Sunday, August 31, 2014

Protractor Art

One of the 4-H projects that Olivia did for the county fair this year was Protractor Art. The idea - which combines art with math - came from a pin on Pinterest that led to Art Is What I Teach.

In and of itself, the project looked interesting and one that Olivia wanted to try. However, I wanted her to see what the inspiration was for the project: Frank Stella's Protractor Series.

After learning about the artist and looking at his work on the internet, Olivia drew her own design using a pencil and protractor.

She outlined her design with a Sharpie marker, and then colored it with colored pencils.

She thoroughly enjoyed this project and was proud to have it displayed at the county fair.

Looking for 48 Acts of Kindness for My 48th Birthday?

On Sunday, July 13th, an article about my 48 acts of kindness for my 48th birthday was featured in the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

To read about each of the acts of kindness and see pictures of what I did, please visit my blog post about it HERE.

To read the article in the St. Paul Pioneer Press, please visit HERE.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Tutorial: Feather Pens

Olivia has a lot of feathers and pens. What should she do with them? Is there something that could put both to good use?

Absolutely...she made feather pens!

The idea came from a pin on Pinterest that led to Huffington Post which then led to Crafty Endeavor.

This is a very easy craft project that included the following materials:
- Three pens
- Three large feathers
- Lace - from our bin of different types of laces
- Green floral tape

The first step is to wrap the tape around the pen. To do this, she put the feather almost to the base of the pen. She used the floral tape at the base of the pen and feather and then worked her way up the pen to the top.

Floral tape is sticky on on both sides which is nice - it grabbed onto the pen, the feather, and itself as Olivia worked.

After the tape is on the pen and the feather firmly attached, Olivia wound the lace around the pen. It is overlapped slightly so none of the floral tape is exposed.

The finished feather pens took less than a half hour to make. Now she has unique pens to write with...and ones that will be intriguing for the cats to watch as she writes.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Dot Art Project

Each summer, Olivia enjoys doing art projects for county fair. She enters some under the "art" category and others in the "craft" category. These, by far, are two of her favorite project areas.

This year, as we looked at Pinterest for ideas, we came across a pin for an art project based on Aboriginal dot painting. It is based on the Indigenous art found in Australia.

The pin led us to Dilly-Dali Art that suggested that before starting the project, it would be a good idea to do a Google search for inspiration.

I also wanted Olivia to learn a bit more about Indigenous Australian art, so we visited Wikipedia. We read about this type of art work which was interesting.

To do the project, you'll need:
- tempera or acrylic paint (Olivia used acrylic paint)
- cotton swabs
- dark marker to outline image
- image of an animal
- paper (copy/printer paper and painting paper)

Since the areas on the dolphins were smaller, Olivia  adapted the project a bit and used markers for the image of the dolphins and paint for the image of the water.

The first step is to find an image and print it on white paper. Trace the image with a dark marker. Transfer the image to a piece of painting paper either by using the light from a window or a light-box.

Once the image is on the paper, you can begin adding color to the picture. Olivia started with the dolphins since they were done with markers.

Once she was done with making the dots on the dolphins, she put some acrylic paint on a plate and dipped cotton swabs in it.

Without getting an overabundance of paint on the swab, she dabbed the swabs onto the paper to leave dots.

She enjoyed doing this project - from learning about and seeing images of Aboriginal dot art to making her own version inspired by indigenous artists.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Tutorial: Making Homemade Goat Cheese

One of the projects that Sophia did this summer was learn how to make goat cheese. We visited Poplar Hill Dairy Goat Farm this past March with the 4-H Club, and both she and Olivia liked the goat milk and cheese.

We were able to see the baby goats (kids) that had recently been born.

The babies enjoyed getting the attention and were eager to show us some of their tricks - like hanging their front legs out of the tubs they were in.

We were also able to see the barns where the older goats were living. They were divided by age and gender.

The ones that we spent the most time with were the dairy goats.

Despite being pretty chilly outdoors (we visited the farm in March), it was comfortably warm indoors.

So, after the visit and enjoying at home more goat cheese that we purchased at Poplar Hill Dairy Goat Farm, Sophia wanted to see if she could make her own goat cheese. We looked on Pinterest and found two recipes. One pin led to Serious Eats and included a recipe to make a basic soft goat cheese.

To make it, you need the following ingredients:

1 quart goat milk (not ulta-pasturized)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1 1/2 lemons)
1/2 clove freshly grated garlic
A few pinches coarse salt
Herbs (optional and the choice used is what you prefer): Rosemary, parsley, fennel, dill, chives, herbs de Provence, and other non-herbs like dried apricots.

The first step was to squeeze the juice from the lemons.

Next, fill a medium saucepan with goat milk. Heat gradually until it reaches 180°F. Watch closely. It should take about 15 minutes.

Once it hits 180°F, remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice.

Let it stand until the milk starts to curdle, about 20 seconds. Don't expect curdles, like cottage cheese curdles.

Line a colander with several layers of cheesecloth. Place the colander over a large bowl to catch the whey drips.

Pour the milk into the colander. The instructions said to pull up and tie the four corners of the cheesecloth together and hang on the handle of a wooden spoon. However, Sophia didn't do this. She just let the whey drip through the cheesecloth.

When it was done (about 1 1/2 hours later), she tightened the cheesecloth to get the remaining whey out of the curds. There was quite a bit of whey by the time it finished dripping through the colander.

Transfer to a bowl and fold in salt, garlic, and flavors of your choice.

Serve on fresh bread, salads, or with fruit. The goat cheese can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, but after a few days, the consistency isn't as smooth and spreadable.

The second type of cheese Sophia made was ricotta. We found a recipe for it on a pin on Pinterest that led to the Huffington Post that could be made with their goat or cow milk.

To make this recipe, you need:

4 cups whole milk
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
3 tablespoons distilled vinegar, fresh lemon or lime juice
1 green onion

Since Sophia had used lemon juice with the other recipe, we were interested in seeing if the vinegar affected the flavor.

The first step is to place the milk in a heavy-bottomed pot. Add the salt and heat over medium heat. Stir occasionally so the milk doesn't scorch. Heat milk to 180ºF to 190ºF (82ºC to 88ºC). If you don't have a thermometer, heat the milk until it foams at the sides of the pan and starts simmering, but doesn't boil.

Remove the pan from the heat and add the vinegar, lemon juice, or lime juice as well as the green onion. Stir only a couple of times. Almost immediately, curds will start to form.

Do not stir any more or the curds will be disturbed. Let the mixture stand for five minutes.

Line a medium colander with cheesecloth and carefully pour the milk mixture onto the cheesecloth. Let drain for 5-20 minutes to the desired consistency. Draining for five minutes will give you a moist and creamy cheese. Draining for 20 minutes will give you a drier ricotta.

Transfer the ricotta to a container and cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate for up to seven days.

Both cheeses turned out well. However, we probably would not make them again. The girls preferred the harder goat cheese that was at Poplar Hill Dairy Goat Farm versus the soft versions at home. For some reason, the cheese we made had a stronger "goat flavor" than what Sophia and Olivia preferred to eat.

That being said, this was an interesting project to do and helped Sophia learn the cheese-making process. She entered the photographs and description of the process she went through in the county fair for a 4-H project and received a blue ribbon. 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Homeschool Plan for 2014-15

Last year I spent a lot of time planning out the homeschool year while I took an online class. The focus of the class was an exploring the rhythm of the year in the context of planning a homeschool year.

Although I felt extraordinarily prepared going into the homeschool year, the reality was that life presented a lot of unexpected challenges during that time. So, although I had - what I felt - was a solid plan, in actuality only a fraction of what I had hoped would happen did. We still did a lot and the girls learned quite a bit in a variety of was just not everything that I had planned.

So, this year I'm stepping back a bit and adjusting my expectations to reflect what can be realistically accomplished in a homeschool year. I've listed resources that would be good to use in an ideal world if everything goes well and we have a lot of time.

However, if we don't get to something...fine. If more activities can be added...great. What won't happen is having a schedule so packed that Sophia and Olivia feel overwhelmed and burdened by learning....or that I feel like we aren't accomplishing enough because of an unrealistic plan. That takes the joy out of learning for us all.

What I am keeping from last year is the planner that I used last year: a small, maroon 3-ring binder. There's a pencil case and lined paper in it so some of the essentials I need for planning are all in one spot.

3-ring binder for academic work,
tabbed dividers, and a pencil case.

One of the things that we did at the beginning of last year that the girls and I truly enjoyed was having a daily color and food theme. We did this for about two months - or until the holidays began (Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas). After that, my mom was hospitalized, went on hospice, was in a nursing home, had multiple strokes and TIAs, and by the end of the homeschool year was stabilized (probably from all the good care she was receiving).

We talked about how nice it was to have the table set beautifully and to look forward to trying some new recipes based on the grain/food item of the day (e.g., rice, barley, oats). We're going to try to get back to that again this fall and see how well that goes.

These are two boards on Pinterest for different subjects that focus on these areas:
=> Waldorf Rhythm, Routines, and Meal Times
=> Waldorf-Inspired Home

My next step was to create a school calendar. For us, that means a yearly calendar since I consider homeschooling more of a learning lifestyle than a set period of days when the girls learn. That being said, there is a "start date" and "end date" of the more "formal" homeschooling. This year, that is September 2nd and May 29th respectively.

Normally, we go on a "not back to school" trip the day after Labor Day for a few days. This year, however, we will not be going on a trip. Instead, we will do a "not back to school picnic" on September 2nd - the day after Labor Day.

Also on the calendar are days that there are no school or a holiday. This year on holidays we will focus on activities related to the holiday rather than doing traditional school work.

The calendar also shows birthdays and anniversaries (e.g., Adoption Days); breaks; and when we start and end the time period where we focus more on alternative ways to learn (e.g., 4-H, county fair, state fair).

Wheel of the Year.

Next, I looked at the different holidays that we will be celebrating and learning about this year. I found pins on Pinterest for them last year and have added some new ones as they have come along. Although I have quite a few holidays listed, the reality is that we didn't celebrate them all last year. This year we probably won't celebrate them all as well. However, it's nice to have a place to reference if we want to do something special. Here are the links to the boards on Pinterest:

=> Epiphany
=> Tu B'Shevat
=> Chinese New Year

=> Brigid's Day
=> Candlemas
=> Groundhog's Day
=> Valentine's Day

=> Mardi Gras
=> Lent
=> St. Patrick's Day
=> Spring Equinox

=> Passover
=> Easter

=> May Day
=> Memorial Day

=> Pentecost or Whitsun
=> Summer Solstice
=> St. John's Tide

=> Fourth of July

=> Lammas

=> Labor Day
=> Autumn Equinox
=> Rosh Hashana
=> Michaelmas

=> Yom Kippur
=> Halloween

=> All Saints Day
=> All Souls Day
=> Martinmas
=> Adoption Day Celebrations
=> Chanukah
=> Thanksgiving

=> Advent
=> St. Nicholas Day
=> St. Lucia Day
=> Las Posadas
=> Winter Solstice
=> Christmas Eve and Day
=> 12 Days After Christmas
=> New Years Eve

Monthly activities on a circular calendar.

Last year, I created a wheel of the year after I found a pin that I liked. using a free PDF pattern from Daily Colours. I set up a weekly rhythm that I thought would be good to do last year. For about two months this worked last year, and then I had a difficult time integrating a daily rhythm with major holidays and family issues.

I'm hoping to re-explore this concept during the 2014-15 year and see if we can get back to creating this daily and weekly rhythm that worked so nicely when we began it.

Rhythm of the week.

These are the colors, grain, and activities that ideally would be done each day of the week:

=> White
=> Wheat
=> Bread Making
=> Renew the Spirit

=> Violet
=> Rice
=> Music
=> Errands

=> Red
=> Oats
=> Art and Painting
=> Mending

=> Orange
=> Millet
=> Writing
=> Yard Work

=> Yellow
=> Rye
=> Nature
=> Wash and dry bedding + towels

=> Green
=> Barley
=> Adventuring (field trips, visit my mom, volunteering at the nursing home)
=> Soup Day

=> Blue
=> Corn
=> Handiwork (e.g., sewing, embroidery, crocheting, knitting)
=> Menu Planning (also includes cleaning out the refrigerator)

Daily activities on a circular weekly calendar.

For the color of the days, we focused on having them be part of the table decorations (e.g., coasters, place mats, tablecloth, table runner, candles).

Pinterest also had many ideas for ideas for food that incorporates the different grains.

Last year I made a rhythm of the week wheel. Daily Colours (the website mentioned above) has a free PDF pattern. We will continue to use that this year.

Once the overall rhythm of the year, week, and day has been established, I looked at the upcoming year from an academic point of view.

The girls each have some subjects they will be continuing on from where they left off at the end the 2013-14 homeschool year.

Because of a tremendous amount of water damage to our home this year (an ice dam in March that led to three rooms being gutted and reconstructed; the bathtub leaking which resulted in the gutting and re-doing of the upstairs bathroom in July/August; and replacing and/or cleaning the duct work in the home because of mold from the ice dam issue; as well as forthcoming projects including regrading around the entire home so our basement won't be flooded again), funds are limited for purchasing curricula.

So, we are using Ambleside Online this year for both Sophia and Olivia. It's a free curriculum that follows Charlotte Mason's educational philosophy.

I also will be using the resources I have on hand (e.g., books, curricula, photocopies I've made throughout the years) to create the curriculum for the 2014-15 homeschool year.

Olivia began using Ambleside Online's curriculum last September at the Y3 level, and found it to be both engaging and challenging. Since she is working with the local elementary school to receive assistance with some learning, auditory processing, and short-term memory issues, some of her subjects are covered in a way that works well for her: through workbooks.

This year for Olivia, we are using parts of Y5 including:
- History (1800-1914 up to WWI, World and American, Bios of Lewis and Clark, Lillias Trotter, and Teddy Roosevelt, Bios of ancient Romans and Greeks)
- Geography (Wonders of the World, Land Forms, Food Crops, Other Vegetation Biology).
- Science (inventions, nature study)
- Citizenship
- Literature (numerous classical stories plus writings by Kipling, Longfellow, Whittier, and Dunbar)

For Sophia, we are using parts of Y8 including:
- History (1400's-1688 - Renaissance to Reformation), Elizabethan England, King Charles, and Oliver Cromwell
- Geography (Kon  Tiki, Columbus)
- Science (nature study, natural history)
- Citizenship (Ourselves - by Charlotte Mason, Bacon's essays, Whatever Happened to Justice, and Utopia)
- Literature (numerous classical stories)
- Art (The Story of Painting)
- Foreign Language (continuing with Latin and Greek root words - From the Roots Up)
- Mapwork (locating places from readings on a map)
- Current Events (reading the newspaper and picking 2-3 events to write about each week)

For science, we are using Elemental Science this year. Olivia will be doing Biology for the Logic Stage and Sophia will be Chemistry for the Logic Stage. Olivia is excited because she will be using a microscope that is on par with what would be used in junior and/or senior high classes in a public school. Sophia is looking forward to the chemistry experiments she'll be doing throughout the year.

Also for science, Sophia will finish Grey's Anatomy. As a family, we will be doing a couple year-long projects. One is learning about monarchs and creating a monarch waystation in the spring/summer. The other is using a schoolyard habitat curriculum that I've had for many years. Basically we'll be analyzing our farm/land and then creating a certified wildlife habitat.

For nature study, we will be continuing to use The Handbook of Nature Study and exploring a different topic each week. I found some resources on my bookshelves which will supplement The Handbook of Nature Study and provide some hands-on activities.

For math, we will be continuing with Math-U-See. This curricula seems to work with the girls' learning style. Sophia will be finishing Zeta  and moving to Pre-Algebra. Olivia will be finishing Delta and moving to Epsilon.

For spelling, we use Spelling for a Reason. Sophia will be transitioning to another program since she is in the final book of the series. I haven't found a new spelling curricula for her yet.

Both girls will be learning about Shakespeare. The plays we'll be focusing on this year include: Hamlet, Midsummer Night's Dream, and Richard II. For the first two plays, I found a parallel text for students along with a teacher's guide. I'm hoping that it helps make Shakespeare's writing more accessible for both Sophia and Olivia.

We also will continue with poet/poetry study. This year's poets include: Hilda Conkling, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Lord Byron, John Greenleaf Whittier, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and John Keats.

The girls also will write different forms of poetry each month. I found pins on Pinterest that have different ideas for creative expression through poetry.

For music, we'll be looking at the following hymns: Abide with Me, Lift High on the Cross, O Worship the King, I am Thine, O Lord, Come Down O Love Divine, Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence, Jesus Paid It All, Man of Sorrows, All Praise to Thee My God This Night, Let Us with  Gladsome Mind, Just As I am Without One Plea, and How Firm a Foundation.

We'll also listen to and learn about these folk songs: Barbara Allen, Billy Boy, Star of the Country Down, Lord Randall, Andrew Barton, Once in a Royal David's City, The Holly and The Ivy, The Death of Queen Jane, I'm 17 Come Sunday, The Keeper, The Miller of Dee, Yellow Rose of Texas History, Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes, Three Mariners, The Oak and The Ash, and My Lodging is on Cold Ground.

The girls will continue playing instruments. Sophia will play the harp and piano; and Olivia will play the piano.

We will continue with artist/picture study. The girls will study Fra Angelico, Diego Velazquez, and Edgar Degas.

They both will work on their drawing skills this year. Olivia will be taking a drawing class at the local homeschool co-op and using an art/literature book about Lewis & Clark that involves a lot of drawing. Sophia will either draw a scene from a reading of her choice each week and/or do some of the activities that Olivia is doing.

We also will continue with composer study. The composers we're going to focus on this year include: Hildegard von Bingen, Benjamin Britten, Sergei Prokofiev, Paul Dukas, Engelbert Humperdink, Claude Debussy, Georges Bizet, and Sergei Rachmaninoff.

For handicrafts, the girls both want to do ceramics (which they'll do through the homeschool co-op) photography, cross-stitching, spinning, embroidery, and latch-hooking. Sophia also will be continuing knitting at the co-op, and developing her skills in beading, Spencerian handwriting, and sewing.

For Olivia, we want to complete the  Five in a Row cookbook that she started a couple of years ago. We have read the books in the Five in a Row series that complement the recipes in the cookbook. We still have a couple of the Beyond Five in a Row books that we need to read before she makes the recipes corresponding to those books.

For physical education, we have a variety of activities. This year we are starting out the year preparing for a 5K walk at the end of September. After that, the girls will do six-week blocks of different activities (swimming, hiking, ice skating, yoga, table tennis, and biking. In the spring, a six-week block will be split between tennis and croquet.

Also for phy ed, the girls will do equine vaulting in the late spring and summer. Dog training - obedience and agility will be done throughout the year by Sophia. Sophia also works out at the fitness club a few times per week.

In addition, the girls each have a variety of subjects that they learn about during the year:

