Thursday, January 24, 2008

Cute joke...

How does a homeschooler change a light bulb?

First, mom checks three books on electricity out of the library, then the kids make models of light bulbs, read a biography of Thomas Edison and do a skit based on his life.

Next, everyone studies the history of lighting methods, wrapping up with dipping their own candles.

Next, everyone takes a trip to the store where they compare types of light bulbs as well as prices and figure out how much change they'll get if they buy two bulbs for $1.99 and pay with a five dollar bill.

On the way home, a discussion develops over the history of money and also Abraham Lincoln, as his picture is on the five dollar bill.

Finally, after building a homemade ladder out of branches dragged from the woods, the light bulb is installed.

And there is light.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

New Sites

We've found some new sites that the girls have enjoyed.

Georgia worked on fractions and decimals in the math section here

And she read about some Greek Myths at this site

Olivia worked on reading skills at

And read some stories here

Georgia has learned more about trees....learning about the various leaf parts and style (eg. margins or veins) She's learned about the history of Hawaii, King Kamehameha, and their flag. She's read about the nene and learned of their connection to Canada with this article

She wrote a paper on what she wants to do when she grows up. It's horse-related of course. I'll ask her if I can post it here.

We still have a couple more things to do on Hawaii, and then we'll learn more about volcanoes. (And of course that means making a volcano model!)

We've sent out more postcards to people around the country. So far we've sent postcards to Florida, Wisconsin, Virginia, Washington DC, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Arizona, California, New Hampshire, and Oklahoma. So far we've received postcards from Florida, Virginia, and Washington DC. We expect to receive the rest by this weekend.

Georgia has already read all the Pony Pal books she received for Christmas. She received numbers one through twenty-two of the chapter book series. I have ordered the remaining books up to the thirty-sixth book. I expect they'll be all read a month after receiving them! Right now she is reading a couple books from the library, Wild Horse Island, and The Young Black Stallion: Homecoming.

Olivia will have some new books coming, too. She'll be receiving the Amelia Bedelia series.

Gymnastics has been going good; both girls still enjoy their classes.

Georgia is making a horse book. We borrowed about twenty books on horses and horse breeds from the library. She has read most of them and we've only had them a week. She's made notes and I helped type and print pages on various breeds. We also searched the Internet for horse information and pictures to include in her book. We'll collect all the pages and put them in a three-ring binder for her to add to whenever she wants.

Olivia has really been doing great with beginning word sounds, and all the letter sounds. She's also been practicing writing letters and numbers properly. Rhyming, simple addition and subtraction, and sequence of events have been other skills she's worked on lately.

Google Earth

Last week we downloaded the free Google Earth program from

From their site:

Google Earth combines the power of Google Search with satellite imagery, maps, terrain and 3D buildings to put the world's geographic information at your fingertips.

  • Fly to your house. Just type in an address, press Search, and you’ll zoom right in.

  • Search for schools, parks, restaurants, and hotels. Get driving directions.

  • Tilt and rotate the view to see 3D terrain and buildings, or look up to explore the sky

  • Save and share your searches and favorites.

We have "visited" so many places around the world, and space! We've seen the Grand Canyon, the pyramids in Egypt, Stonehenge, and of course we checked out Hawaii, as Georgia is still learning about it. It's pretty nifty! It really makes the world feel that much smaller!

Hawaiian Islands

We actually zoomed in a lot closer and saw a volcano, beaches, houses, etc

Sunday, January 20, 2008


On Saturday, we had our Hawaii party. We first made some grass skirts by using green party streamers and tape. We also made some leis using construction paper, straws, and yarn.

The recipes we tried were Kalua Pork, Coconut Sweet Potatoes, and a Pineapple Upside-Down Cake. Kalua literally means "the pit", which is how it is traditionally cooked. With freezing temperatures outside....we opted for using our slow cooker instead. We also didn't have banana or ti leaves to wrap the pork in, so we wrapped it in aluminum foil.

Olivia helped make the Pineapple-Upside Down Cake! It was delicious.

We listened to Hawaiian luau music while we ate. The girls had fun dancing the hula. We had watched some hula videos to watch how it is traditionally danced. They made their own version and had fun! Push play on the video below to watch a little of their show...

We also wore name tags with our Hawaiian names. Mark's is Maleko, Sarah's is Kala, Georgia's is Keokia, and Olivia's is Oliwia. What's yours?

After our feast we watched a documentary called Hidden Hawaii which talked about the islands' origin and volcanoes.


Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Great Backyard Bird Count

This February, we plan on participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count, a project sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the Audubon Society.

From their web site:

The Great Backyard Bird Count is an annual four-day event that engages bird watchers of all ages in counting birds to create a real-time snapshot of where the birds are across the continent. Anyone can participate, from beginning bird watchers to experts. It takes as little as 15 minutes. It’s free, fun, and easy—and it helps the birds.

You can find out more information at their web site:

You can also learn about birding, birding tools, checklists, identification tips, and other bird related information.

They also have a page for kids where they can take a quiz, learn bird vocabulary, print coloring pages, and learn about birds in their area.

Thanks Mark, for finding this!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Postcard Kids!

We have joined a group called Postcard Kids. We have purchased some Ohio postcards that we will trade with other members from all states, and some foreign countries as well. We already have a trade with a homeschooling family in Florida! We hope to collect postcards from all the states, and then perhaps start a collection of state birds. I'm not sure how we'll keep the cards yet. I'm thinking possibly a photo album. I was also thinking she could add some to the United States book she is making. (All her work from studying the states is being compiled in a 3-ring binder.)
I love this idea. It is such a great, and fun, way to learn more about the states!

And more information about the group is here:

There are other postcard exchange groups that have a more worldwide focus, but we are going to start out with the homeschooling group for the States first.
Here's the postcards we have for trading....
(including the one at the top of this post)

Edited to add: Another we are trading cards with families in Wisconsin, Virginia, and Washington DC , too!


Alabama State Flag

We finished up learning about Alabama last week. After learning the geography, symbols, and resources, we learned a bit about the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Civil Rights Movement.

We read biographies about Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and watched the movie Boycott (2001), which told the story behind the boycott, highlighting the work of Dr. King.

Georgia has decided to study Hawaii next. She wants to have a lil "Hawaii Party", so we'll be doing that this weekend.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


We went to COSI in Columbus with some friends this past weekend.

Enjoy the slideshow below.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Nature classes

This week, both girls had their nature classes at the Nature Center.

Olivia's class was called "Chick a dee dee dee" and was about....well....the chickadee.

The kids learned how to look up birds in bird books, and different ways to identify a bird, such as it's color, region or location found, its song, etc.

They also went on a lil hike in search of some chickadees. They were out and about. They even saw some woodpeckers. Olivia brought her binoculars along to help her study the birds.

Olivia made some suet and black oil sunflower seed bird food to take home. It's in our freezer, we have yet to hang it up outside. (we need to get a suet feeder)

Georgia's class was called "Winter Wonder Land". They hiked in the woods and identified several objects. She told me that she correctly identified fungi and lichen when nobody else knew. Cool.

They also discussed the changes that a forest goes through in winter, and the change in animals' activities. She said there was a lot of deer droppings and tracks around. They hiked for an hour and a half!!

Both girls enjoyed their classes!

Trees and Forests

We have been learning about trees and forests, a topic Georgia chose.

Last year I ordered some free posters and booklets about trees and forests from International Paper. (
We have these hanging in our kitchen where we can browse whenever we like.

We've also borrowed about ten books from the library on the topic.

And here's some sites that were informative and fun!

Take a walk in the woods and learn something new.

Explore the secret life of trees

Read some Nature Notes about things you find in the woods. (And learn about poison ivy so you know how to identify it!)

Read about leaves.

Learn about the parts of a tree, different types, benefits, products, biodiversity, deforestation, flood and soil erosion, global warming, and acid rain.

Play the Acid Lake game to learn more about it

Identify what is made from wood.

And other products from trees

Find who lives in trees

Learn how to identify a tree

And learn what trees can be found in Ohio

Boonshoft Museum of Discovery ( has a whole section devoted to learning about the Mead Treehouse. We will be visiting there sometime at the end of this month.

