Thursday, July 31, 2014

Kids Book Review: Come to the Fairies' Ball

As I mentioned in my previous post, we've been reading a lot lately. It's been a hot summer (hot for Western Washington, anyway) so during the afternoons, I usually feel like melting onto the floor with a pile of books. One of our favorites has been Come to the Fairies' Ball by Jane Yolen illustrated by Gary Lippincott.

This story is like a whimsical Cinderella, where Cinderella is more empowered. There is no fairy godmother, because she is a fairy herself. She makes her own dress and when the prince falls in love it's because he sees her and her creative work. I think this sends a much better message about appreciating the expression of inner beauty than the original story.

Romance aside, though, this book still has is a fun read as you watch all of the fairies adorned in their finest mount their varied forms of woodland transport on the way to the ball. Gary Lippincott's illustrations are exquisite. I'd probably get this book to look at the illustrations even without kids to enjoy it with.

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What have you been reading lately?

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Building Theme Weeks Three and Four

If you're a regular follower around here, you know that I've decided to continue homeschooling (but with a bit more flexibility and less planned) during the summer, and if you read the last update, then you know that we're also relocating at the end of August.

So there's a lot going on and the homeschooling has been more sparse than I wanted it to be. We've been continuing with our weekly trips to the library and children's museum and doing lots of reading and work in the garden (yes, I do consider gardening an essential subject in my children's education). But there are fewer photos of cute little projects to share. And we all know how much I love to indulge in cute little projects.

The highlights for these last two weeks of our building theme have been:

I originally got this idea from this pin, from Skip to my Lou (which I had to start following on Pinterest too...)

But since we don't do sugar, I used little cheese cubes instead. Dried fruit might work okay too, or salami.

We got some coupons for the zoo from the summer reading program at our local library. I normally am not a big fan of the zoo. I do love seeing animals, but it's heartbreaking to see them caged essentially so we can come and gawk at them. Chobie was enthusiastic about the idea. I told him about my feelings, but he said he still wanted to go.

I do have to admit that it was better than I had expected. The animals had "habitats" with plenty of space (including places to hide from prying eyes if they wanted). I also had time to think about how it is a more complex issue, now that there have been so many generations of animals raised in captivity that cannot be released to the wild. I was also impressed with the Red Wolf exhibit and the role that the zoo has played in helping red wolf populations rebound.

The children had a good time. They both found the waterfalls in the habitats to be as interesting as the animals.

There were elphants

and tigers

and penguins (oh my?)

I also liked the attention to flora at the zoo. As a plant dork, I took note of all of the many and varied species present. Chobie explored a bit...

Back at home, Chobie did some building of his own with the boxes we have been packing for our move.

He made Bee a little sidecar to sit in.

A lot of our reading lately has deviated from our homeschool theme and just followed our general interest. (I've found some good stories that I'm planning to review soon.) But this one fit right in with the building theme Bottle Houses: The Creative World of Grandma Prisbrey [affiliate link]. Most of the books so far have been about building houses in a conventional fashion, but as the eco-hippy-style-green-building idealizer type that I am, I was thrilled to pick this book up. Plus, it's based on a real story so you can look up images of Grandma Prisbrey's bottle houses. If you're really adventurous (or just local I suppose) you could go see them in person.

Those are the major highlights from the last two weeks, or at least things that I took pictures of anyway...

Otherwise, we've been doing lots of repition reading our Bob Books, practicing letters and numbers, patterns, basic addition, sorting...again and again and again.

What have you been learning?

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Monday, July 28, 2014

Mermaid Mobile with Free Pattern

I think I've mentioned a few times that I've been working on a project for a friend. Well, I recently finished it and given it to her, so now I won't be risking her seeing it on the blog first and I can reveal...

You can get the pattern here as a Google Doc. It's not the prettiest pattern (I didn't have time to erase all the pencil marks from the original drawings before scanning) but it will get the job done.

This project is pretty straight forward. Cut out the pieces of felt in your desired colors and assemble. I used a metal craft hoop, with lots of sea-colored yarn tied on, then tied together at the top. Simple.

But here are a few of the not-so-obvious tricks I used to make this mobile.

For example, attaching the pieces to the strings to hang from the hoop.

I used strips of black felt as an anchor by tying yarn around the center

inserting into the center of the piece


then sewing up.

I stitched straight through the unstuffed smaller starfish to attach them to the yarn.

For the jellyfish, I used the same technique. I should also mention that I machine sewed the yarn for the jellyfish tentacles between the front and back pieces to make sure they were secure. The rest was hand sewn.

I left the body two dimensional (as in I didn't stuff it) for simplicity sake. I also improvised the hair and the top, so they are not included in the pattern. 

Here is a close up of the layering on the skirt.

If you decide to use the pattern and have any other questions, then feel free to leave a comment here if anything comes up.

Happy crafting! 

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Books About Kids Who Homeschool

"My name is Angelina Ballerina," my son Chobie spent the better part of six months insisting when asked what his name was.

If your kids are anything like mine, then books provide a huge source of play inspiration. Chobie loves trying on all of the identities of his favorite characters. He gets to identify with all kinds of people, it helps him try on different roles and develop empathy. But, it's also nice to see characters who you identify with already.

With all of the books out there about the first day of kindergarten, not to mention most books where children go to school every day, it's been tricky to find books for Chobie to identify with as a homeschooling kid.

Well, I've been doing some investigating and have come up with this list of picture books about homeschooled kids.

Kandoo Kangaroo's "First Day" of Homeschool by Susan Ratner

I am Learning all the Time by Rain Perry Fordyce (links to the author's website, non-affiliate)

Ippie Unschooled by Nicole Olson

The First Day of Homeschool  by Michelle Frederickson

I am a Homeschooler by Julie Voetberg

Snowflake Bentley by Jaqueline Briggs Martin

Allison's Story: A Book about Homeschooling by John Lurie

 It's not a huge list, but it's what I've been able to come up with. I've yet to get my hands on a copy of any of these, so I can't lend my personal recommendation. It is worth noting that Susan Ratner's book is a Christian oriented book.

*This post contains affiliate links. 

Have you read any of these? Do you have more to add?

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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Lately...Week Four

this week I've been...

remembering to sleep enough
trying to catch up on yard work
cooking the bare minimum
reading too many articles online
wanting to avoid packing
creating a gift for a friend
playing toss
deciding that I really can't avoid packing any more
wishing that the good fairy would come and move for me
planning out the packing and moving schedule
wondering how I can juggle moving, homeschooling, and enjoying summer 
loving my little people
listening to Chobie sing the songs we've been singing together
needing boxes
wearing shorts everyday
noticing how many half-finished projects have accumulated around here
exploring new places to take the littles to play
thinking of things I want to write about
getting back in shape
feeling happy

gratitude for...
Bee's new spooky monster imitation 
ripe Salal berries
local broccoli 
the easiest round of house hunting ever
good novels
summer festivals
day time moon sightings
Bee's fascination with the moon
living walking distance from town (for now)
having ice on demand when its hot
homegrown garlic

links to enjoy...
I liked this article about ways to help your child listen, especially because it turns the focus back on us as parents.
I've been fantasizing about doing this for our new place.
And making these.
I've always wanted to host a party featuring vintage foods, I found this page of perfect appetizers
Not included in this weeks update above, I've spent a bit too much time oggling this feature on one of the latest and greatest blogs I've started following.

How was your week?

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Friday, July 18, 2014

Going on a Bear Hunt

We've been playing with our set of counting bears (scored at a thrift shop for less than a dollar) since January, but lately, now that the novelty has worn off, there's been a lot more throwing and scattering of the bears, and of course the subsequent finding of counting bears in every possible nook and cranny of the house.

So, to keep it educational, I invented this little hide and seek game to play with the bears. While one could argue that he's learning valuable lessons about physics by throwing and scattering the tiny pieces, I guess I still prefer games that are easier to clean up.

While Chobie counts or sings the ABC's a certain number of times in the other room, I hide the bears in the living room. Then when he comes out, I give him a rule of all of the kinds of bears he has to find first. For example, first find all the blue bears (so he's working on sorting skills). While he already knows colors and has just about mastered sorting activities, I do try to remember to keep asking him to do "easy" stuff like that because it's still really fun for him and builds his confidence.

After gathering the bears according to the given rule, we count them, then go find the rest.

I also hid the bears in groups of different numbers then had him pick up only groups of a specific size. Once he picked up all the groups of 4, for instance, we'd lay them out in groups of four to count them. We'd count how many individuals and how many groups, then I'd say "Look six groups of four bears makes twenty-four bears all together."

We didn't do it this time, but you could also try having your kid find the bears in a certain pattern as the searching rule: find a blue bear, then a yellow bear, then a blue, then a yellow.

What kinds of math games do you play with your kids? I'd love to get more ideas!

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Our Morning Homeschool Routine

My weekly homeschool update posts tend to feature the highlights of our homeschooling week, but I realize that I've yet to share the daily homeschooling activities that we do.

In the mornings, usually around 9:30 after breakfast and chores and whatnot, we have our morning
"circle" (technically a triangle I guess, since there's only three of us). It starts with this little adaptation of the classic Waldorf verse:

Good morning dear earth
Good morning dear sun
Good morning dear trees
And the flowers every one

Good morning dear animals
And the birds in the trees
Good morning to you
And good morning to me

Then we do a song and a verse. I started with doing a new one every week, but since we only do this 2-4 times a week, it wasn't enough for Chobie to really learn them, so I started on a two week cycle and that is working much better. The KCLS website hosts an excellent selection of fingerplays and kids verses that we've used a lot of. Shea Darian's Seven Times the Sun, (affiliate link) has also been a really good source. We also just got a copy of Sing a Song of the Seasons (affiliate link) and we are starting to use those songs too.

Afterwards we talk about what day it is. We look at the phase of the moon and where we are on the wheel of the year.

This month, we added in a regular calendar

and we've also been looking at the clock and practicing telling time, since Chobie has been expressing a big interest in telling time. I don't think that I learned to do that until about second grade, so I hadn't really planned to introduce it yet. But Chobie was enthusiastic about it, so I've incorporated it.

Next, we read our books, usually based on the theme or season. Then we talk about our letters for the week, he has a chance to trace them on the board and then we move on to play some letter and number games like counting or spelling puzzles or play with math manipulatives.

If Chobie is still interested, then he reads his Bob books to me.

By then, it's usually time for a snack, then I set the littles up with an art project, if we're doing one.

The rest of our homeschooling adventures tend to happen in the afternoons and a lot of it blends together with our daily life. The littles help with chores and cooking, we go on walks or work in the garden. Or they just play while I work on projects. Sometimes they come to "help" me sew...All of this stuff seems mundane, but I think they learn just as much from it as they do from our more structured educational activities.

What is your homeschool routine like? 

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Sunday, July 13, 2014

Homeschool Update: Building Theme Week Two

**this post contains affiliate links**

It's been a busy week around here, and not just with homeschooling. We've opted for yet another move (hopefully the last for a while), so it's been a bit of an upheaval, so all of my projects that were on hold for a few weeks to make room for a bit of summer fun are now on hold, well....indefinitely.

Nevertheless, we are continuing on with our homeschool plans and summer fun plans for this summer and moving will just occupy all of my side project time.

Last week we continued with our building theme. We had another visit to the curriculum room at the local college full of all of its fun building toys.

Chobie had a great time with these. I especially liked his sky scraper...

He also played building and "repairs" with cardboard boxes from around the house. He's been really excited to use his wooden train tracks, blocks and other assorted toys to build a city. No photos of these activities really. Let's just say that these activities were even messier than the one above.

One of the big points that I've wanted to bring up with this building theme is the origins of the building materials, like preschool-appropriate discussion of the ecological impacts of urban sprawl. We read this book about wood...

Wood (True Books: Natural Resources) by Christin Ditchfield

It was pretty good over all. There were some things that I added in when I was reading it where details of the book. For example, there is a part where they talk about how logging without replanting destroys habitat. While that is true, it implies that replanting trees in tree farms replaces habitat that is identical to the original forest, which is not true. Forests and tree farms have very different ecologies, so we discussed that. Which is to say, I added it in when we were reading and he asked questions about it.

We also read this book about building...

The House That Max Built by Maxwell Newhouse

And this one...

Old Turtle and the Broken Truth by Douglas Wood with watercolors by Jon J Muth

Honestly, it was a bit above Chobie's head, even though it has a really good message and I love watercolor illustrations (Bee did too, actually).

I shared some of our letter writing adventures back when we began the upper case alphabet, but now we're into writing letters in lowercase. I made these giant chalk letters on the deck for Chobie to walk along.

I can't say that we had a chance to cross anything off of the official summer fun times list this week, but we did have a fun trip to the Children's Museum, some fun play dates, art times, and went to a really fun party/cookout over the weekend.

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