Monthly Archives: August 2012

Pony Bead Sun Catchers

Pony Bead Sun Catcher 4This project was on my “summer to-do”, but it took me all summer to get to it for some reason. The instructions for this project can be found at Holly’s Arts and Crafts Corner. The project required me to “fly by the seat of my pants” from the get go, as Dora would have nothing to do with “designing” her sun catcher. She filled the cookie cutters in about 5 seconds, by grabbing a handful of beads and dumping them in.

Pony Bead Sun Catchers 1

We used clear school glue instead of white glue. Some glue did leak out of the bottom of the cookie cutters, but I found that it was very easy to pull it off before removing the sun catchers. I did notice that after the sun catchers had dried for a couple of days, there were some places where we had not filled in all of the holes (or the glue stuck to the wax paper or evaporated or something, I’m not sure). So I just kept topping off the sun catchers with glue every few days until there didn’t appear to be any more holes. The total drying time, with this method, was about two weeks, but it was worth wait. They looked beautiful this evening with the late-summer sun shinning through them!

Pony Bead Sun Catcher 3

Pony Bead Sun Catcher 2

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Labels: Arts and Crafts
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Our Homeschool Schedule


Another topic a lot of homeschool bloggers have been tackling lately, is scheduling. I’ve never wanted to post our schedule, simply because we don’t have much of one. Then I started reading all these posts by homeschoolers who start schooling by 8 AM and I felt that I should throw in my two cents, just to somewhat even things out. I’d hate for a new  homeschooler to totally stress themselves out, just because they were trying to adhere to a strict schedule, “like all the other homeschoolers do”, not realizing that those homeschoolers only represent a portion of the homeschooling community.

Sun Rising over Lake Tochigi-ken, Japan

Honestly, our schedule has varied every year, depending on that school year’s various commitments and demands. I will also be honest and start right out by saying that, as much as I love watching sunrises and aspire to be a “morning person”, I am a night owl (which is why some of my posts are time-stamped with 2 or even 3 AM). Not only that, but every time I try to stick to an early morning routine, I find that rather than getting the “me” time that I need, my younger children get up earlier than usual. I don’t know how they know that I am up, they would do this even when I had a basement office and they were on the 2nd story of our townhome. I think it is caused by the same unexplained phenomenon that occurs when a mom tries to go to bathroom and suddenly all her children need her at that very moment.


So this would be our rough outline of a daily schedule, if I was forced to make a daily schedule. Honestly, we have different activities through out the week, so each days varies, but this gives you a general idea.

  • 8 AM: Dora and I get up, dressed, and fed (Dora would prefer this to be 7 AM, so we kind of have some morning battles during which I can be heard mumbling, “Just five more minutes…” and she yells at me, “It’s time to get up!”)

  • 9 AM: Gohan arises and I do my household chores for the day (I can’t do them in the afternoons or evenings, because Dora is a morning person and is very grouchy from about 5 PM onwards)

  • 10 AM – 2 PM: attend various classes, co-ops, field trips, activities, park days, play dates, etc.

  • 2 – 4 PM: Gohan does bookwork, while Dora and I work in the Montessori room

  • 4 – 5 PM : Review Gohan’s bookwork and help him wherever he needs it, give him the day’s spelling test, etc.

  • 5 – 9 PM: Gohan does his chores and has martial arts classes, I shuttle him around, attend meetings, etc., I will put together some sort of dinner and we eat at 7:30 PM-ish, which is when Mr. Mo gets home from work (our dinners don’t look much like other homeschooler’s dinners either, I rarely use a crockpot, refuse to cook with meat, and have GI problems that have recently rendered me practically unable to have an appetite and who wants to cook, when nothing sounds good?) Dora and I bathe and get ready for bed and Dora goes to sleep by 9 PM (ideally)

  • 9 PM – 12 AM (ideally): blogging, e-mail, lesson planning, paperwork, etc. (if I am lucky, I might fit in a little bit of pleasure reading) (See this owl? This is what I look like at midnight most nights – if I wasn’t already homeschooling, I’d have to homeschool just so my kids wouldn’t be tardy every single day)MP900407217[1]

In regards to my exercise, which is usually a core component of my life, whether it be martial arts, jogging, biking, or some other activity, my GI difficulties have been making it impossible for me to exercise for about six months or so. I do hope to get back to that soon and that is one thing I am actually willing to get up early for, albeit begrudgingly (and with much grumbling).

What about yourself? Do you have a schedule that you adhere to or do you fly by the seat of your pants? Are you a morning person or night owl or neither? What about your kids? My boys are night owls and my girls are morning people, while my husband is a morning person and I am a night owl. Go figure!

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Labels: This and That
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

What We Will Be Reading Wednesday–Homeschool Curriculum Choices for 2012-13

I originally had planned out a nice little “mom reading time” post for this week, but as the school year has officially started or will be starting soon for people, it seems like every other homeschool blogger is posting their curriculum choices for the year. So I felt compelled to post about Gohan’s curriculum choices for this year. Each year, I hand select curriculum options, schooling options, outside classes options, etc. for each of my children. I now have three children in college, so this is getting to be less of a chore. I don’t do this because I’m a great mom who puts so much effort in to preparing lessons, I do this because this will make the whole school year easier for me. For me, in the long run, using the best curriculum and schooling choices that I can find for each individual child, even though it means having to do all new school/co-op researching and all new lesson planning each and every year, takes less time than trying to reuse curriculum from one child to the next. If I don’t use individually hand-picked selections, I spend the year pounding my head against the wall, wondering why one child can’t learn from the same book his or her older sibling did.


This year, Gohan will be doing much more bookwork than usual as he is hoping to go to a very competitive public STEM school for 9th-12th grades. He has a lot of catching up to do, because of his learning disabilities (not sure how well this is going to work, but it is what he really wants). His curriculum plan is:

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

Labels: Language Arts, Social Studies
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Montessori Monday – Face Painting

Face Painting 1
I would have never though to face painting as being a Montessori activity, but my mind was changed by Dora’s recent exploration of the activity. Last month, Dora was introduced to face painting at our local children’s museum. Up until this point, I had  managed to divert her attention from the face paints there. I honestly did not feel comfortable with her using face paints from a communal set and I worried that she might be allergic to the paint, as my children tend to have sensitive skin. She did not break out from the face paint, but I still could not get over my aversion to using a communal set of face paints. So I purchased a set for our home. I had hoped to find the same brand of face paint sticks that the museum uses, but couldn’t find any without wrappers (perhaps they peel them before setting them out?). So after a lot of research, I purchased the Klutz Face Painting Kit, because it uses Wolfe Brothers brand face paints and from my research, this seemed like the best brand. As soon as it arrived, I separated the paints from the book, as I wanted Dora to be able to feel free to explore her face and how she could alter her appearance and not feel constrained to doing more traditional face painting designs, such as the ones shown in the book. She has been using the paints every day since they arrived and I am going to need to order more soon. I am going to try the Wolfe Brothers’ brand sticks this time though.
The one thing that I not appreciated about face painting, was how much sensory input and fine motor skills are involved in painting your own face. Dora was mesmerized by trying to figure out how to paint what she wanted on her face by looking at her reflection. Face painting requires the child to use the visual and tactile senses in tandem and in an unique manner. For the most part, Dora has been painting her face in dark colors, in an effort to be a “scary dragon” and “scare” everyone in the household. One day, she painted her face with a more exotic design. It made her look really freaky, but kind of cool at the same time.
Face Painting 2
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Disclosure: Some item links in this post are affiliate links. I will make a small amount of money if you click on them and make a purchase. All opinions expressed, however, are 100% my own.

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

Squeezie Sidewalk Chalk

Squeezie Sidewalk Chalk 1

This week, Dora and I made squeezie sidewalk chalk, which I learned about on No Time for Flashcards. The hardest part of this project for me was finding squeezie bottles. We don’t have any dollar stores near us and I couldn’t, for the life of me, find catsup bottles anywhere else. I ended up using some squeeze bottles that are made by Wilton and were in the cake decorating aisle of Michael’s. The biggest problem with these bottles was that they are about half the size of a catsup bottle, so Dora was emptying the bottles like there was no tomorrow. For the first batch of squeezie sidewalk chalk that we made, I used liquid watercolors to color the paint. They looked pretty at the time, but by the next day, they had all dried into a whitish color.

Squeezie Sidewalk Chalk 5

So the next day, when Dora begged to do the project again, I used real food coloring. It created a very vibrant color, that is still vibrant several days later. Whether or not it will still be vibrant for the life of our porch, time can only tell, as we still haven’t had any rain.

Squeezie Sidewalk Chalk 2

Here Dora thought she’d help out by painting this patch of dead grass green.

One thing that I learned doing this project, is that it is much easier to mix cornstarch into water if you stir it really slowly. I learned this from Tertia, who learned it in an animal massage class. Go figure!

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Labels: Arts and Crafts
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Field Trip to Remlinger Farms

Remlinger Farms 6

We haven’t had any rain for the last 31 days here, in Seattle. So that means, we have spent most of our time outdoors lately. Honestly, I am a bit sick of the sun and the long days (seriously, it was like 96 degrees last week and I thought I was going to melt or spontaneously combust or something, don’t ask me how I managed to survive growing up in San Diego without air conditioning, because 96 degrees feels insanely hot to me now – if I didn’t have a phobia of grizzly bears, I’d just move to northern Alaska). Anyhoo…In case I haven’t made this clear, we actually live on the Eastside of Seattle, which means that we live on the east side of Lake Washington (there is also a West Seattle, but I’m not going to get into that today). If you live in Seattle, proper, it is a major metropolis with the typical metropolis type of things, including lots of public transportation, so you don’t have to drive a lot. On the other hand, the Eastside is a group of smaller cities, with fewer attractions and much fewer public transportation options. So we Eastsiders are constantly having to decide if an activity in Seattle is worth driving across one of the two bridges that cross Lake Washington (one of which, costs money to use and is often  closed for boats to go through), fighting the traffic on I-5, crossing four lanes of bumper-to-bumper traffic within 1/2 mile to get off of I-5, fighting the traffic in Seattle, finding a parking spot, fending off the bum who insists he’ll show you the proper way to pay for parking so you’ll tip him, paying an extraorbitant fee to park, and then walking a mile to our destination. During the summer, when all of the good fieldtrips are crowded with public school kids, I’m much less likely to decide that the drive to Seattle is worth it.

Remlinger Farms 15

So last week, I decided to trek out east to a farm that qualifies as an actual “Eastside attraction”, Remlinger Farms.When we first moved to the area, almost two decades ago, this farm was pretty much just a farm, with a fun pumpkin patch tour, train ride, and hay jump. Over the years it has grown and become more…. hmmmm, I find myself at a loss for the right word here. It still has a train ride, which of course garners two thumbs up in the kid category. It also has some small carnival-type rides, which is cool, except that they all close between 1:30 and 2:00 PM for lunch, which is just annoying. In addition, they have a restaurant and market. The market carries a lot of the produce that Remlinger Farms purportedly grows (they are famous for their pies, and there is a good reason why). It also carries a lot of handmade-type stuff that you might find at a craft show. I’m not sure if the hand-made items are local or not. Be forewarned, if you go there, it is best to just walk straight through and not start looking at stuff, unless you feel like you have too much money at the moment. It is really hard not to justify “buying that wonderful basket”, and “oh there’s the cutest set of dish towels”, and “just look at that doll, isn’t she the sweetest thing”, and “I HAVE to have this eggplant shaped cutting board”, and “would you just look at the sun hat, have your ever seen something so darling”, and “Pineapple Screaming Hot Pickles would be the perfect Christmas present for Joey”… and, you get the idea. Despite my sarcasm, I actually love looking around the market, but it takes a lot of willpower on my part not to break the bank there.

Remlinger Farms 16

Remlinger Farms does also have U-Pick, but I personally prefer to pick from the smaller farms in the area when we are just doing U-picking. There are some animals there, which may or may not still be 4-H animals, I didn’t see any 4-H signs this visit. You can’t pet the animals, though you can feed them some food for 25 cents. While feeding the animals, you will also be able to experience the dubious joy of inhaling their wonderful aroma! They still have a hay jump, but it is much bigger and attaches to a hay maze. I didn’t think Dora would like the hay jump, since she tends to be very sensitive to textures, but it was her favorite part of the trip. They also have some ponies that you can ride, which you might or might not feel comfortable with, since the ponies just walk around and around and around and around and around and it seems kind of mean not to give them more of  a variety of stimuli, but don’t let me bias you on that issue. They also have a lot of old tractors, an old bus, and an old fire truck, which are very popular with the kids. The kids can’t actually drive anything, mind you, but they climb up and pretend to drive.

Remlinger Farms 10

In addition, Remlinger Farms is host to a large fort/tree house thingy, which has a tunnel built into it, which kids seem to love.

Remlinger Farms 13

This alpaca looked even cuter/goofier than usual, as he had just been sheered. I’ve never understood why there are so many alpacas in the area. There used to be a lot more, but many of the alpaca farms have made way for housing developments. Oddly, we have a Llama lake in the area, but I’m not sure if I have ever seen a llama in the area. The lake was supposedly named after a llama farm that used to be there, but I sometimes suspect that an ignoramus named it “Llama Lake”, after an “alpaca farm”, so it should actually be called “Alpaca Lake”, which really doesn’t have the whole alliteration thing going for it. Of course, I don’t actually know how to tell the difference between an alpaca and llama myself.

Remlinger Farms 9

Anyway, Dora had fun at Remlinger Farms and I didn’t have to fight any traffic, so all in all, it was a fun day.

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Labels: Things To Do Around Seattle
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Blueberry Picking at Mercer Slough Blueberry Farm

Blueberry Picking 2

Yesterday, we went blueberry picking at the Mercer Slough Blueberry Farm, which is located in Bellevue, which is the largest city on the Eastside of Seattle. Bellevue doesn’t have a lot in the way of big museums, but it is a wonderful city for natural and historical outings. I had never taken the any of my kids blueberry picking before, because none of the them likes blueberries and blueberries are not my favorite either. At the farm, however, I had blueberries that I truly loved for the first time in my life. These tasted nothing like what you get in the store.

Blueberry Picking 3

Dora’s method of blueberry picking was “One for me, one for the bucket, two for me, one for the bucket, three for me….”. I felt a bit guilty about this, as you pay by the pound, but I was hoping that take some sampling into account when they price the berries. She just kept going on about how delicious they were and I just couldn’t say “no, you have to wait to eat this healthy fruit”. I did the majority of the picking, so we still bought plenty. We also bought the most delicious peaches from their produce stand. It is a bit of drive for us, but I may make more of an effort to shop there in the future, given the large variety of fresh and local produce that they had. It also seemed like it would be a good place to bring a picnic lunch and then go hiking in the slough, as there is a trail head right there.

Blueberry Picking 1

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Labels: Things To Do Around Seattle
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

The Chowki in Our New Homeschool Room

Homeschool Room - Chowki - Montessori Floor Table - B

In January, I posted about our new homeschool space. It worked really well, until Dora started  having other children over to play and I quickly realized that our expensive Montessori materials would not last long if I left them out in the playroom. Coinciding with this realization, Secunda moved out of the house to attend college. This freed up one large room, which Mr. Mo now uses as his office. So we confiscated his old, tiny office. It has been a challenge to make that tiny space work as an office, sewing room, and Montessori homeschool room, but I’m almost done with it.I had hoped to do it cheaply, but ended spending quite a bit of money on specialized storage shelves for some of our Montessori supplies. One other purchase I made was for a chowki. A chowki is essentially a floor table. Montessori discovered chowkis when she went to visit India. Chowkis were used as low wooden seats or stools in India. When I first saw these chowkis in the Montessori Services catalog, I immediately wanted one, because Dora and I had been having a hard time with doing several of the sensorial activities on the carpeted floor of our new homeschool room. The floor table gave a stable surface for the pink tower, knobless cylinders, etc. while allowing Dora to sit comfortably on the floor.

Montessori Math 1

Little did I realize how much Dora would go on to use our chowki. She prefers to write and draw on it, rather than any other table in the house. Its height is perfect for her to be able to do the bead bars with the beads at eye level. Also since we acquired our table, she has suddenly become interested in working with the metal insets. I’m sure we will find many more uses for it, but the homeschool room has been in such disarray this summer, due to my remodeling, we haven’t had as much time as I would have liked, to work in it.

Homeschool Room - Sensorial Materials

Another purchase I made, was for a stand for the knobbed and knobless cylinders, which freed up a lot of shelf space and has made the cylinders much more appealing to Dora. You can see in the photo above, that they are stored in our sensorial materials corner.

Homeschool Room - Language Arts Metal Insets

I also bought a metal inset stand, once again to free up precious shelf space. I’m going to be using the shelf for all of Dora’s language arts work. (The number rods are actually not supposed to be there, but I still haven’t figured out how to store them with the math materials.)

Homeschool Room - Montessori Map Cabinet and Geography and Science Materials

I had purchased this map cabinet some time ago, but am now putting it to use to store all currently-being-used social studies materials on the bottom and science materials on the top (obviously, it is not fully set up, as we’re a month away from “school” starting).

Homeschool Materials

Finally, we have our three poor, overstuffed bookcases. Dora is only using the bottom two rows of these bookcases, the rest is being used as storage. On the left bookcase is her practical life  materials, the middle bookcase holds her math materials, and the right bookcase houses the rest of the sensorial corner materials.

What about you? Have you done and rearranging for the new “school” year?

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Labels: Montessori
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Fieldtrip to Monroe Reptile Zoo

Reptile Zoo 1

Dora has been very interested in animals lately. We’ve been going to the zoo almost once a week. The zoo has a petting zoo with goats and sheep, but what Dora has really wanted to “pet”, has been a snake. I have no idea why she wanted to pet a snake, but she has been quite insistent upon it. So I took her to a somewhat local reptile zoo, which we have never been to in all the years that we have lived here. Dora got to hold a snake for quite some time. Then, just when the curator had to go run answer the phone, Dora decided that she was tired of holding the snake, so I got to hold the snake! That had not been part of the plan and I was very glad when another mother offered to take it so her daughter could hold it.

Reptile Zoo - Holding a Snake 2

What I was excited to see, was this Green Anaconda.

Reptile Zoo - Green Anaconda 1

See the “Crawl Underneath” sign? Dora wouldn’t do it, but I was more than happy to do it. It looked really cool underneath. Unfortunately, the snake was so long, that from underneath, I was not able to fit it’s entire body in one photo.

Reptile Zoo - Green Anaconda 3

I would not want to run into one of those in the wild! It was several times longer than me and it’s circumference was at least as big as my head! Here is a sign giving more details about this snake.

Reptile Zoo - Green Anaconda 2

Note the part that says “At this point, the female may consume one of the courting males to sustain her over the duration of her gestation period.” I think human males should take note of that and remember it the next time they think their pregnant wife is being too demanding by asking for a foot rub, or for an exotic midnight snack, or acting a bit moody.

Reptile Zoo - Draco the Black Mamba

The museum also had this black mamba, named Draco. According to the information sign, the black mamba is the deadliest snake in the world. Even with antivenin (why isn’t it spelled “antivenom” I wonder?), the survival rate of people who are bit by these snakes is only 50%. Scary, indeed!

Reptile Zoo - Day Gecko

This is a day gecko. It is not as obvious in this photo, but it really blended in with it’s terrain. It took us quite a while to find this one and we never were able to locate the second one. This provided a wonderful opportunity for us to discuss camouflage.

Reptile Zoo - Jolly the Florida Soft Shell Turtle

The cutey in the photo above is Jolly, the Florida soft shelled turtle.

Reptile Zoo - African Bullfrog

This stern looking blob is an African bullfrog. We also saw many other animals, including skinks, alligators, geckos, iguanas, etc.

Reptile Zoo - Media Room 2

The museum also has a “media room” with every reptile book or magazine imaginable. Oh yeah, it also has a movie going at all times, such as the one above. That image is of a snake’s mouth, while it is eating a rat, whole.

Reptile Zoo - Tarantula 1

Finally, there were the humongous spiders.

Reptile Zoo - Tarantula 2

I got tons of more cool photos, but I’m thinking I shared enough for most people’s tolerance levels (that is assuming that you are even still reading this post by this point). All I can say, is that Dora loved the place and wants to know when we can go back.

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Labels: Science, Things To Do Around Seattle
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Colored Salt Art

Colored Salt Art 1 Title

I have officially given up all pretenses of sticking to a theme for Dora each week. We are now reading what we want to, when we want to, we’re doing random craft projects at random times, and we’re going on whatever fieldtrip happens to catch our fancy on any given day. We’ll get back to a more structured routine in the fall, but in the interim, we’re enjoying some spontaneity.

One craft project that we did last week was making colored salt. I colored bowls of salt with food coloring. We also tried coloring the salt with chalk, by pouring salt with a piece of chalk into a bag and crushing them together. The chalk method worked just fine, but was too time consuming for us. After we colored the salt, Dora “drew” pictures or designs on cardstock, using glue. She then sprinkled the colored salt over the picture or design. I would shake off the extra into the trash can and we’d be left with a pretty art piece. We found that this process worked nicely on colored cardstock also.

Colored Salt Art 2

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Labels: Arts and Crafts
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff