Monday, September 29, 2008

And you wonder why I want to move back?

Congratulations, you are 95% Michigan!

Congratulations, when it comes to you and Michigan, you know your stuff! You must drink pop, vacation "up north", and enjoy the many special seasons Michigan has to offer. Maybe you should write your own Michigan quiz!

How Michigan are you?
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That last 5% is only because I don't live there anymore!

(Can you tell I'm avoiding school? La, la, la......)

What American Accent Are YOU?

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Inland North

You may think you speak "Standard English straight out of the dictionary" but when you step away from the Great Lakes you get asked annoying questions like "Are you from Wisconsin?" or "Are you from Chicago?" Chances are you call carbonated drinks "pop."

The Northeast
The Midland
The South
The West
North Central
What American accent do you have?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Fun with Snails

This week for our nature study, we looked at snails. The girls and I went outside and dug around under rocks and things, and we actually found some! They were very small - you can see the penny on their plate for size reference. Two of them were probably about 1/4" in diameter, and the littlest one maybe slightly more than 1/8".

The girls really got into watching them! We read about them in The Handbook of Nature Study, and we enjoyed seeing them check things out with their eyes and do the things the book described. The tiniest snail had a clear part at the end of its shell, which I believe showed that it was adding onto its home because it was growing.

We put a little slice of very ripe nectarine in with them, because the book said to give them pulpy fruit. They all checked it out, but I'm not sure they ate any of it. One of them seemed to, but then it decided to check out more of the new surroundings.

It was interesting to watch them climb the glass. One of the larger ones crawled right over to the edge of the glass, twisted itself into some amazing contortions, and then attached itself to the side of the glass about 1/4" above the plate. The other "big" snail took a little longer to come out, but when it did, we called it the "adventurous soul," because it climbed right to the top of the glass and then all around inside it. The tiny snail took the longest time to come out, but when it did, it also made a thorough exploration of the glass.

Friday, September 12, 2008

School This Week

We had a great week of school! The girls were MUCH better behaved this week. (It probably helps that I told them I'd get them the new Barbie movie as a prize if they behaved, but still.)

We got math done every day. Woo hoo! We're using Math-U-See this year, and they love it so far. The blocks are a lot of fun. We started with Alpha, which is technically 1st grade math, and we're already on lesson 8 (should be about 1 lesson per week). We were cruising through a lesson a day at first, but we've slowed down a bit now that we've reached math facts and such so we can get in extra practice. My plan is to get through Alpha and Beta this year, and hopefully start on Gamma during the summer.

We also got some grammar done. Emma is doing First Language Lessons 3, and Abbie and I are continuing with First Language Lessons 1/2. They both do well with their work.

We even did some science this week! Last week's science experiment was supposed to involve planting some dried kidney beans. We did it this week on Thursday. Also, this week we started reading about leaves. Our book showed an experiment we tried to replicate. First, we had to choose leaves; Abbie chose sassafras and Emma chose sweet gum (I think):

First, we had to boil the leaves:

Then they had to soak in alcohol, and be kept warm, so we put the bowl of alcohol into another bowl of hot water:

The chlorophyll was supposed to come out of the leaves. It did, a little bit. The leaf in the book turned mostly white. We used a sweet gum leaf, which definitely faded, and a sassafras leaf, which didn't look like it changed at all.

You can see that the alcohol did get a little green, though. So, we got some results and I think the girls thought it was interesting.

We've been having a little trouble with history. We're using Living Books Curriculum which is a Charlotte Mason-based curriculum. Charlotte Mason advocated living books (see how tricky that is - Living Books Curriculum uses living books). I got this definition of a living book from Simply Charlotte Mason:

What is a “living book”?

Living books are usually written by one person who has a passion for the subject and writes in conversational or narrative style. The books pull you into the subject and involve your emotions, so it’s easy to remember the events and facts. Living books make the subject “come alive.” They can be contrasted to dry writing, like what is found in most encyclopedias or textbooks, which basically lists informational facts in summary form.

We're supposed to be studying Ancient Egypt and the Revolutionary War. However, as we began to dig into our books, we were confused. For example, our book on the Revolutionary War jumps right in to Taxation Without Representation. There is no background information on the colonies or what was going on. It was frustrating and I could not explain it well.

After talking it over with the girls, we decided that we would like to study American history from the beginning. I came to the conclusion that we needed a history "spine" book, one that will present an overall picture of both our world history and our American history. I have several books that will work, and we started out with A Child's History of the World by Hillyer. It's a wonderful book. We read about Egypt and we read about the Vikings and Columbus. I have some other books that I'll be pulling in, as well. Even though I was frustrated at first, now I feel empowered as a teacher to make changes that will make the curriculum work better for us, and it's a good feeling.

We didn't start spelling yet. We're adding that in next week. We also need to add in art and music. We will be using All About Spelling again this year, which we LOVE. For art, we have Artistic Pursuits (K-3 book 1), and I'm really excited about it. For music and composer study, we will use The Story of the Orchestra, along with Themes to Remember from Classical Magic. Todd looked at Themes to Remember and thinks it is very cool. We also have Story of the Orchestra, which comes with a nifty CD - I think they will go well together.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Gnomes for Ethiopia - again!

Here is a picture of a completed gnome. Isn't it cute?

After I posted asking for volunteers on the Well-Trained Mind board, I got lots of questions. I've tried to answer everything concisely for you.

1. Knit a gnome (or two)! The pattern I've been using is here. There is also a top-down pattern here.

2. Yarn: We'd prefer natural fibers, but we will take what we can get. This is a great scrap yarn project!

3. Since the gnomes are going to lovely chocolate-colored children, the faces should be tan or brown.

4. NO BELLS. These are for babies and the bells are a choking hazard.

4. My friends will tentatively travel around October 24. Please mail completed gnomes by October 17, to be sure they get here in time.

5. If you don't like sewing all those pieces together, either try the top-down pattern or send your pieces to me. Please send pieces by October 10 so I'll be sure to have time to put them together!

You can email me through the blog and I'll send you my address. I'm really excited that so many people are going to knit gnomes! Thank you!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Baby food or not: What to do, what to do....

I went to Target today and bought some baby food, because they had it on pretty good sale. We usually get boxes of the stuff at BJ's, but I do like to give the Snort a little more variety than 3 kinds of veggies (2 orange kinds), 3 kinds of fruits, and then the little "dinners" he likes so well, which are orange veggies and meat of some kind.

When my grocery bill came out to be $115, and I'd mostly bought baby food, I nearly fainted! I probably did go a little overboard, but we go through it pretty quickly and I thought it might be the last time we needed to buy it.

After thinking about it though, I am going to return it. I feel like Schmooey doesn't feed himself enough that I can let him just have finger food, but my sister assures me that if I stop giving him baby food, he will figure it out soon enough. I'll still give him cereal, yogurt, and applesauce. Additionally, he will usually eat some of our dinner, whether it's just cut up into tiny pieces, or put through the food processor so I can give it to him with a spoon.

I suppose my great debate has been whether or not I want to wean him. On the one hand, he still seems so tiny (perhaps a 30 lb 1-year-old does not seem tiny to YOU, but when he's not standing next to anyone else's 1-year-old I can pretend). On the other hand, he occasionally bites me. Hard. He's drawn blood. I have a strong sense of self-preservation, and I have to tell you, each time he's done that I go through the weaning debate! If I take away baby food, he's going to nurse more.

I finally decided I'm OK with that, though. I don't really want him to wean. He's my last baby and I am happy to keep him that way for as long as possible. He's too busy to cuddle most of the time, so our nursing time is ever so precious to me.

The next great debate: Church nursery, or no church nursery? Stay tuned for late breaking developments.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Gnomes for Ethiopia!

My very good friend Susan (and the rest of her family) are adopting a beautiful baby boy from Ethiopia. He will get to come home sometime in November, we think.

In the meantime, Susan and I are trying to knit a bunch of little gnomes for her to take with her. She'd like to be able to give one to the families they travel with, and we'd like to be able to send one for each child at the orphanage - around 100 gnomes in all, I believe.

We've been using this pattern at Knit Witts, and Cream & Sugar yarn (natural fibers and inexpensive). However, you could use scrap yarn - we aren't picky. We've been making the faces either tan or brown, because they will be going to lovely chocolate-colored babies.

I would love to enlist some other folks to knit a gnome or two. They really take very little time. Please let me know if you'd be willing!

They will tentatively travel around October 24th, so you'd want to mail them to me by October 17th, just to be sure they get here on time. And, if you get the pieces knitted but don't want to sew them together, send them to me a week or so earlier and I will sew them up for you.

Monday, September 01, 2008

First Day Of School

Our first day of school today was a bit of a bust. I did not get up early - got to bed late, baby was up in the night, no alarm because it was Labor Day, you know. By the time I got a shower and was ready to roll, it was nearly 11 am.

We did have fun with math - we started Math-U-See this morning, and the girls loved using the blocks. Additionally, we started with a level that is below where they probably are, so that we can get used to the method. It's easy for them, and they like that. I'm hoping it will build Emma's confidence with math.

As we finished up math, it was lunch time. That was fine; we had sandwiches all around, and I read from our first read-aloud for the quarter, Where's Inky by Sam Campbell. You can read it online here, if you're interested. It's about a porcupine, and we like it so far!

When I tried to move the girls on to other things, though, school went downhill quickly. Emma could not seem to stop herself from complaining about every. little. thing. I reached a point that I had a nearly overwhelming urge to smack her, so I sent both girls to take a nap. That seemed to revive them somewhat, but then I needed a nap to fend off a rather bad headache. At this point, it's dinner time, so we're going to call it a day. I don't think I can take any more. Tomorrow, we will get an earlier start, some good exercise, and I will set some pretty clear expectations on behavior. I know the first 3 weeks will be rough as we get back into the swing of things, but I hope they can be better than today. I don't intend to battle with them all year like this, that's for sure.