Thursday, June 30, 2011

Garden, garden, who's in the garden?

In little Annie's garden
Grew all sorts of posies;
There were pinks, and mignonette,
And tulips, and roses.

Sweet peas, and morning glories,
A bed of violets blue,
And marigolds, and asters,
In Annie's garden grew.

There the bees went for honey,
And the hummingbirds, too;
And there the pretty butterflies
And the ladybirds flew.

And there among her flowers,
Every bright and pleasant day,
In her own pretty garden
Little Annie went to play.

-Eliza Lee Follen

Week of June 27

How it looked "before"

Our garden went through quite a beatdown by our recent hailstorm, but most of the plants are still hanging on.   

The cantaloupe continues to creep out into wide open spaces.

The tomato plants are as tall as me now (though that's not saying much!) and are loaded with green fruits. 

The boys can't wait to pick the peppers when they turn red.

The little pointy Christmas lights are baby okra.

Cinnamon Basil and Sweet Basil before their haircuts.

We harvested some basil and decided to try drying some.  After some research and a little trial and error, we learned an easy way to do this.  First, wash the freshly cut basil and lay it out on towels to dry.  Turn the oven on to 350 degrees, and then turn it off as soon as it reaches that temperature.  Pull the leaves off the stems and discard the stems.  Arrange the leaves on a baking pan, and put them into the warm oven. 

Check on the leaves every 5-10 minutes and stir them around a bit.  They will immediately begin to darken.  Your goal is for them to get dry, but not cooked or burnt.  You can feel whether the leaves are still moist, and you want to take them out as soon as they feel dry and are a dark greenish/purplish color.  Now for the fun part--
Set the pan out to cool, and once it is cool enough to touch, use your hands to crunch up the leaves. 

We mixed some basil with oregano which I had already dried to make Italian seasoning, and left some basil plain.  We used empty spice bottles as containers. 

We're looking forward to getting some tomatoes from the garden so we can use our homemade seasonings to make pizza sauce and spaghetti sauce.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Summer Read-Along/Do-Along

   If you're reading Moon Over Manifest along with us, you will have discovered by now that letters play a large part in the storyline.  Abilene discovers letters in the cigar box she finds that were written from Ned, who is serving in World War I, to his buddy Jinx back home in Manifest, Kansas:

"I selected one and held the thin paper to my nose, wondering, hoping that I'd smell something of Gideon as a boy.  Maybe smells like dog, or wood, or pond water.  I felt like I was floating in my daddy's world of summer, and hide-and-seek, and fishing when I opened the paper and read the greeting, Dear Jinx, it said in an unfamiliar penmanship."

   Abilene is hoping to discover more about her family and where she came from through these letters and Miss Sadie's stories.  She doesn't know much about her background, and as the story progresses, she learns more and more about the people of Manifest and her father. 

   Many of Manifest's citizens are immigrants from places like Norway, Italy, Poland, Greece, Scotland, and Russia.  The fictional town of Manifest is based on the real town of Frontenac, Kansas which was an immigrant town in 1918.  People from 21 countries settled there, and only 12% of its people had parents who were born in the US.

   The library has lots of books on the topics of immigration and genealogy.  A few kid-friendly titles I found at our local library are:

Ellis Island by Elaine Landau (Scholastic Children's Press 2008)
A History of Multicultural America, The New Freedom to the New Deal by William Loren
   Katz (Steck-Vaughn Company 1993)
Coming to America, The Story of Immigration by Betsy Maestro (Scholastic 1996)
Immigrant Kids by Russsell Freedman (Scholastic 1980)
Do People Grow on Family Trees? Genealogy for Kids and Other Beginners by Ira Wolfman
   (Workman Publishing Co. 1991)

   We decided to combine letter writing with genealogy and do a project to find out more about our family tree.  There are several websites devoted to genealogy, and OMSH's post over at The Pioneer Woman Homeschooling broaches this topic with several great sources and suggestions in the comments.  We are going to start at the beginning to build our family tree by finding out who our closest relatives are. 

   Family Tree Kids has all kinds of resources for getting started on your family tree.  My kids are going to write letters to aunts, uncles, etc. asking them to fill out this family group form as a starting point. Sure, it would be easy to email it as an attachment, but to practice letter-writing, we are going to use good old fashioned paper, envelopes, and stamps for this project.  They will learn how to properly address an envelope and how to structure a basic letter requesting information.  I don't know if their favorite part will be getting to put the letters in the mailbox at the post office and pulling down the door to make sure they dropped inside or getting letters back in the mail!

Monday, June 20, 2011

When the sky falls

Golf balls from the sky

No, those aren't golf balls, they're hailstones. We had the worst hailstorm I have ever experienced the other day.  It came upon us suddenly, and it felt and sounded like the sky was falling. It was coming down fast from above and from the sides as the wind swirled and ice pummeled everything. It only lasted about 5 or 6 minutes, but it was enough to freak out the kids and our dog (and Mommy.) My oldest grabbed his video camera and started filming and is already incorporating his footage into a movie.

June snowstorm?

It looked like it had snowed outside, and some of the ice was so thick that it even remained on the ground the next morning.  Our neighborhood looks like a war zone!

I'll huff, and I'll puff...

Our house looks like it was the victim of a drive-by shooting. But ours didn't get as many holes in it as some of our neighbors. My garden got beaten down a bit, but it already looks like it will bounce back. 

So, of course, we wanted to find out why hail happens. One of my favorite weather books is Eric Sloane's 1949 Weather Book which contains wonderful drawings and factual information about all forms of weather. 

There are many books about weather, but this one could be used as a supplementary science text, and it makes weather concepts clear and understandable.  I just love the style of Sloan's drawings:

From Weather Book by Eric Sloane 1949, Dover (2005) unabridged republication

Through our research, we found out that hail played a role in World History when a hailstorm destroyed so many crops in France in 1788 that it contributed to a food shortage.  This compounded civil unrest which led to the French Revolution.

The largest authenticated hailstone occurred in Kansas in 1970 and weighed in somewhere around 1 pound, 11 ounces, but many larger pieces have been reported all around the world, just not "officially."

In the midwest, crops are damaged by hailstones so frequently that many farmers carry hail insurance. Hail can totally destroy crops and kill livestock. Entire herds of sheep and cattle have been killed in hailstorms.

"Ostrish egg" sized hail fell in an 1885 Texas hailstorm.  The Chilled Catfish of Concho County sounds like a tall tale but is reported to be true.

Hailstorms raining down critters along with the ice have been reported numerous times -- everything from birds, frogs, water mussels, and worms to a turtle encased in ice.

The Let's-Read-and-Find-Out-Science book, Down Comes the Rain, explains the water cycle and includes a wonderful explanation of how hail forms, and this series of books can usually be found at the library.

Down Comes the Rain by Franklyn M. Branley (Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science 1997)

You can slice a hailstone in half and actually see the layers of ice that formed as it journeyed up and down before falling to earth. We discovered that if you hold a hailstone up against a bright light, you can also see the layers inside.

My youngest was terrified during the hailstorm, but now that he understands what hail is and why it happens, I hope he will feel more secure the next time one rolls in. I think my oldest must be a future storm chaser, though, because he wants to film in HD next time!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Summer Read-Along/Write-Along

If you are joining in on our Summer Read-Along, you may have read that Abilene discovers something hidden away under the floorboards in her room the first night she spends at Shady's house.
>Spoiler alert<
When she pulls out "the something," she finds that it is a cigar box containing "papers and odds and ends."  She discovers letters, a map, a cork, a fishhook, a silver dollar, a skeleton key, and a wooden doll:
"To me they were like treasures from a museum, things a person could study to learn about another time and the people who lived back then."

These "artifacts" become the framework for Miss Sadie's stories about 1918 Manifest, and Abilene finds herself seeking to uncover the mysteries of the past.

Our local cigar shop sells cigar boxes for a dollar--I've also gotten some at thrift stores.  If you cannot locate a cigar box, try using a shoebox or other empty box and even decorate it to look like Abilene's Lucky Bill cigar box.  Find some small trinkets such as Abilene's.  Some items could include a bottle cap, a spool of thread, a gumball machine prize, dice, a game piece, a safety pin, a paperclip, or a small magnifying glass.  Place several items in the box for your kids to "discover" as they write (or tell) their stories.

As Miss Sadie shares her stories with Abilene, Abilene begins to feel a connection to the people of Manifest.  Objects can connect us with the past, especially if we know the stories behind them.   I remember looking at trinkets in my Grandfather's drawer with him as he explained what each little thing meant to him.  A teeny-tiny telescope with the entire Lord's Prayer written inside it, a miniature violin with strings, a pocket watch, a boy scout knife--all of these things had a story behind them which I would have had to guess if he had not shared them with me.  Shows such as American Pickers are so fun to watch because you find out the history behind the items they showcase.

Encourage your kids to imagine who may have placed these items in the box for safekeeping and why each item is significant.  Have them come up with a story for each item and tell it or write it, either independently or round-robin style.  Ask them to be creative and use lots of descriptive words in their stories. If you have a child too young to write his story, act as his "secretary" and either type or write as he dictates it to you (and don't edit!)  Kids may also enjoy illustrating their stories.  These can be as long or as short as you'd like, and each item can inspire an independent story, or they can all fit together as Miss Sadie's stories do. 

Most importantly, have fun!

If you have any mementos in your own keepsake box, you may want to pull them out and have "show and tell" with your kids.  Take the time to tell your kids your stories.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Summer Read-Along

I hope you'll join us for our Summer Read-along
 with the 2011 John Newbery Medal Winner, Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool.

Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool

We'll be sharing the summer with Abilene and the folks of Manifest and learning a little bit about life in 1918 and life in 1936. This book is great as a read-aloud for multiple ages (mine are 7-13) as well as an independent reader for ages 9-14.

You can read a synopsis of this book here.

I'll be sharing some resources and ideas for extension activities as we go along. Read an excerpt of the book here.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

And sow it grows

Week of June 6

Week of May 23

Cantaloupe roaming free

Corn rows

Corn grows

Tomato plants looking for a better view

Baby mater

Poblano pepper

Basil/zuccini tug-o'-war
{Update 6/14/11--The basil won.  See those little white spots on the zuccini?  It's mold, and it is spreading from one squash plant to the next.  I finally gave up and pulled up the cucumber, the yellow squash, and one zuccini plant to try to prevent the mold from spreading any further.  The remaining zuccini had a couple of moldy leaves, and I broke them off; not sure if that's going to work, though.} 

Bean poles covered in pole beans

Thursday, June 9, 2011

All God's creatures...

All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures, great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.

-Cecil Frances Alexander

   A reverence for nature, a love for all of God's creatures, respect for life, compassion, selflessness, responsibility, joy--all were learned and cultivated in my boy through the care and keeping of his rats.  

   Remus and his brother Romulus joined our family two and a half years ago after being rescued from the feeder rat cage at the pet store.  My oldest has an established pet sitting business, doing everything from feeding cats and walking dogs to caring for exotic pets both in their homes and ours.  One client had him take care of her rats in our home because she was suffering from a serious illness and had her home on the market to sell.  She couldn't care for all her many creatures, and so she placed the two rats in my son's care.  He grew to really love them, and when she was unable to take them back after three months due to her illness, she asked him if he would like to keep them.  He, of course, said he did, and they lived with us for almost a year.  They were already senior citizens when he took them in, and they lived a very comfortable and busy life.  After their passing, my son really wanted to continue to be a rat owner, so we decided to rescue some from the pet store.  

   I have to admit that I was not a rat person when the first two entered our lives.  My only experience with rats had been with a very wild and high-jumping one that had infiltrated our pantry through a hole left by the plumber--no fun at all.  However, after a few days with Tonks and Bella, I realized how fun they really were.  They were clean, smart, and much easier to take care of than any other pocket-pet we'd ever had.  They slept all night (unlike hamsters,) and they were sweet and gentle and loved to be held (unlike hamsters,) and they were clean and fastidious with their nests.  They quickly became part of our family.

   If my 13-year-old's bedroom door is ever closed, it is because he is holding the rats or has his cockatiel out of her cage and doesn't want the cats to come into his room.  He can be found sitting on his bed playing his guitar or reading a book with his bird sitting on his head and a rat nestled in the crook of his arm.  He keeps their cages in order, and he cleans their bowls and prepares fresh food and water for them every day.  He is diligent and responsible and caring and loving.  For the past two weeks as Remus had started ailing, my son hand fed him with baby food and chunks of melon.  Remus finally quit eating or drinking, and he passed away last night.  My son kept vigil last night, holding Remus and checking on him regularly.  When he came to wake me up at 3:30, he told me he thought Remus had died.  He held him tenderly, and we wrapped him in a blanket and prepared a box for him.

   I have watched my son grow this year from a boy to almost a man as he has shot up in height and his voice has gotten deeper, but he showed his true maturity over these past weeks as he cared for Remus. 

(aka Harry Remus Potter)
March 2009-June 2011

Friday, June 3, 2011

Friday Photo

First Harvest!

Curriculum Fair: A little of this/A little of that

For language arts this year, I have pieced together a "curriculum" that works for us. I have a first grader, a fourth grader, and a seventh grader.

All ages

English from the Roots Up Latin and Greek Root Word Cards are easy to use with all ages. These flashcards have a word root on one side along with its origin and the meaning on the reverse side along with several examples of words containing the root. We use these by taking one card a week and reviewing it every day. This is an awesome vocabulary booster, and the knowledge learned will be beneficial on future tests such as SAT (it's never too early to start, right?) They are reasonably affordable (around $18 for 100 cards.)

Early Learners

My favorite resource for my young learners has been the Explode the Code series, which is the best I've seen for teaching phonics, phonemic awareness, and for introducing new vocabulary. While the teacher's guides are not absolutely essential to using these books (other than one student page per lesson which requires instructions,) they do give suggestions for corresponding picture books and reinforcement activities. The student books are consumable, but they are very affordable, especially when compared to other phonics programs.

The Handwriting Without Tears books are also consumable, yet affordable, and they fit nicely with the Explode the Code books. You can skip around in the books to correlate the letters being taught. Their slate chalkboard, Stamp and See Screen, and Roll-a-Dough Letters are used over and over again in our house. Hands-on learners (and wiggly boys) especially benefit from these additional resources. {Update: HWT now also has a Wet-Dry-Try app!}

Honey for a Child's Heart by Gladys Hunt  and Teaching Character Through Literature by Beautiful Feet Books are wonderful resources for putting together a home library of excellent reading and read-aloud books. Because of their exposure to books, my kids each always have a book beside their beds, are all writing their own books/scripts/screenplays/songs/journals/newspapers, and enthusiastically keep their own book log notebooks. We read every day.

Upper Elementary

First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind by Jessie Wise and Sarah Buffington has been a really good fit for my 4th grader in addition to the resources mentioned above. This program incorporates grammar and compostion in a consumable student book (around $20) with a scripted teacher's guide (around $30) that includes scripted lessons and answer keys. My only complaint is that the student text is a large softbound book, and it doesn't lay flat when open, making it cumbersome to write on some of the pages. {I recommend getting the binding sliced off at a print/copy shop and putting the pages in a notebook.}

BJU Press Spelling for Christian Schools is a straightforward and fun spelling program. The student text ($18) includes 36 units, a section of Dictionary Activities, a Spelling Dictionary, and a Word Bank. Each unit covers 20 words, two pages of reinforcement activities, and a Journal Entry Idea section. My son uses a moleskine notebook to illustrate and write each journal entry, such as:

"Castles are full of adventure!  You can almost hear the clanking of knights in silver armor, the rustle of a princess in a long, satiny gown, or the singing of a wandering bard and the music of his lute.  Winding staircases lead to towers and rooms with gold and velvet furnishings--or dungeons!  Where will they lead you?"  

I use this book on its own without a teacher's guide.

Middle School

BJU Press Writing and Grammar.  Again, a straightforward, complete program for composition and grammar. The student text is all-inclusive--instructions, handbook, and work text all-in-one.  A teacher's guide is available but not necessary unless you need more help with the grammar.

Wordly Wise vocabulary. A bargain at around $10, these books teach vocabulary and reading comprehension skills in short bites. Book 8 includes words such as dissension, irrepressible, pestilence, vehement, and wrest. You can look at the word lists in the back of each book to determine which level would best work with your student, or just use the level that corresponds with their grade. We simply move on to the next book once one is completed, so my 7th grader is using Book 8. These books include the definitions and pronunciations of the words in the word lists, so no dictionary-looking-up is required.

Additional resources we like are Writers INC, A Student Handbook for Writing and Learning, The Scribner Handbook for Writers, American Dictionary of the English Language--Noah Webster 1858 Facsimile Edition, and Compact Oxford Thesaurus.

I also recommend the NaNoWriMo and Script Frenzy sites for kids who love to write. My son has written both a novel and a screenplay through their novel writing month and script writing month, and their sites have tons of resources for educators.

What do you do for language arts in your homeschool?