Friday, December 17, 2010

Friday, December 3, 2010


I'm so ashamed that I haven't updated this blog since September! It has been such a busy semester.

We have been taking a weekly Spanish class at the home of a local family. The class is great. The teacher uses lots of music and interactive games to get the kids really involved.

We have also been taking a weekly Physical Education class at a gym. The kids have been learning the basics of soccer, basketball and dodgeball. They love this class, even though it's hard for them to keep up with the older kids sometimes.

At home, we've been studying American history. Thing One has been learning about punctuation, alphabetization, addition in columns and place value, and practicing his writing. He has been learning some basic report writing skills, and basic research skills. In his free time, he loves to draw comic books and read, read, read. And his favorite privilege is playing video games on the computer, Wii, or dad's Ipod.

Thing Two has been absorbing alphabet letters and numbers at a rate that is sometimes disturbing (in a good way). He loves to practice writing on paper, and also in the air, making nice little sounds to go along with it. Reminds me of Victor Borge's classic act. Perhaps he's a kinesthetic learner?

We have had many great field trips. The most exciting were St. Mary's City Homeschool Day and Mount Vernon Homeschool Day. We enjoyed an art class at The American Visionary Art Museum, and a science class at The National Aquarium where we met the new octopus.

Type A Homschooling Mom

Wow, an article that I can totally relate to. This lady and I have a lot in common.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Pet Problem

Not a usual school problem...the cat keeps sitting on the workbook! We had a good laugh over this one.

Monday, August 16, 2010

First Day of School

Wow! Where did the summer go? Trip to Louisiana to see friends and family, and attend my husband's 20th high school reunion. Two weeks of ice skating camp. Lots of long drowsy days reading and playing outside.

I've been working for weeks preparing curriculum for this upcoming school year. I decided on an overarching theme of "America", and we'll be doing units chronologically until January, when we'll start more "fun" units like baseball and apple pie.

New for this year: No TV until 3pm each day. Mom's been getting up at 6am to try and exercise and have a bit of quiet time to prep each day. Thing Two has his own set of four workboxes (he''ll be four in November). We'll be having "Triangle Time" each day (there are three of us so it makes more sense than "cirlce time") which will include some basic calisthenics. I have the day basically scheduled with school in the mornings and free afternoons. There's no more napping in our house, so afternoons are better now for errands, playdates, read aloud time, etc.

I don't know how moms of large families do it. I feel exhausted from prep work, and it's our first day! The kids aren't even awake yet!

Monday, May 3, 2010

End of Year Review

The purpose of this form is to help you create a record of the year’s learning experiences for each child in preparation for completing the Comar 05 laws. This form will also become part of your child’s confidential MPNL Record. Reviewing the year is a valuable activity that contributes to a family’s sense of pride in their accomplishments.

Child’s Name: Thing One Date: 4/30/10 Grade K

Use the spaces below and highlighting the educational resources, material, and curriculum your child has used throughout out the school year. Include valuable information such as filed trips, lesson plans, unit studies, travels and other experiences. Check your calendar; many dates and experiences it will be marked on you calendar and jog your memory. Feel free to attach your own pages and add to this review form.

'Demonstrated Skills' is just a list with headings on it for each subject they've covered, and as the children do something that comes under one of these heading, you write it down. You can write down knowledge they show about a topic of conversation, math skills they use while buying toys and shopping, 'PE' stuff they do while playing, etc.

'Resources Used' list has the same subject headings as the Demonstrated Skills list. Write down the educational resources used; reading/library books, books on tape, movies, radio programs, field trips, people they have discussions with, web sites, subscriptions, newspaper and computer, and whatever else you come across in life that gives them exposure to learning. You can even make note of the grade level of subject especially different then actual grade.

