Monday, May 30, 2011

George Washington--History Exhibit

The History Center has had a George Washington Exhibit since February. It was on the calendar a couple of times, but we never made it. So when I realized it was closing I knew exactly what we needed to do for Kiddo's birthday. It didn't take much persuading to get Kiddo on board; I'm pretty sure I had him at "History."

2011,history,field trip*

There are several halls at the history center. We only made it to one. We have been there a few times now and it seems we can only get to one or two exhibits in a visit. This time, Kiddo and I read every sign, watched every second of every video, did every interactive piece, and saw every inch of the George Washington exhibit. Kutey and Daddy went through much faster than we did, and they still saw everything.

It was a well done, comprehensive exhibit. The life size Washington's were nice, and sort of supposed to be one of the highlights and unique pieces of the exhibit. They were cool, but there were definitely other things kiddo enjoyed more.

All of the high points in Washington's life were touched on. They started at his birth, talked about his days as a surveyor, his early military career, his involvement in the revolution, his presidency, his return to Mount Vernon, and his death. They even had a video regarding Washington's slave ownership. It was quite interesting.

2011,history,field trip

Kiddo was enthralled. He filled in gaps for me, because he has read a great deal about the Revolutionary War (Thanks Magic Tree House!). He did have to ask for a bit of timeline clarification, because Washington served in the military two separate times. When it said he left the military the first time, Kiddo was confused, because none of what he knew of Washington's military career had yet been covered! Once I stated the dates again, however, all was clarified.

There were a couple of things that piqued his curiosity for further study: the Freemasons and spies during the Revolution. There was a fantastic short video about the spies of the war. I admit, I am as interested in learning more as Kiddo is!

We also learned a bit about Mount Vernon. They had a scale model of the estate, which was fun to see given our previous virtual tour of the estate. It really is a massive estate! It was fun to see the model, even if the tidbits you could read were mostly the same as the tidbits on the website. It was good review, right?

They had one live person with early dental tools. Washington had terrible teeth, even though he was good about taking care of them using the practices of the day. The person at the table thought he would stump Kiddo, as he had stumped others before, by asking him what the tooth key was for. Kiddo knew. Not because he had heard what the person said before, but because that is one of the things they show regularly at Fort Snelling. It was also, incidentally, pictured in the display on Washington's false teeth (none of which were not made of wood!), probably 5 feet before you reached the table. All those people who had been previously stumped? Obviously they had not paid much attention to that portion of the display!

2011,history,field trip

We left after 2+ hours of reading. While Kiddo could have read it all, I read quite a bit of it to him, in part to expedite the process and in part because I could start reading to him while there were still people in his way. There were a lot of people there, mostly adults, but a few kids mixed in.

Kiddo loved the whole thing, but I think his favorite parts were seeing how the grist mill worked (they had both a model and a video), the information on espionage during the revolution (a video), the Mount Vernon model, and the quiz at the end. We have now seen the Benjamin Franklin exhibit and the George Washington exhibit at the History Center. I wonder what they will bring in next!

*photos are not allowed inside the exhibit, hence the somewhat boring shots!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Garden fun

Gardening memories made today:
  • Kutey standing in the bright orange bucket to stomp the weeds down, while Kiddo held it steady. ( I took a mental picture of that one. So fun!)
  • Kiddo quietly and carefully trying to catch a robin, then being spooked when the robin took off!
  • Kiddo literally collapsing into the garden bed stating, "I would not want to be a pioneer!" We had just discussed how they had to clear their own land to farm.
  • Kutey stating "This is a very symbiotic relationship." She is 5. I didn't teach her that.
  • Kiddo announcing every worm he found. There were zillions of worms. Every shovelful I scooped had at least 2. So "Worm!" was kind of an understatement!
  • Kutey "planting" her shovel in the garden, then telling me we had a new plant growing.
  • Both kids lugging the bucket down the hill to empty it, after they had stomped it down so many times that it was deceptively heavy! They made it, but it was funny to watch.
  • Bugs, bugs, and more bugs! Each needing to be observed and identified, well, at least observed!
  • The kids coming back from dumping the bucket as Minions from Despicable Me. I couldn't understand them, but they were cracking up!
We headed out to the garden this afternoon before it started to rain. Again. Sigh. Kinda tired of this. It is better than severe weather, but it gets old. Especially when it seems to always hit on the weekend!

We managed to get about 1/3 of the first bed cleared. That is about half of what has to be cleared in that bed. The irises are in one corner, the thyme in another, so it is the space in the two other corners that has to be cleared if I want to plant anything. I pulled yards and yards of grass roots. Literally. Ugh. Gardening, however, was so much more fun with the kids there to entertain me!

Weekly Wrap-up--May 27, 2011

Without pictures and only a few links, again. I likely won't get to blogging until next week again though, so I thought I should do the weekly wrap while I was thinking about it.

We went camping on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The weather was less than ideal. It rained every day, and was so wet there was no place to set up a chair in our site that wasn't under a half inch of water. We had a great time, though! It was our first camping trip with the camper we bought in November. We love it. It is perfect for our family. It makes camping so much more pleasurable to have something that just fits for us!

Monday was a good school day. We got through what we needed to and got to spend the evening with good friends. Our friend A and her son M are spending the summer in Ireland (her husband is there on business) and (jealous? just a bit!), so we got together with 3 other families and had a surprise dinner with them. They were surprised, but before they got to us. The row of minivans out front gave us away!

We went geocaching with our homeschool friends on Tuesday. We searched for three caches, but only found one. One was too wet to find and the other we searched for, but couldn't find. I want to go back now, though. I looked it up at, and I think we might not have looked hard enough...

We had dentist appointments on Wednesday, which ate up a good chunk of the morning. We went for a walk when we got home, though the wind was a little cool! We finished all of our school work in the afternoon, though we usually try to get it done in the morning because by afternoon everyone is tired! We managed, though. For dinner, we had a Celtic feast of roast chicken, bread (without butter), berries and grape juice to go along with our study of the Celts and the Romans in Story of the World Vol. 1 Chapter 40. Kiddo and Kutey narrated what they have been learning for Daddy. I was quite impressed with the amount they remembered!

Thursday we attended a performance of Pinkalicious at Stages Theatre in Hopkins. Yes, Pinkalicious, like the book. Kutey loves pink. She enjoys the story of Pinkalicious. Daddy got to go with us, and we had fun! We finished school work in the afternoon, learned more about echinoderms in Real Science Odyssey-Life, then hit the park with some friends. The weather was too beautiful to pass up! In the evening, Kiddo and Kutey built an ice cream shop where Daddy and I ate our fill. YUM! All the talk about ice cream resulted in a trip to the store for some real ice cream. Double YUM!

Today, Friday, we have been working through some school stuff, cleaning out the van so Daddy can take it to get new tires, reading, reading, reading about all sorts of fun things (including echinoderms and jellyfish, along with the entire pink book collection--I'll post about that another time!) We are also preparing for a birthday this weekend!

Curriculum wise:
  • Kiddo is pushing through mental math. He much prefers writing the problems out, but he is working through it with few complaints.
  • Kiddo is nearing completion of Explode the Code book 7. We slowed down a bit, though. He is only doing half the lesson at a time. He was getting overwhelmed. ETC has always been something he liked, but this book adds a few different activities that are great, but take a bit more time, like reading comprehension activities. I decided it would be better to have him still enjoy it, so we cut the lessons in half. That is going better.
  • We read Chapter 40 "Rome Begins to Weaken" in Story of the World, Vol. 1. We had a Celtic feast to go along with the study. We are planning to do a finding North, South, East, and West activity as well, but we need to have a sunny morning where we have no where to be! That hasn't happened yet.
  • We wrapped up our study of Echinoderms (Unit 15) in Real Science Odyssey--Life. We did a lab where we made different echinoderm shapes out of a banana peel. Super fun, and memorable!
  • Kutey has been working through Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. She is doing great! It is so interesting to see how differently my two kids learn! We also did a few math activities (thing I wrote on the white board).
  • Kutey has been playing a Dr. Seuss game on the computer, also. It has three levels, pre-k to 1. She whizzed through the pre-k stuff and has had no trouble with the Kindergarten stuff. I'm anxious to see how she does with the first grade stuff.

We are linking up to Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. Click to see what others did this week!

Thursday, May 26, 2011


2011,theater,field trips

Chances are if you have a little girl who is into pink, you have heard of Pinkalicious. You may have even read it once or twice, or a thousand times. I know we have! It is, in fact, one of "The Pink Books," a collection of stories that must all be read together, it seems, and are all either pink or princess, and some are both! So when we heard that Stages Theatre Company was putting the book on stage, I knew we would be going.

Kiddo is a good sport and he likes going to plays. Even though Pinkalicious isn't his favorite story (there are no dragons or LEGOS), he was game to go. Even Daddy took the morning to go with us. He sometimes feels left out because we go to so many fun things! That meant Kutey had the best seat in the house, Daddy's lap. Gotta love that.

