Tuesday, January 31, 2012

simple no sew pencil roll

Looking round the blogosphere for an easy way to carry colored pencils for the Little Scientist I found several no sew pencil roll prototypes.  This was the simplest form I came across. It was so common there is no attribution, so share away! It was fun to make.  We think we might try making a few more adding little flares here or there.
Materials: ruler, sharp scissors or a sharp punch, one piece of yarn or ribbon for the tie, a piece of wool felt (the size should allow for 1 inch spacing between pencils, the number of pencils you want will determine your felt size), a fabric pencil or marker for marking your holes.
The rest is pretty easy to see.  Mark you holes 1 inch apart on both sides of the felt.  Carefully cut or punch along your marks.  At one end (show below) add an extra hole for your tie.  Thread the pencils through.  And you’re done!    
 A variation on this was to add 2 holes on each side, when you thread the pencils through instead of one large middle hump you see smaller 'loops' on each side & more pencil inside the roll than outside.  If you choose to take that route make sure to adjust the holes to closer to the edge of you wool felt for balance.

~And carry on~ 
 (oh what a bad pun...)

a cozy little reading spot

Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend.  Inside of a dog it's too dark to read.  ~Attributed to Groucho Marx~

Monday, January 30, 2012

you know you have a self directed learner when...

...this is where you find her, on the floor playing a multiplication game in the middle of the day.

teaching the Great Depression

I need to start by saying I have a child who is a 'history hater' or more correctly believes she is a history hater.  I found the way around the mountain in her mind is through literature & art.

Last month utilizing the ZAP tax free day we wandered through the Utah Museum of Fine Art on the campus of the University of Utah.
One of 8 yr old Boo's favorite exhibits was Leconte Stewart Depression Era Art of Utah.  It opened the door to this very interesting time period of US history for us to explore. 

Since the topic is huge in all sense of the meaning I am going to touch the subject very lightly.  If she chooses we will go further and I will add to this unit but for now it is: Dear America Survival in the Storm, The Dust Bowl Diary of Grace Edwards Dalhart, Texas, 1935, Children of the Great Depression by Russell Freedman, a field trip back to the UMFA, and a discussion with my father about his parents' experiences and accounts.   

Sunday, January 29, 2012


It is one of those moments you just knew was bound to happen.  A whisper you heard a long time ago.  Maybe I caught a glimpse of it in her first smile or found it running down the tiny pink lines of her little hands. 
Boo is a really old soul.  She is passionate, brimming with an over powering sense of internal justice.  She is driven and sharp.  She tends to be a bit on the stoic side with people but so tenderhearted with any animal lucky enough to cross her path.  It was only a matter of when, not if...
“When I grow up I am going to be a vegetarian,” she announced squeezing between me and the waiting open door of the car.
“Boo, hold on,” I said, “Why when you grow-up?  If this some that matters to you, why not now?” 
She moved quickly in the cold winter air clambering into her booster seat.  “I don’t like thinking about the animals.” She said, answering her own question not mine.
“You don’t have to wait.” I told her getting in the car. 
“Really?” she asked.
“Really.  We can give it a try.  See how you feel.  Would you like that?”
“Yeah, I would like that.  And I think the animals would too.”

Yes, I suppose so.  I don't know what prompted her yesterday to make up her mind & speak for her heart.  She has never spoken of being vegetarian before but trust me she knows what she is doing.  It may or may not last a lifetime, either way it was bound to happen, it was written in her stars. 
All I know is she came to us this way.        

pom-poms pocket pals

Number one hint: use lots of glue to get these guys securely fastened.
The trick is to let them dry before adding eyes & ears.  Boo used a sharp paper punch to get nice round circles.  I preferred to hand cut mine.  Either way works.  And if you don't have felt around you can use card stock or thick construction paper.
The felt eyes were a challenge for 8 yr old to apply. 
She found the googly eyes much easier to work with.

