April 30, 2007

One Never Knows...

We have a kind of family motto - a way we answer the kids questions "Where are we going?" or "What are we doing?" or any other question about upcoming activites - we have been saying it since they were little. We always respond with "One never knows what this crazy clan will do!" We say that and sometimes we are just running boring errands and sometimes we are going to Disney World. We say it when we they ask and our desitination is the library or when it is an all day drive just to reach the nearest state because we can. The thing is this family motto sometimes leads us to be spontaneous.

This weekend was beautiful perfect weather, the kind to truly be cherished in Minnesota for the brief period of time that it lasts. Saturday morning Serona had political work to do and in the afternoon I had a book discussion group. The book we are discussing is great for conversation starters Crunchy Cons: How Birkenstocked Burkeans, gun-loving organic gardeners, evangelical free-range farmers, hip homeschooling mamas, right-wing nature lovers, ... America (or at least the Republican Party), by Rod Dreher. We had a great first meeting. We sat outside in the beautiful sunshine for 3 hours talking about a great variety of topics of interest to me. I got sunburn but enjoyed an afternoon with friends, good conversation and sunshine. Serona and the kids did some much needed yardwork while I was gone.

I returned and found them enjoying some lemonade in our yard. The kids were biking and playing in the yard and Serona and I were laying on the grass looking at the blue sky and enjoying the weather, the kids came over and wrestled with us and we were having a great time being outside as a family. Suddenly Serona and I decided it would be a great weekend to go camping. We went back and forth a bit because it was already after 4pm on a Saturday but then we just decided it would really be fun and worth it. So I called around for a nearby campsite and Serona headed to the store to pick up a few things. The girls and I packed all our supplies and we all gathered our camping gear. We were ready in just little over an hour after making our decision to go. Pretty impressive for us especially since this was the first camping trip of the year with no pre-planning.

We made it to the campground, set up camp, ate dinner and played a bit in the nearby wooded area before sundown. We enjoyed a special evening together of roasting marshmallows, talking, sharing stories, singing songs and just being together. The weather was perfect and no bugs which is to be cherished here in Minnesota. The kids fell asleep around 9:30 and Serona and I stayed up and chatted around the fire and listened to the frog calls for a few more hours before heading to bed ourselves. We woke up with the birds of course and did a 5am bathroom break but somehow managed to convice the kids to stay in the tent until 7:01 when we got up and started the fire and breakfast and the days activities.

We had a really special prayer and bible time together. We read from the book of James and talked about taming the tongue. Each family member shared a positive thing they could do with their mouths and a bad habit they had that needed work on. We shared and then prayed for each other and made a commitment to work on those things together through the day. The kids had smores again for a snack and we headed out on a family hike.

We planned on a 2 mile hike around a nearby lake. We packed water and decided against carrying snacks as they had just eaten and it was a short walk. We apparently got on the wrong trail and we must need oreinteering classes because our map reading skills were pretty lacking! When we reached the 4 mile marker we became concerned about just how far we were going to have to go. We then realized it was going to be shorter to just continue on then to walk back - but not by much! We were in a position where we had no real choice but to continue on until we reached the end. Now we do hike and walk a bit but not this much all at once with our young children! Even that much just for me would be challenging, nevermind our 7 year old!

The kids were really great troopers. They were tired and their feet were getting sore but they were really good about not complaining. Here we found ourselves with a real challenge to test our commitments for the day since they included things like: not whining or complaining, encouraging and supporting each other and not losing our tempers. This was a situation that put all of us under some stress and strain and we were encouraging and supporting one another and not complaining but making the best of it. We were so proud of all of them. Thankfully we had the Kelty backpack with us and Sirah spent most of the time in there but even Ciaran got a turn in there - Serona managed to carry all 50 pounds of him for a few miles while Sirah walked and held my hand. Only Rhia had to walk the whole thing with us but she was really great about it.

We arrived at our camp a little after 3 hours and nearly 8 miles and everyone sat down, drank water and ate granola bars. Serona and I broke camp while the kids relaxed but soon again they were climbing trees and running around again while we finished up. We headed home for a pizza and movie night and early to bed. Finally got around to seeing Night at the Museum which was fun for me especially since I love the Museum of Natural History.

