Monday, May 31, 2010

Blog Awards

Over the past few months I've been passed on several blogging awards. It's always fun to know someone besides your own parents are out there reading what you write, but it can also be a tad intimidating. You start to wonder if you mentioned anything too crazy, or those pictures of my laundry drying from last winter.. Yeah, were any unsightly unders showing?! Okay, so I worry about weird things, like, "Did I suck up that cobweb I spotted in the bathroom? I'd hate for anyone else to see it!" or the dawning realization that the person you thought was attempting to stalk you in the shop three days ago might have actually been your neighbor and now probably thinks your insanely snobby. Incase your wondering, I have issues sleeping at night because even weirder thoughts are running through my mind.. Anyway, the point is I'm bad about posting blogging awards because I honestly don't travel around blogdom very much. It's true, and weird.

My worst habit is bookmarking everything and then my bookmarks become so full (and abnormally organized according to Mr Scarecrow) that I can't actually find what I'm looking for. I know that sounds completely wrong that if something is clean and neat you should be able to find it, but again I'm weird like that.. Anyway, I've decided to post three of the awards and list a few blogs I've been frequenting this month when I can.

Understand, that my blogdom visits change often based on the needs of my family, my creative mood, and a vast array of other things. You know like, needing to scrub the remaining sticky out of a soccer jersey before the 9 am game... or exactly what does fennel taste like (and I was referring to the stuff you can buy in the produce dept. not the spice isle!) I google some pretty nerdy stuff at times!  Anyway, on with the silly awards shall we?

The Lemonade Stand Award was given to me much earlier this year by Michelle over at the Active Family. According to the rules I'm suppose to nominate something like 10 blogs! Okay, please don't tell anyone, but I'm not sure I frequent 10 blogs on a regular basis!

The Sunshine Award comes from Renelee over on Dove's Rest.  I seriously doubt it's humble to admit that I felt rather stoked about the fact that I was thought of as a blogger who "inspired others and shows positivity and creativity", but I did. How's that for blatant prideful honesty? Again, I'm suppose to pass this award on to 10 other bloggers and well you know how that might turn out, right? You have been reading all the words, not every 4th word, right?

The Beautiful Blogger Award comes from Gae over at Cherished Hearts At Home. Honestly, I'm delighted Gae passed on any award to me, because she's met me in real life and met my insanely active boys. The same boys who have talked non-stop about how much fun they had playing with her children and how we all can't wait to have them over again. To accept this award I'm suppose to pass it on to 15 bloggers (if you guys are doing your math I'm now suppose to pass on awards to a total of 35 blogs! I might be in trouble here!!) as well as share 7 things about myself. Now, I'm pretty sure over my blogging history I've shared more then 7 things, but I'm up for sharing 7 more so, here we go:

1. Not only do I homeschool my children, but I was also homeschooled. My children think I'm so cool because I was homeschooled. They think it's very funny to hear stories about how some of the insanely naughty things we did during school time. You know, like shooting rubber bands at your siblings when you're suppose to be working on your monthly essay. Or, jumping up on your desk because your overly exuberant while reading your Shakespeare lines and you whack your head on the dropped ceiling in the "school room". Mind you, I'm not sure it's really sunk in yet that their Aunt and Uncle were homeschooled, which thus would surely put them up there on the scale of awesomeness. They are, however, highly disappointed to learn that their grandparents and father were not homeschooled.

2. As you know, I've participated in Nanowrimo for the past two years. In fact, I'm all ready in the planning mode for next year. I own the t-shirt, and any day I wear it I tell the kids it's going to be an AWESOME day because I'm wearing my FAVORITE t-shirt. What I haven't said before is that the story I wrote 2 years ago was only just finished up this year. Mr Scarecrow is the only person in the world with a current edited first chapter. Considering I saw it laying next to his side of the bed, but he hasn't said anything about it.. I'm concerned it bored him to death!

3. My favorite Bible verse has, for as long as I can remember, always been Deuteronomy 31:6, but as an adult (more so a mother) I started writing it backwards because I've always been drawn to the passage in Deuteronomy 6:6-9. Both of which were highlighted the same day Mr Scarecrow gave me my lovely new Bible for Easter.

4. My children love it when I tell them stories, especially true stories about themselves or other family members. They love hearing about when they were born, their past birthdays, when they were little(er), etc. One evening, when we were all staying in a hotel, the boys were wound up for the upcoming day at the zoo. I decided to coax them to sleep with a story.. It started out like this, "Once upon a time Morgan and Jayden woke up and said, 'Today is a beautiful day for a picnic!" Let's invite our friends, "Gram-Gram & Poppy to come with us." So they called their friends and their friends said, "Yes, it is a beautiful day for a picnic, will you come to our house so we can sit by the pond for our picnic?" "Yes, we will." So Morgan and Jayden loaded up their picnic basket with all sorts of yummy treats and then got in the car and drove to Gram-Gram and Poppies.." As I was about to say the next sentence this little voice pops up with, "Excuse me Mom, but how did they drive when they aren't allowed to have a license yet?" "They didn't need one." "That's against the law Mom, and we wouldn't do something like that." "But in a story you can pretend anything you want!" "But, Mom, we would never EVER pretend ANYTHING that was WRONG." And so the conversation went until Mr Scarecrow fell out of bed laughing...

5. I dislike lizards all most as much as I dislike mice. It's a true fact. In the summer when I hang out laundry there's one skink in particular who hounds me out there. It's like he knows I can't stand him and I only tolerate him in hopes he'll eat the spiders. One day, in his hurry to avoid being eaten by a bird he ran straight at me, and I in my panic through pegs at him and screamed until the men folks in my home came outside to laugh...

6. I like to eat raw green beans. Anytime. So do my kids. When they see me eating a handful of raw green beans they ask if they can have some. I'm so selfish I say no they have to go get their own from the veggie bin in the fridge. Sometimes, though, I might let them have the smallest one in my hand, which is equally selfish and mean. I take my green beans a little too seriously.

7. I can't stand reading a series of books out of order. My husband refers to these oddities as Monkisms which I attempt to strongly deny. However, my husband insists that only a person finely in tune with Mr Monk would be caught vacuuming the lightbulbs, reading book series in perfect order, and feeling fidgety when she can't put the books in size order on her own bookcase. I prefer to think of myself as a neat person, but Mr Scarecrow is convinced I may have deeper cleaning issues then simple "neatness". I have, however, never burned any of shirts simply because I was concerned the stain might spread to his other shirts..

Now, for the scant few blogs I tend to find myself visiting lately, and they are listed in no particular order:

1. Jen's Little Things -- I always get a good laugh when I peak in on Jen's blog.

2. Cooking During Stolen Moments -- this is a new one I stumbled upon recently and have enjoyed looking at the many recipes all though I've not tried a single one yet.

3. Healthy Indulgences -- a fellow homeschooler and friend point this one out to me. It's nice to find a blog with recipes that don't have sugar in them. Much less converting on my part, and honestly I can't wait to try out the Pavlova recipe!

4. Our Journey Westward -- I love history, and I love so many of the creative ideas Cindy has for having her kids share what they are learning. It inspires me to push my own children a pinch more then I probably do.

5. Schultz Party Of Four -- I've been visiting Katie's blog for forever it seems. I like the laughs and honesty and sincerity in which she posts. And, despite what she may say, I think she really is beautiful..

6. Cherished Hearts At Home -- Okay, so I know I all ready mentioned this blog, but I do enjoy peeking in on Gae's blog. She does some really amazing and fun stuff with her family, and I'm pretty sure if my kids catch sight of their Star Wars night their own plans for having an Uncle over to watch the films will blow into astronomical proportions.

See, I warned you that I probably wouldn't have 10 blogs. It's trust, and even some of the blogs I've listed I don't visit on a daily basis, but I still enjoy them. However, it looks like I need to come up with at least 4 more blogs that are fun to peek in on, so let's see what I can do..

7. Love Actually -- I'm pretty sure I might have mentioned this one a time or two. It's a fun blog with plenty of ideas for simplistic date nights for your loved one. I would not, however, suggest reading it with little eyes around. There are no (at least last time I was there) distasteful pictures on the blog, but there are ideas that I certainly wouldn't want my little ones reading..

8. Moda Bake Shop -- Seriously, if I could sit around and sew all day I might be able to make all the lovely things on this place. I can't, and that's okay, because it makes the projects I can work on that much more special. Right now, I'm currently working on this one (pictures coming very soon) and have a few more I've flagged to work on.

9. Journey Into Unschooling -- I don't read this blog often, but each time I do I am often inspired by an idea, a statement, an article. I'm pretty sure if Morgan saw the crafts they have fun with he'd be mega inspired to pull out the recycling and go at it. My latest inspiration came from this post. I'm loving this game idea, and it also helped us to formulate a game we were trying to plan out take shape.

10. Deliciously Clean Reads -- okay, so I know she moved her blogs all into one space, but I still love revisiting this particular blog. So much great info on so many books. I have been introduced to some amazingly good books this way.

Other blogs/websites I check in on from time to time (because I think I still have to add 5 more here..):

1. Crafty Crow -- I enjoy peeking in on the crafts that other people make; it's always fun to find new inspiration to make things.

2. My Blessings From Above -- Michelle and her boys are always up to something fun. Michelle also shares about all sorts of amazing deals those of you in America can cash in on. My boys, think her boys are awesome because they come from Korea. In case you can't tell, my kids are obsessed with S. Korea right now..

3. Dean's Academy -- I've posted this blog before, and I still love peeking in on this family. I am in total awe of Andrea after her completion of the recent Marathon. It's the kind of things I think about doing, but haven't actually put the effort into completing. Seriously, Andrea, I think you are amazing!

4. Joyful Mother Of Six -- Okay, so I have to admit that I make every effort to pop in and visit Leslie's blog at least once a week. I am always in awe of the amazing co-op she and her family are involved in! I've also been profoundly touched by their "recent" discovery that one of their son's have diabetes. I'm equally always made to smile when I read how her eldest daughter does the most amazing things for her siblings.. In fact, I'd love to see Rebecca win the regional division for the contest Khol's is having. And, as long as I'm mentioning this amazing family.. be sure to check out Rebecca's jewerly. She sells the jewellery to raise money to help heart patients.

5. Horsing Around At Home -- Tracey has been reading my blog for a while, and I also know her from a homeschool message board we both frequent. It's been fun peeking in on her happenings via her own blog!

Okay, I think I might be all blogged out now, and I'm sure I've missed some too! I tend to try to mention blogs that I know people don't frequent too often, because it's always fun to stumble upon that little known blog, isn't it?

Friday, May 28, 2010

Revolutionary War Plans

Here at the Pumpkin Patch we are gearing up for an American History studies based on the Revolutionary War. This is a topic that peeked the boys curiosity earlier this year and I promised we'd get to it eventually. The idea is to spend the next 5 (or 6) weeks with this study so that the boys will have a great new appreciation for Independence Day (July 4th). At the very least, they will have a new understanding for why America celebrates on the 4th.

I have them completely psyched for this study which wasn't too difficult to do considering they chose the topic. However, just to be sure they were ready I was overheard the other afternoon saying, "Do you guys know who Paul Revere is?" Upon saying no I went into a short tail wind about how if it hadn't been for people like Revere America might not be. I then asked if they knew who Benedict Arnold, John Adams, George Washington, Francis Scott Key, Valley Forge, and so on.

Morgan was quite proud of himself for knowing exactly who Washington was and not to be out down Jayden pipped up that he knew who Thomas Jefferson was. They were both really miffed that I didn't indulge them with more information about the previous people mentioned. They like nothing more then curling up and hearing stories about real people, which means they are really going to enjoy the next month of school!

We'll be kicking off our studies with Paul Revere's Ride from Volume 3 of the Five In A Row manuals. The book is the poem by Longfellow and will give them a good base for wanting to know more about the time period. If I get it done in time I'll be making the boys a lapbook to go with this study.

The core of our entire study comes from the Homeschool In The Woods Time Travellers Revolutionary War cd. We will be having so much fun with the contents of this cd! I really can't wait to get started with it, and I know the boys will go crazy with all the fun ahead of them too. It's loaded with games, recipes, crafts, lapbooking pieces, notebooking pieces, and so on. Lots of fun ahead for us.

We'll also be reading through the following books (all of which tie in with at least one lesson to the Time Traveler cd):

Now all we have to do is hope most of them arrive in a timely fashion! 

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Multiplication Fun

Monday I took the boys by the local toy store in hopes of finding a couple of games I was after. As it turned out the toy shop only had one of the games I was after, which is probably better off because while you might see these games listed for $8.00 (USD) or so around the internet, they are often priced at $19.98 here. Upon coming home we opened the game and then realized we had unattended chores and things to deal with before Mr Scarecrow got home from work. Which means our poor game was left completely unattended until after dinner, at which point Morgan could no longer take the suspense and asked if we could please play it. As is the tradition in our home, Mr Scarecrow read the rules and we all teamed up so we could quickly learn how to play.

This game far exceeded our expectations for fun and educational! The idea of the game, in short, is to buy and sell stocks. The person with the most money at the end of the game is declared the winner. The only downer to this game is that it's only a 2 player game. But this also works out well because it gives me a chance to work one-on-one with Morgan on a new skill he's more then ready for.

The idea of Ka-ching is to lay out 5 rows of 7 cards. You give each player $20 and the rest of the money goes in the "bank".  From there, you pay face value for any card you pick up; ie a 2 will cost you $2. You can then sell them if you have two of the same color. So let's say you have two purple 3s. You will then multiply 3x3 to determine how much money you will be paid via the bank. Only, because we've not officially "done" multiplication we say, "3 groups of 3 equals?" Interestingly enough after a few games Morgan now knows quite a few of his multiplication facts. He's also quickly making change (subtraction), estimating how much he'll need in his hand to purchase which stocks (and out score his opponents), as well as typical money skills. 

This game is incredibly addictive too and has all ready been played a few dozen times since we purchased it. Morgan is especially addicted to it which is awesome because it's a great way to work on multiplication facts without any effort at all.  The best part is that it ties in with those cookies he made for an upcoming division/multiplication lesson we'll be having next week.

I do wish that the numbers went a little bit higher (they only go to 6) so that we could practice our higher facts as well, but we've determined that we could easily use a regular deck of cards in order to work with our higher facts. We'd just have to add in some monopoly money or our basket of math monies. Either way, I suspect there's a couple of little boys who are going to have a whole lot of fun learning their multiplication facts.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Question #101

Are you still making craft kits for your niece? What do you put in them each month?

Yes, I am still making them. The picture to the left is not one of the craft kits, I just like pictures when I blog so I've stuck a random picture of craft supplies up.. As for what I put them in them.. Each month varies. I try to base the kits on things that are happening each month. Because different things happen each month, the kids contents always change. A basic monthly kit should have: 1 audio book, 2 books, 1 science experiment, various crafts & recipes.
I've just finished up the June kit so it might be easiest to explain the contest with the month of June in mind. Bear in mind that I put each kit in it's own envelope and date it so she knows which day to open it on:

June 1st -- Amelia Earhart began her last solo flight today. I've put in an entire Amelia Earhart lapbook. I've assembled the lapbook and am sending her the info about Amelia and the instructions to know what to do with each little booklet. Information on making various Paper Airplanes. This month's Audio book happens to be about Amelia Earhart, so I've mentioned it in this kit as well.

June 4th -- Henry Ford drove his first Ford car on this day. I've included printables from this site for her to cut out and assemble. Because I printed out all the vehicle ones it's the only craft I've included in this box. However, I did mention how she could make little garages for them & am including a book about Henry Ford.

June 6th -- Doughnut Day -- believe it or not this is for real! It turns out that donuts were sold on this day in order to raise money for the Salvation Army. In this kit I've included pre-cut pieces of felt to make donuts with ideas for adding sprinkles, and step by step picture instructions. You can find information and a pattern here if you're interested. I also included our honey donut recipe for her to make, with a tip to put the bowl of dough in a warm oven to help speed up the rising time. I shared a game she could play (tying donuts to a string and blindfolding each person with their hands behind their backs while they try to eat it.) I also said if she was really ambitious she could try and sell her donuts (the recipe makes 3-4 dozen!) and donate the money to her local Salvation Army.

June 10th -- Maurice Sendak's Birthday. This is the author of the book Where The Wild Things Are. I've included three paper crafts. One for Max, One for Sipi, and one for Moishe. I've also included a copy of Where The Wild Things Are. I also challenged her to write a story with the three characters she's made and/or write a story that explains what mischief Max got up to that had him sent to his room. I gave questions in order to help spark her imagination if she needed it. Like, "Do you think what he did was terribly awful or just a lot of little things until his Mom finally said, "Go!""

June 14th -- Flag Day. My ideas for this are a tad cheaty as I've gained most of the ideas from June Monthly Craft Idea book, something I all ready had on hand. The "crafts" for this will mostly consist of things from the book: coloring sheet(s), historical information, meaning of the Pledge of Allegiance, & a couple of other small things. I'm also going to include an idea for making patriotic cupcakes, & instructions to make a handprint flag.

June 20th -- Father's Day. I'm including a few ideas for a card and gift(s) she can do on her own. Most of these also come from the above mentioned book. However, I'm also including the instructions for making Lawn Mower Cupcakes.

There were other dates I could have cashed in on, like Helen Keller's Birthday, First Day of Summer, Anne Frank's Birthday and so on. June is lacking on a science experiment, but May had a whole lot of weather experiment stuff for making her very own weather station. I may also include a few fun bookmarks that can be colored and used, some pencil toppers, and a fun shark printable I found.

I often search through a variety of places before deciding which days we'll pick crafts for. I own many of the Monthly Craft Idea books by Scholastic as well as the Daily Discovery Books by Teaching & Learning Company. We also have a couple of year round craft/holiday books, and KinderArt always has ideas listed for various happenings each month.

Once you decide on the days you want to do something on you just have to decide what craft(s) and activities you want to do. I also write up a quick letter to stick in each envelope incase things need explaining and to tell a tiny bit about the holiday. The first craft kit took me quite a while to assemble, but as we move through the year I'm finding each one goes together much more quickly.

To help the planning process I like to keep an extra paper on my clipboard so that I can jot down a date or craft idea I've come up with during the week so that I don't waste time wondering what it was. Once all my planning is done (days to celebrate, craft ideas rounded up) it only takes me an hour or two to collect everything, write out instructions and letters, and get it all boxed up and in the mail.

I try to get them in the mail a week or two (preferably two) weeks before the start of the next month. Sometimes I'm not as timely with this as I should be, and I may send an email through to let them know it's coming but if it's not that by [enter first date I have a craft kit for] to let me know so I can email the info through.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Cinco De Mayo

May 5th was a Mexican holiday, and a great excuse to let my boys indulge in their fedish to make a pinata. Remember our fun with Scripute Adventures back around Easter? One of the craft suggestions was to make a pinata, when I presented this idea to the boys they were gung-ho until they realized they'd be sticking their little fingers into a gooey mess. Suddenly the idea wasn't as fun anymore. Their want of a pinata did not, however, diminish. In fact, when Daddy's birthday rolled around they wanted to know if we could get him a pinata and fill it up for his party. I was opposed. Being a sugar-free family I can't just rush out and fill it up with candies. My choices must be a tad more purposeful and planned. (Yes I know sugar-free candy exists, and as a treat they are permitted it from time to time, but this can also cause damage to some of the digestive systems in this house..) So, the deep desire for a pinata continued to loom over us, especially Jayden. I debated all sorts of ways to come up with one for his upcoming birthday when I was reminded of Cinco de Mayo. Why not pop in a quick history lesson with that pinata?

We were going to make mini pinata from egg carton cups, but I decided this idea would take less time. So we took an empty paperbag we had laying around and cut off the handles. Then I dumped a few treasures inside: football chips, a few sugar-free peppermints & butterscotch candies, stickers, GIANT balloons, & a few coins. After that I folded it over a hanger and stapled it closed. Morgan decorated it with some very unsticky Sponge Bob foam stickers we had in the cupboard. Then we hung it on the laundry horse and waited until Daddy was home from work. Don't you just love how Jayden covered his ears there? He's going through a phase where he detests loud noises unless he's making them, plus he was terrified Morgan was going to miss and break something!

Yes, they are using a mini cricket bat, that little bat gets quite the workout around this little pumpkin patch! It was quite fun watching the boys go at it until it finally popped wide open. There were many squeals of delight, and a whole lot of, "Can we close it back up and do that again?" I think the real thrill for them was knocking it open more then what was inside! After all, check out the look on Jayden's face in the above picture..

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Saturday Mornings

Saturday mornings were back to the soccer fields again. Morgan is actually in the right league this year, playing for a different school. This may be the first year Morgan has played soccer that his jersey actually fits him properly. His first year, he was three, I had to hem it by a good 3 inches or more. Oddly enough, at 9, he's still wearing the same shin guards he wore at age three. I think his former coaches would be amazed with his skills this year though.

Morgan is the only player on his team who knows, when playing defence, not to cross midfield. He also sticks with "his man" like butter on toast. He's also not afraid to get into the thick of things now that kids don't tower over him. A couple of times Coach C has suggested he, "Run down field and go for a goal, Mate!" Morgan will have a small look of confusion on his face as he looks behind him and only sees a goalie, he'll stare at the midline for a moment, shrug and take off. This year is going to be all about having fun for him..

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Anzac Pictures

We ended up making it up to the march, which the boys fully enjoyed. We marched with the soldiers back to the RS Lodge. Then we walked back up to the Memorial and the boys placed their poppies all around it. There were a few ahhs, from folks on the street as we walked by with our bouquet. The boys were delighted to see all the flowers others left, and a few gifts that were laid there as well. The boys really enjoyed the books we read as well, and when the day was over they dug out all the little Mister Men and set up the following display for us:

Mr Small led his troops to victory against the giant foes known as Morgan & Jayden who were armed with sling shots and sponge balls.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Question #100

Does homeschooling ever frighten you? As in, do you ever worry that your kids might now know it all when you’re done?

First off, I want to start out by saying that I, just like every other homeschooler out there, has those moments when you hold your breath and try really hard not to panic. We’ve all probably been there at some point in our homeschooling careers. In fact, I have those moments quite often and my husband, the normal worrier in the house, dutifully takes the time to calm me down and bring me back to reality. 
I think, honestly I do, that it’s easier for someone on the outside looking in to see just how much you’ve accomplished with your children. It’s easier for someone who isn’t with your children 24/7 or who hasn’t climbed the same hurdles and ladders in each lesson to see so much more quickly what we, as the teacher, often overlook.
While I consider my husband a very involved homeschooling parent, we’ll both admit that I do the brunt of the schooling. Which simply means that while I’m lamenting and worrying about my child not being able to remember that 8+8=16, my husband can see the bigger picture. 
He notices that when the boys say, “Hey Dad when was that Star Wars movie made?” He can say, “Nine years ago.”  While I’m sitting there wondering what difference it makes and will my child comprehend exactly when 9 years ago is my child smiles and says, “Wow, so that movie was made in 2001. It’s older then I thought!” 

My husband points out, at moments like those, that it’s those little moments that add up to something bigger. While I struggle with the concept of not worrying about if my kids are up to speed on each and every subject, my husband rests assured that the boys understand the concepts I teach them. 
I think it’s just one of those fates all homeschool Moms (and Dads) are doomed for. The parent who takes on the blunt of the schooling for any particular subject will see the struggles and the progress and while we rejoice and cry with our child, we also have those hopes and dreams for the day when they can accomplish the task without the tears and struggles.
I have a child who has struggled with reading despite the deep desire to learn from the moment he could speak. “When can I read Mommy?” was a constant question. He’d spend hours writing his alphabet at the table and he knew what he was doing too! When the day arrived that I decided to teach him to read, things went downhill quickly.
There were so many tears, frustrations, and outright tantrums and that was just me! Don’t even get me started on the poor child. Reading was such a laborious task for him. One day he’d have it all together and be doing awesome and the next day it was like pure torture again. Unfortunately, I didn’t remain calm during all of those hard lessons.
It was hard for me to see the small progress he was making simply because I wanted him to be able to read one sentence without having to sound out the same repetitive words over and over again. I wanted to escape one simple phonics lesson without a single tear shed. I wanted him to love reading as much as I do, but I was convinced the entire situation was doomed.
Then one day my struggling reader suddenly lamented that he’d much rather not read the fun Little Bear book I’d obtained for him. “Not because it’s hard Mom, but I really find it boring when they just say the same thing over and over again.” 
I was taken aback. I finally saw what my husband had been trying to tell me for months. Our struggling reader wasn’t really struggling anymore. Those trials and hurdles I’d climbed with him, they all paid off. We’d finally reached a milestone.
The truth is that all homeschoolers worry. We worry when we find ourselves repeating the same math problem, rereading the same history or science lesson. We worry when our child struggles to read and write. We worry that our little one isn’t up to speed with fellow homeschoolers their age. 
So, yes I worry. I’m grateful my husband grounds me in this area. I’m grateful my children amaze me and remind me that the struggles are worth it when we see them triumph. It’s why we, as homeschoolers, seem to find ourselves saying, “Don’t worry, they’ll be fine!” As much as we say it to others is as often as we need to hear it ourselves.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Nature Walk

Despite the colds the guys were fighting on Friday we decided to pop over to the Arboretum to see if there we could spot any black swans for the challenge over at Always Outside. Unfortunately, we only spotted one of the parents who was keeping a really close eye on a couple walking around the far side of the dam. We, were actually on the wooden bridge you can see in the photo to the left. The boys and I had been out to the Arbo a couple of weeks ago for a hike with the local homeschool group. The Tree Garden, as we like to call it, is broken down by continents. There's South America, North America, Asia, New Zealand, and of course Australia. I'm sure Europe is represented somewhere, but we've only wandered through the continents mentioned, this place is huge. When we were out last time we hiked through Asia, up to New Zealand and out to the edge of the property. After a lunch break some of the kids went on a mushroom hike, Morgan joined them but Jayden was too worn out, so unfortunately I didn't get to join in either. While visiting on Friday Morgan really wanted to show us the mushrooms he'd seen.

Morgan was really sad that the purple mushrooms had disappeared, but he was delighted to show us this toadstool. We miss seeing this particular fungi growing during the winter months. When we lived much closer to the Arbo we use to have these little fellows growing in our yard! They go through some amazing stages as they grow and die.

Check out this flatter version. It looked like the perfect little table or umbrella sitting out there under the trees. It's actually dark red on top and orange around the outer edges. As it dies off it becomes more orange and even slightly white before it falls apart.

This is a cypress tree in the North America section. The boys love the firey orange it turns in the fall. In fact it's the same one Morgan draws each fall when we go on a tree hunt. There's a couple of these sitting fairly close to the waters edge due to their need for swampy areas. 

And of course we took time to look for a few platys while we were there. This little one swam right under the bridge while we were standing there and proceeded to swim across the dam before climbing up the bank and disappearing onto the island that sits in the middle of the water. We had fun counting to see just how long this little one could hold his breath. He was pretty average with 30-40 seconds.

Even though we didn't spot out the swans we were after we still enjoyed ourselves. We'll be checking frequently to see if we can spot the cygnets once they hatch and are old enough to leave the nest for a little while. We're quite excited over it!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Free Homeschool Podcasts

For my birthday back in November, my amazing husband bought me a purple ipod nano. That little machine is in use all the time. I'm always listening to something, usually audio books. So recently when some fellow homeschoolers shared that I could listen to various homeschool speakers podcasts for free over at I was really excited by this because down here in Tasmania I've not had the opportunity to attend any homeschool conventions (something I'd love to do), & I also missed out on the online conference being offered by The Old Schoolhouse.

So today, while I attended to an entire basket of mending (seriously, do your kids wear out all their pjs and pants at one time or is it just mine?), making the guys a massive Black Forest cake (hey, when they're sick they can get away with ridiculous requests like this!), stirring up a pot of Leek & Potato soup, and vacuuming the house I enjoyed listening to 3 different speakers.

While what I listened to wasn't new to me, it was good to hear again. Interestingly enough, ideas and thoughts I've been tossing around for a while were mentioned in these podcasts and I liked that. It was like a virtual pat on the back (is that weird?) I have a few more flagged to listen to later this week, and I'm quite intrigued to hear the interview with Christopher Paolini. Interestingly enough his name was tossed around a lot in the podcasts I chose as Eragon had been a best seller at that time.

The podcasts I listened to today were:

How to Avoid Homeschool Burnout with Christine Field - there was nothing wrong with this one, and I'm not actually feeling burnout right now, but I was looking for something exciting and uplifting. This one didn't fit that bill. It was a good reminder though that we can't always do it all and there's nothing wrong with backing off when we need. Like when your kids and your husband are sick and you've got to hold the fort up alone...

When Homeschooling Gets Tough with Diana Johnson -- I enjoyed this one as well. There was quite a few profound statements she made that really made my day. I especially enjoyed her statement that many people think just because one chooses to homeschool we're raising mini geniuses or prodigies. This isn't the case in the majority of the circumstances. I also like how she pointed out while there are those out there who do excel in particular areas they most likely lack in another. It wasn't meant as a slant against either, but as a point that we need to accept our kids right where they are.

Ways To Make Your Homeschooling More Fun with Gail DeGiulio -- I think the topic of this particular podcast was super misleading without meaning to. Gail happens to own, operate, and run a game store that sells some AMAZINGLY cool games. In fact, we'd love to get our hands on a few of them.. Anyway, this was more about weekly family evenings/nights and remembering that everyone needs a chance to let their hair down and be totally crazy. It was well worth the listen, but I just think it should be called something different.

Grapevine Sale

Grapevine Studies is having a sale, this weekend only, where everything, not on sale, is 40% off!! Those are huge savings, and their products are well worth it too. We've been using the New Testament Bible study with both boys and they've loved every minute of it. They really love drawing the pictures, and it's fun to see what bits and pieces they add to it. They are also remembering so much stuff that we're debating making our own Bible Trivia game from all the lessons and questions that we have in each lesson.  All you need to do in order to cash in on these savings is enter the word SURPRISE when you check out. I couldn't resist passing on this sale information as we've really enjoyed their products thus far!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Scripture Adventure Freebie!

Currclick is having a Mother's Day sale with 5 new freebies each day. Today you can obtain Scripture Adventures Acts of The Apostles Peter Leads Christ's Church for free! We really love the Scripture Adventure stuffs, and this is a great way to check some of it out! You can also purchased their stuff directly from Scripture Adventure, and if you sign up for their newsletter you'll get 10% off your next purchase.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Book Shelf

My stack of books is constantly changing, growing, dwindling.. and moving.  My current stack toppled over when I was vacuuming and trying to avoid a stack of pyjamas that needed mending, which of course meant I had to stop and read a few pages of something..

1. Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads: I've borrowed this one from the library and the recipes look completely awesome. Some may be considered painstakingly long, but they all look oh so delicious. There's a few I can't wait to try out!

2. Home Learning Year By Year:  I'm enjoying the books by Rebecca Rupp, and this one is another well spring of great information. It's also interesting to see what kids should know when based on US standards. I love all the tidbits of information in regards to books, programs, etc.

3. On The Banks Of Plum Creek: We're reading this one aloud with the boys. They are enjoying it as much as the other "Laura" books.  Sometimes we do a bit of narration from it and sometimes we just enjoy the read.

4. Homeschooling: A Patch Work Of Days: I checked this book out of my late last year and was unable to finish it before it had to be returned. When I went to check it out again the library system had no memory of it. I managed to find a used copy very inexpensively and have been enjoying it since. The entire book is just various families telling about one day in their life.

5. Comfortable In Your Own Skin: this is a book about body image written from a Christian perspective. It's a really good read, but I seem to be moving rather slowly through it.

6. A Single Shard: I haven't started this one yet, but it's been on my "I can't wait to read it" list for a long time. We fell in love with Linda Sue Park a few years ago when we read The Firekeeper's Son. Morgan loves anything to do with Korea, and I thought he might enjoy listening to this book with me.

To see other books we're reading, have read, or are planning to read check out our list here.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Dear Mom..

Dear Mom,
Remember the time I sucked on the blue pen until it exploded all over my mouth, my doll, and the bus? Somedays, I can still taste the ink. 
Remember the time I mixed up “baby food” and it was just flour and water. It stained my jumper, the one I wore to be the Robin in the 1st grade play. I’m not convinced my dolls ever forgot that moment in their lives.
Remember the time I sat down in the chair in the basement and the legs of the chair went flying. I landed on the floor. Everyone thought it was so funny. Then it happened again a few weeks later. As I recall every weak chair in our home always broke the moment I sat on it. So did that swing Dad hung from the tree out back. Only, it waited until I was convinced I could touch another limb of the tree before it broke. My rear end is still sore.
Remember the time I made brownies out of a box and I read the measurements wrong and we had the worlds slurpiest brownies? I kinda blocked that one out for a while allowing the reign of Teddy Bear bread to proceed in my memory bank, but now when Jayden asks for chocolate milk I snicker because I think about those brownies.
Remember when you and Rachel were in the hospital and I had to cook dinner for a week and you said there was stuff for sloppy joes and I made them. Only Dad was much kinder then D after I added too much flour mixture. The only time Sloppy Joes have ever been pink instead of white. The boys think it was funny that I didn’t know how to cook “once upon a time.” They also think it’s just a story because I said, “Once upon a time..” 
Remember that time I was having a really “terrible horrible no good day” and you brought Chalomine tea upstairs to my room? Well, when you left I threw the tea out the window because I didn’t like it. Only, I nearly hit D because he was outside in the driveway. He promised not to tell, I’m guessing he never did..
Remember the year you made everyone slippers (and probably other stuff too) for Christmas? I had purple pig slippers and have never forgotten them. For some reason they always remind me of that record we checked out of the library called the Goops. The only thing I can remember from that record is, “The Goops they lick their fingers..” 
Remember when you had us all memorize the poem Love Between Brothers And Sisters? I still can’t say the title of that poem without saying, “by Isaac Watts” I can still remember a few stanzas of the poem, and I’ve been known to quote it when the boys are fighting, especially the line, “little birds in their nests agree, and tis a shameful sight when children of one family fall out and chide and fight..” 
Remember how we both blubbered like babies at D’s wedding and Uncle Jeff leaned over and told us to suck it up. Which was made even funnier when they couldn’t get the lighter to work for the candles. I was worried Morgan might start giggling up there.. 
Remember when we left TN for Australia? Well, I cried all the way to the airport the first time. The second time we stopped at Wal-Mart in C’ville, and when we went in I was sure people would think something was terribly wrong with all of us and our puffy faces and red eyes. We stocked up on paperback books and a couple of videos for the plane ride back. That video nearly got us in big trouble when a giant shot-gun sounded on it and the couple behind us leapt up in the air in fright!
Remember when Morgan was born and you were spot on for saying he’d come on Thursday? The Dr was so not convinced, and I remember not caring by Thursday as long as I could stop gagging all over the place. I still can’t stand the thought of Taco bell, and ironically Morgan can’t eat enough Tacos to make himself happy.
Remember when I got married and we made the wedding dress in that funny mint green material with little tiny red flowers on it? When you were sick and in bed and I finished up the waist of the dress D walked in the kitchen and asked what I was sewing. When I told him it was my wedding dress his face went pale. I told him you picked out the material and he said, “Why the he.. did you let her do that?!” I laughed so hard I cried.
Remember when Rachel and I use to sleep in the basement rooms in Bergen? We use to sneak into each other’s rooms at night, and I remember going into my own room one night and the ceiling had fallen down on my bed. I always suspect those freakishly large mice that we had after our hamsters escaped to be the culprits.
Remember my science fair project that held up dinner? Remember how Mr Haley said no one could eat until all the projects were done and we had to wait an extra 20 minutes for the wax to melt? I have no idea what that project was about, I just remember having to wait.
Remember when Jayden was born and you came in the room and asked the nurse to go get my husband because he wouldn’t want to miss the birth and then the nurse had to tell you the baby had all ready been born? Thanks to the poor kid nearly being born on the toilet he’s convinced to this day he popped out in the toilet. He’s equally convinced he kicked my belly button popped out and ran around on a skateboard until the Dr’s caught him. Somedays he really makes us laugh.
Remember that time you were playing the piano and the tic-tac-toe shelf fell off the wall? I’m not sure Rachel found it very funny, but I can’t stop laughing when I think about it. I really loved those shelves. Morgan’s shelf would be full of rocks and shells and feathers, he’d probably try to line them up for three in a row too!
Remember that time Teddy had babies and D said there were little rubber erasers in the cage? Remember how you only tolerated hamsters because they didn’t have long tails like mice? I hate hamsters now! I can’t stand the thought of the boys owning one. I’m pretty sure you shouldn’t have let us have them either, it would have been a lot less work on the cats!
Remember the time Esther got closed in the fridge over night? You were so worried about her until she came out licking her chops from eating turkey all night. Remember when she went and hopped in the dryer and went for a quick tumble in there? I think she really proved cats have 9 lives.
Remember when I broke my arm at the Hollands? I refused to get out of the car because it hurt so bad and you weren’t sure how you were going to get me into the hospital. You were so annoyed with all those nurses for walking past us and never once stopping to help. Remember how all the little kids at church thought my arm was gone and then were amazed because God made it grow back again?
Remember the time I gave Buddy the little brass bell because you weren’t home and I didn’t know she wasn’t suppose to have it? Remember how she use to ring it every time we sat down to dinner? The boys think it’s a “once upon a story” that she use to love burnt toast. 
Remember how you guys painted my room purple when I spent the night at Aunt Jodi’s? I came home to a room with purple walls and the purple crochet afghan on the bed. Sometimes, I still dream of a purple room with a purple afghan on the bed; so does Morgan.
Remember that time I was going down to the basement and I stepped on the world’s biggest needle that was in a ball of yarn? We watched slides in the Family Room while I had my foot up. Sometimes, when I think about that, my foot still hurts.
Remember the year Charlie first came to America and we lost power for 3 days? We had to drop bags of boiling water in the fish tank; cook everything on the stove top; and you told us about those funny things you’d heard on the radio. No one would let you live down Flashing and Flipping for months! 
Remember when I sliced my knuckles open gluing that plate back together? You said I had to go to the hospital and I didn’t want to. Then that lady in the waiting room was telling horror stories and the Dr started to sew up my fingers before the Novocain had set in. I had vivid terrifying memories of that day when Morgan stepped on the pineapple tin.
Remember the time we were in the kitchen making food for Thanksgiving and D came in and called us a couple of old Saddle Bags. We laughed and when we shouted it back to him Dad walked in and said, “Ladies!” I think about that each time I make pies.
Remember how much I love you? I do. Happy Mother’s Day! 

