Science Center and Sledding – Weekly Wrap-up

This was one of the weeks we really enjoyed the freedom of homeschooling.  We stayed in our warm cozy house and got a lot of work done, but we also made time to go sledding when the weather was somewhat nicer.  The sledding made a nice recess / gym time and then we were back to work.  It felt good to be in control of our schedule instead of waiting to hear each day if school was in session or not.

Lightning Tube



Last Friday we spent some much needed time with friends.  Even though the boys didn’t care for baseball, the positive of giving it a try was meeting some super nice families.  One of the families also home schools, so we met them at the science center for a few hours.  The kids had a great time building and playing together.




Despite snowy roads, the boys had four soccer games on Saturday, and I finally got a much needed haircut and color.


Monday the snow finally stopped falling and although the temperatures were bitter cold we went sledding.  The sun was shining at our house when we set out for one of our normal hills.  The closer we got the more snow was in the air.  The boys had one nice trip down the hill and then it really started snowing hard.  Then the wind started to howl.  They got in 3 trips and I took 1 trip down before we decided to get back in the car.  Apparently we were in a lake effect squall.  We drove to a different smaller hill south of our house where the sun was shining and the boys had a good time despite the cold.

A cool thing happened in the snow this week, snow rollers.  Check out this news link for pictures and an explanation.


With all the bitter cold temperatures we did a fair amount of baking this week.  The boys practiced their lab skills by making cookies.  My Louisiana friends have all been posting pictures of Mardi Gras decorations, which put me in the mood for King Cake.  Living up north, like we do, there isn’t a King Cake season (Jan. 6 – Fat Tuesday), so I’ve had to learn how to bake my own.  It is so good fresh from the oven!

School work was pretty routine this week.  Reading, math, grammar, and writing.  E has been writing “The Adventures of Super Pig.”  It’s been really fun to see him enjoy creative writing.  He’s gotten proficient enough with typing to make the process much more enjoyable for him.

With all the cold weather outside we had a nice time snuggling up to read How to Train Your Dragon #9 : How to Steal a Dragon’s Sword.

I finally completely finished the roman shade I made for the playroom and posted “LEGO Organization” with before and after pics of the boys playroom.

Hope you all had a safe week this week and enjoyed the snow.

Happily linking up to:

Mary_CollageFriday weeklywrapup125



LEGO Organization

I have 2 boys 9 and 10 who love playing with LEGOs.  With both of them collecting sets for 5 years that has turned into a sea of LEGOs.

Recently we had the carpet replaced in the playroom and updated things to reflect their age and interests a bit better.

LEGO Play Room - Large EXPEDIT w/ Desk



We installed a large IKEA EXPEDIT shelf on one side of the room.  It works well for most of the LEGO sets, but some are too wide and ended up on top of the bookcase.  That’s okay with my boys, because they really just want to display those.  We also attached an Expedit desk and have been pleased with it.  Along the bottom shelves I used clear plastic Sterilite 23L storage bins.  There are some nice colorful box options, but the clear bins work better for us.




Our playroom has a nook.  In the past all the toys would end up piled in front of the bookcase making it inaccessible.  We went with another EXPEDIT shelf, a LACK wall shelf unit turned vertical, and a MICKE desk along with a LACK wall shelf.  The MICKE desk was perfect for the tight dimensions of the space.  My son likes the cozy feeling of the nook and this allowed him to keep his cave space.


Plastic Storage Drawers for LEGOs




Although they aren’t at all decorative the plastic drawers really help keep the space tidy.  The boys each have their own “systems” for storing pieces and parts.  Some hold mini-figs, others are small wheeled vehicles, and then there are some categories I don’t understand.  I’m okay with that, as long as they know where to find things.  The drawers are easy to pull out and the shallowness makes it easy to search for parts.





I thought about installing wood blinds, but wanted to avoid having too many shades of white, plus the room needed a little softness.  I decided to make a Roman shade out to the curtains I had originally made for their playroom back when they were preschoolers.  It turned out to be a nice piece of nostalgia.

The paint color is BEHR: Sparkling Apple.   I figure it will make a nice green screen when they start doing stop animation.  The color is bright and vibrant during the day, yet soothing and peaceful when the lights are turned down.

I’m a fan of before and after shots so:




Despite the appearance above the room really did work, and look okay, at one point when they were younger.  Then they wanted a desk and the LEGO collection grew and grew – it was time for a change.

I’m still working on getting some baseplates mounted on the wall, some hooks for medals, and maybe updating the art work.  It’s been about 5 months since the main bookshelves and desks were put in and they’ve done a great job keeping the room clean and organized.

Weekly Wrapup with Fibonacci Numbers

There is nothing like getting over a cold to make you appreciate the energy you have on a daily basis and make you feel happy about cleaning the house, doing the laundry, and cooking dinner every night.

I mentioned last week that I started keeping a log of our daily activities.  I’m so glad I did because it is really helping me be accountable for how our time is spent and be more diligent.

FLL Collage

Another congratulations to the RoboTigers FIRST LEGO League team!  They had their district tournament this past weekend and will be advancing on to State!  I know I’ve said this several times but the FIRST program is a great introduction to science and engineering.  It’s not just about the robot competition.  The FLL competition helps kids develop  research skills, presentation skills, and teamwork / professional skills.  The only downside is that I wish the kids had more opportunity to share their project ideas with the parents.  I would love to see what all the teams are creating.  I know one of the teams had a break away shovel to prevent people from lifting too much in a snow storm.  What a great idea!   IMG_0197Above is an example of what 9 and 10 year old boys read when they are allowed to read whatever they want.  For the most part this week was a back to basics kind of week.  We did however end each day with the boys working on a Rube Goldberg challenge (engineering is apparently a core subject )  So far they haven’t asked for any help, but I know it’s a bit more frustrating than they expected.  Hopefully next week we will have a picture or video.


Thanks to Lucinda at Navigating by Joy for sharing their math studies.  We checked out Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci,  and What’s Your Angle, Pythagoras? , and Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature.  It’s not the best time of year for us to look for Fibonacci numbers in nature, but hopefully we will be keeping them in mind come spring.  E was studying triangles and parallelograms in math this week.  Even though his studies didn’t include the Pythagorean theorem, it was a well timed addition.  Don’t you think a Fibonacci rectangle would make a cool quilt design?

Thanks to those of you who are sharing your No Spend January posts.  We aren’t officially taking the challenge, but just reading all you posts is making me more aware of what I’m spending.

Thank you to those hosting the Friday linkups:

weeklywrapup125     Mary_CollageFriday


Cold and Bitter Cold – Weekly Wrapup

DSC_1325I really struggled to find the right voice for the weekly wrap-up this week.  You see, I’ve had a cold and it seemed like this week was full of ups and downs.  The first week back after a break is always a tough one for me.  I would love to jump right back in with my goals, my schedules, and get some things accomplished.  The kids though seem to need some time to warm up to the idea of having a schedule again.  I’m learning to go with their pace,  knowing they are learning a ton while they are watching documentaries and Mythbusters and playing games (more on that later).

DSC_1268As I was thinking about the fact I didn’t take pictures this week, I realized I hadn’t shared our ice storm pictures from Christmas break.  They seemed like the perfect metaphor for this week.  The ice caused us all sorts of travel worries, but we were able to adjust.  A little planning and flexibility saved us from hours of tense driving.  Conditions were just perfect so that the trees and grasses were covered with thick coats of ice, but the roads stayed clear and there weren’t power outages in our area.  It was all spectacularly beautiful, in the light.  If you looked at the same scene from the other direction it was mundane.  The beauty was completely lost if the lighting wasn’t right.

Looking through the ice storm pictures reminded me of the importance of attitude and perspective.  If we look for the good in situations and people we will find it.  Some times we only see the beauty of a particular time in our life after we have passed through it.



Now on to what actually happened this week.

It was bitter cold for a few days, which made me very thankful we could just snuggle up in the house and ease our way back into “doing school”.  I felt bad for the kids and parents facing uncertainty about whether they would have school or not.

Since we were in a relaxed school mode but still learning a ton it made me realize I should be doing a better job of documenting our activities that don’t produce any written evidence.  I started a new Daily Log that I’m keeping alongside our Reading Log.  I’ve tried to keep a log in the past but in a handwritten notebook that ends up getting  misplaced.  I’m hoping that by moving the record to the computer I’ll be more diligent about keeping it.  I’ve kept our Reading Log up to date this semester so I’m hopeful by having them side by side I can make this stick.

I was mesmerized this week by how much information is available on demand.  My grandma used to tell me about all the ways the world had changed during her life time (she was born in 1901).  When I was a kid I just couldn’t imagine that things would change much in my lifetime.  Now I look at the way my kids are able to pull up a documentary about whatever they feel like learning about and I think, “Wow, that is a long way from 3 channels on a black and white tv.”  This week the boys chose documentaries on the history of  the Wizard of Oz, and North Pole exploration, and the Galapagos Islands along with several episodes of Mythbusters.

Despite public school being canceled our zoo class still met.  I was so relieved Zoo Class was still a go, because the boys LOVE to go.  This week they petted an armadillo,  a ground hog, and a bearded dragon. : )

Game playing was also big with the kids this week.  A couple years ago we got on a big Scrambled States kick and E learned all 50 states and most of the capitols just by playing the game.  This week we played Scrambled States, Quirkle, and Slap Jack (good for visual processing speed).


All in all it was a good week despite the battles with sickness, bouts of insecurity and occasional feeling of being overwhelmed when I looked too far into the future.

This is a beautiful journey when we remember to keep the right perspective!

Mary_CollageFriday    weeklywrapup125

4 Reasons Kids Really Like FIRST LEGO League


First let me say congratulations to the RoboTigers!  They had a great showing at their regional tournament and they are moving on to districts!  They won awards for Robot Design and the Regional Ambassodor Award for their work telling other kids about FLL.

FIRST LEGO League (FLL) is a great program designed to get kids interested in STEM activities and careers.  The entire FIRST program spans kindergarten through 12th grade with the FLL portion geared toward kids 9-14.

Each year the competition centers around a new theme.  This year the theme is Nature’s Fury – Prepare. Stay Safe. Rebuild.  Teams chose a community and a specific natural disaster the community faces.  The teams researched the problems people in the community face and came up with an innovative solution to help the community prepare, stay safe, or rebuild after natural disasters.  The teams are also expected to share their ideas with the people they want to help.

This summer some members of the RoboTigers were caught outside during a tornado warning with only a pavilion for shelter, so they decided to help their community better prepare for tornadoes.  The team researched tornadoes by skyping with a meteorology grad student, emailing a professor studying tornado safety, and reading about research regarding helmet use in tornadoes.  They also surveyed kids in their community and kids from Oklahoma to find out what they knew about tornadoes and tornado safety.  From their research they learned that most injuries in tornadoes are caused by debris.  They decided to create a portable Debris Protection System.


They designed an experiment to test the suitability of different materials.  Then they designed a few Debris Protection Systems using bike helmets, safety glasses, gloves, and “leather” capes.


They presented the Debris Protection System at a city council meeting and at a Cub Scout  Meeting.

The other portion of the FLL competition is the Robot Game.  I’m sharing a short 2:30 video of the RoboTigers at competition.  Not everything went correctly that day.  Sometimes that is just the way things work, slight variations in the table or mat between home and competition can make a difference.   For a complete overview of missions in this years robot game you can check out the official 28 minute video.

So what do the KIDS really like about FLL?  I asked the RoboTigers to tell me their favorite thing(s) about FLL.

1. It’s FUN.  They have a great time together as a team.  When they are really putting in the final push to get ready for a tournament they frequently eat meals together and have plenty of time to goof around.  Another nice aspect is the team stays together year after year.

2. Programming.  The RoboTiger team makes sure all the kids participate in programming the robot.  They really enjoy the sense of accomplishment when their mission works.  There is something really satisfying about making a robot do what you want it to do.

3. The Robot Game – The tournament atmosphere is really fun and high energy.  The kids have fun building the props for the missions and nicknaming the characters.  They enjoy planning the missions, running the programs and designing the attachments.

4. Designing an Actual Prototype – They enjoy the chance to come up with real world solutions.  This year they were able to develop a complete Debris Protection System and spread awareness that wearing a helmet during a tornado can save your life.  FIRST provides a great opportunity for kids to have their ideas heard and respected.

If you have a son or daughter you think might be interested in FLL stay tuned.  I’m working on more posts – including how to start a team and the aspects of FLL parents and coaches really appreciate.

Linking up at:

List_it_Tuesday      Highhill Homeschool