Tuesday, May 31, 2011

School Year in Review: Part 1

Remember how I said it was too hard to keep up with weekly reviews, so I decided to do monthly reviews.? Yeah, I never got past September. Oh well, how about we just take a look at the whole year?

Edited to add: Now I know why it's better to do weekly or monthly reviews -- this post is long! My apologies!

As I look back at what I had planned for the year, it's easy to get disappointed. We did not get done nearly as much as I hoped, but then again we never do because I tend to get a bad case of curriculum awe before the start of every school year. Nevertheless, it was a wonderful year of learning and being together.


Winner! Winner! Winner! After going through Exploring Countries and Cultures I would strongly recommend to any homeschooling family that before you start a history rotation, spend a year studying geography. Oh, how I wish I had done this the first time around with Anna, but God knew well in advance that this was the year we needed to do this. Grace was at the perfect age, and ECC was a perfect fit for Ryne too. I feel like we are so much better prepared to start our history cycle next year.

At the beginning of the year, the kids took a geography pre-test where they had to label on maps of each continent all the countries they knew. Grace correctly identified 6 countries, Ryne 15. On our last day of school they took a post-test and Grace identified 47 countries and Ryne 58. I had actually thought they would be able to label more, because they have most of their geography songs memorized (not part of the ECC curriculum, but we used the songs in place of daily geography games). But we kind of slacked on the Africa song, and apparently didn't review South America enough for Grace.


Another highlight of ECC was our geography vocabulary memorization. I made flashcards from the book Geography A to Z, introducing the terms as scheduled in the curriculum. By the end of the year, the kids had memorized over 70 geography terms, including isthmus, cape, sound, crevasse, taiga, and archipelago. Mom learned quite a few things too. ; )

My Father's World does a great job with their "Book Basket" suggestions -- the books used to supplement the main curriculum. Our favorite part of the day was sitting on the bed reading together, exploring so many different cultures. I'll post our favorites in a future post.

In addition to the Book Basket selections, ECC schedules several missionary biographies throughout the year. The first one about Cameron Townsend had me worried, because I thought it might be too advanced for Ryne and Grace. I was wrong; the kids loved the biographies. We finished the year with Gladys Alward, and at one point we all jumped up and cheered we were so into the story. It's amazing how the biographies tie the whole curriculum together.

One part we had trouble with was scheduling our around-the-world celebrations. We went all out for Mexico (Pioneer Woman's enchiladas and these churro cupcakes were yummy, and the kids made paper flowers, yarn art, and piƱatas!), so-so for Canada (maple syrup on our pancakes), and by Europe we fell behind. Because the celebrations were so much fun, we'd like to do some more of them over the summer. It would be a great opportunity to review what we learned this year.



This is where things start to go downhill. We ditched our science after just a couple of months. We had planned to do Apologia's Flying Creatures, but got a late start because we were still finishing up our astronomy studies from the previous year. Science is just not my thing and I tend to go overboard with history/geography, so science is always the first thing to get skipped on a busy day. By Christmas break it was clear we'd never get it done by the end of the school year, and I was feeling discouraged. Around this time I noticed several other bloggers ditching science for the year, so I jumped on the bandwagon. I do have a plan, however: We are going to work on Flying Creatures over the summer. I'll let you know how it goes.

I should also mention that ECC includes science. We had planned to skip that portion so we could do Flying Creatures, but many of our read-alouds were science related and sometimes there was a lot of overlap between geography and science. In other words, we did do some science; the kids just didn't know it. ; ) Oh, and I always forget that nature study is science!



Can we skip this part? I totally ditched our plans in this area too. We we going to do our church's Jr. Catechism class at home, but it quickly became clear that they weren't ready for it. The could memorize the catechism Q & A's just fine, but they weren't fully understanding the material.

We did follow ECC's plans for working our way through Window of the World, praying for the various countries and people groups as we studied them in geography. Through ECC we also read through Hero Tales, learning about even more missionaries from around the world. We memorized several passages from the daily readings in Matthew, but stopped that when our family started memorizing the book of Colossians together. Unfortunately, even Colossians got put on hold during the busy spring, but hopefully we can get back into it this summer.

I almost forgot, the kids did memorize plenty of verses for Sunday School and Ryne completed weekly Sunday School devotional worksheets. And they both memorized the books of the Bible. I also have to remind myself that as a Christian family, the bulk of our training comes in our day to day conversations, family devotions, church attendance, etc. I probably shouldn't beat myself up for not accomplishing as much as I hoped.


Another thing that got ditched half-way through the year. {sigh} It became clear that we had enough to do, and the only reason why we were doing Latin in the first place was because Ryne and Grace liked it. It just wasn't a big enough priority this year, especially when we were behind in more important subjects.


We did not do anything we had planned in this area, because after I made our plans my friend Casey and I decided to have the kids do "Friday School" together. I led nature study and she led art. The kids completed several neat projects (including the modern art inspired self-portraits, below) and loved spending time with their friends. Thank you, Casey, for all your hard work!



We've continued our piano lessons, although we were not very consistent with practice schedules. Our instructor is so patient with us though, bless her heart! Both kids performed a piece at the church Christmas program.

We completed composer studies of Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, Schumann, Foster, and Paganini (he was out of chronological order), plus we're almost done with Brahms. We will continue our composer study through the summer because I want to finish the Opal Wheeler books before next year. We would have been on schedule to do this if Zeelock Publishing hadn't added four new books. Good thing the kids love these books!

It took us a year and a half, but we finally finished going through Story of the Orchestra and the Dover coloring book Musical Instruments. I highly recommend using these two resources together -- the combination was enjoyable and effective. The kids all attended symphony concerts this year, giving them opportunity to practice identifying all the instruments they learned.

We never started Singing Made Easy because somehow I managed to lose the CD (grrr, grumble). Maybe as I clean house this week it will turn up.


In my planning post I talked about possibly doing Classical Conversations memory work at home, but once we got into our geography studies I realized we had plenty of memory work to keep us busy. We also reviewed memorized Bible verses, the books of the Bible, and personal information such as phone numbers. Many of their individual subjects also require memorization.


I just realized I haven't been keeping a list of our field trips and other outings, so I will need to remember to do that next school year. If my almost-40-year-old memory serves me right, here are the field trips we took this school year.

Art museum (with "Friday School" friends)

Games at the house of Miss Wil, a dear woman from our church (Friday School)


School performance of professional Nutcracker ballet (homeschool field trip group)

Christmas party and visit to nursing home (homeschool field trip group)


Food pantry (homeschool field trip group)

Amish town (homeschool field trip group) -- never would have guessed it was the last week in March!


One room school house (homeschool field trip group)

Horse farm for nature study (Friday school) -- still plan to blog about that trip!


Ryne and Grace both were on swim team this year, practicing 2 -3 times per week. Grace also had ballet once a week. Ryne was in Cub Scouts through the fall, but things kind of fell apart when they were supposed to transition into Boy Scouts. We're still debating if he'll continue with scouting, but it was nice to have a break for a while. For certain, the kids' schedules are busy!


Whew, what a year! Congratulations if you read this far!

Here are links to some of our favorite resources for the year. Please note, these are affiliate links. I would highly recommend these books even if I weren't an Amazon Affiliate, but I figure if I'm going to provide links I might as well make it possible to earn a penny or two. Thank you for supporting my curricula addiction our homeschool efforts if you do use these links. : )

In Part 2, I will review Ryne and Grace's individual subjects.

Friday, May 27, 2011

School's Out {Now What?}

As of 11:55 a.m. today Blue House Academy is officially on summer vacation! We survived a very busy spring of juggling track, swim and ballet practices, me coordinating the homeschool spelling bee again, Marc's busy travel schedule, and I can't even remember what else. And somehow we managed to get quite a bit of homeschooling done.

But for all that we did get done, certain things were sorely neglected. This week I reintroduced myself to my treadmill that I had not touched for the last few months. And today I'm overwhelmed with the condition of my house. To prove my point, I'm going to show you the cleanest room in the Blue House. Actually, it's not a room, but the upstairs hallway.

Exhibit 1.
Notice the nice mixture of dog hair and Easter basket grass hovering around the baseboards. Yes, that means the floor hasn't been swept up here since before April 24. I wish there was a market for black lab hair, because we'd be a very rich family. It's a good thing he's such a sweet dog. Oh, and the baseboards have needed a paint job for almost 6 years, but that's still not happening any time soon.

Exhibit 2.

This is an example of organization gone bad. The basket on the left is the place we keep library books for fun reading. It's practically empty because those books are either lost in Anna's bed or floating around in the back of our van. The basket on the right is for non-library books the kids read at night. When they make their beds in the morning they are supposed to bring books to this basket and then once a week or so we empty the basket and put them back on the shelves. Clearly, it's been longer than a week since we've organized the books.

Exhibit 3.
As busy as my schedule has been, Marc's has been worse. I think this is his way of reminding himself to change the air conditioner filter. It's been sitting there at least a couple of months. Now if I were a really nice wife I'd climb up to the attic and do it for him and put away his suitcase at the same time. So do you think I'm a nice wife?

That's the end of our tour. I forgot to take pictures of the other end of the hallway. A couple boxes of clutter gathered from downstairs are sitting at the top of the stairs.

Yes, I have a lot of work to do. If that's the cleanest area, can you even imagine how bad the rest is? I think I could spend the whole summer just cleaning. But I have about a week and a half before my house is full of grandparents, aunts and uncles for Grace's ballet performance. So if you'll excuse me, I need to get busy.

P.S. If you guessed that I would be a nice wife, you're partly correct. I just took the suitcase and the filter up, but I can't even figure out where the filter goes. Good thing my wonderful husband reads my blog. Honey, the filter is in the attic. : )

Monday, May 2, 2011

1000 Gifts

God's blessings continue . . .


52. More tulips. As I pull in and out of the driveway during these busy, busy days, those tulips make me smile.



53. My bloggy friend, who praised God after a difficult week of almost blinding herself and dodging tornadoes. Happy birthday, Dawn!

54. A long-awaited nature study. (I'll tell more in a future post).


55. A date with my man at the symphony.

56. A fun day at the track. Amazing weather. Seeing my daughter work hard toward a goal. The result was first place finishes in all four of her events, the 1600 (set a team record), high jump, and two relays.

57. That she doesn't take her self too seriously. She wears silly mismatched knee high socks to swim and track meets. I would have never been so carefree at thirteen.


58. My son's spontaneous good deed for a stranger. It may seem like a small thing, but when dealing with autism this was an encouraging sign.

59. The courageous soldiers who risked great danger yesterday. I can't imagine.

60. For all our soldiers and their families.

61. The leadership of two presidents and their administrations over the past ten years. Some things are just beyond politics.

62. That regardless of what evil comes and goes in this sinful world, God is in control.

The heavens are yours, and yours also the earth;

you founded the world and all that is in it.

Righteousness and justice are the foundations of your throne;

love and faithfulness go before you.

Psalm 89:11, 13

The Sovereign Lord is my strength;

he makes my feet feel like the feet of a deer,

he enables me to go on the heights.

Habakkuk 3:19