Saturday, May 26, 2012


We have LOTS of yarrow growing in our front garden... and I'm excited! I know about the medicinal properties of yarrow, but have never attempted to do anything with it. Actually, I didn't know this was yarrow because I always thought yarrow was white. However, now that it's confirmed I've decided that, because it is literally taking over (surprise), I am going to try to a few herbalist remedy recipes (say that three times fast). And have the girls help me. We really should all have gardening journals - well, we did once upon a time though they are long since forgotten. Time to dust them off and begin again. I think yarrow will be a great place to start as instead of just eating it like we do most of the plants around our house we can do something different with it.

Oh - and if you live near me and are in need of yarrow I have plenty to spare!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Runny Babbit and Bowcase Shoard

As I mentioned in a previous post, my youngest (7) is in love with Shel Silverstein's Runny Babbit: A Billy Sook (in case you haven't figured it out, he swaps the first letters of words to make new, sillier words).  She copied and illustrated the namesake poem as a tribute to the book. She usually starts this way - copies her favorite pieces and then begins to venture into her own material. While she has an incredible imagination, there's nothing like inspiration to really open the doors of possibility even wider.

My 8-year-old is excited for me to showcase her current, unedited bulletin board (hence my attempt at Silversteinesque humor). Our school year will be coming to a close on Friday (with the exception of math for everyone and math + Spanish for my oldest) and everything will come off of the bulletin boards. Needless to say, they won't stay empty long. We clear them off each week and whether we're doing school work or not they are filled with the creative endeavors of the girls. However, this is the final "school" bulletin of this academic year.  Hurrah!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

"Kids Can Do It" Recipe

I have a food blog as well, so I try to keep my posts separate - but these cookies are so darn good and so easy that it really is a "kids can do it" recipe. As such, I thought I'd share with my fellow homeschoolers, who are, I am sure, always looking for quick-to-make snacks. Last night I tried these out on my husband, and they were so good that I had to make another batch this morning with the girls (yes, he and I ate the entire batch ourselves). I am calling them Quick'n'Easy Peanut Butter Cookies, although I really think they should be called Disappearing Peanut Butter Cookies because I bet they won't last long enough to cool completely from the oven! They are easy but have enough ingredients to make it fun for even more experienced child cooks, and not using a mixer is a fun change for kids who are used to machines doing everything from brushing teeth to washing clothes to baking bread.

Check out my original post here for the recipe!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Philadelphia Museum of Art


It's been a while since I took the girls to an art museum. We used to go almost every other week ... in fact, at one time I believe we had memberships to four or five different art museums  And I think I burned out.  I'd say it's been over a year since the last time we went and all of our memberships have expired. But today we took a field trip with some fellow homeschoolers and enjoyed a group 'school' tour of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. I am grateful to my friend for proposing and organizing the trip. 

The girls had a good time and on the way home they asked if we could go again next week (although I secretly believe their favorite part was lunch with friends on the Washington Monument at Eakins Oval!).  We do a lot of art projects in our house, many based on famous artists. But it's always so nice to see the real thing. And our tour guide was good with children - she was engaging and didn't overwhelm them with too many details. Overall, a successful trip and a reminder to go more often!

Friday, May 4, 2012


Josefina in the Cradleboard
A friend and I co-lead an American Girl Doll Club for homeschooled girls ages 8 and up.  Each month the girls read a book, we discuss it as well as other issues that arise (we have covered some serious topics!), and we typically do a project or craft inspired by the book of the month.  This month we are discussing A Kaya Mystery: The Silent Stranger.  One of my favorite aspects of the AG mysteries is the last section of the book where they provide the historical context and tie it into the story. The Silent Stranger is an award-winning book, and as an undergrad I majored in Biological and Sociocultural Anthropology with an emphasis in both Native American Studies and Chicano Studies ... so it's not surprising that I loved this book and the tidbits of information at the end.  :)

Example from slide show
In the story, a woman is in shock after losing her husband and infant in a lightning storm.  The mystery of what happened to her infant is solved by paying attention to cultural differences between tribes - partly with the help of the differences in cradleboards. I decided to create a short power point presentation on cradleboards, their cultural significance and the variations between tribes as well as images of different cradleboards.  I then created a Native American-inspired cradleboard designed to hold an American Girl doll. This cradleboard combines different elements from different tribes (e.g., a Navajo "rainbow" but the Nez Perce teardrop design).  If I had a larger budget, I would have used different materials (e.g., faux buckskin for the blanket, faux leather for the ties and strapping) but with only $5 to spend on each one I had to make do, and I'm pretty happy with the way they turned out. When the girls decorate the rainbow piece, they are going to have the option of seed beads or colored beans for the design and feathers or creating interesting pictures (in the vein of mobiles) that will hang down.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

From the Bookshelves...

