Sunday, November 30, 2014


Our chalkboards are made of foam board and chalkboard paint. They work well but I miss our big boards in Alaska! I plan to paint the walls with chalkboard paint after I remove the wallpaper. Today I changed our boards from their November verses to December. Winter is here!





Saturday, November 29, 2014

Random Bits of Happiness

Rolling candles for Advent with friends...E whipped out this little one to see how fast it would burn. After a few candles were rolled and decorated, e and s rolled sweet honey-smelling wands and ran off to pretend they were Malificent.
Origami birds! This official pigeon was quickly joined by a flock of white pigeons...doves, perhaps?
e knit not only a cupcake hat, but later a cherry to go on top! Start to finish, knitting in the round, kfb, frosting drips, I-cord... So proud of my determined junior knitter!
Acrylic paint and leaves with friends. Same directions, four different girls, beautiful and unique results.
I found this picture online recently of e's chorus singing at a retirement home a few months ago. It took me a bit to find e, even though I knew where she had been standing. She's looking older by the day....
This is how G likes to watch family movies: from the salad bowl.

With all the fairy tale craze created by daddy reading aloud The Sisters Grimm, Magicalamity, and The Wizz Pop Chocolate Shop, we decided to watch Once Upon a Time on Netflix during our Saturday night family movie time, one or two episodes at a time. It leads to a lot of discussion about why one story says this while another says that about the same character. E has a hard time understanding "because the author/screenwriter decided it should be that way." Why? What were their motives? What do they know that I don't? This is helping him to see that fiction is in the hands of the storyteller. The story can be anything the author wants it to be.
Anna helped me make the pie crust for Thanksgiving. G supervised closely.

My family decided to alter our traditions a bit. Instead of eating turkey, we ate pizza and watched Free Birds. (In the movie, turkeys go back in time and serve pizza at the first Thanksgiving.) After all, we eat turkey almost every week. I rarely make pizza. Which one symbolizes a festive occasion for my children? ;) Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Write from the Beginning

Years and years ago I taught students with learning disabilities at a year-round public school in California. The majority of the students (administrators and staff, also) were Armenian, and those who were not Armenian were Latino. Very, very few were Caucasian or spoke English as their first language. The school's language arts program for all students was an English-as-a-second-language curriculum. Most of my students were first generation Americans or had newly arrived from their years-long escape from Iran or Iraq. They were the hardest working students I have ever had.


The district's main focus that year was writing. We were all trained in a series of inservice days to use a program called Write from the Beginning. Each grade level was given specific skills to address, specific types of writing to learn, and by Christmas even the youngest students had the rubrics memorized. Writing became the focus in all subject areas. Even kindergarteners were creating brainstorm maps, spider maps, and flow maps, and then writing three-sentence narratives. By fourth grade five-paragraph essays were written weekly in all subjects. Sixth graders were writing full-on researched reports. I knew it was a good curric and that I would want to use it again someday, so I kept my notes.


I've been staring at this curriculum binder on my bookshelf for years now. When should I begin with E? With e? Now? Later? What age would be best? In the end I decided E's zoology block would lend itself well to this kInd of lesson, and he seemed finally ready. You've seen the spider maps I've had him do:

This time I took it beyond a paragraph. I showed him how to write a flow map from the spider map, including topic sentences, transitions, and conclusions. From that flow map, we got this:

Boom. He is on his way to a five paragraph essay. Wait long enough, and they almost teach themselves. :)


Thursday, November 13, 2014

St. Martin



A Light in the Darkness

Festivals have taken on special meaning this year with e's second grade focus on Saints and Heroes. She is beginning to sort the fact from fantastical, but still loves the magic of story. Martinmas was no exception! It was a beautiful night.


Plans for a lantern walk in the woods fell through, so e and s took to the sidewalk after their final staging rehearsal for chorus. The air was warm and misty, and the girls walked for over an hour, singing, talking, swinging (ahem) their lanterns.


I go outside with my lantern, my lantern goes with me.

Above the stars are shining bright, down here on earth shine we.

The cock does crow, the cat meows, la bimmel la bammel la boom.

Neath heaven's dome, til we go home, la bimmel la bammel la boom.

Glimmer, lantern, glimmer

Little stars a-shimmer.

Over meadows, moor, and dale

Flitter, flutter, elf-in-veil

Pee-wit, pee-wit, tick-a-tick-a-tick

Roo coo, roo coo.

Low light means long many lanterns do two little girls carry?


Here are e's Saints and Heroes pages so far:



St. Martin's page is being finished as I write, and Genevieve of Paris is up next. Genevieve's story is puzzling to e; how could being calm and confident possibly save a city from invasion? I'm looking forward to hearing her thoughts as she works through this.


Monday, November 10, 2014

A Happy Ending

Did you wonder how Where the Mountain Meets the Moon ends? Here is the rest of that main lesson book:












There you have it!


Halloween Fun

Halloween was a day of memories. While E tumbled his heart out at gym, e and s had a blast here at home. They water colored, played outside, carved a pumpkin, hung on the bar, sang....then dressed up, put on real makeup (a huge deal for e, as I don't even own makeup!), did a recording session with C of Let it Go, trick-or-treated around the block, and handed out candy.
I used my ninja improv sewing skills to create e's costume the day before Halloween. I see so many mistakes, but she adores it. Whew!

Life is full of opportunities to play, is it not? Above was made by Elsa and Anna with flashlights, and below is my e a few days after Halloween, playing with candy. We can't eat it, so we mash it up and treat it like play dough. Fun stuff.

Next comes Martinmas....have you made your lanterns yet? That's what our watercolors were for...


Friday, November 7, 2014

No More Reversals

E's zoology block is coming along nicely. Not as fast as I would have wanted; we got a bit stuck on the octopus, as it is his favorite. Part of me freaks out a bit that we are already to November and still on the block we began with back in Old Testament, no geography, and we have not even covered birds and insects within zoology. Sigh. I had hoped to cover those and begin grade 5 topics in January.


Luckily the rest of me is a bit more sensible. Does it matter if we miss OT and geography? We missed OT in grade 3 as well. He will hear it in e's lessons next year, and perhaps absorb it better because it isn't aimed at him. That, after all, is how he learns best...


As far as geography, he's more interested in countries right now than states. Next year e has a Native Americans block, where the peoples are introduced not by tribe but by region. Peoples of the Ice and Snow, Peoples of the Forest, Peoples of the Swamp, Peoples of the Rain and Mist, Peoples of the Desert, etc. That could be a great time to connect the states and capitols to the regions for him.


Interesting to look back on this post from his Native block. Reversals are a thing of the past! So much changes in a year. It is okay to give children that time, as well as ourselves. Don't rush. We'll all get there.

Introduction to spider maps. This is my writing; we made it together and there was no point in having him copy it.

On to the amphibians. We were always fascinated by the frogs in Alaska. Northern Wood Frogs freeze solid during the long winter!


The frustration I wrote about a few months ago regarding E's art has vanished. He still worries that his drawing will not come out right, but it no longer paralyzes him. He's back to enjoying his crayons and pencils. Whew!

Spider map....

I gave him a YouTube clip to watch and a blank piece of paper. This is the paragraph he wrote, re-copied to (mostly) correct a few spelling errors:

Then he searched through a book for a picture of a frog skeleton and drew it.


This was one of those moments that keep me going! Rather than a few weeks, he whipped this out in a few days. Rather than writing as little as possible, he gave a full narrative! It is organized, complete, and neatly done. He did not balk at the corrections or writing a final draft.


Yes, I see the lack of capitalization... I also see the lack of reversals. He's come a long way.