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

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Advent Study - Celebrating With Family

Today we continued our Wee Folk Art Advent Study!  We're going a little bit out of order, but that's OK, right?!

Today's focus was about celebrating with family, and the comforts of home.  We read Christmas In The Big Woods.  Millie recently re-read Little House in the Big Woods, so it was fun for her to see the picture book version, and make comparisons.

Just like Ma Ingalls, I made gingerbread boy pancakes (just regular pancake batter, dumped onto the griddle in the shape of gingerbread boys).  The girls thought this was really cute!

Then, we talked about what our favorite "comforts of home" are around the Christmas season.  They drew pictures of their ideas with the fabric crayons, and we transferred the pictures onto a quilt square.  Now they have two quilt squares ready to go!

The other activity suggested in the study was to make gingerbread houses.  I decided not to do this because the girls did this at 4-H last Friday.  They had so much fun building a HUGE gingerbread house, complete with furniture, Santa, and a Christmas tree.  They won "best use of materials."  Good job kids!

Click here to find out what we did for our Angel Study!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Advent Study - Angels

Now that Thanksgiving is over, our Christmas celebration is is full swing!  We do so many fun things during the month of December, that the kids really get to appreciate the "Christmas spirit" for a full 25 days (not just on Christmas Eve and Christmas day).  In fact, when I asked Millie what her favorite part about Christmas is, she responded with "the feeling I get in my heart during the Christmas season."  I love it!

This year, we're doing the Wee Folk Art Advent Celebration.  It kicked off with an "angels" study.  So, that's what we did yesterday and today.  We made a few changes to fit our needs (well, to fit our supply closet, really).

Here's what we did:

In the morning the girls got a note in their advent quilt saying that school was cancelled for the day, and that we'd spend the day doing angel crafts instead.  I had a bag on the table with our supplies in it, for them to look through while I slept in.

The first thing we did was read The Littlest Angel.  I'll be honest, we didn't really like this story.  It was about a four year old that died, and became an angel.  He didn't fit in in heaven, and was lonely, dirty, and annoying.  I guess I don't believe anyone that goes to heaven would be lonely :(  While I read, I gave the girls a challenge to build something with the theme "angel" out of Legos.  Elise didn't participate, but Millie made this cool angel sculpture.

Afterwards, we made wool roving angels.  I bought this roving from Amazon, and found that it was enough to make two angels.

I didn't originally think it'd be enough to make two angels, so I picked up some additional roving at the farm.  Since we didn't need it, Millie tried her hand at wool dying with tea.  Next up:  wool dying with coffee.

Then, the girls used fabric crayons and drew pictures of angels that we then transferred onto quilt squares.  By the end of this study, they'll each have 4 quilt squares that they can sew together to make a little blankie for themselves.  Since Millie drew her angel with a harp, we decided to listen to some harp music while we colored.

We ran out of time, but the next day we made angel bites.  They smell so good while "cooking."  Here's the recipe:

Angel Bites

2 egg whites, room temperature
1/2 t. cream of tarter
2/3 c. super fine sugar
1 t. vanilla
1 c. chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350.

Beat the egg whites until foamy.  Add half of the sugar, a little at a time.  Then, add the vanilla and the rest of the sugar.  Beat until stiff (this will take a long time.  Don't give up!). Fold in the chocolate chips.  Drop 1 t. at a time onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.  Place in the oven, turn the oven off, and let them sit in there UNDISTURBED for at least 6 hours.  


And just for fun, here's a picture of the girls meeting with Santa last weekend.  Elise wants a barbie castle and a car for her stuffed animals, and Millie wants a mermaid tail and a puppy.

Check out other holiday craftiness, here!

Friday, November 15, 2013

A Perfect Homeschool Day

Since I've been so absorbed in keeping my sanity for the past few months, I haven't blogged about our day to day schooling, which is really too bad!  Even though I've been uncomfortable with things since school started, I must say that the girls have been learning a lot, having a lot of fun, developing great friendships, and digging into subjects that they love (history and science).

