Tuesday, January 29, 2008

NO BOTS ALLOWED!

This evening at bedtime Rebecca and I were doing some silly storytelling. She was telling me about some "bots" which were going to be all over her in the morning and I was saying that I was going to have to give her a bath outside with the hose and wash all those bots away. Then she said she was going to have layers and layers of bots on her and I was pretending that I wouldn't be able to recognize her with all those bots on her in a big pile and I would be walking around the house saying oh, no, where's Rebecca? She's lost! She was giggling and giggling and we were having a grand time. Then I asked her where all those bots would come from and she explained that you could get them at the grocery store. She went on to say that she was going to be so covered with bots that they would eat off her legs! So I said that next time we were at the store if we saw a big box that said "Bots for Sale" we would just keep going and not buy any bots. And, in fact, we could put a big sign on the door that said NO BOTS ALLOWED! just to be sure than none came in by mistake. And we also decided that if one did come in we would suck it up in the vacuum cleaner because not only are bots afraid of water but they don't like being sucked up by vacuum cleaners. Natalie had been asking me for some letter work, to practice her writing, so her work tomorrow morning if she gets dressed and eats her breakfast quickly and has a little extra time is to make our NO BOTS ALLOWED! sign (I write in block capitals, she copies) and we will hang it on the front door.

Just to be safe. ;-)

Sweet Potatoes

Today was an idyllic day. How long has it been since we had one of those??? I got up early and took a shower, then woke up the kids and they got dressed and had breakfast. Our weather stick took a downward turn and sure enough it began to rain. That meant rainboots for the children, always a favorite. After we took Natalie to her school the other two and I came back home and took a walk out to the mailbox since the rain had cleared. Then we played for a while. Rebecca challenged herself with a big pile of books (she can sit look at books quietly, so content, for SUCH a long time it is amazing). Leah did pattern work with some little beads and then moved on to sorting buttons from the button box. We were playing a game from our button book over the weekend but the buttons proved so popular they have stayed out on the coffee table and the kids absolutely love playing with them! Then Leah helped me wash a bunch of sweet potatoes which we popped in the crockpot (whole, dripping wet, poke with a fork) to cook for a few hours. The girls enjoyed a bath, then lunch which was pasta and peas and yogurt. I let them watch Mister Rogers and head off to naps. This afternoon is their pizza night with their father so I will be running errands (post office, grocery shopping, and so on).

I was thinking today about why I haven't been posting lately. Part of it is that I'm just too busy. Part of it is that I feel like there's nothing to say. We are just doing our usual stuff. Books, cooking, playtime, Nature walks, art projects, housework, and so on. It is really a curriculum of inclusion. I have to wash dishes... they help. Ditto with sorting laundry and sweeping the floors. It is nice to buy kid size and/or duplicates of everything. We're stenciling Rebecca's bedroom floor. We eat together. We do projects together. We do everything together, that's just the way it goes. Feel like going outside so we do. Feel like staying inside? We do. And so on.

Some notes I have for the remainder of this week include going to the hardware store to get supplies for a plumbing fix (that should be fun, and very enlightening). The children were thrilled yesterday when we went to the mechanic to check the oil and Leah was so excited to see under the hood of the car. Then she watched me pour oil in through the funnel and she thought that was the bee's knees. I'm sure the plumbing project will be just as exciting. We are still focusing on modeling. I think next week will be sidewalk chalk if it warms up a bit. I'd like to do a field trip to Annmarie Garden as well, it has been a while since we went there. They have some nice kids art programs starting up which I want to look into. Next week is of course Groundhog Day/Candlemas so we have a nature program for that and will probably make some earth candles.

Just enjoy your kids and do your thang, that's all I have to say. I have a bunch of positive thinking mantras which I'm working on. My favorite right now is yesterday is gone forever and tomorrow will never come but today is a gift. That's why they call it The Present.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Summertime Picnic

Today we decided to have a make-believe summer. We spread out the beach towel on the living room floor, arranged sea shells on it, and got out the marine puppets (whale, crab, octopus). The children put on their summer hats and we decorated their noses with sunscreen. Now they are happily having a summertime picnic dinner on the beach blanket.

Natalie's class is beginning a World Tour, starting with the United States. Today she told me she had to get to school on time or she would miss the hot air balloon. They even made paper suitcases. From what I can understand, they visited Hawaii and ate pineapple today. The teacher introduced the unit last week with Flat Stanley and Natalie made a Flat Natalie which we mailed off to her great-grandparents in Illinois. Hopefully some fun facts about Illinois will come back in the mail to us!

