Welcome to TwoCowgirls, the blog about our crazy life in Downtown Saint Paul!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Second Grade - Second Quarter, A Review

We made it through the second quarter of our first year of homeschooling intact!  We're both still liking it a lot.  Phew.

Here's a summary of what we've been working on the past few months:

Phy Ed - This was the area that I needed to work on because we didn't do much of anything in 1st quarter.  I'm happy with our progress in 2nd quarter!  She has been taking skating lessons at the St. Paul Figure Skating club once a week.  We've also been doing our normal walks, plus ice skating at the outdoor rink and swimming.  My goal was to do PE twice per week (because that's slightly more than she did at public school.  Yes, I'm comparing).

Reading - I've found that Millie can read slightly more advanced books than I thought if she reads quietly to herself.  I ask questions about what she's read, and she is comprehending the books.  If we read out loud however, she gets hung up on words, and needs to work on her speed and expression.  I should have been having her read out loud more than I have been, so that's something I need to work on next quarter.

Grammar - We're still using Grammar 2 from BJU Press and loving it!  We're moving at a much slower clip than I had anticipated, but this is a subject that Millie needs more help in.  I'm glad to be able to spend more time here because she needs the extra help.  In fact, when it came to learning about common and proper nouns, we did the work from the book, printed the extra worksheets from the Grammar 2 CD, printed worksheets from superteacher.com, AND from the BrainQuest 2 workbook.  I think she finally got it!

Spelling - Same old, same old.  We're doing 12 words per week.  She writes the words, plus does an activity with them each week (word search, word scramble, alphabetizing, etc).  I quiz her each day and she writes the words she gets wrong 5 times each.

History - We just finished learning about ancient Egypt.  This was a really fun unit, we both learned a lot!  We used History Pockets, watched a few documentaries, read out of the Usborne World History book, read The Magic Treehouse Mummies & Pyramids Research Guide, wrote our names using the hieroglyphic alphabet, and took a field trip to see the mummy at the Science Museum.  It was so cool to listen to her converse with the guy manning the mummy station.  I was able to see that she was retaining a lot of the information I had taught her. 

Math - She's cruising along in her Saxon 2 math book.  I also started having her do XtraMath.com to help her identify addition facts quickly. 

Science - We touched on animals/culture/geography in South America and Australia, and learned about our body's  functions (lungs, blood, heart, nerves, hearing, sight, etc).  We did a lot of really cool experiments during that unit!

Fine Arts & Unit Study - Millie is continuing with her piano lessons.  She was supposed to have a recital earlier in December but it has been postponed until late January.  We saw a ballet at the Landmark Center, which the girls both loved.  They took a class at Silverwood where they learned how to make apple cider using a cider press, learned about apple pollination, and painted with apple halves.  It was a great class, I always learn something at Silverwood!  November was filled with learning about the true story of Thanksgiving.  I would have like to have done more crafts, but we didn't get around to it.  We read a lot of books, though.

The "S" word - Millie has been seeing her friends at least twice per week, either during co-op activities,
play dates, church, skating class, etc. 

That about sums up what we've been busy doing for the past couple months!  Is there anything I'd like to change?  Of course!  I'd like Millie to see her friends at least twice during the week, not including skating or church.  Fridays are a given, but I would like to get her out to a class of some sort at least one other time.  I'm having socialization guilt.  I'd also like to keep up with and increase our physical activities.  Maybe a goal of 3 activities per week would satisfy me :)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Our Favorite Holiday Traditions

One of the pages in my 2011 Christmas Planner is a Christmas Festivities Bucket List.  This list consists of everything I'd like to do during the holiday season.  My list has 28 items on it.  Let's do the math:  There are 37 days until Christmas, and I have 28 tasks to complete.  Hmmm, I have a feeling they're not all going to happen.  I asked my family what their most important traditions are, and they replied with the following list:
Our revised "mini list" is totally doable, and it will satisfy our desire for a season rich with tradition. 

What are you most important holiday traditions?

Photo From Wells Fargo WinterSkate

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Getting Behind...

I seem to be falling behind in my blogging duties!  Here's a recap:
  • We did a few other fun activities for Halloween
  • We trick or treated at my sisters house in Eagan with her two little boys.  My parents came too.  It's a fun tradition that I hope continues for a loooong time :)
  • My mom, sister, and I went on our annual Mother/Daughter/Sister Christmas shopping trip last weekend.  For me, Christmas has already started!  I looove it! 
I'll try to be better from now on about posting!  Life seems to have been getting in the way.  Imagine that!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Behold The Christmas Planner

I know, I shouldn't even be thinking about Christmas yet.  I should be focusing on getting those Halloween costumes finished.  But, it's impossible not to think about it a little bit.  After all, I have started getting Christmas catalogs in the mail (only Fleet Farm, but they count, right?  Their Christmas toyland is already open!). 

Here she is!  The 2011 Christmas Planner.  Filled with a spot to keep my pen and highlighter, slot for catalogs and receipts, my calendar for November and December, Christmas list and budget, Christmas "bucket list", and blank pages to put my menus and party outfit schedule on.  I'm good to go!  C'mon Mother/Daughter/Sister Christmas shopping day, I'm ready!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Second Grade, First Quarter In Review

I'm almost done with my first quarter of homeschooling Millie!  So far so good.  We've both learned a lot, and made some really nice friends.

Here's what we've been doing, in detail:

Math - She's using Saxon Math 2, and breezing through it.  She really "gets" math.  We just finished lesson 50 today.  We've been skipping forward quite a bit, or else she'd be bored.  I think I'll be buying Saxon Math 3 before the school year is over.

Science - She spent a couple weeks learning about North American animals (...and culture...and geography.  She wrote and performed a 1 act play as part of her presentation on wolves), dinosaurs, volcanoes and plate tectonics, how machines work, and magnets/batteries. 

Reading/Read Alouds - She has been reading a book per week.  She's progressed to the "next level" of books already, and is now focusing on reading classics by DK Readers Level 4 (Black Beauty, in specific).  I'm really pleased with her progress!  We're also reading out loud each night.  She especially enjoyed The Cricket In Times Square and The Boxcar Children.

Spelling and Grammar - The spelling program that I'm using is helping a lot with phonics.  She's doing great!  Her first few weeks of grammar were focused on sentence structure and different types of sentences and punctuation.  Right now (and for the rest of 1st quarter) she's working on a writing unit.  Her first project was to write about an experience (The Renaissance Festival).  Right now she's working on writing about our trip to Craguns.  It's fun to see the progress she's making!

History - We're both LOVING history!  We started with the dawn of time, dinosaurs, evolution, etc.  It's been really fun (I can't believe how much I'm learning!).  She loved the book Life In The Great Ice Age

Fine Arts - She learned about Pieter Bruegel, and studied his use of color.  We used pastels to create warm and cool color pictures.  We also studied Georges Seurat, and made pictures using only tiny dots.  Millie started piano lessons, too.  Her teacher is fantastic, and Millie can read notes and play a few simple songs already :) 

Phy Ed - We haven't done as much as I'd like in this department.  Our phy ed has mainly been walking, biking, and hiking.  This is an area that definitely needs improvement for next quarter!

Field Trips and Out-of-the-home classes - We've taken MANY field trips during the 1st quarter!  Her first was out to Silverwood for a class about papermaking with her co-op friends.  She took another class out there about textures in nature, and made texture tiles out of clay, using textures she found on a nature walk.    When she was learning about fossils, we went hunting for fossils at the Lilydale Brickyard and made fossils at home using plaster of paris.  Every week for the past 5 weeks she's gone to a Farm Explorers class out at Gale Woods Farm in Minnetrista.  It's an absolutely fantastic class!  Only one of those left...  We are learning about the renaissance period later this year, so we took a trip out to the Renaissance Festival.  She learned about local history, dipped candles, and watched someone pretend to make ice cream at Gibbs Farm.  The last three outings of the quarter will be science day at the Roseville Library (Newtons 3rd law), a trip to see Luna Negra at the Ordway, and a mother/daughter trip to the theatre to see Dolphin Tail (she learned about Winter the dolphin last year, and it's now a movie, so we're going).

It's been a really great first quarter!  So far we're both loving this homeschool thing :)

What do I need to improve on?  Adding more phy ed into our day, and sticking to our monthly "unit of inquiries".  It was my intention to do more art, and  a lot of nature study.  We didn't do ANY nature study, which I'm disappointed about.  I'll have to up my efforts in the Spring.

Spooktacular Countdown - Let The Sewing Begin!

Only 14 sewing days until Halloween!  Can you guess what I'll be doing every evening for the next few weeks?  My fingers are crossed that I can get everything done on time, and that everything turns out.  Elise's costume looks like it will be hard!  I've never sewn with silky fabric and sheers before.  Now that's scary!

Here's my temporary sewing station.  I'm set up in the corner of my living room, on a card table :)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Spooktacular Countdown - Decorating for Halloween

15 Days until Halloween...

We finally brought up our fall/halloween decor boxes!

My favorite is my bowl full of acorns and old crow figurines.

Elise enjoyed dressing up in Millies old costumes.  She looooved the pirate costume, and it fit her perfectly.  Remind me why I bought a pattern and ridiculously expensive supplies to make her a costume this year...!?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Spooktacular Countdown - Chicken and Snakes

Only 17 days 'til Halloween, and still so much to do! 

Tonight I made Chicken and Snakes for dinner.  It was sooo goooood!  I just made mashed potatoes the way I normally do, then dripped in a few drops of green food coloring.  Easy Peasy.  I put the mashed potatoes into a bag, clipped the corner, and squeezed snakes onto the plates.  I used the pimento from a green olive for the tongue, and cut the olive in half for the eyes.  The chicken also turned out really good.  I mixed 1/2 c of flour, 1 t Chipotle seasoning, a little salt, and a little pepper into a plastic bag.  I dipped each drumstick into milk, tossed with the seasoning, and put on a baking sheet.  I baked it at 450 degrees for 20 minutes, flipped the chicken, and baked for another 20 minutes.  I'd never cooked the drummies with Chipotle seasoning before, but I was out of paprika and sage, so I experimented.  Mmmm. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Spooktacular Countdown - Chicken Cordon Bleu Mummy

Only 26 days 'til Halloween!  The fun is just beginning!  Last night I made Chicken Cordon Bleu, mummy style!  It was really good (although the kids wouldn't eat it). 

Chicken Cordon Bleu Mummy Recipe

1 can Pillsbury refrigerated pizza crust
2 T garlic and herb spreadable cheese
4 oz thinly sliced cooked deli ham
6 oz thinly sliced cooked deli chicken
4 slices provolone cheese
1 egg
1 t grated Parmesan cheese
sliced olives

1.  Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Spray cookie sheet with cooking spray.  Unroll dough into cookie sheet:stretch and very lightly press into a "triangular" shape; 14 inches long, 11 inches at the top, and 6 inches at the bottom.
2.  Spread garlic and herb cheese down the center (allow for about 3 inches down the middle to put the cheese and fillings), to within 1/2 inches of each end.
3.  Start layering the ham, chicken and cheese on top of the garlic and herb cheese.  Measure about 3 inches down from the top, and cut cuts at a diagonal angle, about one inch apart, along both sides of the mummy.  These will fold over the toppings and become the mummy wrapping.  Fold the top of the pizza dough down to form the head, and start wrapping that mummy!
4.  In a small bowl, beat egg.  Brush over dough.  Sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top.
5.  Bake 15-20 minutes until golden brown.  Place sliced olives in the eye opening at the top.
6.  Cut into slices and serve!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

What I Learned In My First Two Weeks Of Homeschooling

I've already learned so much, and it's just the beginning.  Here are some of the main things I've picked up:

  1. It's VERY easy to overbook ourselves
  2. We can't handle having more than 1 field trip and 1 homeschool group event during the week.
  3. Other homeschool moms (and dads!) are really cool.  Not a single denim jumper in sight!
  4. My extremely detailed, hour by hour plan is unrealistic.
  5. Being flexible is key
I need to work on:
  1. Letting go of unrealistic expectations for myself and Millie
  2. Teaching Elise the basics while I teach Millie everything else
  3. Slowing down, and enjoying the new lifestyle I've created for us

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

First Day of 2nd Grade!

Here's Ms. Millie on her first day of 2nd grade:

Are you wondering how the day went?  It went great!  We got a little behind because we had to meet with her new piano teacher, but otherwise it was fantastic :)  Millie said "I like homeschool for now".  He he he.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Homeschool Orientation

I'm calling it Homeschool Orientation for lack of a better name!  I decided that since we're homeschooling for the first time, and we're formally beginning the school year on September 6th, I'd give Millie a "sample day" so she could see how things are going to work.  I structured the day exactly as it will be structured once school starts.  Here's our typical day:

Morning meeting - Millie did some copy work, did a daily devotional, and planned our recess for the day.
After that, Millie did a bit of spelling, writing, and reading.
History - I read to her out of Dinosaurs Unleashed.  She learned about the first people that discovered dinosaurs.
I chose our "recess" for the day.  We went to the library to play and get the readers for the next two weeks. 
Afterwards we had lunch.
While Elise napped, we did math (intro to the Meeting Book, and a timed addition practice test) and science (egg buoyancy experiment).

That's it!  End of day!  It went great.  It was great to have some structure to our day :)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

School's About To Start, And I'm In Panic Mode!

