Sunday, September 23, 2012

Week 4: The Mayflower Pilgrims

The girls finally got to make their wigwams.  We followed the directions in the MFW teacher manual and they came out so realistic.  They used cut-up cereal boxes for the frame and brown construction paper for the "shingles."  After gluing on the shingles, we covered the entire outside with white glue.  When they dried the girls cut smoke holes in the top.  They looked and felt much like real bark and are very sturdy.

Both of the girls added their own accessories.  Emily made hers from clay and Katie used cardboard and paper.  Very creative!

Squanto, Friend of the Pilgrims really touched Katie's heart.  Many nights, she wanted me to keep reading so she could hear what happened next.  She was very about Squanto's family dying before he finally returned to his village.  But she perked up when she learned that Squanto really helped the Pilgrims and considered them his new family.  We all had a great discussion about how Squanto's life was in God's hands.  Had it not been for the English keeping him as a slave and his inability to return to America, Squanto would most likely have died with the rest of his tribe long before the Pilgrims landed on American soil.  Furthermore, Squanto shows us that people of diverse backgrounds can live in peace and harmony and can teach one another many useful things, even how to plant corn and catch fish! 

Almost Home is another great book based on the lives of those who journeyed across the Atlantic on the Mayflower.  I particularly love how well the story captures living history in great detail.  And the glossary in the back is helpful for some period terms that we didn't know.  You may know what a coif is, but do you know what a trencher is?  Hmmm...

To say that Emily doesn't like English is an understatement!  It's not my strong suit either.  I scored well in English when I was in school, but I remember very little of it.  I'm not the most versed writer and I don't have a broad vocabulary, but that doesn't stop me from writing or talking.  Much is learned by just reading.  Even so, I realize that there are requirements to meet and certain things should be learned, even when they seem boring and useless.  So, we carry on grudgingly, trying to learn each step of the way.  And I'm right there alongside Emily, learning with her.

In science, we learned more about mammals.  We covered monkeys, apes, elephants, leopards, whales, and other mammals similar to all those.  We learned about various ways that people tried to support the theory of evolution and that all have been disproved.  I'm thinking that field trip to the zoo is in order soon. :)

We took Thursday off.  My ladies Bible study started this week, which meets on Thursday mornings.  Typically, I would require the kids to do school work during that time.  But we've been working so hard and were a little ahead, so I was going to just let them play.  It turned out, a lady at church needed help organizing toys in one of the children's rooms, so the girls spent most of their time doing that.  We socialized afterwards and ran a couple of errands, so we didn't get home until about 3:00.  On most Thursday afternoons we will do some school work, unless we go on a field trip or need to run errands.  Our leader asked if Emily could help out with the little kids during Bible study, starting next week, and wants to pay her!  I told her I'm fine with it and I think it will be good for her.

We had a bit of excitement on Friday.  I woke up super early - 6:00 AM, which is way early for me!  I'm a night owl, not a morning dove.  I watched a movie and dozed off for about an hour after.  so we were just getting started on school around 10:30 or so.  That's about the time when Katie said "why is the lid off Spotty's tank?" (Spotty is our firebelly toad.)  I thought she was joking until I looked over and saw the lid sitting on the table.  I asked her if the frog was inside.  She looked and frantically said "no" and began crying hysterically.  I added fresh water to the tank the night before and forgot to put the lid back on!  Oops!!!  My stomach started turning.  It's amazing how huge our house seemed at that moment!  I looked in every corner of the kitchen/dining area first, since that's where Spotty's tank is.  No luck.  We got a flashlight and started looking under all the furniture in the living room. We found other things, but not the frog.  Katie was still crying so I stopped, put my hands on her shoulders, told her to calm down, and said "let's pray."  In less than five minutes, the frog was spotted in the kitchen!    It truly was a miracle!  We all took a moment to give thanks to God for allowing us to find Spotty so quickly.  Hallelujah!

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Sunday, September 16, 2012

Too much stuff?

Too much stuff? Oh yes! Way too much!  Visit this blog post at Living Well Spending Less  to read about what one blogger did and the impact it made on her family!

I have been on a slow-paced decluttering spree for quite some time, until last month when I spent a considerable amount of time filtering through boxes of misc. stuff.  Stray puzzle pieces, battery covers, marbles, doll shoes, socks, screws, candles… you name it! Left to my husband, all those boxes would have just been tossed out to the trash. But I cannot stand wastefulness and I have a pet peeve about keeping sets of things together. With that in mind, I don’t know how so much clutter accumulated in so many boxes!

Anyway, I set up two card tables in our basement and dumped all the misc. stuff on them.  Missing things were found, and puzzles, toy sets and games were made complete. Then, most of it was placed in boxes to be donated.  The process was very slow since I had to work on it in between caring for my family and tending to the housework.  Then, one glorious Saturday, my in-laws took my kids for the entire day!  That’s when the real work began!  My girls' rooms were cleared, closets were cleaned out, and stuff was boxed up.  I removed so much stuff from Katie's room that she's been able to easily keep it clean ever since.  And the stuff that was removed hasn’t even been thought about or asked for!  It’s as if it was never even here in the first place.

We have a long way to go. But this is a great start! And it shows that we really don’t need so much stuff in our lives.

Hold on to the people, not the stuff!  And remember, today's cute is tomorrow's clutter!

Week 3: Gettin' in the Groove

It feels good to have such a productive week.  Well, at least school was productive.  Housework, not so much.  Oh well.  Such is the life of a homeschooling family. :)

Our history lessons have been rich in content about the beginnings of the colonization of the New World.  I'm learning (and re-learning) as much as the kids, and learning more than I think I ever have.  I'm so thankful for quality books, both textbooks and living history books, to guide us through this period of history.  My Father's World chose a great selection of books!  Katie especially enjoys the stories from  American Pioneers and Patriots.  At the end of each section, there is a page that describes how a certain task was done.  This week, it was about how the pioneers made soap.  Katie wanted to give it a try, doing it exactly how they did.  I'm thinking that taking her to Pioneer Days at a local park will be sufficient.  I think they have demonstrations and hands-on activities for kids.  Otherwise, we can make soap the way that most modern crafters do it - the supplies are at the store!

We had to back Katie up in math to review some lessons from last year.  My intentions to do math throughout the summer failed miserably.  It's always easier said than done.  So now, we have some reviewing to do.  At least I'm able to pick through it to review only what she needs.

Emily is working on fraction equations and it seems a bit confusing right now.  I'm going to look at the next several lessons to see where we're headed.  My experience with RightStart tells me that there is good reason for how things are taught.  My experience also tells me that there are times when Emily truly gets it and just needs to move on.  So, I'll look ahead and determine which directions we'll go.

English is Emily's least favorite subject.  And although I was good at it, it was my least favorite too.  Let's face it.  It's boring.  And it's complicated.  But despite her dislike of it, Emily is adjusting to using her English book (All-in-One English).  I have to giggle inside because when she first saw the new English book, she was happy to see it instead of her old one, and claimed that she hated her old book.  After she started using All-in-One English, she then claimed to hate that book too!  In reality, it's the subject she hates, not the books.  The lesson in that for homeschoolers is that we shouldn't always be quick to switch books just because a child thinks she hates it.  It could be - brace yourself - that there is a part of learning that is just not enjoyable for them!  I get it. 

Science has been fun so far.  Who doesn't enjoy learning about animals?  Both of my girls have embraced the books we're using and have enjoyed searching for additional information and pictures on the internet.  They even made their own science boards (which I forgot to share last week).  Emily created and included a game on hers and Katie made a nice display with her toy animals. 



I just ordered the Apologia General Science book for Emily.  According to what I've read, she should be able to work through this book mainly on her own.  I hope that pans out.  Animal science has been great and I will not deprive Emily from continuing with that since she obviously loves it so much, but she definitely needs the general science. 

I’ve been reading to the girls every night, which is something I haven’t been too consistent in doing over the past several years.  I’m reading Squanto, friend of the Pilgrims to Katie and Almost Home, a book about the Pilgrims on the Mayflower to Emily.  I usually read one chapter a night to Emily and two to Katie (since hers is shorter).  But both girls have talked me into reading more some nights because they couldn’t wait to hear what would happen next.  Reading aloud is incredibly meaningful.  It instills in kids a love for books.  It teaches them that books are exciting, engaging, and adventurous, and full of detail.  It teaches them to have better listening skills.  And most importantly, it creates a deeper bond with your children.  I really wish I had been more consistent with it over the past few years.  But I'm thankful that my girls still enjoy hearing a good story read to them.

I'll close with telling you some exciting news!  I received my FREE iPad 2 last week, thanks to Marriott Rewards!!!  Yes, hubby does all the travelling and I get to reap an occasional reward!  It's been so much fun playing with it.  I've already downloaded a bunch of free apps, which I'm finding that many of the freebies are just trials or "lite" versions of the full-blown app.  So I plan to do some research before buying a bunch of apps that may not be useful to me.  I did put my Martha Stewart Magazine on there, which is really cool!  And I downloaded apps for a couple homeschool magazines.  I'm looking for educational and organizational apps, like a planner, so if anyone has any recommendations, please let me know!

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Monday, September 10, 2012

Making Files Available to Share

I'm new at this.  I would like to share some things I've created but I'm not sure how.  I haven't had any time to research it yet so I thought I'd ask for input from my blog readers.  Suggestions or tips???

Thanks in advance! :)

Week 2: Smoother and Sweeter

Our second week of school went much more smoothly than the first.  We still had some small bumps in the road, but nothing we weren't able to easily get over.

Since it's Sunday and our third week is about to begin, I'll just mention a few highlights.

In science, several unusual animals were mentioned in the book and Emily decided she wanted to write about a couple of them.  She found some pictures and information on the internet and put together a nice, brief report.  Forgive the quality of these pictures. They were taken quickly with my phone, but you get the idea.

Friday was half a school day because I was busy making and decorating a cake for my niece & nephew for their birthday party.  This worked out well though because we had enough cake batter and icing leftover for a small world cake.  The girls did most of the decorating themselves and I think they did an awesome job!  Since it was a small cake, we only included the part of the world we are currently studying.

We are moving along nicely in all subjects we've started and will begin a heavier focus on math and writing this week. We will also begin God and the History of Art.

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Saturday, September 1, 2012

First Week of School

Whew!  I'll be honest.  This week started off rough!  After nearly three weeks of travelling and being home for just a couple of days, my brain was fried before we even started the week.  Thankfully, it ended well.

First, I'll share some pictures from our trip to Michigan.

Enjoying ice cream at the Blueberry Festival in South Haven

Beach/Dune Pictures in South Haven

Beach/Dune Pictures in South Haven

Blueberry Picking

Yummy Blueberries!!!

Beach at Big Sable Lighthouse in Ludington

Beach at Big Sable Lighthouse in Ludington

Big Sable Lighthouse in Ludington

Big Sable Lighthouse Keepers Porch in Ludington

My new bike!

Family Picture on top of the Dune Climb in Sleeping Bear Dunes
The girls and the friends they met at the campgound.  Some were friends we knew from home who just happened to be there camping too!

Even Maggie was chillin out!

Ok, onto school.

When the girls arrived at their desks on our first day, this is what they found...

They each have a new binder, Katie has new Lorax pencils, and Emily has new duct tape. :)

We're not in a full-blown schedule yet. We'll be closer next week. Does anyone else ease into school like that?

Our Bible study this year focuses on the book of James.  The first day took quite some time.  It should have taken about 30 minutes, but took us 90!  Yikes!  Don't get me wrong, I love me some Bible time!  But spending three times what we should have really wasn't a great start to the day or week.  I should have stopped after 30 minutes to continue it later.  Live and learn, right?  Bible study the rest of the week went fine.

Our history lessons reviewed some of what we touched on at the end of our last school year.  We studied Christopher Columbus more in depth, along with other early American Explorers.  So far, I really like all the books we have used so far: Building a City on a Hill, Exploring American History, The Last 500 Years, and Story of the World, Vol. 3.  I love that each book covers similar information, but provides it in a way that doesn't seem too redundant.  The girls narrate (retell) the stories and write summaries to go in their history notebooks.  These activites teach so much about communication skills, organizing thoughts, writing, spelling, vocabulary, and more.  And they don't even realize they are learning so much!

Using Answers in Genesis Science: The World of Animals excites me.  I really love these books.  We've used Answers in Genesis before an really liked it.  So I'm not surprised that we were immediately drawn to science this year.  We discussed Creation vs. Evolution, which was fantastic discussion.  I feel like my kids are really starting to get it!  Answers in Genesis: The World of Animals does a great job at explaining theories and providing information based on the Truth of Creation.  My Father's World also has extensive notes in the teacher manual that describes various scientific theories about life.  This rich material really helps me to have some background information that helps me to answer questions my kids have.  I didn't read it all to them.  We just casually discussed some of it and I really think it gave the kids a better understanding, not only of Creation and Evolutioin, but also of how powerful and creative God is!

One other thing I want to mention about science is that Katie and I both LOVE her Complete Book of Animals workbook!  She has always been an animal lover, so this is right up her alley!  She gets to choose (from a certain section) the animal page that she wants to complete each day.  This gives her a sense of independence.  The pages are colorful and provide information that is easily understood at her age.  She is so into this book that she can't wait to tell others (especially her big sister) what she learned that day!  Now that's what I call learning!!!  Best of all, she insists on reading the pages for herself, as much as she can.  You have no idea what a big step this is and how greatly it is already improving her reading skills!

For now, both girls are working in their Spelling by Sound and Structure spelling books.  I'm allowing Emily to do hers more casually, without testing her.  I'm not a big fan of testing on a list of words, especially at her age.  She learns better by putting the words to use in writing.  So, I picked up a Charlotte Mason Spelling Wisdom book that we will start in the next week or two, in addition to the workbook that she will continue to work through more casually.

We even made time for music and a little bit of art.  I'm trying to teach Emily how to play "This is My Father's World" on the piano.  We don't have Then Sings My Soul that is recommended by My Father's World.  But we do have Hymns for a Kids Heart that seems to work just as well.  We also began our study of the composer Schubert which was surprisingly interesting to the kids.  We listened to that while driving to the pet store for crickets to feed our frog.  Whatever works, right?

Art came in the form of building ships to sail in our vast waters of the bathtub!  The girls both were very creative with their building.  They did this a few years ago, so I was going to skip this activity.  But they really needed something fun and hands-on to do, and this was perfect.  The girls put much more detail into their ships this year compared to a few years ago.

Maggie was learning right alongside us...
Check out the look on Emily's face! hahaha
And Katie was sure to have Julie, her AG doll, hold the flag for the Pledge of Allegiance...

I think that about sums it up.  I'm thinking that we might spend some time this weekend making a world cake.  The girls will enjoy decorating it, and of course, eating it!

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