Friday, June 26, 2009

Cherry Picking at Rhodes Orchard

On Monday, we drove about 40 minutes to Leona Valley to go cherry picking at Rhodes Orchard, which is one of the largest cherry orchards in Southern California. They are entirely customer picked cherries - no mass marketing or selling of these yummy treats. Over 7 acres of lush cherries are available for the picking for only 3 weeks out of every year. Our local homeschooling group has gone for 7 consecutive years. This was our first year and we can't wait to go again!

As usual, we were the turtles of the group and still hanging around while everyone else started already, but once we got out there in the groves, the girls went to town. We picked the darker ones, which are sweeter and older. They explained that they prefer people not to pick the stems as the next years fruit is just directly behind the stem, in the cluster. You could see it easily. But my friend, Melanie, explained how to properly remove a cherry with the stem, without damaging next years harvest. When the stem is intact, the fruit will stay good for an additional four days.

The cherries were just $2.75 per pound and they were delicious. While not certified organic, the trees are not sprayed or anything, so you can eat the fruit without washing. Of course, most of the picked cherries went directly into the girls bellies, instead of our picking bags! What a mess we made :)

We only picked a little over 5 lbs, again, because the other 5 lbs were in the girls bellies and though they had a scale, we declined to be weighed :)...I wished we picked more because we bought a pitter and were planning on baking some wicked cherry pies, but alas, the fruit got eaten before we got to the bakin'. It was so good!

I also learned that we should store what we won't freeze directly in the fridge without washing first. Washing will make the fruit spoil quicker, so we just put it in several bowls and would just wash what we were eating at that sitting...
Boy was that DELICIOUS!

We have two sets of families coming to visit with us over the next two weeks, so I might be quiet for a while, but if I can sneak on, I'll post some of our other adventures. I've got a felting post to do and one about some little critters we adopted last weekend. All in good time :)

Have a great weekend!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Hands on History - Ancient Egypt

Tony was a history major in college and has ignited a passion for history in me, as well as the girls. He's a marvelous storyteller - always engaging the girls in verbal retellings of some of the most famous stories fact/fiction in recorded history. The girls love hearing about King Arthur, about Troy and Achilles and Hector, about Agamemnon, about Javert and Jean Valjean...

We bought a used copy of "A Child's History of the World", first printed in 1924 by V.M. Hillyer. It gives a brief history of our civilization in story form. As the Braveheart screenwriter wrote, History is written by the winners. History is subjective and things get lost in translation, in time. Not all survived and a viewpoint is told. We all feel we are on the side of the "good guys", but ask the guys on the "bad side" and they will swear they are in the right, etc. Facts are later disproven and beliefs change...

I thought the Hillyer book would be a good whole picture introduction, before we start "Story of the World" next year. So much of life and understanding is centered around history. Tony and I both feel it deserves more spotlight in education.

We just began it a week or so ago and on chapter 6, we learned about how writing first began, according to Hillyer - with the Ancient Egyptians.

We learned that the first paper was made from Papyrus reeds (hence the name "paper") which was flattened and then rolled up into a scroll. We made our own scrolls by rolling paper that had the girls names written on it so they could grasp the general idea of scroll reading and writing.

We discussed hieroglyphics and learned about the ancient stone found near the mouth of the Rosetta stream which had a story written in several languages, including Greek and Egyptian hieroglyphics. The archaeologist spent 30 years translating and thanks to his discovery of the Rosetta stone, we now *understand* and can read the Egyptian hieroglyphics. We talked about picture writing and thought it would be fun to make up our own language. I drew some pictures and a key for them and they translated my messages.

After each chapter, there is a little picture to color. The twins take turns and then cut it out and we paste it on our time-line to grasp the understanding of "time" and how our history unfolds.

Later, we decided that we wanted to try to create the ink that the Ancient Egyptians used, according to Hillyer. After our last fire, we asked Tony not to sweep the soot and we took the soot, mixed it with water and since we didn't have any reeds to write with, I got out our quill pens from last year's Pioneer Day with our local homeschooling group and we used those...

It worked great!

Another new fact we learned that I'd love to share with you...apparently, Ancient Egyptians were passionate about poetry and several love poems have been discovered in The Valley of the Kings. See link here.

