Mini Maker Faire, November 6-8

All the Barnes & Noble stores in the US (ALL of them) host a Mini Maker Faire this weekend! I’m sure you’ve heard of Make the magazine (and it’s short-lived sibling Craft). There are local Maker groups around the country that hang out, tinker, play with 3D printers, and often provide workshops for kids and adults. Lots of science and technology. Lots of crafting and building. Lots of stuff to like.

We went over to our store (a couple towns south) last night to take a peek – the Maker workshop Ellie was interested in was last night.

Ellie and some other kids built with Bionicles.

Ellie is Very Into spider legs.

Ellie is Very Into spider legs.

We met some very fun people and made really clever little book marks at the Meet the Maker Session!


If you’ve got a Barnes & Noble near you, I encourage you to head that way this weekend – especially if you’ve never been to a Maker Faire. You can find the event schedule for your store on the Mini Maker Faire website.

Weekly Wrap-Up: Lesson 10

This was one of the strongest weeks so far (in my opinion) for a couple of reasons.

Reason 1: COMPASS.

Finding North.  She drew a compass rose in the driveway.  There was also a map to buried treasure.

Finding North. She drew a compass rose in the driveway. There was also a map to treasure.

Reason 2: Math Wheel.

Math wheels are a very Waldorf method for reinforcing the patterns in the multiplication tables (taught along with skip counting – “counting by 3s” etc.) among other things. It’s just neat.

It’s basically a circle with the numbers 0-9 evenly spaced around the outside and a nail (or hand crafted wooden peg if you have a fancy wheel) by each number. There’s a piece of yarn tied at 0 (since you start counting at zero). To form the patterns, pick a times table and wrap the yarn as you go around…for 2s you wrap 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12 (which is 2 again, but since you are counting as you go it makes sense as you pass 10 which is 0), and on until you run out of string.


This is what you get for 3:

Counting by 3.

Here’s 4:


And here’s a bunch of them all on top of each other because pretty.

Guess which is green.

Guess which is green.

Pretty sweet, right?

Totally made up for when Lucy ate last week’s plant science experiment.

Weekly Wrap-Up: Lesson 9

I started the Mermaid tail for the F pattern! I’ve made some yarn decisions for the rest of her (Woo!). I worked quite a bit in the yard this week too. The raised beds were planted last week. This week I started the long, arduous process of cleaning out the long, long, long neglected flower beds. After a year of PTO and a summer of It’s Just Too Hot, conditions are bad out there.

I also got the submission to our Oak Meadow teacher together. Pro Tip #1: If you’re enrolled, it’s a good idea to try and keep up with the photographs and labeling as you go along. The monthly submissions only require one example of each subject from each Lesson/week, but the trimester submission (Weeks 1-12) requires much. It’s better to just photograph everything and label it while you still remember what it is you’re labeling. The first submission (Lessons 1-4) wasn’t that time consuming, but this time Ellie had created so many books that labeling all the photographs took forrrrrever. I take action pictures of our activities so that my submissions aren’t just pictures of her finished work. It’s interesting to see how we completed the activities and not just the results. In addition, many of the activities don’t have a physical result to photograph (like learning to use a compass). I don’t take enough pictures of Health. Pro Tip #2: make sure you take pictures of Health.

What We Did During Week 9:
Language Arts has switched to fables for reading comprehension and writing. Math was the 3 and 6 times tables (and reviewing 2, 4, 5, and 10).

Demonstrating 3 x 4 = 12 on out MASSIVE number line that goes all around the driveway.

Demonstrating 3 x 4 = 12 on our MASSIVE number line that goes all around the driveway.

Science was recording observations about how plants grow. Three pots with dirt and seeds: one gets sun and water, one just gets sun, and one just gets water (it’s in the closet). We used oat grass since it germinates quickly and Ellie predicted that the one with sun and water would be the one that sprouted. All three pots sprouted (our potting soil was slightly damp in the sun pot and the closet pot has white sprouts). The tracking charts she made go to Day 9, so we’ll see what survives until then. Lucy will probably eat the sprouts before Day 9 and end the experiment early.

