Friday, January 29, 2010

Salt Water Taffy

We made salt water taffy this morning. I found lots of recipes online, I liked this site best, not because the recipe was different from others but because it explained the why behind the different steps and ingredients. It looks like a great site for some more exploring as well.

The kids helped me with the taffy; my 1 cup measuring scoop was dirty (actually, it's currently in use as a laundry detergent scoop...) so we used the 1/2 cup scoop--Lily had no trouble figuring out that 2 cups of sugar would take 4 1/2 cup scoops. Cooking is great for practicing all kinds of math--lots of fractions, multiplication, division, telling time ("this says cook for 20 minutes and it's 9:45 right now, when will it be done?"), conversions between measuring systems, weights and mass, almost any basic math you want to incorporate.

I thought the kids would enjoy pulling the taffy, but only Esther tried it--the older two didn't want to get their hands buttery/sticky--that apparently was mom's job! I enjoyed watching the taffy turn from a transparent honey color to a creamy white as the air bubbles were incorporated through pulling.

Now I've got to decide what to do with the taffy. There's way more than I want my family eating, I guess we'd better distribute some to neighbours!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Morning Devotionals

This week I have been reminded once again that our day goes much more smoothly when we start it off with a morning devotional. I know this is true for my personal devotions--if I spend some time studying my scriptures in the morning, the rest of the day just seems to flow better. I have discovered the same is true for the children.
Last year, I established the habit of having a morning devotional time together either during or immediately after breakfast. I can't say we did it every day, but often enough that the children have come to expect it. I notice now that on days when devotional gets neglected or put off things fall apart pretty quickly--and if I sit down and hold a devotional time with the children the spirit in our home immediately becomes calmer and we are all able to focus better. I think I've learned the lesson--I just have to remember to apply it!

Home Management Binder--First Incarnation

I'm sure there will be lots of tweaking and modifying, but I think I've put together a tool that will be useful for me. Most of the forms and planner items come from Donna Young's website (tons of free printables). Here is what is in my binder at this point (italicized items I plan to add but haven't put in yet):

Schedule and Calendar Section
Master Schedule
Monthly Calendar Pages

Devotional Section:
This year's Sunday School reading schedule (Old Testament)
Book of Mormon 365 day Reading Chart
Homeschool Section:
School Year calendars for 2009-2010 and 2010-2011
Attendance Record (A legal requirement in my state--yes, my children were present every day)
Subject goal planning sheets
Daily task checklists for each of the children
Monthly reports from Simply Charlotte Mason's Online Planner. (This is my record of what we have done)
Copy of Private School affidavit filed with state
Copy of my teaching qualifications (another state requirement)
Copies of children's immunization records (also state requirement, of course I have their record anyway, but it wouldn't hurt to have an easily accessible copy)
HSLDA membership information
Schedules for Art Study, Music Study, and booklists from various sources.

Meal Planning Section:

Menu and shopping planning pages
Favorite Recipe section

Friday, January 15, 2010

Phoenician writing

We met with some friends for a small history co-op yesterday; we were learning about the Phoenicians and practiced writing on clay with the Phoenician alphabet, precursor to the Greek alphabet.
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My family has a tradition of making and decorating gingerbread houses at Christmastime, and this year my brother B. decided to put his own twist on the tradition. I wasn't there, but I was quite impressed by his creation. I have fond memories of visiting Stonehenge as a teenager.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Guess who said...

"You know, I'm warning you, as you grow older your memory grows less. I still have a very good memory, but it's a little bit bad."

Who in my household said this today?

"I stay here"

I took the kids with me to my OB appointment yesterday, at a new office that happens to be in the same building as their pediatrician's office. Esther recognized where we were the minute we pulled into the parking lot, and when I tried to unbuckle her and get her out of the carseat, she gripped the sides with her hands and said in a very determined voice: "I stay here". Guess she remembers all those shots at the doctor's office!
I did convince her eventually that we were going to see Mommy's doctor not hers, and she reluctantly came with me.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Luke is like me--he does his best thinking when his hands or body are busy. Honestly, I can't think at all if I am not moving or at least doodling!

Just now Luke was in my bedroom, cheerfully dismantling a small cardboard box with his hands and a pair of scissors (no, I don't know why...) and talking to himself under his breath. Suddenly he turned to me:

Luke: Mom, do you know what compassion means?

Mom: What?

Luke: It's when you see someone who needs help and you want to help.

