Memorial Day Weekend; School and Life Update

This is just a quick update on school progress, and then a bit about family/life stuff. :)

Kindergarten is going well. I love the ebb and flow of business and activity in our home when we are working on school and chores and play. Monkey Man occupies himself well by digging out in the backyard in his “construction site.” I slather him in sunscreen and stick a hat on his head, and he’s good to go. It’s so peaceful to look out and see him atop his mountain of dirt, digging away with his little shovel, while the chickens browse in the (GIANT) weeds nearby. He hardly even notices them, and they only move away from him in order to escape the flying dirt he sometimes flings in their direction. Monkey Man gets completely absorbed in his projects; he works SO hard and doesn’t stop unless he’s thirsty… a lot like his Daddy.

Hula Girl is enjoying school for the most part. She is not a fan of copywork, but she will write sticky notes for anyone and everyone all day long! So funny. I have been trying to get a little bit of narration out of her in response to the readings. Narration is totally unguided and is a way to check for understanding. Charlotte Mason says students should narrate in order to solidify their own understanding of the material and that narration should never be guided- we want children to make their OWN unique connections. I will say that there are times when Hula Girl’s narrations surprise me with her insight, and there are other times when her narration is so obviously NOT correct that I feel the need to go back and re-read segments of the text with emphasis so she gets the point. This is especially critical with Aesop’s Fables. Haha.

I think our next big change is going to be switching to the Alpha level in Math-U-See. The Primer level is just dragging along and Hula Girl is becoming a bit restless as the concepts seem too easy for her after just a day’s practice, but then too difficult after a week off. She gets it right away, experiences success, and then as we move on, the concepts seem to leave her brain, and she gets frustrated when we have to do it again. So we’ll see how that goes. I think we might back off math completely for summer and then pick up with the Alpha level in fall.

Hula Girl’s dance recital is on Saturday. We are all very excited to see her perform; I have heard that the productions done by this studio are magnificent. Hula Girl is doing a phenomenal job with dance. Her class ended up being a bit too easy this session, but that worked out because her teachers used her in a leadership role. She has SO enjoyed the responsibility. She will be continuing on with this studio in the fall with a half ballet, half tap class. She is also doing a dance camp this summer to ease her into tap and rhythm a bit.

Monkey Man and Hula Girl are taking swimming lessons two days per week at the YMCA. We opted to put them into a private lesson together. They each get 15 minutes of full attention from their teacher, Miss J. Hula Girl thinks Miss J is something special. Monkey Man runs away from her. We’ve ended up having me play with Monkey Man for Hula Girl’s lesson and then having Miss J use Hula Girl as the demo kid while showing me what to do with Monkey Man for his lesson. It works pretty well. My goal is for Hula Girl to be able to swim and for Monkey Man to get there by next summer. :)

The kids went to my parents’ house for the long weekend. Jonathan and I spent our time at home cleaning, working on the chicken coop and run, planting some things in our garden, mowing and pulling weeds, taking down old dead trees, ripping out some fencing, and shopping for some new organizers and stuff for our closets. We also had our pastor and his wife over for dinner on Friday and went up the road to a friend’s house for dinner on Saturday. It was a productive weekend!

The kids’ weekend was really fun. My parents took them bowling when it was raining. The next day they went kayaking on my parents’ pond, scouting for bugs and critters (they caught frogs, snakes, crickets, grasshoppers, and all kinds of flies), and camping in my parents’ fifth wheel. Of course they got to have s’mores. :) The kids had a blast with Grammy and Grampy, and BOY were they tired when they got home on Monday! We got nice long nights and naps the first couple days home.

I’m hoping this week gets calmer. It seems to me that we’ve been going, going, going for weeks on end. I’ve also been sick for five weeks straight with colds and sinus infections. I was up all night last night, coughing and coughing. Ugh. Power through.

Carry On!

Whew! Has today been tough for everyone, or is it just me (and a friend who texted me halfway through the morning)? Things were getting along swimmingly and then at six thirty, Hula Girl decided to come out of her room to use the restroom. I kind of forgot she was in there, and at seven, Jonathan found her… with Vaseline smeared ALL OVER HER FACE. Then when he told her to go back to bed and wait for her sun to come up (on her Gro-Clock), she spent the remaining time with her light on, out of bed, cutting paper into a million tiny pieces all over the carpet, her bed, the furniture, and so on.

Breakfast was rife with complaining. “My pancakes are too hot! Now they’re too cold! I want more honey on mine! Go get me a vitamin! You forgot to give me another pancake and I’m still hungry! When will it be done cooking? I want MORE orange juice! I don’t like strawberries! I wanted mango! My chair is too far to the left!”

Schoolwork was completed with much chagrin. I took a stand on proper letter formation during copywork. She was writing a “u” with a line straight down from the middle for a y (see pic below). This is NOT correct. Here’s how that conversation went:

  • Me: Oops! Honey, you formed that “y” incorrectly. Why don’t you look at mine and try again?
  • HG: Oops! Silly me, okay! I’ll try to make mine match yours.
  • Me: Oops! You did it again! It seems like your hand muscles have been practicing the incorrect way to write it. Please stop writing and trace my “y” on the next page so you can learn to do it properly.
  • HG: But I ALREADY KNOW HOW TO DO IT!
  • Me: Oh, does yours look like mine? No? Okay, let’s try it this way. Trace mine a couple times and then try it on your own.
  • HG: NO! My hand muscles are sore!
  • Me: Yes, I understand. When we try to learn to do something better, it takes a few times before our muscles get used to doing it properly. Did you know Daddy went to the gym the other night, and his muscles are sore today?
  • HG: He did? He has sore muscles?
  • Me: Yep, and he LIKES having sore muscles. It shows that he’s been working hard. Let’s see if you can work hard and earn your sore hand muscles.
  • Then we made a few funny faces at each other, just to ease the tension. Next, she traced my “y” and wrote her own a few times.
  • HG: MOMMY! I DID IT!!! I WROTE Y WITH A TAIL THE RIGHT WAY! I LEARNED HOW TO DO IT AND MY MUSCLES ARE SORE BECAUSE I WORKED HARD!!!!!
We made game-show

We made game-show “Ding ding ding!” and “Buzz” noises when we looked at the top two and circled or crossed them out. The bottom row of y’s are her own. This was hard-fought, my friends.

I normally wouldn’t make a mountain out of this kind of molehill. But proper letter formation is a must when learning to write in cursive, which will be in a couple years. It also slows a kid down when she has to pick up her pencil just to form another part of the same letter! She’ll thank me someday, but until then…

After that small triumph, the rest of the day was miserable.

Hula Girl told me to SHUT UP today. I have one guess as to where she heard that: “The Dream” in Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad Together. She has not ever heard anyone say it out loud except for in that book, which we happen to have as an audio book. Apparently she decided she had had enough of me talking to her while I did laundry, so she went storming into her room, slammed the door, and yelled at me. Oh, my.

I calmly went in, sat on her bed with her, and explained to her that our family doesn’t use words like that. I told her that they were unbecoming of a young lady, and that she would have a consequence for saying them to me. She spent quite a bit of time in her room, cleaning and so forth, and then she came out for lunch in a happy mood.

It lasted all of four seconds.

She made her PB&J, with permission, and then I gave the kids some peas on the side. I turned to cut up some apples for them, and I heard a pea hit the floor and Hula Girl yelled, “Pea fight!” I took the peas away, and she ran after me, grabbed the bowl, and spilled them all over the floor. Her next move was to scream and cry and tell me that I had hurt her. How? “You held the bowl when I wanted to grab it and you hurt my fingers.” Oooooookay. Then she tried to hit me, which I blocked while saying, “I won’t let you hit me.” Then she hugged my waist and bawled while I rubbed her back and said, “You’re having a lot of big feelings today and you’re misbehaving left and right! Something must be bugging you!” And all she did was cry.

After lunch, which was very short, I put Hula Girl right to bed. I read her some poetry about self-discipline, table manners, and finally one about perseverance.

God gave me the poem about perseverance as an answer to a desperate prayer I’d prayed earlier in the day, during which I begged God to show me how to show her my love. After reading the poem to her, I was able to tell her that I would ALWAYS persevere in my love for her. I told her that no matter what she did, no matter how poorly she behaved, no matter what words she spoke to me, I would always love her. I told her that I love her more than she will ever know until she becomes a mommy herself someday. I told her that I was thankful that God let me be HER mommy, because SHE is exactly the daughter I need. She cuddled up onto my lap and told me she was glad to be my daughter. I was happy to reply that I was beyond thrilled to be her mommy.

It doesn’t matter how hard this gets. I don’t care how many times she hurls insults at me. I am her mommy, and I’m going to show her grace and love. I’m going to fight to show her Jesus in me. I’m going to win, because that is my mission as her mother. She must know she is loved and treasured and that Jesus is her loving, gracious savior.

Here’s the poem I read to her, but more to myself, which steeled me and gave me strength:

Carry On!

by Robert W. Service

It’s easy to fight when everything’s right,
And you’re mad with thrill and the glory;
It’s easy to cheer when victory’s near,
And wallow in fields that are gory.
It’s a different song when everything’s wrong,
When you’re feeling infernally mortal;
When it’s ten against one, and hope there is none,
Buck up, little soldier, and chortle:

      Carry on! Carry on!
   There isn’t much punch in your blow.
You are glaring and staring and hitting out blind;
You are muddy and bloody, but never you mind.
      Carry on! Carry on!
   You haven’t the ghost of a show.
It’s looking like death, but while you’ve a breath,
       Carry on, my son! Carry on! 

And so in the strife of the battle of life
It’s easy to fight when you’re winning;
It’s easy to slave, and starve and be brave,
When the dawn of success is beginning.
But the man who can meet despair and defeat
With a cheer, there’s the man of God’s choosing;
The man who can fight to Heaven’s own height
Is the man who can fight when he’s losing.
   
      Carry on! Carry on!
   Thing never were looming so black.
But show that you haven’t a cowardly streak,
And though you’re unlucky you never are weak.
      Carry on! Carry on!
   Brace up for another attack.
It’s looking like hell, but – you never tell.
      Carry on, old man! Carry on!

There are some who drift out in the desert of doubt
And some who in brutishness wallow;
There are others, I know, who in piety go
Because of a Heaven to follow.
But to labor with zest, and to give of your best,
For the sweetness and joy of the giving;
To help folks along with a hand and a song;
Why, there’s the real sunshine of living.

      Carry on! Carry on!
   Fight the good fight and true;
Believe in your mission, greet life with a cheer;
There’s big work to do, and that’s why you are here.
      Carry on! Carry on!
   Let the world be the better for you;
And at last when you die, let this be your cry!
      Carry on, my soul! Carry on!

The Chicken Dance

Wednesdays are always hectic in the mornings. The kids get up at 7:30, and we have to leave by 8:20 in order to get to Hula Girl’s dance class on time. This 50-minute chunk of time seems adequate time for most people to eat, dress, brush teeth, and leave, but TODDLER TIME is sooooo sloooooow. Somehow I put breakfast on the table at 7:35 and the kids still aren’t even halfway done by 7:55. 20 minutes into breakfast, and they’ve eaten like half a bowl of oatmeal and a few strawberries. I find it’s best if I just give them a quick breakfast and then plan for a larger morning snack than usual on Wednesdays.

Regardless of the hectic nature of the morning, yesterday I made sure to review our memory verse, read our poem for the day (“At the Sea-Side”), and pray for our sponsor kids. The kids so enjoy these activities at breakfast time. Monkey Man enjoys the poetry, and Hula Girl likes talking about what kinds of things our sponsor kids are doing, how the weather is where our sponsor kids live, and how we can pray for them. And of course both kids love the chance to show off their memory skills.

A couple days ago, I posted that Monkey Man doesn’t really join in memory verse recitation with the rest of us. Well, two hours after I published that post, kid was spouting off the entire verse. I knew he was able to do it, but he just wasn’t yet. He has decided to jump on board with family memory verses. It’s so much fun to see the kids gobbling up God’s word and taking it to heart. I even got the chance to correct their behavior using scripture yesterday when they were bickering. l asked them to say Ephesians 4:32 with me (“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you,”) and then I asked Hula Girl what she needed to do in order to obey. She stopped arguing, said, “I forgive you, Monkey Man,” and they hugged it out.

Another awesome part of doing family memory verses is being able to address deeper spiritual issues. The other day, Jonathan got the chance to explain God’s forgiveness through Christ. Hula Girl was asking, “What does it mean that God in Christ forgave us?” Jonathan explained that Christ died once for all, and that our sins are forgiven because of HIS sacrifice, not because of any good thing we’ve done. She liked that a lot.

Anyway. Dance was great. The recital is coming up in two weekends, so the girls are really just working on fine-tuning their performance right now. Their sweet teachers are great at what they do, but this time of year is just crazy with so much going on. We will all be glad when the recital comes and we take the summer off.

After dance, we went to Starbucks to get hot chocolate and then we went and picked up the dance teachers’ gifts and cards. Our final errand was to get Monkey Man’s hair cut. To say the hairdresser loved him would be a major understatement. She was amazed at his speech and how sure he was with himself. He wanted his hair to be short on the top so he could “put gel in it like Daddy.” He also asked her to blow dry his hair (SO funny to see a hair dresser blow-drying a tiny little boy’s inch-long hair strands!), and he asked her to put gel in it when she was done. She got a kick out of all his requests and so she indulged him. He was definitely spoiled.

When we got home from our errands, Hula Girl disappeared to her room to work on her projects (she loves to write notes to people and glue them to pictures she’s created) and Monkey Man laid down on the couch to listen to an audio book from the library. We had a hot lunch of soup and popcorn! Then it was rest time.

When the kids got up, we spent about 10 minutes on Hula Girl’s reading lesson, and then we read 20-something books from the library. It is so cozy to be snuggled on the couch with those two little people. Monkey Man leans his head on my shoulder while I read; Hula Girl holds the cat on her lap and drapes her legs over mine. We put a blanket over all of us (the cat included, we wouldn’t want to forget Riley), and we read until we’re out of books. It took an hour and a half yesterday.

Our final activity before Jonathan came home yesterday was letting our youngest baby chicks out of their brooder for a while. I tried to keep them contained to just a blanket on the floor, but they were WILD. We have five little chicks who are 5 weeks old; our “big girls” are 9 weeks old and out in the coop already. The “little girls” are not as tame as the “big girls” because they were older when we got them and hadn’t been handled as much as young chicks. They were literally flying all around the playroom, and three of them even climbed up on Hula Girl’s head. Monkey Man enjoyed fishing them out from under the train table and the futon, and I just walked around cleaning up any messes. Oy. After 20 minutes of that, we rounded them up and returned them to their brooder so we could all get some rest! Thankfully, Jonathan is in the process of moving them to their bigger brooder in the garage as I type this, so I won’t have any more chickens living in our guest room. Ever.

Wednesday was not very school-heavy, but it was certainly educational. Every day is educational, in one way or another. And who says academic lessons are the most important lessons?

Rainy School Day #2

Hula Girl has really fallen into the rhythm of Kindergarten quickly and easily.

On Tuesday, we worked on our memory verse as a family, and then when Jonathan left, I sat down at the breakfast table with the kids and we read our poem for the day (“A Thought” by Robert Louis Stevenson). After poem reading and prayers for our sponsor brothers and sisters, we turned on our hymn (“All Praise to Thee, My God, This Night”) and tried to sing along.

After breakfast, we worked on laundry and getting ready for the day for about a half an hour. Hula Girl was so funny, asking, “Mommy! What should I wear?” I told her she could wear anything she wanted to wear but that it needed to be warm enough to go outside. She replied, “Mommy, I can change to go outside, but I want to look fancy for SCHOOL!” Haha, she is really taking her job as a student seriously!

Once we finished our chores and got cleaned up and dressed, we completed the following work:

  • Literature- “Wolf and Kid” from Aesop’s Fables
  • Math- Math-U-See (MUS) Primary level, lesson 12D (dealing with place value)
  • Literature-Whale” from Just So Stories
  • Copywork- “tenderhearted, forgiving one another,” from Ephesians 4:32
  • Reading- Lesson 4

This really only took us until about 10, and so we were left with the rest of the day stretching ahead of us, full of opportunity. Since we’ve had such rainy weather lately, and it’s been so cold to boot, we spent the day inside. We made a blanket fort, we read a mountain of books, and then the kids had an hour or so of roomtime while I vacuumed and cleaned in preparation for my women’s book group on Tuesday evening.

After rest time that afternoon, we bundled up and headed out into the rain to go meet Hula Girl and Monkey Man’s new swim teacher at the Y. Hula Girl is a hesitant little girl still, and we’re starting lessons this week. I thought it best to go meet her teacher a couple days in advance so she knows who to expect. Her teacher won her over just by standing there; after all, what four-year-old isn’t going to be charmed by a young blonde teacher who wears an ELSA BRAID in her hair? Bonus points for Miss J, who happened to be wearing glasses, as well. Hula Girl loves glasses. She can’t wait to wear them someday.

