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HSV Garden Challenge #1

I took a photo today for the Homeschool Village Garden Challenge. I had just let the chickens out, so of course they were all huddled around me, hoping for some kitchen scraps or a handful of scratch, as I took the photo. One hopped up on the garden box, apparently so I would know she was waiting. 

Here is what I was trying to photograph:

Weathered by time, sun and moisture, the wood is worn. The chickens have scratched, pecked and dug through the dirt, leaving the soil in the boxes depleted.  The lathe has been removed. . .

My garden spot is looking worn.


I think now would be a good time to pull the boxes up, remove the plastic weed block under the boxes and start over.

I am thinking about:
  • continuing on with the boxes (Square Foot Gardening), making a few changes or
  • taking the boxes apart, using the wood for walking paths, letting them mulch, and starting a no-till garden
  • a fence to keep the chickens out, so they can still free-range
My first step is to remove the weed block and put down thick layers of newspaper instead. Newspaper (black and white ink only) will break down and enrich the soil and earthworms love it. It will also block weeds.

We have lots of work to do. But, we have some time before we can plant.

We will start tomato seeds indoors in about a week or two. Last year I started them too early and they reach a point where they really need the sun to thrive. So, I hope to be able to plant this year before they reach that point. Which, in Wyoming, is not until the end of May or the beginning of June. Sadly, though, I won't be planting the heirlooms I grew last year. . . my seeds were fermenting in a jar {growing some nice mold} in the window sill and my husband thought it was a forgotten science experiment and threw them away. I cringe just thinking about it ~ hundred of heirloom seeds down the drain. Literally.

What will we grow?

Each year, I am tempted to grow a large variety of things, but I would really like to focus on a few things that:
  1. I know I can grow
  2. my family enjoys
  3. will produce enough to put by
So far, here is my list:
  1. tomatoes 
  2. onions
  3. garlic
  4. basil
  5. bell pepper
  6. cilantro (I sowed some coriander seed last fall.)
  7. jalapeƱo pepper
Can you guess what two things we hope to can?

I have many heirloom seeds on hand to choose from, so I will have to decide and share more on what we will grow in another post (as soon as I figure it out). 

I will not be growing 2 things this year:
  • cucumbers for pickling: we will buy them from the farmer's market again (I can't grow enough for pickling, but I may grow some for eatin')
  • zuchinni: it never does well for me, but does do well for a lady down the street who blesses me with it... maybe I can barter with her for tomatoes?
  • strawberries (hoping they will come back)
  • chives (they are already shooting up)
For fun:

I try to grow one thing just for fun, for the kids. This year I am thinking about sunflowers (maybe a sunflower house?).

For beauty:

I'd like to plant some flowers and have an idea... (see below). 


Where I go for help:
  1. Heavenly Father. I pray over each seed I plant and ask Father to bless my efforts. I have to pray a lot. 
I have a bookshelf with a few homesteading and gardening books as well as a few magazine subscriptions that I read, but I am more of a trial and error gardener.

I will incorporate lessons from Five in a Row as well (see below).

I have already printed Jolanthe's Gardening Preschool Pack and I must confess that I'm looking forward to the 15 page BONUS for joining the Gardening Challenge!

Involving the kids:

My older boys will work right along side me in preparing the garden and will probably ask for space to grow their own plants. We have several containers/planters they can use. Eliana remembers rowing The Carrot Seed and has asked to grow carrots again. 

I thought this would be the perfect time to row The Tale of Peter Rabbit to go along with the Gardening Preschool Pack.

The little ones are the most excited. I am still in the "pulling it all together" mode, and they were wanting the seed packets, so I had them gather all the packets from the drawer I keep them in and organize them while I changed the ink on the printer and started printing!

We will use a paper grid and seed packets to "plan" a garden for Mr. McGregor, growing the same types of vegetables he grew. We will also write a letter of apology from Peter. And I am sure we will have some blackberries, milk and brown bread, too!

We will also row Miss Rumphius and plant something to "make the world more beautiful." I will have to find some lupine seeds and take a drive to the mountains to collect some flowers... my husband and I were married in a field of wild flowers and it would be fun to take the kids to the same spot to collect some wild lupine ~ it grows wild in the mountains and in the canyons around us. But, mostly, I want to plant some on our own mountain in Montana ~ our little piece of it anyways.

Check out the Homeschool Village Garden Challenge and join in the fun! Just grab some dirt, your homeschooler, and dig in! 

Evan Moor Books ~ A Timberdoodle Review

Flip through the first 24 pages to see more. 

