Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Field Trip to Benaroya Hall, Seattle

The kids and I got a rare opportunity to tour Benaroya Hall last week in Seattle.  Going into the city always makes me nervous.  The traffic, the parking, the weird one way streets..bleh.

But we were really looking forward to a chance to go see the Hall, so we braved the way.  We started at Sound Bridge where we got some drumming and rhythm lessons followed by free time to check out some of the instruments on display.

Next we went to the Grand Foyer of the Hall where we gathered for a photo and learned some interesting facts about the construction and engineering of the building.   For example, it's built right on top of the subway line, so there are ginormous rubber pillars underneath to absorb sound and motion.  The walls are super thick, and the hall itself is a separate building within the outer shell of the foyer. They let us walk the second story bridge, and talked to us about the grand Christmas performances they hold out here with the choir on the bridge, the lighting and decorations.  Something to remember for next Christmas!

Unfortunately, there was a rehearsal under way while we were there. So we were not allowed to go in to the performance area! OH we were so very bummed out! That's why we went!  But what can you do?

So, we headed over to Daddy's work and took him out for lunch at his favorite pizza joint.

I love that we are able to take these opportunities to see him during the day.  Not many kids get lunch with their dad on a regular old Wednesday.   I'm glad that mine do. At least now and then.

Story of the World Vol 2: Chapters 31, 32, 33

I always look forward to the 4th Tuesday of the month when our friends come over to help us review what we have learned in the last three weeks of Story of the World.  This month we covered chapters 31-33 of volume 2, which focus on Christopher Columbus and other explorers to the New World, as well as the people they encountered there.

During the first three Tuesdays of the month, we study the chapters at home as a family.  I read the chapter to the kids while they color the picture that comes in the activity book.  Then we do the map work, and I pick one of the activities to do. I always look ahead to see which activities are best to do as a family, which I want to save for the History Club.

Today, I decided to start off the club with a simple game that I put together.  It was a watered down version of Jeopardy.  I did this at 12:30am, so cut me some slack. I know it's not pretty.  All I did was copy some of the narration questions from each chapter onto construction paper, assign it a dollar value ($1, $5 or $10 depending on the difficulty of the question) and then tape them to the white board.  I used Monopoly game money to award the cash values. 

I broke the kids into 3 teams, letting them buddy up with a similarly aged friend.  I made it clear that the money was not the real motive for the game and we shouldn't fight or argue over it. It was just an added touch to make things more interesting.  They caught on quick and were even helping each other out.

So here's my lame game board:

It was fun! I think it was a GREAT way to review the chapters.

From there I took the kids out to the garage to simulate corn grinding on a metate.  I gave them some popcorn kernels and a rock and let them smash it to dust!  WHo wouldn't love the chance to smash something and not get in trouble, right?  I wish I had taken pictures because they really did a great job.

Then, in honor of Christopher Columbus' voyage, I took the kids upstairs to my bathtub where I had prepared a boat race.  But this wasn't just any boat race.  Oh no. This one involved a chemical reaction, baby.

The activity book says to make the boats by putting straws in the bottom of a plastic bottle.  But I had no straws at 11:30 last night, so I ended up using medicine syringes that I had in the vitamin cupboard, poking them into the lid, and hot gluing around the edges so that there weren't leaks.  Here's how it ended up.

I really think straws would have worked better, because it would have been a smaller opening and provided more thrust.  But hey, we do what we can in a pinch.

So I set up the tub with our boats, vinegar, baking soda, blue water, funnel and measuring spoon.

It was way too crazy to take pictures once the boat races began.  But I sure wish you could have seen the fizz blasting and spraying out on everyone, and heard the shrieks and squeals and laughter as we launched those babies in the tub!

Here's the happy crew

The boats worked so-so. They eventually did make it to the end of the tub after our 4th or 5th try. Tip:  Use PLENTY of vinegar and give it a little shake so that it mixes with all the baking soda. I think we put in about 2 TB of baking soda. I don't know how much vinegar!

Ok, so we toweled off and headed to the kitchen for some eats!

First, I had the kids help me start a pot of hot chocolate.  I wish that I'd had the ingredients from the activity book to make a more authentic south american hot chocolate, but I didn't.  So, again, I improvise and go with my standard recipe.  Here it is:

I used powdered milk instead of fresh.  Helps cut down on our grocery budget and nobody can tell the difference when you're cooking or baking with it.  We made a double batch. 

Once that was well on it's way and heating on the stove, I let the kids help me mix up some MASA (corn flour) and water to make corn tortillas.  

This amount of dough made 16 tortillas.  I love my little tortilla press and my Lodge Logic griddle. THey are perfect for making the perfect tortilla.


You could also just place the dough between a gallon size plastic bag that is cut on 3 sides and press down with a frying pan.  

The kids gobbled those tortillas right up! Plain! They were dunking them in cocoa, until the asked for salsa.  I was surprised how well they liked them.

Of course, I have a soft spot for corn tortillas. In 1996 when I was a sophomore in college I went on a 3 months field study to Guatemala to study courtship and marriage customs among the Mayans living in the highlands there. I stayed with a family in the village of Ixtahuacan.  Every morning I woke to the sound of the women patting and slapping corn dough in their hands (no fancy presses there!) to make our morning tortillas.

In fact, I got out some of my souvenirs from Guatemala to show the kids:   This is a traditional huipil and skirt. I did a horrible job putting this on my daughter.  The belt is super long and I had to hurry to tie it on her because I had tortillas burning on the griddle, cocoa bubbling on the stove and yams turning to mush in the oven!  Whoa! Our kitchen was one hoppin' place for a minute there.

Ok, so we got the food all done and set down to munch while I showed the kids some fun books: 
and this one 

I've been to Tikal and I meant to dig out my photos to show the kids, but time was running really short.  If you ever watch the old Star Wars movies, watch for the scene where they are on top of some Mayan looking temples, and it's overlooking the tops of the trees.  I SWEAR it's TIKAL!  Been there! And I loved it.

So that was class.  I'll share a little known fact with you now, that I failed to share with the kids.  Yours Truly is a published author! Yes indeed.  I have a written work in this book: 

You can look inside the cover and find my name next to the article entitled "The Commitment" Transformations in courtship and Marriage in Santa Catarina Ixtahuacan.
It took years for that book to get published, but there it is!


Saturday, February 23, 2013

KinderBoys: Community Workers - Bakers

Yesterday we had our third KinderBoy class at the house.  We have yet to get our whole class together.  This is a nasty time of year for illness!  But we had a great time discussing Bakers as community workers.

AS usual, we started with a book  called Bakers (Community Helpers)

Side note: I so much prefer the term Community Workers instead of Community Helpers.  Maybe I'm about to get all right-wing conservative on you, but I think that Community Workers more accurately portrays the way our economy works on capitalism:  You get paid when you WORK and produce.  Yes, helping is important, but it's not something we do for money. We help because it's the right thing to do, not because the government is paying for it or for any personal motive.  So we work to earn money in our community.  We help in our off-time hours because that's just what Christ taught.  Yes, sometimes we help while we are working. That's always a bonus.

Moving on....

Then we pulled out the Baker's Hat!  Each boy got to wear it for a moment as he remembered something from the book about Bakers.

I knew the boys would want one to take home, based on past experience so we made chef hats.  Not quite as cute as baker hats, but the best I could do with construction paper and tape.

 I used the extra large sheets of paper.  And that didn't even seem to be big enough so I added on another regular size sheet with tape.  TIP:  Make the black line higher.  The strips were cut down so low that they began to flop over and I had to tape them up again.  I put the envelop there to cover up the name.  But...then realized that was silly because I didn't also cover them up in the following pictures.  Sigh.
 Here they are cutting out their hats.  They only had to cut on the lines until they reached the black line. The lines were 2 inches apart.

I explained to the boys that baking is very exact.  Bakers have to measure things very carefully.  So to introduce the concept of measuring/weighing, I decided to use a food scale and teach them about grams. I know that in the US we don't usually use grams as we cook, unless it's a foreign recipe.  But my son loves to play with the food scale, so I went this route. I could have (Should have?) let them practice measuring blue or green water with measuring cups. Or shown them a set of measuring spoons and let them practice filling and leveling the spoon with flour.

Anyway, here's the chart I made on our white board

 And the food I collected to be weighed.
First, I let them look at the food (without touching it) and guess which was the heaviest, then the next and the next heaviest, until they thought they had all the food lined up in order of heaviest to lightest.

Then we weighed each food and graphed the results on the chart to see if they were right.  They weren't.  But it was a good lesson in "Looks can be deceiving."

My food scale doesn't sense things lighter than 5 grams. So our lightest item, the tea bag, didn't register.  So that's when I pulled out the Right STart balance
WE put the teabag in one cup, and the boys put in ONE gram cube at a time until the balance was, well, balanced.  We discovered that the teabag was more than 3 and less than 4. So we had a chance to discuss halves!

Ok, at that point the boys were more than anxious to move upstairs for some real baking!

I had risen some soft pretzel dough in the fridge overnight.
It was perfectly risen in the morning! Love it.

I divided the dough into 16 pieces according to recipe and showed the boys how to make snakes, and then how to fold them into pretzels.  So fun!

The pretzels needed 15 minutes to rise.  So during that time we decorated cupcakes that I had made the night before.  I'm big on advanced preparation for these classes. It keeps everything running smoothly.

Sprinkles were FLYING around the kitchen.  But that's ok.  Instead of using food coloring to make the frosting pink, I used a beet that I had baked, grated finely, and added to the frosting.  It didn't change the flavor and it colored the frosting so well!  Check it!
I like the flecks of color actually.  Maybe you don't. ? I let them eat one cupcake now and take one home for later.  Frosting was being consumed at an alarming rate, however!  So I think I just discovered the best way ever to get kids to eat beets!

As they muched away, I was boiling the pretzels in baking soda water until they floated.  Then I let the kids help me put an egg wash on the pretzels and sprinkle them with cinnamon sugar.  Here's a finished plate of baked goods to take home:
Oh, while the pretzels were baking, I kept the kids busy by explaining to them how yeast works and I let them watch a bowl of yeast "proof".
And then I read them the classic Gingerbread Man. I have had this book since I was THREE years old, so it's pretty special to me. My kids know it by heart.
Parents were arriving just as the pretzels were coming out of the oven.  Those were the fastest 90 minutes in home education history!!

While I teach KinderBoys, my older girls go to another HS mom's house for cooking class.  You can follow their adventures at this blog:

Friday, February 22, 2013

Home Schooling: It's WORK Baby!

I've accepted that fact that one major reason for my keeping this blog is for my own sake.  Homeschooling is a pretty thankless, behind-the-curtain, kind of work.  It's not like "public" teaching, where everyone knows that you have a degree to do what you do, and they can imagine and appreciate the kind of work you do and the effort you make each day.  Nope. Pretty much the only people who know anything about what you do are your own kids (not that they always care) and sometimes your hubby.  Certainly, other home school moms can appreciate what you do, but's just you that  REALLY knows what it takes to run your home school.  In fact, most people think that I have endless hours to do what ever I like at any time of day BECAUSE I home school.  oh my.  That's a good laugh.

But you know what I mean.  It's real work and sacrifice.  It's putting together lesson plans when you'd rather soak in the tub or try out that new recipe.  It's testing out the science experiment at 11:45pm to make sure it works before you show the kids tomorrow.  It's skipping your favorite workout class at the gym so you can get math in today.   It's searching for new curriculum that will hopefully be a better fit, when everyone else has already been in bed for hours.  It's interrupting your read aloud to change a diaper, to grab a sippy cup, to referee a fight, to admire a drawing or to soothe a boo-boo.  It's coming up with a new way to organize your school area so that siblings don't fight (as much) and there will still be enough shelf space for all the books. It's planning field trips when your dirty toilets and grimy floors are screaming your name.  It's digging up every last shred of patience inside of you while you try to manage a squirming toddler on your lap while also trying to demonstrate a proper  cursive Z to your second grader, while simultaneously tracking your kindergartner's reader with your finger as he's reading aloud, and answering questions like " many times does 9 fit into 148?" from across the room.  Ahhh.....

You know that I love it of course!  But let's be real about this. IT'S WORK BABY!  It doesn't just happen on its own.  And that is why my living room and the downstairs sometimes look like this:

AT least they put away the monopoly game this time so I'm not stepping on little green houses for days!  I won't show you what our school room looks like sometimes.  You'd be too discouraged!

So, yes.  I'm formally giving myself a little pat on the back via this journaling/blogging experience.  If some of it helps you, then fabulous!  But be aware that this is mostly about me just saying, "Good job ME!  I accomplished something worth while today!  Look what I did!" Just don't look too closely at the dusty end tables or the crumbs on the floor. 

Friday, February 15, 2013

Presentation Day

We are not currently attending any of the classes that a local Home School co-op is running.  But every six weeks they host a presentation day where kids can show up and share what they've been learning about. It's a great outlet for some mild showing off,  and I think it's great for the kids to gain some presentation skills.

Since I was helping with some of the presentations, I didn't get many photos, but my girls managed a few.
My Kindy-boy showed off the calendar that he made all by himself

(Right Start Math Level B)

 as well as his sight word fish.  We write words on his fish when he has mastered them and we watch the fish fill up with colorful scales.  It's surprisingly motivating for him, as it was for my older girls at this age.
Here's a link if you'd like to print one out: 

My second grader wanted to share some work she'd done in with her 30-60 triangle and the T-square to make a star inside of a hexagon. It was very beautifully colored

(Right start math Level C).

My 4th grader had more to share.  She showed off some posters she had made about the lives of George Washington and Abigail Adams after having read their biographies in class.  This was part of the reading badge  she earned as a Dolphin in the Frontier Girl's program. 

Then she shared a salt dough map she had made of the US eastern seaboard, showing the Appalachians, the coast line, the continental shelf, continental slope, sea plains, Bermuda rise, and the mid Atlantic ridge, complete with rift. (Trail Guide to Learning Series, Paths of Progress unit 3)

 I'll be very glad to get my cookie sheet back now!
She also demonstrated what she had learned about folding the American flag. I was her partner for this.  This was also an activity from Trail Guide to Learning, Paths of Progress unit 3.
You can see that she is also wearing her Frontier Girl uniform.  I took the opportunity to publicly present the kids with the badges they have recently earned in Quest/Frontier Girls.


Kindy Boy earned his horse badge and his Joy badge.
2nd grade sweetie earned her violin, horse and Joy badges.
4th grader Big girl earned her reading, Joy, horse, and Dance (hip hop) badges.

I think it's so adorable that my 2yo keeps reminding me that when she is 3 she will be a PENGUIN! That's the preschool level of Frontier Girls.  She'll be ready!