Archive for September, 2012

Today I made a recipe that I found online.  I had been disappointed in many of the air-dry clays due to how some projects would crack or the salt would come to the surface during the drying process.  This one is drying very nicely.  It is hardening and has a smooth surface.  The project that Little Miss and I are making is intended to be a gift.  The clay was formed into 1/2 inch size square beads that will be painted before being strung on a cord.

Here is the recipe:

Air-Dry Clay

1 cup cornstarch
2 cups baking soda
1.25 cups water

Mix all in a saucepan and heat over a medium heat. Stir constantly to prevent the cornstarch from settling in the bottom of the pan. It will be hard to stir at first, but gets liquid very quickly.

Cook about 5 minutes, until the mixture thickens to the consistency of mashed potatoes. It seems to stay liquid a long time, then suddenly thickens very fast. Remove from heat and let cool until just cool enough to handle.Place on waxed paper and knead a few minutes or until smooth. Once completely kneaded and cooled, we wrapped up the amount not being used in a project in 2 layers of plastic wrap to prevent drying.

Drying time for your projects depends on the thickness, but the recipe stated to expect it to take 48 hours to a week.  The 1/2 inch size beads were made about 7 hours prior to this post and are already hard with only the centers yet to dry & harden further.  A flat ornament cut out with a cookie cutter and about 1/4 inch thick would dry in about 24 hours, I would imagine.  To speed up the drying, I placed a wire cooling rack across a cake pan.  I had threaded the beads onto toothpicks to form the holes for stringing.  I laid the beads on the wire rack with the toothpicks straddling the wires so that the beads fit in between the wires and hung freely.  This eliminates the need to turn the beads over repeatedly during the drying process.
I am keeping this recipe handy.  For school projects, ornaments for the holidays, or for basic art projects like a coiled clay pot, this recipe will be the one I reach for first.  The ingredients are very inexpensive and the clay is very easy to work with.  It is soft enough to use for a toddler’s handprint, yet sturdy enough to use in freeform clay projects.
Hope that others will enjoy the recipe.

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The Week Ahead

Last Friday, I purchased 2 of Little Miss’ new curriculum books.  I was anxious to get a look at what the new curriculum will entail.  I am SO excited!  I am selling the MFW Kindergarten materials, and was lucky to find a buyer within 24 hours of posting to a FB group for buying/selling used MFW curricula.  As soon as I receive payment, I will be ordering Pookie’s materials as well as the last remaining book for Little Miss.

I am encouraged by the Singapore Math and the Science book that Little Miss’ curriculum recommends.  Both have short lessons, but are very thorough.  in talking to Mr. Austin, who’s wife wrote the Heart of Dakota curriculum, I was sold on the fact that they are very strongly based on Charlotte Mason.  In showing the math & science books to my husband while he was home, he loved that the science is firmly a Christian approach to science.  The math deals with the lessons in a common sense way.  Instead of rows of math problems like the traditional methods, this curriculum teaches math by giving real life examples. Many of the lessons are word problems which are a 2-fold lesson.  She will be practicing reading skills & critical thinking, as well as figuring out the solutions to the math problem.

The science text is filled with 2-page readings.  Each is full color and engages the child with the illustrations.  The lessons are quick and to the point.  They are not given to the “twaddle” as Ms Mason referred to it.  If these are a representative of what is to come when I receive the Heart of Dakota materials, we will be very pleased.

I have already begun going over the book list for the emergent readers.  All will be easily obtained through a library, trip to the book store, or Amazon.com.

We are finishing the last of the hands-on activities for the previous units.  Then we will be starting some new smaller units to work on until the Heart of Dakota materials arrive.  Overall, it is a fun time.  We are switching gears and getting into the Charlotte Mason mindset.  I found out that there are others who use the Charlotte Mason approach in a town about 40 miles from here.  I am joining the homeschool group that they are in.  it will be great to find others doing a similar homeschooling method to ours.  I am also excited to get the kids in a group with other homeschoolers.  Little Miss loves going to a local church’s after school activity each Wednesday.  Being able to participate in activities with the homeschooled kids her age will also benefit both her and Pookie.  It is just one more avenue to pursue.

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Zoo Trip

Friday, I surprised the kids with a trip  to the Oklahoma City Zoo.  They loved it! We had been working on a Unit Study as a part of the Bible devotions on the story of the Creation.  The zoo trip gave them an opportunity to see up close many of the wondrous wildlife that the Lord has created.

Little Miss had so much fun looking at animals that she has only seen in videos.  The elephants were her favorite.  They were all that she spoke of once she saw the signs leading to the elephant exhibit.

At a monkey exhibit, she and Pookie both laughed at the antics of the monkeys as they played on the ropes in they enclosure.  Outside of the enclosure was a large rope swing that visitors can climb on.  Little Miss gave it a go and was not too sure about it.  She decided that playing on ropes was best left to the monkeys.  I was very proud of her though when she told me that they were monkeys because they have tails.  Good for her!  She remembered that apes have no tail.

In a retile house, there were very interesting displays of all types of reptilians.  surprisingly, Pookie enjoyed watching the snakes and salamanders.  Well, he enjoyed them until he saw a few snakes eating mice at feeding time.  ICK!  That had him going into a meltdown.

The best part of the entire experience was when Little Miss started asking when we could go again.  She and Pookie had so much fun that I told her we would come again when the weather was cooler.  With school in session, we are enjoying the chance to go during school hours when the zoo is less busy.  I think that had a large part in Pookie doing so well.

It was such a joy watching their excitement.  Seeing the wonder in Little Miss’ eyes as she saw the animals brought a sense of seeing all again for the first time.  Pookie was very intent in his observations.  Being up close to some of the animal displays, he studied the animals with a focus that is amazing to me.  I have never watched a child his age spend so much energy in their total and absolute attention.  I often wonder how much we all could accomplish if we gave that much of our focus to the people and things around us.

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Homeschooling 2 young children, with one being special needs, you have to plan carefully.  Subjects need to dovetail in such a way that you can have one child working independently while you are working one-on-one with the other. Most times, this works very well.  Occasionally you find that even with your best efforts, both children have need of help at the same time.  Short of finding a way to clone myself for such moments, I had to come up with a way to make these times go easier.

I found a container and placed into it books related to our current unit study themes.  Next, I placed a couple of file folder games.  The basket is placed on the end of the couch.  If I am working with our son and our daughter needs help, she goes to the basket and takes out a book or file folder game to work on while she waits for me.  This does great for keeping her on track with doing school related activities.  Without the basket, it would be easy for her to get distracted and want to go play.

For our son, I have a sensory bin available.  If I am helping Little Miss, then he plays with the sensory bin until I am finished.  This helps to give him educational alternatives also.


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Homeschooling Moment

Today, we are working on the artwork portion of the lapbooks.  Little Miss finished making a series of mini books and painted a watercolor picture of the earth.  Her Oklahoma notebook is still a work in progress, but she is nearing the end of that one also.  The autumn unit will be the last to be completed.  She has a few more mini books to make.  I have to admit that I am part of the delay.  One of the mini books that she is making is being done in the shape of a large maple leaf and another is the shape of an oak leaf.  I have a large cookie cutter of each that is being used as the pattern for these.  We don’t have autumn print paper, so she is going to do a watercolor wash of autumn colors on art paper to use as the covers & pages for her books.

I am finding with Pookie that he loves to be read to.  Grab a book and sit on the couch and you quickly have Pookie curled up against you waiting to hear the story.  I don’t mind.  I love reading to the kids.  I am finding that the 3 hours I spend each day reading to them is a favorite time of each day.  We read 2 or 2.5 hours in the morning, then for another half hour before tucking the kids into bed at night.

People are always talking about the idea that those with autism seem to have one area that they are extremely interested in or focus on.  At this time, Pookie seems to love anything to do with painting.  Watercolors or tempera paints, it doesn’t matter.  He loves using them.  I think I will go broke keeping him in painting supplies.  LOL   It is the one activity, outside of being read to, that is guaranteed to hold his interest and enjoyment.

Seeing the enjoyment both kids have with watercolors, I am going to let them make a bunch of watercolor wash backgrounds for us to use to make the holiday cards we send out this year.  Autumn colors for the Thanksgiving cards and wintery colors for Christmas.  I want to come up with a meaningful way to let them participate in the making of the cards.  This seems to be one way to do it.

A beautiful moment today was when Little Miss sat on the couch and read a book to Pookie.  It is such a sweet time that deeply touched this Momma’s heart.

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Charting a New Course

We have been using thematic studies now with the kids and they are enjoying it.  Even Pookie, when he sees me carry a book to the couch, will come running to sit next to me for a snuggle and a good read.  This just hits home the joys of the Charlotte Mason approach.

Little Miss is loving it especially.  She doesn’t care for workbooks and becomes quickly frustrated and bored with worksheets and the like.  She loves reading and hands-on.  These provide her with so much activity that she is learning without having to use the traditional pencil to paper approaches.

A recent email solidified the idea that I needed to pursue a curriculum that followed even closer to the Charlotte Mason methods.  This is not to say that the kids will not have to use pencil & paper.  It is only that the true learning should come in a way that excites them into wanting to learn more.

It was recommended to me to look at Heart of Dakota.  I ordered the catalog and today was able to go through the catalog information with Mr. Mike Austin, who’s wife wrote the curriculum.  I am thrilled!    Two issues that I am having a struggle with in the MFW curricula is that Pookie is going to be struggling with the worksheets, even if they are modified.  It may be some time before he can do assignments like those.  I am finding however that he is able to do other forms of hands-on activities.  The second issue was the large age range in which the curriculum rotation covers in the MFW curricula.

In the Heart of Dakota curriculum, the age ranges are only about 2-3 years per program level.  This allows me to tailor the curriculum easier to fit our children’s needs.   I am going to order the 1st level, a program for 2-5 year olds, for Pookie.  The 3rd level program, for 6-8 year olds, will be ordered for Little Miss.

The curriculum follows much closer to the Charlotte Mason ideology in how children should be taught.  Lots of reading and memorization!  There is also a lot of hands-on activities to support lessons being learned.  Little Miss is very excited.  Seeing her become so animated is exciting for me also.

We will continue what we are doing now until the order arrives.  The kids are having too much fun to do otherwise.

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This week, we are continuing the unit studies that we have been working on.  The kids are loving the autumn themed units especially.  I am expanding the units a bit to include more science and hands-on.  One worksheet that I am setting up for Little Miss is a leaf identification sheet.  I am finding pictures of various leaves online and placing them onto a page in my word processor program, then adding a space under each for her to write the name of each leaf.  For Pookie, I will have leaf color sheets printed from the Internet.  I am having fun (as they are also) in finding little extras to add to their workboxes.

With the amount of fun they are having in learning about autumn and the changes it brings, I am thinking ahead to pumpkins.  Both kids enjoy most the subjects that are nature related.  Recently, Little Miss started asking to learn more about pumpkins.  How can I say no to that?  It is near time for me to buy the pumpkins for canning and to make pies with for Thanksgiving.  Seems like a great time to start teaching about the pumpkins.

I found a really neat book at the library.  “Kids Pumpkin Projects: Planting & Harvest Fun” by Deanna F. Cook, is filled with great activities for young children.  each activity is designed to teach children about pumpkins in a way that is meaningful to them.  First, they make a pumpkin journal in which to record their observations as they plant, grow, and harvest their own pumpkins.  Throughout the book, the children are learning about pumpkins in a way that makes it exciting and fun.  From planning their pumpkin patch, seed shopping, and planting, the children learn what a pumpkin plant needs to grow properly.  During the growing season, they are making notes in their journals as well as other activities.  A simple one that is very educational is making a pumpkin family tree.  They learn that a pumpkin family includes all types of squash and gourds, which are broken down further into groups according to type.  The book includes crafts and recipes to use with your harvested pumpkins.  It is such a fun book, that I am going to be ordering ourselves a copy this week.

I will be starting some of the activities out of order.  I already have organic pumpkin seeds.  We like to save seed from one harvest to plant the next season.  Among the seeds are some gourds and various types of summer, autumn, and winter squash also.  We can start by making a seed chart comparing the seeds. Later on this winter, we can follow the book more closely and start our seeds in late February in little cups indoors to transplant when frost has passed us by in spring.  Little Miss becomes so excited about watching her own garden plants grow.  This will be a great long-term project for her.  Even Pookie may enjoy it!


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