Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Jane Austen, at Last!

We did dinosaurs in the morning and Jane Austen in the afternoons and evenings.

We watched Sense and Sensibility, we discussed (the recently viewed and read) Pride and Prejudice, we talked about customs and social class... but mostly we planned the Jane Austen party!

We planned the menu: Raspberry "linzer" bars, scones, clotted cream, strawberries, cream puffs, and, of course, tea!

We planned the games. Online, there are no lack of resources!

Our favorite thing which we did not do was Snapdragon.  This was a popular party game in Jane Austen's time, and there seems to be some evidence that she played it herself.

To play, you fill a wide shallow bowl with brandy, drop in raisins (or currants if you are especially daring) and then light the brandy on fire.  The object is to pluck flaming raisins out with your bare hands and pop them still flaming into your mouth.  The one who ate the most raisins won.

They say that fewer people were burned than you might think.

Our favorite game that we did do was The Game of Graces.  While it was not as much fun as a house on fire, it was a lot of fun!

The essence of the game is that two people throw and catch a hoop using paired sticks.

The hoop itself is covered in trailing ribbons both to make it prettier, and to slow the flight of the hoop (making it easier to catch).  You fling the hoop be crossing your sticks like scissors and then pulling the sticks apart.

We had an odd number of ladies, so I ended up playing, unfortunately to the detriment of pictures!

But they (and I) had a great time!

They also watched Emma, and all the young ladies loved it.

It was a lovely party, and we'd love to do it again some time!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Dinosaur Week Round 4: Less Messy Projects

 The last of the dinosaur posts, I promise! 

I have a stash of posters and old calendar pictures, sorted by subject (animals, space, religious, art, plants, and other).

Ever since Mxyl was a toddler, we've always put up interesting pictures at his height, so we'd always have something interesting and/or beautiful for the kids to look at.

At this point, I have a lot of pictures (word gets around when you want old calendars!) but I only think to cover the lower walls occasionally, now that the Zoomlians are bigger.

That's a shame, really, because the older kids always enjoy looking at the more complex posters.  The vertical poster in the first picture is a replica of the "time column" which still stands in the Natural History museum. 

It's a bit out dated (I saw it when I was a kid!), but I was amazed at how helpful it was in representing when the different creatures existed, and the increasing complexity of life.  I just bought an updated poster.

We also made this mural to put the drawn dinosaurs on.  It's from my big roll of paper, maybe 4' x 8'. The sky and grass land (no grass til long after the dinosaurs) are quick water color washes, and the mountains are scrap brown paper.

 And the rest of the projects were lots and lots of reading from this random library selection, and packets copied from Dover books Dinosaur stuff. 

 We also did a bunch of their stickers, and some of the invisible "magic" picture books - a huge hit!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Poem of the Week

 We're down at the beach this week - my favorite place to be!  I am hoping to catch up on my posting about dinosaurs, Jane Austen, and summer camp, but I guess we'll sea see.

 Sea Fever

By John Masefield
I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking,
I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.
I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Post on Messy Dinosaur Themed Projects, to Bring You This Important Announcement

Mxyl has aced his driver's training test, obtained his learner's permit, and... is now...


Not that we're super proud and excited or anything.

Except we ARE!!!

Go Mxyl!
But not too fast.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Dinosaur Week Round 3: Yet More Messy Projects!

I can't believe I haven't mentioned it yet, but Dinosaur Week wouldn't be complete without loads of plastic dinosaurs!

Here, Choclo is playing with the small ones we put in the "eggs," but we also have the larger ones we used for making tracks in clay, as well as a batch that are skeletons.

We also did baking soda and vinegar volcanoes, since the earth's crust was more active at the time of the dinosaurs.  And we like them.  A lot.

We like to add a dash of dish detergent to the vinegar, and a few drops of red food coloring/liquid watercolor in the volcano itself.

We thought it was more fun when we added the plastic dinosaurs and sound effects, but you should follow your own taste.

Hey, look!  We had a baby visit us for one day of dinosaur week.  He was 12 months and such a cutie!  He really liked dinosaurs.

 Then it was time for dinosaur costumes!  In the past, we've made dinosaur tails, but this time, I wanted to do the whole dino.

I used my brown big roll of paper (it's builder's paper that I got at the hardware store) because it was stiffer and a bit more dinosaur colored.

Dino Oobus
I folded a large length in half, then had Choclo lay down on it on his side so I could see where his face would be, and where to put the arm holes.  I drew the open mouth where his face was, then drew a rough dinosaur shape (except the tail, legs and arms) around the rest of him.

Dino Choclosaurus
Then I cut it out, stapling both sheets of paper as I went, and leaving the bottom space open for his legs,  an open mouth so he could see, and an area open to staple on a tail.

I used the scraps to cut out and stuff a tail (also stapled together, then stapled onto the body).

Then it was just a matter of cutting arm holes and adding eyes with marker.

I was pretty rushed at the time, and the whole costume took 10 minutes, but it worked well enough to make everyone happy!  I'd like to try again and take a little more time to "fancy it up" a bit, if I have time.  Still, sometimes, good enough is better than not doing it!

Dino Terror!!


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Dinosaur Week Round 2: More Messy Projects

I should mention that throughout the week we watched the entire Walking With Dinosaurs series including Walking With Monsters (animals before the dinosaurs), Chased by Dinosaurs, and even some Walking with Beasts (animals after the dinosaurs, up to the last ice age). I think all of those are available for streaming on Netflix. And watching them was not very messy!

Speaking of walking, I had everyone dip their feet in paint and walk along a big length of paper.  Then I had them re-dip their feet and run (very carefully) along another length.

It was interesting, they noticed there were more footprints when they walked before they noticed that they were further apart when they ran.  It is sort of the same thing, of course!

This is how we can tell, when we find fossilized footprints, if the dinosaur was walking or running.

And, of course, it was fun to wash their feet afterwards with the hose!

Next we went inside and rolled out clay for our plastic dinosaurs "walk" over.

Choclo made impressions of bones and then had his tyrannosaur walk over them.

And someone started molding dinosaurs (Klenda?).

We also rolled out and cut sugar cookies into dinosaur shapes.

That was yummy fun, especially when we frosted them.

Then I remembered that I had little candy eyeballs.

And that may have gilded the lily, because they looked a little..odd.

Klenda tried to save it by adding smiles, but I'm not sure it helped.

But they tasted like great dinosaur cookies, and they disappeared quickly!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Dinosaur Week Round 1: Messy Projects

We kicked off Dinosaur Week with a surprise!

We had not had sand in our sandbox for about a year (where does all the sand go?), so the kids thought the surprise was the sudden reappearance of sand.

But they hadn't dug long when they started uncovering bones, and eventually they reconstructed this fine dinosaur skeleton!

While they were doing that, I was inside resorting my posters and pulling out the dinosaur ones.  I had been stockpiling dinosaur themed stuff for quite a while, and then I discovered Pinterest, so I ended up with way more than a week's worth of activities.

I had found some foam dinosaur stickers, and the Zoomlians kind of went wild with them, so then we had even more dino things to put on the wall!

Klenda did a sketch augmented with stickers.
 My all time favorite dinosaur activity is to put (dry) bones into plaster of paris, and then have the kids chip them out.  This time I had an enormous pile of bones which I had been saving since last Thanksgiving (turkey bones!) and 5 pounds of plaster of paris left in my 25 pound sack (under $10 at a hardware store).

 We made over a dozen bone embeddings, and we took to making "fossil" impressions  on the outside with shells.

We uncovered some of the bones the next day, while the plaster was not fully cured, and some the day after when it was.

 We actually gave away some of them to kids who visited us!

Choclo and Oob merrily whacked away at theirs with hammers, and speedily uncovered their bones.

Klenda and Leena went in the paleontologist's direction, uncovering the bones with chisels and paintbrushes.

Everyone had fun!
 Lastly, we made dinosaur "eggs" by making a kind of clay from old baking powder and shampoo, then forming into "eggs" around little plastic dinosaurs.

After they dried (overnight) we "hatched" the eggs by putting them in water.  This was really neat because the eggs foam up with a consistency that's hard to describe: like marshmallow fluff, but not sticky.

If you don't have old baking powder, you can use baking soda, just dissolve them in vinegar water.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Poem of the Week

God's Grandeur

By Gerard Manley Hopkins
The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
    It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
    It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
    And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
    And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
    There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
    Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
    World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings. 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Happy Birthday, Mxyl!

Mxyl has celebrated his 16th birthday!! 
 Three times so far!

First at Mumpy and Pa's, second with us (before he left for camp), and then, at camp, on his actual birthday! Which just leaves celebrating with Grammy when we're at the beach at the end of the month...

To perfect the celebration, officials in charge of home schooling in our county mailed his paperwork saying that he could receive his driver's permit before he turned 16.  Yes, they mailed it on the very day at which he no longer needed it, but it's the thought that counts!
Roman Numerals are Cool.

In case you're wondering about the candles I could only find four candles that weren't pink, Mxyl is really into roman numerals.

Usually when I've forgotten to get the candles I'm feeling very creative, I do the candles in binary.  But 16 works out to 10000, and one lit candle followed by four unlit ones seemed...not so festive. Ahem.

And now, what you've been waiting for:

16 Amazing Things About Mxyl

1. He wears hats at a jaunty angle.
2. He's been elected to the Order of the Arrow.
3. He can arch one eyebrow.
4. He writes notes to himself in Japanese.
5. He's a doting older brother.
6. He's closing in on Eagle Scout!
7. He's a smoking computer animator.  No, really, he can make smoke!
8. He looks for what needs to be done and does it without being asked.
9. He has an inimitable fashion sense.
10. He loves the sacraments and makes it his business to get to them.
11. His pajamas are plaid.  Three kinds of plaid. At the same time.
11. He's got a really quirky sense of humor that always cracks me up (like an egg)!
12. He's half way through Pre-Calculus.
13. He likes wearing bow ties.
14. He's aiming to be the Twelfth Doctor.
14. He's very kind.
15. He's starting his first college classes this fall.
16. He's starting to drive this Monday! 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Seven Quick Takes

1.  As I write this (Thursday afternoon) it is 102 degrees, but, my weather app tells me, it feels like 123 degrees. That would be a bit over 50 degrees in Celsius, but I prefer the screaming mania of three digits of crazy hot.  In reality, it feels like 827 degrees Celsius, anyway.

