May 19, 2013

Bird's-eye View of the Week: From Ballet to Bugs to Australia

Degas never envisioned this.
   So I'm sitting in a small classroom overflowing with estrogen effusing from the pores (if that is possible) of almost two dozen young teen girls. They are waiting their turns to be on-stage for their respective dances in the romantic-comedic ballet, "Copellia" or the second act, "Let's Go to the Movies."

     There is really nothing cuter or funnier or more ironic than the antics that occur in the dressing room of a ballet performance. The lithesome beauties you see floating in synchrony across the stage in swirls of pastel evanescence devolve backstage into bowls full of giggling jello, generously dosed with bursts of purposeless energy, with punctuations of loud announcements of sudden crises ("I've LOST my BLACK RIBBON!!!!!!") Currently, while clouds of lemon yellow tulle await the call to the stage, they have decided that doing improv in a British/Aussie accent is the epitome of cleverness. Ten hours of confinement might do that to a twelve-year-old. Others are simply making the air unbreathe-able either with hairspray or their own body odors. While looking like they stepped out of Mozart's Baroque Germany in their Easter egg velvet and sequins, they are texting or posting on their phones, or simply demonstrating their ability to burp on command. Such loveliness.
Grace in false eyelashes: Mei as a Pink Lady in "Grease"
Such grace.
   Our week has been dominated by fretful shopping trips for false eyelashes and flaming red lipstick, school on theater floors, and  hair gel. Lots of hair gel. And fast food. yuck. Glad we've got that behind us. But we'll miss the costumes, music, and yes, the giggles. Ah, well. Nutcracker auditions will be here in three months.   
   There WERE other happenings this week that didn't involve theatrics. Mei made progress on her American History scrapbook. I'm pushing to get through the Revolution, or at least 1776, in advance of our trip to Philly in two weeks. She really enjoys working on it with all the papers, tools, and pens. But it also is successfully showcasing her knowledge of events in a way that is much more Charlotte Mason and much less standardized testing.
Stowaway by Karen Hesse
   I added in an Australia lapbook as well. The Land Down Under was a geographical focal point for our year coinciding with our reading of  "Stowaway," an account of Captain Cook's voyage through the eyes of a 12-year-old crewman. I settled on the Australia lapbook by "A Journey Through". It covered

No rules. Just-right type lapbook.
all the key points (geography, climate, people groups, languages, foods, customs, holidays, etc.), but doable in about 2-3 weeks, just what we have left. There were plenty of other good lapbook choices, but our time was limited. Should I have planned better and started earlier? Yeah, lesson learned. Even after 10 years of homeschooling.

   I made a few slight adjustments. I printed a better map from Uncle Josh's Outline Map Book and had Mei label it.  Enchanted provided the labeling key along with a coloring page for the flag. In addition, they had an Australia tab-book that I printed in booklet format to slip into a pocket we'll add to the lapbook. The  tab book ("tab" as in subject tab) covered a lot of subjects in detail and included a page on the Great Barrier Reef, something that A Journey Through Learning shockingly left out! I've kept a paid account at Enchanted Learning for five years now and have never regretted it.

    We also were delighted with the hatching of our Preying Mantis egg case! And the best part was being there when it happened!! It was sitting on the table in our school/sunroom where it had been soaking up rays for a few weeks now. I had begun to wonder if it was maybe an old, empty case. While reviewing the schedule for the day, I stopped in mid-sentence, exclaimed "OH" quite loudly, enough to alarm Mei, and dropped everything for the next two hours. In the end, over 100 little mantids were hatched. I agreed to keeping a couple of them, and the rest were sprinkled over the hedges where we tried to avoid as many spider webs as we could. Mei researched the challenge of feeding an insect that is smaller than your fingernail, and since then, we have lost one to cannibalism, and one to drowning, but the remaining one enjoys gazing out the bay window waiting for his/her  half-dozen ants and juvenile earwigs to drop in.

    Although we're still getting an inordinate ratio of dreary, gray days to sunny ones, we're finally enjoying coatless-ness and green-ness. Summer's American start-date comes this weekend (Memorial Day) and we're ready. Thanks be to God for leading us to the end of another school year!

Got Summer Plans? Got Preying Mantis advice? Tell Mother All About It!

Enjoy more end-of-the-week antics at the following homeschool hang-outs: Collage FridayHomeschool Mother's Journal, and Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers. Thanks for hosting, ladies!

