Joyful Signing

I have been trying for months to get Buddy interested in an activity like Taekwondo, Soccer or Sign Language. Each time I ask if he would like to do Taekwondo with his sister he says, “No, I can’t. I not big enough.” I continually reassure him and try to encourage him to try but he always says no … his facial expression nearly kills me … he looks withdrawn and rejected. I ask him what he would like to learn and his response is, “Nothing. I not want to do anything. I want to play with trucks and cars.” I don’t want him to feel like all the classes we do are for his sister and not him. I feel so bad.

When he was two, we did a Parent-Toddler Creative Movement (dance) class and he seemed to like it okay. There were three other boys in this class but now that they are older, the boys have moved on to other activities. If he were to continue with Creative Movement (ballet/tap doesn’t begin until age 5 at this school), he would be the only boy. I’ve been a little frustrated with the school anyway.

The choreography has been basically the same every year and Sweetie (having had taken classes there since she were 3) is bored with dance. She has even asked if she could do just the recital and not the weekly classes. We’ve lightly considered another school but haven’t looked into much as she seems content to stick with Taekwondo. DH is insistent that the kids do just one activity and he is a little frustrated that she does Taekwondo and Mandarin Chinese. Urgh! I’ve hijacked my own post – I was talking about Buddy. This is a material for a completely different topic.

Anyway, we have had these Signing Time DVDs since Sweetie was an infant. We used Sign Language a lot before the kids were speaking, though we haven’t used it much since. In August, another homeschool family offered to teach a Sign Language class for homeschoolers. I signed Sweetie up immediately. When I spoke with the instructor, I got permission to stay in the room with Buddy but my assumption was that he wouldn’t be interested. When the opportunity to take Mandarin arose, I briefly considered dropping Sign Language due to the schedule conflict but opted to give it a try knowing we’d have to leave early.

In anticipation of the class, we borrowed some of the newer Signing Time DVDs from the library. When we watch the videos, Sweetie is always eager to sign along with Alex and Lea. Buddy, on the other hand, sits attentively and simply watches. We’ve tried to encourage him to sign too, but he always replies, “I can’t.” I feel bad for him but I always respond, “Yes, you can, Buddy. When you want to try, I’ll be waiting.”

Imagine my delight when earlier this week, he started signing tree, forest, candy, more, and please as we were going about our errands. He has also only recently been able to work his fingers to sign ‘I love you’.

So, yesterday was the first day of Sign Language class. As we left the house, as usual the kids started asking, “Where are we going first? What next?” I went through the plan with them and they were both excited to go to Sign Language. When we arrived at the church where the class is taught, Buddy started asking, “Sign Language my class? I take Sign Language?”

A light bulb went off in my head – “Yes! This is your class, Buddy. You get to learn Sign Language. We will be there to learn with you so we can practice at home, but this is your class. Sweetie is learning Chinese. You get to learn Sign Language.” I think he liked to hear this but just before class started, I think he got shy again when he saw all the other kids. He said he wasn’t going to say anything. I explained that in Sign Language you don’t use your mouth to talk. You use your hands. He wouldn’t need to say anything. He said he didn’t wan to do that either. I told him that we would stay in class and that Sweetie and I would sign. When he was ready, he could join in.

He didn’t sign at all during class. However, when Sweetie was in Chinese shortly thereafter, I got him to practice the ASL alphabet with me a little. Then, in Taekwondo, he started pointing out the letter ‘A’ but rather than point with his index finger as he has done in the past, he was signing the letter and gesturing in that direction. I responded with enthusiasm and we did letter ‘B’ and ‘C’ as well.

I think he is warming up to it. I suppose I just need to be a little more patient. He is more reserved than she was and I need to remember that. He’ll find his niche soon.

Jim Arnosky ~ Author Study

Without any advance planning or intentions on my part, I came across several books by Jim Arnosky that were set up on display at our library. It was a light-bulb moment and I immediately thought to myself, wouldn’t it be fun to read numerous books by the same author? Jim Arnosky is perhaps my favorite children’s book author ~ so he is the perfect author with which to begin.
The kids enjoyed his writing style and were even more impressed that he did all the illustrations as well. The titles we read were: Crinkleroot’s Guide to Animal Habitats, Crinkleroot’s Guide to Knowing the Trees, Following the Coast, Drawing from Nature and Freshwater Fish & Fishing.

Sweetie, was particularly interested in Freshwater Fish & Fishing due to her recent fly fishing experiences. We were also inspired by a recent post by Serendipity to print our own Crinkleroot friend to join us on our nature outings.

For more information about Arnosky, visit his website Jim Arnosky’s Nature Journal. You’ll find coloring sheets, fact sheets, video links, drawing lessons and Crinkleroot!

An Egyptian Party

When my daughter turned six, we were in the depths of a thematic unit on Ancient Egypt. It was of no surprise, therefore, when I inquired what kind of party she desired her response was, “Let’s go to Egypt!”

The Invitations

I thereby set out to put my creative energy and amateur cake decorating skills to use.

The Pyramid of Gisa Central Oregon

As Halloween is just a month after her birthday, I found the perfect costume online.

The Pharaoh Isis before her guests arrived

Together, we converted an old appliance box into a photo prop.

The Young King Tutankhamun

She told me during the party, “This is the party I always wanted! Thank you, Mom!”

A Delighted Mummy

I made a stencil with a graphic I found online (the same graphic I used on the invitations) so that the kids could create custom Egyptian themed t-shirts.

Party guests modeling the take-home gift (t-shirt) and fashionable mummy attire.

The kids had a blast wrapping one another in toilet paper.

In addition to the activities pictured above, party guests also made necklaces with their name written in hieroglyphics on shrink film… some turned out, others did not.

They danced to the Bangles’ Walk Like An Egyptian and enjoyed playing a homemade version of Senet, a game popular with the pharaohs of ancient Egypt.

Snacks available included tabouli, hummus and pita chips, a veggie tray, and falafels. Other than a few chips and the cake & ice cream, of course, I’m not certain the kids even tasted the food. Also served with the cake & ice cream were crushed Pecan Sandies (to simulate sand).

Mountain Pine Beetle ~ Outdoor Hour #32

We went up to the lake on Sunday to enjoy one of the last warm weekends of the season. It was quite windy so we weren’t daring enough to take the plunge, but the kids enjoyed looking for frogs, watching dragonflies, and building a castle and moat along the shoreline.

Inspired by Theresa at LaPaz Home Learning, I took several “Not Back to School Portraits”. It was a joy to watch the kiddos enjoy themselves and interact with one another. They discovered a tiny little green frog whom they played with for some time.
The following day, we sat down on the couch to do a little ‘current events’ work that I had saved. I save articles I think the kids will find interesting in the newspaper and try to do at least one ‘current events’ assignment each week. The article I saved was from the 25th of July, titled Beetles Killing Trees, Causing More Damage Than We See. The kids were delighted to learn that the article was about the forest that surrounded the lake we visited the day before. “That’s where we went yesterday!” If you look carefully at the photos above, you can see the trees that have succumbed to the pine beetle infestation. [Had only I thought to read the article before we went up to the lake – we could have talked with the Forest Ranger to learn more.]
I read about two thirds of the article, stopping frequently to help them understand the larger vocabulary. We discussed the illustrations and photographs. Once Sweetie was comfortable, I asked her to give me an oral narration. Here is her response (note, the brackets indicate what I said to help her to elaborate or to correct miscues);

These beetles [Mountain Pine Beetles] are killing trees like Ponderosa and Lodgepole Pine near … Lake where we went yesterday. The beetles make tunnels in the new bark [inner bark] where they lay lots of eggs. Then the little larvae hatch out and they dig holes where they make a pupa. Then they dig out as a grown-up. The beetle also brings in some chemical [blue fungus] that gets on the bark and it changes blue. This kills the trees.

They [Forest Service] closed a road near … Lake because they don’t want the people to get hurted. They don’t want the [dead] trees falling down on people. [Do you recall what the foresters are doing to protect the trees?] Moving all the shrubs, sick trees and stuff to make the trees stronger. [… we discussed in more detail the process / purpose of thinning in more detail.]

When doing narrations, it is always interesting to me what details they focus on, in this case she provided the most details about the life-cycle of the beetle and how it affects the tree. We’ve always been fascinated with insects in our home (expect perhaps DH) – one of our first thematic units was on insects, in fact. So, it was no surprise that this part of the article was most interesting to her.

On the other hand, we haven’t talked much about forest ecology or how foresters work to protect the health of the forest. Her narration of this part of the article was thereby much more vague. By asking for a narration, I was able to pick up on that and we spent a few more minutes discussing the process of thinning. How it is done. How it helps the forest to be less susceptible to the pine beetle.

They now have a block of information on which to build upon during future trips to the mountain. They are better informed. The experience, coupled with reading and discussing the article, will help them better understand future lessons on ecology.


On a related note, when we had stopped by the Ranger Station to inquire about a good area to play in the water and relax on shore, I picked up a few brochures. One of which describes the need for Forest Guards; volunteers who spend a week or more at the forest station, providing assistance to the public and interpreting the ecology of the area. I asked the kiddos if they would be interested in doing something like that for a week and they were both enthusiastic. I’ll have to look into this again when the kids are older.

Edited 28 Sept 2008 – Linked to Barb’s Outdoor Hour Challenge #32: Pine Trees.

As the Ponderosa Pine is the dominant tree in our area, the kiddos are very familiar with its characteristics. Sweetie gives an oral presentation on the Ponderosa on our weekly nature walk pointing out ways to identify the tree and noting its adaptations for survival.

Medicinal Uses

  • Roots – can be used to treat indigestion.

Nutritional Value / Food Uses

  • Inner bark – raw or cooked. Best in spring. Often dried, ground into powder and used a thickener in soups or mixed with bread flour.
  • Seeds – raw or cooked. Rich in oil, can be crushed into a meal or used in making making bread.
  • Resin – chewed as gum.
  • Young male cones – chewed for juice.
  • A vanillin flavoring obtained as by-product of other resins in pulpwood. You can even smell the vanilla if you get up close and smell the bark crevices.

Interesting Facts

  • Needles fall from tree after ~3 years
  • On younger trees, bark is brownish black. Older trees develop thick, spongy bark. As trees mature, the bark color becomes a rusty orange.
  • Basketry: root fibers and needles.
  • Dyes: yellow dye from pollen, blue dye from roots, tan/green dye from needles.
  • Thick bark helps protect the Ponderosa from forest fire making it less susceptible. It also self-prunes and drops the lower, dead branches and thereby decreases the amount of fuel available for fire to reach canopy.
  • Releases chemical that prohibits growth of many other plants in its vicinity – thereby creating a park-like setting in the under-story.