I am generally not a spontaneous person by nature, but when one of the moms in my homeschool group sent through the link to GranolaMom4God’s National Sharpen Your Pencil Day, the idea struck me as completely charming. That was one on the very first things I saw when I sat down at my desk to get started on school today, so I thought, ‘why not?’ and printed out the robot pencil toppers and the activity pack.
<—This is supposed to be me, as a robot, colored by PeaGreen. Notice the ‘ponytails’. And I don’t wear purple. Just sayin’. LOL
The pack was a bit young for my kids; I think they were targeting more pre-school/ younger elementary age so we did what all snazzy homeschooling moms do – we adapted the lesson plan. I started off by bundling up some pencils and placing them on top of their worksheets on their desks. I had them gather up and count their pencils – not only the ones on their desks, but also the ones they have in their rooms. Our total pencil count for today was 215 (112 for mom; 58 for PeaGreen, and 45 for LBB). We also kept a tally of how many pencils we each sharpened throughout the day: total 52 (7 for Mom, 25 for PeaGreen & 20 for LBB).
There were four handwriting sheets, and since we still do handwriting, I just had the boys do those pages as-is. If I’d thought about it before hand, I’d have given them a few fun facts about pencils to write on the lines, following the wave patters or slant pattern. However, they did enjoy the idea of doing such a ‘simple’ assignment, so it was fun which is one of the goals, so I am content.
The spelling assignment was a word that the boys have had before, so we did a scavenger hunt instead, finding one item that began with each letter in ‘pencils’. Below is LBB’s treasure:
N= nothing (Clever or lazy? You decide.)
C= cents (or change – he said both)
I= Insanity (The Joker)
L= list of items
The boys did the pattern cards and created patters, then made designs and pasted them into their packet, and also cut out the pencils ordering puzzle. They also measured the pencils on the ‘longest to shortest’ page, and colored and cut out their robot pencil toppers – a throw back to easier grades, but fun, nonetheless.
In other news, we’ve been busy little bees around here lately, which accounts for the lack of blogging. We’re finishing the last few mini-books in our Black History Month Lapbook up today and tomorrow, and I have a Titanic Lapbook (with 23 minibook templates & links) ready to start in a couple of weeks to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. And hey – an honest to goodness excuse to watch Titanic again? Even yesser.
I also ordered The Number Devil from Amazon and found More of a Mom’s Number Devil Lesson Plans. I printed out her worksheets and lesson plans and we’re planning on starting that next week. We’re still in the midst of multiplication and division, but it’s getting kind of stale, so I thought we’d work on something new and different for a bit. I’m not planning on going through TND all at once; we’ll focus on that next week and just doing a few basic math drills, then go back to our regularly scheduled math curriculum when we come back from our break. I just wanted something to break up the monotony – repetition and patterns and foundations are good, but after a while, I find them so boring. The Number Devil was recommended on something I was reading a while back that was talking about kids with ADHD – the concepts, especially with More of a Mom’s lesson plans – are a little more ‘whole learning’ based instead of dry textbook stuff. There are even notebooking pages incorporated into her lesson plans.
We’ve also been hard at work planning and getting ready for our group’s second annual Science Fair. One of the local state parks that we frequent has agreed to host for us, and we’re doing a ‘Moms vs. Kids’ contest to help everyone get involved. We’re all very excited about it! I am doing a blood spatter experiment, PeaGreen is building a hovercraft model and LBB has been quite secretive about his project – I think he’s planning on getting his dad involved.
On a sad note, LBB’s lizard, Lizzy, died yesterday. She wasn’t a pet in the traditional sense; we frequently get green anole lizards stuck in the house. They’re escaping the heat or cold or damp – I’m not really sure, but they love it here. In any case, LBB found one in his room a few weeks ago and created a ‘habitat’ for it on a shelf (but open, so that the lizard could come and go and be free) and he developed an attachment to it. In any case, he has been quite sad about her loss, so we made some commemorative art today to remember her by. This was my contribution to Lizzy’s memory.
This week is also Texas Independence Day – we reviewed our Texas Lapbooks (TX Independence and Texas Symbols) and went over our plans to visit the San Jacinto Monument in a few weeks. We’re also gearing up for some more home improvement stuff (I finally have a new dishwasher – installed!!) and yard work, including planning our (biggest yet) garden for this spring. I’ve been Pinteresting ideas for a while now; it is going to be so much fun laying them out and seeing everything come to fruition.
Hope your week is going well!
Oh, Dwight… you do have such a way with words.
I was going to make a comment about time flying by, but then I found that picture and got distracted by fun stuff from The Office. ‘Bears, Beets, Battlestar Galactica.‘ There’s even a tee shirt.*So* funny.
We’re three weeks into our new school year. How did that happen? Didn’t we just get done with Christmas? I am shocked and amazed – we’re only four days out from our first break this year and everyone is alive and well. As stressed out as our last few weeks of school were last year, I am exceedingly happy to report that this year is off to a very nice start. I’ve also lost 12 lbs. of 128 lbs. since Christmas, so I’m a pretty happy camper all around.
We’re still doing our crazy schedule – the kids have karate 2 evenings per week and on Saturdays, and I am training to be an NSO with our local roller derby team. My sister is a rollergirl; she’s been after me to come play but seeing as how I am an utter disaster on skates, I think it’s best that I keep my involvement firmly planted on the ground. Being a non-skating official lets me participate without risking my tailbone. In any case, practice is one night per week. If we weren’t enjoying it so much, I’d complain about being over-scheduled, but so far it’s working well.
Plans for this week include attending a performance by our local symphony, attending a half-day full of JASON presentations at our local college, learning about Groundhog’s Day and the history of (which are Candlemas and Imboc), and various crafting and lapbooking associated with, and working on solidifying those pesky multiplication facts. I found a video that uses your hands for quickly figuring out 6×6 – 10×10 facts, and a way to do ‘short’ division (because long division is absolutely killing LBB). I started arrays with PeaGreen, but he’s not so keen on them, so I will be looking for other ways to help him with his times tables (maybe Mr. Numbers?).
We’ll be winding up the week, and the first four weeks of school on Friday with a review of what all we’ve covered so far and a look at what we may want to change. I like my new lesson planner layout; the boxes for individual subjects are smaller, but they look *super* full when I write in them now, so it’s quite visually appealing. I’m still kinda disorganized off of paper, but on paper, I’m the bomb-diggety. We’re still using workbox plans, but I haven’t been packing the boxes like I was. We’ve been using a file box with hanging folders instead of actual boxes, but the boys say that they like the boxes better so we may work on going back to that here in the next few weeks. I’ll have to work on space though; the school room is crazy cluttered right now (we’re working at the kitchen table as I type). Luckily, tax season is right around the corner, so we’ll be doing some home improvement inside and out in the very near future. That means storage shelves, new paint and planning our garden for this year. Loverly Husband is even talking about building a greenhouse. I can’t wait!!
Now that school’s over for today, I’m going to curl up on the couch with a cup of tea and my Nook while the children are otherwise occupied in another room.
Sunday morning I went over to my BFF’s house for coffee and brunch (she made this and cooked up some deer link sausage – so tasty. She’s an amazing portrait photographer; here’s her Facebook page – tell her I sent you!). During the course of the afternoon, she mentioned that they were about to plant sunflowers for a living playhouse.
Naturally, being the curious and sometimes copycat crafter that I am, this piqued my interest. I’d never heard of such a thing, so we got online and started looking them up. They’re so nifty! When I was little, we used to make play-spaces underneath bushes and in low to the ground trees, but I’d never thought of actually creating a frame and then planting or encouraging vines to cover it to make a playhouse.
Loverly Husband and I have seen the websites that ‘grow’ furniture and art pieces many times. We have a couple of mimosa trees in the backyard that he intertwined to make an archway, and the kids have adopted that space as a fort-making spot. It’s had several different versions of a base (of operations, I presume), but they recently vacated it for another corner of the yard (leaving a huge hole in their wake…) so I thought that this would be the perfect spot to try to make a playhouse since we already had the arched mimosas.
Now, we wait… and hope that in a yard that is positively teeming with vine growth, the frame will not be the only vine-free spot. Actually, I guess ours is more of an arbor of sorts. We’ll not have sides per-se – more just a lovely shady spot once the flowers and vines grow up.
Once you have the basic idea in place, there are infinite ways in which to accomplish this project. I hardly think you’d need a step by step process, but here’s what we did: We have box hedges that have just grown wild. They make lovely straight and flexible stalks, so I cut a bunch of them to make the corners. PeaGreen and I dug holes and planted the stalks, two in each hole. We also used several mimosa branches that were out of place (we have a bunch of those, too), then bent the stalks together to create the arches. I used a few plastic zip ties to hold some of the more stubborn/sturdy branches in place, then added more cut branches on top of the structure. I used cotton string to create the framework for the vines to follow and to secure the rest of the branches in place.
