Tuesday, February 24, 2009

K12 for Homeschoolers

We recently signed up for K12 for my oldest. He's in first grade and we've been "doing school" since before August. A lot of my time was spent organizing, researching and planning out what we were going to do and when. Honestly, just doing this for one child was taking up a lot of time! I couldn't imagine what doing it for 5 would be like but I knew that it wouldn't work well for us.

For the past oh, 18 months or so, I have gone back and forth with a company called K12 (you can find them at http://www.k12.com/). My public virtual school uses this program. We've been debating signing Alex up for this but really have little love for the public school system here. So, with this years tax return we signed him up for 4 classes using the consumer direct program and the monthly subscription. We chose Math, Language Arts, Science and History. The latter two we neglected quite often in our homeschool.

I have to say that I am extremely impressed with the program. Being a Military family on active duty orders we received 15% off the materials price. They will also have sales periodically for 10% off for everyone. Additional students receive a discount on the monthly subscription.

Alex did the math and language arts placements tests and scored higher than I anticipated. This really spurred me to get him involved in something more than what I was doing. Age-wise he's in first grade but he scored third grade for LA and 2nd grade for Math. The program is flexible enough that I could order the grade level he needed and still offer him Science and History at the first grade level.

I was really impressed with the customer service at K12. A few times my cell carrier dropped my call and K12 actually called me back to continue our talks. They were nice and friendly and when they didn't know an answer they got it for me. I spoke with numerous people there and they were all sportinig the same attitude. I recommend giving them a call and signing up through the customer service line instead of the internet ordering. They can help guide you much better and offer suggestions or products that you wouldn't be aware of doing the online version.

Once we got all signed up we waited 2 weeks to receive our materials. Whatever day you decide to start the online program will be your billing date, so we chose a date closer to the middle of the month to coincide with payday.

The online "school" is amazing. Everything is layed out so you can see exactly what you need to do for each day and each week. You can keep attendance and mark days off. If you miss a day the entire schedule is rewritten to show the day you missed and each lesson is moved forward automatically. I also liked that I could give the login and password to my hubby overseas so he could log in and get a feel of what we were doing and how he was doing in the classes. You can go ahead and do other lessons for the week and it will move them to the day you are on and move other lessons back to accomodate the changes. The program is very through so if there's a day that hubby or someone else will be giving a lesson everything is layed out and marked so they'd do exactly what they needed to for that day.

Right now he's doing things that are more teacher led, but starting in fourth grade he'll be doing more independent work through the online school.

Overall, this is a great program. My olny peeve is that you cannot add other things to the schedule. For instance, we have piano lessons and practice each week. It would be nice to be able to add that to the days lesson online to keep track of everything all together instead of having to do this seperately. Otherwise, it's a great program and I've already signed up my five year old for the same 4 classes and my four year old for LA and Math.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Loungers - a tutorial in comfort

Ok so I know I'm not the first to come up with this idea of comfy, flannel pants but hey, here's a free tutorial on how to make them. I make mine super wide legged (because it rocks) and about 6" too long so I can let out the hem as my kiddo grows.

Ok so first off you need to measure the kid. Waist, inseam, length and rise (this is the measure of the back where the pants will sit to between the legs).

My kid has a 19" waist, 18" inseam and 24.5" hip to heel measurement and an 8.5" rise.
Then we need to make the pattern.
Take the waist measurements and divide by 4, then add 1". Make a rectangle out of this that's the length of the rise. Add 2" to the rise for SA (seam allowance).

Add two inches below the rise to the "leg". then draw a shape similar to what I have to connect the leg width and the waist width.

Wah Lah! There's your pattern. The long side opposite the rise notch is to be cut on a fold. You'll need to cut 2 of these out of your fabric with the leg the length plus 2" for SA or more if you want to hem them up. You need and a piece of elastic 1" longer than the waist measurement. I tend to cut my pieces on an angle to make whopping large legs. I think it looks cool, you can cut it narrower if you choose.

After you cut the fabric open it up and stick RST (right sides together) and you'll pin along the arc of the rise only at this point.

fold the pants so the seams are together still RST and pin the legs all the way around. I make this one run with a straight and then zig zag with a back and forth stitch on the crotch to reinforce.

After this is sewn remove the pins and fold over the bottom 1/2 edge of the pant cuffs and stitch it. Then fold it over again to match your hip to heel length. Sew this near the top where they meet not at the fold if you have a larger hem because it'll come down and trip your kid. It's not as funny as it sounds.

Fold over the waist 1/2" and sew, then fold over another 1" and sew all but the last 1", use this to thread your elastic through. A quick way to do this is to pin your elastic to a safety pin and pull the pin through. Sew the ends together then sew your hole shut. Clip off the stray threads and you're ready to lounge!!!

If you like the pants but need more info/instructions please leave a comment and I'll comment back with whatever help I can give! I plan on making more of these for my baby and my girls so check back!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

I love me some WOOT!

Woot has become a regular word for me now. I say things like "There's a Woot-off!" or "I'm wearing my Woot shirt." and most often "Do you Woot?". I think maybe this word will become part of the dictionary some day as the masses flock to the Woot (hell, it's already on wikipedia, that's like even better than a stinky 200lb tome). Here's an example of the dictionary entry:

Woot: (w-oo-t) N. something purchased off woot.com i.e. I got a Woot.
V. to purchase something off woot.com i.e. I wooted this. or, I have been wooting today.
Adj. to describe something as a woot.com purchase i.e. This is my Woot shirt.
To be a wooter, just go sign up for free on the site. You must check Woot daily so as to not have to kick yourself in the arse when you see you missed out on something you really wanted like a powersquid, USB rocket launcher, a toaster, miscellaneous electronics, bags of crap, or really cool shirt that will distract all the people at church until finally someone gets it (you'd probably want to wear it to a Unitarian church that's kinda linient on the dress code like I do).

When Woot announced the T's in kids sizes I about peed myself. Here are a couple of my Woot kids showing off their threads. My son even exclaims "Great! My Woot shirt is clean!" He's destined to be a second generation Wooter.

(yes, that is a french cabbage)

(anything with Robots doing funny things will make a six year old laugh uncontrollably)

There is even a Woot-off theme (if I could only get it on my ringtones...) and other sites dedicated to Wooting such as www.bagsofcrap.com Even if you don't purchase anything from Woot, have no fear, just reading the product descriptions is worth the trek to the site. And yes, they really do sell Random Bags of Crap.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

My Top 10 Playmobil Toys

If you haven't been introduced to Playmobil, you're probably not alone. So, please let me be the first to show off our top 10 Playmobil picks and welcome you to the fold. If you have been lucky enough to experience these tiny treats, I hope you enjoy the list.

At our house we have a morbid sense of humor that apparently genetically manifested in our daughter. For her birthday she picked out this lovely set. Now, while I am all for diversity and reality in children's play things I'm still not sure about this.

Yes, this would be a nurse/doctor lady with a baby in an incubator. This gets heavy rotation in my kids play so I've included it in my top 10 because they just love it so much. Granted, my first daughter wants to be a baby doctor so maybe this is her way to fantasize about being grown up.

This next piece is a darling. Though we don't own it because I can't find it in any of the stores here.

What gets me the most about this set isn't the adorable tiny bottles or the fact that there's even a teeny money slot. No. What tickles me the most is the mandatory recycling bin. After your little people quench their thirst they can rest easy knowing they're recycling those bottles instead of just chucking them in the bin. Now all we need is a guy to stand around to take the bottles and restock them in the machine. It's not magic you know, it's recycling.

Now, this wouldn't be my top 10 list if I didn't include this set. This is one of my favorites because of the sheer sillyness of the pieces. The bunny line is in it's own category and is far off reality but let us take a closer look at the pieces included...

This set is called Bunny school. I love the fact the teacher is wearing a suit and has a tiny briefcase and a pointing stick taller than he is. It speaks to true professionalism even amongst humans. Please notice the apparatus on the picnic table. What exactly are the bunnies learning about? Could they be learning about chemical compounds to create homemade bombs to come and overthrow the human Playmobil-ites? Or are they simply teaching the younger of their species how to dye the easter eggs laying on the ground behind them? I just love the tiny beakers in the attic of the mushroom house, the basket of carrots for their lunch and the extremely detail oriented picture on the blackboard. This reeks steriotypical bunny-dom and I love every stinkin' piece of it.

What park/zoo/hardware store would be complete without the hot dog vendor. While the above made my list for the silliness, this set makes it for the oddness.
The oddness isn't in the bicycle powered hotdog stand, it's in the creepy vendor. The scruffy hair, mustache, wierdly shaped hat and sloppy looking apron would make me leery to buy dogs from this guy. If I was hungry enough, I could possibly look past those things but I'd have to stop at the blue shoes.

Who doesn't love camping? Let me rephrase, who wouldn't love camping in THIS?

This is possibly one of the coolest Playmobil toys that is actually affordable (the trains and planes are cool but over $100 is pushing it for me) at about $40. What the photo doesn't show is that the top lifts off and there is actually a sleeping space for everyone. That kind of attention to deatil is what has drawn me to these toys. Check out the lovely depiction of picturesque vacation-ism on the side of the camper. This is one of those details that you actually do see on RVs, yet, how many of us would think of taking a camper to the beach? Someone, somewhere did a survey of old people that can afford to buy campers and figured out they usually go to Florida when Rv-ing. I mean, what else do we have here in Florida besides sunsets and palm trees that would subliminally coax a snow covered retiree into a lease? While we can't afford one, we can live vicariously though Playmobil and go camping in style anyway.

Ah, farm life. While others may think farming is a quiet, peaceful oasis Playmobil knows better.
In a quick glance at this set you may be lulled into the cuteness of it but taking a closer look you'll see that this is a more realistic depiction of farm life than it may seem. Check out the plantable and harvestable carrots, the baby animals being raised for food, the fully functional watering can filled up from the manual well, the children working and not playing video games or whining about having to feed the cow or take carrots to the science bunnies. The Heidi-esque landscape is a winner for me; this family takes lemons and makes lemonade. And we can't forget the sickle in the corner which could always be borrowed by the ghost.

Here's another favorite because of the realness of it. One of the reasons we love Playmobil as grownups is because we can relate to the honesty of the characters. Barbie is just too perfectly fashion and romance driven to move us. No. Give us a crappy wedding reception under a pop up tent, folding tables and an open bar and we're much more in our zone.
I love that the main feature of this isn't the cake with tiny wedding topper, three (yes, three) presents or caterer (when at a wedding like this though, he's called the barbeque technician) it's the drunken wedding guests and the prefilled blue margaritas. This is probably the only place a guy with a brown belt, black shoes and a windbreaker with a tie could score. He's obviously jobless, can't afford to get his pants tailored or a haircut for a wedding for christsakes. Then again, the lady with the horrible spotted giraffe dress with white shoes isn't doing much for me either. I really hope it isn't after labor day.

These sets can help grownups teach the finer points in life. Such as, that one lousy, drunken lay can result in this.
Being a single mom isn't the end of the world, it's actually an improvement in some cases but throw in the fact that neither parent has any kind of dressing skills and you end up with a kid that's a genetic color coordinating disaster. They all seem happy enough but that's because they don't know any better.

Now for another acessory. This is a definate must have for the following people
1. anyone with viking playmobil
2. anyone with a loose understanding of pirates
3. anyone with boys
4. grownups that have a cubical (you can rain paperclips down on people and they'll never know it's you)

They call this a sling shot but really people, it's a trebuchet. This is a wonderful addition to teaching simple mechanics to your kids. Plus it's just really, really cool. I especially like the burning vats of oil. Those will cause some serious damage.

Here's the last set on this list (I'm sure I'll have another playmobil list at some point). I really enjoy the piping on the moms pants and the color coordination of the mother and androgynous child.

Playmobil a mobile play.
Mother: come on child, lets get this wagon to the picnic site before the cut up watermellon leaks all over
child: just a minute mom. I want to finish my bag of yellowy round things
(drops bag of round things)
oh no! My round things in my bag!
mother: I'm not giving you any more
(hears leaves rustling and small squeeky, chittery noises)
What is that?
Child: It's a herd of wild domesticated squirrles!!! They're after my round things!

Mother: Don't be afraid, they react to fear. Just put your arms up and smile and slowly back away. We don't want them to attack, move too fast and your loud, mismatched clothes might attract them.
That's it for the list. I hope you've enjoyed it and discover some of the joys of these teeny toys.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Another day, Another quilt

I continued making another quilt by pulling out these Pumpkins gone Wild fabric I had in my stash. I bought this last year in hopes to make some coordinating clothes for the girls but alas, that never came to be.
I am still in the learning curve with quilt. I ended up messing up the back and having to fudge the sides to make it work. I realized this after I machine quilted the entire top, middle and bottom. So this is another quilt for Max. I'm working on my skills though and thing the binding came out much better this time. This is also the first time I machine stitched the back along with the top and middle. I'm not sure how I feel about it.

Here is the quilt top. It looks peach but it's not, it's orange.

And back. I added a little decorative touch. I just feel like the solid plain colored backings are just no fun!

The back stripe also looks crooked, which is might very well be but I'm going to blame it on the crooked floor.
All these quilts have planted a bug in me and I went to the store today to pick out some fabrics to make a quilt for my niece and one for my best friends little girl that is going through cancer treatments right now. I thought her own personal snuggly to take back and forth from the hospital would help comfort her (she's three).