Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Another day....

...another moose lounging in my backyard.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Art Inspired by Eric Carle

Over the years, we have all enjoyed Eric Carle's books. Brown Bear, Brown Bear and The Very Hungry Caterpillar are among our favorites and I'm sure that I could recite them by heart.

So, when I saw this neat art project posted on Chocolate on my Cranium, I knew that we had to give it a try. I can't seem to find her exact post, because it was a few months back, but they made some beautiful artwork.

First we took some plain, white paper. I used cardstock, because I had some extra and thought it might be easier to work with. You could probably use plain paper also.

We used various different paints and just painted the blank sheets, trying to make different patterns and textures. The poster paints looked best - especially the "glitter" ones. They gave it a really neat shine. We also used some acrylics, because we had them in various colors. They left a more "dull" look to the pages, but still worked.

This is one of the times that I am eternally thankful that I have an arts & crafts table. The thought of doing this at the dining room table scares me. Especially since I let Nick participate!

I let them dry overnight. Some of the papers were pretty wet, since we were making interesting textures in it. They curled up as they dried:

I stacked them all up and put them under the monstrous Webster's Dictionary to flatten out a bit.

Then we started cutting pieces out to make our pictures. We used glue sticks and put them onto cardstock as a background. I would definitely do this project again!!

Ellie made a caterpillar:

And a butterfly:

Kate did a flower:

Lexie made a cute little ladybug:
I had to jump in and make some flowers too. I couldn't help myself!!

Doesn't this look like fun?????? Give it a try!!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

What is the right age?

I have been contemplating this question a lot lately.

Maybe it's because Ellie is almost 10 and she's growing up so fast.

I feel really bad for firstborn children. (Maybe only because I am one!) They are always the experiments. It's just always harder with the first one. Letting them venture out into the world on their own is a frightening thought.

So that brings me back to - what is the right age?

To be left home alone.
To walk around the neighborhood with friends.
To babysit.
To have their own email address. (Ellie has been begging!!)
To have their own cell phone.
To go to the movies with friends (but no parents).
To walk around in a different section of the store - alone.
To run into the store alone to buy something.
To have a cell phone.
To wear make-up.
To (gasp!) date.

Some of these are obviously not going to happen for a very long time. But time creeps up on you. Before we know it, they're all going to be teenagers. Yikes!

I see kids walking home alone from school. Playing alone in the neighborhood. Gabbing on cell phones. I remember babysitting kids when I was 12 or 13. I can't imagine leaving my kids with a 12 year old!!

Am I just completely overprotective? What is the right age? I know that a lot depends on the responsibility level of the kid and the area that you live in and the values your family has. There is no "right" answer.

I just don't know when I'm going to ever feel comfortable with them venturing out into the big, bad world.

I Heart Faces: Pouting

This week's theme is "pouting".
I don't remember what she was upset about, but look at that lower lip!!

To join in the fun, or to see the other entries, click on the button above.

AWANA Olympics

Ellie's group competed in the AWANA Olympics yesterday. She was a bit nervous at first (people watching from the bleachers), but she ended up having a great time. Her team took home first place! They had tug o'wars and 3-legged races and various other events.

This is the first time that I actually used the camera on my iPhone. It worked pretty well!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Random Linkage

Here are some miscellaneous links that you might enjoy:

1. Queen Homeschool Supplies. I just found them the other day. They sell Charlotte Mason style books and the publish a series called Language Lessons which looks beautiful. They also sell my all-time favorite nature journal - called quite simply : My Nature Journal. It's fantastic.

2. Gravitas Publications. This is the curriculum we will be using next year for science. Ellie will do the Biology, Chemistry, and Physics Level 1 (with KOGs) and Kate & Lexie will be using the Biology and Chemistry, Pre-Level 1. It looks like a great curriculum, even if we can only use it for one year!

3. I found this tutorial for how to make a birthday banner on a blog called See Mommy Sew. Don't even ask why I have a desire to make one of these. I know that I can't sew. I just think that they are so cute! What a great idea!! Maybe I could design one and cut it out and talk Andy into sewing it for me. If I could persuade him with a big juicy steak...
Here is a pattern for one on etsy and you can find them for sale on there also.

4. Classics for Kids is a great website all about classical music.The have games, timelines, lesson plans, podcasts, etc.

