Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Passover for Nice Blonde Christian Girls

Caution: If you are devoutly Jewish and keep a Kosher home, this is not the explanation for you.

Still reading? Okay.

First, a story.  My first year married to my nice, semi-Jewish boy (henceforth NSJB), I was going to be leaving to go home to visit my family for Easter all week while he stayed home and worked until he weekend when he'd come join me for a nice Easter Ham Dinner.  This is what interfaith is all about, people.

Anyhow, NSJB answered in the affirmative when I asked him if he kept Kosher for Passover (KFP.  It's like KFC, but not as tasty). So, wanting to be a good wife to my NSJB, off I went to the market, which, being in Massachusetts, had moved everything around and brought out separate shelves for Passover so things would be KFP.  As you may or may not know, most of the Kosher laws are related to cootie shots now, because things wrapped in cellophane, placed in sealed boxes, with the boxes also wrapped in cellophane can get non-KFP germs from shelves that are not KFP.

I digress.

So, down these specially-shelved aisles I went, with a bewildered look on my face and a screaming colicky baby in my arms.  Luckily in response to my "Oh, Jesus, I am in over my head" prayer, a nice Jewish Bubbe came over to me.

"Sweetheart, you look lost.  This part of the store is for people celebrating Passover.  Your part of the store is over there." she said, motioning to the left.

When I explained that I had recently married a NSJB who told me he kept KFP, the older woman smiled at me nicely, muttered under her breath about how Reform men are going to single-handedly end Judaism by marrying these shiksas, and then took it upon herself to fill my cart.  When I got home, NSJB was perplexed by my pasta made from matzo meal and pre-packaged turkey and matzo stuffing.  The nice woman in the store had actually planned a lovely week of KFP meals for him, since he'd be alone and have to prepare his own dinner, I explained.  Then he laughed and told me that by KFP he meant he tried really hard not to eat bread.


Anyhow, the nice older Jewish lady from the store also gave me several recipes (just wrote them down from memory on the back of a grocery receipt she had in her massive purse), and those were less of a fail!

Here's some stuff you may or may not want to do for Passover.
1) Procure a Haggadah.  We use a messianic one, but you can use whatever you like.  Typically, if you shop in a high-density Jewish area, someone will have one for free (our free one came from Maxwell House Coffee, but sometimes the Matzo companies will package one in, too).

2) Procure a Sedar Plate.  You can buy a pretty one, or you can make one.  It just needs to hold all the requisite stuff.  (More on that to come)

3) Decide how hard-core your NSJB is.  In traditional families they'll give away any non-KFP food to the hungry (or pay another family a fee to hold it for them until the holiday is over) and they'll do a major spring-cleaning.  They'll also search the house for any traces of leaven (a la an egg hunt!).

4) Decide what night (or both) you're celebrating.

5) Plan your menu

6) Cook until you die

7) Eat

8) Resign yourself to the fact that every sect and family and denomination has different practices and traditions.  If your husband is Sephardic, he'll have different traditional foods than a Ashkenazi, etc.  You'll probably screw something up, even if it's very silly.  For example, I made macaroons, because my husband told me they were a complete necessity.  Then, when he ate them, he didn't know what they were, because the ones that were a complete necessity were the ones his grandmother always bought in a can from our friends at Manischewitz. Well, there's an hour of my life I wasted!

9) Encourage yourself with the fact that you are now a family, and your family will have different practices and traditions.  So you screwed up the macaroons from a can.  That's okay, because your husband actually likes the home-made version better!! You wanna do the kid Haggadah and call it a night? That's your family's prerogative.  (Note, I'm not a rabbi, I'm just telling you how we do it.  I want to make my husband happy and make sure our kids are appreciating the religious significance.  I have no desire to push my husband to do more than he wants/is comfortable with).

So, with that said, here's what you'll need:

Seder Plate:
1- Egg.  We roast ours in the oven.  Just toss that bad boy in until it's brown and toasty on the shell.  You can also boil it.

2-You're supposed to have a lamb shank.  I hate the smell of lamb and had a vegan Jewish friend in college who told me that you could use a beet.  I usually use a roasted chicken bone.

3- Charoset.  I do 1 red and 1 green apple, roughly chopped, 1/2 cup walnuts (toasted), 1 T honey, 3 T wine, pulse  until it makes a "relish" consistency and then stir in a bit of cinnamon.  It's supposed to remind you of mortar between the bricks.

4/5- There are 2 spaces for bitter herbs, and they need to be specific ones.  We usually do horseradish and parsley.  I'm not sure parsley is correct, but Austin grew up using it. I know you can use romaine lettuce. The horseradish is supposed to be freshly grated, but we use the stuff from a jar.

Other stuff you need:
KFP Matzo (it has to be plain, no flavors or salt- bread of affliction and all that.  However, for not your seder meal, chocolate covered and "everything" flavored are both tasty.) 3 pieces wrapped in a cloth.

Water to wash

Salt water

Any other accouterment necessitated by the Haggadah you have selected.

For dinner, I typically prepare the following.  This is NOT a kosher meal (because I use both meat and dairy), but it's the meal that Austin requests.  If you swap out margarine for butter and omit the macaroons, (and, of course, buy kosher products), then it'd be kosher.
1) Beef Brisket.  I trim mine very well and coat it with mustard, salt and pepper to brown, and then put it in the crock pot with 1 chopped onion, 1 chopped green bell pepper, 2 cans of stewed tomatoes. Sweet and Sour Brisket is traditional, but years ago my mother-in-law lost the family recipe and started making this one.

2) Potatoes.  You can do pretty much any potato that you want, because they're a starch without leaven.  In the past Austin has requested garlic mashed or latkes, but I've also done Potato Kugel, which is more traditional.  2.5 pounds of frozen shredded hash browns (or you can shred about 6 large russets), 1 large shredded onion, 1/2 cup matzo meal, 1.5 teaspoons kosher salt, 3 beaten eggs, 1/4 cup oil, pepper.  Mix all ingredients, pour into a greased 13x9 pan and bake at 325 for about an hour until crisp.

3) Matzo ball soup.  This is my own version, my MIL uses lipton noodle soup as her base (with noodles...not KFP) but now Lipton sells a chicken soup base without noodles, if you like salt.  I use the Streit's brand matzo ball mix (its just matzo meal and salt), which I find makes a superior texture ball to the Manischewitz.  (I feel like this post is offending all my imaginary Jewish readers and my preference of the Streit's brand is probably throwing it over the edge).  Follow the directions! Yes, it's a lot of oil! Do it anyway! Before that, though, place 2 skinless bone-in chicken breasts in a stock pot of water.  Boil until fully cooked with 1/2 an onion, 3 peppercorns, 2 stalks of celery, 2 carrots and a bay leaf.  Remove the chicken and veggies.  Discard the veggies and let the chicken cool.  Add 1/2 a diced onion, 3 diced carrots, 2 stalks of celery (also diced), the shredded chicken, salt or bouillon to taste, and pepper.  Add the matzo balls and cook according to package directions.  Before serving, add 1 small bunch of chopped parsley (don't add the stems, leaf ends only).

4) Carrot Tzimmies.  You can also make a version that's sweet potato, but we prefer carrots.  You'll need 3/4 cup of dried fruit (prunes, raisins, and apricots all work well), 1/4 cup butter, 1/2 generous cup of brown sugar (pack it tight and then add a little extra), 1/2 t salt, 1/4 t cinnamon, dash nutmeg, 1 cup orange juice, 1 T orange zest, 1 T lemon juice, and 1 T cornstarch (or potato starch if you're being KFP). Mix the orange juice and starch, set aside.  Peel and chop the carrots into rounds and microwave or boil until they're slightly less than done.  While that's happening, mix the remaining ingredients except the fruit in a saucepan until melted together.  Add the OJ/Starch mixture and bring to a boil.  Mix all ingredients in a greased baking dish and bake at 325 for for about 40 minutes because it's supposed to be baked at 350 for 30 minutes but the gosh-darn kugel bakes at 325 and they're going in together come heck or high water.

so there.

5) Some people eat Gefilte Fish.  We do not.  Ever.  Have you seen those nasty jars?? If I had to, though, I'd do this one, because several Jewish friends say it's the best you're gonna get.

6) I serve a salad.  It's not traditional because it's not fried/coated in oil/artery clogging.  Whatever.  I like to do cucumber or mixed greens.

7) Macaroons.  I use Ina Garten's recipe and it is delightful.  Do not skip buttering the parchment paper because they stick.

8) This year I'm also serving this cake from Martha.  She very rarely steers me wrong on Passover foods.

9) Wine.  Lots.  Because it's not a Jewish holiday without some.

My "Stations of the Cross" for Kids

In my "past life" I was a children's minister.  I don't think you ever really leave that, but I realized that working for the church is toxic to my faith.  That's for another story, though.

One of the things I invented (or think I invented, since I made it up without google!) for my first church was a variation on the stations of the cross for kids.  It was designed for a large group with several adults, but I think you could easily change it to work with a family, so I'm going to give both options.  I did this with 5-11 year olds, and it was by far the most impactful thing we did, and the thing the kids requested to do again.  It seems a little macabre reading it, even though I've done it and it was great, so just have faith that children have a greater capacity for understanding than we do.

Here we go!

1) Explain to the children/child the purpose of what you're about to do is to remember Jesus' life, death, and resurrection.  It will be fun in parts and sad in parts, but a spirit of reverence is required.  If you're in a church setting and have the people, having someone dressed to play Jesus can be helpful.  They don't interact with the children, they simply go through the motions and act as a line leader. Have the children remove their socks and shoes, and, if you have help, place them at the last station.

2) Last Supper.  Set up a room (your kitchen will do nicely) with a glass of wine/grape juice and bread/matzo. I like to cover the table in a nice cloth and light candles, too, so that the room seems different than normal.  Read the story of the last supper from Matthew 26:17-30, Mark 14:12-26, Luke 22:7-39 or John 13:1-17:26.  You can pick whatever gospel you'd like.  In a church setting, having several adults in "Bible Times" costumes and a pastor who can administer the consecrated elements (if your church serves children communion) is a nice plus.  If you have a Jesus figure, they can do the reading of Jesus' words.

3) Move the children to an outdoor location, if possible.  A garden, shady spot in the woods, or outdoor chapel if you're at a church all work nicely.  If it's too cold, you can always assemble your indoor plants/faux plants to "make" a garden, or you can use a painting of Jesus praying in the Garden.  I happen to really appreciate the Spanish painters like El Greco, but you can use anyone you want.  If you have little children, they might need something for their hands to do, and this free printable of Jesus in the Garden is an option if you have a table or flat hard surface for them to color on.  If not, that's okay, because my preference is to tell the story of Jesus praying in the Garden (Mark 14:32 or Luke 22:39) and then lead the children in a prayer thanking God for Jesus' obedience to him, even when it was hard.  If you have a Jesus figure, when you first arrive in the garden, he should kneel and pray.

4) If you are in a church setting, a few guards will come in handy to come and remove Jesus.  If not, tell the story to the children, and have a sword or some heavy chain available to give them a visual.  Tell the children about how the guards taunted Jesus, and gambled for his clothes (have some dice available) and put a crown of thorns on him.  In our back woods, I was able to find brambles and make a crown with thorns.  I think that any physical representation you can give the children is helpful.  One little girl in our group cried the first time she touched the crown because hearing that Jesus suffered for her was abstract, but touching the thorns and realizing he actually hurt helped her understand the reality of the situation.  She wasn't in any way traumatized, she just had a real connection to the Easter story in a way she hadn't before.

5) Next, you'll need a decent sized cross.  Most churches have these, and you can borrow one, or if you're in the church, you can use one.  Lacking a pre-made cross, you can secure two large branches.  You want them to be heavy, but not completely overpowering so the children hurt themselves.  Ahead of time, prepare a hallway or outdoor area with sand and dirt.  You can place the sand on disposable baking tins or a tarp if you're indoors.  Explain that Jesus was forced to carry his cross, and tripped several times from exhaustion.  Allow the children to drag the cross for a few feet over the dirt and sand.

6) Take the children to a darkened room with a second cross.  I made this one out of two branches I nailed together (carve a groove in the cross-piece so it fits snugly on the post).  Read the story of the crucifixion or just talk about how Jesus willingly went to the cross for us to take our sin.  Give each child a piece of paper and allow them to write something on the paper or draw a picture.  Explain no one else will see them.  Allow them, with supervision, to nail or thumb-tack their sin to the cross. Your Jesus can disappear at this point.

7) At this point, you need a little emotional reprieve for the children.  Ahead of time, prepare sheet pans with parchment paper (so you can write each child's name) and crescent roll dough triangles (1 per child).  Explain how Jesus' body was quickly prepared for burial so that the Sabbath laws wouldn't be violated, but he would have been anointed with herbs and spices (roll a marshmallow in melted butter and cinnamon sugar) and covered in a shroud or bandages (wrap the marshmallow in the crescent dough) and placed in a tomb (place the crescents into the oven).  Almost Unschoolers has a great full tutorial on this with pictures.

8) Ahead of time, prepare a tomb.  I used a combination of tables, chairs, and cardboard that I covered in black banner paper from the teachers store, and a large "boulder" cut from cardboard (dumpster diving in your local appliance store's recycling bins with their permission is very helpful for this).  We talked about tombs in Jesus' time and how Jesus was given a donated tomb.  The children were excited to be "sealed" in the tomb.  If you have soldiers, this is a good time to "post" them outside your tomb. At home, sheets or blankets fort-style would work.  Take the children out, "seal" your tomb with stickers, tell them the story about how Jesus was laid to rest and 3 days later Mary and the women came back to the tomb.  You'll need to time this with your baking time so that you can show them the 'empty tomb'.  Jesus was risen, just as he promised.

9) Finally, move to a prepared location with tubs of water and towels.  This is where the children's shoes and socks would have gone if you moved them.  Explain to each child that God wants to be with us so much, but because he is perfect, he cannot be marred by our sin, so he had a plan from the very beginning to wash us clean so we could be with him.  Jesus' life, death, and resurrection enable us to be made fit to live with God forever in heaven.  Accepting Jesus into our hearts washes us clean. Wash the children's feet, using whatever words of forgiveness your church traditionally uses for a footwashing.  Dry their feet and help them put their shoes on.  I like to offer them the option of having someone to pray with (in a large group) and set up a coloring station for the children who are ready to be done and/or respond in a written way.

10) Pray the group out, or, in a church setting, the pastor may wish to offer a benediction.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Classical Conversations Cycle 3 Week 24

What the what? We're DONE with our first year of CC after this week??


We've been tremendously blessed this year.  I'm not going to lie, homeschooling was an adjustment- but it wasn't a bad one! The boys have done fantastic and their reading and math skills have blossomed like crazy! I'm so proud of the hard work they've done and how well they've transititioned.  I'm also thankful for our friends (both PS and HS) who have been supportive and kind in having playdates and keeping us all sane!

This week:

History: The Bill of Rights 
Our book we started last week is going really well! I've had a private laugh about the comparison of my K's writing next to my 2nd grader's writing....but that's irrelevant.  The book is serving as our copy work.  First they did the preamble, taking turns with phrase copying and illustration, and now we'll finish it this week with the Bill of Rights doing the same.  They've worked very hard, so I'm planning to laminate and bind their work for them :) It's a big deal to get something you did laminated. We're also reading a biography of George Mason, who demanded the Bill of Rights.

I  love  you  mom  from  riley.
(I left my computer and had a visitor, I'm not deleting that!)

Science: What is Good Science
I think if we weren't already doing George Mason, I'd throw in a scientist here to study, but since we are, I'm just going to cover a few short scientist biographies from What Your Kindergartner and What Your Second Grader Need to Know.  I hear there are workbooks for these!! Those sound fun! Since I'm using the 1980s editions from when I was little, maybe an upgrade is in order first....

English: Sentence Patterns
Let me be honest here.  We're gonna try to memorize these.  We're going to write some sentences with each one.  CC English has killed me this year, and I'm pretty sick of the crazy ones....this week's seems crazy.  If I come up with some genius thing, I'll let you know :)

Latin: John 1:7: ut omnes crederent per illum. 
We will be finishing our Latin Lapbooks this week, which is exciting! Next year I'll definitely start these sooner!

We'll be finishing up our presidents song, too.  And, our presidents lap book.  All this finishing! I should write a checklist just so I can cross things off!

Geography: More Prominent Features
Over the summer, I'm hoping to do a salt dough or rice crispy model of the US with the kids and really reinforce the Geography.  We kind of lost it a little after we finished the states and capitols as far as really driving home the map locations, not just memorizing.

Math: Identity Laws of Addition and Subtraction
We're going to use the M&Ms again.  5 M&Ms plus 0 is 5, and 1 group of 5 M&Ms (in a muffin tin, my favorite multiplication math manipulative!) is 5.

I think that's it.  We'll listen to some Stravinsky, maybe throw in a Bill Nye just because we can, and then the next few weeks will be memory work review and preparation for our standardized testing! I think I'm going to do the CAT test this year for both boys because they've never had one before, and maybe do the Stanford with Riley, and then for next year do Stanford for both.  Not sure, though.

I'm already working on my lesson planning for next year.  I want to have everything ready to go by the end of summer so that I'm not ever scrambling to lesson plan.  We're also planning to implement a work box system for next year.  My friend Sherri, who is the homeschooler I want to be when I grow up, taught me about them, and they sound like a perfect answer to my organization issues.  Our notebooks have worked well, but I feel like I don't mix in enough "fun" activities that are also educational because they don't fit in the notebooks.

This week's lesson plan stinks.  I apologize for that. I think I'm just excited to wrap up our CC year!

Friday, March 23, 2012

More Fun With the Afternoon Class

I don't really have to do anything in particular with the afternoon class, which makes it really fun, but also challenging since I led high with the space rovers!! I don't want to let them down with something lame!

 Week 2 I bought a bag of dry-ice (check your local supermarkets- our Harris Teeters sell blocks by the pound.  Buy a little more than you think you'll need and wrap it in a kitchen towel to keep it cool.  You CANNOT put it in  your fridge or freezer, it'll freak out your thermostat and break it.  If you have a cooler, you can use that, but keep it slightly propped open so that it doesn't pop off.  Since Dry Ice is literally solid carbon dioxide gas, when it "melts" it lets off gas.
 We did several fun experiments.  First, we put a piece of regular ice on paper towel, and a piece of dry ice.  This was to prove that when Dry Ice "melts" it is changing from a solid to a gas.  We talked about how things typically have to change phases from a solid to a liquid to a gas and that skipping from a solid to a gas is called sublimation.  Then, we needed to prove that the gas being released was carbon dioxide.  We talked about how carbon dioxide smothers fire (which is really just rapid oxidation) and then lit a candle inside a flower vase.  When you put a chunk of dry ice next to it, the flame is smothered.  Then we did some fun stuff- dry ice in hot water (which makes lots of steam!) to show that the gas is leaving (mark the water level on the cup before adding the dry ice) and nothing is added to the water.  We also showed the difference between a mixture and a solution.  By adding food coloring and dish soap to water and then adding the dry ice, you can make regular bubbles because the food coloring is not changing or reacting with the bubble solution.  You will make lots of bubbles.

Finally, we made ice cream.  You need to use a bowl fully 3 times as large as the amount of liquid you have.  We used a pint of heavy cream, an individual serving of strawberry milk, 1/2 a cup of sugar, and 1t of vanilla (mainly so I'd have more jobs for kids).  Before you start your experiments, place a 2-3 inch square of dry ice inside 2 heat duty Ziplock bags.  DO NOT SEAL ALL THE WAY (remember that gas? they'll pop!).  Then beat the dry ice until you have a very fine powder.  Be diligent! You don't want a child biting down on a piece of dry ice! You'll make instant ice cream when you add the powder and stir.  You'll notice I used too small of a bowl! The ice cream tastes a lot like an ice cream float because of the carbonation you're adding to it.  The kids loved having a taste.  I don't let them eat more than a spoonful each, but they enjoy the whole process!
 This week, I decided that we'd do tie-dying.  There was no real point to this.  We even made tie-dyed snack by spreading colored frosting dots with toothpicks.  I used canned frosting.  It was gross, but the sugar addicts seemed to enjoy ;)
 Decorating graham crackers.  It's intense work!!
To make these shirts, you insert a dixie cup under the top layer with the open side of the cup facing up.  Place a rubber band around the cup, and then draw a design with sharpie markers.  Designs with LESS area covered, like dots, stars, or small dashes, do the best.  After you're done drawing, drop rubbing alcohol over the area (the cup catches the excess) using eye droppers or straws (put the straw in the cup, put your finger over the top opening of the straw, release over the shirt).  
Here's thing 1 in a shirt he made at cub scouts the same way.  We first tried this technique at the Children's Museum near the Outer Banks, and it's really really fun and a fairly clean way to tie-dye!!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Classical Conversations Cycle 3 Week 23

Let's just jump right into this, shall we?

History: Preamble to the US Constitution
In addition to picking up books from the library, we'll be doing a little each day as copywork and, of course, there's a CC song, but it's not as cool as:
I'm beginning to think if I just parked my kids in front of schoolhouse rock they'd have more civics knowledge than their peers.  However, parking children in front of a TV is not very classical model, so instead, we'll also read children's level biographies about Madison and Mason. For the copywork, I found a neat class book (it's a free download) and we're going to alternate pages.  It's always nice to give the kids something to illustrate while I read at lunch!

Science: Charles' Gas Law
Gas expands when it gets hotter and contracts when it gets cooler, you say? Why yes it does!
I also found a little experiment for my kids' age group, and we're going to try that, too.  I cannot tell you how frequently I wish I had access to liquid nitrogen, though, because I'd much rather deflate a balloon in sub-zero temperatures.  Sigh.

Latin: Just keep swimming.

We have memory work for this week, but my main focus is going to be on test prep.  We're getting ready for the Stanford, and I want to make sure that we're ready, so our big focus will be punctuation and on mixed timed review for Riley.  Logan is testing, too, but I don't have a Kindergarten sample test book yet, so we'll just work a few printed sample test pages to get used to bubbling the answer.

Happy last 2 weeks, fellow CC'ers! 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

St. Patrick's Day

We're neither Irish, nor Catholic, but Logan's favorite color is green and Riley spent all his free time building "Leprechaun Traps" after being jealous about the treats and mischief at Savannah's preschool.  I decided (at 12 am, which is when my best inspiration always strikes) that I'd go with it, so, here's what I did.

 The leprechaun mischief.  This involved a skein of yarn, some tape, and a package of green balloons.  Luckily the kids are having a "sleepover" together tonight, so I only had to sneak around one room!!
 In the kitchen I drew a picture and threw down some glitter.  I have 0 artistic skill, I know, so no laughing at my leprechaun!!
 Also on the table are goody bags for the kids.  Each kid got a shirt, bracelet, 7 Up, crayons, gum, granola bar, lollipop, and jello.  The boys have flat green shirts and green "lucky" bracelets.

Friday, March 16, 2012

In Which We Play Hockey


Hockey involves getting up wicked early for practices and games, and being cold.  However, hockey has made Logan so much more self-assured, and it is worth every lost moment of sleep :)

Last weekend we were able to travel (Logan, grammy, papa, and I) to Pennsylvania for Logan's first ever hockey tournament!!  He had such a blast getting alone time, and getting to play hockey!

 Driving up to PA, Logan colored almost the entire way!  I brought a read-aloud for him, too, but he was much more interested in coloring and chatting to a captive audience with no siblings to interrupt.

 Having fun in the hotel with our friends, our PW Panthers did their trophies and the boys had a fantastic time swimming in the pool together.  Logan was so proud of the fact that he could swim faster than most of his friends (way to go private swim lessons!) and had fun with some dive sticks grandma bought.

 This is at breakfast in our hotel.  They apparently had a disconnect between their brains and their service, because despite the fact that an entire hockey club was coming, they were out of almost everything at their breakfast (because the "truck don't come 'till Monday") and pool towels were being traded on the black market.  Logan was happy anyway, because he got to have hot chocolate and a pastry for breakfast instead of anything remotely healthy.
Playing with Grammy and Papa at a little diner next to the hotel (we learned our breakfast lesson quickly!).  We actually visited PA this summer for vacation and everywhere we ate was horrendous, so we've decided that from now on, we will not eat in Pennsylvania.  

Logan's team got medals!! They came in 3rd place out of the mini mite teams!! (There were 3 mini mite teams.  This was convenient) 
 Logan being Momma's boy.  He actually went and sat with some friends for about 10 minutes (this is huge for his introverted personality) but then he came back because they were being too loud.
Eating a cantaloupe. He was rather disappointed that he didn't get the whole thing.  "Just a HALF mom??"

The games at the tournament were great for Logan.  They were only 30 minutes (although we played several each day) and fast-paced.  He really started to get aggressive and go after the puck by day 2, and he left feeling really great about playing.  He's super bummed that he has to take a week off, but then spring hockey starts again!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Classical Conversations Week 21 Bonus

Tutoring was really fun! I'm not sure how well I did, but the kids and the parents were very kind if I messed up :)

I wanted to share my math supplement
It's pretty easy, just a printout with the 2 laws and 3 categories.  We did addition, mainly because multiplication would have required too many M&Ms.  The Associative Law for Addition is
(a + b) + c = a + (b + c).  Before class, I put one of the sheets and the candies (2 orange, 3 blue, 5 green, but you can obviously use any color) in a ziplock baggie.  Then we took moved the candies around  to do 5 + 5 and 2 +8.  Either way it's 10!

The woman that I subbed for also left an activity.  It was a printout with the two laws in a much larger font, and then she cut out parenthesis from construction paper for the kids to glue in the appropriate places. 

For my afternoon class, I decided that we would do something that "followed" our history sentence a little.  I brought giant bags of recycling and some boxes, along with tape, glue, markers, tin foil, and whatever else I could dig up.  Then I tasked the kids with creating a rover to explore a new planet I made up.  I provided them with some printouts of the Mars Rover and some guiding questions (How will it get to the planet, how will it move on the planet, what information will it collect and how, how will it communicate with earth) and then I turned them lose in teams. 

The kids had so much fun! I actually had to stop them so that I could get them to present to each other! We spend about an hour and 40 minutes on this activity and then we did a few seconds of outside play.  The kids did a fantastic job.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

In Which the Kotlii Go to Richmond

Studying the states and capitals this year, we were so thankful that our friend, Delegate Rich Anderson, was named "Rich" because it helped us remember "Richmond"! You were a visual aid, Delegate Anderson!  3-ish years ago we first met Rich, who did not laugh me off when I showed up in the GOP offices in Woodbridge wanting to help with a campaign with Savannah in a Moby Wrap, Logan in a stroller, and Riley holding my hand.

He's a brave man.

As it turns out, I was able to help with Facebook, and Riley loves knocking on doors!  The children were delighted to go down to Richmond for a tour of the grounds, and, of course, to see their friend Delegate Anderson.

 Riley and Delegate Anderson had a lovely chat about current events, including several of the homeschool bills that have hit the house floor this session.  Delegate Anderson also patiently answered Riley's questions about the page program, which Riley has decided he's "definitely definitely doing" when he's old enough.
 I took somewhere around 30 of these pictures of the kids and Delegate Anderson, this is the best one.  It's tough to get all 3 kids to look cute and in the same direction!!  The picture Riley is holding is of him and Delegate Anderson in our kitchen after the polls closed when he was first elected.  On the other side is a crayon drawing of Riley and "Mr. Rich" knocking on doors.  Riley, then 6, told him that he could only keep the picture if he won.  He's apparently kept it on his desk this whole time.
 We didn't want to take up too much of Delegate Anderson's time, but he kindly helped us arrange a tour of the capital, which is both lovely and designed by Thomas Jefferson, who is the love of my life.  (Sorry, Austin) Our American History memory work served them well.  The first thing we saw (not pictured) was Henry Clay, which prompted a song, and then when we came upon the statue above (of a pair of brothers, one Union and one Confederate who found each other after the war) the boys were happy to rattle off their knowledge of the Civil War including dates, battles, and the surrender at Appomattox Court House.

Our tour guide was fantastic and gave outstanding history along with being very patient of the children's questions.  The large doorways, for example, are so wide because the underlying stone is 4 feet thick!
 Apparently when they renovated the building (adding a new underground portion to add several thousand square feet of usable space, one additional renovation was done adding what are now the chambers), they uncovered this old elevator shaft.
 The marble used to make the checkerboard floors is FULL of fossils! The kids were crawling all over having a blast finding them! We found mostly ferns and snails/mollusks, but it was exciting!
 It happened to be that the Sergeant at Arms was carrying out the ceremonial mace to begin a session of the House of Delegates. Apparently, we used to have a silver mace, sent from England as a reminder that we were ruled by the king.  Following the Revolutionary War, the silver was sold for scrap and the mace lost.  Later, it was decided that we should have another mace as a reminder, and a gold one was commissioned.
 After our tour, we had seats reserved for us in the gallery above the House of Delegates so that we could observe a session.  Riley was so excited by the voting boards (which hang to the right and left, but cannot be seen in this picture) because you can see the vote tally changing.  We saw one bill pass, one bill be defeated, and one bill narrowly be defeated by 1 vote.  Savannah and Logan were less impressed and more hungry, though, so we headed down to the main corridor to grab some lunch and head out.
Again, getting all three of my children to smile and look normal in any one picture takes an act of Congress.  And God.  Apparently both of them were busy, so this is the best I've got.  On our way out the tour guide commented on how well-read and behaved the children were, which made my day.  She rewarded them with some coloring books and posters, which made their day.

We're very thankful for all of the people we've been able to meet in our adventures, and appreciate it when they remember us! Delegate Anderson was very kind to allow us to interrupt his day and ensure we'd have a lovely tour.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Classical Conversations Cycle 3 Week 21

This week I'm substituting for a tutor, so that should be a fun experience!  I'm also going to be handling the afternoon class of 6-8 year olds for the next four weeks (We only have four weeks left! Crazy!), so I'll have a little extra planning to do!!

US Presidents: 
Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Adams, Jackson, Van Buren, Harrison, Tyler
I'm so excited!! I have been waiting and waiting to do this game with the kids for WEEKS since I saw it on Pinterest!! Presidential Guess Who? Yes, please!!
As far as a fun song, I hear that we're using the "short" CC song for this, but we're going to throw in the Animaniacs because the kids think they're hilarious :)
And, not to hate on the Classical Conversations songs....but....I mean, would it really kill us to kick it up a notch? Because since we're already the crazy public schoolers, I feel like my kids could really bring it with the Presidential Rap.
I found a few really cute printables, including a "President's Day" word making center where you make as many words as you can using the letters in "president's day" and then write a sentence using one of them.   I also found a lap book, and oh my gravy have we loved lap books, so I feel like this one will be a hit, too! 

History Sentence: Tell me about U.S. Astronauts
This week just couldn't get any cooler, could it?? 
We've got numerous books to read, of course, and I'll come back and report on the ones we like the best. NASA has both a video of the moon landing and some basic facts.  We're going to use the plaque from the moon landing as copy work.

In addition to our history sentence basics about the moon landing, we're going to take some time to talk about the phases of the moon.  
The Children's University of Manchester has a neat interactive on the phases of the moon
NASA also has a nice introduction to the phases of the moon
Visit to the Air and Space Museum? Well, duh, that's totally got to happen.  We've been to Udvar Hazy waaaay too many times for me to think about, so we're going to schlep into DC.

Latin: Cui Nomen Erat Iohannes
I have nothing interesting to report here.  We're going to keep working on our lap books and memorize this.  It's 4 words this week, so I don't really feel a whole lot of pressure to do something fun.  

English: Independent Clause
I have this idea for teaching independent clauses that involves a doll.  Since an independent clause can "stand" on its own and has both a subject and a verb, I'm thinking I should be able to have a "subject" leg and a "verb" leg.  When both are there, the clause (this doll may need to be know, "Claus") can stand.  When they're not, he can't.  I'm still working on this concept, but it's 1am, so it's not happening now.  Riley has clause worksheets in his grammar book, and we'll do some more fun sentences mad-lib style.  We'll also do a game where we have two jars, one we'll fill with independent clauses, and one we fill with dependent clauses.  I think it'll be funny.

Science: Uniformitarianism
I'm going to be honest.  I don't really get this.  I get the definition, and I get the counterpoints, but I don't have fantastic examples.  I'm going to try to pick up a few books at the library to help....but right now I'm just wishing that I stole my technological earth science text in 9th grade.  
Also, we're studying the moon this week.  Soooo.....there.

Math: The Associative Laws
We're going to demonstrate these using M&Ms, which are, by far, the best math manipulative on earth.  If a is red m&ms and b is blue and c is green, we can show that we get the same number whether we add red and blue first or blue and green first.  Then we can eat them. Nom nom nom.  
Singapore math plugs on.  Logan is doing much better with place value and higher counting, although he consistently forgets 15.  What did 15 ever do to him?  Riley is going to be drilling multiplication facts this week in addition to his chapter on measurement.

Geography: Territories and Terrains
Coloring! Yay!  I love the giant pull-off maps that I bought at the teachers store and will probably cry next year if they don't have the same thing for our new maps.