Tuesday, April 30, 2013

All About Maps

These last few months, S has been all about maps. I think it started with The Scrambled States of America. I had bought it to help K memorize his states last fall. It lay dormant for a time. Now S reads that to himself daily. 
A couple days ago, he began making Lego models of the states, including Utah and Texas.
He carries around a cookie cutter of the United States, and has requested I buy one for Alaska and Hawaii.
 I recently found this folded up world map and taped it above his desk. He's been happily studying it. "Mom! Antarctica looks like Australia!" He also spends a lot of his free time drawing his own maps.
Drawing his own maps.

 One day he took out our Landmark Flashcards (thank you Target dollar bins!) and placed all the U.S. cards on a map in the Scrambled States book, in approximate geographic order.

When I deep-cleaned his room, I took out the books in his middle school/toy bin. I told him it was now his maps bin, and asked him to put all his maps in it. He remembered his cookie cutter and his Lego states. 
Our fabric map also goes there. We've enjoyed it for a long time. Recently, however, S pointed out that the shape of Kuwait on the fabric map did not match the shape on our flashcard of the Kuwait City Towers.

Cory is home sick. Seeing S's flurry of mapmaking, he introduced him to Google Maps. "We're in Russia!" S exclaimed when I walked by the pair.
All of this (excepting Google Maps) was his own studying, his own projects. None of this was "assigned." If we ever end up homeschooling him--you know--for "real," I think he's a good candidate for Project-Based Homeschooling.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Trust on Two Wheels

Notice the look of terror on her face.
I think whomever coined the phrase "as easy as riding a bike" never taught reluctant kids to do it. We took M.'s training wheels off last summer. She was doing beautifully. Unfortunately, she wore shorts that day, so when she took the inevitable little crash, she had a lightly skinned knee. Traumatized, she ordered her training wheels back on.
Well, enough is enough. We have 3 kids to get off of training wheels, and since hers got bent out of shape anyway, she gets to be the first.
Cory, who taught himself how to ride a bike, thinks everyone should be able to do it that way. After all, it worked for T., who took off his own training wheels one morning about 2 years ago.
After the first afternoon, it has been my job to jog along with her. She will only go if I promise not to let go. Still, practice makes perfect. She is slowly getting over her fear of 2-wheeling it. She has learned how to mount her bike and start the peddles going, and finally realized she can tip-toe along the pavement while in her seat.
I'm hoping it only takes a couple more practice sessions before she's on her own . . . this time for good.

Making Muffins

S. kept asking me if we were going to make muffins. I was busy. He took the initiative.
He got out the muffin pan and lined it with papers. He got out two mixing bowls, announcing one was for dry ingredients, one was for wet ingredients.
 He opened the cupboard and chose his recipe: applesauce muffins. He read the first three ingredients and carefully measured them into the bowl, even successfully cracking an egg. (I came over and cracked the second egg).
By now he had my attention, and I guided him through the dry ingredients, showing him how to level-off the flour with a Zoopals spreader. He whisked the dry ingredients together. Once he was done stirring, I let him have a few chocolate chips so I could put the first muffins in their papers neatly. Then he joined me for a few turns.
Taking personal initiative to do good is one of the most important qualities I have wanted to see in my children. The skill to go with it is another.
I've never felt more proud of a batch of muffins.

The verdict: Baking is way easier than "we" think it is. This proves to me that if a child can read and follow directions, they can follow a recipe. There are really only a few skills to learn in baking: cracking eggs, measuring dry ingredients and measuring wet ingredients.
I'm obviously way under-challenging my older children.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Pinewood Derby 2013

 Last night was the Pinewood Derby. Our house has been focused on it for the last two weeks. Every year the Scouts come to our garage to design their cars and have assistance with all the major cuts.
This has become an annual family project, with even M. and S. designing and painting their own cars. Cory builds them out of 2x4s and buys official BSA wheels at Michaels. After the official racing is done, there is a free for all race, where M. usually beats all the Cub Scouts with her pink car.
 Cory takes the cutting and shaping of the cars very seriously, but the kids design them and paint them themselves. I'm hoping next year K. and T. will be more involved in cutting, shaping, and sanding their cars.

 Our 2013 Models:
K. had a modern Batmobile. Cory added the weights on either side of the top, which gave it a very sleek look. 
T. designed and painted a comet. He was the 2nd fastest Cub Scout, and quite confident in his skills. "Watch and learn," he told the Scout leaders.

M. has a low, sleek vehicle. She wanted her Littlest Pet Shop figurine to ride in it, so Cory drilled a while big enough for it. Every time her car got to the end of the track, the raccoon-kitty flew out, which everyone thought was awesome.
S. requested a remora. We had to look that one up. It's a sucker fish that attaches to the bottom of sharks and sea turtles. The googly eyes took it to 11.

Field Trip

Last week, T. went on a field trip to a museum. My husband took time off work to be a chaperone. Cory has chaperoned nearly every field trip our children have had. Realizing that made me more grateful than ever for the wonderful man I married.

I love having a husband who volunteers to chaperone our children's field trips.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Egg Carton Boat

I would feel guilty about buying eggs in styrofoam cartons if I wasn't always finding uses for them. Here, for example, it makes an easy boat (just cut the lid off).
Those adorable figures are from the Playmobil 1-2-3 toddler/preschool line.
I thought S would really like this. He immediately created a storm and the ship was lost at sea. Maybe that does mean he liked it.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Slow Cooked Barbecue Pork Sandwiches

Learning to cook is on our essential check-list for raising children. Not visiting the ER more than about twice a year is also on there. It's always interesting trying to come up with cooking lessons that fit both those bills.
This is what K. made for Sunday dinner. You can use a 3-5 lb. pork roast like my mom does, or make a smaller batch with 2 pork chops like we did.

Step 1
Place pork (defrosted, if necessary) in the slow cooker.
Pour in enough root beer to cover the pork.
Add 1-2 tsp. garlic salt.
Cook on low for 8-10 hours.

Step 2
Move the pork to a plate.
Shred using two forks.
 Transfer to a bowl.
Add honey hickory barbecue sauce.

Step 3
Fill rolls. Serve with a fruit or veggie
and leftover root beer.

The verdict: This recipe is great for entry level cooks. The most difficult parts were defrosting the pork and stirring in the barbecue sauce. Not all the kids loved it, but I think it's a keeper anyway.

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Fishing Pier

Well, I guess I should have checked the weather report.
It had been mid-70s all week. We finally had a chance to go to the beach, so we grabbed the kids and left. 
Turns out the weather had dropped, and it was very windy at the beach. We walked out on the fishing pier, just to say we had done something, then took the kids out to pizza instead. Maybe we'll try again in a few weeks, after I check the weather report.
S. found a great windbreak in the high back of a bench.

Shivering on the fishing pier.