Thursday, June 30, 2011

It's Here! It's Here!

The Level 1 Middle Ages Lesson Plans are done and uploaded!! Trying to get this thing in a publishable format just about killed me. I know there are easier ways to do it, but I wanted to keep it free for me so it could be free for you.

I finally chose to upload a word document to google docs. I believe you can click the link and view everything right there in your browser, plus download it (and then print it) if you want. If something doesn't work, please let me know! This is my first time doing this, so I'm learning as I go!

Another quick run down for those who are coming here for the first time:

This is a full year of lesson plans (2 days a week for one school year) covering the Middle Ages (roughly AD400-1600). They utilize several different books, some of which you should be able to find at the library (I had to order through inter-library loan, but even our tiny library got some of them for me). Primarily, I used Usborne Medieval World* as the back bone to the year with several other books used to dive deeper into certain topics.

The plan gives pages to read and/or activities for each day. There is a mix of seat work and hands on "fun stuff". Some things are rather serious and will be hard work for a younger child, while some things won't seem like school time at all. There are still a few spots where I left a blank space. That's because I know I want to do more, but we will most likely visit the library for more books that week.

Sierra will be in 2nd grade and has a very advanced reading ability, but needs some work on comprehension, so a fair amount of the time I will read pages to her (discussing as we go and finding locations on a globe), then there will be other activities for her to do on her own. For some topics, especially later in the year, there is some independent reading for her to do to help her work towards reading for information on her own. At the end of the day, this does add up to a fair amount of parent involvement. Her math program is also very parent involved, but the rest of her work doesn't require direct input from me all the time, so I'm hoping we can work this out even with two little sisters around.

I've created my own set of 11 maps to go along with different topics. These correlate directly to the maps in the Usborne book (I redrew the maps in a larger format with more clear labeling). I think I've made the maps easy enough for an elementary student to do, but involved enough to reinforce the information learned. There were a few more maps I wanted to add (mostly in the Native American section) and may still do that later on.

So why am I giving all this away for free?? Well, this is my very first attempt at creating a plan like this. I'm very confident it's going to work for my child, but I'm not yet experienced enough to give a good description of how it will work for other children of differing ages/grades. I think it's rather good and I'm excited to share it, but I'm not ready yet (and not sure I'll ever be) to offer something like this for sale. I do make a small commission if someone buys products (anything, it doesn't have to be what I specifically link to) through one of my Amazon links, so if you're happy with what you see, you can support me in that way without ever having to directly pay me a dime. I also make a small bit of money from advertising based on the number of people who view my blog each day so I ask that you give people the link to this post if you share this resource, rather than the direct link to the document. Hopefully this goes well, people like what they see, I learn more about how to do this effectively, and I can offer more plans in the future!

And finally, here is your link! Level 1 Middle Ages Lesson Plans

*Affiliate link, as are all the Amazon links in the lesson plan

Monday, June 27, 2011

Coming Soon!

I am done creating our lesson plans for the Middle Ages. In the middle of this we got a new (to us--it's refurbished) computer and my old computer became the school computer. Somehow transferring all the files from our external hard drive to my new computer created a lot of duplicate files, so I need to make doubly sure I have the most up to date copies of everything and then I need to convert it to PDF and make it easily available for you to download.......for free! I'm excited to be sharing something that may help other people.

How about we go ahead and do a quick run down of what to expect while I work on that though?

This is a full year of lesson plans (2 days a week for one school year) covering the Middle Ages (roughly AD400-1600). They utilize several different books, some of which you should be able to find at the library (I had to order through inter-library loan, but even our tiny library got some of them for me). Primarily, I used Usborne Medieval World* as the back bone to the year with several other books used to dive deeper into certain topics.

The plan gives pages to read and/or activities for each day. There is a mix of seat work and hands on "fun stuff". Some things are rather serious and will be hard work for a younger child, while some things won't seem like school time at all.

Sierra will be in 2nd grade and has a very advance reading ability, but needs some work on comprehension, so a fair amount of the time I will read pages to her, then there will be other activities for her to do on her own. For some topics, especially later in the year, there is some independent reading for her to do to help her work towards reading for information on her own. At the end of the day, this does add up to a fair amount of parent involvement. Her math program is also very parent involved, but the rest of her work doesn't require direct input from me all the time, so I'm hoping we can work this out even with two little sisters around.

I've created my own set of 11 maps to go along with different topics. These correlate directly to the maps in the Usborne book (I redrew the maps in a larger format with more clear labeling). I think I've made the maps easy enough for an elementary student to do, but involved enough to reinforce the information learned.

So why am I giving all this away for free?? Well, this is my very first attempt at creating a plan like this. I'm very confident it's going to work for my child, but I'm not yet experienced enough to give a good description of how it will work for other children of differing ages/grades. I think it's rather good and I'm excited to share it, but I'm not ready yet (and not sure I'll ever be) to offer something like this for sale. I do make a small bit of money from advertising based on the number of people who view my blog each day and I make a small commission if someone buys products (anything, it doesn't have to be what I specifically link to) through one of my Amazon links, so if you're happy with what you see, you can support me in those ways without ever having to directly pay me a dime. Hopefully this goes well, people like what they see, I learn more about how to do this effectively, and I can offer more plans in the future!

My goal is to get it up and downloadable by the end of the week. I'm trying to work that out where you can get it all as one file instead of having to download several different things and keep them straight.

*Affiliate Link

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Have You Heard The News?

I know, I know. I've been slacking..........again.

Mostly that's because we just haven't done anything very interesting. School is mostly out of session around here, and we can't take any road trips at the moment because things are a little up in the air right now. We hope to maybe make it up to Canada for a weekend, but that's iffy and I need to get my passport back first anyway.

In the meantime, we've been packing some boxes.

There are quite a few a ton of details that need to be worked out, but what it all boils down to is we will be moving back to Texas in the not so distant future. I can't share much more than that because I don't know much more than that. There are too many variables on the table at the moment for us to even make definite plans.

I have been thinking about things I will miss and things I won't about rural Western Montana. I won't lie, there's not a whole lot I will miss. Buying local cherries for under $2/pound is nice. The flowers are awfully pretty (and overwhelmingly purple...why is that?). We've visited the local ER twice and had no wait either time.

The things I WON'T miss are worthy of a "Tuesday Ten" list. Only it's Sunday, so let's call it a Sunday Seven. Just go with it.

1. Winter. Duh, you say. Of course I knew Montana was cold, but this year we were greeted with an even colder than normal winter (and spring, and summer). You just can't prepare for the snot freezing in your nose. Then there's only 9 hours of daylight. And dressing 3 children in snow gear to go buy groceries? Not something I'll miss.

2. Feral Children. I don't know why, but I swear the children here are feral. It's not uncommon at all to see kids Sierra's age walking down the street alone, no adults in sight. Or sitting in cars alone in the parking lot. Or the 3-ish year old who fell off a bench face first into the concrete. Complete stranger held the poor girl until dad showed up a few minutes later clueless about what had happened. Tiny toddlers (under 2) walk alone in the parking lot without holding anyone's hand and everyone acts surprised when they run out into traffic. And of all places NOT to let your child play around the traffic, this is one of them. Which leads me to....

3. The Driving. Oh my gosh, the driving. I learned how to drive in Houston. It's not like I haven't dealt with my fair share of questionable driving skills. I'm completely at ease driving in major cities. These people are completely nuts though. They all think they have the right-of-way. All the time. A friend pointed me to a hyperbole and a half post that covered this exact topic. Only to find out later she actually lived in THIS town when she wrote that post (so I know I'm not the only one who feels this way!).

4. Restaurants. Or lack thereof. Most places only serve lunch. The few that serve dinner close around 8pm. You get a craving for a burrito at 8:30? Sorry, you're stuck with Taco Bell. And while a few places really buck the trend (notably, the Texican--but they're from Texas--and The Sundance Cafe), on average the poor service is rivaled only by the service in central Louisiana.

5. And just the food in general. This is cultural, I know, but the food just ain't my food. Of course there is no Blue Bell up here. Tillamook ice cream is decent, but it's no Blue Bell. The stuff they refer to as "hot sauce" is more like ketchup with a little chili powder mixed in. RoTel is kept in the international section of the grocery store.

6. The book stores, the library, do these people ever read?!? I want to support the little guy book store, I really do. It looks so awesome and homey from the outside. Until you walk in and notice the distinct LACK OF BOOKS. What they have could maybe fill one aisle at a Barnes and Noble. If you put in a lot of forward facing displays. There's more in the "used" section in the back, but those are stacked with zero organization (not even fiction/non-fiction) and while I could have appreciated that at one point in my life, I have three kids and no baby-sitter, so I've stuck with amazon instead. The library is no better. It's only about 1000 square feet to begin with and I'd say over 3/4 of that is fiction. Half of the non-fiction section is taken up by Montana books. We wouldn't want to accidentally end up educated or something. (for the record? Best book store ever is Sam Wellers in Salt Lake City.)

7. The winter. Did I mention the winter? People born and raised in Texas do not belong in Montana. But I guess that's what I get for declaring Utah was cold enough for me and that I'd never move north of the 41st parallel.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Sisters

I didn't have a sister growing up and always wished I'd had one. When I found out Sierra was going to have a sister, I was very excited for her (and maybe a teeny bit jealous for me...I still wonder what it would've been like!). Adding in a third girl was just icing on the cake, a whole group of sisters! And we've had a blissful absence of sibling rivalry too.

Since the sun rises so early here, Secora has been waking up early and she's often ready for a nap by 8am. The big girls anxiously wait for her to wake up from that nap and when she does, they come rushing in for their turn to snuggle with her (with close supervision...Sedona loves her a little TOO much sometimes!)
And Secora thinks they're just the neatest things ever too. I love this picture, because she's reaching out a hand to each of her sisters. Being the oldest does have its draw backs though. Sierra has had to learn to adapt. For instance, when your little sisters are driving you crazy in the car, you can take off your tights and tie them around your head to block everyone out :-/

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

SpectrUM Discovery Area

Last weekend, we crossed off #22 on my 101 in 1001 list by visiting the SpectrUM Discovery Area on the University of Montana campus. If you happen to be on a road trip and passing through Missoula, MT when SpectrUM is open, it would be a fun break for the kids. They are only open Thursday evenings and Saturday afternoons, but it's a reasonably priced ($3.50 for ages 4 and up) activity for the kids.

SpectrUM is set up in an un-used lab on campus, so it's small (we brought the stroller for Secora, and ended up leaving it in the hallway), and everything is very hands on for the kids. What appear to be students (the director is part of the honors program, so I'm guessing these are older honors undergrads) staff the area and explain the science behind the activities to the kids. The "exhibits" change out a bit, but you can check on the website and see what's going on.

First things first, it's in the Skaggs building on campus, which is pretty easy to find, but once we got there, we had a little trouble finding SpectrUM. There aren't very obvious signs. So here's a picture of the building from the parking lot You need to follow that pink arrow I drew in and wrap around the back of the building. There's a loading dock back there and the first door you come to (on the left) takes you to the SpectrUM area. It appears you're supposed to get a visitor's parking pass, but we just took our chances and didn't do that.

Here's Sierra learning a bit about the conservation of angular momentum (hold a spinning wheel while standing on a movable disc, when you tilt the wheel, the disc you're standing on turns)
Fun at the giant turn table. Here they got to learn first hand that since the table is all connected (all moving at the same speed), an object closer to the center of rotation will move slower than an objects farther from the center of rotation
I highly doubt Sedona got it, but she had a great time turning weights loose on the table anyway!

One of their recent activities has involved bubbles, and what kid doesn't have fun with bubbles? They could use pipe cleaners to make different shaped wands and see what happened (Sedona didn't make either of those, they were left by other kids)
Sierra had the most fun with the flight simulator (and later, learning what makes a longer flying paper airplane)

Sedona was allowed to help one of the staff get all the pennies out of the gravity well (those things were the coins spiral round and round and round) and then proceeded to sit there and feed all the pennies back into it.

Then she got a turn on the flight simulator. She really put the physics of that fake plane to the test. Barrel rolls didn't go so well. Once she learned to be gentle she actually did pretty well. One of the staff members asked her if she might want to be a pilot when she grows up and she said, "I suppose I will go to outer space". Sorry kid, you might have to get into lobbying and fund raising first if you want to get involved in manned space flight.
They also had an animation station set up, and some fun aerodynamic experiments, like little paper cups and scissors provided so you can try to create the cup that would fly the best over a large fan. It appears they are fund raising to open a larger space in Southgate mall, but that hasn't happened just yet.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Coffee Cake

Look what we made for father's day! (well, the pictures are from another day, but we made it yesterday too!)

