Thursday, July 26, 2012

King Aidyn and the Feast of the Round Table

To get our appetites in the spirit of the Middle Ages, I cooked up an elaborate (for a peasant!) dinner.

 Here's what was on the menu and how to cook it yourself:

Herb-roasted chicken drumsticks and potatoes

(I usually don't post recipes so excuse my boorish undeveloped directions)

1. Make a bed of onion shreds on the bottom of a glass pan. I simply cut an onion in thick slices and tore it to pieces with my hands.

2. Rinse chicken and dump in a bowl big enough to stir them around in. Add drizzles of olive oil and sprinkle herbs (fresh is best, but I used dried). We used rubbed sage, parsley, poultry seasoning, rosemary leaves, basil leaves, ground sage, and pepper. Mix it up so every piece is spreckled with herbs. Place on top of onion bed.

3. Peel and quarter potatoes and add to bowl big enough to stir them around in. Add drizzles of olive oil and rosemary leaves, pepper, salt, and whole cloves of garlic. Squeeze in potatoes wherever they'll fit in the glass pan.

4. Cook at 400 degrees for 1 hour and 10 minutes. Baste with juices every 15 minutes.


Pottage (or potage) was a continuously cooking meal, often eaten by peasants. They would add vegetables, grains, beans, roots, practically anything to the pot and cook it for weeks, taking some out to eat and always adding more in.

Therefore you can throw anything you want into it.

I used the crockpot because it has the tendency to completely annihilate anything I put into it, making it a sludgy, tender mess, which is what you want to go for with pottage.

We used:
cabbage (torn into chunks with my hands)
grilled onions (grilled on stovetop first, added to pot next)
split peas
herbs (as listed above)

Grapes and dark rye bread

We also had grapes and dark rye bread on hand.

No utensils allowed!

To get the full experience, we used no utensils, just our lovely hands. Chicken bones made excellent spoons for stirring pottage. We talked about how, during the Middle Ages, it was considered effeminate for men to use utensils (other than a knife) and that Charles V declared that a fork could be used only when the thing to be consumed could stain the fingers.

It was a jolly mess. We got into character, and Aidyn remarked that "this is a good day!"

In other news...

 We've been working on our castle replica. It's still in the messy, what-the-hell-are-you-making stage, but it's coming along.

Aidyn's also been working on his -an words. I chose -an words for Fantasyland due to Peter Pan, but some other characters snuck onto the list as well.

Oh, I love the personalization of homeschooling.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Bye, Bye Bugs... He-llo King Arthur

Because the new school year is fast approaching, we're reeling through our units gently and quickly.

For Bug's Land, we had a bunch of bug-filled fun. Here are some books/projects we enjoyed:

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. Afterward we made some caterpillar/butterfly crafts.

The predominantly blue number on the right was made with hand- and footprints with a 3-part butterfly body in the middle. The best part for Aidyn was getting his hands and feet painted in Smurf like fashion and rinsing them off in the kitchen sink. I also painted my own hands and feet and made a butterfly, but photos were not allowed!

I found a cute color-by-word butterfly picture and a caterpillar-symmetry worksheet.

We went on to read the adorable story of a The Very Clumsy Click Beetle (also written by Eric Carle).

After reading it, I made a teeny tiny drawing of a click beetle and taped it to a refrigerator clip (a clothespin would have worked better). We took turns "clicking" the beetle and watching it either land on its feet or its back.

To meet some bugs in person, we trekked to UC Davis's Museum of Entomology. 

For my little hands-on learner, I made some interactive worksheets to work on bug and word identification AND -ug words.

It was wonderful how many times our cat, Megus, splayed her big ol' body across the paper and Aidyn just had to re-do it. Oh, thank you, Meggie!

I made this worksheet of -ug words and supplied letter tiles for Aidyn to fit over the printed words.

We haven't gone through this yet, but yesterday I made Aidyn an in-the-garden sensory bin:

It's filled with potting soil, rocks, sticks, Aidyn's little plastic animals (frogs, a bee, ladybug, snake, etc.), a golf ball, and an egg (with a conifer seed in it). He has a magnifying glass and some scoopers for exploring this today.

But now we're overlapping to our next land: Fantasyland!

We'll be reading Arthurian legends, fairy tales, and stories of knights and castles. We'll cuddle up and watch Sword in the Stone and many other classic Disney films.

Other non-unit related activities we've been up to:

-Took a field trip to the Jelly Belly Factory
-Took Aidyn for his first experience bowling!

Yes, he wore a cape for bowling. He was like the Valiant Knight of Bowling.

-We've been reading R.L. Stine's Welcome to Camp Nightmare like there is no tomorrow.

cliffhanger chapter ending
Aidyn: Read! Read! What happens?!
Mama: Let me get something to drink first. My voice is going out.

-Aidyn's been learning to ride his bike without training wheels.

-I wish I had pictures, but yesterday Aidyn got the muddiest/dirtiest/grossest I've ever seen him. He literally rolled in mud outside with his friends (I'm sure the friends just watched his silliness). Disclaimer: getting this dirty is ok in our house. The rule is you can make all the mess you want so long as you completely clean up after yourself.

-We've been teaching Aidyn to swim, both with his swim vest and without.

I love summer.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Field trip Friday: The Jelly Belly Factory

Nothing is better than colorful gobs of shiny, chewy candy except free colorful gobs of shiny, chewy candy.

Today we ventured to the nearby Jelly Belly Factory with two fun cousins and a grandma in tow.

On the way, we watched the ever-wonderful (and terribly fitting) Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory , the best and only  orginal version with the subtly bizarre Gene Widler.

Once we arrived, I couldn't tell if they were running and dancing from sheer excitement at the prospect of touring a fun factory or  if they were just exhausted from the hour-long drive through rolling hills and valleys full of nothingness.

Either way, they were pretty darn excited.

As they should be. The Jelly Belly Factory is completely free to visit. They give you factory hats, take you on a 40-minute tour through their working factory, and gift you with a small bag of jelly bellies. Today's freebie: chocolate-covered raspberry jelly bellies. Yes.

When Aidyn climbed in this Jelly Belly racecar, I gave him the usual "I don't have any quarters on me" look, which turned out to be unnecessary because IT STARTED FOR FREE. Just in case you didn't know: kids love when that happens!

Don't you love when American history can just sneak its way into a fun field trip?

I do, and I totally plan for that to happen  I'm completely surprised when that happens. :)

I wasn't permitted to take pictures inside the factory itself, but the kids spied some crazy-looking machines packing boxes and big spinny silver things (I'm sure that's what they're called) mixing colors and polishing the beans. The whole place had this heavenly aroma of Pure Good.

After touring the place, we dined on a bean-shaped pepperoni pizza. How amazing is that?

Once we had full tummies, we sampled some of the Jelly Belly Factory's most disgusting flavors including: canned dog food, centipede, booger, rotten egg, baby wipes, and pencil shavings. Can we all just give a big, unanimous yuuuum!

They forgave me for introducing the grosser side of jelly bellies when we filled up bags of assorted beans of much more welcoming flavors like bubble gum, cotton candy, Orange Crush, and cantaloupe.

If you're in the neighborhood (or in Wisconsin), be sure to check out The Jelly Belly Factory.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

A Midsummer Bug's Dream

Now that we're in Bug's Land (aka entomology), we've been busy with bug books, bug crafts, and bug treats.

Besides trying not to sound like a motor boat with those alliterated Bs, we're learning about insects and entomology (in other words, that all bugs are insects, but not all insects are bugs).

Yesterday morning as I was digging through the internet for field trip inspiration, I stumbled upon the Museum of Entomology at UC Davis.

As we spent the rest of the morning waking up, we watched Reading Rainbow : Bugs while Aidyn snacked on a PB&J butterfly sandwich (cut sandwich in half diagonally, turn corners to face each other and supply a string cheese body. Extra points if you split the top of the cheese for the antennae)

Finding the Museum of Entomology was a pursuit in itself. Eventually we found trail of ants that led the way. Seriously.

Upon entering the museum, I felt more like we were encroaching upon researchers in a lab carefully analyzing exoskeletons. The for-visitor stuff was tiny compared to the aisles upon aisles of catalogues, examination areas, and forbidden staff-only sections.

But that's what made it pretty neat. I felt like we stepped in a real lab.

Here's Aidyn pointing at the case of beetles. See that shelf in the background, with the turning knob above Aidyn's head? Yeah, that turns to open up all these shelves full of insect specimens. The place of 90% shelved specimens.

Here we found a picture of a backyard and house. The little cards open up to explain what sort of creepy crawlies live amongst us.

Turns out termites aren't very cute but extraordinarily talented.

Here we did some local bug identification.

Afterward, a kind and willing student showed us the live insects and spiders. We spied a tarantula and a bird-eating spider (that really does feast on birds) before checking out the walking sticks, crickets, grasshoppers,  and termites. We watched a thorny walking stick crawl up this guy's arm as he talked about camouflage and exoskeletons.

When we left, Aidyn felt particularly brave and bought a lollipop (Strawberry flavor with cricket!) I'm sure he felt like Sabor, our leopard gecko, who loves munching on crunchy crickets.

Once we got home (and I recovered from the drive), we read The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle.

Then we painted butterflies sans paintbrushes. We each taped a piece of white fingerpaint paper to the table and drew 3 long circles for the butterfly's body. Aidyn selected a brilliant blue paint and we painted our hands and pressed them to make butterfly wings.

Not to let my kitchen get away with being halfway clean, we painted our feet and made the bottom wings and rinsed ourselves (comedically) in the kitchen sink.

Overall, it was a crafty, field trippy, buggy day!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Old Maid

"How do you get through 30 years of life having never played Old Maid?" I asked my husband. That's like going through childhood and never seeing a Radio Flyer or drinking water from a hose or playing with a Lite-Brite.

...or it's like how I've never learned to play dominoes (except to line 'em up and knock 'em down) or backgammon. Come to think of it, I still don't know how to play shuffleboard, though many a good joke has been cracked about the mysterious game.

So yesterday, David and I played a round of Old Maid while Aidyn was galavanting with his pals outside. I mean, what else were we going to do, keep watching Lost episodes? After that, at Granny's goading, we learned to play dominoes.

Once we did happen to wrangle call Aidyn in, I invited him to a match of Old Maid.

I'm aware that I might be teaching Aidyn something disparaging about older, unmarried women, but honestly it's not my intent. At least he'll understand Sue Ellen's tears whenever it is that he watches Gone with the Wind  and sees her balling because Scarlett took her man.


(climbs up on my bitty soapbox)

Playing old card games like this isn't just fun for the family, but it teaches kids how to follow game rules, how to respect turn-taking, how to be a gracious winner or a "good" loser, and how to negotiate and play fair. It also helps with fine motor skills (fanning out cards, plucking chosen ones, laying down pairs neatly). But mostly, it's fun.

What games do you like to play? What classics will never die?

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Bugging out

No one has to force kids to learn about creepy crawly bugs. There's a totally gross natural instinct for kids to wrangle a worm, poke at a rolly polly, and wish with all their heart that that ladybug doesn't fly off their fingers.

Things are moving fast; our vacation to Disneyland is fast approaching as is the new school year. For however long I can take it a couple weeks, we'll be doing a general bug study in honor of Bug's Land in California Adventure.

I'm not really grossed out. I love bugs! I just don't have the need to claw my way through the dirt and  pack the underside of my fingernails with dirt like my son does. When we've done a bug unit study in the past, it was a total hands-on experience, which is Aidyn's favorite style of learning. An assessment for that type of learning is usually measured by the amount of dirt under his nails and the pitch at which he rambles to the neighborhood kids about everything he learned.

I have loose plans. I know better than to overplan a fun unit like this.


Eric Carle books, including The Very Quiet Cricket, The Grouchy Ladybug , The Very Busy Spider ,The Very Hungry Caterpillar , and The Very Lonely Firefly


The Magic School Bus: Bugs, Bugs, Bugs!
An episode of Beakman's World, in which they cover bugs


Homeschoolshare's Eric Carle Unit Study with art activities, print-outs, and bug links.


1. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't excited about making Worms in Mud

and other foods that inspire mild gross-outs. We'll see what kinds of craziness I can come up with.

2.  Bug Scavenger Hunt.

3. Bug Art

If I don't get a little grossed out at the state of Aidyn's nails once throughout our unit, I'm doing it wrong.