After the Y we stopped at Walmart because somehow our coffeemaker broke last week. I’m still thinking it’s coincidence that it broke when we tried to use it after I had made coffee for the first time ever. When I made coffee, it worked. Coffee came out. Nothing weird. But the following night, it was broken. I didn’t touch it the night it broke. Let’s just be clear. :)

Sorry, I got sidetracked. I was going to explain how cute my Monkey Man is. When we went to buy the coffee maker, he was dressed as a firefighter, with the jacket, hat, and boots. He was also wearing a stethoscope around his neck, because fun. This older man at Walmart stopped and said, “Oh, hi, Doctor!” Monkey Man turned with his hands on his hips and said, “I am not a doctor. I am a firefighter.” The man didn’t really hear him, so he chuckled and went on his way. But Monkey Man kept calling after him, “Man! I am a firefighter! Man! Do you hear me? I am a firefighter, Man!” Bahaha. After that, anytime anyone stopped to admire his get-up, which was a LOT of times (cute kids FTW!), he pre-empted the entire conversation by saying, “Hi, I am a firefighter. Not a doctor.” They’d all laugh and he had a grand old time. He loves to talk to strangers and tell them all about his life.

Hula Girl’s First Day of Kindergarten!

Today was a wild success. When Hula Girl first came out of her room this morning, I was standing in the hall doing laundry. She said, “Hooray! It’s Monday! The day I get to start school!” It was all smooth sailing from there. (Kid takes after me- school is always so much fun!)

We said our family memory verse at breakfast, and lo and behold, Hula Girl, Jonathan, and I can say Ephesians 4:32 perfectly now, so we got to put it in the box and start a new one! (Monkey Man listens with interest but makes no effort to actually say the verses. I figure he’ll join us in time. He’s only two, after all.) Our new memory verse is Psalm 119:30. We’ll start working on it as a family when Jonathan gets home for dinner tonight. That’s what I LOVE about this scripture memory system– it’s something we’ve chosen to do AS A FAMILY. I might review it a couple of times a day with the kids when Jonathan’s not here, but we aren’t moving on to the next verse until EVERYONE (who is old enough) has it. And then we will continue to review each verse multiple times per month. Love it.

After our verse, I read the ESV version of Genesis 1:1:26-31; 2:7, 20-25. The kids did a quick narration, telling me what they heard in the passages. Then we prayed for our Compassion kids. Finally, I read “Bed in Summer” and we talked about how silly it is that we get up in the dark in winter and go to bed in the daytime in summer. Monkey Man then requested that I read a picture book to them, so we read Eric Carle’s Rooster’s Off to See the World.

We took a 30-minute break after breakfast to wash dishes, switch the laundry to the dryer, brush teeth and hair, and get dressed. Monkey Man HATES to get dressed. He would spend all his life in jammies if I let him. I totally get it. I hate real clothes, too. Jammies FTW! But I convinced him to at least put on some fleece pants and a thermal shirt. It’s cold here today!

Next, we spent an hour switching back and forth between the couches in the living room and the dining room table. We completed the bulk of our schoolwork:

  • Natural History- Chapter 1 from Paddle to the Sea
  • Math- Math-U-See (MUS) Primary level, lesson 12B (addition)
  • History- “Sword of Damocles” from Fifty Famous Stories
  • Copywork- “Be kind to one another” from Ephesians 4:32
  • History- Chapter 1 from Island Story

Monkey Man trailed along after Hula Girl and me and he worked with her unit blocks while she completed her math worksheet. He was actually pretty good at it! I quickly drew a couple of unit bars on his blank paper and asked him to match them with the proper unit bars. He got them all right on the first try, without counting! For example, I drew a unit bar with three units; he put the 3 bar right on top. I also asked him to “put some together” and he was able to add 1 to any number just by saying the next number in sequence. For instance, I put the four and the one down and said, “Put the four and the one together. How many units does this make?” He replied, “Four, five. FIVE!”

I discovered that I’ve set the right time allotment for our work, even though I allotted too long for some subjects and too short for others. It’s a wash. We were ready to go out for our nature walk at exactly the time I’d predicted, so yay! We went outside with coats and mittens on today! We picked some of the wildflowers that are blooming around our house right now. We talked to a neighbor who is moving tomorrow. We examined thistle plants and discovered some small succulents thriving in the middle of a rocky field down the road. Hula Girl’s favorite discovery was a patch of bushes with teeny weeny pale blue flowers. These flowers are so tiny that you can’t even see them from an average person’s perspective; you have to be short or bend down! The flowers have four petals and are at the very tips of long wiry stalks with needly leaves running the length of the stalk. Hula Girl decided to call them “fairy flowers” because they’re so tiny a fairy could pick them. And because fairies love the color blue. (“Like my eyes, Mommy!”)

When we got home from nature study, we sorted through our wildflowers, trimmed them, and put them in the press. (Our flower press is AWESOME. My dad made it out of two pieces of plywood that have holes drilled in the four corners. Then he put a screw in each corner and it’s all fastened together with wing nuts. The wing nuts screw down and press the flowers super tightly in between the pieces of plywood. Gorgeous.)

Our next activity was Hula Girl’s reading lesson for the day, which she flew through. I was glad to see that it was slightly more difficult than the first two lessons, though. Just enough change to keep us on our toes; not enough change to throw us off our game. When the lesson was over, the kids got to spend 45 minutes doing whatever they wanted to do. Monkey Man hid in the shower curtain (not even kidding) while Hula Girl went to her room to create some “projects.”

At lunch we talked to Jonathan and listened to our folksong. Then we read three picture books. Then it was time for me to put Monkey Man down for his nap. Hula Girl disappeared, again, into her room to color, write, and glue. When I went to get her, she had created at least seven different compositions. Here’s my favorite:

MomMom

That’s me, at the dentist. Obviously. And my name is MomMom.

After rest time today, we’ll have tea and do our picture study. Jonathan baked cookies for the kids last night, so they’re excited for their tea today. Somehow I can bake them cookies all day every day but DADDY’S cookies are more exciting. ;)

So, all in all, today was great. Having school in our lives helps keep us organized and pleasant. We don’t have too much time to dwell on the downside, and I love the way our day is designed to give us periods of activity interspersed with periods of relative calm. I can’t wait until it’s really summer, so we can head outside in the sun for more of our lessons!

*Kindergartenish, Here we Come!

*Kindergartenish– www.amblesideonline.com lists the academic levels as Year 0, Year 1, Year 2, and so on. There is no kindergarten to speak of. But, by golly, I want my kid to be able to say what grade she’s in! 

Tomorrow is an exciting day for us. Hula Girl is starting Kindergarten!

Yes indeedy, it’s a strange time of year to be starting school. I spoke with several teachers and students who are literally counting down the hours until summer. Haha! However, Hula Girl is dying for some intellectual stimulation, and I’m more than happy to provide it! I’ve been looking at all sorts of homeschooling resources. I’ve learned about different homeschooling styles, made pro/con lists to highlight each curriculum’s features (or lack thereof), and done a bit of soul-searching and praying about what I really want to see out of all of this. In my last post, I described some of the options I considered, and how we ended up going with the Charlotte Mason method.

Most of my posts about school will be written so that I can share our progress with family members, and so that I have records of where we’ve been when I look back on it all. With that said, feel free to keep on reading along! I’d love it if our journey is somehow helpful or enlightening for someone along the way!

So I’ll just jump right in with what we’re going to be doing this year, shall I? Hula Girl and I have been avid readers throughout her entire life. So when I visited Ambleside Online and looked at the Year 0 curriculum guide, I found that we had already read every single book on their guideline, along with all the extra books recommended by the collaborators on the website. So I called my friend who has been doing CM with her daughter for a few years now, and I asked her what she thought of me going ahead and starting with Year 1. She knows where Hula Girl is and she gave me confidence that Hula Girl can handle it. So that’s where we will begin!

The books we will be reading this year are:

History: Early history (55 BC to 1066 AD), and people throughout history.

An Island Story, by H.E. Marshall
Fifty Famous Stories Retold, by James Baldwin, selected chapters
Viking Tales, by Jennie Hall , ch 1-11

American History Biography

Benjamin Franklin, by Ingri D’Aulaire
George Washington, by Ingri D’Aulaire
Buffalo Bill, by Ingri D’Aulaire

Geography

Paddle to the Sea, by Holling C. Holling

Natural History/Science

The Handbook of Nature Study, by Anna Botsford Comstock

James Herriot’s Treasury for Children, by James Herriot
The Burgess Bird Book for Children, by Thornton Burgess

Poetry

A Child’s Garden of Verses, by Robert Louis Stevenson;

Now We Are Six  and When We Were Very Young, by A.A. Milne

A Child’s Book of Poems, by Gyo Fujikawa

Literature

The Aesop for Children, by Milo Winter
Beautiful Stories from Shakespeareby Edith Nesbit
The Blue Fairy Book, by Andrew Lang selected chapters.
Just So Stories, by Rudyard Kipling
Parables from Nature, by Margaret Gatty, selections.

Additional Books for Free Reading

Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White
King of the Golden River, by John Ruskin
Peter Pan, by James M. Barrie
Pinocchio, by Carlo Collodi
The Red Fairy Book, by Andrew Lang
St. George and the Dragon, by Margaret Hodges
The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams
Little House in the Big Woods, by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Pocahontas, by Ingri D’Aulaire

Other Stuff We’ll Do:

  • Bible: We do a week-long study of a passage of scripture, and we do fun activities related to the verses.
  • Scripture Memory: Our whole family is working on memorizing scripture together, using this awesome scripture memory system found at www.simplycharlottemason.com
  • Reading: Hula Girl can read, but not well. I’m taking her through Teach your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. Then we’ll work on some other reading material.
  • Math: We’re using Math-U-See. I like it. I figure we’ll finish the primary level by September, then we’ll start with the Alpha level. Hula Girl is good at math, even though it’s not her favorite thing to do. The constant struggle here is to make sure I’m not boring her with too much practice but that I’m giving her enough practice to solidify the concepts in her mind.
  • Nature Study: We’re combining this with drawing for now. We go for nature walks every day. We look at what God’s made for us. A couple of days each week, we bring our sketchbooks or clipboards and draw what we see. I plan to start using other media to record God’s wonders soon.
  • Handicrafts: Hula Girl has mastered the art of making pot holders on the loom. This term she will learn to embroider (HA, and I will learn with her!), and we will also be creating some beautiful gifts for family members for Christmas gifts.
  • Copywork: This is what it sounds like. Hula Girl copies sentences to practice her handwriting and to review important passages of scripture, lines from songs, phrases from books, verses of poetry, etc.
  • Composer/Picture Study: Each afternoon we have tea and listen to a specific composer while we look at pictures created by famous artists.
  • Folksongs/Hymns: We listen to and sing these during housework.
  • French: I am going to order the Nallenart “L’Art de Dire” curriculum to use informally. A good friend suggested we do French in a time when we’re just hanging out. I’m thinking we’ll do it in the car. Captive audience. :)

So, that’s a lot. What are we actually going to do this week?

Current Memory Verse: Ephesians 4:32

Current Hymn: “All Praise to Thee, My God, This Night”

Current Folksong: “Pick a Bale of Cotton”

Sunday (today):

  • “Sunday Stories” with Daddy- “The Terrible Lie” from the Jesus Storybook Bible
  • Reading lessons 1&2

Monday: (Mondays and Thursdays are the heaviest days as we stay home all day and can accomplish more!)

  • Bible- Read Genesis 1:26-31; 2:7, 20-25
  • Poetry- “Bed in Summer” (Child’s Garden of Verses)
  • Natural History- Chapter 1 from Paddle to the Sea
  • Math- Math-U-See (MUS) Primary level, lesson 12B (dealing with place value)
  • History- “Sword of Damocles” from Fifty Famous Stories
  • Copywork- “Be kind to one another” from Ephesians 4:32
  • History- Chapter 1 from Island Story
  • Nature Walk
  • Reading- Lesson 3
  • Picture Study- Van Gogh’s “Bedroom in Arles”

Tuesday:

  • Bible- Make people and animals from playdough, use to narrate story of God’s creation of Adam and Eve and Adam’s naming the animals
  • Poetry- “A Thought” (Child’s Garden of Verses)
  • Literature- “Wolf and Kid” from Aesop’s Fables
  • Math- Math-U-See (MUS) Primary level, lesson 12D (dealing with place value)
  • Literature-Whale” from Just So Stories
  • Copywork- “tenderhearted, forgiving one another,” from Ephesians 4:32
  • Nature Walk
  • Reading- Lesson 4
  • Picture Study- Van Gogh’s “Bedroom in Arles”

Wednesday: (This day is quite light due to Hula Girl’s dance class in the morning)

  • Bible- Narrate Genesis 1:26-31; 2:7, 20-25
  • Poetry- “At the Sea-Side” (Child’s Garden of Verses)
  • Literature- “Lesson of Faith” from Parables of Nature
  • Nature Walk/Nature Study
  • Reading- Lesson 5
  • Picture Study- Van Gogh’s “Bedroom in Arles”

Thursday: (Mondays and Thursdays are the heaviest days as we stay home all day and can accomplish more!)

  • Bible- Read Genesis 3:1-24
  • Poetry- “Young Night Thought” (Child’s Garden of Verses)
  • Math- Math-U-See (MUS) Primary level, lesson 12E (dealing with place value)
  • History- “Sword of Damocles” from Fifty Famous Stories
  • Copywork- “as God in Christ forgave you.” from Ephesians 4:32
  • History- Chapter 1 from Island Story
  • Nature Walk
  • Reading- Lesson 6
  • Composer Study- Brahms

Friday:

  • Bible- Felt board re-enactment of “The Fall”
  • Poetry- “Whole Duty of Children” (Child’s Garden of Verses)
  • Literature- “Tortoise and Duck” from Aesop’s Fables
  • Math- Math-U-See (MUS) Primary level, lesson 12F&G (dealing with place value)
  • Copywork- “Praise God from whom all blessings flow” from “All Praise to Thee, My God, this Night”
  • Nature Walk/Nature Study
  • Reading- Lesson 7
  • Composer Study- Brahms

Saturday:

  • Bible- Narrate Genesis 3:1-24
  • Nature Walk
  • Reading- Lesson 8

I’ll update tomorrow once we’ve gotten through the day to let y’all know how we fared! 

Homeschooling: Why We Chose What We Did

When I first mentioned homeschooling to Jonathan, he was not very excited. He grew up in the Nazarene church, and homeschoolers were those kids in denim skirts and matching polo shirts who won the Bible quizzing bees, hands-down, every time. They didn’t know how to converse with anyone else and they certainly never even thought one uncheerful thought in their entire lives. They built robots and did chores, sang hymns and nothing else, and probably all of them snorted when they laughed, too.

However, Jonathan generally trusts me and my research, and what I’ve found is that homeschooling is the right choice for our family. We want to be the main influence on our kiddos’ developing attitudes, faith, and outlook on life. We want to bring them with us to train them in compassion and evangelism. We want to be free to GO DO STUFF as a family (we’re stoked for future missions work) as well as staying home and DOING STUFF as a family. Homeschooling is an easy choice for us to make. The hard part was deciding how to do it. Spoiler Alert: We chose the Charlotte Mason method, and the curriculum guide found at www.amblesideonline.com.

I originally thought I’d go the Classical route with curriculum and methodology. I thrive in that kind of high-achievement, goals-oriented environment. Give me a task and a timeline, and I’m good to go. But I know that’s not for everyone, and my kids aren’t me. So I wanted to make sure that at the very least, I considered other options. As I went through the vast world of homeschooling on the internet, I came across unschooling, unit studies, and several other approaches.

Unschooling appeals to me because it really allows parents to help their children seek out their passions and support them while they pursue everything pertaining to a particular area until their curiosity is satisfied and they can find something else to learn about. I like the depth of knowledge a child can develop about any number of subjects and trades. However, as my friend Julie so aptly put it, “I know my own sin nature and I know my children have sin natures.” Unschooling won’t work for me (at least right now) because I know I’d be a little on the lazy side, and it wouldn’t work for the kids right now because… well, they don’t seem to be that invested in anything except for Frozen and tractors. :) Also, to be honest: I kind of need a schedule and an idea of where we’re going.

Unit studies are always fun because parents can teach all age groups at the same time and find cool ways to incorporate every subject area under one unifying theme. Families studying Egypt can learn about triangular prisms, deserts, rivers, mythology, art, zoology, technology, agriculture, Islam, astronomy, and even Joseph from the Bible. Imagine the projects that can be created and the inquisitive ideas and questions that can be elicited from the children! But as fun and exciting as unit studies sound, I just couldn’t wrap my head around the “how will I make sure we cover everything” question. Sure, we’d get a lot of math here and there, but math is something that I feel needs to be sequential and intentional. (I’m sure that anyone could say, “Well, just do math on its own! You can still do unit studies!”) Everything just seemed like I’d have to pull together an enormous amount of resources and do a TON of work every new unit. Blech.

There were other approaches which were kind of amalgams of each method. In fact, eclectic homeschooling gives parents freedom to pick and choose from any and all methods and curricula to piece together a homeschool experience that is unique to their own children. More power to them! I, however, don’t like to scramble for resources, and so I was looking for something that was more of a “package deal.”

The Charlotte Mason approach is kind of the last thing I’d normally choose. Like, if you had me and four other homeschool moms in a room and a set of five homeschool methodologies listed on posters on the wall, you would NEVER send me to the Charlotte Mason poster. It is SO different from anything I thought I’d ever be doing when teaching my kids, and it will definitely be a stretch for me.

Charlotte Mason was a schoolteacher in England in the late 1800s and she worked together with the parents of the kids in her schools to create a rich, nurturing, child-friendly environment for the children in her care. She emphasized quality reading material (no “twaddle”), Christ-centeredness, study of nature, observational skills, narration to check for understanding, and a general all-encompassing excellence. She outlined ways to build good habits in our children and ways for the children to quiet themselves to ponder a lesson, work of art, or wonder of nature. The phrase, “I am, I can, I ought, I will” sums up her philosophy briefly.

The Charlotte Mason method uses short lessons (plenty of freedom for children to play or to develop other skills each day). There is an emphasis on the children mastering many other skills, not just academic subjects. Books used are “living books,” those which have rich ideas and deep messages to consider, all wrapped in a package of beautiful verbiage and storytelling.

You guys. I’m not the flowery type. Charlotte Mason is flowery.

And that is the biggest reason I chose to use Charlotte Mason. I recognize areas of my life which need work. I need practice on my homemaking skills. I need to develop better habits of scripture memory and diligence. I need to read beautiful language and not just the language of the internet. I need to surround myself with God’s creation on a daily basis and to reflect on what he has made. I need to slow our lives down so we are always ready to receive company with open arms. I need to learn to appreciate beauty and simplicity and the loveliness of just being together with my own two beautiful children, day in and day out, without the stress of a super rigorous academic schedule. (Don’t get me wrong- Charlotte Mason is EXTREMELY rigorous as far as academics go; more rigorous than even the Classical curriculum I considered- just take a look at the list of books Hula Girl and I will be reading this year in my next post!) I need peace and quiet and time to cultivate beauty in my heart and home. So, Charlotte Mason wins.

I plan to post every day, mostly to keep family members updated on our progress. If you feel inclined to follow along on our journey, well, the more the merrier!

Jonathan’s Upcoming Surgery

Jonathan is officially scheduled for his surgery. This is something for which  many of our friends and family members have been praying with us since December. We finally figured out the root of his eye issues, so we’re excited to see how things go with this surgery.

We feel so encouraged about this operation. The ophthalmologist is going to make a small incision in the layer of tissue around his eye and then she’ll cut out a small segment of his muscle there. He had a major concussion from rugby while he was in college. This damaged one of the nerves that feeds directly to one of his eye muscles. Over time, that muscle grew weaker and since eye muscles work in pairs, the weakening in his muscle began to cause his eye to turn as the healthy muscle pulled stronger in the opposite direction. So the surgeon is going to remove a section of the stronger muscle in order to balance the muscles to work more smoothly together.

The surgery itself is a much less risky surgery than the previous doctor’s suggestion. Jonathan had seen a neurologist who said he had a malformation in his brain and that he would need brain surgery to fix it. Fortunately the good sense of the neurosurgeons won out and neither of the doctors the neurologist tried to refer him to would accept him as a patient– they both said he didn’t have the malformation after reviewing his MRI. Regardless of how we got to this point, we feel so blessed that the surgery he now requires is so much more minimal than the aforementioned brain surgery!

We also feel fortunate because we have qualified for an assistance program through the state of Colorado. We don’t qualify for medicaid, but there is a program for people who don’t qualify for medicaid but still have lower income. This program will allow us to pay the same total amount for both our surgeries (including my D&C back in November) that we would have spend on just the anesthesiologist bills alone.

Please keep our family in your prayers this week as we prepare for Jonathan’s surgery on Friday. My parents are helping out with childcare so I can go be at the hospital and support Jonathan through his recovery. The doctor said he can expect to be able to go back to work on Monday, with slight accommodation for his sensitivity to light and healing tissues. We are praying that the first surgery will be enough to make a significant difference in his vision so he does not have to have a follow-up surgery.  Also, please pray that Jonathan doesn’t have a terrible reaction to the anesthesia. He’s been known to vomit profusely after prior surgeries; we don’t want any of that!

I’ll update when the surgery is complete!

Cinderella is Crazy and my Cat is, Too.

You guys. Yesterday, I was sitting here in the living room, enjoying the first rays of dawn while typing my post, when suddenly my cat, Riley, came flying into the house. He had been out in the garage with Jonathan. I thought nothing of it as the cat is a bit off his rocker and he gets spurts of energy which send him sprinting up and down the stairs and meowing like a maniac several times a day. But then Jonathan came bounding in from the garage, too, and said, “Riley has a mouse!”

I don’t know what made him do it. Riley clamped that disgusting little rodent in his razor sharp teeth and brought it into my house. Into my house. INTO MY HOUSE! Cinderella would have been thrilled. She would have pulled out her miniature wardrobe and talked lovingly and calmly to this little former-field-dweller and been oh-so-exhilarated to have made a new friend. Not I. I did what any sane human being would do- I panicked.

I yanked my feet up and told Jonathan he better stop that mouse from coming anywhere near me. I cowered in my chair like Malcolm hiding from T-Rex in Jurassic Park. I had pictures of Riley tossing that little flea-ridden disease factory in the air and hitting me with it. As soon as the mouse got free and scurried behind a bookcase, I made a dash for the kitchen and jumped up on the counters so I could be safe. Rodents are scary, man.

Jonathan carefully moved the bookcase so Riley could get to the mouse, but Riley is apparently the worst mouser in the world, and he let it run… into the kitchen. You guys, I really couldn’t win. Of course the mouse scampered along under the cabinets, flashing his beady eyes and chomping his giant rodent teeth at me until he got to the dishwasher… then he disappeared. I was freaking out, imagining all the dish-washing Jonathan was going to have to do (NO WAY was I going to be touching those dishes after a nasty nasty pesty fuzzball had run across them and probably pooped and left every disease in the world all over them). Jonathan pulled out the dishwasher to reveal a gaping hole behind the cabinets. Great.

Fortunately the hole was a dummy and it did not lead to Narnia. The mouse was trapped and Jonathan was able to scoop it out of there with a broom. (Note to self: buy new broom.) Of course, Riley the WonderCat was absolutely uninterested in finding/hunting/killing the mouse by this point, so he just casually observed as Jonathan stepped on it!!!!!!! (Note to self: buy Jonathan new shoes!) Then Jonathan got the mouse contained in a jar and took it outside. I told him to just throw it way far out in the field across the street… but no. He insisted that Riley come out there to finish the job.

Riley, Mr. Unreliable, did not have any intentions of finishing that job. He was all like, “Oh man you guys, I brought you a fun mousie to play with and all you wanna do is take it out of the house and kill it? I’m having no part in this.” And he walked away. Seriously, my un-catliest-cat-ever WALKED AWAY from a mouse. So Jonathan had to dispose of that horrible little squeaking germ ball and that. is. that.

Thank goodness for Jonathan. Without him I would be petrified on the counters, ripping my hair out for fear the mouse would want to come steal it and use it for a nest for its disgusting little disease-ridden offspring. I’m totally sane, but that Cinderella chick- she’s crazy.

Longest Bike Ride Ever and other Small Golden Adventures

This time of life is so perfect. I love having little children in spring. We’ve been cooped up a lot in the winter and now we’re headed outside for hours of golden sunshine every day. We don’t even need heavy coats any longer– just a light jacket will do. The garden is sending out its first shoots and sprouts and the daffodils will blooming soon. The children are full of wonder and a sense of adventure as they while away the daylight in the backyard, creating new games and trying new ideas. Everything is bright and soft and fresh during this time of year.

Yesterday was a fun day all around. We stayed home because Hula Girl is still recovering from her cold and I hate it when other parents bring their kids in public to share their germs with everyone else. Practice what you preach, right?!

Anyway, after preschool was over yesterday, Little Man and Hula Girl went outside for a few minutes. They had so much fun in the backyard. I don’t even know what all they were doing, but it involved a lot of filling up the little wagon with dirt and moving it to another location, then dumping the dirt out of the bed over and over again. They never dug up the same place or moved dirt to the same place, so I’m pretty sure the goal was just to dig up and move the dirt. When I finished with my inside chores, I went out with them and we loaded up for a walk/bike ride. Hula Girl rode her bike and I pulled Little Man in the wagon with his bike and helmet. Hula Girl decided she wanted to go down to her friend G’s house. (G is a little girl in Hula Girl’s dance class.) Although G lives quite close to us when we ride in the car, walking and riding bikes is another matter altogether– G’s house is a mile away. But Hula Girl was determined we should go, so she pumped her little legs and rode all the way there. She was rewarded when G was home and the two of them got to say hi. I talked with G’s mom for a while and then it was time to head home for lunch. The walk home was uphill the entire way. There were several times when I pulled a wagon AND a bike. But Hula Girl did most of it on her own. She was so tired at bedtime last night!

In the afternoon the kids wanted to go out and play with our neighbors across the street. We discovered their mom was letting the kids finish their nap in their car seats (what mom hasn’t done that a million times?!) and so Hula Girl and Little Man jumped on their trampoline instead. When the kids woke up, their mom let the kiddos go over to the barn with her, where she let Hula Girl collect their chicken’s egg and hold the rabbits. Then Jonathan came home and we brought the kids back to our house to play and work with Daddy in the backyard.

For some reason, Little Man was awake until 9:00 last night. I just keep thinking of when Hula Girl was his age and she had nights where she’d stay awake long into the night singing and talking to herself in her crib. I know it’s totally normal, but when I’m so exhausted that I feel like I could go to sleep an hour before he actually falls asleep, it makes me feel old. :)

I had taken a week off running while I was battling strep, so when I got back on the treadmill yesterday, it was a humbling experience. I ran my three miles and then collapsed. I took a shower and then sat on the couch reading my Bible until it was time to get Hula Girl up from her rest time. When she got up, she started working on her Perler bead creations and I fell asleep on the couch! I jumped awake and she said, “Oh, hi, Mommy. I was trying to be quiet so I didn’t wake you.” Ugh. This time change has been a hard one for me!

The kids and I are going to be joining my parents in the mountains for skiing on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. This will be Little Man’s first time, and we’re not even sure he’ll want to ski. He hasn’t been very enthusiastic about being outside in colder weather…ever…so he and I might spend a few days hanging out in the ski lodge and going out to sled every now and then. But Hula Girl has been before and I have no doubt in my mind that she’ll be zipping down the blues by midmorning.

Stay tuned tomorrow for a great new episode of “Riley vs the Mouse”– an all-new, true story that just unfolded in our home while I was writing this post. Ugh.

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