February 28, 2005

February Reading List

First Words - Leap Frog
Fruit Shapes - Napier, Tanya
Wish- For Dinosaur, A - Moncure, Jane Belk
On Mother's Lap - Scott, Ann Herbert
Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, the Big Hungry Bear, The - Wood, Audrey
Cat in the Hat Comes Back, The - Dr suess
Where the Wild Things Are - Sendak, Maurice
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble - Steig, William
Freight Train - Crews, Donald
Mitten, The - Brett, Jan

Quick as a Cricket - Wood, Audrey
Little House, The - Burton, Virinia Lee
By the Shores of Silver Lake - Wilder, Laura Ingalls
Good Morning, Good Night - Mitchell, Melanie
God Made All the Colors - Lion Publishing
Tails - Fleet, Matthew Van
You are Special - Lucado, Max
Care Bears Three Cheers for You
Tigger's Breakfast - AA Milne adapted
Wide Mouthed Frog, The - Faulkner, Keith

Dragon in a Wagon, A - Moncure, Jane Belk
Angelina's Birthday - Holabird, Katherine
Miss Rumphius - Cooney, Barabara
Baby's Boat - Titherington, Jeanne
Marvin K Mooney Will You Please Go Now - Dr Suess
Teach Us Amelia Bedelia - Parish, Peggy
Angelina Ballerina Abc - Holabird, Katherine
Go Dog Go - Eastman, PD
Angelina and Henry - Holabird, Katherine
There's a Wocket in My pocket - Dr Suess

Jeremy Fisher - Potter, Beatrix
Kisses - Szekeres, Cindy
Goodnight Moon - Brown, Margaret Wise
Baby's First ABible - Reader's Digest
Twelve Hats for Lena - Katz, Karen
Valentine's Day - Gibbons, Gail
Pickles to Pittsburgh - Barrett, Judi
New Coat for Anna, A - Ziefert, Harriet
Let's Talk About Feeling Sad - Berry, Joy
Madeline and the Bad Hat - Bemelmans, Ludwig

Madeline's Christmas - Bemelmans, Ludwig
Woodfin's Colors - Egner, Susan
Has Anyone Seen Woodfin - Egner, Susan
Inuit of Canada, The - Corriveau
On Mother's Lap = Scott, Ann Herbert
Mama Do You Love Me - Josse, Barbara M
Inuit - Lassieur, Allison
Questions and Answers Encyclopedia Animals - Parragon Publishing (parts read)
Seasons and Someone, The - Kroll, Virginia
My Many Colored Days - Dr Suess

Valentine's Day - Rau, Dana Meachen
If You Look Around You - Testa, Fulvio
Important Book, The - Brown, Margaret Wise
Is Your Mama a Llama - Guarino, Deborah
Company's Going - Yorinks, Arthur
Kissing Hand, The - Penn Audrey
Roo's New Babysitter - Disney Pooh
If You Listen - Zolotow, Charlotte
Frog and Toad all Year - Lobel, Arnold
Curious George and the Dream - Rey, HA

Curious George Feeds the Animals - Rey, HA
It's Spring - Berger, Samantha
Flashy Fantastic Rainforest Frogs - Patent, Dorothy Hinshaw
Ten Little Ladybugs - Gerth, Melanie
Wheels on the Bus, The - Zelinsky, Paul
My First Abacus Book - Sharrat, Nick
One Fish, Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish - Dr Suess
Curious George Makes Pancakes - Rey, HA
You are Special - Licado, Max
Baby Sister Says No - Mayer, Mercer

Big Red Barn - Brown, Margaret Wise
Praise You God - Tyndale House Publishers
Snappy Little Dinosaurs - Steer, Dugald
Blueberry Shoe - Dixon, Ann
Paper Bag Princess, The - Munsch, Robert
Shamu and the Adventurous Seal Pup - Shulman, Mark
In the Night Kitchen - Sendak, Maurice
Cinderella II: Tales of a Princess - Disney
Enchanted Storks, The - Shepard, Aaron
Imagination and the Letter I - Klingel, Cynthia

Short I and Long I Play a Gaem - Moncure, Jane Belk
My Mama had a dancing Heart - Gray, Libba Morre
Thailand - Peterson, David
Where the Wild Things Are - Sendak, Maurice
Curious George and the Hot Air Balloon - Rey, HA
Plains Indians, The: What Do We Know About - Taylor, DR Colin
Powwow - Ancona, George
My I book - moncure, Jane Belk
Ellis Island - Klingel, Cynthia
Glaciers - Brimmer, Larry

Imogen's Antlers - Small, David
Growing Frogs - French, Vivian
In the Small, Small Pond - Fleming, Denise
Luke Skywalker Jedi Knight - Steacy, Ken
Tell Me The Story of Jesus - Beers, V. Gilbert
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble - Steig, William
Ice Cream Cows and Mitten Sheep - Moncure, Jane Belk
Just a Mess - Mayer, Mercer
Make Way for Ducklings - McCloskey, Robert
Dentists - Simon, Charnan

Dentist and You, The - Swanson, Diane
Toothpaste from Start to Finish - Stone, Tanya Lee
What's Inside Insects - DK Publishing
Where the Wild Things Are - Sendak, Maurice
Tails - Fleet, Matthew Van
About Insects: A Guide for Children - Sill, Cathryn
Thailand - Peterson, David
Little Bit - Sound of Short I - Klingel, Cynthia
My Mama Had a Dancing Heart - Gray, Libba Morre
In the Small, Small Pond - Fleming, Denise

Rhiannon's Reads

Dinosaurs Before Dark: Magic Treehouse - Osborne, Mary Pope
Love You Forever - Munsch, Robert
Put me in the zoo - Lopshire, Robert
Bear Snores On - Wilson, Karma
If You Give a Moose a Muffin - Numeroff, Laura
Great Day for Up - Dr Suess
Ballerina Bear - Siewert, Pauline
I'm Gonna Like Me - Curtis, Jamie Lee
If You Give a Pig a Pancake - Numeroff, Laura
Sherman Came for A Visit - Kochan, Susan

When I am Happy - Christian, Frank
Treasure Hunting at Tulip Park - Leslie, RA
No More Chores - Vuocolo, Andrea
Colors for Me and You - Christian, Frank
Ed Can Help - Norelli, Sallianne
Look at Lisa Go - March, C Louise
Goldi's Locks - Lesser, Harriet
My Friend Nelly - Gelsanliter, Wendy
Sara's Secret Hiding Place - March, C Louise
Smiles: The sound of Long I - Klingel, Cynthia

Treasure Hunt, The - Cosby, Bill
Run-Away Roley: Bob the Builder - Inches, Alison
My I Soundbox - Moncure, Jane Belk
Arthur's Halloween Costume - BRown, Lillian
Arthur's Prize Reader - Hoban, Lillian
Valentine's Day Words, Word Bird - Moncure, Jane Belk
Little Bit: Sound of Short I - Klingel, Cynthia
My n book - Moncure, Jane Belk
My j book - Moncure, Jane Belk
My b book - Moncure, Jane Belk

My t book - Moncure, Jane Belk
My k book - Moncure, Jane Belk
On Mothers Lap - Scott, Ann Herbert
Kaite Meets the Impressionists - Mayhew, James
Chair for My Mother, A - Williams, Vera B
Red Light, Green Light, Mama and Me - Best, Cari
Angelina and the Butterfly - Holabird, Katherine
Costume Ball, The - Holabird, Katherine
Two Mice and a Boat - Holabird, Katherine
Angelina and the Rag Doll - Holabird, Katherine

Angelina in the Wings - Holabird, Katherine
Day at the Fair, A - Holabird, Katherine
Madeline - Bemelmans, Ludiwg
Madeline's Rescue - Bemelmans, Ludiwg
Madeline and the Bad Hat - Bemelmans, Ludiwg
Madeline and the Gypsies - Bemelmans, Ludiwg
Madeline in London - Bemelmans, Ludiwg
Madeline's Christmas - Bemelmans, Ludiwg
Today I Feel Silly and other modds that Make My Day

Last updated 2-28

Monday Morning

So far this morning, Sirah and I played with her animals and a puzzle, she drew me a picture and has taken off all her clothes and diaper and brought me a new diaper. Ciaran and I played an alphabet matching game - I placed a letter flashcard down and he guessed the letter and then found the matching block and told me the pictures on the block. We did uppercase today. He did a good job at matching though he did not know many of the letters yet.

While I was playing with Ciaran and Sirah Rhiannon did her handwriting practice upper and lowercase letters, her numbers 0-10, and writing out the names of shapes, she also drew shapes, did about 10 math problems and did a fill in the blank spelling sheet. Now we are taking a few minutes to clean up the playroom and then will move into bible study.


Weekend Roundup

We all were recovering from our illnesses, some still lingering here. Friday night Serona had our bible study on the subject of 9-11 and the recent Tsunami and how a loving God allows that. I stayed home with the kids as I was feeling quite sick myself. Saturday was a day of sleeping late and then we went to the Mall of America to walk some laps and people watch. Saturday evening I had my moms time out with several friends. They saw the movie Hitch but I could not meet them until after the movie was over so we all met for dinner and dessert at the California Pizza Kitchen.

Sunday was a day of naps, taking turns resting and relaxing. We had a nice dinner of chili tacos and then finished the evening off with reading a chapter of The Wind and the Willows and playing a game of Mr Mouth.

February 25, 2005

Flash card morning

We have had a morning of flash card games. We reviewed insects and dinosaur types using the flash cards. Rhiannon worked through over 50 sight word cards (front and back), she also worked through some digraph cards while I worked with Ciaran on letter recognition and numbers 1-10. We went through each card A says ah, alligator, A, etc for each and then through them quickly just saying the letters.

He is starting to show some interest in learning to read and has accepted that he needs to learn his letters, which until now he has shown little to no interest in despite all the letter games and activities we do. We also went through the number cards 1-10 and then I had him show me the numbers up to 5 using his fingers. If he takes his time he gets them right, when he rushes he does not. He often wants to rush, so reminding him to slow down is usually all the help he needs.

Sirah played nearby with all the flash cards making big messes and then with some puzzles. Periodically she would run over and say "lap" and leap into my lap with her newest find, a flash card or book, then she would be off again.
getting better! They had fun, I was first to lose and then the game seemed it would never end going back and forth between the two of them. Until Rhiannon decided to cheat and Ciaran insisted the game was over because she cheated and he won.

As I type this Rhiannon is in the family room wearing her Laura and Mary dress and apron setting up house for them to play in. Ciaran is following Sirah around asking her who she wants to be "Ooack, Pack, Nack, or Quack" from Make Way for Ducklings which we read yesterday. They played with our plastic insects and built a house for them with our wooden blocks and played a variety of games. For some reason they now are playing Harry Potter, which they have neither seen nor heard read to them. They have seen the book covers and know that Serona and I read them. It will be interesting to see what this game they play is. Off to get them ready for the snow.


Thai food

We had Thai food last night for dinner to finish out our month on Thailand. The kids liked the wontons, spring rolls and sticky rice. Sirah loved the fried tofu in sweet and sour sauce. None of us myself included enjoyed the hot hot curry we got. Serona will love the leftovers though.

The kids noticed that much of the food was similar or the same as Chinese food. We sat around bowls on the floor together to imitate a more traditional meal there. We obviosuly did not have meat with our meal but we did have a variety of appetizers and then veggies to choose from.

I had not planned ahead enough or I would have had fresh fruit like mangoes, papyays and coconut for them to try again. Though I will cut myself some slack as they did try all these things during our first week of Thai coop.

We also had another modification to our meal as we can not have fish or oyster sauce being vegetarians, which seriosuly affects the traditional taste of most Thai dishes. I was excited to have Pad Thai - but realized I can not still as Sirah still has a peanut allergy. Overall though it was fun to do. When we went to the restuarant to pick the food up, (I did not want to eat alone there with the three of them) the kids looked around at the art work and decorating. They both noticed a tribute to Buddha quickly and when they mentioned it the staff who was helping us seemed surprised. You know about Buddha? They both smiled and said yes. Then I explained that we had been studying Thailand for the month, and this was our final activity. He was definately surprised I think given the ages of my children.


Police Unit Study

Well yesterday we had an impromptu unit study on police officers. We had to real encounters as well, one planned and one unplanned. We had a field trip scheduled for yesterday to a local police station for a tour with an officer. As we were getting ready to leave, Rhiannon accidentally locked Sirah inside our home alone! We were all getting ready and going in and out of our door into the garage loading the kids in the car, I turned around to get Sirah and realized the door was locked and my keys were in the house! Of course all the remaining doors and windows were locked as we were leaving. I ran over to a neighbor's and called Serona to head home and called the police because I did not know how long it would take Serona to get here and the thought of leaving Sirah (who is 18 months old) alone in the house was frightening.

Thankfully she was so upset that she stood by the door crying and screaming the entire time. Atleast this way I knew she was not wandering around the house getting into trouble and the area by our door is relatively safe. I felt terrible and kept trying to calm her down while also trying to get the door open. The police came, it took them longer than I thought it would but when the officer arrived he thought we had merely locked ourselves out of our home and seem to rush much more once he realized a toddler was locked alone inside the house. Thankfully one of our doors did not have the deadbolt engaged and he was able to pick the lock! We thanked him profusely and he was on his way. We thanked our neighbor who also headed back home. Serona arrived shortly after that. We had a chat with the kids again about touching doors and locks. We headed off to the field trip for which we were now late.

They had waited the tour for us. I apologized again and we thoroughly enjoyed the tour. The kids were very interested, in some things more than others but overall everyone was well behaved and interested. Rhiannon and Ciaran were inquisitive almost to a fault a few times I had to remind them to let him talk and at one point the officer joked with Rhia. She had been asking "What's that, What is it for on almost everything in the supply room." The officer was very patient and thorough in his explanations (I was also impressed at how he talked about some items and adapted it for a younger audience so they would not be scared or worried). But when he was putting the suitcase back on the shelf and Rhiannon asked again (this time out of habit more than anything) he chuckled and grabbed the box of tissues and said "This is for when we need to blow our nose!" It got a laugh and the message across in a gentle way.

We got to see and hear about the dispatch room, the police uniforms (old and current), police equipment, booking room, fingerprinting, detention cell and a few other details. They both enjoyed being in the jail cell. Rhia kept asking why the bed was so hard and there was no blanket. The officer reminded her "We don't want people to be comfortable here, to want to come back." Then he continued by explaining this was a holding facility and they typically can only hold people here for 4 hours and then they get moved downtown to the jail.

It was a very interesting field trip overall and I highly recommend it if you have not taken one with your family. The police officer we had was fantastic with children and made them interested but not afraid of police officers. He also did a good job reminding them that they are real people too, with homes and families who enjoy gardening and regular things. He laughed when Ciaran asked him "Do you sleep" and he rexplained that different people worked at different times.

After the police tour we headed over to the library. Where Ciaran played a computer game and Sirah played with puzzles and books on the shelf. Rhiannon learned to use the computer and found a book about police on there, wrote the number down herself and went to find it herself (with assistance). Then she and I sat on the floor and read together. I located a few storybooks that had police officers in them (with the librarian's assistance) and we headed home to read them. In case you are wondering, some books with police as characters include:

Make Way for Ducklings - Robert, McKlosky
Tuesday - David Weisner
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble - William Steig
Madeline series - Ludwig Behelems
Curious George - HA Rey

Today I will finish off with some coloring sheets and maybe some online activities about K-9 dogs.

I hesitate to call what we do unit studies because it is not as thorough as a unit study and they are much shorter. More what we do is base our lessons around a single theme and work that theme into what we do in our regular subjects. We still follow a more classical or Charlotte Mason approach but in a loose theme based approach.


February 22, 2005

Thailand Animals

Today for the first part of our Thailand country coop we focused on the animals of the country. Each child presented a brief report about their animals. They either drew a picture or colored one and the older ones wrote a few sentences about the animals. One by one they each got up and presented their animal to the group. Each child had a piece of paper they drew the background of Thailand on for the animals to go on. After each presentation the kids received a small picture of the animal to add to their picture of Thailand. It was our first time letting the kids present a whole section of coop and it went very well. Afterwards we voted and the kids chose to follow this format each week.

Some of the animals covered were the kittis hognosed bat (smallest mammal), the reinwardt's flying tree frog (ciaran's), the sun bear (rhiannon's), asian elephant, indo-chinese tiger, siamese fireback pheasant, tessaratomidae nymph, draco lizard, golden birdwing, sand-bubbler crab and the sumatran rhino. The kids did a nice job presenting and here is a copy of Rhiannon and Ciaran's projects.

Animals of Thailand
Flying Frog
Sun Bear
Kitti's Hog Nosed Bat

Thailand History Lesson

The second half of our Thailand coop was spent highlighting some of the history of the country. This is the part of the coop that I teach, history and government. I decided to focus more on the history and just briefly covered the fact that Thailand is a constitutional monarchy. To bring that home to the kids I reminded them of the ruling dynasties in China (we studied China last month) and explained that is what a monarchy is like, and then reminded them of our own constitution and how we elect officials (we studies USA the first week)and how in Thailand they have a kind of mix of the two. It was not a perfect explanation but sufficient for most of their needs.

For the history part I began with the overview of what I wanted them to remember:

1. Thailand is the Land of the Free - also the Land of the Smiles as they reminded me
2. Thailand is the only Southeast Asian country to have remained free from foreign country control. They protect their borders.
3. They always protect their borders first, then they turn inward.

Then we went back in time to prehistoric time. I reminded them of hunting and gathering (we did a gathering exercise for China) and this time they got to try out a bow and arrow (a toy one of course). I had a mother who was more adept at this skill then myself teach them and assist them in doing it. This was of course exciting to them and they managed to stand patiently in line with few squabbles and each took two turns, though Ciaran did melt down when he was unable to take a third turn. It was hard to get them to settle down after that exercise. We talked about how it must have been hard to kill animals that way.

Then I talked about Buddhism. I passed around two little statues of Buddha and showed some pictures. I talked briefly about what Buddhism is and then talked about meditation. I had the kids try to sit still and quiet and you can imagine how hard it was for them to do. I showed pictures of young boys who went to the "Wats" to spend time training.

Next I showed them pictures of the Thai alphabet and ancient writings. I finished this section with some pictures of different forms of pottery and ceramics over the ages. By now the kids needed to move and I was ready for the activity.

