Sunday, August 30, 2009


This year for music we are concentrating on the sounds of the orchestra. We plan on studying Peter and the Wolf, as well as learning all of the instruments that are found in a symphony orchestra.  Hopefully, we will also get to go to the local symphony orchestra's dress rehearsal this year. They let homeschoolers in for just a few dollars each. I found this great book, Those Amazing Musical Instruments!, in the library to start off our studies. 

Wow! This book is really great. It has an interactive CD that plays parts of over 100 famous selections. There were many selections that were recognizable to my children, which made it much more exciting to them. Each instrument in the orchestra is introduced, the history is given, how the person is to play the instrument, and then they may go to the CD and listen to several selections that highlight each instrument. Also, many well-known musicians are introduced on the CD. We made it through the book one time and would like to do more with it, but our time is up and it must go back to the library. I think I will check it out again mid-year. I could not have asked for a better introduction to our music lessons for the year.

Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Field Trip ~ Carl Sandburg House

We try to do one family adventure each weekend. This past weekend, we decided to go to the home of Carl Sandburg. The property was lovely. The children loved playing with the goats that are the descendants of Mrs. Sandburg's prize-winning goatherd. In fact, the goats are still winning awards on the national level today. The Sandburg's had several children with cow milk allergies which led them to farming their own goats' milk. They were so good at it that they opened a small dairy. We toured the dairy and learned how to pasteurize goat milk.

Although the grounds were free, the house costs money to go into. We decided to just enjoy the grounds and farm on this day and leave the house tour for another day when the children are older and had read Carl Sandburg's works. The following are some pictures of the outside of the house.

There was also a small bamboo forest on the property. The kids really enjoyed playing in the bamboo.

We all had lots of fun!

Blessings, Dawn

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Fence


The following is a small portion of the poem, Mending Wall, by Robert Frost: 
He only says, 'Good fences make good neighbors'.
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
'Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it
Where there are cows?
But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,

That wants it down'
Our neighbors whose yard adjoins our backyard put up a privacy fence yesterday. The old fence was falling to ruin and there were gaps in the fence. I must say a  big part of me is relieved. There is lots of crime on the street behind us and it has spilled into my backyard a few times over the last 8 years. We even had a drug bust in our driveway once and the folks dropped their drugs in our backyard so the police had to comb our backyard with police dogs. So it is nice to have our backyard closed in again. Also, their cat was driving us crazy. Their cat was only driving us crazy because they wanted us to keep our dog inside the house so it would not hurt their cat when it was in our backyard (not that our dog would hurt a flea, let along a cat)! Also, they had repeatedly told our FASD/RAD child not to touch their cat or kitten, but she kept touching them anyway whenever the animals came into our yard. Have I mentioned impulse control and obedience are not real high on that child's list? And it is, after all, our back yard. Frankly, we felt they were being unreasonable about the cat, but I digress. Lastly, the neighborhood kids from the street behind cut through our neighbor's yard to get into our yard. 

This is the sticky point ~ My kids really enjoyed playing with the children from the street behind.  The fence, in all likelihood, will end that. Now those kids would have to walk around the block, passing the highway exit, etc. That street and this street will return to being different worlds. The truth is, my husband and I fretted all summer long over the behavior of the neighborhood elementary school kids. The foul language, clothing/hairstyles (constant hair color changes), discussions of movies and other things worried us. They made fun of our children who are more sheltered and less sophisticated. We felt that we had to be within ear shot, supervising every second of their interaction with these children. The neighbor kids asked our kids constantly about their belongings and were never impressed (no video games, cable TV, etc.). It was obvious to my husband and me that our kids were seen as an oddity by the neighbor kids. So I am relieved that the fence is up and that in this situation "good fences make good neighbors".... Yet I felt that we were making some progress with the neighbor kids. They were getting to see another lifestyle and experience a simpler life. I also hate to see my kiddos sad. They will get over it, though. As one said to me this morning, "At least we won't have to talk about what is and isn't appropriate behavior anymore." Well I don't know about that, son. There is plenty of inappropriate behavior to go around, even in our own home. LOL

Blessings, Dawn

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Typical Friday

It is time for the last week of the Not Back-to-School Blog Hop with 3boybarbarians. This week's theme is a Day-in-the-Life! I decided to record our Friday which was a typical Friday. None of our days are ever the same. Some days we get to stay home and others we have speech, doctor appointments, play therapy, dance class, horseback riding, or swimming. The list of possible schedule changes goes on and on. On this day, Timothy (19), who graduated last May, hung out with us. He even joined in on our history lessons. He is a real history buff and likes to put his two cents in on what I am teaching. On other days he is volunteering at the regional nature center and will soon be starting a few classes at the local community college.

This is our routine for today. I move around the cards and add in different ones, depending on what our plans are for the day. This form of a schedule is working well for us. 

6:15 ~ Mom and Dad got up.

6:30 ~ Tom Sawyer (7) awoke and laid on sofa.

7:00 ~ Dad left for work and Mom and Tom Sawyer watched Good Morning America for a few minutes.

7:15 ~ Everyone else got up and did their chores ... I only got a photo of Timothy (19) doing his morning chores. He actually didn't do his until 9:15 so he wouldn't disturb the neighbors.

7:30 ~ We had breakfast.

8:00 to 10:30 ~ We did the main chunk of our schoolwork:   
  • Reading lessons
  • Story of the World ~ Chapter 5 Vol. 2
  • Math ~ Horizon 1 page
  • Spelling ~ Reason for Spelling 2 pages
  • Phonics Helping Words, a matching game
  • Outdoor Challenge ~ Pumpkin study ~ recorded our study in our nature journals

10:30 ~ We cleaned up from school and drove to speech therapy.

11:00 to 12:00 ~ Goldilocks (8) was in speech while the rest of us did some shopping at Target and had lunch at Target. The kids had a special treat of Organic Mac and Cheese from Target's cafe. I really like how Target has some organic options, but my dear Tom Sawyer still had a reaction from the gluten in the Mac and Cheese.

12:00 to 1:00 ~ It was Tom Sawyer's turn for speech therapy while the rest of us ran through Walmart, gathering as many groceries as we could in a very short amount of time.

1:00 to 1:30 ~ I dropped off paperwork at the doctor's office and returned home.

1:30 to 2:00 ~ I put away groceries and tried in vain to get gum out of Little Red Riding Hood's (5) hair ~ finally had to cut it out.

2:00 to 3:00 ~ This was Goldilocks' computer time (the little ones get two times a week on the computer). The others have the choice of watching a video or watching the one child play on the computer. Today they all watched Goldilocks play Dora games on Noggin.

3:00 to 3:30 ~ We had tea time ~ They have been listening to Five Little Peppers and How They Grew. The kids had their snack and then had a choice to color while listening or to just listen.

3:30 to 4:00 ~ The children cleaned their assigned room ~ On Fridays, we clean all the bedrooms from top to bottom and change the sheets. 

4:00 to 5:00 ~ We had quiet time ~ formally known as Arsenic Hour. I don't know why it took me so long to have quiet time be during this transitional hour when Daddy is coming home, the kids are worn out and I am trying to get dinner going. It has been such a blessing to us. The kids played in their rooms and I made dinner.

5:00 ~ It was dinner time. Today, we had an edible oasis made of blueberries, rice, chicken and broccoli. The kids learned what an oasis was in SOTW today and SOTW suggested a candy oasis. I adapted it to be a healthy dinner.

5:30 ~ We did our after dinner chores and had play time with Daddy.

6:00  to 7:00 ~ We went on a family bike ride. 

7:00 ~ The kids had their baths and bedtime rituals.

8:00 ~ The kids were in bed, Timothy and Dad were watching a TV program and I was looking at blogs.

Well, that's all, folks!

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, August 21, 2009

Outdoor Challenge ~ Pumpkins

We are doing the Outdoor Hour Challenge  with Harmony Art Mom this year. Challenge number 6 is pumpkins. We used some of the lessons from the Handbook of Nature Study on pumpkins. Our pumpkins are doing so well! We only had two plants come up out of the eight we planted, so we were a bit concerned that they would not give us a crop. However, we currently have six nice sized pumpkins! The children have really enjoyed watching the growth. It seems like the pumpkin patch gets closer to the play gym every day! The kids are waiting for the play gym to be consumed by the plant. Below are pictures of the pumpkins' progress and the kids' nature journals.

Blessings, Dawn

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

Happy 10th birthday, Lady Girl. What a wonderful dog you are! We know you put up with a lot. Hey, at least you got away without a birthday hat this year... LOL!

Blessings, Dawn

Monday, August 17, 2009

Not Back-to-School Blog Hop

I thought I would join in to the Not Back-to-School Blog Hop this week. The topic is student photo week.

Goldilocks (8) is my energetic child. She never stops moving or talking. She is a super cleaner and organizer. She likes music, art and horseback riding. Her favorite time during lessons is copy work or doing art work (the messier the better). She suffers many learning challenges but keeps on improving.

