Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Sweet Sixteen!

Late last night we returned from a wonderful trip to Denver where we spent Christmas with our family. We made several trips back and forth between the houses of Marc's sister and his mother, each time passing the building that used to be the little Reformed church that Marc grew up in. The church where we were married sixteen years ago. It's now a Korean church, but it still brought back fond memories every time we drove by. Memories of a winter wedding between a young couple who could never have dreamed what the next sixteen years would hold. What a wonderful adventure it has been!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

My favorite Christmas tradition

Merry Christmas!

We all have special ways we celebrate this holiday. Maybe you're preparing your grandmother's special recipe she used every Christmas. Or maybe you're gazing at an ornament on your tree that you decorated in 3rd grade.

Here at Blue House Academy, one of our favorite Christmas traditions that Marc and I started shortly after we were married is to put our wooden shoes next to the fireplace instead of the traditional stockings (No last names allowed on this blog, but both sides of our family come from Dutch heritage).

But my favorite tradition is one Marc's family started many years ago, long before Marc and I even knew each other. Every year we have a special cake. It's a birthday cake. Because it is the day we celebrate the birth of our Savior, after all. But it's also the birthday of someone else I love dearly.

Every year the cake is different...

but the celebration is the same.

Thank You, Heavenly Father, for sending us your Son, and thank You for giving me the most wonderful husband in the world!

Happy Birthday, Marc and Jesus!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Week 17 in Review

What a week! We got a lot done, but it was very different than our normal routine. Individual subjects were held at a minimum and we spent a good portion of the week snuggled on the bed reading. We had some Christmas joy infused into our school week in everything from a nativity themed word search to decorating our classroom, such as our little tree to the left and lots of snowflakes hanging from the ceiling (below).

Even better, we made time for a Christmas art project. Googling "Nativity art project" led me to That Artist Woman's blog and this lovely project:

We also studied George Frederick Handel and his magnificent Messiah. Here are some great resources we used:

Both Hallelujah Handel's are essentially the same story, so you could just use the book for pictures while you listen to the CD. We chose to read the book by itself after listening to the CD. We also listened to selections from Messiah. I also found through the library a CD with Medieval Christmas songs that I of course forgot to play when we were doing our art project. We'll try to find some time this weekend to listen to it.

Grace's ballet school had their annual open house, so we had fun watching how much she has learned since last year.

I hope you all have a blessed Christmas and I wish you Happy Homeschooling in 2009!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Attention Math U See Users!

Special announcement from the MUS Blog:

Go visit the blog for more information. On one hand I'm thrilled for the changes, except that we already own all the teacher manuals through Zeta. Oh well.

LOL, I had to do some math of my own to figure out how to size the video to fit my column!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

what girls do with Legos

We all know about boys and their Legos, but what can a six year old girl create?

Not impressed?

Take another look...

Wordless Wednesday: Decade-Old Christmas Cactus Finally Blooms in December

BHA Weekly Planner

Everyone has their own planning system that works best for themselves, and there are plenty of homeschool planning resources available on the internet. Regardless, since I'm in the midst of planning for the second half of our school year, I thought I'd share what has been working for me.

The planner I use is actually a variation of the planner my friend and homeschool mentor, Melanie, gave me when I first started homeschooling. It's designed to grow with the students, so I tweak it every now and then. Each student has a section with their individual subjects listed and a space for the day's assignment. This year I found it helpful to make the planner two pages, using the second page for subjects we do together and for extracurricular activities. That left me a little more room on the first page to be creative and add an encouraging Bible verse. I print on thicker copier paper so I can print on both sides versus stapling two pages.

I typically fill in the planning sheets six weeks in advance, but I always write in pencil so changes can easily be made. This could easily be done on the computer as well, but for whatever reason I still prefer to write instead of type. Each school day I keep the planner at my desk and check things off as they are completed.

If you would like to download a copy click here. I don't know why the formatting gets so messed up in the iPaper format, but it seems to work fine if you download it as an Excel file, and then you can customize it to your needs. Note that in Excel to find the second page click on the tab at the bottom of the screen.

On a completely unrelated note: If you're wondering what was in the Christmas mug, click here. It is wonderful!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Weeks 15 & 16 in Review

In addition to completing the Christmas card project, we have had a busy couple of weeks. An out of town swim meet. Holiday preparations. A fun visit from Grandpa and his two dogs. Yesterday I had a cleaning marathon and even managed to find time to clean all the dirty hand prints off the kitchen walls.

