Wednesday, March 31, 2010

April ~ Here we go!

As I sat down to plan the month of April, I knew we were facing a very busy month. However, I must admit that I was a bit surprised and panicked to find 55 events/appointments on the calendar! There are only 30 days in the month, after all.  There is only one day with no plans in the whole month. Some of the events are really special. Three birthdays, Easter, family coming for a visit, some field trips and the last day of this school year all happen in this month. There is also another 8 consecutive day loop of Tomatis therapy, numerous doctor appointments and the kids' classes. Yep, we are going to be really busy....

There are a lot of thoughts floating around in my head ~ finding balance, margin, priorities, homeschooling around the edges of life, child training,  building in downtimes, and how are we going to eat homemade meals every day?! But, the most important thing I want to achieve this month is keeping the JOY in our days. I want to remember what is really important.

Like taking walks and spending time with my family...
We have so much to be thankful for!

But, to keep JOY and PEACE in our days, there needs to be planning and preparedness.

The girls and I made enough homemade laundry detergent for the next 2 months.  We also made and froze six batches of gluten-free pancakes, gluten-free blueberry peach crisp, and gluten-free banana bread We also organized a menu plan. The boys (who are often in the kitchen) wanted to be outdoors on this warm day. They put away all of the winter sleds and gear and cleaned out the van. Cleaning the van was a BIG job! It was a mess. However, now that we have given up fast food (except for cold iced tea now and again), the van should stay cleaner.

I also need a bit of a reality check. A little reminder to me, so to speak.

A stack of papers on the table or the seemingly endless pile of laundry waiting to be folded is not what my children will remember when they are grown. What they will remember is Mommy greeting them with a smile on her face each morning, that Mommy was overjoyed to receive their little notes and artwork, that Mommy had time to listen to them and read to them.  So, I hope I can stay focused on getting through these very busy times with as much joy as possible and give a blind eye to the balls that will fall out of my juggling act. The important things will get done. I am so blessed to be home with my children and to have the energy and health to take care of them.

Blessings, Dawn

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Medieval Party

We finished up our studies of the Medieval Ages this past week. To celebrate we had a medieval party. Grandma was invited and everyone dug through the dress up or made their own costumes.

Grandma came as the Queen's mom and our son Timothy was a black knight. 

I was a queen of France, Goldilocks was the young Lady Guinevere, Little Red Riding Hood was Joan of Arc; and Tom Sawyer was an archer. I suggested he be William Tell, but he wanted to be a plain old archer. Daddy, who is not shown was a Sniggler. Snigglers were eel and frog catchers.

We started the evening out with a medieval feast. But before we could sit down to eat, we needed to make the butter. Everyone helped with shaking the cream, and we finally ended up with whipped butter.

During dinner by candlelight, everyone had an animated conversation about the medieval times we are living in. The queen was especially concerned about all of the silly ideas people were using to ward off the plagues. It seemed to her that they were all of no use. The sniggler was recognized for his very advanced sniggling skills. There was also much conversation between Joan of Arc, the archer and the black knight about the Crusades and the concern over a war breaking out between the Roses. (Yes, I realize that no one could live through all of these different times, but it served as a fun review.) Somehow, the pictures were lost of our dinner. We ate meat pie, rosemary bread, whipped butter, apple pocket pies and pretend mead (orange/lemon aid).

After dinner, we went outside for a few medieval games. We played Ring Round the Rosie. We reviewed how this was a popular game played by kids to deal with the realities of the plagues. We then played Three Throws. This is a very easy game that one can play with dice. You can use one to three dice. Each team throws the dice three times and whoever has the most points wins. This game was fun and got a bit of math in there. It was quite cold by that time (7:30 pm), so costumes got covered up with jackets.

Next, we played Capture the Flag.  It was the girls against the boys with the queen mom as the referee and picture taker. The boys won but only because it is really hard to run with a really long dress on! LOL!

We concluded our games inside with a few rounds of Blindman's Bluff. Some of us were really good at this game and able to identify who had touched us on the first go around and others really struggled.

We sang Sing a Song of Sixpence to Grandma and told her that in the Middle Ages cooks in castles would bake hollow pies and then insert living black birds into them. Much of the food made for the rich in those days was for entertainment as well as eating.

We concluded the evening with a show and tell of the kids' projects over the last few weeks.

This is the kids' diorama of life in a castle.

We learned  lots about stained glass and made some varieties for ourselves.

The kids also made a castle, Tower of London pop-up cards, and bath oils with flowers. It was a very fun evening, and we plan on doing more of these to finish up different historical time periods.

Blessings, Dawn

Monday, March 22, 2010

Hello, Spring

I wanted to try out a fun nature study I saw at Barbara's site. The idea is to section off a square of land and study all of the nature you can see in that one space. We had two wonderfully warm days last week, and I could not wait to get outside. I set up a space and told the kids to investigate it. It is amazing how much nature can be found in one little space. They saw clover, mini flowers, rocks, worms, nettles, grass, and a pine cone.

They had fun with this and even dug down to see what was under the grass. They quickly got distracted by worms and off they went to find more. At least they kept the worms outside this time. LOL!

Over the weekend, we took an early morning walk on a nature trail nearby. We came prepared to do a bit of a river study but found all of the unique formations of the trees to be more exciting. 

Little Red Riding Hood found the number 17 in two sticks. She was very pleased with them.

We walked about 2 miles of this trail. It was starting to rain and some were getting tired, so we left the rest of the trail for another day.

We went down to the river for a little bit to skip stones. My dh can skip a stone all the way across the river to the other bank. He is teaching the kids how to do it, too. Tom Sawyer and Timothy both can make their stones skip about three times. It is all in finding the perfect stone and flexing your wrist just the right way. At least, that is what the boys say. I was more interested in making sure that I did not fall through any crevices in the rocks and meet up with a sleeping snake. Tim, our naturalist son, told us that this was a perfect location for snakes, and we were probably surrounded by dozens of sleeping snakes. YUCK! Whose idea was it to come out on a nature walk anyway? LOL!  I hope you all have a blessed week and get outside.

Blessings, Dawn

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A Day in the Life ~ March Edition

Welcome to the March edition of A Day in the Life of Our Homeschool. I pick these days randomly to get an overall feel of what homeschooling is like for us. This day was a few days ago. I did not get all of the pictures loaded until now.
6:45 am -- I got up and dressed. I helped dh with his breakfast and lunch. 

7:15 - I had tea and breakfast while sorting through the neglected email.

7:45 - Goldilocks and Little Red Riding Hood got up and got dressed. They then rested on the sofa while they finished waking up.

8:00 - Tom Sawyer arose and all were fed breakfast. After breakfast they did their morning chores and watched one show on PBS. I rotated the dishwasher and laundry. I then finished up the paperwork for Goldilocks' end of year testing to take place later in the morning.

9:00 - We packed to do our schooling in the tester's office and headed off for Goldilocks' end of year testing.

9:30-11:00 - While Goldilocks had her testing, we did school in the waiting room. I had to make school more review today, since Goldilocks was not going to be able to attend lessons. The kids did word searches, addition attack board game, and a tracing exercise. They played Mancala and also a sequencing game where they had to put the pictures in order to tell a story about them ("Tell Me a Story"). 

Mancala is a good counting game that helps children develop basic strategy skills.

My kids are really struggling with narration this year. This was a nice change of pace to help them tell a story based on the pictures.

11:30-12:15 pm - We returned home.  We found Tim working on his outside chores.  I made lunch and the kids played. I ate my food while blogging a bit.

12:15-12:45 - The kids had lunch while I read to them The Apple and the Arrow - The Legend of William Tell

12:45 - 1:00 - Everyone folded and put away five loads of laundry. The laundry was a bit behind again.

1:15-2:35 - We went to one of our favorite libraries that is a fair distance from our home. The kids had a great time as always. This library has huge windows with stunning views of the mountains. It has nice reading nooks, too.

They have a really nice chess set at this library. Tom Sawyer knows how to play chess and Goldilocks knows what the pieces are called and which directions they can move in. Tom Sawyer got a compliment from the librarian because he was teaching her to play chess so nicely.

2:40 - It was at this moment that I realized Tom Sawyer was supposed to be at his swimming lesson at 3 pm. I was on a secondary road about 8 miles from the YWCA behind a slow school bus, and we did not have the swimming bag. YIKES! So much for heading home and calling it a perfect day. We had to pass our home on the way, and Tim and I ran into the house trying to gather bathing suit, towel, and goggles. By some miracle, we were back in the car in 2 minutes flat and got to swimming lessons only 6 minutes late. The teacher told us that her 3:30 lesson had canceled so he could have his whole lesson! Don't you just love God's little provisions?

3:10-3:40 - Tom Sawyer had his private swimming lesson. We are giving him private lessons because he has cerebral palsy, which sometimes makes his muscles just give out, and he still needs a teacher near him until he is able to do good survival swimming. 

Learning to dive from the side.

His backstroke is really coming along nicely.

