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.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Livin in America- ECC Week 3!

I'm linking up with My Father's World Highlights this week at 2 ladybugs and a lizard.

Does anyone remember when I started my blog and all the titles were 80s songs?  (Sigh)  Good times.  Today's post title gets a song thumping in my head.  Was it James Brown? Yes, it was.

Isn't the above just lovely?  For me it is. Something so simple has made my homeschool days so much easier.  My two heroes, Josh and Mister, put this Target bookcase together for me last weekend and it is in the corner of the kitchen.  It keeps our geography notebooks, my teacher's guide and plan book, and things like staplers and hole punches nearby and off my kitchen counters.  Yeah! And I love that I found Tiffany blue cubes to match my walls and give a little color and class to it.

As stated in the title, we're in America right now as we begin our exploration of the world using My Father's World Exploring Countries and Cultures.  This week we did some mapping of forest biomes and some familiar states in the US.  For art, the kids did Native American sand paintings.

Mister calls his "No Money".  The man he made, his pockets are hanging out. Empty.  No money.  What a funny guy.

It wasn't officially our week to cook, but next Friday we'll be on a field trip (weather permitting) so the kids and I made Philadelphia soft pretzels today.  Here they are rolling the dough into ropes.

Petite brushes the twisted pretzel ropes with egg.  Notice the dough on her face?

And here is the finished product.  I ate mine with mustard.  Brown-Eyed Girl tried it that way too, but decided she didn't like the pretzels.   The recipe called for whole wheat flour so they weren't as reminiscent of Super Pretzels.  I hesitated over this, but I wanted them to be authentic.  The Pennsylvania Deutsch (Germans) are credited with this popular bread snack, so I wonder if they orignally made them with whole wheat flour?  While I was snacking on mine, perusing my newest issue of the Food Network magazine, there was a whole page dedicated to the Philadelphia pretzel.  If you are in the City of Brotherly Love, you can get one in the shape of the Phillies or Eagles logo.  Or have a pretzel sandwich.  Or an ice cream sundae with a side of salted pretzels with caramel.    I think it's time for a road trip, don't you?

So my updated thoughts on all things homeschool:

I'm very very busy this year.  School takes a while to complete.  Three hours a day? Yeah right!

We all like the notebooking pages that come with ECC.  The kids like showing Daddy when he comes home and I like that I have lots of "proof" of what we're doing.  They are learning valuable skills too.

My kids are troopers. They are really digging deep to complete a higher level of work and to do it with cheerfulness.

My house easily gets in disarray.  But I find that it only takes about 10 or 15 minutes to restore order, and that it can wait til evening.

I am more and more convinced this is God's call on my life, even though it takes a lot out of me.

Thursday, September 13, 2012


It's so much fun to have an emerging reader in the house.  And one so excited to read by herself and to choose her own books.  Brown-Eyed Girl has been taking her Dick and Jane book to bed with her, reading it in the morning, and finished it up yesterday!  Only to ask with sheer joy "What do I get to read next ?" She chose Little Bear.  We went to the library and she sat on my lap reading  Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems.  His books are so fun, they aren't work to read.

This is one of those times of wonder. And I get to be a captive audience to it.

Friday, September 7, 2012

My Father's World Highlights Week 2 / First Cousins Co-Op

This week I'm participating in the first MFW Highlights of the school year, which can be joined or peeked at over at Discover Their Gifts or 2 ladybugs and a lizard weekly.  I am really enjoying the community that comes with My Father's World curriculum.  I haven't met a lot of other homeschoolers since moving (almost a year ago!) and I miss my comrades "back home".  Making new friends via the Internet and blogosphere is such a blessing to me.

Today marks the end of our two week introduction to ECC (Exploring Countries and Cultures).  We read some great books including Maps and Globes and How to Bake an Apple Pie and See the World.  Somewhere, on someone's blog, I saw this great activity (above) for helping children understand their place in the world.  It was created to go with the book Me on the Map but I used From Here to There by Margery Cuyler instead and it was a perfect combo. Seven circles get gradually larger, representing the home, street, city, state, country, continent and planet where we live.  I found the PDF download for the circles created by TeachMama.

The kids really enjoyed this activity.  We also created a map of our town on the white board.  They added features to it and made up their own key to they symbols.

We began Kingdom Tales by David and Karen Mains and it is a knock-out!  I get teary eyed with each story, and the kids beg for more.  Mister said "This is a really good book!".  We also finished The Lion the Witch and Wardrobe and get to watch the movie for Movie Night tonight!   We have both the BBC version and the Disney version. Mister respectfully asked for the one where the beavers aren't wearing costumes, because it's "cooler". Guess which one that is?

I posted earlier this week about Josh helping the kiddos create their earthworm niche. Well, I think our worms are dead. But they lived long enough so that we could see some of the tunnels they created and begin to get a glimpse of how they turn the soil.

I grabbed this great alternative to the Hands Around the World paper dolls activity from 2 ladybugs and a lizard's post on Week 2 of ECC when they did it.  Above is Brown-Eyed-Girl's and below is Mister's.  I made one too.  I love art with the kids.  We used oil crayons to blend lots of different skin shades, reminding us that God loves and created all the people of the world.

My post about week 1 ended with my initial thoughts on our new curriculum. Incredibly, this is my sixth (wow!) year of homeschooling.  I have to admit I was a little surprised by how rigorous My Father's World is and I felt rather weary after our first week.  However, I didn't take into consideration that main fact- it was our FIRST week back.  We're all getting over the more lax days of summer and trying to get into our school year groove.  I'm happy, so happy, to say that this week was so much smoother and I am already seeing a lot of improvement in both attitude and skills.  Brown-Eyed Girl is sailing through her copywork and forming her letters more correctly.  Mister is such a trooper and is much more independent than I remember him being in some areas.  Petite just loves to be part of the action.

To help improve attitudes and break the vicious cycle of complaining, I instituted an idea I saw on another blog by someone, somewhere.  Each kiddo has two jars,one for good attitudes, one for bad.  For each thing they are asked to do, if  approached and completed with a good attitude, they get a marble in the jar.  Or if they have a poor attitude, it goes in the other jar.  If the good attitudes outweigh the bad, they get 30 minutes of DS or computer time.  Which is apparently a very valuable commodity because they are extremely motivated to keep a positive attitude!

Now, I could (and I did) hyper analyze what this whole system is teaching them about God- that as long as you do more good than bad, then you're okay- but honestly, my kiddos simply need to learn good habits and I think a little incentive is very helpful.  We talked about how this is not God's system.  He is looking at our hearts.  We have all fallen short, we all need Jesus.

And I think we all need a little reward to look forward to if it is well-earned :)

I may not have my homeschool cohorts from back home, but I do have my sister-in-law nearby and we both just "happen" to be doing ECC this year.  Jen loved doing Adventures last year and MFW is a great fit for her.  We decided to create our own Cousins Co-Op on Fridays. Today was the first "meeting" and what a treat!

The kids decorated a huge world cookie.  Jen and I didn't touch it except for helping them to hold the squeeze nozzle on the frosting. This is all their work.

After the world cake, everyone made a batch of goo (fondly called Flarp) and had too much fun making... noises with it.

The recipe for this goo came from Kid Concoctions. It's really easy and requires only school glue, borax, tempera paint or food coloring, and water.

In one large bowl, mix 1 cup of water with 1 cup of glue.  Add 6 or 7 drops of food coloring or a squirt of tempera paint.

In a second large bowl, mix 1 1/3 cup of hot water with 4 tsp of borax powder until it is dissolved.  Slowly pour the glue mixture into the borax mixture.  And you'll get goo.  Take it out and knead it. You'll need some paper towel to sop up excess water and a container to keep your goo in.

While the girls made their goo, the boys put together the world GeoPuzzle with the help of Auntie Jen. Our first Cousins Co-Op was a hit.  We plan to have it the second Friday of each unit and do the cooking and some other fun projects together.

This is one of the longest posts ever, so I may have to separate MFW Highlights from Cousins Co-Op in the future.  If  you made it to the end, thanks!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

First Full Week of School

 School is in for autumn!  It may not officially be the fall season, but now that Labor Day is over, to me, summer has ended.  We'll still savor some warm days, but I have to be honest- it's easier to get a school day rolling when the skies aren't so sunny and the beach isn't luring you out the door.  We made it through our first week of a new curriculum, not that I was afraid we wouldn't.  But we're definitely on a learning curve. Brown-Eyed-Girl is getting used to copywork.  I can't wait to see how her handwriting improves over the next months.

 Mister is fairly seasoned at penmanship (although we have yet to tackle cursive).  There is a lot of copywork this year as they each keep a memory verse notebook (shown here, will illustrations for John 3:16), a geography vocabulary list, and character trait list based on Hero Tales.  (Many thanks to MamaJenn for her free printables we're using for the latter two).

 Petite got some great educational toys to keep her busy while her older brother and sister are doing school work.  She loves this one and can do it completely independently.  I love Melissa and Doug toys!  I will say Little Miss was a bit of a handful last week.  I'm trying hard to take time out of our day to spend with her and  read and play.

In my quest to make school "fun" I stole my S-I-L's  idea to get everyone spelling with Scrabble Cheez-Its during snack time.

 Since graduating to a big girl bed ( against MY will) Petite has not been napping much, which can make for a very very long... long  afternoon when she is cranky.  But she seems to like sleeping in mama's bed a little better and I was able to get her to nap in what we call the "Nest".  She's so adorable.

 We're using the Answers in Genesis book Properties of Ecosystems this year for science.  I've used  two other books in this series and was happy with them.. This particular one doesn't have a beginners level so I'll be modifying some of the material.  One of the projects was to make an earthworm niche.  Thankfully Josh was home to do this with them because, yes, I am all girl, and I do not touch worms.  A jar was layered with dark dirt, sand, and oatmeal, and the worms added. We're already seeing the tunnels the worms are making.

 Petite just enjoys covering herself with dirt.
Ew... gross.  But the kids think this is pretty cool.

So my thoughts after our first week of My Father's World Exploring Countries and Cultures?

Um, wow.  This is a rigorous course.  I'm not used to doing Social Studies and Science on the same days.  I know I don't have to follow the schedule and that I can block it out and I may do that.  When I was doing my own planning, I only planned one of these subjects per day and sometime each unit we did was solely social studies or solely science.  I don't think it's too much work, but it is definitely a step up.  I appreciate the notebooking and the hands on projects and that I have everything I need at my fingertips.  Because our days are longer, I've decided to tackle the three Rs first thing in the day, and then get into our core studies afterward. The kids need to be as fresh as possible for math and all the other necessities.

This is going to be a very important year for us, I feel.  I think it is going to set the stage for more independence in learning as reading, writing, and study skills mature.  I'm expecting now that it's going to be tough at times.  The house will not be Better Homes and Gardens quality for a long long time.  I'm not going to be able to give them something to do and walk away all that often.  I may not have a lot of time for other pursuits.  I say all this, thinking I didn't anyway, but realizing afresh that these kiddos really, really need me.

And I would rather do one thing that amounts to something than do everything that amounts to nothing.

These kids are really something :)