Monday, September 29, 2014

Work Plans for the Week of September 29, 2014: Out and About

I got to feeling burned out with homeschooling last week, and thought that I might make this week either a "Project Week" or simply a math, cursive, and journal week, but then I actually looked at my planner, and saw how many outside activities the kids are going to be engaged in--homeschooling around those made lesson planning dead simple this weekend, and should make for a school week that gives us all lots of breaks between the work for extracurriculars.

MONDAY: Right now, for instance, the kiddos are downstairs at one of our community centers having a folk dancing class; this is part of our Girl Scout co-op, and will count towards Syd's Dancer badge. Yay, PE! After their workshop, we'll read and play board games here for a bit, and then go straight over to our volunteer gig. Then there's more horse breed and horse breed geography research (the kids use this Smithsonian horse encyclopedia and CultureGrams for this research, and then we search Youtube together for relevant videos), and for cursive, spelling word copywork. I'd wanted to delete spelling as a discrete subject and move it to our daily memory work, but I almost immediately discovered that memory work works best in the car, and so that dang cursive is back. If the spelling word copywork works well, however, perhaps I can at least combine spelling/cursive into the same slot.

Lapbooks have never worked well for us, but I've been wanting, for a while now, to introduce the idea of a math notebook that the kids would make themselves and then could consult for reference about, say, Roman numerals, or how exactly one borrows across zeros when subtracting. This weekend, looking for a way to have Will review simple division and Syd review simple multiplication, I found lapbooks for both multiplication and division. I copied them and set them aside, with blank notebooks, into their Monday drawer, and voila! We have math notebooks!

TUESDAY: The kids have a horse show next month, so preparation for that is occupying much of their weekly horseback riding lessons. We'll do more spiral form drawing for art, and this week's Math Mammoth is more simple multiplication for Syd and more long division for Will, so no review day needed--I'm sure we'll have to go back to review days after Will moves on to the next unit, though, so they're not gone for good.

Choosing a Junior Ranger badge to earn is one subject that just did not happen last week--that was the day, I think, that both kids piddled around contentedly at the table and made half an hour of math take more like three hours; seriously, I lost my patience with schoolwork that day loooong before they did. We'll try it this week, instead, because I do think that they're going to like it, and it's going to be a valuable way to study geography.

Will has Robotics Workshop on alternate Tuesdays (they're using LEGO Mindstorms, which I'm pretty sure that someone needs to buy ME to play with, too!), so I planned to have Syd and I do a special craft project together during that time; she sometimes has a playdate then, but if so, this marshmallow pop project will be easy to move to our free day, or even the weekend.

WEDNESDAY: A field trip to a local farm that hosts a children's farm festival will occupy this day until mid-afternoon; there should be lots of active, outdoor free play during that time, so I don't feel *too* badly about the kids going home and then having their online Magic Tree House Club meeting just a couple of hours later, and then being fed dinner and shipped off to their LEGO Club meeting.

THURSDAY: I only managed to schedule one First Language Lessons unit this week, but we continue our study of Ancient China through the lens of its artifacts by watching Chinese folktales, and then practicing the four-character Chinese idioms based on those tales. I'd like the kids to be able to recreate one idiom from memory, and I'll be adding some significant dates for Ancient China's development of their writing system to our daily memory work.

Will is ready to start a new Girl Scout badge (I've got a few extra things that I'd like her to do relating to her Inside Government badge, but I didn't want to start them this week--we just don't have enough at-home time for an extensive seat-work project), but I've planned for Syd to hike around the woods behind our house and complete a "bug census" on the woods' inhabitants.

FRIDAY: Free day!!!

SATURDAY/SUNDAY: Syd has ballet, and then Matt will be taking both kids directly from there to Indianapolis, where they have an afternoon Girl Scout workshop about aircraft engineering; they're going to get some hands-on experience with small planes at the actual airport, culminating in an actual flight! I am really, really, really excited for them.

Our weekdays were already so busy that I moved the kids' aerial silks class to Sunday, which means that Matt will get to take them and actually watch their class for a change; I think he's going to be quite impressed!

Now, next week is another week busy with activities--it's the public schools' fall break, so there's lots of school-age programming at the library, and a day camp, etc.--so that week might actually BE a math, journal, and cursive week. I'm already looking forward to it!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

My Latest: Button-Making and Badly-Written Bug Out Plans

a round-up of DIY 3D projects

a round-up of pumpkin recipes

I've been getting a little stressed around here lately--still so much to unpack, fall clothes to make for Will, somehow I've forgotten how to make dinner for my family every night, all my writing projects, kitting my etsy shop out for the big holiday season that I'd like to have, and, of course, lesson plans every week and a full day of schoolwork every day. Today alone I've got to make those lesson plans again for next week, unpack the homeschool closet that Matt emptied out into our bathroom so that he could build shelves for me, write a tute for CAGW, and the only thing that I actually *want* to do is make Will several pairs of flannel pants with reinforced knees.

So obviously, I'm about to go and do that first, and then just stress about the rest of it later.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Work Plans for the Week of September 22, 2014: Belated and Badges

It occurred to me last night that I'd neglected to share our work plans at the beginning of this week, and, surely coincidentally, this week we've had a lot of trouble completing each day's plans in a timely manner. Surely coincidentally, but nevertheles...

MONDAY: I was going to move the kids' hands-on math day to Tuesdays while we're still having a day of review every week, but I had a (boring, tedious, miserable) appointment this Tuesday, necessitating the kids doing some of their school at their father's office, so I kept the review worksheets for Tuesday, and instead Syd reviewed multiplication arrays using dot markers--so easy and fun!--and Will watched this division video and then created her own stop-motion video on the ipad to illustrated a division problem--she used books, of COURSE. Syd then took the ipad from her and created a million stop-motion toy dinosaur movies, taping over her sister's movie in the process. Of COURSE.

Horseback riding lessons have commenced again for the fall session, and therefore so has the kids' weekly homework to research and report on a horse breed for their riding instructor. They use these horse/geography forms to record their research, and they switch tasks each week, with one kid researching the horse breed, the other researching the horse's geography, and then each kid teaching the other what she knows. We also usually do a Youtube search so that we can see the horse in action; this is a good one for this week's horse, the fell pony:

I gave Syd another Horse Diaries book to read this week, and I asked Will to read the rest of the ecosystem books for her Girl Scout Junior Animal Habitats badge, then write me one-sentence definitions of the ecosystems discussed in each book. She's happy to do pretty much anything that involves reading, even if it also involves writing!

At our volunteer gig, the kids did some gardening, did some playing, and then helped me run the meat counter. When the supply is low enough that I can move all of the meat to the shelves that are easy for them to reach, the kids can actually handle this counter independently--greeting shoppers, asking them their preferences, showing them their options, etc. I won't leave them alone while they do this, because I feel like meat shopping doesn't always bring out the best in people and so I want to supervise their encounters, but I do stand back and let them be in charge, and you can tell that they feel like Very Important People to have such a big responsibility.

Even though First Language Lessons Level 3 was great for a while, I'm back to feeling like it's moving too slowly. It's good enough that we won't ditch it, but we won't be moving on to Level 4 afterwards.

I'd planned on setting aside some time for memory work each day this week, and so I took cursive and states and capitals memorization off our regular schedule, assuming we'd do it during memory work time. I immediately discovered, however, that memory work is ideally done when riding in the car--the kids are contained then, and they can't escape my drills! But while this is excellent for spelling words, math facts, poetry recitation, and states and capitals, it's obviously impossible for cursive. That will have to go back on the schedule next week.

TUESDAY: Math review worksheets went really well this week, and now I'm torn between continuing to offer a day of extra practice in word problems and previously-acquired skill sets (multi-digit addition and subtraction for Syd; multi-digit multiplication and easy division for Will), which is great for building confidence and getting those feelings of mastery, or again using that day to advance in their Math Mammoth curriculum. Dang it, I want to do both! For now I'll keep deciding week by week, I guess...

For form drawing this week, we're working on the spiral, with the goals of making the flowing line steady and even and controlled (hear that, Will? CONTROLLED!).

Short story writing is still a success. Syd makes whole books out of her stories, with detailed illustrations on every page. Will's stories are still VERY short, but she does work on them with focus, and she's clearly quite proud of them when she's finished, so I'm saying nothing about it but praise.

I *think* I've now got everything unpacked that I need for us to start prepping our dino dig fossils, so I asked the kids to finish up the work for their Junior Paleontology badges this week; we'll mail them in, and they'll send the kids badges and certificates!

WEDNESDAY: I liked having Friday as our free day so much last week that I'm doing it again, which means that Wednesday was a regular work day.

The kids' Math Mammoth this week is more beginning multiplication for Syd, and more division for Will. Syd is breezing through her multiplication, since she already has most of her facts memorized, and division is slowly but steadily being driven into Will's brain, so every day it does become, thankfully, ever so slightly less miserable for her. LOTS of drill, though. LOTS of mastery experiences.

The kids love earning Junior Ranger badges so much that I've turned it into their geography study. They get to pick a National Park online (ideally one that we're unlikely to visit), print out that park's Junior Ranger badge book, and then they do all the activities at home, using the computer for research as needed. Just like with the Junior Paleontologist badge, when they're finished, we can mail the book to the park, and they'll send back the kids' badges and certificates. We can also request documentaries and books from the library to enrich each study.

Our Artifacts of Ancient China study is going well. We're revisiting the terracotta warriors this week (helps get those timeline dates stuck in the head!) by making terracotta warrior paper dolls; now that the kids know how the real terracotta warriors were painted, I think that they'll have a lot of fun making these paper doll versions really cute! I also like to have the kids watch these Crash Course World History videos, but screen them for your own kids, first, because they can be a little blue.

I'm sure you wouldn't have been able to guess it at all (ahem...) but the Minecraft lesson was by far the most popular part of Wednesday's curriculum. Syd doesn't really play computer games, and had never touched Minecraft before, but there's a mod-building workshop for Minecraft at the public library in a few weeks that I want her to take along with her sister, so I've given Will the job of teaching Syd how to play Minecraft before that date.

THURSDAY: Today is our last day of school for the week, and I am STOKED! I always stack Thursday with our quickest subjects, because our homeschool group's Park Day takes up most of the afternoon.

The kids lost touch with their pen pals over our summer hiatus, AND we moved, so I've got them renewing their correspondence today. And after some *gentle* nudging to finish things up last week, both kids are ready to choose new Girl Scout badges to start earning today--yay!

SATURDAY/SUNDAY: Ballet, chess club, and a photography workshop for both kids, which means that Matt and I will get an afternoon for ourselves! I also feel like there's a laser tag certificate sitting around somewhere that might expire at the end of the month, AND an ice cream certificate that's also about to expire...

Sounds like a fine weekend to me!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Homeschool Field Trip: Conner Prairie

Living history museums are WAY more fun now that my children will consent to speak to other humans. Now they love the play-acting and joining into the spirit of the conceit that's required for one to really experience what a living history museum can offer, and they had a fabulous day at Conner Prairie.

I was the most excited for the children to experience Prairie Town, a recreation of an 1836 small Indiana town, because I considered it the culmination of our pioneer unit study. The kids had worked hard learning about Western Expansion and pioneer life, and thus had the context to make their experience here even more fun. Seriously, they inspected this covered wagon like the trail-hardened wagon engineers that they are:

I took them by the Outfitters Cart to choose a profession--Cook--and it was the best thing that we could possibly have done there, especially as our first stop. Many of the tasks that the profession card held required the kids to engage with the actors, which got them comfortable with doing so and for the rest of the day, they were able to run right up to anyone in period dress and jump right in with questions or thoughts or "help" with whatever that actor was doing:
Even though it was actively raining, like, right then, this gardener was still grateful to have some help at the pump!

carding wool for the hotel owner

and helping her spin some wool

The Cook card also required the kids to practice close observation--they had to find things in the kitchens like this book of recipes--

 --and the prices for various staple goods, including salt, sugar, and baking soda:
Note that this sign doesn't have "baking soda" on it. Can YOU find it?

