Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!!!

Well, in an hour or so anyway . . . 2008 has been a year of change for us!! The only other year I can think of that could rival it is 1997 when I graduated from college, started my first full-time job, bought our first house, and got married. But this year's changes happened with less warning than 1997's.

2008 brought about a new career for dh, a new (old) house in a new state for us, and a new baby on the way. For A, especially (Miss "I Don't Like Change!"), this has been rather traumatic. She's handled it much better than I would have expected, though in times of stress, the fact that this has all been hard on her does come out.

All in all, we have SO MUCH to be thankful for!!!In an economy where jobs are scarce, dh found a new job comparatively quickly. It is a relatively secure job. We were able to find a perfect-for-us house to rent well within our budget. I thank God every day for leading us to this house "in the country, but not" that I could never have dreamed of. We have thoroughly enjoyed having dh around more too, both because of shorter work hours and shorter commute time. For a very long time, the girls clung to dh, as if they couldn't quite believe he was really around so much, not wanting him to go back to work after lunch, or leave in the morning. Now, finally, they are realizing that this is our new normal. They still love having the Daddy time (and think it's the best thing EVAR when Daddy puts them to bed (Mommy thinks it's a pretty good deal too LOL)) but Daddy being around more is becoming less of a novelty. They are more likely to just call "bye Daddy" if they're in the midst of play when he's leaving for work, rather than dropping everything to come hug him & beg him to stay home. We are so thankful for this baby that's on the way. Listening to the girls anticipate teaching the baby new things, and relishing their new role as big sisters is great!

And so, as we close out this eventful, but wonderful year, I wish you all a Happy New Year!!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Last Week's Homeschool

We had abit of a break last week with Christmas and such.

We finished our Jesse Tree devotions for Christmas. While I love the concept, the devotions we used were abit over the girls' heads. Next year I want to either find a set of devotions that are geared for younger kids, find other Bible story books with the various stories in them and use those, or just read the Bible texts and then discuss rather than using the additional text in this particular version. But the ornaments and the overall concept worked well.

For history we took a semi-break and used the time to finish the Kaya books and start the Felicity books (that we also read at bedtime, but Kaya & Felicity are so close together (chronologically) that I wanted to "catch us up" to correspond with the history curriculum).

Reading we pretty much took a break from. We didn't do the phonics sheets, and I gave them the choice of reading from the Primer or not. I think they each chose to read one day.

But we enjoyed lots of cookie baking, Christmas decorating, and such with our extra time. We also did some extra cleaning in preparation for having family here on Christmas.

Since Christmas, time has been spent DAILY using the pothoder loop loom (L) and learning to knit (A) these have definitely been the most used Christmas gifts so far. The girls also got some "I Can Read" Bible stories (this, and the other Bible stories in the set) for Christmas and L has been enjoying reading them for bedtime stories (A tells me she's not reading anything until we start the January pizza chart (for book-it) LOL). Interestingly, last night L picked up one of the "real" My Bible Friends books (the I Can Read books use the artwork from MBF, which are favorites around here, and were favorites when I was a kid) and read close to half of the Baby Jesus story out of it, granted she's heard the story enough that she was able to figure out some words she doesn't know based on context alone (I was able to "read" that story in German when I was taking German in high school, not because my German was anywhere near that good, but because I pretty much had the story memorized so the few german words I DID known were enough to trigger my memory to quote the story LOL) but for the most part she did actually look at/sound out as needed the words, not just "tell the story" like she has "read" longer books up to this point.

My grandparents gave the girls their own International Children's Bibles for Christmas. We have one ICB Bible that I use to look up texts in their Sabbath School lesson and such (though word of warning, in the last few weeks I've found some inaccuracies in this version . . . for example the verse where Jesus tells Peter to forgive his neighbor "Seventy times seven" times, is translated in the ICB to forgive 77 times (which isn't how *I* do the math of 70x7 LOL) and there was another text in the last month or so that also mis-translated a number thing, but I'm not remembering what it was now). Still, this is a complete Bible (not just a collection of Bible stories) written at a 3rd grade level, which I think can be valuable with young kids. I talked to them briefly today (L was in a mood, so we kept it short) about using their new Bibles to read one verse each morning when they wake up (they know Mommy reads the Bible every morning when I get up, so I'm hoping to springboard off of that and instill the habit of morning quiet time in them while they're young). Like I said, L was in a mood this morning, but A seemed to like the idea and went ahead and read through a verse with me during our school time and I think read some more later. I'll bring the idea up again at bedtime tonight and we'll see . . .

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!!!

Last night didn't go exactly as planned, turns out pizza places around here are closed on Christmas Eve, so we ended up fixing a frozen pizza instead. But by the time we figured that all out, it was late enough that we didn't get a chance to watch the video. The girls were ok with that, thrilled with their Christmas Jammies, and we enjoyed playing the new game, and they also played checkers with Daddy. Then they helped me make the monkey bread, and went to bed.

This morning A came to our bed by 6:30, but to her credit, stayed quiet (just VERY wiggly) until I started talking to her. What I found more amusing is that it took them awhile to even remember their stockings. We went downstairs, they were anxious for me to get the monkey bread in the oven . . . and FINALLY they noticed that their stockings were no longer empty, silly kids.

Waiting for Mama & Papa (& my grandparents) to get here was hard, but they did pretty well. I finally let them call Papa to see where they were & they were only about 1/2 hour away, so by the time both girls chatted both Mama's AND Papa's ears off, I could send the girls out to the porch to watch for them LOL.

Christmas was it's normal chaos, though the girls were able to read most of the name tags so I could hand-down the "pass-out-the-gifts" job to them. Both girls were thrilled w/ what they got each other. L was very happy with the potholder loom & cotton loops, she's already made a potholder. A got a "learn to knit" kit. And while she's expressed some frustration that it's not as instantaneous as the weaving loom, she's stuck with it pretty well, and is starting to get it slowly but surely. . . so I think in the long run she'll be very proud of herself. She's been wanting to learn to knit for ages (ever since I started trying to teach myself) and I'd been putting her off based on me still trying to figure it out for myself. She's already itching to get her fingers on my yarn stash LOL. When the girls stayed with Mama & Papa for our anniversary, Lexie really took to the weaving activity in the quiet book mom took to church, which is what gave mom the idea of getting the potholder loom. The family ornament we got this year is a picture frame so we had Papa take some family pictures of the 4 of us. And no, A never got dressed today, she insisted her Christmas pjs were the most "Christmassy" thing she owned & so she had to wear them all day LOL.

I'm so excited, Mom & Dad gave me the pampered chef stoneware muffin pan. I've been alternating between using my cast iron (mickey & heart shaped) muffin pans (that are hard to get out becuase of being odd shapes) & using the teflon ones & putting cupcake papers in it. . . Now I have no excuse to not make muffins more often LOL.

While my parents were here, Dad helped me with a couple small "fix-it" projects. I needed more light in the basement where my candle table is, and had lights from where I had the candle stuff at our old house, but dh hadn't found time to hang the lights, so Dad did that. Also, a few weeks ago the overhead light in the girls' room stopped working. I'll admit I hadn't gotten around to climbing up there (it's over the loft bed) to check the lightbulb, but since Dad put in a new light fixture when he built the loft bed (the old fixture hung too low, kids' would've hit their heads all the time) and put a cfl bulb in it, I was doubtful that it was the bulb anyway. So . . . Dad looked into that, turns out it's the switch that's bad, so I need to let the landlord know, and then we'll see if they get around to fixing it for us before Dad's here again.

Mom & Dad also helped us finally put the rug down in the dining room. I bought a rug (actually 3 small rugs because they were out of the big one I liked/could afford) at Ikea right after we moved in, so that I didn't have to worry about kids (and grown-ups for that matter) spilling food (I really, really, really dislike having the only eating area in the house carpeted) but by the time I had things unpacked enough that there was room to put the rugs down I was pregnant and our dining room table's REALLY heavy so it takes 2 people to lift it. Was much easier w/ all 4 of us so dad & dh could lift & mom & I could be one on each side getting stuff centered. So that's finally done, whew!

Tomorrow we celebrate Christmas w/ dh's family.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas 2008!

Wishing everyone out in blogland a very merry Christmas 2008. The presents are wrapped, the stocking goodies are ready to be loaded into the stocking once kiddos are in bed, the house is as clean as it's gonna get . . .

And so we begin our Christmas eve celebration. Daddy's bringing pizza home. The girls will open their Christmas eve gifts, which just happen to always be Christmas jammies, and 2 of the following: book, video, or board game. Then we'll enjoy our evening eating pizza, watching the video, playing games, reading stories and just being together. The girls have also asked to help make the monkeybread (that is part of Christmas morning breakfast) tonight, so we'll do that as well, and probably set the table in preparation for dinner tomorrow, although I might save that for tomorrow morning since farther drive-time for the grandparents means longer wait-time for kids before we open presents tomorrow (stockings are as soon as we get up, other presents wait for the grandparents to get here). . .

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Book Review: Heart of Wisdom Approach

As I mentioned earlier this week, after contemplating it for a LONG time, I finally bought the Heart of Wisdom Approach e-book while it was on sale. The concept of making a point to incorporate the Bible into all aspects of our schooling (and life, for that matter) appealed greatly to me, but I couldn't decide, from the book's description or the free excerpt if this book would give practical help or just give reasons why I SHOULD incorporate the Bible into all aspects of our day (I didn't need convincing, just wanted practical tips).

So, after reading (or skimming) 500+ pages, here's my review. . .

I don't think I'd be willing to pay the regular price for this book, but while it's on sale, I think the ebook is worth it. This book is definitely written from the perspective of someone who started out homeschooling older children, using a "school at home" approach, and this book is her journey away from that approach. For someone who is starting out homeschooling from day one and leans more toward unschooling, there was lots that didn't apply (she assumes that her audience is also coming from a school at home mind-set).

I did throughly enjoy the explainations of Hebrew vs Greek educational approaches and how it all came down through history. . . it was eye opening to me to see how much pagan/heathen influences there are in the American educaiton model, even as used in Christian schools, and by many homeschoolers. I really wish that section were available online for free so that everyone could read it & at least use the information to evaluate how their child is being educated, be it homeschool, Christian school or public school.

There IS also alot of the practical applications that I was hoping for. She is, to a certain extent "selling" her other products (the Heart of Wisdom Unit Studies) throughout, but provides information to implement the general idea of the approach w/o using the HOW units. As with most things I'll be using the parts that work for us, not following it "to the letter". The overall feel of the book is that it applies more to older kids, and when she refers to teaching younger kids it's in the context of teaching them IN ADDITION to the older kids (in keeping with the fact that she started homeschooling when her kids were older, but did have additional kids that she homeschooled all the way through) so with my oldest kids being not quite 6, there's adaptions needed IMO. I don't think it would be advantageous for us to attempt to read through the Bible in a year at this point, I think the girls would find it burdensome to sit and listen for that long each day & it would have the effect of dampening their enthusiasm for religious things, not encouraging it. The unit studies also, while "marketed" as a 4 year program that is repeated 3 times for grades 1-12 and can be used w/ multiple ages, seem to be truely targeted at 4th grade and up. I can see how pieces of the unit studies could be "dumbed down" (hate that term) for youngers in a family situation that included kids 4th grade and up, but to utilitize the unit studies for JUST littles doesn't seem like a good plan. So, for now I will implement pieces of the Bible study suggestions from the book and also impliment more of the Hebrew education model (though this is less of an issue w/ our relaxed eclectic style than I feel it would be for someone with a more structured homeschool approach, especially a school at home &/or "classic education" style). Once the girls are at more of a 4th grade level I'll re-evaluate & if the budget allows, I'd like to get the history units and use at least to some extent (I didn't get a good feel for how much time per day is expected & such w/ these unit studies) I would guess that we will either pick & choose how much of it we use or spread it out over a longer timeframe). The concept of learning ancient history & middle ages history from a Christian perspective (focusing on the Hebrews and later, Christians, throughout history) appeals greatly to me. Once we've used those, we can decide about the American history units, I feel more confident that we can, and do, incorporate the Christian influences into those studies on our own.

The science units, again, we'll re-evaluate when the girls are older. The approach advocates studying science in creation order, but I don't see any real benefit in that specific order, if we use the science units (which again, the appeal is that it teaches science from a creationist world view instead of evolution) I'd expect us to pick and choose based on the girls' interest.

I should also mention that with both the science and history units, it appears that these aren't true unit studies as I would define them. Language arts are incorporated into all topics (Bible, History & Science) but the history & science units are to be used simultaneously (so there isn't science in the history units or history in the science units) and she recommends using separate math & spelling curriculums as well. So, these aren't true unit studies that incorporate all school subjects into one. This is one reason I anticipate picking & choosing from them &/or spreading them out over more time as we also enjoy other studies.

In conclusion. If you're interested in seeing how the Hebrews, Greeks and Romans have influenced education throughout history, including today, it's definitely worth the sale price for that information alone. It also includes very comprehensive lists of resources for everything from teaching Bible to all ages, to history & science, etc. (I just skimmed the lists for now & will re-visit them as needed). If you are coming from a school setting &/or are currently using a "school at home" approach to homeschooling, and would like to examine how this compares/contrasts with the schooling philosophies of the Hebrews (as directed by God in the old testament) and also the "teaching style" of Jesus, Paul and the apostles) this book is very valuable from that standpoint (if you're a more eclectic homeschooler, it might also be valuable as a resource to answer those Christian relatives who think you ought to be using a more classical approach). All that said, I don't think I'd recommend paying full price for this book.

Rough Notes:

First part of the book focuses on quieting the homeschool parent's (or potential homeschool parent's) fears about homeschooling. The assumption seems to be that most, if not all, homeschool parents feel inadequate to teach their children "as well" as schools do, and this addresses that from various angles. I freely admit that I skimmed (at best) this section, since I feel confident in my decision to homeschool our children and these "fears" aren't my fears.

Another assumption I noticed throughout the book was that the reader was currently using a very structured "school at home" approach to homeschooling. As an eclectic homeschooler leaning toward unschooling, there are aspects of this approach that are much more structured/rigid than I'm comfortable with. A schedule that has "schoolwork" from 9-noon and 1-2 is much more sitting and staring at books than I feel is good for kids, even if there are crafts and such as part of that schoolwork. Additionally, while there is much emphasis on finding your child's interests and exciting them about the topic, it's all within the context of "here's what we're going to learn about today/this week/this year" and then encouraging their interests within that framework. I cringe at the lack of flexibility to notice that my child is interested in horses and focusing our "science" time on horses for awhile regardless of what I'd PLANNED on doing for science right then. So, as with any curriculum/approach, I'll be picking and choosing.

A large part of the first half is dedicated to the history of education from the Hebrews, Greeks, Romans . . . and on through history. I found this all very interesting and educational. And can't help wondering why educators haven't noticed the parallels between the Greek education model & modern education's model, and the fact that the Greek nation failed . . .hmmm . . .

I really enjoyed this section and, while I'm not sure I'd pay the full price for the ebook, much less that real book, just for this historic information, since I got it on sale, I feel like that information alone was worth the price I paid. I feel she did a really good job of showing the pagan influences on modern education (and Christianity) and how the Hebrew model for education (and worldview) is more in keeping with God's will.

The main premise of the HOW approach (and the Hebrew model, for that matter) is that God/Bible/Religion should be at the heart of all study, not just one of many subjects studied. It was this aspect that attracted me to the book/approach. As I read through the book, the overall feel I kept getting was "you're talking about older kids." Though later on she does offer suggestions for younger kids that are more in line with the ways I was planning to adapt the suggestions for our family.

With adaptations for children's ages, I really like the suggestions for Bible Study as the first and most important part of "school" each day. We've been having our Bible time first all along, and I have things planned for most of the rest of this year (not sure how long things will take) but I plan to implement the HOW approach for Bible study next fall.

The recommended approach to teaching the "3 R's" to young kids, didn't appeal as much to me (from what I could tell (lots of recommendations of other books) it's more "school like" and very little mention is made of adapting THAT aspect of education to the child's learning style or readiness.

The history unit studies, based on the information provided, sound like, while it might be possible to adapt them down to the 1st thru 4th grade level, it would be a challenge, and not something I see any reason to attempt with oldest children (I can see the argument for using the approach for all children and adapting it to the different ages in a family with older children). However, the concept of teaching ancient and middle age history from a more predominantly Hebrew/Christian worldview (focusing on the role the Hebrews and early Christians played through the ages) appeals to me mightily (not only for teaching my kids, but I suspect I'll learn a LOT going through these unit studies as well). My current thought is to utilize the Bible study techniques for now but revisit the idea of using the history unit studies starting around 5th grade. That would still allow us to go through the 4 year cycle twice if we're so inclined, assuming we stay "on track" I haven't gotten a feel for how much time is expected to be spent on each unit study each day/week to get through at the speed suggested.

The science unit studies, again, might be a great, creation-based, science resource. I don't see any particular benefit of studying science in creation order (my kids KNOW the order of creation, even now, and I see more benefit in studying science in the "order" of things that catch my kids' interest, but will keep these unit studies in mind to get if/when the various topics are at the top of my kids' interest list.

Notebooking - some good ideas

Scheduling - again, didn't feel she was talking to "me" but rather to a "school at home" homeschooler. Emphasis on praying about your schedule and having faith in God, being flexible.

This Week's Wrap-Up

The girls were excited to start studying about George Washington this week. One of the reasons I decided to include American History in our curriculum this year was their fascination with the early presidents, especially George Washington, thanks to Papa's introducing them to the presidents using the dollar coins. As they got older & became more observant/detail oriented, there was confusion about how the various presidents they'd heard about, and the various historic sites in our area ("our area" including the DC area, Northern VA, MD & PA) all fit together. I decided an overview of American History would be a good way of helping them fit the pieces together. And give them/me some points of reference when we visit various sites, read books, etc.

As I mentioned earlier this week, George Washington's Breakfast is great! We also read the d'Aulaire book about George Washington, and w/ all of their books, LOVED IT!

We've hit some more difficult phonics worksheets and L, especially, is having trouble w/ having to actually spend TIME doing the worksheets instead of whipping through them in no time flat. I've cut back to one worksheet per day as a result, and they're doing fine with them, just having to adjust to THINKING about it LOL. I managed to misplace the McGuffey's Primer (not sure where it is, since the house is actually much cleaner than usual in preparation for Christmas, shrug) so for reading class we've been reading the SDA reader same as we use at bedtime.

With the snow, and prep for Christmas we stayed home a bunch this week. We've been making Christmas cookies, and Christmas presents and wrapping presents . . . it's been a fun week :o)

Oh, and to elaborate on the wordless wednesday picture. Tuesday night as I was reading bedtime stories I noticed the hole in A's smile!! Silly kid, didn't even bother to tell me. Apparently she didn't even know when she lost it, but thinks she lost it somewhere outside while they were playing in the snow. She seems to think she'll be able to find it "once the snow melts" because you know, it's so much easier to find an itty bitty tooth in acres of grass LOL. Both L & A have a loose tooth as well, so I suggested that she wait & when she loses the next tooth she can write the tooth fairy a note telling her about the lost, lost tooth. She seemed to accept that which gives me a few more days to figure out what the tooth fairy is going to leave LOL. I was figuring money, but dh said when he was talking to them at bedtime that night, they both were sure the tooth fairy leaves small gifts like books & stickers, I did just get a pack of easy reader Bible stories that I haven't given them yet, so maybe we'll use those for the first several teeth and play it by ear from there. . . I'm still thinking.

Yesterday we got an ice storm that had us pretty much homebound all day. We're dog-sitting a chihauhua for one of dh's coworkers this weekend, so the girls had fun torturing, I mean playing with, her a bunch yesterday.

With threats of more snow coming tonight & tomorrow we decided we better run errands tonight. DH took the girls to choose gifts for me, and then took them to ChuckECheese, he said they had a blast, and they seemed to agree. And I ran out for the last minute gifts I realized I'd forgotten (and needed to get w/o the kids along) and also groceries (Walmart on the Sat night before Christmas, when the day before was bad weather & more bad weather is coming, is NOT the place to be, btw! On the other hand, Aldi's was EMPTY (though the checkout clerk said it had been mobbed earlier)).

School next week will be laid back. We'll continue with the Jesse Tree for Bible, but then just read American Girl books for History & I think we'll continue reading in the reading book, but skip the phonics worksheets for reading. And we'll continue with the Christmas cookie-making and such. The girls are excited to take cookies to our neighbors, so we need to get a few more kinds made and then make up the plates of cookies to take to the neighbors.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


After 60+ degree weather yesterday, today started with freezing rain that changed to snow around noon & snowed off & on the rest of the day (though not a ton of accumulation). The girls finally talked me into letting them go out late this afternoon and they're STILL out there. They made a snowman (convinced me to come help them assemble it) and spent awhile rolling down the hill (asked about sledding I really don't think there's enough snow (though it's coming down heavy again now, so tomorrow morning there might be) and when I went to check on them a few minutes ago they were just sitting on the ground leaning back on the hill (steep hill goes up from our patio) watching the snow fall in the dark, I guess (I did turn the porch light on for them when it started getting dark).

I must say sitting INSIDE and watching the big fluffy flakes come down all afternoon was quite nice, but I'm thrilled to live where I can send the kids out and not have to freeze out there WITH them the whole time :)

A few more pictures can be seen here. And I added a few to the Disney album as well (that I had forgotten were on my camera).

Monday, December 15, 2008

Book Recommendations and Odds & Ends

Today for history we read George Washington's Breakfast and I have to say it is an AWESOME little kids' book about George Washington. It manages to touch on a ton of quick facts about George Washington without you really realizing it's teaching you anything. And it's just a cute fun book, that left the girls asking when we can go to the Smithsonian (which we've been to, but it's been awhile), Mount Vernon (which I've been thinking for awhile now, they'd enjoy (and I wanna go too, it's pathetic that it's so close (relatively speaking) & I haven't been since I was a kid), just need to find the time & such), and when we can make a breakfast like George Washington ate (I won't give away the ending by telling you what that is LOL), which should be pretty easy to accomodate them on. Anyway, most of the books we've read for history this year have been great, but this one just really struck me as teaching alot without really seeming to.

Now for the other homeschool moms (and really any Christian mom of school age or younger kids), for quite awhile I've been eyeing The Heart of Wisdom Teaching Approach but just couldn't quite fit it into the budget (I love books, but I like to get them cheap LOL), I couldn't decide from reading the description and excerpt if it would really be worth getting, I already fully agree that making the Bible the center of all our schooling (and all that we do) is the way to go, and I couldn't decide if this book would add enough practical ideas on HOW to do that to be worth the purchase price or not. But, when I noticed that it's on sale (and apparently it's going up a little each day because I bought the ebook this weekend for $15 and now it's $18) I decided to go ahead & get the e-book. Since it's a 500+ pg book I haven't finished it yet, but what I HAVE read is excellent. I'll admit I just skimmed the section on fear of homeschooling because, while it may have to do with my kids still being so young, I really don't have any fears that I can teach my kids & they'll turn out ok (this might also have to do w/ the fact that for the most part I feel that the useful things I learned in school were often learned in spite of "school" not because of it, and that perhaps the most useful thing I learned in school was the result of having a less than ideal teacher because that taught me to read a book & learn on my own w/o having to rely on the teacher & I figure that's one of my main educational goals for my kids too, to teach them to think for themselves and be able to look up information and process it as needed). Anyway . . . so I can't speak too much to that section, but there is a large part of the book (well, a large part of the first half of the book, since I'm about halfway through at this point) devoted to the history of education/religion and how it all kind of ties together. Showing how America's education system is influenced much more by the Greek & Roman models than it is by the Hebrew model and how the Hebrew model is more in keeping w/ the way Jesus taught and encouraging us, as "teachers" to move away from the pagan models typically used in schools (including Christian schools) and move toward the Hebrew model. Anyway . . . even without the practical applications of how to keep all education Bible-centered (I haven't gotten to that part to see how useful it is), I feel like just what I've learned about WHY, as a Christian, I would most definitely NOT want to be teaching my children (or have them taught) based on the pagan models, is worth the purchase price of the e-book. And like I said, it's on a good sale now (50% off) so now's the time to snatch it up if you're interested. I'll try to remember to write a "proper" review once I've read the whole book.

Other odds and ends around here:

The weather was WEIRD today! In the 60's!!! The girls enjoyed being to play outside w/o coats & such.

Yesterday we went and cut down a live tree. The girls LOVED it!! And they (w/ a little encouragement from me) chose a great tree for the space we have (tall & skinny is a good thing in a small space). So now we have a Christmas tree and it's finally starting to feel abit like Christmas around here.

I know there were other odds & ends I meant to mention but can't think what they are now, oh well . . .

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Our Week in Review

We had a good week, the girls LOVE the Kaya books, and so we enter the world of American Girls . . . LOL.

They decided on their own this week to READ their copywork verse before copying it. Obviously they need help with some words (especially since the Jesse Tree devotions we're using right now are KJV) but they do VERY well overall. At this point, I think the big hurdle to still be crossed is speed. For A especially (since she tends more toward perfectionism). But both of them get "burned out" for lack of a better word because they read so slowly. We'll continue through the SDA Dick & Jane readers (did I mention that the AWESOME first grade (I think) teacher at the SDA school affiliated w/ my parents' church let us borrow the ones we didn't have?) and I reserve the right to change my mind, and move on into the 2nd grade books when the time comes (and hey, it occurs to me that it would be "new" reading for me, I never went through the SDA 2nd grade readers since I skipped 2nd grade LOL (and while, in retrospect, I'm guessing I was reading 2nd grade level readers in 1st grade (had gone thru all but the last of the 1st grade SDA readers in K), our reading group used a Reader's Digest series in first grade, not the SDA readers)) but anyway . . . at this point, I'm thinking by the time we get through these last 2 first grade readers (L's on the last story (I think, close to it anyway) of the 3rd book, A's already into the 4th book (there are 5 books total), we'll just scour the library for short, but interesting books for them to read. . .

Yesterday the girls enjoyed a day at Grandmom's and I took advantage of having dh's carseat free car and took our recycling in (it was TAKING OVER our house LOL) I had great intentions of also getting a bunch of stuff moved up to the storage building (we have a good-sized pile to take up there, but this time it's mostly lightweight stuff that I can handle on my own, but again, the carseat-free vehicle is very helpful) but I realized AFTER dh & the girls left, that I hadn't gotten the key to the storage room off my keyring (that dh took, since he was driving my car). I did get some of the stuff loaded into dh's car though, so it'll be ready to take up tomorrow.

Today we went to an area nursing home with the girls' Sabbath School class to sing Christmas songs and pass out the cards that the kids made last month. The heat was turned up SO HIGH in there, that it was just miserable. The girls did ok for awhile but then they were complaining about being hot (and I'm sure they were, I was, and alot of other people commented on it too) and the reality was, we were singing songs the girls don't know well enough to really sing along (they know the FIRST verse of most of the songs but we were singing 2-3 verses of each song, so they only knew a 3rd of what we sang, essentially) and while they could read most of the words if we were just sitting and reading, they don't read fast enough to follow along to sing, so I don't blame them for not being interested in standing NOT singing, in a REALLY HOT building. So dh took them outside to cool off. They tried coming back in one time, but again, were too hot, so he took them back out and when I could get a minute to let the SS teacher know we were leaving, I did so, and we left.

Tonight the girls & I made cookies while dh went in to the office for a few hours.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Gratituesday - Imaginary Play

Yesterday A & L had a minor blow-up while playing upstairs. Once I got them both calmed down enough and talked to them both and sorted it all out, A had made a "tent" in their room by tying strings (from a lacing toy that I'm not sure they have ever used AS A LACING TOY but they have re-purposed the parts of it a thousand different ways LOL) from the dollhouse to the spring horse and draping a blanket over it and . . . I didn't quite figure it all out to be honest. Problem arose when L declared it too small for them to both sleep comfortably in (she was right) and A declared that if L didn't want to sleep in it she couldn't play in it . . . so, once I sorted it all out, I suggested that I help them make a bigger tent that WOULD have room for them to both sleep in it. They thought this was a great compromise (now to get them to come up with these compromises, or come to me for help with these compromises BEFORE WWIII breaks out every single time, sigh). So we did some room rearranging and got a queen size sheet instead of the small throw blanket A had been trying to use, and errected a big sheet tent under the loft in their room. They have spent HOURS, seriously, HOURS playing in that tent, both yesterday and today. It is amazing how much enjoyment 2 little girls can find in a SHEET!!! I am thankful for their imagination that allows them to play for so long with such simple things. I am thankful for our lifestyle that allows them to HAVE hours to play and just be kids!

For more Gratituesday, go here.

Monday, December 8, 2008


I finally remembered to get pictures from my Dad.

Disney Trip


Pictures from this past weekend with Mama & Papa

And a Brief School Update

A's only got 2 or 3 stories left in the 3rd first grade reader (in the old SDA Dick & Jane series). Friday morning before we got to Mom & Dad's house, Mom went to the local SDA school & borrowed the last 2 first grade readers and some other random, even older, Dick & Jane first grade readers (wasn't the teacher there AWESOME to let us borrow them!!!). I'm SO thrilled to have found those last 2 so we can continue with our momentum.

For history this week I got the first of that Kaya books from the American Girl series. The curriculum had recommended reading Kaya (but I think just one about her lifestyle, etc. not the actual storybooks) way back near the beginning in the Native American series, but I opted to skip it then since we were just doing a quick overview of the Native American's at that point, and focusing on pre-European discovery time period. NOW we're to where Kaya falls chronologically, so we're slipping it in now. I read the first half of "Meet Kaya" today and the girls would have gladly listened to move. I told them any night that there's no need to do toy pick-up/room cleaning at bedtime, that'll give us time to read a chapter in Kaya, or whatever book we choose to read at that point, so hopefully that will encourage them to clean toys up as we go. Of course today's a kind of bad day to start that since they had me help them build a "tent" out of sheets in their room and are going to sleep in their tent tonight. they'd done a pretty good job of building their own blanket tent but were using a small blanket so it wasn't really a big enough tent for them to sleep in, so I helped them build a bigger one w/ a bigger sheet. So, it'll be hard to determine if their room is "clean" or not since we shifted everything around to make room for the tent.

Anyway, they're enjoying the Kaya books, and quickly agreed we need to get more from the library :)

Busy Weekend

This weekend was our 11th anniversary (yes, we're getting old!). The girls spend ALL YEAR looking forward to our anniversary because it means they get a sleepover at Mama & Papa's. To add to the busyness, Thurs night was dh's office Christmas party. So Thurs night we all (everyone (more or less) from his office, assorted family members, etc) went and sang Christmas carols and passed out stuffed animals in the children's ward at our local hospital, then went to a restaurant for dinner. Even though the girls have plenty of experience eating out, such things always make me nervous, but overall they did great. Their complaints about it taking too long to get our food were quiet enough that only the people at our table heard, and they ate their dinner w/o complaining (we had to pre-order between 3 choices, eggplant parmesan, vegetable lasagna, or vegetable stir-fry, none of which are exactly kid-friendly choices. The girls both chose vegetable stir-fry, I was rather nervous that they'd get it & decide it was gross, but they were thrilled to see that their plates were bigger than mommy & daddy's (we'd both gotten vegetable lasagna, which was a big serving, but served on a small plate, the stir-fry was on a HUGE plate). A decided the tofu wasn't edible (can't say as I blame her, the big chunks of rather tasteless tofu have never appealed to me. I LOVE tofu when it's "scrambled" and otherwise in small pieces w/ plenty of flavoring, the big jiggly chunks, not so much) but was willing to push them to the side. The woman who brought out food, and later took away our plates, was amazed that the girls had eaten so much of the vegetables LOL.

Friday morning we headed to Mama & Papa's to drop off the girls, then dh had gotten tickets for the 2 of us to see the Christmas program at Sight & Sound. There were some Biblical/historic inaccuracies that bugged me, but overall it was awesome! We both decided that we need to take the girls there sometime when they are showing either Noah or In the Beginning (since those 2 have lots of animals in them). Sabbath was a relaxing day heading back down toward DC, and eating at my favorite Chinese restaurant. Sunday we went to Shear Madness at the Kennedy Center.

In the meantime the girls had a busy weekend going to the Baltimore Aquarium, driving through a local Christmas lights display, helping Mama & Papa decorate their tree, and making cookies (and a much bigger mess than I'd ever allow OR than my mom ever allowed when *I* was a kid, guess it's that whole grandmother thing LOL). They were sad to leave last night when we picked them up, so I guess that means the weekend was a success for them too, though I think mom was pretty worn out LOL.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Changes to the Homeschool Routine

When we first looked at this house, prior to moving, it was obvious the living room wasn't big enough to house the girls' toys (like we'd done in our previous house), so dh & I agreed quite quickly that the logical use for the 3rd bedroom was as a playroom. As I continued figuring out how things would best fit, it also seemed logical that the girls' computer, our printer & our copy machine (yes, we have a copy machine, it's INVALUABLE for a homeschooler!!! I seriously use it daily!!!) would go in that 3rd bedroom. And it was somewhere in that time frame that we told the girls that room would be their playroom/schoolroom. THEN closer to the move we decided to have my dad build the girls a loft bed. Which meant there's plenty of room in THEIR room for their toys, and the "playroom" became primarily a "schoolroom". While we're eclectic leaning toward unschooling, I loved the idea of a room with WALLS to hang things on (one of my challenges as we "did school" in the family room at our old house & our open floorplan and big windows mean there were essentially NO walls in the family room, and those that existed had the sofa, entertainment center, etc on them). A place to contain all the mess out of the way . . . it seemed ideal. And that's where we've been doing school. In many ways it was working well. The copier's right there (did I mention I use it daily?), the printer's right there, I'd print things off the night before & they'd be sitting there on the printer waiting for me. The mess WAS contained, but the downside of that was the kids would make their own messes and then we'd get to school time and they'd whine about having to clean up the mess to have a place to write (or sit). I made good use of the walls, with a huge timeline from creation to present that we've been writing things onto, and numerous other things.

But, recently 2 things have frustrated me about this set-up. For one thing, it means we sit on the floor to read stories & such, now we did that in the family room at the old house. I LIVED on the floor for the first couple years of the girls' life (much easier to just sit on the floor to nurse two, that way when one's done you can set her down & she can crawl off & play, then crawl back when she wants to nurse more, all w/o disturbing her sleeping/nursing sister) . . . I generally LOVE the floor BUT this pregnancy I'm finding it increasingly difficult to get back UP after sitting on the floor. Guess I'm getting old LOL. So, at the moment, sitting on the floor is an issue. The girls also were finding the small kid table that we have in there too small to each be able to do copywork & such w/o bumping into each other or fighting about papers covering each other & such. But the big thing, as they become more independant in their work, I was finding myself with longer & longer chunks of time where I was essentially twiddling my thumbs up there. They're not to the place that I can just leave them to their schoolwork and come back downstairs, they still need questions answered and small prompts throughout the work but still. . . Additionally, our current routine that we've fallen into has school time right before lunchtime which has meant that I've generally scrapped all lunch items that require any prepwork and we've mostly been eating sandwiches or leftovers for lunch. Which isn't all bad, but there are times when it would be nice to actually cook something for lunch. . . SO . . . as I was doing more cleaning & Christmas decorating on Sunday, it occurred to me that now that we have the dining room more "finished" perhaps we could do our schoolwork at the dining room table (as so many homeschoolers do). There is some wall space for things that are used daily, and larger things like the timeline can stay upstairs & we can just go up there to talk about it as needed. There's already bookcases in the dining room, and some empty space on those shelves to hold the notebooks and other resources we're currently using. One thing that got me thinking this direction is that our morning worship (which we do as part of "school time") for the month of Dec is a "Jesse Tree" which has daily devotions following the lineage of Jesus from Creation to his birth, and a paper ornament for each day that can be hung on a tree or a banner. I have a small tabletop Christmas tree that will work perfectly for it BUT . . . it seemed sad to hide it away in the upstairs room where nobody would ever see it except the girls & me, but also didn't make sense to have to stop in the middle of worship each morning to come down here to hang the ornament on the tree. Now we have the tree in one of the dining room windowsills, and it's all right there. We sit at the table for part of it and on the sofa when I'm reading to the girls for history and when the girls are reading to me for reading class. The girls have adjusted well to the switch, and are enjoying having more room at the table. And it means that I can get lunch ready or do the dishes or whatever while the girls do their copywork and phonics worksheets and such. I'm sure we'll make many changes, big and small, to how we homeschool over the next howevermany years that we'll homeschool, but at the moment, I'm excited about how well this change is working.

I got around the copy machine issue by planning ahead a little more, the main things I use the copier for are the copywork (I write out each day's memory verse at the top of a piece of handwriting paper & then copy it so each of the girls can have one to copy on the bottom half) and the Make & Learn history projects we do. So rather than waiting & copying it the day we use it, I took a few minutes to write out all of this week's memory verses on Monday and copied them all at once. As it was, when I looked at the Make and Learn activities for this week I decided neither were ones we needed to do, but on weeks when we DO have Make & Learn activities I can copy those ahead of time too.

Gratituesday - Joy of Giving

Last week my friend, Kim, sent an e-mail to a homeschool list I'm on, talking about a wonderful woman in Hati who is doing all she can for orphans and young mothers there. My friend is pulling together a box of needed items and Christmas gifts to send down there. So I told the girls about it yesterday during our morning worship and suggested that each of the girls could put together a Christmas bag for a child about their age and I would do one for one of the young mothers and I'd drop them by Kim's house when we're near her house this weekend. One of the things mentioned in the e-mail that really made an impression on L is that some of the children in Hati are so hungry that they eat mud cakes to quiet their stomaches. Needless to say, my children couldn't fathom being that hungry and not being able to go get food. L got very into the project right away, getting money from her piggy bank and candy from her Halloween candy bag and reminding me numerous times during the day yesterday that I'd promised to take them to the store to get toys and such for the gift bags. A, on the other hand, wanted nothing to do with it. Even when we got to the store she wanted nothing to do with it, "I don't know these kids, they don't know me, why should I help them?" I decided the best approach was to encourage L's excitement about the project and essentially ignore A's bad attitude. And apparently that was the right approach. As we went down the toiletries aisle L excitedly chose toothpaste, toothbrush (JUST LIKE MINE! I'm sure the kids will LOVE it too!) and a comb & mirror set. And I just added the same items for A's gift bag, and told her if she didn't want to do a gift, I'd do one for a child AND a mommy. When we got to the toy section she did a total & instant turn around! I told them they could each choose 5 small things for their child. A was just as excited as L about choosing things and if anything thought things through better. She chose a stuffed animal (so they have something to sleep with) AND a small fuzzy pillow (becuase some kids might not have pillows) as well as other items. And she's been great throughout the rest of the process (sorting out our purchases (and items we already had) into bags for each person today and such. She also asked me this morning, as we were putting the bags together if we could do this every year and declared that she wants to be a missionary when she grows up and travel to lots of places and help ALL the children. Awww. L, decided she also wants to be a missionary but "just in our state, and maybe as far as Mama and Papa's house" she doesn't want to travel too far from home LOL. I've been so thrilled watching my children learn the joy of giving and being excited about helping others and I'm thankful they are learning this.

Of course the flip side, when dh told the girls that his office is having a Christmas Party this Thursday and before we go to eat, we'll be stopping by a hospital to sing Christmas songs and pass out toys to the children there. L's reaction was "those kids don't need toys as much as the kids on the island!" (her description of Hati) LOL. I talked to them some more today about some of the kids in the hospital, their parents don't have the money for toys because they have to pay for medicine and doctors, and I think they decided it was an acceptible charity. So hopefully when we get there Thurs night they won't "lecture" dh's boss about how these toys should have been sent to Hati instead LOL.

I think we'll build on their newfound interest in 3rd world children and look into sponsoring a child. If anyone has any experience with the various organizations that do sponsor a child programs I'd love to hear your opinions (good and bad). You can leave a comment or e-mail me (my e-mail link is in my profile). I know I for sure want an organization that assigns a specific child and encourages letters/pictures sent both directions, since I think the girls will benefit from seeing WHO they are helping.

And finally, if you would like to send a donation or much needed supplies (the e-mail Kim sent out quotes Barbara (the missionary running this facility) as saying "we need everything BUT stones and babies, we have plenty of both". Specific things that are needed include liquid infant vitamins, prenatal vitamins (both can be purchased from walmart for less than $10/bottle), liquid formula (water supplies in many parts of Hati are tainted so liquid formula is a better option than powder), and this time of year, Christmas boxes for the children and mothers.

Checks can be made out to "Reach Out to Haiti"

Checks and other items can be sent to:

Barbara Walker
PO Box 2556
Port Au Prince, Haiti

(no postal code is needed).

If you live in the Hagerstown, MD area and want to include things in the box Kim's sending e-mail me & I can put you in contact with her.

See other Gratituesday posts here.

SUCH a Diva!!

This past weekend one of the straps on L's Crocs (shoes) broke. I can't really complain since they have been the shoes she's worn every day since the beginning of the summer. BUT that left her with only a pair of tie sneakers as her everyday/play shoes and since we have a no-shoe policy in the house, and since she CAN tie shoes but is slow at it, I figured getting her another pair of slip-on or velcro shoes would be a good thing. Plus in general, I prefer to have 2 pair of shoes for each kid in case one gets broken or whatever. SO . . . we checked Walmart & another store (Weaver's) today.
Now granted, the one pair she was willing to consider, they didn't have in her size, so we're going to check the other walmart tomorrow but still . . . they were "too loose" or "kinda tight" or "just not me!" (that was the problem with most of them). What a diva!! Fingers crossed that our other Walmart has the shoes she DOES like in her size LOL.