Saturday, April 30, 2011

What My Child is Reading - Our Week In Books

Our reading this week was really connected to what we were doing, or seeing.

For instance, to go along with our letter pocket project...

...we read Nancy Loewen's Sincerely Yours, Writing Your Own Letter, which details how to write both business, and informal letters, and the circumstances when you might use them. Although brightly illustrated, it is a nonfiction story, probably best for ages 8-12.

After our dandelion harvesting expedition ,we read Mia Posada's Dandelions Stars in the Grass.

And, then we went back outside to dig up a dandelion, so we could examine the root, as suggested in the back of the book...

...and in the process, we unearthed an earthworm...

...which led us to read Vivian French's Yucky Worms. It's written like a fictional picture book, for younger children, telling the story of a boy, and his grandmother in the garden. But, it's filled with enough factual worm information, for older children to enjoy, too.

My only complaint against the book is French's profuse use of the word "poop" (not one of my favorite words). However, upon closer examination of our worm, I had to agree that it was not unwarranted.

We've also noticed the first summer birds beginning to arrive around our feeder...

...prompting us to check out our hands down, favorite book of the week:

I'm not usually a big fan of punch-and-hear type books, but when the audio is bird song, from Cornell Lab of Ornithology, corresponding to short write ups, and beautiful illustrations of 250 American songbirds, I'll make an exception.

There were many more books, and experiences I'd like to share, and recommend. It's been one of those weeks when we have more library books in the house, than time to read them. In fact, I need to go, and sort through them now, so I can return about half of the sixty or so we have out, before the next bunch arrive in.

Stay tuned for more dandelions, ladybugs, and a trip to Lilliput with a certain 18th century traveler.

But first, click over to the What My Child Is Reading link-up, at Mouse Grows Mouse Learns, to find out what other families have been reading, and are recommending, this week.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Hop Counting

The weather was so beautiful while we were out picking dandelions, earlier this week, I decided we should stay outside for our math lesson. Both C, and E (ages 4 and 6) are working on skip counting, right now. So, I rummaged around in the garage, to find one last, surviving piece of sidewalk chalk, from last summer, and used it to write out the numbers 1-20, down the path.

As E, hopped her way through the numbers, I on 8, hop over nine... on 10, hop over 11...

...hop over 11, land on 12...

...hop over 13, and land on 14...

...and so on. When she reached 20, she turned around and hopped back through the numbers, counting down by twos. It seems like I might have gotten this idea from one of my blogger buddies, but I can't for the life of me remember who (from whom?).

C, hop counted too, but she needed me to hold her hand, to keep her hopping straight, so I didn't get any pictures of her efforts.

Meanwhile, D (age 8), who mastered skip counting years, and years ago, kept himself busy by estimating how many hops on one leg it would take him to get from one tar line, to the next.

In the background, you can see C discovering the leaves are beginning to open on our trees, as math gave way back into science.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Delicious Dandelion Cookies

With May Day just around the corner, I was hoping to find some fun, flower themed projects for the children to do.

We've had just about enough paper flowers for one spring though, and with 20 degree mornings, and snow flurries continuing to come and go (not that I'm whining, or anything, I'll take the spring snowflakes of the north, over a southern tornado any day!), we just don't have much blooming in the yard.

Enter the lowly dandelion.

No matter how you feel about weeds in your yard, somewhere deep in your heart, you've got to love a dandelion. For some, I know, that love is very, very deep, almost too deep to find.

But really:

  • Dandelions are cheerful - I mean really how could a relative of the sunflower and daisy not be cheery. Never mind that ragweed's part of the family (Asteraceae, to be specific).

  • They are edible, perhaps not overly tasty, but full of vitamins C, and A, and beta carotene, though you need to keep in mind food allergies, exhaust pollution, and possible dangers of weed killers.

  • They are perennials, meaning you don't have to plant them, they just grow, year after year, all on their own.

  • You can find them just about anywhere.

  • And, pretty well, no one will mind if you pick them.

Even so, I like to discourage the children from stealing flowers from yards, so we walked down to a vacant lot, where there are lots of unsprayed dandelions currently growing.

And where, we discovered one more good thing about dandelions...

...apparently ladybugs are crazy for them. We found three or four, seven-spotted ladybugs (Coccinella septempunctata) on each plant, which we'll be reporting to Cornell University's Lost Ladybug Project.

To celebrate our find, and one glorious day of summer-like weather, we brought our flowers home, to wash...


...and turn into cookies. I was happy for a chance to try out a Fairy Gardens recipe (click the link to view it), which is basically a chocolate chip cookie dough, but with M&Ms...

...and dandelion flowers, added for fun.

The flowers add more color than taste, though I won't lie, they do add a little taste. My children, who are extremely picky absolutely devoured them (the same can not be said of the Man of the House, who turns green at the mere mention of dandelions in the kitchen).

I think the pastel M&M's left over in stores from Easter, look especially nice with the soft, yellow of the flowers, making for a very sunny plate, indeed. And, they were a perfect go along for our snack time story.

Mia Posada's Dandelions, Stars in the Grass, which we also read last spring (click here, for that post) is a simple, poetic picture book, about the beauty, and usefulness of the supposed weed, with a science section at the back, good for older children, as well as their younger siblings, and a recipe for Zigorriesalat (lion's teeth salad), for anyone who's really feeling brave.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Letter Wallet - Simple Sewing for Tweens

The girls got in some sewing with their grandmother (my mother), before she left, last week. The project they picked was one their other grandmother (mother to the Man of the House), left behind for them.

While she was here, she showed the girls a simple wallet she had made, based on a Civil War letter pocket project from Kathleen Tracy's Civil War Sewing Circle.

The purpose of the pouch is either to hold stationary items, like envelopes, stamps, pens, and paper, so you can carry it with you, and be ready to write a letter, whenever or wherever the mood strikes, or to hold dear correspondences you received (click here, to see a beautiful 18th century example).

My mother-in-law showed the girls how hers was put together, and gave them instruction for adding Velcro fasteners in a way, that wouldn't show from the outside.

She even took them out to a fabric store to pick up supplies for making there own. But, then she ran out of time, and had to leave the project for the girls, and happily, my mother, who stayed a little longer, since I try to avoid the sewing machine whenever possible.

But honestly, this project turned out to be so simple, even I could handle it, making it perfect for my 12 and 10 year old.

We started by making an 8.5'' by 12.5'' template out of a piece of cereal box. You can really make this any size you like, in fact, I noticed on the author's website, that she recently made a deeper version, to use as an E-Reader case.

The trick is to cut the template as wide as you want your pocket to be, plus 1/2'' for a 1/4'' seam allowance on each side, and three times as long as you want your pocket to be deep, again with a 1/2'' added for a 1/4'' seam allowance on each end. So, our pattern, being 12.5'' long, made for a pocket about 4'' deep, more or less. How's that for real world math?

We used the pattern to cut one outer piece of fabric, one lining piece (in a different pattern), and a piece of fusible interfacing.

We fused the interfacing to the wrong side of the lining fabric, with a hot iron.

Then, in order to figure out where our Velcro should go, we laid the pieces together, as they would look for the finished piece - so our outer fabric laid right side down, topped with our lining fabric, interfacing down, so we could fold the piece in thirds, as for the pocket...

...and mark where we wanted the Velcro to go - the bottom, fuzzy piece, on the right side of the outer fabric...

...then, folding the top down, to make sure the Velcro pieces would match up, before marking the spot for the scratchy piece... the top, of the right side, of the lining piece.

Which, we could then sew on. Of course, if you have stick on Velcro, you could skip these steps, and go straight from the fusing on of the interfacing, to the steps below, and then just stick the Velcro on at the last, where you want it, making the project even easier.

Once both pieces of Velcro were sewn on, we laid out the lining piece, right side up, with the Velcro toward the bottom.

And, topped it with the outer fabric, wrong side up...

...with the Velcro toward the top.

We pinned the pieces together, and sewed, almost all the way around, 1/4'' in from the edge...

...stopping about an inch short, to leave a gap for turning.

We turned the fabric right side out, and then folded in the raw edge, ironed, and sewed it closed with a straight stitch on the machine.

Grandma came in handy when it came to making sure the raw edges were folded, and ironed in, before stitching.

After the edge had been closed, we folded the pocket into approximate thirds, lining up the Velcro, and ironed it.

We opened the top flap, and pinned the bottom thirds together.

Leaving the flap open, we started at the left hand, bottom corner, and sewed up the edge, as close to the edge as possible, across the top of the flap, just above the Velcro, and back down the other side, to the bottom right edge.

We reverse stitched to secure, trimmed the threads, and had a letter pocket, ready to be filled with all of our letter writing essentials (or precious correspondences).

It's great to be a homeschooler.