It's not the curriculum I'm worried about anymore.  I've done my research.  I have every single day planned out for the next nine months, in detail.  I have field trips planned. 
What I'm worried about is considered taboo in the homeschool community. The dreaded "S" word: 
I wasn't worried about it until two nights ago, when it hit me like a truck.  As it is, we don't live in a neighborhood with kids, so Millie doesn't have the trusty neighborhood friends. Some of my best memories from my youth involved my neighborhood friends.  When she was at public school for Kindergarten and 1st, she played with everyone, she never had that one special friend.  Although she's in 4-H, a homeschool group, skating, and Sunday school, I worry that she won't be able to form a bond with anyone that turns into a BFF.

Will she ever stay up late watching movies with anyone?
Will she ever make up dance moves to Taylor Swift songs with that special friend?
Will she ever spend hours in the bathroom with BFF putting her hair in curlers?
Will she ever have sleepovers?

I spoke with a friend and experienced homeschool mommy yesterday, and told her about my current state of panic, and she told me there's only one thing more that I could be doing.


So, although I'm not really the praying "type", I'm going to do it.  Last year I prayed to be a more patient mother.  And, while I still need to work on that, I'm going to pray harder that Millie can find that one special friend.  I hope it'll help put my mind at ease...

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Not Back To School: School Room Week

We're almost set up for school to start on September 6th!  We finally went to Ikea to buy a bookshelf.  I have the challenge of living in less than 900 square feet, and trying to make everything fit in an organized, non-cluttered manner.  I'm not one for clutter, so this is really hard for me!

This is where we'll be having school:

Here's the bookshelf.  Obviously I'm new at this, because all of my materials fit on one shelf!  The top looks a little naked.  I think it's begging for a plant and a piece of pottery or a fish bowl. 

Here's our dining room table where a lot of the serious work will take place.  The white board will come down and fold up at the end of each day.  I'm still not sure where I'll put it, but I'll cross that bridge on September 6th :)
Here's the craft area where the girls like to play.  I'm quite certain that if I got rid of all their toys, and had a well stocked craft shelf (paper, scissors, crayons, stickers, pom poms, etc), they'd be perfectly content.  See the piano in the background?  That's one of the big reasons I'm homeschooling.  Our district cut music out of the elementary schools.  Now Millie will have practice or instruction daily. :)
The best part of homeschool where we live is the variety of educational opportunities in our big "backyard"!  This is what we see from our classroom in the sky:

We live within walking distance to the Minnesota Childrens Museum, the Minnesota History Museum, The Minnesota Science Museum, and Central Library (the most awesome library ever, pictured below).  

There it is!  That's where we'll be doing school.  To see other school rooms, hop on over to Heart Of The Matter and check them out

Monday, August 1, 2011

Not Back To School: Curriculum Hop

This is my first year homeschooling, so everything I've selected for this year is purely based on my research. It's my trial and error year :)  I'm excited to learn along with Millie this year as she enters second grade!

Here is it:

We'll start out our day with a morning meeting where Millie will do her copy work for the day, discuss what the weather is going to be like, decide what we're going to do for recess/PE, and do a daily devotional.

Reading - I made up my own reading program.  She'll read one book at her level per week, answer comprehension questions, enter it into a reading log book, and do activities from her Think-Tac-Toe.  Millie loves to read, so she'll read more than one book per week in her free time.  I'm just custom picking one based on what she's learning about in history, the time of year, etc. 

Grammar - This is the one I'm really nervous about!  I'm using English 2 from BJU Press.  It seems to be very complete, very thorough, and attractive.  The part that I'm nervous about is trying to fit everything into 1 year.  Since we're doing a 4 day schedule, I have a feeling that she'll still be working on English 2 in 3rd grade.  I don't want her to fall behind...

Spelling - She'll have 10 spelling words per week.  She'll start out with a pretest on Monday, and then every day work on an activity with her spelling words, including: copying the words she gets wrong, writing stories using the words, cutting letters out of magazines to make up the words, word finds, word scrambles, etc. 

History/Geography - I'm teaching her about the ancient world this year.  The curriculum I'm using is loosely based on the curriculum at http://www.guesthollow.com/ .  She'll learn about dinosaurs, ancient people, Egyptians, Greeks, medieval times, and more.  I'm basing her geography on this, as well. 

Math - Saxon math. 

Science - I purchased Sonlight science C.  I think I'm regretting my purchase :(  I'll use some of the ideas and books, and make up my own curriculum.

Spanish - I'm going to teach her Spanish using Muzzy.  I have to save up for it, so it probably won't be until later in the school year.

