Saturday, October 31, 2009


One of my kiddos loves artsy/crafty activities. Every now and then, I try to find some activities that nurture her love of all things creative. It's also good for my kiddo who does not particularly enjoy artsy/crafty things.

Here are some fun Halloween crafts that we did this week.

I found this idea for Salt Dough Pumpkins at CraftTown. I love the recipe for Salt Dough. We'll be using that again at Thanksgiving and Christmas! For the pumpkins, we used tempra paint instead of acrylic because it's what we had on hand. We didn't use the glitter spray because we wanted them just orange. We painted our toothpick stems rather than using colored toothpicks. The kiddos wanted brown stems instead of green the directions suggest.

I bought a Haunted Mansion decorating kit for $10 at the grocery. I didn't have very high expectations for how it would work out because it was so cheap, but I was pleasantly surprised. I think it turned out really cute!

These Footprint Ghosts are my favorite thing we did this week. I love them! I just bought black felt and white paint. I painted the bottom of each child's foot and they made a footprint on the felt. Once the paint was dry, they used a Sharpie to draw eyes and a mouth. I created a rod pocket by folding the top of the felt over a bit and securing it with fabric glue. I inserted a wooden dowel, tied some orange yarn on the dowel and, presto, we had ghost banners.

We also did a little study on the history of Halloween. The History Channel has a very good piece on the origins of the day.

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Pumpkin Patch!

Earlier this week, a small group of Otherwise Educating friends took a very informal, last minute field trip to the Pumpkin Patch at our church.

Pastor Taud did a fun science lesson on different types of energy...

...while the children looked on.

Did the pumpkin sink or float?

Next, we had another science lesson where the children dropped different sized pumpkins in a tank and learned that all pumpkins float, regardless of size, because they are 90% water.

The kids made pumpkin snot.


Finally, the kiddos worked together to put a pumpkin jigsaw puzzle together. It was more difficult than we thought it would be.

The girls got a little help from Patch staff member, Ms. Corinna.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Recess In The Rain

I considered doing a unit study on weather but decided it was so much easier to just say yes when the kiddos asked today if they could take a break from math and go play in the rain. What better way to learn about weather than to experience it?

They learned a little about changing the course of the water's flow by placing rocks in the stream.

But mostly they just had fun.


Since we began this journey of Otherwise Educating, I have noticed that the children play more. It's not just that they play more, but they also play differently. When they play, they're more likely to choose creative play...PlayDoh, clay, Legos, Lincoln Logs, etc. I'm not sure if it's because they simply have more time to play or if the way they learn allows the creative side of their brain to develop more freely. Either way, I'm loving it. I think that play is such an important part of learning for children. I really love when they incorporate what they're learning into their play.

We recently we saw a marching band performance that included a story about the Berlin Wall. (Unless you have a child in marching band, you're probably thinking, "Berlin Wall...marching band?" Marching band performances have changed a lot since I was in high school.) The story was of two sisters on different sides of The Wall. Ever curious, the children wanted to know what the Berlin Wall was, so we took a little detour from our History Timeline and studied a little about it.

A couple of days later, after much begging and pleading on the part of Thing 4, and much dreading and resisting on my part, I gave in and got out the Moon Sand. (I think whoever invented Moon Sand hates mothers.) Thing 4 called me in to look at her creation.

It's the Berlin Wall (and the sisters) in Moon Sand!

If you look closely, you can see an "E" in the above photo. She scratched "Free" on this side of the wall.

So cool. But I still hate Moon Sand.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Conjunction, Junction, What's Your Function?

Since I am a child of the 70s and early 80s, when Shurley said it was time to learn about conjunctions and interjections, you just know I had to pull out my Schoolhouse Rock! DVD.

"Hurray! I'm for the other team!"

I can hardly wait until we do our government unit!

Monday, October 26, 2009


While I don't have a formal geography curriculum, we work a little on geography every day. I was stunned when I realized how little my children knew about geography. Not anymore! They are becoming geography least compared to where they were in August. Everything is relative, you know.

We generally start the day with our world map, the globe, the map of the U.S. and the Daily Geography book that my sweet friend let me borrow so I didn't have to spend even more money on curriculum. The book is set up so that you cover only two questions per day, but the questions are so basic (believe me, my kids needed basic!) that we do 20 most mornings. We usually do geography while they're eating breakfast. They think it's a fun way to start the day.

We love this game that is based on the wonderful children's book The Scrambled States of America. It's called, cleverly enough, Scrambled States.

The game is great for helping kids learn the location of the states in relation to each other, as well as their location on the map, the location of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and it also teaches them state capitals and nicknames. While they learn a lot when they play the game, they don't realize they're learning...which is the best kind of learning. My children ask to play this game every day and always want to play "just one more time". (I feel compelled to mention here that every game we have by Gamewright is fabulous.)

Another resource we use for geography is this great website: Maggie's Earth Adventure. There are fun geography games and activities there. You'll even find some really good math and language arts games.

I'm feeling much better about my children's level of geography knowledge. It's really too bad there is no one to test them on that. No it isn't.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Another Installment of Project Runway

Because I know you all anxiously await photos of Thing 4 modeling her funky wardrobe choices, I'm posting this picture of how she dressed for school yesterday. It's sort of a Jamaican Prairie look, Mon.

Are you starting to see why Otherwise Educating might be just the right thing for this unconventional child?

I've considered making her wear a button that says, "I dressed myself." Surely that goes without saying...right?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Felix Books

When you have as many books as we have in our home (we really love books), it's easy to forget about a great book. Over the weekend, Things 3 and 4 drug out the Felix books again.

Yesterday we read Felix Travels Back in Time, Since we're studying ancient history, this book was perfect.

If you don't know Felix, he's a little bunny that has a habit of getting lost. On his travels, he sends his owner, Sophie, letters telling her about his adventures. The Felix books captivate children, not just because all children love an adventure, but because there are actual letters, in actual envelopes, that the children can pull out and read.

And who doesn't love reading a letter?

Amazon says these books are appropriate for ages 4-8, but even my 10 year old enjoys them. (And, don't tell him that I said this, but last night when we were reading this book out loud, my 14 year old son stood over my shoulder and listened for a bit.)

I believe that some of the books are out of print, but I'm sure you can find them used. It's worth a look!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Dress Code

There is no dress code here in our little school. It's a good thing or this child would be in detention almost every day.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Settling In

I apologize in advance if your eyes bleed after reading this post novella. I had a lot to say today.

We've been Otherwise Educating for eight weeks or so. During that time, we've gone through several stages. We had the Honeymoon Stage when I was giddy with excitement about educating our children and all the possibilities in front of us. I loved watching them learn by doing. I was positively overjoyed by the fact that they weren't sitting in desks doing worksheets. I was thrilled that they didn't have to eat lunch in 15 minutes with someone yelling at them on a microphone to "Quit talking and eat!" It was so much fun to watch them running through the rain with their friends at "recess". I knew in my heart that we had made the right choice for our children's education.

Then the second day, we moved to the next stage which I like to call "Seriously, This Is My Life?" stage. Reality set in and I thought, "Really? I have to do this every day? No more coffee with friends? No more getting a pedicure without having to arrange child care?" I have to be honest and tell you that the loss of free, government child care every week day is still a bummer sometimes. I love my children more than anything, and truly enjoy having them with me. I was never the mom who counted down the days until the first day of school. I admit, however, that sometimes I find myself dreaming of a day when the public schools offer a one day a week program for Otherwise Educated kids. You know, sort of a Mother's Day Out for home schoolers. I could get my hair colored, get my pedicure, have lunch with a friend, clean my house and catch up on laundry (in theory). Ok, I'm kidding...sort of.

In the "STIML?" stage, I began to question whether or not I could or even really wanted to do this every day. I mean, is it really that important to learn Latin? What is the practical application for Greek Mythology? Hands-on learning, enrichment activities, creative writing, field trips, live theater, art study, nature study? What's the point? I began to see the value in being confined to a desk for many hours every day. If our children don't learn that skill at an early age, how will they ever function in the corporate world when they are confined to a cubicle for eight hours a day (or more)? I was sure I had read a study somewhere about the many positive benefits of florescent lighting on the growth and development of children but I just couldn't locate it.

Then we turned a corner. My incredibly supportive husband (who has been telling me all along how great this is for our children) pointed out the positive changes he observed in Thing 3. I stepped back and thought about it and realized it was true. He was much more settled. He had stopped being so critical of himself and more accepting of mistakes he made. In general, his stress level had gone way down. We talked a lot about how Thing 4 (who loves to do creative things) was allowed to really show her colors (literally) and be herself. She can dance her little heart out all day and then draw when she gets tired of dancing.

I had conversations with other OEing moms, and realized that my feelings were normal. The Pioneer Woman, bless her heart, wrote this great blog post that made me feel so much better...especially the part about the pencil dropping. I thought I was the only one...

Now we are in the "I Can Do This" stage.

When you've been in traditional school as long as we have, you tend to see school as something you "do". It's something you get through in six hours. Five days a week. Nine months a year. You live for the weekends, the holidays, summer break. The children want to get through with their work so they can move on to things that interest them.

Otherwise Educating is very different. I have finally figured out that it's not something we "do". It's something we live. It is a lifestyle. The transition was challenging. It took us a while to go from thinking we had X,Y and Z to accomplish in a day to realizing that learning is just what we do...all day, every day. If we don't get through the grammar lesson, it's ok...we can do it tomorrow. When I finally grasped that concept, OEing became much less stressful.

The children have made the transition, too. They now see the endless possibilities for learning. Almost every day one of them will say, "Mom, I want to learn about..." or "Can we study..." When someone mentions something happening somewhere else in the world, invariably one of them will jump up and grab the globe to locate that state/country/continent. They have rediscovered their natural, God-given love of learning.

It all finally made sense to me last week when we were sitting on the patio studying Mythology together. I was in the middle of a great story about Persephone when my daughter shouted, "Look, Mom! A Praying Mantis! Can we Nature Journal him?"

And that is why we Otherwise Educate.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Animal School

Even in our little home school, with just two "students", I sometimes have to remind myself that my children have completely different strengths, weaknesses and learning styles.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Artist Study

We started our artist study today. We are easing into this, so we very loosely followed Charlotte Mason's method of artist study.

I have this wonderful book, Discovering Great Artists: Hands-On Art for Children. The first artist in the book is Giotto. Since I'm lacking creativity at the present time and I'm tired of researching, I decided to just go with Giotto. We checked out some books on Giotto and got busy studying.

First, we read a couple of biographies about the artist. Next, we did some picture studies of some of his works. Some of us were more interested in that than others. Ahem...

Then we got busy crushing minerals to use as paint pigments, just like Giotto did. We agreed, however, that he probably didn't use sidewalk chalk from Target. Since we were short on bugs and berries, we used sidewalk chalk from Target.

Next, we mixed the mineral powder with egg yolks and a little water...just like Giotto did.

This process makes beautiful, vibrant paint hues.

Then we painted...just like Giotto did. Well, almost.

In art, it's the process, not the product.


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