Jambo! A Study of Tanzania

Last spring we studied countries through our monthly Culture Club group. We had a lot of fun learning with friends about different countries that the hostess’ visited, had a family connection, etc. The hostess would provide delicious food, usually a craft or coloring page, and a short presentation. We took a break over the summer, and since I thought we would be moving this fall, we haven’t started it again.

I had been thinking about how to study world cultures again, when it occurred to me that the girls can study the countries that their grandmother visits frequently for her job. We started a binder for the project, labeled with a world map showing the countries that Grandma has been to. This is also a great way for them to connect with their grandmother.

First up, Tanzania!

We read an excellent collection of books from our local library:

We colored Tanzania on a map of Africa. We colored the Tanzanian flag, and learned what different parts of the flag represents. We learned how to count to ten in Swahili, and made a Swahili Counting book, counting animals that can be found in Tanzania. We sang a counting song in Swahili. We learned how to say hello (Jambo!), daddy (baba), children (watoto), elephant (tembo), and other Swahili words. I didn’t get out my Swahili dictionary or workbook from my college class because they are packed already and I’ve been too lazy to dig it out.

The girls really enjoyed learning about Tanzania and are looking forward to seeing photos from my mom’s visit. We might still attempt to cook some Tanzanian food, but I haven’t made the time for that yet.



Halloween Decorating

Yesterday, the girls went crazy decorating our home for Halloween. They claim they have made it into a Haunted House. I didn’t even photograph everything, just a few areas, and more decorations keep popping up. M taught C how to make a ghost — so sweet. We are waiting for the weekend (when the rain/snow will be over) to turn our front door into a monster face. The skeletons are a craft by my friend, who did most of the cutting and sent us home with the goodies. We still need to paint/carve our pumpkins. The girls have also decided to don pillow cases as ghosts and scare Daddy every night he comes home. Every. Night. Needless to say, they are enjoying themselves and are excited for Halloween!

We Heart Ed Emberley

We happened to get a few Ed Emberley books from the library, and we are in love! The girls really enjoyed making the monster go away in Go Away, Big Green Monster. C loves Glad Monster, Sad Monster so much that she wants to own this book. I think it is always fun for children to act out emotions. Both of these books inspire further exploration; I can definitely see us making monster puppets, acting out the Go Away, Big Green Monster story with a big puppet, and masks for different emotions, in the weeks to come!

We also checked out one of Emberley’s drawing books, Ed Emberley’s Complete Funprint Drawing Book. I knew this would be a hit with M! She was so excited to start making the fingerprint characters, and also wants to own this book. C had fun drawing with the fingerprints too; I helped her a lot, but she was able to do much on her own. I can’t wait until we can get Ed Emberley’s Picture Pie Book; it is currently unavailable from our library, but I know M will love making pictures from cut-out shapes too (she does this kind of craft all the time as it is).

An Afternoon Hike

Yesterday we hiked up the canyon and found a cat-faced spider on the path, crunched and played in autumn leaves, and fought over rocks and trees to climb. It had been one of those days when the 5-year-old is just a little miserable to all of us, so there was even a little bickering on the hike. But I always feel so peaceful when out in nature, even with the children’s “background noise.” We had such a lovely time soaking up the autumn sun, and it was just what we all needed. I feel so fortunate that we are only 5 minutes away from paradise!

Monday, Monday

(Yes, this is a very boring post title, probably for a very boring blog post. I apologize.)

Over the weekend we stayed home and the girls continued to work on a lot of their homeschooling projects: M weaved yarn on her loom; both girls played the spider addition game a few more times; M did apple tree math again; they made Halloween necklaces and a counting autumn leaves book; they played games and did puzzles with Dada; and just simply played a lot too. After having a few busy weekends in a row, I loved having a lazy weekend at home to watch Badger football, go for a quick hike, catch up on housework, and finally get motivated to start making the Halloween costumes. But since the weekend looked very similar to a normal homeschooling day (minus the speech class or field trip), I decided to take it easier today.

  • The morning started off with too much television. Normally the girls will watch up to an hour of tv in the morning, so I can either keep the toddler asleep longer, or just take some time waking up myself. (It will be so nice when I can get 7-8 hrs sleep straight, but I’m far from that stage right now, so waking slowly is how I cope.) But boy did I pay for it later! Whenever I let the girls watch a lot of tv (this morning was 2.5 hours), it seems that M is crabby to her sisters and me throughout the day. I actually put M in her room by the end of the day, so she could have space to compose herself. I usually don’t parent this way, so I was feeling stretched a little thin at this point.
  • Then we went out to the fabric store to get the little bit of fabric I needed to finish the girls’ costumes. M was insistent that we run this errand today, so I can finish them asap.
  • The girls bought some Halloween-colored pipe cleaners for themselves at the fabric store, so they played with those, mostly making bracelets and stuff.
  • I cut up some pipe cleaners and placed them in a plastic bottle so the girls could explore them with the magnet.
  • I also made a pipe cleaner toy for the toddler; gave her some small pipe cleaners and a basket, so she could put them in the holes. I wasn’t sure if she was ready for this or not, but she loved it! She carried it around and played with it for about 20 minutes straight.
  • C worked on her ABC book, this time letters E and F. Each week she looks forward to adding to her book, but today she wasn’t very interested in actually doing much of it, even the coloring.
  • M wrote a letter to her grandma. This is the first letter she’s written that she really wrote sentences that made sense to the person she was writing too (usually M will just randomly mention something about her life; today she chose to ask the grandma questions about her recent trip and then tell her something in her life that was relevant to that trip).
  • M also played the snakes and ladders game, and this time I added words that she’s never read before, and she read them. She is still intimidating about reading a book, though.
  • Both girls did some computer play, but every week that they do this, M always has a little fit at the end, wanting to do more. Perhaps I need to be giving them more access to computer games. C plays games on my phone during speech classes, and both girls play either on the phone or Ipad on the weekends. Anyway, I think giving them more access will wait until after we move (and I can have a computer space designated for them) or after they get their own Ipad.
  • M decided that she was going to marry a princess today, so she spent time making invitations and decorations, and preparing the wedding ceremony and reception (tea and cookies, anyone?). Apparently the ceremony will be starting soon.
  • We all made cookies together. Both girls got to crack an egg. I told each girl to throw the shell in the trash and wash their hands. When C went to throw hers away, she completely crumbled the shell in her hands. This is so typical-C, always seeking those sensory moments out. It made me smile, and I realized this was the first time that I had them throw out their own egg shells, and will be doing that from now on.
  • M and I put together the skeleton puzzle; M was able to do the head and upper body all by herself. This puzzle is challenging, even for me, and I always get stressed out while doing it and fending off toddler and C from destroying it. I always get a little bit snippy, which just makes me feel worse. I guess it’s a good moment for me to work on my mindfulness. Or maybe I need to be doing this puzzle only when the toddler is napping.

I really thought we wouldn’t be doing much today, but it sure seems like we did!


An Artsy, Mathematical Day

This morning I decided we would stay home (second time this week) so I could try to catch up on more housework, specifically laundry, for a fresh start to the weekend. Well, I didn’t get much laundry done! It’s tough maintaining a home/kids balance; I am really loving homeschooling, but it feels a little chaotic to me, as I am never doing enough on the house and never doing enough with the kids. Though I suppose that is just motherhood in general!

I mentioned yesterday that M made some paper dolls in speech class. The girls were playing with them all day yesterday, and M did a really great job sharing them with her younger sister. C had asked me to print out some dolls for her, and this morning I finally had time to do that. I ended up finding the same template that the speech teacher had used. Of course, M suddenly needed a few more accessories/dolls, so M ended up with 5 dolls and C with 2 (luckily C didn’t mind in the least). I loathe cutting out paper dolls; it is just so tedious, and the toddler is always hard to distract during that length of time. But as I was cutting this morning, I kept thinking about how in a few years, M won’t want or need me to do this, or a lot of things, anymore. I really tried to soak in this moment of being so involved, needed, and wanted with the girls’ activities.

Since the girls had been making beds for the dolls in their bedroom, and running out of space, I thought they would love making shoebox dollhouses for them. So that’s what we did next! I installed the beds and they decorated the houses with stickers/artwork and picked out fabric for blankets. They were happy playing with these dolls all day again. (By the way, they have a very nice wooden dollhouse that does not get nearly enough play. Maybe I need to paint it pink.)

This week M has been asking me to do finger knitting again (we did it last spring, and I thought I blogged about it, but apparently not). I’ve actually packed my yarn already (don’t ask me why, it appears we are never near to moving, and we get packers anyway), and I remembered that she needed a lot of my assistance for finger knitting, so I kept putting her off for a weekend project (when Dada can distract the toddler for me). But this morning I remembered that I had purchased a peg loom, and that it would be a perfect, almost-self-reliant project for her. She was over the moon! She decided that she will be making a purse – a rainbow purse – and that she won’t watch any TV in the morning until she is finished. I’m actually not thrilled about that idea, unless she waits to work on it after the toddler and I are awake, as she still needs a little help from me after each row. I plan on making a cardboard loom for C to play with, but didn’t have time to do that yet.

M is doing really well in her speech class this semester. Today she announced that she wants to invite friends over for a playdate so they can see how well she is talking now. It’s great to see how much she has improved and how proud of herself she is!

We also played some math games today. My sister-in-law passed on a blog with some great ideas. I was planning on doing the apple tree math activity, because it has been awhile since M worked on equations and because I knew M would enjoy it. I was going to make my own tree and use red pom-poms for the apples. I decided that I also wanted a blank worksheet for addition equations so M could write them out, so I went on a google hunt and found another awesome website, with great teaching resources, though you do need to register (free) to access the free resources. They had an apple subtraction activity, and since I wanted to concentrate on subtraction this time around, and it had the equation worksheets I was looking for, I went with this version. M loved it, and I was impressed that she could do it all by herself, even the harder (10+) numbers.

I also printed out the Halloween Cookie Addition download, but I thought that matching the spider equations to the the ghosts numbers just didn’t make any sense. So I saved the ghosts for another day, and made spider webs for each numeral 1-12. I taped the webs to the wall, and M had to pick a spider, solve the equation, and tape the spider to the correct spiderweb. She loved this so much, that she jumped for joy every time she solved an equation! It was difficult for her; she is not quite there yet to do these simple equations in her head (she still mixes up sixes and nines, for example), but I brought out the apples again for a visual reference. She used the apples once, and then started using her fingers. And then she figured out to use the spiderwebs, since they were in numerical order, to count out the answer. (For example, for 7 + 4, she would start at the #7 spiderweb, count 4 more, to solve the answer of 11.) By this point, C really wanted to do a math activity too, so I helped her with the easier equations. I would hold out my fingers (for example, for 4 + 2, I would hold out 4 fingers on one hand and 2 fingers on the other) and she would count them to get the answer. She was so proud of herself too! When they had finished all of the spiders (and there were a lot), I asked M if she wanted to write out the equations on paper I had printed out. She didn’t want to, so I left the worksheets out for her to do whenever. We’re leaving the spiderwebs on the hallway wall for a Halloween decoration, and maybe we’ll play the game again too.

By this point, the toddler was getting pretty annoyed. I get to play with her so much each day, but it’s still hard on a toddler when she can’t fully participate in what her big sisters are doing. Anyway, I was glad when Dada came home, with dinner. Hello, Weekend!

A Morning at the Zoo

This morning we went to the zoo to see the new giraffe calf. She is adorable! Just 12 days old, with the cutest wrinkly skin. (The girls and I kept wondering what the mama had looked when pregnant, so we had to google pregnant giraffe photos when we returned home.) M also observed how the giraffe’s legs became mostly white at the bottom. We spent about ten minutes watching the calf and her mama. The mama was busy eating hay, branches, and leaves and the calf spent her time licking the cage. The girls asked where the father giraffe was; I actually knew the answer, from a recent news article (the Dad was sent to another zoo while our zoo is upgrading an African Savannah, and he will return once that is completed). C decided that the other two female giraffes were the grandma and grandpa. A few times the calf tried to nurse, but the mama always pushed her away. I don’t know if it was because the mama was busy eating, but I felt bad for the calf. She could have been a little stressed with us staring at her — it was definitely a situation where I wouldn’t think twice to nurse my baby in. Maybe the mama is still shy about nursing-in-public. 😉 I’m joking; with a zoology degree I do take anthropomorphism seriously. (By the way, the local newspaper got some great photos of the calf, even nursing ones, so check them out here!)

We got to see more firsts at the zoo today too! We saw a lot of animals eating: the elephants and rhinos were eating hay; a gorilla was eating veggies; the tiger brothers were chewing on beef bones. The tigers get bones to chew on about twice a week, both to clean their teeth and for enrichment. Their food at the zoo consists of horse meat and beef. We were bummed that the polar bear wasn’t out in her pool, until we discovered she was napping in her den. It was a lovely morning.

After lunch and during the toddler’s nap, I worked on housework while the girls played. I do recall needing to buy another cup of lemonade from M; today the price was 1 cent. The girls also had a lot of fun jumping on their bed together, until the play got too rough and I had to end it. M was looking forward to finishing two paper dolls in speech class today, so much so that she prepared beds for them before we left for class. After speech I continued to clean (seriously the house needed it, and there’s still more to do) while the girls played (and helped me a little). M made a book of pictures; she’s going to add text to the book another day, with my help. A friend stopped by briefly to pass on some nursing clothes — isn’t that just the best? I got to enjoy wonderful conversation in the sunshine while the children frolicked in the front yard. And the toddler sucked on a couple berries from a bush while I was distracted by the wonderful conversation. Yup, I have know idea what bush this is (even if it’s in my yard, I didn’t plant it) or if the berries are safe. Honestly, I didn’t even know that the bush had berries, which is why I let the toddler wander over there to begin with! That’s how little I know my front yard, geesh!

We never did get to the activity I had planned for today, but no matter, there’ll be another day for that!

Lemonade Stands and Music Theory Games

Wednesday’s are already busy with gymnastics and speech classes, so I try to leave the rest of the day open to free play.

After watching a Curious George episode about George having a lemonade stand, M created her own lemonade stand. (FYI, I love the Curious George show; George exemplifies natural learning and unschooling.) At first a cup of lemonade was going for 1 cent, but by the end of the day she had raised the price to 5 cents. M is still learning monetary values, so this was good practice (at least with pennies and nickels). I had to purchase the pretend cups of lemonade with real money, because she is saving up to buy a fairy doll sticker book. M is so excited to have a real lemonade stand this summer. I told her that she will have to know how to count money by then. She pointed out that she could just use the key I had made for her that hangs in the playroom.

In the late afternoon, I decided to try out some music theory games with the girls. M has been working on a traditional piano music theory book in the piano lessons I give her, but I have been wanting to do more play with the concepts. I purchased the book, No H in Snake: Music Theory for Children. It is full of games teaching music theory. Unfortunately, many of the games need materials that the author sells on their website at an expensive price. The book is definitely meant for a music teacher, not a small-budget homeschooler like me. I knew this going in, and thought that at the least, it would give me ideas for incorporating theory into play, and if I wanted to, I could make the materials myself. I am happy with what I’ve read so far, and the girls enjoyed the games that we did together today.

We first played around with music alphabet cards (cards for the music notes A-G). We practiced the order of the alphabet, including that after G, comes A again. We played a game where someone would mess up the order of the cards, and the other person would have to fix it.