5. Sheppard Software has a great site full of educational games you can play online. They have everything from vocab and geography to chemistry and math. We'll be coming back to this one often!!

Teaching Textbooks: Our New Math Program!!

Student Learning Math by Using a Blackboard by Fritz Goro
Student Learning Math by Using a Blackboard

I don't like math. I thought that I should just come right out and say it. I'm not horrible at it or anything. I made it through Math Analysis. I just have never liked it. I fear passing that feeling on to my children.

I have been happy with Horizons Math, which we have been using for the past couple of years. I think that it is a great program and it has served us well.

The only problem that we have had lately, is that I don't seem to have time to teach the math lesson to each one of the kids individually (Ellie -4th, Kate-2nd, and Lexie -K) It's time consuming. So, I end up not giving them the lesson. I just hand them the worksheet.

Then they do it on their own and have to ask a number of questions (of course all at the same time - which is frustrating and distracting to everyone). Then we move on to another subject, often without me even grading their papers until the next day!! This obviously isn't the way to teach math.

Yesterday, I found a great new program called Teaching Textbooks, which we are going to try out next school year.

The kids get their lecture and sample problems on the computer!! Then they have a workbook page to do, but they enter their answers into the computer as they go and are told if it's correct or not. If it is wrong, it explains it to them. Plus, it keeps the grades for me!

This really sounds like it will simplify our school day a bit and I'm excited about any little change that can make our day run smoother.

The textbooks currently range from Grade 4 to Pre-Calculus, so Lexie will continue on with Horizons 1 next year - which is fine with me. She is not old enough to sit and do it on her own anyway.

I had Kate and Ellie take placement tests for the program and Kate will be in Grade 4 and Ellie in Grade 7. That sort of surprised me. Technically, they should be in 2nd and 5th grades next year, but Kate was already a year ahead in math. So, I'm not sure if the program is that "off" from Horizons or what, but we took the tour and did the example lessons and it seems wonderful!!

Besides going over the normal math subjects, it also addresses math in the real world - taxes, sales, quilting, carpentry etc. I am all for learning the practical, everyday uses for math!

I feel like this is going to lighten my load a little bit and also bring some excitement back into math. They want to start RIGHT NOW! They will have to wait until the coming school year though...

Don't just take my word for it! Head on over to Teaching Textbooks and check it out for yourself!!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Losing Track of Time

Yesterday was a long day. I have a feeling that today is going to be another one.

I have loads and loads of laundry to do.

I have my third quarter reports to do and turn in to the correspondence school. Easy, but very time consuming when I have saved it to do all in one day.

Oh yeah - and a Girl Scout event and practice for the AWANA games.

It's weird. I'm keeping track of the days just fine. I can tell which day is which by what class we're headed to.

But the dates - oh the dates. I'm absolutely lost right now. In a time warp.

Maybe it's because I haven't been very good with looking at the calendar lately. I only have a one-month one hanging in plain sight. I don't know.

Whatever the reason, I just about missed my son's birthday, I completely forgot that I had quarterly reports due until yesterday, and I honestly could not tell you what Sunday Easter is. No clue. But I bought my Easter basket stuff last night, so it's sitting in the closet ready when I get a clue.

I suppose I should pull my calendar out of my planner and take a look at it. I would have to sift through the stuff on my desk to find it though. I hope I can get to that today too....

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Curriculum Choices

Warning: Long and possibly boring post. I don't promise that any of this follows a coherent thought.

I've been drowning in reading this past week.

No exciting novels or even fun magazines for me though.

No, I'm knee-deep in homeschooling catalogs, websites, and online bulletin boards. I'm trying to make the decision on what we're going to do this coming year (which we'll be starting at the end of July).

I posted earlier, comparing TOG and Sonlight, trying to decide which might work better for me.

I still haven't made a decision, but I'm trying to make one soon so that I can move ahead to prepare.

When it comes down to it, I have to realize that no matter what I choose, I'm not going to be able to leave it alone. That's just me. I wish that I could just be satisfied and feel like whatever curriculum I choose is perfect the way it is, but I don't know that I will ever feel that! Maybe I just need to get over it.

I have been looking at Tapestry of Grace (which we're already using), Sonlight, Story of the World (using this also), Mystery of History, and Winter Promise.

The thing is that nothing seems to fit perfectly.

We are finishing up TOG 1 this year, so if I use any of Sonlight's cores next year, we will be overlapping in the history studies. I don't want to have the kids study Ancient times again. They are ready and excited about moving on to Medieval Times.

Plus, I used the "Sonia" tool on Sonlight and according to that, because of my children's ages and differing reading abilities, I wouldn't be able to lump them into the same study groups - any of them. I can't do 3 separate cores and preschool with Nick and keep a baby happy. That is not going to happen.

The thing that draws me to Sonlight most (besides their great choice of books) is that it eliminates the work for me. The lesson plans are neatly printed out and all I have to do is execute. However, I really want to keep the kids on the same page when it comes to our history studies and I like to have history as the core to what we're studying rather than the literature. I just do.

I should add that I already own TOG Yr 2 (the older version), Mystery of History 2, and Story of the World 2 (Book, CDs, and Activity Book). So, purchasing a whole new curriculum seems a bit ridiculous and frankly quite wasteful. All 3 of these curriculum are wonderful.

My main complaints with continuing with TOG next year are:

1. The schedule. It lists all of the choices for the week, which I love, but I hate that it's not in the neat, easy-to-use right out of the box format that Sonlight is. I know that it tells you to have your children schedule everything out each week, but that doesn't work for me. I want the year's worth of assingments in front of me before we start.

2. Year 2. I just feel like way too much is crammed into this year. My kids want to spend some time on the Middle Ages - castles, knights, the Renaissance. The Vikings don't even have their own week! To move from the Fall of Rome all the way through the American Revolution is a bit much to cover in a year.

3. The Writing Program. This has crippled me this year. I don't feel like there is enough guidance on assignments. Maybe it's just me.

If you've read this far, then maybe you're trying to make the same decision I am. I've seen a lot of people on the boards asking questions about which is better for a large family - TOG or Sonlight. I know that they are both great programs.

What I'm considering right now is either just going back to Story of the World as the spine for this coming year and using TOG and MOH to supplement with the mapwork, vocab, projects, and upper-level reading assignments for Ellie or spread out the first 19 weeks of TOG 2 over the whole year.

Either way, I would just have to put spend the time to put my weeks into the Sonlight scheduling format to be prepared for next year. And I would have to come up with something for writing assignments. That sounds like it could be a lot of work I'm making for myself though. I wonder if it would be worth it.

Oh, I'm making myself tired just thinking about this. Hope I didn't put any of you to sleep!
I'm off to bed. I promise to let you know what I decide!!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Ice Alaska, Day Three

It is still stinkin' cold here. Spring has not sprung. It's a bit disappointing.

Because of this, Ice Alaska stayed open for an extra week though, allowing me to take another trip to see the beautiful ice art - in the evening this time.

Usually, the sculptures are melting into puddles by now. There were a few details missing - strings on harps and other little things that apparently couldn't take the 20 degree heat wave.

We headed on over there after dance class tonight. It was in the teens, so we all bundled up - well except for the fact that I forgot my long johns. Don't forget your long johns if you're going to be outside for a few hours in the cold. You will regret it.

We showed up too early. It wasn't dark yet and apparently the sun is setting later than I had realized. We were there for almost 3 hours. By the time we left, I had 5 kidsicles. I was starting to worry that someone might have a frozen diaper. And I didn't think I would ever feel my legs again.
Setting sun in Ice Alaska You can see the sculptures, not yet lit up.

Unfortunately, I didn't even come home with very good pictures. I think that it was too cold for my poor camera. When we headed into the snack shop building for some much-needed hot cocoa, my camera fogged up. I wiped the lens with the lens cloth, but it didn't seem to help. All of the pictures after this (which incidentally were the ones I really wanted - of the ice art in the dark) were blurry, or should I say "foggy"?

Here is Lexie in front of the Ice Labyrinth

I have to say that Ice Alaska is very Alaskan. Laid back. Not fancy-schmancy in any way.

Don't expect simple things like bathrooms. You will be sorely disappointed.

There are however quite a few port-a-potties throughout the park. Not that I can imagine cramming myself and a small child into a port-a-potty and trying to strip them down out of their coat and gloves and snow pants and regular pants and long johns and undies so that they could use the bathroom.

Last time I checked, port-a-potties didn't have heat in them. That would be a chilling experience to say the least. So, I am very grateful that during our 3 hours there, no one had to use the bathroom! Or maybe they were just too cold to even mention it, I don't know.

The more and more Ellie and I thought about it though, we started wondering why they didn't have bathrooms carved out of ice. They have benches, chairs, slides, and even a working telephone booth. Why not bathrooms?? Now that would be uncomfortable. :)

Notice the blurriness. It was really neat to see them all lit up in person.
Sorry that I don't have much to show everyone!

While we were becoming deliriously cold waiting for the sun to set, we also started wishing that there were some way to have the Ice Art Championships in the summer when it is pleasantly warm outside. Of course, then we would be looking at puddles instead of ice art and that wouldn't be quite as interesting.

Next year, Andy will be here and I can head over to Ice Alaska on my own to leisurely spend time taking pictures - without fear of freezing my munchkins. So, I promise better pictures next year!!

Ancient Rome with Kids: Resources

We're working our way through Ancient Rome right now. We don't have quite the enthusiasm that we did at the beginning of the year. I think that most of it is probably my fault. I am trying to keep it fun and interesting as we finish up our year.

Here are some of the resources that we have been using during our studies:
I haven't used all of these for all of the kids. Ellie does a lot of independent reading, thankfully!

Here are a couple of cool website that we found:
You can make your own mosaic online. No mess!
Dress the Roman Centurion for battle.

Monday, March 23, 2009

We Picture This: Black and White

we picture {this}

Click the link above to join in the fun!
I took this last August, the day I got my new camera.
Lexie is always such a happy model.

Deployment Milestone

Today is not only Nick's birthday, it is also marks 6 months since Andy left for Iraq.

He already had his R&R leave, so we don't have that to look forward to anymore.

But, it is a good feeling to know that it's all down hill from here.

I have almost made it through the entire cold, dark winter alone. Well, I guess technically I have, but it sure doesn't feel like spring quite yet.

I finally feel like we have the right amount of sunlight. It's funny living here. It goes from one extreme to another. From short winter days with only a few hours of daylight to summer with the midnight sun. It is truly amazing, but I find that it's hard for my body to adjust back and forth.

The kids are doing well. They miss daddy like crazy of course (as do I). Every night, they go to sleep with their "daddy dolls" tucked under their arms. Those have been the best thing that I've ever bought them. It's so nice for them to have a piece of him here. They lay down and push the button and can hear his voice. It's very comforting for them. I will have to post a new picture of them soon. They are getting very loved - I'm glad that they are washable!

Before we know it, he'll be home and we'll be together as a family again. We'll spend next Christmas with each other. We'll celebrate next years birthdays together. I will have an adult to talk to every day - which will do wonders for my sanity!

I feel good knowing that it's halfway over - and that I already made it through the "cold, dark" half. I have summer to look forward to and then he will be back :)

The Simple Woman's Daybook

FOR TODAY March 23, 2009...
Outside my window...light, glorious light and still plenty of snow on the ground.
I am thinking...that I should try to get to bed earlier instead of reading.
I am thankful for...my little boy, who turns 3 today. He's a handful, but he's such a joy!
From the learning rooms...still studying Ancient Rome and Weather. Hoping to do some more poetry writing this week since the kids enjoy it so much. I am also planning some spring art projects for us to work on.
From the kitchen...sausage and pancakes for breakfast. Nick got to pick since it was his birthday :)
I am wearing...PJs. I don't usually get dressed until I have to.
I am creating...next year's school plans
I am going...to take Ellie to dance class. To the library (I hope)
I am reading...I am hoping for a library trip today if I have enough time. I need a new stack of books on my nightstand.
I am hoping...that the weather starts to warm up enough to start melting the snow.
I am hearing...the sounds of my children eating breakfast together.
Around the house...I need to do some paper filing today. Not fun, but much needed.
One of my favorite things...Hansen's Mango Orange sodas.
A few plans for the rest of the week:to visit Ice Alaska at night and take some pictures of the sculptures all lit up. We were going to go last week, but it got too cold out for the kiddos (well, for me too!)
Here is picture thought I am sharing...

To join in the fun, go here.

Guess Who's Three?

Yes, Nick is 3 years old. Can you believe it? I sure can't.

I have noticed so many changes in him just over the past couple of months. It's amazing to watch him transform into a big kid.