Cinnamon Coffee Cake:
2c flour
1 1/8 c sugar
10tbsp butter, softened
1tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3tbsp buttermilk powder
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 c water
1/2 c brown sugar
1tbsp cinnamon

Mix flour and sugar in bowl of stand mixer
Add butter

Using a whisk or the whisk attachment of stand mixer, cut butter into flour/sugar mixture


Remove one cup and set aside
To remaining mixture, add baking powder, baking soda and buttermilk powder

Add egg, vanilla and water. Mix on medium-high speed until it looks like frosting

To the one cup of flour/sugar/butter you set aside, mix in brown sugar and cinnamon

Spread batter in greased spring form pan (I spray with non-stick cooking spray)

Sprinkle the brown sugar/cinnamon mixture on top and gently press down into batter with your hand

Bake at 350 degrees for about 50-55 minutes.

Remove sides of the pan and once cool, remove from bottom of pan. If you keep it in a cake server, it's good for a couple of days, but it's definitely tastier the more fresh it is.

Original recipe from The Best Recipe cookbook, slightly modified to fit my ingredients/taste

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Resource Round Up

I know I've been a bit absent lately. I was working on lesson plans for the Little House books and next year's history. Okay, I may have been playing a little bit of Farm Town too.

But I'm very excited about the history and I'm going to be sharing it with you for free when I'm all done! We are on our first go around of the Middle Ages, so it is geared towards an early elementary age-range. This is my first try at laying out an entire, serious curriculum for a full year (last year was a lot of trying different things and finding our way), so I'm sure there are going to be flaws in it that I will change as we go along, but I'm also sure it will be quite helpful to other families out there. Just as a sneak peak, here is one of the maps I've put together to go along with it (later on I will provide these as a PDF without the watermark across them)

In the meantime, a link round-up of things I've found useful lately!

A Joyful Chaos is a blog I've really been enjoying that is written by a former Amish woman about her experiences growing up. Every once in a while she also posts updates from her current life and recently, she posted a great recipe for Oatmeal Cake. The cake is like a cake version of oatmeal cookies, only you can't really tell there's even oatmeal in it once it's cooked. The frosting is very similar to the coconut frosting on german chocolate cakes. We all loved it, though Josh calls it a "work all day cake", meaning if you work out in the fields all day you can afford to eat as much as you want but the rest of us need to watch our serving size! The only thing I'd change about the recipe is to half it and make it in an 8x8 pan.

I have fallen in LOVE with this website to make your own handwriting worksheets. You can do print or cursive, change the spacing of the lines, and do one line or word repeated multiple times or leave spaces for the kids to write on their own after tracing the words, or do a whole paragraph. I have done print worksheets in the largest size with easy consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC) words for Sedona and print worksheets in the smallest size with paragraphs that tie into the rest of her lessons for Sierra.

Sierra has decided she wants to learn to play the recorder. It has been many years since I played one, so this website of recorder fingerings was a huge help in refreshing my memory so I could teach her to play each note. She mostly remembered what she had already learned about reading music and picked up several songs very quickly after I showed her the website.

I keep saying we need a time line for our history lessons and I keep putting off buying one. I found out about this free online time line resource, and I think we'll give it a try and put off a more involved paper time line until our second pass through history.

Then there's this online typing instruction I plan to try out with Sierra next year. I haven't played around with it too much yet, but on first glance, it looks quite useful.

Last but most definitely not least, I have become addicted to Pinterest. When I first looked at it, it seemed sort of dumb, but once I signed up and got started, I couldn't stop going through pin boards! You set up an account and you can add a "pin it" button on your browser's toolbar. When you're browsing the web and see an interesting idea, you click the pin it button and pick which of your pin boards you want to put it on (for instance, I have boards for crafts, food, home decorating, homeschooling, etc...). Later, when you go to pinterest, you can look at all of your boards and since what you are saving is a picture, it's pretty easy to see all the ideas at once. Even better, you can look through the things other people have pinned as well and comment on them or re-pin them to your own board. You could find enough neat ideas in one night to keep you busy for months!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A Little Friend

I posted this picture over on the facebook page a few days ago, but I really like it, so I'm posting it here too. You have no idea how nice it was to see a bug out and about!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Cheater Sopapillas

One night last week, we had homemade Tex-Mex for dinner and I decided we needed dessert to go along with it.

I went with quick and easy "cheater" sopapillas:

Mix up some sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. I don't ever measure a certain amount, I just use what looks good
Mix them together
Then cut some flour tortillas into quarters
Pour enough vegetable oil in a pan until it's about 1/2" deep and heat over medium-high heat
Once it's hot, put in one piece of tortilla (it should sizzle and bubble as soon as you put it in)
When it starts to brown on the edges, turn it over to fry the other side
Take the tortilla out of the oil and put it on a paper towel to drain
While it's still warm, dip the tortilla in the cinnamon sugar and be sure to cover the whole thing
I usually stack them up on a plate in a slightly warm oven or in the microwave so they don't cool off while I'm frying the others. Drizzle honey on top and serve warm!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

7 Months!

Secora is 7 months old today! And it's official these photo shoots just don't work so well anymore. She did have great fun tearing down the sign though. And then shredding it into tiny pieces. One bonus to having a baby with no interest in eating is that she doesn't put things in her mouth. She is 16#8oz, which means she has surpassed her sisters and is the heaviest 7 month old we've had. She averaged a little over 2.5oz gain per week, which is right on target. She has zero interest in solid foods. After the sweet potatoes, we gave her a break and tried pears. She still wasn't havin' it (and her guts didn't take too kindly to the small amount she did get). We gave her more of a break and tried peas. Still wasn't havin' it. We'll keep trying, but 7 months old is just fine to still be exclusively nursing, so we're not in a rush. She sits pretty well now. If you sit her up, she can stay on her own for several minutes and has started putting her hand out to the side to catch herself if she leans. She rolls everywhere and can manage a little forward motion on her tummy, but doesn't get up on her hands and knees yet. If you stand her up, she can hold her own pretty well just by holding your hands. Sierra only crawled a couple of weeks and then took off walking, so I wonder if Secora will do the same. She babbles "dadadadadada" and she does a steady "mmmmmmmmmmmmm" sound when she wants me. She has suddenly become VERY interested in the world around her. She's always watching her sisters, reaching for things and just generally trying to participate in things. For instance, this particular photo shoot ended because she decided she really needed to get closer and see why I kept holding this weird black box up to my face

Thursday, June 9, 2011

It Was Nice While It Lasted

It's 50 degrees and rainy here in Western Montana today. And the forecast doesn't predict any temps higher than 70 anytime in near future. So while we're stuck inside, I figured it was a good time to look back at last weekend, when we had a warm snap and got out to get as much sun as we could! On Saturday, we picked up a pizza and went to the park for a picnic (which helped me along on one my 101 in 1001 goals!). I had also gotten some watermelon at the grocery store, which everyone really enjoyed sharing!

After lunch, it was time to play! We were having so much fun I completely forgot to change the whit balance setting on my camera, so you'll have to excuse the blue tinge!

Sedona's favorite playground activity is sliding, she'll go down all the slides over and over again
She's also starting to like the things she can practice balancing on though

Sierra's favorite has always been the swings. She's the only one who loved the baby swing when she was little and as long as she's been visiting playgrounds, she's been spending plenty of time on the swings!
Pa-paw's not gonna like this picture, but she always ends up swinging this high and she's never taken chances with letting go, so about a year or two ago I gave up on yelling out "go lower!" every 2 minutes.
She's getting good at the climbing wall too
I loved watching this little interaction. I had my zoom lens with me, so I was pretty far away and Sedona decided to give this little swaying balance beam a try. She made it all the way across once, and then she turned around to go back....
Another girl a little bit older than her came up and started talking a mile a minute saying, "I can do that, there's a trick to it. Let me show you trick...." on and on and on. Finally, Sedona turns back and says, "I'M GOOD AT THIS! I can do it!!" I was kinda waiting for her to just bust out with "DUDE! Back off!"
Sierra got in some monkey bar practice too. She's been making it all the way across the monkey bars for at least a year now. She's a strong little kid!



The next day, we got out for that walk where I took pictures of all the flowers. Sierra and Sedona did so much dancing and running that they probably ended up covering 5 times as much distance as we did. They sure enjoyed wearing short sleeves and being warm outside though!


We just kept going and going until we ended up down at main street. Sedona found herself a fireman to flirt with
And of course Sierra couldn't be out done
We stayed out so long, it ended up being lunch time, so we stopped at our favorite little cafe (River Rising) for lunch. Even though she was in the stroller the whole time, that big long walk just totally tuckered out Secora!While we waited for our food, I took the time to take some pictures of her. Don't you love chubby baby hands? It's the only time in life when it's completely socially acceptable to have dimples instead of knuckles!
Hope we get more warm days soon. Maybe next week!

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