Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Viva Italia

Today the girls finally finished their lapbooks on Italy ... and about time. It seemed to be taking us forever. Ok we only work on geography on a Monday but still ... we were all a little happy to have it completed.

Agent Smelly's (left) and The Fashionista's (right) front covers.
One chose to tape their 3 A4 pages into a book in a portrait style and the other landscape.

These are the inside. I have pulled some of Agent Smelly's little inserts out so you can see all the little do-dads that go into them. Some lift up, some open from the middle, some open out like a letter, some are in pockets ... they are a lot of fun.

They have to colour, write, work out time differences, graph the population in comparison to NZ, do map work, learn some of the language, the capital city, famous people and sport and so on. It's not an in depth look at the country but enough to simply whet their interest.

We were a little dull with our cooking this time around, we kept it simple and made pasta and pizza.

I get most of my printables for the lapbook inserts off  www.homeschoolshare.com

Monday, November 28, 2011

Handwriting; a lost art?

I read recently where someone said that teaching handwriting was a waste of time as most people will only use technology to communicate in the future. I found that really sad. Nothing beats a handwritten letter or card.

We do handwriting at least once a week. We used to do it more often but I think both girls are pretty neat writers and they tend to write more in other areas so there's not the same need as there was earlier on.  The girls also have pen-pals so spend time writing to them.

We use Targeting Handwriting books, which is from NSW (Australia). The writing in that seems to be the one that is most like ours in N.Z.  It is very good and has little activities for them to do every so often.  Agent Smelly (7) has recently started level 3 (she actually skipped 2 and it hasn't seemed to have made a difference) and The Fashionista (9) is on level 4.

A sample from The Fashionista's book.

A sample from Agent Smellys' book.

Further to the above comment about technology replacing the need for handwriting. With this in mind the girls also do typing practice on the lap top once or twice a week. They use Mavis Beacon typing tutor which they really enjoy. It teaches them the correct way to type and keeps a record of their progress as they go along.  

Sunday, November 27, 2011

What a load of Pollocks ...

The third artist we have worked on is Jackson Pollock. A little different to the other two artists, as Jackson was so much later than the others and probably a little less known outside of the U.S. Also his style and especially his technique was very different (and appealing to the children).

The Fashionista's completed page. They enjoyed "making a mess" so much that rather than paste a wee picture of his on their page they did another one of their own.

Agent Smelly's page. It is interesting to see the colours they chose; they reflected their personalities.

The Fashionista's copy of  "Number 13A: Arabesque". Whilst impossible to copy a "splat" they did well to get the colours very close to the ones in Mike Venezia's book.

Agent Smelly copied Autumn Rhythm. She got some lovely big blobs on the canvas by squirting paint directly from the tubes.

The girls really enjoyed "action painting" just like Jackson. They ended up with paint all over them (definitely an outside class people!) and kept coming into my kitchen and taking whisks, etc to try and fling paint with. In all, a thoroughly entertaining style of painting.

It was also interesting that they did not enjoy Jackson's earlier style of painting which was when he was influenced by other artists that he admired and trying to imitate their styles. It was the perfect opportunity to explain to them that you can truly be at your best when you are true to yourself!

Please visit http://www.confessionsofahomeschooler.com/blog/2011/06/worlds-greatest-artists-unit-study.html for the curriculum we are using for the above artists study. Erica kindly has a free program that she made and shares with people.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Puddle Cookies

Today I made some "Puddle Cookies" and they are simply so delish peoples! Whilst they are usually made with nuts, the recipe did say that you could substitute the nuts with chocolate chips, for people with nut allergies. So despite having no allergies what-so-ever, guess who used the chocolate anyway!

Even though there are only 5 ingredients and so therefore kids could make them, I would recommend having an adult do the mixing. Because there is so little liquid in the recipe it is quite hard to mix, but oh so worth it!

Puddle Cookies by Jules Clancy

  • 155gms (5oz or 1 1/2 cups) roasted & chopped nuts (or chocolate bits if your name is Lisa)
  • 225gms (9oz) icing sugar
  • 30 gms (1oz) cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 egg whites
Preheat oven to 160C (320F)
Combine all ingredients in mixing bowl until well combined
Spoon into 2 tablespoon piles on 2 baking trays lined with baking paper.
Leave heaps of space between - they're really going to spread
Bake for 12-15 mins or until they have puffed up and cracked on top
Cool on the tray (and keep the kids away!)

Tips from The Mama:
I only got 10 large cookies from the batch and thankfully only baked 5 at a time as they really do spread.  The above picture shows an average sized one on the palm of my hand. Next time I will probably only use one tablespoon per biscuit so that they are half the size of these, as we have been breaking them in half and sharing them to eat. I may even use white chocolate next time to see how they look. 

These cookies are really light and ever so lovely and our whole family recommends giving them a try.

Fashionista's First Fling with Crocheting

Today I introduced The Fashionista to the wonderful art of crochet. I was taught by my beloved Aunty Deb, when I was about her age (9). Despite not doing a lot if it, I have always preferred crocheting to knitting as it seems to take me less time to accomplish something.
Firstly I started by teaching her the basic chain stitch which the little madam picked up on very quickly.

Then we moved onto how to make a granny square.  With a bit of help from the Mama she started making one and in order to remember how do a double crochet stitch she made up a wee story. Apparently it involves a robber, then a policeman who chases the robber into a cave and then retrieves a stolen jigsaw. Rather imaginative and it certainly helped her remember how to make the stitch.

She is quite thrilled with her first piece and despite not yet finishing it, has already grabbed another ball of wool in order to make a green one next. I do hope she isn't planning on making me a green and gold blanket (Aussie colours) for Christmas ... hmmm

A side note, sadly (Aunt) Debbie, although only 8 years older than me, passed away from cancer at age 34. She was a lovely, vibrant woman who I spent a lot of time with. She left me with a lot of great memories, and I feel so lucky that I can teach my girls something that she taught me.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Agent Smelly completes BETA

Big yeah for Agent Smelly. She just completed this years Maths (Level Beta), ahead of schedule.

She has been working on subtraction this year and she has done really well at it. No problems what so ever. There have been mornings when she has completed her maths before I have even gotten out of bed. She's a regular littly gem!

Here she is with her completion certificate.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Do you mean Grammar or Grandma?

When The Fashionista had just turned six, The Pig's "sister-by-choice", asked her how her Grandma was. Of course we being Kiwi's and Aussie's, we don't often pronounce Grandma, with the d and say Granma. We're cute that way.  Little Miss looked up at her and asked her if she meant Grammar or Grandma (with an emphasis on the D in grandma). Thankfully Sister-by-choice was a preschool teacher at the time and was vastly amused (probably used to dealing with precocious little girls), and hopefully impressed, by her knowing the difference.

I have always thought that language is a beautiful thing and this it is important for people to know and in turn respect it and use it correctly.  That is why I ensure that the girls do grammar most days of the week. Yo; get mah drift bro ...

When The Fashionista was five we started her on Jessie Wise's First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind (Levels 1 and 2) which is a book that covers the first two years of grammar. We liked it so much that we have been using it with Agent Smelly who is just now coming to the end of it. There is no formal testing in the book but, you often revise by getting the child to recite the definition of a noun, pronoun, verb, adjective, synonym, adverb, preposition and adverb, etc and simply ensure they have a general understanding of what it is.  They also learn poems off by heart and then when they are ready to recite it without help, I video them. They are so cute, when I look back on them.

These are some of the grammar posters that Agent Smelly made for the school room wall. I type up a page with the definition but mix it all up as I go along and then she cuts it out and has to sort it out and paste it on a new sheet. A.S. simply adores cutting things up.

One of the diagramming pages from The Fashionista's work book.

The Fashionista is working on the follow up book of Jessie Wise and Sara Billington's which is Level 3. She would be on Level 4 by now but we thought we'd try another program last year which really wasn't as good as this series so part way through this year we made the decision to return to First Language Lessons. At the moment she is diagramming, nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, etc.  I can't remember diagramming at school and she finds it a little boring but, works through the problems very quickly, with very little trouble. She is memorising poetry by Wordsworth, Robert Louis Stevenson and the likes, which are a little more challenging but she enjoys them. Thankfully she has a good memory so they haven't been giving her any real trouble.

This level may be a little too easy for her at times but, I don't think we can skip anything or she will struggle with the next level. In order to catch up she will continue her grammar over her summer break. That means extra work for the Mama as I have to work through the teachers text at the same time. 

Agent Smelly will start on Level 3 next year.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Van Gogh; A cut above the rest ...

The second artist we completed in our unit study was Vincent Van Gogh.