Today is a relaxing and resting day for us here. Because it is true "One never knows what this crazy clan will do...sometimes even us!"


The Crazy Camping Adventure

Yesterday our family went on an 8 mile hike in 3 hours and our feet got really tired! So today we are going to take it easy on our feet! I had a good time camping.

We roasted marshmallows and turned them in to s'mors we had a great time! We climbed a gigantic tree and it was really freaky. I never knew how much fun it could be to climb a big tree. It was amazing because it was cracked and bent down but still alive.

We had a lot of fun. I heard an owl during the night and when the fire was out I put more pinecones on it and started another big fire. We told campfire tales and one of them was about a little mouse who my daddy made up named Benkin. And that little mouse named Benkin had many adventures and always got caught up with our family.

I never knew how much fun camping and taking an 8 mile walk for 3 hours can be. When I came home I asked my dad a really silly question and it was "Can I go camping every weekend and take an 8 mile walk?"And he said "What a silly question, you know the answer…one never knows what this crazy clan will do…" and that’s the truth.


April 27, 2007

Young Nature Explorers Club

This summer I asked my kids what they wanted to do with their friends and Ciaran wanted to explore nature with them. Go to parks and catch frogs, look at bugs, walk through the woods, all that great stuff that sadly kids can no longer do on their own. So I agreed to start a Young Nature Explorers club within our homeschool support group. I posted an interest thread and was amazed at the response. So far I have over 42 kids interested! Who knows how many will make it each week but clearly this was desired by the kids and parents.

My plan is to meet at a different local park, nature center, or nature preserve each week and just have open exploring time. I made it clear it will not a drop off activity and with that many kids interested I am glad I did! We will just go through the parks together as a group taking time to observe, explore, discover and learn together. I encouraged families to bring whatever individual supplies they want. We will bring our butterfly nets, bug vacuum, magnifying glass, field guides, nature journal sketchbooks, colored pencils and some sort of bucket to collect things in. Though the rule of the club will be that we need to leave everything in the park and keep it nicer than we found it. I plan to carry a trash bag with me as well. I know one mom plans to bring a portable microscope.

It is a very easy summer acitivty to organize if you are interested. We decided on meeting every other week from the end of May through August. That is because I also organize beach days for our group and I made those alternating weeks from this nature club so we have at least one activity to look forward to each week to see our homeschool friends but we do not get overburdened with activities.

I am really looking forward to it. I am an outdoors mom in the spring, summer and fall. I love hiking, exploring nature, the beach, swimming, bike riding and taking walks with my kids. I love helping them discover God's creation and enjoy nature. This is a perfect set-up for me because one of the things that holds me back from hiking in some interesting places is not feeling safe alone in deep wooded areas with three small children in tow. Having other parents with me alleviates these concerns and opens up more new areas to explore for my family.

Our family also plans to take up geocaching as a new family hobby this summer. We are starting to investigate GPS handhelds and hope to start sometime in May or June. We love nature, hiking as a family and treasure hunting so this should be a great combination of things for us. Anyone else geocache and have a GPS they love?

Get out and enjoy nature with your kids this summer!

The More the Merrier

I have discovered that I really enjoy having a mess of kids over at my house. I enjoy being the house the kids come to in order to play. And I definately find it is easier to have a bunch than just one at a time. My kids get along with a variety of ages and genders and enjoy playing in groups. As they get older I also let them have some time alone with their particular friend - but still including each other is a general rule at our house and it is not optional.

Yesterday we had four friends join us and the kids ranged from 8 to 3 and they played together in groups, in pairs and in different aged groups at times. Sirah ran with the 6 and 7 year old boys as easily as she made pixie dust with the 7 and 8 year old girls and played with her own little 4 year old friend. When we went to the park the 7 and 3 year old were swinging partners on the tire swing so you never know.

I enjoy having all the kids over because it is fun to get to know my kids friends and it encourages me to spend more time outside. The kids are generally happy and entertained and easier to manage. I am learning what kinds of food to have on hand and how to manage the choas but in general I think it is fun. I asked Mamadala for advice - she starts with 6 kids and often has that many more over at a time. So I figure I can learn from her. Another friend of mine shared with me yesterday that her neighbor came over one day and said "Do you realize you have 16 kids in your yard?" and her response was "16, really is that all today?"

So the more the merrier, after all it makes them happier and makes it more fun and in so many ways easier. We can play more games and do more fun outside things with a big group of kids then we can with just one additional friend over. Also there is way less fighting with more kids over than with just one child having a special friend over. So let em all come and play.

My neighbor

Venti Coffee with Extra Extra Cream

Okay so you know you have a habit when your kids know your Starbucks order. FYI - it is not my habit. Back in November Serona had to spend a little over a month straight in NYC for work and he came home with a Starbucks habit. At least it is a cheap one as far as Starbucks goes - he just really prefers their coffee and likes a lot of cream in it.

We are a one car family and so when the kids and I want to have the car for the day we need to drive Serona into work first. Often, though not always we will stop at the Starbucks drive through on the way to his office and get his coffee. Today we were bringing him lunch and I decided to surprise him with coffee. We got to the drive through and Ciaran calls out from the back don't forget the "extra, extra cream" and I said what? He said well daddy likes the Venti Coffee with extra extra cream and don't forget to say "Cheers!" when they hand you the coffee.

So there you go - they are always observant and know our habits and preferences just as well as we do sometimes.

April 26, 2007

Movie Meme

Why Not?

1. Name a movie you have seen more than 10 times.
Every one of the Star Wars Saga - especially A New Hope

2. Name a movie you’ve seen multiple times in the theater.
Revenge of the Sith
Attack of the Clones - notice a theme yet?

3. Name an actor who would make you more inclined to see a movie.
Tom Hanks

4. Name an actor who would make you less likely to see a movie.
Will Farrell

5. Name a movie you can and do quote from.
All Star Wars saga movies, Ferris Bueillers Day Off, Top Gun

6. Name a movie musical in which you know all of the lyrics to all of the songs.
Music Man, Mary Poppins

7. Name a movie you have been known to sing along with.
Sound of Music, Mary Poppins

8. Name a movie you would recommend everyone see.
Music Man

9. Name a movie you own.
Home Movie Collection

10. Name an actor who launched his/her entertainment career in another medium but who has surprised you with his/her acting chops.
Will Smith

11. Have you ever seen a movie in a drive-in?
Yes my parents used to take us all the time when we were kids.

13. Name a movie you keep meaning to see but you just haven’t gotten around to yet.
Night at the Museum

14. Ever walked out of a movie? Which one?
The Cable Guy. Went to see it because Matthew Broderick was in it - left pretty quickly thought it was TERRIBLE.

15. Name a movie that made you cry in the theater.
Schindler's List

16. Name a movie that surprised you that you ended up really liking.

17. How often do you go to the movies (as opposed to renting them or watching them at home)?
A few times a year - we use netflix now so we usually wait.

18. What's the last movie you saw in a movie theater?
Meet the Robinsons with the whole fam.

19. What’s your favorite/preferred genre of movie?
Upbeat happy movies or as Serona says - movies where basically good things happen to basically good people, and political thrillers with limited violence.

20. What’s the first movie you remember seeing in the theater?
Pete's Dragon at Radio City Music Hall in NYC

April 24, 2007

100 kids and 4,838 years

What is as tall as 70 kids standing on each others shoulder and so wide that 30 children need to hold hands at full armspan to get around it?

That's right General Sherman according to our best math estimates after using the numbers on this website. The numbers are a few years old but you get the picture. Then it was simply a matter of finding the height and armspan of a child - we used Ciaran's at age 6 because this little exercise came after Ciaran asked how many people it would take to hug the biggest tree in the world. And off we went on a research quest. It really did not take that long to discover. Got to love Google! Still when I look at the picture it seems bigger to me then even these numbers suggest - what do you think?

In case you are wondering what the next question was. "Can we see a picture of the oldest tree in the world?" which is currently Methuselah - though there are rumors that an even older tree has been discovered but the identity not released so people will not destroy it the way Prometheus was for research purposes.

The actual location of Methuselah is protected but this is a tree from the grove where it is believed Methuselah lives.

So now you know. We were reading in our Botany textbook today about bristle pinecone trees and great sequoias. Kind of made me bummed that we did not take the time when in California to go see these amazing trees. Well just means another family vacation is in order somewhere down the line!

April 23, 2007

Finishing School

We are on track to finish school in mid May so we are heads down doing work when we are not outside enjoying the sunshine or on a field trip - though I must admit those things still take up considerable time for us :)

I have learned it is best for me to finish before the weather gets too nice as none of us can concentrate anymore. We found doubling up on a few sections in our math book should do the trick. Happy days to come over the next few weeks as entire subjects are closed for the summer once they are completed!

Tenn's Shared Items

Okay so I will admit the ability to share directly from my RSS feeder on my blog has made me lazier about linking to cool articles I find. Be sure to check out my shared items for news stories and blog posts that I find interesting. There is generally a selection of tech, geek and science information there along with a smattering of parenting and education links as well and of course the random thing I find interesting like the upcoming 30th anniversary of Star Wars.

Practical Math

Last week we had a practical math experience. Rhiannon and I were comparing fractions and she was having a hard time understanding why the smaller denominator made for a bigger number. I explained with food an easy thing for her to understand. If she had to split two cookies and share them evenly and one was split into 10 pieces and the other was split into just three pieces which one would be bigger. That made complete sense to her. Then she added to me - "If it was soup night I would want to invite 25 people over and share!" I knew she had her head wrapped around the concept then.

April 18, 2007

Down Sick

I have been sick or nursing sickies all week. Blogging to resume sometime in the future when we are all recovered. Enjoy the video clips...

Shift Happens

April 13, 2007

April 12, 2007

Sibling Comfort

Sirah is sick. She has a cold but also body aches and a low grade fever. She is miserable and usually a cold does not stop her. She spent all afternoon either in my lap or asleep in her bed or on a couch. Tonight at bedtime Rhiannon offered for her to sleep in her bed with her, not a common occurrence. As I tucked them in tonight I could not help but smile and be encouraged at how loving and comforting the older two kids were being to her. Rhia read Sirah her favorite books at times throughout the day and offered to help her however she could. Ciaran was unusually patient with her and comforting to her, allowing her to play with some of his toys and even rubbing her back when she laid down. Their compassion and sensitivity was encouraging to see. But watching the girls lay in bed together was really a precious memory and one I know is comforting to both of them.

Three of Everything?

I always thought I would not be one of those moms who bought three of everything to keep the peace. There are somethings I still don't buy one of everything for each of them and they simply have to share and others I have just learned are worth the extra cost and space. We have general use crayons, markers, pencils and colored pencils but they fight over them or don't want to use them. This Christmas they all got some variation of the 80 piece art set with watercolors, pastels, colored pencils, markers, crayons, etc in its own carrying case. They love them. When it is art time they each get their own and I have repeats of everything on the table but they keep them neat, clean up after themselves and don't argue. Now who is going to argue with that. At first I thought it was the novelty but now 4 months into it and the results are the same. So as long as this works each kid gets their own art set at the beginning of the school year. Can't buy peace for that cheap.

Some other things I will concede is worth having one for everyone. Own watercolor sheet pad, own sketch notebook, own popcorn bowl (we now have cute tins they really like), own wireless remote controller for gamecube (wow how many fights stopped when we had more than one!), own basket of candy and three rollers for play dough. Just about everything else they have to share. I''ll make those small concessions to keep the peace and let them have their own "special" things.

Thinking about Curriculum

The annual MACHE conference is this weekend in Rochester Minnesota. I am not attending, I was uninspired when looking through the offerings and felt like much of it is the same as the previous several years.

Plus I have little self control when it comes to purchasing good books which are available to the excess there. Not curriculum mind you, I have a lot of self-control and selectivity when it comes to that but just good old used books, great literautre, non-fiction finds and all those treasure troves of books that I would come home with a car full of. So I decided to stay home this time.

Still everyone in my support group has been talking about next year and offering to purchase things for me so I can save on shipping and get some things a bit cheaper. Last year I was organized and sent a dear friend with a list and cheapest prices I could get online with shipping. If she could find it for less in her travels she would pick it up, she found about half cheaper and half I ended up purchasing online anyway.

This year I did not send a list - I am just not motivated to think about next year yet and I know I can get reasonable prices online, if even simply through Rainbow Resources who almost always has what I need at the cheapest price. Though they sometimes take forever to ship and have strict return policies and don't run specials. Between RR and Amazon I usually get everything I need. I have not wanted to buckle down and think ahead.

Some things of course are already decided for next year. Ciaran will follow the same basic things we did with Rhiannon for first grade modified to fit his learning style and with the exception of a workbook or two I have everything already. Rhia will continue with Story of the World Vol 3 which is really the backbone of our studies. I love teaching history as a chronological story with the activites and maps they provide and supplementing with books from the library. It fits our family well. We will continue with some combination of Singapore and Miquon math. We have our science textbooks here. She loves old style classroom textbooks like I used growing up that I supplement with non-fiction more in depth books from the library. I may consider the Astronomy Creation Science book to go side by side with that. We like teaching science from both the creation and the evolution perspective side by side and discussing them which typically requires using two very different texts. We will do Spelling Power, continue Handwriting Without Tears and begin Latin. So I guess I have thought about it - just need to decide on Language Arts beyond Explode the Code which we will continue and some more to supplement in Geography and then the usual stuff we add in as the year goes.

I love pulling things together and taking the parts I like and leaving the rest behind. So far I have not found a "box" I like.

The Best Kind of Snow

I am going to have a silver lining moment to our recent snow in April. It came quickly, it was pretty, the roads were easy to drive on, it was enough to sled on for an afternoon, it was warm and sunny to play in, there was no shoveling required and it is almost fully melted. The cost of course is that it snowed in April and we have had a cold month so far (other than our 81 degree day). Rumor has it we are headed back up to the 60's. Of course we are sick here now so not much enjoyment of the nice weather coming our way unless we have speedy recoveries.

Revisiting Old Friends

Revisiting favorite books is like revisiting friends. You just remember how much you love them. Right now I am reading the Bobsey Twins books aloud to my children. I remember reading them in first grade or so, it is fun to share with my kids these stories that I loved growing up.

Today I snuggled in Sirah's bed with her and read her several Madeline books. This was the first time she was hearing the books and it was fun to share them with her. She held Rhia's old Madeline doll and she pointed out how she looked just like the girl in the book. Madeline is like visiting an old friend as are Nan, Bert, Flossie and Freddie.

There are so many other good friends that I love revisiting with my kids like Aslan, Bilbo, Curious George, Wilbur and Charlotte, Peter, Wendy and Tink, and of course Laura and Mary. Yet there are also new ones I am enjoying discovering with them like Wilbur Robinson, the Box Car children, Ozma, Betsy and Tacy to name a few. I love reading with my kids especially on a day like today when there is snow on the ground in April and fevers burning, runny noses and achy legs to go around.

We do watch some movies and have found new friends there are well but it is still never quite the same as opening that book and saying "and that's where we will leave off until tomorrow" - the suspense and time you invest in reading a book and the imagination you need make it all the more enjoyable. Off to get the cookies out of the oven! Sirah's choice for mommy and me time today - bake cookies.

April 11, 2007

Hold the Styrofoam PLEASE?!?!?!?!?

Now some may think I am heading up on a soapbox here about styrofoam and the environment briefly summarized here. While I am first to grant you I don't care for it because of those reasons my real reason lies all over my kitchen and living room floors, stuck to my children, in their hair, clothes and making Roomba quirky and very unhappy - I can not stand the way it falls apart and gets stuck to everything. It is also a child magnet, the way bubble wrap is. I love bubble wrap - send me some of that - just PLEASE hold the styrofoam? I will listen to jumping and bouncing and have fun popping with them. I will embrace the noise and the fun that goes with it but please leave the styrofoam OUT OF MY HOME!

The kids dug into a box with a styrofoam packaged item inside this morning. Since they are 6 and 3 why bother taking it out of the box - lets dig into it with our fists and see if we can dig it out! I was right in the next room and had one of those "they are too quiet" realizatios and came in to discover them completely covered in styrofoam along with my kitchen and dining room - one immediately ran into the living room leaving traces of it all over that floor to. We have spent the past hour cleaning and it is still not done. This is the second time in two weeks this sort of thing has happened. Why is styrofoam a magnet for kids to play in? Why do they package things in it? Really there are good alternatives now.

If you send me things please, pretty please leave the styrofoam at home? We will all be saner and happier for it. While I am at it - just a reminder leave the tinsel and easter grass home as well. I banned those (successfully) a few years ago. I know I am a mean one Mr. Grinch. Really I am pretty easy going but those three are pet peeves that make me grumpy! So I would be much obliged if we could simply leave it outside my door. Thank you very much!

April 10, 2007

17 Random Things I Learned Today

Random Things I have learned throughout the day.

-3 year olds should not wash their own hair

-Chameleons change color when they are angry or sick not for camoflauge

-It is possible to spend 2 hours in Target looking for ways for a 6 year old to spend his giftcard!

-2 hours in Target is wearing on a mom with a 7, 6 and 3 year old in tow

-The weatherman is not lying when he says it will snow in April - hopefully he is wrong about how many inches he is predicting!

-Orcas like their tongues rubbed

-Refrigerator liberation day is more palatable with Sprite to drink and the promise of a movie and popcorn for those who finish!

-For some reason math is easier when mom asks the question outloud rather than just reading it off the worksheet yourself.

-We can all hop on one foot, gallop and skip across a room.

-My dogs know how to open our gate and like to adventure through the neighborhood.

-A morphibian really does work in water - though it is messy in a bathroom and then they break and there are tears and tears and did I mention the tears?

-Giving everyone their own special popcorn bucket keeps the peace albeit with a bit more mess.

-Roomba is worth her weight in gold after a movie night with seperate popcorn bins!

-We currently have 71 books out of the library systems (we use two county systems) and have so many different due dates I keep track of them on my calendar yet we still have late fees. I notice the late fees tend to increase when I have more than 100 books checked out of the library. Hmmm...note to self which I will promptly ignore.

-Ciaran is in the 75th percentile for height and weight for kids his age.

-Fairies turn red when they turn bad accordng to Rhia's lovely artwork today.

Saving my favorite for last....

-Sirah now has 17 babies in her heart that one day when she is older and a mom they will come out and she is going to drive a big red bus with lots of baby seats in it!

There are some random moments from our day - how about from yours? Loving those teachable and precious memory moments.

2006 Homeschool Blog Awards

I have been nominated for the 2006 Homeschool Blog Awards in the Best Mom Blog category. If you like what you read here click over and vote.

There are a lot of great blogs in many different categories, new ones to discover and some old favorited to revisit!

April 6, 2007

A Moment to Cherish

Anyone who knows me or has spent any regular time on my blog knows I LOVE reading to kids. It is a passion of mine, it is one of those memories I hope my kids grow up to love and to replicate with their own children. We read and we read and we read a lot. Today we had one of those moments that makes me love homeschooling so much.

It was late morning we had just finished a snack of scones and hot chocolate and I decided to read to the kids. Our current mom chapter book (we also have a dad read aloud - currently Jedi Search by Kevin Anderson) is The Bobbsey Twins Red, White and Blue Mystery which they are really enjoying. Sirah and Ciaran got out a puzzle to do while they listened to me and Rhiannon picked up her nine patch sewing (for her Plum Creek class) and they sat nearby listening and keeping their hands busy. I read three chapters and they kept asking for more but after an hour at that time of day I was at risk of falling asleep during reading and needed to stop.

It was just one of those quiet moments where we enjoyed a good story together and everyone was engaged with each other and with their own quiet project. It was one of those moments that made me feel like a sterotypical homeschooler. Reading aloud to kids is one of those things that I know is common to many homeschools and many families in general and just something about the way it happened today made me feel a connection with families all across the world who were likely doing the very same things. We went on with the lessons and business of the remainder of the day.

