Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New Year's Eve

We have never done anything major for New Years Eve other then watch a movie. Seriously. In fact, the boys are normally in bed at their normal time, as are we, and we announce to the boys over dinner that the next day will be a new year. They are always wowed by this thought, and we celebrate in the morning with our annual New Years Day pancakes. A few years ago in a Family Fun magazine I saw an idea for count down bags for kids to ring in the New year. The idea was to fill them with a variety of fun things to do. I logged that idea away and never really put it into practice as we tend to be a bit rigid about bedtime around here the majority of the time.

On one of the homeschool message boards I frequent many of the Moms have actually put the idea into practice with catchy little rhymes and fun things packed inside. Which led to the discussion, in our house, of doing something fun with the boys this year. Which led to much planning and conspiring around the house this week.

We rounded up our empty flour sacks (yes we have a lot..) and we pinned clock faces to the front. Originally we planned to count down from 12 noon until 10 pm. However, a few things have come up and we've decided not to count down until 2pm. Our bags are filled with: (2) New Year's Eve Glasses, Visors, & a kids resolution book, (3) Mario Party for the family (4) make brownies (I put the mix in a jar, and we'll just add the missing ingredients), (5) make mini pizzas, (6) Play Yahtzee Free For All, (7) Begin our new read aloud for the new year, (8) Watch Mr Magoo (we'll roll the clock forward while they're watching the movie..) (11:30) Sparklers & Party Poppers and eating those brownies (12) Happy New Year and setting off our poppers and Sparklers. The boys will have a blast and we'll all be in bed at a reasonable hour, until the fireworks down by the bay wake us up at the real midnight!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Not Forgotten..

We've not forgotten the blog, we're just busy.. Enjoying the warm summer weather; swimming at the beach; spending time with family; putting together Christmas lego sets; learning to knit; working on a few straggling Christmas presents we've not given out yet; planning picnics; preparing for New Years Eve (the boys first ever get to stay up a wee bit late); making new friends; tumbling rocks; searching for sea glass; contemplating new beginnings for a new year; planning for Australia Day; planning summer hikes; debating the cause and effects of eating chocolate brownies when one suffers from migraines; soaking up the sunshine; getting ready for a new school year; playing new games; laughing as we remember the funny, and not so funny, things we did this year; feeling richly blessed with each other. Stay tuned, once the final Christmas project is cleared off the table tomorrow we'll share our New Year's Eve fun. The boys are pretty excited, never mind that they aren't staying up until midnight, they don't care...

Saturday, December 26, 2009

More School Plans..

While we wait for the wagons to leave for Westward Ho! we're going to be doing a month long ocean study. This is something that we've been considering for a while, and by "we" I mean Super Math Bear and I. (There's nothing like a bear with leotards on to help you make the proper choices in teaching your children, right?) Mr Scarecrow was in agreement, and even Buster put his own .02 in. Our dog knows the word "beach" and upon hearing the word at our "ever so secret meeting" he followed me around for the next hour in complete anticipation. Anyway, the idea was/is that because we live directly across the street from the ocean we wanted to take the time to explore it. We tend to spend a lot of time down there in the summer, and I thought that I'd put a slightly educational twist on it.

The books we're hoping to enjoy are:
  • One Small Square Seashore: This book is loaded with information, ideas, hands on projects and more. While it is written based on an American seashore most of the information inside is applicable for any seashore!
  • The Seaweed Book: How to Find and Have Fun With Seaweed: This fun book will help them identify seaweed and show them how to preserve it and make various crafts with it. We enjoy inspecting seaweed (sometimes things wash ashore tangled in it) and it will be neat for them to learn to identify each kind.
  • I Wonder Why The Sea Is Salty: The books in this series have lots of questions people ask about various subjects and then the answers are included as well. The boys really love these books, and we're looking forward to reading this one!
  • Awesome Ocean Science: we're still waiting on this book, but what we've seen from afar looks awesome. The idea is that they not only discuss the ocean, but that there are also hands on application and experimental ways for the kids to learn the concepts behind the scientific information.
  • Ocean Giants: We've used various math books in this series and the boys love them. As you read the book you take on the roll of a person who works in the ocean (or a zoo, or an astronaut, etc.) and then you have to solve various math problems in order to do your job. Morgan never wants to stop when it comes to these books.
  • DK Guide To The Oceans: we'll be using this one mostly for reference information, but we really do enjoy the DK books, all though I will warn you and say that some of them have references to evolution.
  • Artistic Nature Unit Studies: Sea Mammals: this is something I picked up during CurrClick's Black Friday sale knowing we had a sea adventure ahead of us. It's a 76 page magazine that is loaded with information. Jayden will especially love the whale info inside.
  • Water Horse: this book is NOTHING like the movie. Don't get me wrong, we enjoyed the movie, but honestly about the only thing they have in common is their title. We listened to this book a while back and really enjoyed it. I think we'll dust our copy off and have another listen.

We will also combine one or more of the following lapbooks in our studies:

We're still forming plans as we go here, but on top of general exploration and fun at the beach we're also looking at:

  • Watching the tide and graphing it. We use a tide clock around here to know when we can go to the beach. So we'll graph the hours between tides as well as the water level. We'll have a nifty math lesson to go along with that science!
  • Crab Watching. Each day when the tide goes out the crabs are washed ashore and they scramble like mad to bury themselves before the seagulls snatch them up. It's AMAZING to watch them dig holes and hurry and bustle along. So we'll spend time watching them and perhaps drawing pictures in our journals or snapping photos.. We might read about crabs while we watch them.
  • Tidal Pool Exploring: the idea might be to assign each child to their own pool and let them investigate it to their hearts content. We've found so many things in tidal pools in the past from Hermit Crabs down to Star Fish.
We've also got a few fun crafts and such up our sleeves that we'll be trying out. The biggest goal is to keep it fun and simple and to do most of our work on the beach. We're looking forward to a fun filled January!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men... they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. Mark 2:10-16

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Stockings

We went a little stocking crazy around here this month. Mr Scarecrow and I needed stockings, because frankly the dirty socks Mr Scarecrow keeps using each year is kinda.. well, gross. So I thought I'd whip a couple up, but I wanted to test my idea first. Only it came out so cute (see picture to the left) that I decided to decorate the railing on the stairs with them. Which was probably wiser then the lights I wanted to use. You'll have to ignore the hideous wall border in the background; if it were up to me, it would so be torn down.. I started out with the stockings considerably closer, but after 2 hours of sewing 18 tiny little stockings I decided I'd had enough. When we hung them up Mr Scarecrow decided it was a splendid idea, he just wished I'd come up with it sooner so I could have tucked surprises inside for him. Then of course Morgan wanted everyone to pick out a favorite one, which caused a lot of commotion on the stairs. Believe it or not those little things are held up with blu tac, which works really well unless someones decides to hold the railing and slide down, and yeah.. there's one in this house who does that.

See, I told you we went a little stocking crazy! I was doing an image search in google when I stumbled upon this pattern. I didn't turn the toe and heel bits under. I used small bits of ribbon in them too.

Then I finally got around to making our stockings. The Mr Men stocking didn't come exactly as I'd hoped for it, but the receiver loves it immensely. The snowman stocking is, of course, mine. I was quite pleased with it, and while you can't see it, the inside is lined with pink flannel. It matched quite well. I've had that snowman material for sometime and been looking for the perfect project for it too! I did not end up using a pattern for this process. Instead I copied a stocking we had, don't laugh too loud, but it was the dog's stocking. However, there's an awesome pattern and instructions for free via Mccalls if you're interested.

The boys thought the stockings were so great they asked if I'd make them each one. Jayden has been taken with that material, and while it's hard to tell in the photo it's blue and the pine trees on it are blue, except for the silver ones. The cuff on his is a dark blue too. Can you tell he's into blue? He prefers to wear blue pants, blue shirts, and he gets quite cross if he's all out of blue undies. Morgan wanted a gingerbread stocking, he's been obsessed with gingerbread men for a while. The problem was the only material I had with gingers on them is what I used in his cuff, and that's about all of it I had. So I decided to applique a ginger onto a plain stocking for him. He was quite pleased with the end result.

While this isn't a stocking I had to share.. The boys have a Little People Nativity which they are allowed to set up anywhere in the house they want each year. It actually gets used all year round, but anyway.. Last year Spiderman, Santa, & numerous others visited the little scene. This year when I suggested they set it up they asked if the bathroom was okay. I said yes. Don't laugh! Our toilet is not in there, it's in it's own little room. So they set it up on the large countertop near the sink. I went in and found the Sailor in the Nativity. I found it amusing, and when I inquired as to why he was there the response was, "We can't find Joseph, but we figured he was good enough since he has a hat!" Yeah, I dunno I guess the thought of a sailor in the stable with Jesus just really cracked me up. I've also noticed that the wisemen have slowly been making their way around the sink to the stable. Somehow or another the camel got there first.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Candy Cane Popcorn

My kids have been all about candy canes this year. It was only spurred farther on by The Legend Of The Candy Cane which they full adored. Candy Canes, however, are loaded with sugar and while I did find a recipe to make my own I haven't had the time yet. So I decided to treat them to candy corn popcorn. I figured, that at least in theory, it should work. I remember Dad throwing sugar in the pot of popcorn to make a sugary type carmel corn. So I crushed up a half dozen candy canes while Morgan was busy shaking the popcorn pan. I dumped them in and went back to crushing. Morgan started talking to me and forgot to shake; I reminded him too late and we burnt the entire thing. So we started again. This time I shook and he helped Daddy crush. We threw in 2 T olive (or coconut) oil, 1/2 c popcorn, & about 6-8 candy canes crushed up. They don't have to be finely crushed, just smashed up is good enough. They'll melt in the hot pan anyway. Pour the oil in a large pan and add 2-4 kernels. Once they pop add the rest of the corn and the candy canes, and shake the pan until the popping stops. Then dump it into a bowl and stir it with a wooden spoon to help the candy cane travel a bit more. Not only is it really pretty to look at, it tasted good too! Do not touch the popcorn straight away because it will be hot. Let it cool for a minute or two.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Stocking Stuffers..

Is this not the most adorable snowman ever? I love snowmen nearly as much as I love Nativities. It's true, it's weird, it's me. One of the creators of the artwork over at PcCrafter, Laurie Furnell, has a fun blog where she occasionally offers up some freebies. This snowman printable is one of them. The picture is also Laurie's, the ones I've made are squirrelled away for some empty stockings that are awaiting filling. I'll take photos before people dig in too deeply. The super cool thing about this printable is that it can easily be adjusted to fit any candybar. I've used the same printable for two very different sized bars and it worked just fine. The boys will have a great laugh at seeing these! I considered making the angel that she had up for grabs too, but decided to keep it simple with the snowman. This was another fun way to use up some of the Christmas material scraps I had laying around, and they were really quick to whip up too.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas Decorating

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas around here, and since the weather hasn't been too delightful outside we've been having fun decorating the inside. These stars normally reside in the archway where our Christmas garland now resides, so we moved them to a window. It was so fun watching the boys make the connection as to why we decorate with stars around Christmas this year. Morgan's asked so many amazing questions this Christmas season I'll really have to share them in another post.. These are the same stars we made last Christmas. They are super simple and quick to whip up, we might have to make some more next year.

We all have a favorite, Mine would be the reindeer, Jayden's is the Blue with pine trees, Morgan is torn on three, and Mr Scarecrow has the same favorite as I do. What about you?

Don't scream it too loud, but my kitchen window has been decorated like this since last Christmas. The shell is new, one of the boys picked it up at the beach and gave it to me. The Cross is from an Easter craft Jayden made. Is that Santa Clause funny or what? While we don't do Santa here that was a birthday present last year from Jayden. I love Snowmen (notice the other two decorations..) Well, he saw Morgan pick out a snowman for me and decided I must love Christmas things so he grabbed a Santa. Santa is very good at holding my wedding band when I have to mess with raw meat..

One of our many nativities, this one sits on the breakfast bar area. If you look closely you'll notice Mary has a hole in her dress and her waist is taped to her top half, Gabriel is missing a wing, and if I'm not mistaken the sheep has a chip missing too. I'm not the only one in this house who happens to love nativities. Poor Mary had a spill her first day out of the box when a certain young man decided she must have surely climbed a mountain to get to Bethlehem. Many tears were spilled until the cello tape was pulled out, and that was just me. I'm pretty sure the offender was hiding in the closet until I opened it up to fetch the tape..

The boys look forward to this Nativity set each Christmas. It comes with a little booklet entitled What God Really Wants For Christmas. You read a small poem each day for 7 days and open a little box as well. Each day you pluck out a character to the set and on the 7th day you'll find quite the surprise in the box. And yes, that Gabriel is missing an arm. I'm telling you, the boys have a thing for Gabriel, which is always said Gavriel around here.. Wait until you see the nativity they set up on their own in the bathroom (pictures to come..)

I'm not sure why that snowman ornament looks sad, but when I saw a box of snowmen ornaments for only a couple of dollars I couldn't resist. I love the handprint ornaments, we're slacking this year on making them as we're struggling to find white glue again. I may have to make some, and I promise not to spill it on myself this time Mom! The boys really love those funny foil star/ball things. They saw a giant one in a local shop and asked the girls working if they could buy one. Apparently the only one they had was hanging from the ceiling, the boys were pretty sad about that.

That Angel and Gingerbread boy are suppose to hold candy canes, but I opted out. Do you know what hanging up candy canes around here does? It entices little boys to want to eat them! Our Jesse Tree is still a big hit here. The boys have had a lot of fun making the connection with the various studies we've done this year. I love the cinnamon ornaments. We have them hanging up in various places around the house. It smells so nice in here..

Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas Garland

Remember the Names Of Jesus Garland that was floating around the internet last year? I really loved the idea of the craft, but didn't have time to work on it last Christmas. I'd hoped to make one for Easter, but that didn't workout either. So this Christmas I put it on our Christmas Craft list so we'd be sure to make one! The instructions on The Homespun Heart that Monica posted are quite simplistic, but being me I decided to use my nifty Scrapbooking program to make my garland.

I used the program to make perfectly nice circles, cause I'm very Monkish and needed my circles to be perfect. Then I put 20 different names of Jesus inside those circles, all though in the end I think I only had 19 cause I doubled up on one. Then I printed all my circles out on cardstock and cut them out using my Making Memories Circle Cutter. It's not a punch, so it can take a tad finagling to get it right, thus I printed out an extra paper to practice on a couple of my circles to get them right. I told you I was a tad Monkish.. Then, because I could, I printed out larger circles on the backside of the decorative paper, which also happened to be of cardstock quality. Then I glued the smaller circle onto the bigger circle, punched the holes and put gold ribbon through them.

This was the result (except for some reason one of the names is missing so you'll see two doubles..) It's now hanging in the archway over the breakfast bar area so we can see it while we eat or make cookies, or admire the Christmas tree and wonder what's in the packages below. The entire time I worked on this craft I couldn't get He Is Called Jesus, the Todd Agnew song out of my head. (Listen here; Read words here.) If you're interested in finding more names of Jesus you can look here, they've published 100 various names Jesus went by in the Bible. We chose names that have come directly from our Jesse Tree Devotionals, Advent story, & names we knew and loved. I haven't posted the names I've used as pdfs, but if you're interested I can...

Updated (12/20/09): Background pdf (this only as four circles on it because I printed mine onto 8x8 paper. Names Of Jesus pdf, I've changed the accidental double.. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Advent/Jess Tree Devotions

This year I'd mentioned doing a tutorial on how to make the Jesse Tree that I shared photos of last year. The idea had been that I'd also do a give-away for the finished Jesse Tree and a copy of The Glorious Coming by Ann Voskamp to go with it. Only, much to my disappointment, when I went looking for another e-book of The Glorious Coming I discovered it was no longer available as an ebook! Apparently they stopped selling it as an ebook at the end of October or November and you can only buy it as a soft-cover book until the very end of 2009. The author would like to redo the devotions, and then perhaps after that it will be back as an ebook.

While there are many devotionals and ornaments out there, I just truly loved the ornaments in The Glorious Coming and thus I would have needed the devotional to give away with the wall hanging. So maybe next year when it's rereleased I'll be able to try again. In the mean time, if you're curious about what the ornaments look like as well as the devotionals you can find them on Ann's Blog! The only difference between her blog posts and what you'd find in the book would be: 1, the Bible readings are all printed in the book for you from the KJV. 2, You'd get very good size and quality pictures of those ornaments to print out.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Piano Bag

Remember those homemade gifts I mentioned? Well, we were without a car for 9 days and I had plenty of time to start working on them. The Piano Bag was one I've had stored away for a while to work on and couldn't wait to dig into it. I started out using the pattern from over here, but quickly became irritated with it. The sizing wasn't adding up at all and I was beginning to think I might need some lessons on using a measuring tape. For instance, she said she cut her piece of white material (for the keys) 4 inches by 14 inches, but you can clearly tell when you cut one out that size that it's not right. I made mine 6x 14. It got worse. She managed a combination with the black keys of 2, 3, 2, 3. You can see that mine are at the very edge of the back. So I suspect her's was longer as well and perhaps the instructions were an after thought? Not sure. However, the pictures and ideas were great because it got me going. I don't have step by step pictures of measurements, but I'll most certainly be making more of these. In fact, I've all ready got a request for at least one more. The bag turned out really cute and I'm pleased with the end result, but I think I'll be skipping those instructions and doing it my own way next time!

If you want to try them, go for it, but don't panic when things don't quite add up properly. Once I let go of that frustration it was a fun project to work on, and relatively quick too. The keys were a tad tedious, but a few people made the black keys using ribbon. Very clever! If you did that no need for ironing and tucking the seam allowance under and all that. I'm curious if the effect would be the same. I might have to try it out to find out!

Monday, December 14, 2009

12 Voices

Have you heard the 12 Voices of Christmas? It's the story of Christmas starting with Gabriel, The Voice of Disclosure. Then there's Zacharias the Voice of Disbelief; Elizabeth (which should be spelled with an s to be honest..) the voice of Blessing; John The Baptist, the voice of Preperation. Next comes Mary the Voice of Wonder; Joseph the voice of Reason; Angels, the Voice of Praise. The Shepherds are the voice of Declaration; Anna is the Voice of Thanksgiving; Simeon is the Voice of Peace. Herod is the Voice of Deception, and it end with the Wisemen, the voice of Adoration. Each person tells their story from their own point of view, and does so in great detail. Can't listen? If you click on each characters name then you'll be able to read their story instead. We like to listen while we craft, it's one of my favorite Christmas traditions.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Homeschool T-Shirt Sale

Great Homeschool T-shirts & Great Christian T-shirts has all t-shirts, totes, bumper stickers, and hats on sale for 50% off. The sale runs from November 26th - December 15th. Don't you just love the t-shirt to the left? I get stopped all the time so people can read it. Sadly, only half of them get it. You know they get it when they snort in an effort not to laugh! They do ship overseas too, but it looks like their shipping, at least to Tassie, has gone up dramatically. As for sizing.. I found that it depended on the color how the sizing ran. That red color to the left ran true to size. A white adult t-shirt ran a tad small, white kids t-shirts ran a bit big, and blue kids t-shirts ran a smidge small. I don't know if they used different brands or not, but I thought I'd toss that out there for you. Then again I'm kinda picky about the length of our t's..

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Westward Expansion

We've been planning to study a bit of American history in the upcoming school year. The boys are extremely interested in the American Revolution, we're still planning to study the pioneers, & we've also been very eager to study the Gold Rush which has both American and Australian ties to it. So when a great opportunity arrises itself to jump into a unit study we often take hold and run with it. Paige, a fellow homeschooler, mentioned an internet based "curriculum" called Westward Ho! The idea is to register and then play along while learning all about the westward expansion.
While it wasn't our original idea to go with gold mining first, one of the joys of homeschooling is that we can change our plans without too much difficulty. So, I thought I'd list some of the fun resources we'll be using for the upcoming study. (Honestly, I list the resources here so I can easily find them again for myself!)

Various Resources:
  • Westward Ho! -- if you want to join in the fun you'll need to register by December 15. The actual "journey" doesn't begin until February 8 and it runs through March 12. The site also has a lot of great information and resources on it if you have the time to look through them.
  • Time Traveler's History Study -- this is a terrific product put out by Homeschool In The Woods. I'm pretty sure I've said that about all their products, perhaps I'm slightly biased? They have many on various bits of American History, and we'll be using a few of them in the upcoming school year. The lessons are all ready preplanned and you can devise where to go from there!
  • Westward Expansion Links -- this page is chock full of links. I looked around for well over an hour, and while many of the links don't work, those that do are pretty nifty! Someone has really gone to a lot of effort to compile that list!
  • Westward Ho Lapbook (free) -- this is another great one by Dynamic Moms. Their artwork is always fantastic too. This one includes animals, fauna, timelines, Oregon Trail, Lewis & Clark, Pony Express, and more.
  • Oregon Trail Lapbook (free) -- this is one I've had my eyes on for a while. It's free from Lapbook Lessons and quite through in regards to the Oregon Trail including booklets on forts, landmarks, Bible verses, songs, and more.
  • Lewis & Clark Plans -- while we've all ready touched on Lewis & Clark I stumbled upon these fascinating plans which would do an amazingly through job on covering them. You could also get lapbook resources from Dynamic Moms if you wanted.
  • Seeking Simplicity -- Joy's blogged about her adventure using Westward Ho in the past with her children. Looks like they had a lot of fun too.

We'll also be using the following books:
  • Going West -- full of crafts, projects and information. Another Kaleidoscope Kids Book.
  • By The Great Horn Spoon -- fictional account of a boy and his butler when they decide to go gold mining in order to save the family home. This book is loaded with accurate historical information and is one of those "fortunately unfortunately" books that keeps you hooked until the end. The audio version is awesome! The movie is comical.
  • The Everyday Life Of An American Pioneer -- we picked this one up used a while back, and it discusses what pioneers would have done in various places, times, and situations. It discusses storms, stampedes, the campfire, etc.
  • Pioneer Days -- this book is written in story form about a Pioneer family (and eventually their new neighbors/friends) It tells you what they did and then gives you a few crafts based on that. Lots of fun crafts and a few yummy looking recipes too.
  • Laura Ingalls Wilder Pioneer Girl -- this is more of a biography of Laura, but written in fun story form. It has chapters that share information from the books Laura wrote herself too. This also talks about how her books came into print, and includes a nice timeline in the back of her life.
  • Riding The Pony Express -- this is another book we picked up used not that long ago.. The book is about a little boy who goes to find his father, only to discover his father has joined the pony express. This is broken down into really short chapters.
  • Jimmy Spoon & The Pony Express -- I have to be honest and admit I've not read this one yet, but it came hugely recommended when I was seeking a chapter book on the pony express. It has short quick chapters in it, and is about a boy who signs up and then rides for the pony express.
  • They're Off -- this is another Pony Express book, a time period the boys became hugely excited about when we did Mailing May. This one also came highly recommended and is a longer picture book with beautiful artwork in it.
  • Pony Express -- Hands On History. Another one we picked up during a CurrClick sale. This one has printables, expansion ideas, information on actual riders, cards (based on actual riders), games, historical information and more.
  • Suzannah Strikes Gold -- yet another one we found in a used shop recently. This book is written from a Christian perspective and is about a little girl and her family traveling to California and eventually their adventures while they are in California as well.
  • The Ballad Of Lucy Whipple -- we found this in the library and then later the same day we found it used in a local store so we snagged it. This is another one we haven't read, but tucked away for when we did our gold study. It takes place in California 1849 and is about a young girl in California during the gold rush. This one also happens to be a movie, which we might look at obtaining after we read the book.
  • Gold Rush -- Hands on History. We purchased this during a sale knowing we were going to be doing a gold unit. I love the hands on history books because they come with lots of fantastic ideas to really get into the study. This one has lots of information on Gold, Yukon & California gold rush, Chinese immigrants, crafts, recipes, and more!
  • Lewis & Clark & Me -- a short chapter book about Lewis & Clark written from the perspective of Seaman, the dog. While we've all ready touched on this subject I think the boys will enjoy reading about them a bit more again.
  • Little House On The Prairie -- we may or may not pull some of these out. They were how we were going to break into our pioneer studies originally, and we may still enjoy some fun with them.
  • Great Pioneer Projects -- this book is very big and very awesome. We purchased our copy as an ebook during a CurrClick sale, but they no longer carry the book. This book covers the entire westward movement. It's loaded with maps, pictures of people from the past and little tidbits about them, crafts, recipes and more. It's 115 pages and they are divided up into 12 different chapters.
  • The Cabin Faced West -- this is a book about a little girl who's family moved away from the "city" to the west. I'm pretty sure I've read this book enough times when I was younger to know it by heart. In fact, I use to enjoy pulling out the "blue dishes" mom had just in case a president stopped by our house someday.. While this book doesn't talk about the gold rush, it's a great account of pioneer life, in fact we're all ready in the middle of reading this book!
  • On To Oregon -- (check homeschool library builder, they often have a copy on hand!) is a book based on real life accounts of the seven Sagar children traveling along the Oregon trail and the dangers and adventures they encounter along the way.
Australian Resources:
  • Eureka Stockade -- this is a book based on the Australian Gold rush, which will give the boys a great view of what it was like here during the gold rush..
  • To The Goldfields -- this one is based on life in the Victorian Goldfields in the 1850's.
  • Billabong Gold -- recounts the story of an Australian family and their hardships during the Australian Gold rush.
  • The Gold Rushes -- this is a non-fiction book looking at the gold rushes in Australia
  • Journey To A Dream -- is about a young girl who's father packs up the family wagon and moves them to the country.
While we have a lot on our list it doesn't mean we'll get to every last bit of it. Westward Ho! Lasts for a month, and we may end our studies then or we may continue forward with them. It will simply depend on if we're ready to lay them aside by then or not. We're really looking forward to it! Because we have so much planned all ready we may revisit the Australian side later in the year when we use the unit study Australian Book Traveler. Or we may hit on it in bits and pieces along with the American version.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Five Stones

Remember the homemade gifts I needed to tackle? Well we've been busy sewing away around here, and this was one of the first gifts we made. 5 Stones. Think of it as an Indonesian version of Jacks. It's extremely addictive too. I'm going to have to make a third set so we can keep one because once someone pulls this out we just can't seem to leave it alone! As it turns out there is no right or wrong way to make these little things. I've noticed a variety of different instructions, but the long and short of it is you cut a rectangle of material and se it up with beans or rice inside (our's have rice) You can try these instructions or these ones. Both are pretty clear cut and simple. I made our's roughly 2.5 x4, and filled until they felt right.

Then we made a drawstring bag to store each set in, yes we stuck silly ribbon tags on the bags. I thought embroidering 5 Stones on the outside of the bag was a good idea. Morgan thought drawing stones on would be better, and then he said maybe iron on a picture. Since we weren't 100% decided on what to do the bags are still plain right now. The bag were equally simple.

After the "stones" were in the bags we realized no one would know how to play the game and we couldn't explain it to them each time they wanted to play. The recipients live a fair distance away and we don't see them very often. So we decided to write up a simple set of rules and then we asked Daddy to play the game by following the rules only. That was our way to test if they were accurate and well written. The only problem was, we found ourselves all playing the game until we remembered it was a gift for someone else!

Want to make your own set and have a copy of the rules? You can grab our rule paper from here if you're interested. But just remember we wanted you that the game was highly addictive!

Sunday, December 6, 2009


Check out this adorable crochet pattern! I have a small fetish for Nativities, and while searching for something else the other day I stumbled upon Gourmet Crochet. I was very excited to see a crocheted pattern for a Nativity scene. I've seen a variety of them out there for knitting, but me and knitting needles just don't seem to get along very well. I can't wait to dig into this project, but I'll have to pick up some more yarns first.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Counting On Frank

Tuesday we had a fun math lesson based on the book Counting on Frank. The book is about a boy who uses math to come up with a lot of different answers to a whole lot of amazing questions. The boys thought the book was funny, and it's loaded with math lesson possibilities not to mention all the goodies in the back of the book that would require a lot of extra digging. However, we went with the basic lesson to learn about estimation. To prepare for the lesson I not only read Counting On Frank, but I also read a chapter on estimating in the book A Collection Of Math Lessons (have I mentioned how much I love this book??) This allowed me to stretch our lesson out a bit more as well as touch on a few topics I hadn't thought of.

First we read the story, and then we discussed the words calculate and estimate. The boys copied these words and their definitions to their math notebooks. Then I explained that when we estimate we don't always have enough information to know what kind of guess to make, so any guess will do. I really wanted to stress (something suggested in the Collection math book) that estimating/guessing a wrong answer was perfectly acceptable. This is a big deal for us because we have one who panics when he gets something wrong. So for him to understand that sometimes wrong answers are perfectly acceptable and we can learn from them was great.

Next I showed the boys a small green gift box and one normal sized marble. I said we were going to try and figure out how many marbles fit in that little box, but before we did I wanted them to guess, or estimate, how many they felt would fit. Then the white board was labeled with numbers from 1 - 40. I explained to the boys that we were all going to write our names on a post-it note. I dragged Mr Scarecrow into the room for this because I needed another person to cast an estimation. Once the kids placed their post-its underneath a number Mr Scarecrow and I placed our numbers post-its under the same number. I then took the opportunity to use the term Number Range, which they both readily knew and accepted much to my surprise and delight. Then, the real reason for dragging Mr Scarecrow away from his work, I explained that on our graph we had a mode. We also jotted that word and it's answer down in our math notebook. We used the term mode, each time we had a chance to really enforce what it meant.

After that I said we'd count the marbles as we dropped them in our box, but they were not to panic if their number came and went. So we started counting. We hit 40 and the box was half full. I pointed out that the box was now half full and asked them if they'd like to change their estimation (this was another great idea from the collections book, see why I love it so much?) All of us changed our answers and the boys were eager to put their number on mine so we could have another mode. I reminded them that I didn't know the correct answer any more then they did and so they were welcome to match my number, but to choose the number they most wanted.

Our whiteboard had to be erased and renumbered because clearly we didn't have high enough numbers on it. That was a small catch to our math lesson, but it proved the point that I truly didn't know the answer and my estimation was as much of a guess as the boys. We also didn't have a mode after we all moved our numbers, but that was okay, we still had the opportunity to check and see if we had one and discuss that our number range had changed.

Then we continued to fill our box until we had it full. We determined that it was full when we could put the lid on and it sat properly on top. Our box held 86 average sized marbles. The kids were impressed and decided they wanted to do it again. So I pulled out the unifex cubes and showed them the difference in size compared to a marble. Then we estimated how many of those we could get in our box and we tried it again. After that while Morgan was willing to keep going Jayden was done, so we packed it away. We'll try lentils or popcorn kernels another day, and we still have a measurement lesson to do based on the book. Plus, I think the boys will have fun answering some of the crazy math questions in the back of the book!

Now, before you think I came up with this lesson completely on my own, I didn't. The idea comes from the book Meeting Math Standards With Favorite Picture Books. There are heaps of books with a variety of math lessons inside, and there's an even bigger index in the back with many more books that one could build their own lessons from. I decided to expand the lessons in the book we used, and I also checked a few of my other resources in order to pack as much into one lesson in the most leisurely way possible. When the kids ask to do it again or to keep going then I feel the lesson is a success, needless to say this was one of those lessons!

Dear Santa

Dear Santa,

I've been quite good this year and just wanted to send you a quick note so you know what I'd love for Christmas. I'm sure you must all ready know, really I am, but just in case I thought I should tell you. I'd really love a new set of measuring cups because I'm always running out with all the baking I do around here. I thought the Babushka Measuring cups were quite cute, not to mention functional, don't you? So I can be a more sharing person I thought the cute ladybug ipod speakers would be just right. That way I can share all my lovely music and audiobooks with the rest of my family. I'm sure they'd enjoy every bit of it! I could really use an extra large water can because it's taking a half dozen trips to and from the kitchen sink to water the garden. You'd understand the annoyance of the door flying and the blowies getting in, right? We're always short on chairs around here and the Exerball Chair looks like so much fun, plus it's suppose to encourage good posture. That's important isn't it? My stick blender stopped working and I really miss it, would you please bring me a knew one? I'd promise to use it quite often, really I would! I could use a new BPA free water bottle too, a very helpful hand broke one of the lids on mine. It's a bit rough keeping uncapped bottles from spilling with little ones around. I've been asking for a pink kayak for years, and I know the boys would join me in playing with it and I'd promise to share.. most of the time. So, if you really do exist, I just thought I'd let you know.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

