Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Fall Into Reading 2009

The smell of stew currently simmering on my stove is a sure sign that fall is here. And that means it is also time for the fall reading challenge at Callapidder Days. This will be my third challenge, and I hope you will join me in the fun. Compared to most of the participants, my list is very small. I am hosting Thanksgiving at my house this year, and would like to spend some evenings and weekends painting a few rooms that haven't been painted since we first moved here eight years ago. So I'm trying to be realistic by just picking 4 books. I do a lot of reading with the kids -- hopefully that still counts for something!

My 2009 Fall Into Reading List:

John Adams by David McCullough

When I was in college, I made a list of things I wanted to do before I die. Some of them are completely unrealistic, but one of them was to read a biography of each U.S. President. Problem is, I have only finished George Washington (although I did read two books on him!). So I better get movin' on that goal.

Until We Reach Home by Lynn Austin

I have not read any of Lynn Austin's books, but have heard many good things about several of them. It was hard to decide which one to choose, so if any of you think I should start with another one, let me know.

A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by Phillip Keller

I'm having Ryne and Grace memorize Psalm 23 later this year and thought it would be nice if I really dug into it myself. I actually have four of Keller's works in one volume, so perhaps if the painting goes quickly (not likely) I will read the others too.

Creative Homeschooling by Lisa Rivero

This book is written to parents homeschooling gifted children, but it is recommended by the RDI folks as a good general homeschooling resource. Often the methods used to teach gifted children are beneficial for children of all abilities, especially since such strategies often emphasize critical thinking skills.

Happy Reading!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Week 5 in Review

I am experiencing technical difficulties with a new photo card, so I can't post my photos yet. Too bad, because it was kind of a big week and definitely photo-worthy. Hopefully, I can get it all figured out and update later.

It was a productive week of catching up on work not completed the previous week (yet still completing most of what we had scheduled for this week). Things went somewhat smoother with Anna's workload from the classical school she attends, so maybe we're starting to figure things out. Someone asked in the comments section of my last weekly review if all this work Anna has been doing is meaningful, and the answer is yes, I think so. Individually, almost everything she has been assigned has been a worthwhile activity. In my opinion, only a couple of the assignments would be considered just plain busy-work, and the teacher apologized for one of those assignments. Anna is getting a great education at this school. It has just been the volume of work that has been difficult. Most importantly though, she loves the school, her teacher, and her new friends. She is doing very well and has not complained nearly as much as I have about the workload. Plus, I really am seeing the benefit of being able to focus more on Ryne and Grace and better tailor our curriculum to their abilities.

Ryne: All his individual subjects went well. I finally got all our spelling materials set up and read the teacher manual, so we added All About Spelling 1 this week. As I set up his card file, I realized he knows how to spell most of the words in Level 1, so I think he will move through it quickly. The reason I started him at Level 1 is because I know he has some gaps in phonics, but since I wasn't really part of his learning to read, it's hard for me to know what he missed or didn't retain. He learned to read through a combination of the online Headsprout reading program and whatever he used in the first year-and-a-half at a Christian school. So this week we just worked on the basic phonograms, and it was clear he did need to review a few of them. He enjoyed listening to the sounds on the CD-ROM. One of the biggest problems we had with the lesson though is that he still cannot pronounce his th sounds correctly. I'm not sure what to do about this.

Grace: Drum roll, please... Gracie finished The Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading!!!! It took her about two years to finish the 231-lesson book, so we made a big deal about her completing it. Thursday night I took her out to celebrate. So until I get the photo card thing figured out, here is where you have to imagine a picture of her sitting on the bed with a big grin on her face, holding that big book in triumph. Now that we've been through the whole book, what do I think of it? I give it a thumbs up! While it can drag on at times, it is very thorough and made teaching this all-important skill pretty manageable.

Science: We also said good-bye to Christian Kids Explore Earth and Space this week, having completed our weather unit. We made a tornado in a plastic pop bottle and charted all the 2009 hurricanes. We have really enjoyed CKE Earth and Space, and will definitely consider the series again in the future. But I have a boy who says he's an alien from Saturn who really needs to spend more than four lessons on the space part, so we will now be switching to Exploring Creation with Astronomy. We also completed another Outdoor Hour Challenge, but I will wait to post about that until I get the picture thing worked out.

