Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Mary Poppins

As one of Alex's three birthday presents (this was the 'something to do' one), Justin and I brought her to see Mary Poppins at the Chanhassen Dinner Theater.  With a homeschool discount it was just about affordable for a special treat ;-) 
We had an entire semi-circular booth to ourselves (a luxury for a 4 year old who likes to stretch out and relax) and enjoyed a very nice lunch before the show.  From start to finish we were there for 5 hours.  I was a bit nervous about Justin making it (we had to fudge a little about his age-- they wanted 5 year olds and up only) but he did great-- we brought lots of books and he *may* have gotten to play a phone game or two before the show started.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

First Riding Lesson

Alex has been looking forward to today for a LONG time.  It was her first day of riding lessons at Windy Ridge Ranch.  Not only do they have an age-specific (7-8yr old) riding program, but it is only a 3 minute drive from our house!  The horses we see trail riding along our backyard are from this stable! 
Alex was chosen to ride Racer today-- a 22 year young gentleman with impeccable manners (even if he was a little reluctant to trot).  She is in love!
 The instructor is the owner of the ranch, and he has the patience of a saint (or, perhaps, a it is...)  All I can say is that trying to direct eight eight-year olds who have little to no riding experience is a bit like herding cats.  You just go with the flow.
 I was very impressed with Alex's sense of purpose and attention to detail.  I really hope that this is a sport that she decides to pursue for a long time-- and I may just have to get up there and take some lessons, too!  "Pee-Wee" Lessons are only twice a month, but once she turns 9, she can enroll in weekly if she wishes.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Dragon Birthday Bash!

Wait....deja vu?  This is actually Alex's SECOND Dragon birthday party.  What can I say, she's committed?  This year it revolved around literature - "Wings of Fire" to be specific, an action-packed series about warring dragon clans.  She has read and re-read them, committing characters, setting and plot to memory. We were lucky enough to have a lot of family in attendance this year-- Grandma Mary, GranPapa and GranMama, Auntie Carrie, Uncle Sam and Vera were all able to be there.  So, we kept the number of friends limited to two.  It was actually perfect!
 We found this huge dragon living at the local thrift store, and had to give her a new home.  Her name is Gwendolyn and she has been living on my kitchen island for the past two weeks.  Percy isn't quite sure what to make of her.

 I can't believe we have an 8 year old!  Party decorations were homemade, but intense this year.  We did a 'Wings of Fire' bunting, and assembled paper dragons to fly over the cupcakes.
Alex also set up vignettes of each distinct dragon tribe from the book series.  Let's just say I didn't realize how many dragons we had in the house until they were all assembled in one room!

The SeaWings attack Alex's homemade Viking ship (the product of our boat building a few days ago!)

An IceWing stands guard over a frosty glacier.
As you can see, Alex helped decorate.  She spent days drawing pictures of her favorite dragons from the books (and some of her own invention).  The house was plastered with hand-drawn art!
 Alex and GranPapa have a few quiet moments to read before the party starts--
 We held a scavenger hunt 'quest'-- with wax-sealed clues and puzzles for the group to solve together.  I didn't know quite how it would go with the mixed age-range we had, but it was perfect. 

The clues were a combination of riddles, puzzles, math problems and games.
Some of them were much harder than others, but they were allowed to ask for assistance from party-goers!
 At the end, they were instructed to go outside and search for dragon eggs.  Once found, they brought them in to the 'incubation chamber', where they would hatch while the kids ate their cupcakes.

 The hatched dragonlets appeared in the gift bags, along with a copy of the first Wings of Fire novel (for the older kids), a guide to dragon care, dragon 'vitamins' (yogurt-covered raisins) and a dragon bracelet. 
What an awesome dragon party!  Thank you all for such a fun afternoon-- :-)

Friday, September 11, 2015

Woodworking 101: Building Sailboats

Learning about air leads to talking about wind, so our next project in the Marotz Family Homeschol was constructing our own sailboats.  The kids each designed their own boat, and then got to use assorted pieces of balsa wood, nails, hammer, saw , sandpaper and glue to make their creations come to life.

We took about three days from start to finish.  I let them take over the dining room table and just get creative.  I DID have to pry the hammer and nails out of Justin's hands when it was time to clean up.  That kid LOVES to nail.

lex went with a Viking theme--
Justin wanted a car-carrier ferry boat.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Air Pressure Experiments: Balloon Rockets!

We are really enjoying the science curriculum that we are using-  We are talking about air right now, and how powerful it can be!  We adapted this experiment for younger kids and had a blast propelling our balloon rocket along our string! 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

First Day of Farm School!

After waiting ALL summer to return to 'His' Farm, today was the day!  We were so excited to arrive and see who and what had grown up during the summer.
What a surprise to discover a new "Little Free Library" in the drop-off area!
 We gathered inside and met a few new friends (parents were invited to stay for this first 'preview day').  Justin was excited to find his favorite books again, and show off his new number writing skills to his teachers.

Then it was time to get to the real work.  Justin decided to take care of "Shadow" the bull calf first thing.  Shadow has grown so tall during the summer, but he was as friendly as ever and really appreciated his feed.
 His water trough was pretty low.  It took three trips to the water pump to fill it up!

 Then Justin topped him off with a bit of dry hay to munch.
 Our little lambs grew up, too.... just look at that face!
 And there were two NEW litters of kittens to observe.  Mama was just feeding the littlest babies when we peeked in!

School starts officially on Friday, but as a second-year student, Justin feels like he owns the place.  What a gift to be able to dig, haul, chop, pound, climb, run and plant through preschool!  We were so blessed to find such a fantastic place in our neighborhood.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

First Day of School (kind of....well.....I guess....)

We've been way far behind on the blog updates, which I chalk up to a very busy summer.  Stay tuned, I'll hopefully work my way through August in the next few days.  So-- all of a sudden, it's time for "Back to School"!  Alex decided that even though we were informally schooling here and there through summer 'vacation', we'd officially go back to school the same day that the neighbor kids did.
So-- here we are.  A 2nd Grader and a Pre-Kindergartener.  Justin will be attending The Children's Farm school again this year (which we are both really excited about), but he is definitley showing more and more interest in Sister's lessons as well.  Luckily most of the curriculum we're using is a 'family' curriculum that is adaptable for all ages.

We got the day started off right-- the plan is to offer porridge (overnight slow-cooked oats) every morning for breakfast, but to have different toppings each day.  Tuesday is brown sugar and craisins.  They were super-excited to be allowed to serve themselves the toppings.
 After bunny chores and a nature walk, it was time to head to the classroom.  Last year we spent more time schooling at the kitchen table, but now that Kolachi can be trusted to roam the main floor on her own, I feel way less guilty about leaving her by herself while we study.
 Justin got right to work with his Spielgaben block set.  He participates in Science, History and Spanish classes, and works on his own things while Alex does Math, Handwriting, Form Drawing and Reading.
 Alex chose handwriting as one of the first subjects of the day.  I found a great website that allows you to print your own practice sheets-- so I typed up a bunch about dragons and hamsters for her to practice with.
 The only complaint we had was that the substitute teacher had apparent personal space issues.  Sheesh, Percy!

This year we spent quite a bit more focused time on our studies than last.  Stamina has increased and so has the intensity of the work.  Alex did proclaim "I love homeschooling" over her lunch, though-- so I call that a win!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Hiking on Labor Day

For our quiet Labor Day, we headed to the Cottage Grove Ravine Park to do a little hiking and (hopefully) geocaching.
 The kids were really excited to find some caches, but it was just too dense to forge with only shorts on.  We decided to raincheck the treasure hunt until the fall, when it will be comfortable to hike in long pants.
 Either way, we all had a nice hike that ended with a picnic lunch in the shelter.  Beautiful park, nice rolling ravine :-)  Happy Labor Day!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Kolachi takes the MN State Fair!

Kolachi and I were able to participate in the GSD Day at the MN State Fair.  We descended upon the Pet Center along with approx. 40 other German Shepherds and their owners, and spent the day hiding from the rain, roasting in the sun, doing agility demonstrations and showing the crowds what therapy dogs do.  It was an ALL DAY event, and this 2 year old girl was a champ!
 Hanging out in her crate--- basically all day long.  She was a complete goof during the first agility run and not only went out to greet crowd members, but decided to make her own course and hop up on the table to proudly pose for the people who were photographing her.  The next run was much better (perhaps because I saved part of my steak-on-a-stick to use for treats), but by the third she was too hot to do too much.
 It got really, really, really hot.  Luckily I had prepped and had her cooling mat to lay on, a battery-operated Ryobi fan, a sunshade for the side of the tent and some frog toggs for evap cooling action.  Coupled with a few frozen water bottles, she weathered it like a champ.
 Hopefully we have many agility weekends in front of us.  A fun way to spend some time (as long as they're not THIS hot)!