Friday, December 31

Sensory Box

We made our first sensory box for Acorn.  Froggy and I put it together while Acorn was sleeping so that we could surprise her with it.  Froggy very much enjoyed helping me make it.

We used one of the bigger sized bins we keep available for projects.  The theory is that this will be our dedicated sensory box and the contents will just rotate.  I gathered our supplies. We used red kidney beans, a variety pack of colored noodles that I purchased and a bag of leftover pompoms from different art projects. I gave all the supplies to Froggy along with a big scoop and she assembled the box. She had a fun time scooping them in.  When we were done we decided that the noodles overwhelmed the other elements so Froggy removed some one by one naming them and creating a story as she went.

Then it came time to present the finished product to Acorn.  She was not as thrilled with it as we had hoped.  She played in it some but was much more interested in eating the noodles than exploring the textures.  From now on sensory boxes will not have any noodles in them even though they are great texturally.  For some reasons the beans (which she recognizes as food) do not trigger the same reaction as noodles.

Thursday, December 30

What We Are Reading

We are on vacation still this week which is why the usual elements have been absent here.  But we have read some very good books and I wanted to share them with you.

My pick of the week is ChrysanthemumIn the story, a young mouse named Chrysanthemum loves her name until she enters Kindergarten and must face the teasing of the other children who all have ordinary names.  Then she hates school and her name.  Kevin Henkes does a wonderful job of presenting the cruelties of children in an endearing yet realistic manner.  My favorite line is "Chrysanthemum has thirteen letters.  That is exactly half alphabet."  Froggy learned several new words with this book.  For instance, every time Chrysanthemum was teased, she wilted.  Froggy asked what that meant.  I explained and the next couple of days we all took turns wilting when we got sad.  Froggy also explored what an epilogue is and created her own epilogues for several of the other stories she read.
The next big winner of the week was The Witch Who Was Afraid of Witches.  Froggy's cousin picked this one from Grandma's collection and every adult present read it many times.  I think T would have been happy if no other story was read the whole visit.  I was treated to random recitations from the story on the drive home.  Unlike Chrysanthemum which I did not tire of at all, this one grated on me by the third reading.  I have no clue what made a Halloween story so appealing during a Christmas visit but all the children present delighted in it.

Awhile back, Froggy was given a collection of the Rainbow Fairy books. As I commented, she did not read them then.   She is reading them now.  She loves them and we have all been designated colors of the rainbow at times.  I love that she reads stories and then tells me about them with enough detail and structure that the plot of the story is comprehensible. We have read all the color fairies and started in now on the Fun Day fairies.  There are more of these than Magic Treehouse so I suspect the series will be with us for a long time.

Sunday, December 19

Menu Planning Monday

This week is a short week since we leave on Thursday for the grandparents.  It is also a very full week so it is important to be super organized.  Also with leaving town, I do not want many leftovers, especially since our normal leftover night will be on the road.

Sunday -.Burgers, sweet potato fries, green beans
Monday - Lasagna (using leftover sauce), salad and garlic bread
Tuesday -  Fish ala Jenn, rice and peas
Wednesday- leftovers.

There is also lots of baking/ candy making for presents

Here is our list -
  • Chocolate covered peanut butter candies
  • molded decorated chocolate covered pretzels - this was a disaster the colored decorator chocolate did not stick to the dark chocolate or come out of the mold. 
  • Cut Out decorated sugar cookies
  • Toffee
  • Chocolate mint brownies
  • Candy Cane Fudge

Science Sunday - More Friction

This week we continued our study of Friction.  We used two different cans, one with rubberbands  and one without to see which would roll fastest down the ramp we created.

That was the presentation I gave Froggy.  She tested both cans several times to see which was fastest.
Then she hypothesized why.  First idea was that the fast can was empty so it went faster. She checked out the can.  Nope it was full just like the other.
And that was where she lost interest.  It took all my creativity to keep her with me through the explanation.  I pulled out our car from last week and reminded her about how getting the wheels on it made it go so much farther.   As soon as I got her focus she understood about the friction but she was not interested at all.  I cannot wait to do our coop where hopefully the children will inspire one another.

For more fun with science, check out this week's Science Sunday link-up, at Adventures in Mommydom.

Friday, December 17

What We Are Reading

We did it. We finally finished Little House on The Prairie. We started reading it (for our second attempt) way back in September. It was a hard book to get through and the final chapters were read with some judicious editing to be just a bit less racist.  Froggy did enjoy the book and concepts creep into her play in places but it was not the huge win I had hoped it would be when we started it.

Our new chapter books is The Boxcar Children.  The book comes highly recommended but I was dubious because it is about orphans.  With this new book we are trying something else new as well, Narration.  The chapters are very short  with a distinct sequence of events. We tried it with the first chapter.  Froggy was reluctant and shaky but I walked her through the process and she did it.  Not ideally, not great but she did it which for me is huge for a first time.  We did a second chapter later in the week and I wrote down exactly what she said (what little there was of it) And then I narrated the same chapter for her and wrote down what I said so she could look back and read them both. While I was narrating she interrupted to add more details to what I was saying proving to us both she remembered more than she claimed.

In addition Froggy is doing fun reading as well.  Her favorite for the week is Froggy Learns To Swim.  I do not understand what makes this series so appealling but Froggy cannot get enough of it.  I think my Froggy's favorite part of the book is that the Froggy in the book learns the breast stroke kick with the exact same wording as her swim instructors used to teach her. Prior to that neither one of us had ever her "chicken airplane soldier" but that seems to be the way it is done.

Come join the reading blog hop over at Feed Me Books Friday and Mouse Grows Mouse Learns,

Thursday, December 16

Outdoors Even In Winter

Acorn's absolute favorite thing to do is be outside.  This was easy and fun for everyone in Autumn.  However when the weather turns cold my willingness to go outside plummets.  Keeping the children locked inside is not fair.  So to help me stay motivated I decided to join The Outdoor Challenge.  A new winter series starts up in January but I wanted to prepare both myself and the children.  As she recommends, we went back to the beginning and completed Challenge 1. These challenges are based on The Handbook Of Nature Study.  We have had this book on our shelves for a long time without delving into it.  It is huge and overwhelming but the challenges give short relevant reading assignments so it is easy to absorb. 

I made the Challenge multipurpose.  We have a creek behind our house that is part of the public easement.  The creek runs all the way to the park where we have our weekly homeschool gathering.  Eventually I would love it if we could walk to the park along the creek.  However right now there is no access to the creek from the house due to massive overgrowth.  Before hacking out a path I wanted to check out the rest of the creek.

To that end, I selected the public access point to the creek as the destination for our inaugural challenge. It was a complete disaster.  Acorn started crying as soon as we reached the trailhead and did not stop until we were back on our street.  The trailhead starts out with a steep hill.  I sat on my bottom with Acorn on my lap and slid down it so she did not go tumbling down.  Froggy was able to navigate it slowly but carefully.

We spent the recommended 10-15 minutes outdoors exploring but we did not find anything to bring back and study.  I am not giving up though.  We are going to make this work. 

Wednesday, December 15

Curried Turkey and Couscous Pie

Last week's Curried Turkey Couscous pie was a success with at least three of the four.  Acorn would not even try it so who knows if she would have liked it.  It was much easier to make than I had expected.  I tend to shy away from anything involving phyllo dough but it was not hard.  I will make it again and for sure when the grandparents come to visit.  It had a very nice presentation factor.  To that end I am including the recipe here so I can return the library book,

1 pound cooked chicken or turkey
2 cloves minced garlic
1 1/2tsp curry powder
16 oz chicken stock
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup uncooked couscous
6 sheets phyllo dough

Place all ingredients except phyllo dough in medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil.  remove from heat.  let stand until oil is absorbed.  stir fluffing couscous. 

Place one phyllo sheet on work surface spray lightly with cooking spray or brush with oil.  Repeat with two more sheets.  Lay all 3 layers into 9" round pan allowing ends to hang over.  Layer 3 remaining sheets as before.  Lay perpendicular to first set in pan.  Spoon turkey mixture into pan.  Fold the overhanging dough over top of filling.  Spray or brush top of pie. 

Bake in 350 oven for 30-35 minutes.  Let stand 5 minutes before cutting.  Serve with mango or cranberry chutney.

Lots and Lots of Coal

Since Froggy is going to visit the grandparents for Christmas I figured she ought to hear some of the traditions. And thanks to Almost Unschoolers I found the perfect way to introduce her coal in your stocking.   I took her ideas full scale and implemented them lock, stock, and barrel. So if you follow her blog please pardon the repetitions.  Here is our version.

We read Lemony Snicket's The Lump of Coal  The story is written from the perspective of the lump of coal.  It is not at all what expected given that I all knew going into the reading was that  "It's the story of finding Christmas "miracles" in strange places, like home and hearth, or in a dumped over bag of barbecue briquette in the backyard."  The story is told with the typical dark twist of the other Lemony Snicket books but it has a marvelously happy ending which inspired Froggy.

So after reading the story we gathered our supplies to make lump of coal crayons. We raided our various collections of crayons for all the black ones we could find.

 We have a plethara of crayons but apparently a serious paucity of black.  Froggy helped me unwrap the ones we could find.
  She needed to pause to test them before putting them in the pan.  I did not have any disposable pie tin so we used a disposable casserole pan instead.
  Into the oven they went 250 degree Fahrenheit over for 5-10 minutes, until they were completely melted as per instructions.
Taking them out of the oven and making them into the crayons was a "mommy only" job while Froggy watched.
We made 2 crayons which is perfect.  Froggy immediately tested one out.  They will be part of the holiday gifts for her cousins.

To continue our coal theme, we also made Lump of Coal candies(pictured above).  Benefiting from Almost Unschoolers test run, we used the second recipe. We used almond rather mint because we discovered this season that Froggy is extremely biased against mint.  The taste was good and I love the pumice effect.  My only complaint is that it did not make as much as I had hoped. I will probably make a second batch so we have enough to share.

Monday, December 13

Math Monday - Place Value

This week our different math adventures all came together to focus on place value.  Froggy's main math curriculum is still Singapore Math.  We reached the point where the student is asked to add numbers which total between 10 and 20.  Froggy has been doing this for awhile now in Dreambox math but she has been doing it in a sort of gestalt manner without getting the concept of place value.  Singpore, and through it I, have been emphasizing it.  The process is very simple.  Rather than just counting up from whatever first number is presented, she makes a group of ten and then adds the ones to that group of ten.  It does not sound like a big change but for Froggy it was.
Dreambox has several games that Froggy has been playing that work with place value even though I am not sure she sees the connections to what she is doing in Singapore.  For some reason when playing Dreambox the ideas seem to come much more readily to Froggy.  The current batch of games are focusing on making groups of ten or putting values that change by tens in order.

We also added in a game of change with this and I think it was finally got everything to click.  Dimes are by their nature groups of ten and pennies loose ones so it clicked for Froggy when she was counting the change we received at a store.  We played games trading nickels and pennies into dimes and back again. 

Sunday, December 12

Menu Planning Monday

Something about the really cold weather makes me crave not just soup but specifically beef based soup.  Any other time of the year and a beef soup is the last thing I want.   Our big score for the past week is Cheese and black bean quesadillas.  Froggy is now a super fan.  All I have to do is mashup some cooked black beans and put that on the tortilla before the cheese and cook as usual.  I cook is extra slow that her vegan cheese melts before the tortilla burns.  With this addition I think I may actually have enough different food stuffs that she reliably eats to make a rotating lunch schedule for her so that I can stop thinking about it every day.

Sunday - Homemade pasta sauce, gnocci, salad and garlic bread (missed last week)
Monday - baked marinated chicken served over quinoa and broccoli
Tuesday - Curried Turkey Couscous Pie (recipe from One Dish Dinners) with mango chutney
Wednesday-dinner at the pool - sandwiches, cutup fruit and cookies
Thursday - pizza (using leftover sauce) and salad
Friday -  Challah, Herbed Beef Pinwheels(recipe below), sweet potatoes, green beans, chocolate rasberry torte

Herbed Beef Pinwheels

·         1 ½ lb flank steak
·         2 medium leeks sliced
·         2 cloves garlic
·         3 TBS snipped fresh basil
·         2 Yukon Gold cut into eights
·         1 lg onion cut into wedges
·         14 oz diced tomatoes with basil oregano and garlic

1.       Score meat by making shallow diagonal cuts at 1” intervals in a diamond pattern on both sides.  Flatten meat to a 12x8 rectangle.  Set aside
2.       Saute leeks and garlic until tender. Stir in basil and remove from heat.  Spread leek mixture evenly on top of the meat.  Starting at short end of meat, tightly roll up meat into a spiral. Tie four evenly spaced strings around meat.  (STOP HERE IF DOING AHEAD OF TIME- REFIGERATE UNTIL READY TO COOK)
3.       Brown meat on all sides.  Place meat in a 2qt rectangular baking dish.  Arrange veggies around meat.  Pour undrained tomatoes over  beef and veggies.  Bake uncovered at 350 for 1 ¼ hr. 
4.       Transfer meat to cutting board.  Remove strings.  Slice into serving size pieces.  Serve with veggies.

Science Sunday - Friction

We started our new science unit this week.  It is called Fun With Forces.  Hopefully in January some friends will join us for the second part of the unit which I expect will make it more fun for Froggy but which more importantly will improve the inquiry process.  It is much easier to see the experimental process when there are multiple people performing the experiment. 

I am using Teaching Physics With Toys as the basis for our unit.  This book lays out the activities as experiments and truly promotes inquiry the way I feel science should be approached.  I picked up the book based on a recommendation from Traveling Jews.  So many of the activities and curriculum we use come from recommendations out of my blogroll.  However for this particular activity I used Science Fun with Toy Cars and Trucks.  This book is written to be read by children and Froggy picked it up and asked to do some of the activities.  It is not inquiry based but I have modified tthis activity for an inquiry approach.

To give Froggy some background and ideas to pull from before presenting anything, we read Magic School Bus Plays Ball. For our first lesson, I made a car out of a milk carton.
This is all Froggy was presented with to start the activity.  We sat on the dining room floor (hardwood) and Froggy pushed the car as hard as she could so we could see how far it went.

It did not go far. We made several trials. It went approximately 90cm.   Then I asked her what we could do to make it go farther.  Her immediate answer was "Rapunzel can help me."  We tried that because she wanted to even though neither one of us really believed it would help.
Also I want her to enjoy the process.   As expected it did not really help.  I asked again.  She wanted to put it on the riding toy that Acorn got for Hanukkah.  I explained that it would not stay but it was a neat idea.

me - "What makes the riding toy move so much better?"
Froggy - It has wheels!! Can we give the box wheels?
me - we sure can

We again made several trials with the wheels.  The car went about twice as far at 170 cms.

We talked about why the wheels help.  I showed her how much higher the car sits when it is on the wheels and explained that less of it was touching the ground so there was less friction pulling on the car. We talked about Magic School Bus Plays Ball  and how it when there was no friction Ralphie could not stop after getting off the bus.

For more fun with science, check out this week's Science Sunday link-up, at Adventures in Mommydom.

Friday, December 10

What We Are Reading - Tangled

Froggy received a Rapunzel doll as her present on the last night of Hanukkah.  In addition she received a certificate for a special date with Daddy to see Tangled.  It was then that we realized she did not know the story of Rapunzel.  I did not want her first encounter to be the Disney version so off to the library we went.  We got this version which is as true to the Grimms original as any I have heard.   On the drive home, Froggy commented that the story starts just like her birth story.  How do you mean I asked not remembering the details of the story.  "There once was a man and his wife who had longed for a baby for many years," she read.  Yes it does almost exactly. And she was hooked.  This book became an instant favorite.

We also brought home a book, Bashful Bob and Doleful Dorinda from the recommended section unopened because it was by Margaret Atwood.  I have enjoyed several of her adult books and was interested in what she would do for children.  Lucky for me this book was first presented to Daddy for reading.  I would never have been able to make it through once. My tongue would have been in knots on page two.  Froggy and Daddy both loved it but then they are big Seuss fans. It was a fun bonding moment for them laughing at me.  I like listening but will not read tongue twisters like that out loud.  The book is hysterical and has a great story in addition to the funny alliterative language.

The honorable mention award for the week goes to The Curious Garden.  Froggy insisted it come home from the library.  We have read it before and when not placed against the tough competition it was a big hit.  This time is was just a casual friend pulled out here and there for some private mellow reading.  She never brought it to either parent for reading.  We did talk about it some though when we were talking about Dr. Carver and how Liam is similar in his goals to Dr. Carver in wanting to help people.

Come join the reading blog hop over at Feed Me Books Friday and Mouse Grows Mouse Learns,.

Thursday, December 9

Parsha Study

Thanks to Adventures in MamaLand and the latest edition of Jewish Homeschooling Blog, I think I may have cobbled together a plan for parsha work for the rest of the school year.  Adventures in MamaLand reminded me not to reinvent the wheel and to go back to one of my favorite sources, Chinuch.  We have used Chinuch before for Pesach study work

We read Parsha Pearls which provides a parsha summary as well as a Misdrashic story.  And then we did a sequencing activity both provided by Chinuch.  I suspect that the sheets are designed to have the pictures remain in place and the summaries matched to them.  However I cut out the pictures and glued them landscape style onto a separate paper so that we could match up both the summary and the passuk. I prefer using the passuk but I am not sure Froggy would understand the story with just the passuk so we use both. 

And all week we work on copywork using the sheet from Adventures In Mamaland.  Froggy is still just learning to write her letters so the worksheet is too much for her to do in one sitting and sometimes more than she can manage even in a whole week.

Wednesday, December 8

George Washington Carver

Apparently we are on a biography kick at the Landing.  Froggy keeps picking biographies at the library and really enjoys exploring a new person or two each week. 

This week we got to meet George Washington Carver.  Froggy and I both learned a great deal. We got In The Garden With Dr. Carver. The book tells a bit about Dr. Carver's life and mission from the perspective of a young girl whose life and town he changed.  He taught the town how to improve the soil and how to use the crops they can grow into the foods they need to eat. 

The book made for some interesting conversations.  Froggy asked about "greedy" plants because the book refers to cotton as a greedy plant using up the nutrients. I explained that Dr. Carver taught the tenement farmers to use compost and hummus in their gardens just like we have a compost pile to help our garden grow.  We examined the items that we put in our compost pile and compared them to what Dr. Carver taught the farmers to put in their compost pile.  Froggy was impressed with how similar they were.

We also marked Tuskegee, Alabama on our map since Dr Carver was "...the famous plant scientist from the big school in Tuskegee".  We also read parts of his biography and marked some of his important dates in our book of centuries.  I showed Froggy this picture of the Jesup Wagon that Dr. Carver brings to the girl in the book.

Come and share your adventures in time and space at History/Geography Exchange at Children Grow, Children Explore, Children Learn. 

Monday, December 6

Math Monday - Pattern Matching

Froggy received a beautiful wooden pattern play set for her birthday from a good friend when she turned 3.  She did not play with it then or at any of the times I have brought it out since until now.  Finally she is ready. 
The pattern cards are numbered and start out fairly easy but get progressively harder.  We did the first two cards.  It was a challenge for Froggy's spacial perception skills. Getting the pieces in the center to fit together took more thought than I would have imagined even after being shown once. After two cards she was too frustrated to continue.  Still I think this game will come out on a rotating basis and eventually her skill will improve.  I feel it is a necessary skill set and it is fun for Froggy in short bursts.

For other neat math ideas come visit the blog hop at Joyful Learning

Menu Planning Monday

Sunday - Cast Party - Potluck dinner - bring cookies (probably either a variation of these or these)
Monday - Chili, corn bread, salad
Tuesday - -Tofu Stirfry, rice keem greenbeans (we never had it last week)
Wednesday - Turkey noodle soup, rolls,veggies and dip
Thursday -  Homemade pasta sauce, gnocci, salad and garlic bread
Friday - Challah, Pot Roast, baby potatoes, green beans, chocolate rasberry torte

Sunday, December 5

Hebrew School

I am going through a serious conundrum right now.  I am extremely dissatisfied with the way Froggy's Hebrew school class is being run.  I have been since the beginning of the year.  I have made my concerns know to both the Religious School Director and the Education Committee Chairs.  Their responses through out the process have been less than desired but at least within acceptable limits.  Well that was until the latest round of discussion. 

I complained that here we are 2 months into the school year and according to the teacher they have yet to play any games at all.  The teacher was talked to and thus scheduled a game.  The first game they played was the week before Thanksgiving and it was a Hanukkah version of Bingo which still means sitting still. Not what we are looking for. The response was the director was to tell the teacher she is doing a marvelous job and keep up the good work.  Her response to me was " Be Positive" (ie stop complaining everything is great)

Yes the curriculum as outlined for the students is being covered but in basically two formats only.  Worksheets/phamplets which the teacher reads through with the children and crafts.  This is not appropriate for any age level but especially not for a Kindergarten class.  The fourth grade teacher plays more games with his kids than this teacher does.

I don't know where to go from here.  I am so frustrated with the Director and the powers that be for their lack of response that Froggy and I have an appointment to visit the local Chabad Hebrew School to see if she could transfer there.   I would really prefer not to do that because I feel that Hebrew School is a time of fellowship as well as learning and one should attend with the children of the synagogue but other than finding a new shul Chabad is our only alternative to the current situation.

Friday, December 3


Hanukkah started on Wednesday and all week we have been either preparing or celebrating.  Hanukkah is not a major holiday.  I try very hard not to make it a "Jewish Christmas".  With Hanukkah being earlier it is easier. Still when people ask about Hanukkah it is easier to answer "our winter holiday" than go into a full explanation.

Froggy loves all the holidays and joyously bounds into whatever is presented to her. With the cold nasty weather we have had this week, lots more crafts were in order so the holiday made a great focus.  We made a tissue paper menorah, sparkly window clings (my personal favorite) thanks to Almost Unschoolers, and some cookie cutouts to take to the Hebrew School party. 

In amongst the crafting, we read some fantastic books.  Froggy's favorite is her PJ Library book, The Chanukkah Guest. She opened it in the car and instantly fell in love.  She picked it as the story time book for the Tot Shabbat I lead at our shul.  Somehow though it was never selected as a bedtime book for the parents to read. Instead she picked A Hanukkah Treasury over and over again.  This book is a collection of short stories and poems related in some way to Hanukkah. There are even recipes included in it though we did not try any since we have our family favorites from years past.  I like that it includes the story of Judith since too often the women of the Bible are left out.

My personal favorite of the entire collection is Hanukkah Around The World.   It shows how Hanukkah is celebrated in different countries.  I loved showing Froggy how while parts are different many things are still the same.  Each country has a different food that is special to them yet each of the foods is fried remembering the miracle of the oil.  And while the clothes and games and songs may be different still every lit the hanukkiot and said the same brachot in Hebrew.  Froggy was not so taken with this book as I was and did not reread it at all on her own probably because there is no story with it. She did want to talk about the differences as we celebrated so that is a plus in my book.

Come join the reading blog hop over at ReadAloud Thursday ,Feed Me Books Friday and Mouse Grows Mouse Learns,.  I am also linking this to stART at A Mommy's Adventure

Thursday, December 2

A Historic Ride

This week, in honor of the 55th anniversary of Rosa Parks historic bus ride, we took some time to study about the Civil Rights Movement and talk about being fair and treating all people with respect.  We started our investigation by reading a wonderful new book by Jo Kittinger, Rosa's Bus.  It is a picture book that tells the story of the Civil Rights movement while tracing the life of the bus.  I think it does a great job of giving children the background they need to understand what makes Rosa's refusal important in a language and manner that they can understand and enjoy.  The reading level listed for the book is ages 4-8  which I think is spot on but some parents may find the book too much for a young 4.

After reading the book, we talked about standing up for what is right even when it is hard.  Given that Hanukkah is this week Froggy said that Rosa was like the Macabees who fought to be allowed to worship the way they wanted.  I felt a need to point out that Rosa Parks fought back with hurting anyone unlike the Macabees.  Froggy is used to being different than her friends but treated equally and fairly.  We talked about how she would feel if she could not play with her friends because she is Jewish and they are not.  Or how she would feel if she was told she could not play with certain other friends because they are "colored". 

We have a rule in our house that you can call people names if they like it, like calling her Froggy.  We explained this is called a nickname.  But that if a person does not like the name you may not call them that ever! We had a long discussion that "colored" is a horrible mean name that lots of people called others because of the color of their skin and that they did not like and how important it is never to call anyone that.