This next activity was a bit chaotic but I think it was fun and drove home the message I wanted to get across about Thailand maintaining its freedom. With older students you could make this activity much more detailed and nuanced. I had mixed ages of 3-11 however so I was more limited in what I could do. I originally planned to include treaty writing as part of the activity but given the mood and ages of the kids decided to skip it.

On the wall behind me I had taped up cut outs of the maps of each of the bordering countries to Thailand with Thailand in the center so we could all see which country was on which border. On the ground I used yarn to rough out (and I mean rough) the border of Thailand. I had all the kids stand inside the border. Ahead of time I had made little signs for each country on different colors of paper (I printed out each country map from enchanted learning on a different color paper and then punched holes on each side and ran yarn through it so they could wear it like a necklace). It helps if the colors on their signs match the colors on your map on the wall. I rexplained what a border was and how Thailand always protected theirs and then I split the kids up, moving some into each of the bordering countries and leaving several in Thailand. The kids were wearing all their signs and then just put the one of the country they were in front.

I explained how sometimes people in a nearby country may want to move into your country or try to control or own your country. I reminded our Thai citizens that they could not allow this, I also set clear ground rules that we were NOT going to actually battle. Instead I had them stand in a line at the border and say "No you can not come in" - with older kids you might be able to allow pretend sword fighting. We started with one country and then another. Then we had two countries come in at once while they were blocking another country - the kids discovered for themselves that they would need to split forces and make sure that each border was protected. After they "got" this lesson. I put maps on several of the moms, we were the European countries that were stronger than the Southeast Asian nations. They could not keep us out with force or threat back to our country. Then I showed how they would use England and France against each other and still not give up control of their country. In the end, all the kids were still standing in Thailand and they had protected their borders.

All in all it felt a bit scattered and crazy at times. However, the other mothers assured me that it was a good lesson and they think the kids really got the message of the lesson and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. I think this activity could be expanded and done really well. I had intended to have the kids write treaties with each other as different countries but decided in the moment that may be too much for them and dropped that part out. I would recommend this activity.

Each child went home with an outline map of each country bordering Thailand (Cambodia, Laos, Burma/Mynamar, and Malaysia)and Thailand itself. If they detail cut them they should fit close enough together to be a jigsaw puzzle of Southeast Asia and reinforce the borders lesson. They also went home with the following pictures from our discussion.

Thai pottery and ceramics
Buddha and Thai alphabet
Prehistoric Tools of Thailand

Insects and Indians/Native Americans

Yesterday we spent much of the day studying I topics, the kids got to pick and Rhiannon picked Indians/Native Americans and icebergs, Ciaran picked insects. We began each lesson by reading some whole books on the topics and then seeing where they would take us. We ended up focusing quite a bit on traditional and modern Native American dances as illustrated in the book Powwow. We also looked at their history and talked about the time in which they first lived in the United States. We drew from our experiences in the Little House on the Prairie series, Kirsten an American girl and other stories we have read.

For icebergs, we continued our discussion of the glaciers that we had started the end of last week. The kids had seen pictures of Serona and I standing on top of a glacier and closeup photos we took from the inside of a helicopter and from the edge of one we hiked near. We went to Alaska for part of our honeymoon nearly eight years ago. Never realized it would become part of a science lesson! The thought the calving pictures were cool and were amazed about how deep an iceberg goes and how careful boats have to be. If they were older I would have gone into Titanic and maybe watched parts of the movie, but they are too young for that.

We spent most of the day on insects, big surprise in this family. We read a few books and then spent a good amount of time online. We did online jigsaw puzzles, printed out pictures, fact sheets, life stage information, math worksheets and insect body part labeling sheets for their books, also a few coloring pages. Rhiannon did the Bee hive, one of my favorite interactive learning websites about bees, by herself for the first time. We also found an online quiz game to guess which insect you can see a part of. She did an excellent job at this.

It was a full day of reading and learning with a nice balance of whole books and online activities. I wish it were warmer out to combine it with a bug hunt and bug identifying activities. We also would have built a teepee in the backyard. Ah things to do in the summer.


I am the Problem

On the recommendation of a friend I am reading the book Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller. The book is subtitled "Nonreligious thoughts on Christian Spirituality". I am not that far into it yet and truth be told I was not that impressed or interested so far, until tonight. I just read a passage that I would like to share with you.

This passage follows a description in the book of the author attending a protest rally against President Bush and his World Trade Policies. The author comes to a realization after this rally that the problem lies within himself as does the solution and not in the wider group. An interesting point to ponder.

"...When we were done, I started wondering if we had accomplished anything. I started wondering whether we could actually change the world. I mean, of course we could - we could change our buying habits, elect socially conscious representatives and that sort of thing, but I honestly don't believe we will be solving the greater human conflict with our efforts. The problem is not a certain type of legislation or even a certain politician; the problem is the same that it has always been.
I am the problem.
I think that every conscious person, every person who is awke to the functioning principles within his reality, has as moment where he stops blaming the problems of the world on group think, on humanity and authority, and starts to face himself. I hate this more than anything. This is the hardest principle within Christian spirituallity for me to deal with. The problem is not out there, the problem is the needy beast of a thing that lives in my chest.
The thing I realized on the day we protested... was that it did me no good to protest America's responsibility in global poverty when I wasn't even giving money to my church, which has a terrific homeless ministry. I started feeling very much like a hypocrite.
More than my questions about the efficacy of social action were my questions about my own motives. Do I want social justice for the oprresed, or do I just want to be known as a socially active person? I spend 95 percent of my time thinking about myself anyway. I don't have to watch the evening news to see that the world is bad, I only have to look at myself. I am not browbeating myself here; I am only saying that true change, true life-giving, God-honoring change would have to start with the individual. I was the very problem I had been protesting. I wanted to make a sign that read "I AM THE PROBLEM!"

I could not find a way to cut that smaller and still keep the context and do the author justice, so there you have the thoughts of the author. How simple of a realization and yet how difficult it is to admit to ourselves. The lines that struck a chord with my own personal life are:

"Do I want social justice for the oprresed, or do I just want to be known as a socially active person?"

"The thing I realized on the day we protested... was that it did me no good to protest America's responsibility in global poverty when I wasn't even giving money to my church, which has a terrific homeless ministry. I started feeling very much like a hypocrite....I was the very problem I had been protesting. I wanted to make a sign that read "I AM THE PROBLEM!"

All too often it is easy for us to see a problem and to point it out, all the while ignoring our role in the problem. Ignoring the very solutions that present themselveas at our feet but may be too uncomfortable for us to accept. It is much easier to point out the big problems in society and act as if we can not affect change in those areas because they are too big. When in reality there are many places we can affect change that we choose simply to ignore or forget about. We are walking hypocrites, as consistent as we try to be. We are unwilling to admit our own role in the problem and even more so unwilling to take the difficult steps that we can to make a problem better.

Many of us like to be seen as activists, seen as Christians, seen as people who care or are doing something. Yet when push comes to shove are we really opening our checkbooks, our calendars and our hearts to answer the problems that we are protesting that nothing is being done to fix?

Now I realize that we each are just a single person and we can not be expected to help every cause and every person that comes our way. Even Jesus grew weary of all the healing, yet he kept doing his best. We are called to give our best and we are called to be HONEST with ourselves. Take a hard look at your life. The areas you are protesting are you working for change? Are you doing what is within your power to solve the problem?

If not then get out that sign that says "I AM THE PROBLEM" and then work to fix it.


February 21, 2005

Welcome Gina!

Reading my comments is always fun, it introduces me to new blogs and bloggers to read and admire. Here is a new blog I found Jumping In by Gina. She is a homeschooler and has four daughter ages 10-7 months. Check her out.


February 20, 2005

Weekend Roundup

We have had a relaxing weekend here. We had friends from Colorado stay with us on Friday. They are good friends, we had never met their kids (4 and 2) and they only met Rhiannon when she was about 2 weeks old. Serona is friends with the husband from grammer school times and we spent a little time together during our college/early married years together though we never lived really close to one another so visits were always far between one another. Still though we connect like true old friends, picking up and catching up after four years. Our lives have followed some similar paths and some very different ones but it was a very enjoyable visit and the kids got along quite well. We already miss them.

Yesterday we took a nap during the day and spent most of the day watching movies, playing board games and video games. We played a big family game of Dr Suess trivia, which we adapted for the younger kids. Ciaran won and Rhiannon was a great sport about it. We made candy rock crystals and listened to the beginning of the Wind and the Willows as our current read aloud.

Today the kids got to play in the snow and enjoy hot cocoa and brownies and as a treat. Serona is painting the kitchen and living room now and I just finished a more intricate poncho I was working on. It has been a good and relaxing weekend and a much needed one after Serona travelled this past week.


Rock Candy experiment

This weekend we started making homemade Rock Candy. We used a National Geographic kit that included about half the supplies and we had to have the other half here. It was easy enough to do and now we wait for about a week to see if it worked and to record the results. It was nice because Serona was able to be involved.


February 18, 2005


We need to make phone calls again today to prevent regulating legislation from moving forward. We did it last year, we can again this year. Funny how it is the same Rep introducing a "different" bill but with very similar premises to what we fought against last year. Call today. To view the bill itself and its status go to the MN House of Representatives.

To read the summary and get the phone numbers to call, continue reading this message I got today. Please feel free to repost my post in its entirety or in pieces on your own blog.


February 18, 2005

Minnesota--Calls Needed To Stop Homeschool Regulation Bill

Once again, Rep. Mindy Greiling has introduced legislation to take
away the freedom of private and homeschools. Last year, she
introduced House Bill 1787. This year, it's House Bill 1079. This
bill would seek to regulate every school that accepts a child from a
family that claims any tax credit or deduction for educational
expenses, including homeschools. This bill must be defeated.


Please call the three sponsors of House Bill 1079 and ask them to
withdraw the bill by giving them this message, "Representative
Greiling proposed similar legislation last year. We opposed it
Please withdraw House Bill 1079 now!"

Representative Greiling: (651) 296-5387
Representative Murphy: (651) 296-2676
Representative Scalze: (651) 296-7153


Unlike most states, Minnesota currently provides a tax credit for
low-income families with children in private or homeschools, and a
deduction for families who make more money. This is a real benefit
for families, but it provides a tempting target for legislators who
want to regulate private education. House Bill 1079 would force
school that accepts a child from a family that plans to take a tax
credit or tax deduction to submit to the additional regulation of the
Pupil Fair Dismissal Act.

This bill appears to be a straightforward attack on private school
freedom. To the best of our knowledge, there are no specific problems
in current law that support the proposed changes. Whether or not
family currently takes advantage of these tax breaks, this bill is a
slap in the face of every Minnesota family that spends their own
to educate their own children. Similar legislation was defeated last
year. Let's do it again!

I spoke with the chairman of the House Education Policy Committee,
Representative Buesgens. He says he does not support this bill.
Since the chairman of the committee is not in favor of this
legislation, it is now up to us to persuade the sponsors of the bill
to withdraw it.


Scott W. Somerville
HSLDA Staff Attorney

February 17, 2005

Science and Math Hands On Day

Today we ended up having a spur of the moment science and math day. After a rough morning we headed over to an area community college. As a practicum for some of their education students they had a science and math lesson day at their preschool. I was hesitant to go at first, picturing required registration or pitch for the preschool program. I was pleasantly surprised, it really was about offering the students practical experience and a place to test their projects and a nice service for community preschoolers.

Both Rhiannon and Ciaran participated - Sirah rode around in her backpack taking it all in. The activities were set up in two rooms with a variety of stations with student teachers at each of them. They never even asked our names or anything - we just went from station to station, I was there with them, there was no strict order or organization and they could wander based on their interests. There were 12 science stations and about 8 math stations. The science were more interesting to my kids as they both (even Ciaran) found much of the math skills too easy.

The math stations covered classification (matching cards), patterns (using cards and objects), serials (smallest to largest, widest to thinnest, etc), Matching (sets, memory, card games), counting, matching numerals and sets, matching unlike sets, shapes and colors, and ordering (a plant life cycle). We ended our day in this room and they did enjoy themselves here though neither felt very challenged by the activities. To them it was more busywork.

The most interesting to Rhiannon was the wooden serial sets (wooden pegs of varying sizes ordered from smallest to largest). Ciaran really enjoyed a wooden box that had 10 slits in it and across the top were 10 numerals on one side or 10 dot sets (3 dots, 5 dots, etc), each number sat over a slit in the box. He was handed some cards with different pictures on them and had to put them in the right number slot. So he received a card with three trees on it and he needed to count the trees and then find the corresponding dot set to put the answer into. He really enjoyed this activity and did not want to leave it. He also enjoyed the pattern cards were he got to set little clowns on top of cards - he had to match the clowns to the cards and make patterns.

The other room had 12 different stations, we visited all but one. This is the order in which the kids chose them and they were not at all in this order in the room. They walked around first for a little while before they choose their first activity which was somewhere tucked off more in t he middle though. We began with an experiment with two cups filled with water and vinegar and raisins. To one cup the leader added baking soda to make it bubble and then show how the raisins rose. She did not explain the reasons why.

Then we headed over to a paint pendulum. I felt bad for the student teacher here. She must have been sure the kids would love her activity as it was a fun and messy one. However, due to the way the day was set up kids were not prepared to be dirty and most kids (mine included - who were wearing a white shirt and a favorite dress) were hesitant to participate as they did not want to get dirty. You could just see this woman in her mind thinking - but I was sure kids would love an activity where they could throw paint around!

Next we moved to the volcano - a hit with both kids and Rhiannon's favorite from the day. Typical volcano experiment. She let the kids take turns adding the baking soda, dish soap and colored vinegar. Rhia and Ciaran made so much lava it spilled over her pan. They were very excited and sad to give others a turn.

Next station was about sound. Here there were five different cups made of different materials (plastic, ceramic, glass, tin, and something else I forget) and each was filled to a different depth. She had three different spoons (metal, plastic, and wood) and the kids took turns banging on the cups. I will say this student teacher did the best job explaining to the kids the science behind the experiment and really took time with each child. She would have them bang on one glass and then change the amount of water in the cup and ask what they would expect to happen. Then after the child banged again she would explain about how water absorbs sound and so on.

Then we moved to a station showing cohesiveness - though the leader could not even explain the term nor how the experiment showed the concept. However, the kids liked the experiment. A bowl full of water, dump some pepper in the bowl - then add one drop of dishsoap and immediately all the pepper jumps evenly to the sides. The first time the kids were so surprised they had to do it again. Ciaran thought it was so cool he did it 5 times!

The next station showed gravity and weight. Using a wooden plane and two baby food jars (one filled with water and one empty) the kids had to guess which would go faster and then test their theory by rolling them down the plane and keeping track of the results. They did it several times and then looked at the most consistent results.

Next was my favorite experiment and one I am sure we will replicate here. Painting with magnets. Using wooden blocks to prop up a piece of plexiglass and then placing painting paper on top of the plexiglass. The kids took turns dipping a paperclip or metal washer (ties with a long string to avoid having to touch the paint) into fingerpaints. They placed the paperclip on the paper and took a hand magnet and placed it under the plexiglass and moved the paperclip with the magnet from underneath making fun paintings. The kids did this for awhile until there were other children waiting for a turn, they were able to bring these home.

Ciaran's favorite of the day was next and it surprised me. It was a touch experiment, simple but the kids really enjoyed it. The student teacher had taken 10 paper bags and placed an item in each bag and then stapled it shut and numbered it. She printed out 5 pages of pictures (each pages with two items) and if a student got stuck she would show them the page and ask which item it was. She also had two bonus bags with items she did not have a picture of both Ciaran and Rhia got these (a pinecone and a dinosaur). Ciaran wanted to do them all and this was the station he talked about on the ride home.

There was a station on static cling. She placed three of those plastic gladware tops on the table and taped them down. Under each was the one of the following (sand, styrofoam pieces, rice). The kids rubbed either felt or fur over the top and then traced with their fingers to move the items below. The rice did not work well at all but the other two were fun.

Last station they went to (somewhere we missed one) showed how oil and water do not mix in a clever way. In little plastic tubs the kids placed a sheet of paper. Then each received two eye droppers and two different paints. Asked what they thought would happen when they dropped blue into yellow they all said it would become green. They were surprised they were wrong. One paint was oil based and one water based, so they did not mix at all they just made separate spots and the paint kept chasing each other. The kids enjoyed this one as well.

This was a nice change of pace for us and a welcome one for me as science experiments are honestly not my favorite thing to do. It was just the right amount of time and short simple activities they could do and grasp. We can follow up on anything they are interested in and I picked up some quick and easy ideas to show science concepts. It was nice to see how the student teachers interacted with the kids and there was no pressure or signing in or anything. We just walked in and took advantage of what they had to offer and they got to interact with our children. A nice way to get science done for awhile!


Psalm 16 - A Balm for My Heart

Life is crazy here - but doesn't it always seem that way. I took some time tonight to read in Psalms, my MIL and I are starting up our study again and she suggested we start here. What a great place to start what a good reminder for me, and a comfort to my heart. At times as mothers we can get weary and tired and at those times it is easy to focus on the negative and get drawn into that cycle. As loving and supportive friends we want to give our friends a sympathetic ear and an empathetic heart and we too know what it is like to feel burdened and challenged. However, all too often those good intentions can serve to hinder us instead - what we need to remember is articulated here in Psalm 16 vs. 5-6

5 LORD , you have assigned me my portion and my cup;

you have made my lot secure.

6 The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;

surely I have a delightful inheritance.

How true this is for most of us. We have wonderful boundaries and our lives are very fufilling and special. Even with all the challenges and burdens we face and carry we need to remember that God knows our situation and he has assigned us our portion and our cup and he alone makes our lot secure. Our inheritance is a delightful one.

So whether you are struggling today with kids who won't mind, a messy home, a travelling husband, sick kids - or all the above such as myself - whatever your burden and challenges are today - lay them down for a moment and reflect on God and all he has granted you. Take a moment to feel the comfort and security of that. Here are words of wisdom far greater than I could ever give

Psalm 16
A miktam of David. [a]

1 Keep me safe, O God,

for in you I take refuge.

2 I said to the LORD , "You are my Lord;

apart from you I have no good thing."

3 As for the saints who are in the land,

they are the glorious ones in whom is all my delight. [b]

4 The sorrows of those will increase

who run after other gods.

I will not pour out their libations of blood

or take up their names on my lips.

5 LORD , you have assigned me my portion and my cup;

you have made my lot secure.

6 The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;

surely I have a delightful inheritance.

7 I will praise the LORD , who counsels me;

even at night my heart instructs me.

8 I have set the LORD always before me.

Because he is at my right hand,

I will not be shaken.

9 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;

my body also will rest secure,

10 because you will not abandon me to the grave, [c]

nor will you let your Holy One [d] see decay.

11 You have made [e] known to me the path of life;

you will fill me with joy in your presence,

with eternal pleasures at your right hand.


February 16, 2005

Inuit and Arctic Animals Lesson Plans

Today's lesson is an example of something that started unplanned and blossomed into a full blown themed day. It started simple enough. Rhiannon picked up a fiction books called "The Seasons and Someone" by Virginia Kroll. She has been feeling quite sick and wanted to just read today. She curled up and I read it aloud. The first page talked briefly about Eskimos and igloos. As we read the book that she enjoyed listening and she started asking questions.

This week we are studying the letter I with Ciaran and I had recently picked up some books about the Inuit (proper name for Eskimo) and their igloos (really means Inuit home not just ice home) so I offered to read one. She was interested and we worked our way through two non-fiction books on the lives and history of the Inuit. Ciaran and Sirah played nearby and from time to time I would have to stop to manage a squabble between them or give them some concentrated attention. From time to time Ciaran would join us to listen if something interested him. Rhiannon actually enjoyed learning about their lives and if we had started the day saying "We are going to learn about the Inuit" I assure you the rest of the day would not have gone the same. She would have drudged through it because it was what we were doing but she would have been unhappy and not excited.

As we read these non fiction books several animals from the Arctic area kept coming up as did much of the traditional dress. Reading about mukluks reminded her of a book we own "Mama Do You Love Me?" by Barbara M Joose. Reading about the use of reindeer and caribou skins reminded her of our book "On Mother's Lap" by Ann Herbert Scott and the ptarmigan reminded us of "Blueberry Shoe" by Ann Dixon which Serona bought from Alaska a few years ago. We sat on the couch and read through these favorite storybooks and now she picked up on more details having just learned about them through "Whole books on the subject" to me it was a nice combination of whole and living books that really brought the lessons and stories home for her. I did also put out a Q and A Animal Encyclopedia that I have which had a chapter on arctic animals. She flipped through that and enjoyed looking at the pictures though never seems to enjoy them as much as whole books on each animal - which I did not have. Still she did learn about how big polar bears were and get a sense of all the different kinds of animals in more lifelike pictures than the storybook ones she saw.

Then I went to the computer and began my hunting around - this is still my responsibility while they are young soon it will become theirs. Though before I began I sat down with her and had her list all the things she remembered and wanted for her book. Here is the list she came up with: igloos, amautiq (baby sling), caribou, walrus, whale, seal, salmon, mukluks, storyknife (still looking for this), umiak, parka, polar bear, artctic fox, inuit flag, kumatik (dog sled), bush plane, inuit alphabet.

I found coloring sheets for the animals and pictures to print of all the rest to add to her book. I found some Inuit coloring sheets here, and some arctic animal printouts to color or paint online (today I let her do many of them online and print since she is not feeling well) of the animals we read and learned about in the book. During my searching I also came across these sites of Inuit games and more games.

I found and printed out a glossary of Inuit terms and some pictures of their traditional dress. Rhiannon also wrote a few sentences on igloos and how igloos is really a name for all types of Inuit homes. She wrote sentences about three of them and then drew pictures of each (wood, tent, and icehome).

All our talking brought up the fact that Serona and I went to Alaska for our honeymoon and I agreed to show her the pictures from then. We were talking about glaciers and icebergs and I explained that Serona and I took a helicopter to land on one and the pictures don't really give you the perspective of how big they are. We also saw harp seals, orca and humpback whales and other animals. We looked through our honeymoon pictures.

It was a tremendous and fun lesson and we might spend more time on it tomorrow. She really seemed to enjoy and understand much of the material. Having the storyboks and pictures helped her even more. Tomorrow we may do a blubber experiment and play some of the traditional Inuit games as well as make a pair of snow goggles.

It was the kind of day that you are so thankful you homeschool because a single storybook can lead to many more interesting and detailed lessons that are driven by the child's interest. We spent a whole day examining this and seeing many of the interconnections between history, geography, culture, science, art, government, entertainment, and how to use storybooks to learn about life and how to bring to life whole books.

I highly recommend diving into a storybook the next time the opportunity arises and seeing where it goes. After our day we went back and looked at the storybooks we read and pointed out details that would show us that they would be about either the Inuit or the animals of the arctic area.


February 14, 2005

Love Letter to Serona

Let me count the reasons I love you in no particular order other than stream of consciousness

1. You are my best friend
2. You are my lover
3. You are the smartest person I know (and that includes me)
4. You love me unconditionally
5. You know me for who I am and still like me
6. We have three beautiful kids
7. We have great debates and making up is even better
8. We drink fine wine and eat fine cheese
9. We both dreamed and made a home library a reality
10. You are a man of God and a role model at that
11. You are hardworking
12. You are generous
13. You always put your family first despite the consequences
14. You have political ambitions and talent
15. You listen to and respect me
16. You roughouse with our kids
17. You are silly in a fun way
18. You continue to try to find jokes I will find funny
19. You wear a kilt
20. You make me a better person
21. You eat whatever I put in front of you without complaint
22. You graduated to dark beer from Rolling Rock.
23. You are a life longer learner and teacher
24. You embrace and enjoy change
25. In seven years of marriage we have had 6 homes in 3 states, 3 kids and 2 dogs!
26. You tolerate and more importantly love my friends as they are your own
27. You expect and demand the best out of me
28. You love Star Wars passionately
29. You are a writer
30. You are my editor
31. You embrace and support homeschooling 100%
32. You built me bookshelves
33. You let those bookshelves stay in your entertainment and star wars area
34. You provide so amazingly for our family
35. You are humble always bringing the focus back to God and his provision
36. You are an environmentalist
37. You are a social justice activist
38. You are a fellow blogger ;)
39. You made me start blogging
40. You are an early adopter and brought me along
41. You bought me Roomba
42. You bought us a leather couch for our library
43. You surprise me and my friends with dinner and a limo
44. You have impeccable taste
45. You never fail to surprise and impress me
46. You pick up other people's trash
47. You teach our children about stewardship
48. You give generously to the church and charity
49. You inspire me
50. You encourage me when all others doubt me
51. You stand up to me
52. You are the only other person I know who honestly and consistently tries to live as consistently and honestly as I do.
53. You chose me
54. You stick by me, no matter what
55. Our marriage is truly represented by the claddaugh (friendship, love and trust)
56. You've accepted and adopted all our crazy family Irish traditions
57. You are a patriot
58. You are a leader
59. You love our kids unconditionaly
60. You truly forgive AND forget
61. You put a computer in our kitchen despite my protests (what was I thinking?)
62. You made me love dogs, especially our Aussies
63. You dance with me
64. You challenge me
65. You support all I do even when you may not agree
66. You are a loving and amazing father
67. You "Buck up, buckaroo"
68. Duetornomy 8
69. You taught me the value and importance of homebuilding and homekeeping
70. You are patient with my flaws and faults
71. You make us fly a kite
72. You ride your bike to work
73. You eat leftovers
74. You sashay
75. You research, evaluate, decide, and then adjust your life to live by the truth
76. You introduced me to Belly
77. You love 4ad
78. You encouraged me to stick with Lord of the Rings when I wanted to give up (the book)
79. You attachement parent, despite bed sharing and nursing for over 5 years now!
80. Tear in my hand
81. Hiking with burrs in our sweaters
82. Sunflowers and Lattes
83 Portalnd, OR
84. Pale
85. Chess, Hearts, and Gin Rummy
86. Amtrack
87. Two Princes
88. The Dome Room
89. A Clean Room and a Puzzle completed in college
90. Sewing Star wars costumes for our entire family
91. You woo me with your guitar
92. This Mortal Coil
93. We drive a minivan
94. Toad the Wet sprocket
95. Your backrubs
96. Our wireless network
97. Amtrack
98. J6
99. Frogs, Princesses, dogs
100. Growing old together
101 Iron sharpening Iron
102. No more umbrella drinks
103. You kept your bargain about the dogs
104. You give me your knee every night
105. You get up every morning and go despite the difficulty
106. You give me wise counsel
107. You believe in me
108. You believe in our kids
109. You are self assured
110. We are going places
111. Biking and camping in the summer
112. Boogie Borading on the east coast
113. Admiring you from the audience while you are onstage
114. Being able to say "That's my better half"
115. Knowing you will always be there

There are many other reasons, but here are a few. Happy Valentines Day my love!

February 13, 2005

Lessons in Citizenship

I firmly believe that often it is the completely unplanned lessons that spur from real life events and conversations that stick with our children the most. This weekend Rhiannon, Sirah and I went to the library and then it was nice enough that we took a walk to some nearby stores from the library. As we were walking out of one of the stores Rhiannon noticed a security guard and asked why he was there. My brain starting scanning through all the possible answers trying to make a split second decision about what lessons I did not want to bring up yet and what I could lead the discussion towards.

I said that he was there to be sure that people did not take anything without paying among other things. This satisfied her for about 30 seconds and she piped up well we always pay don't we? I assured her that yes, we do always pay and that is the right and expected thing to do. I said some people make bad choices but we follow the laws. Then I asked her if she knew what a law was and she said "Yes it is a rule we need to follow" I asked her if she knew any laws and she said "Well I know some of God's laws, do not steal, honor your mother and father, do not kill, love God." I said yes those are some laws and there are many others that we must follow as citizens.

Rhia: What's a citizen, mommy?
Mom: To be a good citizen means a lot of things and there are many responsibilities to be a citizen.
Rhia: Like taking care of things we are given. Like stewardship
Mom: Yes like stewardship, what does that mean (me impressed she used the word)
Rhia: When we need to take care of the things God gives us and the world around us. As she says this she sees a plastic cup in the bushes along the sidewalk we are walking along and stops to pick it up. Like picking up this cup people left. They should not pollute.
Mom: Yes you are right that is a good example of taking responsibility for and caring for the world around you. Yes pollution is not being a good steward.
Rhia: Looking all around, there is lots of pollution around, why?
Mom: Again some people make bad choices, maybe we can come back here with a trash bag and clean up some of this mess.
Rhia: Yes that would be good to do, keeps picking up as much trash as she can hold in her arms and continues to carry it until we find a recycling and garbage bin, properly puts the plastic in the recycling and the rest in the trash.
Mom: Do you know why pollution is bad?
Rhia: Because some animals like birds could eat it and get hurt
Mom: That is one reason, do you know another?
Rhia: Because it makes the ground messy and hard to grow things in
Mom: Another good reason. It can also affect the air and water and environment all around us.

We continue along on our walk back towards our car and she continues the discussion. Rhia: What else does it mean to be a citizen?
Mom: Well citizens vote, do you remember what that is?
Rhia: Yes, when we elect the president by ballot.
Mom: Yes in this country we elect our president by voting, but we vote for other people (other leaders) and laws as well. Remember when we went to the capitol to visit our representative, he was elected. Mommy and Daddy voted for him on election day when we voted for the president.
Rhia: Oh so a citizen votes and is a good steward and stuff like following rules.
Mom: Yes those are good ways to be a good citizen and they are things you should learn to do yourself. Do you think you understand more about being a citizen now?
Rhia: Yes but I still don't understand why there is so much pollution and she throws away the last of the trash she had picked up along our walk.

Those are moments you can not create, but wow what a teachable moment it was and what an impact it will continue to have on her. I was able to draw from other lessons we have done in the past and things she has learned about and talk about things with a certain common knowledge in place due to her experience set (going to vote with me, having a voting activity and lesson, visiting her representative at the state capitol, science lessons on pollution and caring for earth, reading Miss rumphius and other books that make her appreciate and love making the world a better and more beautiful place, bible study, a thorough understanding of stewardship as being required to care for those things placed in front of and around us, lessons in half-stepping, and the list goes on and on). Yet these lessons buried somewhere within her all came together today in a grand and easy lesson on being a citizen, all because we walked past a security guard as we walked out of a store!

Embrace those teachable moments, enjoy them and take time to answer the questions. Sometimes I love to answer a question with a question and make her think about it more. This tactic works well with her. I know there is much more we could have talked about being a good citizen and why the security guard was there - but she does not need to know it all today, we are planting seeds and giving her signposts to hang the material on later in life. Now we are answering her questions but not worrying that the answer is complete. For right now I think for Rhiannon to understand citizenship as: following rules, voting to elect leaders, being good stewards of what we have and the earth around us, making the world around us more beautiful by cleaning it up, and making good choices even when others do not is sufficient. After all she is only 5!


Craft and Chat

Today I spent the afternoon at a friends neighbor's home. Their neighborhood holds a monthly "Craft and Chat" where the women get together with their handwork and share snacks, laughter and stories. I only knew two of the women and I had never been to their neighborhood. I felt immediately welcome and enjoyed myself. I managed to start and nearly finish an entire scarf for Serona (I needed about 15 more minutes to finish tonight at home) and met some new women.

The women were from all stages and places in life. Our host has two sons nearly grown at 18 and 20, my friend while married for 13 years has no children, there was another woman there whose partner is very ill, someone soon to be married, a wonderfully fun and crafty 60 year old woman and women all in between. Once again I was the youngest, you would think I would be used to it by now, and for the most part I am. There were people knitting, crocheting, quilting and doing beadwork. Someone was learning for the first time and others were just there for the conversation.

It was special to feel so welcome in their little community and I think I would like to try to start one in my own neighborhood. After all women have been sitting around together with their handwork for years. It is a great way to socialize and to get work done at the same time. It was also refreshing to not feel guilty to pull out my crocheting when I am with a group of people. I actually find that I listen better and am more relaxed when I can be working on it at the same time. However, I try to respect the fact that some people feel it is rude or distracting, though now I can actually do much of it without looking down, it is on autopilot for me.

I think part of why I love crocheting is that it allows me to be "productive" at times that I often feel ancy or am apt to get bored, for example when watching a movie, being a passenger in the car or being in a big group coversation setting. I love when I can pick up my work and continue whatever I am doing and have a nice end product when I am done.

Anyway if you do any crafty thing perhaps try organizing a "Craft and Chat" in your neighborhood or church community. It allows you to have a great excuse to get together and then gives you permission to work on your project while enjoying the company and free from other distractions.


February 12, 2005

Good Neighbors

By now most of you ahve probably heard the story of Taylor Ostergaard and Lindsey Zellitti who left cookies as a kind gesture for their neighbors and ended up in the middle of a lawsuit and received a $900 fine for their kindness. The blogosphere was all abuzz about it last week. Serona, my husband, actually called and talked Taylor's father. He was very kind on the phone and in good spirits, he explained more of the story than the media has focused on, including the fact that the families, while not well off, had offered to pay her medical expenses if she would sign a waiver from making future claims regarding the incident. Young refused and took the matter to court!

Serona also includes a follow-up response, and an address to send letters or for a fund set up to help the girls. The legal expenses have already been covered but people are still sending in money and letters of well wishes, even in small increments to show their appreciation for random acts of kindness and the good hearts of these girls.

The girls are using the money that exceeds the legal expenses to donate to two children's hospitals and for a college fund. If you still beleive in random acts of kindness, show these girls your support with a letter and/or a donation:

Taylor Ostergaard
Lindsey Zellitti
P.O. BOX 2528
Durango, CO 81302

It is one thing for us to say we are outraged, it is another to let our time and our pocketbook follow through. While you are in the generous spirit, if you have not already then please donate to the tsunami victims.


February 11, 2005

Monarch Butterfly

There are some amazing pictures of monarch butterflies at Stained glass wings, I never realized they would group together like that on trees, it is amazing.


February 10, 2005

Finding NeverLand

Returned from that movie tonight and I can honestly say that it inspired me. There truly was magic for me on the screen, I think they did an excellent job bringing the magic to life and I could feel it. I felt drawn into the movie and into their lives. I was inspired to live better and to parent my children better. I am brimming with emotions now nad I encourage you to see the film and see it with an open mind and heart.


February 9, 2005

Math Stories

In an attempt to make subtraction and addition more interesting, Rhia and I played a math game today. I told her stories about her uncles using numbers. Such as when your uncle was young he liked playing baseball and I made cupcakes for his team, I made 9 (she wrote the number 9 on an index card) but they only ate 5 (she wrote 5 on another card), how many were left, she wrote the answer on another card. She had already written +, -, and = on seper ate cards. Then she had to retell the story and make a mathmatical representation of the story. I demonstrated the first one with the number cards she wrote and then she did it for three stories. Then she told me stories and I did the equations. I think it helped make it more fun, interesting and creative. It seemed to help her understand some of the relevant ways we use math besides "school" work. It was also a nice casual way to introduce the concept of word problems which can intimidate many.


Five Senses

Today we started a science unit on the five senses. Rhiannon read three books about the senses and decided she wanted to focus on tasting today. We did a tasting experiment where she was blindfolded and very trusting of me. She would taste whatever I put in her mouth and give me some observations about it. I made notes and these are the notes, so they may be a bit rough.

Pretzels – salty

onion – hot and bad tasting, sour – pickles

pepper – banana pepper – bitter

banana – banana sweet

orange – juicy – sweet – orange

cashew butter – nutty – peanut butter

butter – sweet – not like much

cream cheese – creemy cheesy sweet – cream cheese

tomato sauce – bitter – tomto sauce

hummus – plain sweet

honey – bitter – no idea

vingear – bitter lemon juice

chocolate bar – nugget with chocolate

vanilla – plain

curry – sour cinammon

chili powder – cinmammon

mustard – spicy – salsa

carrot – crunchy – carrot

raisin – sweet – raisins

chow mein noodle – crunchy – tasy sweet, chow mein noodle

onion – hot pepper

mnm – sweet bean maybe chocolate

ice cream – sweet – ice cream

We will continue with a similar experiment for each of the senses this week and into next. I did offer Ciaran to try but he wanted nothing to do with it once he realized that it would involve things other than ice cream and chocolate. Rhia was brave and really enjoyed it even when she dove for the water after things tasted bad.


A Moment of Bliss

It has nothing to do with education, nor will it be exciting to many of you. However, to me it was wonderful. It happened at 3:09 this afternoon, was briefly interrupted at 3:16 and then came to abrupt halt at 3:39. For just a moment I had complete silence! Believe it or not for 30 minutes I had three sleeping children and 2 sleeping dogs in the middle of the day! It was so quiet I was unsure what to do. The answer was clear, lay down on my couch (all the beds were taken) with a pillow over my eyes. The phone rang at 3:16 and I was sure it was over, but by God's blessing they all slept through it until 3:39 when a hard coughing fit brought Sirah toddling out to the living room. Ah, savor that moment. Now back to regular scheduled programming of three sick kids.


More Computer Frustrations

In case you were wondering about the outcome of my computer work the other day when the laptop was working wirelessly. Last night it did not work again and today, the laptop won't even turn on! Oh joy!


New Blog Discovery

Found a new blog I wanted to share. Check out Shauna at Faith & Learning.


February 8, 2005

Thailand Culture Co-op

Today was week two in our study of Thailand. It was a fun lesson plan. This week the kids took a "trip" to Thailand and recorded it in a homemade book. The teacher had packed a suitcase and would take items out one at a time to explain why she would need them. She began by asking the kids why they thought they would need each item.

My personal favorite was the first one she pulled out of her suitcase, a bucket. The kids answers were logical: to carry water, to play on the beaches in the sand, to catch a frog or fish and so on. Her answer stunned all of us and I think it took a minute for the kids to even believe her. She was packing the bucket so she could dump water on the heads of people! See I bet it surprised you too unless of course you are familiar with the Sonkran, also known as the Thailand Water Festival.

Moments like this


and even

are common and to be expected. If you do not want to get wet, stay indoors! To read more about this festival you can read this and this. And for those of you who are dying to know - no we did not allow the kids to actually dump water on each other!

The rest of the talk was also fun, interesting and informative but that was definately the highlight and what the kids were talking about tonight at the dinner table. You could see their eyes light up at the thought of a water festival. Who knows maybe some hot summer day we will decide to demonstrate Songkran -- and hope our neighbors forgive us! Aren't you glad you don't live next to the crazy homeschoolers? Or maybe you are one who would join in?

The kids learned about some other festivals, religion, culture, dress, homes and work. Unfortunately I can't tell you much more as Ciaran, Sirah and I spent some quality time in the hallway for much of the remainder of the lesson

After snack they worked on a craft, a Krathong which is a little flower boat used to celebrate the Loi Krathong Festival in Thailand. These are traditionally made out of banana leaves and flowers. They place candles, incense sticks and a coin on the Krathong and float them in lakes, rivers and canals all across the country, wishing for good fortune in the coming year.

Our kids made their out of paper bowls, flower petals and had an artifical flower, votive candle with insence and a coin in the middle. We did not float them in a river, though Rhiannon intends to do so tommorrow. All our major bodies of water are frozen here in Minnesota so we might be filling up our bathtub!

Atleast this time they should not be as messy and possibly damaging to our tub as our last tub Experiment on ancient writings - when the cunieform (clay tablet) broke apart into large and small chunks of clay mess to clean up and the paint from the papyrus (tracing paper) left a black ring to clean up after we experimented with what would happen if they were exposed to a flood (our bathtub).

The craft came out good once it was discovered how to get the petals to glue to the plate without falling off. It is still all in one piece so far. Ciaran and I will be finishing his tommorrow as again we headed out to the hall for much of the lesson.

We will finish off our studies on Thailand with a study on history, government and animals next week. Then we will all dine together at a local Thai restuarant. So far the most memorable things my kids have been talking about Thailand are Sawadee (hello), Thailand is the land of smiles, the tsunami (more resources and lesson plan here), eating lots of fruit, and of course Songkran (the festival where you pour water on one another).

This is our fifth month of country coop (United States, Israel, Iraq, China, Thailand) and I can see the kids are getting much more out of it now. I think it is a combination of the kids getting more used to it and the moms getting better at how to teach the material in interesting ways. Also I think the last two countries we have done have been particularly interesting to the kids - at least my own kids seem to have taken much more out of the lessons on China and Thialand then the rest.

This has been a great thing to do with our homeschool group and I highly recommend it if you have a group of people you are thinking about working together with. It is interesting, fun and not that difficult to pull together and it works nicely with a mixed age group. We have 10 kids from ages 3-12 and Sirah who has not been involved that much yet.


Thailand Geography and Food Co-op

Writing this weeks review made me realize I never posted about last week's class. This is perhaps because I did not personally get to attend as Sirah and I were running errands for our Little House on the Prairie field trip. Rhiannon and Ciaran both attended with the other moms watching them. I was sad to have missed it as they had great food! Oh wait I mean it was a great class, the food was just a bonus and I missed it _ sad_.

The kids move through this day in stations. Learning about the geography of the country and marking up a big map of the country with the various landmarks and typical geography of water, mountians and desserts, etc as well as anything significant. At the other station they are learning about and tasting food from the country. This time they were excited to try the wide variety of fruit: mangoes, papayas, pineapple (whole) and cocunut juice (fresh from the coconut). They also tasted rice sweeted with cocunut juice and Rambutanwhich had a hard hairy outside. Here is a picture:

They broke for a snack though who needed one after eating all that yummy fruit? The last two stations were to make a replica of the flag of Thailand:

The other station was a discussion and demonstration of a tsunami such as the recent ones in Thailand, for more information on donating vist here. They built a city out of legos and then had water dumped over it on a cookie sheet to demonstrate the destruction.

They ended the class by having their passports stamped with the country name and sticker of the flag. They each have four stamps in their passports now (Israel, Iraq, China and Thailand) - wouldn't that be fun if that was a real recent passport?


February 7, 2005

It's Never Easy

I just spent the last hour and a half trying to configure my new wireless PC card so that my laptop can connect wirelessly in our home. I know the theory is that this is "plug and play" hardware and the software comes with it, yet it never works that way for me. Just once it would be nice if something actually worked out of the box without hours of configuring and troubleshooting.

I am too tired of being on my computers to blog anything worthwhile right now. Just my frustration - it seems that it is always this way when I try to add something to the computer. I am a computer literate individual and an early adopter. I am good with technology and I can only imagine what the average person would feel like after this amount of time. Atleast I am rewarded with it currently working. Who knows if it will work again tommorrow.

For school today Rhiannon did some math worksheets - addition of three numbers and subtraction. She also read several books to both Sirah and Ciaran. She wrote Valentines for her friends for handwriting and played some. Ciaran stacked blocks working on smaller and larger and relationships. He also practiced counting items with me in a counting book and with his blocks and toys. He was naming colors and just playing around. Sirah was nearby and involved in everything we were doing and apparently gave daddy a hard time at bedtime tonight.

Serona and I bought furniture today with some of our tax return. Hooray! A new couch for the library and a chair and ottoman for our living room. We are also getting a replacement for our broken futon and possibly a new mattress! I love having our taxes done so early and efiling. It makes the proccess so easy, if you have not done it yet I recommend using turbotax online, after years of doing it all manually myself I love it! This is our second year. If you use it from year to year they can add in much of your data and the proccess goes very quickly. I always have mixed feelings at tax time - we typically get a nice return back. Part of me gets frustrated at giving Uncle Sam a hefty tax free loan but then on the other hand it is like a forced savings plan for us. Where we could easily spend an extra 400 a month, getting it all at once has its advantages. Every year we take more deductions trying to figure out how to get the government to take less out and we never seem to find the balance.

Well I need to get off to bed.

February 6, 2005

Sirah's Day

Yesterday was a fun day with Sirah. She is growing up so much so fast. Yesterday I got to spend a good amount of time just playing with just her. It was a nice treat. We played with puzzles, stuffed animals, blocks, her hammering pegs and lifelike plastic animals. One of my favorite things to do with her was sit on the floor and name the animals and their sounds. She amazed me when she could point to the animal I would name and we did some not so obvious or typical ones like panda, kangaroo and monkey as well as dinosaur, pig, sheep, dog, frog and some others.

I also love playing peekaboo with her and she is starting to enjoy reading more. At one point yesterday she cimbed on the couch with a book, laid on her stomach and flipped through it kicking her feet she was extremely cute and by the time I got the camera she was done. We danced, played dress up she was a ladybug and bob the builder, and she helped Ciaran and I make cookies.

Her language is getting much better and so are her fine motor skills. She went up and down the slide so many times yesterday and is wanting to play with her musical instruments more. We set up the easel and clipped some paper to the bottom and gave her some crayons and she made some artwork for us which she was very proud of.

It was a great day for Sirah, even though she did not fall asleep until after 1am!


February 4, 2005

Little House on the Prairie Field Trip

We took an extended field trip to see some of the historical sites found in the Little House on the Prairie books. Last summer we made the trip to Little House in the Big Woods located in Pepin, WI. This week we went to De Smet, SD which features in several of the books, we know it from "By the Shores of Silver Lake" and "The Long Winter", it is in several others as well. This is the town the Ingalls finally settled in for the long term. Pa, Ma, and Mary all died while living in "The House That Pa Built" as it is known today. They are all buried there along with Carrie, Grace and her husband, and the infant boy of Laura and Almanzo.

At the site we were able to walk around inside the original surveyor's house that Pa and then the Ingalls stayed in when they first moved to De Smet. Much of it is still the same and has not been restored much. Seeing the house helped give perspective of how they lived, the size of their home and the things they had to do, such as wash laundry by hand and carry in coal and water. There were some original artifacts such as books and their stove and then some replicas. The tour guide was informative and shared things we did not know as well as reviewed some we did. Areas of the home are roped off for safety or preservation reasons. The kids were sad they could not go upstairs and see where the older girls slept. I was sad we could not take any interior pictures.

