Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Megan Rose Series - Book Review

I have been having a clean out of the book shelves and came across this series that I purchased a couple of years back for The Fashionista. 

The first book I purchased was called "Meghan Rose has Ants in Her Pants" written by Lori Scott, a retired first grade teacher and "mom" or mum as we say around this side of the world. 

It's about seven year old Meghan Rose who desperately wants some Kangeroozie shoes (shoes that bounce ... awesome!), after seeing them advertised on TV (we've all been there with our kids haven't we!). She is so desperate to get them, that she tries all kids of things to raise money and even makes a version with the help of her friends. All her efforts are in vain as each time something goes wrong often in a rather amusing way. Meghan finally talks to God about it and has the realisation that she needs to learn to be patient and show some self-control, a lesson perfect for my then very impatient 8 year old!

These books are very humorous, Meghan is an absolute character (think a christian Judy Moody or Ramona) and they all have a valuable lesson without coming across at all preachy or boring. At the back of all the books are discussion questions and some activities to do with your child. There is also a Meghan Rose website with more activities and information.

On some websites it says these books are aimed at ages 4 - 8 but the author herself suggests they are written more for 6 -10 year olds. I think it would depend on the reader. They were perfect for The Fashionista at 8 but I think Agent Smelly should have read them a bit earlier, say 6, as she reads at a similar level to her older sister. Either way they are great starter books for girls as they are easy enough to read and funny enough to keep them interested.

Because TF enjoyed that first book so much, I ended up purchasing the first eight in the series. I see there were a couple more released last year but by then she had outgrown them. They made her laugh and they were reasonably short and sweet which was great for her confidence. She actually got through them all, although not one straight after the other, which is a really super achievement for her. I actually beleive that these books helped TF on her journey into not "hating" reading so much.

Agent Smelly ripped through them all a few months back, we're talking a book a day; she's like her Mama. They were apparently "very easy to read and funny. Some I liked better than others and my favourite was Ants in Her Pants. I think I should get some Kangaroozies you know".  Ah yes, my very own little Meghan Rose.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Do your children suffer from PSES?

First of all what is PSES? Well in our house PSES stands for Post Special Event Stress! After a particular exciting or special event the children going into an agitated or cheeky state either from exhaustion or too much fun!  My girls do suffer with PSES ... they get so wound up and excited, that later that evening, or the next day, they ain't good for much. I am very aware of this and I confess I make special allowances for it now. What's the use in pushing a very tired and over excited child, there will just be tears ... and that's usually from me!

As mentioned this weekend was the first camp away from home, without parents, and their little faces reek of exhaustion this morning. The morning started with tears from Agent Smelly because The Fashionista hit her when she tried to wake her early (she's the early riser in this house!) this morning. Don't get me wrong, I don't condone hitting but I do understand that TF had been sleeping soundly when mischievous eight year old jumped on her to come play with her. TF obviously felt pretty bad because whilst I had AS snuggling in bed with me drying her tears, she snuck in and dropped off an apology note and a chocolate for her sister. When I asked AS what prompted her sister to hit her she said "oh I was annoying her".... well really and you expected what, a thank you?  Later at breakfast I decided a quick mention of the "no hitting policy in our house" would suffice and left it at that.

The start to the day soon revealed to me that teaching the children today was going to be joy, joy, joy! So a quick change in the curriculum had them both laying outside in the sun, reading living history books, so that ticked off reading and history in one go.

Then later I got out a new 500 piece jigsaw puzzle of South Africa, I think that covers Geography doesn't it?

That left a bit of math ... oh wait they held garage sale at Guides tonight where they sold and bought things. Maths check!

And yes, we made it through the day without too much trouble or whining; the girls were pretty good too.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

First Rally Camp

Apparently the camp was "brill"!

The Fashionista had a great time and loved every minute of it.

Agent Smelly said it was good, but that she doesn't want to go again next year. When I asked why it was apparently because their hike ended up taking 3 hours. It was a really hot day on Saturday too and they were up and down hills. Better them than me! 

I think this photo says it all ... I laughed when I saw it. AS does NOT have what is called a "poker face". 

I should also point out that AS and another girl were the only two eight year olds on camp and the rest were aged between 10 and 13 so it may have been just a bit much for her. Not going away, just staying in a tent and camping out without parents to help take care of them. A bit of a shock to the system I'd imagine.