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Power Of Duct Tape

Dear MacGuyver,

Thanks to you the people here at the Pumpkin Patch, mainly myself, now feel confident that I can officially solve anything with duct tape and a swiss army knife. I will never have to worry about my child screaming in line at the grocery again because his sore dried chapped lip is hurting. I am now prepared to apply duct tape to instantly stop the screaming. Unfortunately the other shoppers didn't appreciate my methods, but I know you understand.

I am now confident that the obsession with maps in this house will eventually pay off. I know that at anytime in our lives when we are being chased by mad Aarabian horse thieves intent on starting a war we can simply grab a map and slide down the nearest sand dune. Only, in our case, I'm pretty sure it will be a raving mad group of roos who will be irate to learn I've been checking all their pouches "Just in case". Even still, I'm not worried. I've got maps!

Thanks to you Mac (and I feel pretty confident I can call you this as we all know your first name isn't fit for speaking) I am pretty sure the next time a tourist pulls in front of me causing me to burn rubber in my attempt to stop I can fix the problem by simply pulling out a worthless credit card and using it to jam the lights at the nearest intersection. I will most likely be using my drivers license though, as I don't own a credit card. Unfortunately I didn't have the ability to drive across the border. I forgot it was quite the swim before I entered a new country.

I'm now as eager as ever to pull out a nail file and attempt to tamper with the dice in our yahtzee game. I figure if I tamper with each set of dice I can get a Yahtzee in a semi sequential order before anyone catches on to what I've done. Besides, if they do catch on, I've still got a map, duct tape, and a swiss army knife. I know I'll be safe!

I'm not sure my husband shares all this enthusiasm for the great new craft ideas I have though. He's highly concerned about my idea for a flame thrower. But come on, I mean all I need is a racing bike and a bit of rust. I can even settle for a bit of gasoline and some cooking oil, right? Maybe it's the fact that I've been hiding in the rosemary bushes for 3 days waiting for someone to pass by on their fancy racing bike...

Then again it might be the concerning fact that I can second guess exactly what you're going to do in each of your edge of the seat predicaments. Or maybe he's just worried about the unusual amount of duct tape he's been finding around the house. I'm pretty sure that if duct tape were water proof I could even fix the wobbly dishwasher right back into it's snug little hole under the counter. Instead, I'm pretty sure if I save up enough Weet*Bix boxes I can jimmy something else that will work.

Oh sure, my husband finds all the music, and half the scenes, corny, but don't worry I've seen him sitting on the edge of his seat wondering what you'll do next. He's equally disappointed when I say, "Oh this is the one where Macguyver saves the day doing..." I'm not suppose to spoil the show and all that. I'm pretty sure by the time he's done working his way through the series he'll equally scream with delight, "It's Jack!" or "Macguyver could fix this and save me the trouble of taking out the recycling.."   Oh yeah, I'm pretty sure he's hooked too, he's just not ready to try your experiments at home. Don't worry though, once I catch that racing bike I know we'll win him over!

Ps: Thanks for the videos Dad!!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Mother's Day Crafts

1. I Love You Card -- Is this not the cutest Mother's Day card ever? Okay, except for the one Jayden picked for me once that had a monkey wearing sunglasses on it, or was that a birthday card? I dunno, I get some pretty wild cards around here that always bring lots of laughter!

2. Cupcake Carnations -- they have to be some of the coolest "fake" flowers I've seen. Seriously cute flowers there. I'm pretty certain one could get away with using pipe cleaners if they needed to instead of floral wire.

3. Fingerprint Pendant -- I love seeing the kids hand print crafts. Each year we make at least one craft, usually with our annual Christmas ornaments. We've also done handprint sheep and given them away for Easter, but more traditionally we've been doing the handprint lilly's at Easter. What a fun necklace though!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Artistic Pursuits

After posting our 6 upcoming art projects I was asked a few questions about our Art curriculum from a few readers. I've tried to answer them all here to the best of my ability.. 

Why Did You Choose Artistic Pursuits?
 We chose the program after having tried another art program and not “clicking” with it. I’m sure it was a lovely program, but it wasn’t a good fit for our family. Which sent me back to the drawing board. We wanted something that was going to expand our mediums beyond the typical markers, crayons, and pencils that we use all the time. I also needed something that I could use without having much artistic knowledge. I’ll be the first to admit that while I do many crafts I’m not exactly artistic. Which meant I needed something I could use and not feel frustrated with.
I honestly wanted to sign my boys up for art lessons. It was my first idea, but despite living in a very artsy part of Tasmania no one was willing to teach my children. Those who knew art, specifically watercolor, were too intimidated to teach any children at all. I’m grateful they were up front about it, but I was also disappointed. I did have a friend give me information on two people who are willing to work with children, but we’d all ready purchased Artistic Pursuits and thus never followed through on those leads.
Do you need anything special to use the books?
Yes, and no. You need normal things like scissors and construction paper, but you also need water color crayons and pastels. There’s a full list here of the items you need. If you live in America you can easily order them, I don’t live in America and the cost of shipping would have been insane.
Instead, I went to a local art store and picked up the supplies needed. The only thing I was truly worried about was the water color crayons, but my shop had the very brand called for and sold the crayons individually so I could get the exact colors I wanted. I suspect we’ll be enjoying this medium a lot.
Monetarily wise I didn’t find the supplies that expensive. The crayons were the most expensive, and I did buy top of the line there. However, if you picked up your art supplies on sale or with coupons you’d probably spend less then I did. My store doesn’t do coupons and I did manage to get my pastels and oil crayons on special. Truthfully we didn’t need new oil pastels, but we really enjoy the bright and vivid colors so I did splurge and pick up another pack of them.
The simpler items like scissors and tissue paper I did not pick up. I didn’t feel the need as I all ready have them on hand or can readily obtain them. Because I have a lefty in the house I just have to make sure that we have at least one pair of scissors that are not picky about which side you cut with.

Is this a step-by-step Art program? 
No, not really. In fact, if I’m not mistaken Artistic Pursuits actually states that they aren’t and are quite proud of it. They do tell the children how to use the item/medium, but they don’t tell them specifically what they must draw. Thus they can’t tell them exactly HOW to draw it or paint it, etc. 

Which Book(s) do you own?
We own Book One for Grades K-3. There are 32 lessons in my book on a variety of different things. My kids are 2 years apart and I felt this was the best fit for our family. I also figure that if we use this weekly we’ll progress quickly with it and it will give us room to grow. There are the options (should we desire) to swap, sell, or borrow other volumes from other homeschoolers. That’s a bridge we’ll cross when we get there. 
Did you buy Artistic Pursuits in Australia?
I did purchase it while we’ve been living here, but not from an Aussie provider. I did see it up for grabs here & here, but after much thought and investigation I found that having it shipped directly from America was actually going the best deal for us at the time.
Do you have any reservations about the program?
No. I must be honest here though, and say that while I’ve read through many lessons in the manual we’ve yet to actually do one. Terrible isn’t it? 
One of the items you need is an Ebony Pencil. When I went to purchase one, with the rest of our art supplies, the normal art crew wasn’t in and the people working couldn’t help me. They presumed I was just after a black pencil. I disagreed.
I’m finding it quite difficult to obtain a pencil actually referred to as “ebony” in Australia. Thanks to the help of some other Aussie Homeschooling Mum’s I think I’ve found what I’m looking for. It’s quite a bit more expensive then the typical ebony pencil in America, but we’re REALLY tired of waiting to get charging with our program!
Again, we did try another art program, but we weren’t fond of it. I do know that CurrClick is now offering (or was) live art classes. It was an option I considered, but with the massive time difference between Australia & America, it wasn’t a good option for us. After all, I didn’t think my guys were going to be up for a 12 am art class! 
You can read the reviews of homeschoolers who’ve actually used the program here. In fact, it was this review here that helped me consider the program. That and a fellow homeschooling Mum, who happened to be a former art teacher, assured me that this program was made to be used even by “laymen”. 

Saturday, May 1, 2010

A Gathering of Art

My boys go ga-ga for art. So much so that I purchased an awesome new art curriculum earlier this year that we couldn't wait to dig into! Unfortunately we've had mega issues obtaining an ebony pencil in order to actually use the first lesson. Not only are they not as readily available, at least not as "ebony pencils" in Australia, what I have found isn't nearly as cheap either.. While we nurse our frustrations and attempt to continue the search I found a half dozen art projects that will keep us busy. 

1. Autumn Leaves With Crayon Resist. My boys love picking up leaves of any kind, so this art project can make great use of some of those leaves they keep finding. It might also warrant another trip back to the Arboretum and a stroll through the North American section. I think this is one art project I'll join them in.

2. Stunning Winter Tree Silhouette. So it's not winter here yet, but it's getting close. This particular art project has been on my radar for some time now, and now that I know where our painters tape is I think we'll give it ago.

3. Olympic Masterpieces. Another water color art project that's been on my "to-do" list for a while now. I don't know if the boys will do Olympians or not. They may prefer to do a Footie star and a Soccer player, but I'm pretty sure they'll both enjoy this project. Morgan's big on water colors right now and Jayden loves painting. It'll be fun to see how this one turns out.

4. RainScapes. This has to be the best winter art project known for Tasmania! Seriously. An art project that requires moisture, most especially rain, to fall from the sky is right up our alley. The winter rains are impending with great enthusiasm lately. A project like this might have us looking forward to the next rainy day, at least for a while...

5. Glue Resist Dinosaur. Okay, so if you've been reading this blog for a while you might recognize this project from last year. It was in our workboxes for 2-3 weeks running. Yeah, well it turns out white glue is a tad harder to buy at times then others. I noticed a couple of bottles in the cupboard the other day and was reminded of this project. Let's just hope when we pull them out they are mouldy, and yeah that happens to white glue around here sometimes.

6. Bat Leaf Prints. I loved this project when we first saw it moons ago! Only, at that time leaves weren't exactly a plenty here because it was spring here. I was reminded of this project the other day when the boys found some of the biggest leaves in the library parking lot. I'm not sure that we'll turn ours into bats, and we might play with other colors, but we'll be using the same basic idea and method.