Friday, October 30, 2009

Book Review: The Virginian

I think I started this book back in August! I'm embarrassed to admit that, but it is true. Wow, it's been really hard to find time to read since school started. Hm...go figure.

But besides that, I had a really really slow start to this book. Westerns are not usually my favorites and I had my doubts about this book but took my chances. Boy am I glad I did. I never would have read this book if it hadn't been given to me as required reading before attending a Thomas Jefferson education Home Schooling Seminar in Portland this fall. The seminar was focusing on how to teach a piece of classic literature to your kids. Unfortunately, I never made it to the seminar. But I'm grateful for the motivation to pick up this book.

It wasn't until after I started reading that I learned that this book was the origins of a famous 1960's TV series. And after searching on You Tube, I discovered that there are much more recent films/shows based on this book as well. There was even a musical!

In a nut shell, it's that familiar old story line of boy meets girl. She's educated and has a family name to live up to. He's a rough and tumble cowboy with very little education but was blessed with intellect, courage, a keen conscience, wisdom, determination, vision, patience, and a work ethic that won't quit. He inevitably wins her over (though nearly missed his chance) and she is smitten by his ultimately superior character and charm.

But there are other story lines, or themes in this book, not the least of which is another familiar one: Obtaining the American Dream by overcoming any and all obstacles. Nothing can stop a dream from becoming reality in the wild west where men were truly free. Nothing, of course, except one's own self.

The book adeptly handles other delicate issues and moral questions such as class envy, religion (or lack thereof), and justice of the law in a land that was often lawless.

I loved this book. And, as is usually the case after I finish an excellent book, I find myself wishing that it were not over. I always feel like I've said good bye to a good friend that I will not see for a very long time when I finish a great piece of literature.

In fact, I was so taken by this book that I began to look for country side real estate and thought about adding some rustic decor to my home. There most certainly is a power in this book that brings to life an era when responsibility lie squarely upon the shoulders of the INDIVIDUAL (i.e. not the government) to make sure that he/she got what was wanted out of life. Something in me yearns for those times when the word "bailout' applied only to hay and not an entitlement-hungry, zoned out, morally decadent generation of has-been citizens.

I highly recommend this book. It offers lessons in nearly all areas of life including history, love, and the importance of life-long learning. I hope you enjoy it. If you have read it and have a comment to share, please do!


Published Author at Age 6

My 6yo and I have been discussing the writing process: pre writing, rough draft, editing, final draft, illustrating and publishing.

To complete the process, I told her that we would indeed publish her finished work. So, without further ado, may I present to you, Chickens Walk on Two Tiny Feet.

Dancing Raisins

This was a fun one for my 2yo, but also managed to captivate my 3yo and 6yo for a bit.

Dump some baking soda raisins and vinegar into a jar and wait. The bubbles fill the crevices of the raisins and make them float (like water wings on your baby). Then as they rise to the top, the bubbles pop, the raisin sinks, and it starts all over. Fun to watch.

Don't let your raisins soak for too long after the experiment. Vinegar and soggy raisins are not pretty.

Skip Counting Ideas

I love our 100s board. I paid a pretty penny for it from Insta-Learn, a local WA company, but I think it has been worth it. We've used it in so many ways, and I'm sure we will continue to do so. It comes with chips that correspond to each number. And each chip has a "key" or series of notches on the bottom that is unique. So it will only fit in its proper place.

Here you see us using the 100s board without the chips. We're using puffballs to practice our skip counting by 3s and 4s. It was a very helpful visual.

We also used some Montessori style bead chains to practice our skip counting.

October Art Projects

I know the month is over and sharing ideas on October art projects is a bit pointless, but just for future reference and to remember all the fun we had, here are some of the fun projects we did during table time this month:

These are just brown lunch bags stuffed with newspapers and painted.

These are made by placing construction paper cut outs between 2 pieces of wax paper and then ironing. We had a lot of fun with them.


Pretty self explanatory.