I've got some really great unit studies planned, art, phy ed activities, and more!  I'm excited to make this a very memorable, educational, and fun year for both of us!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Rosemary Chicken and Vegetables

I love this recipe!  Everyone ate it, Elise even had seconds.  Mmm!

8 Chicken drumsticks
4 Large red potatoes, each cut into 8 wedges
2 Large peppers cut into 3/4 inch wedges
1 Large red onion, cut into 1/2 inch thick slices
2 T Olive oil
3 T Chopped fresh rosemary
2 T Chopped garlic
1/2 t Each salt and pepper
1/4 c Pitted olives, cut in half
Serve with balsamic vinegar

1) Heat oven to 500 degrees.  Position racks to divide oven into thirds.  Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with foil.
2) Distribute drumsticks, potatoes, peppers, and onion between pans.  Drizzle with oil, sprinkle with rosemary, garlic, salt, and pepper.  Toss and turn to coat.
3) Roast pans 15 minutes, remove from oven.  Toss mixture on pans, roast 15 minutes longer.
4) Arrange on serving platter, sprinkle with olives.  Serve drizzled with vinegar.

* I only used one large pan and spread everything evenly over it.  It turned out great, and didn't require extra baking time
* I didn't serve mine with olives or vinegar because I wanted my family to eat it.  It was good without it.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Breakfast Cookies

Cookies for breakfast?  Who wouldn't want cookies for breakfast?!

Here's a recipe I found on http://www.simple-nourished-living.com/.  It's soo good.  Mmm!  And it goes great with coffee :)

Peanut Butter Breakfast Cookies
Makes about 2 dozen

Packed with the added punch of protein from peanut butter, these wholesome cookies are satisfying.
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1/3 cup water
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 cups quick cooking oats
1/2 cup wheat germ
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup raisins
Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or lightly grease them.
In a large bowl beat together butter, peanut butter, brown sugar, and vanilla with an electric mixer until creamy. Beat in eggs and water.
In a medium bowl stir together flours, oats, wheat germ, salt, cinnamon, and baking soda. Mix flour mixture into peanut butter mixture. Stir in raisins.
Drop by ice cream scoopfuls (or 1/4 cup measuring cupfuls )2 1/2 inches apart on greased cookie sheets. Flatten slightly.
Bake for 18 to 20 minutes until golden but still soft.
Remove from the oven and cool on cookie sheet for 2 minutes, then transfer to cooling racks to cool completely.

We opted for the slightly less healthy version.  I subsituted chocolate chips for the raisins, or my family wouldn't eat them.  ;)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Gearing Up For Fall

Browsing the ads in the Sunday paper today put me in the mood for "back to school"! I love this time of year.  It's a great time to restock my kids art supply, buy supplies for Christmas crafts, or Operation Christmas Child gifts. 
I swore after the long winter, that I wouldn't wish away the Summer, so I'm trying not to get TOO excited about Fall.  So, Millie and I worked on our Summer '11 Bucket List.  Here's what we will do before school starts:
  • See the animals at Como Park
  • Go on rides at Como Town
  • Go to the MN Zoo twice
  • Go to the island at St. Kates and feed the ducks
  • Swim at Snail Lake
  • Have a night-time party at the farm
  • Go to the History Museum
  • Go to Music in Mears
  • Get ice cream at Izzys
  • Farm camp
  • Craguns
  • Play at the Harriet Island playground
  • Go on a nature scavenger hunt
In addition to all the fun things we WILL do before the end of summer, I also need to:
  • Finish all my back to school  shopping
  • Figure out the reporting requirements for homeschooling in MN
  • Introduce Elise to daily quiet time
  • Create and implement a chore chart for Millie
  • Create a cleaning routine for myself
  • Organize my pantry, and somehow free up an entire shelf for homeschool supplies
  • Paint my living room, dining room, and hallway
  • Sign up for a couch 2 5K app, and get in the habit of exercising after the kids are in bed.
I only have 7 weeks to do it all!!  I'll keep you posted.

Aaaaaaand before I go for the evening, here's a picture of Millie from earlier today.  She's really really into kangaroos right now :)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

4th of July, 2011

4th of July down at the farm!  My favorite holiday gathering of the year :)  This about sums it up:

Lovin' Grandma

Playing in the creek

Mmmm, cotton candy!

4th of July parade in Wannamingo, MN

Soldier Millie

What color's my tongue?

Look at all my candy!

Look at all my suckers!


Nellie the cow (she's in love with Bud)

We can't keep the girls away from the creek

Woodfire kabobs. Mmm!

Watching fireworks


We came home in time to watch fireworks from our balcony with the Kleppes