Friday, July 14, 2017

Seedless Vascular Plants

Lesson 11 of Apologia's Exploring Creation with Botany curriculum by Jeannie Fulbright is all about "Seedless Vascular Plants."  The focus is the most abundant of these plants, the fern.
 We used the Junior Botany Notebooking Journal to record all that we had learned in Lesson 11 (and every other lesson, too).  We highly recommend purchasing this add-on to go with the text.  Maggie pulls out her old journals from past texts and is so proud of all the work she put into them.
We read about these particular vascular plants in the lesson, discovering that instead of producing seeds, they produce sporangia (spore containers).  We also learned about the anatomy of fronds (to include the rachis, pinnae, and sori), and the life cycle of a fern (reading about the prothallus, rhizoids, antheridia, and archegonia).  There was a lot of great vocabulary in this lesson!  We continued our reading to learn about fiddleheads, other methods of reproduction, and different types of ferns.  Meanwhile, we were recording this great information in our notebooking journal.
 After learning about fiddleheads, we read Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature by Joyce Sidman ...
... then watched a time lapse video of a fern unfurling at (below).
We recorded the life cycle in our journal (page 180), as well as pictures of some different kinds of ferns on page 181.  (I just love her drawings!)
We love the fun minibooks that come with every lesson, too.
After a walk with Daddy, Mags brought in some young fern fronds she found.  These are just developing their sori.
 To complete the "Fern Spores" activity outlined on page 150 of the text, we used an old frond I had been saving in a jar in our classroom just for this lesson.  The sori on it were well developed.  For the activity, we placed the frond, sori-side down, onto a paper towel.  Then, we placed both inside the pages of a heavy book.  This stayed closed tightly overnight.
 The next day, we removed both the paper towel and frond from the book and, with a magnifying glass, investigated all the fine, powdery grains the sporangia left behind.
 Can you see those fine, orange-colored grains?  Those are individual spores!  Each one has the potential to grow into a whole new fern!  Neat!
We continued to document our studies into our journal.
Maggie brought in a few more frond finds for our next project!
 These are still underdeveloped, too, but they'll work!
 It was time for the "Fern Transfers" activity, also outlined on page 150 of the text.  Here is Mags, painting her fronds with some fresh, green paint.
 After painting each, she pressed them onto black cardstock.
We added it to our journal opposite the Scripture "Copywork" page.
We have only ONE MORE lesson in this text, Lesson 12, "Nonvascular Plants."  I can't believe it!  This curriculum has flown!  We've had so much fun.  Check back with us next week for our very last post for Botany!

Sunday, July 9, 2017


Lesson 10 of Apologia's Exploring Creation with Botany text by Jeannie Fulbright is all about "Gymnosperms."  It's hard to believe we only have two more weeks left of Botany, but we will do a unit study on fungi after that and will pick up Fulbright's Zoology 3 curriculum in the fall, so we definitely have more to look forward to!
As with every lesson in this text, we used (and recommend) the notebooking journal to accompany it.  These offer a great way to help your child's learning become more solid in mind, and together, you are able to create a memory book of all you're learning as you go.  Maggie loves looking back through her old journals!
We started our lesson on gymnosperms by reading in the text about conifers, specifically, giant sequoias and bristlecone pines, two record-breaking gymnosperms.  We then colored in our journal while we watched a fun video, “Coastal Redwoods vs. Giant Sequoias” by National Geographic Kids on YouTube at (below).  It compares and contrasts the two with some very interesting facts!
Once watched, we completed a “Video Review” sheet (which I make on my computer) and added it into our notebooking journal.
From there, we read about softwood trees versus hardwood trees, evergreens, and the leaves of different gymnosperms (needle-like, scale-like, and awl-like).  We then learned about the difference between pollen cones (the male cones) and seed cones (the female cones).  We also learned about two different gymnosperms that don't make cones at all: junipers (which make berry-like cones) and yews (which make arils instead of cones).  We even read about the benefits of forest fires, and how some large trees are able to survive these threats.

This brought us back to our (very handy in this course) Plant Adaptations photo science cards pack.
We pulled out Card 6 which talks about fire adaptation in pinecones.  It reads, "Some pinecones, such as those from jack pines, bristlecone pines, and the lodgepole pines shown in the photograph [below], open their scales and drop their seeds only after being exposed to the heat of a fire.  The seeds are sealed in the cone by a waxy resinous sap that requires heat to melt the seals and free the seeds.  This adaptation allows pines to be among the first plants to sprout after a fire.  This assures the survival of their species."  Fascinating!  God thought of everything.
We then recorded all we were learning in our notebooking journal.
From there, we went on to learn about cycads and ginkgo biloba, two unusual gymnosperms.

I just love how the journals give her an opportunity to draw pictures and write in her own words.  We love adding thematic stickers to our pages, too.
In our microscope slide collection, we have three slides that magnify different parts of different gymnosperms.  We looked at each and Maggie decided to focus on one in particular for her notebook, "Pinewood."
(Here is an image that looks similar to our slide of "Pinewood.")
After observing it under the microscope, Maggie filled out a "Magnification Observation" sheet to place in her journal.  (I made these up on my computer a while back and just print them as needed.)
For our final activity for Lesson 10, we completed the "Opening and Closing Pinecones" experiment outlined on page 144 of the text.  First, we took out our pinecones collection to pick the one we wanted to experiment with.  (We keep fun finds in sealed containers in our classroom for projects like these.)
 Maggie made her selection and we placed the sample in an ice-cold water bath for one hour.
 (Sealing the container kept the pinecone from bobbing up and floating.  We thought it best if it was fully submerged.)
 After an hour, we pulled the specimen out and noticed it was considerably smaller, having pulled its scales tighter around its body.
 It was time to see what heat would do!  We placed our little pinecone on a sheet pan and put it in a 250-degree oven for another hour.  (Poor thing.  It really went through the wringer that day!)
 After an hour, its scales were spread W I D E open!
 How neat!
We recorded our experiment on pages 173-174 of our notebooking journal.
Another great Botany lesson is in the books!  Check back with us again in another week or so after we finish Lesson 11, "Seedless Vascular Plants."  It should be FERNtastic!  (Yes, yes, I did.)

Friday, July 7, 2017


We have just begun our new, yearlong World Geography course, using Galloping the Globe as a guide.  After an introduction to World Geography, and an overview of the continent of Asia, we started our study of our first country, China!  This was such a fun one to start with!
Day 1 - Intro to China

After we stamped our travel trunk with a sticker for China (see about our travel trunk idea in our first post for this course at, we colored China on our Asia map in our binder (page 25 in the Galloping the Globe book).
Next, we looked again at the China lapbook we had made when we studied The Story About Ping by Marjorie Flack with FIAR (Five in a Row).  (Our full post about that book study is at  Here are two pictures from that post of Mags with her China lapbook.  (The lapbook got added to her binder, too.)
As we would study China for two weeks, it was my plan that we would enter what we learned each day of the study onto a fact sheet (as we would with each country after).  The "Country Report" in the Galloping the Globe guide (page 256) was perfect for this.  In addition to that sheet, I found another great resource for recording our country information at (below).  It's a free download and I love how visually stimulating it is!  We filled out both!
After the preliminary preparation for our China study was complete, it was time to read about this amazing country.  First, we read about it in The Usborne Book of Peoples of the World (pages 74-75).
Then we studied the map of China out of Dover's Around the World coloring book by Winky Adams.  (We put a copy of the map in our binder, coloring the flag on it, and the Yangtze River.)
Next, we found the flag for China in Usborne's FLAGS Sticker Book.  (We put the sticker on the "Flag" space on the country report we downloaded.)
After that, we reflected on what we remembered about the Yangtze River from our FIAR study and completed a glossary page for "river" for our geographical terms book we are constructing (also explained in the first post of this series).
And we couldn't discuss the Yangtze River without another trip through The Story About Ping!  (This is such a sweet book!)
After Ping, we read "The Yellow River" story out of Missionary Stories with the Millers (pages 20-27).
Then we finished the first day with our first ever Highlights' Top Secret Adventures envelope, this one for China: "Case #10399: Mayhem on the Mainland".  (I have been saving these for our World Geography series for what seems like forever.  It was so exciting to finally put them to use!)
She was eager to get started and was ready to crack the code to earn the coveted country key chain!
We did a little bit of work on this Top Secret Adventures envelope every day, and within a week, we had cracked the code, figuring out who the criminal was, what Chinese artifact he/she had stolen, where he/she had hidden it, and more!  She was so excited to solve the mystery and earn her first key chain!  She was begging me to start the next one, but she'll just have to wait until we make our way to India.

Day 2 - Explorers

On Day 2 of our study of China, we covered the famous explorer to China, Marco Polo.  To start, we read about the Silk Route in Usborne's See Inside: Exploration and Discovery ("Ancient Explorers," page 1).  (Later, we read about Polo's journey on page 2, entitled, "Going the Distance.")
From there, we read about Marco Polo in Profiles from History: Stories of Those Who Are Worthy of Remembrance by Ashley M. Wiggers, on pages 9-12.
We continued our study of this fascinating explorer on pages 16-17 of The Usborne Book of Explorers: From Columbus to Armstrong by Felicity Everett and Struan Reid.
Once our reading was done, we completed an "Explorers" fact sheet (also explained in that first post) and finished the fun puzzles in the Profiles from History book (a fill-in-the-blank, true and false, word search, and crossword, pages 14-16).

Day 3 - Other Famous People, Landmarks

On Day 3 of our study of China, we learned about Hudson Taylor, a famous missionary to China, after reading about him in another story from the Missionary Stories with the Millers book ("Too Busy Fishing," pages 57-61).

We contemplated how we should be praying for the Chinese people.  To help us better understand their needs, we read about China in Window on the World, which explains the prayer needs of different people, geographically.  It's a great book and I treasure it because it was a special gift from a friend, for Maggie, as we started this course.  (China's needs can be found on pages 38-39.)
From there, we used this Pocket Books: Cities of the World to learn about the Forbidden City and the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, two famous landmarks in China (pages 22 and 27).
We read more about the Forbidden City, specifically, the Hall of Supreme Harmony in the Forbidden City in Usborne's See Inside: Famous Buildings flap book (page 14).
We continued our reading of China's famous landmarks on pages 10-12 of our Top Secret Adventures' Guide to China book by Mike March.  From the cover, you can see that one of these landmarks is the Great Wall of China.  We had learned about this extensively through our history curriculum (see, so Maggie was already familiar with it.
We thought it'd be fun to construct a model of a portion of the Great Wall using our Buildings, Bridges, and Landmarks: A Complete History book, pages 39-42.
Looks great, Mags!
Our Great Wall model!
Later, when she was done with her schoolwork and was allowed to play a video game, she told me to come see her "Great Wall" that she was building in Minecraft!  THIS is homeschooling, folks!  Even playtime is about learning!  Love it!  (I swear I didn't put her up to this!)

Day 4 - Native Animals, Plants

I have to admit that I was most excited about this day of our China study because I am a huge animal lover.  We had prepared for today back in April when we saw Disneynature's Born in China in the theater on opening day.  (We really enjoyed it.)
Even before we saw the film, we completed the worksheets from their "sponsored educated materials" on the film's website.  We reviewed her work from those sheets and added them to her binder.
Next, we read about animals from China in our Usborne World of Animals book by Susanna Davidson and Mike Unwin (pages 74-81) ...
...and looked again at some of the animals found in the Himalayas on pages 90-91 of Usborne's The Great Wildlife Search book.
From there, we read the Zoobooks: Pandas issue from November 2013 (Zoobooks are so great!) ...
... and the "Panda Quake" article from Ranger Rick magazine, August 2016, pages 6-11.
After our reading, we watched Pandas: The Journey Home by National Geographic on Pureflix.  (We love nature documentaries!)
After our study of giant pandas, we read about the red panda in Ranger Rick magazine, August 2016, pages 6-11 ...
... and about snow leopards in the "Saving Snow Leopards" article in Highlights magazine, April 2015, pages 16-17.  We then watched three episodes of Wild China on Netflix, a BBC series that shows natural China at its most raw.  We adore it.  We watched the "Heart of the Dragon" episode (1) with the fishing cormorants on the Yangtze, and the "Beyond the Great Wall" episode (4) about far North China.
Once we had explored some of the animals of China, we decided to learn about a plant it is famous for -- bamboo!  First, we watched a short documentary about bamboo on YouTube at (below), a clip from the same Wild China series!
We then set out to paint some bamboo using the instructions on the YouTube video at (below).
Here's Mags, watching the tutorial.
 Looking good!
 Using her old lapbook to help her, she painted in her name in Chinese on her paper.
 Beautiful!  Once dry, we added both to her binder!
To end Day 4 of our study of China, we read an old favorite, Daisy Comes Home by Jan Brett, a fun story about a Chinese chicken!

Day 5 - Culture

Day 5 was a short school day for us, but it was the first in a three-day study of China's culture, so we read two, fun, Chinese stories: The Five Chinese Brothers by Claire Huchet Bishop and Kurt Wiese ...
... and Tikki Tikki Tembo retold by Arlene Mosel.  (This was one of my favorite books as a child!)

Day 6 - Culture (Homes, Dress, Food, Music)

To start our second day of studying China's culture, we opened with reading about a nine-year-old girl from China, Guo Shuang, on pages 48-49 of Children Just Like Me: A Unique Celebration of Children Around the World by Barnabas and Anabel Kindersley.
We then read A Visit to China by Mary Packard.
We also read about Chinese children on pages 9-10 of Children Around the World by Donata Montanari.
It was time to study two traditional homes of the Chinese people, the sampan and the yurt.  The sampan (a tiny fishing/houseboat) is not used much anymore for living, but at one time, many lived that way.  We found a great documentary about sampan living at  I then challenged Mags to write a paragraph about life in a sampan.
Next, we learned about life in a yurt.  We watched the construction of a traditional Mongolian yurt on YouTube at (below).
 Then, using our Homes Around the World Design Studio kit, Maggie decorated her own yurt on paper.
Here is her yurt picture, with the sides colored over the animal hair rubbing plate.
 Next, we talked about some of the traditional clothing of the Chinese people.  We read about this on page 8 of our Hands-On Heritage: China Activity Book ...
 ... and explored some of the traditional outfits in this Dover Mei-Mei from China Sticker Paper Doll book.
 We then completed pages 6-7 of Usborne's Sticker Dolly Dressing: Fashion Long Ago sticker book, entitled, "Ancient China."
(Here is her completed scene.)
We read about "Silk" from our Hands-On Heritage book (pages 22-23) and from the "From Silkworm to Cloth" article in Highlights magazine, November 2014, pages 40-41.

It was time for a video.  The "Dress Up Day" episode of the Cat in the Hat's Up and Away! DVD is all about silkworms.  You can find the same episode on YouTube at (below).
Whew!  Are you tired of reading yet?  I have to say I'm tried of writing, but we're so close now ...

After clothing, it was time to talk food.  We read about Chinese "Banquet[s]" and "Food" on pages 37-39 of our Hands-On Heritage book.  After reading about the medicinal qualities of peppermint tea, we brewed a cup to sip out of our little porcelain tea cups I bought at World Market for only $3 apiece!  Aren't they cute?
We read more about Chinese cuisine in Usborne's 1,000 Things to Eat book (page 26).
We would be eating Chinese fare on Day 8 with our co-op, so we waited before trying any of these delicacies and moved on to the last culture focus for that day, music.

We read about China's dizi bamboo flute on pages 14-15 of Music Around the World: Patterns by Char Benjamin.
We then heard this beautiful instrument played on a video on YouTube at (below).
To end the day's study, we read two traditional Chinese stories, "The Ivory Wand," out of Usborne's Stories From Around the World book ... 
... and "Song Dingbo and the Hungry Ghost" out of Spider magazine, October 2015, pages 18-21.

Day 7 - Culture (Special Holidays/Celebrations)

On our last study day before we met with our co-op, we studied China's holidays, mostly, Chinese New Year.  We started by reading pages 8-9 of Children Just Like Me: Celebrations! by Barnabas and Anabel Kindersley.
After reading about the Chinese zodiac, she learned that according to Chinese culture, she was born under the Year of the Golden Pig, a very special year to the Chinese.  (This golden pig bank was given to us the year she was born.)
We also read Bringing in the New Year by Grace Lin ...
... The Runaway Wok by Ying Chang Compestine ...
... and Ruby's Wish by Shirin Yim Bridges.  (Mags enjoyed all three.)
Next, we completed the "A New Year" sticker scene out of Usborne's Sticker Dolly Dressing: Costumes Around the World sticker book ... 
... and had some fun with a paper Chinese yo-yo!
For our very last activity before co-op day, we put together a "country collage" of China, a collage of pictures of Chinese things in the shape of the country itself, something we will do for every country we study.
 All done!
 It looks great!  (We laminated it so nothing would come loose.)

Day 8 - China Co-op!

For our very last day of our study of China, we met with our co-op to share what we had learned, have each child present a project from his or her personal study, complete a project together, and eat some traditional Chinese food!  This first country was my hosting.  I had purchased a porcelain tea cup for each child (Did I mention $3 apiece?!  Seriously!) ... 
 ... as well as these adorable chopstick holders (also from World Market).
I had also bought these awesome plates from Oriental Trading Company ages ago for our meal.
I decorated in red and put fun things on the table.
One of our first activities together was to learn about willow pattern porcelain ("china," or "fine china"), and paint our own plates with this classic cobalt color.  (I used Plaid's multi-surface acrylic paint, found at Michael's.)  While they painted, I played some traditional Chinese instrumental music in the background.
 Once painted and dry, we cured them in the oven.  I think they turned out great!  Maggie painted a dragon on hers, which I think was super cute!
After our painting project, we had a Chinese tea ceremony with Chinese green tea, sweetened with honey.  We also learned about the etiquette of the Chinese.  Elders are highly respected and are both served first and the first to eat or drink before anyone else will.  Before we drank, we said, "Yum cha," meaning "Let's drink tea!"
 After a quick lesson on the etiquette of using chopsticks (while at rest, it is rude if your sticks point at anyone at the table), we had lunch.  Lunch was crispy seaweed pops, fried rice, eggrolls with duck sauce, orange slices, and fortune cookies (with hot tea, or course).  To this, we said, "woman chifan," meaning, "Let's eat!"
 It was fun watching the kids struggle with those chopsticks!
We had a great time!  Up next?  The Koreas!  Can't wait!