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.

OHC: Signs of Autumn

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 little behind on posting this challenge! Two Fridays ago we were scheduled to do OHC #2 - Geese, but the geese did not cooperate. There is a small lake in our neighborhood that attracts lots of geese, but I guess it's too early for their arrival. So we decided to do the extra challenge Barb posted that week: Signs of Autumn. We limited our search to the front and side yards, but still found quite a few hints of my favorite season.

The first clue was the cooler temperature that day. The sky was so blue. It was a perfect day!

When we my husband and I lived in downtown Chicago, he said you could always tell it was fall when the ivy turned red on the outfield wall of Wrigley Field. But I like it even better when the red vine is crawling through a green tree, with a bright blue sky in the background.

If I hadn't started doing these challenges last fall, I still wouldn't know what this lovely yellow plant is called. Thank you, Barb, for teaching me about goldenrod. I notice it everywhere along the highways, but this is the first time I've seen it in our woods. I hope we get even more next year.

One walnut tree in the front was almost bare except for this pair of walnuts. They were so big that I wasn't sure they were walnuts (plus I thought all our walnut trees were in the back), so I hammered one open for the kids to examine (some even tasted). They are not easy to open and, two weeks later, my hands are still stained! We have walnuts all over our property, but we rarely use them for anything besides using them for golf practice, hitting them into the woods behind our house. : )

All but a few acorns had fallen to the ground.

I don't know if this is a sign of fall, but one of the kids found this neat fungus growing on the willow tree.

And here is another sign of autumn: children sitting at desks. It seems like just yesterday we were spending our days at the pool, and now we're already done with a month of school! The girls were finishing up their notebooking pages.

We had a great time welcoming the new season.