Monday, 27 August 2012

Fixer Holly

Since moving to the farm, Chad has mostly done the small mechanic jobs on our cars. This delights Holly to no end, because she is "Fixer Holly" the princess of fixing cars, houses, trains, toys, and broken hearts. Of course she has to help and of course she insists on doing so in her Tinkerbell ballet dress.

So cute. Holly is really growing up. We started her ballet classes this week and she was a hoot. She's really, really loving it. Every day this week she dressed in a tutu and even put one over her jammies every night at bedtime. She's pretty into it.

I'll see if I can get a picture this week of her in her actual real ballet clothes.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Preface/Background to Our Chinese Unit Study, Unschool Style, plus an introduction to newbies to "strewing".....

We homeschool. We unschool as a philosophical approach. For those who are unfamiliar with that term, it is like Montessori without the large class management of other people's children aspect.

Our classroom is our home, our farm, our community- you get the idea. Our home is filled with books, seriously thousands of books. No less than three bookcases hold "kid" books, the rest are all over- history, science, literature, classics, antiques, newest editions, science fiction. We love books.

In our dining room, at kid level, I have art supplies. I do keep the higher quality paints and inks up high but only so Zap doesn't eat them and Holly doesn't take up Interior decorating- again. They can have them down when they ask, just not when I am in the shower or on the phone. You know? This.

I have a whole huge bookcase with kid history, math, and reading books. Whole curricula..

"Hold up, lady, you just said you unschool!" Yes I did. That doesn't mean we don't learn things or enjoy using books. We all do. Especially me.

That's where something called strewing comes into play. Strewing is where we make available items of interest and leave them in accessible places to be found and explored at will.

So I thought about how we will handle school this year, since I am going back to work away from home a couple days a week and fall is pretty busy with deliveries and craziness of farm stuff. My kids have been begging to learn more about China, love Chinese food, music, and art. We've also fielded some questions from them about why we don't buy Made in China products (we actually do though), especially packaged food and art supplies (which end up as food unintentionally toddler style). A really negative bias has crept up in our whole culture regarding products from China, mostly from teh massive lead poisoning issues that have happened. Plus we like to buy local, as local as possible in all things. But that doesn't mean we have to bash a whole culture, you know?

And I realized too that I know very little about China. I mean, I have seen Mulan a million times with the kids, and I know I like crab Rangoon, and I can point to China on the map....and that's about it really.

So what better way to organize our lives and learning than to have mama learn some more about China? And that's how we'll do this, I will learn and do projects and if they are interested then they can too. I plan on creating a syllabus, with books and supplies provided for each mini lesson, here on the blog, in case anyone wants to replicate what we are doing. Label will be China, Dragons, and Yummies.

A brief summary of items we will cover in the groupings:

Art: watercolor, calligraphy, kite making, origami, paper making
Culture: Tea ceremonies, religion, etiquette, medicine, agriculture, puppetry
History: Time lines
Geography and cooking are paired. We'll study regional cuisines and cook them every week, in reference to regions and types of ingredients. Food can really be a good way to teach other aspects of culture. Plus, YUMMY. Oh, and animals. Geography=animals to my kids. Maybe a zoo trip.
Science: inventions, building, medicine, agriculture, earthquakes
Math: fractions in cooking, calculating for science, abacus, money measuring, weighing
Reading: stories and books from China, about China, writing to a pen pal, writing messages in cards, creating fortune cookie messages, calligraphy
Dragons. My kids like dragons a lot.
Chinese New Year and holidays.
We plan on attending the Asian Festival here this year too.

Things I have purchased so far:
  • A calligraphy set, a real one with ink and stone and hair brushes and bone chine dishes. Not expensive and yes, made in China.
  • Toy dragons. Yes I did.
  • Paper dragons to hang from the ceiling.
  • Real stainless steel chopsticks and bone china spoons
  • Cast iron tea service
  • Tea
  • Books on calligraphy, craft and building projects, books on Chinese history for kids, Chinese mask book
  • Pandora, Traditional Chinese station
  • Netflix, Wild China and Studio Gibli movies. Dress up clothes with Chinese theme.

We'll start this October 1st ish. Expect lots of cute pictures of kids doing stuff and cooking. These items are on the shelves and ready to explore. We already listen to the music every day. At the end of the week, we'll have lunch at the local Chinese buffet (yay rural Iowa!). We'll cook from the recipe books twice a week, maybe more at lunch time.

Each time we do an activity, I will post book and supply list with links to isbns, mostly because that is where I shopped for the stuff.  I'll also post a reflection on what worked, ect.

I'd love additional ideas to work in too.....and that's about all of it. The ideas of it all will unfold as we live it. The girls want to trade out our dining room table for a lower standing coffee table so we have to sit on pillows to eat meals. Is that even how people eat in China? Where did they get that idea?

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Mystery Find- What is This?

Lily and her friend dug this up today. It was about a foot from our foundation. Weighs about 10 lbs, not kidding, maybe 20. It is seriously heavy.

Lily says of course it is a dragon egg. What else could it be?

I told Chad I was pretty sure it is a cannon ball. He gave me the face like, "Yeah, ok crazy lady, a cannon ball? Buried in our yard? Riiiiiiight....."

Then I showed it to him.

That's what he thinks it is too.

What else could it possibly be?

Friday, 3 August 2012

Learning to French Braid


 I am learning to braid the girls' hair. It is finally long enough and one of them is patient enough to sit still long enough for me to fumble through it.

Snapshots of little bits of our day. We did a reading lesson, constructed words and sentences with letter tiles. molded modeling clay into pizza, read books, turned shipping boxes into to race cars, into drive in movie box/cars, into cozy reading boxes, pretended to be a girl pretending to be a vampire, played more dress up, cooked a new Chinese rice dish and baked chicken, registered for gymnastics (jumping class), dealt with a bath time crisis/fall injury/bloody nose, test drove a new to us car, kept the downstairs picked up and clean, and did laundry.

Oh and video chatted with newly moved to CA friends.

Today (despite the bloody nose crisis) was good and full.

*These pictures were taken with my new iPhone that can do video chat, take credit cards, and enable me to be on facebook more than I need to be all the freaking time. There is no focus or zoom. I think I like my SLR camera better, but the phone is super convenient.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Zippy Zippy Zap

I peeked out the window at the kids playing and saw this. It was so cute. I thought he couldn't reach the "go" pedal. He can't while seated, but he sat down like this.....

Hold ON!!! His sisters were worried and surrounded him to show him the ropes. So cute.

We visited with his endocrine team today. They are fascinated with our lifestyle, especially the nutrition aspect.

His number were good, even in April, so we'll retest and compare.

We discussed retesting the FISH test to verify 22q with a new sample. We decided not to do that in January when Isaac was mostly deaf because the insurance only covers hearing aids for genetic deafness and without the dx of 22q we'd have to pay 9K$ out of pocket. Yikes. Well, now he's not even a little bit deaf so the talk of retesting is now on the table again.

Endocrinology could not order it though, they said ask at our fall well baby check. Will do.

We can still do more at home to make our nutrition even better. Talk of cast iron tea kettles for the woodstove came up with a friend and they are not expensive! In December we'll retest Vit D and decide if we should use fermented cod liver oil and what dosage, but right now his levels are probably sun shiney wonderful and last winter (March) they only got as low as 18.

Good news, good news. We still have to go in for blood draws next week, on a Tuesday or Wednesday morning but Isaac is tough as nails and the lady who does the draw is really good at her job. That's why we insist on doing them at our local hospital, because of her. When you are in the midst of the chaos of special needs and medical care....finding those few people that are really there for you or your kid, that take time and extra attention, that is pretty special. Hang on to them. Let them know how very much appreciated they are.

Lucas County Fair 2012 & My Little Sprouts