January 31, 2005

A Day at the Capitol

Today we went to the MN capitol for a homeschool rally. It was interesting though much of the scheduled program went over my kids. As much as I was interested in hearing was Rep. Mark Kennedy had to say my kids were much more interested in everything else going on in the building so I went with their interests.

Rhiannon really wanted to see the Senate in session believe it or not. So we went up to the viewing gallery. I must admit I was hesitant as I did not see this as a recipe for success. Ciaran is an active little boy and easily bored and well Sirah is at an easily distractable and demanding age but Rhia REALLY wanted to so I agreed to atleast try.

Before we went in to see them we went past the House room which was empty and they could view from outside we talked about how they worked. They looked at the desks and the buttons and the way the seats were arranged. We had a long chat about how when we were in the room there would be no talking or questioning. Then I took a long deep breath and entered. The guard did not look at me quite as strangely as I expected though I did feel compelled to say - "We will not be long just checking it out". We entered and took seats in the first row of the balcony.

The kids were actually quite interested in what was going on. It was very difficult for them to not ask questions and I was bombarded when we left the room and even still got a few. Mostly they needed help figuring out who was speaking and dealing with the fact that a lot of people were moving around on the floor.

The topic went completely over their heads they were talking economics and taxes, but they were there to see the process and get a feel for the atmosphere. We stayed through three people speaking to my amazement. Then it was Ciaran who needed to get up and move not Sirah to my amazement. We barely made it out the door before the chattering began, but they were good and did wait.

They wanted to tell me they could not work like that. Then they could not play or do the things they thought were interesting, it must be difficult to be quiet that long and think with all those people moving around. It was hard to understand who was talking. They thought the room was beautiful and both noticed painting on the ceiling and wanted to know if the painters laid on their backs like Michelangelo and Raphael (made me smile) after this week's ceiling art lesson. I forget all the other things we talked about but it led to discussion the entire way through the tunnel to the state office building where we visited with our local representative.

We have met this representative before but in a different context before. We met him while campaigning, both for him and for President Bush. I knew he would not recognize us in a different context and did not expect him to. He did recognize Serona's name when I mentioned it as he is involved with the GOP in a more official way then we were. We talked about homeschooling and I asked his position on it. He said he was supportive of it, just as he was supportive of public and private schooling. His position was it is good for our g-schools (he did not use that phrase) to have competition so more is demanded of them. He said he has met many fine children who were homeschooled and he himself has relatives who make that choice. Overall it was a pleasant meeting and then we just talked about what he does during the day and some other small talk. It was a short visit as the kids were rather shy, though polite with him and I could tell they were reaching the end of their time at the capitol.

All in all it was a nice visit. We toured the building (self-guided) and looked in on the Senate in session, the house floor and the supreme court room. We walked through and noticed the art and architecture, walked through the tunnels connecting the buildings, saw our representative and saw what their office atmosphere is like. As for the homeschool program that was going on today, we listened to some good music, I picked up pieces of the speeches here and there and we helped represent some of the numbers of homeschoolers in our state.

I think one of the neatest aspects of the program for the kids was having them get a sense that there are a lot of children who are homeschooled. I think this helps Rhiannon as she is still sometimes timid about answering the question "Are you in school, what grade are you in". I think sometimes it is still hard for her to find the words to express herself and our homeschool journey. All in all a nice day and I highly recommend a visit to your capital - even with small ones. Even Sirah did amazingly well in her little stroller which she is not used to.


January 30, 2005

Online Library Reserves

Reading Dy's comment made me realize how fortunate we are to have an online reserve system through our libraries. Our library is set up so I visit the website, type in my card number and can see all the books I have out and when they are due, I can also renew them. Very handy for avoiding late fees and finding that book that is due. I love this feature.

By far my favorite feature is the online reserve system. I search the catalog online and when I find a book I want I simply push a button to reserve it. The librarians find the book for me and place them all on a shelf near the checkout desk. I get an email notifying me that books are waiting. I zoom in pick up all the books on the shelf and zoom out.

At first I felt bad using this system as we check out a lot of books as most homeschooling families do. Then I realized this was the system they put in place and it really makes my life a lot easier. It does not replace me wandering the stacks, an important part of how we select curriculum but it does help save me time looking for just that book that I already know I want or need.

For example when Dy said she would print out my list to bring to the library I would open my list in my web browser, open a new tab (I use firefox or mozilla) and reserve the books at my library then pick them up. One of the benefits of living in a modern age.

Of course the traditional library user in me still talks to librarians for recommendations or questions about books and loves to utilize the organization of the stacks. Wandering to a section and then browsing to find what I need. But I thought I would share in case your library has a webpage and online reserve system you did not know about and can help save you time.


Weekend Round-Up

Friday the kids and I had a long power struggle. It was amazing that it took nearly 5 hours for them to clean their rooms. Mind you they were not that messy and could easily have been picked up within a half hour. They just did not want to do it and were content staying in their rooms all afternoon and simply playing. It eventually got done, but not much else did that day.

Serona came home early and finished painting our living room (well two walls of it) the other walls will be a different color. We have valuted ceilings and a split level staircase, so this was quite a challenge and I appreciate his hardwork.

When he was done I headed out with Sirah and went to the closeout sale of a local school supply company. They were having incredible deals though the store was well picked over. The deal was 21.50 for up to 100 items. I filled up baskets with paint, chalk, books, books and more books (file folder games, teaching tips, activites, and workbooks primarily), desk tapes (like numberlines, signlanguage, multiplication tables, cursive, manuscript, etc), pens, markers, and little odds and ends. Mostly consumables and books. It was a great deal and I was able to get some of those extras that I always want to get but can never justify the expense for. The best part, they were selling store fixtures. I showed restraint and did not get all that I wanted for I was not sure I could think of a place for them. But I did get two of those nice book display racks. The kind you face the books out so the kids can see them. They retail for around 50.00 and I got two for 5.00. Incredible, I immediately came home and put them up and put the books on them. I wanted to get more but they were gone today.

Friday evening was our couples bible study and we hosted it at our home. It was a nice time and everyone enjoyed themselves. It is nice to finally have a group of Christians that we really connect with. Sometimes I honestly find it harder to be real with my fellow Christian brothers and sisters than with non believers. We have 5 families in our study and they are all great people and I look forward to working through our study together.

I came to the realization when they were here that Serona and I are truly geeks (he prefers "Early adopters" as a term) but we are well liked geeks. From our home library with over 1000 volumes, to our multiple degrees, to our wireless computer network (currently 4 computers), to our streaming radio and music on demand, to our flat screen wall mounted monitor in our kitchen to our roomba. We have some things people are not used to seeing in people's homes. They are topics of interest and discussion and make us a little weird but usually people see them in a positive light. They have become such features in my life that I just take them for granted sometimes. Though I truly am thankful for them and we have worked hard (mostly Serona has worked hard) to make them a possibility and reality in our lives.

We also had an evening with good friends, a couple that we really enjoy spending time with. We spent the evening drinking wine, eating good cheese and talking by candlelight in our library exploring new bands through online music. We shared the stories of how we met and some of the dramas of our lives. We laughed and were very open with each other. It was an exceptional way to pass an evening.

Blogging will be late on Monday as we have a full day planned in the morning.


January 28, 2005

Favorite Children's Books

Okay so there is no way this is going to be a short list, so prepare yourself. I am going to try to be more selective though, these are books that our family returns to time and time again. There are MANY great books that we check out of the library or borrow that are great for the moment. There are also many good books that we own and read from time to time. This list however is the books that we come to time and time again and the ones I want to be sure my kids do not miss, in absolutely no order other than when they came to me, I will continue adding to this over time:

Miss Rumphius - Cooney, Barbara
Library, The - Stewart, Sarah
Sailor Moo - Wheeler, Lisa
Pocketfull of Kisses, A - Penn, Audrey
Kissing Hand, The - Penn, Audrey
Little Bear (all) - Minarik, Else Holmlund
Frog and Toad (all)- Lobel, Arnold
Quick as a Cricket - Wood, Audrey
Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry and the Big Hungry Bear, The - Wood, Audrey
Napping House, The - Wood, Audrey

Goodnight Moon - Brown, Margaret Wise
Runaway Bunny, The - Brown, Margaret Wise
You are Special - Lucado, Max
Wide Mouthed Frog, The - Faulkner, Keith
Empty Pot, The - Demi
Jesse Bear (all) - Carlstrom, Nancy White
Little House, The - Burton, Virginia Lee
On Mother's Lap - Scott, Ann Herbert
Abuela - Dorros, Arthur
Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See - Carle, Eric

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom - Martin, Bill Jr.
Dr Suess (all)
Where the wild Things are - Sendak, Maurice
Little Sibu - Grindley, Sally
If You Give a Moose a Muffin - Numeroff, Laura (all companion series)
Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon - Lovell, Patty
Make Way for Ducklings - McClosky, Robert
Mama Do You Love Me - Joose, Barbara M.
Blueberry Shoe - Dixon, Ann
Wretched Stone, The - Van Allsaburg, Chris (really any of his)

How Do Dinosaur's Say Goodnight - Yolen, Jane
Christmas in the Big Woods - Wilder, laura Ingalls (all adapted n unabridged)
My A Soundbox - Moncure, Jane Belk (entire series and all bu author)
Very Hungry Caterpillar, The - Carle, Eric (many Carle books are loved here)
My Thank You Bible - Henley, Karyn
My Mama Had a Dancing Heart - Gray, Libba Moore
Elm Tree and Three Sisters, An - Sommerdorf, Norma
Tuesday - Weisner, David
Story about Ping,The - Flack,Marjorie
Frog Alphabet, The - Pallotta, Jerry

Love You Forever - Munch, Robert
Today I Feel Silly and other Moods that make my day - Curtis, Jamie Lee
Caps for Sale - Slobodkina, Esphyr
Stone Soup - Brown, Marcia
Day with Wilbur Robinson, A - William Joyce
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day - Viorst, Judith
Frogs - Gibbons, Gail (Gibbons is great for all nonfiction topics)
True Book Series (non fiction books for younger kids - great)
Guess How Much I Love You - McBratney, Sam
William's Doll - Zolotow, Charlotte

Bread and Jam for Frances - Hoban, Russell (all Frances books)
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs - Barrett, Judi
Pickles to Pittsburg - Barrett, Judi
Animals Should Definately Not Wear Clothing - Barrett, Judi

Chapter Books - Favorite Authors - read all of their books

Cs Lewis
EB White
Laura Ingalls Wilder
Illustrated Classics Collection (abridged and illustrated versions of classics)

Specefics unabridged
Barrie, JM - Peter Pan
Mary Poppins
Anne of Green Gables

For Real Little Ones
Goodnight Moon - Brown, Margaret Wise
Time for Bed - Fox, Mem
Counting Kisses - Katz, Karen
Kisses - Szekeres, Cyndy
God Made All the Colors - Lion Publishing
Five Little LadyBugs - Gerth, Melanie
Jesse Bear What Will You Wear - Carlstrom, Nancy White
DK Touch and Feel Series (Pets, Wild Animals, Baby Animals, Cats, etc)
Baby Animals: Black and White - Tildes, Phyllis
Playing Poohsticks - Milne, AA (adapted storybook)

Tigger's Breakfast - Milne, AA (adapted)
My Many Colored Days - Dr Suess
Marvin K Mooney Will You Please Go Now - Dr Suess
Baby Games - Nayer, Judy
Good Morning, Good Night - Mitchell, Melanie
Carrot Seed, The - Krauss, Ruth
I am a baby - Hathon, Elizabeth
Learning Numbers - A Sparkle Book

A Short History of Public School Math

Teaching Math In 1950

A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price. What is his profit?

Teaching Math In 1960
A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price, or $80. What is his profit?

Teaching Math In 1970

A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is $80. Did he make a profit?

Teaching Math In 1980
A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is $80 and his profit is $20. Your assignment: Underline the number 20.

Teaching Math In 1990

By cutting down beautiful forest trees, the logger makes $20. What do you think of this way of making a living? Topic for class participation after answering the question: How did the forest birds and squirrels feel as the logger cut down the trees. (There are no wrong answers.)

Teaching Math In 2005

El hachero vende un camion carga por $100. La cuesta de production es........

Self-Esteem Lesson

Every once in awhile I like to take some concentrated time to boost my kids self-esteem. Nothing set in particular, I just watch their cues and needs and this week I realized that Rhiannon was struggling a little bit and might need the pick me up. I have found the best way to reach my kids besides continual compliments, praise and sharing love is through reading (are you really surprised?) some particular books. I don't make a big deal about it, just try to work them in and then have natural conversations about them. I use a saturation technique where nearly every book I read will have something to do with loving yourself, being yourself, or being loved just because you are you.

Here is our book list that we read yesterday. Yes we did read them all yesterday. Remember many of these are picture/storybooks and my kids truly love to be read to. You could read these over the course of a week or so or just introduce one every once in awhile. They are all good stories and not overt in their message yet there is not much subtly there either if that makes any sense. The message is clear - you are special, I love you, God loves you, and you should love yourself even if you are different from others.

Self-Esteem/Confidence Book List

You are Special - Lucado, Max
I'm Gonna Like Me: Letting Off a Little Self-Esteem - Curtis, Jamie Lee
Quick as a Cricket - Wood, Audrey
Hooray for You - Richmond, Marianne
God Made you Special - Metaxes, Eric
Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon - Lovell, Patty
Best of All - Lucado, Max

Special because of differences

Library, The - Stewart, Sarah
Tiny Seed The - Carle, Eric
Put Me in the Zoo - Dr Suess
Miss Rumphius - Cooney, Barbara
Stellaluna - Cannon, Janell
What If the Zebra's Lost Their Stripes - Reitano, John

You are Loved Books

Kissing Hand, The - Penn, Audrey
Pocketfull of Kisses, A - Penn, Audrey
Love - Moncure, Jane Belk
Love You Forever - Munsch, Robert
Runaway Bunny, The - Brown, Margaret Wise
Little Sibu - Grindley, Sally

We have also done full blown lesson plans on the book Miss Rumphius and "I'm Gonna Like Me". For I'm Gonna Like Me we did the following with our hs group, from a previous post:

Our homeschool group recently did a group class on Jamie Lee Curtis book "Letting Off a Little Self-esteem, I'm gonna like me". We had a fabulous time at the class. The kids drew their bodies on posters and writing what they could do with different parts of their bodies. Then each took turns looking into a mirror and saying why they were special, it was very touching and interesting to hear the kids responses. Rhiannon said "Because my daddy calls me a princess" and Ciaran said "because I love Jesus".

These are touching books that help kids understand that they are special and loved. Of course the greatest way to express this to our kids is to tell them daily how much we love them and reasons they are special and we are proud of them. To remind them that we will always love them no matter what and that God loves them. To help them be confident in themselves.

Go hug your kids today,

Software Beta Testers Needed

The original writers of the children's software JumpStart are looking for beta testers for their new software "My Reward Board" I was contacted directly by Barton Listick, CEO of the company. He is looking for some parents to help test out their new software program.

I don't know anything about the software other than what I am including in this post. We have decided to try the software and help work out bugs. If you are also interested you can contact him at beta@trylonix.com, let him know that Tenniel from SCHOOL@HOME referred you. Here is the information I was sent:


My Reward Board" Beta Test Program

As parents we all struggle to get our kids to do the things they should (or need to) do. Some tasks are practical, like helping with dishes or doing homework, while others are behavioral, like not teasing a sibling. The reason we care at all (beyond the benefits of a clean room!) is that we want our kids to grow into responsible, healthy and happy adults.

That’s where My Reward Board fits in. With reward coupons, fun animations and achievement certificates, this unique program turns chores and goals into fun and games. Before long your kids will be striving every day to do their best as they eagerly await the end of the week and their star points reward. The program is very configurable in order to accommodate different parenting styles.

Participants will receive a free copy of the program when it's released in 1-2 months.

The only requirements for participation are that you have children ages 5 to 12, and a Pentium II (or better) computer, running at 400 mhz (or faster), with the Windows operating system (Windows 98 or later).

If you agree to help out, the most important thing we ask is that you use the program frequently, try out all of the features, and give us as much feedback as possible. The first priority is to find and fix any bugs (problems) in the program, but we also want to hear your ideas on what you like and what could be added or changed to make it better.

If you'd like to apply please send an email to: beta@trylonix.com

January 27, 2005

Mother Goose and Frogs

Sirah and I went through the Mother Goose book we have and I did actions and sang some of them to her. She especially enjoyed Old MacDonald and anything that had a picture of a dog. She kept coming back for me to read her more. She also played on the slide and trampoline with Ciaran and kept trying to color pictures and their floor playmat while her siblings were using markers and crayons. She has wanted to nurse continuously today. She also played several games with Ciaran. It is nice when they get along so well.

I asked Ciaran what he wanted to do today because he asked me to do "schoolwork" while Rhiannon was. His answer of course was frogs. So I printed out a life cycle book for him and he colored the entire book. He did a good job staying in the lines, though by the end he was wanting it to be done and I noticed the quality of his work decreased. He definitely does better with coloring if he is only working on one thing and he knows that is all he needs to do.

We started to do the art lesson with him, I thought he would be into coloring under his desk, but I was wrong. So he played with Sirah while Rhia worked on art. This afternoon we will finish his H collage and read some books together.


Ceiling Art

No Serona, relax I did NOT let them paint on the ceiling! We are talking about Raphael and Michelangelo today and I thought it would be fun after learning about them for them to try to paint like they did. Now I am not a glutton for punishment so neither paint nor a real ceiling was involved. Instead I taped a long piece of craft paper underneath their desk and gave them markers to lay on their back and make their great masterpiece with.

First I had them flip through pictures and review some works from the great artists. Rhiannon noticed that there were lots of naked people running around and angels. We talked about how much of their work was for ceilings of chapels and churches. She wanted to know why our church did not have such artwork!

Rhiannon sketched and then colored a picture of me and her in heaven singing and praising to God. One of our dogs was also in the picture. She wrote My God love on it as well as mommy and kaity. She drew a frame around it. She sketched with markers and then colored in with crayons.

Then we talked about how it felt to work on our backs and what it must have been like for them and how amazing it is that those beautiul works of art are on celings.

Math Equations Lesson

This morning we had a great math lesson. I need to give Serona all the credit for the lesson and the creativity behind it. I have noticed that Rhiannon is getting stuck with the concept of equations and reading math sentences. If it looks at all different then she thinks it should it is hard for her to get her head around. Especially if the answer is on the opposite side of the equal sigh then she is expecting (ie 3=10-7 instead of 10-7=3). Last night Serona and I had a great conversation about how to illustrate it complete with him drawing examples on our chalkboard wall.

So I began by talking about the equal sign and what it really means and how both sides of the equal sign should be the same even if they are written differently. I used flash cards to illustrate this with each part of the equation on a different flash card (10-7, 3, =,) I made two sets of each and then an additional set that separated 10,-, and 7 on their own cards. I began by putting the cards in the usual order 10-7=3 and then talking about the equal sign. I was not asking her to do any answering of math problems during this lesson so she could just focus on understanding. Then I showed her how if we switched the numbers so it read 3=10-7 it was still the same. Then I took a second set of cards and showed both sets of equations on top of one another with the equal sign lining up


We talked about how those are math sentences and I had her read me both sentences until she could get it right. I handed her another set of flash cards with different problems (this time addition) and her go through the same process. After she got it I let her test me.

Then we added cuisenaire rods into the picture to show her it could be done with things other than just the numbers and to help her conceptualize it better. We placed the right rods on each part of the equation and then using the rods showed how the answers were even on both sides.

We ended this lesson by playing a game with the rods and only the flash cards of +,-, and =. She made problems for me to solve and then she had to reorder the equation so it still meant the same thing even if it was said differently. Then I made equations for her to solve and I had to rearrange them.

She finished math today by showing all the combinations that add/multiply up to 6 with her rods. She does not fully grasp multiplication she uses language more like if you have three sets of 2 it equals six and I fill in the multiplication language for her. I have no expectation that she would grasp this yet but it doesn't hurt.

It was a great math lesson and nice to be away from worksheets. It taught so many different lessons in a carefree way. It introduced concepts of algebra and word problems, illustrating that math can be a spoken language as well as a numeral language as well as represented by items. Try it at home if you have little ones.


Too Cute!

This is a great audio post from a great site. Thicket Dweler, frequent commentor here is an inspiring homeschool mom. She is spending 24 hours blogging her day today, check her out at Today's Lessons.


The Slow Creep of Commonality

All of sudden you wake up one day and you realize that your good intentions and convictions have gone past you and you are just living your life the "normal" way. It did not happen in a way you were conscious of, it did not even appear to be happening and you did not realize it until it was over. This is what has recently happened in our family with regards to nutrition.

Those of you who have known me for years know that I have some pretty strong convictions about nutrition and the food we eat. When it was just Serona, Rhia and I we were VERY good about eating proper nutrition and eating the "right things". I can remember not understanding why others would not make the simple choices that we were making for their own families. I could not understand what parents were offering their kids as snacks and why my own would eat healthy snacks and like them. This attitude of judgment continued after I had Ciaran as well. Then something happened, and I find myself with a kitchen that includes Teddy Grahams, Honeycombs, apple juice and pudding! To many of you this may seem like no big deal but to us when we realized it was a big deal.

For years I have been very into organic food and feeding kids whole foods and healthy snacks. I even gave a talk about how to get your children to eat healthier things. I called it moving beyond Goldfish, which for some reason seems to be the child snack food of choice. Then we started spending a lot of time around other kids and I found myself getting a guilty mom complex and my actions weakened while I knew my convictions were true.

You can only make your kids eat fruit leathers and tofu so long while others are eating chips, candy, and cookies all around you. The kids start to balk and you start to question your right to withhold those things from them. I found my standards weakening just a little bit at a time. First it was letting them share some of what their friends had brought, then it was buying some special things to have just at those times when we would be with friends who were having them. Then suddenly it became picking it up to have as treats around the house. It took Serona gently chastising me for some of my purchases for me to wake up and realize what we had been doing.

I balked at first, saying I only got this as a treat. Then he gently showed me all the "only as a treat" things I had recently purchased. It was when he helped me realize that I was allowing Sirah to have things like juice and pudding at 18 months that I realized what had happened. I would so rarely have let Rhia or Ciaran have these things that seem to becoming part of Sirah's diet. I know I need to loosen up some from our strict standards but we have moved far beyond that point. It was a slow creep but we are at the point now where it will quickly devolve into more if it is not curtailed.

I don't want you to get the impression that our children will never be allowed to have treats, but rather that I need to get back into the habits I once was in. A positive step this week. When we were in the grocery store (a mistake to begin with) for a treat I allowed each child to pick one item from the produce aisle. They were so excited. Rhiannon came home with a cantelope stuffed with grapes and Ciaran with a whole pineapple. It was better than chocolate to them and they can't wait to share them with us as a family.

I also don't want you to get the impression that I am judging your family or your choices, I am not. I have many friends who make very different choices for their families and feel they are the right choices. I totally respect that and feel strongly that each family needs to make the decisions that are best for them and other families are not likely to understand them. Especially in areas where morality is not at stake, people are truly free to choose whatever is best for them. This criticism is placed squarely on my own shoulders as Serona and I have made choices for our family with good reasons behind them and I have let them slip away slowly until I no longer recognize myself in this area.

I have to remember there are alternatives and more common ground than jumping to the Teddy grahams, goldfish, and candy. We can still have healthy treats, and it is not that they take more time or effort, just that you need to remember to do them and then stand up to the pressures around you. I have found that the problem is not so much my kids as it is my own guilt as a mother.

Part of me wants to allow them to enjoy what other kids do. Yet the bigger part of me needs to remember the reasons we made the choices we did in the first place. Do I really want them to be like everyone else? No, I do not. There are good reasons we have decided to be vegetarians, eat organic food, avoid pop and juice, not watch TV and eat healthier food. I need to remember them, be strong and teach my children the reasons behind the decisions we have made so they can embrace them as well. There are many advantages to the choices we have made and I need to keep them in perspective when the downsides rear their heads.

It is interesting to me that I have found this so easy to do when it comes to television and being a vegetarian, and yet in this one area it seems to have been a struggle for me. I know some of it is the convenience factor, much of it is becoming lax, and just a small part of it is wanting to give my kids what everyone else seems to have. But nutrition is an important area for our family and I need to reclaim and retrain my family in this area, starting with myself of course.

Now do we throw out the Teddy Grahams and cherry pie or eat it first?


January 26, 2005


I've been trying to limit my computer time lately and I hurt my back, pulled a muscle I think so I have been longer between posts. We have had a good school week. We are not involved with any activities out of the home this week, especially since next week will be a big week for us.

Ciaran has been really into play-doh and coloring this week. He made some neat "people" and has colored some nice frogs and owls. He also painted one of his big letters and hopefully we will finish our collage tommorrow. He has been on again and off agian with his interest level and I am going with that these days. Today he picked up our big Spectacular China book and looked at all the pictures, he was excited for them. He has also been into being read to. Rhiannon has stepped up as well and for the past two nights she has read to him in bed until he has fallen asleep from Frog and Toad and Little Bear.

Rhiannon has been reading quite a bit and we went back to daily Phonics drills as I noticed an increase in her whole word reading and an avoidance of sounding unfamiliar words out, she uses context and often will sound out the beginning and then guess until she gets it right. We just finished up working on different endings (ink, ank, unk, onk) and (ing, ang, ung, ong) and began work on long vowels. We are both enjoying working through Phonics Pathways. It is easy to follow and has the right mix of words with no context and words in sentences. She asked to do an extra page today. We have also finally added in the spelling portion of the book. Up until recently I felt she was too young to have to try to spell any of the words. I am not hard on her but she does need to do spelling from diction as part of each of her phonics lessons now.

She has been very into making little books and writing us letters. This week she made two books "The Story of My Life" and "A Book about Mom" she wrote a full page that she sounded out (spelling was sometimes difficult to follow) and then illustrated the book with her special pictures. She also made each member of the family, including younger brother and sister a special picture of her with them on a summer day. These have been precious to receive and a lot of fun.

Math this week has been exciting. We had been in a routine with Miquon math on the subject of addition and subtraction but on Monday Rhiannon asked if we could do math with blocks and we had a great time! We used our big unit blocks to show fractions and how different things can equal one another. We used blocks to represent half, quarter, and eigths. I showed how that worked with both vertical and horizontal blocks and we played around with it for awhile. Then we moved to money and I showed one dollar, half dollar and quarters. After she got her mind around this we set up both the blocks and the money on her desk so she could see the relationships. I also wrote the fractions on the board for her to see adding fractions and how they become whole numbers and then made flash cards with the fractions written on it. We ended this by playing a game where I would hold up either a coin or a block and she had to find the right flash card that represented it. She had fun with it and I think she really grasped it.

We continued with work in First Language Lessons, today we focused on aunts, uncles and cousins and for copywork she wrote the names of all her aunts, uncles and cousins, 9 in all. We talked about common and proper nouns and she worked on memorizing a new poem.

We have been reading through "Tell me the Story of Jesus" and "ABC Memory Verse: Hiding God's word in Little Hearts" for bible studies. Just tonight when we arrived at church for our midweek service she informed us that she thinks she is ready to be baptized and we should talk about this weekend. It was very matter of fact and not in the context of anything else from the car ride. We have been reading about John the Baptist during our bible study time though and she has been asking a lot of questions about how I came to be baptized. On the way home Ciaran was so excited about his class and what he learned and asked to keep coloring his sheet from class and shared all about the story they learned tonight.

Both Ciaran and Rhiannon have been very inquisitive this week, especially about my education and marriage. Today at lunch I spent the entire time answering questions about our wedding, honeymoon, how we met and how long we went to school. They also wanted to know if I ever had a job like dad before I stayed home with them. It was fun sharing all those things with them and interesting to me that they were suddenly interested. It was also suprising to me that the answer to how long I spent in school was 20 years!

Sirah has been a lot of fun. She is starting to use more and more words and finding different ways to communicate her desires and needs. She still does not want to sleep until nearly 11pm each night and naps are becoming more of a fight with her as well. She picked up a stack of books and climbed on my lap tonight before bed. We have also been playing peekaboo - it is very cute to see her play and cover her eyes. She gets so excited when you play with her. She knows almost all of her body parts and can tell the difference between my eyes and her eyes. She is learning her animal sounds and LOVES to color and play with playdoh. She was so proud this week when she colored a picture for me, it was so special to see her standing there holding out this piece of paper for me and realizing that she made it. It was cute to see her proud of herself. She is also very into taking off all her clothes especially her diaper. She has taken to putting her diaper into the toilet! If she were not so little I would see this as time to start potty training her. She keeps taking off her diaper and putting on Rhiannon's underwear!

I've been trying to take it easy to recover from hurting myself yesterday. Keeping laundry going, the house picked up, playing with Ciaran and Sirah and Rhia's school has been enough for me. I've also gotten some personal reading time in, a little crocheting and our 2004 taxes completed (HOORAY!). Serona is working hard on some preojects for work including some presentations he needs to finish. We are in the middle of painting our living room and we need to finish tommorrow as we are hosting bible study here on Friday!


January Reading List

Black Beauty - Sewell Anna
Why Do Horses Neigh - Holub Joan
Bedtime for Frances - Hoban, Russell
Quick as a Cricket - Wood, Audrey
Cars and Trucks and Things That Go - Scarry, Richard
Robots: The Movie Storybook - Egan, Kate
Alice the Fairy - Shannon, David
Wishes do Come True - Capalija Ann Marie
Amelia Bedeilia - Parish, Peggy
Peter Pan - Barrie, JM (classical illustrated adaptation)

Frog and Toad are Friends - Lobel, Arnold
Frog and Toad Together - Lobel, Arnold
Shapes - Sparkly Board Book
Horses Wear Shoes: I Wonder Why - Kingfisher
My H SoundBox - Moncure, Jane Belk
Casey's New Hat - Gardella, Tricia
Horses - Klingel, Cynthia
One Gaping Wide-Mouthed Hopping Frog - Tryon, Leslie
I am Not Going to Get Up Today - Dr Suess
Sun Girl and the Moon Boy, The: A Korean Folktale - Choi, Yangsook

Wide Mouthed Frog, The - Faulkner, Keith
Clifford's Puppy Days - Bridwell, Norman
Clifford Gets a Job - Bridwell, Norman
Disney Princess CD Storybook - (includes Little Mermaid Cinderella, SnowWhite and Beauty and the Beast)
Empty Pot, The - Demi
Hygeine and Good Health - Gray, Shirley
Hershey's Kisses Addition Book - Pallotta, Jerry
Napping House, The - Wood, Audrey and Don
Horse Show - Hayden, Kate
How Do Dinosaurs Say GoodNight - Yolen, Jane

Wish-For Dinosaur, A - Moncure, Jane Belk
Good Morning, Good Night - Mitchell, Melanie
On Mother's Lap - Scott, Ann Herbert
Harvest Home - Yolen, Jane
Haystack- Geisert, Bonnie
Abuela - Dorros, Arthur
Helen Keller - Klingel, Cynthia
House in the Mail, The - Wells, Rosemary and Tom
Sky Hops and Belly Flops - Barber, Lynda
Harvest Time - Waters, Jennifer

Helen at Home and the Letter H - Klingel, Cynthia
Little Red Hen, The - Zemach, Margot
China - Pluckrose, Henry
Hippos - Markert, Jenny
Touch and Feel Kitten - Dk Publishing
Playing Poohsticks Milne, AA (adapted)
God Made all the Colors - Lion Publishing
Blessings Everywhere - Mackall, Dandi
Your Heart - DeGezelle, Terri
Welcome from China - Waterlow, China

Owl Babies - Waddell, Martin
Owls: Wild Birds of Prey - Kops, Deborah
Owl and the Pussycat, The - Lear, Edward
Owls - the Silent Hunters - Miller, Sara
Owl Moon - Yolen, Jane
Helen Keller - Walker, Pamela
China: Enchantment of World History to 1949 - McLenighan, Valjean (read portions)
Little House on the Prairie - Wilder, Laura Ingalls (in progress)
Touch and Feel Pets - DK Publishing
Oso pardo Oso pardo que vas ahi? - Martin Jr, Bill

Where the wild Things are - Sendak, Maurice
Bear Snores On - Wilson, Karma
Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See - Martin Jr, Bill
Home safety - Raatma, Lucia
You are Special - Lucado, Max
Stellaluna - Cannon, Janell
Little Sibu - Grindley, Sally
Animal Lives - The Frog - Kitchen, Bert
Curious George's Dream - Rey HA
If You Give a Moose a Muffin - Numeroff, Laura

Jesse Bear What Will You Wear - Carlstrom, Nancy White
Blessings Everywhere - Mackall, Dandi
Kisses - Szekeres, Cyndy
God Made all the Colors - Lion Publishing
Mother Goose - My First Treasury
Runaway Bunny, The - Brown, Margaret Wise
I'm Gonna Like Me - Curtis, Jamie Lee
Quick as a Cricket - Wood, Audrey
Hooray for You - Richmond, Marianne
My Favorite Book - Good Will Publishers

God Made you Special - Metaxes, Eric
Stand Tall Molly Lou Melom - Lovell, Patty
Best of All - Lucado, Max
Library, The - Stewart, Sarah
Pocketfull of Kisses, A - Penn, Audrey

Reads in Progress:
By the Shores of the Silver Lake - Wilder, Laura Ingalls
Farmer Boy - Wilder, Laura Ingalls
Tell me the Story of Jesus - Beers, V. Gilbert

Rhiannon's Reads

Owl at Home - Lobel, Arnold
You Read to Me and I'll Read to You
GingerBread Man, The - (retold by Roxanna Marino Knapp)
Little Red Riding Hood - (retold by Roxanna Marino Knapp)
Three Billy Goats Gruff, The - (retold by Roxanna Marino Knapp)
Friendship, Garden, The - Walt Disney Winnie the Pooh
I'm Gonna Like Me - Curtis, Jamie Lee
Clifford's Good Deeds - Bridwell, Norman
When I was LIttle - Curtis, Jamie Lee
Green Eggs and Han - Dr Suess

Shoe: Sound of SH - Ballard, Peg
This and That: Sound of TH - Ballard, Peg
Word Bird Makes words with Hen - Moncure, Jane Belk
Home Tools - Snyder, Inez
Hamsters - Klingel, Cynthia
Father Bear Comes Home - Minarik, Else Holmelund
Froggy Goes to School - London, Jonathan
Honesty - Kyle, Kathryn
Way Down Deep in the Deep Blue Sea - Peck, Jan
Company's Going - Yorinks Arthur

Bear Wants More - Wilson, Karma
LIttle Bird and the Moon Sandwich - Berkowitz, Linda
Bear Stays Up - Wilson, Karma
Arthur's Family Vacation - Brown
If You Take a Mouse to the Movies - Numeroff Laura
Story of Jonah The - Wickenden, Nadine
Good-Night Owl - Hutchins, Pat
Owl and the Pussycat The - lear, Edward
Bear Snores On - Wilson, Karma
It's Hard to be five - Curtis, Jamie Lee

Frog and Toad are Friends - Lobel, Arnold
Frog and Toad Together - Lobel, Arnold
Frog and Toad All Year - Lobel, Arnold
Hockey - Klingel, Cynthia
Homes Around the World - Hall Margaret
Little Bear's Visit - Minarik, Else Holmelund
Snowy Day, The - Keats, Ezra Jack
Love You Forever - Munsch, Robert
What If the Zebra's Lost Their Stripes - Reitano, John
Tiny Seed The - Carle, Eric

Put Me in the Zoo - Dr Suess

Mommy Reads
Anna Karenina - Tolstoy, Leo
Christmas Promise, A - Kinkade, Thomas
Debt Proof Your Life - Hunt, Mary
Jedi Trial - Sherman, David
Reptile Room, The - Snickett, Lemony

Last Updated Jan 26, 2005

January 24, 2005

Productive Weekend

This weekend was a big weekend. We were supposed to be in Duluth owling, but the snowstorm kept us here. We ended up making a homemade ice skating rink in our backyard, we are still working on it. Serona has been out there for a few hours each night spraying and smoothing the ice down to make layers of ice. First we shovelled off the snow into a large rectablge, then raked it then smoothed it with downspout plastic tubing. Then Serona flooded it. Our water pipes were too frozen to attach the hose outside so we had to run it from the sink in our laundry room!

We also painted two walls in our living room, or I should say Serona painted them while I helped with the kids. We have valuted ceilings and lots of wall over our split level staircase so this was challenging!

I made 5 scarves this weekend and did some work on a poncho, blanket and a prayer shawl. WE had a relaxing family weekend. We still ate takeout like we would have in Duluth. We watched movies, went sledding, played in the snow and shoveled. We made it to church and just got some things done around the home. Hope you had a good weekend.


January 22, 2005


Rhiannon is getting back into the swing of daily work after a nice break with unit studies, horses, Little House on the Prairie, owls to name a few. We went back to Miquon math and she seemed to be thankful for the structure of it. She used a number line and cuisenaire rods to work through some subtraction problems today. It is nice when you see that she is going beyond being able to do the work to understanding what she is doing. For handwriting she wrote out the entire alphabet in uppercase and then in lowercase and then worked on H's and O's. She also made some pictures and cards that she wrote on. For reading time today she read me four books while I folded laundry. She also chose to read Ciaran and Sirah a book. I have noticed that she prefers "whole word reading" though so I think we will be pulling back out Phonics Pathways and working through that daily again. It is not that I object to her understanding words in context and recognizing them. The point is more that she needs to be able to sound words out and she has gotten further away from them as she has grown into a more confident reader. She keeps picking up more challenging story books each day to challenge herself. I am surprised at what she chooses and how well she can read many of them.

Ciaran asked to paint his letter H and then we worked on some math together. Practice recognizing sets of numbers from 1-9. Also on number recognition though the numerals still seem to not stick with him much. He did enjoy counting and playing games with the cards we were using. We also built a train and played with it together. We read and snuggled as well.

Sirah and I played with her farm today and she was trying to imitate my animal sounds. She got very into her play and it was fun. We also did some puzzles together, she is starting to get better at realizing the pieces can go back in instead of just come out. She prefers puzzles with the big handles. We also read together and played the body parts game. She sang and danced to something we were listening to and she kept climbing up on Rhiannon's desk trying to do "school" herself.

Tonight we had a family movie night after playing in the snow. We had pizza and watched the second half of The Happiest Millionaire. Then we got the kids to bed and Serona read on the couch while I finished off two scarves I was crocheting for friends. A few quick blogs and then off to bed to get rest for tomorrow.


Finally! Snow!

The kids could not be more excited it is finally snowing. We are used to having much more snow by this point in the year. They have wanted to go sledding all winter and tommorrow they finally can. They got to do just a little bit of playing while I shoveled our long two car driveway! I got my workout and was exhausted. Tomorrow we will have a play day just enjoying the snow and shoveling some more.

Unfortunately the snow did make us cancel our mini vacation we had planned for this weekend with friends. We were going up to Duluth to see the owls. However 6-9 inches of snow in the Twin Cities and 16-20 in the Duluth area and hazardous winds made us decide it was not worth the drive. We were disappointed but we will have to just enjoy tucking in and enjoying the weather.


Mall of America Scavenger Hunt

We had a scavenger hunt at the Mall of America this past week. Here was our search list, the kids did very well, they made it to 410 points - they needed 300 to get ice cream! We had alot of fun and I would recommend this activity to others. While we do have the advantage of having MOA right here it could be easily adapted for other malls. We did our hunt with a digital camera and the kids needed to take their picture with each item - they did NOT find the ones in bold (it was easier that way)

Picture of you with ...

10 points

recycling can (like the trash can not a pop can)
jango fett
harry potter
all on an escalator
in front of a fountain
a big fish tank
an alligator
all stuffed into a photo booth

20 points
a person dressed as an animal (can repeat with up to 3 different total)
a person dressed as a cartoon character (can repeat up to 2 different)
up on a stage doing a funny pose
some people you do not know waving with you
wearing funny hats
darth vader
a janitor doing his/her job

live animal

30 points - one winner per category
Biggest choc chip cookie
the biggest ice cream cone
the biggest dinosaur you can find
with the funniest sign you can find
the biggest box of cereal (try to be creative here)
the tallest lego tower you can build

the tallest structure you see in the mall
the largest stuffed animal you can find
the biggest car you can find
largest photo/painting of a movie star

store with the longest name
store with the shortest name

50 points
each child touching the brass replica of Met Stadium's home plate

We also added a few things as we went along to try to keep their attention focused. In addition they found a penny, ball, frog, rock and some other odds and ends.

Try it some time and enjoy.

January 20, 2005

The Value of Play Silks

For years I have gone back and forth over the value of purchasing these playsilks. I always heard wonderful things about them but could not see why they were so special. I tried replicating it with a variety of blankets and cloths, which my kids did play with. I never saw them use these substitues the way people say kids use the playsilks so I could never justify the investment.

This past Christmas I suggested them as a gift idea for Sirah and she received an entire set of 7 bright rainbow colored ones. Now I see that what people say is true, they are probably my children's favorite thing to play with (and they have many things to play with). I would say Rhiannon and Ciaran enjoy them even more than her. I actually hardly ever see Rhia without one when we are home and it is only because I won't let them take them out of the house that they do not go with us.

They have been one of the most played with toys the kids received this Christmas. It is hard to believe I mean they are just squares of silk right? Yep, that is all they are, nicely colored, soft pieces of silk that are in big squares. The kids use them for everything. Yesterday alone these playsilks were: magic carpets, picnic blankets, sleeping bags, scarves, cloaks, skirts, hoods, capes, coverings, tents, spinners, curtains, doors and tablecloths!

So I guess if you are like I was and you are on the fence and you have kids that enjoy playing in imaginary worlds they are very worth it -atleast I found that to be the case with my own kids and I was in denial that they could rally be that interesting of a toy.


Owl Lesson Plan

It recently came to our attention that the great gray owls and northern hawk owls have migrated further south and we are planning a weekend long feild trip/vacation to go owling in Duluth with another family of friends from our hs support group. In preperation for the trip I pulled together some of the following resources.

We seem to have fallen into a unit study pattern these past few weeks and I think it works well for us in the winter months when everyone is bouncing off the walls.

Facts, Information and Lesson Plans
North American Owls
Owl Lesson Plan
Kids Summary

Crafts and Coloring
Tracing Page
Paper Plate Craft
Flying Owl Craft
Ballon Craft

Video and Sounds
Owl Video
Owl Calls

Online Game and Activity
Owl quiz
Jigsaw Puzzle

Owl Babies - Waddell, Martin
Owls: Wild Birds of Prey - Kops, Deborah
Owl and the Pussycat, The - Lear, Edward
Owls - the Silent Hunters - Miller, Sara
Owl Moon - Yolen, Jane

January 19, 2005

China Endangered Animals Lesson

The second half of this weeks coop class on China was dedicated to learning about animals. My teaching partner started talking about different species and how you could tell a species based on whom they would mate with. Then she talked about how many endangered species there were in China. She explained what threatened, endangered and extinct meant through a game. She had us all (parents and kids) sit in a circle on the floor and wear panda bear masks. Then she asked several to move out of the circle and suddenly wer threatened. Then she asked more of us to move out until there were just two pandas left and they were endangered, then she had them move out of the circle and they were extinct this really hit home with the kids.

Then she brought out plastic dinosaurs and asked if they had ever seen real dinosaurs and explained how they were extinct now and how many believe an asteroid landed and killed them. She talked about other ways animals can become extinct, through hunting or destruction of their habitat. Then she brought out little plastic play figures for several endangered species in China including the snow leopard, panda, red panda and tiger. Then she had a big map of China that had small squares cut out with pictures of people and animals. She played a game with them – when they had a person they had to take an animal off the map to illustrate how the large population threatens certain animal species. This really seemed to hit home with many of the kids and they were passionate about not wanting the animals to become extinct.

As they were playing they were saying things like “This is so sad”, “those poor animals” and “we need to do something”. They started trying to come up with solutions they thought we should call China and tell them not to hurt the animals, or build really big zoos there to protect the animals. We talked to them briefly about things they can do here to make a difference and how there are animals in our own country as well that are endangered.

They finished by making a “Time is Running Out” clock with pictures of endangered Chinese animals for each hour. They could move the arm of the clock around and realize that as time goes by without changes animals are in trouble. They also had a visual reminder of some of the animals that are threatened and endangered in China.

This class went well, there was a lot of information presented. But we tried to do it in an interactive and fun way. This unit on China overall has been successful and for some reason I have noticed that the kids seem to remember more from this country than they did in other months when we focused on Israel and Iraq.


January 18, 2005

China History and Government - Week Three

Today we had our week three of our homeschool coop on China. I will split this entry into two posts because we covered a lot of ground. I began the class with a review of some of their favorite things they remembered about China. This included the great wall, chow mein noodles, counting to ten with their fingers, lanterns and dragons for their festivals.

Then I did a brief overview of some of the inventions of China highlighting some items the kids would be familiar with such as the abacus, silk, fans, and paper. We talked a bit about how people lived in the beginning and the kids were able to come up with needing to scavenge for food after trying the marketplace, a refrigerator and farming. I had hid fruits and little animals (fish and cows) throughout the room and the boys pretended to hunt and found the animals while the girls gathered and found the fruit. We talked about how they would need to do this every day to eat and how much work it could be. We talked about how they would use fire to heat their food and how they would live in caves. We compared it to camping as we all go camping together in the summers.

Then we moved into farming. I had the kids split into two groups and farm their land and build their villages. Then they elected a leader for their group and we talked about how tribes turned into villages and then it lead to dynasties. To explain the concept of a China dynasty to them I said it was when the rulers all came from the same family. Then I had each child fill out their own personal family tree back to their great-grandfathers and showed how each dynasty would have had leaders from each generation and often more generations than that.

Then we moved into the challenging part of lesson, teaching them about the many dynasties of China while keeping their interest. I decided not to cover all of the dynasties, but to highlight certain ones and certain interesting facts from each. I moved through them chronologically as quickly as I could trying to integrate activities and artifacts for them to pass around.

Here is a sample of what we did for China Dynasty Lesson

Hsia Dynasty - passed around a silk cloth for them to examine
Shang Dynasty - passed around a bronze armillary for them to examine
Chou Dynasty - passed around chopsticks
Chin Dynasty - had them build the great wall of China out of big cardboard blocks
Tang Dynasty - talked about the female empress, schools and equality
Sung Dynasty - passed around an abacus for them to look at
Mongol Dynasty - had the kids knock down the wall they had built and reminded them that children would have started fighting at their age
Ming Dynasty - passed around a tea bag

Then we talked about the rise of communism. I reminded the kids of our kibbutz lesson from Israel. We talked about how life on a kibbutz could help us understand communist life. We talked about government control and redistribution and then reminded the kids of our lesson on Iraq's government and how the people were unable to speak out in opposition or the consequence could mean jail or worse. We finished this discussion with a brief overview of China's one child policy and answering the kids questions about that. We also encouraged them to think about what life would be like without their siblings.

I rounded it up with a summary of some of the main points I wanted them to remember. That China was made up of many dynasties or ruling families. That there were times of war and chaos often followed by times of rebuilding and good. To remember some of the great inventions that came from China and about what the government was like now.

We ended this portion of the class with an abacus activity - where the kids put beads on sticks and made their own abacus, it as a nice activity. At times I felt like the history portion droned on but I tried to keep it as interactive and interesting as possible, there was so much to cover. Overall I think the class went well, their favorite part of course was building and knocking down the wall.


Weekend Round-up

We had a great family weekend. We just spent time all together enjoying ourselves. On Saturday we worked on household chores and ran errands and wrote letters to the grandparents. Saturday night we watched a family movie all together, we let them watch Alice in Wonderland while we ate homemade pizza.

Sunday we went to church and then to the MN Zoo where they had Froggy from the Jonathan London books which of course Ciaran loved, Clifford was also there as were all the animals. It was nice to go with Serona as well as we usually go by ourselves.
The walk from the car was numbingly cold (the kind of cold where your nose hairs and teeth feel like they are frozen) but it was nice once we were inside.

We stopped at a friend's house on the way home where we had cheese and crackers and great conversations. We also got our baby fix. We headed home to have a pancake dinner and then watch another family movie all together. This time we watched The Princess Diaries II. It was cute but not as good as the first. I enjoyed it, Serona thought it was a bit contrived.

Yesterday we tucked in and got some things done around the house and I put together two lesson plans, one to study owls for our upcoming field trip and another one for today's coop lesson on the history of China. Check back later for the resources when I get a chance I will post them. Off to teach the entire history of China in a nutshell. Hope all is well with you.


January 14, 2005

Little House on the Prairie Lesson Plan

Another friend and I have been talking about how much the kids enjoy these books and I offered to pull together some resources. As we live in the heartland we will be planning trips to her homes and museums as well (though many will have to wait until the spring) such as this one we took this past summer to Little House in Big Woods.

Here are some of the Little House on the Prairie series resources and lesson ideas I found. Some could be made into entire curriculums or Little House unit studies.

Little House History

Visit Laura's Past Homes

Simple map of her travels

Interactive journey

Time line

Slideshow of museums and locations

Activities and Lesson Planning Resources

Lesson plan ideas by subject

Prairie Primer Resources

Songs and Lyrics from the books
Activity sheets

Build a pioneer town

Make a boys straw hat

Quilt pattern - you could do this with material or magazine pictures

Counting book

Crossword and Word find puzzles

Prairie Primer - this is a substantial purchase - 40.00 but it seems to be well reviewed and well cited, personally we have not used it.

Activities to Do

Make butter
butter made the old-fashioned way (churning!) We shake the heavy cream
in a jar as we chant:

Come butter come!
Come butter come!
Peter standing at the gate
Waiting for a butter cake.
Come butter come!

Venn Diagram and Wall Quilt

Discuss that even though the people of this time period went through many hardships,
they still found various ways to find joy in life. Using the background information above, tell the class the forms of entertainment that Laura Ingalls Wilder had on the frontier. After discussing these forms of entertainment, have the students list different forms of entertainment in their community on the board. Students may need to look at brochures and phone books of the community to give them ideas. As a class, make a Venn Diagram comparing and contrasting the similarities and differences in the
entertainment during Laura's time with the forms of entertainment found in their community.

Give each student an 8X8 inch square cut out of construction paper. Squares should be different colors. Using the list of entertainment forms from their community as a reference, students should create a poster advertising entertainment activities
in their community on the quilt square. After students have completed their poster, they will display their projects by putting together a patchwork quilt with their squares. (Adapted from Mahoney, A. [1996]. My Town's Wall Quilts.[On-line]. Available: online

Quilting was a popular craft among pioneer women in the 1800's. Patchwork quilts were also made by Laura Ingalls Wilder. This should be mentioned as the reason the students are putting their posters in quilt form. This will be a visual dichotomy between our time period, and Laura's.

activity taken from

Corn Cob Dolls

1. Save your corn husks and silk hair from your corn on the cob. Dry
them in the sun for 3-4 days. (You will need around 13 leaves per

2. On the day of doll making soak them in warm water for about 10 minutes.

3. To make the head: crumple a husk into a ball (about the size of a
large marble) . Fold another husk over the ball like a large hood.
Gather the husk snuggly just under the ball and tie tightly with
string. We used jute rope. The husk should extend several inches
below the tie.

4. To make the arms: Roll up a husk in a pencil. Pull the pencil
out keeping the husk tightly rolled like a drinking straw. Place the
arms in between the husk that extends below the tie. The arms should
be centered just below the head. Then take a crumpled up piece of
husk and place it under the arms inside the extended husk piece. Tie
the husk pieces together below the stuffing to form the waist.

5. Now to make the shoulders: To make your doll more sturdy take two
pieces of corn husk. Criss cross them on either side of the head and
over the arms. The husks will be criss crossed on the front and on
the back of the doll like sashes. Tie again at the same place on the

6. Now to make the skirt (The skirt can easily be turned into pants
for your sons): The skirt is attached to the doll upside down.
First make the back: take three large smooth husks and spread them on
the table like a fan (the leaves will overlap). Place the doll face up
over the point of the fan. The skirt appears to be upside down behind
her. Tie tightly at the waist. Do the same for the front. Carefully
bend the husks down over the tie and voila you have a skirt. To turn
into pants just separate your skirt into two and tie at the bottom.


In the book Little House in the Big Woods, Pa carves with wood. A much
safer idea is to give children soap and butter knives to carve with.
Jonathon (9yo) really enjoyed this.

Science experiments to explain what sap does

OSMOSIS: All trees draw water from deep beneath the ground right up
into their leaves, acting like a natural pump. Many trees are over
50m tall and pump hundreds of litres of water a day. You can suck a
drink up through a straw, but trees cannot use this method.

Experiment 1

To find out how difficult it is to suck up water, carefully join
together straws with sticky tape. The longer the straw, the more
difficult it is for you to suck up the drink. The best mechanical
pumps can only manage 10m.

Instead, trees use a method called osmosis to force water upwards.
Osmosis works because there is a difference between the sap, or juice,
inside the roots and the water in the ground outside. Sap contains
large amounts of sugary substances. Ground water contains only tiny
amounts of dissolved nutrients. We say that sap is more concentrated
than the ground water. Osmosis forces water from the soil (where
concentration is low) through minute holes in the root skin to inside
the root (where concentration is high).

Experiment 2

You will need: large potato, chopping board, peeler, knife, teaspoon,
2 shallow dishes , water, sugar and food coloring (optional).

1- You will need a large, smooth potato about 10cm long and 6cm
across. Carefully peel the potato using a chopping board to protect
your work surface.

2 - Cut the peeled potato in half and then slice off the rounded ends.
You will now have two round potato slices. Each slice should be
about 3cm thick.

3 - Use a teaspoon to scoop out a hollow in each potato slice. Place
each slice in its own shallow dish and fill the dishes with water to
about 1cm in depth.

4 - Half fill both hollows with water and food colouring. Add 1/2 tsp
of sugar to one hollow. Cover and leave for one day.

5 - The level of liquid in the sugary hollow has risen. Osmosis has
made more water move into this potato from the dish. The level in the
other potato has not risen.

Tough-walled tubes carry the water up the trunk and into the leaves.
The water evaporates from the leaves through tiny holes. As it
evaporates, more water moves up to take its place.

Experiment 3

Trees and other plants move water upwards through tubes called xylem
vessels. You can easily see these tubes in celery. Cut 1cm from the
end of a stick of celery. Put the stick into a beaker of colored
water for one day. Cut across the bottom of the stem to get a good
view of the xylem vessels.

Activities taken from

Tonsils Research and Resources

A friend of mine recently asked me to help her find some resources on tonsils and children getting their tonsils out. Thought I would share some of the resources I cam up with here.

Information Sites for Parents and Kids



Some follow-up worksheets and activty books


picture of tonsils


hospital stay workbook

Gorilla Tonsils Recipe


Writing Experiment

We are in the middle of conducting a history lesson and experiment. Today we wrote our names in hieroglyphics on papyrus scrolls (ok so I could not locate true papyrus so we used tracing paper to replicate the thin feel of it). After they dry we will attach dowel rods to them and roll and tie them like real scrolls would have been.

Then we will place them outside along with our dried clay cunieform writing tablets and see what happens to them. It is subzero here and the ground is wet so we have a theory. We have been talking about the advantages and disadvantages of paper versus stone and clay writings. After we bring them inside we will further conduct an experiemnt exposing them to a flood (in our kitchen sink) and see what happens.

The kids are enjoying themselves and I was even brave enough to have black paint out in the schoolroom with Sirah walking around, she did get some on one of her shirts!

While the paint is drying the kids are finishing their handouts from yesterday's snow plow tour. I'll update more later.


January 13, 2005

Updated Sidebar

I spent some time today updating the sidebar, primarily in the areas of favorite lessons, feild trips and the like. It had been awhile since I updated that so I brought some of my favorites back up to the list so I can find them easily. Check it out sometime.


Winter Secrets from Minnesota

Ever find yourself wondering how we do it here? Why we choose to stay winter after winter with forecasts like today's:



Well the reasons to live in the Twin Cities are very numerous, including a thriving homeschool community but you really do get used to the winters, even if you are not born here. We have been here four years and before that I have lived in New York, Portland Oregon, Northern Illinois, Boston MA, and deep south Georgia. Minnesota winters are cold and we typically have a lot of snow though this year we have less than three inches total! Here are some of the secrets I have found to make Minnesota winters enjoyable:

1. Silk Undergarments - way better than long underwear they are very comfy, lightweight and warm! Under a pair of jeans they will keep you warm for hours. Get the tops too and you will not be cold again.

2. A good jacket - it is worth the money. Here is the one Serona and I like from LL Bean, we got ours at the end of the season on clearance.

3. Mittens that convert into gloves and have a leather palm, like these. This allows for driving, an ability to do things you can't without mittens but the immediate warmth of mittens when you need them.

4. An attached garage, not neccesary but very nice! A car starter would also be nice, we do not have one.

Truly you get used to it and you don't feel cold until it goes negative. Even the kids get out and play when it is in the double digits. And of course when it gets this cold you try to tuck in drink hot chocolate and tea and enjoy each other.


Write Like an Egyptian

The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology has a cool online tool that lets you type in your name and it generates how it would be written in hieroglyphs, the way an Egyptian scribe might have written it. While these are not always entirely accurate, they are interesting and often very close if not completely accurate. Check it out here.

You can also see an alphabet here.


January 12, 2005

Book Meme

Here's how it works. Copy the list, then remove from it the names of any authors not in your home library, replacing them with names of authors you have. Boldface the ones you’ve added.

I have a lot in common with Marsupial Mom.

1. Ravi Zacharias
2. J.I. Packer
3. Max Lucado
4. Charles Dickens
5. J.K Rowling
6. JRR Tolkien
7. C.S. Lewis
8. Chuck Colson
9. Orson Scott Card

Be sure to leave a comment if you use my list, it would be interesting to see what we have in common. Of course I have much more variety than this list indicates.

Why I Hate Microsoft

Why Microsoft Sucks... Yet another them problem that becomes a me problem. They have disocvered yet another critical problems with their software that allows people to take control of my computer and delte my files. So now I once again need to update each and every computer on my network to prevent the problem. I even needed to change my browser to receive the patch as it was not available on any other browser than IE.

I truly wish that Linux was more compatable with other software as it is a much more secure system and they do not have nearly as many problems or cause me nearly as many headaches. However much of the software that we use requires windows so our computers are still locked into this. _sigh_

Check your computer and update your systems yet again. Don't be caught unaware. Visit Microsoft Windows Update and of course make sure you close your good browser and open up IE so you can install it.


Daily Round-Up

Today was a productive day though I did not originally think it would be. We spent majority of the day cleaning the house. Alternating between cleaning and playing spurts. From time to time we would also read. Today I limited reading choices to our library books around the H theme since I knew other schooling would be limited. So they still had some choice but within my guidelines. We read more non-fiction then they would have otherwise chosen, still they enjoyed the books we read. They also got to spend some time playing with their Vsmile video game system. Which is a video game but still has educational aspects, more like an educational computer game than a typical video game.

After cleaning was over Ciaran and Sirah took a nap. During that time Rhiannon and I worked together. It is amazing how much faster we can get things accomplished while the other two are sleeping. We worked through two lessons in First Language Lessons, a story of the world lesson, questions and narration, reciting bible memory verses for letters A-I and learning a new one. Rhiannon built a wonderful castle based off a picture she saw with her blocks and did an addition worksheet. She recited two poems for Serona and did her read aloud with him. We read quite a bit today and covered a lot more ground than I thought considering how much cleaning we did. I also got to go to water aerobics and run some errands by myself.

I am now sitting on the floor in the girls room trying to corral Sirah into her bed as she keeps trying to climb out as she fights sleep. She is a strong willed child there is no doubt about that. She made it past me and ran down the hall laughing and giggling besides herself thinking she was hot stuff. Think I am in for a long night of this. She is standing up in her bed talking to her animals. Sigh


SOTW Narration Chapter Three

Rhiannon Story of the World Narration on "The First Writing"

The Egyptians wrote on stones. They called it hieroglyphics (I helped her remember the word). The Sumerians wrote on wet clay. They used a sharp knife or a stick. It was called cuneiform. Egyptians discovered that they could make paper out of reeds (she originally said duckweed) . They called it papyrus but now we call it paper. Writing on stone is harder than writing on wet clay, but the Egyptians and Sumarians disocvered they could make paper which was easier but lasted shorter. Because the paper could get wet and crumple up.

Cell Phones and Kids

Here is some information about the risks of cell phone use in young children. While I am guessing not many people give their under 8 year old a phone, you never know. Also there may be some of you like us who let the kids talk to grandma and grandpa on the phone from time to time.

The studies are indicating it is a risk for young children to use cell phones. Read the report here. Be forewarned sometimes the Times Online has inappropriate ads for young children.


Household Maintenance

Today has been a household day. Cleaning, Bills, Laundry, Organizing and the Like. Here is an update

Number of Rooms Picked Up: 9
Number of Rooms Vacummed: 7 and two hallways
Loads of Laundry Completed (washed, folded and put away): 3
Number in Progress: 3
Number of Rooms Swept: 3
Number of Rooms Mopped: 3
Number of Times Kitchen Cleaned: 3
Number of times up and down the stairs: too numerous to count

Number of Bills Paid: 8
Number of Library Book Renewed: Too Many to Count

January 11, 2005

Chinese Numbers and Chinese Colors

Here is a list of a way to say basic colors in Chinese and how to represent the numbers with your fingers from 1-10 put together by one of the moms in our hs support group and presented today at our coop.

Red - hong se
(hong) (su)

Yellow - huang se
(open mouth from small to big when saying "huang")

Green - lu yan se
(loo) (su)

Blue - lan yan se
(put your tongue on your teeth when saying "lan")

Orange - ju huang se
(like saying "juice")

Pink - fen hong

Purple - zi yan se
(put your teeth together when saying "zi")

Counting 1-10 With Hands In Chinese:

1 - pointer finger held up.

2 - pointer and middle finger held up.

3 - pinkie, ring, and middle finger held up.

4 - all fingers held up except thumb.

5 - all fingers held up.

6 - pinkie and thumb finger held up, middle fingers down.

7 - pointer finger and middle finger come together and touch down on thumb.

8 - thumb pointing up with pointer finger pointing out. Other fingers down.

9 - all fingers down like a fist except the pointer finger is up but bent down like a crooked finger.

10 - all fingers down except the pointer finger and middle finger up and crossing over each other.

Note to readers: This is in no way an "official" Chinese translation. This was a lesson put together to let very young children play with the Chinese language. I have had several comments about some innacuries, some written in ways I will not republish. I have corrected what has been pointed out to me. However, I encourage you to do more research before you present this and realize I am not an expert or even a novice in Chinese. I merely offer you what we did and the kids enjoyed. None of us thought we were teaching the kids Chinese or Mandarin in an official way.


China Coop - week Two

Today we had our second week of China coop. The lessons the kids learned were well prepared and modified nicely for them. Today they learned how to speak some Chinese. They learned how to say hello and how to introduce themselves. They learned how to count to ten outloud and with their fingers (it reminded us of sign language), they learned how to speak their basic colors and after learning these they were each given a piece of paper with a Chinese word on it and they needed to arrange themselves in order from 1-10. They got up to 7 correct and needed to rearrange themselves for the last three.

They also learned about the Chinese New Year and the Lantern celebration. They each made a Chinese lantern and a dragon as their crafts. It was well organized, well prepared and the kids enjoyed themselves. We will finish our China unit with going to see a dance to celebrate the Chinese New Year. So it was nice for them to learn about. We had a good time.


Serona on Hugh Hewitt

Last night Serona called in to the Hugh Hewitt show to discuss RatherGate. He was live on the show and discussed his recent Cyber::Ecology post on the subject. Check it out and hooray for Serona.


January 10, 2005

Sirah's Daily Word List

Sirah has started jabbering away more and more, but she is selective in how often she uses her words, still often opting for pointing and bellowing, but I thought I would keep track of all the words she uses today. She is 16 months old.

eeth (teeth)
nana (nurse)
lees (please)


Popular Mechanics for Kids

This weekend we watched four episodes of PMK on DVD and really enjoyed them. They were interesting enough to hold the attention of the adults (we learned too) and well done and hosted by kids so even Ciaran enjoyed them. We learned about spaceships, rockets, boats cars and submarines. I would recommend them, some of the material is for older kids and if you may want to prewatch them. We did not we just talked about anything we felt we needed to. There are fun segments about different types of whatever they are talking about as well as an experiment and future and past examples. I would recommend the series. It made for a nice family night video.

Note: As we are not TV watchers I have no idea if this is a TV show or not, it seemed like it could have been, so you may want to check that out as well as the DVD option.


Tsunami Lesson Pays Off

A ten year old girl who paid attention to her science lessons helped save 100 people in the recent Tsunami disaster. Tilly smith from Oxshott, Surrey saw the early warning signs of a tsunami when the tide rushed out, the water bubbles and boats were bobbing up and down. According to the article:

Tilly, who had studied tsunamis in a geography class just two weeks earlier, quickly realised they were in terrible danger. She told her mother they had to get off the beach immediately and warned there could be a tsunami, according to The Sun newspaper.

She explained she had just completed a school project on the huge waves and said they were seeing the warning signs that a tsunami was minutes away.

Her parents alerted the other holidaymakers and staff at their hotel, which was quickly evacuated. The wave crashed a few minutes later, but no one on the beach was killed or seriously injured.

Praise God this girl paid attention to her studies and that the adults around her took her seriously. Read more


January 9, 2005

Serona's 30th Birthday Bash

Well we had Serona's birthday party last night. It still wound up to be a surprise much to my amazement. All my plans to get him out of the house failed and it was by the grace of God that he decided to go downstairs and read and ultimately fell asleep while I got things ready and the guests arrived. He came upstairs, after Rhiannon woke him up to be surprised with a house full of guests.

We had a fabulous wine and cheese party. I would recommend this party to anyone. It was easy to prepare for and easy to run and people truly seemed to enjoy themselves. Next time I would try to control how many bottles were open at one time as I have 9 open bottles with assorted amounts on my kitchen counter right now! For the menu we had many different wines, ports, and champagne, as well as some non-alcoholic options for the non drinkers and some homemade stout from one of our guests!

For food we tried to keep it simple yet elegant with many different kinds of good quality cheeses, both soft and hard and in between. The favorite was hands down a Gouda called PrimaDonna, it went fast and people had to keep themselves away from it so others could have some. It was my personal favorite as well. We had several Gouda, Swiss, two types of baked Brie, some roulle, freisago, and some other cheeses I can not recall off the top of my head. There were also olives, bread, crackers and some cheese dip. For dessert we served Cheesecake Factory cheesecake, I had 5 different varieties.

We had some of our closest friends here and it was just the right amount and mix of people. It was a lot of fun and an easy party to have. Simple, elegant and tasty food and drink. Good music, conversation and low maintenance. My kind of party. Even cleanup was not terrible. We have a lot of wine and cheese leftover and enjoyed ourselves.


January 8, 2005

Updated Family Bio

Looking at my sidebar I realized I have not updated our family bio in over a year - not much will have changed for me and Serona but kids change so much these days. Some of this will be repeat information for some of you. For the others, welcome and enjoy visiting with our family.

There is Serona (the dad), he is recently turned 30 and still dealing with it. He is a senior computer programmer and manager for a software company. He has two undergrad degrees in Political Science and Philosophy and a graduate degree in Communications, and is also a former debater. His interests are reading, writing (especially fantasy and science fiction), keeping up with current events and politics (especially RIAA and anything Wifi or tech related), blogging (Cyber::Ecology), playing gamecube and XBox, anything and everything Star Wars, acting (he does on average two shows a year), wine tasting and biking (on occasion he bikes the 10+ miles to work) to name a few.

Then there is me, Mother Tenn, also 30 and a Stay at Home Mom. My undergrad studies were in Environmental Politics and I have an MA in Communications with an emphasis on Social Movements and Argumentation. My current interests are in reading (see recent reads), blogging (here and a few others), journaling (I maintain 5 journals actively: a prayer journal and a journal for each of my children, as well as an online journal for Serona and I), vegan and vegetarian cooking, research (especially children's health, breastfeeding, parenting and homeschooling), breastfeeding advocacy and support, hiking, biking, crocheting, yoga, pilates, water aerobics and bible studies.

Next come the children: Rhiannon, Ciaran, and Sirah. Rhiannon is a precocious 5 and a half year old (the half is very important to her) girl. She enjoysbeing read to (anything and everything), reading to me or her siblings, field trips, butterflies, and playing board games (Monopoly and Clue Jr. are current favorites). She is a performer at heart and always wants to be the center of attention. School is going well for her. We have made progress in reading, addition, subtraction and handwriting this year. She enjoys learning about history, geography and science as well. Her favorite composer is currently Vivaldi and her favorite artist is still Monet. We read many children's storybooks and good literature. Lately we have been reading the classics abridged and then listening to them unabridged on tape. Most recent favorites include Black Beauty, Heidi and Peter Pan. In addition we are working through the following for curriculum:

My Abc Verses - Susan Hunt
Growing Phonics Reader Bible
First Language Lessons - Jesse Wise
Story of the World and Activity Guide
- Susan and Jessie Wise Bauer
Phonics Pathways - Dolores Hiskes

Miquon Math - currently orange book

Next meet Ciaran, our three and a half year old son. Ciaran is an energetic little boy who is full of energy, empathy and artistic and athletic abilities. He loves Frogs. He has a passion for frogs unlike any I have seen before. He loves them and can tell you nearly everything about them. His room and many of his toys and books are around the theme of frogs. He also enjoys bike riding, cars and being read to. His favorite thing in the world is to play with his sister in whatever imaginary game they have concoted for that day. He learns in very hands on ways and is starting to write his name. He learns best when playing games or activities and when he wants to. We are still playing with the Letter of the Week with him. Focusing on one letter a week and building all our activites and themes around that. His favorite of course was f when we did nothing but frogs. He is also very artistic, loving paint, markers, clay and whatever else he can use creatively. Currently he enjoys Beethoven and Mary Cassat. He is always smiling and it is contagious.

Then there is Sirah our one year old. She is busy, busy busy and fun, fun, fun. She loves little stuffed animals and is hardly ever seen without one or preferably two. Her favorites are dogs and she loves ours. She will lay down on the floor between the two of them and let them lick her and just play with them. She has the cheesiest and best smiles, especially when the camera comes out. She wants to be involved in everything and climbing on top of everything especially counters and tables. She likes to play the name that body part game and is using her words more frequently now, though she still seems to prefer standing and pointing while screeching. She has begun enjoying listening to books and some of her favorite are any of the touch and feel or sparkly books as well as goodnight moon and quick as a cricket. She is a lot of fun, though sometimes still quite challenging. She wants to be in the middle of everything especially what her siblings are doing.

Rounding out our family are our Australian Shepherds, a two year old male and a 7 month old female. They are loving, patient and friendly though fiercely protective of the kids. They love to run and spend time in the yard.

We are Christian, environmentalists, social justice advocates, vegans and vegetarians , right-leaning, techies, wired, outdoors loving, non tv watching, attachment parenting, extended breastfeeding, cloth diapering, crunchy granola, friendly, funny, highly educated, readers, researchers, and usually right. :) So come get to know us and stay awhile. We love having you.