For the pocket you can use a the back pocket of a pair of old jeans or a shirt-pocket.  Carefully remove the pocket from your item with the backs intact, so you have a stand alone pocket.  That will cut down on the sewing required.  I'll leave the 'how to go about that the best way' up to you since the condition for salvaged pockets will vary greatly.  We used the bottom of the Christmas Stocking from a second chance for Snowy. Running a stitch around the top to bind & prevent fraying.

And there you go, a pocket full of little pals.
Simple & fun!

papa's parents

Boo's Papa was born and half raised in New England.  When he was about Boo's age his parents moved him and his older brother to Africa.  After a few years living there as teachers an unstable government and a coup forced their return to the States.  But not too many years later they moved again.  This time taking teaching posts in Japan where they adopted one of their students giving Papa a younger sister.
After graduating from high school in Japan Papa moved to Utah to ski & attend college.  His brother joined the Air Force.  It was an international family spread across the globe from the woods of New Hampshire through the deserts of Utah & Arizona to the city streets of Tokyo to whatever country Grandma & Grandpa were calling home. 
When we had Boo Papa's mom flew from Romania to see her.  His brother drove up from his Stateside Base.  A few years later Grandma & Grandpa moved again.  This time to the wilds of Utah to be with all of us.
 Grandma & Grandpa still teach, venturing out for the occasional international teaching posts here or there.  Mostly they are nearby for nights for gingerbread cake with lemon sauce, vanilla ice cream, and a game or two with their grandchildren.
Look out for Grandpa, he's an international game shark.
Life in the slow lane.
It doesn't get any better than this.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

a second chance for Snowy

This is Snowy.  He lives on a Christmas stocking belonging to a child who is known to carry them around like a blanket.  Sometimes a sleeping bag for a sock monkey or packed full of tiny very important things to have, things like pocket mirrors, a hand lens, paper clips, wire cutters, and a handful of metal nuts and bolts.  This is a very flattering pic of the condition of the stocking.  Christmas stockings aren't meant to be blankets, or sleeping bags, or purses for inventors.

This is Green Blob. 
A pile of remnant polar fleece rescued from grandma's sewing scrap becasue it was so soft.
The rescue: Snowy was extracted from his stocking by an 8 yr old with sewing shears.The recovery: A piece of Green Blob added to the back, cotton stuffing inside, and careful stitching all around.
Snowy the pillow.
Good luck Snowy!
May you have a long happy life as a pillow.

Bread Ends Lasagna

Bread Ends Lasagna
Taking cheap to a whole new level!  I was introduced to the idea of beard casseroles a few years back as a quick inexpensive dinner idea.  This is the basic casserole recipe there are a ton of ways to spice it up adding peppers, sausage, spinach, splashes of wine or vinegar, or getting funky with the cheeses.  This recipe works best if you prepare the bread ahead of time and save the lasagna portion for mealtime, otherwise the bread tends to become chew and that's not a good thing.

Preparing the Bread:
6-7 slices of bread (heel pieces welcome) cubed
2 tbsp Olive oil
1 tbsp minced garlic
¼ cup diced onion
¼ cup Parmesan cheese
Mix the bread cubes with the olive oil, garlic, onion, and cheese.  Pour onto a baking sheet and bake at 250 until the bread is dry & crisp but not browned, about 30 minutes.  Stir at least once while baking making sure to keep them as spread out as possible.  Remove from baking sheet and set aside to cool.

Preparing the Lasagna:
1 cup shredded zucchini
1 ½ cups shredded mozzarella cheese      
1 medium egg
1-2 cups tomato sauce

Mix the zucchini, cheese, and egg together and set aside.

Pour enough tomato sauce to cover the bottom of a casserole dish.  Add a layer of bread cubes, top with the zucchini, cheese, & egg mixture and top with tomato sauce then repeat layering once more.  If you would like top with cheese or zucchini rounds.

Cover and bake @350 for 30 minutes.

Friday, January 27, 2012

skating away


You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.  ~Eleanor Roosevelt~

reading now: Ramona Quimby, Age 8

Who doesn’t love Ramona Quimby?!

After finishing a series of what I would call intense stories, some dark & thoughtful (The Inventions of Hugo Cabret by Selznick & The Graveyard Book by N. Gaiman), some just plain silly scary (Goosebumps Night of the Living Dummy II by R.L. Stine), I decided we need something fun, something sunny & sweet.  Into the schoolroom library to peruse the shelves and ah-yes, of course, Ramona, right where we left her entering third grade in Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary.  Perfect!!!

Bonus fantastic fun on-line at BeverlyCleary.com

following the trail

About six months back my mother-in-law voiced concerns over the speed Boo calculated her basic math facts.  A respectable concern coming from a woman who has spent most of her adult life as a Special Educator with the American Schools, teaching hundreds of students around the globe.  I thought about it for a bit.  Was Boo too slow at getting the answers?  Well, yes & no. 
When it comes to math I don't require or even encourage memorization.  I have explained this theory before so I will make it short if I can.  Knowing how & why something is, is a far better thing than simply being told what it is.  Math gets harder and real understanding becomes very important very fast.  Eventually calculating simple math looks the same as reciting simple math but the process for getting there is different.  And in math just like reading you begin to make all the connections so quickly you don't feel the work behind them.  When children study for the National Spelling Bee they learn the root languages/origins so they might use this knowledge to help correctly reconstruct words they have never heard- rogue memory is not a successful option.  It is not a matter of if rogue memorization will fail, it is a matter of when.  Whole learning lays the foundation for future abilities.
I evaluated us. Her money math is fast, her ability to tell time is fast, her accuracy with math facts ranges from 99-100% (staggering), but she is still doing the calculations at her own rate, solving not reciting the answers & sometimes it is very slow. I know my child: being 'right' is what matters to her.  I added a few dice games to encourage speed into our weeks but mostly we continued with whole learning, letting her make sure she was 'right' as we went. 
Yesterday out of the blue we hit on the idea of timed math trials.  To my surprise Boo was fascinated.  We printed off some free worksheets & she set to it.  The first run she was faster than I expected but falling in the 'needs improvement' range for the grade.  The second time she hit the norm for the grade.  The third time she finished in the 'exceeds expectations'.  All three at 100% accuracy.  "That was fun!" she said when she was done.  I couldn't agree more.  And now she likes to be 'right' and fast!
Whatever the path you have chosen to follow, it is good to listen & look around, perhaps adjust from time to time but remember if you are teaching by following you cannot be wrong. Children learn what they need when they need it.
Now, if you will excuse me, I need to look up Medieval forms of torture for my 8 yr old because while reading about the Salem Witch trials she was fascinated by the horrible methods of death the accused where sentenced to.  How did we get on the Salem Witch Trials?  From reading Little House in the Big Woods when they discussed a Puritan Sunday, and we were reading that because...follow the trail.           

Thursday, January 26, 2012

three paper creations for Valentine's Day


good links: edu

Take a closer look at these Internet sites we are currently using & loving:

This site has everything! Tons of subjects & grades, free printable worksheets, and on-line learning games. Please read the Terms of Use agreement to help insure this great resource is not abused or removed.

BBC- KS2 Bitesize: Science
Fun games and great links.  The BBC sites are always full of fun virtual science (other subjects too) activities. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

a trip to the zoo in winter wonder

Wednesdays are a home school swap day for us with our friends over at Joyful Liberation.  Once a week we get our girls together for a little school & a lot of play.  Since it was also the last Wednesday of the month we decided to meet at the Zoo taking advantage of a ZAP Tax (Zoo, Arts, & Parks) free day.

Boo helping a younger girl spot the snake
The snow & time of day kept the crowds away so we wandered around pretty freely with a few others here or there.  Then we came upon this fantastic opportunity to 'hand' feed the 400lbs tortoise.
Boo enjoying the birds in the desert habitat
Boo enjoying her natural habitat
Our girls at play in the play yard

"You can know the name of a bird in all the languages of the world, but when you're finished, you'll know absolutely nothing whatever about the bird... So let's look at the bird and see what its doing -- that's what counts. I learned very early the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something."  
~Richard Geynman, Educator & Physicist (1918-1988)~