Monday, April 30, 2012

A Day in the Life ~ April

The alarm was not a welcome sound this morning after a long night with a vomiting dog and a child having nightmares.  Alas, I got up at 6:30 anyway.  For a little while it was just me and my buddy, Boomer.  This is one food motivated dog.  With food in my hands, he won't leave my side.  LOL

Before long, Tom Sawyer arrived and immediately started building one of his Lego birthday sets.  He received several sets over the weekend.  I really need to look into organizing the Legos.  We are drowning in Legos!   This is a real passion for Tom Sawyer.  If anyone has suggestions on organizing Legos, I'd love to know them.

Since the girls were still asleep and Timothy was walking Boomer, I decided to finish painting the bookcase I got off of Freecycle last week.  It was a gross pink.  However, it is SEVEN feet tall and loaded with shelf space.  Did I mention that it is real wood?!  To add to the wonderfulness of this find, it was only a half mile away, and Tim and I were able to fit it into the van.  I like it much better as soft white, some paint my Mom had.  Totally FREE!

At 8:30 the last of the children woke up and I finished up the bookcase so I could concentrate on getting ready for our lessons.  The kids got themselves ready for the day and ate breakfast while watching Curious George and the Cosby Show.

At 9:00 am we started our lessons.  For the next two hours the kids rotated through Teaching Textbooks (math), our newest sensory box (occupational therapy), choice of reading with me or library book independent reading, independent chores (life skills), Follow the Directions workbooks (language arts and life skills) and writing a good paragraph from their mind maps (language arts).  I worked one-on-one with whatever child was currently doing writing or reading.  Our sensory bucket's theme for May is trains and magnets.  I dyed rock salt as black as I could get it to represent coal.  Then I added all of our magnets, some different types of metal (magnetic and non-magnetic), a Thomas the Tank crane that can pick up metal, and a harmonica.

We are really working on quality work around here.  Whether it be writing a paragraph or doing the dishes, the quality must meet my standards.  This means slowing down and expecting less quantity.  For Goldilocks there is the additional issue of learning how to use just enough of cleaning products.  She has a tendency to use a huge amount of cleaning supplies if she is unsupervised.  I will be doing a blog entry soon about living with FASD and RAD.  In some ways, this year has been filled with steps forward for her, and in other ways she seems to be spinning her wheels.

By 11:00 am everyone was ready for a break, including me.  The kids went back to the endless play of Legos that is going on around here.  I folded laundry, checked the blog, called a friend about a play we are seeing later in the week, and talked to my Mom.  At noon, we had lunch and did a 10 minute sweep.  We then dropped off Tim at college.  He goes to a Traumatic Brain Injury program at the community college three afternoons a week.  Since we were out on the road, we used our free birthday and half-birthday tokens at Chuck E Cheese.

It only took the kids about 20 minutes to spend all of their tokens and trade in their tickets for prizes.  We headed for the hardware store to buy some vegetable plants.  On our way, we talked about gambling and how Chuck E Cheese games were fun, but when you run out of tokens, you are done (life skills).  We got home at 2:15 pm and prepared the garden for planting.  We only planted three tomato plants, a cucumber plant, some herbs, and a bell pepper plant.  I hope to add onions for this rotation. After this crop is done, I will plant potatoes and zucchini.  Our raspberries are spreading like crazy.  I am so happy about that.  Some of the blueberry bushes look okay (not great), too (life skills).

We might build another raised bed for strawberries.  We will have to see if funds and time allow.
After working in the little garden, everyone wanted ice cream and popsicles.  While the kids ate, I read Guns What You Need to Know, which was suggested in our Little House on the Prairie unit study (life skills).  We then solved three more mysteries in our Art Fraud Detective book (art).  The kids are loving this book.  I thought it would take us the rest of the year to complete it.  However, I think we will be done with it this week.