Tom Sawyer (7) is my artist and inventor. Sometimes, we think his code name on the blog should be Leonardo Da Vinci. He is a perfectionist and very bright. He loves all subjects (except handwriting) and thanks me constantly for giving him math pages. I am NOT kidding!! He is the most stubborn, yet charming child I have ever met. He amazes us constantly with his insight.

Little Red Riding Hood (5) is my little mother's helper. She loves to play mommy with her dolls and learn how to care for the home. She is also my collector. Her most recent collection is sea shells (seen in photo). She is making great progress in reading and will soon be our newest independent reader. She loves science, sports (especially softball and ballet), and tea time (when we read chapter books and have snack -- yum).

Our Not Back-to-School photos would not be complete without including our graduate.

Our son Timothy graduated from homeschool this past May. He is busy with his volunteer job at the local nature center and will be trying out college with two audited classes this fall. He was born with many learning challenges and medical conditions that prevent him from doing anything full-time right now. However, he is having a great time exploring his interests and finding ways to contribute to our community. Just this past Sunday, he joined other young adults to clean up the street in front of our church.
Okay ~ In all honesty, those pictures were cute. But do they represent my children's true nature? Perhaps, these would be more appropriate Not Back-to-School pictures of my kiddos.

She looks innocent enough, but what is she doing with that hose?

Perhaps Mad Scientist would be a more realistic name.

Good thing she likes to clean things!

This young man is much more likely to be found in a tree than wearing a tie!

Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, August 13, 2009


I decided that we needed a new chore chart with a new focus with our new school year. Last school year, I concentrated on the children having a good attitude while doing chores. We have a motto that we expect our children to follow: We want them to be respectful, responsible, fun to be with and to do things fast and snappy, right the first time and the adult's way. Some of these areas are challenging for our little ones and doing chores fast and snappy with a happy heart took a lot of time to train in (and still is not perfect). For this reason, we did not do a lot of chores last year. However, the children have improved a great deal, and I feel that we can now focus on doing chores to keep a clean, well-organized house. As we de-clutter, I am always telling the children that everything you own must be respected/maintained and that we want to have time/freedom to do other things and not maintain our belongings all of the time. Until last week, the kids did a morning chore and a 15 minute sweep with me in the afternoon. Now I am having them do a great deal more. We do not pay our children for chores. We feel that doing chores is simply part of being in a family.  A family pulls together and does what needs to be done. We do give an allowance so that the kids will learn how to handle money. I will speak about that another day. 

Below is our new chore chart. So far, the kids are responding very well. Of course, there has been a bit of grumbling, but not as much as I expected. One of the first comments I heard was "Where is Dad's name?". That child was reminded that Dad was at work right then and goes to work 5 days a week, as well as handling all of the yard work. He also helps, when help is needed, inside the house.

The room concentration column explains the room on any given day that we will clean from top to bottom. The night time sweep column is meant to keep the rooms on the level during the week. I've discovered that the bedrooms need more than 5 minutes at night. I have a feeling cleaning them up tomorrow is going to be a big undertaking.  Hopefully, as the weeks wear on, the kids will do a better job of putting things away when they are done playing with them. Hmmm...I think we've been working on putting things away when you are done since they could walk! I might have ambitious ideas.  Following this chore chart will not keep the home perfect, but it will keep things running smoother and we will be ready for guests at any moment. 

Blessings, Dawn

Monday, August 10, 2009

Party Fun

We had so much fun at a friend's birthday party this past weekend! They rented a 20 foot water slide. It was amazing how fast the kids came down the slide!

Tom Sawyer coming down!

Goldilocks loved the slide. She was such a dare devil.... It's nice to see her working her way through PTSD. 

Timothy decided to join in on the slide. He had a blast.

Little Red Riding Hood decided the slide was too much for her. She spent most of her time on the trampoline.

We might have to invest in one of these. What a super fun time we all had. We also met some new families with special needs kids that homeschool. I am hoping to have a great turnout in the Five in a Row (FIAR) special needs support group I am starting this fall. 

Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Friday Show and Tell ~ Saturated in Reading

One of our main goals this year is for everyone to become a good reader. One way we are going about this task is to saturate the children in reading materials ~ from games to Leap Pads to good old phonics lessons. Our dear one-on-one mental health worker for Goldilocks blessed us with 10 Leap Pad books and cartridges this past week. We already had three Leap Pads and a few books that I had found at yard sales through the years. The kids are in heaven with all the new books and are asking constantly if they can go work with a Leap Pad. 

They are doing a really nice job of playing the games and sounding out the words instead of letting the machine do all the work.