So I will leave you with this translation of this 6th stanza which encompasses the feelings of an Egyptian woman in love with a certain young man and her hopes that her mother will embrace this love:

I passed by the front of his house,and found his door was open.
Brother was standing beside his mother,all his brothers were with him.
Love of him steals the heart of any wayfarer,perfect youth, none like him,choicest brother, a miracle.
He looked at me when I passed by,but I am too alone to cry out.
How my heart races for joy,brother, when I can see.
If only the mother knew my desire,if she would accept it at once.
Gold Goddess, yes, put it in her heart so I may rush to the brother,
I would kiss him in front of his staff,
I would not cry tears for anyone,
I would be happy that they realised that you are the one who knows me,
I would make festivals for my goddess, my heart has escaped to go out to let brother see me in the beautiful night, fully, in passing by.

For more, including pre-translation, see this site here.

Iam mer!
(gracious, be friend/s)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Math Play and a little animal science with stuffeds :)

We are definitely an eclectic mix of homeschoolers. We love "living learning" - hands on learning through life and through play. The girls wanted to explore some math concepts, so they made a matrix with two shapes, two sizes, and three colors.

After that, they drew playgrounds for their sorting bears to play on, and after long stories of their adventures, we would solve a problem, "Three green teddies went on the swings and two red teddies went down the slide. How many teddies were on the playground?"

Dr. Ruth Beechick stresses that it is important to respect that young children use the manipulative mode of thinking. She claims that with real objects, 3 yr olds can do problems which are normally introduced in 2nd or 3rd grade, in textbooks without those manipulatives. However, so much of math failure is because we, as young children, have not been taught in the manipulative mode. It is the basis for all arithmetic thinking. And while we, as adults, can switch back and forth easily from the various modes, very young children can not switch. When the very young children become proficient with their manipulative mode of thinking, as young children, they will begin to dispense with their use and move into the mental image mode and picture the manipulatives in their heads. The final stage is the abstract mode where they can think about a number in abstraction (rather than picturing four glass gems or four beans - they understand the number "four"). Too often they are expected to think in all three modes before they are really ready and problems, like math phoebia, result.

This all makes sense in the support of allowing our children to have a 'real' childhood, which now has become an 'old-fashioned' one before early academics and video/tv takeover. Our kids need a life full of exploration and play. So often kids in traditional schools are rushed passed these natural stages and then often are turned off to the conveyor belt learning and they struggle as a result. In play, children naturally manipulate and master that mode of thinking while learning through their hands.

One of my little learners is very tactile and, like her daddy, likes to do more than one thing when absorbing. Our super-puzzle girl loves her numbers and she loves to organize and sort. I had written down numbers on index cards from 0-20 and mixed them up. "C" would pull a number and tell me what it was and then run and give it to Super puzzle girl, who would put them in order. We then switched...

Tahhh....dahhhh...we then went upstairs and decided we needed to clean up our stuffed animal bins. So the girls took them out and sorted them by species - got a little math and science, and a cleaned up play room to boot :)

They love playing games that involve challenges and early learning, though I am totally on board with the benefits of delaying formal academics until the child is developmentally ready and presenting the learning in a fun, hands-on way. So many of us who homeschool place a high value on protecting that inborn love of learning. Children are in search of understanding and will teach themselves. Mine love it when I tell them that they just did their math and science for the day and they had so much fun doing it that they want to do more! Much more fun to sort stuffeds than to look at a worksheet and draw a line between which baby animal goes with the momma animal :) Gotta keep that passion for learning ablaze!

"Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire."
~ William Butler Yeats

Wednesday, June 17, 2009



This week Syrendell sent me (Jen) a Watermelon Award. Sweet!

I accept and reciprocate by sharing six things that make me happy:

1. My husband! When I was in college, I was on a career path and there was no room in my immediate future for a real romance. But boy did I learn that some things are just meant to be when I met my husband senior year and after 4 days of dating, he told me he could marry me based on those days...That was almost 17 years ago and we are still so much in love. I am so lucky that I have met my soulmate, who loves me unconditionally (even with my twin skin on my belly from carrying the girls full term). And I am grateful for his love and commitment and cherish him as my other half.

2. My babies! They go hand in hand with my hubby. I always knew I wanted children and I knew the love between us would be amazing, but I never realized how much I would learn from them. They have taught me patience. They have taught me that you can't plan everything - sometimes, you just have to go with the flow. They have taught me to love life and marvel at even the most simple moments. They are such a gift to us and I dedicate myself to their care and hearts. They brought me closer to God for many, many reasons. I see such mystery in their eyes and the magnificence of their great souls.

3. Homeschooling...I never planned this, but like attachment parenting, it just felt right and was an extension of it. I love being with my children and seeing those moments when something clicks or when they want to share a special find with me. I love being with them every day and the closeness we hold so sacred. I love that they love and need me and each other in a way that is supportive of our desire for a family centered upbringing. We root each other, so to speak.

I had read a beautiful passage once in a Samuel Blumenfeld book which equated homeschooling to breastfeeding. It said that homeschooling is the "mother's milk" of education. I thought that was an amazing realization and I completely agree with it!

4. Creative Writing...I've always loved to write and started writing novellas at the early age of 8. My husband was a history major and is very creative and I love when we work together on creative writing projects. He is an amazing storyteller and I have learned so much from his guidance. I hope that one day, we will reach the stage of publication (send us your positive vibes :)

5. Animals...I am an animal lover, who unfortunately has allergies to most critters, but they make me so happy. I still feel like a 5 year old in a pet shop and want to adopt all creatures, large and small (though I admit I am a bug-a-phobe...) We love our puppy and are adopting some ratties this weekend! If I didn't have cat and dog allergies, we'd HAVE to move to a farm where I could house them all - LOL!

6. The Ocean...though we don't go nearly enough, there is nothing so relaxing and soothing as just sitting on a beach and listening to the waves. The kids have such fun just being in nature and I feel the fresh salt water rejuvenating my smog infested LA lungs! Just kidding...I love the beaches, especially in Malibu in the winter when there are no crowds. It is otherworldly and the forces of the water and the unknown, I find fascinating...can I also say that I love the moon, the stars, road trips with my family, needle felting and working with my hands, singing...OK, now I'm cheating...anyway, thanks for reading and...

In turn, I nominate these six, refreshing mammas (in no particular order):

Linda: Linda is an inspiring homeschooling Momma who knits the most beautiful characters, using gorgeous natural materials. She is amazingly creative and I love to see the hands-on activities she does with her children on their homeschooling journey. Though we're an ocean away, and then some, I feel a special kinship to Linda.

Shauna: I am happy to count Shauna as a friend of mine whom I met through our local homeschooling group. She has four adorable children and is out there on hikes and at field trips with babes and toddlers in arms and a smile on her face. She is nurturing, creative and compassionate and I think she's a pretty special momma :).

Lisa: Lisa is an amazingly creative and in-tune earth momma. I am consistently blown away by her ability to share so much with her children and with the blogging community. I really don't know where she finds time for everything, but she is doing a fantastic job inspiring her children and followers, like moi!

Artemis Moon: I am new to following her blog, but I enjoy it immensely and hope she can post even more great ideas more often :) From what I've seen, there is a pure innocence and a refreshing quality to her blog...I'm not quite sure how to capture it with words, but perhaps it is sprinkled with pixie magic :)

Jalama Dreams: The Scolari family has jumped in heads/hands/heart and Momma and daughter volunteer at a living history site in the central coastal area of California. She's learning how to card and spin her own wool and I'm excited to follow their journey and hope to meet them one day!

Jane: Jane makes the most beautiful planning pages that I love to use. She is an all natural momma who is hands on and inspirational. Her lovely heart shines through her wonderful blog posts.

I would love to hear what makes you happy, but please don't feel obligated. There is much love to go around; pass the melons!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Sandscapes for playful meditation

There is just something about sand that makes us relax...sand between our toes...sand flowing through our fingertips...sand in our shovels and's just fun!

We love to play with our indoor sandscapes. It's easy and relatively mess-free. I've been impressed by the various creative scenarios that evolve from sandscape play.

You can get sand from a local beach (be careful of bringing sand fleas into your home, though, esp if you're in Southern Cal), your playground, or you can even buy it at crafting stores. If you have a nice wooden tray or bowl, that's optimal, but we just use baking sheets and whatever we have lying around to play with...nuts, shells, acorns, sticks, pine cones, and whatever little characters are lying around. The girls set up pine cone forests and they both love to use sticks to smooth out the sand. They have made patterns in the sand and even practiced letters in the sand. They usually play for hours with it and feel very satisfied when they are finished. It's a nice quiet activity where there is little room for battles or bickering as they are in such a meditative state, preparing their own unique sandscape with unlimited imagination.

"C" found this Rudolph deer in a xmas bin and wanted to make him part of her sandscape.

While "E" had fun using her stick to place some shells.

It's hard to see the image, but "C" designed this and was ever so proud of her shapes in the sand.

I'll have to take some better pictures next time. I admit, I got so engrossed in their play, that I neglected to capture the 'moment' just so...have fun in your playful meditation :)