Yesterday I took three of the kids to the Renaissance Faire (my husband and my eldest opted for a lazy day at home). Much to my surprise, it wasn't as bad as I had feared, though it did rain a little. I didn't get the greatest pictures because my camera was acting up intermittently, but managed to take a few. While it was a long day, we all had quite a lot of fun.

This baby zebra and camel were completely adorable and clearly best friends. Unfortunately while taking a photo of them, I missed a shot of Maddie on her camel ride!

The boys greatly enjoyed most of the entertainment:

This falcon still had a hood on since it had only been captured last week:

Jaymon takes a much needed break (and agonizes over his decision to wear camo, LOL):

This was another rough week for school, though I'm proud to say that we did accomplish many of my plans. Last weekend I made the rather unorthodox decision to jump ahead to the Greeks, because I was getting concerned about how much time we've taken thus far (also, everything has been review for my eldest who was studying the Ancients in public school this year). We finished "Tirzah" over the weekend, thus ending our study of Ancient Egypt, albeit rather abruptly! If time allows, we'll revisit India and China this summer, after we cover Ancient Rome. Late last week I received several new TruthQuest History Guides and was pleased to discover that they use the Exodus as a stopping point for Egypt, so this helped to cement the decision.

We also took a slightly different approach this week - trying to integrate as many subjects as possible into our study of the Minoan civilization. This was somewhat successful, somewhat not since our Science, in particular, doesn't align 100%. I think if I'd had more time to plan, it could've been better, but we'll try again next week with the Mycenaean civilization.

Monday: As an introduction, we read the first four chapters of H.A. Guerber's The Story of the Greeks, we also read about "The First Greeks" from The Usborne Encyclopedia of the Ancient World. We learned about the geography of Greece and completed our mapwork. For Science, we read about "Ancient Lightning Rods," in particular, the spear-shaped masts on Minoan temples that archaeologists believe were used to attract lightning. Incidentally the masts are the same shape that Benjamin Franklin later recommended for lightning conducters after his famous kite experiment in 1752. In The Story of Science, we read about "Myths of Creation" and then concluded by reading from D'Aulaires Book of Greek Mythology. While I read, the kids colored pictures of Zeus and other Greek gods and goddesses from a Dover coloring book.

Monday evening we had an impromptu art and anthropology lesson. We watched The True Meaning of Pictures: Shelby Lee Adams' Appalachia about documentary photographer Shelby Lee Adams. A fantastic discussion ensued! The kids were both disturbed and intrigued by his images (in truth, I believe it was the poverty they found most disturbing), while I was simply fascinated because Appalachian culture has always been of interest to me. While I can understand how Shelby's work is controversial, I find myself quite drawn to his images. A terrific interview, which led to even further discussion, can be found here. The kids especially enjoyed the segment on the Pentecostal snake handlers (though again, they were equally horrified), as we'd seen mention of these sects in another documentary.

Elon and I also watched Peter Adair's 1967 documentary [on YouTube] entitled Holy Ghost People. The film was shot at a Pentecostal service in Scrabble Creek, West Virginia. Needless to say, I cannot wait until we study U.S. History and can delve into Appalachian culture (oh, and Folk Art!) in more detail. Sadly though, that's years away...

Tuesday: On Tuesday we covered Lesson 12 about the Minoans in The Mystery of History. We read about Sir Arthur Evans in Oxford First Ancient History, and several pages from
The Usborne Encyclopedia of the Ancient World. For Science, we read about ancient calendars and the boys created a sundial in our backyard. We read more from D'Aulaires and then somehow got into a discussion of brain surgery in ancient times. I believe this was related to reading about the discovery of a complete medical kit from the Minoan civilization, found in a tomb at Nauplion, on Crete. The kids were fascinated by the idea of brain surgery 4,000 years ago and downright shocked by the high survival rates. We also learned a little about Freshwater Leeches, thanks to several that Elon discovered in a local creek (ew!).

Wednesday: On Wednesday we started by reading part of SOTW Chapter 18 and then read about the Minoan palaces, the Palace at Knossos in particular, and daily life on ancient Crete. We took a Virtual Tour of the Palace at Knossos, examined close-up photographs of the palace on Flickr, and read about Minoan architecture (here and here). We discussed fresco painting and examined several Minoan frescoes in detail, comparing notes on our observations. We were supposed to make a fresco of our own, but that project got bumped to Friday. We finished up by reading from D'Aulaires.

Thursday: Thursday we began by reading the second half of SOTW Chapter 18 and then read about Minoan religion and bull jumping. The kids colored this page on Theseus and the Minotaur while we listened to Greathall Productions' "Heroes in Mythology: Theseus and the Minotaur" (a longer version of the story read in SOTW), then we discussed the labyrinth in history, Medieval churches in particular, and learned the significance of the Old English word clew. We did some research online about the archaeological evidence (or lack thereof) of the Minotaur's labyrinth and learned how to draw a classical labyrinth (an online tool can be found here). Initially I'd planned to assemble the labyrinth with river rocks, much like this, but we ran out of rocks! The boys and I were quickly frustrated trying to draw one, but Maddie figured it out immediately.

Friday: Friday ended up an especially light day since one of the kids had an appointment and I wasn't feeling well, so I did school from the couch. We read about the Greek gods in our TruthQuest History and SOTW Chapter 23, we learned about the Phaistros Disk, Linear A and B, and Michael Ventris. We also read Atlantis: The Lost City and of course, D'Aulaires Book of Greek Mythology. Our fresco project has been delayed until later this evening or this weekend because the kids are currently holding a boat building competition (using popsicle sticks). I guess that works since the Minoans were excellent ship builders and developed the first Navy!

The dolphin fresco in the Queen's Megaron at the Palace of Knossos is going to be our inspiration for the frescoes:

We'll be using this set of instructions. I'm a bit stressed that we've already put it off and are now postponing it again, especially because I really want to do it! I guess we'll have to see what's realistic though, we've already got a Renaissance Faire to attend this weekend and the kids are so insanely excited about that, I don't dare change our plans (even though I have no idea how I'll manage it!).

I should mention that in addition to the above work, we managed to get through daily Math lessons and a single CLE Reading lesson, but that is all (and yes, I'm hanging my head in shame). I'm still trying to figure out a way to make Language Arts easier on myself until I am feeling better, because right now there's simply way too much and I can't handle it. Also, I received semi-official confirmation today that one of my boys is dyslexic, so I need to seriously re-think some of my teaching methods. The doctor wants me to enroll in an intensive course that will teach me how to teach reading, writing, spelling, and speaking using a multi-sensory approach but it is insanely expensive. Tremendously valuable though, I'm sure. However, until my brain is a little less "scattered," I'm not sure I'd be able to get through the graduate-level work right now, ugh. To add to my frustrations, my neurologist added another new prescription to my repertoire today - one that is known for causing memory loss and confusion, just what I needed (not!)! Oh well, we'll see what next week brings - hopefully it will go more smoothly!

I decided that I'd better do a quick post so that I'm not completely overwhelmed by Friday. I know that I've been whining the past few weeks, and I'm so sorry, but this week really takes the cake. My headaches have returned full-force and my new medication for them makes me so tired and nauseous, it takes tremendous willpower to get out of bed - and stay out of bed - each day. I have been exceptionally unproductive, which is completely distressing (especially so since I'd made some ambitious plans for our school week before I knew this was coming!).

The good news? I've read some anecdotal evidence that PTC does affect memory and the ability to concentrate. My husband always teases me for being so "scatterbrained" (and yes I have been lately, badly so) but at least now I have a logical explanation, LOL. Anyway, the way it's been going can't work long-term, so I desperately need to find a "Plan B" or we'll never get any schooling - or work - done!

Anyway, without further ado, here's a small part of our week thus far...mostly just some fun stuff. Over the weekend (before "The Headache"), we baked 3 types of bread. Here's Maddie kneading her dough:

She also (finally!) spent days playing with the Quadrilla sets she received for Christmas and became quite proficient at building all of the various configurations:

Elon spent the night at his friend's house again and found a new creek to explore, bringing home more treasures:

Also, the new fairy house arrived! Here is Maddie, carefully cutting away the bubble wrap:

Even the giant box it arrived in proved loads of fun...all of the kids took turns taking "bubble baths" in the packing peanuts:

Finally, the new house. A few pieces broke off (including a piece of the stained glass in front, but we couldn't find it), but for the most part it was intact, so we were happy.

It's a bit smaller than our custom house had been, thus a little crowded, but Maddie feels that the fairies are quite pleased with it (and happy to have a new home!).

Lastly, our wheat grass has been growing like crazy! Even though I started it very late, we had a full basket by Easter Sunday. I'm not as certain about the other seeds I planted, I think the wheat may be choking them out, though you can see below that one has started growing:

The boys were totally impressed by the roots...this is from the seed I started in a terra cotta saucer:

Here's Elon trimming the grass (a job he loves!):

Rest assured we have had actual school every day this week, but I'll have more on that tomorrow.

As I'd feared, there hasn't been much school to speak of this week. Thank goodness we plan on schooling through the summer! I've been kept extremely busy running from one doctor's appointment to another, but I think I'm finally finished with all of that (I hope!). The doctors have diagnosed me with pseudotumor cerebri (PST) or "false brain tumor," which was the best possible news, even though it isn't exactly great. Essentially PST causes headaches and vision changes (due to an excess of cerebrospinal fluid which builds up pressure) and can lead to vision loss if left unchecked. I had severe hemorraghing behind my right eye and swelling in both eyes, but I'm still waiting to see if there's been any vision loss. For now, they've started me on Diamox and gave me the Spinal Tap on Wednesday. When I had the Spinal Tap I was told that a "high normal" pressure level is 20 - mine was nearly at 40 (which certainly explains the intense headaches I've been having!). So that's done and now I'm left with an atrocious backache, but no dreaded spinal headache, thank goodness! Actually, I have no headache at all, which is truly a blessing...also my neck pain (which has remained constant, despite surgery) is gone!

In the midst of the above craziness, I've got one child down with the flu, two with sore throats and a cold and one covered head-to-toe in poison ivy (again!) and hives. Good grief! It seems we just can't win sometimes. And the weather has been utterly crazy! In the past twenty-four hours we've had temperatures in the 70's, followed by rain and a tornado watch, followed by snow! Today it's warm again, LOL. Now here's a little of what we have managed to accomplish this week...Tuesday the twins spent the night at a friend's house and ended up exploring a nearly dry creek bed. This resulted in some unexpected discoveries and an impromptu geology lesson! Among the treasures they dragged home (two very heavy backpacks full!) - two huge rocks that they thought were granite:

A rock with crystal formations...we thought this was calcite, but hydrochloric acid yielded no bubbles:

Some very cool quartz-like crystals that proved softer than quartz (we haven't managed to identify these yet):

An unusual specimen chosen for it's streaked appearance (it looks like a fork was dragged across it!):

And more quartz-like crystal formations on the edge of a very normal-looking rock (they also found these crystals inside rocks that they broke open):

The crystals don't appear to be salt, so we're honestly not sure what they are - despite checking online and in our rocks and minerals books. So, we're mystified, but they're still pretty cool and I love that they were sufficiently inspired by our recent geology study to bring some specimens home to me.

We planted our living Easter basket (a bit late, as usual!). Here are the seeds, before a top layer of dirt was added:

The basket includes lots of wheat (for wheat grass), orange and gold nasturtiums and violas in a range of blues with golden centers for contrast (plus all are edible). We read some stories for the second day of our Nowruz/Ten Days of Spring Celebration, which the kids are thoroughly enjoying.

We also tried out the tie-dyed Easter eggs. Yesterday our kit from Mahar Drygoods arrived and I promptly headed to Goodwill to find a glass or enamel pan (because of course I neglected to see that on the required supply list!). Three thrift stores later, I finally found both a tiny glass pan and a large enamel pan, in addition to a large supply of silk neckties to supplement our kit. While taking apart the neckties was a bit tedious, the end results were so worthwhile - the kids loved this project (as did I!)! I'm almost tempted to run out and buy more ties today, not that we need them! Each tie can easily color 4 eggs and while the silk can be re-used, the results are less stunning the second time around. The narrowest parts of the ties can also be sewn together to form a large enough piece to cover an egg. I think I also want to try using an old stocking to keep the silk in place. Yesterday we wrapped the eggs rather quickly and where the silk bunches, no dye transfers. For anyone without a kit, a complete tutorial can be found here. It's super easy and so much fun, I highly recommend it!

Here's the pile of ties we started with, thirteen in all:

Some close-ups:

Many of the finished eggs (I just realized I forgot to rub them with vegetable oil!):

Today we've still got our psyanky to try, which I've been procrastinating on because I'm completely intimidated, this Braided Easter Egg Bread, and whatever other last minute projects I come up with. Next week we'll be back to school as usual, I promise!

Yesterday was the day our fairy house was scheduled to arrive. Unfortunately, it was also the day I was scheduled for a spinal tap, so I missed UPS when they came. I had warned my boys to be on the lookout for UPS and explained that they were not to touch the box when it arrived because it would be extremely fragile. Imagine their surprise then to see the UPS driver pull up in front of our house, kick and then toss the box of the truck, and proceed to roll it up to the porch (mind you, the box was not even the least bit heavy!). Did he miss the big red "Fragile" stickers all over it?! I suppose it should've been no surprise that when I opened the box, our beautiful fairy house was virtually in pieces - despite all of the extra careful packaging (ironically, it had been packaged by a UPS Store!). My heartbroken Maddie began sobbing immediately. Every day prior we'd had to check the UPS tracking number to see where her house was because she was so looking forward to it, in particular, because it had been made especially for her birthday.

Here are a couple of pictures of the house when it arrived:

The entire structure had a huge crack up the back, a crack in the front (as shown above), the second floor had come loose, stained glass was cracked and broken, the twig railing on the tiny bridge had been broken to bits, numerous bits of moss and twigs were broken off and a chunk of the back wall had fallen off (and since it contained the battery pack for the lights, it was pretty essential!).

After calling to file a rather irate claim with UPS and e-mailing the artist, I yielded to Maddie's mournful plea to "just do something, fix it!" I spent hours with the hot glue gun, trying to piece back a part of the magic that had been...Let me just say, this gave me an entirely new respect for the work Rachel does on these homes. Gluing little bitty twigs and other equally fragile materials is hard work!

My results weren't entirely successful, but I did fix many of the broken bits so that we were able to put the furniture in the house and enjoy it's beauty for a few hours. We added a new gnome from Painting Pixie that arrived at the same time as the house and she fit perfectly!

This morning UPS arrived to pick up the house for inspection (yeah, silly me, I shouldn't have bothered to repair anything!)...the driver was even rougher with the house than yesterday's had been - shoving it repeatedly to make it fit back into the box, which resulted in some unpleasant cracking and further damage I'm sure. He just laughed and said "Well it's trash anyway since it's already broken" (this promptly sent Maddie into another fit of tears!). So, there we have it. The house is gone, though the artist, Rachel, is sending us "The Great House" today as a replacement, which is very kind. Maddie's still very upset that *her* house is gone, but I'm hoping the new house will cheer her up at least a little. It's all just a sad situation, especially since I know Rachel takes such care with these homes, to ensure that nothing is broken - all of her Etsy feedback has been very positive in this regard.

For April we're keeping our book basket selections simple since it's such a busy month! The books are as follows:


April 15: Leonardo da Vinci by Diane Stanley; Leonardo da Vinci born April 15, 1452.

April 20:
The Flower Hunter: William Bartram, America's First Naturalist by Deborah Kogan Ray; William Bartram born April 20, 1739.

April 21:
Glass Town: The Secret World of the Bront' Children by Michael Bedard; Charlotte Bronte born April 21, 1816. Earth Day: Squirrel and John Muir by Emily Arnold McCully and
John Muir: America's First Environmentalist by Kathryn Lasky.

April 23: Bard of Avon: The Story of William Shakespeare by Diane Stanley; William Shakespeare born April 23, 1564.

April 26: The Boy Who Drew Birds: A Story of John James Audubon by Jacqueline Davies; Audubon born on April 26, 1785.

Today I stumbled across this very cool Tie-Dye Eggs Kit from Maude + Claude at Mahar Drygoods. The kit contains everything you need to create paisley, striped, and polka dotted Easter eggs using recycled vintage neckties. Each kit is only $8.95 and orders placed before April 8th should arrive in time for Easter. We can't wait to try it out!

What a week this has been! We started out on Monday with some blatantly disobedient children and plenty of grumbling about how "boring" school is, then Tuesday I went to see a neurologist and everything really fell apart from there. Since November I've been having daily spells of dizziness and blurred vision, occasionally followed by everything going black for a moment or two. On Tuesday I learned that I have papilledema - swelling of the optic disc, caused by increased intracranial pressure.

Wednesday, I had an MRI/Brain Scan and today I received a call from my neurologist's office telling me I'd need to see an opthamologist (for the papilledema) on Monday, meet with the neurologist again on Tuesday so that he could talk to me, and have a cerebrospinal fluid exam/spinal tap on Wednesday. They would not tell me what the MRI results were, but said that everything is being scheduled based on the findings. Lovely. I've had chronic headaches for years and was told many years ago that I had a few small "cysts" that were perhaps causing them, but I've never had them re-checked until there is the worrisome possibility that they're causing this somehow, or that it's something else. Either way, this is stress that I did not need - especially since my husband is losing his job and our *health insurance* at the end of this month.

So, my way of coping with everything? Lots of my French pop favorites,'s been a week full of Cocoon and The Dø, and to a lesser extent Julien Doré ("Les Limites" is awesome for it's sheer absurdidity - some of the parodies are also quite amusing), and even Sebastien Tellier (ew!)...strange yes, but music is very soothing to me. Needless to say, school has been hugely disrupted this week and now will apparently be screwed up next week as well. That's discouraging, though as much as possible I'm going to try and maintain our schedule, even though I failed miserably this week. I find it very hard to focus on school (or work, for that matter) when I'm seriously stressed out, however there must be a solution, because it doesn't appear that the stress will be going away anytime soon.

And now, on with our weekly report - we managed to accomplish two actual semi-full days of lessons - Singapore Math, Rod & Staff Grammar, and a CLE Reading lesson to cover the basics, plus we continued reading "Tirzah" in History and learned about the Ark of the Covenant, Amenhotep IV, Hatshepsut and Tutankhamen in "The Mystery of History" and "The Story of the World." This month's National Geographic Magazine had a cover story on Hatshepsut that we enjoyed. For art, we experimented with some Waldorf-style wet-on-wet watercolor painting. I'm sure there was more, but for the life of me I can't remember what!

We also started on our very belated Nowruz/Ten Days of Spring celebration (which would normally begin on the first day of Spring and was the start of the ancient Persian New Year), learning about the history of the holiday and reading a story from Iran for seeb/sīb (apples) the first day. I think we'll probably cover a day or two per week since our schedule is already quite full, and besides, we're not celebrating the holiday in the traditional sense, but rather we are using it to learn more about Persian culture and to celebrate the arrival of Spring.

We set up a part of our Haft Sîn table. Haft Sîn or the seven 'S's is a major tradition of Nowruz. The haft sin table includes seven items specific starting with the letter S or Sīn in Persian alphabet.

The Haft Sin items are:
  • sabzeh - wheat, barley or lentil sprouts growing in a dish - symbolizing rebirth
  • samanu - a sweet pudding made from wheat germ - symbolizing affluence
  • senjed - the dried fruit of the oleaster tree - symbolizing love
  • sīr - garlic - symbolizing medicine
  • sīb - apples - symbolizing beauty and health
  • somaq - sumac berries - symbolizing (the color of) sunrise
  • serkeh - vinegar - symbolizing age and patience
Other items on the table may include:
  • Sonbol - Hyacinth (flower)
  • Sekkeh - Coins - representative of wealth
  • traditional Iranian pastries such as baghlava, toot, naan-nokhodchi
  • dried nuts, berries and raisins (Aajeel)
  • lit candles (enlightenment and happiness)
  • a mirror (symbolizing cleanness and honesty)
  • decorated eggs, sometimes one for each member of the family (fertility)
  • a bowl of water with goldfish (life within life, and the sign of Pisces which the sun is leaving)
  • a bowl of water with an orange in it (the earth floating in space)
  • rosewater, believed to have magical cleansing powers
  • the national colours, for a patriotic touch
  • a holy book (e.g., the Qur'an, Avesta, Bible, Torah, or Kitáb-i-Aqdas) and/or a poetry book (almost always either the Shahnama or the Divan of Hafez)
Thus far, we have an Easter Lilly (in place of Hyacinth since any type of Spring bulb can be used):

Sumac berries, garlic, candles, and a mirror (I'm not sure who placed the gnome there!):

Also apples and goldfish:

We also baked some delicious bread from a recipe included in the Earthschooling April curriculum, and enjoyed a couple of the stories and verses provided:

Since I very seldom take the time to bake bread, the kids thoroughly enjoyed this treat. For science, we started experimenting (to be continued this weekend) with natural Easter egg dyes. The kids had a lot of fun trying to guess what color dyes would be produced and were quite surprised by the actual results! The red cabbage was especially interesting when we added some baking soda. It went from a very foamy teal and midnight blue:

To a green that nearly bubbled over! I later realized that I added *way* too much baking soda, 1/4 cup instead of 1/4 teaspoon (oops!).

These were our eggs this morning, after removing them from the dye (the eggs on the left were dyed by a beet, the eggs on the right with red cabbage and no baking soda):

After sitting for about an hour:

Hmmm...the eggs in the green [red cabbage and baking soda] dye were a very faint mossy green, so I've decided to let them sit longer in the hopes of developing a darker color, though I think the excess baking soda has eliminated that possibility. We're also started some barley and wheat sprouts to plant for a variety of projects: a living Easter basket, a story garden and of course, sprouts/grass for our Haft Sin table.

Lastly, and most importantly, today is Maddie's 9th birthday. We'll be having an official birthday dinner at Grandma's this evening, but she's already received one present - an itty-bitty pinecone that Elon found for her:

Naturally, she loves it. :-)

We had to postpone our roadtrip this weekend due to the threat of rain and cold weather. That's a bummer, but I'm hoping that in a few weeks it will be nice enough to get out. As for the "52 Books in 52 Weeks" challenge, I am still participating but have gotten horribly delayed by my current book, "Kept: A Victorian Mystery" by D.J. Taylor. It's quite dense which makes it rather slowgoing.