Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A week's worth of Homeschool Lunches

After the recent controversy surrounding an article on a Chicago school, which, in a poorly-executed plan to encourage healthier lunches for their students, made headlines when they reportedly banned homemade lunches, I am all the more grateful that we don't have to worry about a school telling us our kids are forced to eat what they are serving, whether they like it or not. We save on the brown bags and have the freedom of variety, health, cost and choice in our lunch options. This is my third installment of a "week's worth of lunches", you can click on the tag below to see others. Hope some of these simple, quick, nothing-fancy ideas spur your own solutions for jumping out of at-home lunch ruts with kids.

Grilled cheese, apple and crackers

Ham and Green Pepper Egg Scramble

Leftover Pot Roast

Whole-Grain Cream of Wheat with fresh strawberries

Chicken or Turkey Cheese Wraps with Vegetable Rice

Monday, April 18, 2011

Orange Juice Pops

My kids love Orange Juice Pops. They love making them and eating them. They are equal in high scores for both their simplicity and delight.
Fill an ice cube tray with orange juice or any fresh juice of choice, cover with clear plastic wrap and stick with toothpicks. Freeze and enjoy, one delicious cube at a time (or, an entire tray in a day, if they are anything like my children).

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Awesome Butterfly Moments

With spring, comes the study of butterflies. I put together a Butterfly Unit Study for our homeschool co-op, with loads of activities I'll share here, along with the books and crafts we used at home. In addition, we had a fabulous field trip with a huge group of homeschoolers to the Butterflies Are Blooming exhibit at Frederik Meijer Gardens.

One of our favorite crafts at home was "From Caterpillar to Chrysalis to Butterfly." Using a stick from your latest outdoor adventure walk, simply use the small branches to build each stage on. We used green pipe cleaner for the caterpilar, brown Bend-a-roos for the chrysalis, and pink pipe cleaner and decorated paper bags for the butterfly. Also, here is a print-out to color of the Butterfly Life Cycle.

The activities we did for the unit study included making the Butterfly Life Cycle on paper plates out of dry pasta (Acini de Pepe for the eggs, Rigatoni for the caterpillars, Jumbo shells for the chrysalis, Bow Ties for the butterflies.); Butterfly and Caterpillar songs for the younger ones along with reading and role play of The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

I also found a great lesson called "How a Butterfly Eats" where the kids make flowers out of paper to cover plastic cups. They stick a straw through to be the proboscis of the butterfly so they can drink the flower's nectar (juice) just like a real butterfly does. I read the book "Are You a Butterfly" during this activity, which is a really cute story that amused the kids as they imagined if they split open like caterpillars or had feelers on top of their heads.

With the older kids we also did an awesome Cocoon Thread activity. The cocoon thread of the caterpillar, when unwound, is over one-half mile in length – that's 2,640 feet long. I bought two 50-foot all purpose thread/ropes (the kind in the camping section for clothes lines). The kids enjoyed physically experiencing (walking) the length of the cocoon thread, discussing the strength and length of how much thread a single caterpillar spins. One of our moms did a great job leading the kids in teams as they measured and wrapped each other up for their metamorphosis.

We also made Butterfly Feeders with fruit, water and sugar for the kids to take home and discussed what kinds of flowers to plant in the yard to attract and feed butterflies. It was a fun day.

Here are some pictures from our field trip to the Butterfly Exhibit. We go every year, and this year my kindergartner was thrilled to have a butterfly land on her shoulder and stay long enough to give her some butterfly kisses. My son was sick and stayed home with dad, but I enjoyed some one-on-one time with my daughter. It was a special day, and my "social butterfly" enjoyed a day of learning and exploring with her friends.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Our Funny Farm

You can see from my Just Ducky post how small our ducks were just a month ago when we first got them. They are so much fun to watch grow and play (and waddle). The kids have had fun this week with duck puppets borrowed from the library, as well as a variety of duck books and stories. Our favorite fun story by far was, "Mr. Duck Means Business" by Tammi Sauer. We did similar activities surrounding our chickens this year with puppets, stories and egg experiments. You can read all about that here. We are having a fun year growing our little backyard farm.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Painting Projects

My daughter loves to paint. Even better, she loves painting with her grandmother; they tackle various painting projects together, painting rocks, planters, outdoor decor, pictures, and, this week: vases.

I love that they spend this quality time together, my mom shows her delicate techniques... it's a purposeful time of art and creation. I'm not there, it's just time for the two of them: they bond, they learn, they experiment and inspire. I see the results, both in my daughter's spirit and her work. She's creating wonderful and many times sophisticated art (especially for kindergarten!) as my mom teaches her to use smaller brushes to make the paint dance into different forms. They practice on paper beforehand and make every stroke a thoughtful one. It has me reflecting that age should never be a factor in the potential of an artist.

"An artist is never ahead of his time but most people are far behind theirs." -Edgard Varese

Monday, April 4, 2011

Smoked Chicken: Easy, Affordable and Delicious!

My husband is an excellent smoker. Of meat that is. He's never been a "smoker" like the kind outlawed in Michigan's public places. But when he fires up the grill and smokes a few whole chickens, it tastes good enough to probably be outlawed.
You can pick up a fresh, whole young chicken from the store for about $4. They turn out so well and make such excellent leftovers in everything from quesadillas to salads, we usually pick up a few at a time and share one with the neighbors, too.

After you rinse the chicken and remove the giblets (if any), pat it dry with a paper towel. Use an apple and/or onion (we use both) each cut in half to fit, as an aromatic in the chicken cavity. Salt and pepper the skin. Put in the smoker at about 300-degrees for 1-3 hours, until internal temp reaches 180-degrees. We use apple wood chunks from a local orchard to smoke them with. It's mouthwatering meat that melts off the bone every time. Yum!

Making Deposits in the Banks of Memories and Finance

"Each day of our lives we make deposits in the memory banks of our children." -Charles Swindoll.

This quote has been a favorite of mine since I first read it, when I was pregnant with my first child and dreaming of motherhood. It sums up the job of parenthood and the impact we have raising children. Each day, we are creating memories, good or bad ones. It's a reminder to keep our attitudes, our activities, our daily lives as positive as we can manage. The memories are being made each day regardless, so lets make each day, each deposit, count.

Last Friday at our homeschool co-op we made some great deposits of memories, fun and learning. We had a guest speaker come in for a special Teach Kids to Save Day. The kids were taught the three S’s of money, “Share, Spend and Save.” Nancy Martin, the bank manager at United Bank of Michigan, and friend of mine, led the class and it was awesome. A field trip to United Bank followed, where the students glimpsed the workings of a bank, teller duties, how the drive-up tube and counterfeit light worked as well as a walk-in look at the vault and safety deposit boxes.

During the class presentation, Martin led the kids through examples they came up with for each category of share, spend and save. For share, the list included suggestions such as church, the humane society, and the Red Cross. For spend, Martin also had the students examine ways their parents had to spend money, on food, clothes, home repairs, and gasoline—with ideas of ways they can help around the house to make meeting those needs easier on the family. For save, Martin broke down the list of goals into things that take either a short time to save for, like a toy or video game, versus things that take a long time, such as college or a house.

Dollar sign pencils and “Moon Jars,” small banks divided into the three categories they had learned were a big hit. My daughter is putting a lot of thought into what she will use each category for. She has decided she wants her "Share" bank to go toward one of her favorite charities, the Animal Shelter. It was a wonderful day, filled with lessons we'll be banking for a long time to come.