Monday, April 22, 2013

An Unconventional Science Lesson

We are not only winding down our school year, but our American Heritage Girls year as well.  The girls have been completing some badges they have been working towards for the Year End Ceremony.  Sissy has been working on the Pet Care badge and had just one more requirement to finish in order to have it completed.  She needed to learn about different jobs in the pet care industry and visit someone at their place of work and talk with them.  I called our vet and was thrilled when they said that not only was it o.k. for her to come and visit, but she could watch a surgery as well!

Sweet Baby declared that she had NO desire to attend with us so we took a friend of Peanut's with us instead.  When we arrived they were prepping their first patient of the day to be spayed.  The girls watched her be shaved, receive a shot and have a breathing tube inserted down her throat.  

They were told they were welcome to stand in the operating room to get a good view and that if they felt light headed at all, they should just sit down.  Well, Peanut decided she was not going in the room at all, and that she only wanted to glance at the operating table once in a while.  For the girl who said she wanted to be a veterinarian, this experience allowed her to narrow her career choice a bit, since she was so grossed out.

The doctor removed the uterus and ovaries and after he had completed stitching the patient up, he brought out the organs to show the girls exactly what he removed and talked to them about the design of it.

Peanut did not want to get to close at all, in all honesty, I'm not sure she even looked at it!

Although Peanut wasn't getting close, the other girls took a good look and were very interested in what they were seeing. 

 Finally, the vet tech, who was a student from a local college, let them watch as she cleaned the dog up and finished what needed to be done before removing the animal and getting ready for the next patient.

While we were waiting for the surgery to begin someone brought in a brand new Labrador puppy.  It was so tiny and so new that its eyes were not even opened yet!  Apparently it was having its dew claw removed.  I had never heard of this!  The girls thought the puppy was just adorable, but then when they began the procedure, which looked like it would hurt, they were feeling so sorry for the little guy.  It was squealing and crying.  Yet another reason I think that Peanut decided to pass on the idea of being a veterinarian when she grows up!

It was a great experience and a wonderful way to "do science for the day!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Sewing and a Birthday Gift

A  couple weeks ago I pulled out my sewing machine to show the girls how to sew a badge onto their American Heritage Girls uniform.  I usually stitch them on by hand, but I realized that one of the girls could complete a requirement for the Sewing badge if they sewed a badge on with a sewing machine.  Well, I created a monster.  :)  Peanut discovered that she really enjoys the sewing machine.  Actually, even Sissy enjoyed it.

Based on some things we went over, Peanut only needed to do a couple badge requirements to complete the badge in time for the year end ceremony.  Her final requirement was to make a small project such as a pillow.  Sweet Baby's birthday is coming up the end of May and we have decided that the kids do not need more "stuff".  However, Sweet Baby, even though she will be 9, still loves playing with her Bitty Baby.  Her Papa made her a beautiful crib for Christmas 2 years ago and now she is asking for pretty bedding to go in it. 

I have always wanted to learn to quilt so I decided to take a chance and make a baby doll quilt for Sweet Baby's birthday.  Peanut decided to make her a coordinating pillow to go with it AND complete the Sewing badge.

We had a random applique that matched the bedding so not only did she sew the pillow, but she also stitched the applique onto the pillow as well.

It honestly did not take her long at all to finish, and she did a great job.  Here she is with her finished project.
I continue to enjoy that these various badges make me do projects with my girls that I may not otherwise try.  Often, I'm either certain that they would not like it or I tend to think they are not old enough to learn.  (Yes, I'll admit, I am trying to stop time so that they will not grow up.)  However, these AHG badges help me to see that yes, they are able.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

A Report By Our 3rd Grader

The two younger girls have been working their way through the Apologia Swimming Creatures science program this year with our co-op.  We have finished all the reading and the girls final project is to do a report on one of the swimming creatures we learned about this year.  It fell at the perfect time because Peanut had been learning how to write a report with our IEW writing program.

Sweet Baby did not do IEW with us this year, we tried it for a couple days, but it became apparent that she was not able to sit through the video lessons. So, we have been using a much lighter program for our 3rd grader.  I like the program we are using  but it does not cover report writing so I had to come up with a way to keep it simple for her.  She chose sharks so we checked out a couple books from the library.

I had her choose a couple interesting topics in the books and using a 4x6 note card, she wrote one fact on each card and the topic was placed at the top of the card.  Her topics of choice were:  teeth, body, food and uses for sharks.

After she wrote her bits of information on each card she took the cards and sorted them according to similar topics.  Here she is making her piles. (By the way, I didn't realize how colorful her outfit was, of course it is our school uniform of pj's and a robe, until I looked at this picture!)

After she made her piles we talked about paragraphs having the same ideas in them.  We sat down and then looked at her piles according to individual ideas.  We laid out each card and she ordered them according to which idea logically came first, next, etc.

After she got them in an order she approved of, I had her number the cards (just in case they got separated).

Next week we will move on to writing one paragraph at a time.  

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Lost Coin

Sissy has been working on the Bible Basics badge for American Heritage Girls.  This is a badge she wanted to do herself so we have been working the requirements into her school day.  She needed to choose one of Jesus' parables and tell the story through puppets (which she was required to make). 

She chose the parable of the lost coin.  Mom required her to write the script rather than ad lib and she asked Peanut if she wanted to help.  Yesterday I needed to take Sweet Baby to the orthodontist.  When I arrived home, this was the sight I saw.  It warmed my heart!  Seeing the two of them working together, craft supplies spread out, laughing going on - I reminded myself that THIS is what these days of homeschooling are about. 

I've been a bit preoccupied lately with the fact that Sissy will start high school next year.  I've been stressing out over so much!  Which curriculum will challenge her but not be too difficult? What to do about science specifically, since she really does not like Apologia's upper level sciences?  How do you plan to cover all the necessities for "graduation" while still allowing for some self discovery?  Is my daughter the ONLY 8th grader that doesn't seem to have a passion for anything more than Toby Mac, Jamie Grace and Adventures in Odyssey?  How do I help her find her passion?  SOOOO much has been on my mind - and then I come home and see love, team work, problem solving and having fun. made my heart smile.

So, the girls worked on their puppets - 10 coins and a lady.  The puppets were made of basic felt, googly eyes, craft sticks, pom pom balls and pipe cleaners.  Peanut hand stitched smiles on all of the "gold" coins.  Sissy created the lady.

When I asked why one of the coins had one giant eye, they didn't have a real reason.  They said that it was just because he is the one who gets lost and they wanted him to stand out.  He stood out alright, he makes me think of Mike Wazowski!

 As an after dinner treat, the girls performed their show for us.  I'm not sure which I like best out of this process - seeing Sissy choose the Bible Basics badge and complete it on her own, watching the two girls work so well together or watching the show.  Either way, there were alot of things to enjoy about this one!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Besty Ross, Stars and the Liberty Bell

We have been learning about the Revolutionary War the last few weeks and enjoying it.  We have been discussing the people involved, are working on a lapbook from Hands of a Child about the Founding Fathers, and we have been reading Johnny Tremain for our read aloud.

We were talking about how our first flag was created and discussing Besty Ross.  A badge requirement for one of our American Heritage Girls badges had the girls cut a five pointed star, just like Besty Ross did.  I remembered doing this about 5 years ago, but could not recall the pattern that needed to be followed.   I hopped over to Pinterest to look for a pattern.

It took SEVERAL tries, and SEVERAL links. But eventually we got it.  

Sissy and Sweet Baby gave up after about 6 tries, but Peanut just continued giving it a shot.  She was getting quite frustrated - ok, in all honesty, so was I!  But after about 8 tries, she was delighted when she figured out how to cut a 5 pointed star with just a few folds and one snip.

