Monthly Archives: April 2011

Garden Challenge Linkup #2


I apologize for being a bit AWOL this week. I am frantically trying to finish our 2010 family digital photo albums/scrapbook so that I can give a copy to both grandmothers for Mother’s Day. I had actually originally wanted to give a copy to mom for her birthday six weeks ago, but was not able to finish in time. The problem is that though I am good about staying on top of organizing and editing photos, I tend to wait until the end of the year to try to assemble our albums, which leaves a whole lot of work to be done at once.


I have managed to get outside some during our brief dry periods this spring. I have actually weeded and mulched our front yard and one side yard!


Dora’s plants have started to sprout some. I’m not sure how big they will be by the time the Garden Challenge is over at the end of June. Given that the sun doesn’t really make much of an appearance here until July, many of our plants don’t even begin to blossom until June.


I have been very disappointed with my bulbs this year. I usually can count on bulbs to provide maintenance-free color every year. This year, few of them have actually bloomed. Several came up, but never bloomed. I am theorizing that either our late snow killed them or that they are at the end of their life, having bloomed several years in a row. In addition, last summer I moved several plants in the process displaced many of my bulbs. So this fall, I will need to plant a lot of bulbs so that next spring, our yard is a little more colorful.


How about your garden? Is it looking colorful already? Did you plant a vegetable garden? I’m still sad that we can’t have a vegetable garden without attracting rats.

Labels: This and That
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Tot Time–Easter Week


This week, we finished up with our spring/Easter theme. I’d like to say we were done with our insect theme, but our lady bugs still have yet to arrive. We went to a place called Tulip Town this week. I’m not sure exactly why, but the Skagit Valley is sort of an agricultural epicenter for bulb plants. In the 16 years that we have lived in the Seattle area, we have never once made it up see the Tulip Festival that the Skagit Valley hosts annually. So I took it upon myself to bring Dora by myself, which really wasn’t one of my brightest ideas. Dora just wanted to stay home and sleep late, but we were supposed to be meeting some people from an attachment parenting group that we belong to. Unfortunately, by the time I herded Dora out the door, we were already late. Then she just couldn’t handle driving for 90 minutes with no one else in the car to distract her. So I had to stop at a rest stop for a while and we totally missed our group.


Upon arrival, we were greeted by this windmill, which was blaring really cheesy music (Dutch music I am guessing). Next to the windmill, stood….


…the Statue of Liberty! Don’t ask me why the Statue of Liberty is at Tulip Town next to a windmill. Really, the whole thing was very surreal. It was like a bad stereotypical theme park portrayal in a bad TV show. Thankfully, once we got past the entrance, the tulip fields were blessedly calm and definitely breathtaking.




Of course, this week’s craft project, was dying Easter eggs. I used this recipe for vibrant Easter egg dyes. I had planned to try some other methods of coloring eggs with Gohan, but by the time we blew 16 eggs, mixed these dyes, and dyed two eggs with Dora, I was at my wits end. After having five children, I’ve concluded that dying Easter eggs with young children is one of the most stressful parenting tasks there is (up there with teaching kids to drive is). I noticed that a lot of bloggers dyed their eggs outside and I’m wondering if that is the secret to making the whole experience pleasant for everyone involved.

One thing I learned this year is that it is much easier to blow eggs with a syringe than your mouth. I haven’t tried blowing eggs in many years as I used to get so lightheaded doing it. Next year I may look into getting a Dremel tool, which several people online recommended using to make the holes in the eggs.

Though we did a lot of reading this week, we didn’t read any themed books or even any new books. Dora really wanted to read some of her old favorites. Her new thing is that she likes to “read” to me, which of course, works better when she knows the story.

What about you? Did you dye Easter eggs? If so, what method did you use? Was it stressful or do you have some secret for managing a toddler during this messy endeavor?

I’m linking this post to:

    Tot School play academy We Play  

Labels: Toddlers
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

The Top 25 Homeschool Blogs

Circle of Moms is hosting a contest to chose the top 25 homeschool blogs. Hop on over and check it out as there is a long list of excellent blogs. While you’re there, be sure to vote for your favorite.

Labels: This and That
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

How I Do Screen Capturing

After my post last week, I got so many people asking me how I did my screen captures, that I thought I would just write a quick post about it. I don’t know if older versions of Windows have this and this won’t help people with Macs, but I recently learned that Windows 7 has a snipping tool. It is under Accessories and is very easy to use. Before I knew about that, I used a jerry-rigged system of using One Note to screen capture something and then cutting and pasting from One Note. And before that, I used a free program, called ScreenHunter, from Wisdom-Soft. Most certainly, the Windows 7 snipping tool is the easiest to use, but the other systems work fine if you don’t own Windows 7.

Labels: This and That
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Enrich Your Homeschool Experience for Free During National Parks Week 2011


April 16-24, 2011 is National Parks Week, when admission to all 394 National Parks is free. Did you know that many historic sites and natural wonders are National Parks also? For instance, the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial, Antietam National Battlefield, Agate Fossil Beds National Monument, Cape Cod National Seashore, Death Valley National Park, and Aztec Ruins National Monument are all National Parks and would make wonderful field trip destinations for some interesting history or science lessons. I find that one of the joys of homeschooling is having the flexibility to incorporate more field trips into my kids education.

Also, Saturday, April 23, is National Junior Ranger Day, and children can take part in many fun activities and earn junior ranger patches.

Many parks even have curriculum based education programs!

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

Wrapping Up Our Week–April 15

In my life this week… I haven’t blogged a weekly wrap-up for Gohan in a while. First I was extra busy with my mother-in-law’s visit and other things going on. Then it was spring break for Gohan’s ALE (alternative learning education).  So this week was the first normal week we had in a long time.

I did learn something interesting – glue sticks can mold. Who knew? In the past, they have always dried out when they were old. Well, I had two that I kept in the car for Dora, since I spend so much time having to entertain her while Gohan is in class. We went to use them and yuck – the ends had black mold on them! They weren’t even that old.

In our homeschool this week… We incorporated the worksheets from Homeschool Creations into geography this week and I felt that they worked really well. I think they are intended for younger kids but that is good as Gohan was able to complete the mapping activities, which did not require too much fine labeling. I don’t know if I will do a pushpin map for Australia or continue with the worksheets, we’ll see how Gohan feels about it.

Places we’re going and people we’re seeing… We had several boys and their moms over for a “game night” over the weekend. Gohan did not want to host it in his room with the old jungle mural I had painted his room with year’s ago. So we spent spring break painting it light gray. I used a paint sprayer for the first time and it was so much easier to use than a roller. The bad news is that I didn’t cover windows and so forth well enough, as I did not realize that a fine mist of paint would float down on them. The other bad news is that Gohan broke the paint gun, which was quite expensive. It was an accident, he just wanted to help paint and I wasn’t supervising him well enough as I was dealing with Dora and just trying to keep her out of his room and the paint (normally he babysat her for me to paint).

My favorite thing this week was… Watching You Again with my daughters, Gohan, and husband on Friday night. It’s not often that Dora lets us watch an adult movie and it was nice to spend time together.

What’s working/not working for us… We have continued to use the block scheduling method for all subjects, except language arts and math. It is working very well. It is so much easier to get all of the materials out just once a week for science, geography, and art.

Homeschool questions/thoughts I have… I’m just starting to look into curriculum for next year. I’m not sure what sort of year we will have as the government is once again looking at cutting funding to ALE programs. Fortunately, we are already enrolled in the homeschool co-op for next year (he is going to take electronics, glass fusing, drama, and PE). He also already plays in a gaming league once a week for five hours, so he does get out a lot. In addition, we belong to a couple of homeschool groups, one of which has a weekly activity for tweens and teens, which we are always too busy to go to. So if they cancel the ALE, all I would really need to find would be another PE class and maybe a science class for my science obsessed son.

A photo, video, link, or quote to share… Here are some of Gohan’s geography sheets. The two on the right are the Homeschool Creations worksheets that I mentioned.


I’m linking to:

Labels: Wrapping Up Our Week
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Tot Time–If You Love Something, Set It Free

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         Four of our butterflies “hatched” from their chrysalis (what is the plural of this?) this week. Two were beautiful and healthy. I always release butterflies as soon as they hatch as they have such a short life span, I hate for them to spend even one day kept in the small enclosure that comes with the set. The photo above shows one of the healthy butterflies. Unfortunately, this set of butterflies has not been as healthy as previous sets we have raised.  One butterfly still has not hatched and I am beginning to doubt that it will. Another butterfly had one deformed wing. Yet,another was greatly deformed (note the photo below). It’s torso was very short and its wings were curled up such that they could not open. I still opted to release these two butterflies as they did not seem capable of getting to any food that we set out (they kept falling on their backs and were incapable of turning over without our help), so it seemed better to let Mother Nature take care of them as she saw fit. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         I finally wrote Insect Lore to ask about our ladybug larvae, which still have not arrived. Supposedly they will ship next week and have continued to be delayed by extreme weather. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         In celebration of our butterflies hatching, we made a butterfly-shaped stepping stone for our side yard. Dora decorated it with a handprint and glass shards. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         Dora also suddenly decided that she likes play dough after all and kept asking for it, so we made some spring-colored play dough using the basic recipe that we have used in the past.


  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1 cup of salt
  • 2 tablespoons of cream of tarter
  • 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • 2 cups of water
  • Food coloring

Directions: Combine all ingredients, except for food coloring, in a nonstick saucepan. Stirring constantly, cook the mixture over medium heat until it forms a ball. Turn the dough onto a non-stick surface (I use a silicon cutting board, but your counter is fine) and let it cool slightly. When it cools enough that you can handle touching it, knead the dough until it has a smooth texture. Add food coloring as desired (if you are just making one color of dough, it is actually easier to add the food coloring before you cook the dough, but I wanted a rainbow of colors).

We read several spring-themed books, though the only one that really stood out this week was one I just happened to find at the library. It’s called What Does Bunny See? and teaches color through flowers (i.e. yellow primroses, red poppies, and so forth). The text is more poetic than most children’s books and the drawings are soft and gentle, though as soft and gentle as many of the other spring books we have read recently. Dora really does not seem to care for the soft, ethereal type of illustrations that are so popular in many books about seasons and nature.She likes flowers a lot, so this book really captured her interest.

Finally, we spent at least one hour every day this week at a park, even when it was raining. Dora has become my outdoorsy child again, now that it is not so cold. We played on the playgrounds, but we also just explored some woods and meadows. She has become enraptured with sticks and collects them wherever she can. We also have spotted a lot of birds recently, particularly getting close to some pileated woodpeckers, who treated us to some songs, aerial ballets, and pecking.

What about you? Have you been able to get outside this spring? I’m linking this post to:  Shibley Smiles Tot School play academy We Play  

Labels: Toddlers
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

The Very Hungry Caterpillar–Read by Eric Carle

Barnes and Noble has online storytimes and this month, they are hosting The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle. It ties in perfectly for us as we have still been focusing on bugs, and caterpillars and butterflies in particular.

Labels: Literature
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

World History Resources for Homeschoolers


Continuing with the social studies theme, this week I have a list of internet resources for teaching world history. I also just learned from my friend how to easily get screen shots, so I am going to try including small screenshots for now on, which I think makes it easier to decide if a site is worth pursuing. Do you know of any other great sites for teaching world history?

image Adventures in Ancient Greece

image BBC History for Kids

image Ghosts in the Castle

imageEvolve or Perish (a printable board game)

imageGuest Hollow Ancient History

imageHoernersburg Lego Castle and Medieval Lego Town & Cathedral Tour

imageHyper History Online (when click on one of the options on the left, look at the sidebar on the right to fine-tune and actually see your selection)

image Kids’ Castle


imageLife in the Middle Ages

imageMaps of War

image Medieval Women: An Interactive Exploration

imageMosaic Curriculum


imageNova Online: The Vikings

image Owl and Mouse Software


image Scholastic: Sir Edmund Hilary

imageTimeline Index

image Tomb of the Unknown Mummy

imageVikings: The North Atlantic Saga

image Walk Through Time

Labels: Social Studies
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

April Sensory Tub


This month I started off thinking I would use paper Easter grass as a foundation for Dora’s sensory tub. I learned that this was not a good idea! All of the other items in the tub sank to the bottom since the grass was so light. Also, the grass tangled up in everything. So I had to make a last minute improvisation and bought more of the gems, which I was already using and Dora was loving, to use as a foundation. These gems were much more expensive than I would  normally use in such a large quantity, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

Things I used in this month’s sensory tub include:

  • Pastel colored gems (from Michael’s)
  • Easter-themed, miniature clothes-pins (from Michael’s)
  • Paper mache Easter eggs (from Michael’s)
  • Yellow and pink chicks of varying sizes (from Michael’s)
  • Multi-colored, rubber, spikey balls (from Target dollar section)
  • Rubber bouncy Easter eggs (from Target dollar section)

Dora really liked the gems and immediately began spooning them, much to my surprise, as she had never expressed an interest in spooning before. She also spent a lot of time clipping the clothes pins on herself and others, which was another first. I guess she must have entered some sort of new developmental stage in regards to her fine motor skills…

She had begged for the chicks when I was originally buying the materials for this tub, but then has not done anything with them since I set them out. Go figure!

Labels: Montessori, Summer, This and That, Toddlers
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff