Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Being on Vacation is Wearing me out!

I think there is a reason we have a schedule. It is for my sanity. My kids have been running me ragged all week. There is either an argument that needs to be refereed or a fantastic creation that I just have to see. I have had to watch a number of stick puppet shows. The kids have gotten out every toy we own and scattered them about the house. We have also had every craft supply out on the table. We have painted, done playdoh, made collages and even had sewing projects out. Today they got out the glitter to add to some collage project they had started. Boy, was that fun to clean up!

We are still getting outside for walks and scooter rides. The weather has been great since Christmas so we have no excuse to stay huddled indoors all the time. But we have listened to a few good audio books while we build with legos or k'nex.

On top of all the fun projects and play we have also had so many snacks. It think that is about all my kids eat now. We received a number of plates of cookies and other treats from friends and neighbors. My kids have been sampling the plentiful stash of goodies each day and I worry because they won't touch their sandwiches at lunch or eat more than a bite of whatever I make for dinner.
At least they do get a few cuties in so they are getting at least a little nutrition.

I am looking forward to getting back into our normal swing of things. I know my kids are having a great time but I collapse into bed at the end of each day so tired.
Moms never seem to get a vacation, do they?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Very Merry Christmas

Wow... it has been one busy week. Now that Christmas Day arrived I am hoping things will slow down a bit and let us fall into our regular schedule again.
My niece was baptized on Sunday which we made it just in time for after our own church meetings and a three hour drive. It was worth it. It was nice to have the whole family there with all the aunts, uncles and cousins there. Out of 11 kids in attendance this is all I could get to stand still long enough for a picture.
We spent a few days up at Grandma's house waiting for my sister in law to finally have her baby. Between rainstorms the boys helped Grandpa rake some of the leaves off the driveway. The boys sure love to be helpful. I enjoyed staying inside where it was warm.

On Christmas Eve the baby finally arrived only 10 days over due and weighing in at a whopping 10 lbs. We haven't seen her yet because we headed back home to spend Christmas day at our house with the other Grandparents.

There was no shortage of excitement as the kids checked their stockings and what was under the tree. Everyone was very happy with what they found in their presents. And I was happy that no body said "That's it?" when the presents were all open 15 minutes later. The kids just had a great time trying out all their new toys. Ian and Henry fought over loved the Speed Racer remote control car Ian found in his stocking this morning.

Everyone got new puzzles and books along with too many a number of fun toys and games.

The kids don't want to put anything away and it is all over the floor. We have all eaten a lot of good food and way too much candy and cookies. Everyone is happy and it was a very Merry Christmas. What more can we ask for?

I hope you all had a great Christmas too.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A touch of Hanukkah

Our history chapter for the week was about the Jewish Diapora. I took this opportunity to study Hanukkah. I didn't know that much about this holiday. I knew it has something to do with a miracle of oil in the lamps lasting for a lot longer then it was supposed to. I also knew that the Menorah played a big roll and the dreidel was a toy they played with but I honestly didn't know how it all fit together. We have been reading a bunch of children's books on the subject and I have learned a lot. The kids have had a lot of fun listening to Hanukkah songs and reading about this holiday. Today we decided we would sample some traditional food eaten for this holiday.

We made Challah, braided bread. Mine was just one braid and didn't turn out quite as nice as it is supposed to look but it tasted good.
We also made Latkas. I don't usually fry much of anything at our house but I guess the oil is to remind the people of the oil that lasted longer than expected. For some reason they eat these with apple sauce. I didn't really care for the taste. They were fine just plain.
I did set the table with our blue table cloth since blue is a Hanukkah color. No menorah at our house we settled for one candle
I don't know if everything was kosher but we had grilled chicken (Maybe it should have been fried?), applesauce, and peas to go along with our bread and potato pancakes.

This afternoon while waiting for the Challah to raise we made some borax snowflakes. This had nothing to do with Hanukkah but it just sounded fun. We boiled water, poured it into a wide mouth mason jar. Stirred in a lot of borax and then dangled a pipe cleaner shaped snowflake into the solution. Left it there while we got everything else ready for dinner. After eating we checked on the snowflakes.

We pulled it out and it had lovely crystals to look at. My only question about this little project.... Why did I spend two weeks making sugar crystals earlier in the fall. This took a matter of hours and we got more crystals. Maybe I will have to dig out those sugar crystals we made and we will see what the difference is between them.

School has been really light this week so I am glad we have had a little fun studying about Hanukkah. We haven't forgotten Christmas by any means. We are still listening to tons of Christmas music and reading all sorts of Christmas stories. It is just nice to understand a little more about what others are celebrating at this time of year.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Impromptu Nature Study - Outdoor Hour on Moss

On Friday we went on a bike/scooter ride to a park near our house. Yes the kids aren't wearing jackets and Sophie is even in shorts. We love living in California!The kids needed to get outside for a bit and it was supposed to rain the rest of the weekend so I figured we needed to get out now before it started tomorrow.
The kids played at the park for awhile. This is a very small neighborhood park so there weren't any other kids there today. But my kids had fun climbing and swinging for a long time. While taking a break from giving "underdogs" to boys on the swings I noticed something that I thought would be interesting.

There was a patch of sidewalk with grooves cut into it and at that moment it was half wet and there was lovely green moss growing only on the wet half. I pointed it out to Sophie to look at and I asked her why she thought it was only growing on half of the grooved sidewalk.
After thinking about it for awhile and examining the area she decided that that half was wet and must get wet every time the sprinklers watered the grass. I also pointed out the large tree in the grassy area that cast shade on the sidewalk so the water wouldn't dry very quickly.
We of course had to dig some of it out of the groove to look at more closely. We talked about how moss doesn't need much by way of dirt to grow in.

Sophie and I left the boys with sticks as they continued to dig out more of the moss from that bit of sidewalk. Sophie and I went around the little park looking for other places we could see moss. We found some growing under a park bench but it was just speckled on the ground.
We found some growing along borders that divided dirt areas from grass areas. Most of it was just small and flat.
There were some places where it grew much more thickly.

Our study of moss at the park lasted only about 10-15 minutes. I thought that was great considering we didn't even go there with anything else in mind except to burn off some energy. I hate to call this an outdoor hour challenge since we didn't read the Handbook of Nature study on the subject but at least we got out and noticed something on our outing we normally would have just overlooked.
Now I need to start keeping my eyes peeled for mushrooms, ferns and all the other things that have been on the challenges the last few weeks. We just haven't, or I should just say, I just haven't had the focus lately on Nature Study. We still go on our almost daily rides or walks around the neighborhood. We have even been to our neighbor's house to pick oranges and apples recently. But I just haven't been preparing for the challenges so they slip by without us doing them. I keep thinking this week we will do better but .... well... we did it this week:) Hurray.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Still plugging away!

Even though the kids are all excited about all the different Christmas activities and such going on, we are still trying to do school as usual. We are actually doing pretty well and are going to do school next week also.
So this is what we did.

History - I knew our Story of the World Chapter this week was about King Richard, Robin hood, Prince John and the Magna Carta but instead of listening to the chapter first we read through a number of chapter of Our Island Story. This book did such a good job explaining and describing King Richard and what was going on in England before, during and after his reign. We also read a number of books about the adventures of Robin Hood this week and watched a few movie versions of Robin Hood. The disney version of course was a hit and the kids enjoyed the Wishbone version as well. This was our first Wishbone movie and the kids seemed to like it. But they have been running around through the house shooting their pretend bows and arrows all week. We finally got around to reading the SOTW chapter on Thursday and it was a nice review of all the other books we had read.

Science - Our biome for this week and next is the Grasslands. So we have been reading books about the prairie and the savanna. I can't say this is the most interesting biome except for the variety of animals that inhabit them. As I stated a few days ago, Sophie has had fun making zoos with exhibits for these animals.

Music - Handel is our musician for the month. We listened to the Classics for Kids episodes on Handel this week. They are always fun to listen to. We also listened to Hallalujah Handel and Handel for the holidays and a few of the arias from the Messiah. We also read Handel, who know what he liked. This was a good biography of Handel. I think we have covered him pretty well this month.

Math - Sophie is multiplying she is up to the 5x tables. Ian is moving slowly through his new workbook. He can do the math but just lacks the ability to write the numbers well. He is bored if he isn't actually adding or subtracting but he just doesn't have the motor skills yet to write well. This is something we are working on.

Language Arts - Sophie did some dictation this week. And had to answer a series of questions, writing in complete sentences. She is getting better about forming a complete sentence. She almost never needs to be reminded to capitalize the first letter or end with a period. She also did some more of her Beyond the code book. This is really easy for her but it is good practice at writing complete sentences and some reading comprehension.
Ian will finish the Get Set for the Code book next week. He is on the last letter in this primer. He is excited to move onto the next book. He is doing well at some easy sight words too.

Art - We didn't do our drawing lesson again this week. Sophie isn't asking for them so they aren't happening. We haven't done a whole lot of structured art or craft projects recently. There is a lot of coloring and drawing going on though. Sophie made each of them masks today. She got a Maid Marian mask. Henry got a Robin Hood Mask and Ian wanted to be a pirate. She almost convinced him to be the Sheriff but he really wanted to be a pirate.
We don't have an artist we are studying this month. I just didn't or couldn't think of one I really wanted to do.

Next week will be a bit lighter on the school front. We will attempt to do another chapter of SOTW. Next week's chapter is about the Diaspora so we will be reading all sorts of things about Jewish people, their holidays and such. I have a bunch of books I got from the library about Hanakkah and I am sure will have to try some potato latkas this next week. We will also continue with our Story a Day until Christmas as well as our studies on the prairies.

I am sure we will have another great week. At least I hope so!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Christmas Anthem - Wordfull Wednesday

Today's Wordfull Wednesday topic is our favorite Christmas Song, hymn or carol. It is really hard to narrow it down to one. I love listening to each of my Christmas music CD's throughout this time of year and I can't say which of them is my favorite either. So I thought I would share one of the songs I look forward to hearing and singing each year. It is a song that the primary in our ward sings each year. It isn't in the Children's songbook put out by the church and I don't believe it ever appeared in the Church magazines. It was actually written by a lady in our stake a number of years ago for her ward to perform. A copy of the song was left in the piano bench of the primary room and found several years ago by someone in our ward. And it has been sung and played in our ward's primary ever since. It is always a favorite and the first time I heard it I knew I wanted a copy of it to keep in my stash of Christmas stories and songs. Since I now work with the primary kids I get to sing this song often and the kids LOVE to sing it, especially the chorus.
Sorry I don't have a recording of the kids singing it but here is the music for those that play piano or can pick out a tune. It is very easy. Even I can play it.

Each verse is sung through once and then the verses are sung together the third time through.
On the music there is a crossed out word in the first verse. When it was written it went "Christ our Savior is born one winter night long ago". The kids quickly corrected the words and made it spring knowing that Christ's actual birth wasn't in the winter. The kids have always sung it "spring" since, and it fits perfectly.
I hope you enjoy this song. We certainly do around our house.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Zoo Tycoon

I have talked about this game before but I have to sing it some praises again today. Sophie has loved Zoo Tycoon for years and she never seems to tire of it. It was the game that pushed her to learn to read because we kept telling her she needed to be able to read what the zookeepers said in order to play. That was years ago and she is still playing this game often and is quite the expert at it now.
The last few weeks as we have been studying biomes she has come up with a new element or limit to her game. And of course she insists it is for school. She came up with the idea of making a zoo with exhibit and animals that belong to the biome we are studying. So last week is was all about polar animals, walrus, orca, penguins, and of course polar bears.
This week our studies are leading us to the grasslands so Sophie has been building a zoo with all the savanna animals. She has lions, giraffe, ostridge, zebra, Kangaroo and elephants along with a bunch of others. She hasn't quite figured out the prairie animals yet, but I am sure before we move on she will find some of these animals to put in her zoo too.
She even knows which of the dinosaurs she can put in that like the same kind of terrain and foliage so she allows a few dinosaurs to hatch in her zoo as well, but only if they fit the biome we are studying.
My girl has certainly learned a lot from this simple computer game. And she finds all sorts of reasons to play it. She loves to tell me it is for school and that I should let her have more time. One hour a day is all she is allowed to play. I really try to keep her time to that hour but sometime it I forget to set the timer and she gets some extra time. Especially if the boys are also in there watching her build her zoo. When all is quiet and no one is fighting it is easy to let the time slip by.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Children's Day at the Nutcracker

Today is the Day Sophie has been waiting for. Weeks and weeks ago I had decided to take Sophie to see the Nutcracker this year. We have seen the movie and read the book and of course have listened to the music over and over again. It is this music and ballet that sparked her interest in ballet dancing. So I looked into getting tickets. I didn't purchase any because I needed to find out how man of us would go and what day would work out best. So I put it off and put it off. The week before Thanksgiving I got an announcement in my email from one of the bay area homeschooling yahoo groups that I belong to telling people how they could see the Nutcracker for free. I jumped at the chance. I emailed the right people and reserved our place to see the dress rehearsal for the ballet. It actually opens next weekend but they had a run through today and performed for school kids from around the bay area. We went with a group of other homeschoolers and had a great time.
We were surprised that we got such great seats. We sat just 10 rows back from the stage. We could see the dancers perfectly and even see their facial expressions. Sophie sat there just loving every moment of it.
The boys were great through the first act. They watched with wide eyes as the Nutcracker fights the many headed mouse king. The intermission went a little long. It was supposed to only be 10 minutes but ended up being about 20. We were told to expect delays since this was a dress rehearsal. But the boys weren't as attentive through the second act as a result. Ian kept talking through it and telling me what is shown on Fantasia when each song was played. I guess it is good that he is recognizing the music but it was rather distracting and he does not know how to whisper.
On the whole the performance was great. I was very grateful my husband was able to take the morning off to go with us. He headed off to work after the show and we stopped off at the Discovery Museum which was across the street from the Performing Arts Center. The kids had a very busy day and we were all worn out by the end. I am so happy they were able to see this Ballet performance and hope they remember it for a long time. Sophie is so excited to tell her ballet teacher about it tomorrow at her dance class.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

How Random!

Sorry it has been a bit since I had anything to say. It isn't that I haven't wanted to write some witty posts. I just haven't had time or energy to put thoughts together. So here is another of my random thoughts posts. I guess I could have just picked one to write about but that just wouldn't be as fun. So bare with my rambling.

It is hard to do school in December. At least it has been this week. After having a number of days off last week and all the excitement of playing with cousins and traveling to Grandma's house my kids didn't want to jump back into "doing school" on Monday morning. We got in just about everything but it was with tears over math and lots of breaks between. Tuesday wasn't much better but, luckily, Wednesday and today have gone more smoothly. Not perfectly and smoothly but when does it ever go exactly as planned?

We put our Christmas tree up Monday night. Maybe that has something to do with the craziness. The kids are very excited about all the holiday decorations. They have had such a great time rearranging the ornaments each day and the nativity that sits under the tree is getting well played with. Ian and Henry have had their knights and pirates there at the stable paying homage to the baby Jesus. Sometimes they even kidnap Mary or Joseph. Sophie is a little more reverent with the figures and acts out the story. The shepherd usually stands in as the inn keeper to show Joseph where they can stay. So far nothing has gotten broken, but we have a long way to go before Christmas.

Be careful when reading Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. Even the children's versions are a bit "frothy". I didn't preview the stories and have read only a few of the original tales so I didn't remember them being quite so "earthy". I sat down with my kids to read this version of the tales and made it through a few of them but was glad when they said they had read enough for that time. I didn't pick it up to read again either. The book made it's way back to the library today. We did enjoy Chanticleer and the Fox which is one of the tales. Maybe we will revisit Chaucer's tales the next time around. The bum kissing and bed swapping was just a little too much for me when reading to my 3,4 and 7 year old. They thought it was funny but even Sophie said "this is crude".

Our Rainbow resource order arrived today. I ordered Ian his new math books. I decided to just start him in the Singapore Math 1A book. He was doing the earlybird math and it was so easy for him so I figured we will just move slowly through the first grade stuff. He didn't waste any time and broke out a pencil to do the first assignment. I was really surprised that he could read the number words which was the first lesson. He is doing much better at reading then I had previously thought. But then those may be just memorized words and not something he is sounding out.

Along with the math books Sophie got some new books as well. A few weeks ago she mentioned that she wanted explode the code books too. I ordered Ian the next books because he is almost done with get set of the code and will fly through Go for the code in just a short time. When I looked at the Explode the code site for what I thought Sophie's level would be. I decided to order her Beyond the code. She is a great reader so I knew she didn't need the phonics. Since she expressed interest in having something like Ian's, I got her a Beyond the Code workbook. She grabbed the first one out of my hands as I unpacked the box and set to work. The first few pages were pretty easy and not much of a challenge but it does require her to read a passage and answer questions about it. I don't think it is going to be something we do everyday. I still want to do our language lessons The lessons, dictation and reading have been going well, for the most part. So the workbook will be something we do once or twice a week and see how it goes.

Yesterday we saw some of Sophie's Cranial Facial team and they told us we should go ahead with braces and surgery next year. This is the big surgery where they do a bone graft and upper jaw adjustment. It scares me a little, since I have been told the grafting is very painful. I need to call her orthodontist and schedule an appointment so we can get started on the braces and spacers that she needs in order to make room in her mouth for the bone they are going to harvest from her hip. On a happier note the speech therapist said she speaks very well and still doesn't need any therapy sessions or surgery for her speech.

Settlers of Catan is one of our families favorite's games. I bought the Card game version for my husband a few years ago. It is for two players so I figured it was something we could play together. Well we finally broke it out the other night and played it. It has a lot of the same elements of the original game but some added dimensions. We took a lot of time just figuring out the game and know that the next time we play it will be much easier. The next morning my husband said "that was a lot of fun. We should do that more often". We used to play games and even read books together but lately we have become lazy and often just end up watching movies at the end of the day.

Do you need some food storage items? I found a great site. I have been looking to round out my food storage with items that I can't buy at the store and that our church's cannery doesn't carry. Honeyville has just about everything; powdered eggs, dried fruits, veggies and a bunch of grains. The shipping price is great and they ship FAST. I placed an order on Monday and it arrived today, Thursday, along with my Rainbow Resources order. That is quick! I put together an order with some friends to take advantage of the price on cases rather individual cans and have been pleased so far. I haven't tried the ordered items yet so I will have to let you know how they are. But give the site a look if you need or want food storage items.

I could keep going with these random topics but I think I will stop now. Unless you really want to read my thoughts on Primary, Band, juggling Christmas activities and all the other things flying through my head. If you made it this far and haven't been bored out of you mind thanks for coming with me as I wander through my thoughts.