Monday, March 30, 2009

Muffin Tin Monday--Circles and Sunshine

It's Monday again already! There is no theme this week for Muffin Tin Monday, so I created my own. May I present: Circles and Sunshine.

Circles and sunshine both

I had the circle idea, but once I put it all in the pans, the colors reminded me of sunshine, which we are greatly lacking again today.

Here is a close up of Kutey's:
Circles an Sunshine

And a close up of Kiddo's:
Circles and sunshine, kiddo

This is such a fun way to serve lunch. The kids are really enjoying it. Kiddo perked up when I said it was Muffin Tin Monday. He asked what we would be eating today. This one was a little heavy on the fruit, so if we do circles again I'll need to add some other items. If I had planned ahead, I would have had sliced hard boiled eggs. Maybe after Easter. The kids really enjoyed the rainbows last week, so I am betting we will do that one again.

Hope your day is full of sunshine!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Kid's Geography books

When I was preparing for St. Patrick's day (I know I said I'd post....), I stopped by the library to pick up two books I had on hold (Jamie O'Rourke and the Big Potato and That's What Leprechauns Do). While I was there, I also picked up a couple of geography books about Ireland. The thought was that we would study Ireland for the week, read the books, and do some crafts. Hmm, well, that didn't exactly happen. I spent St. Patrick's day cooking. Making a green lunch isn't as easy as it might seem! And then I moved straight into making Irish stew and soda bread. There wasn't as much time as I had hoped that day. And the next day I was did those pioneer women do it!?!? So we are picking up bits and pieces of it this week. I pulled out one of the geography books this morning, and I have to say I am totally impressed and I will look for them for all the countries we study in the future. What book, you ask? National Geographic's Countries of the World: Ireland. Brief but broad information, lots of beautiful pictures, and great maps. It is FANTASTIC. There is a whole series of them, and they are rolling out more.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

What passes for planning

I like to make lists. I like to find resources. I just don't always follow through on my plans! As a mentor of mine once said, "A list is just a suggestion of what could be done until something better comes along!" I tend to follow that philosophy. In homeschooling, however, there are times when I need to plan. While I was without computer this weekend (hubby and Kiddo took it over to use Lego Digital Designer. It's very cool, but it left me without computer for the better part of the weekend!), I started jotting things down for school. I went through a stack of books and listed a bunch of things I wanted to do. So this is currently what my planning looks like:

Planning post-its

Now, I just have to implement....

Maybe I should reconsider those workboxes...for me, not the kids!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Muffin Tin Monday

Her Cup Overfloweth hosts a weekly blog gathering for meals served in a muffin tin! My mom used to remind me how my friend J and I liked to have our lunches served in an egg carton when we were little. That method required the foods to be dry (raisins, crackers, etc.). The muffin tin idea is a really great one. You could conceivably serve just about anything for lunch!

The blog gathering is often themed and this week it was rainbow! With the rainy weather we are having (and we are forecast to have for the next few days), it was the perfect day for a rainbow in a muffin tin!

Here's Kiddo's lunch:
Kiddo's Rainbow meal

And here's Kutey's:
Kutey's rainbow meal

I only have the two muffin tins. If we keep doing this, I'll get the kids their own. Here is what my lunch looked liked:
I hope there are rainbows in your world today!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Signs of spring

We have been having quite a warm spell. With that warmth, come all sorts of signs of spring. In order to encourage Kiddo (and Kutey) to notice the subtle changes as the seasons change, we have been spending a time looking for signs of spring. Since we have been able to get out and walk many days, we have had a variety of bird sightings in addition to our cedar waxwing sighting of a couple weeks ago. The red wing blackbirds have come back in force, and we have had at least 4 cardinal sightings (3 in one walk!). Kiddo has enjoyed watching the snow melt from one day to the next ("Look, that pile was a lot bigger yesterday!"), noticing what causes ripples as the water flows down the gutters, and watching for buds on the trees. He has, of course noticed some things that are not in nature. The first day I was able to hang my laundry outside to dry, Kiddo proudly proclaimed "A sign of spring!"

