Sunday, December 11, 2011

Health, Safety, and Teaching Required Subjects

In NY State, we are required, as homeschoolers to teach health, safety, and the typical reading, writing, math, science, social studies. So far, I have found fitting the basics in, not only to be easy, but fun but health and safety on the other hand- well, lets just say, I have a love/dislike relationship with it.

Sure, I believe that we should be teaching our children about health and safety. In fact, I find it very important. My beef seems to be about finding good, factual information on drugs/alochol and sexuality. Thankfully, the UUA has a great program for the latter, and we will begin to use it this spring. (Our Whole Lives, OWL)

For the time being, I am focusing on germs, illness and body functions. My family is rather fond of The Magic School Bus series, so we will use it as a jumping off point to study about germs. I also found a few PBS resources useful, as well as a Dover publication.

I found a lapbook, not sure how helpful it will be, as I only scrolled through it.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Explorers: A UU Perspecitve

As a UU family, we approach subjects such as the exploration of North America by Lewis and Clarke, tentatively. We try to see what truth we can find, we try to see both sides of the story, we try to see the bad and the good.

It gets frustrating seeing the glossed over accounts of history being retold, when there is more than one truth to be told.

As we move forward, what account of history will our current events shape?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Taking Time Off: Do You Follow the Public School Calendar?

Many of our local schools took time off in addition to Thursday and Friday this week and so did this family. Often times, when schools are off, we are in session. Homeschooling (yes, I prefer that spelling)offers us the opportunity to take time off when it makes sense for our family, which usually doesn't involve the major holidays but this Thanksgiving, I noticed that the kids were a little run down, so it seemed to make sense to take a few days off.

Was that a run on sentence?

I find that when I listen to the kids and follow their lead, we all tend to feel better, have less stress and less arguments. Of course, as a family of five, sometimes it isn't possible to go with what one child needs, when the other two need something else but taking mental health days, time to spend with family, or just a day to ourselves, really does make for a happier family.

Right now, on our day off, the kids are watching tv, browsing magazines, and eating breakfast. Later in the day they will help me start the dough for our Thanksgiving rolls. Sure, chores will still need to be done, and we need to pick up groceries, but we will take time to just relax.

Happy Thanksgiving

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Building Community- Literally

Our blocks area took a mini-vacation back in the summer and then we got very involved in magnets, and science experiments but they have been missed, so out they come again.

The block area is a key part of children's developing sense of size, weight, space, structure, form, architecture, and exploration.

Blocks of varying sizes, shapes, and texture add to the child's building experience. We will add sticks to our block area.

I also plan to add letter/word blocks in the coming weeks.

If you put your blocks away to make room for other areas/play, consider bringing them back out. Your children will create, build and play all day.

Monday, November 14, 2011

New Ideas for UU families

Are you looking for new ideas and rituals for your homeschooling day? The UUA has printable materials on their website. UUA can be found with the link provided. From their, you can choose from sections, such as family, or meditations or various other links.

I was thrilled to find meditations and reflections that we can use as a blessing. I tried to either find ones that fit our current theme or the current season. Tonight, when we light our chalice, we will say our monthly blessing.

I also printed out the inserts from the UU magazine and added them to my planner by season.

As a UU family, you may feel like their aren't guidelines or resources available, but there really are so many from the UUA.

Check it out!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Being of Service

On Wednesday my girls helped make a pot of tater soup for the Occupy folks. We talked about the idea behind Occupy and why we were helping them. Then on Thursday we began working on our Family Fun basket for the UUCNC Arabian Nights Goods and Services auction.
We talked about how we can be of service to others, and help our community. Our next goal will be to collect goods for the local food pantry and Toys for Tots.

The girls also trick or treated for UNICEF.

This is how we create a Caring and Compassionate Home and Commuity.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Organization: Lesson Plan Ideas by Topic

This summer I pulled out the resources the girls had chosen to research this school year and organized them by topic into binders. This was my attempt at getting better organized and it has worked for the most part.

Here is the process:
Using web and book resources, I looked up the topics and made copies of the materials that I thought would be interesting.

I then put them in plastic sleeves and placed them in a binder.

I then picked up 12 baskets that I used to organize resources like books, toys, and related materials and labeled the baskets by topic.

If you have read this blog over the last year, you know that I prefer a Montessori/emergent curriculum/play based approach to learning, so it may seem odd that I have all these materials organized by topic. I agree, at first it felt odd, but after working with this approach for three months, I can honestly say, it is still based in the above while keeping Mommy sane. We still pull materials as the girls ask questions, but having some POSSIBLE topics in the wings, saves us lots of time.

I know I have mentioned this before, but it is worth repeating, I also utilize the KWL approach with the girls in the spring so that I can begin searching for materials. I simply ask them what they would like to learn in the coming year.

K- what KNOW about a topic
W- what you WANT to learn about a topic
L- what have you Learned about a topic

Sometimes we use all the resources I have pulled, sometimes we only use a few and still other times, we discard a topic because it really isn't working for us at the moment. The great advantage to having the resources set aside, is that we can always come back to them later.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

UU Parenting: Celebrating the Mysteries and Wonders of Life

As a parent who is a Unitarian Universalist, I celebrate the mysteries and wonders of life. One of the mysteries to me is the weather. Sure, science can explain it, but when snow shows up on your door step before October is even over, you must recognize the mystery of it.

I am sure you will shocked to know that we WNY/Buffalo people, did not receive snow this weekend but we did get a heavy frost.

As homeschoolers, I am sure you have stopped to gaze at the moon, not the size, color and shape but I imagine what really makes you smile is the shine. The moon shines. It glows, it fills me with awe.

This week we are learning about magnetism, and it has filled my children with many questions (many of which they don't need or want answered), and created in them the sense of wonder of the unknown- what don't we know about magnets.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Pinterest: Super fun waste of time!

Good Morning fellow bloggers! Several weeks ago I signed up for Pinterest, if you're not hip to this website, you really must give it a peek.

It is a site that works much like your home bulletin board, people post pictures, projects, ideas and information to the site and you can then create your own board dedicated to specific interests. It is a electronic bulletin board and oh so addictive.

If you are looking for new ideas for your curriculum, check it out!

If you want to see my boards, you can find me by typing aeress or if you happen to know my first and last name, I am searchable that way- I have a new board for UU activities and ideas, but don't have much pinned there as of yet.

Monday, October 3, 2011

History of the United States:Pennsylvania

We are very fortunate, my husband is attending a conference and we are tagging along, which will allow us to explore the state of Pennsylvania. Often times, when we study the United States, we are looking at the history that is often missing f texts, books and websites. We then begin looking at the history that we are familiar with, and moving onto new information. We do our best to see the whole picture, looking at beliefs, facts, information and sources.

I often struggle with the notion of true/false, right/wrong, fact/fiction when it comes to history. As a UU, I feel our religion helps us to see history in a different context, we try to see the "whole picture" as I mentioned earlier. Though there are some drawbacks, it takes time and energy to search out this information, and while we may do our best to search for truth and meaning, we are human and we will make mistakes.

So, on our adventure, we will document the history of Pennsylvania from various view points. Our first stop is this website Explore

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

New Materials, Ideas that are Montessori Inspired

Recently, I took over as the RE Director for my church. My first goal was to create several Montessori themed trays for the children to use during the nursery time. This month, the children explored trays with seashells, animals, and other sea life related items.

Tray 1. Transfer of Materials using Tweezers
The children moved small shells from the ice cube trays onto a silver tray using tweezers.

Tray 2. Seashell Sorting by Size
Small, medium, and large sea shells were placed in a basket. A small laminated mat with the words, small, medium and large. The children could sort the shells by size.

Tray 3. Ocean Animals
Whales, sharks, sea stars and other ocean related animals for the children to explore.

Tray 4. Pictures of Ocean Animals with Labels
This tray had two baskets. One which held pictures of ocean animals and the other held the names of the animals. The children matched the names to the picture.

These ideas could be easily replicated at home. The animal cards can be purchased through science suppliers or Montessori suppliers. The seashells were picked up during a recent trip to the beach. If you don't have shells, ask friends and family if they have any they would be willing to share.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Not Back to School for this UU Family

While others kids are already back to school, and in our area, the kids return this week, we will celebrate Not Back To School by doing some winter baking. We have been back to school since July but our activity schedule doesn't kick in until next week, as the kids return to dance.

I ordered some new books for the kids about being UU. I realized I had very little in the way of resources to help with giving the kids the sense that our faith is what grounds us as family. The UUA had lots of inexpensive books and resources. Once the books are in my hands, I will give a brief description and what activities we will use to go along with the books.

I hope your summer was full of fun, sun and friends! I am ready for fall and all that comes with it- apples, falling leaves and cooler weather.

Blessed be!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Monday Morning Material: Painting with Corn Syrup and Other Fun Mediums

Good Monday! This week we will continue our learning with some fun paint mediums.

Corn Syrup painting is pretty easy, you just add a bit of food color to a few of corn syrup and paint on paper. I recommend velum or something like it for painting. Max paper might also work. The paint if dry with a shiny surface.

Natural Dye Painting-
The kids will experiment with natural dyes like beets, blueberry and either fruits/vegetables to make a base dye for painting. We will crush the fruit/herb/veggies and then add a little bit if water and cornstarch to make a finger paint.

Milk Paint

Glitter Paint- Mix glitter into paint and brush onto surface

Try something new with the kids and see how it works, all kids love to paint, so give it a try.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Exchange Everday Article

Every few days I take a moment to read through my Exchange Everyday email articles, and this one arrived today.

Your Image of the Child
July 21, 2011

Service is the rent that you pay for room on this earth.
-Shirley Chisholm
Loris Malaguzzi, the founder of the Reggio Emilia approach, focused attention on the images teachers have of the children in their care. In his Exchange article, "Your Image of the Child: Where Teaching Begins," which is included in the new digital Exchange Essential, "Inspiring Practices - Part 1," he observed...

"There are hundreds of different images of the child. Each one of you has inside yourself an image of the child that directs you as you begin to relate to a child. This theory within you pushes you to behave in certain ways; it orients you as you talk to the child, listen to the child, observe the child. It is very difficult for you to act contrary to this internal image. For example, if your image is that boys and girls are very different from one anot her, you will behave differently in your interactions with each of them.

"The environment you construct around you and the children also reflects this image you have about the child. There's a difference between the environment that you are able to build based on a preconceived image of the child and the environment that you can build that is based on the child you see in front of you — the relationship you build with the child, the games you play. An environment that grows out of your relationship with the child is unique and fluid."

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Electric Company

Hey Guys and Gals you might want to check out the new Electric Company if you are reviewing reading skills, my kids have really enjoyed the show. We also printed out the teacher manual, and worksheets for further review, it is a nice way to stay cool on this hot day.

If you have netflix instant it is available. You can also watch the show on pbs, if you get pbs.

Electric Company Episode Descriptions

If you google Electric Company PBS you will find the parent and teacher guides.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Montessori Ideas: Stamping Spelling

So, to get out of the house for a bit and also search for a few new books, I decided to take a trip to our local Salvation Army. I picked up books as usual, a basket for those books and after eye balling a box of alphabet stamps, I purchased them.
I can see the kids, who already love stamping, creating words with the stamps.

One of the activities we try and cover 2-3 days a week is spelling. We don't do the write it ten times way of spelling, mainly we practice spelling outloud, writing on a chalkboard and working through words they want to spell. Our new stamps will also allow us to create captions for comics, birthday and holidays cards, not to mention spelling fun.

I also found book ends with a cork board end- these will be used for our push pin spiral cards. These cards are like walking the spiral or a hand labrynth, the kids will push the pins into the cork, moving around the sprial. An added bonus- if they are stuck on learning a new word, have them repeat the word as they walk, or move around the spiral. You gotta love the brain-body connection.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Tuesday Food Day- Homemade Bread, Raspberries

We are getting back into the swing of things, and today, after lessons were done we made bread. It is baking as I type, and I can't wait to slice into it. Two loaves of white. Yummy!

In the next few weeks, we will learn about the science of food. It should be a tasty exploration.

Currently in our garden we are enjoying raspberries.

This is why I love homeschooling year round, we get to learn within the growing season. The girls have watched as the raspberries ripened, what "everbearing" fruit is, and why ants can be helpful to the berries.

What are learning about?

Friday, July 1, 2011

UU Parenting Resources

I came across some great resources at our church, one of which, was a list of suggested resources for families. I haven't personally read these, so please be aware that while these look promising, you may want to see if you can borrow any of these from your church or local library.

UU resource suggestions for families
The Intentional Family: How to Build Family Ties in Our Modern World
Doherty, William

The War Against Parents
Hewlett, Sylvia Ann and Cornel West

Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting
Kabat-Zinn, Myla and Jon

Small Wonder
Fitzpatrick, Jean Grasso

**The Parent Trilogy:Three Programs for UU Parents and Other Adults
Morriss, Makanah and David MacPherson, Roberta and Chris Nelson**
This may be very useful, and I plan to either borrow this or purchase it.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Back to School: Our school year

Hi Everyone,
We will head back to school in July, since this allows us to take extra time off when we need to for family visits, vacations, and just needed mental health breaks. The kids have been off since the end of May. Our plan to start off slow, doing school work two to three days a week. We will start off by learning about Ants.

We will start off the year using our workbox system, our eclectic Montessori/Project based learning style, with unschooling mixed in. This rather patchwork system seems to fit everyone's needs, so we will go with it for the 2011-2012 school year.

So, here are some things we may do:
Learn about ants
read Hey Little Ant, and discuss themes around caring for the big and little in our lives. How caring for something as small as an ant is as important as caring for our friends, our neighbors and our world.

We will continue using the blue UU Kids book.

We will begin the year by reviewing our beliefs and adding new ideas, and beliefs to our wall. At the end of the year, we created a PEACE wall that features how to solve problems calmly, how we live our UU lives, and other related ideas. This is an evolving project.

I will add books to the blog list as we continue our year. I borrowed several books from our church to read over the summer. One is Unplugging the Christmas Machine, which we will also discuss as the summer turns to Fall. I want to incorporate more ideas on how to have a festive holiday without buying into commercialism. We also borrowed several kids book, one written by Nelson Mandela.

A friend of mine is attempting to do a pagan version of bible verses for her kids, and it gave me inspiration to consider making a UU version. I remember having fun learning bible verses as a kid, and gaining a feeling of accomplishment when I was able to recite the ten commandments. I wonder how I can create this same feeling with UU beliefs?

We will also continue using Ready, Set, Happy and other character building ideas. If you decide to use this curriculum, please consider giving a donation, they are a wonderful organization. The above link gives a one page summary for the program. You can google Ready, Set, Happy for the full document.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Monday Morning Material: The Giant Jam Sandwich

Good Morning and welcome to almost Summer Vacation. In our household we take off the month of June and begin homeschooling in July. In the summer we take a very relaxed approach, schooling three days a week until September, when we get back into the full swing of things.

One great way to enter into summer vacation is with a great book. I remember reading The Giant Jam Sandwich when I was a kid, it was a favorite in the family, and it opened up the world of moral stories to me.

Homeschool Share has a lapbook available for printing on their website.

Day 1-Strawberry Picking
Read story
Day 2- Jam making
Day 3- Bread Making, Make a Giant Jam Sandwich
Day 4- Learn about wasps and bees

Jam recipe to come soon

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Common Question: No, School Today Girls?

Today is our annual yard sale trek, where we hunt down school items, household goods and any fun toys for the year. This year we have gotten our fair share of, "no school today girls?". After a brief moment, I reply, "no, we homeschool."
Now, most of the time we get positive replies, but today we got many blank stares. I chuckle to myself, since I could ask the same question to the adult, "no work today Lady?", but I don't since 1)it would be snarky and 2)it wouldn't really set the right impression.

Oh well, it isn't that people are trying to be mean, or pry into our life, they are just trying, awkwardly, to make idle conversation while cashing us out. I imagine they secretly wonder how such a normal looking family, could be one of those weird homeschoolers. Never fear, we were weird before we started homeschooling, so if and when we stop, we will still be odd.

