Friday, June 29, 2012

Vegan with a Vengeance

I just had to do a post about how cool Isa  Moskowitz's cookbooks are.

My husband has a love/hate relationship with tempeh.  There's several things I've made with tempeh that he'll say are the best thing ever and yet if you were to ask him about tempeh he'd say he hates it.

Tonight, he made by special request for me Isa''s Tempeh Mango Sammiches for the first time.  Even though I've had her Vegan with a Vengeance cookbook for years, I have yet to make everything in it.  I don't think I've owned a cookbook yet that I've done everything but it's great when you own one that keeps you lovin' it.  I also own Veganomicon which is good and she has several others out that I don't own.  You can visit her website here to find out more about her and her cookbooks.

Even if you're only veg curious her cookbooks are a great place to start.  Many things I've made from her recipes that I've taken out and about have gotten rave reviews from proud meat eaters.  For the record, we're not a vegan family.  I think my kids would have died long ago without meat and cheese but if I didn't have them I'd probably be vegan.  I'm sure before they die they will try a bean of some kind and before that happens I'll smile on the nights I get to cycle in recipes from some great vegan cookbooks.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Day in the Salt Marsh

My husband recently came home from a work trip with this book for the toads.

The book's publisher, Sylvan Dell, has a whole section on their website devoted to parents and homeschoolers here. The website has linked teaching guides as free PDF's to many of their publications.  The one for A Day in the Salt Marsh is here.  It's comprehensive, with enough fun stuff to serve for a whole unit study.  Many of their other titles have equally helpful resources.  I was thrilled to find a new resource for such quality free curriculum.

I also instantly had a soft spot for the book because it's illustrator, Consie Powell, also wrote and illustrated Old Dog Cora and the Christmas Tree.  Old Dog Cora is my favorite Newfoundland book because it reminds me of my beloved Newfie who passed away several years ago and I miss dearly.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Tropical Storm Debby

So what do you do in a tropical storm when all your plans are cancelled and you can't go outdoors without it being an aquatic adventure?

You color your windows!  I have gotten a lot of mileage out of the window crayons.  We have the Lyra brand which I feel is a lot better than the Crayola.  However, you have to buy them from a Waldorf friendly toy store.  I got mine from Nova Naturals here.  They clean up very easy in case you're suspicious.

Happy coloring!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Vie de Mer

This is the French component of our activity at the Florida Aquarium.

You can read the main post for the description of how we used this here.  Below are the cards for basic marine life in English with the corresponding French words.

vie de mer

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Gulf Coast Marine Life Activity

When we did our unit on submersibles and submarines, I made up this workbook for a field trip to the Florida Aquarium.

The premise is you're Jacques Cousteau and you're surveying Gulf coast marine life by zone.   I've embedded the intro and name cards into this post.  The activity involved matching the names of the marine life to the images and arrange them in the correct biome.  I got the images from a variety of sources.  Google what you need for this or take this idea and adapt it to your local aquarium.  You will need plastic business card sleeves and jump rings to make a booklet like I did or you could always just pair them up as a matching game after your visit.

If you're not planning a visit to our local aquarium you could still use it after watching a nature show about the Gulf Coast or Jacques Cousteau. 

You can find a good visual explanation of marine biomes here if you need it.

A second element of the project included learning the French names for basic marine life.  That is in a separate post which you can read here.

Fl Aquarium Sub Projet Intro Name Cards

Montessori at Home ebook and printables

Montessori Print Shop is sponsoring another giveaway.  They're giving away their Montessori at Home ebook with a package of printables.  To enter go the Carrots are Orange blog here.  Good luck!

Montessori Print Shop

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Paris Metro

This is a worksheet I made up to go with our train workbook.

I got to show older toad my stubs from riding the metro and the conversation really turned into more about why don't we get to ride the train here instead of him being enraptured by my tales of Paris.  I can't compete against trains so here you go.  We filled it in in French of course.
  Paris Metro Map

Navigation Chart Collage

My last project I needed to prep for my art camp is a collage based project.  The toads are great samplers for me and below is what older toad created.

It includes seagrass, sponges, redfish, fiddler crabs and sperm whales.  The directions follow for anyone who'd like to try.  Note, the base of this project is a marine navigation chart and the theme is Atlantic marine life.  You could easily do this project with your state map and local trees or a hiking trail map and animals you saw on your hike - get creative.

First older toad painted on the grass with acrylic paint and a brush.

While that dried he drew his animals onto watercolor paper with Sharpie.  We like the double-ended ones so you can have extra fine lines or fat.

Then he went back to his acrylic paint and used a natural sponge to stamp on his sponges.  A natural sponge is important, you won't get much texture out of a kitchen sponge.  Also you might want to practice on a spare paper first.  Too much paint or too much pressure and you don't get a spongy look, you'll get a blob.  It doesn't really show in the picture but the corals are a bit shimmery.  We added a bit of iridescent medium to the base.  The toads love it so much they'll actually refuse to paint if I don't let them use it.  At first I thought it was a passing fad like the glitter paint obsession but this one's really sticking.  So warning, it will become your next favorite thing too.

Then he went back to his animals and with watercolor, colored them in.  Break for snack.  Animals then got cut out and glued on with a glue stick.  A little trick to glue sticks, don't buy the office supply brands, absolutely worthless.  Also, apply glue to your object on top of a spare piece of paper and get the glue all the way to the edges of the object.  Then when you stick it down, rub gently all over and it's really stuck.  Kids have a tendency, reinforced by the cleaneruppers, to just glue the center and then things don't stay on or have a peeled up look.  So reach for the scrap paper and be liberal with the glue.  Also craft glue will glob in one place and then run out the sides when pressed down so pass on it for these kinds of projects. 

Younger toad also did this project just with a brush and stamping so it works for extra young artists too.

Both my toads know our local marine life really well but I don't know what experience the camp kids will have so I'm bringing one of our relevant reference books for them too.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Wooden Australia Puzzle Giveaway

Montessori Print Shop

Montessori Print Shop is giving away a wooden Australia geography puzzle plus some of their printables.  You can enter online here.  We'll be doing the 7 continents as our theme for next year so I'm sure in the future I'll have some more Australia themed posts.

Why Women Still Can't Have it All

This month's issue of The Atlantic has a good article by Anne-Marie Slaughter.  You can read it here.

Fresh Air interviewed the author and it's being aired 6/21/12.  You can listen to the audio on the NPR website here.

She brings up a lot of interesting points.  My husband (a government professional who travels regularly) and I have many conversations along these lines that I'm sure other homeschooling families have had as well.

She doesn't address the nuts and bolts economic issues that most women face.  That's both the essay's strength and weakness.  She doesn't get bogged down in specifics but also doesn't acknowledge that it's not possible for most women to get the level of assistance that she has bought for her family.  It's not a guide to personal choice as much as an invitation to have some broader conversations.

Not only can women not have it all, we have to make hard choices...

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Alternative to Montessori Sandpaper Letters

Younger toad is interested in learning his letters.  If I had invested in a nice set of sandpaper alphabet letters for older toad we would of course be reusing them.  So without those, we're doing this cheap little alternative.  I bought a set of felt sticky letters.

Younger toad then sticks them to paper cards.  We talk about the letter on the card as he puts it on.  He traces it with his finger and says the letter.

We get them back out to do letter activities on other days.  Here's a 'B' basket.  He traces the letter, names all the items and we talk about how they all start with the letter 'B'.


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Crayon Rings

I like to keep a stash of activities in a drawer for when we're all having a rough day or need a change.

I picked these up at the gift shop for the Tampa Museum of Art, one of our local museums.

Unfortunately, they weren't the biggest hit because the holes inside were too big for the toad's fingers.  They just spun around and made them awkward to use.  So if you're toads are closer to 8 or so they'll probably be a fun choice.

But they latched on to my marker sets.  I'd left these at my mom's just to keep them together with some other stuff and dropped by to pick them up today.

At least I got an hour's peace out of the package.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Visual Literacy and Design in Food Marketing

I'm gearing up for a week of teaching art summer camp and one of our projects is to design fruit and vegetable crate packaging.  Florida is a big agricultural state and the museum I'm teaching at highlights that in their collection.  The project has a lot of opportunities to build visual literacy and conscious consuming in the kids as well as general design skills of course.

Here are links to two websites I've used in the past and like for teaching kids these skills:
Artful Truth is a non-smoking curriculum designed by the Wolfsonian in Miami.  The Wolfsonian is a design museum so the curriculum emphasizes the art aspects of advertising.