Six seeds in each pot!

Six seeds in each pot!

Social Studies has redeemed itself. We discussed our family’s lifestyle: where we live, our daily rhythms, our favorite family stories, and how daily life changes with the seasons. Ellie made a book with her thoughts and observations. As much as I was whining about the stories of the past few weeks, the Social Studies curriculum is strong. Very strong considering that many conventional elementary schools don’t have Social Studies at all. There is thought put into how our modern life compares to the lives of the story characters in other countries as well as how the themes of the stories of ancient cultures relate to our modern life (or not).

Ellie's (current) favorite family story.

Ellie’s (current) favorite family story. “Daddy and I have a lot of Nerf fights. One time I knocked out my loose tooth!”

A quick aside: you’ll notice that Ellie isn’t writing on lined paper. Oak Meadow in the early grades stays away from the lined paper used in conventional education. Instead, the emphasis is on making letter shapes correctly and developing a personal sense of spacial relationships by arranging the words on the page independent of influence. (Independent of influence besides me saying “watch your margin” and “make sure that looks like two words” anyway.) Ellie’s handwriting has improved ENORMOUSLY in just these two months. It’s really startling. And makes perfect sense developmentally when you give it some thought.

The rest of the week was happy gravy. The weather was beautiful, the cats visited often, Girl Scouts was Tuesday, and Play Group at the park was Friday.

This is Abigail.  This window was also visited by Lucy, William Henry, Lady Bird, and Betty over the week. Mamie does not believe education is necessary.

This is Abigail. This open window was also visited by Lucy, William Henry, Lady Bird, and Betty over the week. Mamie does not believe education is necessary.

Weekly Wrap-Up: Lessons 6-8

When you homeschool an only child, you have to own that on an everyday basis, You’re It. You’re the alarm clock, the playmate, the entertainment coordinator, the teacher, the task master, the parent, and the grown-up. That’s a lot of jobs. Some weeks there’s not much time left for anything else.

For the record, I didn’t realize that I had missed Lesson 6. I thought I was just late posting about last week. This proves that jet lag is not a myth.

Ireland in Social Studies. Well, really the ancient Celts. Social Studies has been a little ‘meh’ the past few weeks. And I know you’re thinking: How is Ireland, where the people practically invented the fairy tale, ‘meh’? The answer is that only one story has fairies in it while the other two are about saints (and no context is given). If we had been on our own instead of enrolled, I would have substituted either more interesting versions of the stories or new stories entirely. As it was, I supplemented. I’ve decided to do social studies backwards when the story is unapproachable on it’s own – we’ll complete the enrichment-type activity first and follow with the story and discussion. At least that way she’ll know what she’s supposed to be gleaning. The art that goes along with the the ‘meh’ has been pretty cool. We made ink.


Science and Language Arts helped alleviate the ‘meh’ of Social Studies. This week we made a leaf ID book for Science. In the weeks before that, the Science focus has been on daily rhythms. She kept a record of her daily wake up time, when she was hungry, and when she had exceptionally high or low energy. The following week was focused on plant and animal life. We have a bevy of wildlife in the woods! All kinds of animals! The only ones who showed up for the record of animal life were lizards, birds, and Tyler.


Language Arts has been all about the poetry. Ellie ‘learned by heart’ the Owl and the Pussycat, set a poem to music, and created her own written language which she used to send notes to Michael. She also wrote and illustrate a couple of story books (one because she got carried away with the assignment and one because it was the assignment). She’s one chapter away from finishing the last of the two provided readers and then we are free to pick whatever we want for read-aloud practice. The thing that struck me as extremely useful was the creation of a personal spelling word list. In typical school, as you know, kids get a list of spelling words to memorize each week. Ellie’s spelling word list is words that she typically (or repeatedly) misspells when she’s writing rather than a random list of words that she may or may not use again or that she already knows how to spell. No test at the end of the week, just practice until the spelling is internalized and no longer a hinderance.

Ellie loves math and is so so so happy to finally be doing ‘real’ math. Story problems during Lesson 6 to review the four processes and horizontal and vertical equations, then 2 and 4 times tables, and this week was 5 and 10 times tables. Memorizing times tables is going to be a total bore. Anything that happens over and over (if it doesn’t involve a Magic School Bus, a witch, or a princess) is an abomination. It’s actually solving the problems that engages her. This bodes well for algebra. She writes smaller so she can fit more problems on a page she likes math so much. I’m going to search the web for some songs or games or something that will help us survive the repetition since my imagination needs a boost.

Since we are enrolled and just finished Lesson 8, I’m working on the second batch of work to submit to her Oak meadow teacher. That means importing photographs and label label label.

Disneyland v. the Magic Kingdom at Disney World

We were very lucky to have the opportunity to visit Disneyland so soon after our visit to Disney World’s Magic Kingdom with Gran and Pop last Thanksgiving. Both were unforgettable trips, but the differences between the two parks were striking.

In case this is something you’ve been wondering about, I’ve got a few pictures to share.

Main Street at Disneyland (Sleeping Beauty Castle)

Main Street at Disneyland (Sleeping Beauty Castle in the background)

Just past Main Street in the Magic Kingdom at Disney World (Cinderella Castle in the background)

Just past Main Street in the Magic Kingdom at Disney World (Cinderella Castle in the background)

Sleeping Beauty Castle decorated to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of Disneyland

Sleeping Beauty Castle decorated to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of Disneyland (just past Main Street)

Cinderella Castle after Elsa had decorated it to celebrate Christmas in the Magic Kingdom at Disney World

Cinderella Castle after Elsa had decorated it for Christmas in the Magic Kingdom at Disney World (on Main Street)

Disneyland is a wonderful adventure. It is more dynamic than the Magic Kingdom – things change there all the time (probably since their primary audience remains the same – locals). This is actually kind of a weird statement since Disneyland still has so many of the “vintage” rides (like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride) that have been phased out in the Magic Kingdom. To explain, right now Space Mountain is haunted with ghosts for Halloween and will transform into “Hyperspace Mountain” to celebrate the return of Star Wars in November. The live shows change often. If your timing is good, you’ll always have a unique experience. It’s smaller, so it’s easier to navigate. Since a good percentage of the visitors are local, the crowd doesn’t really pick up during the week until after work or school. If you stay at one of the resorts, you can get back to your room in less than half an hour so a rest in the middle of the day is super easy (at Disney World, even if you stay in a resort, plan on a two hour round trip just to grab something from the room). Even with all that, I could really see why Walt Disney wanted a do-over after creating the original park. It is close quarters. The Matterhorn overshadows Sleeping Beauty Castle. Cast Members move through the park in costume since there are only a few ways in or out – it’s disconcerting to see a group of Haunted Mansion butlers strolling through Fantasy Land. Disneyland doesn’t take “there’s only one Mickey” seriously: Mickey rode in a parade and hosted Fantasmic (both outdoor events) simultaneously.

Many of the attractions in the two parks are similar – if not the same. The jokes on the Jungle Cruise are equally…remarkable (you have to be a special kind person to lead a Jungle Cruise).

The Tea Cups at Disneyland

The Tea Cups at Disneyland

The Tea Cups in the Magic Kingdom at DisneyWorld

The Tea Cups in the Magic Kingdom at Disney World

The Magic Kingdom at Disney World is a machine. Cast Members enter and leave the park through a network of underground tunnels so you’ll never see a cowboy near Prince Charming’s Carousel (unless he’s 5 years old and dressed up as Woody). If Tiana is in a parade, she is not meeting visitors in Liberty Square. Everything is bigger. Brighter. I found that it was tidier – I never noticed trash in the bushes or under the benches. While the park doesn’t change as often, there is perfection in its stability. Maintenance happens each night. MAGIC BANDS are amazing! The wait lines are better sheltered from sun or rain. Every Cast Member addressed Ellie as ‘Princess’ whether she was in costume or not (she mostly was, but still). At Disney World, every Cast Member contributed to the magic. Our housekeeper was the Star of my personal Disney Experience. Our towels were origamied every day (I wanted to take the elephant home but I didn’t). We came back to the room one night and all of Ellie’s stuffed friends were playing hide and seek in the bed. I felt as if the Cast Members enjoyed having us visit.

Remember how our beds at the Disneyland Hotel had fireworks? The headboards in our room at the Port Orleans Resort in Disney World room did this:

Disneyland is a splendid proof of concept. DisneyWorld is the actualization of a dream.

You should absolutely visit one if you’ve visited the other, there are unique attractions and events at both. If you wish to pick, my opinion is that the Magic Kingdom at Disney World is the better experience.

Weekly Wrap-Up: Disneyland!!!1!

Every now and then Michael has to go “to the office” out in Santa Monica. This time we went with him. Mostly because we could (yay homeschool + frequent flyer miles) but also because Disneyland!

Ellie and I knit on the plane.

Goofy met us in the lobby of the Disneyland Hotel.

Our room had its own fireworks.

Captain Hook met us right inside Fantasy Land.

Ellie had tea with the Mad Hatter and Alice.

We also saw a couple shows (the new Frozen show is excellent), the Haunted Mansion was all dressed up as the Nightmare Before Christmas (we went through a second time it was so cool), we watched three parades, rode Big Thunder Mountain Railroad four times, and experienced 102°F without the humidity (it’s different). Disneyland during the school week was outstanding – we didn’t wait more than 20 minutes for anything.

After that, we switched towns and visited Michael at work! There was candy! And lunch!

Then Ellie and I hung out in our very nice hotel room with a deck, went to the beach,

rode the ferris wheel that was there, completed a puzzle, lost a tooth (Ellie did, I still have all mine), played games at the office, did one school assignment,

read some Anne of Green Gables, and ate a lot of veggie bacon. Oh, and Ellie opened the Disney Store on Thursday morning!

Ellie bought her Halloween costume at the Disney Store this year. It’s not what you think.

Now that we’re recovering from lack of sleep and jet lag, I feel that I have enough perspective to say that it was a pretty great week!

Weekly Wrap-Up: Lesson 5



I finished my Pig! I also disabled all the toy listings in my Etsy shop. No worries, they’ll be back in October.

School. There was some! Ellie wrote her story-summery paragraph completely independently and it was perfect (except that “ribbin” needed an o instead of that second i).

Up until this point, all the paragraphs/sentences have been focused on retelling/summarizing a story. For Social Studies, she got to editorialize about the story themes rather than just rehashing it. It was pretty precious, she called out all the animals involved for not being very nice. I was very happy to see that the curriculum changes at the right time – Ellie was getting worn out with summaries. So: If you’ve only read the first few lessons in an Oak Meadow Coursebook, don’t think you know what the whole year will be like.

So many costumes - she's making ribbon bookmarks for art.

So many costumes – she’s making ribbon bookmarks for art.

This was a really nice week for us with many activities that we’ve come to love and lots of new ones (poetry!!). In Health she tried to convince me that the Princess First Aid Kit had everything a home first aid kit needed (it didn’t, I had brought the Red Cross’ list with us to the pharmacy). We compromised with a regular first aid kit and some Darth Vadar Bandaids.

My flu shot is modeling the aforementioned bandaids.

My flu shot is modeling the aforementioned Bandaids.

And I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the sun is coming up a little later every day. So I get to see things like this when I walk in the early morning:



I’m going to leave you with that. Next week is something else entirely.