Sunday, November 23, 2014

My Latest: Light Bulbs and Origami

including just a little of the antics of these ridiculous chickens. Here's what else happened backstage:

the chickens approach

they investigate

they give me a look that I cannot interpret 

they destroy!!!


Who knew that the domestic chicken is the mortal enemy of the passenger pigeon?

I have been doing this a TON since we moved here, and setting the bulbs aside, because I know that at some point (very soon, actually--incandescent light bulbs do NOT last long!), we'll have finished replacing all the bulbs in the house with LEDs, and then I may never see an incandescent light bulb again.

The children have been enjoying these bulbs, as well. We actually have a light bulb Christmas ornament craft that will be posting on Crafting a Green World tomorrow; the kids had to get an early start on their Christmas crafting, since they were creating an ornament for the Indiana Statehouse Christmas tree. Just between you and me, the ornaments that they made will probably be hung in the back of the tree, against the wall, but it matters not, because they had a fabulous time, and they crafted an extra ornament of the same type for our own tree.


Saturday, November 22, 2014

Play Update: October and November

I've never been one to track my children's play. Even when they were toddlers, their time of happy engagement in play was my time to get my own work done. Bad mom ignoring my kids, I know, but I've always been reluctant to distract their concentration or break the flow of their immersion in an activity--I'll even stay out of a room if I can hear them playing together with full concentration, because I know that my presence will bring them out of it.

I don't, therefore, collect many photos of the children at play, or what they're playing with, but if I happen to have my camera as I pass by I'll snap a photo, if I can do so without calling their attention to me, and sometimes I'm asked to photograph a completed project or film a skit in action. Here, then, is what I've happened to gather in the past month or so:
This is the Temple of Artemis. It's technically a project for Will's Minecraft Homeschool class, but if you saw her fussily trimming the plants in the Garden of Babylon that she built, or creating a Redstone-powered trap in the Pyramid of Ghiza that she also built, you'd know it's as much play as work.
Lately, both kids have been VERY invested in building the tallest tower possible with their Kapla blocks.
She's done it! She's used up all the Kapla blocks, but both kids have been reluctant to add our large stores of other building blocks into this play. If this keeps up, it's possible that Santa might bring the kids another BIG set of Kapla blocks for Christmas...
I believe this slime and dino set is a souvenir from La Brea Tar Pits gift shop? I've found it all over the house, including once IN. MY. BED.
Syd plays with her dolls every day. Most often she'll make outfits for them (sticky-backed Velcro is WONDERFUL as a kid-made doll-clothing fastener, in case you're interested), but on this day I found these dolls dressed in the, like, two actual Barbie outfits that we own, but matched to our color viewers. I never did find out what the game had involved.
 Will made this plaster of Paris volcano FOUR YEARS ago, and they still play with it often. On this day I'd just taken a delivery of some liquid watercolors that I'd ordered, and the kids immediately commandeered the neon red, fetched all the baking soda and vinegar volcano supplies, and happily made neon red volcano messes at the kitchen counter all morning. At some point I was called in to film this skit they'd been repeating, and finding super hilarious, for many, many rounds of play:
When I unpacked this room, I had Matt move in that shallow set of shelves from the garage, and I've been using it as open storage for the children's toy animals. The whole set is filled when they're all properly put away, so you can see at a glance how many animals the kids had scattered around in play in this room! I don't know how the Geomags were involved--animal cages, perhaps? Zoo?
For Christmas this year, my primary gifts to the children are going to be expansions to some of the open-ended toys that they love the most (this set of Kapla blocks, I think, and theseand these Geomags). Matt, I think, plans to buy them an actual decent computer, because their lack of one, and the resultant difficulty that they've been having connecting to online classes and Minecraft Homeschool servers, and using online reference sources, and working with graphic design and composition programs, is affecting the efficiency of our school days.

The stockings will need to be stuffed, however, and probably with a few more small things than the alarm clock and stock certificates and flash card sets and tools that are already set aside for them. If you've got any good ideas for small, open-ended playthings suitable for upper elementary kids who absolutely are not tweens and absolutely do still play like mad, I'd love to hear them!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Mandalas of Circles and Hexagons

This week I'm part of an online mandala-making class from Julie Gibbons Creative. I've found that mandalas suit me quite well as something that I enjoy drawing enough to really sit down and spend the time practicing/improving my very eensy drawing skills. It helps that this particular lesson, drawing circles and hexagons within them, uses a compass and ruler, so that I don't have to rely on my own spatial reasoning skills to make pleasing, regular patterns.

And who doesn't love playing with a compass?

Here's mine. The lesson included instruction on placing the adjacent circles, so I could use their intersections to make my hexagons and rectangles.

This was actually Syd's first time really playing with a compass. She got the hang of it quickly, and also enjoyed placing the circles and making patterns.

The lesson also included tips on how to paint with watercolors without having the colors bleed into each other. This was new information to me (I also learned how to correctly use bobby pins this week; it's been a good one for learning new skills!), and Syd and I both found that the technique worked perfectly.

Ravenclaw colors, on account of I'm a nerd.
I'm not so into the "magical" power of the mandala (this is shallow of me, but I tend to veer far away from self-reflection and all other emoting of the feels), but I'm finding it really, really fun to doodle them, so yay for a new hobby!

Ooh, and it's just occurred to me that I could pretend that mandala-doodling IS me doing the magical self-reflecting on the feels! When people begin to talk about their meditating and guided reflection and other weird stuff that I don't understand why I'm always around when people talk about, I'll just say, self-importantly, "Hmm? Oh, I have a practice drawing mandalas. It's quite powerful actually. Very circular... and... hexagonal. Yes, very self-reflective, don't you know?

And that's me just nailed down conversation at all of this year's holiday parties, so double yay.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Pumpkin+Bear: Beeswax Manipulatives

I've been trying to pay more attention to my Pumpkin+Bear etsy shop this autumn (or is it winter now? It's 19 degrees outside, and there's snow on the ground. That's probably winter, right? But I'm still in denial, so I'm going to say it's autumn still), since my goal is to buy Matt's and the children's Christmas presents solely from my earnings, so I finally made myself get around to squatting out in the snow with my camera to prep something that the kids and I have had around forever: these beeswax alphabet and number manipulatives:

If you like to work with beeswax and you've got children the right ages for moveable alphabets and numbers, these would actually be a great choice to DIY--they're non-toxic, waterproof, absolutely perfect for tactile and sensory learning, and although they're breakable, you can simply recast the broken ones.

And when you're done with moveable alphabets and numbers (we finally are--can you believe it? Where did my little preschoolers GO?!?), you can recast the whole lot into something new rather than having to throw anything away. 

I use these silicone alphabet and number molds, and I love them. I've used them to mold in beeswax, crayon, and plaster of Paris so far. Any other ideas for a molding material? I'll do it!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Work Plans for the Week of November 17, 2014: Minecraft, Math, and SNOW!!!

MONDAY: We woke up to SNOW this morning! It should stick around through Tuesday, so there's plenty of time to explore all the good sledding spots, and play in the snowy woods, and build a family of snowmen. Fortunately, the roads are all clear, so we'll have no problem making our volunteer gig later today--I'm holding off on deciding on aerial silks for today, though; Will said she wanted the extra classes this week after struggling during her Saturday rehearsal (so much to learn!), but when it comes down to it, the kids might rather fly on the sled than the silks this afternoon. We'll see...

Math is also extra exciting this week, because the AMC 8 math exam is tomorrow! My expectations for Syd are that she'll be able to answer the first couple of questions, and then should spend her time working on strategies for the other problems, but after all the review that Will and I have done, I wouldn't be surprised if Will was able to solve several problems correctly. Either way, the children are sitting the exam primarily for the practice at sitting exams--it's the first formal exam for both--so the results are less important than the experience of working hard, remaining focused, and conforming to proper test-taking behavior.

The children have a more sophisticated research problem with the Appaloosa today, as their riding instructors would like them to be able to differentiate the Appaloosa from other, similar horses. Piktochart is working well for creating infographics, and I expect that's what they'll use to display the results of their research.

We were so busy with extracurriculars last week that we neglected both Spanish and music; hopefully, I won't have to do that again, because otherwise, they're progressing well.

Will has settled into her Minecraft Homeschool class, and Syd has already asked if SHE can take the class next session!

TUESDAY: Dialing 911 and providing relevant, accurate information are skills for the Brownie First Aid badge, but the kids are mainly studying emergency and medical personnel as our focus for this and the Junior First Aid badge, so they'll be reading a couple of books about EMTs and paramedics, as well, to make their memory work relevant. There are a couple of tricky parts of the memory work, though--you should try to give the operator the number of the phone from which you're calling, even if it's not your own phone, and you should try to give the operator your exact location, even if you don't know the street address. It's a good thing that everyone in our town mostly uses landmarks for navigation, anyway!

Hoffman Academy is still going well, as well. I like that these lessons are mainly self-directed--I need to make sure that the kids are practicing, of course, but it's Mr. Hoffman who's teaching them, not me!

I suspect that the kids' horseback riding lesson will be cancelled on this day due to cold weather. Maybe this is the day for the extra aerial silks class, if Monday is too busy with snowmen and sledding.

WEDNESDAY: Aerial silks and play. Lots of play.

THURSDAY: It's kind of crazy that this is our only Math Mammoth day this week, but it's a busy week for math enrichment. More time telling, more long division.

We're not doing a formal "Thanksgiving" this year (I think we may have a Feast of Pie and Much Lounging, instead), but nevertheless, this is the month for Thanksgiving crafts! The kids are going to read an online article about what the first Thanksgiving feast may have looked like, then they're going to cook--each of them, I think--a corn pudding to have with our dinner.

Will LOVED this endangered animals project last week! She researched the Hispaniolan Solenidon, spent hours raving about how cute it is and its venomous teeth and those awful feral dogs, and then we all watched some Youtube videos of it waddling around looking adorable. I can't wait to see what animals the kids choose this week!

This might be the better day for our extra aerial silks class. Gym Day with our homeschool group, library for a couple of hours, then aerial silks class? Negotiating extracurriculars is so tiresome, sigh.

FRIDAY: The kids love their weekly math class, and I love the time that I spend working in the library while they're there.

Spelling has been going quite well since I've moved its practice to our daily memory work time in the car. This day is to test what words we can remove from regular study, and to give the kids some extra handwriting practice.

We're not doing well with First Language Lessons, frankly. I am so bad about making an excuse for why we can't get to it during our busy day, and all our days are busy, so there's always an excuse. I want the kids to know the content, however, so I keep trying to tell myself that if I just muscle through it, one day it will be done.

The kids ran out of enthusiasm halfway during their ice skating classes last week. I'm curious to stay observant and see if they were just having an off day (we fought colds ALL last week) or if they're reached skill levels where they're simply happy to be where they are. We do a lot of extracurriculars, I know, but I'm very firm about the kids only doing an extracurricular as long as they're committed to working hard at it. Ice skating classes will only happen as long as the kids really want to improve their skating. If they're no longer interested in improving, well, that's what the public skating hours are for.

SATURDAY/SUNDAY: Hallelujah for the start of Thanksgiving break! Our local university has a week-long break, which means TWO WEEKENDS with no ballet for Syd--she needs this breather, poor kid. I had to remind her yesterday that all these rehearsals are just for a short time, just through performance weekend. She's still really excited about performing, of course, but she's definitely feeling the pressure--costume fittings, regular classes, long rehearsals, and practicing on her own every day. She's very aware of her responsibility, and being a perfectionist the way that she is, it's stressing her out. It's good for her, though, and helping her build a great work ethic.

Without ballet, then, our only weekend activities are Will's--aerial silks rehearsal on Saturday,and chess club on Sunday. And then a short week. And then a long weekend!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

My Latest over at Crafting a Green World: Antique Drawers and Detox Baths

a round-up of herbal recipes for kids, including a "detox" bath

The whole family has been fighting a nasty cold, probably originating from the kids' plane trip, all week. I actually put Syd in that detox bath that's mentioned in my first link one afternoon, hoping to relieve some of her annoying symptoms, poor kid, and she LOVED it! She spent four hours in that bath, listening to audiobooks of A to Z Mysteries, running more hot water whenever she felt cold. 

The rest of the family prefers showers, so we've been regularly steaming up the bathrooms, trying to relieve congestion. I've made soup with garlic and ginger, we've had some extra home time, and although I haven't fed it to the kids, I've happily indulged in my Pappaw's homemade recipe for cough suppressant: whiskey and honey.

I don't know if whiskey and honey actually suppresses my cough all that well, to be honest, but it does make me feel better about it!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Homeschool Math: Find the Area of Irregular Polygons

I had expected Will to have some trouble with this task, which I simply handed to her, or to at least have to do some experimenting while she worked out the most efficient way to complete it, but as soon as I gave her the graph paper with the large, irregular polygons that I'd drawn on each page, and told her that she needed to find the total area of each shape, she was off! Within minutes she handed these back to me, and here's what I saw:

What Willow immediately noticed is that to find the area of these irregular polygons, you must first decompose them into rectangles. Find the area of each rectangle by multiplying the length by the width, then add all the areas together to find the total area.

Since Will had been fussing about not seeing the point of the order of operations, I also had her write down the final equation that one would use to solve this problem. She could then see that 1) you couldn't get the correct answer without using the order of operations, and 2) there is no more efficient way to record this equation without relying on the order of operations. Mwa-ha-ha!

She still hates the order of operations, mind you. But now she uses it!


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