On a nice day, we plan on taking a walk in the woods and identifying some trees, as well as noting their parts. We will take some pictures of a few trees and come back again in spring, summer, and fall to note their seasonal changes.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

It's Opposite Day!

One game the girls like to play is called Opposite Day. Someone declares that it is Opposite Day, which usually lasts about 20 minutes, not the whole day. Anything you say means the opposite. Like if we are eating dinner, they may say, "This is disgusting, I really hate it." (What a compliment for the chef!!) Saying the opposite of what you mean is not only fun for lil kids, but it also has helped Olivia with understanding opposites more.

What a horrible idea!! (wink, wink)


Pass the Plate

Georgia has been interested in world cuisine. She saw a mini-show from the Disney Channel called Pass the Plate. They take an ingredient, such as rice, and they show how people from different places around the world would use it. The site includes the recipes, as well as facts about the food. She's itching to try some of the recipes.

Food is a great way to talk about different cultures, and geography in general. She'll usually ask what type of food we are eating. We like to try different types of food; Italian, Mexican, Spanish, Morroccan, Thai, Chinese, Japanese, Indian, etc. The ingredients show what types of products are available in certain areas. We've also discussed the customs involved in dining. The girls loved the idea of sitting on pillows on the floor.....or scooping food with their fingers!

Here's a site that has some recipes from various places around the world.

This site tells about the country's culinary tradition:

From the Food Network's Cooking For Kids:






We plan on trying out some more recipes this winter. We'll have to take some pictures and share them here the next time we do.

Bon Appetit!


Thursday, January 3, 2008

Reading Time

Georgia loves to read. She has accumulated quite the collection of books for herself. We keep a list of the books she reads each month, and she also sets a goal for herself. At the end of the month, we usually give her a small prize in recognition of her reading acheivements. Usually it's a new book. She's also involved in the Book It program from Pizza Hut, and receives coupons for free pizzas at the end of each month. (Though we haven't used any yet.)

She's also visited the websites of her favorite authors. There, she can read biographies on the writers, check out other books they have written, or take quizzes on the ones she has read. She's even written to one of them to tell them how much she loved their books.

Today, she made an account at Book Adventure. ( She took some quizzes on books she has read and earned points for each quiz where she scored 9/10 or better. She loved it! After accumulating points, she'll be able to choose a prize from them. Their choices in prizes included a free book, a magazine subscription, or a candy bar.

For Christmas, she received thirty books from Jeanne Betancourt's Pony Pals series. She's already read five of them. I love that she loves to read. She is constantly adding to her vocabulary as she learns new words from reading. She also loves to make her own books, too. Her desk is full of her stories.

I hope Olivia will be as enthusiastic about reading as her sister! Her attention span is a little shorter than Georgia's. Sitting still too long is not her thing. This may be an age thing....or just her. We'll see. But for now we will continue to have reading time at night, cuddling together as we take turns reading from our selected books. Aaaah.....books!!!!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

New ways to help

I just wanted to mention a couple of new organizations that were added to the left of your screen under "Other Causes We Support."
At this site you answer vocabulary questions, and for each question you get right, they donate twenty grains of rice through the United Nations to help end world hunger. It is very addictive, as it is fun to see how many questions I get right, and it helps improve my vocabulary. This is a non-prophet organization and is able to run due to money from advertisers at the bottom of the screen. You don't need money to help feed's great!
Kiva is a non-prophet microlending organization that helps the working poor pull themselves out of poverty. With just $25, you can join others in supplying a loan to a small business in the developing world. The small business might be an individual, or a small group. You choose who you want to fund, for example, you may choose a farmer in Uganda who needs a small loan to purchase equipment which will help them grow their business. You can even receive updates on the business you helped and see how the money was used. Your contribution to their loan is paid back where you can either withdraw your money, or use it to lend to someone else.

We are planning on using Kiva as a project. Not only does it help teach giving, but also introduces microfinance, small businesses and entrepreneurship, and an opportunity to discuss the country involved in each loan.