She really did have a good time despite that walk.

There was a bit further from their campsite where the creek dropps into a large water hole. All the girls were able to take big jumps off the surrounding rocks into the pool. They had a ball! I sat and watched the girls at the hole for the Rally leaders whilst they did a final clean up and inspect of the camp site on the Sunday. The hole wasn't huge but it was really deep and they all worked together to take turns and the older girls helped the smallet girls get back to the sides. It looked like fun and was very adventurous stuff!

TF was in her element! I think she'd go camping every weekend if we let her but then I do recall when she was AS's age that she was still a bit apprehensive about heading away and would never go if I didn't. Her confidence and desire to camp without the Mama came round about when she hit 10 years of age.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Letting Go ...

Tonight the Papa and I dropped the girls off at their very first Rally Camp. We drove away from them, feeling decidedly odd. This is the first time that they have ever stayed away from us for more than one night and with people we don't really know personally.

Whilst the Rally leaders did ask for some parent volunteers, I spoke to the girls about this and they did not want me to come along and help. Well mostly it was The Fashionista who was adamant that she did not want me to come along. Now I could have been offended by this but in fact I was very pleased. I am ALWAYS with the girls at events, especially as I was involved with Guiding also. Also as a homeschooling Mama you are with them during their "school hours" so it must be nice for us all to have some time apart which we rarely do.

In the past The Fashionista would only go on camp if I did, so for her this a big step. I have been having a few second thoughts about Agent Smelly going along as she is only eight but she wanted to go, and they only hold a camp in February each year, so I thought I shouldn't place my own limitations and worries on her and kept my thoughts to myself. There was also the benefit that big sister would be there to provide a cuddle if needed. I didn't even share my concerns with the Papa who worries more than I do and would readily agree that she should stay at home til she's at least in her 20's!

So instead of being offended I took this as a sign that I was am growing confident young girls and sent them off with my blessings. 

Boy is it going to be hard to get to sleep tonight wondering how they are doing on their first night away.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Junior Trivial Pursuit

We were very fortunate to have been able to recently purchase some second-hand games and jigsaws from a homeschooling family that have finished homeschooling (graduated children ... yeah!).

One of the games we bought was Junior Trivial Pursuit. We had a ball playing this today as most of the questions were just great for our girls to answer. They weren't too hard but weren't too easy. We do have a couple of adult versions but they are just way too hard for the girls so we haven't used them in years.

Although they were hesitant to try the science questions when they had the choice, after a while they realised that they did pretty well on them. The sports questions were a bit hit and miss, but considering I didn't know some of the answers to them and I have a pretty well rounded knowledge of sports I wasn't bothered.

Unfortunately as this game "emigrated" from South Africa the "fun" questions were mostly South African related and we were a bit clueless with them so I had to sift through the cards for questions that weren't South African related, although if it's something that is interesting and worth them knowing about South Africa then by all means I left them in. No offence, but who is pictured on a certain dollar note is really not that important to my children living in NZ and that was one of the easier questions!

There was also another section, the TV and music section, which was a bit out of date for my girls. IE who was the oldest Huxtable Child  (I loved the Cosby Family!) and based on other sitcoms that I grew up with. I really enjoyed these questions, not so much the 10 and 8 year old ... he he, the Mama had an old age advantage.

I have purchased some small white stickers which will fit nicely onto the cards so that I can replace a few questions/answers for the next time we play but otherwise it is a super game to play with children and I'd recommend looking to add one of these to your games cupboard. In fact, if you are a homeschooler, you may even want to make all the question cards up yourself based on what you have been teaching your children. It would be a great way to revise. 


You may be wondering who won, well Scruffie felt we were spending too long on the game so decided to come and make his presence known. Each time we removed him, he simply came back and laid across the board. Soooo, the little walking mop, as the Papa refers to him, won this round!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

New Riding Lessons

The girls have started having lessons at a new equestrian centre. I was a little hesitant as this place is more than we have ever paid anywhere else but I thought I would give it a go and see how they went. I'd at least get an assessment from the instructor, so didn't think I had a lot to lose.

I was really impressed with the instructor and decided to let them have a couple more lessons with her. Even though it costs more than previous places, she had the girls doing more in one lesson than they have done in a whole term elsewhere but then that is her job as she is employed as a full-time professional riding instructor. In her opinion both girls are very strong and confident, which is a good thing on a horse apparently, but do have a couple of bad habits which she said she'd iron out within a couple of weeks as they both listen to instruction well. Really? Wonder what her trick is?

As it turned out in The Fashionista's second lesson she had her cantering around their new stadium and then much to both our surprise, taking jumps. Gotta say the smile on The Fashionista's face after completing her first jump, that was on the second rung, was priceless! She is just loving it and she's just been added to a group of girls around the same level so that is really good fun for her.

There she is on the appaloosa, (they are her favourite breed it just so happens, so she was stoked when she saw the horse they had put her name down for!). I couldn't take many pics as I hadn't realised the flash on her camera doesn't turn off and I didn't want to spook any of the horse. Last week both girls rode the painted horse, Ace, that is also in this picture. Ace is SOOOOO wide that they looked very funny with their little legs so splayed across his broad back.

Unfortunately there isn't another group around Agent Smelly's age / level around the same time so she is having private lessons still until she can be brought up to speed to join the group. She had the pro last week but this week she had a different lady who seemed quite good with her. Here she is on Gem. She is now cantering which I thought would never happen so we are even seeing progress with the little madam. Agent Smelly is not really into lessons, she would just love to jump onto any horse and hold on for dear life whilst racing across a paddock. She is an impatient little madam at times so this discipline is very good for her.

Both girls have commented on how they are doing so much more on the horses than they have ever done before so even they are seeing improvement in themselves which is always good for a persons confidence and enthusiasm.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Valentines Day Final Wrap Up

Agent Smelly made some key rings from Hama beads for her swap. There's an extra one there for a cousin.

We made a pile of these little packs up that read "I'm bananas for you!" and put some lolly bananas in them then gave them out to people randomly. We could here one shop girl yelling out to the other workers to come see what she had just been given by these two cute little girls for Valentines Day. She was seriously thrilled which was lovely. The girls and I were laughing so hard as we could hear even outside the doors!

Agent Smelly made some lovely red velvet cup cakes for dessert and The Fashionista iced them. What a team! I asked them to take a photo ... I did mean once they had removed them from the muffin tray though ... the dags!

We don't usually do anything for Valentines Day but the girls had a lot of fun making things for other people this year and we will be sure to do something again next year.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Maths in 2013

This year we will be continuing with Math U See for our math curriculum. We all like the curriculum, it's easy and thorough and the girls can skip ahead or do extra work in an area.

Agent Smell will be starting Delta shortly. She is just doing a bit of revision of the computer for her multiplication tables. She knows nearly all of them but is a bit slow and I would like her to have a really good handle on them before she starts on Delta which is all about division.

The Fashionista is halfway through Epsilon which is mostly about fractions. She has found it pretty easy and I put that down to fun activities as a child. We did the measuring cups and spoons with water at an outside table. Did the pretend play dough pizza which she cut it into quarters, halves, etc.

I feel there are still a few holes in the curriculum as nothing is written especially for your needs so I will be incorporating living games into the lesson plan one day a week. This is also to show them that math can be fun as poor old math tends to have a negative image. That could be anything to working out a recipe (1/8 cup flour plus 3/8 cup of flour), playing a numbers board game (math bingo, rummikub, mancala), doing some math pages (measuring things, working out roman numerals), making  or even a computer math game. I was even thinking of getting them to design and work out the measurements for a goat house and then with their Papa to actually make it up.

Here's a small article I wrote for our local homeschool groups newsletter last month on choosing a curriculum.


If you are the type to use a math curriculum then here are some things you may wish to take into consideration when choosing one;

·        What are your realistic goals for your child? It is no use purchasing a curriculum that doesn’t fill those needs. In some cases you may be able to supplement the program with things that it might be missing. My eldest was obsessed by roman numerals so I had to organise a separate unit study as it didn’t come up in her curricula for another couple of grades and she was dead impatient to learn it.

·        Work out what kind of learning style your child has. I have an auditory learner, who at six looked at the blocks and then looked up at me incredulously and then said to me rather dispiritedly “I don’t have to use them do I? Can’t I just write the answers in the book?” and she did and it was fine. The younger kinaesthetic one has to be forcibly removed from the blocks and we have to watch the video a couple of times as she misses so much of it due to getting sidetracked by her building. She also does well in her math and builds some great towers!

