Caterpillar, Caterpillar....

We were out back a few evenings ago and I was checking the passionflower seed pods to see if they were ready and I found a caterpillar on a weed near the compost/passion flower "area". We- the boys and I- looked it over. Rylan immediately thought it would be one of these (he was right). And Cale guessed that it ate the milkweed (which also resides in the compost pile with the passion flowers). While we were observing Paul found another of the same type on the handle of the pitch fork. So into the house they came....

And here is my lovely new dining room table centerpiece....caterpillars and a froglet...

All I need is to hatch out the remaining Aquasaur eggs....at least it is an interactive nature exhibit while we eat.

So while the boys were in the bath went to make an I.D. It was fairly easy to do....since we found numerous chrysalises in that area of the garden before and we recently found out it's identity at the butterfly garden at the zoo: the Fritillary. The first few places I looked....all I could find was that Fritillaries are very picky and eat only violet leaves. We have no violets around. And then I came across the Gulf Fritillary. And guess what it eats? Passion Flower.

By mid-day yesterday one was already hanging from the ceiling of our butterfly tent and the other was demolishing the leaves. Last night we went hunting and found a third caterpillar and brought it in as well. As of right now all 3 are hanging. The first one's chysalis is completely formed the other 2 have just attached and should be about done by morning.

Hopefully this time around we won't miss the butterflies emerging like we did with the cabbage worms!


New skills....

Saturday afternoon one of the training wheels broke completely off of Cale's bike. It was his 3rd broken wheel. He'd already ran though the 2 that came with his bike and was now onto the 2 that we took off of Rylan's bike. We have a running deal with the boys that they get a new bike when they learn to ride on 2 wheels. We've tried a number of times with Cale, at his request, but he wasn't ready. He leaned a lot and overcorrected, a lot. But out of necessity this time, we took off the remaining training wheel and gave it a shot. He didn't fall. He didn't lean. He just rode off...

He only goes maybe 20 ft at a time before he stops himself and falls over because he's going too fast to simply put his foot down. He's ready for a new bike now....and is in need of one too....his seat padding has been fading fast and the rust is creeping up too....

Here's the other skill he learned yesterday:

Can you see what he's doing??
That of course made me have to step up and do it too...it never bothered me as a kid. I loved dissections in school. Now?? eww!! I'd better get over it so I can do dissections with the boys before too long!

We've been fishing a lot. It's one of Rylan's favorite things to do. We've been going down to Fort Loudon since it's close to our house once or twice a week. Working on Rylan's fishing belt loop and pin for cub scouts. Of course he is supposed to bait a hook- he can do corn, he can do artificial lures, he can pick up a worm and play with it....but stab it with a hook a few times?? No way!


Hot Air Balloon Festival

We made it to the Hot Air Balloon Festival last night. The weather wasn't the best for ballooning so they didn't lift off, but they had a choreographed balloon glow set to music. My camera was acting up. I charged the batteries just before we left but they were on red as soon as I turned it on and died just as the glow started....so those pictures didn't turn out too well...

We got there at about 5:00 and watched a little dog show before walking down to the pond to set up our blanket and eat our dinner. Just after we ate the balloonists began their set up...stretching the tarps, stretching the balloons, filling the balloons and finally tipping them upright. The boys were mesmorized. The glow wasn't until 8pm and so from about 6:30-8 they stood (or jumped) as they watched. They were so excited and giving thier commentary.

Stretching them out. This one here was the big one. It took 30-45 minutes just to stretch it out completely. It's the Energizer Bunny! Here it is (nearly) full of air. It had just lifted and only the drum still hadn't inflated. The one next to it, The Mayflower, was having some technical difficulties as well. It took off a little bit real low to the ground and got out over the water. It was still tetherd to the van and had a few men pulling ropes but they couldn't get it back over land. It dipped into the water 3-4 times and almost ran into the fountain.

Almost full!

All the way up!
That's about the only shot of them I got. I didn't have enough battery power to snap away like I usually do. There were 23 balloons total. The 3 they were giving tethered balloon rides from went down before the glow. And 3 inflated but must have had some sort of trouble because they deflated and packed them back up before the glow began...they did still participate by blasting their flames from the baskets, just no balloon.

And look!!
Notice the toothless grin!!! FINALLY after month and months of back to back loose teeth. They are finally out. The child needs to relearn table manners and how to eat. He's been eating all weird from the side of his mouth for so long, so he wouldn't touch his loose teeth. The top one popped out on it's own. The bottom one, which was loose and ready for about 3 months, he finally let me pull out...but only after it turned completely around backwards and he couldn't get it back to the right way....I just hope we have a break before the next go round.


Friday Fun Day

Last night when I went to set up the table for school this morning, I realized I really didn't feel like school. I didn't feel like workbooks. So instead of setting their math and language books and assignments on the table I set a whole lot of "stuff"...
  • Great States game
  • Candy Land
  • Spellominoes (sort of like dominoe cards with CVC word families on them)
  • blank note cards and rubber stamps (to write a letter to someone)
  • UNO
  • Bingo ( I wrote up Cale's silent e words and mulitsyllable ones for Rylan and letters for Cohen)
  • items to make this experiment
  • a stack of story books
  • a few puzzles
  • dice and white board with written numbers to play "Knockout"
  • items to do this experiment
  • a handful of paintbrushes and a large roll of paper

Cale walked into the playroom this morning and said "Mommy what is all that stuff??" I told him it was his school work. That caused Rylan and Cohen to come running. They were pretty excited to get started.

We haven't cleared the table yet. We planned to save Great States and UNO for when Lakin was napping. And we'll do our mural painting outside this afternoon. We also might take a trip down to the Greenback Public Library. We live about 5 minutes away from it, yet we've only been once. Usually we go to the Blount County Library, about 20 minutes away...because...well the Greenback library is about the size of my living room.


If the weather holds up we may go out to the Hot Air Balloon Festival. It hasn't rained for weeks, but it might tonight...

But overall I think the boys are enjoying the "easy" day as Rylan puts it (although he did fight me on the letter writing, but in the end he did it, and did it well).


Think! Challenge- Week 4

This week's challenge is a little harder and it requires a few more materials but it is lots of fun! Put the following items on the table: 3 drinking straws6 toothpicks3 large marshmallows (if you don't have any use 3 bandaids)3 round plastic tops (size doesn't really matter -- we used the tops to bottled water)18 lifesavers (or cherrios or fruit loops)small appleTell students to raise the apple off the ground as high as possible for as long as possible. This time, they may use scissors during "construction" but may not use them to elevate the apple. Remember, the focus is the thinking part so if you don't have the exact materials, don't worry about it, just go with what you have. It is supposed to be fun and require no planning!

This is the first time we've taken part in the Think! weekly challenges and my boys had a lot of fun!
Rylan used 3 caps, 3 marshmallows, 3 straws and 1 toothpick to lift his [plum] off the table 7.5 inches. It stayed for just under a minute.

Cohen was more interested in playing around with the items than actually making much. But he did use 3 toothpicks, 3 marshmallows, 3 straws and 3 caps to lift his plum about 1/2 an inch.

Cale tried. But in his frustration he stomped off....maybe next time...


Got Tissues?

It's been a pain of a weekend around here. I was forewarned last Tuesday that the boys talked to a snotty nosed kid at the library. Sure enough, Thursday morning Lakin wakes up with a runny nose. Gradually gets worse through the day and 2 hours after going to bed he is awake and crying. Sleeps on me and kicks Paul in the head all night. Friday I get complaints of sore throats from Rylan and Cale. About an hour after they go to bed, Cale has gone from not sick to SICK. Hacking, dry cough. Screaming. He slept on the "bed" on the floor next to our bed, screaming the better half of all night. Rylan is "coughing" and "very sick"; in comparison he's got the sniffles, but....Cohen is the champion snotty sneezer.
Then for night 3:
This little one decides he's not going to go to bed in Saturday. Thought he'd talk on the phone for a bit instead. He normally goes to bed at 7:30. His night ended with me having flashbacks of newborn night time colic. Him having a too tired tantrum which ended finally to him collapsing on Paul in the bathroom with the shower running. It was past 11pm.
They are on the mend, I suppose. There's only so much snot I can handle at once.


The History of the Earth

The boys finished up their Earth's History timeline books today. We talked and read about different major occurences during the Earth's history from it's formation to present history.

Everyday we talked about a different period of time. The boys would listen to me talk or we would read a section of a book and then they would draw their representation of what was happening. Then each would dictate a sentence or 2 about what we just talked about. Sometimes I would write for Cale or I would write both of thier sentences on separate boards and they would copy it into their books.
Rylan got a bit frustrated at the end. He was fine drawing planets and meteors and even dinosaurs, but once the mammals started showing up he got a little frustrated with his drawing abilities. But overall he enjoyed the project. He was especially interested in just how long a billion years was. I didn't find this until we were already into our project, but I am saving it for next time: The History of the Earth...One Square at a Time


Moveable Alphabet

I ordered this from Lakeshore Learning and it was delivered yesterday afternoon. All 4 boys immediately began to play around with the letters. But today I worked them into our school day. First Cohen and I used them after our "A" scavenger hunt to spell out all the items we found around the house starting with the "ahh" sound.
And here is Cale working on his first set of sight/instant words. He was using our small flip book for spelling, but I can tell it really helped him read the words. Especially since he would read the entire list as he added a new word.Rylan also wanted to use these today. He decided to spell out all of this week's spelling words (-dge words) to help him practice for his spelling test tomorrow.


We're going to the zoo...zoo...zoo....

This morning we had an abbreviated school schedule...Paul stepped in as the teacher at the library after they dropped me off at the dentist. It has been a LONG time since I have been to the dentist and I had one tooth I knew needed work on....and as worried as I was about it, the worst looking one is the one that is the least problematic. I have 4 total in need of fillings. But all simple fillings. So I'll be going to the dentist often in the next few months...

But once that was over and done with, we all headed off to the zoo! Cohen has been asking to go for months, and I have been wanting to go to see the new butterfly gardens-
It was a wonderful day...the 90 degree summer heat has left us with upper 70s and it feels great! A perfect day for the zoo, which was nearly desserted so we had it almost all to ourselves. It was the first time Cohen hiked the entire place. I think the butterfly house ended up being one of their favorite places this time, and the girl in there was really good with them; helping them hold the butterflies and explaining different things. I think she was a bit suprised at their knowlege on the subject. And we found out the name of the species we have all over our yard.

And of course the petting zoo is always a favorite. Our zoo opened up a new Kids Cove area a few years ago, and while the entire area is a lot nicer than before....with a huge sandbox and playarea, and a carosel. Plus beavers, chickens, rabbits, and pigs to observe. I think the actual petting zoo used to be better. It's much smaller now and not quite as many animals. But they still love to brush the goats.Cohen finally came in this trip. He has been scared of the goats, and was still a little nervous. So he stayed close to this little guy most of the time, laughing at his "tiny voice"


More Solar Oven Fun

Today Cale brought 2 eggs in from the henhouse that had cracks. (That's what happens when 7 chickens try and lay in the same nest.) So since it was nice and sunny, we decided to bring out our solar oven.

Okay, so it wasn't actually "so hot you could fry an egg" today but we tried anyway. Rylan and Cale cracked their eggs in a metal pan, and I set a thermometer in the oven and we closed it up and faced it toward the sun. My themometer only went up tp 120 deg. F and it hit that within the first 5 minutes so I am not sure exactly how hot it got in there.

Again there were a few flaws in our plan. The main one being the winds blowing in the cold front coming our way were pretty gusty. Gusty winds aren't a match with a non-weighed down cardboard box and a stick. So after about 10 min we left the oven to fly kites while we waited and the box gets blown. One egg spilled out. After about 20 minutes the whites of the remaining egg were starting to cloud up a bit, but then another gust came by and that was that.

If we happen to have another 90 degree day, we'll give it another shot. It looked very promising. It might have taken a few hours....but I think it would have cooked.


A Successful Trip to the Mountains

We went up to Townsend on Tuesday. Rylan caught a couple fish, then we decided to head up to the park (The Great Smokey Moutain Nat'l Park). It was a wonderful day- overcast, not too hot and not too humid. The mountains were very "smoky" and beautiful as always. Within a few minutes Paul uncovered a good sized crayfish- it didn't photograph well...but Lakin enjoyed it for a minute before going back to throwing river rocks.

But as we were about to let it go, Paul found this little one:

And once again, as they were about to let the 2 crayfish go....Paul found this under the same large rock:
Cohen was pretty proud of itOnce all the animal catching was done with, and Paul was attempting to teach Cohen how to skip stones, and Lakin was busy throwing any tiny rock he could find into the water, this little boy decided to build a dam:

He had a fairly good foundation built before the "boss" stepped in to help

As always, the cry of " I need to use the bathroom!!!!" Cut the trip shorter than anyone really wanted.


Meet the Crabs: A Hermit Crab Photoshoot

The boys have had hermit crabs for about 8 months now. They were excited at first, lost interest for a bit. They have a renewed interest now that the crabs have finally begun to come out of their shells when they are around.

Daily they take thier crabs out of the tank and let them crawl around on the floor. Have Hermit Crab races, set up an obstacle course of sorts with items from around their room. And they have realized the crabs are the most active when they are climbing on them. So here they are:
Cohen's crab: Batman
Cale's crab: Crabbie
Rylan's crab: Captain Crab


Learning to Read....

I've always been a little jealous of those kids who learn to read all by themselves. By just being read to by thier parents, and maybe by the parents pointing to words as they read. But I have successfully taight one child to read. He was a little bit reluctant, still is actually, he's probably right on grade level right now....maybe a little above. And we are starting the journey a second time with Cale. He's been reading CVC words and a handful of sight words for close to a year. Bob Books for maybe 6 months. He got a little stuck when he went from just reading words to putting them together in sentences, especially if there was more than one sentence on a page.
He's really taken off lately though. He's really taken to the word cards I have made. I have 3 sets-
pink: CVC words
blue: short vowel words with 2-3 letter blends at the beginning or end of the word
green: Most of the other phonorgrams...
They are simple...match the word with the picture. And it was interactive enough to keep his hands busy. I have other ideas for extensions using the cards, but we haven't gotten there yet.
And to get over his problems with multiple sentences. I wrote a few corny short 1 page stories. 1 picture at the top and a lot of repetition in the words. It helped SO much. He's going through all of our readers. Finished our set of BOB Books, gone through the MCP readers (set 1), and some of the SSRW (neither of us really like these). Currently he likes the Pond Pals series, which were the ones my oldest really took to and really helped master the whole 'silent e' concept. And I am so glad he is excited and wants to read. He picked up Big Pig on a Dig yesterday at the library, he's been trying so hard to read it all by himself. He doesn't want help. Watching him I think we need to spend a little extra time on sight/instant words. I'll have to let him play Reader Rabbit's Reading somemore, and maybe Starfall or Literactive during our week off. And maybe rewrite our BINGO boards to reflect thier current levels.
And something I love to see....my oldest is currently curled up on the couch with Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. We are almost at the end and I've caught him flipping through numerous times in the past few days. He is skimming around reading random parts- especially the bold, all caps, yelling text. Now I just need a series or chapter books as exciting as Harry Potter that is on a 2nd-3rd grade level, so he may actually read books like those on his own!


Trying to do it all....

I have been thinking things over the past week....and I know one thing for sure....it's not a good sign that I am approaching burnout 40 days into our school year. I know what my problem is too. I use little or no preplanned curriculum. I have random workbooks- my kids use ETC (2.5 and 7) 2 times a week. My oldest does have a math curriculum: Mastering Mathematics. But there are somethings that won't be covered, and with a mastery program I have to add some review in every so often. They have writing books- but we only use those 2 times a week too, since I try to encourage more natural writing. I form all of our science and social studies lessons, I do my Kindergartener's math and both language other than the Explode the Code.

This problem is an extension of my personality. I am very much a "put on a happy face" kind of girl. Sort of like a toddler that say "I can do it myself!". I can do it myself. My kids are learning and enjoying the lessons I make. BUT....what's the price? I know I am incapable of following a premade curriculum completely. But I could alter it just a bit to fit our family but still leave all the research and activity planning to someone else.

But my other problem is that I am very very picky. I can find a problem with almost everything. Too much bookwork, not enough hands on. Too easy, simplistic, etc. And more often than not....my thoughts are...I can do that myself...for free. So then I am back to the beginning...nearing burnout because I spend most of my waking hours teaching the kids or planning to teach the kids.

In the past few months I have looked at various curricula. But I am very indecisive, another personality flaw. I am the queen of " I don't know", always have been. Plus last year I gave in to the pull and bought Sing Spell Read and Write and, well, I wasn't too impressed.

This summer I looked somewhat seriously at Sonlight. A couple of reason's held me back- one big one being the price, but in the end decided while I liked the look of it overall, I don't think it would be the right fit for our family right now. But I may revisit once everyone is a bit older.

A few days ago I came across something new....Moving Beyond the Page. I haven't looked it over completely. Seems good. I've read some good reviews, some mixed reviews. The price is high too. Although the option to go cheaper and buy only one concept is there....so I could test it for a few weeks without buying the entire thing. Or....

I could keep doing it by myself for free.....

and I am right back to where I started....

Sometimes it would be useful to be one of those shopoholic women who buy on a whim...especially when I bring up a discussion like this with my husband and it goes like this...

me: I found this new curriculum that might be pretty good.
him: buy it
me: but it is pretty expensive...
him: buy it
me: but it might not work out and then it would be a waste
him: BUY IT!!!!


The Week in Pictures

Tuesday we went to the first cub scout meeting of the year; which doubled as a picnic and boat race. Rylan's "boat" is the raft at the top about to be placed in the water. He had fun making it...mostly because he used the handsaw. Yah, he could have snapped the sticks into the right size, but sawing is much more fun.

Here is Lakin "helping" Rylan with his math. He layed here with him for a little while, every so often rolling his head onto Rylan's book and laughing. Rylan was a good sport. Usually he gets very snippy and frustrated when there is too much noise or distraction while he does his math. This time he just laughed at Lakin or ignored him and kept working.

And Cohen sorting some more. He enjoyed this one more than the sorting into colored bowls. Now Cohen on the other hand got very frustrated with Lakin's "help"

Our first batch of pearsauce. Only 7 jars, I think I'll just can sliced pears with the rest.

And finally, a look at what has taken over the house. These little guys just keep on multiplying. For years we had just a few, they got played with every so often. Then we got cable last year. And one morning Paul flipped though and landed on the Speed Channel. From 7-8 every morning Monster Jams is on. So they began watching it while they wake up and eat thier breakfast. Now we have close to 25 trucks. Cohen got 6 for his birthday, and between them they have bought 6 more with their birthday money. They spend most of their free inside playtime driving them in elaborate storylines.