on being a scaredy cat…

As confident as I try to be about our decision to homeschool, I have a few reservations.  One of my biggest fears is that I won’t be organized or committed enough to give schooling the attention it needs.  This fear was heightened this last week with my serious lack of time put in on our desert unit.

Now, it’s summer, and it’s not a big deal if we stay “on schedule” or not.  But the point is, I had all of this stuff planned out.  And it wasn’t that I just generally slacked off- I really did try.  It wasn’t even that much, but we didn’t manage to get hardly any of it done.  It’s making me really paranoid that when the actual school year starts, I’ll be shocked at the time needed and that I won’t be able to get it done.

Keep your fingers crossed and pray for us!

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We’re in the desert.

Literally, yes, southern Arizona.  But also, we’re in the desert unit.  Chicka was pretty excited to be starting a new unit.

Then, she asked the same question she did on day one of the rainforest unit.  “Can we make one for lunch?”  Again, my initial reaction was, hmmm, why?  But she had all these ideas… so off we went.

(I apologize for the bad pictures- my camera isn’t working, so I took them with my phone)

Step 1: make a rugged terrain, with crunchy peanut butter.

The next step was to make sand, using the friction method of creating sediment that we learned at the science museum.  Or, possibly, it was the pound cereal with energetic 5 year old fists method.

After adding the “sand,” we made some cacti with celery, and they added some chocolate and butterscotch chip bugs.  We used dry spaghetti to make dry grass and brush, and we talked about why certain plants can live in the desert and others can’t.  Next came walnut rocks.  And finally, we made a plateaued hill out of graham crackers.  Once again, not a perfect representation, but it still made for a relatively healthy lunch!

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Our adventures in Phoenix

Here’s a recap of our excursions in Phoenix last weekend.  Chicka Roo calls them all “field trips.”  Poor kid is so excited to homeschool, every place we go is a field trip.  🙂

We started off Friday evening at the Desert Botanical Gardens.  I was not entirely sure that this was going to be a great place to go with kids, but as our next biome unit is about the desert, I figured we should give it a shot.  It wasn’t too bad, as it turned out.  The kids were a tad bored by the zillions of different types of cacti.  Chicka Roo refuses to accept that you’re supposed to say “cacti” instead of  “cactuses.”  She said it sounds silly.  I agree.  The kids did like all of the random desert animals roaming around, though.  If you ever go, I advise going at dusk.  Not only does it help you avoid the 115 degree weather, but the animals also get really active around that time of day.  We even saw a family of rabbits- two big ones, followed by 4 tiny bunnies, which is probably the cutest thing I have ever seen in my whole life.  We also enjoyed the Sonoran Peoples trail, which highlighted some of the ways that people native to Arizona used plants as tools and supplies their lives.

Roundhouse grass hut

Grinding mesquite beans into flour.  Chicka Roo insists that she wants to start making our bread this way.  I disagree.  The Tohono O’odham certainly have my respect… tough stuff.

The next day was our chaos day.  We started off with the Phoenix Children’s museum.  This place is great.  We have seen quite a few children’s museums, and this one is definitely at the top of the list.  They have a huge Schuff-Perini climber.  I’m pretty sure that’s museum-ese for “Huge structure made out of cool recycled stuff that my kids could play on    for days on end.”

The rest of the children’s museum is your standard kids museum variety.  They had a blast.  Buddy Roo especially liked helping to paint the giant rocket in the craft center.

After the children’s museum is where the real fun began.  We went out walking in downtown Phoenix, in search of lunch.  Apparently, there is no food in downtown Phoenix during a weekend day.  We walked over a mile in 115 degree heat until we finally found a Panera.  Yay!  Unfortunately, the Panera was on the top floor of a multi level building, and for reasons I can’t comprehend, there was no elevator, and no staircase.  Only an escalator.

Now, normally, I would have just gone somewhere else.  But my kids were whiny, hot, and very hungry.  So I decided to fold up the stroller and take the escalator.  Buddy Roo has had successful assisted escalator trips before- no problem, right?

It didn’t go that way this time.  About halfway up, he wobbled and his hand slipped out of mine.  He fell.  Try to imagine someone falling “up” an escalator.   He basically fell in place, over and over.  If it wasn’t so scary, it would have been hilarious.  We got to the top, and and we all recouperated from our tramatic experience.  We went around the corner to the Panera…. and it was closed.  Just… wow.  

We eventually found some food, and made our way back, this time to the science museum. This science museum is great- lots of good stuff geared towards kids.  Mine especially liked the weather room, where we learned about rock metamorphosis, and weather patterns, and got to experience different types of storms in a simulator.  It really fit in well to our desert unit.  They also had a great water/physics exhibit, which they LOVED playing in.  

The next thing on our docket was unplanned, but we couldn’t pass it up.  The Phoenix Zoo had a “Prowl and Play” night event that sounded like so much fun.  It was.  Camel rides, playing with an African rhythm group, Disney radio (Chicka loved the dance contest and games), hands-on exhibits, and Chicka’s favorite, a “real live” mermaid.

The next morning, day 3, we went back to the zoo.  Most of the animals had been inside the night before, so we headed back for a regular zoo visit.  Now, I had planned ahead for this.  I printed out a scavenger hunt for each kid, and a fun printable game from the zoo’s website, with directed questions by trail.  I will link them here in a minute, in case anyone is interested.  However…. this was a learning experience for me.  It is very difficult to homeschool in any structured way at the zoo.  I know that sounds kind of, well, duh.  But I really thought for some reason that we’d be able to knock out a few questions while we walked.  Nope.  They did, of course, learn a lot.  But next time, I’ll ditch the cards and printables and just enjoy it more 🙂

If you want them, though (they ARE really cute), here they are:

http://icanteachmychild.com/zoohunt.pdf Easy scavenger hunt for Buddy Roo.

http://nationalzoo.si.edu/Visit/PlanYourVisit/activitysheets.cfm this has a few, and I printed the one about habitats for Chicka Roo.

and here’s the cards for the Phoenix Zoo game (one set could easily be used at other zoos) http://edventures.phoenixzoo.org/kNatExCards.html

That was basically the end of our trip.  I was incredibly wiped out by that point, and we were ready to get home.  After a little rest, I’m sure I’ll be ready to find our next adventure.

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Embracing the Place

“Embrace the place” is my general motto for all of our moving around with the Army.  I believe that every region has its gems- great places to explore, a new side of mother nature, tourist attractions we might otherwise never get to…

However, my husband doesn’t always share the same excitement over all of my excursion plans.  He’s not a party pooper- he does come along and have fun with us from time to time.  But I definitely hold the majority of the enthusiasm.  Much of the time, he’d rather just hang out.

So, when I found out that he was going to be gone last weekend, and paired that with the news I’d heard that there were free entrances to museums in Phoenix, we decided to take off and make a weekend out of it.

We settled in at our hotel (a great one, by the way… good price, Howard Johnson in Scottsdale, very clean and nice pool) and I decided that we’d play the weekend by ear.

That night, we created a new game: musical beds.  We started out with the kids in one bed, me in the other.  It wasn’t long before they’d both joined me in mine.  Now, this is not an anti-cosleeping post.  Our kids often crawl in bed with us during the night, and it doesn’t bother me.  But this was a full sized bed, and my kids are sprawlers, kickers, and smushers in their sleep.  So I peeled Chicka Roo off of me and went to the other bed.  An hour later, I awoke to a foot in my eye, and realized that they’d followed me.  Again, I moved.  A couple of hours later, yep, you guessed it, they were once again in bed with me.  Persistent little buggers, no?

So glad to be home in my giant king sized bed, children welcomed.  On my next post, I’ll talk a little about the places we visited and related adventures.

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… and we’re off!

We “officially” started homeschooling yesterday.  Chicka Roo has asked for us to do school every single day since kindergarten graduation.  So I finally gave in and we started in on our summer curriculum.

She loves science, so we’re going to be learning about biomes this summer.  Nice and fun.  We started this week with the rainforest.  We read about it, watched some videos….

(anyone remember this one?  The roos LOVED it!  yay, netflix!)

did some “rainforest math,” found here http://www.enchantedlearning.com/subjects/rainforests/classroom/mathcode/game1.shtml

and learned about the 4 layers of the rainforest.  Then, my silly Chicka Roo decided that we needed to make a jungle lunch.  I was starting to tell her no, but she was getting all excited about peanut butter/cookie forest floors, celery trees, etc, and I just had to give in.  It might not have looked amazing, but at least we all ate a very healthy lunch!  Mmmmm…. delicious rainforest….

The emergent (top layer) is lettuce, the canopy is broccoli, the understory is celery, with string cheese vines/branches and twizzler snakes, and the forest floor is chocolate peanut butter toast with mushed oreo dirt, then nuts and berries and sesame sticks for all the bugs, and fruit/berries above them for flowers.

All in all, we had fun, and she really did learn from it.  Later on, when I was quizzing her about what can be found on the forest floor, she said “Raisins! wait, I mean bugs,” among other things.  I can’t wait to see what other creative ideas she comes up with as we continue our journey!

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Mommy’s creative time :)

I love taking time after the kids are in bed to be creative.  I have a craft business and that generally takes up a lot of these sessions- getting ready for shows, making custom orders, etc.  Lately, though, I have made it a point to not take any more custom orders for a while. This has given me a chance to actually make a few things for my OWN FAMILY!  Yay!  The first project I knocked off my list was the chore chart.  Next: book slings for my kids’ rooms.  Both of my kids have loft beds, so they don’t have any night stands next to them or anything.  They both love to read at night, but then when they fall asleep, the books get crumpled and and sometimes destroyed in the sheets.  So, a very easy, but cute sewing project has fixed that problem.

My daughter’s book sling:

and my son’s:

It was really simple.  I used hardware from a double curtain rod, two long wooden dowels, and sewed a hem and casings on the fabric.  Done!

Now I just have to hope that my little roos take care of their books by actually putting them IN the slings!

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Our kids have never had “chores.”  They do help around the house (as much as little ones can, anyway!) and take care of their own things… sometimes… But with summer starting and the knowledge that there will be no “back to school” downtime for me this coming year, we thought it was time to make an official responsibility chart for the kiddos.  I had a lot of fun designing this and even more fun making it.  Unfortunately, it took me a little longer than I’d anticipated.  I knew I’d stayed up too late when I had to turn off the tv when I got into bed and noticed that the “Today” show had just started, live from the east coast.  Ooops!

Anyway, here’s the finished product:

The base is just an old picture frame I got at Goodwill, with some knobs installed.  I used painted poker chips with magnets glued on for the chores, and of course my cricut with vinyl for the lettering.  I chose a setup like this because it allows us to customize their responsibilities for each day.  For example, yard toys pickup is something that only needs to be done sporadically, so we can stick it on Chicka Roo’s list whenever it’s needed.

The kids were excited to see it.  I wonder how long it’ll take before they hate this thing?

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