10 Fun Ways We've Learned and Played Lately

What a couple of weeks it’s been! The water heater self destructed, then the dryer called it quits.  Anna got sick, then the boys, and now Daryl and I are.  I’ve lost most of my voice and my throat and ears are especially painful, and no home remedies are working so far (though one led to a rather scary physical reaction!).  We’re still buried in snow, and we’re expecting another 8-10 inches today.

I’ve been driving myself to distraction trying to plan, budget and work out our Florida vacation. Last night I couldn’t sleep at all between my sore throat, earaches and stressing about the trip.  I found out there’s an organic CSA with openings in Mankato and I really want to take part but that would be another chunk of money due soon, on top of a bunch of unexpected expenses this month.  Disney-related stuff is completely overwhelming to research too!

Victoria is down in Nebraska for another week. They all are having a wonderful time and asked if she could stay longer, and I couldn’t see why not.  That’s one of the joys of homeschooling, after all, being able to take advantage of opportunities like that!

Despite all my grumblings, we have managed to do some fun things around here. Here’s a bit…

1.  I came downstairs and found Jack reading a Garfield book to Alex. They looked very cute, snuggled up together and laughing!

2.  Anna has been doing Aleks math and Jack has been doing math games on my iPod. Alex has been doing physics games on my iPod (he loves them and he’s so good!  He’s better than I am at age three!).  The kids have been watching the daily free BrainPOP movie on that free app, too, and Jack has been doing the quizzes.  I put my favorite free educational apps here, BTW.

3.  Daryl bought an Iron Chef game for the Wii. The kids have been having fun pretending to chop, filet and so on, and they all get to hear tidbits the whole time from Alton Brown.

4.  Anna has been blogging, writing emails, writing stories and writing screenplays. I think there may have been one or two poems and songs too.  She stays up late at night and writes or reads for hours after the rest of us are asleep.  Her room is filled with notebook paper sheets with stories, songs, letters, poems and so on.

5.  We got our box from Scientific Surplus. Happy dance.  🙂

6. We got a Harry Potter physics kit that Anna loves. This was in the SciSurplus order and it’s been a big hit.  It’s just a simple booklet of experiments, ideas and HP talk with a few little gadgets, but it’s totally magic to Annalee!  There’s a little pop gadget that flings itself up in the air to explain potential energy, kinetic energy and so on, and she played with that little thing for a good 15 minutes before she even looked at the rest.  It does seem to have some pretty good science explaining each little bit too.  It was well worth the couple of dollars!

7.  Daryl and Anna acted out an old fashioned story that Daryl found online and turned into a play. Jack had a bit part as a neighbor too!

8.  Alex colored snow and did experiments. Alex is in home-based Head Start (as all of our kids have been at that age), which means that a delightful teacher comes over one afternoon a week and plays with him (while Daryl and I talk her ear off and the older kids clamor to show her their latest creations).  We’ve known Jan since Jack was 3 and starting Head Start himself.  Jan brings books, puzzles, manipulatives, games, crafts, etc. and we all adore her.  This time she brought colored water in lots of containers.  The big kids did the colored water and snow thing outside last week, but I kept Alex in then because it was so cold.  This time it was all his, and he had a blast coloring snowbanks.

The really interesting thing to me is that he didn’t really care about making them pretty.  He very definitely saw the bottles of colored water as things to explore with and experiment with, not art tools.  For instance, he pushed them upside down into the snowbanks and then observed how much colored water saturated the snow underneath, checking by digging in the snow underneath to see how far down it traveled.

9.  Anna has taken up Suduku puzzles.  She also taught Jack how to do them.  It was another cute sibling moment to walk into on the couch.  🙂

10. We got some connecting straws that the kids have been having a blast with. They’ve also led to some good dinner table conversations about vacuums, the weight of air versus water and other science tidbits!

We’ve also been reading, watching movies, playing computer games, doing Wii exercises and so on, as always.

New yappings elsewhere…

Monday Math: Make a math obstacle course

Ice cube hockey math to density columns… (Fun homeschool projects)

Quick ways to help your child get over a bad day

Review: iLiveMath Speed makes elementary math engaging and educational

Great green reads online

And now, I think a small boy and I are going to settle down for a much-needed winter’s nap. It’s the perfect day for it!

Heading for the Sunshine State

In a little over two weeks, the kids and I are escaping the cold and miserable winter for Florida.

We’re driving with our friends Guy and Val, who are like family to us.  I’ve known Val since high school and Daryl has known Guy since college.  Daryl is staying home (he doesn’t travel well) but the 7 of us are heading to Val’s parents’ house in Florida and whatever fun we can have along the way.

We’re going to be gone for two weeks, but that includes driving time so it’ll probably be just over a week actually in Florida.

