Sunday, February 28, 2010

US History Update

Yes, we are still moving along in our US History mega unit. We're sort of on a low tide part of it right now. We should finish the Revolutionary War this week, thanks to Liberty's Kids. Honestly, I can't say enough about the series!

With thirty episodes, it's able to cover a broad array of topics in a nuanced way with a great deal of humor and human interest thrown in.

We've also been doing some books, my favorite being The Declaration of Independence in Translation: What It Really Means. I got it from the library and am on the hunt for the next book in the series, the one on the Bill of Rights.

I am thinking we'll have a field trip to the National Archives to actually see the documents.

I think we will also memorize the Preamble to the Constitution the way I did:

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

My Cabinet

Good Prime Ministers must have a cabinet. Mine consists of everyone who can fit in it.

So, Choclo and Oob, what do you think of the state of the home school room?

Friday, February 19, 2010

It's a Calamity!

The Emperor was greeted with weeping children proclaiming a great calamity: the snow, all that beautiful snow, was melting!

Alas, it was true: a tiny patch of suffocated grass had appeared on the sunny south slope.

On the bright side (shady side?), however, our north facing front yard still has more snow than we usually get in two winters.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Happy Mardi Gras!

This a fun, no stress holiday for us. The Emperor and I met in New Orleans, although not at Mardi Gras, so we feel a little connection.

We'll eat sausage and pancakes for dinner. If I'm up to it, I'll make beignets. The kids will wear their craziest clothes and we'll make silly hats and/or masks.

We'll eat up all the candy in the house! We'll take down all the hearts and snow flakes, and tomorrow we'll be ready for Lent.

I made some worksheets by hand and then photocopied them since I didn't have access to the computer. I thought I'd describe them here because they were easy to make and could be adapted to cover any theme or occasion.

Page one is, "Draw a silly hat or mask for Mardi Gras." This will dovetail with actually making them later.

Page2 is a secret message for them to decode.

Page 3 and 4 are Mardi Gras themed word problems scaled for varying math ability. My favorite is for Leena: If you have 74 sausages, and you eat 67 of them, how many are left for everyone else?

Page 5 is a bunch of dot to dots by 1s, 2s, 3s, 4s, 5s, and 6s. They make various Mardi Gras treats, and I drew pictures of each kid near their favorite treat making silly comments. These are just stick figures, by the way!

Page 6 is simple: Tell a silly story about eating too much of your favorite food on Mardi Gras.

Page 7 is a picture of a kid on one side and a plate of sausages and pancakes on the other. In between I drew three very tangled lines, but only one leads to the sausages. It's a quick and easy way of drawing a maze.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Last Day of Winter Vacation

From the Valentine wrap up files: The Emperor has Love on his back.

Choclo firmly believes that all 2 dozen heart balloons are his exclusive property. No one may take away any balloon for any reason (this might work if he were an only child, I suppose...).

What does he want to do with all those balloons? Tie them to individual toys laid carefully all over the living room.

Ha! I bet you thought it was my regular messy living room, didn't you?

We are sadly realizing that after 10 1/2 days, the Emperor probably will actually have to go to school tomorrow. Sniff!

I've been trying to get all that planning done that I was sure I'd have time for!

I did make the Walking With Jesus poster.

I made up some Mardi Gras packets, but I'll explain that in another post.

I hand made some letter and number "fade out" pages. These came from a great book which I loaned out several years ago. I don't think it's coming back, and, of course, I have no idea who has it! It has amazing stuff in it, and I highly recommend it. I may just break down and buy it again, but I need these pages now.

Anyway, I just made a big table in Word, printed it out and hand drew the letters. The first row (5 boxes) is an outline of the letters to color in. The second row is an outline to trace inside. The third is a regular letter to trace. The fourth is a dashed line of the letter. The fifth are widely spaced dots, and the sixth just has a dot for where to start. All the rows also have arrows showing the letter formation. My hand is pretty tired, but I made it through the alphabet and numbers and then made tons of photocopies so I don't need to go through this again!

I did some other planning, but didn't get to the home school filing. And I, yet again, completely avoided cleaning the basement. Maybe next weekend...

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Lent Ideas

First, a little mood music:

After 10 Lents with little kids, I've come to realize the truth about myself: I have a limited attention span. I can get away with overloading 3 1/2 weeks of Advent, but 4 weeks into Lent, "a little too much" falls into chaos. So, simplicity rules! After consulting the Zoomlians, we are doing 4 special things.

1. We will be making a big "Walking with Jesus" poster. This has been a big favorite for the past two years, and since it is focused on the Sunday Gospels, it's not too hard to keep up with. You just color in one footprint a day.

