Saturday, December 15, 2012

Weeks 14 & 15- France

Yesterday we finished up our two week travels around France. We spent most of the time in Paris, because who doesn't love Paris?  Fridays are generally a lighter day. Mister finished his Singapore Math 3A book.  Brown-Eyed-Girl colored while I read to them from George Mueller.  We all felt the anticipation of getting school done for the day, because it meant school vacation for the holidays and the cousins were coming over.

As all this was happening in my home, the unspeakable was happening a few states away.  When I heard the terrible news of the Connecticut school shooting, I wept. I have to admit I was thankful my babies were home safe with me.  I have to admit I thanked God I could homeschool them.  I  have to admit the thought of sending them into this evil world makes me want to cloister them within the four walls of our house.

But I cannot do that, nor is that what God wants me to do. For now, yes, they are protected from certain things they would not be if they were in public school.  That is one reason why we homeschool.  But I have to admit that the terrible thing that happened yesterday at a school could happen absolutely anywhere.  It was not a school that did this, it was a man.  We could be at the library, at the grocery store, at the movies, at our church, and a man could walk in and do the same thing. 

My children and their lives are not in my hands. They are in God's.  I must prepare them to go into this world that has so much evil in it, but needs salt and light and the love of Jesus Christ.  I must do all I can to train them to be as wise as serpents but as harmless as doves.    I must entrust them to the Lord each and every day.  At home. At play.  And away.

Lord, please be with those hurting families in Connecticut.  Make good on Your promise to make beauty out of ashes and to use all things for good.  What Satan meant for evil, may You use for good.

France is known for making pretty soaps in different shapes with lots of rich scents. We made our own soap out of regular soap bars, melted in a "double boiler".

When it cooled, the kids molded some into various shapes, and also cut some with cookie cutters.

We made our first batch of gingerbread cookies since we were making the Eiffel Tower out of gingerbread as well.  I didn't get a picture of the finished project, but the kids cut theirs out using a template and decorated them once baked.  We didn't even attempt a 3-D model, though it had crossed my mind.

We enjoyed a French feast together last night.  We didn't have real wine, but we did have some sparkling juice, baguette and hot brie.  So delicious!  I'm happy to say the kids loved the brie!

Brown-Eyed-Girl loves all colored liquids, so she had many glasses of the juice. So much so, we teased her she would get drunk.  Mister was believing it would really happen.

We listened to accordion music from France while we ate and I cherished my family sitting around the table together.  As popular author Karen Kingsbury always writes at the end of her dedications, I am thankful to God Almighty, the Author of  Life,  who has- for now- blessed me with these.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

First Snow!

I think I cherish my role as housewife and stay-at-home mom most in the winter.  I truly get to live out my title in my house and home.  The cold and snow outside is a perfect excuse to not go anywhere.  Our yard is a winter wonderland for the kids to play in.  I keep the home fires burning quite literally as I stick another log in the woodstove.  I assemble grilled ham and cheese sandwiches and boil water for hot chocolate.  Because it doesn't matter if they go out for two minutes or two hours, they must have hot chocolate when they come in.

I rarely go stir crazy because I love being at home.  I always have plenty of work to do.  And it's the perfect season for my favorite past time, cooking!  The oven bakes up more homemade bread and casseroles and treats than any other time of year.  My creative juices in the kitchen flow with excitement because it's not too hot to run the stove and everyone delights to come inside and smell the scent of what's cooking.

The roads are quieter on my street this time of year. The snow creates a cushion that absorbs the sounds.  Everyone drives slower.  The loudest interruptions are the snow plow and the general exuberance of three children.

Today was our long anticipated FIRST SNOW!  I enjoyed being a home body -house wife and the kids enjoyed some fun outside!  We had a hot lunch with cocoa when they came inside.  We warmed up by the fire and read books and played a game of Scrabble Junior.   Even with Christmas right around the corner, winter means we slow down a little bit.  When the days are sunny and warm, I feel guilty for staying in.  But when the snow flies, we hibernate at home.

By March I will be calling this same Winter Wonderland "Cabin Fever". But for now, I sigh contentedly as I watch the kids slide down the hill in the back yard and enjoy the sun as it makes the icy trees sparkle.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Weeks 12 and 13- Norway!

Another stamp is in our homeschooling passport for the year!  We finished our visit to Norway.

