Sunday, August 29, 2010

This Week in Grammar: Nouns

This week, and probably next, Blaze will be learning about nouns. I really believe that learning the rules (however inconsistent they may be) of the English language, will help him to speak better, as well as, write better. This choice of lessons is also a response to a disagreement that I had with a teacher a few days ago. The teacher claimed that it was impossible for "right brained" people to learn grammar. Ula, who has taken education classes much more recently than the teacher, says it is not impossible, the lessons just must be taught differently. So, yes, Blaze is my test subject. He is the most "right brained" person I know.

We will be using some worksheets, but we will also be using games, songs, and videos, so that the subject can be learned using as many senses as possible.

School House Rock Noun Song:

A More Modern Noun Song:

I just recently discovered this website full of free elementary level worksheets in all kinds of subjects:

I'm using some of the grammar worksheets this week. Blaze will be working on the identification of nouns and the children at school will be learning about commas.

There are also some good, free grammar worksheets here:

There are some simple, free, printable mad libs at this site:

We also will be using pages from this grammar "ad lib" book for beginning readers:


We have already done some cutting and gluing to go with this theme, by making this wall display out of large construction paper letters and pictures that we found on-line or cut out of magazines.






Friday, August 27, 2010

Holiday Light Covers


Christmas lights don't just have to be for Christmas. With homemade light covers, they can be adapted to any special occasion.

We used the little plastic cups that inexpensive individual serving sizes of ice cream come in.


When the ice cream had been eaten and the cups were washed and dried, we spray painted them with spray paint that was meant to be used on plastic.


We sprayed the cups, so that they were coated both inside and out.


Once the base coat of plastic paint was dry, it was safe to add other paints, without worry that the other paints would chip or peel off.


We were going for an "elegant industrial" look to go with Blaze's steampunk party theme, so we painted the cups with a black base coat, and then added details with gold Rub-n-Buff (a rub-on wax based paint) and gold, puffy fabric paint.

The final step was to cut an X in the bottom of each cup, using a sharp x-acto knife and then stick a bulb from a string of holiday lights through the X. The X shape allows the bulb to pass through when pushed, but holds it in place when it is not being pulled on.




Tuesday, August 24, 2010

When The Earth Was New

We began our new school year with a look at the beginning of time.

We read these two beautifully written and illustrated books:



The 1940 Disney film Fantasia has my favorite visual imagery for the beginnings of our planet.

Episodes of How the Earth Was Made can be found on Hulu.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The First Day of School

Blaze will be going with me to the school where I work on Mondays and Wednesdays because those are the days when DH has to work in the morning and can't watch him. So this morning was the first morning of that. It really was just a fun, non-academic day today, so that the kids could get used to being in school again.

Before school play time:

The trees from the elementary school play, Rumpus in the Rainforest, in their new home in the corner of the library/playroom:

The entire elementary school watched the movie, Pooh's Heffalump Movie and then talked about character traits of the various Winnie-the-Pooh characters and how to be good friends.


Blaze and I left the school at lunch time and went to the library before returning home to eat.
This was the first time I had tried making a muffin tin meal for Blaze and it was quite a success. I had seen pictures of muffin tin meals on several other homeschoolers' blogs. It's sort of like a stay at home, American version of a bento box lunch. Small portions of a variety of foods insures a well balanced snack or lunch. The unusual presentation makes it fun for the child.


While Blaze ate, I read aloud from a book about the creation of the universe.

After lunch he did a page of his math book and we played Sight Word Bingo.

I had planned to do an art project outdoors, but it's raining, so I've called our first day complete and Blaze is now watching a backyardigans movie that we checked out of the library.

It was a good day!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Another School Year

School starts Monday and I'm going to have a very busy schedule. I will be teaching three 35 minute language arts classes in older elementary and being the teacher's aid for history. I should be free by lunch time, to go home make lunch and do some of Blaze's lessons. Then Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday, I will have to be back at the school by 2:00 p.m. for 2 hours of tutoring (I have 2 middle school tutoring students and one high school student). Tuesdays, Blaze has speech and physical therapy in the afternoon. He also has speech Friday mornings. Special Olympics swimming practice may be continuing on Saturdays, although there is no set time right now ( the pool is outside, but it is heated for year-around swimming).

Last year, I purchased a full curriculum from a Waldorf homeschooling source, but I discovered that I don't follow other people's curriculums very well. I prefer more flexibility. I am starting out this year with the idea that our home lessons will parallel the lessons being taught to the elementary school students at the school where I work, but I expect we will go off on our own tangents, as well.

For history this year, at the school where I work, the topic is World History (it goes in 3 year cycles, so next year will be American History again). Since Blaze will often have to accompany me to school, when DH is working (he's starting a new job as a tutor for athletes who need extra help), I decided it would be easiest if our lessons at home were similar to what the children at school were doing, so we will also be doing World History. I spent awhile today gathering up books about early man, Ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome. I was going to get out the dinosaur books, as well, but I think they're in storage, so I'll have to stop at the storage locker after work on Monday.


