Monthly Archives: October 2011

Preschool at Home–Seasons and Bulbs

Planting Bulbs 2
This week, we focused on the seasons of the year. In particular, we focused on planting spring bulbs. We partly did this, because my spring bulbs have gotten very sparse since Dora was born and also partly because Dora loves gardening. Mostly, however, I am obsessed with flowering bulbs. I was inspired to do a unit on bulbs by the book, Science is Simple: Over 250 Activities for Preschoolers, and then read about a cool experiment in The Usborne Book of Science Activities, Volume Two, that I wanted to try.

Begonia 2
Bulbs offer a great way to look at the seasons, particularly for a child that is as fascinated with gardening as Dora is. Spring bulbs are planted during the fall. They are small, dried out, ugly, withered-looking things, full of promise. While we humans hunker down in the winter, we forget about them out there, enduring Mother Nature’s worst, just biding their time for the right moment. Then, in the late winter, before the weather even gets nice enough to think of gardening, just when we need cheering the most, the crocuses and daffodils are out, announcing the end of winter, whether it is actually here or not. Again, another riot of color bursts forth, during the middle and end of spring, with the tulips and anemone providing a show throughout the summer. Even now, as I decorate the front of our house for Halloween and store the hoses for winter, my begonias are still flowering in their hanging baskets, as if summer hasn’t ended and they haven’t a care in the world.
Bulb Experiment
So, yes, I am a bit obsessed with flowering bulbs and any excuse to examine them closer is something that I am keen on. The bulb science experiment that I wanted to try comes down to forcing a bulb to bloom by putting it in a jar of water, such that the bottom of the bulb just touches the water. You then put the jar in a dark place and let it bloom (I don’t quite understand why it needs to be dark – mimicking winter perhaps?). The book doesn’t clarify if all bulbs will work with this, it recommends an amaryllis, but thus far our bulb seems to be working (I think I used a daffodil, but we’ll hopefully see soon enough). A bulb stores all of the sunlight and nutrients needed for the plant to grow. The book does not discuss freezing the bulbs, which I have always heard was necessary for bulbs to bloom. I decided to risk that the bulbs that I bought had been through some sort of freeze already. Our bulb has started growing some roots and I will try to remember to post a follow-up on the experiment in a few weeks.
Molbaks 4
We bought all of our bulbs at Molbak’s, which is a nursery in Woodinville, WA. If you are ever in the Seattle area and you like gardening, be sure to check this place out. They now call themselves Molbak’s Garden + Home, as they have added tons of things besides gardening supplies and plants. I haven’t quite determined whether they keep Christmas decorations out all year or not – we’ve just recently started going there frequently, as it right by one of Gohan’s classes. Currently, half the store is devoted to Christmas decorations, and this place is huge. As an idea to how large and varied they are, they have a whole section devoted to origami Christmas decorations, that are actually ceramic reproductions of origami. That sounds weird, but try to imagine how many Christmas decorations a place must carry if they can afford to devote one whole section to ceramic origami Christmas ornaments?!?! They also have a restaurant, tons of plants for sale, varied pots and planters, a huge selection of fountains, and more. Lest, you go in there naively unaware, however, I must forewarn you that they are not cheap. Dora loves the fountain section and I was somewhat eyeballing a fountain that is far too large for our yard anyway, when I noticed this price sticker on it!!!!
Molbaks 7
I would also like to point out that the most entertaining thing in Molbak’s, as far as three-year olds are concerned, is the small section of artificial turf with a hand fertilizer on it.
Molbaks 13
I read several seasonal books with Dora and the only one that really struck a cord with Dora was Leaf Man by Lois Elhert. I hadn’t really planned to focus on leaves this week, but she spied this book and insisted I read it right then and there. The story line is just okay, in my opinion, but the things Elhert does with the leaves is beautiful and Dora was enraptured with the way the page tops formed the landscapes (i.e. jagged for pine trees, rolling for hills and maple trees, etc.).
Leaf Man 2
Immediately, Dora started talking about “Leaf Man” whenever she saw leaves. Currently, we take a walk most afternoons, per her request. We meander here and there and examine what is growing, dying, changing, in our neighborhood. We have been collecting leaves, rocks, pinecones, and all other sorts of nature’s treasures, storing them in a basket. So we decided to try our hand at making our own “Leaf Man”. We used Mod Podge under and on top of the leaves. After doing this art activity, I am even more impressed with Elhert’s leaf art than I was before, it is not so easy to design things with leaves. We also learned that it is best to press the leaves some before Mod Podging, them, else they tend to curl up and not want to lay flat on the page. Finally, I learned that preschoolers and Mod Podge are a very, very, very messy combination!
Leaf Man 1
Disclosure: Several item links in this post are affiliate links. I will make a small amount if you click on them and make a purchase. All opinions expressed, however, are 100% my own.
I’m linking this post to The Play Academy at NurtureStoreFootprints in the Butter’s Reading Aloud Challenge, and…

Shibley Smiles Chestnut Grove Academy Field Trip Friday Blog Hop Favorite Resource This Week Science Sunday
Tots and Me

Labels: Nature Study, Phonics and Reading, Preschool, Science
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Jane Austen Challenge Update #2

It was just 18 days ago that I blogged that I had finished Mansfield Park after a months’ long attempt to get into the book, which I felt ended rather unsatisfactorily. Well, days ago, I finished Northanger Abbey. As much as I hated Mansfield Park, I absolutely loved Northanger Abbey! There was romance, humor, satire, and even some 19th century horror (just the right amount of scary for me to enjoy). Austen seems to poke fun at almost every establishment of her time period, and I learned more about the time period from this piece of fiction, than any history book that I have ever read.  I loved the book and could barely put it down! My only complaint of this book, is actually an edition criticism, and that is what is with the front cover picture and the guy, complete with moustache, dressed like a woman, playing cards? Did I miss something?????

One of the main things that I decided was a real contribution to my enjoyment of the book was having an annotated version. I will never attempt to read a non-annotated classic again. For some reason, I originally felt that being a college graduate made me too intellectual and my age made me too mature to need the footnotes. Uhm… wrong on both accounts! Neither maturity, nor college taught me about 19th century vocabulary, satires, literary or political references, financial equivalencies, or idioms. For instance, being familiar with the modern version of the word “quiz”, I would never have consulted a dictionary in regards to the few times it is used in Northanger Abbey, yet a quick look at the footnote informed me that Austen uses it to mean “a practical joke, riddle, or oddity.” Without the notes, I would have just been vaguely confused about why people were so obsessed with quizzing people in Bath. Nor would I have known later, that growing pineapples, at the time of this story, would have been horribly wasteful use of land and a sign of having no social conscience, as many of the people in England at the time “were either starving or subsisting on horseflesh, turnips, even nettles.”

All in all, I may have to say this was my favorite Austen book. Now on to Persuasion, which I have actually seen in play format and almost swooned with how romantic it was. Hopefully the book will be as entertaining as the play, if not more so. Regardless, I now have 2 1/2 months to finish it, so I believe I will meet my Austen quota for the year and challenge!

Labels: Literature, This and That
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Montessori Monday–October Sensory Tub

October Sensory Tub

After last month’s allergic episode with Dora and the aquarium gravel, I was a bit nervous about putting together a sensory tub for her. I originally had planned an orangey, Halloweeny tub, but as the time to put it out approached, I realized I was too uncomfortable with many things that I had planned to put in the tub.

Additionally, Dora has recently expressed an interest in “scary” things. It may sound weird, but I have actually encouraged this in my children. As a child, I grew up being fearful of so many things, it was ridiculous. Take for instance, after watching a “That’s Incredible” episode about people spontaneously combusting, I went around for weeks, stopping whatever I was doing and standing perfectly still whenever I felt like I was getting hot! I not only was fearful, I would become physically ill with fear. To this day, I cannot watch horror movies and don’t even like to watch trailers for such movies. I really hate the idea of my children being so fearful, partly because it effects one’s social life, but also because the fears later turned into a full-blown, generalized anxiety disorder for me.

So, while I am extremely careful about what my younger children watch (it’s not like they’re going to actually be allowed to watch anything too scary as I personally don’t want to get too scared!), it actually makes me very happy if they express in interest in “scary things” such as ghosts stories. Children like my younger self never express such an interest. It’s not something we were/are interested in at one time, which suddenly wanes when we reach some sort of developmental milestone. We’re born fearful and stay fearful and only learn to work through our fears as we get older and learn to rationalize things (i.e. it sounds silly, but one thing that I remind my children of if they do ever become scared from something, “just because you just saw a ghost/vampire/zombie/monster movie does not mean that ghosts/vampires/zombies/monsters will suddenly show up in your room the minute you turn out the light. If you’ve lived so many years without ever seeing a ghost/vampire/zombie/monster why would one suddenly show up just because you saw a movie about it?” )

October Sensory Tub 2

Since Dora has suddenly become more bold (even becoming outgoing with other people) and is clearly interested in the concept of “scary things” I decided to go with a black, silver, white, “slightly scary” sensory tub this month. The primary “ingredient” in the tub is ghost, bat, white, clear, and silver gem mix from Michael’s. I had bought one bag at normal price previously and then, before October even started, Christmas stuff was out and the Halloween stuff was 40% off, so I didn’t mind buying more. I also added several cute, spikey-ball monsters, a few large “jeweled” rings, a silver pumpkin, a disassembled skeleton (this was pushing things for me, but Dora went with it) and some plastic “witch’s cauldrons” to use for pouring and transferring of the gems.

The tub has been well-received and has not caused an allergic reaction! Dora has spent hours pouring, scooping, tonging, and chopsticking (hey – it should be a word!) the gems. She pours them into her toy kitchen dishes and serves them as waffles and lemonade (I have no idea where this combination came from, but Mr. Mo finally convinced her to make it waffles, friend chicken, and lemonade, which he insists is his favorite meal, though I’m dubious as to whether or not he has ever eaten such a combination!)

I’m linking this post to:

Labels: Montessori, Preschool
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

NaNoWriMo Starts November 1st

Neutral_180_180_whiteNational Novel Writing Month starts November 1st. It’s a:

…writing event where the challenge is to complete an entire novel in just 30 days. For one month, you get to lock away your inner editor, let your imagination take over, and just create!

That means participants begin writing November 1 and must finish by midnight, November 30. The word-count goal for our adult program is 50,000 words, but the Young Writers Program (YWP) allows 17-and-under participants to set reasonable, yet challenging, individual word-count goals.

In 2010, 200,000 adults participated through our main site, and 41,000 young writers participated through the YWP.

The site offers lots of free resources for young writers and educators, such as workbooks, lesson plans, links, and more.

Labels: Composition, Freebies
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Preschool At Home: Salmon Theme

Salmon Hatchery 4This week, we did our annual trek to the salmon hatchery.

Salmon Hatchery 3It was exciting to see the difference in Dora’s reaction from last year. She understood so much more and was so excited about it all.

Salmon Hatchery 11Somewhere along the way, however, just like at the zoo, her attention turned to plants and we spent an hour or so looking at their native plant garden and other landscaping.

Salmon Hatchery 12Dora is absolutely obsessed with berries and I feel like an idiotic, overprotective parent always saying, we can’t eat them if we don’t know what they are. Basically, the only wild berries that I can recognize are raspberries, blackberries, huckleberries, and salmonberries. So that kind of limits her ability to eat wild berries. For instance, does anyone recognize this berry? Salmon Hatchery 14Anyway, I decided that I need to better educate myself and just purchased this app.

I haven’t used it at all (literally just purchased it, though there is a free version also) and will let you know how well it works after I’ve tried it some. If I suddenly stop blogging one day soon, you can assume that it didn’t work well and that I have probably died from eating poisonous berries.We then read The Salmon Princess: An Alaska Cinderella Story, which, as the title implies, is a Cinderella story.  I had been expecting a Alaskan Native American version of Cinderella, but this book is a modern version, which while seemingly trying to hint at the Native American culture, falls flat on its face in that regard. In addition, though the cover shows the main character walking on salmon, she only says she will do that if she has to. Dora liked the “princess’” gown and that an eagle brought it, but overall I am not going to add this my list of favorite versions of Cinderella.

We then completed the river wildlife section of Maurice Pledger’s Animal World Sticker Book. As usual, Dora loved doing sticker pages about animals that we had just seen. We’ve now completed all of the aquatic wildlife sections of this book.

I’m in shock as I am only now realizing that we never did our planned salmon-themed art project, though Dora did lots of independent arts and crafts this. I am now going to go whip myself with a wet noodle for this oversight on my part!

Disclosure: Several item links in this post are affiliate links. I will make a small amount if you click on them and make a purchase. All opinions expressed, however, are 100% my own.

I’m linking this post to The Play Academy at NurtureStoreFootprints in the Butter’s Reading Aloud Challenge, and…

Shibley Smiles Chestnut Grove Academy Field Trip Friday Blog Hop Favorite Resource This Week Science Sunday

Tots and Me

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

The Homeschool Mother’s Journal–October 14

In my life this week… I haven’t blogged any sort of weekly wrap-up or homeschool mother’s journal in several weeks, partly because we’ve been so busy. A big event in our life was that Secunda decided to drop out of college two weeks ago. She found that she missed the family too much (particularly Dora), hated dorm life, her major wasn’t working out the way that she had hoped, etc. So now she is home and attending a local college. She will get a second AA in early childhood education, which is what she wants to work in. Amazingly, she was able to get a good job working at a daycare within three days of coming home. Not so amazingly, she came down with a horrible cold by the third day of work.
Additionally, my bike was recalled and was in the shop for several weeks. In some ways, this was a blessing in disguise as it allowed me to really focus on running. I am now up to running 3.5 miles 3x/week (plus .5 mile walking warm up/cool down), which is the farthest that I have been able to run regularly in over 20 years (more on that in another post). So I am VERY happy with the progress that I am making that way, despite the fact that when I mad the mistake of running at the same time as the local high school cross country team, they all came up from behind, passed me, and left me biting their dust. I wanted to scream, “Yeah, well enjoy your youth while you can you young whipper snappers! I used to be that fast too, you know!” Given, however, that they had all been so annoyingly friendly and cheerful, I had to resort to gritting my teeth and smiling a “hello” instead.  Levi Working on Glider 3
In our homeschool this week… Gohan and I are finally getting into a groove. He really threw me, in a good way, by being able to read completely independently this year. He is still about three grades below “grade level” in many aspects of language arts, but he is slowly, but surely, closing the gap. This resulted in several major curriculum changes as he was getting frustrated by having to wait for me to complete any subject. The only help he has needed is some help on the science labs. Our current curriculum choices are:

Places we’re going and people we’re seeing… I’m not sure if I mentioned this previously, but due to changes in our state’s regulations, we dropped out of the ALE that Gohan was in. This meant major changes in our schedule and Gohan’s social life. Gohan is now taking drama once a week, martial arts 3x/week, and participating in a gaming clubs 2x/week. In addition, he stays in touch with his old friends online and via monthly game nights. Unfortunately, he has no interest in participating in our local homeschool group’s teen events. 


What’s working/not working for us… The one curriculum choice that I can say has been a 100% success this year has been The Cartoon History of the Universe 1 Vol. 1-7 . Not only is it presented in a format that appeals to Gohan, but he is more motivated to learn history this year, because he has been getting teased about his lack of knowledge about history. I do need to mention that this book was written for adults and if you are interested in using it, you should peruse it first to be sure that the material is age-appropriate for your child.
The one curriculum choice that is really not working for this year is Meet the Masters. I was very excited when they launched their new and improved website, but then something happened and it has been down for weeks. We have access to the old site still, but after seeing the new site, the old site seems like a joke. Also, Gohan is really rebelling against having to “do” any art. As you can see by his art sample from above, he is not exactly putting a tremendous amount of effort into this subject. He doesn’t see why he needs to do anything more than learn about the artists. I really don’t have a good argument, other than I’d like for him to feel comfortable with various art mediums and being annoyed that it seems like I am constantly battling him, because he wants to do the absolute minimum in regards to bookwork. On the other hand, he has been good about doing art up until this school year, so I may let this battle go.
Things I’m working on… Winterizing the house. It’s that time of year – time to store the hoses and outdoor furniture, plant any new spring bulbs, check all the windows, stock up on food and batteries for power outages, etc. We’ve had a mild fall, but snow can strike any time after November 1st around here.

I’m reading… Northanger Abbey: A Longman Cultural Edition – My second Jane Austen book for the year, which I am enjoying much more than I enjoyed Mansfield Park, thus far. The cover of the edition has a very strange drawing, which perhaps will be explained by the end of the book. I do like that it has a lot of footnotes that explain Austen’s various idioms and phrases.
I’m cooking… not much, Gohan has activities that run late three nights a week and I am having trouble finding ways to get creative with dinner when I don’t get home until 7:30-8:00 at night. We normally eat late, compared to most people, at about 7:30 PM, but this is too late even for us. Me thinks that I need to get reacquainted with my crockpot.
What has been happening in your house this week?
I’m linking up to:

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

Montessori Monday–Our Final Open Close Basket


Last week, I presented Dora with the most challenging open-close basket yet. I ordered a few bottles and tins from  Specialty Bottle, which is super reasonably priced BTW. I also purchased the most interesting and difficult containers that Montessori Services had to offer. I added a couple of small pieces of chocolate to a couple of the containers, so there was high motivation for Dora, but still…it only took her about three minutes to open every single container. So at this point, I’m going to say that Dora is just beyond open-close baskets. I had hoped to find some more containers that truly challenged her, but the next step up would be some sort of puzzle-type container. As is, I could barely open some of these containers. I don’t know if she is just Super Fine-Motor Skills Girl, or if her tiny hands made it easier for her, but some of these she was able to open more easily than I could.

I’m linking this post to:

Labels: Montessori, Preschool
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Are You On Pinterest?

Pinterest_Logo copy

I’ve was a bit late getting on the Pinterest bandwagon and didn’t want to post about my account until I built up my boards enough to be worth while.


If you are not familiar with Pinterest, it is essentially a virtual pin board, where you pin ideas, craft projects, recipes, random thoughts, quotes, etc. The thing I particularly love about Pinterest is how visual a means of organization it is. In one since, it is a collection of bookmarks, but it is so much more as it is actually a collection of images of bookmarks. Plus, rather than than bookmark a site and then try to come back and find the project, recipe, or whatever you want, you just bookmark the thing you are interested in, with an image and description to remind you what the bookmark is for (in the event that you’re like me and forget why the heck you ever bookmarked something in the first place).


The main problem with Pinterest is that once you start getting followers and following people, and even before when Pinterest just randomly recommends things, you find yourself easily spending hours on the site.


To give you an idea about how Pinterest works/looks, this is a partial snip of my main “page” with some of my boards:


And her is a close-up of my painting board (from the boards page, you get the details when you click on the board).


Anyway, I have a found it to be a good way to organize all the recipes, crafts, and educational projects that I want to save or try. If you are interested in following me or just checking out my boards, click here:

Follow Me on PinterestI’ll try to follow you back, if I get notified that you’re following me (I’m still trying to work out the kinks about what notifications I actually want to receive as it can get to be a bit much when 20 people repin something I posted).


Labels: Phonics and Reading
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Pre-School at Home: Pond Theme

Vivi at the Zoo

I have been bad about updating about what we have been doing in our homeschool, but things have just been super hectic around here. It seems like that each night I have time to either read blogs or write for my own blog, and I keep choosing to read blogs. I love reading period and the blog format really appeals to me, but I also love reading about everyone else’s great ideas.

I did quickly realize that I am better off with weekly wrap-ups than trying to do separate posts about each subject, like I had wanted to do when the school year started. So for Dora’s pre-school work, I’m going to post twice, once for practical life work and once for her “theme” of the week, which covers literature, art, fieldtrips, and science. I may also post about her phonics and math work sometimes, when something we are doing stands out.

This week’s theme was pond animals. We read Jump, Frog, Jump!which I had never read before. It is kind of like The Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly, with the repetitive chant/story, except it uses animals chasing/eating animals. The story is a really good way to introduce the concept of food chains/webs to young children. We especially enjoyed the ending, which I will not give away.Frog Art 2

For an art project, we made a pond habitat with a paper plate. We glued tissue paper squares of various shades of blues and greens to the plate and then glued plastic frogs and turtles from the Safari LTD Frogs and Turtles Toob set to the green “lily pads” (I will eventually pry them off an save them for future studies). Dora was very excited about this project, as she really loves gluing.

For science, we reviewed the frog life cycle using the set of Insect Lore Frog Life Cycle Stages plastic figurines. Then we used Maurice Pledger’s Animal World Sticker Book. We also used this book to review sea shore animals the week before. This book has at least two pages that briefly discuss the animals that live in each particular habitat, which is a good way to review each animal we have discussed and/or seen during the week. Then, for several of the habitats, there is a two-page spread of the habitat with stickers for the child to decorate as she wants. Dora put all of the animals in the pond habitat together, because they are all “friends”. She even told me a few stories about the pond friends.


Ironically, right after reading Jump, Frog, Jump!, we went outside to play and there was a small frog in our backyard. Unfortunately, that frog quickly jumped, frog, jump, so Dora never actually saw it and I never was able to get a photo of it. We later went to the Woodland Park Zoo, but Dora refused to go in the Day and Night exhibit, which is where they keep the amphibians and reptiles, so she did not see any frogs there either. In addition, Dora is obsessed with botany right now and spent most of the time at the zoo examining the various foliage and berries. As a result, we didn’t even see many animals, though Dora did really enjoy the chimpanzees.

Vivi Looking at a Chimpanzee

She did have to take one day off this week to get her teeth worked on, which I posted a photo of on Wordless Wednesday (picture below again in case you missed the photo the first time). No one is quite sure what to make of her teeth. None of my four older children has had one single cavity (and I didn’t do sealants with them either), while she has had too many to count. Three of her front teeth were actually pulled last year as they had dissolved down to nubs before the dentist could get an anesthesiologist who worked with children that young in to the office. This time, she just had fillings put in and is old enough that they just gave her some Demerol (?), followed by laughing gas, rather than full anesthesia. She behaved wonderfully and things went very smoothly.

Vivi Getting Her Teeth Filled

Unfortunately, there are already signs of decay on one of her two year molars, which haven’t even fully come in. We are hoping that her adult teeth will be stronger and that as she gets older, she will fight us less about brushing her teeth. The current belief in dentistry is that cavities have more to do with the bacteria that live in a person’s mouth, than with a person’s diet and brushing habits. Ironically, she is the healthiest eater of all my children at this age. I have tried looking into alternative approaches to dentistry and experimenting with chlorophyll, xylitol, and non-alcohol-containing pH neutral rinses, but thus far, nothing has made much of a difference.

Disclosure: Several item links in this post are affiliate links. I will make a small amount if you click on them and make a purchase. All opinions expressed, however, are 100% my own.

I’m linking this post to The Play Academy at NurtureStore:

  Shibley Smiles Chestnut Grove Academy Field Trip Friday Blog Hop Favorite Resource This Week Science Sunday

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

It’s Time to Nominate Your Favorite Blogs for the Homeschool Blog Awards

Labels: This and That
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff