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I just wanted to post a quick follow-up to my St. Patrick’s Day post in which I declared that we would be making this cake or these cupcakes today.    I opted for the cake after I read lots of comments following the cupcake recipe with phrases like “this took a lot of time” or “time consuming,” etc.  Ours was something of an ill-fated project from the beginning:  I spilled a little bit of the batter after I added the water to the cake mix, so I guessed at how much water to put back in.  Then, I realized that we only possessed two eggs, not three, as the recipe demanded.  Last, Louise managed to drop an entire bottle (the bottle too, not just the contents) into the bowl of batter she was tinting.

All things considered, I think it turned out pretty well.  The girls agree. 

Happy Spring!

Friday’s Vintage Find:: The Story About Ping (and some Go-Alongs and an Art Activity, too)

The Story About Ping probably doesn’t need much of an introduction, but I wanted to share a few of the books we read and an activity we did in relation to this story.  For those who are unfamiliar with this classic tale, it’s Marjorie Flack’s story of a little duck named Ping who lives with his large family on “a boat with two wise eyes on the Yangtze River” in China.  The ducks all leave their home during the day to hunt for food, but once the sun begins to set, the Master of the boat calls them back.  It is unfortunate, though, to be the last duck to return; this duck always receives a spank on the back.  One day, Ping is running late, and rather than be the one to get the spank, he decides to not return at all that night.  What follows is a short little series of adventures which end up with Ping almost becoming a duck dinner.  He learns his lesson, though, and decides that home’s best, spank or no spank.  Marjorie Flack (who also wrote and illustrated the Angus stories) first published this book in 1933, so it’s a real classic.  Kurt Wiese‘s illustrations are colorful and depict the action in the story very convincingly for the preschool set.  (As a side note, Kurt Wiese spent some time in China and later in Australia as a prisoner of war of the Japanese.  This is where he discovered and honed his talent for illustrations.  Interesting, huh?)  The Story About Ping is really too good to miss, which is why it’s included in the first volume of Five in a Row.

We didn’t “row” this book fully, and I decided to dispense with the lapbooking this time.  As much as I want to, I just can’t always make myself love lapbooking.  It’s a love-hate relationship, I guess.  I think that if my children were older and had the motor skills necessary for lots of writing, etc., I might like it more.  I’m not crossing it off the list yet, but I think it will be something we do sometimes instead of all the time.  What we did, though, is share several other books set in China, as well as celebrate Chinese New Year with the reading of The Story About Ping
The book I liked the most that we read is Arlene Mosel’s Tikki Tikki Tembo, a book which certainly deserves its own Friday’s Vintage Find post.  Tikki Tikki Tembo is a book I remember from my own childhood–I loved it!  It takes some practice (or familiarity, at least) to read it well, but the effect is worth it.  Another more recent book we enjoyed is The Moon Lady by Amy Tan.  I was curious to read something by an author I previously knew only as an author of adult fiction, and neither I nor the girls was disappointed.  This book, as well as the books I highlighted here, were perfect to go along with the Chinese New Year festival.  We read a few more, including some nonfiction titles to provide some visual images of the Yangtze River and life in China, etc., but these two were the best picks.

In addition to doing a lot of reading, we also incorporated an art activity into our “study.”  Storybook Art by MaryAnn F. Kohl and Jean Potter is a resource I often turn to for suggestions of art activities to really focus on some of the techniques of famous children’s book illustrators.  It’s chock full of good ideas.  One hundred illustrators are highlighted in this book, so in all likelihood, if it’s a classic story, it’s included in Storybook Art.  This is where we got the idea to make a duck template and repeat the pattern.  (Please excuse the glare and the shadow of my head, etc., on the pictures.  I took these in the afternoon, and while the afternoon sun streaming through our schoolroom windows is lovely, it makes it difficult to take good pictures.)

This first picture includes the one I made.  Until baby brother arrives and is old enough to participate, I suppose Mama will always have to create art, too, to fill up our three frames!  🙂 


Louise once gain had her own idea about how this art activity should go.  Her boat does have “wise eyes,” though.

Lulu included not only the ducks, but also a fishing bird that appears in the story.  (I think the birds are actually cormorants.)  Do you see the “wise eyes” on her boat?

Last, no study of another country is complete without at least looking at a map!  I’ve still yet to get our map up on our school room wall, but I did pull it out so we could find China and the Yangtze River.  The girls loved this! 

I’m linking this post to this week’s stART at A Mommy’s Adventures.  This is a great meme to which bloggers link their children’s literature-related art activities.  Won’t you consider joining in?

Read Aloud Thursday

 It has been a crazily busy week here at the House of Hope, with a couple of doctor appointments and a day trip for Steady Eddie and me on my birthday.  (Bless him, he worked hard to rearrange his schedule so he wouldn’t have to spend the night out of town on my big day.  It was still a work trip for him, but I got to putter around and spend an inordinate amount of time browsing in a huge bookstore, so it was a good day, at least for me.  What a guy!)  I said all that to say that although we have lots of books from the library, we’ve had a hard time getting to them this week.  I’m pulling a couple of books that we enjoyed several weeks ago, instead, and sharing them this week.  Hopefully next week I’ll have more current read-alouds to share!

Easy Work!  An Old Tale is an adaptation by Eric A. Kimmel of an American folktale, and my girls thought it was hilarious.  I’m not sure, but I think it might be because Mr. McTeague dons his wife’s dress, bonnet, and apron, as you can see here on the book’s cover.  Andrew Glass did a marvelous job of visually translating this very funny story.  The story, in a nutshell, is this:  Mr. McTeague thinks his wife, in all her housewifely duties, has it made.  She sees a golden opportunity (and he thinks he does), so they agree to trade jobs for a day.  Well, predictably, things don’t go very well for Mr. McTeague.  His homekeeping catastrophes are really funny, especially as he devises ways to make the work easier for himself.  In the end, though, he learns his lesson:  he’d rather leave the homekeeping to his wife and return to his work with the oxen in the woods.  I see from Eric A. Kimmel’s website that he is a very prolific writer, especially when it comes to folktales from around the world.  I’ll definitely keep him in mind as I plan for next year’s schooling!

The other book I’m sharing today is one that I’ve wanted to share for a long time, but I’ve been waiting for the time to give it its own post.  I’ve since decided that that’s probably never going to happen (and the library is finally going to just give me the book since I’ve had it out for so long 😉 ) and that I might as well just give it a spot on today’s Read Aloud Thursday.  The book? Harold’s ABC  by Crockett Johnson.  I’ve mentioned my love and appreciation for Harold and the Purple Crayon before , and it turns out that there’s a whole series of Harold books.  This one is obviously an ABC book; the story takes Harold through the alphabet from A to Z, with him drawing with his ever-present crayon all the way.  Harold’s ABC is every bit as clever as the first Harold book, and it even inspired me to encourage my girls in a little bit of bookmaking of their own.   I suggested to the girls that they use this book as a model; Harold’s illustrations are based on each letter of the alphabet (i.e. “C is for cake” and voila, the letter C is a layer cake with a triangular slice cut out).  I realize now that this might be too abstract a concept for a five year old and a four year old, but they had fun working on their little books.  We used the “Book on a Stick” concept for our creations.  Lulu’s book is entitled “Lulu’s World of Adventures with ABCs.”

This is her G page.  This is a gorilla, and if you look closely (and think backwards 😉 ), you’ll see that the gorilla’s claws (nails?  what do gorillas have?) are shaped like g‘s. 

One more:  this is her J page, and naturally, these are “jumping j‘s” on a trampoline. 

Of course, Louise was included in this activity, too.  I’ve already mentioned that she loves making books, but as it turns out, she prefers a more open-ended exercise.  Her first page is of a lovely green caterpillar. 🙂

Now we just need to go back and add the text to our books, and we’ll be done.  Oh, and I need to have a  manicure ASAP.  😉

Now it’s your turn!  What have you been reading with your family this week?  Leave a link below to your blog post in which you discuss your read aloud selections, or simply leave a comment.

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Have a fantastic Read Aloud Thursday!

ETA:  I am linking up this Read Aloud Thursday post to a fun meme called stART over at A Mommy’s Adventures.  This meme is for posts which combine stories and art.  Check it out!

Chinese New Year

When I read about the Chinese New Year contest that Jimmie‘s hosting, I thought this week would be the perfect time to take a break from the human body study we’ve been working on for the past three or four weeks (and which I hope to post about in the near future) and add another Five in a Row title to our list:  The Story About Ping.  The obvious connection here is the setting, since Ping is set in China.  However, I’ll save my thoughts and our activities pertaining to the prodigal duck for another post.  This post is about how we “celebrated” the Chinese New Year on Monday here at the House of Hope.  I thought a day spent in celebration would be a good way to introduce Ping, and, well, I can’t pass up a contest.  😉

For us, of course, it is all about the books.  I have very little knowledge about China and its customs myself, so I hied me to the library and brought home all the resources I could find.  I checked out the requisite nonfiction series titles about China, none of which are stand-outs.  However, I find that such books provide as much background information as we need (I pick and choose what to read), and they also often provide excellent pictures to provide a landscape for what we learn.

Two books, though, really did the job of “showing” us what a Chinese New Year celebration might look like.  The first one is an oldie–Moy Moy by Leo Politi, first published fifty years ago, in 1960.  Granted, this is a story set not in China, but in Chinatown, Los Angeles.  It’s the story of a little girl named Lily (called Moy Moy, or “Little Sister,” by everyone in her neighborhood) and her four brothers and the preparations and time period leading up to Chinese Near Year.  This story does a great job of putting a face on the celebration–namely, Moy Moy’s face.  This is perfect, since my own little girls are close in age to her.  We learned about many Chinese New Year traditions, but the ones that made the biggest impression on my girls are the lion and dragon parades.  This story is very engagingly told, and the illustrations are colorful (in that 1950’s way 😉 ) and interesting.  This is one that I think my girls would listen to over and over again. 

The other book is one I just used as a resource, but I wanted to mention it because it’s a good one.  Moonbeams, Dumplings, and Dragon Boats:  A Treasury of Chinese Holiday Tales, Activities, and Recipes is a book written by Nina Simonds and Leslie Swartz with the help of The Children’s Museum of Boston.  It is just what it says it is:  a book which contains all kinds of fun things to read, do, and eat that center around Chinese festivals and holidays.  The only thing I actually used out of this book this week is the instructions on how to make a paper lantern, but if a study of China is something you plan for your children, I think this would be an almost indispensible aide.  The craft activities and recipes are interspersed among folktales, etc., so it’s a book that could be useful in many ways.

Okay, so what did we do, besides read?  🙂

First, we made paper lanterns.

After this, the girls were inspired to create their own illustrations based on the Chinese calendar.  I mistakenly told them that this new year is the Year of the Dragon (sorry, Jimmie!), hence Lulu’s dragon:

Louise’s started out to be a dragon, but she changed it mid-drawing into an octopus (“with ears”):

We spent a few moments looking at Jimmie’s own Happy New Year post.  Best of all, we had lunch from our favorite Chinese restaurant, thanks to Steady Eddie and yet another snow day that kept him home from work.  🙂

Thanks, Jimmie, for the inspiration to do this!  It was a lot of fun!

Katy and the Big Snow::Lapbook and Related Activities


In this last installment of the Katy and the Big Snow series here at Hope Is the Word, I wanted to share a few pictures of the lapbooks we made and the artwork we did, all inspired by Katy.  Let me admit up front that I am NO lapbooking expert, as you will soon see.  😉  In fact, after a few attempts last year, I had all but sworn them off.  My girls didn’t seem to get it, or to care one way or another.  I didn’t really get it, either, in fact.  Now I see more value in them, especially after perusing such blogs as Jimmie’s Collage (see her lapbooking category, specifically, but don’t miss her living in China posts, either–some of them are very funny!).  Obviously, her student is much older than mine are, but now I see just what potential is contained in these little projects.  I also really like the fact that Jimmie employs the Charlotte Mason method in her homeschool.  I’m currently having a philosophical crisis as to which direction we should take next year in our homeschool, and there may or may not be a post about that in the future.  🙂

Anyway, back to lapbooking.  For Katy and the Big Snow, I almost exclusively used ideas and resources from Homeschool Share.  (The direct link for the Katy resources is here.)  Honestly, a hodgepodge of activities with no rhyme or reason behind them is not exactly how I like to do things, but for students as young as my girls, I think it’s probably okay.  (I admit that at this point in our home educating journey, I need some hand-holding.)  Besides, that’s how Five in  a Row works; it’s a collection of such varied titles that there really is no theme at all.  (As a side note, this issue is one reason I like Jimmie’s Collage so much–her lapbooks are used primarily for narration, etc., and I like that.  I can see the purpose in it–I just have to remind myself that her daughter is older than mine!)  I think the activities I chose for us to use for our Katy lapbook, though, were meaningful for my girls.

I had the girls draw a picture of Katy for the cover of their lapbooks.  Unfortunately, I chose manila-colored (is manila a color?) drawing paper, which made for a rather visually boring project (minus the girls’ drawings, of course).  The first one is Lulu’s, age 5.  Louise, age 4, liked her drawing of Katy so well that she didn’t want me to cut it, so we ended up putting her first drawing on the back and she made another picture for the front.  Thus, the next two pictures are her handiwork.

(This is a picture of the “bacry” (bakery) in Geoppolis.   That’s Katy drawn in pencil in the upper left-hand corner.)

Next is the inside of Lulu’s lapbook.  Louise’s looks the same, except for the fact that almost all of the activities required more fine motor skills (and patience!) than she currently possesses, so she was essentially along for the ride.  Her drawing skills, though, are par excellence!  🙂  The inside of lapbook itself is where things look a little rough from the teacher end.  (Why, oh why must I be a perfectionist?)  When I look at it, though, we covered a lot of territory:

  • math:  addition word problems made up from the story, counting by fives, and patterns
  • science:  a week-long weather log and compass/compass rose introduction (with daddy)
  • character development:  the meaning of the word responsibility and personal application
  • handwriting
  • vocbulary:  lots of discussion about horsepower and compass/compass rose

The little math worksheets are part/whole circles for addition.  We use RightStart Math, and this is one of the ways addition is introduced.  I was quite proud of myself for figuring out how to make those worksheets in Word, and then I promptly forgot to save the document.  Ah, well–at least I’ll get lots of practice in making them!  😉

We also spent some quality time with our watercolors in some Katy-inspired artwork.  I even got in on the action–that’s my picture (copied straight out of the book!) at the top of the post.  (In addition to being a novice at lapbooking, I am also quite unskilled as an artist.  But I do enjoy it!)  After we got started, I realized that watercolors were probably not the best medium for this type of project, but we were already too far in to turn back.  It’s difficult to read, but Lulu’s piece is a building (the highway department, maybe) with “Geoppolis” on the front. 

I feel like the whole idea of lapbooking and studying different topics based on a common story came together with this Katy and the Big Snow experience. Our study was punctuated by Lulu’s sickness, but I still think she got something out of it.  One thing that we didn’t include in our lapbook that related to this story was our Bible memory work.  Before Christmas we had been working on Psalm 34 , but that sort of fizzled out with all the Christmas activities, etc.  (I believe we got down to about verse 14 or 15.)  However, once we got back into our normal morning routine, I decided to go with something shorter.  Candace’s use of the hymn “Whiter Than Snow” in her snow unit inspired me to come up with a snow-related verse, so we learned Isaiah 1:18:

“Come now, let us reason together,”
       says the LORD. 
 “Though your sins are like scarlet,
       they shall be as white as snow;
       though they are red as crimson,
       they shall be like wool.”

This turned out to be the perfect short memory passage since we actually had a little bit of snow!

If you’re interested in backtracking and reading all of my Katy and the Big Snow related posts, here are the links:

Before I end this marathon of a post, I wanted to share a little piece of our schoolroom.  Back in September, Steady Eddie and I made a dash over to Atlanta to purchase some things for our room.  This marked our inaugural visit to IKEA (!!!), and I brought back these little red frames from there, among lots of other goodies.  These frames are sized 8.5″ x 11″, so they’re made for artwork. 

I hope to one day soon give you a tour of our schoolroom.  We use it every day, and we’re thoroughly enjoying having our own space.  I just need to tidy it up a bit (and keep it tidy long enough to photograph it!) and finish up a few little projects.  Stay tuned!  🙂

Messy Monday::Watercolor Leaf Garland

whole closeup

Unfortunately, I am often not struck with creative inspiration until the eleventh hour.  Such was the case last Tuesday, the first day of autumn.  Lulu had garnered this little tidbit of information somewhere, and she was champing at the bit for some fun art activity to celebrate the  arrival of fall ere I even hinted there might be an artistic pursuit that day.  I began to cast about in all my usual places for inspiration, but every project I found required either art supplies we did not have on hand or leaves that had not been subjected to two weeks of almost incessant rain.  Finally, I donned my own thinking cap and came up with the idea of making our own seasonal decorations for our work-in-progress school room to complement our first handmade garland gracing the right-hand window.

The Supplies


  • watercolor paper
  • watercolors and brush
  • water (not pictured)
  • leaf templates (I used these, but any will do.  For younger children, the simpler the better.)
  • scissors
  • pencil or pen
  • yarn
  • hole punch (I used 1/8″.)

The Process

  • Print out and cut out your templates. 
  • Trace the cut out shapes on the “back side” of a piece of watercolor paper.  (No, I don’t think this paper has “sides”; just trace the shapes on the side you don’t intend to paint on.)  You could even free-hand simple leaves for an even easier job.  Try to fit as many shapes on the paper as possible.  Your paper should look something like this, minus the shadow of my wet hair:

leaves on paper

  •  Turn the paper over and let your children go to town with the watercolors.  I like to tape down the corners of the paper to a plastic placemat, just because this happens to be the only table we currently use for anything in our home that requires a table:  eating, school work, studying, game playing, etc.  When we finally get into our school room and have our art table to use, I will likely dispense with this formality.

hand and watercolor



There’s really no rhyme or reason to this, other than to fill up the page with color:

paint all over paper

  • Let the painting dry.  My girls did this before rest time, which is usually about 2 p.m., and I continued with the following steps a few hours later.
  • Turn the paper over and cut out the leaf shapes. 
  • Punch two holes near the stem (or where a stem would be) of the leaf.  The holes should be about 1/2″-1″ apart, depending upon the width of the leaf.

close up 2

  • Put the leaves in order in whatever way pleases you and your little artists.  We had different sized leaves, so we went for an alternating large, medium, small effect.  (Actually, I went for–the girls were gone to music class when I did this part.)
  • String your leaves on a piece of yarn wide enough to fill your window space, with enough “give” to swag.  Thread the yarn through the left hole from back to front, then back through the right hole from front to back. 

close up 1

  • Hang your garland across your window (or door, or wherever you want it), stand back, and enjoy!

finished product

We are quite pleased with how this came out.  This was the perfect art activity for a five year old and a three year old, since all it requires is the ability to fill up a piece of paper with color.  Of course, the cutting out could also be done by older children or by younger children if the leaf shapes are simple enough.  I can think of several other uses for these beautiful leaves, as well:  card embellishments, place holders for an autumn brunch or dinner, door or window decor–really, the possibilities are endless!

Storm in the Night Go-Alongs

Our first FIAR selection of the year, Storm in the Night, spawned a study of clouds, thanks to one of the science lessons presented in Five in a Row volume one and a few things I saw on Homeschool Share.  By the time we finished our readings and activities, Lulu (and sometimes Louise, too) could converse freely about types of clouds and offer our opinion about whether a cloud is cumulus, stratus, or cirrus.  As a family, we also discussed nimbus clouds and even dabbled a little bit in the more complex cloud types:  nimbostratus (or is it stratonimbus?), cumulonimbus, altostratus, etc. 

To introduce the idea of clouds and to expose my girls more to reading nonfiction (we have the fiction part down), I borrowed from the library a number of weather-related and cloud-related nonfiction selections.  Most of them were series books, and really, most of them were just okay, nothing terribly inspiring.  I will mention one here, though, just because I happen to really like the author.  🙂  Tomie DePaola’s The Cloud Book is a fun resource for cloud study because it contains more than just the rudimentary information on types of clouds, etc.  It delves a little into the history and mythology associated with clouds, as well as weather forecasting based on clouds.  Although it contains more details than my girls really need to know at their ages, Lulu will always remember that cirrus clouds look like “mare’s tails.”   😉  With DePaola’s trademark illustrations, this one is a great volume for a study of clouds.

Really, though, nothing beats just going out and looking up, right?  We did a lot of that, too. 



nonfiction_mondayThanks to Sherry, I’ve found a new carnival to participate in!  😉  I’m linking this post over at Bookends Blog for this week’s Nonfiction Monday.

Messy Monday::Storm in the Night Art Activity

I’ve been working hard at incorporating more intentional art activities into our weeks. My girls go through phases of making things on their own, and they have used up reams of paper in their endeavors (and left little giblets all over the house, too). Art is very important to me, and I want it to be important to them, too, if they’re bent that way, so I keep at it. My goal is to include an art activity for every FIAR book we “row.” (For the uninitiated, Five in a Row books are rowed instead of read or studied, since the idea is to read them five days in a row.) Often, the art activity will be something actually suggested in Five in a Row, but I am finding that some of these activities are still a little too much for my kindergartener and preschooler. Thus, I go searching. I found this nifty little project linked over at The Crafty Crow and decided it would be a good fit for us in our rowing of Storm in the Night. Since we have read and enjoyed two of the suggested book selections already (including It Looked Like Spilt Milk which I reviewed here), I decided to introduce the girls to another one of Eric Carle’s wonderfully illustrated books, Little Cloud. In this story, the title character transforms itself into lots of shapes until called upon to perform his real job. This one seemed to me like the perfect choice for the project at hand. Eric Carle’s wonderful books are so accessible to the younger set, both in terms of text and illustrations.

Here’s a little peek into our art activity:


Cloud Book, sans any identifying information 😉

Lulu writing

Filling in a blank with a little help

Louise writing

My lefty, who currently LOVES to write

Lulu bear

Five year old handwriting

Louise bear

Three year old handwriting

Storm in the Night was a great book for our first kindergarten FIAR selection. I’m waffling a little bit right now on how much I want to do with these books. I see all the lapbooking possiblities out there for these wonderful books, and my mind goes into overdrive in planning mode, but I don’t think I’m a lapbooker at heart. However, rather than think that we’re slacking because we’re not “doing” anything with these books, I’m trying to go with the original intent of the Five in a Row philosophy. Heather at Blog, She Wrote, whom I think of as the FIAR Queen, really settled my mind on this matter with this recent post.

Messy Monday

color wheel garland

I have grand plans when it comes to crafting with my children, but I don’t usually carry them out.  The mess factor deters me too often, but I am turning over a new leaf as a homeschooling mother.  😉  My goal is to do something intentionally artistic with them at least once a week.  Often these projects will relate to our current Five in a Row selection.  However, for our first week of kindergarten, I was inspired by the September 2009 issue of Family Fun magazine.  When my eyes caught the blurb below the title of this craft in the magazine, I knew I had found something perfect for us:  “Color Wheel Garland:  This project involves ripping paper and swabbing on glue–which made it irresistable to our preschool testers.”  I can do this, I thought. 

I had to let go of my perfectionism (an ongoing task), but it was worth it.  The girls had a great time choosing pages to tear out of our used-bookstore issue magazines (recyling!), ripping them into bits (fine motor skills!), categorizing them by color (sorting!), and mod-podging them to the cardboard circles I had prepared from old cereal boxes  (motor skills, mess, and recycling!).  A few hours’ drying time, some trimming, and we have a colorful garland to hang in our work-in-progress school room window. 

I might get used to this.  🙂

(For more kid-friendly artistic inspiration, check out The Crafty Crow.  I’ve seen this blog around for a while, but I’m only beginning to investigate it.  I think it will be a great resource for us!)