Saturday, February 25, 2017

Party School! & 11th Birthday

This picture is still hanging up!
We have always loved read aloud books!  My favorite part of doing school is reading aloud to my kids and back in the day, that was almost entirely picture books of course.  At some point when my oldest was about 8 I started reading other choices like the "Little House on the Prairie" series, and all the Narnia books.  At first I had to stop often when I saw their interest drifting and "set the scene" as I called it.  I would stop and ask if they knew what was going on.  Somehow they'd gotten lost so I re-capped for them.  I would describe how the setting looked and whatever was going on that was such a big deal in the story!  Generally as they listened to the re-cap they were then re-engaged so they wanted to hear more of the story! Also, beginning with the Narnia books I started adding in watching the movie versions and listening to the audio versions that I could find to go along with reading the stories as we read the seires!  It just made sense that they could follow the books and enjoy them more if I could engage their imaginations in more ways than just my own voice.  We talked about how the movie versions were different from the books and in what ways.  Some things we discovered we liked more in the movie versions and some parts we enjoyed more in the books.  Last year we read through "Heidi" and watched ALL (and I mean all!) the movie versions we could along with documentaries about the Alps!  Their absolute favorite part of the book that they quoted over and over was never in the movie version as satisfactorily.  Last fall we started reading the Harry Potter series aloud and watched the movies after each book.  Some great talking points came up and going deep with my kids in conversation as we enjoyed these together!  The movies lose so much of the whimsy that is in the books, but again, it is great to observe these things and enjoy them in different ways.  We finished the series in January near my oldest daughters 11th birthday and she wanted to have a Harry Potter theme party!  What better time to continue this literature rich adventure than with a party!  It was epic, but at the same time actually pretty easy to set up.  I will share my secrets to setting it up with ease. ;)

I didn't have a glass tea pot, but I bought some "flowering tea" (this was white tea PEACH which smelled amazing!) so we pretended that it was magical tea and we watched the tea leaves unfurl like the most lovely of spells.  Reminded me of Lily Evens present to Professor Slughorn described in the 6th book of the series.
Of course I have to do a chalk board design with every theme I come up with for our school or for holidays!  My girls re-did their own chalk boards as well to fit the Harry potter theme.  However, there are some amazing banners on Amazon to purchase that would work easily and get a similar feel.
Her hands are a blur!
Our reading adventure inspired my oldest to knit a few scarves!  Her knitting has improved so much and I love to see her engaged with her projects.  Knitting is also a great thing to work on while listening to read alouds!
For a simpler chalk board design there is something like this.  I was sort of going for what lesson there might be in a first class with Flitwick.  Not that he probably had this on his chalk board, but he could have.  And as I told my girls, I wasn't trying to copy the movies because those were just what someone had imagined from reading the books.  I could imagine my own things from reading the books myself!
The candles were from amazon, battery powered and I strung them up to that stick with thread.  There are 11 for her 11th birthday!
Plastic goblets (again amazon) for everyone to enjoy and the big impact was the plastic brick roll that I hung all along that wall and created a "door" out of!

I love how invisible the slit is when no one is walking through it!
But of course, to get onto nine and three quarters you have to run through the brick barrier!  All my girls were so impressed with this!  Of course you had to be careful someone wasn't running through when you were coming through the opposite way!
11 years old!  Animal loving still, projects galore, sweet, helpful, kind, intelligent, favorite color is blue/green, she has decorated her corner of the room like the outdoors she says.  Hanging pretend vines and flowers.  She loves to play minecraft with her uncle and cousins through skype and she loves to hear me read aloud.  (Our current book choices are the Never Land Fairy books!)
Little closer look at the floating candles.  The trick was to tie the string on one side of the top as well as the other side so they would hang straight.
Chocolate frogs!  Simply melt your favorite chocolate bar, pour into the frog mold, cool in the fridge to harden and there you go!  That was a lot of chocolate so the next time I did this I added nuts to the mold with the melted chocolate and it was much better.
The decorations were impressive, but actually quite easy and quick.  The food on the other hand took a bit longer because it had to be a "Feast" -- I created my own version of "black bean pie" which wasn't the English kind but basically a mexican style layer casserole thing going on.  That was probably her favorite, but she liked the chicken pot pie as well!

And of course we can't forget the pumpkin Pasties.. which were just tiny pumpkin pies.  A big hit!

Of course we can't forget the butter beer.  I didn't want it as sweet as what I've heard it can be.. I mean, butterscotch and cream soda!  Hello.. sickly sweet.  The rum flavoring helps to balance that sweetness out and the molasses keeps it richer tasting rather than just the high sweet level.  Also the zevia is sweetened with stevia so that helps keep it from the sickly sweet level.  I heated the cream soda slightly so that I could add the sugar and flavors and heavy whipping cream and whole milk to create a syrup that I liked (had the right balance of flavors in my opinion.)  You can store the syrup in the fridge and then for each glass I poured that "syrup mixture" into the glass with more milk and more soda to give it a fresh cool taste with the right balance.  I've experimented with a few recipes and this one was more my own than any other and I liked it the best!
This is how I made "cauldron cakes" - by making brownies in muffin tins and scooping out the middles to fill with nutella!  I didn't take a picture of this, but I also had sprinkles for "ingredients" and my daughter made signs for them of what they might be "Ingredients for a love potion" or "Beetle eyes" or other book referenced ingredients.  It was very fun and cute.

Opening presents!  This one was from her aunt and uncle that looks so great with how she has her room set up.
Shortly after her birthday we got our first (and probably only) snow for this winter.  Since they'd been asking since last September when it would snow they were quite excited.

Even though we are done reading the books and watching the movies and having a party with this theme, they are listening to the books on cd and enjoying the different way the guy reads the books. My middle daughter turns her cd player on every time she goes into her room, morning, noon, or night so she can listen to the book.
 My oldest has made a short comic of a few pages with a scene in one of the books that she thought was the funniest.  It was left out of the movies and so she used that passage for copy work at one time and then later created this short comic of that scene because it was so funny!
The scene she thought was so funny was when Lockhart decided to celebrate Valentines day in a big way!  Harry was forced to listen to a swarthy dwarf dressed as a cherub recite a singing telegram to him.  Such a fun creative way to interpret the idea of narration and copy work!
Anyway, it goes along with this time of year and also with the Valentine that she made for me.  From the girl who a year ago wouldn't try to read or write on her own, in came glasses and vision therapy and Brave writer ideas for engaging her writing voice and valuing that in practical ways and using the thinking tree books and enjoying our read alouds together all joined up beautifully for her this past year.  Hearing her say just last fall how she wished she could free write (make up spelling like her sister did) and now she can!  She can free write and copy and has even offered to read aloud to us!

 The resistance that I saw and worked so hard to honor and not worry over (for years) is melting away, and while she might be "behind" in some areas she really isn't behind because of how far ahead she is in other ways!

Academic skills will come eventually, but what is harder to teach and therefore needs more nurturing is creativity and curiosity.
And incidentally, creativity and curiosity fuel the desire to learn academics.

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