Monday, November 29, 2010

Sale Alert! Adorable Stocking Stuffers!

Well, that's what I get for trying to be good by staying away from the computer today. My friend, Dawn, announced she's having a Cyber Monday Sale. She recently debuted her homemade line of soaps, and they are so darling. My favorite are the cupcake soaps.

Won't those be perfect in the girls' stockings? (Edited to add: We don't actually have stockings, but we have wooden shoes we fill instead). I'm sorry I didn't give you much notice for the sale, but there's still time! You can see all her cute soaps here.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

painting & meditating

You were all partly right in your guesses on my current project.

Kim guessed new cabinets.

Actually, old cabinets; new look.

Dawn guessed something to do with the basement.

The basement project is on life support (sorry for the lack of activity over at that blog, maybe this weekend I can give a recap). But because my basement is completely torn up, it has been a perfect place to paint the cabinet doors.

Heather didn't guess, but said, "Oooh... I hope it's something wonderfully fun!!"

Well, I think so, but I'm pretty sure most people will think I'm crazy. My kids love it though, and Marc says he loves it (I think he's mostly glad it's almost done). We're the ones who have to live here, so as long as we're happy with the color it's okay.

Here is where I'm supposed to show you the before and after photos, but it's not done yet. Yep, I'm cutting it close. We have family arriving tomorrow.

I do, however, have something wonderful to share. Instead of spending all that painting time worrying about all the things that need to be done, I have been listening to a great sermon series on Deuteronomy. The preacher is Colin Smith, the pastor of the church we attended the last time we lived in the Chicago area. He started this series this fall to coincide with a major change in their church's life -- the opening of two new church campuses -- but the series is applicable to any believer. I've been making or been planning to make several changes in my life lately, so I've been especially blessed through Pastor Smith's amazing preaching. I'm listing the sermon titles and links for anyone who might be interested. Perhaps during an evening of Thanksgiving baking or wrapping presents you can be blessed too.

Take Two: The Power of a Fresh Start, sermon series by Colin Smith

Make a New Beginning, September 5, 2010

Change the Future by Owning the Past, September 12, 2010

Cultivate the Right Kind of Fear, September 19, 2010

Love God With All Your Heart, September 26, 2010

Tell Your Children Why, October 3, 2010

Beware the Subtle Test of Success, October 10, 2010

Love Your Neighbor as Yourself, October 17, 2010

Celebrate All That is Yours in Christ, October 24, 2010

Exercise Leadership by Learning to Follow, October 31, 2010

Act on What You Know: Leave the Rest to God, November 7, 2010

There are two more sermons in the series, so I will update this post as they become available. And if you like this series, you really should listen to another series he did when we lived there, "Be Yourself: Discovering Your New Identity in Christ." Marc and I still talk about that sermon series often.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have some painting and meditating to do.

Blessed is the one . . . who meditates on his law day and night.

Psalm 1:1-2

Thursday, November 18, 2010

This is not the week . . .

. . . that my kids will get caught up on their school work.

. . . that I will make homemade nutritious meals every night.

Thanks, Dawn, for some helpful ideas for healthier fast food.

. . . that I will get 8 hours of sleep each night.

. . . that I will be a good blogger or blog reader.

. . . that I give up caffeine.

Have you heard about the 2-for-1 deal at Starbucks?

. . . that I win any fashion or beauty awards.

. . . that I read any interesting books.

. . . that the laundry gets done.

Any ideas why? I'll give you a little hint.

Casey, you're not allowed to give away the answer. : )

For the record, some many most of the things in the above list would not happen any other week either, but a girl can always dream!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

swim/catechism training {huh?}

If we're not home, there's a good chance we're at the pool. This year is the first year we have all three kids on year-round swim team. Previously, Anna was the only year-round swimmer, while Grace and Ryne swam only on a summer team. But this year we thought the timing was right for the younger two to swim year-round. Our neighbor, who years ago gave our kids private swim lessons in her backyard, was returning as the beginner group's coach, after having taken a year off. Ryne loves her, and she works so well with him. We would never have dared tried swim team with Ryne if it hadn't been for her support and encouragement. The other major factor was that Anna moved up a level for practice groups, making scheduling all three kids easier. They often have practices at the same time, whereas if we had done this last year they would have been on alternating nights.

Since it seemed like things would work out logistically, we decided to give year-round swimming for all three kids a try and so far it's going well. I feel good that Ryne and Grace are getting regular exercise, doing something they love. For now, we haven't signed Ryne up for any meets. We might try one in December, but for the most part we're just focusing on improving skills with him right now.

Grace, however, competed in meets the last two weeks. She is having an absolute ball! It is so funny to see how different she is from her big sister. Take the pre-race routine, for example. Anna is so expressionless when she's behind the blocks, while Grace is dancing, chatting, giggling, fidgeting, etc. See for yourself the difference . . .

Grace does eventually get focused enough to compete, but even then she has a faint grin on her face.

To Anna's credit, she does smile every once in a while.

But mostly Anna is all business at the pool. She has goals to meet.

Anna is known by her coaches and teammates for being an extremely hard worker. I can count on one hand how many practices she missed last year. It is not uncommon for her to be the only one from her practice group at a 5:15 a.m. practice (yes, you read that time right). She is great about setting challenging goals and keeping focused on those goals.

Yet, for all that hard work and motivation, she has had a lot of disappointment. She continually sees kids younger than her getting faster times (some of whom seem to not work very hard in practice) and she can't break into that top group of swimmers. Her main goal for the last year has been to get an "A" time in her breaststroke events. This summer she missed it by one stinkin' second in the 200 meter breaststroke. It was heartbreaking. I just held her as we both cried. Everyone wanted her to get that time. But she pulled herself back together and said she was going to do it in the fall for short course season. She turns 13 in January, and will have new time standards, so her goal was to get her "A" times in the 50 yard breast and the 100 breast before two big championship meets in December.

All fall she's been getting closer and closer. Two weeks ago was her last chance on the 50 breaststroke before the championship meets. She was seeded in the fastest heat, so we knew she was going to have some great competition. It was a beautiful race -- she had a great start, her turn was awesome, and she finished in 6th place behind some amazing swimmers. And her time?

She missed it by .01 seconds.

The smallest margin possible.

Surprisingly, she didn't cry this time. She didn't even look that upset. She knew she swam a great race, but this time the clock won.

The tears did come a few days later and she even talked briefly of wanting to quit. I did my best to be encouraging, but frankly I didn't know what to say. I was having trouble answering her biggest question: Why?

But after a few days of prayer and contemplation, she and I had a mini catechism lesson. I asked her to tell me the first question and answer of the Heidelberg Catechism.

Q: What is my only comfort in life and in death?

A: That I, with body and soul, both in life and in death, am not my own, but belong to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ . . .

We then discussed that swimming is just a sport. Our comfort is not in an "A" time, but in Christ.

And then we discussed the first question and answer of the Westminster Shorter Catechism.

Q: What is the chief end of man?

A: Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

So we talked about how we are to glorify God in everything we do -- even swimming -- and listed specific ways she could do that. We talked about how it is right to be thankful and to praise God in all circumstances, and that God often uses trials to teach us valuable lessons. I think our catechism lesson helped us both to get our priorities straightened out. : )

And that brings us to Saturday. Her last chance in the 100 breaststroke. Again, she was seeded in the fastest heat. She wrote the time she needed on her leg, and repeated it to herself as she waited to swim.


Just like the previous week she had a beautiful race, this time finishing 5th.

But I'm telling you, that clock took


to post her time.


Finally, her time flashed on the scoreboard.

1:22.19 -- exactly!

I made Marc tell me it was the right time at least three times. Anna just sat in the water with her hand over her mouth in complete amazement.

Now the danger of a post like this is that we start thinking that God rewarded us for promising to be thankful no matter the outcome. This race had a happy ending, but it could have easily gone the other way. So we will have more discussions in the coming days. The thought did cross my mind that perhaps God gave her the exact time she needed (not a fraction of a second more) to keep us humble. She will be seeded last at the Level 1 championship meet, because anyone with a slower time didn't qualify for the meet and can only compete at Level 2's. Whatever God's reasons, we are thankful for the outcome and even more thankful for the reminder that without Christ, everything in life is meaningless.

For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. (1 Timothy 4:8)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Thank you!!!

When I posted our apple study yesterday, I was surprised to receive a couple of lovely comments congratulating me for being nominated for the Home School Blog Awards! Thank you, Heather, for nominating me for Best Nature Blog! It is humbling to even be on the same list as my nature study hero, Barb, whose Outdoor Hour Challenges are the topic of most my nature posts. We've only been doing formal nature study for a little over a year, and I'm certainly not very knowledgeable about most of our topics, but our nature walks really are the highlight of our week.

Blogging about our nature study is especially beneficial to me, because it encourages me to learn more. As I look through my pictures I find a number of things to google:

What kind of snake is that?

Why did all those fish die?

What's the difference between a mushroom and a toadstool?

What are those bumpy things hanging off the tree?

And my most googled nature topic:

What kind of bird is that?

Once I've found the answer, I share what I've learned with the kids. And that's the beauty of nature study -- we don't have to be experts! Just go pick one of Barb's challenges and get started. Our family is blessed to live on an almost two acre wooded lot, but you can do nature study anywhere. We even did one of our nature studies on the highway exit near our home! You can see all my nature study posts here, but I encourage you to visit some of the other bloggers participating in the Outdoor Hour Challenges. I am continually amazed at the things I learn from them.

Okay, now about that other nomination. I didn't even see that one until later in the day -- it was even more unexpected! Whoever nominated me for Best Homeschool Mom Blog needs to email me her phone number right away. I must put you on speed dial for the times when I feel like the Worst Homeschool Mom Ever -- then I can just call you for a pep talk. Don't worry, I only feel that way about twice a day. Three times on Mondays. Seriously, thank you for thinking of me and making my day.

I have one more thank you. For two years I have been begging the people at the blog awards to add a category for blogs about special needs homeschooling, and this year they finally did it!!! I love getting to know other moms of special needs kids through their blogs and have been so blessed by hearing their stories and seeing their day to day lives. I was excited to see several of my favorites nominated and can't wait to visit all the other nominees. Thank you, HSBA!

Being nominated is a little like having unexpected guests show up at your door. I'm so happy to have new visitors, but I'm painfully aware of all the dust in my sidebar, and I feel a sense of urgency to get caught up on my blogging. I still have a nature post from two weeks ago to finish, my October monthly review, and (if we're really keeping track) an autism series from the summer that never made it past the first post! So if you'll forgive my unpreparedness, I'd love to get to know you!

Oh! And don't forget to vote! I'd love it if you'd vote for two of my bloggy friends, Dawn of Olive Plants (nominated for Best Encourager) and Ruthanne of Eclectic Whatnot (nominated for Best Homeschool Mom and Best Photos and Artistic Content). There are so many other great blogs too, but I haven't even had a chance to look at all the categories yet!

Monday, November 8, 2010

OHC: Apples

Join us as we study nature using The Outdoor Hour Challenges. This year Ryne and Grace are joining with friends Cameron and Avery to explore this beautiful world God made. Moms, Kellie and Casey, are enjoying the adventure as much as the kids.

I'm a couple of weeks behind in posting our nature studies, but on October 22 the kids had an indoor nature study on apples. I bought 10 different varieties of apples for them to examine, compare, sketch, and taste. It's amazing how different apples can be!
I thought the kids did a great job noticing some subtle differences and really brought out those differences in their sketches. Everyone was fascinated by the bumpy texture of the Sweet Tango.

They each picked two apples to focus on for their notebook pages. Ryne chose the Gala and the Sweet Tango. Cameron chose the Granny Smith and the Honey Crisp. Avery chose the Jonathan and Red Delicious. Grace chose the Granny Smith and the Cortland.

And then it was time for the best part -- tasting the apples!
Ryne had one of the best lines of the day when describing the Sweet Tango: "Sour, with a touch of tang on the finish."

Because it was such a beautiful day (we've been blessed with wonderful weather for Friday School days so far), we decided to talk a walk in the woods.
Overall, nature study is going well this fall. We're all out of order on Barb's challenges and we've had to skip a few, but isn't flexibility one of the best things about homeschooling? It can sometimes be difficult keeping the attention of four kids and I often wish I could be a better guide, but I am encouraged by the observations I see them all making and the fun they are having.

Monday, November 1, 2010

eight 8 eight 8 eight 8 eight 8 eight

When I see Grace wear a hand-me-down outfit from Anna, I automatically compare how Grace is now to how Anna was back then. At eight Anna seemed so big and grown up. But eight on Grace still seems cute and little girlish. Maybe it's just wishful thinking. I'm not ready to have my little pumpkin grow up. I'm still trying to work up the courage to put away the board books she chewed on as a baby, while she's already abandoning the nice picture books for chapter books.

Okay, this started out as a sweet little happy birthday post, but I'm seriously getting too choked up to finish writing.

As I tucked her into bed tonight and we talked about what a wonderful birthday it had been, she suddenly gasped and said she left Bunny downstairs. She jumped out of bed to fetch her faded and worn best friend, while I just smiled. Maybe I do still have a little bit of time before she completely grows up. But I better treasure every moment, because she's not going to be eight forever.

Happy birthday, my sweet baby.

Friday, October 15, 2010

OHC: Wild Goose Chase

Join us as we study nature using The Outdoor Hour Challenges. This year Ryne and Grace are joining with friends Cameron and Avery to explore this beautiful world God made. Moms, Kellie and Casey, are enjoying the adventure as much as the kids.

If you have been following our nature study adventures you will recall that two weeks in a row we failed to find geese to observe. Casey came to the rescue when she remembered seeing geese at a city park, so last week we took our nature study on the road again. We've decided that while we have this gorgeous fall weather we're going to take advantage of it, so we did another picnic. After lunch we started walking a trail that loops around a lake. As we emerged from the woods to our first lake view, we were excited to finally see the geese...

on the other side of the lake.

No problem, we'll just walk around the lake. As we made our way along the lake we spotted a blue heron. He kept flying off, and I didn't have my good camera that day, so I have no good pictures to share. Then we started noticing something really yucky -- lots of huge, dead fish. We were surprised to see fish that big in a relatively small lake. We couldn't imagine what caused all these fish to die, but after a little investigating I located the answer. In late September the area had a powerful hailstorm, with hailstones up to 5.5 inches in diameter. Apparently the hail could have caused a sudden enough drop in the lake temperature to kill the fish. Or another explanation conservation officials suggested was that the cold hail and rain caused the lake to "turn over" which can kill the fish. Several geese in the area were also killed, but thankfully they were removed right away. I will spare you the dead fish pictures.

Now it was getting hot -- really hot. That morning it was cool so we dressed the kids in long pants and short-sleeve shirts. But now it was 1:00 and we were all boiling. Kids were getting grumpy. "Be patient, we're almost to the geese!" Or not. The bridge crossing a creek had collapsed (or at least looked like it) and was blocked off. There was no way to get around the lake, except go back the way we came. At that point, Casey and I were ready to give up on geese forever, but we still had to get back to the car. One redeeming highlight was that on the way back we spotted some turtles sunning on the submerged tree where we had previously seen the heron. They jumped in the water almost immediately so our pictures are the only view some of the kids will get of the turtles. We finally made it back to our starting point and decided to just take the car around the rest of the way to where the geese were resting since the road passed that side of the lake. You could tell however, the kids were being pushed past their limit.

They revived briefly when we finally reached the geese!!! Canada Geese (I don't think I've ever seen any other kind). At least two dozen of them. Bonus -- three ducks were also among the crowd (the challenge included an activity for comparing geese to ducks)! There was a male and female pair of Mallard ducks that stuck close together. The third I had trouble identifying, until I found out there are many domestic ducks living in the wild, especially at city parks like we were at. Hey, I never claimed to know a lot about nature -- I'm learning right along with the kids!

The kids were able to walk up pretty close to the geese, who were mostly resting in a muddy area by the lake. The ducks stayed in the water the entire time. The white duck usually had his head half-submerged in the mucky water. A couple of the kids did quick sketches, but mostly we just observed. Instead of having them fill out the Venn diagram comparing geese and ducks, I just had them orally tell me the differences they were noticing. Here's what they observed:
One fun moment was seeing a couple of the geese fight. What a racket! One finally had enough and flew away. Pretty soon several of them flew away. The kids thought that was pretty neat, and "encouraged" the rest to fly away too. Is it okay to admit that our kids (mostly my son) chased the remaining geese away?

Despite the difficulties we encountered, it was a great nature study and I learned even more just writing this post, which I'm excited to share with the kids. We weren't able to meet for Friday School today because both our families have been sick this week. But next week, Lord willing, we will have something new to explore. We're done goose chasing for now!

Monday, October 11, 2010

A spelling lesson I must have missed

From Merriam-Websters:

sta·tion·ary adj \ˈstā-shə-ˌner-ē\

1: fixed in a station, course, or mode: IMMOBILE

2: unchanging in condition

sta·tio·nery noun \ˈstā-shə-ˌner-ē\

1: materials (as paper, pens, and ink) for writing or typing

2: letter paper usually accompanied with matching envelopes

As spelling bee coordinator for our homeschool association, I spent a good chunk of today reviewing our word lists, checking for unmarked homonyms or other confusing words. I was shocked to find out there are two different spellings for these words. I told Marc about it at dinner and he had no idea either, and I consider him a pretty good speller. Even Anna, our super-speller and three-time spelling bee winner, didn't know.

I've learned my something new for the day.

What word do you commonly misspell?

Friday, October 8, 2010

a few things you might not know about me

My dear bloggy friend, Dawn, is starting a new monthly series, Round about the Table. She plans for it to be interactive, so to kick off the first month she has invited her readers to answer three icebreaker questions.

  1. Do you prefer coffee or tea? Hot or cold? Sugar, cream, etc.?
  2. How did you meet your husband?
  3. What is your favorite subject to teach? Why?

Coffee or Tea?

I might lose some friends over this one. I'm not really a coffee or tea drinker. I usually only drink coffee when I can get a Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks (or a White Chocolate Mocha during the PSL off-season). I will sometimes get a coffee at church because my little Reformed congregation honors the old nickname "frozen chosen" by seemingly keeping the thermostat at 50 degrees.

I was born in and lived part of my childhood in Midwestern states, but then grew up in Texas. Thus, I am very familiar with the southern tradition of serving iced tea at every meal, but never could make myself like the stuff. And I never even tried hot tea until I was in my 30's. A couple of years ago I did start drinking herbal teas. I love Stash's Acai Berry herbal tea, but I'm usually too lazy to make it.

How did you meet your husband?

By the grace of God. Can we leave it at that? No? Um, okay. Well... you see...

Marc loves it when people ask us this question because he loves to see my face turn red.

The truth is...

like Dawn, we met while we were students at a Baptist university. And also like Dawn, I was a freshman and he was a senior. But I think that's where the similarities end. We definitely did not meet at the Baptist Student Union.

We met at a toga party.

There. I said it. On the internet. Yes, my face is redder than Bob the Tomato.

Now, before you delete me from your blogroll, let me explain. I like to describe those years as my undercover Christian years. Undercover Christian? I can't remember who first introduced me to the name. You know, it's when deep down a person really does believe, but you just wouldn't know it by their actions. I had only been a Christian a little more than a year, and when I went off to college I had every intention of being a good little Christian girl. But when I started hanging around with the good Christian crowd, I was very intimidated. They all had their Bibles memorized cover to cover, while I couldn't remember if Isaiah was in the New or Old Testament. Or did I even know there was a book named Isaiah? I didn't know any of the hymns or songs they sang. I couldn't pray like they could. So after the first semester I decided I just didn't fit in, and started hanging out with a different crowd. Apparently the kind of crowd that goes to toga parties.

Actually, I didn't want to go. But a girl from my dorm had a crush on a guy that was going to this party and she needed a friend to go with her. So I dressed up in my bed sheet, because I'm a good friend. But when we got to the party, she immediately took off to find her love interest and left me standing there all alone. In a toga. That was a little awkward.

But then I saw Marc. And he was really cute. Handsome cute, but I'm pretty sure I would never have used the word handsome back then. Sitting in a corner all by himself, he did not look very happy. Turned out, he had been dragged there and ditched by a friend too. I was too shy to go up and talk to him, but I found someone to introduce us. And then we talked. And talked. And talked.

We talked for hours. We talked about everything from the somewhat important -- we were both born in the Chicago -- and the not-so-important -- we both went to the same Washington D.C. program as high school students. But most of all, we talked about God. In fact, he completely grilled me to find out if there was substance behind the toga and big Texas hair. I just kept answering his questions as if I had been waiting for someone to ask. What he and I both found in each other was a young person struggling in their Christian walk, yet aware that they still belonged to God. And finally I felt like I wasn't alone in the world. And yet talking to Marc gave me a sense of hope too; not just that we were stuck in the same pit, but that we wouldn't be in the pit forever. It was exhilarating. It was love at first sight. Who knew?! God even works at toga parties!

We went on our first date and had our first kiss about a week later. Things were a little bumpy after that because of summer break, but by fall (he graduated in 4.5 years) we were completely in love. He moved to Chicago for his first job, and my monthly phone bills for the next couple of years were more than my monthly rent payments. I increased my course load so I could graduate a year early and get married. And the rest is history. Which brings me to questions #3.

For the record, I do not endorse toga parties, undercover Christianity, or exorbitant phone bills.

What is your favorite subject to teach?

History. I would be perfectly happy if we could just read historical fiction all day long. I'd even be happy with a boring history textbook.

Growing up, it was my favorite subject until I started taking government classes (my college major was political science). I was an avid daydreamer, and history always gave me plenty of daydreaming material. I still like to daydream, but what really excites me about history as a homeschooler is that I'm finally getting the big picture. Studying history chronologically makes such a big difference because it fills in all the gaps and connects all the dots of my own history education.

So, Dawn, I'm looking forward to your new forum. That is, if you'll let a iced tea-hating, (former) toga-wearing, daydreamer attend. I promise I will try to be good.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Month in Review: September

The weekly report thing didn't work out very well the last couple of years. I'm a pretty inconsistent blogger as it is, and I really don't want to spend what little blogging time I have on just weekly reports. So while I'm admitting defeat, I'm moving to Plan B -- monthly reports. I'm linking this post up with The Well Trained Mind Weekly Report, so welcome to any fellow WTMers!

Blue House Academy got off to a great start! I spent a lot of time in August and September preparing for the new school year and it has made life so much easier. I can find things in my school room closet, my bookshelves are all categorized, all the handouts for the entire year have been copied and filed in 36 weekly hanging files, and supply lists for each week have been made. I've also come up with a pretty good routine for my weekly prep -- school, that is. My next goal is to get the rest of my life this organized! I'm definitely a work in progress.

Memory Period & Habit Training
geography flashcards for memory period
We reviewed phone numbers, our address, planets, continents and oceans. We learned the books of the Old Testament, our geography vocabulary, two Bible verses for MFW, Sunday School verses, and half of Heidelberg Q&A 1. Over the summer I attended a wonderful Charlotte Mason seminar by Sonya Shafer and decided that we would add habit training to our homeschooling. So we started with the habit of attention and will focus on it for another two weeks.
This has been a good visual reminder for all of us!
We are definitely more aware of when we aren't practicing the habit of attention, but we all still have quite a bit of progress to make. : )
I think he's actually working on his composer study, but the map in the background made me think of geography.
We love, love, love MFW Exploring Countries and Cultures so far! The first week the kids filled out their passport applications and learned that it usually takes a few weeks or more for them to arrive. So we spent the month doing introductory geography activities and touring the United States, which was mostly review from last year when we did Adventures. We "leave" for Mexico on Monday, so I have a feeling those passports will arrive soon. :)
Here are our favorite geography read-alouds for the month:

We're starting up our study of Matthew with ECC. We read about Dwight Moody and Harriet Tubman in Hero Tales. I like how ECC incorporates praying for missionaries and peoples around the world, using Window on the World. Not part of our ECC studies, we going through our church's Jr. Catechism course. It's normally done at the church, but my kids were the only students this year, so we're doing it at home. It's normally for 4th graders, but I thought maybe Grace could handle it. I was wrong. It's a little too difficult, so I'm really having to adapt it for her. Both kids needed more than one week for the memory work (and my kids are great at memorizing). So I'm going to give it another couple of weeks and then decide if we should continue.
We spent the month finishing up our Exploring Creation with Astronomy from last year, or at least we tried. There are still a few more activities I'd like to do, so we'll spend one more week on it and then move on with Zoology I - Flying Creatures. I can't believe I have no science pictures to share!
Art & Music
We learned about lines, primary colors and secondary colors. Coincidentally, when we went out to eat Friday night, Grace pointed out that her crayon packet had the three primary colors and Ryne's had the three secondary colors! Our main art activities for the week, however, are on Fridays, which I will tell about in a minute. The instruments we studied were the clarinet, saxophone, bassoon, and trumpet. Our composer for the month was Franz Schubert, which I wrote more about here.
Read Aloud
Following the ECC schedule, we are working on Cameron Townsend. I love it, but I'm having to stop and explain things quite a bit. The kids do seem to be mostly enjoying it though.
We spent the month finishing Song School Latin and going through Latin Words Sticker Book. I'm so sad to be done with SSL. We dragged it out as long as possible, because it was so much fun. For those of you who've been around a while, remember this?

Last year math went so amazingly great for Ryne. That is until he hit Lesson 24 in Math U See Gamma: Multiplication with Regrouping. We've been on this lesson since spring. And at this rate we might still be working on it next spring. I'm at a loss. Ryne knows how to do the steps -- he can explain it to me. If we work a problem out together he gets it right every time. He knows all his facts, so that's not the problem. He just can't focus long enough to do more than a problem or two correctly. And, yes, I'm keeping the lessons short. I'm going to be reading Knowing & Teaching Elementary Mathematics in hope of finding some inspiration in getting over this hurdle.
Grace too is in a holding pattern. She has not completely mastered her addition and subtraction facts, so we're holding off on Beta will a little bit. In the meantime, while we work on her facts, she's been completing some worksheets from some math workbook that's been sitting on my shelf for years. It has lots of supplementary-type lessons that were not covered in Alpha (ex. - symmetry, simple fractions, graphs, etc.). She also spends a few minutes each day doing different activities for telling time. Our favorite has been this chart that I picked up in the dollar section of Target.
Yes, I did eventually realize she spelled eleven wrong, and we're working on those f's.
It had a title like "Schedule for the Day" or something, but I cut that part off. What I like about it is that I can mix and match so many clock skills. On one line I will draw the hands of the clock and have her fill in the time. Other lines she will fill in the clock hands or even write out the time.

We do almost all our spelling at the white board.
Last year we switched to All About Spelling and I had a hard time getting the hang of it. It felt like a lot of work, and from what I've read on TWTM forums that's a common initial reaction. But I gave it a second chance this year, and it's going wonderfully. Ryne will finish up Level 1 next week and Grace is probably a couple of weeks behind him. They both already know how to spell 99.9% of the words, but I do like how they are really learning the rules behind the spelling. I know I've learned a few things already!
Grammar, Reading & Writing
Ryne's transition from First Language Lessons to Rod and Staff is going great, thanks to some advance planning. Grace continues with FLL and Adventures in Phonics. She is also reading through Paths to Adventure. And now I get to admit my biggest failure for the month. I had planned to watch the IEW DVDs this summer, but didn't. And I didn't get it done in September either. So other than some copywork and journaling for astronomy, there has been very little formal writing for Ryne. I'm pretty sure he's okay with that too. : )
Friday School
This year we are excited to add a mini co-op with a family from our church. We meet at the Blue House where my friend Casey leads art and I lead math games and nature study. You can follow our nature study adventures here. Casey has been coming up with some great activities for art. Two weeks ago the kids put together some modern style self portraits (pictures coming soon) and this last week they made cute paper owls and decorated owl cupcakes while listening to White Owl, Barn Owl.
Friday School is the highlight of our week. The kids are getting along great, and Casey and I are able to sneak in a bit of socializing too. : )
Whew! What a month! Next time I will work on taking more pictures and writing less for our monthly review.
Happy Homeschooling!

Composer Study: Franz Peter Schubert

I must admit, although I was pretty familiar with the name Schubert, I really knew very little about him and much of his music. We all found him to be very interesting and we will be adding more of his music to our collection.
Franz Schubert and His Merry Friends by Opal Wheeler & Sybil Deucher (1939) *****
We are working our way through the Opal Wheeler composer series. The stories are delightful (the kids beg me to keep reading) and we love being able to listen to samples of the music, using the companion CD. I even find the books to be helpful in teaching the kids how to read music, since the music is printed in the book. I didn't realize this the first few times we used the CDs, but they also contain coloring sheets for each chapter. I found the coloring sheets to be a great addition to our study because it gives additional opportunities for review and narration -- plus my kids like to color! We gave this book 5 out of 5 stars.

Franz Peter Schubert by Eric Michael Summerer (2006) ****
This non-fiction book had some helpful pictures and a few tidbits not included in the previous book. It is a perfect review book for the younger elementary student.
The Life and Times of Franz Peter Schubert would be good for the older student.

We're big fans of the Beethoven's Wig CDs, so we always listen to the songs that correlate with our current composer study. Schubert can be found on volume 2, tracks 6 & 17.
You Tube videos were a big part of our Schubert study. Sometimes I had to put Post-it notes over the comments, so be sure to look out for inappropriate language if you watch on You Tube.
Here are a few we watched:

I never posted a couple of our Mozart and Beethoven studies from last year, so I will try to get those posted too.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

OHC: Snakes

Join us as we study nature using The Outdoor Hour Challenges. This year Ryne and Grace are joining with friends Cameron and Avery to explore this beautiful world God made. Moms, Kellie and Casey, are enjoying the adventure as much as the kids.
This is the story of four kids, a snake, and two chickens. But no geese.
It was our second attempt to do OHC #2: Geese, but we weren't really sure where to go about looking for them. The weather forecast indicated it was going to be a perfect day, so we decided to take our nature study on the road and go for a picnic. Our quaint little suburb has a nature sanctuary that, embarrassingly, neither of our families had ever visited. Who knows, maybe we'd find some geese there.
We were stunned. The nature sanctuary is amazing. It's been nine years since we moved into the Blue House -- how is that we're just now discovering this treasure?

Even more amazing: My son, the reluctant nature journalist, was the first to ask for his clipboard.

And this is where my camera batteries died. But Casey came to the rescue with the next three amazing pictures. Thanks, Casey!

The kids were much more observant than the moms. They noticed all the really neat things first. Maybe it's because we're so busy watching the kids. I think it was Cameron who spotted the praying mantis.
However, Avery was the one who made the big find for the day. Do you see it? My camera found one last gasp of battery life to take the next group of pictures before dying again.
It kind of creeps me out that any normal bush or small tree could be hiding one of these.
Avery actually first spotted the snake on the trail, but he quickly shot into the tree and slithered from branch to branch.
We spent at least 15 minutes watching our scaly friend. Absolutely incredible.
It's either a Smooth Green Snake or a Rough Green Snake. I can't tell the difference in comparing dozens of internet pictures to my picture. In our part of the state, it should be the Smooth Green Snake, but the state publication also said they haven't been spotted for years due to habitat destruction.

So what about the two chickens? That would be the two moms. We were too nervous to let the kids touch the snake. I think Ryne would have touched it if I had let him. Now I feel bad, because when I looked at the first two entries from the spring snake challenge there were pictures of kids holding snakes. And then there was this entry that really made me feel like the biggest chicken in the world. Now that's a brave mom!

Chicken or not, we had an incredible day. Next week we're going goose hunting.