History: This is the only subject we didn't get completely caught up on, but we did finish a couple of great read-alouds.

Squanto: Friend of the Pilgrims by Clyde Robert Bulla
The Boy Who Lived With the Bears by Joseph Bruchae

Happy Homeschooling!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

38 Things...

First, I just have to say THANK YOU to everyone who has commented on this blog lately! Especially last week, when my weekly report was less than inspirational, your comments really made me smile. I am so far behind in responding to everyone though, so if you start getting responses to your comments from two weeks ago, don't be surprised. It's just been that kind of month!

Now for the business of the day. Every once in a while, I see some cute blog post where someone tells 100 fun or interesting things about herself. I can't possibly think of 100 things, so I'm aiming for a more manageable number. So here are 38 things you probably didn't know about me (and perhaps wish you didn't):

1. There is no special reason why I chose the number 38.

2. I sneeze in 3's.

3. I became a Christian the summer before my senior year in high school.

4. It only took me another 5 years to really start to understand what being a Christian meant.

5. I met Marc at Baylor University. Sic 'em Bears!

6. I was a freshman, and he was a senior.

7. It was love at first sight.

8. I'm not ready to tell you where we met, but just ask him -- he loves to tell everyone the story.

9. I even told my sister that he was "the one."

10. She probably didn't believe me, since it took him a couple of months to call me after our first date.

11. In real life, I'm very shy and avoid telephone calls at all cost.

12. This morning a dear friend/neighbor brought me the yummiest homemade chocolate cake, which just happened to be gluten free.

13. She must really like me to bring me a cake for no reason.

14. I ate 2 pieces.

15. The academic achievement I was most proud of in college, was getting an A+ on a paper that accurately predicted the (then) unknown Texas congressman, Tom DeLay, would one day be one of the most powerful people in American politics.

16. Yes, the same Tom DeLay that had to resign under controversy, but is now going to be a contestant on Dancing with the Stars.

17. But that's about as close to political commentary you'll see on this blog, because I really don't like to talk about politics.

18. I won't even tell you how baffled I was about all the protest over Obama's address to our nation's students. They're worried about their kids being indoctrinated from a 15 minute speech, but they send their kids to public schools. Hmmm... Oh, right -- no politics!

19. I recently joined a cult.

20. Not really, I just bought a Mac.

21. And I it!

22. It's also my first laptop!

23. Maybe someday I will be brave enough to download my 1st cell phone ringtone.

24. I even have a song picked out.

25. My favorite hymn is "And Can It Be."

26. Except when I'm singing "I Know Whom I Have Believed."

27. I lead the children's singing at my church.

28. Even though I can't sing.

29. That's what happens when you go to a small church.

30. I was once trained as an Assistant Teaching Director for Community Bible Study.

31. Can you imagine someone who's afraid to talk on the phone giving a 30 minute lecture?

32. Long story, but I never actually got to be an ATD.

33. I think it had something to do with God calling me to homeschool my kids.

34. Tonight at our church's ladies Bible study, I was presented with another cake.

35. So that makes 3 pieces of cake today.

36. I'm telling you, I just have very loving friends.

37. Because there is nothing special about today or the number 38.

38. Except that, thankfully, it's not the number 40.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Week 4 in Review

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Have you ever read this book?

I actually do not care for the book too much, but I have to admit that Tuesday, the first day of our homeschool week, ended with me thinking much like Alexander:

It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

Oh sure, it could have been worse, and I felt foolish for being so grouchy about it, but it was not the start to our week that I was anticipating. The problem was that even though Anna had spent several hours on Saturday and Monday (Labor Day holiday) working on homework, she still had a mountain of work to do on Tuesday. I realized she was going to need much more of my attention than I could give while still homeschooling Ryne and Grace, so I had to send them off to play while I worked with Anna. And then Anna and I ended up working almost non-stop until 10:00 p.m. I was fuming at the amount of work she had been assigned and that some of the instructions were not very clear. One of the main reasons we enrolled Anna in this school was so that I would be able to more effectively homeschool Ryne and Grace. And they were down in the basement fighting over who-knows-what (which added to my terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day). We knew when we enrolled Anna that at this school 6th grade is a challenging year and that she would have to work hard, but this seemed excessive.

Turns out I was not the only parent who felt this way, so the teacher apologized and adjusted the workload. Wednesday went well, but then on Thursday we had trouble again. The morning was taken up with kid's dentist appointments, and even though they all worked on school stuff in the waiting room, Anna needed enough help in the afternoon that I had to put Grace and Ryne on hold again. And it wasn't just them, but the laundry and the dishes as well. So this morning I woke up to a disastrous house (and we have company coming this weekend) and the realization that there was no way we were getting all the schooling done this week. We didn't even get to our Outdoor Hour Challenge today.

Oh, and did I mention that the dog burst an artery in her ear and had to have emergency surgery last night? Don't worry, she's okay now!

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No, we're not super-homeschoolers, but we probably don't deserve that title on our best weeks, LOL! If I base our success as homeschoolers on how much we get done in a week, then I've really missed the point of homeschooling.

Instead, I got over my pity party, and rejoiced in the little successes of our week. This afternoon in the car, a student at the local university crossed the street in front of us, carrying on her back a large instrument in its case. Both Ryne and Grace immediately yelled out, "It's a cello!" I was pleased, not only because our five minute "instrument of the week" lesson had helped them recognize it was a cello she was lugging around, but that they were excited about what they learned and wanted to share it with me. I love my job!

Happy Homeschooling!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Week 3 in Review

Better late than never, right? I've been enjoying my Labor Day weekend a little too much to get my weekly report done, but I do want to try to keep up with my reports this year. Overall, it was another good week, although looking over my planning page I noticed we did miss a few things -- some purposely, a couple I just plain forgot. That's what happens when you don't look at the planner as often as you should! And I've also figured out why it is so important to get your planning done before the start of the school year. I decided at the last minute to switch spelling programs, and now I can't seem to find enough time to figure out how to use it! I thought for sure with a 3-day weekend I could get it done, but instead I got other projects done, like bathing the dogs, painting a kitchen stool, and finally returning a pair of jeans I bought for Ryne last December! I'm almost beginning to wonder if perhaps I am subconsciously avoiding spelling, LOL!

Ryne: He continues to do well with math, having completed the lesson on finding area of a rectangle or square. He enjoyed working on memorizing his first poem for the year. I don't personally select the poems he memorizes, since poetry is included in First Language Lessons, but I have been very happy with all the poems in each FLL book. This week he started "Afternoon on a Hill" by Edna St. Vincent Millay. Another highlight of the week for Ryne was having his first Cub Scout den meeting for the year.

Grace: So far, so good with subtraction! She reviewed 3 lessons this week that she completed late last spring. But the next lesson (subtracting 9's) is where she really struggled, forcing us to take a break. I have a few ideas on how to help her through this lesson, so we'll see if she's ready for it yet.

Anna: The adjustment to away-school gets better each week. She loves her school and is working hard. They are reading Tom Sawyer right now, but are forbidden to read ahead and it is killing her!

Bible: Having completed the introductory chapters in Discovering Jesus in Exodus, we were reacquainted ourselves with the pattern of the main text we were introduced to in the DJiGenesis last year. Each four chapter section has a "glory story" that illustrates the memory verse and the covenantal theme, as well as a fictional story line designed to encourage personal application of the truths. This week our glory story was about baby Moses, the covenantal theme was "trust," and the verse was 20:7, "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God." In addition to DJiE, we continued our daily Bible stories, and began working on memorizing the first five books of the Bible.

Science: We completed a lesson on precipitation and made a rain gauge (we've collected a whopping one-eighth of an inch of rain so far!). We also completed Outdoor Hour Challenge #3, which you can read about here. We were honored to have one of the photos I took of the kids on our second challenge chosen as The Handbook of Nature Study's photo of the week. As of tonight, you can still see us about half-way down the side bar.

History: Our focus this week was Jamestown and the Powhatan Indians (think Pocahontas). There were too many good books to choose from this week, so sadly I had to return a few to the library that looked like they could have been good. Below are the favorites of what we did read.

Three Ships Come Sailing, Gilchrist Waring
The Lord is My Shepherd, Ill. Tasha Tudor
The Jamestown Colony, Brendan January
Powhatan Indians, Suzanne Morgan Williams

Fine Arts: We started learning about the viola, and reviewed the same hymn and patriotic song from previous weeks. We almost completed unit 3 of Artistic Pursuits, except that the project called for water color crayons again, which I did not buy until Saturday, so the project had to wait. Another component of our fine arts schedule is piano lessons, and from listening to the kids practice you would think it is Christmas time already! They have all started learning their pieces for our church Christmas program. The instructor wanted the kids to really challenge themselves, so it will be fun to see how they progress over the next few months.

Other: Friday afternoon we had a play date with some friends from church who also homeschool. They have a boy and girl both close in age to Ryne and Grace, so hopefully we can do this often. I think we moms need it almost more than the kids!

With three weeks completed, we've had a nice transition as we move into high-gear with extracurricular activities. Swimming, Cub Scouts, and my ladies Bible study started last week, Sunday School started yesterday, Catechism starts Wednesday, and ballet resumes next week. And somewhere in the middle of it all, I am going to learn how to use our spelling program!

Happy Homeschooling!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Outdoor Hour Challenge # 3

At its best, drawing is a perfectly natural method of self-expression. ~ Handbook of Nature Study, p.17

This challenge revealed two things: 1) I have a reluctant nature journalist, and 2) I have an overachieving nature journalist. This simply proves that the author knew what she was talking about when she wrote the above statement. Ryne spends at least 30% of his day drawing, but it is all about stuff that interests him -- currently that includes aliens, DNA (don't ask), video game characters, Wall-E, and cartoon dinosaurs. He is also not the type of kid who begs to go outdoors. We usually have to force him to play in the yard. So it was no surprise that he was not all that interested in drawing in a nature journal. But that's okay! Barb at Handbook of Nature Study (host of the challenges) has some great suggestions for those who don't want to draw:

1. Make leaf rubbings.
2. Tape small flat things into the nature journal. (leaves, flower petals, seeds)
3. Print out a photo that you took while on your nature walk and let the child write the caption.
4. Press flowers or grasses between pages of a book and later add it to the journal. (We will learn more on that in a future challenge this spring.)
5. Outline an object with a pencil and then color it in.

I did ask him if he wanted to tape some leaves into his journal, but he wasn't interested in that either. So next time I will try one of the other ideas. I didn't want to force him to draw in his journal, but that didn't stop Grace from begging him to draw something! So he did finally draw in his journal. I was impressed that he drew the dark clouds that were looming overhead.

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Grace also loves to draw, but most to her advantage for nature journaling is that she loves to be outdoors. She wanted a sample of every leaf and flower for her journal, and only the start of a rain shower forced her inside. Not only did she draw, but she wrote an entire paragraph about enjoying the world!

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Trouble Reading? (Top) There was a lot of cool leaves and trees. (Bottom) It is so important that we share together seeing the world and we travel around the world to see different places with friends and people who want to see the world just like we do.

And me? I am loving these challenges! Trust me, if we can do nature study, you can too! We didn't get elaborate today. We limited our walk to the front yard. I thought there might not be much to see, but I was so wrong.

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Gracie spotted this Yellow Garden Spider yesterday and wanted us all to see it. BTW, any ideas as to what is wrong with my hydrangea? It gets those spots every year.

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The rose plant we almost dug out last year because it showed no signs of life.

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My favorite season is almost here...

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Sometimes I think God plans the timing of events like this just to make our nature time extra special.

As an extra bonus, we discovered that the front yard was full of acorns so we collected a bowlful for my dining room table display. If it hadn't been for the nature study I probably wouldn't have realized it until all the critters beat me to them like last year!