Monday, February 26, 2007

science fair, gardening, computer woes

We had our Science Fair on Saturday. It was organized by a small homeschooling group that mainly just meets for playgroups. I don't do much with the group but when I saw they were doing the science fair I signed us up. We tried to dye these carnations with food coloring but after waiting about 2 weeks they only had tiny bits of the colors they were supposed to change to. I'm still not sure what we did wrong. I was thinking that maybe the girls woldn't want to do the science fair since the project didn't work. Probably that was just my way of trying to get out of it! But they really wanted to finish the project, make a display board and go to the fair. I am glad we did. When I first asked Ellen what she learned from the experiment she said, "some expirements don't work." I got a kick out of that and we talked about how that it is probably a big part of scientists life having to figure out why things work and don't work. Ellen drew a great picture of a flower, rain and roots absorbing. Then Arianna traced over my writing for a title that they came up with and Ellen wrote one sentence about the flowers absorbing water from soil. It was a big success even though not how we thought it would be. The fair was very well organized and they even handed out certificates to all the participants (about 20). Daniel and his father were able to come and watch and we were all very proud. The girls even had to announce to everyone their age and name.

The main reason for William's visit was to help in the garden. He came down early Saturday morning with his little honda loaded down with bags of organic compost and fertilizer for us. Then he spent the morning helping us dig and get the beds ready. We were all outside and it ended up being a beautiful day.

There was one very frustrating thing that was going on the whole weekend--our computer malfunctions!!!! Our mac that we bought right before going to grad school has been slowly giving us hints that something is wrong. For some reason it seemed to start on my side and so i just left it and moved all my work to this hand-me-down PC from mom. But we couldn't avoid the problems any longer so we started really trying to figure it all out. Once we started digging into the problem it seemed that things just got worse. Now after hours of laboring over the machine (mostly Daniel doing this work) we are sure it needs a new hardrive. It's a little scary since we both have tons of music and PICTURES on the mac and there's still about 600 left that I couldn't transfer. Thankfully we have a warranty through apple so they will replace the hard drive for us but. . . we have had long talks about the problems of technology, lots of moments of complete frustration and tons of idle time sitting watching the "beachball" (kinda like the hourglass you get with the PC) just spinning! Okay, enough complaining, at least we are fortunate enough to have a computer and we don't have to spend money on it. We are seriously considering getting a back up hard drive in case this happens again and I would suggest that you do the same thing!

Friday, February 23, 2007

Gardening with kids and constellations

I have been so anxious to start our garden this year. It will be our first real garden since we lived in Boone and at that time the girls were so young and I really couldn't do that much with it. Now they are old enough to help and learn something and when they get bored they can do something else and I can keep working!! So now that we have a big back yard with lots of sun I am really excited about what all we can do with it. Claire recommended a book called Roots, Boots, Buckets and Boots that I checked out along with another gardening book for kids. I've read through both of them and gotten a ton of great ideas including planting a sunflower house (a square of all different size sunflowers with an opening for a door) and a pole bean teepee. They had other great ideas like pizza gardens and herb gardens--those are great books! I am going to attempt those first 2 that I mentioned. It's still too early here to plant those kinds of seeds outside so we have started some inside. The girls were out there with me just a few minutes ago and I burried them in dirt like I would sand. They had their sand shovels and were digging with me, then took off their shoes and played in the dirt--isn't that every kids dream!! Free play in a big dirt pile! I am very excited about the worms that I found in the bed. That means that the soil is okay:) We need to do some more work on it this weekend. William (daniel's dad) is coming down tomorrow to help us add some good stuff to the soil and get the beds ready. I've also got potatoes, onions, lettuce and spinach that I will plant this weekend.

This picture is of Ellen with some of her friends at the state museum. We had a program about constellations in that big grey blow up sphere that you see in the picture. The instructor taught is all about the night sky and the myths involved in all the constellatios. It is fascinating! I let Arianna stay downstairs in the museum with my friend Melissa and her younger 2 girls while I took Ellen and her oldest into the program. All of the kids that came (about 20 or so) are homeschooled and lots of them are in our playgroup. It was very comforting to see that Ellen has made friends here. She was holding hands with the other girls and it made me feel like we are settled in.

Friday, February 16, 2007

winter days

It's actually been cold here in South Carolina! It is so much warmer than other places, I know, but I can complain too:) We did go out to the park a few times this week but we couldn't stay long today because our hands got too cold. My mom came into town on Wednesday for Arianna's birthday but she had to leave early for a funeral and go back down to Mississippi. We've tried to make the best of these long winter days. Some of our indoor activities have been making valentine cookies, starting a science fair project that I'm sure I'll post more about later, lots of reading, and tons of dancing!! I got a great video of the dancing but it takes forever to upload.
The girls sipping hot chocolate in our "fancy" cups!

For our science fair project we added food coloring to the water to see what would happen to the flower. We have been checking them every day. They are slowly beginning to change colors. Our science fair is in late february so we are taking pictures to document the progress:)

Sunday, February 11, 2007


We had Arianna's birthday party today. We spent all weekend getting ready for it. The girls and I made little magic wands out of sticks from the backyard. I cut out foam stars and then I wrote initials with white glue and the girls sprinkled glitter on them. It was out homemade party favor:) to go along with the princess theme. We had about 11 kids and more adults. I was busy and didn't get to talk to anyone the entire time. I was standing gaurd at the trampoline making sure no one tumbled off or got to crazy! (i'm a little paranoid now:) ) We played a big game of hide and seek in the backyard. When it was Arianna's turn to count I had all the kids hide in the dining room under the table where the cake was. After she searched the entire backyard she came inside and the kids yelled surprise. Arianna's face was priceless! After we sang and ate cake and ice cream, all the girls got dressed up and played on the trampoline. They took turns dancing and I bounced around and played a few games with them. I thought the party was a success because we all had a good time and no one got hurt!
This was my 2nd try at the castle cake and I think it came out a lot better than the first. This one sorta looks like a castle:)

This is the new drumset from a friend of ours. She picked it up at a consignment shop. It just so happens that we've been drumming a lot lately. The girls are starting to get the idea of a rythm and they've been making up their own with some drum sticks that daniel made from the backyard. So, this drumset came at the perfect time.

We were really thankful to have lots of friends and family to celebrate with. Arianna got presents from her friend in Boone and Indy. We also had Daniel's dad, mom and sister Anna and Mike come down for the day. And thanks to Shael I now have Skype. If you haven't heard it's an online video call program. I bought a really cheap camera for my computer so that I can do video calls. We were able to call and talk with my mom who is in Jackson with our family there. Mom has been able to see Arianna open presents and we've been able to communicate through live video with my grandmother, aunt and cousins. It's pretty amazing!

Friday, February 09, 2007

Am I 4 now?

Those were Arianna's first words as she walked out of her bedroom this morning. She had her little feetsie pjs and her hair was all in her face and she looked at me with those big brown eyes with a smile. Today is her birthday and she has been waiting for this day for a long time. Seems like she's been 3 forever, but on the other hand she seems like she's so much older! I just can't believe my baby is 4 years old now:). We spent the day making a castle cake, decorating for the cinderella party on Sunday, dressing up, and dancing. My dad and s-mom in Baton Rouge sent her a bag full of the princess dresses with jewelry and head pieces! Lately they spend a lot of time (most of their play time at home) changing clothes in and out of leotards and dresses and doing dances.
This was the first round of gifts which started around 6:30 this morning. We wanted to open them before daniel went to work! We got her a carriage to go with her castle. Ellen gets "sister gifts" and ends up with a lot of presents for arianna's birthday too! I got her a little locking diary from the dollar store. she wrote about 5 pages of words. She wrote several months and other words off of different lists I have posted in the playroom where we do our "school work." She was doing it all on her own and didn't want any help! They both got a pink robe with the princesses on the back. I had to make Ellen take it off before going to the store this afternoon. She couldn't understand why it wasn't appropriate for Kroger!

This last picture was my desparate attempt to make a castle cake (vegan). It looked so easy online :) One of my problems was that I was letting the girls help me all day. It's a lot of fun to have them help and they love it but . . . things don't turn out quite the same as if I was doing it alone! Our friend Lily had a castle cake for her birthday and when I brought the cake out for us to sing to Arianna tonight Ellen said that Lily's was a "real castle cake". I guess that means that ours didn't quite make the castle status. It was tasty though!!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Tile floor all done

After scraping up the old nasty tile floor and patching the concrete subfloor I laid tile and Daniel put in the toilet. Wow, doesn't it look so much better!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

inspiring words

From Daniel:

I am reading the seventh book of the Republic by Plato. I found a nice comment from Socrates that I thought all of you educators would find at least interesting if not, I hope, inspiring:
Socrates: "Now, all this study of reckoning and geometry and all the preliminary studies that are indispensable preparation for dialectic must be presented to them while still young, not in the form of compulsory instruction."
Glaucon: "Why so?"
Socrates: "Because, said I, a free soul ought not to pursue any study slavishly, for while bodily labors performed under constraint do not harm the body, nothing that is learned under compulsion stays with the mind."
Glaucon: "True," he said.
Socrates: "Do not, then, my friend, keep children to their studies by compulsion but by play. That will also better enable you to discern the natural capacities of each."
Glaucon: "There is reason in that," he said.

YOU THINK? Often I am tempted to mold or guide my children while forgetting that there is an essence, a budding life, that I must first nurture and acquaint myself with, before attempting to lead. Socrates words caught my attention for that ingenious combination of simplicity and profundity. How can you guide what you do not know? Where will you lead what you are ignorant of? As educators we must first create an environment of life where the child feels free to begin to become. Then we must attune our senses to the recognition of the many and varied ways a child can become in order to rightly nurture and care for the way they begin to grow. Once we have "discerned the natural capacities" we can begin to provide a curriculum or environment further suited to those capacities.

This is obviously a very idealistic picture which would be almost impossible to implement on a "mass" scale in our current educational system. But I think Socrates' words speak well of the type of "education" are children need. At this stage it is the educator who is being educated about the child in order to later provide the education the child will need.