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Friday, August 30, 2013

Cooking Class #1: Chocolate Chip Cookies

Curly is taking a cooking class this fall. The end goal is to have a Mother/Son dinner at our home. The boys can practice serving their mothers, good manners, and appropriate table conversation. I am a little nervous about how that meal will go, but we have some time until then.

In the meantime, Curly is beginning to learn how to cook. He will learn three appetizers, three entrees, three side dishes, and three desserts. The final menu will be determined at the end of the class. He will have some input into what is served based on how successful his attempts are.

Where did we begin? With dessert, of course!

We choose chocolate chip cookies because they are easy, and everybody likes them. We just followed the Nestle recipe to keep it really simple.

We hit on some of the main points in cooking:


Gathering supplies

Reading the entire recipe before beginning

Paying attention to what you are doing.

I didn't help him with any of it. I just supervised and instructed when necessary. Otherwise, I let him do all of the work.

Here's a glimpse of how it went.

He wasn't so good at the paying attention part. He made a huge mess while waving things around.

The mixer is a cousin to a power tool.

One thing we had to work on was mixing. He had a habit of just mixing what was on top.

This poor child absolutely hates to touch anything sticky. This was a real challenge for him. The smile is his attempt at hiding how much he hated this part.

Waiting for the oven.

Successful? Judging by how many cookies they all ate, I would say so. 

But seriously, he did really well with this task. Cookies may be easy, but they take time. He was thrilled with how much his brother and sister liked them. And he was really pleased with himself for doing it all alone. He has plans to sneak into the kitchen while we are all sleeping to make some more for us.

A very good attempt at our first class.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Tucquan Glen

Saturday was beautiful here - sunny and warm but not too warm. After a morning of chores and looking for a car to replace the one that died, we headed out for a hike. 

Little Bear loves to hike. He likes to lead us and look for the trail. He's happiest in the woods.

Papa Oak and I discovered this place last fall when we went for a hike for our anniversary. It's very pretty and very peaceful. I knew at once the kids would love it there, but we hadn't made it there with them. They love hiking, so they were thrilled to find somewhere new.

The path alternates between rocky and smooth, and it always follows the creek. At least it did as far as we went! It took us a long time to hike out because we stopped many times along the way...

To check out the many varieties of mushrooms growing...

To learn to skip rocks...

Curly and I each managed to skip our first rocks!

To build a dam...
Okay, so maybe we aren't beavers.

To play in the muddy sand...

To admire the beauty around us...

To hold up this tree...

Tiny Dancer can do it with just one finger while those boys had to work hard!

To follow the trail markings... 
To play a trick on Mama...

Have I mentioned he wants to be an actor?

Very convincing.

To climb on fallen trees...

And to take a few pictures.

It was truly a beautiful afternoon.

Friday, August 23, 2013

First Week Readings

Here's what's being read at the Oak House Academy this week.

Tiny Dancer: A variety of versions of Goldilocks. She's working on the Goldilocks literature pocket, so we have been having fun reading the stories. I just can't understand why Goldilocks goes into someone else's house, eats their food, breaks their chair, and takes a nap. I have a hard time connecting with this story. But I suppose for children it's the thrill of seeing someone else be naughty, right?

Little Bear:  Beowulf: A Hero's Tale Retold by James Rumford. It's a beautiful picture book of the famous story. It's pretty gruesome, but it was actually Tiny Dancer who loved it the most. She could answer all of my questions about the story, and she was caught during the week playing out the story with her toys. 

After we finished Beowulf, we started reading Sir Gawain and the Green Knight by Michael Morpurgo. This one is a little longer, so it will take us a few days. We've only come to the part where Gawain volunteers to play the Green Knight's "game." He's a pretty gruesome character, himself. I thought Little Bear might be a little afraid of these stories, but he seems to be loving the adventure.

His fun reading includes the Weird School Books. There are a ton of these, and they are very funny. He's read all the library has, so he was thrilled to find a new one this week. 

He also really likes the Horace Splattly series.  

Curly:  He has two books he's working through for school, just for literature. He's reading Beowulf: A New Telling by Robert Nye with me. It's a longer, fuller version of the story. There are more details, and it's even more gruesome. The descriptions of Grendel the ogre are pretty vivid.

He's also reading The Lantern Bearers by Rosemary Sutcliff on his own. This one is a nice challenge for him and fits into the time period of our year.

Just for fun, he's in the midst of the Artemis Fowl series. He's on a mission to finish them all by Labor Day. We'll see...  

And for me, I'm reading several things at the moment, but this one really has my attention. I first heard the story on This American Life, my favorite NPR show, and was really intrigued. I wrote the title down to wait for it to become available at the library. It was a long wait, but it was worth it!

How about you? What are you reading?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

School Rules

It's back to school here this week. We are beginning our first full year in our new home. Last year we began with half our things in boxes, waiting for the move. We had a great year, but I felt disorganized the whole time.

This year I was able to set things up and feel prepared to start the year. It's a good feeling.

With the newness in mind, even though we did school here for half the year last year, we started with a tour of school space. I walked the kids around and showed them where everything belongs. I showed them their drawers, their supplies, etc. It was like a marvelous museum tour. They were super excited about all of it.

After the tour, we sat down and made a list of school rules. We've never done that before, but it seemed like something we should do. We've been having some behavior issues in the past couple of weeks, so I thought it would be a good idea to start with expectations. I remember reading a baby-rearing book when Curly was a few weeks old, and it said to start out as you mean to go on. Well, at that point I had no idea how I meant to go on, so that was beyond me. But we've been doing this for a little while, and I do know how I mean to go on. So, what better way to start out?

The kids came up with the rules themselves, with a little guidance, so they clearly DO know how to behave. I'm sure there's more we could add, but I thought was a good effort for the first day.

Here are the rules.

Listen first. Talk second. (Listen to be sure no one else is speaking before you start speaking.)
     -Raise your hand. Don't interrupt.

Be respectful.
     -Don't be mean.

Don't be a distraction.
     -Don't make obnoxious noises or fool around.
     -Don't have distractions at the table.
     -Don't be crazy.

Do your best work.
     -Write neatly.
     -Work quickly.
     -Ask for help when you need it.

Be ready to learn.
     -Be teachable.
     -Pay attention.
     -Be prepared.
     -Be on time.

Be responsible.
     -Take care of your school supplies.
     -Clean up after yourself.

No running.    **Okay, I'm not sure this one was necessary, but I wasn't going to say no. That would be inviting the running around.

Remember that Mom is the teacher. 

Curly added the underlining to that last one. :)

I think the rules are great because it shows me that even when they aren't responding with the right behavior, they are listening. Some of these rules are things we have really been working through. It's great to see they know we need to keep working on these things.

Now the kids are asked to sign the rules like a contract. They wrote the rules; now they need to agree to them. Their signature shows they understand what the rules are and that there will be consequences to breaking the rules. 

I know written rules aren't for everyone, but I think they will work well for us. We are really focusing on personal responsibility, and this is one step in that direction.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Meet the Students

I can't believe it's time to start a new school year!  We've been finished with the last year since the middle of May, and we are all ready.

I used to teach first grade, back before we had any children. I loved the start of a new year: getting everything ready, putting their names on books, planning for the year, and especially meeting the students. They were always so cute and nervous, and I loved the feeling of newness.

I'll share more about our first days later in the week, but I'd like you now to meet the students of Oak House Academy for this year. 

Curly, fifth grade. His favorite subjects are French, reading, writing, and history. His least favorite subject is math. Curly is working on independence and organization this year. You can read about his school plans here.

Curly hopes to be a writer, movie director, actor, lawyer, and teacher when he grows up. He would also like to teach a class for kids who hope to be writers when they grow up. Have I mentioned he's not good at making decisions? Maybe I should add that to the list of things he is working on this year.  

Little Bear, second grade. His favorite subjects are math, science, piano, and history. His least favorite subject is spelling. Little Bear is working on slowing down and following directions this year. You can read about his school plans here.

Little Bear hopes to be a fifth grade science teacher when he grows up.  

Tiny Dancer, kindergarten. Her favorite subjects include reading and anything with crafts. She doesn't have a least favorite subject yet. Tiny Dancer is working on adjusting to being part of the school routine this year. I am too. You can read about her school plans here.

Tiny Dancer hopes to be the mother of four girls and a dance teacher when she grows up.

If you'd like to see our school space, you can take a look here.

And that's our class for this year. Thanks for meeting the students!