Homeschool Discoveries

Sharing a few things I've discovered along the way…

G is for Guitar May 2, 2013

Filed under: Fun Stuff and Extras — kirstenjoyhill @ 4:27 pm
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Miss M has been taking guitar lessons for three months now.  She had her first recital last Sunday afternoon:

G is for Guitar

She sang and played “Do Re Mi” from The Sound of Music.   It was sweet and very exciting to see her perform along with lots of other students.  She has worked hard and learned a lot in a short period of time.  While we have had a few days where Miss M was not excited to practice, overall she is pretty self-motivated to spend time practicing each day.  This is our first foray into music education for our kids, and I’m sure it won’t be the last.  🙂

I’m linking up with Blogging Through the Alphabet @ Ben and Me!
Blogging Through the Alphabet


D is for Dolls (an Expert Day project and book list) April 8, 2013

Filed under: Fun Stuff and Extras,Themes — kirstenjoyhill @ 10:50 pm

In first and second grade, Miss M knew well in advance of “Expert Day” at co-op what she wanted her project to be about.  In the case of her second-grade project on horses, she knew almost a year in advance that this would be her topic of choice.  This year, Miss M had a little bit harder time deciding.  After listening to numerous suggestions from me, she decided she wanted to do her project on the history of dolls.

She says she picked this topic because she is always interested in learning about the kinds of toys in general, and the kinds of dolls in particular, that children played with in different times in history that we have studied.Dolls Expert Day 2013

Like the topic of horses, the history of dolls is a pretty broad topic.  Unlike the study of horses (or even the study of the history of horses, which was the focus of Miss M’s expert day presentation), there weren’t a lot of books available at the library to help us learn about the topic.

We really only found two children’s books that fit the bill in our large library system:

Dolls by Kristine Hooks — a shorter book discussing the history and collecting of dolls

Dolls: An Inside Look from Raggedy Ann to Barbie by Vivian Werner — an older, somewhat longer book covering the history of all kinds of dolls in some depth.  This book was written in 1991, so it doesn’t discuss newer doll “trends” very much, such as the American Girl dolls.

After Miss M read and took a few notes on these two books, we began discussing how she might like to narrow her project down in a way that she could convey the information in a three minute presentation.

Last year we broadened Miss M’s expert day topic by completing a lapbook and reading many library books — but with the difficulty of finding books or pre-prepared products dealing with this topic, it didn’t make a lot of sense to devote a lot of extra time beyond what Miss M would be able to convey in her presentation and display board.

I offered a number of suggestions of how she could focus her three minutes of presentation time — a very broad overview of doll history highlights, a focus on a particular genre of doll (aka rag dolls, baby dolls, etc), unusual dolls, homemade dolls, or highlighting a few popular dolls over the years.

After giving it some thought, Miss M decided she wanted to pick a few “famous dolls” from more recent history and talk about this history of each individual type of  doll.   She chose American Girl dolls, Cabbage Patch Kids, Barbie and Raggedy Ann.

From this point on out, we decided the internet would be her best source of information.  I helped Miss M look at Wikipedia and a few official or reputable-looking collector sites for each doll to learn a few interesting and important facts about their history.  We also put together a timeline of dates for each doll — since with under a minute to talk about each doll, there were many historical highlights that Miss M would not have time to include in her talk.

We did not add in any literature to correlate with this project — but mostly because we have already read a number of wonderful books with characters who are dolls!  Books with “dolls that come to life” in some way are one of Miss M’s favorite types of books.

Last year as read-alouds we read (linked to my reviews):

Hitty: Her First Hundred Years

and The Friendship Doll

Miss M has previously read on her own:

The Doll Shop Downstairs and The Cats in the Doll Shop

The Very Little Princess: Rose’s Story

The Doll People and its sequels

The Story of Holly and Ivy

And of course she loves Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy Stories and has listened to the audio books of both many times.

I think there may be other books we have read together or that Miss M has read on her own, but those are the ones that come to mind at the moment.  🙂

I’m linking up with Blogging Through the Alphabet @ Ben and Me!

Blogging Through the Alphabet


B is for Birthday…A Birthday interview with Mr. E! March 25, 2013

Filed under: Fun Stuff and Extras,News and Info — kirstenjoyhill @ 9:44 pm

Happy 6th Birthday to Mr. E!  We love making a special day for our kids’ birthdays.  The birthday child gets to choose the menu for the day, an outing or “field trip” (along with a day off from homeschool for the school-age kids), and an evening family activity for after dinner.

For this birthday this year, Mr. E chose Fruit Loops and Blackberries for breakfast, ham, E 6th birthday breakfasteggs and couscous for lunch, burritos from Chipotle for dinner and chocolate-dipped apples and strawberries for dessert.  We went to The Works (a small science and engineering museum) this afternoon, and had an impromptu stop at Ikea for snack since our trip to the Works was shorter than we expected.  All in all, it was a fun birthday celebration for Mr. E and everyone in the family.

In honor of his special day, here is a birthday interview with Mr. E:

1. What is your favorite color? Yellow or as E loves to say, “ye-yow”
2. What is your favorite toy or thing to play with? Red Darth Vader Light Saber
3. What is your favorite thing to do outside? Snowball fight
4. What is your favorite tv show or movie? Star Wars
5. What is your favorite thing to have for lunch? Ikea mac and cheese

6.  What are you really good at? droideka rolls
7. What is your favorite game? Settlers of Catan
8. What is your favorite snack? Blueberries
9. What is your favorite animal? An angry bird
10. What sport do you like best? Soccer
11. What is your favorite book? The Padawan Menace
12. What would you like to learn more about now that you’re 6? Legos
13. What is your favorite part of the Bible? Genesis 1 — I like that God makes the whole world!
14.  Where would you go if you could visit any place? The Ocean
15. What is your favorite movie character? Princess Leia
16. What is your favorite school subject? Spelling
17. What do you like to take to bed with you at night? Princess Leia Bird stuffed animal
18. What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast? Cream of Wheat
19. What is your favorite holiday? My Birthday
20. What do you want to be when you grow up? An Astronaut!

Happy Birthday, Mr. E!

I’m linking up with Blogging Through the Alphabet @ Ben and Me!


Happy Pancake Day! February 12, 2013

Filed under: Fun Stuff and Extras,Holidays — kirstenjoyhill @ 6:29 am

pancake stackHappy Pancake Day! Or maybe you know it as Shrove Tuesday, Mardi Gras or Carnival.    It’s also the day before Lent for Christian denominations that observe it.  We’re not from a Christian tradition that specifically observe Lent, but when I heard about Pancake Day a few years ago it just sounded like a fun “holiday” to do with the kids.  We love pancakes around here, and it sounded fun to eat pancakes on a day when, apparently, many, many other people are doing the same!

The tradition of eating pancakes the day before the start of Lent dates back centuries.  In times past, women wanted to use up fats and other rich foods that would be abstained from during lent, and pancakes were a tasty way to do this.  In England, children would run from house to house singing a little song about the shrovetide,  and demanding bits of food — pancakes, donuts or other rich foods, depending on the local custom.   More recently, a custom of “pancake races” has developed that involves running while flipping a pancake in a skillet.

Today we’ll be eating pancakes for lunch and talking about Pancake Day and other similar observances around the world!


Want to read more? Here are few links to check out:

History of Shrove Tuesday

Pancake Day in England

What is Shrove Tuesday?

An old book about British customs with a section on Shrove Tuesday and “goin a shrovin” (@ Google Books)

All about Pancake day celebrations in the US and UK


{Image Credit}


Making Rock Candy February 11, 2013

Filed under: Fun Stuff and Extras,Science — kirstenjoyhill @ 10:09 pm

Making rock candy doesn’t sound so hard, does it?  Well believe it or not, we totally flopped at it the first time we tried a couple years ago.  🙂

Rock candy makes a great activity to go along with science lessons on topics like solutions and mixtures, evaporation and condensation, crystallization…or even rocks and minerals (though, of course, rock candy just looks like a rock!).  These would be lessons A-8 through A-10 if you are using BFSU for science like we are.

After reading a few blog posts and other sites with tips on making rock candy, I decided to go with the method I found in this post that I found via pinterest.  I liked their end product — a nice “candy store” sort of colored rock candy on a stick.

Here’s what our set-up and candy making process looked like:

Rock Candy

The actual adding-sugar-to-boiling water part of the process is, of course, not pictured.  I was too busy trying to manage four children who all wanted to help (my three older ones plus a friend), and trying to make sure it didn’t boil over or otherwise make a mess.

I followed the directions from the Design Dazzle blog post (linked above) almost exactly.  You definitely need to have plenty of sugar on hand to do this activity! I think seeding the sticks is a key part of the process — the sugar crystals need something to grow on if you want rock candy anywhere other than the bottom of your jar or container!  We didn’t “seed” our string we used when we tried to make rock candy a couple years ago, which may have been part of the problem — but then again, that time we got no crystals at all, so we may not have used enough sugar or not heated our sugar solution long enough.

Another tip for prospective rock candy makers — if you are using food coloring, do yourself a favor and don’t do any of the stirring with a wood spoon.  Yeah, I have an nice multi-colored stained spoon now!

Then wait a week or so and you’ll have…

Rock Candy Results

…Beautiful candy made of pure sugar!  The kids thought it was pretty tasty, and also enjoyed looking at the crystals through a magnifying glass.  I couldn’t bring myself to eat it.  I got a sugar headache just thinking about it!  Not all of our rock candy sticks turned out.  A few stuck to the side or bottom of the jar and were hard to remove.  As you can see from the picture in the lower right, we got a lot of sugar crystals forming on the bottom of the jar.  I’m not sure if that’s typical, or an indication of some error we made!  Maybe someone with more rock candy experience can shed some light on that subject.

I’m linking up with Science Sunday @ Adventures in Mommydom and with the the Monthly Blog and Tell link-up at the HSBA Post for their “Something  Red” theme with my RED rock candy!  Be sure to visit those link-ups to see what other bloggers are writing about!

Science Sunday

Happy Birthday, Mr. K! February 6, 2013

Filed under: Fun Stuff and Extras,News and Info — kirstenjoyhill @ 11:28 am

DSC00453Happy 4th Birthday to Mr. K!  We started celebrating last night by having two neighbor families over for cake and ice cream.  For today, his birthday day, our family tradition is to let the birthday child pick the menu.  Mr K picked cinnamon rolls and boiled eggs for breakfast, macaroni and cheese with hot dogs and Cars soup for lunch, and Fish Tacos for dinner with French Silk Pie for dessert.  We’re celebrating our 100th day of school this morning, then Mr. K wanted to head to the Minnesota Children’s Museum in the afternoon, followed by a movie night tonight after dinner.

In honor of his special day, here is a birthday interview with Mr. K:

1. What is your favorite color? green
2. What is your favorite toy or thing to play with? toy monster truck
3. What is your favorite thing to do outside? play in the snow
4. What is your favorite tv show or movie? Avengers
5. What is your favorite thing to have for lunch? Storm Trooper Macaroni Cheese

6.  What are you really good at?  Taekwando (which is funny because we’ve never taken lessons or gone to a class for this!)
7. What is your favorite game? Boomer Wings, a game I made up
8. What is your favorite snack? Pancakes
9. What is your favorite animal? dolphins
10. What sport do you like best? Baseball
11. What is your favorite book? A Pokemon book
12. What would you like to learn more about now that you’re 4? Incredible Hulk
13. Where is your favorite place to go? The Mall to ride on rides
14.  Where would you go if you could visit any place? Grandma Hill’s house
15. What is your favorite song? I like a song I made up called “How Low You Go and How High You Go”
16. What does Daddy do at work? Math and Science
17. What do you like to take to bed with you at night? My stuffed animal Luke Bird and Han Solo Bird and Chewbacca Birds
18. What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast? Apple Cinnamon Rolls
19. What is your favorite holiday? Christmas
20. What do you want to be when you grow up? A Race Car Driver

Happy Birthday, Mr. K!


Celebrating the 100th Day of the Homeschool Year February 5, 2013

Filed under: Fun Stuff and Extras — kirstenjoyhill @ 6:01 am

Celebrating 100 days of school is something I’ve thought about doing for at least a couple of years, but I’ve never quite gotten around to actually doing it.   Prior to last year I wasn’t keeping track at all of our number of school days, so it would have been pretty difficult to figure out which was #100.   (I know some homeschoolers track their number of school days or hours carefully, but it’s not a requirement for  in our state, and last year was my first year with a student at the compulsory attendance age anyhow).

DSC00257Last year I was keeping rough track of our school days in my planner.  But I figured out which day was the 100th day…about the night before the 100th day.  And besides, it fell during the same week as other special activities, so I didn’t feel like I could really take time out of our week to celebrate.

I decided to plan ahead this year and let the kids keep track of our days in school.  I gave them a blank hundred-days-of-school chart, and let them fill in a box each day.  As it happens, our 100th day falls on a special day anyway this year (Mr. K’s birthday).  But he was okay with doing some “100th day” celebrating on his birthday, so we’ll spend the morning on Wednesday doing a few fun activities to celebrate #100.


I’m still making my final decisions as to what we will do, but here are a few ideas I’m considering:

  1. 100th Day Snack Mix (10 each of 10 trail mix items — cereal, candy, raisins, etc)
  2. Cookies or Jello Jigglers in the shape of 1’s and 0’s to make “100”
  3. 100th day creative writing (What would I do with $100? What will the world be like in 100 years? I would like 100 of..  etc)
  4. An art project: Something creative made in the shape of 100, A “what I would look like at 100 years old” project, or just a 100th Day coloring page
  5. Legos: What can you build with 100 legos?
  6. 100-themed challenges: How many … can you do in 100 seconds?  Can you do 100 jumping jacks? 100 sit ups? and so on
  7. Counting to 100 together
  8. Making a necklace of 100 cheerios or fruit loops
  9. 100-themed math activities — measuring 100 centimeters, doing math problems on a 100’s chart, etc
  10. A 100-themed scavenger hunt around the house — this could be clutter inducing, but it would be fun to count out 100 of a few small food items, 100 buttons, 100 paper clips, 100 books, and so forth.

There are a lot of 100th day ideas out there — I collected quite a few on my 100th Day Pinterest board.  Some of the ideas I saw would work much better in a classroom, but I tried to pin activities that make sense for a homeschool celebration — it’s not quite the same as in a classroom where students can each bring a different 100 items from their own homes to school!

Why celebrate 100 days to begin with?  I guess just for fun!  It’s a neat milestone to mark, and it happens in the cold, dreary days of winter.  What more excuse do we need for a party? 😉

Linking up with Top Ten Tuesday @ Many Little Blessings!
Top Ten Tuesday at Many Little Blessings


Neighborhood Fun: 2013 Art Sled Rally February 4, 2013

Filed under: Creativity,Fun Stuff and Extras — kirstenjoyhill @ 3:45 pm

I meant to include this in my most recent Collage Friday/Week-in-Review post, but I forgot all about it in all the other fun and learning we had last week.  🙂

Something I love about our neighborhood of Minneapolis are the many creative people who share their art (and other forms of creativity) with others.  We have a very unique May Day parade, an annual art fair in the park, the Empty Bowls fundraiser for hunger-related causes where all the soup is served in handmade pottery bowls, the Art Sled Rally, and more.

In our six years living here, we’ve never before made it to the Art Sled Rally.  It’s kind of understandable, really.  I mean, who goes out to stand in the park in the middle of January in Minnesota to watch people on sleds?  😉  Well….lots of people apparently, including us this year just a bit over a week ago.

Art Sleds 2013

From what I’ve heard, people come from all over the metro area, not just our neighborhood, to participate.   Sleds and riders were adorned to look like anything from a loaf of bread to a dragon to a tea cup to a sick polar bear (yes, really!).  Conditions were very icy this year, so the sleds were “guided” down the top portion of the hill before being released to travel the rest of the way down the steep hill in Powderhorn Park.

We only saw the first handful of sleds go down the hill before the boys got too cold.  But it was a fun experience! Miss M aspires to build/decorate a sled with her best friend to launch next year.  We’ll see if the parents are up for helping with that endeavor.  😉


Maple Syrup Snow Candy January 29, 2013

Filed under: Books,Fun Stuff and Extras,History — kirstenjoyhill @ 6:06 am

This is an activity that has literally been years in the making for our family.  🙂 I’m not sure if it was after I first read “Little House in the Big Woods” out loud to Miss M or if it was on a later re-reading, but we found this passage inspiring:

“They all hurried to the kitchen for plates, and outdoors to fill the plates with snow…Grandma stood by the brass kettle and with the big wooden spoon she poured hot syrup on each plate of snow.  It cooled into soft candy, and as fast as it cooled, they ate it.  They could eat all they wanted, for maple sugar never hurt anybody.”

Two winters ago, we had plenty of snow.  Miss M asked me several times if we could buy real maple syrup to make the maple sugar candy.  I never quite got around to buying the maple syrup.  Then last winter we had very little snow, and not much at any one time when we did get any.

For months before this winter, the kids were asking, “Mom, is THIS the year we’ll make the maple syrup snow candy?” I resolved to finally make it happen.   I found real Maple Syrup at Aldi after our first snow of the year had mostly melted (yea for bargains!), and then we just had to wait for another significant snowfall.  It’s been a dry winter, but we finally got a few inches of snow on Sunday.

After reading a recipe or two, as well as the comments about those recipes…I decided that maybe it didn’t really matter exactly how I made this maple syrup snow treat.  Microwave the syrup? Use room temperature syrup?  Random people on the internet made me think this easy solution would work just as well as the complicated idea of boiling the syrup on the stove to a certain temperature.  Here’s what it looked like on our first effort:


Maple snow candy take 1

The result was more like…maple-flavored snow cones? Or maybe a bit like a maple “ice cream” of sorts?

I didn’t want our memory of this activity to be so un-candy-like, so I thought we could try again the next day. After a bit more reading, I decided maybe the recipes were right — We needed the syrup heated up to a higher temperature for the syrup to turn into candy.  I don’t own a candy thermometer, so I had to rely on the cold water test to determine if my syrup was hot enough.

Here’s take two:

Maple syrup snow candy 2

Our result was much better, but still overcooked.  I under estimated the time it would take Miss M to retrieve a pan of snow from outside.  Meanwhile, my syrup got hotter and hotter — almost to the point of burning.  It was probably at stage 5, the hard crack stage, instead of stage 1 the soft ball stage!   But luckily, hotter produces candy of some variety!

Our candy was not taffy-like at all, but hard and brittle…yet still tasty (if a bit burnt tasting!). I also realized as I was making this that using a sheet of ice would produce pretty much the same result.  Of course, in the pioneer days of Little House in the Big Woods, no such sheets of ice were conveniently available in the kitchen.    But in this modern day and age, if it is just the maple candy taffy “result” we are looking for, there’s no need to wait for a snow day! 🙂

There is a lot of potentially interesting science study involving the science of sugar and candy-making.  I found this unit study on candy to be very interesting! I didn’t spend a lot of time looking, but I’m sure there are many more candy science resources to be found.

I may try the maple syrup candy yet again with a candy thermometer, just to say I’ve mastered this generations-old treat…or maybe we’ll move on to making the best-possible rock candy.  That’s what the kids are voting for!


Tiny Treats January 26, 2013

Filed under: Creativity,Fun Stuff and Extras — kirstenjoyhill @ 8:00 am

Miss M just loves finding interesting craft and activity books from the library and working on the projects in her free time.  She recently found an American Girl activity book called Tiny Treats, and was eager to make a few of the miniature goodies.

We’ve had sub-zero weather the past several days here in Minnesota, so we stayed home as much as we could — we really didn’t even leave the house on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday this past week! It was the perfect time to work on a couple of these projects.  Miss M selected “mini donuts” made from cereal and “watermelon” made from jello and limes:


Tiny Treats Jan 2013


The kids had a “tea party” with apple cider in tiny doll-sized cups to go with the “donuts,” while Miss M served us the “watermelon” another day as a dessert after dinner.  Did you see my “Tiny Treat” in the collage?  I’ll take an Espresso Con Panna and a dark chocolate kiss as a treat any day!


I’m linking up with…

Highhill Homeschool