Then I introduced a staff and treble clef. The girls got to feel the treble clef that I had made, tracing their finger along the lines, and reciting that it curls onto the G, G, G line. Then we played a note toss game, where we tossed a note and called out whether it landed on a space or line on the staff. Since both my staff and treble clef were much smaller than what is normally used for this book, the game wasn’t that exciting. But my brain was working, and I quickly made a staff out of painter’s tape on the floor, and the girls got to jump to the spaces and lines. Super fun, and I was proud of my grand thinking (though I do remember my sister-in-law telling me that her daughter’s music class uses jump ropes as a giant staff, so I guess I’m not that smart after all). But seriously, I have been sooo tired all day long, so maybe I should just marvel at myself! 🙂

I labeled the giant floor staff with the abc cards, and after playing around with it for 15 minutes, M was able to put all the labels on correctly herself. I also had them “write” music; they stepped on the notes, while I played them on the piano. M really enjoyed this! The toddler was hell-bent on taking the abc cards off the staff, but luckily I had a few extra for her to play with.

Now, we had just watched The Sound of Music for the first time last week, and I don’t know if it is confusing to talk about Do-Re-Mi and then A-B-C. I do have a homeschooling friend that is an actually trained musician (by the Boston Conservatory, no less!) and I think she does a music program with her kids based on Do-Re-Mi. I think I’m going to have to pick her brain some more about this.

The girls finished their busy day by bike riding with Dad at the park, and M finally rode without training wheels…for 5 seconds.

Mosaics and Magnets

This morning my facebook feed included a post about Sight Word Mosaics. It looked like an activity both girls would enjoy, so I made some word mosaics for M and a number mosaic for C. For both girls, I let them create the color key, as from previous experience with color-by-numbers/letters, I knew the girls would prefer to choose their own color scheme. After M completed her first mosaic, I increased the level of difficulty by using similar words (eg, pat, pan, man, and mat). She really had to take an extra moment to make sure she was reading the words correctly, but she made no mistakes. M did 3 mosaics and enjoyed it so much that she made one for herself too (using two words: her name and cat).

We also played with our new basic magnet kit. (The girls have been playing with this kit for over a week now, on their own, but today was the first day we worked on it together. We have also been reading a magnet book from the library this past week too.) Today we spent time learning about the North and South poles, that opposite poles attract each other, and what household items are made of iron. We performed a few experiments demonstrating this, and the girls sketched their observations in their science books (well, I sketched and they colored). C added magnetic field lines to her drawing (and people too; she always adds people!) so M drew a horseshoe magnet with magnetic field lines as well.

We went outside this afternoon, and at one point C started to smash the dried sunflower heads (that have been drying on our picnic table) into the deck to release the seeds. It was fabulously fun to see the seeds pop out, and M joined in, while the toddler giggled with glee. We talked about how the scrub jays have been opening the shells to eat the seeds (and maybe squirrels too?) and M mentioned how she can’t wait for roasted pumpkin seeds again this year.

M made a cardinal direction sign by looking at the one on the world map. I love learning moments like these best; when she goes off on her own and does something that I had no idea she was interested in. It is simply magical! (I would have posted a picture of this too, but of course, her name was very prominent on the sign!)

They wanted to perform another play tonight, so they chose to reenact The Lion and The Mouse. We made paper plate masks and picked out Dada’s shirts to use for the costumes. C wanted to be the lion and M was excited to be the mouse (last night, C insisted on playing both leaf parts, so we had to do the play twice; today I explained that there would be just 1 performance and they would stick to their own parts). They did a few dress rehearsals and then performed the play after dinner for Mama and Dada; even the littlest one joined the performance as the owl that scares and chases the mouse (and she looked so cute wearing an owl costume I had made a few Halloweens ago).

Well, those were some of the learning moments that I noticed today. Aside from a stressful dinner prep tonight and the fact that it appears the girls are all coming down with colds it was a wonderful day.

  • "Living is learning and when kids are living fully and energetically and happily they are learning a lot, even if we don't always know what it is. " - John Holt
  • LipperLoppy? what???

    “LipperLoppy” is a word that my daughters invented. It is usually used as a silly adjective or noun. It's a frequent family joke and a good representation of our family's crazy joyful life.
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