Posts from the ‘Homeschooling’ category

Riding the London Eye

I’ve been fascinated by the London Eye ever since it was built in 2000 — even though I’m the world’s biggest chicken when it comes to heights. On cold, winter days when I had travel fever, I’d scare myself sick watching youtube videos of people riding on it, but I still dreamed of experiencing it with my kiddos. I put it on my bucket list in 2009, at the time not knowing when or if we’d ever get there.

We did, much sooner than I imagined. In 2011, we flew to England on our way to France. We only had 1.5 days to spend in London, but I was determined to squeeze in a ride on the giant wheel.


As we made our way through the Tube system, I kept wondering if I could really do it. I’d already faced my fear on the Eiffel Tower, but this thing was a whole different animal. Not just standing tall and still — it’s in constant motion, and you can’t get off if you change your mind, until it completes its 30-minute rotation.

The closer we got to it, the bigger it grew, as did my fear. I half-hoped one of the kids would be too scared, so I could have the lame excuse of skipping it myself, but nothing doing! They weren’t a bit scared (yay, boys!), so I had to “man up.”  Thankfully, the line was short, so I didn’t have too much time to think about it. I forced myself to step on and hoped for the best.

I’m not gonna lie; for the first 10-15 minutes, I felt pretty ill. It didn’t help one bit that there was an obnoxious 2-year old who kept jumping up against the glass doors and sliding down, then kicking and screaming at them repeatedly, in defiance of the signs everywhere that warned “DO NOT LEAN AGAINST GLASS!” I was sure each jarring blow of his little wellies would shatter the glass into a million pieces, and we’d all plummet to our watery graves in the River Thames below. I stared daggers at his oblivious parents.

Once we reached the top, the worst was over, and it could only get better as we inched closer to the ground. That’s when I finally started to relax and take some pictures!

Riding the London Eye

Weston (left) and Wyatt enjoying the ride on the London Eye!


Riding the London Eye

At the highest point on the London Eye


Houses of Parliament and Big Ben


Here’s a lovely little video someone made to show what it’s like to be on board (minus the kicking, jumping 2-yr old in wellies).


Riding the London Eye 6

Riding the London Eye

Happiness is being back on the ground, AFTER riding the wheel. Hooray for checking another item off my Bucket List!

Now let’s go celebrate with some fish and chips!

Fun facts about the London Eye:

  • Opened in March 2000, also called the Millennium Wheel
  • 135 meters = 443 feet = 41 stories tall
  • 32 passenger capsules represent the 32 boroughs of London
  • Holds 800 passengers at once (up to 25 per capsule)
  • Each rotation takes 30 minutes at 0.6 mph
  • 360° view with sight distance of 25 miles (40 km) in all directions




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Project: Build a French City

At our homeschool co-op, I taught a class called “Bon Voyage” with travel-themed vocabulary and culture lessons: famous monuments, shopping, transportation, and directions on a map.

One of the most charming aspects of French life is the variety of small specialty shops found in each town, from small villages to large metropolitan cities.  Despite the noise of the bustling, modern world, wandering the streets in France can feel like traveling back in time. Popping in and out of little mom-and-pop shops, exchanging greetings of “Bonjour Madame, Bonjour Monsieur!” is so vastly different from shopping at Wal-mart!

French shops - la crèmerie

One of my faves – fresh cream ladled into cups, yogurt in glass jars, and dozens of fragrant cheeses.

(Hmmmm… I wonder if somewhere in France there is an opposite of me, someone who thinks French shopping is old-fashioned and yearns to shop at Wal-mart? Would they take pictures of giant cola and chip displays, like I take photos of pastries in bakery windows? Surely not!)

Before classes began, I found several long, rectangular boxes and spray-painted them a creamy stucco color, to represent the limestone of Parisian buildings.  I spray painted the box flaps a textured slate-gray color for the roofs. Each student was given a stiff cardboard panel, about 14″ tall by 11″ wide, to fit the outside dimensions of my boxes.

I wanted to make wrought-iron balconies from pipe cleaners or wire, but it was time-consuming and didn’t look right in the end. I tried finding a window graphic of balconies to cut and paste, but no luck. Another mom found an arched window graphic, so we printed several sheets of windows and cut them out. This gave everyone’s panel a unified look.

Balconies in Paris 1

As my students learned the names of French specialty shops, each chose their favorite and created a representation of it on their cardboard panel.  Every week we added buildings, streets, shops, and monuments to build our city.

The streets were spaced wide enough for them to walk through, so we could practice giving/receiving directions to tournez à gauche (turn left), tournez à droite (turn right), or continuez tout droit (go straight) until they arrived at their assigned destination.  This is what I love about homeschooling: learning “off the page,” i.e., learning by doing. No boring workbook pages!

Once all the storefront panels were finished, we attached them to the large boxes I’d painted, and arranged them into market streets, like this one:

rue Montorgueil – one of my favorite market streets in Paris

Student ages ranged from 7 to 17 years old, and I was amazed to see their creativity!  Below are some photos from our Open House, where we had to fit everything on tabletops along with displays from other classes.  For some reason, I didn’t get photos of it on the floor in the classroom, probably because we were always busy trying to make progress in a 45-minute class held only once a week!

La pâtisserie, the pastry shop

This student amazed me by sculpting her own pastries and cakes for her window!  She covered the cardboard in scrapbook paper, made an awning, and cut an opening for the door.

La boucherie, the butcher shop

This student cut out the butcher and meat display, then added foam spacers for a 3D effect (hard to tell from photo but a great effect). His awning is bordered with a ribbon, and the door and windows have real wood frames.


La boutique de fleuriste, the florist shop

Two girls worked on this shop. In another co-op class, they were learning paper quilling, so they made all the flowers from paper and sculpted little clay pots for them! Floral fabric for the awning.

La poste – the post office

French mailboxes and mail trucks are all yellow, as opposed to blue in the U.S. and red in the U.K. Isn’t that interesting?

Le café

This one has tables outside, with a chalkboard menu, and a white poodle! The French love to take their dogs with them everywhere, even to restaurants.

Le parc – the park

Every town has its green spaces, some with ponds and water features. This lady is having a pique-nique with a baguette.

La boulangerie – the bakery

More 3-D bread in the window. Awnings are an essential feature of French shops.

Le musée – the museum

The girl who made this one took time to paint the inside, cut out fancy windows, and fill it with paintings and adorable hand-made sculptures. Love it!

For the open house, I added photos and labels so observers could see what we’d been learning about in class.

We also created a roundabout with a model of the Arc de Triomphe, from a free online printable. Since then, I’ve found a nicer color version here.

These are grouped close together on tables, but during class they were spaced far enough to walk through. See the tiny airplanes at the airport? We also had a zoo with animals, hotels, and little cars and buses, all made by the students.  Voilà!  Everything you need for a successful city!








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Our First Homeschool Graduate

This post is sponsored by Kleenex. Not really, but it should be! I feel like it took at least a million tears (both his and mine, both happy and sad) to go

from this point:

Wyatt’s first day of school, Sept 2001

to this point:

Presenting Wyatt his high school diploma – May 2014

But we did it!!!!!!!!!!

We joined with two other homeschool families to create our own traditional graduation ceremony. Since it was the first graduate for each family, we were so excited and spent months planning. We rented a facility and chose colors, decorations, food, and music. A family friend was our photographer.

Class of 2014: Wyatt, Dakota, and Lindsey

Continue reading…

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French words used in English

One of the most convincing reasons I know for learning French is to help with English vocabulary and spelling.  That’s right, I said English!  Did you know nearly one third to one half (depending whom you ask!) of the English language is made up of French words? We can attribute this fact to the Norman invasion of England, back in 1066.

Read any great book of literature, and you’re likely to come across several French words or phrases, such as raison d’être, nouveau riche, or savoir faire. Your understanding and comprehension is much greater if you’re familiar with these words. As well, many spelling rules, or exceptions to rules, have to do with French phonograms, like words ending in “-tion.”

Here’s a lesson I created to help whet your appetite for learning more French.  It’s called 13 Everyday English Words that are Actually French. Continue reading…

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My Eiffel Tower Epiphany

Before I set foot in France, the Eiffel Tower was a cute cliché, a romantic ooh-la-la notion of idealized Paris. Impressive architecture, yes, but also kind of a kitschy tourist trap, not worth much time.

The trouble is, I have a terrible phobia of heights. And I hate elevators, especially glass elevators. One time in the 90’s, my hotel room for a convention was on the 8th floor, overlooking an atrium. I skipped the elevator for the stairs, but I was so woozy from the height, I had to crawl along the balcony to my room. I was that neurotic.

So my only plan for Eiffel was to get the obligatory tourist photo, standing on terra firma with the tower in the background. I could never go up that weird, diagonal glass elevator (and the stairs are nightmarishly see-through, for goodness’ sake!).

Place du Trocadéro - best place to capture the tower's full height

Place du Trocadéro – best place to capture the tower’s full height

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Le Papillon – The Butterfly {Movie Review}

Delightful, heart-warming story with beautiful cinematography! Ilsa, a little girl neglected by her mother, tries to find friendship in an older neighbor, who is a butterfly collector. He’s spent years searching for a rare species of butterfly, to keep a promise to his son. When he leaves on an expedition to the mountains, she stows away in his car, longing for attention and adventure. She has never been exposed to the outdoors before and must learn some hard lessons about nature.

Spoken only in French (both English and French subtitles available), this is the best way to practice your aural comprehension. I love that it’s easier to understand than most French films, because the dialogue consists mainly of simple sentences between the old man and little girl. If you’re watching this with the kiddos, the overall content is clean, but there are one or two strong curse words (readable in the English subtitles) and the little girl tells a crass joke, which the man chastises her for (as seen in the trailer below). 85 minutes, not rated.

This page contains affiliate links. At no additional cost to you, I’ll receive a small commission when you click any items below and purchase on Amazon. This helps offset my site expenses, so I can create fun, informative, and free content. I only recommend things I personally use and love with all my Frenchy heart. Merci for your support!


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My Favorite French Dictionary

Learning French

This is not your typical dictionary! It contains hundreds of full-color photos with both the French and English word. Over 6,000 objects and phrases are grouped by theme: family members, school, rooms in a house, articles of clothing, parts of the body, animals, toys, foods (my favorite!), sports, etc. It’s just plain fun to look through, perfect for self-teaching! You will still need a good “regular” dictionary for formal study, but this highly recommended for just getting started. 360 pages. (Click the image for more info.)

This page contains affiliate links. At no additional cost to you, I’ll receive a small commission when you click the image link and purchase on Amazon. This helps offset my site expenses, so I can create fun, informative, and free content. I only recommend things I personally use and love with all my Frenchy heart. Merci for your support!


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