·        I think the most important thing to consider is YOU, the teacher. I used a fabulous math curriculum when I first started homeschooling but I neglected to realise how hands on it was going to be. It was a very heavily loaded package which I simply didn’t have the time for. The program we switched to is still very good but places less demand on me thus freeing up time to spend more on some living math and less time resenting the time it was taking up, when I could be working on other subjects or simply play.
I also have met a number of parents, especially women, who tell me that they don’t like math or are no good at it. Under no circumstances please ever let on to your child that this is the case. Remain enthusiastic and positive about it at all times; it will help your student develop a similar attitude.

Lastly, and I pinch a quote here from Maria Miller of Homeschool Math “Remember; do NOT become a slave to the curriculum. The book is just a TOOL for teaching. Filling the book is not the purpose or goal of mathematics education. There are many other tools and ways to teach, too, such as games, explorations, projects - living math.”

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Pottery Bargain

I love grabbing a bargain and I don't even mind rummaging through second-hand shops. I feel that we tend to throw so much out these days that could be re-used or re-made into something or even re-used in a new and different way.

Today after grocery shopping I dropped into a Salvation Army shop and just happened to score three pieces of pottery for $3 a piece. I knew exactly what I wanted to do with them.

This now sits beside my stove. How cute are those pots? Not bad for just $9

Monday, February 11, 2013

Valentines Hearts

The Fashionista decided to make these hanging hearts for her Valentines Day Swap.


They took her AGES, I was groaning by the time she finished them and almost offered to help but I didn't want to interfere ... not that she would have let me anyway, she's very independent. She did a really good job and didn't cut any corners, in fact she tends to add more when she makes things, if she feels they need a little something, hence the buttons on the plain hearts.

I want to know where my set is! She's making a set for her sister too, in yellow, her favourite colour.

The day she started making them she was wearing a t-shirt that had a balloon floating towards a cactus that is surrounded by hearts. Underneath it reads, "Impossible Love" ... she has a corny sense of humour, like her Mama.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Felt Valentine Bookmarks

Agent Smelly made these lovely felt bookmarks as part of our Valentines Day Craft Exchange. We saw similar on Pinterest and went away and had a go at working out how to make them.

She is 8 and made them by herself with just a couple of words of advice from me here and there. She is totally proud of herself and deservedly so I think. They took around 45 minutes each.

Instructions to make Felt Heart Bookmarks.

1/ First cut out 2 large and 2 small felt hearts

2/ Take some embroidery thread and a piece of ribbon (enough to go through the middle of a regular sized book) and start sewing around one heart, including the ribbon as you go around.

3/ Sew the button on. If you start sewing in the right place you can just add the button on when you finish sewing around, all in one go. Then do the same at the other end of the ribbon with the smaller heart. Make sure you have both hearts facing the same way; yes, yes she did! Thankfully she realised it before she had gotten too far around.

4/ Place fabric glue on the back of the hearts and then press the other hearts on in order to cover up the back of the sewn hearts.

5/ And there you have it. A simple but sweet bookmark. You could make these in so many different shapes and colours.

Highhill Homeschool

Saturday, February 9, 2013

We Shall Come Rejoicing, Bringing in the Hay ...

Yup it's that time of year again. Today we "brung" in the hay on a perfect summer afternoon.

We all have our jobs, I am the driver the Papa throws the bales onto the trailer and then packs them in our shipping container.

The girls help wherever they can by pushing the bales into corners, climbing the bales (not sure how that helps ...) and generally having lots of fun riding on the back of the trailer amongst the bales. Even the Scruffiemeister gets into the act!

Whew, am glad that's over for another year but it's nice to know we have some fodder for our livestock when we need it and if this drought continues we will be needing it, that's for certain.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Valentines Gift Bags

Agent Smelly has made these sweet little packages, from simply postage envelopes, for her Valentines gifts to go into.

Instructions to make Envelope Gift Bags

Step 1.  Seal the envelope.

Step 2. Stamp both sides of the envelope with different stamps and colours of your choosing.

Step 3. Slice about a cm (half an inch) off one of the thin ends of the envelope. This will be the opening.

Step 4. Score the envelope on the remaining 3 sides. How far you score, will depend on how wide you want your bag to be. We found they sit better if they are wider on the side so we scored about 2 cm's (bit less than an inch) in from the edge of the three uncut sides of the envelope. You will need to do it on both sides or it will not bend properly when you try and make the bottom and sides open out.

Step 5. Place your hand inside the envelope and pinch the sides out on each side of the bottom to get a flat bum (oh don't I wish!). You will end up with two little triangles sticking out on the side.

Step 6. Pinch the sides, right along your scores pushing the bit in the middle inwards. Then fold those triangle ends up and glue or double sticky them in place against the sides.

Step 7. Cut a wee oblong of card / paper that is as wide as the bag is when it is folded (ie the bit inside the scored area). Then fold it in half and glue it to one side of the bag.

Step 8. Put some ribbon on it and voila. You can staple or use some double sided tape under the open side of the lid, to close it off once you have put your items inside it.

Remember these were made by an eight year old, so are pretty simple to make but are so darn cute, don't you think. If you need any clarification of the above instructions please drop me a line in the comments section.

Highhill Homeschool

Thursday, February 7, 2013

A Unit Study on The Year of the Snake 2013

Yesterday was a public holiday in NZ, Waitangi Day (why-tang-ee), but because we had only just started back at school officially this week I didn't really want to take a break ... especially when the children didn't realise it was one ... hehe

I was planning to continue with out regular studies but when I opened by emails there was a special offer by CurrClick for a little unit study on Chinese New Year, so I thought why not Chinese New Year activities could be fun and I was right. The girls really enjoyed learning about why it occurs when it does (that took Agent Smelly a little while to get around her head), the horoscope, the food (they have planned a menu for us to have on the eve of Chinese New Year), and now have a huge desire to attend the Latern Festival in Auckland.
Not because it was required but because they had so much fun doing it, they looked up all the families years of birth and then read the description of their supposed personality traits. This caused many a giggle, especially when The Fashionista worked out her goats personality ... which amongst a few said stubborn. Milly her goat, is the epitome of stubborn!

They made up some red money envelopes and lanterns that also came with the study. They loved doing this.
They asked if they could put candles in the lanterns and of course we discussed the likelihood of them going up in flames but then I remembered some wee glasses that I had placed candles in awhile back. If you decide to do this bit then I would suggest gluing the paper around the glasses as we couldn't fit ours through the top or bottom of the lantern. Thankfully The Fashionista was patient enough to slip them through the slits.

This is now how my coffee table now looks, all decorated ready for Chinese New Year.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

"The Imagination Station; Voyage with the Vikings" Book Review

The Imagination Station is a living history series. It is recommended for ages 7 and up and is christian based. In this first book we are introduced to the main characters, cousins Beth and Patrick, and Mr Whittaker, the inventor of the "Imagination Station" (time machine). There is an ongoing mystery in the background and in this volume the cousins must return to Viking times to obtain a Sunstone (and they don't actually know what one is) where they actually meet the Viking Erik the Red and his son Leif.

I read this first volume, like I always try to do for the books I get for the girls, just to see what they are about, and whether they are suitable for them (age and content wise). I confess, I enjoyed this lighthearted adventure so much, that I grabbed the second one off the shelf to see what happened next.

"The Imagination Station; Voyage with the Vikings"
Book review by The Fashionista aged 10 1/2

Two cousins, Beth and Patrick, go back in time using an invention of Mr Whittaker's that he called the Imagination Station. In this book they went back in time to the year 1,000 to find a Sunstone. They landed in Greenland and met, the Viking, Erik the Red.

I liked it because it was a fun adventurous book. The characters were cool because Beth is smart, Patrick is just a normal boy and Mr Whittaker reminds me of a nutty professor. I really liked Beth's viking outfit and found it amazing that they made Beth a slave because of her brown hair and Patrick was fair so they said he must be a viking. Also Erik the Red wanted Patrick's cape and thought he could just take it because of who he was. Erik would have probable killed them but for his son Leif and Hilda, Erik's wife, protecting them.

I learnt that back in those days Vikings were mostly violent and worshipped heaps of gods but a small group of them were peaceful Christians, like Hilda and Leif.
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