Monday, December 2, 2013

First Christmas Ornament Exchange

Because I am a glutton for punishment, this year I organised a Christmas card or ornament exchange for New Zealand home educated children.
For those aged 5-7 they could make and exchange their own cards and for those 8 and above they could participate in an ornament or craft exchange. We had about 70 children enrolled and they were sorted into groups of four, by their ages.
My girls made the following ornaments for their exchange partners.
Agent Smelly, simply used a large cookie cutter to trace Christmas trees onto white felt and then sewed mistmatched buttons onto them and stuffed them and sewed them up with blanket stitch. Sorry my photo doesn't do them justice, they are really cute!
The Fashionista made these ornaments out of felt (she used a red button for the holly) and also stuffed and blanket stitched them. She traced around a large sticky tape roll to get the size of the plum puddings and then free hand drew and cut out the holly leaves. They came out awesome!
They also included a pack of the Reindeer Noses, pictured above, for each of the children in the exchange. There are loads of reindeer labels on Pinterest but we printed these Reindeer Noses labels from Over the Big Moon who has kindly supplied a free printable (four labels to an A4 page). We packed a zip lock bag with a Jaffa (Rudloph's nose) and eight Maltesers for the other reindeers.
I was a great help ... I finished off the pack of Maltesers ... mmmmm Maltesers.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Easy Pom Pom Christmas Ornaments

We made these very easy Christmas ornaments, that I saw on Pinterest, recently.
On the instructions it said to take dressmaking pins and push them through the little pom poms and then push them into the white Styrofoam balls. As we didn't have any little pins without those big plastic heads and I hadn't bothered actually reading the instructions ... cause I fly like that ... we ended up simply hot gluing the pom poms on. They worked out quite well, although if you have little fingers making them, the pins are probably safer than a hot glue gun or an adults help will be needed.
We did push a pin through the ribbon to hang the balls, but also hot glued the pins and ribbon onto the ball. I have used pins before to hang Styrofoam ornaments and they have come out after a while so I wanted to make sure these stayed together.
Some tips:
  • Don't get big Styrofoam balls as firstly they will take a LOAD of pom poms and secondly they will end up huge once put together. These balls in the above pic are a bit bigger than a golf ball and about the size of a tennis ball when complete.
  • Get a "lot" of pom poms ... those four ornaments above took 1 pack of small pom poms and 1 pack of large pom poms.
  • Purchase the larger pom poms, those mini ones are simply too small and it will take too long. The larger ones look better too, they seem to cover the gaps better.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Male Logic

The Mama: Hun I think I need to go for another eye test. I am not seeing as well as I used to. I can't even see the TV screen in our bedroom properly at night, even with my glasses on. It's just a total blur.

The Papa after a few minutes: Maybe we should simply get a bigger TV for the bedroom.

Granted it is a small wall TV but that my peeps is male logic!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Crayon Art

We are in the process of FINALLY arranging to have Agent Smelly's bedroom painted. She is having her walls painted yellow, with white trim and we have had drapes made up that are white with blue and yellow flowers. I am also looking for art and other accessories to add to her room too. It is not very easy to find girly things unless you are into pink or purple really so I have been making some things for her. I have seen a few art canvasses on Pinterest where you melt a crayon across a canvas, not difficult but there are a few variations and they look really cool.

So for our last art session Agent Smelly and I used a hair dryer to melt some crayons over 4 small canvasses which will go on her bedroom wall once it is complete. The photo does not actually do it justice and you can't see the different texture like you can in person.

Some tips if you are going to try it.
- We used some metal tongs to hold the crayon so the hair dryer didn't burn our fingers.
- It was not as easy as it looked as sometimes the melted crayon went flying across the bench, canvass or yourself. There's not a lot of control really.
- We also had some of those really thick large crayons left over from when the girls were young, don't use them if you have them, they are really hard to melt.
- We also tried grating some crayon and gently blowing on it but even gently blowing the crayon goes flying everywhere.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Finishing UFOs

During art this week, The Fashionista went to work on completing her very first hand sewn teddy bear. There's a bit of work still to go but she has finished attaching, stuffing and sewing up the legs. The arms are also attached and there is now only the head to go. I have been helping with the pins used to secure the limbs as they are a little hard to twist. When I first started hand sewing bears I used to get the Papa to twist the pins for me.

Agent Smelly chose to sew a bow onto one of her teddy's ears (that's teddy in the pic and you can just see a glimpse of the bow on her right ear which matches her dress) and then she sewed some Guiding patches that she recently earned onto her sash.

Both the girls said they are really enjoying our Fridays and I had to suggest they take a break a couple of times as they got so into what they were doing.

I confess I sat at the end of the table updating the blog rather than completing any of my own UFOs ... Naughty Mama.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Harry Potter Learning Activities

This week for Harry Potter, we read another chapter of the book, filled in the questionnaire that related to the chapter we'd read and also did some .

In one of the earlier chapters one of the things on Harry's school book / uniform list was that they may bring either an owl, cat or toad with them to Hogwarts, so I had the girls write a paragraph for me on which they'd choose and why? The Fashionista thought an owl would be good to poop on any enemies (this is what you get when you homeschool I suspect, trying to make their mama laugh!), Agent Smelly included the following poem in her answer.

The Moonlight Owl
My postie was my owl,
it delivered late at night,
that's why I called it the Moonlight owl
but it had a bad habit to bite.

Their Family of Owls
Both girls chose owls (I suspect because of Harry's own beautiful owl) so when we did art later in the week I had them make clay owls. Our clay wasn't very good as it kept breaking up but they still came out kind of cute. TF made one big one and AS made a wee family.

For living maths I wrote up some random maths questions based on the wizarding currency, galleons, sickles and knuts (IE one galleon = 17 sickles) and on some of the things mentioned in the book. Did you know unicorn horns are 21 galleons each ... seems rather pricey to me but these ones are apparently silver so maybe that's not a bad price.  The "chocolate" gold coin was an incentive for them ... nothing like a little bribery to have them finish quickly so they could eat their galleon.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Camping Out

My girls love, love, love camping. No idea why ... they do not get it from me that's for sure! Last Friday night they asked me what the weather was going to be like that night and when I said, it looked fine, they asked if they could spend the night in their tent outside.

As there's basically no work involved for me these days as they are quite competent at putting it all up themselves, I agreed to it. They do make me laugh as they basically set the tent up outside our bedroom / deck door. Apparently that's in case they need the toilet in the night they can just come through and use our en suite ... yeah right!

Even though they hadn't asked, the next morning, I pulled out their camp burners and some bacon and eggs and took it out to them to make their own breakfast. They were very surprised and absolutely over the moon and offered to make breakfast for all of us, which I gratefully agreed to.

Note The Fashionista's face, that was caused by the smoke coming from the burning bacon! The camp frying pans are very thin and they will need some practice getting used to using them. They also aren't used to cooking over a flame as we have an electric stove but it's all good fun and a good learning experience. What you can't see here is that once they had cooked the scrambled eggs (which has started out as being fried ... oops) a rain shower came down so we had to eat inside. Our plates had burnt bacon, scrambled egg with bits of burnt black stuff through it all served on a slippery wet camp plate with damp toast ... oh yum, such a veritable feast. 

They made no mistakes with the tea and their hot chocolate though. I do confess drinking tea from a camp cup whilst sitting out on the deck, watching your kids destroy breakfast, is kind of fun.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Christmas Block Countdown

How onto are we ... it's October and we have already completed our first Christmas craft. OK because I am so honest I will confess we started these not last year but the year before and simply ran out of time to finish them. I packed them away and only found them over the school break. 

Now I have scheduled (yes I am a scheduler ... I tried going freestyle and it was awful but that's for a whole other blog post) Fridays as our creative day. We spend the day doing a shared reading, poetry, music, arts and crafts. Because we have a few UFOs (unfinished objects) laying about I have decided that these must be finished first before we tackle any further big art projects. This Mama is as bad as the kids and it's really not a good habit to get into, so I am endeavouring to either finish it or get rid of it for someone else to enjoy doing.  

Now for this project we ...

1. First up cut some wood. We cut two small cubes from a 4" x 4" and then a third piece that was just a little bit longer than the two small pieces of block.

They grow up so fast.
2. Sand the pieces so there are no rough sides.

3. We painted the blocks in an acrylic paint. We used some enamel house paint for the white and purchased a small tin of tester paint for the green and red. You could simply varnish them or even decoupage them if you wanted to.

4. The girls chose a Santa picture / clip art (The Fashionista wanted modern and Agent Smelly old fashioned) and I printed off their labels (a bit smaller than the side of the largest block) on the PC and then simply laminated them. You could use stencil, stickers, or even hand paint them. I hot glued their labels onto one side of their largest blocks.

5. They then painted the numbers onto the blocks. You could use a stencil (the girls used me to sketch them on for them), or even foam numbers or stickers.
      - One block needs to have the numbers 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5
         and block two need to have 0, 1, 2, 6 (which also serves as 9), 7 and 8.

Sadly the girls are already using their blocks to count down the days to Christmas, which is causing me heart palpitations ... who knew Christmas was so close!!!!
Virtual Fridge Link Up

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Swimming Lessons

One of the few stipulations that The Papa had about homeschooling that the girls be taught to swim well. He himself is not a strong swimmer and it is something he feels strongly about because we have a bach (holiday house) down at a seaside village.

I was finally able to organise swimming lessons for homeschoolers in the area, this year at a nearby swim centre. I have been trying to talk the centre into it for years but was finally able to negotiate some good rates this year. We meet once a week and have 30 minute lessons. As there are only two teachers available (it's a rural swim centre so can be a bit quiet) we have lessons there for about 1 1/2 hours (there have been five or six groups each term) but all end up there longer whilst the kids have a play before, between, and after their lessons. There are about 24 kids having lessons so it's kind of cool to see so many homeschool kids mucking about in the water together.

The Fashionista, who is in her final level for lessons passed her speed trial this week (she swims faster than me now!), which I think means she graduates from the lessons. She had to swim four laps of the "big" pool (there are three there) under 2 mins 30 secs. She'll continue to come next term as Agent Smelly still has 3 more levels to finish, but will simply do laps with a couple of the other kids who have completed their levels. I am very happy as it means saving some money next term on lessons ... hehehe

What I like about swimming lessons is that not only do they learn to swim but their teacher really puts them through their paces and has them working hard so it really gives them a work out.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Agent Smelly in the Kitchen

Agent Smelly hasn't spent as much time in the kitchen as her older sister and it's because of this that I think her fractions are not so great. She doesn't always recognise what 1/4, etc is. She can match the correct cup to measure out the flour, etc but she doesn't pronounce or read them correctly. I just assumed she knew them but we hadn't actually gotten to the fraction book of her maths program til recently. Her sister basically flew through her fractions book quite confidently and often didn't even need to be explained how to work things out in the first place and I am quite sure that is from spending so much time baking whenever she could.

Don't you love our cookbook, i.e. the lap top!

Agent Smelly is more of an outdoors girl but recently has become more confident in getting in the kitchen and making things. She spent a couple of days over the school break following some recipes and reading out the measurements to me (just so I knew she knew how to say them), then one morning I wrote up all kinds of fractions on the whiteboard and we went through them all and by the end of our two week break she seems to have a very good understanding of what is what now.

I am sure using math books it would have taken her a lot longer to get the hang of it, mostly because it wasn't interesting, not because she struggles in math - quite the opposite. The other bonus is that she makes the most beautiful crepes now!


Friday, October 18, 2013

Kids and emailing ...

Both my girls have their own email accounts. They have had then since they were babies. That way their grandparents, family etc overseas can always send them a birthday, Christmas message, etc. and I could show them, cause they were of course to young to use it themselves.

Just in the last couple of years they have started to use their accounts as they've now gotten friends that they have made that don't live nearby (I have heard them swap emails with a Canadian girl they met whilst we were up North on holidays), or may have shifted, etc.

