Hanna’s Cold Winter

Dear Readers, I apologize for my absence!  I’ve had three days of appointments, lab work, school fun, and then today we had another awesome co-op day with our Five In A Row group.   With Five In A Row, for those of you who don’t know about it, you study a specific and usually award-winning treasure of a picture book over a period of one week, or in the case of Volume 4, sometimes two weeks, and even though Charlotte Mason might not have been a huge fan of unit study per se, I think she would have loved Five In A Row.  Five In A Row is just rich in lessons about God’s hand in major events throughout time, history, nature study, art and music appreciation, and relationships. 

Our co-ops are taught in teams — two moms putting their heads together and coming up with learning activities to go along with the particular book.   This co-op it was my turn again!  The mom I was working with this week opened our morning with prayer and then I read Hanna’s Cold Winter to the group of children.

Hanna’s Cold Winter – Let me take a moment here to point you to Purple House Press, a publishing company whose mission it is to bring back into print, wonderful, “lost” children’s books. They have brought Hanna’s Cold Winter back to lots of children!

One of the things I love about this co-op is that we get to see each other’s homes.  Exciting!  The kids love getting together and playing afterwards, the moms love oooohing and aaaahing over other homes’ interiors, gardens, etc.  It’s a win-win situation.  :)  We were in a gorgeous home today!  It was old (something I love), and full of interesting and bright art and some amazing furniture!

My co-teacher taught the children about animal groups and animal characteristics and played a fun guessing game where each child was a mystery animal and then others had to try and guess what animal they were, based on clues.  They learned about biomes as well.

Here are the children asking questions and giving clues.

Next the children moved to a board game I made called Budapest Zoo.   Uh, you know me and Mod Podge.  ;)

The board game is made from a piece of plywood decoupaged with thumbnail pictures of Budapest Zoo, some of its animals, and landmarks around Budapest and Hungary.  You throw the dice, move, draw a card and read it; it’s either just a fact about Hungary that you’ll read, or something to do, i.e. A hippo ate your flip-flops, go back 3 spaces.

Next it was on to a painting project that my lovely co-teacher had set up based on how feelings and thoughts made their way into the arts based on what people went through during World War II.  We also learned about Hungarian composer, Bartok, and the children listened to classical music while they worked on abstract art techniques.

After the class was over, there were snacks to enjoy.  The snack menu was planned based on scenes in Hanna’s Cold Winter:  eggs (turned into deviled eggs and sprinkled with Hungarian paprika) and cheese from the market, snowflake crackers for the cold winter, tart apples to offset the sweet cheese, a bit of candy (with mom’s permission) — also a market item, and water.

One of my favorite parts of the co-op is seeing my friend Daniel.  We were both pretty impressed by the large nutcracker soldier on the hearth, so we stood guard with him for awhile, with our most serious faces.  Do we look protective and like good guards?

Can anyone say zip line?  This home had a zip line in the backyard and there were screams of joy when the children were turned loose to play once the co-op was done. 

It was a very lovely day and I am so thankful for the friendship and opportunity this group of wonderful ladies offers.

Falls Lake and Compasses!

We had another awesome fieldtrip yesterday with our Five In A Row homeschool group.  Love that group!  We went to Falls Lake.

Even though the skies were gray and there were raindrops blowing down from the trees and an occasional fine sprinkle of raindrops from the sky, quite a few moms were able to make it out and bring their children for a day of learning about compasses and how to use one.

One of the park rangers at Falls Lake did a class for the children.  I thought I knew about compasses, and maybe I did a little, but having to actually use one in guided activities showed me how much I did not know.

Michaela and her friend were a pair for the day’s activities.  Can Michaela make a normal face for a picture?  I don’t know.

The ranger told us about topographical maps and how to look for changes in elevations. 

Each one of us measured the size of our pace by pacing a marked-off distance and then dividing that distance by the number of paces it took us to walk it.   

One of the moms shows Michaela how to mark the degrees given during an assignment and then how to sight something in that direction for a landmark to walk towards.

At the end of the class we had an added bonus because of the rain.  Once again, thank you rain.  It brought to some minds this question:  What if you were lost, had no compass, AND there was no sun visible in the sky to help you?  We talked about the partly true/partly folklore (depending on where you live) idea of mosses growing one only one side of the trees and we talked about how we still have a faint shadow, even on overcast days, and we talked about hopefully being able to locate the north star after nightfall. 

Falls Lake is a lovely place for learning about compasses.

Happy Friday to YOU.

The Gullywasher

We had another fun and informative class yesterday with our Five In A Row co-op.  The book we are studying is The Gullywasher by Joyce Rossi.  In it, Grandfather tells his granddaughter, Leticia, about the biggest gullywasher ever, which changed him from a strong young vaquero into the old grandfather that he is now.

After listening to the story, the children gathered around a long table to learn about various fats and how they mix, or don’t mix, with water.  Some fats are lighter than others, fats melt at different temperatures, and different fats separate from water at different speeds.

Jars containing colored water and different kinds of fats were passed around, shaken and then observed.

Michaela shakes a jar while the student next to her gets his watch ready.  The children timed how long it took for two different fats to separate from the water they were shaken into.

Next, the children were shown a variety of watercolor-painting techniques.  One lesson was how they could draw something with a light-colored crayon and then paint over it and the crayon marks would not absorb the paint but, rather, separate.  (More lessons about fat!).  See the yellow lightning strikes? 

Each child was given three heavy cards with their envelopes to make watercolor paintings, turning this into an opportunity to make cards for grandparents or other friends or relatives.  The children practiced what they were just taught by Mrs. Laura.

The next part of the class was a pepper-eating contest!  Oh my!  Mrs. Laura passed around jars of dried peppers and let the children smell them.  She then explained about Scoville units and how they measure the hotness, or the amount of capsaicin, in different types of peppers.

Mrs. Laura read the names of the peppers on her chart and the children raised their hands when they had heard of a particular type of pepper before.  You’d have to know the pretty and lively Mrs. Laura to know how connected she kept the kids through all of this!

As an aside, in the next picture, the beautiful dark-haired lady in the back was our other teacher for the day, Mrs. Lea.  She read The Gullywasher and another related story to the children.  The set-up for this was awesome.  The room was darkened so I don’t have a picture of her reading, but just wanted to include her.

Each child had a chance to taste some peppers mixed in with a cheese base, starting at a level of 1 and moving to a level 10.  We have some young students, so this was a mild level 10!  Still, it was hot enough to bring tears to a couple of eyes. 

Now the “fat” lesson comes in.  Is water what you need to drink after eating hot peppers to take away the burn?  No!  Water will not wash that capsaicin away because it is not water soluble.  What you need is dairy fat, so the children had yogurt after the pepper tasting. 


No we did not put the children into cages at the end of the co-op.  The children ran outside to play for a few minutes after the class was done.  This just happened to be a fun structure for the children to climb under and pretend they were in a cage!

It was such a nice day.  As for me, getting a chance to get out of the house and chat with some other moms and children is worth as much as having Michaela learn from these intelligent moms. 

Have a wonderful Friday!  The rain has let up here and I’m about to put on some water for tea.  Maybe some birds will visit my window feeder to keep me company while I type today.

We Cannot Escape History

“We cannot escape history,” is what Abraham Lincoln said, and as we listened to Aaron Copland’s Lincoln Portrait this morning, Michaela and I worked on our project of re-creating Lincoln’s birthplace for our homemade doll house collection.

It is simply a cardboard box that we are coloring the logs and mud plaster onto.  We cut out the one door and one window and hung a bearskin (felt) over the door.  The single window in the small cabin was covered with oiled paper (we used wax paper).  The floor was hard dirt so we painted on a thick layer of Mod Podge and sprinkled sand into it and let it dry.  After allowing it to dry and shaking off the excess, we had a nice dirt floor.

We have several items to add yet, including a bed of saplings, a homemade coverlet and a fireplace.  We will continue to add items as we read on through Abraham Lincoln’s World by Genevieve Foster.  It’s one of Michaela’s books for Ambleside Online Year 5.   I have gotten questions before regarding what to do for handicrafts and boys, and I think a project like this is so much fun!  It’s does not have to be classified as a doll house!

Lately our school days have been full of history, made even richer by our participation in our Five In A Row co-op activities.  I cannot emphasize enough how much I enjoy being a part of a co-op and learning alongside other moms (super nice friends) and their children. 

A few weeks ago we had a two-hour co-op class here.  All activities were centered around the book Cowboy Charlie, which is the story of Charles M. Russell, American painter of the American Wild West.   It ties in nicely with our other current reads as the times of Charles Russell pick up where Abraham Lincoln’s world left off. 

We read the book, Cowboy Charlie, as a group and then set off to travel around the yard by pretend train to different areas set up to represent different phases of Charles Russell’s life.

Michaela and I had made a tepee ahead of time, and you can barely see it because it blended right into the background on this cold, gray day, but the children enjoyed it and some of them came dressed up and ready to re-enact!

One of the parts of the co-op that I worked on was “passports” to the west.  There was a mystery character for each child, sealed in an envelope until everyone had received theirs.  The children then opened their envelopes.  We had many famous people there:  Buffalo Bill, Crazy Horse, Annie Oakley, Laura Ingalls Wilder and others.  It was really fun to see the children open their envelopes and find out who they were!

The original passports were made from luggage tags and then laminated.  I made a quick black and white photocopy of each one to keep a laminated set on hand for personal reference.   (Not to mention I wanted a tangible reminder of the day.)

My co-teacher (love her) talks about an area concerning one of the historical figures we had chosen to tell the children about.

After being outside and getting almost too chilly but not quite, we all came in and learned about the 12 constellations that tell the story of Jesus’ birth, death, and return.   Cowboy Charles M. Russell worked under the stars, remember.

We then crowded into the toasty kitchen and had warm apple cider, coffee, venison sausage, rice cakes, peanut butter and carrot sticks.  Everyone was so kind and I enjoyed so much having everyone over.  It was a day that made some precious memories for Michaela and me.  (Leslie, thank you for the pictures!)

We cannot escape history.


50-Cent Treasures

Yesterday was a beautiful day.  Michaela and I played outside.  We made a little tepee for our co-op activities here tomorrow.  (We’re studying Cowboy Charlie with Five In A Row).  Then the afternoon rolled around and I just had to do it.  I had to go somewhere special.

We were looking for cowboyish sorts of things.

And we knew there might be something cowboyish in this big old house full of antiques, collectibles, and thrift.

What we ended up finding was a basket of little trinkets for 50 cents apiece.

So there are new tiny treasures in our doll house.

A cowboy might have loved this.  Especially a cowboy like Cowboy Charlie.

And a little acorn basket full of knitting.  A pioneer woman would have loved this.

It’s all in the doll house.

Light Lessons

Since I’m recovering from the effects of a non-working thyroid, which has probably been building over a year’s time, I don’t want to add any more stress to my life than necessary.

For writing, Michaela will keep a journal about her new puppy, Annie.

For reading, I am definitely following the Ambleside Year 5 lessons and just calmly going with our own flow with those books.  There is one book that Michaela absolutely “does not get” right now.  (The Story of King Arthur and His Knights.)  Stress?  No.  That one’s going on the back burner right now and I’m hoping to read that one with her aloud later.  In the meantime she is loving the other books and placing figures on our timeline as we learn about new people.  Pictures are easily printed from a Google search for this!

Last night we snuggled up with Annie and read more from Farmer Boy, our current read in the Little House series.

I think I have to work?  Well, no, Almanzo’s father had to get up at midnight, at 40 below zero, and take a whip outside to rouse the cows that were not in barns.  He had so much livestock that they could not all fit into his many barns and shelters.  If the cows that were exposed to the air were left to sleep too long they would freeze in their sleep.  So little Almanzo awoke to the sound of the door closing at midnight — father going out to keep the cows alive.  He’d drive them around until they were good and warm and then let them rest again.

Now that was hard work.

There’s a wild aster in my garden that’s beginning to bloom.  I love the tiny little blooms.  It’ll look like a snowstorm before it’s done.

We’ll do some light and easy nature sketching.

I’m involved in a Five In A Row Volume 4 co-op this year.  I’m very excited about that.  As far as creative lessons and things done away from home, that’s where my energy will go right now.  It’s easy to choose lessons from the Five In A Row manual, but we’ll be getting the children together to work on lessons and learn together.  So much fun!

