Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Field Trip: Scarborough Renaissance Festival {Demonstrations and Rides}

Renaissance times have never been so much fun! Yesterday we spent Student Day at Scarborough Festival. It's quite an experience, and you absolutely cannot see everything one day.

One artisan demonstrated how to use a weight on a crank to create stamped jewelry. The desired plate design was placed over the medallion, and then a ginormous weight was used to pound the plate design into the medallion.

Artisan demonstrating stamped
medallion necklaces

Just for Student Day, he created inexpensive $5 designs from a penny :)  Madeline wanted the Star of David but he had at least 50 designs. Now I wish I'd bought one for myself, too!

Artisan's assistant cranking the weight.

The most popular demonstration...jousting!
Four champions competed and ours executed all the preliminary skills perfectly. But another champion won the final round. It was fun cheering nonetheless.

A rival champion

The eventual jousting winner!

There were so many demonstrations and shows. No matter how hard we tried, we didn't get to see all the artisans. There were soapmakers, candle makers, glass blowers, chain mail fabricators, costume designers, stain glass artists, and the list goes on...Plus shows for knife throwing, birds of prey, storytelling, and more.

Want to try fencing and show your sword skills?
Sports weren't just limited to the demonstrators. Attendees could practice fencing, complete with leather apron and mesh face gear. Balloons were attached at the shoulders and above the head. If all your balloons were popped, you were eliminated. Surprisingly, Madeline preferred watching the fencing more than the jousting.

Fencing practice

All the rides were human powered.
Madeline took a whirl on a couple non-mechanized rides. All the 'swings' were attached to a center pole that was powered by two men! Once all the swings were in motion, one the men would spin the swings around and around. Madeline LOVED it. 

Enjoying a man-powered ride

Madeline was dying to do this ride so I let her. She said it was exhilarating...I think she's nuts. You just slingshot yourself up into the air! She in no way gets her adrenaline junkie ways from me.

Have you ever been to a Renaissance festival? What was your favorite part?

Outdoor Classroom: Snakeskin Discovery

While tending the garden, we found this little creature...
or at least what was left of it.

The little snake must have died a while ago. All that was left was the skin. The little eyes were still intact, though dehydrated. Very cool!

Just a small garden snake, the diameter of a pencil. They like to hide in the back of my garden beds. With super tiny mouths, humans need not worry about bites. Their diet is primarily small creatures {like earthworms and snails} they are a welcome part of our ecosystem :)

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Book Review: Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren {Activity Links}

It's a beloved classic! Our homschool book club {grades 3-6} read Pippi Longstocking for the April meeting.

Madeline took turns between laughing outrageously and being completely horrified by Pippi's behavior. Mostly, it was laughing outrageously!

Pippi Lonstocking is a very unique little girl living all alone. Without parents, she governs her own behavior. Pippi tries to make sense of the world that thinks very differently than she does.

Each chapter is like it's own short story focusing on a particular event. At first, the town isn't so pleased with Pippi's antics. But she eventually wins them over and saves the day!

Saving time is one of my favorite things, so I bought Characters, Plot, and Setting and Pippi Longstocking worksheets. The book club homeschoolers absolutely LOVED the Characters, Plot, and Setting activities. There were so many things to do that we could only complete just a few. But they were all a hit!

The worksheet link is primarily reading comprehension questions. I printed them cut out the individual questions. Each child took a question from a bag and read it to the group. Then they discussed the questions. It's awesome because they govern themselves and are so excited to share what they've read :)

Pippi Longstocking:  GSCNC Book Club Meeting Guide
Discussion/Comprehension Questions via
Printable Pippi Paper Dolls via
Pippi Longstocking smock via Muffins and More
Pippi Apron Inspiration via {Would be great made of a large paper grocery bag, too!}

I'm dying to make Pippi Lonstocking smocks for the girls! So cute for summer if you sew.

We'd rate Pippi 5 of 5 stars! Lots of humor to show kids just how lucky they really are to have parents who love them :)

Monday, April 28, 2014

Book Review: The Day the Crayons Quit by Oliver Jeffers

What a creative book!

The Day the Crayons Quit was chosen as our k-2 homeschool book club selection. And both my kids {ages 3 and 7} loved it :)

Duncan reaches for his crayons, but they aren't there! Instead, he finds a stack of letters ~ each written by a different crayon. Each expresses feelings about how they are used {or conflicts with other crayons}, and asks assistance either for themselves or their friends.

It's absolutely hilarious and both my girls loved Peach Crayon's letter the most. Poor Peach Crayon has no clothing since Duncan peeled off his paper! Peach Crayon is embarrassed to leave the crayon box. They love to read Peach Crayon's letter OVER and OVER.

The kids did this:  Reading Response Activities & Writing Craftivity. Then they played their own improv version of 'Guess Which Crayon I Am!' Each of the homeschoolers described their favorite crayon with clues and everyone tried to guess which one they were.

Because Madeline is older, I had her pretend to the be the teacher. Did the crayons use the correct format for a letter? Is the punctuation correct? She rewrote one letter correcting any format or grammar mistakes. 

Madeline also wrote her own letter from the viewpoint of her favorite crayon. She had to think of what her favorite crayon would write and how it would feel. Then Madeline reminded me that she really doesn't use CRAYONS anymore since she's a big girl. Ha! So her letter was from the point of view of her favorite colored pencil.

We happily give this book 5 of 5 Stars! It's very creative and unlike any other book we've read.

Use it as a great jumping off point for feelings, colors, and conflict resolution. Or just for fun! The author did a phenomenal job making each crayon express feelings. And Madeline enjoys reading it to her little sister, so that's always a plus.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Outdoor Classroom: Tiny Black Krim Tomatoes

Our second heirloom hybrid grafted tomato plant has fruit! Hopefully, the Black Krim tomatoes will grow large and dark purple/black. Supposedly, the hotter it is ~ the darker the fruit. And it gets REALLY HOT in Dallas!

So far, this is what the emerging fruit looks like:

Growing...and about 2 inches in diameter

I'm thinking we'll count how many fruit are on each plant every week. That way, at the end of the season we'll be able to tally how much fruit each plant gave total. Good plan?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Almost Done with Pippi Longstocking

Nine chapters down, two more to go!

We will DEFINITELY FINISH this book tonight and be ready for our homeschool book club meeting tomorrow. This book is a fast read for sure.

It's been shocking to me to see just how far Madeline has come in reading since beginning chapter books! A pleasant and proud shock though :)

So far, Madeline alternates between laughing and being horrified by Pippi's behavior. Oh, so many teachable moments to discuss! But then again, Madeline is my little angel. She's always been the sweetest, most gentle child.

Outdoor Classroom: Bees, Bees, Bees

Bees, bees, bees. They just love the salvia. I kid you not, there are always at least five or six bees buzzing around this plant.

Can you spot the bee?

Lately my camera has been a source of frustration. Not because I don't love it. But sometimes it would be nice to splurge on some additional lenses, especially one for close up work. My camera requires shooting objects from a few feet away, so cropping is a must. I just wish for a bit more detail and close focus.

But lenses are soooo expensive. And not in the budget anytime soon.

Guess that means doing the best with what I have! And shooting lots of pictures to try and share some of our life with you.

So back to homeschool. Madeline is constantly curious about the bees. She wonders if she should be scared of them...I tell her only if she bothers them! They have never stung any of us, we just let them gather pollen until their little hearts are content.

To foster her curiosity, I've requested some books on bees from the library. Maybe she'll be less weary of them if she understands them better. So excited for the books to come in:

Do you have any bees that like to visit your yard? How do you feel about them?

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Outdoor Classroom: Do You Know the Difference Between and Butterfly and a Moth?

The salvia in our garden attracts butterflies and bees galore. We spotted this little creature and it a butterfly or a moth?

This little creature has been fluttering around for days

It was a bit fuzzy like a moth, I wasn't sure. But with this handy butterfly vs. moth comparison chart, the answer presented itself. What do you think?

Monday, April 21, 2014

Homeschool Book Club: Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren

Almost time for homeschool book club! Our next selection is Pippi LongstockingThe club meets Thursday, so we better get reading. 

Luckily, it's only 11 chapters. Flood Child was 41 chapters, so finishing Pippi by Wednesday seems doable. We are ready for some laughs!

Happy Easter {Andy Why I Refuse Store Bought Baskets}

All smiles on the egg hunt

I hope your holiday was fantastic! The kids had so much fun playing and not stuffing their faces with candy. My secret to holiday fun without hyper kids?  I refuse to buy any store bought Easter baskets.

It's tempting to buy your Easter baskets at the big box stores already stuffed. It's convenient, I get it. But it's disappointing spending a ton of money on junk.

If you want a big basket full of goodies, it seems like $50 is the minimum you can spend. But all you get in return is a basket full of candy and really cheap toys that the kids will never use beyond Easter. Or worse, toys that break on Easter!

Just nix most of the candy. Instead, my girls get a few toys that will get lots of use. It's not cheaper than buying premade baskets, but they actually PLAY with their goodies...for a long time. 

This year's hit was a bubble blower. Hello Kitty for Sophie and Disney Princess for Madeline. They LOVED them! 

So much easier for the little ones to blow bubbles this way!

Bubbles everywhere, including Madeline's hair

Some of the bubble liquid spilled...can you spot it?

Other toys ~ Ty beanbag kittens for both, a Lego set for Madeline, and a pony helicopter for Sophie. As for candy, just two large eggs. One stuffed with mini-chocolates and the other with Starbursts. 

Never once have they complained that they'd rather have more candy and less toys. And rather than eating candy and getting over hyper, they are worn out at the end of the day from active play  :)

Friday, April 18, 2014

Growing Garden ~ Who Ate the Radishes?

Our radishes are ready for harvest! And a little mouse named Madeline has been eating them all. No joke. She ate 10 radishes in one afternoon, and then we quit counting ;)

Her verdict? Spicy, peppery, crispy, crunchy, and refreshing. 

Radishes grown from seed

What you see is what's left of the barrel full of rashes. Not much. These were so easy to grow, we will definitely replant another crop. And yes, these are the same little seedlings Madeline and I protected from the late freeze. And now look at them!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Growing Garden Experiment ~ Heirloom vs. Hybrid Tomatoes

Science experiment in the garden! This spring and summer, we've decided to experiment with with hybrid and heirloom grafted tomatoes.

The first group of specimens are hybrid tomatoes sown from seed. The feathery young leaves on the top right are the tomatoes. I honestly don't remember which variety they are.

Tomato hybrid seedlings, about $3 per seed packet at Lowe's

Because the kids and I are impatient gardeners, we also bought two (2) young hybrid plants as our second set of specimens. Their common name is Lemon Boy. The fruit are large and yellow, so I am hoping they will be interesting to grow!

Lemon boy plant from Home Depot, about $4 per plant

The third set of specimens are heirloom grafted tomatoes. We've never grown this type of plant and have never had good results or yield with traditional heirloom tomatoes.

However, these plants graft the top of a heirloom variety plant onto the base and roots of a hybrid plant! Supposedly, this increases the yield by 50%. Plus, you get incredibly unique varieties of tomatoes that just can't be found at big box stores.

These heirloom grafted plants cost about three times (3x) the cost of hybrids from the big box stores, but they were also about three times as big. Very healthy with plenty of flowers too. And I can't wait to see all the interesting tomatoes they produce!

Plant with variety of heirloom tomatoes, cost $12/plant at
Calloway's nursery

Heirloom variety with purple tops and yellow bottoms, cost $12/plant at
Calloway's nursery

This heirloom variety is nearly black in color! Cost $12/plant at
Calloway's nursery.

Since my old tomato cages were broken and old, they were replaced with these fun green ones. No more boring gray! Home Depot also had them in a dark raspberry, orange, and aqua. Fun colors!

If you are having a garden experiment, please share ~ I'd love to hear about it and get more ideas for the garden...

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Growing Garden ~ Eggplant Musical Chairs

Sometimes, plants just don't stay where you want them. This is the pot where we sowed eggplant seeds. Notice anything wrong?

Where did the seeds and dirt go?

Thanks to my 65 lb. hunk of love, Tank, the pot somehow fell over. I tried to put the spilled dirt back in, but somehow it ended upturned again.

I gave up. And then saw this:


I'm about 90% sure this is an eggplant seedling. There is a set of four of them on the edge of the walkway a few feet from the original pot.

For now, I'm taking a wait and see approach. I guess they just didn't like that pot and found a new home ;)

Monday, April 14, 2014

New Crop Additions ~ Crazy Pink Blueberries!

Ever seen bright pink blueberries? Me either, until a recent visit to my favorite local nursery. They were calling my name, and I just couldn't bear not to give them a try in the outdoor classroom ;)

Blueberry variety 'Pink Lemonade'

Blueberries produce better yields if planted near another plant of a different variety, so I chose a traditional blueberry for the second plant. To ensure cross pollination between the two, they'll be planted next to a butterfly bush that bees and butterflies love!

If you've never grown blueberries, they are acid loving plants. So definitely invest in some soil acidifier if you do not have acidic soil! Dallas soil is not acidic at all, so a few scoops of acidifier are added to my camillas every month to keep them happy and healthy. Now I'll just add a few scoops to the blueberries at the same time.

So far the traditional blueberry has a ton of flowers and fruit. The pink one doesn't have nearly as many, but it also has fewer leaves so I'm thinking that it may just fruit later in the season. Only time will tell!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Growing Garden ~ Carrots Emerging

Look what finally has started growing...the feathery tops of our carrots :)

Potted carrots and lillies

Friday, April 11, 2014

Homeschool Holidays ~ Egg-stra Fun Egg Hunt

I am SO THANKFUL for my homeschool group! Today we had a blast celebrating Easter a little early :)  

All the younger siblings had their own egg hunt separate from the bigger kids. Sophie was psyched to start the hunt and put some eggs in her basket!

Excitement before the hunt

Woo-hoo, I found two eggs!

Of course, the little ones got distracted. Sophie got so excited finding dandelions that she forgot about the eggs.

We counted down for the bigger kids and they ran like cheetahs to find their eggs. Not a chance to capture any good pictures, just blurred figures running from one point to another. 

Watching the homeschooled kids interact is such an eye-opener. One older kid was slower in finding his eggs. The thought of teasing or poking fun did not cross anyone's mind. Instead, all the other kids immediately rallied to help their friend find his eggs. No one rushed to eat their own candy either. 

Everyone waited until the last homeschooler found all his eggs. Only then did they head as a group to the potluck table! And no words from the parents either. That's just the choice the children made on their own. Such a proud moment to see friendship and compassion come first :)

Interestingly, during free play the older kids decided to form a type of government. A bit like a student council perhaps. Madeline and another homeschooler both wanted to be the President, so they decided to let everyone vote. The result? A tie! 

Since he is two years older, my daughter decided she would let him become President. Her reasoning? Older people are more wise

He promptly asked her to be his Vice-President. What that means in reality, I have no idea. 

The other parents and I are thinking we should encourage their leadership goals and design some student-led activities in the future. If you have any ideas, please share!