Monday, March 2, 2009

Weeks 22-24 in Review weekly reviews are turning into monthly reviews. Just when we thought we were out of our slump...BAM!...I came down with a cold. Then throughout the month the kids came down with colds of varying degrees. Anna was out of commission for almost a week.

We have also had lots of visitors lately, which I hate to list as an excuse because we really enjoyed each of these visits. Our church is currently looking for a new pastor, and because Marc is an elder in our church we've had the privilege to host some of the visiting pastors that served as pulpit supply. So far we've had three young men fresh out of seminary stay with us, and it is greatly encouraging to see God raise up terrific men for the ministry. We learned so much from each of them and really enjoyed their company. One of the men also brought his wife and his young daughter, whom Grace bonded with instantly. I'm hopeful we will get to see them again soon. I wish the third man who stayed with us had been able to bring his family -- his wife is a homeschooler who buys organic food and carts kids to swim team everyday, so I think we would have been able to find a few things to talk about! We also had wonderful visits from Grandpa and his two dogs, and a couple of weeks later Marc's sister and her husband made a quick visit.

Looking back on all of that, it is easy to see why I've been inconsistent with weekly reports and blogging in general. School suffered as well, making our homeschool slump last for two straight months. I've had to really fight back feelings of failure the last several weeks and resist the urge to compare myself to all the bloggers whose homeschools seem to be going so well. I have however noticed that several of blogs I read have been quiet lately, so maybe I'm not alone in my struggles to keep up with everything.

Nevertheless, some great things happened in February. We've been having a fantastic time with our Iditarod study which I am going to blog about in a separate post once the race starts. I already blogged about our field trip to
Mini Town, but earlier that week we had another great field trip. The kids got to take a tour of a local news station. Of course this was the worst day of my cold, so my wonderful husband volunteered to take the kids (thank you, Honey!). At the end of the tour the kids were on TV for the last few seconds of the noon newscast, and I got to see them live (from the couch at home in my pajamas).

It helps to have connections: The tour guide (to the right of Ryne) goes to our church.

The kids got to play in front of the weather screen.

Ryne, who has a screen addiction, probably thought this room was the best place on earth!

About to go live on the lunch hour newscast...for all of three seconds!

And this is what happens when Dad takes the kids on a field trip (and he even took a picture of it!).

Academically speaking, February has been a turning point for Grace. She has turned into a reader on her own. We've been plugging through The Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading. Overall we both like this book, but it just seems like it is taking f-o-r-e-v-e-r to get through it, so it's easy to think of it as drudgery. But over the last few weeks Grace has just starting reading everything she sees -- even stuff that is still many lessons down the road in her reading book. As a result her reading lessons are going very quickly now, because in many cases it's review of what she has already picked up naturally. So even though we're only on Lesson 94 (out of 230) she's doing remarkably well. She's also been doing fantastic with math. Her experience with Math U See Alpha is much like Ryne's. She struggled with the concept and the MUS way of teaching addition of 9's, but once she mastered that lesson she was able to easily transfer the concept to her 8's and 7's and is now on a roll.

Ryne has also been doing great with math. Beta is giving him no problems, and his speed has really picked up. He is eager to get into multiplication in Gamma so he can answer the questions on Nintendo DS Brain Age (at least the game is good for something). We're still only on Lesson 13 though, so he's going to have be patient. Anna, on the other hand, struggled with math for the first time since starting Math U See (or even since we started homeschooling). Zeta's Lesson 9 had both of us stumped for several weeks. Since MUS teaches the "why" of math, sometimes a simple thing like multiplying decimals can seem difficult at first. I'm sure we could have made better progress if our schedule hadn't been interrupted by illness. Anna can be very critical of herself, so this struggle was hard on her.

I don't write often about our extracurricular activities, but they are an integral part of our homeschooling experience. Anna wrapped up her short course swim season yesterday, so we have a couple of months off from swim meets. I am so proud of the progress she has made this year (her second year of swim team). She became very competitive in her 100 yard breast stroke, until she had her birthday in January. Once she turned 11 she had to move up to a new age group, so she went from being in the top tier of breaststrokers to the bottom half of the pack. I had to keep reminding her that her that there's a big difference physically between someone who just turned 11 and someone who is almost 13. She has high goals set for next year, so I'm sure her time will come again.

Ryne finished out the month with his Cub Scout Blue and Gold Banquet where he received his Bear badge. It was a fun evening, and I am pretty sure Ryne is the most handsome scout ever!

Last but not least, we have started piano lessons again. It's been six months since Anna had a lesson and more than a year since Ryne last had a lesson. We found an excellent teacher who comes to our house on Wednesday mornings for lessons, and I am just loving this arrangement. While one kid takes their lesson I can work with the others in our school room. The teacher uses a much different method than our previous teacher and it seems to be making a huge difference in keeping Ryne engaged. He has incredible music potential, but it's a struggle to keep him motivated. The first time he started piano he loved it so much he played all day long and even wrote his own music. Then one day he just stopped and he couldn't focus during lessons, so we quit. Now he seems to be interested again, so we'll see. He can play by ear and picks up music reading skills pretty quickly. Anna too seems to be thriving under the new instruction. Grace is excited to be taking lessons for the first time. Now the biggest challenge is for me to get us into the habit of practicing consistently.

For any of you who actually read this far, bless you! My weekly reviews are mostly for my own benefit to record what is happening in our school year. I try to spice them up by adding favorite books or resources that others might want to use, so I will get back to that with the next review.

Happy Homeschooling!


  1. I love this review! You really make me feel not so alone in these yucky winter months and you are right - there are many of us who are struggling through slumps, colds, and blogging droughts.

    But the awesome thing about homeschooling is that it looks like you've still taught the kids so much! A new reader, new piano lessons, observation of church leadership, a tv show, etc! I often have to remind myself that our schooling isn't about balancing it all perfectly but about Who we lean through along the way....
    Good job!

  2. Hey Kellie,

    What music program are you using?

    We started Simply Music in the latter part of January. It can be instructor led, but the only guy around that I could find was in O.P. so we opted for the video for now. Nathan is loving it! He has really taken advantage of rewinding and replaying certain parts until he understands what he's supposed to do. It has been very simple for him to learn. He's playing several songs already and it isn't hard at all to get him to practice--usually he does it without even being told to. Glad to hear you have found something your kids like too. I'd like to know who you are using though so when we're ready to move to an instructor will have an option to consider. Thanks!


  3. Oops, I just realized that I asked what music program you were using...and I realize you're using an instructor. It's very late (or early depending on how you want to look at it), anyway what is your instructor doing differently that the kids really seem to like?


  4. Carrie,

    I have a limited musical background (and know very little about the piano), so keep that in mind as you read my observations! This instructor takes the kids into music theory right away and she has us do quite a bit of memorization compared to the materials our previous instructor used. Many of our current instructor's books are hard to find or out of print, so I guess her method is not as common today.

    Anna and Ryne are learning their hand positions for the different keys, whereas before most of the keys would have been much farther down the road (they had only learned the C and G majors). I've been taking lessons along with the kids and previously I was a few books ahead of the kids, but I still hadn't learned most of those positions. She has them learning chords, transposing, and playing by ear. When Ryne quit his lessons after a year his book was just starting to have him play with two hands at the same time, and he clearly needed to be doing that earlier. With Grace, who is just starting out, it is more simple, but she still does some transposing, playing by ear, and uses both hands at the same time.

    I've probably made no sense with all this! : ) Let me know if you want her name. She actually lives not far from you.