Monday, November 23, 2009

Teaching kids poetry: haikus

Maylin took a writing class where she wrote an ode to a bear. I thought she didn't have any interest in poetry, but after we brought her ode home, she wrote a few more! (I think she caught my enthusiasm because I actually wrote some odes first and then she followed suit.) That night, I made her a little booklet entitled, My Poetry Book, with a neon green cover. She woke up the next day to this on the kitchen table. Maylin was so excited to begin our first poetry lesson together. On the first page I had written the syllabic rule for the haiku, a three-line poem (5-7-5). I also included some of my own samples, including:

Cool rain hits my face
Mouth opening, I giggle
As joy showers me

The next page had a haiku brainstorm area with columns for nouns, adjectives, and verbs. She came up with about eight for each column, and proceeded to write three haikus in a row! After she had run out of words from her brainstorm, I suggested taking a break -- but no, she wanted to keep going, to my pleasant surprise! She had to brainstorm again for my words and then wrote two more haikus. Here are my favorites:

Windy, sandy beach
Sandcastles are fun to build
Swim and run with me


I want sweet candy
I don't want gross broccoli
Is it sweet or gross?

Teaching kids poetry: cinquains

Here's a great site for learning about cinquains, which are five-line poems with the syllabic rule of 2-4-6-8-2:

Here's my sample to give to Maylin:

Tasty, wholesome
Eating, crunching, smiling
A yummy snack that's good for me

Now I have to do some research on Orville Redenbacher so I can do some explaining. I'm also going to look up some famous cinquains. I believe it's a French form, so I'm going to look for some French ones! Fun!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Awesome (healthy) muffins!

There's a really great recipe called Ruthie's 8 Grain Muffins, which comes on the back of a Bob's Red Mill package of 8 grain hot cereal. I've adapted the recipe for people who can't access Bob's stuff, and I've made it a little healthier by substituting butter for margarine and white whole wheat flour (no, it's not bleached -- just a softer winter wheat variety) for the white flour. You can also use whole wheat pastry flour, but it'll be pretty crumbly. If you can only access regular whole wheat flour, try it and let me know how it goes. Actually, maybe I'll try it and I'll let you know. The whole wheat flours do make the light, tender muffins a little sturdier. I was tired of cleaning up piles of crumbs after my toddler.

I think these are the perfect healthy muffins. Let me know what you think.

Awesome (healthy) muffins

1. Turn your oven on to 400 degrees.
2. Mix the following ingredients and let sit for 10 minutes (you can do the other steps in the meanwhile):
1 1/4 cup buttermilk (plain or vanilla yogurt works, too, but I think the buttermilk is better)
1/4 cup cornmeal (at any supermarket)
1/4 cup almond meal (grind your own or buy at Trader Joe's)
1/4 cup flaxseed meal (I think you can find this at TJ's)
1/4 cup oat bran (can find at TJ's)
3. In a larger bowl, melt 1/3 cup of butter, using electric mixer, mix in 1/2 cup of Turbinado or regular granulated sugar, add 1 egg, and mix again.
4. Sift the following ingredients in a medium bowl:
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup of white whole wheat flour
5. Add ingredients from step 4 to step 3. Mix.
6. Add ingredients from step 2 to step 5. Mix.
7. Spoon batter into 12 paper muffin cups that have been placed in a muffin tin.
8. Pop into oven for 15 minutes.
9. Gobble them up!

[Note: I accidentally left out the baking powder, baking soda, and the salt one time (I know, I think I was over-multi-tasking and sleep-deprived) but the kids still loved it -- and a playdate friend as well!]

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Maylin's first compilation CD

For one of Maylin's birthday presents, I put together a CD of her favorite songs downloaded from She picked all the songs herself. It was wonderful to see how happy she was to hear her own CD. Such joy! That was the best $13 I ever spent!

1. Axel F (Crazy Frog version)
2. Who Left the Dogs Out
3. Everybody Dance Now
4. Lollipop (that old doo-wap song)
5. Don't Walk Away (a Hanna Montana tune she heard on the plane)
6. Good Morning Baltimore (Hairspray musical)
7. I Can Hear the Bells (Hairspray)
8. Without Love (Hairspray)
9. That's How You Know (Enchanted movie)
10. Ever Ever After (Enchanted)
11. Axel F (original)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Homeschooling a success so far

Well, I realize I haven't really talked about homeschooling much in my blog (maybe I haven't been talking much about anything at all, really), but just so you know, it is really going great. Maylin and I are a good pair for this -- she's a good student and listens to me (most of the time) and when I'm prepared, weeks are great. When someone's sick, things slow down, but we make up for it on the weekends. We have a very flexible schedule. Sometimes Maylin will do some work in the morning, some in the afternoon, and some in the evening. She is often motivated by 10-minute bites of a movie. 2 pages of math will earn her 10 minutes of watching. A writing worksheet earn the same as well. A chess game counts, too. Maylin gets the most work done using this reward system.

Our language arts work is all over the place. We'll have spelling tests, phonics worksheets, reading, story-writing, book-making, writing games...mixing it up seems to be key. Our math curriculum is Singapore Math. Maylin's almost done with her first book -- her big reward is a scooter. Sometimes she likes math, sometimes she doesn't. I still need to figure that piece out.

For science, we'll do experiments using household products like baking soda, borax, and vinegar. I usually have her write up a report afterwards. Fortunately, she still says she loves science. Oh, we also work through the Evan-Mohr books. We're in the vertebrate book presently -- it has great worksheets and lesson plans. I've woven in trips to the Oakland Zoo and the Natural History Museum (NY) to supplement the unit study. And soon, we'll visit some week-old puppies to help study the life cycle of vertebrates.

Social studies has included map-study, worksheets, and journal-writing after trips. I need to work more on integrating this into our daily studies.

Maylin also takes Chinese, French, piano, chess, and karate. I'm teaching her the piano, but it's hard because she doesn't have much interest in it. But that karate...she loves it. It's the perfect activity for her. She likes working hard, doesn't mind repetition, and is good at memorizing a series of steps (forms). I'm quite proud of her. She'll be testing for her yellow belt soon.

I'm not worried about her not getting enough socialization -- she has plenty of opportunity in her extracurricular activities.

Some great online resources that Maylin likes to use: (so she can always have the computer to play against) (a free site for learning how to type -- she's already learned homerow and the top row -- her accuracy is quite good...and she loves it!)

Little furry bundle of joy

We've got a new puppy! I know, our wonderful dog Leo passed away recently, but Maylin was just crazy about getting a new puppy. Everyday she voiced her wishes. I thought it wouldn't hurt to look online. Found a great site,, which I believe specializes in rescue dogs because they were mostly mixes. You can do an advanced search by breed (mix), sex, age, and location. Our puppy was being fostered in Richmond, so it happened really quickly! I e-mailed our adoption application Wednesday night, the family met the puppy at his former home Thursday night, we got to take him Friday night for a short trial period, made our decision right away and turned in our paperwork today. I can't imagine how lucky we are! It was fate.

We are in love! Cody's a golden retriever-Australian shepherd mix (I was specifically looking for a retriever-shepherd because that's pretty much what Leo was -- we like that kind of temperament and look.

He is about 3 months old, tan and white, and is a real sweetie. Very obedient and learns quickly. He's only had a few accidents so far.

Let's hope I can get a photo up before he grows out of puppyhood!

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Natural cleaning, part I

Maylin had a little science lesson today as I tried to get a blood stain out of some bedsheets (Stefan had a bloody nose one night). I hate using chemical treatments, so I thought I'd experiment with baking soda and vinegar. Maylin spread a layer of baking soda over the stain and then dumped some vinegar over it. We got some fantastic bubbles going! Stefan loved it! We repeated this many, many times, to the delight of my kids. And you know what? It did a pretty good job on the stain. It didn't completely eliminate it, but it's barely there now after a tumble in the washer and dryer! We called this experiment Bubble Action. We're going to see if this same method will work on our old carpet stains. Woohoo!