Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Math Gnomes

I mentioned in my last post, that we've moving toward a more Waldorf approach with Little Bit and that it was doing a unit on Math Gnomes that got me started thinking about it. So I thought, today, I'd share about the Math Gnome unit we did. I roughly followed the first grade math blocks from Ancient Hearth.

Since Little Bit already knows how to count, I did a quick "intro"/summary of the first block. We only spent a week or so on it, I just wanted her to become familiar with Roman Numerals. So, I set up the entryway shelves to be a forest scene. 

The 2 children follow a squirrel through the woods to the big green tree, where the squirrel disappears down a hole at the base of the tree. The children follow the squirrel and find themselves in a pinecone forest . . . 

They follow the squirrel through this forest until they find a fairy guarding a cave door. She tells them that if they learn the "secret of numbers" it will open the cave door and allow them to enter the Land of Numeria. 

The secret of numbers was the Roman Numerals 1-10. I used glitter glue to write the 1 I on a piece of cardstock and "hid" it in the bottom of the plastic container of salt/glitter that we use to trace letters/numbers/forms, etc.  You can see the container (red lid) on the shelf under the pinecone forest along with the white shell the fairy gave the children to dig in the glitter sand. Once she found the glitter numbers she copied them into her school notebook, then we did the same with  2 II and so on up to 10 X. Once she'd learned these numbers the fairy gave her some little black stones with regular numbers and Roman Numerals on them (I bought small black rocks at the craft store and wrote the numbers on them with a silver Sharpie). Her job was to match the regular numbers to their corresponding Roman Numeral in order to unlock the cave.  Once she did, she (and the peg children) discovered the Land of Numeria . . . This begins the second Math Block on the Ancient Hearth site.

I set up the land of Numeria on the cedar chest/coffee table in the sunroom. It was covered by playsilks until she unlocked it. When the children entered the land of Numeria they met a wolf who would guide them through the land of Numeria. They traveled through the land and met "Gnome Share". He taught them how to share things equally (otherwise known as division). Gnome Share gave the children a treasure chest full of jewels so Little Bit had to help the children divide the jewels equally between the 2 children and the wolf.  

After Little Bit divided the jewels evenly. Gnome Share gave her a plate of strawberries (red like he is) to divide evenly between her, her sisters, and me.

We spent the rest of that week dividing other red snacks, and practicing dividing the jewels more and such.

The next week, Little Bit woke up to a new part of Numeria on the cedar chest.

Gnome Share traveled with the children and wolf through more of Numeria until they discovered Gnome Plus. We spent the week playing with addition, and eating green snacks.

The 3rd week's journey through Numeria took introduced us to Gnome Minus Takeaway who had, unfortunately lost the shepherd boy's sheep. The wolf called his friend, the Collie to help them track down the sheep. But first we spent week 3 learning about subtraction, and eating blue snacks.

The final week, the collie led us to a different part of Numeria, where it was snowy.

We met Gnome Multiply and he helped the shepherd boy find his sheep, hidden in the snow (Ashlyn painted the sheep & collie for me, aren't they cute?). And 4 lost sheep had multiplied into 6 sheep (2 lambs)! 

 We spent the week learning about multiplication and eating yellow snacks!

Also each week I draw a gnome picture and poem either on the chalkboard or on paper. Only managed to take a picture of the last one. Little bit copied the picture and at least part of the poem into her school book each week.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Wrapping up March

Sigh, I'm behind again . . . March . . .

Starting in January we've been hosting a monthly American Girl Club for our homeschool group. In January, one family came. In February, 2 families came. In March . . . there were 21 people at our house! It was awesome! I have to admit, I was a bit nervous about how that many people would fit . . . and if/when we end up having a rainy day, it will certainly be loud, but it really worked out wonderfully! Altogether there were 8 girls there for the club, which is the maximum that will fit around our table. We were focusing on Samantha's time period, so we did a craft and ate a snack from 1905. Meanwhile the moms and younger brothers hung out in the sunroom, and the older siblings hung out in the living room. Once the craft and snack were done, the girls played with their dolls in the living room for awhile and then most of the kids migrated outside for the last while. We had a great time, and I was happy to see that our house can handle a "crowd" without feeling claustrophobic.

The next day, it snowed! After a winter of no real snow, we got a BUNCH in March! Go figure! I really didn't mind. It came when we didn't need to be anywhere, and we could just enjoy it's beauty while snuggling up indoors and staying put. And the nice thing about March snows is they tend to melt pretty quickly :)

I had to laugh at Moccasin. We had set a bowl out in the snow to catch snow for snow ice cream. After we brought it in, I walked into the sunroom to see Moccasin waiting to come in, sitting in the indentation from the bowl. Guess he thought it was a cat seat LOL. I'd say it was because he didn't want to sit on snow, but pretty sure there was still snow under him, so who knows . . . he's a silly cat!

The girls took advantage of having Daddy trapped at home with us, to play Monopoly with him. It's fun to listen to them argue . . . Daddy's risk-taking and Ashlyn risk-aversion tend to clash . . . it amuses me :)

Our church hosted a game night at the school gym one Saturday night. The "main attraction" was human hungry hippos. People also brought board games and Lexie and Ashlyn helped with setting up and supervising minute games (I think that's what she called them). Quick little challenges. They were a hit. My kids won't let me post the rather amusing pictures I have of them participating :)

 One of the snacks was sour patch kids. Not sure any of my kids had ever had them before. Little Bit's face when she tried one for the first time was PRICELESS! :)

It was a fun evening.

One night when I went to tell the girls goodnight, I found Tracy sleeping on the American Girl doll bed. Apparently she thinks she's an American Girl doll. Or maybe she just thinks that everything in this house is for her pleasure and comfort LOL.

I managed to not take any pictures of birthdays this year. They were pretty low key. I came down with a bad stomach bug 2 days before Little Bit's birthday, so lost my final "prep time" completely and was still moving pretty slow on her birthday. It was a nice day, just quiet and low key. Lexie & Ashlyn's birthday was also "low key" because they don't like a fuss being made AND don't like pictures taken, so I didn't push it this year.

We'll finish up this brief summary of March with a couple pictures from Little Bit's school. We're doing a slightly structured waldorf-ish approach and she seems to be enjoying it. In January and February we did a math gnomes block that I'm still planning to do a separate post on. Once we finished that we moved on to Form Drawing. This is something I didn't know much about, but it's recommended that we "catch up" on the first grade forms before we start the second grade curriculum that we're planning to start in July, so we'll be doing a long Form Drawing block with breaks for holidays and such, from now until July. We read stories, and I draw the form on the chalk board. We practice it in the air, on each other's back, in a "fairy sand box" (that is actually salt & glitter), Little Bit practices "painting" the form with water on the chalkboard, and drawing it on the chalk board. We also go outside (weather permitting) and draw the form on the sidewalk with sidewalk chalk big enough that she can walk the form. Once she feels confident that she can draw it accurately, she adds it to her school notebook.

One of the things about Waldorf that I knew would be a good fit for her is all the art. We are learning the wet-on-wet watercolor technique as well as drawing with block crayons, and some days I'll draw a picture on the chalkboard that she copies into her school notebook with regular crayons of colored pencils. We will also eventually be sculpting with modeling beeswax, but I have to admit, *I* am still really struggling to figure out how that works, so don't want her getting frustrated with it until I understand it better.

She still has days when she doesn't want to do school. And of course, with it being spring, on gorgeous spring days we forget about book work and go outside and soak up the spring! But I feel like we're getting into a good groove. With the modifications I've made to the "prescribed" Waldorf method, it provides the structure that she needs but tons of creativity and the block schedule means it's not always the same (the block schedule would have not been a good fit for Ashlyn, but seems to be working well for Lina. Lexie just wants to be moving and doing hands on stuff, she doesn't care if there's structure or not LOL).

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Wrapping up the Rest of February

The second half of February kind of went by in a blink . . . Little Bit asked Lexie to make her a "Little House on the Prairie" dress for her American Girl doll for her birthday. Her birthday isn't until the end of March, but Lexie finished the outfit already. Didn't it turn out cute?

One of the cute little towns near us does a "Fire and Ice Festival" in February. The website said the ice sculptures would be available to view all day, with music and such happening in the evening. I figured it would be warmer, and less crowded, and less chaotic if we went late in the afternoon and then we could decide to stay into the evening if we wanted to.

Unfortunately, most of the ice sculptures weren't even uncovered until 5:00 (when the "festival" started). Making me pretty confused about the website's assertion that the ice sculptures would be available for viewing "from dawn to dusk". And after having to wait around for awhile for them to be uncovered some of us were rather grouchy and we pretty much just walked through the park to see the sculptures and then left. There WERE some cool sculptures and we even got to see a guy carving one, with a chain saw. . . very interesting to watch. I can't imagine doing that with an "audience" like he did . . . well *I* can't imagine doing it at all, but even if I had the skills and talent to do it, I can't imagine doing it with a whole bunch of people standing around staring at me. I'm hoping we can go again another year, now that we know what they really do, and can plan to be there only when things are happening :)

Little Bit's friend, K had a birthday party a couple weeks ago. It was a "painting party" so right up Little Bit's alley :) She had a blast, but commented that she's glad HER art teacher (at that class she's taking through our homeschool co-op) lets them do their own work. It bugged her that the painting teacher at the party would come by and "help" by adding details to her picture. In addition to being glad that my personal belief that children should take pride in their work because it's THEIR work, not because it looks "perfect" because someone else did it for them, has apparently taken hold with her, I was also glad to hear that the art class she's in is a good fit for her (and my philosophy on art). I'm glad that she's willing to participate in things without me being right there, but it does mean I don't know the details of what's happening in class like I did when my kids were younger and didn't want to be out of my sight. Nice to get little insights into things and know they're working out well :)

We've had such a weird winter, weather-wise. January fluctuated between bitterly cold (and dry) and warm enough to not be snow and heavy rains! I'm (mostly) glad it played out that way, the amount of rain we got, if it had been snow, would have been . . . much more snow than we're used to. But would have been nice to get one or two good snows! And then, in late February we got frigid one day and high 60s another day! We have spring flowers!! Of course, all that also meant that last weekend, when we had temperatures in the 70s, and then a wet cold front coming into that, lead to tornado warnings and "straight line winds" strong enough to cause quite a bit of damage, thankfully no people were seriously injured. The damaging winds missed us, but within a few miles of us I've seen lots of HUGE old trees knocked down and some barns, outbuildings, and roofs being repaired. And now we're back to FRIGIDLY cold temperatures. Little Bit tells me that "Winter and Spring are fighting about who's turn it is". I think she might be right . . .

I had the audacity to tell the kids they needed to straighten their rooms enough to sweep and dust. There was some (minor) wailing and gnashing of teeth, but once that settled down and they did as they'd been asked, Lexie decided to take it a step further and do some minor rearranging to make room for an extra table in for sewing and ironing. I realized after I'd taken the picture that she's managing to completely hide the sewing machine in this picture, but it's behind her on the desk. She's been sewing at her desk, and that works well, but she was tired of having to use her bed for ironing and cutting. She moved our small rectangular folding table in there and it's perfect! I had to admit I took advantage of it to cut out the bathroom wipes I've been meaning to have her sew for MONTHS (she told me she'd sew them if I cut them out). And very much appreciated having everything nicely set up.