In case you are curious to our finds- 1)hour glass, 2)view finder telescope thing, and 3)chapter books

Now, we odd ducks are off to help our church with their yard sale- and no, we actually didn't have school today, we are officially on vacation until July. It is one of the perks of homeschooling.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Monday Morning Material: FInal Living Tradition

We will wrap up our look at the living traditions, at least in a formal way, by examing our last:
Spiritual teachings of earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.

This topic happens to be a favorite of mine and one I hold dear, so I imagine we live it in many simple, daily ways.

In fact, I haven't come up with a single activity or idea that stands out like in the previous weeks.

My mind does this: pottery- clay from the earth, maybe weaving- what about a garden loom, how about planting or volunteering at a nature preserve, cleaning up the beach is always a good idea, what about collecting and using herbs, how about a thankful spot in your garden- a place to leave treats for the birds and other animals, maybe a walk to look for animal footprints, of course writing to your representatives is always a good way to help celebrate life by protecting life.

See my problem? There isn't one way to go ahead celebrating the circle of life, or observing it and giving it the respect it deserves. I think our daily living reflects this cycle almost more than an activity. One area we are passionate about is preserving the harvest and eating foods in season. While this isn't always possible, given our cold, snowy winter- I do believe we can do our best to
show our deep gratitude and concern but leaving a smaller footprint.

And of course, one of the best ways to obtain ideas is to ask the kids what they think.

I know our family has enjoyed this adventure, I hope you did too.

NAEYC's Position Statement on Technology

The National Association for the Education of Young Children recently released their draft of the Technology Position Statement. NAEYC is an organization that is supposed to promote developmentally appropriate practice and play as two of its core values, but in recent years, that have begun to slide down hill and this draft, is another example of why I can't support them as a professional organization.
The draft, uses the same argument that many places, companies, schools and organizations use to push things on children that are unnecessary, "well, someday when they are out in the world, they will have to do it, so might as well start them young." This organization serves educators, parents and children from infancy to age eight. So you can see my concern, since they are supporting practices that will influence people who work with young children, NAEYC was the gold standard, everyone looked to them for guidance, support and for best practice models, policies and literature.

The Draft can be found on their website,

So When is Enough a Enough?

Technology with infants and toddlers is rarely, if ever necessary. My friend Faith, commented this, "Screen time for infants? I thought they need a heavy schedule of gentle body contact, interactive language, things to handle, and getting acquainted with their bodily functions. Where would tech fit into that? Same thing with toddlers, but then we add other children to the list of needs? Actually watching live squirrels and birds and flowers and.... watching people at work in the house and outside, exploring books, and a huge increase in spoken words. I used to use tech to find answers to questions, but also books, other people, and magazines. Just because they can use a mouse, doesn’t mean they should."
It is in my mind it is just plain wrong to encourage those who work with infants and toddlers to bring in and use "smart toy", e-books and other technology that removes the child from direct interaction with their world and their family/caregivers. Electronic toys are passive toys, they may be interesting because they blink, beep and move, but they offer little to no play value. When purchasing equipment, especially in these very difficult financial times, every dollar matters- daycares should be focusing in toys that help the child create the play for themselves, not the toy doing the work for them.
I am also greatly concerned with the mixed messages the document sends- on one hand, they note the very big disparity between those who have and those who don't, and then within the same paper, they comment on how technology can connect parents. It honestly feels elitist to me, and rather unrealistic of the life of so many parents and children.
Lastly, I am greatly concerned with the connection between organizations who are promoting technology and the research that was used to create this document. Personally, I find it questionable bordering on unethical to use such supporting evidence in your position statement.
In the last ten years, I have seen a noticeable shift in NAEYC's advertisements, their quality of articles and now, the addition of a technology position statement that promotes more technology in our children's lives, with very little, if any guidance, about appropriate ways, materials and uses. Sadly, I no longer feel comfortable supporting such an organization through my membership and feel less inclined to recommend them to others who are entering the field of early care and education.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

You Don't Have to Be a Homeschooler to Enjoy this Blog

I asked my husband if he thought this blog was too specific, I mean, how many homeschooling families are Unitarian Universalist? I sat and thought about this question and came to the following conclusion- Yes, I am limiting my readers by including our homeschooling status as part of the title, and my initial goal was to connect homeschoolers to various lesson plans and ideas, similar to Christian homeschooling blogs.

However, you don't have to be a homeschooler to appreciate the lesson plan ideas, stories and various UU ideas. As the new RE director for our church, I believe this blog can also serve to connect others to Unitarian Universalism. (And if you know me, I am not preachy on the subject, I won't try to convert anyone. HA, lol.) So please, share this blog with others you know who are UU, and let them know, this blog is for You/them too.
(Does this remind you of, "this buds for you" commercial?)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Montessori/Reggio Setting the Environment Idea: Sorting Materials by Color

Yesterday during a conversation with a very wise friend, I mentioned that I was looking for small pails to sort our colored pencils, markers and crayons into and she found me some from Oriental Trading. They look perfect! Originally I had hoped to find a wooden bucket or jar that could be painted, but it was difficult to find ones bottom stable enough to hold markers.
In a Montessori classroom and also a Reggio inspired, placing items like colored pencils into the appropriate jar helps set the environment, reinforce sense of color, and maintain a tidy classroom.

Friday, May 20, 2011

UU Spirit Play Conference Announced

2nd Unitarian Universalist
Spirit Play Conference
First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Antonio, Texas

Conference Dates: Friday March 2nd & Saturday, March 3rd, 2012
(9:00 am Friday through 3:00 pm Saturday)

Add-on Spirit Play Training: Thursday, March 1st (9:00 am to 5:00 pm)

Keynote Speaker: Sally Patton
Sally Patton, Ed.M. Developmental Psychology has advocated and worked for children with special needs for over 35 years. For the past several years, she has written about and conducted workshops on ministering to children with special needs in faith communities and on spiritual parenting of children who have been labeled. Visit author's website(s) at

Come and join other Spirit Play enthusiasts at the 2nd Spirit Play Conference for two days
in historic and picturesque San Antonio, Texas

● Attend two workshops to fine tune your program.
● Share your original stories.
● Connect with other church groups using Spirit Play
● Turbo-Charge your batteries to carry on!
● Optional Saturday evening famous River Walk dining event,
● Attend Thursday’s Add-On Spirit Play Training to get started!

Conference Site: First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Antonio
7150 W Interstate 10,
San Antonio, Texas, 78213 USA
Note: Directions from car and bus can be found at

Workshop Facilitators So Far:
Nita Penfold, Jennifer Innis, Patti Withers, Michelle Lee
If you are interested in leading a workshop contact Joy Silver, Conference Director odetojoy@...
Workshop leaders get free registration and home stay.

Topics to be Explored ● How to Translate Stories into Spirit Play ● Labyrinths and Spirit Play
● The Spirit of Love and Mystery: Awakening Theological Language ●Montessori 101

Registration Fees Conference:
Conference registration fees include two lunches & one dinner
Regular fee $ 195 USD
$20 discount each for 2 or more people from the same church
One Day (Friday or Saturday) $ 95 USD (no discount)

Add-on Spirit Play Training:
$ 125 USD with conference registration $ 150 USD without

January 15th Deadline for Registrations

For Registration Form and further information:

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Spirit Play Curriculum Using Montessori Method

The Spirit Play method uses the Montessori Philosophy: Based in a proven educational
method whose values support Unitarian Universalism:

Encourages independent thinking through wondering questions
Gives children real choices within the structure of the morning
Creates community of children in classroom of mixed ages
Develops an underlying sense of the spiritual and the mystery of life
Supports congregational polity through choice of lessons
Volunteers were found to value the program as part of their own
spiritual process

Monday, May 16, 2011

Monday Morning Material: Living Traditions Part 5

If you have been following the last few weeks, you will have noticed the theme for the Monday Morning Material centers around our UU Living Traditions. We have covered the first three, and now we look at:

5.Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit.


When the children aren't in the room with you, prepare your scientific experiment by adding water to a pitcher and placing 2 boxes of cornstarch in a large tub or container. Next, bring the children into the room and ask them to observe the two substances that you have before you. Ask that they hold their comments until everyone has had a chance to observe.

Pour some of the water into the tub, the ratio of cornstarch to water should be about 4:1.

Now, ask the children to share what they think the substances are.

Once mixed together are the substances the same or different? Ask the children if they would like to touch the substance. Is it wet or dry, solid or liquid?

Scientifically speaking, it is a non-neutonian substance, which simply put, is any substance that doesn't fit neutons law.

Scientists admit that they don't fully understand why cornstarch and water act the way they do, so it is kind of a mystery.

Enjoy and play with your Oobleck. If you place the left over oobleckon a tray it will dry out and you will be able to reuse the substance several more times before it gets moldy.

If your children watch Mythbusters, there is a great episode where Jamie and Adam "walk on water". Check it out, it is worth the visit.

A possible link in, watch the Sorcerer's Apprentice. I enjoyed the link between magic and science. Does magic exist? What about science? Can there be science that is magical, mysterious? I think it is important to tackle these big ideas with children.

Spiritual teachings of earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Can you DO Art with Babies?

I was chatting with a friend about art and the young child, the topic turned to babies, and I commented that babies "being in art is what babies do, rather than create art. They experience art in the world around by experimenting, feeling and touching, observing and doing, by using their senses. Babies are engaged in art mediums all the time- hot/cold, soft/hard/ light/dark. Maria Montessori also believed in exploring art with children through similar experiences- bring a vase of flowers into the house, take the child for a walk, let them feel the cool grass tickle their feet, bring in a basket of nuts from your walk for the child to see, share with them sculptures, paintings and your own creativity.

Art is a process not a product and as the child grows they will begin to experience the process of wet paint onto dry paper, wet paper and dry chalk, they will see colors mix and blend, they will strengthen the muscles needed to write every time they push their brush up and pull it down. All of this about being involved in a medium and not creating a medium and it begins with the baby who rubs a silky scarf against their cheek and likes the feel.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Give Away: Living Simply With Kids

Hi Readers,
I have several copies of some various and materials, so I thought I would do a
give-away ever few weeks between now and August.
To enter, please choose your favorite blog post from my blog. Write the title of the post in the comments section of this post. A random winner will be chosen on May 20th. The winner will be notified via email.

Winner will receive this book-Living Simply with Children: A Voluntary Simplicity Guide for Moms, Dads, and Kids Who Want to Reclaim the Bliss of Childhood and the Joy of Parenting

by Marie Sherlock

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Montessori Printshop- Well Worth a Look

I purchased several downloads from Montessori Printshop and I am more than pleased with my purchase. They have a blog, which is full of helpful information and ideas, not to mention that they have FREE items. If you have the time, I highly recommend checking them out, they are very reasonably priced and the download links arrives seconds after payment!

Check them out on facebook, it looks like there is a discount code once you LIKE them.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Monday Morning Material: Part 3 of Living Traditions

This week we will look at:

3.Wisdom from the world’s religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life;

We will read Each Breathe A Smile, follow recipes from the Tasty Bible Stories Matching Recipes book, and other resources.

This is one of the easiest parts of the living tradition because not only can the children grasp the concepts without much more explanation, and it allows us to pull some of our favorite books from our library shelves. What books would you recommend?

Additional ideas:
Find someone in the community who shares a different religion than yours and ask if they would mind sharing it with your children.
Observe a religious ceremony.

Books for Kids

Books for Parents
This is a great resource

Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God’s love by loving our neighbors as ourselves;

Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit.

Spiritual teachings of earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Introduction to Montessori Class

Over the last twelve months, I have been taking a course from Karen at Montessori Marketplace. This course has given me a great understanding of the Montessori process and Maria's work. If you are considering homeschooling or raising a child in the Montessori way, I highly recommend this course!

A new class is forming June 1. Email Karen at for more information.

Food for Thought Thursday- Pizza Burgers

In an effort to cut down on our consumption of bread or rolls, we try to either eat our favorite PBJ on a rice cake or try bun-less meals. Did you know a hamburger can be just a tasty without the bun?
Yes, they sure can. Purchase ground beef, grass fed is possible, and then dice up your favorite veggies, some garlic, a little italian seasoning and mix into your ground beef. Next, form into patties.
Cook as usual. When done, add spaghetti or pizza sauce, pepperoni and mozzarella cheese and cook a few more minutes.
The burgers taste great with a side of rice and green beans.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Observation Form

I created this document for our homeschooling year 2011-2012. We begin in July and as you can see I filled in a few sections with Montessori activities that will be available that month.

I am working on the following months this week.

BTW- The formatting needs some work in google docs...I will try to fix it soon.

Keeping Our Natura World Safe,Less Manicured Grass more Habitat

The following article appeared in our local paper. When we purchased our house over six years ago, the entire nearly 2 acres were mowed. Slowly, we have been working to bring the land back to nature, we allow our field to grow, which encourages more wildlife to return to the area.

We are also pesticide free. Syracuse Cultural Workers have a great sign that speaks to the harm pesticides cause.

Please consider purchasing any new plants from a knowledgeable nursery who supports native plants. Truly, dandelions can be beautiful!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Monday Morning Material- Part 2 of UU Living Tradition

2.Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love;

Our activity: Skin Tone Painting, Skin Tone Paper, Skin Tone Paper Dolls
We will discuss the many women and men who have confronted evil by showing great courage and love. We will make skin tone dolls to display these people in our room.

If you are not familiar with skin tone paints, crayons and papers, they are a great way to introduce discussion of justice, compassion and love. Children see differences in skin tones, in facial features but they don't see the difference as bad or scary but as interesting, and beautiful. Imagine how profoundly peaceful our world could be if children ran it- they show love all the time. As adults we must model how to show love by giving love. We can involve our children in activities that promote justice for all.

3.Wisdom from the world’s religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life;

4.Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God’s love by loving our neighbors as ourselves;

5.Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit.

6.Spiritual teachings of earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Montessori Inspired Activities

Studying and Labeling the Parts of a Plant

Scissors either vegetable sheers, garden or household
Flowers or herbs

Before gathering the flowers, show the children how to cut a flower close to the root or if you are wanting only part of the herb, show them how to snip off just a part. With the children, gather flowers or herbs to use in identification project. Place the flowers into a basket.(You may want to remind the children that they need to ask permission before cutting flowers from the garden.)

Once collected, place the flowers/herbs into a vase. A clear glass vase or jar works well, as it allows the child to see the stem as well as the flower. Encourage the children to observe the flower. You can also show them how to use a mirror to reflect the flower, this makes for a nice painting activity.

Later in the day or the following day, introduce the part of a flower cards. Lakeshore Learning has the above set, which I purchased. Using the stamp and a good resource book, help the children to identify the parts of the flower/herb, with their herb.

The next day, explain that you will now slowly dissect the flower to get a closer look at the parts. You could do this activity before the labeling activity. I prefer a more concrete approach before the more abstract activity but they can be interchanged based on the child.

This is a great activity to do throughout the year, as the flowers begin to emerge, as they flower and as they die away.

Food for Thought Thursday: Cooking Maple Syrup

Good Thursday All! Today, the girls and I will make a dessert that is sweetened with maple syrup. Maple Syrup World, has many great recipes. The Vegan Peanut Butter Pillows look great and we are in the mood for peanut butter, so we will make those.

If you happen to visit a state that produces maple syrup, consider purchasing it, it really is a tasty and pretty economical flavor enhancer, not to mention a more natural sweetener. We avoid high fructose corn syrup and traditional table sugar as much as possible, so recipes that have a sugar substitute like using agave or maple syrup, are preferred.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

He Ain't Heavy, He's My Student | Teaching Tolerance

He Ain't Heavy, He's My Student | Teaching Tolerance

I am just disgusted with people! Honestly, even though we are over weight (hubby and I), our kids are not. Even if they were, there is no way I would allow their BMI to be on their report card.

Food for Thought Tuesday- Community Supported Agriculture

As a UU family, we discuss how we care for the earth, and our community. One way for us to do this is through Community Supported Agriculture, otherwise known as a CSA. You can find a local CSA by visiting the link.
There are many benefits to buying a share from your local CSA. As part of our curriculum, I will ask my girls to give their reasons for why.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Monday Morning Material: The Living Tradition Ideas and Activities

Each Sunday, the congregation of our church recites our Living Traditions. On the weeks our children are in service, they do their best to recite them with us. I remember as a child reciting verses, singing hymns and participating in the rituals of the service. Our own children are growing up with this same weekly ritual, but I wonder, what is their understanding of them?

So, for this week, we will begin to learn about what the Living Tradition means to us on a daily basis. Given that Mondays tend to be rather slow in our house, I will find an activity that is hands on.

Day 1
Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life;

What a mouthful for a child, right? I know many adults who would struggle with this. Let't start with dirt. I think every child has experienced dirt, right? So, either head out to your backyard for some diggin, or use potting soil. Place the dirt/potting soil into a tub, like a dishwashing tub or if outside, loosen some dirt from the pile. Place seashells, stones, marbles, pinecones in the pile and cover with dirt. Allow the children to explore, dig, and investigate the many hidden treasures.

Pine cones, dirt, etc are treasures, mysterious items that are given a special place in all cultures. For young children they experience life as a wonderous adventure filled with spirit and life. While this activity may seem too simplistic, we must recognize that living simply, allowing our spirits to renew is essential to living. By participating in simple pleasures, like getting our hands muddy, we are connecting with the divine.

More to come

Day 2
Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love;

Wisdom from the world’s religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life;

Day 4
Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God’s love by loving our neighbors as ourselves;

Day 5
Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit.

Day 6
Spiritual teachings of earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.

So, lets start with a fun, simple but amazing activity- Goop. Good is an amazing substance, a non-neutonian substance to be exact. It is make with cornstarch and water, but for this activity, we will keep the ingredients hidden during the process. If the children have already encountered this substance, they may be on to you, and I will give an alternative activity.

Friday, April 22, 2011

A Day in the Life Of a UU Homeschooling Family

Today is Friday April 22, Good Friday
8:15 wake up and make breakfast- the kids are already up, but they let me lay in bed for a few extra minutes
Kids watch tv
I make breakfast, today we tried Crepes. They turned out pretty good and the kids said they were ok

8:30 Eating breakfast, the kids are watching Dragon Tales
I browse the webs, checking facebook, replying to emails

9:15 We decide to take the morning off of school and instead pick up the house
The kids actually got right to work, one dusting, one washing, one sweeping

11:00 We are almost done with chores, just the bathroom is left

11:30 Kids declare they are hungry, we wrap up a minor search for Gillian's lost sandal. Mission accomplished
Time to make lunch

11:40 The girls cut up colby cheese, and oranges

12:30 Mommy declares "rest time" and the girls head to their room for reading, listening to music and small projects. Today I heard them discussing "farts". Oh dear, fart humor already, I try my best to ignore it.
Mommy watches a documentary, today
I know some people probably find the girls too old for rest time, but I find it makes our afternoons more calm since we have all taken time to relax

2:00- Rest time over
We finish the bathroom

3:00 The girls grab a snack, today they are having sugar cookies we made yesterday. They ask to watch the King and I. They have become very interested in musicals in the last few weeks.

Today we discussed the following:
Overtures- what is an overture, why was it used?
Easter Plans- ingredients for our cake, rolls and what to make Grandma Finch who has celiacs

While today wasn't officially academic in anyway, we still learned a lot. We won't count today as an official attendance day, mainly due to fulfilling our commitment already but today was pretty typical of our life.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Education Reform: What Reform Would That Be?

During a townhall meeeting, President Obama was asked to address education.

2:41pm- EDUCATION QUESTION: Zuckerberg praises “Race to the Top” program. Used to be the Left saying more money and the Right saying let’s blow up the system, Obama says. We took 1% of total spending on education, to get it show us you’re reforming education, Obama says. Every state and school district could apply. You have to measure with data, he says. Over 40 states in the process of competing ended up initiating some of the most meaningful reforms in a generation, he says. Even those that didn’t win the competition. That’s a creative approach some Democrats and Republicans support. The most important thing to make a good education is having a good teacher. Recruiting, providing compensation and good data are important. Not just standardized tests, but real good data you can present to the teacher and say this child is falling behind.

What meaningful reform was done? States competing for education funding is not reform.
At least he got on area correct, having good teachers is important!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Food for Thought Tuesday: Bread

This week I bring you bread. Some call it the staple of life. I call it delicious. In a continued effort to eat healthier and eat organically, I purchased millet flour. I tried my first batch on Thursday, using 2 cups millet, 2 cups organic white, yeast, maple syrup and vanilla rice milk. The result was a rather crumby, dense bread, which the girls declared was "bleck." Honestly girls, it wasn't that bad. So, I decided I needed to try recipes that others have tested.
This one looks promising. It is for an indian flat bread, and it is gluten and dairy free.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Easter: A UU Story

As a Unitarian Universalist homeschooling family, we, much like many other religious homeschoolers, celebrate important holy-days, special seasons and do so in a way that makes sense to our family.

In a discussion group that I participate in, we have been discussing Jesus. The Easter Story is a story of life after death, the resurection but as a UU, what meaning does that have for us? So, I began searching for a story for the children that helped to give the sense of Jesus's life and death. I found this. I found it on a blog but it is originally from Jim Wallace.

I also purchased a Tomi DePaolo book,Easter. I have become a fan of his stories in the last year, and have used many of his books in our homeschooling. We also found a stained glass coloring book of Jesus, so we will use the pictures as a jumping off point to discuss the parables.

The Wiki link is actually fairly decent, especially if you are curious as to what titles he has written.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Montessori Inspired Lessons: Pencil Sharpening

Building Practical Life Skills: Pencil Sharpening

Most, if not all, Montessori activities are introduced via a lesson. A lesson is when the adult introduces a new activity by showing the child the parts of the activity, the necessary materials, and how to use it appropriately.

Pencil Sharpening

Pencil holder
Pencil Sharpener
Dish to put shavings in

Introduction: Ask the child to bring the tray from the shelf to you. Sit with the child and name the various items.
Pick up the pencil and the sharpener. Show the child the tip of the unsharpened pencil.Place the pencil in the sharpener and turn the pencil clock wise over the shaving container.Show the child the slightly sharpened pencil.

Ask them if it needs to be sharpened more?
How many times should they turn the pencil before it is sharp?

Once it is sharpened, place the pencil back on the holder. Pick up the next pencil to sharpen. Once completed, show the child how to empty the shaving container into the waste basket.

Give the activity to the child to begin working.

**At this time, in my current understanding of Montessori, this is how I view a lesson.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Montessori May Be a Good Investment for Many Childre

I believe a Montessori education can significantly affect a child's sense of self and create active, think out of the box, self directed learners.

Food For Thought Tuesday

After visiting another blog, I became inspired to add another section to this blog- Food for Thought Tuesday. As a homeschooling family, one of the most rewarding and appealing parts of it is the food. I love that we can cook together, creating healthy, well, usually healthy foods. As a UU family, we strive to use local growers and organic products as often as we can.
This week, I am picking up grass fed ground beef, no-gmo's, no growth hormones. So, this weeks Food for Thought Tuesday brings you a recipe for Mexican Albondigas Soup Recipe.
Thankfully, we have on hand most of the ingredients, so this recipe only requires a bit of shopping, as I haven't picked up the beef yet.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Monday Morning Material: Lapbooking

This week, I bring you a lapbooking Monday Morning Material. The girls have been working on information, facts and other tidbits about Massachusets. Enchanted Learning had a great little page filled with the state bird etc, even the state dog was included.
If you visit the site, you will find lots of print outs on a variety of topics. As we wrap up our mini unit, the girls made 3-D maps, and really seemed to enjoy the experience, so I decided to add another 3-D activity to our plans.

For this activity you will need:
Printer, paper for printer
Crayons or Colored Pencils

Print out enough copies of the planned topic (in our case the state of MA)so that each child can make their own.
As the children cut, you could review with them what they have learned about their topic.
Color the individual pictures.
Fold the very bottom edge of the picture so that it can stand up on your cardstock and glue it in place.

Added appeal- using magazines or other colored print outs- the child could add trees, flowers, grass to their card stock.

You could also hole punch the card stock to make a book out of this activity.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Music Education: Do I Need a Curriculum?

Today, I am seeking advice as well as writing a quick post. I believe most children are born singing,even babies seem to babble to a tune at times. My children, all three of them, will often sing as they work. Yes, three young children, singing different tunes, at different volumes, at different times. Yes, I sometimes need tylenol to get through my day. Be that as it may, I love that they have so much joy in their heart, that they want to share it with the world.
Last year we used a wonderful book and CD that introduced the children the composers, styles and time periods. (The book is upstairs, so I will share the title later.) They were quite enraptured with baroque music and some classical. It was something I could share with them, a passion of mine.
Still, I felt like we were missing something. I really wanted us to sing as a family, to learn how to read music (which both my husband and I can do) and get involved in composing. So, here I sit, almost a full year after I had this brilliant idea, no music program or curriculum to help us reach our goal.

Do you have any suggestions? Ideas for websites, DVD's or other resources? We live and work at SUNY Fredonia, which has an excellent school of Music, so that is one resource but I am looking for others.
Please leave a comment!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Monday Morning Material: Polishing, Cleaning, and Tidying

This Monday I bring you a cleaning and tidying task. Children who are engaged in shared household activities, such as cleaning, scrubbing and polishing, develop the habits they need to grow up to be capable and responsible young people.

First Activity: Cleaning The Mirrors
We purchased this polish.
Apply a thin coat to the mirror. Allow to dry and then wipe with a clean cloth.

White Vinegar Mirror Spray
Place white vinegar into a spray bottle and spritz it onto the mirror. Using newspapers, wipe streaks dry.

Cleaning Kitchen Cabinets

Bucket and Rag or Sponge

For this activity, I like to give the girls a tiny bit of soap, like Dr.Bronners and water, in a shallow bucket or dishpan.

You might want to demonstrate the activity, and how to wring out a rag before letting the kids start. Most young children use too much water.

Scrubbing The Tub

A fun was for the kids to help with this activity is to use a little baking soda, white vinegar and Dr.Bronners. The kids love the fizz. You can use old toothbrushes to scrub the tub, which makes it extra fun.

Sometimes, just trying a new cleaning recipe or store bought product is enough to re-energize myself and the children into cleaning.

I hope you enjoy these ideas. You can add a little peppermint or lavendar essential oil to the cleaning water or scrub, it really helps rejuvenate the house.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Monday Morning Material

I am adding a new feature to my blog to try and get more readers, the Monday Morning Material.

Monday Morning Material is a phrase coined by a professor of education at SUNY Fredonia. Monday Morning Material is something you can pull out when you or the kids are needing a break, or when it is a full moon, or when you are getting ready to introduce a new concept. MMM is a simple but engaging activity that is ready to go in a matter of minutes. MMM's can be a jumping off point or a one time activity.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Vacation, Stay-Cation, Experiences

As a parent, we can offer our children the world and it doesn't have to cost us a fortune. Children need experiences, time and lots of opportunity to play with ideas, pictures, plants, animals, life, changing colors and so much more. We can and should explore our local woods, wildlife and backyards. We should find local resources, and find ways to involve them in our lives.
We don't have to travel, but if we can, we should. Backpacking, camping and house-trading can be affordable ways to travel. Finding hotels that have kitchenettes (for those with food allergies, this may be a great option since you could cook most or all of your meals), has been a good money saver for our family. We also try to find free activities such as hiking state/national parks, free museums and when we can't do free, we try to prioritize our favorite places. We also pack most of our food so that we can save money during the drive.
Of course, the stay-cation is a great way to explore your community, plan special events, and create memories with your children.

Our most recent trip was to Treasure Island Flordia. We found a hotel that was on the beach, planned our trip for the off season, and spend our days at the beach. We happened to be there during a sandcastle building competition, which included free music and even fireworks. So while it was a little more pricey due to airfare, we did save a lot by enjoying the beach.

I know the experiences my family gave me have stayed with me all these years and I know the ones my children take away from our trips will stay with them just as long.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Spring into Spring with Fresh Ideas

Good Evening. I have gotten away from posting lesson plans in the last few weeks, so I thought it wise, to update the blog and offer some fun ideas for spring.

If you live in an area like Western New York where there is more mud, snow and rain, than green and growing things, which the word spring evokes. Don't be alarmed if you live in such an area, spring is coming! Officially, the 21 marks the first day of Spring. Many celebrate this day to recognizing the circle of life, the rebirth of life, and the sacred nature of being born. Baby animals join us here on earth, while the flowers begin to shoot up and even bloom. We recognize this cycle in our family by planting seeds, an egg race and even egg dying. This year, we will read several new books...

We will also make nests using this recipe, die some coconut for grass and add a few jelly beans. I might use peeps for the nests. (Yes they are full of nasty sugar, but I love them.)

Egg Dying generally involves natural food dye made from plants, vegetables, fruits and flowers but this year we will save this activity until Easter due to a scheduling conflict. However, the egg race will go on, and we will scatter seeds in the field.

Book recommendations: When the Earth Wakes
Spring has Sprung
Spring Thaw
Are You My Mother

UU Principles

* A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
*The goal of world community with peace, liberty and justice for all;
* Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

That Which is Woman

Women's Rights

I have been blessed with three little girls and with that comes a certain responsibility to help them understand our past, present and future as women. My girls are growing up in a world that our grandmothers only imagined. I don't know how my Great Grandmother (Gram) felt about women's rights, but my Mother believed in "whatever men can do, women can do better." I remember feeling semi-superior to my brother, who could not be a woman. I knew nothing of feminist theory until college, and I don't feel my high school helped to promote under-represented professional areas as a viable option for women.In fact; even into the 1990's teaching was still dominated by women, while politics and the sciences were still lacking women professionals.
I felt that the whole world was available to me, and yet, where did I end up- teaching. I am not discounting my career choice or my experience, as I truly chose my life but I wonder how girls of today feel. So many images still display very outdated ideas of the feminine, that which makes a woman a woman. Indeed, men and women are different - we have different chromosomes, our bodies are physically different but how much of who we are is nature or nurture is still debatable. Personally, I feel that embracing that which is feminine, that which makes us women is unique to each individual female. To define it in terms that fit me, wouldn't be useful as it would only serve to divide rather than unite since each woman would either accept the given definition or they would discount it. I doubt there is a universal truth of women, even childbearing isn't a given, nor should it be.
Still, the important work of our Mothers' continues and the next generation will take the torch and move the women's movement forward.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

UU Kids, A Review

This summer my Reverend purchased several resources in memory of her father who had passed that spring. Among the resources was UU Kids Book, a soft bound curriculum featuring past UU movers and shakers. The book gives brief stories about the UU's life and simple activities to go along with the story.

As a homeschooler, I am always on the look out for UU related materials, but rarely find a book that I could use without having to do the research myself. As a busy Mom of three, I appreciated the simple but engaging stories and activities were right at my finger tips. I recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a simple but well thought out text on those who made a difference in the world and were also UU.

You can purchase this book from the UUA's Bookstore for $15.00.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Well Deserved Me Time

I feel there are a few universal truths and one of them is the importance of "me time." Before having children I knew I would have less "me" time but I never imagined how little I would really get in the course of a day, a week, a year. In fact, I had this moment of panic after having my first child, "what about me?", as I changed another diaper, ate less food than a bird and didn't get out of pajamas for days. Of course here I am, two more children later and most nights I actually get to sleep a full eight hours and even shower, but my initial panic still pops up now and again.

Each Mother recharges in their own way. I love to get away, by myself, for a few days and watch tv, read a book, order room service and just take care of me. In the early days, taking time for me was the thirty minutes my daughter would sleep without me, now it is the few minutes while the girls watch a documentary, or when they are at dance. However, finding a way to recharge, reconnecting with yourself, is essential to keeping your inner peace and joy flowing. Carve out a day for just you and don't feel guilty- "if Momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy".

Monday, February 21, 2011

A UU Homeschooling Conference

Well, it is official, I will begin planning a UU Homeschool Conference for 2012. I am beyond excited about this opportunity. I love planning conferences, and having the support of my local church energizes me and gives me the needed support to take on this venture.

