Sep 30, 2008

Enjoying Music - Helpful Links

Music is such a huge part of our household. Although neither CJ nor I play an instrument, we love having various types of music playing throughout the house and KM really seems to have a talent for it. She started learning how to play the recorder 3 years ago in PS and then took a class with our local Coop last spring and did very well. She also has had an electronic keyboard for quite sometime and can often be found trying out new combinations of instruments with it. She has recently asked for lessons and has been trying to learn some more songs on it with the aid of sheet music - which she learned how to read rather quickly - and a great ear! We agreed that if she sticks with the learning on her own, with guidance and as much help from me as I can give, we would look into lessons after the holidays.

I know that this area can be tricky to teach in a homeschool environment, especially for newbies who have just taken their children out of PS. So I thought I would share some of my favorite links that we have found fun, entertaining, informative and useful:

If you have any favorites that I have missed - please share! We are always looking for new resources!

Sep 29, 2008

Get the Facts - Pancreatic Cancer

I came across this video this evening in such a random way that I felt that I NEEDED to post it here in honor of Noni. She passed away in 2006, 3 long months after being diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer. This is a wretched, painful, tricky, undetectable disease that is being ignored by the medical research field. People need to be aware of it, so please take a minute to watch the video and pass it on!
Thanks so much!!

First Day of Fall Session

Today was our first day of Fall Session when we start back to schooling full-time - or I should say back to more "book work."

Things went really well this morning! KM was up bright and early and was very happy with the new layout of the play/school room. We are so lucky to have this extra room to be able to spread things out in. Here are some of the new things I added and/or changed:

This is our Foreign Language Center - we will be continuing to work on Spanish, but will be trying to incorporate it into our other curriculum areas as well. So we will be studying the countries where they speak Spanish for part of our Geography.

This is our "Daily Tasks" board which will allow KM to be a bit more independent, I can write down the things that will need to be done the night before so that she can get right down to work in the morning and can also be aware of what else will be going on later in the day.

This is our Election Study Center. The election poster came out of Candidates, Campaigns and Elections 4th Edition and we will be using the map to outline which states are Red states and which are Blue, as well as to track the results after the election.

KM has decided to use the computer area to do her work for now - we will see how long this lasts - so I have rearranged things a bit to make it easier to spread things out.
Here she is very happily filling out her Exchange City Job Application!
We decided, since it is one of KM's favorite homeschooling benefits, that the first day would be a pajama day!

SC was here bright and early, but was very patiently looking through her library books and doing lots of coloring, while KM was working.

Things went very smoothly, we transitioned from "Preschool" times to "Middle School" times without a lot of problem. KM was very focused and did an excellent job completing her work correctly, efficiently, and neatly! All and all we had a very nice, mellow, relaxing, productive first day of school!!

Sep 28, 2008

Didge Therapy

My favorite yoga guru started carrying this new line of sound therapy products called Didgeridoo Sound Therapy and it is unbelievable! It is not like a lot of the other sound therapy things that we have tried in our house which are rather slow, monotoned and boring after a while, this is really upbeat and the kids seem to be reacting to it right off the bat in a positive way. I haven't tried to play it yet with CJ around, but I am thinking he may actually enjoy it as well.
Just thought I would share this awesome new find!

Sep 27, 2008

Banned Books Week 9/27 - 10/4

If you haven't yet heard today is the start of "Banned Books Week"!

This is a fantastic
time to discuss the first amendment with your children.

"BBW celebrates the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinion even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular and stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them. After all, intellectual freedom can exist only where these two essential conditions are met."
quoted from here.

The American Library Association has a lot of information on this annual tradition including the top banned and/or challenged books in 2007. I was very suprised when I read this list:

The “10 Most Challenged Books of 2007” reflect a range of themes, and consist of the following titles:

1) “And Tango Makes Three,” by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell
Reasons: Anti-Ethnic, Sexism, Homosexuality, Anti-Family, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group

2) The Chocolate War,” by Robert Cormier
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Violence

3) “Olive’s Ocean,” by Kevin Henkes
Reasons: Sexually Explicit and Offensive Language

4) “The Golden Compass,” by Philip Pullman
Reasons: Religious Viewpoint

5) “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” by Mark Twain
Reasons: Racism

6) “The Color Purple,” by Alice Walker
Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language,

7) "TTYL,” by Lauren Myracle
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

8) "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” by Maya Angelou
Reasons: Sexually Explicit

9) “It’s Perfectly Normal,” by Robie Harris
Reasons: Sex Education, Sexually Explicit

10) "The Perks of Being A Wallflower,” by Stephen Chbosky
Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

Off the list this year, are two books by author Toni Morrison. "The Bluest Eye" and "Beloved," both challenged for sexual content and offensive language.

The most frequently challenged authors of 2007

1) Robert Cormier
2) Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson
3) Mark Twain
4) Toni Morrison
5) Philip Pullman
6) Kevin Henkes
7) Lois Lowry
8) Chris Crutcher
9) Lauren Myracle
10) Joann Sfar

Ironically before I even saw this list we had planned to read books by 6 out of 10 of these authors and 2 of the books on the most frequently challenged list. I guess this just goes to shows how we tend to lean in the nonconformist realm naturally!!

Does your family have any favorites from this or previously banned/challenged lists? If so please share with us your choices!

All italiced items on this page were clipped from the American Library Association Website at Specifically from this page and this page.

Sep 26, 2008

New Project Update 1

Thanks to DD, I got my new audio video toy! It is a VHS to DVD converter and I LOVE IT!!!
Although I have not gotten around to scan the pics yet, I have taken advantage of this very dreary, rainy afternoon and the fact that CJ took KM to the movies, since he can't paint in the rain, to begin this long process of converting VHS to DVD! The only down fall - which of course would be the same as with any other product like this - is that you have to have the video playing the WHOLE time. I have like 60 hours of tapes to go through! The other problem with this in our house is that we only have one VCR left and it is in the playroom, so I have to be picky about when I can use it. I will figure something out though to get it done! Wish me luck!

Sep 24, 2008

OOPS!!! My Bad!

Sorry for my multiple postings today, but I was informed by KM that I had not posted pics yet of her and CJ's latests here they are:

This way you can get a good idea of the height.

This is the "posing" girls on their platform/clubhouse, once it was finished.
Why do they have to do that?

Their favorite part though is getting down!

KM has been begging CJ for a clubhouse/treehouse since we moved here - almost 6 years ago. I will say though part of the reason that it didn't happen before now is that I was way to nervous to let my clutzy daughter up that high!

Fall Decorations - shhh really that's all they are!!!

Fall is our families favorite season!!! We love the chill in the air, wearing big bulky sweatshirts, the first logs in the fireplace, collecting colorful leaves, and spending time together outside when it is not sweltering out!

So while we have been on "school break", we have been working hard to decorate the house with lots of leaves, pumpkins, and scarecrows. We have been reading lots of stories about the fall and how things change from one season to the next. We have been discussing harvests and how the Native Americans used to store their food for the long winters. We have been watching lots of animals gathering. We discussed why it was called a Harvest Moon and what it makes it different from other moons throughout the year.

SHHHH...don't tell her how much it seems as though she is still learning!!!

I know I have said before that I am starting to understand the whole concept of unschooling, but I really am getting it more and more. Whenever we discuss something that I don't think there is anyway she would remember it, she does. She is constantly exploring and finding new things, then going and finding out what those new things are - totally on her own. I am here if she gets stuck, but that has been less and less lately. I am still too much of a control freak to just let everything go and KM NEEDS structure more than words can express, but I am seriously considering doing the unschooling thing for science and social studies.

We start our new school term next Monday and I have everything planned out, but I am thinking if it just doesn't work for whatever reason - as we had sooo many problems last year. We are just going to wing it!

Wii Love It!!!

So I would have to say that her favorite birthday present this year would have to be...

Wii Fit Balance Board!

We have been spending lots of time on it this week!!!
It really is a lot of fun and a pretty good work out!
She said she likes it the best because:
"It will help us all be a little more healthier!"

Sep 23, 2008

Creative Idea

Last spring KM ordered a lemonade stand from Sunkist, which they send you for free if you are going to have a lemonade stand that will be used to raise money for a worthy cause. KM decided that she wanted to raise money to donate to an environmental cause, so her and some of her friends had this lemonade stand. Though they really didn't raise that much money, they did have a FANTASTIC TIME while they were trying!

Anyway, we were cleaning things out, getting ready for the new "school year" to begin next week when KM had a wonderful idea - why don't we make the lemonade stand into a puppet theater?

So we did!

We covered it with some cloth and decorated a sign -
of course it had to be called GCK Theater!! -

We had a fun time designing it and I am sure the kids are going to have an even better time being creative with it! You are never too old for a puppet show!

Slacker Uprising

This is a historic day, as it is the first time that a full feature length documentary has been released for free to the public as an internet download!

"This is being done entirely as a gift to my fans. The only return any of us are hoping for is the largest turnout of young voters ever at the polls in November." - Michael Moore

This is such an important year to vote, with so many people in such bad positions ~ morally, physically, financially and spiritually (whatever that means to them) ~ that there needs to be a change somewhere! So although politics is not an area that I like to discuss on an ongoing basis it will be a pretty big part of our studies for the fall. After putting in all the information on our election studies I thought I would add this link for anyone who was interested and hadn't heard about it yet!

Election Curriculum

I have been asked by LOTS of people lately what we are using to cover the election and here is the answer:
Connect to Campaign 2008

Scholastic is one of my favorite sites! Though there customer service is leaves a lot to be desired, they are a great resource and their prices generally can't be beat!

Along with the info on this site we are using Candidates, Campaigns and Elections 4th Edition which is a very comprehensive unit and of course as always we will be using lots of living books.

We will also be using some living books including:
DK Eyewitness VOTE
People Pick a President (The Election Book)
and for fun
Ghost, the White House, and Me

I personally am reading Mike's Election Guide and may use excerpts from it with KM, but I will have to wait and see how much she really wants to take in!

Hope this has been helpful!!!
Feel free to add a post in a comment if you find other great election sites for kids!!

Sep 22, 2008

Quietly Hiding

So I am quietly hiding out today - in my room with the curtains drawn - KM and I are watching movies and playing on the Wii - I am really dealing a lot better than I thought I would be - but I really don't want to listen to all the people who I have made fun of over the years - as I know they have been waiting for this day!!!

Can you guess what today is?

I have finally hit that milestone that everyone thought I would have a nervous breakdown prior to getting to - I have made it though! I am so grateful for all that I have been blessed with. I have a wonderful, supportive, eclectic family - and so many great friends that might as well be family. We have all that we need in our home and are becoming more and more truly happy as we find out who we are!

Have you figured it out yet?

I will say that I have very few regrets, for all the mistakes I have made have brought me to where I am - and to quote one of my newly favorite artists Amy Steinberg "I am exactly where I need to be, I need to be exactly where I am, I am not aimlessly existing"! Being in a much better place than a lot of people I know my age, I am forever thankful to those who have helped me get here! The biggest regret is that I am unable to have Noni here for this day! I know she is with me, in my heart and in my life whenever I need her though! I just have to remember all the wonderful birthdays that have gone by that I got to spend with her.

Oh that was a hint? hmmm...

Do you give up yet or did you guess it?

Today I turn 30!!!
I know it really is the new 15 - but it is still a bit scary!

Sep 21, 2008

New Project Idea

So as I was making the slide show for KM's birthday I realized that I have none of her baby pictures on the computer! The ones that I used were all with Noni because I had scanned those when we were making the collage for her services.
I figured this will be my new project - in my vast amount of free time! - to scan all the older pictures into the computer organize them and put them onto discs. I also asked DD for a VHS to DVD converter for my Bday - so once I get that all done I have about 10-12 8 hour tapes to convert as well.
"Why would you want to do that?" you may ask. Well when KM was younger we moved a lot and there was a whole box of pictures from when I was younger that got ruined. I feel almost like those years of my life had been ripped from me so I want to make sure that everything is well preserved for our family.
It will be interesting to see how much of this I actually get done! I will keep you updated!

Sep 20, 2008

Helping Auntie!

We got out the big girl step stool today and SC was very helpful while we were baking for our Birthday cook out tomorrow! She loves to be right up in the midst of everything! I will say though that big stand mixer made her EXTREMELY nervous!

Sep 19, 2008

HAPPY BIRTHDAY - My 11 year old!!

Happy Birthday KM!!!

Don't know where the time has gone?
But we have treasured every moment of it!
We love you more than you can imagine!
Happy Birthday Baby Girl!

Sep 16, 2008

SC's first trip to MOS!

We made our first trip with SC to the Museum of Science today and had a fantastic time!

They tried to see who was faster.

SC was very excited about the buttons!

She really like the archaeological dig!

KM liked the human body exhibit and SC liked more button pushing!

We then enjoyed a peanut butter and jelly lunch while we watched the musical stairs!

Considering she is only 15 mo. she did an exceptional job during our 2 hour trip!

Sep 13, 2008

Final Summer Project - Bee Lapbook

As her final project for our summer session KM decided to complete a lapbook on Bees!

Sep 10, 2008

It won't be forever...

We are slowing down for a 2 week break before we get back to full-time schooling on the 29th!

I have been (and will continue) to be very busy trying to get all our lesson plans coordinated, planning out field trips, as well as helping with final prep for our local coop group!

So though I may post some pics here and there -I may be rather quiet for the next few weeks!

Hope you will all still be popping by in the mean time!

Sep 7, 2008

What a difference a year can make!

I was at a homeschool workshop yesterday discussing lots of different topics and someone mentioned how at ease I seemed with homeschooling and how it really seems as though I have been doing it forever.

The irony in that statement for me is that exactly one year ago, I was sitting in a large conference room with a group of parents at a PTO hosted "Boo-hoo Brunch". This is an annual meet and greet for parents of the Kindergarten class to meet each other and learn about how they could help out by supporting the faculty and PTO. I was telling people how wonderful the teachers were and how many great activities the PTO sponsors and while these facts are all still true, it is just amazing to think that I am now advocating an entirely different lifestyle all together.

Although I may appear all calm and collected most of the time, I am also very good at disguising my trepidation for the upcoming year. Although I know that I have made the absolute right choice, a very wise friend of mine said "if you weren't nervous, I would be nervous for you." What she meant was all parents are nervous about something for their children. If KM was in school I would be worried about so much more and have so much less control over the outcome of those worries. At least with homeschooling we have control over what, how and when she is learning. If she wants us to spend three months on microscopic antibodies, guess what we will!

Our family has become an entirely different entity than it was a year ago. Our lifestyle is different, our schedule & routines are different, a lot of our friends are different, but by and large our priorities are different. Some people fear change and we used to be like that, but it seems as though these huge changes that have gone on over the past few year are exactly what we needed to make us a stronger more unified family. So for any newbie homeschoolers who may be reading this, please know that it will get calmer. You will become more confident in yourself, your kids and your choices! I have no doubt that you will see a miraculous difference in your children, as we have with ours. We enjoy being with each other, learning, laughing and living everyday just the way WE want to.

Sep 5, 2008

We are back from our WONDERFUL trip!!!

We arrived home last night and thank the heavens had a wonderful flight both ways and very little bad weather while we were there! We had some great adventures and learned some pretty cool stuff along the way!

Saturday we went to Pine Island and had a wonderful afternoon on the beach. As you can see it was a bit cloudy, but the most amazing thing happened. Gustaf was passing over the Gulf at this point and as we were sitting on the beach we looked out and saw these things that kept popping out of the water - then we realized they were dolphin fins! A pod of dolphins was swimming less than 50 ft off the shore! It was the most amazing thing! Of course we couldn't get close to them, but still - KM technically got to swim with dolphins!!! How cool is that!
You can't see them in the picture above, but they were swimming just past the landing near the signs.

KM has ALWAYS loved to make sandcastles and dig at the beach, but she decided to turn herself into a mermaid instead!

Sunday we went to the MOSI - in Tampa!

KM, my dad and his wife played a very large game of operation!

We played a few rounds of a great game show!

KM got to experience what it feels like to be in the center of a twister!
The wind speeds went up to 85mph!

We ended our day in their HUGE hands-on activity section called Kids-In-Charge!
This was the greatest kids section of a musuem I have EVER seen. It covered everything from magnets to air pressure, optical illusions to logic puzzles and everything in between!

Monday we hung around the pool area and didn't do much of anything - you just need those days sometimes!
Tuesday we were off to the Lowry Zoo for some close encounters with some amazing animals!

and lots of babies!

The meerkats were so cute!!! It seemed like their was always one watching you!

The lemurs have always been my favorites - I think because we watched soooo much Zoboomafoo when KM was little!
We fell in love with Manatees on our last visit and still think they are amazing creatures! We had the whole Sting Ray pool to ourselves! KM wouldn't touch one, but grampa did!

There were sooo many baby animals. It seemed like every turn we made there was another sign saying "New Arrivals"

All and all it was a great day at the zoo!!!

On Wed we went to do one of Grampa's favorite things - Bowling!
We are used to candelpin, but they don't even know what that is in the south,
so it was off to the big balls - Ten Pin Bowling!

Then we played in the small arcade for a bit!
Thursday was our last day in the tropics! (It was HUMID) so KM wanted to try some Shuffleboard! She did really well.
On the flight home Thursday evening I asked KM what her favorite part of the trip was -

Here response was playing the funny piano at the MOSI - turn on your sound:

Instead of playing different instruments, this keyboard played different bodily functions!

All and all it was a very good, relaxing, enjoyable trip! Just what we needed!