Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Homeschooling Life :: Changing Gears - A Mini Semester

My youngest son has already finished his first term of 5th grade. Boy, that went fast! We have about 6 weeks before our Christmas break and since we homeschool the next six weeks will consist of a mini semester of learning. While we will still complete his daily work, (math, language arts, etc.), I'm changing the normal school routine by providing a few major differences to keep him engaged before the holidays. 

While change is not always a good thing for him, we've thoroughly discussed the upcoming differences to lessen any surprises and I've asked him about a few topics he might like to cover in addition to his regulars. He was very eager to help me make plans and he is really looking forward
to our new lessons.

Here's a peek at some of his additional educational experience and life lessons:

National Novel Writing Month (

November heralds this yearly festivity of writing daily to produce a novel within a single month. While my
5th grader isn't quite ready for this heavy writing load, I'm planning on adapting this wonderful concept to
meet his needs and my writing requirements. Each week, he will write mini books and 
learn how to develop the plot, conflict, characters, and even provide illustrations for each of those. 

A great book to kick off this writing lesson is The Library Mouse written by Daniel Kirk. The story focuses
on a mouse who writes a variety of stories that he shares with the children who visit the library and they, 
in turn, create their own little books to share with others. This is one of his favorites to read.

Art & Drawing

In addition to our artist study, we will begin taking a look at the works of naturalist John Audubon in 
preparation for our avian studies beginning next term. 

We will also work on creative arts via mixed media using several ideas and techniques presented by 
one of my favorite online art bloggers, The Artful Parent. She currently has several posts using 
natural fall elements with art techniques. Zentangling leaves in silver and gold is first on the list of fun
art projects.


Beyond nature study, I've got a plethora of great science experiments and activities planned to accompany 
our recent readings on Issac Newton and the adventures of Lewis & Clark. In regards to Newton, we will
be investigating matter, mass, friction, prisms, density, momentum, forces and more. Lewis & Clark's 
exploration has my guy interested in animal tracks, creating his own sextant, learning how to map
with the stars, and making his own candles. Check out some of my pins on Pinterest! 


My son is also very eager to delve deeper into the Native American tribes encountered by Lewis & Clark
during their travels. We'll spend more time reading up on the individual tribes and create a map depicting
tribal boundaries during Lewis & Clark's time. 

In addition, we will review the history we just completed in our first term and create an interactive timeline 
of events and people. I'm really looking forward to seeing what aspects of history he finds important 
to include on his timeline and why. 

Christmas & Winter Holidays Around the World

This was one of the topics requested to be covered during our mini semester and I am happy to oblige. 
I think cultural studies is always a plus and what better way to do it then through holidays and customs! 
We will start with Christmas and then work our way through the others - Hanukkah, Las Posadas, 
Saturnalia, Boxing Day, Festivus (just kidding!), and a few others. I'm hoping to find books in our library 
about all of these different holidays and allow him to find activities relating to them. Our children's 
museum is also hosting a program in early December about different Christmas traditions, so we
will be sure to attend. 

We will also read Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol over the next six weeks. My youngest has performed 
in the theatrical production of the story, but I would really love for us to sit by the fire each day and 
enjoy reading it together. I can just see him now, curled up with his cat and drinking hot cocoa. 

Handicrafts & Community Service 

My youngest is planning to work on several handicrafts before winter break, mostly making Christmas 
gifts, but he also wants to learn how to weave his own fishing nets like Lewis & Clark and create a solar
oven to cook smores. 

He and I have a special project we will be attempting, too. It's called Kokedama and it is the Japanese art
of enclosing a plant's roots in a ball of moss and then suspending the plant to create a small hanging 
garden. It resembles the art of bonsai, but it is much simpler and less time consuming. 

Throughout the year, we work on various community service projects. This six weeks, he will be 
collecting canned foods for the Thanksgiving Food Drive, as well as working on several other smaller
projects. We will also be filling 2 bags for the homeless.
I'm hoping he also chooses a random act of kindness he can bestow upon someone.

We have a lot to accomplish in six weeks, but it will be fun and interactive. I know we will both enjoy it! 
As we move through our lessons, I'll share some pictures, our activities, and how it all ended up. Hope
your school year is moving right along and don't be afraid to change things up a bit to keep you fresh an 
an educator and your learner engaged in their lessons.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

A Christmas Tradition :: Moscow Ballet's Great Russian Nutcracker

I love the Moscow ballet! One of my most favorite memories from college happened to be my front row seat to the Moscow ballet's performance of Swan Lake! I oohed and ahhed over the gorgeous dances and their costumes; especially every single hand sewn sequin and feather. Marvelous! 

Now's your opportunity to see them preform the Nutcracker in Shreveport on November 21st! My readers can save on tickets with this exclusive offer from US Family Guide. 

The Nutcracker Ballet is the ultimate holiday tradition and will create memories for a lifetime. The production includes over 200 romantic costumes and 10' tall playful animal puppets; shimmering colorful, backdrops splashed with 3-D effects; life-sized Matrushka (Nesting) Dolls and a puppet show for shadowing the Nutcracker Story at the opening Christmas Party. 

During the battle with Nutcracker Prince and the 3-headed Rat King, a golden cannon shoots roses! In the Magical Snow Forest an authentic Russian style Troika Sleigh, known as the fastest sleigh in the world, is escorted by Father Christmas (Ded Moroz) and Snow Maiden (Snegurochka) on their way to Act II. 

The Great Russian Nutcracker is known for its dedication to world peace with Act II named the "Land of Peace and Harmony." The first scene of Act II features a stunning "Dove of Peace" with a 20' wingspan and danced by 2 dancers each with one feathered wing. 

Be sure to get your tickets soon as they will sell out! All ages feel the spirit of the season at Moscow Ballet's Great Russian Nutcracker! Use the code JOY to get the biggest discount of the season for your family. Save up to $30 off ticket price!

For a Full Schedule of Event Dates/Venues and Times please visit:

Monday, October 5, 2015

In the Garden :: Pumpkins, Gourds, and Squash, Oh My!

October is synonymous with pumpkins, gourds and squash. Throughout the month, they are used for d├ęcor, the main ingredient of seasonal dishes and as children’s whimsical canvas for spooky designs. However, did you know pumpkins and gourds, as well as squash, come in more shades of color than orange or yellow?

1. Red Warty Hubbard 2. Jack-O-Lantern 3. Jack-Be-Little 4. Apple 5. Sweet Pie 
6. Cheddar 7. Turk’s Cap

With over 300 varieties of pumpkins, gourds, and squash grown annually, it is amazing to discern the color palette of nature: oranges, greens, yellows, blues, whites, striped, splotched, and spotted. Textures also vary greatly. Due to the close familial orientation of the three, it can often be difficult to tell them apart. All are members of the Cucurbita family, with each variety belonging to a different sub-category. It seems the stem is the primary way to distinguish a pumpkin from the group. If the stem appears woody and hard, it can be deemed a pumpkin. A common adage for determining differences often insists, “A gourd is generally something you look at; a squash is something you eat; and you carve a pumpkin.” However, I personally admit to eating more pumpkins than I have ever carved; therefore, I recommend taking the above advice with a grain of salt.
When visiting your local garden center this season, stop by the pumpkin patch and see what types of pumpkins, squash, and gourds you can discover. Children enjoy seeing the many varieties available (to be honest, adults do too), especially the Fairy-tale and Cinderella pumpkins.
 If you plan on creating your own pumpkin patch for next year, start planting seeds by mid-June to ensure harvesting by October as most varieties take between 80 to 125 days to mature. I would recommend creating dirt mounds about 10” to 12” in height to plant seeds. These mounds will allow for proper drainage and keep your seedlings from drowning. Pumpkins don’t require excess watering like watermelons; be sure to keep to normal watering requirements of most vegetables.
How does your family incorporate the natural beauty and deliciousness of autumn’s bounty into your household?

In the Garden :: Get Ready to Plant Wildflowers

One of my dear friend's graciously reminded me about Texas wildflower planting season. Every year and with good intention, I purchase wildflower seeds and forget to sow them in early November. By the time April and May come around, I find myself sorely disappointed in my wildflower bloom count on our property.

Planting wildflower seeds is one of the easiest garden tasks you can attempt:

1. First, choose a spot on your property that receives six or more hours of sunlight a day (unless you are planting a partial shade mix).

2. Then, prepare the soil by clearing the area of all existing growth. Sometimes, the soil may need to be turned and raked flat or if it is an area that hasn't be planted before, it may need to be lightly tilled.

3. You can mix the seeds with sand for better visibility and either sow by hand or a seed spreader, depending on your plot size.

4.Lightly compress sown seeds into the soil, but be careful not to bury them.

5. Water occasionally, but do not soak the seeds.

Texas/Oklahoma Wildflower MixSo, with her reminder this morning, I promptly purchased my seeds from Wildseed Farms located in Fredericksburg, Texas. I ended up ordering the Texas/Oklahoma blend in a quart pound bag for $9.95 plus shipping and handling. I truly love visiting Wildseed Farms in person whenever I am in the hill country, but I'm also thankful they have an online store available to the rest of Texas. They even have a mail-order catalog if you prefer that route.

I've marked SOW WILDFLOWER SEEDS on my calendar for November 1st, which happens to be the day we set our clocks back and change the batteries in our smoke detectors. Here's hoping I sow seeds, too!