And Spiders:

We also took a walk to collect fall leaves and pinned them up on the line that also supports our ghosts and spiders:

Here's one that is a bit off topic but the kids loved it:
Balloon Printing:
I forget where I got this idea. I think it was from the workbox Littles yahoo group. I covered our table with white paper (from a roll), poured paint in a tray for them all to share, and let them have at it. Of course, by then end we had just a bunch of grayish blackish paint, but the process was enjoyable. And the finished product was something like a mural that now hangs on our wall.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Alphabet Exercise Cards

I saw some really great alphabet exercise cards on one of the yahoo groups I follow. But they were all in color (my printer is NOT) and I wanted so spice them up with a few more challenging exercises.

So...I made up some of my own and I'm happy to share them with you here:

For some reason Google docs always changes my formatting so they don't look as pretty as the originals. Oh well. Hope they are useful to somebody out there.

And you can ignore the last 1.5 pages if you like. I was trying to save space for another project of mine, which entails a 3-part matching game for different country flags.

I thought it would be fun to pick out the cards that spell the child's name, or pick an exercise to go with the letter of the week, or spell out the subject of a workbox and do the exercises before taking out the workbox. Lots of possibilities. I'm just looking for ways to keep my kids moving as the weather gets wet and cold.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Christmas Wish List

Here's something I really want to get my kids for Christmas

Here's what Glenn Beck says about his new book for kids:

"I've gotten so sick of complaining about other people's books targeting our kids that I figured I'd just write my own. But instead of hidden messages about global warming, universal healthcare, and greedy corporations, I filled my book with messages about controversial things like family, faith and forgiveness."

Friday, October 23, 2009

Fun American History

There's yet another great yahoo group that I love called Click Schooling. They review lots of great online learning resources.

Diane runs the group and I am not allowed to share her whole review with you due to copy write laws, but here's the link from the Smithsonian regarding that famous George Washington painting you have seen your whole life, but probably know very little about

Recommended Website:
Smithsonian' s George Washington: The Portrait

There is a great section for kids with all kinds of learning tools.


Pumpkin Lessons

I just barely read this in our work box yahoo group and thought it was so fun that I'd share it here as well:

Pumpkin Places
"Fresh from the World" is a program by the University of Illinois extension that explores different aspects of food in our lives. There are a series of slideshow videos – this one is "Pumpkins…The Scary Squash!"

There are "Back" and "Next" buttons, which are helpful to review information. For the sake of comprehension, kids can view this once just to get familiar with it, a second time to make a note of vocabulary (especially words they don't know), and then a third time to answer the questions on this worksheet:

Want to carve a pumpkin, but with no mess? Here is a way your kids can do just that!

And finally, here's a great way for your students to write a scary story while practicing parts of speech. Go to Spooky Night ad-lib where kids fill in the blanks with the correct parts of speech and make some silly – er, scary – stories! You can even print them out.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Growing Book Club

Here's another fun update on our Family-to-Family book club.

Our friends chose Charlotte's Web to read for our last book club and it was a huge hit with the kids. They also hosted the meeting and planned the most adorable activities for the kids.

We made spiders out of cupcakes and string licorice. The best part were the paper plate webs the kids made (center cut out with holes punched around edge and laced with yarn), complete with words cut from newspaper just like the ones Templeton would have chosen for Charlotte. Very cute. The kids had a blast.

So the word is spreading and we now have a third family joining the book club. They have chosen a really fun book for us to read this time:

And I'm pleased to say that in the last 2 days we had a fourth family join us! It's so terrific to see other families join us in our love of literature. What a fun way to bring families together while teaching children that reading is a life long pursuit for all of us. I couldn't be happier about the way things are turning out!

The Ressurection

I had posted this little story on my family blog a few weeks ago. But as I re-read it, I noticed again how big an impact good literature can have on our lives and the important discussions it can initiate with our children.

So I'm sharing this with you here as yet another example of how good literature can waken even the youngest of souls to everlasting truths.

We read Charlotte’s Web a while back. If you have read it you know it’s about a pig named Wilbur who is afraid that he will be killed by the farmer at Christmas time. His Spider Friend, Charlotte, resolves to keep him a live by making everyone believe he is “some pig”.

Well, more than once in the book, Wilbur laments his situation by repeatedly saying, “I don’t want to die….I don’t want to die….”

Poor Sofia was truly distressed by these passages and started asking me lots of questions about death. How do you die? Why do you die? Am I gong to die? Are you going to die? When? And then she would always end the conversation in a sad whiny voice with, “Moooom. I don’t want to DIE!’ and then I’d do my best to console her.

Well, then about a week ago, I was in the bathtub reading the Ensign (a magazine published by the LDS church). Sofie sauntered in and stood next to me, looking at pictures in the magazine. She pointed to a picture of Christ (I can’t remember which picture it was) and asked me about it. Our conversation, led by the picture, was about Christ’s death and resurrection. I explained very simply that Jesus died. "Oh, He did??"

And then I explained that he is alive again. "OH HE IS????" And that because he died and lives again, we can all live again with him after we die.

Her reaction to this glad news was so sweet, so sincere, so pure…I can hardly describe it. Her face literally brightened and she smiled so big. “Oh mommy! That makes me so happyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!!”

And for one second I was able to look into a child’s heart with all it’s innocence and purity. She didn’t doubt or question the resurrection. She accepted it fully and with joy. She understood it immediately and laid aside her fears of death. We’ve never had a sad conversation about death since.

Being “mom” is sometimes draining, EXHAUSTING, mundane and very demanding. These special little moments when we get a glance at the bigger picture are the best, sweetest rewards. And there’s no other way to earn them. So glad I get to be mom and be part of these little awakenings in each of their little souls.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Pumpkin Snacks

Here's another way to make pumpkins a fun and yummy part of your October:

Cut a face into any size flour tortilla.

Brush the tortilla with vegetable oil that has been tinted with 2 parts yellow and 1 part red food coloring.

Fry it gently (both sides) and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar while still warm.


(here's one that hasn't been munched yet)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Learning from Literature

As a Thomas Jefferson Education proponent, I fully endorse the use of classic literature (and other media) to teach valuable life lessons and educate our children.

I was really encouraged to find this article that supports this use of literature to teach one particular lesson of triumph over hard and difficult times.

I'm quoting directly from

"Let me share with you three approaches to handling growth and change and our tomorrows. To illustrate the first, do you remember the famous book Gone with the Wind? Scarlett O'Hara, in times of great stress, uses a phrase that is characteristic of her approach to facing difficult challenges. "I won't think about that now," she says. "I'll think of it all tomorrow. . . . After all, tomorrow is another day."

We see another approach in the popular play Annie. Annie, an orphan child, is mistreated, abandoned, and neglected, with no real evidence of having a brighter future. But in Annie's mind she has hope; she has faith. As she sings those famous words, "The sun will come out tomorrow," she lifts and leads herself and others out of the darkness of their despair into the sunshine of hope. Annie doesn't know what tomorrow will bring, but there is no question of her unwavering optimism.

The third approach is found in the musical The Unsinkable Molly Brown
. We see Molly at the beginning as a backwoods girl with few opportunities, no education, and no refinement. While wrestling with her adopted brothers she is pinned down, and one of them yells, "You're down, Molly! You're down!" Molly responds, "I ain't down! And even if I was, you'd sure never hear it from me 'cause I hate the word down, but I love the word up 'cause that means hope. And that's what I got. Hope for someplace prettier and someplace cleaner. And if I gotta eat catfish heads all my life, can't I eat them off a plate and in a red silk dress?"

Scarlett O'Hara tells us something about waiting for another day if we cannot handle any more today, and that is an important lesson. We can live with the hope and maybe a promise that tomorrow will be better, since it may seem at times that it can't possibly get any worse. Annie has great faith, knowing that as bad as things are, the sun will shine tomorrow. And that's only a day away. But Molly Brown won't wait until tomorrow. She believes that the promise of tomorrow rests in her hands today. She refuses to be down for even a dayĆ¢€”and even if she were down, no one would know it. Molly realizes that if happiness is dependent on tomorrow, then when tomorrow comes she can still be living in expectation of a better day. She plans for tomorrow by taking care of today."

(Ardeth Greene Kapp, My Neighbor, My Sister, My Friend, [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1990].)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Books to Grow On

AGAIN I need to thank some person on some yahoo group (sorry for the generalities) that mentioned this amazing resource available through yoru public library called Books to Grow on. They are amazing! They are literally lessons in a box based on a theme that you select in advance.

Here's a pic of just one of the MANY selections they offer. This one is an alphabet themed box complete with letter blocks, felt board activities, books, CD, DVD and manuals.

Se if your library has them. They are AWESOME. All three kids are enjoying them on some level.

D Day

My Pre Ker is well on her way to a solid phonics foundation. But as I went through the letters/sounds with her the other day I noticed we need to do some brushing up and cementing of things.

So we're on Letter D this week.

Here's what we did:

This is our Letter Board. Words were taken from
dog, Donald Duck, dinosaur, dolphin, dentist and dance.

Books we are reading:


Ducks Disappearing

Here's what is her workbox for letter D tomorrow:

Tracing D with finger and then writing in the salt tray.

Reviewing what's in our D sound drawer

Print outs and activities from Teacher File Box dot com.

Math Wrap Ups

I love the WorkBox yahoo group that I belong to. The ladies on that group are SO incredibly talented! I'm grateful for all their inspiration.

Here's something that I recently learned while perusing the photos in the workbox group:

What a great way to memorize math facts! You can buy math wrap ups online, but I had everything I needed to make these for free. I love them because they are self-correcting, which is very Montessorian. I do love all things Montessori.

More Fall Fun

Can't help it! I love Fall. Here are some of our recent Fall activities and projects:

A Feelings Pumpkin:

WE combined our pumpkin theme with our "feelings" lesson. This pumpkin has 4 faces, each face expresses a different feeling. He's easy to make. Just find a pumpkin template and trace/cut it out on construction paper 4 times. Fold each pumpkin in half, glue them together and voila. Use a pipe cleaner for the stem. Decorate faces before gluing together.

Here's another:

This was a fun project. Our little owl was used to help us learn the following poem for one of our music lessons:

High above in that old tree, HOO, HOO, HOO
There is someone watching me HOO, HOO, HOO
He's keeping me within his sight, HOO, HOO, HOO
As he shrieks all through the night HOO, HOO, HOO

They say the Owl is very wise HOO, HOO, HOO
He's smarter than the other guys HOO, HOO, HOO
But I'm not convinced it's really true HOO, HOO, HOO
BEcause he's forever asking "who?" HOO, HOO, HOO

If knowledge is the Owl's game HOO, HOO, HOO
Then why doesn't he know my name? HOO, HOO, HOO
I've told him time and time anew HOO, HOO, HOO
But still he keeps on asking "Who?" HOO, HOO, HOO

I wish that Wold would go away HOO, HOO, HOO
It makes me mad to hear him say HOO, HOO, HOO
But there's nothing left for me to do, HOO, HOO, HOO
Except to tell him to ask YOU! HOO, HOO, HOO

Have the kids repeat the HOO, HOO, HOO each time to practice making a high pitch sound in their heads. Contrast it with a low pitch HOO in their chest/throat.

Pumpkin Poem:

(sorry it's sideways)

Each morning we have "table time" before we dig in to our workboxes. Table time consists of a song, prayer, flag, calendar, weather, poem and then some kind of group activity like a game, craft, experiment or project.

I change the poem only every 2 weeks so that even my littlest one has a chance to learn all the words. I make a puppet of sorts to go with each poem and they each have a turn holding it during the poem. So we say the poem 3 times each morning.

Here's our pumpkin poem for the first 2 weeks of October:

Pumpkins oval, pumpkins round,
Pumpkins tumbling on the ground
Pumpkins orange, pumpkins gold,
Pumpkins even white I'm told!
Pumpkins FAT and pumpkins thin
Pumpkins with rough bumpy skin
Pumpkins pretty and pumpkins fun
OH, how can I pick just one?
(there was more to the poem, but I cut it down to 8 lines becaue my chart only has 8 pockets.)

So, for tomorrow's table time here is what we are going to do:

This is a flannel board game that I got from Teacher FIle BOx dot com. I do love my membership with them. So worth it. This is called "Witch's Cat" and you first need to teach the kids this poem:

Come my pretty
Come my pet
You can't hide
I'll find you yet!

Then you call one child up to look under one of the objects to see if the cat is there. If not, she sits down and someone else gets a turn. If they find the cat, they are the next to hide it in a different spot while others hide their eyes.