Sunday, December 26, 2010

Planning and Preparation (and a very cute free clip art website)

I usually take opportunity over our December break to begin planning for the next semester.  This last semester we learned a lot during our studies of Ancient Rome.  We enjoyed watching bits of Spartacus and Ben Hur.  LD and DD were entranced by the boat battles and amazing chariot race of Ben Hur! Now, as you obviously can tell by the clip art I'm planning for our next unit on the Middle Ages.
Stay tuned for more when we delve into our studies of castles, cathedrals, feudalism, knights, the Black Plague and all that! (Update: See our Middle Ages posts here!)  In planning for that unit, I came across this wonderful website that shares free clip art on all sorts of topics including history, science, geography, the human body and more.  I wanted to come online to share that link: or you can see all the cute links on one page here.

Next semester we'll continue our studies of earth science (more about that here!)... there were lots of great activities still in the works for that.

And I have checked out a half-dozen books in hopes of adding in some inspiring things for ED (and yes, I've found heaps of wonderful ideas!!).  I noticed as things became more busy in December that I would say, "okay, LD it's time for you to read your four chapters," "DD, you need to come read to me" and poor ED would say "what do I have to do?"  I (hanging my head in shame) didn't particularly have an answer for her except to point her vaguely in the direction of the craft table (where there's paper/crayons always available and where her activities are set up). It was very, very busy getting ready to host three families here for the holidays, but now it's time to get on top of things for ED again!

One last thing before I go.  We have a full house of guests and wouldn't you know it--I have my first horrible cold/illness since we moved back to the US.  I have had a horrendous sore throat and virtually no voice for days now. Last night I broke down in tears because I hadn't slept much the night before (just 3 hours) because the pressure in my face/head/throat was so bad. I got up Christmas morning at 4am (after going to bed at 1am!).  I just hope that I don't pass on my illness to our house-full of family... 14 plus other family/visitors that pop by just for the day! I've been feeling so lousy that I probably need to get out to see the doctor.  Okay, that said I need to head to bed!

Once again--go check out the Phillip Martin's free clip art!  It's so cute!

Planning and Preparation Related Posts: This post is from quite some time back.  Here are some more recent posts (over at our new location) that might also be of interest).

Homeschool Science Unit Checklist for Elementary and Middle School - These are the science unit we hope to cover from K-8.

Homeschool Science 2016 Year in Review – And What’s Coming Up Next

Creating Your Homeschool Curriculum: Grades 2-3, Resource Guide

Creating a Homeschool Curriculum: Kindergarten – Grade 1

Homeschool Schedule and Transitions

Language Arts Update: Literature, Spelling, Vocabulary and Grammar

First Days of School!

Homeschool Planning: Subject Area Checklists

Strategic Homeschool Organization!!

Technology Tools and Websites to Facilitate Learning

5 Things you Can Do This Summer to Get Ready to Homeschool

Science Year in Review 2015-2016

10 Step to Take When Planning for a New School Year

Homeschool Thoughts: Spending Time Reviewing

Homeschool Science in Early Elementary (K-2): Video Post

10 Ways to Overcome Homeschool Burnout

Organization: How We Keep On Top of Things While Homeschooling

Homeschool Science: Year in Review and What’s Coming Up

Homeschool History: Our Year in Review and What’s Coming Up

Challenging and Inspiring Students without the Overwhelm or Fear of Failure

What We’re Up to in Our Homeschool (Gr. 2, 5, 7)

Thoughts on Teaching: Meaningful Teaching Activities




















Saturday, December 18, 2010

Our First Snowman

LD sledding down our driveway the day after the snowfall.  Not only did the UPS truck get stuck up at the top of the driveway (because the hill continues on up even past the crest of our driveway), but the next evening hubby had to help the Fed Ex man get out as well!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

We're Enjoying the Festive Season

The kids were all born in Australia and there was no snow in the Outback. Today was their very first snow experience!  What fun! We got about three inches; it snowed all day and we were in and out of the house until late this evening.

ED loved licking the snow while LD scared me with his daring dashes down our steep driveway on the sled!  The woods sure look pretty!

We also took the opportunity inside to warm up with hot chocolate.  We each made a pinecone bird feeder or two (you know, pinecones covered with peanut butter and bird seed.  I made these as a girl scout years ago!)  We hung them on the gate that leads out to the creek and woods beyond our house.
I guess you can't really see them, but our pinecone bird feeders are hanging off the gate.
I never did get a picture of them sledding down the driveway (I was too busy sledding with them!) but you can see LD in the top middle of the picture (a black blur) getting ready to sled down the less steep grassy slope. Now that gives you an idea of what our driveway is like!!)
We're ready for a full house... when hubby's entire family joins us for Christmas. We'll have 6 adults and 3 children our kids' ages joining our family of 5 from Dec. 24-Jan 5th. (plus Grandma and Grandpa, on my side, will drive out to join us for a couple of days too!)  It's amazing to be back in the country closer to our beloved family.
I was mentioning the steep driveway... well when I took the evening pictures above, we were out partly because the UPS truck was stuck in front of our house for nearly an hour. They kept slip-sliding around and couldn't make it up the hill (which again is no where near as steep as our driveway!).  Our house is tucked down in the hollow with hills more or less on all sides.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Holiday-themed Art

