Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas at the Swedish Institute

The Friday before Christmas we went on a very Christmas-y field trip to the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis. We stopped for coffee and hot chocolate to sip on the 45 minute drive from home and listened to Christmas music and talked about all sorts of things.

The first part of our tour was an informational session about Christmas in Sweden. We learned about St. Lucia's Day, Star Boys and traditional Christmas decorations and foods. We then got to try our hand at making heart ornaments with construction paper. I thought AH would hate this, but he liked this so much he made three!

Our group learns about Christmas in Sweden


AH concentrates on weaving the basket



After the craft we were brought upstairs to the mansion proper. We learned that the Turnblad mansion is in fact classified as a castle because it has turrets and battlements. AH was so proud that he knew what architectural features were required to classify a building as a castle! We learned about the family that built this fabulous home, the Turnblads. During the Holidays, the Swedish Institute has 5 of the rooms decorated especially to represent each of the 5 Nordic nations: Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Iceland.

After the tour, we stopped in to the Kaffestuga, the coffee shop on site. We had lingonberry juice with Swedish cardamom pastries. Yum!


It was a great way to spend a morning before Christmas. It really got us in the Christmas spirit!


AH with one of his finished heart baskets

Visiting Sue

It's good to be blogging again. I guess I just needed one thing off my plate for a while.
While I was taking a break, we have been on a lot of field trips. One of the most interesting was "A T-Rex Named Sue" It is a traveling exhibit from the Field Museum in Chicago.

AH and I woke bright and early to drive about an hour and a half to a small county museum in central Minnesota. We listened to an audio book on the way, so the time flew by. We arrived at the Stearns History Museum early and spent some time in the gift shop while we waited for our tour to begin.

Then we got to meet Sue.

AH took this photo

AH with Sue coming at him!

She is the largest and most complete T-Rex skeleton ever found. What we were seeing was one of 2 replicas that travel the world. She is awesome. That's really all I can say! Along with the skeleton, there are pods to learn more about Sue, the technology used by scientists to study Sue, dinosaur vision and more. We got to look through Stegosauruses eyes and a T-Rex's eyes. Since each animals eyes were placed differently, they each have a very different field of vision. If you find Sue in your neighborhood soon, I would heartily recommend a visit!

Our group gets a good look at Sue's 5 foot skull

A better view of the skull

AH experiencing one of the many educational "pods" located in the exhibit area

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Post Cards!

Who doesn't love to get mail? We rarely get "real" mail. By real, I mean letters, personal notes and post cards. (Bills don't count...I get plenty of those!!) AH has discovered the pleasure of receiving mail. Last week I put out a plea to my facebook friends to send AH a post card from their home state or a state they were visiting and he would research each state as he got them. 3 days later we had our first post card from Barry in South Dakota!
Then the cards really started pouring in!
That's when I noticed that AH really loved this project. I made up two notebooking pages where AH could tape a post card and list some interesting facts about that state. We printed out state flags, license plates and state quarters on sticker paper and AH cuts them out and adds them to his notebooking pages. I really got a lot of ideas from Jimmie's 50 States Notebooking lens at Squidoo. AH loves the stickers. In addition to those items, AH researches each state to find the year of statehood, state motto, capital city, other cities, and any notable rivers and/or mountains and records it on the notebooking pages.
He has gotten up every morning since we've gotten these postcards to work on this project before anything else. He hasn't done this since our baseball project! It's a miracle!

Below AH looks up the state motto of South Dakota which is : Under God, the people rule

South Dakota notebook page 1:
The plan is to gather all the sheets into a 3 ring binder and, hopefully, learn about each state as they come in. We have a pile to go through already, but it won't take him long to get through it if his enthusiasm holds. I have a feeling that as long as those post cards keep coming that won't be an issue!
Thanks to my dear friends for all your help. Your effort is making learning fun for this 11 year old!

Monday, November 2, 2009

A Halloween Dilemma

It had all the makings of a disaster.

I have an 11 year old son who likes to trick or treat. I also have an 18 year old high school senior who plays football. A section semifinal game was scheduled for 7pm, October 31st.

Like I said. The makings of a disaster.

First off, who schedules a game on Halloween for goodness sake! And then, who schedules it for 7 pm on Halloween night?

Apparently the Minnesota High School League does. And as a parent, how was I to handle this? I really didn't want to miss the game (it is his last year, after all). I also wanted my 11 year old to be able to trick or treat and have fun.

Thank goodness for friends! We've known this family for years. It's not easy to find a family who have almost the same spread of ages that we do! It's come in handy since the older boys have played baseball and football together since 6th grade. They were in the same boat. They live very near the high school, and invited AH to trick or treat in their neighborhood so if there was trouble, we could be there quickly. We outfitted the younger boys with cell phones, and sent them off trick or treating with instructions to go home right after they were done.

They two boys had a blast alone! They had quite a load of candy after canvassing the neighborhood and they got to play video games after they were done. I called at half-time asking if they wanted me to pick them up so they could watch the rest of the game. "No Thanks, Mom! We're having fun!"

I was having fun watching my oldest son catch 5 passes for 128 yards and one touchdown! AD was definitely having a great time out on that field and I was there to see it all. The team went on to win and are scheduled to play next weekend in the section final.

All the makings of a disaster. But a great night was had by all!


That's my oldest son, AD, in red running in for a touchdown

Friday, October 23, 2009

This 'n' That

My what a week!

My older son's (AD) football team ended their season undefeated! The last game was Tuesday night and we've been resting ever since. They have a couple of weeks until their first playoff game which is nice. Congratulations to the Pony Football Players and Coaches...You Rock!

Click here to view these pictures larger



AH has been a busy bee. Last Thursday and Friday AH took a kids cooking class and had an absolute ball! He learned to make all sorts of Mexican food as well as scrumptious chocolate offerings! Saturday night was dinner by AH when he made us Quesadillas...Yummy! On Sunday, our oldest, AN, came over to dinner to celebrate her 24th birthday with us. For a birthday present to his big sis, AH made her lava cakes for dessert. They were exquisite. Big sis loved them! We also baked some bars for the football team.

On the homeschool front:
- We've been reading Lord Brocktree by Brian Jacques. He just loves this series of books!
- AH was able to figure out how to fix his electric car so that it will race down the hallway! What a great day!
- We've been studying The Mystery of the Periodic Table by Benjamin D. Wiker as an intro into the world of chemistry! We love it!
- We are plugging along in math.
- Obscurity is the name of a game we have newly discovered. It's a sort of word search game with hardly any rules!!! We don't compete, we play each card together. I think it's helped him with vocabulary and spelling, but don't tell AH that!
- He's been plugging away at Brainology, a program I signed him up for and he is not too happy about. But I believe it'll help him learn exactly what his brain needs to do to learn things.
- He pulled out our box of magnets and accesories for his little cousins this week. It was fun to watch him show them what a magnet can do!
- AH discovered an unopened Bionicle toy that he got last Christmas and started building it.
- Halloween costume design goes under arts and crafts in the homeschool, right? AH is designing his own Willy Wonka costume and is doing a great job. I'll post pictures as soon as Canon sends me a new software disc!
- Tonight our youngest is off at a sleepover at his best friends house.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Spark!

Sometimes you just know you are on to something when you look into your child's eyes.
Earlier this fall, we asked AH what he wanted to be involved in outside of homeschool. Scouts? No. Football? No. We went through a list a mile long. Nothing seemed to interest him. He is a homebody, as I've said before, and it is important to us that he have some regular interaction with other people! AH asked me about an electric car "club" that I had mentioned earlier in the week. I was pretty sure it had filled up, but emailed the organizer. It was full, but she put AH on the wait list. I was sure we were out of luck, but a few days later we were in! It is called BEST. Each week we meet to work on small electric cars that the kids design and build. We will do this until after Christmas when the kids start designing and building a larger electric vehicle to compete against other teams.
We had missed a couple of weeks by joining late and I was feeling overwhelmed and lost (I know nothing of electricity or cars!!) during one of our meetings. We were trying to figure out how the motor would turn the axle. Where should we mount it, what would we use? I looked around the room at the group of kids each working with their respective parents. They seemed to know what they were doing. I was thinking that I couldn't help AH with this, and how I was a failure as a homeschool mom, when he turned to me in the middle of this problem, his eyes bright and shining and said to me, "This is so fun!" It didn't matter to him that we were stuck. In retrospect, I was probably the only one who thought that. Thank goodness I'm learning to keep my mouth shut and my opinions to myself. He eventually worked out a solution for himself with a little push in the right direction from our experts.
We worked on his car today in anticipation of our meeting tomorrow. He figured out how to attach the battery to the switch and motor. His eyes lit up again today! He's got a game plan and a list of things to buy for his car. Tomorrow will be a great day!
(I'm having computer trouble and need to install some software onto our 2nd computer in order to upload pictures to my blog. My apologies. I would do it now, but it's after midnight and I should rest. I'll upload tomorrow night. ~Barbara)

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Celebrate Banned Books Week!