For Science, we will be learning about the changing Earth, landforms, volcanos, and the human body. I will be using some of the same materials we used 3 years ago, but Blaze doesn't really remember much of that.

For Math this year, Blaze will be continuing to work in the Math*U*See Beta book. He only did the first five lessons in the book last year before he hit a subject that he was really struggling with and I took him out of that book to work on more basic place value understanding, and then time and money. I'm hoping that he is ready to go back to Beta book now.


We are still working on the sight word flash card program on my Ipod and Blaze's speech therapist has been using worksheets from Explode the code, which is a workbook I also have at home. I'm hoping to learn more about what we can do to help Blaze be a better reader after next week, when he is being tested to see if he is dyslexic.

For storing worksheets and lesson plan ideas, as well as finished work, I really like using the 3-ring binders that have a clear plastic cover with an opening at the top, so a title sheet can be slid inside the plastic. This is the cover of the World History binder that we used 3 years ago and will be using again this year.


This is the cover for the logbook where I will save Blaze's finished work:

Friday, August 20, 2010

Super Simple Shrimp Dip

This elegant looking dip literally takes 5 minutes to make.


Shrimp Dip

1 8-ounce package of cream cheese

1 can of condensed cream of shrimp soup

2 green onions

Place the cream cheese in a microwave safe bowl and microwave on high for one minute. Stir. Add the cream of shrimp soup and stir until it is well blended with the cheese. Microwave for an additional one minute. Stir in finely sliced green onions, reserving some of the sliced green leaves for garnish. Stir well. Sprinkle the reserved onion on top and serve with potato chips.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Last Day of Special Olympics Swim Training Until After Labor Day


Special Olympic training will probably continue on Saturdays after Labor Day, but today was the last day of the Monday through Thursday morning training.

Since it was the last day, Blaze only had to swim 4 laps before he was able to go play.
I took a movie of half of Blaze's last lap and some of the fun he was having at the pool. Remember, this is a child who could not swim at all at the beginning of the summer and who, because of cerebral palsy, must sometimes be reminded to use the right side of his body. Coach Will and the volunteers at the pool have worked miracles with Blaze this year. I really can't thank them enough for all of the growth in confidence and physical strength that Blaze achieved.

"I see you with that camera!"

The sister of one of the other swimmers even added an incentive to keep the boys swimming this week. She bought Nerf guns for Blaze and his friend, but they only got them if they did all the swimming the coach expected of them. Blaze swam 6 laps yesterday to earn his. It really was a good motivator!


Wednesday, August 18, 2010


We have been reading the book Larklight as a bedtime story for the past week. I can't think of a better story to finish off our summer reading! It is a fast paced fantasy, with friendly pirates and dangerous, giant space spiders, which takes place in the universe of Victorian science fiction.


The main character, and narrator, is Art Mumby, a young boy, who along with his older sister Myrtle, is rescued by a motley band of space pirates after their home has been attacked by giant white spiders.


The official Larklight website

Larklight is the first book in a trilogy.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Rained Out

Well, we went to Orlando and we got wet, but we never made it inside the water park.
It started sprinkling as we parked the car. Just as we were about to have all of our bags searched (the step right before presenting our tickets at the gate), it started thundering, lightning, and pouring rain. We waited under the over-hang from a kiosk roof for a while, but the rain didn't let up.

I took this picture right after we got out of the car. Look at all those poor people waiting in line. This was only about 10 minutes before they were all told to seek shelter.



We were then out the cost of parking ($12), but at least we hadn't used our admission tickets yet, so we still have those to use another day.

Instead we went to Ikea, had lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant, and then wandered around Skycraft for awhile.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Our 3rd Wedding Anniversary

Step into my time machine and I will take you back to 2007.
Three years ago tomorrow, this was us (this was originally posted Aug. 20,2007):

Wedding Photos

Speak No Evil, Hear No Evil, and See No Evil (waiting for the wedding)

My mom called tonight because while she was writing our wedding date in her book of birthdays and anniversaries to remember, she discovered that Aug. 16 was also her parents’ wedding anniversary (Aug.16, 1930).

DH and I spent one child-free night in St. Augustine as our honeymoon, but the whole time we kept thinking how much the children would enjoy all the things we were seeing. We drove home the next day, picked up the children, and returned to St. Augustine.

Nika and Blaze enjoying the beach:

Let's return to the time machine and back to 2010.

Tonight we celebrated with a "raspberry elegance" cake from Publix, the same cake we had on our wedding day.


The traditional gift for a third anniversary is leather, but the modern gift is glass or crystal. I gave DH the French apothecary jar style drink dispenser sitting next to the cake in the picture. Besides bringing home the wonderful cake, he is giving me the crystal clear waters of the Aquatica water park.

I have never been to a water park before. I know that's a strange thing for a person living in Florida to admit, but I didn't grow up here. Blaze has also never been to one, because I told him he had to learn to swim before we'd take him, so this is also his reward for learning to swim this summer. Special admission prices begin tomorrow for AAA members, so we're going to be at the AAA office as soon as they open in the morning, and then it's off to Orlando.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Last Airbender Haircut


DH took Blaze to the movies last weekend to see the Last Airbender. DH said that the script was weak, but it was visually very beautiful. Blaze loved the movie!
Blaze had been telling me for several days that he wanted a haircut that would make him look like the main character in the movie, so yesterday I granted his wish (after all, it's only hair, it will grow back quickly enough).


