Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Goodbye Summer

     Monday was our first day of school.  A very special first day of school, because this year I have three students. The twins have been very excited about starting school, and I think they were a little let down by the amount of work that they are required to do.  Yesterday, they just did reading and writing, and today we did math as well.  We will be starting back with Konos in the beginning of September.  I think they thought they would be doing the same amount as Anna.  They kept asking, "Is this it? Are we really all done? I want to do more school!"  It's nice to have such enthusiasm; if only it would last! 
     I have completely revamped the way we are doing school this year.  We are still following a basically Charlotte Mason approach, but I am using Beautiful Feet history guides instead of Ambleside Online.  I am also using Singapore Math instead of Saxon.  For the twins I am making up my own math curriculum that I am calling "Squirrel Math", but but I'll do a separate post on that later. 
     The reason I decided to change math this year, was because last year was a very long, tear filled, and  generally painful math year for us.  Not wanting a repeat of last year, I chose a curriculum that I hope will give her a clearer understanding of what she is doing, instead of just memorizing formulas.  So far, so good; she likes it, and I think it is really helping her to grasp the concepts being taught.
     The reason I switched from AO was because I found that I was having to replace nearly all the recommended books for books that were more age appropriate.  The source I was turning to for really great book selections was Beautiful Feet, so I decided to just go with them.  We are doing the Western Expansion Pack, with some extra reading added in about slavery and the Civil War.  I loved reading about the underground railroad as a child, and especially about Harriet Tubman, so I had to add a biography about her.   She was so brave and bad ass, I was absolutely in awe of her. 
     As a last "hurrah!" before the end of summer vacation, my sister and her family came for a visit last weekend.  We had a fun time visiting and even did a little bit of hiking. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Our Coop

     This Friday we managed to finally finish our chicken coop!  The nest boxes were the last thing we did.  I was worried that they would start laying before we got them put on.  Now that we have them, I can't wait until I get to go out and collect eggs.  I've been looking every day with high hopes, but have yet to see an egg.
      Here's the outside, with the attached run, and below is the inside. The white pipe in the corner is my homemade pvc feeder.  It works great, and I never have any wasted food due to spillage.  I have three roosts, although the bottom one is not really a roost, but a means to hop up on to the higher roosts.  They can be taken out, so as not to be in the way when I change out the bedding. 
     The nest boxes can be accessed from outside, so that I don't have to go into the coop to collect eggs. 
     The circle on the far left was accidentally cut lower than the others.  I try not to look at it, as it bugs me to no end, but it works, and that's what is important.
     Here is a few of the chickens, with our beautiful rooster, Bergamont, in the middle.  He is a Golden Laced Wyandotte, and I got him exclusively because he it so pretty.  All of our chickens are named after flowers. We have, Clover, Goldenrod, Buttercup, Columbine, Daisy, and Snowdrop. We also have a cockerel, but since we are not planning to keep him, he has not been named.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A Little Mushroom-scape

     My most recent craft I have been learning is needle felting.  I love it because it takes very little experience to make something really fabulous.  It's also a great stress reliever.  Something about jabbing an object with a sharp needle over and over again, lets all the tension flow out.  Last week was VBS week for us, and although lots of fun, being the head snack lady is also kind of stressful. 
     That's when I decided to get out my wool and make a little something just for fun, even if it serves no practical purpose.

I love mushrooms, so when I saw these wonderful little mushroom scapes, I knew I had to try and recreate one.  Although mine is not near as fantastic, I do like it a lot.  The mushrooms are based on actual mushrooms that I've seen, but do not know the name. I need to get a mushroom field guide.


     I have been wanting a vegetable garden for years now, but simply do not have the space.  This year, a dear friend graciously offered up the use of her garden.  It's been a co-operative effort between four families, which has made the work load easier.  Some times it's difficult to go to some one else's house to garden, but it's also been a lot of fun.  This past week we reaped our first big harvest.  As you can see, some of the squash is a little past it's prime, but the kids got a kick out of the "monster" squash.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

July 4th!

     Last year the Fourth was a bit of a let down because it rained all day, (I think it rained every day last summer) and we didn't really do anything.  This year made up for it though, as it was a very fun filled Independence Day. 
     The day before, we all tie dyed t-shirts in red and blue.  I forgot to wear gloves, and so my hands were very blue for the Fourth. In fact, they are still a little blue, and probably will be tomorrow for church. 
      We started the day off with a picnic in the mountains.  Everyone is huddled up because it is sooo cold.  (Every one looks very cute in their tie dyed shirts. Even I wore one, although I am not a tie dye wearing person, normally.)
Every time we go up to the parkway, I forget how cold it is, and every time I say, "Next time I will bring jackets." But of course I forget, and we freeze.  After we ate and were able to move around some, it was better.  Of course you have to have
watermelon when you're on a picnic, even if it makes you that much colder than you already are. 

Eating a wrap in the sunshine makes you feel better, though.
     The highlight of our picnic was getting to see a red squirrel for the first time.  It was so little, at first we though it was a baby grey squirrel, but after closer inspection I realized it was a red squirrel.  It has to be the cutest animal ever.  I did get a picture, but it didn't turn out well enough to bother posting here. 
     After the picnic, (and taking a nap) the kids had strawberry ice cream with blueberries as a special treat. 
      As it got close to dusk, we went down to the lake to watch the fireworks. 
The Fourth of July Story:  While we were waiting for it to get dark, we lounged on a quilt and ate hot dogs, while I read Alicia Dagliesh's The Fourth of July Story.  I always try to put the focus on why we celebrate different holidays, as oppose to making it all about the celebrations. 

When the kids got tired of sitting, they played silly made up games with each other and danced to the music.  Finally, the sky turned dark, and it was time for the fireworks to start. When the first few explosions began, frightened ducks skimmed across the lake like torpedoes.  Abriel freaked out, and made a bee line for her Daddy, while Samuel hunkered behind me, shaking violently.  He said he was scared the sparks were going to fall on him.  Poor little guy.  After I explained how there was no way the sparks would hit us, he calmed down. Then his ever inquisitive mind began questioning everything.  "Can the fireworks reach the moon? Can they hit the the stars? Does God see the fireworks? How do they go up and then explode out? What makes the sound?  Why are they different colors?"  And on, and on, and on.  His brain never turns off.
     In between answering his questions as best as I could, I got to watch the fireworks.  The best part about fireworks at the lake is that you get to see two displays.  One in the air, and another reflected in water.  Simply beautiful.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Konos Notebooks

     The kids spent yesterday assembling their Konos notebooks from the Patience unit we finished at the end of April.  This was the first Konos unit we've done, and we all loved it.  The notebooks were started as an after thought, as in, "Since we're doing all this neat stuff, we really need something to remember it all. "  While the kids were putting together their notebooks, I was gratified to see how looking at the pictures and worksheets brought back memories of what they had learned.  Definitely not a wasted effort, and they are so proud of them.
     I have them in three prong folders rather than in three ring binders because I wanted to be more of a book, that they could carry around and show people.  I'll have a notebook folder for each unit we do.

     The pages are a combination of scrap booking style pages with pictures of the activities we did, and worksheets that were completed as part of our studies.  Abriel's notebook is showing some of the naked egg experiments we did.  We removed the shells of several eggs with vinegar, then saw how far they could be dropped before they broke, dehydrated one in corn syrup, and rehydrated some in dyed water, so that they turned into brightly colored egg balloons.
     Anna's notebook is showing off the chart they made showing the gestation periods of different animals.  Samuel's is showing him winding silk thread off of silk worm cocoons. Now that is a lesson in patience!  There are also pictures of our chickens when they were babies.  We helped incubate and hatch them as part of our Konos studies. 
     More pages, showing a recipe for bread rolls that the kids made, egg relay races and other egg related fun, and pictures of our tadpoles turning into froglets.
     Getting the notebooks assembled made me realize how much we did, and how many great memories the the kids have of hands on learning experiences and being with friends.  Among the things shown here we also, dissected a frog, made a co-operative garden, (that we are still working on) learned about the first passover, and then celebrated a Seder meal. So many good memories.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

