Thursday, December 29, 2011

Science the Magic School Bus Way!

Hello Friends!

Just wanted to pass along an offer for 50% off The Magic School Bus Science Club being offered at The Homeschool Buyers Co-op (free to join!). 

I'll admit to not keeping up with a regular Science curriculum this year, so I'm looking forward to start this new curriculum!

Here is a brief description of the program:

Join Ms. Frizzle and her students on The Magic School Bus each month in exploring one of twelve different science topics through hands-on experiments. Developed by a team of Harvard graduates, scientists, and educators, the award-winning kits will help your young scientist experience science in a fun and engaging manner.
Every month, you'll receive a science kit with a colorful lesson manual and supplies for children ages 5 to 12 to explore one new educational topic. The topics are: Acids/Bases, Air, Bacteria/Fungi, Fossils, Human Body, Light/Rainbows and Mirrors, Magnets, Solids/Liquids/Gases, Stars/Planets, Volcanoes, Water, and Weather Station.

As I have yet to try the program, I do not have a review but will be sure to post one as the units start arriving!  The deal ends on December 31st!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The BEST gift you can give your child this Christmas!

I've mentioned before that since my kids don't watch television, they do not ask for things.  They are actually confused when people ask what they want for Christmas and say things like: a doll and candy canes.  We don't do the whole look in a catalog and circle what you want thing.  They play so nicely with what they already have (which is a lot...mostly hand me downs and birthday gifts) that they truly don't need another single toy! 

Now, I'm not so extreme that I don't buy my girls anything for Christmas, but instead we buy them one or two gifts.  This year they both got a doll and a book.  Sofia got the Little House on the Prairie paper doll book and Maya got the second Where's Waldo book.  Emmy, our little girl, got an inflatable toy she can throw around the house without breaking things! All their gifts cost less than $100. And they will be perfectly happy on Christmas.

To me, it seems out of control.  Parents spending hundreds per child on Christmas, ridiculously long Christmas gift lists, and the overall sense of entitlement we are teaching our children.  I'm pretty sure I won't be getting $500 worth of gifts for Christmas, so why would I teach my kids to start to expect that sort of gift flow?

I get it, that it feels good for parents to give children wonderful and bountiful gifts!  The problem is, that the satisfaction (for both parents and children) is fleeting.  In a couple months those hundreds of dollars of toys and games will end up in piles on your kids' floor and you'll be yelling at them to tidy them up!

Instead, I'm trying hard to give my kids the BEST gift this Christmas...the gift of a servants heart.

We have been focusing this season on how we can help others who are in need.  I think it has really helped the girls (and myself!) realize how MUCH we really have and how little we need compared to most people in the world!

The girls and I participated in Samaritans Purse through our MOPS group.  We packed two shoeboxes full of items for a child in need.  It was an eye-opening experience for the girls to go to Target and pick out things for our boxes.  Sofia thought that a Leapster would be a good gift and was shocked to find out that where these boxes were going there was no electricity or even batteries!  While we picked out things like toothbrushes and crayons, the girls learned how things they take for granted were treasures to other children!  With a small donation, you can track your boxes...ours ended up in Jordan and Honduras!

Our homeschooling group has been making scarves and hats for a mission that helps the poor in our area.  Using a loom, Sofia has been able to help me knit several scarves!  I will blog about how to do this in a later post because I'm so surprised that a 5 year old can learn it!  It is super easy and whips out a scarf in only a few hours.

Finally, the girls and I have been making "Get Well Soon" cards for a local boy who has cancer.  His Christmas wish was to receive 1000 cards!  If you are interested in sending Joey a card to help him achieve what is expected to be his last Christmas wish, please email me and I will send you the contact information.

Making our Get Well Soon Joey cards!

In these last few days before Christmas, forget about that last toy on their list, it's not too late to make this season what it really is meant to be...a celebration of the birth of Jesus!  Jesus can be found in many places this Christmas season....I'm just pretty sure it's not at Toys R' Us.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Planning the Homeschool Day

Homeschooling is efficient.

There is no waiting in line, no time wasted going from class to class, no sitting through attendance roll call....the list can go on and on.

It's the reason that homeschooling takes a fraction of the time to complete as traditional school.

People are often surprised that homeschooling Kindergarten takes us only a couple hours a day since public school counterparts are in classrooms for 6 hours a day!

We have recently completed our 12th week of homeschooling (that's 1/3 of the school year already!).  We continue to spend about 2-3 hours a day doing "official" homeschooling material...usually it's closer to 2 hours. 

I schedule my week using the Seton Day Planner.  Recommended to me by a friend, it is my favorite planning resource for homeschooling by far!  We use Sonlight curriculum and it is well planned out, but for me, I like to have everything scheduled on one page that I can write on, erase and check off.  Actually, the checking off is my favorite part ;)

After breakfast we all clean up the kitchen area and clear off the table to get ready for the school day.  The older girls can load their breakfast dishes into the dishwasher and then play with the baby while I complete the cleaning.  We are usually good to go by 8:15ish in the morning.

We start with our religion lesson.  We read a few pages of the Children's Bible every day and this is something the whole family participates in.  Emmy sits on my lap and Sofia and Maya sit close so they can see the pictures!  We are also reading Leading the Little ones to Mary and going through the Seton Kindergarten Catechism.   This takes about 10 minutes.

Sofia then starts on some independent work such as her handwriting pages from My Printing Book, and her phonics lessons from Explode the Code 4 and Modern Curriculum Press Phonics Book B.  Depending on the day and Sofia's level of cooperation, this can take 15-30 minutes to complete.

By this time, the baby is ready for her nap and we get a chance to do some one on one learning.  We usually start with her math program which is currently RightStart A.  Time is about 20 minutes including games.

Then we move to All About Spelling (AAS) Level 1 which takes about 15 minutes.  We do this in a different part of the house then the rest of the schoolwork.  This breaks up the time we are sitting in the same area and keeps the girls from getting bored.

History is the part of the day that can either take 15 minutes or an hour depending on how interested they are in the subject!  Today we learned about Pioneers and we spent a lot of time on it.  My girls are in love with Little House on the Prairie books so they wanted to know EVERYTHING about them! 

Read-aloud books are books that all the kids enjoy!  Even Emmy likes reading from our poetry book and Mother Goose book!  Actually, the poetry book included in the Sonlight package The Llama who had no Pajamas is one of my all time favorite poetry books!  It would make an excellent Christmas gift for kids!  The longer chapter books, I read to Sofia before naptime in the afternoon.  Read-aloud time takes about 15 minutes.

The rest of the day is spent going on field trips, doing crafts, playing outside, building forts, playing with siblings and just being kids!

Kindergarten doesn't have to be 6 hours a day away from home!  Our day is really relaxed and we get so much done in just one morning.  Look at the smiles on those could I separate them for 6 hours a day?!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

What comes after "Teach Your Child to read in 100 Easy Lessons?"

"What do I use after "Teach Your Child to read in 100 Easy Lessons?"

This is exactly the phrase I googled after we finished the book I raved about here.  The program "Teach Your Child to read in 100 easy lessons" (TYCTR) is so good that it literally has your child reading at about a first or second grade reading level at the end.  The problem is what to do after finishing the program.  Since we finished this book before we officially started Kindergarten I wanted something to solidify what she had learned and to help her fluency in reading.

Actually, at the end of the book TYCTR it suggests a list of books to have your child read to build up their reading skill.  Unfortunately for me, I didn't trust it...I needed a concrete program to tell me that I was correctly teaching my child to read!

In the time I was researching programs to spin off of the book TYCTR, Sofia began searching out books on her own to read.  She started with the easy board books we already had, then she began reading her High Five and Big Backyard magazines, and then...the sky was the limit!

Huh? Reading can be taught by just....reading?  This sounds painfully obvious to me now but I sympathize with any fist time homeschooler finishing that book and looking for the....what now?

So, here is what I did:

1.  Explode the Code Books 1,2,3

 Soon after finishing TYCTR, I purchased Explode the Code Book 1.  It is a workbook with black and white pages.  It teaches a systemic approach to phonics, reading and spelling. Each lesson builds on the next and the lessons all follow a similar format.  This similar format is wonderful because after teaching Sofia how to do the first few pages, she was able to do the workbooks independenlty (read: I have time for the other kids during this workbook time...priceless!)  Sofia has completed the first three books of the series and we are currently on the fourth book.  It has gotten to the point where she groans a bit when we have to sit down for this workbook time because by book 4 there is a lot more writing (words are longer.)  I think this is an amazing program, however, and I would highly highly recommend it.  Since we needed a little bit of a break with this program we have been trying out:

2.  MCP Plaid Phonics 

"Plaid Phonics" is a program I learned about from my fellow homeschooling friends. It is a colorful workbook with pages you can tear out.  We have started with Book B and we use this workbook 1-2 times a week alternating with Explode the Code Book 4.  MCP phonics includes word analysis, reading comprehension and creative writing.  In addition to it's lessons, it has fun activities at times like crossword puzzles and tear-out books.  For me, I don't see the logical progression of phonics like I do in Explode the Code...but Sofia really enjoys it!  I tear out two pages at a time for her to do and she can complete them pretty independently aside from the creative writing portion of it.  There are some pages that I have skipped because they seemed confusing even for me (i.e. What is the middle sound of the word given only a picture of the object to be named).  

This is a program that I purchased a while ago after reading what seemed like a million positive reviews!  It was a program that I had never seen or met anyone that had used it.  The continuous talk about it on forums, however, was enough to get my attention.  When I purchased this spelling program, it looked overwhelming...flash cards, phonegrams, magnetic letters, large white board, no scheduled lesson plan, ahhhhhh! 

In the last few weeks I have pulled it out and boy I wish I had done it earlier!!!!! This program is awesome, I mean really awesome!  It seems to be the program that has really brought together all the phonetic awareness learned in TYCTR and the sequential word building in the Explode the Code Books.  The thing with this program is....I don't hear groans when I pull it out.  Sofia loves this!! Even her 2 year old sister looks on for these lessons!  She is not working in a workbook, instead she builds words with magnetic letters, she writes them on a big wipe away board, she reviews letter sounds and gets to put STICKERS on a chart to show her progress!  Anyone with a little girl will understand the magic stickers have in motivation!  I will dedicate an entire post to talking about this program in the meantime...check out the website!

Phew! That was a long one...hope it helps anyone out there who has completed TYCTR successfully!  I continue to sing praises for that book...I really think it made a huge difference in Sofia's reading and spelling since it taught phonics so early.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Why Horizons Math isn't working for us...

A benefit of homeschooling is that you can tailor curriculum to best fit your child.  If something isn't working then it is pretty easy to switch things up (easy theoretically, not always financially!)  In our homeschool it has happened already with the math program we chose, Horizons.

I chose Horizons because it was recommended by Sonlight for first time homeschoolers.  It also had very high reviews in almost every forum I visited.  When I looked at sample pages, I liked what I saw: self-directed problems, spiral approach, colorful workbook to keep kids engaged, lots of manipulatives and it was organized well.  Actually, I really loved the fact that it taught math the way I learned it.

And that was the problem.

Although I was very strong in math in school it was not because I understood it, it was because I was good at remembering how to solve a particular type of problem.  To this day, I can not do mental math, I tediously have to count everything out.  

