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Still Counting: Gifts # 21 - 32

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I am still counting the gifts I see around me, but I missed posting last week. Hopefully, it was because I was fully engaged in enjoying His gifts.

We had a lovely Christmas, surrounded by family and friends, celebrating the One Gift that makes all the others possible. Here are some of those:

21. Energy to make just one more trip to the grocery store for more eggs, or mushrooms, or sugar, or batteries...

22. Grandma Marie's and my "secret recipe" soup for Christmas Eve eve

23. My mom arriving on Christmas Eve with tables, chairs, extra decorations, meatballs, cheese, and deviled eggs, and cookies

24. Children singing in the choir, the littles trying so hard (mostly)to be still in all the excitement.
25. The look on our children's faces as they sit in the candlelight, captivated, as the pastor tells The Story.

26. Friends, family, and laughter in every corner of this home.

27. The blessing of celebrating my birthday, too, while we all gather to celebrate His.

28. Butter Cake on Christmas morning.

29. Working with my in-laws, husband, and father (and occsionally the boys) to complete a 1000-oiece dinosaur puzzle that I puchased for the 5 year-old (!)

30. A white Chirstmas IN GEORGIA y'all!

31. When all is quiet and dark in the house, except for the crackling of the fire and the glow of the Christmas tree, and I can sit in wonder and awe that He came here.

32. Christmas day with all the busyness over and nothing left but stillness and joy (and cookies, lots of cookies).

To share your Christmas gifts, or peek at what others have received, visit A Holy Experience.

Cookies!

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I am not crafty, but I love the idea of homemade gifts at Christmas, so I turn (naturally) to cooking instead. Cookies are generally my favorite type of baked good, and Chirstmas cookies are my favorite of all.

I remember as a little girl, spending Christmas at my grandma's house in northwestern Ohio; she and everyone who came would stack tins of their homebaked specialties on the washer and dryer on the "back porch". The chill of the unheated room kept the cookies fresh, but it certainly didn't keep me out of the tins. I loved the variety and the either delicate beauty or homey slopiness of each one.


Now we have our own tins, and they are filled with the cookie selections of the year. Well, what's left of them (and it's plenty!). This year, as in past, I spent several weeks fitting in as much baking as I could. By December 18th, they were finished, and we plated them and wrapped them for our annual "cookie hand-out".




I tend to get bored with making the same cookies every year, so I choose about 7 or 8 from our traditional options. These years rotation included:

It takes quite a bit of time to bake in abundance, but I just can't think of a better way to say "I love you" or "Thank you for your friendship" (or in the case of the local volunteer firefighters -"thanks for keeping my house from burning down and blowing out all of the smoke when I left the chicken on the stove and left the house last January") than a tray of cookies. Perhaps granola could say it instead?

Counting to 1000: Gifts #11 - 20

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My brain doesn't work well past 9:00 PM, especially when it's cold, and we're into the final half-hour of Monday now. But I can't go to bed unless I've made time be grateful for these:

11. a mother-in-law who always finds time and energy to wash the dishes and snuggle the grandchildren, but has never found a moment to criticize in 10 years

12. that the unemployment that brings uncertainty and stress also brings my husband/their father home for a December with his family

13. 40th birthday gifts in the month I turn 41

14. mittens in the mail on the coldest day of the year

15. dry firewood

16. a broken fever

17. a young son who listens for hours to his papa, even when Papa can't remember the words...or sometimes, his grandson's name

18. the woman who went home to the Lord yesterday, who loved the boys like grandchildren, buying extra cereal she would have a toy from the box for each

19. Barney Butter

20. snow flurries in December...in Georgia

Please join me in making time for gratitude at A Holy Experience.

Weekly Wrap-Up: Advent Events

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As images of quiet waiting drift through my head, frequently accompanied by flashes of silent snow falling, I realize (once again) that my image will not match my reality. The snow part should be my first clue - we're in Georgia. The boys apparently do not entertain thoughts of stillness, and neither do the coordinators of their various activities. So we will wait with somewhat noisy excitement instead.


Part of that excitement is fed by the presence of my husband's parents, who arrive every year on during the first week of December to spend Christmas with us. They live in upstate New York, so we only see them a couple of times a year - I don't blame the children for being excited about that. We just love having them here.

I finally broke down and bought a new advent wreath this year. In years past, I've thrown together a homemade version using a window wreath, a plate, and some candles. I am not crafty and the wreath was evidence. Mercifully, it caught on fire during last year's Christmas Eve party. I'll be using long-burning candles with the new one. The children love to eat by it's light each night while we read an advent book that I've seen on homeschool recommendation lists for years: Jotham's Journey.

The book offers a reading for each night of Advent, and then a Scripture reading and summary that tie the chapter into some greater spiritual truth. It's quite an exciting story and might even be too intense for some little ones, but the boys are loving it and begging for one more chapter each night. (But then we'd be off schedule, we explain...)

In between the visiting, Advent observing, decorating, baking, birthday partying, choir practicing, etc., we have had to make time for school. This may be a greater struggle for me than for the boys, but we're managing.

The past week's unit in Biblioplan covered Persia and the Ottoman Turks. Because we're studying the "early modern" period this year, which covers early American history, Biblioplan includes the study of important individuals in American history in the units focusing on the history of other countries. This week we talked about Daniel Boone, and Bearclaw is enjoying Daniel Boone, Boy Hunter.

He also completed the novel A Lion To Guard Us by Clyde Robert Bulla for his literature class. As a follow-up assignment, the student's were to make a time capsule representing one of the main characters in the book. Bearclaw chose Jemmy and turned in his project on Wednesday.

Speaking of reading, Shortbread read his first early-reader book!! He was so happy with himself, and I'm really looking forward to all of the wonderful books he's going to be able to enjoy reading soon.

In his kindergarten class, they focus mainly on language skills, and he's doing very well. If anything he's a little bored (or maybe I am), because some of the activities we're asked to do at home seem unessesary. Still, because he's picking up reading without any tears or arguments, I'm keeping an open mind about the effectiveness of some of the lessons.

Bearclaw's language skills are improving, and he's mastered quite a number of grammar concepts. His spelling grade is excellent, but I'm working to get him to be more careful when doing his work, so that the progress he's made in spelling will be reflected in his writing. As for vocabulary - he's doing well, but the jury is still out on Wordly Wise for me.

With all of the focus we're putting on humanities, in order to complete the assignments from our hybrid school, I've neglected math somewhat. Bearclaw is actually moving along in his Sinapore workbook (he's working on fractions), but he's forgotten some of his mutiplication tables, so I need to do a better job with daily drills. I'm hardly working on math at all with Shortbread. It's not him; it's me - I think I'm tired of the curriculum and how it's structured. It may be time to move from Shiller to Singapore for him.

Our two-family science co-op hasn't met lately, becasue of all of the holiday activities, but we plan to finish up the physics book from Real Science 4 Kids soon, and then after Christmas it's chemsitry! (All four boys in the group have images of explosions, I just know it...)

As I've been typing this over several days, we've gotten quite few snow flurries. Maybe my images of Advent were'nt so far-fetched after all...

Counting to 1000: Gifts #5 - 10 (All About Our Now 9 Year-Old)

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Yesterday was his ninth birthday, so I'm dedicating this edition of "One Thousand Gifts" to the gift that Bearclaw is.

5. that he gets lost...in deep thoughts, in books, on his way upstairs to do something

6. his denim blue eyes

7. the way he gets so tickled at his little brother and turns and tells me how much he loves him

8. his willingness to give grace to the mama who tried for too long to have everything perfect and still goes down that road sometimes

Happy Birthday sweet Bearclaw! It is a joy to be your mother and watch you grow (if only you would do it more slowly!).



More Thanks Giving

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holy experience

Thanksgiving Day has passed, and we've moved on to Advent, rushing to switch our Gratitude Tree for an Advent Calender. Don't get me wrong, I love the excitement and anticipation of this season. But I need more thanksgiving - more giving thanks.

I've felt a change within myself lately. I don't know if anyone else has noticed; it's internal mostly. I think my kids can tell. The change is that I am focused so much more than ever on praising God for all the grace he's given me (and it's all grace). I didn't decide to "work on gratitude" in order fufill a goal on a spiritual goals list. It's just come. It's just been given. Partly, it may have come through Ann VosKamp's offerings at A Holy Experience and those who have joined her. To look on the everyday with eyes that behold only what is beautiful and sacred. Not turning eyes from brokeness and pain, but finding the holy in it. Could that be how we're meant to see?

So it's the Monday after Thanksgiving, and I want to keep going. I'm joining in with Ann to list 1000 Gifts (and more).

  1. knowing Who to thank

  2. our soon-to-be nine year old still wanting me to sing (if you want to call it that) to him every night

  3. our kindergartener who is still small enough to be lifted, held, carried

  4. my husband smiling everyday (every difficult day) when he walks through the door

You can join in, too. Just use the link at the top to visit Ann's site.

Weekly Wrap-Up: Thanksgiving Theme (of Course!)

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Since our academic weeks run from Thrusday to Wednesday (due to the schedule of our hybrid school), but I'm writing this on the Monday after Thankgiving, I'm covering about two weeks worth of happenings. The wonderful thing is this: I have very little to "wrap-up" from the past two weeks, because our school schedule was so slow. I'm so grateful to have had a break - we needed it!

We spent the evenings watching Desperate Crossing - a documentary about the Pilgrims and their voyage on the Mayflower. My friend Ellen recommended it, and we were glad she did.

Of course, the highlight of the week was Thanksgiving Day, which we spent at my parents' home in the next town. My dad's brother and his wife were passing through on their way home to Ohio from Florida, so they were able to join our celebration.

Each year, my mom makes the turkey, dressing, potatoes and gravy. I bring the vegetables and desserts. This year, Bearclaw prepared the Corn Chive Pudding for us. He definitely has a gift for working in the kitchen.

As we went around the table to name 3 things we were thankful for this past year, I listed "that I have such a hard time limiting myself to 3 things" as one of my blessings. My family claimed this was a cop-out. Maybe, but it's so true!

I hope you have trouble limiting your list to just 3, too.

Weekly Wrap-Up: I Almost Forgot

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'Tis the season for me to forget all sorts of things. With all of the recipes, events, visits, and "to-do"s running through my head, I tend to push some of the regular things out, like remembering to clean the toilets or post on my blog ( I DO like this better). If it weren't for Bearclaw's steel trap of a brain, we'd have missed the last two choir practices.

Don't get me wrong - I love all the craziness of the next 6 weeks. Pretty much. We focus on gratitiude for all of November, as we prepare for Thanksgiving. My favorite family tradition related to Thanksgiving is our "Gratitude Tree". Every morning we each write something for which we are thankful to God on a leaf and attach it to our tree. I've seen many other versions of this traditions on blogs this month, and I love all the variations.
Here is ours:


This was our final week of school before a 2-week break for Thanksgiving. (Well, not a total break, but a definite slow-down.) In history, Bearclaw covered Week 12 in Bibilplan, which is the last week covering the 17th century. We read about and discussed John Locke, Isaac Newtown, and the Agricultural Revoltuion in England. It's worth noting that while Bearclaw is eight and learning about the ideas of John Locke, I really didn't learn much about him until this summer, when I read Francis Schaeffer's How Should We Then Live? And I am forty.

Shortbread wrapped up his second week with the same assignment sheet, but since he had finished most of his work during the first week, he played, drew, made crafts, and snuggled on my lap a lot this week. I really can't think of a better kindergarten curriculum than that!

I haven't posted much about math, because I don't really think about it that much. Bearclaw finished the money section of Singapore's Primary Mathematics 2B last week, and now we're reviewing the multiplication tables through 5s. We probably need to pick up the pace if we're going to get through level 3A before the school year ends. Singapore supposedly runs about 1/2 year ahead, so we should get through 3A by May to stay on grade level. We'll see.

I seem to have forgotten what else we did this week...I hope the boys remember better than I!

Have a lovely Thanksgiving! Pop over to Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers to see what everyone else did last week (since I'm posting this on Sunday).

Weekly Wrap-Up: Fitting in Some School

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We've been a little loose with our schedule this past week, mostly due to other activities and the impending Thanksgiving/Christmas preparations. Also, the weather has been lovely most of the time, and I want the boys to enjoy what may be the last of the really mild temps for the year.

Truth be told, this is the time of year when I would typically start to slow our school schedule down, and I'm missing that freedom. Since we started the hybrid school for humanities, I have had to come to grips with working according to someone else's schedule; it's been my greatest challenge this year. We are likely, however, to accomplish more this holiday season in school than we ever have before.

We are closing in on our first 12(!) weeks with Biblioplan, and we'll soon move on to the 18th century. The topics for this week (week 11) were "Indians, Canada, and Pennsylvania". This included a study of the conflicts between Native American tribes and the colonies of New England and New France. In our look at Pennsylvania, we me both William Penn and Benjamin Franklin. We especially enjoyed reading a biography about each of these men: William Penn:Founder of Pennsylvania by Steven Kroll and D'Aulaire's Benjamin Franklin.

In a case of perfect timing, one of our local state parks hosted a Native American Pow-wow last weekend, and we were planning to be at the park for an early birthday celebration for Bearclaw anyway. After the birthday ropes course was completed, we headed over to the pow-wow for an opportunistic field trip.
Here's Bearclaw tackling one of the course challenges:


And Shortbread tackling his own "little guy" ropes course:


We were able to see aspects of Native American life from both western and eastern nations recreated at the pow-wow. We saw encampments, cooking demonstations, weapons, fire making, tanning, and dancing to traditional music/drums.

Here are some glimpses:


Most of Bearclaw's efforts outside of history this week were concentrated on writing narrative paragraphs. His teacher assigned the topic "The Worst Party I Ever Attended", and Bearclaw's little story made me chuckle, especially the part about a pinata full of Barbies for a boy party. The horror! Clearly, he's getting his ideas for fiction straight out of his nightmares.
Shortbread had two weeks to work on his assigments from last week, so we were in the middle of letter "Tt" this past week. We actually had a tough time coming up with books for "T", and almost everyone Shortbread spotted was in the word "the" - which didn't count. We did get to read one of our favorites, though: Bear About Town.

Menu-Plan Monday: Making Do

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I guess I should call it Menu-Plan Tuesday, since I'm posting late...
Our weekends have been packed full of activities latley (leaving little time for shopping), AND my local farmer's market closed for the season last month, so I'm extremely short on groceries this week. It will be a good opportunity to dig some things out of the freezer and get rid of them.

So here's what I've come up with:
  • Monday - Maple-brined Pork Chops with Green Beans and Sweet Potatoes from the freezer
  • Tuesday - Spaghetti Night
  • Wednesday - Broccoli Quiche with Pumpkin Muffins
  • Thurday - Tuna Tetrazzini (which is really just Emeril trying to avoid calling it what it is: Tuna Noodle Casserole)
  • Friday - Pizza Night
  • Saturday - Soup/Sandwich Night : Hot Dogs with Chili from Freezer
  • Sunday - Leftovers

Ok, so Thursday is going to be a tough sell, but at least it's not like the casserole many of us grew up with in the 70's. There's no "cream of anything" soup in it. And it still has the one and only redeemable ingredient from the original. No, not tuna...potato chips on top. Which means, I suppose, that Shortbread will be eating only potato chips that night.

You can pop over to I'm an Organizing Junkie to see what the other meal planners are doing this week; maybe some of them have groceries...

Weekly Wrap-Up: See A Boat, Eat Some Goat (Cheese)

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Yea! Thanks to Ellen for helping me get that (it's called something) up there.

I have to pause before I write a wrap-up, because we really wrap up on Wednesday, when the kids lug all of their assignments to their humanities classes and then come home with a new set of assignments to begin on Thursday.

Shortbread worked on the letter "Ii" this week, which brings the number of vowels covered to three. It's so much easier to read and write words with three whole vowels to choose from. We also did some "pumpkin estimation" math; Shortbread's pumpkin weighed 17 lbs! Unfortunately, when he tried to lift it onto the scale, he dropped it on the floor and the stem snapped off. Fortunately, I just purchased my first hot glue gun. I love the thing, and one day dh is going to come home to find everything in the house hot-glued to something (or someone) else.

We wrapped up early on Friday and spent a gorgeous fall weekend north of us where we have hopes of building a home someday. For now, we camp or stay in a cabin that's available. With the chilly overnight temps, we were happy to have a cabin this time. Some friends came along and we had a blast hiking, campfiring, and enjoying the weather. I'd love to post some pics, but I left my memory thingy in the computer during the trip. It did me no good there.

Since the family who was with us just wrapped up a big unit on Christopher Columbus, and we studied the "Age of Discovery" a few months ago, we decided to make a side trip to see the replicas of the Nina and the Pinta docked nearby. Once again, photos would help, but since I cannot provide them, you can hop over to Kris's Weekly Wrap-up from Oct. 29th. She was there just a few days before us, apparently, and remembered her memory thingy.

When we returned home, we jumped into our readings about Louis XIV and France. I visited the Palace of Versailles when I was 16. I don't remember focusing on the fact that it's construction took 25 years and that 35,000 people died in the process. I was probably too busy checking my hair in the Hall of Mirrors.

Bearclaw was asked to make a mask for the "masquerade ball" they planned to have in his history class, and Shortbread (being the "crafty" one in the family) joined in. Based on what you can see of their expressions, masks seem like a good idea:


They didn't actually dance at their "ball", but they did have a French cheese tasting, to which Bearclaw brought fresh chevre (how do I make that little mark over the e?). I don't know how much the other students cared for it, but he loves it and ate several pieces on the ride home from class. He's his mama's boy!

I hope everyone's week was as much fun as ours (but with more pictures)! You can check everyone's Weekly Wrap-Ups out over at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

Weekly Wrap-Up: Focus on Fall

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Our weeks begin on Thurdsay instead of Monday, because that is when we begin working on a new assignment sheet from the kids' Wednesday hybrid program. Now I just have to remember what we did way back then.


The weather where we live has been lovely and pretty warm, and we drove up to some property we have in north Georgia for the fall festival there. (When I say property, I mean a small uncleared lot that may never see so much as a toothpick standing on it, but we'll see.) The "giant hay bale" was a highlight for the boys, until we they climbed down and all of the itching, coughing and sneezing started, that is.


Bearclaw completed a fall nature study assignment last week, which included sitting in the yard and sketching. I called him to work on this one afternoon while he was playing outside with Shortbread and a neighbor boy. Surprisingly, both Shortbread and the friend decided to abandon their play and sit down to sketch too. It was so sweet to see all three of them lined up, with paper and sketchpad in hand, gazing quietly out into the trees.

The sketching was followed by painting with watercolors. Here's Bearclaw's completed painting:


Our history studies this week focused on Charles I of England, and I teetered between amusement and horror when I saw the boys' narration drawings; they both drew what might catch the imagination of any boy listening to the story of Charles I - his beheading (complete with lots of red colored pencil)!

We also completed the book, Runaway's Revenge, which we picked up during our study of the slave trade a couple of weeks ago. The book is part of the "Trailblazers" series; each book in the series tells the story of a "hero of the faith" by placing a young person it the midst of the events of each hero's life. Runaway's Revenge is the story of John Newton.
Shortbread worked on the letter "L" over the week, and we read a few good "L" picture books, including:
Leaf Man
Angus Lost
The Very Lonely Firefly
The Little Rabbit
Blueberries for Sal (gotta get those "L's" in somewhere besides the beginning!)
We're on tap for yet another beautiful weekend...hope yours is lovely.

Weekly Wrap-Up: The First One

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Most of what I've posted in the past has been in the "wrap-up" category, but over the summer I it was a recap of the whole academic year, and this past week it covered six weeks. Perhaps a weekly review would be better.

Bearclaw finished the novel Pocahontas and the Strangers by Clyde Robert Bulla. Much of the week, then, was spent preparing a project on the book for his humanities class. Despite seeing several on the given list that I thought would be right up his alley, he chose to build a Powhatan longhouse. They always choose the thing that will make the biggest disaster of the kitchen. Anyway, it WAS fun and turned out quite well.

While staying within this general time period, we took a look this week at both Japanese and Chinese history, discussing the shoguns in Japan and the end of the Ming Dynasty in China. We included a literature selection from each country, both of which were retellings of traditional stories. From China came Lon Po Po, which is similar to Little Red Riding Hood in many ways. The Boy of the Three-Year Nap, from Japan, is a fun folktale and a Cadlecott Honor book.

We try to cook at least one thing related to our the time or place of our history study each week, but time ran short on Wednesday, and instead of the homemade Gyoza I had planned, we cooked frozen potstickers. At least this was an option. Last week, when we covered the Thirty Years' War, we made Schnitzel. I don't think frozen would have been an option there. (too bad I missed doing a "wrap-up" that week - we even streamed polka music in on the laptop during dinner from "24-7 Polka Heaven". Check it out for your next Octoberfest!)

Bearclaw spent a good deal of time categorizing sentences and contructing topic sentences in grammar. In Singapore Math, he's working on adding and subtracting money. I'm better at the subtracting, because that's all I do! Tee-hee!

Shortbread's curriculum centers around a different "letterbook" each week in the humities hybrid program the boys attend. The kindergarteners do not progress trough these alphabetically, but in a way that allows them to begin to read and spell simple words. The week's letterbook was "Ss", and I'm thrilled that he is now beginning to sound out words. He's very proud too!

Each day, Shortbread and I sit down to read some of the wonderful children's books we own or have borrowed from the library. We try to pick one theme book (currently that's "autumn") and one book that has the letter of the week in the title. Some of our favorites from this week were:
When I'm Sleepy by Jane R. Howard
The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle
A Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
The Berenstain Bears Learn About Strangers by Jan and Stan Berenstain

We weren't all work and no play. Dh and my dad took both boys to an airshow at a nearby Air Force Base. Going with "Papa" and their dad is extra fun for the boys, as Paps is a retired Air Force jet and helicopter pilot, and dh is a liscenced pilot as well. They had a great time, and I cleaned the living room carpet (which I thoroughly enjoyed, by the way).

I hope I can make a habit of summarizing our weeks and sharing them with all the other great homeschool bloggers at Weekly Wrap-ups, hosted by Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers

Random Acts of Science

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As a former science teacher, I should be leading my children in mind-blowing activities and experiments followed by enlightening and insightful analysis each week, right? If so, I'm in big trouble. You see, I didn't receive much of a history education myself, so I'm enjoying and focusing there. That's where I would sit if I could, and we'd address science in middle school. After all, I've been there and done all that science stuff before. My children, however, have not, and they are fascinated with all things science.

Despite my background, I was struggling with how to teach something like Biology at a level that would be interesting and helpful to my young boys (which is why my then first grader knew, and still knows, all the major invertebrate phyla). So I began to search for a science curriculum, and I didn't care for most of them. I will go into my objections to most of what's out there some other time, but I did finally find something I love. It's called Real Science 4 Kids, and it's written by homeschool mom and biochemical physicist (no, no one knows what that is) Dr. Rebecca Keller.

Even better, one of my homeschool friends was interested in using the same curriculum with her two boys - instant co-op! We've done pretty well at this, but Friday is our science day, and so it's also the day that people go out of town, have relatives coming in, go on field trips, etc.

Real Science 4 Kids has several levels and covers Physics, Biology, Chemistry, and (they're working on) Earth Science. We started with the lowest level Physics for our first 10 week term. We won't quite manage to get everything in within the 10 weeks, but hey, we did succeed at setting up the "Lemon Battery".




Aside from such organized lessons, there are always the opportunistic science activities, many of which involve nature study.

On a recent trip to the Sea Grove beach on the Florida panhandle, dh corralled a crab into a bucket (not without first suffering a small laceration from the cornered crab's claw) and we watched as he burrowed backward into the sand.


We also visited Gulf World in Panama City Beach on that trip, which was not exactly Sea World, but then, I wasn't exactly looking for Sea World crowds. We did learn some interesting things about marine animals, including what they eat:


Yep, I'm raising little biochemical physicists all right. Yes, indeedy.

Menu Plan Monday: A Little Bit Chili

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It's getting cooler here, especially at night, so I'm beginning to think more about soups and stews, which I love to cook and to eat. That will also give me a chance to use some of the vegetables I froze this summer, since I missed the farmers' market this week and am low on produce. Also, we're studying Japanese and Chinese history this week, so we'll dabble in some Asian cuisine.

I've posted before about the meal plan outline that I use every week. Due to some schedule changes, it's been modified somewhat, so I put the categories in this plan too.


  • Monday (vegetarian) - Curried Lentil Stew and Brown Rice

  • Tuesday (spaghetti) - Spaghetti Night

  • Wednesday (meal to match history/geography study) - Gyoza

  • Thursday (seafood) - Chili-Lime Glazed Salmon w/ Cornbread casserole and Green Tomato Salad

  • Friday (Pizza) - Grilled Pizza with Olives, Peppers, and Onions

  • Saturday (soup/stew or sandwiches) - Chili

  • Sunday (big Sunday dinner) - BBQ Chicken, Green Beans, Yellow Squash w/ Bacon and Onions, Cheese Biscuits, and Homemade Frozen Pumpkin Yogurt with Maple syrup for dessert.

I just love being able to have stew and chili in the same week; if the highs get down into the 60's, we'll have to have soup everyday!

Picking Up Where I Left Off

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Did you ever start something, fall behind, and then resist picking it up again because you were so far behind that the thought of catching up overwhelmed you? So it is with the blog for me. I also had this ridiculous idea that I would blog after all of my other work was finished. You know, instead of sitting around twiddling my thumbs as I usually do.

One of the purposes of this blog is to log our homeschooling activities and accomplishments. In the six weeks since I last posted we've been working our way through the humanities curricula for third grade and kindergarten provided by the hybrid school we're using this year, while continuing with our own math and science programs. The boys, especially Bearclaw, have been challenged by the amount of work required for the humanities program.

Shortbread's kindergarten class at the hybrid program is focusing on early phonics and handwriting as they go through a set of "letterbooks". As you can imagine, there is one book for each letter. They are cute, but on the first day of use, Shortbread exclaimed, "That looks like a baby book!" He had a point. However, he's warmed to using them and loves going to class, taking part in "sharing time", and playing with his friends.

Bearclaw's class puts a heavy emphasis on grammar, using both Shurley English and some exercises from Easy Grammar. The best thing to come from this is their recent work in writing, which has helped Bearclaw learn to outline and write a 3-point expository paragraph. This is not something I expected him to be able to do this year, and I'm happy to have had the help of his teacher in working on it.

The third grade curriculum also includes spelling, vocabulary, and critical thinking, but history consumes the bulk of time not spent on grammar. Using Biblioplan and SOTW, we've been using Bearclaw's history work as our family history study. Currently we are studying the early colonial period of America, beginning with Jamestown and moving on to Plymouth Plantation. Our studies have included investigating the Native American populations that the colonists were in contact with, and the growth of the slave trade in North America. We've also looked at what was happening in Europe during this time, including the government of England and Scotland and the Thirty Years' War. Throughout it all, we've seen the overarching impact of the divide between Protestantism and Roman Catholocism.

Here are some of the highlights:

The first day of classes-



Making Native American pinchpots and colonial hand-dipped candles-



Making hasty pudding as the Indians taught the colonists-

And making homemade shortbread when we studied Scotland-




So now I think it's time I joined Kris's Weekly Wrap-Ups. Six weeks of review forces me to drag around too many photos!



Menu Plan Monday: The Process

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Every Saturday I'm one of the first folks in line at our local farmer's market. I buy most of my meat and all of my produce there, and I like to finish before it gets too hot or they run out of anything. If you're there and you're standing between me and an egg vendor when the woman in charge rings her cowbell, watch out! - you're likely to get mowed down. I have to have my eggs; my family can eat/use up to 2 dozen a week. We're practically clucking.

When I get home with all my goodies (including eggs), I lay it all out, so that I can plan my menu around what I've purchased. All of my decisions are based on what's available, and I think there's a broader lesson in that for me. Not being able to have whatever I want, whenever I want it, forces me to accept the circumstances and to look for the blessings in what I have. If okra's what you've got, then be thankful for it and find a way make okra that you love.

That said, I skipped the okra this week. I did get a gorgeous watermelon, alongwith cabbage, pattypan squash and some Golden Delicious and Honeycrisp apples ( the first of the season). The tomotoes in my garden have stopped ripening, so I picked up a couple of those, too.

Here's the plan:


  • Monday - Spaghetti Night (Whole wheat spaghetti and grass-fed beef)
  • Tuesday - Brunswick Stew (Crock-pot night)
  • Wednesday - Toasted Ciabatta with Apples and Cheddar or Hummus and Peppers plus Cabbage -Carrot salad with Yogurt Ranch Dressing
  • Thursday - Pepper Jelly-Glazed Salmon on Goat Cheese-Corn Bread Pudding with Garlic Greens (Seafood Night)
  • Friday - Grilled Pizza with Squash, Bacon and Onions plus Margherita Pizza (Pizza Night)
  • Saturday - Grass-fed Local Beef Burgers with Salad and Watermelon (Sandwich Night)
  • Sunday - "State Fair" Local Chicken with Creamy Aioli Potato Salad and Green Beans

If I'm ever going to prepare any of this, I need to get to bed!

Menu Plan Monday: New School Year, New Menu Plan

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We're starting school tomorrow, so I though this would be a good time for me to engage in a new endeavor: Meal Plan Mondays.

I've been planning menus for some time now. Before I began planning meals for my own family, I was planning meals for other families as a personal chef. My menu emphasis has shifted several times in this, as I figured out what was important to me in feeding my family (and others). I experimented with extravagant (ok, that was before the kids), super low-fat, super low-carb, super inexpensive, etc.

Still, I was never really passionate about any of those plans, so I usually gave them up quickly and returned to the world of too many options where menu planning would take me the better part of a day. Finally, I found two things that are currently driving my weekly cooking, and they're keeping my quick AND passionate. What are they?

1 - a weekly menu outline
2 - focusing on cooking local, seasonal, sustainable food

A weekly menu outline is mostly helpful with the "quick" part of my planning. It helps me wade through the endless possibilities in the sea of ideas that is my culinary brain. It gives me paramaters to plan within. So here is my weekly outline, which varies every homeschool semester, depending on activities, etc.

Monday = Spaghetti Night (the fam gets one recurring meal a week, and this is what they want)
Tuesday = Crockpot Night (we're gone most of the day on Tuesday)
Wednesday = Seafood Night
Thursday = Vegetarian Night (usually beans or eggs - no tofu for dh)
Friday = Homemade Pizza Night
Saturday = Sandwich and/or Soup Night
Sunday = Sunday Dinner (feasty or fancy)

So that's what I plan around, and it makes so many decisions for me!

The second thing that has altered my planning and cooking is a new interest in local, sustainable foods. I want to post some other time about why this has become so important to me, but the summary it this: I spend a lot of time in the kitchen, and I want that time to be as worshipful and glorifying to God as possible. You can explore this more at Kitchen Stewardship.

Since my meal planning is frequently hampered by the abundance of choices available to me, focusing only on what's local, seasonal, and responsibly produced cuts down on the decision making. Should we have asparagus or spinach salad with our chicken? Neither one; it's August in Georgia - how do pole beans grab you?

Good gracious - am I ever going to get to my menu?

Monday -Spaghetti Night (homemade sauce and local, grass-fed beef)

Tuesday - Crock-pot Enchiladas (sauce with garden tomatoes & local peppers)

Wednesday - Crowder Peas, Corn Bread w/Cheese and Jalapenos & Tomato Salad

Thursday - Tahini Shrimp, Grilled Peppers and Squash w/ Feta & Homemade Pitas w/ Hummus

Friday - Grilled Pizza Margherita (if you've never grilled pizza, you've got to try it!)

Saturday - Huevos Rancheros on Romaine

Sunday - Grilled Pepper Jelly Pork Chops, Baked Sweet Potatoes, Salad of Baby Lettuces*, Bleu Cheese and Early Pears w/ Balsamic - Mustard Dressing

* I can't believe I found baby lettuce at the farmer's market in August!! You can get a second planting and grow lettuce in summer, but it's been so hot, I assumed lettuce was done. She said she's been "babying" them all the way.

Breakfast Menu: Bible, Hymns and Poems

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I've fallen behind in my summaries of last school year, and we're starting school tomorrow! The only subject that I didn't really cover so far is Bible. I know the county won't ever check on that, but I want to remember what we did all the same.

We covered Bible in the morning during breakfast. This involved memorizing a weekly verse, learning one hymn each month, and reviewing the topic we discussed on Sunday evenings during our family devotion time.

For our Sunday evenings, my husband would read a lesson from a sweet little book his mother gave to me called Little Visits with God. Both the language and the illustrations give away the 1950's publishing date, but an excellent updated version is now available. Although I enjoy the sometimes quaint, sometimes corny aspects of the vintage version, we occasionally had to change the wording so that our children could understand the point more thoroughly.

Each lesson in Little Visits centers on a Bible verse, which is illustrated in a short story. Discussion questions follow and a closing prayer is provided. We found these lessons appropriate and interesting enough to hold the attention of both our 5 year-old and 8 year-old. I think they would work for children from about 3 to 11.

During breakfast that week, the boys and I memorized the Scripture verse from our lesson and also learned a hymn. I generally organized our devotions into monthly themes, thanks to the index in Little Visits, and our monthly hymn alligned with the theme of the month.

If time allowed, we would continue to discuss the week's lesson. This was particularly true once we started on themes of Christian character, which I would emphasize with readings from The Book or Virtues by William Bennett or Everyday Graces by Karen Santorum. Both books provide stories, poems, and quotes to illustrate a variety of noble character qualities.

We also used the breakfast hour for poetry memorization, with each of the boys memorizing a poem every month. The only difficulty in that was choosing a poem; Favorite Poems Old and New provided too many options. Of all our selections, Bearclaw's rendition of Psalm 8 and Shortbread's sweet and stumbly recitation of "The Quarrel" by Eleanor Farjeon were my favorites.

Science Summary

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The boys, exhibiting their maternal influence, love life science. Unlike their mother, they are obsessed (beyond the normal length of their usual obsessions) with dinosaurs. When they begged for us to spend this past year studying that very topic in science, I realized that I was far outmatched in "dino-knowledge" (No, Shortbread, I don't remember what Postosuchus is...tell me again), and I chose Anatomy instead. I think I'm still one step ahead of them on this one.

Despite some initial disappointment and pleading to fit a dinosaur unit in at some point, the boys soon warmed to the idea of studying their bodies, and they usually had to remind me when it was time to work on science.

We broke up our study into 9 units:

  • Cells
  • Brain & Nervous System
  • Senses
  • Digestive System
  • Respiratory System
  • Circulatory System
  • Muscles
  • Skeletal System
  • Skin

Each unit was planned for two weeks, but we didn't finish until the end of the year, so you can do the math and figure out that I wasn't diligent about staying on that schedule and skipped science about half of the time.

When we were on task, we used the My Body book for readings and to make a paper model of each boy's body. This involved tracing an outline of each boy on a large piece of paper and then cutting it out and hanging it in our school room. For each unit we would cut and color a new body part or parts and attach them to our bodies.

Here are the boys with their "empty" bodies:



Then, full of organs (with faces peeled down to reveal their brains!):


To accompany our activities in My Body, we used Jim Weise's Head to Toe Science, which provided hands-on activities and experiments for each body system. Though this book is geared toward 3rd - 6th graders, we found plenty of activities that were easy, even for Shortbread. He might not have truly grasped the significance of every activity, but he surely enjoyed them!

Oh, and we started the year by making a Jell-O cell. Enchanted Learning has directions.



Math Memories

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That title makes it sound so much more enjoyable than it was. Don't get me wrong. It wasn't bad. It was fine, and some of it was even a bit amusing. Mostly it was just, well, second-grade math. (Begging the pardon of my former graduate school roommate, who is a math person.)


This was our first year using Singapore Math, and so far it's been a fairly good choice for us. The text is easy for Bearclaw to understand, and the teachers' guide provides solid explanations of concepts as well as plenty of enrichment ideas. Singapore says it runs about 1/2 year ahead in terms of grade level, so we spent almost the entire school year on Level 2A, and this summer we're slowly getting into 2B. At the moment, we're focusing on multiplication tables; Bearclaw is learning the 4s right now and enjoying practicing on Multiplication.com.

Skills attained this school year include the ability to:

  • read, order, and compare whole numbers up to 1,000
  • identify place values in three-digit numerals
  • add and subtract two- and three-digit numbers (with and without regrouping)
  • solve simple word problems involving addition or subtraction
  • measure, estimate, and compare objects by size
  • write the date numerically
  • write and recite multiplication table through the 3s

Skills that Bearclaw has yet to master include:

  • telling or writing time to five-minute intervals
  • solving problems about elapsed time
  • writing number (using number-words)

I don't have any math pictures...I'll work on that next year.

History Highlights

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I've finally gotten all of my materials together for this post. When I look back over everything we did this year, I start to think we actually accomplished some things. Now I just have to avoid glimpsing at the elaborate plan I made before the school year began...

Finished or not, history has been loads of fun, and I especially enjoy the fact that it's a subject we can all do together. We're using a somewhat classical model in our homeschool, while still giving a nod to Charlotte Mason and other styles (how original). So far, the four-year history cycle is working for us, and this was our Medieval/Renaissance year.

We used Story of the World as our spine and supplemented with both independent reading for Bearclaw and read-alouds for all of us. Most of those came from Biblioplan, which is a multi-level history curriculum comprised mostly of book lists. It's a very useful resource, and it provides, in each unit, independent reading ideas for each age group and a family read-aloud selection.

Some of our favorite read-alouds this past year:

Saint Patrick: Pioneer Missionary to Ireland by McHugh
Beorn the Proud by Bulla
The Door in the Wall by Angel
Explorers Who Got Lost by Sansevere-Dreher

We also enjoyed the following recordings by Jim Weiss and Greathall Productions:

"King Arthur and His Knights"
"Arabian Nights"
"Shakespeare for Children"
"Galileo and the Stargazers"
"Masters of the Renaissance"

I find the Activity Guides for Story of the World to be fairly user-friendly, so we did the map work and, sometimes, the review questions for each chapter. Notice I didn't mention the activity projects. I don't have anything against activiy projects, but I always schedule them for Friday, and by Friday I'm in a different mood than I was in when I wrote the lesson plan. Thankfully, the children attneded a homeschool history/arts program on Wednesday afternoons, so they did a multitude of projects. And I did not.

Here are some of the projects/pieces of art they created this year:




We also started a timeline this year, using the figures from Homeschool in the Woods, which has been very helpful (especially for me):




Of course, what the kids remember most are the few big projects we managed to complete at home, including dressing up as Celtic warriors (or maybe something closer to how they were depicted in Bravheart) when we kicked-off in last August:



And the grand finale this spring- a medievel feast with our dear friends, complete with period dress, entertainment, and authentice recipes from Gode Cookery:






The one thing we're still working on is the Reformation. I don't think we'll do any stake burnings, but I'll post pics if I change my mind.

Language Arts Recap

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I have composed this post once already, but I erased it after I read it. Reading an end-of-year assessment in prose is a real snoozer. I'll try a more visually organized format, which may still be boring, but at least it's easier to scan with your eye.

I'm not really sure what I'm supposed to include in my state-required assessment. Oh, I could look it up, but that would mean dedicating more time to this. And I've already spent way too long fighting with Blogger as I tried to single-space my Reading list.

So these are the highlights of what Bearclaw accomplished in 2nd grade language arts over the past school year:

Curricula:

Writing - Writing With Ease: Level 2
Grammar - First Language Lessons
Spelling - Spelling Power
Handwriting - homemade worksheets
Literature/Reading - see book list


Skills and Knowledge (acquired this year):

Writing

  • narrates both short and longer (avg. 800 words) of read-aloud material unaided
  • copies up to three sentences from dictation, with correct use of captalization and punctuation
  • composes brief book reports with a beginning, middle, and end
  • writes legibly; beginning to write with greater speed

Grammar and Spelling

  • identifies and gives examples of: nouns, verbs, adjectives, conjunctions, articles, contractions, and preposition
  • spells words containing spelling patterns typical for second grade
  • uses and spells some common contractions and abbreviations correctly

Reading/Literature

  • reads assigned books at an average Lexile level of 800-1000
  • reads voluntarily at least 30 min./day

Reading List

The Knight at Dawn - Osborne

"Beowulf" from Favorite Medieval Tales - Osborne

The Sword in the Tree - Bulla

The Viking Adventure - Bulla

The Making of a Knight - O'Brien

The Minstrel in the Tower -Skurzynski

Castle Diary -Platt

Robinhood of Sherwood Forest - McGovern

Raisel's Riddle - Silverman

Baboushka and the Three Kings - Robbins

The Apple and the Arrow - Buff

Pedro's Journal- Conrad

Fine Print - Burch

The Whipping Boy - Fleischman

I'm glad that's out of the way. On to history tomorrow.

Beginning at the End

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I set up this blog last fall. And here it has sat unused until now. Oh, I played with my template, rearranged elements, and fiddled with the description a bit, but I didn't actually get to the posting part.

Initially, I thought a blog would be a great way for us to chronicle our homeschooling activities. But autumn slipped by, and it didn't make sense to start tracking our activities when we were wrapping up for the holidays. I'd start it in January, I claimed, but the new year yeilded no new inspiration about the blog. Before I knew it, it was May, and the school year that I had planned to track with my posts was over.

Summer now seems like the right time to get started (I've exhausted all of my other seasonal options), but it doesn't supply that easy "school year kick-off" post as a natural launching point.

Thankfully, the state of Georgia has given me something to do here, since I am required to write an assessment of my students' academic progress over the past school year and keep it on file. I plan to make my first few posts that file. So, my original plan stays somewhat intact. I will simply share our homeschool highlights in review and then branch out from there. Should any state or county school official ever need to check it, they may come away with a great recipe for grilled pizza dough, too.