Monday, December 13, 2010

Fairy doors and Winter Wonderland...

Last week the little girls and I went to a fairy tea at a local bookstore/coffee shop. We drank tea, ate biscuits (when you have them with tea, you call them biscuits not cookies), read fairy stories, and saw a very funny magic show. It was very fun, but would have been more fun with friends. We will be sure to bring friends next time.

On the way back to our car, a shopkeeper told us about these little fairy doors all over downtown. Here is one we found.

And now, after much anticipation, we have snow! Lots of it! Of course, since we are homeschoolers, I can't make the boys walk uphill both ways to school in the snow like I had to, but they did walk uphill in the snow to go sledding on Sunday afternoon.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Why Quakers don't celebrate Hannukah

To conclude our Hannukah study last night, the boys and I planned on making latkes. Since I had forgotten (what with sick kids in the house and all) to light our menorah the past few days, yesterday afternoon I thought I'd light it to get the candles all lined up how they are supposed to be. Thing is, I forgot about it and the whole thing went up in flames!

So then we have our traditional type meal we have when we decorate our Christmas tree: cheeses, meats, vegetarian meats, crackers (Corn Thins actually), and lox. I serve the latkes with this. Since the Explorer won't eat lox and barely touches cheese I let him choose his meat earlier that day in the grocery. True to form, he chose ham. It didn't dawn on me, the whole ham is not kosher thing, until after we ate. Not that I was going for kosher, but it still seems sort of wrong somehow to serve ham with latkes the same evening after you set fire to a menorah.

We did play dreidel, only without the gambling aspect.

So, it was a sort of Hannukah study that would be unrecognizable to any truly devout Jewish family. But we still learned a lot and had fun.

(And the advent wreath still stands!)

Friday, December 3, 2010

my friend is giving away something!

My friend is hosting a giveaway on her blog. It's a lovely blog, it is. I have enjoyed it for years and frequently (as you can probably tell if you read both) "borrow" ideas from her.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Advent and Hannukah (and some learning room pics)

I know that I promised long ago a post on our new educational methods. Basically we've moved from and eclectic classical lite to a Steiner inspired / Waldorf approach.

Now, before you start asking questions, let me tell you that I'm not qualified to answer them. Basically I'm not an anthoposophist by any means, but Steiner's educational methods seem to work well with our family dynamics. I don't have the time or energy to explain it all right now so I'm going to assume that you, my beloved handful of readers (ok so two that I know of) either are familiar with Waldorf methods or have googled Rudolf Steiner and Waldorf education.

But next year, well, I'm going with a pre made curriculum, still going to stay on with the Waldorf method for sure as we all seem to enjoy it and the children seem to be really thriving, but I'm tired of coming up with everything on my own.

So, with that in mind, I'm going to share what we've been doing this week. For years I've been a member of an email group (via yahoo) called Waldorf Home Educators. The list owner, the lovely Mrs. M, is a Waldorf teacher who loves Waldorf philosophy so much that she shares her wildly creative lesson plans and musings for free with those of us on the list. Can't thank her enough for that! She recently posted lesson plans for a four week block called "December 2010 Stories of Light" It's lovely, really it is. We started this week learning about Hanukkah. Now, as this block is geared for grades 2 to 3 I had to kind of ramp it up a bit for the Artist. So tomorrow he will be writing a detailed report about Hanukkah. We have other bits we do every day as well as all of this, you know your regular reading, 'riting, and 'rithmitic. As well as whatever interesting thing we happen upon.Here is a picture of the menorah that the Explorer made. Tonight at dinner we said a little poem and lit the first candle. I'm not sure if the center one is supposed to stay lit or not. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.

Here is a photo of our chalkboard. Ideally I'd like a real honest to goodness blackboard but as I can't find one in my price range (ahem, as close to free as possible), these adhesive blocks of chalkboard material will have to do. Below and above are the cursive handwriting alphabet I put up just this week. We (the boys and I) are all learning a new kind of cursive. I thought it might be good to learn together and sort of help each other along and it's been great. The Artist has been able to write and read cursive for quite some time now but prefers to write print. The Explorer has been begging to learn cursive since last school year and the Artist decided he'd give it another go if we all did it together. We've not learned all the alphabet yet (I had to consult the book for the wall chart) but we are enjoying learning together. I think the boys like that I have to practice, too. Also, you'll notice that the letters are in purple just like the chalkboard. The poem on the chalkboard was written by the Explorer and I wrote it up on the board in both cursive and print so that he can decide which "font" to use tomorrow when he copies it onto the "good paper" we will make his "Stories of Light" main lesson book from.

I know I promised some advent information and I will. I found this site and decided it might be nice to do a Jesse tree. I have fond memories of having a Jesse tree at church when I was little as well as fond memories of advent (both at church and at home) and so I decided this was the year I'd actually do it. (Ok, a few days late, but still I did it!) Now, Quakers don't tend to do a lot of these kind of rituals. Our services are quite simple, and I like it that way obviously otherwise I wouldn't call myself a Quaker. But this is home and I thought a bit of holiday focus was in order and it wouldn't hurt to brush up on our Bible literacy. I don't know that we will make all the ornaments as listed in the chart on the website, in fact I know for a fact a few of them I will skip, but still it's a nice tradition and we are "having fun playing with the pencils and filling out the forms on the bench." Plus there is a lovely lovely red twigged bush in our back garden / yard that made a lovely filling for a vase.You see a dove, a symbol for peace. We did those on Monday. Yesterday, Tuesday, I was feeling bad and so we did not very much and nothing on this project. Today we were really feeling creative and we did the apple (cardstock covered with bits of tissue paper) which symbolized the Garden of Eden story. Now, mind you, I'm no new earth creationist. But I find the whole apple and snake story riveting anyway. (And yes, it's totally possible to believe in both God and evolution. Really!) Then the rainbow symbolizes the promise God made to Noah after the Big Flood never to flood the earth again. (Noah and the Ark being hands down the Explorer's favorite Bible story, though he prefers the animal parts to the part about the rainbow.)

Now our advent wreath is only a wreath in the symbolic sense since there is no greenery involved and barely a hint of even a circular shape. As it happens most years round about the week after Thanksgiving, people like me who are-definitely-going-to-do-advent-this-year, find it hard to find the required pink and purple candles in the shops. So, I got a brilliant flash of insight (though to be honest, could be that I read this somewhere) to decoupage tissue paper onto clear glass votive candle holders and use them instead of a wreath. So that is what we did. The pack of tissue paper I bought at the dollar store did not come with purple so we layered red and blue. Also we are using tealights instead of votives. Now, granted, you don't get the cool uneven candles that you get with a real wreath with tapers, but it's less messy in the long run and we had fun with the glue. Also, turns out, if you give the tiny goddess some glue, a q-tip, and tissue paper, she will quietly occupy herself for hours. Seriously. This girl had some fun gluing today. She did the pink (of course) votive holder you see below as well as a giant apple of her own (not pictured).
Earlier this week we went to the dollar store (which is where I got the "silver" tray and the aforementioned tissue paper) and the Explorer found this grow your own crystal tree. Basically it's salt crystals that he grew. But it looked so festive in our window and was very fun to watch as we watched the snow come down for the first time since we arrived in Michigan. Here is a photo:

And since I know you are dying to see more, here is a blurry photo of the big alphabet display on the opposite wall of the purple chalkboard.

You may be wondering why there is no mention of Miss Mousie in this post. That would be because she has been sick all week. The tiny Goddess only today started feeling better. Miss Mousie on the other hand just kind of slept and cried and nursed. Basically lots of, "I want to hold you, Mama!" or "Please can I nurse, Mama? Please can I?" So pitiful. I finally gave her some ibuprofen this afternoon and she's been terrorizing her sister for the past hour so I reckon she is feeling better. I didn't give it earlier as she was just running such a low grade fever that I didn't want to interfere. I don't tend to medicate for fevers unless they are high or unless that person is prone to night terrors and sleepwalking when fevers hit, and in that case that kid never runs a fever on my watch!