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May 6, 2013

Field Trip: Learning "Keynote" at the Apple Store

Let's get this out in the open right now.

I'm a PC.

Now that we've had full disclosure, I can proceed to share a wonderful FREE resource provided by those friendly, geeky-cool associates at the Apple Store: 

technology lessons

Mei and about a dozen other homeschool students gathered at our local Apple Store in the Mall for a hands-on class in creating a "Keynote" presentation. (PC people: this means PowerPoint to us.)

Large screen in back took kids through steps.
For two hours (!) a charming young man named Wole (like Wall-E but with an "ay" ending) led the kids  through all the steps to create original stories that included clip art, photos, fonts, and lots of animated transitions. There were plenty of other sweet, well-trained geeks to help. At the end, they each received a screaming yellow T-shirt, a certificate of completion, and a yellow, rubber, Livestrong-type bracelet that served as the thumb drive containing their creation. My student who balked at going was grinning ear-to-ear at the end.

Did you notice the price for all that?

Great one-on-one assistance.
And while they were doing that, we moms headed to Panerra for breakfast.

I'm told they offer CAMPS over the summer that teach movie-making and music-editing. For more info about the free classes like we took and to get on their e-list to be notified about registration for camps in your area, go to Apple Retail Store/Learn/Youth .
*Note: the site identifies this class as being for kids 6-12, but most of our kids were between 12 and high school, so don't be afraid to approach them if your kids are older.
Another Mac convert.

Got tech? Got a computer pref? Tell Mother All About It!

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May 5, 2013

Menu Plan: Warmer Weather Eating-- May 6-12

My tulips assure the return of warm weather. No more teasing.

 Grilling time is back and Michele at 5Dinners-in-1Hour has some new things to try on it along with seasonal vegetables to go along with them. I'm also including a recipe for whole wheat Italian breadsticks made in the bread machine to go alongside.

 I am on about my ninth month of using this time- and money-saving plan and seasonality is another one of the bonuses I'm seeing. How nice to look forward to menus that take advantage of the best of that time of the year.

Another time-saver I'm incorporating is the Express Lane curb-side pick-up service at Harris-Teeter. The much-anticipated store just opened last month a mile from home and when I learned of this service I knew I had to try it. Combining the ease of a ready-made grocery list from 5Dinners with the time-saving of shopping online---once in bed at 11 pm, another time while relaxing on my deck---probably saves me 3-4 hours in a week.

And by keeping me out of the store, I'm sticking to my list instead of making spontaneous purchases, further saving me money. This more than justifies the $1/week menu plan and $5/order shopping. Other stores are experimenting with this idea as well as home delivery, all designed to appeal to working families. Well, we homeschool moms are working moms too! Try it!

And now on with the Menu:


Grilled Pork Chops in a smoky marinade
Mashed sweet potatoes
Steamed broccoli


Tandoori Salmon
Brown rice
Green beans


Easy Baked Ziti
Green salad
Whole Wheat Italian Breadsticks
Whole Wheat Breadsticks courtesy The Happy Housewife


Taco Chicken Legs
Corn on the Cobs
Grape tomatoes


Leftover Buffet


Broiled Steak and Pineapple Bites
Green Salad

Sunday: Mother's Day

Bet you can guess I'M not cooking!!

Got menu questions? Got Mother's Day plans? Tell Mother All About It!

Join the rest of the menu-loving blogosphere at Organizing Junkie for more great plans!

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Nature Walk: All Creatures of Our God and King!
Our dogwood lifting its arms in praise!

Every Sunday should be like this: sunny, dry, warm enough to skip a heavy jacket, and everything blooming.

Mei and I and Mr. Bingley, the English Cocker, headed over to the Conservancy to show our thanks to God for this gift of perfect hiking conditions. I led the dog while Mei mounted her stick-horse. He hadn't been out of the stable recently.

Father R prefers to show the Lord his appreciation by waxing the car. :-)
Eastern Towhee . Courtesy
It didn't take much effort to run into Nature, Nature everywhere. Almost as soon as we were on the trail, we were startled by a flash that most, including Mei, would have thought to be a Robin, but which was instead an Eastern Towhee. But wait! Its mate flew in within seconds! This was a first sighting for Mei Wei and the first time I have seen a mated pair. They popped up frequently as we followed their preferred habitat, a wooded stream.
Sign of life...or death?
Mei and the stick-horse dodged this beautiful robin's egg. I always hope they have been removed from the nest by a tidy parent, but secretly fear it was the evidence of a thieving Blue Jay.

