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Friday, September 21, 2012

Milk. And goats!

Week two of the Harvest Time Curriculum is about milk.  


Milk: From Cow to Carton
We liked this book.  It wasn't too wordy and we could skip the details that were starting to bore Kessa.  It must have done it's job, though.  The day after we first read it, she was sitting at the kitchen table drinking milk.  Suddenly she stopped, thought a moment, then proclaimed, "Milk.  Cow!"

Beatrice's Goat
This is a really cute book about a girl in Africa who really wants to go to school, but can't afford it.  Then someone donates a goat to their family (information about the charity who does this is in the back of the book) and she is able to use the money from selling the goat's milk to pay for school.  I think it is slightly above Kessa's level, though.  She's sat through the entire story twice, but she doesn't get excited about wanting to read it again.  I'll bet if we do this curriculum again next year, she'll be ready for it.


Technically the activity is a butter battle.  You put some cream in a jar and let your kid shake it and then put the rest in a mixer and see who is faster, kid or mixer.  I knew this wouldn't fly with Kessa.  She'd probably have shaken it for a grand total of maybe 3 seconds.  Then she'd be done.  And probably want me to finish.  So we just skipped that and instead just made butter.  We've been talking about doing it all week, but timing just never worked out.  On Friday Uncle Travis was here and he cut off a piece of french bread, but we were out of butter and Kessa was Not Pleased with this, so I whipped out the heavy cream and stuck it in the mixer.  5-10 minutes later, we had butter!

And a byproduct of making butter is buttermilk!  (I find it very humorous that buttermilk is the liquid left over when the butter is taken out.)  We put it in a half-pint jar to make something with later.  Mmmm.  Can't wait!

Field Trip:

The suggested field trip is to go to a bakery.  I thought of a better, and more applicable field trip, though.  Our friend, Emily*, raises goats.  So Wednesday morning we got up early and headed up to her place to milk some goats!

It was definitely a fall morning.  One of the first this year.  Abby woke up with cold toes, so she got socks and both girls got long pants and long sleeved shirts.  I thought that would be sufficient.  But when we got there Kessa kept running to spots of sun because the shade was just too cold!  (She is just like her mommy that way.  She despises cold.  This is the first year she's been able to express that, though.  Winter should be fun.)

After Emily came out, we headed out to the … barn?  Anyway, the milking area.  We let one goat in at a time.  Pictured is Mercedes.  Emily milked Claire after this, but I didn't get any pictures of it.  She's brown, in case you're curious.  They are Nubian goats.  Emily walked Kessa through every step of milking.  The goats run right up onto this milking platform, because they know they get grain up there.  The wooden slat around her head keeps her from moving around while milking.  I doubt she would have anyway.  She looooved that grain.  Here Kessa is holding the bowl they'll milk into while looking at the grain Mercedes is eating. She eats a grain mixture (of corn and … oats we think?) and alfalfa pellets.

Next step, wash your hands and the goat's teats to make sure everything is clean.  She also squirted one squirt of milk off to the side, just in case there was any dirt just inside the teat.

And then it was time to milk!  Kessa loved to watch it.  (Gotta love the Instagram picture.  It's the one I took to send around and post on Facebook.)

Kessa surprised me by wanting to help milk.  I didn't think she would, being my cautious child and all, but when I told her a few days before that we were going to go watch a goat get milked, she got all excited and asked if she could do it, too.  I agreed and have been talking it up to her ever since.  But then the night before she stayed up too late so we had to wake her up early that morning.  She was tired and even more shy and cautious than normal, so I wondered if she'd still do it.  But she did!  Emily squeezed the teat up at the top while Kessa squirted the milk out into the bowl.

Afterwards we went hunting for eggs.  We found a bunch in this hole in the barn.  Kessa was scared to reach into the dark until Daddy did it.  Then she did it, too.  We found 6-7 light green eggs.  (Pictures below.)  Emily let us have two of them.  One for each hand.  Kessa had to carry them everywhere after that.  Into the car, into the house.  But she was very careful and didn't break any.  I was actually glad that Kessa insisted on bringing some stuffed animals (Racky and Dave the panda) on our trip.  They made perfect cushions for the eggs.  :)

Then we brought the eggs and milk back into the house (you can see the bowl of eggs on the counter in the background) and strained it through a cloth into a glass jar.  To get out any little bits that managed to sneak by us.

Kessa liked watching it drip.  Emily gave us a half pint of goat milk to take home to taste with the instructions to wait until it was cold.  So after dinner that night we poured each of us a little taste (and Kessa had a cup of cow milk, too, leftover from dinner).  We concluded that it was hard to tell if cow and goat milk have different flavors, because we were comparing raw goat milk to homogenized/pasteurized 2% cow milk.  The goat milk was creamier (duh.  It's whole.) and had a slightly … wild flavor to it.  (Best description we could think of.)  But I've had raw cow milk before, and I would say it has a wild taste to it, too.  I remember my dad telling me about doing milk tasting panels in FFA and they had to figure out what the cow ate.  I don't remember all the foods, but I definitely remember that one of them got into a wild onion patch!  Now I wonder why store-bought milk doesn't have the wild flavor.  Maybe the heat from pasteurization kills flavor?  Maybe because those cows don't get to eat pasture and instead all get the same diet of hay and grain so there is no variety of flavor?  Hmm… my bet is on the latter.

Emily also has a very large dog named Chalcy.  (Look Abby and I were there, too!  So is BJ.  We never got a picture of his face, but he's standing behind Kessa in the above picture.)  She liked to stare right into Abby's face.  Until BJ would go to take a picture, then she'd go away.  She's just like a child that way.  :)

She is unlike a child in that she is VERY obedient.  See that mat on the floor in the corner?  Every time Emily would say "spot!" Chalcy would return to that mat.  But it made me laugh, because she's so big that she could put her back legs on her mat and still have her front legs halfway across the room.  Do you see how big she is?!  She's about as tall as Kessa!  She loves people, too.  So she would come up and try to get you to pet her.  Kessa was intrigued, but super scared, too.  Cautious child, remember?  Here she is reaching up for Daddy to pick her up.  When we were loading up in the car, BJ was asking her about the trip.  When they talked about Chalcy, BJ asked if she scared Kessa a little.  "Yes!  She kept trying to kiss me!"  Hahaha.  Love that girl.

Unrelated to milk except that they were gotten during the goat milking expedition, are eggs!  Kessa was so excited to have green eggs.  She'd open the fridge and point to them and yell, "Green eggs!"  We used it as an opportunity to teach her about how different kinds of chickens lay different colors of eggs. 

And then we fried them for breakfast.  Seeing another teaching moment.  There were two eggs and three of us, so we used one white egg from the fridge.  I asked Kessa if they were the same or different.  She said they were the same.  I asked if she thought they were the same or different on the inside (we had talked about how they were all chicken eggs, even if the shell color was different) and she thought they would be the same.  So we cracked one of each open into the frying pan and she was shocked to see that one yolk was "brown!"  (It's really orange.)  So then we talked about how Emily's chickens get to walk around and eat anything they want.  They eat grains and bugs and stuff.  Their eggs are really nutritious and their yolks are orange. But chickens that lay eggs to be sold in the store are all packed together in a barn and they don't get to eat outside.  They only get to eat the grains and stuff that the farmer feeds them.  Their yolks aren't as nutritious and are yellow.  I then let her choose which egg she wanted to eat, and she chose the yellow one.  Go figure.  [sigh]  In good news, that meant I got to eat the orange one.  :D

*Emily's husband, Jeff, shares the chickens, goats, milk, eggs, dog, etc.  But it was just easier to say Emily than Emily and Jeff.  And Emily is the one who showed us everything while Jeff was a sweet daddy and took care of their unhappy, but adorable, baby.  But thanks to Jeff, too!  Without him, Emily wouldn't have been able to teach us any of this!

Disclaimer: The book links in the posts are links to my Amazon Affiliate program. If you click on the pictures, it will take you to its page on Amazon.  I will receive a small percentage of any purchase you make while there.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Week 1: Vegetables

Week one of the Harvest Time Curriculum is about vegetables.


Tops and Bottoms is absolutely adorable.  When I saw it in the Scholastic book order this month, I immediately bought it.  It's the story of a lazy bear who inherited a lot of land and a hard-working, yet risk-taking, hare who lost all his land in a risky bet with a tortoise (hah!) They become business partners and Hare tricks Bear three seasons in a row.  It's cute, it's funny, and the art is very well done.  The book even opens top to bottom instead of side to side.  It might be a tad advanced for Kessa right now, at least, I'm sure I got more kicks out of it than she did, but she still enjoyed reading it several times during the week.

The Vegetables We Eat.  Kessa's first ever non-fiction.  Again, it's a little over Kessa's level (I think all the books might be.  I think this is geared more towards 4+) but not so much that she was bored by it.  It talks about vegetables in a market, the different types of vegetables (roots, leaves, bulbs, fruit, etc.) and talks about how vegetables get from a farm to the store.  It has lots of pictures of many different kinds of vegetables.  When we did the activity, Kessa wanted the book propped open on the table as a guide.


This week's activity was making salt dough vegetables to play with.  Kessa helped us make the dough.

Then we sat down together as a family to make the vegetables one evening.  Daddy taught her how to roll dough into balls and snakes (I'm sure there's a better word for that.  Columns?)

Kessa's first (and only real) vegetable was a potato.  She shaped it on her own, with Daddy's guidance, then she poked it with a toothpick to get the eyes in the potato.  (And you can see the book propped open in the background.)

As BJ rolled a ball, it developed a mouth by itself.  Creeeeeepy.  :)

"Look what I made, Mommy!"

BJ and I probably had more fun making the vegetables than Kessa did.  She played with the dough more than shaped it.  Which is fine.  She felt involved and that's the important part. Her major contribution is in the bottom left.  :)  BJ made the tomato, a carrot, corn, broccoli, pea, and celery, cucumber and butternut squash.  I made the artichoke, bell pepper, pumpkin and the other carrot.  Kessa made the potato and the "cumma wumma lumma for people to sleep on" aka "a common" aka "Topanga's pillow" (BJ's interpretation) aka that blob on the bottom left.

A few days later, Kessa and I painted them.  I was super impressed at her painting skills.  I guess all that handprint painting was good prep for this!  The only help I gave her was to pour out the paint (and sometimes mix it) and remind her to clean her brush between colors.  The rest she did completely on her own.

She painted the tomato, both carrots, peas, pumpkin, squash, pepper and potato. I did the rest.  Pretty good, huh?  I really liked this activity.  And she loves having vegetables to play with in her pretend kitchen.

And for fun, a video of Kessa dancing on the counter (cautiously) while the vegetables baked. (Warning: these take HOURS to bake.  Like, put them in the morning and come back in the afternoon or evening kind of length.  We ended up doing about 4-5 hours in the evening, then waited 2-3 days to let it finish drying before painting.)

Field Trip:

This week's field trip was to the produce section of the grocery store.  I'll admit that I didn't actually make a special trip for this one.  We made several trips to the grocery store and went through the produce department, though.  And on most of them we talked about different vegetables and she named lots of them.  A couple of times I even asked her what type of vegetable one was (broccoli = flower) but it had been too long since we read the book, so she didn't remember.  And I never got pictures.

Disclaimer: The book links are links to my Amazon Affiliate program. If you click on the pictures, it will take you to its page on Amazon.  I will receive a small percentage of any purchase you make while there.

Harvest Time Curriculum

My freshman year of college I listened to a talk by a boy I don't remember at all.  But it was about his mom and how big of an influence she had on his life.  (It was probably a mother's day talk.)  The part I specifically remember was how she took an active role in their education outside of school.  She made sure they learned things that they didn't necessarily learn at school.  For example, one month she focused on cooking.  They were each responsible for planning, shopping for, and cooking some number of meals.  Ok, that's great.  But lots of moms do that, right?  But the part that really caught my attention was that she then took them on a field trip to a top notch restaurant and the chef taught them how to cook a dish.  And apparently she did stuff like this all the time.  That sealed this mom in my head as one of the coolest moms ever.  Ever since then, I've wanted to take the same sort of active role in my children's education.

Fast forward to today.  I have a 3-year old and an almost 8-month old.  I'm learning how to manage a large house (after never fully getting a handle on managing our 2-bedroom condo) and I'm still trying to recover from the newborn stage.  I keep trying to do things with Kessa.  Mostly it ends up with us doing some sort of handprint painting that we send off to grandma's.  (Which, I admit, is really fun and makes me a cool mom in Kessa's eyes. Especially since we then hang them up on the wall in our stairway where she sees them every day.)  I even started downloading pre-k packs that have various skills in printable form.  Cutting, drawing, matching, shadow matching, patterns, puzzles, coloring, counting, etc.  Kessa loves them.  Whenever I print anything, she asks if I'm making more school.  She loved doing "school" so much that we decided it would be a good idea to put her in preschool.  So we did.  For 2.5 hours two days per week, she goes to a preschool taught by a lady in my ward.  It's fun, because several of the kids in her class are our neighbors.  And I like it because I know the teacher shares many of my values.

But I kept thinking about how I wanted to play more of an active role.  I don't want to just ship her off to school and only participate in her education when she needs help with homework.  BJ and I have talked a lot about ways we can help teach.  When she has questions about things, we try to give her real answers.  When we see opportunities to teach her, we take them.  We often talk about the different plants in the garden and their different stages of growth.  Today she wanted to look at the flowers outside, so while we did, we talked about how flowers have different parts.  We specifically discussed the petals, stem and leaves.  Then we walked around and found those three parts on several different kinds of flowers.  And then, directed by her, we talked about which flowers were the same, and which were different.  I took it a little further and showed her how some flowers were the same in everything except color.  Someday when she's a little older, we want to do more themed things that cover, potentially, several months.  We want to learn right there with her.  Like maybe we'll do a geology section and do field trips.  Close ones like Rock Canyon.  Far-ish ones like Craters of the Moon and practically all of southern Utah.

But there was still the thought in my mind of doing more themed things now.  And, of course, cool field trips now.  But I'm just not good at creating curriculums or putting things like that together.  The idea is cool, but in practice, I tend to flop pretty quickly.  AND THEN one day I was chatting with my friend, Meagan who home-schools her preschool aged daughter.  She was discussing her need to be more crafty in her homeschooling and mentioned that she ran across a free homeschooling preschool curriculum and wanted my opinion on if it was good in the crafty department.  So I got looking at it and very quickly fell in love.  I realized this is exactly what I wanted to do with Kessa.  It's simple.  It's already planned out.  It's themed.  It has field trips.  And it has cool activities. I quickly set out to figuring out what all I wanted to do and when I'd need to start.  See, there are actually four curriculums, one per season.  The Harvest Curriculum has holiday-centric weeks (Halloween and Thanksgiving) so I wanted to make sure I'd be doing those weeks at the right time.  I quickly discovered that I'd have to take a week out and start right away.  So I did.

The curriculum consists of:

  • Letter of the week.  We decided not to do this because Kessa already has a letter of the week in school.  I didn't want to try and coordinate them or make her have two letters of the week.
  • Primary Story, which is fiction, in general, and you read 2-3 times per week.  (Or more when we really like the books.)
  • Enrichment Book, which is non-fiction in general.  Which you read once per week.  (We're doing more often.)  I like this idea because I didn't realize that non-fiction books were actually good reading outside of research papers until Kessa was born and I wasn't getting any sleep, so I started reading sleep training books.  I like the idea of introducing non-fiction books for the sake of learning early.
  • Activities.  I love these.  They aren't your typical activities I think of, but things like making butter and making candles out of beeswax.
  • Art.  All of the art is based out of a book.  She doesn't describe the art at all, just tells you which one in the book it is and expects you to buy the book.  We decided not to do this.
  • Poem: I'm not a poetry person.  Perhaps that's a good reason to do this section. And maybe periodically I'll throw one in if it's one I already know, like Little Boy Blue.  Or if I decide to be more proactive.  But I'm not planning on it.  And the curriculum has you memorize one poem each month.  I think Kessa could do memorization.  She's pretty good at songs.  But I don't see enough benefit at this stage to make me want to do it.
  • Flower Fairy Alphabet coloring book and corresponding poems (to read, not memorize).  These go with the letter of the week.  We're not doing these for the same reason we're not doing the letter of the week or the poems.
We also rearranged a few weeks to make them fit better for us, so our weeks don't match the original weeks.  I will post about each week about the things we did in each category and link them here.

Week Two - Milk
Week Three - Tractor
Week Four - Grains
Week Five - Apples
Week Six - Leaves
Week Eight - Fall
Week Nine - Pumpkin
Week Ten - Wool/weaving
Week Eleven - Candles
Week Twelve - Thanksgiving

Disclaimer: The book links in the posts are links to my Amazon Affiliate program. If you click on the pictures, it will take you to its page on Amazon.  I will receive a small percentage of any purchase you make while there.