We took a week off in between our visit for the Thanksgiving holiday. It was much needed and much deserved.  We did take a field trip to the Maine State Museum. a place we had gone before but one that is worthy of repeat visits.  I didn't get too many pictures because I was chasing Petite all over the place.  But here are the cousins in front of some Maine black bears.

We had the pleasure of hosting Thanksgiving for both my family and Josh's. Here's the crew crowded into the kitchen right before we carved Tom.

It was a very exciting week off for us, because Josh got his first deer since high school, right in our back field.  I never thought I'd be the kind of girl excited about hunting, but here I am posting my beautiful family all bedecked in blaze orange with  Josh's buck.  He got skunked last year so we were thrilled to celebrate with him.

Brown  Eyed Girl's Van Gogh-esque work
My very favorite artist is Vincent Van Gogh, who is from Holland.  I actually couldn't find Holland on the European map because it's another term for the Netherlands.  The kids created landscapes in the style of Van Gogh, using swirls and paint thickened with glue to give it texture.  Van Gogh often used thick paint and the brush strokes are evident in his work. I never met a painting of his that I didn't like, but I was surprised that he only sold one of his pieces while he was alive.  Now they are worth millions.  I enjoy the two giclees that I own of his work and I covet more. This project was from the excellent book Usborne Art Treasury.

Mister's fine art "reproduction"

Earlier this year, Josh had the awesome privilege of visiting Finland on business.  He brought me  home an excellent Scandinavian cookbook, Scandilicious: Secrets of Scandinavian Cooking, which we used to learn about Norwegian food.  We made this Tropisk Aroma, or Norwegian spiced chocolate cake.  We used my kitchen scale to accommodate the metric measurements- so we had a great math lesson with this too.

It was quite yummy, though I overcooked it a bit.  That's what happens when you're a busy mom.

I was hurrying to get this published before we head to France tomorrow, so I'm sure I left out fun details and that this has horrible typos, but forgive me.  Again, it's what happens when you're a busy mom!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

My Father's World Curriculum "Review"

Sigh of joy and relief... we finished week 12 of school and we are breaking for Thanksgiving!  Things have been going great, but I was wise and planned for some time off.  The old teacher-mom in me would think, "Nah, we can keep going!".  No, we need a little vacation.

With that said, I'll get to the thrust of my post.  Quite a while ago, a blogging friend asked me for more information on My Father's World curriculum.  I am only a first-time user this school year, so I certainly don't know all the ins and outs, but I will attempt to share what I've learned and experienced so far.

My Father's World is an all-in-one curriculum provider, meaning when you purchase one of their core programs, you receive a complete year of social studies, science, art, music, and read aloud literature. The teacher's guide pulls all the included books together, schedules them for you, and supplies hands on project ideas, language arts suggestions, and more.  You add math, English, foreign language, writing, and spelling of your choice.  They sell their preferred version of these, including Singapore Math, Spelling Power, Writing Strands,  Emma Searl's Language arts, and Rosetta Stone, but they can all be substituted with your own preferences.

The cores follow a five year chronological history cycle.  They are designed to be multi-level for grades three through eight.  This means you can teach all of your children that are at this level together, however the teacher's guide has some work that is designated for "Advanced" students.

Other all-in-one programs include Sonlight and Winter Promise. Again, you purchase a core of books and receive a teacher's guide that outlines how to use the materials to teach your children.

By contrast, there are many, many home education products available that teach only one subject, such as Apologia Science, or The Mystery of History.  These often have teacher's guides available along with suggested teaching schedules.  You could make your own combination of these curriculum to create your own "core".

For the first five years of homeschool, I used The Weaver curriculum from Alpha Omega.  It is a unit study series made up of five volumes that move chronologically through the Bible, deriving the units studies from here.  Book suggestions are given, but they are rather outdated since it has not been updated since 2001.  It requires a lot of teacher planning and the purchase of books of your choice, or the frequent use of a library.  I personally enjoyed the planning process for those years that we did it.  I liked choosing the extra books to teach the units and choosing our own read alouds.  However, last year I grew weary of so much resting on my shoulders.

I have always loved the idea of using Sonlight, as I am such an avid book fan, and a book collector, and I believe it is a very rich curriculum.  However, it has not yet felt like the right fit for my children.  My sister-in-law used My Father's World for the past two years and found it very easy to use and very complete.  The first thing that sparked my interest was the teacher's guide, laid out in a very easy chart form for each week of lesson plans.  I just liked the look of it.  I have looked at many curriculums that are wonderful, but I just couldn't wrap my brain around the teacher's guide.  My Father's World is laid out very simply.  A list of materials required is given at the beginning of each week, a list of photocopies needed at the beginning of each unit.

That's another thing I love- the units!  Unit studies work great for me and my children. I love dwelling on one topic for an extended period of time.  But not too long- almost every unit this year in Exploring Countries and Cultures is two weeks long. Plenty of time to get a feel for our topic, but not get bored.  Hands on projects that are easy are given in the teacher's guide. I don't feel the need to do everything, though.

You can purchase either a basic or deluxe package for each core that My Father's World offers.  The basic package includes the books necessary for social studies, science, and Bible.  The deluxe package includes scheduled read-alouds, art, music, and perhaps some fun kits like an ant farm or magnet set.  Their prices are very reasonable because they also suggest a "Book Basket" for each core. In the back of each teacher's guide is a list of books by unit that could supplement the program and provide further learning.  It's a list you can take with you to your local library or purchase some books of interest new or used.  The packages provides everything you need; the book basket is if you want more. I love this aspect of the curriculum. I don't have to do all the planning, but I still get to enjoy picking particular books I think my children will love.

While the schedule is very thorough, I don't feel like we are doing so much school work that we don't have time to enjoy play, going outside, or work around the house.

The most important aspect of My Father's World, for me, is it's Biblical worldview and the integration of everything with the Bible.  Bible is not an isolated subject.  We are memorizing verses, using them as copywork and dictation exercises, and reading about great heroes of the faith and the work God is doing around the world.  This is not a west-centric curriculum.  In our 12 weeks so far, I've seen amazing fruit in my children's lives and my own when it comes to the things of the Lord.  This is irreplacable and this is why I home school.

Each time we finish a week, I literally want to sing the praises of this curriculum because it is not a chore to get through, or another thing to accomplish in my busy day. Yes, it is work of course, but it has eased the burden I began to carry in trying to do everything myself.  I honestly think "What on earth was I doing the past five years, planning everything myself!  This is so much easier!"  And it is a great fit for us.

I got to hear David Hazell speak at the Great Homeschool Convention in Hartford this past June. He and his wife Marie are the writers of My Father's World. They are former missionaries and Bible translators.  I had already bought my Exploring Countries and Cultures curriculum when I heard him, but it confirmed our choice for the new year.  To me, it truly does bring together the "best of" unit studies, Charlotte Mason, and classical education, and it's only our first year, and twelve weeks into it.

There is  a great community of families that use this curriculum.  It's fun to see what they are up to on their blogs or on the message boards. This is something I missed during my five previous years too.  It's a real encouragement to read about how others are being blessed by the curriculum too, and to get ideas for alernate projects etc.  My children love that we are doing the same school as their cousins and vice versa.  I think we all enjoy feeling like we have something in common with others.

It's very easy to do school on-the-go with My Father's World.  Several times we have gone to visit my parents and just packed up my Desk Apprentice from Staples with all our books in it and my teacher's guide.  We've had everything we need to easily get school done while we are away.

There is certainly a lot more to this wonderful curriculum than I can expound on. Again, it is my first year, and I have not used the K-2 programs that MFW offers.  But I think my thoughts are an accurate reflection on the grade 3-8 Family Cycle.  It's such a great fit for us this year and I would already go so far as to say it's our best year ever, partially because my own work load is lighter thanks to the wonderful teacher's guide.  Home education curriculum has come so far and there is so much to choose from, it can be extremely daunting.  My hope is that you find the resources for your family that are just the right fit.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Weeks 9-11- Brazil!

The past three weeks have been busy learning lots about South America, rainforests, and the country of Brazil.  The highlight of this time was reading aloud the biography of Nate Saint, a passionate pilot Missionary Aviation Fellowship who lost his life in Ecuador trying to share the gospel.  His story is inspiring, but what the Lord has done since and because of his death is nothing short of miraculous.  I personally watched the documentary Beyond Gates of Splendor made by his son Steve Saint. It is available to view on Netflix and I highly recommend it.  The photographs and video footage are haunting, but it is so inspiring to see how the Lord used something evil for good no one imagined.  The kids made a model paper airplane similar to the one Nate flew over the Ecuador rainforest.

We also watched an excellent documentary called Discovery Atlas: Brazil Revealed (also on Netflix).  It focused on eight different Brazilians, young and old. We learned so much about the culture, the religion, the sports, and Carnival!  Carnival is the world famous celebration held in Rio de Janeiro, of course, and we learned that is centers around the samba, the original dance and music of Brazil.  We listened to some samba and bossa nova music and made fancy Carnival masks for our own celebration.

 There was a Carnival mask project in Global Art, the book included in our My Father's World core, but it was much easier to print one off the Internet and decorate them!

We didn't have a huge Carnival celebration, but we did get the cousins together in their masks and Carnival costumes on Josh's birthday.  Nana helped Mister and Brown-Eyed Girl make pretty snazzy costumes featuring rainforest animals, piranha, and flowers while we visited her for a few days this past week.  We used simple white pillowcases for this project.

I also read the book Gooney Bird Green by Lois Lowry to the kids and they loved it!  It's a great, sneaky way to teach kids about writing stories!  They were both upset that there are no other books about Gooney Bird.

The next six weeks of our curriculum, we will be in Europe!  Our first stop is Norway, but I think we won't finish our travels through that country without taking the week of Thanksgiving off.  We've been  working hard and having a lot of fun, but we're all looking forward to a little time off.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Holding Back a Homeschooler- Part 2

 You will find Part One to this post here.

My son is a May baby.  I began formally preschooling him when he was four years and three months old. Up til then his natural learning delighted us. He learned his colors, numbers, shapes,and alphabet with hardly any teaching from us, it seemed.  He made up pretend play scenes, turned turkey basters into musical instruments, and had no trouble keeping himself occupied.

But in September when he was four, I promptly sat him at the dining room table and began force-feeding him an educations. Much of what we did was fun and gentle- crafts, cooking, read alouds.  But I suddenly felt the need to get him on the fast rack to learning and to start documenting it.

I don't regret having a regular time of sitting at the table together, reading the Bible, and doing a few workbooks. I think the structure was good and began to teach him that this was important.  It also helped get us on a sort of schedule.

I do regret how hard I pushed my son, particularly in math. It became the subject that would plague us most in coming years.

Things seemed to come to a head last year, his third grade year. We moved in September. For months prior to that he had been struggling with anxiety, particularly in regards to his sister.  An incident at church, when we couldn't find her and a friend, had visibly upset me. Since then he would be overcome with anxiety and panic in regards to her whereabouts.

Undoubtedly his emotions were in a state of confusion and stress when we moved. We left the only home he had ever known, his beloved friends, grandparents, and a deep sense of familiarity and security.  I can only imagine the emotional turmoil in my son. It began to pour out, particularly in school.

The most heartbreaking thing about the stress that was pouring out of him was the negative self-talk.  He continually said he was stupid, that he couldn't do anything right, that he would never learn.  Tears, outbursts of frustration, absolute dread of math ensued.  If I got frustrated, of course this only magnified his stress and negative view of self.

I was very near taking him to a counselor to help both of us.

But then I read a book by Dr. Raymond and Dorothy Moore.  I tried to locate a copy of their landmark book Better Late Than Early, but it was out of print and ridiculously expensive used. So I found a copy of the only book they still had in print, The Successful Homeschool Family Handbook.  It highlights their research and true stories of children who are not formally taught until they are older.  Their research encouraged formal teaching no sooner than ten, especially for boys.  They certainly didn't mean no learning, just not formal, sit-at-the-table and be busy learning.  This book was a life-line for me.  It began to take all the weight off my shoulders. I could slow down our formal school pace and relax.  My son would be okay- and maybe even better- because of it.  The Moores don't advocate doing nothing. They encourage study, manual work, and community service. Study can be reading aloud, art, music, coloring, whatever they are ready for.  Manual work is at least as important as study. It gives children valuable work, contribution to the home, and an outlet for energy.  Service to others fulfills the socialization "gap" in a most realistic way.

After reading this book, I realized we didn't need counseling. We needed to relax and focus on strengths. It was shortly after this that I had my epiphany about keeping him back a year.  After Christmas break, I gave my son a level two math book instead of the level three we had been agonizing over and I began to watch him blossom.  The hunched shoulders of oppression were lifted, along with his head.  Math became "easy" some days.

I chucked the outstanding spelling program that got tons of accolades. It just didn't work for us.  I  made the executive decision that we didn't need spelling that year.

I began to discern a reading problem, too. It took me a while to put my finger on it, but it once again came down to maturity. He is an excellent reader and always has been, but chapter books are difficult for him. Their length makes him anxious right off the bat.  When he's anxious, he can't think as clearly and his attitude becomes negative. It's a vicious cycle. He can always be found reading picture books while eating breakfast or lunch, though. At this stage of maturity, he needed an end in sight; to be able to get the whole story quickly, not spread out over ten chapters.  I let him start choosing his own reading material.  It was Frog and Toad, picture books, and Bible stories.  Things below his reading level, but not elevating his stress level.

A huge weight was lifted when we decided our son would remain a third grader for another year.  It was purely psychological for me. I didn't have to stress to get him to fourth grade math.  I realize it's debatable what is third or fourth grade work.  Curriculums for homeschooling are based on different methodologies and styles. Not all are leveled by grade.  One very popular and successful math program is often accused of being light and a grade level behind. But it's saved many a homeschool mom and student in the math department. My children use two different English curriculum.  One is a classical approach, the other is a very gentle Charlotte Mason style approach.  My son would probably be three levels higher in the Charlotte Mason style book than he is the classical.

We didn't make the decision to hold him back a year based on the level of curriculum he was using, though I think he is doing very good third grade work at present.  We made this decision first of all because this what the Lord led us to do.  Secondly, this was a maturity issue, not an output issue.  While I love to think I will homeschool all the way through high school, my son will undoubtedly be involved with public school peers either in sports, clubs or individual classes.  Josh and I discussed that there could only be benefits to our son having an extra year before being grouped as a middle schooler or high school student.  Not to get a leg up on his peers, but to grow in maturity.  It would be far more traumatic to hold him back from high school than it would be fourth grade.

I'm not making the case for anyone to hold their child back a grade. I'm not saying level of works is the primary indicator of grade. I think the opposite.  Maturity and development has more to do with grade, since we seem to have to classify it to some degree.

We have seen so much confirmation that we did the right thing.  Academically, he is progressing with more natural ease and far less stress.  I hear a lot less negative self talk from him. He has more feelings of success and consequently his creative expression is flourishing too. He's been writing and illustrating books, drawing more elaborate and detailed pictures, building more detailed projects with Legos and Dominoes.  I can see the weight lifted from him. I hear him complimenting himself more, praising his work instead of condemning it.

I find we are right where we should be.  I'm not comparing us and how we home educate to others nearly as much as I used to.  I've been able to take my eyes off output and see the unique and special gifts my children have, slowly being unwrapped.

I have just one more "part" to this story I want to share in a future post. Until then, hope you are encouraged and blessed.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Holding Back a Homeschooler- Part 1

The majority of this post was written about nine months ago in a spiral notebook by hand.  

Three days before Christmas, it dawned on me.  Hold (my son) back a year. Just do it.

Where did this idea even come from? I was cleaning my kitchen when it hit me. I don't think I was even thinking about school, our math stress, or anything related.

I was watching my three children hover around the TV, watching Blues Clues.  (My youngest) had a new interest in it.  But my older two were just as pleased to watch it. My six-year-old.  And my eight-year-old.  I was reminded how sweet- and unique- it is, that an eight-year-old boy would enjoy Blues Clues.  I smiled at them.

And that's when it came to me. Hold him back a year. Just do it.

It's not as if this came out of nowhere.  Several months before, on a day of complete frustration and panic with my homeschooling endeavor and my oldest child, I began searching the Internet for help and encouragement.  Google is my best online friend.  I think my search was for "emotionally immature child homeschooling". I knew I could turn up a plethora of information if I left off the word "homeschooling" but what I was anxious for was relief and encouragement from my home educating cohorts that this was okay, that others had experienced this in their homes as well.

I'll be honest, I got no such relief.  Everything my search turned up was the exact opposite of what I was experiencing- and the typical response you get from homeschoolers if you try to question their success.

Homeschooled children are more mature emotionally, socially, spiritually.

Academically, home educated children surpass their public-school peers.

"My home educated child finished all their course work at 16 and began taking college courses."

Over and over, this is the kind of stuff I found. It made me feel worse- yet I knew there were other homeschooling parents experiencing the opposite of these stereotypes.  But why wasn't anyone rising up and admitting it?

The most helpful articles I found were on the blog of Dr. Susan WiseBauer, author of the highly respected The Well Trained Mind and The Story of the World series (which my own children and I love).  Susan's four part article made a case for the "gap year"- a year between high school graduation and freshman year of college. A year taken purposely to gain experience and maturity before entering college.   As a professor at William and Mary, Bauer says she can always recognize the 18-year-old student from the 19-year-old- and it's a positive difference. Her own son, home educated, decided to take a gap year after looking at his high school transcript and finding it a little light.  Bauer agreed. (And can I just say that was encouragement in and of itself?  That Susan WiseBauer had a son with a "light" high school transcript.)

So while I could find nothing to help me figure out what to do with our struggles- which really do boil down to emotional immaturity- I certainly tossed the idea of holding Caleb back around in my mind- for about two seconds.

Because then all the other typical home school arguments entered my head.

Grade level doesn't matter.

He'll catch up.

What about all the work you've done?

What about your pride? (Okay, that was my own argument.)

I began praying more for my son, asking for wisdom, praying for the right tools to help both of us.  I longed to relax and simply enjoy the sweeter aspects of his immaturity- like Blues Clues, Winnie-the-Pooh, his sensitivity to others' emotions- instead of worrying about him.  I longed to let go of the pressure to get through his third grade math book so he could start his fourth grade book right on schedule next year. I just wanted to relax and enjoy our school year -period.  Snuggle up and read, let them paint, do the gentle things they enjoy.  Instead of drilling in math problems, spelling words, and handwriting practice.  I don't want to be a drill sergeant. I want to be a mom.

I recognize this pressure is mostly created by myself. But can I be honest and say the homeschool community frequently- if not purposely- creates pressure too. They get so defensive about how successful homeschooling is to convince outsiders- while alienating some of their own by creating false images.

There are honest homeschoolers out there and there is help for struggling students and parents. But I failed to turn up the help I need that day on the internet- which should have got me thinking that maybe the Lord was going to use me to be somebody else's help.

So back to three days before Christmas, when I think yes- hold him back. Just do it. Can I express the peace that washed over me? Can I tell you that this is exactly what I had prayed for- wisdom from on high!  Can I also admit that yes, it messes with my pride a little. I'm in my fifth year of home schooling. I have never slacked off, I've always gone above and beyond.  But is this really about me and my pride?

My goal isn't to get my children graduated and out of the house as soon as I can. It's to prepare them for whatever God has for them.  My goal isn't to merely give them a high school diploma at the end of their homeschooling journey- it's to give them the keys to a broad future.

My husband was completely on board with me when I discussed this with him. I can't believe how on board with it I am !  It's yet another way I see God's hand in our homeschool journey and I see how he answers prayer when we faithfully seek him.  He can give me the direction I need even as I watch my three children watching Blues Clues.

(End of handwritten words in a spiral notebook.)

Fast forward nine or ten months later.  We actually did this. We kept our son back a year.  I worried that the local school district would question me about it when I filed our paperwork, but they didn't.  I hoped that the fact that he was still in third grade would kind of fly over his head.  It has.  He asked me just this week what grade he was in and I said "third grade".  He said "When will I be in fourth grade? When I'm ten?"  I answered yes.  And breathed a prayer of thanks.

What I  have already discovered, about a quarter of the way through our school year, is that we made a very very good choice for our son.  He is flying through that same third grade math book that plagued him last year.   Everything is going much better, from English to spelling.  I am blown away by how this decision has made such a positive impact on him as student and me as his teacher and anxious, worried mom.

I plan to write more on this subject, but for now, know that we just did it.  We held him back.  But it's only served to move us forward.

O Canada! Weeks 7 &8

 This week I'm linking up with MFW Highlights at Discover Their Gifts.

The past two weeks we spent "in" Canada.

The more I learn about Canada, the more I want to go there!  What a beautiful country of diverse landscape it is.  Being Mainers, we're very close to our northern neighbors, although it used to be much easier to get over the border for a visit.

Some fun extras we did in the past two weeks included watching the first part of The Anne of Green Gables saga.  It is one of my all time favorites, but the kids' attention fizzled out once we put tape two in (yes, I still have it on VHS).  We also watched the 1966 version of Paddle-to-the-Sea (found on youtube).  We read the book last year and we all loved it.  I read Owls in the Family aloud and we all thoroughly enjoyed this book as well.  It's one that will stick in our memories, I think. I love the power of literature! We learned more about prairies, owls, ornithology, chinooks, and Canada and in a more memorable way than a textbook could ever tell us!

We spent a few days homeschooling during a visit to Nana and Pop-Pop.  I found it really easy to pack of our MFW curriculum and get everything done even though we were away.    Back home again, we did the Inuit Soap Carving craft from Global Art.  The kids really enjoyed this and did a great job.
 Brown Eyed Girl made a tulip.  Mister made a crescent moon.

We also had High Tea, as many still do in British Columbia.  It was a Tupperware/Fisher Price style High Tea, though we did have savories, tiny sandwiches, and scones.

B-E-G enjoyed the tea, Mister and Petite just dipped their food in theirs.

Who can resist tiny peanut butter sandwiches with a dollop of jam on top?

Exploring Countries and Cultures has a really fun Geography game included in the student sheets and teacher supplement.  We use chocolate chips or Cheerios as game markers. The goal is to draw a country card and place a marker on the map in the correct place.  Each country has a number.  You then turn the card over to see if you chose the correct place as  indicated by the number.  I learned all of the North and Central American countries and the kids have learned most of them.

One of my favorite parts of our visits to other countries is the celebration we have as we get ready to depart.  We had a great Canadian feast complete with baked fish, scalloped potatoes, and a maple pudding cake.  Everything was delicious.

We also finished our first missionary biography about Cameron Townsend.  I learned to do some condensing and eliminating of dates and redundant names to make it easier for the kids to listen to and we were all blessed.  Townsend is the founder of Wycliffe Bible Translators and the book  really showed us the importance of all people having the Bible in their native language.

Next week we take off for Brazil.  Carnival here we come!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Weeks 5 and 6- Mexico!

This week I'm linking up with My Father's World Highlights!

Our school year seems to be flying by. Okay, I realize it's only the end of our 6th week, but I truly look forward to each new day of school.  Studying a country for two weeks is a lot of fun and just enough time to follow some rabbit trails and not get bored.  We are loving My Father's World!

The past two weeks we spent in Mexico.  The kids got the first stamp in their passport as we crossed the border.  ( The passport is part of MFW- a really great idea).  Mexico is dear to our hearts because we sponsor a child from Compassion International from this country.  We write letters to Samuel and we have seen him grow and see the darkness in his eyes turn to light over the past few years of receiving pictures!

Pinatas are a Mexican tradition, particularly for Cinco de Mayo.  We had never made one from scratch, but we gave it a try.  Brown Eyed Girl made hers using a cereal box and Mister did the tradition balloon. I was very skeptical that the balloon pinata would work.  Paper mache is very messy!  I'm surprised Mister, who is a neat freak, was as intent to do this project as he was.

Surprise, surprise, the paper mache balloon held together and we hung it to dry.  It was soooo heavy!

In the meantime, we continue with our regular studies as well.  Mister is using Spelling Power this year and I think it is going pretty well. I like the philosophy behind it, I tweak it a little, and I have found myself surprised by what Mister can spell.  One of Spelling Power's methods is to do spelling activities that involve the five senses. Here, Mister writes misspelled words with fingerpaints.  He didn't complain :)

Once the pinatas were dry, painting began.  Brown Eyed Girl made hers a Mexican flag, and Mister's is going to be a globe. But I confess it's not finished yet.

  Petite is planking on the counter while painting.  Look how grown up she is getting!  She joins us in a lot of activities and has lots of things she can do to stay busy nearby.  She loves her school box, especially the markers. She can easily spend an hour coloring with those- and not just coloring books. Herself too.

Tissue paper flowers are popular at Mexican holidays, so we made a bunch. After I learned how to do it, which took forever.  I am so not crafty!  Once we got the hang of it, we made them in all sizes, made headbands, hung them from the curtain rods, and the kids decorated the staircase with them for our Mexican fiesta!

One thing that is making this year so great is that the cousins are doing the exact same things in school as we are! Almost daily, my kids ask if C & M are doing the same thing, and C & M ask the same of Auntie Jen.  This seems to be motivating to all of us!

We did the classic blindfolding and spinning the pinata whacker the number of years of their age, then went to doing it without the blindfold.  I took a while, the string broke (as I figured it would) and we ended up putting it on a stake, but eventually we got the pinata open and the goodies inside came out.

Later that night we had our fiesta, with homemade tortillas (more like gorditas, no tortilla press for me), lots of fillings, and guacamole, salsa, cheese dips!  We made Mexican wedding cookies for dessert as well as my version of churros.  Mariachi music was playing via the Internet.  When Josh offered up the prayer for the meal, we all chimed in with an  OLE! instead of an Amen.  Unit studies are too much fun!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Week Four of ECC

This week I'm linking up with My Father's World Highlights at Discover Their Gifts.

We had another really great week of school.  We continue to find our groove and I am more and more blessed by the hard work my children are putting in.  I already see so much improvement, and I think a lot of it has to do with a change in heart and attitude in ALL of us!

We were blessed to receive this basketball hoop from Josh's aunt and uncle.  I had actually been thinking it would be nice to have one, maybe keep my eyes peeled at yard sales, but then we were given one!  Mister really loves to play and is encouraging Brown-Eyed Girl to join in.  She was feeling discouraged so we got the kitchen stool out (which reminds me, it was a gift from the same aunt and uncle when we got married! Funny!)  and she had a lot more success.
 Sometimes a little competition is healthy, but overall, I am not a fan of competing.  I want the goal of my "team" to be to encourage one another to do their personal best, to strive for their own personal best, and to be committed to the success of everyone.  When we stop trying to outdo everyone else, we can begin to rest in our own strengths and weaknesses and let others do the same.  Mister shows promise with the basketball....

Brown-Eyed Girl shows lots of promise in art.  And yet we can all appreciate each other's work and continue growing in every area!  I, personally, am no athlete.  I'm no artist either.  Yet I feel like I have the freedom to play ball and create like I never did before, when I join in with my children.  We're not trying to beat anyone or trying to get a 4.0 GPA.  One of my personal joys of homeschooling.

As part of our stop in America, we all made a "quilt" block using scrapbook papers.  I made mine with nine patches and then embellished it.  I let the kids have at it, but in hindsight, I should have had them make a nine patch too.  Brown Eyed Girl saw mine and wanted to make another one like it.  Mister's quilt is a crazy quilt, I think.

You never know what might happen to enhance our homeschool journey. Thursday afternoon I went out to get the mail.  Mister was at the door and said, "Uh, mommy, what's that thing in the driveway?"  I glanced about and cringed. That thing was a giant dead porcupine.  It must have met it's fate in the night.  Ug.

I called Josh to let him know he would have a job to do when he got home.  "There's a giant dead porcupine in the driveway!" I said.

He was laughing when he responded. "I know! I thought you and the kids would want to see it, so I left it!"

"You mean you saw it this morning and didn't get rid of it?" I asked.

"Yeah, it's really cool.  There are some quills lying on the ground.  Go out and see it."

I did not take the kids out to see it.  I let him have that pleasure when he got home from work.  This picture is as close as I got to it.  The quills are rather cool, hollow inside, and reminding me of shish-kabob skewers that are burnt on the end.  The kids want to show everyone they know.

I'm happy to report Josh did his job and removed the kill.

 Mister has been such a blessing, helping me out with Petite a lot. She loves to be read to and he has willingly done this many times. She is so happy to sit with him.  He is a great big brother.  Math for him has been SO much better this year, so far.  He doesn't seem as stressed, can work a bit more independently.  He's in the book we began with last year and had so much anxiety and trouble with.  While I think he was capable of the concepts last year, he wasn't mature enough to handle them.  I had moved him back a level last year and things got much better.  I feel that he is where he needs to be.  Another blessing and benefit of home educating.  The age of your child doesn't necessarily determine their grade.  Not all 1st graders are 6, not all kids graduate at 18.
We got our latest issue of of God's World News on Thursday.  The kids love getting mail and perusing the pictures and games.  I love that it gives them a gentle introduction to news around the world, carefully showing them what life is like in other places.  Things like poverty, injustice, and war are big things for little kids to process.  It must be done gently.

Brown Eyed Girl has made a giant leap in reading.  I'm so glad we spent time over the summer in this area.  She is becoming so much more fluent and wanted to make a card file of words she wants to learn.  I am so pleased with her diligence and desire to read more.

This week's Cousin's Co-Op was a field trip to the Commonground Fair, a yearly country fair held in our lovely state.  For several years we have wanted to go.  The first two years the weather prevented us, last year it was the day the movers brought all our belongings to our new house.  Which means we have been here 1 ... gulp... year.

There are no rides at the fair. It's more about agriculture, organics, crafts, sustainability, etc.  There is a lot of wonderful stuff to see and do for the kids.  The girls made these cute owls out of felt scraps.

There are lots and lots of animals. We were frequently warned that fingers look like carrots.  Mister especially looked like a carrot in his fleece.

It's hard to see, and the kids didn't notice it, but we had their picture taken here because of the sign in the background. "Kids For Sale".  Naturally, it meant goats, but I'm not so sure it wasn't a little joke on behalf of the sellers too.  Brown-Eyed Girl is pretending to be a sheep dog. We saw a wonderful demonstration of sheep dogs earlier.

A large hill is a paradise of fun for the kids.  They repurpose some old cardboard and use it to sled down the hill.  This was a great fair and we will definitely return in the future.