Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas American Girl crafting

Hazel received a couple of new-to-her (from Craigslist) American Girl horses for Christmas.  I got a pretty good deal on them, but they're not pristine, which is fine, given how rough she is on belongings.  The larger horse was also missing the saddle that she had originally come with, so I had a couple of projects I wanted to do for the horses before they were gifted.

First, hay bales! I followed Ana White's plans for burlap plush hay bales.  They turned out cute, which is good, since they were a GIANT PAIN.  Seriously.  Never sewing with burlap again.  I think these could have been done with a glue gun with much less frustration.  Live and learn.

Second, I made blankets for both horsies.  Don't they look warm and cheerful?

The pattern for the blankets is here.  I made the foal's blanket by slowly cutting down the pattern for the larger one and laying the paper pattern across her back, then cutting it down some more, and some more, until it looked the right size.  Good enough.

My last project was a replacement saddle for Penny, the big horse.  I used the template provided by this blogger, but used different materials than she did.  I bought a quarter yard of that fabric that has sheepy fleece stuff on one side and faux suede on the other (I'm sure there's a name for that, but I don't know what it is!) and made the saddle out of that. The main saddle piece has the suede-y side up and the fleecy side down.  The seat part is fleecy side up.  I sewed the seat part on to the saddle part and that was pretty much it! I bought some cute braided trim at Joann (a yard, and I didn't use it all), put two small grommets in the saddle and ran the trim under the saddle and out through the grommets to be straps for the stirrups.  Does that make any sense?  Stirrups are just 1.5" d-rings, but I should have gone up a size.  I took a doll shoe with me to Joann for sizing, but cowgirl boots are bulkier and they barely fit.  I used a needle and thread to tack the ribbon in place to hold the d-rings.  Seriously, 15 minute project, easy peasy, and SUPER cute.  This also could have been done with hot glue or fabric glue just as easily, if anyone is in need of a dolly horse saddle and doesn't sew.

When Hazel and I went to the American Girl store in Washington, D.C. at Thanksgiving, I very sneakily purchased the Western Riding Outfit to complete the set.  Gracie looks adorable in it, and Hazel has really enjoyed having horses to play with, with her dolls!

Monday, December 02, 2013

Our Favorite Christmas Books

We are Christmas book-aholics over here.  I thought I'd take a minute and share some of our favorites with you.

For several years, our most loved Christmas books were board books.  My kids are now old enough to listen to and enjoy longer stories, but these four are still favorites:

  • B is for Bethlehem is out of print, but lovely if you ever come across one.
  • Christmas in the Manger is my favorite for a very first Christmas book.  Perfect for infants and toddlers to go along with a Little People or other nativity scene that can be played with
  • The Story of Christmas
  • The Night Before Christmas--We still like our board book version of this poem well enough that we haven't upgraded to a "big kid" one.  

We like to focus in early December on reading about the historical person of St Nicholas.  We don't "do" Santa here, but we discuss how the modern Santa Claus has his roots in St Nicholas and then we're free to enjoy the season with Santa around every turn, in stores, in books, in movies, etc, knowing where that came from, and not waiting for him to bring us presents on Christmas Eve.  To aid us in those conversations, we have a couple of books on St Nicholas.  I prefer Saint Nicholas: the Real Story of the Christmas Legend (red, below) to The Legend of St Nicholas: a Story of Christmas Giving (blue), but I don't super love either of them.  The red one is better for a younger audience for sure.  This is the first year that mine have sat through the blue one willingly.  I'm still on the lookout for an even better version, and if I find it, I'll update!  Our other favorite resource on this is the super silly Veggie Tales video on St Nicholas. Streams on Netflix!

Others that mama never minds reading again and again,  year after year include:

Also, in the spirit of there never being enough Christmas books, I requested a few at the library that had been recommended by others.  We have found a few winners among them!

Of course, we have our fair share of groan-worthy Christmas books, too.  You know--the ones that I consider hiding in the night (and still might!) like the book that comes with the Elf on the Shelf, anyone with me on that one? But mostly, Christmas books bring us much joy, and we love to share them with our friends!  

Any favorites of yours that you think we ought to try? I'm all ears! 

Monday, November 18, 2013

wrap up: The Glorious Flight (and the rest of November)

We took the first week of November off from Five in a Row and did a week-long geography project that I saw on Pinterest on landforms.  We read library books and watched youtube videos about the different landforms and decorated a couple of them each day.  At the end of the week, we put them together for a landform flip book.  They are so cute!

A front view:

One my favorite scenes:
clouds and rain on Hazel's hills
And another:
the BEST penguin, polar bear, and whale EVER
Last week, we did the Five in a Row unit on The Glorious Flight.  Adorable book about the first flight across the English Channel by French pilot Louis Bleriot.  We spent a day on geography, locating the English channel and coloring a map of it. We continued social studies with some discussion comparing life then (1910s) and now as we looked at the illustrations in the book.

We spent a day learning about flight with the relevant Magic School Bus episode and making paper airplanes.  That was a HUGE hit, and there have been several more made in the days since.
VERY serious Charlie

The art lesson from the manual was on perspective, especially how things appear different when you're looking up at them or looking down on them.  We took our book with us to lunch at Chick-fil-A in the mall, which is on the second floor.  We read the book while we ate and looked at the illustrations in the story that showed different perspectives and then practiced looking down onto the lower level of the mall and discussing how different things looked from where we were than when we were down below.  Then we went downstairs and looked up.  It was really simple, yet effective!

My favorite parts of this row, however, were the go-along books!  We checked out quite the basketful this time and found some really fun ones.  Our favorites:

The Wondrous Whirligig
The Flyers

The Flyers included this page in the back that showed a short history of flight including the Louis Bleriot crossing the English Channel and the Wright Brothers' flight several years before that.  Kids were really drawn to this.

We did not get to everything I had planned for this row.  Honestly, it's been a trying few weeks at Chaos Academy and we're often doing well to get the basics (reading, writing, math) done!  I read a blog post last week about how many homeschoolers want to quit in November and February.  Boy has that been true here lately. Whew!  I took some of the advice in the post to heart and have changed pace again for this week with another Five in a Row break.  We're just enjoying some Thanksgiving books and simple crafts and trying to get ready for our trip to see grandparents over the holiday.
Our Thankful Tree
some little pilgrim and indian finger puppets 
We will have a field trip related to Glorious Flight while we're visiting grandparents though! We plan to follow up our week learning about the history of flight with a trip to the National Air and Space museum.  Should be fun!

I think we plan to take most of December to do Christmas books and crafts, so Five in a Row may be on the back burner until after the first of the year.  I'll post if we do anything newsworthy, but I don't make any promises.  Thanks for following along with us!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Halloween 2013

Again this year, the boys just wanted a new superhero costume from Target so they could amp up their dress up games.  Hazel is the only one who still wants me to sew for her, which frankly, is fine by me.

This year, she was dead set on Princess Celestia from the My Little Pony cartoon.  She is obsessed with MLP.  I tried my best to talk her into one of the ponies that did not have a horn or a crown or jewelry or any of the extra junk that the princesses have.  Nothing doing.  She was only interested in Princess Celestia.

We did our best, and I think we did OK!

I started with these two tutorials: one and two, and used them as a base for wings, mane, tail, ears, horn, and cutie mark. I used a purchased white sweat suit, though.  No sewing a hoodie for me, thankyouverymuch.   The necklace and crown I totally winged, using sparkly craft foam with velcro dots and "jewels" hot glued on.  She's pleased, therefore so am I!

with her protectors, Iron Man and Wolverine

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Wrap Up: Wee Gillis

Our Wee Gillis unit is a wrap!

Wee Gillis is a book by Munro Leaf, from Five in a Row volume 2.  I was excited about this book for two reasons.  One, we Wallaces have some Scottish heritage and two, we really enjoyed our row of Ferdiand, which is also by Munro Leaf.  Here's what we did with Wee Gillis:

Geography: We placed our story disk on Scotland, colored a map of Scotland, and discussed the lowlands and the highlands, as mentioned in the story.

Social Studies: We learned about kilts, tartan, and bagpipes!  I read some from a library book on Scotland and we talked about traditional Scottish dress, kilts, and tartan.  I showed the kids the wool blanket that David got in Scotland that is in the Wallace clan tartan, and then we tried paper weaving a Wallace tartan-like pattern.

the real and the paper Wallace tartans, for comparison, with a goofy face from the 6yo

and bagpipes! We watched several youtube videos of bagpipe players, and then we made our own "bagpipes" following these instructions.  They don't really make "music" but they do illustrate how bagpipes work, and the kids LOVED them.

The kids' Musikgarten class has also been studying the British Isles and I planned this row to coincide with their week in Scotland.  They listened to some music with bagpipes, read a Scottish fairy tale, and sang some related songs, I think? I don't always get clear answers to "What did you do in music class?" It's fun when those things can line up like that, though!

Science: In the story, Wee Gillis' lungs get very, very strong from calling cattle with his lowland relatives and holding his breath while stalking stags with his highland relatives.  We read a library book about our lungs and then tried this lung capacity experiment.  Jono took one picture of Charlie, but you can't see much.

No one was satisfied after their first attempts (marked in black sharpie) and wanted to try again.  Jonathan and Charlie significantly improved their result (in silver, hard to see) on their second try.  I suspect Hazel's lungs held more air than she managed to blow out, too, but she couldn't prove it.  Mama can empty the entire bottle.  Kids were suitably impressed.

Art: I photocopied two illustrations from the book for us to compare.  The two pictures appear at first glance to be nearly identical, but the kids found four things that were different between them and circled them.  They seemed to really enjoy looking for those details.  I'll have to get some similar puzzles for them to work through.

For language Arts we read some lovely poetry! We read the A.A. Milne poem "Halfway Down" and the Robert Burns poem "My Heart is in the Highlands" and discussed them.  We ended up reading most of the rest of the book of poems by A.A. Milne.  He's certainly a favorite.

We watched both the movie of Wee Gillis (from the library) and the Pixar movie Brave, which we hadn't yet seen.  Both were popular, although the kids said that Brave was too scary.  That's been true of every Pixar movie they've seen the first time through, so I wasn't surprised.  I thought it was cute!  I did not show them Braveheart, of course, but we did read the little blurb in our Scotland library book about William Wallace and his campaign for Scottish freedom in the 13th century.  Charlie was particularly interested in that, given his middle and last names.

Overall Wee Gillis was a very enjoyable row, and we just have one more book on our list before Thanksgiving!  We'll be spending some time learning about flight with The Glorious Flight and then do a short geography unit before we head to Virginia to see the grandparents for Thanksgiving.

Thanks for following along!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Wrap Up: Henry the Castaway

We spent the first two weeks of October on the Five in a Row unit Henry the Castaway, from volume three.  This was a book that neither of my available library systems had, so it's one I put on my kids' Christmas wish lists last year and they got from my brother and sister-in-law.  Score one for homeschool Christmas gifts!  It's an adorable story and a super fun "row".  Here's how we did it:

Social Studies:
In the story, Henry and his dog Angus set out to explore the "uncharted seas".  They come to a river that Henry says "must be the Orinoco River... (which) goes through very wild and dangerous territory."  We found the actual location of the Orinoco River which runs through Venezuela to the Atlantic Ocean  and placed our story disc on it.  The kids colored a map of Venezuela and located the Orinoco River.  We checked some books about Venezuela and South America out of the library, but the kids have mostly ignored them.  We also watched this short video clip about the river, the local plants and animals, and the people groups who live nearby.

We did a second social studies day on Columbus and (general) explorers.  In the story, Henry finds some cats on the island they explore and names them Mrs. Friday (which is an allusion to Robinson Crusoe? I've never read it.), Columbus, and Elizabeth.  He also talks about "exploring the uncharted seas".  We read kids' library book about explorers and discussed what it might have been like to take off in a boat and really not know (exactly) where the ocean you were sailing would go.  While I read, they colored a picture of Columbus.

For geography, we read a book called Mapping Penny's World which was a fantastic introduction to map reading.

We read a library book called Follow the Water from Brook to Ocean.  Very cute story and illustrated how streams flow into larger rivers which flow into the ocean, etc. We also started reading the Caldecott Honor book Paddle-to-the-Sea, which is about a boy who carves a toy canoe and sets it to float out on the melting spring snow from his home in Canada above Lake Superior with the hopes that the boat would float through the Great Lakes and out the St Lawrence River to the Atlantic Ocean.  We aren't finished with this book yet, but it's been a big hit so far!

We did the lesson from the manual about tallying using the animals in one illustration of Henry for counting.  My kids were not super interested in this, so I'm not sure it stuck. We'll try again.

We looked up Scottish Terriers (like Angus) in a dog breed book and that led to discussing different kinds of dogs that the different people we know own.

We found this adorable go-along book about cataways--Castaway Cats.

We spent some time on survival skills and talked about what Henry did right when he was on his adventure with Angus and got stuck on an island with no way to get home.  We read a library book called Lost in the Woods and discussed it.  I'm pretty sure my kids think they're experts at building a shelter and killing wild game, and I'm not remotely confident they paid attention to the admonition to STAY IN ONE PLACE, so yeah... let's just hope they never get lost.  They'd be in trouble.

