Monday, June 27, 2011

1000 Gifts

Sun-filled days bring so many blessings. I'm slow in counting God's gifts for this gratitude journal, but I do find myself taking more time to thank Him for the little ways He makes my life richer each day -- seeing a goldfinch fly past my car, new haircuts on dad and son (how handsome they look!), Marc showing me the nighttime forest lit up with fireflies . . .

A few of my latest numbered blessings are more than a month old, but I'm still thankful.


64. Ignoring a Saturday to-do list to work on a puzzle with Grace. And even when she abandoned me for some other pursuit, it was still good to stop being busy-mom for a few hours and just play.

65. By Sunday Marc was in on the action and we finally finished the 999 piece puzzle (turns out one piece was missing).

66. Spotting a large turtle on the side of the road and taking the time to turn the car around to check him out.

67. The season's first fruit from our humble strawberry patch.

68. Vidalia onions. Even better, sliced Vidalia onions sauteed in a pat of butter. {Mmmmm}


69. A bucketful of water balloons.

70. The ensuing war.


71. An impromptu photo shoot in a wheat field behind our church. Grace and I were driving home from ballet rehearsal, and we noticed the setting sun gave the field such a beautiful golden color. Glad I had my camera with me, we stopped and took in the colors.


72. Ballet performance of Sleeping Beauty.

73. A sweet friendship between two Renaissance Lasses, complete with hugs and giggles.

74. Being able to share the special night with family. The grandparents and an aunt all traveled here to see Grace perform.


75. An evening of baby bliss. Friday night we got to babysit the newest member of our church while his parents celebrated their anniversary. I stopped being selfish just long enough to let Marc hold him for a few minutes, but this cuddlebug was mostly mine for three wonderful hours. {sigh}

You can join others counting God's blessings at

Monday, June 6, 2011

1000 Gifts: Late on a Monday Night

Monday is almost over, but I just had to share our most recent gift.

Yesterday Marc lost his wallet. He looked everywhere for it, even driving to church tonight to see if he left it there, but it remained missing. I looked too, and as I searched I prayed for God show us where the wallet was hiding. I learned many years ago that God does care about the little things and would much rather lead me to a lost object than watching me lose my cool and yell at my kids for not putting something back where it belongs. So this afternoon I confidently expected to find that wallet. But I didn't. I still believed God would answer my prayer -- maybe later tonight.

Later tonight arrived, and Marc and Ryne sat on the couch as Ryne said his bedtime prayers. He prayed that Daddy would find the wallet. Not long after, Marc found the wallet, hiding in between the couch cushions, right where they had been sitting! Ryne was so overjoyed that he went searching for his Bible because he thought Psalm 100 seemed like the perfect way to celebrate finding the lost wallet. He read it aloud for us:

Make a joyful shout to the LORD, all you lands!

Serve the LORD with gladness;

Come before His presence with singing.

Know that the LORD, He is God;

It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves

We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.

Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,

And into His courts with praise.

Be thankful to Him, and bless His name

For the LORD is good;

His mercy is everlasting,

And His truth endures to all generations.

He explained that the Israelites probably read Psalm 100 when they found their lost wallets. : ) I marveled at how perfectly God answered our prayers and was so glad that I wasn't the one to find the wallet -- this was so much better!

So late on a Monday night I thank God for the magnitude of blessing in this one small gift:

63. Witnessing my son praise God for His faithfulness.

2011-2012 Homeschool Plan

I love planning for the new homeschool year. Sometimes I wish I could be a homeschool consultant, recommending curricula that would work be a good fit for a particular family. Yet I highly doubt I’d find many clients, since planning seems to be one of the favorite activities of all homeschool moms! It must be the thrill of starting fresh. For us it will be a fresh start with some familiar materials.

We loved Adventures in My Father’s World. We loved, loved, loved MFW Exploring Countries and Cultures. So it only makes sense that we will . . . NOT be using MFW for ancient history! It was a hard decision for sure, but in the end simplicity won out. I already own all four volumes of The Story of the World, activity guides for the first three years, and all four sets of CDs. Plus, we really enjoyed the years we used SOTW. I just couldn’t justify the expense of switching to My Father’s World, especially when there would still be things I’d skip. So, it’s a bittersweet good-bye to MFW, but perhaps we’ll be back in the future.
If this is your first time visiting my blog, let me give some brief background information. I homeschool my two younger kids (Ryne - almost 12 and Grace - 8), while my 13 year-old (Anna) 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 2011 – 2012 school year:

The Story of the World Volume 1: Ancient Times with Activity Guide and extra literature selectionsVeritas Press History Cards

The Child's Story Bible - by using the reading schedule found at Paula's Archives I can tie our Bible reading into our history studies
Continued memorization of Colossians as a family
Bible Sound-Off (Ryne) -- a collection of NT verses and facts compiled by Anna's 6th grade teacher
Sunday School lessons and memorization

I'm still eyeing the series God's Great Covenant, but am worried that with Sunday School lessons it would be too much.


All About Spelling (Ryne will start Level 3 and Grace will continue with Level 2)
Copywork & dictation
Rod and Staff English (Ryne - continuing with grade 5)


We continue math through the summer, so I think Grace will finish her current book and Ryne will be close to finishing his book. Therefore, these are just guesses of what books we will use this year.

Occasional activities from Family Math or other resources


Exploring Creation Zoology series -- we're working on Flying Creatures this summer and if that goes well, we might just save science for summer next year too.



Still trying to decide . . .


Piano lessons
Music flashcards
At least two musical events such as the symphony or a musical - a BHA tradition!
Singing Made Easy (although I still haven't found the lost CD!)


Review past memory work

I'm considering using the Classical Conversations Memory Cycle 1, but I'm trying to figure out how to make it work with the memory work we've already done. I may come up with my own plan.


Extracurricular activities such as swim and ballet

There you have it! I'm excited about the new year, but right now I'm enjoying our summer break. I'll spend June wrapping up details from last year (putting together notebooks with samples of their school work, cleaning out files, etc.). In July I will start with the heavy-duty planning, buying Anna's books for school (and any last-minute supplies for us), and setting up our filing system for the year. We won't be taking a family vacation in August this year, so I'm tentatively thinking about starting school in mid-August.

This post is linked to The Great Curriculum Reveal 2011 co-hosted by Dawn at Olive Plants and Heather at Kingdom Arrows. Dawn is celebrating the event with a great give-away, and Heather is hosting the link-up, so be sure to visit them both this week.

Happy Homeschool Planning!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Favorite Books of 2010 - 2011 School Year

I have a confession to make. We go a little overboard with our read-alouds at Blue House Academy. It's my favorite part of homeschooling, so our reading time hardly ever gets skipped. If you put a suggested reading list in front of me, I will check out every available book from the library. And if the book has a really great review and isn't available through the library, I will sometimes break down and buy it. The Veritas Press catalog is a dangerous object when put in my hands. : )

For the 2010 - 2011 school year, we read more than 215 books. We're still working on Mr. Popper's Penguins and a few books are taking a very long time to become available through the library. Marc reads to Ryne and Grace before bed and still has a couple chapters left of one of our missionary biographies, and when they're done they will start The Twenty-One Balloons. So this list might still get updated.

I've decided to post my list a little differently than I did a couple of years ago. Back then I just listed every book we read. This year I'm just going to post the books that received the BHA five-star rating. Our rating system is not flawless. Generally, if we love the story and it had good illustrations (if applicable) and it supported the subject well, it would receive four or five stars. Sometimes a book would have received a better rating if it had been read in different circumstances. For example, a couple of years ago we studied Australia and one of the books we read was The Pumpkin Runner. I only gave it two stars because it didn't go with the time period we were studying and didn't add at all to our understanding of the chapter in The Story of the World we had read. But as part of our geography studies it was much more helpful and received four stars.

This list contains mostly selections recommended in My Father's World Exploring Countries and Cultures curriculum, although some I just found through my library's search system or through other sources.

Enough with the introduction; on with the book list!


