Week Five

Hope you had a Happy Halloween!

Everyone helped decorate our yard with homemade ghosts and cotton stretch spider webs for Monday’s trick-or-treat crowd.

Parker dressed as a transformer and Miles was a pirate.  Arrrrr mate!  Ruby vetoed her cozy bumblebee suit and went along for a candy-fetching ride in the burley.

The great candy count:  After many sample pieces, Miles counted 83 packs of candy from his pumpkin.


At Lake Nokomis in search of life in and around the lake for our study of lakes and river habitat and critters.

Some empty shells.  Parker has an incredible eye for locating small treasures.

Nest found under a tree on the way to the play park.

We always save time for the park.

Longfellow Gardens (better known to our kids as ‘The Land Bridge’)

Longfellow Gardens had lots of grasses and plants gone to seed.  Ruby got startled and then cracked herself up when she popped a plant’s seed ball and it let out a big ‘poof!’ of air and seeds.

Listening to ducks quacking, traffic zooming, airplanes taking off, and a train horn blasting…ahhh Minneapolis, we’ve got it all.

Lots of space to run in the brick maze!

We later referred to our book Minnehaha Creek Living Waters by Jane King Hallberg, as it gives a detailed history and stories of this area.  The boys were amazed to hear there was a zoo with lions and seals in the park.  The book recounts that the falls area drew many notable people throughout history, including President Johnson, Mark Twain, Antonin Dvorak, and Henry David Thoreau (but not on the same day, of course).

DK’s Pond and River by Steve Parker is useful in identifying the autumn life around the ponds and lakes we’ve been to recently.  We’ve made use of some stuffed animals to ‘liven up’ the discussion, and this otter ‘talks’ about what it’s like by his river.  This won giggles mostly with Ruby and Parker.

Our pea plants are growing nicely.  We created a science table (photo to come later) to give all our nature treasures (critter bones, shells, feathers, fossils from Wyoming…) a home.

Rock, paper, scissors!…I mean rock, fire, pizza!  Lessons with our neighbor and friend Jean

We are learning about different types of rocks (metamorphic, sedimentary, and igneous).  Soapstone is a type of metamorphic rock.  It is the stone that Jean and her husband Peter’s business Woodland Stoves & Fireplaces uses to make extraordinary fireplaces (as well as many other fireplaces and stoves).   Jean used her laptop to show pictures and video clips of  soapstone’s various uses.  By tracing the route on a map, she helped the boys picture how it travels from Finland to the U.S. by boat and then by train.  She talked about how fire needs air, heat, and fuel to burn.  This soapstone fireplace warms the whole house and gently radiates the heat.  Cool November afternoon, learning in front of a cozy fireplace on a soft rug…Does it get any better than this?  (It will!  See below…)

Cooking with wood fire!  Miles is topping a hand-made crust with Jean’s homemade pasta sauce and cheese.

Ruby’s turn to brush on the sauce.

Jean slides the pizza into the wood burning stove.  The boys got to watch the pizza cook and be warmed by this glowing fire (and search for the kitty’s hiding spot).

Pizza perfection!

Cooking with a wood fire has never tasted this good, and the kids devoured their slices (and a couple of Jean’s pumpkin muffins).  Jean also offered some apple cider, which reminded Miles that the last time he drank this was at Fort Snelling’s New Year’s Eve celebration (which we’ll try to do again this year).  After lunch the boys played their holiday songs on the piano (Jingle Bells).  Spectacular!  Thank you Jean for teaching us about fire, soapstone, and cooking with wood fire!  Jean is our neighbor and friend, and we are grateful that she took time to prepare, present, and visit with us.


Clay dough getting color and ready for our story of  Little Blue and Little Yellow by Leo Lionni.

As I read, I give each child a small clay ball of blue, then one of yellow.  Then in the story they hug, and together they make…GREEN! (as Miles and Parker yelled after mixing theirs).

I used a Homemade Modeling Clay recipe by Mary-Liz Shaw from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (thanks Mom!):  Mix 2 c baking soda, 1c cornstarch, and 1 1/2 c water in a pot and cook until it is thick and smooth.  This takes about 6-10 minutes.  Cool on a plate, then divide and add food coloring, mixing with a spoon so your fingers don’t get colored too.  The recipe says to store it in a ziplock in the fridge, but ours never makes it to storage – the kids love to play with it all day.


We read Elmer by David McKee, a story about a colorful elephant who made others laugh, but was sad because he wasn’t gray like all the others in his herd.  Miles decorated some elephants using marker and chalk.

Elmer’s Day parade route magically floats above our Chicka Chicka Boom Boom  inspired tree (book by Bill Martin Jr.).  Our letters slowly get added, and we take turns picking the letter of the day.  Miles is planning to make his name going downward (he strategically placed the M and the E).

20th Day of School Celebration

We like to look for ways to celebrate simple things (and tie in numbers and skip counting, etc) and we celebrated the 20th day of homeschool with punch balloons.  Miles worked on getting his going for 20 counts.


November’s composer is Igor Stravinsky and we listened to The Firebird at Classics for Kids.

Music word is Allegro and the symbol is eighth note.  During music lessons and at group class at MacPhail we learn music theory, so I am hoping to reinforce some music literacy at home.  At last week’s music lesson, Miles learned about different clefs and we followed up at home and saw some online at Read Sheet Music’s site.

Social Studies

As part of our map making project, Miles drew a neighborhood map on our driveway.  The white outline is snow and the green truck is a snowplow!  He even drew the ice skate rink that we go to (a block from our house).  He said he’s ready for it to snow so he can play in it.

In all our discussion of ponds, rivers, and lakes this week it only seemed fitting to read about Henry David Thoreau.  Walden Then and Now by Michael McCurdy has simple but rich stories and fitting wood engraved pictures.

Lock and Dam No. 1

On our way home from our MacPhail piano lesson, we saw a large barge heading for Lock and Dam No. 1.  We stopped home for apples to snack on and then watched the barge enter and then leave the dam (about 40 minutes process).

It was quite windy and cool, and waiting for the water to drain took a while.

We looked for river wildlife and saw geese and sea gulls.

Literature Arts

In the spirit of Halloween we read Mummies in the Morning by Mary Pope Osborne.  We mixed up a batch of sand-dough and created pyramids and other formations.

If you have been searching for a recipe for the stuff that you’ve been trying to keep out of your house all summer and that looks like what people with dogs pick up on walks…this is for you (:  4c sand, 2c cornstarch, 1 T plus 1tsp cream of tartar, 3c hot water, mix over low heat until combined and becomes quite thick.  Cool on waxed paper.  Throw pot out (seriously, mine is still outside filled with water and I’m debating how badly I want to keep it-it did cost 50 cents).We had the best results by taking it outside to play with.  Ruby played with this the longest.

With so much Halloween treasure (candy) around all week, I thought we could put it to some uses.  Miles is learning to alphabetize word lists, so we used his candy names as practice.

Hitting the books at one of our favorite Minneapolis libraries (with one of our favorite librarians).  We stocked up on books about various climates and animal habitats for our upcoming science unit as well as Pokemon, Mr.Putter and Tabby by Cynthia Rylant, and some Berenstain Bears books.  Miles wanted to read Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel right away and we’ve been saying that name ever since!

We made a second library run this week in Eden Prairie.  A couple timely and favorite books this week were Pajama Pirates by Andrew Kramer and Mr. Putter and Tabby Catch the Cold by Cynthia Rylant.

The poetry popper for this week was a 5 Senses poem.  Miles created a 5 Senses poem about Skittles (his favorite candy).

Math and Logic

This is a familiar sight at our breakfast table.  Miles and Parker get right to work on math and handwriting.

Before trick or treating, we talked about the concept of estimation and Miles estimated how many chocolate candy packs (57) and how many Skittle packs (2,000) he would get.  He really likes Skittles.  He also set a goal of going to 2,000 houses for trick or treating.  We compared our actual numbers when we got home.

Health and Wellness

While Miles and Parker try to shake their colds, morning gym class time was kept pretty mellow.  We did some indoor games like low-key relay races and the Hokey Pokey. Indoor hide and seek and musical dancing (stop when music stops) got us moving for morning recess.  However, we usually wander outside to see what’s going on in our yard and around the block.  One morning Parker wanted us to have a raisin picnic with books on blankets in the yard.  Miles recharged by staying inside,  getting some alone-time with the Legos.

Biking to the play park after school to visit and play with friends continues to highlight our days.

After piano lessons we visited 4th Avenue Playground, a new park along the Mississippi River.

A quick trip to Wabun in the afternoon.

Lego Wonderland

The boys worked on this soccer game set up, complete with their own tally sheet on paper to keep score.


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