Barefoot in Suburbia

Homeschooling & Special Needs, Inspired by the Montessori Way

Geography–USA June 13, 2012

Last week, we began our North America continent study.  We decided to start with the United States, since clearly that would be a familiar topic for the kids. 😉  As part of our study, the kids planned an entire meal with foods common in the United States, and then they had to help prepare that meal.

Bug and Monkey chopping vegetables and preparing the salad.


Jedi flipping the corn on the cob & hamburgers on the grill.


The meal they chose–hamburgers, pickles, corn on the cob, applesauce, and vegetable salad.


And of course, one mustn’t forget dessert! Jedi chose to make Boston Cream Pie since he was born in Massachusetts. He did a really good job and only needed a little help!


The final result of Jedi’s cake baking! Not bad for 8 years old and only having minimal help! It was delicious…I think this kid has a future in the kitchen. 🙂



Montessori Monday March 5, 2012

Montessori Monday

Apparently I’m a week behind. 🙂  It occurred to me on Friday that I never published my posts from last week.  So, I’ll just combine them this week.

Monkey had a really busy week last week…in addition to schoolwork, she also switched to a new gym for gymnastics and had to to try-outs to find out what class she will be in.  She also tested for her next Tang Soo Do belt!  Monkey did very well at both–she’s such an athlete!

Monkey practicing at home for her tryouts.


Doing some bar work during her tryouts


Monkey at her Tang Soo Do belt test.


Here are some pictures of Bug and Monkey’s time in the school room the past few weeks!

For Mardi Gras, we brought out all the mess and dazzle we could. 🙂 The girls making purple, yellow, and green collages with glitter, feathers, and confetti.


Bug's collage


Monkey's collage


Monkey so happy to get to play with the glitter!


The kids also observed the first week of Lent. Here, Bug's looking at a picture from the Children's Catholic Bible about Jesus and the crown of thorns. Then, using some clay and toothpicks, she's making a replica of the crown of thorns.


We also started Operation Rice Bowl with the kids. Last week was Madagascar.


On Friday, we make a meal from the country we learned about. This is Vary amin'anana --a dish native to Madagascar.


Everyone in the family also wrote out their Lenten promises.


We also started the pre-k level of All About Reading. Here, the girls are making letter A's with wiki sticks.


Bug chatting with the zebra from the All About Reading kit


Painting blueberries on the letter B beehive.


Bug practicing her beading.


Using vegetables and tempura paint to stamp pictures and shapes.


Monkey also wanted to learn how to load the dishwasher. She decided she really likes this job!


Bug also decided she wanted to work with duplos this week (all the kids did a lot of work with legos after their schoolwork was done.) This is her first creation--an airplane!


Bug watercolor painting.


Jedi's Week in Review January 31, 2012

Filed under: Geography & Culture,Lower Elementary — Barefoot in Suburbia @ 5:27 am
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Here are pictures of Jedi’s week of homeschooling (after Monday’s focus on Vietnam and Tet of course).

We worked on several different painting projects last week. The first was blending tempura paint while the paint was still on the palette instead of blending it on the paper.


He decided to do a painting of Mario and some explosions.


The second painting project was blending the paint while on the paper to make a sunset.


After painting the sunset, Jedi added an entire alien invasion scene. 🙂


In science, Jedi learned about reptiles. Here, he's studying the skeleton of a venomous snake.


Studying a snake skin


Jedi was trying to compare the skin with the skeleton.


Studying basic facts about Vietnam--the language, main religion, population, type of government, etc.


In Ancient History, Jedi learned about the Philistines and made a replica of a Hearth Room.


Jedi also did his daily journaling for handwriting, as well as continued to work on vowel sounds and blends in spelling.  In math, he began learning about basic subtraction.



Chúc mung nam moi! Welcome to the Year of the Dragon! January 24, 2012

Filed under: Geography & Culture,Lower Elementary,Preschool Learning — Barefoot in Suburbia @ 6:11 pm
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I’m a bit late with my blog posts this week–I had laser surgery on my eyes late last week and my vision isn’t quite up to where it should be right now, so it’s hard to sit at the computer.  I’m hoping to catch up with all 3 posts today or tomorrow though!

Most people have heard that yesterday was “Chinese New Year” since erroneously, that’s what the vast majority of media outlets call the Lunar New Year.  What would surprise many people is that the Lunar New Year is not just “Chinese New Year”–many Asian countries celebrate the Lunar New Year!  It’s certainly not exclusive to China.  Since Monkey is Vietnamese-American, we celebrate the Lunar New Year using Vietnamese traditions.  In Vietnam, the new year is called Tet Nguyên Dán, or Tet for short.  Obviously, it’s difficult to replicate Tet without being in Vietnam, or at the very least, without having a strong background in Vietnamese culture.  But, each year, we add a little more to our family Tet celebration as the kids get older.

This year, we decided to take a day of school to learn more about Vietnamese culture and Tet, which is what we did yesterday.  Throughout the week, we’ll also focus a bit more on the country, as well as some of the Tet traditions.  Here is a review of what we did yesterday…

On Tet, trays of whole fruit are laid out--oranges are usually a big part of the tray. Also, Mut, dried and candied fruit, is usually eaten.


I pulled out some of our Vietnamese books from our home library so the kids can read them.


Jedi reading the girls the book Ten Mice for Tet


Playing some of the Vietnamese instruments


Learning the different signs of the Asian zodiac


Looking at some pictures from Vietnam


I brought out some of the lacquered items we picked up in Vietnam


The kids always love looking at the dong (Vietnamese currency)


Monkey playing with the dragonfly toy


All of the kids played B?u cua ca cop. Bau cua ca cop is a game that children and adults will play during Tet. You place bets on the game board as to which animal (or gord) will be rolled on the dice. I didn't have a game board, so I made my own from various pictures I found online.


The kids read How the Tiger Got His Stripes, a Vietnamese folktale. Then they colored a picture from the book.


Probably the thing the kids looked forward to most--lì xi. Red envelopes with "lucky money" are given to children by adults.


We decorated the dinner table with large faux cherry blossom branches.


In the Vietnamese tradition, celebrating Tet is referred to as "an Tet", or "eating Tet". Food is an important part of the Tet celebration. Here is our feast...we have some crispy spring rolls, Singapore noodles, various cakes and treats, Mut, Bánh chung, and Bánh tet chuoi. Our Bánh ch?ng and Bánh tet chuoi didn't come out like it should this year because we were missing a key ingredient--banana leaves! (By the time we figured out that we had run out, it was too late to get more...parchment paper isn't an effective solution. 😉 )


Chúc mung nam moi!!  (Happy New Year!)  An khang thinh vuong (wishing you security, good health, and prosperity!)



Jedi's week in review January 16, 2012

For art, Jedi learned about Michelangelo. To learn about sculpting, Jedi carved a face in an apple. After treating it with salt and lemon juice, we let it sit for the week. We have another week to go before it's fully dehydrated. After that, Jedi will use his new "shrunken head" to create a sculpture of a person (I'm pretty sure he said he wanted to do Darth Maul.)


One of Jedi's greatest school moments last week--he is adding 4 digit numbers! For those that remember, when Jedi left his private school, we had him tested by his psychologist to see where he was academically. For math, he was at the early kindergarten level and couldn't even add single digit numbers. Now, after just 6 months of homeschooling, he's on target for 2nd grade, adding 4 digit numbers!


In geography, we continued our 2 week unit on the United States. Jedi read about the lifestyle of children in various parts of the United States--he was amazed to see how different children live, even in our own country!


In science, Jedi was learning about amphibians. The first part of the week, he learned about the life cycle of the frog, and how the metamorphosis process differs from that of the butterfly.


Close-up of the models he used to observe the differences.


Jedi worked on making a metamorphosis wheel, with complete metamorphosis on one side (butterfly) and incomplete metamorphosis on the other side (frog).


For the second part of the week, Jedi learned that amphibians can hear even without ears. We tried a few different experiments to learn how animals like salamanders can hear with their legs. First, we used a slinky to demonstrate how sound waves compress and expand as they move. Then, we showed how sound travels better in some substances than through the air (by lightly tapping on a table and having the other person attempt to hear the tapping through the air, and then by putting his head down on the table...we repeated the experiment on the floor as well.)


To demonstrate how sound moves, we also did to experiments with the metal pan. First, we filled it with water, and then added single drops to the center to show the waves radiating out. Then we dumped the water out, flipped the pan over, and added salt to the pan. When we tapped on the pan, Jedi was able to see how the salt bounced and moved.


Jedi filled out the map of the United States, trying to name all 50 states. (He can't do it without looking at a map yet, obviously, but it was good practice for him to be able to take information from the big map and transfer it to the smaller map)


Jedi also learned more about the Washington Monument as part of his lesson on the geography of the United States. Since he visited the Washington Monument in October, it was good to re-visit the information he learned about it in October.


We also continued our work on ancient Egypt. Since the girls did a work where they excavated small toys out of a block of ice, Jedi wanted to do it too. So, we put some sand and the Egyptian figurines in a block of ice and Jedi worked on being an archaeologist, excavating the artifacts. Yes, the real mummies weren't buried in ice, but it was still a fun work.


After everything was excavated.


We had our first winter storm this year last week, and the kids really enjoyed school by the fireplace!


Montessori Monday January 9, 2012

Montessori Monday

It’s a pretty big week for Miss Bitty Bug–in a week, she turns 3…officially out of “tot school” and into the preschool age.  I can’t believe my little Bug is no longer able to do the Tot School blog hop!  And in just under a month, Monkey turns 5–almost kindergarten aged!  It’s an exciting time for the girls…but now mama’s missing the itty bitty stage–all my itty bitties are now big kids!

The girls enjoyed their first week back to the school room!  Here is their week in review….

The locks and keys work was put back on the shelves--both girls still love this work!


I used cotton balls to look like snowballs. Monkey loved using the tongs for this work, but Bug really just wanted to use her hands.


Bug got this for Christmas, so we put it on the work shelves. She loves this puzzle!


I brought back on the flag popsicle sticks puzzle as part of our World Geography unit on the United States


Bug making a torn paper collage. She loves tearing paper and gluing, so this was a big hit!


Bug using measuring cups and lentils to learn about volume.


Monkey working with the beads


Bug loved this work--using white tempura paint and glitter to fingerpaint a snowy scene


She was really getting into her fingerpainting!


Monkey? She HATES anything that gets her hands messy. She gave it a valiant effort, but hated every second of it. I'm not sure why she even chose it knowing how aversive it is to her, but she did. I think she really just wanted to get to the glitter part. 🙂


I did this work with Bug--gingerbread and gumdrop counting (this was from Musing of Me's kit from last winter)

Monkey with her 100 chain!


Bug playing with the figurines on the geography shelf




Vacation Recap #5: Costa Maya, Mexico December 23, 2011

Costa Maya was the final port of call for the ship.  And, I’m pretty sure that Costa Maya was also the favorite port of everyone in our family.  It had such a rich culture, beautiful beaches, a fun shopping experience, and a wonderful tour guide!  We couldn’t have asked for a better way to end the trip!


Our ship, the Carnival Dream, at sunrise in Costa Maya


We were in port by 7 AM (which was only 6 AM in Mexico) so we got to see the sun rise


The water was a bit rough though


The cruise port


Bug by the fountain


Beautiful morning!


We found a huge lookout tower and decided to climb it to get a good look at the surrounding city


It was a tall staircase!


My three little goofballs!


Feeding a baby tiger--he was there as part of a fundraising effort to raise money for a wildlife preserve/rescue


Isn't he precious?


Mexican flag waiving in the breeze


Once we were done exploring the port, we got on the tour bus for a tour of the city and an afternoon at the beach. Here is one of the several roadside restaurants we found.


Some little cottages


We stopped off at a small fishing village for exploring and shopping


Some of the handpainted items inside the main shopping area


One of the local restaurants


A building being constructed....we decided not to get too close. 😉

Some brightly colored blankets


After some shopping, the kids decided to hit the first of two beaches we visited


She's always happiest at the beach


Jedi and Monkey


The water calmed down a bit after the morning waves


Daddy with his baby girl


The kids were having so much fun!


After a bit of time on the beach, we boarded the tour bus to head to a private resort for some snacks and more beach time. Here, the water was a bit rougher, but the kids had fun chasing the waves


Digging a giant hole


The waves were getting pretty high


Bug decided to go pick up some shells....


...then quickly changed her mind


She did find a coconut she was pretty proud of


Afterwards, we headed back to the port


The kids loved this guy



Together, they decided to stage this. Everyone around us was cracking up laughing


Bug wanted a doll from every port--from bottom to top it is the doll from Belize, Cozumel, Honduras, and Costa Maya...and then a very happy Bug.


Vacation Recap #4: Belize City, Belize

The third port of call on our trip was to Belize.  Belize was very interesting–as the only Central American country where the official language is English, all of the signs were easy to understand (although kind of funny because the English in Belize is slightly different than the English in Ohio. 😀 )  In Belize, we boarded a bus to take a tour of Belize City before heading off to the Belize Zoo for the afternoon.

One thing about the Belize Zoo is that it’s not like a typical American zoo.  All of the animals in the zoo are native to the country and were rescued due to injury, death of a parent, poachers, or people who illegally purchase the animals as pets.  So, the zoo was a great way to learn about Belize’s native animals.

The other interesting thing is that if you’re used to the cages and barriers of an American zoo, you  have to be pretty careful in Belize.  The  cages are a lot less…thick?  Many of the animals were able to reach right through the cage, and there are no barriers between the cages and the guests.  Watching little fingers to make sure there aren’t any near the puma’s cage was a pretty big task for the day. 🙂

Belize, from the cruise ship. It was raining at this point, and the ship also has to anchor a few miles from shore. So, we had to take a tender in, which was an interesting ride--it was pouring rain and windy, so the poor little boat was being tossed around!


This cracked me up...a tiny shed acting as an immigration office.


Some houses in Belize


These were some of the houses in the area of town where teachers and lawyers tend to live




Jedi and Bug on the tour bus


One of the grocery stores in Belize City


This was a huge church where some middle school kids were doing cross country practice on the sidewalk


Bikes in the rain


Small markets and restaurants near a park


This reminded me so much of our time in Vietnam....people just working on the sidewalk quietly while the hustle of city life surrounded them


The channel that separates the two parts of the city


Jedi and the Boa Constrictor


Dave wanted to hold it as well




Spider monkey waving hi


Pretty native flowers


This was a really unique looking bird!


This bird was just gorgeous!




I couldn't believe how close we could come to this one!


I think this is the Gibnut


Jedi trying to see how the wingspan would compare with his own size


An alligator


But found an alligator to ride on




After the trip, the kids found a playground to play on for a couple minutes


Vacation Recap #3: Roatan, Honduras

Our next stop on our trip was Roatan, Honduras.  For this port, we chose not to go on the cruise excursion and instead we hired a private tour guide.  This proved to be quite the adventure–we were able to see a ton of things that are not available on cruise excursions.  We were also able to eat from a cute little local restaurant (although with Bug’s FPIES, even though we ordered something that should have been safe for her, she had a serious FPIES immune reaction to her meal).  But, I had the most delightful garlic fish, and the fish was caught right on the island that day!  We are not the type of travelers that enjoy sitting in the typical tourist destinations.  We love to see the culture, the day-to-day life, and experience the local cuisine and customs.  Our tour gave us that, and a lot more!

Our tour guide, Ann, from Victor Bodden’s tour company (Bodden Tours) was fantastic!  She was really patient with the kids and it was a pleasure having her show us beautiful Honduras!  And it was extra nice that her van was air-conditioned!  That was very much appreciated. 🙂

Beautiful Honduras early in the morning


We started off on the Mahogany Bay end of Roatan, but we ended up seeing most of Roatan by the end of the day.


Some music being played at the cruise port


I tried to take a lot of pictures of the "real life" aspect of Roatan


Look at this gorgeous view!! We did learn a very important lesson though..........always keep both feet on the dirt. The tour guide and our family went up to a deck that overlooked a very very steep cliff down to that beautiful ocean. I was holding Bug and the board we were standing on collapsed (it must have rotted out from underneath). Thank God all that resulted was a lot of bruises on foot had gone all the way through the board though. For the first time ever, I think I was thankful for my "childbirthing hips" which stopped Bug and I from falling all the way through. LOL!!! But hey, it was an amazing view, and a little adventure to boot!


There were some beautiful vacation properties and villas along the ocean


This was another gorgeous view of the ocean.


There is so much green in Honduras! Beautiful!

One of our stops that day was to Victor Bodden's Monkey Business. This place was so much fun!!! You actually got to go in the cages with the capuchin monkeys. This was probably the highlight of the day!


Bug wasn't fond of the monkey climbing on her head, so she very willingly let the employee hold her.


There were also parrots and macaws to hold.


This little guy was so friendly!


Monkey wasn't too fond of any animal that attempted to touch her.


Jedi and his bird


These are my new little buddies!


I love the monkey's face.... "Holy cow, this person's short!"


This little guy was a pickpocket


Toucan Sam


After playing with the monkeys and birds, we went for lunch. Here was the restaurant we ate at--the food was delicious, even though poor Bug had an allergic reaction to it. I'm glad we were able to eat in a local restaurant though, but we did learn not to have any more meals off the ship with Bug.


Beans & rice, garlic fish, & fried plantains.


After lunch, we took some backpacks full of school supplies to a local orphanage. The kids at the orphanage were all boys around Jedi's was fun to watch them all play soccer in the yard, even if my kids were too shy to join in.


The boys at the orphanage teaching another tourist (from a different tour group) how to play soccer.


At the end of the day, Ann took the kids and I to the beach, while Dave went ziplining through the jungle!


A warm day, beautiful white sand, and a gorgeous blue sea...what's not to like?


Vacation Recap #2: Cozumel, Mexico December 22, 2011

The first day and a half of our vacation, as well as the last day, were spent on the cruise ship.  I’ll recap those in a later post.  For this post, I’m going to recap our adventures in Cozumel!

In Cozumel, we explored the port, and then took a walk outside of the cruise port to see life in Cozumel.  We walked quite a ways in both directions just taking in daily life.  When it was time for our excursion to leave, we went back to the port to meet our tour guides.  They were going to take us to the same park that Dave and I went to on our honeymoon…Chankanaab National Park.  The first time we went, 9 years ago, we went snorkeling.  Obviously, snorkeling is out of the question with a toddler in tow.  Instead, we went swimming with the dolphins!  It was a wonderful experience (even though Monkey was freaked out the entire time.  She would not let the dolphin very close to her, and for sure would not let the dolphin kiss her.  LOL!)

Dave being pushed by the dolphin


Me, riding on the belly of a dolphin


Jedi dancing with the dolphin


This was about as close as Monkey wanted to get


Bug got kissed right in the face. She returned the favor by poking him on the nose.


Bug petting the dolphin


Monkey was freaked out. She did NOT want to touch it.


Gorgeous blue water in Mexico


The part of Cozumel we were in was called Puerta Maya


Beautiful buildings at Chankanaab


Towards the back of the park is an area of replicas of Mayan ruins


The park had tons of these guys running around the sidewalks as well


Jedi vs. an Iguana


Two of the kids and I in front of a waterfall


This was a funny replica...the kids all thought he was dancing


An alter set up


Dave and the kids and a replica


My babies in the sea.




A hermit crab the kids found


Playing in the lagoon