Saturday, January 26, 2013

It's For the Birds!

Since my blog's been abit sparse on actual HOMESCHOOL-related posts recently, I thought I'd do things a little bit differently and talk about what we are going to be doing instead of things we've done. And today's topic is . . . birds!

One thing I have wanted to include more of for awhile now, is nature studies. The girls love learning about nature, and I truly believe that learning more about God's creation is one of the best ways to know Him better, but somehow we never get around to it.

Now Little Bit is starting "school". We are using the same waldorf-based preschool curriculum that I used with the big girls at this age. While I have some HUGE disagreements with some aspects of Waldorf, and could never, in good conscience, send my children to a Waldorf school, I do LOVE that there is such a strong emphasis on art and nature. And I love that, for littles, there is very little emphasis on "academics". So, an at-home, Waldorf-based curriculum for preschool is a good fit for us when little ones start saying they want to "do school". An added benefit this time around is that the art and nature are mostly things that the big girls will enjoy just as much at age 9-10 as they did at age 3-4!

So, as we slowly inch into this program, I thought I'd share our nature plans for the next couple months.

This first unit focuses on birds. And the timing is good because we just moved and are keeping the cats INSIDE at least for now. Moccasin is an amazingly adept bird-catcher, has been since he was a kitten, so I always felt like it was somehow cruel to encourage birds into our yard when he was outside. Now he's inside and can just sit at the window and WISH he could get at the birds LOL.  Also, the previous owners obviously liked birds, and left us a bird bath, bird feeder AND a watering can hanging from the eaves of the garage that he (former owner) told us he was leaving because the birds like to nest in it. How cool is that?!?!

Winter seems like the perfect time to learn more about birds. The birds appreciate the food, if we set up the bird feeder, etc in the right place we can enjoy watching the birds visit us from the warmth of the house.

We plan to set up the bird feeder that the last owners left here, decide where we want the birdbath (though it would be pointless to fill it until it warms up), maybe clean out the watering can/bird house. We'll also make some other birdfeeders - the roll a pinecone or something in peanut butter and birdseed variety :) As it gets closer to spring we may collect yarn and other nesting materials in a mesh bag and hang it out for the birds to use to build their nests.  If life has settled down enough by then, I'd love to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count next month, we shall see . . .


This blog post is a part of the Schoolhouse Review Crew Blog Cruise. This week's Blog Cruise will be live on Tuesday, January 29.

Monday, January 21, 2013

A Few Outside Pictures

I actually remembered to snap a couple pictures of our yard and such while we were on our "nature walk" this afternoon. Thought I'd share before I forget:

The front of the house. There are ramps up to each door because the previous owner was handicapped. The driveway loops completely around the house. There appears to be quite abit of stuff planted in the flower beds along this side of the drive, I'll be interested to see what comes up this spring/summer :)

Side yard. you can see the side of the house, the gazebo (I took a better picture of it, the girls LOVE it!) And the detached garage. There's a "bonus room" above the garage, though not insulated or heated or anything. I haven't been up there, but my dad has. At this point it's only accessible by a ladder (there's a door at the back of the garage, but you have to climb a ladder to get to it). We'll eventually tear off the lean-to on the back of the garage and put stairs up to it.

The end of the house, and back porch. The door goes into the kitchen.

The gazebo. The evergreen trees are on the neighbor's land (he just planted them, I assume they'll form a complete hedgerow once they grow). There's a "porch swing" in the gazebo too.

The back yard. you can see the corner of the garage on the left, and the corner of the retaining wall by the back porch on the right. There's poles for a clothesline in the yard. The outside toys, we've just stacked there beside the garage for now, someday we'll figure out where we want them. There's a fire pit back aways (there's a blue recycle bin next to it that I haven't bothered to go and get, previous owners left it there). Beyond it, there's a creek (if you look really close you can see the bridge across it, but probably only if you know where to look. Beyond that is the "weeds" and the metal building. I haven't even gone back to look at it, I don't think it's at all useable. The previous owner suggested that the area we live in has quite a few restrictions on "new construction" but very few restrictions on "additions" so leaving the metal building there would give the option of "adding on" to it if we ever wanted a shed or greenhouse or something back there. Our property line is somewhere beyond the metal building. The "pretty" shed is just another storage shed. the property line on that side runs somewhere in the general vicinity of the tree line behind that shed.

And that's the outside. I didn't take any pictures of the other side of the house, but it's just the front porch. and such, all the "fun" is on the garage side.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Weekly Wrap-Up - January 20

This will be a short wrap-up, but I figured I should get back into my normal "routine" of posting . . .

As already mentioned, last week was all about moving. That said, we did manage to fit in "school time" a couple of days, and we did quite abit of driving between the two houses, which gave us time to listen to Jonathan Park for science and history.

The real "school" of the week was having Papa around. The girls helped him build platforms for the washer, dryer & freezer in the basement (the basement is mostly dry, but as a precaution in case heavy rains changed that, and to make sure they were level, Dad built simple wooden platforms for them to sit on). Dad said they were better at hitting nails than I am, but that's honestly not saying much, I gave up years ago, it's just not possible! He also explained to them how the sump pump works, complete with dumping water into it and then taking them outside to see the water pumping out of it.  They helped him hook up the stove, and I think the washer & dryer too. . . MiniMe was SOOO annoyed when she realized that he'd finished prying the wainscoatting (sp?) off in the bathroom (in preparation for putting the shower in) without her realizing he was doing it.  Besides all the building "classes" they got, he taught them about measurements (I heard one conversation explaining the difference between the metric system and inches, miles, etc), and just generally spent the week answering the gazillions of questions. I'm not sure who enjoyed it more, them or him :) I can definitely say I didn't worry about the fact that we didn't have alot of time to sit and "do school".

Little Bit was thrilled to have my mom around most of the week. And to make it even better, while my mom did TONS of packing and cleaning for us at the old house, and ALL the cooking and kitchen clean-up for us, she still had quite abit of time to play with Little Bit while I was busy unpacking and the big girls were helping Papa.

One thing that added drama to our week was the cats. We were obviously planning to bring "our" 2 cats, Moccasin and Joy with us. After much discussion, we agreed to bring one of the strays, MiLady Underfoot (because she likes to get RIGHT UNDER YOUR FEET, silly cat!). We tried bringing her in to eat several times (at the old house ) and she would just get panicky as soon as that door started to close. So I told MiniMe (who was the advocate for bringing her) that we'd TRY bringing her, but obviously if she completely freaked out we couldn't keep her in the house, and there was a pretty good chance that if we let her outside at the new house, she'd take off. MiniMe decided she still preferred that to taking her to the humane society, so that's what we decided to do. So then it was moving day. When we the furniture was all loaded, the girls asked about the cats and I told them that I didn't want to try to bring the cats and have them here while we were unloading the furniture, so we'd go back to the house that afternoon to get the cats. Which we did, BUT we couldn't find Joy, and since I was still figuring MiLady wouldn't stay in the house, I didn't want to bring her to the new house and put her outside after dark, which it was by the time we were heading back to the new house. So, that night we just brought Moccasin. He wasn't real happy about it all, and didn't like the basement stairs, but once he found himself a safe spot under our bed, he was ok. The next day we went back and STILL couldn't find Joy. That day, since we didn't have Joy, we wanted to stop a couple places on the way back to the new house so again, didn't bring MiLady.

The NEXT morning, dh was going to stop by the old house on his way to work. MiniMe and Sassy insisted that the "only way" to catch Joy was to be there at "breakfast time" because they said that they usually bring Joy into the house for breakfast and if not, he doesn't come around the house during the day. So, I asked dh to see if Joy was around, and if so, to put him in the house. We got there before dh had left and he said that "a black cat" (both Joy & MiLady are pure black, the girls claim they can tell them apart, but the rest of us can't) was in the house. The girls went searching and found Joy in the basement. We were super careful as we loaded up another load of stuff to take to the new house, to make sure he didn't get out. Once we had everything for that trip loaded, I told the girls to load MiLady into her cage, and, once she was in, to go find Joy (whom I assumed was in the basement) and put him in his cage. Sassy went to get him, and couldn't find him. Keep in mind that by that point there wasn't ANY furniture in the house! Not a whole lot of hiding places. Mom and I went to help her look, all 3 of us searched all 3 levels of the house and couldn't find that stupid cat! We were to the point where we figured he must have somehow snuck out while we were loading the car. But MiniMe (who'd been on the porch trying to keep MiLady calm) said she wanted to check someplace in the basement, so we had her go look for him. He wasn't where she thought he'd be, but she DID find him, hiding UNDER a couple bags of trash in the corner of the basement! So after all that drama, we finally headed to the new house with the 2 black cats. They weren't thrilled to be in cages, but were just "crying" not frantic like some cats get. Once we got home, I told the girls to take the cages to the basement to let the cats out (that's where the food and litter box are). As soon as they opened the cages, MiLady beelined it for the space under the freezer platform. She stayed under there for most of the day. Joy stayed pretty well hidden too, but neither of them went nuts or anything. . . by the next day, they'd acclimated. MiLady has done fine in the house, so I guess now we have THREE house cats, sigh . . . Before the other cats got here, Moccasin occasionally looked like he was going to try to go outside, but since they've been here, he hasn't seemed to care, and neither have they. They all like to hang out under our bed. And Little Bit had already claimed the floor of our closet as her "quiet spot" and put her pig pillow there. MiLady likes that pillow, and Little Bit LOVES that she can usually find MiLady on "my piggy".

MiniMe continues to do well with piano lessons. And Sassy is patiently (most of the time) waiting for this move to be DONE so we can figure out and get her a violin and she can start violin lessons.