Sometimes a mother needs a helper. Beginning Geography proved to be a wonderful help for this homeschool mother. I needed to include a geography unit with our Five in a Row study on Katy and the Big Snow, but was struggling to come up with my own activities. In fact, I put the row off for weeks... until this arrived in the mail. It was just what we needed. 

Beginning Geography has 93 reproducible pages divided into three parts:
  • map skills
  • landforms and bodies of water
  • continents and oceans 
For our Katy unit and for this review, we completed the first unit on Map Skills.  The concepts were easy to introduce and easy to understand. The target age for this book is 5-7, or grades K-2. Malachi just turned 6 and is just beginning 1st grade, so he is right in the middle of the target for this book and he had no trouble completing the pages with some help from me (reading the directions and questions). In fact, he enjoyed them! This has been his most requested school to do since it arrived.  

The concepts are introduced gently and then build on each other. For example, when directions are introduced, the lessons begin with left and right and then progress to North, South, East, West.

Here he is learning about places on a map:

At the end of the Map Skills unit, there is a review.

I was surprised that Malachi gave more information than required on labeling the compass rose. But, then he confused borders with a map grid. This is partially my fault, because we took a Spring break and didn't work in the book for 10 days. After we reviewed the concepts for each lesson, he had no trouble completing the reviews. 

We have already moved on to Landforms and Bodies of Water. He is still enjoying his lessons. . . and I love that the planning is already done for me!  

2 full-color fold out maps accompany the book. 
List Price: $14.99

Timberdoodle Price: $10.75 ~ I think this is reasonable and at this price, I opted to have Malachi write in the book and will buy another one for Eliana ~ so much easier for me. She completed a few pages with me, but I think she would benefit more from this book in another year (she is 4).  Note: while we used it as a consumable resource, it is a reproducible one. 

So far, I am impressed with Evan Moor Books. I will have to look into the Daily Geography series for 1st grade, for sure. 

Next, I reviewed Daily Six-Trait Writing for grades 5 and 6. 

I follow a writing curriculum, but this is one subject I second guess myself on all the time. In fact, I had a middle of the year panic and ordered a whole new English curriculum for my oldest. But, I wasn't sure what to do with my next two oldest boys.

Then I had the chance to review Daily 6-Trait Writing and really, this was perfect timing. 

Flip through the first 24 pages to see more.

Flip through the first 24 pages to see more.

Daily Six-Trait Writing focuses on 6 writing traits:
  1. Ideas
  2. Organization
  3. Word Choice
  4. Sentence Fluency
  5. Voice
  6. Conventions (grammar, spelling and mechanics)
These are characteristics that are said to shape quality writing. The books are divided into 5 units, one fore each of the first 5 traits. Each week the concepts build on the previous one and a new convention (the 6th trait) is presented each week. It's neat that the convention is taught in the context of what they are writing.

Best of all, the lessons are easy enough to do (even for reluctant writers) and only take 10-15 minutes a day.

A little more:
  • The weeks are broken down into five daily lessons. The first four are completed in the workbook. 
  • The activity on the 4th day is designed to prepare them up for a formal writing activity on the 5th day.
  • The activities are interesting and even fun to complete. 

Below are a few samples of Nathan's work, grade 6, Week 2. The lessons this week focus on writing a topic sentences and supporting details:

On day 1, he learns that a good topic sentence clearly states the main idea of the paragraph and is supported by interesting details. He reads a parapgraph, circles the topic sentence and underlines the details that support it.

On day 2, he makes sure that all of his details support his main idea. He reads a short book report and then uses proofreading marks to move the topic sentence to a better place and delete details that do not support the topic sentence. Then he finds 3 possessive nouns from the report and uses them to complete three sentences.

On day 3, he writes his own supporting details for a topic given to him. 

On day 4, he plans a book report. 

He then uses his ideas from day 4 to write the report on day 5.

The boys type their writing assignments in Google Documents, which, by the way, is fun if you have two computers and you are both signed in at the same time (you can watch them type and help with formatting without standing over their shoulder). I then print their writing and staple it in the workbook.   

Here is a sample of Dylan's writing (grade 5) from week 3: A Strange Adventure.  His assignment was to write a short story about someone who wakes up on another planet. Considering he is my reluctant writer, I think he did a good job.

Each book (5th and 6th) is similar in content but geared towards each one's respective grade level and I definitely plan on having Dylan use the 6th grade book after he completes the 5th grade book.

Regardless of whichever writing curriculum I decide to go with next year, Daily 6-Traits will make the transition much smoother!

Disclosure: As a member of Timberdoodle's Blogger Review Team I received a free copy of these books in exchange for a frank and unbiased review.