We have been enjoying holiday-themed art this past week--Christmas trees, nutcrackers, gingerbread men and more!
I went over to check out Art Projects for Kids and saw this very cute nutcracker art project.  LD and DD were keen to give it a try. DD was very excited because she is dancing in the Nutcracker.  She has done at least a half-dozen nutcracker drawings plus the drawing/painting she did last week.
Check out Art Projects for Kids for directions.  We used oil pastels and water colors.

The girls continue to draw and paint and draw and paint!  ED is obsessed with Christmas trees. She has painted at least 10 and is now enjoying the oil pastels.  This is the first time I have let her use them and they have quite a different texture.
I added in DD's drawing/painting just because I love her little rose garden!
This isn't particularly holiday-themed either (a scary cave/mountain out in the desert with cacti and rocks), but LD decided to do a diorama with movable parts. The rocks roll up and down the mountain and the people can also move like puppets.  He worked for two hours on this and while I made a couple of suggestions on how to make things stand upright and to add coins to weight down his rocks and people), he did the project entirely on his own.

Thoughts on being too busy and doing too much too young...

This time of year is particularly busy.  DD has extra dance rehearsals for her Nutcracker performance. We have little holiday parties that we've attended and more coming up.  Friends and family are coming to visit; even close friends from the Outback are coming to visit in a few days!  Then to top it off, LD's gymnastics coach has asked if he wants to move up to the next level.  He'll have his assessment on Tuesday.

Quite frankly I worry about being too busy.

My concern is that his practice will go from once a week for an hour to twice a week for two hours each (evenings, of course).  Having to put ED in the car to pick up LD in that 6:30-7pm time frame is a hastle as she ALWAYS falls asleep on the (5 minute) way home.  Now I can of course have her teeth brushed and in pjs, but then she's up at 5:30am (an hour earlier) which kills me. Even if she hasn't fallen asleep, she's prone to temper tantrums at that time of day... embarrassing!

I also worry about over-scheduling my kids. I worry about the kids doing too much too soon in their lives.  Do you know what I mean??  In the fall, LD had soccer practice twice a week plus a game.  He always had to miss one practice for his gymnastics class (DD's dance class was at the same time, so there was no way we could have made it to soccer anyway). But doing both, allowed him to enjoy rather different sports.  So, while I'm happy to let LD try out for gymnastics (he loves, loves gymnastics and seems to have an affinity for it because he is constantly walking on his hands and doing cartwheels etc.), how does he try other things out? What does this mean for joining things like cub scouts?

I do like the fact that he can have a good workout during the cold months.  Yet, I also worry about injuries that can occur from doing things too rigorously too young.  I was always a reasonably good jr. high and high school athlete but remained injury free. As a result I've enjoyed a lot of amazing athletic experiences as an adult such as backpacking in the Rocky Mountains, Appalachian Mountains, in Nepal, New Zealand and Tasmania (Australia).   I've run a half-dozen marathons (including the Boston twice and the Sydney Host City Marathon which followed the Olympic marathon route and ended in the stadium), played field hockey and soccer for the past 10+ years.  So, I really want to protect the kids' health/bodies from doing too much too soon.

Do you have that same worry about over doing it?? In that way, I am so grateful to have so many lovely hours together as a family growing and learning as homeschoolers.  But I sure do worry about the balance in our lives. Do you?

Thanks for listening to me vent!!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Homemade Christmas Lanterns

We've been doing lots of holiday-related activities. Today we brought out our hammers and cans (filled with ice) to make lanterns. LD especially like this, though I was impressed with how long ED worked at it as well!

Once the ice melted, we were ready to light them with small tea candles inside and set them along the driveway to welcome Daddy home!
You might be interested in some of the holiday posts:

Remember, our blog has moved to

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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Earth Science--The Eight Planets

 We learned about the eight planets in our Solar System.  While the kids painted with watercolors, I sang this song from the Smithsonian, National Air and Space Museum Website.  It's called "Family of the Sun" and has one verse describing each of the eight planets (plus Pluto, the dwarf planet).  It's sung to the Farmer in the Dell:  Here's the first two verses and the chorus:
1)Mercury is hot
and Mercury is small.
Mercury has no atmosphere;
It's just a rocky ball
The Family of the Sun,
Its planets number eight.
Plus other rocky, icy worlds
That we appreciate
2) Venus has thick clouds
That hide what is below
The air is foul, the ground is hot
It rotates very 'slow.'

The kids got a lot out of this.  LD and ED looked very carefully at the photos of the planets and tried to replicate them.  ED just painted and painted and painted.  She was at it for more than an HOUR!!! 

Update: We have a free packet about the Solar System here (at our new location):

Thanks to My Montessori Journey who shared the song link and painting activity last year.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Earth Science: Nesting boxes from the Galaxy... on down to the Atom

I thought this was such a great idea for talking about our location, size and placement in the universe. It'd even be great for a study of maps. What a great lesson on where we live!!

I had these all stacked together and went over these one by one asking them which galaxy we live in, what planet, what state, city, street etc. Then piled them one on top of the next til it made the large stack you see at the left.

GALAXY: We are located in the Milky Way Galaxy

SOLAR SYSTEM: Our solar system has 8 planets and 5 dwarf planets

EARTH: We live on the planet earth which has 7 continents.

CONTINENT: We live in North America

STATE: We live in ... Montana, for example. (We actually live on the east coast.)

CITY: We live in the city of Great Falls, for example.

STREET: We live on Second Street, for example.

KIDS' PHOTO: This is us in our house at 88 Second Street.

ATOMS: Inside us, the smallest bits of matter are called atoms.

I simply printed out the appropriate pictures/maps from google images and mounted them on some construction paper on some cardboard nesting boxes we have around (from when LD was a baby!!).

This was a fabulous exercise because at one point, DD exclaimed, "I get it -- it goes from biggest, to smaller, smaller, smaller, ... smallest" as she tapped each box.  Both she and LD took turns both nesting the boxes and stacking them.  LD particularly enjoyed being timed to see how fast he could put them together.
I'm happy to say that I now know where I saw this activity: over at Little Acorns.  I had jotted it down for use with a study of maps. She also provided a link to the wooden nesting boxes at Waseca and the learning materials provided by the Waseca Learning Environment.   It seemed just perfect to fit in right now because we're going to spend a few days or so on the solar system.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Outdoor Play -- Fairy House, Sledding without Snow

 A huge part of our homeschool routine continues to be spending time outdoors.  I feel the kids need outdoor time -- and send them out to play for an hour or so every afternoon.  A lot of the time, I spend some of that time cutting wood and gathering kindling for the fire. (We use the fireplace once or twice a day. It really helps make our homeschool room cozy.) Though I get to enjoy tag, tickle monster and hide-and-seek of course too!

Daddy got the kids this little fairy house kit. LD nailed the door and windows to a tree in our backyard. When I'm cutting wood, I try to add some wood discs to their collection each day.  They've made little tables, stepping stones, etc. for their fairy house.  It's so cute to see them so engaged!  LD particularly enjoys taking some of those discs and nailing them together.

It's now a bit too cold for outdoor picnics, but we sure love eating outside when the weather's nice!

LD and DD have a "secret fort" -- a place where there are lots of fallen down logs. There's something about cubby houses and forts that capture the kids' imagination.
They seem to be good at making their own fun--in this case using some cast-off siding as a slide.
Who needs snow when the hill is so steep??  The kids have had a blast sledding down this hill in our front yard.  Their cousins were here for a visit last weekend and everyone from 3 to 14 (and beyond!) had a blast!

I love this blurry action photo of LD shooting down the hill!

Now that it's quite cold we all don our snowsuits and head outside! It doesn't make for spectacular pictures, but they/we spend a lot of time just wandering in the yard and in the woods, climbing up/over dead trees, etc. Some of my fondest childhood memories are climbing trees and exploring the park near our home.  I hope the kids continue to enjoy and appreciate nature as I do! 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Earth Science -- Gravity: the planets, moon and space

Today we had our second earth science lesson.  LD begged to do science again and I always love that enthusiasm!

 *I read an excerpt about how the earth isn't the only place with gravity. The moon and other planets have gravity too.  We talked about how people on the moon could take much bigger steps and can jump higher than on the moon.  Then we watched Bunny Hopping on the Moon and saw how the astronaut jumped around even with very heavy gear on.

*We talked a bit more about the fact that people can jump higher on smaller the planets because there isn't as much gravitational pull on them.  Then we took turns bouncing people on the small planets and the large earth globe.
*Then the kids drew three different sized planets and showed how high someone would jump.

*We talked a little bit about how planets orbit the sun -- and I took an orange (on a string) and spun it my head and said "this is a planet being held in orbit around the sun by gravity." Then I let go and said "NO gravity!!"  The kids laughed and I did it again, but accidentally tossed the orange over the fence and into the woods!

*After that we talked quite a lot about how space has no gravity and watched a number of you tube videos. I'm not sure they had ever seen footage from the space station before.  The kids loved these!  We watched a number of videos showing life on the International Space Station.  LD especially loved Fun in Space and said "I don't ever want this to be done!" But they also laughed a lot watching the frog and cat trying to get their bearings in space.