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Archive for the ‘community service’ Category

We fell a bit behind with doing a project or activity each week that involved giving of oneself, volunteering, or making a donation.

When we started this challenge at the beginning of the year, we were able to do an activity each week. At the end of June, we fell a bit behind so we are doing some “catch up” with this challenge.

For the 25th week of the 52 Weeks of Giving, the girls each wrote a note to an adult who has positively impacted their lives in some way.

Sophia writing a note to Rosanne.
Sophia wrote a note to Rosanne, a woman who was her Hidden Hero during the past school year. Rosanne was matched with Sophia in November 2010. Rosanne mailed and emailed her letters and gifts each month. This program was through the Youth Service Bureau and targets youth who may be going through a challenging time in their life.
Every time that Rosanne would write, Sophia was so excited to hear from her. The encouragement she received from an adult who was not a family member was so uplifting and made such a positive difference to Sophia. 
Olivia chose to write to Mr. Neil (Neil is is first name). He has given Olivia and Sophia a lot of guidance and encouragement through the children’s choir. As the choir director, he has chosen a variety of songs that the children have been performed at church and nursing homes.
He also was the director for the first community play that Olivia did; and Neil gave Olivia an opportunity to memorize 50 lines – plus participate in a number of songs – when she was 6 years old.
She is looking forward to going back to choir in September, and wanted to let him know that.
Olivia writing a letter to Mr. Neil.

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On 5 Kids and a Dog, there’s a series called the ABCs of Homeschooling.  This week’s letter is “K.” 

Alphabet ATC or ACEO Available - Needlefelted Letter K…is for Kitchen.
When I think of homeschooling, one of the places that we spend a considerable amount of time in is the kitchen.  The girls and I enjoy cooking and baking, so incorporating a culinary aspect into homeschooling is a natural fit.
The girls have been helping in the kitchen since they were about 18 months old.  As they have gotten older, the new skills they learn match their developmental and physical abilities. 
Both Sophia and Olivia will look at recipes as I’m planning meals for the upcoming few weeks.  When I’m doing this, they often will look at the pictures that accompany the recipe (the majority of my recipes come from cooking and women’s magazines).  They’ll see a picture of something that looks good and will ask if they can make it. 
Trying a new recipe, having it be a part of the meal, and seeing what it tastes like is something that makes the girls happy and proud.
Olivia with Pumpkin Pie
Olivia holding a pumpkin pie she made.

During the past few years, I created an ABC Journey Around the World in which the girls learned about a different country in alphabetical order (e.g., Australia, Brazil, China, Denmark, Egypt, France, and so forth until ending with Yemen and Zambia). 

One of their favorite parts of learning about other countries was seeing what people would eat in different parts of the world.  I found recipes on the internet as well as through recipe books from the library. We tried anywhere from one to six recipes per country (some were easier to find recipes for than others).

Making Mexican Hot Chocolate
The girls made Mexican hot chocolate
using a recipe found in a children’s cookbook.
They also made Mexican scrambled eggs
that morning for a complete breakfast.

French Green Bean Recipe
Sophia is holding a green bean sidedish
using a French recipe. 

Olivia Making Swedish Rolls
Olivia is making Swedish cinnamon rolls.
The recipe came from a local church cookbook
that had a whole section on Swedish cooking
(we live in a community that was founded
by Swedish immigrants).

The kitchen is more than a place to cook and bake food.  With homeschooling, the kitchen also becomes an area to do science experiments and hands-on activities.

One of the science lessons that the girls did focused on marine life and pelicans. Apparently a pelican can hold 13 1/2 quarts of water in its pouch. The water drains out, leaving only the fish which the pelican then can swallow and eat.

Sophia Being a Pelican
Sophia trying to catch a marshmallow
as part of a science lesson about pelicans.

In the photograph above, there are 2 marshmallows in the sink representing fish. Sophia’s job is to catch the marshmallows. It’s harder than it looks.

The girls learn best when they can make a hands-on, tangible connection with the subject about which they are learning.  This is so important when the concept might be more difficult for them (e.g., electricity) or would benefit from a visual example (e.g., lung capacity).

Lung Capacity Experiment
Olivia learning about lung capacity.
She took a deep breath and then blew air through the tube
that led into the water-filled 2-liter pop bottle.
The air would push out the water from the bottle
and show how much air was in her lungs.

Sometimes when we’re cooking, the girls learn new words or make a connection between what they’re cooking with something else they’ve heard or learned.  For example, when we were making cheese, the curds separated from the whey.  They immediately made the connection with the nursery rhyme they had heard many times:

Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet
Eating her curds and whey,
Along came a spider,
Who sat down beside her
And frightened Miss Muffet away.

Cheesemaking - Curds Separating from Whey
Learning to make cheese.  In the process,
the girls saw the curds and whey separate; and
made the connection of a nursery rhyme they heard.
(The curds are the white part; the whey is the liquid.)

For one nature study, we focused on learning about dandelions.  In addition to the science part of the study, we added a culinary component where we made dandelion cookies, dandelion vinegar, and dandelion oil/salve.

Making Dandelion Oil for Salve
Olivia making dandelion oil.
The oil can be used as a base to make salve.

The kitchen also is a place where the girls create things for the holidays and different seasons. 

Borax Snowflake - Step 3 - Sophia
Sophia making borax snowflakes.
Homemade Marshallows for Valentine's Day
Olivia holding homemade marshmallows
she made for Valentine’s Day.

Gretel Waiting for Pumpkin Guts
Sophina carving a pumpkin while Gretel looks on.

An important part of our time in the kitchen is when we make food to help others.  We have made many meals and desserts for people experiencing medical/health challenges; and have chosen to donate some of our food to those in need. 

Cereal to Donate
The girls packaging up some of food to donate
to an organization that serves people who are homeless.

We also make food for animals – treats for the dogs, cats, and horses; and for wildlife.  Making food for the hummingbirds to drink during the summer and suet for the birds during the winter are regular activities. 

Sophia Helping Make Bird Suet on a 25 Degree Below Zero Day
Sophia making suet for the birds on a
very cold 25 degree BELOW zero day.
Needless to say, the birds needed the energy
and were constantly eating the homemade suet.

Seeing how excited the animals are to get a treat…and to see the variety of birds that now visit the feeders is a lot of fun.  Being able to observe animals up close (especially birds) is such a highlight of homeschooling.
So many subjects are covered in the kitchen beyond home economics – reading, math, science, community service, and geography. The kitchen truly is one of the centers of learning for homeschooling…and one of our favorite places to learn! 

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After a rather sobering (but incredibly fascinating) book last week for the 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge, I picked out an inspiring story called The Go-Giver by Bob Burg and John David Mann. 

The inside cover summarizes the book well:

The Go-Giver tells the story of an ambitious young man named Joe who yearns for success. Joe is a true go-getter, though sometimes he feels as if the harder and faster he works, the further away his goals seem to be.

And so one day, desperate to land a key sale at the end of a bad quarter, he seeks advice from the enigmatic Pindar, a legendary consultant referred to by his many devotees simply as the Chairman.

Over the next week, Pindar introduces Joe to a series of successful “go-givers”: a restaurateur, a CEO, a financial advisor, a real estate broker and “The Connector,” who brought them all together.

Pindar’s friends share with Joe the Five Laws of Stratospheric Success and teach him how to open himself up to the power of giving.

Joe learns that changing his focus from getting to giving—putting others’ interests first and continually adding value to their lives—ultimately leads to unexpected returns.

Imparted with wit and grace, The Go-Giver is a heartwarming and inspiring tale that brings new relevance to the old proverb “give and you shall receive.”

The Go-Giver has its own website with a scrapbook of stories that illustrate how people applied the book’s advice to their own life, and – in the process – have positively impacted the lives of many other people in their own family, community, workplace, and world.

At the beginning of the book, there’s a section where Joe meets Pindar for the first time, and Pindar explains his core philosophy.  Pindar says, “Please don’t misunderstand me.  There’s nothing wrong with making money.  Lots of it, in fact.  It’s just not a goal that will make you successful….You want to understand success, yes?”

Joe nodded. 

“All right.  I’m going to share my Trade Secret with you now.”

Pindar leaned forward a bit and softly spoke one word.  “Giving.”

There are several “laws” that Pindar shares with Joe that he must, in turn, act on in some way – either at his place of employment or with friends/family.  They are:

The Law of Value – Your true worth is determined by how much more you give in value than you take in payment.

The Law of Compensation – Your income is determined by how many people you serve and how well you serve them.

The Law of Influence – Your influence is determined by how abundantly you place other people’s interests first.

The Law of Authenticity – The most valuable gift you have to offer is yourself.

The Law of Receptivity – The key to effective giving is to stay open to receiving.

One of the chapters talked about the reasons for working.  According to Pindar there “…are three universal reasons for working.  Survive – to meet your basic living needs. Save – to go beyond your basic needs and expand your life. And serve  – to make a contribution to the world around you.”

Another section of the book discussed a network:  “Now, by a network I don’t necessarily mean your customers or clients.  I mean a network of people who know you, like you, and trust you.  They might never buy a thing from you, but they’ve always got you in the backs of their minds.  ….. They’re people who are personally invested in seeing you succeed.  …. They’re your army of personal walking ambassadors.

Since I am not employed outside the home, I began to question how relevant this story was to my life.  However, about midway through the book, there was a part that said, “These lessons don’t apply only to business….A genuinely sound business principle will apply anywhere in your life….That’s the true bottom line.  Not whether it simply improves your financial balance sheet, but whether it improves your life’s balance sheet.”

Another section of The Go-Giver shared an example of a woman who was in the real estate field.  She wasn’t closing on many homes, and felt like she didn’t have much to offer.  She said, “When I said that my life as a mom and household manager left me with nothing the marketplace wanted, I was wrong.  There was something else I’d learned over those years, and that was how to be a friend.  How to care.  How to make people feel good about themselves.  And that, my friends, is something the marketplace wants very much – always has, always will.” 

A good thing to remember was this part of The Go-Giver:  “No matter what your training, no matter what your skills, no matter what area you’re in, you are your most important commodity.  The most valuable gift you have to offer is you.  …As long as you’re trying to be someone else…you have no possibility of truly reaching people.  The most valuable thing you have to give people is yourself.”

Giving is Receiving

Ultimately, what the message and what all these lessons support is: “…The secret to success…to gaining it, to having it, is to give, give, give.  The secret to getting is giving.  And the secret to giving is making yourself open to receiving.”

The Go-Giver doesn’t take very long to read (it’s only 132 pages). It is a thought-provoking book in that it makes one consider how to be of better service…how to be make a greater contribution…to others (whether through one’s time or through financial assistance).  I would definitely recommend this book. 

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Today the girls made bracelets at WBUUC as part of Social Action Sunday.  During two weeks in March, the church does different social action projects.  This week, the girls joined other children in first through sixth grade to make bracelets that would be sold to raise money for Fifty Lanterns International.  The bracelets were sold during social hour for $5 each.

Girl with a solar lantern she received.
(Photo from 50 Lanterns website)

Sophia was able to make three bracelets and Olivia made one bracelet during the assembly time.  By the end of the social hour, their bracelets had sold which meant that $20 had been raised for Fifty Lanterns International.  We also purchased one bracelet that another child made so the girls and I helped contribute $25 towards the organization.

According to its website, Fifty Lanterns International is a Minnesota-based nonprofit organization that partners with established humanitarian groups to provide communities in the developing world tools that provide safety and opportunity through renewable energy sources such as solar-power lights.

They bring light where there is none. The donation of a solar lantern can rid a home of toxic and expensive kerosene, and the risk of a deadly fire. With the extended day that the solar light gives a family, children may do their school work, daily activities can be completed after sunset, and homes around the world are lit by the warmth of people’s generosity.

Lanterns being distributed by Fifty Lanterns.
(Photo from Fifty Lanterns website)

$50 buys one lantern, so the girls were excited to know that by making bracelets and purchasing one, they basically were half way towards a lantern.

Solar lights have many benefits.  They:
• Redirect family spending from kerosene to food, clothing, medicine or school fees
• Provide light for income-generating activities like sewing or weaving;

• Allow children to read and study in the evenings;


• Reduce deforestation caused by burning wood or charcoal;


• Eliminate both the health and safety risks of kerosene lighting;
• Provide a dependable, non-polluting source of light for many years.

Woman who received a solar lantern.
(Photo from Fifty Lanterns website)

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During weeks 10 and 11 of the 52 Weeks of Giving, the girls are watching the neighbor’s dog, Caesar, while they are on vacation.  They did pay each of the girls some money.  However, for the amount of time they spend with Caesar, they are going above and beyond what the neighbor’s expect in terms of pet care. 

The girls with Caesar.

They visit Caesar three times each day; play with him; make sure he has food and water; and let him outside to walk and get fresh air.  They also bring in the newspapers and check the neighbor’s home to make sure it’s okay and there aren’t any problems.

So far, they have completed 7 days of their job/volunteering. They have four days left to go.  It’s a great opportunity for them to learn about responsibility; serving and helping others; and being a good neighbor. 

One more picture of Caesar with the girls.

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For this week’s 52 Weeks of Giving program that the girls are doing, they donated a bag of non-perishable food items to the food shelf.

Sophia and Olivia with a bag of food for the food shelf.

All the food collected at the local church is forwarded to either the Valley Outreach Food Shelf or Elim Lutheran Church.

Collection cart for the food shelf.

A food shelf is a place where hungry individuals and families can go to get extra food so they don’t have to skip meals. There are more than 300 food shelves in Minnesota. Every month the Valley Outreach Food Shelf gives more than 36,000 pounds of food to up to 400 families each month who reside within the Stillwater Area School District.

About 50% of the individuals served each month are children; 20% are elderly; 10% are physically or mentally challenged; and the rest are adults who are either employed – sometimes at more than one job – or unemployed and unable to find work as a result of the economic recession. Those who are employed typically work at low-wage position(s) with little or no employee benefits and are unable to make ends meet.

A thank you note was printed in the church newsletter.  It said, “Thank you to everyone who made a … food donation during Minnesota Food Share Month in March.  Special thanks to those who gave during the local effort to break the world record for a one day food drive. 
“Although the record was not broken, over 80,000 pounds of food was collected.  Over half of which stayed locally to help fill the food shelves in Stillwater.”

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In my life this week…
I’m getting prepared for the 30-Day Vegan Program by making some significant modifications to the food that I have on hand.  Spent most of Sunday cleaning and organizing the cupboards so that all the healthy food is in canning jars and labeled. 
Healthy food that is in canning jars –
labeled and ready to use.
Need to work on a couple more cupboards as well as the refrigerator so I’m prepared on March 7th when the program begins.
More jars ready to be sorted by type before putting in the cupboard
(e.g., beans, dried fruit, grains, flours).
For Harvest Moon by Hand (my shop), I want to:

– list at least 7 new items to the website
– finish sewing the bags I made from vintage children’s books
– create another PDF pattern for either felt food or a children’s toy
– make a “friendship” theme item for the HandmadeMN team challenge

I have a quilt square I need to complete by the middle of the week for a swap on Swap-Bot. 

The major project of the week:  my office.  I have to file and start doing taxes this week.
In our homeschool this week…
In addition to the standard/core curriculum for language arts, history, geography, and science (using Sonlight Curriculum) and math (using Rod and Staff Curriculum), I have a variety of other activities that I’m doing with the girls:

– Finish the paper quilt for February using the book Easy Literature-Based Quilts Around the Year by Mariann Cigrand.

– Finish the rest of the Aesop’s Fables stories and hands-on projects using the book Literature Pockets – Aesop’s Fables by Evan-Moor Educational Publishers. (Olivia is doing this only.)

– Do another Outdoor Hour Challenge using the book Handbook of Nature Study by Annna Botsford Comstock; and have the girls add to their nature journals.

– Learn about and do activities related to Dr. Seuss’s Birthday (March 2nd) and Alexander Graham Bell’s Birthday (March 3rd).
– Do two more art lessons using the Atelier program as well as do a new type of Waldorf painting that combines wax crayons, oil, and aromatherapy.

– Continue doing activities related to Ukraine (this is the ABC Journey Around the World that I’ve been doing with the girls for a couple years now). This week, I’d like the girls to learn how to make some of the Ukrainian recipes as well as try making pysanky (the decorated eggs using the wax-resist method and dye). 

– Begin learning about Wales on March 1st when St. David’s Day is celebrated there (St. David is the Patron Saint of Wales).

Places we’re going and people we’re seeing…

The homeschool co-op is on Monday.  Sophia takes piano lessons, ceramics/pottery, and home economics.  Olivia takes American Heroes, computers, and ceramics/pottery.  Both the girls have choir on Wednesday evening.  On Thursday, I’m helping my parents with chores around their home as well as errands they need to do.  On Saturday, my parents are taking us all out to eat.

My favorite thing this week was…

Doing the Outdoor Nature Hour Challenge that was focused on birds.  The girls and I also spent time doing snow-related science activities which were a lot of fun.
Sophia measuring the snow depth on
the limb of a fallen tree.
Also, we enjoyed making Hygiene Kits that will be shipped worldwide to people facing natural disasters, violence, or extreme poverty.
What’s working/not working for us…
What I enjoy about homeschooling is that we can spend longer periods of time on particular subjects that either interest the girls or that they are finding challenging and with which they need extra guidance. 
What is a challenge right now is waiting for the assessment that the school district is doing on Olivia to help determine why she is struggling with reading and math.  The anticipated date that I should have their report in hand is April 11th…right before the homeschool conference.  This hopefully will help determine what curricula and strategies to use that will make learning easier for her in these subjects.
Homeschool questions/thoughts I have…
It’s more of a dream…as the girls begin learning about United States geography, I think it would be incredibly educational (and fun) to be visit each of the 50 states to make learning about them more “real.”  If the goal would be to learn about each of the 50 states, say, one per month, it would take about four years for an in-depth geography study.  It would be interesting to visit a group of states each quarter. 
A photo, video, link, or quote to share…
Olivia opening seeds that she had soaked
to reveal the new growth. 
She planted these and
will watch them grow during the upcoming weeks.
The Homeschool Chick 

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