Initially, I thought Horizons was working very well for my daughter.  She loves doing math and often asks to do more than one lesson at a time (lessons are one page front and back).  We got up to lesson 54 when I really started noticing that when she was adding numbers on a number line, she had no clue what  addition really was, she just taught herself how to look at the problem and figure out what numbers had to be plugged in!  The apple doesn't fall far from the tree :)

Looking at the above snapshot of her math workbook is pretty impressive for a Kindergartener huh?  But, if you ask my daughter what 2 + 3 is, she would not be able to do it without counting each number out (one, two plus one, two, three is one, two, three, four, five....even if she was holding all five fingers out.)  You can see how this logic can not work for numbers above ten (unless she used her toes I guess.) 

I thought that I would love all the manipulatives. 

I don't.

In fact, they do not seem to fit in at all with the lessons.  They are awkward and don't really help solidify what has been taught.  We did use the flash cards a couple of times to learn the names of two digit numbers but besides that, we have not found a use for them at all.

Fortunately, we bought the program through Sonlight which has amazing customer service (my husband called the office and said the person he spoke to was as friendly as Michelle Duggar!)  Since we bought the program less than 6 months ago, we are eligible to return it for a full refund!  Now, I'm not sure if we will get all our money back from the workbooks since we are already on lesson 55, but I will update when I get more information on that.  You can't ask for a better guarantee than that!

We have ordered Rightstart level A to try for math.  It has a 60 day guarantee for refund.  Many of my friends use this program and love it, so I hope I will as well.  It seems more parent-involved then Horizons did, but since school seems to go by so quickly here, maybe Sofia will do well with some more one on one with mom. 

 I'm looking forward to trying this math program.  It uses an abacus to teach groupings into 5s and avoids counting strategies.  One of the beauties of homeschooling is that you literally get to learn alongside your children....who knows, maybe this will be the math program that will finally get me to stop counting on my fingers (and toes!)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Praying with Frank Kelly

This is Frank Kelly.

He is a Catholic, a healer and no undoubtedly a man who has a message to share.

My family met him yesterday at a healing mass in our area.  I had heard about him briefly in an email sent by the Catholic homeschool group I belong to.  I planned to go see him last week, but my youngest girl was sick, my kids were cranky and my husband was working late.  So, I decided to stay home instead.

Over the weekend, close friends of ours said they were planning to see Frank Kelly on Monday!  Although it was farther away from our home than the original church I was going to see him at, I jumped at the chance to take my family.  Something told me that we should all go. 

The service consisted of a mass which was difficult for my kids to sit through because it started at 7pm, was cold and had no music for them to sing along with!  I was back and forth between bathrooms, our pew, and the back of the church trying to keep my youngest kids from reaching complete meltdown.

I almost left.  I was not feeling peaceful, I was tired, my arms and back ached from holding my squirmy baby and I was beginning to think that we had made a mistake in coming to a service so late in the evening with the kids.

But, just I was ready to pack it up, Frank Kelly walked up to the altar.  Upon first glance, I thought he worked at the church.  He did not look like any speaker or healer I had ever met!  Although he looked like any ordinary person...what he had to say was not ordinary in the least.

He shared his story with the parish.  He was born into a devout Catholic family and his mother frequently prayed to the saints.  In 1985, he was electrocuted in a workplace injury and was expected to die.  He prayed to Padre Pio and says he saw him appear in his hospital room.  In the years to come, he also had an apparition of Jesus.  You can read about him at his website Frank Kelly Ministry.

When our family came up to him, he asked only our names.  He rested his hands on each one of our heads one at a time and then looked us in the eye and told us who our patron saints were.  He also told us about things we were praying for and things we were worried about.  He also prayed over us.  He spoke so quickly that he had someone write down our saints while he spoke.
St. Frances of Rome
The things he said to our family were pretty spot on.  He gave us each our patron saints and a novena to pray to each of them.  My saints are: St Teresa Avila, St. Francis de Sales and St. Frances of Rome.  I'll admit to having to google a couple of them last night!  My girls each got a saint as well and one for the three of them together.

Sofia was particularly excited to find out about her special saint, St. Cecilia.  She prayed for her intercession last night and tonight she asked to include all the family's saints in her prayers.  Perfect! 

I just love that we have a crowd of people in heaven cheering us on!  I know Catholics get accused of worshiping saints but to me that is ridiculous!  It is the same practice as asking fellow Christians to "pray for us".  As Catholics we do the same thing to our saints in heaven. 

When I feel lonely in my beliefs, or challenged at times at my calling as a Catholic mother...I need to remember that I'm not alone in this!  The saints have walked our paths, they have met our challenges and they have made it through.  It's not impossible.

What Frank Kelly told my family was pretty accurate.  I felt a sense of peace after meeting him.  I love how my children are excited about prayer and are learning about their "friends" in heaven that they will get to meet one day.  I'm thankful for the reminder he gave that to be healed of anything, you have to first give everything over to God.  I'm super glad that my children made it through the 2 hour service without a major meltdown in sight....and that my friends, is a miracle indeed!

Our blessed saints in heaven...pray for us!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Is worry a waste?

I worry.

A lot.

I've done it since I was a child.  I used to worry about my younger sister.  I used to worry she wouldn't have her homework done, she would be late for class, she would get sick and the list went on and on. When my parents got divorced, I worried that my Dad might forget us and that my Mom would remarry.

It used to seem insurmountable, my worry.  It seemed like the more I love someone...the more I worry about them.  Believe it or not, but I was so nervous getting a dog as a child because I was worried about how worried I would be about it!

I used to think that this was a major flaw that only I had.  I could not wrap my mind around other people feeling this way.

But I was wrong.

When speaking to a group of other mothers recently, I realized that each and every one of these mothers worried.   Some worried about husbands, others health or jobs, but what we ALL had in common was a worry for our children.  Moreover, what we all shared was the belief that our worrying was a problem.

...the more I love someone...the more I worry about them...

This is why I think I'm OK with worrying about my children (or my sister, or my husband....).  These are the people I love, these are people whose lives I have a role in shaping, these are the people who's happiness is important to me.  As a Catholic mother, I have the added responsibility to help these people get to heaven.  No small feat.  

So I worry.

But I also pray.

And this is why my worries don't overcome me.  The more I love someone, the more I worry for them...the more I worry for someone, the more I pray for them too.  I like to think of my worry as God tapping me on the shoulder reminding me that the things I worry about I often have no control over.  And it's in this lack of control that I need Him.

So today, fellow mothers, when you worry about your children (your husband, your sister...) take a moment and pray for them.  And while you're at it, thank God that you are blessed enough to be given people that you can worry about. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Kids with allergies

This swollen, puffy girl is my eldest daughter Sofia.  This picture was taken 14 hours after being exposed to peanuts.  This is after multiple doses of Benadryl.

Sofia didn't eat anything with peanut in it.  She got a kiss and a hug from a friend who ate peanut products before seeing her.  It was an honest mistake and the person who kissed and hugged her feels very bad.

We noticed a few hives before dinner after our friend left (we didn't think anything of it, since random hives are not a new thing to us).  At this point we did not know our friend had eaten peanut butter and kissed her.  So we gave her a dose of Benadryl and she was fine.  She went to bed a couple hours later without a problem.  In the morning she woke up and her face, her lips, her ears, her EYELIDS...everything was completely swollen.  Her hands were even swollen!  We took her in right away and after 24 hours of Benadryl and a steroid prescription, she is better.

How scary, right?  

But what scares me even more than this reaction is that there are people who still think that making accommodations for  children with allergies is an annoyance.

When the school year started, I read several threads on facebook that went along the lines of:

"These allergies are getting out of hand, soon my kids won't be able to eat anything at school"
"These kids with allergies should just sit at different tables"
"My kids only eat peanut butter sandwiches for lunch"

I couldn't stop thinking about these mothers.  Is it possible that they would rather make life easier for themselves than to keep my baby girl safe?  Sitting at a different table wouldn't have helped Sofia in this weekend's situation.  We are lucky we homeschool, I can control what comes into our home and if she does have an allergy, I am right there.  But there are millions of other children who go to public school...what do they do then?  

Every mother knows the fierce protectiveness they feel for their children if they were being hurt. For me, I felt it the second I held my Sofia in my arms.  When I hear about a child being abused, hurt, abducted or heart hurts, because I immediately think about my own children. My heart hurts as well, when I think that a fellow mother would not want to protect my child from death.  Yes, peanut allergies can be deadly.

If you know you will be in contact with a child with allergies, make accommodations.  Make your child's sandwich with Sunbutter or any other peanut alternative, bring fruit as a snack instead of snacks from peanut factories, brush your child's teeth after eating peanut products.  Let your child see you making these accomadations!  You have a chance to teach your child to be a HERO!  

A beautiful thing has come out of my daughter's allergies.  We have witnessed young children truly care for Sofia's health.  Mothers from Sofia's preschool would always come up to me and tell me that their child would remind them to keep Sofia safe!  A friend of mine had pretzel M&Ms out on the table when Sofia was over (they look the same size as peanut ones) and each one of her three kids asked her to take them away because they thought they were peanuts!

What a lesson to learn!  We are all responsible for each other.  Kids GET the rest of us have to get on board!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Gospel in a Nutshell -The two call rule.

Matthew 22: 1-14
Jesus again in reply spoke to the chief priests and elders of the people
in parables, saying,
"The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king
who gave a wedding feast for his son.
He dispatched his servants
to summon the invited guests to the feast,
but they refused to come.
A second time he sent other servants, saying,
"Tell those invited: "Behold, I have prepared my banquet,
my calves and fattened cattle are killed,
and everything is ready; come to the feast."'
Some ignored the invitation and went away,
one to his farm, another to his business.
The rest laid hold of his servants,
mistreated them, and killed them.
The king was enraged and sent his troops,
destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.
Then he said to his servants, 'The feast is ready,
but those who were invited were not worthy to come.
Go out, therefore, into the main roads
and invite to the feast whomever you find.'
The servants went out into the streets
and gathered all they found, bad and good alike,
and the hall was filled with guests.
But when the king came in to meet the guests,
he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment.
The king said to him, 'My friend, how is it
that you came in here without a wedding garment?'
But he was reduced to silence.
Then the king said to his attendants, 'Bind his hands and feet,
and cast him into the darkness outside,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.'
Many are invited, but few are chosen."
My husband has a rule about calling people back after they have failed to return his call.  After calling someone once and leaving a message, he calls only one more time before leaving it in the other person's court.  Recently, I thought I had to use the two call rule for one of my friends.

I have a great friend who is like family to me.  Although we do not speak that often, when we do it's like no time has passed.  Everyone knows that kind of friend, right?  Well, I called this friend the other day and left a message.  I got no call back.  I called a second time and left a message.  Still no call back.  I was getting upset...I replayed our last conversation, I tried to remember things I may have posted on this blog or on facebook that could have offended this friend...but I could think of nothing.  Now, my husband said that his two call rule should take into effect now or else I would be a stalker.

In one final attempt (yup, I broke the two call rule)...I sent my friend a message asking bluntly what was wrong and why was I being ignored.  Thank goodness I did because the friend said that nothing was wrong, and had just been behind on returning calls.  We got together that week and once again, things are as they should be!

In today's gospel the king in the parable is inviting people to his son's wedding...but no one is responding.  The gospel describes his anger, his frustration, and his scorn.  Hmm, it seems like no one likes being rejected repeatedly.

Jesus invites us constantly to his feast!  When we don't respond because we're too busy, or don't like the church we go to, or find it too hard to concentrate on praying with kids screaming around....He doesn't stop inviting us.  We are too precious for Him to give up on.  Just as I was so upset at my friend not returning my calls, and the king in the parable went berserk when no one showed up at the wedding...Jesus warns us that there will be consequences for those who ignore his invitations.

We're invited!  All of us! And while Jesus does not use the two call rule...we don't know when our last invitation to His kingdom will we need to answer the invitation.  Now.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Mummifying Barbie

So, it seems that the uses for Barbie in the homeschool are limitless!  Barbie was outfitted with her new modest length prehistoric hand-sewed creation here.  And this week, we had he most fun the girls have ever had with a Barbie by turning her into a mummy! 

We did this lesson to supplement our Sonlight Core A section on Ancient Egypt.  We studied how a mummy was made and found a link to a website with a great activity here

Here's our spin on it!

Here you see our chosen Barbie with another book we added to the Ancient Egypt collection.  I highly recommend the Magic Tree House series of books, they are quick reads and have just enough facts in them to spark interests and encourage further research.  In addition to the books are the "FACT TRACKER" series of books that coincide with the stories.  These are easy to read non fiction books that my girls just love.  This particular one taught us how to make a mummy!

Step 1: Remove all organs except the heart.  We pretended to take out organs one by one saying their names out loud.  We then drew a heart on Barbie to symbolize the heart we were leaving in her body.  The ancient Egyptians kept the heart in because it was thought that the size of the heart told how good of a person you were .  Interesting huh?

Step 2: Wash with wine.  We used red wine vinegar and the girls said it smelled so bad.  They dipped cotton balls in it and made Barbie shine!

Step 3 - Rub with oil and spices.  We used olive oil applied with cotton balls and for spices we used Cinnamon, for the simple reason that I have so much of it in my spice cabinet.  Let me just say that after this step, Barbie was so greasy (can you tell from the picture?) and my kitchen table was covered in Cinnamon.  As you can tell from the pictures I did not use a protective covering on the table during this, silly mom.

Step 4: Cover in Natron for 40 days.  We used table salt for Natron to dry the body cavity out.  With all the oil on Barbie, the salt stuck on really well :)  We let it sit for 40 seconds (40 minutes was pushing it for the girls' excitement!)

 Step 5: Wrap body in resin-soaked linen for 15 days.  Here I cut strips of leftover beige flannel I had.  We then dipped them into a bowl filled with a flour-water mixture (think paper mache).  Then we wrapped away! Was it messy?  Oh yeah.  I am pretty sure the bottom side of my table is still covered in it because it dripped down the side!  Was it fun?  YES!!! Both girls could replay what each step was in the mummification process.  Although we read how to prepare a mummy a million times between our Sonlight books, Magic Tree House books and library books, Sofia really got to see how they did it and was able to understand why each step was performed.

Ta-DA! Doesn't it look great?  If you see her in real life she looks like a real mummy.  It has been a few days now and she is finally dry.  The funny thing is the girls play with her like she's still a real Barbie.  Slightly disturbing but overall cute!

Sofia wearing her hand made Egyptian collar.  Totally unrelated is the red feather taped to Maya's head.  The fun just never ends! 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Homeschool ROCKS...and minerals!

This week we had the amazing opportunity to meet with a real live rockhound! The grandfather of one of the children in our homeschool group is a member of the local Geological Society and has been collecting rocks and minerals for the last 20 years.  He graciously offered to do a presentation for our kids.  I'll be honest, I did not know what to expect when I signed Sofia up to hear about rocks...but I was so amazed to see how well he presented his material and how much the class LOVED it!

The children were in awe of his rock collection! He explained all about rocks and minerals in words they could easily understand (which was good for me as well because my knowledge of rocks was very poor!).  He even let them pass around different types of rare rocks and let them examine their differences in weight, color and texture.

A budding rockhound examines a specimen with a magnifying glass

Up close view of a sea scorpion (eurypterid) fossil

Mr R. giving the class a tour of his prized rock collection. 
 The children's mouths literally dropped open when they walked in to Mr. R's living room to see the many shelves of rare rocks and minerals.  I have never seen such a collection myself!  It was also wonderful for the children to learn from their friend's grandfather.  I can only imagine how proud his granddaughter must have been.  

As a parting gift, he gave EACH student their own rock collection!  He labeled each specimen with the name and the location where it was found.  It now has a special place on Sofia's dresser beside our fish Prince (because Sofia thought it would be a nice thing for him to look at).

What an experience! I love how homeschooling gives us opportunities to learn in this way.  When Sofia came home with her rock collection she was able to show her sisters, my husband and I what she had learned.  Her favorite stone was Apatite and the small Quartz she acquired and, this week, we will look them up and learn more about them.  Awesome!  It's true my friends...homeschool rocks!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Time flies when you're having fun!

Sofia and a fellow homeschooler enjoying a book at our local library.

I am amazed how quickly a week has gone by in our home!  I guess the statement holds true that time flies when you're having fun!

We are hooked on audiobooks at our house! Since we are in the car a lot driving to lessons and homeschool events, the girls get to go through books fairly quickly this way.  The first book we listened to was Little House in the Big Woods.  This is a book we've read before but Cherry Jones does such a good job of reading it that even Maya (my 2 year old) could follow along and enjoy! We listened to the entire book at least four times, so much so that Sofia can quote passages from it!

Our next audiobook was Henry Huggins by Beverly Cleary.  We enjoyed reading the Ramona books so we gave this a shot.  The girls loved it!  The version we have is read by Barbara Caruso but I have seen newer versions read by Neil Patrick Harris!  

In a chapter of Henry Huggins, Henry goes out searching for large worms called Night Crawlers.  Since it was such a rainy week, the girls decided they too would find their own Night Crawlers!

All dressed up and ready for action!

 Unfortunately, they could not find any "Night Crawlers" like Henry Huggins found...but they DID find five of the HUGEST slugs I have ever seen!  This was our table center piece for the week.

On the homeschooling front, we are really enjoying our Sonlight Core A history package.  Currently we are studying people who lived 350,000 to 5000 years ago.  We read about the first clothes and how they progressed from wearing animal skins to people learning how to clean the skins, stretch them out and sew them.  Since I love to sew, I decided to teach Sofia to sew an outfit for her Barbie with REAL needles!  We used printed felt that I purchased from JOANN Fabric for a little over a dollar.  We cut a pattern and Sofia traced it onto the felt and cut it out.  She then sewed the two pieces together and voila!

One can never forget modesty when dressing Barbie!
Our local YMCA has started a homeschool swim and gym program.  This is the first year they have implemented the program and they had over 60 families join!  The kids meet for a 45 minute gym class.  Coach Seth is teaching them soccer and Sofia is having a blast with it (even if she runs around the gym holding hands with people and kicking the ball).  After gym is a  30 minute swim lesson.  There are many different levels of swim ability in the class but I think they are doing a good job of getting everyone involved and interested.

We have also started our homeschool Irish dance lessons taught by a fellow homeschooling mother!  Both Maya and Sofia participated and learned the beginning steps to the Irish Jig...just about the cutest thing ever!

Future Irish Dancers of America!
I am really enjoying this first month of homeschooling.  I love how flexible our schedule is and how much we can learn and enjoy what we are learning together!  Don't get me wrong, by the end of the day I am tired.  As a rule, I do not do any housework while we are doing our morning school lessons.  I noticed that when I do run out to take a phone call, or change a load of laundry then the girls get off track and before you know's chaos!  So, at the end of the day there are usually still loads of laundry to fold, dishwashers to empty and lessons to plan.  But that's OK.  So far, it's worth it.  When I'm putting away the millionth book or scraping glue off the kitchen table, I get to think back at the day that the girls and I spent together and think about how great this time is.  Because we all know that time really does fly when you're having fun!