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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