Homeschooling Questions

In the past, I have responded to readers questions privately through e-mail exchange. I thought I'd make a post of my response this time in case anyone else is interested.

Carla wrote:

Hi Sarah
My boys are only 18 mos. and 3 mos., but I am already concerned how the public school system tends to stifle a love of learning. Researching homeschooling sites is on my list of many things to do within the next few years. I see you are in IN, right? I am in IL. I sometimes feel that homeschooling would be overwhelming or that I would not do it well. Did you lack confidence at the beginning? What do you do to feel competent at it? I would be interested in hearing more from you or direction to some good sites that discuss it. I will be back to see how things are going for you all.
Happy New Year!

Hi Carla.

We're actually in Ohio.

Of course I had a lot of doubts about my ability, and even now I still have days where I question our choices. I believe all homeschooling parents feel the same. But most days I truly feel we are making the best decision for our girls. The first year I overplanned everything, but by midyear we settled into our own style and speed of learning which was much more relaxed. The best thing I think you can do is to just do it, and remain flexible for changes in approach. Everyone has their own learning style, and sometimes it just takes a little experimenting to figure it out. But one of the greatest benefits to homeschooling is that you know your child. You don't need to have your child fit into a rigid learning can make learning fit them. And as they change, your approach can change.

The first thing I did after we decided to homeschool was to learn the laws of our state regarding homeschooling. Each state has different requirements. Ohio's is pretty easy, but I believe Illinois is even easier. I don't think you have to send a Notice of Intent, or keep records, or have an annual review or test, but you can search for Illinois homeschool laws on the Internet to find out for sure.

I also joined some Yahoo discussion groups on homeschooling in general, and on homeschooling in our state. There's a lot of helpful information in those groups! You can go to and search their groups with keywords such as "homeschool" or "Illinois homeschool." Some groups are purely religious, others secular. It depends on your tastes.

I also went to the bookstore and bought some books on homeschooling "how to." They were a nice introduction to a world I knew nothing about. And some had useful information. I also love books by John Holt, specifically "Teach Your Own."

We are generally of the unschooling variety of homeschoolers. That means that we make life a learning experience, we find important lessons in everyday life. We also follow our girls' interests. We do unit studies this way. For example, we choose a topic and explore all aspects of it. We read literature on the topic, learn science behind it or involved with it, create art, write about it, basically all school subjects are included. Most of what my girls do they don't realize that it is actually "school work" and that they are learning something. We all just love learning new things that it is very natural to us. It is natural for kids anyway...before they become bored with it in, say, school! I just make sure they have a lot of opportunities to choose from. We have a ton of books and hands-on activities. I search for web sites that they can visit that has information, games, videos, etc, about the topic. (Such as this one which is from your state.) We borrow documentaries from Netflix or the library, or watch shows on the Discovery Channel, National Geographic Channel, etc. They do like the occasional workbook, so we have some of those, and I print worksheets from the Internet, or create my own. And we love games! There's so much that can be learned through playing and having fun. And "field trips" are always a fun way to experience and learn about new topics. For example, if you are learning about a specific period in history there are a lot of historical places to visit that correspond to that time period.

Some homeschoolers subscribe to a specific set of curricula. They order textbooks and sit at the table to do their studies everyday. That's fine too, if the kids like that. And there's no worry of finding information for ourselves because the textbooks have done that for you. The only textbook I order is for math because that is my weakest subject. However, we don't always use it because we are always using math in real life. But I've found that even when I don't know the topic inside and out, we learn it together. Most importantly, though, I want my girls to know how to find answers to their questions. They are learning how to find look up information in books, on the Internet, asking a librarian, asking an expert, or doing their own experiments. We have a little notebook that we are always adding to. It is filled with questions that the girls ask that I don't know the answer to. We look for the answers together. I don't like to just say to them, "I don't know," and have that be the end of it. I don't want them to lose their curiosity.

I also check out for a general list of each grades "Typical Course of Study" to make sure we are including what the public schoolchildren are learning. You may be able to obtain a curriculum list from your local schools, as well.

Good luck!