Commercial Free Childhood  is an organization with lots of resources.

I'm also reading Banana this week because I'm of course going to show the old Chiquita banana commercial from youtube.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Healthcare Guide to Gifted Kids

The Gifted Homeschoolers Forum has produced a new Healthcare Guide to Gifted Kids.  To access the guide on their homepage click here.  Older toad has his next well visit in July and I'll bring in a copy to our pediatrician.  Hopefully it will add to the conversation.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day

For Father's Day we of course went fishing.  There is NOTHING that daddy toad would rather do.  The tadpoles actually really enjoy it too.  I often enjoy myself, but it was more fun to go before there were tadpoles, cue pity party.

Here's a great article on how to take your kids fishing.  I really like that it's written by a dad taking his daughter fishing.  I actually have really fond memories of going fishing with my dad and grandpa.

So if you're looking for something for dad, take him fishing!

Saturday, June 16, 2012


I'm going to be teaching a week of art camp at the end of the month and need to brush up on a few skills as prep.  I used to do leatherwork with a family friend but it's been a long time.  I thought it'd make a great way to fill some afternoons together to get one of the Tandy Leather beginning kits.  I get my refresher and older toad gets to do some projects.

At the time of this post, this kit was on closeout for only $14.99 on the Tandy Leather website here.

Older toad was really excited about and did 2 projects the first day, 1 the next and we still have the key fob for the next time it comes out.  Here's his projects from the first day.  He really went for the 'just whack it til I'm done' approach rather than any particular pattern.  He's keeping his change in both of them and is very proud of his projects.

I did the youth journal kit.  It's not part of the above set but it's what the kids will be doing so it will be a sample.  I used the stamps and finish from the beginners kit.  I also used my monogram stamp from when I could rightly call myself an artist.  Good excuse to wipe the rust off.  It's a different kit available here.  Here's my completed journal. 

We both had a good time doing our projects so if you're looking for a new craft to branch out to give it a try.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Creating Original Curriculum

One of the biggest advantages to homeschooling is that we know our children best.  However that can also be a challenge as it can get hard to buy a curriculum that fits.  Designing your own will certainly meet your needs but can be time consuming.  To increase your chances of success, keep these guidelines in mind.

1. Determine your goals - What exactly do you want your child to learn?  Answering with social studies is too broad and needs to get broken down.  Perhaps it's Charles Darwin and his voyage on the Beagle.  You could look at pictures of finch beaks and then create your own evolutionary tree with a bird species you created, drawing changes through time.

2. What are your child's interests - If you child loves dance but hate geography, sweeten the geography pot.  How about poems written about traditional dances that include the name of the country that the dance originates.

3.  What are your child's strengths -  You want to design projects that build on your child's strengths.  Yes we all need to work on our weaknesses, but we bring those up usually with work that we can succeed at.  For example, a kid with great gross motor skills can do pretty good addition bouncing on the trampoline.   Does it have to be sitting at a desk doing a worksheet or does it have to be they learn math.

4.  What are your child's weaknesses - The above dance example wouldn't work for a kid that hates writing.  But if they love dance and you want them to learn the names of the countries, print out pictures of folk dances in traditional costumes.  They have to pair the dancers to the countries the dances are from on a large map of the world.

5. Pitch it to the right level - You wouldn't ask a child ready for finding the area of geometric solids to name the shapes.  That's an extreme example and it's usually more subtle.  If you can, design projects with multiple steps increasing in complexity.  Start with the easy one because we all like to feel good about work well done, the middle one would be where you think your child is at and the hardest would be last.  If you don't get there on the first day you can always use it another day.  If it's all too easy, start harder next time and smile that your child is so smart. 

6. Learn from your mistakes - usually your mistakes feed into one of the above 5 points.  Which one was wrong and you'll get it right next time.

Please post your curriculum design ideas!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Quiet Space

We've been having good results from our quiet space.  I put this package together after a rough week in April when it became clear we needed a fresh idea for all of us to blow off some steam.

Counting Coconuts blog has a great post about their family peace space here that I found inspiring.  There is also a very informational blog post about Montessori inspired peace education activities here at Living Montessori Now.

I designed the space with older toad in mind so I was really focusing on sensory activities that can be calming for him.  It's in no way a bad place to be sent.  It's an alternative where he can go and take some time to come up with some better choices.  He has both chosen to use the space of his own accord when he could tell he was escalating as well as taken advantage of the suggestion that it might be something he could benefit from before things got out of hand.  He's even done it with younger toad, mostly peacefully.  Daddy toad has benefited from it as well.

He has a rug and pillow to sit on.  For visual sensory activities he has Moody Cow Meditates by Kerry MacLean.  We've had the book for awhile before it was reassigned to the quiet space.  We tried several handmade Moody Cow jars (meditation tool that Moody Cow uses) but they all broke open after being dropped on our tile floors so for the quiet space I bought a commercial one.

For large motor sensory calming he has Mindful Movements by Thich Nhat Hanh.

For aural sensory calming he has a MP3 player with his music loaded on to it and I changed the file name on this to quiet place so he can find it.

For fine motor sensory calming I put together two activities.  One is a finger labryinth.  I did a google image search for a labryinth I liked and printed it out.  I enlarged the image I used to be able to fit a finger between the lines well.  I cut it out and glued it to a cardboard backing.  We sat down with some glue and a bag of mixed bean soup mix from the grocery store and glued the beans on.  I finished it with Modge Podge to hopefully make it last a bit longer.  Older toad did his all by himself in 2 sessions, younger toad tired quickly and only did some but we only needed one in the end and everyone participated.  You can use your finger to trace over or between the beans and both provide more sensory input than just following the path printed on paper.

Our other fine motor activity is a shell collage kit.  The larger shells were collected in Spain and the smaller ones in France.  Both are sort of leftovers from a project but still special and that was conveyed.  He thought they were neater than shells from our beach because of it.

For oral sensory calming I went to the dollar store and got a pack of little windmills.

I buy my lavender here because I lived on Whidbey Island for 10 years and if I'm going to pay to have it shipped anyway I might as well support the island economy.  Lavender is a calming scent and cloves are stimulating.  I explained that to toad and he gets to choose what he's in the mood for.

I just wish I had more time to use the quiet space!

I've shared this post:

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Making Free Vocabulary Puzzles

Older toad is a great reader when it comes to decoding the language but understanding what he's reading a bit less.  If he reads aloud to you, you'd never know he doesn't know the meaning of lots of what he's reading if you didn't press him, since his pronunciation is so spot on.  He also has very little patience with worksheets and limited handwriting tolerance so what's a gal to do to help him build his vocabulary?

I started making vocabulary puzzles with illustrations from the books we read.   We've done both his readers, audio books we listen to, and read aloud books - any that have a lot of words he doesn't know.

We finished up our year with The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet by Eleanor Cameron.  It was a big hit and I'm sure we'll be doing the sequel next.

This is a picture of a completed puzzle.

All you need to do is xerox an illustration from the book you're reading.  It may require enlarging to fill a piece of paper.  I use 60 lb card stock so the pieces are heavier duty but regular would work too.  Then I cut the picture up.  I have no shapes or number of pieces in mind, just abstract cutting.  Then I write our vocabulary words on the front of the pieces.  I use a contrasting color to help it show up.

Then, older toad puts the puzzle together on the table.  He reads the words when he's putting it together.  Sometimes he flips it over to read the definition on the back.  When the pieces are all assembled, we put it on clear contact paper so it stays together.  I always help with this part.  The alignment ends up better as well as I make sure all the words and definitions get read as we put it together.  Here's a completed puzzle back.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Online social screening Motherland Afghanistan

Wednesday June 13th 10AM Eastern time there is a free social screening of Motherland Afghanistan.

Here is the film's description:

One in seven Afghan women currently dies in childbirth. Motherland Afghanistan introduces the women behind these devastating statistics. Afghan American filmmaker Sedika Mojadidi examines her father's works as an OB/GYN as he struggles to make a difference, first at Kabul's Laura Bush Maternity Ward and then in an isolated provincial hospital, where patients often travel for days to get treatment.

For more info click here for who are organizing this event.

Too bad Oscar didn't have room for sweet potatoes

This is our first year growing sweet potatoes.  Every year we expand the garden a little bit.  This summer season we put a cover crop (Red Cowpeas) on the area we've been using, and started a new patch.  Summer gardening is a challenge in Florida so we've got watermelon, okra and sweet potatoes.  I chose the Beauregard variety because it matures in only 90 days and it's one of the varieties recommended by the FL extension service.  Bugs are our biggest gardening problem so hopefully we'll have better luck with a shorter season variety.  Here's the traditional planting of sweet potatoes under the okra.

I've heard a lot about how easy it is to grow potatoes in a garbage can and my neighbor was throwing out a couple of old ones so we thought we'd give it a try.  You can Google the subject or here's a link for directions.

Our can with two slips.  These had been growing just in a regular pot for the last several weeks so that's why they look so big.

I'll repost at the end of the season hopefully reporting mounds of potatoes.

Update 6/19/12- I added a couple of inches of grass clippings to the can.
Update 7/1/12 - I added an inch of compost to the can.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Paris faites de papier

Older toad studied French this year for a foreign language.  I studied French in school, have been to France and we have wonderful French neighbors who agreed to help a little bit so it was a natural fit.  However it's hard to find fun, non drill based foreign language activities for early learners.  Ideally something younger toad can do a little bit, I can supervise with my very rusty skills and and older toad does learn a little from.

I ran across Joel Henriques website somehow surfing the web.  His Paris paper toy is really creative and was a big hit.  We did some family coloring time and older toad took it over to the neighbors to play with the frogs.

I checked out his book and the mini animals were my favorite.  I've added a wood burning tool to my acquisition list so we can do some.  Bon Voyage!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

"Fork You! I will not use my napkin."

As chief laundry wench I get tired of watching my toads smear their greasy little everythings all over their clothes.  I also don't seem to have enough room in my cupboard to keep enough adult sized fabric napkins for their prolific messes and I hate disposable paper products.

So 1 free afternoon and voila, 16 napkins!

I'd gone into my sewing box to get out some materials for mending my go to art apron.  In the box was an old jammy onsesie both the toads had worn.  It was super cute, flannel and somehow they looked like little winter bunnies in it.  I'd kept it to turn it into something.  Who knew what but several years later it was still there.  That morning daddy toad and I had a napkin talk and so I looked at it with napkins on the mind and off I went.

Upon the return of the toads I got an unsolicited "Thank you for the napkins mommy.  They're really nice." and, "The napkins are awesome."  Who knew all it took was fabric scraps to get such manners and compliments.

If you'd like to make your own, they're super easy.  Cut out a rectangle of heavier fabric like flannel or soft canvas.  Cut another of the same size in a contrasting fabric.  Sew the pieces together, right sides out with two passes of zig zag stitch.  Add a pocket - that's the key to the napkin love.  Cut a small rectangle approximately 3" x 5", turn 1/2" seam allowance to the inside.  Press with hot iron.  Position the pocket so that one of your forks sits fully on the napkin rather than over the top edge.  Topstich the pocket to the napkin.

You can also do all of the above with a finished edge.  Before you sew the two pieces together, press in a 1/2" seam allowance.  Pin and stitch edges and then add your pocket.

A slightly fancier version involves a rectangle of the heavier fabric and a rectangle of the contrasting fabric cut 1" bigger on all sides.  With right sides out, center the smaller piece on the contrasting color.  Fold 1/2" in and press.  Turn that fold in and press.  Zig zag the fold down and you've got a bordered napkin.  Add your pocket.  I wouldn't win any tailoring prizes with these as I was focusing on quantity rather than quality so if you have sewing skills please apply those to the directions.

Older toad is now old enough to share his own opinions of your work.  He commented on how my work was a creative use of throw away materials which I really appreciated that he noticed.  There's a couple of books we have along the theme of "you can always make something out of nothing".  The first being the source of that quote - Simms Taback's Joseph Had a Little Overcoat.

Another book I appreciate is Handmade Home by Amanada Blake Soule.  This book is several years old and has been well reviewed but my personal input is along the lines of this blog post.  I really appreciate the repurposing of materials that she encourages.

So if you've got scraps laying around they can always be turned into hugs!

I've shared this post:
Bear Rabbit Bear Crafts 

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Discussion relaunch

Like busy mothers everywhere I took a break from this project for awhile.  My last post was around when I found out I was pregnant with younger toad.  He just turned three and so the demands on my time are different.  I've also transitioned into homeschooling older toad.  Those changes have meant I have more time to be involved in a larger community again as well as being a beneficiary of all the work others put into their online presence.  So it is time for me to contribute again.  Welcome back to the discussion.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...