April 30, 2005

Great New Blog Discovery

Well the Homeschool Blogger Google Group has already led me to several great new blogs including Millenium Hippies. Be sure to try her recent weather mad lib.


April 29, 2005

Homeschool Bloggers Support Group

Recently I have been receiving some emails from other bloggers like many of you who read this and I thought why not create an egroup for us to keep in touch more easily. Of course I will still read your blogs but this can be an easy place to get a note from someone about something special they placed on their blog, a resource they use or something they learned about.

I find my homeschool egroups to be so helpful and supportive. Bloggers are some of the smartest, funniest and interesting people I have "met" so it would be wonderful to have a place where we can all connect. So why not connect the two and have a homeschool bloggers support group?

So, please join today and ask all your blogging friends to join! Post a link to Homeschool Blogger on your blog today. The only requirement for membership is that you be a blogger and a home educator.

Subscribe here and please include your blog link. Once your blog is visited(see you get increased traffic too)your membership to the group will be approved.

Visit Homeschool Blogger and join today! If you have any questions feel free to drop me an email.


Homeschool Blog Review

Kim over at Relaxed Homsckool is also publishing a Homeschool Blog Review. Check it out.


Google is an Educator's Best Friend

I promise I do not work for Google, I do not even have stock in the company (though I probably should) and I am in no way being paid to say this. Google is the best thing out there for homeschoolers. I have bought into Google and its various technologies the way many people adopted Microsoft whole heartedly. You have heard it said "We are a Microsoft or an IBM shop" well here at SCHOOL@HOME we are a "Google shop" Of course the main difference in my mind is Google stands behind its technology, is innovative, cutting edge and has its consumers in mind. They do not have a history and habit of making their problems my problems (read endless security software updates) and they give almost all their services away for free! To this date I have nearly always found Google's free service to be head and shoulders above some of their competitors pay for services.

If you are reading this blog I am going to assume you know all about the Google search engine. If you are tech savvy enough to read a blog regularly you likely know well enough to ALWAYS use google as your primary search engine. As an excellent researcher I often get asked "How did you find that?" followed only by "How did you do it so quick" the answer to both is google of course. Their search engine technology is outstanding, the only I have ever used that is better is Lexis Nexis. AS Lexis is highly impractical and unaffordable for most of us google is as good as it gets, and that is pretty good. You can find anything and everything there. It should always be your first place for searching for information on the internet, nothing else comes close.

However, Google is so much more than just their typical search engine. Did you know you can search for images and find thumbnails and larger pictures of nearly everything and anything. They also provide a moderately safe search filter as a default which is nice. Of course there is also froogle, where you can locate and price compare nearly anything for sale. While not always the place I buy from it is an excellent starting point for research and comparisons on products and it makes epurchasing easy.

Of course you have heard me sing the praises of gmail, as home educators I think we should all be using gmail, read my review and if you want a free account email me for one. It is well worth the hassle of switching your email address for once and for all. Where else can you get 2143 MB of storage for free?

Obviously I am a fan of Blogger. Despite all the complaints and grief people will give blogger for a free service it is one of the best out there. It is easy to use and modify, reliable and has many features included. I am a recent convert to AdSense for blogads and while the content targeting may not be perfect it works pretty well most of the time and I see it is a nice addition to my blog and it is nice that I make a little bit of money when people click on the ads - that helps support this site.

I also recently began using Picasa 2 for digital image management on my computer. I must admit I love that all my digital images are stored in an easy to use and easy to find format. The fact that with a push of a single button I can email or post pictures to my friends and blog is a wonderful feature. Again a free service that you will love and will make your life easier. Picasa 2 combined with hello is a nice and powerful combination of free software for digital picture sharing and publishing.

For the deeper intellectuals and news junkies google offers Google Scholar, searching journals, scholarly papers and the like. They also provide many advanced search features, government search and targeted news and web alerts on topics you set.

For the brave beta testers and early adopters be sure to check out Google Labs which has the latest and greatest and cutting edge technology in the works. Currently you can try out the controversial My Search History, maps and Google Suggest which offers real time suggests as you type a search term.

If you are a homeschooler and a blogger and want to give Google groups a try, join us at Homeschool Blogger.

I know I sound like I am gushing, but I really love google technology and these tools have made homeschooling more efficient and effective. I am able to do so much in so little time. They are free tools, they are helpful, they are the best I have found and they all work well together. Google is a company headed in the right direction. Join in now and let them make your homeschooling easier. Sometimes the best things in life are free.


April 28, 2005

Ciaran's Artwork

April 27, 2005

Skip Counting with paint and Shoes

Today we had a great lesson that combined art and math. Out came the paint and big pieces of paper. Each child selected a color and dipped their hand in the paint then made three set of handprints on their sheet. Ciaran choose green of course, Rhiannon purple and Sirah orange. Sirah's handprints melded together and soon she was simply fingerpainting. I finished the handprints with four sets of my own and let her just paint away. While those were drying the kids each received a new piece of paper to make their own art project on.

Rhiannon painted a picture of grandma and the grandkids on a picnic complete with rainbow and a bright sun. Ciaran painted what I personally think is his finest piece of art to date. It was more abstract but he could tell you exactly what each part was. The overall theme was grandpa and him riding boats to see a huge frog of course. It was precious and it will be hard to let this one go as he wants to give it to his grandparents.

When the painting was done and put away Ciaran and grandpa headed downstairs to practice frogball - baseball with a frog beachball that is relatively safe to play indoors. I am shy to admit that he taught Ciaran when you hit the ball well - over the futon it is a Yankee homerun and when you miss it was a Twins bad hit. Can you guess where grandpa is from?

Sirah, Rhiannon and I sat on the kitchen floor with the handprint paintings spread out before us. We had talked about skip counting. We had a moment of I won't/can't do this drama from which we quickly recovered and moved back into the lesson. We began by reciting our counting by 5 song which she knows by rote memorization. After singing it a few times I started showing her that by pointing to a single set of five with each number she sang she was actually counting the items by 5's. This was the first time she actual did number/object correspondence for skip counting. Up until now she just knew the song. After doing this three times the light bulb went off and she started to get excited.

I showed her how if we counted each finger individually it added up to 30 and if we counted each hand as a set of five fingers it also added up to 30 but much quicker. She liked this and started getting excited and began counting all the handprints. Then she moved to counting all our fingers and toes as we were sitting there, Sirah included. Then she put it together counting our fingers and the fingers on the paintings. She was really enjoying it and having fun with it.

Then I showed her how if we looked at each set of hands (left and right) each set had 10 fingers and if we counted by 10's it all added up to be the same again but was even faster. She also knew her counting by 10's song by rote memorization so this was easy for her to do. She played with this for awhile and then confident she understood what skip counting really was and how to use it and how to do it proficiently we moved into the living room.

In our living room were 10 pairs of shoes lined up. Prior to painting I asked Rhiannon to line them up. She seemed a bit unsure at first as I was asking her to clutter our living room floor with shoes that typically are not allowed on our carpet but she did so and made a nice long line of 10 different sets of shoes. I suppose you know where this is going.

We learned to count by 2's with our shoes. This was more challenging for Rhia as she did not have a prior knowledge of counting by 2's already. This was new to her. She was at first unsure she could do it. I reminded her she had just done 5's and 10's and those were harder and she could do them up to 100 and all she needed to do 2's to was 20. She agreed.

We began with me pointing to each set and counting out loud by two's. I let her count the shoes individually and she got to 20 easily. We said it over and over again together 2-10 until she seemed confident and comfortable with that. Then she practiced on her own for awhile. Learning the number/item correspondence as she was memorizing counting the numbers. The numbers 2-10 seemed to come easily but 12-20 was more challenging for her. We persisted and she was eventually able to master it, though 16 kept giving her trouble for some reason. The promise of a piece of candy (leftover Easter bunny - aren't I terrible that they still have not finished their easter candy) and she was able to do the exercise of counting shoe's by twos without mistake three times in a row. She enjoyed her candy and cleaned the shoes while I washed out the paint items and then enjoyed the rest of the day with her grandparents.

It was a great lesson. Fun, easy, different and interesting. I highly recommend it when you are teaching skip counting. I think it helped quite a bit that she had the song memorized already. We simply would sing it to her and she memorized it after awhile. This was one of those times when she was smiling and really enjoying herself.

I know she really understood it as well. Several times throughout the day she would say look mom I can count to 20 by twos and then do it right. At dinner she asked everyone to hold up their hands, grandparents included, and counted all our fingers by 5's to show us what she learned today. It was an enjoyable moment and a good lesson.


A worthy quote

"'To live content with small means; to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion; to be worthy, not respectable, and wealthy, not, rich; to listen to stars and birds, babes and sages, with open heart; to study hard; to think quietly, act frankly, talk gently, await occasions, hurry never; in a word, to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, grow up through the common--this is my symphony.'
--William Henry Channing

Found at Quiet Life.

It's Minnesotah Dont'cha Know

So of course it is snowing and 30 degrees the last week of April! I have been tempted to turn the heat on all day and it has actually felt too cold to go outside much of this week. As I type the snow is falling outside my window. Hope it is warmer and nicer where you are!


One World Expedition

Looking for something interesting to add to your science studies? Check out One World Expedition.

Two Minnesotan men, Lonnie and Eric will begin their epic adventure to cross the Artic Ocean during the summer for the first time ever on May 12th. www.oneworldexpedition.com is the official web site of the first summer crossing of the Arctic Ocean. From the website:

"In May of 2005, polar explorers Lonnie Dupre and Eric Larsen embark on a history-making expedition. Their four-month journey crosses the frozen ice cap from Cape Arcitchesky, Siberia to the geographic North Pole, then on to Ellesmere Island, Canada. The expedition hopes to create awareness of global climate change."

Check the website frequently once the adventure begins for a live map, images and updates of their journey.


April 26, 2005

Ducks in Our Yard

This morning my two Australian Shepherds are going crazy and the kids are having a grand time looking at the pair of ducks that have been waddling through our fenced yard all morning. They have come and gone over the past few days but spent most of the morning in our yard. We have many different birds flying in and out as well. I'll have to get my field guide and Anna Comstock out and have science class today!


April Reading List

Frog Alphabet, The - Pallotta, Jerry
Dinosaur Alphabet, The - Pallotta, Jerry
Birthday for Frances, A - Hoban, Russell
Loony Little - Aston, Dianna
Uncommon Traveller: Mary Kingsley in Africa - Brown, Don
Click, Clack, Moo Cows That Type - Cronin, Doreen
Goodnight Moon - Brown, Margaret Wise
Angelina Ballerina - Holabord, Katherine
Bear Stays Up = Wilson, Karma
Bear Wants More - Wilson, Karma

Where the Wild Things Are - Sendak, Maurice
House for Hermit Crab, A - Carle, Eric
Roley and the Rock Star - Bob the Builder
Animal Noises: CopyCats - Powell, Richard
Three Streeetchy Frogs - Bentley, Dawn
Good King Wenceslas: A Legend in Music and Pictures - Newland, Mary Reed
Angelina's Birthday - Holabird, Katherine
Hop Frog - Chrustowski, Rick
Legend of the Kite, The: A Stroy of China - Hong, Chen Jiang
Kites - Demi

I'm Kaitlyn: I Have Important Jobs to Do - Bowman, Crystal
Giggle, Giggle Quack - Cronin, Doreen
Knots on a Counting Rope - Martin, Bill Jr
Kitaq Goes Ice Fishing - Nicolai, Margaret
Grandpa Toad's Secrets - Kasza, Keiko
Duck for President - Cronin, Doreen
Time for Bed - Fox, Mem
It's Spring - Berger, Samantha
Every Day and Sunday - Peck, Kathryn
How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight - Yolen, Jane

Frog and Toad Treasury - Lobel, Arnold
Jack and the Beanstalk - Wells, Rosemary
Paper Bag Princess, The - Munsch, Robert
Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon - Lovell, Patti
Hooray for You: A Celebration of Youness - Richmond, Marianne
Today I Feel Silly - Curtis, Jamie Lee
On Morning Wings - Lindbergh, Reeve
Bible ABC - Metaxas, Eric
Jump Frog Jump - Kalan, Robert
Love - Moncure, Jane Belk

Frogs: Leaping Amphibians - Schaefer, Lola
Look What Came From Japan - Harvey, Miles
Jennies Hat - Keats, Ezra Jack
Olivia - Falconer, Ian
Goldilocks and the Three Bears
Froggie Went a Courtin - Trapani, Liz
Panda Bear Panda Bear What Do You See - Carle, Eric
Jackrabbit - London, Johnathen
James and the Rain - Kuskin, Karla
Where are you Going? To See My Friend - Carle, Eric

Merry Christmas Space Ranger - Toy Story II
Anakin to the Rescue - Venn, Cecilia
Skwalker Family Albulm, The - Alfonsi, Alice
Tuesday - Weisner, David
Animal Noises: Copy Cats - Powell, Richard
Good Morning Good Night Mitchell, Melanie
Tree is a Plant, A - Bulla, Clyde
Big Jimmy's KKumKau Chinese Take Out - Lewin, Ted
Uncle Jed's Barbershop - Mitchell, Margaree
Bernal and Florinda - Kimmel, Eric

Halibut Jackson - Lucas, David
Three Stre-e-etchy Frogs - Bentley, Dawn
Pumpkin Pie - Ziefert, Harriet
If You Hopped Like a Frog - Schwartz, David
Miss Spider's Tea Party: The Counting Book - Kirk, David
Curious George Takes a Job - Rey, HA
Frog and Toad are Friends - Loberl, Arnold
Frog and Toad all year round - Lobel, Arnold
How Many Veggies - Vischer, Phil
Quick as a Cricket - Wood, Audrey

Jeremy Fisher - Potter, Beatrix
Time For Bed - Fox, Mem
Big Red Barn - Brown, Margaret Wise
Touch and Feel Kitten - DK Publishing
It's Spring - Berger, Samantha
Tigger's Breakfast - Milne, AA (adapted)
How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight - Yolen, Jane
Touch and Feel Bible Stories - Larson, Beverly
Paper Bag Princess, The - Munsch, Robert
Ribbon Rescue - Munsch, Robert

Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon - Lovell, Patty
Daisy and the Egg - Simmons, Jane
God Made All the Colors - Lion Publishing
June 29, 1999 - Weisner, David
Deep in the Jungle - Yaccarino, Dan

Rhiannon Reads
Duck for President - Cronin, Doreen
Kites: Magic Wishes that Fly Up To The Sky - Demi
On Mother's Lap - Scott, Ann Herbert
Guess How Much I Love You - McBratney, Sam
Storybook of Dick and Jane and Friends
Secret Garden, The - Burnett, Frances Hodgson (great illustrated adaptation)
Throw Your Tooth on the Roof - Beeler, Selby
Eating the Alphabet - Elhert, Lois
Sping Words - Moncure, Jane Belk
Miss Rumphius - Cooney, Barbara

Stone Soup - Brown, Marcia
Magical Ballet Slippers, The - Ellsworth, Nick
My Mom is Great - Goldsack, Gaby
The Little Mermaid - Disney
Beauty and the Beast - Disney
Journey, The - Stewart, Sarah
Jimmy's Boa Bounces Back - Noble, Trinka
Best Dad in the Sea - Finding Nemo
Legend of the Kite, The - Hong, CHen Jiang
Child's World of Joy, The - Moncure, Jane Belk

Seasons ABC - Whitehouse, Patricia

In Progress
Rainbow, Dictionary, The - Wright, Wendell
Picture Bible, The - Hoth, Iva

Mommy Reads
Little Children - Perrotta, Tom (started in March finished in April)
Debt Proof Your Life - Hunt, Mary
Blue Like Jazz - Miller, Donald
The Right Man : The Surprise Presidency of George W. Bush - Frum, David
Reading Group, The - Noble, Elizabeth
Walk Away the Pounds - Sansone, Leslie (partial read)
Pocketful of Pinecones: Nature Study with the Gentle Art of Learning - Andreola, Karen (in progress)

Last updated: April 26, 2005

April 25, 2005

Rhiannon's Work

Today we wanted an abbreviated version of schoolwork so she could spend more time with grandma and grandpa and she finished it all within 20 minutes I think, it went pretty quick. She read a page in Phonics Pathways to grandpa which included reading one of the longest words in the dictionary. We joked that now there is no word too long for her to read!

Then she worked quickly through the following worksheets: patterns, number patterns, money skills and a crossword, her first ever. We decided to skip copywork and allow the crossword to count as handwriting for today. She also wrote several birthday cards over the weekend. She will read aloud, most likely to her grandparents, for thirty minutes to round out her day. Nice.


Homeschooling Bad?

Last friday an Illinois radio show host posted a column outlining the reasons he is against homeschooling, read it here. Nothing earth shattering or new here. Basically just that most of us are not qualified enough to teach our children and we are trying to hard to protect them and should work toward school choice instead. Of course we are qualified and making good choices for our family.

The more interesting part of the story can be found here in the parents responses.

Hat tip to Homeschool Buzz, a great home school news site.


April 24, 2005

Fun Birthday Party

Today we went to a fun birthday party at a gymnastics center. The kids got to run, jump and get out a lot of energy. They played a running game, jumped in a huge air castle that had slides, climbing areas and places to jump. Then they played in a room with a wall length trampoline, monkey bars, uneven bars, balance beam, and a cool rope swing into a foam pit. The kids loved it and had a great time!

The party was for one of Rhiannon's friends who she has known since she was 16 months old. It was a good day. We finished listening to Pinocchio on tape on the way home and then let the kids watch the Disney film tonight. They enjoyed the story. We talked about the differences between the book and film as well.

Hope your weekend was good.


Ciaran's Frog Birthday Party

Today we celebrated Ciaran's 4th birthday with his friends. We had an excellent and fun birthday party at a nature preserve. For a bit over an hour we spent time with a naturalist. She began by showing the kids pictures of frogs and toads they might find in Minnesota and pointed out the ones that we might hear today. Then using a puppet she asked about the life cycle of a frog and how it changes from a tadpole to a frog. They colored frog masks and then looked at some other puppets of animals they might find out around the preserve.

We went into a classroom and the kids sat in a circle and got to see a snapping turtle and touch a shell but not the actual turtle. Then they each had an opportunity to touch a rather large snake. Then the part Ciaran could hardly wait for they got to see and touch a Cope's Tree Frog! The naturalist held the frog but let each child touch it as she talked a bit about the frog. Then she brought out the toad and let it hop all around. The kids had an opportunity to touch that one as well. Then she fed the toad live mealworms and we got to watch how the toad goes about catching his prey. It was a slow moving toad and eventually he ate the worms. The kids really enjoyed this part of the party.

Then we all bundled up and headed outdoors. It was just above freezing here in Minnesota today! Here we postponed his birthday party in hopes of warmer weather and more frogs being out and today is the coldest day we have had in a long time! Still the kids did not miss a beat and we headed outside bundled up. The kids went on a frog hunt. Since it was too cold for a real frog hunt they had placed pictures of frogs on popsilce sticks around the trail and the kids had an opportunity to find them. Each child found one and at certain points we would stop to listen and try to hear the frogs and birds.

There was a really neat playpark at this preserve - instead of a traditional playground it was designed to be like the habitat of certain animals. There were too trees that had a bridge running between them and a giant slide that showed a woodpecker habitat, some flowers that the kids could climb around on for bees, some big eyes that looked like dragonfly eyes, some lily pads for the kids to hop on like frogs, a mole tunnel to climb through and a beaver dam. It was a very neat and fun place for them to play. They finished up their time with the naturalist as she sang Five Speckled Frogs to them and acted it out with some frog props.

After the tour/class part was over we went inside for cake (a yummy ice cream and traditional cake mix from Cold Stone decorated with frogs of course! Everything we had was green from the tablecloth, plates, napkins to the juice boxes and gift bags and it was that bright lime green that makes you think of frogs. Even majority of the flowers in Ciaran's homemade birthday flower crown were green carnations.

After cake Ciaran opened presents and he got some truly great gifts. I was amazed at how much frog stuff people were able to find and how he did not get any repeats or anything we already had and it was all really neat!

One friend made him a wooden box painted green with green frogs on it and a collection of different plastic frogs inside sorted by type. Two other friends made him a really neat and soft frog pillow to go on his bed. He received a cool frog hat, bug collecting kit, books and a gift card for more books, star wars action figures, the game Guess Who, a frog swing for his swingset and a cool lily pad leaf to go over his bed and make his top bunk into a fort. He was excited by everything. For gift bags the theme of course was frogs and we got a fair amount of good stuff from Oriental Trading Company which the kids seemed to like.

Unfortunately I included a noisemaker which was a frog face with a noise blower through the mouth as the toungue. It was a big and LOUD hit. At one point one of the mothers took out her cell phone and recorded the kids all blowing their noisemakers so we could hold onto this beautiful moment and think about it as we sent all those kids home with loud noisy things. It was done in good fun, though I did feel bad for the loud noisemakers.

A nice bonus for us as parents: there was a definate end time, minimum cleanup on our part and no mess at our own home! The party seemed to be a hit with everyone kids and parents alike, but most importantly Ciaran truly had a great time and it was perfect for him. It was a day and party to remember and I am glad that two of his grandparents were able to attend his birthday party, a difficult feat for long distance families like our own.

I would recommend checking your local nature preserve or local parks to see if they offer birthday parties like this. I highly recommend it. For those of you in the Twin Cities that nature preserves in the Three Rivers district do provide these and they are worth any drive you may need to make.


Ciaran's Birthday Crown

We started a family tradition with Ciaran's first birthday. We make a flower crown for each of our kids each year on their birthday. This makes me wish I posted pictures of my kids here because Ciaran looked so cute in his this year. We of course found green flowers for him. But you can sort of get the feel through this picture.


April 23, 2005

Butterfly Craft

This is a project we have to do the next time we do the butterfly life cycle. From Mudpies and Paint.


April 22, 2005

Classical Education on a Budget?

From the Online Homeschool convention over at Spunky's I found this gem Can I Provide a First Classical Education on a Coach Budget?.

Obviously we agree with much of what she says, except I prefer Miquon for the math.


Interesting Post

It is always interesting to me what I find in my blog stats, every once in awhile I find a great new site or post. Today I found this post that is worth the read over at The AnnaMatrix.

She went to a a public school meeting and found out that her decisions to homeschool were supported by nearly everything they said you shoudl do. Sounds like she is coming to believe in Charlotte Mason.


Happy Earth Day

Go pick up some trash from your neighborhood, visit a recycling center and tear apart six pack plastic pieces. Then check out some of these sites. From these sites I am sure you can pull together your own Earth Day Lesson Plan.

Earth Day-- Lots of ways to celebrate Earth Day

EPA Earth Day

Earth Day Crafts

Environmental Protection Agency site for kids

EPA recycling - activities for kids.

Earth 911

NASA Destination Earth

Alliant Energy - provides information on recycling and energy conservation for kids.

Earth Care radio programs. All about caring for our environment.

Grandparent Visit

Blogging has been lighter than normal as we are truly enjoying a visit from the grandparents. One of the difficult things of having moved so often is that we have nearly always lived far from family. My parents still live in New York, Serona's in Maine and we live in Minnesota. But typically twice a year we get to spend time together and then everything else stops pretty much. That time is now with my folks from New York.

Yesterday we had a field trip planned with our homeschool support group to the Como Conservatory and Zoo in St Paul. However, the kids made it clear that they really just wanted to spend the day with grandma and grandpa. So we did. We went and visited their hotel and then headed to the Mall of America.

While not my favorite place in the world it may be my kids and husbands so I have learned to adapt. It also helps that we rarely ever actually shop when we go to the mall. This visit of course was all about Legoland and Camp Snoopy (the indoor amusement park). Grandma and Grandpa bought tickets and the kids each ended up on 5 rides (the frog hopper, fast cars, trucks, airplanes and the snoopy air bounce jumper. We shared funnel cakes, pretzels and lunch at the crepestand. They built and raced cars and legoland, played a ball toss carnival game and just had an all around good time. Sirah even rode on the merry-go-round with grandpa. It was a good day overall.

When we came home Serona took the three kids to a nearby pond to hear the frogs, and see the ducks, geese and yesterday a muskrat. They hiked around while my mother and I made dinner and my father caught up on some work. We had a nice family dinner and family dancetime and then off to bed for stories a bedtime. A long but fun day.


Online Homeschool Convention

Spunky's Homeschool did a great job pulling together an online convention of wise homeschoolers like yourself so we can all learn from one another. I tried to post this yesterday which was day one of the convention but I could not get blogger to work anytime I tried. Still I will not complain it is a free service that makes my life and this blog possible.

So make a cup of tea and spend plenty of time over at Spunky's Homeschool Convention.


April 19, 2005

Free Ice Cream!!!!!

Yum! Not often you hear that. Better still, free Ben and Jerry's! Visit your nearest Ben and Jerry's today between 12-8pm for a free ice cream cone for everyone! We just returned from ours! Yum


Online Homeschool Convention

Please visit Spunky Homeschool's Online Homeschool Convention, add a submission by tonight and then enjoy reading all those posted as we continue to learn from one another.


Rhia Poem - Hearts Are Like Doors

this is an audio post - click to play

National Frog Month

In honor of April as National Frog Month I thought I would share some of the frogs around our home. As regular readers know frogs are Ciaran's passion and we have embraced that passion and gone with it. The whole family keeps an eye out for frogs, goes to the pond to listen to frogs and even decorated Ciaran's room with a frog theme. I will post some pictures of Ciaran's room. It is hard to get the full impression here as each wall is done with frogs on it but you can get the general idea.

Some places for some good frog resources. Type frog into my search box on top and you will get a variety of results from SCHOOL@HOME (including lesson ideas, book lists, and more), visit Family Crafts, First School, Enchanted Learning, and NC Wise Owl for more results.


Frog Bedroom

Ciaran's Bedroom


Matching Curtains and Bedding

First Toad of the Season

Courtesy of Grandma and Grandpa in Maine

April 17, 2005

MACHE conference overview

Overall I had a great time and learned quite a bit. Some sessions I attended I knew much of the material already, yet oftentimes the presenter was able to offer me some great insight I needed to hear when I was not expecting it. I was able to get something out of every session I attended, even when I was not so sure I would. Some of course were better than others for me. I probably gained the most out of Diana Waring's presentations, especially her Elements of a Biblical Education, as her style and information really clicked with mine and I appreciated her energy.

David Hazell's marching around the room as the worksheet Gestapo and then getting down on his knees as the worksheet Santa Claus may be the image that most sticks in my mind from the conference and probably brought the greatest laughs as it hit us all directly to the heart. SM Davis had some excellent points about anger I needed to hear but the overall speech was extremely difficult for me because I was so distracted by his presentation style. I found myself feeling like I was sitting in Johnathen Edward's pew.

Connie Swan's "How to Begin" class was mostly review for me but from her I got the important points to keep my homeschooling fun and to start my day every day with blessing my children. She also brought home the reality that my cute, loving and needy son will all too soon turn into a "prickly porcupine" and not want my affection or touch.

Karen Bryant and John Tuma's presentation on the law and homeschooling was a very important one to attend. It was encouraging to see them teaching about the differences between an online government funded education such as K-12 or other online virtual academy's that market themselves as homeschooling and independent homeschooling which most of us do. While there are some benefits and advantages to government funded online education programs they are different from home educating as you give up your control over curriculum, testing and most everything when you accept their "free" computer and curriculum. This is an important legal battle we all need to be ready for.

Of course beyond all the wonderful speakers I got to see there were many others. There were also a great deal of vendors there. I was excited that I did not have this overwhelming urge to purchase everything and anything as I feared I might. I went with a 50 dollar budget for supplies and books and I spent 49.00. Of course for me the worst temptation is not the shiny new curriculums but the used book sales with all those great old friends marked down so cheaply they practically beg me to take them home. I was strong. I did buy quite a few but tried to find things we truly were looking for before or would love and use regularly.

I must admit I almost got sucked into buying a new curriculum for next year. David Hazell from My Father's World gave a compelling presentation and more importantly the materials are quite good. Had I not already had good materials that I really like for next year I very likely would have bought it. I will consider it for second or third grade. The program offers the convenience of a prepackaged curriculum with an emphasis on Charlotte Mason, Classical Education and unit studies. I really was impressed with the schedule and much of what I read and found at the booth. The only thing I did purchase was their First Grade Bible History Reader which according to their website:

"Using a thematic approach, Bible history from Genesis to Revelation is the focus of this learning adventure. Phonics lessons develop the needed skills to read Bible stories from our Bible Reader. Students retell (narrate) the Bible story and create a lovely keepsake Bible Notebook in which they summarize and illustrate Bible stories. Weekly memory verses selected from Proverbs help strengthen handwriting skills as well as biblical character."

This reader actually is very nice and the art notebook they did along with it excellent. I really loved it and think it will make a nice addition to our homeschool program for next year. But I did not let myself purchase the entire 1st grade package as I have so much of that covered already and I still do not know how I would feel being boxed in like that. Though for those still looking - especially for 2nd-8th grade it is appealing. I was less impressed with the K and 1st grade packages.

There were many wonderful people I met as I sat in the rooms waiting for the sessions to start. So many interesting conversations and so many interesting stories and people. I am glad I met so many of you and look forward to getting to know you better. Feel free to leave me an email or comment here. I was exciting to meet some people who actually read what I write, Hi Laur! I learn so much from each of you as together we walk this homeschool adventure.

All in all MACHE was very refreshing for me. As time permits I will review the different sessions I attended but for now know that it reminded me to loosen up some and get back to a love of learning. Sometimes I think we all get into worksheet slumps or academic battles, the spring time is a perfect time to cure ourselves of that and get outside more, enjoy our kids, enjoy our lives, enjoy our homeschooling adventure.

Remember homeschooling is about educating our children, their whole body, mind and spirit. Recall the reasons why you chose to homeschool and evaluate whether you are achieving those goals. Are your kids eyes lighting up, are they asking for more? Are you all having fun atleast some of the time? Let's get back to the passion of home educating and enjoy our families and our time to learn and grow together.


Lampworking Field Trip

We had a great field trip last week. We went to see a woman who makes glass beads in her home studio. Serona works with a man whose wife does lampworking, which is the art of making glass beads. It was a very interesting and fun field trip for the kids. We arrived at her home and she welcomed us with homemade chocolate chip cookies! Then she showed the kids and moms all the beads and some jewelry she had made. The kids were able to sit down and look carefully through her glass bead collection and Ciaran fell in love with a poison dart frog bead she had. If it was not $45.00 we might have left there with it.

We then went down into her studio and she explained all her equipment. This trip may have even been more interesting for the moms than it was for the kids! We learned about how she uses an oxygen and propane tank and how they combine together and make a blue flame which she uses to melt the glass. She showed us her mandrel rod that she melts the materials onto and let the kids touch the unproccesed glass rods, she had many colors to chose from. She also showed them the kiln and some other materials she uses.

She put on her special safety glasses and demonstrated how to make a simple bead in one color. She showed how she warms up the rod and warms up the glass rod and then how she sowly turns it in the flame around the mandrel rod to get the bead formed. Then she put it into the kiln to dry. She them demonstrated how to make a multiple color and different shaped bead and ended with showing them how to make a multi-colored flower bead. It was fascinating for all of us and she made it look so easy.

Then she took the kids into another room and showed them how she removed the cooled beads (cooled 24 hours in the kiln) from the mandrel rods and how to clean the gunk out of the hole the rod made.

We went upstairs and each child and mom received three glass beads she made and an unlimited number of little beads to string together their own bracelet. Each child made a unique bracelt and sadly to say I was the clumsiest and ahd to restart mine three times as I dropped all the beads off of it. Of course I was wearing Sirah in a backpack and trying to help Ciaran and Rhia so you would think I would cut myself some slack. But I honestly think I am just a klutz in that area. About the only crafty thing I am good at is crocheting, but it still was fun and even I eventually finished mine.

Some of the families bought some jewely from her and she showed us how she makes rings out of her bigger beads as one of the moms picked out a bead and had her make it into a cool sunflower ring. Had the kids all been older she would have allowed them to try making a bead but we had many younger children with us.

The moms decided we need to set up a moms trip there where just we can sit down and try to learn how to make beads one at a time and where we can sit down and make nice necklaces or bracelets without the kids climbing all over us.

If you can find a lampworker in your area - do this field trip! A glass jewelry field trip is a great idea. It was fun, interesting and easy for all ages. I highly recommend being able to make a piece of take home jewelry if at all possible as I think that made it more real to the kids as well.

We prepared by reading some of the following sites and followed up with some of the others. Not enough to do a full lampworking lesson plan but a good start.

How to Make Glass Beads

Lampworking Overview

Lampworking Tools

Pictures of glass beads


April 16, 2005

Welcome MACHE friends

Welcome all who are visiting for the first time finding this site at the recent MACHE conference in Rochester. I just arrived home and am catching up with the family! I will get to reviews of the conference and updates Sunday and Monday. In the meantime browse around, be sure to check out the Favorite Lessons, Family Reading Lists, Field Trips, and archives on the sidebar.

Thanks for checking out the site and be sure to leave comments!


April 13, 2005

Masterpiece Art Resource

Here is an art website that offers kits for purchase and also some nice Free Art Projects, which provide step by step instructions to create projects such as this:

And this:

Be sure to check it out. I got this website from one of my homeschool lists where it came recommended.


Charlotte Mason Resource

I have mentioned it before but as I get geared up for next year's lessons I worked through this site again and needed to share it. Be sure to check out Ambleside Online. This is an excellent resource especially for those interested in a Charlotte Mason style education. The book lists alone are great. It is a free curriculum designed year by year with many free online resources, including links to many free etexts of great older books.

Rhiannon and I will be beginning Year 1 of this program next year. I wanted to start this year but took their advice and waited a year. We have already read several of the books but reading them again will be good. We also already follow a classical music/art/nature study schedule but will fall into theirs. Definitely worth reading and plan to spend some time there.


Daily Roundup

Math, copywork and reading for Rhiannon. Family reading time. Ciaran played with file folder games for shapes, colors, numbers 1-10, opposites and rhyming. Sirah and I just played and she was interested in books quite a bit yesterday. Her current favorite appears to be Goodnight Moon, she loves the chairs the three little bears sit on.

For the first time I think ever Rhiannon chose not to listen when I was reading a story out loud. She was working on her present for Ciaran, a latch hook rug, and decided to continue with that rather than stop to listen. I read "A Birthday for Frances" to Ciaran and Sirah. Ciaran informed me that "Mom, you are no good at the acting parts. Daddy is good at the acting parts" I was able to laugh at it because well he is right. I probably should not even try different voices when we read as I am not so good at it. I will leave that to Serona, but as I read to them the most I do try to keep it interesting. I think they appreciate the way I read and the inflection and tones I use, they just don't like when I try to make up voices. Well because I am not consistent and I am a terrible actor. Of course I am held to a much higher standard because they take Serona's wonderful talent for granted. Not realizing most kids do not have a stage actor living with them to act out their storybooks!

We also did a mini project on Goldilocks and the Three Bears. We read the story and then made paper stick puppets and a house. The kids cut out three beds, chairs and bowls of porridge of varying sizes and retold the story with the props. Ciaran practiced sorting from smallest to largest and we talked a bit about comparisons. Some of the Goldliocks and the Three Bears resources we used can be found at First School's Goldilocks and the Three Bears Lesson Plan.

Serona surprised us all by coming home early with flowers for each of us. We had a nice family dinner and the kids had individual little bear cakes (special cake tins) for dessert and told Dad about the story they learned over dinner. This was a bit young for Rhiannon but it is good for her to do things with her brother that are targeted at him from time to time.

I even got in a two mile walk, most of the house picked up and the new blog up. Thanks Serona for the basic three column template that I just had to modify colors, sizing and text for. Some of you may recognize the format from Serona's site over at C Y B E R::E C O L O G Y.


April 12, 2005

New Look - Same Content

Well I finally decided to do something about the unweilding sidebar I have had for two years so I have gone to a three column format with smaller font for the links. I cleaned up the sidebar some so if I missed someone please leave a note here or email and I will be sure to add you back in. If you weren't on before but want to be drop me a note as well.

Overall I think the new layout will work well - more content in an easier format - but as with anything new it will have bugs and take time. Please let me know if the page looks funny or does funny things on your browsers. I have tested it in IE, Mozilla and Firefox. But I have the most recent of these and may not be able to tell if it is doing weird things in other versions or browsers.

Thank you to all of you who read this blog. I can hardly believe that I have over 400 visitors a day now! Feel free to leave feedback.


April 11, 2005

Ciaran - Humpty Dumpty

this is an audio post - click to play

Rhiannon's Narration - Secret Garden

The Secret Garden

Once there was a little girl named Mary. She went into a secret garden. She had a maid named Martha. She found the key to the hidden garden buried. Mary had two friends. The first was Dickon who had animal friends and played the flute. Next, she found a friend in her cousin named Colin who thought he would be a hunchback but he wasn't. Colin got up and started to walk. They all worked together in the garden. Her uncle didn't care about children much and that's why he didn't really see her much. One day he went out to a bed of roses by the stream and feel asleep and in his dream - he dreamed about his dead wife. Colin took his father into the garden. They told him the whole story. He gave his son a hug.

Frog Resources

Ciaran spent a good portion of the morning with this Reptiles & Amphibians of Minnesota Field Guide by Stan Tekiela. The book comes with a great CD that teaches all the calls of the different species of frogs and toads in Minnesota. You can hear individuals and group calls. There is even a section where you can try to guess which frog call it is. I intend to make flash cards of actual photos of the frogs to use with this. I hihgly recommend it and Amazon's price is great.

I have been getting more requests for our frog resources so I am going to try to put it all together in one place - but it may take me awhile to track down all the frog books we have read, as it feels like we read several a week (though I know many of them by heart now).

A good place to start is with thisfrog lesson plan and this Frog Reading List I put together.

Don't forget to go to a nearby pond, marsh or other wet area to listen to the early chorus frogs and soon to see frog spawn. Or get some to raise at home, remembering that they take a long time to grow and the changes are much slower than raising butterflies.


April 9, 2005

Roomba Review - One Year Later

We have had Roomba for over a year now and I must say I still love it. For those of you unaware, Roomba is a robotic vacuum cleaner. Very little has changed since my intial Roomba review, which I recommend you read.

The prices have come down, the models have improved but the basic overview is the same. We have had to replace Roomba three times though in one year. I would recommend buying from Hammacher as they have an excellent return policy and outstanding customer service. The extra twenty dollars you pay today will be well worth it and far more valuable over the years to come.

You see Roomba is still new technology and she has bugs to work out. Yet Hammacher has replaced the unit twice for us now and they have won my loyalty as a customer because of it. Roomba may not be for everyone as it is still in the "early adopter" phase with some quirks. Yet where else can you get barefoot clean floors, and pet hair free carpet without pushing a vacuum cleaner yourself? All you need to do is remember to charge her battery and turn her on.

Roomba really does free up my time and make life easier. Tonight she vacuumed my kitchen and dining room while we went for a family walk. She vacuums my entry way each day and picks up all the sand, pea gravel and other junk that comes in. She picks up my dogs hair and clears out the dustbunnies under the beds and couches. I would recommend her without hesitation as long as you are the kind of person willing to deal with the quirks of new technology. Be sure to read my intial review.


My Reward Board

We are currently beta testing "My Reward Board" program by the people who brought you the JumpStart computer series. I must admit I had my hesitations about the program - thinking it was too goofy to work but they have gotten so excited by it and are actually motivated by the "Star point" rewards. They have not actually even picked a "reward" yet but just get so excited about putting the smiley face on each completed task and gathering "star points".

I about fell over the other day when Ciaran came out and said "Mom, if I clean the bathroom can I get some extra star points?" They have been getting their chores done, and even offering to do extra. They have worked together, helped out with Sirah and just been more agreeable about cleaning. So I guess I have to give a thumbs up to the program.

Rhiannon asked how many star points they would need to earn and save to go to Disney Land? I keep trying to dodge that one for a few more years hoping to only go once when all of them will remember and enjoy it. Rhiannon has friends that have gone and I know she would love it at this age especially given her love of all things princess.

Back to the reward system though. It always amazes me that kids get so excited over the littlest things. Stickers are a perfect example of this. A sticker as a reward is so exciting to them - yet it seems so small to us. Band-aids is another one of those areas that I forget how exciting that is to a young kid. We get so much mileage from a simple little sticker.

I must admit I was hesitant to use this reward system because I want them to understand that cleaning is part of their responsibilities and not always expect to get something in return for it - other than the pleasure of having a clean room. I have not yet seen them resist doing something without a reward so I am watching cautiously but so far it seems to have been a positive addition to our family.

I'll be sure to let you know when beta testing is done and the program is more widely available.


Day Outside

Today was a wonderful day of being outdoors. Rhiannon is having some difficulty sleeping and did not fall asleep until 2am last night. We watched Cheaper by the Dozen, read together and had some girl pillow talk. Needless to say by the end of the evening I was ready for bed and when Ciaran and Sirah awoke this morning I was not chipper to be around. Serona came to the rescue and took them out for an early morning walk around a nearby lake and then picked up Krispy Kreme donuts for a healthy family breakfast!

Rhiannon and I pulled ourselves out of bed around 11am! Then it was my turn with the kids as Serona worked on some county GOP business he needed to take care of. The kids and I played outside, we explored the yard collecting treasures. They climbed trees, rode their bike and scooter and just generally ran around.

Ciaran and I made a birdfeeder together with a two liter bottle and a prebought metal piece. We had quite a time getting the birdseed into the little hole. We made a makeshift funnel with some paper and it was slow going but we eventually got it done. He was very proud when he finished it.

The older kids went inside for some quite time and Sirah and I biked into town and picked up some groceries and video rentals. I was struggling on this bike ride I must admit. While it was beautiful and in the 70's today it was windy and hilly! I was so out of breath by the end. Pulling the trailer with Sirah and the groceries in it including three gallons of soymilk and a dozen oranges was harder work than I had anticipated. I'm just thankful I wasn't also pulling Ciaran this time.

While I made dinner the kids played in the backyard on the swingset - though they spent most of their time digging in the pea gravel and climbing up and down our hill. After dinner (soy dogs, mac and cheese, carrots and cranberry sauce) and cleanup we went to welcome some new neighbors with some cookies and then headed off on a walk. We went to a nearby pond in hopes of seeing the first frogs of the year but we are still a bit too early I think. The ice just finished melting off completely this week.

The kids enjoyed the walk though and we explored a little in a wooded area on a trail with some fallen trees. Then made a late night stop at the playground until it was too dark to see. The kids played some sort of lava tag game with some older kids in the neighborhood while Serona walked Sirah around the playarea. We got home and everyone was tired. Sponge baths, two stories and off to bed, the younger two asleep within minutes of laying their heads down.


April 7, 2005

PBS Deep Jungle Resource

Check out PBS's new Deep Jungle: New Frontierswebsite. It appears to have many great resources and can be used in parallel to their new jungle episodes.

Ciaran's favorite is of course the frogs.


Family Fun Jar

I've noticed an increase in the "Nothing to do" and "I'm bored" so we spent time today creating a family fun jar which we will pull ideas from when those words are uttered r we need something to do. We agree to stick with whatever is pulled first unless it is impossible due to weather or time constraints. This will be just as challenging for me as for the kids as I may not want to do what is pulled. There are both activities for the kids alone and for us as a family. Here is our current list


Play hide and go seek

10 minutes of dancing

Talk a walk to the park

Go to the pond and look for frogs

Bike to the beach

Build a block zoo

Paint a picture

Jump on the trampoline

Read a book

Play castle

Picking up garbage in neighborhood

Make cookies

Play aquarium

Chalk in the driveway

Exploring the fort

Nature walk and drawing

Block Hall of Fame (pictures)

Make a book

Write a story

Learn a new song

Write a letter/draw a picture to a family member

Scavenger Hunt

Musical Band

Put on a play

Puppet Show

Make a Me Bag - all about me

Go to the library


Yard work


Free art box time

Make bookmarks

Five speckled frogs

Musical Chairs

Ball in basket scramble

Play nemo game

Play nature bingo

Play go fish


Self portrait

Stiff as a statue

Racing laps in yard

Obstacle course

Build a fort

Have a picnic

Beanbag toss

Record a story

Kids take pictures

Flashlight safari

Soundbox hunt

Smelling activity

Tasting Activity

Touching activity

Watching ants

Trace shadows

Ice Painting - ice cube on cement

Pillow Course

Take a Bath

Wash windows


Contact Paper Nature Collage

Simon says

Who are we game - dress up

Give babies a bath

Play vetrenarian

PLay restuarant

Tea party

Make megaphones (toddler play book)

Ribbon dancing

Nature sorting (leaves, acorns, in own brown bag)


Animal acting

Play house

Water the garden

Verse Off

Building a bear cave

10 in the bed

Make a coupon book

Car painting/car wash

Wash dishes

Hokey pokey

Lincoln log cabins

Lego tower contest

Follow the yellow brick road (yarn)

Walk the plank - "pirates"

Stepping stones with blocks

Jumping Jacks

Jump Rope

Blow Bubbles

Jack be nimble


cutting game

Act out favorite story


April 6, 2005

Where I Blog

This is the computer I most often use throughout the day. It is where I most often blog, check news, keep up with email and listen to music. The monitor is a wall mounted flat screen and we have a wirless keyboard and remote that generally is always on the island in our kitchen. The box is in a cabinet under our kitchen counter.

Our kitchen is the center of our home. We have an open floor plan so our kitchen, dining room and living room flow together nicely and our kitchen is at the center of it. When Serona encouraged me to get a flat screen and wireless I resisted, now I am so thankful I am married to a techie who just insisted.

I LOVE having my computer in my kitchen and highly recommend it if at all possible for you. I keep my recipes, all my music and main records there. Google is a click away and we so often school at our dining table which you can see the computer monitor from and use the keyboard from. It truly is a sweet setup and I am blessed.


Finding a Gem

A coffeshop in our area has a book exchange, leave a book - take a book. Sometimes I am quite lucky there. I usually leave behind children's books as we have so many. Last week I found what I consider a gem, that I am guessing many overlooked. I found a copy of "The Rainbow Dictionary" by Wendell Wright. You can find used copies of this ranging from two to fifteen dollars on ebay and alibris.

This book was published in 1947. It has all the classic feel of an old school reader, think Dick and Jane. The pictures are drawn like that and some of the language or definitions may be outdated. Yet Rhiannon has been reading it for days now - just reading the dictionary straight. It is written in a storylike way to present short facts about each word. Here are some examples:

All- All of this cake is here.
Every bit of this cake is here. (with a picture of a whole cake)

This cake is not all here. Part of this cake is gone. (picture of partial cake)

I gave Donall of my marbles.
I gave Don every one of my marbles.

Leather - Leather is madefrom the skin of an animal. My shoes are made of leather. Some coats are made of leather. Daddy's belt is made of leather.

Rhiannon has really enjoyed reading this and it is the first book she picks up during her school reading time. The other day she brought it to the doctors office with us and increased our weirdness factor in the doctors eyes (already pretty high I imagine). The doctor asked what she was reading and Rhiannon said "The dictionary" and the doctor said "Well not my first choice or favortie but are you learning a lot of interesting facts?"

It was especially fun to find because it was free.


April 5, 2005

Spring Moments

Those first few days of true spring are often difficult to get book schooling in so we generally don't bother. When the weather hits 70 and the ice melts off the lakes and the days and evenings are beautiful it seems everything else can and should and therefore does wait.

We walk to the ponds and the local nature preserves. We listen for the early bird calls and hear the first frogs. We walk slowly, smile alot, run when we can and enjoy a few days of bug free heat free wonderful outdoor time. After being cooped up indoors for so very much of the winter we simply exist outside.

The kids never want to come in and they find new things to do outside. They beg to eat outside, they start asking when we can go camping and sleep outside. We fill the bird feeders, we play at the park, we run in our backyard, we swing in the hammock, tire swing and on the swings. We climb up and slide down over and over again until we can no longer count how many times we have.

These are the moments that have made up our past four days and everything else can simply wait. Rhiannon is motivated to be outside so she is willing to get dressed and do some work briefly after breakfast as long as the promise of the outdoors for the rest of the day follows. We typically manage to get copywork, math and reading in on days like these. But we learn so much about nature, weather, animals, flowers and we make up for all the PE time we lost during the winter.

Everyone smiles more, laughs more and feels better. They even sleep better. Somehow the house stays cleaner - or maybe we just care less. Enjoy these fleeting moments of early spring wherever you are.


Thanks to you...

Thank you to all who read my blog. When I started this two years ago I never thought I would have anyone who actually wanted to read it. Yet my hit counter yesterday registered 385 visitors for the day! Far from the millions other sites get but astonishing to me all the same.

I have enjoyed blogging and hopefully my kids will enjoy reading it someday as they look back on all we did. I enjoy reading many of your blogs and it is hard to believe I have been doing this for nearly two years now! Thanks for reading.


April 4, 2005

Work by Rhiannon

This is Rhiannon's poem memorization and presentation of Work by Anonymous.
this is an audio post - click to play

"The Caterpillar" by Rhiannon

Rhiannon's poem memorization and presentation of the poem "The Caterpillar" by CHristina Rossetti.
this is an audio post - click to play

Rhiannon Ties Shoes

Rhiannon learned to tie her shoes this week. She got a new pair of sneakers with laces and she has spent this week trying to learn. She learned quickly and without much difficulty. She is very excited.


Ciaran's Head

Well we just returned from our first ER visit of the year, this time with Ciaran. He got 6 stitches, 2 internal and 4 external on his forehead. The sad part is he was not doing anything crazy. It did not happen on his scooter (though he has taken quite a few big falls), it didn't happen on the monkey bars or doing something crazy or wrong. No, in fact he was doing something good when it happened.

Tonight we were eating dinner outside on our deck as it was lovely out. He was helping clear the dishes and bring everything inside when he tripped over the entry way door and fell head first into our very big hardwood bench. Serona ran to him to comfort him and he was trying to calm him down when I noticed the blood covering Serona's shoulder.

After we cleaned up the blood and examined it - it became clear that he would be needing stitches. Of course on a Sunday evening the only place to go is the emergency room. So off we headed, with a damp cloth held to his head for the pressure.

We dropped the girls off at a good friends house on the way to the ER and then entered a room full of people. We were told it was unlikely we would be seen for atleast three hours and we would be lucky to be out by midnight. Thankfully God answered our prayers and we were seen much faster than that.

I have to praise Ciaran - he was amazing. He was so brave and patient and an overall excellent patient especially for being only 4 years old! He brought his stuffed frog Sally Coselli with him and everyone got a kick out of his frog and the fact that Ciaran named him that himself just by thinking it up himself. The hospital we were at was actually great with him. We have been there several times over the course of the past 4 years and everytime we come away impressed and amazed and thankful for excellent and understanding health care.

How many hospitals will give an admittance bracelet to a stuffed frog and bandage the frog as well? How many hospitals will have a teacher come in to show thepatient what will happen before it happens and then give them playdoh and a movie to help distract them? How many hospitals are filled with upbeat, energetic and fun staff that keep your child in good spirits? We are blessed with one and I am so thankful.

Ciaran was charming all the staff though. They were amazed at the things he said and how calm and patient he was. He was talkative and in good spirits and his passion for frogs and the color green was apparent. They kept looking for green things for him from bandages to gloves to the color of his robe, even the playdoh they found for him. He really appreciated it and kept getting excited.

At one point he about bowled me over. He was telling them he was a teacher too. Recently when he had his annual heart exam - the cardiologist asked Ciaran if he would let some new cardiologists and some students listen to his heart to see if they could figure out what congential heart defect he had. He happily complied and then they told him he was a teacher too, because he taught those students about his heart. So tonight at the ER he told the nurses and doctors that he was a teacher - he taught about his special heart. When they asked him why his heart was special he said "Because that is the way God made my heart, he made me special" and you could see the doctor and nurses reactions. Then he turned to the EMT who was holding his head still and said "And God made you too." It was very sweet and everyone was taken aback, including me.

Tonight I was reminded of what an amazing little boy Ciaran is. He is charming and funny and has a great smile. He is smart and precocious, and just genuine. He is very patient and can sit still when he needs to and was very brave and tough tonight. When the nurse was digging to see how deep his gash was I was amazed - it was quite deep and they had to do two layers of stitches. Other than the intial crying when it first happened he had been brave, quiet, calm and obedient the entire rest of the night even though this clearly must have still hurt. I was in awe of my little boy.

Somewhere in the past year he has grown up so very much it is amazing. He is still a little boy for sure but he is also able to be quite old for his age when he needs to be. On the drive home I sat in the backseat with him holding his hand until he fell asleep. Three was an age of being both a baby and a little boy - it seems now at four he is much more about being a little boy. I can still see the young in him though from time to time.

Tonight though he was a trooper, he did not cry, fuss or fight at anything the doctors, nurses, or even his parents told him to do. He simply followed instruction without complaint. He waited patiently for a long time in the waiting room while we read books to him. He said a prayer of thankfullness when the nurse found the movie he wanted to watch. He was extremely polite saying "excuse me", "please" and "thank you" almost without fail. He was in good spirits and easy to be around despite the deep gash in his forehead. I am so proud of him.


April 3, 2005

Family Bike Ride

We spent the afternoon on a family bike ride. It was our first outing of the year and it was Sirah's first bike ride ever. It was also Rhiannon's first big bike ride on her own. Serona towed Ciaran and Sirah in the bike trailer. Rhiannon rode her two wheeler. We rode to a nearby lake and playground and the kids played for awhile. Then we rode home. She even managed to do the hills well. This should be the beginning of a spring and summer of biking.

Biking is an activity that I really enjoy, yet today was my first time on a bike since I was pregnant with Sirah. I find I can't ride well when pregnant as my center of gravity is all off. Then Sirah was not old enough to ride in our bike trailer last summer. Now we are back to biking and I anticipate a nice summer of that.

We are enjoying our near 70 degree weather. Hope you are enjoying yours wherever you are.


Star Wars Weekend

In case you are unaware, the new action figures, toys, and more for the upcoming Star Wars Episode III: Return of the Sith are out. They came out at midnight on Friday and we have already spent way too much money on action figures to go into Serona's collection box still sealed and this time some to open for the kids to play with.

The kids have been playing with them on and off for the past two days. Rhiannon especially enjoys the female Jedi's (Shak-Ti, Luminara, and Aayla), Mon Mothma and pregnant Padme. Ciaran most enjoys Anakin and Obi-wan Kenobi. They also play with Yoda and the droids.

Allowing these action figures was a struggle for me. We have kept out all rescue heroes, spiderman, justice league and all the other boy action figures. I have kept Barbie out and was a bit hesitant at first as these are not our typical toys. Yet Star Wars holds a special place in our family and our kids seem to grasp the different between reality and not. We have decided to allow them and embrace them and play with them together as a family.

This is a passion of Serona's that he has passed on to the kids. When we got married I had a decision to make I could either embrace Star Wars or forever hate it. I chose to embrace it and we have made it a part of our family fun. We even went to Celebration II, a star wars convention with all of us in full costume. We took the kids to the midnight opening of Episode II and everyone has a homemade costume.

It is a fun part of who we are and I look forward to the next release and what fun we will have with that. We are currently investigating making an Imperial Royal Guard costime for me for this year. Serona has a great homemade Jedi costume that is very authentic that he made for C2 at the release of EPII.

Visit your local toy department and pick up some Star Wars toys for your family.


April 1, 2005

Ciaran's ABC's

this is an audio post - click to play


This is one of Rhiannon's favorite pieces of copywork - unfortunately Sirah found it and drew all over it. I decided to still post it as it does show excellent writing for Rhiannon and as a bonus you get to see Sirah's drawing.

Rhiannon's Copywork

Rain Go Away
Jelly Bean Prayer

Preschoolers On Strike!

Preschoolers On Strike!
Tots Abandon Circle Time - Demand Lap Time!

Friday, April 1, 2005 Posted: 9:48 AM EST (1448 GMT)

Washington, D.C. (UP) -- In a show of solidarity, preschool students
throughout the country refused to go to preschool today, demanding
more time at home with mom and dad. Tired of being prematurely
pushed out their homes and into classrooms where regimented academic
instruction has stunted their intellectual, social, and emotional
development, tiny tots utilized a nationwide "Tantrum-In" at 9:00 AM
EST to get their message across to their parents loud and clear.

"Stop the preschool hype!" one pint-sized demonstrator shouted as he
hurled his sippy cup across the kitchen. "Don't you know that there
is overwhelming scientific evidence that I learn better through
imaginative play right here at home, with you?"

Today's incident came just two days after the RAND Corporation
released a report that suggests public universal preschool programs
for all would return between $2 and $4 in benefits for every dollar
expended. The militant activist group "Tykes On Trikes" insists the
findings are skewed, biased, and paid for by organizations that
stand to gain from institutionalizing little kids, such as teacher's

A spokestoddler for the group went so far as to claim
that, "Publicly funded universal preschool for all programs are a
feat of social engineering to groom human resources for corporate
profit." Citing studies compiled by Stanford University's Hoover
Institution research fellow, Mary Eberstadt, in her book, Home Alone
America, the diminutive representative warned
that, "Institutionalizing young children can damage them
psychologically, emotionally, socially and physically. That damage
to children extends to the society at large. Collective research
from child development and brain research experts provides
overwhelming scientific evidence that contradicts the distortions
prevalent in the popular media that preschool is the best place for
young children. The experts have concluded that a nurturing home
life full of imaginative play will foster initiative, intellectual
curiosity, social empathy, and self-esteem resulting in a happy
child with a life-long love of learning."

One mom, distraught after her child smeared bubble gum all over her
school clothes and hair, called 911 for advice. A rescue team was
dispatched with peanut butter to clean up the goo. Reporters,
alerted to the dispatch, requested an interview with the tiny
demonstrator who said, "Preschool is a stupid, boring waste of my
time. I just want to stay home and read storybooks cuddled in my
mommy's lap." With tear-filled eyes, the mother cut short the
question-and-answer session saying, "Thank you all for coming, but
I'm going to read to my daughter now."

Parents all over the country reported similar incidents of
disgruntled tots refusing to attend preschool. After a morning of
reading stories, going for walks in the neighborhood, talking and
baking cookies together one parent commented, "I had forgotten how
much fun it is to spend time with my child. Her natural curiosity
drove our morning -- we read, learned about nature on our walk, and
I even taught her about measurement when we were baking! Maybe she
doesn't need public preschool after all."

Members of the more moderate group, Preschoolers Uncomfortable with
Preschool (PUP), staged a small, impromptu group tantrum at a local
park in one suburban city today. Children refused to share their
sandbox toys until their parents agreed they didn't have to go to
preschool today. PUP representatives Kaitlyn and Ethan, applauded
the parents decision not to invoke disciplinary measures against the

PUP also issued a written statement complimenting parents for
their "graciousness" in dealing with today's demonstrations. They
advised parents to get more information about how to encourage a
love of learning in the first five years of life by visiting the
brand new website: www.UniversalPreschool.com.

They also announced the first annual "Parents Play with Preschoolers
at Home Day" that will take place on Friday, April 15th.
Traditionally income tax filing day, PUP representatives chose the
day to protest tax dollars being spent on government mandated and/or
funded preschool-for-all programs. Said one young protestor, "I
encourage all of my fellow tax deductions to stay home and play and
learn with their parents on April 15th."

Parents can get free, fun activities they can do with their
preschooler every day of the year that encourage a love of learning
in the first five years of life by visiting:
www.UniversalPreschool.com. This continuously updated collection of
innovative games and activities that teach while they entertain not
only helps children develop academic readiness skills, but more
importantly, the activities will help parents learn how to use the
universe as a preschool, so that their children will grow up to be
successful, well-adjusted, happy adults.

In addition to the wonderful games you can use to celebrate "Parents
Play with Preschoolers At Home Day," UniversalPreschool.com provides
answers and alternatives to help parents, educators, and policy
makers make educational choices that are in the best interests of
young children.

Explore the research, read the articles, take action, and enjoy the
activities with your children that will help them develop their full
potential. UniversalPreschool.com's goal is to help parents make a
better universe, one child at a time, beginning April 15th
with "Parents Play with Preschoolers at Home Day." No foolin'! :)

"Reprinted with permission of the author, Diane Flynn Keith, Copyright 2005,