We also built popsicle stick rafts (since we couldn't really build canoes like Henry had) to float in the water on our own Exploring Adventure.
This is how explorers dress! 
And then... we set off like Henry to see if we could explore the uncharted seas.  For us, the uncharted seas were simply the North Shore of Lake Pontchartrain.  We went to Fontainbleau State Park to hike nature trails and splash in the "beach" on the shore of the lake.
Setting off down the nature trail.
Ahh, nature.  Either a large worm or a small snake.  I wasn't sure. 
"Splash" turned out to mean totally swim in your clothes regardless of the fact that this was one of the first mornings we had temperatures in the low 70s.  I have no clue why there weren't shivering!  Good thing I packed a dry set of clothes for everyone just in case!  

my view
My sandy one.  This kid LOVES the beach. 
trying to blow his raft along

We brought home a TON of these little brown and white shells.  
A few other fun shots from the week:
Jono doodled this while I read Henry one day.  If you're familiar with the story, I'm sure you'll recognize parts! 
Jono built some towers with sums of seven using cuisenaire rods.  He's a big fan of towers. 
The twins started All About Spelling this week and really enjoy it so far!
It was a fantastic adventure and a wonderful row.  Thanks for following along!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Wrap Up: Lentil

We have just finished another super fun Five in a Row unit study on the book Lentil, by Robert McCloskey.  Lentil is a book that we owned before we began our FIAR journey, so it was familiar, and Robert McCloskey is one of our favorite children's authors.  We always enjoy getting to know a familiar book even better by taking it through Five in a Row.  Here's what we did with Lentil:

Social Studies:
1. Map work and coloring page for the state of Ohio, in the United States.  We found both Ohio and Louisiana, colored both, and discussed how far Lentil lived from us.
2. Patriotism and the United States flag.  In the book, there is a big parade welcoming home Colonel Carter, the town's most important citizen.  They decorate with flags.  We read a library book about our flag and what the colors and symbols on it mean, and made flag collages.  We listened to Wee Sing America while we worked, for some familiarity with America's famous patriotic songs.

Art: We tried our hand at soap whittling, which is not as easy as it seems!  In the story, the antagonist spends his time "whittling and grumbling".  My kids much preferred playing with the soap afterwards than the actual activity of carving it.

1. Acoustics and sound.  We set out to discover why Lentil says that when he plays his harmonica in the bathtub the tone is improved 100%.  We watched the Magic School Bus on sound and bounced a ball on the couch (it didn't bounce much) and then in the bathtub (it bounced a lot).  We decided that sound waves must bounce better in hard places like the tub just like balls did.  Then all of the kids got a harmonica and they put on show after show after show.
really hard to get a picture of a busy kid bouncing a ball!
again with the bouncy blurry kid

2. Taste buds!  Old Sneep (the antagonist) tries to ruin the Colonel's homecoming by sucking on lemons so that the members of the band would pucker up when they looked at him and be unable to play their instruments.  We read the page in our Flip Flap Body Book about taste buds and then tasted some salty, sweet, sour, and bitter foods.

not a fan of the sour lemon!
in disbelief that Mom actually handed over a cup of (bitter) coffee!

Music: Besides playing with our new harmonicas, we explored the instruments in the brass section of the orchestra.  The book talks about several brass instruments, so we listened to that section and read the accompanying pages in The Story of the Orchestra.

In non-FIAR school news, we have a new plan for nature study and a new artist and composer for picture and music study.  Our new artist is John James Audubon, the 19th century naturalist who painted many many bird species.  Our local zoo, aquarium, insectarium, and a park are named for him, so I thought he'd be a good artist to study.  We started with a picture study of a pelican he painted.  The kids were surprisingly enthusiastic about it!

We have been listening to Camille Saint-Saens' Carnival of the Animals for composer study.  We have a book and CD that includes a poem by Jack Prelutsky for each movement of the piece, along with fantastic illustrations by Mary Grand-Pre, who illustrated the Harry Potter books.  The kids have LOVED this. We've been listening at breakfast most mornings.

Finally, nature study.  We have had the hardest time getting nature study off the ground.  It's something I really want to do, but I have not been consistent with it.  I decided that I just needed to follow someone else's plans and DO IT until it became more comfortable and routine.  So, we jumped in with the first of the 10 "Getting Started" Outdoor Hour Challenges (OHCs) on the Handbook of Nature Study blog.  Here's the first one: We followed her instructions to the letter.  I read the introductory material in the Handbook of Nature Study (well, re-read, since I had read them before), then we went out for a walk around the block with our eyes and ears open, but with no other expectations.  The kids brought in some leaves, seeds, and acorns they were excited about, and I gave them the opportunity to record some of what they saw or found in their nature journals.  The twins and I all made nature journal entries, and Jono put his leaves and magnolia seed pods in the nature basket to save for later.  Overall, it was an enormous success!  We're going to head out on an OHC every week and try to finish those introductory ten before Christmas.  I'm so excited to have a plan!

We had a few bumps in the road, schedule-wise, during the last couple of weeks, and didn't get to quite everything I had planned for Lentil, but we still very much enjoyed it, and we're looking forward to a couple of weeks with Henry the Castaway coming up next!  Thanks for following along!