Sunday, August 30, 2009

Oh My Gourd!

We officially kick off our homeschool year starting on Tuesday. I've been using the last few days for time for myself and catching up on some crafts. Last year, I grew of ton of gourds and was pretty happy with the crop at the end of the season. This year, I'm not sure what I'll get. The vines have just started to flower and no fruit is even set yet. I have a good two months to go before I would need to harvest them so I'm hoping that I at least get a few.
My gourds from last year have been sitting on a shelf, well, collecting mold. Mold is good for gourds. It helps them dry out and creates amazing patterns on the gourds.

I've been painting decorative gourd birdhouses. This one is my favorite sunflower. I love how all the shapes of the gourds are different. They all have to be sanded completely and it is only after sanding that the true beautiful pattern of the gourd is revealed. The ones that don't have spectacular patterning are the ones that get painted.

This one, is gorgeous with its patterns of sworls and tortoise shell pattern.

It looks like granite. All of these patterns are caused by mold. Mold is good.

I love this Goddess Gourd too. The shape spoke to me. It was all curvy and female.

Here are the three gourds together, all shiny from being polyurethaned. I'm very happy with them. I started sanding several more gourds today. I don't know what they will be yet.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

More Curriculum Preparation

I have to admit that I'm feeling better about teaching my youngest for Kindergarten. The past couple of days I've been feverishly trying to get everything ready for the start of homeschool next week. Teaching three kids at three different grade levels is certainly daunting but the older two are very independent and I think I've worked out a good schedule to give everyone the time that they need.
Let me tell you about my new addiction. It's file folders. I found this awesome site called that lets you print out everything you need to create awesome file folder learning tools. I joined the site last week but they are taking a very long time in approving my membership and I'm a tad bit annoyed. I want to get moving! I have a Kindergardener to teach!

This is Cupcake Count. I bought a huge box of 50 file folders (cheap) to create these.

Tae is able to count the cherries on the cupcakes.

Then match them the numbers up with the cherry count. Tae knows how to do most of this but I wanted something fun for him to get used to these. Our first letter of the week is Cc, so the cupcakes go right along with the letter lesson also.

This is the file folder for hot and cold.

It has two pockets and Tae can sort them into the correct category. The word cold goes along with our first letter Cc also.

I also picked up two math books for him. He really loves workbooks and I've been eyeing the Kumon approach for a few weeks now. We have a Kumon instructor at our church and he gave me a few brochures to look through. I really like their approach but this is the first time I've used it so we shall see how it goes.

I took a trip to Lakeshore Learning again today. Gosh, I could spend hours in that store. They had some great sales with 20% off and with my teacher's discount I got another 15% off non-sale items. I wanted to buy some lined cards for Tae's word wall. I bought some of those as well as some colored lined word wall cards, a journal type book for him that we will place each letter of the alphabet in, some smaller accent cards that we will write numbers on and post on the wall and I got another plan book (as a freebie) that I will either keep for next year or donate.

I have been wanting to make something with pockets to keep his wall words in but this beauty was marked down to $11.00 from $16.00. I don't think I could have made it cheaper so I went ahead and bought it.

I added a Title board and then used the lined cards for his words of the week. The words are from the stories we are reading for the first week as well as beginning with the letter Cc. I don't expect him to know how to spell each of these words but with repetition he will come to recognize many of these. I also left a spot at the end of each word for him to write the word too. Mostly, he'll get the beginning sounds and will recognize a few of the words. He was thrilled to death with this and can't wait to start.

I think Tae is all set to begin his first year. Now to just get going on the fifth and eighth grader before next week. Sigh.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Kindergarten Curriculum

I'm not sure where the summer went but our school year is right around the corner. My youngest starts homeschool Kindergarten this year and I have to say I'm having pangs of not feeling confident at times. My two oldest kids both attended public school in their younger years and learned to read while there.
Tae has never been to public school so his learning to read is all on me.
Like everything else I've ever attempted, I'm sure it will be just fine but I do want to have a good plan of attack. This is the child that doesn't like to sit at a desk but loves workbooks and loves stories. When he is not sure of something he completely shuts down and I think he's not listening, but in a few days time he comes back and seems to have grasped the concept. Sometimes you can just see the hamster wheel spinning at full throttle with this kid. So my game plan this year is, well, to have a game plan.
It's always good to have a plan.

Tae got his folders ready for school. Yes, I know it's upside down. So what. He did it himself.
Dixie the ninja kitty watched the keyboard while I sorted through books.

The two books we are using are Sadlier Phonics and Zaner Bloser Activity Phonics. Morgan used both of these books while she was in Kindergarten and First Grade and we loved both of them. I have to say that these are beautiful books. Colorful and interactive. Just right for five year old.
The Activity phonics has a letter of the week for eight weeks then a cumulative review of the letters. At the end of the chapter there is a cut out book that the child should be able to read. We will also be using , an online learn to read program that Tae just loves.

The other night I sat for about four hours and went through our very extensive library, finding books that correspond with Tae's letter/sound of the week. Week one, the letter is Cc, so we are reading The Cat in the Hat and several others. The Cat in the Hat makes another appearance when we do the short a sound. Tae loves to be read to, so my plan is to immerse him in reading books this year. Some we will read and some he has words that he recognizes and will soon be reading by himself.

I took a few breaks to breeze through the Lakeshore Learning Catalogs that came in the mail. I still need storage containers for all of our homeschool stuff and honestly I drool over their stuff. It's not in the budget this year to buy all that I want so for now cheap containers will have to do.

Back to the books. I actually was able to plan out the first 12 weeks of school for Tae. I used post it notes to label the books. Each post-it is labeled with the letter of the week and the corresponding week number. Week 2/letter Cc etc.
I selected anywhere between 5 and 10 books for the week for him.
Everything is neatly lined up and I can find each book according to the lesson plan.
This year we will also be learning about numbers by doing the morning Calendar with the weather forcast, I have tons of math manipulatives for him, I have created a letter of the week cork board for him to use, I bought some letter tiles for word creation and we are starting to put together our word wall-all words that Tae knows how to spell and recognize by sight. We also need to work on our days of the week and months of the year.
I am going to use the free plan book that I received from Lakeshore Learning. Homeschooling three kids is confusing enough and I need to know what I covered in each of their subjects. For my own sanity, I need to have everything in one place. My Grandma used to say, "Can't know where you're going if you don't know where you've been. " How do Grandma's get so wise?
This plan book is large enough for all three kids for each week. Patrick and Morgan only do one subject a day so they are able to spend much more time and depth on each subject. Sometimes the subjects overlap but mostly it's one subject a day for ease.

I like the plan book because it has both monthly and weekly breakdown on the calendar.

My other investment this week was a label maker. I really needed this not only for my pantry but for all the crates, containers, bags and receptacles of homeschoool manipulatives. Some of our containers are solid colors (in the futures I will only buy clear containers so we can see in them) and I needed the label maker to identify what was inside.

Here are the results of many hours of work. Two neatly stacked, labeled and very cool looking baskets ready to start our school year. Two more kids to plan for and oh, I have to buy some new baskets for my linen closet. Guess where these very lovely baskets came from?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Sunday at the County Fair

Is there anything better than a County Fair? We look forward to the Washington County Fair every year. It has a little something for just about everyone.

We love the livestock barns and shows.

Oh and this sweet baby with the big brown eyes.

The kids loved the sheep.

And I so wanted these baby goats. With the little stripe down their head and onto their backs they were just the sweetest.

We watched some sheep grooming. I wonder why they keep the wool around their ankles longer? Seems to me you would want that trimmed too because well then, don't they look like over grown Poodles?

More grooming.

A lot of the farms and landscaping companies had little vinegettes set up. I loved this one. Check out the pathway-it's made of round slices of tree. I may have to try that.

The kids loved the chicken barn and we checked out quite a few breeds that we weren't familiar with. The kids decided that the next time we get chickens we need a breed called Mille Fleur. They were speckled and they really loved the little bantams. Some nice farmer not too far from us, adopted two of our Roosters the other day. Our evil Silkie Rooster left us and one of the new babies that was an Easter Egger also left. We believe there is one Rooster left. Pretty sad when I ordered all hens. The company is refunding our money for the "mistake."

Corn dogs and onion rings. That's what it is about baby!

And sweet girls in their daddy's sunglasses. It's about that too.

Oh and apple fritters. Definitely about that. Let me tell you how good these were.

And carnival rides. It's about that too. My youngest on the biggest slide. Sigh.

Tae so wanted to unscrew this motorcycle and take it home.
Metallic orange is definitely his color.

And Caterpillar rides made a fun time.

The oldest has to do the big kid rides himself.

We watched maple syrup being made. The guy kept going over to taste it. I was beginning to wonder if it was moonshine instead.

The country barn had all of these really cool "appliances" from years past. I'm certainly glad we don't have to use this anymore.

Or this-but I love the clothes wringer on the top.

Oh and I loved these old school desks.

And the drying rack for towels.

We have an old icebox similar to this. Ours is in a natural finish. We use it for storage in our master bath.

And dear daughter suckered her dad into buying her a cowboy hat. She's just adorable.

We didn't do the ferris wheel thingy. Ferris wheels scare me. Not roller coasters.
Just Ferris wheels.
We can't wait to come back next year.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Tomato Basil Tart

We have not begun our homeschool year yet so I've been having fun cooking with the summer vegetables. I've been trying lots of new and some old favorite recipes. Most of these recipes are easy and cheap to make and feed a large crowd. That's always appreciated in these hard economic times.
Today's recipe is scrumpdilicious.
Tomato Basil Tart
1 Refrigerated pie crust-thawed
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella
5 Roma or plum tomatoes
1 cup of fresh basil
4 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup of mayonaise
1/4 cup parmesan
salt and pepper

Spread the thawed piecrust in the pie plate. Save the other crust for another time. Flute the edges to make it look pretty. Place in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes until golden. You have to cook the crust part way or you will have a soggy tart.

Quarter your tomatoes. I used both regular and plum tomatoes. Just scoop out some of the seeds and then them drain on a paper towel. If you don't drain them you will have a soggy tart. And there is nothing worse than soggy tarts.

In a food processor, combine the basil, garlic, salt and pepper, mayo and parmesan cheese.

My house smelled so good. I love basil. I would bathe in basil if I could.

See? Beautiful golden crust.

When the crust comes out of the oven, sprinkle it with half a cup of mozzarella. The heat will start to melt the mozzarella. Cool the crust for 20 minutes. This helps prevent soggy tarts.

Now blend up all of that basil mayo goodness. If you added vinegar to the basil at this point you would have a delicious salad dressing. Just keep that in mind for another time. No vinegar in this recipe. Basil and mayo. Heavenly.

Next arrange your tomatoes on top of the mozzarella in a pretty pattern. Or don't because it all gets covered anyway. Just put them in.

Oh my heavens. I could eat this with a spoon.

But instead I spread it all over the top of the tomatoes....and then licked the spoon.

Cover the top with more mozzarella and more parmesan because well, can you ever have too much cheese on anything? Put the whole tart back into the 400 degree oven for 20 -25 minutes until golden and bubbling and until your whole house smells intoxicating.

I think the heavens just parted.

You should wait until the tart is slightly cool before cutting. It gives the tart a chance to set up and makes it easier to cut.
I couldn't wait. See all that creamy, cheesy goodness.
I must now go thank the heavens.