A Long Night

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We drove out to Cape Cod yesterday, the children and I. S will join us at the end of the week as he can catch a bus out here for about $20 and avoid driving in weekend traffic (one of the benefits of the Northeast is good public transport).

My grandparents have a cottage here on the same glacial melt pond where they brought my mother and her siblings when they were children. They bought the cottage when I was about ten (?) and my siblings and I used to spend a few weeks with them every summer. I’m so excited about being able to bring my children here and revisit (relearn) the places we loved!

We arrived about supper time and the children unloaded the van with great enthusiasm since I had promised them a swim in the pond when they were done. The cottage faces the pond but is up on a bluff so we use the little “public beach” next to it as a way to launch boats and go swimming.  Beds made and supper (glop because it’s quick, easy and Grandma invented it!) started we hurried into swim things and scampered down to the water!

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wpid-20140804_191613.jpgThe big children are a bit nervous  around water but enthusiastic once they got going. Jack has no fear and dunked himself half a dozen times claiming that he was “an ella! Nose in pond!”  I’m so glad he has a flotation vest and that it has a handle on the back for grabbing him!

Today I think we’ll go to the beach, depending on the tides, I also need to hit a grocery store and buy Buggle a pair of swim trunks as I somehow managed to forget his!

And I hit the publish button before finishing!

Bedtime was a bit difficult- strange rooms and beds and small children…..but (I thought) everyone was asleep by nine-thirty. I went to bed around ten-thirty only to be awakened by the sound of playing at midnight! Upstairs to investigate and I found Buggle and Jack out of bed and playing with Lincoln Logs!!  Put them back to bed and waited ten minutes to be sure they were asleep.

Back to bed myself.

Around one in the morning Bull woke up and then kept himself awake for a bit by randomly kicking the wall!

By two everyone was asleep again…

And awake again by seven!

Good thing I have plenty of coffee and can and will buy more!

 

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Invitation To Sensory Play: Small World Construction With Playdough

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Playdough is big around here! I have a super easy recipe and probably make it about once a month. We’ve used it for sensory play with spices and sprinkles, for mortar for engineering projects with blocks, and for all kinds of kitchen play!

The other day I bought new gel colors and found that Betty Crocker has come out with a set of four “Bold Colors” that include black and brown! Time for some chocolate/dirt colored playdough!

One of the things that helps keep playdough a fresh exciting medium is my providing new invitations or provocations for sensory exploration or imaginative play of some kind.

This batch of playdough came out a lovely dark brown color and reminded me of road dirt! The children have a little table on the porch where they do playdough (what am I going to do when it’s winter and the porch is too cold?) so I set up a little invitation for whoever wanted to play!

 

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I figured it would be Jack and Bull- they’re the two who love trucks the most- but actually Buggle was the one to join Jack at the playdough table!

I had removed all of the regular playdough toys except the rolling pin and set up the beginning of a road building scene- then put some additional trucks and people in the playdough tools bowl. Jack went right to the dump truck and started dumping the “boulders” that were in it then trying to make his own from the playdough lump (excellent fine motor skills building activity). He chattered and talked about what the truck was doing “Vroom, beep, beep, dumping!”. It was a good combination of imaginative, small world play and sensory play and he has gone back to it several times since so it was also horizon broadening as far as the use of playdough as a medium.

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Buggle started experimenting with how to drive the trucks through a resistant substance. He got some wooden slats from his workshop and experimented with using the playdough to glue them to the table to make a stable roadbed.  While doing this he gave a running lecture to Jack on what he was doing and why. No truck noises,  no imaginative play, just experimentation, testing, redesign and more testing! So typical and while he has not played with the playdough again, we have had several conversations that make me think, he is thinking about how such a soft, resistant substance could be used or dealt with in the real world.

It is so fascinating to me to see what happens when I provide the right starting point. So often it doesn’t go how I thought it would, but so often I see the knowledge gained being assimilated and then applied somewhere else! I get another little glimpse into how the children’s minds work and am fascinated all over again!

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Kitchen Kids: Chili and Brown Rice by Buggle

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Buggle has been a kitchen helper since he was big enough to sit in his highchair and peel garlic for me. Since he’s also a good reader and methodical by nature I decided to write instructions for his first solo meal on the kitchen white board.

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This was a fairly simple meal for him to make as I already had cooked onions and peppers in the fridge leftover from another meal. The beans were canned and I had him use a small jar of salsa for the majority of the flavoring and sauce. He was able to do it completely unassisted which was lovely as we had been extremely busy that day and I needed to catch up on some other housework!