First step- find a location
Second- Create a core group of volunteers to help with the planning
Third- Begin planning

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Standing on the Side of Love, a Valentine Discussion

The UUA,has a public campaign aimed at promoting
"Love’s Power to Stop Oppression." Standing on the Side of Love, reminds us that we can use love to power of voice, so that we can be changemakers.
As such, we will discuss how we can use love in our home, and love outside our home to make positive changes in the lives of children and families. This will be our focus tomorrow and into the coming year. Love begins in the home and extends outward.

On this Valentine's Day, may we love one another and extend our hearts, to include all people and families regardless of sex, religion, and race.

Here is a story you may want to read. We will be reading, Who Ever You Are, by Mem Fox. On her website you can find lots of great information and a whole section titled Peace Files. I will add that I just adore her children's books.

Go forth in peace and have A Happy Day of Love!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Time for Tots, Great Etsy Shop

I wanted to find some simple fun math and reading games for the girls when we were on vacation last summer. Browsing Etsy is always good for a long list of products and ideas. I came across Time for Tots, they create learning kits for toddlers and preschoolers.

I have purchased several sets now and have been very happy with the quality. If you have kids who are still in the "put everything in my mouth" stage, some of the items are really small, but with supervision, they are fine for young children.

I love their travel kits because they come in a small zippered pouch. We took one of these on our trip to Florida in November, it kept the girls busy on the plane.

They now have a kit of the month club, that I would love to join. The fun, hands on and creative manipulatives keep my 3 year old busy while I work with her sisters.

Monday, February 7, 2011


Some children benefit from journaling activities. There are many different subjects such as reading, writing, science, history and math and styles such as sentence prompts, graphs and data driven, reflection, a day in the life of, and number based.

There are several companies you can purchase premade journals from, but some of the best journals are of course, the ones the child creates themselves. There are benefits to premade or make yourself, depending on what you plan to use the journal for.

For us, we plan to purchase science journals.

If you want to create your own, there are so many resources that are available for free.

Some websites
A How To

Pages to print


I will add more as I find them.

I just purchased this resource, The Big Book of Reproducible Graphic Organizers. This books says it is for all ages, but I tend to more pen and pencil work starting at the end of 1st grade.

** I wish blogger had more options, like underlining...

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Oak Meadow

Several parents have mentioned using the Oak Meadow curriculum with their children. Here is a little blurb from their website:
"Oak Meadow was founded in 1975 by Bonnie and Lawrence Williams, and over the past 35 years, Oak Meadow has grown into a thriving organization serving families and schools around the world. The founding philosophy has remained strong throughout our years of growth and today our courses set the standard for a creative, meaningful home-based education.

We believe that homeschooling can play a significant role in creating a better world by helping children become strong, creative, independent human beings. We are honored to be a part of the thriving homeschooling movement and to have been involved in the education of so many students. A desire to support families in their choice to homeschool is behind everything we do!"

I took a look at their curriculum and decided it was worth the money to purchase several of their grade level resources. You can purchase the full curriculum, just the individual components or you can enroll in their school. At this point, I don't feel the need to enroll in a school but I may as the children move into middle school years. There is an online version as well.

From what I can tell, the school aligns with our beliefs as UU's. I actually lucked out and found two of the books used. I will update once I have the books in hand.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


I can't verify the content of this site or dvd yet, but I am all for free stuff.

John Stossel

It seems like a good resource, so check them out and see if it might work for you and your family.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Week Lesson Plans: Holidays

When planning lessons, I try my best to avoid "tourist curriculum", which is based on the idea that when we plan lessons around one single holiday in a culture, it gives the child a false sense of the true rich culture that the holiday is part of. (sorry for the ending of that sentence). Instead we attempt to learn about different cultures and traditions by reading, study and investigating throughout the year, which brings me to Ground Hog Day, Brigid's Day, and the Chinese New Year.

Last year we focused on different cultures and religions, so I feel like we have some basis to discuss the following topics but we will tread lightly, as I don't want the children to get the wrong impression. Ideally, I would have loved to take the girls to NYC to experience the New Year or have found a local family willing to share what the day means to them but time has really gotten away from me lately.

Ground Hog Day- We will read
Superstitions, lucky charms, folk lore

Brigid's Day

Chinese New Year-
We have several resources, mostly books. I am looking for a dvd/movie-
You can sign up as homeschooler with PBS teachers and get activity packs.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Week 4 Lesson Plans, The Animal Investigation Continues

We strive to follow their lead, to find balance, to go with the flow and this week it has taken us back to Week 3.

We are continuing to investigate animals. And rather than prepare lessons we will not get to, I will do reverse planning, which is where you write down what you did. I really like this approach, but it takes a lot of trust on the part of the parent. I have to trust that the children will learn and grow as they should and that their plan is as valid as my plan.

To that end, the girls wanted to learn more about bears, so today we read Bears.

We also worked on math. Division for Bella and Base Ten for Gillian.
Using the hands on approach, Bella used chips to create a visual representation of 2/4, 6, 8, 10, 3, 5. She also learned about remainders.
Gillian after working for the last six months, she "got it" and was able to turn numbers in groups of tens/ones.
While the math was a planned thing, based on a lesson in a book, we also built off of the original plan by creating our own worksheets.

We read Words are Not for Hurting, as part of our social/emotional/spiritual component. We discussed how once our words leave our mouth, they are hard to take back. Yes, you can say your sorry, apologize and be sincere in your remorse but it doesn't change the fact that you hurt someone.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Lesson Plans That Don't Go As Planned

Well, would you believe we haven't discussed the Coyote question from before? We did however, cook with friends, make new friends and enjoy time together with friends. Sometimes, this is how life goes when you homeschool, you just have to go with the flow.

We plan, we discuss, we research and we adjust our plans as needed. My Grandmother gave me a bag odd odds and ends, so we may use them in our creating and art this month, or we may save them for a special project. (We do cover math and reading everyday.) I love that we can take advantage of what the day offer us and make plans on the fly. I also love that we can fully involved ourselves in our learning and follow an idea until we are ready to move on to another subject.

Does this sound like your life?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

UU Homeschooling

For two weeks now, I have been trying to write a positive article about being a homeschooler who also is a Unitarian Universalist and raising her children in this faith, and I am just struggling.

Oh sure, I can name so many benefits to raising our children as UU. I can also make a long list of the benefits of homeschooling but combining them into a coherent paragraph is a daunting task.

I often feel very alone. Not just as a homeschooler, but as a UU homeschooler. While we consider our reasons for homeschooling to be secular (or at least, not linked to religion), they are most assuredly based on beliefs, and values. You can type in Christian Homeschooling and get a thousand results from google for curriculum, type in UU curriculum and you come up with just a few links, notes, and articles.

Does this discourage me? Yes and No. I imagine it would be hard to put together a homeschooling UU curriculum due to the very large number of resources you can use as a UU. My book selection is nearly endless, I can choose from a large variety of religions and writers- in fact, it is almost limitless. Still, there is something unifying about having a shared curriculum. A few of my friends would ask, "oh are you using xyz curriculum?" My general reply is, "no, we are pretty eclectic, we use a variety of resources." Which is true and accurate, but it would be nice to be able to discuss curriculum, and share ideas about what does and doesn't work. It would be nice to say, "oh yes, we love XYZ, you should try it."

Still, knowing there are others who are UU and homeschool, gives me hope, and lets me know I am not alone.

I did find some support groups though-

And an article

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Dr. Martin Luther King

I apologize, I mean't to post about what we are doing to remember Dr. King's work but time got away from me- so here it is. (Maybe it will be helpful for planning for next year?)

If you haven't visited Teaching Tolerance, please do. They have many great resources you can sign up for for free. Here is an article on Jim Crow Today.

The above books reflect some of the stories and ideas we will incorporate. (I will update with notes about the books after we have read them.)

As an aside, we discuss civil rigts, social justice, peace, acceptance and difference as part of our normal, everyday discussions. While we will set aside tomorrow as a special day, it is more like how we celebrate birthdays- we recognize today as an important celebration, but we love and cherish you everyday but our simple and big gestures.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Week 3 Lesson Plans Bears, Wolves, Coyotes, Deer

Lesson Plans

We are moving onto the science of snow and an animal unit study. We do our best to make learning as natural as possible, and as relevant to our local community as possible. Local animals of interest-Bears, Wolves, Coyotes, Deer.
The girls are convinced we have wolves in our county, so we will explore this idea and see where it leads us.

Bears, Wolves, Coyotes, Deer

Question- Do wolves live in Chautauqua County? In NY? If so, where and why? If not, why?

Additional Questions- Similarities between wolves and domestic dogs or compare and contrast.

Wolves: IMAX

We also subscribe to PBS Teacers: They sent me this link about White Wolf/White Falcon.

Additonal Resources
Mamamal Fact Sheet: MuskOx

We subscribe to Netflix for most of our documentaries and movies.

Spirit Bear: The Simon Jackson Story
"Based on a true story, this inspirational drama follows the passionate battle of Vancouver teenager Simon Jackson (Mark Rendall) to save an endangered bear. After being attacked in the woods, Jackson is rescued by a white Kermode bear -- a rare species known as the Spirit Bear. Learning of the Kermode's endangered status, the shy teen comes out of his shell and wages a political campaign to save them from extinction." From the Netflix description

Brother Bear
"In Disney's animated adventure, the son (Joaquin Phoenix) of an Indian chief killed by a bear vows vengeance but is transformed by spirits into the very thing he sought to slay. Seeing the world through a bear's eyes, the young man learns valuable lessons about the cycle of life" From the Netflix Description

We will watch Brother Bear and discuss the major theme(s) of the movie, the characters and how they relate to our own UU beliefs. We also discuss what our UU beliefs mean, using the list below and the following document. If your church does not have this pamphlet, I highly recommend picking it up and posting it in your homeschool area.
My 7 Principles
1. Each person is important.
2. Be kind in all you do.
3. We're free to learn together.
4. We search for what is true.
5. All people need a voice.
6. Build a fair and peaceful world.
7. We care for Earth's lifeboat.


Lesson Plan Ideas

Issues that can be discussed when learning about animals:
Extinction- What does it mean when there are no living species left? Is it the natural order of the world? What will happen once they are gone?
Why do animals become extinct? Can it be avoided?

Endangered Species- What does endangered species mean? Once an animal is placed on the endangered species list, can it be removed? Why are some animals endangered? What issues effect an animals growth and ability to reproduce?

**Questions can be adapted to the age of the child. Most of my lesson plans are geared for my 9 and 6 yr old. My 9 yr old is also more science oriented, so she tends to focus on the science section, while my 6 yr old tends to look at it from a compassion/concern approach.

UU Values and Beliefs this Lesson Plan Reflects
* The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
* Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
* Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregation;
* A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
* The right of conscience and the use of democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
* The goal of world community with peace, liberty and justice for all;
* Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

Week 2 of Snow, Birds and Spelling Tests

This week we wrapped up our official birding lessons, with plans to continue watching our feeders and noting any birds. Sadly, our only real observation was of crows. Don't get me wrong, Crows are great, but we had hoped to see other birds as well. I know it takes time for the birds to know that we will feed them, so having found our binoculars, we will continue our look-out for them.

We also had a fair amount of snow this week, which for us, mean't extra viewing of documentaries. We began by watching Art City, which was a behind the scenes look at current artists. I had to skip one of the artists due to content, while I don't censor everything the girls watch, I do avoid certain language or content that isn't age appropriate. Still it was interesting, Bella was concerned about an artist creating a picture, then destroying it. She couldn't understand why you would want to destroy your art.

A new science kit arrived in the mail, which saved us from getting too much cabin fever, and we began our investigation of Triops. The girls are quite excited about this and are looking forward to them hatching. Bella said, "we have ancient history in our kitchen."

And we wrapped up our week by having an old fashioned spelling bee, though a relaxed form as I gave the girls several chances to spell the word before giving it to their sister. This went over well, and was rather fun.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Raising a Child UU and Homeschooling

I have several wonderful friends who are staunch supporters of public school and while not critical of our choice to homeschool, they are concerned that because we choose to school our children at home, that we aren't involved in helping to change public schools for all children.

As a UU I understand their concern, but I think they misunderstand our reasons and how entrenched our current education system is in staying IN the system.

I am not anti-public school, I am pro-child.
I am not anti-change, I am tired of fighting a battle I am unlikely to win.
I am not anti-public school, I am for democracy.

Now, before someone gets mad at me for assuming schools are anti-child, I know there are great schools that put the child's emotional and social needs in front academics. I know that some people value academics, and rigorous curriculum/testing. I know there are teachers who teach use the democratic process in their classroom. I am aware of the current push down academics, Race to the Top nonsense and the stress that so many teachers, administers and parents are feeling in this current economy and antiquated system of education. I understand the need for standards and how poverty affects schools, children and families. No, really, I get it.

In fact, it is because I "get it" that I have chosen to not place my children in school. Schools are under pressure from the government, parents, teachers, administrators and general population- they are expected to be everyone to everything.

When my eldest was less than a year old, I was asked during a work review where I saw myself in five years- I answered, "well, if No Child Left Behind is still in place, homeschooling." I was partially serious, and partially kidding- little did I know I WOULD homeschool my children.

Since that statement I have worked within the field of education and have been actively involved in creating policies, lobbying for more sensible testing (to no testing), improvements in school lunches etc- so yes, I want better schools for all children- while I have felt that schooling my children at home is what is best for them. So never fear, I am a supporter of schools, education, and learning.

If there is one thing I know about being UU, it is that for every one person who wants choice A, there are 2 that want choice B and 5 that want an "all of the above" option. I believe raising my children as UUers allows us to build among and beyond ourselves a caring and compassionate community of life long learners who make the best choice for their family, while working for change for the whole community.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

January Lesson Plans: Photography


Integrating our Bird unit with a study of Photography. We will use our understanding of photography to photograph birds in nature.

Framing the Picture

We made simple frames using construction paper, a ruler and scissors. We folded our paper horizontally, drew lines to make an outlined box, like this |_|. We then cut around the lines to create our frame.

Have the children look around at interesting objects in your house. Use the frame to "frame" the picture. Hold the frame closer to your eye for a zoomed in, or hold it farther away for a zoomed out approach. Then have the children use a digital camera to replicate their frame picture.

Black and White Photography
Taking Pictures

Using Hands on Standards activity # ,the 6 yr old added and subtracted numbers.
Using Hands on Standards activity # the 8 yr old multiplied two digit numbers.

Montessori Readers
I purchased these books and the kids really enjoyed them.

Unitarian Universalist Beliefs this lesson relates to:
.Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

Monday, January 3, 2011

January Lesson Plans, Birds

During the month of January we will study the Birds of New York and how winter effects their lives.

For each lesson plan, I will note our current resources, and how we connect our beliefs with our learning.
(It should be noted that we also follow a loosely Montessorian approach, we also tend to follow a child led approach, which means, that the children decide what we will study).We first find out what the children want to learn about birds and then we collect resources to support their learning.

Bird Unit

What do we know about birds?

What do we want to learn about birds?

From there we decided to study several categories:
How and why birds fly
What birds use to build nests and how they build their nests

What birds eat (does it change based on the season)
How do we determine the type of bird

Observe birds- in our own backyard, at a friends and at a local sanctuary
Note the number of birds, type, sex
Take pictures birds- learn how to take "good" pictures and about photography in general.

To learn about photography we will use or subscribtion to BrainPopJr (There are portions that are free)
Under the Arts and Technology section choose Taking Photos and watch a clip about photography.

The following websites are free and have lots of helpful information:
George Eastmann, Kodak

Backyard Birds (Peterson Field Guides® for Young Naturalists) Backyard Birds (Peterson Field Guides® for Young Naturalists)
Karen Stray Nolting, et al

Bird (DK Eyewitness Books) by David Burnie

UU Values and Beliefs this lesson reflects:

* A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;

* Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

Whenever we use a resource we try to search for truth and meaning.

We do our best to respect the natural world and our place in it by acting as visitors on this planet earth. We do our best to tread lightly.