Up in the trees came a curious buzzing call from a bird I could not identify. I'm suspecting some sort of warbler or vireo. It was sparrow-sized with a white breast and olive back, but was so high I couldn't make it more. Curse me for leaving behind the binoculars.

A couple of Carolina Wrens argued over their territories and could be heard many yards apart above all the other sounds of the area, even passing jets.

And it was a relief to see the bee hive busy again. I pray the local hives can recuperate from the threats of the die-offs  that have been plaguing them.

The world was certainly praising its Creator on The Lord's Day. Glad we took part in it too!

Got Nature's Beauty? Tell Mother All About It!

Fernando Ortega sings "All Creatures of our God and King"

All creatures of our God and King
Lift up your voice and with us sing
Oh, praise Him
Thou burning sun with golden beam
Thou silver moon with softer gleam
Oh, praise Him
Oh, praise Him

Thou rushing wind that art so strong
Ye clouds that sail in heav'n along
Oh, praise Him
Thou rising moon in praise rejoice
Ye lights of evening find a voice
Oh, praise Him
Oh, praise Him

Let all things their creator bless
And worship Him in humbleness
Oh, praise Him
Praise, praise the Father praise the Son
And praise the Spirit three in one
Oh, praise Him
Oh, praise Him

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"Scrapping" History: Creating a Scrapbook of our American History Studies

A quiet corner of inspiration
With June 5 as our deadline,  the date of our Thursday co-op's closing program, I have finally settled on a project to culminate Mei's American History studies. I toyed with several ideas. One that I really liked--but am back-burnering--is a website depicting the events in American history as seen through famous art. Our proximity to the Nation's Capital would allow us to view many of these great works in person, particularly those by John Trumball in the Rotunda of the Capitol building. But I decided there wasn't as much time to take on something that might need so much technical direction, and so will try that when we won't feel rushed. Next year?
I love the grapes crafted from hole-punched paper
Instead Mei is putting together a scrapbook of history as pertains to America from 1600-1800. (This really will cover the past two years of our schooling.) Although it will incorporate mini-books for the key information, I am encouraging her to "get scrappy" with all the ephemera that is associated with that hobby.  It really will be a lapbook on steroids. She is THRILLED! I gave her a budget to work within and even if she never finishes the project, just seeing her make careful buying decisions has been worth it!

Now there are tons of places to get the needed mini-books, but I'm tickled pink to have found TruthQuest History's "Binder-Builder" and "Map and Timeline" pdfs. They were affordable, around $15 for each packet, and cover all the major and lots of the minor points of the period. By the way, though the Binder-Builder and Map/Timeline packages can stand alone, the TruthQuest History books themselves look so fantastic, I am choosing them for our history curriculum for next year....and beyond! More in another post. Check them out!

So after choosing the topics I wanted to be sure were covered---the explorers who contributed to North American discoveries, the thirteen colonies, and key events of the American Revolution and westward movement-- I printed off about 50 sheets from the Binder-Builder and Map and Timeline books, including a timeline that will run across all the pages, and maps that correspond to the events.We are going with an antique-look, so the printing is being done on some parchment-looking paper that I had left over from Christmas letters of a few years ago. Off-white copy paper would give a similar effect especially if it's smudged up with a little brown stamp-pad ink or tea.

I'm also incorporating clip-art from Homeschool in the Woods timeline characters. Another source for mini-maps and factoid soundbites is Enchanted And of course provides all sorts of printables for full-page reports. Here are some links to exciting-looking Squidoo lenses on lapbooking Colonial America.
Colonial Days Study
US Constitution Lapbook
George Washington Unit Study
Patriotic Music and Poetry Lesson
American History Extras (to go with" Winter Promise" AS1)
Pioneer 3-ring binder makes moving pages easy.
makes moving pages around easy
The perfectionist in me struggled for days and nights with settling on the best album type for Mei to use for this project. It needed to be easy to move the pages around should there be a late-comer. So a three-ring binder seemed best, but I THOUGHT that would limit me to 8.5x11.  Guess I've been outta the scrapbook world too long because there are PLENTY of 12x12 3-ring albums!!  We found our patriotic red leather one at Joann Fabric and Crafts when they were on sale 40% off. And don't forget they offer 15% off to teachers. Apply for that discount card N.O.W.  Just show 'em your some homeschool association I.D. This goes for lots of other stores too, like Barnes and Noble.
Vintage-y paper in a rainbow of colors at JoAnn
I supplied her with lots of my scrapping tools like border templates, fun scissors, markers, and colored pencils. A paper trimmer speeds things up and is fun to use. Additionally she purchased: a tape runner, a block of 12x12 background papers, and some stickers. Finding stickers for the theme was more challenging than I thought it would be. However, the travel sections had country-, state-, and city- related theme stickers (Massachusetts; Washington, DC; Spain; England)  And patriotic ones are in the holiday or seasonal groupings. We used our imaginations to stretch the ideas, too: we found one that said "Welcome to the World," presumably for a new baby, but it wasn't pastel-colored so it would be fun for the New World explorers! Just add in "New!"

Mei loves her paper doll collections, frequently cutting and assembling during read-alouds. Now she'll have a place to showcase them by creating pockets on her scrapbook pages. She also likes to trace over  them and create scenes, another great page element.
Elements from TruthQuest Binder-Builder, Enchanted Learning Maps, and Dover Colonial Paper Dolls
I set up a special scrapping table in a corner of the dining room where the materials could always be at the ready and I could be near-by for guidance. I corralled the supplies in a rolling crate and a couple of organizers. Scrapbookers are addicted to organizers.

The second day of the project I announced that from here on out we would be setting aside at least one hour a day for the scrapbook and held my breath to see if that would be appealing or a bummer. "Would you like that?" I asked with hesitation. "YES, PLEEEEAAASE!"

Check back for the results!

Got History Projects? Got Comments? Tell Mother All About It!
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May 4, 2013

Bird's-Eye View of the Week: Co-ops, Red Tape, and Cicadas
We'll be seeing a LOT of these. Credit

The end is in sight! 

We've reached May. AND the sun has been shining as much as two whole days in a row! And I even have turned off the heat (most of the time)! This is sooooo un-Maryland. IOW, it's usually nicer, even hot at times. But, it HAS helped delay the emergence of the 17-Year Cicadas! So, I'll kwitmibitchen.

Some mile-markers this week! After the two straight days of rain and Dad out of town, putting on street clothes and heading to the orthodontist sounded like a party. And turns out, it kind of was! The doc put a 'hold' on rubber bands already after only a couple of months. (Doc: "Wow, her teeth are really responsive!" Me: "So do we get a rebate for less services required?" Doc: "Hahahaha.")
It's Official!

Bigger and better was Mei's American name being officially entered into the government record books. Changing her name was not something we just recently decided on; her American name was chosen before she came home 11 years ago. But just last year, through a fluke, we discovered that the INS never noted it when she arrived in the States, so as far as the US government was concerned, our daughter didn't exist, at least not by what we call her. Tell that to Social Security, however, who gladly issued her an ID card in 2002. Under the American name. Hmmm. Anyway, the event gave us an excuse to eat cake!

Our co-op days are winding down. The Thursday group is finished already and the Friday group has just one more week. On Thursdays, Mei participated in a good introductory writing course similar to IEW. After two years, she has gained a lot of confidence in her writing, but more importantly, in taking constructive criticism. For her, that is H-U-G-E! She will now be equipped to take on the next level offered on Fridays. Thursdays this year also offered art and speech. I was really impressed with how well the kids responded to the speech topic and was glad they had this exposure to something not normally taught to ones so young. Art was taught by yours truly and used the "Meet the Masters" program. I've been dying to write a review of it here; maybe when the chalkdust settles. For now I'll just say that all the kids gave it a thumbs up and so did this teacher!
Board games class for an only child. Perfect!
 Fridays have given Mei exposure to cake decorating, cooperative board games, health, and P.E. Mom has assisted in the cake class (:-D !! ), a sewing class, and her best hour of the week, Study Hall. ("SSShh! I'm trying to write a blog post!")

Both of these co-ops have enriched our studies, but more importantly, our interactions with other Christian parents and kids. It's been especially wonderful for our school-of-one, and I recommend it.
American History Scrapbook
For this final stretch, I've given Mei the option of creating an American History scrapbook to showcase all that she's covered in the last two years, 1600-1800. Basically, it's a ramped up lapbook. She is super-excited to work on it, and I'm going to give her all the time she wants. I was going to write about it here, but it was getting a little long, so I'm detailing that in a separate post.  I'll share my sources and stuff there. Take a look if you want some ideas! 

The end would be NOW if I went by counting school days alone. I was shocked to see we had completed 180 in APRIL! But when you don't take off for Rosh Hashanah, a week for Easter, or Staff Development Days, they stack up. Add in some school on weekends (educational trips), and woah! Nonetheless, we haven't met all our objectives yet, so I'll hide Mei's eyes from this post and keep the cat IN the bag (wink).

How about you?
Got the end in your sights? Done already? Or do you school year-round? Tell Mother All About It!

Linking up with other incredibly gifted and equally humble homeschool bloggers at Hammock Tracks "Homeschool Review", Homegrown Learners "Collage Friday,", iHomeschool Network's "The Homeschool Mother's Journal", and Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers "Weekly Wrap-up". Thanks for hosting, ladies!

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Apr 24, 2013

Leave Them Alone: A Moment of Unschooling


Today my little girl amazed me. You'll see why.

This past week I spent the majority of my time working up a PowerPoint presentation on blogging for my local homeschool support group, which required ALL my time to meet the deadline of Thursday night. (I volunteered for the job on Friday last.) I was even editing it one last time while waiting to go on! I was learning PowerPoint on the fly too. Thank goodness I'm a night-owl (or does 1 AM make me an early bird?)

So why am I so amazed at my "little" 12-year-old girl? Because she demonstrated so well how she is maturing. Not by picking up her room without being told (not there yet), or starting a ministry at church (definitely not there yet), but by her ability to work independently. WHAT a blessing! It was maybe only a year ago that I would have had interruption after interruption for one reason or another. ("I can't figure this out! I'm hungry! What do I do next? This makes no sense!" I only have one at home, but it can sound like four.)

But this time---this most-needed, blessed time--I handed her her daily list, and off she went. On one day, around 2  pm, I came down to check on things. I expected to see her watching TV (groan). Instead,  I found her painting at the table. Typically she would have had work left to do, so I was prepared to have to order guide her back to her work, but--ASTONISHMENT--she said she had completed it. AND  rather than watch TV, she decided to paint.

And what was she painting?? A full size copy of a bird from the book I had scheduled her to read!! This was completely her own idea and not one I can remember her choosing to do in forever.  Oh, and did I mention it
was very GOOD??

This last part--the voluntary painting---is what particularly astounded me. If I had scheduled that activity, I'm betting it would have been met with resistance. She has not been known for her inclination toward drawing. So not only had she been trustworthy to complete her assignments unmonitored, she chose something constructive, and she chose something outside her comfort zone. All on her own. She also made herself a healthy snack. Bonus.

My take-away from all this is : 1) that their IS value in unschooling or delight-directed learning, for that was what she was demonstrating, and;  2) my kid will mature, but on GOD's time table, not mine. What I need is patience and acceptance. And plenty of prayer.

Got comments? Got a success story? Tell Mother All About It!

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Apr 19, 2013

The Blessings of Blogging: Intro

Well, last night was the culmination of two-and-a-half days of exhausting preparation for a presentation to our local support group entitled "The Blessings of Blogging." It was exhausting simply BECAUSE I only had two-and-a-half days to prepare for it, having volunteered at the last minute!! (I guess God's timing keeps Him chuckling...)

But, I'm a Last Minute kind of gal. I guess that's why I would have been good in the advertising industry (my major). I understand  that "I want it yesterday" approach.

Did I mention I created my first-ever Power Point too? Amazing what you can accomplish if you don't sleep!

I entitled it "The Blessings of Blogging" because the more I participate in this form of communication the more I realize how many ways blogging can be a support both for the blog writer and blog reader. And it can be a powerful, but often overlooked tool for our homeschool students.

I figured  why limit my thoughts to the 100+ women in our group, so I'm sharing it here. I'll be breaking it down into several posts so keep on the look-out!

And check out my page at the top, Notable Blogs, with the list of over two dozen great blogs, and blog-creating links for both you and your kids!

Did YOU attend the presentation? If so, thanks!

Got a blog? Got questions? Tell Mother All About It!

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Apr 12, 2013

Bird's-Eye View of the Week: Spring Half-Break

A delayed wrap-up report....Homeschooling's like that....

A half-break is better than none--for both the student and the teacher!

What dinner for 18 looked like.
Monday, the TEACHER definitely earned a day off after hosting 18 of us for a combo Easter Dinner-Mini Wedding Reception to celebrate the impending nuptials of a fav nephew and his  adorable bride. They had  chosen a family-only ceremony for The Big Day, so this gave us an opp to personally toast them. 

It was sit-down which meant cobbling together a banquet table out of every piece of furniture that had legs, and every piece of fabric that was white, but it was elegant in the end. The most elaborate prep came from the creation of a four-tier  Coconut Cake with Orange Buttercream Filling and Coconut Buttercream Icing.  Basically it tasted like Hawaii, or if you don't get that, a Creamsicle with crumbs.
The bride and groom-to-be's places with veils, bow ties, and Mr. and Mrs. Beanies.

Because I love y'all, I am sharing the recipe from Paula Deen's Easter 2013 magazine, as it will be off the shelves by the time you read this! Click on photo for recipe. Oh, and darling 12 y-o pastry chef, Mei Wei, did much of the cake decorating.
Simply smashing Coconut Cake for the lovebirds!

So how did we spend the rest of the week? We were delighted with a surprise visit by Uncle Robin III and his two boys from NJ. Taking advantage of the flex that homeschooling gives us, we dropped our regular school plans, picked them up at the grandparents' house and Metro-ed it into D.C.  The kids opted for the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum on the National Mall.( So not my fav. There is another branch of the museum in VA that I hear holds more promise; go here.) )

To make the most of it, I scoured the 'net for some prep stuff about flight. I must say that the museum's site was a disappointment (government tax dollars at rest?), but I stumbled upon  "Wunderful Homeschool's " blog who are avid flight studiers.They had many links including one to an activity poster published by none other than the Air and Space Museum. Which was not on the A&S's current website. See what I mean by disappointment?  "Wunderful" pointed us to links for understanding the how's of flight, and another that provided many PDF's for different paper planes. So grateful!
 Except for the pricey IMAX movie "To Fly" (which is really showing its age), the museum was a bust for us. The exhibit room that would have offered hands-on opps for explaining those "How Things Fly" physics contained mostly broken equipment. Ugh! But the biggest problem was it being spring break. DC is notoriously inundated with kids at this time. Not just local families, but schools from across the nation. 

HOMESCHOOL FAMS, take note! Those cherry blossoms are NOT worth the trouble. Visit DC in the FALL!! The weather is lovely--barring a rare hurricane--and the crowds are manageable. 

left and bottom: Berlin Wall at the Newseum; right clockwise from top: view from Newseum roof, solar planetarium and sculpture at Air & Space Museum
 To save the day, we headed to the Newseum, a museum dedicated to, guess what? The price tag is high, but it keeps the crowds in check. The money we spent on a 25-minute IMAX movie at the A&S museum would have more than covered the admission here. Inside were very moving exhibits dedicated to 9/11, complete with the antenna  that stood atop one of the Towers and the front pages from over a hundred newspapers from around the world from that date; another focusing on the end of Communism with a real section of the Berlin Wall; and news artifacts dating back to pre-printing press on every major historical event you can think of.  An exhibit on JFK is about to be unveiled. Your upper-elementary students + will certainly find something worth remembering.  Bonus: one of the best views of the city I've seen!

I figure that's enough school for one spring half-break, don't you?
 If you are planning to come to DC, you might also enjoy our recent visit to the National Gallery of Art.

Got field trip comments? Tell  Mother All About It!

Joining in with Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers, Hammock Tracks, Friendship Friday, and Homegrown Learners Collage Friday. Thanks for hosting, y'all!


Apr 11, 2013

6 Little (Groups of ) Words

Inspired by Mama Kat's Writing Prompt: List 6 of your favorite quotes.

You may have noticed I homeschool. Homeschooling parents fight a lot of doubt--from without:

                     Is it Legal?  
                     What makes Do you think you can?     
                                   How will they get into college?" 

                           "What about SOCIALIZATION?"

 and from within :

                                                            {What makes me think I can?}
        Will they get into college?         
                                                                    Will I kill them before then?

So any quote that comes with cred can really buoy a homeschool parent's confidence.Below are six  that have sustained me:

1. It is nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry; for this delicate little plant, aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom;without this it goes to wrack and ruin without fail. - Albert Einstein

2. My schooling not only failed to teach me what it professed to be teaching, but prevented me from being educated to an extent which infuriates me when I think of all I might have learned at home by myself. -George Bernard Shaw
3. I believe it would be much better for everyone if children were given their start in education at home. No one understands a child as well as his mother, and children are so different that they need individual training and study. A teacher with a room full of pupils cannot do this. At home, too, they are in their mother’s care. She can keep them from learning immoral things from other children. -Laura Ingalls Wilder

4.I'm sure the reason such young nitwits are produced in our schools is because they have no contact with anything of any use in everyday life. - Petronius

5.Example is the school of mankind, and they will learn at no other. - Edmund Burke

6. Thank goodness I was never sent to school  It would have rubbed off some of the originality.-Beatrix Potter

And because this homeschool teacher is not good at math ;-), I bring you:
7.  18 Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 19 Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.--Deuteronomy 11:18-19

Got a quote? Tell Mother All About It!! She can always use more!

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Apr 8, 2013

The {7th-Grade} Power Within

In 1972 in a suburb of D.C., some Smart People in the Public School Powers-That-Be Room decide junior high school will begin in seventh grade. Then these same Smart People decide that junior high should continue through 9th grade. So, you will spend your first year of high school in junior high. Yes, you will enter High School as a Sophomore.

Keep with me.

Like I said, it is 1972. You've been wearing dresses and skirts to school your whole elementary life up until a year ago when those Smart People realized that the boys were way too eagerly anticipating the new trampoline lessons on P.E. Day. That's when those people agree to let you wear pants---but only on P.E. Day. If it's 20 degrees with a wind-chill, but NOT P.E. Day, you wear a skirt. Because that's what the Smart People said to do.

So now it is 7th grade and you are going to Junior High School.

For the first time, you have to ride a school bus, you change classes and teachers til you're dizzy, you get lost in a never-ending circle of painted cinderblock, you go unrecognized by scores of kids streaming in from other elementary schools, you can't walk home for lunch, you see girls wearing bras, you see girls smoking in the bathrooms. And as if that wasn't enough already, there is Gym!

You discover that Gym will be every day. It will be a huge deal. You will learn to play all kinds of sports, some you've never even watched, because it's 1972 and the only sport girls are playing is softball. Not even soccer. BOYS are hardly playing soccer. 

But the hugest deal of all is that you will have to CHANGE YOUR CLOTHES! In public! In front of those unknown girls from the other elementary schools that are cooler than your elementary school was.
And just when your life, your very fragile sense of self, is at the breaking point, those Smart People
deal one more cruel blow. They issue you:

A Gym Uniform.

These girls are not smiling about the uniforms.

On the second day of Junior High you and the other 7th-graders are lined up on the sunny asphalt in full view of the passing boys gym class, and are handed plastic packages of blue serge cloth. You and the other bewildered girls open them to reveal these one-piece rompers with snap fronts and elastic waists. The short sleeves aren't short enough; they hang almost to your elbows. The legs likewise are to the knees. They have prim little shirt-collars, but that is all that can be called styling. They will be inadequate as clothing in just a few weeks so you will have one more reason to hate them by November.

You don't have an older sister to warn you about this. Some of the other girls obviously do. You can tell they are the ones who will rise to the top of the social strata because they make such a big deal about how dork-worthy these things are. Kids like you, knew they were ugly, but you wouldn't have thought to roll the legs and sleeves up as high as they could go so that you looked sexier. 

You are responsible for taking them home every Friday to be washed and bringing them back every Monday  to begin another week of drills and vocabulary tests on sports that you would play for six weeks or so, never really gaining any proficiency in, only embarrassment. You will stand on the field in that thing while a snotty little bee-atch reams you in front of all your soccer teammates for your lousy kicking. And your mother, who never had to play soccer, will call HER mother and demand an apology. And then you will want to die.

Of course the day will come when you DON'T  have it washed by Monday because your Mom who never played soccer has three other kids with equally demanding teachers and that particular load of laundry didn't get done. Then you will have to face the woman with the very short hair who makes ugly marks next to your name. And feel the sting of embarrassment that comes from having to wear your school clothes to gym!

But wait...
Isn't that what you'd prefer anyway? Losing the uniform?

And it's then that you take your biggest step in your education. You begin thinking for yourself.

And in two more years when you should be allowed to create your own schedule because it is, after all, your Freshman year even though you're still in a Junior High building, you don't back down when the Very Smart Powers argue against it. And you win. 

And it's then you get your first taste of what bucking the system feels like. And later in life, when you have daughters of your own, you'll remember the decisions of the very Smart Powers-That-Be, and you'll say...

I think we'll homeschool.

Inspired by Mama Kat's Pretty Much World Famous Writing Prompt: " a 7th grade memory."

Mama’s Losin’ It
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Mar 27, 2013

Yeast Is Yeast, and Homemade Is Best!

Our ongoing study of the monochromatic kingdom of non-flowering plants allows us to chalk up baking as science. I'm talking yeast here, peeps. (I love homeschooling!)

To get us primed we read through the lower book, Molds and Fungi, in one sitting (a very UN-Charlotte Mason thing to do. whoops.) Lots of facts in an easy-to-read format. I learned plenty myself.
The other book, Molds, Mushrooms, and Other Fungi, is more Dorling-Kindersley style with lots of pics and stuff. Darling daughter Mei freaked at both of them at times. Therefore, boys will love them.

Our science curriculum, Considering God's Creation, is neatly lining up with the monthly Outdoor Hour Challenges at Handbook of Nature Study where they're currently focusing on Lichens, Mushrooms, and Moss. (You can see our other entries on lichens here and fungus here.)Yeast, being a type of fungus like mushrooms, I figure it fits right in.

Fungi, we learned, grow by sending out hyphae, which are like little tentacles looking for food, usually in the form of something dead. Get enough hyphae, and you've got yourself a registered, incorporated mycelium. When these hyphae want to start a new colony, they shoot some spores into the atmosphere (e.g. your breathing space) and hope to colonize in the great beyond. But the work is done in the dark, mostly underground. It's happening everywhere and we should be glad of it cuz' if it weren't, well, in a nutshell, we wouldn't be here to tell about it.

Want to see a mycelium at work? You won't have to go far. Got a rotting woodpile? Matted dead leaves you forgot to rake? How about well-seasoned shredded mulch? That's where we found this:

The white stuff is not some sort of messed-up spider web. It's the mycelium full of hyphae. And it's eating away at that mulch. Which is why we have to keep replacing it every year.

Another place we were able to observe fungi was on the bread that we purposely let go for the sake of science. After over a week in a Baggie with a piece of old brie, we got this:
Calling Alexander Fleming

 Not like you've never seen that before (deliberately). But it makes for cool microscope study. We're also comparing the french bread with a piece of cinnamon bread (not shown) to see if cinnamon indeed retards spoilage. It seems it does!

Notebook page from Considering God's Creation

So back to that yeast. It does not do the hyphae thing. But is IS a fungus. I'm so glad we know how to use it. It makes some of my favorite things possible. Like bread. I recently got my second bread machine and have gotten back into this fun, healthy, delicious hobby. And the timing was PERFECT because we were going into this yeast study.

Yeast makes the bread rise simply by---well---burping. You feed it, it eats, it digests, and it burps. And the burps make the bubbles that make the bread rise. Doesn't sound so appetizing when I put it that way, but...

Now to coalesce science with baking even more, we had to grow some starter. A starter is a happy little town of live yeast that live in a jar, and that you feed and take care of.  (You can name yours. Ours is Fi-dough.) If you do a good job, the yeast will reward you by rising your next batch of dough. But this will be a different flavor because THIS yeast is SOURDOUGH! And it happens when those spores that a yeast fungus releases are caught and given a nice home of flour and water.

Baker's yeast.
Want to try it? There are many, MANY places on the web that will teach you how to grow a starter. We ordered a fresh one for our purposes to ensure success. You can get some here. Did you know that they will taste different depending on where they are from? Because each region has a different yeast floating around in it! That's why a San Francisco Sourdough Bread can only call itself  S.F if the starter was actually grown IN San Fran!

Here, Mei is doing another experiment with some yeast to show how much it "burps." 
Mix a 1/2 cup lukewarm water with 2 teaspoons of sugar and 1 tablespoon of dry yeast (doesn't matter what kind.) Set it aside for 15-30 minutes.
If you do it in the ziploc bag, like we did, keep a close eye on it or you will get to experiment with cleaning starter off the walls.
Left: Mixing up the ingredients to grow yeast. Right, the proof! Ka-BOOM!
Before: cold from the frig
Here's another example of just how fast yeast can grow. We took some of our sourdough starter out of the frig and warmed it for just 30 seconds in the microwave. It increased in volume by at least 2 tablespoons just from being warmed up!

After 30 seconds in MW: frothy yeast.
 But here's the best experiment of all: a piping hot loaf of homemade sourdough bread. If only we had some taste-testers! Any volunteers?

Got yeast? Got comments? Tell Mother All About It!



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