Saturday, January 30, 2016

A Good Week with a Few Bumps!

We have had a good week with a few bumps. I suppose that could be a statement for most weeks. Monday and Tuesday were rough, homeschool-wise. We just couldn't get into our groove after the excitement of sledding and the snowstorm. Everything was much harder than necessary, and we had our fair share of clashes. Fortunately, we were back on track by Wednesday! Then Thursday night Dear Husband's car died for the third time this month and left him stranded at work. We are going to have to have it towed back to the shop ... once again.

Art ~ We learned about gilding and Renaissance art this week with Grandma. Our favorite twins came over to join in the learning. After looking at slides of various gilded paintings from the Renaissance and also watching an excellent video lesson from Khan Academy, we tried our hand at applying gold leaf. It is harder than it looks but lots of fun. I didn't get many pictures, since I was busy trying not to turn into Midas with gold leaf all over my fingers.
Dean really spent time on his project. He stuck with it for two hours.
Anne painted a picture of our school bell and then gilded parts of it. 
From Left to Right ~ Dean -- bookcase shelf with hurricane lamp, gold flame, and books;
Mine -- a Valentine for Dear Husband; and Anne -- school bell
Experimenting with Buns ~ Anne asked me to try creating a new hair bun for her this week. So I split the hair over and over again with tiny rubber bands until it forms a bun-like spiderweb. It came out pretty good for our first attempt.

Side view of the bun
Science ~ We ran a few more science experiments this week. The most popular was burning iron. It is always fun when fire is involved in science, right? We also spent a morning doing a scavenger hunt at our city's small science museum. Dean worked on the senior high school/freshmen college student scavenger worksheet. It was hard and he needed help several times. The kids both earned their prize (more gems for their collection). We are excited to see how much our science museum grows this summer when it moves to its new physical space. They are supposed to triple their size and staff! They also plan to be much more hands-on and increase their education programs. I can't wait!

Working on his scavenger hunt worksheet
Games ~ This week was no different from last when it came to board games. We just love them! We learned two new games this week. My eldest son, Tim, received Settlers of Catan for Christmas and taught it to us. We also received The Climbing Knights board game that I will be reviewing for TOS soon. The kids had lots of fun with it, too. Additionally, we played Statego, Uno, 10 Days in Asia, and Pay Day.

The Rest of School ~ Despite our very bumpy start this week, we did accomplish most of what I set out for us to do. Here are a few of the highlights. We are halfway through The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (literature). We are almost done with Life of Fred Kidneys (math), and I had to go out and buy new math workbooks in fractions to reinforce the concept of fractions before we move on. We are actually beyond fractions, but I really noticed a gap in their learning recently so we are backing up until we get it right. We are deep into our Elections Lapbook, which I will be reviewing for TOS soon (history). Dean completed his reading comprehension book and moved on to Vocabulary for the Gifted Student workbook, and Anne is plugging along with her reading comprehension workbook. They both completed two more spelling lessons (language arts). We made it to all of our out-of-the-home classes, despite the weather ~ Yay! So it was another good week.

Last Thought ~ I find one of the things that is truly lacking in our society is kindness. So many people are rushing around and thinking only of themselves. It is an especially sad thought, because I supposedly live in one of the top ten happiest cities in America. Of course, I am assuming that happiness equates kindness which I suppose is a stretch. However, I wish everyone would focus on teaching their children and themselves to extend a greater level of kindness on a daily basis. This week, I witnessed an elderly woman in a crowded aisle at Walmart struggling to pull a large box off a bottom shelf with her cane. I told Dean to go help her and he offered his services to her. She very gratefully accepted and thanked him repeatedly. All the older women in the aisle were beaming about what they had witnessed. Later, a few aisles away, two women who had seen him help the first woman started smiling when they saw him and commenting to each other about his kind act. It struck me that he had done such a simple act. It took him far less time than it took me to write this paragraph. However, it had a lasting impact on several people. Unfortunately, it had a lasting impact because it was seen as unusual, instead of the norm. We are living in a country with so much bitterness, hatred and despair splashed across our news feeds every day. Isn't it time to turn the tide and unite our country in love, peace and kindness? We owe it to our children and future grandchildren.

Blessings, Dawn

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

M Is for Margin

Margin ~ The edge or border of something, a space or gap.

Through the years I have struggled with the concept of margin. Maintaining enough margin in our days to deal with the multitude of mini crises that come up has been something I have battled for years in our homeschool. We experienced an extreme change in our family almost two years ago. Our mentally ill daughter ran away and is now living in a mental health setting. It has taken us a long time to begin healing -- not only from her departure from our family, but also from the years and years of dangerous chaos we experienced living with her. In the past year the crises have abated quit a bit and we have truly begun to heal.

As we have started on the journey to healing we have been coming out of our somewhat isolated world. I am not sure calling our past world isolated is the correct term. Even at the height of our crisis-filled life, we maintained a busy dance schedule and a dozen or more doctor appointments each month. However, for years our lives revolved around home, dance and doctor offices. It was all I could do to maintain all of that, so I was not able to explore what else the world had to offer.

That brings me to the present. We are finding that our community is filled to the brim with opportunities. We live in an area with a large population of homeschoolers. In fact, we live in a county where 1 in 4 children are either homeschooled or attend a private school. Furthermore, we live in one of the states with the largest homeschool populations in the nation. So there is an abundance of homeschool activities. Then there are all of the non-homeschool activities that are open to us. There are so many choices and we must manage our time and financial resources! So I am back to struggling with margin. I need to keep enough space in our days to get a thorough at-home education, as well as make sure that all of our out-of-the-home activities are truly meaningful and relevant to our current needs. So as we enter this new season "where the world is our oyster," I am watching the margin and trying to avoid the edge of the "world of too much".

What we are currently doing ~ 
  • Weekly dance classes 7 hours a week for Anne
  • Weekly dance classes 3 hours a week for Dean
  • Tween Dance Showcase for both kids
  • Spring show of the Jungle Book for both kids
  • Bi-monthly youth group at church for Dean
  • Weekly guitar class for Dean
  • Weekly sign language class for Anne
  • Physical therapy for Dean ~ just a few more sessions, though
  • Weekly computer programming club for Dean
  • Monthly special needs support group dinner and class for all of us
  • Spring showcase at co-op
  • Lego club
  • Therapy to help Dean with sensory issues and social skills
What we are considering adding ~ 
  • Bell choir at church for both kids
  • An engineering class -- if I can make it so Dean only has to take that one class and not the entire day of co-op classes. 
How do you maintain margin in your lives? Is it easy or hard?

I am joining ~ 
Through the Calm and Through the Storm

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, January 22, 2016

Week 22 ~ Snow, School and Games

We are in the midst of a large snowstorm here in the mountains of North Carolina. Dear husband was given the day off so we are all safe and sound at home. We have about six inches of snow on the ground with more expected over the next 24 hours. They say we may get a foot! What fun!
We will be doing plenty of this over the next day or two!
Boomer is loving the snow!
Dear Husband got the day off to play in the snow!
Science ~ We are enjoying The Crazy Scientist 20 Amazing Science Tricks. The experiments are clear cut and actually work. I love it when they work! This week we learned about low atmospheric air pressure. Can you make a ping pong blow out of a funnel? I bet you can't!

We also learned about surface tension on water. We even made a water dome.

We then learned about "tearing" the surface tension with a drop of soap on the finger. The pepper runs away from the soap as it breaks the surface tension.

Games ~ You know it is winter around here when it is game night every single night. Here are the games we played this week.
  • Blokus
  • 10 Days in Asia
  • Munchkin
  • Apples to Apples
  • Yahtzee
  • QBitz
  • Swish

School Days ~ 

The rest of our week was filled with learning. Snow interrupted a field trip and our co-op classes this week, but we got lots done at home. Anne finished her math book, Stand Up Math (180 Fun and Challenging Word Problems for Kids). Dean will be done with his book on Monday. They have been doing tons of workbook pages both in reading comprehension and cursive handwriting. They are loving Leonardo for Kids: His Life and Ideas: 21 Activities. We are skipping most of the activities in the book because we have done them before. Instead, I am pulling out the clay for them to create while I read. We are also working our way through The World of Columbus and Sons. We finished up Prince Caspian The Return to Narnia and will be going on with The Voyage of the Dawn Treader next week. We also did lots of cooking on Thursday in order to prepare for the possibility of losing power during the storm. There were other accomplishments, but that is the highlights of our school week.
Anne made her first roux for homemade mac and cheese.

We also found the closest recipe to my memory of what an Orange Julius tastes like. I haven't had one in decades! It is from the Pioneer Woman website. 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1 cup pineapple juice
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon meringue powder
  • 1/4 heaping cup powdered sugar
  • ice
Blend all ingredients together and enjoy!

Well, we are off to look at the snow in the dark and play another board game! Happy weekend. I am joining ~ 
Collage Friday at Homegrown Learners

Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Counting our Blessings

January hasn't started the way I wished. I was hoping for calmness with very few changes. However, there are blessings at every turn and for that I am grateful.

The Car ~ We spent the week with my husband's car in the repair shop for the second time this month. This time it is still there and they still don't know exactly what is wrong. The electrical system has a short, but no one can yet figure where the short. The car is 16 years old and I fear this may be the end of it. On the bright side, we only live a few miles from dear husband's work, so taking him back and forth is not really that hard.

The Groceries ~ We kept the groceries to $143.00 this week. That is a little higher than the goal of $125.00, but not bad considering that I was $30 under last week. I shopped at the regional supermarket, Ingles, Walmart and the local scratch and dent store.

A Gift Card ~ Toward the end of the week we were feeling disheartened by the broken car, issues with the public school system and how it relates to Goldilocks (our daughter that is in an out-of-the-home placement because of her mental health issues), the loss of our son Timothy's favorite staff worker at his day program and dear husband having an extra hard week at work. We had been given a gift card to Olive Garden for Christmas. So we purchased two adult meals and a kid meal for takeout. The meals came with salad and bread sticks. It was plenty of food for all of us and reminded us of the many blessings that surround us, even in the midst of a storm.

Geography ~ For years Anne has struggled with geography. This subject does not come easily to her. I knew that she usually learns easily from games but hadn't found the right one. This Christmas we received the game, 10 Days in Asia. Anne is in love with this game and is quickly picking up geography. She is retaining the countries and where they are. We have played this game every night for a week. I can't wait to get the other games in the series.

Snow Tubing ~ We had a very special treat this weekend. We promised Dean that he could have a friend for a sleepover and snow tubing in lieu of going on the youth church retreat (for which we felt he was too young at this time). The weekend finally arrived and one of his friends came over. They had a blast playing computer games, staying up late at night and going out for pizza and snow tubing. It was a fantastic weekend for all.
I loved this sign at the snow tubing place.
They allowed trains, which was a highlight!
Dean loved it!
Dean and his friend J on the slope
Dear husband really got into it!
We were so hungry that we forgot to take a picture of the pizzas. The five of us finished off two large pizzas!
I am so grateful for all of our many blessings.

Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, January 14, 2016

K Is for Kumquats and Kiwis

I enjoy exposing my kids to new foods. We have had kiwi to eat before, but not in a long time. My children did not like kiwi when they were little so we rarely purchased it. I thought it was time to give it another try. To my delight, Anne thought the kiwi was good and ate one whole fruit by herself. Dean was still not a fan of the taste but thought it was a very beautiful fruit. He thought eating a slice occasionally might be okay.

After the kiwi, we decided to get really adventurous and try kumquat fruit. We watched several videos on how to eat it. Basically, you wash the tiny fruit, squeeze it to release the sweetness in the skin and then eat the whole rind and all. This fruit has a bite or zest to it. It was like eating an orange flavored lemon. I will let Dean's facial expression relay how they felt about this fruit. I don't think we will be running out to buy it again anytime soon!

I love watching my kids explore the world. It is fun when we are able to do so without even leaving home!

I am joining ABC blogging with
Through the Calm and Through the Storm

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, January 8, 2016

Weekly Wrap-Up ~ Science, Home Economics and Literature

We had a nice Christmas break. We started back to school the Monday after Christmas, so this is really a two week wrap-up of school.

Tinker Crate ~ Our new Tinker Crate arrived. It is all about automatons. This crate really excited Dean. He loved making the different automatons. We learned how to make an automaton shake, go up and down and lower one body part. Dean is talking about using parts from his solar powered car to make the walking stairs solar powered, too. He's not sure he can do it, but it will be interesting to try. I love having a subscription to Tinker Crates!

Thinking Putty ~ The kids got Crazy Aaron's Made by Me Thinking Putty for Christmas. This project was a huge hit. The Thinking Putty comes clear. You then add a colorant and a special mixing agent (glow in the dark, glitter, or shimmer). The kids love to keep their hands busy with Thinking Putty while I am reading to them. How much cooler it is that the putty was custom created by themselves.

Crystal Kit ~  Over the holidays, we completed a large crystal kit from the Smithsonian. The crystals came out really nice. I remember doing these when I was a child. This kit even had "geodes" you could grow.

Home Economics ~ We did lots of baking over the holidays. I didn't get pictures of any of the cookies we made. Now that we have resumed school, the kids have made bread, marshmallows, and scones.

Literature ~ We started the Narnia series. The kids are eating it up! We have already completed The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Horse and His Boy. If you are interested in how we are reading this series, you can go here.

New Goal ~ We have decided to try to pull our grocery bill down to $125 or lower a week. We want to have more cashflow for other things. However, I am not willing to give up our healthy, homemade, organic meat and dairy, whole foods diet. I am going to try to reduce our weekly bill by planning our meals more, eating what is in season, and decreasing our meat while increasing vegetarian meals. We are planning on eating no more than three pounds of meat a week.  Did you hear the collective groan from my boys? Here is week one -- I spent $118.42. Not shown in the pictures are half a gallon of milk, a bottle of canola oil, one dozen organic eggs from my friend's farm, and two bags of salad. I shopped at the scratch and dent store, Target and Whole Foods this week. I still have about half of the meat left over for next week.

Well, that is all for this week. I am joining ~Collage Friday at Homegrown Learners

Blessings, Dawn