Friday, September 30, 2011

Crinkleroot Inspired Leaf Books

We've been enjoying a number of books from Jim Arnosky's Crinkleroot series this week, thanks to a recommendation from Mouse Grows, Mouse Learns.

A few, like Crinkleroot's 25 Birds Every Child Should Know, or Crinkkeroot's 25 Animals Every Child Should Know, proved to be a bit young for us, having only one word with a picture on every page. E (age 6) made good use of them for spelling and handwriting practice.

Most of the volumes in the series though, seem to be for 1st-3rd grade reading levels, but with enough information accompanying Arnosky's beautiful illustrations, to be interesting to the entire family.

Our favorite so far has been Crinkleroot's Nature Almanac, which not only contains a smattering of old, and new illustrations with nature facts for each season, but also suggests a number of child-friendly nature activities, such as making an autumn leaf book.

After a quick walk to gather a few fall leaves, the younger girls (ages 5 and 6) were ready to give that one a try.

They laid the leaves out on the table with their other interesting finds, like a growing crab apple and blossom, and then traced them on small sheets of paper.

Then, they colored in the outlines...

...doing their best to match the fall colors.

When they had a number of pages completed, we stacked them together with their individually designed cover pages...

...and stapled them together into books.

Now, we just need to review Crinkleroot's Guide to Knowing Trees, to help us identify the leaves and label the pages, to finish it off.

For more children's book reviews and recommendations be sure to check out the What My Child is Reading link-up hosted by Mouse Grows, Mouse Learns.

Or, click over to the Science Sunday link-up at Adventure's in Mommydom for more science themed children's fun.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Pumpkin Soft Pretzels

There are a few pumpkin pretzel recipes out there, but I decided before I gave them a try, I might as well see if the Mall Style Pretzel recipe we've been enjoying (click the link to find out about those), could be modified for fall.

Using the original recipe as a guide I added:

1 cup pumpkin puree
3/4 cup water
3 cups flour
3 tablespoons corn syrup
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 1/2 teaspoon dry active yeast

to the bread maker, in the order listed above, and ran the machine on the dough setting.

When the dough was ready, the children wanted to try making traditional pretzel shapes, instead of the pretzel bites we usually make. So, we divided the dough into eight balls...

...which we pulled, and rolled into ropes...

...twisted into pretzel shapes...

...and dropped into 2 quarts of boiling water, mixed with 1/2 cup of baking soda.

After about 10 seconds, we (meaning I, because the water was boiling) removed them with a spoon type strainer. Much to my relief, they held their shapes, and were pretty easy to fish out of the water.

We let them dry for a few seconds on plates covered with clean dish towels (or at least, as clean as could be, with flour covering the entire kitchen)...

...before placing them on a greased cookie sheet...

...and popping them into a 425 degree oven for 10 minutes.

While they were still hot on the pan, we drizzled them with a thin, powdered sugar glaze (1 cup powdered sugar mixed with 1/2 cup milk)...

...and sprinkled them with nuts, to make them pretty.

The children were put off that we didn't dip the pretzels in butter, and roll them in cinnamon and sugar, because that's the way they've always eaten soft pretzels. The sugar glaze was a bit bland to their taste, though I thought it was quite good, especially once the pretzels had cooled. And, the pretzel texture was excellent, chewy on the outside, and soft on the inside.

The dough was not overly sweet. Actually, I found myself wishing we had salted them, instead of going with a sugar glaze. I'm pretty sure they'd be good that way, especially with the light hint of cinnamon from the pumpkin pie spice in the dough. Really, I'm thinking serving them plain, with a bowl of pumpkin soup, and little salad, could make for a near perfect October lunch.

That's a girl's day lunch, of course, because the Man of the House, and the children would never go for it. Sometimes there's just no accounting for taste.

But, it's great to be a homeschooler.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

S is for Scarecrow

We turned craft time into a "letter sound" activity for C (age 5) this morning, that could also double as an alliteration lesson for E (age 6).

I started by cutting a cardboard S, to use as a template to trace out on pieces of cardboard for each girl, and to trace and cut pieces of fun foam, fabric, and felt, with a few buttons, and bits of twine, and yarn thrown in (all the scarecrow accoutrements could just as easily be cut from colored paper).

The girls glued the pieces down to their S's to make silly slinking scarecrows who slipped from their sticks and are sauntering away, or something like that. You get the idea, anyway.

We had a lot of fun discussing all the possible "s" words, that could be used to describe the scarecrows, while the girls glued the fabric pieces down, and drew faces on in marker.

Then, C traced the "S is for Scarecrow" I had written on her cardboard in pencil.

While E printed the letters, and took a stab at alliteration, herself.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Fall Leaf Glue Window Clings

C (age 5) really enjoys making designs with colored glue. Her favorite thing to do right now, is to mix several colors together into interesting patterns, and swirls of color.

So, when I saw Pink and Green Mama's leaves made out of colored glue
linked on Dinosaurs and Octopuses' fall leaf list (a list worth checking out, by the way), I knew C would love to make some, too.

As it turned out, E (age 6) and D (age8), also enjoyed the craft, quite a bit.

I outlined leaves, tracing from a paper template underneath, on wax paper, and let them dry, for the children to use as forms, to hold in their glue.

After they added their swirls, and lines of color...

...they used straws to spread the glue out, to the edges of the outlines. They dry glue around the edges, made a sort of wall, to keep the glue in place.

We let their creations dry overnight, and then peeled them, easily, off of the wax paper.

They are very pretty with light shining through them, so we decided to use the leaves to decorate our windows.

Working like normal for glue clings, we wet the back of the leaves thoroughly with water...

...and stuck them right to the window.

It's important to make sure the edges are completely stuck down, or they might fall off once they dry. As long as all the edges are glued down, they will stay put indefinitely, but are easily pulled off, when you are ready for a change.

They will drip, and look quite messy when you first put them on...

...but the window around the clings can be cleaned, with a finger wrapped in a glass cleaner soaked towel, once the cling is dry.

This was the first time, that I can remember, that the younger children getting to help make window clings.

They were thrilled to see their artwork on such public display.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Lumpy, Bumpy, Finger Knit, Pumpkin Coasters

A (age 10) and E (age 6) worked on another finger knitting project today (a younger child could probably take on, at least the first part of this project, but it might take several days, and require some assistance).

They started out, like normal for finger knitting, by tying a loop of yarn around one index finger...

...then making a second loop, with the yarn ball end of the yarn, in front of the first...

...slipping the first loop over the second, and off their finger...

...and pulling the ends tight...

...then, repeating until they had a few inches of crochet like chain. If you need a better how-to, for basic finger knitting, I suggest this video, on YouTube.

After they had about four inches of chain, they switched to orange yarn, by snipping the green yarn loose, and tying the new end to the loose end of the orange.

Then, they continued on, finger knitting with the orange yarn...

...until their chain was around four and a half feet long. They cut a long (nearly as long as their chain) tail, and tied it off through the last loop on their fingers.

Keeping the tail free, I helped them twist their chains, into spiral circles, starting at the orange end...

...and working toward the green. I placed a knitting needle through the holes in each coiled part of the chain, to hold the spiral in place...

...while the girls used a yarn needle, to sew the tail, back and forth, through the spiral...

...until it was all held, securely, together. They weren't real careful about keeping their spiral tight, once they pulled out the knitting needle, giving their pumpkins, the lumpy, bumpy edges.

They made a spiral stem, with the green portion of the chain...

...and secured it down, with a few additional stitches to the orange, trimming, and weaving in what remained of the tail...

...for finished pumpkin...


It's great to be a homeschooler.