And he went back to working on the cardboard box, whispering to himself...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Successful Homeschool Day

We went on our first nature walk today, and my kids were actually enthusiastic about it. Lily made a nice drawing of a flower, and while Luke didn't draw he did enjoy exploring. A couple of neighbour kids came with us, which was fun because they were enthusiastic too--there's one 8 year old girl who keeps telling me how she begs her mom to homeschool her.
At home, we did some math, spent some time learning letters in the Greek alphabet, did chores and made gingerbread cookies. I'm feeling quite content.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Enjoying a Six year old

Since I'm in story sharing mode, here's a recent Lily story. A 9 year old neighbour asked to borrow her scooter, and took it to play on the quad. A bit later, Lily came running to me saying this girl's 5 year old sister really wanted to ride the scooter and I needed to come out "because it says children under 7 can only ride if an adult is supervising". Intrigued, I checked the scooter and found a very small label saying that young children should only ride with supervision. You've gotta follow the rules with Lily around...

Enjoying a Two year old

This post is purely for my own enjoyment, and so I don't forget. A few Esther quotes from today:

This morning, as she tried (against my resistance) to wriggle her way into nursing position: "I want drink milk" Mom: "Would you like some milk in a cup?" E: "Nope, milk in mom!"

Just now, coming into the room demonstrating REALLY BIG with her arms: "I Great Big Toddler!" then: "I have claws, scratch!" demonstrating on mom.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Handyman Day

I've taken care of two projects already this morning and am feeling quite pleased with myself. The first was not really fixing something--more unfixing it. I'm tired of the neighbourhood kids ringing my doorbell all day, so I disabled it; I opened up the casing and blocked the plunger with a toy ( a duplo, if you must know). No more ding-dongs! I did put a note by the doorbell stating that it doesn't work, so please knock.
The second project occurred to me as I was doing laundry. My washer and dryer stand next to each other with the dryer on the left, the trouble is that the dryer door hinged on the right--meaning I had to transfer clothes around the open door. I didn't realize until today that the door is reversible; all it took was changing a few screws and hinges around, and now my door is opens to the left. Hurray for easy laundry transfers!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

More on the Master Schedule and a Penny Incentive Program

We've started implementing our Master Schedule (minus the schoolwork). So far it is going well. We've actually been sitting down to meals together, and spending a few minutes cleaning not just the kitchen but a designated area of the house after meals. I have an incentive program tied to this, and I thought I would explain how it works.

Basically, my children are earning pennies for each successfully completed "task" throughout the day. What earns a penny is up to Mom and Dad, although the children are free to propose "penny projects" when they are motivated to earn more. The idea is to have an immediate incentive for the things we want the children to do. For example, if they are dressed and ready for breakfast on time, they earn a penny. Another penny for appropriate participation during devotional (this means actually singing the songs and reciting the memory scriptures). After-meal chores earn more pennies--this has evolved to one penny for each area in which they complete their assigned chores. The kitchen is a designated area for every meal, the others rotate according to the schedule--bedrooms after breakfast, Living Room after lunch, bathrooms after dinner. I will assign a child something in each area. Today after breakfast, Luke helped clear the table, put away clean silverware from the dishwasher, and picked up toys in the living room. He gets one penny for the kitchen chores and one for the living room chores. Once we start school next week, the children will earn a penny for every workbox task completed. Getting ready for bed and brushing teeth also earn pennies.
All the pennies for a week go into a cup labeled with each child's name. At the end of the week, the pennies are counted. For every ten pennies earned, 1 is set aside for tithing, 1 for a family missionary fund, 1 for a family charity fund, and 2 for the child's savings account. The other 5 go into each child's personal spending account (well, jar...); of course pennies can and hopefully will be traded for larger monetary denominations to put in their jars. My hope is to keep the children motivated, and give out pennies freely enough, that they end up with about $1 dollar for their spending accounts each week. That would mean earning 200 pennies during the week. They can probably earn more if they try--that will be up to them. We haven't tried any kind monetary allowance or incentive program with the children before, so I'm interested to see how it works.
The flip side of earning pennies is of course taking away pennies. Pennies can be lost if a child is disobedient. For now, the rule is that any infraction that merits a time out also merits the loss of a penny. I haven't had to take any pennies away in the last two days, the threat has been enough to keep behavior under control. Children do not loose pennies if they are acting up because of overtiredness/overstimulation. It is intentional, knowing disobedience I am trying to curtail.
My plan for the family charity account is to let whatever money the children contribute accumulate until December; we will then contribute a matching amount (or more) and let the children decide how to use it.

So far, I like the plan. We'll see how it plays out in practice!