Friday, November 12, 2010

Town Christmas

Our little town puts on a sort of Christmas street party each November to start off the holiday season. Beginning the day before, all of the stores along Main Street paper over their windows and take to decorating. The Christmas banners are strung around town, and the huge pine tree in the town square is decked out with lights. Then on the night of the event, everyone turns out to celebrate - the tree is lit, the windows are revealed, and everyone enjoys free treats and the company of neighbours. There was hot chocolate and cookies...

strolling carolers...

somewhat disgruntled looking reindeer...

cello-wrapped goodness in the candy store...

Santa giving out candy canes (as an aside, to people realize how many difficult and very unfortunate conversations they cause parents when they go out in public in bad Santa costumes?!?!)

and of course, the tree.....

I apologize for the somewhat crappy photos - the kids wouldn't stand still long enough for me to take any good pictures which needed long exposure times!! Those candy canes seem to go right into their blood stream....

Happy-almost-holidays everyone!!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Science Co-op - Structures

In science co-op today we all learned a little bit about structures. The kids started off with some building of Lincoln logs, and then moved onto play dough structures.

There was a 'contest' to see which team could build the highest free-standing tower

and then an experiment to see which shape (circle, square or triangle) was the strongest by balancing books on top of a paper tube of various shapes to see which could hold the most weight (very interesting!!)

The grand finale was a talk about weight distribution, and the kids all had a chance to stand on top of a platform of Dixie cups.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Fall Hike with Friends

Today we went to Hilton Falls on a great fall hike with our boys co-op. It was the perfect day - crisp but not cold, and wonderfully sunny. We enjoyed a nice hike to the falls...

Stopping along the way to feed chickadees out of our hands.

The waterfall was lovely, and the water levels were low enough that the kids could explore the river bank and bed easily.

Of course there was rock climbing...

And playing with sticks in the water.

More climbing...

And the hot apple cider, marshmallows and hot dogs by a camp fire.

What a great way to spend the afternoon!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Coconut Macaroons

Today, inspired by a ridiculously hard piece of meat falling out of the freezer and landing on my foot, I decided to clean out the fridge freezer. And in doing so, I came across 5 bags (really!) of coconut. So, never one to let the opportunity to bake sweets pass me by, I searched out a recipe for macaroon cookies, which turned out wonderfully.

Here is the super-easy recipe for you:

2/3 cups flour
5 1/2 cups desiccated or flaked coconut
1/4 tsp salt
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp almond extract

Combine flour, coconut and salt in a large bowl. Mix together milk and extracts, then combine with coconut mixture. You could use a spoon but I found it easier, although a bit messy, to use my hands. Form into balls with spoons, fingers or a small ice cream scoop and place on parchment paper lined baking sheets. Bake at 350 for 12 - 15 minutes. Coll completely, and then drizzle with melted chocolate if desired.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sneak Invasion

I have come to realize today that a long-time family rival has once again snuck into our home. It has happened slowly, silently, and with no fuss or fanfare...but it has happened none the less. This threat to family, happiness and health has come in the form of a Nintendo DS. Sigh.

We are not an electronic media-free home, but I do try to limit how much screen time we all get. We have a TV for watching movies, but no cable. William has a hand held video game, but until recently it was an older (and less expensive) game boy and was used almost exclusively for long car rides.

But over the past few months, I have noticed the kids spending more and more time in front of a screen. The video game migrated from the car into the house. Daddy recorded a new series of movies / TV shows onto disc for the kid to watch. The TV upstairs, which had been 'broken' for many many months, was suddenly turned on again. And just like that, the hours are adding up - hours that were previously spent playing, drawing, reading, building LEGO (of course!) and living have now become sit-on-your-butt-as-your-brain-turns-to-mush time.

It is time to fight back!!! Time to turn off the tube and turn back on our lives. Time to 'break' the TV again (don't tell the kids it is me - they think it is the result of a bad storm!!) and banish the video game tot he car again. Time to bring out the books, the games and the LEGO. I know that when we are turned-off in this way we are all a whole lot happier. Well, perhaps Daddy is not, the the boys and I sure are! Everyone gets along better, has more energy during the day and sleeps better at night. We feel inspired and excited about life, and have the time and attention to explore the things that we are interested in. All of a sudden there is so much more time - to complete chores, to learn, to relax, to explore, and to just be together. I can't wait.

If you are contemplating getting rid of your TV (or at least shutting off cable) I wholeheartedly encourage you to try. If you need some more encouragement, this article may help...

Trash Your TV

Saturday, November 6, 2010

For The Love of Reading

I have been thinking a lot about reading lately, and how it figures into our homeschooling routing, and our lives. When I think of adults that I have met, they can be classified fairly cleanly into readers and non-readers. It is not an absolute division, of course, but I find that people either love to read and do it as often as they can, or rarely read at all - not much of a middle ground. Going on the assumption, then, that the goal is (as mine is) to raise kids who become adults who read, both for educational value and entertainment.....the question becomes how?

For us it has meant a fairly relaxed approach to teaching the boys to read. We began exploring phonics when William was about 5 years old, using Explode The Code. I had actually shied away from a reading 'curriculum' for as long as I could, but he was having a hard time making the leap from recognizing letters to putting the sounds together. We used Explode The Code for a short while until he got the hang of things, and then put it aside. We were all thrilled to make the move to 'real' books, and things are moving along well now.

William reads to us all every night before bed, and sometimes a time or two during the day as well. But mostly, our reading is still my reading aloud to the boys. To me, this is the part that will more likely turn them into adult readers. I am less concerned that they can read well on their own at this stage as I am that they continue to love books. I have faith that their own skills will come so long as the love of reading is kept alive.

Over the last year or so, we have all been enjoying the Harry Potter series (with a few words changed now and then in the later books, which get a little dark). About two weeks ago we began Ruby Holler by Sharon Creech, and after finishing it last night William has headed to the shelf to pick the next chapter book. I am happy to oblige. At 7 years old, his interests far surpass his reading abilities. The chapter books which allow us all to really delve into a story, to immerse ourselves in it over time, to curl up in front of the fire together for a whole morning of reading, are still beyond what he can read on his own without frustration. William is getting to be a better reader each day, and Charlie, at 5 years old, is ready to start his journey. They are not skilled readers yet, but they are certainly book lovers - just as I have hoped they will be.

I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves.
~Anna Quindlen, "Enough Bookshelves," New York Times, 7 August 1991

Friday, November 5, 2010


The boys and I have started exploring maps as a beginning to geography studies. We have all been pleasantly surprised by how much they are enjoying it. We started by cruising the house finding all of the maps that we have already made and used in our studies.....maps of the ancient world from Story of the World history reading, a three dimensional map of Ecuador from our world map to track our poster collection...hand drawn map of Alaska from our look at the Iditarod...The kids also enjoyed drawing a map of our neighbourhood, noting friends' houses, Pop's place, favorite hikes, and the horse farm up the street.

Today we looked at grids, and how they can be used to locate places on the map. William thought it was wonderfully like a code, and enjoyed finding spots for quite a while. We even rounded the lesson out with a game of battleship, which I foresee playing way too much of over the next while. I guess this is also a lesson in don't introduce a game unless you want to play it over and over and over and over and over.....

Monday, November 1, 2010

Happy Halloween !!

Beware My Child
Beware my child,
of the snaggle-toothed beast.
He sleeps till noon,
then makes his feast
on Hershey bars
and cakes of yeast
and anyone around - O!

~Shel Silverstein

I hope that you and your snaggle-toothed beasts are recovering from last night!!