Here's a sample of a (very rare) stay at home day.

We started out the day learning about science.  We're talking about brains right now.  We already read a few books about them.  Now we're digging a little deeper by learning about Phineas Gage, making model brains, and watching brain surgery!  We didn't go as far as to do a dissection, which was on the schedule originally.  I just can't do it.  Watching a video of a little girl cutting a brain with a butter knife on youtube almost did us in.  Barrrrf.  Here's the link for those awesome brain helmets ;)

After our science fun, we got down to the nitty-gritty.  Millie did a spelling test, math drills, and a typing lesson on the computer, and a math lesson.  Elise did some math and reading in our newly formed "Kindergarten Corner".  It's a special place for her do do her work, where we can set up a little station that doesn't need to be taken down each day.  She loves it!

After lunch we did a history lesson, where we learned about Nicola Tesla, read about the West, and baked cowboy cookies.

At this point, we all needed a big break, so we walked to the Children's Museum for a little art and energy-burning session, only to find out our membership expired.  Sad!  At least it was a gorgeous day for a walk.  So nice!  I didn't even need a coat :)

Before we called it a day, we read Woody, Hazel and Little Pip by Elsa Beskow and did a felt craft that I've been meaning to do for about a month and a half.  This was our final Autumn activity that I really wanted to do before moving onto the next season.  Now we're ready to move on to Thanksgiving "stuff"!  Gobble gobble.

What next?  A nap for me!  I'm exhausted after a long but very fulfilling day!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Best Advise EVER.

This has been a really trying year for me.  Not because anything "wrong" has happened, but because I'm less organized than I usually am, I overbooked our schedule, and I'm having a hard time adjusting to teaching two kids at two completely different levels.

Public school has been calling my name.  I was 70% sure I'd put the kids back in school next year.  It's not what I really want, but like I said, this year is really taking its toll on me.  I'm sure I'm not alone.  It really helps to have the support from other homeschool moms!!  Here's how a friend (you know who you are!) answered my request for advise:

"Your kids should be doing more house work.  Structure time, not content.  Throw out your curriculum.  When you need a break, send the kids to their room and have a glass of wine.  Schedule regular project time daily where they get to do what they want.  Require that they pick it up when they're done.  Make Millie do her own laundry.  Have her cook dinner once a week.  This will make her feel worth while and release you.  Drink wine while she cooks.  Make sure you spend an hour a day doing something for YOU.  This will make you happy and set a good example for them.  Send them to their room when you are stressed, even if they're not in trouble.  For at least an hour.  The results are sweet.  Kids need more alone time to process life than we give them."

Those text messages seriously saved me from a nervous breakdown.  And, I'm glad other moms appreciate wine as much as I do!  :)

Anywhoo, things are better around here.  I still haven't implemented everything she advised me to do, but I'm getting there.  As time goes on, our schedule is clearing up, and I'm able to make some changes.  It feels great!

Here's what we've been up to the past few weeks:

Lots of science projects 

Visited the Russian Museum of Art.  Fascinating!  Who is that kid with us?  That's Maddie!  We babysat her for 10 days.

Lots of outdoor play

Science museum visit

Celebrated Halloween with friends

Went to the MN zoo

Elise continues to love her Doodle Bugs class!

They took a water power class at the Mill City Museum

Millie got her first job cat sitting.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Our School Year So Far...

This has been a very busy school year.  A little too busy, if I do say so myself!  In fact, I was about to throw in the towel about three weeks into the school year (thank goodness for great homeschool friends that I can lean on when I need to!).

Here's a glimpse into our busy schedule:

Enjoying the last days of Summer with a friend at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden
Playing along the Mississippi after Jr. Rangers (Mussel class and a boat tour)

The girls started tap/ballet/jazz

Celebrated Elise's 5th birthday at the American Girl Store

Regular weekly study dates at Silverwood Park while Elise is at her Doodlebugs class

Had our first Homeschool Mystery Day (the kids look scared because a major storm was blowing in)

Millie found and took care of 4 sweet baby kitties.  

Took the bus to piano lessons a few times.  Piano is going great!

Lots of fun science experiments!

Painting and fun at the MN Children's Museum

Lots of weekend exploring in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa

4-H kickoff, Elise's first one ever!  They had a meeting, hay ride, bonfire, etc.

Style Pile at the dance studio and Chinese food

Eloise Butler Wildflower Sanctuary.  Millie took a Poet-Tree class, Elise and I explored

Nature study/craftiness

Enjoying the last bits of Fall with a hike and picnic on Lake Superior

Apple orchard with great friends

Elise is making friends now, too!

Team building with the homeschool group
This is just some of what has been keeping us busy 3-5 days per week.  Phew!  I fully expect to slow down the week of Thanksgiving...

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Our Civil War Unit Study

It's hard to imagine that 150 short years ago, our country was in the middle of a horrific civil war.  I tried to put it in perspective for the kids, by saying that the war was going on a mere 60 years before their great grandma Lenore was born.  I suppose that even 60 years ago seems incomprehensible to a child, but it's really quite amazing how fast our country has changed in a fairly short period of time, isn't it?!

We normally take the summer off from school, but Millie wanted to continue on with history, so we used the past 3 months to learn all about the Civil War.  Here's what we did:

  • We checked out a lot of really great books about the Civil War from the library.  The most useful one was Great Civil War Projects, but really, they were all amazing.  
  • After that, I printed out this fantastic teaching packet (I printed from page 19 on), complete with worksheets and a map.  We worked on the map and the vocabulary worksheet, so she'd be familiar with some of the terminology before we got started.  
  • Next we read about what life was like for slaves before the war began.  We read The Strength of These Arms, Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom, and Children of the Emancipation
  • We watched PBS Civil War (a Ken Burns documentary), which is streaming on Netflix.  I let the kids play with legos while they watched, but the show was so engaging that Millie watched almost the entire thing.  We didn't watch all of the episodes, only the first and third.  
  • Because it's the 150th anniversary of the war, the history museum has a lot of really great educational events going on.  The Minnesota History Museum hosted a night of civil war music, dancing, and yard games.  It was fun to see the band play the drums and fife.  Everyone got up and learned a few dances including the schottische.  Here is a series of youtube videos that show people in period costume, dancing popular dances from the civil war era.   The girls had a chance to play popular yard games, including a clothespin toss, and ring toss:

  • Millie started reading the American Girl Addy book, but couldn't stomach it.  Instead, we read about what Addy's life would have been like in the Addy Cookbook.  Millie made an entire slaves breakfast  (eggs, buttermilk biscuits, and fried apples) by herself!  Everyone enjoyed it, although we could have done with fewer onions in the eggs ;)

  • Next, we read about the importance of photography during the civil war.  We read Great Civil War Projects pages 19-21, then looked through a book of photos taken during the war.  I was amazed to learn that photographers would arrange dead bodies to make the scenes look more horrifying. 
  • I allowed her to cut out pictures from the photography book to use in a series of letters that she was to write between two characters that she made up, from the civil war era.  She chose to write letters between a fictional brother and sister.  Prior to writing the letters, we read a few twitter feeds that contain snippets from actual letters from a husband and wife (Lizzie Bowler and James Madison Bowler)  from Minnesota, that were separated during the war.   
  • We made a trip out to Historic Fort Snelling on Civil War Day.  We did a little scavenger hunt, talked with a few history players, visited what is believed to be Dred Scott's actual quarters (!!!), and really got a feel for what life was like for the soldiers that lived there.  The most interesting thing I learned, was that about 400-1000 women fought in the Civil War, disguised as men.  

  • We (by "we" I mean Bud and I.  Millie wouldn't shoot it) got to shoot a weapon from the Civil War.  Below is a picture of the weapon, along with the "get up" you would have seen it with during the war.

  • There are a lot of activities that I would have loved to have done with the girls this summer, but we ran out of time.  Among those activities include making corn husk dolls, baking hardtack, making a housewife kit, and sewing a quit square.  I imagine we'll get to the corn husk doll eventually...