Monday, September 19, 2005

Wishes Come True

This morning Lee said to me that wishes really do come true. He said that all his birthday wishes and dandelion puff wishes were for a new dirt bike. And now he has one. He has been one happy boy, which does not mean that without it he was unhappy, but he really feels like a big boy now that he has a dirt bike. There's a lot of responsibility that comes with the dirt bike. Both Grace and Lee are doing great with riding. Dad talked to them this morning, reminding them that if they can't concentrate on getting school work done, they won't be able to ride. They were terrific "students". Our morning was successful; Grace and Lee read to me, from Robinson Crusoe Reader and Bob Books, respectively. They both wrote in their journal, practiced saying and spelling our address, worked in their phonics workbook (Grace has a giant SchoolZone workbook that she does 2 pages a day and Lee has a rhyme workbook that he does 1 page a day), we read The Crayon Counting Book (counting by 2's) and they watched Reading Rainbow: How Much is a Million?. Lou and I made peanut butter swirl bars and then it was time for lunch. Next we need to take in about 35 lbs. of venison to have processed into summer sausage, hot sticks and brat patties. Dad and Lee got a doe the opening morning of archery season.

We're planning on homemade pizza for supper. Grace is frying the sausage right now and Lee is waiting for me to help him fill the bread machine pan. Time to go.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Dirt Bikes and Hillbilly Talk

First on dirt bikes: We have been storing a Yamaha 90 dirt bike in our garage for a year. It belongs to some friends who live in the city and don't have a spot to run the machine. They store it here in trade for riding privileges on our trails. Well, with that said, our oldest being 10 days shy of 8 and then the next younger at 6 1/2 have been wanting to ride the dirt bike - or even better they would love to have one of their own. We decided to size them to the 90 and found out that we would need something smaller for the younger, Lee. They don't know it yet, but we will be buying a Honda 50cc dirt bike tomorrow morning before going on to violin. Dear husband and I have been talking about making this purchase, for a long time now. The day has finally (well in about 12 hours) come. I'm not sure if I'm prepared for the meticulous scheduling that will need to be arranged to avoid arguments or the possibility of an accident, but daddy Lee says they have to grow up some day. Even though these are my oldest I'm talking about, it's still hard for this mother to loosen up the reins. They seem so young, fragile and soooooo able to make silly mistakes. It's one thing when they make a quick turn on their bicycle and wipe out in the gravel; there's no motor between their legs. Yet, we have worked very hard at raising responsible children and from what other people tell us we've done a good job at that. Let's hope they are right.

Hillbilly Talk - Lou, who is now 4, has developed quite a pattern of speech. We have come to call it hillbilly talk; here are a few examples. I don't mean to offend anyone by this term.
"Who dem name?" she says when meeting my cousin.
"I haf to tell you sumpa." she says when she has something to tell us.
"Daddy will you please wipe me, cuz I go poop." she yells after she, well you know.
That's just a few I can think of now. If I think of more I'll update this list.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

September.......the Month of Birthdays

Today is Grandpa's birthday. He turned 75. I am so fortunate to have a somewhat young grandpa. He was on child #2 (my mom) at age 20. My mom gave birth to me at age 21, so I come from a young family. I increased the average age for baby making all the way to 25 when I had our first child, Grace. She will be 8 in just ten days. Did I mention that Lou just turned 4 on September 4? She had a 3-D ducky cake, which I have to say turned out great. Monday was my husband's brother's 21st birthday. I think I better stay off the scale this month; I've eaten more than my share of cake.

We do something called "Subject of the Day". This is where I get to add my two cents into my children's education. I plan out 2 or 3 weeks at a time what we will do each day. General topics include, but are not limited to, History, Geography, Science, PhyEd/Games, Art, etc. Following is a list of the "Subject of the Day" topics for Monday-Thursday of this week.

Monday - We did a science experiment called Rock and Dissolve. For instructions see September 12 posting.

Tuesday - Read about opposites.
Exactly the Opposite
A High, Low, Near, Far, Loud Quiet Story

Wednesday - Watched the movie Ben and Me and account of Benjamin Franklin's life through the eyes of his pet mouse, Amos. I watched it once, the kids watched it 3 times all on Wednesday.

Thursday - Talked about adjectives and verbs, then read a couple of books which highlight each of these parts of speech.
A is for Angry (adjectives)
I Think I Thought and Other Tricky Verbs
We also spent a couple of hours cooking today to take food to grandpa's birthday party. Grace chopped onions, measured most of the ingredients for the broccoli salad and prepared the salad dressing. Lee washed and chopped 5 cups of broccoli. Lou and I made frosting. She counted out 12 potatoes and helped me add milk and butter to the mashed potatoes. Ray just followed us around begging for any tidbits of food that we would give him. We managed to get all the food prepared and packed in the van in just under 2 hours. Kids love to help when they know they are offering real help and not just given made up jobs to keep their hands busy. They always rise to the occasion.

Friday - Since it's only Thursday night anything can happen, but the plan for Friday is to make mosaic crosses out of the scraps of photos I crop away when putting together my Creative Memories albums. This is just an idea I had late one night when I was delerious from cropping way too many photos. I decided to save the scraps and make mosaics. We'll see how this goes.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

It's Apple Season

We have six apple trees; one produced an abundance of apples this year. I believe they are cortlands. Last night daddy Lee and I canned 14 quarts of applesauce and then froze another 5 or 6 quarts. We still have apples left to work up. I can feel the ambition building in me to make all my favorite apple recipes. The list includes: apple pie, cranberry apple nut pie, grandma's apple crisp, apple slices, cran-apple oat muffins. I'm having a sugar high just thinking of all the goodies. The kids and I were also hoping to make homemade pizza for supper. I should be in the kitchen and not at the computer.

The kids have been into this video, Kids Can Dance! It's basically oldies, but goodies, sung by 8-12 year olds. They wear appropriate costumes and dance like mad. I find myself stopping by and joining in on The Twist. Who can resist? And it's a good workout, too. Happily, we have settled into a "school" routine. Grace and Lee have been eager to get their work done so they can play. Today we were done by 10:45 am. Compared to last week when Lee was still doing work at 4:00 pm, today was a blessing (for all of us). They are outside playing in the island, which is just a tree filled area along our driveway in between the reservoir and marsh. They have been building deer blinds down there. Hunting season is all year round at our home.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Try Some Science

Experiment #1 - The Bouncin' Egg

Label two glasses. One for water, the other for vinegar. Place a raw egg in each. Wait a few days to see what happens. Touch the egg shells each day. After about 5 days, drop each egg into a pail (just a couple of inches above the bottome). What happens? Why?

Discuss the effect of an acid on calcium carbonate (shell). The acid dissolves the calcium carbonate. The shell becomes rubbery. Our egg didn't actually bounce, but it was fun all the same. Smell the vinegar. Touch the broken egg shells. How are they different? the same?

Try this with a chicken bone. How long does it take before you can tie the bone in a knot?

Experiment #2 - Rock and Dissolve

Label 3 glasses with water, vinegar (acetic acid), lemon juice (citric acid). Fill each about 1/2 full. Place a piece of chalk (calcium carbonate) in each. Watch for a few minutes. What happens in each glass? Do you see bubbles (gas from the chemical reaction)? What is happening to each piece of chalk? Which one is getting smaller faster? Which of the 3 liquids is an acid? Which is the strongest acid? This is a very quick version of how acid rain works. Acid rains' effect is much slower. How long does it take for all the chalk to dissolve?

Enjoy these experiments. Even the youngest of kids will enjoy these even if they don't understand what is happening.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Kids and Their Big Ideas

About a year ago grandma (my mom) gave the kids a craft idea book. It's one of those books that uses recycled materials like toilet paper tubes, detergent bottles and boxes and pop bottles to create elaborate spider mobiles, Native American dream catchers, binoculars, pretend canteens, etc. Of course, the samples are displayed in full color and most likely were painted in steps over a period of three days by a crafty ADULT who got paid to make all these projects. Lee is my project kid. He begged me to help (completely make) some of the projects last year when he was still 5. He presumed that the grocery bag cowboy vest would look just as good on him as it did in the picture. He was wrong. He was mad. I didn't win the mother of the year award. Fast forward to this year. He is now 6 1/2, understands how pictures can be deceiving and is able, for the most part, to put together these projects making a few modifications based on his abilities. Two weeks ago he cut green construction paper bookmarks and marked about 25 pages of projects to make. I was a little nervous knowing that sometimes frustration gets the best of him when things don't turn out how he imagined, but so far, so good. He's made walkie talkies, moroccas, binoculars, mini basketball game, canteen and a few other forgotten ones. He has been a dream to work with. He's using is problem solving skills, trying out new ways to get to the same end product. His room is full of these toilet paper tube projects, but he is happy and keeping himself engaged. What more could a mom want?

Friday, September 9, 2005

We ended the first full week of "not back to school" school today. Only a few tears were shed by Grace when I asked her to write the words for the numbers 1 - 20. She came to me crying that if they wanted the number eight to sound like "a" they should of just started it with an "a". Well, we got through that and now that she knows how to spell eight, she doesn't remember what all the fuss was even about.

As I peruse blogs lately, I notice a common thread; concern over teaching/learning to read. I am no expert, however, I have taught two of my four children to read so far. As a first time reading teacher, I used Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. We completed all 100 lessons and then went right on to the 20 recommended reading selections along with making the word flashcards. The program worked fine. I do have to say that I think I learned more about reading than did Grace. Being the good student/reader/speller that I am, I took reading for granted and never thought about phonics rules and how they relate to the English language. The 100 lessons did teach me many of the phonics rules that I took for granted and made it very easy for me to forge on without any "real" curriculum to teach reading to my next child, Lee. With Lee I set aside the 100 easy lessons and picked up the Bob Books. We love them! The tiny booklets are the perfect size for pint sized hands. The stories are cute without being stupid and if used in order, Level A - Level C, they offer a good reading start. Slowly many of the phonics "rules" are used, although they are not formally introduced. You need to know the rules so you can point them out to your child. My children and I are also extremely happy with a program called Happy Phonics (which can be purchased through www.lovetolearn.net) The author wrote this program to teach phonics to her 7 or 8 children. The games are simple, fun and easy for a parent to use on a daily basis. Currently we have been playing "The Castle Game", which focuses on hearing the short vowel sounds in words. So far I have found games that are suitable for my 4 year old, 6 1/2 year old and 8 year old. One more book I would recommend checking out from your local library is The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading. This book is similar in style to 100 easy lessons, however, it does not contain all the stupid stories. It is more thorough; it covers more of the phonics rules and I believe helps children sound out words better. It also teaches word families (cat, hat, mat, rat, sat) which I've found very helpful for young readers. Check it out and good luck with your reading adventure!

Friday, September 2, 2005

Creamy Peanut Dessert - aka Peanut Butter Fluff

1 1/2 c. graham cracker crumbs (about 22 squares)
1/2 c. chopped salted peanuts
1/4 c. butter, melted
2 T. peanut butter

Mix together, reserve 1/2 cup for topping. Press remainder in greased 9x13 pan. Refrigerate 30 minutes.

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 c. peanut butter
1/2 c. sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
16 oz. thawed Cool Whip
3-4 Tbsp. chocolate syrup

Beat cream cheese and PB until smooth. Beat in sugar and vanilla. Fold in whipped topping; spoon over crust. Drizzle with chocolate syrup; sprinkle with reserved crumbs. Cover and freeze for up to 3 months (no way can anyone hold out that long). Remove from freezer 15 minutes before serving.

Getting into the Groove

The groove I'm referring to is the fall/school schedule. Grace is officially in 2nd grade. She started off by making an entry in her journal, then on to counting money. I added the half dollar to her repertoire. She's catching on quickly. She read to me from Robinson Crusoe Reader while I made lunch. Lee, who is officially in 1st grade, also started the day by making an entry into his journal. He dictates to me what he wants to write; I write it in light yellow marker leaving out short words that he can sound out and spell himself. He copies over my writing with pencil adding in the easier words himself. Lou will not be left out of the loop. She has a workbook with shapes and letters to trace. She did a few pages and then we played Muffin Match (Lee, Lou and me). Muffin Match is a game from the Happy Phonics program. The game was too simple for Lee, however, he had fun showing Lou how to play and helped her spell her name using the muffin tops. Lee read two Bob Books to me and then we called it a day. All of this took place in about 1 hour 15 minutes. After lunch we played games. I played CountDown with Grace and then with Lee. Grace and Lee played HiHo CherryO with Lou. Lou napped, Grace and Lee watched a couple of cartoon DVD's (grandma saved them from cereal boxes, which made it a special treat). Later Lou helped me make Peanut Butter Fluff, a favorite dessert that turned out to be peanut butter flat because being in a hurry I mixed in the whipped topping before it had thawed. I guess that just doesn't work. Anyways, it still tasted great.

Now that it's fall again, the content of my blog is going to detail our homeschooling days. I will be posting books that we read, science experiments tried and notes on the Happy Phonics games.