Wednesday, April 29, 2009


We were all up and gathered at the kitchen table enjoying a wonderful breakfast made by Doug. It looked to be a lazy, relaxing Sunday.

"Oh, I almost forgot," AD, our 17 year old son, said, "I need to get a tux today." "Oh, so you ARE going to prom! Cool! When is it?" I asked.

"Next Saturday." was his reply.

I'm pretty sure my jaw dropped into my lap and Doug, my husband was stammering out the following, his voice rising with every word (and he rarely raises his voice!), "I've asked you for a MONTH if you're going to prom and if you needed a tux and NOW you decide you are going?!" The 17 year old just looked at us as if we were idiots. What was the big deal? Of course there would be tuxes to rent. Of course a week was enough time!

Well, luck seems to follow AD everywhere he goes and they indeed had the tux he wanted and he ended up having a great time. He went with a group of 26 kids. They had dinner at a friends house and rented a party bus to take them to the dance itself. Here are some pictures I took at the pre-prom gathering of his group:

A little help from Dad

AD on the right with one of his best friends, SC.

The whole group

Monday, April 27, 2009

Think! Challenge

Week Thirty-Five -- Kaleidoscopes
Use the following materials to make your own kaleidoscope.

clear plastic, clear plastic sheet protector (it is doable if you don't have this),black paper, cardboard tube (pringles can, toilet paper roll, paper towel roll),glue or tape, pins or paperclips, rubber band, colored tissue paper, small beads or buttons, scissors
I'll let AH describe what he did:
I found a plastic tube. I put the beads on one end of the tube and covered the top with a plastic sheet. I put a rubber band around it to hold it in place.

Then I cut up tissue paper into small squares and put these into the tube. I put plastic over the end and taped it to the tube. I took the black piece of paper and rolled it around the tube and taped it in place.

I took the picture of the inside of the kaleidoscope:

Sunday, April 26, 2009

A New Neighbor

Here is a peek at our new neighbor. Can you see the female Mallard under all the brush?

It all started innocently enough. Last Wednesday I opened our garage door to walk down our driveway to get the mail and bring our garbage can back in. I looked around and caught sight of the duck on our neighbors' driveway. She was all alone and standing still. I told AH about her and, of course, he was racing around looking for bread to feed the duck! He must have been outside there with her for a good 20 minutes throwing pieces of bread to her. She ignored each and every one of those pieces. AH was very disappointed!

She finally had enough and flew away...

But about 5 minutes later she was back. AH left her alone for a while, but went inside to watch her from our windows. He found her exploring our neighbors brush pile and, eventually making a nest within it. AH finds this fascinating. He has gotten fairly close, but doesn't want to scare her. He says her nest is lined with feathers. How lucky are we to have a view to this precious spring event! We are watching and waiting for ducklings!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Homeschool Day at Crystal Cave

Today was filled with rocks, minerals, bats, caves, stalactites and stalagmites, crystals and a wishing room! It was home school day and we decided it was a great day to explore a cave. We stopped by our co-op to pick up some sandwiches for lunch and then we were on our way to Spring Valley, Wisconsin. We traveled through the beautiful rolling hills of western Wisconsin for about 40 minutes; it was a great day for traveling. Before the tour, we explored the gift shop and waited for the tour to begin. We were first shown a very informative video about the caves, how they were formed, animals that inhabit the caves, and how they were discovered. Then Chris, our tour guide took over. When we gathered to meet him his first question to the kids was "how many of you are home schoolers?" Since it was home school day, all of the kids raised their hands. He said that was cool and told us that he was also home schooled! What a great way for our kids to learn...from someone who understood what they do all day and is passionate and learned about this subject! He was a great guide and we learned so much! What a great value, too. We were in the caves for at least 45 minutes and never, ever got bored or felt that we were being rushed!
Here we are going down into the second level.
The cave walls are limestone. The caves were formed by carbonic acid (the stuff in soda pop) over a million years.
We did get lucky enough to meet some of the cave's inhabitants, which was AH's favorite part of the tour (yes, he is my naturalist!):

These guys are Little Brown Bats and Northern Myotis

This guy is smaller than your pinkie finger and he blends right in with the walls! He is an Eastern Pipistrelle.

Some of the beautiful formations we saw today.

At one point in the tour we were taken into an inner chamber and all the lights were turned off so we could experience total darkness. I had to hold onto AH for courage! Then Chris turned the lights back on at the level of a kerosene lamp so we could appreciate how little light the first explorers of the cave had. I'm pretty sure I would not have had the courage to explore those caves with such little light!

The last chamber on the tour was the wishing room. The walls were covered in coins. Legend has it that if your coin sticks on the wall, your wish will come true. AH took a coin and pressed his to the wall...and it stuck! Chris told us the oldest coin they have found was from 1882. That is one year after the cave was discovered.

All in all, a great way to spend our day!

Saturday, April 18, 2009


In our quest to learn in a more relaxed way, we took a great idea from Denise at Mom in Madison and made our own mozzarella! Fun and Yummy!

The curds begin forming

Straining the curds from the whey.

Austen really liked the mozzarella and shared with Dad and AD. He's hamming it up for a photo...we may be on to something!!

The recipe is found on Denise's food blog,
Thank you, Denise!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Home Run!

Here is my 17 year old, AD, hitting his first home run! It happened in the first inning of the JV game last night. The count was 0 - 2 and he hit a line drive over the left field fence! (You can see the ball in the picture just above the last pine tree to the right)
He was greeted at home plate by his teammates! He's in the middle, wearing the black batting helmet.
Congratulations, AD!

Think! Challenge

Week Thirty-Four -- Geometrical Shapes
Place a box/bag of straws and a box of paperclips on the table. Tell your students to make the largest geometrical shape that they can (preferably 3D). Remind them that there are more shapes than a simple cube. They may use scissors in construction but not the solution.
AH grudgingly accepted this challenge and created the Triangular Pyramid below: (P.S. Mom just told AH the challenge and neglected to tell him it had to be as large as possible...Oooops!)

We found a great website to identify the actual shape. AH thought it was a pyramid, but since the only pyramids we knew had 4 sides, we weren't sure. So we were off to the computer to find out what he had created. We came up with this information on pyramids. What AH created is a triangle pyramid! A four sided pyramid is a rectangle pyramid. Here is a link to the main page of Interactives 3D Shapes Geometry.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Tug of War

I'm experiencing a lull.
AH doesn't seem interested in much. He grumbles and hems and haws about doing "stuff " escapes to the backyard anytime he thinks I'm not paying attention and is generally making himself very annoying.I realize I've drifted perilously close to "school at home" which I did not want to do with AH. He learns much differently than most kids and learning in a more hands on and visual way is the path I need to take. Instead, I am doing exactly what the school was doing to him and the reason we fled to homeschooling! He is close to shutting down again and it's my own darn fault!
I'm trying to back off.
But an internal tug of war is waging in my mind. On one hand I want him to find his own interests and we can explore them together. On the other hand I have a voice inside telling me that this is not the way school works! Where are the worksheet and reports and spelling lists? That way I have something to show for his "learning!"
We are taking a break from work sheets, problems and memorization. I feel guilty, though. I'm worried my husband will think that our days are filled with nothing but play and that we are wasting time. I know deep inside AH needs space and a more creative presentation of knowledge. Unfortunately, my husband looks at the notes AH leaves for himself and others and is appalled by AH's spelling. He wonders why we haven't worked on spelling. Why doesn't AH know his multiplication tables by heart? In these areas I guess I have been found lacking as a teacher. Don't get me wrong. Doug has been very supportive these past 2 years. And I know that those aren't the only measurements of a child. AH has a fantastic vocabulary, he can make reasoned arguments for a side or viewpoint, he has a memory that is almost infallible (until we deal with multiplication!) he has a sense of humor, he is reading on his own now and becomes a stronger reader every week. He loves history and geography and nature studies. Yet I still struggle for a balance between structure and spontaneous learning. I believe it is a struggle to me (and for Doug) only because I only know about learning from my own school background. All I know is worksheets and tests. But I also know that I didn't really learn much in school. I've forgotten most of it. Most of my knowledge has come from time spent with my mom and dad and adults I trusted. Books were so important to me (and still are) and I've learned from them. Experiences, travel, practice, trial and error. When I really think about it, those have been my real teachers in life!
I am trying to let go of my traditional thoughts on learning, albeit, slowly, and in spurts. I take heart in the fact that, at the very least, I'm moving in the right direction!
To that end, here are some of the wonderful learning experiences we've been sharing for the past week and a half:

Making Easter decorations.

An Easter T-Shirt

Easter Egg Coloring

Abstract Landscape
We have found a wonderful resource online, Art Projects for Kids, filled with ideas for teaching art to children. We are enjoying creating our own abstract art (in fact, this is something that AH has NOT complained about!!)

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

International Bird Day

We are celebrating International Bird Day today! Look what we did:

Hung treats for our feathered friends:

Bought and hung a hummingbird feeder right outside AH's bedroom window, made our own nectar and filled it(sorry it's so fuzzy, I couldn't get it to clear up):
Put some egg candles around our Easter snow globe. Maybe we'll add some Easter grass to make it look more like a centerpiece!We read about birds in our Science Encyclopedia and looked through our favorite birding book: Wild About Birds: the DNR Bird Feeding Guide, by Carrol L. Henderson. Today we read about raptors moving in to urban areas because there are plenty of song birds (food) near feeders. There is always something interesting to read or to do in this book!

Hope you are all having a good day!

Friday, April 3, 2009

"His Wonderous Ball"

Many of you know that my husband, Doug, gave me a poem for Christmas. In it, he describes the relationship between our son, AH, and me. In it he mentions "his wonderous ball" which references the exersize ball that is key to AH's learning. I've promised to write about it, so here goes.

I was sitting with a group of homeschool parents at an indoor soccer center during our weekly indoor play afternoon almost 2 years ago. I was new. New to it all: homeschooling, education, the group. They were so very welcoming and inclusive. Somehow the conversation turned to the differences between the way boys learn and how girls learn. Someone mentioned that she had read an article about a study done in this area. She mentioned some boys learned more effectively by moving. This peaked my interest because my son, I had noticed since starting to homeschool, moved constantly. It drove me crazy. She mentioned that in the study they had given the boys exersize balls to sit on during school and their schoolwork had improved dramatically. Okay, I thought. I've already gone over the edge by homeschooling, why not try this idea, too?
I've never doubted that decision.
Well, that is not completely true. One afternoon about a month after we got him the ball, we were studying the revolutionary war and listening to Johnny Tremain on CD. AH was moving more than ever, doing flips on the ball, jumping on then off again (yes, it is possible to do that) and basically driving me insane. I was sure he wasn't listening at all. I stormed to the stereo, hit pause and asked him what was happening in the story. The answer I recieved was a calm and precise narration of the recent events of the story. I was shocked. He had never before given me such a detailed and articulate response in my requests for information. I sheepishly walked back to the stereo, pressed play, and I have kept my irritation to myself! It can still drive me crazy at times, but I know it works for him and I know my comfort cannot be the deciding factor in this issue.
Here are some pictures of AH on his wonderous ball, none of which do justice to the skill and coordination he has mastered! He's usually not this active when we are learning, but it's pretty cool what he can do!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

School in the Waiting Room

AH and I have been sitting in this waiting area of a local hospital for 6 hours today. My father is having a procedure done to destroy prostate cancer cells they discovered 3 weeks ago. The nice thing about our homeschooling is that we can take school with us wherever we go. The bad thing about homeschooling is that we can take school with us wherever we go!! AH isn't able to move around as much as he does at home and it really shows in his attitude and his ability to process new information (and his patience...and, for that matter, mine, is nil!!!) So he isn't really a poster child for homeschooling today. We've gotten some strange looks, but overall, we've had a good day. We've done some fluffy stuff (more than usual): origami, Hans Christian Andersen author study, and logic puzzles along with the meatier subjects, but those went by the wayside fast. I now know how important his exersize ball is to his learning. He explained to me that he gets sleepy and lethargic when he can't move around! I'll post later about his ball...we are off to lunch!