What's that?  No one could survive 827 C?  Yes!  That's exactly how it feels.

2.  Speaking of summer, it's winter in Australia.  Are you surprised?  I actually was.  Which also surprised me.

 I've been reading two lovely and talented Australian bloggers, Sue Elvis at Stories of an Unschooling Family and Vicky at Creating with Wisdom. By "lovely" I mean that their blogs radiate love, and I always feel better for having read them. 

But it really is winter where they are! Right now!   I know that, of course.  I've taught about seasons and I understand why this is so.

And yet... my gut sense of the world (123 degrees!) thinks this is ridiculous. Vicky put up a snowy background on her blog this month, and, at first, I thought it was a joke!  And then Sue wrote about going for hot cocoa... 

If I were either of those two bloggers, I'm sure I'd draw something meaningful from this, but I'm  too busy trying to refrain from stupid comments like, "But then, is it Christmas for you?"

3. Which reminds me that a visitor recently noticed that I have the 6' arm of Grendel hanging in my kitchen.

Yes, yes, I know that's crazy: we never eat in the kitchen, it should be hanging in the dining room, a much better analogy for Hart Hall.

At any rate, I had forgotten it was there, which really should not be possible.

4. Not to give the impression that we are weird home schoolers (which is not to be confused with Weird Unsocialized Home Schoolers), sometimes we just look like this.

I'm not sure, but I think that mysterious stranger is Choclo.

5. And speaking of Choclo, he recently discovered the bag of giant rhinestones I had bought a year ago (on a whim when I was trying to hit the free shipping minimum) and asked to play with them. I thought that was fine.

Not fine, fantastic!  Choclo and Oob made pictures on the floor with the gems  for hours!  The picture is one of Oob's creations - it's about Jesus, he told me. We clean up by sweeping them (with a broom) and then pouring them back in the bag.

Then Leena and Zorg made up a lengthy and complicated game involving trading the gems at different values.  I have no idea how it works, but all the older Zoomlians play it for hours (whenever the younger Zoomlians aren't playing with them).

Best Too-Hot-to-Go-Outside toy ever!  A second bag should arrive today.

6.  Mxyl and Zorg are at Boy Scout camp this week, and the Emperor joined them for the latter half.

To keep things going on the home front, we have been doing Dinosaur Week (many, many posts coming up) and Jane Austen Week (more posts coming) at the same time.

It's been... kinda indescribable.  The biggest surprise has been that Choclo liked Sense and Sensibility that much.

7.  In pursuit of Dinosaur Week, and in an attempt to find a dinosaur themed song that does not assert that dinosaurs flew and swam (by definition a dinosaur is a land animal), I stumbled across this (entirely non educational) song from my youth, and now I can't get it out of my head.

Oh, that's much better, right?  My kids think it's hilarious and spend the whole song pointing out the anachronisms, "But, Mom!  There weren't any dinosaurs 40 million years ago!"

What can I say, it was the 80s...

More fun with Jen!!

Thursday, July 18, 2013


Leena was kid of the week last week, and she asked me, as she had several times before, if we could make home made doughnuts.

The fact is, I got a doughnut cutter (that's the concentric metal circle thing)  four or five years ago, and I hadn't used it yet.

It was time to make the doughnuts!

The kids loved them.  I thought they were pretty good, but a little too.. bread like?  And it was a four hour project! For four hours it needs to be completely amazing.

I used the New Best Recipes recipe for yeasted doughnuts, and they used what was essentially a sweet, wet, bread dough with a 2 1/2 hour first rise and a 45 minute second rise.  It wasn't as bad as that sounds - I made the dough before we left for Sunday Mass, so the first rise was pretty easy. Except that Mass was at 7 am. :O

Anyway, I frosted the doughnuts with raspberry frosting and sprinkles, and rolled the holes in cinnamon sugar, so they were well received, but next time  I'd like to try a different recipe, maybe one that could rise overnight, or a cake doughnut recipe like this one.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Zorg's 13 Trip: Part 2

 Zorg and the Emperor also went to Wonderworks, a very cool science museum that looks like an upside down building!

I think a science museum in Orlando probably has to be pretty cool to compete with all the other attractions.

When you enter the building they "invert" you so that you can play in all the exhibits.

 It looked to me like they focused on physics - at any rate they have over 100 hands on activities, and we are all about hands on science!

They had a great bubble physics set up.

And when he was tired of that, Zorg got to relax on a bed of nails!

Our 13 trips are, of necessity, only 3or 4 days (counting travel), so Wonderworks was a really nice wrap up to the trip.