In homeschool news, our apple seed has sprouted and the children are beside themselves with joy. Our avocado is taking its dear sweet time... as avocado seeds are wont to do. Tomorrow we are going to Story Time. Friday is doctor appointments for Leah and Rebecca (allergy testing and 3 year check up, repectively) and a lunchtime play date.

We have been so busy with all the Divorce proceedings and the fall out from that that I haven't had much time to blog about the homeschool stuff that is going on, so sorry about that. Let's see... today we read Corduroy and this weekend when all the children are home I want to play some games from Button Button Who's Got the Button: 101 Button Games. We've been playing a lot of make-believe, doing art stuff like painting and modeling, and generally doing the usual things. I know that doesn't help people who are turning here for ideas. :-( I'll try to be more on top of it.

Monday, January 21, 2008

To Knit or Not To Knit

There was a small rebellion in my Sunday School class yesterday. One child refused to come into class because she said that she hated knitting and didn't want to go. I talked with her mother afterwards; she said that her daughter had been wanting to learn to knit for years, was very excited about it, and was dismayed to find that she didn't pick it up right away (this girl is usually very quick to catch on to new material) and was humiliated and wanted to give up immediately. So mom calmed her down a bit, I lent her A First Book of Knitting for Children so she could practice at home, and it looks like it will all work out. We took a class vote and it was divided 50/50 between people who wanted to knit and those who didn't so now knitting during the storytelling is optional. We did the very exciting story yesterday of the fall of Jerusalem to the invading Babylonians and how Jeremiah saved the Ark of the Covenant. I have found that the children don't have the vocabulary to understand the stories as they are written so I have to really put them in my own words and enthusiastically get them involved in the action. After all, these are amazing adventures and they're real! We found it hilarious that the king himself was the one who commanded a hole to be torn in one of the defending walls (of course, it didn't work out for him very well, he snuck out but was later captured and killed) and then, lo and behold, the enemy was able to use that very opening to get in and take over the city. Duh. :-)

Anyone have children refuse to knit? What do you do if you only have one child, it is part of your homeschool curriculum, and you absolutely are facing a blank wall of refusal. Do you give up? Do you postpone and then come back to it? Do you resolutely carry on and fight about it daily? Just curious...

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Astronomy

I have an interest in writing a 6th grade unit on Astronomy -- if anyone has some good resources to recommend, please share!

My draft booklist so far is


"Velvet Shoes"

Today was a Snow Day! We spent the morning stenciling leaves on Rebecca's bedroom floor, then went outside for a nature walk to enjoy the snowflakes. Leah was saying she loved the quiet sound of the snow so I found a fantastic poem to read afterwards: "Velvet Shoes" by Elinor Wylie.


Let us walk in the white snow
In a soundless space;
With footsteps quiet and slow,
At a tranquil pace,
Under veils of white lace.

I shall go shod in silk,
And you in wool,
White as a white cow's milk,
More beautiful
Than the breast of a gull.

We shall walk through the still town
In a windless peace;
We shall step upon white down,
Upon silver fleece,
Upon softer than these.

We shall walk in velvet shoes:
Wherever we go
Silence will fall like dews
On white silence below.
We shall walk in the snow.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Singing for Your Supper

After dinner tonight (make your own wraps -- kids got to choose between ham, chicken, and cheese to stuff their tortillas, plus green beans on the side) Natalie asked if she could have dessert. I did some quick thinking and pulled out a bag of pecans in the shell and our lovely Olive Wood Nutcracker. So the children had to work for their dessert! Even Rebecca, who is only a few days past three, was able to crack the pecans very easily. Half the fun is in screwing and unscrewing the thing...