Oh, would you look at this! We did do something educational on Tuesday!

And I'll leave you now to ponder how the mini fig got into the jello.

Happy Hanukkah, Nadolig Llawen, Feliz Navidad, and Buon Natale!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


As you can tell from my last post, we have much to be thankful for.

This years' Thanksgiving started out as a quiet one. Well, as quiet as one can get with our rowdy crew. But then the Accident happened (see my last post) and now we are joining with that family for Thanksgiving. So we will be serving ten children and four adults. But, I serve a crowd that size quiet often since, as my friend B says, "We hang with a big crowd."

However, if you happen to be in the British section of our local Hiller's grocery store and hear mournful moaning, that would be me. Because as much as I am thankful for friends and friends-who-are-family here, I long for a traditional Welsh Thanksgiving.

Yes, my dear readers, you read that correctly.

A traditional Welsh Thanksgiving is very fun and I suggest everyone try it.

First, you must have at least five countries represented. Our five were: Spain, USA, England, Scotland, and of course Wales...and please don't make me give you the Wales-is-not-a-part-of-England speech!

Then you have the traditional food: turkey (brined a la Nigella Lawson), candied sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie, vegetarian lasagne, mashed potatoes, southern cornbread dressing, cake with candy corns on top, tortilla (Spanish not Mexican, it's basically a sort of potato omelet, It's lush, it is!), tea (naturally!) and lots of friends and children. I think we had 15 children and 15 adults. It was so much fun! It was my first year making a turkey and one friend of ours, a vegetarian for years, was overheard saying "I see why people would want to eat turkey, that looks good." and a few months after his wife told me that she wished he had eaten some of that turkey because he talked about it so much afterwards! The children played football (that's soccer in American) and well, I'm not sure what else they did. I think there were light sabers involved at some point but I can't be sure.

And obviously the traditional Thanksgiving caroling. (Ok, so nobody sang along but me, still we did play the song!)

It was lovely. Thanksgiving always is for me. But this year should be much quieter.

Happy Thanksgiving! (Wonder how one would say that in Welsh?)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

because sometimes bad things happen to good people, too.

It's been a hard week here. Not so much for me, but for people I love very much.

See, on Sunday, it was a sad anniversary. A life was cut short some years ago. It was a horrible tragedy and I just can't, even now after years have past, make even the least bit of sense about it. Some tiny part of me clings to the impossible wish that one day we'll find out it was all some kind of cruel hoax and it had never happened.

Then this Sunday we almost had a repeat tragedy. One of my oldest and best friends was in a very bad car accident. I saw a photo of the vehicle today and would give anything to un-see it. It is truly a miracle that she survived and that she will recover. But the road to recovery will be long and hard for her and for her six children and her husband.

So tonight I ask for your prayers. I ask you to hold this family in the Light. I don't care who you pray to, but I ask you to pray.

And hold your loved ones tight and whisper a prayer of gratitude while you are at it.

Friday, October 8, 2010


Sorry, I've neglected this place lately. I don't know why. Just haven't felt motivated I guess.

Repatriation is Hard. I think it is, in many ways, more difficult than originally leaving the states for Wales. This move we have six people "homesick" for the old place. Yes, even Miss Mousie and the Tiny Goddess have mentioned wanting our "old house" and our "old car".

But life goes on. We are settling in here and starting to build a community. And before you say, "Oh but you are so outgoing, you're good at that sort of thing." Sure, being outgoing helps (and don't think I don't force myself to be outgoing. I have to force myself to put myself out there.) I'll repeat it here again, community building is a skill not a talent. Yes, like any skill it comes easier to some but it is still work and hard work at that.

The children are doing well. The boys still would "rather be in Wales" (their words). But they do like it here and are making friends. We live in a nice neighborhood where we can bike to the library and walk to parks and shops. Near our house, in our neighborhood, is a great nature preserve and wetlands. We consistently see blue herons, swans, ducks, seagulls, and cranes there. I've also seen bats and deer.

We found a lovely homeschool group and enjoy our local Quaker meeting. I'm even teaching the Explorer and the Tiny Goddess' First Day School class this month.

The leaves are changing colors, the weather is bright and sunny and cooling off. I'm enjoying the autumn breezes and sights and trying very hard not to think about winter.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

PETE SEEGER ~ Barbara Allen ~

This moment...

What I'm hearing: Pete Seegar on the Artist's iPod as he sings along and washes dishes. The little girls chatting in the tub to Sweet Benny.

What I'm smelling: the lovely lavendar chamomile bubble bath

What I'm thinking/feeling: It's not so bad, this life I live. Not bad at all.

Much better than the way I felt earlier this week. I'm glad of that.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Hello there!

Lots has changed for us.

For starters we moved. We are now in the Great Lakes Region of the United States.

I've completely changed directions with our home education. I'm hesitant to post too much about that until we are into the school year somewhat.

My iPod has been raised from the dead once, traveled halfway across the world only to be again, dead and I'm fine with it. Personally I think it is a Good Thing.

Those aren't even the major points and since a full recap is too overwhelming to me right now, I'll just say hello and sut mae to you all. I'll be posting more herbal stuff the next few posts as I've joined a blog party and I'll be posting a recipe for my fertility chai and some info about a weed I've grown quite fond of.

Also, this morning I fought off the songbirds and mosquitoes (really? mosquitoes at 9 am, I mean, come on! That is absurd!) to pick a quart jar full of ripe elderberries with three out of four children. Just imagine me like Snow White, only shooing the birds away and slapping mosquitoes.

I'll tell you what I'm going to do with it later.

But for now, I'm recovering from an illness that reminds me way too much of mononucleosis/glandular fever but is definitely not strep throat (I had it checked) and I feel the need to rest a bit.

Thanks for hanging in there to this poor neglected space.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

more letter friends

Here we have l, th, and qu.

l is the Explorer's letter. Easy.

th is tricky. See, what happened was this boy stole Terrible the sword (see him holding it) and Mr. h's hat. He's so proud of himself that he's teasing the knight and Mr. h and saying, "Thhhh!" (A battle did ensue between the knight and th interuppting our party planning.)

and the queen, qu. Obviously she has a long ponytail, but she also usually carries around an upside down umbrella. We aren't sure why.

d is a dog curled up asleep with his long tail sticking straight up

v is a vet

and n is a guy with a big nose who likes to look up


Word Family Town part 1b

For some reason, blogger isn't cooperating with me so I'm breaking this post up into more than one post. More letters to introduce:

m is a mountain man

r is a rat
f is the Tiny Goddess (her real name starts with F)

w is a walrus

p is a pretty princess with a ponytail
j is jumping (see it even jumps for the photo!)

b is a boy with a baseball
h is a man with a funny hat
and t is a knight with "terrible the sword"

Then we planned parties for the various homes. In order to attend a party at a house, the letter had to be able to make a word with the family. So we went through them all and I made a list. We will probably review it today and tomorrow and then make another village with some more houses next week, maybe even add a few new letter friends.

Word Family Town part 1

First of all, I got the idea from my wonderful friend who did a similar project with her children. Here and here are their villages. So we began ours this week. We kept it small, more of a village really. The picture is self explanatory. To populate our town, we had a select group of letters. Each one had its own character and personality.

c is a cat.

g is a girl with a curl

s is a ssssnake

Friday, March 5, 2010


Finally figured out how to convert a wav file to an mp3. So I'm announcing the birth of my MySpace Musician page.

Now, this is a rough recording. Now that I know how to do it, I'll put some more polished stuff up there. But, I'm psyched all the same.

Jo Brown Music

Enjoy and stay tuned!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Poetry Friday

Homage to my Hips
by Lucille Clifton

these hips are big hips.
they need space to
move around in.
they don't fit into little
petty places. these hips
are free hips.
they don't like to be held back.
these hips have never been enslaved,
they go where they want to go
they do what they want to do.
these hips are mighty hips.
these hips are magic hips.
i have known them
to put a spell on a man and
spin him like a top

Lucille Clifton

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

How I use my iPod in our homeschool

Have I blogged about this yet?

I don't know and I only have a bit of time so I am just going to blog here (no time to search and see if I'm repeating myself).

My first thing I use in our homeschool is this app. It's called Notebooks.

When I think of something to do for a certain "subject" I put it in a notebook file under that subject. By now I have a collection of little snippets of ideas for many subjects.

When it comes time to plan for the week I write out a document on my laptop with a list of what I want to do for the week. I then email it to myself, copy the email, and paste it on a notebook page.

It comes out looking sort of like this:

01-04-10 to 01-08-09
Circle Time
Opening Song: 'Tis a Gift to be Simple
Opening verse:“January brings the snow, makes the feet and fingers glow”
Father Abraham
Memory Work:
the Explorer:
Outside the Door
(by Annette Wynne)
Outside the door the bare tree stands
And catches snowflakes in its hands,
And holds them well and holds them high,
Until a puffing wind comes by.
The Artist:
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
(by Robert Frost)
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
There are Seven Days in a Week
Days of the Month Song
100 Things You Should Know about Knights and Castles
The Story of Painting
Poetry for Winter poem of the day:
Composer: Sergei Prokofiev
Listen to week one classics for kids
Listen to Peter and the Wolf
Tell the story of Peter and the Wolf
A: Read Global Highlights Europe worksheet and answer questions
L: Peter and the Wolf Sequencing Story Strips (Put these in a book leaving room to illustrate.)
Draw cover for Peter and the Wolf book
Artist: Degas
UCBA pgs 26-27
Piece: Dancer on the Stage
Weather Changes Worksheet
Weather Lab #1 Thermometer Explorations
Weather Lab #2 Make a Rain Gauge
Read UILEWH pgs 202-203
Read SOTW2 chapter 4
L: Narration drawing
A: Narration writing
Complete Map
A: Use one or more of the Codes of Justinian as copywork
Foreign Languages:
Spanish introductions (Maite style)
Nature Walk
Draw / Write for Nature Journals
Look up one plant / animal we see
Physical Education
Football (soccer)
Mary Poppins
The Artist:
Language Arts:
write a journal entry about Christmas vacation
write a personal letter
grammar worksheets
Math Mystery on Monday
Practice problems
MM Fractions
Multiplication Mazes
the Explorer:
WH Questions using Aesop's Fables (he chooses the fable) OOSCHF 174
Slimy Shapes OOSCHF 28
Rubbing SSIT 10
Rowboat OOSCHF 69
Wheelbarrow Walk OOSCHF 72
Language Arts:
Practice letters during Slimy Shapes activity
Wh Questions
Word Family Town (-at and -an)
Peter and the Wolf sequencing
write a personal letter
draw a picture of what he did over Christmas break
Addition practice
introduce subtraction
Math story about addition and subtraction
Make addition and subtraction math gnomes
the Tiny Goddess:
Make Weather Wheel
SSGMR 190 Circle and Square
SSGMR 74 My New House
Work on Ballet moves from her book
find some Ballet to watch on youtube
Miss Mousie:
SSGMR 74 My New House
SSGMR 84 Drop Small Objects in a Bottle

Obviously I use abbreviations for the books (which I can fill in later if there is interest). I don't expect to get all this done, and often have other things that wind up happening in the day. Anything that happens in the day including page numbers or names of poems, I write on the back of the page. Then I make a document on my laptop where I cut and paste what happened that day and add what else happened and email it to myself where I cut and paste into the Notebooks app. So basically I have a list of waht we did each day on my laptop and on my ipod. At the end of the year, I can, if I want to, print it all otu. I doubt I'll do that, though.

I list things for the little girls, but I don't usually do them all. I just have a few ideas for them in case they need an activity.

Now I'm being called for. I can elaborate if there are questions.