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Welcome to the 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 Sophia and Olivia did two different crafts that they enjoyed: embroidery and beading.

Sophia embroidered a pillowcase with a horse and foal design. The supplies were all ones that we had on hand: a pillowcase, embroidery floss, and an iron-on pattern. I never have used iron-on patterns, though they were something that I wanted to try after seeing the selection at Joann’s.

Sophia’s embroidered pillowcase.

Sophia worked during the week on the design and was very happy with how it turned out. She’s 10 years old, and has being doing embroidery now for several years.

Sophia used the backstitch
to do her embroidered pillowcase.

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

Olivia enjoys doing arts and crafts – anything that lets her creatively express herself. She picked out a loom that can be used for both beading and cotton-floss weaving.

Olivia working on her beaded bracelet.

She chose to make a bracelet with red, white, and blue beads. I set up the loom for her; and then Olivia beaded the bracelet. She followed a graph-paper chart that I did based on a picture of a bracelet pattern she liked that came with the loom.

Olivia used a sewing needle to secure the beads
in place on the bracelet.

It took a lot of concentration and patience, but she completed the bracelet within a half a day. She’s happy with it, and wants to do more beading…but not right away. “My hand needs a break. It’s tired,” she said.

Olivia wearing the bracelet she made.
Now it’s your turn! What are some fun ideas for crafting with kids?
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On 5 Kids and a Dog, there’s a series called the ABCs of Homeschooling.  This week’s letter is “M.” 

Alphabet ATC or ACEO Available - Needlefelted Letter M…is for Math.

I remember sitting in a college calculus class and one of the students asked, “When are we ever going to use this in real life?”

The professor gave an answer that I wished some of my junior high and high school math teachers would have said when I was learning algebra and trigonometry, “Chances are, you’re never going to use this in your daily life. This level of math isn’t so much about using it in ‘real life.’  It is more about being persistent and disciplined, and finding the answer to a problem.” 

Math comes down to simple problem solving; and training one’s brain to be able to think through a variety of situations and get to the right answer or come to a conclusion. Math, to me, means essentially fostering a sense of determination and commitment to finish something you’ve started.

Because math goes beyond just learning numbers, functions, and concepts, I try to give Sophia and Olivia opportunities to learn math through a variety of methods: traditional/book learning, singing, learning tools, games, and real-life application.

TRADITIONAL/BOOK LEARNING

The girls learn core math concepts and facts by using their math books.  I use Rod & Staff books since both girls say they like them.  At the last homeschool conference I attended, I looked at a variety of math books. Some had a lot of color and impressive graphic design; some used the computer; and others used DVDs to teach math.  After looking at the variety of resources, I decided to stick with Rod & Staff.

Rod & Staff isn’t fancy – the text and images are all in black and white.  However, the majority of examples they use all tie into agriculture, farm animals, and cooking/baking – all things that are quite applicable to the girls’ life right now.

Sophia's Math Book
Sophia’s fourth grade math book. 

There seems to be a lot of repetition with some of the fundamental concepts and facts (e.g., addition and subtraction facts, skip counting by 2s/5s/10s, multiplication and division facts). However, knowing these facts by memory is critical to forthcoming math skills, so I think that’s valuable.

That being said, once the girls have “mastered” a skill, I don’t make them continue doing pages of the same thing. They can move onto the next skill. That’s one of the benefits of homeschooling – adapting the lessons to the each child’s skills and knowledge.

Olivia Doing Math with Shells
Olivia likes to use manipulatives to help her visualize
some of the math problems she’s doing.
For this lesson, she chose to use shells.

SINGING

The girls both enjoying singing and seem to retain information much better when they learn it by listening to and singing songs. 

Some of the CDs that the girls use for math.

Some of the CDs for math that they use include:

Shiller Math Songs – this was a CD that Olivia used a couple of years ago when using the Shiller math curriculum.  There are a variety of songs that had her moving about while listening to instructions on the CD.

Addition Songs by Kathy Troxel – this CD comes with a songbook/workbook, and has helped Olivia learn counting from 1 to 20 as well as all the addition facts from 1+1 to 9+9. There are sing-along songs as well as echo-style songs for self-testing.

Multiplication Songs by Kathy Troxel – this CD also comes with a songbook/workbook, and has helped Sophia learn all the multiplication tables 2 through 12.  There are sing-along songs as well as echo-style songs for self-testing.

  One Hundred Sheep by Roger Nichols – There are nine songs on this CD that teach counting by 2s, 3s, 4s, 5s, etc. This skill is known as “skip counting” and is used in every math process from multiplication to algebra.  The songs use stories from the Gospels as a basis for the lyrics.  Both the girls use this CD.

