Stained Glass Windows

This past week (yes, I am behind in posting) at our storytime, we made a very cool project. The theme was in honor of Easer but the process and the outcome were all about the kids learning and exploring. We made stained glass windows.

The process is quite simple for such an elegant out come. You begin with an outline of a shape and then apply that shape to length of clear contact paper. Fill in the shape with precut (or torn) squares (or odd shapes) of colorful tissue paper. Apply the tissue paper to the open area on the contact paper. Cut a second length of contact paper and "laminate" the tissue covered shape. Trim to fit and Voila... you have a stained glass effect. Hang it in a window and get the effect of translucent art.

You Get a Two for

I have been secretly taking part in Weekly Unplugged Projects, but have never really posted photos of our projects before because either the blog wasn't up and running yet or we would do it at the end of the week (more like the weekend.) This week I decided I would post the projects for our "Wood Theme" and "Egg Theme". A bit of disclaimer here... when you have two "learners" spread so far apart in age (middle schooler and toddler) and a third one that is no where near participating, (but very adamant about wanting to touch, eat, slobber everything) projects are usually geared towards one age and tweaked for the other age. On Friday, we did our "wood" project... only Axel wanted to participate, Gabby's idea of participating was by using her brother's invention. Unfortunately, I didn't get a picture of Gabby's contribution but Axel displayed great craftsmanship.

Sadly, I wasn't able to get pictures of the process because the project was completed at his grandma's house.

For our "unplugged egg project" we colored eggs in a different way... we "marble painted" the eggs (with a twist on the concept, we put paint in a tray and then rolled around the eggs in it- we added a lid so the eggs wouldn't go flying out- Gabby can get very excitied at times). Axel (and his best friend) used paint brushes as well as the "marble" technique.

The pictures don't actually do the final product justice (or the process for that matter) but they were quite colorful and interesting. Very swirly and feathered looking.

Next week's challenge is "rocks". Get those wheels turning, and let see what you can come up with.

Book Post

Because I have so much on my plate at any given time, I have decided to do my book post a bit different than everybody else. I have decided that I will update my Shelfari with our new books and rank them there as we read them. (If you pass your cursor over the book it will give you my personal rankings and you can even read a brief description of each book, you can additionally leave you opinion as well or a comment) I usually will be adding books each Thursday, and will try to review at least one book a week in a separate post.

This week's book review is Little Pea, Gabby loved this book! It's a book about how a little pea loves to do all the regular little pea things; play at the playground, hearing stories, etc. But, like all little peas (people) he didn't like his yucky part of dinner "candy" but he learned how to eat the "candy" in order to have dessert... can you guess what his dessert would be? I won't spoil the end of the book you'll have to read it for yourself to find out.

Gabby really liked the simple uncluttered illustration and the way "Mama" pea, "Daaaadeeee" pea, and "baby" pea were all very distinguishable. She enjoyed pointing out all of the activities that she and baby pea both liked doing. I gave this book 5 stars simply because of Gabby's enjoyment and the simplicity of the story and illustrations. Let me know if any of you have ever read this one or if you check it out, and if anyone has any suggestions of something comparable please let me know, Gabby would love to have more books in this same style.

Nature Faire

Our homeschool group posted a local Nature Faire this past weekend, but unfortunately we could not attend because the "Head Dean" (a.k.a. Daddy) and I hosted a Nature Faire of our own. Well, while not exactly a "Nature Faire" is was very informative and the kids got "a whole lotta'" nature. In short we cleared our almost half acre yard (front AND back.) We discover many interesting things and were puzzled by most. Being former "city dwellers" we don't know a great deal about "country" stuff. We don't which animals, made which tracks. We don't know all 1,000,000 species of ants (all I knew were black, red, fire, and carpenter ants) well that was until this weekend. We didn't know much about the plants and weeds we were pulling out. But, one of the great things about living out in the country is you tend to have neighbors that are neighborly and then you also tend to have neighbors which are treasured friends. Our next door neighbors, are an older couple that have no children or grandchildren of their own and have taken to being extended family to us and our children. Our surrogate family came over this weekend and offered to lend a hand. Because they are older we declined but they insisted. We took them up on their offer on one condition, that the way they could help us was by educating us and the kids about all of our finds. They agreed. "WE" all learned so much from them and Axel was enthralled with all this knowledge. All we kept on hearing to of him was "Hey Wayne, what's this? Is it poisonous? What does it eat? Why is it growing here? What animal made these kinda' marks?" The questions went on and on, and the beauty of it was that Axel actually learned the names of everything, learned about their characteristics, learned about their place in our ecosystem. It was some of the best "on hand" learning I think I have ever witnessed. How awe inspiring to see an elderly man teaching an eager young boy, and there being a sincere interest and desire to learn and teach. Who would have ever thought that a teenager would want to "do school" on a weekend?

These are few snap shots of all the "fun" we had:

Click to play Spring 2008
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This is what we learned about (it is in slide show form to spare one of my closest friends any discomfort- you know who you are so don't watch it) Informative links to follow.

Click to play Yard Work
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Check out these links to learn more about some of the things we learned:
Carpenter Ants

Ringneck Snake

Garter Snake

Air Potato

Is it All You Imagined it Would Be?

Okay, those of you who made it over from Mad Ramblings of a Sleep Deprived Mom... take a gander then go back.... visit everyday if you like, but there can only be one cheater in this relationship! For all others WELCOME, stay a while, kick up your tootsies; grab a book and relax or a few crayons and leave your mark.

A Homeschooler's Dream

Around here we make sure to make it to storytime at the library every week. It fulfills many necessities for our schoolhouse. The first one is the obvious one - Storytime itself, the second necessity is the switching out of the prior week's books for a fresh set they always have waiting for me, also it gives Gabby the chance to explore and see a sea of books (she's always had a fascination with books), it also teaches her how to acted appropriately in different situations - being quiet while older patrons read, etc., next it provides needed socialization with other children her age, last and certainly not least we have a wonderful librarian who believe in "the process not the product" for all the follow up crafts.

Storytime is something special and unique around here, our librarian puts a lot of thought and effort in to her planning. She provides each attendee with a packet a the end of each session with finger plays, songs, crafts, science projects, art ideas and child friendly cooking recipes all relating back to the stories from storytime. She even plans special events for the children, within a few weeks we'll be having a princess tea party- all the girls are to go dressed in their princess outfits and the county's pageant winner will host a tea party. Not only is she thorough in her planning and in her choice of activity, she is diligent about learning each child's name and making them feel welcomed. But, the best part of storytime is the activities. Last week the children made tie-dyed butterflies and collage butterflies in celebration of spring. This week the children were all surprised to see their artwork from last week, beautifully and artfully on display in the library's entry hall. This week's activity was collage eggs - in honor of Easter, she supplied the children with an egg shaped cut out and plenty of feathers, crayons, buttons, foam shapes, yarn- you name it she had it. I have lived in other areas where storytime was just slapped together and they never had a decent turn out but to our library staff's credit we always have at least 20 children that show up regularly. Now if that isn't a homeschooler's dream library I don't know what is.

The Dreaded "S" Word

Every homeschooler knows it, hears it and is badgered questioned about it... The Dreaded "S" word, say it with me S-O-C-I-A-L-I-Z-A-T-I-O-N.... It's not a dirty word and believe it or not homeschooled children do socialize, it just takes more of an effort and commitment of the parents' behalf. Homeschoolers socialize everyday with a variety of people, they socialize the way people are supposed to socialize. They socialize with the letter carriers, librarians, grocery store cashiers, neighbors, bank tellers....all those are obvious but what may not be obvious is the depth of their learning by socializing with others outside of their designated peer groups. Many homeschoolers realize the importance of, not only, exposing your children to other non-related children but also to a vast age range of children. There is nothing more beautiful and educational than to see a pre-teen "teaching" a kindergartner how to do something. There is something special about teaching a child empathy by exposure. It's amazing when a teenager will voluntarily pair themselves up with an elementary aged child to "work" on a project together. Granted these opportunities are usually only afforded to homeschoolers that find or create groups or participate in c-ops but they are out there. It's becoming the growing majority amongst the homeschool crowd.

I have been fortunate enough to have found a great group and knowing that we fit in nicely. This is a wonderful group, with plenty of planned activities and field trips to keep any homeschooled schedule busy beyond belief.

Last week we attended an Escape School Presentation where the children had the opportunity to hear about abduction situations and gave them the knowledge and tools to avoid and escape potentially dangerous situations. It was very educational and very informative for the children in a nonthreatening way.

Earlier this week when went on a fossil dig. The kids and parents (and there were many of both) were set free to dig and recover fossils at a near by mine. The kids discovered many treasures to take home and add to their collections.

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Kool- Aid... it Ain't Just for Drinking in this Schoolhouse

By far one of the favorite activities in our schoolhouse is "kool-aid" play-doh. Personally, I have always loved making it... the smell, color and texture are amazing. It holds up really well, last an exceptionally long time (I still have some from a year ago) and I have a fail proof recipe (I'll attach the recipe at the end.) The only issues with this recipe are; if the kool-aid is not mixed into the flour before adding the liquids it will stain your hands (comes off with a bit of washing though)I completely avoid this problem (with the little one)by putting all ingredients into a large zip lock bag. And the only other issue is that you are working with boiling water. I resolve this issue by using a folded up towel or oven mitts to combine the mixture through the bag (or if doing it in a bowl we use a large spoon) until it has cooled enough to work with. Then it gets plopped out on the table and they go at it. The mixture is deceiving though... you'll think, "it's not going to come together!" and in a blink of an eye it does!!! Then you think... "ohh, there's going to be flour spots", but as they work with the dough it not only mixes well the texture becomes smooth as silk... Try it out and let me know how it goes....

