February 27, 2011

book/make-up-your-own-curriculum review


the art book for children, book two.

i'd love to say that we tried book one of this series and that is was fabulous and we moved onto book two...but we didn't.

i ordered the wrong book and after thumbing through it and pondering the lack of obvious choices for kids to study, flipped to the cover and went "duh"...this is the secondary list.


this week we studied the unfinished painting, Happy Couple, by thomas gainsborough. I like how the book pointed out what made this painting different from other portrait work of its time. i'm a big believer in understanding historical context and precedent when it comes to studying art. (ie: the first canvas painted black was groundbreaking and said a lot - not just what our kid's grandfathers would call "that artsy-fartsy-mumbo-jumbo".


so, happy couple depicts a couple out of doors and surrounded by the things that define them, from their estate to their hobbies. after dialoguing about the painting for a few minutes, i had the kids set up their art easel and assigned them to both draw me a "happy family" portrait. and going along with the main elements of the book discussion, i told them to draw things that are relevant to their lives.


charlie drew our family and a bubblegum man. apparently, bubblegum is very important to her - not that she's ever had any.


luke decided to opt charlie out of the family and drew a "minion" in her place (which is relevant, in that he's on a "despicable me" kick). he also drew a dog with a trunk and his backyard play set on fire from a bomb. for those that do not know us, neither of those things nor "the naked man flying over us" are relevant.

anyhoo, we are really enjoying this book. it's goes into just enough detail to be interesting and informative, but not heavy and overwhelming. creating a curriculum from it is pretty straight forward. and bonus, your kids get to learn to recognize different elements of art, as well as renowned artists throughout history.

i highly recommend the art book for children, book two. i'll let you know about book one when i get around to ordering it.

over and out, becky

February 21, 2011

hello from hellofromhades.blogspot.com here

First and Foremost:

Happy New Baby, Andrea!
she's a doll.


reason #6,349 why homeschooling rocks -
when you rush everyone out to the car
and get in and look back
and see that your baby girl dressed herself
in gold rayon leggings that you bought for fun,
(and never thought would leave the house)
her brother's green fleece sweater and socks,
and her favorite purple shoes -

because only the clerk, the bagger and the old lady behind you
have to know your shame.

had i been rushing to get the babes to school,
this would have been a
"gone-down-in-history" sort of morning
where i would have had to go home
and eat my weight in bon-bons
and read romance novels
while i cried.

but because we homeschool -
piece of cake.


well, maybe i'll feel a little bit more shame,
now that i've gone and shared it with you guys.
so, no judgment!

February 15, 2011

We Interrupt This Unit . . .

To bring you a baby!

Harriet was born Feb. 12 at 7:30 pm. Four weeks early.

She only weighed 5 lbs 8 oz.

But she's doing great.

All schooling is being postponed until the kids return from grandma's house and Mom feels up to it. In the meantime, happy schooling to you!

February 11, 2011

Africa/Namibia: Day Three

Day Three was about African culture. Not its now culture so much as its more ancient culture that still exists in various forms today.

We started by reading a book called Talking Drums of Africa by Christine Price. The book was so boring I was secretly hoping Miriam would complain and give me an excuse to stop reading it. She didn't. None of them did. So we read the whole boring thing. I don't recommend it, except that it did have some really interesting information about African drums. For example, in the pic below is a "talking drum." The drummer pulls on the strings to tighten and loosen the drumhead to raise and lower the pitch of the drum so it sounds like African languages that are based on pitch. Cool! So, it might be a good idea to scan this book as drums go with Africa like baseball goes with the USA.

Besides, after reading the book, you get to watch youtube videos of African drummers and dancers--and that is awesome!

As a sidenote, this past summer our library put on a series of free activities. One of those activities was an African dancer and drummer. Neither of the people were actually from Africa but both had lived and studied there and both were awesome!!! The dancer, Deja Mitchall, had everyone get up and try it and I did and I loved it. Loved it. Loved it enough that I made learning African dance one of my life goals. I kept her card to remind myself of this life goal. She teaches African dancing at the Eccles Art Center in Ogden, Utah. When my children are a wee bit older, I plan on taking a few of her classes.