English: Demonstrated Skills: reads aloud and silently (both well above grade level), copies words, alphabetizes by first letter of a word; very good verbal descriptive skills and very good vocabulary; tells stories; word search puzzles
Resources Used: Moving Beyond the Page curriculum; reading websites, poems, library books, audio books, personal library
audio books

Mathematics: Demonstrated Skills: counting to 1000, adds and subtracts small numbers, skip counts by fives and tens, reads simple charts and graphs, recognizes shapes, draws shapes, finds the odd one out, matches, decodes simple codes from a key, recognizes hours and half hours on a clock, recognizes coins
Resources Used: Moving Beyond the Page, Calvert Math K and 1st, counting rods, Anno’s Math Games, jigsaw puzzles, mazes, Sudoku puzzles, code puzzles, geoboards, parquetry blocks, tangrams

Science: Demonstrated Skills: simple experiments, gardening, pronounces and memorizes complicated names (dinosaurs, etc), observation, compare and contrast, classification
Resources used: Moving Beyond the Page, nature study, videos, magnifying glass, rock collection, library books for unit studies: sharks and rays, early life, dinosaurs, panda bears, scorpions, ocean life, Chesapeake Bay, rocks, plants, airplanes, ships, Earth day, human body, fish, simple machines, spring, fungi, science songs music cd

Social Studies/History/Culture: Demonstrated skills: identifies some continents on map, identifies some states on US map, identifies hometown, identifies our street, simple map skills, identifies community helpers
Resources used: playdates, field trips, Moving Beyond the Page, Story of the World, Vols. 1-2 including activity books, Maps, globe, atlases, landmark flashcards, library books for Unit studies: Egypt, Knights, Samurai, China and Japan, Nomads, Early Humans, Africa, holidays

Art/Music: Demonstrated skills: drawing, painting, cutting, gluing, drawing from observation, sewing straight line on striped fabric with sewing machine with supervision
Resources used: lapbook templates, crayons, markers, chalks, paint, clay, play-doh, sewing machine, craft supplies

Music: Demonstrated skills: keeping rhythm, identifying songs or musicians or composers by listening, singing, memorizing song lyrics, play Mary Had a Little Lamb on the piano, find middle C on the piano
Resources used: piano, guitar, keyboard, Usborne First Book of Piano, music CDs as part of unit studies, Classical Kids story/music CDs, Wii Guitar Hero

Physical Education/Health: Demonstrated skills: running, standing on one foot, skipping, jumping, climbing, riding a scooter, riding a bicycle, roller skating, hyper-dash game, dancing, swimming, nature hikes, Wii sports, Wii Fit, yoga

Foreign Language: Demonstrated Skills: counts to ten in Spanish, recognizes a few colors in Spanish, recites a few Spanish vocabulary words
Resources Used: Dora and Diego books and videos, Spanish matching card game, Spanish Bingo, websites

Field trips educational outings: College Park Aviation Museum, Patuxent National Wildlife Refuge Visitor’s Center, National Gallery of Art, Belair Mansion Museum, Belair Stable Museum, Patuxent River Naval Air Museum, Goddard Space Flight Center, Smithsonian Natural History Museum, Smithsonian American History Museum, The Nutcracker ballet, Marching Through Time Living History, Baltimore Aquarium, circus, Chesapeake Childrens’ Museum, Watkins Park nature center, Clearwater Nature Center Anne Arundel County Fair, Prince George’s County Fair, Sheep and Wool Festival

Please use any of the next spaces for subject headings not listed or a separate sheet of paper if you feel the need to add additional related information about your homeschooling. (Special Needs, Technology Classes, Community Colleges, apprenticeship classes, awards, honors, merits, certificates, trophies, community service etc.)

2 First place ribbons at Prince George’s County Fair for a papier mache sculpture and a painting.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Summer Plans

If you are a homeschooling family, do you continue to do school year-round? Last year, we did school through the summer. Until about a week ago, I'd been assuming I would be doing it again this summer. But I'm starting to think we will take a break, starting with our week long trip to Louisiana, and starting up again sometime in August when we're all bored out of our minds.

I'm sure we'll still do lots of interesting things with educational value. It just won't be so structured. To be honest, our structure has been slipping toward the end of the school year, so it won't be much of a transition. Here are some things I want to pursue over the summer.

Nature Study with Journals
Local Travel
Cooking Lessons
Sewing Lessons
Video Animation
Scrapbooking (this past year of school)
Sports, especially bicycle riding

The usual things will be laying around the house for free use:
Art and Craft Supplies

I still feel the need to limit screen time. It's my big roadblock to unschooling. I have this kneejerk reaction to letting my kids have unlimited screen (tv/video games/computer) time. I have definitely seen the advantages. Thing One learned to read on the Wii because he got tired of having to depend on us to read the instructions to him. He has learned a lot of his basic arithmetic from Leapster games. But his attitude gets very disrespectful, his behavior toward other kids gets more aggressive the more time he spends in front of a screen. So I'm thinking I'll give Thing One (age 6.5) 2 hours per day for total screen time. Thing Two (age 3.5) will get 1 hour. At least, that's the plan.

