A Halloween science lesson: parts of the body

6 10 2012

Let me try to summarize our educational melodrama of the past few months before I get into the science lesson we did today… So when we realized we’d be moving to Seattle for a year I decided we would homeschool BB for his kindergarten year. Everyone was more or less on board with this plan. We had good reasons: public schools here are mixed, with some being very good and some being pretty bad. Where we were looking to rent, it was pretty bad. Private school is too expensive, and hard to get into, as a latecomer. But we ended up renting in a totally different part of the city than anticipated, and our local school seemed pretty OK. (By that I mean a 5/10 on greatschools.com. Pretty average.). I was still set to homeschool. It was gonna be awesome! Exploring the museums, parks, and beautiful surroundings of the puget sound area. Learning about volcanoes and killer whales. But…as the summer came to a close, BB started asking about where he was going to kindergarten and when did it start, and it occurred to me that he was either not understanding my awesome plan or not on board with it. So I hastily enrolled him in SPS. And crossed my fingers it would be ok.

Here, they have full day K, but you have to pay for it (crazy, right?). So school started, he was excited, then less excited, then nervous, and on day 4 a sobbing mess of a child, begging me not to leave him there. Hmmmmm. I made a deal that I’d come get him at lunchtime. He was ok with that. Since then, we have dropped to half day officially, which saves us quite a bit of $$$ and seems to be a better amount of time for him to be at school. And now I have him at home in the afternoons, and while LB naps, we work on the lessons he is missing by not going full day. I purchased curricula for handwriting, math, and science, the last one being Nancy Larson Science. The reviews were great, and BB was excited about it but his enthusiasm has faded a little. We are just on lesson 5 so I don’t want to review the whole thing, but I’ll say the early lessons were too easy for him. There were 3 lessons about naming the parts of the body, easy names, like hand and head, etc. I was supposed to draw a body and highlight the parts we were naming. Neither one of us wanted a third day of this, so for kicks I printed out Frankenstein’s monster and we assembled him as we named his joints and other parts. This little monster shows joints well, because they really move, and you can pose him in different ways. Then because LB was with us (no nap today!) we all played the scripted game of Simon says. It was a LOT more fun with 2 kids!

Here is where I found the monster printable. They have a bunch and it’s a fun activity in and of itself, plus a fun way to go over shoulders, elbows, etc., since the joints are articulated using brass brads. Looks more fun than the body drawing, eh?

LB wanted me to take a picture of him doing his “work” too.


At this point, I like the science curriculum although I see it as a little too basic. As a former high school science teacher, I wanted to guard against my own tendency to speak over a 5 year old’s head. I think this will work out for us, with me adding a little more of a challenge, or adapting it to be more fun somehow. For now, this is our life; a little less crafting for me (ok, a lot less crafting, my machines are still in boxes!) and more educational, homeschoolish type crafts. My goal for October is to make a new purse, though,because my dream purse is in tatters!

Long time no see — an update

3 10 2012

Wow, it’s been a long time! You know, I follow several blogs and I’m always amazed to read things like, “Guess what, I just had a baby! Now I will only be posting 3 times a week instead of 5” or “Sorry this is a day late! We just moved cross country and I am posting from my phone.”. Well, this summer we moved cross country. It wasn’t the kind of thing that set me back a day, it was the kind of thing that turned our whole world upside down. We’ve gone from the suburbs of upstate NY to the city of Seattle, from a house with a yard to a townhouse with no yard, just a view of an alley and an adult video store. Classy! BB has started kindergarten, which has been a HUGE adjustment for us all. More on that another day! LB is going to a great little Spanish immersion preschool. He came home yesterday and told me, “Hoy es Martes!”. I was so proud! So, this is all to say that we are finally settling into a routine and hitting our stride in a new place.

Fall has been beautiful, and today I finally kind of got my act together, thanks to a great morning at MOPS, which I haven’t done before but really enjoyed, and found very encouraging. They talked about the five love languages for kids and it really reminded me that the kids both love doing crafts, which I have slacked off doing since we moved here. So today when we went walking to BB’s martial arts class, we gathered leaves, acorns and chestnuts. We made a little fall foliage collage… No directions from me beyond drawing a tree trunk and gluing stuff on. They love gluing stuff!




The kids each did their own thing! Then we made some cute little chestnut guys. The chestnuts were soft enough that I could just shove in toothpicks. We used fast grab tacky craft glue for this project.


Cute, aren’t they? Well, I’m going to try posting this before it gets too long. I just realized I could do this on my iPad (so please excuse odd punctuation, it has it’s own ideas sometimes), which is super convenient if it works. You can expect more posts if this works out!

Advent activities: making ornaments

12 12 2011

We are well underway with our list of advent activities!  Frankly, I’ve not been super on top of things and instead of having the next day’s book and activity ready, I often find myself in the morning hastily wrapping up a book and trying to decide which activity fits into our schedule.  Last night we drove around to look at Christmas lights, which is something the kids really enjoy and is so easy compared to anything else. You just strap ‘em in and drive around, listening to Christmas music and their “oohs” and “aahs.”  If you are in the vicinity of West Henrietta, we went to see this house, and I thought it was impressive for an amateur display.  It’s not Disneyland, but it’s good to have a destination when you’re out looking at lights. 

Anyway, looking back on what I took pictures of so far, we have mostly been making decorations.  First there were the felt ornaments that I bought last year after Christmas on clearance and re-discovered on December 1st.  Score!  Fun and easy. 



Even LB wanted in on the glue-and-stick action.  For him, I put dabs of craft glue on the tree, and he stuck the “gems” on.  BB did the whole thing himself. 

Then one day we were going to make birdfeeders and I still hadn’t quite worked out the logistics of it, so I decided to do it by threading cereal onto yarn.  Educational, because LB is learning his colors, and good for developing fine motor skills.  I am deeply, deeply sorry to the birds and those who love them that we set out this kind of crap for them.  I don’t want my kids eating it either.  If it makes anything better, neither the birds nor the squirrels have recognized it as food, so it’s still hanging outside as a colorful garland.  Which is fine. 


And last but not least, we made salt dough ornaments.  Looking around the web, I found the recipe was consistently 1 part salt, 1 part water, 2 parts flour.  So we mixed:

  • 1/2 c. salt
  • 1/2 c. water
  • 1 c. flour

and this gave us a nice dough and a good quantity.  We made about a dozen ornaments.  It was a little sticky so I floured the surface we worked on.  We rolled out the dough pretty thin, maybe 1/8” to 1/4”, then cut out trees, gingerbread men, and circles.  I wanted to do a tree like this one on Pinterest only to find that it was a LIE.  If you click through, it is not made of salt dough, it’s ceramic, and all the other cool thumbprint things on Pinterest are made of clay, bronze, etc.  Well, let me tell you that salt dough does not take detailed impressions well.  We did some fingerprints but these are sort of cookie-ish and so they puff a little, thereby destroying the imprints.  By far the nicest ones, I thought, were the ones we stamped and then baked. 


Before baking, I used a straw to make a hole at the top for a ribbon.  Then, I baked them at 250F for about 2 hours, and I did flip them about halfway.  When they cooled, we painted them.  You can see in the middle my thumbprint tree; it sort of worked, but BB’s (yellow) print is bigger than my print (orange).  I painted the black cord, but I think a sharpie might have been a better idea.  I did a thumbprint reindeer too, with BB’s name and the year.  I don’t know if we’ll keep them, but it would be a cute keepsake.  He insists it’s a moose, though.   These are my 2 favorite:


Inspired by this pin, which is absolutely all over the place on Pinterest. 

And to think, we still have some more ornament crafts lined up!  BB says he thinks our tree is the most beautiful tree in the whole world.  I find that so sweet; proof that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, because in reality, it is a scrawny fake tree from Big Lots with very sparse decoration.  It is our own Charlie Brown tree, beautiful only because we love it. 

What?!? It’s December?!?

1 12 2011

Wow, where did that come from?  Didn’t school just start?  Well, I pulled a not-quite-all-nighter to make our advent activity list, like last year.  Here are our plans, subject to lots of rearrangement as needed:

Advent Activities:

1. Set up tree and decorate!

2. Make bird feeders

3. Holiday Party

4. Holidays at the market

5. Send Christmas cards

6. Candlelight night in Pittsford

7. Make felt ornaments for tree

8. Make gingerbread houses (day 1)

9. Decorate gingerbread houses

10. Make Christmas gifts for family

11. Decorate wrapping paper, send gifts

12. Christmas tree craft

13. Make ornaments from salt dough

14. Go for a winter hike

15. Make Christmas cookies, share with neighbors

16. Watch a Christmas movie together.

17. Make “snow” playdough, make little snowmen

18. Make bells, sing Jingle bells

19. Preschool Christmas party and visit to nursing home

20. Take silly pictures in santa hats

21. Go for a drive to see the lights

22. Play games and have hot cocoa

23. Go sledding

24. Christmas Eve service

25. Christmas!

I joined Pinterest and have started collecting activities and potential handmade gifts.  I love it!  (A little too much…)  Are you on Pinterest?

Nature Scavenger Hunt

5 08 2011

One of my summer goals was to take the boys on a nature scavenger hunt.  Mostly because I thought they would really enjoy it but also because we have a scavenger hunt bag, and now’s the time to use it!  I’ve seen many examples of this on the web; if you google it you can find tons of ideas.  The way I did it was I took a piece of plain paper, folded it in half, opened it up, then folded it in half the other way.  Once open, this just gives 4 boxes in which you can write/draw your objects to find.  I told BB what we were doing and he quickly came up with 8 ideas so we did another paper also.  In each square we drew a picture; he did some and I did some and it’s hard to tell whose are which, haha!  Then I wrote the name of each object (you know, in case it wasn’t obvious that a green circle was a closed flower).  I was surprised at how into it he was!  When we were done, I cut the papers in half the long way so that I had 4 strips of paper, stacked them up and stapled in the middle to make a little booklet. Here are some of the pages from our book:

2011 08 August

I had to laugh when BB came up with “bear” as something to find, but I put it down anyway.  This park is pretty tame but you occasionally hear stories of bears in the area, so you never know!  These were taken post-hunt, when we had collected some of the items.  I told BB we could take pictures of anything too big or too far away to collect.  So we packed up our booklet and headed to our local park to go for a little hike.  It was an absolutely beautiful day!


It was dim enough in the forest that pictures were blurry but BB wanted to hold LB’s hand and it was so cute.  Mostly I think he wanted to boss him around, though, it’s not out of brotherly love or anything like that. 


They boys did a great job walking the 1 mile loop.  We stopped on the playground for a bit but mostly did some walking and exploring in the woods.  This park has a nice boardwalk over some wetlands, so we love to see what wildlife we find there.  Sure enough, we found one of our items: a frog!


We finished our hike with a visit in the nature center and you’ll never guess what we found:


So in the end we found a bear but not an oak leaf, go figure!  (For those of you with eagle eyes, yes we found something BB called an acorn but I just let him think that, I’m pretty sure it was not because (1) it didn’t look much like an acorn and (2) we never found an oak tree).  It was an activity that made a trip to the local park much more interesting so I’m sure we will be doing that again whenever we have a beautiful day with no plans!

Shiver me Timbers, Big Brother turned 4!

26 07 2011

This is the first time I have done a real kids’ party; in the past we have mostly just done small, simple, mostly family-only type parties.  But this time I wanted to do something a little more elaborate, since next year on his birthday we will probably driving cross-country to a new city… this was our last hurrah!  BB is big into pirates so I scoured the web and actually came up with very little.  In this case, good old fashioned books from the library (Hit of the Party, The Penny Whistle Party Planner, and Perfect Kids’ Parties) had some great ideas.  I thought I’d share some ideas here for anyone who might be looking to do something similar… not that the party was by any means perfect, as the book would have you think, but the ideas were cute and had potential. 

For starters, my “magnum opus”, as my husband and I called it:


Chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, a 9×13 cake arranged following the instructions here.  The only structural thing I did differently was take the bit I cut out from the middle and add it onto the back, which I thought improved the appearance.  I ignored their decorating ideas and instead browsed images online to find what looked best.  I liked the look of yellow icing for contrast and kept it pretty simple.  The cannons are wafer cookies and I put the candles in them to prevent the sails from catching fire.  BB and I made the sails together, painting them with tea to make them look aged.  I guess I could have added more decoration but decided to quit while I was ahead, haha!  I did spell out BB’s name on the back… it is the S.S. B.B.

For prizes and favors I made some sea creature chocolate lollipops:


Michael’s had some pirate ones but honestly I thought they were pretty ugly for lollipops and decided on these instead.  I used white candy melts and colored them with Wilton gel colors.  There was much debate online whether these can be used, and I found that they worked fine without seizing the melts.  Mixing the colors and painting the molds was a lot of fun and I will definitely be doing this again!

For activities, I hid some gold and silver bead necklaces in the sandbox so the kids could dig for buried treasure. Then they could decorate treasure boxes and pirate hats, here is an overview of the mayhem:


Ah, you can see my little castaway in the blue punch:


And the fruits of their efforts, a cute little feathered pirate hat and lots of booty:


The hats were three pieces of felt, stiffened, then decorated with stickers, feathers, and pirate confetti from Party City.  Once one piece was decorated and the glue dry, I stapled two more felt pieces to make the standard tri-point hat.  This was a book idea with a template. 

Lunch was pirate boats and goldfish:


followed by cake and ice cream!  For games we did “pin the eyepatch on the pirate” and “tick-tock, find the croc”, where the kids took turns hiding a crocodile with a kitchen timer attached, then looking for it.  It was supposed to be like the crocodile from Peter Pan, with a ticking alarm clock in it.  Another cute idea, I think it went down really well but I was getting lunch set up while they played, so I have to give a big thanks to my husband and friends who helped keep things running while I disappeared to set up this, that, and the other.  Finally, I scattered chocolate “gold coins” in the yard for the kids to find in their treasure boxes. 

Whew!  It makes me tired to think about it!  I wish I could say BB loved it, but honestly, he did not seem that into it.  He’s not terribly social and I think having that many people over (just 4), and being told what to do and say (like “thank you”) are things that don’t sit well with him so he had the best time when I (the crazy bossy planning lady) was not around.  Ah well.  I won’t have to try it again for another 2 years!

Summer goals

22 06 2011

Prompted by The Artful Parent’s great list, I thought I would put together a list of things I’d like to accomplish this summer.  Somehow, committing them to “paper” makes them more likely to actually get done!  BB has been out of school for just over a week and already I feel like I’m falling behind.  (Isn’t that so typical, to see all these great ideas and totally fail to live up to that standard?)  I read this idea of having a daily schedule, which I thought was so great and immediately made one for us.  Well, tell it to LB that he is supposed to nap at 1:00 pm.  Ha!  He has his own ideas and I have already more or less scrapped the whole idea because he remains frustratingly unpredictable in his sleep habits.  I was going to “lesson plan” our weeks so that BB could do something mildly educational or vaguely enriching but so far the best I have managed is using Common Sense Media to choose the least bad TV shows on Netflix.  So here goes nothing, a list of things that I will make a real effort to do this summer, both for me and with the boys, so our summer does not slip away unintentionally. 

The easy stuff: My goals:

  • Make a real garment, not a muslin, for each of the patterns I bought a few weeks ago when they were crazy cheap on sale.  I especially want to try some variations on Simplicity 2599, like this one on presserfoot
  • Make some rompers/overalls for LB.  It only took me a year to realize that this is the way to keep him from sticking his hand in his diaper.  Eureka!
  • Carve at least one new rubber stamp. 

Outdoor goals:

  • Grow a bean pole teepee.  We have already started on this and I’m hopeful it will work out. 
  • Transition BB to a bike with training wheels… he is getting too big for a tricycle, although he loves it!
  • Go swimming with the boys.
  • Do a nature scavenger hunt. 
  • Try to find a few more letterboxes.  We found our first one the other day and it was fun!
  • Go camping!  It’s been 2 years since we last tried it, but once upon a time we were big into camping, maybe this year we can swing it!

Artsy-craftsy goals:

  • Try our very best to do an index card a day, inspired by daisy yellow.  We have started on this but been inconsistent.  I figured this is something BB and I can do while LB naps; it’s a nice way for him to focus on fine motor skills.  He has been doing really well making smaller designs and really enjoying the project.  I got him his own watercolors and oil pastels so we can experiment with lots of different media. 
  • Make some pie plate scarecrows for the garden, a craft I saw in a children’s gardening book. 
  • Continue with some “real” art lessons, color theory, line, shape, texture… a basic look at some things that were presented on pineapple paintbrush not that long ago.  BB was not that into it, a little too advanced for him, but he’s older every day, so we’ll try some more this summer. 


  • Go to the library once a week to find new books
  • Have a playdate once a week at least (I am terrible about this) so the kids see someone besides me. 
  • Go to the science museum.
  • Take BB to the art museum after looking at some books of famous painters.
  • Put together at least a few of the activities on the various montessori blogs I follow; they are so full of good ideas and I never do any of them!  Am I the only one whose kids would rather run in circles screaming like banshees than tweeze pom-poms into an ice cube tray?  Well, I am going to try again to get them interested in these motor skills/language/math activities. 
  • Make ice cream and popsicles.  That’s educational, right?  Cultural?  Hmmm, well, it’s something we’ll do for sure, at any rate. 


And a final goal for me is to go to bed earlier so I’m not so tired!  Which means less of this and more ZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzZZZZZZZZZ!  So here’s a quick look at a recent project now that I have my camera back (yay!), a pair of shorts I made for LB (a mere days before I decided he should spend all summer in overalls).  I went to a garage sale up the street and bought a hideous pink chair with the goal of learning to reupholster and/or make a slipcover, both incredibly practical things I don’t know how to do.  I was looking at some women’s shirts and the lady threw them in with the chair, so hey, free shorts!


I used the sleeves, which was great, men’s shirts always have cuffs but this shirt, being a women’s shirt and unfettered by such rules, did not.  I cut two legs (remembering to make a right AND a left, not two lefts like in my most recent pants project), sewed them up at the crotch, decided to add pockets, put in an elastic waist and voila!  Shorts!  Without the pockets it would take less than half an hour but those were a little time consuming.  They really make the shorts look a lot nicer though so it was time well spent.  I am currently (slooowwwwlllyy) trying to eke out a pair for BB of the remaining fabric, which is full of darts and whatnot that lazy me didn’t pick out. 

Happy summer to all 2 of you that read this!