A Trip to a Vineyard!

We recently got a chance to go to a local vineyard and pick our own grapes.  It was such a great experience! The vineyard was right on a lake and just beautiful, but the owner explained that the soil was terrible and not suited for much besides grapes.  I didn’t know grapes thrive in lousy soil.  These certainly do!

The kids loved picking grapes and were a bit too enthusiastic.  It doesn’t take long to fill a 5 gallon pail with grapes and that $1 a pound adds up!  🙂

Alex mostly munched!

We all got to learn how the grapes were grown, help use the crusher to get out the stems and then watch them work the press.

When we got home, we made grape juice and canned concentrated grape juice and grape jelly.  I’ve just recently learned to can after all of these years and I’m making sure to teach the kids so they don’t grow up being intimidated by the process the way I was.

The grape jelly was the best we’ve ever eaten, and we’ve eaten a lot of homemade and locally made jellies!  Maybe it was because these were wine making grapes and just a little differently flavored.  I’m not sure, but the jelly is a beautiful magenta color on bread and it’s just scrumptious.  I didn’t take a picture of that, though, so you’ll have to just imagine it.  😉

All in all, it was a really fun and educational experience.  We talked about everything from garden zones to phytonutrients to how canning works to wine making.  We’re even talking about planting some grapes next year!

Poetry Out Loud

Have you heard of Poetry Out Loud?  This program is sponsored by the NEA and the Poetry Foundation and is for high school students around the country.  It works like a spelling bee, except the kids recite poems from an anthology of hundreds of selected poems.  They’re judged on 7 criteria like voice, presence, dramatization and accuracy.  Finalists move from local to state to national levels and win cash prizes (plus paid trips to Washington DC if they make it to nationals).  The grand champion wins $20,000.

There was a POL representative at the MHA conference and she gave me an anthology, a DVD of winning student performances, a CD illustrating great poetry readings and tons more.  Victoria has already started memorizing poems from the wonderful anthology, even though she won’t be eligible for a few years.

Homeschool students can compete at the school level by either competing at a local school or competing against other local homeschoolers.   The minimum number of participants for the school level is two, so even HSers in rural communities should be able to work it out.

Each state has a contact person who can get you started.  From the web site:

Teachers participating in the official contest will receive a free packet of materials from their state arts agency. This teacher toolkit includes the Teacher’s Guide, the Performing Poetry audio guide CD, the Best Performances DVD, two copies of the printed anthology, and posters for the classroom. Additional resources are available online.

It sounds like a great program!  The teacher kit is available to teachers of any grade level to use in a poetry program with their students, by the way, and it’s a great poetry packet.

Lapbooking 101

A reader wrote and asked if I’d share my lapbooking speech so I’m posting it here.  This is my basic outline.  I also told a lot of stories of how we chose subjects, successes and failures, etc.

Note:  I brought an assortment of lapbooks that Jack, Victoria and Anna had done to illustrate various points and show how different they can be for different children and different ages.  I recommend bringing examples and passing them around to illustrate points as you go.  If you don’t have enough finished lapbooks in your own home, consider printing pictures of lapbooks online to at least give general ideas for how individualized they can be.  Definitely bring at least a few of your own so people can see them in person though!

I included the links mentioned in a handout so nobody had to copy them down, plus more.


Intro (introduce self, how long we’ve been lapbooking, why we love it)

Hi, I’m Alicia, a homeschooling mama to four kids — 2 girls ages 9 and 11 and 2 boys ages 2 and 6.  I’m here to teach you a little bit about lapbooking– what it is, how to do it and how to make it as fun and educational as possible.
I.  What is lapbooking?
a.  Definition
A lapbook is a project book or file folder, laid out in a creative manner, that fits in the child’s lap.  You can think of it as a combination of scrapbooking and report writing, using manilla folders, craft supplies and additions like hand made mini books, pockets, flaps and other nifties.
b.  Example  (hold up and pass around)
We’ve been lapbooking for about two years and my kids love it.  Some of the reasons we all enjoy it so much are…
c.  Reasons lapbooking is great for HS (list)
  • Hands-on, which suits lots of kids’ learning styles
  • Inexpensive
  • Creative, lets kids express themselves
  • Works in all different subjects— history, reading, handwriting through copying definitions or writing out poems and quotes, but also science, math, social studies and other subjects (give examples)
  • Children can revisit them and review whenever they like
  • Learn lots
  • It’s fun!

I.  How to lapbook

No matter how you lapbook, you’ll start out with this basic design…

Show basics of how to fold file folder shutter style, affix a back page (recommend double stick tape) and make pages with colored cardstock and packing tape.

General info with sites for samples, freebies, instructions and more:  http://www.squidoo.com/lapbooking

a.  Premade lapbooks

1.  give handout with URLs to some free sites and paid sites

2.  show example


  • Everything is gathered for you
  • Less intimidating to start
  • Often lots of cute mini books and shapes


  • Can be overwhelming number of pages
  • Often involve lots of cutting and dull construction work
  • Not individualized to child’s level or interests
  • Confined to what someone else’s research found
  • Least creative control of all for kids
  • Can be “cookie cutter”
  • Can easily burn out parents and kids

b.  Lapbooking templates

1.  URLs (homeschoolshare.com’s country template)
2.  examples

c.  Design your own

Talk about how this is the method we most often and use and why it works so well for us.  Pros and cons.

1.  Steps

  • Agree on subject with child
  • Search for relevant information online or have older child do it (google the subject and kids, worksheet, facts or handout)
  • Print out coloring pages, handouts, B&W maps etc.
  • Use web sites like enchantedlearning.com for printouts
  • Do a google image search and print images in color
  • Print out some fun shape books or just make up pockets, flaps, etc.
  • Put out related stickers and art supplies
  • Be your child’s helper in assembling, but give her/him full creative control
Include many subjects like:
Geography: print out a B&W map and have child color in area studying (or where something is from or where something originated)
Handwriting: have child copy relevant poems, quotes or passages
History: when something was invented, when changes happened, etc.
Science: relevant scientific principles, biology for animals, botony for plants, etc.
Math: calculate time passage, make timelines, average numbers, figure prices, calculate exchange rates, etc.
Art: draw, design, color
Spelling: make mini books with new vocabulary words and definitions
Home ec: include recipes from regions,  find out daily life and chores from other times or other lands, etc.

2.  examples

d.  Other resources (email lists, web sites)

III.  Do’s and Don’ts

a.  what not to do
  • start out with a huge project
  • micromanage
  • try to make it perfect
  • force a child to do them or keep working that day
  • get hung up on what it “should” include or look like
  • plan in too much detail
(Show Anna’s horse lapbook and talk about lessons learned from stepping back and letting her do it her way.)

b.  What to do
  • let your child take the lead
  • work it around your child’s style (etc. perfectionist, artsy, computer…)
  • start small
  • tailor the amount of cutting and mini books to your child’s level
  • adapt it to suit your family and timetable
  • let your child pick the subject at least half the time
  • make it easy (precut, have materials that help, etc.)
  • have great materials to make it fun
IV.  Ways to jazz them up, make more fun
  • Always put out lots of art supplies– markers, crayons, stickers and so on
  • Raid your scrapbooking supplies and look for neat stuff in scrapbooking stores
  • Use color– you can purchase boxes of colored file folders at office supply stores, and print pages and mini books on colored paper
  • Give the kids lots of creative control

IV.  Q&A

Back from the Conference!

We’re back from our trip to the big city for the annual MHA conference.  We survived Friday night rush hour traffic (barely!) and had a wonderful night in the hotel.  At the conference I got to see old friends, made new ones and met lots of great folks I had only known online.

The kids also loved the indoor play area that was set up for families.  I wish I had taken a picture to do it justice.  There were so many neat parts to it and it was multi-story with an area just for toddlers too.  It was $5 for each child for the day (an adult had to stay in the general area to supervise) and it was well worth it!  The kids also got to go through the vendor area and came home with oodles of fabulous freebies.

I think my lapbooking class went well.  Luckily we’ve done lots of lapbooks over the years so I had lots of examples to send around during the talk.  Victoria sat in and took pictures.

If anybody wants me to type up the gist of the speech (how to do it, how to design your own, links for nifties online and the big do’s and don’ts), let me know.

It was a fun time!

Off to the Big City

We’re off in the morning for the Twin Cities to spend the night and take part in the Minnesota Homeschool Alliance’s annual conference.  I’m teaching a class on lapbooking and there’s a fun zone for kids to take part in (with poor Daddy to keep an eye on them all day).  Diane Flynn Keith (of Clickschooling, Carschooling, etc.) is the keynote speaker, so it will be cool to hear her talk too.  It should be fun for at least most of us.  😉

See you soon!

The Rock ID Key!

This nifty page tells lots about rocks, the rock cycle and types of rocks.  The niftiest part of it, though, is the rock key (scroll down) that lets you click through to help identify your rock specimens.  It will ultimately give you a field of choices that you narrow down on your own, but it will still get you pretty far.  Nifty!