Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Victorian Christmas

We have two unit studies that are our focus for December, "The Gift of the Magi" and "A Christmas Carol".  Both are set in roughly the same time period, so I also found it appropriate to delve into the customs and traditions of that period...the Victorian Era.

One tradition is making all of our Christmas ornaments this year. Yes, I have boxes of store bought ornaments in the attic...but I thought it would be fun to make them all by hand this year.

Aside from popcorn and cranberry garland, we have lots of plans for inexpensive and easy to make ornaments.  Yesterday we made these little gems...

 I know lots of people make these, but this was our first attempt at applesauce-cinnamon ornaments.

Just mix equal parts cinnamon and applesauce (we threw in a little nutmeg too) and make a 'clay'.  Cut out with cookie cutters and place on a baking sheet.  Bake in a 175 degree oven for 2 hours.  When they are completely dried out, remove from pan and decorate.  Obviously we love glitter in this house.

 They look and smell just like gingerbread...

 Aren't they precious?


I thought these would make nice gifts for the grandparents as well.

If you have never tried to make it!  I got bottles of cinnamon for .50 cents each at Wal Mart.  Each child had two bottles of cinnamon and one cup (and maybe an extra tablespoon) of applesauce and it made plenty.

And your house will smell heavenly the rest of the day.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

"The Gift of the Magi"

One wonderful aspect of homeschooling is the opportunity to share some of my favorite literature with my children and watching them fall in love with it too.

Yesterday we began a unit study on "The Gift of the Magi" by O. of my all time favorite short stories.  I find it to be particularly meaningful in this day and age of high unemployment and just about everyone having 'too much month at the end of the money.'  It's the sweetest, feel-goodest, heart-warmingest story.

If you've never read it, I highly encourage you to read it here.


"The Gift of the Magi" by O. Henry

One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. And sixty cents of it was in pennies. Pennies saved one and two at a time by bulldozing the grocer and the vegetable man and the butcher until one's cheeks burned with the silent imputation of parsimony that such close dealing implied. Three times Della counted it. One dollar and eighty- seven cents. And the next day would be Christmas.

There was clearly nothing to do but flop down on the shabby little couch and howl. So Della did it. Which instigates the moral reflection that life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating.

While the mistress of the home is gradually subsiding from the first stage to the second, take a look at the home. A furnished flat at $8 per week. It did not exactly beggar description, but it certainly had that word on the lookout for the mendicancy squad.

In the vestibule below was a letter-box into which no letter would go, and an electric button from which no mortal finger could coax a ring. Also appertaining thereunto was a card bearing the name "Mr. James Dillingham Young."

The "Dillingham" had been flung to the breeze during a former period of prosperity when its possessor was being paid $30 per week. Now, when the income was shrunk to $20, though, they were thinking seriously of contracting to a modest and unassuming D. But whenever Mr. James Dillingham Young came home and reached his flat above he was called "Jim" and greatly hugged by Mrs. James Dillingham Young, already introduced to you as Della. Which is all very good.

Della finished her cry and attended to her cheeks with the powder rag. She stood by the window and looked out dully at a gray cat walking a gray fence in a gray backyard. Tomorrow would be Christmas Day, and she had only $1.87 with which to buy Jim a present. She had been saving every penny she could for months, with this result. Twenty dollars a week doesn't go far. Expenses had been greater than she had calculated. They always are. Only $1.87 to buy a present for Jim. Her Jim. Many a happy hour she had spent planning for something nice for him. Something fine and rare and sterling--something just a little bit near to being worthy of the honor of being owned by Jim.

There was a pier-glass between the windows of the room. Perhaps you have seen a pierglass in an $8 flat. A very thin and very agile person may, by observing his reflection in a rapid sequence of longitudinal strips, obtain a fairly accurate conception of his looks. Della, being slender, had mastered the art.

Suddenly she whirled from the window and stood before the glass. her eyes were shining brilliantly, but her face had lost its color within twenty seconds. Rapidly she pulled down her hair and let it fall to its full length.

Now, there were two possessions of the James Dillingham Youngs in which they both took a mighty pride. One was Jim's gold watch that had been his father's and his grandfather's. The other was Della's hair. Had the queen of Sheba lived in the flat across the airshaft, Della would have let her hair hang out the window some day to dry just to depreciate Her Majesty's jewels and gifts. Had King Solomon been the janitor, with all his treasures piled up in the basement, Jim would have pulled out his watch every time he passed, just to see him pluck at his beard from envy.

So now Della's beautiful hair fell about her rippling and shining like a cascade of brown waters. It reached below her knee and made itself almost a garment for her. And then she did it up again nervously and quickly. Once she faltered for a minute and stood still while a tear or two splashed on the worn red carpet.

On went her old brown jacket; on went her old brown hat. With a whirl of skirts and with the brilliant sparkle still in her eyes, she fluttered out the door and down the stairs to the street.

Where she stopped the sign read: "Mne. Sofronie. Hair Goods of All Kinds." One flight up Della ran, and collected herself, panting. Madame, large, too white, chilly, hardly looked the "Sofronie."

"Will you buy my hair?" asked Della.

"I buy hair," said Madame. "Take yer hat off and let's have a sight at the looks of it."

Down rippled the brown cascade.

"Twenty dollars," said Madame, lifting the mass with a practised hand.

"Give it to me quick," said Della.

Oh, and the next two hours tripped by on rosy wings. Forget the hashed metaphor. She was ransacking the stores for Jim's present.

She found it at last. It surely had been made for Jim and no one else. There was no other like it in any of the stores, and she had turned all of them inside out. It was a platinum fob chain simple and chaste in design, properly proclaiming its value by substance alone and not by meretricious ornamentation--as all good things should do. It was even worthy of The Watch. As soon as she saw it she knew that it must be Jim's. It was like him. Quietness and value--the description applied to both. Twenty-one dollars they took from her for it, and she hurried home with the 87 cents. With that chain on his watch Jim might be properly anxious about the time in any company. Grand as the watch was, he sometimes looked at it on the sly on account of the old leather strap that he used in place of a chain.

When Della reached home her intoxication gave way a little to prudence and reason. She got out her curling irons and lighted the gas and went to work repairing the ravages made by generosity added to love. Which is always a tremendous task, dear friends--a mammoth task.

Within forty minutes her head was covered with tiny, close-lying curls that made her look wonderfully like a truant schoolboy. She looked at her reflection in the mirror long, carefully, and critically.

"If Jim doesn't kill me," she said to herself, "before he takes a second look at me, he'll say I look like a Coney Island chorus girl. But what could I do--oh! what could I do with a dollar and eighty- seven cents?"

At 7 o'clock the coffee was made and the frying-pan was on the back of the stove hot and ready to cook the chops.

Jim was never late. Della doubled the fob chain in her hand and sat on the corner of the table near the door that he always entered. Then she heard his step on the stair away down on the first flight, and she turned white for just a moment. She had a habit for saying little silent prayer about the simplest everyday things, and now she whispered: "Please God, make him think I am still pretty."

The door opened and Jim stepped in and closed it. He looked thin and very serious. Poor fellow, he was only twenty-two--and to be burdened with a family! He needed a new overcoat and he was without gloves.

Jim stopped inside the door, as immovable as a setter at the scent of quail. His eyes were fixed upon Della, and there was an expression in them that she could not read, and it terrified her. It was not anger, nor surprise, nor disapproval, nor horror, nor any of the sentiments that she had been prepared for. He simply stared at her fixedly with that peculiar expression on his face.

Della wriggled off the table and went for him.

"Jim, darling," she cried, "don't look at me that way. I had my hair cut off and sold because I couldn't have lived through Christmas without giving you a present. It'll grow out again--you won't mind, will you? I just had to do it. My hair grows awfully fast. Say `Merry Christmas!' Jim, and let's be happy. You don't know what a nice-- what a beautiful, nice gift I've got for you."

"You've cut off your hair?" asked Jim, laboriously, as if he had not arrived at that patent fact yet even after the hardest mental labor.

"Cut it off and sold it," said Della. "Don't you like me just as well, anyhow? I'm me without my hair, ain't I?"

Jim looked about the room curiously.

"You say your hair is gone?" he said, with an air almost of idiocy.

"You needn't look for it," said Della. "It's sold, I tell you--sold and gone, too. It's Christmas Eve, boy. Be good to me, for it went for you. Maybe the hairs of my head were numbered," she went on with sudden serious sweetness, "but nobody could ever count my love for you. Shall I put the chops on, Jim?"

Out of his trance Jim seemed quickly to wake. He enfolded his Della. For ten seconds let us regard with discreet scrutiny some inconsequential object in the other direction. Eight dollars a week or a million a year--what is the difference? A mathematician or a wit would give you the wrong answer. The magi brought valuable gifts, but that was not among them. This dark assertion will be illuminated later on.

Jim drew a package from his overcoat pocket and threw it upon the table.

"Don't make any mistake, Dell," he said, "about me. I don't think there's anything in the way of a haircut or a shave or a shampoo that could make me like my girl any less. But if you'll unwrap that package you may see why you had me going a while at first."

White fingers and nimble tore at the string and paper. And then an ecstatic scream of joy; and then, alas! a quick feminine change to hysterical tears and wails, necessitating the immediate employment of all the comforting powers of the lord of the flat.

For there lay The Combs--the set of combs, side and back, that Della had worshipped long in a Broadway window. Beautiful combs, pure tortoise shell, with jewelled rims--just the shade to wear in the beautiful vanished hair. They were expensive combs, she knew, and her heart had simply craved and yearned over them without the least hope of possession. And now, they were hers, but the tresses that should have adorned the coveted adornments were gone.

But she hugged them to her bosom, and at length she was able to look up with dim eyes and a smile and say: "My hair grows so fast, Jim!"

And them Della leaped up like a little singed cat and cried, "Oh, oh!"

Jim had not yet seen his beautiful present. She held it out to him eagerly upon her open palm. The dull precious metal seemed to flash with a reflection of her bright and ardent spirit.

"Isn't it a dandy, Jim? I hunted all over town to find it. You'll have to look at the time a hundred times a day now. Give me your watch. I want to see how it looks on it."

Instead of obeying, Jim tumbled down on the couch and put his hands under the back of his head and smiled.

"Dell," said he, "let's put our Christmas presents away and keep 'em a while. They're too nice to use just at present. I sold the watch to get the money to buy your combs. And now suppose you put the chops on."

The magi, as you know, were wise men--wonderfully wise men--who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. O all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Still Laughing Over This One

Last Wednesday evening the family and I went to eat at a local pizza parlor. I didn't realize I was in for some quality entertainment.

In walk three twenty-somethings, trying their best to look like hip upstarts.  You know how amusing it is when they REALLY TRY to look hip.  Makes me giggle in a 'look-how-cute-they-are' kind of way.

So they sit in the booth behind us and one young man orders a bucket of beer, the other, a 'glass of ice' (Which started my muffled laughter...I ice?  What's the point of drinking water with no ice?)   , and the female accompanying them never spoke above a whisper.  Immediately Beer Boy starts these amusing conversations.  I wish I could blame it on the beer...alas, he hadn't even gotten the bucket yet.

"So, who says that you can really OWN LAND? I mean....does that mean that all the ants that live on YOUR LAND belong only to YOU?"  This was followed by "Imagine if you could peel away the dirt in your yard.  It would be like a huge ant city."  (At this point I am trying not to be so obvious that I am actually laughing at them.  I pointed to my husband and laughed to make it seem like I was amused by our own little conversation. )  Then came this nugget....
"It would be terrible if all the ants in the world were destroyed.  They are very beneficial creatures.  They, like, provide tunnels for other creatures."

Really?   Like, what kind of creatures?  Teeny tiny prairie dogs?

It was all I could do not to die laughing.

Then No Ice Guy comes up with...."I don't know if I would ever homeschool my kids."  (Where the heck did THAT come from? )

" I mean...yeah, they learn alot, but what about SOCIALIZATION?"

At this point I literally had to clamp my lips together with my fingers to keep from laughing hysterically.

Beer Boy- "Oh, did you know they are actually organized? They take field trips and EVERYTHING!"

Now it was all I could do not to cry.

At this point, I had to agree with both of them.

 YES...we are organized.  Yes we are socialized and YES...judging from this conversation, I don't think you should homeschool your kids either.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Packin' Heat

    Guess who has a sudden passion for things that go 'Pow!'

And guess who the southpaw of the family is?

 Guess who has been asking ME to shoot this thing with them?

Guess who, upon her very first ever shots fired from a BB Gun, almost hit the bullseye of her pink target?

Look out, varmints.  It's paper plate and soda can season in our neck of the woods.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Fine Art of Saying "No"

Any of you who really know me know I have a hard time saying 'no' to anyone.

I am a people pleaser.  I want so badly to always be there for others and help out any way I can.  This in and of itself is not a problem...but when you push yourself to the limit, or realize you are making yourself crazy, then it becomes a problem.

I promised myself that this year, this holiday season, would be different.  I will not overcommit!  I won't do it! 

Well- at least my intentions were good.

My daughter is in the Nutcracker.  This means lots of practices and one whole week when she will be performing every day, sometimes twice a day.  I will have been chewed up and spit out by the Nutcracker come December 11th.

My son has been part of our homeschool chorus.  Every Monday we have practice.  Sometimes for two hours.

Add in ballet classes and taewkondo classes. 

Then there is piano lessons.  Lessons are one day a week.  Then we have a performance at a local nursing home in mid-December.  Then they have a family Christmas performance.

Busy much?

Yesterday I was sitting in church when they asked for volunteers to help out with a Pack the Pantry event in which we will be collecting food for the needy in our community.  My son immediately poked me in the elbow and said "Sign us up Mom!"  My first reaction, I am ashamed to admit, was a heavy sigh.  ONE more thing. But if my 12 year old son was excited about giving to needy families, then I should be too...right?

Of course I signed us up.

Then it occured to me, as I pondered myself and my confounded inability to say 'no'.... if I fill up my calendar with selfish things, how will I ever find the time for the important things in life?  Even if it wasn't a food drive for the needy.  Maybe it is to just to be with my kids, with all the time in the world to listen to their thoughts.  Or be there for a friend who needs a shoulder to cry on or an ear to listen. 

Now, saying 'no' isn't so difficult.   If I have to say no to an opportunity, I'm not letting someone else down or disappointing them.  I am just making sure my time is availiable for anyone who needs me.  And that is time well spent.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Advertising Tactics 101

Ahh, Thanksgiving season.  The time when everyone's thoughts turn to family, friends, feasts...and Black Friday. Oh my stars.  Can I just say that I have never EVER been shopping on Black Friday?  I avoid Wal Mart on afternoons and weekends so I won't have to deal with the crowds....much less crowds fueled up on coffee at 4:00 am with visions of discounts dancing in their heads.

But I digress...

It's also the time of the year when the ads start invading our lives.  They are running out of the mailbox when I get the mail.  They are always on television. 

What better time of year to start a unit on Advertising 101?

I shamelessly stole some ideas from Jimmie at

We have some useful information here:

Recognizing propoganda information here:

This gives the history of advertising and has examples of how ads have changed over the years:

This teaches about the influence of advertising:

My kids already are skeptical of ads they see for toys on television, mostly because when they were little and would excitedly tell me about something they saw I would ask them, "Do you really think that doll can dance that way?" Or something like that , depending on what it was they saw.  It made them second guess the commercials.  It made them realize that not everything is as it appears.

I think this will be an interesting study, especially with the shopping season upon us, and I hope it creates savvy shoppers out of my younguns.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

I Think I Am Going To Like This!

My son enrolled in tae kwon do lessons last night.  You know- for the socialization. (eyeroll)
Well, for the exercise too.  And to give him an outlet for all that testosterone fueled energy.

He brought home a list of 'tenets' that they have to uphold:

Self Control
Indomitable Spirit

This is their Oath: "I will observe the tenets of tae kwon do.  I will respect the instructor.  I will never misuse tae kwon do.  I will be a champion of freedom and justice.  I will build a more peaceful world."

Nice! I like!

Here are the Home Rules they also have to follow:

Must show respect for parents and family members at all times.
Shall greet their parents when they enter the house and tell them goodbye when they leave.
Will be truthful at all times.
Maintain a good relationship with their brother or sister.
Must help with household chores.
Must keep their room clean and neat.
Must keep their body, hair and teeth clean at all times.
Will not interrupt adult conversations.
Will study their schoolwork.
Will show respect for teachers and peers at all times.

Failure to comply will result in the loss of a rank.

Luckily, my kids do most of these already...but how awesome for the kids who really need this discipline, who don't get it at home.  

When he got home last night he immediately went about cleaning his room. So, already I am thinking this is money well spent here. Even if he never breaks a board in his tae kwon do career.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

School Pictures

Now that I look back on this I can laugh about it.

The first year we homeschooled, one thing I was mildly concerned about was the lack of 'school pictures'.  I already had those little frames where you put in one picture of your child for Kindergarten, First Grade, Second Grade, etc.  I missed having 'picture day'...picking out their outfit, combing down their hair. 

So, off we went to Sears Portrait Studio.

"What are we doing today?  Something cute?  I have some cute backgrounds..." 
(Me) "No...these are school pictures.  They have to have a plain back props.  Just make it look like a school picture."

I wish she would have talked me out of it.

My attitude was evidence of how ingrained we are about how education is 'supposed' to look, how school is 'supposed' to be...right down to those silly school pictures.

I don't know about you, but every one of *my* school pictures was less than flattering.  Maybe because the photographer snapped the shot the second my rear end hit the chair so he could get to the other 200 kids waiting in line.  And really, is there a need for wallet sized photos any more?  Everyone downloads their pictures these days.  And let's talk about the price of those crummy pictures.  Outrageous. And yet, we moms buy them out of guilt. 

This year, I am taking their pictures myself, with my own camera.  I will take my time.  I will try to capture the essence of who they are...they may not be smiling 'just right' in a stiff, contrived way.  Maybe they will be looking at a passing cloud or laughing hysterically at something.  Maybe they will be investigating something that interests them.  Maybe they will be deep in wonder.  That's what I hope to capture.

I'm not in any hurry.  I don't have to be.  I will have all the time I need with my favorite subjects.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

What I'm Doing These Days

It's so funny-when anyone asks me "What are you doing these days?"  the best answer I can give is "Oh...same old same old!"  or "Nothing much!" because if I were to list all the stuff I am 'up to', they would get bored listening to my list.

So here's my list of "What I'm doing these days." :

1.  Signing my son up for tae kwon do lessons.  He attended a class for free last week and thought it was awesome.  Of course, being loud, jumping around and hitting stuff is always fun for any boy.  Even better when you get rewarded for it!

2.  Daughter is practicing for her role in the local production of "The Nutcracker".  She is loving it.  I secretly fret about the fact that all of the other little girls performing are thin as rails, and my little girl is...well, not as thin.  More like she's got some junk in her trunk.  Mind you, she's not overweight, but she is definately a recipient of my Eastern European roots, suited for gymnastics and potato farming.   But she hasn't noticed yet and so far I am thankful she hasn't.

3.  Scoping out next years curriculum already because hey!  It's never to early to start!  I've been checking out Ambleside Online, and really love the concept.  And the fact that it's planned out online for me, week by week.  AND that the kids are getting a Kindle for Christmas, so many of the books they will need will be free Kindle downloads.

4.  Getting a new gas tank for the gas log fireplace because HELLO!  It was really cold outside this morning and I miss having our fireplace working.

5.  Beating myself up for not getting on the ball with Christmas shopping earlier.  Now I feel rushed.

6.  Planning Christmas ballet recitals, piano performances, parties, etc.  Tell me again how unsocialized my kids are...I dare you! :)

7.  Went on a field trip to the Federal Reserve Bank in Atlanta last Thursday.  I couldn't bring in my camera, so no pics...but I got as close to $775,000.00 million dollars as I'll ever get.  I found it all very interesting and the kids learned so much about money and banking.

8.  Trying to get this house clean for Thanksgiving and figuring out what to cook.  My mom always does the turkey, and I do the sides and desserts.  Any suggestions?

How about you all?  What have YOU been up to?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Family Trees...And Forests

I have a lovely friend who has gotten me hooked on geneology research. I'm not kidding, it's like crack for a military brat who is always looking to find her 'roots'.

My kids have been on a kick for months wanting to hear stories about grandpa and grandma when they were little, about when they were little, about when I was little.  (They audibly gasped when I told them we could only watch Charlie Brown Specials ONCE a year...that's what made it so special!)

So far I have found out the following:

My ancestors came to America with William Penn when he founded Pennsylvania, which means they were probably Quakers.  Hm.  No wonder I always liked oatmeal. ;)  Note of irony:  Our history lesson yesterday was guessed it...William Penn!  How cool is that?

Richard Cantrell was a brick layer and mason and is believed to have constructed some of the first brick houses in Philadelphia. 

Funny..I love Philly cheesesteaks too.  AND cream cheese. 

There were two uncles, John Harrell and Berry M. Cantrell, fought in the Battle of Shiloh, and after the defeat of Gen. Beaurigard, they left their rifles in an empty cabin and walked home to Marion County, Alabama, only to have their father persuade them to return back to the fight.  Not me...I would have hid my sons away on my farm, dressed them like girls and told them to keep low.

John M. Cantrell fought in the Revolutionary War from Salisbury Dist., North Carolina.  And when he died all of his property was sold for about $2,000.00...said property included 5 slaves.  Wow.  Such a sobering thought that human lives had such little value.  As uncomfortable as that tid bit of information makes me, all I can tell myself is that, well, it was what it was.  And thank God this country ended it.

It's been fascinating watching my ancestors go from Derbyshire, England to Philadelphia, Delaware, North Carolina, to Alabama.

And the best part is I didn't pay a dime for any of this!  Google is a wonderful thing. Someone else I am apparently related to has done a lot of leg work and published their findings online.

I have begun searching my husbands family's roots.  Wish me luck!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

So What?

The Duggars are expecting baby what?

Yes, they get paid for their what?  Have you watched their show?  If anyone deserves to be paid to be on television, it's the Duggars.  More so than Snookie and the Jersey Shore cast...more than the Real Housewives of _________  (as much as I love to watch that they need to be paid to show how rich they are and what screwed up relationships they have?)  At least they haven't comprimised their principles for the sake of ratings.  If anything, I appreciate that they set a good example of faith, marriage, and family.  They aren't rude and snarky like Kate Gosselin.   

I find it so amusing that so many people want to preach 'tolerance'...yet, those same people have very little tolerance for anyone living out their Christian faith. 

This is the of the free, home of the brave.  We are all free to have as many kids as we choose....if we are brave enough (ha!).  This isn't China, where children are being discarded because the government believes families should only have 1 child.  As long as you support your children with your own income, as the Duggars do, then who has any right to judge them for having 20 kids?

Mama and Daddy Duggar have a wonderful marriage and provide for their family.  They are producing functioning members of society.  The children are all happy.  They are loved.  They are honest, hard working.

Is there something wrong with this?  If this is a bad example of how we should raise our children, well then, there is something screwed up with the world.

Monday, November 7, 2011

For The Love Of Learning

At the beginning of this school year I had my Teacher's Planning Book all filled, in order, of what each day of our month would hold as far as lessons.  I simply went through each workbook or textbook in order and divided out the chapters in to  weekly and daily lessons.  This year would be a 'no-brainer'! I told myself.  No guessing what to teach, no last minute scrambling for items for projects or experiments.  It was alllll laid out for us. 

Yesterday I finally had to admit to myself that I just need to throw that thing in the garbage.

Most of the time I feel like I am living out the "If You Give A Mouse A Cookie" story.  Only my story should be titled "If You Give A Homeschool Mom Inspiration".

I officially fell off the wagon with our literature units for Halloween. 

A few days ago I glanced through our history book and I noticed we are one chapter away from discussing Isaac Newton. To say bells and whistles went off in my brain is an understatement.

Guess what unit we will be focusing on the next 6 weeks or so?  You guessed it...physics!

First, we are using Janice Van Cleve's book as a 'spine'...

I found (stole) some ideas from a unit published on Squidoo

As well as lapbook ideas from here

Some fun stuff on physics here

We will be building ALL KINDS of stuff, including a waterwheel

Catapults are in our plans as well. 
And a pulley big enough to mount to the swing set and pull each other up with.  :)

We will follow all of this with light, sound and heat studies.  And electricity. Squee!

Can I just tell you how excited I am to be doing all this fun stuff with my kids?  Yeah, I could have just stuck to my preplanned lessons, but where's the fun in that?  I want our lessons to be relevant to something else, in this case, our history lesson with Newton.  I have found when we go 'off the beaten path' and try new and interesting things that we learn so much more and ignite the love of learning.

And the love of learning is what I'm all about.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Field Trip: Fossils And Such

Yesterday we had a field trip to the local museum of arts and sciences to study fossils and such.  There were many fossilized remains on display, as well as replicas.

 This is a replica of a preserved (mummified) baby mammoth...or was it a mastodon?  It looked very much like the "Ice Man" that was found preserved in the Alps several years ago.

 The children could try their hand at using archaeologists tools....

 After a lesson on the differences between mastodons and mammoths, as well as observing fossils of bones, skulls, and tools, we had some fun with making our own 'fossils'.

 One activity included using clay to make an imprint of a seashell, then mixing and pouring plaster of Paris into the mold.

And this has nothing to do with fossils, but this particular museum has a mini-zoo, and to our good luck the zoo keepers had several animals out for the children to observe and touch.  This one was my favorite.  I kept wanting to stuff him into my purse and take him home.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Holiday Shopping: Kickin' It Homeschool Style

Is it just me or is it difficult shopping for your kids for Christmas? 

I think it got harder when we started homeschooling.

When my kids were in public school, it was easy because they wanted stuff that all their friends had...
Barbies, Hot Wheels racetracks, etc. starts getting weird.

Architecture sets.  Fossils.  Plasma globes.  Electronic ciruit sets.  Solar powered stuff.   Anything related to historic events.  Geography games.

I love it!  But's not exactly like you can run to Wal Mart or Toys R Us and get these things.  In fact, you start looking at all the junk they sell in stores and see it as...junk.

I love my Rainbow Resource catalogue. It's full of items that will appease my little nerdlings.  That and  You can find *anything* there.

How about you?   Do your kids want random, hard to find items?  What resources do you use to purchase them?

***Forgot to mention Mindware  They have some cool stuff as well!****

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

My Love Affair With My Slow Cooker

This week's menus are all about my slow cooker. 

Can I get an "Amen"?

We have the following options:

Creamy Broccoli Soup with homemade rolls

Swiss Steak and Egg Noodles with salad

French Dip Sandwiches  with Fresh Fruit on the side

Braised Chicken Breast with Israeli Couscous (Couscous with golden raisins, toasted almonds, and green onions added)

Of course it's just the main course that gets the slow cooker treatment.  But it only takes a few minutes to prep a side dish or salad (barring the rolls of course...but those yeast rolls are so worth the time it takes!  And with my Kitchen Aid mixer with a dough attachment...the actual mixing time is only a few minutes.  The bulk of the time goes into rising, which I consider free time. :)  )

Are you having a fling with your slow cooker right now?  Have you whispered words of love to it lately?  If not, Fall is the perfect time to rekindle the flame.