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Archive for July, 2009

As a fun activity to kick off our Five in a Row rowing of The Rag Coat, I decided to set Satori off in the coal mines and go mining for coal. First, I had to make some coal! This is a very easy recipe and you should have your coal in less than 90 minutes.

Lumps of Coal

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup salt
  • 1 cup water
  • Black Paint and brush
  • Gold paint (if you want to add gold nuggets)


Mix ingredients and knead for two minutes. Mold into lumps of coal shapes. Place on foil covered sheet. Bake at 275 degrees for an hour or until hard. Wait until cool, then paint.

Lumps of coal

Lumps of coal

Then, for mom, the fun part begins! I planted the lumps of coal and gold nuggets in the basement, which has black rubbery floors, perfect for coal to blend in. Plus it was night-time. 🙂 I hid the black coals in easy to find spots. The gold nuggets were a bit more challenging. And I threw in some glow-in-the-dark “rare dinosaur eggs”.
Easy to find black coal, with a small light illuminating its hiding place…


Another easy to find on this big blue glob…


Hidden in an elliptical foot…


A glowing dino egg camouflaged on a glowing “rock”…


Finally it was time for Little Miss Coal Miner to arrive. As she descended down the “mine shaft”, she was presented with her mining headlamp, extra flashlight, and her coal basket. (If you have a helmet, that would make it even more authentic.)


It was dark, so we were lucky for our mining light equipment.


I told her that each find was worth a certain amount of points. Gold nuggets were 100 points, dinosaur eggs were 10 points each, and black coals were 1 point each. A black light helped illuminate the tiny dinosaur eggs, who were in higher places than the coal and nuggets.

(During this time, I had to turn on the outside light, as a bear was prowling around…)


The little Coal Miner found them all!


To throw in a math lesson, I had her lay them out using place value – golds were hundreds, eggs were tens, and coals were ones. And just like in our Math-U-See lessons, she had to write the place values and say the number – Three Hundred Forty Nine!


And after two months, we are rowing again, with The Rag Coat by Lauren Mills. Today we learned about Minna, an Appalachian girl who loses her coal mining father, cannot afford to go to school and helps her mother out at home. The generous Quilting Mamas step in to help. Minna experiences a humiliation, but remembers her father’s lesson and turns it around in such a heartwarming way. I cannot read this book without a little lump in my throat and a few tears escaping.

The Rag Coat by Lauren Mills

The Rag Coat by Lauren Mills

The next few days we will cover the following main topics: quilting, coal, Appalachian mountains and that people are the most important things in our life. We first learned where the Appalachian mountain region was, and put our FIAR story disc up where we thought Minna might live.

Appalachian mountains region

Appalachian mountains region

It’s a bit windy, but here’s a video of Satori earning her Paleontology Badge at Dinosaur Monument last month! She was a wee bit shy, but she completed her pledge!

Today we did Lesson 6 out of First Language Lessons, I haven’t been focusing much on this, as it’s for first-grade level, but we both enjoy it and it’s super simple and easy. I then read this poem “The Caterpillar”, which was our 5th time of hearing the poem. I did not narrate this poem as many times as the book suggested. I haven’t ever required her to recite it nor did I expect her to anytime soon, but an hour later, I overheard her reciting it from memory today! I grabbed the video camera and asked her to do it again. 🙂 She didn’t get the author’s name exactly right (Christina Rossetti), but the rest she got down perfectly!

The Caterpillar
by Christina Georgina Rosetti

Brown and furry
Caterpillar in a hurry;
Take your walk
To the shady leaf or stalk.

May no toad spy you,
May the little birds pass by you;
Spin and die,
To live again a butterfly.

I saw this idea a month ago on The Snail’s Trail blog (link below) and couldn’t resist it, it’s so cute! It uses paint chips, those free paint color samples you get from Home Depot/Lowes. I waited until I actually bought paint so I wouldn’t feel guilty just taking a bunch! If you are familiar with my blog, you’ll know why I have so many orange, green and purple chips, lol!

To make your own free paint chip phonics game, grab paint chips with 3 colors with a square cut out on the right side. Next grab a bunch with the long sample of colors.

Paint Chips filled in

Paint Chips filled in

I then went through our current and near future lessons in Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading (OPG) and All About Spelling (AAS) and marked down the beginning sounds on the long strips, and the ending sounds on the 3-color strips. Be sure to write the beginning sounds small enough to fit in the little squares! Then I cut the 3-color strips. Now you’ve got a fun game to use for reading/spelling!


Check it all out at the Snail’s Trail, a wonderful blog with tons of ideas! The link will take you right to her post on the “Handmade Word Family Game”, complete with all the word families, blends, and diagraphs. Thank you Momma Snail!

I admit we haven’t written any penpal letters the past week and a half, but I couldn’t resist posting this one! As I was hastily uploading photos earlier, Satori took a pen and paper and wrote grandma a letter. I did not help her at all (usually I dictate the letters for her to write her sentences), this is all Satori. 🙂

I am sorry that it will not make much sense to the average reader, but this is the best my 4 year old can do when writing a paragraph letter to her grandma. I love documenting these efforts, it wasn’t too long ago when she just had chicken scratch (no letters at all, just scribbles), then random letters, and now we have random words! It won’t be long until she is truly writing stories and letters all by herself with no help from me.

Letter to Grandma

Letter to Grandma

This says:



POP YES 3970




Again, I did not help her spell any of this, she was doing this all herself. I think it’s adorable! She is now writing a letter to grandpa. His is full of the words DEAR, CAT, FUN and random numbers. 🙂

A side note, Satori is on some kind of growth spurt, both mentally and physically. She seems to be wanting to learn tons and is asking all the time to do lessons. (We took a break last week while I designed our reading room.) She also is ALWAYS HUNGRY, which is not like her. I swear she is eating 10 meals a day! I want to clarify that she is not one of those  child geniuses that teach themselves how to read and do an entire Singapore math workbook in one day, but she is really progressing fast lately! She is attempting to write in lower case even though we haven’t covered it and has been picking up random books and trying to read them. I feel guilty that I do not spend much time actually homeschooling her this summer, it’s just a few minutes a day. This fall we’ll be more focused.

Last night I brought in our Lyra colored pencils and some paper and told Satori to freely draw whatever comes to mind as I read her the Tale of Despereaux. The results were interesting, it was fun to get a glimpse into her head this way. 🙂 We put these up on our Inspiration Wire and will be rotating new ones as we read the next chapter book (not yet planned).

These could be tiny spoilers, but I will do my best to not give away too much. We will be finishing up the book tomorrow, so all these pictures are of scenes toward the end. In her first drawing think Roscuro the rat even has his spoon on top of his head!

Mig and Roscuro leading Princess Pea down into the dark dungeon

Mig and Roscuro leading Princess Pea down into the dark dungeon

Someone eating tasty (but illegal) soup!

Someone eating tasty (but illegal) soup!

King crying in front of Despereaux

King crying in front of Despereaux