Just be forewarned... Keep an eye on the little ones, they will definitely want to eat this one- just because it smells so delicious...(even though the dough is made out of all edible materials- I am sure it would upset a little tummy with all that salt!)

This day we used Grape, Lemon-Lime and Cherry! YUMMMMMMYYYYY!

Kool-Aid Play Dough
Every child loves the smell of this play-doh!

2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup salt
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cups boiling water
2 packages unsweetened Kool-Aid
Mix dry ingredients. Add oil and water. Wearing gloves, or in a large zip lock bag, knead for 10 minutes. Store in zip lock bag or other sealed container.


Your hands may smell of the Kool-Aid flavor even with gloves.
The powder has both flavoring and color which makes it great for this craft.

Working at her "Desk"

They all get in on the act when it's play-doh.

Outta' Sight

We have a large rolling island in our kitchen. Dear Frank outfitted the end with a collapsible table. We added a rod with a hanging basket and cup to rotate "materials" each week. The week this photo was taken we were using play-doh. The play-doh is inside the plastic box, the cookie cutters are also located within the basket and cutting, rolling instruments are located within the cup.
This idea has worked out well for us. It not only is at her height and lends itself to be used in a variety of ways; playing, working, eating, "cooking", etc... but it can be put away and stored out of sight when need be.

Also, a huge plus was the price. We did all this for less than $35... Thank you IKEA (my new favorite store)

The School Room

(Lovingly refereed to in our home as the "Baby Playroom" (we have the older kid playroom down the hall) as you can tell it looks like any ordinary playroom; children learn where they play, don't they?)

These accommodations are only temporary. Baby EE still shares this room. Soon his sleeping quarters will be relocated.

We additionally, use the family room and the lanai daily.

The family room is outfitted with all the large motor skill activities; slide, swing, climbing blocks, riding cars, balls, bowling.
There are also the dramatic play props; play kitchen, baby doll strollers, highchair, playpen, swing, play shopping cart... etc. In a following post I will outline the other uses for our family room.

This room while not quite divide the way I wish, due to lack of space, is separated into:

A block area (tall cubbies and hanging basket on the left)
wood city blocks
mega blocks
large cardboard blocks in assorted color and sizes
pop 'ems
foam blocks in assorted colors and sizes

Manipulative's (tabletop toys) Area
matching toys
stringing toys (buttons, beads)
Mr. Potato Head and Friends

Puzzle Area (Located under TV)
I rotate these often and at any given time have 10-15 put away

Next set of bins contain many different things
Musical Instruments
Electronic "learning" toys
Homemade learning material (I will post pictures in another post)
Baby Dolls
Baby Doll Accessories

To the Right of the those bins is a large mirror
The Role Play Area
Basket below is filled with; play cameras, cell phones, sunglasses etc...
Also, in this area is a doctor kit and out of sight are the cleaning props

There is also a chalk-board-top table in the center of the room, which facilitates not only art but table top learning as well.

The reading nook is out of the camera's view. It has a "pod" chair with pillows and baskets surrounding it. The baskets are filled with a variety of books; board books, fabric books, touch and feel books, story books, etc. which are rotated weekly. Other baskets have puppets, stuffed animals and assorted story props.

Exprience Based Learning

Welcome, to our little school house... Okay, it's just our house but it is where my children learn. The truth is every parent lives in a schoolhouse. Learning at home is just natural, all children do it. As babies they learn how to talk, walk and "SOCIALIZE" (that's right I threw out that big "S" word- known far and wide to all homeschoolers) by just socializing with siblings, parents and daily interactions with others. Nothing changes when you want them to start learning their ABC's and 123's. The same way you cheer on and coach your little one, gently hold their hands and guide them as they take their first steps, the same holds true for learning how to identify letters, numbers, colors and shapes.
Slowly, as their interest grows you, you grow with them. They'll request "just one more book", at bedtime... and that is how the love of reading and knowlege of the printed word begins. Children learn first through exprience and then through repetion. They grasp knowledge through the course of daily life. Every parent has exprienced that moment when they say "WOW, when did they learn that?" Probably long before the parent even thought they should be "learning" said action.

So with this I will embark on archiving my toddler's homeschooling adventure and later to follow my infant's. (My oldest will once again be homeschooled next year- so I will begin chronicalling his journey come summer/ fall.)

I hope to fill these pages with our days' events. And I will out of respect for my "hands on", "exprience based" teaching methodology and philosophies, post as many pictures as possible (being a visual learner myself.) But be forewarned that our days are not filled with "one planned activity after another", I intentionally limit them to one per day (when attitudes and interests permit.) I believe in "free play", allowing for creativity and natural learning to take place. Young children have many years of formalized learning ahead, why push them? Learning at this age should be fun and self guided, self correctable, all while building a positive self esteem and a "can do" attitude. It's all about the process, not the product.

Come along for the exprience and I hope we'll all learn something together.