Thursday, March 31, 2011

Garden Challenge

This is our first post in the Garden Challenge being hosted by The Homeschool Village.   Each month a new post will update the progress of our garden.  It's not too late to join the challenge if you're interested!

Here's our garden update:

So far we have cleared the brush and dried leaves that collected in the garden over the winter.

As you can see there is still alot of work to be done before we can plant anything.  We had a few days of nice weather but we are back to winter again here, so the garden will have to wait a few more weeks I think.

We also decided what we want to plant this year and worked out a plan of where to plant what. 

Ms. Q and Little M pouring over the Gurney's catalog

We are going to plant:
sweet peas
bush beans (like string beans only they grow on a bush instead of a vine)

We have a small strawberry patch we planted last year but we haven't uncovered it yet. (It's still too cold to remove the straw bedding covering the plants.)  Hopefully the plants survived the winter and we will have fresh strawberries this summer.  We are also going to try one of those upside down tomato growers, just for fun.

Ms. Q has already had a number of lesson on how plants grow, so this year she will be focusing on gardening skills.  We have planted a garden for a couple years but we always just plant the seeds and hope for the best.  This year we are going to learn more about gardening and will be reading some books to help our plants no only grow but thrive.  She is really excited about having more responsibility in the garden this year.  Previous years she has helped out but always felt that it was Mom's garden.  This year it's OUR garden. 

Here are the books Ms. Q will be using:

Little M will be learning the basics about plants and what they need to grow.  He will be using Lesson Pathways Taking Care of Plants unit.  He is excited to go outside and play in the dirt.  He really likes to use the garden tools - he just rarely uses them for their intended purpose!

We will read these and some more fun children's books about plants together:

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Tot School - Introduction to the Alphabet

Little M has started Tot School!! He is really excited about it. He has been asking to do "real school" like Ms. Q. So I have decided to start a Letter of the week with him.

We began with an introduction to the alphabet. He can already identify all the letters but it was still nice to start with an overview of the alphabet.

We used the book Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault as our spine book.

Little M made a lapbook that I found HERE.  Table activities included matching lower case and upper case letters, recognizing his name, and identifying shapes and colors. 

Lapbook Cover

We went to the grocery store where he learned how to choose fresh fruits. Then he made his selections and made smoothies when we got home.

He also learned the alphabet in sign language with a video from the library. It was a success!

Next week - Letter A and Apples!!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

10 Things I Never Knew I Would Say

I have heard myself say some pretty crazy things in last few months.  If you're a mom you have probably said some very similar things.  Before I had children I imagined snuggling my little angels and watching them play quietly.  They would be polite and well behaved little people at all times. I had no idea what raising children was really like of course.  I'd seen people in restaurants and at the grocery store with loud, misbehaving children and I swore that when I had children they would never behave that way.  Well, like I said, I had no idea what it was really like to deal with the chaos children bring but I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. 

I thought it would be fun to list some of the weird things I've said lately, so here they are (please don't judge me too harshly):

1. Toothbrushes are for teeth, not feet.
2. If you're going to eat that boogie please make sure it's yours first.
3. Please don't color on your cheese.
4. Lollipops are for mouths, not ears.
5. Please make sure you take that dress off your brother before your father gets home.
6.He only ate a little bit of it, I'm sure it won't kill him.
7. Please remember that the baby is a person, not a toy.
8. No toys in your pasta please.
9. Please don't eat things from under the couch cushions.

And by far my favorite...

10. The dog may not wear pants but his privates are still private.

What strange things have your heard yourself say lately?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Weekly Wrap up - Islam and Apple Pie

Working away!
As always we had a busy week.  We did manage to get just about everything I planned done though! 

Mother Nature totally left us hanging this week.  Last week we had beautiful weather, we pulled out the flip-flops and retired the winter coats and mittens.  Or so we thought.  We are back to winter weather again this week.  This did not deter us from our new playgroup though.  I am happy to say that we "braved" the cold and were able to meet up with some other homeschooling families again at the park.  The kids are loving having a weekly get together and are doing great at making  new friends.

Here is what else we were up to this week:

Ms. Q

Ms. Q was busy learning about Islam this week in history.  She learned about Mohammed and the beginning of Islam, compared Islam to Christianity using a venn diagram, and watched a documentary on Mecca.   There was a link on Lesson Pathways to a site that writes your name in Arabic, so we tried that out.  This led to her checking out an Usborne book of Arabic words and trying to label everything around us in Arabic! 

Ms. Q's name in Arabic

For a craft this week, Ms. Q completed an Islamic inspired geometric artwork. 

We also planned on making Ma-moul cookies today but ran out of time.  We are going to make them Saturday morning instead.

In science this week, Ms. Q finished a unit on flight this week.  She had a great time learning how airplanes fly and how parachutes work.  Here she is learning about thrust.

Little M

I've decided to start making separate posts of Little M's lapbooks so that I can keep track of them on a separate page.  If you are interested in following Little M on his Letter of the Week journey, I will be making a tab at the top of the blog named Letter of the Week and will link a separate post for each week's letter on that page.  For the weekly wrap-up I will just give a review.

Little M worked on the Letter A this week and learned all about apples.  We read The Apple Pie Tree by Linda Rose and completed a lapbook.  He learned what the letter A sounds like and some words that start with the letter A.  He also learned about the life cycle of an apple tree, practiced size order, and counted apples growing on an apple tree.

The big surprise for him this week - we made an apple pie! He was so excited.

Baby C

Baby C was busy as usual getting into trouble.  Here he is exploring the book baskets.

Well that's it for us this week.  We are looking forward to a nice relaxing weekend with nothing much planned.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Favorite Recipe: Berry Cream Muffins

This is one of our family's favorite and my most versatile muffin recipe.  You can use any kind of berry that is in season or any kind of frozen berry.  If you use frozen berries DO NOT thaw before mixing into the mixture.

2 c. flour
1 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 c. berries
2 eggs
1 c. sour cream
1/2 c. vegtable or olive oil
1/2 tsp. vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees, grease muffin tin.
2. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add in berries and toss gently.
3. In a seperate bowl, combine eggs, sour cream, oil, and vanilla. Stir into dry ingredients until moistened.
4. Spoon into muffin tin and bake 20-25 minutes. Cool 5 minutes before removing from tin to cool on wire rack.

For this muffin I used frozen raspberries but I have made these successfully with blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, and even frozen cranberries.  These muffins freeze really well and will keep in the freezer for up to six months.  To defrost either pop in the microwave for 30-60 seconds or leave on the counter (in a plastic bag to retain moisture) over night. Enjoy!

March Muffin Madness It's a Keeper

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - Waiting for Godot

Nothing to be done.

We weren't waiting for Godot when I took this picture we were waiting for Ms. Q but when I took the picture the thought I had was of the play.  Like the characters in the play, the boys and I always seem to be waiting for Ms. Q and her endless stream of activities with "nothing to be done."

Have you ever read Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett?  If you haven't you'll love it - or hate it.

You can check it out here:
Waiting for Godot Act 1
Waiting for Godot Act 2

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Bye Bye Winter

Finally spring has arrived!!  We could not wait for spring around here.  It has become all we can think and talk about.  Spring and summer have definitely become idealized due to the winter blahs.  We imagine playing outside, completing our nature studies, gardening, wearing sandals and fewer layers.  We can't wait to get back to the beach and the park.  I look longingly at the roadside farm stands empty and shuddered.

In reality there are some things that I will miss about winter. I will miss soup simmering away on the stove or in the crock pot, a loaf of fresh bread baking in the oven for accompaniment.  Gone will be snuggling under blankets drinking hot chocolate.  We will have to pack away all those comfy woolen sweaters and knitted slipper socks.  The mittens and scarves will go into the depths of the hall closet not to be seen again until the next winter chill.

We will welcome back mosquitos and humidity, sunburn and sweat.  But man, we are ready for a change.


Friday, March 18, 2011

Weekly Wrap-up: Luck of the Irish

I say luck of the Irish because: we are of Irish heritage, it was St. Patrick's Day this week, and we finally got some spring-like weather!

