Thursday, March 29, 2012

Eyes and Ears Wall

I haven't shown any of our working walls recently so before I took everything down from our Attentiveness unit, I snapped a picture.  I first mentioned our "wall" about three years ago.  It's hard to believe so much time has passed and that I'm still doing it.

A few weeks ago we began studying the ear so after making the crawl through ear, I mounted the big auricle to my kitchen wall and had the kids help me diagram it using construction paper cut to the approximate shape of the inner ear parts.   Then I added the title of the unit with a simple explanation, "Attentiveness is listening closely and watching carefully."

I usually like to include a few quotes with our units as well as interesting fun facts.  Along with the verses in the KONOS book, I went online to Biblegateway and quickly looked up a few verses on listening and hearing, seeing and watching and printed the ones I wanted the kids to remember in really large font.  And because there are so many awesome verses in the Bible and I have such a hard time choosing, I also printed out a list of others for observation and study but not for memorization.  While I was searching on Biblegateway, I noticed that the word listen or some form of the word listen, was found 412 times.  Fun factoid found for my wall!

The week we studied the eye the kids and I worked together to make the huge diagram of the eye.  I was planning to add a bunch of optical illusions but we ran out of time and I only got one on there that I found on Pinterest.  The 3-D hand.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Paper Bag Animal Masks

Good old fashioned fun.  Today we started the Orderliness unit back up again with a focus on animal classification.  I thought it would be fun to begin the week with a craft.  While perusing the internet for some new fangled ideas I came upon  Vintage Goodness where Mitzi had blogged about vintage cookbooks.  She included a picture of some classic paper bag masks that reminded me of my childhood.  And that's when I decided.  Keep it simple.  Have a good time.  Give the kids ideas but let them design and create on their own. We're thrilled with the results.

Studies Show Homeschoolers Have A Better Chance in the Real World

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Created by: College At Home

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Spaghetti and Meatball Cake

Inspired by the folks over at Food Network, I had to give this spaghetti and meatball cake a try for a dear friend's 20th birthday.
This had to be a travelable treat so I made it on a cake tote tray.  (Which doesn't make for a very pretty presentation.) Fortunately before I popped the lid on, my 7yo informed me that my lid was too short!  Yikes, my cake would have been ruined before it even left the house!
Mary is a chocolate lover so I made this using a sweet, delicious, moist chocolate cake and a to-die-for, light white chocolate frosting I found on  For assembly just follow the instructions at Food Network. 
Mary was also the object of my daughter's efforts recently when she made her a friendship bracelet.  The tutorial on that will be coming up soon!


Friday, March 9, 2012

Sound and Music

After completing our study of the ear and hearing we moved on to sound and music with a particular focus on the orchestra.  Each of the students had to give oral presentations about a chosen composer or an opinion paper on a piece of orchestral music.

Two of our teachers are blessed by God to have the wonderful gift of musical talent.  Last week Dianna and my husband talked to the kids about different types of sounds, notes and instruments.  Dianna brought her saxophone and talked about how it is played and how to get a variety of sounds from it.  My hubby taught the kids about the mechanics of stringed instruments.  Then the kids poured water into bottles to experiment with notes.  By blowing across the opening of the bottles they tried to match notes with a keyboard.  This was pretty hard.  I'm not sure they were very successful except that they discovered glass bottles would have worked better.  They also made reeds using straws with slits cut into them.  These were successful and very noisy!

This week, they focused more on musical terms, symbols on sheet music and dynamics.  For a fun review activity a teacher held up the symbol on a card and the kids had to remember what the symbol meant and then they practiced making those sounds with their voices.  After a little practice with this we got the paints out and had the kids paint pictures while listening to Beethoven's "Spring."  They were instructed to listen quietly to the music and paint what they felt or what they thought the composer was feeling or thinking when he wrote the piece.  We did NOT tell the kids what they were listening to until the activity was over.  And when they were finished we talked about the piece and the kids shared about their paintings and discussed some of the dynamics of the song that they recognized.

We like to have a physical activity each week to help the kids get the wiggles out and move around a little bit.  Praise the Lord the weather was so nice today.  As a final test to see if they are learning to be more attentive the kids went outside and took part in a directive obstacle course.  We didn't have a course set up, rather the students were given a verbal set of instructions to complete.  This got all the kids cheering for each other and running around and having a great time.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

What a Good Book

This book has been on my shelf for years and I never think to pull it out.  It is just loaded with precious crafts and games and ideas for young girls looking for something to do.

I guess I make the mistake of thinking, "We're not into needlepoint and that book is too old-fashioned for us."  But there is only one chapter on needlepoint out of 42!  There is so much more to this book and such an assortment of activities.  You'll find something for every season and everything from modeling clay to instructions for making a hammock, from window decorations to recipes, from nature study to recycling projects and lots of different party ideas with activities to do at them.

So this blog post, while a gentle nudge for you to go get this book if you haven't already acquired it is also a reminder for me to just get it off the shelf and begin using it.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Middle Ages

We have been so fortunate to have a medieval expert in our midst.  My good friend Johnnye spent much of her adult years recreating the middle ages with the SCA.  She is also a very talented seamstress, who has made many a wedding dress, created her own medieval clothing, taught sewing classes and much more.

During the week that we studied daily life she agreed to be our guest speaker.  It was such a treat!

Johnnye brought several items that she had left from her days of recreating including goblets and books full of patterns, shoes, clothing, headdresses and bags.  For the first half of co-op she told us about daily life including what the children might have been doing all day, the feudal system and what people would have eaten on a day to day basis if you were nobility or serfs and also what you would have found at a feast.  We were informed that vegetables were common food and the nobility didn't eat their veggies unless it was at a feast where they needed to have many dishes on the table to make an impressive display.  Otherwise only the poor ate vegetables.  It is so funny to imagine some of the platters that would have adorned their tables at a feast.  Once the chicken was cooked they would have stuck peacock or other feathers into it to make it look like it was alive still.  Or they might have a roasted piglet with the head of a rooster mounted on the front.  They were particular about having their meat cooked but it didn't occur to them at the time not to reattach raw meat to the cooked meat!

We then broke for lunch and the kids made fig pastries.  A little bit of work wrapping up all that sticky fig goo in the fillo dough.  They were tasty, though we don't think we'll be making them for the official feast at the end of the unit.

After lunch we met back in the "classroom" to learn about the clothing of the time period with a particular focus on the eleventh through fifteenth centuries.  This is the time period from which I've told the kids they can choose their costumes.

Johnnye was so kind to let the girls try on her dresses.  They each found one they liked and are going to try to copy for the big feast.

The kids all have to sew their own costumes for this event and Johnnye is kind enough to guide us in our endeavor since we are all clueless.  They've all taken their measurements and Johnnye has gone shopping with us to help us choose appropriate fabric for the time period and to also make sure we chose something that would be easy enough to work with.  We didn't stick to just wool, linen and cotton, the only fabrics available in medieval Europe,  but allowed ourselves fabrics that at least resembled these materials.  We also tried to stay close to fabric colors that could have been made at the time using natural dyes. (But I think my daughter stretched it a bit with her bright blue/green.  You'll see it in an upcoming post once she has finished making it.)  The next step is to make our patterns and begin cutting the fabric.

We have one boy in our HOW group and we are thrilled that he also was able to come up with a plan for a costume using one of the pattern books.  Johnnye just didn't have any male clothing left over from her days of recreation for him to try on.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Doing the Bathroom Over

OK, so this has nothing to do with anything but I am ready to do the main bathroom over.  It's actually the kids' bathroom but also for guests when they can't use the half bath downstairs or if they're staying over.

It has been decorated with ducks for the past nine years so I'm really ready for an older person theme if you know what I mean. Hubby and I thought we'd do something to our own liking that would go along with the rest of the house.  Maybe some warm colors.  But when we mentioned our plans to the kids they all balked at the idea and asked for something "fun."

Now, I'm not the mom who is afraid to put her foot down but this is one of those things I really don't care that much about as long as I can get those ducks outta there.  So I agreed we could do something fun but not babyish since the youngest is about to turn 8.

But now I'm having a very hard time finding that something fun and colorful that is modern looking, not too young and gender neutral because I have a boy who has an aversion to flowers.  Any ideas people?

I'm desperate for your help!  I won't be doing anything major.  Just painting the walls and getting new decor.  No remodeling or buying of plumbing or tubs and such.  So if you have any ideas, PLEASE, link me, pin me, do whatever you can to get something in front of my eyes that is young and hip.

Tea Party

My seven year old recently earned a special play date.  We have friends over often but usually they come with moms so I get play dates too but since she earned this one for good behavior when we were working on the obedience unit, I wanted to do it up right.  What she wanted more than anything was a little girly tea party.  And her great grandmother had just given us some really neat dishes and glasses perfect for ice cream sundaes on our last visit to West Virginia.  So I insisted that the tea party have make-your-own sundaes too.  She was rather easily convinced.

The girls arrived in their prettiest dresses (or tutu worn over jeans for the dress shy friend) at 10 am.  Right away they set the tone for the day by watching Beauty and the Beast and then proceeding to call me Mrs. Potts for the remainder of the day.

Tea and luncheon were served immediately following the movie.  Now you should know that I wanted these kids to eat a decent lunch before the big sundaes came out so healthy yet kid friendly foods were provided in the hope of enticing them to eat plenty of the good stuff.  Carrot sticks, cream cheese stuffed dates, grilled cheese triangles, raisins, sunflower seeds, strawberries, apples and more were all served in pretty crystal bowls.  We ate with our pinkies extended and spoke in ridiculous accents.  Luncheon was superb.

Next the girls made paper flowers to adorn their sundae glasses and then to later use as a twisty tie for their parting gifts.  My daughter got a Klutz paper flower making kit for a birthday gift last year and it is just filled with pretty, printed, paper petals.  The girls finished their paper flowers and the sundae bar was set up and ready for customers.

After that I gave the girls some free time to play while I cleaned up a bit.  They played Polly's for a bit then I rounded them up again for some organized play.  My fifteen year old daughter joined us to teach us a song.  We all sat in a circle with our hands out by our sides, palms up overlapping the girl's hand beside us.  Then as she sang the song (something about a bullfrog) we had to take turns slapping the person's hand on our right with our left hand, all in sequential order around the circle. It was fun and reminded me of my own girlhood with the rhyming songs we used to sing while doing patty cake type hand motions.

We still had a bit of time left.  One of the girls wanted to do a craft and another wanted to play hide and seek or sardines so we compromised and played each for half the time left.  For a craft I pulled out something simple - stencils and pencils and let the girls make name signs for their rooms.  Then we finished up the day with a rousing game of sardines.  Oh I do love that game! Instead of one person counting and everyone else hiding, one person hides in this game and everyone else searches.  As the kids find the first sardine, they join him or her in their hiding spot until they are all packed in tight with only one child left hunting.  My son joined the girls for this game to make it more interesting.

I love days like today.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Attentiveness - The Ear

Even though I did the attentiveness unit with my eldest daughter several years ago, we never made the crawl through ear so I was delighted to have the chance to try this activity with my younger two kids.  Actually I don't get to hang out with my little ones as much at co-op now since I am mostly with the HOW group but I sneak in for visits now and then to see what they are up to.

Here they are with my son in the ear canal with the auricle attached and his friend in the eustacian tube sticking out in a funny angle but so that we could
get him in the picture too. The inner ear is located under the table.

The kids could crawl under the table via the ear canal, bang on the ear drum which was made from an oatmeal container.  Then they moved on to the tiny bones: the hammer, anvil and stirrup which we attached to large snail type shell to represent the cochlea.  The electrical cord hanging on the side is the semicircular canal and then they crawl back out through the eustacian tube.

We also have a very large diagram of the inner ear on the wall so they can see how close each of the items would really be.  It was a fun activity and I'm so thankful to be going through our KONOS books again.

This activity can be found in Volume I Attentiveness.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Science Fair at My House!

Week two of the solar system and we held a mini science fair.  Each student chose a planet then gave a visual report on it at our planet fair except for one student who is actually in our HOW co-op who studied the sun.