4:15-5:30 - HOME! The kids settled in to watch a movie from the library, and I started uploading pictures for this entry. I made dinner and talked to my Mom on the phone. I rotated the laundry again.

5:30-7:00 - Daddy's home! We had dinner and free play with Daddy.

7:00-8:00 - Bedtime rituals and storytime. Lights out at 8 pm.

Well, Goldilocks and Little Red Riding Hood got away without reading lessons. It was a nice and productive day, otherwise.

Blessings, Dawn 

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

We plan to make Irish soda bread today and have boiled cabbage and potatoes with a touch of bacon for dinner. Yum!

We will also be reading these two books ~

 I hope you all have a wonderful day.

Blessings, Dawn

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Music Appreciation

I must admit that a music program in our home has been hard to get off the ground. It is not for lack of loving music. I spent 8 years of my childhood in a choir and studied the piano for a few years, even though I am not very good at it. The problem is that my ds, Tom Sawyer, has serious sensory problems. The extra noise of music, classical included, has set him off into meltdowns since he was an infant. He continued to fear music, even once he made huge leaps in his sensory issues. I tried several times to play an entire piece of classical music as is suggested by so many Charlotte Mason mothers, but the tears would quickly come. As he has made progress, he has started to like simple preschool songs,  such as This Old Man and Row, Row, Row Your Boat. His sisters have liked child-friendly music all the while, and this year Little Red Riding Hood started showing an interest in learning a musical instrument. So I wanted to try again to add classical music to our studies and get them familiar with our piano.

This time I used a new program that was literature based with only short parts of classical pieces. The kids were able to listen to a chapter about the composer and listen to a few short 1-2 minute pieces throughout the chapter. The kids loved it. All of a sudden they were asking me to play the same part over and over again. Even Tom Sawyer was making requests.

We finished Joseph Haydn, The Merry Little Peasant last week. We will start Ludwig Beethoven and the Chiming Tower Bells next. The music CD comes with two composers on it and then you buy the books to match. The CD also has coloring pages that the kids can color while they listen to the parent read. My kids really like to have their hands busy while I read, so this was a perfect fit and was familiar to them, since we use Story of the World (SOTW). My hope is that, as they become more and more familiar with classical music, they will enjoy whole pieces of music. 

To my surprise, by his choice, Tim spent his entire elementary and junior high school years wanting to listen only to classical. Of course, by the time he was in 9th grade, he was into rock and roll music. But now when he wants to be calm, he goes to his room and listens to classical once more. As a child, though, Tim had sensory integration disorder just like Tom Sawyer, so he would cover his ears to any other kind of music, even my singing.

For piano I moved the kids to a new piano program as well. I decided that, since I can read music and play basic pieces of music on the piano, I would teach them for the first few years or until they are ready to pass me.

The format of this program is nice because from the start they get to play some nice little songs instead of just scales and more scales like I had to play for months and months (sorry, my dear piano and choir teacher ~ you taught me well). However, my kids needed to be able to play something first and move into the meat of musical theory and scale work later. This program has three books -- the theory book, performance book, and lesson book. The kids do a little from each book with each lesson. I did teach them the C scale so that they could learn the process of keeping their hands on the keyboard while still moving up and down the keyboard. It also allows them to stretch their hands and fingers to begin the process of strengthening their hands. I think I shared this tip once before, but placing the handle of a long spoon or ruler under their palms helps to give them a resting place and let their hand naturally curve over the keyboard. This has helped loads with my son who has mild cerebral palsy and underdeveloped thumb muscles. 

The girls are not so thrilled with the piano but sit through the lessons without complaint. Little Red Riding Hood has been told that, once she knows how to read music and play on a basic level with the piano, she can move on to the violin, which is what she really wants to learn. We will see how much she really wants it. Tom Sawyer has memorized several songs and looks forward to his next lesson twice a week. I must say that is a change of pace. 

Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Wrapping Up the Year

We started this school year back in July! I thought, what with the construction on our home, we would have many interruptions with our school work. To my surprise, we stayed on schedule just as the house construction did. There were no major illnesses this year and everyone stayed on the level. All this means that we have only 5 weeks of official school left as of Monday!

So where are we and what needs to be wrapped up? Good question! Remember this post way back in August?  We did not do everything on the list.  I think anyone who knew us and read the list back then knew that it would not all happen. There are, after all, those wonderful rabbit trails to hop down all through the year. However, the core goals got done.
  • Latin--I had only planned for Tom Sawyer (7) to study Latin but the girls wanted to join in. Each has about 25 vocabulary words down and loves to sing along with the songs. 
  • Cursive handwriting for Tom Sawyer--Hmmm, we never got around to cursive.  Maybe, we will start it over the summer.
  • Shakespeare--We were supposed to read two plays. Instead, we read a Shakespearean quote most weeks.
  • Nature study and nature journals--Hurray! I finally got this off the ground and the kids loved it. We did entries about every other week in our nature journals, myselfincluded!
  • Language arts--We had lots of resources this year for language arts. Early on, I threw out of the mix A Reason for Spelling. We did spelling dictionaries, spelling games and instead. We are a Charlotte Mason family, not a textbook family. When will I ever learn?! We kept up with Explode the Code and Copywork. Goldilocks and Little Red Riding Hood learned to read! Yippie!! Little Red Riding Hood will have her reading party in just a few weeks.
  • Math--We really enjoyed Horizon Math this year, even if it is a textbook. We also got lots of "living math" books and real world math into our daily lives.
  • Literature--We did A FIAR book each month with our Five in a Row Group plus our Shakespeare quotes. During tea time, we read the following chapter books:
  1. A Bear Called Paddington
  2. Gullivers Adventures in Lilliput
  3. Five Little Peppers and How They Grew
  4. Page Boy for King Arthur
  5. Cole Family Christmas
  6. Leif the Lucky
  7. Chocolate by Hershey
  8. The Railway Children
  9. The Legend of King Arthur
  10. The Apple and the Arrow
  • History--We fell behind in history. We will finish up with the Middle Ages in the next few weeks and do an Explorer Unit study over the summer to catch up.  (Summer for us is May and June).
  • Science--We covered all of our science unit studies except the last one. We are supposed to start geology next week. However, we are going to do nutrition and cooking instead. My dh's cholesterol test results came back. YIKES! Also, we have fallen off the gluten-free diet more than I wish to admit. With allergy season upon us, we are starting to see ds meltdown royally with his body so weakened with allergies. So I am going to teach the kids proper nutrition for our family and learn some new recipes with them to get Daddy and Tom Sawyer back on the level.
  • Art--We studied all of the artists on our list through Botticelli. Now we are going to just do art projects for the rest of the year. We will resume Charlotte Mason style picture studies with the new school year. The new school year will start in mid-July.
  • Music--The kids really took to music this year. Everyone made progress with piano lessons and we studied the orchestra. The kids also studied Hayden as well as the music and play, Peter and the Wolf.
  • P.E.--Everyone enjoyed their out of the home classes: ballet, swimming, horseback and bowling.
Wow! That about does it. I look forward to a fresh start in July and some mini-activities over the summer. I will talk about our summer plans soon. I have so much churning around in my head at the moment. Lots to think about and plan.

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, March 5, 2010


A few weeks ago, I noticed some burnout in the kiddos. They were grumping about school and lessons were dragging and seemed complicated when they should have been easy. So I decided to change it up on them. I was hiding in the bathroom (because you know it is the only place one can be alone), thinking about what to do with the little grumps. My own need for chocolate seemed to be the most coherent thought passing through my head so I decided to do a mini-unit study on chocolate. It is hard to complain about math when you get to eat the manipulatives at the end of the lesson, right? I commenced to collect all of the books in the house on chocolate. There were several of them.
There were books to cover history, math, and literature! With a touch of planning, we were off into the world of chocolate.

All of a sudden math was a blast!!!

History and literature came alive in a very sweet way ... and the kids found their motivation to continue on.

After 4 days of chocolate, the kids were ready to return to our normal schedule and studies. While on our little diversion, they learned about Milton Hershey, who was a remarkable American; did three virtual tours of chocolate factories and the making of chocolate; and got a great intro to fractions, as well as counted, weighed, and measured chocolate. They also learned the history of chocolate and lots of other tidbits and facts.

We were blessed to be able to go on a field trip to our local chocolate shop this week with our homeschool group. The kids learned just a bit more about chocolate. They learned about the melting process and then got to decorate dipped Oreos. They also learned about white chocolate. I don't like white chocolate so I had never mentioned it.

Yummy!  We really enjoyed this field trip!  After the tour, some of our group went to a funky little hot dog cafe around the corner. They have some safe (nitrate-free) hot dogs for my little boy and a million fixings. I just had to share mine. 
I had tomatoes, Chicago neon-green relish, roasted peppers, ketchup and mustard. The man asked me if I wanted plain relish or Chicago. Feeling adventurous, I said Chicago. Have you ever seen such GREEN relish?? I think I should go back and get some for St. Patrick's Day. LOL!

Blessings, Dawn