Tuesday, August 31, 2010


The beauty of homeschooling is that there are days when we can just go with the flow. My evenings lately have been filled with a teething baby and children who stay up way past their bedtime.

We have most definitely been doing things and learning, but I have slacked a bit on filling up the work boxes. We started our week by playing all day with friends. Today we went to the library and read several books together. Maeve used her very own library card for the first time and Finn picked out some books and a frog puppet named Fred. We read a few dinosaur books, Maeve started making her own dinosaur book and the kids and I created a dinosaur wonderland using recycled stuff, foil and homemade play dough. It was awesome and even Finn got into it.

Sunday afternoon Maeve decided that she wanted to sell all of the cherry tomatoes she had collected throughout the weekend. She carefully wrapped the tomatoes in Halloween napkins and taped the tops closed. We also wrapped up brownies that had just come out of the oven. Maeve decided to sell each brownie or cherry tomato bundle for 25 cents. She made a sign and we set up shop in the front yard. Maeve completely ignored her first customer because she didn't want to talk to a stranger. We talked about how to operate a business and by the end of her business venture she was telling "Brownies, cherry tomatoes, 25 cents a piece" to each person and car that passed. She was very proud of the money she earned and I was proud of her enthusiasm.

Finn has really been into playing games. He is constantly getting into our game closet and asking to play something. I love it, although he needs to work on putting away the pieces of the games instead of leaving them all over the office floor.

Oren has been teething and eating crap off of the floor. And killing me with his curls and gapped teeth.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Not Back to School!

Today we celebrated not going back to school with a bunch of other homeschoolers. I always look forward to this time of the year because all of our favorite spots are no longer crowded. We can take time to explore without being trampled by a group of summer camp kids. It's nice.

I have started to hear a bit of criticism about not sending my sweet girl to school to be with other kids. I've heard that it's a shame to keep her at home instead of with her peers. Well, I suppose it would be a shame if all we did was stay home and "do school". Homeschooling is nothing like going to school. We don't spend hours a day in a classroom. Our lessons might take 10 minutes or they might take an hour. We might scrap the lesson altogether so we can hunt for tadpoles or splash in puddles. If my kids need to burn off some energy, we don't have to wait for recess. Maeve and Finn have many opportunities to play and learn with other kids. We go to park day every week with other homeschoolers and meet often with friends. Maeve will attend an art class. Finn will be in a bowling league. They are properly socialized and have the ability to interact with people of all ages.

Homeschooling is not just school at home. It's a lifestyle. I am lucky to be part of this journey with our children and am excited to see what they will amaze me with tomorrow.

Monday, August 23, 2010


C is for caterpillar and clock.

Maeve selected a worksheet this morning that had her writing the letter "c" on lined paper. She was complaining about writing and I told her that practice makes perfect. Her response was "practice makes poop". That was the last thing she took out of her work boxes. She did, however, write several lists (as usual) and told me that writing is her thing. I explained that she would be able to write anything if she knew how to read. She agreed to read books with me as long as the words I point out for her to read aren't too big. Maeve and Finn did a lot of pretending today and Maeve now refers to her tree frogs as her "amphibians". We also talked more about clocks and time and Maeve worked on writing numbers. She still has trouble writing numbers correctly and most of them end up backwards.

Finn worked on some fine motor skills today. I gave him a paper punch, a green construction paper leaf and told him to punch out the spots that the caterpillar ate. He loved this activity and demonstrated a great deal of patience working with the paper punch. He also built a lego car and a tower with big mega or duplo blocks and played a file folder game.

Oren was trouble. I need to figure out more things that will keep him busy and stationary. He's very curious and wants to do everything that Maeve and Finn do. Unfortunately, this leads to several fights and headbutts throughout the day between Oren and Finnegan. Oren has stuff in his work boxes, but since the work boxes actually belong to him they are of little interest.

Yesterday wasn't technically a school day, but the kids needed some structure so we learned the parts of a clock, the difference between analog and digital and how to tell time by the hour. Maeve already knew how to tell time by the hour and I have no idea if Finn was paying attention. I also decided yesterday that we'll learn about time until they (by "they" I mostly mean Maeve) either figure it out or completely lose interest.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Can Much?

We've been doing a lot of canning lately. I think we have around:
40 pints of salsa
40 pints of green beans
8 quarts of tomato sauce
6 pints of peaches
10 4 oz jars of plum preserves
6 half pints of peach butter
7 pints of chili

I've also been busy restocking my freezer with chicken stock and broth. I'm not going to bother canning any stock right now because we go through it quickly. I would have like to have made more peach butter, but my kids are crazy for peaches and eat five or more in one sitting. My first batch of plum preserves was a little more like plum candy (oops, need to work on the gelling point), but I used some of it in the middle of homemade doughnuts this morning and it was a hit with the kids. I think I'll also use it in a sort of plum turnover too.

In addition to our beast of a pressure cooker, we were given a 6 quart pressure cooker. I am very intimidated by pressure cookers (my husband cans the low acid stuff), but put on my big girl pants and used it to cook a pot roast. The result was better than Christmas! Actually, I said it was better than the birth of my children, but it was an unbelievably tender roast. The pot roast went from frozen to fork tender in 40 minutes. Not to sound like an infomercial, but that pressure cooker will completely transform the way I cook for my family. I can be lazy forgetful and not thaw anything and still have it on the table by 6!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Mid Week

The weather has been lovely here this week so bowling has taken a back burner.

Yesterday Finn sorted his bowling pins by size and then by color. I also had him put his bowling balls in order from smallest to biggest. He spent a great deal of time organizing and matching cards from a memory game. Maeve and I worked on venn diagrams for the different types of bowling, but I guess that activity was lame because she didn't want to finish it.

Today we did no organized learning. We went to a park with a beach and lake and the kids really enjoyed feeling the sand between their toes. They followed an outdoor maze and animal tracks and we guessed which animals belonged to which tracks. We ran around our backyard, picked vegetables and Maeve tried her very first (and second) plum.

This week we have taken a few walks to the pond by our house and have attempted to catch fish and tadpoles. Maeve tied a bucket to the end of a toy fishing pole and is determined to catch something. She even used a rubber worm from the Bass Pro Shop as bait. I've tried explaining how to properly catch fish, but she's so excited about her rigged up fishing pole that I am indulging her. I love seeing the anticipation as she pulls her bucket of water and algae out of the water. She has told several people that she was so close to catching a fish.

Finn and Oren enjoy feeding and watching the ducks. Oren quacks anytime someone says "duck".

Monday, August 16, 2010

B is for Bowling

Do you know how hard it is to find bowling stuff online? Or bowling books? Impossible.

We started today by making Bs using card stock bowling pins and bowling balls. The kids colored every single bowling coloring page I gave them and we talked about the three different types of bowling: ten pin, candlepin and duckpin. I showed them where candlepin and duckpin bowling originated on the map and we used a paper towel roll to see what a candlepin probably looks like.

Then I numbered circles (bowling pin markers) and had the kids look at a chart and put the circles in the correct place on the floor. Finn put his bowling pins on the numbers and bowled for a better part of the day.

We followed all of this up by going bowling. They both learned how to correctly hold the ball and which fingers go in the holes.

Oren was a maniac at the bowling place and crawled at lighting speed between the lanes, balls and chairs.  Can you see his disgusting feet?

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Rest of the Week

Day 2 was another good day. Finn wasn't very interested in much, but did get out his flash cards again. He did a few and then threw them all over the floor. We read his High Five for kids magazine and he did a great job finding the hidden objects. Finn also discovered a hole in the sink and filled it with wet toilet paper. I made him use tongs to get it out and explained why it's not a good idea to fill up holes with wet toilet paper. I am certain I will be repeating this lesson with Oren.

*Unfortunately, I repeated the lesson a few hours later. Finn thought it was awesome to pull wet toilet paper out of the sink with tongs.

Maeve sat down to work immediately upon waking. We finished her alligator lapbook and she made an alligator card that turned out really cute. She drew a picture of an apple tree and wrote "appl tee". We read more books about alligators.

We met some friends at the Science Center after lunch. The kids made rockets, built an arch and explored.

We practiced math and number recognition today by playing a really fun game. I printed off the numbers 1-10 on cardstock and then threw the pages on the floor. I started by telling Finn to jump on number whatever and started Maeve off with easy addition. She eventually started doing the problems in her head. I introduced adding three numbers together and also introduced subtraction. Finn was able to add too and was able to count on his fingers without skipping numbers.

Oren got to ride in the cozy coupe today and shop lifted a nectarine at the grocery store. We actually did pay for the nectarine, but we didn't notice that he had grabbed it until he had already taken a few bites. He was incredibly proud of his conquer.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Our Learning Space

This is our learning space, aka the office. It is the room that gets used the most and trashed the fastest. The picture above is Maeve's work space and her work boxes. 
This is a picture of Finn's work space. We found the table for free at an elementary school. The boys' work boxes are on the left and the wooden cubes on the table house all of the various types of papers. My sewing junk is on the top and I'm hoping I'll find a better spot for it sometime soon. 

Our book shelves hold library books and other educational books. The top of the book cases hold a math Montessori type game and two Melissa and Doug pattern and letter activities. The bottom shelves are full of distractions for Oren.

Not pictured is my desk. The kids use the computer. My sewing stuff takes up half of my desk shelving and work books and other school related stuff takes up the other half. And yes, the office is two colors. I will eventually finish painting it green. The office has 9' ceilings though so I'm not in much of a hurry to finish.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Baking 101

This is Maeve's cake. She measured, scooped, mixed and frosted. She was very proud of her creation and anytime she had a piece she would playfully ask who made such a terrific cake. 

First Day of School

Today didn't go entirely as planned, but that's usually the way of life with kids.

Our school day started last night when Finn wouldn't settle and go to sleep. He came downstairs with me and went right to his work box and grabbed a package of flash cards. I hadn't realized that he was so excited to start school. I sat down with him and we worked together on finding what was the same and what was different about each flash card. He also played a game where he rolled a die and then put the corresponding number of circles in the correct spot.

Maeve woke up bright and early as usual and got started right away. She didn't want to read her short vowel "a" book, but we read four books about alligators, she started her alligator lap book, we read a lot about the top 10 biggest dinosaurs, discussed why we can't have seals as pets, she did a short vowel "a" worksheet, she drew, colored and cut out several apples and went crazy drawing flowers. Maeve was very proud of herself when she wrote a lowercase "a".

Finn colored a blue apple (that was HUGE for him and a lot of hard work) and did a cute finger play about a worm eating an apple. He put apples in order from smallest to biggest and we read his new favorite book, Alligator Boy. Finn and I read The Bad Bag from the Progressive Phonics series and he was able to read some of the words on his own. Maeve looked over his shoulder the entire time and helped him sound out some of the words. We also played hot potato with an apple, but when Finn was stuck with the apple twice in a row, he was done playing.

Oren was Oren. He attempted to grab everything off of the tables and got in Finn's way as much as possible. He worked very hard putting clothes pins into any available hole and was excited when I brought in a table just for him. I also made him a marker jar like the ones Maeve and Finn have and Oren had fun taking the markers out, eating them and then putting them back into the container.

One thing I think I will do differently is to have an overall theme for the week, but then focus our work on certain subjects everyday. For instance, Monday might be focused on science, Tuesday is reading and writing, Wednesday is math, etc. I think that will allow us to do a lot more fun, hands-on stuff.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


I'm not what you call this sort of activity, but my boys love it. Oren will spend several minutes taking the clothes pin out of the bucket and putting them into the canning jar. He will also take the clothes pins and stick them in toys, our change jar and any other hole he can find. 

Finnegan and Oren also love to put the dominos (sometimes they are tickets or money) into the wipes container. Dominos are great for counting and they make a really neat sound when they bang together. Oren can usually be found with a domino sticking out of his mouth or a domino in his hand while he looks for an appropriate hole.

Peach Butter

This is my first attempt at canning. I've always been worried about botulism and killing my family so I usually leave the canning to my husband. That way if we all get sick, I know who to blame. 
I am very proud of my peach butter. All of the lids are sealed and I followed the directions to a "t", which is no easy feat for me. I tend to look at directions and then change several things to make it better. 
I soaked the peaches in water and lemon juice for a bit because my youngest had an afternoon meltdown and canning had to be put on hold. I saved the peach water, boiled the discarded skins and trimmings, added some sugar and was left with a delicious peach juice. I made it even better by adding   some mint. 
We have yet to eat some of the canned peach butter, but I am almost confident that it won't make us sick. If you don't hear from me in awhile you can probably assume we ate the butter and it didn't go over so well. 

Monday, August 9, 2010

Frog Castle

Kale and Chard

I grew kale for the first time two years ago and had no idea what to do with it. I have come a long way since then and thought I'd share what I do with kale and Swiss chard.

I blanch the kale and chard and stick it in a freezer bag. After the leaves have frozen, I grab a pint sized canning jar and pound the frozen bag of greens. I add them to ground beef, soups, spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce and potatoes and veggies of all kinds.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

I Should be Planning

Maeve decided that school will start on August 11th and has been diligently doing her homework. I haven't had the heart to tell her that homework is assigned and done after the start of school. I have most of her first week planned out, but need to fill in the blanks a bit. We will do school Monday through Thursday and my goal is to do our more organized stuff right after breakfast.  Most of what I'm doing with Maeve is kid interest driven. She made a list of things she wants to learn about and I plan to have her make a lot of lap books. She is a lot like me and loves to fill things out and do worksheets.

Finnegan wants to start school on August 20th. I'm going to do a letter each week for him. He already knows his alphabet, but he needs to work on writing his letters. We'll tap into his crafty side (or see if he has one) and read a lot.

We'll see how this goes. As I am typing this, I'm realizing there is probably no way I can really separate lessons for Maeve and Finnegan. I should probably focus on a letter a week sort of theme for the both of them, but incorporate more stuff for just Maeve. Like "A" is for alligator and we will learn about their habitat, food, place of origin, etc. and then visit them at the zoo. Maeve will do a lap book and Finn will pretend to listen while he's shooting his guns at the wall.

I went through the scope and sequence stuff for kindergarten and it seems Maeve is about half way through it. In addition to working at home, the kids will do tumbling and I'm hoping Maeve will get into a home school art class that is held once a week and join a local Clover Kids group.

I'm very unschooly in my approach it's been challenging for me to sit down and write out plans. Things we'll do for certain:
-read from The Real Mother Goose, Aesop's Fables, Hans Christen Andersen, E.B. White
-science experiments
-nature walks
-Progressive Phonics
-lap books
-a letter a week for our letter tree
-cook and bake
-lots of crafts

We are all excited and looking forward to learning together.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Planning Lessons

I made a rough outline of lessons for the first 10 weeks and have started to make more detailed plans for week one. I am so excited to teach and learn with my kids. I will share our weekly plans as I finish them, but they might be incredibly boring for people to read. I am very paper/pile oriented so I'm not sure how that's going to translate to blogging. I have a lot of various workbooks, Mailbox magazines and worksheets that I plan to use and we will be making weekly trips to the library. I found some shelf space for just library books so that we can keep them all in one place and stop getting late fees because of the stray book that got left under the couch.

Kid Kits

I was cleaning my sewing shelves and found an idea list from last Christmas. I thought it would be fun to create various kits for the kids. I made them each a doctor kit and it went over as well as a box of rocks. Actually, a box of rocks would have been better. Anyway, here were some of my other ideas:

Lunch kit in homemade bag (felt food)
-bag of chips
-chocolate chip cookies
-cheese and crackers
-various fruits

Sticker kit
-book for stickers
-stickers (obviously)

Mail kit
-mail bag
-note cards
-address labels
*this could all easily be made with felt and a bit of Velcro

Cleaning kit
-squirt bottles

Hygiene kit
-toothbrush holder
-toothbrushes (my kids LOVE toothbrushes)
-small comb
-small mirror
-little bar of soap

Monday, August 2, 2010

A Week in Review

This week Maeve and I created a frog castle, complete with a moat, fish, bushes and frog puppets. The castle is made from cardboard and the playmate is felt. We also made a frog bed and chairs and gave them a fire place for their castle. I read the kids the Frog Prince and we acted it out with the finger puppets. I see more play mats in our future.

Maeve has been writing like crazy. She makes the same list over and over and has been working on perfecting numbers. She has started sounding out words and spends most of her quiet time writing and drawing. I love seeing her drawings and her interpretation of words. Today she attempted to write "hungry, hungry herbivore, Tank, triceratops". Her version was "hugre, hugre, hbvor, Tac, tcatop".

Finnegan loves computer games. Poisson Rouge is one of his favorite sites and he is great at figuring out the puzzles and how to play the games. He is able to manipulate the computer without asking for help. Finn is also really knows his numbers.

As soon as I am finished planning our first week of school, we will get started. We were all sick last week so I'm a bit behind, but I have a rough sketch of the first 10 weeks. I don't plan to use a curriculum. I use and will continue to use Progressive Phonics for reading and we'll read Aesop's Fables, Hans Christian Andersen, E.B. White and other classic and traditional stories. Time and measurement will be the first two math things we learn about and I plan to teach them geography starting with the continents. Everything else, at least for right now, will be covered via life. We are always talking and learning about science, art and history. We'll do a lot of experiments and nature walks this fall.