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Category: The Rag Coat

We are in the midst of the month where we get all our visitors staying at our house, as well as preparing for Satori’s Dinosaur Party this weekend! So we’re only doing a few minutes of lessons each day, and I haven’t had time to blog everyday as I like. A brief update on our past few days…

We wrapped up The Rag Coat last week, our last little project was fabric scraps which Satori glued to the dress of this girl. I would have liked to try my hand at making a quilt, at least a little one for her dolls, but I just didn’t have the time. We also made Coal Cookies (which turned out flat so I didn’t take a picture). I found recipes here and here (also you’ll see better photos).

The Rag Dress

The Rag Dress

We’ve already started decorating for the dino party on Saturday. Yellow signs like this are posted all the way up our driveway – we’ve also got T-Rex and Stegosaurus signs.

Dino signs

Dino signs

You may also notice that I painted my kitchen with copper-color walls, to match our copper countertops! I love it. It brings such a warmth to the kitchen area and makes it so much more cozy.


As for our new read-aloud family activity, we have finished Dinotopia and will finish The Chocolate Touch by tomorrow. The chocolate book is quite a short book, we could’ve finished it in one night!

Today we wrapped up our rowing of The Rag Coat by exploring some math concepts that tie in with the quilting theme. I pulled this game out that we’ve had for two years, so it was like a brand new game for Satori! This is Tangoes Jr, little magnetic tangrams that you place on the puzzle. Side 1 is easy and show the shapes, Side 2 is more difficult and just shows the outline. Satori did both.



She worked on her Tangoes while I read the book for the 5th day in a row. A few parts I would ask her what comes next and she knew the next sentence by heart. One time I wasn’t paying attention and I accidentally said the wrong word, and she corrected me. She also likes to suggest how I should expressively say some of the things Minna says.

She saw the next project lined up so she started playing with the Geoboard. This was her first time playing with the rubber bands and the geo-board, making shapes.



When she was done, she described the “town” she made on the geoboard. 🙂


Science Day we were to learn where coal came from, but in our prehistory studies we very thoroughly went over the fact that coal came from the great forests and swamps of the Carboniferous period, 300 million years ago. In fact, that is why it is named “Carbon”-iferous.

Also today, mama got out her huge fabric bins and cut up some fabric for her to make her own rag coat picture. I cut out scraps and Satori glued them to a coat that we drew on heavy cardstock. 🙂

Usually when we row a book, I already know all the local events to tie it all in, but this weekend, as the family was preparing to go out for lunch in Nederland, I realized this weekend was Nederland Miner’s Days! First we stopped at the Mining museum, we have never been there before.


Some old miner’s gear – lights, boots, goggles…


They also had all kinds of fun family activities, like panning for coins in sawdust, tug of war, and more, but it started raining right when we got to the event, so no luck.

We did check out a huge book sale in Ned, and got two huge boxes filled with books for just $10! Here is the contents of one box. We picked up some of both David and my favorite books, and we’ll be giving them away to friends. There were quite a few books there that I had in my Amazon cart, like Family Math, Secret Garden, Prodigal Summer and Follow the Drinking Gourd.


Once home, we pulled out these Lincoln Logs for the first time and the whole family enjoyed putting this together. They don’t make em like they used to though. This was a timely activity as we are reading about log homes in the Appalachian mountains with The Rag Coat and our long-standing read-aloud of the Little House in the Big Woods. Satori sat and played “Little House in the Big Woods” for a few hours afterwards!


One thing I love to do is research go-along books for our FIAR books we read. In The Rag Coat, a main theme was quilts/quilting. Before this summer, I had no idea how cool quilts were. I just thought they were ratty ol’ blankets. My first clue was when I talked to my sister-in-law’s mom about quilting. She is an extremely talented quilter and has made the most beautiful pieces of art quilts I have ever seen. Colors and patterns and textures to die for, all made with love. I wish I could share a photo, but I didn’t think to ask to take pictures of the quilts. I was very honored to receive a mini lesson about quilting from such a master quilter, I learned it can take hundreds of hours to make a quilt, and some tips on the design of one.

Yesterday we went to the Boulder Library and checked out the following children’s picture books with a quilt theme.

Children's Picture books with quilting theme

Children's Picture books with quilting theme

No longer do we think of quilts as old blankets! We now know they are very special, treasured items to cherish forever.

I have several bins full of fabric back when I used to send them to baby sling designers for a custom Mei Tai or sling. I’m sure we’ll be taking advantage of all this fabric; definitely we’ll be doing some hands-on projects to do with quilting in the next few days, but I don’t think I have the time to get seriously into quilting. Homeschooling and reading take up all my time right now, but I would love to get into this in a few years.

Here’s the list of books with a quilt theme, I was pleasantly surprised there were so many! Most even had similar themes to the Rag Coat (loss/death, father/daughter). I’m sure there are dozens more, but this is what we’ve read from the library.

Continuing with the coal theme in The Rag Coat rowing, today we explored coal a bit more and learned that Colorado is ranked 8th in coal production in the US. We see coal trains everyday, so naturally we wondered where the coal is in Colorado. Looking at this map of Colorado Mines, we can see it is in the western side of the mountains that we live in. The black and white icons in the map are coal mines.

Colorado Mines

Colorado Mines

Here is a train full of coal resting in Rollinsville, CO, our hometown. We took this photo today.

Coal train in Rollinsville

Coal train in Rollinsville

And a closer look…



We also checked out this “Coal Areas in the United States” map from to see where coal is found in the United States. Satori recognized the Appalachian mountain area, which of course is rich with coal, as well as our very own Rocky Mountain range.

Coal Areas in the United States

Coal Areas in the United States

The  Kentucky Coal Education website also has lots of coal education ideas, games, and videos. Also the American Coal Foundation has lesson plans about coal for teachers. They used to even send homeschoolers free samples of coal. Be sure to check these website out if you read or row The Rag Coat!

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