First, I gave him a very short crew cut with the electric shears, then made a stencil out of paper and marked it onto his scalp, before shaving the arrow design down the middle of his head.


Blaze is very pleased with the way it looks and keeps admiring himself in the mirror.

Blue Cheese Crackers

DH got a membership to Sam's Club when he was stocking up on food for the archeology field school this year, but it took us until two days ago to get around to going there to buy anything for ourselves. Bulk purchases don't usually seem practical with a kitchen as tiny as ours ( DH says to just imagine our kitchen is on a boat, because it would be a very nice galley on a yacht). We finally went to Sam's because DH wanted to look at eye glasses there. We came home with some salad making supplies and a 24-ounce tub of blue cheese, so I'm going to be trying some new recipes that call for blue cheese.
Here is the first one, which we all really enjoyed.


Blue Cheese Crackers

1 Cup of butter, at room temperature

1/2 Cup of cream cheese, at room temperature

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 1/2 Cups of crumbled blue cheese

2 Cups of Rice Krispies cereal

2 Cups of unbleached all-purpose flour

2 slices of crispy, cooked bacon, crumbled (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the cream cheese and the butter. Add the flour, cayenne pepper, blue cheese, rice cereal, and bacon. Beat on low to medium speed until a well blended, stiff dough is formed. Roll into walnut sized balls and place slightly apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Use a fork to flatten each ball. Bake for 15 minutes.

These were great served next to our bowls of spinach salad last night, but they'd also be good as party food or with tea.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

What we've been up to

I know it's been a few days since I posted anything. It's not that we have fallen off the face of the Earth, it's just that Blaze's schedule has been keeping us very busy. He has joined a Special Olympic swimming team, which practices 4 mornings a week and two afternoons (it will be less once school starts). He won't be competing this year, because he still needs to improve his skills and endurance, but the coach believes that by next year he'll be ready.




Swimming is not Blaze's only scheduled activity, he still has therapies to go to. He has speech twice a week and physical therapy once a week. For physical therapy they've been doing serial casting on his right ankle to stretch his Achilles tendon. Yesterday he got the 4th cast in the series.

The way this works is they flex his foot as far as they can and make a cast in the position. Then the cast is split up both sides so it can be removed and Velcro is added, so that it can be wrapped back around Blaze's leg at night.


He only wears it at night and he's been really good about reminding me to put it on him.

If he has gained range after 2 weeks of wearing a cast, he will get a new one that flexes his foot back more, until he achieves a normal range of movement in that ankle.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Steampunk Birthday Banner

Pennant banners (or bunting) have become very trendy. They are a great way to turn fabric scraps into something pretty. They can also be reused year after year, unlike crepe paper streamers, which must be thrown away when the party's over. Another advantage to the pennant banners is that they do not have to be limited to mass produced party themes.

Here are the measurements for the pattern I created. It is bigger than a regular sheet of paper, so I used a piece of my son's art paper, but a flattened brown paper grocery bag would work just as well.

The banners I made took 34 triangles total, 21 of those are cut from the clock fabric. It took about a yard and a half of the clock fabric for this. It is certainly not necessary to use the same print for all the backing fabric, that was just my choice because I liked the way it looked.

Pin two triangles, right sides together. Sew along the seam allowance.

Cut the point off of each triangle, before turning it right-side out. This will make turning easier.


Use a sharp pencil to help turn the points all the way right-side out. Trim off the two little points of fabric that will be sticking out of the opening on each triangle.


Iron the triangles flat. If you want to, you can add topstitching at this point, but I chose not to.


The letters on these banners were made using this font:

Mechanical Fanfare Alphabet Digital Kit

printed on iron-on transfer paper made for dark fabrics.



I traced around a homemade stencil to make the desired shape around the letter. Using a sheet of transparency paper ( the kind used for over-head projectors) to print out a gear design that I found online, I was able to have a clear plastic stencil, which made it easy to center the letter properly.


Cut out the iron-on design and follow the package direction for applying the design to the fabric. Peeling the backing paper off the iron-on sheet, may be the most difficult part of this project. If there is part of the score line on your design, this will be fairly simple, but without the score line it requires patients and a lot of picking at corners with finger nails.


Lay out all the triangles in the proper order and pin them into bias tape, so that the tape covers both sides of the raw top edge. Each of these banners took a 3 yard package of gold bias tape. Sew the full length of the tape.


I finished each pennant by sewing either a small gear or a key charm to the point, alternating each. This not only adds a little decorative touch, but also adds a little weight to help the pennant lay flat.



The finished banner:


Since it is double-sided, the banner can be turned so that the letters face the wall, to be used for other occasions. I think this clock patterned fabric would look nice for New Years Eve.


Crafty Crow