He is completely fearless, like most 3 year old boys. I am anticipating an emergency room visit in the near future. It's bound to happen. He jumps off of the castle in his bedroom. He runs at full speed wherever he goes. He twirls in circles until he bumps into things. Pretty normal, I think.

We were going to wait and do his party on his birthday, but when we got home last night, we decided to just go for it. I probably should have given him a "real" party, but I just wasn't up for it. I didn't even wrap his presents. At least I gave them to him one at a time. :)

He said that he wanted a "Thomas Happy Birthday", so I stuck some Thomas engines on his cake and called it good. He's easy to please!

Yes, he got a sword for his birthday - at least it's made of foam so no one will be mortally wounded!
He also got a couple of Thomas the Tank Engine puzzles and a couple of engines.
And he got some really cool tools from Miss Michelle. Thank you :) Now I have a handyman in the house!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

I Heart Faces: No Flash!

This week's theme at I Heart Faces is "No Flash". I took this picture of my daughter Kate, last week while we were visiting Ice Alaska.

I finally have Photoshop Elements 7, but I still haven't figured out how to use it yet. The tutorial book is in the mail! I am looking forward to being able to edit my photos better.

Click the above link to view many more entries (which look much more professional than mine!) It's so much fun looking through everyone's entries. :)

Summer Plans

It's time to put a rough plan in place for what I want accomplished this summer.

We are probably going to finish up our schoolwork the first week of May. That's unless the kids get ultra-motivated to be done and double up on work.

We can't buy new curriculum and supplies through the correspondence school until July 1st. By the time I order stuff, receive it, and am able to prepare it for us to use, it will be late July at the earliest when we can start again.

It's not that I have a burning desire to start in the middle of summer. August is a beautiful month in Alaska and I want to take full advantage of the sunlight and good weather.

We will probably be on a modified schedule and we won't have any of our normal extracurricular activities until September, but we really have to get an early start this year.

Andy will be returning from Iraq in September and I want to have the flexibility to take time off to spend together when he gets back. Also, we will probably be moving in May of next year, so I need to make sure that we are completely done with school by then.

So, back to our summer plans.

We will have a much needed break from gymnastics, dance, art, Girl Scouts, and AWANA. I am very excited about this! It will free us up for other fun adventures.

Ellie and Kate are each going to a week of camp, which they are both looking forward to. Kate's is a day camp, so she will be coming home every night. She's not quite ready for the overnight experience yet.

The girls have plans to fill the greenhouse with lots of cool plants this year. Gardening should keep them busy with things to do. Planting, watering, weeding, and enjoying their harvest.

I would like to get out and enjoy the sunshine and fresh air as much as possible. We will take day trips to Pioneer Park, the Botanical Gardens, Creamer's Field, and maybe go panning for gold at one of the mines. I won't be making any long trips though. Driving a long distance in the Alaskan wilderness alone with the kids doesn't sound like a very good idea to me...

The kids will spend lots of time riding their bikes in the yard and maybe on the trails if I feel brave enough. I will spend a lot of time on my swing, watching them play.

I am thinking about putting Ellie in a week-long handicrafts class. They offer weaving, knitting, crocheting, and some others. She has been happily finger-knitting and starting to learn to crochet. I'm finding balls of yarn all over the house. My skills aren't good enough to teach her much more than she already knows though.

I plan on taking a lot of pictures and learning how to use Photoshop Elements.

I am hoping to work on some genealogy in the evenings.

I am going to give the kids nature journals when the snow melts and hopefully they will be full by the time snow falls again.

We might do a session of swimming lessons if they are offered on post. The kids have been absolutely begging to swim again and I can't take them all in the pool myself. Lessons are the only way that they can swim for now.

I will be doing some much needed Spring/Summer cleaning. It feels like a cave in here during the winter. I'm ready to air out the house and declutter a bit.

And last, but certainly not least, I will be preparing next year's schoolwork. I still haven't made the decision on what curriculum we will be using, but I know that I absolutely won't begin until I am prepared this time! Period. End of story.

What are you planning on doing this summer?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Welcome Spring

I want to formally welcome Spring and let her know that she can start melting the snow at any time.

I would love to see some blooming flowers.

It would be heavenly to hear and smell the rain.

Warmer weather would be nice too. I would be happy to wear something besides boots on my feet. Leaving the house without a scarf would be pleasant.

I'm ready for anything besides snow and cold...

Bring on the sunshine!!!

Beautiful Words

I have been so impressed with Ellie's way with words. She is starting to get more and more comfortable with her writing.

Today, she sat down and decided to write - on her own.
Here is her work of art: (Yes, I'm her mom and I'm biased)

The salty green sea spray slowly crashes against my feet.
I bend down and pick up a small, spiral sea shell.
It gleams in the warm sun.
Small fish tickle my feet, all different colors.
My mom calls "Time to go!"
I sigh and slip the shell in my pocket, a reminder of that wonderful day.

What does torture look like to me?

No, I'm not talking bamboo shoots under the fingernails.

It's sewing on Girl Scout patches. 18 of them to be exact. The girls got them all at once.

I own a sewing machine. It's 10 years old, but in remarkably good condition. I wonder why that is? Maybe because I haven't figured out how to use it yet?

It was a subtle hint from my husband. Maybe he thought that if he bought me a sewing machine, I would start making my own curtains and designing clothes for our children? Just a guess.

Or maybe he bought it because deep down he wanted one for himself but he didn't want to admit it to anyone. Sorry honey, but we know that is the truth. It was a cover-up.

Not that he sews quilts or anything foo-foo like that. I don't want to completely ruin his reputation on this blog. I have to say that he is surprisingly proficient though. It's all of those years in the Army - sewing on his own patches.

So back to why I can't sew. I started taking a class when Ellie was a few months old. It didn't last. She was way to attached to me in the evenings (literally) and it was too hard for Andy to try to watch her for 4 hours at a time when all she wanted to do was power nurse.

Let's just say that I came home with 1/4 of a baby dress. That's where my career as a seamstress ended.

I have used it once or twice when I was feeling especially domestic (and when Andy was here to help). The problem is that I'm mechanically challenged. The whole threading the bobbin thing just shuts my brain down. (That is the correct word, isn't it? Bobbin. That just sounds weird.) Anyway, brain turns to mush and it takes me so long that I might as well just sew it by hand.

So that's what I do. I sew by hand. But I don't even want to guess how long it's going to take me to do it, because truthfully I'm not very good at that either.

Yet another reason I wish that Andy was here. He would have all 18 of them sewn on before I got one done. Not much of an exaggeration.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Heart of the Matter: Indoor Gardening

This is definitely not my area of expertise. Plants shrivel before my eyes. I think I scare them when I get near.

Maybe it's because I forget to water them? And then I overcompensate by drowning them? Just a guess.

This week's meme at Heart of the Matter is "Indoor Gardening: Best Tips and Tricks for Starting Those Spring Blooms".

I'm hoping that someone has some good advice to share, because I don't.

I have a huge greenhouse. It needs some TLC, but it has potential. The girls have their hearts set on having it full of plants this summer. I would love it too - especially since they want to do the work!!

I would love to know what is easy to grow. Our growing season is so short here in Alaska, but we have TONS of sunlight. Ever seen those mammoth-sized cabbage? You get the picture. I'm assuming that if I start some stuff inside now and then move it to the greenhouse when it starts warming up (May probably) that it will be ripe before the frost comes again.

It needs to be cleaned up, but there is a lot of room in here!

It has a huge potting bench too. Notice the dead potted plants. I think they used to be strawberries...

I will wait and hope that someone else posts some great ideas to help me get started! Oh, and I don't think that I can actually get to my greenhouse at this point in time. There is a lot of snow piled up in front of the door. These pics were taken last summer.

Music Lessons

My very antique and out of tune piano

I have personally always wanted to learn how to play the piano. Maybe because I never had lessons - or a piano - as a kid. Not that I was totally deprived or anything. I played the saxophone in band from 5th-8th grade. I can still belt out "Louie, Louie" pretty well, but that's about it.

Ellie took violin lessons for 2 months last year. It was difficult, and truthfully she didn't enjoy it. Learning an instrument takes so much commitment and time and patience. You have to want to do it. You have to practice every day. Otherwise, you will never get past that "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" level that is so frustrating (to play and to listen to!).

Lexie had free on-post lessons which she hadn't used yet (because of the deployment). She decided that she would like to try the piano.

I have been pleasantly surprised at her progress over the past 3 weeks. She has been zipping right through the lessons and playing little songs. She can pick out the different notes on the keyboard. She can tell the difference between the different types of notes. I didn't think that she would be learning as quickly as she is. She seems to be truly enjoying it!

We have a very antique piano which we picked up off of Freecycle while we were living in Monterey. Poor Andy had to carry it out of some tiny cottage in Carmel. He's such a good husband to submit to my every little whim.

The piano has traveled with us to Alaska, but we still haven't had someone come and look at it to see if it is worth fixing and tuning. That is on the list of things to do in the not-so-distant future. For now, Lexie is practicing on the keyboard instead.

Here is Nick, having fun on our piano. It does NOT make very pretty music.
I don't think that it has been tuned in 50 years.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Educational Gaps

Ball Four: Baseball
Ball Four: Baseball

There are always going to be things that you have meant to teach your children that have somehow fallen through the cracks. This is true whether you homeschool or not.

I have found one of those things. Sports.

My kids are active and strong. Ellie does 5 1/2 hours of dance and 1 1/2 hours of gymnastics every week. Kate and Lexie are both in gymnastics also and have done dance on and off. I occasionally put them in swimming when lessons come around. They ride bikes in the summer. They are not couch potatoes.

But, they have missed out on "traditional" PE classes. I'm not saying that this is a horrible thing, but that, paired with the fact that we watch ZERO sports in our house, means that my children don't know basic sports rules and terminology. Heck, they can't even differentiate between some of the sports. I'm not kidding. Soccer? Baseball? Football? Basketball? They know that they are all balls and that is about it.

Ellie pretty much knows which ball is which. She reads a lot and has seen movies, so she gets the gist of it. She has also played volleyball for a couple of summers. The other kids are absolutely clueless though.

I have noticed this quite a few times in the past couple of months. Occasionally, there is a math problem or some other schoolwork that assumes that you know things like where home base is (or what home base is for that matter!)

My kids don't know how to play baseball. How un-American is that? I remember that we played kickball once at a homeschool gym day and my kids had no idea where to run or what they were doing the entire time.

So, I am thinking that maybe it's time for some team sports. T-ball sign ups are going on right now. I don't know that I want to commit to a bunch of Saturdays on the sidelines though.

Maybe I need to turn the TV on once in a while and explain the basic rules of some of the different sports.

I don't know, but I should probably do something. Shame on me!

Imagination Library

Here are some of the great books that we have received over the past year through Dolly Parton's Imagination Library.

The little ones love getting books in the mail each month. They are all hardback and absolutely gorgeous. What a great program!! Please check to see if they have it in your area.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Bit Overwhelmed

The many faces of Lexie

Yesterday, I finally bought Photoshop Elements 7. I had been putting it off, but I finally decided that I definitely needed to plus-up my pictures.

Photoshop is a bit daunting. I feel like I need to take a semester-long class just to figure out the very basics. I did the instant download thing off the Adobe site and was a bit annoyed that the user's manual is an extra $20. Is it just me or is that crummy? I might just have to cave and buy it if I don't figure it out on my own.

I'm sure that I will get it eventually, but it's going to take some time. A lot of time.

Thank you Mary for commenting and directing me to The Pioneer Woman. What a gorgeous website! So many great photography tutorials. Plus she homeschools and has lots of yummy recipes. I will be lurking over there a lot in the future. If you haven't been there yet, grab a cup of coffee and get comfortable, because you're going to be there a while!

As if Photoshop Elements wasn't going to be enough to keep me busy for now, I also got a membership to Picnik yesterday - the coolest site on earth. A lot of the photo-editing tools are free, but I decided to spend the $25 and get the extra bells and whistles.

They have some very fun photo effects. I personally love the "Gritty", "Orton-ish" "Vignette" and the "Focal Softening".

You can also go for the plain "Soften" tool, that looks like what they used on all of the women in the old Star Trek TV shows. Not that I ever willingly watch Star Trek, but I am sometimes subjected to it by my husband. Good thing we don't have cable anymore.

Speaking of my husband - here's a quick note for him: They have a tool called 1960s, so I can change all of my baby photos to look like yours!! :) Ok, I'm getting a bit off track here.

The other thing I love is the collage tool (which I used above). You can change the "kookiness" as they call it, so that the pictures are all turned in different directions. I love that I can now easily create collages for my blog! I can put all of the pics from a field trip together into one picture to upload. I'm sure that there is a way to do this in Photoshop, but at Picnik, it's simple. Really simple. Which is what I need.

They also have text, stickers, touch up, and some really nice looking, adjustable frames to add.
Here are a couple of the pics I was playing around with into the wee hours of last night. (The only time I had 5 minutes in a row to myself!)

I went a bit overboard on the "softness" on this one, but I'm learning!
I love the rounded edges - they give it that senior picture look. :)

Now I just need to read the manual to my camera so that I have better pictures to work with! I have yet to figure out all of the different settings on it.

When summer comes, I will be snapping away and hopefully learning as I go.

It's not as fun for me to take pictures now, during the winter. I like taking pictures outside because of all of the natural light. Unfortunately, everything is white right now- except for the moose. And it's too cold to stay out for very long. It was only hovering around zero today, but with the wind chills, they said that it could be closer to negative 40. Not pleasant.

Well, my baby woke up and my time is up!

Hopefully, my blog will be getting prettier in the near future. :)

Whole Lot of Shakin' Goin' On

Ok, so maybe not a whole lot of shakin', but enough to feel!

Late last night I was sitting on the computer, when I thought I heard something from upstairs - but I wasn't sure what. Pretty soon, Ellie came running down to tell me that we had just had an earthquake. She said that her bunk bed and the things in her room were shaking.

We checked online, and sure enough - we had just had a magnitude 4 earthquake about 80 miles NW of Fairbanks.

Being reminded that we do indeed live in an earthquake hotspot is probably a good thing. We found the Alaska Earthquake Information Center online, so now I know where to look for recent earthquake activity and for tips on how to be prepared in case "the big one" were to strike. The 1964 earthquake that hit Anchorage was devastating (a 9.2!!!). Let's hope that doesn't happen while we live here!!

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Simple Woman's Daybook

FOR TODAY March 16, 2009...
Outside my window...bitter cold. I had thought that spring would soon be here. It's a teeth-chattering negative 20 degrees out right now and the snow shows no signs of melting.
I am thinking...that I should buy some seeds to start in the garage. I plan to have a full greenhouse this year.
I am thankful for... a full night's rest!
From the learning rooms...Ancient Rome in history, weather in science, teaching Kate her multiplication tables, adding and subtracting mixed numbers with Ellie
From the kitchen...cheesy puffy pancakes, OJ and canned peaches for breakfast
I am wearing...PJs. I will eventually change though, because I have to leave the house today.
I am creating...lesson plans so that I can be more organized than I have been in the past few weeks.
I am going...to Sam's Club to fill our fridge and pantry.
I am reading...I just finished Breaking Dawn and I'm going to find something new today.
I am hoping...that I can actually get some things done this week!!
I am hearing...Van Morrison on the stereo. The sounds of my happy baby munching on cheerios.
Around the house...I desperately need to clean my bedroom. I'm hoping I get to that this week.
One of my favorite things...break up in Alaska. The sound of all of the snow and ice melting. It makes my heart leap with joy!! I can't wait for it to actually happen - probably another month.
A few plans for the rest of the week:to visit Ice Alaska at night (if it's warm enough). I want to see the ice sculptures lit up in the dark.
Here is picture thought I am sharing...
Here are the kids on the ice train at Ice Alaska. You can see that Nick (to the left) is sliding down the attached slide. This one was one of his favorites (of course he loves anything trains!)
To join in the fun or to read other daybooks, visit: http://thesimplewomansdaybook.blogspot.com/

Sunday, March 15, 2009

I Heart Faces: Green

In celebration of St. Patty’s Day, we are having a green-themed week at I Faces!

Lexie sure had a ball in the very green wet grass!
This is my first entry on I Heart Faces. I am feeling a bit intimidated since I haven't even figured out how to use Photoshop yet. It's on my list of things to learn though. :)

Be sure to head on over to www.iheartfaces.com to check out all of the beautiful face entries this week!"

Friday, March 13, 2009

Ice Alaska, Day Two

I told you there would be a day two!!

Today we returned to Ice Alaska and spent another couple of hours going down slides, looking at beautiful ice art, drinking hot cocoa, solving the ice labyrinth, and going down even more slides. Here are some pictures from our visit.