It reminded me of a book review I read on Amazon for Pancakes, Pancakes! by Eric Carle. One woman was saying that her child was absolutely amazed at all the steps our protagonist had to go through and all the work it took just to get his breakfast! It's good for children to see the process and not just the end result, which is one reason why I'm excited about our gleaning day this Friday. We are taking some friends along and I hope we have pleasant weather so that the children can roam the fields. It will be very exciting to find some produce. Here is the list they sent us of what was still available (as of Monday December 31):

    spicy mix (plenty)
    bok choi (plenty; both full-size and dwarf varieties)
    arugula
    hakurei turnips
    purple-top turnips
    watermelon radishes
    kale
    collards
    swiss chard (plenty; consider using the stems instead of celery in your Thanksgiving stuffing)
    mustard greens
    turnip greens
    a scattering of tiny beets
    a bit of lettuce and spinach that are newly visible now that the weeds have been killed by frost
    sage
    oregano
    anise hyssop
    cilantro
    dill
    winter savory
    mint
    lavender (leaves, not flowers)
    thyme
    lemon balm
    parsley
    onion chives


Breakfast, Lunch, Snack and Dinner

Today I rearranged my pantry. Instead of being one shelf per food group (vegetables, fruits, meats/legumes, grains) I have decided to do one shelf per meal. This way I can quickly glance into the pantry to see what meals I have plenty of groceries for and which are lacking, the children can see all their hot and cold cereal options, and Natalie can help pack her own lunches. Kid friendly cleaning supplies are on the bottom (clean cloth diapers, spray bottles of water, Swiffer dusting cloths), then Breakfast (hot and cold cereals, small pitchers for milk and soymilk, pancake and waffle mixes, syrup), Lunch/Snack (brown paper lunch bags, dried fruit, peanut butter, jam, bread, tuna fish, soups, canned fruit, falafel mix and cake and cookie mixes), Dinner (grains, canned vegetables, pasta and so on) and then Baking is the top shelf. I'm not sure how I'm going to organize that one, it may be bins. I have so many packages of nuts and chocolate chips and evaporated milk and all that stuff, not even counting flour and sugar. It's kind of a big pile in the cabinet right now. We'll see. ;-)

The Adventures of Duckie and Mister Shark

One of my friends gave Rebecca a set of paints and brushes and some little wooden figures and a tray with a little cup for water. So today we had a Painting Day! Rebecca chose to paint the shark and Leah chose the duck and they had great fun with the blue and purple. For my children, rinsing their brush clean so they can choose a new color seems to be the most fun. Are all kids like that? The tray is very deep and has a wide rim so it is perfect for a messy project. Once the figures are dry I'm sure the amazing and creative storytelling will begin!

This afternoon we are going to a play date. I found a storytime that meets on Thursdays so we will try that this week. Also in the plans are to bake a cake, to visit my grandparents, and to go gleaning at Clagett Farm.

The Gleaners. Jean-Fran├žois Millet. 1857

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Strings and Stories

Natalie's school class was lucky enough to take a field trip to The Kennedy Center in Washington DC to see a Kinderkonzert by the National Symphony Orchestra called Strings and Stories. The class spent the entire week beforehand listening to musical pieces and saying what they reminded them of. Natalie told me all she could hear was a bear... :-) She loved playing the viola and cello at the "Petting Zoo" beforehand. I guess now we'll have to read our two favorite music books: The Philharmonic Gets Dressed and Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin.

Rebecca's birthday was Friday. She turned three years old. We did a special birthday breakfast for her of waffles. She also got her birthday song, the pennies, and blew out the candles on her birthday ring. Her ornament this year was a snail. I gave her a gorgeous snail game (called Snail's Pace Race) -- it's a cooperative game where you move the snails forward as you roll the colored dice and everyone gets to guess which snail will cross the finish line first. The wooden pieces are thick and chunky and gorgeous. She also got a tricycle! (Mommy splurged a bit on that one.) I wanted to support a local business but didn't have time to order one online so we went to the local hardware store and now she is the proud owner of a John Deere trike. :-) Her father had her this weekend so he threw her a birthday party. They'll be home soon and I can't wait to hear how it all went.

P.S. There is a really cute birthday poem about turning three in Here's a Little Poem: A Very First Book of Poetry illus. by Polly Dunbar (one of our faves). It is called "Candles."

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Peanut Butter Baths

Yesterday morning we planted our live Christmas tree outside (which I got for just $6.49 on a Home Depot gift card -- so happy to have found it!) and made Christmas tree ornaments for the birds. Our last pine cone project used up every one we had so this time we used magnolia cones slathered with peanut butter and birdseed. The craft was a great success (easiest to just make these outside if it is warm enough, which it was) but my children were both completely covered in peanut butter so then it was inside for bathtime. Santa gave one of my children magic growing capsules, the kind with sponge animals inside that pop out when placed in warm water, so we had a really good time "growing" some animals in our baths.

Today we are making belated batches of Christmas cookies for a late gift exchange with my brother, sister in law, and nephews.

By the way, I found a quirky online product called Cinch-Eaze. It is an iron-on waistband cincher for the inside of your child's pants, helpful if legs have grown but tummy is still tiny (which is happening to Natalie). As she gets older the pants don't always have adjustable waistbands and the size 6 things we got her fall right off! Visit the website for a free sample.

Monday, January 7, 2008

A Gorgeous Day

Today was a simply gorgeous day, very unseasonably warm. We celebrated by taking a field trip to the Calvert Marine Museum this morning. We looked at the fossils and each child got a turritella (snail) shell which the people at the paleo prep lab helped them clean. Leah and Rebecca each got to use a dentist's pick to get sediment out from the inside of their shell and then dusted the outside gently with a paintbrush to clean it. Then we went to see the aquariums. We saw one of the staff people cleaning a tank with a long sponge attached to a pole! We also struck up quite a friendship with a black sea bass who settled down in the sand right in front of the children and stared at them for a long time. :-)

River otters were next, then the marsh walk (we saw a TON of footprints in the mud, as well as three ducks swimming along), then the boat shed and the lighthouse. We finished up at the Discovery Room where the children got to raise and lower a sail, touch the terrapin and horseshoe crabs, and find a fossilized shark tooth in the sand box. At the gift shop Rebecca picked a sheet of sparkly dolphin stickers, Leah chose the Folkmanis Blue Whale puppet, and I scored Building an Indian House, a local publication by William H. Hancock (Exhibits Fabrication Manager at Jamestown Settlement Museum). It has no ISBN number. According to the front information,
    "This booklet is for those wanting to go behind the scenes and learn how museums build replicas of the coastal Algonquin-speaking Indians' houses. The story is told briefly, mainly in pictures. For those wanting to know more, Hancock and Rountree have produced a much more detailed manuscript, with video and hundreds of photographs, titled Building a Powhatan House; copies are on file in the libraries of Jamestown Settlement and Historic St. Mary's City."

It has extremely detailed step-by-step photos which I am thrilled to find and if I am lucky enough to teach my own children a unit on Native Americans or housebuilding this book will be worth its weight in gold!

In the afternoon we got Natalie some 6T clothes (the girl is growing like a weed) and then headed to the playground to enjoy the swings and slides and the beautiful weather.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Soymilk Surprise

Tonight we found out that you can't make instant Jell-O pudding with soymilk. It seemed like a logical substitution... Natalie asked for a dessert, I looked in the cabinet and found the box, we mixed it up using soy instead of cow milk so that Leah could have some, we poured it into small bowls, stuck it in the fridge, and headed off to read Sugar on Snow and when we got back the mixture was still soupy! So the children got a special "dessert drink" instead. :-)

Live and learn.

Friday, January 4, 2008

40 Fruit and Vegetable Cards

I just finished cutting out forty attractive pictures from the Burpee catalogue. Natalie has been doing a lot of letter work at school and loves to copy words that you have written for her. I figured we can write the name of each on the back of the index card and she can organize them by fruits, vegetables, flowers, and herbs, arrange them into the colors of the rainbow, sort by beginning letter, or try to read the words if she wishes!

Here are the 40 I have chosen:

    acorn squash
    asparagus
    basil
    beet
    blueberry
    bok choy
    Brussels sprout
    butternut squash
    carrot
    cantaloupe
    cauliflower
    cilantro
    corn
    cucumber
    eggplant
    fern
    grape
    green bean
    lettuce
    marigold
    millet
    morning glory
    nasturtium
    okra
    onion
    pea
    pepper
    potato
    pumpkin
    radish
    raspberry
    strawberry
    sunflower
    sweet potato
    Swiss chard
    tomato
    watermelon
    yellow squash
    zinnia
    zucchini

Sunday School Plans for 2008

January - Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations

    6 - Isaiah
    We Will Build a Temple, pp.33-35

    Our New Year's resolution as a class is going to be to learn to knit. Originally I was going to have us knit little chicks and then wet felt eggs to hold them as Easter decorations -- although this is far away, it is relevant to the Christmas story naturally. But since the whole chicken/egg as a symbol of Easter and the Resurrection can be a tricky subject, with the origins of same being Pagan, perhaps we will make roosters instead. We could have the rooster because Peter was told by Jesus in the Gospels in the Bible, that he would deny Christ three times. So the rooster is to remind us not to deny Christ. The scriptural reference to this is Matthew 26:69-75.

    Either way, today we will begin knitting our squares.




    13 - Jeremiah
    We Will Build a Temple, pp.37-43


    20 - watercolor painting? saving the Ark of the Covenant
    I love the illustration on page 43
    then We Will Build a Temple, pp.44-47


    27 - Lamentations
    Young Women of Faith Bible, page 1029
    read portions, particularly acrostic chapters (choose one: 1, 2, 3, 4)
    introduce Hebrew alphabet

    main lesson books: Hebrew alphabet
    buy Hebrew Alphabet Wall Chart?

    demonstrate/practice letters with water painting calligraphy kit (an amazing specially-treated paper)




February - Babylonian Captivity & review of first part of Old Testament
all stories are from A Child's History of the World (my favorite edition of this being the 1951 one)

    3 - chapter 8/9
    "A Rich Land Where There Was No Money" & "The Wandering Jews"
    pp.42-55

    learn song Go Down Moses (for play)


    10 - chapter 12/13
    "The King of the Jews" & "The People Who Made Our A B C's"
    pp.70-78

    cunieform, self-drying clay
    have children write the name of Nebuchadnezzar (page 99) but don't tell them yet what it says

    also cover hieroglyphics, payprus


    17 - chapter 16/17
    "A Bad Beginning" & "Kings with Corkscrew Curls"
    pp.89-98


    24 - chapter 18/19
    "A City of Wonder and Wickedness" & "A Surprise Party"
    pp.99-108




March - Ezekiel, Daniel
all stories are from Hurlbut's Story of the Bible, Original Edition

    2 - story 98
    "What Ezekiel Saw in the Valley"

    learn song Dem Dry Bones (for play)


    9 - story 99
    "The Jewish Captives in the Court of the King"

    finish knitting project


    16 - story 100
    "The Golden Image and the Fiery Furnace"

    felt eggs (if doing this)


    23 - crayon drawing of fiery furnace
    then story 101
    "The Tree That Was Cut Down and Grew Again"

    Easter


    30 - crayon drawing of tree stump and king on all fours eating grass
    then story 102
    "The Writing Upon the Wall"




April - introduce play

    6 - crayon drawing of the writing on the wall
    MENE MENE TEKEL UPHARSIN
    then story 103
    "Daniel in the Den of Lions"

    introduce class play
    "Daniel, Servant of the Lord" from 25 Plays Inspired by Waldorf Teachers edited by David Mitchell




May
play date May 18, 2008

New Year, New Life

This week the children and I are studying seeds. I think watching a seed sprout is a wonderful way to celebrate new beginnings in the new year. Leah found a seed in our supposedly seedless clementine, that was what started it. She was adamant about planting the seed and growing a clementine tree. We struck gold with the next fruit too -- an organic Golden Delicious apple. Now we have a small greenhouse in the center of our dining room table with two little labeled pots in them. I got some avocados... I can't wait to see what the children think of those big seeds!

The book to go along with this has been Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert. This is Rebecca's absolute favorite book right now and she reads it repeatedly to her little stuffed bear.

To accompany this theme we have also filled up our two bird feeders with a lovely mix of bird favorites. Here are some bird seed notes:

Blue Jay loves peanuts and striped sunflower seeds

Cardinal loves sunflower and safflower seeds

Chickadee/Nuthatch loves peanuts and striped sunflower seeds

Brown-headed Cowbird loves finely cracked corn and white millet

Grosbeak loves sunflower seeds

Common Grackle loves sunflower seeds and finely cracked corn

American Goldfinch loves sunflower seeds, golden millet, and thistle seeds

House Finch loves sunflower seeds, white millet, and thistle seeds

House Sparrow loves sunflower seeds and millet

Mourning Dove loves finely cracked corn, millet, thistle and safflower seeds

Purple Finch loves sunflower and thistle seeds

Junco loves sunflower seeds, finely cracked corn, white millet and thistle seeds

Song Sparrow loves sunflower seeds and white millet

Tufted Titmouse loves sunflower seeds and peanuts

White-crowned Sparrow loves sunflower seeds, white millet, and peanuts

White-throated Sparrow loves everything!

Woodpecker loves sunflower seeds


I hope soon to get a birdbath since birds are more attracted to feeding areas where there is water.

The Burpee catalogue came today so the children have been looking at the beautiful colorful pictures of fruits, vegetables, flowers, and herbs. I personally would like to get some organic seeds for our garden -- gotta request a catalogue from Seeds of Change.