Tuesday, May 31, 2011

I Wanna Go!!!!!!

I'm working on a project that involves going back through every post I've written about one of our road trips. It's giving me CAH-RAZY wanderlust. I wanna go somewhere! I feel like we've been cooped up here forever. Which is a bit insane because it was just 2 months ago that we drove 700 miles (one-way) to spend a weekend in Southern Utah. I'm lusting after a good, hearty 3 week road trip though.

Over to Portland, down through the Redwoods and Yosemite, over to the Grand Canyon and back up through Utah.

Or Devil's Tower, Mt. Rushmore, Wind Cave, Dinosaur National Park, City of Rocks and Craters of the Moon.

Or maybe East to the Great Lakes.

Somewhere, anywhere! Well, maybe not anywhere. It would be nice to actually feel warm again if we were gonna be on vacation. Alas! There is no long road trip in our future. I think the best I might finagle is a weekend to Grand Teton.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

School On The Brain!

Over the last few weeks, I've found myself really looking forward to the end of our school year. We have been wrapping up subjects and we're down to History (a few weeks left) and Math. We finished the math lessons for the year, but we're doing some review to build Sierra's confidence because she still panics and gives the wrong answer, then gives the right answer after you remind her to just calm down and try. I was beginning to get in the mindset of a high school student at the end of May though...ready to just be DONE!

Then I started gathering supplies for next year. And now I'm all excited to get started again!!

When our curriculum is finalized (or, as finalized as it ever gets when you homeschool), I will do a whole post about it, but for now, a quick look ahead:

  • We will be moving on to the Middle Ages for History, which roughly covers AD400 to AD1600. That means we'll be touching on all sorts of interesting things. Knights and castles, of course, but also the bubonic plague, Christopher Columbus, Shakespeare, Vikings, the Crusades, Samurais, and the Mayans, Incas, and Aztecs, and a whole slew of other great topics.
  • I have purchased the R.E.A.L Science Odyssey Life Science Curriculum*. We did some science last year, but it was disjointed and not as hands-on as I'd like. I purchased the e-book version of this curriculum, so I got it immediately after purchase and I was so excited to see all the neat things we'll be doing. This probably has something to do with the fact that I have a Biology degree and am a Lactation Consultant...life science is one of my favorite things to teach, but this curriculum looks like it will be great for Sierra too. If you're interested in checking it out, the company (Pandia Press) has a "try it now for free" link on their website that gives you a chunk of the book for free to see if it's what you're looking for.
  • We're going to stick with Right Start math. Sierra will move on to Level C, which I already have. I am trying Sedona on Level B and she's doing well so far, but it takes her a few days to do one lesson because her attention span isn't very long yet. I still haven't decided whether to move forward with her, or just get Level A and go from there so it doesn't get too hard too fast for her.
  • We ended up ditching foreign language last year. I was really happy with Power Glide (now changed to PowerSpeak) at first, but it began to seem so random in what it was teaching and as soon as it moved from words into sentences, Sierra stopped picking it up. I found out Rosetta Stone is doing a little experiment with lower prices (I've read online the prices will last until June 11) and I've heard a lot of great things about it, so I took advantage of the sale and ordered their homeschool Spanish program*. I went ahead and ordered Levels 1-5 because it's cheaper than adding on levels later on.
  • For Spelling, Grammar and Geography, I'm planning to use the Evan-Moor books again.
  • I think we've done okay this year, but I want to make more of an effort to work on reading comprehension and writing on a regular basis.
The history is what's holding my interest right now. I'm determined to put together all the lesson plans before we start the year so I'm not scrambling to keep ahead and it's a bit daunting at the moment, but also fun to see all the things we'll get to talk about. I'm also really curious to see the Rosetta Stone program. I've heard so many wonderful things that I'm just taking a chance, but I haven't actually seen it at all. Of course, if I do it along with her, it will satisfy one of my 101 in 1001 goals too, so that's always fun!
*affiliate links

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Ancient Rome

We have made our way through Ancient Greece and it's time for me to do the prep work for the Ancient Rome unit. I had a more difficult time coming up with activities for this unit for some reason, there just wasn't a lot out there that fit in and was age appropriate.

