Fits of Laughter

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

I cannot think of a happier sound than that of your own children giggling. Ahhh, to be so young and so free. Don't we all try to recapture that feeling throughout our adult lives?

This video is from a recent afternoon when Aiden decided to play peek-a-boo with Jack and Jack found his "voice."

Maxwell Marmaduke Rich

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Though he deserves a page of his own, I will try to give him ample billing here on my blog. He is very large, very sweet, and quite unique. From his multi-colored eyes to his pink and black padded paws, Maxwell Marmaduke is one of a kind. Living with Max is like having another person in the house. He wants to be wherever the family is, and likes to sleep on the kids' bed with a pillow under his head. He can sit on the couch with his rear on the cushion and feet on the floor (though this behavior is not encouraged). A celebrity in his own right, he gathers attention wherever we go. In fact, my husband wishes he had him when he was single...he's a total chick magnet.
When they see him, people often ask how much he eats. Truth is, he doesn't eat m
uch more than a lab would eat. We feed him about 2 cups of dry dog food twice a day. Then, of course, he likes to counter surf and gets his snacks by following the kids around while they eat. Still, it's not much considering his 165 pounds. I eat much more than he does. He drinks from the sink, and, when no one's looking, from the toilet.

Other comments we frequently get when we take him out include: "Why don't you just put a saddle on him and let the kids ride?" or "Is that a cow?" and often "What kind of dog is that?"

He is a Harlequin Great Dane, and though he is the size of a miniature horse, he can't be ridden (the kids have tried). We got him when he was headed to the local Great Dane Rescue after the family who purchased him as a puppy decided they could no longer keep him. He is 5 years old. Hardly a puppy, but still full of spunk...most days.

Learning to Let Go

Our Geography Project: Post Card Collecting

Sunday, April 27, 2008

For the past few months we've been swapping post cards with people all over the U.S. and Canada. We joined an online group called Post Card Kids and have collected some really cool cards. We have put up a map and we highlight the cities and states we receive cards from as we trade. It's great fun for the kids to get mail; they love to run down to the curb to collect it when they see the mail man coming! And I love that it's such an interesting way to introduce them to new information. We've gone way beyond geography and discussed history, weather and climates, seasons, famous Americans, transportation, mapping and distances, architecture, and the list goes on. We've discovered places we'd never heard of and lots of places we hope to see some day.

Our collection is growing and I've posted an album of some of our cards. We have tons more that I will add, just as soon as I find the time to scan them all and upload them.

This has been such fun! I think we'll keep collecting as long as we are enjoying it and learning new things. Next year I hope to add a flat Stanley collection to our project.

Mother's Day is fast approaching

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Mother's Day is May 11th. Don't forget your mom! Here's a cute idea for a Mother's Day card that kids can make for mom. Or, it could be adapted nicely for Grandma (or even daddy for that matter- his day is 6-15). I found this crafty idea on Hot Chalk. If you don't have a membership you can sign up for free. They have lots of great lesson plan ideas for various subjects and ages. Check it out.
Some of my other favorite gifts for mom can be found at Red Envelope.

Title - Mother's Day Cards
By - Angela Simmons
Primary Subject - Art
Secondary Subjects - Language Arts
Grade Level - K-4
Title: Seeds of Love

Construction Paper
Markers, Crayons, Stickers
Seed Packets
Optional - pictures of students
Scissors and Glue

1) Have each child fold a piece of construction paper in half and glue a picture of himself on the front. The children may then want to draw a flower or other pretty design on the front of the card as well.
2) Inside, on the left side of the card, have children glue preprinted copies of the poem at the bottom of this lesson.
3) Inside, on the right side of the card, have children tape a packet of flower seeds and write a message to Mom!

Be creative! Use glitter, foam, poster board, or make any changes you like.

Seeds of Love Poem:

These seeds are here for me and you,
And Mommy, here's what we can do:
Together we'll look until we've found
A spot to plant them in the ground.
With rain and sunshine, don't you know,
Our flowers, like our love, will grow.
A precious reminder our flowers will be
That I love Mommy and she loves me!

A day of history

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

We live in a very historically rich area in Virginia, and there is no shortage of historic sites to visit. We're minutes away from the Historic Triangle, which includes Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown. We love these sites and I highly recommend them if you ever have the opportunity to visit.

We recently took a day to explore a few lesser-known areas and it turned out to be a wonderful trip. We headed toward Smithfield and Surry counties and stopped in at Bacon's Castle and the Smith's Fort Plantation. I was skeptical at first that the kids would be interested beyond a quick look around because of their young ages (6, 2.5 and 8mos).

Bacon's Castle was the site of Nathaniel Bacon's Rebellion in 1676. When our guide started us out with a 15 minute movie, I thought we'd never make it through that whole thing, much less the 45 minute tour. But, I was super-surprised when the kids enjoyed the whole thing. Even the baby was good which is nothing short of a miracle for that amount of time. The movie was full of cool images of the house throughout many transformations and the guide was entertaining. He had lots of great stories to tell of riches to rags and ghosts and lovers. He made a point to include our children in the discussion and tour, which was fantastic. We had a picnic on the grounds, which include a garden and lots of open space. All the folks we met were very friendly and accommodating.

At Smith's Fort Plantation, our guide was also wonderful and full of fascinating facts. Smith's Fort Plantation sits on a portion of the land that was given to Pocahontas and John Rolfe from her father, Chief Powhatan, as a wedding present. This tour was shorter as the house is much smaller, but the furnishings were not roped off, and not to be touched, so it was a little less kid-friendly. Aiden tried to sit on a 200 year old chair and Bryn wanted to play with a doll that was at least 50 times her age. Then they spotted a wasp on the floor of one of the bedrooms and that became their focus for the rest of the tour. Still, we had a good time and learned quite a bit.
The gift shop downstairs is sort of a mini-museum and sells books, post cards, a period type home decor made by locals. Behind the house you can take a short drive to see the site where the Fort was to be built. It was started, then abandoned when the famine at Jamestown became a concern.

I've added photos from our trip to my slideshow if you'd like to take a look. If you get a chance to visit any of these sites you should. They offer many rich learning opportunities for all ages.

A few thoughts on beginning homeschooling and blogging

Monday, April 21, 2008

One of the things I love about teaching my own kids is the open exchange of ideas that happens between homeschoolers. I stumble upon so many gems of wisdom, great project ideas, fabulous books, fun websites, and more through the many conversations, web searches and group lists I engage in that it seemed a shame not to share it all. I have been homeschooling for over a year now. I am feeling more comfortable now with our choice, and less like I'm destined to screw up my kids education! I am no sage, for sure, but I have spent a lot of time on research, and if the information I share can help some one else then it is well worth my time to put it all in a blog.

Earth Day Lesson Plan Ideas and Links

This is a cool project related to Earth Day and involves measuring a tree, graphing, and several math skills. Be sure to check out the rest of the site for links to lots of other lesson plans.

The next one is for preschoolers to learn about how plants grow.

We recently raised a Grow-A-Head Pet. This is a fun project for young kids and the information that comes with the kit is very educational. The grass grows amazingly fast, so if you have a very young child who may not have the patience to wait for a bean or other plant to sprout...this one only takes a couple of days for germination. Plus, it's fun to trim the "hair." My kids loved it.

Celebrate Earth Day 2008

Sunday, April 20, 2008

We try to respect and celebrate our planet every day by recycling, choosing environmentally safe products, buying organic and growing plants together in our garden. We teach our kids about conservation and try to lead by example. We're not perfect and we don't own a hybrid (yet), but we do make a conscious effort to do what we can and instill a healthy respect for Mother Nature in our kids. This month offers a wonderful opportunity to build on the momentum of the Green movement by using lessons geared toward saving Mother Earth. To enhance our discussions, we recently took field trips to the Norfolk Botanical Gardens, The Virginia Zoo, and the Virginia Living Museum. If you are interested you can check out our pics in my slide show. Consider visiting a museum, park or beach near you to help your family get in the spirit of the Earth Day festivities.

Earth Day is Tuesday, April 22nd, but events are scheduled all month in cities all across the planet. To find an event near you, click this link:
Earth Day 2008 Events
This site has some great info on the history of Earth Day, lesson plan ideas and links to environmental sites:
Another site I love is published by National Geographic and includes tons of info, games, and activities related to animals, which my 6 year old can't get enough of. Kids can create their own web page by using the "my page" feature and post info about their favorite animals, then share it with family and friends. Check it out, it's lots of fun:
National Geographic Kids
A fun game for grown ups from Starbucks can be found here: Planet Green Game and did you know that Starbucks saves coffee grounds for customers to use in their gardens?...great enrichment if you are growing tomatoes this summer! Ask them about it on your next visit. Or, just save your own to mix into the soil when you are planting.
I've got to run now, we're off to a birthday party. I hope to post more soon! Please come back and visit!

My Daily Reminder Not to Yell at My Kids

Children Learn What They Live
by Dorothy Low Nolte
If a child lives with criticism,
He learns to condemn.
If a child lives with hostility,
He learns to fight.
If a child lives with ridicule,
He learns to be shy.
If a child lives with shame,
He learns to feel guilty.
If a child lives with tolerance,
He learns to be patient.
If a child lives with encouragement,
He learns confidence.
If a child lives with praise,
He learns to appreciate.
If a child lives with fairness,
He learns justice.
If a child lives with security,
He learns to have faith.
If a child lives with approval,
He learns to like himself.
If a child lives with acceptance and friendship,
He learns to find love in the world.

I keep this posted on my fridge as a daily reminder to be a good role model...even when everyone is whining, I've changed three poopy diapers, the dog has thrown up, I spilled coffee on our new carpet and it's only 7:30 in the morning!

I suppose it could also be titled: 11 reasons to homeschool.

So what's my story?

Friday, April 11, 2008

I am a native of southeastern VA. I was the middle child of three girls growing up in a Navy family. I attended public schools and hated every moment of it. My true love was ballet and I danced six days a week. It's what got me through the agony of adolescence. I have about two years of college credit and a Certificate in American Sign Language. (Glad I don't live in California...and yes I think I'm qualified to teach my kids.)

My work experience includes: clown (yes, that kind of wig, face paint and balloon animals), ballet teacher, nanny, retail sales, administrative assistant, and advertising production manager.

The most important things in the world to me are my family and friends. I adore spending time with my kids and watching them explore and grow. I have a loving husband who has been a wonderful support to me. We spend a lot of family time together and he is an amazing father. I also am madly in love with our Great Dane, Max. He's the sweetest and best dog any one could ask for (even if he does pace and whine during thunderstorms with a bed pillow in his mouth...this happens when the garbage men come too!)

As for my hobbies...they include sleeping, drinking coffee and now blogging. And I do love our family walks.

Ok, enough about me...

With this blog, and the website I'm creating...stay tuned for a link soon...I hope to connect with other like-minded parents out there and spark a great idea exchange on homeschooling and parenting. Please feel free to post comments and suggestions (kindly of course :P)


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