Nov 19th, 2014 by Alicia
Sorry to be such a lax blogger lately! Life has been frantic, as usual. I’m still working on balancing the blogs with my columns with homeschooling 5 kids and all of my home duties. At least it keeps life interesting!
Here are a few ways we’ve learned through life lately…….
1. We’ve had our first real snow and cold of the winter. Toria and Alex went out and built an impressive snow fort with blocks made from a 5 gallon bucket. The walls are about 18 inches high now (it’s got a huge circumference, like igloo sized!) and I think they’re hoping for a huge snowfall and help make more snow. I personally am not! Perhaps I’ll ask them to figure out its square feet once it’s done. Tricky, eh?
2. The kids all fell in love with a free math site online (I wrote about it here) and they all begged to upgrade to premium memberships, which would have cost a fortune. I found out that there’s a group rate that’s far cheaper and ended up taking over a group buy that was a monumental amount of work but I was able to get all four of my big kids premium memberships. Even my teenagers wanted in on it even though it technically goes to 8th grade (it’s a lot like Pokemon and they have fun doing it with their younger siblings). I figure extra math practice never hurt anybody. They are now spending a ton of time doing math willingly so it was worth it to me!
3. We went to Sioux Falls yesterday to look for new (to us) winter boots for the kids and to run errands. We have a zoo membership, so Daryl took the kids to the zoo while I was at an appointment.
4. Fiona napped in the car on the way home and that always means she won’t fall asleep at bedtime. She was up until some insane hour (2 a.m. or so!) and Toria took her downstairs and read her dozens of picture books so that Daryl and I could sleep. Bless her heart, she came down from her bedroom and held out her arms to our bouncy Fiona, and told me “I stay up later anyway, Mom, and you have to get up early. This way you can get some sleep.” Sometimes teenagers are pretty awesome!
5. I suggested to Toria and Anna that they could each self publish a Kindle book for a homeschool project this semester. It would give them writing experience but also work experience and a skill that they could use well in life to earn extra money. I gave them the task of researching how to do it and left it completely open as to what sort of book they want to publish. Anna is really excited and is planning on doing a book of her poems and may illustrate it with some of her poetry. Toria is thinking of converting a public domain short story into a play.
6. Toria and her dad volunteered at a haunted house set up as a fundraiser in a nearby city for most of October, every Friday and Saturday with lots of extra days thrown in. It was an elaborate, impressive set-up in an old high school that is now a community center. There were three floors of haunted areas and the basement was full of prom zombies. Daryl played a homicidal principal in one of the offices, and Toria and a friend played dead girls (they would do things like twitch or suddenly turn and look at people as they went by). They had a blast, and they helped with the clean up and the planning meetings for next year’s event. Toria made friends, she helped a great organization, and she got some pretty crazy work experience.
7. I’ve put out the art box again, and it’s been a big hit. The basic premise of the art box is that I keep a box or tray of art supplies that the kids can use to do anything they like. Its contents change all the time so there are new things to do. I also keep out a glue gun and the kids (other than Fiona) know how to safely use it. Jack has made billions of adorable little creations out of odds and ends (he uses everything from little wooden shapes from the thrift store to knobs to broken toy bits). I have to get some pictures of his creations, because they’re so fun. Toria made sweet little paper stars and multi-media collage projects, among a hundred other creations. Fiona mostly sticks little foam stickers all over things and cuts everything up with scissors.
8. We adopted a kitten and named him Boots. Our other two cats were rescues as adults from a shelter, but this little guy needed a home and I broke down and said yes. He is a real sweetheart, patient with all of the kids loving on him and playful. His mother is a Siamese and we were surprised that he didn’t look Siamese at all, so we researched cat genetics and found out that the Siamese traits are recessive so a part-Siamese cat will almost never look Siamese (and will typically be black and white or all black no matter what the other cat looked like). It was fascinating! We learned so much and I had no idea about any of it.
Siamese cats have a unique coat pattern. The gradual shading of the extremities is caused by a recessive gene with temperature-sensitive expression. The resulting pattern is essentially a heat-map of the cat’s body…
The albino mutation in Siamese cats results in a defective form of tyrosinase which does not function at normal body temperature. Therefore, dark coloration can only appear in parts of the body that are cooler than the core body temperature. The extremities are always the coolest parts of the body. The face is also cooler because of air passing through the sinuses. The back is warmer than the extremities, being closer to the body core, but it is also exposed. The result is a medium degree of tyrosinase function, resulting in a medium degree of shading
You can read this article (read the comment too!) for more about the genetics and science of Siamese cats.
Wikipedia also has some interesting info like this:
All Siamese kittens, although pure cream or white at birth, develop visible points in the first few months of life in colder parts of their body. By the time a kitten is four weeks old, the points should be sufficiently clearly distinguishable to recognise which colour they are. Siamese cats tend to darken with age, and generally, adult Siamese living in warm climates have lighter coats than those in cool climates.
We will be fostering his Siamese mama for the next week before passing her on to some friends who are coming down for Thanksgiving and will be adopting her.
9. I’m still involving the kids in as much cooking as possible, hoping they will enter adulthood really knowing well how to cook most foods from scratch. We were talking last night on the way home from Sioux Falls about a conversation I had with a massage therapist earlier in the day about how she needed to switch her diet on her doctor’s orders and was going grain free. I told her that soups and salads were good, easy meals sometimes where you didn’t miss grains and she said she couldn’t have soup. I asked why not, and she said her doctor said it often has added flour. I forgot that most people don’t make their own soup these days, but this lady is close to retirement age and had never made homemade soup! I told her how to make an easy broth and she was excited to try it, and then I gave her tips on easy soups to make from there. I consider cooking an essential homeschooling skill that is so important. Homemade foods are generally ten times healthier, cheaper and tastier. I have a Pinterest board of cooking and foraging with kids posts that Daryl has written up.
10. We got this free poster through the mail and I’m putting it up along the basement stairs. I’m a big fan of sneaky homeschooling with posters.
And the kids have done lots of reading, watching documentaries, playing with friends, painting, photography, computer games, LEGOs, drawing, thrift store shopping, nature crafts, listening to music, blogging, decorating, researching, talking, and son on.