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

Alphabet ATC or ACEO Available - Needlefelted Letter Q…is for Quilting.

For over four years, Sophia and Olivia have been learning how to quilt. They started hand-sewing a bit before machine-sewing to get comfortable with a thread, needle, and fabric.

One of the first projects that the girls did was a simple patchwork quilt. They picked fabric from what I had on hand (a lesson in itself of resourcefulness and making do).

For some of their first sewing projects, they traced squares onto the back/wrong side of the fabric and then cut them out. They moved onto measuring and marking lines on the fabric. Sophia now can use a rotary cutter to cut fabric.

Assembling the Quilt
Olivia arranging squares for her first patchwork quilt.
She’s about 4 years old here (2007).

One of Olivia’s favorite quilts that she made was one using fabric she found at a quilting store in Pella, Iowa. The girls, my parents, and I traveled to Pella in the spring to see the tulips. There was a wonderful quilting store right off the main square.

Olivia liked a printed fabric with dogs on it. From that pattern, she picked several other fabrics to coordinate with it. She cut, arranged, and sewed all the pieces together to create her quilt.

Olivia with the Quilt She Made
Olivia made this quilt using fabric she found at a quilt shop on a trip.
This quilt holds special meaning and memories for her.
She was 6 years old when she made this quilt (2009).

Olivia entered her quilt in the county fair in the youth open class division. She was competing with children up to the age of 16 years old in her category.

She won first prize… a blue ribbon (there are only 6 ribbons – 1st through 6th place – awarded in a category). Needless to say, she was thrilled!

Olivia - Blue Ribbon on Quilt
Olivia with the quilt she made
that won her a blue ribbon!

For 2010, at 7 years old, she wanted to challenge herself to do something different. She looked with me at pictures of quilts on Flickr and saw one that she liked. It was a circular quilt made from a variety of fabrics.

The quilt she saw was done in rainbow colors with a white center. Olivia wanted to do hers in all blue fabrics with a white center. Since there was no pattern, we had to create a pattern for the blue pieces and center white piece.

Olivia chose a variety of textures also for the blue pieces which posed a bit of a challenge since each had a different “pull” to it. She had to try sewing different types of fabric together which was a good skill to learn.

Another skill she learned was doing free-style quilting. On the white fabric, she moved her presser foot around in a random pattern to secure the top, batting, and backing together.

Olivia Working on Quilt
Olivia working on her blue and white circular quilt.
She’s doing some free-motion quilting to secure the top, batting, and backing together.
Olivia was 7 years old when she did this quilt (2010).

Sophia started making quilts in 2006 (when she was 5 years old) and did a simple doll-size patchwork quilt from a kit she received for Christmas. The nice thing about the kit was that the squares were already cut for her. She simply had to sew them together and then create the quilt.

Once she learned how to do that she wanted to create another quilt using fabric that she picked out from what I had on hand. She used the same method as I used with Olivia (tracing of the shape on the fabric and then cutting it out).

By 2008, she was enjoying quilting so her grandma gave her a quilting kit in her favorite color: pink. The kit came with the fabric and pattern, but Sophia had to cut each piece for the quilt.

The fabric was a variety of textures – cotton, satin, and minky.  It was delightful to feel (from a sensory perspective). In terms of sewing…a bit more challenging, especially for a beginner quilter.

She patiently worked on the quilt and was so pleased with how it turned out. She used the quilt and enjoyed how it felt with the different textures.

Sophia in Bunkbed Camping with Quilt She Made
Sophia in a bunk bed in a camper cabin.
She wanted to bring her quilt on her first camping trip.
Sophia was 7 in this picture (2008).

By the following year, Sophia set a goal of making a quilt for her bed. She wanted a quilt in colors that she liked. We checked out some books from the library and she found a pattern that she liked. After a visit to the fabric store, she was ready to start making her quilt.

Sophia Laying Out Her Quilt
Sophia placed the pieces for her quilt on the floor.
She would pin the pieces she needed to sew as she went along.
Sophia is 8 years old in this picture (2009). 

She was happy with how her quilt turned out; and has used it on her bed since she made it.

Sophia's Finished Quilt
Sophia holding her finished quilt.

She entered the quilt in county fair and received a red ribbon on it (second place). At 8 years old, she was in the category with children up to 16 years old. 

Sophia - Red Ribbon on Her Quilt
Sophia by her quilt at the county fair.
She was 8 years old.

When Sophia was 9 years old, she tried a different form of quilting. Her grandma gave her a pre-printed image on fabric. Sophia quilted around different parts of it to give it texture and definition. She added sequins and beads to embellish it, and then finished off the quilt. 

She entered it into the county fair for one of her 4-H needlework projects. In 4-H, the children talk with a judge who asks them questions about their project and determines how much they understand about their project area. Sophia received a blue ribbon for her project which made her happy.

Sophia Talking About Quilted Wallhanging
Sophia meeting with a 4-H judge to discuss her project.

During the 2010-2011 homeschool year, Sophia took a sewing class at the homeschool co-op. One of the projects she worked on was learning quilting patterns.  During the spring, she learned six new patterns. She chose to sew the squares together to make a little lap or doll quilt.

Sophia with her Quilt
Sophia holding a lap or doll quilt that
shows six new patterns that she learned.
She’s 10 years old (2011).

Quilting has been an important part of homeschooling for the girls. In addition to art/creative expression, quilting helps with math and reading. I’ve also integrated geography and history when doing some of the quilts.

With a back-to-homeschool trip to New England in September to celebrate the start of a multi-year/multi-disciplinary geography study, the girls are excited to visit a quilt shop in New Hampshire that has over 5,000 bolts of fabric.

They each want to pick some fabric so they can make a quilt when they return home. Having a tangible reminder of this special time together is something that I hope they look back on with good memories in years to come.

Peek-a-Boo with the Sewing Machine
Looking back….
Olivia at 4 years old working on her first quilt.
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For the 30th book that I read this year as part of the 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge, I chose Golden Sun by Ruth Sanderson. This is actually a youth fiction book that I read to Olivia, but it fits the goals of the challenge (e.g., over 100 pages, has a plot).

The book is the fifth one in the Horse Diaries series, and is a wonderful story that combines history, Native American life, and horses.
Much like how the book Black Beauty is narrated by Black Beauty (the horse) himself, Golden Sun is written in a conversational tone and told from the perspective of the horse (also named Golden Sun).
Golden Sun is a chestnut snowflake Appaloosa. During the summer, he treks through the mountains with his rider, a Nez Perce boy named Little Turtle who collects healing plants. He accompanies Little Turtle on his Vision Quest where both realize their true calling.
Golden Sun intersperses words used by the Nez Perce which Olivia and I knew because we had read the Kaya books (an American Girl series about a Nez Perce girl).
The Kaya books had a translation/dictionary in the back to explain what the Nez Perce words meant which was helpful. Having read that series first, we had a greater appreciation and understanding of Golden Sun.
Golden Sun has realistic, beautiful illustrations by Ruth Sanderson. Her ability to capture the detail and beauty of horses is consistent throughout the entire Horse Diaries series.
There is a sixth book in the series that will be released (hopefully) soon. Both Olivia and Sophia are looking forward to reading it.

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For the 28th week of the 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge, I’m reading Slaughterhouse-Five or The Children’s Crusade by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. after a friend recommended that I read this book.

Honestly, I approached the book with a bit of trepidation given part of the title: slaughterhouse. I wondered why in the world he’d recommend a book with a rather violent word. Certainly, I thought, the type of action in this book would not be pleasant.

Maybe it was, perhaps, because I told him about the book I read last week called Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks. Excellent book…though quite a disturbing topic about which to read (bubonic plague). What I found fascinating about this well-written book was that the characters are very similar to how people would act in any disaster or crisis.

Some people choose to run away from a crisis in fear; others choose a range of negative behavior; and others come forth and truly made a difference in helping comfort those affected by the disaster (in the case of Year of Wonders, it was the plague).

Back to Slaughterhouse-Five or The Children’s Crusade.  This is a satirical novel about a soldier’s time-traveling, World War II, and life experiences.

Billy Pilgrim is the main character who is a Chaplain’s Assistant.  He is an ill-trained, fatalistic, and disoriented American soldier who doesn’t like wars. During the Battle of the Bulge, Billy is captured by the Germans who put him and his fellow prisoners in a former slaughterhouse in Dresden. Their building is known as “Slaughterhouse Number 5.”

Both the German guards and POWs hide in a deep cellar. Because of their safe hiding place, they are some of the few survivors of the city-destroying firestorm during the Bombing of Dresden in World War II.

After the war and being in a plane crash, Billy believes he was kidnapped by extraterrestrial aliens from the planet Tralfamadore where they exhibit him in a zoo. He becomes “unstuck in time” and experiences past and future events repetitively and out of sequence.

Although Billy truly believes he can travel in time, I think these are hallucinations or a way of coping with the effects of war. Some are memories of events he went through…while others are just fantasies and mental images he creates to simply get through his life.

As Billy travels (or believes he travels) forward and backward in time, he relives moments of his life – fantasy and real. He spends time in Dresden, in the War, on Tralfamadore, walking in deep snow before his German capture, in his post-war married life in the United States during the 1950s and 1960s, and in the time of his murder by Lazzaro.

All of these moments and locations (with the exception of Tralfamadore) deal with misery, sadness, boredom, and death. Reliving these experiences – and revisiting places which have brought such pain – is something Billy does throughout the book and his life.

Slaughterhouse-Five or The Children’s Crusade is, perhaps, one of the most non-linear, unusual narratives I have ever read. That being said, it is a fascinating book about free will, fate, and the disordered nature of human beings. The writing style emphasizes the mental chaos and confusion that Billy felt because of the effect of the war and of seeing Dresden.

The one thing that was a bit bothersome about the book was the author’s overuse of the phrase “So it goes.” Apparently it is used 106 times in this 186-page book. The phrase is a method of transition when death has happened or is mentioned, and the author moves onto a different topic. It underscores the unimportance and insignificance that he places on death.

It’s interesting to note that the author himself was in Dresden when the bombing happened. There are a few times when the author indicates that he was present at certain places, including Dresden. Vonnegut did this by saying “That was I. That was me. That was the author of this book.”

Slaughterhouse-Five or The Children’s Crusade is ranked the 18th greatest English novel of the 20th century by Modern Library. It is recognized as Vonnegut’s most influential and popular work. It is certainly, in my opinion, worth reading.

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During the summer, we’re participating in the Smart Summer Challenge and the second week focuses on government.  Doing a week-long government study has been a wonderful preview of what we will be doing in a couple of months when we begin our multi-year, multi-disciplinary study of each of the states in the U.S.A. 

On Thursday and Friday, we talked about coins, coin collecting, and some of the presidents represented on the coins. One of the presidents featured is Thomas Jefferson.

One of the things we learned is that several of kids’ favorite foods were introduced by Jefferson. Some historians believe that Jefferson introduced french fries and macaroni and cheese to the American colonies. It is written that Jefferson had “potatoes served in the French manner” served at a White House dinner in 1802.

Thomas Jefferson first served macaroni and cheese at the President’s House also in 1802. A recipe for macaroni and cheese is included in Mary Randolph’s popular 1824 cookbook, The Virginia Housewife.

Of course, the dish that Jefferson ate is nothing like the boxed version so common today. Rather, Jefferson’s cooks used pasta and parmesan cheese imported from Italy. They cooked the macaroni until it was soft, and then coated it with butter and added cheese. The mixture was then placed in a casserole dish, dotted with more butter and cheese, and baked until it was slightly brown with some crustiness on top.

I made a version like this last week for a friend and her children who were visiting. The kids – who have had the boxed macaroni and cheese over the baked version more often – weren’t huge fans of this “old fashioned” type of macaroni and cheese. Oh well.

In addition to french fries and macaroni and cheese, Jefferson helped encourage people to eat tomatoes. Many people in the colonies thought tomatoes were poisonous, so they wouldn’t eat them. Jefferson proved that tomatoes were not poisonous, so they became popular.

To remember this, we had pizza for dinner (which had a tomato-base sauce). 

The girls having pizza while learning about Thomas Jefferson.

Historians are certain that Jefferson wrote the very first recipe for ice cream in the American colonies. In celebration of this, we tried a new recipe for Cookies & Cream Floats.

To make them, you put a couple of scoops of Cookies & Cream ice cream into a cup. Slowly add some cream soda until it’s at a consistency that you prefer (e.g., thicker malts need less soda; thinner malts need more soda).

Cookies and Cream
By learning about Thomas Jefferson, I came across an interesting blog called The History Chef! written by Suzy Evans. She has a Ph.D. in history from UC Berkeley, is a mother to four children, and writes the blog as she is writing a book about the presidents’ favorite foods. Her goal is to help parents and children learn how to cook together while learning about history; and hopefully help them create many great memories and meals together.
I know this will be a blog that I will be using during the upcoming study about the United States. As we study about each state, we will see if any presidents were born in the one we are studying. If so, we will visit The History Chef! and try a recipe to tie into the presidential-state connection.

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Every Friday from July 1st through the middle of August, there’s a Smart Summer Challenge going on at Pink and Green Mama,  Naturally Educational, and Teach Mama.  The goal is to do daily educational (yet fun) activities with your children. 

During Week #2, the suggested theme is “Government.” So, we focused on the national government by examining coins.

First, the girls each picked a penny, nickel, dime, and quarter.  Using the worksheets from the Enchanted Learning website, I read the descriptions about each of the symbols that are on the coins and their meanings.

Olivia taking a closer look at a penny and
learning what each of the symbols on it means.
Both girls were excited to find
the tiny Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial.
Olivia thought he looked like he was floating and
Sophia thought he looked like he was flying.

Sophia said that none of the presidents on the coins looked exactly like they did in pictures. “I thought President Roosevelt wore glasses. Why isn’t he wearing them?” Sophia wondered.

Both of the girls enjoyed discovering where their coins were made.  There are three possible locations: Denver, Colorado; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and San Francisco, California.

Sophia examining a coin to see where it was minted.

The girls came to the conclusion, based on how many coins they had from each location, that Denver produces the most, followed by Philadelphia. None of the coins they had were from San Francisco.


Both girls wanted to collect the statehood quarters and fill in booklets. I had one on hand and another one I had to order. Production of the special quarters was started in 1999 and ended in 2008. Each state is represented on the back side of a quarter by a different image. For a list and images of each of the quarters, visit this website.

The girls each had two rolls of quarters to go through. They sorted them and then put them in alphabetical order by state. Some statehood quarters had more than one, so they just stacked them in case the other one needed that particular quarter for her collection.

The girls sorted through quarters and
pulled out the statehood ones.
Eenie (the cat) is interested in what they’re doing.

Once they had them in order, they gave one another quarters that they were missing (if they had a duplicate). Sophia put hers in the booklet and has four quarters that she still needs. Olivia is waiting for her booklet and will put them in when it arrives. She needs ten more quarters to complete her collection.

Once the coins were in alphabetical order,
the girls helped each other find coins they were missing.

In sorting through the coins, we came across a few of the new quarters – the ones that focus on the national parks. This will be another coin collection that the girls will start in a few days when the booklets arrive in the mail. 

Production for the national park quarters will end in ten years – making Olivia finishing her senior year in high school/starting college as a freshman and Sophia a sophomore/junior in college. Hopefully by collecting the coins from their elementary to college years, that the collection will have special meaning and memories for them.

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Starting in September, the girls will begin a multi-year unit study about the United States.  I purchased the curriculum Cantering the Country which addresses not only geography, but a variety of other subjects (e.g., science, art, history, current events, home economics). 

During the summer, we’re participating in the Smart Summer Challenge and the second week focuses on government.  Doing a week-long government study is a wonderful preview of what we will be doing in a couple of months. 

This week, we’re going to explore the national government and some key national symbols since we will be exploring each of the states in greater detail beginning in September. 

Sunday – Today the girls learned about the American flag.  They did a worksheet called “Math Flags” which challenged them to describe the flag using numbers, shapes, patterns, and one other way related to math.

Olivia and Sophia coloring a picture of the American flag.

Monday – In addition to celebrating the Fourth of July, we learned about the Statute of Liberty.  The Statue of Liberty was presented by France to the people of the United States in 1886.  It was given as a gift to symbolize freedom in France, America, and around the world.  It became a national monument in 1924. 

The girls measured different parts of the Statue of Liberty and found out:

One arm is 42 feet long – wider than the width of our home (from the dining room, through the living room, and into the family room). The Statue of Liberty’s arm would start at a one window and stick out about four feet on the other side of the house.

The nose is 4 feet 6 inches – taller than Olivia.

Sophia’s hand goes up to 4 feet 6 inches
on the tape measure –
making the Statue of Libery’s nose taller than Olivia.

The mouth is 3 feet wide – about the length of Montague when he’s laying down on the floor.

Montague letting the girls measure him from head to toe.
He’s almost as long as the Statue of Liberty’s mouth.

The index finger is 8 feet long – that’s a very big finger compared to their own.

The girls holding up their index fingers in comparison to
how big the Statue of Liberty’s index finger is at 8 feet long.

The eyes are 2 feet 6 inches across – significantly larger than Olivia’s eye…who (by this time) was done with the measuring activity and ready to move on to something else.

Olivia pointing to her eye.
Quite small compared to
the Statue of Liberty’s 2 foot 6 inch eye!

So…we talked about how the Statue of Liberty wasn’t always green.  She use to be copper.  Gradually, the statue changed color over time.

To demonstrate this, Sophia and Olivia each chose two pennies – one shiny one and the other a dull one.

Picking two pennies each from the coin pile.

Each had their own bowl filled with water and some vinegar, paper napkin, and two pennies.  I had them fold the napkin in a square, place it in the bowl, and soak it with vinegar.

I asked them what they thought would happen to the pennies if they put them on the paper towel.  Sophia thought “they will get shiny and the vinegar will clean them” and Olivia thought her pennies “will get clean.”  They put the penny on the vinegar-soaked paper towel.

The pennies sat overnight, and then the girls lifted their pennies the following morning.  The facedown side of each penny had parts that turned a blue-green – just like the Statue of Liberty.

Olivia and Sophia turning the pennies over
to look at the reaction the pennies had with the vinegar.

The vinegar reacted with the copper in the pennies, causing them to turn green.

Parts of the penny are blue-green in color now.

A similar change caused the Statue of Liberty to change color over time.  In this case, weather and pollution caused the statue to turn green.

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Welcome to the fifth week of our Fun in the Summer Sun event!

Each Monday until September 7th
Mama to 4 Blessings along with Harvest Moon By Hand,
Adventures of Mommydom, Sweet Diva, and Sweet Phenomena
will be hosting Fun in the Summer Fun link up events.

Here’s the line up:

1st Monday of each month: link up your “Kid-friendly summer activities”
2nd Monday of each month: link up your “Kid-friendly summer crafts”
3rd Monday of each month: link up your “Kid-friendly summer recipes”
4th Monday of each month: link up your “How to stay cool in the summer heat”

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

This week the focus is on kid-friendly summer activities.  Some of the things we’ve enjoyed doing during the past week include:

Visiting a Buffalo Farm

Sophia sitting on the Eichten’s mouse.

On Wednesday, we visited Eichtens farm which is an all-natural artisan cheese company and buffalo farm. They produce a Dutch Gouda and a variety of other European-style cheeses.

Olivia sitting on the dairy cow statue.

The bison at Eichtens are totally free from any growth hormones, antibiotics, or other medications. Their animals are raised on native pasture grasses (grass fed), and hay/oats. They raise the feed the bison consume.

Some of the buffalo herd at Eichten’s.
There were quite a few young ones in the herd.

According to Eichtens’ website, “A strong relationship between the human and buffalo has existed for thousands of years. Bison sustained the lives of the explorers and settlers going west as well as the Native American.

The older and younger animals sat right next to one another.

“They were believed to be the most important of the wild animals in the development of North America. Once an integral part of the Native Americans’ way of life, the American Bison is again a central part of the lives of many Americans today.

The girls wanted to sit on the buffalo statue.
They weren’t the first one with the idea – there was a
well-worn path from the dirt road to the buffalo.

“The Bison stand as a symbol of the American West, an animal of survival and our American Heritage.”

Picking Strawberries

Olivia holding some strawberries she picked.

Also on Wednesday, we picked two flats of strawberries. 

Sophia looking for strawberries at the berry patch.

We’re going to make a variety of food from the strawberries as well as eat them plain.  This year, we’re going to try canning a strawberry-lemonade drink so the fresh strawberry taste can be enjoyed during the winter.

Providing an Abode for the Toads

We’ve been seeing hundreds of baby toads here, and came across an idea for helping the toads survive the hot, summer heat.

Olivia holding a baby toad.

In the May 2007 issue of Family Fun, one idea for children to enjoy their backyard is to make a home for toads.  As the article noted, “These hungry amphibians can be a big help in keeping garden pests, such as slugs, grubs, and potato beetles under control.  Entice them to hang out around your plot by creating a shady retreat.” 

American Toad Found While Gardening
American Toad that we found in the garden
when we were planting flowers.

The article continued, “Pick a spot that’s protected from the wind and where the soil is moist, and dig a few shallow depressions.  In each one, lay a terracotta flowerpot on its side and then fill it partway with sandy soil.”

Now it’s your turn!  What kid-friendly summer activities does your family enjoy doing?

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