It was now time to pick up Tim.  We picked him up and came home.  We took a few minutes to put the house to rights.  Then the kids had about 20 minutes of free time before Tom Sawyer was due at dance class.  They all played or watched the others play on the Wii.

It is now 6:30 pm.  Tim is at fencing class and Tom Sawyer is home from dance (physical education,  theater, and social).  The girls are puttering in the gardens with Dad, and the day is winding down.  It is good.

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, April 27, 2012

School Daze

Another week gone!  I can't believe we only have three more weeks of official school left for the year.  We are busy having lots of adventures and winding up this school year.  I really need to get our summer planned.  Here are the highlights in the past few days.
  • I am trying to give Tom Sawyer lots of sensory fun.  He enjoyed doing his spelling words with shaving cream this week.  He also enjoyed schooling with his rat, Shade, in his lap.
  • We went to the local university and explored all of the telescopes they had on display.  We got to view the sun and look at sun spots.  Mr. Moon was also there visiting with all of the kids.
  • We finally made it to the gem mine and did some mining (to go with our Laura Ingalls and gold mining studies).  The kids found lots of quartz, blood stone, Dalmatian jasper and sodalite.
  • We are loving all of the Lego worksheets from Milk and Cookies.  Tom Sawyer even enjoyed the copy work sheets.
In addition to all of this, we finished our Explode the Code books, completed Little House on the Prairie (blog entry coming soon), attended the last library reading corner for the school year, learned three new songs from our Laura Ingalls Wilder Musical Memories CD, and the kids read lots of library books.

Please join Homegrown Learners for more great collage wrap-ups.

Blessings, Dawn

Monday, April 23, 2012

How We Do a Picture Study

A friend asked me almost a month ago how we study a picture.  I am sorry it took me so long to reply.   Here is an example using Norman Rockwell's illustration, The Discovery.  I think Norman Rockwell is an excellent first choice for picture studies, because so many of his illustrations are about children and home life.  It is easy for children to identify with the pictures.

Settle down with the kids and look at a large print of the piece of artwork you are studying. Then ask, "What do you see in this picture?"  Some responses my kids gave to this picture were ~
  • "The boy looks shocked."
  • "I don't like the green carpet."
  • "He is making a mess."
  • "He should not be in his Dad's drawer."
  • "Why are there marbles (actually moth balls) on the floor?"
  • "I guess he knows Santa isn't real now."
Then I would ask for more details, such as, with this illustration, whether the bedroom was on a first or second floor (stairwell off in the distance) or how they knew it was the father's dresser (pipe on top of men's dresser).  If they were having trouble getting into a study, I may ask them to describe the picture to me as if I were blind.  Sometimes, I get the most amazing information this way!

I often leave a picture up for a few days after our first look at it and then do it again.  The second time we sit down to discuss it, we often start creating stories about the picture.  My kids have some wild imaginations!  However, they tend to remember tiny details.  For example, just now, long after this picture study, my son looked over my shoulder and reminded me that I STILL have not gotten moth falls for them to smell.  LOL!

Some of my favorite resources for learning how to do a guided picture study are  listed below.

The book, Discover Great Paintings, asks great questions and pulls details out of the picture so a young child can easily see them.

Once children are more experienced in looking at art, I find The Art Fraud and The Great Art Scandal to be wonderful adventure stories to do with the kids.  Each book has about 35 famous paintings to study and has wonderful mysteries to solve.  We will be working our way through The Art Fraud for the rest of this school year.

For the older student, Great Artists Explained is a great book to learn more about picture study and artists.  I used this book when my oldest son was over  12.

I suggest finding 8x10 prints or larger of the paintings you are studying.  I am very pleased with the Rizzoli Art Series.  The prints are large and they cover many of the most famous paintings from a particular artist.  Unfortunately they are expensive on Amazon.  So I have kept an eye out for them at used books sales and homeschool stores and found them for much less. 

Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A Night To Remember

This past Saturday was the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic.  I have been interested in the Titanic since I was a young child.  There was no way I was going to let this day pass without some kind of commemoration!  I decided to hold a dinner using a menu from the book, Last Dinner on the Titanic.  The kids (mostly, the girls) poured over the book, looking at all of the menus from first, second and third class.  First class had 10 courses for the last dinner on the Titanic!  I was not going to make 10 courses.  Besides, in first class, there was alcohol served between each course, and we do not have alcohol in our home.  That left us with having either a second or third class dinner.  Since Tom Sawyer very much wanted to use the china (which would not be in third class) and the food in third class was similar to what we normally eat (lots of soup and vegetable dishes), we decided to go with the second class menu.  We decided to offer baked haddock and roasted turkey.  We did have to adapt the recipes slightly to go along with our food allergy diet.  Here is what we ate:

Second Class Menu

First Course ~ Soup
Consommé Olga

Second Course ~ Main Dishes
Baked Haddock
Roasted Turkey with Cranberry Sauce
Green Peas
Boiled Rice
Roasted Potatoes

Third Course ~ Desserts
American Ice Cream ~ Lemon or Vanilla
Cheese and Biscuits
Fresh Fruit

After Dinner
Tea or Coffee

The consomm√© was adapted from one of the consomm√© recipes in the book.  We did not like the second class choice, so we took our idea from the first class menu.  It was basically a vegetable broth with seasoning.  Tom Sawyer studied the parts of the book that talked about napkin folding and how to lay out the crystal and china.  He really enjoys setting the table and playing restaurant, so this was the fun part for him.  Maybe he'll have a restaurant some day?  He also helped design the fruit display.  On the Titanic the large fruit displays with fresh fruit were considered especially impressive.  The fruit in our display was a week's worth of fruit for us.  The girls helped with all of the cooking.

Once dinner was ready, we called everyone to the table with the song, "The Roast Beef of Old England" (found on YouTube).  On the Titanic, this song was used to call everyone to dinner with a bugler.  We listened to period music throughout dinner (also found on YouTube). (YouTube is my favorite resource this week.  I am able to go and find a video clip or music on almost anything we are studying and enhance our learning.)  Everyone assumed their roles as passengers on the Titanic, and we talked about period history.  We also talked about how the Titanic was built and how it was "unsinkable".  We drank sparkling grape juice and worked our way through the three courses.  Unfortunately, I only got a picture of dessert.  During the Edwardian period, it was common to have something cold, something warm, and something sweet and tangy.  The kids were excited about getting extra desserts.

After dinner we decided to go on a walk and measure the length of the Titanic (888 feet).  As we were walking along (all dressed up), marking the street with chalk every 25 feet (the length of our tape measure), the police passed us.  They turned around and passed us again very slowly.  We were all prepared to explain we were the neighborhood crazy homeschoolers, but they passed us by.  Whew!  I guess they decided that we were strange but not dangerous.

We finished off the evening with the movie, A Night to Remember.  Most of the kids wandered off before the film was over, since it was so late.  I liked this movie better than its more popular cousin, Titanic.  We plan to watch the Unsinkable Molly Brown this weekend.  I am glad we were able to do something special to remember this major world tragedy.  By preparing the Titanic's last dinner, the kids got in some home economics, social skills, math, history and music.

Please visit learning all the time for more great resources.

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, April 13, 2012

Weekly Wrap-Up ~ Fun at the Baseball Field

I have no idea how to make collages on Photobucket with the new upgrades, so this is the best I could do.  I don't make a collage for a week and everything changes, sheesh. Does anyone know how to make collages on Photobucket?

We had a great time going to Education Day at our local baseball field with friends.  We had great seats right behind home plate.  Tom Sawyer got to play one of the games on the field between innings.  He won by a landslide!  I asked him if he was nervous getting up in front of the crowds, and he said he didn't have time to get nervous.

We started the week off with a little bit of drama.  Our old, almost blind dog got into a disagreement with a bird.  She pulled its flight feathers out of its tail and laid down to take a nap with them.  The bird, who was most upset, pecked our old dog's head.  LOL!  I think the bird was already hurt or else our dog would not have been able to get those tail feathers!  However, we had to stop lessons and rush the poor bird off to the nature center.  They said his tail feathers would grow back and they would rehabilitate him.

Our oldest son had a birthday this week.  He has had such a year of growth.  Training his dog, Boomer, is often a full-time job and keeps him very busy.  His friendships continue to grow and the phone is often for him.  He is still active with his fencing group and very much looks forward to attending the classes twice a week.  Tim is enjoying the TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) program he started this spring at the local community college.  It is turning out to be a wonderful place for him.  He attends the program three days a week.  This summer marks 10 years of ongoing volunteer work with the local nature center.  We are very proud of all he is doing and his many successes.

We are busy studying all things prairie.  The kids continue to enjoy Little House on the Prairie, and we added in an Indian unit study focused around Meet Kaya.  I am making up the Indian unit study as we go.  This week we built a teepee from a kit and made our own beaded Indian nameplates.  The kids chosen names are Princess Brown Bear, Brick Builder, and Princess Soft Breeze. 

In science we learned about the circulatory system, blood types, the make up of blood and the jobs of blood.  We made a model of blood.  The model is made of red hot candies (red blood cells), lima beans (platelets), lentil beans (white blood cells) and corn syrup (plasma).

Yes!  Our plumbing is all fixed; the new ceiling is in; and we even have crown molding now!  I can't wait to put my kitchen back together.  It has been a long couple of weeks.  I am always amazed how a remodel of a small space results in stuff spread all over the house.  Oh, and drywall dust ~ need I say more?!  We LOVE our contractor, though.  This is the fourth job he has done for us, and he just works so well with a family underfoot.  It must come with being the youngest of 13 himself.

Well, that wraps up our week.  We will be commemorating the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic this weekend with a dinner.  I look forward to sharing our event with you soon.  I am joining homegrown learners and Weird, unsocialized homeschoolers this week.

Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, April 12, 2012

What We Eat ~ Grain-Free Living!

One of my friends keeps asking me what we eat.  One of her children may need to go on a similar diet to ours, and she wonders whether they will starve to death.  I must admit that I worried about this a year ago, too!  Just to recap,  our son can't eat grains (wheat, rice, corn, barley, rye, oats and any others I missed), all nuts, soy, olives, shellfish, and yeast.  He can only have small amounts of chocolate and eggs baked into food. He can have dairy, but the cheese has to be fresh, such as mozzarella, rather than aged.  In addition, we eat as much organic as we can.  I do this for health reasons and also to reduce chemicals in our diet.  We do our best to eat grass-fed beef and cage-free chickens.  Our son is so sensitive to corn that even eating caged chickens who have eaten a corn diet affects him.  We are completely organic with dairy, potatoes and meat.  We are 75% organic with fruit and 50% organic with vegetables.  We generally drink tea for breakfast and water for lunch, snacks and dinner.  Sometimes we have milk for dinner, if I feel like our calorie intake for the day has been low.  We have juice one time a week (usually for our Friday field trip).

Here is what we ate last week: 


Tom Sawyer:
(I use Red Mills All Purpose Gluten-Free Flour to make the bread and Against the Grain bagels. We use Stonyfield organic yogurt.)

Sun -- Grain-free banana bread, two cuties (small tangerines), and cup of milk.
Mon -- Same as above.
Tues -- Organic strawberry yogurt, banana, homemade sausage, black tea.
Wed -- Homemade sausage, bagel, cutie, black tea.
Thur -- Against the grain bagel, two cuties, strawberry yogurt, milk.
Fri -- Against the grain bagel, banana, frozen organic raspberries, milk.
Sat -- Organic hot dog, frozen organic blackberries, bagel, milk.

The rest of the family: 

Sun -- Same as Tom Sawyer.
Mon -- Same as Tom Sawyer.
Tues -- Same as Tom Sawyer.
Wed -- Homemade sausage,  Natures Own bagel, banana, tea.
Thur -- Same as Tom Sawyer (but the bagel was Natures Own, less expensive).
Fri -- Organic Peanut Butter Bumpers cereal, milk, banana.
Sat -- Yogurt, eggs, and hash browns (homemade).

Tom Sawyer:

Sun -- Hamburger with cheese, carrots, water.
Mon -- Miracle noodles with Earth Fare spaghetti sauce and meat balls.
Tues -- Ground turkey burger on a against the grain bagel, salad (no dressing).
Wed -- Same as Wednesday but with cucumbers rather than salad.
Thur -- Grain-free banana bread, Hormel ham slices, cheese and apple slices.
Fri -- Potato chips, cheese slices, apples and carrots.
Sat -- Potato chips, hot dogs, Annie's organic gummy bunnies, pears, and organic grape soda.

The rest of the family:

Sun -- Same as Tom Sawyer.
Mon -- Same as Tom Sawyer.
Tues -- Same as Tom Sawyer except we used rice.
Wed -- Same as Tom Sawyer except we used Natures Own bread.
Thur -- Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
Fri -- Same as Tom Sawyer.
Sat -- Same as Tom Sawyer.


    We all had the same thing, except that when rice or tortillas are mentioned, Tom Sawyer would have had Miracle Noodles or fried potatoes.

    Sun -- Fish fry (fish dipped in Quinoa flour and fried in oil other than olive as Tom Sawyer is allergic to olives), green beans and organic french fries.
    Mon -- Ham dinner with organic ham, pineapple, grain-free banana bread, green beans and homemade cranberry sauce.
    Tues -- Quinoa macaroni, ham and cheese casserole (see photo) with apple slices and cucumbers.
    Wed -- Taco night with tortillas or fried potatoes, ground beef spiced with homemade taco seasoning, cheese, salsa, tomatoes and lettuce.
    Thur -- Turkey meatloaf made of organic ground turkey with crushed potato chips, ketchup and Italian seasoning and salad.
    Fri -- Chef salad bar ~ lettuce, ham, turkey, cheese, tomatoes, carrots, celery, sunflower seeds and raisins.
    Sat -- Organic hot dogs, organic fries, and fruit salad (cuties, apples and blackberries).


    For dessert, the kids had Breyer's natural ice cream, Annie's Gummy Bunnies or homemade hot chocolate.  For snack, they had cheese, raisins, sunflower seeds, popcorn (everyone except Tom Sawyer) or potato chips.

    Blessings, Dawn

      Sunday, April 8, 2012

      Happy Easter 2012 ~ Egg Hunts!

      I hope this Easter finds you all blessed.  We have been busy with Easter activities all week.  We've enjoyed several Easter videos, explored our Resurrection eggs, taken an Easter egg basket to a friend in the hospital, and spent a joyful weekend together.  Since we are currently between churches, we are holding our own celebration of Jesus' life today (isn't everyday a celebration?).  Long story short ~ our church is not a good fit for us at this time, and we are looking for a new place of worship.  Anyway, this is the first time missing church on Easter Sunday in a very long time, and it feels a bit strange.

      I would have to say the kids' favorite part of the past week has been multiple Easter egg hunts.  They are obsessed with egg hunts.  Little Red Riding Hood, in particular, plays with Easter eggs year round.  She has been setting up her own Easter egg hunts since Valentines day!  We did Easter egg hunts with our spelling words almost daily over the last 2 weeks.  We will be having a big at home hunt later today.  The eggs will be filled with dimes and nickels (since most candy cannot be eaten by Tom Sawyer).

      Since we have not been attending our church for awhile now, it felt wrong to attend their Easter egg hunt, which has been a family tradition for years.  So I started looking for a local hunt and found that there were many.  I also discovered to my surprise that some of our children had aged out of the hunts already.  Since Little Red Riding Hood talks about the big Easter egg hunt year round (really, she does), we decided to go to as many as we could this year.  The first one was at a historic home and had no age limit.  All of the kids were able to participate, and they gave out lots of stickers and other prizes for our non-candy eating son. They also had tons of historic games, including a parachute.  What fun that was for everyone.  Goldilocks found the golden egg, which won her a stuffed bunny.

      Another day I took only Little Red Riding Hood to a hunt at a local statue garden.  She found many eggs -- what with all the practice she gets holding her own egg hunts.  I pointed out that one little girl was crying, because she had found none.  Little Red Riding Hood gave her four eggs.  Then she started noticing other children who had no eggs.  Without prompting, she gave away at least half of her eggs to other children.  She brought a great deal of joy to others.  It brought tears to my eyes to see how she shared.  She felt great too.  I love seeing her develop the knowledge that it is better to give than receive.

      Blessings, Dawn

      Friday, April 6, 2012

      Five In a Row (FIAR) ~ Three Names

      We just finished rowing through Three Names.  This book is a perfect fit with our Little House on the Prairie unit study. 

      We did all kinds of fun activities with this FIAR book.  We focused on tornadoes and tornado preparedness, one room schools, and what prairies look like.  Below is a list of what we did.
      • We went on a picnic with an authentic prairie meal.  Our metal lunch pail had a carrot, ham slices, baked potato, dried fruit, and water. 
      • We compared and contrasted homeschooling to a one room school. 
      • We measured a distance of 3 miles with the car.
      • We took a long walk (about a mile) with our lunch pail.
      • The kids climbed many trees.
      • We made a tornado lap book.
      • We finally made an emergency tub for the basement.  In the tub is a blanket, two bottles of water, some candy, a hand crank flashlight, a multi-purpose tool, Band- Aids, dog leash, dog dish, and hydrogen peroxide.  This is a bare bones kit.  Even in a worse case scenario, I would not expect to be in the basement for more than an hour or so.  The likelihood of a significant tornado in the mountains is unlikely, although we had a small one in January and actually had a small one destroy our backyard a few years ago.  We have moved to the basement for safety three times in the last 10 years.  We mostly get high winds and hail around here.
      • We bought and set up a Red Cross weather radio.
      • Each child wrote a few sentences describing our backyard.

      I am joining Read, Learn, Explore.

      Blessings, Dawn

      Thursday, April 5, 2012

      History Lessons in a Cemetery

      We spent a lovely afternoon in one of the largest cemeteries in our area this past week.  I know what you are thinking ~ a lovely afternoon in a cemetery??  Yes! I love to visit cemeteries, the older and more historic the better.  So, I planned a field trip with our homeschool friends and we picked up the who's who booklet from the cemetery office.  We found Zebulon Vance (governor in North Carolina during Civil War) right away.  The kids went on a field trip to his home earlier this year, so they were excited to find his final resting place.

      We also found many of the graves of the five victims who were killed in the only mass murder our town has ever know.  It took place in 1906.  We also found Thomas Wolfe's grave and the Colburn family plot (which donated our science museum).  We would like to go back and find victims of the 1918 flu epidemic when we study that next year.  Once we started looking around, we were amazed to find so many famous people.  However, the kids were most affected by the many graves of babies and young children.  It really brings home how fortunate we are to live in current times.

      The kids quickly started picking wild flowers and tending the graves.  Little Red Riding Hood loves to put flowers on graves. 

      There were many lovely and unusual headstones.  It is amazing how talented the stone cutters are who made the headstones.  The kids also enjoyed doing a few grave rubbings.  We used oil pastels to make the rubbings.

      Blessings, Dawn