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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Classical Christmas music

Ok, I just have to brag for a moment.

I was listening to XM classical Christmas (through our satellite) and Nutcracker came on. Junior was excited and said "It's the Nutcracker!" I asked who wrote it and he said "Tstashtotkee"

(In fairness Tchakovsky is very hard for many adults to say)

Then he said "He wrote some really good songs before he died."

Yes he did, Junior.

I might should mention Junior is 5. Kind of cool that he likes Tchaikovsky at 5.

Friday, November 21, 2008

100 species challenge - Sweetgum and Greenbriar

I am finally doing my first 100 Species Challange post. With dead camera batteries and too much other stuff going on, this has taken longer than I thought.

  1. Sweetgum

  2. Greenbriar

Sweetgum leavesName: Sweetgum

Also known as redgum, american sweetgum, starleaved gum, gumtree and alligator wood. A deciduous tree with leaves that are deeply palmate, or star shaped. When crushed, the leaves have a very strong fragrance, kind of peppery, minty, mentholy. The leaves somewhat resemble maple but are alternately arranged rather than opposite.(see below for an explanation of alternate and opposite)

Sweetgum has a fruit that you would recognize if you ever stepped on one, looking more like a weapon than a fruit. It’s a spiny ball that will clutter up the yard.
Except for the messy balls, it is a beautiful landscape tree and is one of the top producing hardwoods. It is used to make flooring, veneers, furniture, paper pulp and basket making.Sweetgum leaf
The sweetgum sap has been used by oldtimers to make a chewing gum. Supposedly, the leaves when chewed and applied as a paste will releive fire ant bites. I have tried this on Junior and he said it helped, but it took awhile before I had the taste out of my mouth (think really, really strong mint gum). Since I avoid fire ant beds, I haven't tried this on myself. Yep, I am a wimp.


Greenbriar leavesName: Greenbriar

Also known as as horsebrier, catbriar, stretchberry, tramps troubles, blasphemy vine and hellfetter.

A common woody vine that grows in the same area as sweetgum. The leaves are very glossy, almost waxy looking and are broadly rounded. It is the only vine in the United States that has both thorns and tendrils.

The vine can form a thick thicket that is home and food to a variety of wildlife. The deer graze upon the leaves, birds eat the berries and cottontails make their home in its thick cover.
Greenbriar berries, notice the thorn poking out from behind
The berries can be mixed with the sap of the sweetgum tree, to make the gum stretchier. I have broken open these berries and there is a thin, clear stretchy membrane that really is elastic-like.

The young shoots, tendrils and leaves can be cooked as asparagus, ro eaten raw. The roots when crushed, washed and strained produce a red powder that can be used as a gelatin. This powder can be added to soups as a thickening agent or mixed with tannic acid as a soothing salve for bites, minor burns, or abrasions.


While looking this information up, I found this book which looks like a wonderful resource. I love the look of this book, I was able to veiw some of it and found it a huge wealth of information. That is where I got alot of the info on the Greenbriar.
Ok I must confess, I just borrowed the graphic from Amazon. So if you want to see inside the book, you have to go to Amazon. You can just click here.


I promised to explain alternate and opposite. Here goes. Then you look at a branch that has leaves they will be either alternate or opposite. Opposite leaves would be like your 2 arms. They are on opposite sides of the body. Alternate means they are not opposite. They can be very close to opposite, but if they aren't even, it is alternate. Here is a little diagram I threw together to give a visual.
alternate and opposite

Friday, November 14, 2008

God's World of Extremes

I was looking for a way to enrich our geography lessons, make them more than just places on a map. The October Old Schoolhouse module is what I was looking for. God’s World of Extremes is full of amazing facts, such as the most rainfall happens in India with 500 inches! You will never guess what amount is the least average yearly rainfall.

God’s World of Extremes has learning opportunities such as maps of each continent; coloring pages for the younger ones; price comparisons for things like bread and gas; games kids play around the world; and a “which continent are we on” worksheet.

There are also loads of links:

  • Easy foreign language
  • More about countries such as Greece, Mexico, Chad and even the United States
  • A penpal website
  • An extensive resource list
  • And more

In God’s World of Extremes my favorite is the copywork pages, one for each continent with a fast fact section that includes things like land size, largest river, and number of countries. These would be wonderful for lapbooking or notebooking.

My daughter can’t wait to start this one. This is a fabulous module that can be used with the Old Schoolhouse Planner; however, owning the planner is not necessary.

God’s World of Extremes will get your kids excited about geography.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

100 species Challange

I was over at the Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival at Jimmie's One Child Policy blog (well worth checking out even without the carnival) and found this entry:

Faith Alterton shares a most creative post at Blessed Quietness -- And yet another use for mud. That got your attention, didn't it?

Of course I had to check it out, and then I looked around and found the 100 species challenge.

What is the 100 Species Challenge you ask?

Well, it seems the person who came up with this challenge had read a book that mentioned most people nowadays cannot identify 100 species of plants within walking distance. So she took the challenge and has challenged others to do the same, identify 100 species of plants in your area.

You can do this on your own or you can blog about it. If you blog about it, these are the official rules.

The 100-Species Challenge

  1. Participants should include a copy of these rules and a link to this entry in their initial blog post about the challenge.

  2. Participants should keep a list of all plant species they can name, either by common or scientific name, that are living within walking distance of the participant's home. The list should be numbered, and should appear in every blog entry about the challenge, or in a sidebar.

  3. Participants are encouraged to give detailed information about the plants they can name in the first post in which that plant appears. My format will be as follows: the numbered list, with plants making their first appearance on the list in bold; each plant making its first appearance will then have a photograph taken by me, where possible, a list of information I already knew about the plant, and a list of information I learned subsequent to starting this challenge, and a list of information I'd like to know. (See below for an example.) This format is not obligatory, however, and participants can adapt this portion of the challenge to their needs and desires.

  4. Participants are encouraged to make it possible for visitors to their blog to find easily all 100-Species-Challenge blog posts. This can be done either by tagging these posts, by ending every post on the challenge with a link to your previous post on the challenge, or by some method which surpasses my technological ability and creativity.

  5. Participants may post pictures of plants they are unable to identify, or are unable to identify with precision. They should not include these plants in the numbered list until they are able to identify it with relative precision. Each participant shall determine the level of precision that is acceptable to her; however, being able to distinguish between plants that have different common names should be a bare minimum.

  6. Different varieties of the same species shall not count as different entries (e.g., Celebrity Tomato and Roma Tomato should not be separate entries); however, different species which share a common name be separate if the participant is able to distinguish between them (e.g., camillia japonica and camillia sassanqua if the participant can distinguish the two--"camillia" if not).

  7. Participants may take as long as they like to complete the challenge. You can make it as quick or as detailed a project as you like. I'm planning to blog a minimum of two plants per week, complete with pictures and descriptions as below, which could take me up to a year. But you can do it in whatever level of detail you like.

Because of 4-H wildlife this year, we do have a bit of a head start. This is going to be a fun challenge for us, and may make it easier to study for Wildlife contest next year, a contest that 8 & 9 year olds compete with highschool kids. To be honest, I am not quite sure who is at the disadvantage, LOL.

The first plants will be posted later today. Because of wildlife, and because I believe the original author complaining of the lack of botanical knowledge was referring to wild species, I am going to attempt to limit us to stuff we have not planted. For instance, I have a lovely rosemary bush but I know what rosemary is, I know what it does, etc.

I don't specify native because . . . there are many, many invasive plants that are non-natives, not just kudzu but also pretty things like honeysuckle, which would be useful to know more about. Also, to be honest, with plants you don't know, you don't know if they are native or not until you research them. I don't want us to research and then find out they are non-native and tell the kids "oops, we can't use this one." Besides on the wildlife contest there are non-natives like honeysuckle.

Any one else care to join me on this challenge?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Amusing Mathematics Old Schoolhouse November Module

I really enjoyed Amusing Mathmatics. which is pretty amazing since I have never really liked math.

Ok, the truth is I hated math.

I am still not too fond of math but I really enjoy Amusing Mathmatics. My daughter liked it too. In fact, I didn’t get to read through the whole thing at first because I had to stop so she could play with the tangrams.

Amusing Mathmatics. is a great ebook, even for confirmed mathophobes like me. There are activities such as

  • tangrams - ancient Chinese puzzles of shapes
  • jokes and riddles
  • Pattern Blocks
  • math puzzles
  • sodoku.
Tips are hidden throughout, like an easy way to figure out the answer to 9 x any other number.

I love the copywork for Amusing Mathmatics.! It has rhymes to help remember the difference between coins; the difference in measurement between cups, pints, quarts, and gallons; and other math rhymes.

If you want to add a little fun into your math studies, look no further than Amusing Mathmatics.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

One Random Thing I am Grateful for about Homeschooling

Ok, this is going to sound silly but I am so glad my children will not have to experience P.E. sports. Its not the athletics I object to, it's the way teams are divided up.

Choosing two captains and letting those two captains take turns picking who is on their team.

Well, someone has to be last.

Guess who that was at my school.

I blame my sister. She got all the athletic ability in the family. I don't care if she was born 7 years after me; she took more than her fair share of athleticism.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Music Mania Module for September

Wow, The Old Schoolhouse September Planner module is wonderful! I love music and the classical composers but my children have looked at music as a chore. Music Mania will help me get them excited about music.

Music Mania has a brief biography of some of the major composers; my children will be able to pick which musician they are interested in studying during music. The information on the orchestra will help them understand how the music is performed, the difference between the 4 types of instruments, and where they are located in the orchestra. I didn’t even know the seating order for an orchestra was standard.

Music Mania has even more! There are links to research more of the top composers, games, word searches, coloring pages, directions for making your own musical instruments. I love the yummy sounding recipes, especially the Inside Out Green Peppers.

If you like your children to do copywork, there are pages of it. Each one is a quote by a composer, with a Fast Facts section which includes a space for their birthday, interesting facts, type of music and major compositions. If you do notebooking or lapbooking, these copybook pages would be an excellent addition to the lapbook

Best of all, Music Mania has stirred up my imagination on what to do for music. I plan on bringing out Benjamin Britten’s Young Persons Guide to the Orchestra and Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf so we can listen as we are learning the different parts of the orchestra. Music Mania has helped me think of ways to make music more fun and educational.

Now if I can find something to make math fun . . .

Monday, September 22, 2008

Homeschool Freebie of the Day

What an amazing resource ! ! !

They find or produce a freebie for every day of the week, some are audio, I have seen some videos, and many, many ebooks. Its well worth the time to stop by every day, but you can also sign up for their "heads-up" mailer where you get an extra freebie each week. Don't wait till the end of the week though because then it's gone.

This week they have an Emergency Preparedness ebook which is on our minds with the aftermath of Ike.

Check it out here.

They are also offering the freebies missed last week to people who lost power due to Ike. How cool is that ! ? !

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Holiday Celebration July module

If you want an ebook packed with facts about the holidays, then the July module is exactly what you are looking for. Celebrate the Holidays is packed with all sorts nuggets of information about many of the major holidays. For instance, did you know that South and Central America also celebrate some version of Columbus Day? They call it other names such as Día de la Raza, Día de las Culturas, and Discovery Day but it is still Columbus day.

In Celebrate the Holidays there are also several fun worksheets, adorable coloring pages, family activities such as bugs on a stick, and 2 delicious sounding recipes. There are also 14 pages of copywork, a wonderful collection of quotes about the holidays from presidents and musicals and everything in between. The copywork will be put to good use in our home and my daughter loves the coloring pages.

In my opinion, this module is not nearly as good as the others I have looked at. I loved God’s World of Extremes, Music Mania and Amusing Mathmatics (I haven’t looked at All About Inventors). They just seemed to have more than this one. I liked Celebrate the Holidays. I just didn’t love it like I loved the others.

I just found out that the person who wrote the July and August Modules is no longer writing them. So if you looked at either of those and didn't really care for them, check out the newer ones. September, October and November were written by someone else who will be continuing to write them. You can look at my reviews of those and other things by looking at the Labels section on the right.

Saturday, June 7, 2008


This year 4-H was great. We thouroughly enjoyed entomology, so much that I will be the adult leader next year. Wildlife was fun, and Food and Nutrition was great. This fall we will be doing those, plus maybe rabbits and shooting sports. I have so many ideas for fun activities for entomology. I do have to share an amazing resource The Gloworm I accidentally found it while researching Luna moths. Anyway, if you or your kids are remotely interested in insects, there is alot of fascinating info.

I was talking to a friend about 4-H and she asked if the kids actually learn anything or if it's just another babysitting activity. My first response was "absolutely not!!" but then I begin to think about it.

4-H like any other eduational activity, can teach you an amazing amount or almost nothing. It depends on what the student puts into it. There are wonderful 4-H learning resources, and projects but if you or your child attends but doesn't listen or read anything outside the meetings, then they will get absolutely nothing out of it.

To be honest, we didn't get a whole lot out of Wildlife, (we learned some but not that much) BUT that is completely our fault. All we did was attend the meetings. There was some interesting information learned, all of us can now point out the American Beauty Berry, favorite snack of deer,as well as some other trees.

picture from NC State University

I must admit though that I have become one of THOSE mama's, I push my kids into doing something because I am interested in it. So I don't normally leave them at the meetings, or sit in the car because I am interested in what they are learning too.

Anyone else have any thoughts?

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Charlotte Mason Tea -- Bravo to homeschooling

Wow, the CM tea was great. Both of mine had learned their poems and did pretty well, although Junior mumbled.

One of the girls, (I guess she is 14) had written two poems that she read. When I say written, I don't mean something like "roses are red, / violets are blue. / I hate this, / and you do too." I mean a poem like you would expect to read published.

In one of the poems, 2 words caught my ear, "azure" and "lapis." I wonder how many college kids know what those words mean. Yet a young homeschool girl knows what they are, and can use them correctly. It was one of those small things that made me glad I homeschool.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

I love 4-H ! ! !

Growing up, I don't know why I didn't do 4-H, if it was offered in my area. I guess because of the idea that it was for country people.

With Daisy, we tried Girl Scouts, and in our area, it just wasn't a good experience.

Then we tried 4-H. Oh, Wow! 4-H just has so much to offer! There is a wide variety of projects, and most of them are not limited to "country stuff" like cows and goats.

Our 4-H club is made up of homeschoolers, which is great. It helps the kids be more connected with their homeschooling peers. Daisy is involved in Food and Nutrition, Entomology, and some with wildlife. Both kids have gotten enthusiastic about the bug collecting/ nature walk for entomology. To be honest, I didn't realize that entomology could be this interesting. We have gotten to see tiny little insects that we collected in our yard under a microscope.

Food and Nutrition was a lot of fun too. Daisy made a bread and won first prize in our county and was able to go on to district. She didn't win at district, but we learned alot. Junior has been planning what he wants to make for Food competition next year, and I think he is leaning toward a bread, because that is what big sis did. Wildlife was interesting, we just didn't do a whole lot with it because this was our first year in 4-H and we were a bit overwhelmed.

I am looking forward to next year and what we will participate in.

I encourage any of you, if you are looking for something to add to your curriculum, look into 4-H. Beyond the educational benefits, 4-H encourages leadership skills (even in the younger ones) and community service. Not to mention, there are scholarship opportunities. Not that I am worried right now about scholarships but if I wait till Daisy is older, it will be more difficult to get scholarships.

Anyway, 4-H is a great opportunity that I encourage everyone to look into.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Poetry Month

As you may or may not know, April is National Poetry month in the U.S. and Canada. Even though I love poetry, I do find we are not as consistent as we should be in studying it.

Jimmie has some wonderful ideas at One Child Policy Homeschool on how to bring poetry into your homeschool. She also gives some of the benefits to poetry. One she didn't mention is that parts of the Bible are poetry. If you don't "get" poetry then the book of Psalms is pretty much closed as well as the other bits of poetry through out the Bible.

Another great resource is they have a FAQ full of ideas for poetry including 30 ways to celebrate, Lesson Plans and a tip sheet.

I would also say, have your kids write poetry. Even before they can write they can dictate a poem. In my opinion, writing poetry gives a better appreciation when listening to poetry; the same could be said of music, art and that sort of thing.

This month, my local Charlotte Mason support group is doing a Poetry Tea for the kids. For the poetry tea, the kids each pick a poem and then get to recite it in front of the group. Its a great confidence builder because all the kids are supportive of each other.

This is our second year to participate, last year Daisy didn't want to do it but I made her memorize a poem. I knew that when she got there and saw all the other kids reciting, she would want to do it too. She was convinced there was no way she would want to recite but on the way to the tea she was thinking maybe reciting would be ok. After she did it, she was so proud of herself!

Both kids are going to recite this year, and the nice thing is that their Daddy will be able to go to this. I found their poems in the poetry book we are reading Poems Every Child Should Know by Mary Burt. Because of its age, there is no longer a copywrite on it and so it can also be found at Project Gutenburg and Internet Archive . One of our favorite modern children's poets is Jack Prelutsky.

For the poetry tea, Daisy and Junior are going to recite this together:

Love Between Brothers and Sisters

Whatever brawls disturb the street,

There should be peace at home;

Where sisters dwell and brothers meet,

Quarrels should never come.

Birds in their little nests agree;

And 'tis a shameful sight,

When children of one family

Fall out and chide and fight.

----Isaac Watts.

I bet you can't guess who picked that one out. Is it subtle enough? I may make them recite it every time they bicker LOL

Junior may not do one on his own, I haven't really talked to him about it. He still doesn't talk very clearly, but OTOH it's more of a confidence builder.

Daisy has two poems she likes equally as well, so she is planning on learning both and then deciding. She might recite both.

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star

Twinkle, twinkle, little star!

How I wonder what you are,

Up above the world so high,

Like a diamond in the sky.

When the glorious sun is set,

When the grass with dew is wet,

Then you show your little light,

Twinkle, twinkle all the night.

In the dark-blue sky you keep,

And often through my curtains peep,

For you never shut your eye,

Till the sun is in the sky.

As your bright and tiny spark

Guides the traveller in the dark,

Though I know not what you are,

Twinkle, twinkle, little star!

The Nightingale and the Glow-worm.

A nightingale, that all day long

Had cheered the village with his song,

Nor yet at eve his note suspended,

Nor yet when eventide was ended,

Began to feel, as well he might,

The keen demands of appetite;

When, looking eagerly around,

He spied far off, upon the ground,

A something shining in the dark,

And knew the glow-worm by his spark;

So, stooping down from hawthorn top,

He thought to put him in his crop.

The worm, aware of his intent,

Harangued him thus, right eloquent:

"Did you admire my lamp," quoth he,

"As much as I your minstrelsy,

You would abhor to do me wrong,

As much as I to spoil your song;

For 'twas the self-same power divine,

Taught you to sing and me to shine;

That you with music, I with light,

Might beautify and cheer the night."

The songster heard his short oration,

And warbling out his approbation,

Released him, as my story tells,

And found a supper somewhere else.

-----William Cowper.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Errand day and homeschooling

Ok, I feel awful. We did no schooling today. It was one of those long days full of errands.

First we dropped Junior at Mother's Day Out, then Daisy had piano lessons. After piano we went to the teacher supply store in town to see if they had insect pins, for pinning an insect collection. They didn't but they did have this cool thing to look through so you could see how it would be to see with an insect eye.

I called over at the college town nearby and one store said they had them. They didn't, it was the wrong kind of pins. Since we were there, we tried every college bookstore and none had them, although one did have a great book on Rembrandt clearanced.

So then we drove back to town, went by the forestry department and talked to the guy doing our 4-H. We found out what the caterpillars we have been collecting are, more about the mole cricket,saw some cool looking Harlequin bugs, and some other cool info. He mentioned that he had done a insect collection in college and that is what lit the spark that told him what to do for his career.

We picked up Junior and then came home. The kids caught more insects (the freezer is full of them), until it was time for Daisy's softball practice.

Hmmm, I guess on thinking about it, we did science, geography, art, and physical education. Not as bad as I thought. We did alot more than I realized.

And Daisy practiced her poem for our local groups Charlotte Mason Poetry Tea.

More about that later.

Oh, and the insect pins will have to be ordered online, Grrrrrrrr

Saturday, March 29, 2008

new ideas -- insects

I have to say our homeschooling has been fairly uninspired lately. We have just been plugging through day to day, and that hasn't even been completely regular.

We are involved in the 4-H entomology that we find really interesting. With it we are reading The Insect Folk by Margaret Warner Morley a sweet book published in the early 1900's. Some of the taxonomy has changed but for the most part, none of it would be anything I was worried about except if Daisy goes to contest for entomology, she needs to know the correct classes and divisions. The kids are collecting insects and spiders for a bug collection, so everytime we go outside we have to carry something to put insects in. Luckily for them, their momma is not the squeamish type so I will help with most of it (I don't do roaches, crickets and grasshoppers but the rest of them don't bother me).

I have been inspired though. I liked the idea of lapbooking but I couldn't figure out how, especially since (to my perfectionist mind) you couldn't really plan it until you knew everything that would go in it. The only way to know all that would go in it, is to finish the unit (or book or project). So I have bought the folders but that's as far as I had gotten. I was reading Jimmie at One Child Policy Homeschool when I realized that I was mistaken and you can do minibooks on the various things and then put those in the lapbook. So I think we are going to try a insect lapbook to go along with the entomology project, which will also give her something to reveiw for contest.

I am also inspired to dust off my copy of Handbook of Nature Study (by Anna Comstock) by Barb at Handbook of Nature Study . I felt I needed to start at the beginning and do it "right" and I just really didn't want to study birds, specifically chickens. (We had just gotten through a difficult homeschool experiment of raising chickens.) I never thought of skipping to something we did want to study, like right now would be insects.

I will keep ya'll updated on how it goes.