"The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs" by Betty G. Birney

The girls each chose one World Wonder of the ancient world and wrote a report on it (my youngest traced "Pyramid, Giza Wonder" and we watched a Youtube video of the site.) Then they crafted a sculpture of the Wonder with their grandmother and completed presentations on the back porch.

We went in search of 7 Wonders in our hometown and after extensive research, the associates made their selections. Who could have guessed there were so many wonders in our own backyard?

 "Where the Mountain Meets the Moon" by Grace Lin

Monday : This lovely inspired by Chinese Folktales book is much longer than the others so it took two days to complete. Monday we just read and watched a Youtube video about some of the locations which inspired some of the book. Tuesday we completed the book over the course of the day and did some Chinese worksheets including practicing the Chinese character for the word "fish."

Friday we went to an authentic Chinese Market and shopped for ingredients for a recipe and some treats, we even enjoyed some of the delicacies that Minli in the book ate! Red bean paste cakes we were not a fan of, but tea-stained eggs were delicious!

"Sherlock Holmes Mysteries" Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Something mysterious was afoot in week two... instead of finding a book on the table, there was a giant question mark and the girls followed footprints to uncover its identity. We read "The Mystery of the Speckled Band" aloud as we enjoyed our mystery-flavored smoothies.

The girls watched "The Great Mouse Detective" and we talked about how these stories were in first person and narrated by Dr. Watson instead of Sherlock Holmes and how that was different than Huck Finn's perspective.

Before bed, I gave the girls pedicures with mystery colors which they had to guess with a clue I gave them. It's hard to paint question marks on wiggly toes!

The week that followed was wrought with adventure and mysteries galore -- including writing stories incorporating mysterious objects, being invited to participate in a mystery, and the favored Top Chef Challenge : the hunt for "blue" clues lead to some handy code-breaking skills (numeric, backwards, and Morse code) which uncovered the recipe for the week : Red Herring Pizza!

"The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" Mark Twain

We began reading the novel on a rainy morning snuggled in a blanket fort in the playroom. The kids really enjoyed the book, which we read chapters of periodically through the day, and watched the movie (starring Elijah Wood). The next day the associates wrote personal narratives and went on an adventure in their backyard, with "adventure" hats and handkerchief-covered snacks on sticks. The girls built a raft, tested it on a creek, filled out a crime scene report for Huck's staged disappearance at Pap's cabin, went fishing, originated a recipe for Huckleberry Cupcakes, and even had a surprise appearance from Jim's talking hairball!

What a week :)

Summer School II

Homegrown Week : The associates learned about the food pyramid, visited a dairy farm, went to the local Farmer's Market and purchased ingredients for the healthy meal they made from scratch.

Health and Fitness Week : We visited a gym where a friend and his daughter led the girls through a workout routine. The girls joined me on our first family run on the Legacy Trail in Lexington.

Fancy Nancy French and Etiquette Week : An invitation arrived one day, and we spent the week working on our French with Youtube videos, practicing manners the "Fancy Nancy" way and her lesser known cousin, "Ungracious Uugla." They had a blast eating a meal messily, as U.U. would, then having tea later on like Fancy Nancy.

Dr. Seuss Science and Conservation Week : Friends joined us for a Lorax-worthy scavenger hunt at a local park, where we identified nature and picked up some trash (with gloves) and planted a seed in Lorax pots. All of the items were created from Dollar Tree items and a bit of hot glue. For the Science part, we learned the "science" of cooking up the perfect strawberry shortcake.

Random Acts of Kindness Week : This ended up being the girls' FAVORITE of all time. We left chilled water and granola bars with a nice note at the running trail, paid for a stranger's coffee, and organized a charity called "Hugs for Kids" which we gathered items for scared kids (stuffed animals, flashlights, etc.) and wrote a poem and tag to attach to them before donating them to a local shelter.

Design Star Week : We were in the process of building our home this summer, so used the opportunity to design our rooms in the style of the HGTV show, Design Star. The girls chose fabric samples to match to paint cards, and "shopped" for accessories. They also had to repurpose an old item to be used in their new room.

Fairy Tale Week : The girls saw "Shrek the Musical" at the local Children's Theatre and wrote their own fairy tale stories which they turned into little puppet shows.

Summer School I

Hometown Heroes Week : We visited the local fire station, the police department, and newspaper and practiced writing thank you notes to each of our tour guides. The last day of the week we had a "super hero" party where they dressed up like their favorite hero they met.

Ocean and Pirate Week : We learned about sea creatures and (an edited version) about swashbucklers. We had a pirate party with some friends and followed clues in a treasure hunt. Our field trip to Newport Aquarium finished the week.

Cupcakes for Kids Week : The girls had their first ever lemonade and cupcake stand in front of our house to raise money for charity. Each associate chose a cupcake flavor and design, helped color the sign, and we made over $70 for the Kentucky Children's Hospital.

Drama Week : We toured the Actors Guild of Lexington, had fashion shows, and compiled a short play, "The Cookie Thief," and created a set, costumes for their characters, and baked cookies for the audience (aka Daddy.)  

Magic and Science Week : After making our own Magician's hats (and bunny ears for my youngest) and wands, we did several simple science projects for our "Magic" show. We also went to the children's science museum near us.

All American Week : We took our three oldest to their first Legends baseball game, learned some history of early America, made red, white, and blue art and crafts, and celebrated the Fourth of July by touring the historic Liberty Hall and enjoying watermelon in the beautiful gardens there.

Art Week : The girls made a playdough town, visited a local artist, and their favorite project was when I taped a huge sheet of paper under the table and they lay on their backs and "painted like Michelangelo." With crayons.

Space Week : We made constellation magnets on black paper with white paint on fingertips for our fridge, colored rocket ships on cardboard tubes, and even made a space ship from a diaper box which they shuttled our youngest around on the carpet. We hosted an intergalactic tea party with the inflatable alien toys they had won earlier in the summer, and stayed up late to eat star cookies and watch the night sky.

Summer school evolved from my 4-year-span as a daycare teacher. One summer I had my own class consisting of 8-10 year old girls and 6 year old boys and we had to find some common ground. Picking several themes that we could explore together, we made it through the summer without killing each other and more than that, they were all pretty good friends.

When my oldest two were in school, I dug out my old file box and pulled some of the themes we had used at the day care. I never expected them to be so crazy over Summer School or for it to become a regular thing. Here are some of the themes and lessons we have enjoyed :

Summer School 

Summer School III
Bluegrass Week: We toured popular locations in the Bluegrass. We painted watercolors at Keeneland, hiked and sketched at Cove Springs Park, and spent a day at the Kentucky Horse Park.

Top Chef Week : The Swedish Chef, who lives in our kitchen, had a manila envelope with the Top Chef challenge of the day in it. Every morning he would be hiding somewhere else and the girls would have to find him before they could do the challenge. Each girl prepared a dinner, they had food identification games, a round of Cupcake Wars, this week was a (very messy) blast.

Curb Appeal Week : Having moved into our new home a few months prior, we still had weeds surrounding us like a moat. The associates researched and sketched their ideas, we visited a nursery and picked out plants, they helped dig out the weeds and plant the flowers, painted little pots for their own flowers, and within one week our landscaping was complete!

Harry Potter Week : How epic this week would live the imaginations of the associates! I'm a complete Potterhead, and thought I would just read the first novel to them so we could talk about it, we ended up reading the entire series aloud (it took us 9 months) and they ADORED it. A little owl arrived one morning with an invitation to a week's study course at Hogwarts. He would continue dropping by all week with a rolled piece of "parchment" detailing the day's activities. We had Care of Magical Creatures in which they learned to care for pink dragons, magic turtles, magic snowmen, and Horton the elephant (their favorite toys.) Double Potions which we brewed up homemade bubbles and butterbeer, Quidditch on a broomstick, Gringotts School of Money Management, and how many chapters we were to read in the book. We finished it by Friday and watched the movie while we ate cauldron cakes and pumpkin pasties.

Beauty Week : We started by compiling collages of what they thought beauty meant. We beautified the playroom and donated unused items, held a bake sale and lemonade stand with neighbors to benefit the Sparrow Missions, and of course, had pedicures.

Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego Week : We watched old WITWICS shows on Youtube and fell in love with geography. We learned about different countries and played a live action WITWICS game and ate world cookies.

Frozen Week : A very creative friend held a Frozen tea party  We had them over later in the week to make ice cream in a bag. Summer flew by!

 "Jazz" by Walter Dean Myers

We attended our first Jazz concert, a free event hosted by a local library, and it was a great way to really feel the music live.

For exercises I played different types of Jazz music (Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday and Miles Davis) and the girls wrote poetry to the beat.

Top Chef Challenge came one morning along with a Miles Davis playlist - Bake some "Jazzy" cupcakes using cotton candy, nerds, gummies, and cotton candy Jell-O and watch the Blues Brothers!

Summer School IV 

 "Lincoln : A Photobiography" by Russell Freeman

So we grabbed a latte and this week's book and headed for Hodgenville. We ended up stopping at the Nancy Hanks cabin site. It was a great midway point to stretch out legs and check out the authentic period cabins and the site was beautiful. The Lincoln Cabin Memorial was a wonderful spot, the Park Rangers had a (FREE) scavenger hunt which the girls could fill out the answers that were spread around the park and become Junior Park Rangers with a pin and certificate. There was so much to see and I would highly recommend this (again, FREE) field trip! Afterwards we stopped downtown for ice cream and walked to the park in the center of town with beautiful Lincoln statues. The associates had a wonderful time learning about Lincoln, the Civil War, and freedom. 

Bluegrass Princesses



 "Pollyanna" by Eleanor Porter

Helping others, finding the sunny side, a charity for domestic violence victims, and coordinating a lemonade stand with neighbors with proceeds benefitting Sweet Blessings--which provides birthday cakes for underprivileged children, all on the menu this week as we embarked on Pollyanna.

To cap off the week, we watched the movie starring Hayley Mills which was a favorite of my childhood. They loved it!