The second site we saw was the home that Pa built for the family. The original home included three rooms, a kitchen, a living/bedroom area, and a downstairs bedroom for Mary (who was already blind by this point), and the upstairs loft area for the girls. As money and time allowed he built other rooms to become the house that it is today. The living room had some photos of the family including one that Carrie apparently wanted burned. There was a fiddle and organ that the kids were actually allowed to try out (not Ingalls but replicas from the time period) and a room full of displays, photos and information about what happened to each family member.

There were other sites you could drive around and see, including the original site of Pa's store (where they spent the Long Winter) and the 5 cottonwood trees he planted for his girls (they are still standing). You can go out and see part of their original homestead and some of the areas mentioned in the books. During the summer there is apparently a festival and pageant out there, but we did not get to experience it during the winter.

You can also visit the graves of the family members (all except Laura, Almanzo and Rose and Rose's son, and Freddie)out at the De Smet cemetary. There may have been some other sites we did not get to visit in this town. But really getting to stand inside the houses and at their graves was worth the trip. It really brought the books home and alive to us. It helps you realize these were real people and not just out of the pages of a book or off the screen of a TV. We enjoyed our time there. If you are a gift shop person - they have a nice one. Warning: If you have daughters who really love these books and dresses (such as I) you may wish to avoid this store or be prepared to purchase a pioneer girl dress, apron, and bonnet!

On our way home we got lost and ended up in the town of Walnut Grove of all places! Unfortunately almost all of that location was closed for the season (with the exception of the gift shop of course) and you could not even walk around the outsides of the buildings! We could see several of them and their signs from outside the fenced off area and the kids were able to get a grasp on how small the church and school room, and homes would have been. During the season there are 7 buildings to visit and also the original sod site (though the sod house itself fell quite awhile ago) you can see the land where it was. They also have summer events and pageants in the season. We intend to go back and visit this site during the summer season.

I highly recommend visiting these historic sites. They are appropriate for all ages, though the younger children did not get as much out of them. The house tours were tough on the young boys (3-4 range) but I recommend them. They give you context, perspective and much more information than the books. The museums, presentations, and artifacts fill in the gaps and extend the story to its conclusion. As an adult I would like to go to them by myself or with other adult friends and get more out of it than I can while herding kids and focusing on their questions and needs.

For those who want much more detail about our trip - read the next post. For those who don't - then please skip it.


Little House Field Trip: The Good the Bad and the Ugly

We just returned form a min-vacation/extended field trip. We went to the town of De Smet, South Dakota. Why? That town features prominently in several of the Little House on the Prairie books. Most well noted are “By the Shores of Silver Lake” and “The Long Winter”. There were many interesting things to see and learn about. There would have been even more during the springtime, but I am still glad we went now.

The trip always starts out better than it ends, a long car ride home may be tainting my writing of this. Overall we had a great time, but as with any long car ride (especially one with 5 children aged 1-8) there is a sense of the good, the bad and the ugly.

The ugly first – the car ride home. Everyone was a bit loopy after being together in close quarters for several days non-stop. Also rides home are always more challenging with kids because they do not look forward to going home as much as they look forward to the trip out there. Ciaran was especially challenging on the ride home. He had a friend exactly one week older than him and the two of them feed off of each other. Potty jokes, touching each other, fighting over everything, being generally loud and continually asking for things got a little tiresome after several hours. Rhiannon and her friend, a boy three years older, were generally very good. They listened to the end of “By the Shores of Silver Lake” on tape and colored and drew in their activity books and pieces of paper. Sirah was the best behaved, sleeping most of the time and being very calm and happy nearly all the time.

Add to all the chaos the fact that we missed our turn and ended up lost in all places we ended up in Walnut Grove (by accident). We took the time to look around, though nearly all of it was closed for the season, and then got back on the road trying to navigate our way home. I managed to get lost again and we turned what should have been a 4 hour drive into a 7 hour drive with stops. So kids who were already loopy and parents working on little sleep, dealing with overstimulated kids made the ride seem even longer than it was.

Little Sleep – late arrival the first night and long wind-down time led to after midnight and excitement led to getting up by 8am. Sirah was up and down throughout the night. The second night led to earlier bedtime but Rhiannon was getting sick and was up and down all night with terrible dreams and stomach pains. No naps for the baby or the three year old boys.

Attractions Closed – several of the sights were closed or not as interesting because of the season we saw them in. We were not able to fully enjoy all aspects of the locations. Also the people in charge were not the most accommodating or friendly, not even letting us look around the outside of the buildings or take pictures. It actually left a rather sour taste in our mouths for the tourist locations. If my children were not so interested in these books and the lives of the family I am not sure I would go back again because of the people who were running it and some of the rigidity of policies. It was enough to lead me to write a letter to the tourist locations and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Foundation. However, both Walnut Grove and De Smet will probably receive another visit from us during their summer pagents and events, giving them one more try.

The Good

Everything else! Despite the downsides I listed we had a great time. It was informative, interesting, educational and fun. It was nice to do with friends and it helped provide more context and understanding to the books. I think a visit to these sites helped bring alive the books even more than they already are. It was interesting for a range of ages, especially adults, though I am not sure I would recommend it for three and four year old boys. Some specifics we really enjoyed.

Being with friends – it was nice for the kids to have each other to enjoy the trip with. While part of me thinks Ciaran might have been better behaved and gotten more “educational” experiences out of the trip if it had just been our family, the other part of me realizes how much more Rhiannon was able to get out of the experience by having an older friend there with her. By having someone else there near her age who has also loved and read the books helped her get so much more out of it. The trip was also much more fun for me to have my good friend there. The drives gave us a lot of time to chat and get to know each other deeper. It also tested our friendship and patience with each other and let us see each other with nothing to hide. We have camped together but this was even more intense, here we saw each other in the morning, before the baseball caps and showers, had to admit if we snore, show how we truly handle our kids under stress and a multitude of other things we don’t often admit or show people. We survived and will be stronger for it.

Playing the fiddle – This was Rhiannon’s favorite part of the trip, with buying an authentic pioneer dress, bonnet and apron coming in a close second. At the exhibit in De Smet – at “The house that Pa built” and still stands today she was able to play a fiddle from the time, and also an organ. The fiddle was the kind Pa played (though not his actual one) and the organ the kind Mary played (again not an original). They were both located in the actual house that Pa built for his family and Pa, Ma, and Mary lived in until they were dead.

Perspective – Seeing the houses and the artificats brought the books to life and gave some perspective. Looking at how small the churches, schoolrooms and houses were helped us understand more about the context of the books. As much as you read and try to explain these points to the kids I don’t think even as an adult you truly get your head around how small these quarters were until you see them. The church and school room we saw at Walnut Grove were both smaller than a modern day garage, a little bigger than some sheds in people’s yards. The hotel was smaller than most homes (ours included) of the people we know. The surveyor house in De Smet where they first lived seemed big to them and was two rooms, a pantry and an upstairs loft. The bedroom was simply room enough for Ma and Pa’s bed and a little rollaway wooden box that Grace slept in at night and slid under the beds at night. Seeing the laundry tubs and homemade soap made clearer how much more difficult life was for them in terms of hard labor. There were many other examples of this throughout the trip.

Visiting the Graves – In De Smet we visited the graveyard where Ma, Pa, Mary, Carrie, Grace and Laura and Almanzo’s baby boy were all buried (Laura, Almanzo, and Rose are buried in Missouri). Seeing the headstones made the reality of them as real people come home more. For some reasons that made you really recognize that they actually lived and died there. All too often I picture Michael Langdon as Pa and see the people from the TV show as the ones I picture in the books. Visiting the museums and historical sites helps you change that view and get the picture of the real family in your mind.

Wealth of Information – The tour guides were a wealth of information that I never knew about. They were able to help bring the site and the book and lives of the Ingalls to life. They helped fill in some gaps and extend the story as far as it went. Some of the interesting things I never knew were: All three generations of women lost a young baby boy within the first year of life (Ma, Laura, and Rose), Rose was a well known author first and encouraged her mother to write, many of the artifacts from the Ingalls have been destroyed or lost, how each family member finished their lives, and many other interesting details and facts.

The Extension Activities – Before we left I printed out several activites that the kids could do during their downtime at the hotel or in the car. I put together a packet of activities and coloring sheets for each of them. Most to do on their own and some to do together. They did not get through all of them, but it was nice to have them available and now we can use them to follow through with the lessons. We also picked up some other activity books and things from the gift shops along the way. I did show some reserve and did not purchase the Prairie Primer though I really wanted to. I decided to wait at least a year as she is still young. It was nice to see it first hand though and be able to flip through and look at it, it does seem like a valuable resource if you enjoy the books.

The Pool – Spending time in the hotel pool was one of the kids favorite memories. The could hardly wait to go in and never wanted to come out. They spent awhile in the pool Wednesday night after our day at the Ingalls historical sites in De Smet and then spent nearly two hours in the pool this morning before we headed home. Only one of the kids was a swimmer and I forgot to bring life vests/floaties for my kids so I was carrying Sirah around in the water, with either Rhiannon or Ciaran on my back. When our friend was done with his lifevest, Rhia and Ciaran took turns using it. Rhiannon had a blast with it, giving her the confidence to run and jump into the pool, having no fear of the fact that she went under – since she came right up and she was willing to swim all around the pool by herself (it showed me she is ready for swim lessons this spring). Ciaran was still more timid and still wanted to hold me even when he was wearing the life vest.