The Ambleside takes care of itself if we just do the reading.  It gives us copywork material, timeline material, discussion material and more.

Of course we are doing math (Saxon 7/6) and many handicrafts.  Even now, Michaela is working on a new bed for the doll house.  It is being recycled from something I no longer needed.  I’ll be sure and post pictures!

Have a lovely Monday!


Grade 5 End-Of-Year Keepsake Notebook

For the record, I am a notebooking, journaling, scrapbooking person.  I love notebooks.  I have a notebook of all my computer work.  I have a notebook for all my medical transcription knowledge gleaned through the years. I have my new (much loved, I might add) Charlotte Mason notebook. I have my home notebook. I have a notebook of mosaic birdbath ideas. You get the picture.

Obviously, for school, I love the idea of keeping a notebook.

“Well doesn’t everyone use a notebook for school,” you might ask? 

Maybe not in the way that notebookers use notebooks. 

A lot of people use notebooks to hold their loose leaf paper, taking out sheets to work on. They use it for storage of things they will consume. Many students have composition books – one for each subject – that can end up worn and tattered by the end of the year. 

The way notebookers use notebooks is to create a beautiful specimen of work done through the school year.  A notebook is to hold the finished work.  It’s almost like journaling or scrapbooking.  There are even websites that offer notebooking pages for students to fill with copywork or creative writing, among other things.  There are tons of things that can go into notebooks. 

You can have one big notebook, or many notebooks. You can have a nature notebook, bible notebook, science notebook, history notebook, unit study notebook, and the list goes on.

That said, there are many ways to “journal” or “scrapbook” or “notebook” a year’s worth of work.  This past year, for the first time, I used a spiral bound notebook and put the best of the best into it, scrapbook style. 

While I love the way it turned out overall, in that it’s full, and full of memories, I’m not totally crazy over the fact that it won’t lay flat. Ours ended up bulky, but then again I did use one notebook for everything (except for math which is in its own little 3-prong folder – but I did include her end-of-year math test in the notebook for completeness).

Michaela’s 5th Grade Notebook

The first page, of course, has pictures of the girl, her age and her grade.

Throughout the year, I glued in her best work each week, along with pictures to go along.

There are pages from fieldtrips.  I love that you can glue in envelopes and make little pockets to store things in, like the Cleopatra bookmark from the museum.

We even glued in funny artwork that she did to show her spontaneously creative side.

But it’s not just Sponge Bob!  Large worksheets can be folded in half and glued in so that you can open them up for viewing. 

We taped in postcards so that they can be flipped out to read the backs.

Illustrations from a story for her blog.  In fact much of her art work is in here, put in with adhesive “corners,” so no glue was used on them.

When we studied Grass Sandals, she made a matching game, but you know we’ll likely not play this again, so I tossed half the cards and put one half in here.

Copywork samples.

Nature study pages.

Pictures from our new bunny adventures.

We glued in many fieldtrip pictures and souvenirs.  Again, I love how you can glue in storage envelopes for postcards and such.

We even glued in our letters from our Wild West Cousins we gained while doing our Prairie Tuesdays!

As you can see, this notebook ended up being a portfolio of her work, representative of every subject, covering the whole year, but also a scrapbook, full of memories and pictures and fun!

What I like about the spiral notebook:

  • cover is attractive
  • it’s more like a scrapbook. You can write little notes directly into it and glue things in as well
  • the finished product is pretty (even if mine won’t lay flat)
  • they are inexpensive and vary in size, so you can choose what kind you want for what subject.

What I do NOT like about the spiral notebook:

  • the finished product may not lay flat if you put in anything other than regular paper
  • pages can rip out and there’s no way to reinforce them and put them back in
  • because it did require the kind of attention you’d give a scrapbook, it turned into more of something I kept up with versus something Michaela was responsible for. She did the work – I kept the scrapbook.
  • requires glue or some type of adhesive

What I like about having ONE notebook for everything

  • Work of all subjects can be placed in chronological order, so looking through it is literally like a trip down memory lane
  • It forces a weeding out of mediocre stuff so you end up with a really striking portfolio

What I do NOT like about having just one notebook

  • Obviously, you have to flip through to find specific things; things are not separated into any order
  • You don’t end up with one powerful resource in any one subject area, say history or nature, for example. Imagine building on one nature notebook for 12 years!

One thing that I am really proud of is that this notebook was basically done at the end of the year.  Other than waiting on a couple of end-of-year pictures, I kept up with this week by week, making school record-keeping a whole lot easier!  You may remember my post on my organization station.  I suggest having a system in place for weekly checks and touch-ups, having supplies organized where teacher and student (age appropriate) can get to them.

This coming year, we’ll be doing Ambleside Online with Beyond Five In A Row for her biograpy reading, as well as a co-op of some Volume 4 titles, so a lot of reading and then narration in written and oral form and many projects and “handicrafts.”  We’ll be doing foreign language, nature study, art and music appreciation, and if it goes as I hope it will, we’ll stick with Ambleside for the duration.  In that case, I don’t know that I want only one notebook for each year. 

At graduation, I know there are areas where I would like for Michaela to have resources that she’ll enjoy for her whole life. An art appreciation notebook would be nice.  A nature notebook would be awesome.  A history notebook would also be awesome. 

Here are some notebooking resources that I think are nice:

Math Notebooking – who knew math could make such beautiful notebooks?

Jimmie, the author of the above math notebooking, also has a notebooking exhibit page.

Cindy Rushton, who is known as the Binder Queen, has a nice article – Let’s Try Notebooking, on trying notebooking and letting the children do the work.

My friend Sheri at The Shades of Pink has a section on her blog about her notebooking.  Her “crew” has produced some beautiful notebooks.

Another friend, Heather (Blog, She Wrote) has wonderful ideas for notebooking.

Friend Kayla shows how she has one 3-ring notebook for FIAR broken into sections by books rowed.

More to come as I plan how we’ll store our work this next year!


John Hope Franklin

Hope.  What a name.  And fitting.  I listened to Dick Gordon’s The Story yesterday, an interview with John Hope Franklin.  Dr. Franklin had some serious, important stories to tell.   Look and listen here

Dr. Franklin died two days ago, March 25, 2009.

Some of the stories Dr. Franklin told involve racial hatred, Dr. Franklin having been a victim of that even as a child.  My children will be listening to The Story, but you might want to pre-listen for much younger children. 


Renaissance Study

It seems our study of Rome, Italy, has flowed nicely into a fine study of the Renaissance.  I think Princess of the Universe is enjoying it.  I know I’m enjoying it, especially since I purchased a laminator. 

(You know you’re a homeschool mom when you spend your mad money on things like Velcro rounds, laminators and cardstock.)  :)

Using the laminator for the first time.

Recently I was visiting with a dear and sweet friend, Leslie, and she was showing me some fabulous ways to review material throughout the school year.  These materials had been put together using a lamintor.  Leslie had turned the review material into sturdy, nice looking, permanent documentation of units covered.  I was inspired.  I could see a trip to Sam’s Club in my future.   My very near future.

This would be a good time to say what an amazing woman Leslie is:  a devoted mother, beautiful, intelligent, lively, organized, and where would our homeschool group be without her?  I also know that Leslie has been quietly in my corner, cheering for me to be able to come back home to work during the years that we were dealing with so many health problems with my dear husband. I was out working in the “real world” to gain better insurance.  (Thank you, Leslie!  I had to say all this about you because you wouldn’t say it about yourself, and I appreciate you so much!)

The first project I did with the lamintor was to make our Michelangelo timeline interactive.  I know I mentioned recently that I had a timeline I was going to introduce Miss Priss to.  We already keep a timeline notebook.  It’s great, but it can be sort of dull at times.  I wanted her to enjoy this timeline.

Using reference books, the internet, and a huge timeline book I have (Leslie, I finally figured out what this book is good for!) I came up with about 10 significant events that occured during Michelangelo’s lifetime. 

(I’ve read that there’s controversy about when and where the first watch was invented. We’ll study this further.)

Using pictures from the internet, I copied them into a word document, typed a bit of info under each item, printed them on card stock, cut them out and  laminated them.  Then I cut each one out again, now laminated.

A piece of self-adhesive Velcro goes on the back of  each piece, with the other piece of Velcro going on the time line.  For each date on the timeline, there is mostly a hint at what piece goes there.   You can see how this was done for King Henry VIII. 

