Saturday, December 20, 2008

Our Candy House

We started making these our first year of homeschooling. We used to call it a gingerbread house, but in the interest of complete honesty and full disclosure, we now call it the Candy House.

You see, while I think the smell of fresh gingerbread would be delightful, and the challenge of constructing a house made of large, frail cookies would be rewarding if successful, the stress that may accompany such a project is just not what I'm looking for during my holidays.

So we just buy a ton of candy, some graham crackers and 4 or 5 cans of white frosting.

We hot glue the graham crackers to a box to make a house, then the fun begins! No need to be perfect with your graham crackers, you can fill in any spaces with icing or candy. We listen to Christmas music and plan and coordinate and decorate. And before you know it, our candy house is complete.

See the peppermint stick with a whopper on top? That's a security camera courtesy of Garrett.
Because you just never know when some thug gingerbread men may come around looking for trouble. Man, remember the days when you could just leave your chocolate door unlocked?

I'm a pretty big fan of the Nestle Crunch door and the skittle garden.

It's low maintenance, a great decoration, and a ton of fun!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Hey Jesus! It's your birthday!

Today we celebrated the birth of Jesus with a party.

We used a chocolate cake mix (dark, to represent our sins), and frosted it with vanilla frosting (white representing the purity of Jesus covering our sins).

We put one large candle in the middle representing the light of Jesus, then we each lit a small candle from the large one and put it in the cake to represent how we can be a light through Jesus.

For gifts for Jesus each kid thought of one act of kindness to do for each one of their siblings today.

You can google "birthday party for Jesus" and find lots of good ideas and more elaborate, symbolic cakes to make. Simplicity was the key for me this year. Actually it was more like simplicity was extremely necessary for me this year. And nobody wants mama to cry, right? Right. Simple it is.Check Spelling

Also today I sent the kids off on their own for a while to work together to create a presentation of the birth of Jesus. I'm quite certain it will be entertaining.

We finished the day by watching The Very First Noel. We found this DVD last year and love it! It is a sweet story told by one of the wise men about the journey to find baby Jesus.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Jotham's Journey

This book is the most amazing advent book I have ever read. It is a story about a little boy, Jotham, and how his life intertwines with the birth of Jesus. It is designed to be read a chapter a day, but we often read ahead because it is incredibly hard to put down! It is pretty intense, so if you have a child that gets scared easily you may want to preview it. But my kids have loved it as young as 5 years old. Before then they weren't afraid of it, just not interested.

It is a great family read-aloud and I wish everyone would get it! You won't regret it. Even though we are several days into advent, you could sit down and read several chapters at once and get caught up.

There are two sequels to the book that I can't wait to get my hands on. Tabitha's Travels and Barthalomew's Passage are supposed to be re-issued next year.

This book is one I know my family will still be reading each year, even when my kids are older.

Get it!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Legend of the Candy Cane

Today's Christmas activity was learning about the meaning behind the candy cane. We read the book The Legend of the Candy Cane.

After we were finished we made peppermint bark! Yum.

Chop up a package of almond bark and melt it in the microwave in a large bowl.

Unwrap candy canes...

And throw them in the blender. You can also chop them or smash them with a hammer, but the blender makes it into a powder that really mixes in with the white chocolate. I actually think it looks prettier if they are chopped, but yummier if they are blended. Got it?

Then mix it all together.

And spread it out on foil.

After it is hardened, break it apart. It's the easiest Christmas candy in existence.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Polar Express Day

Today we are having our annual Polar Express Day. It's the perfect dreary, freezing day for it! We are even expecting some snow.
The kids slept in a little this morning and were awakened with a ticket to Polar Express Day and a snowball breakfast.
The snowballs are powdered sugar donuts. And those don't happen often around here for breakfast, so there was much happiness and joy at the breakfast table this morning.

PJs are a requirement for Polar Express Day.

As are all the blankets and pillows we can find, to pile up on the couch and floor and watch one of our favorite Christmas movies, The Polar Express.
Garrett is faking. I hadn't even turned on the movie yet.

After the movie, we made homemade hot chocolate. We used the recipe on the side of the Hershey Cocoa box. It will make you want to weep with joy.

For the rest of the afternoon we will be staying in our PJs and blankets and playing board games. We'll also be reading some books from our Christmas book basket.

And we may be doing it by candlelight because the lights keep flickering. I'm scared. I'm very scared. I like my electricity.

Happy Polar Express Day everyone!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Christmas school!

Check Spelling During the few weeks before Christmas, we spend a good part of our days having fun doing Christmas activities. I don't feel bad at all for going a little light on the academics in the name of making Christmas memories with my kids. Don't worry, they are still doing math and writing, and I feel confident they ain't gonna lose all them smarts they been a learnin', kay?
Every day I plan to post about a Christmas activity we did that day. You guys let me know if you have any great ideas, too. That way we can all share and have a grand ol' time.

Today I'm showing how we made Kiss Countdowns.

These are fun because you get to eat a chocolate every day. And you don't have to answer the question "How many days till Christmas? I'm not asking because I want presents, Mommy, I know Christmas is about Jesus, but how many more days till we open presents?" I am certain you know the drill.

You need some paper, a hot glue gun, and a bunch of kisses.

Cut the paper into 2 inch wide strips and tape them together to make a long strip. Write the numbers 1-25 on the strip.

Now put a small dot of hot glue above each number and stick a kiss to it.

Hang your strip and remove a kiss each day to reveal how many days till Christmas!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Oh, barf.

We have moved into studying Seasonal Forests with our Planet Earth unit. We have been learning a lot about animals that live in the forests and we are focusing on owls this week. Also,Riley and Cole are doing the Five in a Row book Owl Moon.

One of the most interesting things about owls is how they digest their food. First, they swallow their prey whole. Their stomachs digest everything except the fur and the bones of the animal they swallowed. After digestion, their stomach compresses the bones and fur into a pellet and the owl throws up this dry fur ball of a pellet.

You see where this is going, don't ya? Gulp.

There are companies out there that make a living off of collecting these owl pellets and sterilizing them and selling them to people for science lessons.

I know.

So we had to do it. We just had to. It's like a treasure hunt. If you happen to consider rodent skeletons to be treasure. And it was sterilized, after all.

But don't think for a second that didn't stop me from boiling my children's hands in water and then soaking them in alcohol when we were done.

You just break apart the pellet...

And start pulling away fur...see, it's not so scary...

Look! a tibia!

And a tiny mouse skull!

You can download all kinds of sheets to use with this activity, like this bone identification sheet.

Come on, you know you want to do it. You can order them at

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Learning the States

Tyler is learning all of the states and their locations. Here is an idea for mixing it up a bit when you grow weary of the states song and filling in a blank map.

Put post-it notes over the state names on a large map.

Using a marker, put a state name on each post-it note. It's even self-correcting when you are done.