Teacher gifts

You would think that a homeschooling mom wouldn't need to worry about teacher gifts, other than for them self, but I do.

My kids do a one day per week homeschool enrichment program (quasi-school.) During that one day, each child has 6 classes. Remembering that I have 2 children, that means 12 teacher gifts. Well, not really as they have the same teacher for PE, Drama and Math Games, so only 9 teacher gifts. Plus the administrator. And her assistant. Ok, we're back up to 11.

Despite being a homeschooler, I know the rules of teacher gifts. No trinkets or coffee cups of which they already have thousands. Stick to consumables so they don't have to store it. Nothing with fragrance because you can't choose that for someone else. Stay away from school supplies because, really, who wants a gift that's for your job. In the past, we've done bedding plants, baked goods and chocolate bars, all with personalized wrappings. Looking for something new, I searched online for some clever ideas. Overwhelmingly the suggestions, from both teachers and parents, involved gift cards. Sorry, not happening. Even at $5 each, which would barely buy a cup of coffee mind you, that would be >$50 before even buying or making a card.

I realize that is the most useful gift. I realize that it is generic enough since you don't really know these people personally. It's just too much money. In a perfect world where I am rich, I would get each teacher a $10 Starbucks card or $20 Target card and be done with it. Unfortunately this is the real world and I'm far, far, FAR from rich (or even comfortable) and my appreciation will be in the form of a small but heart-felt token. And apparently one that I dream up myself since the online world isn't helping me out here.

Living History

Today we went to Living History Days down in Denver. A big thanks to our friend J.P. and her daughter I. for suggesting it, and for driving. We had a fun day!

There was so much to do! A play about colonial life during the American Revolution, a AR battle reenactment as well as many stations where kids could do hands-on activities of daily life for the early settlers. They were able to play games (rolling hoops, a hoop catching game, a bowling type game, jump rope, board games and more), stuff mattresses with ticking, wash clothes, see butter being churned (and taste some), weave baskets, see broom corn brooms being made and sweep with one, and several other things I'm forgetting.

In the afternoon, the girls were signed up for a tin punch class and each made an 8x10 tin punched picture which was then framed. It was an excellent craft - representative of the time and completely their own hard work. Not to mention the beautiful result!

There was a downside, the battle. It was really loud with all the blanks they fired. If I would have known about that in advance, I would have brought ear plugs for my more sensitive kid. Also, it was a full reenactment complete with people pretending to die, along with "bloody" nurses and stretchers. During this, they were encouraging the crowd to cheer for the Americans. Ok, let's be realistic here, they were encouraging kids to cheer for killing people. I don't care if they weren't really killing or that the killing was the enemy, it's just not a good thing. My younger child was appalled about it and the older one was booing both sides. I explained how wars are usually about money, power, religion or some combination thereof. This war was about money, how one country wanted the riches of another and fought over it and many people died. And wouldn't it be better if everyone just shared? They agreed sharing would have been much better. (I'm sure this will NOT translate into non-whiny sharing in my household, but well, what can you do?)

There was also a bit too much religion for me, though I don't think my kids noticed as much. I noticed each incident when people mentioned gifts from God, each time we were asked to thank him for the beautiful day, our food, etc. The girls, on the other hand, come from a Unitarian Universalist background. They think of the Christian God in the same way they think of the Greek or Roman gods or any other god for that matter. They may think it's a bit strange to thank a god for the weather, they don't have the loaded background that I do that makes those statements rankle (keep in mind, I don't care if you wish to thank God for the beautiful day, just don't ask me to do so as well.) The Living History day was, however, put on by a church group so that was too be expected. It wasn't a minus of the day, just a side note :)

Overall, it was a positive experience. It was a fun day full of learning that we will definitely do again if we can cram it into our schedule. We will skip the battle in the future though.

What to do about Rome

The girls are taking a Latin class. They like the class and are really into the mythology aspect. Because of this I made up a Rome unit for them. I've spent a lot of time going over books and choosing what to share with them and how. Here's the basic outline:

    • Timeline (string and post-its)

    • Map of Rome then vs now (print Blackline maps)

    • Founding of Rome and the Romulus/Remus story

    • Who were they

      • Global Society/Retaining heritage and pride (like our country)

      • Holidays and Religion (make Janus for over doors)

      • Villas (make fresco, mosaic)

    • Political System

      • Money (make coins)

      • Classes/Citizens/Women

      • Family

        • Names

        • Virtues

        • Bulla (make bulla)

        • Larium (make larium)

        • Clothes (make tunic)

      • Education

      • Language

      • Books (make scroll, codex)

      • Medicine

      • Hours/Calendar (visit Gardens on Spring Creek sundial)

    • Cities

      • Architecture (make a pizza box forum)

      • Highways (make fairy garden with proper Roman road)

      • Water/Sewer (make aqueduct)

      • Entertainment

        • Colosseum

        • Theater

        • Circus maximus

        • games (make/play knucklebones)

    • Important sites today ?

    • Wars

      • Soldiers/Armies (do a penny battle, make a triumphal column)

    • Things the Romans invented/perfected

    • Fall of Rome

As you can see, there's a lot to it. And I'm not even going into major battles/leaders as I don't think they'd remember all that anyway. And I'm skipping religion because they already know a lot about the Roman/Greek Pantheon and the politics of the shift to Christianity is not going to interest them.

So the question is, do I wan to do this as a group or alone? It seems like a lot of work to do for just 2 girls. It would be no more work to do it for a handful of kids. But if it gets to be too many, then it would be more work. Here are the options, as I see it:
  • I could design a whole week of summer camp for kids around this theme. There are enough crafts to do ~3/day for 5 days!
  • Or I could design a Girl Scout Try-it. It could be for our group, or we could offer it for a small fee to other troops too (like the Mythology Try-it the girls just went to in CSprings.) They would do stations, learn various things and get a badge. Of course, we'd have to pare it down to 5 or 6 stations and 2-3 hours.
  • Or I could just do it with my girls.
What to do, what to do....


I am the proud grandmother to about a hundred baby mantids! They hatched yesterday. The girls were so very excited. We went out and got a fruit fly colony to feed them with - it's too cold here to release them yet.

Unschooly weeks are the best!

So this busy week has been flying by without much of a hitch? True story! It's been an unschooly kind of week with lots of learning, my favorite kind of week. There was the quasi-school, junior rangers at Rocky Mountain National Park, Latin, soccer, presentation day (history of games), archery and, as always, lots of reading. Along with that, was math, spelling and some grammar. Tomorrow is all day Girl Scouts - service project for Animal House. I think that's a good amount of learning for a week!

I finally got around to getting our chemistry books printed. I bought the pdf version, but needed to get them printed up. With the half off for new customers, mimeo was much more reasonable than anything local. And seeing as how I don't mind waiting a week or two to start, I saved a bunch by choosing their longest timeline. I'm looking forward to starting it, it looks like fun and Amanda really loves it so it's got a good recommendation :)


Have I mentioned I'm not a morning person? I'm not. My kids are not. Stella, the younger one, is less of a morning person than I am. I am definitely, firmly entrenched in night owlism. Yep, just made that up, but it's true. My natural rhythm is going to bed at 12-1am, getting up at 9am or so. The kids go to bed a bit earlier (in bed at 9:30-10pm where they read for awhile) but get up about the same time. If we stay up later, we sleep in later. It works.

And when we get up around 9am, I don't mean that we spring from our beds, quickly set about our morning grooming and feeding rituals and are ready to greet the day by 9:27am. I mean we roll out of bed, walk about in a daze, bump into the walls, wonder where food might be kept...you get the picture (not a pretty picture, mind you.)

All that to say, we are in the midst of a busy stretch where we don't get to sleep in as late as we want. Or laze about after we awake. Here's last Thursday (April 14) through next Monday (April 25)
Thursday - Archery, 10am
Friday - Capitol tour (Denver), 10am
Saturday - Girl Scout Try-it, 9am
Sunday - sleep, woohoo! (but only because we skipped church, but we're Unitarian so we can do that, guilt-free)
Monday - Options (as my friend Deanna calls it, quasi-school), 8:20am
Tuesday - RMNP, 10:30am
Wednesday - Presentation Day, 10am
Thursday - Archery, 10am
Friday - Girl Scout service project day, 11am
Saturday - Soccer, 7:45am
Sunday - Easter, hopefully they'll sleep in, they usually don't get up early just for holidays
Monday - Options, 8:20am

I know, none of these are THAT early, but it is early TO US. I know society is biased to towards morning people. Our time shift is thought of as lazy, unproductive, suitable for those with no ambition in life. But really, that isn't the case. We do just as much, just on a different schedule.

And THIS schedule is too early for us. After this rash of mornings not at our pace, Tues/Wed after that are going to be stay-at-home days. Well, besides Latin, soccer and group - but those are at reasonable hours ;)

If it could always be like this....

We had the perfect kind of school this weekend. A capitol tour, Garden of the Gods with a short guided hike and a Girl Scouts mythology try-it. History, geology, mythology, ancient civilizations and more all wrapped up in fun. Plus some soccer and another Girl Scout try-it, games, rounds out the PE section of school too.

The best part? When Stella wished there would have been MORE information during the capitol tour. :)

And the winds have shifted...

The winds have shifted as they always seem to do when spelling/grammar/math are done for the day. These things are often a struggle. It makes me realize all the more that these are the things I make them do, not the things they choose to do. It makes my unschooly nature cringe and taunt me. It makes me want to send them to school so they'd see how little they really have to do. But mostly, it makes me glad it's over for the day.

Did you know?

Did you know, life isn't fair? It isn't! Sometimes, your spelling assignment isn't the same as your sister's. That kind of classified information leaking out can lead to a kicking, whining, throwing things kind of tantrum that only ends when you realize that no one is paying attention to you.

What do we do? Want to do?

What on earth do we do all day?!

Well, we start by getting up late. Generally we're all awake and had breakfast by around 10am. Then it's on to spelling and math. Spelling because they want to do it and because they drive me crazy asking me to spell things. Math because I make them, for the most part. I don't think that there is much they are interested in at the moment that would take them beyond very basic math. Do we do this every day? Of course not! Probably 3 days a week, on a good week. Still, Stella is into 2nd grade math and 3rd grade spelling at age 7. Sandis would like you to think she is being tortured with hot pokers because she's doing 3rd grade math (in 3rd grade.)

What else do we do?

Educational shows on NetFlix, grammar, art, science, history, field trips, park day, playing outside, Latin class, soccer practice, archery, Girl Scouts...the list goes on.

What do I want to do?


- I am working on a Roman unit. I have plans for one about Vikings and another on Native Americans. These involve lots of crafts and cooking and hands-on activities. For the NAs, we'll go to Mesa Verde and Hovensweep too.

- We are going to do a weaving of the layers of rock at Arches and Canyonlands, where we visited lately. Then they are going to label the layers and write descriptions (maybe we'll type instead.)

- Book reports. I want them to start doing some book reports. Not because of reading or comprehension. They are both advanced readers and they talk about the books, so comprehension isn't a problem. It's going to be the first step towards writing paragraphs for Sandis.

- Science. We're going to be starting a science program that came highly recommended from my friend Amanda. We're going to start with chemistry and go from there. I just have to get my act together!

- More field trips and activities. Having a limited budget puts a damper on these things, unfortunately. As does the finite number of hours in a day, days in a week. But, I do value the learning that takes place when they experience things in person. That's how I'd like them to learn everything - in an unschooly, experiential way. Unfortunately, time, money and energy conflict with that. Still, we get out to many things and lust after many more :)

I'm sure I'll think of more things I'd like to do later, so stay tuned!

Times Tables

Did you know that if your child is doing times tables, you have to remember them yourself. Damn it! I never learned all of them. I don't do math that way. For me, all multiplication is broken down into 10's and 5's and then you subtract or add. So if you have 12x3, that's 3x10 plus 6. No one taught me that, it's just how my brain works.

But now the older child is doing 8x7. Most of you can probably name off what that is without thinking. Not me. I have to figure it out. All 3 times that it appears on her worksheet. Well, not all 3 times because she came up with an odd number once, and I knew that was wrong ;)