Hint:  A king in England who rules with an iron fist and has many wives.

Answer piece:  Henry VIII becomes the King of England.

The line below the piece can be followed down to the year 1509.

I really like how this turned out.  I can see us doing this with many historical figures to learn about history: study one person and learn what happened during his or her lifetime.  It makes the info more real somehow.  I mean, to think, Shakespeare was born the year that Michelangelo died.  They missed each other completely.  That’s sad to me.   This also really shows how short a man’s life is on the earth.

Thanks to our lessons from Five In A Row, we are amassing quite a list of Italian words.  Between Angelo, Papa Piccolo, and The Clown of God, we’ll have several nice Italian word lists in our notebook by the end of the week.

Another laminated review piece.  A blank map of Italy with some key places covered in our reading.

Again, the answer pieces are going to be stored in an envelope.  Velcro was used on the map and the backs of the pieces.

Leslie, thank you so much for the ideas!

I had so much stuff pulled out this morning as I filled up work boxes.  I even took out the old Papa Piccolo-inspired felt set we made long ago.  We’ll do a lot of geography review this week by placing all our story disks from this year onto the map.  I have several more items to laminate for review.  I also need to finish the test I was putting together from our reading of The Apprentice. At the end of our unit, I hope to post a book list and brief review of the books.

Enjoy your Monday!


Alone in the Wilderness

What a busy but satisfying couple of days it’s been.  I’ve been hopping on line barely these last few days.   I checked one of my e-mail accounts, but mostly I’ve been busy here at home off line. 

The first thing I want to tell you about is a DVD we watched as a family for school.  It is so, SO good.  I’m going to watch it again soon to pick up little things I missed the first time around.  It’s called Alone in the Wilderness
and it’s the story of Dick Proenneke who back in the 1960s went into the wilderness of Alaska alone, determined to see if he could stand his own company for a year and to see if he was a match for anything he encountered there.  He tested himself.  He built his own cabin.  He build his own fireplace from rock found on his travels around the Twin Lakes region.  I mean, my goodness, he even carved his own dipping spoon out of wood.  After watching this man work and hearing his thoughts, I believe he could have done anything he set his mind to.  His talent with film is amazing.  We are talking some pretty old footage here, but don’t let that stop you from watching it.  It’s breathtaking.  Every one of my children were glued to it from start to finish.  Even my 20-year-old said, “That helped me.  Thanks for getting that.”  I bought mine at Sam’s Club, but it looks like Amazon has it (linked above and below), and it looks like you can buy it from the website Alone in the Wilderness as well.

Alone in the Wilderness

Oh yeah.  Dick Proenneke ended up staying there for over 30 years. 

This would be a great go-along for Very Last First Time.  Yes, Alone in the Wilderness is Alaska, not Canada, but the “go it alone” theme, plus the ice and the winter animals would be a good tie-in.

Hmmm.   What else has been going on here at my house?  We’re still loving the Workbox System, or our version of it, I should say.  I am still very much excited about ordering Sue’s book. 

I tried to get some better shots of the terrarium, which is doing remarkably well!  The violet in it is about to put out three blooms; blooms that I didn’t even see when I put it in there!

The little Sculpey birdbath is so cute.

Up on the hill in the terrarium, surrounded by rocks, is the violet, taken yesterday.  All the blooms popped up after that picture, and they’re still not fully open.  See the little puppy in the moss?  It’s a very old ceramic puppy I dug up in my front flower garden one year.  Wonder who in this yard’s 100-year history had a puppy like that?

Hmmm.  What else.

I began planting in the vegetable garden this week.  Last fall we raked all of our leaves and put them into the fenced-in garden to cover the soil.  I pulled back the leaves this morning and easily turned over a shovelful of dirt.  Look at the earthworms!  Every shovelful was full of earthworms.  I planted arugula, garlic, mustard greens and some peas.

I raked back leaves to make rows.  We could have more frost before spring really arrives, so we can use the leaves to cover any seedlings up if we need to.

Isn’t this dandelion the most scruptious thing ever?  I see an infusion in my future.  Tomorrow.  There may even be dandelion greens on the horizon.

Have a wonderful evening.