Oh, that's right...this weekly review is supposed to be about homeschooling. Thankfully we did get some of that done too! It wasn't easy, and we will be working much of this week to get caught up in a few things, but overall we've accomplished a lot for being almost halfway through our school year.


We are giving Wordsmith Apprentice another try. I had heard such great reviews of this program last year, and Anna seemed pretty happy with it, but I was confused about the purpose of some of the exercises. I set it aside but never could decide what to replace it with. And then for some reason we opened it up again a few weeks ago, and it seems to be going pretty well. We do two lessons a week, alternating with two pages from Outlining. On Monday/Wednesday she does Outling and Tuesday/Thursday she does Wordsmith Apprentice.

Zeta continues to go really well for Anna. She completed Lessons 4 - 6 in 6 days. She is speeding through this material right now, because it is stuff she had previously in Saxon 5/4 (and thankfully still remembers).

Latin, on the other hand, did not go as well. She really needs a consistent schedule to stay motivated and on track with Latin, and the last two weeks have been anything but consistent. So we will spend a third week on Chapter 5!

Last week Anna participated for the first time in the Harmony Fine Arts Sketch Tuesday. She really enjoyed it, so we will try to make that a part of our regular routine.


Beta Boy continues to amaze us! He also completed three lessons in the last two weeks. One day he had finished the last page of the lesson and kept working into the next lesson. I didn't realize he had moved ahead until he was done with the first page. I went ahead and checked his work and it was 100% correct, and we hadn't even watched the video yet. We went ahead and watched the video anyway, and then I gave him the test and he got a 100% again.

We've started reading Christian Liberty's Nature Reader 3. I fell in love with these books when Anna went to Christian Liberty Academy for Kindergarten and 1st Grade. It's fun to read them all over again with Ryne.

After the holidays I will have to write about First Language Lessons. Ryne does so well with this program and it is one of the highlights of our homeschool day.


Gracie is working on adding 9's in MUS Alpha. She is moving at a snail's pace with this lesson, but she is making progress. We will camp in this lesson for a while.

Reading was the subject that got pushed aside with Gracie. We only did about half of her lessons in The Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading. She did however read a whole book to me the other night. It was a Strawberry Shortcake book (no, not the highest quality of literature) that ironically was the first book Anna read to me as well.

Below are our favorite books from the last two weeks.

Finally, a highlight from Week 16 was a Christmas Party with some homeschool friends. The kids decorated sugar cookies and then delivered them to a local nursing home and sang carols to the residents. It was a wonderful morning!

Happy Homeschooling (or have a great break if you're done for 2008)!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Do you love homeschool conventions?

Boy, do I love them! Great speakers and hours of browsing through all the vendor booths, drooling over all the great materials. Well, you have to check out this give-away at Life with My 3 Boybarians! Thanks, Darcy!

Friday, December 5, 2008

I Photoshopped...again!

After making my kids shiver in the cold through 34 attempts to get the perfect Christmas photo, I went back to the "drawing board" and played around some more. So here's take two:

I would love to know if there's a way to change the color of Grace's sweater to match the others. By the way, I'll give you some behind-the-scenes scoop. I was having trouble finding coordinating clothes, so Grace wore Anna's sweater, Anna wore my sweater (the shoulder seam is halfway down her arm!), and everyone wore pants that were definitely not picture worthy.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

I Photoshopped!

Once upon a time I was a scrapbooker. I loved it. Anna's 1st year album was stuffed to capacity. Then having two kids 19 months apart took its toll on my scrapbooking. Ryne's 1st year album had about half as many pages, and I had to enlarge most of the photos to fill up the pages. Grace? Well, her 1st year album is sitting in various boxes and on my hard drive. And no one has anything in albums beyond their first year of life.

But I still love the idea of scrapbooking. Several years ago I bought Photoshop Elements 2.0 (version 7.0 is in stores now!), thinking it would be easier if I learned how to scrap digitally. No more trips to the scrapbook store, I reasoned. But I never could figure out how to use the darn thing. I used the tutorial, read magazine articles, and even looked for instructions on the web. But no matter how hard I tried, I could not figure out how to make the simplest layout.

Until Tuesday night. I'm not even sure how because I was not really looking for scrapbooking stuff, but I came across Two Peas in a Bucket and found some beginner tutorials. Finally, I figured out how to make layers! And lots more! I was so excited I stayed up most of the night playing around with it (not a good idea when you have to homeschool in the morning).

So here is my first project ever -- my attempt at a Christmas card. It's still in the "playing around" stage because I don't even have pictures of my kids for the card yet. I might not use the circles, but I thought it would be fun to try. So I'm hoping to get some constructive criticism from you ladies. LOL, I might have to go comment on some of your blogs to lure you over here! I obviously have a lot to learn yet, so don't be afraid to tell me what needs to be fixed.

Since this is the "blog version," I used BHA instead of our last name. The JOY, JOY, JOY theme has been a tradition with our cards for several years. I enclose a letter that includes several other Bible verses with the word JOY.

My dear husband looked at my handiwork and said, "Just what you need, another hobby." So true.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Finally, first snow

For weeks I've been jealous of all the reports of snow from fellow bloggers, and finally some found its way to my neck of the woods over the weekend. The kids were sledding in the front yard while I snuck out back to the woods for a few pictures. There's a rumor a new camera will be waiting under the tree for me this year since mine died last year. These are just from the picture mode of my camcorder. Even so, hopefully these scenes will have you dreaming of a white Christmas.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Week 14 in Review

Whew! It is amazing we accomplished as much as we did between dentist appointments, a food co-op divide, a field trip to watch a musical version of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and me coming down with a nasty cold! This review is almost a week late in coming, but better late than never, right?

Anna: Sometimes when I read about other homeschooler's days, I'm amazed at how independent many of the kids are with their school work. Mom can actually take a break to go fold some laundry or throw some dinner in the crock pot. We're not there yet -- I'm in motion non-stop, switching between the three kids, usually telling one of them, "I'll be there in a minute!" But I'm starting to see the light at the tunnel. Anna is slowly becoming more independent. Yet sometimes I struggle with how to let her work independently without giving her busywork. For example, she uses Rod & Staff for grammar, which we really like. But what we like about it (besides being thorough and easy to understand) is that we can work on it together orally and be done in 15 minutes. We read the lesson together and then go through the oral drill section and the review section (also orally). About the only time I have her write anything down is when we do sentence diagramming or when she takes the unit test. I could easily send her off to read the lesson and complete the work on paper, freeing me up to do other things, but I just don't see the point. She has a solid grasp of the materials and this way she is freed up to work on other things. But it is something I privately debate -- how much should we do together.

Ryne: Giving addition with regrouping another week was just what Beta Boy needed. By the end of the week he was doing great with Lesson 7. One day I was checking his paper and could not find where he wrote the work to solve a certain word problem. The answer was correct, but there was nothing to show how he got the answer. I asked him about it and he said he did it in his head! Anna and looked at each other in disbelief. If you're new to this blog, you might want to read some of Ryne's history with math. Every week I continue to be amazed at the progress he has made. But as exciting as it was, I did tell him he needed to show me his work for word problems. Ryne also finished the book Pilgrim Boy just in time for Thanksgiving. While we ate our Thanksgiving turkey he told us all about the story. Ryne and I both liked the story.

Grace: She too benefited from staying in the same math lesson for an extra week. Solving for the unknown was a tough concept for her. It really helped to have her read the equation out loud. She is so eager to move forward in math, but I think we will be moving at a slower pace in the weeks ahead. Because she is the youngest and wants to learn the things the big kids are learning, sometimes I forget to teach her the things she is supposed to be learning as a Kindergartner. Thankfully, Ryne remembers every detail of Kindergarten so he is often reminding me of things to teach her. For example, something I said to Ryne one day made him start humming a song he learned to remember the days of the week. Grace was still having trouble remembering the days in order, so this song was perfect.

(Sing to the tune of the Munsters theme song)

Days of the week, [snap, snap]
Days of the week, [snap, snap]
Days of the week, days of the week, days of the week. [snap, snap]

There's Sunday and there's Monday,
There's Tuesday and there's Wednesday,
There's Thursday and there's Friday,
and then there's Saturday.

Days of the week, [snap, snap]
Days of the week, [snap, snap]
Days of the week, days of the week, days of the week. [snap, snap]

Of course that brings up another thing we need to work on -- snapping!

Other: I have mentioned before that we love Song School Latin, so I thought I'd show you what it looks like in a real homeschool. Grace and Ryne are practicing a chant, asking each other, "How are you?"

Happy Homeschooling!