Monday, October 31, 2011

My Favorite Part of Halloween

   The older my boys get, the more interesting (or gross) their jack-'o-lanterns get.  The mummy took a good two hours of patient drawing and scooping, my youngest decided his needed "firey" eyes, and there appears to have been a murder (too much Alfred Hitchcock lately.) 

   The best part has to be the seeds...

   Roasted with a little olive oil and coarse salt--the best part of Halloween.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Apple Butter

   Here is the perfect way to make your house smell delicious on a cold and wet fall day.  We went on a field trip last week to a farm where the boys got to pick pumpkins and fill a small bag with apples.  The apples were fine but looked like they had seen better days.

   The boys each brought home some green ones and some red ones, and we ended up with so many, I decided to use them for apple butter.  This recipe is easy, and the results are yummy:

Crockpot Apple Butter

Peel and slice apples (I used about 12-15 small to medium) into crockpot or slow-cooker

Sprinkle over top--1 cup sugar
                             2 tsp. cinnamon
                             1/2 tsp. ground cloves
                             1/2 tsp. apple pie spice

Pour 1/2 cup apple juice over top.

Cover and cook on low for 4-5 hours, then mash apples with potato masher, stir, re-cover, and cook for another hour or two.

Boil canning jars, rings, and lids, and then add apple butter mixture to hot jars, leaving about 1/2 inch at top.  Put on lids and rings, and boil filled jars for 10 minutes to seal.             

Friday, October 28, 2011

Curriculum Fair: Math, Take 2

Curriculum Fair is a place for me to share the curriculum we use. If you check out my other posts in this series,
 you'll see how much we modify and revamp as we go along. Our homeschooling journey is always changing!

One of the greatest things about homeschooling is having the freedom to modify and re-vamp as needed. I usually take a look at where we are in the fall and do a little tweaking wherever it may be needed.

I posted a while back about our math curriculum for this year, and we have recently incorporated another program into our math studies: Teaching Textbooks.

The main reason we decided to go with this is that the program is highly interactive and computer-based, and it is like having a math tutor in your home. As I mentioned earlier, math is not my strong point, so I felt I needed a program that could virtually "take over" for me in many ways. I am still able to assist my kids if they need it, but this program is really all-inclusive, and the boys are having fun using it.  

My oldest commented that his favorite part is knowing how much time it will take him to do a lesson. Each lesson is broken down so that you watch the lecture, do some practice exercises, and then complete the problems. If you miss one, you get immediate feedback, and then you can ask for an explanation for solving the problem. The student can master each concept before moving ahead.  

All the prep work is done for you, so all the student has to do is pop in the CD and start working.  It even keeps a "gradebook" for you. 

We are still using the other materials I wrote about before as supplements, but I felt like we needed to add more "meat" to our math curriculum, and this seems like a good fit for my older two. After taking the placement tests, we chose to start with Math 5 and Math 7, and if all goes well, we will add Math 3 for my youngest next year. 

What are you using for math in your homeschool? Please share what has worked/hasn't worked for you!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Nature Exchange


The folks over at The Magnifying Glass are hosting a nature exchange.  What a great excuse to go on some nature walks!  We are signed up, and we've already begun collecting treasures to mail off to our exchange buddies.  You can still sign up until November 2 and join the fun.

Monday, October 24, 2011

End of season cupcakes

   Fall baseball season just came to a close, and we made baseball cupcakes for the end-of-season trophy dinner.  To decorate them, we used vanilla frosting and peel-apart cherry twizzlers to make "laces."  They were a big "hit" (sorry, couldn't help it.)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

DIY: Cereal Box Tents

   A few bounty hunters and ewoks wanted to go camping with us last weekend, so we made them some tents to bring along with their playmobil camping gear. 

   Using cardboard from a cereal box, we cut three rectangles, taped them together to form a triangle, and then used the end as a template to cut out a triangle piece for the back. 

   Then we painted the top two outside pieces with tacky glue, and added a piece of felt, overlapping it at the front.  Once the glue adhered, we trimmed off the excess felt and cut it up the center front to form flaps.  We also cut out a triangle to add to the outside back.

   To make the flaps stay open, we cut out tiny tabs of stick-on velcro, using the scratchy side, and adhered them to the inside corners of the flaps.  The velcro will cling to the felt when you roll the flaps back.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Camping weather

   It's camping weather in our neck of the woods--warm days, cool evenings, chilly mornings.  We headed out to the state park, set up the tent, stocked firewood, told scary stories, toasted marshmallows, cooked hot dogs over the fire, and rented a canoe.  

   Everyone came home a little dirty and sleep-deprived, but all agreed that it made for a perfect weekend vacation.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Taking the day outside

   Some days are just meant for spending outside, putting away the books for awhile and exploring the world.  The learning that takes place is a bonus, but the point is to refresh and wonder--building a beaver dam, looking for fish, making leaf boats, observing unusual plants and bugs, and maybe even bringing home a jar of creek water to view under the microscope.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

How do you remove red-eye from a spider?

It's nearly impossible for me to get a photo where you can actually see the web, but this was the best of the bunch, and you can see the spider "hiding" in the upper right corner.  We've been reading about spiders in science, and my son came running inside to get me to come see this huge web over our back porch steps. 


It looked right at the camera for this one, and then hid its head under its legs until we went back inside.

We weren't able to find one like this in our field guide, but we'd love to know what it is.


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Park days are for moms

   Park day is as refreshing for me as it is for my kids.  Sitting around with other moms-- knitting, crocheting, sharing books, talking, griping, venting, comforting, laughing.  I love the time spent with these "girls" while the kids run around, fight their light saber battles, play, and make new friends.  Some days are much better spent when the schoolwork is set aside for a little while and recess calls.  It is important to check in with this network of support and wisdom once in a while and make it a priority on the calendar, and we will definitely be doing it again next week.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Nature Journal: Garden Spider

Some orb weavers add a zigzag across parts of the web
to help strengthen it.

  Strewn across the rosemary, a series of webs glistens in the morning sunlight.  We find three woven tapestries, but where is she?  We keep searching and observing the patterns in her web and notice a small downy feather sticking to it, along with bits and pieces of leaves and needles.  As we scan the lengths of the webs, we spot her in the back, hidden away in the shadows.

   She crawls out to the center to claim ownership of her artistry, her bold yellow body like a lantern.  "Look with caution,"  she demands.  We observe her with respect and awe for the material she has woven, and we thank her for allowing us to visit her gallery.

Yellow Garden Spider
Argiope aurantia

Monday, October 3, 2011

Magic Mushroom Prints

   With a change in the weather, we are also suddenly seeing mushrooms everywhere.  They are along the roadside, in fields, in the woods, and in our yard.  This huge one was doomed to be run over with the lawnmower, so we pulled it up to examine it's parts and make some easy art to add to the nature journal.  After carefully breaking off the stem, we placed the mushroom cap on a piece of orange paper.  (We decided on a darker color of paper since the underside of the mushroom was light.  Some mushrooms are darker underneath, and the print will show up better on light colored paper.)  And then, we let it sit for an hour or so. 

   After slowly lifting the mushroom top straight up off the paper, we were left with a print!  

   How did that work?  Mushrooms have spores, which is what they use to reproduce.  The spores are inside the gills on the underside of the cap.  If you let the cap sit for awhile, the spores will be left behind on the paper, leaving a print.