Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Front Garden

About 3 weeks ago I decided to mulch the front garden. We have mulch sitting on our driveway that we got for free from the city and I needed to start putting it to good purpose. I'm not sure if it's crabgrass or quackgrass that I have growing in here, but it keeps trying to take over and I keep fighting back with pulling and mulching. It's terrible stuff whatever it is. Deep roots that break easily. Even the tiniest portion of root left in the soil will regenerate into a new plant. This whole bed was once pure grass, so I guess I should be happy I've gotten this far.

So first I pulled out my little plastic fence border and weeded the whole bed.

Here you see the dark richness of the new leaf mulch. I hope it makes the plants very happy.
Plants like these lilies that are wonderfully fragrant.
Or the french lavender that every year I cut back and every year it takes over the walkway again.
The King came home as I was finishing up. He, looking calm, cool and collected in his office clothes. Me, looking exhausted, dirty and dripping with sweat. He looks at me. Looks at the mulch. Looks back at me. "What?", I ask. "Well, I'm just concerned that the ants might like this mulch."


"Ee vill pay!" said in my best German accent.

(To cover the possibility of ants, I've bought some natural stuff you can put on the ground. Smells like cedar evidently and will repel the ants naturally.)

The lilies look lovely next to the Echinacea!
The finished bed. Fencing is back up but the walkway wasn't swept yet. Yikes!
One of my heirloom hollyhocks. I've only got a couple of plants this year, but am putting in new ones for blooms next year. They are so neat. I don't know why people don't grow them much anymore.
In other parts of the yard, this hydrangea is blooming. The plant grew leaps and bounds this spring because of all the rain.
The butterfly bushes are staying very active. I haven't gotten around to identifying this little guy yet. I was after a little blue butterfly but by the time I got back out there with the camera, he was gone! I've seen a couple of monarchs stop by this year too.
I have to get photos of the back garden. Then you'll see why I say I'm always behind. The rain caused jungle like growth. Weeds are everywhere. The King will be off a few days coming up and we have a lot of work to get done.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Slug Dilemma

Pooh: "There's a slug in the house!"
Mom: "Well, get it out."
Pooh: "Oh, no. I don't want to get slimy."

Minutes pass...

Pooh: "Daddy, aren't you going to get that slug?"
Mom: "How's he going to get it? He's on the toilet!"
Pooh: "Well, what about you, Mommy?"
Mom: "I'm in the bath."

More minutes pass...

Tigger: (reporting) "It's just a little slug."
Mom: "You better watch out he doesn't eat you while you sleep." (yes, I actually said that)
Tigger: "What? He can't eat me?"
Mom: "He could if he grew to be a giant."
Tigger: "Well, he can't do that."
Mom: "I know. I'm just kidding."

More reporting...

Tigger: "Pooh's getting it with the chopsticks."
Mom: "Really? You're serious?"

Tick Tock...

Pooh: "I got it?"
Mom: "Did you use the chopsticks?"
Pooh: giggles "Yeah."

What resourcefulness!!!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Our Nephew in the NICU

He's hanging on and just as precious as can be! (Born at 25 weeks--he's now 2 weeks old.) These photos were taken during changing time. ie Diaper change, temps taken, blood sugar taken, tubes adjusted, etc.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Bird Nests

We have a bluebird box in our backyard. I know these pictures aren't that great but I tried! I was standing on a block on my tiptoes with my camera up in the air trying to aim it right. The things we do...

The first three photos are of baby bluebirds:

This is a little better. These were taken the beginning of April. They are Carolina Wrens that nested in our shed. They nest there every year. There were 5 babies and they must have fledged when we were on vacation.

A couple of days ago The Latin King told me that there was a bird that had gotten into the basement. It was through the window I have been keeping open to the greenhouse. When I went to look in the greenhouse, sure enough! there was a nest in amongst my carrots. More Carolina Wrens. Fortunately, there were no eggs in there yet so I removed the nest and harvested the carrots. Our house is now closed up and the AC units are running. Summer is upon us.

Can't wait to see what other birds come visit this year!

Garden May 27th

Here is the garden a couple of weeks ago. Let me just say that there is already a huge difference. I'll have to get out there this week and take updated photos so you can see.

I managed to keep this Geranium alive all winter in the greenhouse. I moved it outside in May because it was getting so huge. It doesn't seem to be thrilled with where I put it though. I may have to do some rearranging.

The shelving my dear King built for me in the greenhouse. I love it!

This is the cherry/grape tomato plant that has been growing for several months. We've eaten several ripe ones already. One weird thing is how some of them are small and round like a cherry tomato and some are larger and oval like a grape tomato. Me thinketh some pollen may have gotten confuseth.

Beside our front door is my wanna be cottage garden. This little area is doing well. Queen Elizabeth rose with French Lavender and old style snapdragons. I now have Lilies blooming there as well. Pictures to come.

This is what Asparagus looks like when it's done being picked. It grows into very tall fronds that you leave till fall. Once they turn brown from the frost, you cut them down and mulch. These are being held up with string wrapped into our fencing behind them. Otherwise they'd be laying on the pathway (which is where they were right before I fixed them for the photo ;D)

This is our strawberry bed. The strawberries are done now. We warded off birds with a combination of moving the fake snake around every few days and the little windmills I picked up at target.

See how much the sugar snaps and snow peas have grown??? We've reaped a bountiful harvest this year. They are about done due to the high temps we've had the last week. I'm hoping to get the last of them picked the next couple of days before the plants really croak.

I started these cabbage from seed. This is the first year I've done well with them. I hope they survive the cabbage moths and heat well enough to get a nice head on them.

You just can't beat the taste of fresh broccoli. My heads were extremely small this year but very good. I'm hoping to try a fall crop as well.

These are my Yukon Gold potatoes. They seem to get a whole lot taller than potatoes I've grown before. In fact, a couple were tall enough to get snapped off in a recent storm. Sigh. Here's hoping I still have a harvest this year.

Well, that's it for this tour. Stay tuned for the June update coming your way!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Flower Study--Bleeding Hearts

I believe it was in April that we did our study of Bleeding Hearts. They really are a beautiful flower! I have two plants growing outside my kitchen door. It's very interesting how one plant will be up and blooming before the other even pokes it's head out of the ground. So strange! I haven't figured out yet why that is. They were both planted at the same time and are placed right next to each other.

First we took our notebooks outside so that we could study and draw the leaves and the flowers as they were.

Handbook of Nature Study page 559:
The flowers of the bleeding heart are
beautiful jewel-like pendants arranged
along the stem according to their age; the
mature flower, ready to shed its petals, is
near the main stem, while the tiny un-
opened bud is hung at the very tip, where
new buds are constantly being formed
during a long season of bloom.

Isn't it lovely the way the tip of one of the flowers appears as a drop of dew?

Tigger's--love how he included the bee. We had discussed how the bees could get to the nectar. They have to hang upside down!

Pooh's--I'm wondering if Pooh had his notebook upside down when he drew?

Mom's--trying to identify the parts. I'm not very good at it.
After we did our outside drawings, I cut off a branch of flowers and brought them into the kitchen. We examined how the flowers closest to the plant open first and how the ones on the end were still in growth. Closed and small. We took apart some of the flowers to see the inside parts. Our fingers got covered with pollen.

From the source below, we tried taking something from each observation point and figure out the answer. We didn't go over each and every question, but did the 'highlights'. I found all the parts of this flower a little hard to identify. There's a lot more going on in there than you would imagine!

Handbook of Nature Study page 560:
OBSERVATIONS i. How are these flow-
ers supported? Do they open upward or
downward? Can you see the tiny sepals?

2. How many petals can you see in this
flower? What "is the shape of the two
outer petals? How do they open? Where
is the nectar developed in these petals?

3. Take off the two outer petals and
study the two inner ones. What is their
shape near the base? How are their parts
which project beyond the outer petals
shaped? What does the spoon-end of
these petals cover? Can you find the hinge
in these petals?

4. Where are the stamens? How many
are there? Describe the shape of the sta-
mens near the base. How are they united
at the tip?

5. Where is the stigma? The style? The

6. Supposing a bee is after the nectar,
where must she rest while probing for it?
Can she get the nectar without pushing
against the flat projecting portion of the
inner petals? When she pushes these
spoon-bowls back, what happens? Does
she get dusted with pollen? After she
leaves, does the door swing back? Suppose
she visits another flower which has shed
its pollen ? will she carry pollen to its
stigma? Does she have to work the hinged
door to do this?

These questions give you great starting points for your observations. You don't have to follow them all exactly, but take an idea and run with it. If your children aren't interested in figuring out one aspect of it, move on to the next.

So far, my flower studies with boys have gone a lot more smoothly than I expected. Whew!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

What is CM?

I got emailed this question from someone who read the Late Readers post. The question was posed two months ago. I'm so sorry it has taken me this long to respond! Vacations and end of year homeschool programs have really thrown off my blogging.

I guess I've been a bit cryptic about CM. Stating that I use her method of schooling and yet never really posting about what that is. I think that others have done a much better job than I ever will in describing what CM is and I'll link to those, but I'll also try to provide some personal experiences.

CM stands for Charlotte Mason. She was a British educator from about 100 years ago. Here is a little background on her. Wow! you say. Can she possibly be relevant to today? In short, YES! Many homeschoolers are finding great success in using her methods of teaching. Once you learn more about CM, anytime she is mentioned you will automatically think: Narration, Nature Study, Living Books, Dictation, Habits.

First of all, here are some websites that help you understand the method a bit more:
Charlotte Mason in a Nutshell
Positively Autism (she lists some modifications she uses with autistic students)
What is CM? (this is also the home of the Ambleside Online Curriculum. It is a free resource and the one we are currently using.
Catherine Levison (her books and website are dedicated to helping you implement a CM education)
The ABC's of Charlotte Mason
Childlight USA (articles on implementing CM methods are some free audio recordings of speakers from the CM conferences)

You may also find the Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival (current issue--they are released every two weeks) helpful in seeing how different families implement the CM method. Every family is unique in how they do things. Some are more strict CM than others. What I've found myself and seen from others is that the more aspects of CM that you are able to implement, the more benefit you see from your student and for your student.

There are also several different yahoo groups that discuss Charlotte Mason and her methods. Feel free to email me and depending on your situation, I may be able to tell you which ones I've been on that would be more helpful to you.

For curriculum, as I've stated there is Ambleside Online that we use. You may also wish to look at Simply Charlotte Mason. Ambleside Online has a full 12 year curriculum with weekly schedules for you to follow. Simply Charlotte Mason has a bookfinder tool that helps you find books based on whatever info you put into the search--such as grade, time period, subject, etc. Both of these websites also give ideas on what you can do with a child under 6 years of age. CM was strongly opposed to 'schooling' a child under 6. She recommended lots of outdoor time, nature study and working on habits which would prove useful in the later years.

A couple of years ago, after realizing that the type of schooling we were trying to do wasn't working, I started googling about other ways to school. This was also in response to some yahoo group discussions on the RDI boards. Many of them were using ENKI, a Waldorf style of homeschooling. I looked at Waldorf and there were many things I liked about it. Delayed academics (a la Better Late Than Early which I had also recently read), being in touch with nature with nature crafts, stories and songs and how they flow according to developmental levels of your child instead of enforcing a rigid structure as the public schools tend to do.

However, there were also things that didn't thrill me. Their 'spiritual' philosophy that is interwoven in everything they do and it seemed a little too unstructured for me. So I kept searching and someone reminded me of Charlotte Mason. I had heard of CM before but had taken one look at it and thought "Impossible!" I had an autistic child for heavens sake. How was he going to narrate??? This time I looked closer. I saw the Nature Study. I saw how CM can be tailored to help each child individually. I tried narration and it worked! It had structure. There was already a free curriculum laid out for me that I could follow. CM is all about short lessons--15 minutes--perfect for my autistic student. There wasn't tons of writing necessary. No workbooks. It incorporated Habits which I wanted to work on with the boys. Recitation for learning bible verses. Art in a very relaxed form.

I was hooked! The more I read and had questions answered in the yahoo groups, the more sure I felt that this was the way for us. We started slowly. Introducing one book with narration, then another. Continuing the copywork we already had going, but expanding on it. Reminding myself to do 'Just 15 Minutes' as Flylady would say. ;D

Now this isn't an easy way to teach. It requires time on the parents part. I would call it heavy involvement, especially if your children are young. But it lays the foundation for them to really think on their own, to enjoy their studies and for future independence.

My main purpose in switching to CM was Pooh due to his autism, but I've found that CM has worked well for both my boys. It goes right along with what I've learned from RDI. Narration especially isn't imperative, it's very declarative. The parent must wait to learn what the student has gleaned from the material. Sometimes a declarative statement modeling what you've learned is all that is needed to get them going. If you have a special needs student, you can do this.

Here are some other bloggers that have special needs students and use the CM approach:

Childlight USA
Aut2BHome in Carolina
Crazy Adventures in Autism Land
Growing Fruit-Part 2
Single Parent Homeschool

I still have a lot to learn. I haven't read her volumes yet. Eeeeek! But I'll get to them little by little. I'm in the middle of revamping some things with our schedule right now so that I can incorporate more of what I want to do that goes along with CM. I need to be more consistent. I tend to be an Inconstant Kitty!

If you are new to CM and want to learn more, I suggest you go slowly. There are books available on her methods (Karen Andreola and Catherine Levison are two popular authors) and the yahoo groups are invaluable. Implement one new thing at a time. I think you'll be very happy with the results.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Brotherly Bickering

This time it revolves around a pamphlet for Revolutionary War events. There's yelling going on in the kitchen. Mainly from Pooh. Tigger holds onto the pamphlet as if it means his life.

Pooh comes up the stairs and starts telling me how Tigger needs to learn to share. "You know, Mommy, like on Dragon Tales. Ord had to learn to share his things." Uh-huh. I was just agreeing-trying not to get too involved. I want them to work things out. Pooh expresses more thoughts, "If he doesn't share, I'm not going to be around him. You know, if somebody bothers you, you should just walk away."

Good thinking, Pooh! "Thanks." LOL

Pooh is happy that he expressed himself and Tigger is walking around with some headphones on that look like they belong to an air traffic controller on the strip. "I don't want to hear all this yelling." Little instigator.

Monday, June 1, 2009

April '09 Vacation Pictures-Day 4

Our last day of vacation...

Tigger was a big help to Dad in packing up the van. He maneuvered the rope as directed to secure items. I think he was having quite a bit of fun up there. He does very well with the master/apprentice aspect.

The boys enjoyed some play time together. This was their last beach experience and it was another new one. The tide was out and had left behind a nice tide pool. They built a castle on the 'island' and floated boats to it.

My wave rider! He looked very professional as he went out and rowed his arms to come back to shore.

One of our camping families joined us this last day at the beach for a couple of hours. Tigger enjoys the company of little ones younger than him as much as his own age peers. He'll pat the top of this little one's head. He thinks she's "so cute". He's right!

The little cutie in the above picture has an older brother that both my boys enjoy playing with. We'll call him L. L is fascinated by all living things. He made a little tide pool on their island and started collecting creatures he'd found. CM would be so proud! ;D

L got this little pool filled with creatures.

Like this one. He calls them 'weird ones'. I have no idea if that's what they're normally called but I think the name fits. He bites too according to L.

There were several hermit crabs as well.

Pooh built a castle on the edge of the tide pool and watched the tide come in and destroy it. It was neat watching the water slowly take over the beach again. I'm glad we stayed long enough to enjoy that part.

This is Tigger in full 'Stitch' mode. Create and destroy.

We ended our last day at a locally recommended seafood restaurant. This was our one splurge on the trip and it was sooo nice. Right on the water with boats going by and delicious food. It's called the Blue Water Grill. We enjoyed the whole meal, from appetizer to the great big dessert they served us with 4 forks.

Waiting for the grub.

Baby back ribs appetizer--yummy and messy!

Our view from the table.

Pooh brought along his own boat for company.

That's it for this vacation experience! We had loads of fun and created many episodic memories!