waiting in the wings, but I also have plenty of flexibility to follow that study wherever it may lead.

Such was the case with Columbus.  I had planned to start some reading in early American history.  It just happened to be October, near Columbus Day, and I just happened to have some good children’s books on Columbus.  I did not merely set these books out.  I sat down and read Meet Christopher Columbus by James T. deKay with Jack, and I gave Thomas reading assignments, complete with a study guide for Where Do You Think You’re Going, Christopher Columbus? by Jean Fritz.  Of the two books, I like Where Do You Think You’re Going? better because it gives a more balanced view of Christopher Columbus.  In his final writing assignment, Thomas was able to conclude that, “although he was a good sailor, Christopher Columbus was not a good leader.”  Jack’s book focuses only on the first voyage to the Americas, but that was enough for him.  Indeed, it was Jack whose interest was really piqued by our Columbus study.

Studying the Santa Maria

Assimilating what we’ve learned

Soon Jack was busy drawing pictures of ships.  We read about the Pilgrims and the Mayflower, and even more ideas started percolating.  (It is so fun to watch Jack think because he is quite transparent.  Thomas is a little harder to figure out.)  After he had finished writing his assigned report about the Pilgrims, Jack wrote his “Yellow Pod and Green Pod” story.  It’s rather a compilation of things he learned from Columbus and the Pilgrims, and I have included it here.

Jack's ship pictures

Jack’s ship pictures

Of course, it was only a matter of time before we had to start making boats.  We used a You-Tube tutorial to make origami boats, but Jack was a little disappointed that they were not seaworthy for very long before becoming waterlogged.  We also used a large box from a friend to make our own sailing sloop.  It is pictured above, and though also not seaworthy, it was fun to make.  We even learned some sailing terms in the process.

Jack tried reinforcing our origami boat with duct tape.

Jack tried reinforcing our origami boat with duct tape.

Thomas engineered a rudder for a small cardboard ship model.

Thomas engineered a rudder for a small cardboard ship model.

I tried to find more library books about sailors and ships from the same era, but I had trouble finding very much at Jack’s second grade reading level.  I did find a book about Ferdinand Magellan.  I also checked out Pirates Past Noonwhich is part of the Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborne.  This became Jack’s first independent chapter book.  He read it in a matter of days, and he has been hooked on the series ever since.  To date, he’s read about ten more Magic Tree House books.  They are a perfect fit for him.  He is building reading fluency and confidence, he his learning a lot of facts, and he is fostering an enjoyment of reading.  In my estimation, these are all good things.  Jack has also spent quite a bit of his allotted computer time on the Magic Tree House website, and he’s taken to carrying a notebook in his backpack just like the “Jack” in the series.

I was looking for Jack to do his chores, but I ended up unloading the dishwasher myself!

I was looking for Jack to do his chores, but I ended up unloading the dishwasher myself!

It is actually a Magic Tree House book that may determine our next area of study.  Shortly after reading Pirates Past Noon, Jack read Eve of the Emperor Penguin.    Much dramatic play ensued, with Jack in the lead role as “the Little Blue Penguin.”  I can’t be sure, but I think a polar expedition may be in our near future.  I’ll keep you posted . . . .

"Captain Jack" in the Infinity.*  I'll share some of our boat-making process next week.

“Captain Jack” in the Infinity.*  I’ll share some of our boat-making process next week.

*The idea for Jack’s pirate/Halloween costume came from his reading as well, but not from Pirates Past Noon.  This past summer he was immersed in the Henry and Mudge series by Cynthia Rylant.  In one of the books, Henry dresses up as a pirate.  Thus, our Halloween costume, which also works very well in a cardboard boat!



A New Year’s Resolution and Bible Study Plan


I wasn’t planning any New Year’s resolutions this year.  It’s not something I typically think about.  Then, after the whirlwind of holiday preparations and travels, I found myself with no pressing obligations on New Year’s Eve.  I sat down with this luxury of time, and laid out a Bible study plan for the boys.  Truth be told, this is something I should have done earlier, and we haven’t really done a good job with a dedicated Bible study time this homeschool year.  I’ve made it my resolution to do better.

The plan I laid out focuses on the book of Luke.  It seems natural to focus on stories from the life of Jesus during the time between Christmas and Easter.  I chose the book of Luke because David is teaching it in one the Bible classes I am attending right now.  I thought this current study might be of help to me when I teach the boys.

For the first time in the boys’ experience, we are incorporating actual Bible readings into our study.  Some children may be ready for this step earlier than mine were, but I did not want to rush this.  I want them always to feel that the story of their salvation is accessible to them at their level.  For each week, my plan is to use a children’s Bible or storybook on the first day, to use Tom’s NIV Bible on the second day, and then to review the story on the third day.  (The English Standard Version would actually be our version of choice, but both my favorite Bible and Tom’s Bible are the New International Version, so that’s what we are using.)

We are also doing memory work each week.  We work on this together, and if we don’t learn all of the longer passages in one week, that’s okay.  We review often, and eventually we will know all the passages.  Some of the memory work is from Luther’s Small Catechism (Concordia Publishing House, 1986), and the rest is from the NIV Bible.  I’ve included alternate Bible verses for the catechism weeks just in case anyone else wants to follow the plan and prefers only Bible verses.  (Certainly, the sequence of Bible stories and verses is applicable for Christians of any background.)

We began the New Year with the story of Anna and Simeon, and then I planned through the first week of Pentecost.  For me, planning is half the battle, so I think we’re off to a good start.  I’ll let you know how it goes.  If any of you decide to try the plan yourselves, you can let me know how it goes.  If all goes well, I’d like to flesh out the plan into an actual Bible study curriculum, so your feedback is welcome.


For the Week of January 1:  In the Temple with Simeon and Anna

Luke 2:21-39

My eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared in the sight of all people.  Luke 2:30-31

For the Week of January 5:  The Boy Jesus in the Temple

Luke 2:41-52

The Fourth Commandment:  Honor your father and mother.  What does this mean?  We should fear and love God so that we do not despise or anger our parents and other authorities, but honor them, serve and obey them, love and cherish them.

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  Ephesians 6:1

For the Week of January 12:  John the Baptist and Jesus

Luke 3:1-16 and 21-23

You, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins.  Luke 1:76-77

For the Week of January 19:  The Temptation of Jesus

Luke 4:1-13

The Sixth Petition:  And lead us not into temptation.  What does this mean?  God tempts no one.  But we pray in this petition that God would guard and keep us so that the devil, the world, and our sinful nature, may not deceive us into false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice.  Although we are attacked by these things, we pray that we may finally overcome them and win the victory.

Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.  Hebrews 2:18

For the Week of January 26:  Jesus Calls Peter, James, and John

Luke 4:38-5:11

“Come follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.”  Matthew 4:19

For the Week of February 2:  The Man Let Down through the Roof

Luke 5:17-26

The Fifth Petition:  And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.  What does this mean?  We pray in this petition that our Father in heaven would not look at our sins, or deny our prayer because of them.  We are neither worthy of the things for which we pray, nor have we deserved them, but we ask that He would give them all to us by grace, for we daily sin much and surely deserve nothing but punishment.  So we too will sincerely forgive and gladly do good to those who sin against us.

Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits – who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases.  Psalm 103:2

For the Week of February 9:  The Centurion’s Servant and the Widow’s Son

Luke 7: 1-17

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.  Hebrews 11:1

For the Week of February 16:  Jesus Calms the Storm

Luke 8:22-25

The sea is his for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.  Psalm 95:5

For the Week of February 23:  Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand

Luke 9:10-17

The Fourth Petition: Give us this day our daily bread.  What does this mean?  God certainly gives daily bread to everyone without our prayers, even to all evil people, but we pray in this petition that God would lead us to realize this and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.

The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time.  You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.  Psalm 145:15-16

For the Week of March 2:  Peter’s Confession and the Transfiguration

Luke 9:18-23 and 28-36

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Hebrews 12:2

For the Week of March 9: Mary and Martha and the Parable of the Sower

Luke 10:38-42 and Luke 8:1-15

The Third Commandment:  Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.  What does this mean?  We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.  Psalm 119:105

For the Week of March 16:  Zacchaeus and Matthew

Luke 19:1-10 and Luke 5:27-32

The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.  Luke 19:10

For the Week of March 23:  Jesus Enters Jerusalem

Luke 19:28-48

“Hosanna to the Son of David!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!  Hosanna in the highest!”  Matthew 21:9

For the Week of March 30:  The Last Supper

Luke 2:7-34

While they were eating, Jesus took break, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to His disciples saying, “Take eat, this is my body.”  Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them saying, “Drink from it all of you.  This is my blood of the covenant which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins”.  Matthew 26:26-28

For the Week of April 6:  Jesus in the Garden and Peter’s Denial

Luke 22:39-65

The Third Petition:  Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  What does this mean?  The good and gracious will of God is done even without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may be done among us also.

For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.  John 6:40

For the Week of April 13 (Holy Week):  Jesus’ Trial and Crucifixion

Luke 22:66-23:55

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  John 3:16

For the Week of April 20 (Easter):  Jesus’ Resurrection

Luke 24:1-12

Why do you look for the living among the dead?  He is not here; he has risen!  Luke 24:5-6

For the Week of April 27:  Easter Evening

Luke 24:13-49

“Stay with us for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.”  Luke 24:29

For the Week of May 4:  The Parable of the Lost Sheep

Luke 15:1-7

I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  John 10:11

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.  John 10:27-28

For the Week of May 11:  The Prodigal Son

Luke 15: 11-31

Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.  Joel 13:34

For the Week of May 18:  The Good Samaritan

Luke 10:25-27

A new command I give you: Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  John 13:34

For the Week of May 25:  Love Your Enemies

Luke 6:27-36

Do to others as you would have them do to you.  Luke 6:31

For the Week of June 1:  Jesus’ Ascension

Acts 1:1-11

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always to the end of the age.  Matthew 28:19-20

For the Week of June 8:  Pentecost

Acts 2:1-47

Do you not know that you body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?  1 Corinthians 6:19


Wishing you God’s blessings in the New Year!










Thanksgiving Report 3: Pilgrims

It is December 11.  Theoretically, this is a time of preparation for Christmas, not a time for writing about Thanksgiving.  Rest assured, we are preparing for Christmas, and a “White Christmas” at that.  In fact, Western New York weather is so intent on creating a “Winter Wonderland” effect, that the boys were unable to get the Christmas tree today as planned.  They braved the lake effect snow, headed south to East Aurora, and found the driveway to the tree farm under two feet of snow, with conditions deteriorating steadily.

photo by Thomas

photo by Thomas

photo by Thomas

photo by Thomas

They decided to come home.

With no tree to decorate this evening, I decided to finish my Thanksgiving series.  This last post is actually a showcase of Jack’s work.  He read about the Pilgrims this fall, and wrote a report about them.  Concurrently, he worked on an imaginative story.  He calls it “The Yellow Pod and The Green Pod.”  I like to call it “The Pilgrims Go to Mexico.”  It is interesting to me because I can see that he is working with certain concepts, and yet he doesn’t quite understand them fully.  For example, he knows that ships carried people across the ocean, and that smaller sailing sloops were used for trading up and down the coast.  (I just learned that myself after reading The Winthrop Woman.)  He also knows that fresh water is important.  Instead of including a “spoiler alert,” I’ll let you read on for yourself to see how these concepts play out.  By the way, the “pods” are the ships.  I don’t know why he calls them “pods.”

“The Pilgrims”

by Jack Duke


A Pilgrim is someone who goes on a long, long journey.  The Pilgrims could not worship God in their own way.  They tried to get to Virginia, but they got to Plymouth, Massachusetts.

Before winter there were 102 Pilgrims.  After the winter there were 50 Pilgrims.  By the end of the summer, they had eight houses. 

Native Americans helped the Pilgrims in the summer.  In October the Pilgrims and the Indians had a big feast!  They had deer, berries, grapes, dried plums, nuts, and turkeys!  The feast was to be thankful for their food.  They had pumpkins, squash and beans too.

“The Yellow Pod and the Green Pod”

This book is in 1852.

by Jack Duke


One fine day, the Yellow Pod and the Green Pod were going to north Mexico.  The people on the ships were going to live there.  It was a smooth ride.  They got to north Mexico safe and sound.

They gave some people who needed ships their ships for two sailboats.  They were going to need sailboats to go places to trade things.  They made ten little wooden houses.  The kids played tag, and run around the house, and hide and seek.  One day they got a great trade: a log for a gun.  Then one day they went to Florida in their sailboats to get some more water.  When they were home, everyone had lots of water.

It was summer at last.  Crops were growing.  Everyone was happy that it was summer.  They had sailed for that long, long time for a better life.  The place was not so full because they had made their own town.  They made lots of friends there.  They had a way better life in north Mexico than in England.


P.S.  For my non-local readers, let me explain lake effect snow.  East Aurora is south of Buffalo, and the City of Tonawanda, where we live, is north of Buffalo.  If you look on a map, you will see that Tonawanda is actually north of Lake Erie.  Alas, this means we do not always get the lake effect snow.  This is frustrating for the children, the young at heart, and anyone who doesn’t have to drive regularly.  You saw the pictures from East Aurora.  Here in Tonawanda, we have about an inch.  We’re hoping for more, and I think it’s on it’s way…


Savoring the Season


Our homeschool year is in full swing.  We are doing the work of learning, work that includes early morning hockey practices, violin and cello lessons, Sunday afternoon science experiments, and plenty of math and reading.  One of Jack’s reading selections is Frederick by Leo LionniFrederick is the story of a little family of mice who all seem to be busy getting ready for winter – all except for Frederick:

“Frederick,” why don’t you work?” they asked.

“I do work,” said Frederick.

“I gather sun rays for the cold dark winter days.”

And when they saw Frederick sitting there, staring at the meadow, they said, “And now, Frederick?”

“I gather colors,” answered Frederick simply, “For winter is gray.”

And once Frederick seemed half asleep.  “Are you dreaming, Frederick?” they asked reproachfully.

But Frederick said, “Oh no, I am gathering words.  For the winter days are long and many, and we’ll run out of things to say.”

~ from Frederick by Leo Lionni, published by Alfred A Knopf, Inc. 1967

I suppose we have been engaged in some Frederick-like work as well.  The autumn blue sky beckons, and we set aside our indoor pursuits.  We are off to the park, to the apple orchard, or to our friends’ 20 acres.  We soak in the sunshine and the colors, just like Frederick.





Back at home we continue our savoring as we cook some of the apples we have picked, and yes, even carve out time for a Halloween celebration.



The days are getting shorter; Daylight Savings Time is expiring even as I write.  But as the cold, dark, winter days approach, we plan to be well stocked with memories of autumn warmth, light, and fun.


Last Week, 8

Last week Jack and I made an allergen-free chocolate pie for Father’s Day.  It had no eggs, no dairy, no nuts, no wheat, and it still tasted really good!  It was so good, in fact, that I didn’t have a chance to take a picture.  I did, however, find a picture of the first Father’s Day chocolate pie I ever made.  (It was not allergen-free, as that was not an issue back then.  This year was the first that I figured out an allergen-free chocolate pie so we’ve had to do with other desserts in the meantime.)


I also found a picture of the little creature who gave us an especial reason to celebrate Father’s Day those ten years ago:

Thomas Henry 038

Last week we also did a little homeschool plant cell biology.  Our model cell looked like this:


I finished all of our end-of-the-year homeschool paperwork.  On the way to the high school to turn it in, Jack and I stopped for a walk at the river.


We ended the week with a string recital and picnic.  It was held at the home of another Buffalo Suzuki Strings family.  Thomas and Jack played their “Long, Long Ago” duet with Miss Klansee playing a harmony part (which would technically make the song a trio).

long long ago edit

It was a very full week and a good one too.


KidBiz Market


Over Father’s Day weekend, the boys participated in the KidBiz Market sponsored by Buffalo State College.  Thomas wrote about this in his Nachmu Crayons post, but I wanted to add my two cents before moving on to other things.  It was a wonderful experience.  The weather was perfect, and the Elmwood Avenue neighborhood with its Victorian houses and creative atmosphere is always a fun place to visit.

The KidBiz Market allowed us not only to visit, but to actually take part in the action.  It was a great opportunity for the kids to learn a little bit about marketing and entrepreneurship.  Thomas and Jack sold their recycled crayons, and they also played their instruments.  At one point, they even joined with another participant to play some Suzuki repertoire together.



By the the end of the morning, I must say, the boys had done quite well for themselves.  If you donated crayons, stopped by their stand, or supported their efforts in some other way, we extend our thanks.  We are looking forward to going back in July and August.


I would love for the boys to continue their recycled crayon business.  I think it would be a good project for them, but only if they want to continue it.  For now, they do want to continue; consequently, we are looking for some more crayons to recycle.  If you have old crayons you would like to recycle, please let us know.   Thomas has his Nachmu Crayons coupons all ready for you.  I’m not sure if a kids’ business dependent on recycled materials is sustainable, but I guess we will find out soon!


Nachmu Crayons

Welcoming Thomas for a guest post today:

My brother and I are starting a business called Nachmu Crayons.  Nachmu crayonsNachmu Crayons will be part of the KidBiz program.  KidBiz is a program where kids can sell things such as artwork, crafts, old toys, and stuff like that.  It is sponsored by Buffalo State College.  KidBiz will be on Saturday, June 15, from 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM at the corner of Elmwood and Bidwell by the farmers’ market in Buffalo, New York.  Other kids will be selling things there too.

We will be selling recycled crayons shaped to be butterflies, ladybugs, frogs, hearts, and stars.  The prices are 3 for $2 or 75¢ each.  We will not only be selling crayons of different shapes, but we will also bring our musical instruments.  My brother, Jack, will play the cello, and I will play the violin.

a portion of our inventory

a portion of our inventory

We call the business Nachmu Crayons because my dad uses Nachmu (Nock-Moo) as a family nickname.  Nachmu means comfort in Hebrew.  You can read more about that here.

We would like to recycle more crayons!  If you have unwanted crayons, please think of recycling them with us.  Any crayons are fine even if they are broken.  We will melt the crayons and pour them into candy molds to give them their new shape.  We will give you a Nachmu Crayons coupon for your donation.  Future dates for Kidbiz are July 6 and August 3.  We hope to be selling crayons on those dates too!

melting the crayons

melting the crayons

Please send our mom an email if you would like to recycle crayons with us.  Her email address is deborah@nachmu.com.  Write “recycled crayons” in the subject header, and we will get back to you.  Thank you!


The Zeilinger Wool Company

On May 6 2013, we were at Grandma and Grandma’s house.  We did several things that day.  One of the main things we did was we went to the Zeilinger Wool Company.  We went inside and saw the things they sold there.   One of the workers named Dotie came to us and took us to another building on the land they owned, and we went inside.  Inside that building, there were lots of machines that were part of the process of making wool into yarn.  There were cool machines in that building.

Some machines were getting dirt and stuff like that out of the wool.  Even though it had already been washed with soap and water, it was not all the way clean.



The carding machine removes any remaining dirt or vegetation and makes the fibers smooth.

The carded wool is ready for spinning.

This is a spinning frame that spins the wool into one-ply yarn.

This is a spinning frame that spins the wool into one-ply yarn.


Now the wool is steamed so the yarn does not kink.

Now the wool is steamed so the yarn does not kink.


Next, the yarn is wound onto cones.

Next, the yarn is wound onto cones.

One-ply yarn is not very strong.

The twister spins the one-ply yarn into two, three, or four-ply yarn.

The twister spins the one-ply yarn into two, three, or four-ply yarn.

Now the yarn is ready for use.

I am glad we got to see the Zeilinger wool company.  It was a great tour of the building.  If you want to know more, you can watch this video:

Photos by C. Gioe