Last week we were supposed to meet up with a new group of homeschoolers in the area for a playdate at a local park.  It unfortunately rained for three days surrounding the date of this playdate and we did not get to "meet new friends" as Little M says.  This week we had the luck of the Irish with us and were able to meet up at the park on Thursday.  The kids had a great time and met some new friends.  I enjoyed the company and conversation of some other moms too!!  We are planning more meet-ups and will hopefully make this a regular event.

We did not do any St. Patrick's Day activities in school this week (we have made lapbooks and crafts in  past) because the kids were really interested in making the St. Patrick's Day feast this year.  They made corned beef and cabbage and Irish soda bread!

Little M

Little M had a really exciting week this week - he started Tot School!  Well that's what we are calling it anyway.  He has been using workboxes since the beginning of the year but most of the activities are centered on motor skills.  He enjoys the activities but recently has been asking for "school work like [Ms. Q's]".  So this week we did a literature unit and lapbook.  He loved it and was so proud to show it off!  We are going to use Lesson Pathways, Homeschool Share, and Letter of the Week.  He works for about 30 minutes in the morning and so far is having a great time.

He can identify all the letters of the alphabet already so we are going to work on letter sounds.  This week we did an introduction to the alphabet with the book Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.  I found a lapbook for the book here.  We went to the grocery store where he learned how to choose fresh fruits.  Then he made his selections and made smoothies when we got home.  He also learned the alphabet in sign language with a video from the library.  It was a success!

Learning the alphabet in sign language

Learning about produce

Tot school
Lapbook cover

Inside lapbook

Ms. Q

One of my favorite things about using Sonlight is the opportunity to read literature that I never would of chosen.  This week we finished reading aloud Little Pear.  This is not a book I would have chosen for us to read and Ms. Q was not excited about starting it.  Well it turns out that we love Little Pear!  The story was interesting and engaging.  The chapters were short so that we could read them easily when we had a spare moment in the day.  Ms. Q even stated that it was one of her favorites so far this year.  Just another example of the reason why you should not judge a book by it's cover!

This week for history we are finishing  Ancient Times and beginning the Middle Ages.  To be honest Ms. Q and I were starting to get a little bored with the Roman Empire and were glad when we got to fall of Rome.  Ms. Q has been really interested in the strong women characters that we have discovered and learned about so far this year.  This last week she really took interest in Boadicea, the Celt warrior queen and Theodora, the Byzantine Empress.  As a woman and mother of a daughter, I try to point out these women as we go along to show examples of women who speak their mind, stand up for what they believe in, do not bow to men (even their husbands), and have made their mark on history.  I hope that my daughter will find these women inspiring.  We have strong women in our family who have helped their families through small and large tragedies, through the Irish Potato Famine and the Great Depression.  I hope that my daughter will be able to learn from their examples and the examples of famous women in history so that she believes in herself and can become a strong woman of character.

Next week we will celebrate the spring equinox with a day spent out in nature.  Little M will be learning about the letter A and apples and Ms. Q will be moving on to Islam.  I have some yummy activities planned for both!

Monday, March 14, 2011

A Week of Disposables

I am a cloth diapering mamma.  I have used cloth diapers since my middle child was born and I absolutely love it!  However, this past week Baby C has been wearing disposable diapers. The introduction of some cheese into his diet did not go well and he got the mother of all rashes.  The poor guy was raw and bloody. I called the doctor for some medicated diaper cream.  I usually use California Baby diaper cream which washes out of cloth diapers easily but it just wasn't drying up the rash fast enough. When I brought the cream home I realized we were out of diaper liners and we didn't have time to order any. Disposable diaper liners are flushable but I can't recall what they are made from. If you use any kind of cream or ointment a diaper liner is necessary otherwise you will have to strip your diapers. Which is a long process I try to avoid doing more than once a year.  So it was back to the store for some disposable diapers.

I must admit that using disposable diapers this week was convenient.  They fit easily into my diaper bag/purse.  I didn't have to bring a wet bag along to bring the soiled diapers home.  I only had to wrestle with Baby C once per diaper change to put his diaper on instead of twice for a diaper and a diaper cover.  And there will be less diaper laundry this week.  I can see why so many people use them.

So will I make the switch to disposable diapers?  NO!!!

We use cloth diapers for two reasons. One reason is I have two kiddos in diapers right now and I can't imagine having to buy that many diapers.  The package of store brand diapers I bought was about $7 for 31 diapers.  I used them all in 5 days.  That comes to over $800 a year for two children and more than $2,500 by the time they are both potty trained!  When I bought all the cloth diapering supplies I spent less than $400.  They have lasted the last three years with one child and I'm reusing them with a second child.  Granted I only bought a small package of disposable diapers and I probably could have saved more buying in bulk but not as much as buying cloth.

The second reason is I can't conscientiously throw that many diapers away on a daily basis.  Ms. Q and I learned about how long it takes different materials to decompose in a landfill last year as part of our Earth Day activities.  It takes a banana peel 3-4 days to decompose, cardboard about 2 months, aluminium cans about 300 years, disposable diapers - 550 years!!  That means the diapers your baby wears today will still be laying around when your great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, grandbabies are in diapers. (And in case you need more motivation to reduce, reuse, and recycle; it takes plastic bags about 1,000 years to decompose, plastic bottles 1 million years, and glass almost 2 million years!) 

When it comes to making decisions about caring for our children there are so many choices to make and so many options.  Everyone makes these decision based on needs, values, and experience.  I know we all try our best to make the right choices so please keep in mind the option of cloth diapers for your baby.  It's worth considering.  There are so many modern cloth diapering options available out there - these are not your mother's cloth diapers.  Look around the internet, it might be worth it.

Diaper with Snappi, no pins needed

Diaper cover, no plastic pants here

Friday, March 11, 2011

Weekly Wrap-up: Our Week Off

This was a scheduled week off for us this week.  We homeschool through the summer so we spread our breaks out over the course of the year.  We try to stick to four weeks of school and one week off but it's flexible to accommodate holidays and other events we may need off for.

We may not have had school but we had a busy week planned.  Some plans worked out and some not so much but that's how life goes.  Monday we made our monthly trip to Target.  We only go once a month not because it's far away (it's about 1 mile down the road) but avoiding Target is the only way I can avoid spending way more money than I should there.  The kids love going to Target because they get to pick anything they want from the dollar section up front.  Then we went for a walk and bike around the neighborhood.  The weather was beautiful.  We took the camera and looked for signs of spring.  Then it was off to karate.

Some flowers growing in a planter!

Tuesday was our planned trip to the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and the Silk Road exhibit.  There was no picture taking inside the exhibit but trust me when I say it was one of the coolest things I have ever seen.  The kids couldn't stop talking about the mummies and different artifacts.  They asked when we could go to the museum again and poured over the museum map at dinner planning what they wanted to see next.

Then it was out to lunch!
Wednesday Ms. Q had her guitar lesson in the afternoon.  She is really enjoying her lessons and her teacher says she is doing well.  It's a little difficult to get her to practice at home but I'm so proud of her and the work she is putting in to learn something new.  Later in the evening she and I attended a Girl Scout trip to the local animal shelter.  The girls had such a great time.  The shelter staff talked to the girls about the different reasons animals end up in the shelter and how they prepare the animals for adoption.  They discussed how to care for your pets and toured the facility.  Seeing the cats and dogs was certainly the highlight.  While sneaking out of the house I forgot to take the camera with me but Ms. Q did get this cool patch for her sash..

We were supposed to have a group playdate with some other homeschoolers Thursday afternoon at a local park but mother nature was against us.  It began raining overnight Wednesday and did not stop until early Friday morning.  We went to the library instead, always a hit trip for my kids, and watched a movie in the afternoon.  Watching TV in the daytime is a serious rule break.  They weren't sure I was serious at first until I started making the popcorn!

Friday we stayed around the house.  They predicted more rain for the day but we didn't get any.  We stayed in and baked some bread.

And made some paper mosaics.

Ms. Q's monkey
Little M's smiling sun
My (and Baby C's) "regular" sun
Next week it's back to school as usual (whatever that means).