Sugar Snow!

“In the morning the house was warm from the stove, but when Laura looked out of the window she saw that the ground was covered with soft, thick snow. All along the branches of the trees the snow was piled like feathers, and it lay in mounds along the top of the rail fence, and stood up in great, white balls on top of the gate-posts.
Pa came in, shaking the soft snow from his shoulders and stamping it from his boots.
“It’s a sugar snow,” he said.
Laura put her tongue quickly to a little bit of the white snow that lay in a fold of his sleeve. It was nothing but wet on her tongue, like any snow. She was glad that nobody had seen her taste it.
“Why is it a sugar snow, Pa?” she asked him, but he said he didn’t have time to explain now. He must hurry away, he was going to Grandpa’s.

After supper, Pa took them on his knees as he sat before the fire, and told them about his day at Grandpa’s, and the sugar snow. . . .

“It’s called a sugar snow, because a snow this time of year means that men can make more sugar. You see, this little cold spell and the snow will hold back the leafing of the trees, and that makes the longer run of sap. When there’s a long run of sap, it means that Grandpa can make enough maple sugar to last all the year, for common every day. When he takes his furs to town, he will not need to trade for much store sugar. He will get only a little store sugar, to have on the table when company comes.”

“Grandpa must be glad there’s a sugar snow,” Laura said.

“Yes,” Pa said, “he’s very glad. He’s going to sugar off again next Monday, and he says we must all come.”
(From “Little House in the Big Woods” by Laura Ingalls Wilder)

Grandpa was glad and so are we! We woke up this morning to our very own sugar snow. We were expecting 1-2 inches, but ended up with 9 inches measured on the picnic table! Here are some pictures I took first thing this morning –

My patio garden – good thing we haven’t planted it yet! –

My giant Rosemary plant is under here somewhere –

We don’t have any maple trees, so we won’t be making sugar, but we are going to be making molasses candy with our snow today. Sarah has been wanting to do this all season, but we were always a step behind the snow or out of molasses, and it didn’t happen, but today it will!

Ma was busy all day long, cooking good things for Christmas. She baked salt-rising bread and rye’n’Injun bread, and Swedish crackers, and a huge pan of baked beans, with salt pork and molasses. She baked vinegar pies and dried-apple pies, and filled a big jar with cookies, and she let Laura and Mary lick the cake spoon.
One morning she boiled molasses and sugar together until they made a thick syrup, and Pa brought in two pans of clean, white snow from outdoors. Laura and Mary each had a pan, and Pa and Ma showed them how to pour the dark syrup in little streams on to the snow.
They made circles, and curlicues, and squiggledy things, and these hardened at once and were candy. Laura and Mary might eat one piece each, but the rest was saved for Christmas Day.”

(Also from “Little House in the Big Woods” by Laura Ingalls Wilder)

Church has been cancelled this morning, and the children are slowly waking up. They will certainly be wanting to head outside soon, so I will say good-bye for now!

Be back again soon ~


Quilting Books

Cindy asked me to recommend a good quilt book for learning to quilt. There are two books that I have been referring to as I make my way along this journey of learning to quilt. One is this book ~

This book has been good about taking my hand and talking to me as a beginner. It gives instructions for both hand and machine piecing, quilting, and all of the rest that goes along with the craft ~

I have also lately really been enjoying referring to this book ~

It is also good at teaching the basics, but in a question/answer format. So, when I don’t understand something or have a question about something, I can go right to the question and find my answer. I have cleared up many questions using this book. It’s a convenient size to keep in my quilting basket for whenever I need to refer to it, which has been alot lately since I am moving into new territory working on borders and soon into the quilting portion of my quilt.

Another great source for learning to quilt is a local quilt shop. They are popping up all over the place and they offer classes at every level and are always willing to answer questions that you may have. They also usually have a book section where you can find how-to quilt books as well as books full of patterns. I am sure you can probably find lots of information online, as well.

I have tended to get overwhelmed with the learning process as I felt like there was so much to learn, but I’ve found that just by taking it one step at a time, it has really not been difficult, and I learn more all the time. Just be patient and enjoy it – that’s the point of it anyway!

Lynn asked what a Be-Attitudes quilt was, so I am posting a picture of mine in progress. This quilt was designed by Nancy Halvorsen, as were the fabrics used in it. This is the quilt after sewing the blocks together, but minus the four borders that I am working on right now ~

I’ll post more pictures when I finish the top.


An Apple a Day

Last week our study in My Father’s World with Anna and Michael (and David, of course) was on apples. We read some good books, and made some simple, fun crafts. Here is a sampling of the things that we did ~

We read this book about apple trees and how they grow apples ~

We discussed the fruit that God can produce in us when we follow Him and abide in Him. We made construction paper apples with our Bible lesson on it ~

We read a story out of this book about a grasshopper who takes a bite out of an apple that turns out to be the home of a worm ~

We then drew new apple homes for the worm, complete with stairs and furniture ~

We made apple trees by tracing the children’s hands on brown paper to make the trunk and branches. We then cut out a green top for the leaves and painted red apples on the trees with fingers dipped in tempera paint. David couldn’t stop with just a few apples and ended up painting his entire tree red! ~

Finally, we read this book ~

We really enjoyed this story, and it will be one that we read over and over again. It follows Arnold and his apple tree through all of the seasons of the year. We drew pictures of the tree in each season ~

We are all looking forward to our own apple trees getting big enough to produce apples! ~


Snowy Day Lapbooks

We finished our Snowy Day lapbooks this week. I did these with Michael, Anna, and David. The lapbooks were centered around two snowy books – “The Snowy Day” by Ezra Jack Keats and “White Snow Bright Snow” by Alvin Tresselt, as shown in the picture above.

We read the stories and then completed the activities for our lapbooks. We took our time with this one, completing one or two activities per day.

If you are wondering – What exactly is a lapbook? – it is a way to record the information that you learn as you study just about any topic. It is recorded in little booklets with writings and drawings that are then glued into the lapbook. When finished, a lapbook is a great keepsake for the kids, that they love to look back at throughout the years. I purchased and downloaded this lapbook from one of my favorite Lapbooking sites – A Journey Through Learning – I love their graphics! You can find out more about lapbooking by visiting their site.

“A Snowy Day” is one of my all time favorite winter stories to read with the children, and our lapbooks documented the many fun activities that Peter had on his snowy day.

I had not read “White Snow Bright Snow” before, even though it was sitting on our bookshelf. It was a very sweet story about how the snow affects all of the people in the town – the postman, the farmer, the policeman and his wife, the children, the animals, and even the houses and buildings of the town. It ends up showing how things change as spring approaches – a delightful book!

Both lapbooks were glued together to make one large lapbook which looks like this folded out –

I loved some of the special touches that the children gave their pictures, like the eyelashes on Anna’s snowman snowgirl? –

And the snow on David’s tree –

We had fun putting these together. David was sad to see the end of it – he loves cutting and pasting. I am all set with a new one for next month for all of the kids this time. It is a lapbook on the Winter 2010 Olympics, which promises to be lots of fun as we study different events and record the medal winners in our lapbooks.


One of the things I love about homeschooling . . .


is this ~

I assigned Laura the book “Calico Captive” by Elizabeth Speare for History reading on Thursday. She was to read one chapter each school day until it was finished. I expected this to be sometime after Thanksgiving.

Thursday afternoon she reported that she was in the middle of chapter 10. The book had caught her and she was a captive herself. Friday morning she announced that she had finished the book before she went to bed the night before.

Did I mention that there are 23 chapters in the book?

I love that homeschooling offers my children the opportunity to fall in love with a book that they never would have picked up on their own and the flexibility to read it all the way through without having to wait for the rest of the class.


From the Learning Room – “Stopping By Woods…”

Last week our study was on the poem/book “Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost with illustrations by Susan Jeffers.


This is a lovely poem to study in January, especially in Texas where we don’t get to experience snow very often. I thought that this would be a wonderful poem for us to memorize. When I mentioned this to the children, they insisted that they could never do that! However, by the end of the week, without even trying, they had it down, just from reading it, studying it, and living with it all week. They had such fun reciting it over and over, and were pleased that they were able to do it after all. One of our activities for the week included cutting out snowflakes to tape on the dining room windows.


We discussed Robert Frost, which led us into a discussion of John F. Kennedy, as Frost recited poetry at JFK’s inauguration, and then died two years later, along with the President. We discussed taking a field trip to downtown Dallas to visit the museum there sometime.

We also discussed rhyme and rhyme scheme and were easily able to decipher the rhyme scheme of Frost’s poem (A-A-B-A, B-B-C-B . . .)

As Mom read about how snowflakes are formed and why snow is important to us (besides the fun!), the children created these snow pictures using pencil erasers dipped in paint and a snowflake punch.


We looked for the artist’s hidden animals throughout the book and discussed her use of black and white with only small touches of color. We also discussed hibernation of animals – why, when, how, where, and who.

The man in the poem left a gift of seeds and grasses for the wild animals to enjoy in the forest, which led to our final activity of the week – the making and hanging of birdseed pinecones.

The supplies – pinecones, peanut butter, birdseed, and ribbon –


I tied a length of ribbon on each pinecone and then the children spread peanut butter all over the pinecones –



Next, they rolled their pinecone in the bird seed, coating it well –


We hung these in the trees by the bird feeders, so that they birds would see them when they came to the feeders, and so that we could watch them through the kitchen window!




I think these went up just in time, as an ice storm is due today and now the birds will have an extra treat to ease the icy days.

Our Five In A Row meal for the week was one of comfort and warmth after coming in on a snowy evening – Tater Tot Casserole, with Peach Crisp for dessert –


It was a very nice week, and we did manage to fit in that trip to the ice rink for 3 of the children –




I’m hoping to write up a post about the skating and post more pictures soon.

I especially loved this book because of the emphasis on the enjoyment of nature and taking time out of our daily busyness to stop and marvel at the glorious creation of our Lord – a reminder that we all need from time to time.

Stay warm and enjoy a nice cup of hot cocoa – we’ll certainly be indulging a bit today!


From the Learning Room. . .

We are wrapping up our first week of homeschooling around here. Overall it has been a good week, with everyone pretty much falling back into the routine we have come to be used to during formal schooling days.

Matthew and Laura have been mostly working independently all week (except for Spelling a few days and Math a couple of times). They are both writing out Scripture for Copywork – Matthew in Proverbs and Laura in Psalms. For reading, Matthew has begun “The Hobbit” and Laura is continuing her reading in “Treasure Island”. Laura is having fun researching Italy and learning the Italian language – she has put up signs all over her room with the names of everything in Italian. For items that she doesn’t have in her room (like “kitchen” and “motorcycle”!), she has drawn pictures and posted them on the wall. And you already know about her “arm” method of learning. Matthew has been learning about the skin in his human body study in Biology, as well as beginning his government studies in Civics.

(Photo from “Zoo Guide” by Answers in Genesis)

The younger three (or sometimes five) have been enjoying our unit on the book “Katy No-Pocket” from our Five In A Row curriculum. Some of our lessons have included: listing all of the animals in the book (we found 23!), learning about kangaroos (did you know that a kangaroo embryo will remain dormant until the previous joey moves out of the pouch, and then will continue to develop?), discussing habitats and what animals live in them (made charts), good character traits of several of the characters in the book, H. A. Rey as illustrator (he wrote the “Curious George” books), and making “Katy” aprons out of cardstock – complete with pockets and rubber stamped animals slipped inside –

Our Bible lesson for the week was kindness as a fruit of the Spirit, and we read many good examples of kindness in the Bible and discussed how we can show kindness in our lives. There are lots of opportunities for applying this lesson around here, and Anna has become our resident reminder – when something goes wrong, she can be heard to say “Remember kindness”. On Wednesday, the children colored a “fruit” of the Spirit picture – here are a few photos –

In addition to our FIAR studies, they were copying poetry, Scripture, and passages from their reading books for Copywork. Tommy is reading “Farmer Boy” – Sarah is reading “Josefina” (American Girl Book) – and Michael read “Robert the Rose Horse” this week. We had Spelling and Math going all week, too. Tommy (my Math lover) and Sarah worked so far ahead in Math that they were into next week’s assignments. I expect they’ll slow down a bit as things get a little more difficult.

You may have noticed that these children are not sitting at school desks, and most of the time, not even at the table. We have, over the years, found that our favorite spot to do our lessons is on Mom’s bed! We are more relaxed there and discussions just happen more naturally. I’ve tried working at the table (and we still do go there when doing messy projects, with glue, paint or such), but for the majority of our schoolwork, it’s sitting around in Mom’s room – Matthew and Laura coming and going (they do most of their work in their rooms).

You can read about our Nature Study afternoon here. Jeff will be spending some time this evening with the children teaching them all about hurricanes. With Hurricane Ike at our back door, getting ready to pay us a visit, this is a great time to study them.

Thanks for stopping by and taking a peek inside our learning room this week. Have a lovely weekend!


Ohhhh, So Much Fun!

Yesterday I went to a Used Homeschool Curriculum sale. This is the first year that this has been held here, and the first one I’ve ever been to. It wasn’t huge, but as you will be able to see, I found plenty of treasures.

I found books for reading, language arts, history, science, art, music, government, cooking, geography and just plain old fun. I even found a book that tells us how to raise chickens (which we are thinking of doing in the near future). Some noteworthy items (of course, they’re all noteworthy to me, but I would hate to bore you by listing them all) are –

-A lovely copy of “Wind and the Willows”, which I will read aloud to the children this year.

-“A History of the United States and It’s People” (a reprinted book from 1888.)

-Gary DeMar’s “God and Government” volumes 1-3

-“Spiritual Lives of the Great Composers”

-A small set of reprinted “Dick and Jane” books (I have a number of the old original textbooks, but these will be nice to take along in the car with us – while the originals stay home in safety.)

-“Mrs. Katz and Tush” – to help complete my Five In A Row Collection.

-“Teach Your Child To Read In 100 Easy Lessons” – I’ve heard so many wonderful things about this that I just had to grab this copy at such a great price!

-An adorable set of early reading books from long ago, featuring classic stories like “The Little Red Hen”.

-A few “Seasonal” planning books (I don’t have to tell you how much I love these!)

-A set of neat storybooks that explain nouns, verbs and adjectives in story form – easy, natural learning.

-“Quiddler” – a fun card game where you make words out of the letter cards in your hand.

-A nice big cookbook called “Gifts From the Christmas Kitchen”, full of delicious recipes for breads, sweet treats and other such lovely things to bake and give away as gifts.

-Various American history storybooks and picturebooks, including colonial and pioneer periods (my favorites).

I know it seems like it, but I really didn’t list everything.

I didn’t set up to sell at this sale – I couldn’t stay for the whole time, and so decided just to shop this year, and maybe next year I will set up a table and actually earn some money to pay for all of the ones I buy. Probably not, but every little bit helps.

Oh, I just have to share one last treasured find –

These are a year’s subscription of “Animal Baby” put out by the National Wildlife Federation. They aren’t all in the picture because some of them have already been carried off by children to enjoy. I can’t wait to spend time snuggled on the couch with the littles reading these.

Anna went with me and we had some nice girl time together, which made the trip even more delightful. We started our outing with a drive-thru lunch at Chick-Fil-A, where we were generously showered in chicken strips (one of the perks of being Mom to two of their favorite employees), and ended up our trip with a chocolate ice cream cone for Anna and a lemon slush for Mom (not to mention the half-price slushes I carted home for the rest of the kids).

Sweet company, shopping for school books and delicious treats – yes, it was a very good day.


Moving stuff around

The big boys don’t know it yet, but they are going to be in for some heavy lifting and hauling today. My mind has been going around and around planning a new arrangement for many of the books in this house for about 24 hours. I’ve actually been wanting to tackle this problem all week, but haven’t had a chance to think about it in depth until the last day half a day. This all started when a package arrived via UPS the other day. Actually it started before that, because I knew it was coming, so I knew I would be needing to face this situation. What situation? What was in the package? Well, books of course! Yes, more books – isn’t it wonderful? And not just any books, but the entire 20 volume set of R.M. Ballantyne’s adventure books republished by Vision Forum. I have heard so many wonderful things about them and they were selling them half price at the time, so we decided to go ahead and add them to our library.

This brings me to the situation before mentiioned. Where would these wonderful new books live in our house? We have many, many bookshelves in our home . . . all of them full. I am a lover of good books, especially good children’s books – I find them in stores, library sales (my favorite) and thrift stores, to name a few. Getting rid of good books doesn’t compute in my brain, so my first logical course of action would be to buy another bookshelf, which of course I would love, since I could move some other books onto it and ease the crunching on the existing shelves. This brings me to the second part of the situation, however. I really cannot find another spot in the house for another bookshelf. Believe me, I’ve actually lain awake at night trying to figure out a spot – but to no avail.

The next course of action is to move things around to make better use of the shelves I have. There are a few shelves housing items other than books – said items are now being evicted. They will be given new homes, either through donation (my on-going decluttering project – I have a much easier time getting rid of stuff than I do books), or consolidation (instead of 3 separate nature exploring boxes, we just need 1 that we take outdoors with us when we go.) or finding a new spot in the house to live. Case in point – I am still working on organizing the craft room, and it just dawned on me early this morning (it’s amazing how clearly you can think when it’s quiet and there are no interruptions) that we have a splendid pantry-type cabinet upstairs in the hall that is not really being used for much (used to hold games, but they were moved elsewhere, and I kind of forgot it was empty) and that would be perfect in the craft room to hold all our art supplies, paper and crafting supplies, some of which have been taking up valuable space on my bookshelves, the floor of my panty, and various other locations.

So, this brings me full circle. My big boys will get to move the cabinet downstairs and probably something up to take it’s place. Then there will be a massive amount of shuffling things around – books and papers – everyone will get to help with this job (I can hear the moans and groans now). I am relocating all of the nature books to a different bookshelf that has a nice long shelf on top to use as a nature display shelf, as well as moving some of Anna’s books upstairs (she is slowly moving into the big girls’ room, bit by bit). I have all of this planned out on paper, so it has to work, right?

Hopefully by nightfall my new books will be resting comfortably on their new (to them) shelf home, ready to be grabbed and enjoyed by us all (one has already been started by Tommy), and I will be a major step further in bringing peaceful order to our home – which will make all the hard work worthwhile. (I’m sure my children will agree 😉 )