Friday, February 29, 2008

Musical Diplomacy?

Who knew that driving home from Bible study last night would be an historic event? Enjoying a rare bit of solitude, I turned on NPR and was transported by the passionate horns in the last movement of Dvorak's "New World Symphony" - as I listened, I was thinking about how it would make a good soundtrack for an old-fashioned Western...

Turns out I was hearing a replay of Tuesday's landmark concert by the New York Philharmonic - in Pyongyang, North Korea! Invited by the North Koreans, the orchestra helped put aside the stalemate over nukes for one night of beautiful music masterfully performed.

It ended with a lively Gershwin piece. I found a bit of humor in it:
The New York Philharmonic was playing "An American in Paris" in Pyongyang.
Truly, the language of music is universal.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Open to suggestions...

History Project Day is fast approaching for Master's Academy. C (11) has chosen to build a model of the Parthenon and display his photos from our visit. Here's the dilemma... what to make it out of?

We found an intricate paper model here, but before I slap down the $$ for the kit (plus wait for shipping time) I'd love to hear suggestions on building one with some other media... sculp*ey clay, etc??? C. is very particular about it looking authentic and not like a kindergarten project. (The one thing he likes about the paper model is that the roof is removable and the statue of Athena visible.)

If you have a brilliant idea (or even a not-so-brilliant one) please comment and let me know! Thanks in advance!

Monday, February 25, 2008

That's a Wrap!

"A rollicking band of pirates we, who, tired of tossing on the sea..." - Pir*ates of Pen*zan*ceWell, we made it! We survived four days of looong dress rehearsals and six performances. It was a lot of work, but so much fun! The drama club has been working on this show since last fall and it was exciting to see it all come together. S. really enjoyed himself - and he looked mighty cute in his pirate gear! aarrggh!Now - if you don't hear much from me this week, know that I am busy getting us back into routine. I'll be around, though.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Wordless Wednesday

A full bowl of fruit... one of my Favorite Things!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Thought for the Day

"The more you see the less you know
The less you find out as you go
I knew much more then than I do now."
- Bono
As I was excercising this morning to U2's song "City of Blinding Lights," this line struck me. It made me think of how much we think we know when we are young; and how much we learn we don't know as we get older...

Monday, February 18, 2008

Experiment Results

Well ... the results of my "weekly reporting" experiment are in. Though there were some positive aspects of the ritual, the overall result is: thumbs down.

On the negative side: #1: the reports take a long time to write. I don't have that kind of time to spare on a weekly basis. It has limited the time I have to visit other blogs and post about other things. Which leads me to negative #2: weekly reporting has made my blog too narrow in focus - becoming more of a "homeschool" blog than anything. I am a homeschool mom, but our life is about way more than just school, and I want my blog to reflect that. #3: The reports are too long - I don't want to burden my dear readers. #4: It's too repetitive. Some subject areas, like Bible and history, see progress every week; but others consist of "doing the next lesson" - after a while I fear half the reports will be identical to the week before. That's boring, even for me! And the last reason: it was beginning to feel like a chore.

On the positive side: I enjoyed seeing our week "on paper" - it made up for the feelings of failure and lagging behind I felt during any given week. But from now on, if I make a report, it will be for my own use, to file in my planner. I also enjoyed your encouraging comments (though the praise was probably more than I deserved.)

There may be one reader out there who is disappointed in this (Hi, Mom!), but never fear. I will still post glimpses of school on the sidebar, so check there every now and then. I will also occasionally post about the happenings in our homeschool. Just not every week...

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Week 19 Slideshow

Week 19 Report

This week was like so many at our house... our routine was interrupted; we were mosty just "doing the next thing" in our homeschool. We spent the better part of Wednesday helping out a neighbor whose car rolled into a ditch. (Everyone's ok.) Valentine's Day was spent making cards and cookies for friends. S. (13) was sick for 2 days, which seemed to make everyone less productive.

So here's what we accomplished...

Schoolwork done together:
Bible - Continued following the story of God leading the way as the Israelites take possession of the Promised Land. Read from Vos story Bilbe and from the Reformation Study Bible. We have a total of 3 different Holy Land maps taped to the kitchen wall (we do Bible at lunchtime) because no single map showed what we wanted. A (3yo) likes to climb in a chair and point to the "Dead Water" and "Bethlehem." I love maps. S. loves maps. M. is a geography whiz. Seems A. got the geography gene, too.

History - Not too much history, outside of what they learned at Master's Academy. They've now moved ahead of where we are at home ... discussing the beginnings of the Roman Republic. We're still wrapping up Alexander the Great. We also updated our timeline - we hadn't added any Greek figures. (We ordered our timeline here a few years ago - love it!)

Nature Study - consisted of enjoying all the cute and funny things the new kitty, Odysseus, does. A. and M. helped Daddy refill all the birdfeeders around the yard. No journal work this week.

S. (13)
Math - completed 2 lessons in Saxon Algebra 1/2: one on volume and one on order of operations with fractions
Grammar - began unit on nouns in A Beka Grammar and Comp. I
Spelling - finished a couple of Apples drills
Writing - second draft of Gollum & Biblo compare/contrast essay
Literature - read several chapters in Screwtape Letters - he's thoroughly enjoying that. I've not assigned any writing for this book yet. I'm focusing on discussing the themes / style of the book.
Copywork - Worked on Joshua 10:40 ... didn't get to dictation yet.

C. (11)
Math - 3 lessons in Abeka Arithmetic 5 ... still working through fractions
Grammar - more work with adjectives and diagramming
Spelling - several Apples drills
Writing - typed final draft of Athens & Sparta compare/contrast essay - it was much shorter than I thought once he typed it out. We'll have to work on writing longer essays...
Literature - continued reading Hittite Warrior and mapping Uriah's travels
Copywork - a passage from Hittite Warrior describing a character - I liked the colorful language the author used and thought it would be an inspiration to C. to be more descriptive in his own writing. The passage also contained a lot of commas ... everyone needs practice with comma usage! ;-)
History - read from Kingfisher History Encyc. on Alexander the Great and the Hellenizing of his empire. Completed his first sentence outline on the entry. Needs much more practice on those!

M. (8)
Math - began unit on measuring and perimeter - she seemed to enjoy her little taste of geometry ;-)
Grammar - finished unit on possessives and direct quotations
Phonics - more work in Adventures in Phonics C
Reading / Literature - read several chapters in Tales from the Odyssey, vol. 1 - she's really enjoyng reading a more challenging book with exciting characters. I'm enjoying watching her reading skills take off.
Copywork - a fun sentence about Odysseus and the Trojan Horse
History - Added Alexander's Empire to her map of Greece

A. (3) - Preschool
We didn't do much official preschool work - and that's ok. We didn't read as many stories as we usually do ... I typically read to him when I'm tucking him for nap/rest time and he skipped that several days this week due to all the excitement of neighbors visiting and Valentines.

When we were washing up the cookie mess, A. asked me, "Mom, where does the [sink] water go? Into the cabinets?" So I opened up the cabinet and showed him the white pipes that catch drain water. Then we went to the basement and he was amazed to see the same white pipe running along the ceiling and into the crawl space. We proceeded to have a fun conversation about plumbing, followed by reading about water pipes in a page from Richard Scarry's What Do People Do All Day. It really was a fun "teachable moment." The highlight was when we stopped at a gas station later in the day and actually saw a plumber soldering copper pipe. Made A.'s day! So cute!

Thursday, February 14, 2008


For all you mommies out there exhausted from caring for little ones ... for all of you who fear you will never read a book or even go to the bath*room without an interruption ... for those of you resigned to be a scullery maid for the next twenty years...
Let me tell you - there is hope!

Chidren do grow up. They do get to the point where their "help" is actually helpful. I'm living proof.

My Big Boys, at 13 and 11, have been helpful for several years now. They do most of my laundry and dishes. They are also good with the little ones and help their Dad with mowing and yard work.

Yesterday was M's turn to shine. She is turning out to be quite the little cook. We received a bread machine for Christmas and yesterday, with very little input from me, M. made bread all by herself! Though she has her own set of daily chores, this was the first major cooking task she's done alone. A glimpse of what life will be like as my first daughter becomes my Mama's helper!

Thank you, Lord, for showing me some fruits of my years of labor. It does get easier...

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Fun with ABCs

I learned this tip several years ago from a friend who is a first-grade teacher. When your preschooler/kindergartner gets tired of writing letters on paper (or wipe-off boards - A's current fave,) try the kitchen counter.

Here's how it works: Spread one of the following on the countertop and let your little one "write" with his index finger.
  • flour
  • cornmeal
  • sugar
  • shave cream (has the added feature of cleaning the countertop!)

Not only is this FUN for your little guys, it's beneficial for motor development. It also might buy you a little time to get some work done in the kitchen!

Pop over here for more Works for Me Wednesday tips.

Wordless Wednesday - Meet Odysseus

We adopted him from a shelter this weekend. He is as sweet as he looks!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Giants in the Land

Our women's Bible study this semester is on the book of Deuteronomy. I found a word this morning from Amy Carmichael that I thought fit in nicely.

"The people are greater and taller than we;
The cities great and fortified up to heaven;
And besides, we have seen the sons of the Anakim [giants] there."
Deut. 1:28

Amy says, "Faith does not hide difficulties or belittle them." (Reminds me of Burroughs in Rare Jewel -- it's ok to admit that it's hard to face trials. It's ok to ask for the Lord's help and relief. It's not ok to despair and grumble.) Back to Amy: "Let us look up. What are all these things -- peoples, cities, giants -- to the Lord our God? The Lord your God who goeth before you, He shall fight for you. (Deut 1:30)"

Whatever our "giants" are: difficult relationships; parenting struggles; financial needs; unemployment; caring for an aging parent; a house that won't sell ... we must remember that "greater is He that is in you than He that is in the world."(I John 4:4)

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Week 18 Slideshow

Week 18 Report

I've noticed through the years that I experience the "homeschool blahs" sometime around February. Even though our weather has been springlike, this was a difficult week: it will certainly not go down in history as one of our most productive. Daddy was out of town at the beginning of the week - not a huge deal, but rare for us and therefore a challenge. I also had to spend a great deal of time on character issues with the children - bickering, attitude problems, etc. I guess they have the blahs, too.

I did let the boys spend some time reclaiming their "Sceince Lab" - part of the unfinished area of our basement. They like to go down there and take apart old appliances and "do experiements." That helped to cure the blahs a little!

So here goes:
Schoolwork Done as a Group
History - On our timeline, we've made it up to Alexander the Great. But while we've studied the events of Greek history, we haven't spent as much time learning about the Famous Men of Greece. I have a book by that name we are going to work through over the next couple of weeks.
Bible - We continued our reading in The Child's Story Bible, reading sections taken from the book of Joshua. We read chapter 1 of Joshua from the Bible and focused on the Lord's command to be strong and courageous and obey the Law.
Nature Study - didn't happen this week. Oh, well.
Art - we had a really rainy day, so we did "optical art" instead of a nature walk

S. (13)
Math - worked 2 lessons in Alebra 1/2 and took a test. He missed several problems on the test and we went back and reworked the lessons on using reciprocals to "get rid of" the coeffecient in an equation. I was happy to see the light of understanding come on in his eyes - I don't think he'll make the same mistakes again.
Grammar - completed a chapter review of verb usage and a unit review, which I counted as a test. Aced it.
Spelling - worked 3 Apples drills
Literature - finished Archimedes and the Door of Science. "Reported" on the book by making a list of his favorite of Archimedes' discoveries. Began reading The Screwtape Letters and seems to be enjoying it so far.
Copywork /Dictation - did well on a passage from Around the World in Eighty Days
No independent science or Bible this week
Art - brought home from Master's Academy a neat papier mache model of the Parthenon facade

C. (11)
Math - worked through more lessons on fractions
Grammar - finished up verbs; diagrammed pronouns as subjects and compound sentences (he's like his Mom and loves diagramming!); began unit on adjectives
Spelling - 3 Apples drills
Literature - finished Black Ships Before Troy and did the last of the exercises in the Veritas Press comprehension guide. Loved that book. Began reading Hittite Warrior (by the same author as God King.) Copied the map from the front of the book to record the journey of Uriah, the main character. He's very excited about this book because S. read it 2 years ago and loved it.
Copywork/Dictation - passage from the Jungle Book - I love it when C. writes in cursive. His cursive is so pretty - it's hard to imagine it's from the same hand that produces the chicken-scratching he calls printing!
History - I had C. read the entries on Greece, covering the time from the city-states to Alexander, in both Kingfisher History Encyc. and Usborne Book of World History (that one with M.) I hope to get in an outline next week.
Art - learned about ancient weaving at Master's Academy and brought home his "loom" to work on.

M. (8-almost 9)
Math - several lessons on time and the calendar - easy for her, but good for me b/c she was able to do without my instruction
Grammar - Finished punctuation unit and began possessive nouns
Phonics - did several pages in Adventures in Phonics C. I continue to be glad we're reviewing phonics with her - it has really given her a good foundation for spelling - more than starting any formal "spelling" curriculum, I think
Literature - Still reading Busy Times for reading practice (and because she enjoys the stories.) Did one narration. Began reading Tales from the Odyssey, vol. 1 by Mary Pope Osborne. I love these little books - C. read them several years ago and I'm so pleased that M. is ready for them - they fit nicely with our history unit on Greece. She drew an illustration of Odysseus in the field when the call to war with Troy comes.
Copywork/Dictation - did Matthew 7:12 - the Golden Rule - mentioned in Busy Times - we payed attention to spelling, punctuation of Scripture references, and why "The Law and the Prophets" was capitalized
History - read Usborne Book of World History with C.
Art - brought home her own shoe box "loom" from Master's

A. (3) and K. (21 mo.)
Preschool this week consisted of Mommy reading lots of books and many, many lessons on getting along and sharing! A. and K. also played in the rain and enjoyed helping Mommy cut open and eat a fresh pineapple - A., in particular, though that was cool.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

I liked this one, too...

I liked the softness of the blue sky streaked with clouds contrasted with the strong lines of the Parthenon. This is the East Pediment, which depicts the birth of Athena (out of Zeus' head -ouch! Notice the dude with the ax to Zeus' left...crack!) Nike is putting the crown on Athena's head. (You may have to click on the picture and blow it up to see the detail.)

Tuesday, February 5, 2008


Sign of gettin' old - I can't remember anything! I know there were funny things said around here, but I keep forgetting to write them down! So here are just a couple of quotes:

"Mom, do my good jeans have one hole, or two?" C. (11) - That's why his jeans come from the thrift store ... he puts holes in them whether they cost $40 or $4!

"Boak!" tr. "milk" - 21 mo K. - took us forever to figure that one out!

"Mom, does God make it morning?" Yes. "I want Him to make it morning when it's night - so Daddy will be home." Awww.. 3yo A., wishing time would fly while Daddy's out of town.

Go put a smile on your face with more Tiny Talk at Not Before 7.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Weekly Report, Sort Of

This post is an experiment. I'm testing out an idea I've seen on some other homeschool blogs: a Weekly Report. I like reading the reports of others, to get ideas and be encouraged to keep on truckin'. I also like the idea of using a Weekly Report as an accountability exercise for me: if I know I'm going to report on our week, I'll be motivated to be more productive!

Our last 2 weeks have been sort of a jumble, so I'm combining them. According to my calculations, we've finished our 17th week of school, so we'll call this Weekly Report 17. Due to combining a couple of weeks and introducing our curriculum, this post is going to be a long one. I promise they won't all be epic novels!

With three students, one preschooler, a toddler, and a couple of field trips, there is a lot to report. First, I'm going to report on the things we did as a group and then itemize the math and language arts - rather than lising it all out for each child and repeating myself. We'll see how it goes.
If you would rather not read the whole report, I won't be offended. (Though you should scroll down to see the cute pictures, of course! ) Feel free to skip it and stop by later for a more reader-friendly post.
Weekly Report 17
Mixed in with the activities reported here, we had a trip to Tennessee to visit family; a weekend of guests when other members of the family visited us; Master's Academy, ballet, a trip to the doctor, and a playdate.

Schoolwork Done as a Group
History - While we were in Tennessee, we took a field trip to the Parthenon, a replica of the one in Athens, Greece. This fit nicely with our studies. The children have been studying Greek architecture and art at Master's Academy, and I was impressed when they correctly identified the Doric columns on the exterior...
...and the Ionic on the interior!
C., in particular, enjoyed himself and annoucned he wanted to "kiss a column!" He also was amazed at how easy the 2.5 ton bronze doors were to open and close (though Mom freaked out when he gave one a push!) Everyone enjoyed the colossal gilded statue of Athena in the Naos (sanctuary.) We were amazed by the workmanship and detail, especially on her shield. We relished being able to see ruins of some actual statuary from the Acropolis (they are casts of the original fragments now housed in the British Museum in London.)

S. was intruigued by a large model of an ancient Greek crane. M. and I enjoyed the art in the gallery down in the Parthenon's basement - we were particulary excited to see an original Winslow Homer. We studied his painting The Catboat when we were researching sailing for Swallows and Amazons.

In our history studies at home, we discussed the Greek city-states, Athens and Sparta in particular. C. and M. studied this topic in their Master's Academy classes. We read the entries on Greek city-states in The Kingfisher History Encyclopedia. C. is writing a compare/contrast essay on Athens and Sparta. He began last week with a Venn diagram, followed by a rough draft. He's now completed a second draft and we hope to finish the final essay this week. M. enjoyed reading and narrating entries from the Usborne Book of World History. S. studied Greek gods and goddesses at Master's Academy. I read aloud passages from vol. 1 of Story of the World, and we all did mapwork. (Even little A., who drew giant red tornado-like circles on his map and said, "This is Athens.") We finished our week with reading about the Battle of Marathon. (The kids also watched several lessons in C.'s A Beka 5th grade history videos. We've ended up not using these DVDs much for C.'s every day instruction, so in order to not feel I've wasted my $$, I have the kids watch the history and science together. The history lessons blend beautifully with what we're studying - the Ancient World. The "DVD class" is also currently drilling the states & capitals, so that's a nice bonus.)

Science / Nature Study - For group science, the Big 3 are watching the A Beka DVDs and studying stars and constellations. We did 2 nature study activites: one was the day in the park I posted about previously. At the end of the day, each child had a nice entry in their Nature Journals - a sketch and a selection of poetry or informative description of the subject of the sketch. The second nature study was on the topic of cormorants, a species of bird mentioned in our read-aloud, Swallows and Amazons. We looked up cormorants in our various field guides and on the internet (even found a site that had an audio recording of its call.) Each child colored a picture of the bird from our Peterson's Field Guide Coloring Book and wrote a brief description of the bird under their picture. (C. was very concerned that we were not coloring the particular species of cormorant that would be found in the English Lake District, where our story takes place. I told him this was the best we could do, LOL!)

Bible - We started off the year with our Bible and history being in sync. But in Bible, we spent a long time on creation and the Flood; plus the history curriculum moves a little faster and we are enjoying taking our time in Bible. Therefore in history we're up to about the 500-400s BC (after Babylonian captivity), but in Bible we're way back in Joshua (approx 1450 BC.) We're reading through The Child's Story Bible by Catherine Vos. We are also drilling the books of the Old Testament daily.
S. (13)
Math - made progress in Saxon Alebra 1/2; did 6 new lessons with the D.I.V.E cd and corrected his mistakes.
Grammar - did 1 to 2 pages per day in Grammar and Composition I, from A Beka. He's working on proper usage of words like "set and sit, rise and raise" etc.
Spelling - completed 5 drills in Apples: Daily Spelling Drills for Secondary Students. This has been a good tool for him to polish his spelling. Quick, easy, but effective.
Literature - He finished reading The Hobbit. He wrote one narration and made a Venn diagram comparing Gollum and Bilbo. He wrote a rough draft of a compare/contrast essay on that topic. He also began reading Archimedes and the Door of Science.
Copywork / Dictation - In the last couple of years, I have really dropped the ball on this with him. I know he's too old for copywork, but I gave him a lengthy passage from The Hobbit to copy each day. I picked a passage with a conversation between Bilbo and Smaug, and reviewed the punctuation rules for writing dialogue. Last week I dictated the passage and he got a 99! This week he is working on a passage from his pleasure reading book, Around the World in Eighty Days, focusing on spelling and objective case pronouns ("to whom,"etc.)
Science - S. continued to work on Module 4 of General Science by Aplogia: simple machines. No experiments this week, just reading and journaling the voabulary and chapter questions.

C. (11)
Math - he did new new lessons in Arithmetic 5 from A Beka and LOTS of practice. He's working on fractions: least common denominator, adding & subtracting fractions, etc. He also did the "Timz It" and "Doublit" portions of Math-It two times per week.
Grammar - several new pages in God's Gift of Language, by A Beka. He's into subject/verb agreement. Easy stuff for him. I think we need to pick up the pace in grammar! He could do more, but I take advantage of the fact he's fairly independent in grammar at this point. I'm hoping to carve out time to challenge C. in this area soon.
Spelling - 5 Apples spelling drills
Literature- Read several chapters of Black Ships Before Troy. He did one narration and two worksheets from the Veritas Press Comprehension Guide.
Copywork / Dictation - I chose a fun selection from Black Ships - part of Hector and Achilles' big battle. C. hates handwriting and I expected him to balk. But he seemed to enjoy the repetitive nature of the exercise, trying to beat his time each day. He also memorized the selection and almost didn't need me to dictate on "dictation day." The mechanics we focused on were correct comma placement and spelling. This week he's working on a passage from his pleasure reading book, The Jungle Book.
Science - C. tried to perform an experiment from our Chemo-Electro kit (found at a parent-teacher store.) I think our 9-volt battery was dead, because the electric potato writing didn't work. We're going to try again next week.
M. (8)
Math - worked in her MCP Book; finished chapter on subtracting 3 digits w/ borrowing; adding and subtracting money; and estimating. Took chapter test. Reviewed time and clocks.
Grammar - finished punctuation unit and completed review on periods and commas.
Spelling / Phonics - worked in Adventures in Phonics C - reviewed r-controlled vowels, especially the ur and the or sound. M. is still struggling with reading fluency, so we are doing phonics for the 4th year in a row! But I am seeing so much fruit this year - her reading has improved by leaps and bounds and she is turning out to be the best speller in the family!
Reading - Continued reading Busy Times (Pathway reader) for practice reading aloud and The Trojan Horse: How the Greeks Won the War for independent reading.
Writing - M. wrote several short narrations; some on her reading in Busy Times, and some from her history reading.
Handwriting - continued cursive practice in Writing With Prayer
Copywork / Dictation - M. did a great job with her sentence last week from The Trojan Horse: How the Greeks Won the War (a Step Into Reading book.) I chose a sentence with a comma, some tricky spelling words, and capitalizing proper nouns.

A. (3 1/2) and K. (21 mo.)
In an effort to meet my goal of being more Deliberate about spending time with my little ones, I've been having "preschool time" every morning while the older three do seatwork. It has been so much fun! We dusted off the old set of Fisher Price preschool flash cards. It's a little set my dear mother-in-law bought me years ago. M. and I used to get them out while the older boys did school, back when she was a little tyke. Somehow they've managed to survive as a nearly complete set.

During our preschool time, I sat on the playroom floor with A. (while the big ones did math seatwork) and counted to ten, built towers out of linking cubes up to five, compared bigger and smaller, practiced left and right, and made fun patterns such as "sheep, sheep, pig." It was so much fun to spend alone time with my little guy and watch the joy on his face when he correctly identified his left foot and discovered that "five" is the number of fingers on his hand. Then we snuggled on the sofa and read lots of books!

One book we've read several times in the last week is Curious George Rides a Bike. A. wanted to make little paper boats like George, so we did! Now A. has his own little fleet to "sail" around the house.
The "school" enthusiasm tended to carry over into the rest of the day... at lunch he wanted to practice his letters on a wipe-off ABC board. After dinner he sat in his "hideout" (under the desk) and practiced shapes on the geoboard. My Sweetie was amazed when A. popped out and announced that a stop sign is an octagon!

K. enjoyed preschool time, too - especially reciting the ABCs. I sing the song with them while pointing to the letters on our big wall chart. While A. and I were working, K. would pick up M's baton (my "pointer") and try to point to letters and sing.

These sweet moments are balm to my soul, reminders that there is more to A. and K. than a couple of crazy, tribal, strong-willed challenges to my parenting skills!

End of Report...

I'm hoping to be able to get a report out regularly. It is good for me to see the progress we've made in spite of all the interruptions to our schedule! I wish there was a way to make the report more concise, but still give a good picture of what we've done... I may do some tweaking!