Friday, October 24, 2014

Do not forget these girls

I won't let these girls be forgotten and miss out on a chance to have a family. Don't forget, a family isn't just for the growing up years. As an adult can you imagine not having a family? (And for those adults who do not have family... my heart breaks for you.) As adults we rely on our families almost as much as we did as children, but in different ways. Imagine not having that. It is the plight of many, many children. Do not let these girls suffer that fate... to not have anyone. Are you her family?

Or hers?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Fun and Games

It's been quite a while since I've written about our game days. Three years ago to be exact. (Game Day, Oct. 2011) The idea of planning in game days to play those fun, yet educational games I have stashed away has continued. When I am planning our homeschool year I put one in every six to eight weeks or so.

Today was one of those scheduled days. Well, actually, Tuesday was one of those scheduled days, but we were all on auto-pilot and no one (including myself) bothered to open a folder to check what we were supposed to be doing. D. was the first to discover yesterday that we had missed it and the outrage was immense. I did some quick shuffling and changed it for today.

Once again, I started with the younger group first, though they are now all much more enjoyable to play games with. Everyone can move their own marker, they can count, and they will all stick around to the end of the game. We started out with the Dorling Kindersley game, Around the World. Someone had given it to us, and it has sat a shelf... waiting. When I went upstairs to see what I had, I saw it and decided we should give a try, and if it was a bust, I would give it away. It wasn't a bust and it is back upstairs waiting to be played again. It is a pretty simple board game with squares superimposed on a world map with various pictures of different places and animals on the board as well. It looks just like you would expect a game produced by DK to look. The children move around little cardboard airplanes as they move around the board. Some spaces have a Chutes and Ladders aspect to them where you follow the trail to a different space, though from an adult's point of view, it is wonderful that there is no long trail leading back to the beginning. There were some move ahead and lose a turn spaces with various reasons given, such as you stop to watch the penguins swim in the icy water. This aspect of the game really appealed to everyone and no one seemed to mind losing a turn if they were watching penguins. It was also a relatively short game to play. With all four people playing it took no more than 15 minutes, which was just about the right amount of time for this group. The other plus was that G. just came up to me and asked where the Taj Mahal was. (She had visited the Taj Mahal multiple times during our game.)

The downside? It seems as though it is out of print and the link I provided (which I receive a small percentage of, in full disclosure) shows that a new one can be purchased for $25 and a used one for $125. (Go figure. It doesn't make sense to me, either.) But, I can say, while we enjoyed playing the game, it wasn't worth $25, much less $125. But now, if you come across one, you know it is the the $1.50 that you would pay at a garage sale.

This seemed to be our day for playing games that cannot be purchased reasonably. The older people (P., TM, and D... A. was off memorizing Shakespeare and Spanish verbs) and I played Chronology, which I see is still for sale, but will set you back $86. For a card game! It is fun, though. The game has hundreds of different cards, each with an event from history and a date. You start out with one card and try to place the event in the correct chronological order around the cards in front of you. If you get it right, you get to keep the card. The first person to have 10 cards wins. It starts out pretty easy. Say you have Declaration of Independence - 1776 and you are read a card about the pyramids being built. It's pretty easy to say the pyramids come before 1776. It gets trickier, though when you have cards with the dates 1872, 1919, 1923 and there is an even read that you know happened about that time, but aren't sure where exactly it falls. The game is pretty heavy on the 20th century, so between that and having taught history to my children for 17 years I had a distinct advantage over them. To make it more fair, I handicapped myself by requiring 20 cards to win instead of 10.

Is it worth $86? Probably not, but you can make your own pretty easily. This works especially well if you are studying a certain period of history. I have a lovely deck of chronology cards I made to go along the Renaissance. As we learned something, I would make a card... event and date on one side. We would then use these to review the events we learned about. At the end of the year, I think the deck is at least 150 to 200 cards thick. If you do this, you need some rules. Shuffle your deck and put it face down on the table. To begin, each person draws one card and puts it face up in front of them. Then the first person draws a card and reads it without revealing the date. The person on his or her left then says where in the timeline in front of them that even would fall. If they are correct, they keep the card and add it to the timeline, if they are incorrect, the play passes to the next person and they have a chance to figure out where it goes. If no one gets the card, it is set aside. The play moves around with the next person taking a card and reading it. The first person to reach 10 cards in their timeline wins.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Anyone want to send us all to France?

Yeah. I didn't think anyone did. D. really wanted me to ask. And why this sudden and pressing need to go to France... other than I really love Paris and it's been too long since I've been there? It's all for the study of history. Really.

Today we spent learning about cathedrals as part of our study of the Middle Ages. First we read David Macaulay's book, Cathedral: The Story of its Construction. We then watched a Nova episode, Building the Great Cathedrals, which I had ordered from Netflix for the occasion. We all found it very interesting. Well, not the five year olds so much, but the rest of it did. The cathedrals and their construction were really interesting, but what really caught our interest had nothing to do with cathedrals and jumped back to castles instead.

In the show, it mentioned and showed a building site in France where they are constructing a medieval castle using medieval building techniques and medieval materials. And it is a living history museum as well so YOU CAN GO AND SEE IT! Who wouldn't want to go and watch a medieval castle being built? If it were in the US, I would be making some major summer driving plans, but alas, it is in Treigny, France, southeast of Paris, and quite impossible to drive to. Some day... it is not anticipated to be done until 2020, so we still have some time. If you want to take a look at it, it's called Guedelon Castle.

It's still not too late to make an offer, though. I'd even blog about it for your reading entertainment.




Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Ladybug Heaven

I have written before about L.'s pets... the dead bugs she carries around and cares for. The most popular of these pets are the ladybugs which fall into her clutches. Imagine L.'s excitement when the ladybugs started to swarm our house yesterday. (They do this every fall. We think the beetles are trying to find somewhere to hibernate and our house looks particularly appealing.) Much of the day was spent in ladybug collection. We even had to move up to a larger container.

This has led to some particularly funny quirky L. moments. We all now know a lot about ladybugs since at the last library visit she insisted we check out multiple books and have since read them. She likes to walk around expounding on ladybug knowledge. L. thinks she knows so much about them that I heard her tell G. that tomorrow there would be a class on the care, keeping, and most importantly catching of ladybugs.

This was not sufficient, though, to make the most of the bounty of ladybugs. They make great pets in L.'s opinion... alive or dead. She is concerned for the deprived people around her who do not have pets. Now think for a minute and I bet you can see what's coming. Many ladybugs + a needy audience + a child who really, really likes to sell things and is relentless at it = ????

You guessed it. Yes, L. has decided that a ladybug stand to sell ladybugs to people who don't have pets is the order of the day. It was one of the first things out of her mouth at bedtime and the first thing out of her mouth this morning. I'm not sure how long I can put her off. You can bet I will do my best. The idea of sitting with her outside trying to sell ladybugs and having her open her ladybug containers to check on them and then watching the ladybugs fly away does not sound like fun. If anyone out there thinks otherwise, I would be more than happy to let you handle ladybug stand supervision duty. That said, it is very difficult to not get sucked into the vortex of L.'s imagination.

Here are some girls with their ladybugs.

These are two that G. was carrying around in a toy treasure chest. (All small containers have suddenly become ladybug homes.) 


L. with her bucket. Notice the lid is off because it is easier to see the ladybugs. The trouble is, these are alive and can still fly. It's like living in one of those walk-in butterfly exhibits except with ladybugs.

Notice the amenities for the ladybugs: mountain, toys, leaf (even though L. can tell you they eat aphids.)

Monday, October 20, 2014


Nice mouth, huh? K. lost one of his front teeth the other day. (He also has a missing tooth on the bottom; you just can't see it.) But between the missing tooth and the cleft on the other side of his front tooth, it gives him a particularly holey grin.

A funny boy to brighten up your Monday.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The place where hotel furniture goes to die

J. and I didn't mean to go on this quest. In fact, we didn't even really care if we ever discovered the hotel furniture graveyard... or if it even really existed. But some adventures are thrust upon you and you have them whether you want to or not.

Yesterday started out normally enough. Children were fed. Weekly meal plans were made. I went grocery shopping. The only thing that was different was our revulsion at the state of the couches in our front living room had been raised to such a level that J. and I felt as though we needed to actually do something about it. The trouble is, we wanted to replace our decrepit and collapsing couches but we didn't want to spend very much money to do it. OK, we don't have any money to replace the couches, but yet we are tired of living with urban blight inside our own home.

This leads to searching terms such as, "cheap furniture in Chicago." J. found a place that looked promising. Big sale and photograph of a warehouse with dozens of couches stacked up. We (and by we I mean J., TM, and D.) took three benches out of the van in order to enable us to bring our plunder home and we set off in search of that elusive beast: cheap furniture.

The first leg of our journey involved Chicago traffic on a Friday afternoon. It technically wasn't time for rush hour, but someone forgot to tell all the cars on the road. Our little venture was already taking longer than we anticipated. After 30 minutes of bumper-to-bumper traffic on the Stevenson, we were hoping this was going to be worth it.

But we persevered in our quest and arrived at the warehouse. We walk in and find ourselves in a little room with no one there. Thinking that this can't be all of it, we see a door and wander through it. This leads to a slightly bigger room with more furniture, still no people, and not really the furniture we are looking for. We continue on, finding open doors and entering them. After another couple of rooms, we finally find the warehouse. The warehouse is big. Really big. It is also filled with a lot of furniture. Now, the thing is, while there are literally hundreds of pieces of furniture in the warehouse (at some really ridiculously low prices), there is not a lot of variety. For instance, they probably have close to five hundred couches... but in only two styles. It is the same couch over and over and over. Trust me when I say that they didn't start to look better the twelfth time we came across them. There were a lot of upholstered arm chairs (which we weren't looking for), but once again, the variety of chairs was slim. The whole things was a little odd. TM and D. had a ball wandering huge piles of furniture and playing hide-and-seek.

You see, the thing with the warehouse is that it buys furniture from hotel chains who are redecorating or closing and sells it off cheap. If you have ever had a hankering to own the framed art you come across in hotel rooms, I know where you can get some. (Or 100.) I can also tell you where to get bedside tables, conference and desk chairs and console tables. If you have multiple rooms you want to furnish exactly alike, this is the place for you. There was one lone pool table which J. and I thought we'd buy just to make the trip worthwhile, but it was sold. The large mirrors were a really great deal ($15), but J. and I couldn't think of a place where we needed one.

Thus, the end of the story finds our adventurers empty-handed... of furniture at least. We did stop to get donuts to appease the young boys who thought the warehouse was little compensation for the drive through traffic and removing and returning van benches. Just a hint. If'you happen to be visiting, only sit on the left side of the brown couch in our front living room, you will be less likely to get poked by a spring.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Some plans don't work

This was to be one of the weeks that we did our five in a row style activities with a picture book. I had the book and the plans and I was ready. What I was unprepared for was the reaction. I had thought they would all be excited about setting our workbooks aside and reading a new book and doing activities. I had thought wrong. There were complaints right off the bat. The little girls in particular were rather upset that they didn't get to do their workbooks. Grudgingly, they sat down to listen to the new story. I thought for sure once we were reading the story they would become excited.

The book was, The Giraffe Who Walked to Paris, by Nancy Milton. I thought it was good. It is a retelling of a true story about a giraffe that is a gift from the pasha of Egypt to the King of France to promote goodwill between their countries. The giraffe then needs to get to Paris. After a voyage by ship across the Mediterranean, the Giraffe then walks from Marseilles to Paris. I thought for sure everyone would love it.

Well, I just wrong all across the board. They listened to it the first time, but were not entranced by it. They still complained that we hadn't done any workbooks even after we started the story. And no one wanted to listen to it a second day, even though I insisted. The activities were even less well received.

So on Wednesday, I threw in the towel and went back to workbooks. Everyone was happy. I was left wondering if I needed to rethink my bigger school plan. Here's what I've decided. My experiences from last year tell me that the success or failure of this venture is highly dependent on the book. Some books we read last year they loved and couldn't wait to read again. Others, they didn't love and it was not as successful. (Though I didn't have outright rebellion like I did this week. I think that's due to everyone being older and liking their current school work.) Since not every book worked for us last year, I'm going to try a couple more times. I think they will like the books I have planned. Of course, I thought they would like the giraffe book. We'll see if it is just a mismatch between book and children or if it is a style of learning that just doesn't fit anymore.

If it just doesn't fit, I will admit to being a little sad. I've loved sharing these books and doing projects. I think I just really like teaching the preschool age. This is the first time I've "run out" of them. It's good that they grow and mature; it's what they're supposed to do... but, still... It's right up there with noticing that G. does not always reverse her letters and write backwards all the time anymore. I told J. the other day that you can tell she is #10. In an earlier child, say #1 or #2, consistent backwards writing might have caused me concern, but in this one, I was just charmed and was 99.9% sure that it would straighten itself out. It is, and I will miss the backwards writing. 
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