Counting to 1000: Picked Out Just for Me



I am not a good gift-giver. Choosing the right gift for someone stresses me out, so I procrastinate until my gift is both lame AND late.

God, on the other hand, is quite good. It's like he knows exactly what I need.  Some of his gifts are for all of us, but 12 years ago, on April 15, he gave me something he picked out just for me.

Here he is:

I'm so thankful that this gift...
-tells me I'm doing a great job almost every day.
-wakes up in the morning AND enters our home in the evenings with an intentional smile on his face.
-uses words like "pretty", "adore", and "thanks" as part of our regular conversations.
-can laugh at himself.
-makes my heart go pitter-patter when he wears his cowboy hat.
-has a gift for vocal imitation (our dog "speaks" in the voice of Kevin from "The Office).
-models strength, humility, and self-control for his children (and his wife).
-seems to enjoy everything I cook (with the exception of that one salmon pot pie experiment).
-smooths out my rough edges of worry and overreaction.
-seeks God.
-leads, but mostly loves.

So thanks, Lord, for such a great gift.  I just love it.  It's WAY better than a gift card.

March Wrap-Up



March flew by. I'm not sure I even remember much of it, but I'll try.


Our character trait for March was "determination". The boys memorized Hebrews 12:2, 2 Timothy 4:7, Proverbs 16:9, and Colossians 3:23. (It irks me that spell-check doesn't recognize "Colossians.")

They also memorized "Try, try Again":
Try, Try Again
'Tis a lesson you should heed,
Try, Try Again,
If at first you don't succeed,
Try, Try again,
Then your courage should appear,
For, if you will persevere,
You will conquer, never fear.

This served to highlight the question I had all month - What is the difference between determination and perseverance? Of course, it's April now, and I've moved on.


March was a heavy-hitting month for Bearclaw's history. He studied the Great Depression, the rise of fascism, and World War II (including, of course, the Holocaust).

Being a boy, he loved the military history aspect of what we were studying. He read or browsed through several excellent books, including The Good Fight: How World War II Was Won, DK Eyewitness: World War II, and The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler. He also watched Pearl Harbor: Day of Infamy and parts of WWII in HD.

Despite some of the "cool"ness of things like WWII aircraft, watching him grapple with the evil and suffering present in this time was tough. It challenged my ability to explain things theologically (ok, so that ability was lacking before this). He struggled, and so did I.

Two resources that helped and that I can't recommend highly enough also dealt with people who struggled. Ultimately, these stories of courage, sacrifice, redemption, and forgiveness right in the midst of the horrors of WWII and the Holocaust helped us as we tried to see things through the lens of our faith.

Both resources are from Focus on the Family's Radio Theatre. (If you've never heard their production of the Chronicles of Narnia, stop reading and get your hands on it now.) The first is the heroic story of Deitreich Bonhoeffer in Bonhoeffer: The Cost of Freedom. My favorite, though, and the one that challenged me most was The Hiding Place, which chronicles the story of Corrie Ten Boom.

Shortbread's history topic for March was no less significant, as he spent most of the month on ancient Rome. It was a little more relaxed, though, and he enjoyed activities such as
constructing a Roman road (with its 4 layers).


Bearclaw finished Number the Stars in March. It's the story of a family involved in helping Jews escape from Denmark to Sweden during the war. He claims it is his favorite lit book of the year. His final project involved constructing a graphic organizer for the book in the form of
the star of David. (Please excuse the Easter bunny pinata behind the project, but after all, nothing says "Rejoice! Christ is risen!" like bashing the brains out of a helpless cardboard rabbit-head.)

As Shortbread's class worked through the history of ancient Rome and Greece, they read Romulus and Remus by Anne Rockwell and did a study of fables. Apparently they are working on a project in class, so more pictures still to come...


I just realized that I've been neglecting Language arts in our wrap-ups. It wasn't intentional, but it is slightly concerning to me that I'm just noticing.

Bearclaw just finished a five-paragraph persuasive essay. He's also doing some editing exercises that challenge both of us. Frequently, I have to call my personal "grammar girl" for help with these. She's helpful without being condescending. You should get one, but you can't have mine.


March was the month of fractions for Bearclaw. He likes these and we had almost no conflict over math.

Shortbread worked on place value for most of March, but I didn't actually do much "teaching". He has no trouble getting through the lessons independently, but I'm wondering if he's missing something he'll need later. Ah well, it's spiral, so we'll be here again.

Our very disorganized astronomy plans somehow put us right on the last lesson at the very end of March. I don't know how we managed that, but I'm glad; the weather here is lovely, and it's time to get back outside for some nature study.

The last few astronomy lessons from Real Science 4 Kids had us exploring galaxies, stars, and other features in space using Google Earth (Sky view). I didn't even know you could do this. Neat!

My one regret is that we didn't get outside to actually VIEW the sky. Um, I think that might be vital. Oh well, the weather's great now, and we're equipped with all sorts of new knowledge to tap into during our "gazes".

Spring fever is certainly upon us here. Hope to still get some work done in April, but we'll see!

More February Fun



Having a blog title focused on the homeschooling aspect of our lives and limiting my posts to homeschooling summaries has me less than inspired most times. Frankly, I'm bored. Maybe you could already tell?

I'm not sure about a title-change, and I certainly don't want to create ANOTHER blog, so I'll just change the scope of this one and figure out the details later.

One of the things I realized when looking at photos and thinking about our monthly summaries is that I'm missing some wonderful things that I'd like to remember and share.

February, for instance, was chock-full of the family-life kind of moments that I want to include in the blog, but they don't necessarily fit into the "homeschool" box. (Then again, if we claim the attitudeof many homeschoolers - that the world is our classroom and life is our curriculum - we're right on track here.)

So, during Valentine's Day, my sweet boys focused on art. For me.

I returned the favor, of course, working in the mixed media of pastry and sausage.

The highlight of February was spending a week at Stratton Mountain in Vermont. Dh's parents have a place there, so not only do we get to ski, but we come back to Grandma snuggles and wonderful dinners every evening.

Despite being pampered most of the time we weren't on the slopes, I think a week of skiing counts as PE. Dh served as our instuctor, since he can still, at 45, ski downhill backward or doing 180 degree turns (on purpose), while instructing two children (and me).

Those who know me personally know athleticism is not my strong suit. It's not even my weak suit. It's just not a part of me. Despite this, I learned to ski from my husband when I was about thirty, and I'm not entirely awful. What's more, while wearing the right number of layers, I actually enjoy it.

Notice I have a jacket that intentionally makes me a human caution sign. My biggest fear in skiing is human-human collision. This color also allows dh to spot my ANYWHERE on the mountain. (This is only inconvenient when I am hiding near the mid-mountain lodge with cocoa.)

As much as I enjoyed this trip, the children really enjoyed it. Perhaps a bit too much. Bearclaw lacks whatever nerve endings sense cold (strange for a child born and raised in the South), and Shortbread lacks what all babies of the family lack - fear.

So after two-years off of skis, both boys were ready for black diamonds by day two. I had never laid ski on a black diamond slope, but this was a family trip, so...

I meandered down each slope, stopping frequently. Bearclaw would ski close to me, looking back frequently to make sure I was upright. Thank goodness for him. He could have shot ahead - he certainly has the skill.

Shortbread was fine leaving me and everyone else on our own. He would fly past me down the slope until it turned and he was lost from sight. Shortly, our fearless insrtuctor would appear (after some side-trip for heli-skiing or something) and ask "Where is S?"

I, of course, could only point my mitten down the slope with no real sense of how far off small child might be. Dh would then plummet happily downhill and out of sight to find him. Eventually, I would catch up with all three of them as they waited kindly under the next trail sign (probably fearing I'd try to turn off onto a beginner trail).

Look, here they are waiting:

I was so impressed with the boys...and happy to arrive home with them and my knees intact! I think that's enough PE for this year. Why chance it?

February Wrap -Up



Look at that, it's March. Mid-march. Another month to summarize and assess.

The highlight of February, academically, was the poetry recital at the children's hybrid humanities school. Both boys participated, and I was surprised by how excited they were to stand up and share their poems.

Shortbread recited, "A Boy and His Dog"
by Edgar Albert Guest. There he is smiling way across the room as he waits for his turn (so sweet):

Bearclaw's class performed poems by Robert Frost, and Bearclaw offered his version of "Neither Out Far Nor In Deep". I told him I thought it was about television (hey, poetry speaks to each of us in different ways). I'm not sure he appreciated Mr. Frost as much after that.

He looked (and IS) so grown-up as he waits with
his class (he's in the tie):

Prior to the official recital, both boys were able to accompany a group of students from their hybrid school to perform their poems for a local senior citizen center. Bearclaw and two other fourth-grades performed an opening musical number as well. I was able to catch Shortbread waiting to recite at the end of Bearclaw's "concert". The seniors were so sweet and appreciative of the kids' efforts.


In February, we focused on "commitment" as a character trait. This led to the realization that I need to commit to checking Bearclaw's assignment sheet more thoroughly, as we missed the entire commitment activity. It doesn't work to commit to something for a week and record your progress if you don't actually start until the day before it's due. Of course, Bearclaw also needs to follow through here, but I haven't set the best example.

The boys' memorized 1 Kings 8:61 and Psalm 37:5-6. Our evening devotion time is moving along SLOWLY. Evening activities tend to sideline this time, and we've had a lot of them lately.

As we saw World War I come to an end in our study of the modern age with Bearclaw, we spent some time focused on struggles around the post-war world, including Ireland, India, and Italy. (Yes, the "I"s have it, or had it, this month. Sorry.)

While studying Ireland's quest to be out from under British rule, we had to look back at the potato famine. This included some time with the book, Feed the Children First: Irish Memories of the Great Hunger. The artwork, photos and quotes found inside were simply heart-wrenching.

Shortbread focused on Alexander the Great and the growth of his empire. He's moving through the lessons ok, but I think I need to figure out how to engage him more. Bearclaw was always naturally drawn to history - he loves a good story, but Shortbread is less interested in "what happened next". I may have to employ more of those dreaded hands-on activities. Ugh.


Both boys are in the middle of new books, so I can't some up our literature yet. Bearclaw is reading Number the Stars, and Shortbread began Romulus and Remus as his class embarks on their study of ancient Rome.


February was a relatively good math month for Bearclaw. He's moving steadily though Primary Mathematics 4A and I've seen some real improvement in his accuracy. I would imagine that has come from a greater focus on drills. I love the Arithmetic Developed Daily program we are using first thing in the morning for this.

Shortbread will finish his Level 1B book before the end of the year. I think we may take a break from the program then and concentrate on some games and hands-on activities. I'm still mulling that one over...

I continue to discover how very little I know (despite majoring in and teaching science) about astronomy as we work our way through the Real Science 4 Kids program. Bearclaw already knew more than I did before we started; now Shortbread does too.

We had a great time last month as we measured and charted each planet's (in our solar system) orbit around the sun. I had no idea how far out the last four planet are compared to the first four. Amazing!

As the weather grows warmer here in Georgia, we'll have to figure out how to balance our last few astronomy lessons with our nature walks. It's time to get outside!

Hope March is moving along well for everyone...it's more than half over - Yikes!

January Wrap-Up



January was the month in which all of my new schedule, reading, Bible study, and similar plans would come together, and new habits to enrich our lives and our homeschool would be firmly established.

I know, I know...but what with all my success in the dental hygiene arena (flossing every day without fail!), I thought maybe I'd get it ALL together.

Even if we don't have it all together, we did manage to cover a few things in Janurary:


Our character trait for January was contentment. No one needs more work on this than mommy. I have a flair for complaining and finding fault, which does not tend to enhance my contentment. Thankfully, this has been an area of growth in my life, and I would love for the boys to develop the habit of seeing God's grace wherever they are. Apparently, Bearclaw's teacher is also a fan of A Holy Experience, since this mini-journal for recording God's gifts came home with him.

The boys' memorized Philippians 4:11, Hebrews 13:5, and Psalm 103: 2 & 5 and we continued to use our devotional book, Long Story Short, in the evenings.

January saw us studying two very significant periods in both modern and ancients.

Bearclaw spent most of the month on World War I. He really enjoyed our discussion periods during these weeks, as did I, since he was able to teach me quite a bit. His thoughts are becoming more analytical regarding history - I suppose we're moving into the logic stage. So he discusses, and I sit in awe but a little sad. Those grammar years - where did they go?

We've also covered Russia extensively during January. It will be a big player in the rest of our modern studies, so the curriculum we're following, Biblioplan, wants the students to have a strong understanding of it's history. As we've progressed through our readings, I've become increasingly amazed at how popular history (and my personal history education) has covered the evil of Hitler extensively (as it should), while ignoring Stalin. His atrocities merit attention.

Shortbread spent January on ancient Greece, including the gods, goddesses and myths. These were not his favorite, just as they weren't well-loved by Bradley. He did get to make a paper Parthenon, though, so the study of ancient Greece was not a total loss for him.


Another novel with a girl in the lead made it on the docket in January. The Cabin Faced West by Jean Fritz did not appeal to Bearclaw, though we've enjoyed many of Fritz's other books. Perhaps the subject matter seemed too familiar; he's read several works that provide a young female's perspective on frontier life, and we're currently listening to all of the Laura Ingalls Wilder novels on audio. I suppose I'll forget about giving him The Courage of Sarah Noble for extension reading.

Part of his final project involved designing a "movie poster" for a film version of the book. Since Bearclaw does not particularly enjoy drawing or painting, we were very grateful for Google images and our printer.

Shortbread studied King Midas and the Golden Touch in January, which I just realized was deliberately chosen to complement the character trait for January, contentment. Wow. I wish I would have realized that last month. Still, we did enjoy Charlotte Craft's version of the story; the illustrations are rich (ha ha) and wonderful.


If there were a math celebration dance, I'd have done it in January when Bearclaw finished Primary Mathematics 3B from Singapore Math. Never have I been so happy to see a book finished. I'm hopeful 4A will sprial around and give Bearclaw a chance to practice some skills in which he already has confidence.

I actually think Shortbread is bored with math, but I'm letting it go, since I need the extra time to focus on Bearclaw's math right now. Perhaps I'll speed him up a bit.

With the cold (actually it's been pretty mild) weather upon us, we suspended our nature walks for a bit and are covering astronomy with Real Science 4 Kids over the next couple of months. Our nature walking buddies have joined us.

Because the boys are at two different comprehension and learning stages, I ordered both the Level 1 and the "pre"Level texts. Bearclaw reads the Level 1 lesson on his own, and then I read the pre-Level aloud to everyone. The next day, we do an activity based on the lesson. What I didn't count on was the fact that our first activity, to locate Ursa Major and Ursa Minor (the Big and Little Dippers to the non-astronomy types - like me), would not be possible in the evenings. Apparently, in winter, the hours before sunrise are when these are most visible here. I could have gotten the boys up at 5 AM to stargaze, but I didn't. They'll still be out there in the summer.

So that was January. I think it took longer to write about it than to do it.

Weekly Monthly Semester Wrap-Up (sigh)


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A new year, an new opportunity to stay on track with this blog. I've managed to stick with my flossing resolution for 6 days now, so maybe I'm ready to add something else.

I've been told that I might just want to start here, in January, and not get bogged down with playing catch up from the last 3 months. That's wise advice, I believe, but I just can't do it. As the girl who always knew the first 3 measures of every piano piece by heart due to a return there with each missed note, I must try to make it all connect with no gaps.

Still, I can't possibly do 18 Weekly Wrap-Ups today so I'll just cover the semester highlights. (I didn't even know we were on semesters.)

We've memorized plenty of Bible verses, and the monthly character traits have included orderliness, thankfulness and generosity. Long Story Short is still serving us well for evening devotions, but we took a break over Advent to use Ann VosKamp's Jesse Tree Advent Celebration.

Bearclaw has made it almost to WWI in history. We've left the 19th century behind and entered into what seems like a much less romantic period. I guess it's the proximity of the 20th century that makes it's horrors seem so much more horrible. It does give me reason to pause, though. I mean, we just loved waving our cardboard battle axes around when we studied the Celts, but I can't see us making faux mustard gas and snapping a few pics of a make-believe exposure. Not so fun.

Shortbread has finished what I refer to as the "really ancient" ancients and has just started looking at Greece. Below are some of his projects from the last couple of months.

After the Abraham Lincoln biography, Bearclaw read two historical fiction books he enjoyed more: Turn Homeward, Hannalee and Sarah, Plain and Tall. Although he enjoys adventure books geared toward boys, he seems fine with these books based on fictional females (and who can blame him?- they're great reads!).

During the study of the Hannalee book, we were able to take a walking tour of the town in which Hannalee lived (and worked in a textile mill) at the beginning of the book. Although the book is a work of fiction, it is based on actual events that occurred in the mill town of Roswell, Georgia.

In Roswell, we were able to tour the area where the founders, owners, and well-to-do lived as well as the ruins of the old mill (where Hannalee would have worked) and mill housing.

This is the home of Roswell King, the city's founder and owner of the mill:

Though the mill itself was destroyed by Union forces (who then deported the workers, including women and children like our fictional Hannalee, to the north), the creek and a dam that fed it open for exploration:

After reading Sarah, Plain and Tall, Bearclaw made a diorama of the scene in which Sarah slides down a "hay dune". It didn't spark quite the enthusiasm from him that the field trip did, but it turned out to be a fun activity.

Together with mom, Shortbread read Anansi and the Magic Stick and made his own model of the stick. (He loves projects, so I just get the materials he needs, and he disappeears. I have almost no input into them, so I love to see his final product - it's always a surprise!)

Later in the semester, we read Temple Cat, which is quite a short picture book, but it's message is vitally imporant and well-expressed. It's definitely a favorite of mine now.


Bearclaw continues with Spelling Workout E, Wordly Wise, Shurley English and Easy Grammar.

The writing instruction at the humanities hybrid school he attends continues to focus on various types of writing, but they keep the length of each paper to one paragraph, which keeps Bearclaw from feeling overwhelmed. I really enjoy working with him on this as he struggles to best convey his ideas on paper.

Shortbread's reading has picked up, and he says he will no longer read any books without chapters, so that sent me scrambling to find more books for beginning readers that are longer than most of what we have in our home library. I have always wondered if Shortbread will be interested in reading the way Bearclaw is. I suppose it remains to be seen, but he's off to a great start!

This has been an emotional struggle for quite a while, and I was about ready to throw in the towel and sign Bearclaw up for an outside class or switch to a different curriculum.

Our combination of me fussing over his lack of focus and care in his math work and his frutration over mistakes and self-defeating attitude was exhausting both of us.

A change in approach has helped tremendously. I've really worked to convince him that he should not know how to do the lesson before we've gone over it, and I've allowed him to lean on me for those topics that he's struggling with. Scooting him off to "try it" was only upsetting him and getting us nowhere. At this point, he would even say, perhaps, that he is "good at math."

Shortbread and math get along wonderfully, so he's moved on to the "B" level for first grade.

We've continued our nature walks, and although the boys don't journal as I'd like, we have enjoyed spending time with our friends and exploring some local park gems.

So that's it...our whole semester squished into one post. We started back to school this week, so I'll have material for more wrap-ups soon. Too soon, maybe.

Weekly Wrap-Up: Week 4-2011



I really need to come up with some better titles for my wrap-ups. They're easy to keep track of this way, though.

As we're closing in on our first month of schooling, I think I have a pretty good idea as to how our schedule is working for us (and how it's not).

Since I don't have a whole lot of highlights from this weeks studies, I think I'll concentrate on the changes we're making.

1. Bible - I want to sing hymns every morning, I really do, but my stress level actually goes down more when I use part of breakfast to get ready for the day's lessons. We can sing hymns in the car.

2. P.E. - OK, so I know I haven't mentioned this. It's a little embarrassing. I mean, really, isn't "no P.E." one of the reasons TO homeschool? Perhaps I can elaborate on another post, but lets just say I thought it would be a good way for all of us who could use a little morning exercise to get some in. What better way to exercise, too, than as a family? Can't you just hear the laughter (it's probably just a suppressed memory of the laughter that my gym uniform evoked)?

On the positive side, the kids are using this time to ride their bikes in the driveway. (I guess you know who's not getting their exercise, now.)

3. Nature Study - I put 3 nature walks a week on our schedule. I know. I'm laughing looking at it now, too. I have to re-type the schedules. One will be all we can manage.

As I look back over these items, they all represent images of how I think our homeschool is supposed to look. That's always gets me in trouble.

Thankfully, I have friends like Ellen who caution me against things like paying up front for the entire year's P.E. curriculum.