I also required the kids to ask one "good" question every place we went, and this led to them learning interesting facts such as where the salt is stored, why the doctor's wife doesn't have a butter churn (the doctor gets paid in so much barter that they don't need to keep their own animals), and how much a tin cup costs at the trading post (the trader said that if Syd brought him a raccoon skin, he'd give her TWO tin cups!).

The only place that really disappointed me was the Lenape Indian Camp. There was a wetu and a skin drying and a bark boat--

--and a couple of children's games set out, but there were no Lenape. Instead, there was the trading post and another settler-type house, and when Syd asked, the trader's wife said that the place was a "trading camp"--not even a real Native American town, then! NOT a good representation of Native American life, especially considering that Indiana has a rich Native American history, some of which we actually do know.

Oh, well. We'll be visiting Prophetstown and Battle Ground later this year, and I can do my own fangirly historical interpretation there myself, if I need to. 

One of the things that I had to continually encourage the kids to do, even after all their practice at Prairetown, was to ask the actors and other historical interpreters their questions. Syd would absolutely pepper me with questions, but when I would tell her to ask this or that person instead, she'd be reluctant. Will would also have questions, but would then immediately come up with her own guesses at the answers, and be satisfied with that. I absolutely required them, however, if there was a docent in sight, to refer their question to that person, and thankfully, every single docent was always interesting and engaging, and always had an answer (that was always different from Will's guesses!). 

The kids have been interested in pottery ever since Syd's work on her Potter badge, and I've been toying with the idea of what at-home pottery we can do (pottery studio memberships aren't super pricey here, honestly, but the kids' classes always overlap extracurriculars that my kids are already involved in). I don't think that we could recreate THIS kiln, necessarily--

 --but this potter--

--was making some pretty great things on a kick wheel just like this one!

There was also map reading--

--and chicken observation-- 

--and over lunch a Come to Jesus entitled "If You Continue to Pitch This Fit, I Will Leave Your Sister with One of My Friends and Drive You Home and You Will Reimburse Me $5 for Your Admission to This Place," inspired by the fact that Will had packed only a ton of yogurt and fruit for her own lunch (and no spoon), and couldn't stand the fact that Syd had packed a giant, carefully-prepared lunch for herself. Syd even let Will borrow her plastic spoon when I asked her to, before she'd even used it herself for her own yogurt, so Will ate her own yogurt with the spoon, and then THREW THE SPOON AWAY. Syd had to spoon up her yogurt with the lid, getting it all over herself in the process, but don't worry--Will had ALSO THROWN AWAY THE WET WIPE. 

Lunch was followed by Go Play on the Playground and Don't Talk to Me for a While. Everyone cheered up at the tour of the historical home and garden, however-- 

--and Will redeemed herself by asking a million nerdy questions of the weaver, and chasing squirrels out by the cornfield and making her sister laugh.

It was almost the end of the day by the time we reached the Civil War--

--but the kids still got to muster, and witness an encounter between Confederate soldiers and some townspeople, and then we wandered into the field hospital.

It was just the three of us in the field hospital, along with the field medic, but he was stoked to set up shop and show us all of his tools and how he used them. Using Syd as his model, he described in great detail what a gunshot to the arm would look like--what it would tear, what it would shatter, how much blood would be spilled, what the level of pain would look like. He pulled out each tool that would be used and explained exactly what each one would do--this one to hold the skin flaps open, this one to clamp onto the lead bullet, this one to cut away excess tissue. He was just describing how the surgeons would simply wipe off the saw before using it to sever another limb, when Syd suddenly began to make this loud, high-pitched whining noise. We both turned to look at her, the field medic still holding her arm, just as she started to stagger in his grasp and fall over.

"Oh, no!" I said. "She's going to faint! Is there somewhere she can sit?" The field medic ran outside, where there were a couple of Union soldiers killing time on the porch, and got them to drag a chair up to the porch, which I hauled Syd over to and sat her on. One of the soldiers then went inside to grab some of the field bandages to make a cold, wet compress for Syd's forehead, while I made Syd put her head between her knees and the poor field medic just kept apologizing to her, over and over, pausing only to declare that this had never happened to him before.

While the rest of us were distracted with Syd, the second Union soldier turned to Will, who was just standing there, and asked her, "Are YOU okay?"

"No," I heard her say, and then she started to fall over, too! I ditched Syd with the field medic (still patting her and apologizing), and the second Union soldier and I sort of dragged Will over to a grassy area next to the porch. I laid her down on the grass, and she immediately rolled over onto her face and just lay there, moaning.

The first Union soldier then reappeared, dripping wet linen bandages in his hands, observed the scene, and said, "NOW what happened?" We were all like, "Ummm... I don't know?" so he said, "Right, I'm calling the medic."

Syd was still woozy, so the field medic and the second Union soldier brought her over to the grass, too, and then I found myself, standing on a lawn, my two kids lying moaning at my feet, three grown men in Civil War garb standing facing me, looking absolutely horrified.

Thankfully, it took just a couple of minutes for the medic--the REAL medic--to roll up in his cart. He stepped out, asked what happened, and then the poor field medic started right in about how he was just demonstrating field surgery, and they were really interested, and this had never happened to him before, and so the medic cut him off with "What did you DO to them?"

I explained that the kids both just suddenly felt faint, and the medic, who'd clearly seemed to be expecting chloroform poisoning or something, relaxed into taking the kids' vitals and getting them to sit up, etc.

Syd's check was normal and she was feeling a little better, so I left her in the care of the first Union soldier while the second Union soldier and I helped the medic examine Will. She wasn't feeling well, of course, and strangers were looking at her and talking to her, which she does NOT like, and even though we were pretty isolated where we were, she knew for a fact that many of her friends were also at Conner Prairie that day, and who knew but that they might also be looking at her. Ten-year-old's worst nightmare, right? So let's just say that she was being... combative. The medic asked her if she was okay.

"NO!" she said.

"Okay, then how do you feel?"

"BORED!" she said.

"Can I check your pulse?"

"NO!" she said.

"What's your name?"


The medic looked up at me in concern, and I know he was thinking that she had an altered mental state, but he asked me, "This is unusual for her, right?"

And I said, "Well...". I didn't really know how to respond, actually. Does my kid *usually* act like an asshole? Mostly not. Is acting like an asshole totally out of character for her? No. Could she be acting like an asshole for absolutely no medical reason right now? Probably, but who wants to admit to a medical professional that their kid is simply just acting like an asshole? Finally, I said, "I think that she's, um, angry right now. This isn't the ideal way she wanted to spend her time in Civil War Town."

Fortunately, her vitals read as okay. No neuro consult needed!

Meanwhile, I could half hear Syd having a lovely moment with the first Union soldier. He shared with her his REAL NAME. Wonderful guy.

The medic told the kids that they needed to drink a big glass of water, eat a big dinner, and go to bed early that night, and then he offered us a ride anywhere we wanted to go. It was almost closing time, though, so I asked if he could just take us to our car.

Reader, he could.

The Union soldiers helped get us settled into the medic's buggy, the field medic came over one more time to hug each of the children and tell them that he was sorry (Geez, poor guy!), and then as we motored off, they all waved and hollered "Bye!" at us.

The kids did, indeed drink a ton more water on the way home, they did, indeed eat a big dinner, and you can bet that I did, indeed send them to bed early that night.

Later, as Matt and I hung out and ate our own dinners and watched a movie, I like to think that the field medic and I, cities apart as we were, were both self-medicating ourselves with much hard cider in solidarity from our afternoon.

Monday, September 22, 2014

My Latest: Colored Cellophane and a Junior Ranger Vest

a tutorial for copying an existing piece of clothing, using this Junior Ranger vest I'm making for Will

I used her Girl Scout vest as a template.
a tutorial for the 3D glasses that Will made, also as a Girl Scout project

and a tutorial for these color viewers that I made, inspired by the 3D glasses

I was worried these color viewers would be a little baby-ish for my two, as they're usually used for sensory play for preschoolers, but oh, my gosh, they LOVE them, and they're a useful addition to our science enrichment supplies. 

I've got a couple of etsy orders to make early this week, but other project goals include sanding and varnishing one last bookshelf from the old general store; sorting, cataloging, and scanning a whole box of World War II correspondence that I found in our attic on Saturday before I call our home's former owners and tell them what a treasure I found (and sorted, and cataloged. I might stay quiet about the scanning...) for them; chipping old cement off of marble slabs that used to be bathroom counters in some fancy bathroom at the university, but that I would like to be wall shelves here; and lengthening some pants for Will, because it's getting cold here, and the poor kid has stretched out of all of her pants!

I know I should do that last project first, on account of cold weather, but yeah, I'm probably going to play with my World War II letters all week instead.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Dragons and Light

I know that light tables are a BIG thing with the preschool set nowadays, but my big kids also seem to find plenty of ways to play with ours. The other day, while listening to the Story of the World chapters on Ancient China, I dragged our big light table out so that they could color Asian dragons from their stained glass coloring book:

Big kids love color, too!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Spots Came Home

We grieved for this cat for two months. We put flyers all over town. We drove to neighborhoods where people told us they'd seen cats like her and shouted her name (sometimes people yelled at us because, you know, shouting). We paid for newspaper ads. We talked to strangers. We put a big yard sign up by our mailbox. We visited the animal shelter weekly to look at strays. I gave up hope, frankly, but we still continued to do these things.

And friends and strangers--they put up flyers, too. Total strangers put flyers up all over town. Total strangers drove to neighborhoods where people told them that they'd seen cats like her and shouted her name. More than once, total strangers caught and confined cats and called us to come over and look at them (the cutest time was when some college women renting a house near our old neighborhood called Matt on a Friday night. They had seen a cat that they just knew was Spots, caught her, and put her in, like, a gerbil cage on top of their kitchen table. They were SUPER sad when Matt told them that the cat wasn't Spots, but then one of them turned to the others and said, "Does this mean that we just abducted someone's cat?").

Friends contacted me all the time with good wishes and helpful advice. They called people they knew who worked in vets' offices and asked them to keep a lookout. They shared our flyers with all their friends on Facebook.

Yesterday, someone who'd seen our yard sign called to say that a cat like Spots had been hanging around his street for the past couple of weeks. Matt and I drove over there, like we always do, I got out of the car, like I always do, and I called her name, like I always do.

Before I'd even finished shouting her name one time, Spots burst out of the bushes to my right, just a few feet in front of me.

She didn't run to me, but ran across the street in front of me, and into another field, but when I called her name again she stopped, and although she still didn't come to me, she meowed when I spoke to her and let me creep over to her and pick her up.

I wasn't 100% sure that it WAS Spots, to be frank. It looked an awful lot like her, yes, but maybe her brown parts were too brown? And she didn't *really* act like she knew me, in the way that my Spots knew me and came running every time I called her. Her pupils were giant and she was wild-looking and didn't want me to hold her and carry her. Matt and I actually drove her to a vet to get her microchip scanned, but the vet didn't have a contract with this particular microchip company and so couldn't get a reading.

So we brought her home, and kept an eye on her as she roamed and explored and sniffed the other cats and then settled in for a nap, and as soon as I saw her on the sofa, curled up the way she has a billion times before, I thought, "That's probably Spots." And when she finally came over to me and let me pick her up, and she settled against my shoulder like a baby the way she also has a billion times before, I thought, "This is my Spots!"

She'd been missing for more than two months. We found her less than a mile from our house. There's not a scratch on her. She doesn't seem to have lost any weight. We're taking her to the vet for a check-up soon, but she seems... fine, actually. She seems great.

I am joyful. I am thrilled. I am really, really, really lucky. I am thankful to everyone who passed out flyers, shared info, kept a lookout, and sent hopeful thoughts my way.

And tonight, we are having a kitty party in Spots' honor! There will be canned cat food, and catnip mice, and Matt swears that he'll bring home a cake for the humans that reads "Welcome Home, Spots. You're Purrfect."

And if an adult will willingly give that message to a baker, then you KNOW how much we'd been missing her!


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