A little background: We are following the classical method of teaching history and covering Ancient History this year. My homeschooler is 6 years old and 1st grade, so we're on the basic, "get an idea of everything" pass through.

Dress the soldier: I found this worksheet we can print out on heavier paper and use to learn a little more about how Roman soldiers were dressed.

Make an arch: I'm planning to follow the suggestions on this website to build a marshmallow arch...basically give her marshmallow, ask her to build an arch and leave her to figure it out. Key to this activity is keeping it novel...she won't see other marshmallow arches before building her own.

Erupt a volcano: When we talk about Pompeii, we'll do a model volcano activity

Make a tunic: I was really searching for more activities and this was something I had considered for Greece, but ended up not doing. I have a lot of scrap fabric and Sierra knows a bit about sewing, so I'll probably let her make a tunic

And that's all I've got this time around. Food seemed kind of silly because there's so much overlap with Greece and Egypt. Josh suggested some sort of statue carving activity, but I couldn't come up with anything feasible for her age range. I'm looking forward to moving on to the middle ages next year. I've started putting together our curriculum for that and my heart just isn't into the ancients anymore!! Egypt was the most fun unit this year (for me, anyway). We also could've done a lot more fun activities with the prehistoric section, but I was still searching for how to effectively teach history when we did that part.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Olympics

As we wrap up our Ancient Greece studies, it was time to have a little fun with our own mini-Olympics.

To start, I made a couple of "laurel" wreaths out of pipe cleaners, construction paper and tacky glue. This would be an okay kid project if you have children that are patient enough to leave their wreaths while the glue dries. I just made these myself during naptime as a surprise.

First, bend a pipe cleaner into a "c" shape
Cut out a bunch of tear-drop shapes out of construction paper (I used 3 pieces of paper to make two wreaths). Also, put a small puddle of tacky glue on a piece of scrap paper.
Dip the end of one "leaf" in the glue and fold it around one end of the pipe cleaner. Hold it until it pretty much holds itself. Repeat for the other end of the pipe cleaner
Dip the left edge of one leaf in the glue. I kind of slid the leaf along the top of the glue...like you were spreading butter on bread.
With the pipe cleaner laying on the scrap paper, gently press this leaf onto one end.
Now dip the right edge of a leaf in glue
And stick this one onto the same end of the pipe cleaner, opposite the other leaf
Continue alternating in this manner until you get half way around the pipe cleaner
Then start over again at the other end
And work your way to the middle again
Gently turn the wreath over
And add a thin bead of glue against the pipe cleaner all the way around to be sure the leaves stick to the pipe cleaner and not just themselves. Then let the whole thing dry (overnight would be best, but they were pretty much okay after a few hours)
In the original Olympics, the only actual prize were laurel wreaths, so these were kind of important for historical accuracy, and fun too.

We also wanted to stick to historically accurate events. There would be no wrestling (and especially no pankration...a mix of wrestling and boxing where you weren't allowed to gouge eyes, but just about anything else was allowed and it wasn't unusual for participants to be seriously injured or die), but we did the other pentathlon events.

First up: running. I set out a course, which the girls did not understand at all, they just ran willy nilly

We learned about discus (which I did a little of in school, but do you know how hard it is for a right handed person to teach a left handed kid how to throw discus?)

Then we moved on to long jump. Only a 6 year old could land like this....

....and then stand up without her hands or bottom touching the ground

Sedona had a little more difficulty grasping the concept of jumping for distance rather than height

And then we found a stick, cleared everyone out of the way and explained javelin
It went a lot better than I was expecting

At the end, they were both crowned with "laurel" wreaths (the baby's not neglected, she's asleep and always cranes her neck back like that during naps)

All in all, a good end to Ancient Greece. I haven't been able to come up with too many activities for Rome, but I will be getting what I have up soon since we will be starting that this week.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Forget Me Nots

My favorite Montana flower is starting to bloom. I'm not sure why these tiny, unassuming flowers appeal to me so much. Maybe it's the pop of blue after a long, cold, dull winter. As pretty as the tulips and daffodils are though, they just don't compare to all the forget-me-nots popping up in the yard!

