Dragon Theme Birthday Party ~ Another Success

Several weeks before his birthday, I showed Buddy the Wilton Yearbook and asked him to select a cake (and thereby a theme) for his party. My assumption was that he would select Diego or Lightening McQueen from Cars and that I would thereafter purchase the specified pan … a relatively simple undertaking. However, the cake he selected was 3-dimensional and required both fondant and buttercream icing. Substantially more involved than I would have liked. I certainly couldn’t refuse, however. So, Dragons it is …

Dragon Theme Birthday Party

I spent some time researching ideas on the internet… games to play, foods to make, unique treats for the goody bags. I found a very cute graphic online that I used on the invitation and on the goody bags.

GOODY BAGS

  • I found a candy mold with a dragon image so I made hard candied lollipops for each of the party guests (banana and orange flavored).
  • A Dragonology bookmark
  • A Fourth of July ‘popper’ (more left over fireworks from the summer)
  • A scratch-off ticket I designed whereby all tickets were winners. The kids exchanged their winning tickets for a mini dragonology figurine which I discovered on Clearance at Fred Meyer. This was a huge hit!!

ACTIVITIES & GAMES

  • Egg Carton Dragon Craft

Before the party, I cut purple egg carton cups down the middle, into long, 6-cup, rows. I hot-glued google eyes onto plastic easter eggs for the heads and DH drilled two small holes into the back end. Finally, I cut green pipe cleaners into small lengths. When the kids arrived they poked a piece of pipe cleaner into the back of the head and twisted it through the hole in the egg carton to attach it. They then decorated the body with glitter glue and sequins and stuck a red feather into the mouth for fire.

  • Dragon-Foot Relay

Before the party, I cut four claw-foot shapes from cardboard. Divide your guests into two equal lines and give the first person in each line two feet. These feet become the only thing they can step on as they travel from the front of the line, around a chair, and back to the start. Begin with the first two players placing one of their claw-feet on the ground and stepping on it; then, they place the other foot on the ground and step on it. They continue this all the way around the course and then return to the line. When they reach the finish line, they hand the two feet to the next person. The relay continues until everyone has a turn. The team that completes the course first wins!

  • Dragon Tag

Basically, the kids line up and hold onto the waist of the child in front of them. The person in front is it and tries to tag its tail (the last child in the line). Once he succeeds, he moves to the end of the line. {We didn’t actually play this one as we were inside – certainly didn’t want anyone getting hurt or something getting broken.}

  • Dragon Egg Relay

Again, divide your guests into two equal lines and give each child a spoon. Each child has to carry a dragon egg on their spoon to the other side of the lawn and back again. If they dropped it, they could just pick it up. We used glittery easter eggs I found at a local party store.

  • Hunt for the Dragon’s Lair

I showed the children a page from Dragonology that describes how dragons hoard treasure in their lairs. I had made up a treasure map before the party, and told them that an old dragon-hunter had given it to me. The map wasn’t very specific, and as most of the children can’t read yet, I embellished our hunt orally as we went along. I wanted to make sure that the children weren’t scared. As we followed the map, we found dragon scales in the desert (small abalone shells in the sand box), and a few jewels that the dragon dropped along the way (plastic treasure jewels). We knew that we were getting near the lair when we found all the baby dragons out playing (small plush dragons). Inside, the kids found the dragon’s treasure: more jewels, chocolate gold coins, and Mardi Gras necklaces. I think that this was the best part of the party in the children’s eyes. They LOVED the treasure hunt! The kids put everything that they found in the dragon’s lair into their goody bags.

THE CAKE

I am generally pretty critical of my creative endeavors, but I was very pleased with how the cake turned out. Certainly room yet for improvement but I actually enjoyed making this one and I didn’t stress out about it! Everything came into place in time. Buddy loved it! Looking at the pictures now, I am actually surprised how similar the cake and invitation/goody bag graphic are… the cake just needed wings!

In the end, the guests enjoyed the games and my little man was all smiles.  The dragon theme birthday party was a roaring success. 

Our Iditarod Unit Study

With great anticipation, our Iditarod Unit Study has begun.  Over the next few weeks, we’ll be following along with the mushers as we also learn about the history of the race, the ecology of Alaska, and integrating numerous other activities across the curriculum.

We made our course map or outline of the route with checkpoints marked.  I think it may be too small (we’ll use it but if we do it again next year, we’ll likely create a bigger map). Sweetie loves geography and shortly after we created the Iditarod map, she made a map of Oregon on her own. :)

We also selected our mushers. As we live in Central Oregon, we didn’t put too much thought into our selection, we knew we wanted to go with Rachel Scdoris. In fact, we hope we will get a chance to meet her soon. We also selected 2 other Oregon mushers, Cliff Roberson of Corvallis and Liz Parrish of Klamath Falls. As we have strong familial ties to Norway, I also selected a Norwegian musher, Sigrid Ekran. Next year, if we choose to do it again, we’ll likely be more statistical in our selection.

We have read a few books, most notably Woodsong by Gary Paulsen. I was a little sad to learn he has pulled out of the race this year. We read Whale in the Sky by Anne Siberell and Sweetie asked if we could make a totem pole. I’ll post more about this little project later, but until then, here is a sneak peak.iditarod unit studyAnother book we recently read is The Bravest Dog Ever, The True Story of Balto by Natalie Standiford. When we finished reading, Sweetie said, “I want to draw Balto. He is the best dog ever.” Here is her drawing;
Iditarod Unit StudyAs she worked, she narrated a summary of the book, “Some kids were sick and Balto was the leader of the dog race. He pulled the sled with the medicine for the sick kids. When he was pulling the sled, Balto stopped and the guy said, “Go!” but he didn’t go because the ice on the river was cracking. The man was happy. They got the medicine to the kids in 5 1/2 days. Gunnar and Balto were heroes.” A few inaccuracies but overall she nailed the basic idea.

Narration is one of the key characteristics of a Charlotte Mason education. Telling later without prompting is very characteristic. Your child should be able to tell Daddy what they read when he comes home or Grandma over the phone this weekend without referring to the book. You want to know what ideas caught her mind, not get a formal book report. This is a skill we’ve been working on more and more. Right now she verbalizes her narration but as her writing skills develop, I’ll ask that she also write her narrations.

We also try to incorporate daily copywork. I love the Draw Write Now! series of books and we are currently using the Polar Regions edition. Here is a sampling of her work;

To read of our later endeavors and activities in this unit study, see my later post Our Iditarod Unit Study: A Summary of Our Activities.

Chinese New Year Party

Although we had finished our unit study of China, Sweetie wanted to have a Chinese New Year Party to commemorate her studies. We thereby left all her ‘China’ projects out for display and hung paper lanterns for decorations. We invited the neighborhood kids to join us in the celebration. Unfortunately, most came down with a bug and were unable to come to the party. It was therefore a small but very relaxed atmosphere.

newyear2009When the party guests arrived, Sweetie greeted them at the door with “Ni hao”, dressed in her Mulan costume from Halloween ’06. The kids then got started on a couple of craft projects: a paper kite (the Chinese were the first to fly kites) and paper lanterns just like those that hung from the ceiling. I was very pleased that everyone enjoyed the activities and worked well together. Buddy was the only one who wasn’t interested in crafting, instead he took a few photographs and wandered about visiting with his friends.

When the kids finished their projects, they gathered in the living room and watched an episode of Sagwa that I had recorded the day before. My kids love Sagwa! I had tried to get the book from the library (I had checked it out previously) but when we checked on Monday, not a single book about China or the Chinese New Year was available.

While they were engaged in the story, I finished preparing our afternoon snack: pot stickers, egg rolls, and BBQ pork. I encouraged everyone to at least try everything but ensured them that they didn’t have to eat it if they didn’t like it. The BBQ pork was a big hit – the egg rolls, less so.

Following our meal, we ventured to the front yard and enjoyed a dozen or so fireworks that I had left over from the 4th of July (we didn’t get the opportunity to use them in the summer – too dry). This was by far the highlight of the afternoon.

When the kids departed, I gave each a Chinese to-go container with shredded metallic red paper, a fortune cookie, a small firework, chopsticks, a pencil and a Valentine chocolate heart (I had them handy!). The treat boxes were adorable and the kids loved them! Another party success!

Carcassonne: Board Game Review

The kiddos received the Carcassonne Big Box Game for Christmas and Sweetie has been wanting to play it non-stop ever since. I suppose I can thank our friends Bar and Kong for her love of games. Every Labor Day Weekend since she was an infant, they have opened their home to all their friends/family for a weekend of gaming. From Thursday evening to Sunday afternoon – their home is a game-lovers haven. Wall to wall game tables and throughout the house, people are enjoying their favorite games, learning to play new ones, eating wonderful food (Kong is a fabulous cook and everyone brings treats & drinks to share), and enjoying one another’s company. Previously, we’ve played only the basic version. Since then, we’ve added two expansion sets – The River Expansion and The Princess & The Dragon – to our repertoire. It is a great game for young gamers because once they have been shown how to play, they don’t need to be able to read. At the games end, however, a little assistance is needed to help determine the score for each player or team.

We played twice yesterday; each game taking at least an hour to complete. Sweetie is catching on remarkably… I don’t have to help her with strategy anymore. She understands where to place her meeples to get the most points and works the charms of the fairy (Princess/Dragon expansion) to her advantage. On occasion, however, I do need to remind her of the rules (she’ll change her mind after her turn and want to move tiles or her meeples). She beat me yesterday by a huge margin!

Watch out, Bar & Kong! She is already asking, “How long until BarCon?”

I Love China: China Activities for Kids

My daughter, Sweetie, is my guest blogger today.  She shares some of the activities she enjoyed through our China Unit Study.

China Activities for Kids

I have been learning about China. These are some of the things I have made. The first one is a map that I made. The map shows the Himalayan Mountains, the Gobi Desert, and the Yellow and the Ygantze Rivers. China is west of the Pacific Ocean. The yellow section shows where they grow rice. The green is where wheat is grown. Rice is white and is a very important food in Asia. The capital of China is Beijing.

The Great Wall is in the northern part of the country. The first emperor of all China, Qin, built the Great Wall to keep other armies away and keep China safe. He had his people build the soldiers to keep him safe when he died. The soldiers were found by farmers digging a well. I made a model of the terracotta soldiers.


This panda is made of Model Magic. Pandas live in bamboo forests and like to eat bamboo and honey. When baby pandas are born, they are orange and very little. The mom is very protective. Pandas are endangered. Some people try to kill them for their fur. Also, their forests are sometimes cut down for building new places for people. Pandas then have less space to live.

I have been making a lapbook about China. It has lots of mini-books and pictures. Here a couple of the mini-books. One is a mini-book of animals in China. The other one is a book of words about China.


I love learning about China. I hope to visit China when I am older.

Admin Note: Sweetie dictated to me what she wanted to say about each photo. I helped elicit more details by asking questions.

Our Approach to Learning

Hello. I am the mother to two energetic children and wife to an incredibly supportive husband. I have always loved watching the kiddos learn and grow as we experience life together. So much so, that in the fall of 2007, we began our homeschooling journey. I am having a blast homeschooling Sweetie (5) and Buddy (almost 3) in beautiful Central Oregon.

I am a National Board Certified Teacher and taught for 6 years in a public school (4 years as a middle level science specialist and 2 years in a self-contained 5th grade). Let me state for the record that when I decided to homeschool my children, I was honestly intimidated. All my teacher education had brainwashed me. I was convinced that parents couldn’t possibly teach their own children. It had to be done in an institutional setting… professionals with specialized training and expertise.

I happen to have a teacher’s certificate. But even now, as we have just begun our homeschooling journey, I have learned more academic material, more about how to manage individual relationships with children, and more about how to teach than I did in any of my teacher-education courses. Teacher-education courses gave me a great deal of good information on how to manage large groups of children. I needed that in schools, but a parent doesn’t need it to teach at home.

In our homeschool, we have a nature-centered “curriculum” and use a unique blend of materials and methods suited to our lifestyle of learning. We take our cues from the rhythm of nature and the children’s many and varied interests. We read a lot! As well as do lap/notebooking and many craft projects. We also enjoy photography, scrapbooking, cooking and traveling. We enjoy sports and participate in a variety of athletic endeavors (Taekwondo, dance, running, kayaking, swimming, etc.) depending on the season and what is happening in life.

Our approach to education is largely based on the classics with a heavy emphasis on reading and writing. It is structured around the trivium which comprises grammar, logic, and rhetoric as the tools by which a student can then analyze and master every other subject. Loosely, logic is concerned with the thing as-it-is-known; grammar is concerned with the thing-as-it-is-symbolized; and rhetoric is concerned with the thing-as-it-is-communicated.

It is largely literature-based, a little Montessori, a little unschoolish, a little unit-study, a little Thomas Jefferson, a little Charlotte Mason, but mostly just us! We call is us-schooling and it suits us just fine. We hope that you’ll join us on our journey. Feel free to join in on discussions, share your experiences or simply wish us well