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Archive for March, 2010

Since we plan to homeschool all year round, I’ve decided to make an extended Easter or Spring break. I am simply overwhelmed with everything going on right now, so especially taking a break from the blog will help me. I’ll come back strong late April, and might post one or two posts between now and then.

Friday we leave for Wisconsin to see Grandma/Grandpa, and more family/friends. Satori has literally been counting down the days, every morning she tells me what day it is, and how many days remain until Friday, when we start our big drive.

After we get back, we’ll have a few days of normalcy at home before I take off on my very first vacation by myself, something I desperately need right now. Satori will fly back to Wisconsin with Daddy who is working in Minnesota. I will fly to a retreat where I can relax, be served whole organic food, and rejuvenate myself. Can’t wait!

After reading books and watching videos on Ancient India for a few weeks, we set out to build the ancient city of Mohenjo-daro in the Indus Valley (in modern-day Pakistan and northwestern India). This mysterious city was built in 2600 BCE, abandoned around 1500 BCE, and finally rediscovered in 1922. It may have been the most advanced city in the world at the time, as it featured an extremely well-planned layout according to a grid pattern plan. At least 35,000 residents lived in the city.  It had a Great Granary to receive crops from the countryside, a Great Bath, a large central marketplace. The buildings were made of baked bricks and sometimes wood bricks. Most houses had bathrooms and the streets had an advanced and extensive drainage system.

So we set aside an hour this afternoon to build our own Mohenjo-Daro city. I chose this clay – Activ-Clay Air Dry 3.3 lbs tub which I think I found at Jo-Anns. It was already colored terra cotta, so we were able to skip the painting part at the end.

Once we smoothed out a slab 1/2″ thick, this kitchen cutter/chopper tool came in extremely handy to make perfect bricks. Satori is now cutting out slabs that are again 1/2″ thick.

Using our ruler, we then cut these into 1 inch bricks.


We laid them out in the Colorado sun to dry. Even though we got two feet of snow yesterday, today it is sunny, and that’s all that is needed for all that snow to melt very quickly. I shoveled a patch on our deck right when we started and it is already totally dry.

I found out later when Googling that they built their buildings out of baked bricks, which lasted longer than the Mesopotamian bricks which were only sun-dried. Our bricks will be only sun-dried, Colorado-style. 🙂

I think we let them dry maybe 30 minutes before they were hard enough to start playing with, yet squishy enough to press together if we wanted. Satori couldn’t wait to make her brick buildings.

A closeup of our bricks. Maybe not as perfect as Legos, but they sure are more authentic!

We even included the drainage system the city enjoyed.

We were supposed to glue the bricks together, but we decided to not to at this time, as Satori wanted to play with the bricks and make other things.

It is still a mystery why this city was abandoned. It could be due to a shift in the Indus River, or a decline in rainfall, or invaders. We cannot read their writings, so it is still a mystery.

This weekend we were honored to be invited out to Steamboat Springs to hang out with my Aunt Marge/Uncle Dave when they rented a house out here for the week. While just 80 miles away from our home as the crow flies, it does take us three hours to get to this place. But we love to drive, and I don’t think there are many places in the United States that are as beautiful to drive through as Colorado…  Here’s the view of the ski area from the opposite hill, which is where we stayed for the night.

The home they rented was absolutely beautiful, the perfect sanctuary for a vacation.

Here’s Satori with her new kitty – Rebecca – that Aunt Marge got her as a gift. Rebecca has not left Satori’s arms! Thank you Marge!!

The home was so accommodating, very tastefully decorated, and I think I counted about 10 beds total in the house. We had the basement floor to ourselves, Satori had her choice of bunk bed. Down there they had a Ping Pong table, and they also had Foosball and darts. With all the bedroom space, I did not expect a separate business office room, but it was very cool. Surrounded by snow, it was just such a beautiful place. It would also rock for a summer vacation, the deck has a nice swing, and previous guests had seen porcupines, skunk, fox…. The house was filled with books of all kinds, plus some Rocky Mountain field guides that I think I will have to get!

We had a wonderful time with Marge, Dave, and their friend Barb. During the day, Satori, Marge and I strolled the streets of Steamboat and drooled over some of the unique shops. Evening time, David and I then learned the card game Golf, which was super fun.

In the morning I went for a peaceful walk further up the hill and took another picture of the slopes…


While we did not ski this weekend, we did go tubing at Saddleback Ranch. This guy was here to greet us on the way in.

Here we are ready to go up the hill. It was so warm that we totally did not need to wear snow suits/pants, but Satori kept hers on just so she would stay dry. Our gloves and hats were taken off very quickly.

This was our first time tubing at an official hill with a tow rope and everything. This picture makes the place look much smaller than it really was, but there were three different slopes to go down. Slow, Medium, and Bumpy Fast.

Even the slow one was super fast, it was such a thrill to go tubing!!!

Here’s David and Satori going down the Medium speed slope, while Mama took one turn out to be the photographer.

Weeee!!!! We can’t wait to return.

The past few weeks were for the birds… Satori and I went on several hikes and went birdwatching. We have put out new bird feeders on our deck. We’re going to start to watch The Life of Birds DVD from Netflix soon… Last week we added some bird books to our library. The only bird identification books I had before this month was specific Colorado bird field guides. So I picked out a nice selection of books that should help me learn more. Mama got some for herself…

as did Satori…

I had stumbled across this very cool WhatBird Make-a-Guide (MAG) feature that allows you to print out your own bird books. After trying a few demo books that were emailed instantly (limited to 5 birds each), I then got a 3-month subscription ($9.95) for as many books as I wish, and can add 900 birds each. I added these pages to Satori’s Bird Book journal, and also used this to create my own flashcards. To do this, I chose their 6×9 inch 2 pages per bird book. Once I noticed that the odd pages had full pictures of the bird, I knew it would be a cinch to create my cards. I printed out only the odd pages, 4 pages per printed page, and pages 4-85. I then cut out each bird photo, and laminated 5 photos per page.

I ended up with 25 pages of birds!

I then cut them, rounded off their corners, punched a hole in the upper left corner, and now they are all held together by this handy ring. The below collection are the birds Satori has studied so far in her Burgess Bird book.

The ones we haven’t studied yet are in their own ring.

Here is a side view so you can see how many birds we have to learn yet! There’s approximately 100 birds covered in our book.

We also have had our kitchen computer set to Phoebe the Hummingbird and Molly the Barn Owl web cams. Both were due to have their eggs hatch this week. Unfortunately, poor Phoebe’s eggs were not viable. We had been watching these two eggs for a few days… One looked like it had a peck hole in it, but there had been no movement for a long time.

Then yesterday, all of a sudden Phoeoe went on defense mode, whirring about. Soon, the culprit showed his face, a monster Godzilla lizard! (Actually, he was probably a very small lizard, these eggs are the size of peas or tic-tacs.) Phoebe successfully drove him off until he fell off the branch. Sadly, the second she returned to her nest, she used her beak to flip one of the eggs out of the nest. People were saying it wasn’t viable anyway and its smell attracted the lizard.

And today, people are all saying the second egg is not viable. Phoebe left her nest alone most of last night and is leaving it for too long a period.  The color doesn’t look like there is a bird growing in it (or so people say). So this was a tragic but enlightening view of a life of a hummingbird.

So now our interest turns to Molly, the barn owl with her five eggs. This morning we listened to a live discussion with the owner and a 4th grade class. We learned that he put out this owl box two years ago, and it cost him about $4500 to get it all set. Then they had to wait… and wait… Only after a windstorm this January of 2010 did Molly and McGee (the male) make the box their home. The owners were ecstatic! The eggs were laid a month ago and the first is due to hatch probably within the next 24 hours.

We are covering hundreds now in RightStart and last night Satori completed her first Hundreds Chart. She was very proud of herself. 🙂 Today we learned that 10 dimes make a dollar, and 30 dimes make 3 dollars. I love how it all ties together with this program.

About a year ago I promised that as soon as Satori learned money and basic addition that I would get her a play cash register. She’s been really wanting one early last spring. I think that educational toy may be just around the corner…

To be honest, I thought we’d have that cash register much sooner than this. I feel it is my fault for choosing wrong curriculum,  and not being consistent with math lessons enough. Satori picks up everything so fast, if I had been on top of things, she would have been this far already. She now loves math. We should be doing it everyday, but we only do it 3 times a week or so on average.

I sometimes feel that I am a bottleneck to Satori’s learning and that I’m going too slow for her. There are times I get distracted by side hobbies and several days can go by in that we don’t do any lessons. This happened just last week when we both got very excited to learn about birds. Can I call that a unit study? Last fall I took several months off, can I call that unschooling?  Sometimes I question if I’m capable of being a teacher. My personality is just so spontaneous. Even more, I’m so new at this. Just over twelve months ago I had no clue I would be homeschooling.

Am I going too slow? Sometimes I don’t feel like I’m challenging her enough. Are we covering enough subjects? Is there anything we’re missing? Are we covering too much? I suppose at age five I shouldn’t be worrying about all this… I also suppose I will be critical about myself and my teaching skills even when she’s fifteen.

I don’t know why I’m thinking this way tonight, but what I do know is that I get the most tremendous joy out of teaching and learning alongside Satori. We both truly enjoy our time learning together. I think my first entire year I questioned myself and if I could continue to homeschool year after year. But what I know now, as of this spring, is that my mental commitment has been made. Homeschooling is 110% one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

We’ve been barreling through our history program, doing a chapter a week since we started in January. I envisioned us taking this a bit slower, especially since we’re doing this a bit more early than designed. We did finally slow down a bit this month, savoring history and its stories with read-alouds and such. The next few weeks we’ll be studying the ancient cultures of India, China and Africa. SOTW  covers each of these in one lesson, or one week each. We may continue the slower pace a bit for the next month, and do more read-alouds/activities. After that, it will be back to Egypt, covering the Middle and New Kingdoms of Egypt.

Last week we covered Assyria and then finally the story of Gilgamesh and Enkidu. Gilgamesh is not all fairy tale, he actually was a real king living in Sumer a long time ago. Parts of the story are fantastical though, but it is such a great story. I highly recommend this 3-part series  (The Gilgamesh Trilogy) by Ludmila Zeman – Gilgamesh the King, Revenge of Ishtar, and The Last Quest of Gilgamesh.

Here’s some random pages, it is beautifully illustrated.

Satori has fallen in love with this story and has declared this one of her favorite books. A few weeks ago I would have said this was the oldest-known written story in the world, but then I discovered the 5000 year old story of Lugalbanda, who is most likely Gilgamesh’s father, according to the Sumerian king list. This story was not translated until the 1970’s and so is not quite as well known. So this week, we will be reading the book Lugalbanda: The Boy Who Got Caught Up in a War: An Epic Tale From Ancient Iraq by Kathy Henderson.

Here is a drawing of Enkidu  (drawn by Satori). Enkidu was a hairy beast-man that became Gilgamesh’s friend. Here is Enkidu when he was still wild, with hair all over his body and horns on his head like an animal. He then was taught the ways of man, and shaved his hair, learned how to eat, drink, walk, and dress like a human.

Just wanted to share Satori’s new bird journal which we’ll be using as we read The Burgess Bird Book for Children.  You may notice below that she re-did some of her words and drawings, I put on a white sticker so she could redo them (just in case you’re wondering why 3 parts look strange). The below binder will house information about the birds we’re learning in the book.  We should actually make a new cover page.

Each chapter I’m printing out several bird photos of the bird we’re studying.

Then if we find a bird coloring page we’ll do that first while taking care to notice that bird’s particular markings. I’m taking one  of your suggestions and also printing off a fact list, map, and other helpful stuff. Even if she can’t read it all this year, one day she’ll look back and read it all with pride. 🙂

Here is Satori’s very first drawing, it is Jenny the House Wren.


This is Bully the House Sparrow. I blurted out that it looked more like a turkey, so she didn’t want it in her book. I gave her a quick bird anatomy/drawing lesson and she wanted to try again.

Here’s her second attempt of which she is more proud. She traced a drawing I had printed out, then used black marker to outline it. Finally, colored it in with her Lyra Ferby pencils.

I thought it would be cool if both Satori and I could draw realistic looking birds, so we’re doing a quick study of simple bird anatomy. I printed off this “Parts of a Bird” PDF page several times, and we’ll refer to it several times until the parts of a bird become second nature. Hopefully being familiar with the parts of a bird will help both of us draw future birds.

Here’s a interactive Bird Anatomy page that deserves a look! After  you play with that page, surf around for more fun stuff.

I also started printing off bird photos. These are all 4″x4″ and then laminated. On the bag are stickers with some facts about the bird.

Finally, another great idea I got from you readers is a bird tree to post these birds on! I’m still thinking about how to do this. Of course once it’s up we’ll share the pictures!