Field Trip

Saturday, we had a chance to visit Rocking L Alpacas farm on shearing day. It was really neat for the girls to see how the alpacas are sheared, and they were each given a little baggie with some fleece and a picture of the alpacas. I was impressed to find out the fleece from each alpaca is kept separate and the owner can tell you which alpaca a certain skein of yarn came from.

When we got there, they already had one alpaca down on the mat. They keep the fleece from different areas of the body separate. I believe that's to keep the different lengths separate. The alpaca was completely calm and just laying there (her legs are tied to keep her from jumping up, but she wasn't fighting that at all)
After the fleece from each section was sheared, it was passed off to these ladies, who laid it out on a chicken wire screen and picked out any pieces of hay that were stuck in it and put it in those bags stuck to the fence, which were labeled with the alapaca's name and the different areas of the body the fleece came from

Later on, most of that fleece will be spun into yarn
And a newly naked alpaca will return to the field

And a new alpaca will come in for shearing. If I remember correctly, they will spend 3-4 days shearing all the alpacas on the farm.

After watching for a bit, we went to check out the little shop (these people also sell at the local farmer's market)

When I was searching online to find out if Rocking L had a website (they don't), I found out there will be a fiber show in town at the beginning of June. They will have workshops and one is drop spindle for beginners. Since one of my 101 in 1001 goals is to try to make yarn, I'm thinking about signing up. It's very much outside my comfort zone to walk into a class like that by myself where I don't know anyone or the first thing about the topic, but it's something I've wanted to try ever since I saw it at the homestead fair back in Texas a few years ago.

Monday, May 23, 2011

One Less Skin Issue

I mentioned before that Secora has a bad rash around her neck. I took her to the doctor (our doc was out of town, we saw someone else). He thought it was related to all the eczema she has and he told me to be more careful about hygiene (sorry, but if I was just not taking care of her, don't you think the rest of her would look pretty bad too?) and also to be careful about introducing solids and watching for allergy issues. Even though I've briefly posted about this, I haven't shared any pictures of it. It was bad. It looked like a burn, she was trying to scratch it, and a couple of times she stretched and the skin cracked and bled. At her 6 month visit (with our regular doctor) we had a much more productive discussion. I had been changing her clothes several times a day to keep the drool off the rash, tried aquaphor as a barrier, tried putting the eczema lotion on it. Nothing got rid of it. It gets bright red, then peels the next day and looks like scar tissue from a burn. That's the best it ever gets. Then it just starts getting worse and worse again. Her doctor looked her over, commented about how well I had the rest of the eczema under control (thank you!) and decided she needed steroids. We got triamcinolone ointment and I love it. I think it's safe to say she does too. After only 3 days, she looks like this We can't use the steroids continuously, only for short courses, then she needs a break from them and the doctor expects the rash to keep coming back for a while, but at least we have a way to make her more comfortable now.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Theater Masks

We're SOOO close to the end of Ancient Greece. I can't wait. I hope the next time it comes around, Sierra's more interested in mythology because I think that will make it much more fun. Today was another fun activity though. We talked about Greek theater (she was not impressed that women didn't act in the plays) and made masks after learning about how the actors used masks to make their emotions more visible to people seated far away from the stage.

I bought a pack of blank masks at Michael's and just turned the girls loose with markers. I let them each do 2 and there are still masks leftover. I may get some feathers and fake jewels and let them make Mardi Gras type masks later on.

Sierra insisted on wearing her's for much of the day, but we put our foot down when she wanted to wear it out to the store!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Only One Year Late

Disclaimer: I am in no way a quilting expert. I have learned solely from trial and error (emphasis on error) and reading on the internet. I have only made 4 quilt tops and have hand quilted 1 top and machine quilted 4 tops. I am not saying everything I do is the right way to do it, just sharing what I've picked up so far. You'll probably learn best by trial and error too ;-)

I can't believe it. In February of 2010, I started two scrap quilts with the goal of finishing them before the winter. Then I got pregnant and just generally lost all motivation. I decided to hand quilt these as well, which significantly added to the time needed to work on them.

Yesterday, I finished one of the quilts! The spindrift quilt is completely done.

So I'm here to share with you Step Eight: Binding (finally!). Now, in addition to my standard disclaimer up top, I should mention that I'm really not a binding expert. I still use store bought binding because every time I work up the motivation to figure out how to properly make my own, I chicken out. I also do all of the binding on the machine even though the proper thing would be to hand sew the backside with a whip stitch so the stitching doesn't show on the front of the quilt. I'll also apologize for some of these pictures, it's really hard to get good light for pictures in my sewing corner

To start with, I cut out those threads I had used to hold my quilt sandwich together while I was quilting it. Then I laid the whole thing out on my sewing table
And I cut the batting and backing even with the top of the quilt
When you use store bought binding, you'll notice one side is slightly shorter than the other. You want to sew the short side to the top of the quilt (then when you fold it over the edge, the longer side will end up about even due to the bulk of the quilt)
Open up the binding and line the edge up with the edge of the quilt. You want to leave several inches of binding free (we'll get to why at the end), so skip forward a bit and then start sewing along the closest crease
Notice my "tail" at the beginning where the binding is not sewn (I'm using a dual feed foot on the machine...handy, but not required)
Continue along the side of the quilt. When you get to each corner, you want to stop sewing about 1/2" before you get to the end, back stitch a bit and cut the threads.
Fold the binding up towards the edge of the quilt
And then fold it back, leaving a fold at the edge of the quilt
Again, when you start sewing, start about 1/2" from the corner of the quilt. This process will create your mitered corner that you'll see later on
Unless you're working on a very small quilting piece, one package of binding will not be enough, so you'll have to join in another package. You can do this at the beginning, or you can do it as you go along. I prefer to do it as I go along so I don't have a huge piece of binding to work with.

I stop sewing with at least 6 inches of binding free to work with, then lay the new binding at right angles to the original piece with RIGHT SIDES FACING EACH OTHER (this is key....I screw this up almost every time!)

Sew a straight line diagonally to join the two pieces
Cut off the excess fabric
Press the seam open (I just use my fingers, I don't iron it) and you've added on to your binding and can continue sewing it onto your quilt.
I got to the end of my binding and found I had this problem:
I muttered many cuss words under my breath and sent my husband out to get me a root beer float. I didn't take pictures of my fix, but I did have enough binding scraps to fill the gap. Typically, your two pieces will meet. It's better to do another diagonal seam here, but I don't have pictures of that to show you. An easier technique is to do a straight seam. Stop sewing while you still have a tail of binding left, overlap and cut your pieces so there is a 1/4" overlap, then sew them right sides together with a 1/4" seam allowance so you now have a joined piece of binding with no unfinished edges sticking out. Continue sewing the last of your binding to your quilt.

Now, turn the quilt over, fold the binding over and sew it down to the back with a small seam allowance. Those nice corners you took the time to do will end up looking like this on the front:
On the back, miter the best you can. I usually make a small fold from each direction, just make sure you're catching any folds in your sewing if you do that.
Just keep working your way around and you're done!!

Sewing the back of the binding on the machine does mean your stitching will show up on the front and inevitably, some of this stitching ends up slightly on the border instead of all on the binding, which doesn't look the greatest, but still gets the job done
Here's what everything looks like together

I hand quilted the main part of the quilt, then I was worried my border was too wide to go without quilting, so I stitched "in the ditch" between the blue and red borders on the machine. Parts of the quilt are not as smooth as I would like, but I think it came out really well for my first serious attempt at doing a whole quilt start to finish by myself.

I've already gotten the Scrap Happy quilt out to continue quilting it (also hand quilted, and it's king size), but I imagine it will be several more months before I finish that one. Maybe before next winter!!

Quilt Step One: Planning
Quilt Step Two: Cutting Fabric, Preparing Machine
Quilt Step Three: Piecing The Quilt
Quilt: Piecing, Continued
Quilt: More Piecing
Quilt: Scrap Happy Blocks Pieced
Quilt: Spindrift Pieced
Quilt Step Four: Sashing
Quilt Step Five: Border
Quilt: Choosing Batting
Quilt Step Six: The Quilt Sandwich
Quilt Step Seven: Hand Quilting
Quilt Step Eight: Binding


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