If you are studying Africa and live along the Wasatch Front and want to know where you can see some actual African dancing and hear live African drumming, she'd be a good go-to person. Remember, I'm in the lazy end-of-pregnancy mode, or I'd have contacted her and set up a field trip myself.

Here's her info according to her business card. Deja Mitchell: Dancer/Choreographer/Teacher African and Modern Dance. Weekly classes, workshops, Performances. 801-458-6335, tribalovedancer@hotmail.com.

If you look her up on google you'll find her website, which has some great pics of her trips to Africa and the dancing she did there. Also, she puts on a few workshops every summer at the Egyptian Theater for kids wanting to learn African dance. I fully intend to put Miriam in one when she's nine or ten--hopefully Deja will still be around then.
After watching youtube for a long time, we returned to the couch and flipped through the DK Eyewitness Book: Africa by Yvonne Ayo. Great pics. We focused on the various art work more than anything else. My son, of course, wanted to focus on the weapons so we spent some time with those as well.

I made sure I pointed out pictures of carved gourds like the one in the pic below. They are cool.

After we looked through the book, I pulled out some clay and some skewers and had the kids practice carving. Granted, clay carving with skewers is not as cool as cleaning out a gourd, drying it somehow, then carving it and dying it--but my kids still seemed to like it!

I carved for awhile, then worked on supper. My kids spent the rest of the afternoon carving and creating with the clay. The DK book proved inspirational for my kids in ways I hadn't anticipated (they copied statues and weapons and houses, etc.). In the end, I wished I had given them play-dough for the activity as the clay stuck on my rolling pin and cookie cutters much worse than play-dough. Grr.

Good times, though.

As a side-note: in my previous post I mentioned that reading plants ideas in children's brains that they later use to make connections. I have an example. (Yes, I am sort of bragging about how smart my son is, but mostly I'm reiterating the fact that READING IS CRITICAL to expose your children to lots of ideas that they can use to connect other information. I'm an English teacher--I can't help myself.)

While we were looking at the DK book, we turned to a page that had a Zulu shield like the one pictured below.
Without saying anything, my son (5 yrs old) leaped off the couch and went racing downstairs. Miriam and I looked at each other with our eyebrows raised then went back to looking at the pictures.

A few minutes later Cowen came back upstairs with an old Childcraft book with a collection of stories in it about battles. One of the battles, you guessed it, involved the Zulu people and the British. Cowen has never read the story because he doesn't read that well yet, but he has studied that book over and over because it is all about fighting and has lots of pics of weapons. He recognized the shield and knew that the battle must be about an African tribe--so he ran off to find it to have me read it to him.

Amazing connection. Amazing memory.

Thanks again, Mom, for giving me the Childcraft books when all your children wanted them. To all my readers: if you ever see any Childcraft books (you know the ones--they look like encyclopedia's almost, each hardbound book about a different subject) buy them. Just do it. They are awesome and keep my children fascinated for hours at a time.

February 10, 2011


Remember my last post about the field trip to BYU? Meeting with Dr. Crandall wasn't all we did while visiting Provo.

After our discussion about Africa, the kids and I returned to Aunt Kami's house where we were fed lunch and otherwise entertained and amused until it was time to go to the BYU Museum of Art. Some of you might be familiar with Carl Bloch, the Danish painter being featured at the museum currently.

The exhibit was amazing. A must see for anyone who can get themselves to Provo. Be aware that you need to reserve tickets, which you can do online. It is free, of course, and you can pick up your tickets at the front desk.

There is also a modern art exhibit that involves a mat and some sort of technology. I don't really understand why it is considered art, but it was sure fun for the kids to play on/with.
Another current exhibit is a photographic essay by Dorothea Lange (took the famous 1930s picture of Depression-era mom and children) about three towns in Southern Utah. I really enjoyed the photos.

A highlight for me was the exhibit called: At War! The Changing Face of American War Illustration. I studied a lot of wartime propaganda for my masters thesis, so this was right up my alley. Loved it. Loved it.
Despite having seven small children between us, Kami and I both enjoyed the museum immensely. I think part of it was the company. :) Thanks for letting us visit, Kami!! And a lot of it was the excellence of the current exhibits. Go. If you can, go. It is worth whatever efforts are required.

February 9, 2011

Africa/Namibia: Day Two

Day Two was actually a night and the next morning. I wanted to prep my kids for their field trip, so we read a book called Namibia by DE Gould. It was way too long and detailed to read in its entirety to my children, but it was the only book the library had specifically about Namibia. It worked well enough for my purposes. We looked through all the pictures and talked about them. We saw pictures of members of the Himba tribe (the tribe featured in the Babies documentary). We found Namibia on a map and discussed it being a country that borders the ocean and also contains a lot of desert. Although not perfect, it worked.

Then we read Uncommon Traveler: Mary Kingsley in Africa by Don Brown. We've read this book before and I jumped at the chance to check it out again. We love it. She's one tough cookie. And brave. And awesome. And female. Fantastic. I would even go so far as to call this a GOLD STAR BOOK.

The book didn't have anything to do with our field trip, but I like it and wanted to read it. So I did. My children would have me read it every day, so they didn't complain.

And now the field trip.

On Friday, I drove the kids to Provo for a field trip. First stop was Aunt Kami's house to drop off the two youngest. Then Miriam, Cowen, and I went to BYU's anthropology department where we met up with another homeschool family (the mom of that family graduated with an anthropology degree from BYU and set this whole thing up--thanks Sarah!!) and a certain Dr. Crandall. Dr. Crandall has lived in Namibia and goes there on field studies often. We went to hear what he had to say about it.

Let's just say that I was a little puffed up with pride by the end. Dr. Crandall asked if anyone had questions and Cowen had a great question (do the people carry spears as they travel around?--answer is yes, they carry spears to protect themselves from lion attack). Then Dr. Crandall said his wife had a baby while they lived there and I asked about birthing facilities. He said that the cities are very modern and Miriam said: "Is that because of when the Germans took over?" She remembered that from the Namibia book. I didn't even remember that from the Namibia book. See, reading really does plant things in their brains that they can later use to make connections.

Then Cowen asked about killing elephants and protecting crops and he and Miriam both explained to Dr. Crandall that they knew all about migrating animals in Africa (thank you James Earl Jones). Basically, we had only spent two days on Africa but my kids made connections that surprised me and were able to sound intelligent while talking about it. Love it.

Now if only I could get Miriam to stop the dramatic sighing when she's bored, my kids' behavior would have been perfect. :)
PS--Do you know how strange it is to go to campus now that so many buildings look different??? Besides the fact that returning to campus with children in tow is weird. It is almost like I dreamed the whole four years up--or it was an Alice in Wonderland type of adventure. Sometimes, I feel old. :)

February 8, 2011

Namibia: Day One

I'm afraid there isn't much about Namibia in the library. Africa in general, and African animals in particular, have resources galore. But Namibia--not so much. So, instead of focusing entirely on one country in Africa, I decided to make this section of our Babies Unit a little broader in scope. Continental, in scope, you could say.

Day one was about building interest. As I have come to find out, my children love animals in a deep, passionate way. So, I started with animals. Always build on their interests when possible. But, you pros already knew that.

To start off the day we read a book called: Who Comes to the Water Hole? by Colleen Stanley Bare. I couldn't find a cover image, but do not let that deter you. It was a great book. The pics were not National Geographic quality, but they were plentiful and in color and varied. The book talks about the wet and dry seasons, which was helpful later on that day when that concept came up again.

Then we read Face to Face With Cheetahs by Chris Johns with Elizabeth Carney. GOLD STAR BOOK. I'm pretty sure this is one of the best animal books we have ever read. It is published by National Geographic and Chris Johns is a National Geographic photographer so the pictures were beyond amazing. But the text was excellent as well. It was just enough information. Perfect children's book.

To end the day, we watched the movie Africa: The Serengeti. My daughter realized it was narrated by Simba's dad before I did. Smarty pants. James Earl Jones's voice really added to the overall coolness of the movie. How could it not? This is an IMAX movie, so only 40 minutes long (perfect for small children) and has a few strange cinematography moments probably due to it being a 3D movie. Despite that, the movie was excellent. It showed herds of wildebeests migrating and lions and crocodiles attacking them. Other African animals also make cameo appearances. The kids really caught on to the wet season/dry season concept, but I didn't realize that until later. Overall, this was a very enjoyable movie to watch with the kids and it made Africa really exciting to them.

Later that night, I had my hubs read A Story A Story by Gail E. Haley to the children. I don't usually use nightly story time for school purposes, but there were a few Africa books that didn't tie in very well to the activities I planned, and this is one of them.

It is an awesome book. Especially if you or your hubby do voices. My hubby does. My children were riveted. Highly recommend this one. It won the Caldecott and it deserved to win. Enough said.

So--day one went very well.

February 7, 2011

on socialization...again...

we've had quite a busy start to our "semester" in the new year.
we started extracurricular activities -
jui jitsu and ballet and soccer.

i promised myself that i would get them signed up
after we had successfully completed one "semester" of school.
and since we survived, we thought it was time to start -
to get them SOCIALIZED a bit more.
and after the first dizzying weeks of sudden activity -
do you know what i've learned?
sure, they sleep well those nights after practices,
and sure, i get a bunch of great photo-ops,
and we all get some fresh air...
but they don't NEED it to make them better at socializing.

the best social skills come when
they learn how to be themselves.
and it doesn't take a bunch of kids running after a ball
to teach them that.
it takes love, patience and understanding.
it take's a deep sense of curiosity on our part -
so that we can figure out what makes them tick.
but mostly it takes time.

and of all the gifts that the homeschooling parent can impart on a child,
this is the greatest -
and that's all that matters.
the rest will take care of itself.

becky from hellofromhades.blogspot.com

February 4, 2011

San Fran: The Golden Gate Bridge

If it weren't for the great book pictured below, I would pretend that I didn't spend a "day" talking about the Golden Gate Bridge. I know you are expecting some great bridge making activity with toothpicks and marshmallows (how do you know how to make a flying buttress, Becky????) or popsicle sticks, or something.

But no. I planned on giving my kids glue and popsicle sticks and seeing what they came up with, but in the end, even that seemed like too much hassle. I'm due in three weeks. Everything seems like too much hassle. (I did get all the baby's clothes/blankets/burp cloths washed and rinsed twice and folded and put away. My kids have very, very sensitive skin. So see--I'm accomplishing things, just not gung-ho homeschool things.)

However, Pop's Bridge was a great book for anyone studying bridges or San Fran and I wanted to make sure you were aware of it--in case any of you do this unit.

Pop's Bridge by Eve Bunting.

To sort of make up for my bridgeless bridge lesson, I give you another San Fran idea. As we all know, Ghirardelli chocolate is made in San Fran. Chocolate interests me. It interests me a great deal. So I thought--we should make something out of San Fran chocolate.

So we did.
I decided to have the kids make a chocolate pudding recipe that I quite like. It is called Silken Chocolate Pudding and I found the recipe in the Moosewood Restaurant Recipe Book (not exact title). It is a vegetarian restaurant. No, I'm not a vegetarian, but I've found that vegetarian cookbooks often have some killer pasta and salad recipes. Not to mention the yummy soups. It is a great cookbook, and I have made the pudding before and thought it was yummy. Also, it is very simple to make--perfect for cooking with kids.
Unfortunately, the local grocery store didn't have silken tofu. Since I'm only really familiar with extra firm tofu (use it in hot and sour soup), I wasn't sure how different silken tofu was from firm tofu. Not wanting to drive to a different store, I bought the firm tofu and hoped for the best.

Big mistake.

The great thing about this pudding is the texture. My family makes a chocolate pudding that is tasty, but is so prone to lumps. Grr. But this chocolate pudding has a perfectly silky texture without all the stirring and work and worry.

That is--a perfectly silky texture when you use silken tofu. Not so much when you use firm tofu.
Basically, it turned out gross.


What a waste of chocolate.

Here's the recipe, though, for those of you who are interested. I really like this pudding because it is easy and because it is fairly bitter (if you don't like dark chocolate--this recipe is not for you). I sweeten it up with whipped cream. You could also decrease the cocoa for a less bitter flavor.

1 cake of silken tofu (about 16 oz)
3 tbls powdered sugar (I tend to add a little extra)
8 oz semisweet chocolate
6 tbls water
3 tbls cocoa
1 tsp vanilla

1. blend tofu and sugar until well blended (a blender is easiest but I used a hand mixer this time to give the kids more to do)

2. warm chocolate, water, cocoa, vanilla until chocolate melts. Stir until mixed. Pour into tofu mix and beat until smooth and silky.

I chill mine--but it isn't bad warm. You could top with vanilla bean ice cream or whipped cream to offset the bitter chocolate flavor. Or, you could add extra dark chocolate instead of semi-sweet to up the bitter factor. It is yummy that way!

PS I put icing sugar first and then realized most of my readers are American and might not know that icing sugar=powdered sugar. So I changed it. But now you know--icing sugar is what Canadians call powdered sugar. And knowing is half the battle.

February 3, 2011

San Fran: Ocean Sports

It occurred to me one day, as I was pondering San Fran and how to make it interesting for my kids, that my little darlings have never seen the ocean. Logically, they don't know much about sports that take place on or in the ocean. That realization led to a day studying surfing.

And kiteboarding--which I had never heard of before.

We did not read the following books. The following books were boring. At least to me. But the pictures were helpful.

All Action: Wind and Surf by Phil Holden.
Kiteboarding by Joanne Mattern.
Gilbert, the Surfer Dude by Diane deGroat. Okay, this book we read and it was all of our favorites. Gilbert chooses swim trunks that say "surfer dude" on them, even though they were too big. Of course, he loses them in the ocean. Even though it was predictable, it was still funny. I usually don't love early reader books, but this one was good. We'll be finding more Gilbert books when Cowen is ready to move into early readers.
Olivia Learns to Surf adapted by someone from a screenplay written by someone else. Yeah, we read this Olivia book but it wasn't that great. I mean, I usually love Olivia books--she's hilarious and the colors are awesome. But this one was a simplified board book so the story line was weak.

The best part of the day wasn't the books. It was when we put the books away and watched surfing and kiteboarding and windsurfing videos on youtube. Wowsers. People do some crazy/amazing things on a surfboard. We were all fascinated.

Thank you youtube, for helping turn our school day around.

PS We were going to watch Surf's Up, but my neighbor who has every animated movie ever made didn't have it. So I couldn't borrow it. So, we didn't watch it. Still, it isn't a bad idea for a supplement to a surfing lesson. Also, my hubby has a snowboard. If we had snow, I would have pulled that out and let the kids try to balance on it down a little hill. It would have been a little like balancing on a surfboard. Maybe?? I should ask my hubby about that.

February 2, 2011

hellofromhades here...


since we are living in remodeling
and living in chaos
and have no "homeschool" space,
i have taken over the fridge.

it's a bit of a hodgepodge mess
but at least i can see what we have done
and what we still need to get done.

i hope my kids survive the next six months.

a curriculum of charity...

i'm always looking for a way for my kids
to help out in their community and around the world.
this is the project we are currently undertaking.
go check it out
as you are shopping and cutting and filling up the bags,
use this as an opportunity
to talk about the birth story of each of your children.
and explain what role hospitals and medicine play in our lives.
then explain how others do not have the same blessings as we do.

remember, empathy is a valuable commodity in today's society.
there seems to be a diminishing capacity to learn it
amidst the materialistic and entitlement driven values
that surround us.

okay, have fun.
whether you are preparing a meal for a widow around the corner
or passing a dollar and an apple to a homeless person
you have opportunities talk about the have and have nots of the world.
don't shy away from teaching your kids about reality
don't be harsh
but be truthful.
your child's heart is enormous.
they can handle it.

good luck.
becky from hellofromhades.blogspot.com