Resource Books

Maps and Globes, Jack Knowlton

Georgraphy A to Z, Jack Knowlton

Missionary Biographies

George Muller: The Guardian of Bristol’s Orphans, Janet & Geoff Benge

David Livingstone, Janet & Geoff Benge

Gladys Aylward, Janet & Geoff Benge


Miss Rumphius, Barbara Cooney

How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World, Marjorie Priceman

Maps & Globes, Harriett Barton

People, Peter Spier

North America

(United States) - we didn't really read much extra from this section since we covered the U.S. so heavily with Adventures in My Father's World

Someplace Else, Carol Saul


Nine Days to Christmas, Marie Hall Ets

The Tortilla Factory, Gary Paulsen

Saturday Market, Patricia Grossman


The Way Home, Nan Parson Rossiter

South America

Here is the Tropical Rain Forest, Madeleine Dunphy

Welcome to the Green House, Jane Yolen

How to Draw Animals of the Rain Forest, Justin Lee


(Norwary and Scandinavia)

Welcome Back Sun, Michael Emberley

Annika’s Secret Wish, Beverly Lewis

Snow Treasure, Marie McSwigan


Bonaparte, Marhsa Wilson Chall

Anatole, Eve Titus

Mouton’s Impossible Dream, Anik McGrory

Madeline, Ludwig Bemelmans

Anno’s Journey, Mitsumasa Anno

Bee’s Own Good, Linda Talley


The Falling Stars, The Brothers Grimm

The Gift: A Hanukkah Story, Aliana Brodmann


A Gift for Mama, Esther Hautzig

(The Netherlands) – many of these we read last year for our homeschool around-the-world festival

The Wheel on the School, Meindert DeJong

Katje the Windmill Cat, Gretchen Woelfle

Boxes for Katje, Candace Fleming

Hans Brinker, Bruce Coville

The Greatest Skating Race, Louise Borden (better for older elementary)

Vincent’s Colors, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Hole in the Dike, Norma Green


If You Should Hear a Honey Guide, April Pulley Sayre

Nobiah’s Well, Donna Guthrie

When Africa Was Home, Karen Lynn Williams

One Small Square: African Savanna, Donald Silver


(Saudi Arabia)

Ali and the Golden Eagle, Wayne Grover


One Grain of Rice, Demi

Rikki Tikki Tavi, Rudyard Kipling, ill. Jerry Pinkney w/CD

Heart of a Tiger, Marsha Diane Arnold

The Jungle Book, Rudyard Kipling


The Story About Ping, Marjorie Flack

Mei-Mei Loves the Morning, Margaret Holloway Tsubakiyama

The Warlord’s Puzzle, Virginia Walton Pilegard


This Place is Crowded: Japan, Vicki Cobb

Turtle Bay, Saviour Pirotta

Sadako, Eleanor Coerr

The Sea and I, Harutaka Nakawatari

Yoshiko and the Foreigner, Mimi Otey Little

Crow Boy, Taro Yashima

The Wise Old Woman, Yoshiko Uchida

Grandfather’s Journey, Allen Say

Tree of Cranes, Allen Say


The Trees of the Dancing Goats, Patricia Polacco

Rechenka’s Eggs, Patricia Polacco

The Impossible Riddle, Ellen Jackson

Peter and the Wolf, Vladimir Vagin


Flood Fish, Robyn Eversole

The Best Beak in Boonaroo Bay, Narelle Oliver


Ice Continent, Louise Young


White Owl, Barn Owl, Nicola Davies

Walking In Wild Places, Jim Arnosky

Leaf Man, Lois Ehlert

Skylar, Mary Cuffe-Perez

One Small Square: Arctic Tundra, Donald Silver

A few other notes: The only five-stars in our fine arts category were the Opal Wheeler composer series that I've mentioned several times on this blog. Also, there were a number of books highly recommended in ECC that I was not able to find at my library and did not purchase. This list is not meant to be a substitute for the ECC curriculum. You will be missing out on so many good reading selections if you rely solely on this list, plus there is so much more to ECC than the reading list. I'm also using an older version of ECC, so I'm guessing the list is even better in the newer version.

That wraps up the Blue House Academy school year in review! Stay tuned for our 2011 -2012 plans.

Friday, June 3, 2011

School Year in Review: Part 2

Ready for another lengthy review of our school year? Don't worry, Part 2 is short and sweet (or at least compared to the previous post). In fact, that's how we go about doing our individual subjects -- short and sweet. Typically the kids spend about 15 - 20 minutes on each of their subjects.

So what did they accomplish for the year?


In the words of a Veggie Tales character I can't recall, Nothing, zilch, nada! *

It took me half the year to finally start watching my Institute for Excellence in Writing DVDs and then I still didn't really know how to get started. By the time I had a plan, the spring busy season started and it was too hard to add something new. Maybe writing wasn't a complete loss. Copywork and dictation were included in other subjects, and Grace completed Handwriting Without Tears Cursive Success. Her handwriting, both print and cursive, have improved by leaps and bounds this year.


Ryne completed All About Spelling Levels 1 and 2. Grace completed AAS Level 1 and a little more than half of Level 2. I keep reading on The Well-Trained Mind forums how five-year-olds are finishing these levels in a month or two, but we took our time. They both already knew how to spell 99.9% of the words, yet we focused on the why behind the spelling.

Ryne and Grace also participated in our homeschool spelling bee. Because I was coordinating the bee, it was really hard to find the extra time to help them prepare for the bee. So it was a very big surprise when Grace won the 2nd grade bee!


Ryne only got through half of Rod and Staff 5 English. This was one of the few subjects he was working at grade level, so it was disappointing to get behind. He understands the mechanics very well, but toward the end of the year I noticed he was having trouble with applying those mechanics in more analytical situations. But ultimately the reason we got behind is that if we were running behind for the day, this was the most likely subject to put off since I knew it wouldn't hurt him too much to get behind in this subject. We separated his poem memorization away from grammar, so he was still able to memorize six poems.

Grace finished First Language Lessons 1 & 2. We were able to skim many lessons because she had already memorized most of the definitions and lists from hearing Ryne recite them for years! Grace memorized several poems through FLL. She also completed Adventures in Phonics B.

Both kids practiced oral reading skills with Christian Liberty Press Nature Readers, and Grace completed a handful of Abeka readers too.


I've learned a hard lesson this year. Mastery is different from overkill.

Grace was struggling with subtraction facts, so we put aside Math U See Alpha to work on mastering her facts. We also worked on time, money, and Singapore's Challenging Word Problems.

Meanwhile, Ryne was struggling mightily with multiple digit multiplication in MUS Gamma. We spent over 6 months on the same lesson! At first I thought he had regressed and was having trouble with his multiplication facts because I found him skip counting on his fingers.

I had been inconsistent with math drill, usually letting the kids practice their facts on the computer. So I pulled out the good old fashioned flash cards for both kids and did daily drill for the rest of the year. It took more of my time, but I had a much better idea of what their struggles and strengths were.

For Ryne, I found out that he knew his facts pretty well. He just likes skip counting because he loves the MUS skip counting songs! The daily drill did help with his speed however.

The daily drill enabled Grace to finally able master those addition and subtraction facts, so in January we finally started her on Beta. But once she started Beta it was so easy, that I was kicking myself for not letting her start sooner.

Same with Ryne. We hung out in the same lesson of Gamma FOREVER, but he would still make silly mistakes. If we worked the problems out together he would do great. He could tell me exactly how to solve the problems. He understood the material, but just doesn't have the attention span to make it through those long problems. Since parking ourselves on the same lesson forever was not going to solve the attention problem, I finally let him move on and finish Gamma and now he's speeding through Delta, bragging about how easy it is. I'm sure we'll hit the same problem for long division, but I'm a wiser mom now.


Ryne finished the Map Skills for Today series, and Grace finished the 2nd grade book. They both also started doing Mind Benders logic puzzles.

Tomorrow I will wrap up our end of the year review with our favorite books of the year.

* Ryne refreshed my memory about the Veggie Tale quote (starting at 1:03).

What did we do for writing this year? Nothing. Zilch. Noodle! ; )