Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Make Your Own Tempera Paint!

We love anything that we can make ourselves and art supplies are no exception. Making your own tempera paint is cheap and easy!  Win- win!

Make your own tempera paint

Part of our grammar curriculum involves doing picture studies periodically.  This has been a favourite with B because she loves looking at the different paintings, learning about the artists and learning more about their chosen medium.  It's a great opportunity for us to step outside of the curriculum and follow her interests.

This week we looked at a painting by Andrew Wyeth called "The Master Bedroom".

The book mentioned that he used tempera paint which was often made by combining powdered pigment with egg yolk or other binding agent (like glue, water, honey or milk).  Tempera paint was one of the primary methods of painting until oil paint entered the scene. It was used on some early Egyptian sarcophagi decorations  and many medieval cave paintings in India.

We decided to try making our own tempera paint.  We used watercolour paints as our pigment because that's what I had but I bet food colouring would work well too.  If you happen to have some kind of powdered pigment, use that!

Separate your egg yolks and place them into bowls.  

Add pigment.  

Mix and paint!  

When it dries it has a lovely glossy finish.  It really does make beautiful paintings!

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

20 Non-stuff Gift Ideas (for the Minimalists on your Christmas List)

A few years ago, I shared our strategies for having a minimalist Christmas.  This year we're having to scale it back even more since the kids and I (that's FIVE people) are living in one bedroom.  We're a little low on space and there just isn't room for more stuff.

I think we can all benefit from having less stuff but buying gifts that don't involve actual things can be difficult.

So for all of you out there struggling with what to buy for the minimalists on your Christmas list (or for those of you who are just looking for something different) here's a good list to get you going.

The gift of a new experience.  
  • a trip to the zoo or aquarium
  • an art class
  • tickets to a play
  • passes to a museum
  • movie tickets
  • dance classes
  • tickets to a sports game
The gift of quality time.
I like to make coupons to give for this one.  At least they have something to open AND they can cash it in at their convenience. Just don't forget to actually make it happen!
  • go to the spa 
  • a day of baking cookies together
  • take them out for dinner
  • a sleepover
A gift of service. 
  • bring them meals for a week. 
  • help wash their car.
  • help organize their closets or basement
  • offer an evening of free babysitting

The gift of helping others. 
  • make a donation in the gift receiver's name 
  • volunteer at a local soup kitchen together 

The gift of prayer or good thoughts. 
  • commit to pray for them for the year
  • send them some warm fuzzies: write down all the things you love about the gift receiver and give it to them.  It's guaranteed to make them feel good. (There are tons of ideas on Pinterest for jazzing this up..like this, for example).
  • "Open When" letters

This is just the beginning.  The possibilities for non-stuff gifts really are endless once you start thinking about it! It just takes some readjusting of the way you think about gifts.

The bloggers of iHomeschool Network have teamed up to bring you more great gift guides!  Click the image below.

Do you have any other "non-stuff" gift ideas to share?

Monday, 17 November 2014

Confessions of an Imperfect Homeschooler

I am really good at showing only the good in my life.  The well planned lessons, the cute preschool crafts, the baking and painting in cute home made aprons.  I like people to see my clean house and my styled hair and my children wearing outfits that actually match.  Truthfully, I'm a little bit afraid to let people see too much of the real me because the real me can be a little bit gross.

Confessions of an Imperfect Homeschooler

Homeschooling has not come easy to me.  When I first started I pictured reading by the fire, bonding over art lessons and laughing with my children over a successful (and surprisingly clean) science experiment.  

But our days don't often go that way.

I'm impatient.  I can read by the fire for a half hour or so but I start getting grumpy after the third reading of Amelia Bedelia.  I get twitchy when my three year old refuses to draw anything without my help but then freaks out because the horse I drew looks like a school bus.  And I lose my cool when my four year old takes 35 minutes to get dressed.  

I'm distracted.  I have a million things running through my head at any given time.  I often have to ask my kids to repeat their question because I wasn't listening the first time they asked.  Sometimes I'm checking Facebook while they're doing their art project or I'm reading during what's supposed to be a family movie night.  

I'm kinda lazy.  We don't do a lot of science experiments.  They require a lot of set up and even more clean up and I'm just not down with that these days.  There are finger prints on the mirrors and at this very moment there are at least three loads of laundry that need to be folded.  Oh, and we have eaten more fast food than I care to admit.  

I'm afraid.  Everyday.  All day.  That I'm failing my kids.  That they will never learn algebra and that they'll resent me for it.  That they'll get sick of each other and not get along as adults.  That my husband will stop finding yoga pants hot and I will have to start wearing real clothes again.  That I'm not cut out for this and I won't realize it until it's too late.  

I make myself a lot of promises.  Tomorrow will be better.  I'll get up earlier.  I won't eat any chocolate.  I won't raise my voice when my seven year old starts whining the second she sees her printing worksheet.  Sometimes I make good on these promises.  Many times I don't.  That's when the guilt comes.  That heavy, heart crushing feeling, the voice that says I'm not enough...that the kids want someone better...that I'll never measure up.


That voice isn't my kids' voice.  They think I am enough and they want me just as I am.  These patient, forgiving, loving children don't hold grudges or remind me of every failure.  They don't notice that my hair is almost always in a pony tail.  They don't mind that I forget to do composer study most weeks or that I don't want to teach them Latin.  They don't care how dirty our couch is; they just know that it's a great place to cuddle.

So I thank God for homeschooling.  It is such a blessing to hang out with these four incredible little people everyday because I would do well to take a few pages out of their book.  They stretch me and force me to grow in ways I never knew I could.  

And that's the funny thing about homeschooling.  I thought it was all about me teaching the kids.  I had no idea just how much they would teach me.  

Friday, 7 November 2014

Anniversaries aren't always fun.

It's been a rough week.  A really, really horrible, awful week.  I'm exhausted, stressed, touched out and just feeling done.  I've been struggling to stay on top of school stuff, I'm behind on laundry, working on the blog has not been happening and the baby's sleep has gone from bad to worse.  I'm sitting here in sweat pants and a shirt with chocolate stains down the front (at least...I hope it's chocolate) and I haven't washed my hair in....a while.

Oh, and today's my anniversary and he's not here.  

Celebrating a long distance anniversary

In the past, anniversaries have been fancy dresses and high heels.  Dinners out. Gifts and hand holding.  Time alone.  They've been a high light in busy times. A chance to reconnect and celebrate.  A rare night out.

Not this year.

This year he won't wake me up with a sleepy "Happy Anniversary" and a kiss on the forehead.  He won't text me throughout the day to tell me that he loves me.  He won't give me a card with an adorably sappy note scribbled inside.

Instead, he'll spend his day in cadpats with 40 other guys (and a few girls), doing push ups and trying to avoid being noticed by instructors (because that usually means getting yelled at....and more push ups).

And I'll be here.  Wiping noses and kissing scraped knees.  Wearing my ever present yoga pants and likely hiding in the closet so I can cry and eat chocolate.

I think this not-so-great anniversary is a good metaphor for marriage.  It isn't always going to be a dozen roses, steak dinners and Hallmark cards.

Sometimes its realizing, after a phone call filled with awkward silences, that your lives don't have much in common these days.  Heck, I've never met the friends he spends everyday with.  I don't even know their first names (though I'm not convinced he does either).

Sometimes its spending the evening with a girlfriend who will take you out and commiserate.

Sometimes its crying into your pillow and wondering why the heck you ever thought this was a good idea.

Anniversaries won't always be a big, fancy occasion but we've still got things to celebrate.

Maybe its just celebrating the fact that you've survived a difficult year.

Maybe its spending time with the family that's stepped up to make a difficult time just that much easier.

Sometimes it's being 500 km apart and texting quick I love you's between the math lessons and ironing uniforms.  At least we get that.  Not everyone does.

So no, I don't get to celebrate in the traditional way. We are exchanging our love notes and gifts via Canada Post and text message instead of in person.

And I'm still celebrating.

 I love the man I married.  He is the coolest guy I know and he can rock a ring sling like no man can.  He steals my jokes so that people will think he's funny and he is actually a pretty good dancer.  He sings the "tooth brush" song because it makes the kids laugh and he cuddles with me until I fall asleep every night even though it hurts his back. He's given me four absolutely amazing children and he continues to be the kind of father they can look up too.  Overall, he's pretty fantastic.

It's been six amazing years and I am ready for whatever comes next.  It may not always feel like a party but there will always be a reason to have one.

Monday, 3 November 2014

The Slacker's Guide to Meal Planning and Preparation

Meal planning is great.  It saves you money, saves you time and saves you from added stress.  The only problem is that it takes time and it requires you to be somewhat organized.  This is great if you actually are organized and if you're good at managing your time but some of us aren't so gifted in those areas.  I've tried full out meal planning and I've tried winging it.  Both had there pros and cons.  After a lot of trial and error, I think I've found a happy medium.  Today I am going to share it with you.

So without further ado, I present to you...

Rule #1 Do not plan every single meal.  If you eat 3 meals a day, that's 21 meals a week...and then you add in snacks?  That's a LOT of planning.  When I write out my meal "plan", I don't write anything down for breakfasts, lunches or snacks.  We have a pool of favourites for each meal that we resuse throughout the week.  I make sure to always have the ingredients on hand for those meals and then I can make whichever one we feel like on that day.

Rule #2. You can plan suppers but don't plaaaaan suppers.  Give each day a theme and then work from there.  For example: Monday is chicken, Tuesday is pasta, Wednesday is beef, Thursday is crockpot, Friday is pizza, Saturday is leftovers, Sunday is fancy dinner (because company is coming).  So now you know that you're going to have chicken on Monday, you can make chicken themed meal with ingredients you have on hand.  No need to buy special ingredients that only get used once and no need to worry about running out of things before you need them.

Rule #3:  Keep a stash of tried and true favourite recipes (if you want to be super organized, sort them into your daily themes).  We have a list of about thirty suppers that we really like and I make then often.  I will throw a new recipe in there every week or so to spice things up but the bulk of our meals come from that 30 recipes.

Rule #4. Plan the night before.  What's tomorrow's theme?  Beef? Great.  Take the beef out of the freezer.  Look in your pantry, get inspired by what's there.  Decide what tomorrow's dinner will be.

Rule #5.  DO the prep work BEFORE supper time.  I don't know about you but our household goes crazy around 4:00.  Everyone is whiny and needy and it's really difficult to chop vegetables with a toddler hanging onto your leg.  I do whatever prep work that I can right after lunch because my kids always entertain themselves well at that time. Then I can just throw things in a pot (or casserole dish, frying pan, etc.) at 4:30.

Rule #5.  Shop smart.  Know which ingredients you use most often and make sure to always have them.  Be aware of what's in your pantry so you don't run out of staples.

Rule #6.  Whenever possible, cook double batches then freeze some. This goes well with rule #7...

Rule #7. Always have a backup plan! Since you're reading the Slacker's Guide to Meal Planning, I'm going to assume you're like me.  Which means that things are going to go terribly wrong at some point.  And since you're like me, you will use these times as an excuse to eat out or order in which is both expensive and unhealthy.  So always have a back up plan.  Have a few super quick and easy recipes that you can whip up if you set your stir fry on fire.  Or have some freezer meals set aside for when you forget to take meat out to thaw.

Rule #8. Reward yourself.  If you're doing all the meal planning, preparing and cleaning, you've got a big job on your hands and you deserve a break!  That could be eating out once or a month or making Saturday nights Mom's Night Off (make dad and the kids cook!).  Whatever it looks like for you, make sure you treat yourself somehow (like I am right now with chocolate ice cream and peanut butter...yum!).  You deserve it!

So there you have it.  How to meal plan without investing too much of your precious time and effort.  Because let's face it, we've got enough going on, we don't need to spend hours planning and making meals.  Ain't nobody got time for that!

What are your tips for making meal planning/ preparing easier?

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Why We Love First Language Lessons

First Language Lessons

I think I have mentioned in the past the my children do not like repetition, right?  Trying to get them to do anything more than once usually ends in a battle of wills.  This is super helpful in the home schooling environment where you, you know, review things in order to learn them.

After a LOT of research on grammar curriculum (seriously, I had dreams about this stuff for weeks) I finally settled on First Language Lessons for the Well- Trained Mind by Jessie Wise.  When I opened up the books and read through it, I started to sweat a little...there is a lot of repetition in there.  All I could think of were the temper tantrums and tears that were sure to come.  On the first day of school, I reluctantly pulled the book out and we did the lesson.  No tears.  The second day came and went.  No arguments.  The first week was completed without a single complaint.  Hallelujah!

Today was date night for B and I and I asked her how she thought school was going and what she thought of our curriculum choices.  Would you believe that she said grammar is her favourite?!  I know that sounds crazy because really, grammar is supposed to be no one's favourite.  But she really does love it.  And so do I!

So for the mom's out there who are worrying about finding a great grammar curriculum, here is my 100% unpaid, only-doing-it-because-I-really-do-love-it review of First Language Lessons (with bonus review by my seven year old!).

Why I love First Language Lessons

  • The biggest reason: it's easy!  The lessons are scripted so I literally open the book and we start.  There is no prep time, no cutting out or laminating, no memorizing songs and rhymes, no setting up games.  Simple.  Easy.  Perfect for busy moms (and lazy ones like me).
  • It's thorough.  We have been working on nouns since the beginning of school and let me tell you, she knows the concept inside out and backwards.  We've spent a good amount of time discussing each kind of noun in great detail and she gets it.   
  • The "Four Strand" approach: they use a variety of methods to drive the point home which keeps it from getting boring. There's memory work, copywork, narration and grammar lessons. 

How we use First Language Lessons

There are 100 lessons in level 1 and 100 lessons in level 2.  We usually do one lesson each day but have, on occasion, done two.  Some of the lessons are really, really short so I don't feel bad squeezing two in here and there.  The lessons take no longer than 15 minutes, even with enrichment activities that are sometimes included.  

B has a binder that we keep all of her school work in and there is a divider for grammar.  In here we keep the enrichment activities and colouring pages.  There is very little writing at this point so there's not much in that section of her binder.  

I do sometimes add my own activities to liven things up.  We do a lot of fun stuff to help memorize the poems. I often pull up the paintings in the picture narration lessons on the computer so we can see them in colour and learn more about them and their artists.  

Why B (the seven year old) loves First Language Lessons

(I asked her to give me the top 3 reasons she likes this curriculum.  I'm not editing her answers...its good to hear it from their perspective.  Plus its cute.)

  • "It's quick.  Lessons get boring if they take too long sometimes.  These ones are always fast."
  • "I like looking at the pictures.  Especially when mom puts them on the computer so we can see the colours and we get to make up stories about them."
  • "I like memorizing the poems because we can yell."
So there you have it.  We both love First Language Lessons.  If you're looking for something quick and easy while still being thorough, I highly recommend checking these books out! 

I just want to reiterate that I have, in no way, been compensated for this review.  When I was researching curriculum last year, I really appreciated all the reviews out there in internetland.  I just wanted to pay it forward!

But wait!  There's more...(said in a cheesy infomercial voice)

I've put together some vintage-y colouring pages to go with the poems.  After B successfully recites a poem she gets to colour it's page and put it in her binder.  She loves any excuse to colour and sometimes it serves as motivation when she's dragging her heels a little.   If you would like to use them, please click the image below.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

This Week in Preschool: Thanksgiving Theme

This week was our Thanksgiving Theme in Preschool.  It's a little early for you American readers but us Canadians are celebrating this weekend.  I'll enjoy some turkey and stuffing for you. ;)

Preschool Thanksgiving Theme
Thanksgiving is... - Gail Gibbons
A Pioneer Thanksgiving- Barbara Greenwood
One is a Feast for a Mouse- Judy Cox
An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving- Louisa May Alcott


Using cinnamon play dough, we made turkeys.  Along with the play dough I set out card stock beaks, feathers, googly eyes and pipe cleaners.  

It was a short week for us this week because we spent two amazing days at a friends' farm.

Baking: That will be happening this weekend as the kids and I help grandma prepare for our Sunday dinner.  
Painting/ Drawing: I printed out this how to draw a turkey page for the kids.  They traced the steps in the boxes and then attempted their own.  

Craft: The kids have been very interested in plasticine illustrations since seeing it in a book last week so we tried our hands at that this week.  We made Thanksgiving turkeys. 

The worksheets I used for this week all came from this Thanksgiving Printable Pack.  We used the pre-writing, shape tracing and cutting practice pages from the tot pack. We also did a Turkey Do a Dot page

Don't forget to check out my Thanksgiving Theme Pinterest board for more great ideas!

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