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Kitchen Kids: Chili and Brown Rice by Buggle

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • One large onion sliced and sauteed until soft (this can be done ahead of time by a parent)
  • 2 bell peppers with seeds removed, diced and sauteed (can be done ahead)
  • 2 14 oz cans of red kidney beans
  • 1 15.5 oz jar of medium heat salsa
  • Crushed tomatoes (optional)
  • Salt to taste

Instructions

  1. Brown meat
  2. Add peppers and onions
  3. Drain kidney beans and add to meat mixture
  4. Add jar of salsa- depending on how much fat is in the meat and how well the beans are drained you may need to add a cup of water or crushed tomatoes to make the dish moist enough
  5. Let simmer for 20-30 minutes or until rice is done.
  6. Serve with rice and another vegetable or applesauce
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Ordinary Clothing: Seasonal Skirt Blog Hop Summer Edition

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Mud Puddle Play

 

 

Yup! That’s me, in a dress, taking an unplanned wade in a large mud puddle (or small pond) at my sister-in-law’s place!

wading

 

And that’s Mouse in a dress, wading in a creek we came across while we were out at a park with some other homeschoolers!

We wear dresses every day, she and I, and to us they are just clothes like any other.  We divide them into “good clothes” and “play/work clothes”  and we try to keep the good clothes good, but I try not to let our choice of what to wear keep us from enjoying the adventures that come our way.

It’s a delicate balance, like so much else in life. I want all the children to learn the important points of presentation- to look tidy, to think about what their clothes are communicating, but at the same time I don’t want them to be so worried about their clothes that they don’t seize opportunities to learn and explore.

It’s all in the examples I think. How do I interact with my clothing?  That blue dress that I wore into the “pond” was one that I liked, but also one that was getting worn out. And really I didn’t stop to think about it. The big children were having fun and Jack wanted to join in!

“Boy go in pond. Mama take boy in pond!” he said and what else could I do?

There was some consternation from the bigger children “But Mama your dress?!” and then much joy as I entered into their adventure!  That was three months ago and they’re still talking about the fun they had in “Aunt La’s pond”. I’d rather have the memories than the clothes any day!

 

Joining up with the Seasonal Skirts Blog Hop!

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Invitation to Sensory Play: Playdough With Spices and Sprinkles

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Playdough is a favorite around here! I generally keep a batch where Jack and Bull can get it at any time as well as a bowl of playdough toys to experiment with.

Sometimes it seems as though playdough will keep them occupied for hours and sometimes they need some parental input to really get going. As I’ve been reading more about Montessori  and Emilia Reggio  approaches to education I’m starting to add some spark to the children’s play by putting together invitations or opportunities to explore a certain set of items or concepts.

The other day we needed a new batch of playdough and since I was out of food coloring the playdough was going to have to be white. While I was double checking my baking cupboard for coloring I found the sprinkles left over from Christmas cookies and decided to offer the little boys the invitation above:

Playdough in a doll’s blow (brand-new, soft and warm)

Four plates of things to add to the playdough or just taste

Hundreds and Thousands

Stars

Ground Black Pepper

Whole Anise Seed

The sprinkles don’t have much scent but the pepper and anise are both distinctive in their smell as well as taste.

Out to the porch, where they sat at their playdough table!

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Mixing visuals and tastes/smells is a serious business when you are four and two! They tasted the components and Jack tried a bite of playdough but spit it out again!

Sensory play quickly led to imaginative play as they decorated “birthday cupcakes” for their stuffed animals.

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wpid-20140717_101920.jpgLater they rolled out “cookies” and decorated them.  Altogether they spent about an hour on this exploration mixed with imaginative play.  Since playdough is so easy to make we will definitely do more of these explorations. These kinds of things are so good for improving fine motor skills, hand eye coordination and reasoning skills as they figure out the order they need to do things in to accomplish what they imagine!

 

Quick and Easy Playdough

Ingredients

  • 1 cup white flour
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 Tablespoon oil
  • 2 Teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • Coloring of some kind; my favorites are ground up dye pellets left over from Easter and Gel type food coloring

Instructions

  1. Put all ingredients in a pot and cook and stir over medium heat until it forms a soft ball
  2. Turn out on a table or board and add coloring of your choice, kneading until smooth.
  3. Be CAREFUL the dough is HOT when it first comes out of the pot!
  4. Store in an airtight container.
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Teaching Mama
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Kitchen Kids: Glop by Mouse

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Kitchen Kids: Glop by Mouse

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 large can baked beans
  • 1/4 cup of sweet relish or chopped sweet pickles
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 2 T mustard
  • 1 T brown sugar
  • Salt to taste

Instructions

  1. Brown ground beef over medium heat, stirring frequently to break into small pieces
  2. Open baked beans and add to beef
  3. Mix Relish, Ketchup, Mustard and Brown sugar together and add to beans and beef
  4. Heat through, stirring occasionally
  5. Serve with a vegetable such as green beans and applesauce
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Kitchen Kids,

 

 

One of the things I really want to make a regular part of our lifestyle/homeschooling is teaching the children skills they will use all their lives.  I want them to be capable but I also want them to have exposure and practice with a wide variety of skills so that they can learn what they enjoy and what they find relaxing or satisfying.

Cooking is a big deal to S and I (we cooked for our own wedding!) so the children have always been in the kitchen with us. In recent months though I’ve realized that while the little boys were still enjoying “helping” in the kitchen the big children needed more of a challenge!

Time to teach them to cook a full meal!

I started with Mouse and a meal that is a favorite of my childhood.  The name of the dish is “Glop” and Mouse was able to make it by herself while I did other things in the kitchen and gave her instructions.

It’s a meal that we all enjoy and is both simple and inexpensive.  No leftovers is always a good sign!

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Evaluating The Past Year

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Now that I’m home from convention and we have finished up our last few subjects my mind is turning to planning the new year and using all of the materials I purchased in June!

This is our fifth year of homeschooling and while on one hand I’m starting to feel like I finally have some sense of what I’m doing on the other hand I will be teaching three grades this year, plus some kind of “tot school” for Jack! The third and fourth graders have enough of a foundation now that we can start to add in some additional subjects (Latin, Art, Bible) and I feel like I can also step the requirements in areas such as neatness and diligence up a notch!

Time to make sure I have the year well planned out before I forget all my neat ideas and the January doldrums hit! Blogging over at the Home Educators Association of Virginia today! Join me?

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Pleasant Places

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The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me. Psalm 16:6 (NASB)

This first summer in New England continues to amaze and delight me. Warm, but not hot and humid days, cool nights, gardens that grow and blossom lushly. The doors and windows stand open and the children spend every possible moment in the backyard.

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When we leave the house there are creeks to splash in and explore. We come home tired and wet and full of what has been seen and experienced.

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We’re down to just a couple of subjects for each child and should be wrapping up school in the next week. Of course I’m already planning out next year, trying to do all of my printing and copying before we begin again in August. Too often I have great ideas for the year and then lose them when the time comes in the curriculum. I want to avoid that this year and also have plans for what the little boys will do when their lessons are done and the others are still working.

It’s a time to refresh, to rest, to slow our days and rejoice in new places….

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Where We’ve Been: 2014 HEAV Convention!

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Legos gave the little boys a welcome break from sitting in the stroller while I looked at curriculum or talked to special needs parents

Legos gave the little boys a welcome break from sitting in the stroller while I looked at curriculum or talked to special needs parents

Bull loved the Instrument Petting Zoo and tried a couple of instruments

Bull loved the Instrument Petting Zoo and tried a couple of instruments

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Mouse was fascinated by the medical displays- she touched a lung and listened to a baby with different kinds of breathing and heart issues!

Mouse was fascinated by the medical displays- she touched a lung and listened to a baby with different kinds of breathing and heart issues!

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On Friday and Saturday I spent a good portion of the day doing Special Needs Counseling, Friday the little boys stayed with their old babysitter and Saturday they hung out with me at the convention. They did beautifully- playing with some of the learning toys I had bought the day before and Jack even took a nap!

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After eight days away from home (we came down earlier in the week in order to visit friends and family), we were all happy to return and get back into our regular routines!

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Continuing Education

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I had a moment of panic yesterday when I realized that I was leaving for Virginia and the HEAV Convention next Saturday and I haven’t finished my list of curricula, picked the workshops I want to attend, made the things I want to sew to help keep the little boys occupied or figured out how to avoid the worst of the traffic around New York City and Washington DC!!!

Well, today it is raining and the distractions are (theoretically) fewer (although the exterminator is coming this afternoon to check for termites) so I should be able to finish most of those tasks after all!

I’m actually pretty clear at this point what books the children will be using. What I haven’t decided is what books I’m buying for myself.

I try every year to add a few books to my “homeschooling library” either because they are books I want to read, books I want to be able to lend out, or books I want to be able to reference.

My "library"! Teacher's manuals, reference and encouragement all together in one place.

My “library”! Teacher’s manuals, reference and encouragement all together in one place.

I think it is so important to keep educating myself on methods of teaching, on how children learn, and also to have a group of books that have more to do with life than with education as well as some books I can pick up for inspiration and encouragement.

Sometimes I buy books by a speaker who’s workshop I’ve attended as I find having the book to be a good way of reminding myself what I learned or was encouraged by six months after the fact.

Last year those books were Heidi St. John’s Busy Homeschool Mom’s Guide to Daylight Managing Your Days Through the Homeschool Years
and The Busy Homeschool Mom’s Guide to Romance: Nurturing Your Marriage Through the Homeschool Years” as well as

Sally and Clay Clarkson’s Educating the WholeHearted Child — Third Edition
and

Rachael Carman’s How to Have a HEART for Your Kids

I was blessed and challenged by all of them.

This year the following books are on my list:

Susan Wise Bauer- The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home (Third Edition)
: This will go into the reference section of my library

Clay Clarkson
- Heartfelt Discipline
: I already have this on Kindle but I want to be able to loan it out.

Mary Jo Tate: Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms
: I’ve read reviews of this and it seems good, so I’ll be taking a look at it to see if I want to add it or not.

Judi Munday’s book on writing IEP’s for homeschool students with special needs. This will be a loaner.

Things I’d like to add but don’t have specific titles for yet

A guide to Montessori style learning at home.

A guide or idea book for Charlotte Mason Style learning

A guide for putting together unit studies that includes notebooking and lapbooking ideas as I think we will be doing more of this in the future

What kinds of books do you consider essential to your homeschool library? Are there titles I should consider?

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