Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas Fun

It was a fast fun filled week and we aren't done with the celebrating yet! We had a lovely play date with just a small portion of our adoption support group on Christmas Eve. Only four families were able to make it. I can't believe that I was pregnant with Little Red Riding Hood when we first met this group!

The kids had a blast in the hurricane simulator. It made a mess of their hair. We crammed about six kids in each time.

We had one of the most peaceful Christmas mornings since raising this brood. It seems to get calmer each year. There was only one incident this year brought on by a panic attack that Goldilocks had. Everything ended alright. This year was a board game Christmas. We are having a blast playing with all of the great games we received. I will do a review of them with the New Year. Everyone voted on having a Board Game Marathon for New Year's Eve. We also got other delightful gifts.

Goldilocks got a money tree for Christmas. It got a bit squished under the tree.

Hope you all are having a peaceful Christmas week! We are so very blessed!

Blessings, Dawn

Monday, December 23, 2013

A Church Community

Last Easter I mentioned that we were trying out a new church. I was excited because I thought we may have finally found the right fit. Since then we have attended almost every week. Dare I say that we have found our new church family? Yes, I think we have. The church is a good size but has only about a dozen kids in the same age range (8 to 13) as my brood.  At first, I thought this was a con for the church, but now see that it is a pro. The kids are making solid friends with the other children.

One thing that is so remarkable about this church is how much they embrace children.  They say right in their bulletin that children are welcome and encouraged to be in church during all parts of the service. The remarkable thing is that they really mean it! They are happy to meet kids where they are and are accepting of a little bit of kid noise/movement. They understand that kids are kids. When it is appropriate, they are encouraged to play.

This church is very community minded and encourages every member to do charity work. There are opportunities monthly or even more often to do charity work. Just this month alone, they have been collecting gifts for a disadvantaged high school in our area, collecting money for a no-kill animal shelter (idea suggested by the kids), collecting money for retired clergy who have fallen on hard times, and made blankets for the Linus Project. They also do inter-generational Sunday school classes every few weeks. What a great opportunity for the young to form relationships with older members and find role models.
Making blankets in an inter-generational Sunday school class
This church is progressive and that is the perfect fit for our family. There is always something to do for social justice, the poor or abused. We love how this church is progressive but also embraces traditions. It is filled with high church music and Christian symbolism. It is so lovely to be somewhere that we are embraced for who we are and encouraged to meet our highest potential and then serve others. I love that!

This past Sunday my kids were part of the creche service. Little Red Riding Hood and Tom Sawyer carried Mary and Joseph porcelain figures to the altar and placed them. It was so cute watching each child place the pieces on the alter. No one seemed at all concerned that little ones were holding (all through the service) and carrying breakable figures. They were just relaxed and enjoying Christmas.

On Christmas eve the kids will have the opportunity to be in a live nativity at church. It is good to be home.

Blessings, Dawn

PS -- Thank you, Dad, for my new camera. It works great. It will work even better once I figure it out...LOL! All of these pictures were taken without the flash and the last picture was taken from the very back of the about zoom!! THANK YOU!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Harlem Renaissance ~ A Mini Unit Study

I did a small unit study with the children over the past week or two on the Harlem Renaissance. I focused on poetry, history and music. My Mother focused on teaching the kids about the art of the Harlem Renaissance.

I used Poetry for Young People Langston Hughes as our main book of poetry. We concentrated on the poems Mother to Son, Homesick Blues, Merry-Go-Round, Still Here, Harlem, and I, Too.
I have always enjoyed Langston Hughes. I think the layers of realism and symbolism are pretty easy to understand. My kids enjoyed figuring out the different emotions in the poem Harlem. We read each line and put an emotion to it. For instance they thought the first sentence expressed the emotion of sadness or worn out and the second expressed pain. The third sentence was anger, the fourth was happy and the fifth was exhaustion. During our poetry tea, we focused on descriptive language in poetry. Langston Hughes does an excellent job of painting a picture for our minds with his descriptive words.


What happens to a dream deferred?

      Does it dry up
      like a raisin in the sun?
      Or fester like a sore—
      And then run?
      Does it stink like rotten meat?
      Or crust and sugar over—
      like a syrupy sweet?

      Maybe it just sags
      like a heavy load.

      Or does it explode?

For music we read several picture books on the Jazz and Blues Age and concentrated on Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Bessie Smith and Dizzy Gillespie. The songs we focused on were What a Wonderful World, Hello Dolly, Salt Peanuts, A Night in Tunisia, Cry Me a River, Summertime, Tain't Nobody's Business If I Do, St. Louis Blues, It Don't Mean a Thing, Take the A Train, and many others.  They liked Duke Ellington the best overall. He sure made some great dance music.

 My mother focused on Aaron Douglas for our artist study. We looked at several works of art and studied the simple, straight lines. We noticed that he did not put faces on most of the people, but instead made silhouettes. Grandma reviewed the poem, Merry-Go-Round, by Langston Hughes, which has lots of images. The kids then illustrated the poem just as Aaron Douglas illustrated many of Langston Hughes' poems. Here is their art work:
Little Red Riding Hood 10 years
Tom Sawyer 11 years
Goldilocks 12 years
We discussed how conditions were excellent for the birth of the Harlem Renaissance and reviewed why so many African-Americans were moving to northern cities. We reviewed Jim Crow laws and the dangers of living in the South. However, we discussed that things were not that wonderful in the North, either. We learned that even though African Americans were being recognized for their music and art, they still were often segregated. There were even clubs in Harlem that were for only white patrons even though the performers were African-American.

There was so much more that we could have done with this study. For instance, we did not study the many dances of this time period. However, we are out of time for now. We need a break from school and some time to embrace Christmas.

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, December 13, 2013

Week 18 ~ Gingerbread, Charity, and Advent

In My Life ~ I have always loved Advent more than Christmas day (at least since becoming an adult). I love all of the preparations for Christmas ~ baking, reading Christmas books, Christmas movies, picking different charities to teach the kids about, looking for Christmas lights, and decking the halls. We are deep into our Advent traditions this week. On a whim, I decided to add a new Advent tradition. I saw on the web the idea of using the three wise men in a similar way to the Elf on the Shelf. I never cared much for the Elf on the Shelf. The way I understand it was that the Elf was always watching over the kids and reporting back to Santa about who was naughty and who was nice. It seemed like putting the emphasis of the season in the wrong place. I don't want my kids focusing on being good for the sake of what material gifts they will receive or that Santa Claus is the main reason for them to behave. So, I decided to use the wise men. They move around the house on their search for our Nativity. They will search until January 6. Along the way, they are finding activities/charity work that we are doing that day, or a particular cleaning project that needs doing. Occasionally they will find a tiny gift or sweet for the children because serving others brings much sweetness to our lives. 
Clockwise ~ on the telescope (looking at the night sky with Daddy), in the freezer (helping Mommy make breakfast), searching in a bowl (a small set of art magnets were found), and with gift wrap (preparing to wrap gifts for their dance teachers).

This week we completed four of our charities for this season. We attended the Return to Bethlehem. It is a wonderful reenactment that we enjoy attending every year. There are beggars (actors) spread throughout the walking tour and you add dollars to their baskets. All of the money goes to our local homeless shelter.

We also turned in a new book for children that each child had previously picked off of the library giving tree.

The kids were excited when our Advent book was The Dog Who Found Christmas. They knew that book meant that our activity would be going to take gifts to the no kill shelter and visit the dogs. The shelter let us feed some of the dogs and do a little bit of training. The kids fell in love with bloodhound puppies that we hope will find a good home some day soon.

Lastly, we dropped off food at the large food bank collection tree at the mall.

The gingerbread houses at the Grove Park Inn. We love to go see the gingerbread house contest winners every year. This year was special because our son, Tim, and his friends at the brain injured day program entered the contest with their own gingerbread house. They did not win, but their house was displayed in the inn. Below were some of our favorites.

Here is the gingerbread house that Tim's group entered.

We are busy getting each of our subjects to a good resting place. We wrapped up history, music and science this week. We were supposed to be done with this quarter today, but we are still wrapping up geography, spelling, math, art and our homeschool clubs (Lego and American Girl Doll). We plan to be ready for our break next Wednesday. Literature will be ongoing since it is our Advent books at the moment.

Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Week 16 and 17 ~ Enjoying the Season

The Nutcracker and the Mouse King -- I suppose I say this all the time, but the last two weeks have been a whirlwind. I can't believe Thanksgiving was just last week! It seems like ages ago. Maybe it is just that we are now in full Nutcracker mode. This week is defiantly overshadowed by the Nutcracker. We will log 20+ hours at the theater this week. The last two weeks have had many ups and one big down (which I will get to later in this post).
A Sailor and a stuffed cat
My little candy cane!
A Guard who was in a rush to get to a costume change!
Last week we had our first snow! The kids were delighted to wake up last week to an inch of snow. They were out in it as soon as the sun came up. Our dog Boomer loves to run super fast in the snow. He is always a blur in my pictures.

Thanksgiving found us very thankful indeed for our many blessings. We decided to go with a traditional feast since Tom Sawyer is handling wheat in small quantities. He did eat too much stuffing, though, so is gluten-free this week. The menu was as follows: orange juice punch, stuffing, veggie platter, sweet potato and apple pies, turkey (decorated by Tom Sawyer), rolls, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce. Note to self...making the cranberry sauce, pies and bread for the stuffing several days in advance helped tremendously on turkey day.

We have a new therapist for Goldilocks. A few weeks ago, I took Goldilocks for an intake at a mental health center in our area. We have been looking on our own for a new female therapist for awhile with very little luck, until we found this organization that specializes in finding good matches for kids. They found us a match within two weeks. We have only met her once, but she seems great. I really am looking forward to some more support with helping Goldilocks meet her highest potential.

We are busy decking our halls. We found a sweet little tree this year at Home Depot. The kids decorated it on the first of December. We also put up two nativities and started our advent books and wreath. This week the kids' favorite advent things were making and eating latkes, plus decorating the tree. My favorite thing was sitting with my kids in the dark looking at our Christmas tree and nativity.

Tom Sawyer was shot with a pump rifle BB gun by the neighbor boy! He was shot at close range while riding his bike. It left an ugly welt on his leg and chipped the paint off his bike. The boy wasn't angry at him; he just was using my son as target practice. This kid and his chums, who also were firing BB guns at dogs and cars, have no concept of gun safety! The police took more than TWO hours to show up! Oy!! Living in the South is sometimes hard for me. Where I grew up, being shot with anything would have been a criminal offense. Here, the police think most boys are going to get shot with a BB gun (by mistake) at least once in their childhoods. They weren't even sure if it was against the law or not!! Since Tom Sawyer was threatened and then shot (the boy said, "I'm going to shoot you," and then shot him!), they agreed to go talk some sense into the kids and their parents, but since they took so long to arrive, when they went to speak to the boy who actually shot Tom Sawyer, he was no longer at home. I don't think the police ever bothered to come back. Did I mention that this boy's older brother shot Tom Sawyer (supposedly by mistake) with a BB gun this past summer? So, here we are again in a neighborhood where the kids are not appropriate playmates. I guess we are just going to have to isolate and import our playmates from elsewhere. I am so thankful for a really large fenced yard. We will be working on making it more tween/teen friendly for our kids over the next year. The hardest part is the bike riding...since riding in our neighborhood means risking being shot!

This month's poetry tea was all about Christmas. We read Christmas Trees by Robert Frost, Christmas Eve in Our Village by Phyllis McGinley, and A Visit from St. Nicholas by Clement Clarke Moore. We also enjoyed eating off of our Norman Rockwell plates and looking at his illustrations in the Norman Rockwell's Christmas Book.

We are officially Christmas schooling. The kids begin their day with CNN student news, one subject (history, science, or geography) and working on a page or two from each section of their Flash Kids full curriculum workbooks. Then it is on to Christmas school! We finished Mary's Christmas Carol mini unit study. It was wonderful. The kids and I also discovered Pentatonix on YouTube. They are an awesome acapella group that has many Christmas songs. We were able to find almost all of the songs in Mary's study on the Pentatonix channel. We also did our Advent books with activities each day. We delivered this week's Christmas charity of shoe boxes to Meals on Wheels. The biggest part of our Christmas schooling is the Nutcracker. This week, our studies are very heavy in music, theater training and social skills for the upcoming performances on Friday and Saturday.

Lastly, we squeezed in a library program. The girls loved making rubber band bracelets at the library this week. It is really easy and fun finger weaving. 

Well, I wasn't kidding that it has been a whirlwind the last two weeks. Thanks for hanging in there.

Blessings, Dawn

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Two Homemade Advent Calenders

I bought a Lego advent calender on sale months ago for Tom Sawyer. However, I didn't have advent calenders for the girls. I decided to make calenders this year. These are not "perfect", but they were very simple and inexpensive to  make. The girls were so pleased to see them this morning.

A Teddy Bear Advent Calender

For Little Red Riding Hood I recycled her pin the nose on the teddy bear poster from her birthday party. Grandma made the bear poster, and I wanted to use it again.
I added a Christmas tree and presents with permanent markers and kids paint. Then I added the numbers randomly with a liquid silver pen.
Then I took a craft knife and cut little doors around the numbers.
Lastly, I taped treats to the back of each door. I then added string to place it up on her bedroom wall.

A Toilet Paper Advent Calender

For Goldilocks I made a Christmas tree advent calender. I took toilet paper rolls and cut them in half. I glued them down into a Christmas tree shape and painted the outside of the rolls green with kids paint. Once everything dried, I added treats to each compartment.
I then cut out construction paper circles and added numbers with a liquid silver pen. We then ended up taping them down. I am sure there was a better way, but nothing was coming to my husband or me last night and our time was up. It works as long as her advent calender lays flat.

We also do a family advent book each day. To see our list of Christmas books for this year, go here.

Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Week 15 ~ What a Social Life

We have been going from one social event to another. Everyone keeps telling me that they dread the busyness of December, but I am looking forward to December. My calendar clears up considerably. Here is our week by events. (We got a good amount of school work done, too, but nothing super exciting.)

The Nutcracker ~ The Nutcracker is only a few weeks away. The kids are busy with hours of extra rehearsals. They look great! The show is really coming together. Little Red Riding Hood is a toy cat, candy cane and a guard. Tom Sawyer is a sailor on the Sugar Plum lake.
This girl is made out of a rubber band!
This is just part of their candy cane costumes.
My sailor lining up to dance
The Parade ~ Goldilocks participated in our city holiday parade with her special needs cheer leading squad. She had so much fun and got to wear green glitter eye shadow. She was over the moon about that. Dh went along as her chaperone. We enjoy living in a city that is large enough to have many amenities, but small enough that we know tons of people in the parade.

These were made completely out of plastic bags.

Two Plays ~ We won tickets to The Best Christmas Pageant Ever! This is one of my favorite Christmas plays. My mother and I took the girls to see it at the community theater. It was a wonderful production. We also had tickets this week to Shakespeare on Trial. This was part of our local theater's matinee school series. What a great introduction to four famous Shakespeare characters! We also watched Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, and Macbeth on YouTube. The Shakespeare animated tales are wonderful.

Lego Club ~ We finally got into a Lego club.We have been on the waiting list for nearly 4 years! The kids enjoyed the challenge and had lots of creative building time with about 20 other kids. We look forward to getting to know this new group of families.

Charity Shoe Boxes ~ We got together with another family to make shoe boxes for Operation Christmas child, Meals on Wheels and A missionary family in Mexico. The family in Mexico is still accepting boxes if you wish to send one. I have followed this family's blog for years. They are very devoted to their poverty stricken community. We completed nine boxes!

The Rest ~ In between all of this fun, our family was witness to a terrible tragedy this week. One of the families in our dance studio lost their father/husband. It was a very sudden and unexpected death. Our dance community is in shock. This family is extremely involved in our dance studio and are also homeschoolers. We have had many conversations about grief, death and how to be a friend to someone going through this tragedy. Our heart goes out to them during this very difficult time.

Blessings, Dawn