Our Family Playground

I can mark this down as reason #1 I’m glad that I’m always behind the camera. I took these photos of the latest additions to our family playground and I’m very happy to have been on the back side of the camera. I would have hated for everyone to have seen me struggling to do a pull up or toes to the bar.

Instead, Thomas demonstrated for me! What a kind guy!

And the kids were glad to demonstrate as well.

I would say we do a good to great job keeping the children fit, healthy and making sure they get plenty of exercise. We don’t do such a fab job on making sure we get plenty of exercise though. And hopefully this will help. And we are working on improving that.

Thomas added on a bar for the kids, a bar for us, and a place to do some wall balls – all on to the swing set platform. I love it!

I love that it takes very minimal space. That it is super easy to put together. That the cost of it stays relatively low. And it will help us to do some Crossfit WODs at home.

The children are practicing pull ups, straight leg raises, straddle straight leg raises, front pullovers and more. And we can do the same on ours. We all spent yesterday morning on it .
Our next purchase will be a pair of rings to slip over the bar.

We also need some additional equipment for Petra to practice her gymnastics– a beam and mat mainly (and a flat place to put it). That will come with time. Oh, and I need a band to do some pull-ups.

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Speak Up!

“Speak Up! Speak up! Speak up!” Jasper was screaming at his sister. He was quite upset that she was reading a super hero book and was reading it too softly for him to follow along and hear the story. He found it so frustrating. That was two weeks ago.

Today, I just about fell out in the car when Jasper, who sits all the way in the far back corner of the car (because he’s the most well behaved of our children in the car), wanted to read a story to me. “Don’t worry” he said, “I’ll speak up.” And so he did. He was belting out the words so we could hear him all the way in the front seat. It was so sweet. So I turned on the video camera and got a clip of him reading too, from his Bob Book Dot.

Not sure you will want to watch all of this video and I have no idea how to cut it and make it shorter. But if you want to watch, here is Jasper reading. We are currently still working on 3 letter words with him – CVC (consonant vowel consonant). Overall we are moving at a slower pace than Petra at this age – mainly because some days he shows no interest in reading to me (and so we probably won’t have a lesson on those days), and also because even when he wants to do a lesson his pants often have ants. =)


Teaching Reading: An Update on Petra

I got a call from Aunt Jenn in South Africa about a week ago asking how Petra’s reading was coming along. I haven’t updated with any video for nearly a year. We started her in the Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading (OPGTR) at 3.5 years old  (skipping past the first few sections on letter sounds since she already knew those). Today she is 4 years old and 7 months.

She is still learning to read. She reads softly, which is especially strange considering how loud she really is. And we need to work on commas, periods, exclamation marks, question marks, coming to a complete stop at the end of sentence, etc. But overall, I AM VERY PLEASED with OPGTR and still think that every parent needs a copy.

Some things I have noticed is she is picking up speed. She often reads over words without speaking them for me to hear. Sometimes I have found her reading silently. She is reading words backwards less often (a concern since her biological mom indicated that she was dyslexic). She is doing great phonetically trying to spell words on her own. Today for instance she spelled – wotrmelin, for watermelon.

The two videos below are a short part of a book she read today titled Who Lives in an Alligator Hole a Let’s Read and Find Out Science book by Anne Rockwell that I would highly recommend. The Scholastic Reading Level for this book is 3.8; the Accelerated Reading Level for this book is 4.4 (translates into reading grade level).

She has some trouble reading some of the larger words as you will notice. But we haven’t even covered 2 syllable words yet in her reading lessons. The OPGTR is an exceptional book at teaching phonics sequentially. And before we get to a lesson she usually knows how to read the words already. She should be finishing the book before her fifth birthday in November. Generally speaking I have heard that when a child finishes reading the book they are reading at a 4th grade level. I will post another video when she completes the lessons.

Overall what I love most is that she LOVES reading. She read at least 5 books today, all on her own, just because she wanted to. It just makes me smile to see her sitting with a book, curled up on her bed, reading away.

And there are two more things I want to be sure to mention. Reading lessons are fun and simple. If anything she loves them because she gets one on one time with mom, but she also just loves them. She asks for them regularly. Sometimes twice or more a day. And it only takes a few minutes. You can get a lot accomplished in 5 minutes.

In the meantime, enjoy the following videos. This was a library book – I had never read it to her, and she had never read it. So you can see how she did the first time through. Next time through this same book there will be very few mistakes because she will have learned it. You will notice in the part 2 video she wanted to make sure I was still recording. While this was a challenging read for her, she loved reading it.



Recreated Dress


One of my favorite sewing projects was this dress I recreated for Petra this past weekend. This was originally a lady’s dress (from Forever 21), size L, that I found at Goodwill and fell in love with – knowing it would be perfect for Petra and easy to transform.

Pleased with a $2.99 purchase I brought it home and began the very simple transformation. It was sleeveless at purchase. All I had to do was pin it to the right width on Petra and sew a seam down the side of the dress. Cut off the excess fabric. And then use the excess to make two straps.

She loved the result, as did I. But I think I loved even more that it took less than 30 minutes total time – including trying it on twice, cutting, sewing and ironing.

Overall this was a really good idea considering her taste in clothes. She prefers long dresses; the longer the better. And she also likes tighter fitting clothes; for instance she doesn’t usually want to wear baggy shirts. This dress fit both requirements. And I had a very happy four year old, super pleased with having a new dress for a wedding.

ImageImagesewing, goodwill, dress

Geography Unit 1 – Planet Earth

We spent a good two weeks on this unit of study. I thought we would move through it faster, but we were in no rush and there was so much to talk about. We are reading lots of books, checking out lots of maps, and just talking about what is happening around us. Some of the activities I am having the children do will be used to compile a lapbook. I’ve noted those as such in my notes below.

I’ve been checking out a ton of books from the library based on the subject matter. I’ve continuously had almost 50 books checked out at any time over the last 4-6 while we have been working our way through geography.

The one thing I have most benefited from is learning how best to search our local library catalog for resources to help with the unit studies. I thought I knew how to use a library, but I picked up a few tricks to finding things at our local library and it has made the world of difference. Using the power search, looking only in children books, and searching by specific topics has been incredibly helpful. But also our library has a few weird ways of storing things and this was helpful to know as well.

I would say the unit study was an overall success. When we are out and about the children run over to look at maps we might see around, and they are much more cognizant of the fact that there are other lands and countries. They understand that if we go to see Aunt Jenn and Uncle Gregg then we will need to take a plane because there is an ocean separating us.

Here they are checking out the map at Leon Sinks Geological area.

We also got off on some wonderful, child-led tangents. After the hikes we took in the mountains to see waterfalls, Petra became fascinated with the large waterfalls in other countries. We took a day to learn and talk talking about Victoria Falls and Angel Falls – and we even went to the computer to watch videos on these places. She found this video about devil’s pool at Victoria Falls most fascinating and said she wanted to do this.

We have followed this unit study with a unit on aquatic biomes – oceans, lakes, rivers, waterfalls, swamps and more. It has been a natural progression, especially since the earth is ¾ water. We are finishing it last week  (for the most part – I could have spent 5 months on it) and I will try to post on it next week.

Here’s a few photos of some our activities – biome cards, paintings of earth, cut/color/paste compass rose, and passport books.

Here is a general outline of what we learned about, the books we used, as well as the other activities we incorporated into our learning.

Unit 1 Planet Earth – Maps, Globes, Weather, Continents, and Biomes

Maps and map legends
Compass Rose – Understanding direction
Globes, and how the earth moves around the sun to create the seasons
Topography – Different regions and climates, mountains, volcanoes, etc
Equator – Warm and Cold regions
7 Continents – Name and Identify on map
4 Oceans – Name and Identify on map
Biomes – how weather affects the world around us and creates different biomes, review of the main biomes
Weather – identify the weather each day, learn about the water cycle
Look at a picture of the earth from space – the white in the picture are the clouds

• What color is the land on the map? What color is the water?
• Find an ocean. What is its name? Do you live near or far from this ocean?
• Find an island. What is its name? Is the island north or south of the equator?
• Find a country. What is its name? Do you live in this country?
• Find some land. What color is it? Is all the land on the globe the same color?
• Find the equator. Do you live north or south of the equator?
• Find the country you live in. What is its name?
• Find the North Pole.
• Find the South Pole.
• Review on map where you and other friends and family live – talk about distances, how would you get there (boat, airplane, car, etc)

• We colored a world map with the continents and oceans
• We labeled, cut, and colored a compass rose (lapbook)
• We drew maps of each child’s room. I actually drew them while they watched and they had to figure out which room was which. (You could also draw a map of your neighborhood)
• We cut out and pasted pictures of different biomes and discussed the different weather in each region that creates each biome, and the animals that live in each
• We created a passport for each child’s lapbook that we will use to record each country the “visit” as we continue our geography lessons –
• We went outside and found north by holding our right hand toward the east and our left hand toward the west
• We painted a simple picture of the earth – tracing a circle, using blue paint for the water and green paint for the land

We made volcanoes in our backyard with baking soda and vinegar
We created a cloud (condensation) in a jar – experiment from Raindrops and Rainbows by Rose Wyler
Rain collections and measurement
Rainbow creation

Here are some ideas for music to incorporate
It’s a small world
Our Earth Inside Out

Most of these movies we rented our library and for the most part I let them watch them in the car
• Weather for Children – All about Climate & Seasons
• Sid the Science Kid: Weather Kid Sid
• Animal Atlas: Animal Mysteries
• Disney Nature Planet Earth
• Nations of the world with Anamaniacs can be found online here.

As the Crow Flies: A First Book of Maps by Gail Hartman
Everybody Cooks Rice by Norah Dooley
Everybody Bakes Bread by Norah Dooley
Hottest, Coldest, Highest, Deepest
People by Peter Spier
What is a biome? by Bobbie Kalman
Raindrops and rainbows by Rose Wyler
Blast-off to Earth! : a look at geography by Loreen Leedy
Calabash Cat, and his amazing journey by James Rumford
Who lives here? : Animals of the pond, forest, prairie, desert, mountains, meadow, and swamp by Dot Barlowe

We spent this time learning animal names in French. “eFlash French” has been a helpful iphone app in learning our animals names in French. I’ve mostly stuck to learning the French so far using phone apps because I can get ones with audio – as opposed to just reading a book and having no clue on how to say the word.

Raw Day 4

I’ve been raw or nearly raw for 4 days now. The first day I was about 85% raw, and then I’ve been closer to about 95% raw the last two days. (There are some things I don’t eat raw like cocoa powder, and I had some hummus today on my veggies – but I made it so at least I know what went into it)

Interestingly, I’m not the least bit hungry anymore.

The first few days I was ravenous several times throughout the day. Not to mention the horrible headaches from caffeine withdraw.

Now, all is well. Except I’m actually feeling bloated. I think it was the plateful of raw broccoli I have consumed the past couple days. I’ll be staying away from broccoli for at least a few days – but at least I know what makes me feel stuffed.

The meals so far have been delicious. I have had green smoothies, a kale salad, raw veggies with a tahini/lemon dip, chocolate bark (which is basically a healthy candy), lots of cantaloupe and watermelon, not tuna pate, carrot juice, spiced blueberry cobbler, and more.

No complaints here.

I forgot to weigh myself this morning, but yesterday scale showed that I was beginning to lose weight.