Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Turnips, Worms, and Grips

I mentioned before that we are slow going into this next main lesson block set. How slow? I am finally where I intended to be last week at this time! But it is all good.

e did her first drawn border. I love the upside-down turnip in the right corner. :) This is the first of four math consolidation stories. When E heard me reading about turnips he came to listen as well, recalling bits of the story from 3 years ago. These four stories are among my (and E's) favorites. Especially The Old Woman Who Was Not Afraid. I can't wait to read that one with e!


E's geography lessons are a hit so far. E has been measuring perimeter and calculating area of everything with 4 corners he can get his tape measure up to. He is fascinated by topographical maps- the elevation lines captivate him. We've been watching a show on Netflix about climbing Everest (after e is in bed) so yesterday we spent a lot of time looking at mountains both on Google Earth and as topographical maps. Very cool stuff.


This week E started some of his old tricks of refusal, doing everything except what I asked for, arguing math, etc. When I called him on it he recognized what he was doing and was able to stop- for the moment- because he recognized that what I was teaching was worth learning. Maturity! This morning he actually seemed disappointed when I said we weren't doing school today. We've come a long way, baby!

e and G usually begin their day like this. G loves E's fleecy jammy pants.


Other adventures of late include ordering red wigglers for an indoor compost tub (e is so excited...I think she plans to play with them as pets), tasting turnips (eww!), and ordering E's still ring grips. He is so stinkin happy! He's using his high bar grips every day now. He told me yesterday that he did front and back giants on the strap bar without any spotting. This is big!


What is a giant on a strap bar? Well.... The strap bar is a high bar with straps. The gymnast ties their wrists to the bar with the straps so that they don't fly off. Then the coach gives a mighty push, and around they go, lol. A giant is a move in which the gymnast's body is straight out, legs together, arms straight, flying around and around the bar, all the way over the top and back down and around again. Apparently E can swing himself around under his own power now, both forwards and backwards. Wow!


Monday, March 17, 2014

Tea and Pancakes

It's a tea and pancakes morning here. Rainy and cold. Perfect for turning our brown grass green!


I am starting a new path- Waldorf Essentials Thinking Feeling Willing program. Back when I was new at this homeschool thing, I bought their first grade curriculum. They were called A Little Garden Flower, and I watched every YouTube video and read their blog start to finish. It was an excellent way to begin.


About halfway through E's first grade, we moved to Alaska. Since then, I've used Christopherus. I liked A Little Garden Flower, but Christopherus spoke to me. I loved the math animals rather than gnomes, and the stories seemed deeper. So we have used Christopherus grades 1-4.


But what to do for grade 5? It's a ways off, I know. Next January at the earliest. Christopherus goes through fifth grade. A Little Garden Flower- I mean Waldorf Essentials- goes through seventh. Live Education! through eighth. Earthschooling is through high school. Oak Meadow through high school. I really love Chrisopherus. Have I said that? I adore their curric. So why can't they go through high school?!? But they don't. So...what to do.


After much searching, reading, praying, and complaining I finally came to a decision. Melisa at Waldorf Essentials has this program, Thinking Feeling Willing, as I was saying before. It is lessons for mom, as well as all her child curriculum. Two birds with one stone. I will have curriculum through seventh, and by then I will have learned what I need to create my own plan beyond that...or at least continued support as I go about creating it!


Right now I am working through the first mom lesson: creating rhythm. This is the single most difficult thing for most homeschooling parents. Creating a daily and weekly rhythm that works. One in which everything flows. The first assignment: get up before your kids and exercise, meditate, plan, etc. That is hard to do. I've been working (sort of) on that one for 10 years now. :) But I WILL do it. And keep doing it. I've always known it would make our days flow better. No time like the present to actually put forth full effort in this, right?


The other thing I did was give the grandparents a wish list. I laid it out, just in case they wanted to help but didn't know what we needed. Want to see it? Here it is:


Aquarium membership

Art classes, piano lessons

Elementary science education, vol 2, grades 3-5 by Bernard Nebel

Middle school science education, vol 3 grades 6-8 by Bernard Nebel

Story of the world by Susan Wise Bauer, book and activity book (not tests)

Vol. 2: Middle Ages

Vol 3: early modern times

Vol 4: modern age


Geology and Astronomy by Charles Kovacs

And just like that, they offered an aquarium membership, piano lessons for e, and the two science curriculums. Boom. Ask and you shall receive? I did not expect much of a response. I'm not sure why, since they've always expressed a big interest in the kids' education. Subscriptions to nature magazines, hours of watching gymnastics, piano playing, and singing on FaceTime, and just recently a telescope- not to mention the offers of high school science Power Point files and lots of science lessons each time they visit. We are very grateful for it all. Maybe that's why I was surprised. They'd already given so much.


Yet there you have it- e can take piano again (woohoo!!!). We can visit the aquarium often and learn about the bay and ocean. The science books are pretty awesome. I've had the first one, for k-2, since E was kindy. The author presents topics in a teachable moment sort of way, believing that science should not be taught in a cookie-cutter manner, nor out of context. If you want your child to learn about states of matter, teach it while cooking or playing with water or ice on a hot day. Energy? How about roasting marshmallows over a fire and seeing what material will/won't burn? Inspiration. As E gets older, my efforts on this will become more deliberate, and I am happy to have Nebel's next two books to draw from. Nebel is in no way Waldorf, but the information can be applied in a Waldorfish manner.


Now, back to the tea and pancakes. How do we make grain-free pancakes? Have I told you yet? Mash 2 ripe bananas. Stir in 4 eggs and a bit of cinnamon. Pancake batter. I use a nonstick pan and wipe it between batches with bacon grease. These things stick. Then the kids gobble them up plain. No need for any sweet topping. In the summer, I store frozen pancakes in the freezer for the kids to snack on. Deliciousness. Meanwhile, I sneak a chocolate chip peanut butter Lara Bar. Yum.



Sunday, March 16, 2014

Two Major Accomplishments

Yesterday I accomplished two things. The first: pizza. Here's why that is such a big thing.


My children- well, mainly e- have been begging for pizza....for a year. Maybe longer. I had tried and failed at several versions. The kids liked every attempt, but C and I didn't. So I put them off and kept saying 'sometime, but not today.'


Then we were invited to J's birthday party. At a bowling alley, The next day. I could have cried. Pizza?!? Of all things. These are the moments I feel totally alone and angry at the world that our family, my children, have to deal with stupid restrictions while everyone else goes about eating whatever they please, wherever they please, without repercussion. Grrr.


The awesome thing is that as much as I feel it, I'm not actually alone. I posted my cry for help on Facebook and within minutes friends from Virginia, Colorado, New York, Tennessee, Alaska, and Oregon came through with ideas and recipes for a pizza free of wheat, rye, barley, oats, rice, potato, corn, millet, yeast, dairy, soy, cauliflower, tomato, and, well, just about anything else you'd normally put in or on a pizza crust.


So after a good cry of happy tears and a trip to Whole Foods, I made a pizza. It isn't a family dinner pizza. C isn't fond of Diaya as a pizza cheese replacement nor the lack of tomato sauce, and I can't eat the eggs I used in the crust, but the kids were overjoyed. They gobbled down their slices and woke up asking for the remaining pieces for breakfast.


Which totally makes it a success. They didn't bat an eye when their friends and daddy ate pizza that eve at the bowling alley. They didn't feel they were missing out. In fact, they both thanked me for making 'homemade yummy pizza' because the stuff daddy ate 'didn't look so good', lol.

I used this recipe except my young helper added an extra egg by mistake. :) After all the raving going on by the kids, C tried a bite and was pleasantly surprised. Indeed, if we could use real cheese and sauce he'd consider it a very delicious pizza. Ha. Another day.


My second accomplishment is this baby blanket. It isn't a hard pattern, just knitting and pearling. But it took so LONG!! I'll take a hat, a doll, a scarf even over this. It seemed never-ending! I don't know how my grandmothers knitted/crocheted the large afghans of my childhood. Each to her own, I suppose. Whew! I'm knitting a small doll blanket to match with the leftover yarn. Much better.

It is pretty to look at. I hope the recipients like it. I won't be making another!


Friday, March 14, 2014

New Roads, Old Books

Last fall, a few roads in our neighborhood were resurfaced. With E's meet season over and some warmer weather in our neck of the woods, we decided to have some fun on the skateboards this week.  
Have I mentioned that E's season is over? Although he qualified at State for Regionals, we opted not to go. Many would argue that we are stopping him early, holding him back...and maybe we are. But this is his first year in competition. He is Level five, which is still small stuff. Regionals are expensive- registration and coach fees/travel expenses, plus our own travel/lodging...all said hundreds of dollars on top of the thousands we've already paid thus far. It would have been an adventure to drive north to New Jersey (we've never been north of Maryland) and for E to compete against different gymnasts, but in the end we decided to complete the season at States.

On the drive to gym today, E told me that he was kind of glad to be done. It meant he could use his grips every day! Ha. He only recently received the okay to use high bar grips- leather hand cover thingies with a dowel under his fingers- so was still competing bare-handed (and thus training bare-handed). Soon to come are still ring grips. Moving on up!

Remember those little square scooters in elementary gym? e belly-down on her skateboard totally reminds me of those.
C has been reading the Redwall series to E for a little over a year now, and they are just over halfway.  E loves this. He has a hard time when a series ends. (Don't we all?) So he is pretty happy to have what appears to be another year left to go. Brian Jaques is an amazing author.

e has been listening to C read one classic after another. Our first grade Christopherus read-aloud book list includes so many sweet, older stories. She has enjoyed them immensely. Among the titles are those most of us have read- Pippy Longstocking, Whinnie the PoohSocksCharlotte's WebThe Chronicles of Narnia- but also many most have not heard of, such as the Burgess animal stories, Twig, and the Freddy the Pig books. I would love to know more. What classics has your family read recently?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

New Blocks, Slow Start






We've had a slow start to our new blocks, because the weather is so warm! We've done mostly form drawing and poetry. One lesson on perimeter and area, creating a blueprint to scale of E's room. The lesson plans I made will last through next week. Part of me is panicking a bit, as the school year is winding down and we haven't done nearly what I had planned, but in reality we are accomplishing more 'school' than ever before, so we are doing quite well. Life is good. I'm going to go jump in puddles with my kids today.


Monday, March 10, 2014

Chantilly Weekend

This past weekend we drove to Chantilly, Virginia. Right near Dulles Airport. It rained the entire drive, but Saturday dawned absolutely beautiful. Sunny, blue skies.... perfect day for the Virginia Mens Gymnastics State Championship, E's final meet of his first season of competitive gymnastics.


E earned his best-yet pommel score and added a different flexibility bonus into his floor routine. A teammate's mother mentioned plans to visit a Smithsonian Air and Space Annex, 5 miles away. Five miles?!? No passing that up.


So after awards, we headed to the museum. Not everyone was pleased to be going- wasn't the meet itself enough for one trip? We only stayed an hour, but all were glad for that hour. Oh my that is an amazing place! The space shuttle Discovery is there, along with all sorts of other flying things. The shortest person among us was always the first to spot the cool stuff on the ceiling- a solar powered contraption that flies higher than a jet, a balloon basket, a Concord, a few satellites. We would have missed them- there was so much to see on the ground- were it not for e. In fact, what she said about the Concord was this: "Mom, there's what I make out of paper! That's my paper airplanes! See, the wings are slim and trim like that, the nose long and narrow. It's my plane!" The connections the children make between new and old information never cease to amaze me.

Our next rainy day movie is going to be the documentary about Discovery's last flight. It was pretty darn awe-inspiring to stand under the shuttle, knowing where it has been and the temperatures those tiles withstood, seeing the gigantic engine-thruster-thingies (I have so much to learn) right there. So huge that they alone fill the frame. This picture was taken looking up at them from a ways back!


Then we drove home, and I noticed the soap in the bathroom. This was a soap we felted years ago, perhaps one of the first, and apparently it wasn't felted enough! The kids have been pinching and pulling the wool into different shapes every time they wash their hands for a few weeks now. Never the same thing twice. They call this one 'Turtle'.


Sunday, March 2, 2014


I am apparently one of those few people who get shingles over and over. And over. So e and I are at home instead of in Maryland cheering E on. Which I felt terrible about- I cried not because of pain but because I'm not supposed to miss anything my children do- until I found out the good that has come from it.


About 2 hours after C and E left, I received a text from my friend K. Her son has worked hard all season, trying to master the skills necessary to compete at level 5. He's been ready for over a month, but paperwork and registration deadlines meant that this, the final meet of the season, was his first chance to compete. Anyway, her text said that their car had broken down, PepBoys couldn't fix it right away, and that all car rental agencies were closed. No way to get J to his meet.


Or was there? I called C. He had just, JUST reached the city in which K and J and their family sat. So, thanks to my and e's empty seats, J will make it to the meet.


Everything for a reason.


So e and I are enjoying the sunshine before another winter storm blows in. She's taken a sudden new interest in her scooter, and Pinky fits perfectly in the treasure pocket.


This past week week we spent working on projects:

A doll hat, knit in the round (!) by e. Double-pointed needles. Eep.

A grip bag, sewn by E for his new high bar grips.

And E's shlamb, all sewn up.

We also finished up the final main lesson book pages from Norse Myths and Stories of Wonder.

Ragnarokk was a..... shock. I won't ruin it for anyone else starting this unit, but oh my.... We did not see that coming. Now the song we've been singing makes complete sense!


e began Book 2! She is so excited for more.


This week (or next) we begin their new blocks. e will do math consolidation stories. I have been waiting 3 years to do these four lovely stories again! Have I said how much I adore Christopherus curriculum? Next up for E is local geography. More on that later- I'm pretty excited for this one also!