Thursday, June 30, 2011

English & Spelling

I've been asked a bit about our new curriculum choices, and I thought I'd share a few pieces at a time. I've put off sharing about some of it because we haven't used all of it yet. Do you have any idea how long it can take to get most stuff shipped here? In fact, I'm still waiting on one lone spelling book, but I'm not too stressed, it should arrive this week.

I decided to add some major spelling work into our routine for my poor speller. He spells everything phonetically, but that doesn't always work thanks to the funny spelling of the English language. We've worked in many different ways in an effort to help him, and while we've made progress he's also aware of his poor spelling and wants to fix it.

Can I say there are a lot of spelling programmes out there! Many of them random words on huge lists that kids are meant to memorize. We can easily do that ourselves, and I wanted something different! We've been taking a Charlotte Mason approach to our spelling, and by that I mean grouping words together that follow similar rules {silent e} or have same sound combos in them {house, mouse}.

After much searching I stumbled upon something called Spellwell. It not only fits the CM method we were all ready using, but the lists of words are not huge. The child is not expected to write his spelling words each day a million times over either. Instead, they do a variety of things with the words each day!

Each week starts with a pretest, which allows you to see if the words are too easy for your student. If they are, there's a handful of bonus words they can try out too. Then each day, Monday - Thursday, there's a "homework" page. Each of those days they do something different with the spelling words from adding suffices of prefixes to defining the words. I know that my poor speller will enjoy the word work and the constant use of the words will do wonders for his spelling, not to mention give his reading a boost as well.  To help him build confidence in this field I've grabbed a book below his grade level. I still think that there will be words in there that will challenge him.

Spelling Wisdom is put out by Simply Charlotte Mason and is a studied dictation programme. {You can learn more about studied dictation over on the SCM website if you're interested.} The book is set up with enough different passages that one book could easily last you a few years.

The idea behind the book is that with dictation a child can learn many LA rules as well as spelling. I agree, and we've actually been using this for a while with our poor speller and he really enjoys it.

Within a short time of using it I noticed a difference in his spelling, not a 100% turn around, but he took his time with words and remembered spelling/phonics rules. I'll admit to being near tears when he wrote a note to one of Mr S's clients offering him a bit of chocolate for free. The child asked me if the words were spelled correctly and I was so excited to be able to tell him they were all spelled right, even eat which had been a trouble word for him!

Both of my boys have a great grasp of basic English rules. Punctuation, nouns, verbs, alliteration, & on & on our list could go. None of it was ever taught very formally, instead it was all taught through copywork, dictation, Five In A Row, & Madlibs. Honestly, I think my kids learned a lot of things in the LA department they wouldn't have thanks to the nifty FIAR curriculum. As for the MadLibs, don't knock it! My kids know words as parts of speech thanks to those nifty little games!

That said, I'm always worried about gaps. I'm pretty sure if you're a parent, homeschooling or not, you probably have experienced that fear at some point and time in your child's educational career. So this year, I wanted to be sure all the little gaps were full and I was debating a few LA type programmes. I was being super picky too.

I knew what I wanted them to learn or review over the year. I didn't want to pay a fortune. I didn't want there to be excess busy work. I didn't want them to hate it. I simply wanted something to fill any gaps we might have.

I debated three different programmes for this. At first I was really considering Winter Promise LA, I liked the way they approached it and they seemed to cover a considerable amount of stuff that I was after. However, after much debating I decided against it because I felt there was far too much busy work and I knew that would end up being dreaded by the boys.

I then found myself considering Primary Language Lessons, but I didn't like that there was copywork & memorization in it. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against either of those subjects, but we all ready have them covered and I didn't really want to give up what we were doing in order to make room for something else. The book is priced very economically considering it could easily last you a couple of years, but I didn't want to spend money on it knowing I wouldn't use a considerable portion of it. Despite all that it was still high on the list.

Then I stumbled upon Queens Language Lessons, which I really really loved. It was very similarly set up to PLL, except for the memorization and dictation. That excited me, and it was very reasonably priced too! In fact, I was set on it and went to place my order only to find out to my horror the company wanted to charge me $50 for shipping!  I was so annoyed. I checked two other sources. One of which also wanted to charge me $50 for shipping, which is a shame because I was going to buy two items from them for less then $30. The final place I checked kept telling me shipping was going to be $0 to get it to me. I knew that wasn't right, but they never replied to my emails. Such a complete shame, because I'd really love to use this English Programme! {Yes, I know there's an Australian company who sells these books, but they charge double the US price which means I might as well just fork out the $50 shipping, which I'm not willing to do...}

It sent me back to the drawing board where I stumbled upon an Australian Primary Language Lessons. The difference is that this book has Australian art, poems, and spelling in it. It's a great book and will certainly cover everything I wanted to be sure the boys knew.  I'm delighted by that, and I love the Australian poem and art selections. In fact, the only downside to it is that the art pictures aren't full sized. I was a little disappointed by that until I tried to find full size pieces to use in their places. I quickly understood why!

Now, I'm sure you're thinking, "Wow, that's a lot to do!" but really it won't be. Spellwell will be done each day, but the other two won't be. On top of that, the other two really only take 10-15 minutes at most to do. We tend to do SpellingWisdom three times a week, and Primary Language Lessons two times a week.

Monday, June 27, 2011


When we lived in the US my dad was great for making wooden toys and things for the boys. He even mailed their stick horses & wooden cork guns to them which get so much use it's a wonder they haven't been worn away into nothingness. One year, my dad made the most amazing puppet theatre for the boys. It was huge and awesome and amazing.

The boys used it all the time. They used it to put on shows with all their stuffed animals or puppets. They used it to play "restaurant" or any number of games. When they were done we could fold it up and tuck it behind or under their bed. And usually, it was only put away so they could use the large wooden train table their Poppy made for them, complete with 2 huge rolling bucket underneath that held all sorts of lovely train bits and bobs.

My children truly believe their grandfather can make and fix anything. In fact, when we told them we were moving this far Morgan, then 4 only had two concerns. One, would we take him to his grandparents house so he could tell them how much he loved them and say good-bye. Two, would Poppy be able to bring his tools to Australia to build them a treehouse. You know, even at 10 he still wants that treehouse, but he's hoping that Poppy can just use the tools we have here and that if he needs more maybe Uncle Chris will let him borrow some. They also ask about their puppet theatre which they miss.

Needless to say, when Jayden opened up a package from Nana on his birthday and discovered a tabletop puppet theatre there were a few happy smiles! It's not even an eighth of the size of the puppet theatre they use to use, but it's perfect for sitting on a bed or a table and putting on quite the fun little show.

It took a bit of Jayden to get into the swing of a puppet show so Daddy did one first for him, after that we were treated to quite the show about the Israelites and Moses. All though there was the addition of a dragon. The pirate sufficed for Moses because the sword became his staff. He got the idea from the most amazing Bible Story telling by Frank Peretti. Have you heard these? It's really well done and he adores the one cd he owns. {We have the rest on cassette and need to convert them to cd because we don't own a tape player!}

We picked this fun little theatre up at AgFest earlier this year. The lady who made & sold it had some amazing marionettes for children too at incredibly amazing prices! I picked one up for Morgan for Christmas as he's always, always, always wanted a marionette. Unfortunately, her website doesn't have the cute little wooden finger puppets we purchased, which is a shame as I had hoped to pick a few more up for the boys. {For those of you in Tassie they'll be at the craft fair in November.. which all most tempts me to go out and see if they'll have additional puppets for sale..}

The garden gnome was goliath..
Behind the stage are small holes that dowel fits into. Then each puppet can be stored on that, or if you have big grown up fingers you can also use the dowels to move the puppets around with. Needless to say it's all most as well played with as the big one from America they still chatter on about.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Narnia Cake

We made our traditional chocolate birthday cake, but I use whipped cream for an "icing" instead of frosting. I figured it was the best way to give it a snow effect. We used some wooden trees on hand from a train set, a toy lion we had, a paper lamp post we made, & a wardrobe. We left the wardrobe ajar because we all know Lucy would never close it with herself inside of it right?

I used a half teaspoon of icing sugar/powdered sugar in a sieve over the top so the trees, lamp, lion, & wardrobe would look snowed upon. I had to add a bit of extra whipped cream where I put the wardrobe, and decided I quite liked it as it looks like a snowdrift doesn't it?

The birthday boy hasn't seen the cake yet. I often bake the cake and wait to decorate it until they are in bed for the night. I think it was just one of those funny traditions that started when they were little and it was easier to wait until they were in bed for the night. Then I spend the entire night in anticipation of them getting up and checking out their cake!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Enchanted Turkish Delight

It just wouldn't be a proper Narnia Feast if we didn't include some turkish delight right? We thought not. So I decided to make a couple of batches, only I don't do rose water turkish delight. I know, shameful but true. I just don't like it.

Lemon, orange, and lime though are a whole different story! My favorite would probably be lemon, but I will also admit I don't eat it very often as I've never seen sugar-free turkish delight.

I set out to change that. My plan had been to use fructose, which I'm not at all fond of for baking purposes, but I figured for turkish delight it'd be fine.

There are a lot of recipes for Turkish Delight, and many of them involve a candy thermometer. The back of the box of Turkish Delight I often purchase for Mr S is made with cornflour, sugar, flavoring, & preservative. Needless to say, I wasn't into using the recipes requiring a candy thermometer because I really wanted our turkish delight to taste like the yummy stuff from the box.

I went to my local health food store to pick up a bulk bag of fructose, but they were out. Alas, so I settled for Xylitol which is a sweetener made from birch trees and corn. I don't usually purchase it because I'm not keen on how most baked good turn out from it. I also don't like the price on the stuff, but it's what they had and I took it. I have to say the results were great! In fact I liked the firmness of the Xylitol version then the softness of the sugar version.

The recipe is really very simple, but a little time consuming and works with sugar or xylitol. I still plan to try it with fructose down the road, but that most likely won't be for a while because my fridge is completely stacked with Turkish delight right now!

Enchanted Turkish Delight

2 1/2 c water
1 c sugar or xylitol

Bring the water to a boil in a large heavy bottom pan; stir in the sweetener and keep stirring until it's fully dissolved. This won't take long. Remove from heat.

1 c cold water
1 c cornflour/starch
1 tsp. cream of tartar

Mix the cornflour and cream of tartar together; stir in cold water until it's all smooth. Slowly pour the mixture into the sugar water mixture. Return to a medium heat & bring to a boil stirring constantly.  Reduce to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes. 

2 T lemon essence, orange essence, lime essence, OR rose water
yellow food coloring, orange food coloring, green food coloring, or pink/red food coloring

Mix in your choice of flavoring and food coloring. Spread mixture evenly between two loaf pans or an 9x13 pan. I like to use two silicone loaf pans because the turkish delight will pop right out with no issues. If you choose to use another pan I'd line it with baking paper first which works really well too!

2 T corn flour
1/3 c icing sugar

Let Turkish Delight set until firm, generally overnight. Mix corn flour & icing sugar together and put in a baggie. Slice into desired sized cubes. Toss turkish delight in flour mixture and place in an airtight container.  

Notes: I wouldn't toss the xylitol turkish delight until you're read to eat it. I found that tossing it first caused the sugar mixture to melt and then harden on it. Not awful tasting, but not exactly the way turkish delight should be.

More Fun Book Finds

We visited the used book shop a couple of weeks ago again and stumbled upon some more terrific finds. Clearly someone in my town has great taste in books. A pity I don't know who you are, I'd gladly take all your lovely used books off your hands!

The Chocolate Flier is a book I've been after for a while. It's a true story about a pilot during WWII who dropped chocolate down to children in Germany. I've heard this book spoken about quite a bit by people who enjoy using the Five In A Row Curriculum, but our library never had. So imagine our delight when we found it!

It's broken down into three sections inside. A little bit about the war, a bit about the pilot, and a bit about the actual event. Gobs of real photos which enthralled the boys to no end. Of course it didn't completely cure their curiosity as to why the world was at war, but we'll be covering that part next year anyway.

I don't know if it's a boy thing or just my kids, but they are really drawn to true stories, even if it's a fictional retelling. So the fact that this book was true, with real pictures most certainly caused for a few debacles over who could take it to bed to read first.

I found these two delightful books which not only delighted me but caused me to ask a lot of questions. Like, who scored Awana books in our area because there's no Awana club in Tassie, at least not according to the Awana website.. However, these were two topics my children needed to hear and it was so fun to stumble upon books that were perfect for each one.

You know we love The Chronicles of Narnia right? I've been reading them aloud to the boys in the order they were published, and we trotted off to find Voyage Of The Dawn Treader again, to no avail. We did, however, find another full color collectors edition of The Last Battle. That's the same style we own of The Lion The Witch & The Wardrobe. The pictures are beautiful, and we're hoping to obtain the whole set eventually.

The Wizard Of Oz is on our read aloud list this year, all though I was going to get the audio version from the library. Funny thing is, Morgan told me he prefers it when I read the books out loud. I'm impressed with that compliment because Jim Dale I'll never be, but wow I try hard. So when I found this book for $3 I snagged it so I could read it aloud. The boys are excited to hear this book as they saw two cousin's in this play a year or two ago. I was only slightly ashamed that my children had never heard of the book or movie. Honestly, I never liked the movie growing up.. not one bit!

How The Finnegans Saved The Ship is Australian historical fiction and I'm so eager and excited to read this book! We've recently been reading various fictional retellings of prisoners brought to Australia. The boys have gotten really caught up in the many stories and are amazed at such punishments for such small petty crimes. It's hard for them to comprehend the hows and the whys, but they are finding the convicts stories of adventure fun to listen to. I'm sure it helps that they are extremely familiar with many of the places mentioned in the books {Port Arthur excluded..} This book, however, is about a family who chooses to migrate to Australia, and takes place just after the sinking of the Titanic. Their ship also hits an iceberg, but their fate is much different then that of the Titanic passengers. The author of this book writes some fantastic Australian books, we adore her funny wombat books.

The Mysterious Benedict Society has also been on my list for a while. In fact, I planned to snag that as an Audio this year too, but when I found it used at a decent price I snatched it up. I've heard great things about this book from fellow homeschool mamma's and I hope it lives up to the expectations I've formed about it. I'm not sure why the cover makes it look "creepy" because none of the other covers I've seen for it have, and that's not the kinda book it's meant to be. My kids are slightly worried that I might try to read them a horror story though. {Ha, if they only knew how frightened I got watching The Day After Tomorrow with those wolves on the lose. I mean seriously! Mr S was snoozing away snoring like crazy and I had to keep poking him in the ribs while screaming, "But the wolves, where are the wolves!" Ha! Yeah, I'm not into scare fest stuff..}

Blackwater Creek is a historical novel about a family who migrainted from Hungary to the US during the California Gold Rush. They do not happen to strike it rich and their daughter becomes one of the servants in a fancy house to raise money. Turns out there's a whole series of books in the Saddle The Wind series including one about the Pony Express. I'll have to keep my eyes open for that book as we found the Pony Express fictional books very limiting and I wasn't very impressed with some of the words/language used in Jimmy Spoon.

The True Story Of Lilli Stubeck is another bit of Aussie historical fiction. In fact, the book is about a real person and based on a her diary. It also takes place not to horribly far from where we are which I know the boys will enjoy.

Last, but not least is Journey To The End Of The Earth. This one is about the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. Because it's a Trailblazer book it will also have a Christian theme to it. This is the second one we've found used, and we'd love to pick up a few more of them!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Narnia Party: Mr Tumnus' Parcels

He was only a little taller than Lucy herself and he carried over his head an umbrella, white with snow. From the waist upwards he was like a man, but his legs were shaped like a goat's (the hair on them was glossy black) and instead of feet he had goat's hoofs. He also had a tail, but Lucy did not notice this at first because it was neatly caught up over the arm that held the umbrella so as to keep it from trailing in the snow. He had a red woollen muffler round his neck and his skin was rather reddish too. he had a strange, but pleasant little face, with a short pointed beard and curly hair, and out of the hair there stuck two horns, one on each side of his forehead. 
One of his hands, as I have said, held the umbrella: in the other arm he carried several brown-paper parcels. What with the parcels and the snow it looked just as if he had been doing his Christmas shopping. He was a Faun. And when he saw Lucy he gave such a start of surprise that he dropped all his parcels. 
"Goodness gracious me!" exclaimed the Faun."

Jayden requested a Narnia party after reading several of the books and so a Narnia party it is! For party bags we put a few trinkets inside of some brown paper and wrapped it all up and tied it with string. We attached some fun little twisty straws to the outside of the packets

We put a few sweets inside & a balloon. I marked one with a red marker that has sugar free lollies inside so the birthday boy won't have to worry. He was delighted to finally get to pick some twisty straws, now to keep him from drinking milk with them!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Home Education or Home Schooling

Did you know in Australia that most people refer to homeschooling as home educating? I’ve never completely caught on with that phrase, mostly because my entire school career we called it homeschooling. It’s the common name for it in America.
I’ve always wondered about the difference between the two terms. For the most part I’ve always presumed it was a hemisphere difference; a language barrier of sorts. {By barrier I do not mean that one can’t understand the other, I’m using it a loose term.}
Imagine my surprise when one of the speakers I listened to during my conference mentioned both terms. Then she said something that completely shocked me. “If there’s one thing you take away from this meaning I hope it’s that you are home educators not home schoolers.” 
I was actually enjoying a stroll down by the ocean to stretch my legs and came to an abrupt stop and caused a few dog walkers, a biker, and a runner to all side step me before we had a 6 man pile up.
Her reasoning was very simple and struck me soundly on the forehead. {In our home we call it a DiNozzo.. I’m sure my fellow NCIS peeps get that..} She quickly read us the definition of education from Noah Webster’s 1828 dictionary:
The bringing up, as of a child, instruction; formation of manners. Education comprehends all that series of instruction and discipline which is intended to enlighten the understanding, correct the temper, and form the manners and habits of youth, and fit them for usefulness in their future stations. To give children a good education in manners, arts and science, is important; to give them a religious education is indispensable; and an immense responsibility rests on parents and guardians who neglect these duties.
For a quicker definition read Noah Webster’s 1828 definition for the word educating: Instructing; enlightening the understanding, and forming the manners.
The point was that not only do we educate our children sums, reading, & whatnot, but that we also educate them in so much more. Laundry, manners, religion, cooking, cleaning..  We teach them all manners of lifeskills. 
Which is why the speaker wanted us to walk away with the knowledge that we are not doing school at home in any way {unschooling, classical, Charlotte Mason, etc.} rather we are educating, in all manners, our children. Thinking of yourself as a home educator puts the bigger picture into a better perspective when you think of it in that light, doesn’t it?

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Letter Home: Father's Day

Dear Poppy,
Mom told us it’s Father’s Day in America, but we’re trying to keep it under wraps so Dad doesn’t ask us why he didn’t get a gift today too. We figured since it was Father’s Day in America we should write you a letter because we have a lot of things to say to you.
First off, we wish you’d never told Mom that horrible {she says funny} Peas & Honey poem. She says it every time she feeds us peas, or sees us snitching frozen peas, or any time anyone mentions peas. It drives us crazy because we don’t think peas would taste good with honey, and Mom says it’s traditional to say the poem and some day we’ll say it to our kids.  We disagree.
We’re also hoping your coming to visit soon. The reason why is we need your help! Mom keeps asking us to help sweep the driveway {she said she’d hose it down, but Dad chucked out the hose!} because she’s tired of the leaves and mud on it. We know you have a leaf blower and we figure if you come to visit you can bring it with you and have the job done in half the time {or less, we can’t decide.}
Don’t worry about getting here, we think we can do it for free. See, Mom says she hasn’t mailed Gram-Gram’s Mother’s Day Present, Danica’s birthday present, Rachel’s birthday present, or your Father’s Day present. She said it’s because she’s hoping to toss them on the back of a whale and have them take it over. So we figure when the whale arrives at your front door you can just hop on and come to us. All though Mom says the whale would never make it to your front door because you aren’t close enough to a large body of water. We disagree because he can wear a scuba diving outfit like we saw at AgFest.
That’s not all though. We really REALLY want a treehouse. Mom says that a treehouse is a great idea, but she’s not so sure our trees are big enough. We think you could do it anyway and it wouldn’t be a problem. So when you come you’ll need to bring a few tools because you know Daddy doesn’t have very many.
Mom says you love hot spicy stuff and we think you should come around when Agfest is happening. This guy there, he sells super hot stuff and we were too scared to try it. We watched Mom try it and she didn’t pass out, but we thought she might. They had levels from 0-10 and then there was one even higher then 10! We think Mom only went as high as an 8, & then she bought the 8! It has an ugly spider on it, but she swears there’s no spiders inside of it.
Speaking of weird things in stuff. Mom says she use to love this cereal called Grape-Nuts, which we think sounds gross. She said you told her one time people saved up all their grape seeds to put in the box. Do they really?? We hate grape seeds, but we don’t mind saving them if someone wants to buy them.
Did you know people eat kangaroo & wallaby here? It’s true, we saw it in the shop. We poked it too, to see if it felt like real meat or not, but then Mom said to cut it out because she could barely breath and didn’t want to waste her last breaths on telling us to stop poking the kangaroos. We wanted to tell her it was just sausages, but she looked a little green so we decided not to.
We all ready told Gram-Gram, but we just want you to know we got the joke book. We think it’s really funny. So, we want to ask you what happens when you put your hat in the Red Sea. It won’t turn red, it just gets what. Except we think it might get red if it touches the red algae, but the joke says it won’t so we’ll have to experiment on it if we ever go to the Red Sea for vacation.
It’s nearly past our bedtime now so Mom says we should end this letter. We’d rather stay up late and watch for the whale or play games, but we’re afraid of the dark and since Mom said she’s turning out the lights we’ve decided to end our letter.
Happy Father’s Day Poppy. 

from all of us

P.S. Mom says Happy Father's Day too and that she loves you. She also says that the poem clearly states that the peas and honey aren't tasty, but we've asked her not to finish the poem because we really have to get to bed.

P.P.S. She finished the poem anyway.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Special Card

If you know us, you know there's a funny story behind this picture! Can I just say I'm not big on giving out cards for any occasion. It's not because I'm not into the sentimental saying inside or anything like that, it's because cards have risen to the price of $5 for the cheapest half the time! 

It's rare to find one under that unless you go to the cheap shop. Which means I often stock up when I find nice cards at decent prices. The card to the left is not one of them.

See, a few years ago we were down the card isle at a local Kmart. Mr S and I were looking for a card for some event, which one I can't remember, when the boys spotted cards the play music.

Jayden was taken, instantly, with a card that had a few hamsters on it that looked to be singing and dancing. He opened it up and it played this song. He rolled himself silly with laughter and wanted us to buy it for him. I declined and he asked if we'd get it for his birthday. I agreed to that.

Along came many other needs for someone to hunt down a card, but when Jayden's birthday rolled along the card was missing! He was sad not to find that card waiting for him and even asked if I'd forgotten. I told him it hadn't been in stock at the store, and each time we went to Kmart he would ask if we could take a trip over there. In the two years since he first saw that card our Kmart has yet to replace it.

That's not a huge surprise and if I'd inquired they'd have given me their own song and dance about the shipments taking forever over the Bass Straight. Never mind that it doesn't usually take two years. It wouldn't have helped. You should have seen what I had to go through just to get the kid a new bike!

Two days before his birthday I remembered I was out of wrapping paper. We don't subscribe to the newspaper so that wasn't an option, and I had no large rolls of craft paper. I decided that since the kids were all ready with their Nana to run off and get wrapping paper while I had the chance. Instead of my normal stop I ran into a newsagent to snag some. Unfortunately, I was unimpressed with most of their cheap choices and was worried that they'd complain if I tried to make a purchase under $5.

Having no children with me I was going to pursue the magazines and see if I could find any on our "wish list".  Before I'd gone more then an isle I'd landed in front of the card and decided it would be better to see if they had the long lost hamster card. They did, but they also had a new version that if tipped and turned just right gave the holographic effect of a real hamster dancing.  You should have seen Mr S and I trying to write in the thing at 11 pm without making it sing! 

That card has been as cherished as any of the other little gifts we gave the birthday boy. Needless to say there was much excitement and finding the card and hoots of, "You didn't forget!" and "You found it!" and "Oh, this one's even better!" 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Sweetest Gift

I don't usually take children with me to do birthday shopping. I did, however, pick up something I knew he wanted to get his little brother. He was very happy with the item, but kept pestering to know when I was going into town again.

We don't live far from town. In fact, at night when it's all lit up we can see it from our home. If we go right up to the water front we can even wave to the people on the other side, watch the emergency service vehicles, and make up stories about the funny dogs on the walk track over there.

However, we generally only go into town once a week. We might hit the local IGA on our side for milk if we run out {which we usually do}, but I try to limit our runs to town to weekly. Once Morgan asked for the billionth time I asked him what he wanted in town so badly.

A balloon. One I'd long since forgotten Jayden had requested for his birthday. There's a vegetable shop right next to our grocery store and I often pop in and buy a few needed items while the kids watch the shopping cart at the entrance. From there they can peer into the florist. This florist has those fun little balloons and Jayden has always admired the smile face balloon.

Morgan remembered and wanted to purchase one. He wanted to spend his very own pocket money on it. So off to town we went. The florist was so impressed with his generosity she gave him a discount on the balloon and then thanked him profusely for purchasing it. There were also a few eye winks and deep smiles as she watched him pocket his wallet in his "secret pocket" in his coat.

Morgan was so delighted with his purchase the first thing he did upon seeing Jayden was give it to him. Jayden was delighted and we were all treated to many antics from the balloon. When I went to sit down for the evening the crazy balloon was laying on my chair and when I removed it I was quickly told off by Jayden.

"Mom, you can't be so rough with my balloon. It's not a normal ordinary balloon. It's special. Morgan bought with his own money and you must never pop it on me!"  Clearly the gift was well appreciated.

Friday, June 17, 2011

ToothFairy Visits

There was a lot of anticipation over the very first Tooth-Fairy visit ever to our home. Morgan had been counting down to that glorious day all most as much as he counted down to getting his very first library card. Thing is, Morgan wasn't the only excited person about it. So was the Tooth Fairy herself.

The Tooth Fairy learned a lot on that first visit. For one thing, she learned that depositing a special prize for one child caused the three year old to be very happy for his brother but also to turn into a puddle of tears over his own disappointment that he didn't get so much as a letter.

She also learned that hunting down teeth, in the dark, under the pillow of a very wiggly child is hard work! So is keeping your tongue in check when you step on hot wheels, legos, blocks, and other odds and ends on the floor.

Five years later the Tooth Fairy position has been filled by Mr S in our home. The letter writing is still special for us though. Mr S often hates having to leave a letter and after this letter he often asks me to write them up. I had great plans of writing the children a story from the Tooth Fairy and at each lost tooth they'd get a new addition to it, but reality was that keeping up with a 5 and 3 year old, unpacking, and homeschooling didn't leave much time for that to happen. So instead the toothfairy often gives tiny glimpses into what's happening at her house.

Her letters always indicate some special way she'll use the procured tooth. One time she stated she'd use a tooth for a bookshelf, a slide, a tree house.. They were always different and always caused a lot of excitement. Jayden lost a tooth a month or so ago that was in rough shape. It was discolored and broken due to a fall he took at two. I was so happy that the tooth was out, but he was worried the Tooth Fairy wouldn't be able to use it.

So while helping him wash the tooth off and prepare to put it in his glow in the dark tooth {see picture above} I was thinking ahead to the letter I'd write. The Tooth Fairy wrote in her letter that the tooth was perfect for the pot competition in Fairy Land that she was entering.

That letter cause more excitement then any letter we've ever had. When the next tooth fell out a week ago there was so much hoorahing. So much more then normal! I couldn't figure it out until Jayden said, "I hope the Tooth Fairy tells me now if she won her pot competition!" Can you believe I'd completely forgotten that simple little letter? Oh how the boys carried on about it. There was so much chatting about it all afternoon. Had she won? Did her blueberry bush do well? What will she say to me now? It's been so long since I lost a tooth!

Well, the Tooth Fairy was glad to hear all this and so she wrote back telling them that she had indeed won first place in the pot competition. She mentioned how long it had been since anyone had lost a tooth and how she was glad to come visit them and bring them news about the pot competition. She also encouraged them to be brave at their upcoming dental appointments &, of course, to keep right on brushing.. Jayden's not far away from being done losing teeth for a while, and I must say I think it'll be a bit of a sad day when it happens.

I've saved every single Tooth Fairy letter, typos and all, and plan to put them in their scrapbooks for them. I've actually been waiting to see if either of them would catch on to the fact that it's just Mom & Dad because you see, I've even kept the sweet little letters Morgan would write and stick under his pillow. The one where he quickly thanked the Tooth Fairy for his presents. The one where he asked if she could come over for a playdate. The one where he asked if she could include a picture of herself. The one where he confessed that his brother's new puppy had chewed up his glow in the dark tooth and he wondered if maybe she could bring him another one even though he hadn't lost a tooth. She did, for the record. I'm all most certain he even wrote a letter after we had a trip to America and visited friends and he was so certain the mother of a family we hung out with was the "Real Live Tooth Fairy!!"

Yep, each of those sweet little letters is hidden away in the scrapbooking supplies along with the letters the Tooth Fairy wrote. The one where she wrote, "I hope you choke on your tooth.." and the one where she was apparently blown off course and dropped the parcels and told them she'd come by the next day with them. The letter where she told them it was so windy she wasn't leaving a parcel just a bit of extra money so they could go to the store and purchase the Beanie Kid of choice.

That letter caused the boys to wonder if Fairy Town used real money or if she had to stop at the ANZ to pick up our kinda money first. Which in turn set off an entire barrage of questions.. does Fairy Town have mayors? Do they have presidents or prime ministers? Do they have day and night like us? Is everything miniature there? If the Fairy is so small how on earth does she carry me such big packages?

I've never denied or agreed to anything. Nope, I've always answered with more questions.. You know things like, "I don't know, what do you think?" or "Wow, that would be cool!" I'm pretty sure one day they are going to open up those letters and laugh themselves silly.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Times Alive Posters

I shared earlier that Morgan was using Times Alive! to learn his math facts. In all honesty so is Jayden who loves to sit in on the stories and songs as long as we don't ask his opinion on what a multiplication fact is. I figure any exposure is good exposure because he's not far away from learning them himself.

However, Morgan now has so many stories and songs in his head that he was starting to get a little confused with them and was thus making simple mistakes.  I decided to use Grab It to make a quick poster of all the facts he'd learned with their picture cues. He was delighted and quickly asked if instead of putting it in his notebook we could hang it on the wall where he'd look at it more often.

I agreed, so we slipped each piece inside of a page protector and hung them near the wall map, also buy the desktop in the schooling area, where he'd see them more often. Funniest part? Jayden has stood by and looked at each one and will say the story aloud. Which means he's learned just as much as his brother.

Can you see all the picture glues for what the answers are? There's a story, obviously, for each one of these clips. I chose to snag images with the answers in them, all though Morgan doesn't really need that because often just remembering the story for he math fact will cause him to know the answer.

Hanging these up where we could all see them caused more then just Morgan to stop and reflect. In fact Jayden was staring at the poster one day when he suddenly became quite excited and called Morgan over, "Check this out! These mice don't just have three tails each 2 mice have their tails shaped like 3's and the other one is shaped like a 9!" This was just one of those lightbulb style moments for Jayden, but Morgan didn't share the enthusiasm with his, "I know." statement. This was a bit of a let down until I said, "Wow, that is so cool!"

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Currclick Sale & Freebies!

Did you hear the news? Currclick is having a special with up to 40% off lots and lots of their products, and 8 freebies hidden around their website.  I always get a kick out of "find the hidden item" and win free prizes.

If you get stuck looking for the hidden items sometimes you can snag info off their Facebook page, but I'll be honest and admit I don't usually check there.

A Weekend Away

Last weekend we nipped off to "the big city" to celebrate a niece turning 18. We decided to make a mini getaway of it and spend the night at a caravan park because the festivities would be ending quite late and I wasn't sure I was up for the hour long drive back home.

I walked in our cabin and plopped our one bag of luggage down and couldn't stop laughing. Yes, it was really called a cabin and what you see in the picture above is pretty much all there was to the room. Not quite, but all most.

Thankfully we weren't looking for 5 star accommodations, just a simple place to lay our heads for the night. I'm pretty sure if we'd been after more we would have been horribly disappointed. I told the boys to pose for a photo and I think the only one who did was Mr S. Where was Jayden?

He was checking out the view from his bunk. He was tempted to take the tippy top bunk, but decided middle was best. Morgan is terrified of heights {has been since being an itty bitty} and gladly took the bottom bunk. I wasn't convinced he could sit up without whacking his head, but amazingly enough he could.

Excuse the funkiness of the photo.. After checking in and getting our beds set up I had some errands I needed to run before shops closed for the weekend. We thought parking in our town was pricey, but it was worse in the city. So after passing two of the new fancy parking meter areas Mr S pointed out a place to park with the old meter. I pull over, park and the guys all clambered out to deposit coins. I look up and I see them all rattling the life out of the meter followed by dazed and confused looks. The crazy machine ate the entire dollar plus worth of money they'd slipped in it.

First we hit the educational shop so I could snag Snap It Up! We're a big word game family, and I've been after this one for a while. I wanted a nice kids game for words. The only hard part of this game is making sure Mr S and I give the kids each a chance to earn some words. That said, after a couple of rounds they were flying pretty well themselves! The clerk was shocked that's all we picked up {we got the movie at Kmart..} and was convinced our kids weren't going to be impressed. Pity she didn't see us a few hours later playing some rather rowdy rounds and the disappointed comments I got when I said we needed to pack it up.

Next up we ran by Koorong where I was delighted to spot these two books on the shelves! I had these on my Easter wish list for the kids, but they weren't in stock at the time. The boys were excited to snag them as well and quickly decided who'd get which book. In case your wondering, Morgan snagged the viking book.  I was also was perusing the clearance shelf and had snagged up two books, but when I got to the checkout the lady told me that the clearance shelf was "buy two get one free" so I ran back and snagged this Bible for Jayden that I'd stood there for 10 minutes debating getting anyway!

This Student Discover Bible is very awesome! It was less then 50% it's original price, but Morgan was really taken with the timeline and real artefacts and items inside. It's got a lot of fun facts and "stuff" on each page! In fact Morgan was really taken with a page that showed a bottle of oil for anointing on it. Very fun, and a bargain price too!  The other book I snagged was a copy of My Bible Journal. It's slightly "fill in the blank", but more with "what this says to you" vs  specific answer. Either way, I thought it would be a fun and simple way for Morgan to start to learn to study his Bible on his own.

The next morning was miserably cold and rainy, but the boys made light of it by eating leftover Black Forest cake for breakfast while I packed the car. Then we packed it up and headed home and made it back just before the heavier rains hit. Which was nothing short of a miracle because it poured bucket upon bucket during the week hours of the morning.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Box Day

Incase you hadn't guessed yet, our big box of stuff has arrived. It's often referred to as "box" day in the homeschooling community when one's homeschool supplies for the year arrive. Around here, we simply bowl the postie over in our attempt to jump him for the package to see what's inside. This time was no different. What you can't see were other goodies my parents snuck in the box {thanks Mom  & Dad}, like combination locks the boys were over the moon excited about. The Fun Bands you can see in the package are always a big hit too, all though I was seriously tempted to keep the Beanie Kid ones that arrived this time..

We're all very excited to start our new stuff. Math has all ready been underway for a while around here, but the rest of it we won't be starting until July. Ironically, it'll be July 4th that we start. It made me laugh, and when I hinted that perhaps we should wait Morgan was adamantly opposed. He's as eager to dig into all the new books as I am!  We honestly can't wait..

Monday, June 13, 2011

Book Quilt

We love books. It's obvious, isn't it? So while roaming the internet yesterday I spotted this book skirt which was inspired by this mini quilt. Both of which were charming to me, but it's cold outside and I'm wimpy and wear pants when it's cold.

The idea of a quilt was much more intriguing to me in cold weather too. I'm often the one complaining of being cold, I can often be found in the corner with my teeth chattering or hovering over the heater in my attempts to get warm.

So the idea of a warm quilt to curl up with and read a good book really struck me and I decided I'd make a book quilt based off of ideas from both posts.

After all, we'll be reading a lot of books with our new school curriculum, and we often curl up together on the couch to do this. Not to mention all the read alouds we have on our list for the year, or the box of the books each child has that they want to read this year too..  I'm not so sure this quilt is quite large enough for all three of us to curl up under without squabbling happening, but I'm not too worried about that.

It's more then large enough for one of us to curl up under though! Would you believe this quilt was made up of spare stuff in my various material stash? I have a whole box of scraps that I don't chuck out. They come in handy for all sorts of things from kids crafts to crazy quilting. Each piece of material the books are made from came from the scrap stash!

All but the tilting books were made with the ideas and measurements from here. I added in extra books and stacked some. I wanted it to look more like a typical book shelf with books stacked, standing, and tipping.

The tilting books were done with the method suggested here. I really wanted to do them the other way, but because I was tipping them in the opposite direction I just could not get the other method to work. It worked if I didn't add books on straight on the other side, and I just wasn't up for a late night geometry lesson to make it work. So, I went with the "easier" method.

The background is an old brown sheet I had that I simply cut down in size. I still have plenty of it left that I'm considering making some matching throw pillows for the couch to go with it. The titles on the books are the information you find on the edge of material. I didn't have enough for all the books, obviously, because I'd just thrown a bunch of those away a week or two ago! Such a pity!

the binding and the back of the quilt were a pink quilt I snagged from the local K-mart, because it was quicker and cheaper then running all the way to the fabric shop. I was also out of batting so I used a flannel blanket that we had in the cupboard that no one has used in a year or more. Which means the grand total of making this quilt was a whooping $5.