Agent Smelly often swaps email addresses with her friends and they write back and forth often. Mostly they are just simply a single sentence back and forth with the occasional report on a trip one of the kids has been on. It's quite good for her typing, grammar, spelling, etc. and she just loves it. Agent Smelly also has her little poetry club going on. She writes the most funny little poems, almost limericks and sends them out to people.

The Fashionista doesn't have as many friends that email and has been complaining that no-one ever writes to her. Co-incidentally even though they live in the same house, the girls email each other along with me on occasion! So recently I obtained some new "email" pen pals for her. Just children she corresponds with via email, no snail mail, although I have suggested she may want to post a Christmas or birthday card to them. She has two in the United States and one in Queensland, Australia. She is having the most awesome time writing back and forth to them.

Now my girls do not spend all day on the computer emailing friends and family (otherwise we'd never see Agent Smelly again who loves the PC), they earn 30 minutes technology allowances (PC, apps, wii, etc) for doing well with their school work, helping around the house and such. They are also aware that they may only have their email accounts if I know the password as I do check their accounts every now and then (I know a violation of privacy and all that but I really can't stress how safety conscious we all need to be with children and the Internet!) to make sure nothing untoward or inappropriate is going on. Kids can say the wildest stuff after all.

I am pleased to say that so far I have found nothing to worry about, although many times their correspondence makes me laugh. This is the latest comment, to make me chortle, in an email to one of their Aunties in Australia, written the last day of school holidays by The Fashionista, who is in no way dramatic of course ... "Tomorrow I'll wake up in the depths of despair because I'll have to do school work."  Seriously girl ... the depths of despair???? 

Well I best be off, to set up for another "despairing day of homeschooling" ... ;)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Math Riddles

I read this riddle on Highhill Homeschool latest blog posting Multiplying Fractions and thought it seemed like fun, so I called my girls over and had them each, using a pen and paper, work it out. Surprisingly, my youngest (and that's because she hasn't really worked on fractions yet) worked out the answer before her older sister (who has).

One time a mom made a pie for her four children. The first child came to her and asked for some pie. The mom said "you can have 1/4 of the pie." Then the second child came to her and asked for some pie. The mom said "of course, you can have 1/3 of the pie." Then the third child came to ask for some pie. The mom said "yes, you can have 1/2 of the pie." When the last child asked for some pie the mom said "you can have it all." Who got the most pie?

Answer: They all got the same amount.

They enjoyed it so much that they asked for me so I searched and found some more Math Riddles for them to do.

No. 1  --  Two fathers and two sons sat down to eat eggs for breakfast. They ate exactly three eggs, each person had an egg. The riddle is for you to explain how.

Answer: One of the 'fathers' is also a grandfather. Therefore the other father is both a son and a father to the grandson. In other words, the one father is both a son and a father.

No. 2  --  How can you add eight 8's to get the number 1,000? (only use addition)
Answer: 8 + 8 + 8 + 88 + 888 = 1,000
No. 3  --  If there are 4 apples and you take away 3, how many do you have?
Answer: You took 3 apples, so obviously you have 3.

They just loved doing these so much so that I have been asked to find more riddles to give them.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A Night at the Theatre


This week the girls and I had the pleasure of going into the beautiful Civic Theatre in Auckland to see the theatre production of Wicked.

I didn't actually know much about the story, I just knew it was linked with The Wizard of OZ and I like to take the girls to the theatre at least once a year so off we went with some new and very lovely homeschooling friends and our local college drama class. Being in New Zealand, frankly we don't get a lot of Theatre shows so you sort of grab them when you can.

I have got to say I was SO not disappointed, in fact I would have to say it was one of the best productions I have seen in years. Yes even better than the Thomas the Tank one I took the girls to when they were younger. ;)  Both my daughters loved it (despite it being a bit loud for The Fashionista a couple of times).

The story in this show is amazing and has a very good moral. I don't want to spoil it for anyone but it is basically about how the Elphaba (the wicked witch) in the movie ended up wicked (or was she really?). Jemma Rix, who played the "wicked witch" simply had the most beautiful voice and had me spellbound each time she came on stage. Maggie Kirkpatrick (remember her as Joan the nasty prison officer from Prisoner?) played Madam Morrible and was just magnificent, she just commanded the stage and Suzie Mathers as Glinda (in NZ) was just adorable and very funny in her role.

Agent Smelly endeavouring to look "Wicked".

Funny little story about the word "Wicked". My ma-in-law years back used to prepare dinner and look after a couple of young boys after school at their house until their professional parents arrived home from work. She used to help them with their homework also and one of the questions the older boy once had, was to use one word to describe your father. Well the young boy in question wrote "Wicked", as in awesome. Well my dear ma-in-law, who was in her 70's only knew that the word wicked meant evil so was horrified and was gently trying to get him to change it. It apparently took a while before she understood he was actually saying his dad was awsome and not evil. She still laughs about it today.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

How is Temperature controlled in Spacecraft?

For today's chemistry experiment the children used polystyrene to investigate how good it is at shielding materials from outside heat.

Great photography skills there by the Mama ... ;)

They took some polystyrene and cut a whole in it big enough to take an ice cube. They also cut a piece to work as a lid to close the ice cube inside.

They then noted the time they place an ice cube inside their polystyrene pack and another in a glass nearby.

They then had to keep checking to see how long the ice cube in the open took to melt in comparison to the one in the polystyrene and recorded the details.

There was a moment of much hilarity when Scruffie decided to drink part of the melted experiment and then proceeded to lick the ice cube til we stopped him.

The girls were totally astonished to find the ice cube in the polystyrene still not fully melted the very next day. It took around 24 hours for it to melt!

We then looked into polystyrene's properties and why it is such a good insulator. Also the impact it is having on the environment.

I love that these days I can hand the girls an experiment and after discussing it with them to make sure they have things in control, I can walk away and leave them to it. I find without my assistance their records are actually more detailed and better kept. They take much more ownership of things and thankfully they do make sure that the jobs are shared between them.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

A funeral and a wake ...

The girls are visiting Grannie J and I just rang to see how it's going and to confirm when it would be convenient to pick them up.

I was surprised to learn that I'd just interupted a wake. The three of them were happily indulging in biscuits, cake and cups of tea. Of course this wake was news to me and I had to ask for whom it was being held ... apparently they had just held a funeral outside for a praying mantis that they'd caught this morning.

They all said a few words and buried him (apparently they had decided it was a boy) in the garden.

Grannie quite happily participates in all their imaginative "games" fully. I hope the neighbours weren't listening over the fence ... goodness knows what they would have heard!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Harry Potter Quotes

As part of our Harry Potter study, we chose some quotes from the series and then we discussed them.

We then picked the quotes that we liked best (or in the case of a certain child, the one that didn't look too long to write!) and wrote them in Sharpie's onto some of our dinner plates and then low baked them so they'd set.

These are the quotes we have chosen thus far ...

- It is our choices, Harry that show us who we truly are, far more than our abilities.

- We've all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That's who we really are.

- We must all make the choice what is right and what is easy.

- what's comin' will come and we'll meet it when it does.

And these are some more that we are going to do ... some plates were int he dishwasher and I really couldn't be bothered handwashing them ...

- If you want to know what a man's like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.

- It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.

- Happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.

- It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.

We are a bit chuffed with them ... cause we are quite nerdy that way.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Super Hero Day

It's International Homeschool Spirit Week 2013, (the fourth week of September each year).
On each day of the week there is a theme. This years Homeschool Spirit Week Schedule of Events was as follows:
Pajama Day – Monday, September 23rd -Sponsored by CurrClick
Homeschool Away from Home Day – Tuesday, September 24th – Sponsored by iHomeschool Network
Crazy Hairstyle Day – Wednesday, September 25th – Sponsored by Hip Homeschool Moms
Volunteer Outside Your Home Day – Thursday, September 26th – Sponsored by Great Homeschool Conventions (right here!)
Super Hero Day – Friday, September 27th – Sponsored by
Free Homeschool Deals
Here are the girls and Scruffie and Rory participating in Super Hero Day.
I posted this photo on the International Homeschool Spirit Facebook Page and they re-posted it to everyone ... the girls think they are like celebrties or something now!

Monday, September 23, 2013

New Addition to the Family

Meet Rory ... he's a seven week old, German Shephard (mum) and Border Collie (dad) cross. The vet very kindly pointed out to me that we are going to have a very intelligent and active dog on our hands ... gee thanks!

He is Agent Smelly's baby and of course we got him purely for homeschooling purposes. And whilst I joke about that in fact she has to work out his feeding times, measure how much he eats and of course there's a lot of home economics involved, puddles everywhere! She is also expected to note down his shots, etc. and later they will be going to Puppy Training, which we think is going to be a great training excercise for her ... not sure about the mad mutt! The Fashionista, anxious to be involed, has started using Excel in order to keep a running tally of all his expenses. Every shot, lead, toy (I am tripping over them and him!) is recorded diligantly by her. Probably so she can point out to us that her sister has been given this much money for Rory (although Agent Smelly has spent a fair bit of her own money on his toys), so now it's her turn for a puppy ... lol

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Starting Harry Potter

We are pretty big fans of Harry Potter around here ... especially the Mama ... I know, sad but true. I just adore the series!

Even though the girls have seen the movies, they have never read the books so I decided to start reading the first of them, Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone, to them this week.

At the same time I have been having a look around for some school work that they could do along side the books and confess I am having a blast.

I found a terrific acceptance letter to Hogwarts online at HSLaunch (Homeschool Launch). I played around with the font and added some clip art and then printed the letter on some cream coloured paper which came out looking ever so cool and official. I dropped the letters on the girls work table and walked away. I could hear their squeals of joy in the other room.

The idea of the letter is that they had to "type" an official reply on the computer accepting the position, print it off and redeliver it back to me. It jokingly says to deliver it "by owl" on the letter and there is a date their letters had to be back by. Well despite them having a few days to reply, much to my amusement, they desperately got on to the PC as soon as they had some free time, to write their replies.

Agent Smelly wrote ...

Dear headmaster Xxxxxx,
I would love to be in Hogwarts school of the wizardry arts.
Do you mind if I ask a few questions? Of course you don’t!
When do I get chosen to be in my group, Gryffindor, Slytherin, Hufflepuff, or Ravenclaw? I would love to be in Gryffindor!
Do I get a wand? I would love a wand!
Do I get a robe? I love robes!
When do I start?  It sounds like so much fun to be a wizard!
From...the soon to be wizard,
Xxxxxxx Xxxxxxx

The Fashionista's reply ...

Dear Headmaster XXXX,
I would love to attend the Hogwarts School of Magic! Thank you so much. I will enjoy it so very much!
I would like to be sorted into Huffle-Puff if possible please.
Where do I get my supplies: wand, broom-stick, cloche, etc?
When does the magical school term start? Is it the same as normal schools?
How exactly do I get there? I mean, I know about 9 ¾ but what station?
Do we get our own rooms or do we get sorted into rooms of let’s say three or four?
About the classes, do you take any? Is there allot of reading involved?
Yours sincerely,      
Soon-to-be, Witchy, Xxxx.   
They do ask a lot of questions don't they? I do think you can probably feel their excitement in their letters though!

I later saw Agent Smelly on a chair in the dining area tying a rope to the curtain rod and she looked at me and said "no questions please mummy" so I left her to it. Later on I was called over to the table to sit and then lo and behold she had tied her owl puppet to the string and placed her own letter in it's arms and then let it slide down the rope to where I sat. I was gobsmacked and couldn't help but laugh. Apparently she took the "delivery by owl" rather literally.

Such a fun activity for us all.
Highhill Homeschool

Monday, September 16, 2013

Astronomy ... Completed!

Well we finished Astronomy on time ... YEAH! It was a bit rushed we ended up doing a few sessions the last week of term 2 to make sure we did though, as I didn't want to have to complete the last few chapters during term 3.

These are some pictures from the girls Astronomy workbooks ... 

The Sun




The Moon


Asteroids and Meteorites

Uranus and Neptune


Zodiac Constellations
Space Stations and becoming an Astronaut
My Perfect Planet descriptions
Oreo Moon Project

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