The girls have always liked that there are "holes in our floors" - the cracks and knot holes between the boards. If Lexie's in her room when I ask the older girls for their "resource lists" on Sundays (because they are responsible for their own schooling now, they keep a checklist of books they use and things they do during the week, then I collect those on Sunday and incorporate the information into my spreadsheets that keep track of everything in the format the state requires) she will generally drop the sheet of paper between the cracks in the floor onto the sofa. On the not so positive side, when she recently spilled a box of straight pins in her room we had a bit of a dangerous shower in the living room, and I would guess that we'll find more straight pins the next time we move the sofa to clean under it. (the cracks in the floor were also not appreciated when we were having issues with Tracy (the cat) peeing on any piles of clothes left on the floor. Cat pee showering down onto my dining room table does not please me! On a more fun note . . . recently when little Bit was bored, she took advantage of our "holes" to create a ride for her stuffed bear. She dropped the yarn down through her bedroom floor and tied it around "Pilly" the bear then went back upstairs and raised her up to the ceiling.

Every so often Little Bit decides to participate up front for song service at church. Last week I was able to snap a great picture of her and her friends, K & K all singing along with the adults! I love that our church encourages the kids to be involved :)

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Whirlwind of Christmas Field Trips

Jumping back to the beginning of December. Because why bother to blog in order, right? . . .

The girls and I spent the first several days of December in a whirlwind of Christmas field trips with my parents.

We started our whirlwind at Brookside Gardens. We visited the greenhouse in the afternoon, went to Chipotles for supper (it was right next to a Costco that's parking was in a parking garage. We were most amused at the contrast between that Costco and the Costco we normally shop at in Lancaster, complete with horse and buggy parking!). After supper we headed back to Brookside for their walk through light display!

I convinced Lexie to pose next to old Mr. Frog so I could compare it to another picture of I have of her with the same Mr. Frog from a few years ago . . . She's changed just a tad in the past 10 years :)

And while we're sharing old pictures . . . this one is from Brookside Gardens too, in the green house, 11 years ago.

And a couple more pictures from this year's Brookside Garden lights . . .

The next day we hopped on Metro and went into Washington DC. Our first stop was the National Greenhouse. Their "special" display this year was about the National Park sites and it was very cool! Though there seemed to be a disproportionate number of displays for west coast sites compared to east coast sites.  While we were at the Greenhouse we went through the permanent displays as well. Lexie entertained herself in the desert display by seeing if she could touch all the cacti without getting hurt, or something . . . 
Lexie and Little Bit humored me and posted together in front of the National Park Tree (As hlyn was in a "no pictures" mood. I've joked that 100 years from now people looking back over the picture record of our life would assume she vanished at age 12 or thereabouts LOL. Little Bit also posed for me in the "Train" . . . isn't if fun? 

When we were done at the National Greenhouse we headed to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. I had an ulterior motive, a few years ago when we were at this museum, Little Bit found a giraffe Christmas ornament in the gift shop that she HAD to have. I humored her, and she LOVED it but it somehow vanished during our move last year. I'm sure it will show up again someday, but in the meantime, she was very sad to not have it, so I figured it wouldn't hurt to at least check and see if they still had them (I didn't mention it to her until I'd made sure they did). She was VERY excited to get a replacement ornament. As you might have noticed from the pictures, she kinda likes giraffes.
By the time we left the museum it was getting close to dark, so we went ahead and headed down the mall to catch a glimpse of the National Christmas Tree, and all the state-decorated trees. I have to admit, most years, I'm not overly impressed with the national Christmas Tree, and look forward more to seeing how all the school kids have decorated the state trees, but this year's national tree was GORGEOUS!!! So simple, and patriotic (it's hard to tell in the picture, but the little lights are red, white and blue), and just plain PRETTY! Which isn't to say I didn't also enjoy the state trees. It's always fun to see what the different states, mostly school kids, though some states have a specific artist, or art studio, to do their ornaments, come up with.
After seeing the trees, we headed back to Metro. On our way into the city, Little Bit had caught sight of "a big panda with Christmas lights". We'd been in a hurry to catch a train, so hadn't taken time to check it out then, but at her request, we hunted it down before heading home, and got her picture with it. As you can see, it's a rather creative advertisement for the National Zoo's light display :) 

And finally, the reason we chose this particular weekend for our field trips. Harper's Ferry's Old Time Christmas. The whole town was decorated, and had re-inactors around. It was fun. We enjoyed a harp concert at the church, visited the horses, and learned some interesting information about how they train horses to be "re-inactors" (have to teach them to not mind the gunshots and such). . . saw a shooting demonstration. A demonstration of how they baked bread . . . lots of interesting stuff.

The last thing of the day, was a Civil War dance demonstration. We poked our head in the tent to check it out, and . . . stayed until the last dance was done. Lexie jumped right in and danced every dance. By the last dance, one of the instructors sought her out specifically and asked if she wanted to dance with him and be the "lead couple" because he needed someone who could follow the steps, and keep up a good pace. She loved it! It took longer for Ashlyn and Little Bit to decide to join in, but once they did, they had a blast as well. One of the dancers found out, in conversation, that we're from the Lancaster area, so told Lexie that they are from Lancaster, and offer free dance classes in Jan-March in Harrisburg . . . so that's how we knew to go to the dance class a couple weeks ago. :) 

Sunday, February 26, 2017

January Field Trips

The last week of January we went to my parent's house for a few days of field trips and fun.

We spent one day in Washington DC. The weather was AMAZING! Sunny and warm . . . can't ask for more than that in January! We spent most of the day in the Smithsonian Museum of American History. The big girls and I found, and thoroughly enjoyed, an exhibit of old "science fiction" books. So fun! And we added some interesting sounding titles to our "to read" list.

Little Bit wasn't too enthusiastic about it,  but she ended up really enjoying the First Ladies and Presidents exhibit. We all enjoyed the First Ladies' dresses and china patterns. And exhibit of toys the various Presidential children and grandchildren. She also humored me and posed as if she were giving a press conference, and I believe the chair was a part of the Abraham Lincoln exhibit.

When we left the American History museum we made brief stops at the World War II memorial and Korean War Memorial before heading home.

The next day we went to the National Cryptologic Museum at Fort Mead. Rodney and I lived "right down the road" in Columbia, MD the first several years of our marriage, and never knew this little museum existed. But it is such a great little museum! It's free, and not huge but we thoroughly enjoyed it. There were hands-on things, like invisible ink, and signal flags, with a "key" to teach you how to form the various letters.

There was also quite a bit of information about the more sophisticated code making, and code breaking that was all quite important during World War II, and on forward throughout the cold war. It was all very interesting.

And since we were in Columbia, we had a great excuse to go to our favorite Chinese restaurant, Hunan Manor, for lunch before heading home.

Monday, February 20, 2017

January Happenings

I figure I better keep writing posts while the momentum is good, if I'm going to "fill in" the last couple of months and not get just as far or farther behind going forward :) So . . . some highlights from January . . . I don't remember if I mentioned it on the blog last year or not, but throughout all of 2016 I was making a crocheted "Temperature blanket". I used a chart that assigned a certain color of yarn to each range of temperatures and then I added one row to the blanket each day, based on that day's temperature. It makes a REALLY BIG blanket, even just doing single crochet rows, but it turned out really cool! At first I wasn't sure what I'd do with such a big blanket, as you can see, it's longer than the sofa! And at some point it might move up to my bed. But for now, it's kind of nice. When the girls are all on the sofa watching tv or something, they can ALL fit under the blanket. So it's getting loved :) At some point I'd like to do another one but only do half rows or something each day so that it's more of a throw blanket size, but I'm glad I made this one huge one, it was fun :)

In addition to Little Bit getting some more 18" dolls for Christmas, Lexie let her move her (Lexie's) dolls, and some of the furniture under Lina's loft. One night when I went up to tell the girls goodnight, I couldn't resist snapping a picture of all FIVE dolls sleeping in Samantha's and Kit's beds :) If you look closely you'll also see there are at least two dogs sleeping at the foot of the beds :)

We have had very little snow this winter, much to the girls' disappointment. I was kind of concerned, when I saw predictions of a colder than usual, wetter than usual, December and January, that it would mean LOTS of snow, but somehow the stars aligned so that the really cold days were dry and the (numerous) wet days were mostly at above freezing temperatures.

We did get a couple light snows, and I snapped a picture of two of one of them. Isn't it pretty (the oddly placed lights are just a reflection of our kitchen lights in the window. Though the on on the far right side of the picture kind of makes it look like there's a Narnia-esque lamp post in the woods doesn't it? :)

Silly Moccasin insists he wants outside in all kinds of weather and then almost instantly comes and sits by the door to come back in. This time I made him wait a few extra seconds while I took his picture :)

One of Lexie's current obsessions interests is genetics. After completing My Name is Gene and declaring it rather easy, she decided she wanted to just read some books on genetics. So she browsed the library's online catalog and decided on The Gene: An Intimate History a mere 600 pages long, just some light reading on the subject LOL.

But look at how excited she is with her book! She hasn't finished it yet. I just reminded her today that it's due back to the library on Monday. But told her I'd ask the librarians about renewing it an additional time (I've renewed it as often as I'm allowed to online). But she's loving it! And constantly telling me about all the interesting things she's reading about (I try to be interested, but science SO isn't my thing . . . I love how interested she is though!).

We had planned to go to Rodney's mom's house for Thanksgiving but Rodney was sick so we couldn't go. We rescheduled our visit for the middle of January and thankfully nobody got sick that time.  While we were there the girls noticed that they have passed their Aunt  Lynette in height. Not that they would rub that in or anything . . .

The electric heat pump in our house is in the attic, with the air vents all in the ceilings. Needless to say, especially with our beam ceilings (no insulation between the floors) and "rustic" wood floors that have cracks between the boards, that means that using the heat pump for heat results in overly warm bedrooms and a chilly main floor. All of us prefer the reverse . . . well, not the overly warm part, but we all like sleeping in cold rooms and it's nice to keep the main floor warm enough that our guests want to remove their coats, at least. So we've been using the basement wood stove quite a bit for heat. Needless to say that means the basement is toasty warm. So when the wood stove is on we'll often go hang out in the basement for read aloud time. The cats love the basement, and laps, for warmth so when our laps move to the basement it's an added bonus! I couldn't resist snapping this fun picture of (some of) my girls and (some of) their cats while we were reading one evening! On a side note, I'd been trying to figure out a way to have comfortable, portable/storable seating for the living room. We usually end up moving kitchen chairs in, and people can sit on the piano bench and hearth, but none of those options are very comfortable any my kids tend to complain when I ask them to take the less comfortable seating. And with using the wood stove, we also wanted some kind of seating in the  basement but again, portable/storable so the space can also be used for kids to get their wiggles out. It finally occurred to me that butterfly &/or saucer chairs would work well for both. I ordered 2 butterfly chairs & 1 saucer chair to see which we liked better, would like to get a couple more, but it's working well in the basement and worked great to bring upstairs for Christmas :) 

During the library Ancient Civilizations class about the Greeks, the teacher asked for volunteers to help her model Greek clothing. Lexie volunteered :)  I was also interested to see how well both girls did when the teacher divided the class into groups to do presentations. It was pretty simple and straight forward, they only had a few minutes to prepare and all the information they were supposed to present was given to them but working with a group of students you don't know, and then presenting the information up front isn't something my homeschooled kids have ever done before. Both Lexie and Ashlyn took charge in their group, found ways to include younger, shyer kids without pushing those kids out of their comfort zones. I was proud of them. And silly kids, thought it was "fun" to get to do something so school-like. Though Ashlyn did comment that she'd really hate having to do a project like that for a grade because what if the other kids in your group don't do it right (yes dear, that's why I always hated group projects in school!).

And that's at least a sampling of what we did in January :)