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

Friday, March 30, 2012

March NHBA - The Candymakers

The National Homeschool Book Award is one of my coolest homeschool discoveries yet!  Well, I didn't discover it myself (obviously), it's been around for quite a while.  This was the first month that we participated.  The March selection was The Candymakers, by Wendy Mass. 

This book is about four 12 year olds who win the opportunity to compete in an annual candy making competition.  The story is told from each child's perspective, revealing surprises and mystery.  Millie was completely engaged throughout the entire story!

One of the local homeschool moms coordinates a book club revolving around the National Homeschool Book Award pick each month.  They meet at a local location that somehow reflects the book, there's a class, and a snack. 

For this book, we met at the Como Conservatory (a place similar to "The Tropical Room" from the book).  The kids had a chance to sample different flavors (100% cocoa, miracle fruit, etc) that might be used for making candy.  Then, the kids went on a behind the scenes tour of the Conservatory and did a scavenger hunt.  They were able to see where cinnamon comes from, see cocoa beans growing on a tree, sugar cane, pineapples, etc.  Millie had a blast, and learned so much.  It was great for her to connect the real world to the book!

Before we left, Millie and her friend sat down for a slice of chocolate pizza (a very popular lunch item from the book). 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Farm School - Tree Study

I'm running a little behind on my blogging!  We did our Tree Study two Thursdays ago!

Here's what we did:

I read excerpts from pages 618-622 from The Handbook Of Nature Study to Millie.  She learned about the parts of the tree, what purpose they each serve, how the roots are formed under the tree, how the tree grows, how they eat, etc.  I learned a lot from this reading, too :)

We went on a nature walk down by the creek with Grandma and Grandpa.  Grandpa showed Millie what tree rings look like, and how to identify various trees (oak, maple, box elder).  We clipped twigs from each tree to bring home and identify using a key later, but we never got around to it.  They are currently in a vase on our window sill.   

Part way through our walk, Millie stopped to draw a cool tree, and identify its parts. 

Millie collected lots of cool stuff on our walk!  It was an absolutely fantastic March day!

Our tree nature study was inspired by The Handbook Of Nature Study blog.

Monday, March 19, 2012

2nd Grade, 3rd Quarter Review

We've completed second grade, 3rd quarter.  You know what that means?  We're in the final stretch of our first year of homeschooling.  In less than 3 months, Millie will officially be a 3rd grader!  Wow.  We are going to homeschool next year for sure.  On Saturday someone asked her how she likes homeschooling, she responded "Homeschooling rocks!"  He he. 

Here's what we've been up to this quarter:

Reading - Millie has been spending more time reading out loud, and it's been helping  a lot.  I can tell if we've gone a few days without reading out loud, because she seems out of practice. 

Grammar - We're still loving English 2 from BJU Press.  Millie learned about using a thesaurus, writing instructions using a time-order chart, verbs in past and present tense, special verbs, homophones, poetry; writing a couplet, rhyming poem, and a shape poem.

Spelling - Eh.  This needs improvement.  Simply using a spelling list isn't cutting it.  This area will need improvement for next year, big time.

Literature - During 3rd quarter we read Mr. Popper's Penguins, Fantastic Mr. Fox, and we started (and are still working on) The Candymakers. 

Writing - I discovered (and borrowed) Read Write Now.  Millie and I both love it!  Her printing is improving, and so is her drawing!  I'm glad we got to try it before buying it as part of her curriculum next year.

Math - She's still plugging away at Saxon 2.  We still both love it. 

History - We spend this quarter learning about ancient Greece and Rome.  It was not quite as exciting as the dawn of time, or Ancient Egypt, but it was still pretty fun.  We made a knuckle bones game out of clay, read a lot of Greek myths, made up our own Olympics at home, watched a film about Pompeii (which freaked Millie out), and did quite a few activities from History Pockets, and read a lot of books.

Science - She learned about airplanes and boats, animals from Antarctica, started (but failed at) a Triops tank (we'll try this again tonight.  We still have some eggs left),. studied raptors, inside the earth, and weather.  I finally started doing nature study with her!  We are doing Farms School every Thursday, and spending more time outdoors, observing nature.  She took two classes at Kroening, one about squirrels and the other about outdoor survival.  When people ask her what her favorite subject is, she says "Science!"  Yay!

Fine arts - She's progressing nicely at piano, practicing (almost) daily and having a weekly lesson at the St. Paul Conservatory of Music.  We watched a ballet at the Landmark Center (there was a funny photographer there, and we ended up in the paper!), and she attended an art class where she learned about Giuseppe Arcimboldo  and made a portrait of a bird out of different beans and rice. 

Phy ed - She did a lot of ice skating, also tried kick sledding, swimming, hikes, and walks. 

Out And About - We did much better with getting out at least twice per week. With her homeschool group, we went to The Works museum, Wells Fargo Winter Skate, the Raptor Center, Eagles Nest, hosted a Valentines party, and went to the planetarium.  We also had several play dates and trips with friends to museums. 

I think that covers everything!  We've been very busy, and having a lot of fun!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

1000 Gifts - Leslie Style. #'s 201-300

Inspired by Ann Voskamps book One Thousand Gifts, I've started working on my personal list of one thousand things I'm grateful for (there are so many things!).  Numbers 1-200 were published in earlier posts.  Here are numbers 201-300:

201) The sound of eggs hitting a hot pan
202) Taking pictures
203) The color green
204) The way pop fizzes up on my face
205) The way Millies face gets covered with ice cream when eating a cone
206) Watching the girls make random friends wherever we go
207) Celebrating birthdays
208) Our birthday breakfast tradition
209) Discovering awesome new parks
210) Random phone calls from Bud
211) Paddington the bear
212) Fireflies
213) S'mores
214) Bonfires
215) Shopping by myself
216) Roald Dahl
217) Beatrix Potter
218) School supply sales
219) Trying new recipes that everyone likes
220) The smell of workbooks
221) Taking family bike rides when Bud pulls the trailor
222) Sending Millie off to farm camp
223) Goal setting
224) Little Debbie cakes
225) Listening to the lyrics of the girls made-up songs
226) Hearing their sweet voices singing
227) Driving in the car with the window down when it's crisp outside, while drinking/smelling coffee
228) Having a stable income
229) Silly celebrations
230) Feeling fall in the air
231) Looking at a sky FULL of stars
232) Spending all day reading
233) Family vacations
234) September 1-December 31
235) When Millie chooses to read instead of watch TV
236) Watching Bud and the girls play in the sand all day
237) Rowboat rides
238) The Christmas Point store in Brainerd
239) Monopoly
240) That my parents let me explore what I was interested in when I was little
241) Fossils
242) Meeting new friends
243) Elise's sing-song voice when she's trying to sound like a grown up
244) That Elise likes singing "opera"
245) Watching Bud and Millie playing legos on the floor
246) Coloring with pastels
247) Finishing my to-do list
248) Smelly markers
249) Watching Millie learn
250) Seeing Millie improve on topics she's been struggling with
251) Fall colors
252) Getting the mail
253) Bringing out the fall decorations
254) Watching the girls play dress up
255) The smell of autumn scented candles
256) Our annual costume planning "party" at JoAnn Fabrics
257) Bakers Square pie
258) Indian Summer
259) Soaking up the last rays of sun before the cold sets in
260) When Bud takes the girls, leaving me alone for a day
261) Long, fulfilling ladies nights out
262) Darts
263) Bar pizza
264) Christmas planning
265) Cooking spooky foods for dinner
266) Freezer cooking
267) The smell of freshly carved pumpkins with a candle burning inside
268) Babies
269) Making progress on sewing projects
270) The smell of M&M's
271) My new perfect sandwich bread recipe
272)  B Movies
273) Being able to see the lit up "1" on the First National Bank Building
274) The smell of rain
275) The smell of pine needles
276) Ice carvings
277) Playdates with friends
278) A man and his dog
279) Murals on ceilings in old buildings
280) Christmas movies
281) The crunch of snow under my feet
282) Giant snowflakes
283) Homemade hot cocoa
284) Sledding
285) The smell of old churches
286) Farm school
287) Learning along side Millie
288) Preschool curriculum planning
289) Sitting awake when the whole house is sleeping
290) Feeling warm wind on my skin after winter
291) Finding the perfect gift for someone
292) The Winter farmers market
293) Live music
294) Reminiscing
295) Browsing summer camp catalogs
296) The smell of horse breath
297) The softness of horse noses
298) Learning about Native American history
299) Texting
300) Mad Men

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Farm School - Sheep

For the next few Thursdays, the girls and I will be going down to the farm for Farm School.  Today was our first class!  The inspiration for this class came from my favorite nature study blog, handbookofnaturestudy.blogspot.com.  Here's what we did today at our first day of Farm School!

The first thing we did was read a few passages out of The Handbook of Nature Study.  I underlined a few of the important facts I wanted her to observe while we were out with the sheep.  After that, Grandpa Howard gave her a little lesson of his own.  She got to take his lesson notes home with her, and proudly showed Dad what she learned.  Lady thinks she's a teacup poodle, and tried to sit on Millie's lap during class.

Two of the sheep had early babies (due to a ram escapee last Fall), so we spent some time with the two ewes and their sets of twins.  Grandpa Howard told Millie she could have one of the lambs as her own.  She's so excited, and is planning out little Daisy's future.  While we were in the barn, we talked about sheep teeth, the shape of their legs, how the escape from predators, how they take care of their babies, what we can understand from their body language, etc. 

After lunch, Millie took a look at wool under the microscope.  She compared it to Siamese cat and poodle fur, and recorded her findings in her nature journal (which as of right now is just a piece of paper because "someone" forgot to get a nature journal from Michaels)

Grandma 'Ria showed Millie how to tell if fabric is wool vs synthetic by the way it burns. 

Grandpa, Elise, and Millie took a few minutes to tap some Maple trees, too (although they think they might have missed their "window of opportunity"). 

 The entire while, supper was cooking in the crockpot.  I made Lamb and Lager stew, which smelled soooo good, and tasted really good too.  Both kids and Bud ate their entire supper tonight.  Success!

Here's the recipe I used (from The Best of Cooking Light Everyday Favorites)

Lamb and Lager Stew

1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 1/2 cups diagonally cut celery
1 cup diagonally cut carrot
2 T Dijon mustard
1 t salt
1 t dried oregano
1/4 t black pepper
2 lbs lamb cut into 1" cubes (I used 1 lb)
1 lb baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4" cubes
1 12 oz bottle amber lager (I used Grainbelt Nordeast)
4 garlic cloves, crushed
3 thyme sprigs (I sprinkled in thyme from my dried spice collection)
1/2 c fat free, less-sodium beef broth
3 T cornstarch

Combine first 12 ingredients in an electric slow cooker.  Combine broth and cornstarch.  Add to lamb mixture, stir well.  Cover and cook on high 1 hour.  Reduce heat to low, and cook 6 hours (or in the case of my crockpot, 3 hours) or until meat is tender.  Discard thyme sprigs.  Serve over mashed potatoes or rice with a green salad.

What did Elise do while Millie had sheep class today?  She ate, hung out with Grandma, ate, picked berries, walnuts, acorns, and "fairy hats", and ate some more. 

Grandma and Grandpa gave Millie a great book as a "parting gift".  What a fun day.  We're so lucky to have a farm to go to, and Grandparents that enjoy spending time with, and teaching my girls!