Worlds of Learning is here!

Craig encouraged me to put together my own program for Lucy this year and I'm so glad he did. I've already gotten the fall books and I'm really excited to get started - only 1 month to wait!

I really have no idea if other people are even interested, but I went ahead and made it a real curriculum with typed up instructions and printables and everything. Mostly so I would make sure I followed through in making it. Nothing says commitment like promising other people you'll have it for them!

Here is a semi-brief description taken from the "manual":

I’m writing this program to use in the 2013-2014 school year with my 3-year-old. I wasn't happy with any other program I was finding for her age but wanted a plan to help guide our fun learning times together. My educational philosophy is highly influenced by Charlotte Mason with some Montessori and Waldorf thrown in for good measure so I didn’t want something academic. My main goal for this year is exposure to ideas, nature, and art.

What you won’t find in this program:
·         Letter of the Week. 
·         Structured Math:  
·         Deep Unit Studies: 

 What you will find:
·         Living Books: I love quality children’s literature and have tried to select picture books that I want to own in my library (actually, many of these were included because I needed an excuse to buy them instead of checking them out from our library over and over again!) I have read most of these books but the few I haven’t have been recommended by multiple sources whose opinions I trust. Most are classics but some are more current. Keep in mind that opinions vary; a book that is perfect for my child and family might not work as well for yours. Many of these should be found at your local library or try inter-library loan, Paperback Swap, or buying used copies from Amazon. Books don’t need to be expensive. I will be posting a linkable list of books on my blog in addition to the printable list included here.

·         Loose Themes:  Each month has an overall theme, often based on the seasons or nature.  And within the month I have tried to include a book for the categories God’s World (nature), Around the World (countries and culture), and A Beautiful World (art and music). There are also several free reads and not every book in a month will fit the theme. I would rather choose quality books than try to fit every book into a theme.

·         A Liberal Education. The “A Beautiful World” category often corresponds with the musician and artist selected for each semester. Each month also has a poem and hymns. The poems aren’t meant to be memorized, although small children often have a knack for memory and that might happen, but the goal is just fun and familiarity.

·         Lots of Breathing Room. You will see in the monthly overview charts that there are 4 categories of activities - baking, art, activity, and adventures - but each book will only have 2 or maybe 3 categories planned. I have included sheets with general ideas for other activities and space for you to add your own for weeks when you have more free time. Each semester is 12 weeks’ worth. I have left gaps in December for Christmas and April for Easter since I play more religious activities then. I have also combined June and July to leave more time since we are normally busy traveling and playing outside. The themes are seasonally-based but loose enough that it will be fairly easy to adjust the schedule to your needs. And within the month, the order of books is also flexible which may come in handy if you are waiting on a library book to be available.


Here are the parts you'll want to download:
  • World of Learning Teacher Manual - Teacher's manual might be a stretch but this document has descriptions of the general layout and how I am planning on using the curriculum. This will not change between semesters. 
  • Art Prints - The year's worth of art prints. I kept these separate so it would be easier to send them to a printer if desired.
  • Fall - The Fall semester's book lists, activities and printables.
I'll be attempting to make a Winter and Spring semester too but those aren't quite ready yet. Keep in mind that this plan is untested but Lucy and I will be doing that part this fall. We'd love it if you'd join us, even if you plan to adapt it a bit - especially if you plan on adapting it. I'd love to get more ideas so if you are, please leave a comment! (Also, editing is not my strong suit so if you find any errors or typos, please tell me so I can fix them!)


That's a lot of peaches

Oh, and not-so-secret shout out to my little brother Ben. As of today, he is no longer a teenager (tear). I had these great plans of getting a video of Lucy singing Happy Birthday but she woke up in a bad mood from her nap. Jonah did his part of maraca shaking but when it was time to sing, she just kept giving us death glares and that seemed less than festive so maybe next year Ben! Either way, hope you had a great birthday!

Due to some oddities in Craig's schedule last week, we ended up with him having almost the whole week off work. So we filled it up! And with the weather being as nice as it was (seriously, who would think it was July here?) we were able to do it all without risking heat stroke.

Tuesday was spent at our local pool, where it was really nice to have four hands and two sets of eyes on the kids. I've taken them on my own several times but it is exhausting. Wednesday was free entrance to the botanical garden. We hadn't been there before but it was awesome although sadly, you'll just have to take my word on it since I forgot the camera. But just imagine Lucy smelling flowers, Jonah trying to eat them and them both getting soaking wet at the splash pads. Oh, and Lucy braved the rope bridge. I was really proud of her!

 Thursday was a day we had been waiting for since January - we finally got our first appointments with our new family doctor! He's well loved around here so it takes a while to get your initial appointment. And yes, this was an event. It took the entire afternoon. What can I say? He's very thorough. But I think we'll like it there. He recognized Lucy's friend as a Waldorf doll so I'd say he's crunchy enough for us :-)

By Friday, I should have been exhausted, but nope, we were ready for more fun so we went peach picking. And this time, I did grab the camera.

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I thought we get 20-25 lbs but apparently, that isn't as much as one would think so we actually walked out of there with 43 lbs of peaches! I spent a large chunk of this afternoon peeling, slicing and prepping some to make jam but the jam hasn't actually been made or canned yet, and I still have oh, 30 lbs to go. So if you need me anytime next week, I'm sorry, I'll be busy canning.


Not cucumbers

This is our third year of gardening here and we're slowly learning what works - and what doesn't.  Corn and carrots are not worth it. I tried peas again this year and got three pods before our plants shriveled up and died so not going to waste that space again. But we've had really good success with garlic, tomatoes, cucumbers, and berries. And the pickles we make from our cucumbers are decent as well. But a few weeks ago, I started getting suspicious about our cucumber plants. Something just wasn't right.

Fast forward in time and yep, this is not a cucumber:
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acorn squash?

Neither is this:
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On the one hand, they are growing really well. On the other, I don't particularly like acorn squash and those pumpkins seem to be of a more decorative size.

Our hypothesis is that our cucumber seeds were left over from last year and just didn't grow but some seeds from our compost did and looked enough like cucumber plants that we didn't think to pick them as weeds.

So no pickles for us this year. But our tomatoes are just starting to turn green and seem to be quite prolific.

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And we are having a great berry year.
No more berries?
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Just kidding!
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Tons of strawberries last month, at few handfuls of raspberries daily not and more blackberries than we know what to do with (although I am trying blackberry mango frozen yogurt tomorrow which may prove to be an fun way to use some up). And we have figured out green beans are another successful plant for us.

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So I really can't complain - but I certainly do hope Lucy and Jonah like acorn squash so I don't have to eat as much.


The things she says

Some of these are older (before our trip) but too good not to keep anyway. 

Lucy is really into vocabulary lately and she'll often ask me to name other words for things like "What's another word for really big" and I'll listen huge, gigantic, giant, colossal, then she'll ask for more until the mommy thesaurus is exhausted and I tell her to go play. She also likes to tell me what things mean, but I'm not sure if she realizes that I'm not just making definitions up because sometimes she does:

Lucy: Milfords. That's another name for a big heavy book.
Me: It is?
L: Yes, well, that's what I call them. Milfords. See, I'm putting the milfords right here. Oh, they are heavy. Milfords. Whew.

Lucy: I can have another strawberry because there are plenty. Plenty means there are lots and lots. Even Jonah can have one.

Lucy: Mmmm. I'm saying mmm while I'm eating. Mmmm means it taste good.

That avocado seed is colossal!

Are you excited about going to Grandma and Grandpa's tomorrow?
Yes, I am. And I'm going to be good on the plane. I won't whine or fuss if it's too tight (meaning the seat belt) or if I'm hungry. I'll just wait. And it's going to be a long time because North Dakota is far far far away, it's in North America!

Lucy: Daddy, don't lie there! Sheepy  is there. You can go down on the floor.
Craig: I don't really want to be on the floor. Can't (the imaginary) sheepy and I share the bed?
Lucy: Well, I just think that is going to be impossible.

Lucy: Mommy, Today I'm pretending that I know everything, okay.

Lucy: Can we go camping?
Me: That would be fun! We'll have daddy look for a day without rain, and we'll get the tent and set it up in the backyard. We could even bbq and eat outside. Won't it be fun to sleep outside in a tent?
Lucy: Weeellll, I was thinking RV.

10 month update

I posted the 10 month post Sunday night. Within 24 hours, Jonah's first tooth popped through and he took his first steps. It's gonna be a fun month around here!


10 months!

Dear Jonah

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The official 10 month photo. 
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The realistic 10 month photo

I'll say it now. There is an appalling lack of pictures from this past month. But there is a really good reason for that (see below). And we may need to think of new phrases to use around you because Lucy has starting saying things like "Here comes trouble!" and "You're driving me nuts, kid" (in a sweet tone, of course :-) whenever she sees you doing something.

Things you like to do:
Climb into dishwasher
Eat cat food
Play in the cat water
Play in the litter box
Take your diaper off
Take covers off air vents and try and climb in them.
Climb up on chairs and "jump" off.
Play with toilets and potties
Climb into your walker wagon and rock it to make it roll back and forth
Take every toy out of the toy cabinet (now that you have figured out how to open it up)
Play with the cat when she has made it perfectly clear that she wants to be left alone
Bang stuff and make loud noises

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You think a rubber band is gonna stop me?

Only the last two of those are really allowed, only one is really enjoyable for me. That's not a completely list though.

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I laugh at your attempts to babyproof. 

You love to watching things and figuring them out - like how to climb up places or open them or make things work. You also love to do difficult things over and over again like lifting a heavy container/boot up to a shelf, then drop it, repeat.

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You love to be outside. When we take you outside, you first crawl over to the blackberry bushes and pick yourself a few, hopefully ripe ones but you aren't really picky. Then you find your little tikes push car and start walking. If I set the angle of the steering wheel just right, you can go in a large circle around our driveway and you just go and go and go. You like to push Lucy too.

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You really love Lucy. She can just walk up to you and laugh and you will start laughing together. It seems like you've made a big mental jump this month and the two of you have started to actually play together. Rolling a ball back and forth, crawling chase/follow me, or build a tower (Lucy) and knock it down (Jonah) are three games you like to play. Sometimes she'll make you play with her and when you crawl away, she'll just drag you back again.

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Lucy's figured out how to carry you around and it does not look comfortable but you never fuss but just smiles and laugh the whole time. She also likes to "protect' you if you are about to get into something but that might means she slams a door shut (with or without fingers in them) or pushes you out of the way of something dangerous (without realizing she just slammed your head into the ground). But you're a tough kid and unless you are actually hurt it doesn't even phase you.

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You still don't have any teeth but I can see the top ones and they are so close and you seem to think so too.

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Next week is your first well baby since January so we'll finally get a official weight and height but my guess is that your pretty average - not to big and not too little...ya know, perfect.


Joyful Learning Wrap-Up and Next Year's Plan

I've been chronicling adventures with the Joyful Learning Curriculum here but the time has come to say goodbye. Looking back we really had a awesome year, did tons of fun crafts and activities and made a lot of memories so I'd call it a big success.

Of course, I adjusted the program to fit Lucy and me quite a bit so my "review" will reflect that but there was a lot I liked about it:

  • The themes were fun and made it easy to quickly find other activities by searching pinterest or other sites. 
  • Almost all of the activities that we did from her site were a big hit. 
  • We liked making the variety of playdough recipes. We did play dough before this but the variety kept things fresh and Lucy inspired to play more than I think she would have otherwise.
  • The songs and findgerplays were great. I know these things are good for kids but I never remember to do them or if I try, I can only think of a few.
  • It wasn't overly academic. I said before my goal wasn't for her to learn any specific skills but just for us to have fun doing things together and this program was great for that. It had enough there to inspire me to plan things without causing either of us stress. 
I would have changed:
  • The books. Some of the book selections were good but overall, I wasn't too impressed. But I'm kind of a book snob. 
  • The amount of songs and fingerplays. It was a little overwhelming for Lucy since with a new song every day she couldn't ever really learn them. At first we tried reviewing more and I should have just hand picked one or two that I thought might be her favorite per theme but towards the end I ended up just dropping that part altogether. 
So what's the plan for next year? Well, I had expected to move on to the Hubbard's Cupboard 3-4 yr old program but it's based mostly on bible stories and Craig and I have decided to do something a little different for Bible as a family and I thought doing both would be overkill.

I looked at other programs but wasn't really happy with anything I saw.They were too academic/work sheety. I then thought about going without one but since we stopped doing the Joyful Learning themes I can tell I've spent a lot less special time with her. It doesn't need to be, and can't really be, one on one time without Jonah but even if he was around, she knew it was planned for her and that she was the focus and she needs that. 

So I'm putting together my own program and while at first I was kinda dreading the time and effort, now that I've got a good portion planned, I'm really excited about it. It's still very much a work in progress but if I get my act together, I might be able to share it in advance of the month, if not, I'm sure I'll still share monthly updates. Let the learning begin (again)!


Table #2

In the comments back on this post, Elaine thought my room needed more color and I agreed. I really wanted a yellow table. So I painted the other one!

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The table was a dark stain with a really shiny finish but it was really beat up - hence the tablecloth. But the table was Ethan Allan and in good shape beyond the surface. I tried the diy chalk paint recipe that involves mixing plaster of paris with water then adding paint. The yellow is the leftover paint from our new door project.

I had a few problems. I'd never worked with chalk paint before so I had trouble getting the right consistency, my first coat or two was really thin and barely covered anything but the next batch was too thick and starting getting chunky. I finally figured it out but by then my table was quite, uhm, textured in places. The second issue is related - the dark cover was really hard to cover. I had read that chalk paint doesn't need a stripped or sanded surface to start with but that it helps to do so anyway if you have a dark finish. So I did a light sanding - only to later read on a different blog that it can be really hard to cover a dark stained surface if you sand it before hand. Well, that would have been nice to know earlier!

At this point, I was annoyed. It just did not look good. I wasn't really upset because I went in to this project knowing I couldn't really lose, I could always just put the tablecloth back on. But I really wanted it to work! I ended up sanding it to remove some of the bigger texture marks and giving it a few coats of paste wax and it started to grow on me. By the time I got it inside where it could in the corner instead of staring at it, the issues disappeared and now I really like it.

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And to be fair to the method, we had issues with the yellow paint not covering the door well too so I think it also might have been an issue with this particular paint. So I'm not jumping on the chalk paint bandwagon just yet but neither am I giving up on the idea. If I do decide to try it again, I might try a real version at least until I know what I'm doing.

Although that pictures above is a bit deceiving, 30 minutes after the table was in place, it already looked like this:
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Even more reason to ignore the imperfections and appreciate the pop of color.


Table #1

Didn't mean to leave you hanging with the coffee table. So let's get to it. Here's the before:

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And the after:

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Yep, I stuck with the white wash idea. I went back and forth but in the end the deciding factor was the size. Craig calls it a beast and that's pretty accurate. This thing is huge! I only have one basket underneath right now but it will hold four large baskets in addition to the storage in the lid. (And our bible felt boards fit underneath the bottom shelf)

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So I didn't want to be overwhelmed by its finish. I tested the whitewash with and without stain underneath and while I liked both and couldn't decide, Craig was partial to the stained one so we went with that.

Once coat of stain, one coat of 1:1 white paint (base color, no tint added - I used a sample sized jar) diluted with water, then a couple coats of finishing wax. It could probably use another coat or two of wax - Jonah's rough on stuff - but I love it and the littles do too.

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(What? Don't y'all use hymnals as building blocks too?)

But if you look closely at the before and after, you might notice another change. But that's a story for tomorrow :-)


The really hard choices in life

Life is full of really hard choices. Like if you go through the trouble of making wonderfully delicious cool peppermint chocolate stracciattella gelato,*

do you choose the blue pill cup, which will allow you to spread out the deliciousness for several more days, or the red bowl because if you're gonna eat it, might as well go big?

Like I said, life is full of hard choices.

PS - I went blue. And since this was last night and I get another bowl tonight, I'm glad I did.

*Recipe adapted from the e-book Just Making Ice cream by just-making-noise.blogspot.com. It's the only one in the book I've tried so far but I can't wait to give buttery vanilla butterscotch and chocolate peanut butter cookie dough a try. Yum. This isn't a paid ad or anything, I just really like ice cream.


Edumakational Blogs I like

Elaine asked for some of my favorite homeschooling blogs a little while ago (actually, it's been a long while now - sorry!) and since I'm asked about what blogs and resources I find useful about every 2-3 months, I figured I should just make a page. So I'm posting this here but I'll also be adding it as a page for easier future referencing. I've decreased the number of blogs I have in my feed over the last few months, but if I'm trapped by a sleeping baby with my kindle fire and have time, I'll still peruse them. Basically, it's me, not them :-) 

Montessori blogs:

I used to read a lot of Montessori blogs but slowly I've found that the many of them just aren't a good fit for me, mainly because they get me distracted from what I really want to do. I've realized that what I really want to do is NOT recreate a Montessori school at home. Many moms do a version of that and it works great for them and I'm glad they can find encouragement and inspiration from those types of blogs, but it's not for me.

And for a while I thought I was becoming less Montessori focused but I realized that isn't really true, it's just that I had stopped thinking of many of the things we do as being driven by a Montessori concept even though they originally were. When I'm talking about them on in an email/blog post/forum, I'll describe them as Montessori so people know what the heck I'm talking about but really in my mind, it isn't a "Montessori bed" or a "Montessori weaning glass" - it's just how our kids sleep, how our babies learn to drink from a glass, how we arrange toys, how Lucy puts on her jacket, etc. Which brings me to my hands down favorite Montessori blog:
  •  How We Montessori. A great glimpse into a montessori home. Technically, she isn't a homeschooler but does a wonderful job of incorporating montessori ideals into her home. I will warn you that if you have a perfectionist nature, you might have trouble keeping up with her but if you just allow yourself to glean ideas and inspiration, there is a lot to learn there. And Kylie is incredible sweet, she sent me a montessori book because I happened to mention in on my site. 
  • Living Montessori now. Has great round-ups. It's my go to source if I'm looking for information on a specific topic or theme.
  • Sew Liberated. She doesn't post much anymore but the archives have a lot in them, especially in terms of setting up bedrooms, living spaces and that sort of thing. 

Charlotte Mason blogs. My new love is Charlotte Mason so CM blogs now take up the majority of my homeschooling feed.

Those are a just a few of the ones I check out on occasion. If you're interested in Charlote Mason style teaching, the easiest way to find blogs you like would be to check out the blog carnival a couple times and you'll probably find a few sites that mesh well with you.

General Homeschooling blogs: Most of my blogs fall into one of two categories.  Blogs whose authors have kids my age or slightly older and blogs whose kids are grown-up or close to it. And because my plans for homeschooling involve more of a lifestyle of learning, they aren't all official "homeschooling blogs" but rather blogs by people who homeschool and who talk about their lives, including homeschooling.
  • Like Mother, Like Daughter - Probably my favorite blog of all time. I get such a dose of encouragement every time I go there. I really wish I could go sit in Leila's living room and have a cup of coffee with her, and I don't even drink coffee! So you should read it consistently but her archives are also very well sorted so if you just want to read some of her thoughts on education, you'd be spending your time wisely. I love her daughter's posts too. I put this in the general category but I feel like she's got a definite CM bent.
  • The Common Room - Another not quite a "homeschooling blog" but pretty close. The Head mistress loves k-drama so we're obviously kindred spirits but the Esquuschick's descriptions of dealing with her son make me think we'd probably have a lot to talk about too.
For the younger set: 
  • Hubbard's Cupboard. A website not a blog but it is the inspiration for the "Joyful Learning" we've been doing this year. I'll be attempting a wrap-up posts with my thoughts about our joyful learning year but overall, I'm pleased with how this year turned out. 


Colorado: Wildlife Park

This was one of the day trips in Colorado that I had never done before. To be honest, this particular wildlife park was a little on the sad side. But the kids still had a good time and Lucy and I got to feed a baby goat. Even if you aren't a big fan of adult goats, you have to admit that kids are super adorable. Jonah loved it too. The pictures doesn't capture his energy but he was so excited about little baby Heidi. He was just jumping up and down and I couldn't barely hold him.

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Feeding a different kid.

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