     Someone had posted this chart on Facebook today, and I started looking through it.  Unfortunately, I tend to look at things like this as checklist, rather than something to help me.  "Are my kids doing this yet? How are they measuring up to what's expected of them?", are what's running through my head.  I'm looking through the 10-11 year old section and thinking about whether or not Anna can sweep out a garage.  I don't know, because we don't own a garage.  So I try to think what the equivalent to that is. "Does the porch count? Maybe if I include the side walks."  Then I stop and think about what I am doing.  The only questions I should be asking is, do my children help me in the ways that I need them to? The answer to that is, yes, for the most part.  Life isn't a check list, (although I do love check lists) and even though Anna doesn't mow the lawn, she's been watching her younger siblings since she was six.  And the twins don't dry and put away the dishes but they can put groceries away and wipe off the table.  Why? because that's what I need them to do.
     This evening Anna was bored and wanted to make cookies.  Baking makes a lot of mess, so I told her if she wanted to make cookies she would have to clean the play room first.  At first she grumbled at this, and I could hear her complaining as she cleaned about the seemingly endless work.  After a few minutes, I could hear her attitude shift.  She stopped complaining and I could hear her singing bits of songs.  In a few minutes she came out in a cheerful mood, saying the playroom was clean, and she was ready to make cookies now.
     I can understand her attitude shift, because I have felt it too many times while cleaning.  At first you hardly know where to start, and it's rather irking that even though you weren't responsible for the mess, you're the one cleaning it.  Then something happens.  You start to see a difference; order coming through the chaos.  The job doesn't seem so hard any more, and you start to find pleasure in it.   
   Anna ended up not only making cookies, but deciding she wanted to make supper for every one as well.
     Seeing her happy contentment and pride at being able to cook a whole meal by herself, confirmed for me that I had done the right thing by making her work before having the pleasure of making a treat.  She went from being bored and mopey, to cheerful and helpful the rest of the evening.  Even children like to know that they are a necessary part for the running of the house-hold.  Anna's supper was delicious too.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Coop

     The chickens are finally out of the brooder and into the the coop! 
They were insanely happy to have room to run and fly, and sleep without getting stepped on.  The coop is almost finished; just lacking nest boxes, which will be attached to the outside of the coop.  Samuel loves the sliding pop door, and keeps on opening and closing it, which drives me a little crazy.  He reminds me so much of a raccoon sometimes, it's not even funny. 

     There is a window in the front and back for ventilation.  The door window has a panel that fits into it for when the weather is cold, and the back window can open and close.  I had to make a heavy duty screen for it, to keep the animals out.  You can see Samuel in the corner still opening and closing that pop door. (eye twitch) 
    Today's funny chicken quote comes from Abriel, as she was gazing lovingly at the chicks. "I would love to kiss a chicken, but they're too dirty. Sigh..."


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Zoo Birds

     We have been a part of a Konos group for a few months now, and we are currently learning about birds. 
Yesterday, twelve kids, four moms, and one dad (Dave) packed up and went to the zoo to look at different types of birds. (and other animals, of course)    Despite the heat, and trying to keep track of all the little ones running around like crazy, it was a fun day. Crazy, but fun.

     There were quite a few different birds, but my favorite was the Roseate Spoonbill. Those things don't even look real.  They look like something you would see in a cartoon.
         This was Samuel and Abriel's favorite, "Because it has hair that goes, POOF!"
       The crane was Anna's favorite.

     There was a really cool bird show, where we got to see some amazing birds, perform tricks, fly on cue, and even talk.
     Of course, no trip to the zoo would be complete without seeing a couple of giant tortoises go at it. That was fun explaining. Haha


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

     Beautiful may days like this just need to be spent outside.  While I was working on getting our chicken coop finished, Anna thought the chicks could use a little fresh air too.

     I love watching the kids play with the chicks.  This is what I got them for.  Abriel has the chicken touch.  She's the only one who can pick them up without them making a fuss. 

   She is very calm and confident with them, with is good to see since she is shy and reserved around people.
     Here is the coop in progress.  I can't wait for it to be done, so that the chicks can have more space.  The twelve of them are getting cramped in their 3'x4' brooder.
    When I first started painting the coop, Samuel asked me if it was going to be all one color. I said, "Yes, except for the trim."  He said, "I was hoping you would paint a rainbow on the side." Then he seemed to think for a minute, and said, "Actually, I don't want it to have a rainbow. If we have a rooster, he might not like it."  I'm not exactly sure what his thought reasoning was behind that, but I do know that he is very interested in the welfare of any potential roosters we might have.