Sophia singing along with the
One Hundred Sheep CD.

LEARNING TOOLS

Dice

Olivia playing with some of the math dice.

One of the ways to learn and/or review the basic facts is by using dice. 

Basic math equation that Olivia put together
using three different types of dice.

I have a variety of dice that the girls can use.  Some have the basic six dots representing numbers on them (white ones).  Others are special ones:

– Blue dice with the numbers 1-6 on them.
– Green dice with the numbers 7-12 on them.
– White dice with different symbols (e.g., plus, minus, times, divided by).
– Yellow dice with Roman numbers.
– Big red and orange dice with little white dice inside it. Both the dice have the traditional 1-6 dots on each side.

A variety of dice to use with math games.

Electronic Flash Cards

Learning Resources has a Minute Math Electronic Flash Cards in which the girls are presented with different facts (e.g., 2+9, 8×7) and need to type in the answer. The “game” is based on speed and accuracy. There is a voice that tells the player if she typed in the correct answer.

Sophia testing herself on multiplication facts.

Sophia likes this “game,” but Olivia finds it frustrating.  So, when Sophia needs/wants to do something different for math, she’ll use the Electronic Flash Cards.  

Learning Wrap-Ups

Both the girls learn best when there is a hands-on component to the lesson.  One of the things that I found at the last homeschool conference was a set of Learning Wrap-Ups. Each Wrap-Up focuses on a different process (e.g., addition, subtraction, multiplication, division). 

Olivia testing herself on addition facts.

To use them, the girls start with the first number on the left side and add/multiply it by the number in the middle of the key.  Then they find the answer on the right hand side and bring the yarn to the other side and wrap it around the backside before bringing it to the second number on the left side. They repeat the process until all the numbers and answers have been wrapped.

Olivia with the finished Wrap-Up.
The string was where it should be on the back,
so she got all the answers correct.

The Wrap-Up is self-checking on the back. The key has a raised pattern to show where the yarn should be. If the yarn matches the pattern, then all of the answers were done correctly.

GAMES

The girls have many games that they enjoy playing that have a math component to them:  Horse-opoly, Life, and Farm-opoly.

Farmopoly - Homeschool Math Lesson
The girls playing Farm-opoly.

In addition to purchased games, we’ve also made our own math games.  For Thanksgiving, we made a turkey racing game (see below) that involved counting and probability.  The girls had fun making and playing the game, and having it be a part of Thanksgiving activities in the future.

Turkey Racing Game
Homemade math game.

REAL LIFE APPLICATION

Bringing math into everyday activities provides the girls with a learning experience in a real-life setting, and helps enhance comprehension of what they are learning.

Counting by 5s and 10s
Sophia learning to skip count
by 5s and 10s using buttons.

An early math skill is sorting, although it is one that people use in their daily lives. One of the ways that sorting was incorporated into homeschooling is through stamp collecting.  The girls each have their own books for stamps, and have enjoyed sorting them into categories (e.g., horses, flowers, pandas, wild animals).

Olivia Working on Her Stamp Collection
Olivia sorting through stamps when she was very young. 
She still has and adds to her stamp collection.

Another way that the girls have used math is when they have sorted items to donate.  Each year we do Operation Christmas Child.  The girls enjoy choosing items to put in the boxes, and then dividing and sorting them at home. 

Olivia and Sophia Sorting Operation Christmas Child Items
The girls sorting items for Operation Christmas Child boxes.

Of course, each October the girls look forward to sorting candy they get when they go out for Halloween.  They will compare what each one got, and often will trade candy.

Olivia Sorting Halloween Candy
Olivia with candy she sorted.

Math also is used when studying science. 

Sophia Measuring the Jaw
Sophia measuring the length of a bone.

One of the easiest ways to tie the two subjects together has been when we have been able to measure something tangible (e.g., feathers, depth of a woodpecker hole in a tree, the circumference of a tree, the length of a bone).

Sophia Measuring Snow Depth
Sophia measuring the snow depth.

The girls enjoy cooking and baking.  Reading a recipe and then measuring the ingredients is something that I have involved them in well before they were doing their math books.

Making a Strawberry Smoothie
Sophia measuring and adding an ingredient
to make a fruit smoothie.

I’ve had a food scale for many years, and it seems like in the past few years that it has been used more frequently by the girls – whether they are making food in the kitchen or weighing an item for a science lesson.

Girls Putting Mushrooms on Scale
The girls were weighing some mushrooms they found
on the nature trail.
Sophia Measuring and Weighing  Rhubarb
The girls are cutting and measuring rhubarb
to make dessert.

Money is something that the girls have enjoyed learning about in math.  Rather than just using pictures in math books, the girls receive a bit of money for doing some chores.  They also receive money periodically as gifts from grandparents and relatives. 

Originally, I had the girls set up save-spend-give jars and a percentage of each amount they earned or was gifted was divided into the three jars in a 50-40-10 percent ratio (respectively).  Now, I have them do a 50-50 split – save half/spend half.  Of the spending money, some they use as donation money. 

The girls have their own wallets with money and gift cards, and have learned to interact with cashiers; and vendors at craft shows and farmer’s markets. They have to learn to use only the money they have available (no loans or borrowing money). This has taught them the value of budgeting and patience (especially if they need to save for a larger item). I’m hoping that they carry this into their adult life and save half of what they earn.

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FOR TODAY

Outside my window…there’s a clear blue sky.  The pine trees are still after swaying back and forth last night during the thunderstorm.

I am thinking…about how nice the cool air felt this morning when I let the dogs out. After a heat index of over 100 degrees over the past couple of days, this is a welcome relief.

I am thankful…to have been able to spend part of my birthday with my sister.  We enjoyed a morning of strawberry picking with Sophia and Olivia, and then visiting a buffalo farm where we all enjoyed a nice lunch together. 

From the learning rooms…the girls and I had a fun week focusing doing the “Smart Summer Challenge.” This week’s theme was “Me on the Map” – so everything we did we looked at from a geography angle – whether it was embroidery, paper cutting, 4-H projects and demonstrations, or visiting different farms. 

In the kitchen…I have two flats of strawberries that will are being eaten fresh.  Later today, I’m going to try some new recipes – for strawberry-lemonade; a salad with strawberries, asparagus, and walnuts; and a strawberry pie.

I am wearing…a hooded sweatshirt and pajama pants.  It’s still early morning and no one is awake yet…except some of the cats.  The dogs went back to bed after going outside.

I am creating…items for The Summer of Color. I just found out about this ten-week blog party this morning, and am excited about it.  I’ve been doing more writing and less creating than last year, and want to get back into doing more of the visual arts/crafts again.  Having a weekly challenge focused on a particular color will be a good motivator to start creating again. 

I want to catch up and do the first three weeks (the colors for each week are blue, green, and pink); while working on the fourth week (July 4th-11th). Yellow is the focus for the fourth week.

I am going…to visit my mom and dad this morning.  Sophia, Olivia, and I will be going out to breakfast with them (they are both home-bound so it’s going out to eat is something they enjoy). We’re going to help weed their vegetable garden, clean the carpets in two rooms, and replace the batting in a quilt I made for my dad many years ago.

I am wondering…when I’m going to sit down and figure out the schedule for next year for homeschooling.  I want to use many of the books and resources I have on hand this year rather than buying as much new curricula as I have done in the past. 

As much as I like Sonlight (which I’ve used for the past few years), it is quite expensive. Perhaps picking and choosing from Sonlight and supplementing it with what I already have will be the best route to go during the 2011-12 school year.

I am readingTwisted Tree by Kent Meyers but didn’t like it. After 92 pages, I just couldn’t get into the book. I found it to be a rather grim book.  There was a review in a book for book clubs, and it sounded intriguing as did the discussion questions.  However, from the onset, the book was more on creepy than what I wanted to read.

The next book I’m going to start reading is Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks. According to O, The Oprah Magazine, “Year of Wonders is a vividly imagined and strangely consoling tale of hope in a time of despair.”

I am hoping…that the lawn mower comes back soon. It has been at the repair shop now for over a week and the grass is getting really long.     

I am looking forward to…bringing a couple of peonies and tiger lilies indoors today, and putting them in vases.  I’m going to help my dad (who has Alzheimer’s Disease) cut some flowers that are blooming at his home, and put them in vases as well. He use to cut flowers during the summer and bring them in for my mom and him to enjoy. 

I am hearing…the fan.  Not much of anything else.  It’s very quiet and peaceful at this time of the morning.

Around the house…I’m getting projects done that I’ve wanted to get done for some time now. I went through a basket of “to do” projects and did them as I went through the basket. No putting them aside to work on later. I either did them, helped the girls do their projects, or put them in the donation bag.

Yesterday, I did mending, sewing, and needlefelting. I helped Olivia with another embroidery project; and Sophia with sewing a dress and an embroidery project. 

I am pondering…how nice it was to see several friends during the past couple of weeks, and how I need to make time to stay connected with people. It’s so easy to get wrapped up with caregiving that other aspects of my life are put on hold.

One of my favorite things…seeing all the baby toads that the girls have been finding, observing, and then releasing.  It’s also been so nice to hear the wren singing every day, and watching the parents bring food to their babies.  There are three wren families here this year which is great. I saw a monarch yesterday in the butterfly garden yesterday (it always makes me happy to see butterflies).

A few plans for the rest of the week…visit my parents (today), celebrate the Fourth of July (Monday), take Sophia to harp lessons (Tuesday), take my dad to his quarterly doctor appointment for Alzheimer’s Disease (Thursday), do fun/educational activities related to the theme of “government” with the girls, and start some creative projects this week focused on different colors (most likely doing quilting and embroidery).

Here is picture for thought I am sharing…this is an eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly that Sophia, Olivia, and I saw on Thursday morning. We stopped for a bit at a lake before Sophia’s harp lesson.  As we were walking back from the lake, this butterfly was drinking some water from the road and then was flying around us at eye level. It spent quite a while flying and landing around us.

It was a beautiful butterfly, and the photograph below doesn’t do it justice.  Nonetheless, it captures a few moments in time that were memorable to us.

Eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly that was
flying and landing right by the girls and me.

To see other people who are participating in the Simple Woman’s Daybook during June, please click HERE.

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Every Friday starting on 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. 

As the challenge says, “The learning activity can be as simple as reading a book, or doing a simple science experiment, or as involved as packing up the crew and visiting a museum or hiking your local park. It’s as involved as you want it to be, and our focus is to help parents realize the important role they play in helping their kids avoid the summer learning slump.”

They have daily suggestions for ideas if you need inspiration, and each ties into a weekly theme.  This week, the theme was “You are on the Map.” 

During the past week we did the following activities:
Sunday – Did 4-H projects for the county fair.  Both the girls finished their embroidery projects – Olivia made an embroidered pillowcase and wall hanging; and Sophia made an embroidered stuffed dog.
Olivia’s embroidered elephant.

Olivia embroidered the first letter of her name
as well as flowers, leaves, and vines.

At 8 and 10 years old respectively they’ve been doing embroidery for a few years now and enjoy it.

Today’s map location:  home (to do the project).  Embroidery, itself, though is believed to have originated in the Orient and Middle East at about the same time. Chinese embroidery dates back to at least 6,000 BC. (Source)

Monday – Olivia learned to do papercutting with an exacto knife for one of her 4-H projects.  This was a challenging project because the knife has to be held a certain way in order for it to cut properly.  After cutting the image of the horse, she layered black and blue paper behind the cut-out sections to create the picture.

This is the paper cutting that Olivia made. 
She cut the image out of white paper with a knife and
then punched holes with a paper punch along the top and bottom.
She put black paper behind the horse and
then blue paper behind the entire picture.

Sophia spent the majority of the day preparing food for her 4-H demonstration about using herbs in cooking/baking, medicines, and personal care products.

Sophia doing a 4-H demonstration about herbs.
She showed how to make cucumber-basil-ginger herbal water,
sage tea, and lavender spray. In addition to these items,
the club members and parents could sample
chocolate chip mint cookies and iced mint tea.
All the herbs used were from our garden.
Both the girls did a demonstration in front of about a dozen people on Monday night. 

Olivia loves to do puzzles, so she did a demonstration titled
“How to Eat a Puzzle.”
She showed the 4-H members and parents how to make
a puzzle sandwich, and then
invited them to eat their first puzzle piece. 
Puzzle sandwich that Olivia and I made together.

They will do the same demonstration at the County Fair on July 13th.

We also visited two farms where 4-H members live.  One had rabbits, horses, dogs, and cats.  The 4-H member focused on sharing information about her rabbits and showing them at the fair.

The girls listening to a presentation about rabbits.
Rabbits are on their list of animals they’d love to have.

The other place we visited was a dairy farm.  The girls both learned a lot about raising and showing dairy cows; and now want to do the dairy project. 

Olivia is taking a look at a three-year old cow.
They would start out with a spring calf to show next year (one that is born in March-May 2012; and show it in July 2012).
This is the size calf that the girls would work with:
about 100 or so pounds.  Not the huge 1,500+ pound ones.
Today’s map location:  three different rural towns in Minnesota (including home).  Olivia’s paper cutting projects has ties to China.  More information about paper cutting is HERE. 4-H began in 1902 in Clark County, Ohio.  More information about 4-H is HERE.
Tuesday – The girls enjoyed having two friends over.  They introduced them to Bailey and Hoss (the pony and miniature horse), played a game, climbed trees, had a picnic in the fort, and searched for and found lots of frogs and toads. 
In the afternoon and evening, we spent time reading.  One of the books we read was Arabian Nights: Three Tales by Deborah Nourse Lattimore.
 
Today’s map location:  Today was spent at home.  One of the stories we read takes place in ancient Cathay (known today as China). The other stories were set in fictional locations.
Wednesday – We picked strawberries at a nearby patch and learned about strawberries.

Sophia holding some strawberries that she picked.

We also went to a buffalo farm and were so excited to see lots of young ones in the pasture.

Buffalo in the pasture.

In the late afternoon, we had a backyard picnic while enjoying the sounds of nature.  The strawberries and picnic tied into our on-going nature study that we do (we try to do at least one nature study per week using the Handbook of Nature Study).

Having a picnic on the deck.

Today’s map location:  two small towns in Minnesota (one for the patch and picnic; and the other for the buffalo farm.

In addition, we can add Brittany, France (where the garden strawberry was first bred) to the places we “visited” this week.  The garden strawberry is a cross between two varieties – one from North America and the othe from Chili.  The former is noted for its flavor while the latter was noted for its larger size.

For the American bison (also known as the American buffalo), the location is North America.  At one time, their range was roughly a triangle between the Great Bear Lake in Canada’s far northwest, south to the Mexican states of Durango and Nuevo León, and east along the western boundary of the Appalachian Mountains. Due to commercial hunting and slaughter in the 19th century, the bison nearly went extinct. Today, buffalo can be found in reserves, on farms, and a few national parks.

Thursday – Sophia had a harp lesson in the morning; we went to the library to return some books and check out more books; and learned about Vietnam a bit in the afternoon.  We are finishing up our multi-year around-the-world geography study. 

Some of the postage stamps from Vietnam that
Sophia has in her geography book.

We skipped ahead from U to W back when Prince William and Princess Catherine were married (since Prince William’s mother was from Wales)…and then continued on with X, Y, and Z (Mexico – since no countries in the world start with the letter X; Yemen; and Zambia). 

Realized we didn’t do V…so we began learning about Vietnam today. 

Today’s map location:  two cities and one rural town in Minnesota for the harp lesson, library, and at-home study.  We also learned about Vietnam today…so we “traveled” back to the east.

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

Alphabet ATC or ACEO Available - Needlefelted  Letter L …is for Literature

Literature is written or spoken material that is the work of the creative imagination, including works of poetry, drama, fiction, and nonfiction. Through the current curriculum I’m using with the girls (Sonlight), we’ve been introduced to wonderful literary works in each of the genres mentioned.

Girls Reading on Box Day
Sophia and Olivia on “Box Day” – when the books
for the upcoming school year are received.
They enjoy looking at all the books they’ll be
reading or listening to during the upcoming year.

In addition to using the books that are part of the Sonlight curriculum, I’m also using several lists of books to introduce the girls to a wide variety of literature (e.g., Newbery Medal, Caldecott Medal). 

The Association for Library Service to Children has a website that has information about different awards that are given each year to children’s books that are of high quality.  Each award has a different focus.  The ones that we’re focusing on include:

(John) Newbery Medal – honors the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.

(Randolph) Caldecott Medal – honors the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.

(Theodor Seuss) Geisel Medal – honors the author(s) and illustrator(s) of the most distinguished contribution to the body of American children’s literature known as beginning reader books published in the United States during the preceding year.

(Laura Ingalls) Wilder Award – honors an author or illustrator whose books, published in the United States, have made, over a period of years, a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children.

Reading is such an integral part of homeschooling for us.  Since the girls were young, I have read to them daily. Once Sophia began reading on her own, she spent more time being able to read independently which expanded the number of books she listened to/read each day. The girls both listen to books on CD as well.

In addition to reading inside, the girls enjoy reading outside – on blankets on the ground with the clouds and trees as the backdrop…or in one of the climbing trees in the backyard.

Reading Aloud Outside
Sophia reading outside on an early-fall afternoon.

Literature has introduced the girls to historical facts, given them insight into different cultures; and provides the inspiration to learn more about different times and traditions other than their own.

Some of our favorite homeschool memories center around literature-based unit studies.  The first series we did was the American Girl one that focuses on ten year old girls from a variety of ethnicities and time periods in the United States. 

We started with the Kaya series which was set in the 1700s with the Nez Perce and finished with the Julie series that was set in the 1970s and had a Chinese-American sub-theme (this was nice for the girls who are both Chinese-American).

Olivia Reading Outside
Olivia taking a look at one of the American Girl books
under the willow tree on the nature trail
in the back part of the farm.

The girls and I did crafts, cooked/baked food that tied into each series, and took field trips to places to bring alive what they were reading in the American Girl Series.

Field Trip to Fort Snelling - Food Rations
The girls learned about rations, the Victory pledge,
and Victory Gardens when we did the Molly unit study.
Here, at Fort Snelling, there was a homeschool day
focused on WWII (when the Molly series took place).
This display shows rations at the time (e.g., food, gasoline, shoes).

The other series that we enjoyed was written by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  Starting with Little House in the Big Woods and ending nine books later with The First Four Years, we not only read the books but did hands-on activities and took a trip to Pepin, Wisconsin (where Laura spent the early part of her childhood).

We visited Pepin once when we started the series and were reading Little House in the Big Woods to see where Laura’s childhood home was located, saw the cemetary where some of the people mentioned in her book were buried, and visited a museum focused on the Ingalls family/Laura Ingalls Wilder. 

In 2010, we went back to Pepin with the girls’ grandparents; and stopped at the lake and went through town.

Lake Pepin
Sophia, Olivia, and Papa (the girls’ grandpa)
on the shores of Lake Pepin (Wisconsin).

Children’s literature also has opened up the girls’ imagination and fostered an enthusiam for learning about things that they normally wouldn’t have thought or known.  For example, I read to the girls a long time ago a book called Mailing May in which five-year-old Charlotte May Pierstorff begs to visit her grandmother, but her parents cannot afford to send her.

In Idaho in 1914, the train is the only way to make the 75-mile trip over the mountains. The Pierstorffs come up with an unusual solution – mailing May. Sending her as a package is a third of the cost, and since her mother’s cousin Leonard handles the railroad mail car, she does not have to travel alone.

So, we were on a trip up north a few years ago, and visited a train museum.  There happened to be an old, restored mail car at the Duluth train museum. This brought to life this book which the girls clearly remembered and made the connection to; making the visit such a fun experience for the girls.

Old-Fashioned Mail Car in a Train
The girls in a restored mail car a train museum
in Duluth, Minnesota.

Another way that literature has been a part of homeschooling is by sharing the gift of reading and quality books with others.  We have donated many books to the local second-hand shop.  All the proceeds from the sale of the books help fund programs that serve those in need in the community.

The girls also donated some books to Books For Africa through the 52 Weeks of Giving program that we’re doing this year. 

And, perhaps, most meaningful (on a personal level) is seeing the gift of reading and literature shared between generations.  One of my father’s favorite books that his mother read to him when he was a boy was The Story of Ferdinand.

The story, written in 1936, is about a bull who would rather smell flowers than fight in bullfights. He sits in the middle of the bull ring failing to take heed of any of the provocations of the matador and others to fight.

Sophia Reading Papa His Favorite Book
Sophia reading Papa one of his favorite childhood books.
At the time (August 2010), he was able to still read the book.
Now (June 2011), with Alzheimer’s Disease,
he struggles with reading,
but enjoys being read to and listening.
Literature has been and will continue to be an important and central focus of homeschooling for us. 

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Welcome to the fourth 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”

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During the past week we’ve had temperatures in the upper 50s and 60s – very unusual for this time of year…even for Minnesota.  Trying to stay cool this week wasn’t a problem…it was trying to stay dry with all the rain and thunderstorms. 
So, we ended up doing what we do on some of the hottest days of summer: we stayed inside where it was a comfortable 68-70 degrees.  Thinking of the traditional ways to stay cool on hot days (e.g., playing at the beach, running through the sprinkler) didn’t sound interesting to the girls when it was 59 degrees and overcast outside.
Here are some ways that we stay cool…even when the temperatures aren’t over 100 degrees like they were a few weeks ago:
Visited the zoo, conservatory, and Japanese gardens – alternating between being inside (with air conditioning) and outdoors (in the “heat”)
The day we visited the zoo, there were many volunteers who had hands-on learning stations and stations where there were small animals that you could see close up.  We were very excited to see the new area for the polar bears – 15 year old brothers. 
One of the polar bears enjoying being outside.
The zoo also is holding thee polar bears from the Minot zoo since there is flooding in the area.  They are quarantined for 30 days, and then they will see if the Minot zoo can take them back (if it isn’t damaged) or if the bears will be able to be let outside.  We’re going to check the zoo again in a few weeks and see if there will be more polar bears out. It’d be nice to see them.
Since I homeschool the girls year round (with a modified schedule during the summer), the zoo was a wonderful way to learn about animals and plants.
Olivia listening to a volunteer talk about the
gecko he was holding.
This was inside near the tropical exhibit.
After spending some time inside seeing a quail, tortoise, and other small animals, amphibians, and reptiles, we headed back outside to walk through the Japanese garden.

Then we finished the day by heading back inside to the conservatory and the summer flower display.  It was a spectacular ending to a wonderful day!

Overlooking the summer flowers in the conservatory
under the glass ceiling.  The fragrance from the flowers
could be smelled even before entering the room. 
The flowers were so beautiful – the lilies and roses were very fragrant, and seem to invite visitors in to enjoy the flowers.  Many of the flowers seemed to be so large for their type – particularly the lilies and hibiscus.
This hibiscus was at least 5-6″ wide. 
The plant was covered with beautiful flowers
just like this one.
Ate cool dishes (rather than hot ones)
Even though it hasn’t been particularly hot recently, one of the best ways to stay cool during the summer is by eating “lighter” or “cooler” dishes.  Making salads with fresh, organic vegetables from the garden is one of my favorite ways to cook on hot days. 

Below is a recipe that I made this week that we all enjoyed (except Olivia who doesn’t like spicy food).  It is from Ross Turnbull, Executive Chef at the Princeville Resort (on the island of Kauai in Hawaii).  It isn’t a salad, but it reminded me of a place that gets hot (Hawaii) and the lighter, “cooler” fare they serve during the hot months.

Pineapple Salsa.
Pineapple Salsa

Ingredients

2 Cups diced fresh Maui gold pineapple
1/2 Cup fine diced red bell pepper
1/2 Cup fine diced red onion
1/2 Cup fine sliced scallions
Pinch fine chopped habanero pepper
2 Tbsp fresh chopped cilantro
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 Tsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 Tsp fresh chopped mint leaves
Hawaiian sea salt and black pepper to taste

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a plastic bowl and allow to marinate one hour before serving.

Drink lots of water and fresh lemonade to stay hydrated
I’ve made quite a few beverages during the past week – all with lemon in them:  honey gingered lemonade; cranberry lemonade; watermelon lemonade; and rhubarb strawberry slush. 

Out of the beverages, the favorite one was rhubarb strawberry slush that used rhubarb from the garden and strawberries that we picked at a local berry patch. 

Below is a picture and recipe for the Rhubarb Strawberry Slush that we enjoyed. What I like about this is that the frozen rhubarb-strawberry juice can be frozen and used anytime throughout the summer – particularly the very hot days when a refreshing beverage would be needed.

Rhubarb Strawberry Slush

(Taste of Home magazine)
Makes 22 Servings/Prep: 40 minutes + freezing

Ingredients

8 cups diced fresh or frozen rhubarb
1 package (16 ounces) frozen unsweetened strawberries
3 cups sugar
8 cups water
1 package (3 ounces) strawberry gelatin
1/2 cup lemon juice
11 cups ginger ale, chilled
Rhubarb curls, optional

Directions

In a Dutch oven, bring the rhubarb, strawberries, sugar,and water to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 5-8 minutes or until rhubarb is tender. Press through a sieve; discard pulp. Stir in gelatin and lemon juice until dissolved. Transfer to a freezer container and freeze, stirring occasionally, until firm. May be frozen for up to 3 months.

Note: I froze the liquid in a 9″x13″ pan.  After it froze, I took it out of the freezer and let it thaw a bit.  Then,  I cut it into 24 pieces.  Next, I placed the pieces onto a cookie sheet and re-freeze.  At this point, they were placed into plastic bags and kept in the freezer to use for individual servings.

To use frozen rhubarb mixture: In a punch bowl or several pitchers, combine equal amounts of rhubarb mixture and ginger ale. Or for one serving, combine 1/2 cup rhubarb mixture and 1/2 cup ginger ale in a glass. Garnish with rhubarb curls if desired. Serve immediately. Yield: 22 servings (1 cup each).

Note: If using frozen rhubarb, measure rhubarb while still frozen, then thaw completely. Drain in a colander, but do not press liquid out.

Set up a birdbath

Birds enjoy taking a quick dip on a warm day just as children do.  Either use a birdbath that’s available at a local store or make your own by inverting a garbage can lid in a base of flat stones or bricks.  Fill it with some water and a few small rocks (for a landing place).

The birdbath is near a birdfeeder (with seed) and hummingbird feeder.
There’s a bird drinking water from the birdbath, and
a robin in the background in the flower garden (it has a small pond in it).

The birdbath is near the hummingbird feeder and birdhouse that the wrens are using, so we can watch and hear the birds.  The baby wrens were born within the past couple of weeks, and both wren parents are flying back and forth non-stop to find tiny insects and worms to feed the babies. 

Now it’s your turn!  What are some ways that your family stays cool during the summer?

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FOR TODAY

Outside my window…it’s still dark.  However, the first hint of morning is showing to the east where the sky is a lighter shade of indigo.

I am thinking…about the male goldfinch who kept trying to get into the house yesterday.  He kept flying to and grabbing onto the ledges by the living room and kitchen, and visited the family room and dining room windows as well.  The cats were fascinated by this bird who seemed equally as interested in them.  Wonder if he’ll be back today.

I am thankful…that a respite worker is coming today for three hours. I need to have a few hours to get some things done; and I like knowing that Sophia and Olivia are having fun with Mary.  She’s taught them how to play croquet; and they enjoy playing board games and being outside with her.

From the learning rooms…the girls are getting ready for the county fair and showing some projects they’ve been doing for 4-H.  They’re also practicing their demonstrations (this will be the first year for both of them). Went to the zoo the other day and learned a lot about different animals and Japanese gardens/tea ceremonies (the zoo has a conseratory and Japanese garden which are both beautiful).

In the kitchen…we’re going to be making fresh strawberry pie on Saturday which we’re excited about.  Fresh strawberries are finally ready to be picked.  Making a few salads this week using lettuce and herbs from the garden; and trying some more beverages using fresh seasonal fruit (rhubarb and strawberries) combined with homemade lemonade.

I am wearing…a hooded sweatshirt and pajama shorts.  It’s still early morning and no one is awake yet…except some of the cats.  The dogs went back to bed after going outside and having breakfast.

I am creating…a window star for a customer later on today.  Have been helping Sophia and Olivia with embroidery projects.  This year I haven’t done as much embroidery and quilting as I did last year.  I want to start doing that again.

I am going…to the grocery store today to get some ingredients for food I’ll be making for friends and family who will be visiting during the upcoming week.  Have 3 visits scheduled for the next week – two of which are with people I haven’t seen for a long time.  Saw a friend who I’ve known since the late-1980s on Monday.  It’s been nice re-connecting with people again.  Seems like a lot of time has been focused on caregiving and homeschooling recently.

I am wondering…how I’m going to get the yard and gardens looking more presentable before Saturday’s guests and Monday’s 4-H club tour (with one of the stops here).  Between cleaning the house and the rain, I haven’t had as much time as I’d hoped to work on the gardens. 

I am readingAnother Place at the TableA Story of Shattered Childhoods Redeemed by Love by Kathy Harrison which is an incredibly good book about a woman who was a foster parent to more than one hundred children.  Read 14 chapters yesterday morning…couldn’t put the book down.  Will be starting another book this morning – All That Matters by Jan Goldstein.

I am hoping…that my back pain goes away today…or at least diminishes a bit.   

I am looking forward to…looking at pictures I took earlier this week.  I enjoy looking at pictures and remembering what I saw or experienced. 

I am hearing…Gretel (the dog) taking a deep breath. The fan. Quiet. Complete peacefulness. Birds singing outside…the wren already singing away at 5:20 a.m.

Around the house…everything is off the carpeted floors since I spent the majority of yesterday vacuuming all the floors and then deep-cleaning them with the carpet cleaner.  They look so much better this morning.  Almost don’t want to put anything back down.

I am pondering…the impact that Alzheimer’s has had on my dad over the past year.  I looked at some pictures yesterday from last summer and it’s amazing the effect the disease has had on him in just one year.  I am so thankful that he still knew who I was on Father’s Day…but there were some times when he looked at me with blank stares (which I’ve never seen him do until Sunday) that were quite sobering and sad.

One of my favorite things…watching the wildlife here.  Enjoyed watching the goldfinish yesterday; listening to the baby wrens chirp whenever one of the parent wrens brings in food; seeing the woodpecker at the hummingbird feeder; watching a robin take a bath in a big puddle in the driveway; and seeing a huge rabbit jump in the backyard and hop to the hostas under the apple tree.

A few plans for the rest of the week…getting ready for guests on Saturday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday (each day are different people/groups of people).  Going to an event that celebrates summer at a local historical museum.

Here is picture for thought I am sharing…of one of the peonies that are blooming.  These are ones that have been here for well over 15 years.  The Chinese peonies (that I planted a few years ago) just started blooming this year.  They’re a beautiful shade of red with yellow centers.

Pink Peony
To see other people who are participating in the Simple Woman’s Daybook during June, please click HERE.

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