Thursday, December 28, 2017

Announcing "Mud & Moon" ... Setting Transformation in Motion

Have you ever felt that you needed just a little spark to help you move forward?  Well, over the years I have noticed that, if I sit quietly, I know exactly what someone needs.  Just the right thing to give them a push into the next part of their journey.   

Sometimes it is a book.  Or a piece of jewelry.  Maybe a quote.  It is always unique.  Often it doesn't appear to have any meaning.

Some people feel inspired right away.  Others put their gift away and stumble back across it when they are ready.

I have had the pleasure of watching the transformations that are set in motion and I decided that I would love to try gifting these special little sparks to everyone.  Mud & Moon has been born!

Share with us where you are right now and we will select gifts that will inspire your journey to transformation. Share a word or share a story. Let us know what challenge you are facing or what goal you are trying to reach or what you dream about or what changes are happening in your life.

Gifts may include crystals, books, natural treasures, quotes, activities, edible treats, or jewelry.  Gifts will be hand selected just for you!  No two gifts will ever be the same.

Gifts will come in a handmade, recycled gypsy pouch with a little card sharing how to use your gift.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Seven Habits Activities ... Habit 2: Start With the End in Mind

This habit from Seven Habits for Highly Effective Teens is all about creating a personal mission statement.  Each day we did different brainstorming activities to really understand what things were important to us in guiding who we wanted to be each day.

Here are some of the activities we did to help think about our mission statements....

What Do You Think?
We asked each other the following questions....

  • What about me inspires you the most?
  • What do you think is possible for me in the year to come?
  • What behavior, habit, or belief do you think I would have to give up in order to make this the best year of my life?
  • What skills and abilities do I have that you would like to see me develop?

  • Favorite Quotes
    We searched though quotes on Pinterest and found a few that really spoke to us.

    Negative Behaviors
    We listed 3 negative behaviors we would like to change in ourselves.

    Wednesday, December 6, 2017

    Hieroglyphics ... Learning to Write the Ancient Egyptian Way

    After we made our own papyrus ..... we bought some real stuff from Amazon!  And then each wrote our favorite quote using Egyptian hieroglyphics for the rest of us to decipher.

    First we learned what hieroglyphics are ...

    And then we learned about how they were first translated using the Rosetta Stone.

    After learning about hieroglyphics we found a very simple chart of single syllable hieroglyphics and set about writing out our favorite quote.   There are lots of different charts out there for single syllables, multiple syllables, and entire words.  We chose to go the simple route and use a chart that gave us a hieroglyph for each letter.  Well, actually ours was missing a few letters so we had to write our words without some vowels and just sort of sound words out the best we could. 

    First, we made our own ink using soot crushed to a powder and an egg yolk. We added some black food coloring because out soot was pretty pale!  We mixed it all together and added enough oil to make it smooth and an ink-like consistency.  

    Then, we used paintbrushes to scribe our sacred writing on to the papyrus.  And then we took turns trying to translate each other's quotes.

    Making Papyrus

    We made our own papyrus!  Well, we tried!

    First we learned how papyrus was made.

    Then we ordered this kit from Rainbow Resources.

    First you have to soak the papyrus for a few hours.

    Then squeeze out each strip and roll it thin.  Place it back it in the water overnight.  

    Repeat this process for a few days until the strips are thin and transparent.  Then you lay the strips next to each other, overlapping a little bit.  First one way, then the other.

    Then you place the paper between paper towels and roll it a few times on each side, replacing the paper towels as they become wet.  Finally, you place the paper between fresh paper towels and press it under something heavy.

    After pressing the papyrus for a few days and changing the towels in between and letting it dry outside.... it fell apart.  Somehow we did not get the natural glue out of the poor papyrus!  We think we needed to beat it longer and harder.  Maybe the rolling pin was too subtle!

    Friday, December 1, 2017

    Archaeology ... Learning to Piece Together an Artifact

    As part of of study of archaeology and Ancient Egypt, we acted like real archaeologists and pieced together the puzzle of an ancient artifact.  Well, a poorly decorated terra cotta flower pot.  But you get the idea!

    I drew patterns on two pots and then broke them up into pieces.  For an added challenge, I mixed the pieces together.  I removed a few pieces as well and I guess I could have made it harder but throwing in a few pieces that didn't belong.

    Then the kids had to sort through the pieces and figure out what the item was and how it fit together.  Just like a puzzle.

    Archaeology ... The study of past ways of life through analysis of surviving physical remains (aka garbage)

    Archaeology is a big part of exploring ancient Egypt, so today we dug through the garbage to learn about what archaeologists do!

    We learned about the archaeological discovery of King Tuts tomb.

    We got a great overview of archaeology from Bill Nye, the Science Guy.

    Watched an archaeological dig.

    And learned about some of the most exciting archaeological finds in history.

    Then we went on our own dig!  Through the garbage!

    A few weeks ago I emptied garbage cans from different rooms into different bags and saved them.  Then I presented the bags to the kids and asked them to come up with a story about the life of the person or people that lived in the area where the artifacts were found.  

    After getting over their initial yuck of digging through the garbage, they really got into imagining what all of the different things put together painted a picture of.  It was fun to watch them wonder about things that just didn't fit and try to figure out if it was an accident that it was there or if there was some meaning behind it!  

    They definitely realized how hard it is to be an archaeologist and how you really are observing and hypothesizing and really just guessing about what the real story is!

    Below is the analysis one made of the garbage ...

    Archeology Project

    Bag One-
     Empty Body Wash
     Two Footed tights packages
     Two Transition tights packages
     Two Old Socks
     Flowered Shirt
     Nail Polish Remover Bottle
     Paper Towel
     Three Empty Diet Coke Cans
     Magazine Page


    I believe that the person who lived here was performer.The tights suggest that the person was a dancer, most likely a ballerina. The shirt reminded me of something someone might where over a leotard to ballet class. Performers don’t wear nail polish because it shows from the stage, so that could be the reason for the nail polish remover. Diet coke has a lot of caffeine in it, so it would be good for people who stay up late and need to be up early in the morning. The magazine could hint towards this, because performers often have a long way to travel, and a magazine could be a source of entertainment while they were on the go. The other items weren't a huge help, because they are ordinary objects that almost everyone has.

    Bag Two-
     Blue Ribbon
     Sidewalk Crack Photo
     School Project
     Online Scavenger HunT Paper
     Papers on A Tarot Course


    The person who lived here was probably a student. The school project was what convinced me for the most part, because not a lot of people who aren’t students own a school project. The blue ribbon was probably a hair ribbon, worn by a school girl. The online scavenger hunt also could have been a school project. The sidewalk crack photo could have been something the person took walking home from school. The only piece that doesn’t fit is the tarot course papers.

    Bag Three-
     Plaid Fabric circle
     Hot pink Tulle
     Wrapping Paper
     Fabric store Receipts
     Grey Fabric
     Blu Fabric
     Empty Ribbon wheels
     Legging End
     Tan Ribbon


    Based on what was in the bag, the person who lived here was probably a seamstress. The fabric would have been to use for sewing, along with the tulle. The fabric store receipts would have been from a shopping trip to get more supplies. The ribbon could have been used for trim, or for gift wrapping the stuff the person made. The wrapping paper also could have been used for wrapping.

    "When I Studied at the Library of Alexandria ...." ... An Historical Fiction Writing Assignment

    As part of our study on Ancient Egypt, we learned about the great Library of Alexandria.  Not only was it a repository for almost every book in the world but it was a place for great thinkers to come and discuss ideas, experiment, and write.  They even lived there!  Some of the greatest discoveries in math, science, and philosophy came out of work done at the Library.

    The Royal Library of Alexandria Documentary

    To help the kids really understand what it would have been like at the Library, they each wrote a short historical fiction story from the perspective of a young scholar coming to study at the Library.    Excerpts from their stories....

    "I, Chloi Katalavaínoun, the young learner , am about to enter my lifelong dream. That dream is to study at the Library of Alexandria.

    I am almost at the door of a marvelous building. The library is a wonderful two-story edifice made of a soft brown limestone. It has many separate buildings, one completely devoted to the works of Homer! The main entrance is an enormous door made of dark wood. As I approach the door, I hear the conversations of the locals. This must be a very chaotic place to live. I open the door to find a humongous room with a spectacular domed roof. On every wall, there are hundreds of shelves with hundreds of scrolls in them. There are so many people here!"

    "Once I stepped inside, it was just as awe-inspiring. It was all open in the center, with halls leading off in all directions, and every level exposed could be seen. Each level was held up by smooth white columns, and the uppermost level was only surrounded by a railing, replacing the columns with statues. The center of the room was filled with tables to work at, and in the center there was even a small pool of water.

    I was thrilled to be here, and i couldn’t wait to start reading. My younger sister, and research partner trailed behind me.

    “Rida, have you ever seen a place this beautiful?” She said in awe.

    “Only in my dreams, Eadala.” I said leading her inside.

    The two of us were here, not just for research, but also to take a class or two. The room where the class was held was small, with a platform for the speaker in the center. Along one wall, were three large stone steps to sit on. The wall across from that was only half size, allowing me to see out into Egypt."

    Tuesday, November 28, 2017

    A Taste of Egypt ... Learning About the World Through Lunch

    Today we got to try authentic Egyptian food as part of our study of Ancient Egypt.  And, oh my,  were we fans!

    We found this little Egyptian market and restaurant combo, Sahara 34, in Matawan, NJ and ordered some takeout for lunch.

    We had pita and the best hummus we have ever tried.....

    ... lamb kefta ...

    .... chicken shwarma, which I thought would be like a gyro but was so much juicer and more flavorful  ....

    ... and the amazing Egyptian street food, koshari, which is a mix of rice, lentils and pasta with tomato sauce and fried onions.  We also tried foul madamas (fava beans) and Egyptian grape leaves (which are surprising different than the Greek ones)!

    Lunch today was like traveling halfway across the globe!

    Cleopatra ... Studying the Last Egyptian Pharaoh

    Spent the day curled up on the couch learning about Cleopatra.....

    The Great Pharaohs:  Ptolemy
    This was a really excellent class on the history of Cleopatra's family in Egypt, originating with Alexander the Great's general, Ptolemy.  (You can take the entire course on Great Courses and I wish I had invested in it when we started!)

    A little dull, but certainly informative.

    Cleopatra's Palace
    A quick little tour of some of the relics from Cleopatra's Palace now hidden under the sea.

    History vs. Cleopatra
    A quick debate as to whether Cleopatra was a great pharaoh or the destroyer of Rome.

    Wednesday, November 22, 2017

    Valley of the Kings ... Studying the Final Resting Place of the Pharaohs

    Today we got to know some of the important pharaohs of the New Kingdom who are buried in the Valley of the Kings.

    We learned about Thutmose I and his daughter Queen Hatshepsut.

    We learned about Akhenaten and his wife Nefretiti who changed the religion of Egypt.

    We learned about the boy king, Tutankhamun.

    And we learned about Seti I and his son, Ramses the Great.

    Then we watched a great documentary on the Valley of the Kings.  It was really cool to understand how the tombs were built and why, and how they were discovered over the years.

    Pyramids of Giza ... Made from Gingerbread

    Our study of Ancient Egypt is leading us into the holiday season, so what better type of gingerbread house to make than a pyramid!

    We started off by learning who built the pyramids and how.  We learned about Sneferu, the King of the Pyramids, and the pharaohs Kufu, Khafre, and Menkaure who are entombed in the Pyramids of Giza.  We took virtual tours of a pyramid and the Temple of Karnak.  We read about the priests of Egypt. And then checked out one last overview of the pyramids.

    Then we set about planning ours.  Which required learning how to measure the sides of a pyramid so they fit.  It was a little introduction to geometry and the Pythagorean theorem.   We each picked a different base size for our pyramid and first calculated how tall our pyramid would be.  Too short we all realized!  So we increased our base sizes until we felt the pyramids would be the right size.  Then we calculated the slant height of our pyramids which leaves us with exactly how to measure out our gingerbread sides.

    Next, we used our famous gingerbread recipe to make the dough and then rolled out and cut the sides of our pyramids according to our measurements.

    After the sides were baked and cooled we assembled our pyramids with royal icing.

    We let the pyramids dry overnight and then iced with brown tinted royal icing and covered with a mixture of ground up graham crackers and Chex.  

    Then we used the back of a knife to mark in the bricks.

    Gingerbread Pyramids of Giza!

    Monday, November 20, 2017

    Alexandria, Egypt ... Studying Life in the Ancient City

    Today we spent the morning visiting Alexandria in Ancient Egypt and learning about what it would have been like to live there.

    We took a virtual tour of the port area.  We learned about the clothing and fashion of Ancient Egyptians.  And we learned about their homes and  social class structure.

    Alexander the Great ... Mapping the Creation of an Empire

    While studying Ancient Egypt, we learned a bit about Alexander the Great.  Alexander was a Macedonian king who conquered Egypt and much of the present world from Greece through Turkey, down to Syria and Israel and out east to Iran and Iraq.   His ten year quest created quite an empire!

    We also created a map following the path of Alexander the Great using this simple map activity from Making History Fun.  Walking through his conquests step by step really gave you an understanding of just ow much of the world he took over!

    Wednesday, November 15, 2017

    Creating A "BEing" Centered Homeschooling Philosophy

    During our first year of homeschooling I found myself many times DOing things that I didn't want to.  DOing certain things because kids had to DO them in order to have a "successful" education. 

    But, the whole reason we are homeschooling is that we don't believe that everyone needs to be DOing the same things, they should be DOing what they love.   And while they are DOing what they love, they are learning to BE extraordinary people.

    So I decided to create a philosophy for our school based on this.   A mission.  A vision.  A North Star.  The short version of our philosophy is ... Be determined.  Be observant.  Be kind.  Be joyful.  Be authentic. 

    I refer back to our philosophy every day whether is is to make a simple decision or to create an entire month's curriculum.  I ask myself if what we are DOing is something we love and supports our philosophy.  If it doesn't, we don't DO it.  Even if someone else thinks we should.  The philosophy really helps to remind me to keep our focus on learning to BE someone extraordinary.  And it extends past school and into chores and activities and relationships. 

    But my philosophy probably is not the same as yours.  You have to create your philosophy, figure out what BEing extraordinary means to you!

    Here is how I created mine.

    1. When I Grow Up ....

    I brainstormed what I wanted my children (and myself!) to look like when they grew up.  I just filled up a page of everything I could think of.

    2. DO vs BE
    Then I removed all of the things that I wanted them to to DO (jobs, achievements, interests, etc.) and left myself with the things I wanted them to BE (character traits).  

    The DOs are things like dancer, scientist, win first place, go to Yale, etc.  The DOs are their choices.  The DOs will change.  The DOs are not mine to decide.

    But the BEs, well, they are your character.  The BEs are things like be a problem solver, be a clear communicator, be nice, be helpful, be honest, be confident, etc.  

    In whatever you DO, you also have the opportunity to BE something.  And I want to help my kids BE extraordinary!

    3. What Will It BE?
    I clumped together what I wanted them to BE into groups that made sense and that is how I came up with my short philosophy above.

    4. DO What You Love
     I took a look at all of the things we were DOing  that nobody wanted to do like lab reports, multiplication drills, long division by hand, and spelling words.  I thought about what they were helping you to BE and figured out new activities to do to instead.   You can learn to BE determined by DOing soccer or DOing dance or DOing advanced math.  Pick the ones you love.  You can learn to BE kind by working in a soup kitchen or holding the door for others.  DO the one that makes you happy.  You can learn to be a problem solver by DOing science experiment or DOing asewing project.   Again, which do you love?

    5. Stepping Stones
    You also have to think about how you feel about DOing something you don't really want to do, in order to achieve the thing you do want to DO.  It is really just a matter of reminding yourself that you really want the end goal.  

    Like wanting to go in the ocean but needing to get across the burning hot sand.  You can push through the discomfort.   Or create some out of the box solution.  Or enlist the help of others.  (Or you can give up on the idea but I never let that one happen until we have exhausted all of the other options.)  

    For my one daughter, this is where math sits.  She doesn't want to do it but I remind her that she has set her sights on being self-sufficient adult who cooks and travels and shops so we push through the discomfort of learning the basic math she will need and try to be really creative in how we teach her!  

    6. When You Really Have No Choice
    And, while I try to keep these to a minimum, there are things that my kids have to DO that they don't want to.  I make them do these things because I either feel it is beneficial to their health or because I want them to try it before they make a decision or because it is a family choice.   

    My one daughter is very resistant to new things so we run up against a lot of things she thinks she doesn't want to do that she actually likes in the end.  Like hiking.  In these instances I try to embrace our philosophy and BE observant or her feelings and BE kind to her and BE authentic with my feelings about the situation and BE determined to make it BE joyful as possible. 

    I hope you too can find a way to BE extraordinary while DOing what you love!

    Tuesday, November 14, 2017

    Mummification ... Experimenting with Sending a Potato to the Afterlife

    As part of our Ancient Egypt study, we learned about the process of mummification.  Egyptians believed that you needed your body for the afterlife so they preserved them by mummification and left them in tombs with treasures and everyday items they might need in the afterlife.

    These videos helped us understand why the Egyptians made mummies and how they were made.

    Then we observed the mummification process with this experiment using potatoes!

    After a few weeks we checked back in on our mummies.  

    The non-mummified potato was mushy and rotten and pretty gross.  But the mummified potato, while really ugly and black, had turned hard and didn't have any mold.  That little, hard potato would do much better in the afterlife!  The other poor guy looks destined to disintegrate in the next couple of weeks!