Thursday, September 27, 2012

What's for supper? From the freezer

Tonight's dinner menu:

The last of the enchilada pies, with sour cream, chopped green pepper, etc.  (I need my big pie plate back....)
Butternut squash  (because I want to make squash pie with the leftovers.)

Sliced pears, oranges, and banana chips

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Thrift store Wednesdays: stack of books

Only in a thrift store, maybe: you sort a pile of books that includes four Trinny and Susannah (What Not to Wear) books and one on Lyric Philosophy.

Sometimes the same person buys both.

So on that eclectic note, here's what we brought home: three Nancy Drews and a couple of small things for Dollygirl, one yellow t-shirt to make a top for Jo Doll, and these for school and/or Mama Squirrel:

The Birth of Britain, by Winston Churchill

Northrop Frye: a Visionary Life, by Joseph Adamson

Falling for Snow: A Naturalist's Journey into the World of Winter, by Jamie Bastedo

Landscape and Memory, by Simon Schama

Clean Sweep Conquer the Clutter: Reclaim Your Space, Reclaim Your Life. Mostly photos, but sometimes that's just what you need.

What's for supper? Pancakes

Tonight's dinner menu (afternoon out):

Buttermilk pancakes (I used yogurt)
Reheated sausage
Blueberries, syrup, etc.

Dollygirl's Grade Six: homeschool things we're doing

Things we've done already this week:

Basic Bible Studies:  completed study 2, about God's sovereignty


Mensa puzzle cards

French:  continuing Monsieur Perrichon, we're up to the introduction of The Commandant (another traveller along with the Perrichon family and two possible suitors for their daughter), but we still haven't gotten everyone on the train yet.

Math:  measured another tree outside and played with cubes

Nature study:  brought a big garden spider inside (in a magnifying jar) to get a closer look. (And let it go again.)

Monday night swim class

Citizenship:  read Uncle Eric chapters 2 and 3, about the importance of having good models in place before you load up with facts, and of having a high standard of proof for things that matter a lot to you.  (Don't just take my word for it...)

Poetry:  read two chapters of the Robert Frost biography, and listened to him read "Birches."

The Hobbit:  rescued Bilbo and the dwarves from the Wargs and gotten them up into an eagle's nest.

Science:  we finished a chapter from The Great Motion Mission, and got a spoon out to prove that when you look at yourself in a convex surface, you turn upside down.

A few pages of geography

Canadian history:  read a bit about life in the 1920's, about bush pilots and Emily Murphy (women are persons).

World history:  read about the Long March in China.

Cymbeline:  Iachimo's first meeting with Imogen.

God's Smuggler:  Brother Andrew's early days as a Christian and his "missionary post" in a chocolate factory.  (For anyone reading this with a Year Six, I recommend some parental editing for this chapter.)

In the midst of:

reading chapter two of the Einstein biography and doing a written narration

sorting through some embroidery floss

getting ready to go spend the afternoon at the thrift store

Next things to do:

The Aeneid of Virgil:  still need to finish the chapter we're on.

Bible study:  start study 3, "God and Man."  "What does it mean that man is made in God's image? Well, among other things it certainly means this: man is moral...Also, man is rational...It also means that man is creative...It is also the reason why man loves."--Francis Schaeffer.

Copywork and dictation

More poetry

Folk songs

Math: review questions on page 53

Read about the Depression in the Canadian history book; compare this description with what you already know of the 1930's from American sources such as Kit's Story Collection.

A few more pages of geography

Read Story of the World Volume 4, the part about Black Tuesday etc. and the rise of Hitler.

Continue with French

Probably more of The Hobbit

Crafts:  actually START the felt doughnuts--we've only talked about them so far

Picture study and art project (Emily Carr)

Natural history:  read a few pages from School of the Woods

Read a magazine article about light, then play a board game

Go to the library and do some activities on the Dewey Decimal System

Work on the personality notebooking pages already started, start a couple of new ones

Work on ideas for the history term project (designing a historical doll)

Friday afternoon drama class

Make a grapefruit globe, when we can get a grapefruit (or maybe we could try an orange)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

What's for supper? This and that

Tonight's dinner menu:

Barbecued sausage
Cheese tortellini
Steamed carrots
Cucumber slices

Tapioca pudding and blueberries

Sunday, September 23, 2012

"Jo Doll" comes to life

This is the "Jo Doll," made from the peach pillowcase that I brought home Wednesday. She is done except for her hair, because I didn't have any rug yarn. I'd still like to make her some clothes of her own, but didn't have the fabric, so I had to borrow some duds from one of Dollygirl's dolls.

She reminds me of "Margaret" from the Dennis the Menace comics.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Thrift store Wednesdays: purple, pink, peach, and P&P

Found at the thrift store today:

One purple t-shirt for Mama Squirrel

One peach pillowcase to make a Jo Doll (I was serious about making one!)

One pair of pink pillowcases, because I wasn't sure if one pillowcase was going to be enough fabric

One Scholastic book, possibly to re-sell

One set of Pride and Prejudice videos, for Ponytails.

The big pile of books has suddenly been reduced to a few boxes of fiction, so I spent most of the afternoon just filling the store shelves from what we had ready to go in the back.  Dollygirl found a chair and some other small dolly things.

In which Ponytails chooses the menu (plus another frosting recipe)

Ponytails had a birthday this week.

Since she has not worn ponytails for some time now, she is trying on other possibilities for blog names. Stay tuned for that.

This was the birthday dinner menu she chose:

Barbecued pork schnitzel on a bun, with hamburger toppings
Stuffed eggs with lots of paprika
Carrot sticks, mushrooms

White cake with chocolate icing "but not as thick as that icing Dollygirl had"
Ice cream
Cocoa Fudge Rocky Road Icing

I adapted the Cocoa Fudge Icing recipe from More Food That Really Schmecks. Here's my version.

1 cup brown or white sugar (we used brown)
1/4 cup cocoa
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
About a cupful of butterscotch chips
About two cupfuls of mini marshmallows
9-inch cake to frost

In a saucepan, combine the sugar, cocoa, and milk.  Add the butter or margarine, and stir over medium heat until it comes to a boil.  Boil for one minute, then remove from heat and cool as quickly as possible, by putting the pot into a bowl of ice cubes or a sinkful of cold water.  Add the vanilla and extra additions (butterscotch chips, marshmallows), and stir hard with a wooden spoon until the frosting has thickened  and looks like soft candy.  The marshmallows aren't meant to melt completely.  If the cake is still too hot to ice, you can put the frosting into a bowl and leave it in the fridge until you need it.  We left the cake in the pan and just covered the top of it with the frosting, then added some sprinkles and candles. 

Photo of Dr. Who and Romana found here.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Frugal homeschooling: let me count the ways?

Now that we're a couple of weeks into this fall's homeschool term, and I'm pretty sure of what we're going to keep using this year (vs. things that, like bad sitcoms, disappear after one viewing), I thought I would try adding up what this year's homeschool materials cost us.

I didn't get very far with it.  Besides, it would be pretty irrelevant.  Most of our stuff came from the thrift shop or was already on the shelf...and out of the books from the thrift shop, I priced a lot of them myself, so I suppose I could have engineered a higher or a lower total.  I could have, but I didn't--I try to put fair prices on all the books, even the ones I'm planning on buying myself.  Just so you know.

And the other slightly misleading thing about saying that we're using a thrifted math book, or whatever, is that usually we didn't make the choice based on cheapness, but more because we found something secondhand that looked like it would both meet our goals and fit Dollygirl's learning style and our current homeschool situation (Mom teaching Dollygirl, and Dad usually working in the next room).  I wanted to use a more "out of the box" approach to math thinking this year, and if I had had to buy something new to make that work, I would have.   But I found Minds on Math already on our bookshelf, and that seems to be a good choice so far.  If we hadn't had that, there were a couple of alternatives we could have tried, such as buying new workbooks for the Key To series that Dollygirl's older sister used..  But we just picked one and went with it.

With all that said, here are some of the frugal ways and means we've found helpful so far this year.

1.  Craft materials:  we are using up some of our own stashed yarn and fabric, and buying carefully when it seems we can't find what we want.  We went looking for "fat quarters" at the mill outlet store, thought they were a bit expensive, but then discovered a huge box of bandanas priced at a dollar apiece.  Did you know that bandanas are about the same size as a fat quarter?  Dollygirl picked out a few that she thought would make good doll clothes, and she's already made Crissy a bandana-print blouse.

 Dollygirl pulled out her old weaving frame a few days ago, along with some thick, fluffy yarn, and decided to weave her dolls a living room rug.  She's almost done.

This week's planned project will be stuffed felt doughnuts. We already have felt, stuffing, and embroidery floss, so we're good there. Maybe we'll make them doll-sized (call it a math exercise in scale).

2.  French:  Although I did spend money last spring on the next level of the curriculum we were using, I just didn't have the interest (and neither did Dollygirl) in jumping right back into nouns and verbs.  I found a school copy of Le Voyage de Monsieur Perrichon at the antiques market, I think for about a dollar, and I also made paper people to go along with the story.  We read it, and sometimes I have Dollygirl narrate it or re-read a simple part with me. (I have posted about that before.)  We are also singing French children's songs out of a library-discard book we've had forever.

3.  Poetry:  I've already posted about the two books we're using for Robert Frost, and about the Graphic Poetry books we found.  Poetry is not hard to find, and it's not hard to teach, honestly: mostly we just read it.  Today I read "Birches" out loud, and then I had Dollygirl pick out and re-read her favourite pair of lines, and I showed her mine.  Dollygirl got a cobweb in her face yesterday when she went outside, so she could relate to that part, about wanting to swing on birches, somewhere up above the ground and not where nasty things hit you in the face.  Next time we do poetry, we'll use You-tube to let Mr. Frost read it himself.

4.  Literature:  Dollygirl tried reading The Hobbit when she was too young for it, and I think she got stopped at about "Out of the Frying-Pan."  This time around, she can't get enough, and we are going to be done with it way before the term is over.  We have a junior LOTR fan in the making.  So what's frugal about that?  Just this:  for the first time in history, probably, we are in a position where books, books, books are all around us, at the click of a button, at the dropping of a few coins at the thrift store, at the flick of a library card.  And the large number of North Americans (and others) who admit that they Don't Read and have No Interest in Reading is appalling.  Abraham Lincoln used to walk miles to borrow a book-when you have that much footwork invested in reading something, you make the most of it.   But these days there is almost no such thing as books costing too much or not being available.  Most of us, most of our kids, don't need fancy reading curricula and lesson plans; we just need to spend more time reading.

5.  History, geography, science, and all that:  we bought ONE brand new book in those areas, and that was The Great Motion Mission for science.  And two DVDs, if you count them, about Marie Curie and Albert Einstein.  The real key to what we're doing frugally here is not the books we're using, but the variety of ways in which I'm trying to use them.  We read out loud, sometimes, often discussing and questioning as we go.  (Why was the Kuomintang's idea to get help from the large, powerful Soviet Union probably a bad idea?  Because somebody large and powerful can help you at first, but then they just want to take over.  Right...)  Sometimes Dollygirl reads to herself and reports.  Sometimes I have her do something unexpected like re-read a point three times in a row, until it really makes sense.  Or make a grapefruit globe.  Or go outside and measure a tree (that was for math this morning, but it could have been from the science book).  When it's just you, me, and the books, it's important to keep things stirred up a bit.  And it also helps when grandpa or somebody asks, "what did you do in school today?" 

I could mention other frugal things we've done, like re-using school supplies, but everybody knows that stuff already.  The point here isn't what you have.  It's what you do with it.  It's a clean, re-organized desk space for Dollygirl, and also one for me.  (To quote a Mary Engelbreit saying we have posted, everybody needs their own Spot.)  It's the routine of starting school mornings with a hymn and Bible verses, but jacked up a bit with the addition of (thrifted) puzzle cards--and the additional motivation of trying to solve them along with Dad.  It's the freedom we're trying to achieve this year to take a bit longer on some activities--to throw in a math game or a craft that might take a good part of the morning.  (And it's okay, because we don't have other students waiting.)  The schedule is there, but it's not bossing us around too much.

Frugal?  Yes.  But it's not about the money.  It's about making sure we keep on caring about what we're doing.  Cost of that: priceless.

Linked from Festival of Frugality #354.

In which we remain stubbornly attached to our squiggly lines and paper pages (Response to "Literature is the new [dead] Latin")

So Michael Reist says that "literature will never die, but if we keep force-feeding it to the kids of cyberspace, its integrity will certainly suffer."

And since he has thirty years of classroom experience, and has written and lectured extensively on the problems of both teenagerhood and education, we assume that he does know what he's talking about.  The tone of the editorial made me think at first that he was actually cheering the demise of English literature; but after reading some other quotes, I think he sees the situation more as sad but true; lamentable, but inevitable.

His conclusion?  "There are two ways to resolve this tension: Lower the standards in English class so the poor kid can go and make video games, or stop the mandatory study of English at, say, Grade 10. For many kids, the only thing they learn in Grade 11 or 12 English class is to hate it even more."

Those alternatives sound like the equivalent of "you don't get a real dinner tonight, but you can choose between fries, candy, and vitamin-mineral supplements."  Or, more closely, since the diners refuse to eat "real" food, we will no longer bother to cook and serve it.  Let them find their nourishment as best they can.
“But I’m going to be a video game designer!” protests one of my Grade 10 English students. “I don’t need to be able to read novels or write essays.” --Michael Reist
Need to be able to?

Would anyone dispute the idea that human bodies still need to eat? Public school lunches are all about enforced nutrition, these days. So don't human minds still need to think, and to know what has been thought?

Around here, school IS, largely, reading.  If you search this blog for the word "subversive," you will find that every occurrence, with the single exception of a tuna recipe, has been in connection with books and reading.  In our view, the immeasurable value of Real Books has not changed and will not change. 

But in Michael Reist's opinion, the rest of the world has stopped caring, and there's no turning back.  The occasional Matilda is simply an odd exception; the other "students" are shut out.

Prove him wrong.
"All the reading she had done had given her a view of life that they had never seen. If only they would read a little Dickens or Kipling they would soon discover there was more to life than cheating people and watching television."--Roald Dahl, Matilda

Linked from Carnival of Homeschooling #350: Ideas You Can Use.
Also linked from the Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival at Charlotte Mason in the City.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Where do you even START? ("Literature is the new Latin")

This kind of editorial just leaves me gasping for breath.

When English teachers with thirty years' experience propose that we make the last two years of high school English optional, I know that we really are in Ray Bradbury territory.

I think I need to sleep on this one and come up with some kind of semi-coherent response tomorrow.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Dollygirl's Grade Six Homeschool week: already changed

This week we will have only four days of school, because of a public-school holiday on Friday.  I also forgot that Dollygirl is going on a tour of the local airport on Thursday morning.  Also I think a couple of the days were a bit overloaded, so we'll probably have to pick and choose a couple of the readings.  Here's where things are at now.


Opening time: Bible verses, hymn, prayer, Mensa puzzle cards

Bible—Schaeffer, Basic Bible Studies. Finish verses on page 13, about the Holy Spirit.

Poetry: Robert Frost, America’s Poet, chapter 4, “Searching.” Read “Birches.”

The Hobbit, chapter 5

Math: Minds on Math pages 44-45. First, construct a clinometer using a photocopied protractor, straw, string, and washer. Go outside and use the clinometer to measure a tree (see instructions in the book). Come back inside and construct a scale drawing to determine the height of the tree. Answer questions 1-3 on page 46.

French: review the two songs we did last week. Le Voyage de Monsieur Perrichon, Act 1, Scene 6.

World history: Story of the World Vol. 4, chapter 25, first half. Explain about Manchukuo. How was this an early test case for the League of Nations? (See also Usborne Illustrated Atlas of World History, page 69.)

Computer time

School of the Woods, chapter 2


Skills and crafts: probably start felt doughnuts, from Stitch by Stitch.

Free reading


Opening time

Bible—verses on page 14 (end of study 1). How do we recognize the Christian God? Reminder: “the Bible sets forth God as one God but in three persons.”

Geography: Read pages 13-15 in Hammond Discovering Maps, and narrate. Read Cool Geography, pages 10-14. (Keywords: gazetteer, atlas, marine chart.) Do Cool Geography Activity 3 on page 20: map questions about the United States.

Shakespeare: Cymbeline, Act 1, Scene IV. What is the bet that is made in this scene? What are the “prizes?”

Math: Read the description of geometric models on page 46 of the textbook. In your notebook, write out a definition of a geometric model (what is it? What is it used for?) Get out four cubes (building blocks) and set them up as shown. Compare your cubes with the drawings of top view, side view, front view. Answer questions 5 & 6 on page 47.


Computer time

The Aeneid of Virgil. Read from page 31 to the end of page 32 and narrate what has happened to Andromache since Hector’s death and the fall of Troy. Read to the top of page 35, stop, and narrate the first part of Helenus’s instructions to Aeneas. (Who are Scylla and Charybdis?) Read the rest of his instructions, and the rest of pages 36 and 37.

Skills and crafts

Science: Read The Great Motion Mission, page 23-top of page 26. Narrate orally: what is going on at the art gallery? Read this out loud three times: “Visible light is radiation in the visible part of the electromagnetic spectrum.” Take the blue sidebar on page 26 to your father and ask him to explain it to you.


Free reading


Opening time

Bible—start study 2. What is God’s sovereignty? When we speak of His sovereignty, what two thoughts must we keep in mind? God’s work of creation: Look up the first few verses on page 15.

Poetry: Robert Frost: listen to Frost read his poem “Birches.” Read “A Young Birch.” Robert Frost, America’s Poet, chapter 5, “It’s a Funny World.”

Science: 1. Read “Light Color Optics” by John Grunder, in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, Winter 2008, pages 72-74. 2. Play the “Light Race” board game from the Eyewitness Action Pack “Light & Illusion.”

Canadian history: Read Story of Canada, pages 230-233

Folk songs

English: Write Source 2000, “Library Skills.” 1. Read the introduction and section 290. 2. Sections 291-293 show you how a "card catalogue" works. What are some reasons that most public and school libraries now use computerized catalogues instead of actual cards? Would there be any advantages to a card system? Disadvantages? 3. Review of the Dewey Decimal System.

Thursday:  Field trip morning!

Thursday afternoon:

The Hobbit: continue. Written narration chosen from several suggestions I will give you.
Computer time

French: Act 1, Scene 7.

Science biography: First, read the mini-biography of Einstein on page 27 of The Great Motion Mission. Then read chapter two in Cwiklik’s biography, and narrate.

Free reading

Next Monday:

Opening time

Bible—finish study 2.

The Aeneid of Virgil. Finish chapter 2. Study for dictation later.

Citizenship: Uncle Eric, chapter 3, “Sorting Data.” “Without good models, or paradigms, students have no way to know which facts are important and which are not.”

Math: Use the clinometer you made on Monday to measure one other object outside (p. 47, question 8). Also answer questions 9 (views of an object), 10 (matching pairs), and 12. Weekend homework: p. 49, question 16: construct an object using 8 cubes; draw the front, top, and side views of your object. Give 8 cubes and your drawings to someone else. Challenge him/her to construct an object using the drawings. Is the object the same as the object you created?


Canadian history: Read Story of Canada, pages 234-235. Narrate.

Picture study: read about Emily Carr’s breakthrough in 1927. How did her meeting with the Group of Seven change her life as an artist? Compare Lawren Harris’s painting on page 32 (of Anne Newlands’ book) with Carr’s 1928 painting "Skidegate." Also compare "Skidegate" with her 1912 painting on page 25.
Poetry: read these poems from Florence McNeil’s Emily: “Home” (p. 36); “Discoveries II” (p. 41); “Discoveries III” (p. 44); “The Group of Seven” (p. 46).

Art Instruction: Choose something outdoors (maybe a tree?) to paint or draw in Emily Carr’s later style. Try and paint its “inside” more than its “outside.”
Free reading

Thursday, September 13, 2012

What's for supper? Salmon and sauce.

Tonight's dinner menu:

Baked salmon fillets with honey-yogurt-mustard sauce (the recipe was on the fish package)
Brown rice
"Nature's Balance" frozen vegetables (Giant Tiger had them on sale for a dollar a bag)

Sliced pears.

Tomorrow night:  frozen enchilada pie and acorn squash.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

What's in our yard today? Flickers

This is so cool...not just because flickers are colourful and fun to watch, but because this is the THIRD time we have posted in mid-September about them appearing in our yard.  It's definitely one of those "family nature calendar" things to watch for.  There are several of them outside this morning, including some babies.
Photo found here.

What's for supper?

Tonight's dinner menu (afternoon out):

Swojska sausage, done in the slow cooker with carrots and sauerkraut

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Dollygirl's School Corner

I think that would be a "no."

Dollygirl, doing copywork:  "Albert Einstein says that imagination is more important than knowledge.  So during math time I'm just going to doodle in my notebook.  Okay?"

What's for supper? Pass the pizza pasta

Tonight's dinner menu:  pizza pasta, a very flexible skillet/casserole meal.  This one is going to incorporate a container of frozen spaghetti-meat sauce, part of a can of diced tomatoes, a few mushrooms, green pepper, a piece of pepperoni, and some cheese, served over pasta bowties.

Plus lettuce salad and carrot sticks, and some oatmeal-raisin cookies that we're going to make this afternoon if we get time.

Monday, September 10, 2012

What's for supper? Shepherd's Pie

Tonight's dinner menu:

Shepherd's Pie, made from a thawed hamburger casserole plus additions
Lettuce salad
Toasted garlic pita bread triangles

Blueberries, or yogurt, or leftover sweet potato cake

Saturday treasure hunting, re-posted with p.s.

Saturday morning was rainy, so the only yard sales were indoor ones.  We stopped at two church sales and found some cool vintage stuff:  electric scissors and a pair of '70's broadcasting-style headphones (Mr. Fixit), a '50's Snowflake-pattern casserole with an aluminum lid and some '70's craft magazines (Mama Squirrel), a Christmas-green pillowcase with hand-knitted edging, and a bunch of mid-century kids' paperbacks, mostly Puffins.
Book titles:

The Family from One End Street (we did have a copy of this, but sold it awhile back)
Bush Holiday
The Little Grey Men by 'BB'
The Fair to Middling
Snow Cloud Stallion
The Young Detectives
Auntie Robbo
The Story of the Amulet
Lad: A Dog, a fairly worn 1940's Pocket Book edition
Two Against the North, by Farley Mowat, Scholastic T145

P.S.  See the McCall's Crafts magazine, with the rag doll with glasses on the cover?  My mom had a copy of this in 1976, and I always wanted one of those dolls.  Maybe I'll collect up the materials to make myself one.  It's only been thirty-six years.

Aunt Sarah Scrap Challenge: the smallest fabric stash around? (Re-posted with more photos)

You've heard the saying, "she who dies with the most fabric wins?"  I've read a variation that says, "she who dies with the most fabric...wasted a lot of time."

I tend to go with the second choice.  Although I like to sew when I do have fabric, I don't keep a lot on hand.  I don't have a handy, inexpensive source of new fabric (even the mill-ends store can be very expensive); I'm not a quilter, or much of a clothes-sewer, so I don't have ongoing large needs for fabric; so it wouldn't make sense for me to stockpile much more than we can easily use.  One carton, maybe.
Lately I've been trying to get even that "stash" down to the minimum.  I used up three large pieces that had been in the bottom of the box for a very long time. 
One was a maternity skirt that I sewed so many years ago that it qualifies as "vintage" fabric.  One was Dollygirl's baby sling.  One was just a piece of flowered fabric that had been there so long that even I didn't remember where it had come from.  All of those became cloth napkins, because we're trying to be frugal like that.  (I think I made about fourteen--I lost count.)

A pair of red corduroy pants, three red and blue placemats, and a piece of calico became Crissy clothes. (More about that in another post.)

I used a piece of fancy pink fabric (from that yard sale back in June) to make a ribbon bulletin board.  If you think it looks a bit lumpy, you're right.  I wanted it up so badly that I kind of jerry-rigged it together with a lot of safety pins.  But I'm planning on taking it apart and straightening it up a bit.

A thrifted piece of red print, plus some white sheeting and eyelet, became a new dress and pinafore for Dollygirl's Abby. 
The rest of the red print, I made into gift bags.
The fabric carton is now about one-third full, and most of what's left, I don't think even Aunt Sarah could make much use of.

All photos by Mr. Fixit and Dollygirl. Copyright Dewey's Treehouse 2012.

When life hands you handmade green, knitted-lace-trimmed pillowcases

As I cashed out of the rummage sale with my pile of Puffins and one handmade green, knitted-lace-trimmed pillowcase, the lady behind the table asked, "Are you sure there was just one of these?"  "I saw only one on the table," I said.  "That's right, there was just one green one!" called over another worker.  The first lady looked at me with an "are you sure you want this?" face.  Don't people sometimes want just one pillowcase? "I want it for the fabric," I explained.  Ohhh...well, that was all right then.

I still wasn't sure exactly what I'd be doing with one handmade green, knitted-lace-trimmed pillowcase (other than putting it on a pillow), but I was open to ideas.  When I measured it, I realized that there was more than enough fabric there for two MCC school kit bags, and it was in great shape, hardly used at all.

The strip that was left, with all its handmade trimming, might make a fancy doll skirt.  I looked at one of our 18-inch doll patterns for the amount of fabric required for an elastic waist skirt: my piece was twice as long as that, but not high enough.  Rather than make an extremely bunchy mini-skirt, I cut the strip in half and overlapped the two pieces to make a "taller" one.  I folded the top over, sewed it to make a casing, threaded some elastic through, and sewed the skirt up the back.  That's all I had to do.
(Dollygirl won the t-shirt in an online doll photo contest.)

Photos by Dollygirl.  Copyright 2012, Dewey's Treehouse.

Scenes from a dollhouse

All photos by Dollygirl.  Copyright 2012 Dewey's Treehouse.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Homeschool things to do for Friday

Dollygirl is asking for some extra time today to clean out and organize all those doll clothes she's been acquiring.  Yeah, it's Friday...there may come a point where we just decide to call it a short day and be done.

Opening time: similar to other days, including folk songs

God's Smuggler: read together, narrate.  I think this is one book we will keep reading together as it often does get a bit intense for an eleven-year-old  (i.e. factory workers being verbally harassed; wartime experiences).

Math: see schedule; mark weekend homework in assignment book

Picture study: Emily Carr's early paintings

School of the Woods: read several pages (at least half the chapter) and narrate

Study for dictation

French: lesson 2

After lunch: Dictation; review Grammar & Composition assignment due next week (mini research project)

Sewing: continue doll blouse. We got it measured and cut out yesterday--today we have to make a casing, thread elastic through, stitch the back seam, and then stitch and cut the sleeves.  (They're cut OUT of the sides of the blouse, which you can see if you're brave enough to click on the Tripod link I sent yesterday.)

Virgil's Aeneid retelling:  read the next section and narrate.

Timelines and history pictures: take time to start at least one "person page" for notebook

Extra reading:  write a reminder in assignment book.

Next Friday Dollygirl will be starting an afternoon drama group, so we will have to adjust the schedule a bit.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Homeschool things to do for Thursday

Today's schedule seems kind of long, but we'll see how it goes.


Opening:  prayer, hymn, Mensa puzzle cards.  Robert Frost: America's Poet, chapters 1 & 2 (they're short).  "Going for Water," by Robert Frost.

Bible:  Basic Bible Studies, continue Study 1.  (Verses showing that there is more than one person of the Trinity.)  Sing "The Lord Our God is One" from Judy Rogers' Why Can't I See God?

Citizenship:  Uncle Eric Talks about Personal, Career, and Financial Security, chapters 1 & 2 (they're short).

School year discussions:  Introduce The People Notebook Project.  This is an alternative I came up with to a formal Book of the Centuries or timeline, for this year.  Historical, literary, and other people and/or characters each have a page with a few key questions, such as "best known for," "hardest times," and "beliefs about God."  There is also room for pictures--hand-drawn or pasted in.  The choice of which people to include is going to be up to Dollygirl, but I will give her a minimum for the term.

Math:  see schedule.

Copywork:  choose an Albert Einstein quotation.

History: we finished the chapter in Story of the World Volume 4, about the rise of Stalin.  This is of personal interest to us since the famine in Russia in the early 1920's led to the creation of the Mennonite Central Committee, and the conditions there also brought many Russian Mennonite immigrants to Canada--some of whom we know.

Lunchtime activities:  helped drill a hole in the wall for one of Mr. Fixit's new clocks.  Helped make lemon poppyseed muffins, mini-size, for our hobbit teatime (a tribute to the hobbit's "seed cakes").


Albert Einstein biography--read chapter 1 and narrate.

Crafts and skills:  sewing a peasant blouse for a doll.  (Note: it's an old Tripod site with pop-ups, so be warned.)

(French:  lesson 2--I think we'll leave this until tomorrow.)

English:  begin first unit (see previous post about English).

Teatime:  "An Unexpected Party."  Dwarves are invited (come in your cloaks).

Homeschool things to do for Wednesday

Opening time:  Favourite hymn, prayer, Mensa for Kids puzzle cards. 

Getting-started-with-school discussions:  1.  Going over the full schedule.  2.  Talking about how Dollygirl can keep track of assignments like "please finish reading this book by Friday."  3.  A suggested "term project": since we are studying the twentieth century this term in history, and since Dollygirl loves the 18-inch historical dolls, I am proposing that she do a sort of "creative narration" by designing a new doll (and accoutrements), for a 20th-century decade that has not yet been done.  (That would be just the 1920's, '50's, '60's, '80's, and beyond.)  It might seem out of focus to have a Canadian girl do an American doll project, but the Canadian doll equivalents mostly don't come in historical flavours.  So we'll see what Dollygirl thinks about it.

(Solution to #2:  an assignment notebook.)
Bible Study (together):  I am planning on introducing Francis Schaeffer's Basic Bible Studies by reading a few pages from Susan Schaeffer Macaulay's How To Be Your Own Selfish Pig.  On pages 15 through 17, she describes her own "rebellion" at age eleven, why she suddenly felt that she didn't know what she believed about God, and how her father responded.  The connection, as I see it, is that the principles he wrote into Basic Bible Studies are probably the same sorts of things that he discussed with Susan, and obviously with adults who did the written studies or came to L'Abri for teaching.  We will read through the first three or four points of the first study.

French:  we will start to work through the play.

Math:  see previous schedule.

History (together today):  Story of the World Volume 4, about the aftermath of World War I.

Poetry:  one of Robert Frost's poems.

Inserted by demand:  another part of the first chapter of The Hobbit.

Free computer time and lunch.  (Lunchtime activity:  helping Mr. Fixit put together a new chair for his workshop, that came unassembled.)

Literature:  Retelling of The Aeneid.  Before reading, look up the following words in the dictionary:  stratagem, roisterers, refuse (the noun), effigy, sacrilege, impious.  After reading, do a written narration (keep writing for 10 minutes).

Music:  new folk songs

Science:  The Great Motion Mission.   Today we are just going to be reading from the new book.  Oral narration to father or big sister (on the phone).

Monday, September 03, 2012

Homeschool things to do for Tuesday: figure out what we're doing, finally?

How do you start off your homeschool year?  Plunk the math books down and tell the kids to get to work?  Take a nature walk?  Start right in with an exciting novel?

Lynn Bruce once told a gathering of Ambleside Online parents that there were certain things that needed to be put into place in a school year before you ever thought about getting into the books.  One was making sure that your children understood the need to listen perfectly and follow directions (she had them practice this by making cookies AND cleaning up on the first day of school).  On the second day of school, she had them go through the schedule and talk about why they were studying certain subjects, how math and science and good handwriting glorify God. On the third day, they talked about good habits, and how the teacher and students could work together to make all those transitions go smoothly, such as having the right supplies and equipment ready when it was time to start the next subject.

THEN they started school.

I don't have very little children, and we are not just starting out, but there is still a great deal of wisdom in what Lynn said all those years ago.  So what are we doing tomorrow?

Our opening time:  a favourite hymn; the first chapter of Proverbs; and a prayer together.

As Lynn suggested, we will look at the weekly schedule together and talk about some of the things we will be studying and the books we will be using.  We will talk about the subjects that will be done independently vs. those that we will read or do together; what the expectations are for free reading; what the expectations are for homework (we don't do much, but I do give a few assignments to be done "out of class").  We will talk about our space and our supplies.  What kind of notebooks will work best for which subjects?  What kind of fun things like handicrafts can we do?

Since it's Tuesday and our Tuesday schedule says to start with Geography, Shakespeare, and Math, and Copywork, we will do those subjects.  But first we're going to start The Hobbit.  Dollygirl will be reading this mostly to herself, but  I think it's a good way to start out the year together.

And that's it for the first day.  The high schoolers get a short day on the first day, so Ponytails will be home early too.

(No cookies this time, but maybe we'll make some treats later.)

Linked from Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival: What We Love the Most.

Homeschool things to do for Tuesday: Personal research, library skills

Sometimes homeschoolers ask how to use an English handbook as the core of a language arts or grammar-and-composition course.  This year our main text for grammar and composition is Write Source 2000: A Guide to Writing, Thinking, and Learning, one of the Great Source handbooks.  It's aimed at grades 7 and 8, but since we found a copy at the thrift store, we're using it for grade 6 (we used some of it for grade 5 as well).  Here is a sample of the ways I am planning on using it this month with Dollygirl.

Weeks 1 & 2: Personal Research & Writing

1.  Read sections 265-268, about how Robert Fulghum researches.  "See what there is that interests you, that arouses your curiosity, that gets you wondering."

2.  Look at the part of section 267 with the blue bar.  What is the difference between "traditional research" and "personal research projects?"

3.  Make a list of ideas that start with "I wonder."  "I wonder what it's like to..."  "I wonder why..."  "I wonder what would happen if I..."  Circle three that really get you interested.  Choose one that you would most like to find out about.  (NOTE: this is a SHORT report, due on Friday of the second week of school.  Choose something that you can research and put together in a short time.)

5.  Section 269: Selecting and Collecting.  Do some personal research, including talking to at least one person who knows about your subject.

6.  Section 270: Telling Your Research Story.  You can do this in any way that you would like (be Kit Kittredge writing a newspaper story, do a blog post, do an oral report after dinner...).

Weeks 3 & 4:  Using the Library

1.  Read the introduction and section 290.

2.  Sections 291-293 show you how a "card catalogue" works.  What are some reasons that most public and school libraries now use computerized catalogues instead of actual cards?  Would there be any advantages to a card system?  Disadvantages?

3.  Review of the Dewey Decimal System, sections 294-297.  Re-read the online story "Do We" Really Know Dewey?.   Choose one of the games or quizzes to do, or make one up for someone else to solve.

4.  Go to the library and take out books that interest you from THREE different Dewey sections of the children's room (such as one from the 200's, one from the 300's, one from the 400's).  Now go to the adult section (with your parent) and find books with the same Dewey numbers (or as close as possible).  If you're interested, have your parent sign them out for you.

5.  The Reference Section:  Instead of reading this section, go to the public library and look at their reference books.  (Does the children's room have reference books?)  List five books you see there that might come in handy sometime.  (Better write down their call numbers too.) What are the good and bad things about books being in the reference section?

Homeschool things to do for Tuesday: maps and geography

Dollygirl's sixth-grade geography class--at least the formal part--is meant to be done once a week, on her own.  I am combining some resources we have to make a study guide that will cover the first two terms of the school year.  I'll probably add in things like online quizzes and videos, when we get there.

Here's a sample:

Week 1
Cool Geography, by Jane Glicksman: Read the Introduction: What's So Cool About Geography?

Hammond Discovering Maps. Read pages 4-9 and narrate.

Question:  This book assumes that you live in the United States. How would you rewrite the "Your Country" section for Canadians?

Week 2

Cool Geography, chapter 1: Cool Maps: The World At Your Fingertips, to page 10
Keywords: map, scale, legend, compass rose

Hammond Discovering Maps. Read pages 10-12 and narrate.

Week 3

Hammond Discovering Maps. Read pages 13-15 and narrate.

Cool Geography, chapter 1: Cool Maps: The World At Your Fingertips, pages 10-14
Keywords: types of maps, gazetteer, atlas, marine chart

Cool Geography Activity 3: Map questions about the United States (page 20)

Week 4

Cool Geography, chapter 1: Cool Maps: The World At Your Fingertips, pages 14-22
Keywords: absolute location, Equator, Eratosthenes, Greenwich, hemispheres, latitude, longitude, degrees, International Date Line, Ptolemy, time zones

Cool Geography Activity 2: Make a grapefruit globe.

In which we will begin our seventeenth year of homeschooling...on the second day?

In September 2007 I posted the following:

Becky's Book Reviews posted the poem "First Day of School" by Judith Viorst. An excerpt:
And what if they say, "Do this," and I don't understand them?
And what if there's teams, and nobody picks me to play?
And what if I took off my sneakers, and also my socks, and also my jeans, and my sweatshirt and T-shirt,
And started the first day of school on the second day?
My comment:  Hey, now there's an idea...

That was five years ago.  We have been officially homeschooling since 1996, when the Apprentice started kindergarten...or didn't start kindergarten, if you want to put it that way.  Our homeschooling took her through ninth grade at home, and Ponytails through eighth.  (Dollygirl will still be home this year for Grade Six.) When people ask me to write or say something about why we homeschool, it's hard not to choose the obvious: after all this time, we just do.  Put on socks, make breakfast, start school.

There's got to be a better reason, right?  I mean, we could stop homeschooling this week.  The public elementary school is only a few streets away, and an extra backpack wouldn't set us back too much.  In fact, considering the Squirrel finances this year, it's not something that hasn't crossed our minds.

So why are we sticking with it?
"This year we are going to read, talk, figure, walk, hike, draw, recite, narrate, write, paint, sing, listen, listen some more, look, notice, see, will, plant, sow and reap.....We are going to live our lives together doing what humans do."--Cindy Rollins, Ordo Amoris Blog
Short answer: I want to raise kids who care more.

Long answer:  I believe in Charlotte Mason's principles of education (I'm not reciting a creed, I really do), and in how they relate to a Christian worldview that says that ideas have consequences, that the God of the Bible is there, that He created human beings as individuals, and that His truth makes sense...among other things.  I want to build a home life that...frail and mistake-ridden as it is and as we are...reflects that.  Days at home give us more chances, different opportunities than we would have if daily life centered on an outside school. 

So this year Dollygirl will skip, one more time, the fear of dropping lunch in the toilet or the locker door sticking or the teacher not liking us or whatever it is that hangs all the in-school kids up about the first day of school (read the poem), and move directly on to the second day.

(Ponytails, in high school, is the one who gets to deal with the locker.  The Apprentice has gone beyond lockers and now gets to have anxieties about things like new housemates.)

Linked from the 349th Carnival of Homeschooling.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Homeschool things to do for Tuesday: French play we're reading

I did some prep work on this during the summer, so we're ready to go with Le Voyage de Monsieur Perrichon.  This is a 19th-century play that lends itself really well to breaking down into small "French bites."  In keeping with some of Charlotte Mason's ideas about teaching language, I'm planning on reading short sections out loud, encouraging narration wherever possible, and emphasizing a few--only a few--key phrases from each lesson.

I also made up a set of paper people to go with the story.  We used to use characters like this for Our Island Story, and all the girls really remember them even years later.  I didn't draw them myself--I just looked for images of 1860-ish people online, pulled them into a Word file, and squished and pulled them so they were all about the same size (so that we didn't have a giant lady with a tiny man).

Homeschool things to do for Tuesday: Robert Frost's poetry

In the that-was-easy department:   We will be reading the 51 poems in Robert Frost's You Come Too: Favorite Poems for Young Readers.

(Warning: there are extremely rude comments below this video.)

We own the 80-page junior biography Robert Frost: America's Poet, by Doris Faber.  What do you do with a junior biography, a sixth grader, and a homeschool curriculum based mostly around just reading the poems?

Taking a leaf from the Ordo Amoris tree, I think the best way to include things like this is to put them in a "Morning Time."  A gathering where maybe you don't always have to stick to the regular books.  Even if you are homeschooling just one, you can make a habit of getting together for some reading, maybe singing or memory work, close to the start of school or at another time that works well--maybe even at tea-time, if you have a regular time for that.  We have gotten out of tea-time in recent years, but what I remember was that by that time of the day, the Squirrelings were often impatient if I tried to thrust yet another book on them.  Individual poems, yes, but not whole chapters--they were ready to go and play.  So I guess it depends.

So Faber's book can go into some kind of a "Morning Time" reading basket.

What else can you do with poems beside read them, memorize them, copy them out, sometimes sing them?  Ruth Beechick has lots of ideas:  experimenting with word choice, changing verse into prose, and so on.  We also have a copy of Rose, where did you get that red? Teaching Great Poetry to Children, by Kenneth Koch, which has some good writing suggestions based on poems by Wallace Stevens, John Donne, African tribal poems, and more.

You can illustrate them.  We recently acquired several volumes in Scholastic's Graphic Poetry series, in which each book takes one or two poems by one author, and sets them up in what's basically picture book format--but for older readers, not little ones.  I think this would be a fun project in combination with the simpler book-binding and booklet-making ideas in Erin Zamrzla's At Home with Handmade Books.  Is that art, literature, handicrafts, or what?  Does it matter?  We'll work it in to an afternoon time.