Celebrate our freedom of speech! This week is Banned Books Week. Pick one up and read it with your child! AH and I have read quite a few found on the list, why not one more?! We started A Wrinkle in Time. What are you reading?

Some books that have been challenged or banned:

The Holy Bible, Huckleberry Finn, Don Quixote, The Koran, Tom Sawyer, Arabian Nights, Gulliver's Travels, Canterbury Tales, Harry Potter, Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, Leaves of Grass, Uncle Tom's Cabin, Les Miserables, Autobiography by Benjamin Franklin, Book of Common Prayer, Grapes of Wrath, History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Origin of Species, Animal Farm, Nineteen Eighty-Four, To Kill a Mockingbird, Of Mice and Men, Farewell to Arms, Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Jungle, Gone with the Wind, All Quiet on the Western Front, Sun Also Rises, Doctor Zhivago, East of Eden, I know Why the Caged Bird Sings,The Talmud, James and the Giant Peach, Little House on the Prairie, Go Tell it On the Mountain, Chocolate War, Hatchet, The Catcher in the Rye, Flowers for Algernon, A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein, Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak, Harriet the Spy, Blubber, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, Where the Sidewalk Ends: Poems and Drawings, The Pigman, Lord of the Flies, The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, Forever, Bridge to Terabithia, Sounder, The Indian in the Cupboard, Julie of the Wolves, A Wrinkle in Time, The Giving Tree, The First Captain Underpants, The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book One), and the list goes on and on and on!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Not Back To School Camp: Day 3

Castle Mania Day!
AH told me he wanted to do a diorama of a castle. Since our original plans for day 3 fell through, I thought we could easily do a mini study of castles for the day. Our day started bright and early with AH speeding through his breakfast to start on his castle diorama.

He has an idea in his mind of what he wants to build and he started right in! His goal is to finish by Thanksgiving. After an hour or so he needed a break, so he headed outside for some movement time. When he came in we sat in the living room and read several books about castles, including David Macaulay's Castle, Mrs. Frizzle's Adventures: A medieval castle, and several others.
At lunch we ate sandwiches and watched a PBS video based on the David Macaulay book above. It was a pretty good video, a little slow by today's standards, but AH seemed to enjoy it, too.
I'll keep you updated on the progress of his castle.

It's Finished

AH's self portrait in the style of Austrian artist Hundertwasser.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Why Do They Call It Homeschooling If We're Never Home?


AH is very happy with the t-shirt I gave him. He's folded it nicely each night and put it back on each morning. I asked him why he doesn't wear something else. "Because I thought it was a Not Back To School CAMP. You have to wear the t-shirts each day you're in camp!" I guess he told me!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Not Back To School Week: Day 2

Welcome to Art and Math Mayhem day!
What a fun day we are having using our new Prismacolor coloring pencils. We made self portraits in the style of Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser. Where do I get these wonderful ideas? Kathy at my favorite art blog, Art Projects For Kids , gives me lots of ideas for studying art and artists. Here is the post that inspired today's art project. AH hasn't finished his yet, but it is turning out fantastic!! We've never used Prismacolor pencils before and I now see what all the fuss is about. They are fabulous!


After art came math. AH was dreading it. I'm sure he was envisioning the dry, dull math of last year, but Mom is shaking things up this year! I pulled out a new game, The Allowance Game, that I got at Lakeshore Learning. For some reason I was under the impression that AH's money skills are lacking. Hmmm...Not. Even. Close. But he had fun and practice will give him more confidence with money and making change. We laughed and giggled our way through two games when we were overcome with hunger! We made grilled cheese sandwiches and watched the entertaining and very educational DVD, The Story of 1.


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Not Back To School Week: Day 1 - Science

Happy first day of your last year in school, AD! A senior this year...where has the time gone? Thanks for letting me take the last first day of school photo of you. Have a great senior year, bud!


While his brother is back to school as a 12th grader, AD is a 6th grader celebrating Not Back to School Week. Below, he is sporting a new T-shirt designed especially for him! It states, "Why is it Called Homeschooling When We're Never Home?" Below is a list of every single place we've gone since we started homeschooling.
We started out the day studying lenses and light. We used the book, Exploratopia, as our guide today. We completed the chapter on light. We made a 2 litre bottle lens, collected various lenses from around the house, discovered the terms convex and concave and the properties of each. AH got to project a TV image (light) through a magnifying lens and onto a poster board(the image turns out smaller and upside down!!!). We read how eyeglasses work and made our own lenses out of ...Jell-O!
Why study lenses?
Because AH now understands how light and lenses work in his new microscope! He was definitely surprised and happy! After reading a little about and filling out a worksheet I made up to familiarize him with the workings of the microscope, he spent the rest of the afternoon (well, 2 hours of it, anyway) looking at the slides we bought him. He also stole some fur from Solvay, our Samoyed, to inspect under the lens!
A good first day!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Yellow Ketchup, Anyone?

Did you know AH's favorite color is yellow? It has been since he was tiny. Well, early this year AH asked me if he could plant yellow tomato plants and use them to make yellow ketchup. Being the *perfect* homeschool mom I, of course, said yes! Anything to get him interested in tomatoes! We found some yellow heirloom tomato plants at our local co-op this spring and planted them in a nice sunny location in our garden. (I meant to remember the varieties, but I cannot find them in my notes anywhere. I believe one was a Russian tomato?!) It took quite a while considering our weird summer (lots of rain and cool days) but last week we had enough to make a yellow ketchup! While the tomatoes ripened I went in search of yellow tomato recipes. There are none. So, I went in search of a ketchup recipe. There are millions!! Most, however, call for 20 lbs of tomatoes. Even though AH did a good job of taking care of his two plants, there was no way we were going to get even 10 lbs out of them! I finally stumbled upon a recipe at this lovely blog, Eggs on Sunday,which called for 2 1/2 lbs. That was something we could do!!!
AH and I chopped up the tomatoes and onion.
Then added vinegar and a spice bag.



We let that simmer on the stove for around 40 minutes.


We removed the spice bag and AH got to try out the immersion blender! He was a little nervous using it, so I helped him instead of photographing it. After that another 30 minutes to simmer down to our desired consistency. And then the final step: tasting it.


I think he likes it!

Well, it didn't exactly turn out yellow, but a kind of orange. We've never made homemade ketchup before and we were impressed with the flavor and consistency of this recipe. It really wasn't too hard. We would change a few things about it, but what a great way to spend a late summer afternoon with my yellow fanatic!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Shhh...This is Top Secret!

Poor AH. He was asked last night what we were going to be studying starting next week and he really couldn't answer. The reason? It's a secret! I wanted to start our year with a bang: something fun, hands-on, mysterious and out of the ordinary. Okay, so a Not Back to School Week is not out of the ordinary for homeschoolers, especially this time of year. But fun, hands-on and mysterious it is. I would also say that it is out of the ordinary compared to our "normal" schedule. We usually don't do this many hands-on activities on a daily basis. But it will hopefully kick start AH's 6th grade year.

First of all, I thought it would be fun to design a t-shirt for AH to kick off our week. You have all probably seen a version of this shirt at stores: Why Do They Call It Homeschooling if We're Never Home? Underneath this heading I personalized it with all the places we have gone in our 2 years of homeschooling. I'll post a picture later.

Each day that will include some fun hands on activities. Tuesday starts out with a brief study of lenses and light culminating in a reveal of the microscope I bought earlier this summer! I thought that the rest of the day could be devoted to exploring the slide sets I bought along with some experiments which use the microscope. We'll have a lunch of miniatures: mini veggie burgers and baby carrots with mini cupcakes for dessert.

Wednesday is the day I watch AH's very young cousins. I decided to incorporate them into the week and art day is something we can all do together. I've got some new art supplies and activities to try out for that day. I thought we could decorate cookies for both an art activity and snack time!

Thursday is the day I have set aside for planning and executing a "Redwall Feast." AH is a big fan of Brian Jacques' Redwall series. The characters are just as likely to be baking and cooking as defending their beloved Abbey from vermin hordes. So today we will study weapons from the Medieval period while planning, preparing and serving dinner using some recipes from The Redwall Cookbook.

History is AH's favorite subject. We have zoomed through the first and second volumes of Story of the World and still AH cannot get enough! We are starting a living math curriculum this year and as a fun start I thought that after our dinner from Redwall Abbey, we could sit down as a family and watch the PBS show, The Story of 1.

Friday is usually the day I will schedule field trips, so we will be traveling to Interstate Park at Taylor's Falls next week. It is a wonderful park filled with potholes drilled by the water of retreating glaciers, rocks to climb, a river and abounding plant and wildlife to sketch. We'll bring our field guides and sketch books (and camera!) for a morning of discovery. I'm looking backgound materials on the pot holes and Minnesota geology. On the way and back we'll listen to The Legend of Luke, the next book in the Redwall series.

This is my rough plan and I need to fill in more activities and details, but I'm so excited I had to tell someone!

**update...9/9/09 we dropped the Redwall feast tonight due to not getting the cookbook from our library. We'll probably do that in the next two weeks. So Thursday is now Castle Day. We are studying castles, watching a video about castles and making a castle! Check out my blog later this week to see how it turns out!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Planning Mode

A lot of the blogs I follow have been dealing with planning of the upcoming school year, so planning has been on my mind. It's been a rainy and dreary week here in Minnesota. A good time for planning our upcoming school year since I don't feel like I'm missing out on our very few beautiful summer days! I've got some fun ideas bouncing around in my head! It's just a matter of organizing them into the school day and year. We'll be starting the same week that AD, our 17 year old son, goes back to school. This year it's the Tuesday after Labor Day. I've got some time yet so instead of planning our math year, I've started organizing our education room. To be clear, this is not a school room, but a place to put the accouterments of homeschooling. It's also a great place to work on projects that can't be moved regularly (like those done on our kitchen table). AD even uses it to do homework when he needs to be away from the noise of everyday life.

Anyway....

Organizing led to purging, which lead to taking posters and projects off the walls,which lead to looking at the walls, which led to...PAINTING! ARGHHH!!! It needed it, to be sure, but what it really needs is more shelving! Ah well, it'll be done tomorrow (if I stick to my schedule) and then I can tackle the shelving problem and procrastinate further!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Tradition Continues

My kids were quite little when the first Harry Potter book came on the scene. We were enthralled by the adventures of that little orphan and his friends. Each afternoon we would pile on the couch in the living room and read the books out loud together. Even when my daughter became a teen she wanted to continue. She and AN would take turns reading. It's what we did together. AH was too young to remember reading all of them, but he would play in the living room while we read. We all participated. We enjoyed the books so much that we eventually made it a tradition to attend each midnight release party of the books. We really enjoyed these times together and when the series of books became movies it was a natural transition to attend the midnight showings of the movies. My older kids attended public school and I always allowed them to miss the next day of school when we did these activities.

Well, I am truly thankful that our tradition has continued. Last night, AH, AN, AD, MB and I went to the opening of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. Even though my daughter is in her early twenties and lives in her own apartment she joined us last night at the 3 am showing of the movie on the "Ultra Screen." I thought that my 17 year old would ditch us for his friends, but he also chose to watch with his mom, brother, and sister. What makes this even more fun is that my daughter's boyfriend, MB, has joined us for the last two movies. And so it continues!

And the movie? It was great!






Monday, June 29, 2009

Happy 24th Anniversary, Douglas!


If ever two were one, then surely we.
If ever man were loved by wife, then thee.
~Anne Bradstreet

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Grocery Store Wars

Regular readers will know I am a BIG fan of the sustainable and local food movement. I'm a believer that God gave us this beautiful planet and with this gift comes great responsibility to make sure this gift is taken care of and nurtured. ANYHOW...AH and I came across this silly and fun video on YouTube today. We both love Star Wars so this was right up our alley. I hope you enjoy it...we had a laugh!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Blast from the Past

Do you remember the set of books, Childcraft? I loved them as a child. We didn't have all of them, but the ones we had were old and well loved. I was browsing the bookshelves of Goodwill last week when I came upon 2 pristine Childcraft books from the 1990 How and Why series. Each was priced at $2.99 and I grabbed both of them and began to search the shelves for more. Alas, I didn't find more, but the ones I did buy have been a hoot! AH and I paged through Volume 13, Mathemagic last night. Remember, this is a child who has had issues with math for most of his school life. He loves this book!! We solved rebuses, attempted to solve brainteasers and read about squaring numbers. He came up with amazingly creative solutions to some of the brainteasers, even if they weren't the "right answer" and that is exactly what I'm striving for: problem solving creativity. It seems to me that creativity and using your imagination is the key to liking math and understanding it. A natural and playful creativity cannot but make math beautiful and (gasp) fun. AH actually asked if we could do some more of the activities in that book today! I know he has a long way to go, but at least we have found part of the path and are enjoying our walk.

My favorite math websites and blogs:
Math Mama Writes
Living Math

An long, but very interesting, article on math and creativity:
A Mathematician's Lament

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A Puzzle

A post by AH:
Today I took my mom's camera outside and took a bunch of pictures of things in our backyard. Try and see if you can figure out what some of these things are. Answers will be posted tomorrow. Have fun.