I love our neighborhood when the weather outside is nice. All the neighborhood kids come outside and play together. Thing One is relating to the older kids (ages 8+) in new ways and I have the feeling this summer will be alot about forming new relationships for him.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

How to Make a Lightbox

Do you have a drop-leaf dining table? If so, you can easily make it into a temporary light table.

1. Remove the leaf.

2. Place a piece of glass or plexiglass where the leaf was. If you are going to be using it alot, consider getting a piece of plexiglass cut to the size of your leaf.

3. Place a lamp under the glass or plexi, with the bulb pointing up toward the ceiling.

4. Trace away!

5. For a smaller project, you can tape your items to a well-lit window for the same effect.

I heard this tip from another quilter. I used my lightbox to trace patterns onto black background fabric for an appliqued quilt.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Quilting Tattoos

I have seen these popping up alot lately. I'm not really a tattoo kind of gal, but even I'm starting to think a smallish one would be neat and fun.

I love Karen McTavish's feathers.

Here's a whole batch on flickr.

But here's my favorite, one I could actually see myself getting.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Today I...

Made two books for the boys to make "cookbooks"
Prepared breakfast, lunch and two snacks for three of us
Washed the rugs
Cleaned the upstairs bathroom
Did a half-hour workout video that involved JOGGING and it felt good
got myself and two kids dressed and teeth brushed
went to the library
balanced the checkbook
paid the bills
remembered the vitamins
washed the dishes
swept the kitchen floor
closed a credit card account and cut up the card (that felt really good)
read at least 50 pages aloud
made a bed
dusted while talking to my mom on the phone
put away six dirty socks that weren't even mine
helped a six year old with some school worksheets and helped him make a smoothie(he's obsessed with a blender cookbook)
watched tv
played horsie
gave about a zillion hugs and kisses
played a bit of bejeweled
checked email
researched toilets
found some ham recipes for leftovers
read my book

...and I even blogged!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Classical Music Week

Thing One picked the theme "Tchaikovsky", and momma expanded it a bit to cover classical music in general. We are learning about orchestral instruments and a bit about the science of sound.

We found a neat book at the library. It's a great survey of classical music in general. It covers each era, then each instrument in the orchestra. The accompanying CD has nice, short, well-chosen samples for each era and each instrument. It's called The Story of the Orchestra by Robert Levine.

We listened to tons of music of course. Our favorite fun cds are Beethoven's Wig I and II. I found some great online lessons at the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's website.

Here are some other neat online music links.

Sphinx Kids

Creating Music

Funschool's Boomthang

We practiced clapping rhythm along with simple songs. It's also fun to make up verses to songs like Old MacDonald had a Farm, and Down by the Bay. We also found the echo spot in our stairwell.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Africa Week

Thing One and I made a list of topics he wants to study more so I could put together some unit studies. One of the things he chose at random was "South Africa." I broadened this to include all of Africa and it ended up being a really fun weekly theme!

We studied African animals, focusing on elephants, lions, and giraffes. We talked a bit about primates, too. Movies we watched were The Lion King and Elephant Tales. We made some foam animals from a kit I had (elephant and lion). We learned "elephant breath" and a "lion stretch" during yoga time. Our yoga pretzels deck was helpful with this. My kids aren't too interested in the kids' yoga videos we have, but they adore these cards!

We listened to a ton of African music cds from the library. We also listened to Uncle Remus (Brer Rabbit) stories. We discussed what makes a folk tale special, and we read a bunch of African folk tales. The Anansi tales were the favorites.

We discussed basic African geography, and talked about the seven continents. We considered how different parts of Africa are from each other. We revisisted the savannah, desert and forest habitats. We read a book about students in different parts of Africa, and how they are similar to us in some ways and different in others.

We looked at some African art and some masks. We practiced drawing faces and masks. We made a mancala game with an egg carton and some beads.

We ate chicken peanut stew, and couscous with almonds and currants (both big hits).

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Mushroom Week!

I really wanted to blog about our mushroom theme this week because, in preparation, I had a hard time finding ideas for the theme online. I'm happy to share what I prepared!

We are reading tons of books about mushrooms and fungi and mold and yeast.

We are also studying scientific classification (taxonomy) this week. I highly recommend the book Tree of Life: The Incredible Biodiversity of Life on Earth by Rochelle Strauss. I presents these ideas in an easy to understand way, with beautiful illustrations. We played a classification game. I had Thing One collect ten random things from around the house. We observed each one, then discussed all the different ways we could categorize them (size, color, what they're made from, their use, etc). We discussed the five kingdoms, and then specifically the fungi kingdom.

We went on a mushroom hunt. Because there is a ton of snow on the ground here, and no mushrooms to be found on a walk in the woods this time of year here, we hunted at our grocery store. We bought button mushrooms, baby and large portabellos, dried chanterelles, oysters, and shiitakes. We examined one of each kind of mushrooms, discussing their structure. We touched, smelled and tasted. We made drawings in our science journal. We looked at them through a magnifying glass and also our bionic eye. Thing One had fun watching the chanterelles rehydrate. Then we made crockpot mushroom soup. Our menu this week also contains beef stroganoff with mushrooms, mushroom pizza, and stuffed button mushroom caps.

For the three year old Thing Two, he colored a "M is for mushroom" page, and then made mushroom prints. We cut a button mushroom in half, dipped it in paint and pressed it onto paper. We may try making spore prints later this week.

We started our mold experiment by placing several food items and a damp paper towel in a plastic lidded container to see what grows in the next few days.

We will be baking bread to discuss yeast, and also doing the classic yeast and sugar water in a bottle with a balloon on top experiment later this week.

We are discussing all the helpful aspects of kingdom fungi, and all the not so helpful aspects.

We're watching Alice in Wonderland and Fantasia, since both feature mushrooms prominently.

We are going to discuss fairy rings and do an accompanying coloring page.

For fun, we're reading The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet, and Stowaway to the Mushroom Planet by Eleanor Cameron. We're also reading Mushroom in the Rain by Mirra Ginsburg, a great book for the preschool set.

Winter Olympics Theme

Last week we did a simple Olympics theme. I cobbled together enough lapbook resources from various free websites, including the Olympic symbol and oath, a chart for tracking medals and some coloring pages of sports that Thing One was unfamiliar with. He chose Poland as his country to focus on. We looked at its geography, he colored its flag, and we are tracking their medals on our chart. We even ate pierogies and polish sausage last week!

We also studied the origins of the Olympics. We used Story of the World Vol. 1 and the accompanying activity book to learn about the ancient Greeks. We located Greece on the map. We wrote our names with Greek letters.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Knights Week

We have been studying knights for a couple of weeks. It has been a ton of fun! We played lots of dress up.

We played with some knight and castle toys.

We made a knight lapbook with resources from

For thing two, who is three, we have been talking a lot about heroes. He's been dressing up a lot, especially as batman, spiderman, and a knight. I made him some simple masks out of a sheet of foam with some holes poked in the sides, and some elastic string. He wears a mask, a cape (his blankie secured with a clothespin), and his "leg guards" (kneepads) everywhere. And I do mean everywhere.

We talked about the code of chivalry, and why knights fight. We talked about how they start training at a very young age so they could be good fighters, and why boys nowadays don't train in fighting in the same way. We talked about why mom and dad don't encourage the fighting behaviors that used to be so important.

Recent Work

These are two quilt tops I put together from two large panda bear panels, to donate to charity through my quilting guild. They sat around for months because I couldn't quite figure out how to put them together. With some input from a friend, and determination to get them done and out of my house, they are finished! They will go to the community quilts committee for quilting and binding.

Winter Bulbs

One of my most favorite things to do in the fall is to plant indoor winter bulbs like narcissus (paperwhites) and amaryllis. They are great for kids to help with because they are super simple to plant, and they grow really quickly. Within four to eight weeks they will be in full bloom! And you can stick them in a closet for a few months of dark, then replant them in fresh soil and they will come up again!