The Rag Coat {FI♥AR}

We learn about friendship and forgiveness from a young girl named Minna and her coal mining father in The Rag Coat. After Minna's father dies from the "miner's cough," the quilting ladies come together to make Minna a coat to wear to school ~ a quilted coat made with scraps of material, each with its own special story.

Our row for this book consisted of learning about coal, quilting, stories and more.

Rag Coat Lapbook {Lap Journal}

Coal Mining

We took a trip to see what coal is. The first thing we noticed was that the sales yard was full of black mud - black from the coal.

Black mud.
Lump Coal.
This particular place gets their coal from a mining project in Montana

A load just delivered from the coal mine - we heard the rumble of the coal falling off the truck.
Unrefined coal. 
We learned a little about where coal comes from, how it is refined, and that coal is used to make heat and electricity.

We took a look online at other mining projects near us to see different types of coal mining. We learned about three types: surface mining, open pit mining, and underground mining (from a google search).

I was having a hard time finding a good source to explain how coal is formed {without the "millions of years" explanation}... until I thought to check Answers in Genesis. I liked this conclusion:
"So we can conclude that only 128 years of plant growth at today’s rate and volume is all that is required to provide the energy equivalent stored in today’s known coal beds! There was, of course, ample time between Creation and Noah’s Flood for such plant growth to occur—1600 years, in fact... There was ample time, space and vegetation growth for one Noah’s Flood to produce all of today’s known coal beds." ~ Coal Beds and Noah's Flood
More great info on coal from a Biblical worldview:

Answers with Ken Ham ~ Coal ~ is it a Flood deposit?, Australian Coal - memorial to the Flood.

Coal, Volcanism and Noah's Flood by Dr Andrew Snelling and John Mackay


Then we made "Coal Cookies."

The objective was to "observe the effect of heat and pressure on materials representing those involved in the formation of coal." And make a yummy treat to make this row memorable. =)

  • 1/2 cup melted butter and 1 1/2 c. graham cracker crumbs mixed and pressed into pan
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 cup butterscotch chips {or white chocolate chips}
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts {or pecans}
  • 1 1/3 cup shredded coconut
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk poured over the top
Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool and cut into squares.

This was a fun way to explain the evidence for a world wide flood ~ 'billions of dead things, buried in rock layers. . . all over the earth' and show them the coal bed layers ~ the chocolate chips ~ that formed in the layers. And they were yummy. . . I've made them like 4 times since!

While we were waiting for our coal cookies to "form," we watched one of our favorite Buddy Davis songs, Billions of Dead Things. (A great way to reinforce that coal is made in the layers of plant remains.)

Quilting, Rags, Stories and Memories

Inspired by this classroom rag coat, I drew our own quilted rag coat to color.

I drew it to look like Minna's and we all three colored it.
I asked Malachi to color a scrap to tell a story. He drew a piece of his Winnie-the-Pooh baby blanket in one and army tanks in another (he loves anything "army").

Our finished rag coat. 
My Rag Quilt Project for Eliana

I have been saving scraps of material from dresses I have sewn for her (pictured above along with some material I have yet to sew into dresses for her). I told her stories about the dresses I have sewn. . . how I was determined to learn to sew so I could teach her one day, and made my first dress from a pattern when she turned 1.

And I showed her the pictures of her first dresses in the photo album I am working on to help preserve our stories:

Project Life ~ our pictures and stories. 
And yes, I'm lovin' Project Life! I got 1 year, 9 months worth of photos in that album in 2 days. I've yet to add the stories. . .  but I'll get there.

Since I am not ready to make her quilt and Minna makes herself a rag doll in the story, I made her this rag doll instead:

Quilted Handkerchief Doll (directions if you are visual like me)

It's a nice "quiet doll." I added a second hankie for the hooded shawl and it earned a spot in her beloved line-up of dolls that sleep with her on her bed (need a pic of that!). 

Here is one I took a month ago:

I love how her hands are still "holding" the book. =)

Learning Snapshots

Smiley Faces.

Hand Prints. 
Itchy Nose? (ha ha!)
Counting Down.
Earlybird Math
Language Lessons for Little Ones
I have a new system for schooling with the little ones and it is working well. I sit at my table which houses my laptop, school supplies and other projects I am working on. . .  Bo's bassinet and changing table are right behind me and his other baby things are to my right (floor play mat, Bumbo, and bouncy seat ~ those move to the living room, dining room or kitchen with me). . . I have a chair right next to me for who ever needs my help, work checked, etc. Elli and Mali sit there in the mornings and I do school with them individually while the other one plays (and the older boys do their independent work). 

As soon as I am done with Elli, she asks, "Can I paint now?"
Mali asks, "Can I have my computer time now?"

After lunch I have some time as a group. . . but I am hoping to move my older boys to work independently for all subjects next year (thus no more weekly Homeschool Highlights updates, plus I just don't have the time to be so detailed when I already have their work recorded). 

So, my Homeschool Highlights will mostly be "Learning Snapshots" for the older boys. 

LightUnit Work (Christian Light Reading to Learn Series)

Camera Shy?
Late-night studying.
We're 4 weeks into using 9th grade BJU English (one semester schedule) ~ Writing and Grammar 9 and Fundamentals of Literature. I'm working on a "Homeschooling Through Highschool" page to share my plan for Jordan. But, in a nutshell, I am hoping to go all BJU for English (Grammar, Writing, Literature, Reading) and Heritage Studies (History, Civics, Geography), Apologia for Science, Life of Fred for math and various electives including Team Sports, Personal Fitness, Weight Training, and Sports Programming for Phys Ed/Wellness; Auto Mechanics, Maintenance and Repair and an Electricity Lab for Career and Tech Ed, various other electives yet to be determined and I'm hoping to talk him into two years of Spanish after we finish our Latin. He still wants to go through the Diesel Mechanics program at our local college (2 year program).

Jordan has been working at night to get ahead for the next day because he is playing High School soccer and needs to get his school done daily to participate.

To say he is excited is an understatement. He's thrilled that he can play. 

Get this: he is HOME schooled, yet he knew every single boy on the team. . . and they knew him (there were about 65 boys playing). At the first practice, he said he couldn't make it down the hall without someone talking to him or patting him on the shoulder ~ glad to see him there. What's cool is the head coach knew him by name and respects that we keep the 7th day Sabbath (Saturday). And I love that Jordan's personality and individuality is shining ~ he is comfortable with who he is, can interact with adults and peers, and is a pretty good soccer player to boot (no pun intended, ha ha). Home school is homes cool.

In other news, I have the usual extra-curricular activities to report: floor hockey season ended on a good note, Chess tournaments are underway and YMCA Spring soccer starts next week for Nathan, Dylan and Malachi.

We took a Spring break this week, took a trip to our "homestead," but I am ready to get back into the groove! And still lovin' on this new baby.

Coming up next: The Rag Coat {FIAR}

Delightful Links:

T.O.B.Y Homes-Cool Highlights

Katy and the Big Snow {FI♥AR}

Proverbs 31:17 says, “She sets about her work vigorously;  her arms are strong for her tasks.” That was a good verse for Katy in Katy and the Big Snow.She works hard to plow the city so the city officials can do their jobs. She goes North, South, East and West to shovel each department out. . .

So, we learned a little about the important jobs in running a city, what street signs tell us, and had an introduction to maps: what a map is, the four main directions on a map (N, S, E, W), what a compass rose is and what map symbols are.

Beginning Geographyhas been a huge help for this lesson! We will keep plugging away with maps by learning about map keys, map scales and more. . . and I will share a review of this fun book later this month. 

We also assembled a traffic sign mini book.

And built our own "geopolis."

Then we took a trip to the Highway Transportation Department to sneak a peek at the snow plows used to plow our city. 

The big ones with the fancy electronics are kept inside.

For a fun art activity, we had some "plowing" fun with shaving cream and Elmers glue and made an indoor snowscape.

We used LOTS of glue. . .

And it was a wonderful gooey mess with several willing participants. 

Fun for snow plowing. . .

And writing letters in.

Good, soft, squishy, messy fun.

I did mention the mess part.

(Eliana volunteers this pose and I happily snap it up!) 

We've had our share of big snows this winter... but this was fun. And we've been sick (on and off for 3 weeks) so going out in the cold for the real stuff was not an option.

To wrap up our fun with Katy and the Big Snow, we had a hot chocolate party. We figured that since everyone in Geopolis was snowed in they would probably be drinking hot chocolate. :-)

Because hot chocolate warms you up on a cold day.

(that's whipped cream with hot cocoa mix mixed in). . . 

And my double chocolate version of Hot Fudge Cake (brownies or chocolate cake, ice cream, homemade hot fudge sauce and whipped cream) seemed to be a good accompaniment. It was a little too much chocolate and sweetness for me (vanilla ice cream would have been perfect), but the kids didn't seem to mind!

Just in case you want to have your own Hot Chocolate Party (if you are still getting snow like we are), here are a few ideas I thought were fun: