Friday, February 25, 2011


Today, as I was making beds and picking up, and the children were quietly playing elsewhere, I had an opportunity to reflect on a conversation I recently had with Hailey's art teacher about the class and how Hailey is doing in the class.  I am present in the building while she takes class, however I am not usually in the class, as I usually hang-out with the older siblings.  She has several friends in the class, and knows a couple of the parents.  I am comfortable with her asking for help from them, or from the teacher, and she says that she is also comfortable with this set-up.  The teacher's comments the other day reinforced this.  The teacher spent time telling me how Hailey politely asks for help and the items she needs.  She is able to complete the projects the way she would like, and she participates.  She really seemed to stress that Hailey was able to work well independently.

As I was reflecting on this conversation this morning, I realized that while all of that was well and good, it is not really my goal for her in the art class.  I know from my experience with my oldest that there is this view that kids need to separate from their parents and be independent, at a very young age.  I spent lots of time when Madeline was little and in daycare trying to get her to separate each morning without screaming.  That NEVER happened, in the 14 months she was in day care.  It took her months of attending preschool everyday, at age 4, before she did not cry every time I dropped her off.  Even after she stopped crying everyday, she still only attended reluctantly that first year.  The teachers continued to tell me that it would get better, and that we needed to do this.  I'm not so sure.  It was a very stressful time for both of us, and I regret putting her through that.  I really do not see that there was any benefit to it.

As for Hailey and art class, my goal for her is simple: to enjoy art.  I don't have any hidden agenda of making her more independent.  I am happy that she is able to go to class and be comfortable there while I am in the other room with the older siblings.  It certainly makes it easier for me.  But I hope that if she were not comfortable with that situation that I would be able to do what she needed to be comfortable and enjoy learning about art.  I'm not of the opinion that if she is not independent at 4 that she never will be.  In fact, I am of the opposite opinion.  If she knows I will always be there for her if she needs me, and if I trust her to let me know when she is comfortable and when she is not, then hopefully she will feel secure enough to be independent when she chooses, knowing that she has the support she needs.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Children's Book

I ran across this article about the "9 Most Subversive Children's Books Ever Written", and since several of my very favorite books are on it, I thought I would share.

On another note, also book related, my seven year old declared tonight that she has "given up" reading series books because after reading the first couple in the series they become too predictable.  Probably time to introduce her to some better literature for her independent reading!

Madeline's Marble Run Tower

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Let's Go Fly A Kite!

Madeline decided she wanted to make her own kite the other day.  She collected materials, designed it, and built it.  Once it was built, of course she wanted to try it out.  Luckily, it was a windy day!  We headed out Sunday night to try it out, and took along another kite that we have.  Not only could we not get Madeline's kite to fly, we also had a lot of difficulty getting the other kite to fly.  Maybe it was too windy?

Trying to get the kite off the ground.
As the sun went down, we called it a day.

We decided to try again Monday morning.  We pulled out a different kite as well as the one Madeline made and headed to the park.  We had much more luck!  The girls had a great time flying the kite.

Madeline's kite did catch some wind, and we made several adjustments to try to get it to fly better.  We attached the string differently, and we made the tail heavier in an attempt to stabilize it.  It may have just been too windy for such a small kite.
Madeline and her kite

Madeline's kite blowing in the wind.
So, once we returned home, Madeline started the redesign.  We did a bit of research on the internet looking for some ideas.  Along with several sites describing how to make a kite, we found a YouTube video.  She decided to make a new kite using bamboo poles, string, and a plastic bag.  We will see how that works.  It may be a few days before the weather cooperates, though.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The weather has been so gorgeous...

and I just cannot resist spending as much time outside with the girls as possible!  I know that soon it will be cold and windy, and the girls will be complaining that it is too cold to be out.  We have been taking many nature hikes, which have served many purposes beyond just enjoying the weather.

  • The girls have had a chance to use some of their identification skills in identifying some of the living things we find on our hikes.
  • They get to see some new organisms and try to identify them. 
  • They get some exercise.
  • They gain a greater appreciation for nature and spending time outdoors.
  • They usually find some way to use the materials they find in a new way (e.g. building a fairy house).
  • We wear out the puppy (at least for a little while).
This past week we took another hike at the Grindstone Nature Area.  We started out on the main trail, but then we ventured off on some side trails we had not been on before.  Madeline collected lots of materials to build a fairy house (one of her favorite things to do outside).  We identified some trees.  We used our new knowledge of decomposers (from our day at the Kansas City Zoo) to find and identify some.  It is amazing how we can hike at the same place several times and continue to find new discoveries as the seasons change and as we learn more and more.  

On this particular trip, we also found several acorns that were cracked.  Madeline started opening them to leave as food for the fairies, and inside one of them she found this:
acorn weevil
I found an interesting video on the acorn weevil at National Geographic.  It is probably not the best video I have seen from them, but it had some information.  I found some more information about them here, from the University of Kentucky Department of Entomology.

Madeline left it in her fairy house, in an acorn cap with some nut meat from an acorn, so that the fairies could have a pet.  The acorn weevil seemed more interested in escaping than in eating the nutmeat, however.

I also thought I would share a couple of pictures of Madeline's fairy house.  She made this one so that it would blend in with its surroundings.  She also left them a bit of her apple for a meal.
Constructing the fairy house.

Completed house, camouflaged with dry grass and leaves.  She has a long table inside, made from a piece of a fallen tree branch, and chairs made from acorn tops.  The doorway was made from fallen bark she collected on our hike.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Kansas City Zoo Home School Day

This past Thursday we attended the Home School Day at the Kansas City Zoo.  The theme for the program was the food chain.  The kids picked associated topics (such as carnivores, herbivores, omnivores, decomposers, etc.) to learn about, and then chose a related activity.  The activities varied from tours of particular areas of the zoo to more hands-on activities.  We started our day looking at the droppings (poop) of several of the zoo animals.  They discovered the differences between the droppings of herbivores and carnivores.  We then headed to a session on the features of the cats.  The girls looked at paw prints of several different cats, we able to touch fur of different cats, learn about hunting styles of these carnivores, and learn about the endangered status of several of the cats.  Our third session was with the Zoo's new polar bear, Nikita.  The polar bear was definitely the highlight of the trip.  The girls were excited to see him, and he has quite a personality!  After watching him for a while, we learned about polar bear fur and skin.  They even had the opportunity to feel polar bear fur and see a model skull.  They then played a game  to help them learn about the life and survival of a polar bear, and how they gain or lose weight throughout the year.  Our final activity was about predators and prey.  The girls has the opportunity to look at several different animals, some predators and some prey, and learn about the adaptations each have to help them survive.

After the scheduled activities, we took a little walk to see some of the animals the girls could not bear to leave without seeing.  The tiger was number one on the list, and they were even more interested in them after what they learned during the day.  We also had to make a stop to feed and pet the sheep.  It was definitely worth the trip to KC for the day!

Polar bear saying hi!
Learning about polar bears.
Playing the polar bear game.

Feeding the sheep.

There is no fence between you and the kangaroos at the KC Zoo!
There are very few of these Sumatra Tigers left in the wild.  They are so beautiful, and critically endangered! 

Madeline showing her love for the tiger.

Giving some hay to the llamas.
Madeline comparing her hand to the polar bear paw print.

Isabella's favorite animal was the polar bear!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Camp Day #3

The location for the third camp day we attended was Rock Bridge Memorial State Park.  We have been to the Devil's Ice Box trail, Gans Creek, and a few other trails in that are of the park, but I did not realize that the park was larger than that.  The park does not have individual camp sites, however, I have now learned, that they do have a special use area for group camping.  It is a really great area!  Two firepits, several picnic tables, a great open area, and surrounding woods.  There is even a trail that leads from the special use area to the Shooting Star trail, where we took a very nice nature hike.  The trail leads past bluffs over Gans Creek and to a shelter cave.  The cave required a bit of climbing, and Madeline was the only one of my three who was excited about climbing up to it.  She went up with a couple of her friends and one of the other mothers.  The other two found a frog in the creek and spent some time observing him.  I was actually surprised to see the frog since it was kind of chilly.  He was not moving very quickly, which facilitated the girls being able to catch his several times.

We tried something new for lunch as well.  I made some honey wheat bread to take with us, and we made grilled cheese sandwiches in our cast iron pan over the fire.  The first one was a bit over done, but after that we got the hang of it, and the rest were quite tasty!
This is the frog that the girls caught.  Actually, after they caught it, I looked in the water and saw a couple others. 

Madeline climbing up to the shelter cave.  She found several fossils inside.  I am actually looking forward to taking another hike on this trail in the near future so that I can climb up there with her and check it out!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Quote of the Day

Look mom, I made a flying machine!  I used the ideas of Leonardo da Vinci!


The girls made these very delicious beignets for breakfast this morning.

They found the recipe in this cookbook that Isabella received for Christmas last year.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Gardening and the Value of Good Food

It may seem strange to be thinking about gardening in November, but that is exactly what I am doing.  We missed our opportunity to get a garden started this past spring, and I want to be sure we get one started as soon as possible.  We currently have a small raised bed that I constructed from some 2x10's a few years back.  We have it fences in, with a make-shift door.  It is a bit difficult to get into and move around in, especially once the vegetables near ripeness.  We have grown peas, beans, carrots, and lettuce with some success in the past.  I know that the girls would love to get some tomatoes to grow, and I would really like to see some cucumbers, yellow squash, and zucchini grow.  And sweet potatoes!

I've been trying to decide what to do next.  I am considering tearing down the raised bed we currently have and building something more aesthetically pleasing and larger.  I found a really cool picture of a bed that I really like, using pavestones similar to those we already have in place around our property.  I think for the area that I am talking about, it may end up to bee too expensive.  I am keeping it in the back of my mind, however.  In continuing my search, I also found this video, made by Menards.  I really like the trellises in this one, and I think we might even be able to add some hanging baskets of grape tomatoes to them.  I'm going to have to play with the ideas.

Beyond this simple vegetable garden, I am hoping to add some other growing areas around our home.  I would like to plant some blueberry and raspberry bushes on the side of the house.   There are some peonies that grow there now, and while I love then, they have not been producing that many flowers the past few years.  We have a dog house in the backyard, built by a previous owner, which is now starting to fall apart.  If we tore it down, it would be the perfect place for a little garden.

So, why post this on a homeschooling blog?  Gardening projects are full of educational experiences.  The kids learn about how plants grow, the different parts of a plant, what plants need to grow, what food are healthy and why, insects, animals that live and travel through our neighborhood... the list goes on and on.  Beyond that, they develop an appreciation for nature and the earth.  They realize why it is important to take care of the earth.  They develop an understanding of where their food comes from, beyond the supermarket.  They become aware of the interdependent relationships that exist in nature.  Those are lessons that are difficult, if not impossible, to teach simply by reading a book.  They are some of the most important lessons they can learn.

I also wanted to share a blog entry by Shannon Hayes, which is some what related to this topic, and inspired me to start thinking about our garden again.  I continued on reading other articles she has posted to her blog, and found more inspiration in this entry.  And then I found a link to to this one.  All of these give me more and more reason to encourage the girls to learn about the value of good, healthy, organic, locally grown food.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Village

I wrote a bit a while ago about the village the kids constructed from sand at one of the camp days.  I had to work on editing a few of the pictures to show the kids work.  The village was very intricate, and included areas for living and working, farming areas, ways to get water, and ways  to travel around the village.  I was impressed with the thought they put into it.  Here are a few pictures of what they did.

This is one part of the village with some larger structures in the foreground and small ones n the background.  If you look closely you can see the farming area in the center of the smaller dwellings.

This is a dwelling that Madeline constructed.

This is a closer picture of the smaller dwellings and the farming area.

The larger structure on the left is the king's house, I am told.  

Friday, November 12, 2010

Learning About the First Thanksgiving

I am collecting some resources learning about the first Thanksgiving, and I thought I would share one of the resources I found, Plimoth Plantation.  We had planned to visit Plimoth Plantation when we were in Cape Cod this past May, but never made it.  Their website has tons of educational information and materials.  You can download (or use online) "You are The Historian: Investigating the First Thanksgiving" from their Online Learning Center.  Also, I found that on November 16, at 1 PM, they will be holding a FREE virtual field trip, in connection with Scholastic, by following this link.  You just need to sign up.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Another Camp Day!

We have had absolutely BEAUTIFUL weather here this fall!  It seems like there is really no choice by to spend time outside.  However, I really had not planned to attend the camp day earlier this week because it was going to be a long drive, and I was not sure we would be able to be there long enough to warrant the long drive.  The weather made it irresistible, however, and so we headed to Long Branch State Park for another camp day.

We could not have asked for a more beautiful day or a more beautiful site!  We rented a camp site for the day this time.  It overlooked the lake, and had a path leading down to a beach.  The kids spent the day on the beach and in the surrounding woods.  They were busy from the moment we arrived to the moment we had to leave.  In fact, even eating seemed to be an unwelcome interruption to their activities.  There was exploring in the woods, drawing in the sand on the beach, construction of shelters from downed trees and roots exposed by flooding, the discovery of a snake, the making for friendship bracelets, and the uncovering of some fish bones, just to name a few.

Here is Isabella demonstrating the location and function of the carp's jaw bone that we found.  The skeleton we found actually contained many of the fish's bones, including several vertebrae.  Very fascinating!

Madeline holding a snake.  I believe this was a Midland Brown Snake.

This is the structure the kids made by lashing the logs together.  They started with 3 logs, but it grew throughout the day.  They envisioned this as a 2 room structure.

Another view of their structure.

Madeline made a sundial... although it was too late in the day to add times to it.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

RSA Animate - Changing Education Paradigms

I came across this very interesting video about the education system, it's development, and current changes.  Very interesting!  Lots of food for thought!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Listing of Homeschool Conferences/Events that Appear to Be Secular

Recently I posted a list of unschooling conferences.  I often find that a good deal of the information I get on homeschooling comes from unschooling sources.  We are not homeschooling for religious purposes, and so I tend to avoid sources which provide religious curriculum or resources, unless they specifically note that they are all-inclusive.  After posting that list, however, I thought I might go back and try to gather information about other secular conferences, or at least some that are not overtly religious, but are not necessarily focused on unschooling.  We have yet to make it to a homeschooling conference, but it would be nice to find one that is close to us and/or is interesting enough that we could attend.

Here are my results.  I'd be happy to include any others that you may know about as well.  These are really in no particular order.

Oregon Home Education Network - next conference in 2012

VAHomeschoolers Conference and Resource Fair - March 25-26, 2011

The Unschooling Conference - February 2012

InHome Conference - March 24-26, 2011

Wisconsin Parents Association - no date listed for their next conference, 2010 conference was held in May

Southeastern Home Educators Convention - May 27 - 28, 2011

Washington Homeschool Organization - June 17-18, 2011

Alternative Education Resource Organization - August 4-7, 2011

Northern Virginia Home Education Conference - July 8-9, 2011

Southeast Homeschool Expo - July 29-30, 2011

California Homeschool Network Family Expo - no dates listed yet for 2011, 2010 event was held in early August

Adventures in Homeschooling Conference - August 4-11

Minnesota Homeschooler's Alliance - no date for 2011 listed yet, 2010 conference was held in late September

Pacific Northwest Homeschool College Fair - held in November in 2010, no date for 2011 listed

Camp Days

One of the mothers in our homeschooling group has set up camp days.  These are all day events for the families to go to an area park/natural area and "camp" for the day.  We cook over a camp fire, take hikes, explore bodies of water, look at rocks, search for fossils, and whatever other outdoor activities strike our fancy (particularly that of the kids).  We recently attended our first camp day last week.  The girls enjoyed themselves completely!  In fact, Madeline was willing to skip dance to stay longer (which we did not do since all 3 girls had dance that evening and I did not have the supplies/food to stay later).

