Sunday, February 28, 2010

Laundry Chute Update

I am happy to report that the laundry chute is now OPEN FOR BUSINESS ONCE AGAIN!!!

Over the last two weekends, with much effort, a small flashlight and mirror taped to the inside bottom of the chute, and his new handy dandy grabber tool (see below), my husband was able to pull the impaction out. What was in there you ask? Was it a stuffed animal? Nerf footballs? Used pullups? Large bionicles? All of those things have been down the chute at one time or another, but this time it was.....

just clothes. Boring, I know. Lots of dirty clothes smooshed tightly together for several months and stinking badly.

They were in there so tight, my husband had to pull each and every article out. We thought once the main jam was gone, the rest would fall down on their own, but no.

There were enough clothes in there to fill two washing machine loads, and so far I have been able to completely salvage one load. Second load is still soaking, but I'm hopeful. Fabric is pretty amazing I tell ya.

So, everything you ever wanted to know about our laundry chute, and then some!!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Compositions from our 3 oldest children

I have shared so much 0f what the young 5's class does on Friday mornings at co-op, but seldom have I shared what the writers are working on. What follows are the compositions that our 3 oldest children wrote two weeks ago. This assignment was from unit 4 of IEW, writing reports from a single source. They could write on a topic of their choice, and they were to go to the library and find one source to use for their outline. This source could NOT be from the internet, it had to be a book. We spent a considerable amount of time in class learning what types of books worked well for source material, and which ones don't, because if you get the wrong book (with either way too much information, or not enough) the assignment becomes frustratingly difficult. With the right source material it is not too hard and even enjoyable! Each of the children was to write a topic sentence at the beginning of each paragraph, and a clincher sentence at the end. We have not yet worked on transitions between paragraphs. This is L's first year using IEW, also son G's first year, and daughter G's second full year. Without further ado, here are their compositions:

The Astronaut’s Life


L, age 9

All astronauts train continuously for many years. Mostly the training takes place in large water tanks because the water helps astronauts adjust to being weightless. Some astronauts, who are called mission specialists, are doctors, engineers, or scientists. They learn to do special jobs in space. Although astronauts have different jobs, they all train.

After all their training astronauts are eager to get into orbit. To help boost the shuttle into space, the spaceship needs two rockets. However, when the spaceship reaches orbit the rockets strapped to it drop off because they are no longer needed. When they are going into orbit a force, which is called gravity, mightily pushes the astronauts back into their seats. Once they are in orbit, the force is gone. Now there is no gravity to hold them down. Fortunately, their training has prepared them for life in orbit.

Because there is no gravity in space, it is extremely challenging to live. Strangely, everything on the ship floats. The capable astronauts eat, sleep, and work floating. Because their food and water float, they use straws to drink. Astronauts, who have been trained for weightlessness, are strapped in bed to sleep and also sometimes while working. Although astronauts are well trained, with no gravity, living in orbit is still very difficult.

The Fascinating Airplane


son G, age 10

Most military aircraft, which have jet engines, are amazingly maneuverable. Incredibly, fighter planes can roll from side to side and make quick turns to attack or escape. Since fighters are light, with their powerful engines on full blast they can fly straight up. Afterburners, a part of a jet engine, give planes extra thrust so they can go faster. Military fighters are known for their maneuverability.

All planes require landing gear to land. Thankfully, the landing gear is on the end of legs which are stable. Of course, the wheels have shock absorbers. Just as it sounds, the landing gear is obviously used to land.

Inside an airliner’s fuselage, which is the largest part of the plane, is the passenger cabin. The cargo hold is under the cabin. Aboard different airliners, seats are arranged differently. Amazingly, people can breath at such high altitudes because oxygen is continually pumped through the plane in pipes. The fuselage and every part of an airplane is very fascinating.

Dangerous Life in the Wild
daughter G, age 12

While many animals are not, mice, like a few other rodents, can be found in all sorts of habitats. These habitats include prairies, forests, deserts, marshes, and cities. All rodents need a safe, dry den, or shelter, to live in, store food, and raise babies. Nesting not on the ground, some species of mice dwell up in the treetops and rarely ever come down. Those living in the desert use their dens to keep cool from the scorching sun. In cold areas mice sometimes survive by tunneling under the snowy earth, which is a lot better than traveling in the freezing wind. Many mice, though, prefer living by humans in the warmth and comfort of their barns, houses, and other buildings. Humans also sometimes keep mice as pets. Rarely mice leave their dens in the daytime but come out instead at night. This is called being nocturnal. Observed all over the world, mice live in nearly every kind of habitat.

Considering their small bodies, mice have an exceptionally large stomach and powerful jaw, not to mention their speed. Most rodents are herbivores. Herbivores eat mainly plants and other non-living things, but there can be an exception. Included in their diet are insects, nuts, seeds, and fruit. Surprisingly, mice eat strange things, such as wallpaper glue, tape, and soap, and actually don’t eat a lot of cheese, if any. Their daily diet would be like you having a miniature thanksgiving feast to yourself every day! All rodents have large, strong, curved teeth called incisors, which are two long front teeth in the center of each jaw. Growing non-stop, the rodent must wear its chisel like incisors down by chewing and rubbing them together. If the rodent does not do so, the top incisors could curve back and pierce its skull. Without their sharp teeth and powerful jaw, mice would not be able to chew through all the things they can, like: paper to wood and plaster walls to even sheet metal.

Because mice live out in the wild, families must depend on each other to survive. Usually, female mice have litters of 10-24 babies, or pups. Some species can have litters 3-4 times a year! That’s a lot of babies! Blinded and helpless, baby pups look up to their mother for care and protection. Leaving the den only for short periods of time if not at all, the mother gives her pups the proper care they need until they are ready to depart from the nest, which isn’t a long time to wait. Within 6 weeks the pups are grown enough to start their own family. Of course this is normal for them because mice only live 2-4 years. It is extremely dangerous, though, for a young mouse to start a family out in the wild, facing the dangers of its habitat.

Monday, February 22, 2010


Little Man, as he climbed into my lap: "I just want to cozy up."

Son C when his sister came in the room all dressed up for the dance last Saturday: "Now that's an interesting specimen!"

Little Man, as he was praying at bedtime the other night: "And thank you for mommy. She's my best girl." (awwwwww! I LOVE this age!!!!)


We have been discussing with C the possibility of him playing soccer this spring. He has loved watching his older sibs play, and he loves to play soccer in the yard. But he has been a bit undecided about joining a "real" team. The deadline was drawing near and he needed to make a decision. I had a serious conversation with him about the commitment he would be making.

Me: "If you realize that you don't like it, you won't have to play another season, but you'll have to stick it out for this season until the end. We won't let you quit. You are making a promise to the coach and to the other players that you will show up and always do your best, even if you're having a bad day."

Son L to son C: "It's really fun, it's not as bad as mommy makes it sound."

I Can Read Party, First Dance, Sewing, Laundry Chute, and More Snow

Or maybe I should just say, how we spent our weekend. :-)

A few weeks ago our son C, in second grade, finished this book with me. Yay!!! It is such a privilege to teach my children to read ~ really a thrill. Now I have four down, one to go! We planned his "I Can Read!" party for Friday night.

We invited grandma and grandpa and some close friends over, and C read his favorite story from this book outloud to us all.

Then we sang "Happy Reading" to him (to the tune of Happy Birthday) and ate his Happy Reading cake. I thought I took a picture of the cake up close, but I guess I didn't. For the first time I used a homemade frosting squirter made from a baggie with the tip of a corner cut off, to write letters on the top of the cake. It worked beautifully!

He is halfway through his first "real" chapter book from the library - a Magic Treehouse book. For his reading practice each day during school, he is reading bible stories to me from a children's Bible Story book we have.

Then on Saturday night, my husband and our daughter went to their first father-daughter dance! Our daughter is quite reserved and has never ever been to a dance before, so she didn't decide for sure that she wanted to go until the day before. Saturday morning she and I went shoe shopping for dress shoes. That was fun. She also picked out a new necklace that she bought with her own money. She carefully got ready and came downstairs for the big "reveal" a few minutes before they were to leave. Doesn't she look beautiful and grown up??!!

She was wearing a long black velvet skirt, and for the first time, NYLONS. She looked so grown up, I actually felt quite a pang! They had a blast dancing together all evening and came home with big smiles on their faces and feet that were sore. The dance was sponsored by a homeschool group in our area, and is an annual event, so I think they will be going every year from now on. There were girls there as young as 3 and as old as 18. Some were very dressed up (long dresses and gloves, etc) and some less so. There were several dads there with more than one daughter, one there with five!! I'm so glad they had such a special time together.

Off and on all weekend I worked on sewing a bathrobe for our daughter. I have had the fabric for 18 months and it was supposed to be a Christmas gift for the Christmas of '08. In my defense, up until 3 months ago my machine was broken. And very shortly after purchasing the fabric my husband was laid off and we began the infamous unemployment period that just recently ended, so there was no money to fix it.

Okay, after all that explanation, my guilt is somewhat assuaged. ;-)

The bathrobe is nearly done and I will post pics of the finished product.

Do any of you with two story houses have laundry chutes in your home? These are the best little inventions I tell ya. We have one and I just LOVE it. In fact, we had one in our other house too, and that was just a ranch. But it took the clothes straight down to the laundry area in the basement and it was so nice not to have to haul all the dirty clothes down AND the clean clothes up. Well, after 8+ years in this house, a few months ago our laundry chute got plugged up. Really truly impacted. We pushed from above with a swiffer handle (which eventually broke off and also got stuck in the chute), and sucked from below with the long arm handle of our powerful wet/dry vac. Nothing. Nada. My husband has been working on a plan to get the clothes unstuck, and I have been hauling the dirty clothes down AND the clean clothes up. Or having the children do it.

He finally found the time to begin working on his plan, and spent all day Saturday building a long bendable arm with a grabber on the end. We had previously called rental places in our area to rent such a thing, but apparently no-one else has ever gotten their laundry chute plugged up, because such a thing does not yet exist. I'm thinking maybe we can get rich off this little invention. If it works. He is not quite finished (had to stop working on it in order to go to the dance). So I'll let you know how it works out once it's done. I shudder to think what is going to come out of that chute.

And, finally, we got some more snow last night! I was just thinking yesterday that I hate the stage of winter where everything is dirty looking and you're just so READY for spring to come, and now everything is covered with a fresh blanket of white and looks so pretty. Thank you Lord! It's really wet, heavy snow. Very packable for snowball fights. It took both my husband and I over an hour of shoveling to get the driveway dug out so he could go to work this morning.

Here is a snowman the children made from the old, dirty snow before our fresh snowfall. My mom sent us a snowman kit, complete with a plastic pipe, plastic "coal" pieces for the eyes and mouth, a carrot nose, and plastic buttons for the body. It also had the scarf and hat included. Isn't it cute??

Whether you have fresh snow, dirty snow, or no snow, may you each feel God's love today like a blanket surrounding you. Happy Monday!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

P is for Pig and Pancake!

I know I haven't posted "N" and "O" yet, but those pictures were taken with a different camera and I don't have them yet. So we'll be a little bit out of order. A week ago we learned about the letter "P". First I read If You Give a Pig a Pancake by Laura Numeroff. Love this book!

We drew the letter P in the air, on each other's backs, and in pink sand.

Then we finally wrote it on paper, and drew pictures of pigs and pancakes.

While half the group made pink pigs.....

.....the other half mixed up pancake batter and made pancakes. Then we switched so that everyone got to do both activities.

We even put the letter "P" on our pancakes!

We used a pancake recipe without milk, so that this sweet little boy could eat them too.

And finally, we made pig snouts out of half a toilet paper tube painted pink, with a pink craft foam circle for the end.

See all our cute little piggies??!

Since it was so close to Valentine's Day, Sally planned a little party with red jello and everyone gave cards to everyone else.

We love our co-op!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Our Week in Review - China and Korea

Last week we learned about China. I love how Tapestry has all of us in the same time period, but at a level that is appropriate for each of the children's age and maturity. We are up to the 1950's now, and spent a week focusing on events in China leading up to that time. While our daughter learned about communism, the Chinese civil war, and Mao Zedong, our upper grammar son learned interesting facts about China's land, animals, and plants, and had just an introduction to Mao and communism, while our lower grammar boys focused on China's land, animals, and people.

I checked out a bunch of books from the library on China, and our boys had fun just looking and gleaning what was interesting to each of them. I read a little from the books here and there, but mostly let them choose what to look at.

Then we worked on our history lapbooks, making an information wheel about China.

Even our 7 year old son C, who still has difficulty writing for any length of time, enjoyed this!

And Little Man, who did no writing in his wheel, had fun drawing pictures of his own choosing (not necessarily from a book, so the whole China aspect is not really present ;-)).

(here is his made up animal!)

That Friday night, instead of our usual pizza, we had Chinese food! We spread out a blanket on the floor to catch the spills and ate right on the floor as many Chinese still do today. The boys sat cross legged and us girls sat on our knees or sideways. And we all used chopsticks, which was quite hilarious!

Fortunately, I brought back some dishes from my time in Japan many years ago, so we were able to use authentic rice bowls and separate plates for our other food, just as many Asians do. I'm glad I brought back 8 of everything ~ back then I had no inkling I would one day have a family of 7!

This week we are focusing on Korea and learning a bit about the Korean War. One activity we did this week was to try our hand at Chinese and Korean calligraphy. Here, the two youngest boys are painting the Korean vowels. They have 10!

Daughter G chose to write a series of Chinese Kanji that actually made sense when put together. She ended up with several phrases, this first one is "infant crow practices flying" (or at least that's what we think it says!).

One of the questions our daughter had to answer last week in preparation for her online history discussion with our virtual co-op, was "what is your opinion of how Mao Zedong rose to power?". Our daughter struggled with this for a bit. It is so much easier to answer factual questions. We are at the stage with her where we are teaching her how to answer more open-ended questions, or questions like this one that ask for her opinion and she must think through all that she has learned about a particular person and then analyze the information to reach some conclusion. It is exciting to work with her and see the growth happening.

For this particular question, we talked for about 15 minutes about events in China leading up to WWII, and its immediate aftermath. The struggle for power between the Nationalists and the Communists, how they came together to fight their common enemy, the Japanese, after the Japanese invaded. How after Japan was defeated in WWII, China resumed her civil war. We learned what kind of strategist Mao was, and how he believed staunchly in the power of the peasants and was ultimately able to gain control and bring China under the communist banner. We talked about his personal life, his motivations, and his beliefs about violence (in stark contrast to Gandhi's views on non-violence, which we had learned about the previous week). After all that, I asked her the question again, and opinions began to just pour from her like water! I think even she was surprised by what she knew and what she thought. Tapestry encourages students to back up their opinions with facts they learned during their reading that week, and ultimately, with Scripture. I love that our history curriculum is helping me teach my children HOW to think!

Each week I find myself even more grateful for the wonderfully rich and deep and fun curriculum that Tapestry of Grace is! Besides teaching us how to think, I so appreciate the emphasis they put on learning about other cultures and nations, and how events in one part of the world connect to events elsewhere. My prayer is that God will use this to help develop in our children hearts of compassion for the world, and an awareness of God's hand throughout history.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Valentine Morning

I love.....

Red hearts. A reason to have a celebration! (we don't need a reason, but it is very convenient!)

Puzzles and candy from Grandma.

My children all dressed up for church.

Hot breakfast food.

Special plates and cups.

A day to tell each other what we love and appreciate about each other.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Ocean Boxes

We are so enjoying the hands on experience of making ocean boxes this year! That, along with our lapbooks/science notebooks is turning out to be the perfect compliment to our science studies. We are loving the Apologia Elementary science book we're using, Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day. Just love it!

Two weeks ago we learned about walruses. We learned that their tusks are actually long teeth which can grow up to 3 feet long (!), that they have only two natural predators because of their immense size, that they can weigh more than a car, and about "hauling out". Here are some clay walruses and ocean boxes in various stages of completion.

Last week we learned about sea turtles. Did you know that there are 7 different species of sea turtle? I know, I didn't either. We read about them, made flapbooks illustrating the 7 different types from smallest to largest, and then made clay turtles for our ocean boxes. Did you know that the biggest sea turtle, the leatherback, can grow longer than 9 feet???? 9 FEET! And weigh more than a ton???? That's way bigger than even Goliath. The boys were quite impressed. And to support all that size, it eats twice its weight in jellyfish every day. That is ALOT of jellyfish! Son C has felt badly for those low on the food chain, who supply other sea creatures with a steady diet, but we have talked several times about how that is part of God's plan, it's how He designed it.

Not to be outdone, Little Man insists on doing everything his big brothers do. I had not made him his own science notebook last summer, thinking he was too young, but he wants to do it, so.....

Here G is putting a turtle body onto a length of wire. You can just see the turtle head sticking out above the top of the box, above the wire. It looked really cool when it was done.

A turtle and sea snake, both herps, which we learned means "aquatic reptile".

Thank you, God, for such a good fit for us for science this year. And thank you for the amazing world you made for us to discover and explore.