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Used Curriculum Sale

A local homeschool co-op had their annual used curriculum sale today. It was apparently the first time they had opened it to people outside of their co-op. It is also the first time used curriculum sale I have been to. I have been looking for math, science, and reading pieces, as you well know, so I thought I would hit the sale and see what they had. I had hoped to get there when they started, but that didn't happen. I was a bit disappointed when we did get there. The sale was in a smallish room at a local church. There was not enough space for everyone to move about easily and having Kiddo and Kutey in tow was a bit of a trick. Kutey actually spent some time sitting UNDER one of the tables. I figured at least there she wasn't in any one's way. There was a ton of stuff, but little in the way of what I would call curriculum. Books, yes, by the box full. Curriculum, well, not so much. There was a set of cuisenaire rods that I looked at, but there seemed to be an awful lot missing, and there was no price on it (one of my pet want to sell it, put a price on it!)

Still, I walked away with this:
Photobucket And I spent less than $15. Not too bad. Not as good as Ami's haul, but still. The Explode the Code is only book 2, we are actually on book 3. Since I haven't ordered it yet, I figured at least he could use this one to review a bit more while we wait for his to come. It was $1, brand new. It was also the only curriculum thing I picked up. Space and animals are interest areas of Kiddo's, Madeline is just a good book, and the recorder songs, well, since two recorders have found their way into our house, I figure teaching them to play some actual songs might be fun sometime!

Are all used curriculum sales like that? Is there a better way to spend less on curriculum?

Monday, March 16, 2009

St. Patrick's Day

It's tomorrow, ya know. I have big plans. I'll post about them tomorrow, when I stand a chance of including pictures. In the meantime, I thought I would share this great freebie that someone from the Homeschool share forums pointed out. Shamrocks and Shillelaghs from CurrClick. I am excited about all the shamrock in the back. I don't have to make my own! YAY!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

I love a good website!

I have been reading a bunch of blogs, looking for new ideas. School has gotten sort of stale around here. I attribute it to the long cold winter we have had. Now that the weather is warming up, though, we have a bit more energy and are ready for some new fun.

In my search for St. Patrick's Day ideas, I came across this blog, which led me to Stuff Ya Gotta Try. SO.MANY.LINKS. But some really great stuff. I haven't had a chance to look through it all, but what I did look at was pretty cool. It is really nice that it is all collected in one place, too. I noticed at least a couple of links were broken, but with a list that large, I think that is to be expected! I can't wait to take some time to look through the lists more carefully and glean some helpers from it!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

New to me children's authors

As Kiddo is learning to read, and I am spending more and more time in the "leveled readers" section of the library, I am becoming aware that there are particular authors that I come back to time after time. They are authors I can count on to have a well-written book that Kiddo will likely enjoy and be able to read. One author I try to find is Dana Meachen Rau. I had never heard of her before, but she is quite prolific. The books we have read of hers have been some of Kiddo's favorites. Often I try to read the books before I check them out of the library, or at least preview the word list. With the leveled readers we have checked out by Dana Meachen Rau, I don't. I haven't found one that didn't work for Kiddo. It might just be that she is a good fit for Kiddo at this level. I don't know, but I will continue to seek out her books.

Another author we have discovered is Cynthia Rylant. She is the author of the Henry and Mudge series, but she is also the author of a number of other wonderful books, including Snow, Silver Packages, When I was Young in the Mountains, and many more.

These authors have been added to the long list of our favorites like Jan Brett, Robert McClosky, Dr. Seuss, Ezra Jack Keats, Virginia Lee Burton, Eric Carle, Shel Silverstein, Crockett Johnson, Maurice Sendak, to name a few. At this point, I could probably name more favorite children's authors than favorite adult authors, in spite of my English major! Just means we read. A lot. Which is good.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


On a couple of the message boards I read, including the one over at HomeschoolShare, the Workbox System is getting a lot of attention. As I understand it, you have somewhere between 6 and 15 boxes that you fill with the days activities. Then your child can work their way through the boxes, some independently, some with help. While I doubt I will be making this a part of our homeschool, there are a few things that appeal to me about it.

First, the fact that Kiddo would be able to see what he needs to do for the day. I could add games and crafts, etc. to our already fairly stable daily routine. I also like the variety it would add to our days. Changing the boxes daily would make each day different. Finally, it would hold me accountable. If it is in a box, we should be doing it.

But, there are also some things that either would not work for us, or I just don't like--at least from what I have heard. First of all, the boxes. I don't have the space to have a rack with boxes set out on it. 12 boxes (which seems to be the number of boxes that is most common) times 2 kids is 24 shoebox size plastic boxes out and about. I have no place to put that. There is also great mention of setting time limits for open-ended activities (like playdough). One of the things I like about homeschooling is that I don't have to have limits on those things. Kiddo can play for hours, if that is what suits him. And, I am not sure how it would work for following Kiddo's lead. At times, Kiddo will do more than I ask him to. He might get on a roll with math and decide to do 3 or 4 pages instead of 1 or 2 There are many days when we get reading a book and have to stop and look up something on the computer, only to have that lead to another question, and more research, etc. We usually get through our basic stuff, but some days we don't. Some days we spend so much time following trails that we never get back to what we started. And that is fine with me. Finally, I am not sure how motivated I would be to fill 12 boxes each night.

I haven't had an opportunity to read the book, and at this point, I can't see myself spending the money on it. Still, I can see myself taking some ideas from what I have read. Kiddo would get to more if I had it ready for him the night before. I can see myself setting up a weeks worth of stuff I'd like to get to, and then doling it out each day. I would have to build in some flexibility so that we could follow our little paths as they pop up. And I will not set a timer for Kiddo. There are very few things that have to be done in a specific amount of time, and he has plenty of time to learn about time limits. Right now I want him to learn about exploring and learning all that he can from every activity he does.

Do you have a system that works particularly well for you? Tell me about it! I am always looking for ideas to draw upon!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Cedar Waxwings SmallerA few weeks ago, we did the Great Backyard Bird Count. And we were very disappointed. It was still quite cold at the time, and there were very few birds out an about. That has all changed, well, except the cold part. We had a warm spell, and now we are having a cold blast. It is snowing/raining and so there is ice about, and it is only supposed to be about 10 F (-12 C) tomorrow, but it will be short lived. And the birds are returning. Every spring we wait to see the flock of cedar waxwings migrate through. Usually we see them for a brief moment when they stop to rest in our tree or a neighbors tree or a neighborhood tree. This year we have been privileged with and extended stay. They arrived on Sunday and are still here, and growing in number. This is a picture of one of the trees they were sitting in today. They were spread across three trees, and were flitting to a fourth eating the berries left on it from last year. Kiddo and Kutey got to watch them for a while. And they are LOUD! We could hear them in the house with the doors and windows closed, and this is not a tree in our yard! There is also a flock of robins moving through. They were occupying three other trees, and singing away also. A sure sign of spring! Another opportunity to record our growing bird sightings at ebird!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Daily Walking

When we started school last fall, one of the things we did was a daily walk. Some days we went to the park, but most days we just went out and walked around. When the weather got colder, and ickier, and eventually snowier, we stopped walking. It takes too long to get us all dressed to go out only to have it be so cold you can't walk more than a block anyway. I am the first to admit that I don't like cold. So we stopped walking.

But the weather has started to turn. It was 44 degrees yesterday, and about as warm today. Even when it was only 37 degrees on Wednesday, it was warm enough to walk to our craft day outing. And Kiddo started saying "now we are having our daily walk again!" So we went for a longer walk today. And we looked for signs of spring. The melting snow was everywhere! There were several places where I picked Kutey up because the water was pretty deep. We also heard a number of birds, not just crows! Our biggest observation though was all the ripples in the flowing water. Kiddo liked to figure out what was causing them, and watch the water find its way around objects blocking the path.

But the best part was that neither kid complained. Not once did they say they were tired. Not once did they ask to be carried. Not once did they ask if we were almost home. If that keeps up, daily walking could be the high point of every day!

Thursday, March 5, 2009


One of the things I have been struggling with for Kutey is music. I remember learning all sorts of songs when I was little, but I can't remember enough of them to teach them to her (or Kiddo for that matter!) Our repertoire has been stalled at "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star," " Itsy, Bitsy Spider," and "The Wheels on the Bus." Frankly, those were all the songs that Kiddo learned in preschool during the time he was there. Kiddo and DH have been learning to play the piano (for DH it is relearning...he took lessons as a child, but then went without playing for many years), and Kutey always wants them to sing while they play, because she wants to learn the words so she can sing the songs! Unfortunately, most of the songs are not that much fun. Then today Kiddo asked me to sing "This Old Man," so he could listen to it. He has been trying to remember all the lines and the rhymes, so he wanted to hear it once. Instead of singing it (I was trying to get lunch ready...and it was already after 2pm...and I was hungry...OK?) I did a google search. And I found this site: Free Kid's Music. In addition to sample from a variety of artists singing more contemporary songs, they have a great selection of more traditional songs, sung with guitar. I don't usually like kids music. There is just something about it. But these songs are so well done, and the use of just a guitar is so simple, that I actually think I can listen to them for more than 2 minutes! That is saying something.

Both Kiddo and Kutey will benefit. Kiddo was loving listening during lunch. Kutey will love it when she isn't so tired and hungry. And they'll be learning some of the songs I once knew, but had since forgotten.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Craft time

This morning we went to a MOMS Club gathering that was supposed to include a craft. The craft was there, but Kiddo really had no interest in crafting at the time. He and his buddy M were having too much fun building. M is public schooled, so we don't get to see him that often. He does Kindergarten in the afternoons, so we get to see him if we make it to a morning gathering, like today. I am sure it will get harder when he gets to all day school next year. For now, though, we are enjoying what we can.

Anyway, Kiddo had no interest in the craft. Knowing Kiddo as I do, I asked the hostess if it would be OK if we took the pieces home with us. She was happy to accommodate that request. The craft was this, which was mostly coloring anyway. I figured Kiddo would scribble a little (He doesn't really color, he likes to draw, but filling in a pre-made shape with color? Not so much), and be done with it. Well, I was quite wrong. He went to work immediately upon arriving home. He has diligently colored in 3 of the 6 shapes. He even used multiple colors for the hat! If I hadn't had to interrupt him for lunch, he might have kept right on coloring. I am so excited to see him working at something he didn't do. There is also something to the fact that this was not something he was required to do, not something that is being compared to anyone else's work, not something that is being judged. I like that he came to it in his own way. It is one of the many moments that make me happy to be a homeschooler.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


I think I may have found a math curriculum that will work for us! It has been a long search. And there is no guarantee that I won't change my mind 12 times, but...

The hardest thing about selecting a curriculum has been not being able to see it first hand. I wanted to try Miquon, but I haven't been able to see it. Math Mammoth showed promise and did actually have samples on their website, so I could get an idea of what it was like, but that isn't the same as seeing the entire thing. McRuffy also showed promise, and I liked the idea of using multiple things form one place (makes it a little easier), but I couldn't see it first hand, either.

Then on Monday we went to N's house. N is a homeschooler also, she has 3 kids and lives very close to me. We had talked about curriculum at a gathering of our homeschool group and she invited me over to take a look at what they use. Thank you, N! I really wanted to look at Five in a Row, which I did (and even borrowed volume 1, YAY!) but she also showed me what they use for math: Singapore. Now, I had heard about Singapore, obviously, but I never really looked into it. I thought, and I don't know where I got this idea, that it was one of those extra expensive curricula that were overly cumbersome. What I found was a lovely set of two books, textbook and workbook, that I think would work very well for Kiddo. I pulled the placement "test" and Kiddo work through it, so I'll be ordering those with my Explode the Code. I am very excited to have finally found something that I could hold in my hands and look at! And even better, it was something that I think will work for us.

I'll keep you posted!

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Birthday of Dr. Suess

Today is the day! We didn't do much, but we did manage to have our reading lesson based on Dr. Seuss (Ten Apples Up on Top), and I have been trying to read Dr. Seuss books to Kutey when she wants a story (not hard, but I do have to point her in the right direction...). Later tonight we'll watch Horton Hears a Who, a book which we have not ever read, but the movie was in at the library, so we got it.

This is the first time we have celebrated the birthday, and I admit I am at a loss for what to do. Such an influential children's author, seems like there should be more... Any ideas?