Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Wednesday Flower Study: Dandelions

We studied the dandelion for our flower this week. It's our kids' favorite flower - they'll spend hours frolicking in them between lawn mowings, blowing the seeds and collecting pretty yellow bouquets. But even after all the time they've spent with dandelions, they learned some new things today (I did, too). We read about dandelions in The Handbook of Nature Study, then observed and picked some outside. We learned why our dandelions were so short (they were "hiding from the mower"), that bees love them, that their root "looks like a carrot", and that even though most grazing animals think they taste bad, our bunnies love them. Here's some pics from our dandelion adventures:

Even though they had acres to choose from, all 4 kids decided to dig in the exact same spot.

Join the Wednesday Flower Study at The Outdoor Hour blog.

My kids enjoyed reading this book after our study:

This can't be good.

I just found these rocks chilling in my freezer. Seeing as how tomorrow is April Fool's Day, I think I'll be sleeping with one eye open tonight.

Spring Reading Thing Challenge

I stumbled on this at the Callapidder Days blog. I LOVE to read, tho' I am ashamed to say I haven't finished ONE book this year! By this time last year I had already read War and Peace, Eragon, and Pride and Prejudice. But that was when my Lil' Diva was still taking naps. Now she's isn't, so my quiet time during the day is gone (and I've started blogging, which has consumed my wee hour or early morning quiet time). But Spring Break is coming up soon, and there's no combination like the beach and a book, so I'm going to try to get back on board the reading wagon, and try this Spring Reading Thing challenge. Here's my hopeful list:

1. The Hobbit
2. Brisingr
3. Finish Help for the Harried Homeschooler
4. Finish Lisa Whelchel's The Busy Mom's Guide to Bible Study

It's short, but I have to be realistic. After all, gardening season is almost here. :)

Monday, March 30, 2009

Jazzed about new music study!

OK, the recent posts over at Harmony Art Mom have totally inspired me to get off my duff and start a music study. I have put it off all year. Next year we'll be studying ancient history, so I hope to use the more formal music study program that corresponds with that time period from Harmony Fine Arts, but for now I've found some great introductory ideas for a mini-study to close out this year.

I'll be reading through The Story of the Orchestra, which we used a couple of years ago, but I'm going to give lapbooking a go this time, too (our first one!). Found great lapbook ideas at http://www.squidoo.com/musiclapbook. It has links to instrument and composer cards (been looking forever for those!), that we will cut out and put in our lapbook, with notes under each picture. Thought for the instruments I would have the kids write what the instrument sounds like to them (a duck, a snake, a thunderstorm, etc.), and for the composers a few lines they remember from the composer's bio from The Story of the Orchestra.

Barb at Harmony Art has videos on her blog of performances of some of the major works from major composers, so I'll probably use those in addition to the excerpts from The Story of the Orchestra CD (yippee! now I don't have to search through all my CDs for pieces! Thanks, Barb!)

I am planning to do our music study on Fridays, our more relaxed homeschooling day. I can hardly wait until then to get started! We have co-op classes, dance classes, gymnastics classes today, and I am so tempted to ditch them all and stay home and have music and nature fun instead, but I am trying to make myself be responsible. No skipping classes, mommy....

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Yippee! A Flower Study!

Barb over at the Handbook of Nature Study blog has created a new challenge: the Wednesday Flower Study. Last year we did a nature journal entry, Da Vinci style, where we disected a flower and drew all the different parts. We had a lot of fun doing that, but I had forgotten all about it, until I saw Barb's challenge. I'm excited about trying to do it every week!

Here's a tentative list of flowers I'd like to study over the next few months, as they appear. The kids may lead us in a different direction.

Cosmos (my favorite flower!)
Dogwood blossom

Follow the challenge here: Wednesday Flower Study

A Free Typing Program that WORKS!

I think we have about 3 different typing programs on CD-ROM, and the kids lost interest in all of them after the first few lessons, especially my son, who gets freaked about anything with a time limit. But I feel like typing is such an important skill these days. I looked on-line the other day and found this. My kids love it, and it's free! Even my husband, who never learned to type, is joining in on the challenge to complete all the levels. Check it out: http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/typing/

A Positive Look at the Cost of Raising a Child

This was an e-mail forward I got from a mommy friend. Can't resist passing it on...

The government recently calculated the cost of raising a child from birth to 18 and came up with $160,140.00 for a middle income family. Talk about price shock! That doesn't even touch college tuition.

But $160,140.00 isn't so bad if you break it down. It translates into:

* $8,896.66 a year,
* $741.38 a month,
* $171.08 a week.
* A mere $24.24 a day!
* Just over a dollar an hour.

Still, you might think the best financial advice is; don't have children if you want to be 'rich.' Actually, it is just the opposite.

What do you get for your $160,140.00?

* Naming rights . First, middle, and last!
* Glimpses of God every day.
* Giggles under the covers every night.
* More love than your heart can hold.
* Butterfly kisses and Velcro hugs.
* Endless wonder over rocks, ants, clouds, and warm cookies.
* A hand to hold usually covered with jelly or chocolate.
* A partner for blowing bubbles and flying kites.
* Someone to laugh yourself silly with, no matter what the
boss said or how your stocks performed that day.

For $160,140.00, you never have to grow up. You get to:

* finger-paint,
* carve pumpkins,
* play hide-and-seek,
* catch lightning bugs,
* never stop believing in Santa Claus.

You have an excuse to:

* keep reading the Adventures of Piglet and Pooh,
* watch Saturday morning cartoons,
* go to Disney movies, and
* wish on stars.

You get to frame rainbows, hearts, and flowers under refrigerator magnets and collect spray painted noodle wreaths for Christmas, hand prints set in clay for Mother's Day, and cards with backward letters for Father's Day.

For a mere $24.24 a day, there is no greater bang for your buck. You get to be a hero just for:

* retrieving a Frisbee off the garage roof,
* taking the training wheels off a bike,
* removing a splinter,
* filling a wading pool,
* coaxing a wad of gum out of bangs, and
* coaching a baseball team that never wins but always gets
treated to ice cream regardless.

You get a front row seat in history to witness the:

* First step,
* First word,
* First bra,
* First date,
* First time behind the wheel.

You get to be immortal. You get another branch added to your family tree, and if you're lucky, a long list of limbs in your obituary called grandchildren and great grandchildren. You get an education in psychology, nursing, criminal justice, communications, and human sexuality that no college can match..

In the eyes of a child, you rank right up there under God. You have all the power to heal a boo-boo, scare away the monsters under the bed, patch a broken heart, police a slumber party, ground them forever, and love them without limits, so one day they will, like you, love without counting the cost. That is quite a deal for the price!

Love & enjoy your children & grandchildren & great-grandchildren! It's the best investment you'll ever make!

Friday, March 27, 2009

You Capture: Spring

As much as I love pictures of flowers and new growth, I couldn't resist posting this photo of my daughter brushing our pony, Sunshine. Animal hair (and lots of it) is a sure sign of Spring at our house.


See more Spring shots at the You Capture challenge.

Outdoor Hour Challenge: Birds-Robin, Cardinal, and House Finch

Our bird study didn’t go quite like I had planned, but we had fun. We’ve had TONS of cardinals at our feeder lately, so I thought I’d focus on cardinals for our bird study. As I was finishing up the final preparations to begin our study, it seemed there were even more of them out there than usual, so I had high hopes for a successful day of observation.

We started out reading and discussing what we learned from the pages on birds in the Handbook of Nature Study, then examined bird feathers, and listened to the cardinal’s song on the iBird app on my iPod Touch hooked up to speakers. It was worth the price of the app just to watch our cats run to all the windows to look for the source of the sound. And it was great to see the kids’ delighted smiles when they heard the exact same song from real birds when they walked out the door.

At first I thought it might be best to do our cardinal observing from inside, so we didn’t scare them off, but then I remembered it was supposed to be the “Outdoor Hour”, so to help my noisy bunch remember to “observe quietly” when outside, we watched a short video on deer (at http://www.metacafe.com/watch/479556/coues_deer_white_tailed_deer/) and I pointed out how deer make no sounds but are always listening, and how they raise their white-tails to alert their friends when there is something to see instead of shouting. Then we made “deer ear” headbands and white flags on sticks. Fully accessorized, the kids crept outside with their nature journals. They were supposed to be “quiet as deer” and to raise their white flags when they saw a bird. And it worked! They sat outside observing quietly for a good 20-30 minutes - an almost unheard-of feat for my loud wiggle-worm of a son and my very bouncy preschooler. It was even more amazing considering that as soon as we all sat down outside EVERY cardinal mysteriously disappeared. We could hear them (now that we were experts on the cardinal song) but nary a one came to the feeder, or anywhere within viewing distance, for the entire half-hour we were outside. So my pre-made coloring and information page on the cardinal didn’t get much use, but we did see lots of chickadees and titmice, and the kids really seemed to enjoy being outside, and being still. My son, the gamer, even commented that he really loved “connecting with nature”. Finally the kids did grow weary of birdwatching, and decided to swipe some sunflower seeds from the feeder and go plant them in the garden instead, but at least we were outdoors. And of course, the cardinals all returned as soon as we went back inside, but by then the interest was gone. Still, I can’t complain - it was a really fun experience overall, and much better than doing a math lesson on a beautiful day like today.

I am so excited to have this and many other nature study assignments to look forward to at The Outdoor Hour blog. What a wonderful idea! Check them out here.

A B See Photo Meme: Finding Frogs


The old man
must have stopped our car
two dozen times to climb out
and gather into his hands
the small toads blinded
by our lights and leaping,
live drops of rain.

The rain was falling,
a mist about his white hair
and I kept saying
you can’t save them all
accept it, get back in
we’ve got places to go.

But, leathery hands full
of wet brown life,
knee deep in the summer
roadside grass,
he just smiled and said,
they have places to go,

Joseph Bruchac
Entering Onondaga

A B See Photo Meme

Anansi Time

We’ve been studying Africa in our geography study the last few weeks. Though we didn’t get to go as indepth in our study as I would have liked, I did learn some important things, not so much about Africa, but about our family and what really keeps our homeschool and family relationships alive. As part of our study, we listened to Bobby Norfolk’s Anansi Tales on booktape. At the beginning of the tape, Mr. Norfolk mentions that he visited a small village in Africa, where at 4:30 everyday everyone stops what they are doing and has “Anansi Time”, where they gather together to tell stories about Anansi the mischevious spider and his animal friends. From hearing this, and seeing how much my kids loved to listen to the tales, I realized how important “storytime” is in our lives, and vowed to spend more time reading aloud everyday (an activity that somehow got pushed by the wayside this year). Sometimes I feel guilty spending time “just reading” instead of doing real academics, but then I was reminded of the magic of storytime last week when, after reading a Magic Tree House story about Leonardo Da Vinci, we dropped everything and spent the whole day discovering more about Da Vinci and his works and inventions, and the kids loved it. I think I’m starting to understand what Charlotte Mason was talking about.

Also in our Africa study, we took a morning to learn how to play the ancient African game of mancala. A simple game, but we ended up playing it for hours over the next several days. This reminded us how much we love to play games together as a family (how do you forget something like that?), and lately we’ve been playing cards or board games every chance we get. So good to have that family time again.

The girls discover mancala

Enjoying a heated game of Skip-bo
(one of our favorite games)

So we may not have learned the name of every country in Africa this go round, but we did learn how to have some quality family time. Works for me. Thanks Anansi!

Also want to pass on this great article someone sent me today.

The Outdoor Hour

I am really excited about this Blogging Nature Study I came across! I had no idea all these opportunities were out there. I love blogging!

I was going to go back to the first Outdoor Hour Challenge and start from there, but I am so excited about this week’s challenge I think I’ll do that first and then go back. It is a bird nature study. We have kept a bird journal since the kids were little, but it was only a record of the kinds of birds that came to our feeder. This bird study goes a little further. I don’t have The Handbook of Nature Study, yet, but followed the link at Barb’s site and read what I was supposed to online, then I made these notes (Bird Nature Study pages.pdf) to use when we start our bird nature study this week (I can’t wait!). I also downloaded the iBird app for my ipod touch. It was the most expensive app I’ve ever sprung for, but I’ve been thinking about buying a book that had a speaker feature for bird songs for a while, and this has the same thing, so I think it was a good purchase. We’ll see. Hope to start our bird study on Tuesday (co-op classes on Monday). Will post how it goes.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Oh Boy! Photography Assignments!

I’ve always loved to snap pics of the kids, but I found this carnival that puts out specific photography assignments. I think I’ll try it for a challenge (I’m nervous...)

Last week’s assignment (I’m a little behind) was texture. Here’s my entry, an older pic of my son in a playground tube. I love the Twilight Zone effect.


Deliberate Days Ahead

I came across a blog post today entitled, “Intentional Homeschooling”. I really love that concept - intentional homeschooling. Unfortunately it is one that is the exact opposite from where I am at in homeschooling right now (hence the title of my blog, “Bumpin’ Along”, so named because I so often feel like I am bumpin’ along, being dragged behind the homeschool wagon instead of sitting in the driver’s seat). I have always so admired “deliberateness” in people, because it is not a skill that I have. The inability to think and plan ahead is a problem I have always struggled with. Somehow I have been able to make it through life anyway, but it is taking a toll on our homeschool. The funny thing is that I know that our homeschool runs so much more smoothly when I take the time to plan ahead, but somehow I seem to forget to do it (my son has ADD and I often wonder if at least a little bit of it didn’t come from me). So, outloud, I am proclaiming my plan on how to be more “intentional” in my homeschooling. Maybe if I have it here in a place where I’ll see if often it will help me remember. Here goes:

Problem: Not starting school on time

I have “scheduled” me-time each morning for bible study, computer time, and exercise. It’s supposed to be over by 9:00, but invariably, I go over the stopping point, usually way over, and it throws off my whole day. I don’t really mean to go over, but it’s like I forget that I was supposed to stop. I am renewing my pledge now, to do better. To be deliberate about what I do in the mornings, instead of only focusing on what I want to be doing and forgetting the rest of the world.

Solution: Set an alarm to go off at 9:00 and STOP what I am doing. Go directly to school. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.

Problem: Not being prepared for the day’s lessons.

When I first started homeschooling I’d take time out each Sunday afternoon to plan for the week’s lessons. Now I never do. Granted the curriculum I’m using this year is well-laid out and doesn’t require a whole lot of planning, but there is sooo much more we could be doing in our homeschool if I would just take the time to plan ahead.

Solution: Tell hubby that I need at least an hour’s planning time every Sunday, and ask him to remind me that I need it. This probably won’t happen, because his ADD is about as bad as mine, but maybe between the two of us we will make it happen. If I can plan an activity for the kids to do while I’m planning school, maybe hubby will be more likely to offer to watch the kids for that hour.

Problem: We never have pencils to write with.

Another problem I have is putting things away when I’m done with them, and my kids have modeled me perfectly in that area. So these days pencils left on the table, eventually get knocked to the floor, where our new dog, still in the chewing stage, eats off the erasers, and usually breaks off the point. So, if we are able to find any pencils, they usually aren’t usuable.

Solution: Buy a Sam’s size package of pencils, sharpen them all, and keep them in a cup in a high place. Keep a jar of dimes (or gumballs, or chocolate chips) beside them and tell the kids they can take one of the dimes everytime they return their pencil after use.

Problem: I forget to make dinner.

I really do. 5:00 will roll around before it finally occurs to me that I have a family to feed. At this point, there’s not a whole lot of options to choose from.

Solution: I really don’t know. I have tried using a “control journal” (as per FlyLady) with a big space to write down in the morning what we’ll be having for dinner that night, but somehow I’d still forget to take out the meat to thaw, or start the pizza dough in the bread machine on time. I’ve tried writing out schedules, with scheduled time for dinner planning, but I end up ignoring it. Maybe if I make a list and post it on the fridge or bathroom mirror with all these problems listed it will help me remember. But I don’t know. Will have to pray about this one.

Problem: I get behind in housekeeping.

I have made some progress in this area, but I still have a long way to go. My son unloads the dishwasher and my daughter starts the laundry each morning, both of which are a big help, but I especially get behind in putting laundry away and keeping our counters and dining room table clear of clutter (mostly school stuff).

Solution: I know the only way of tackling this problem is to establish a routine of including these things in my daily schedule, but I’m not sure how to make myself do it. Again, maybe just saying aloud that it needs to be done will help.

There are more issues to work on, but I’ll take baby steps and start with these. I’ll keep you posted on my progress - like a virtual Disorganized Homeschoolers Anonymous meeting.

Of course, the purpose of the “Intentional Homeschooling” blog I read was to not obsess over getting everything done, but to remember the most important things, the “why” of homeschooling instead of the “how”. And I do have to say, that even when I forget to plan, or can’t find a pencil, some really good things happen - like today, when we ditched our manners lesson (which of course, was begun very late) for a “science lesson” on wind direction when my husband brought home a surprise bubble-blowing machine when he came home from work. Or when, sitting here typing, I heard little squeals of delight coming from outside where my oldest son had just carried out a tray of tea and cookies to his little sisters. All on his own. I know I can’t create perfect days, and I shouldn’t try, because some of the most perfect days are the ones that aren’t planned. But I am looking forward to trying harder to be more deliberate about my homeschooling, to be more intentional about living.
I don’t remember the exact quote, but one of my favorite lines from a movie is from Joe vs the Volcano when Meg Ryan’s character tells Tom Hanks that her father had always said, “only a few people are really awake in this world, and those people walk around in total amazement.” I’d like to get rid of this “brain cloud” I’m usually in and start being amazed.

Check out the original “Intentional Homeschooling” post at a beautiful blog site: http://www.jamiescottage.com/2009/01/intentional-homeschooling.html).

Our Get Up and Go

You know those days. We all have them. You struggle to get phonics done. You struggle through math. You’re moving about the speed of a slug stuck on something sticky, and the kids aren’t moving at all. They keep falling out of their chairs. They keep whining. And at some point, you decide to chuck it. This just isn’t working for you today. . . .Field trips are great, but sometimes you need somewhere to disappear to, if only for an hour. So what do you do when everyone is stir crazy? Where do you go? Tell us in this meme!

Homeschool Memoirs!

The truth is, field trips are not always so great. With 4 kids, 2 of whom (one with ADHD/Asperger’s, and one who just turned 3 (‘nuff said)), can be at best unpredictable, field trips are not always the fun-filled, educational joy they promise to be. So, not that we don’t take the occasional day out to the energy museum or botanical gardens with our homeschool group, but school getaways a little closer to home (and more private-like) are usually our escape of choice. Here’s some of our favorite places:

At the top of the list are the woods around our farm. Even when we come home knee-deep in creek mud or with me exhausted from hauling the too-tired-to-walk baby, there is a peace and excitement about being in the woods that always renews and re-energizes us. And of course there’s the myriad of discoveries to be found, from cow bones (the woods border a cow pasture - once my kids came home with enough bones to reconstruct an entire cow (well, maybe not the entire cow, but enough of an outline to look like it once was an actual animal, which of course, the kids said was a dinosaur), to flowers (weeds), to rocks filled with gold (mica), to just plain adventures to talk about, like almost falling off the log bridge into the creek, or losing a shoe in the quicksand (mud). And the best part is, we’ve just completed a whole day of science :).

Exploring in "Creeky Woods"

Another one of our escapes is the animal shelter, where we are volunteer dog-walkers. Nothing seems to lift our spirits quite like seeing dogs ecstatically happy about being out of their smelly, noisy cages. And the kids love to walk through the cages to pick out their next friend for the day. Sometimes it can be a little heart-wrenching to have to put them back in at the end of the day, but we adopted 2 kittens and a dog from there this year, so we feel like we’ve done our duty for now. Someday we hope to become doggy foster parents, where we keep a dog or puppy or two at our home for a week between adoption days at PetSmart, but I’m not quite organized enough, yet, for that to happen. Maybe this summer.

Our last escape is our garden. Seems hardly a get-away since it’s just outside our door, but somehow it is, and we enter a different world once the garden gloves go on. One year we created a sunflower house out of sunflowers and a roof of morning glory vines. It was a great idea we got out of the book Roots, Shoots, Bucket, and Boots, by Sharon Lovejoy. It worked really well, and we had a few fun picnics in our secret hideaway, but we didn’t take into account that it would be done growing in mid-July, which here in the South is heatwave season, so we didn’t actually use it that much once it was at it’s full height, but we had a great time planting it and watching it grow. Our favorite days are the first spring planting days - picking out flowers, planting seeds, digging up earth - and veggie garden harvest days, where digging up potatoes or uncovering cucumbers or finding ripe corn, is, for the kids, like the world’s greatest treasure hunt. Ooo, I think I’m feeling a little Spring Fever coming on. Maybe our escape today will be to Lowe’s to buy some flowers....

In Our Sunflower House

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