On the agenda…

  • Disney World (probably a day at Magic Kingdom and a day at Epcot, which is what I’ve had the most votes for)
  • At least a day trip to each coast
  • Time with Val’s parents, who are generously giving up their house for our crew to go stay someplace quiet at night

And yes, I know that’s not enough time to properly see Disney, but the cost is just too high for more!  Besides, there’s lot of other fun stuff to cram in.  🙂

I am utterly overwhelmed with planning.  Val has put me in charge of researching everything, reserving everything, etc. because “Alicia’s good at finding deals,” but Disney and Florida are some pretty mind-boggling places to research.  I’ve purchased a membership to Tour Guide Mike’s page on Disney and am just going to figure no matter what it will be magical.

It should be fun!


Tonight’s links…

I love, love, love this book.  🙂

Review: Tree Craft offers easy projects from tree trimmings and found wood

12 Ways to improve your child’s spelling

Photographers, Unschooling, the Globe Genie & More

I’m off to have some virtual woman tear up my calf again, but first I thought I’d share a few nifties that are on my mind here…

Do professional photographers really make any money?

That’s the question this professional photographer takes on.  While this article is being widely applauded by photographers, her numbers don’t necessarily add up to me.  Not everybody has to put monthly money aside for their children’s college or pay 30% in taxes (especially those starving artist types).  It’s certainly food for thought though, and goes a long way to explain those wedding prices.

I’m definitely passing it on to my photographer wannabe Victoria (once she’s home from Nebraska, where she’s currently learning from a guy who really was a professional photographer once upon a time).

Wanna talk to Pat Farenga about unschooling?

Take part in a teleconference Thursday for free and talk to  the unschooling guru.

On the same topic, also see:

Five lessons to take from unschooling for your homeschool

and Five great blogs by unschoolers for inspiration, projects, games and more

Quick!  Push a button and go anywhere in the world!

I absolutely love the Globe Genie.  Click on transport and you can visit anywhere on the globe.  You’ll see a huge, full color photo of your location and a map on the right to tell you where you are.

I clicked first on a remote lake in Sweden, then I was on a small street in France, then a rural area in England and finally I was on a dirt road in Mississippi.

Talk about a fun geography lesson!  (Thanks Leslie!)

and lastly…

A real world housekeeping schedule

I am perpetually buried in clutter so I loved the simplicity of these schedules, which come in two variations.  I also love the minimum maintenance plan and must start implementing it!

10 Fun Ways We've Learned and Played Lately

What a week we had! There were lots of minor emergencies but here’s some of the good stuff we’ve done lately…

  1. We read piles of library books. Some current favorites include We Are In a Book (Mo Willems), Too many toys (David Shannon), Shark and lobster’s amazing undersea adventure (Viviane Shwarz), Terry Pratchett young adult books and Into the Land of the Unicorns.
  2. I cut and hennaed Victoria’s hair. She’s been wanting to dye it a crazy color forever (you might remember the front was purple for quite some time last summer!) and lately she’s been asking if she can henna it instead.  I’ve hennaed mine for years (Victoria and I both have dirty blonde hair naturally) and I finally thought why not? We talked Daddy into it and then went to work.  It wasn’t bright enough the first time (I diluted it with conditioner) so we did it again.  She likes it and frankly, it suits her!  
  3. Anna helped take care of me when I was sick and learned how to make easy,  natural gravy. I ended up very sick last night and Anna helped me get upstairs and stayed with me in bed.  She even brought me her teddy bear, since she said he helped her feel better when she was sick.  🙂  Then Daryl peeled and cooked potatoes for mashed potatoes for a simple supper and I talked Anna through making gravy for on top.
  4. The kids played with colored water and snow inside — and then out. Alex, Jack and Anna dripped colored water all over buckets of snow at the table until they were bored and then I sent the big kids outside with the melted (very bright!) colored water in ketchup bottles and dish soap bottles and then wrote in the snowbanks with it (no pictures of the snowbanks, it was too cold and I was too wimpy to go out with them!).  (photo by Victoria Bayer)
  5. We talked about the germ theory and a new theory that’s in a book I’m reviewing, plus the history of the AMA’s treatment of alternative medicine, conflicts of interest with drug companies and the regulatory agencies that are supposed to govern them, and more. I love having kids old enough to get into this sort of discussion at the dinner table!  😉
  6. Alex has been playing a measurement app called Mathomatix and he really likes it. Jack had some fun playing around with it too.  I reviewed it here
  7. We went to a hotel out of town to meet friends from far away and celebrated Anna’s birthday. It was a wonderful time.  The kids did lots of swimming and playing, played Do Tell, had pizza and popcorn and cake, ran, giggled, played chess and otherwise had a blast.  We rented a suite so a friend could sleep over with Anna and Victoria.  (I forgot my memory card at home so I have no pictures!)
  8. I signed up for a free 3-month trial of ALEKS math and got the girls set up. I’ll let you know how it goes!
  9. We made this watercolor mobile. Tentative directions here.  
  10. Tiffany has taken my daughter again! At the last minute as we left the hotel yesterday, Victoria came and said that Tiffany said she could go home with them to Nebraska for a week.  She’s done that in the past and loves it, so we just said yes.  The van was already packed and her stuff was in with all of ours, so she left with nothing but the clothes on her back (which included my new sweater, actually!) and her new camera.  As long as she has access to books and is with the Bakers, that’s really all she needs though.  They’ll work the rest out.  🙂  I’ll miss her but I know she’ll have a blast.  Times like this are when I’m especially glad we homeschool and the kids can have opportunities like this!  Of course, this means I have to make it an extra fabulous week for the three who are left though!

Science Nifties!

Here’s a few science-related nifties to share….

Researchers aim to resurrect mammoth in five years

“Japanese researchers will launch a project this year to resurrect the long-extinct mammoth by using cloning technology to bring the ancient pachyderm back to life in around five years time.…”

Wow!  Jurassic Park for real, folks!  What do you think?  Good idea or terrible one???

“A study of what lives on 10 countries’ currencies reveals plenty of germs

Can your kids guess which country’s money had the fewest germs?  Science News for Kids talks about how many germs live on currency and which countries harbor the most (and why).  Vocabulary terms are even at the end!

Cold weather science!

From vaporizing hot water in sub-zero air to freezing bubbles to seeing what liquids you can get to freeze outside, if you have bitter cold temps right now here’s some ways to make some educational fun out of it.

American Science & Surplus

Have you shopped at this oddball site yet? I blew too much money on fabulous science (and play) items at American Science and Surplus tonight.  I’ve been shopping this science-related surplus site for years and really enjoy the selection, the prices and the sense of humor of the catalog writers.  Look for everything from robot bugs to beakers to soil testing kits here for science fun, not to mention supplies for crafts, the home and more.

(In my shopping cart, pipettes for science and crafts, test tubes, a test tube rack, microscope slides, slide dyeing fluid, pH strips, a chalkboard director’s clapboard for making movies, a baking soda underwater sub….).

“Dear Miss ______
I have read about sixteen pages of your manuscript … I suffered exactly the same treatment at the hands of my teachers who disliked me for my independence and passed over me when they wanted assistants … keep your manuscript for your sons and daughters, in order that they may derive consolation from it and not give a damn for what their teachers tell them or think of them. … There is too much education altogether.”

~  Albert Einstein (to a student)

UPDATE: A Magical Childhood

After a very stressful night of trying to figure out what terms of service I violated that caused A Magical Childhood to get suspended, researching how to export my blog somewhere else and worrying about the whole mess, I got this form letter from WordPress this morning:


A mistake was made in the system which we have corrected. The blog is back just as you left it.

We are really sorry for that happening and the inconvenience it caused you.


The Good, the Bad and the Heartbreaking

The good

My beautiful Annalee is now an eleven year-old girl!

(Pictures posted despite the terribly messy background, in the name of full disclosure!)  🙂

The bad…

Our water heater destroyed itself, did its best to flood our basement and has now been replaced by a new model.  The price tag was a bit of an ouch, but it did lead to a great discussion with the kids about the importance of having lots of rainy day funds!

The heartbreaking…

WordPress inexplicably suspended my blog, A Magical Childhood, today.  They didn’t send me a note, tell me a reason or anything as considerate as that.  I went to approve a new comment and in the 20 minutes since the person had commented, it had been taken down.  There’s a red message on my dashboard that says I’ve apparently violated their terms of service and they don’t want me there.  Seriously, their form message to people whose blogs they suspend says “we don’t want you here.”

This after they sent me a form letter at the New Year congratulating me for being in their most successful blog category.

I’ve sent a message telling them that I think it’s a mistake.  I have no idea what on earth I could have done.  I don’t have ads.  I don’t have inappropriate content.  I don’t spread hate messages or solicit funds (okay, I did ask for people to send me Christmas ornaments and said I’d donate to a charity in exchange, when I lost all of ours… Is that solicitation?????).

Sigh.  I have a stomach ache and am going to go try out that pricey new water heater in a (hopefully) hot bath.

Fingers crossed that nothing more explodes or is deleted this week…

MLK, making routines work and more

Just a few links to share today…

Facts, activity pages and more to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr.

Kids can win grants to grow gardens for people in need

Free Modern Handmade Child magazine offered online

Monday Math: Figure your calorie needs

Free Charlotte Mason ebook teaches how to make routines easy

I’d write more, but some annoying virtual woman has to make my muscles hurt now.  😉