Monthly Archives: February 2011

Short Blogging Break

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I haven’t blogged much the last week, because Dora and Gohan have been very sick (Dora’s temp actually has me a bit scared, it’s 104.5 right now – yes, we’re going back to the doctor tomorrow first thing in the morning and yes, I have already been on the phone with Children’s Hospital tonight and actually, young kids with high temps and febrile seizures runs in my family, including me when I was a baby – the doctors at the hospital used to put me in ice baths, which they now know actually can raise a person’s temperature, but doesn’t that just make you feel so sorry for my poor baby self?). I was already planning to take this week off in conjunction with a week off from the Parent Partnership Program’s week off. Now, I just have more of a reason to take some time off, I need to be nursing my little ones (even if one of my “little” ones isn’t so little anymore). So I’ll be back to blogging and blog reading next week. I hope everyone has a nice, healthy week!

Labels: This and That
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Vegetable Music Lessons

Here’s a way to have fun studying music and physics at the same time – then you can eat the “fruits” of your labor.

Labels: High School, This and That, Wrapping Up Our Week
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

A Year Ago on Homeschool Mo–Language Arts and Toddler Internet Games

Calendar Image

I kind of started this post series and then forgot about. I think I will try to just do it once a month, instead of weekly. Last year, in January and February, I was posting a lot about resources for teaching language arts. Now, I have a whole language arts page. The page is static, meaning it stays the same, and is always available at the top of my site. I update the information as I can, it is a work in progress.

In addition, last year in January, I posted about internet resources for keeping your toddler occupied while you are homeschooling. I have to say that most of these do not actually keep Dora occupied, she is not much into screen time, be it a computer, video game, or TV (of course, as I say this, just this week she has been sick and we just discovered Caillou, so she has watched gobs of TV). Also, Kneebouncers, much to my disappointment, has become a subscription service. Given how little Dora plays on the computer, I personally cannot justify paying for a subscription for her. Anyway, my post includes many other websites for toddlers and preschoolers, if you have a child who enjoys playing on the computer.

Labels: This and That, Toddlers
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

A Twist on Twister–Learning Body Parts


Both Gohan and Dora have been very sick this week – it has been a rough start to 2011 for us. Dora’s energy has hardly abated, however, so I have been working hard to keep her comfortable and occupied. I had originally planned to review body parts with her this week, so we’ve done a little of that. One of the fun ways that I have used to teach my kids body parts is to use a variation on Twister. I spin the spinner, but instead of saying “left or right foot” or “left or right hand” (toddlers don’t know left and right anyway), I call out other body parts. For example, “put your nose on a yellow circle” or “put your toe on a red circle” or “put your belly button on a green circle”. It is one game that all of my kids have enjoyed playing and they learned their body parts very quickly playing it. As they get older, I throw in some more “advanced” body parts such as the wrist, thigh, ribs, etc.

Labels: Science, Toddlers
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

The Carnival of Homeschooling is Up


The Carnival of Homeschooling is up at the Faithful Homeschool. There are lots of great homeschool posts to read!

Labels: High School
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Tot Time Weekly Wrap-Up: February 11

This post is a couple of days late – I’m behind on things as Dora has been skipping her naps again. Like many people in the blogospehere, Dora and I focused on Valentine’s Day this week.
The activity that Dora really enjoyed the most, was playing with candy hearts, which actually surprised me as she does not have much of a sweet tooth. Firstly, I used a wonderful idea from Counting Coconuts (she actually used erasers, but Dora isn’t really interested much by erasers). I put candy hearts inside each of Dora’s items in her open-close basket. Dora really enjoyed finding the little hearts in each container and spent a lot of time playing with the basket, as a result.
Then I used these candy heart pattern printables from PreKinders. At first, Dora didn’t quite get the whole concept of patterning, but I tried signing the patterns and suddenly it seemed to click with her. The only drawback was that if I then tried speaking the patterns, she still didn’t grasp the concept.
For the most part, I wasn’t impressed with any of the Valentine’s day books that I found for Dora’s age group, but we did enjoy I Spy Little Hearts.


I helped Dora make some Valentine’s Day cards for the family by cutting out construction paper hearts, which she decorated with glitter glue, doily hearts,  paper hearts, colored
We also made a Valentine-themed sensory bucket, which I posted about earlier.
And we cooked the Valentine’s cookies that I posted about.
Finally, I took Dora to the Children’s Museum, where she spent most of the time playing with their water tables. She no longer is my nature/outdoorsy baby and prefers the indoors now (this particular museum has a large roof-top outside play area), partly because she gets cold so easily, even when I bundle her up.
Water Play at Children's Miseum - 9

I’m linking this post to:
Shibley Smiles Tot School

Labels: Toddlers, Wrapping Up Our Week
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Wrapping Up Our Week: February 11

I have finally gotten all of Gohan’s curriculum in order. He is not super happy about the amount of work he is doing, but he has a lot of catching up to do because all these years we have spent so much time focusing on his reading, that we have let other areas slide. He is working on the following:

  • Language Arts:
    • Composition and GUM: Gohan continues to work through the Scott Foresman Online Grammar and Writing Handbook without problems.
    • Literature: We are still reading The Mysterious Benedict Society.
    • Reading Comprehension: Gohan started working on a Scholastic workbook, entitled, Main Ideas & Summarizing: 35 Reading Passages for Comprehension. It is a very good program for Gohan, challenging him, without being completely out of his league. Reading Comprehension does not come naturally for Gohan. For instance, after reading a paragraph that discussed the fact that various states, besides Arizona, also had places that were called “Grand Canyons”, the book asked him what the paragraph was about and he said  “The Grand Canyon”. So I created a paragraph that was truly about the Grand Canyon. When I showed him the difference, he still really struggled with coming up with a main idea that was more complex than “The Grand Canyon”and I had to walk him through the process.
    • Spelling: We are trying All About Spelling. I am not sure about this program being a good match for Gohan. Based on the website’s advice, we started with Book 1. Right now, it is super remedial, but I want to make sure he doesn’t miss any of the foundation teaching, so we are plowing ahead. At the same time, Gohan would not have been able to do Book 1 last year, due to his weaknesses with Phonemic Awareness. I am not sure what percentage of dyslexic kids are as weak as he was in that area, but he would not have been able to do the first lessons in this program because the author wants kids to do things such as hear that there are three sounds in the word “cat” (“c”, “a”, “t”) and move a chip for each sound. If Gohan was able to do things like that naturally, he wouldn’t be having the spelling problems that he is having now. Many of the times that he can’t spell a word, it is because he can’t hear the word’s sounds. He attended years of speech therapy in an effort to overcome this, but has only come so far.
    • Vocabulary: Vocabulary Packets: Greek & Latin Roots, which is also from Scholastic. The books in this series are just basic workbooks, but I like that they actually teach the roots. It seems like other Latin and Greek root vocabulary programs want the kids to have  learned the roots elsewhere.
  • Math – Gohan is continuing to work through Math Mammoth. It is going well, but I still will need to figure out something new for next year as Math Mammoth does not go beyond 6th grade. I recently learned that Kinetic Books now has pre-algebra, so it may be that we will use that next year.


  • Geography: This week, we finished up with South America in Trail Guide to World Geography. Gohan did a notebooking page about South American animals and summarized a paragraph so much better than he did with North America. It is always nice to see it pay off when I have focused on a specific skill in our homeschooling.


  • Earth Science: Earth science continues to be a demanding course. K12 courses require a lot. I find myself wishing that we had an actual textbook to refer to when doing lesson or unit assessments, rather than having to flip to different screens or lessons. At the same time, K12 is very thorough and I feel is doing a good job of preparing Gohan for high school level work and future testing that he will have to do. Gohan finished the rock unit in Earth Science and now will be moving on to “The Earth’s Interior”.

What about you? What did you do in your homeschool last week?
I’m linking this post to:  image9

Labels: Wrapping Up Our Week
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Valentine Chewy Cookies


We made Alton Brown’s famous “The Chewy” chocolate chips cookies this week. In lieu of chocolate chips, we used Valentine-colored M&M’s. I also want to try making “The Puffy” and “The Thin”, but I have to say that The Chewy really is as good as people claim it is. In particular, the dough is scrumptious raw, to the point that I had a hard time keeping my kids’ fingers out of the bowl.

If you want to make The Chewy, there are two things I learned the first time I tried the recipe. Neither will leave the cookies inedible if you don’t do them, but you will not get the true “Chewy” experience if you do not do them. Firstly, you really must melt the butter, otherwise the texture will not be quite right (I melted it in the microwave instead). Secondly, you really must chill the dough. In fact, I made a second double batch of cookies, since the first batch I made disappeared so quickly, and I found that the dough needed to be chilled some more by the time I was 2/3 of the way through the double batch. If you don’t chill the dough, it will stick to your scoop and the cookies will be flat. Here is the recipe for The Chewy:


  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 2 1/4 cups bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • Ice cream scooper (#20 disher, to be exact)
  • Parchment paper
  • Baking sheets
  • Mixer


Heat oven to 375 degrees F.

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottom medium saucepan over low heat. Sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda and set aside.

Pour the melted butter in the mixer‘s work bowl. Add the sugar and brown sugar. Cream the butter and sugars on medium speed. Add the egg, yolk, 2 tablespoons milk and vanilla extract and mix until well combined. Slowly incorporate the flour mixture until thoroughly combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Chill the dough, then scoop onto parchment-lined baking sheets, 6 cookies per sheet. Bake for 14 minutes or until golden brown, checking the cookies after 5 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet for even browning. Cool completely and store in an airtight container.


Labels: Toddlers
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

The Great Backyard Bird Count Begins February 18th

Watch the above video to learn more about GBBC or read the information below, which is directly from the GBBC website.


The Great Backyard Bird Count is an annual four-day event that engages bird watchers of all ages in counting birds to create a real-time snapshot of where the birds are across the continent. Anyone can participate, from beginning bird watchers to experts. It takes as little as 15 minutes on one day, or you can count for as long as you like each day of the event. It’s free, fun, and easy—and it helps the birds…

…Participants count birds anywhere for as little or as long as they wish during the four-day period. They tally the highest number of birds of each species seen together at any one time. To report their counts, they fill out an online checklist at the Great Backyard Bird Count website.

As the count progresses, anyone with Internet access can explore what is being reported from their own towns or anywhere in the United States and Canada. They can also see how this year’s numbers compare with those from previous years. Participants may also send in photographs of the birds they see. A selection of images is posted in the online photo gallery.

Why Count Birds?

Scientists and bird enthusiasts can learn a lot by knowing where the birds are. Bird populations are dynamic; they are constantly in flux. No single scientist or team of scientists could hope to document the complex distribution and movements of so many species in such a short time.

We need your help. Make sure the birds from your community are well represented in the count. It doesn’t matter whether you report the 5 species coming to your backyard feeder or the 75 species you see during a day’s outing to a wildlife refuge.

Your counts can help us answer many questions:

  • How will this winter’s snow and cold temperatures influence bird populations?

  • Where are winter finches and other “irruptive” species that appear in large numbers during some years but not others?

  • How will the timing of birds’ migrations compare with past years?

  • How are bird diseases, such as West Nile virus, affecting birds in different regions?

  • What kinds of differences in bird diversity are apparent in cities versus suburban, rural, and natural areas?

  • Are any birds undergoing worrisome declines that point to the need for conservation attention?

Scientists use the counts, along with observations from other citizen-science projects, such as the Christmas Bird Count, Project FeederWatch, and eBird, to give us an immense picture of our winter birds. Each year that these data are collected makes them more meaningful and allows scientists to investigate far-reaching questions.

Labels: Science
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

February Sensory Tub and a Link Up

I set up a Valentine’s-themed sensory tub for Dora. I decided to use colored pasta for the primary component. I used these directions to dye the pasta. Unfortunately, our sensory tub is so large that I had to dye very large batches of pasta. As such, none of the processes went smoothly. For instance, I ran out of trays to dry the pasta on, so it was bunched up too much to air super well. Then the cats and Dora kept trying to eat it, so I finally tossed it in the sensory tub without letting it dry overnight (it did appear dry though). I don’t know if it is because I rushed the drying process or what, but the pasta reeked of rubbing alcohol to the point that I ended up throwing it away after a couple of days. It just didn’t seem healthy for Dora to be playing with it.


The main reason I wanted to use pasta this month was that I was hoping to encourage Dora to string pasta on pipe cleaners, straws, sticks, and so forth. She does not like to string anything and the pasta proved to be no different. Ironically, Gohan sat down with the tub and immediately started stringing away. Dora was excited when she saw his creations, but she just wanted him to make some for her, not do it herself.


I also purchased several little Valentines trinkets at Target and the local party store. Once again, I was looking for items that had different textures, sights, and sounds. I found some little plastic heart containers that I put little erasers and gems in and Dora really enjoyed opening them and finding the surprises inside. In addition, I found some little Valentine-themed drawstring pouches, which Dora loved filling up with various items. She is absolutely obsessed with filling and carrying bags, baskets, and buckets.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Coincidentally, I knocked over the sensory tub and it cracked. So now I need to buy a new tub, which is actually a blessing in disguise. I have learned over the last couple of months that the one I originally purchased is just too large.

I really enjoy setting up sensory tubs and Dora really enjoys playing with them. Also, my other children will get down and play with Dora when I have a sensory tub out. It seems like every month is a trial and error situation, however, and I was thinking that it would be nice if people had one place to go to learn more about sensory tubs – what works well, what doesn’t. As such, I’ve decided to create a monthly link up for people to share their sensory tubs posts. I will post it on the 5th of every month, which will give people time to set up their tub for the month. I will leave the link up for the month, however, so people can join in it whenever they get a chance.


Labels: Toddlers
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff