Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Wordless Wednesday

Here is a great picture of two of my men.....DH on the left and next to him is Ben at homeschool ski lessons with our friends, "E", "M", and their daddy "S" (just tryin' to protect those who know us!). But wait, there's more for today (it's been a couple weeks since I did a Wordless Wednesday)
This is not a very exciting picture. Just the door into our school room. But it shows an important milestone for our growing family. There is no gate anymore!! Yesterday, I witnessed Levi's strength and determination in action as he pulled back the spring-loaded lock to release the lever and roam freely between the two rooms. My baby is growing up! We now have no more baby gates in our house. Yea!!!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Week 19 Report

What a great, busy week!

3rd grade:SL History is just so, so welcome to me right now; my planning time has dramatically been reduced which means (1) I'm folding more laundry and putting it away (2) I'm sitting with my husband and talking to him at night (3) I am playing with the kids more during the day. Oh, I just love how it is fitting into life right now. Ben finished his paragraph summary about the similarities of the various North American indian tribes:

We took Tuesday afternoon off to attend Map Attack! A friend from church who really wants to stay home with her two preschool aged kids is starting a new venture called Education Adventures. After encouraging her and promising to attend, she planned this as her first event. Ben loved it, and the Two Little Boys did an amazing job hanging out in the church's nursery for 3 hours.

Wednesday is ski lesson day. They are going well. At dinner on Thursday, Daddy happily announced to Ben, "Only 5 1/2 more days until we ski again!"

Thursday we went with a 100+ other homeschoolers to a private showing of The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything. I really enjoyed the movie -- and the popcorn for breakfast!

I had a change of heart about Spelling this week when I got an email that All About Spelling's Level 3 was out and was discounted by 25% if purchased before the end of January. I really enjoyed working through levels 1 and 2, and thought going back to our ACSI book would be OK, but I realize that Ben just isn't learning anything from it. So, I bought it and we'll probably start after the bulk of ski lessons is over. Until that time, we're going to review syllabication rules and practice it on unfamiliar words to increase is decoding and pronunciation of these words.

We didn't do much Latin this week. We're slowing working through the introductory materials while ski lessons is going on, but since next week doesn't have two separate 1/2 day events in addition to our other outside commitments, we will have more time to work through the intro. and get on with the good stuff.
Kindergarten: Luke is my little scholar right now, and I just love his enthusiasm (I finally added pictures to show his first day of K here). This week, he practiced the letter B using his Explode the Code books and Reason for Handwriting. I might actually drop the RFH lessons right now and use those for review later on in the spring/ summer; I'd forgotten that the preETC books also have handwriting practice. We finished My Father's Dragon and since we didn't get to the library this week, I've gone ahead and started on Dr. Dolittle.

The Baby: I don't think I mentioned that I bought him a "school book" at Barnes and Noble. This was a great activity for him when Luke was cutting out his letter B and finding stickers for it. Levi had two fishies that we put glue on the back and he afixed them to his underwater picture. It was adorable watching him rub the glue on the shape and the smile on his face showed he was so proud of himself. I'm going to go ahead and do two of these or so a week with him and will check out some of the other books they have during Educator's Week, which starts on the 19th.

This weekend I am attending our church's women's retreat. I really didn't want to spend the night, so I'm going up for the day tomorrow. I'm looking forward to a time of refreshment and fellowship.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Changing Ben's Assignment Sheet

I had this revelation on Tuesday, after Map Attack (a very fun afternoon spent making a rice krispie and frosting map of South Dakota, putting together a monster sized US map, and playing map reading relay races -- all way to fun and creative to have been thought out and planned by me): we forgot to do math. Nothing earth shattering, but I've been mulling over in my mind why this happened and what to do so it doesn't happen again.

1. I am an airhead and misread my wonderful Assignment Calendar.

OK, that is really the main reason it was forgotten. But it led me to realize that I want Ben to be invested in his entire learning process, not just the 4 or so assignments I put on his assignment sheet for each day. The things I put on his assignment sheet are lessons that he can complete independently: Bible Study, piano practice, spelling worksheets, math drill on the computer of Flashmaster. This is all fine and good, but then when I say, "is all your school work done for the day?" Ben thinks in terms of what's on his assignment sheet, not the other reading, lessons, narration, etc. that needs to be finished before he can have "free time."

So, I am going to embark on a more time consuming (for now) activity that I hope will benefit us in the long term. I'm going to give Ben a copy of the Assignment Calendar that I use and we'll highlight together the activities that he can be responsible for independently; but together, we will hold one another accountable to finish the entire day's assignments. I think I will make out a blank schedule for us, too, to create a flow to Ben's day for when things should occur -- all done with lots of input from Ben. I'm hopeful this will help Ben to see that he is ultimately responsible for all of his education, not just a portion of it.

Any other ideas out there?

Ben's personality type

I just took this personality test for Ben (it is based on parent report). Alot of the questions I couldn't answer right now, but I wanted to bookmark this here so I could read it later. He is an IFP. I think I'm an IFSP, if I remember correctly.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The joy of RSS

I just discovered what RSS is. Don't ask me what it means, please, but this will ultimately save me plenty of time in my life. It can just be oh so difficult to keep up with the many blogs that I love to visit -- "No, kids, sorry, I can't feed you now, I've got miles and miles of blogs to read..."

But this RSS stuff is just fantastic. Now, there are probably plenty of you out there who (1) don't read my blog and (2) already know about RSS -- even what it stands for. But for those who don't (hello, family), this will help you keep up with us without having to waste huge amounts of time. Read: you'll have to find another excuse for why the laundry didn't get folded and put away.

So if you are using Internet Explorer 7, in the upper right hand side of your screen, next to a little house ("homepage" icon), there is an orange little box with a dot in the lower left side and two arcs. This is the RSS feed. Click on it. You'll get a not-so-fancy white page with my latest blog entry and the previous ones, too, I guess. In the top box, you can click on "subscribe to this feed" or somethin' like that. Click on it. Really, it is OK. Nothing will explode. Trust me. No, really, trust me.

Now, when you click on your "favorites" icon (the start on the left side of your page, under the "file" section), you'll see three little tabs you can click: favorites (likely already has a box around it), feeds (with orange box again), and history. Click on over to "feeds" and you see a list of websites that you've told your computer that you want to keep up-to-date with. So, whenever something new is posted to that particular webpage, the name of that webpage (Readping a Harvest in this case) will be in bold print. If it is in bold print, click on it, and you'll see my most recent post. If it isn't bold, you can still click on it, but you'll just read something you've read before. Cool, eh?

Now, if you are on my RSS feed "boring white page" and you want to see the slightly less borning shade-of-tan page, then you can click on that little green (I think) arrow just below the title of the blog entry, and that will take you right to the regular blog homepage.

So, mom, dad, go ahead and try this and see if you like it. Luv you guys.

Someone has stolen my children's tastebuds...

...and I am so thankful.

I've never thought my children were picky eaters, but they certainly have been unwilling to try too many new things, until really quite recently.

We've had encore responses for New Orleans red beans and rice with sausage and Cooking Light Magazine's Curried Chicken Corn Chowder. Last night we had baked haddock which everyone ate without one whine. Tonight I'm trying a recipe from Fix It and Forget About It: Ginger Chicken on Rice. So, whoever stole their tastebuds can keep 'em. I just tickled pink with what was left behind!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Scheduling this coming week

We have a really crazy week coming up: a US geography project/ class on Tuesday afternoon, Wednesday is ski lessons all day, and Thursday a.m. we're going to see the Veggie Tales movie! So when will we do school? I was quite stressed about it until I sat down with Homeschool Tracker, and plotted out each course for this week; We'll do quite a bit of work on Monday and Thursday, and will do the basics on Tuesday. I'm actually quite at peace about the whole thing -- not my nature -- because I know that these types of weeks are the bumps and exceptions, but also because they will be so much fun for our family. Ben will be no worse for wear because we don't do 3 days of Latin, nor will he be suffering because it is taking us an extra day to memorize our Bible verses. I guess I should say that for this moment, I am resting in the Lord's plan for my homeschooling family and not stressing about it.

I love this kind of peace.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Week 18 Report

I'm pleased with our return to school activity this week. We have a goofy schedule for the next 5 weeks because Ben is taking ski lessons with a homeschool group, so he and Daddy are gone all day on Wednesday. Our school days are M, T, and TH; W is ski day and F is Community Bible Study all morning, then gym class until 3:00 pm.

This is forcing me to grow as a mom and teacher; instead of cramming 4 days into 3 -- which is my normal M.O.-- I'm taking big cleansing breaths and allowing myself to set the schedule, instead of allowing the schedule to take control. I'm really quite a black-and-white person sometimes and I am a rule-follower; it has taken me a couple homeschool failure moments to realize that I can deviate from the plan, alter the schedule, take time to smell the roses, etc. It is quite freeing to be at this point -- though I will admit with all honesty that I do sometimes cringe and think, "we're behind!"

We've started Sonlight Core 3's Intro to American History, part. 1. I'm only using the History, Read-Aloud and Reader components. Since we still attend Community Bible Study which has a great elementary level study for Ben, I've decided to not do SL's Bible; we're also still working our way through the Bible Study Memory CD from Core 2, so when we finish that, I'll pick up some other CD to memorize Bible verses. I don't feel tied to using only SL's selection.

We're studying about Native Americans right now, reading Walking the World's Rim, and Ben is reading The Corn Grows Ripe for his Reader. I am pleased with all our reading selections right now.

One of the things that SL does not include is notebooking, so I am adding that into our study, because I really like compiling Ben's work (narrations, copywork, drawings, photos of projects) into one notebook. I asked him to summarize what he'd learned about the various Native American Tribes present in the US prior to colonization, and he did a great job giving me a "topic sentence" then giving me three supporting details for his paragraph. He'll spend early next week using it for copywork, then we'll put it in his notebook. One of my writing goals for Ben is to have him get used to doing longer copywork selections in the last 1/2 of this year. Oh, and I'm also now requiring that he use cursive for all his writing. I just realized he forgot to use cursive on his notebook drawing/ narration, but that is OK (deep breath.....).

We've also starting Singapore Math 3A this week! What I love about starting this new level is that usually the A books have a healthy dose of gentle learning/ review/ gentle learning, then it kicks into gear. We're now working through 1000s place, sequencing numbers, greater/ less than -- all "cake" stuff at this point. Then Ben'll get the 4 digit add/ subtraction with regrouping, then we'll kick it into gear with more mulitplication. Speaking of, I'm trying to get Ben "off" skip counting with the x3, x4 and x5 facts that he's been learning all year. We are using MUS's drill site. Today -- drum roll please -- he answered all 20 x3 questions correctly in 38 secongs -- that's less than 2 seconds per question. Way to go, Ben!!! I'm so proud of you!!

We're gently moving on in FLL, and I decided to use the 7 lessons on dictionary skills now while we've got the crazy ski schedule going on. He did three this week, but I think with our schedule right now, I'm backing off and we'll do 2 per week.

We've also slowed down our science to 2 lessons per week to handle the schedule.

I've yet to get an email from All About Spelling that level 3 is available, so we're back to using ACSI's Spelling 3rd grade. I think if I knew more about spelling, I'd be perfectly content to use a typical spelling book, but honestly, I've learned so much about the why's and when's of spelling conventions, that I am now thinking that we'll go ahead and use AAS level 3.

LUKE started K this week. Here's pictures:

I made him a sign, then wouldn't let him in to the classroom until I'd taken this picture. Just remember, this whole process was accompanied by Levi chiming in, "Me too, Mom. Me too."

Here's Luke at his desk (thanks to Freecycle!). I set out most of his books, got him a new Kindergarten pencil, box of crayons and markers.
And, here's my littlest charge. You can't help but want to include him...

Here's what I'm using with him:

  • Handwriting for a Reason K
  • SL's K Language Arts program (I think mine is copywrited 2002), but not the dictation. For phonics instruction, including the Get Ready set of Explode the Code books, and Ruth Beechick's Language and Thinking with Young Children.
  • Gently reading through SL's read alouds that are fun and appropriate for Luke. Right now, we're reading My Father's Dragon, then we'll read the sequels before moving on to other fun stuff.
  • Singapore Math Earlybird 1B and up. I'm not sure how this program will work with Luke. His style may fit better with something like MUS.

Just like I did with Ben at this age, I'm drawing big fat letters on contruction paper and he gets to hunt through the sticker drawer/ magazines and cut out pictures of thinks that start with the letter of the week. This week was F, and he had a blast cutting (one of his favorite things to do) and finding stickers. Soon we'll have a wall of letters and it will be a proud monument of his emerging phonics skills.

Levi loved it too when I found a colorful pile of notecard-sized construction paper remnants and let him have real blunt-tipped scissors to cut. And then, I gave him a glue stick and stickers, so he was having The Best Day of His Life. We did all this on Wednesday when Big Brother Ben wasn't around, and I must say, I had a great time with the little boys.

I know it has only been 1 week, but I'm really excited about how freeing it is to have SL's lessons, books and resources all planned out. I know that our reading is going to reinforce our values (especially with the great guides from the IGs) and it is going to make historical people and places come alive. I'm even seeing that I can do Luke's stuff and Ben's stuff (in essence, two separate cores) at the same time. The is huge for me, because I have always thought that there was NO WAY this side of insanity that I could use two cores at one time. This lead me to consider seriously a more neo-classical educational approach (TWTM and Tapestry of Grace). But rather than get too far ahead of myself (it is only week 1 of our Core 3 study), I'm going to thank God for what we accomplished and where He lead us for curriculum this year and not stress myself searching for the next curriculum plan.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Why Dandelions?

I'll never forget the pure joy and happiness that shone in the eyes of each of my boys as they have presented me with the golden jewels of springtime -- dandelions. I'm sure they thought they had found the most beautiful flower on earth.

I carefully hold each bouquet, reach for my special bud vase, fill it with water and gently arrange the varied-lengthed flowers. I gush words of praise. Hugs and kisses of thanks are lavished upon their heads before they make quick turns on their heels to return to play.

Do they know that most people pay a hefty price to kill dandelions from their yard?

For my first Mother's Day, Dave gave me a tape (!) with the song Dandelions by Five Iron Frenzy. I cried listening to it; although Ben was too young to pick dandelions, and our 10 foot by 20 foot patch of New Mexico grass was not graced with any, I knew that someday my little boy would grab a handful for me.

Here's the lyrics:

In a field of yellow flowers,
underneath the sun,
bluest eyes that spark with lightning,
boy with shoes undone.
He is young, so full of hope,
reveling in tiny dreams,
filling up, his arms with flowers,
right for giving any queen.

Running to her beaming bright,
while cradling his prize.
A flickering of yellow light,
within his mother's eyes.
She holds them to her heart,
keeping them where they'll be safe,
clasped within her very marrow,
dandelions in a vase.

She sees love, where anyone else would see weeds.
all hope is found.
Here is everything he needs.

Fathomless your endless mercy,
weight I could not lift.
Where do I fit in this puzzle,
what good are these gifts?
not a martyr, or a saint,
scarcely can I struggle through.
All that I have ever wanted,
was to give my best to you.

Lord, search my heart,
create in me something clean.
you see flowers in these weeds.
Gently lifting hands to heaven,
softened by the sweetest hush,
a Father sings over his children,
loving them so very much.
More than words could warrant,
deeper than the darkest blue,
more than sacrifice could merit,
Lord, I give my heart to you.

So what do dandelions have to do with homeschooling? I am so not perfect at homeschooling, or being a mom, or wife. I try my best, ask for God's help, and make mistakes. All I do is to give my best to God. I give Him my dandelions, and I pray He sees flowers instead.

P.S. -- Here's a cartoon Youtube view with the song: