Monday, November 30, 2015

E Is for Ensemble ... The Nutcracker Ensemble

E is for ensemble. The kids were allowed to bring their costumes home this year. They are old enough to be responsible for them now. Anne tried on three of her four costumes for me. The fourth costume is an African sugar mask, which is stored back stage at the theater. I will have to get a picture of that one when backstage.

Party Scene
Guard outfit ~ In addition, she will wear a big toy soldier hat.
Dean tried on two of his costumes. His third costume is a cat and is all black and boring (according to him), so he wouldn't try it on for me.

Sailor outfit
Party scene
We are ready! Let the show begin!
I am joining ~
Through the Calm and Through the Storm

Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Always Thankful ... Even When Things Don't Go as Planned

We had a rather rough first week of winter break.  Dear Husband was home for the week, and we had great plans for our staycation. However, the stomach bug descended upon us on Tuesday and knocked us out, one by one. Only Dean was spared (so far). He has been known to fall days after the rest of us have already recuperated. I sure hope that doesn't happen again since the Nutcracker is only six days away! We did pull off a light Thanksgiving meal on Friday once we all thought we could eat a little bit of something.
  • I am thankful that the stomach bug hit us this week and not Nutcracker week.
  • I am thankful I lost 3 pounds this week -- not many people can claim weight loss Thanksgiving week!
One of our major plans this week was painting Dean's room. It had worn out blue wallpaper over wood paneling. In the end, Dean decided he wanted the wood paneling, instead of the room being painted. We did manage to strip all the wallpaper off three walls. The fourth wall will still have to be painted, because someone in the past had painted white and blue stripes on the paneling. We also need to freshen up the trim work and paint it all to the same shade of white. So, we got his room 75% done, which is pretty good during this not so stellar week.

  • I am thankful that we were able to work in shifts and get this project underway.
  • I am thankful that Dean really likes the wood paneling. I tend to think it is best to return a home to its original state if you can't afford to completely renovate a space, rather than just cover things up.
We also managed to almost finish all of the trim work and closet doors painted in our bedroom. They were a sickly slate blue when we moved here three years ago and we finally started painting it crisp white a few weeks ago. The louvered closet doors were the hardest part and I put them off until I could concentrate on them. Now we just have one more window to paint and coordinating curtains to buy. I will show a picture later when I am completely done.
  • I am thankful to see our bedroom coming together and that it finally feels like a comfortable place to rest.
We had plans to go to a very fancy pool with a lazy river and huge slides a few hours from here. However, that clearly was not going to happen. Instead, we did manage to play miniature golf and the kids got to wall climb on Friday.

  • I am thankful that we got to sprinkle a little bit of fun into our week, which made it feel a little bit more like a special time with Daddy off work.
Last Sunday, before anyone was sick, we made an Advent wreath at church. I loved doing this project with other church members. We will light the first candle on Sunday. We also got to pick from a list at church a teenager so we could provide Christmas for her. Our church has taken on all of the students in an alternative high school filled with teen moms, homeless kids and teens from lots of other disadvantages. I was amazed by the small and very practical requests they made.

  • I am thankful for a church that does such a nice mix of charity work and member building activities. 
  • I am thankful to be able to give Christmas to a teen mom and her infant son. One of the school's teachers (who was there to help church members pick a teen) paired me with a teen mom who, while really shining as a mother and college bound, still needs lots of encouragement. She asked me to write a letter to her to encourage her, since I was a teen mom 25 years ago and graduated from high school and went on to  graduate from college. 
  • I am thankful to be able to give back in any small way I can. Many people encouraged me along my difficult teen mother path, and I appreciate all that they did for me.
We hope to buy our Christmas tree today and clean the house some. Everything feels out of place.  It doesn't really feel like Christmas yet. I think it will feel more like Christmas once the tree is up and I have set the calendar with our Advent field trips and fun projects.

Blessings, Dawn

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

D Is for Dance

D is for Dance. What else could possibly be going through my mind two weeks before my kids are in the Nutcracker for the sixth time? When my then three year old daughter came to me and told me she was going to be a dancer and to sign her up for classes, I never suspected where we would be nine years later. She started her preschool ballet dance class at a little dance studio in town. They encouraged her love of dance and did lots of charity work, too. The kids danced in nursing homes twice a year and had a big spring production on a local university stage. My daughter gobbled it up. She never had a moment of stage fright. They always made her the leader on stage, because she marched right out in front of the crowd.

Anne is in the middle. (2008)
By 2010 we had moved on to a larger, more professional dance studio, and that is where we still are today. This dance studio continues to encourage dance for all body types and fosters healthy body image/self-esteem values. There is also lots of room for growth into many types of dance and dance fields. Anne gets to interact with semi-professional and professional dancers on a regular basis. She also gets to perform in two large-scale (at least for our city), full productions each year.

2010 Anne Alice and Wonderland
When we moved to this dance studio, they had a boy dance class. Dean signed up for it and has been in dance ever since. Then, Goldilocks signed up for dance. For a brief time, Tim also performed as a fencer in a few performances.

Beauty and the Beast 2011
As the years have gone by, Goldilocks and Tim have moved on to other pursuits. Anne and Dean have stayed with dance. Dean loves to perform on stage but is sometimes worn out by the classes. He is the only boy now in a sea of girls and struggles with cerebral palsy on a daily basis, but he dances on. He even made it on stage weeks after a knee dislocation in 2014.

Anne loves dance. She wants nothing more than to dance her way through life. Some people really know what they love from birth and she is one of them. For the second year in a row, she is in full Tween Company at the dance studio. She dreams of owning a dance studio of her own someday. It will be exciting to see where her journey takes her.

So, I am a dance mom. I spend many hours shuttling my kids back and forth to dance classes and working backstage during performances. I hide in the wings and watch them shine. I love to see the delight on their faces when it is curtain call time. They just glow. So, as I face my kids' sixth season of the Nutcracker with 25+ hours of dance rehearsals and performances next week, I look on with joy that my kids found something that brings light to their eyes and a spring to their step. It is all worth it.

Blogging Through the Alphabet” style=

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Week of Finishing

We just completed week 18. It is now time for an extended winter break. We have never taken off a whole month during winter before. I am really looking forward to it. We will be keeping up our nature studies and doing just a bit of personal growth (schoolish stuff) each day, but mostly we will be embracing other aspects of life for a month. I will continue posting here as well.

Wrapping Up ~ I don't have much in the way of pictures this week. It was kind of boring in the realm of pictures. Our minds were set on completing things and finding good stopping points in all subjects. I got a few pictures here and there.

Dean always loves it when I pull out clay.
  • They completed their history studies of the Middle Ages. We are ready to start the new year with Columbus.
  • They completed book 4 of Draw Write Now.
  • They completed Zoology for Kids.
  • They completed several placement tests for different math programs. Yes, we are back to the drawing board in math due to struggles over fractions and the discovery that the kids can do math problems but struggle with applying it to the real world (word problems, etc.) They scored 99% on their end-of-year testing last year, but their math skills just aren't as concrete as I would like to see them. I think those standardized tests are deceiving. I really like the math programs we have been using up until now, but I think we need a break from the spiral approach to math.
  • They attended dance, tumbling, guitar, sign language and writing classes out of the home. 
  • They read books and started our final Middle Ages book, Adam of the Road.
  • They started exploring our crystal science kit.
  • They watched CNN Student News daily.
  • They did another spelling lesson and test.
  • Dean has started making animation on the computer. He found a free program and it animates his drawings. I love to see him motivated to try new things.
Clay creations made when we were studying zoology
We started growing crystals. We have a few more to start. They should be really cool in a few days.
Lastly, Anne completed her six weeks of tumbling class today. She wants to continue in the spring, if not sooner. We are just too busy right now to start more classes immediately, plus need every extra penny for Christmas. I am pleased to see the progress she made in a safe environment (instead of working out on the hard grass), and we will be looking into how to help her do more of this kind of class after the holidays.

Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Nature Study for Urban Homeschoolers ~ Week 4

We explored our urban park this week on a warm day in the mid 60's. Timothy (our oldest son) joined us this week. We are completely absorbed with Nutcracker rehearsals now, so I didn't have any goals for the nature study today. I told the kids to keep an eye out for squirrels. We counted seven squirrels. They were very busy collecting acorns and scurrying up trees.

Watching the squirrels got the children climbing trees. Every time I turned around, Dean was in a tree.

Then, Tim decided that he was going to jump to a concrete structure in the river. He wanted to look in the hole in the center of the concrete structure and see what was in it. He made it without getting wet but couldn't find a way back. After many jokes about bringing him food and blankets so he could live there, he decided to try and jump back to a slippery bank. He didn't make it and came out rather wet from the knees down!

Does anyone have any idea what this structure might be? There was nothing in the hole. It went straight down to the river (like maybe a pipe used to come out of it?).  We think it might be from the days when this land held a bleachery plant.

We wrapped up our nature walk by collecting several kinds of berries. We have not figured out what they are yet. 

We are pretty sure they are both poisonous. If we manage to identify them soon, I will come back and label the pictures.

Blessings, Dawn

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

C Is for Celebrating Learning

We like to do a show and tell of our learning a few times a school year. We just completed a celebration of the Middle Ages. We had a wonderful time and the kids had their grandmother and two homeschool friends over to celebrate. We began with a medieval meal made from foods and spices found on tables during the Middle Ages.

We had two kinds of bread, root beer, ham, roasted vegetables, boiled cabbage, brie, fig sauce, aged cheese, asparagus (which was only found in a few French monasteries at the time), croissants and ice cream (ice cream did not exist in Europe yet, but was brought by our friends and was delicious).

After the meal, we moved to the library and set up for our presentations. Anne and Dean talked about their many projects on their project board. They explained about code of honor, why shields were decorated with a coat of arms, stained glass, illuminated manuscripts, and Celtic knots. They showed and explained their Venn diagram of A Door in the Wall vs. Crispin Cross of Lead. They then read their reports. Anne's report was about the 4 All's and Dean's report was about medieval medicine.

Then our friends did a presentation about France and the French language. They also played a French song on their tin whistles.

This concluded the formal part of our evening and the kids were allowed to go off and play. They chose to take silly pictures of each other and have a music jam. I love to see how kids "play" as they go through different developmental stages. My crew is growing up.

I am joining ~

Blogging Through the Alphabet” style=

Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Weekly Wrap-Up ~ The Many Uses of Eggs

It has been a few weeks since I have posted an all around wrap-up. We just completed week 17 and have one more week to go until our winter break. We will be on break through Christmas. I am looking forward to a restful Advent season. We have never had a long winter break, and I hope it works well for us.

Here are the highlights from our week ~

We made sugar sculptures ~ Sugar sculptures were a popular centerpiece on noble medieval tables. I was surprised to discover how easy they are to make. We used 1 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon meringue powder, and two teaspoons water. It makes a sandy consistency. Then you press it into your mold and gently dump it out on a piece of cardboard. Allow it to dry for 24 hours before touching or decorating it. The meringue powder, which is mostly dry egg whites, makes an amazing binder. The sculptures are hard and can be easily handled after they are completely dry.

We prepared for our medieval meal and show and tell with friends ~ We will have friends over on Saturday night for our show and tell of the Middle Ages. We will have a lovely feast which I will share next week. We've already set the table -- here is what it looks like. You can see the sugar presents (sculptures) among the greenery.

We had a lovely time doing art with Grandma ~ We learned a bit about religious art during the Middle Ages and looked at lots of paintings. We then made our very own egg tempera paint. The directions were a little bit abstract, at least when it came to measurements. However, the paint came out great. For our pigment, we used about one inch of sidewalk chalk, a few drops of vinegar, a few drops of water and one very fresh egg yoke for each color. (We could have used chalk pastels, but sidewalk chalk is non-toxic.)

We then made our our own paintings. We picked the Nativity as our theme. Our paintings are simple and none of us is going to get a scholarship to college for art, but it was fun. The painting is naturally shiny when it dries, due to the egg yoke.

Computer Programming Club ~ We found a free computer programming club at a local private school. Dean loved the club and had a fun time with like minded kids. We will definitely be taking him back soon. We have to get him a stronger laptop which is an expense I didn't expect in the Advent season. However, it is well worth it to have him learning with an expert and gaining skills that will help him in adulthood. I am really struggling with getting enough STEM activities in the computer/technology and engineering fields. This resource will be very helpful.

We had a lovely time at our regional national park ~ You can read my post on our field trip here. We had a lovely time seeing elk, wandering through historic buildings and playing next to the creek.

We also ... finished studying zoology, which I will be posting about next week, made it to all of our out-of-the-home activities, did the 3 R's each day and got Grandma through a procedure at the hospital. She is doing well. Lastly, we completed our third nature study of our urban park. You can read about it here.

We have Nutcracker rehearsals on Saturday and Sunday so it is going to be a busy weekend.

Our prayers go out to the people of France and all people of the world who live in or experience terror.

Hearts for Home Blog Hop

Blessings, Dawn