A to Z Book (Olivia is creating a book about different subjects that begin with each letter of the alphabet)
Art (several books and resources will be used including Teaching Literature through Art and a book by Usborne that focuses on different artists and making art projects based on particular works of art)
Character Education (we will be finishing the multi-year curriculum we've been using from Character Education)
Critical Thinking (each of the girls has their own critical thinking workbook. In addition, there is a weekly activity that we'll do in the Brain Stations book.)
Handwriting (standard for Olivia and Spencerian for Sophia)
Home Economics (using Keepers at Home and Hope Chest for ideas and activities)
Holidays (using Pinterest and several books for ideas and activities)
Journaling (the girls do monthly journaling activities based on pins I've found on Pinterest)
Life Skills/Handicrafts (using the book Hope Chests for handicrafts as well as the Webelo and Cub Scout handbooks for life skills - particularly outdoor/survival skills)
Reading/Literature (personal reading of classical books as well as books that received the Newbery award that I read aloud)
Second Impressions (this is a curriculum I wrote many years ago for use in a homeschool co-op. We will be revisiting it again this year and doing many more activities since the girls are older. The curriculum focuses on pre-cycling, reducing, recycling, and reuse.)
Spirituality (using the UUA Family Pages inserts that have been in past issues of UU World - one insert per month.)
Service/Volunteering (we will continue to volunteer at the nursing home and other places as we feel called to do. We will be setting up accounts of the President's Volunteer Service Award to track how many hours we are volunteering since volunteering is such an integral part of homeschooling and our lives.)
Social Studies (Olivia has a workbook that is part of a series that she enjoyed last year and wants to do this year at the sixth-grade level; and Sophia will be using the Create a Culture book)
Speech Therapy (Olivia only)
Typing (Mavis Beacon program)
U.S. Geography (Cantering the Country curriculum - focusing on 18 states)
Vocabulary (1 new word a day, M-F)
Writing (both the girls have writing books to help them develop skills in this area)

Using free printable sheets from Donna Young's website, I planned the homeschool year. I have the schedule for the academic portion of the girls' year in a purple 3-ring binder. There are tabbed-dividers that separate the plans by week.

The last component of planning for the upcoming home- and homeschooling year includes creating a larger binder with non-academic subjects and home management items. I began working on this last year, but never completed it. 

Now that the majority of these health issues and home repair projects are behind us - plus a major decluttering effort from March through now, I'd like to focus on getting these sections completed. This will help maintain a sense of order as we go through the homeschool year.

Binder with non-academic subjects and 
home management items.

Organized Home has many free printables that will be invaluable this year in terms of keeping organized. The tabbed sections in the white 3-ring binder include:

- Contact numbers - includes emergency numbers, frequently-used numbers, and a list of birthdays/anniversaries

- Menu planning - this has a plan for theme dinners when things get a bit more hectic and we don't want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen, or making meals for various school subjects (e.g., meals that focus on different states, meals from the Five in a Row cookbook).

Last year I had envisioned having a meal plan. I'm not sure if I want to do this or not...or if it involves too much planning and making of new food and not acknowledging a way to eat all the leftovers. I don't like to see food wasted, and if I'm always making new food there is bound to be food that will be wasted.

At any rate, this would be the plan for the week in an ideal world:

Sunday - Sunday Dinner - meat with potatoes and carrots. The leftover meat can be used for sandwiches during the week. Have a very light meal in the evening if anyone is hungry (e.g., cheese, crackers, fruit).

Monday - Asian Night

Tuesday - Crockpot Night

Wednesday - Pasta Night

Thursday - Leftovers

Friday - Soup Night with Fresh Bread

Saturday - Mexican Night

Shopping List - Copies of a shopping list. One will be posted in the kitchen to add to each week. In this way, when we run out of something it can be immediately added to the list.

Food Inventories - There are sheets for the freezer, pantry, and larder. The larder, in our case, is part of a closet that holds heavier canned goods (e.g., peaches, pears, tomatoes, applesauce) as well as the top shelves of a built-in bookcase that hold lighter canned goods (e.g., jams, jellies, salsa).

Recipe Locations - There are pages that have the name of favorite recipes, the cookbook/source, page number, and comments.

Monthly Rhythm - This is my chart that has five columns: month, mood, symbols/color, activities, celebrations.

One of the pages that has the monthly rhythm.
This page still needs to be retyped 
so that it includes the hand-written information.

Monthly Sections - I have a tabbed section for each month. It starts with August right now because that's the current month. Once this month passes, it will go to the back of the monthly section so that September is first.

Each section has a list of the holidays and when they are in 2014-15. I've also included some ideas, instructions, and information that relates to some of the holidays. Following that is the plastic page protector that has the recipes for the month.

This is December's section. 
The first part has a list of holidays and
the second part has a sheet protector filled with recipes
that can be made for the month's holidays and celebrations.

Seasonal Chores - Organized Home has a free printable that has a fall and winter checklist; and spring and summer checklist.

Weekly Rhythms - This is the typed version of the daily color, grain, learning activity, and home activity. There also are daily to-do sheets from Organized Home.

Weekly rhythm.

Grain Sections - The next seven tabbed sections are labeled with the grain of the day - starting with wheat and ending with corn.

Protector sheet with
a variety of recipes using rice.

Patterns for Meal Time Accessories - I printed out some ideas for making tables look welcoming and pretty. There also are patterns to create napkins and place mats.

Blessings - There are some blessings I've collected that I would like to print out on cards made from watercolor paper that the girls painted.

One of the meal blessings in the binder.

Daily Rhythms - This section is a reminder of what I would like my daily rhythm to look like:

Wake up before the girls and:
- Get dressed
- Let the dogs out, take them for a walk, and feed them
- Make hot chocolate
- Write in my journal
- Start the laundry (if needed)
- Review the meals for the day, and take out anything that needs to be thawed
- Prepare breakfast

I'd like to play a board or card game with the girls each day. Integrating an element of play into each day is a goal I'd like to work on during 2014-15.

The next section focuses on family values. In terms of family values, I'd like to have the following words describe my home: contentment, love, acceptance, comfort, spiritual, truthful, generosity, helpfulness, exploring, learning, togetherness, openness, happiness, caring, compassion, wonder/discovery, reflective, excitement, enthusiasm, gratitude, and service.

The last section focuses on a family mission statement. I have a rough draft of one; and would like to work on finalizing that during 2014-15.

I also included several daily to-do lists from Organized Home. These will come in handy - especially during November-January when there is a lot to be done on a daily basis.

Daily Chores - This section has ideas for keeping a home clean. I have a proposed schedule for daily cleaning that I am interested in seeing if it will work or not this year. It is:

Sunday: Bedrooms
Monday: Mudroom
Tuesday: Offices
Wednesday: Bathrooms
Thursday: Dining Room
Friday: Living and Family Rooms
Saturday: Kitchen

Following that are more comprehensive daily chore lists that I pinned from Cedar Ring Mama. At some point during Autumn 2014, these would be nice to review and adapt to my home.

First Aid Inventory and Medicine - Organized Home has a inventory sheet for first aid supplies. I also would like to list everyone's current medications they are taking.

Bills -  There are forms on Organized Home that are for each month. The top half has lines, and the bottom part has the name of the bills, date they are due, and the amount owed. There also are important dates and a monthly calendar on each sheet.

Social/Support/Craft Groups - This section will have information about any groups that the girls and I are participating in and/or leading. Once the groups begin in September, this section will have more things in it and may be sub-divided for each group.

So, what happened to the maroon binder? It has information that I still want to read, think about, and integrate into our daily lives and homeshool. This will be an ongoing resource that I can refer to, add to, and adapt the 2014-15 homeschool plan by as I make my way through the information.

Information about handiwork in the maroon binder.

The plan is definitely a work in progress as I see what feels right for our family and what doesn't feel like a good fit.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Quiet - The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking - Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks - Week 34

This week I chose to read Quiet - The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain.

The beginning of this book was great when she focused on "successful" introverts. Her message was to embrace introversion and make the best of who you are based on this quality. You can be very successful even if you are not outgoing.

Then the author moved into quotes and data from different psychological studies. Normally this would interest me, but she had a way of making the information dry and not engaging. At this point, she lost me.

I flipped through some the chapters and could not find anything that captured my attention. I couldn't imagine reading through 271 pages simply to say I read this book. It wouldn't have been a good use of my time.

That being said, there were some interesting points she made:

=> One third to one half of Americans are introverts. They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over working in teams. It is to introverts—Rosa Parks, Chopin, Dr. Seuss, Steve Wozniak—that we owe many of the great contributions to society.

=> Shyness is the fear of social disapproval or humiliation, while introversion is a preference for environments that are overstimulating.

=> Many introverts are also "highly sensitive." If you are more sensitive, then you're more apt than the average person to feel pleasantly overwhelmed by Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata" or a well-tuned phrase or an act of extraordinary kindness. You may be quicker than others to feel sickened by violence and ugliness, and you likely have a very strong conscience.

=> When you were a child you were probably called "shy," and to this day feel nervous when you're being evaluated, for example when giving a speech.

I had high hopes for this book, but was disappointed about a third of the way into it. Thankfully the book I read last week about introversion was much more insightful and engaging.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Quiet Kids - Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks - Week 33

For the 33rd week in the Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge, I read Quiet Kids - Help Your Introverted Child Succeed in an Extroverted World by Christine Fonseca.

The ideas and information presented in the book relate both to children and adults who are introverts. However, there are many more suggestions about how to help youth who are introverted at home, in school, and everyday life.

I found the book to have helpful and practical ideas for making children who are introverted more comfortable and successful in the world. I truly wish that a book like this was available to my teachers who would have better understood students who are me.

Below are some of the key points that I took away from the book:

When introverted children get overstimulated there are some signs to look for: increased agitation, short temper, emotional outbursts, and excessive withdrawal. To help the child, schedule periods of solitude into the day, learn calming strategies, seek solitude after long periods of social connection, and set good boundaries on their time.

When introverted children are understimulated, they have a tendency towards withdrawal and isolation. To counteract that, schedule periods of activity into the day, and make exercise part of the day.

Introverted children are deep thinkers interested in deep feelings and beliefs. They enjoy learning about other people. Friendships, especially ones with people who will volunteer information and take the lead in conversations, are important to introverts.

Many introverted children develop deep beliefs at an early age that guide them throughout their lives. This is related to their tendency to seek answers from within. As a result, they are often less dependent on external validation and more reliant on their inner strengths.

Many introverts are divergent thinkers, analyzing the world from a highly creative point of view.

There are many aspects of introversion. Some (if not all) can apply to each person who is introverted: deep thinker, highly creative/innovative, works well independently, curious, thinks before taking action, builds deep connections/relationships, may overthink simple thinks, takes a long time to complete tasks, may struggle with collaboration, may resist transitioning to new things, overly cautious, may struggle to form friendships initially.

Introverted children function best in a household that is calm, somewhat free from clutter, and organized. They thrive when things are predictable and routine. They also function best when given their own space – a bedroom or a specific section of a shared bedroom – that they can decorate as they choose. They need a comfortable place where they can unwind and shut the world away, especially if they are involved in a number of social activities or around a lot of people for long periods of time.

Other things that help the introverted child include: predictable routines around bedtime, mornings, homework, etc.; opportunities for solitude; reduced pressure when she is overextended; and meal options that are balanced and have protein and regular intervals. All of these things can help restore an introvert and allow her to function at her best.

The Hula Hoop Technique: imagine there is a hula hoop or some other circle on the ground. Step into the middle of it. Everything outside of the circle is outside of your control. This includes friends, family, school…everything. Except you! Everything inside of the circle you have 100% control over, including your thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and actions.

Introverted children are not shy by definition. They are keenly interested in people, often wanting to get to know them at a deep level. However, they are not always comfortable around people, especially larger groups. In these situations, the introvert is often overwhelmed, resulting in withdrawal.

Introverted children are emotionally sensitive. They often hold in their emotions until they explode. At first glance, they may appear to be handling setbacks in stride. More often than not, they are overthinking emotions and bottling them up inside before exploding.

The stress response for the introvert often takes longer to trigger than it does in his or her extroverted peers. However, introverts are more uncomfortable with the feelings associated with a stress response, resulting in a larger, more intense reaction to relatively low levels of anxiety or stress.

There are four key habits to living a healthy and balanced lifestyle:

- Proper rest – introverts require sleep in order to renew their energy stores. Getting eight hours of sleep nightly (at minimum) ensure proper brain functioning and mood stabilization. Consider: turn off electronics and develop a bedtime routine to assist with sleep troubles.

- Eat healthy foods – introverts perform best when they are eating many small meals filled with protein. The protein hits throughout the day help stabilize energy. Consider: When introverts are run down, they will naturally crave simple sugars and refined food. These can make the energy drain happen faster and should be avoided.

- Daily exercise – introverts tend to live in their heads, forgoing activity. But, getting exercise on a daily basis, even small amounts, will assist in recharging dwindling energy supplies and managing stress. Consider: Any type of activity is good for introverts. But be careful about exercising late at night as this can lead to sleep problems.

- Relaxation and connections – introverts need a balance of solitude and connections in order to achieve optimal balance. Take time to help your child both distress and renew, as well as connect on a social level. Consider: If you find your child withdrawing from all social contact or becoming agitated, check their stress levels. Odds are their energy stores have been depleted related to stress. Help them take a little time to decompress and renew.

With regards to stress, introverted children should:
- Focus on healthy habits including appropriate eating, sleeping, and exercise routines.
- Spend time relaxing every day. Don’t allow their energy stores to become too depleted.
- Pay attend to their internal chatter. Redirect negative self-talk.
- Be mindful and realistic in their perspective of situations and guard against perfectionism.
- If they find themselves particularly stressed over a specific event, mentally rehearse the event, focusing on successfully completing the activity.

Creativity is a natural area of competency for most introverted people. This is inclusive of more than the arts and artistic endeavors. This is the ability to move past traditional ideas and thoughts and create something new built from the old – innovation.

The creative process is a natural force, requiring periods of solitude, stillness, and contemplation. Introverts are particularly well-suited to a creative path. All introverts require opportunities for creative contemplation in order to stay balanced.

This list includes daily activities designed to enhance creativity:
- Have your child read something new or unfamiliar, such as book in a new genre or on an unexplored topic, every day.
- Ask the question “what else?” often.
- Have your child come up with five new ways to use familiar objects every day.
- Play creative word games and puzzles often.
- Make a “creation” box filled with any art supplies.
- The next time your child wants a new game, have her make one.
- Look for ways for your child to be creative every day.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Poets' Wives - Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks - Week 32

For the 32nd week of the Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge, I picked The Poets' Wives by David Park. This was a randomly-selected book from the library in my search to find a book that began with the letter "P" (the word "the" doesn't count) since I'm doing the challenge alphabetically (e.g., two weeks for each letter of the alphabet).

The novel focuses on three women – Catherine Blake, Nadezhda Mandelstam, and the wife of an imaginary Irish poet. Each woman is dealing with her husband's death in a different way.

Out of the three stories, the first one - about Mrs. Blake - is by far the best. The story revealed how she was not able to read the poet's love letters until he taught her how, who trusted in his visions, and who learned to share her house with divine company only he could see.

Perhaps most insightful for me was reading the following passage that describes how Mrs. Blake feels even when Mr. Blake is alive: "I am alone...because I know there are worlds inside his head that I have no path to and whose very nature and colors seem always beyond my grasp. And that night I see most clearly what I have always known which is that I possess part of him but only part and although I know that he both loves and needs me....I am never to have all that is my full desire."

Towards the end of the story she is reflecting - perhaps dreaming - about the day she was married and then shifts to the focus that she is alone after his death. She flows into the thought that "soon my beloved will come to gather what is finally his and then I too shall be dressed in light and all the infirmities and afflictions of old age shall surely fall away. Such colors then, already spreading in wonder across new worlds, and I shall see the visions that were denied to my mortal eyes, my head and heart freed forever from their earthly [limits], and I shall be as the woman clothes with sun, no longer 'the shadow of delight.'

"He's whispering my name and holding out his hand. His hand that has no stain or mark [from writing poetry with ink]. He's telling me that the pure soul will cut a path into the Heaven of glory, leaving a track of light for men to wonder at .... I can barely raise my arm but I reach out and take his outstretched hand. Then we step into the other room together."

The next story in the book focuses on Osip Mandelstam who was exiled, then sentenced to hard labor for his anti-Stalinist poetry. He died at a transit camp in 1938 and his work was preserved solely in the memory of his wife. This story skipped around to different time periods and was not the most engaging least compared to the story about the Blakes. It was confusing and difficult to follow.

The last section of the book is set in contemporary Northern Ireland, where a wife fulfills the last wishes of a second-rate poet. He clearly is not going to be missed by his family (wife and two daughters) nor the public who was largely unaware of his poetry.

There were so many layers of secrecy, grief, and loss within this story. Yet, it was one that I didn't want to read since there was an equal amount of disrespect in every relationship that centered on the husband and father.

The Poets' Wives, although well-written, is not a book that I would care to read again. I'm hoping the two books that begin with "Q" are a better use of my time.

Friday, August 1, 2014

101 Days of Summer Fun - Update #10

Saturday, July 26 - Today we did a lot of errands: the bank, Houles to get items for the horses, Home Depot to get tile for the bathroom, the grocery store, and post office.

Sunday, July 27 - We worked on decluttering some of the hobby shed today. Since it gets humid and none of us enjoy that type of weather, we tried to get the majority of the work done before noon.

After reading and relaxing in the early afternoon, Sophia and Olivia had equine vaulting in the afternoon.

They spent the first part of the lesson practicing on some skills.

Both are working on standing up on the horse. It takes a lot of balance to stand up while the horse is moving.

At 5:30 p.m., the parents and families came to watch the youth in the class show what they have been working on. They demonstrated practicing on the barrel.

This step is necessary before trying these moves on the back of a horse.

They also showed some of the skills they have been improving at the level that are at. For the girls, they are at the trot level.

The next level up is the canter. It is significantly quicker than the trot.

After the class was done, they posed for a picture.

There will be two additional classes for girls who want to keep doing vaulting.

Monday, July 28 - Olivia got her braces on at 11:10 a.m. We stopped and got some sherbet since her teeth are sore. The girls continued to work on their projects for the fair.

Tuesday, July 29 - We brought the projects to the fair in the late morning. It was a beautiful day - one of the coolest ones compared to some years that we've brought projects in.

In the afternoon, we brought the dogs in for a shot that they need to get before going to the kennel tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 30 - We dropped the dogs off at the kennel so we could spend the day volunteering at the Washington County Fair. The dogs are getting groomed and they are experiencing time in a kennel to see how they do.

We met some of the seniors from the nursing home at the fair around 10:15 a.m. After helping unload them from their van and getting them in wheelchairs (if needed), we took them around to look at different parts of the fair.

After looking at the flowers, one of the first stops they wanted to do was get a malt. 

We looked at another building of exhibits and then they were hungry for lunch. They all enjoyed dining in the 4-H building where we could sit down and have a meal together.

We looked at more exhibits and saw how we placed on our projects. Sophia received quite a few Grand Champion and Reserve Champion ribbons.

Olivia received a Reserve Champion on her etching of a wolf. The display case she is standing by held her project alone which was a nice honor!

We spent some time feeding the animals. The goats were particularly eager to be fed.

There was even a camel that Olivia and Bonnie fed.

After the fair, we went to pick up the dogs. They looked so nice after their baths and brush-outs.

They even had small bows attached to their collars. Cooper had a blue one and Aspen had a pink one.

It was a long, but very fun day.

Thursday, July 31 - Today was a day to relax and take it easy. My sister came over and spent some time talking with Sophia about her trip up north. Both she and Sophia have to write a final report and submit it to the Ann Bancroft Foundation which partially paid for some of the activities that Sophia did.

Friday, August 1 - We spent part of the morning doing a presentation about Australia for the seniors at the nursing home.

Sophia and Olivia worked with the seniors to make pavlova - a meringue topped with fresh fruit and whipped cream.

The seniors enjoyed the special treat.

We also played a DVD that featured beautiful scenes, animals, and information about Australia. Many of the seniors watched that while they were eating.

I did a presentation about Australia and we showed photographs from a trip taken there back in the mid-1990s.

We had things for the seniors to taste, look at, touch (like a ginger root and ginger plant - which is grown in Australia), and smell (like eucalyptus and tea tree oils - oils from two types of trees that grown in Australia).

I was told by the wife of one of the senior residents that it was nice to have such strong scents because the sense of smell is one of the things that goes when a person has Parkinson's Disease. Knowing that, it may be good to explore other strongly-scented activities for those with P.D. who live at the nursing home.