Family Read-Aloud
Actually, it's an audiobook .... we're listening to Beyond the Grave, Book 4 in The 39 Clues series.  I can see why kids like these books, and the audiobooks are well done. However, I think I can only take so much of this series before I need a break.  They are nonstop action and little character development.  I still like the books and I think they are a fun change, so we'll do the series but we may interject other material between books.

My husband is slowly making his way through the entire Harry Potter series (he's only a few years behind the rest of us) and is currently on the fourth book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.  He really enjoyed the first three but was having a hard time getting into this book.  I think it has more to do with how little time he spends reading than the material itself. He has only been able to read for a few minutes a day, which must make it hard to get drawn into the story.

I, myself, have been reading nonstop lately. I think I've read two dozen books in the last three weeks, and I won't bore you with all of the titles. Currently I am in the middle of Bitterblue, the sequel to Graceling. (Yes, these are young adult titles. I read Graceling as part a book discussion group: Not Your Mother's Book Club, a group designed for adults who want to discuss YA books. It's been great - the discussions are interesting and have provided a different view of the material, and I feel that it's introduced me to titles that I'm certain my oldest daughter will want to read in a few years.)  I thought Graceling, though far from perfect, was an interesting story with a very redeemable, strong, and refreshing female character. I would actually recommend the story to others interested in this genre. Bitterblue, on the other hand, I'm ready to stop reading and I'm only halfway through. I won't stop - I will hold out hope that the book improves. But so far? I'm disappointed. A few other titles I've read lately include When She Woke, which is a wonderful, thought-provoking novel and a book I highly recommend and The Art of Racing in the Rain, another must-read which would also make for a nice discussion book.

My eleven-year old is a voracious reader and, like me, has a huge stack of books she's reading.  She recently finished Tuck Everlasting, and it has moved onto her list of all-time favorites. She is also reading Homeless Bird, the story of a thirteen-year-old girl in India facing an arranged marriage. It is a wonderful tale of courage and character.

On my ten-year-old's nightstand are the widest variety of books in terms of genre and difficulty. She just finished Matilda and thoroughly enjoyed the novel despite having hated the movie.  She is also reading Emily's Runaway Imagination, which is a true classic in many ways and a very fun read.

My eight-year-old is working her way through Edgar Eager's series, Tales of Magic. She is currently on Knight's Castle.  This series is timeless and I believe that most children will enjoy reading these books. I believe they are tagged for 3rd grade and up, but really any age will enjoy these tales of time-traveling children, magic, and misadventure.


And lastly, my little one (age 7) is very into poetry at the moment. Specifically, she is reading several Shel Silverstein books - for what seems like the hundredth time. :)  Runny Babbit is on one of her all-time favorites, and as such we're using it as inspiration for several language arts projects.  Runny Babbit, for anyone who doesn't know, involves poems in which the first two letters of words are switched. This creates funny creatures, like a Pinky Stig. This book would make a great gift or a good addition to the family library. We keep borrowing it from our public library, but I think I may put this on my birthday shopping list...

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Images and Imagery

DD 8
Two of my girls are reading Charlotte in Giverny as part of a MBtP unit and the book is full of many famous impressionist paintings which form the basis for much of the story. Following this example and using famous works of art as inspiration, the girls each wrote a short description of the story behind the artwork.

DD 1

If your child is particularly interested in writing, the website Storybird offers a fun way to explore the connection between pictures and words. Through collaborative storytelling, children are able to express their thoughts with both images and words.  These stories can be shared, saved or printed. Children can work with friends, family, or fellow Storybird authors. Even very young children can see their stories come to life. Best of all - it's free!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Take Your Child to Work Day 2012

Last Thursday, my husband took our four daughters to the office for the annual Take Your Child to Work Day event. He had an all-day training seminar, and while the girls were occupied in the morning with the seminars and activities for the children I'm not sure exactly how much they took away from the program after lunch - they watched a movie in a conference room until my husband came to get them. I wasn't overly concerned as selfishly I love to have the day to myself. :)  I still haven't received a good explanation as to why the kids are dressed up in the photo. The morning seminars covered global economics (e.g., converting currency between the UK and the US), a teleconference with the folks over in one of the UK offices, speed networking (in which one of my daughters was teased for being homeschooled), and other such activities. My husband was told at least six times, "Your children are so well behaved - is this because they are homeschooled?"  In summary, at least half the day was valuable, spent learning and interacting in meaningful ways, and the other half was spent being somewhat bored and zoning out in a conference room. My husband tells me this is an accurate portrayal of working at a large, international bank. =D