Tuesday, November 29, 2011


 My boys were very excited this morning.  After breakfast and before we started school they went outside and discovered that we had a bit of fog.  They then decided it was a great time to play outside.   Since I had yet to take a shower I told them they had to stay in the driveway. This didn't damper their enthusiasm.  They thought it was great that they could see their breath.  And Ian and Sophie even broke out their gloves as they whirled around.
 We really are spoiled here in California.  Our winters are so mild. We don't ever get snow and light jackets, actual shoes (not crocs or flip flops) and long sleeve shirts are about the extent of our winter gear.  So my kids get really excited when they see a change in the weather. Even though I knew the fog would burn off quickly and that the jackets would be put back into the closet and not needed the rest of the day it was fun to get outside while it was cold.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Vision Forum

My kids love to go to the post box to get the mail each day. If I happen to go out to get it they always look at what I brought in to see if anything exciting has arrived for them. This time of year especially has been fun since we have received a number of great catalogs from companies hoping to entice us into spending some money for Christmas gifts. One of the new catalogs we have received recently is from Vision Forum.

My boys looked through their catalog at all the great gear featured inside for an adventurous young men.  Henry fell in love with this bow and arrow set.  Ian in particular pointed out that the Dangerous Book for Boys Kits would be a great Christmas gift.

I usually take my time looking through all the homeschooling and christian books, movies and audio programs that they offer.

They are starting their Black Friday sale right now. This is what they are offering. Buy any 2 and get a 3rd free.
And if case you need even more of an incentive to give Vision Forum a perusal then enter to win gift cards from The Modest Mom or Raising Olives. They each have $600 in gift cards for some lucky winners!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Every Four Years

We happen to live near an Egyptian Museum. It claims to have the largest collection of Egyptian artifacts in the Western United States. My kids have been so excited all week because we were finally going to take them to see the mummies.

Here are the kids outside the doors. This is a avenue of goat headed sphinx's but somehow that part didn't end up in the picture. Oh well....
We weren't supposed to use flash inside the museum so our inside photos are rather dark. But I did my best to brighten them up a bit.  Here we all are in front of a replica of King Tuts Mummy case.

Sophie was really interested in this baboon mummy. Molly just called it "Monkey Mummy".
Here are the kids inside the mock tomb.  We spent a good amount of time in here looking at all the wall art. The kids were able to name just about all the gods depicted on the walls and tell the story of the weighing of the heart ceremony which is seen behind them.

At every statue we came across the kids would all pose and say take our picture with ______.  The above statue is Khufu. The one below is Amenhotep  III.
And here is Ahkenaten.
Nearby there was a cast figure of Nefertiti's head as well. But all eyes were on the statues.

The kids also sat in on a class where they learned to play the Egyptian game of Senet. They are going to one day teach me how to play since I spent that 30 min climbing up and down stairs with Molly.

Henry, this evening, told me he was "all egypted out". I guess that is the sign that we have worn out that topic and it is time to move on.

The museum was a great way to finish off our studies. We last went 4 years ago when we studied Egypt the first time with Story of the World and I am sure we will make our way here again in 4 years when we revisit the ancients in the next go round of history.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Magnents and Play Dough

Poor Molly has a hard time each day.  I spend a lot of my day telling her "not now" or "stop" so I have been trying really hard to give her things to do while we do school work each day.

Lately Molly has been enamored with the Chicka Chicka Boom Boom book.  I have been reading it often and she has been requesting the DVD as well.  One day while exploring the game closet she found a bag full of magnetic letters.  She quickly added them to the fridge and was singing  "a told b and b told c, I'll meet you at the top of the coconut tree" but of course her version was more "a..b... up coconut tree".

Later in the week I went to a Relief Society craft night and came home with a new nativity magnet set to play on the fridge. Molly has had a good time rearranging them on the fridge, the dishwasher and I even found Mary and Joseph on the oven at one point.
This one will stay on the fridge for awhile.  And so far it has kept her busy while I make dinner.

And for the first time in my life I actually made play dough.  I don't know how cost effective it is since the recipe I used called for Cream of Tarter and that stuff is expensive especially if you need a quarter cup of it. But the play dough was so smooth and it was nice to only have one color.  My kids all loved playing with it especially since I had just cooked it and it was still warm.
I broke out all the play dough toys too. That isn't something I do often. I just hate having to clean up the play dough mess.
Maybe play dough will have to be our new Rainy day activity. I know my kids love it and I do have a very nice big batch of bright pink dough now.
Plenty for all to have a large blob.

I know Molly would love to play with it everyday but I don't know if I am up for that yet. 
If you need a good Play dough recipe, this is what I did.

2 cups water
2 cups flour
1 cup salt
1/4 cup Cream of tarter
1/4 cup oil
food coloring or even paint (I just used food coloring)

Heat on the stove in a large pot. Fold the flour over and over making sure the bottom is pulled up to the top. After about 5 min. it should be stiff and well mixed.  Dump it out on a floured counter and kneed it (when it is cool enough to touch) for awhile until very smooth.  Then play and play.

Keep in a air tight container and it should stay moist for a number of months.

I am trying to keep Molly better occupied while I help the others with school. It isn't easy and she often gets pushed aside and as a result she is rather crabby so I am trying to make sure she gets read to and played with each day but also that she is given things to do while I am needed elsewhere.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Perfect Book for November!

This Fall I put in charge of the younger children's book club at our co-op.  I looked through lists of books and read different recommendations and came up with a list of books we would read over the next 4 months. I just assigned the books to a month without much planning. I am so grateful for those that recommended Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, it really is the perfect book to discuss at Thanksgiving time.

It certainly doesn't look like a Thanksgiving book. There are no pumpkins or pilgrims and such but the theme is all about appreciating what you have and finding happiness.

Grace Lin in her acceptance speech for one of the many awards this book has won says :
"Minli is not perfect, but she tries her best and at every point she learns and grows until finally she realizes that happiness is not a prize that can be bought or won. Happiness is a gift that is cherished, something that one is truly grateful for."
That message comes through loud and clear through this story or I guess I could say stories since this book contains lots of little stories woven together to tell the entire tale.  It is sort of the Chinese Wizard of Oz with Minli traveling through a land and meeting lots of different characters and hearing their stories. In a way you could say Minli and Dorothy learn the same lesson. In the Wizard of Oz the theme is somewhat simplified  into "There is no place like home".  Minli (as well as other characters) learns that good fortune and happiness were already around her, she just needs to recognize and appreciate them.

We listened to the Audio book but am so glad I also got the actual book as well. The illustrations are beautiful! Here are a few.

I haven't quite decided how I am going to approach the book club discussion.  In the past we looked at the themes by discussing the protagonist and what they are trying to do while the antagonist tries to stop them.  That could be interesting to see if the kids could come up with who the antagonist is in this story. Or I could approach it as a discussion of the plot or story sequence and discuss the theme as we define and discuss the rising action, climax and resolution.  Or I could even do something totally different and have the kids actually talk about the similarities and differences to the Wizard of Oz story. I think if I took any of these directions,  I am sure we would discuss the book pretty thoroughly and cover the wonderful theme of the book.

I think I am going to make bookmarks for the kids with the Chinese characters for Thankfulness on them.

I really hope this is what these characters say. I just googled the phrase and this is what came up. It certainly looks good!
And of course some goldfish and a red thread or yarn on the end. Each of these things plays a role in the story.
And no book club meeting would be complete without a snack so we will eat some goldfish crackers as well.
I saw one of the girls in the club today at a different event and she had her book with her. She said she is liking it so much she has been bringing it with her so she can read more when she can fit it in. Coming from a 9 year old girl that is great praise indeed.

It should be a good book discussion.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

More Egypt and All the Rest

I think we finally have reached the end of our Egypt study. I am ready to move on to our next major civilization. Not that Egypt hasn't been fascinating. I thought I had learned a ton about Egypt when we studied it 4 years ago but this time through we have really immersed ourselves in stories about the people, their gods and tied it all together with some great fiction that only added to and reinforced our studies.

This week we spent a lot of time reading books about Akhenaten, Nefertiti and King Tut.

I read aloud this book which was a short chapter book about how the Egyptians may felt when Akhenaten changed things in Egypt and forced all to worship one god instead of the many gods they had been worshiped for thousands of years.
It was interesting but my kids are enjoying listening to the audiobook of The Red Pyramid even more.

Sophie couldn't wait for it to finish so started reading the physical book and has finished it already and has now started the 2nd book in the series. She can't wait for the third one to come out in the spring.

I know we aren't totally done yet with Egypt. We still have the story of Cleopatra which comes later when Rome takes over everything but for now I am happy with what we have been able to cover and am ready to move on to other things.

I think it might be time to head to the Egyptian Museum we have nearby. I have been saving it until we had finished learning and talking about Egypt but I think we may need to go soon before the excitement for all things Egyptian fades. 

We also finally wrapped our chicken mummy.
 Here is Cleopatra after sitting in salts for weeks and weeks.
 Sophie has been waiting to wrap this little chicken for weeks. I am so happy to finally have this project done. She can stop pestering asking me when we would wrap her.

We used some more of the plaster bandages that we had made our masks with a few weeks ago. It worked perfectly. She is now officially a mummy. Now what do we do with this Mummified hen? Sophie already has plans to make a sarcophagus. 

As for other subjects we have covered this week.....

Sophie has been doing something new in Math. Since she had finished her Singapore 5A book I thought she could use a break from the regular stuff she had been doing so I downloaded the Pet store version of Simply Charlotte Mason's business math.  She is flying through it really quickly.  Sophie has already done about 4 months out of the twelve that she will do with this series.  It is a bit hard to see her have to add all those columns of addition by hand when I know it would be so much easier with a calculator or even better if the records were kept on the computer and it did the adding for her. It is good for her to have to do a lot of math by hand!

The boys are still working on their Singapore math workbooks.

Science has been a bit hit and miss the last few weeks. It is always the subject that gets left out if we run short on time. I need to make sure we get it back into the schedule again. We didn't read any of our Apologia book. We should be doing the respiratory system.  It will have to be a focus for next week. The kids of course are getting some Science in at their workshop that they attend each Wednesday but I can't really say that is enough science so I need to squeeze in more.

Sophie is doing great with her IEW All things Fun and Fascinating. I really like this writing program! The lessons aren't as easily split up into weeks as Writing with Ease but I feel like Sophie is learning more about how to go about writing. Writing with Ease often felt like it was busywork.  Ian of course is still doing Writing with ease but I have ordered the IEW DVDs and the Student Writing Intensive so I may switch him soon and start it slowly since it is designed to start at about 3rd grade.  Henry is doing his Explode the code but he has reached the point that I remember feeling like Ian was done with them. Henry too is starting to show signs that he is ready for more.  So perhaps I need to switch Henry to something else.

The kids are learning Fur Elise in their piano class. And we have listened to a lot of Beethoven music and I turned on Fantasia a few days ago so they could see the Pastoral symphony. We watched the whole film because my kids love it.

 We also read the Venezia biography of Beethoven and listened to the Classics for Kids production of Beethoven Lives Upstairs.

And I guess I can claim some art because I put on a DVD tour of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the kids sat and watched it with me. They got very excited when they recognize Vermeer,  Matisse Van Gogh, or other paintings that we have studied in the past. 

We also added in a new Latin Program. I used our Charter school funds to purchase Minimus Latin. We have done the first lesson and my kids seem to enjoy the story so far. This isn't the program we wanted to use but since the Charter School turned down my first 3 choices, saying they are "sectarian" I was happy to find one that they actually would allow. We will have to see if this will work out. I may have to just break down and get the program I really want. But then I wouldn't be able to turn in any of the latin work we do for the portfolios each child has to turn in to the school each semester.

Oh... the charter school woes :) But I have to remember why I am doing it.

Piano lessons are going very well. The kids don't fight me about practice each day. They do often rush through and are sometime sloppy in their practice but their teacher is pleased with their progress and so am I.  It is a pleasure to hear them stop and play a little tune when they are passing the piano. I have also been teaching them the simplified version of For the Beauty of the Earth "just for fun". We have been singing a few of the Thanksgiving hymns each day and they asked me to help them learn this one. They all seem to have the right hand down so now I get to add in the left hand. Maybe by Thanksgiving they will each be able to play that one hymn.

Oh.. yeah.. one more thing for the week. We did something for P.E. Since Sophie is going to be running a mile in the spring as part of the required 5th grade physical fitness test I decided we should go to the track and run it, just to see how well they could do it. I used to hate having to run the mile in Elementary school. I always felt yucky after doing it. But since we are pretty active and take hikes quite often they didn't seem to have a problem at all.  We didn't run the entire 4 laps. I decided to start us off a little easier and only run the straights and walk the corners. That was the way I always did it all the way through high school. All the kids made it around that community center track 4 times and made it while pushing Molly in a stroller. If we make a habit of this I am going to need to do something different because it wasn't a jogging stroller and I kept kicking it or having to really watch my stride.

So that was our week,  and now I just need to get ready to head into the next.