Dec 30, 2008

The Year in Review

As I went along my merry route through my blog list today, I noticed that quite a few people were reminiscing of happenings from the past year - of course this led me to think of all the things that have transpired during 2008.

I would say that here at GCK Homeschool the word for the year would have to be:
revelations - an enlightening or astonishing disclosure

The first revelation would have to have been how wonderful homeschooling can be! We began our jaunt into Homeschooling in January and we will never turn back! She really has blossomed over the last year. Of course we have had some challenges, but that has generally been more about getting our rhythms and schedules in order, than any kind of reluctance or lack of interest in learning - in fact her love of learning has been reignited! She gets truly excited about what we are investigating and experimenting with. Anything hands-on is better than sitting in a classroom reading about what you could be doing - right! The favorite experiment would have to be the growing crystals:

The second revelation would have to come from the fantastic local resources that we had been missing out on while KM was in PS. We have had some wonderful field trips with our local homeschool groups and on our own, for that matter. I have been trying to think of what my favorite would be if I had to choose one and I would have to say that there were 2 favorites. The first one would be our trip to Concord's Orchard House - to see the home where Louisa May Alcott grew up - and Walden Pond - where Henry David Thoreau went to the woods -

Running a close second would be our day going to the Big Top Circus and the GIANT Build-a-Bear Store in Faneuil Hall!
The third revelation is one of our familial codependency. Our family has become extremely close during the last year and though we have had some sadder moments, the trials and tribulations have brought us to realize how important we truly are to each other. We lost some wonderful family members during the year and had some close calls with some others. I tried to stay on the lighter side of things here, but I felt I should mention it so that no one thinks it is all just sunshine and textbooks around here. Real life events and experiences can be so much more intriguing than anything you could read about in a book. We have had a lot of anatomy lessons come about from some simple explanations of illnesses!

I have never really been big on New Year Resolutions, as I have seen so many get forgotten within days - sometimes hours - of the ball dropping. However this year I am resolving to put our family's true beliefs into practice, to create our own traditions, and to be a united front against anything that stand in our way! We have become a better family and we WILL continue to keep moving in this direction!
My Favorite New Years Quote :

This bright new year is given me

To live each day with zest

To daily grow and try to be

My highest and my best!

By: William Arthur Ward

Best Wishes for a Bright and Happy New Year!

Dec 28, 2008

A Fantastic Holiday Week in Review

With such a multifaceted family structure our Solstice/Christmas Holiday lasts at least a week. With the visits slowing down I thought I would share some of our favorite pics from the week!

Matching aprons to help with the baking!
Playing with Grampa!

Some favorite presents:SC's was a box and...

& a new step stool!

KM's was her Nintendo DS - she was VERY surprised!

Mine was my new mixer!!! - Life will be sooo much easier!
Hope you all had a wonderful Holiday!!!

Dec 27, 2008

Dec 26, 2008

I registered....

This looks as though it will be a very motivational group of mommies! After a few too many Holiday treats, a lack of gusto, and a very sporadic yoga practice lately, I can feel my flexibility fading, but I am turning over that new leaf ~ I am also teaching a kids yoga class at the Coop this next session, so I kinda have to get myself back on track. ~ I also need to do it for me and my sanity, to keep me centered and on track! I will keep you posted and if you decided to register my username on the forum is GCKHomeschool!

Maybe I'll see you there!

Dec 24, 2008

Santa Tracker -----

Time to track the big guy!
This is a great geography lesson!
You could also use it for a lesson on time zones!

Dec 22, 2008

A Wonderful Solistice...

was had by all around here! It was a very relaxing and enjoyable day.
KM and I got a lot of baking done, finished up some Christmas presents for relatives, and finished up the laundry and cleaning that we had started during Saturdays never ending snow storm.
CJ was still out plowing a good part of the day, but when he finally got home, it was just in time to have a cozy dinner, just the three of us.
We had lit all the candles and sconces in the house and only had the tree and fairy lights going - oh and spongebob of course. It was very simple and peaceful.
After dinner we open a few yule gifts and then all snuggled up to watch a movie and eat some yummy cookies we had made earlier in the day!
KM's favorite present was a Wizardology Code Writing Kit and we all got a kick out of our Feety Pajamas!
After the movie we were all sitting together and it was like a light went off for all of us at once - this is what we are suppose to be doing. THIS is our family.
CJ and I have been drawn more and more away from traditions that we were raised with and more towards creating our own types of traditions that fit our family. Since CJ's parents and my father moved South and Noni passed away it has felt like we are really the leaders in our family and we need to make the holidays what we want our family to remember them as. So we are thinking next year we are going to focus less on Christmas and more on the Winter Solistice and Earth Based/Natural Holidays. After doing the Holidays Around the World, I think that KM has also come to realize that NOT everyone celebrates Christmas and that in other parts of the world it is the minority of people who actually do celebrate it. We will of course still respect our friends and families members who celebrate it, but for our family - the three who live under this roof - we are going to go our own route and enjoy the wonderful welcoming of winter!

Happy Holidays!

Dec 21, 2008

Merry Yule!

"December 21 -- Winter Solstice -- Yule

Mythologically, this is the time when the Goddess gives birth to the Sun God. Mother Bertha is the Crone who gives presents and steals bad children. Yule celebrates the birth/rebirth of the Sun God." found here including photo

I have found some fun activities here for the wee ones. There are even more here. Still more here.

Dec 20, 2008

Snowed In ~~~

~~~Or out as the case may be. KM and I are snowed in! CJ is snowed out! He was called to duty yesterday afternoon at 5:30ish after working on the neighbors addition all day - trying to get the walls up before the storm hit - and sneaking in a 30 minute catnap. He flopped onto the bed at about 6:15 this morning. I came out at that point to make sure the fire was still going, made some coffee, and shoveled off the back porch for the 5th time since yesterday - the dogs have to get out somewhere! - and fell asleep on the couch for a little while. I was awoken at 8:30 to the phone ringing and CJ was off again! The weather reports for today say "Snow showers. Patchy freezing drizzle possible. High around 25F. Winds NNE at 15 to 25 mph. Chance of snow 60%. About one inch of snow expected." - Well it is 10:30am and we already have had another 2 inches of snow just this morning and "it doesn't show signs of stopping!"

The path for the dogs - just can't seem to keep it clear. I also had to go and shovel off the steps down off the deck, as Rex just couldn't find his footing to get off the deck - I can't imagine what people with little dogs do in this type of situation!
The snow atop the table has not been touched - so you have a frame of reference that is the little tikes picnic table and the mounds on either side are the benches.

The rest of the back yard - that has been untouched.

We measured the snow on this table lst night at 7:30pm and it was 7.5 inches - this morning it - while I am typing this KM is measuring - it is 11.5 inches!

Luckily I have LOTS to keep me busy inside - finishing up gifts, baking and cleaning!

Dec 19, 2008

Holidays Around the World

After we finished our election study we decided to learn about Holidays from around the world that are celebrated in December. It was a great History/Geography/Cultural Studies project and here is our outcome:

We used a ream of finger-paint paper for the back ground, some coloring pages we downloaded and lots of clip art and doo-dads to make if fun!

We colored in each holiday's origin on the map that we printed out from - here - this site is great for all sorts of maps in a huge assortment of sizes!

KM's favorite one was Santa Lucia Day, which is celebrated in Sweden, because "they were daredevils!" balancing the candles on their heads.
I was rather surprised to discover that although Kwanzaa is a celebration of African ancestry, it
was created here in American. It was also rather interesting to hear about all the different ways that kids around the world leave some sort of "footwear" out for "someone" to leave them candy and presents in! We were unable to figure where exactly this footwear phenomenon started, but they seem to do it in some form or another on every part of the globe!!!

Dec 17, 2008

Wright Brothers Day

"Orville and Wilbur Wright made the first manned, powered flight on December 17, 1903. Orville experienced the thrill of flight when he felt the first lift of the wing of the small wood and canvas aircraft that would travel 120 feet in 12 seconds. The brothers' passion and spirit of discovery helped define our Nation and paved the way for future generations of innovators to launch satellites, orbit the Earth, and travel to the Moon and back." (found here)

Here are some free resources to educate while we celebrate this great set of siblings! There is something for every age and grade level on this list.

~~~~~~~~~~~Afternoon update -

We decided to take a trip to one of our local libraries and find out some info on Wilbur and Orville, as KM did not know much more than their names and that they had built airplanes (gotta love PS!).

She used the computer catalog to find out where to look - another new found skill, as she never learned how at PS - we found some very interesting books for her and SC.

Wee and the Wright Brothers and To Fly! were the favorites of the day!

We then went home for some lunch and to watch the Magic School Bus Taking Flight!

The kids played with some Scooby-Doo gliders we had stashed away.
and went to this site and printed out a bunch of airplanes to see which was the best of the bunch! KM's favorite was the Raptor and SC just really liked chasing after them!

I must say we had a rather plane day!
~~that was really bad!~~

Dec 15, 2008

Another Revamp ----

While I was traipsing around the blog-o-sphere last night I came across the post of a fellow homeschooling mom blogger Summer Fae - here - who had typed about her case of HMP - Homeschool Mom Panic!

This of course is the worst sort of mom panic, because your child's entire FUTURE rests in your meager little hands. There is no "awful teacher" to blame it on - except yourself - no "student peer pressure" to blame that behavior on - except those other children you have in your house - and no "school bus driver" who they picked up those bad road rage words from - I would never say those things!

Once you get past those wretched truths, you can soon come to realize that this is also the best sort of mom panic because you have total control over the situation - of course you may want to consult that co-principle that some of you have and then again you may not. You have the right to decide when, where, what and how your children are learning! The best part of homeschooling is that revamp policy that says "hey if it isn't working try something different or scrap it all together".

Here at GCK Homeschool we are working on an experiment in timing. We have found that trying to get KM to wake up, eat breakfast, brush her teeth and get ready to start her bookwork in the morning is just not worth the fight! It was getting to feel like we were back to the rush rush rush out the door feelings we used to have when she went to PS and I just don't have it in me to fight that battle anymore!

So instead, we are letting KM get out of bed and have breakfast at a leisurely pace. She has been watching some great Discovery Channel DVDs on the laptop during breakfast - presently she has been enjoying the Secrets of Archaeology Series which we got from the library. We then ease into our geography/holiday project we have been working on "Holidays Around the World" - pictures of that will be posted later in the week. We have been doing some yoga, silly games, exercises and chores after that, which brings us just about to lunch time. While I start lunch KM goes in and gets her daily estimation, daily writing, daily science question and Wordly Wise assignments done - which generally takes about 20-25 minutes to get done when she wants them to. During lunch we have been listening to audio books together - we just finished up the Redwall Collection by Brian Jacques, which is such a great story for audio books! After lunch we work on History, Science, Foreign Language, or whichever elective we have planned for that day. She has some free time in the afternoon, which she has been spending either on the computer or reading a lot lately. Then KM does her Teaching Textbooks assignment on her own in the later afternoon early evening.

Some days it feels like a lot or like the day is dragging on forever, but there are no fights in the morning to "get into gear" - CJ's favorite morning euphemism - and besides her daily things, she seems to be getting most of her other work done in 2 or 3 days instead of 5 - which is FINE by me! She seems to be much more able to focus and get things done when she hasn't been rushed into starting.

I don't know if this revamp will last forever and I am sure that it won't be our last, but I do know that at the moment it has calmed my HMP attacks quite a bit!