2011,theater,field trips

The highlights of the play? For Kutey, "EVERYTHING!" Yep, it was a play made for her. For Kiddo, the bicycle built for 4 complete with a security system. It was rather entertaining! I especially enjoyed watching dad retrieve the bicycle. The actors who portrayed Mom and Dad were also very entertaining. I enjoyed their performances. And the dancing cupcakes. Who doesn't like dancing cupcakes!

2011,theater,field trips

As with any adaptation of a picture book, there had to be a bit of embellishing. They stuck to the basic story, but added a few things in. For one thing, Dad was a much bigger character in the play than he was in the book. So was the friend. And there were songs. Most of the additions to the storyline were simply embellishments of what exists in the book and songs that played off parts of the story line. The staging was thoughtful and interesting, bright and colorful with enough pink to fit the general theme of the play.

It was an interesting performance. The performers were fine, and did well with the material given to them. I guess I just didn't like some of the material given to them. Examples? Just a couple. At one point, the friend, Alison, gets upset because Pinkalicious forgets to bring her one of the cupcakes. She storms off, saying "I'm not playing with you, you're not my friend," or something to that effect. Now, I *KNOW* this happens in real life, particularly among girls of elementary age, but does it really need to be reinforced as OK in a theater production directed specifically at that age group? Eventually, they resolve their differences, but I was left feeling like they could have either avoided that all together, or done a better job of using it to model better problem solving. It just wasn't necessary to the storyline.

They also devoted an entire song to the line, "You get what you get and you don't get upset." OK, yes. BUT...they ended up taking it a little to far. And the book at least says "but I did get upset." The song seemed to sort of make it seem as though feeling upset was not OK. I work hard to let my kids know that emotions are OK. It is OK to be upset. That doesn't mean they will get what they want. You still get what you get. The positive line from the song? "Sometimes life doesn't turn out just exactly as planned." I can get behind that. But it is OK to be sad when that happens. It is OK to be upset. It is OK, even, to be angry. Kids need to learn to recognize those emotions, recognize what is going on, and handle them appropriately. Life isn't always going to come out as you hoped, that is true, but bottling your emotions about that isn't going to help, either.

That is just writing, however, and should not take away from the performances of the actors. They did a fine job, I just wasn't entirely pleased with the adaptation. Probably just me! The kids didn't seem to care! They enjoyed the performance.

(clunk, clunk, scrape)

OK, Off my soap box.

We will continue to go to Stages Theatre, because they do put on wonderful shows. We loved The Snowy Day last year! There are only a couple I am interested in next season, but it seems one a year is what we can get to!

A little behind

May has turned out to be a very busy month! I don't know where the time has gone, but it hasn't been to blogging. Because of that, I have a bunch of things I need to blog about in order to keep my blog up-to-date as a record of our homeschooling. So you will be seeing a few posts (I hope) that are not in order. They will be post-dated, so they may seem like they just happened, but they didn't. Hopefully it will happen in one somewhat big mass, and then I will be caught up again!

Wish me luck!

Garden Challenge Post #3


Post #3? Already? the Homeschool Village's Garden Challenge is really flying by! You can read our first posts here.

The weather has been interesting. We had a slow spring, meaning planting had to be delayed. Then we have had rain, followed by more rain. It was already wet, the rain just made it wetter. Not exactly inspiring me to garden! Add to that the fact that we have been busier than I thought we would be, and well, you get this:


Our garden. Or not. We did get the tree out of it. We spent a day in the cold and the rain burning it in the backyard fire pit after I was told the cost of hauling it away. I am seeing more backyard fires in our future...

The fence has not been erected yet, but given that the deer are regular and frequent visitors to our yard (not that I have seen them often, their droppings give them away!), we definitely need one.* We also have baby bunnies living in our yard. Yeah, they could end a garden pretty fast, too. So planting isn't an option yet.

What does that mean for our garden? Well, it means likely that we will container garden again this year. That isn't the end of the world. Though with no major vacations planned for the summer, this was a good summer to have a garden. Time and weather were not on our side this spring. We'll work on the fence over the summer and hopefully be ready to go by next planting season! I am scaling back our garden plans. We will have two to 4 tomato plants, in containers, likely on the deck. We will have 2 bell pepper plants, in containers, again likely on the deck! We will try to plant some herbs in the lower part of the container, to have our pizza garden. And we will still think about the sunflowers Kutey so desperately wants to grow. The deer left them alone for a while last summer, so maybe we can plant them and then get the fence up before they get big enough for the deer. We'll see.

In the meantime, there is thyme!
Everywhere in the garden. Thyme has spread over maybe two-thirds of the garden. I planted thyme several years ago, and it just keeps spreading, and spreading, and spreading!

And there are irises!
I totally forgot about these. My neighbor asked me a few years ago if she could plant them in the corner of my garden temporarily. She had received them as a gift, but wasn't sure where she wanted them. They had to get in the ground. Temporary became permanent, which isn't really a problem. They are doing quite well where they are and should be blooming in a couple of weeks!

*We have seen deer. Six once, nine another time. Shortly after seeing the nine, I was out walking in the yard in the dark, enjoying the stars and the frogs, when I heard something huff at me. I moved very, VERY fast, away from the sound and toward the only light available, my neighbors backyard fire. The neighbors had a good chuckle at my deer encounter. Judging by the sound, I was actually pretty close to them. A little spooky! So I know the deer are present!

LEGO Duck boats

Kiddo came up stairs one day to show me his "boat with wheels."


Very cool.

I told him I thought it looked like a Duck Boat. They were used in World War II, but now you can ride them through the Wisconsin Dells (and probably other places, I just know you can ride them in the Dells). Kiddo was intrigued, so we spent s little time talking about them, and Daddy, who has actually seen one in person, explained them much better than I did.


Then Kiddo built more!


Guess what summer activity has been added to our wish list.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Our Classroom Today--Geocaching!--May 24, 2011

It was a beautiful spring day, the kind we have had far too few of this year, so we hit one of our favorite parks with our Tuesday group. Chutes and Ladders is a fun playground, but I honestly think my kids enjoy the rest of the park just as much, if not more!


One of the new things that has added to the fun is geocaching! The visitors' center has GPS units you can check out and maps to caches. There are 7, I believe, within the park. They have all been placed by individuals, in conjunction with the park, so they are all different. They let us check out 4 GPS units, which was fabulous since we have 8 kids! We picked the closest cache (that didn't require a boat!) and set off. About half the group had geocached before, last summer when we went camping with another Tuesday group family.

We managed to find a the spot where we believed the first cache was, but we were not able to find it. We searched and searched in what seemed to be the proper location, given the trampled appearance of the area. Yet we found nothing. I checked the website when I got home, and the kids and I might just have to go back and look for it again!

We picked a second cache that was supposedly close by, and set out. It was funny, we had a tough time picking a direction. The paths did not go the direction the cache was supposed to be and we were struggling to read the map. I pride myself on being fairly good at reading a map. But this map. This map was crazy. There were things on the path that didn't exist on the map. An entire picnic area seemed to have been forgotten. Add to that the fact that the map was a black and white copy of what seems to have been a color map originally, and, well, you get the idea. It was a lovely walk, though! And we managed to get on the right path, and then off the path in the right area. Just as we were getting frustrated again, we found it!


I might have stolen a bit of the thrill. I made them leave it where it was until everyone had seen it and I had gotten a picture of it. I'm mean like that. And I want to be sure all the kids are included. It is pretty easy in a big group like that for someone to miss it. But they were excited. We peered at the bits and bobbles left behind by previous cache finders and we added our name to the list.


Fresh off our victory we headed to "just one more!" on our way back. We got within 100 feet of it, but that last 100 feet was, well, mud. And more mud. With a little mud mixed in, just for good measure. It was just too wet. So we turned in our GPS units. We had fun, though! And might try it again some time.

As we were leaving, Kiddo was walking backward saying goodbye to all of his friends. He wasn't really paying attention and backed right into a curbed landscaping area. He sat down into a bush. It was one of those moments that could have either been extremely upsetting to him, or laughable. So I laughed. And so did he. It was rather humorous. But it made me realize that my reaction has a tremendous impact on his reaction. If I can laugh, knowing he wasn't hurt, he will see the humor in it, too. They teach you something new every day.

Monday, May 23, 2011


Last November we bought a camper. Nothing too grand, but it isn't a pop up, either. It is a travel trailer. November in Minnesota is not camping season. In fact, the camper was already winterized when we bought it. Our final camping trip of the year had been a couple of weeks before, in my dad's camper. So our new (used) camper was parked for the winter.

Industrial strength rain boots, ready for the mud. Wish I had some!

But just because it wasn't camping season, didn't mean that we couldn't plan! The earliest it seemed sensible to go camping in an unknown camper was May. Plans were made, supplies were purchased (we still have quite a few wants for the camper, but we were able to make it through a weekend), and off we went.

This is our campsite. We didn't even try to set chairs out. They would have sunk right in.

In the rain. Well, not in the rain. We got to the campsite and set up before it rained. The kids and I walked a bit around the campground, and then the first of the rain came. And stayed. It rained and rained and rained. We were snug and dry in the camper. The newness hadn't worn off, so the kids were content. We played games, colored, and learned to tie knots. It was great.

A common sight along the hiking trails

The weather didn't clear up until Saturday afternoon. It didn't stop us from going on a hike in the morning, in the rain. We dodged mud and puddles bigger than the path. We saw wildflowers and birds. We enjoyed the weather, well, we tolerated the weather. When it cleared up in the afternoon, we hiked some more! There had been so much rain that they closed one of the creek crossings. The creek was as high as I have ever seen it, and we have been going to this park for a while. It was so churned up and filled with so much run-off that it looked like chocolate milk.

No kidding!

I need to find the picture of this falls from 2007 when we camped here. It was literally a trickle that year!

It rained again on Saturday night. A lot. And thundered. A lot. It was not a terribly restful night. We got up on Sunday and the weather wasn't awful. We went for a little walk, but the paths were even worse than before, so we didn't walk far. A quick glance at the radar on the hubby's droid showed the rain coming. By the time we loaded up and got the camper back to my sister's where we store it, there was a severe weather warning. It went north of us, with tornadoes hitting the northern part of Minneapolis. We were just glad to get home before anything severe.

One of the more unusual looking flowers blooming at the park.

We had a great time, in spite of the weather. There were tons of birds to see, Baltimore Orioles in quantities I have never before encountered, Red-headed Woodpeckers, American Redstarts, Goldfinches, Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers, White-breasted Nuthatches, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Eastern Bluebirds, among others! And flowers, oh the FLOWERS! I have no idea what most of them are. We totally forgot to bring our field guides with us. We were able to borrow a bird book, but not a flower book. I took pictures, so hopefully we will be able to identify them from those! Kiddo and I learned to tie 10 different knots* using the game Knot So Fast (Have you heard of it? It is great!). We also just enjoyed each others company with few distractions. The only electronic toy we used? Daddy's droid, for checking the weather which was necessary several times.

We saw this when we arrived home. Rainbows always make me happy.

We can't wait until our next trip!

*Knots we learned to tie:
  • overhand knot
  • slip knot
  • figure eight knot
  • ring hitch
  • clove hitch
  • overhand loop
  • figure eight loop
  • double overhand knot
  • reef knot (I learned this one as square knot. Apparently there is another one named that, though)
  • stevedore knot

Friday, May 6, 2011

Weekly Wrap-up--May 6, 2011

No pictures, no links. They'll be added as I blog the week, probably over the weekend!

Monday came and went, and I have little recollection of it. I know we did work, because it is all checked off. I just can't seem to remember what we did, what the weather was, or anything of importance regarding the day.

Tuesday was BEAUTIFUL! Sunny and warm. Sunny enough that some of us, who shall remain nameless, came home with sunburn! We spent the day playing at the park and romping in the woods. We also brought home snails! We needed them for science.

Wednesday was a productive school day. In addition to our other work, we studied snails for science! I had been wondering how we were going to do these labs, since they call for garden snails, which we do not have! We substituted pond snails, found on Tuesday by our friend O. We wound up with 14 of them, which we freed in our own pond after we measured them, weighed them, and observed them.

Thursday we attended a concert at Orchestra Hall, the last for the year. It was a great performance which included a vaudeville performer! Much fun. We hit IKEA for lunch (a favorite for my kids!), and picked up a few more bins and boxes. I'll get organized yet!

Today (Friday) turned out to be beautiful. I cut school a little short to let the kids enjoy lots of time outside. Given how slowly spring has come this year, time outside was desperately needed this week.

Curriculum wise:
  • Kiddo finished up his Math book! YAY! I put off starting the next one until next week. We used Khan Academy for practice the remainder of the week.
  • Kiddo flying through book 7 of Explode the Code. I hope he is retaining it!
  • In Spanish, Little Pim, Kiddo has 3 or 4 lessons left before he hits the end. He has decided he will go back and repeat the lessons when he is done. I think that is an excellent idea.
  • We completed Unit 14--Mollusks in R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey--Life. Snails were so much fun! I think I was more enthralled with them than the kids were.
  • We read more about Julius Caesar in Chapter 35 Story of the World, Vol. 1. We also learned about Roman Numerals. Later tonight, I hope to get to measuring using our own feet.
  • Kutey is still doing 100 Easy Lessons. Since we went back a few, she flies through the lesson. This is good news, since it means she is gaining confidence as well!
  • We have been playing some games with the numbers one through 20, reinforcing them. We need to work a few more.

We are linking up to Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. Click to see what others did this week!