This is The Fashionista's completed Van Gogh page. It was tamarillo season and we had a billion sitting on the bench waiting for me to do something with, so little madam used one as her inspiration. I was a little surprised but, I have to admit it came out great. The photo doesn't do it justice, the textures and dabbing strokes are just gorgeous. I simply adore this picture and want to pinch it for my kitchen wall but, she wont let me...grrrrrr

Agent Smelly decided to paint a fruit bowl like Van Gogh would have. Unfortunately as were only using water paints it was hard for her to get that thick paint texture that showed through in his pics. She did well I thought.  The Mama did offer advice re some shading on the bowl, etc.

The Fashionista chose "Starry Night over the Rhone" to copy and once again she did a marvelous job painting her canvass.

Agent Smelly chose "Sunflowers" (of which Van Gogh painted quite a few) to copy. I had an old paint by numbers and recalled there was a Sunflowers in that which I gave to her. Not really a good idea. The sections were tiny and it was simply too hard. In the end I had to help her simply ignore the numbers and paint over many sections at once. If I am honest it actually looks better in this photo.  Painting on cardboard rather then the canvas was new for her too. Sorry my little baby, Mama's mistake.

Thank you Vincent.  Even though the girls do recognise and recall your many masterpieces I think you may be best remembered by them, for chopping off your ear and then taking your own life ... you poor, poor troubled soul.

Visit http://www.confessionsofahomeschooler.com/blog/2011/06/worlds-greatest-artists-unit-study.html for a copy of the curriculum we are using to complete this study.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Somewhere over the Rainbow ...

Today The Pig, Fashionista, Agent Smelly and I attended a day out at Rainbows End theme park, that was organised by one Auckland homeschooling family on behalf of the homeschooling community. Over 300 homeschoolers attended, so it was well supported on the day.

The girls and I hadn't ever been to Rainbows End and The Pig hadn't been in over 20 years he thinks, so we were all looking forward to the event with great anticipation.  We did do a couple of the QLD theme parks a couple of years back where we determined that Agent Smelly is a thrill seeker just like her Papa. She was really quite pleased when she realised that now she was over 120cm she could go on rides that she had been dying to try. I was suprised that The Fashionista, a little apprehensive in QLD, was now up for the thrills too. In fact, I am sure she enjoyed them more than her little sister this time round. She took care of her little sister on many of the rides they went on together.

My 3 crazy amigo's on the Fear Fall which they lined up for as soon as we got in the gates!.

At 18 storeys high, the ride takes two cars of four seated riders each on a controlled ascent to the top of the tower, pauses for a few seconds and then drops them .... reaching speeds of 80km/h before a patented magnetic braking system brings them gently to the ground. Mummy's heart could have been beating even faster than 80km/h just watching them. They all liked this so much (the Fashionista's favourite ride now) that they did it again later in the day.

Here they are on The Invader.

Seated on a huge disk facing over the edge, they were spun around in a circle whilst being transported along an 80 metre track which reached heights of 15metres! Apparently there are strong G Force sensations on this ride because as it travels really fast along the track it spins madly around and around. It looked really exciting from where I stood and if the shreaks from the group on it, where anything to go by, it really must have been a great scary ride. I did manage to get it on video too, as a picture just does not do this amazing ride justice.

The Corkscrew Coaster, yes they had to do this too. I chickened out ... again ...

Over we go ... the girls managed to get the front row seat, with Daddy behind them.

We worked it out that as The Pig had to leave for work at 3.30pm, he would take the girls on the thrill seeker rides. I could manage to take them on the "less terrifying" ones without him ... bring on the carousel! 

Here's The Pig (far left of pic) and the girls 2nd row right from the middle (with caps and arms in the air) on the Pirate Ship for the first time. I say first because they managed to go on it another 2 times, without us, throughout the day.

The girls are right behind the boy closest to the front of the pic.

The bumper boats were a firm fave, (Agent Smelly's favourite ride) and so they had to try this again later in the afternoon too. The Pig and I joined them for the first go and sadly The Mama had a rather wet tushy for an hour or so afterwards which was not so pleasant!

Agent Smelly going under the bridge I was standing on, to take pics.

The Fashionista looking not so fashionable after getting a rather wet tushy on her last go on the bumper boats. She probably deserved it considering how intent she was on bumping everyone else and getting them as wet as she could. Great laughs all round, especially by the parents who really seemed to enjoy bumping their own kids and getting them as wet as they could. Payback time maybe?

Always a crowd pleaser, the carousel!

Girls and The Mama on the less scary Gold Rush roller coaster. I decided after seeing 2 and 3 year olds on this that it couldn't be too bad.

Seeyah Mama.

Going down the log flume ... apologies for the blurry image.

Yes! says Agent Smelly, whilst The Fashionista brings them home safely.

We also went on the dodgems which were a laugh, especially with The Pig and Fashionista, each in their own cars, deliberating trying to take out Agent Smelly and I. We had to double up as Agent Smelly's legs were a little too short to comfortably hit the accelarator. She did the steering though, so the Mama's neck took a few jolts now and then. Reminder to self; send The Pig out with the girls when they are old enough to learn to drive ... and especially not in my car!

The Motion Master, an interactive virtual theatre experience was pretty cool. You go into a small theatre with two rows of 12 seats and watch a large screen with 3D-enabled glasses whilst the hydraulically controlled chairs move in time to the on-screen action, which was Brendan Frasers, I think, Journey to the Centre of the Earth.  Agent Smelly told us afterwards that she had kept her eyes closed the whole time, so missed the show. Whist she loves the exciting rides, we note that she doesn't patricularly enjoy the rides that go through dark tunnels, etc. and gets a little scared.

We spent around seven hours at the theme park and had a simply marvelous time and so will end this blog with a picture of Agent Smelly on the ride home.

For more information on Rainbows End in Auckland, check out www.rainbowsend.co.nz

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Chocolate chip cookies anyone?

Today for home economics, Agent Smelly decided to make some Chocolate Chip cookies. The recipe we use is from a dear friend that lives near us. When she visits she always brings a batch of her "Best chocolate chip cookies ever!" (quote from both my girls) with her.

Now, the same way as chocolate brownie recipes, etc always say this is the best ever "blah, blah, blah recipe" well people I have to say this one is in fact really, really good and if a seven year old can successfully make them, then you can rest assured you'll be able to.

So here's Agent Smelly with some of the cookies she made.
(We polished off quite a few whilst they were still warm and yummy from the oven)

Chocolate Chip Cookies (created by Sophie Gray)
  •  2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tspn salt
  • 1/2 tspn baking soda
  • 180gms melted and slightly cooled butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar (you can easily decrease this to 1/2 or 3/4)
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tspns vanilla essence
  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips or chopped buttons (again 1 cup is more than enough)
Preheat oven to 170oC
Mix flour, salt and baking soda together.
In a large separate bowl mix butter and sugars well. Beat in vanilla and eggs, one at a time.
Add dry ingredients to the wet mixture until just combined
Stir in chocolate.
With a large spoon, scoop good size mounds onto a greased baking tray (don't flatten).
Bake until cookies are slightly golden and still a little puffy (approx 15 mins)

Makes 20 large or 15 monster cookies.

A close up of the finished product.

Agent Smelly made more cookies than the recipe suggested so they were smaller and therefore a little more golden than they needed to be. She also did flatten them with a fork but by gosh they are really yummy!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Picasso, who knew!

The first artist the girls worked on in their World Famous Artist unit study was Pablo Picasso.

This is Agent Smelly's first page. Her original painting was done in water colours and is of one of our chickens and their coop. I have the little flip book open and although not easy to see one of her comments on "The Old Guitarist" page reads "(gloomy)" ...

This is The Fashionista's page. We were working on Scotland for our geography at the same time, so I think she merged them together when asked to do an original in the way of Picasso. The puzzle which I removed from it's pocket to show you, is "Girl Before a Mirror" and her favourite picture "The Three Musicians" is displayed on the flip book.

Copy time: The Fashionista's painting is on the right, Picasso's on the left. I think she did an amazing job and she loves it so much she is going to display it on her bedroom wall. Unfortunately we can't find the name of the painting as we took the picture off the web.

Agent Smelly didn't get to complete her "copy work". She loves "Girl Before a Mirror" but there was quite a bit of work involved for her so we've put it to one side to complete over the summer break.

Pablo is Agent Smellys' favourite artist to-date. I am also not sure that either of the girls were able to understand how to actually draw "cubism" but they certainly did end up understanding it (as did I) and thus realising what a true genius Picasso actually was. I used to look at some of his paintings and say "gees a kid could do that" but how wrong was I. People it's really, really hard to do!

Visit http://www.confessionsofahomeschooler.com/blog/2011/06/worlds-greatest-artists-unit-study.html for a free copy of the program we are using.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Artist within ...

For the last couple of terms, the girls have been learning about World Famous Artists.

I am using a unit study that I obtained from the Confessions of a Homeschooler blog. Erica is a homeschooling mother of four beautiful children, who lives in the States, and somehow manages to find time to produce some great homeschooling products.  Best of all this generous woman let us download this study, for free!

This has been my girls favourite subject since they started it. The unit study works in conjunction with a series of books (see below) which we purchased through The Book Depository.

These books would have to be my best find of the year. Every opportunity the girls get, they are dragging these books out and showing them to visitors. They love the fact that Mike Venezia (author and artist) puts wee jokes and cartoons in them along with some of the artists paintings. I also read them to them with an accent (a really, really bad accent) depending on where the artist originates from. I really shouldn't have started this because now I am not allowed to read them normally and sometimes they want me to read them in front of guests!  We only have eight of the artists books so far, which is all that is needed to complete this program but, we have more on our "book wish list" to purchase. We have also purchased one book from Mike's music series,  Tchaikovsky, which we used when we studied Russia in our geography session.

We have tweaked Erica's program slightly as we've gone along to suit our personal needs better.  For example each girls is also making their own book to display their works rather than the lapbook suggested, as the girls decided they wanted to display their paintings in it too.

The front cover of the Fashionista's booklet.
There are holes on the left of the page which they want to tie ribbons through to put the book together with.

For each artist we spend a couple of sessions reading the book about the artist and choosing a picture to "copy". I found if I left choosing til the day we were going to paint it, then a certain Fashionista spent most of the session trying to make a decision and left no time to paint.

In the study there is a "flip book" to complete (the girls cut out then, fill out some details on five paintings) and another time they cut up a puzzle that comes with the study also. Agent Smelly cheats as after she has cut up her puzzle she files it away in order so that she can simply remove it from it's pocket and lay it out. We thought she was rather brilliant at putting them together so very quickly til we caught onto her ... little rascal! 

The next to last thing we do is to make up and complete a wee "artists" card. On one say is the artists name and on the other side they fill in some details (see above). They all go into the pocket which we'll add to a page towards the end of the unit.  We are still fine tuning and tweaking a few things.

Am not sure this is what Erica had in mind but when asked what the artists are famous for (possibly their most famous painting?) for my girls come up with some different responses which amuse me. The above is Agent Smelly's response to what Van Gogh was famous for.

This is what Picasso is famous for apparently ... and when you think about it they are probably right. Incidentally both girls had the same answers for both.

We end our study on a particular painter by painting something, whatever they like, in the manner of that artist. They have to think how he or she would think and create that particular picture.

It has been a great study. They sit and go through their own wee books aswell as Mikes and have retained the information on the paintings too. They also like to get on the web and look at further of the artists pictures. They even get excited when they recognise a comment on TV about an artist they recognise, or when we are out and they recognise a piece of work. They even ask sometimes if a certain piece they see could be a "Picasso" or "Monet" etc. Actually I get a little excited when they do that too ... 

Check out confessionsofahomeschooler.com for further info on this unit study, it's under printables.

RIP Tyson, Bella and Kirby

It has not been a good year for us with our beloved family pets.

Firstly Agent Smelly's wee little Kirby went missing and we simply have never seen him again. He was the most special kitten. He was very friendly and got along with everyone in the house, he didn't even pay any heed to Tyson. He used to lay on the girls and suckle on their pj's. They would throw him over their shoulder and drag him around the house and he just took it. We had to laugh one day when he decided that Ty's bed looked the perfect place for a nap. Ty walked over looked down at him, made some whiny noise, Kirby just opened an eye looked at him and went back to sleep. Poor old Ty just wandered off and went and laid on the floor elsewhere and we all laughed at the big sook bested by a kitten.

In early September The Fashionista's cat, Bella, went missing. She had gone missing for weeks before so we weren't too concerned although we had gone looking for her. Then a week later I was taking the girls for their music lessons and came across her by the side of the road. It was quite sad and The Fashionista was simply heartbroken.

Two weeks after we lost Bella Bella, we had to say goodbye to our beloved Tyson. He had been with The Pig and I for so many years and so as you can imagine we were pretty heart broken. He had gotten very ill during the last couple of weeks and the vets suspected cancer but couldn't confirm it totally, despite us spending a small fortune on tests. He lost a load of weight in those weeks as he could hardly eat and then he started having seizures which was just breaking my heart so in the end we had to make that always painful decision to say our goodbyes to the old fella. I think I sobbed for days. He was the most annoying and troublesome and grump old dog and yet we loved him so very, very, much! Poor little Scruffie really misses his playmate too.

This photo was taken a month or so before his passing. We think his bones were aching (he suffered with severe arthritis) as he was not allowed on the furniture, but had taken to getting on the couch, armchair or our bed! at every opportunity.
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