We planted two types of sunflowers (American Giant Hybrid & Summer Evening Mix from Burpee) and climbing sweet peas (Early Multiflora Mixed Colors) around the legs of the arbor, and we have a ton of fast-growing vines all over our yard, so I dug up a few and replanted at the base of the vines as well. Since they grow so fast, we should have a fully shaded arbor in a few weeks while we wait for the flowers to grown and bloom. We also have several wisteria vines around; I may see if I can relocate a couple onto our frame. They smell so good this time of year and have such pretty purple flowers; that will make a fragrant and shady little hideaway when summer really hits.
Total cost: $6 (for the seeds). I could not believe that this was so inexpensive. We had everything already here. That, plus a little bit of work (we still have to fill in the hole in the ground) and add a blanket and a few pillows and we’ll have a great little spot to read or just relax in. All in all, this is one of our faster projects – the whole thing was up and planted in a few hours (over the course of 2 days). You could take as long as you want with it, but I’m a fan of instant gratification.
Here are some links if you’re interested in seeing how else they can be made:
Sunzilla Sunflowers They were bred to grow 12-16 feet tall – imagine how cool that would be for the kids to play under!
Kiddie Gardens Bean_Teepee I’m intrigued by the idea of a completely enclosed space, and the beanpole teepees are super cute – we may make one out of bamboo stalks in the near future. I could see the need/delight in each of the boys having their own creative and created space. There’s another example at Artful Parent: Beanpole Teepee.
The willow playhouses are neat too, unfortunately, I don’t know anyone with willow trees that we could help trim… AcornPies’ Willow Playhouse is really cute.
Anyone else making a living playhouse this summer?
Last summer, we ate fresh cherries like they were candy. I kept a bunch of the seeds, and the seeds from several other fruits that we eat frequently with the intention of planting them to see if they’ll grow. Some seeds from store-bought fruit, I’ve heard, are bred so as not to grow from those seeds. I guess we’ll see if that’s true or not in these cases. I planted cherries, oranges and grapefruit. I really need to get some lemon seeds.
I’ve also been using peat pockets to start seeds in, but that can get expensive. I remember seeing seed cup makers last year and decided to try improvising one since I’m cheap and don’t want to fork over cash for something I can do with materials on-hand. I used half-sheets of paper (old bank statements, damp) and a medicine bottle. I wrapped the paper around the tube, then crushed the bottom down on the kitchen counter to make the cup. Mine are not as ‘neat’ or as uniform as the ones made with the tool, but it worked quite well. You could also use egg shells or a cardboard egg container, toilet paper rollers (or any cardboard rollers) in a tray, or use origami techniques to make a biodegradable cup from a sheet of newspaper. I like these because they can be planted as-is – no need for de-potting and disrupting the roots (helpful with kids, since the transplantation process is stressful for the plants, and kids can be stressful for baby plats, too).
When we went out to fill my new little seed cups, I started noticing all these baby earthworms in my bag of soil. So I grabbed a small plastic bin, popped some holes in the bottom and added some bedding (damp, shredded paper), a couple of cups of soil and then started picking through the soil and putting the baby wigglers into the bin. I counted over a hundred babies and I’m sure there are more. I covered the bin with a bigger plastic basket (to let air through) and set the whole container in a crate. I’m excited to see if my little worm bin will flourish!
I’ve been wanting a worm bin for a while; if this one works out, then I may make a multi-level wooden bin system with screens to help with the harvesting process. SFK has a great system (cough*that she should totally blog about *cough) that I am rather envious of. I’ll probably still end up getting a pound or so of red wigglers; I have a sneaking suspicion that these babies are European nightcrawlers (which are the ‘regular’ earthworms that we have in TX). I found a website called Texas Red Worms that has quite a bit of info on vermicomposting and he uses both red wigglers and E. nightcrawlers. Whatever kind they are, I’m sure that they’ll produce lovely, rich castings and possibly some nice worm tea that will be perfect for helping our little seedlings flourish.
Speaking of gardens, have you seen the living wall system for vertical gardening? I’ve never heard of this, but it looks really interesting. I found a slideshow at Environmental Graffiti that showcases some awesome living buildings and indoor farm concepts. I also was quite impressed by jeremusic’s vertical garden tutorial series. He shows the progress his vertical flower garden on his balcony makes from inception to flourishing – it’s really inspirational! Here are some other super cool green wall projects: India: Vertical Garden and hiphophagy’s DIY Patrick Blanc style green wall video and blog. I don’t know if we’ll make one, but I love how the walls look!
Have a great weekend!