I am also busy making file folder games. They are just right for Tom Sawyer, and the girls can do some of the easier ones.

While I am writing this, I glanced across the room to see this adorable view. It warms my heart.

Blessings and happy reading!


Sunday, August 2, 2009

School Plans for 2009-2010

We are a homeschool family with four children. Our oldest graduated this past May and our three youngest are in the primary grades. Goldilocks (8) is adopted and has RAD and FASD. She has many learning challenges and keeps me challenged trying to teach her the same thing over and over again without boring her to tears. Tom Sawyer (7) is also adopted and has loads of Sensory and occupational therapy (OT) issues. We are really busy taking him to different therapies. He is also very bright and demands that "school" be done constantly. He is super eager to know everything! Little Red Riding Hood (5) is our youngest. She is a good little learner. However, she would rather be playing with her dolls and practicing being a mommy! During lessons, she often asks whether or not she needs to know this to be a mommy.

We are back to full-time school and all is going well, so far. I am hoping that this year will be smoother and more fun than last year. It feels strange to have a graduate and only have the primary grades to teach. This year I am teaching "only" two grades.  Hooray!! Goldilocks (8) and Little Red Riding Hood (5) will be doing first grade math and language arts and Tom Sawyer (7) will be doing second grade math and language arts. The rest of the subjects will be done with all of them. Also, Tom Sawyer will be doing Latin and cursive on his own, unless anyone else wants to join in.

I want to add in two more Charlotte Mason lessons this year. We will start Nature Journals and studying Shakespeare. We do have a lot of plans and books for this year, but we will not be doing them all at once. We homeschool every day of the year, so it isn't that overwhelming when spread out over an entire year. Here is our school plan.

Language Arts -
Math  -
Literature -

For literature we will be using FIAR books with our support group, chapter books at tea time, and two Shakespeare plays. Here is our list of chapter books so far:   
  • A Bear Called Paddington    
  • Gullivar's Adventures in Lilliput    
  • Five Peppers and How They Grew    
  • The Black Stallion    
  • Page Boy for King Arthur    
  • Emil and The Detectives    
  • The Railway Children    
  • The Family Under the Bridge
History -  
  • Story of The World Vol. 2    
  • Biographies of people during time period    
  • Related books to time period    
  • We are hoping to take a trip to a Renaissance Fair this year
Nature Study -

We will be using the Handbook of Nature Study by Comstock and The Country Diary of An Edwardian Lady by Holden to assist us with our Nature Journals. We will also be using the Draw Write Now series.

 Science -

Following a classical education rotation, we are on Earth Science this year. There will be a bit more biology added in as well. We will be doing unit studies that last about two months each.   
  • July/August - Earthquakes and Volcanoes    
  • Sept./Oct. - Oceans and Beach life    
  • Nov. - Glaciers and Artic life    
  • Dec./Jan. - Astronomy    
  • Feb./March - Rain/Snow/Wild Weather    
  • April/May - Geology
Art  -

We will do art similar to science with unit studies. However, we will follow the time periods of our Story of the World studies (SOTW). We will use books for each time period and artist, picture study, and the Draw Write Now series. We will also be doing art classes once a month at the local art museum.   
  • Byzantine art - Mosaics    
  • Gothic Architecture - Gargoyles and stained glass    
  • Giotto - 1266-1337    
  • Jan van Eyck1385? - 1441    
  • Sandro Botticelli - 1444- 1510    
  • Leonardo Da Vinci - 1452-1519    
  • Michelangelo - 1475-1564    
  • Raphael - 1483-1520
Music -

We will be listening to period music to go along with SOTW. We will also be studying the composition of orchestras and a mini-unit study on Peter and the Wolf.

Geography -

We will be using the book series, Legends and Leaguesand Holling Clancy Holling books. 

Foreign Language -  
  • Latin - Song School Latin    
  • Spanish - Spanish/English books on tape
P.E. -
  • Swimming lessons for Tom Sawyer    
  • Horseback riding lessons for Tom Sawyer and Goldilocks    
  • Ballet and Tap dance lessons for Little Red Riding Hood
Character Training -

Of course, character training is going on all the time, and you do not need a book to do it. However, I have found these books to be useful to read aloud and as reference material:
  • Managers of Their Chores    
  • The Book of Virtues for Young People - William Bennett    
  • The Brother - Offended Program    
  • Simply Charlotte Mason Presents - Laying Down the Rails
Sensory/OT/Speech therapies -
WOW! If you are still with me, you are a real trooper. Well, that is the general plan. I hope you all have a blessed week.

Blessings, Dawn