Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Princess And The Pea - Story and Art

Still visiting at Grandma's house today, we kept our story and art project for stART (a story + art link up at A Mommy's Adventures) extremely simple today.

I printed out Hans Christian Andersen's, The Princess And The Pea, from, and read it to the children.

Then ,I gave them a nifty printout from the SurLaLune Blog (a very cool site to checkout if you're looking for story stretching activities). The children, or rather the girls, colored in several different mattresses, the bed frame, and a princess, cut them out, assembled the bed, glued them in place on another sheet of paper, and added on a pea, or in this case a dried bean colored green, for a finishing touch.

The story has a lot of fun potential, and I'd like to do a lot more with it. But, it will have to wait until we're home, and we have my own supplies around us, and access to our local library again. I'm pretty sure, there has to be, at least, a couple modern takes on the story, out there. And, I'd love to make a Princess and The Pea cake with the kids. And of course, you can't read Hans Christian Andersen, without watching the old Danny Kaye movie.

I'm getting excited actually. I can see an entire unit study falling pretty neatly into place. Hans Christian Andersen, here we come!

It's great to be a homeschooler.

The Button Box - A Frugal Boredom Buster

When I was little, my mother had a special box, about the size of an oatmeal canister, full of buttons. She had been adding to it for years, snipping buttons off of worn out clothing, and picking up buttons at estate sales. She used them for sewing, and craft projects, and to keep me occupied when she had work to be done, that required quiet.

I loved button box. There was such an interesting variety of jeweled, and stamped, and fabric covered buttons. Some with four holes, some with two, and some with hooks on the back. They were perfect for sorting, and for sparking the imagination.

So, when our trip home was delayed by an unexpected west coast snow storm (ironically, it's still sunny, dry, and snowless at home in Montana), Grandma suggested pulling out the button box, to keep the couped up children occupied. Secretly thrilled at the prospect of seeing the old box again, I was a disappointed to find out it's now a bunch of button filled Ziploc bags.

But the children didn't know the difference, and spent several hours, sorting, stringing, and playing with the buttons. Naturally, when Mother offered to send a bunch of the buttons home with us, I was pretty quick to scoop them up, and into my suitcase. Now all I have to do, is find a really cool box to put them into when we get home.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

New Year Resolutions

I've been enjoying reading all the list of resolutions, and goals for the new year, posted in the blogosphere. And, of course I've been working on my own list, which has been a lot of fun in the emotional crucible of a visit home.

My husband, and I, have been walking the children down memory lane a lot this week, taking them to the church where we were married, our first home together, and our favorite date spot coffee shop. It's given us a lot of time to take inventory of where we started out, where we are, and where we'd like to be.

I keep a scrap of paper in my pocket, so I can jot each new goal down, as it occurs to me. This morning I took a few minutes to glance over the hodge podge. My scrap of paper is filled with all the normal resolutions: exercise more, eat less, study a new language, read the entire Bible through again, read more in general, master four new hymns on the piano, become friends with my sewing machine, and so on. Not to mention all my goals for homeschooling, which I keep on a separate scrap of paper.

I decided, that before I jump right in, in my normal flibberty-gibbety kind of fashion, I should take a minute to break down the list, and find the bigger goals behind the individual resolutions. Then maybe, knowing what it was I was really hoping to achieve, I might have a better chance of achieving it.

Being quite general, here are the four resolutions, all my little resolutions seem to boil down to:

  1. Be More Disciplined

  2. Be More Organized

  3. Be More Giving

  4. Be More Useful

I think these will be my mantra, and measuring stick for my activities in the new year. Either that, or I'll scrap them all, and dive right in to a pile of "Do Every Thing Under The Sun in 15 Minutes a Day" books - I did mention that I was a flibbertigibbet, didn't I?

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Road Trip - A.C. Gilbert's Discovery Village

While my husband was visiting his grandmother at the hospital today (she is doing a better, by the way), I took the children to A.C. Gilbert's Discovery Village, in downtown Salem. It's one of our usual stops when visiting family in the area. And, although the family membership has gone up to $75 per year, it allows entry into so many other children's museums across the country, that it's still worth the price for us. Really, with six children, family memberships are almost always the way to go.

For those of you who live in metropolitan areas, the Gilbert House would seem like a standard sort of children's museum, with it's multi-cultural...

...creative, scientific...

...and musically themed exhibits...

...but there is nothing even close to it in Montana. Of course, the real draw for the children is the gigantic outdoor play area, designed to look like an enormous erector set (A.C. Gilbert was the creator of the erector set).

And, my three year old discovered a squirrel by one of the benches, which she was pretty sure was part of the fun. So, we got to have an impromptu lesson on respecting wild animals, and giving them their space.

The children had a great time, but after our run-in with the hospital, I found myself wondering if the children weren't being exposed to H1N1 at every overcrowded exhibit. I'm not sure if I'm getting paranoid, or if it was just all the warning signs, and bottles of antibacterial hand sanitizer on every county, starting to get to me! Or maybe, it's been too long since I really left the house.

I guess maybe, a natural sort of quarantine, is one more reason it's great to be a homeschooler!

Get Well Cards For Great-Grandma No Thanks To a Nanny Government

The little ones are busy this morning making some get well cards for my husband, and I, to deliver to his grandmother at the hospital. Sadly, they are not allowed in to the hospital to visit.

When we headed out from Montana, Grandma, who is 92 years old, was recovering from infectious pneumonia. She was doing well, and had been moved from the hospital to a nursing home, for recuperation, before she was to be released to her apartment.

While we were in route, however, it was discovered that her medications, including a heart medicine, and a blood thinner, had been overdosed, and she had to be returned to the hospital.

We found out yesterday, that children under 12 are not allowed to visit at the hospital, due to concerns over the swine flu. We commented to the nurse, that our children were healthy, and not likely to be carriers of the flu, but discovered the concern was not for the patients, but for our children. Apparently, the state of Oregon is looking out for our children for us, and keeping them out of potentially dangerous places, where there is a small chance, that they might contract a disease, which has a small chance of making them very sick. Hmmm...welcome to the world of the nanny government.

While, I have no desire, that the children get sick, I do believe we could probably make sure they not stick things in their mouths, and wash there hands, and that sort of thing, on our own. We've lived in Montana long enough, that our first reaction was to say, "Well, if we want to get the flu, who are you to stop us?"

For today though, we'll settle for just hand delivering cards from the children.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Boiling Water At Different Elevations - Sunday Science

One of the funny things we always notice when visiting family in Oregon, is that it takes a lot less time to cook noodles for macaroni and cheese, or spaghetti, than it does at home in Montana. Since, we are visiting in Oregon this week, we decided to take the opportunity to investigate the phenomenon for our Sunday Science project.

Before we left home, we poured 5 cups of warm water into a pan, and boiled it. The water started out at 98 degrees Fahrenheit on a candy thermometer. After 7 minutes, it had risen to 190 degrees Fahrenheit, and was at a full rolling boil. We recorded our findings in a notebook, along with the elevation of our town - about 3570 feet above sea level.

My mother's house is at about 170 feet above sea level, and what we found when we boiled 5 cups of warm water here today, was that it still took 7 minutes to reach a rolling boil, but the temperature of the water was 210 degrees Fahrenheit, 20 degrees warmer than at home.

It makes sense then, that the noodles would cook faster here, because the water is hotter.

When we get home we'll take a look at why the differences in elevation effect the temperature of the water when it boils, but in the meantime, you can read all about it here, at What's the temperature of boiling water at your house? We'd love it if you'd check it out, and leave us a note in the comments below.

For more kid science, be sure to check out the other posts at this weeks Sunday Science link up at Adventures in Mommydom.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Friday, December 25, 2009

A Road Trip, and An Amigurumi Doll Pattern

I hope you had a very Merry Christmas. We did, though we had to cut the festivities a little short, so we could prepare for a trip to Oregon, to visit an ailing grandmother. Which means, this year, we had a Christmas/Boxing Day combo. We plan to head out first thing in the morning. But, not before enjoying the remnants of our gingerbread house tonight (below is a picture of the children digging in, on Christmas Eve).

And, there was time for one last craft project worth sharing. With the children down to bed early last night, in anticipation for the Big Day, and knowing our trip will take us within visiting range of my niece, and her brand new baby, I Googled amigurumi doll patterns.

This, super sweet "Sleepy Sarah" crochet pattern from Owlishly is what I came up with. As usual, the original is a good deal cuter than what I made, but I'm still pretty pleased. And, the fact that I managed to crochet it in the middle of the Christmas madness, is a testament to the simplicity of the pattern.

We'll be on the road all day tomorrow, but hope to be back to a computer in time to post a Sunday Science project.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Merry Christmas!

The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light - A light has shined on those in dwell in the shadow of death! Isaiah 9:2

Hope your day is bright! Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Chocolate and Nut Dipped Marshmallows - Last Minute Treat Ideas, or Using Up the Leftovers

Have a few marshmallows left over from all your Christmas baking? You could leave them in the bag to go stale, or turn them into a tasty, last minute treat.


  • Jumbo Marshmallows

  • Chocolate chips (approximately 1 cup for a dozen marshmallows)

  • Chopped nuts of your choice (about 1/2 cup for a dozen marshmallows)

  • Toothpicks

Prepare a wax paper covered plate.

Push a toothpick into the top of each marshmallow.

Melt the chocolate in the microwave, for about 1 1/2 minutes, stirring at 30 second intervals.

Dip the marshmallows into the melted chocolate, and then roll them in the nuts.

Place the wax paper covered plate, in the refrigerator, until the chocolate hardens.


It's great to be a homeschooler.

Goose Feathers On The Garage Floor

Well, after an early start to winter, all of our lovely snow has vanished. It looks like a green (or maybe it's brown) Christmas in our part of the Rockies. But, thanks to one of my husbands customers, who unloaded an extra goose on us this week (and yes, he shot it himself - this is Montana, after all!), we're doing our part to spread some white fluffy stuff.

A wind picked up while my husband was breasting the bird, and there are now fluffy white feathers not only on our garage floor, but in our front yard, and in the neighbors yards, all down the street. I don't know what happened to all the darker feathers, I really didn't look, but we're feeling the shades of Dickens this morning. Is it too late to start a Christmas pudding?

God bless you, every one! Merry Christmas.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Crocheted Socks - Take One

While I was printing out the pattern, from Canadian Living, for the girls' felt bears, I noticed a crochet sock pattern, as well. I thought it might work as a last minute Christmas project for a friend. I mean, my first knit socks took me two weeks, but crochet is so much faster I figured I might just have time.

The sock is crocheted flat, and then sewed together. It's all done in a single crochet, with an ingenious design for a cuff. And, I was right about the timing, I had the first one done, after a few hours of work.

The end result, is a pretty nice looking sock, too.

The only problem is, that either my gauge was off, or the Canadians have really large feet. I have a Canadian sister-in-law, who wears a very tiny shoe, so I can only assume my gauge was, indeed, off. The sock I crocheted would easily fit a size nine, triple E foot.

On the other hand, it does make a pretty optimistic statement, when hung by the fire. Maybe, I'll find a new toaster, or some other not-so-small appliance, come Christmas morning.

Oh well, at least it's great to be a homeschooler.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Sewing Felt Bears - Child Made Presents

The girls have been busy the last couple of days, making some little felt bears, as presents for their friends.

We found the pattern for the bears at, though the original bears called for embroidery outlined faces, that the girls decided they did not care for, and they wanted large eyes, so they used 9mm safety eyes, instead of the beads specified by the instructions.

The pattern printed out, with a template for a vest. The girls made the vest for one their bears, and then modified it, by adding a skirt...

and turning the vest into a tunic, by leaving it all one piece, instead of making a cut down the front.

The patterns are simple, and working with felt is ideal for children. They were able to complete most of the project by themselves. They did need help cutting the patterns out, since our sharp sewing scissors are quite large, and with the embroidery of the nose and mouth. But, they really wanted them to be gifts of their own making. I was happy to find a project simple enough they could take on, but still cute enough, to offer to their friends.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Gingerbread House

Every year, for the last decade or so, we've made a gingerbread house to enjoy as a special treat after the Christmas Eve service.

I think, once upon a time, the children helped me decorate it, but the tradition has morphed, and changed over the last few years, so that I decorate the house myself, as a surprise for the children. It's generally pretty simple, and a somewhat lopsided creation. But when it comes to candy covered, cookie houses, the children are pretty easy to please.

I was a late with it this year, and they were beginning to worry, so they were extremely relieved, as I pulled the big mixing bowl out last night, and sent them to bed with the smell of baking gingerbread.

Some years we buy the gingerbread kits, and I use the stale cardboard-like cookies from the kit as a template for the house. I really like the ones, that come with a plastic base, with grooves to set the walls into. This year, there weren't any outrageous gingerbread kit, clearance sales going on, so I copied a simple template from here, instead.

When the cookies were nearly done baking, I crushed a candy cane, and used it to fill the windows, and then let the cookies finish baking the last minute, or so, while the candy melted.

Today, while the children were down for nap, I constructed and decorated the house...

...and placed a small gingerbread man inside...

...for the children to discover.

It's great to be a homeschooler.