GingerBread CountDown

This year we decided to do something different for our countdown chain. Normally we do a paper chain, but I wanted to do something a little less wasteful. So we settled on a gingerbread boy countdown calendar. It's really quite simple to make and makes quite the site while hanging up as a bunting in the dinning room doorway too! Plus, who can resist eating a gingerbread? Not my kids! We made up a batch of our Honey Gingerbread cookies and once they were cool we set to work. I don't have pictures of all the steps we did because our hands were super busy tying ribbon and straightening out plastic wrap.

Getting a picture of the bunting hanging up was kinda difficult so you'll have to suffer with our funny pictures! If you want to make one you'll need 24 (if starting on December 1st) gingerbread people cookies. We used a medium cookie cutter. Then you'll need a long flat area to lay down 6 feet or so of plastic wrap. Don't panic if you don't have enough you can easily add more on! Lay your gingerbread boys in the middle of the plastic wrap leaving roughly 2-inches between the cookies.

Then you you'll need to fold one side of the plastic wrap over the gingerbread boys, and then fold the other side over so that you have one very long sausage. Start tying ribbons between each gingerbread boy. For the first and last one you'll also need to put an extra tie so they don't slip out. Then you're ready to hang them up! Each day you cut one gingerbread boy off and one lucky family member gets to eat it! To avoid excess tears the first few days I made up a couple of extra cookies..

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Thanksgiving Fun

So I know it's December and Christmas projects are underway here at the Pumpkin Patch, but we had such a delightful Thanksgiving Party we couldn't help but tell about it. The boys truly spent the entire month preparing for it! They made 4 different Thanksgiving lapbooks, and a variety of games, many crafts, and an entire set of table setting pieces. They were quite relieved to see the day finally arrive when they could spread it all out and share it with others.

The boys retold the story of Thanksgiving to some of our guests, and then they passed around a turkey they made which had all the pertinent facts about the Pilgrims on it. Don't ask me why the boys are making nutty faces in some of those pictures. Chances are their uncle was encouraging them with some funny story or a bit of extra fast slurping going on down there.

One of the projects we worked on the night before our party was apple cups. We took reasonable sized apples and cut the top off them (like you would if you were going to scoop out pumpkin guts) and then we scooped out the insides leaving a hallow shell with enough flesh to keep it's shape. Then we brushed the shell and the lid with lemon juice. Then we put a piece of plastic wrap between the lid and the shell and froze them overnight. We had quite the assembly line going on. The result was an apple cup. We found some cinnamon quills and passed those out for straws on the day of our party. They were a huge hit all around and we discovered that some of our cups had defrosted too much (we'd set them out too early) and they leaked. Which encouraged guests to drink their juice quickly. Which resulted in slurping. Which resulted in seeing who could slurp the loudest. This resulted in lots of giggles, especially when a certain someone's straw didn't make a single slurping sound!

Next our guests were challenged to Turkey Sticks. These were simple popsicle sticks with a turkey glued on them. The idea was to hold your arm at shoulder level and see if you could drop it in the bucket. Not as easy as it sounds. This aroused lots of laughs as people tried very hard to line things up only to find their sticks go fluttering the wrong way. That game "thing" laying by everyone's shoes was our Stick & Loop game which we also enjoyed playing with our guests (no pictures though..) The idea was to get the stick through the loop on the string, not as easy as it sounds as some of our guests discovered.

No, our guests didn't start fighting, they are trying to pry frogs of the ceiling! After playing Thanksgiving bingo we handed out sticky frogs, bouncy balls, and beaded necklaces (prizes for being good sports and playing our crazy games!) Everyone's frogs were on the ceiling in less then 30 seconds and it was taking so long for them to fall down that they were suddenly being pried off.

We decided to make masks instead of hats for our guests. Everyone picked one and spent quite some time cutting it out and attaching string. There was also some feather coloring going on for our Pin The Feather On The Turkey game. One had to color their feather and then write something they were thankful upon it in order to play.

The last game we played was a revised edition of stool ball. The pilgrims use to play a game called Stool Ball. A child would stand on a stool and with a stick try to keep balls from hitting him. The idea of throwing balls at him was to knock him off the stool. Whomever knocked him off was the next "Stoolie". Okay, so we had rainy weather and couldn't get outside so we used a beanbags, balloons, and a flyswatter for our version. There was much laughing, falling, balloon whacking, and plenty of fun. In fact, the boys have put in lots of requests to play this game lots more!