Anyway, the girls totally enjoyed being in the out of doors.  Isabella did tons of exploring.  She is so intrigued by rocks and fossils right now, and their happened to be a cave at this particular location.  She would have been happy to play in the cave looking for fossils all day.  Madeline had a couple of her good friends there, and they spent time building and climbing.  At first, they were building a fort from tress and brush, but after a while they changed directions and built a village by the creek, in the sand.  It was very intricate and was a well designed community.  They included areas for families to live as well as ways to provide the community with necessities, such as food and water.  Hailey spent a good deal of her time using a log as a jungle gym.  She was very proud of herself for climbing across it on her own, and then had to climb across it several more times with increased proficiency and speed each time.  They kids also all used some hand tools to work some wood pieces.

This is definitely something they are looking forward to doing again.  It really is so nice to have found other families who enjoy being outside and are willing to plan such activities!

Hailey and Isabella looking for fossils and rocks in the cave

Hailey on the log...
she thought that the knot hole in front of her looked like a whale's spout, so she was pretending she was sitting on a whale

Crawling across the log for the first time

Headed back the other way!

Sunday, November 7, 2010


Halloween is NOT my favorite holiday.  In fact, I would really like to find a way to cancel it.  However, the girls do really enjoy it, and I do enjoy the fact that they prefer to make up their own costumes.  They had been planning them for quite some tome (since like August), but I procrastinated in getting the started this year.  It actually worked out well, though, as we spent all of Halloween day preparing costumes and carving pumpkins.  It was a nice way to spend the day!

Here are the end results:

Isabella was a snowflake.  We made the snowflake out of foam board, and used the hot glue gun to attach some silver ribbon to the edges.  I picked up a pair of really cheap ($3) white sneakers and added a few silver jewels and some silver ribbon for laces.  The skirt was made from white felt, and we added some silver jewels to add some sparkle with the glue gun.   Then she just wore and long sleeved white shirt and white tights, and we tied some of the silver ribbon around her pony tails.

Hailey decided to be a raindrop princess... I think initially she was going to be a raindrop fairy but decided she did not want any wings, so then became a princess instead.  Really the only place there were raindrops was hanging from her crown.  I think if I had to do it again, I might make something to go around her waist to hang some other raindrops from, but she was more than happy with this.

This is the front of her costume.  She wore her dress from her dance recital last year over a long sleeved shirt and tights to keep her warm.  I also picked her up a pair of the cheap sneakers to decorate, but she wanted to leave them plain.  We did pin some bows made of ribbon to them, in the end.

Madeline was a snow fairy.  She used last year's costume (snow princess), and added some wings she made from coat hangers and tights.  She decorated them with glitter and glue.

Our pumpkins... they did not want to carve them until the very last minute since last year our pumpkins were mush before Halloween.
I was also enlightened by a friend of mine in a way that I think will help make this holiday a bit more tolerable in the future.  He said that they look at Halloween as an opportunity to build relationships in their neighborhood and share with friends as well as strangers.  Put in that light, Halloween does seem like an opportunity to teach our kids the values we want them to have.  Hopefully I will be able to remember that next year!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Unschooling Happiness Project: I'm so glad I can homeschool

In my travels around the internet, I came across this cartoon. I just had to share!

The Unschooling Happiness Project: I'm so glad I can homeschool

Peach Tree Farms Trip

We made our annual trip to Peach Tree Farms.  The primary goal of the trip is to find pumpkins for carving, but there really is so much more there for the kids to enjoy.  They got to pet and feed goats, see hens and chicks in chicken tractors, see a beautiful monarch enjoying the sunflowers, pet bunnies, try out the straw maze, dance with scarecrows, have their faces painted, and enjoy a hay ride.  Here are some pictures from our visit.

Madeline feeding a goat

Madeline and Isabella acting like chickens

Hailey feeding a goat

Isabella in her annual dance with a scarecrow

Checking iut the hens and their chicks in the chicken tractor

Holding a bunny

Petting the pigs... the girls names one "Wilbur" and the other "Spot"

Hailey wriggling her nose like a bunny

The monarch