Thursday, 29 March 2012

Amish Buggy ride and Farm visit

We are visiting with my parents and they lived about an hour away from Amish country.

Parking spaces for the horse and carriage behind a restaurant where we stopped for lunch

Just as our carriage arrived it started to rain:(

Kids got to sit in the front seat with the driver

Visiting a Amish farm and learning how they milk cows by hand. At this particular farm they had what seemed like modern equipment but instead of running off electricity it ran on diesel.

In the feed barn

Empty cab of the buggy. These were surprising nice rides, not nearly as rough a ride as I imagined it to be;)

I was surprised to learn that the Amish often purchase retired race horses for their buggies.

Learning about horse shoes. I didn't know that the Horse shoes had rough spots on them to help with traction. That is very hard to see in these pictures. I just assumed the shoe was smooth, but it made sense. These are all painted as they were for sale:)

The driver was very friendly and showed us several local Amish homes, businesses and the one room school house during the driving tour. Afterwards we headed to the Amish market, where I found a lovely wrought iron candelabra. If I could have figured out how to add it to my suitcase I would have bought it.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Weekly wrap up and Mother's home school journal combo post

The last couple of weeks has been wrapping up all projects and getting ready for our month long break while visiting family. While away I do try to do a little bit of the core subjects with the children like math and writing. The rest we leave alone until we return home. I try to take very little in the form of work books with us while we travel. Preferring to incorporate a more relaxed home schooling approach allowing the children to really enjoy their time off and just experience being with extended family. This doesn't mean there isn't a lot of learning going on, it is just a different kind of learning. The whole family is looking forward to our spring break and visiting with friends and family.


I have been selected to be a reviewer for the TOS crew. I am so excited to be part of this group and can't wait to get started. I have my first review coming up shortly after our holiday. So we will be working on this while away.

What we are reading:

Princess is reading along with Daddy the story War Horse as part of our WWI unit.

Little Man is still working on the Harry Potter series with Mommy

I am reading How to talk so kids will listen and Listen so kids will talk and How to talk so kids can learn books by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish -- My oldest has hit the pre-teen years and with it comes attitude:(, and I am just not handling it well. I will admit while things still aren't perfect I do see a bit of a change in us both since I have implemented a few suggestions from these books. I think I will be re reading these books a lot in the months to come. Any other book suggestions for managing the tween/teen years:) I have a feeling I am going to need them!

In our school this week:

We are wrapping up all of our school projects in order to prepare for our upcoming spring break. We just completed our geography lesson on Mexico. Now working on Physics in science (see below) . We are beginning our WWI unit for History and found some great resources that clearly explain the reasons (and madness) of the war. To be honest all I remember in school about WWI was someone shot someone. So this has helped me understand the whys of the war as well.

What's not working for us:

We have hit a major snag with our Science program...Real Science 4 kids. I loved, loved the Chemistry books and experiments however since we have moved onto the the Physics book and experiments I have not been impressed at all. There are too many variables that can occur in each experiment that so far we haven't had a successful turnout of an experiment. While it is good for the children to see and problem solve when an experiment goes wrong, it is not good when you can't worked the experiment too show how the experiment can go right. It means the kids lose interest and quite frankly so does the MOMs. We are half way though this book, I keep hoping the next experiment will be better. On top of all that my favorite site for downloading Bill Nye Videos has been out of commission for 2 weeks and I use those to help the kids see experiments that do work in regards to our physics lessons.

On a positive note the actual physic text book is great and really explains things at a younger child's level. So I do like that portion of the books. We still love having our friends join us every week for experiment day, as the Moms get a chance to talk and the kids get a chance to play, after science that is:).

Thoughts I am having:

I just received the CAT test for this year and reviewed it. There are a few areas I need to go over before giving the test to the kids. One of the things I noticed is fractions is on this test. Since we are using the Math U See we haven't done fractions yet. So I am trying to figure out what to do. Do I jump a head and see if we can tackle this area ahead of Math U See's schedule or should I just let those answers go unanswered on the test. I have used this test for the past 3 years mainly as a way of helping me judge how my children are doing in the areas of math and language arts. However, now I am questioning if I should give up testing and just keep going with the schedule we have. While a huge part of me wants to quit the testing there is a small part that wants to keep it just to make sure I am doing everything to make sure my children have the necessary skills they need to enter college and/or work force. My husband and I will be having further discussions about the need for testing.

Question that I have:

I am looking for a new writing program for next year. Anyone have feed back for the IEW program versus the Winning with Writing program? I have heard good things about both of these products. I don't know of anyone using these products personally in their homeschool. Good honest feedback would be very much appreciated.

We are off to visit friends and family for the next month. So school and blogging will be taking a back seat for a bit. I will post when I can but it will be sporadic. I love visiting posts of all those who comment on my blog but am not sure I will be able to keep up while away. However don't let that stop you from visiting or commenting as I love seeing that people have stopped by. I will be sure to visit back as soon as we return.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Learning about Mexico

For the last several weeks we have been learning about Mexico. Our starting off point is always with the delivery of the envelope from Little Passports. From there I expand our study by checking out books from the library. I really like the "Guide to....series" from highlights as well as the "A family in...."series. We are lucky to be able to find both at our library. We enjoy watching the Atlas DVD series on specific countries as it gives us a nice idea about the different areas of each country. Other resources we used is the Download and Go unit studies from Amanda Bennett and note booking pages from Homeschool Creations.

Since we have already made a pinata at another time for our Mexican craft activity we chose to do the Ojo De Dios otherwise known as God's eye.

Instead of Popsicle sticks we used tree branches so we could make larger ones to hang up.

Please ignore the messy room in the back ground

Instead of doing a complete Mexican dinner we had two separate meals

Tortilla soup the recipe we used can be found here

My children's favorite...enchiladas

While we did concentrate more on modern day Mexico, we also learn a few interesting facts about Mexico's Mayan and Aztec cultures. We will be exploring Mexico's vibrant history at later date. This was just a warm up.

Monday, 12 March 2012


My husband took my daughter to the track this weekend. First time for them both! Princess came home so excited and can't wait to go again.

Getting suit up and waiting to go in for the safety briefing which was quite intensive according to my husband.

The map of the race track they were on.

My husband said that Princess was going so fast he couldn't keep up. But all in all did a fantastic job only spinning out a few times. We will have to work on that lead foot of hers before she reaches 16:).

Little Man was not able to go because of his age but he had a birthday party to attend so he handled missing out on this fun activity with out so much as a whimper. Daddy can't wait to take him in the future

Friday, 9 March 2012

Trip to London

Last weekend we headed into London to visit the London Museum which was having a Charles Dickens/Victorian exhibit. Since we just finished up learning about the Victorians and the kids read a few books written by Dickens we thought we would go see it. We haven't been to this museum before so we had a look around at the other exhibits as well.

Outside of the Museum, not one of the prettier museums in London but the inside makes up for it:)

Museum starts with prehistoric times to present day...lots of fossils

Lots of stone age tools using flint

Princess watching the video on how to turn a flint stone into an arrow head. This really interests her. We have lots of flint around here and Princess makes a point of bringing it home:)

My husband noticed something very interesting with the weapons. The weapons made of bronze, while older in age appeared in far, far better shape then weapons made in iron which were from a later period. We have been researching the possible reasons for this. Anyone know? Our theories are at the next picture.

Bronze forms a coating of oxidation on the outside preventing further corrosion. Iron on the other hand rust and then flakes off so it can continue the corrosion process. So why did people switch to iron when bronze doesn't corrode as has to do with resources. Bronze melts at a low temperature and is easily worked into forms but is an alloy of copper and tin, which are rarely found in the same location. So if anything interrupts the trade for the two minerals they couldn't make the weapons or other items out of bronze. Iron ore is more plentiful; in fact, you could "harvest" iron ore out of peat bogs and it would regenerate in about 20 years. However, iron is significantly harder to work into form, but the tradeoff of having a ready supply was worth the extra effort for a metal that would corrode quicker.

The old London wall found within the grounds of the London Museum. Built during the time of the Romans.

Trying to figure out a Roman scale and how it works.

Throughout the museum there were lots of computer stations for the kids to look gave me time to read more about the exhibits, which is a win win as far as I am concerned. For some reason my kids would rather see the exhibits on a computer screen and learn about them that way then peer thru a museum exhibit...please someone tell this is not just my kids and perfectly normal and they will grow out of it:)!

I am unable to show pictures of the Dickens exhibit as photographs were not allowed, however outside they had this Victorian dress on exhibit. Can you imagine walking around in this, let alone sitting or going to the bathroom:)!

There were many other exhibits. After 4 hours the kids were beginning to get restless so we headed outdoors. Near by is St Paul Cathedral and we thought we would take a look. However once we arrived we were shocked to discover it costs 35 pounds for a family of 4 to view the cathedral (that is approx $55). Needless to say we didn't go inside. So I only have outside pictures of the cathedral to show you:) This is the cathedral that Princes Diana was married in for those of you who are fans of hers:)

Side of the building

Another successful trip into London. We still have so many museums and churches to visit before we head back to the states.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Fossils Galore

Last Friday we visited some friends and they took us to an amazing little shop full of fossils. The owner is a 21 year old who has been collecting fossils since he was 4 years old. He has collected over 12 million fossil and mineral specimens. So many that he had to opened his own shop just to put them all. Jamie is quite the entrepreneur as he also runs walks here in Britain helping people to find fossils locally. I plan on the family signing up for one of his walks sometime this summer.

I never would have found this shop if it wasn't for my friend as it is tuck away in a tiny village, but it is a hidden treasure:)

This is the store owner and he has had many newspaper stories written about him and his amazing fossil collection.

He is very sweet and has agreed to do a small class, at cost, just for my children and my friend's children. He will be teaching the children all about fossils, geology and minerals. We are so excited about this class!!

If you would like to see more of Jamie and his shop check out his website

Some of Jamie's collection in his work room

One of the shop's display cases

In the shop he has made a small corner into a sand pit where the children can look for fossils for a small price.

The children are able to keep 3 fossils that they find.

Each time the children found a fossil Jamie would help them identify it.

There was quite a variety of fossils in the pit and Jamie encouraged the children to keep searching and then chose which three they wished to keep.

Little Man chose these three fossils to take home.

Princess chose these three fossils to add to her small collection at home.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Making Christmas pudding

Last week, a friend invited me over to learn how to make English Christmas pudding. It might seem strange to think about Christmas pudding now, but now is the time to get the pudding made so it can cured for the next 10 months in order to have it ready in time for Christmas. I have often heard the Christmas pudding tastes better the longer it has cured. I have another friend who reported eating one Christmas pudding after 5 years of curing time.

I did a post 2 years ago on the meaning of Christmas pudding which you can find here. Since living in England we have always gone to the store to buy a small pudding to have at Christmas time. Now I will admit my family are not huge fans of Christmas pudding but I wanted to give it a try as things always tastes better when home made.

This recipe comes from my friend's Auntie Sybil and we had a fun afternoon creating together while the children played. One thing I found different about the recipe is everything is done by measuring by weight instead of volume. So you will need a food scale for this...something I need to buy:)

1 pound of fresh bread crumbs

Finely chopped up and make sure it isn't sticking all together it should be crumbly

1 pound of currants
1 pound of sultanas (golden raisins)
1 pound of raisins

Mix all ingredients gently in a large bowl.

Add 1 oz of crystallize ginger
3 oz of candied orange and lemon peel
2 medium grated carrots
1 large apple peeled and chopped
Add 10 ml of ground almonds

Gently mix it all together

Add 1 pound vegetable suet...if you can't find it you can use use butter but it must be frozen and then grated do not use soften butter

Again thoroughly mix it together

Add 2 Tablespoons of Golden syrup (can use corn syrup)

Add a 'gill' of dark ale beer (do not use lager beer)
a gill is approximately 5 oz of dark ale beer

3 tablespoons of Brandy

Mix all ingredients thoroughly

Grease inside bowls with butter or shortening. Firmly press the mixture into bowls to desire level (don't over fill)

This recipe made 2 medium size bowls and 2 smaller bowls of pudding.

Cover inside of bowl with parchment paper, cut to fit.

Then cover the entire lid of bowl with parchment paper and tie tight with a string.

Do you see the string:)

Cover with aluminum foil

Steam for 8 hours

Next store the Christmas pudding in a cool dark place until Christmas. When ready to eat steam pudding for 4 hours and then serve. There are many ways to serve Christmas pudding, with custard, cream or adding Brandy to the pudding right before serving and setting it a flame. My kids love the blue flame. I won't be able to tell you how it turned out taste wise until Christmas time but I can't wait to give it a try.

MOM I have an extra one just for you so you can pick it up when you visit in September to take home:)!!