Sunday, January 30, 2011

Flat Stanley Returns From Boston

A very nice woman stepped forward and volunteered to take Flat Stanley to Boston.  She did an awesome job and gave him the grand tour.  The kids were so excited to see the packet come back.  There was even a new copy of one of their favorite books.  Their old copy was very worn.

The kids were even more excited when they saw the photo book of all the places Flat Stanley had gone.

We added him to his friend on the map. The kids are excited to see which Flat Stanley will come back next.

Thank you so much, Amanda!  We really appreciate it. 

If you are interested in hosting a Flat Stanley,  please let me know in the comments.  You can do whatever you like with him in your own city (it does not have to be a famous city or town) and send him back with pictures of his adventures. We will be happy to host a Flat Stanley for you, too.


Thursday, January 27, 2011

An Answer to the Women Who Demand to Know Why I Homeschool

Occasionally, I am asked why we homeschool. I give different answers because there are so many varying reasons, depending on the tone of the person asking. (Sometimes the person can be asking in a nasty, accusatory tone, as you've likely all experienced.) One of the major reasons is so my children can have a broad and excellent education my children would not get if they attended public or private school. This is often a disturbing answer to teachers or parents who are happy to have their kids in public school. Perhaps it makes me sound like a snob. However, it is my true feelings. Let me explain...

I do not think any child in public school is being presented with a large variety of classics and experiences, and I strongly believe that all children deserve this. Furthermore, three of our children have special learning challenges (the fourth has graduated already from homeschool high school).  I would homeschool them even if they did not have special needs, but children like mine are given an even poorer education than the "normal" kids. Two of our children are very bright, although one of those has severe sensory issues that get in the way of everyday life and the other has vision problems. Unfortunately, the third child has a low IQ (just a few points above retardation). They would never be given the education I provide at home, no matter how nice and wealthy the school system. No one would think it worthwhile to read to them for hours from great classical books. No one would show them great works of art and play a large variety of classical music. Do you think they would be learning Latin and Sign Language?!! Are you kidding?!?! They would not be learning to play the piano, act out Shakespeare plays in their free time, and drawing pictures of what they are learning in history. No one would imagine that kids like these would go to the adult section of the library to check out science books for storytime or could sing a dozen songs from musicals (they have all memorized 1776).  If I had a dollar for every time a professional has commented in shocked tones on their advanced vocabulary, understanding of current events or some tidbit of knowledge they divulged, I might be rich.  The disabled are not supposed to know this stuff (according to our public school system). In fact, even normal kids are not supposed to know what my children know (as most people surprised at their knowledge do no know of their learning challenges). Most would say I was wasting my time and should just stick to phonics and math forever.  I know this to be true, because I actually worked in an elementary school as a remedial math and reading teacher assistant for "normal" children.  There were certain fourth and fifth grade students whom I was not allowed to help -- and was actually told they were "throw aways".  These children were not the students in the special education classes! In fact, my oldest son was in special education, and the teacher there told me that he was very bright, but if I wanted him to truly learn anything, I should keep him at home and teach him myself, which is exactly what I did from third grade on.

Now, I am not saying that I am special in some way. I do not have a magic wand or an amazing secret on how to teach special needs or normal kids. I just simply give of my time, energy, and love, trying to impart my absolute LOVE of learning. I do not think it is a waste of time to read Shakespeare to a child with a low IQ. At least she will hear rich, beautiful words. It is sometimes a frightening journey.

I second guess myself...not about sending them to school, but about if I am teaching them the right way. Am I spending too much time teaching classical literature and music as well as going to performances and on field trips instead of sticking to the basics? However, every time I start to doubt, I get a glimmer that I am on the right child finds all the C's, A's and G's on the piano after having no lessons for close to a year, or one might ask such intense questions of a science teacher on a field trip that the man has to go look up the answers (for example, my 8 year old's "What is the temperature of the Cat's Eye Nebula in the Constellation of Draco?")  Tom Sawyer keeps his hand up the whole time during the Q & A period on field trips and often knows the answers.

So, that is one of the primary reasons I homeschool. ALL kids deserve to have the world as their oyster and to learn to love learning. ALL children deserve to have a chance to spread their wings and never, never be labedled as failures.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Loving Homeschooling

I have lots to post and very little time to do it.  So here is a peek of our last week of school in pictures.

We had an opportunity to meet some mechanical dinosaurs up close and personal.  The kids even got to handle the controls and make the dinosaurs move.  They were all life size and many of them made sounds.  It was a great chance to talk about lifts and pulleys too.

We had a bit more play with polymers.  Here are some very flexible marbles that are fun and lovely colors.

There was also an amazing field trip and homeschool class at our local science museum.  We got to go into a skylab and see many constellations and learn our way around the stars in our local sky.  I did not get any pictures, but this class was a highlight of our whole year.  It was right up my Tom Sawyer's alley, as he is very interested in astronomy.

Then we dabbled and splattered a bit with Jackson Pollock.  One thing you can say about this artist.  It sure is fun splattering paint!!

Last, but not least!  Princess play is always an enjoyable pastime.  My little princess can play dress up for hours...

Happy homeschooling folks.  Enjoy this precious time with your children.  Look past the clutter and endless chores and enjoy your pricesses and princes.


Friday, January 21, 2011

Books, Books, and More Books!!!

As soon as we finish up with the Salem witch trials, we will be moving to the events leading up to the Revolutionary War.  The Salem witch trials have always been an interest of mine.  This book is great and gives five possible reasons that the witch hunt and trials took place.  Jane Yolen has written books on several other unsolved mysteries, as well.  All of them are interesting. 

Over the years, I have collected a huge plethora of books on the time period of the birth of America. I can not wait to delve into them with my children.  We will be slowing down and taking as much time as it takes to get through this stack of books and the many projects I have lined up.  This period of time is so rich with information, and I want to let them soak it all in.  I do need to still track down info on the French and Indian War, as well as my missing books on Benjamin Banneker.

Our Books (in no particular order) ~
  • Shh! We're Writing the Constitution , Jean Fritz
  • If You Were There When They Signed the Constitution, Elizabeth Levy
  • And Then What Happened, Paul Revere, Jean Fritz
  • Let's Ride, Paul Revere!,  Peter Roop
  • Paul Revere, Jane Sutcliffe
  • Mr. Revere and I, Robert Lawson
  • Paul Revere's Ride, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  • Betsy Ross Designer of the Flag, Ann Weil
  • The Flag Maker, Susan Campbell
  • Where was Patrick Henry On the 29th of May, Jean Fritz
  • Magic Tree House Revolutionary War on Wednesday, Mary Pope Osborne
  • The Battle of Bunker Hill (You choose the ending), Michael Burgan
  • If You Lived at the Time of the American Revolution, Kay Moore
  • Kids Discover 1776 Magazine
  • The Winter at Valley Forge, James E. Knight
  • The Mount Vernon Coloring Book
  • When Washington Crossed The Delaware, Lynne Cheney
  • George Washington's World, Genevieve Foster
  • We The Kids The Preamble to the Constitution of the United States, forward by David Catrow
  • Meet Thomas Jefferson, Magazine Apple Seeds
  • Who Was Thomas Jefferson?, Dennis Brindell Fradin
  • A Picture Book of Thomas Jefferson, David Adler
  • The Declaration of Independence The Words That Made America, Inscribed by Sam Fink
  • When Mr. Jefferson Came To Philadelphia, Ann Turner
  • Great Colonial American Projects, Kris Bordessa
  • The Ben Franklin Book of Easy and Incredible Experiments
  • Ben and His Pen, Emily Fischer
  • Who Was Ben Franklin?, Dennis Brindell Fradin
  • The Matchlock Gun
  • A Picture Book of Benjamin Franklin, David Adler
  • Singing America Poems that Define a Nation, Edited by Neil Philip
  • From Sea to Shining Sea A Treasury of American Folklore and Folk Songs
  • Can't You Make Them Behave, King George, Jean Fritz
For music we will be learning several Colonial songs.  I was fortunate to find all of these traditional songs on  I think the kids will really get a kick over "Revolutionary Tea".
  • Revolutionary Tea
  • Yankee Doodle
  • Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier
  • Jennie Jenkins
Our audio-visual extras are shown below as well as our unit study on George Washington that I will use loosely.  The DVD that does not show up well is the musical 1776.

We are planning to do the projects below, some of which I've already started.
  • use a quill pen
  • use wax and a seal to seal a letter
  • make a Ben Franklin thermometer
  • make an electroscope
  • make a lemon circuit
  • measure energy flow with our lemon circuit
  • make marbles
  • how to pass secret messages
  • make a tin lantern
  • make pomanders
  • cook some Colonial dishes


Monday, January 17, 2011

A New Art Medium

We had fun with a new art medium today.  We explored making 3D sculptures with balloons and double stick tape.  I got the idea from our copy of Storybook Art.  This is a great book that has art project ideas that go with many excellent picture books. 

Today we read Harvey Potter's Balloon Farm.  I love the illustrations in this book.  They are so imaginative.  This book always brings out fantasy and fun in my children.

This was the kids' first time working with double-stick tape, and it took a little while to get the hang of it.  They tried making their own sculptures, but they kept falling over.  After a while they decided to work together to make a bridge.  It came out well.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

January ... A Day in the Life

For those who are new to following my blog, I post a day in our homeschool life once a month.  Here is the January edition.

My day started off on the rough side of things.  I spent about 15 minutes helping my husband shovel snow and ice away from his car so he could leave for work and away from the trash can so it could be moved to the curb.  I was still in my pajamas and it was still dark!!  While I was outside, the kids got every animal in the house out of their cages. OY! When I walked into the house, Periwinkle, our parakeet, flew by. Snowflake, the gerbil, was running around; and our dog, Lady, was watching Buttercup's every move. Recipe for disaster, but none happened, thank goodness!

This is Goldilock's new baby rat, Buttercup.

Thankfully, the day calmed down.  The kids got their morning chores done and ate breakfast.  We are in the first week of trying a new style of homeschooling, having a theme to each day.  Today's theme was science and cooking.  The kids were excited to get started because they love science.  They were not so motivated yesterday, which is music day.  We started off with Quaker Silence.  This is a period of a few minutes where we sit and pray quietly. (It is good practice in being still.) We ended our silent time with The Lord's Prayer.  The kids then got down to working on Explode the Code, Math, and reading and spelling games.

We are in between reading chapter books right now, so for literature I read them the fairytale, The Lion and The Mouse.   Finally, it was time for Science!!!

We pulled out one of the science kits the kids got for Christmas and had a blast.  We made instant snow, magic sand, played with  several different polymers and energy beads (that change color in bright light).  The kids liked making rainbow crystals the best.

So I could take a phone call, the kids took a break and played Carmen SanDiego on the computer.  When I got off the phone, everyone was hungry, so we started cooking class.  Goldilocks (10 yr) made organic hot dogs for everyone, and Little Red Ridinghood (7 yr) made organic cherry vanilia ice cream sodas.  They made everything themselves.

After our lovely lunch, we headed out to do some sledding.  We had the hill to ourselves today.  It was more ice than snow at this point, and we flew down the hill.  We did not even need sleds as Little Red Ridinghood demonstrated while pretending to be an otter.

When we got home, it was the boys' turn to have cooking lessons.  Tim (20 yr) made a delicious organic stuffing, potato, and turkey casserole.  Tom Sawyer (8 yr) made a lemon cake.  Both foods made for a delightful dinner.

Yes, our table did look that messy by the end of the day.  Thanks for noticing. LOL The day was finished off with running Tim out to a make-up fencing class.  It was a fun and messy day.


Saturday, January 8, 2011

Our School Plans ...

We will be starting back to school on Monday.  I am making some changes to our current schedule in the hopes it will help promote calmness (my word for 2011).  The biggest change is that our days will be themed.  Everyday, we will be doing prayer/Quaker silence time, the 3 R's and Literature.  Then we will have a theme for the rest of the day ... Monday ~ Art, Tuesday ~ Music, Wednesday ~ Life Skills (cooking) and Science, Thursday ~ History, and Friday ~ Child-led day.  Friday is a really messed up day with early morning therapy appointments, so I thought having the kids pick an educational activity out of the school cabinet would be a way to get some fun school done.  The idea is for me to pick an activity, then each child picks an activity and then we finish up with an activity from whatever I think was lacking in the week.  Friday will also be our library day.

Our school cabinet has lots of language arts, geography, and art games. 
It also holds a few of our puzzles and Occupational Therapy toys. 
The kids have access to this cabinet all of the time. 
I rotate stuff from other cabinets to keep up interest.

They can also pick from the math manipulative shelf.
I was not able to drop any of our therapy/doctor appointments.  In fact, I have added one weekly appointment for the next 21 weeks.  However, we have decided that I will no longer be doing most errands during the day.  It has finally occurred to me after 11 years of homeschooling that I have a full-time job teaching (duh), and like others with full time jobs, errands are saved for night and the weekends. It looks like I will be doing errands one night a week and grocery shopping on the weekend.  Except for our Friday appointments, I have been able to move all of our other appointments to after 11 am so that I have a few precious hours in the morning to get the hardest parts of school covered without interruption.

We will be starting several new things in the coming weeks.  The thing I am most excited about is cooking class with each child.  They have helped me in the kitchen for years.  However, now they will be working independently.  To my surprise, Timothy, my 2009 graduate, asked to be included in the cooking class so that he could become more comfortable cooking, as well.   Each child will pick out a simple recipe or boxed mix and then I will supervise them making it one at a time.  They will be totally in charge of their own recipe.  This will produce four yummy things to eat and give each child a little one-on-one time with me. Timothy is capable of preparing a complete meal with appetizer and dessert, but he apparently wants more practice in the kitchen. That's fine by me!

Well, I can't wait for Monday.  We are all refreshed from 3 weeks off and ready to get back to work. 


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Kid's Art

I love to see my kids drawing and painting.  However, they are very prolific.  I can not keep it all but want to keep several pieces from each year of their childhoods.  My mother kept several scrapbooks of my artwork, and I have enjoyed looking at them over the years.  I decided to make the same thing for my kids a few years ago.  Because I am too busy to paste in each masterpiece as it is produced, I store the best in the bottom drawer of my desk.  Then every few months (about twice a year) I bring out all of the artwork.

I sort all of the artwork by child and eliminate anything that is not as special as I thought at the time.  Then, I trim each art piece down so it will fit in the scrapbook.  Hint ~The larger the scrapbook the better.

I always use an archival photo safe glue stick to paste down the kids artwork.  I try to write a sentence or two about each picture.  Another fun idea I want to add to the scrapbooks this year is to take pictures of the kids' 3D projects and paste them into the scrapbook. 

My Little Red Ridinghood's scrapbook.

The children enjoy looking through their books and seeing what they have created so far.  I am sure they will enjoy them for many years to come.  I am able to drop the "Mommy Guilt" of tossing many of my children's artistic efforts, because I know that their best is stored away safe and sound.


Saturday, January 1, 2011

Weekly Wrap Up ... 2011

On the Heart and Mind

Last year I saw on another blog about picking a word to live by or concentrate on each year.  That idea has been on my mind for a few weeks.  I want to implement that idea in my own home.  After much thought and talking to others, our family decided that Calm is the word for us for 2011.  We will be working on calming down our schedule as much as we are able.  I am also making changes to help us along in having a calmer household.  I will be sorting this coming week.  If it is worn, torn, collecting dust, waiting for repair (and can't be easily fixed), it is out of here.  I also got rid of all of the kids' socks and replaced them with the exact same style and color.  The girls, who wear the same size, now have hot pink, and Tom Sawyer has navy blue and Tim has gray.  I will be streamlining other areas in similar ways.  We are also going to be working on softening our vocal tone around here.  There is just too much yelling in this house.  I hate to admit it, but everyone is guilty.  Improving the tone of our voices will go a long way to achieving a calm home.  We also will be adjusting how many things we try to accomplish each day.  Life is not meant to be the race we often get caught up in.  I want to stop the rushing.  So being calm is on my mind.

Around The House

What a mess.  We left town a few days after Christmas for a quick trip.  It was nice to get away but the house is a mess,  packing mess, Christmas mess, birthday mess, New Year's Eve mess.  You get the idea.  Oh well, we don't start back to school for a week so I have some time to clean house.

Family Time

We took a great trip to the capital of our state.   We went to four museums ~ art, history, natural history, and a children's museum.  In the history museum, we saw a visiting exhibit on George Washington.  It was great and we enjoyed it.

Tom Sawyer thought George Washington's artificial teeth were gross.

Here the children are admiring George Washington
on his favorite horse, Blue Skin, for which the Smithsonian
made a great effort to create the exact measurements of both.

The children's museum was really crowded.  The kids and parents felt a bit overwhelmed.  However, everyone liked seeing the IMAX movie, Tron Legacy, in 3D.

The kids also really liked the pirate ship.

 We also enjoyed the natural history museum. 
It is a nicely done museum with lots of hands-on activities.

Little Red Ridinghood examines the size of a T-Rex skull.

We had planned on seeing the Norman Rockwell exhibit at the art museum but decided that it was just too expensive.  We enjoyed the free parts of the museum and the free parts of the Norman Rockwell exhibit. I love seeing the kids enjoy art.  Each child was animated about their favorite piece or pieces of art.  Mommy loved the gift shops at all of the museums.  Shhh!  We won't talk about what I spent.  It is all in the name of education.  We also were able to go to the homeschool consignment store.  This is the best homeschool store I've ever found, with new and used stuff.  I love it.  That was a very fun hour!!!  There was also a pool in our hotel. The kids got about 5 hours of swimming. Note to self ~ It is very much worth $10 extra for a room when an indoor pool is included.

Learning time

Learning is always going on ~ take our mini vacation for example!!  I am busy revamping our last 17 weeks of school and schedule in the name of Calm.  There is tons of fun stuff on the horizon.  I will share our school plans in a coming post.  However, here is a peek at some of the new things we will be adding into our days.

We will be dropping Latin for now.  Everyone is a bit burned out on it.  We fell off the wagon when it comes to Nature Study, again.  I hope to get back on the wagon.  All is well, though.  The love of learning is what is most important.  They will learn what they need, as long as they have a love for learning.

To see more Show and Tells, please see Canada girl.