Tuesday, December 22, 2009

She *Is* Learning Something!

One of my little Otherwise Educated kiddos is an active learner. He is always engaged when we do school, even when he's not particularly enjoying what we're doing. I can tell he's "getting it". The other one...not so much. She is, how can I put this? Well, she's just a little less focused. She is a lot less focused. She completely lacks anything resembling focus. To be more accurate, teaching her is a lot like herding cats. Let's just say that it's a challenge most days. She is always rolling around on the floor, jumping up to follow the gnat that flew by, running to the window to see what caused the sound she heard, stopping mid-assignment to practice a dance step, picking her pencil up off the floor for the 145th time that day. She's not unlike a pinball. There are days when I've considered medication...and not just for her.

It's not that she's not smart. Quite the opposite is true. She is highly intelligent. But like many truly gifted children, her brain just works differently. Every day, I plug along and continue to try to find ways to reach and engage her and to teach her something. I'm never entirely sure she has heard what I've said, let alone retained anything.


You know that we did this little Christmas Around The World Unit Study. When we studied Christmas in Australia, we read that seasons in the Southern Hemisphere are opposite of the seasons in the Northern Hemisphere due to the tilt of the Earth. In Australia, Christmas comes in the summer and Santa arrives in a boat.

So the other day when Thing 4 was out with her daddy, she said, "I think Santa has two coats. A heavy coat for when he's in the Northern Hemisphere and a lighter coat for when he's in the Southern Hemisphere."

Praise the Lord and pass the champagne! She really learned something from me!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

You Might Be A Homeschooler

...if you go to order something online, and you enter your library card number instead of your credit card number.

Friday, December 18, 2009

A Couple of Great Books

During our literature unit study on Christmas, we read lots of good books, but two stood out.

Star of Wonder is a beautifully illustrated retelling of the Christmas story. While it is a picture book, it is written on a higher level than most picture books, and the story is more complete than in most Christmas picture books.

One City, Two Brothers is a wonderful folk tale passed down by both Jewish and Arab families that tells how the city of Jerusalem came to be. It is a beautiful story of peace, hope and generosity.

We are adding both books to our collection.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Handmade Christmas Gifts

For art last week, we made coasters to give as Christmas gifts. (Isn't it funny how I say "For art last week", as though we do art every week?)

At Hobby Lobby, I purchased some coaster molds, stepping stone cement and mosaic glass.

We put a thin layer of Vaseline on the inside of each mold, then put cement to the top edge of the mold. We let the cement sit for five minutes before placing the glass pieces.

The coasters dried in the molds for 24 hours before we removed them. After removing, I placed them on a cookie cooling rack to let the underside cure for several hours. Then, I put some felt on the bottoms.

Voila! Coasters!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Oh, Mexico!

It sounds so simple, I just got go. The sun's so hot, I forgot to go home. Guess I'll have to go now.

Am I showing my age?


Our next stop on our Christmas Around The World tour was France, but we didn't make any crafts from France, so I have no photos to share. We were going to make a Buche de Noel, but quite honestly, I ran out of energy that day. Isn't the Williams Sonoma version pretty though? I especially like the meringue mushrooms.

After France, we stopped in Mexico. Let me tell you, people in Mexico know how to celebrate Christmas! We love how their Christmas celebrations revolve around the true meaning of and the reason for Christmas, and how they are all about family and friends. There is nothing commercial about Christmas in Mexico. We all decided that we want to spend Christmas in Mexico next year!

During our study of Mexico, we read a wonderful book by Tommy DePaola about the The Legend of the Poinsettia. It is a beautiful story and one I had never heard until now.

We also learned about Los Posados and read another great book by DePaola. The Night of Las Posadas.

Fortuitously, my brother-in-law is from Mexico, so we asked him to share some of his Mexican family Christmas traditions with us when we had our family Christmas celebration this weekend. It's one thing to read about things like this in a book, but it's so much more fun (and meaningful) to have someone who has experienced those traditions and customs explain them to us. (It was like a home school guest speaker!)

He said that in Mexico, there is a tradition where they put Baby Jesus in a blanket with candy. Two older children or adults hold the blanket and the children walk around it several times. Then each child stops, picks up baby Jesus, gives him a kiss and then takes a piece of candy. After all the children have had a turn, someone takes baby Jesus and puts him in his "bed". Traditionally, this takes place on December 24th, so the Nativity Scene is not complete until that day.

Many Christmas celebrations in Mexico also include a pinata. We tried our hand at making one.

We had big plans to cover it in tissue paper like a real pinata. Again, I was short on energy (and time) and the kids were happy to paint it. Not too shabby.

We filled the pinata with candy and some cheap Dollar Store stuff and broke it at our Family Christmas Celebration. Our stick broke and we couldn't find our plastic bat, so my ever-resourceful husband brought down a light saber to use. Did you know that that plastic light sabers are a big part of Mexican Christmases? I think Tommy DaPoala may have written a book about The Legend of the Christmas Light Saber.

Perhaps we should have reinforced the holes we punched to run the rope through because after the first couple of whacks, the pinata fell. It didn't seem to bother the kids, though.

We loved Christmas in Mexico and were sad to leave, but time is running short and we have a lot of ground to cover. I think we'll travel to England next.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

2nd Grade Math Is Going To Kill Me

I tend to post about all the fun things we do here in our little school at home. Readers of this blog (all three of you) might get the idea that it's just all rosy and cheery all the time...that all we do is read, do crafts, cook, take field trips, socialize (imagine that!) and have fun. We do a lot of that.

We also do math. Or at least we try.

I used to be able to get my hair colored every six weeks. That is, I used to do it every six weeks until I started teaching Thing 4 math. Now I have to go every five weeks and I should go every four. I have a lot of gray hair. I blame it all on math.

Thing 4 does not like math. In fact, she hates math. She will do just about anything to avoid doing math.

She's not bad at math. Actually, she's quite good at it as long as it's not pencil and paper math. Ask her how many eggs are in four dozen and she can tell you without even stopping to think about it. Ask her how many weeks are in three months. She can tell you that, too. You can even ask her how much change she'll get back if the item she's purchasing is $14.50 and she gives the clerk a twenty.

But she hates doing math in school.

Math is going to be the death of one of us.

Here's a photo I took the other day when we were doing math. When I left, there were only two problems on the board...nothing else. The problem on the left, I worked with her. The problem on the right (the one where she is incorrectly subtracting from left to right) is the one I gave her to do while I ran and switched the laundry out and started another load. One problem. That's simple enough, right?

When I came back, the board looked like this:

Excuse me while I call the salon.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Our Trip To Australia

Our first stop in our Christmas Around The World tour was Australia. We read some great books and learned a lot, not only about Christmas in Australia, but also about the history and culture of the country/continent.

Here are some photos of a couple of Australian Christmas crafts we made.

Making Crackers for our guests who will be here Saturday:

Per the instructions, I told the kids, "Write either a fotune or a Christmas wish on this slip of paper and put it in the Cracker." When I asked Thing 4 what she wrote, she said, "'A Christmas Wish', just like you said to."

(Hair brushing is so over-rated, doncha think?)

We loved making this Bay Leaf Christmas Tree. It smells so good!

Now on to France!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

How To Crack A Whip

We started the day studying about Australia. As often happens, one thing led to another, and we ended up somewhere completely different. You gotta love those home school rabbit trails.

This afternoon, we spent a ridiculous amount of time learning about how to crack a whip. I'm not sure what the practical application is of this knowledge, given that we don't live on a cattle ranch and Harrison Ford pretty much has the market cornered when it comes to whip cracks in movie sound tracks and Jimmy Buffett songs, but we learned about it, anyway.

This is an excellent "How To" video on whip cracking. My kids found it quite interesting and entertaining. Now Thing 3 wants a whip for Christmas.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

December Lessons

When we started this journey, I promised my children that in December we would pare our work to the minimum (Math!) and we'd do lots of Christmas-y activities.

I found this great Christmas Around The World unit study. We are starting it tomorrow, and I am so excited! It is a literature-based unit study (which I love), and we will create a lap book as we go. I've always wanted to try lap booking, but have found it somewhat intimidating. This unit study has great lap booking resources, and makes it look pretty easy, so I think this will be a good way to start.

The unit study is fairly complete and incorporates geography, history, culture study, music, cooking and crafts for each country studied. I have stacks of books from the library, with more on the way. (I think I pulled something carrying them to my van today.) We are ready to go! I'll try to post updates as we travel around the world.

Other items on our agenda...a trip to the Philbrook Museum for the Festival of Trees, watching several different versions of A Christmas Carol, writing a Christmas limerick and making Christmas cards to send to our relatives. We'll be baking, making Christmas crafts and some home made gifts, too.

I need a break from "real" school at least as much as the children do!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thanksgiving - OE Style!

On Monday, instead of our regular Science class, we had a little home school Thanksgiving feast. It was so much fun.

First, one of the moms made Pilgrim Hat cookies with the children.

Then we made butter for the bread.

For some reason, it took longer than usual, and a whole lot of shaking, to turn this cream into butter.

We thought it would never turn to butter.

By the time it did, we were all sweaty and I was too worn out to take a picture. You have my word, however, that we did have fresh, homemade butter for our bread.

Then we had a yummy Thanksgiving feast together. 13 children, 6 moms, and 1 dad sharing friendship and food.

Is there anything sweeter than this?

I'm very thankful that I am able to Otherwise Educate my precious children.

And I'm thankful that I have a husband who not only supports this crazy experiment, but encourages me. He was at this party because he enjoys experiencing these special days with our children. However, I forgot to take a picture of him. This little boy looks like a miniature version of him, so use your imagination.

Not only does he look just like his daddy, he's just as sweet, too!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Inside Recess

Stair Surfing!

I just love the laughter I get to hear all day!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Traveling School ...

One really cool thing about Otherwise Educating is that we can do it anywhere...like today when we took a field trip to the salon so the teacher could get a pedicure.

Last week, we took our little home school on the road and headed to Indianapolis for the Bands of America Grand Nationals Competition where we watched Thing 2 and the High School Marching Band compete.

That's my kiddo there, second from the right. He's so good he plays two French Horns at the same time. Or maybe he was carrying someone else's horn. I can't remember. Either way, he is a very talented horn player. But I digress...

It's great to have the flexibility to travel with our family during the school year without having to worry about make-up work. We worked ahead a little before we left so we didn't have to take any work on the road with us. There are so many opportunities to learn when we're away from home that I don't see the point in complicating things with school work.

Reading a little while waiting to go into the stadium.

We got to see the Berlin Wall show again. It is the show that I mentioned here that caused us to study the Berlin Wall. We also heard some wonderful music and saw some incredible marching shows. I love Arts Education.

We visited the Children's Museum of Indianapolis while we were there.

This is the best Children's Museum I've ever visited. It was an awesome field trip!

We got to touch real dinosaur bones and talk to a paleontologist who was working on a field cast. So cool!

We shopped in an Egyptian Marketplace...

...and visited an Ancient Egyptian Temple.

We visited the Tree of Hope and added our promises, and I made a mental note to work more on spelling with Thing 4.

We looked at some real germs.

And we had a lot of fun.

Monday, November 9, 2009


In Science today, we learned about worms. The kids made a worm habitat.

Complete with live worms.

Then it was time to dissect an earthworm. I don't mind telling you that I refused to take part in this activity. Instead, I acted as school photographer. Someone had to capture these photos for our yearbook.

It seems that someone inherited my aversion to all things disgusting.

Getting braver.

"Ok, I'll watch while someone else does the dissecting."

Conquering the fear.


What a great class! Thanks, Ms. A!


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