Monthly Archives: November 2011

Jane Austen Reading Challenge–Final Update

Well, I did it! I finished my 3rd and final book in the Jane Austen Book Challenge! My 3rd choice was Persuasion, which  had previously seen as a play. I must admit, going into it, that the play had set me up with some pretty high expectations. The first couple of chapters were a bit slow going, as they established the setting.

Once the book got going, however, it was as good, if not better than the play! I am going to go so far as to say that Persuasion is now my favorite Jane Austen novel. It is soooooooooo romantic. I am left wondering why it seems like Austen is so much more famous for Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Sense and Sensibilities than Persuasion. My theory is that Persuasion is a bit rough in spots. The editor of the annotated version that I read, David M. Shapard, frequently implies that had Austen lived longer, she would most likely have edited several things. As is, Persuasion was not published until several months after Austen’s death.

Once again, I am left highly recommending annotated editions of classics. This particular annotated version might have been a bit too annotated at points, giving definitions for words that seemed that any reasonably educated person should know. After a while, however, I really began to appreciate the in depth historical context that the notations provided. I learned so much about the time period while reading this edition, which is why it took me a bit longer to read, despite me never wanting to put it down.

Not only was Persuasion a wonderful read, but completing the challenge has left me feeling like I at least met one goal this year. Dora is just very high maintenance and I have not completed many things since she was born. So it was nice to have the time to accomplish a one thing just for me.

What about you? Have you accomplished anything major this year?

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.

Labels: Literature, This and That
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Awesome Giveaway At Living Montessori Now

Living Montessori Now is hosting a giveaway from Alison’s Montessori! Up for grabs are the land and water forms cabinet shown above, a leaf cabinet, and a geometric forms cabinet. I can’t even decide which item I’d like to win more, but I am leaning towards the land and water forms cabinet. Of course, before the giveaway, I never knew such a thing existed and now I am coveting such an expensive item – not good!

Labels: This and That
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Preschool at Home–Studying Corn

In honor of Thanksgiving, we studied corn this week. For science, we used this “From Seed to Plant Specimen Center” from Lakeshore Learning. Dora really enjoyed trying to figure out which seed, leaf, and fruit/vegetable went together. If you buy this set, do yourself a favor and somehow mark the leaves so that you know which one is which. They come in little baggies that are labeled, but if you take them all out of the baggies without marking them in some way, some of them are hard to figure out. The seeds are very easy to identify, as are the fruit/vegetable cards, which are color-coded anyway. It took a large group effort for us to match all of the leaves though.
Corn Art
For our art project, we made corn prints with bubble wrap. We cut the bubble wrap into a corn cob shape, which Dora then painted. We placed a piece of paper on top of the painted bubble wrap and used a rolling pin to make a to fully press the paper onto the bubble wrap. Later, I made some corn leaves, which Dora glued onto the corn prints.
Our literature focus this week was The Littlest Pilgrim, which is not a Thanksgiving book, per se. This book had been highly recommended to me, but I was quite disappointed. While the book is not offensive per se, it teaches a lesson that is contrary to what I believe and to how I am raising Dora. The book is about a little girl, named Mini, who is the littlest pilgrim in her village. Each two page spread discusses all of the things that she is too little to do. At the end, she learns that the one thing that she is not too little to do is make friends. I found this to be rather disappointing. I am spending so much effort using Montessori methods and materials to help Dora learn the skills to be as independent and capable as possible and this book teaches that little children aren’t capable of doing anything useful. So this book will be added to our donation pile. 
Fire Station TourFor our fieldtrip, we did not go anywhere corn-related. Our local homeschool group had scheduled a tour of a fire station, so we joined them for that. Originally, the tour had been advertised as being for ages 8-10, then it seemed like only younger children were going, so I signed Dora up. Unfortunately, the change in age range was not communicated to the fire station instructor, so the instruction level was at a much higher level than was really appropriate for Dora. She did really well, behavior-wise, and with attempting to answer questions. She did, however, get a bit confused. The whole afternoon after the tour, I had to check every single door to see if it was hot before I was allowed to open it! When we finally were able to go see the fire equipment, it was very impressive, but the whole area was a bit much for Dora. When I tried to put her in the fire truck to have a turn, she totally freaked out. Then she asked to go back in it and freaked out again. I couldn’t even get a picture of her in the truck. We actually had to leave at that point, because she was just wore out from being over-stimulated.
H Basket
In other areas, we continue to work through our alphabet baskets and are on the letter “H”. In case you missed a previous post about this, I fill a basket with objects that begin with our letter of the week, a capital and lowercase sandpaper letter, and a Leapfrog Magnetic Alphabet letter. We then discuss the sound the letter makes in relation to the objects, listen to Leapfrog pronounce the letter, and finger trace the sandpaper letters. We also continue to use Handwriting Without Tear’s wooden letter pieces, play dough letter set, and chalkboard.
Art Display 2
I’ve started putting out art prints from Child Size Masterpieces of Steps 1, 2, 3 – Level 1 Easy. I’m going to start implementing all of the elements from the curriculum soon, but for now am just putting out one print in a clear acrylic frame every couple of weeks. Dora has been very interested in all of the prints, except for the one I put out last week, which was a modern art piece (the photo above is from several weeks ago).
Our School Shelves
In addition, I’ve been setting out one music tray a week, with themed instruments. Dora already goes to a Kindermusik class every week, so we don’t a super lot with these instruments, but I like for her to explore some different concepts in addition to what they teach in class sometimes. For this week, I set out a tray of instruments that are all played by shaking them – a woodpecker, maracas, and a tambourine.
Finally, you may note that there is a globe on her shelves. That is brand new. I absolutely love the way Montessori geography objects are all colored exactly the same way, no matter what the object is (i.e. Asia is always yellow, whether it’s a globe, map puzzle, wall map, etc.). So I have just started the most basic geography introduction, by putting out the globe and showing her where we live.
Dora has been doing lots of math also, but that is a separate post unto itself. I’ll try to post about some of it next week. We are going to be taking all of next week off from homeschooling, just because we’re homeschoolers, so we can. I actually have rather mixed feelings about Thanksgiving and we usually do not make a big fuss about it around here, other than enjoying Mr. Mo being home for an extra two days (this year he is working on a Christmas-release product, so we will consider ourselves lucky if we even see him over Thanksgiving, but he will be taking three weeks off at Christmas and for part of January!).
What about you? Do you celebrate Thanksgiving and if so, how?
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…

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

Labels: Language Arts, Literature, Montessori, Preschool, Science, Social Studies
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Montessori Monday–Line Drying Doll Clothes

Line Drying Baby Doll Clothes

Dora usually loves any excuse to play with water, plus she loves doing anything that grownups do, so I thought she would really enjoy washing and line drying her dolls’ clothes. She did not, not even one bit. Part of it may have been, because I insisted on doing it in the garage since she does not have “wringing” down very well and I didn’t want her dripping tons of water, or worse yet, spilling a large bucket of water on our wood floors.

Another problem may have been the whole clothespin thing. She seems to struggle with clothespins. I even bought some special small ones for her, because of previously to dealt with this issue in other activities. She seems to be one of those perfectionists who, when faced with a task she can’t do well, refuses to do it at all.

Or it may have been that I don’t line dry many of my clothes and my drying rack doesn’t require clothespins, so this was nothing like actually doing “real” work.

Or it may have been… any number of things. She went along with it once, but definitely has no desire to do it again at this point in time.

What did you do this Monday? Hopefully it was more successful than ours was. I’m linking this post to:

Labels: Montessori, Preschool
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

It’s Time to Vote for the Homeschool Blog Awards

Join Me at The Homeschool Post!It’s time to cast your vote for the Homeschool Blog Awards. I have to admit that I had not expected to be nominated for anything, so took my own sweet time in moseying on over there. I was completely shocked to see that I had been nominated for two categories – Best Encourager Blog and Best Homeschooling Methods Blog! Both of these topics are so near and dear to me, I can’t tell you how much it meant to me to be nominated for those two particular categories. It also makes me feel like I am finally a “real” blogger!

So if you get a chance, head on over to the Homeschool Post’s 7th Annual Homeschool Blog Awards and cast your votes for all the great blogs that  have been nominated.

Labels: This and That
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Preschool at Home–Goats and Martinmas

Fox Hollow Farm 14

Our theme for most of this week was goats. We started our theme by visiting a local farm with some baby goats.

We then read The Three Billy Goats Gruff, which Dora now requests every time she needs to spend “time” on the potty. I guess it is because she enjoys music and sound so much, but she just loves the “trip, trap, trip, trap” parts of the book.

Finally, we completed the mountain animals section of Maurice Pledger’s Animal World Sticker Book. Dora really loves doing this book and we now only have two more sections of the book to complete.

Our craft this week, however, did not revolve around goats. Instead, we celebrated Martinmas. I have never celebrated Martinmas before, but ever since I read this post about Martinmas from Rhythm of the Home last year, I knew I wanted to do so for now on.

Martinmas Lantern 1

Our first part of our celebration was to go the grocery store to buy baby food, which we then dropped off at the food bank. I chose baby food in particular, because I felt Dora would feel more vested in the whole process that way and she was very excited to pick out the “best” baby foods. Dora and I spent a while discussing the concept that some babies go hungry, but I’m not sure how well she understood what I was telling her. I wouldn’t have tried explaining such a complex concept to her had she not kept asking why we were bringing baby food to the food bank.

Martinmas Lantern 2

We started making our lantern earlier in the week, but did not finish until tonight. There were two things I would change about our lantern, could I do it over. Firstly, I would not use any dark-colored tissue paper as you can not see the leaves through it. Secondly, I would make sure I finished the lantern by the 9th, so that it had at least two days to dry really well so the sides would be firmer. Dora did really enjoy making and lighting the lantern, except for being out in the cold (it’s 34 degrees here right now!).

Martinmas Cake

We also made the Martinmas Cake recipe that is posted on the Rhythm of Home site and enjoyed it immensely. We ran into one glitch in that we did not have any applesauce at home. So we ended up using all of our apples to make a last minute batch of applesauce!

Making Applesauce 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…

Chestnut Grove Academy

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

Tots and Me

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

Free Entrance to National Parks This Weekend in Honor of Veteran’s Day

Sorry, I’m a bit late with this, but in honor of Veteran’s  Day, entrance fees are being waved at all National Parks this weekend. To further enrich your experience, there is even  curriculum for some of the parks. Did you know that many of our national 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.

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

The Homeschool Mother’s Journal–11/11/11

In my life this week…Well, how many ways was today an important day? It was Veteran’s Day, Martinmas, and 11/11/11! I suppose that I should be especially grateful for Veteran’s Day as my mother once told me that she and my father would have waited longer to have children, but he was leaving for Vietnam and she didn’t want to risk waiting until he got back to have children.

Overall, this was a good week. My sinus surgery recovery has gone well and I got the go ahead to start exercising again. I ran four miles yesterday. Unfortunately, at the ripe old age of 42, taking a week off results in much more muscle atrophy than I would like. It used to be that I’d take a week off every once and a while just to let my muscles get a good chance to repair themselves, but I was pretty sore today from doing my usual 3x/week run yesterday.

What’s working/not working for us…I don’t know if I have Curriculum ADD or what, but I sure seem to have trouble with constantly switching Gohan’s curriculum. This year, history and science have been our only constant. This week, I decided that Singapore Math just doesn’t work for Gohan. I ‘m not sure why I even tried it again as it was so disastrous for him in elementary school. For one thing, he needs constant review. Mastery-based math programs just don’t work for kids with his type of learning disabilities. Secondly, on Monday he started the chapter review and the questions were nothing like anything he’d done before. They were applications of what he had learned, which he should have been able to do, in theory. In reality, he looked at them, saw something completely unfamiliar, froze, and basically forgot everything he learned about math this year.

So we’re switching to Saxon Algebra 1/2. I actually always liked and used Saxon until a couple of years ago when Primo started using their Advanced Mathematics book. At the time, there were no video lectures available, and I was spending hours teaching, correcting, and reviewing assignments with him. I finally decided that Saxon had started to go downhill in the upper grade levels, just when I needed them most. I later learned that the upper grade level books were actually written by different people than the early grade level books, so my theory wasn’t totally off base.

Since then, however, Saxon has release new versions of many of their books, has come out with a stand-alone geometry book, and has released DVD’s with teachers going over all the lessons and solutions for the upper levels of math. Combine that with the constant review and their no-nonsense approach to math, and I am cautiously optimistic that we will have a good match. Math has become Gohan’s least favorite subject this year, while it used to be his favorite and best subject, so things have become quite dire here.

I’m reading…My last Jane Austen book challenge book, Persuasion. I saw the play with a dear friend and we both cried during it, because it moved us so. Thus far, the book is not entertaining me as much as the play did, but I am not far enough along to say “yay” or “nay” yet.

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:

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

Enter the “Being an American” Essay Contest By December 15th


The “Being an American” essay contest is sponsored by the Bill of Rights Institute. The Contest is open to students in grades 9-12. Five top prizes of $1,000 will be awarded as well as over $5,000 in other cash prizes. The essay submission deadline is December 15, 2011 at 11:59 PM (PST). Teacher submitters will receive $100 for each winning essay they submit.

The essay prompt is:

How does the Constitution establish and maintain a culture of liberty?

In an essay of no more than 1000 words, analyze and discuss:

• How one of the Founding principles established in the Constitution helps preserve liberty
• Why at least one Founder, as evidenced in a primary source document, believed your chosen principle was a safeguard to liberty
• Why your principle continues to be important today
• How you personally help preserve a culture that ensures the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in America

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

Sunflowers and Art for Pleasure’s Sake

Vivi's Sunflowers 1I blogged last spring about how poorly our garden did, largely due to the crazy weather we had – late snow, torrential rains, then immediately switching into blistering heat. The few plants that managed to bloom in our garden despite the late snow and overly saturated ground, were immediately killed by more snow or sizzling heat. I ended up throwing away many dead plants and am have decided to only use native species plants for decorative purposes in the future.
Vivi's Sunflowers 2
Ironically, the one plant that did manage to grow and bloom through all of this were some sunflower seeds that we bought at the discount drugstore (as in a super cheap brand of seeds). We just kind of half-heartily tossed them in the direction of our yard. They started growing in the summer and actually bloomed in October and are still blooming now. Not many of the plants made it and each one is different. Dora was in botanist-heaven watching each sunflower plant bloom and finding the differences.
Vivi's Sunflower Art
Then one day recently, Dora was painting with tempera paints, like she does most days. She was using one of our unusually shaped brushes and suddenly said, “Sunflowers!” Sure enough, the prints looked like sunflowers. She painted the above picture of “sunflowers” with absolutely no guidance or prompting from me. I was really excited to see her creating her own design. She is just at the stage where she is starting to draw recognizable figures, but this is the first time that her art was clearly recognizable as being what she said it was.
Art education was not emphasized when I was growing up, in fact it was almost non-existent as so much emphasis was placed on math and science (I can thank Sputnik for that). It was only when I was at university that I was forced to study art, as my major, “media”, was an emphasis option for a “visual arts” degree. Since, that time, I have grown more and more to wish that I knew how to draw well and was more well-versed in art appreciation and history. So I have made all of my children study some art in a formal manner, but I find it most exciting when they do art purely for enjoyment. Thus far, only  my daughter’s have truly embraced art, but Gohan may still come around, we’ll see. Both Gohan and Primo have some pretty major fine motor issues (both had to attend occupational therapy when they were young), so their dislike may have more to do with their physical limitations and the resulting frustration, than I true dislike of art.
How do you do instill a love of art in your household? Or do you? Is there a program or technique that you have found that works really well? Have your children continued to do art for pleasure after the age of 12? I’m particularly eager to hear about programs/techniques that have worked well with older boys, especially boys with dysgraphia.

Labels: Arts and Crafts
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff