Monday, November 30, 2009

How We Prepared for NYC

I try to prepare for our vacations by reading information about places we might see and visit. I should have posted this a long time ago, but here are some of the resources we used while getting ready for NYC:
I'm busy planning for a trip or two this spring. I'll let you know soon where we're going!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

CurrClick Black Friday Sale

CurrClick will be having a Black Friday Sale this Friday. They will have lots of FREE products! Last year, I picked up quite a few wonderful products. So, you might want to check it out... this Friday!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Christmas Carol

Yesterday, my mom, sister, daughter, niece & I went to see Disney's new version of A Christmas Carol. (At the link, you can learn more about the film, see clips, images, and even play a few games!) It was a great movie, though pretty scary.

As I sat watching it (my mom & I went to the 2D version while the others saw it in 3D), I remembered the play my sister and I had been in when I was about Alex's age. I played one of Tiny Tim's sisters. (If my mom can find a photo, I'll post it!) Anyway, I was amazed at how I was remembering so many of the lines from the opening scene!

Last night, my niece (11) found a copy of A Christmas Carol at my mom's house. My sister offered to read it for awhile as a bedtime story. We all sat around the living room listening to her... she's a wonderful reader! Anyway, I was really surprised at how closely the movie followed the book - most of the time it was word for word!!!

We only read about 4 (of 47) pages in 20 minutes. They are long, hard pages... but very enjoyable! We had a few questions, like why did it say "Stave 1" instead of "Chapter 1?" And, when Scrooge was talking with the two men collecting for the poor, what was the Treadmill?

I got online today and found The Annotated Christmas Carol  which answered both of my questions. It is called a "stave" (an archaic term for staff, a stanza of a poem or a song) instead of a "chapter" because Charles Dickens wanted to continue the "pretense of his story being a 'Christmas carol in prose.' And, the Treadmill was "a mill operated by persons walking on steps fastened to the circumference of a great and wide horizontal wheel." It was a form of criminal punishment. You can see a photo of one here.

Then, today, I was at a homeschool store and came across a barely used copy of A Christmas Carol: The Whole Story. It is an unabridge version with wonderful illustrations and lots of background information, though much less than the annotated version. Many of the illustrations look surprisingly like those found in the Disney movie!

Another great website is found here with more information about Dickens here. This page on the same site is about Dickens & Christmas.  Fascinating reading!!!

I'm excited to be learning about Dickens & A Christmas Carol with my sister & our girls. I bought the girls each their own Dover verion today, too. And, you can find online versions at sites like this one which unfortunately uses the word "chapter" instead of "staves."

So, I hope you find a way to enjoy the classic "A Christmas Carol" this holiday season!

Book Review: "The Teacher Who Couldn't Read"

There's an epidemic in America. One that is stealing the future of our nation's children. One that is suspending millions of adults in childhood. It's name: illiteracy."

Those are the opening lines of this video, John Corcoran: Illiterate Life Story. I recently read this book about John, an illiterate adult who learned to read near his 50th birthday. The story of The Teacher Who Couldn't Read: One Man's Triumph Over Illiteracy is John's story about his struggle with illiteracy. We follow him through elementary school where he sat on the 'dumb row' to high school where he learned to cheat. And, amazingly, we follow him through college and his years as an illiterate teacher. He was even able to hide his illiteracy from his wife, until the day she overheard him trying to read a story to their 3-year-old daughter.

Throughout the story, the pain of illiteracy is gripping. I remembered the children from my own childhood who were part of the 'dumb reader's' group. The kids who the teacher's gave up on. I even thought of some of the trouble makers, both who were my fellow students and students while I taught, and wondered if some of them were in the same position as this young boy - incredibly bright, yet struggling to cover up their own illiteracy.

You can visit the John Corcoran Foundation site to learn more about John, illiteracy, and what we can do to change this epidemic.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Wonderful "New" Blogs

Yesterday, Jill at "History for Children" posted a comment on my blog. So, I went over to her blog to have a look. I love her blog! I actually went through the entire blog in one night!

One of her posts is about a new site that has over 11,000 educational videos. It's called WatchKnow. It links to videos on other sites of the web, but they are pretty well categorized. Alex and I watched a video 'field trip' to the Money Museum in Colorado last night. And, they have A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving posted in 3 parts! 

When I really like a blog, I enjoy seeing what that person is reading. You never know when you'll run across another blog you love. And, I wasn't disappointed when I looked at Jill's blogs and came across I.N.K.: Interesting Nonfiction for Kids. This is a blog whose posts are written by children's authors like Loreen Leedy and David Schwartz. Among other things, they talk about their books and speaking in schools.

I really enjoyed the Metric Musings post by David Schwartz, author of Millions to Measure, and Letters...We Get Letters by Susan E. Goodman, author of the Ultimate Field Trip books I just recently heard about and am trying to get from the library.

I hope you enjoy these 2 "new" blogs as much as I am!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Book Review: A Pearl in the Storm

I read this wonderful book a few weeks ago. It is called A Pearl in the Storm: How I Found My Heart in the Middle of the Ocean by Tori Murden McClure. I could not put this one down!

The author, Tori, writes about her two stormy trips across the Atlantic Ocean... in a rowboat! She even survives a hurricane, though she is battered, bruised, and beaten in the process. Her spirit is incredible. Her education is remarkable. And, this story is a wonderful real-life adventure where those of us who would never dream of such an undertaking can catch a small glimpse of what it would be like.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Constitution & the Bill of Rights

Today was our 2nd program in the Colonial Williamsburg Electronic Field Trips (CW EFT). (I highly recommend these and bought them through Homeschool Buyers Co-op!) It was called "A More Perfect Union" and was primarily about ratifying the Constitution. 

In preparation for this EFT, we have been studying the Articles of Confederation (which was what our government was based on before the Constitution), the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. With our subsription to CW EFT, I was able to read some background information and there were 4 activities. With the craziness of life this week, though, we didn't get to most of it. We did, however, read some good books including:
  • The Bill of Rights (True Books) by Christine Taylor-Butler
  • The Bill of Rights in Translation: What It Really Means by Amie Jane Leavitt
  • The Constitution of the United States by Christine Taylor-Butler
  • We the People: The Story of the Constitution by Anne Cheney (plan to read tomorrow)
  • requested Shh! We're Writing the Constitution but haven't received it yet
We also watched some BrainPop videos:
  • U.S. Constitution
  • Branches of Government
  • Bill of Rights

I found some other activities to do that we'll try to do tomorrow:
And we sang the Preamble song (we know one from Classical Conversations and the School House Rock song) and the Bill of Right chant several times (from Classical Conversations.)
And, from my husband's favorite show, here's Barney!

5 Places I Most Want to Visit Outside of the U.S.

Here's the 2nd part of my list - places I most want to visit outside of the U.S.:
  1. Rome, Italy
  2. pyramids in Egypt
  3. London, England
  4. Paris, France
  5. Australia

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

5 Places I Most Want to Visit in the US

Kathryn (3rd grade) at Faith Girl posted a list of "Places I Want to Go." I thought this was a wonderful idea! I'm going to make my list in 2 parts: places in the US and places outside of the US. So, here is my top 5 U.S. list:
  1. Washington, D.C.
  2. Colonial Williamsburg
  3. Boston
  4. Alaska
  5. California - to see giant sequoias
I hope to make a trip to one of them this spring!!!

What would be on your list??? If you post about it, please let me know. (And, it doesn't have to be limited to 5.)

Monday, Monday

What a Monday!

Monday morning, I needed to call and make an appointment for the doctor to look at Alex's wrist to see if it was broken. As I was waiting for the office to open, my mother called. She'd been taken by ambulance to the hospital during the night.

My mom hadn't been able to get ahold of my sister (who lives a lot closer) so I called her and made a few other calls. Then, I called the doctor's office and they could get me in if we could be there in 40 minutes! So, we hurried to get ready and I took Alex to the doctor.

We had to go to the doctor, then the x-ray room, then back to the doctor, then to the splint/cast area. Yep! Her wrist was broken! What a trooper, though.

Then, we went home and loaded up all of our dirty clothes (from camp), computers, school materials, etc, and packed the car and headed to my mom's - 4 hours away. I stayed Monday night in the hospital with my mom and she got released Tuesday. She's doing better, though she still needs to run more tests to find out what was wrong.

So, the photo is kind of a 'trick' photo. Alex wasn't hospitalized for her broken wrist, but she spent 2 days in the hospital room with her Grams! We are praising God that Alex wasn't hurt worse and that my mom was released and is doing so well! But, what a crazy Monday!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Frontier Camp Fun, Friends, and Freaky Fall!

Alex and I went to camp this weekend... mother/daughter camp! It was Alex's first camping experience and we had a wonderful time! Here we are setting up our bunk area on Friday night.

That night, we had an opening session with the husband/wife puppet ministry. The 'wife' is sitting in purple - I'm in red stripes and Alex is a blur in orange. We didn't know anyone when we got there, but became good friends with the mother/daughter sitting across from us. They were in our cabin and we spent most of our time with them. After the opening session, we had a snack of fruit & cookies and played BINGO. Alex won a glow in the dark bracelet and I won a star necklace that you 'wack' and it lights up. (The theme of the weekend was 'glow in the dark.'

On Saturday morning, after morning session & breakfast, Alex and I played some ping pong and tether ball while our new friends went horseback riding. (We didn't sign up for camp soon enough to ride.) Then, we headed out to the giant swing! Joan, our new mom friend, took this photo of us as we wait our turn.

Joan took a video of our ride on the swing, but I thought I'd just post this photo of Joan and her daughter, Erin. Can you believe how high up they (and we) went??? And, I do not care for this type of ride, but did it for Alex. And to prove I wasn't chicken. :-) And, no, I really didn't care much for it - I felt rather sick to my stomach and I did scream a little. But, I'm really glad I did it!

Our next big outing was to a fossil hunt! We jumped on the hayless hay ride to head to the creek. Here are Alex and Erin.

There are lots of fossils of sea shells in this stream bed. We believe these shells got to this location in Texas during the Flood of Genesis. The water was really cold, but this was an incredibly beautiful weekend! As you can see, most of us were in shorts. The weather was in the 70's. Alex and I used hammers & 'chisels' and found about a dozen fossils which we got to keep.

Our next stop... skeet shooting! I have never done this before and only shot a gun once... when I was about 12... at some soda cans. Anyway, Joan and I did great! (She shoots sometimes.) I shot 20 times... and hit 8 times!!! In groups of 5 I hit... 1 of 5; 2 in a row of 5; 2 in a row of 5; and the last 3 in a row of 5. Joan and I and another lady won a prize (beach ball) for the most hits of the day! :-)

Here are Alex & Erin watching us shoot with their ear protection on.

Another shot of my shooting. And, yes, I'm quite sore today!

At our evening session, everyone was wearing their glow in the dark 'stuff.' Unfortunately, Alex's earrings didn't work.

Alex and me before Evening Session. After the session, we were going on a hayride to a campfire for a skit and fireworks!

But, Alex had to stop by the Infirmiry before the hayride. You see, she'd fallen off the top bunk a few hours before this! She was up there as we were changing shoes, etc, and saw a bug. She was backing up, and backed up right off the end of the bed!!! I didn't see it, but somehow she landed on her feet, and her wrist. We waited a few hours and it wasn't swollen or changing colors and she could move it. But, it was still hurting. We went to the infirmiry and the lady wrapped it and gave Alex a sling. She thinks it might be broken. We're headed to get an x-ray tomorrow to find out! Thankfully, she's not in a lot of pain - it doesn't hurt when she holds it still, but does hurt when she moves around.

The girls in our cabin signed Alex's sling. Here they are hanging out on my bed. (She slept on a lower bed that night!)

Here's the girls in our cabin minus Erin (they had to leave right away and this was as we were getting ready to leave). There are also several camp dogs that the girls LOVED!!! This one is Major.

Alex and Major saying goodbye... until this summer! :-)

And, the ride home....

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Houston Italian Festival

A few weeks ago, we went to the Houston Italian Festival. We'd been a few years ago, but it has really grown since then! There was so much to see and do!

We watched some Tarantella dancers. There are several myths or legends about how these circular dances started. Here, we were told that dancing had been outlawed in Italy (or Sicily?), so people would act like they'd been bitten by a spider and dance around to get around the law. I read other stories about being bit by spiders. The stories are pretty interesting. Anyway, it is a lively dance and fun to watch!

We also got to watch a pasta eating contest... very funny! This lady, one of the dancers, came in 2nd last year... and she won this year! Most of the contestants were men. :-)

We enjoyed watching teens participate in sidewalk chalk art. The contest was called I Madonnari.

I Madonnari events actually take place all over Europe. At this Rosa Villa site, they said that these events started in Italy in the 1980's when artists started reproducing famous art on the famous squares in Italy.  My mother says she has seen this kind of sidewalk art in several countries in Europe.

We tried several different types of food at the festival. We ate pizza for dinner... it was more traditional Italian with a very thin crust.  When we were at the festival before, we had tried the donuts called Sfingi and enjoyed them. So, we bought them again... and didn't enjoy them as much. So, we tried Italian Ice and loved it!

They had only a few rides, but Alex tried this one we've never seen before. Only 4 people ride at a time and they 'pump' with their arms to make it spin around. We watched the ride a few time, and we saw the people (mostly adults!) looking VERY sick. Well, I wasn't sure Alex should try it but she LOVES crazy rides and never gets sick. I let her try it... and you should have seen her smile... the whole time! She never once looked sick. Whew!

We saw this guy who was making REAL mosaics! His art was incredible. He is actually chiseling the pieces to make them the correct size and shape!

And, we watched the kids doing a grape stomp! The barrels are filled with grapes. The kids stomp, and the grape juice goes out a tube in the bottom to a bucket below. The kids only got about 5 seconds each. Later, adults were going to have a contest to see which team could make the most juice, but we didn't stick around.

And, we enjoyed listening to this strolling accordion musician. He was near us as we were in line for food and sang "That's Amore."

October's Nature Day

We are getting ready to go on November's Nature Day outing, and I have never posted about October's. In October, we went to Mercer Arboretum and had about 40 people in attendence. The focus of our walk was mushrooms. Because I was 'leading' the group, I felt a little more rushed and didn't get as many good photos. But, we did have a great time! We saw LOTS of mushrooms, including this purple one.

I was excited to see the Cypress pond - we could walk on the dry ground where there is usually pond water!!! It was so neat to see all of those beautiful cypress trees, which are usually growing in the water, on dry land! The kids really had fun exploring.

Another photo where you can see the base of these fascinating trees better.

One of our smaller finds - a daddy longleg.

And, I know some of you don't like snakes, but this was so neat! Some kids spotted this garter snake (our 2nd snake of the day) and were trying to catch it. I'm really not comfortable identifying snakes but they insisted it was a garter snake (which I thought it was) and that it'd be safe to catch it. They were chasing it around a tree, and guess who caught it... her very first catch!... yes, me!!! (Oh, I used to catch ring-necks as a kid, but they are only worm sized.) Anyway, I was so excited and held it for awhile before handing it to the kids. What a great day for me! I love snakes! (My sister had a pet python as a child and we caught those ring-necks whenever we could... just love 'em!)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Making a Comic Strip

I subbed for one of my daughter's co-op classes today. The class is using SOTW (Story of the World) I and today they were discussing the legend of the empress Lei Zu and how she discovered silk. I loved the assingment the teacher left for the children, and I honestly don't know if it was in the SOTW teacher's guide or if the teacher came up with it herself. She just left me the lesson plan.

The children's assigment was to read the legend and then create a comic strip of 5-9 frames telling the story. I enjoyed drawing alongside the children! The comics are supposed to be in color, but I haven't colored mine yet. Anyway, I thought this could be a great activity for many lessons - especially if you have children who love comics or love to draw! And so, I thought I'd share my comic with you...

Ugh!!! I've been trying to download these photos off & on all day and having the worst time getting them to load in the correct orientation. I have a Canon and I read that it is sometimes the problem. So, I did as they said and resaved the photos with a different program. I got 2 more photos with that, but I can't get the others. Anyone have any advice?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

NYC: 5th Avenue

On Sunday afternoon, we walked to 5th Avenue. We were staying on 7th Avenue. In case you aren't familiar with NYC, the small number streets (like 5th & 7th) are LONG blocks apart while the higher number streets (in our area, at least), like 51st & 52nd are SHORT blocks. Anyway, we walked 2 long blocks to 7th Avenue to do a little shopping. Alex had spent all of her birthday money at American Girl Place, but we wanted to treat her to something at FAO Schwarz. What a huge toy store!

I don't know what building this is, but it had various animal photos in each window. Of course, I loved it and had to have a photo!

We walked back to Rockefeller Center, this time with hubby along. Alex and my husband watched the skaters while I did some quick shopping at The Met store nearby. We also went into the NBC store.

Rockefeller Center is actually set back from 5th Avenue - kind of between 5th & 6th, but you can see it from 5th. I love all of the flags around the sunken skating rink.

For lunch, my husband and I got hot dogs at a food cart. I figured I had to have at least one while I was in NYC! Alex doesn't care much for hot dogs, so we stopped and got her some KFC. (Alex took this photo - she did a great job, didn't she?)

After our walk, we rested for awhile and then Alex and I went off by ourselves...

Next up: MoMA (Museum of Modern Art)

Sunday, November 08, 2009

NYC: The Met

After walking through Central Park, we went to The Met which is on the edge of the park. Alex and I were excited about seeing many of the famouse pieces we've studied.

Unfortunately, although photography is allowed in the museum, you are not allowed to publish the photos. So, I don't have any photos to show from inside the museum. I will list some of the artists and highlights of what we saw (in order):

  • art by Miro

  • art by Mondrian

  • art by Georgia O'Keefe

  • The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere by Grant Wood

  • Town Meeting, one of the 4 "Freedom" paintings, by Norman Rockwell - one of my favorite artists

  • The Figure 5 in Gold by Charles Demuth

  • Degas' Little Dancer sculpture... what a thrill! Until preparing for this visit, I wasn't aware that there are quite a few of these sculptures

  • Olive Orchard by Van Gogh

  • art by Monet

  • The Repast of the Lion by Rousseau

  • Self Portrait with a Straw Hat by Van Gogh

  • Irises by Van Gogh (wow!)

  • Madame Georges Charpentier and Her Children by Renoir (you'd probably recognize it if you've studied the Impressionists and saw a photo of it)

Alex and I enjoyed seeing the Vermeer exhibit that included The Milkmaid. We read Chasing Vermeer (actually, we listened to the audio book) and looked at several books while preparing to see this exhibit. You can see the pieces of art we saw at The Met's site.

For lunch, we left the museum and went out to the food carts. There are quite a few of them sitting near the large steps of the museum. Alex had a wonderful cheeseburger with drippy cheese; my husband had a hot dog; and I had a wonderful chicken wrap. I highly recommend doing this for lunch if you are in NYC. The food is really good and it's a great price.

I'm disappointed that I couldn't share the photos of the artwork, but you can check out the art at The Met's site. After walking through Central Park and The Met, we were tired! We took a cab ride back and it was a little over 3 miles!!! So, I'm not sure how far we walked that day, but it was good to get back to the hotel and rest for awhile.

Next up: 5th Ave.

NYC: Central Park

On Saturday (Halloween), we walked to Central Park. As we entered the park, we saw a long line of these horses & carriages for hire.

The park was gorgeous! There were a lot of leaves on the ground already, but many colored leaves in the trees, too! And, the temperature this day was around 70!

Here's a photo of Alex and her dad in front of one of the many bridges. There are a lot of bridges in Central Park and they are all different.


I hope you can see the beautiful colors on the trunk of this tree! There were a lot of these and I've been tryint to identify them online, but haven't had any success yet.

Alex and I rode on the carousel. The carousel actually goes a lot faster than most and lasts 3.5 minutes!

This beautiful part of the park is called The Mall. It is lined by American Elm. There were several musicians sitting on the benches along The Mall playing for tips.


Most of the photos I took of Alex, I tried to get the background. I was glad I took this close up shot as I really liked how it turne out.

Another shot of the beautiful fall colors near a pond.

I was excited to take Alex to The Conservatory Water. My husband and I were in NYC about 11 years ago and had watched people sail model boats on this pond. I was planning on renting a boat for us to sail! (This is where Stuard Little sailed on his boat.) Unfortunately, as you can see, the pond was already drained for the winter!!!

There are a lot of sculptures in Central Park. We had to basically wait in line for Alex to climb onto the Alice in Wonderland sculpture for a quick photo. And, it had been sprinkling and was pretty slippery, but Alex make it without a mishap.

Another beautiful tree I'd love to identify. I guess this small photo doesn't do it justice. It had large pine cones and I loved how the needles were hanging.

Next up: The Met

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