Wednesday, March 31, 2010

An Unexpected Lesson

Organic eggs are expensive. So in an effort to eat healthier and save money I decided we needed to raise our own chickens. My husband wasn’t wild about this idea, but I talked it up all winter. In early spring my daughter and I were at the farm store when we heard a chorus of tiny chirps. We made our way to the back of the store, where we discovered hundreds of tiny chicks. Baby chickens are irresistibly adorable! Next thing I knew we had seven baby chickens in a box on the front seat of the van. The trunk was loaded with feed, chicken grit, animal bedding and a heat lamp.

Impulsive? Maybe a little, but what a great learning opportunity! We learned about the laying qualities and diverse personalities of the different breeds before we left the store. (Some of our chicks will even lay green eggs!) We also discovered first hand where the term “pecking order” comes from. But one of our hardest lessons came shortly after the boys constructed a cardboard brooder in the laundry room. All of the chicks settled into their new home except one. She continued to chirp loudly all day. The next day she wouldn’t open her eyes and she stumbled about on wobbly legs. A call to the farm store confirmed what we feared: that she probably wouldn’t make it. Neither my husband nor I had the nerve to end the chick’s life quickly, so we watched it die slowly over the next couple of days. That was a heartbreaking experience, but high chick mortality rates were only the beginning of all we’ve learned in the last month.

We’ve learned about chicken health, and all about coop design and construction. However, the most unexpected lesson was more personal. I learned that while raising chickens may be common and easy for some people, it was totally overwhelming for me. I read books, consulted friends, talked to experts and searched the Internet, but I still struggled to figure out what I was supposed to do with all these baby birds.

Watching the chicks was so much fun but I muddled my way through much of this experience. As I’ve struggled, I’ve reflected on my children and their own learning process. How many times have I dismissed their complaints about the difficulty of learning something new? Sometimes as an adult it’s hard to remember that long multiplication wasn’t always easy, and writing a five paragraph essay can be very challenging. I’m fairly certain that not everyone needs to get their own chickens, but I do think everyone should try something new and challenging. We all need to be reminded occasionally that learning can be joyous, and it can be difficult!

Friday, March 26, 2010

J Day: JellO Jigglers and Jumping

We had J Day today at Suzy's house. Suzy and family have been in the process of moving into our apartment complex (hooray!) so we haven't had a letter day in awhile. But it was a very short trip today to just walk a few doors down to do some fun J activities with them.

Suzy had the boys start by giving them a paper with a big J and a little j on it and also a lot of words that start with J. The boys counted 12 J's on their page. Then they got to decorate it with stickers. Scientist was thrilled that the stickers were from the movie Cars, one of his favorites.

Next Suzy brought out a cookie sheet of Jello and some small cookie cutters. The boys cut out Jello Jigglers. They had a good time doing that, and an even better time eating them afterwords. :) The picture isn't of our actual jigglers. I forgot my camera so most of these were taken after the fact. Since the boys ate all the Jello, I got this one online.

After that we played a fun game. Suzy had pre-made Origami jumping frogs. Each boy got several frogs and the game was to make the frogs jump into a tupper ware container.

Thursday, March 25, 2010


Tonight we tried a recipe that I came across in the February issue of The Friend magazine that I've been wanting to try for a long time.

The Friend named them Sweethearts, probably for Valentines day, and made them red and heart shaped, but you could probably use about any color of Jell-O you wanted and use any shape of cookie cutter.

Ours didn't turn out as neatly, I don't know if we didn't let them set long enough, or what, but we had a hard time getting them out of the pan in one piece. We tried some star shaped ones, but after a few of those didn't work, we just cut the rest into squares. They were pretty tasty though.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Today I came to the realization that I haven't posted in over month. My excuse? Two little words-Burn Out. I have a friend that jokes that President's Day is a homeschoolers D-day. You've been doing school forever and you still have forever to go before summer. Throw in a life-changing medical diagnosis, a realization that Puzzler's learning disabilities are boarding on profound, my older boys competing with a very competitive science team, a new flock of chicks (more to come on that one) and the usual illnesses of winter and small wonder I can barely keep my head above water!

Several times over the last few weeks I've found myself wondering; How I can balance my own health and sanity and the needs of my children? I've been reminded that homeschooing moms often try to be the ultimate super moms. Especially as an unschooler it feels like the work of educating is never done. There are always more books to read, more projects to work on, more educational opportunities to take advantage of. On top of that there's always that nagging little issue of housework and the occasional grocery shopping trip! So we go and go and go until life really isn't fun anymore and there is no more joy in the journey.

So how does a homeschooling super mom reclaim her life? It's still a work in progress but here's what I'm working on:
1. Let some things go. As hard as it is for me, being a super perfectionist, I have to let some things go. The house does not always have to be clean. I do not have to volunteer for everything my kids are involved in. And it really is O.K. to take a sick day once in a while.
2. Get organized. The busier I get, the less organized I am, which just leads to more stress and confusion, so I am back to lists; grocery lists, to-do lists, packing lists.
3. Get up earlier. I am really not a morning person but I am trying hard to get to bed earlier and get up earlier. Late at night I am rarely productive and early in the morning I can usually fit in some exercise or quiet reading time.
4. Pray and give yourself credit for what you do accomplish. Sometimes I just have to believe that everything will work out!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Another ABC Blog

Today I stumbled across another ABC blog while I was looking for ideas for our upcoming K day. It's called The Alphabet Project. It's basically the same as the ABC Stuff blog I posted about a little while ago, except that the woman who posts on there has a daughter that's 2 (as opposed to the woman who does ABC Stuff who has a 4 year old son) so her projects are a little bit simpler. I also really like the method she uses. Here's how she explains it:

Each week we will focus on one letter. I've divided the Alphabet Project into daily and weekly activities. Daily activities will be shorter, while the weekly activities will be more involved.

1. SEE the letter.
2. SAY the letter's sound.
3. READ a book based on the letter. (For example, for the letter A, we'll read a book about apples.)
4. WRITE the letter.

1. COOK something that begins with the letter.
2. MAKE something that begins with the letter. (Yes, "make" could be the same as cook, but for "make" I'm envisioning an art project or something.)
3. DO an activity that begins with the letter.

Scientist and I aren't doing anything daily yet. We are still just going through the alphabet one letter at a time once a week. It's been more or less a play time with our friends so far, that just happens to have an educational twist. But I have been thinking that maybe in the fall after he turns three, we will boost it up to where he and I at least are doing something on a daily basis, and though I may not copy these exact goals, I like that she has them layed out and goes from there. It seems like it would give a little more structure but still give you lots of freedom to move within it.

Anyways, check out her blog, it has some cool ideas.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

I Day: Ice, Indians, Instraments, and Insects

After a two week break for sickness, we are back on track with letter day. Today's letter was "I" and it was my turn.

To start off we made ice. I gave each boy an ice cube tray and had them fill it with water. I explained to them that when water gets really cold it freezes and turns into ice. We put their ice trays in the freezer while we did all the other activities.

Next, we talked about Indians. Yes, I realize it's politically incorrect to call them Indians, but Native American doesn't start with "I". The boys made Indian headbands out of construction paper. I let them color the bands first (which I had already pre-cut, about two inches think and 22 inches long, 22 inches was just right for a two-year-old sized head, for older kids you might want to go longer) then we sized them to fit their heads and taped it together to make a headband. I had already pre-cut some feathers out of construction paper too. Each boy got 4 feathers in different colors. The boys got to choose where on their headbands they wanted the feather to go and in what order. Then we moms helped tape them in place.

They thought it was hilarious to watch themselves dance around in the mirror and see their feathers flapping around.

Once they had their headbands on we sang and Indian song. The lyrics are below. We only did the first verse today.

One little, two little, three little Indians,

Four little, five little, six, little Indians,
Seven little, eight little, nine little Indians.
Ten little Indian boys.

They jumped in a boat and the boat tipped over x 3
Ten little Indian boys.
They swum and the swum till they reached the shore x 3
Ten little Indian boys.

They all fell asleep in a little tepee x 3
Ten little Indian boys.

After that, I asked the boys if they knew what an instrument was. I explained that an instrument was something you used to make music. I told them that some Indians had a special instument called a rain stick, and whenever they wanted it to rain they would make music with the rain stick and do a rain dance to try and get the rain to come. Then we went back into the kitchen and made our own rain sticks using instructions that I found online here.

This activity required a little bit more mommy help than what I usually like to do, but it was well worth it. The boys loved their rain sticks. We also talked a little bit about insects and how insect was a different word for bug. I gave each boy a sheet of instect stickers to decorate their rain sticks with.

It's always interesting to me which parts of our Letter Days stick the best with Scientist. Today after they were done making their rain sticks they brought them out in the living room and shook them and danced for awhile, and afterwords Scientist looked at me and said, "I make it rain." And he kept talking about how it was going to rain and how he wanted to shake his stick to make it rain. He must have done something right, because I'm looking out my window right now and it's pouring sleet out there. Maybe I should have had them make sunshine and warm weather sticks :)

Just before it was time for our friends to leave, we pulled out the ice trays. The ice had only frozen about half way, but I think the boys liked being able to see both the water and the ice at the same time. They played in their ice trays until they and my kitchen counter were thoroughly soaked, then they seemed to be satisfied. :) I love to watch curious little boys at work. It's worth the effort of cleaning up when they're all done.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


Scientist loves to cook! He jumps on any opportunity he gets to help out when we are cooking. It occurred to me the other day that cooking is educational. I know, I'm a little slow. :)

But after thinking about it, I really do think that cooking can be a good learning experience for all ages. My initial thought was the math involved. Scientist is still pretty young to be doing fractions, but he can count the number of cups, teaspoons, eggs, etc. that are going into a recipe. As I listened to my husband helping him make pancakes the other day, I really liked what I was hearing.

Aaron: Scientist, I need a teaspoon and a tablespoon can you get them out of the drawer please.
Scientist: Here Dad
Aaron: Ok, look at them, which one is the big one? Yup, good job, ok I need you to use the big one, that's the tablespoon, and get one tablespoon of sugar and dump it in.

That's just a small example, but the whole time they cooked, they were talking and interacting and Aaron was asking Scientist questions to make him think, and Scientist was loving it.

And so I've decided that every so often when I come across a recipe that would be a good one to make with a toddler, I will include it on our blog. Today's recipe is for pancakes, one of our family's favorite dinners.

Melt in Your Mouth Pancakes

2 cups Bisquick mix
1 cup milk
2 eggs
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla

(Toddler can do this step) Stir all ingredients together until well blended. (Adult should do this step) Pour slightly less than 1/4 cupfuls onto hot greased griddle, cook until edges are dry, flip over and cook until golden.