Wednesday, June 19, 2013


Just in case seeing a million pictures of Grace's ballet in the last two posts wasn't enough, I'm posting the video from dress rehearsal. The first video starts with the end of the little kids' mice dance where the fairy godmother taps them with her wand to turn them into ponies. The coachman then ushers out the prancing ponies and shortly thereafter Cinderella is whisked away to the ball.

Cinderella's attendants prepare for her grand entrance. (Grace's part is done at 2:47, but I left the part where Cinderella meets the prince because it is so pretty).

Okay, I promise we're done with ballet posts until next June. I'll return soon with our regularly scheduled program, whatever that might be! ; )

Monday, June 17, 2013


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Last night I dreamed about normal people doing normal things. Except that they all had perfect ballet posture and were in full costume. Oh, and the music of Prokofiev's Cinderella Waltz was in the background the entire dream. Such is the life of a ballet mom who has just survived performance week.

As you might recall, I set reasonable goals for last week. Just get the kids where they need to be on time. I didn't cook, I didn't clean, I forgot just about everything but my name most days, and I still did not achieve my goal! We were 15 minutes late to the first dress rehearsal because it was at a beautiful, brand new high school whose location was unknown to my GPS. So my GPS decided the next best thing was to send me to a location 10 miles away. It all turned out fine though once I called another ballet mom and she became my GPS substitute then met me at the front entrance and whisked Grace and her costumes away while I parked the car. We ballet moms have each other's back like that.

Monday was a normal ballet class day. Tuesday we had off. Wednesday we were in rehearsal for 7 hours. Thursday just 4 hours. Friday night our whole crew, plus Grandma, Uncle Dave and our pastor and his daughter attended opening night. Saturday Grandma, Anna, and I attended again. So I've seen every minute of this ballet at least 4 times, and would be happy to watch it another 400 -- it was one of the best performances I've seen from the company/school (and they are always wonderful). It was a long week, but so much fun. We rolled into the driveway Saturday night just minutes before the clock struck midnight and then we all turned into pumpkins ourselves. I think it will take a few days to recover from the excitement.

This year was a big ballet year for Grace because she got to be in two dances. In the past we've always cautioned the grandparents who come in from out of town to watch her performances, explaining her part is about 3 minutes of a two-and-a-half hour performance. I'm convinced they would have come even if she only danced for 30 seconds, but it was nice that she's finally old enough to have more stage time. First she was one of the ponies that pulls Cinderella's coach. In her second dance she was one of Cinderella's attendants, announcing Cinderella's arrival at the ball. These two scenes were among my favorites in the whole performance, but I'm not biased or anything like that. ; )

I took over 900 pictures. Ready to see them?! Ha! Don't worry I've narrowed them down just a little.  I'm a little bummed that I didn't get better pictures of my own daughter. The first day of rehearsal I took pictures of her dances, but the second day I took video so I didn't have as many opportunities to take pictures of her as I did the other dancers. They really discourage taking pictures during the actual performance and don't allow video those nights either, so rehearsal is when I take my pictures. It also allows me to simply enjoy performance night.

Cinderella is a story that people from every generation and culture are familiar with, so I'll skip most of the commentary. You're welcome. Oh, but you might want to open that link to Prokofiev's waltz again while you view the pictures -- it will be stuck in your head for days, but it might make sweeping floors more pleasant. : )

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Grace is the pony on the end, smiling at us.

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Not part of the performance, but the girls liked to call themselves the disco ponies.

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I was very impressed with Cinderella's acting skills -- she teared up every time she did this scene.

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With Grandma

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Daddy and his little girl.

Monday, June 10, 2013

En Pointe

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It's the day every little ballerina dreams of, getting her first pair of toe shoes. Saturday was Grace's special day. The fun actually began on Thursday afternoon at the local dance store. Grace's teacher, Miss Laura, was there to help each student get fitted for her shoes. 

Having no dance background myself, I was amazed at how they have toe shoe fittings down to a science, based on the shape of the girls' feet. Grace tried on half a dozen pairs of shoes, with Miss Laura saying the toe was too square, it wasn't long enough, it was too wide, and so on. Finally, the perfect pair was found. The shoes were left at the shop to get the ribbons sewn on.

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Saturday morning we picked up the shoes on the way to the ballet studio. Grace had regular class in the morning, then her first toe class immediately following. Parents were encouraged to attend with cameras, of course. The first order of business was to learn how to put on the shoes. Ribbons are to be tied on the inside of the legs. Apparently, it's not that easy!
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Once the ribbons were tied it was time to line up for their first inspection and to get the ribbons trimmed. Silly me, I thought the bows looked cute, but the only reason they tied the ribbons in bows was to make sure they didn't get them cut too short. From here on out they tie them in knots and then tuck the ends under the ribbons, because having the ends showing (or worse, bows) is the equivalent of having your underwear showing.
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Following another inspection to make sure their ribbons were properly tucked, it was time to try out those shoes at the barre. The excitement quickly turned into pained expressions. But the smiles were never gone for long.

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Finally it was time for each girl to take her first steps across the room. Grace looked a little frightened when she was told to go first, but she did a wonderful job, making it all the way across the room with no stumbles or flat feet.

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All too quickly it was time to put away the shoes and rub those sore toes. From what I understand, she can say goodbye to pretty toes from now on, but she doesn't care. This was a dream come true.
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The girls were encouraged to spend their summer break walking around the house in their toe shoes so it won't hurt as bad when classes resume in July. But we still have one BIG week before the summer break starts. This is performance week! Friday and Saturday the entire ballet company and school will be performing Cinderella. It will be a week full of rehearsals and preparations. 

Anna also starts her summer school session this week, taking Art and Music Appreciation. So my mission this week is to simply make sure everyone gets where they need to be at the right time. Laundry can (mostly) wait and Quiznos will probably be my best friend this week, but I'm going to try hard not to flip out when it gets too crazy. It seems it was just yesterday she was taking her first ballet lesson, so I'm going to enjoy every crazy moment while I can.

More pictures to come, I'm sure. : )

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Bible Memory Work

In addition to graduating from First Language Lessons, we celebrated finishing a two-year long Bible memory project. This was something Anna did at her school in 6th grade and it was my favorite thing she did that year. The memory work contains key facts and verses from every book in the New Testament. 

This was something I didn't want Ryne to miss out on, so decided to add it into our schedule last year. Since this type of thing is easier for us to do as a group, I decided to include Grace even though she was only in 3rd grade when we started. Unfortunately, we got behind schedule, and when I realized we wouldn't get done in the school year I slowed down our pace. Apparently I slowed it down a little too much, because we finished on the last day of school a few weeks ago! Both kids recited individually (Ryne was almost perfect, Grace was great with the verses but a little weak with some of the verse addresses) and then I recorded them together. So if they look a little weary, this was the end of a long day of reciting (they also recited some history memory work).

Warning: If you thought the videos from the last post were long, this is even longer!

Over and over, the kids have had opportunities to use the information they have memorized. Whether it be in their Sunday School or Catechism classes at church, while we're doing devotions, or reading books, they are always saying something reminded them of a verse they memorized. And that's the whole goal -- to hide God's Word in their hearts.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

First Language Lessons Graduates

Cue the Pomp and Circumstance! I've successfully completed the First Language Lesson series (Levels 1-4) with two kids! I have little to compare it to, as we've only used one other elementary grammar program (Anna used Rod and Staff because there was no FLL 3 or 4 when she was in those grades), but I believe that sticking with a program for six years counts for a lot. Here are just a few things I love about the FLL series:
  • Easy, yet effective. It's a scripted curriculum, so there is little planning involved. I've rarely had a problem staying on track with FLL because it's so easy to follow, lessons are quick, and lessons are written in a manner that allows the child to master the material quickly.
  • Follows the classical approach. Well, that's kind of a duh statement, since FLL is written by Jessie Wise, the mother of the queen of classical education, Susan Wise Bauer. Nevertheless, I cannot tell you how much it has helped Ryne to have a solid foundation in grammar now that he's in the junior high years. Memorizing the key grammatical definitions and lists is a great way to start out a child's grammar education.
  • Sentence diagramming. I'm biased because I love sentence diagramming. I do it for fun. It is an excellent method of teaching how the parts of a sentence work together. Yet, not many grammar programs today employ this method.
  • Poetry memorization, dictation, and narration. These are all aspects of our homeschooling that would not be as strong if they weren't included within our various curricula. Plus, the poems my kids have memorized through FLL are delightful and worth committing to memory. Although we don't review our poems from previous years nearly as much as I'd like, the kids remember most of them. We are friends with a 95 year old woman from church who still remembers poems she learned in grade school. I hope my children will be able to do the same.
I wish I had done this with Ryne, but to celebrate Grace's completion of the curriculum in April I recorded her reciting her poems. If you don't want to listen to all of them, just go to 4:15 to watch the last one -- you'll see why we call her the drama queen of the family.

How about some grammar definitions and lists?

If you made it through all of that, bless your heart! You're probably related to us. ; )

I'd also like to mention that for the last two years we've enjoyed using Michael Clay Thompson's Grammar Island and Grammar Town books to complement (not supplement) First Language Lessons. In my opinion, we would not have enjoyed the MCT books as much if we didn't already have the foundation of FLL. The MCT books, however, teach grammar in a much different manner -- first through a narrative approach and then through four-level sentence analysis exercises -- and I find the two programs work very well together. For more information, please read Heidi's post at Mt. Hope Chronicles; she is the one who inspired me to add MCT into our mix. She describes her language arts mix as a symphony: "Many magical notes working together to produce something beautiful. Complex, interwoven, and harmonious." This has been our experience as well.

Finally, one of the most asked questions I hear is what to do after FLL 4. I think some people are frightened off from the program because they don't know what to do when it ends. I think Rod and Staff is an excellent grammar program, for most kids. I've written a schedule that helps with the transition from FLL 4 to Rod and Staff 5, which you can read about here. (And if you find that helpful I also have an unpublished version for Rod and Staff 6). I added the for most kids part, however, because Rod and Staff turned out not to be a good fit for Ryne. Whether that's an autism thing or an individual thing, I don't know. Instead, we used Analytical Grammar this past year and I've been very pleased with the transition.

Finishing the First Language Lessons series is a mixed blessing for me. We've enjoyed it so much, but it also means we're just that much closer to saying good-bye to the elementary years, which means my baby is growing up, which means I need to go crawl up in a ball somewhere. {sniff}