This evening I took another break from all the cleaning and evening prep to just pull the younger two into my lap and read for awhile. One of the books we read was Reading With Dad and it brought tears and smiles to me. A sweet story about a little girl reading with her father throughout her whole life and the different stages of reading together. As I read it I happened to be sitting in our overstuffed leather chair with two kids on my lap (just like a photo in the book) and Ciaran noticed it. As I finished the book I placed a kiss on both their heads and told them how much I loved reading with them and how it was one of my favorite things to do and how they should do the same with their kids and always read with me throughout all their lives. They both turned around and gave me one of the biggest tightest hugs and I just felt so loved and so special in that moment. Just pure love and joy from a simple hug and shared moment with a book. It just does not get better...well maybe when I can no longer read and they read to me.

Easter Lesson Plan

Here are some of the things we do as a family with young children to explain Easter from a biblical perspective.

1. Children's bible versions of the Easter story and all the events around it here.

2. Resurrection Eggs - This is a dozen plastic egg kit that you can purchase at churches, online or Christian book stores or make yourself. Each egg contains an item that is a symbol of part of the Easter story and it is a powerful teaching tool. Here is a sample kit though the exact items can vary from kit to kit.

3. Sinful Heart/Blood of the Cross/Pure Heart
I make white hearts and laminate them then I have the kids use a black
wipe off marker and write each of their sins on the heart. For the younger I
have them just make an X as they tell me each sin. Then I use a red cross (made out of construction paper to symbolizes Jesus' blood) to cover over their heart and I erase the sins and show them how Jesus dying on the cross covered our sins and
makes our hearts pure before God. The heart is then white again, the way God will see our hearts because of Jesus' sacrifice for us. This seems to really bring the
lesson home for younger children.
--A friend of mine suggested modifying this by using a red/pink eraser and making it into the shape of a cross to show the erasing of the sins.

4. Jelly Bean Prayer This is a craft simple craft with a poem and some jelly beans that shows God's love for us with the cross. Print the poem here. Have younger children glue the bean next to each line have older children glue the bean and the copywork the saying or memorize it.

5. Family cross - Each year we make a large family cross with each members of the household represented on it. We take two big pieces of butcher paper and form them
into a cross. Then each family member traces his/her hand and writes
their name on it. We glue the colorful hearts onto the cross and
write Easter and the year on the top and have a heart for Jesus in the
center. We hang this each year to show how Jesus dies for each of our
sins. Then at the end of the year when we take it down to save it we
compare it to last years cross to see how our family has changed
(added members, grown in size, etc), it is a nice tradition to have.

6. Resurrection Cookies - These are cookies you make the night before that also help show the story of Easter. The recipe and details can be found here.

7. Easter night/morning enactment We have not done this before but it looks so good I think we will add this to our routine this year. A fun activity a family created to bring it home to their kids. Read more.

8. Easter morning - We read the Easter story from the actual adult bible. By now the kids are very familiar with the story and can follow along with ease and patience. Then we look for eggs and do some of the traditional secular activities.


Let this make you smile today.

April 4, 2007

Must Read Education Article

There are very few times I encourage an article as a must read for home educators but this is one that I HIGHLY recommend. While not about homeschooling directly it has some interesting points and conclusions that are well worth the read. Set aside about 15-20 minutes where you can really focus on what you are reading and check out The Future of Education by the DaVinci Institute.

The researchers outline what they are predicting as a radical shift in education and I would second many of their predicitions based on the way various technologies are already coming together. As homeschoolers we have the opportunity to be early adopters and on the cutting edge of much of the changes that occur in learning systems today.

I post here their conclusions, but please click over and read the whole article to understand their rationale. In many ways I think the facts they point out about technology and the possibilities it offers education are even more interesting then the conclusions they draw from it.

With tools for producing courseware becoming widely available, people around the world will begin creating it, and we will see a courseware explosion similar to the dramatic rise of content on YouTube and iTunes.

As part of the rapidly developing courseware movement we will see education transition from:

* Teacher-centric to learning-centric
* Classroom-based teaching to anyplace, anytime learning
* Mandated courses to hyper-individualized learning
* A general population of consumers to a growing population of producers

Learning will become hyper-individualized with students learning what they want to learn, when they want to learn it. Most of today’s existing learning impediments will eventually go away.

As a result of this shift we will begin to see dramatic changes in society. The speed of learning will increase tenfold because of a combination of the following factors:

* Confidence-based learning will significantly increase learning speed and comprehension
* Learning what we want, when we want - shifting away from a prescribed course agenda to one that is hyper-individualized, self-selected, and scheduled whenever a student wishes to take it will dramatically change levels of motivation
* Technology improvements over time will continually improve the speed and comprehension of learning

The speed of learning will increase tenfold, and it is possible that the equivalent of our current K-12 education system will be compressed into as little as one year’s worth of learning.

In the future, we predict students entering the workforce will be ten times smarter than they are today."

The discussion of folksonomies and education units being available in itunes format was especially interesting to me. Just last night at a Mom's Night Out for our homeschool support group we were discussing how you can take courses like MIT's open courses for free and how I predict soon we will see live tutors for individual subjects, questions, hours, etc that people can pay to help with certain areas. Subject matter experts for education, much like the business world has them now.

Anyway it is interesting to read and think about.



There is nothing quite like a Minnesota March. Where the weather ranges from 1 degree with windchills in the negative teens to 81 degrees! Where we can get two feet of snow and then have it all melt in just a few days.

Well today as I type this, yes in April it happens to be 20 degrees and feel like 4 with windchills. It did in fact snow last night. We did not get the 2-5 inch accumulation they were claiming we might, but I did have to borrow an ice scraper for my car last night to get the ice of my windshield. March and April are just crazy and unpredictable. If you don't like the weather wait a few days and it will just change again. After days and days of gloomy black rain it started to snow but atleast the sun is out again and rumor has it we should be back up in the 50's by week's end.

So what do we do in 20 degree weather in April? We go swimming! Off to the pool. Enjoy your day.

April 2, 2007

My Life in Forts and Bugs

I have nature lovers - especially Ciaran. It is a passion we have tried to build into them but one of the unforseen consequences of this is lots of creepy crawly and slimy things. We have drawn the line on keeping them as pets at this point because I don't want to feed frogs live crickets. When he is old enough to care for them himself then we will talk about it again. So for now we have lots of patience for little critters that come visit and then head back to nature. For his birthday he got this great gift that facillitates this process. The bug vacuum works pretty well, is easy to use and provides lots of fun for kids plus they want to clean up the bugs around the house. My rule is they must release them outside. We have brought two spiders outside just this morning. Maybe the box elders and ladybugs have met their match this season. We will see.

The other half of the title of this post is forts. I am a patient mom when it comes to loss of my living room and couch spaces. We very often have large colorful blankets, pillows and an assortment of odds and ends holding them up over our couches, chairs, stools and whatever else they can find. Whole room sized forts with multiple compartments and individual spaces are preferable to just small one blanket forts. The current fort has 6 blankets in use - we are talking big afghans. One which was designed and crocheted by me to reach from one end of the room to the other. The others are all queen size blankets or quilts. While there is some overlap you can imagine how big the fort is.

Bugs and forts. I would never have thought I would enjoy and embrace them the way I have. But they lead to happy creative kids and this is what being a kid is all about. Someday I will miss the forts and the creepy crawly things that come in. My couches will all be neat and orderly and there won't be a million books falling all over the place (okay maybe there still will be too many books) and I will miss this. So I embrace it and enjoy it and live my life in forts and bugs with a smile :) Enjoy whatever your forts and bugs are today.


April 1, 2007

Updated Reading Lists

Updated Reading Lists are Available.

Rhiannon's Second Grade Reading List
Ciaran Kindergarten Reading List
January 2007
February 2007
March 2007

Dyson Giveaway

Yes I know I am posting this on April Fools, but it is no joke. 5 minutes for mom is giving away a free Dyson Slim. Go on over and enter, it is easy and free and you never know.