Friday, August 20, 2010

Adventuring with Lewis and Clark

If Ryne and Grace remember anything from history this year, it probably has something to do with Lewis and Clark. The explorers and their dog, Seaman, were a favorite topic of study. Since we live just a few miles away from the Missouri River, I knew we had to do a special field trip. Only there is not much in our area commemorating the expedition besides a statue and a few plaques. One of my favorite memories from childhood is visiting Fort Clatsop, but a trip to Oregon was a little out of our budget. I found a good compromise in the Lewis and Clark Boathouse and Nature Center in St. Charles, MO, just outside St. Louis.

Photo credit: Lewis and Clark Boathouse and Nature Center

Every year when planning our Michigan trip we say we'll stop in St. Louis on the way back home because the city is known for it's kid-friendly activities. But every year by the end of our Michigan trip we're too tired and just want to get home. So this year we planned to go to St. Louis first. The boathouse museum is definitely worth the trip. It is a small but beautiful building, loaded with neat displays. We watched a movie with breath-taking scenic footage that really brought to life what we had learned through our homeschooling. The museum staff gave the kids flyers with info and fill-in-the-blank questions that cover all the main areas of the museum. I thought the flyers were well-done and I'm sure my kids would not have paid attention as well as they did had they not had the flyers.

I especially enjoyed the gift shop, because as I've mentioned before, I'm a curriculum addict. : ) I was so tempted to buy this activity book -- just flipping through the pages it looked fabulous, although it might be a little old for Grace (the book says it's suitable for grades 5 -8). Instead of the book, we bought a coonskin cap. I'll just have to wait until the next time we study this period in history.

We also walked part of the nature trail, which winds along the Missouri River, but it was pretty hot that day so we soon turned back.

Next we headed to the St. Louis Gateway Arch. We rode to the top and peeked out the tiny windows, and decided -- yes -- it's pretty stinkin' high! But it's also a beautiful sight.

At the base of the arch is the Museum of Westward Expansion, which also had some wonderful displays. My crew was a little tuckered out by this point and grumbling about being hungry, but it was still an enjoyable experience.

Overall, we give our Lewis and Clark field trip two thumbs up. It was a great way to end our school year.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

One of my favorite things...

We found this place one morning last week on our Michigan vacation.

Normally we buy our berries from an organic farmer when we make our trip, but this year we were drawn to this little patch framed in goldenrod.

I think you should make a trip yourself. These berries should be ready now.

Don't worry -- we found plenty of ripe berries to pick.

In fact, we could have picked all day if it weren't for the mosquitos eating us alive.

I lost my lens cap under a bush somewhere, but it was worth it to capture the memory our little detour off the highway.

We brought home over 11 pounds of blueberry goodness. We've made blueberry pancakes and blueberry cobbler with vanilla ice cream is next. Of course, we ate one bag of berries just the way God made them.

So blue...

and lovin' it!

For more sweet shots visit:

Sweet Shot Day

Monday, August 16, 2010

Not Back to School Blog Hop: Student Photo Week

Sadly, we're not still swimming in that gorgeous blue water. Any guesses where we went? If you've been around this blog for a while, you might remember we take an annual trip to Michigan, and every year we take a picture of the kids at Lake Michigan.

After doing some blog hopping, it looks as though we're one of the few homeschools still on vacation. We did a lot of school over the summer, and a busy swim team schedule made August the best time for our trip. Now I need a couple of weeks to get my act together, so we will start August 30th.

For those of you visiting from the Not Back to School Blog Hop, let me introduce my students.

{Side Note: Technically Anna is not a homeschool student -- she goes to a Christian classical school three days a week and I get to sort of homeschool her the other two.}

Whether your school is in session or on vacation, Happy Homeschooling!

Not Back to School Blog Hop

Monday, August 2, 2010

2010-2011 Homeschool Plans

As I write this post, we are still working hard to complete our 2009 - 2010 school year. {sigh}

So on one hand I'm really not ready for a new school year to start, but on the other hand I'm ready for some change. I made most of my plans in the spring (in time for conventions and book sales) and I'm ready to open those new books.

If this is your first time visiting my blog, let me give some brief background information. I homeschool my two younger kids, while my 12 year old attends a Christian classical school three days a week. She studies at home the other two days, so it still feels a little like when she was a homeschooler too. My son has autism, which greatly influences the choices I make in homeschooling materials. We follow a classical model, with some Charlotte Mason influences.

Here's what we have planned for the new school year:


  • Daily stories from The Child's Story Bible
  • Jr. Catechism -- a class offered by our church, but since my two will be the only students this year, I'm teaching it myself during our homeschooling time. They will memorize portions of the Heidelberg Catechism, the books of the Bible, and Psalm 23. I'm also planning on using Phillip Keller's A Child's Look at the 23rd Psalm to supplement our memorization of that psalm.
  • Sunday School lessons and memory work
  • MFW's Exploring Countries and Cultures -- can you believe someone is lending me all her materials for ECC (see picture above)?!?! I am humbled by her generosity, especially since she's never met me IRL. We are soooo looking forward to ECC!
  • ECC -- picking and choosing. Nothing against ECC, it's just that I'm in love with...
  • Apologia's Exploring Creation series -- we loved the Astronomy book, so this year we'll be starting Zoology I - Flying Creatures
  • Outdoor Nature Hour Challenges -- last year was our first year to do formal nature study, and it was Grace's favorite part of the week. Barb's challenges are perfect for keeping me motivated and accountable, but I'd still like to be more consistent this year.
Foreign Language
  • Latin for Children A -- Grace is still pretty young, and I don't consider Latin a huge priority for Ryne, but they both love Latin so we'll just do the first three units of the book and take it real slow. I'm pretty sure they have at least the first several chants memorized, just from hearing Anna when she used the program.
  • Artistic Pursuits K-3, Bk 1 -- I loved this last year, and yet we dropped it after the first 10 weeks. Try, try again...
  • Sketch Tuesday -- We did a few of these two years ago and loved it. Why do I have such a hard time making art a priority? You'd never believe I'm the daughter of a former art teacher!
  • Craft projects in ECC
  • Piano lessons -- We {heart} our wonderful instructor who comes to our home!
  • Two musical events such as the symphony, a musical, etc. A BHA tradition!
  • Complete The Story of the Orchestra and the Dover coloring book Musical Instruments
  • Composer Studies: Chopin, Schumann, Foster, Brahms, and MacDowell
  • Singing Made Easy -- I've never heard of anyone using this in their homeschool, so hopefully I didn't waste my money. I'll keep you posted...
  • Classical Conversations memory program -- ???? CC is new to our metro area and we had hoped to join a class this year, but they weren't able to find a class director so it looks like it will be another year or more before a class opens close enough for us to attend. I might try doing the memory work at home, but I'm also looking at Living Memory as an alternative.
  • Occasional lessons from Family Math
  • Typing
  • Polished Cornerstones -- This is new for us too, but I love the idea of it.
  • "Therapy"-related activities for Ryne -- Will blog more about this in the coming weeks.
  • Extracurricular activities such as swim team, ballet, and Cub Scouts
Individual Subjects: Ryne (age 11; autism)
Individual Subjects: Grace (age 7.5)
About the writing... last year we tried using Writing With Ease, but I found it awkward, and this is coming from someone who loves The Well Trained Mind products. I didn't like that the selections were from books we weren't currently reading, so it was hard to connect with the material. Plus, Ryne's copywork and dictation skills are much better than his narration skills, so he needed to split his work among two different levels. This just added to the confusion. My options are to either create my own WWE curriculum (using the plan in the teacher guide), which is a ton of work, or hope that the IEW DVDs convince me of a better alternative. Any advice is welcome!

If reading about my curriculum choices makes your heart go pitter-patter, you're not alone! You can see what other homeschoolers are using this year at the Heart of the Matter Not Back to School Blog Hop. The blog hop just started this morning and already 150+ homeschoolers have posted their plans!

Not Back to School Blog Hop

Happy Homeschooling!

Sunday, August 1, 2010


My little boy is 11? How did that happen?

We had a wonderful birthday weekend. Yesterday was spent at the local amusement park. Ryne and Anna are roller coaster buddies, while Marc and I take turns riding with Grace. Thankfully the kids voted for no upside-down rides, but they are already promising that next year they'll be brave enough. I'm not sure I will be though!

Ryne was a little bummed when he first learned his birthday fell on a Sunday, but I think it was perfect. He enjoyed having so many people at church come up and wish him a happy birthday. I had to smile again at God's providence when we sang Great Is Thy Faithfulness (to read about our history with this hymn read this old post). What a perfect moment for reflection and to thank God for His faithfulness in Ryne's life. And I didn't cry this time, so I actually sang with Ryne. : ) After church he opened presents, had his favorite meal (spaghetti), enjoyed an extra large piece of cake, and spent the afternoon putting together his new Indiana Jones Lego kit.

Ryne's birthday has been another great day in a fun-filled summer. The above picture shows him after winning a heat for the first time in a swim meet. He improved a lot in his swimming this year and he interacted with the other kids better. He took a few days off from swimming to go to Webelos camp with Marc. This was his last summer as a Cub Scout. This year he crosses over to Boy Scouts and camp will be 10 days long next year (gasp!).

He's growing up so fast -- 2 inches in less than 2 months! He's even growing out his hair and is actually interested in how he looks. It's kind of a mess right now, so we need to figure out what kind of cut to get him. Any hair stylists out there?

Eleven. I can't believe it.

But, oh, what fun it is watching him turn into a young man.

P.S. Sorry for the long delay on the Brain Balance post! We had 6 straight days of swim meets and I've misplaced the final evaluation results, so I will finish up the post this week.