2. We will be giving up sweets, except for our Sunday Gospel Desserts. We'll eat pretzels and dried fruit instead.

3. We will choose something we'd like to improve about ourselves for our Vine and Branches.

4. We will save up money for Heifer International. If you've never heard of them, they give livestock to poor families around the world. You can buy anything from a flock of chicks to goats, to cows (or even camels!). The money buys not only the animals, but the training for the family to care for and breed the livestock, in an ecologically sustainable way. Even veterinary care is included!

Something as simple as a flock of chicks can save children from malnutrition (eggs are high quality protein) and give the family an income from the surplus eggs. Those chickens can be fed on inedible food scraps, don't take up much space, eat damaging insects and produce fertilizer. Each family receiving a gift of animals is required to give some of the offspring to their neighbors (and they have the same obligation), which really multiplies the effect of the gift..

I really like it that they've figured out what the specific needs are for each area, and it allows people to become self sufficient while helping their neighbors. (In fact, this is the exact type of foreign aid promoted by the Holy Father in his last encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, one that helps the poor to help themselves.) Anyway, we are aiming for the chickens (10 to 50 chicks for $20).

Everything else will be continuations of other things: We are reading the Gospel of Matthew. We will try to get to daily Mass more often. We'll probably say the Rosary more.

There will probably be some one shot things, too. Last year we were able to make and serve corned beef and cabbage to the homeless on St. Patrick's Day. I'd love to do that again (I've loved St. Patrick since we read St. Patrick's Summer!) .

Anything that doesn't require 40 days of follow through!

More Lent ideas here.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Snow Fun

So what are we doing while snowed in (since we're obviously not blogging much)?

We spent a lot of time being amazed at the weather. The blizzard winds were strong enough that the icicles on the windy side of the house were all angled. It was actually a little disorienting.

Here you can see a table on my neighbor's patio. That chain link fence is 4 feet high.

Most of the time we were getting ready for a retreat that we were hosting this weekend. That was canceled by the snow, of course. A friend asked if I were disappointed.

I will definitely miss seeing our priest friend that was flying in to do the retreat. I was excited about the retreat, but I figure God knows what he is doing, so, no, not exactly disappointed. Plus, I'm never going to be sorry I cleaned up the house!!

The Emperor is working on a talk he'll be giving next month.

We've been playing in the snow. And shoveling.

We've all been working on valentines. We have heart envelopes hanging on the wall for each person's valentines. I have a scavenger hunt planned and some other games. I'll be making heart muffins (or pancakes) for breakfast, and heart pizza for dinner, but I haven't come up with an appropriate lunch yet. Of course there will be Pink Burping Cows of Love.

I am starting to plan out Lent! I hope to post on that very soon.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Snow More!

What to do when hit with another blizzard? Science experiments, of course!

Here's an easy one. Use a measuring cup to measure 4 cups of snow (dip and sweep with a flat edge to get an accurate measure).

Here's Zorg with our 4 cups.
But how much is there, really?

First we tried packing it down. We ended up going from 4 cups to 2 cups, as Mxyl shows.

Everyone knows that water takes up less space than snow, so next we melted it (in the microwave).

Leena is showing that there was only 1/2 cup of water in those 4 cups of snow!

Our snow was wet and dense, we plan to try again with "drier" snow near the end of the blizzard!

So, about that blizzard...

First, I have to tell you, digging out from the last one was tough!

How do you get 2 feet of snow off of a 7 foot van?

My answer was an ever obliging, indefatigable ( I knew watching Horatio Hornblower would pay off someday) Emperor!

Klenda, at the beginning, stated, "I don't know how to play in this much snow."

True, you can't sled, there's no place to make a snowman, and, if you try to make a snow angel, we may not find you until Spring. The Emperor's one word advice?

So, the Zoomlians have been busy digging out snow caves. (Yes, Pa, we are being careful!)

It never really thawed between storms, but the old snow rather solidified. This means that the kids can run around on top of the snow most of the time.

Sometimes they plunge through, but such dangers merely add zest to the undertaking.

How much snow is there? It's hard to tell with the fresh snow because of the high winds (and all the old snow). Also, there are mountains of snow everywhere from people trying to dig out.

To give some perspective, the branches on this tree start 5 feet off of the ground.

If you ever wanted to recapture the feeling of going out in the snow as a little kid, this storm is for you!

Saturday, February 6, 2010


Look! We have a snow stick! As you can see, it's measuring almost 28." Yes, that is a danger sticker at the top. I believe it says, "DANGER! If you can not read this warning, you may have too much snow!"

But we are really enjoying it!

(that's Choclo under the hat)

Why is Leena smiling while her brothers do all the shoveling?

Not to worry, the brothers are smiling, too!

A justifiably proud hero hubby!

One last beautiful shot that Zorg took of the beech tree!