Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween

One of Macbeth's Weird Sisters

"I'm tied to a stake and I cannot fly!"
Macbeth mid-battle

A bloody Macbeth is helping
a Weird Sister with her makeup

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Geography Class

Great teachers, great activities, lots of learning about types of maps and then some mind mapping, too.


Monday, October 28, 2013

Dinner Time Math

Dad took over dinner time conversation with a geometry
demonstration about the relative strength of different shapes
in construction.  Super Dad!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

CA History - Mariposa Grove of Big Trees

Giant Sequoias are always impressive... and for me, always remind me of camping as a kid and being happy, dirty, sunburnt, and blackberry stained.  We had a great time.   We always do; we are a good team.  Told lots of stories of adventures with my mom because that's what comes up in the mountains and the girls noticed, with K commenting, "you sure did a lot of things with your mom."  Yep, and more to come, God willing, with K and G along and probably leading the way.  Their enthusiasm is fabulous and life can't get much better than being with them in this most-beloved place.

Cool history we learned: Galen Clark moved to Yosemite from a mining town in the mid-1800s because he'd been told that he only had a few months to live and wanted to spend his remaining time looking for the fabled big trees. He found these, lived amongst them, became Yosemite's first superintendent, and lived for another 56 years. Yosemite will do that for you.

One of the Sequoias that we saw had branches wider than Charles is tall - over seven feet!  Hard to imagine, but even the girls were impressed.

Our weekend was great, despite very cold mornings.  We woke up Saturday to 28 degree temperatures in our tent!  The good news is that this didn't dissuade my Yosemite girls; they agreed to try snow camping sometime soon.  What's another 30 degrees or so, eh?  We'll see...

Love this silly shot
The Bachelor and the Three Graces
By partial roots of one fallen giant
Gorgeous and plump (well, not skinny) coyote
My Yosemite girls!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

CA History - Sentinel Dome Hike

Ti-tuk-a-nu-la (El Capitan) behind girls
Love the Clark Range; makes me want to go, go, go!
The view that inspired my John Muir Trail dreams :-)
Half Dome and Nevada/Vernal Falls in rear
Precarious perch?

Amazing sunrise colors
Amazing and darling daughters

Friday, October 25, 2013

CA History - Wawona

Time for teacher training! A gorgeous weekend....
Inside the historic Wawona hotel,
the oldest continuously operating hotel in CA.
Posing outside the hotel

Fall colors on the river

Playing down by the river

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Sugar Skulls

In their Spanish class, the instructor facilitated sugar skull making. Glitter free, this time, as she is clearly wiser than I! Both girls were pretty happy with their creations and carefully carried them home. For once, we didn't ride our bikes to class, thank goodness, as drying took longer than we had to hang out.

They are funny about their creations. For example, they also made paper flowers, which they left class to proudly bring me. Each was determined to separate hers from her sister's, indicating some justifiable pride in completion. But by the time we got home (which takes no time at all), they had virtually no interest in either their sugar skulls or the paper flowers/decorative cut-outs. I tend to keep their creations in sight for a while, set them back out of sight for a while, and then, if there is no interest, make a decision about whether they are permanent treasures or temporary ones. I admire their ability to appreciate the moment of creation without feeling particular ownership to the product of that creation, which certainly helps our eternal battle with clutter.


Monday, October 21, 2013

Culture Day: Native People of the Southwest

Lots learned: our facilitator brought lots of information about both ancient and modern ways of the native people who live in the Four Corners region and the kids participated heavily too, sharing their own research and knowledge. They had fun making coil bowls in a traditional way that they can now decorate with inspiration from the art we observed.

  Afterward, we got into the sugar skull kit I'd ordered and had fun with the traditions of a neighboring culture, decorating Day of the Dead skulls together. The only problem was with the amount of glitter... our floor, hair, and possessions, and even skin now seem to have a bit of sparkle!

Sunday, October 20, 2013


Not. Ours. Repeat after me! Not. Ours. No matter how cute, how abandoned, how sweet. Not. Ours.


This afternoon, TRYING to attack the mountain of work I can't seem to get to, K interrupted me again and this time had an irresistible reason to abandon my pretense at getting work done: "Mom, there is a mother cat outside with two kittens." What? Sure enough, over the fence, in the ivy by the creek, there was a mama cat nursing two small kittens, curled up together outside a den we'd never before noticed but can see from our back deck. We watched them for ages. And then....

We had leftover chicken in the fridge from the unusual omnivore dinner when my parents were over last weekend. Maybe if we just broke it into bits and threw it.... And then what harm could come from a plastic bowl with some milk. Oh, how adorable. They found the milk and the chicken.... Now what? Now I'm going to worry about the raccoons all night long. We think that the house that was demolished nearby must have been their home; rumor has it that the man who lived there used to feed the cats. Ay! It is late now, but perhaps we will have to notify the Humane Society in the morning.

First tiny Lizzy the lizard and now some stray cats - I am a sucker but I don't live on a farm. Not. Ours. Right? Sigh.... Photos are cute, but in person they are even cuter....

A kitten postscript. When we returned from mass, the girls were REALLY eager to see them, but they were nowhere in sight. G asked her sister to "come play doll house," encouraging her by saying, "there is a correlation between when we play doll house and when the cats come out." Shows some flaws in understanding statistics, true, but impressive language use!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Halloween Craft Making

Daddy and K were outside watching the destruction of a nearby house, which was admittedly fascinating to see. (I want the job of the person who gets to operate that machine - totally cool!)  But G and I had enough after a while and while I tried to start on my mountain of work, she asked if she could do Halloween crafts.  I agreed and she self-organized:  thankfully, I've recently reorganized all of our craft supplies in our very small space to make them accessible.  (You know you are a homeschooler when you get rid of your linen to make space for craft supplies.)  She then asked me to take a picture of this paint concoction - a complete goopy mess, but also the basis for her swirling art designs, soon transferred to paper to dry.  She's happy.  Me, I'm proud, both of her creativity and of my own self-control in not limiting her mess making simply because all of that goop makes me tense.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Book Club! The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

For our activity, we combined Day of the Dead skull decoration with the Headless Horseman theme; no cultural connection, but an anatomy-based one!  OK, that was admittedly a stretch (albeit a fun one), but our discussion was rich.  Some of the kids liked the book, others (mine) didn't; moms were mostly in the same category as our girls.  We discussed setting, protagonist and antagonist, point of view, plot, character traits, and climax, all with the intent of discerning Washington Irving's message. 

I honestly had no clue when we began our discussion, for I had meant to do an internet search for clues through other's interpretations and so lead the discussion, but had run out of time.  And I didn't like the story - it is told from the point of view of a character I couldn't much like with no depth to the other characters.  And I didn't particularly like the writing - as beautiful as the elaborate descriptions are, they distracted from the plot (in my humble opinion) so much that I found them irritating.  So what WAS the point of this book?

What I didn't get, the kids did.  Our second-to-youngest participant latched right onto it, saying, "in life, sometime we are afraid of things that aren't real, when really there are real things that we should be afraid of."  Yes!  That insight led us to the conclusion that the main character was pursuing a fantasy though the preliminary parts of the book and just as he is hit with that reality, he is also confronted by a real fantasy in the form of a bully disguised as a phantom horseman.  That dual experience caused his flight from both fantasies and caused him to recreate a more authentic life for himself elsewhere.  Cool, rich discussion, thanks to the minds of most brilliant kids.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Super Dad's Science Class

Wow, these kids are learning things I still don't quite understand. Super Dad created a gadget to separate hydrogen from oxygen and then exploded the oxygen bubbles in class. Sounded like gun shots and our neighbor came running... fortunately not in anger, but in concern lest she miss the excitement!   The kids' interest is cool to see and they have voted him "funniest Dad ever."


Monday, October 14, 2013

Time to Plant Veggies

We scavenged some planter boxes from our Valley Verde class and G couldn't wait to plant. I finally told her that we would do it on Monday after we'd finished our school work for the day. She literally woke me up at 4AM asking to start her work then so that she could finish and get to planting. Love this crazy child, but I had to decline that particular offer, to avoid getting a crazy-mom-of-the-year award. But we did get it done that day and now have broccoli, cabbage, and snow peas (hopefully) growing.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

CA History - Back in Time: California in 1846 in Three Stops

What a day! On the road before first light and we were lucky to have no traffic all the way to Colusa, a good hour beyond Sacramento. We went for "River Days," which replicate the hunting and trapping camps commissioned by John Sutter at his Sacramento-based fort pre-1848. We went to five different stations where the interpretive folks stayed in character, describing their lives as hunters, trappers, traders, women-in-camp, or camp bosses. We then drove to Sacramento to visit Sutter's Fort, where gold was discovered in 1848. Learned a lot about Sutter and it was amazing to see the fort, too; many of the rooms of the fort are furnished appropriately and the kids had fun with a scavenger hunt that kept them focused on all of the rooms. Our final stop was in Old Sacramento to take an evening "ghost tour," which functioned as an orientation to some historical characters, known and unknown, while adding a creepy, ghostly, element. G clung to me as a few of the "ghosts" spoke; hey, I clung to her, too! All in all, a wonderful (if exhaustingly long) day!

Learning from the hunter
The women who took care of the camp
The trapper
John Sutter's emissary; the guy in charge
Showing the original CA flag;
some say the bear looked like a pig!
Sutter's Fort
Covered wagon replica - small!
Playing games from 1846 inside the fort
Fort jumping!

Stop #3 for the day: Old Sacramento
We started our nighttime ghost tour here; pretty creepy: bad acting, but good makeup!