Dec 14, 2008

Oatmeal Craft Ideas

At our coop's holiday party last week we brought the supplies to make Magic Reindeer Food - something we have been doing with KM since she was 2 years old.
If you have never heard of it here is the info for it:


  • Raw Oatmeal
  • Glitter (I use a silver or gold base and mix red and green in with it)
  • Plastic lunch baggies
  • Ribbon
  • Paper or cardstock

    How To Make It

    1. Pour about 1/8 cup of oatmeal in baggie. Add some glitter. Close baggie.
    2. Attach with ribbon to the front of the baggie the following message. "On Christmas Eve, sprinkle this wonderful Reindeer Food on your lawn. The shiny glitter will sparkle in the moonlight and the smell of oats will guide Rudolph to your home."

  • After the party we had a lot of Rolled Oats left over that had been pawed over by lots of little ones, so instead of throwing it out we made some oatmeal dough - which is very simply made with 1 part flour, 2 parts oatmeal or rolled oats, and 1 part water. It can be kept in the fridge for up to three days, but after that it generally starts to smell very strongly and will often grow mold.

    KM likes anything goopy, but SC wasn't too sure!

    The coolest thing about this dough is that it dries rock hard over night,
    so we used cookie cutters and sculpted some to make ornaments.

    After the ornaments were set aside to dry overnight, we had a visit from a rather cute reindeer looking for a veggie stick snack!
    KM finished painting some of hers this afternoon and we will string them in the morning to go on her tree!

    If anyone else has any ideas on how to use up some more oats - please let me know. I just can't bring myself to throw it!

    Dec 11, 2008

    Busy, Busy Days...or Not?

    This holiday season brings about commitments and traditions that need to be done which can generally bring about lots of stress and very little downtime. Make sure that you are taking time for yourself and your family. Sometimes you need to look at the things on your plate and decide if they really are benefiting your family, if you are really enjoying what you are doing or if you are doing these things just because it is what you have always done? Over the last few years we have revamped our holiday traditions, to only include the things that we really enjoy doing. I hear so many stories of parents doing things because the kids like it or even vice versa - my grandmother and her sisters used to make all the pies from scratch and while all the cousins enjoyed eating them, the girls were forced to help make those pies, while the boys got to play outside or watch TV, I loved my grandmother and have some of my favorite memories baking with her, but I ~ and a few of my female cousins ~ have so many memories of despising those baking days! We wanted to play, we wanted to have snowball fights, we wanted to sit and watch TV, but the tradition was that the girls bake those pies while the boys could do, well, whatever they wanted to. While I know that these days most parents would have the boys in the kitchen with them as well as the girls or would be out buying the pies, it is more the point that sometimes we impress antiquated traditions on our kids that they just really have no interest in. SO remember to take time to discuss your family traditions, be sure that you are really enjoying what you are doing and each other so that you can all have a truly Happy Holidays!!!

    Dec 10, 2008

    Human Rights Day

    "Human Rights Day is celebrated annually across the world on 10 December.

    The date was chosen to honour the United Nations General Assembly's adoption and proclamation, on 10 December 1948, of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the first global enunciation of human rights. The commemoration was established in 1950, when the General Assembly invited all states and interested organizations to celebrate the day as they saw fit." (found here)

    We discuss these things all the time, but when I saw this holiday and started researching it a bit I came across this great free resource for starting Human Rights Education.

    ~~~~Evening Update ~~~~~
    As someone commented it is a bit disheartening that we have to set aside a specific day to be reminded to treat people humanely. However we used the day more to look at the world and see where things could be different, to think about how justice could be brought to certain people and or areas, and how things have changed over the last hundred or so years. We also discussed what we thought would be the biggest changes in this area over the next decade or so. You could think of it more of a day to be hopeful for the future, that good will prevail and wish peace to come to all!

    Dec 9, 2008

    Reflections on the Changing Seasons

    I have mentioned many times how much we love fall, but I am starting to wonder if it is just the changing of the seasons that we love the most. As each new season comes along there are so many changes and chances for anew.

    Though I like this quote -
    Spring passes and one remembers one's innocence. Summer passes and one remembers one's exuberance. Autumn passes and one remembers one's reverence. Winter passes and one remembers one's perseverance. - by Yoko Ono

    This is my favorite quote about the changing seasons:
    Autumn to winter, winter into spring, Spring into summer, summer into fall,-- So rolls the changing year, and so we change; Motion so swift, we know not that we move. ~ from Immutable by Dinal Maria Mulock

    As we come to the end of another wonderful Autumn season, I am truly grateful for the bounty we have obtained as a family. The changes that we have made over this past year have been countless. We are more efficient, confident, happier, closer, stronger, kinder, and most of all a more loving family.

    Last year on this very date, I was sitting, agonizing over my decision to take KM out of public school. I was petrified, at the prospect of taking on such a monumental task. However I knew, deep within me, that it was the right thing, the only thing, to do that would fix the situation that had been unfolding. Over the next few weeks I was reading everything I could get my eyes on ~ as most of my information I found online. I spent hours upon hours looking at resources and curriculums, finding support groups, asking for guidance from everyone I met and listening to people try to talk me out of it or ask me
    "Are you really sure this is what you want to do?"

    I have been told by many, that if you had seen me during that time, you never would have known I was struggling with the decision. Apparently on the outside I was sure of myself and I think that was the true feelings shining through. I knew it was the only solution that could fix the things that were going wrong in our home. This is the path we were meant to take.

    I know that it is not the path for everyone and there are a multitude of reasons why families can't or choose not to homeschool or unschool, but I wanted to take a second to thank all those wonderful, dedicated parents who have also chosen this path for their children. It can be difficult, it can be challenging, but it is so worth it ~ our children are worth it!

    Dec 8, 2008

    Tis the Season for...Reading

    Each year when we take out all the Holiday decorations, there is one thing that really makes it feel like winter is coming - the book basket. KM and I are rarely without a book, but this basket is special because it has all our holiday books that we read and add to each year. We keep the basket by the fireplace and try to cuddle up there at least once every few days and flip through them.
    Some of them have been given to us as gifts, others are favorites from when CJ and I were little, while still others are just fun!

    Now that KM is getting older we may need to get a bigger book basket, but for now we have another pile on the hope chest.

    Here is the list of our favorites:
    1. Snow Family ~ Daniel Kirk
    2. A Charlie Brown Christmas ~ Charles M. Schulz
    3. Beauty and the Beast: One Magical Christmas ~ Karen Kreider
    4. Snowie Rolie ~ William Joyce
    5. Care Bears: Catch the Christmas Spirit ~ Katie Tait
    6. Hello Kitty: My Little Angel ~ Paul Coco
    7. The Penguin Who Wanted to be Different: A Christmas Wish ~ Maria O'Neill
    8. There Was A Cold Lady Who Swallowed Some Snow! ~ Lucille Colandro
    9. The Christmas Penguin ~ Mary Packard
    10. Gingerbread Baby ~ Jan Brett
    11. Five Little Christmas Trees ~ Lynn Adams
    12. Little Critter's: The Night Before Christmas ~ Mercer Mayer
    13. Strawberry Shortcake's Berry Merry Christmas ~ Monique Z. Stephens
    14. Toot & Puddle: I'll Be Home for Christmas ~ Holly Hobbie
    15. Can You See What I See? The Night Before Christmas: Picture Puzzles to Search and Solve ~ Walter Wick
    16. Harvey Slumfenburger's Christmas Present ~ John Burningham
    17. If you take a Mouse to the Movies ~ Laura Numeroff
    18. Snow Magic ~ June Eding
    19. Snowmen at Night ~ Caralyn Buehner
    20. Santa Claus ~ Rod Green
    21. Judy Moody & Stink: The Holly Joliday ~ Megan McDonald
    22. On Christmas Eve ~ Ann M. Martin
    The titles that we will be adding to the basket this year include:
    The Christmas Book: How to Have the Best Christmas Ever ~ Juliana Foster
    When Santa Fell to Earth ~ Cornelia Funke
    The Best Christmas Pageant Ever ~ Barbara Robinson
    A Christmas Carol ~ Charles Dickens

    What are your families favorite seasonal stories?

    Dec 7, 2008

    Snowy Sunday

    We had a great afternoon in the snow.

    First we took a walk around the yard to just look at the snow.
    Then we made some snow angels and had a snowball fight!
    When CJ got home we all made a snowman!

    They decided to make him skiing!

    We ended our day listening to "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" by the fire with some Hot Cocoa!

    According to the weather it sounds as though Mr. Snowman will be sticking around for awhile!

    First Snow Fall -

    I love waking up to snow!!!

    Seeing it on the rooftops, decorating the trees,

    and catching the perfect tracks!!!

    Rex was the first one out this morning and I had trouble getting him back in! He was running around in circles, hopping around and howling.
    Guess he was excited for the snow as well!

    Dec 6, 2008

    18 days Til Christmas -

    and my bedroom was transformed into Santa's Workshop this morning -
    Align CenterI put on some old Wintry/Christmassy movies and got all the presents that have arrived wrapped.

    Packages are ready to be shipped out
    & the tree looks perfect!

    After I had gotten all the presents done, KM started asking about the different symbols and where they come from - I knew a lot of them, but there were a few that I was surprised by. I went in search of and found last years December issue of Pagan Moonbeams written by TristA & Shannon Donaldson. It had a great list of traditional symbols and explanations of where they derived from.

    Here is the article's list:

    Pagan. Bells were used to drive away demons which surfaced during the dark time of the year.
    Pagan. Candles were lit to encourage the sun to shine, especially during festivals.
    Candy Cane–
    Christian. Peppermint leaves and teas are Pagan, however the candy cane was invented by an American confectioner using a Christian symbol.
    Christian. Carols were introduced in the fourth century by the Catholic Church.
    Pagan. The Norse land of Alfaheimr (land of the elves) was inhabited by spirits that created the sun.
    Pagan. There is evidence of different Pagan groups throughout history decorating evergreens.
    Christian. The Crusaders started this tradition by introducing ginger, and gingerbread. French and German bakers united to make the gingerbread into a man.
    Pagan. Holly began as a symbol of rebirth and friendship for many different Pagan religions.
    Pagan. For many centuries homes were decorated with light to frighten negative entities and urge the sun to shine.
    Mistletoe– Pagan. Believed to first be used by the Greeks during winter ceremonies. The Druids are the ones who gave it sacredness and special meaning.
    Pagan. Fruits, candy, cookies and flowers were all used to decorate trees by the Germanic people.
    Christian. An old Mexican myth of a poor boy wanting to buy Christ a gift for Christmas made this magical flower appear.
    Pagan. These magical creatures were derived from the Goddess Freya Stags that carried her chariot or symbolizing Cernunnos, a Celtic god.
    Santa Claus–
    Pagan. Either from the Norse sun-god or the Aryan god Odin.
    Pagan. Definitely from the Norse god Freya who spent 12 days after the Winter Solstice in her chariot drawn by stags. She gave gifts and goodwill to the good and misery to the bad.
    Pagan. These represent Demeter’s tears when Persephone descended to the Underworld. The symbol was also used by Pagans throughout time to represent love.
    Stockings– Christian. They fall back to a story of women who were worried about living a lone and of St. Nick leaving presents in them one night when their windows and doors were locked.
    Christian. A story of spiders wanting to climb on the tree and not being permitted so the Christ child allowed them to go on the tree anyway. They wove webs that covered the tree which delighted the child and he turned them to silver so they would always be there.
    Pagan. Decorating a tree began back with the Egyptians and Babylonians. Decorating a tree during this particular holiday came from a version of this practice used by the Germans, who got it from the Romans.
    Pagan. The Anglo-Saxons started this ritual by sprinkling trees with eggs, apples, cider and ale to insure a good apple yield for the coming year.
    Pagan. The Greeks picked the circle because it was a symbol of life (death, rebirth, death, rebirth, etc…), like the sun in the Pagan religions, then covered it with greenery and used it for decoration during their Sacacea festival.

    If you know where any other Holiday symbols come from please let me know, I would love to add to the list!