Monday, October 31, 2011

The Tale of the Two Sisters

Once upon a summer, there were two sisters who loved to play together.

One day the younger one picked a golden crab apple from a neighbor's tree. Unsure about this delicacy, the older sister thought and thought.

No, this cannot be good, she thought. I must end this crab apple fest.

Showing her utter disgust, she began to plead with the younger sister to put away such bitter food.

"Orrrrrrraaaaaah, Orrrrrrraaaaaah!" she begged and called.

Seeing no change in her sister's diet, she embraced her and loved her all the same.

The End.

(True story: All photos were published in the order they were taken. And that wasn't the only crab apple the younger sister ate that summer. Blech.)

Friday, October 28, 2011

life at our house

We have almost six weeks of school under our belts as we head into the last weekend of October. The busyness of the girls has caused me to strive for a fairly usual routine for us each morning and afternoon with a few bumps in the road to keep life interesting.

I'll describe what a typical day of learning at home as been so far this year. Our kids are up early, usually 6-6:30am, which is fine, sometimes much earlier, which is ridiculous. I'm up, but not super ambitious, so we ease into the morning, especially this time of year as it takes so long for the sun to come up. Everyone has something to drink and eat and more often than not, we put on a dvd to keep everyone quiet for Daddy. I wouldn't say it is quiet, but we do try. Every so often, Shane gets up with kids and lets me linger in a dozing state.
After we send Daddy off to work with his lunch, I take my shower. If Seth is already busy playing, I open the gate to let them go upstairs to play in Laura's room, with a pressure gate across her doorway to keep them safely in one room while I shower and get ready for the day.
Yes, they usually trash her room which has a kitchen set full of pretend food and dishes, most of their board books and an overflowing basket of stuffed animals and such. It also used to have my doll bunkbeds, but after they continued to prove too much temptation for Laura to climb into, they are now back in the basement. The girls usually have a blast.

Other mornings, if Seth is willing, he entertains them on our main floor with various and sundry activities. Most include being very silly and chasing and tickling. Sometime he brings down his stuffed animals and makes a puppet show. Laura is always entertained, Kate may decide to do find something else to do.
After getting ready for the day, we either start right away or give the girls a bath or some other necessary task.
We always start by singing together from either our Psalter or a hymn book. Kate almost always wants a song book too, Laura lately hasn't been interested. We then progress through our catechism questions for the week, work on our memory work which is currently Isaiah 40, read from our Bible Story book, and then pray. I have been trying to bring out a toy or activity that has not been seen for a while to keep the girls' interest. If Seth has not done his own Bible reading for the morning yet, then he is sent off to do that. I usually ask him what he read and he provides a short narration. He has cycled two times through the Gospels and the book of Acts and has now started Genesis this past week.

We have been working our way through the early church fathers as part of church/medieval history lessons. I started with History Lives Book #1, Peril and Peace, but after struggling through several chapters reading aloud, I have since abandoned it for Trial and Triumph. I found that the stories had lots of details and difficult names and generally too much information that did not seem relevant to the biographical narrative. I first looked at Trial and Triumph two years ago and felt that Seth did not have enough of an understanding about Christianity and history to talk about martyrs, church fathers and persecution. I'm glad I waited. The chapters in Trial and Triumph are just the right length for a good narration and tell biographical details appropriate for children. We are currently reading it online from Google books, but a clearance copy from Canon Press has been ordered. The people and places mentioned are dovetailing nicely with our history studies that I put together. It's been great to see how they are intertwined. Seth gives a narration of the person and we add them to our wall timeline.
By this point, everyone needs something to eat so we take a break until after the girls are fed and put down for naps and we have eaten our lunch.

Then we pick up with our lessons, with no particular order, but often starting with Math. Our grammar studies have had a terrific boost with the addition of The Sentence Family. I knew Seth was struggling to understand the parts of speech that we had learned so far, so I bit the bullet and bought The Sentence Family confident that he would get it. And he has and he is thrilled to find all the parts of speech in a sentence and then diagram it. Yes, he loves diagramming sentences. And it's all because of The Sentence Family approach. The idea is that each part of speech in the Sentence Family plays a game making up different sentences to say and then "goes to bed" that night so they can start over the next morning ready to start with the last sentence. (I'm not explaining it very well, but this way of thinking about words really makes this study enjoyable for Seth.) The diagram lines become their beds, with some of the parts of speech sleeping on slanted beds. Seth loves it. The prepositional phrases are his favorite right now and since we are learning the whole list in our First Language Lessons, he gets lots of practice recognizing them. His Latin lesson (on dvd) this morning introduced Latin prepositions and he was very excited to hear this. As a mom/teacher, it thrills you to see a connection of learning from one area to another. It also improves understanding as it is reinforced by multiple studies.

We also have started working our way through Writing With Ease without the student workbook, so I have had to find suitable reading selections. I realized a few weeks ago that I was missing an important aspect to this curriculum idea so I did some re-reading and we are now taking our time with the narration and coming up with two summary statements from the selection. Seth finds this very hard to limit the amount of details and to give an overview of the story. He wants to make very long sentences strung together with "and then". I try to keep the frustration factor low but he gets very impatient with the process. He does love the reading selections so he finishes many of the books on his own.

We finish most days with our All About Spelling lesson which is so orderly in it's teaching, I marvel at the English language rules.

I'm averaging one formal science lesson a week, which isn't great, but it's better than last year. I love the understanding I have because of the curriculum, but it does cost me some dedicated prep time as I write up plans for each lesson. I am so pleased with the content and level of learning that I really don't mind the time.

Seth is also working his way through Book 3 of Handwriting Without Tears (which is cursive)for the second time as extra practice before I find Book 4. I find the shipping rates to be excessive from HWT, so I try to find them on Ebay.

We also have Geography maps of Canada and the US which he has done very well mastering. He also is memorizing the order of the US presidents, continents and oceans and selected poems. His ability to memorize is fantastic.

The girls both are learning new things as well. Laura is adding to her spoken vocabulary list with new phrases like "excuse me" and "your welcome". She loves to write with pencils, pens and markers and work with stickers. Kate is progressing so well from crawling to attempting to stand up in the middle of the floor, it's amazing to see her trying new motor skills. She is now walking behind a sturdy grocery cart and enjoying this sense of independence. She is chewing a little bit with her teeth but still eats mostly soft pureed foods. Her speech is still quite limited to a few recognizable words/sounds. But she understands everything we tell her and much of what we say to each other, within reason of course. :)

By the time, the girls get up from their nap, we often put on a dvd while I catch up on housework and supper prep. The last few weeks have been cooler, windier and wetter but playing outside often happens in the late morning or afternoon after naps. I do find it harder to get outside some days as I have many things to do inside. But I know the importance of being outside and all that fresh air so I try to make it happen even if I don't feel like it.

This past summer we spent a lot of time outside and have started an insect collection. Okay, I started an insect collection, but Seth is curious about this stuff too.

We also pay attention to the birds that come to our yard and have learned to recognize the song of the cardinal which especially distinct.

(Both cardinal photos are my husband's photos. I chased the bird all summer with the camera, but Shane managed to get the best shots.) This is what he sounds like: cardinal call

Yesterday Seth called to me and said he had just seen a blue heron take off from the river directly behind our house. He said he thought it was one of the many Canadian geese that have been around recently, but then he saw blue and changed his mind. I haven't been able to get one on camera but we do see them from time to time, so I'm sure he was right. I have a goal of identifying all the smaller birds that hop and flutter in our cedar tree and yard, but their markings are harder for me to see and differentiate. I think some of them are juncos, but I need to get better at picking them out. We do put black oil sunflower in our bird feeder during the winter months, so if I give some attention to this identification process I'm sure I'll know them by spring. I am so thankful for the open space behind our home despite not owning it for ourselves. We are able to enjoy so much of God's creation so easily.

Shown in photos above, but not linked are Pattern Animals for Pattern Blocks and Snap Circuits.

Friday, October 21, 2011

whatever is lovely

whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
~Phil. 4:8

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

some thoughts to think on

I randomly read both these articles this morning. I strongly urge you to especially read the Davy Crockett piece. It is a compelling time in American history.

Leigh Bortins on the role of government in Practicing Dialectic: Ron Paul & Israel
But I do know that he wouldn’t expect our government to use other people’s money to help his cause. He would ask volunteers to do so. He would ask his church to do so. He would ask his community to do so. He would think that Christians know that the role of government is limited: that it occasionally needs to strengthen others but mostly needs to lead its citizens to do well with the talents God gave them in the area in which He purposed for them to serve.

U.S. Congressman, Colonel Davy Crockett on the role of government in Not Yours to Give

The people have delegated to Congress, by the Constitution, the power to do certain things. To do these, it is authorized to collect and pay moneys, and for nothing else. Everything beyond this is usurpation, and a violation of the Constitution.

“ ‘So you see, Colonel, you have violated the Constitution in what I consider a vital point. It is a precedent fraught with danger to the country, for when Congress once begins to stretch its power beyond the limits of the Constitution, there is no limit to it, and no security for the people. I have no doubt you acted honestly, but that does not make it any better, except as far as you are personally concerned, and you see that I cannot vote for you.’ "

changing moments

Earlier this summer, two mutual friends unbeknownst to each other both wrote to me for some help about homeschooling resources for their pre-K aged children. I wrote back to not worry about buying curriculum right yet, but to just enjoy this time with their girls of learning and playing interwoven in the everyday.
Right about now, I need to follow some of my own advice. Our girls have steadily become very busy and need much supervision and attention. Traditional lesson time is hard to come by as long as they are awake. So I pray for wisdom and ambition to seize the right moments and let the wrong ones slide by as I tend this little flocks' changing needs. Not a pass to give up and do nothing of consequence, but an opportunity for my children to see what matters most to me is them, not the material.

Tonia says it much better:
a few words for overwhelmed Mamas of little ones
They will thrive under your prayers. A tender, attentive, prayerful mommy with a clear vision for the growth and nurture of her family is a tremendous gift.

Monday, October 10, 2011

children's books

A while ago I discovered Children's Book-a-Day Almanac but somehow forgot about it. While catching up on Rea Berg's Beautiful Feet blog, I went back to it, specifically to read about Paddle-to-the-Sea author, Holling C. Holling, a book we love around here. I have yet to get the others he wrote but they are on the list to find.
The daily almanac provides good exposure to children's literature which in turn, helps inform me as to what titles to include on my reading list for Seth and eventually the girls.

I should note that I do not always find the selected title worthy of the attention, but that is certainly no surprise, I sometimes hold strong opinions on certain books! But don't we all? :)

This is my Father's world

And to my list'ning ears
All nature sings and round me rings
The music of the spheres
This is my Father's world,
I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas-
His hand the wonders wrought.

~Maltbie D. Babcock

Thursday, October 06, 2011

keeping up

Merry Autumn Days

‘Tis pleasant on a fine spring morn
To see the buds expand,.
‘Tis pleasant in the summer time
To see the fruitful land;
‘Tis pleasant on a winter’s night
To sit around the blaze,
But what are joys like these, my boys,
To merry autumn days!

We hail the merry Autumn days,
When leaves are turning red;
Because they’re far more beautiful
Than anyone has said,
We hail the merry harvest time,
The gayest of the year;
The time of rich and bounteous crops,
Rejoicing and good cheer.

~Charles Dickens

(Our first poem of the new school year.)