After the girls cut the star they made a replica of the Liberty Bell.  We used a styrofoam cup, a toilet paper roll, tin foil and pipe cleaners.  First the girls covered their cup with tin foil.  Next we poked two holes in both the toilet paper tube and the top of the cup. They girls fed the pipe cleaner down through the holes in the tube and cup to attach them together.

When the bell was assembled they used a sharpie marker to draw the crack and add "Liberty" on it.

This craft was much easier than the 5 pointed star!

It was much easier and thus, more fun as well.  I can tell by the smile on Sweet Baby's face!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Curriculum Change

I realized I had not shared that we have undergone a curriculum change.  If you recall, we have used My Father's World for the last 4 years.  It has worked fine for us - the best part being the already laid out weekly lesson plans.  I was quite excited to work our way through ancient history the last 2 years and start American History. 

We had been doing pretty well with My Father's World - Explorers to 1850 and then we hit a point, around week 17 or 18 the curriculum had us digress a bit.  We began visiting India, China, Japan, etc. and my kids got confused.  They got confused and I got frustrated.  We were all excited to be learning about America but here we were, exploring other countries for about 3 weeks.  SIGH...I took stock and examined what it is that I like about MFW and what drives me crazy about MFW, because I fully realize that no curriculum is perfect. 

What do I love?  I love the fact that the lesson plans are completely laid out for the parent - honestly, they make it VERY easy to wake up each day and just pull out your manual.  I love the fact that it is a Christian based curriculum so that the majority of the books they choose have a Christian slant and if there is anything in the section that may not match up with a Christian view point, they warn the parent ahead of time.

What drives me crazy?  How long it takes us to do history.  It easily takes us an hour to an hour and a half to work our way through history each day (even for a 3rd grader) and that does NOT include any read aloud that I'm wanting to get through.  I hate jumping all over the globe when it does not seem to tie into what we are learning about. 

Now, keep in mind that MFW has deeply wants our children to recognize that Americans should not be the main focus of everything - they want our children to recognize that God created ALL people and that not all people live like we do.  I do LOVE this aspect of MFW.  In keeping with this thought, they sprinkle information about many different cultures and countries throughout their years with MFW.   I know the thought behind it all but honestly, my children get that. We spent an entire year examining geography and the countries, cultures and religious beliefs of many different areas of our world and then the last 2 years we spent discussing countries other than America.  My kids get it.  They do.  So, we were excited to focus on places we are somewhat familiar with, people we have heard about before, etc.  but we found ourselves jumping to other places and it did not make sense to us.

So....we are trying our hand with TruthQuest history.  TruthQuest is a Christian based curriculum that provides the author's commentary and an enormous amount of books to read related to various topics.  The topics are broken down chronologically and the best part is that we have remained here in America.  History does not take quite as long each day so this allows us to feel a bit freed up AND work our way through a read aloud each day.  Right now we are nearly finished with Johnny Tremain.

What I don't like?  It is a bit of work for mom.  There are no daily lesson plans like My Father's World.  That is about it. 

Will we stick with TruthQuest next year?  Possibly.  We'll have to see what God has planned for us - I've been deep in prayer about it and as we begin planning our courses for next year, TruthQuest is high on our list.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Michigan Historical Museum

We visited this Michigan Historical Museum as well this month.  We go every couple of years.  When we first discovered this little "gem" it was free admission!  Now, they do charge for adults, children are optional.  It is a nominal fee and well worth it.  The museum is beautifully maintained and has some great exhibits.  The way the museum is laid out wonderfully and it is very interactive.

When we do go, we choose to go for Michigan's birthday weekend.  They have costumed interpreters and hands on activities for the kids.  The girls would tell you that they love the fact that they have free birthday cake as well!  This year there were very few people at the museum on the day we went.  It actually felt like they had opened the place just for us!

They maintain a rotating exhibit and I was THRILLED when I realized that the exhibit was about creative writing and book making.  It had artifacts from famous authors and detailed the writing process.  If you know anything about Peanut, she LOVES writing.  She will often say that when she grows up she is going to be an author and artist. 

The girls were most impressed that they had the actual pads that Laura Ingalls wrote The Long Winter on.  It was awesome to see her words in her own penciled handwriting.  I loved that the copies of the books they had in the display were the EXACT versions that I had as a girl, and we still have.  I should have taken some pictures of the original pencil sketches that Garth Williams did for the books.

The museum was focusing on the War of 1812 this particular weekend.  They had an interesting mapping exercise for the kids.  They gave them map of Michigan during the War.  On the top and the sides they had simple coordinates (capital letters along the top, numbers down the side).  They took a piece of yarn and tied it horizontally around the paper and then another that was tied vertically, so that the pieces intersected.  The yarn could slide up and down the paper.  So, they were told which "latitude" and "longitude" coordinates to find. The slid the pieces of yarn where they needed to be and then were able to find and mark an important battle during the War.

After the noted all the important battles, they had a large magnet board with a map and based on the information given, they were able to mark the battles on the magnet board with flags depending on who won the battle.  It was a very neat exercise and tied in so well with the Michigan History class the girls completed in December.  The teacher there spent considerable time talking about the War of 1812.

 The younger girls decided to make bonnets like a lady of the time period would have worn.  Such a simple craft, I wish I had seen it before we covered Felicity in our American Girl Book Club class at co-op, it would have been a fun craft for the girls to do.  It was nothing more than a large foam circle, some fake flowers and wide ribbon.

Peanut was excited to spend the morning at the museum.  She says it is one of her favorite museums to visit.  In addition, she was wanting to earn the Living in the USA badge for American Heritage Girls.  She had completed several badge requirements in her Michigan History class, but was able to finish all but 1 at the museum.

We spent alot of time talking with this interpreter about the life of the Native Americans.  Again, Peanut loved this because she just finished up the Native American badge, so many of the things she had seen in pictures, he had to show her there.  Things like glass wampum beads, fur pelts, Native American games, etc.

Sweet Baby is checking out a tortoise shell, used to play a game.  We are doing Apologia's Swimming Creatures for science and had recently learned about sea turtles, so she was really interested in checking out the shell.

Finally, in the one room schoolhouse, they had a piano.  They were not sure how old the piano is, the docent thought late 1700's or early 1800's.  They keep the keyboard locked, but he asked if any of the girls could play.  When Peanut said she could play, he opened it up for her and let her play.  It was really sweet of him. My heart just smiles when I hear Peanut play. 

We have really enjoyed our time visiting some museums lately.  I love seeing the girls excitement when they see something or hear something at a museum and it connects with something they have learned at home with me.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Henry Ford

We have spent the last two Saturdays enjoying ourselves at a couple museums in our state.  First, we spent an day at Henry Ford Museum.  We have had a family pass for Henry Ford and Greenfield Village for several years.  My husband and I love history so we never tire of the Village.  We attend the Village at least 4 times a year.  We had not taken the time to visit the Museum in a couple years so we decided to spend some time there recently.

One of my favorite artifacts is the actual chair that Lincoln was shot in.  It is so worn, yet there it sits, right in front of you.

I had never noticed this one...a cot belonging to General George Washington.  If you look, it actually folds out of the trunk that supplies the head support.

They have a section of the museum where they look at different decades of home life.  This was a livingroom from the 30's with an old radio playing Orson Wells, War of the World.  I love that the radio is right out in the open and the kids are free to get up close to it.  I also love how comfortable they were just sit down.   Radio shows are not something new for our kids, they LOVE listening to Adventures in Odyssey, which is put on by Focus on the Family.  They have oodles of the cd sets, listen to pod casts while doing dishes, etc.  So, it was not a foreign idea to them to sit and listen.

One of the exhibits we never miss is the Rosa Parks bus.  This is the actual bus that Rosa Parks rode in in 1955.  I love that not only can you climb aboard, but they have a spotlight that shines on the actual seat she refused to give it.  They also run audio of Rosa speaking about the event.

We enjoyed our day at the Henry Ford - the perfect way to spend a cold Saturday.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Christmas Day

 Christmas morning...Here is the main tree in our house.  I consider this the kids tree.  Every year the kids get a new ornament.  This tradition started when I was a child.  My parents would buy us a new ornament every year and then the year we were married, our box of ornaments were given to us for our tree.  So, with three children, you can imagine between the ornament we get them, the one my parents get them and any that are made by the girls, we have LOTS of ornaments.  I let them decorate the main tree and then there is a tree in our living room that mom decorates.

I wanted to share just a couple of my favorite pictures from Christmas morning.

Sissy, very happy with a t-shirt she received.

Sissy has liked the Ugg boots for a couple years now but we have not yet gotten her a pair.  Kohls had this cute pair of knock offs on sale the day after Thanksgiving, and since her feet aren't growing nearly as quickly as they used to, this was the year.  She loves them and wears them with all of her "jeans and t-shirt" outfits - which is every outfit she has. 

Peanut has loved owls even before they became popular.  It used to be that you could not find owls on anything, now...they are on everything...including the fabric for the pillowcase I made her (you can see that in the left hand corner).  Sissy bought her this hat and gloves set an she LOVED it.

I really love pictures like this one, where you are able to capture the excitement.  Sweet Baby received several gifts that she really wanted, including this, which was from Sissy - a Lego Girl car.

A picture of the girls in front of the fireplace.  I love this one.  They are all in their matching pj's and I just know that pictures like this will be favorites for many years to come.  These girls  are such an amazing blessing.

Finally, my parents, brother, niece and my brother's girlfriend came to share the day with us.  Here is a picture of my parents (Nanny and Papa) and the girls.  Notice that Sweet Baby and Peanut have on Disney character t-shirts?  Nanny and Papa had just returned from a trip at Disney World, so the girls Christmas gifts were t-shirts from Disney.

It was a wonderful holiday.  I'm sad to see the casual weeks end.  Yes, we packed alot in, but we took a much needed break from school and just enjoyed being together.  How thankful we are!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

More Holidays....

As I was looking through my pictures, in an attempt to finally end the "holiday" posts, I realized that I took alot of pictures of things that may not be exciting to the rest of the world, but that are memories for our family to cherish...traditions, time spent together, etc.  I also realize that there may not be alot to be said about the various pictures, so I'll make this post quick.

Every year we make small "gingerbread" houses out of graham crackers.  I have pictures of this tradition from probably the last 5 years.  The pictures always show the same thing, but the girls enjoy it.

We just use graham crackers, store bought frosting and candy to make small houses.  They work better if you can get a small milk carton (half and half would be a good size) to use as your base, and just build your house around that, but we did not have any, so we just used ALOT of frosting to hold them together.    I have a set of Pampered Chef Decorator Bottles, they work great for kids and you deal with very little mess.

Peanut made a tent, her family is camping.  :)  Sweet Baby used the most candy and then asked to eat it all just after it was done!

We attended a wedding for some friends of ours.  We were able to get Sissy to dress up.  She hates dresses, skirts, anything that is not jeans and a t-shirt.  She looked beautiful in her borrowed dress.  What was the point to buy a dress we knew she would never wear again?

And..more gingerbread house decorating.  Grandpa came by on Christmas Eve for a visit.  I had made the girls matching pajama pants so they put them on, including their Santa hats and enjoyed making a gingerbread train that Grandpa brought for them.

I can't tell you how much I absolutely LOVE this picture.   Grandpa does not always find it easy to be plugged into family activities.  Connecting with the girls has been a struggle at different times, he is really trying right now and it feels so good to see my husband's father have fun with them.

Before bed we watched my all time favorite Christmas movie, The Nativity Story.  Sissy and Daisy snuggled, as they do so often.  Yes, Daisy was supposed to be my anniversary gift  a year and a half ago, but her heart belongs to Sissy.

We had this tradition where I would read "The Night Before Christmas" to the girls on Christmas Eve, however, about 4 years ago, they asked if they could all sleep in one bedroom and Sissy would be the one to read the story.  Although I hated giving it up, I LOVE that they are making their own memories.  Here they are, all snuggled in Peanut and Sweet Baby's room.   If you look REAL close, you can see that Sweet Baby now has to wear head gear to bed at night.  She has been a real trooper about it.

We'll finish up with the holidays tomorrow. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Holiday Happenings Part II

Moving on with more about our holiday wanderings....

We spent a couple hours at the Food Bank for Eastern Michigan, volunteering and helping sort food.  Similar to the new way we were able to help with Operation Christmas Child this year, this day at the Food Bank was another way us to see a cycle of serving and giving.  Our church has run H.I.S. Ministry for years, even before we became members more than 11 years ago.  H.I.S. stands for "Helping Individuals Succeed" and is place the community around our church is able to get free food and clothing, every Tuesday.  My husband, myself and Sissy have all volunteered at H.I.S. over the years and were even serviced by them a couple times 6 years ago when my husband was laid off for a couple months. 

In addition to working at H.I.S. when we are able, each year at Christmas we are able to donate to H.I.S. so that they can purchase food to give away at a very reduced rate, from the Food Bank.  So....while we were sorting through pallets and pallets of food at the Food Bank, I was able to explain that our church would be purchasing the food we were sorting to give to needy people in our community.

Our homeschool co-op went to the Food Bank with well over 50 kids and parents to work through many pallets of food.  We were sorting and taping boxes that had developed holes or the packaging had ripped.

We were wearing coats and gloves because we were in a warehouse that did not have much heat.  The work itself was pretty fast paced so as long as you were moving, you were able to stay warm. 

Sissy has a heart for service like I do not see in young teenagers very often.  I love finding ways that she can help and feel fulfilled.  Thankfully the field trip coordinator for our co-op is planning a service day at the Food Bank at least once a month so we can take some time to help frequently.

We attended our American Heritage Girls Christmas party at the beginning of the month.  The girls made an ornament, decorated Christmas cookies, watched a movie and of course participated in Shoes for Orphan Souls.  This is the third year of our troop and at our first Christmas party one of our moms organized donations for Shoes for Orphan Souls.

 This ministry collects new shoes, socks and shoe laces for orphans  around the world.  The best part of the Christmas party is when the girls draw pictures for the children who will receive them and then we are able to pray with the girls for the child that will receive them.  This is the station I ALWAYS choose to work at.

Each and every time a girl brings me the shoes they have chosen, we fold up their note, stuff it in the toe of the shoes and sit to pray, my throat closes and I fight tears.  I fight tears for the children that at that moment are rummaging through garbage dumps for food, with nothing to protect their feet from cuts and dirt, I fight tears for the little girl in front of me who is learning how to love others and show it, and I fight tears as I wonder if I am doing enough to lead the little girl in front of me to a life of prayer and communion with God.  It is a very emotional time for me however, one that I would not miss if given the choice.

We were again blessed by our church, as they donated $500 to Shoes for Orphan Souls.  We were able to take the money and purchase more than 60 pairs of shoes to donate.  It was amazing to see the pile sit there!

I'm proud to say that this season we took as many opportunities to serve others as we could.   In addition to the Food Bank, Shoes for Orphan Souls, the older two girls serving at our church's Ladies Christmas Breakfast, our family went Christmas caroling for the 2nd year in a row with several other families.  These opportunities are a wonderful addition to our holiday season.