Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Curriculum Changes

Do you ever watch people swap curriculum and think they are nuts? I’m talking about people who change what they are using every time you turn around. I’ve always wondered why or how people can keep up with stuff like that.
Then, as is often the case, I got a dose of it myself. Our original school plans from the start of the year have pretty much gone out the window. Now, this might not seem like a big deal to most people, but it was a big deal to me. Why? Well, I had my eldest school career {does that term make you laugh as much as it makes Mr S laugh?} planned from his kindergarten year through until 7th grade or more! To have a wrench in the plans at 4th grade was a little unsettling.
Truthfully, while my son still enjoyed the quality of books we were reading in FIAR Vol. 4, he wasn’t enjoying the lessons as much as some of them were a bit below him. How is this possible? Seriously, it seems like yesterday we were working out way through his first phonics book or celebrating our first day ever of school.
Somehow, while I was sleeping he managed to grow up. Of course, I’m pretty sure it happened while I was awake and teaching him too, but the realization of it is settling in quite a lot around here lately. 
He’s old enough to have an opinion about what he learns and while there are base things he has no choice about, we like to be open with the things he does have a choice about. So, when he was less then enthused when I pulled out the third book of the year to use with him I accepted defeat and asked him what he’d really most especially love to learn about. 
“History is a vast subject.”
“That’s okay, I want to learn about all of it.”
He’s my kinda kid! I debated the many different ways we could learn history, but most of them consisted of me putting a lot of time and effort into making unit studies of lesson plans. Something I wasn’t convinced I could keep on top of, especially with the winter rains creeping ever closer and knowing they set off migraines far too often for me.
It left us hobbling along and me in utter confusion over the situation. Once I finally accepted the fact that I was going to have to break down and buy a new curriculum [gasp] [horror] things got a little easier. Until I realized that curriculum choices were kinda like history, there was a vast amount of them out there to chose from!
We scoured a lot of them and weighed the pros and cons of them. I made many choices thinking I was pretty firm with my choice{s}, but always had this lingering doubt about each one in the back of my head. The closest I came was a finger click away from purchasing SonLight Core 4. I had my doubts about a couple of the books used in that, and the lack of hands on activities, but I felt it was the best of what I had to chose from.
That was until I stumbled across Winter Promise. Wow, that curriculum is amazing stuff. I’ve told Mr S about a million times that if Homeschool In The Woods made a curriculum all their own I’d buy it in a flash. Well, they don’t, but in a way they’ve teamed up with Winter Promise and their Time Traveler packs are meant to be used in conjunction with the lessons from the Winter’s Promise curriculum. 
I spent three solid days scouring that website and debating things out. I was worried that if I picked one pack with Morgan in mind and decided to keep Jayden in tow he’d feel a little left behind with things over his head. I worried that if I kept that thought in mind and went with a lower level I’d be in the same spot I am now and have spent a good deal more money.
As it turns out Winter Promise has really taken those exact thoughts into consideration with their product. They tell you how you can make those products work for younger and older students. Or, you can use their All American Story 1 & All American Story 2 products. They are meant to run across a huge age range, and I can fully understand that.
The Time Traveler packs are awesome, and we’ve used one in the past and own a couple. There’s lots my kids did and a lot we chose to leave behind for when we come to the topic again or when they were a bit older! I was pleased with all the book selections, all though there is one book I’m worried might be over the boys heads. We’ll see, I often under estimate them.
My absolute favorite thing about this particular curriculum.. aside from the fact that it fits my son’s desires, my needs, the craftiness of my child{ren}, and on and on.. is that it also fits our homeschooling method/philosophy. Oh, and it’s only meant to be used 4 days a week. Which means we can spend the fifth day indulging in things like Nature Study, other Science, Art, and other such things.
Funny thing is, while revamping our core curriculum we decided to revamp a few other things. It’s probably a really good thing Mr S slept in on Saturday and I announced all of this to him while he was still half asleep. All though, honestly he was completely and utterly in favor of the entire idea. In fact, while I was making final choices he kept saying things like, “Are you sure yet? Have you decided completely?” So, needless to say Tuesday when I said, “Guess what I discovered..” there was plenty of room for groaning at the thought I’d changed my mind. For the record.. I’d only discovered the missing kite we’d been looking for over the past month.
So we’ve decided to add some more formal math lessons back into our schooling. We are not stopping our living math lessons, I don’t think the boys and I would go for that. I noticed, however, that both of my boys know a vast amount of things covering a huge age/grade span. In order to tie up some lose ends and help them be prepared {should they opt to go to public college and university} for text book work we’d go with something down that line. I’ve settled on Teaching Textbooks because I know it’s a course Jayden will really flourish with. It was really difficult picking a grade level for them though! I’m not kidding you. I sat there comparing them and I told Mr S that Morgan new 50 - 75% of the stuff on the 4th and 5th grade levels and he knew about a quarter of the stuff on the 6th grade level. The only thing he had issues with on the pretest I gave him was double digit multiplication, which isn’t something we’ve tackled yet. It’ll be interesting to see how he does with the curriculum.
Jayden requested more lessons on animals, and I was really disappointed to see that ZooBooks doesn’t do international subscriptions on their site. It would have been a fantastic gift for him and he would have loved it to pieces. So instead, we’ll be trying these fantastic Nature books as well as our lovely Nature Guide Book from Katie’s Cottage. I can’t wait to take our fall walk through the local arboretum. I can smell the leaves all ready!
However, we really love science in our home, and Morgan has really taken to experimenting with things around here on a big level. The contraptions I’ve found outside leave me between the whole “do I laugh or do I scream”, so I thought something with purposeful experiments would be well loved. Sonlight Science 4 is winning out at this point on that level.
Believe it or not I’m even debating some more formal English lessons for the guys. Nothing heavy though. I’m still narrowing that scope down but am heavily leaning towards English For The Thoughtful Child. We’ll see.. I’m not fully decided on that choice yet.
I must say it feels very strange and weird flipping through glossy websites {Mr S would like it to be known that he doesn’t feel all the websites I’ve viewed are glossy, and while he’s kept his tongue in check he’d be happy to barter on prices to fix up the less then desirable sites he saw me visiting.. He’s kinda a website snob, but we never hold it against him!} and choosing various bits of curriculum. I’ve only ever done this once, yes really once!, in our entire homeschooling history. You know, all 6 of those years. Go on laugh.. I don’t mind.
At the same time as it felt weird and was also a bittersweet time for me, I have to say I feel a huge amount of peace about our choices. I do! I’m excited for the kids and their new endeavors and I’m really excited about learning and creating and doing right along side them. History is something I equally adore, not to mention my huge passion for books.
In the mean time, while we await the arrival of all our lovely new things we’ll be reading through the Narnia series and using the ROAR! guide with it. I’ve added a little narration, crafts, and games in with it. So far we’re looking forward to building our own wardrobe to go inside, baking up a few Narnia recipes we found, and delving into great discussions about this amazing series of books. You’ve read them, right?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

A Few Random Things

Since this post is random, why not a few random photos, right? The photo to the left has nothing to do with anything I'm about to write about. In fact, I didn't even take it, and those aren't even my feet. Those would be my husband's feet. In my pink crocs. It happens a lot to be honest, not sure if the neighbors have noticed yet or not...

First off, we haven't abandoned our little patch, we've just been extremely worn out! We've spent the past three weekends helping Mr S's Mum move house. It was a big job, and we're all so glad to have finished with it.

Some random person driving our moving van .. actually, she was our flower girl many moons ago!
We've also been debating the merits of soccer season around here. Morgan adores soccer, but he's a little burnt out after two bum seasons and he's not sure he's up for trying for a third. It's hard when you're use to a fantastic coach and you have to change things up. His first season here he played with kids 2x his height. No joke! He use to get the opposing team telling him he was on the wrong field or asking him if he was "just helping" for the day. He was a complete trooper and survived the gruelling practices intended for 10 and 11 year olds. Last year, he competed at his age level and it felt like slow motion for him considering what he'd endured the year before. Add to it his team had one practice for the entire season, played in some wicked weather, and had a few team mates who didn't abide by the rules {this drove him more insane then anything else}.  It's looking like gymnastics this year instead, or so he hopes.

A random photo of Morgan that Jayden took...
Jayden has developed a morbid fear of snails. Yes, my friends snails. The child who will willingly chase creepy lizards out of my path, rescue any insect with no qualms, and who has unexplainable relationships with wild animals is terrified of snails. I know you're laughing, I was too.. you know when the poor kid wasn't looking. I asked him to pick up a toy left in the yard and he did. Then he dropped it and burst into tears saying things like, "Mommy that was very mean of you. You know how scared I am of snails and you made me nearly touch one! How could you do that to me!"

two random bags of fruit on my kitchen counter
Okay, slugs I could get, but snails? Really? Isn't this the same kid who giggled with glee when we had an impromptu nature lesson over snails last year when they kept attacking my lettuce? Isn't this the same kid who found it interesting that you could touch a snail eye and they'd move it away from your finger but poke it right back out again? Snails?!?! Yeah, snails.

some hideously random photo of my child being um.. I dunno, maybe random?
We're also in the middle of revamping some school ideas around here and considering switching curriculum, especially for Morgan who's not very challenged by our current plans for him. Is this feckle nosed child of mine really in 4th grade?! I'm pretty sure it was just yesterday we were teaching him to write his letters and reminding him it does go 5, 6, 7 not 5, 7, 8.

Another random photo of Mr S.. wearing his own shoes now..
May I just say it's really overwhelming to look at all the curriculum choices available to one out there? Seriously, I had no idea. I know that's probably laughable to some of you, but honestly we've used the same curriculum with him since he was 4 years old! He's 10 now. You do the math. It's one of those bitter sweet sad type times where you're not quite ready to move on even though your child is. Then you sit down and you look at all the choices available to you and you think, "Man, no way!"

A wickedly random photo of me while Mr S was messing with camera settings..
The only thing more shocking then all the choices available to you are the prices on some of those choices! Wow, clearly Mr S should give up web design and go straight into making his own curriculum. Seriously though, I've actually managed to wade through 4 different types of curriculum freebies, samples, and other what not.  I'm feeling confident and happy with my choice, but we'll see how long that lasts once I officially order it!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Pre Expo Show{s}

Did you happen to attend the Expo Pre Show? I did, but can I share a super funny story about the whole thing? Thanks, I knew you wouldn't mind.. So let me start at the beginning shall I, you shouldn't really start stories at the end, but hey whatever works for you my friends.

On Tuesday, remember I'm a day ahead, I went grocery shopping and completely forgot to get a plunge or drain cleaner per Mr S's request. It also turned out that the kids had raided the pantry the night before on our "fend for yourself dinner" and they'd eaten something I needed that night for tea!

I bundled everyone into the car and headed back to the store. We located a plunger, drain-o, and a bag of tortilla chips. Upon arrival someone told me my brake lights weren't working. I wasn't quite sure how kosher the opinion was considering no one had been behind me on my way in, but I tested the theory and while my indicators worked my brake lights didn't.

The following morning, the day of the preshow for me, we tried to call the mechanic to fix the car and I figured, "Bummer, I'm not gonna make the preshow." Only, the mechanic wasn't open. So we went through our normal morning and raced Mr S up to the ferry and I came home and called the mechanic. Turned out the mechanic would prefer to work on the car the following day, yeah me! Only, because I was all ready in the mode of "I can't go to the meeting." I dashed around doing my morning chores and encouraging the kids in theirs.

All that to say I missed the first half of the meeting, which I wasn't too sure on anyway. It was all about using technology in your school. Now, I have to be honest and say the topic was kinda strange sounding to me because I was thinking things like computers, internet and so on. As it turned out the discussion was on quite a bit more and those of you with ipads should really check out all the goodies one can use on it for school type "stuff".

I'm not an ipad owner and we {Mr S and I} have always vetoed them; all though we're kinda eating our words and considering one based on the absurd amount of school manuals that we have in e-form. I hope all companies don't go to e-form, but that's another rant best saved for another day!

One of the neatest apps the speaker shared was one called geo walk where you could look up places on the globe. You not only saw where they were and "visited" the various cities but could also read about the people, the animals, the plants, and so much more. My guys being big on geography thought it was the coolest.

I also really enjoyed the interactive timeline app that was being shared. Very cool, all though I was slightly disappointed to learn there wasn't much in regards to Christian history on it, but there were big plans on making another timeline app that would be Christian/Bible history. Did I mention this is put out by the Knowledge Quest folks? I really love their map products! We're currently using the Ancient Maps for our Bible/History lessons..

There's another preshow coming up on April 12th, and for those of you who live in the US or Canada you'll be eligible for all door prizes. Those of you living outside of those boundaries are eligible for the downloadable style door prizes. You'll have to let me know if you'll be there and I can give you a virtual hello!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Sled Dog Notebooking Page{s}

We ended up becoming very wrapped up in sled dogs, and in particular the story of the original "Iditarod" or rather the Great Serum Run. We had a lot of fun learning and following along on a map as the many dogs and mushers made their way across the icy tundra of Alaska. The boys then enjoyed learning a few musher terms and what each dog's job on a sled was.

We even found ourselves researching more info on many of the dogs who were in that very first run. History has it that the people of Alaska have always felt slightly disappointed at the attention that Balto and the rest of the dogs on his team received in comparison to others; most especially Togo and his team. This caused us to look up some more info on Togo and his run, which led us to a whole lot of information on Seppela, the owner of both Balto & Togo.

Oddly enough, in some crazy kinda way, while Seppela was the owner of both dogs he isn't the musher who used Balto during the Serum run. A quote we read supposedly from Seppela was that Balto was just an extra of sorts. It gave the tone that while he cared for the dog because it was his own he saw nothing special in him. Thus, the musher who did choose him saw more in Balto, or was simply desperate for a team of dogs in order to help.

Either way we were impressed with both dogs. Togo covered a lot more ground then Balto did and it led us to wonder if there were any books written from Togo's point of view, there are. There's been a request by a certain child in this house that we purchase at least one. If the story we read about Balto is true in it's entirety, Balto covered less ground but saved the life of not only his musher, but the rest of the dogs on his team as well.

According to the story we read both the lead dog and the point dog couldn't find the way and refused to budge when Kaasen had them as lead dog{s}. He noticed, however, that Balto wasn't standing still like the rest of the dogs on the team. Apparently when a sled dog has lost it's way it won't move, and neither will the team because they understand the problem.  Noticing Balto's behavior Kaasen put Balto in as lead dog and off they went.

Regardless of which dog crossed the finish line we're amazed by the ability of both. The boys have now added to their overseas travel list in an effort to go to Ohio to visit Balto and a trip to Alaska to visit Togo & Fritz. All though, from what we understand Togo doesn't look as stately because he was in a "shedding" stage when he died and was preserved. Poor thing!

Needless to say we had a lot of fun with this small study and the boys put a lot of work into playing sled dogs each afternoon. We rounded out our studies with a printable map from Random House where we highlighted a few of the team's paths. On the flip side we added a few little booklets we used for jotting down information that the kids enjoyed looking into about sled dogs.

Can I just say there is nothing funnier then hearing your 7 year old wail pitifully, "Daddy no! You can't put Sparkles there!! He has to go in the back that's where wheel dogs go!" There were even a few spilled tears over a few positioning of stuffed dogs on that particular sled as poor Mr S tried to sort out what a wheel dog, point dog, lead dog, & swing dog did.  I won't even tell you how many tears I shed trying to untangle the whole mess in the end!

The last page is a book log paper that the boys filled out based on the book Balto And The Great Race. Morgan had trouble with that paper because this was the first book he encountered where he wasn't truly happy with it. He was disappointed not to hear more about Togo. Not because he'd expected to, but because he fell in love with Togo solely based on his name. {Don't panic, this happens a lot when we read books..} I think he was also saddened to learn what happened to Balto after all was said and done. 

Things I've learned while Moving

The past few weekends we’ve been helping my mother-in-law move into her wonderful new abode. It’s been a lot of work, and I’ve learned several things along the way:

  • I am still scared of spiders, but not so much that I can’t suggest we pick up the dead ones to investigate them. All though looking at a huntsman under a microscope might unhinge me.
  • I am not nearly as afraid of spiders as I am of lizards. Especially ones without tails. Or dark icky ones. Or ones that pop out from under boxes you are carrying causing you to scream, and possibly drop the box praying beyond believe that A, the lizard doesn’t kill you and B, the box survived the lizard too.
  • My arms aren’t as entirely weak as I thought they were. After all, if I can carry an entire kitchen cupboard on my own I can’t be that bad off right? Don’t ask me why we moved kitchen cupboards, but we did, and lifting two out of my car and placing them in the garage alone was worth a moment of celebration.
  • Chaos and clutter, regardless of the need, still send me into a tail wind of, “OH MY WORD! This mess must be cleaned up now.” I can’t handle either, even when they aren’t mine.
  • Men, no matter how old, should never be left alone with a remote control. Especially if said remote control can lift over 500lbs and is an excuse not to carry more boxes. 
  • Never, ever suggest that someone carry you, with a box in your arms, on the dolly to the truck. Chances are they’ll take you seriously and you’ll scream like crazy for fear of falling off. 
  • Bull Ants still send me running for the hills when they glare at me. Nothing like a 1-inch long and snapping his pinchers at you to clear a moving van. 
  • No matter how long they’ve been sitting in the same place, Grandpa’s boots suddenly appearing out of thin air make me cry. Seeing one of Nana’s boots appear out of thin air makes you laugh.
  • Moving is something one should only two once, maybe twice in a lifetime. I’ve met my quota, so I should be good for this lifetime. You know that’s a sure sign I’m going to have move now, don’t you?
  • Pulling mail out of a post box and jumping up and down on top of it to kill sugar ants makes the people closest to you laugh while those inside are pretty sure you’ve just pulled a letter from the IRS, INS, or even ANZ out of the box.
  • Even the most minute item can tell a story in the hands of the right person. However, a picture of said item and a well written version of said story are a lot easier to move.
  • One should never empty all items, like toilet rolls, from the bathroom when you need to return the following weekend to finish the job of moving items. 
  • Duct tape is awesome! McGuyver knew his stuff. Packing tape, not so awesome.
  • Everyone wants to move on a holiday weekend.
  • If your significant other stumbles upon a box of old school “treasures” he’s going to tell you all about them, but if he’s all ready made an international move he’s likely to chuck them out afterwards.
  • I am most assuredly not a pack rat. I most assuredly will not become one. 
  • If My parents ever decide to move from their current home and I help them, I’m hiring a dumpster to be on the spot {Sorry Mom & Dad, but trust me you’ll thank me in the end! Ps, I won’t let you take the milking stand or any other piece of barn equipment you’ll never use again either..}
  •  It is possible to have science experiments growing in your fridge and be in total awe by them.. even if a little bit grossed out all at the same time. Did you know there are a bajillion different kinds of fungi that can grow in there? Very awesome, wish I’d had my Eye Clops!
  • Never leave children, no matter how old or young, alone with a remote control. Unless you want to entertain them for free while you brake your back moving a bed or two..
  • Watching relatives move gigantic appliances still freaks me out. I can’t watch, I simply listen for the scream of agony while my finger is one stroke away from calling emergency services.
  • Never forget to take your allergy pills before moving. If there’s dust it’ll find you.
  • There are weight limits to what a robotical trash truck arm can lift. 
  • Sometimes, it’s really hard to have a “Ruth Like” attitude instead of an “Oprah like” one. 
  • Toilet Brushes can cause a whole lotta laughter.. in the right hands.
  • If no one I know never moves again, that might just be too soon for me!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Project 365: Week Eleven

Monday, March 13 -- Mr S treated us to the Despicable Me DVD much to our delight and it came with free minion stickers. I couldn't resist slapping them on my MacBook. The boys were delighted to wake up and discover what I'd done.

Tuesday, March 14 -- I had to wait on the sun again before I could nip out for my morning walk. When Buster and I made it to the beach we were treated to this. Can you see the mountains off in the distance? It was gorgeous and I had to snap a photo to come home and share with the sleepy heads when they finally woke up.

Wednesday, March 15 -- Silver Dollar! You have no idea how delighted I was to spot this small amount on the walk track on Wednesday! I went so spazzy the dog thought I was playing some kind of new game and was quite excited until I permitted him to sniff what I had in my hand. I'm still not sure where this was growing because all I found was this small piece of it laying in my path, but I did bring the small bit home.

Thursday, March 17 -- Our St Patrick's Day rainbow of fruit. The "yellow" at the base was suppose to be out gold coins, and at the price of $9.98 a kilo for bananas {I paid $5 for 3 wimpy bananas} they certainly are quite like cold! Yes, that's a shamrock tablecloth which has bee no the table since the week after Valentine's Day. We kinda like to get in the spirit of things around here..

Friday, Mach 18 -- We took a nature walk down at the beach and found many awesome things including a new sea marble! Just before my camera decided it needed recharging I was able to snap this photo. I had it in the wrong mode so you can only just barely see the lighthouse way up and around the bend. It's actually a good distance from us, but we enjoy spotting it from our little corner of the beach.

Saturday, March 19 -- Our rainbow of candles from St Patrick's Day. I found this beautiful pack of rainbow tea lights at Kmart for $2 and couldn't resist. We didn't leave them lit or long on St Patty's Day because we decided to see who can stay in their seat and blow them out from halfway across the table. The boys really love it when we light candles, but I think they're only in it for the blowing out side of things.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Turn The Tide

Turn The Tide
Every Christmas I buy the gang a new game or two each. I usually have an idea of what I'm hoping to get them by the middle of the year, which was true this past year too. Unfortunately, finding them on our small island is a whole different story. So sometimes we settle for something else. This year, was one of those years. I couldn't find the game I was after for Morgan and in the end spotted this fun game at a local shop and went with it instead.

This game was given quite the workout over Christmas and New Year and then was put in the game closet while we broke in other games. While spending those eight hours sitting in an empty house waiting for a very tardy phone man to show up we played a few rounds of Turn The Tide.

The game is really quite simple, but allows children to work on their greater then and less then skills. It also takes a bit of strategy to play too.

No idea what's up with Jayden's look in that photo!
A complete game can take just long enough to fully sunburn your back, or, according to the rules, is played in 5 rounds. You deal out an even amount of cards for each player, and one of the beauties of this game is that you can play with up to 5 players. The idea is to keep all your life preserver tokens, or to at least have more then anyone else at the end of a round because that's where your points come from.

Weather Cards
Each card you are dealt will have a number on it, and I'm just going to say that if the hand above was your hand, you're probably not gonna win the round! Anyway, for every whole life preserver you have you get to take a life preserve token. For every 2 1/2 tokens you get you also pick up one. {We get to put some of that fraction work to use just in setting this game up!} Once everyone has sorted their cards and collected tokens the real fun begins. And in some cases, the confusion as well..

Tidal Cards
Within each round you get 12 chances to keep your life preserves. The above cards are called Tide Cards. You can see by the #2 card that the tide is quite low, but by the #9 card your sheep has started to float off. By the #12 tidal card your poor sheep has little chance of survival!  These cards are what make or break your life preserves. The idea is to play a card in your hand that will obtain you either the lowest possible card or neither of these cads. Most people play for the lowest card, I play to obtain none. The person stuck with the highest tidal card has to flip a life preserve upside down. Once your life preserves are gone, you're out of the round and even risk negative points!

Game Set up
In the above photo all the blank life preserves have been "lost". I'm not sure why Morgan appears to only have one, he may have removed his "lost" ones from the playing area. The game is really quite simplistic to play, but can cause slight confusion because you obtain low number tidal cards by playing high number weather cards {the ones in your hand}. One of the things I really enjoy about this game is that at the end of each round you pass the card in your hand to the player on your left. This allows everyone to have a go at each hand of cards that was dealt out. This also allowed me to prove my theory that you can indeed play for none of the tidal cards no matter how "pathetic" your hand was deemed and still come out on top.

We picked our game up from a local shop, but we also snagged the last copy of it and I didn't notice anymore last time we were in there. I think Board Game Geek & Amazon sell it, but I don't think they ship them overseas. However, I did notice that 3 & Up Games had it listed, all though I've never ordered from them before.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Lego Party Printables

I've been a bit tardy at getting the printables up from our fun Lego party, but due to popular demand I've finally gotten them put together. I was hesitant, for a few reasons, about sharing them, but I figured if others were looking for stuff, like I was, sharing would be the right thing to do!

The Printable Pack not only has all the fun printables we made and used, but I also included various game ideas that we collected for our own part. We didn't use all the game ideas, but we did use many of them.

I also included the instructions for each printable, all though they are pretty clear cut as to what to do with them. There's also two craft ideas, one of which we had intended to use, but then completely forgot about!

No food ideas because we served semi-typical Aussie party foods: Sausage rolls, party pies, fruits and veggies. I did make jam sandwiches using our fun little Lego Cookie Cutter, but that was really the only Lego theme on the table. I had considered making pizza and using circular pepperoni on top to look like lego bricks, but I went the simpler route which the birthday boy was quite happy with.

In the pack you'll find printable invites. We simply removed our own personal information so you can print them out double sided and address. The postal people often say things like, "I dunno if these will work in the machine because the stamp might not stick." I always reply with, "No worries, we've been doing this for years and never had issues." So they continue on..

Lego Head straw toppers, bubble wrappers, and raisin box wrappers too. I can't remember the exact size for my raisin box, but it wasn't the tinniest box, it was the size box where you can often buy packs of six. We also didn't get to intent with flaps and slits to put the flaps in. The kids helped tape them together and we kept it super simple. We printed our bubble wrappers on yellow paper and taped them onto red mini bubble bottles that had yellow lids.

There's party bag toppers, we always have fun making those! And the coloring book we made. We chose to sew our coloring book on my sewing machine instead of stapling it. If you're not up for that you could easily staple it. If you chose to sew it, be aware that you might want to mark the needle you use {small piece of tape, red marker, etc.} so you know which needle is the paper needle as paper can dull it.

You can download the Printable Pack here. The pack is 15 pages, so it might take a moment to load. We hope, if you use it, that you have a super fun day for your special person! My birthday boy is still chattering about his party and asking us to play the party games over and over with him.

Happy Birthday Mom!

Dear Mom,
It’s your birthday and we all know that with birthdays comes age, but I promise not to mention how old you are on a public blog.. that and it’d be too hard to figure out without using a calculator. Besides, I’m really trying to refrain from comments like “in the olden days..”, that comment’s never really gonna die is it? You can stop feeling insulted by it now, Morgan’s all ready used that one on me.
I hope your cake is delicious and that someone is thoughtful enough to use whole wheat eggs in it. I’ve all ready shared that hilarious story with my husband who had tears of laughter streaming down his face. My children were more ashamed that my cake was broken when you attempted to flip it out of the pan. I assured them it tasted the same and then proceeded to flip Morgan’s cake out of the pan and have the same disastrous ruins come to it. I hid the evidence by chopping it up into little bits and tossing them in the freezer claiming that was a cake for trifle we’d use later.
Honestly though, I’ve never given much thought to my ruined cake as much as the horror I donned at being asked to stick my hand in the toilet and scrub it if that’s what it took to make it shine. I still detest cleaning the toilet! And I promise, I really didn’t teach D to randomly spray bathroom cleaner around to make it smell clean, but he did confess that’s how he normally did it. Shameful, I know, but I couldn’t stop laughing at his unabashed honesty.
We hope you have an awesome wonderful day and the words, “i’m so angry I could spit beans” never erupt from your lips. If they do though, I really hope someone has the good sense to finally video the darned beans being spit!  After all we’ve been waiting twenty some odd years to see them. You have no idea the excitement you caused making that statement as D and I came racing downstairs to wait and see you spit beans all over the dinning room table on Nichols street. When you failed to awe us with your spitting abilities we snitched the cooked garbanzo beans and had a snack instead.
My husband calls them rabbit poos too, but I think it’s because I tried to convince my kids that garbanzo beans are the most awesomest snack ever by telling them that Poppy always called them rabbit poos. Unfortunately this did nothing to entice them, all though once I smashed them up and hid them in chocolate chip cookies. They never noticed, all though Mr S swore it tasted like I’d put nuts in the cookies. Alas..
Who’s cooking you dinner? I’m sure they’ll be making sloppy joes, so you must remind them that they don’t need to add enough flour to the sauce to actually make it instantly turn thick. No one needs to make that mistake twice, but let’s be honest here.. No one can deny those were the prettiest pink sloppy joes we’ve ever considered attempting to consume in our lives. And the fudge? Really, how long are we going to keep bringing that little incident up? Chocolate is chocolate, and let’s face it once everyone stopped laughing they were just as content to eat it with a straw as they would have been with their fingers! 
I know you’re laughing about that kitchen mishap right now, really I do. So, I’m going to give you another laugh. Your charming eldest grandson was making us chocolate muffins, on his own. That’s right, on his own at the ripe old age of nine. He’s bummed he got started a year later then me, but that’s what happens when your kitchen is stocked with whole wheat eggs and not a lot of anything else.. Point is, he was out there cooking as a test to see if he could follow a recipe without help. I popped in and out. Good thing too, the silly boy nearly added a 1/2 cup of salt instead of a 1/2 teaspoon. That would have been way worse then adding too much milk, right? 
Your presents, yes let’s talk about those. What did you get? I bet it was a slinky wasn’t it! I mean, everyone loves slinkies and we all know that every mysterious package holds a slinky, right? It beats the cake your grandson’s wanted to make and mail you. The idea was totally their own, and I think I managed to deter them by hinting that the mailmen who pass it around might get.. well a bit hungry. Thankfully they haven’t heard about the time I mailed muffins to my grandma.. 
I hope someone has taken over the roll of hanging up the balloons and crepe paper. I suppose if they didn’t then they’ve also stopped hanging signs on the mailbox announcing how old you are and asking people to honk. The mailman probably had a lot of funny stories to tell when he got home from work!
Wish we could have made it for your birthday, but you know the whole idea of a naked body scan just did me in. I’m still waiting to be able to say things like, “Beam me up Scotty!” And I promise, if I spot any whales out there in the big wide ocean I will indeed say, “Dere be whales here!” Hopefully I won’t be so busy remembering to say that exact line that I forget to snap a photo, but if I do I’m sure you’ll understand.
We hope you have a super awesome wonderful day! 
lots of love
All Of Us

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Project 365: Week Ten

I'm a bit late with this past weeks photos, life's been busy in our little patch. Better late then never though, right? You'll have to ignore the poor lighting and blurriness of most of the photos this week..

Monday, March 7 -- Buster, our dog. I was laying on the couch trying to keep my feet out of the way of the show the boys were putting on and this is the look I got from the dog. Honestly, my full sentiments were with him considering the kids were playing more with the stuffed pups then the real one..

Tuesday, March 8 -- After reading The Bravest Dog Ever the boys were fully taken with sled dogs. We read about lead dogs, point dogs, & wing dogs. The boys layed the chairs on their backs to use as sleds, and after a few hours of play and shouting things like, "Mush!" or "Break" they decided to tie stuffed pups on their sleds. This didn't last long because they discovered they couldn't use the sleds as they had before. 

Wednesday, March 9 -- Yes, it's a terrible picture, but I couldn't resist using it. Our dog is incredibly patient with the little boy who loves him so very muchly. In fact, it was Jayden who picked Buster out of the local Dog's Home. He was very specific that we had to get a black and white dog. As normal, our hounds in need of homes make some terrific pets. We've never owned anything else, and honestly I'm not sure I ever would. But there's a soap box I won't indulge right now..

Thursday, March 10 -- A new gadget. Mr S and I have discussed a tablet for the computer for some time, but haven't actually made good on the idea. Mr S, however, found one at an incredible price and was delighted to come home and find it had arrived in the mail! We were then treated to some funny drawings, and of course everyone had to give it a go.

Friday, March 11 -- Early morning sunrise. Our mornings are getting chillier and darker the farther into autumn we move. I woke up at my normal time on Friday and was amazed to see I'd actually woken up with the sun. Unfortunately it caused a great hamper on my walk while I waited for the sun and fog to rise.

Saturday, March 12 -- We spent an uneventuful Saturday laying in an empty home awaiting the arrival of the very tardy phoneman. There was little to do in Nana's new home other then play a few card games, watch a video via the Macbook, play a game of hide-and-seek {no one found Mr S or I because we accidentally hid at the same time and the kids thought it was all a big joke!}, and eventually sit down outside and watch the boats pass by. The Goliath is a regular visitor in our neck of the woods as it makes it's way up to the cement plant.

Sunday, March 13 -- I actually think this photo was taken on Monday, but anyway the story is too funny not to include in our photo a day post{s}. You see, we spent all day Sunday moving my mil's belongings into her new abode. When I pulled up on Monday morning with Mr S, his eldest brother, and my two kids I realized my mil's toilet brush was still in my car! Her driveway was blocked by a neighbor and I had to park a few car lengths away. When Mr S asked if I was going to grab the toilet brush I told him no. In fact my exact words were more like, "Uh, no. It's your Mum you carry that thing! I'm not walking past all her neighbors who are looking out their windows cuddling her dirty old toilet brush!" Mr S, being the wise man that he is, didn't argue the fact. Nope, instead he said, "Well I'm not carrying it!" So, my bil opened the door grabbed the brush and then proceeded to wave to every single neighbor as he strutted up the sidewalk while saying, "Yes, hello I'm just holding my mother's toilet brush. Hi, how are you, yes this is Mum's toilet brush!" 

As if my kids weren't laughing hard enough all ready there was a neighbor in her small veggie area doing one thing or another and when he waved to her the fits of laughter caused both boys to double up with laughter. It didn't end there though! We proceeded around to the front of my mil's home, and she must have been preoccupied in the back of the home because there was no answer to our knocks, bell ringing, pounding, and shouting. Which of course, attracted people on the walk track nearby and others in the village. Yeah, so my bil turns around and starts scrubbing the outside windows all the while saying, "Don't mind me Mum I'm just here with your toilet brush!" My children completely lost it, and so did Mr S and I. As for my mil, I'm not sure she quite knows the whole truth, you know.. until the phone man finally arrives installs her phone line and she logs on to read this.. Then we might all be in hot water!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Nature Study Book

While recently debating what we'd learn, nature wise, for the fall remembered that we had a fantastic Nature Study book by Katie's Homeschool Cottage. The one we had was for summer, and while debating purchasing the fall version I received an email from them stating that they'd know put all their nature studies into one large book and for a while it was on special. I was delighted!

Downside to it was that it's a 200+ page pdf file. That's a whole lotta printing out or excessive searching on the computer. Then I remembered that Currclick now offers some of their products in actual book form!

The really cool part is that you can chose it as a pdf, book, or both. I went for the later option because I knew this was a file I'd prefer to be thumbing through, a lot. I have to be honest and say that I still thumbed through it a lot on the computer and flagged things here and there, but was on the constant prowl for the mail man to bring my lovely new book!

The book was shipped from the UK, it's printed on demand and Currclick must have a deal with someone over that way. Best part? Once it was shipped my book was here in 2 weeks, and despite having to wait for it to be printed that small detail only head it up for a mere 4 days. I was rather impressed because I was figuring it would take a good month to get the book. When it arrived I thought it was a completely different book I was waiting for and was so excited that it was my nature book I completely ignored the screams of, "MOM! SPIDER."

Yeah, until my darling 10 year old started backing away from the table screaming louder. I had no idea what the spider was because I didn't see it so I simply flung the packaging on the floor and then went to inspect it. I had a child who wasn't satisfied until I squared the spider. It felt wrong to be squishing him with the packing from a nature book. But I digress..

The book is awesome! It's broken down by months but also by seasons which is really awesome for us. That means that instead of paying attention to the months I pretty much pay attention to the seasons and items for study. We're officially in Autumn here so I skipped ahead to September in the book (the US month of Autumn) and was able to find some fun ideas for an upcoming nature walk I'd had planned.

The book not only has fantastic ideas for nature walks and study but also ideas on questions you could ask before, during, or after the walks. Not that we always need those, my guys are very full of questions, but sometimes it's nice to see an idea to spur them in a new area of questions.

There's also some great poems for each seasons/idea, as well as some simple notebooking pages and even book suggestions. I found some really fun poems I hadn't read/heard before and some old favorites. I still really enjoy My Shadow by Robert Louis Stevenson and was reading it out to the boys when I discovered it in my new book.

I really can't wait to take some of these ideas out and use them with the kids. I've had a certain little boy asking for more animal learning, and while not everything in this book is about animals, I know we'll find some really fun topics in there that will cover this request! (I wasn't asked to review this book, but it was too good not to share!)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Estimation & Measurement

It's been a while since we brushed up on things like perimeters and estimation, so we tackled both today. Both of which fit in quite well with our measurement study that's brewing around here.

Today, when we pulled out a couple of Math Mammoth worksheets the boys were delighted to see a "connect the dots" {better known as dot-da-dot around here} which required the use of measuring devices.

You see, we do happen to use math worksheets around here from time to time. This year I splurged and picked up the Blue Book set of Math Mammoth books from Currclick.  I didn't buy a group set because I wanted the Aussie Money and the Metric Measurement books, so I went a different route. This doesn't stop us from adding to our math notebooks, it just means I don't always need to come up with the math problems on "worksheet" days. It also means I have more resources at the ready when we're studying certain topics.

Anyway, today I was delighted to see the perimeter work problem and then there was a fun estimation problem as well. The idea was to guess how long you thought each line was and then to actually measure it and see how close you were. Morgan loves this kinda stuff, he lives for it. Jayden? Not so much. He was honestly terrified by it for fear he'd get it wrong. So, I pulled out the dried beans.

I measured off the table and told the boys how long the table was in centimetres. Then, I put a black bean on the edge and gently, oh so gently, flicked it up the table. I laid a guess as to how far I thought it had traveled. This isn't easy for me because my ability to visualise metric measurements still stinks, mostly because I still use imperial when I can. Grams and Kilos don't throw me, but centimetres and millimetres do! Then I had the boys each take a turn.

This game elicited much laughter as a few beans were flicked so hard they flung across the table and bounced off other areas of the room.  So I reminded them that the idea was to keep it on the table!  It didn't take long for them to control where they were flicking the beans which allowed them better guesses at the distance their bean had traveled. It also made measuring them a lot easier because we were only working with a typical ruler.

The activity was one I had planned for the week anyway, but originally I was going to read them Jack & The Beanstalk first and then give them each their own "magic" bean. This way worked just as well. Jayden became more much relaxed with the idea of estimation, and we also took the time to review then fun we'd had with Counting On Frank.  I think we might have an estimation jar floating around for a while to help Jayden understand that estimation is all about guessing.

Monday, March 7, 2011

More Measurement Fun

I had a fun activity planned for the guys today based on measurement, but things don't always go as planned around here. You have the problem sometimes too, right? In order to accomplish both math and some sanity we watched another Cyberchase Episode. This time, instead of watching via youtube (we can't watch via PBS because we're outside of the US) we had a DVD from the library. The boys are a little bummed that it also happens to be the only Cyberchase video the library has, but anyway..

Then I brought up this measurement game on the Cyberchase website. The idea is that they start out with simplistic shapes to measure with the provided measuring instrument. They move they move to the green square and "draw" the shapes which are then cut out for them. They can rotate them in the small blue square, if needed, and then plop them in place around the building in the big square. Simple, right? In essence yes, but the shapes become trickier as you progress through the game.

My whizz bang on the computer 7 year old had some issues getting the point on the "drawing" section lined up, but after a few helpful ideas from his brother and myself he seemed to be okay with it. It kept them quite busy though, and once we moved on to other things there were several requests to go back in their free time to try and finish the levels off.

There's actually a wide selection of games to be played over there. Even cooler is that you can find a game guide which tells you not only what math topics are covered, but also what science topics are covered in the games as well. You can find an episode guide here, if you're interested.

Iditarod Fun

We've been gearing up to follow the Iditarod for a while now, but considering this race takes place in the far north of America our library isn't well stocked on books about this topic. Unfortunately, most of our books on this topic are in storage in America so we settled for some audio versions from our favorite audio book club, Audible. Having an audio book going around here is completely normal. We may or may not read our copy of The Call Of The Wild.

Much to the boys delight we pulled out some Sled Dog style movies too. The boys are huge fans of the Balto films, all though rumor has it that a certain child prefers #2 over #1. All though the same child apparently finds it offensive when one of the "mean" dogs calls Balto's child a "Fleabag". Apparently there's a third one out in this series too dealing with the time frame when sled dogs weren't being used anymore.

Lastly, we'll also be using bits and bobs from each of these. I obtained both of these for free over the years, and the boys were delighted to see them pulled out. Sled Dogs deals with dog breeds primarily used for pulling sleds, feeding, care, and so on in regards to the topic. The Iditarod is more specific to the various things related more specifically to the race. 

A few additional resources:
  • Iditarod Study -- This book is really quite small, but very informative and really you can't beat the fifty cent price sticker on it right now.
  • Aunt Sarah's Alaskan Cookbook -- this was a freebie via Currclick not too long ago and it has an entire chapter with recipes for a "Dog Sled Party".
  • Iditarod Games & Printables -- Thanks to About.com there's some fun word searches, crossword puzzles, and other goodies up for grabs. 

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Project 365: Week Nine

Monday, February 28 -- We played a whole lotta Blokus this week between Jayden, Morgan, & I. This game was such a hit during the week that we had a big family game of it over dinner on Saturday. Good times, all though my threats to put little boys on bathroom duty for a week did nothing to help me win the final game...

Tuesday, March 1 -- Okay, so it's a terrible photo, but this is what greeted us this month, and may I just say that our kitchen was so full of laughter it delayed the normal morning routines for a good five minutes. The only thing funnier then our Bible Tale this month was the boys first depiction of it until we reminded them who shaved the sheep, as they felt perhaps the snake had done it.

Wednesday, March 2 -- Homemade Chocolate Mint Sandwich cookies. Mr S made a complaint a couple of weeks before Valentine's Day that there's never enough sweets in the house, in particular biscuits/cookies. For Valentine's Day I bought him a cookbook with something like 1001 different recipes for biscuits, bars, and muffins in it. He gets to pick the treat that I'll make. Ironically he was overwhelmed by the choices so I picked these, which I knew he'd love, and made them.

Thursday, March 3 -- There was some kinda major sale at the Beanie Kid store don'tcha think? I walked into the lounge room to find Jayden had spread out his "Nana Quilt" and set up shop. I'm still unaware of what was on sale, but whatever it was more Beanies flocked to the register and the poor little snowman was run of his fuzzy little feet until he cried out in despair, "Shop's CLOSED!"

Friday, March 4 -- Chicken Pot Pie! This was a long awaited dinner that Morgan requested for his birthday, but that week we had a humid streak and it seemed insane to turn the oven on for as long as we'd need it. Plus, we took him out to dinner. While the boys watched a math video Friday afternoon I whipped up the pie, on top was more pie crust shaped like cute little lambs. The pie was met with tears because poor Morgan had apparently wanted to help make it.

Saturday, March 5 -- The three year quilt is finally finished and looks terrible in this photo! Which is what happens when you try to hang it from a curtain rod while the receiver is trying to run off with it. Our first winter in Tasmania I worked on making a Morgan a Pirate Bear quilt which turned out adorable. I made my niece a quilt from the same pattern but left of the pirate theme. The intentions were to make Jayden one just like it but turn the bears into puppies and thus use puppy dog print all around it. When I pulled all the material out to finally sew it together it appeared as though I was missing many precut squares. In total desperation to move it off the pile of projects I revamped and we did the above pattern instead. Jayden is so happy that he can snow snuggle up with a pin free quilt. Trust me, it's not really crooked despite the depiction in the above photo!

Sunday, March 6 -- Piles of lapbook bits on our kitchen table. I spent the evening cutting these out and separating them into two piles; one for each child. Can you tell what we're studying this coming week?