Another new thing, the last 2 Sabbaths, the girls have told the Bible story in the Cradle Roll (0-4 yr old) class at church. They each took a week. I gave them the teachers helps and they read through them and decided how to tell it, practiced it, and each did well. I was nervous for Sassy yesterday, usually our "class" is 2-3 kids, MAYBE 4. Yesterday by Bible story time we had 6 kids, one of whom is abit older, I think he's 5 or 6 and can be pretty challenging. But she handled it all fine.

And that was moving week.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The First Tour of Our New House

Last Sunday was moving day! And ummm . . . today was "finally get internet at the new house day" LOL.

So, needless to say, we are FAR from settled, not even close. But now that I have internet back I thought I'd take you on a little tour of our current chaos. Of course, I didn't think about it until this evening, so you get the INDOOR tour tonight, and the OUTSIDE tour another day.

So, when you come in the back door, the kitchen is to the left:

Sassy was fixing supper while I was taking pictures LOL. The back door is right by the butcher block, which, by-the-way, we had in our first house, then it sat in our basement, and my parents' garage for the past 10+ years and now it fits PERFECTLY in that space. We have an over-the-stove microwave that will be installed when my wonderful Dad has time, which will get rid of the one taking up way too much of the limited counter space. And I need to find someplace else for all my plants so they don't take up half the butcher block. Much as I love my Berkey filter, there's really no good place for it in this kitchen (where it's sitting now it blocks one of the upper cabinets) AND the fridge has an ice maker, which I'd also prefer to be filtered water, so also on Dad's to do list is to put in a reverse osmosis filter so then the Berkey filter can move (I'm thinking I might keep it in the pantry and use it as a "back-up" when I need water for spaghetti or something, since I know last time I had an RO filter the tank wasn't big enough for things like that). Also the valances in the kitchen were already there. I have other valances I want to put up when I get a chance.

One thing that I struggled with when we looked at this house was that there really isn't anywhere for a table, I finally figured out that we could use the drop-leaf table (that I used as extra counter space in our last house). When it's not in use, it folds down out of the way (we keep the folding chairs in the pantry), when it's just the girls & I, we can open one side, like is open in these pictures. And if we're all eating, or have company, we can pull it out from the wall and put up the other side.

So moving on . . .
This is the view when you come in the back door. As already mentioned, kitchen is to the left. The first doorway, right past the white table, is the pantry. The door to the basement is across the "hallway" from the pantry door. The other door on the left is the bathroom, the master bedroom is across the hall from it. There isn't a closet IN the master bedroom (the previous owners used it as a den), so we're using the hall closet as our closet, but it didn't have a door on it. I already had that curtain, so at least for now, it works to hide the mess.  The white cabinet is a glass front cabinet that we used for games in our last house. We're using it as a "china cabinet" of sorts now. We have our Shabbat dishes and tea cups in it so far. Sassy is sooo excited to have everything handy for tea parties LOL.

To the right as soon as you come in the door is the living room:
The stairs go up behind the tv, and the front door is at the bottom of the stairs. The other side of the living room is here (yes, Little Bit still doesn't think clothes are necessary in the house, no matter how cold! (seriously, the first night we stayed in the new house we hadn't had the oil tank filled yet, and weren't sure how much oil was in it, so kept the heat REALLY low until they filled it, STILL she was nakey!))
I don't like how the furniture is in here, not sure what I want to do differently, but everything is way too "lined up". My friend, Judy, is coming over tomorrow and she is awesome at decorating stuff, so I'm hoping she'll have some awesome idea for me :)

And now for the messy parts. The pantry:

This is a kind of interesting room . . . it was the original bathroom. Then someone started to turn it into  a laundry room, you can't see it in this picture, but there's a laundry sink in the back left corner. The last owners "borrowed" some space out of the room to recess the fridge, and added a couple shelves over the laundry sink. We had the metal rack (and 3 more like it) in the basement of one house, and the storage shed at our last house, it fits PERFECTLY in this space. Right now it's kind of a mishmash of kitchen stuff I've unpacked, but it's a start . . .

Moving on to the bathroom:

Dad's current project is adding a shower. I love the tub, and the bathroom in general, but we kinda like to take showers in the morning too! So, we're adding a shower there beside the tub (in the meantime there's a not very pretty shower in the basement that's better than nothing, but I'll be very happy when the new one is done).

The master bedroom:

For now I'm using the bookcase as my nightstand. Need to figure out a way to have a lamp on it though. Or rearrange things to have a regular nightstand . . . and yes, we do have more pillows, I just didn't bother to track them down for the picture. Now for the messy side of the room, sigh . . .

That bookshelf is actually currently holding empty baskets and such. I want to keep them available to use as I organize things, and I haven't unpacked many books yet anyway. Trust me, when all is said and done ALL bookcases will be at capacity LOL.

So that's the main floor. Upstairs is "the girls' zone". They think that is SOOO cool! Going up the stairs their closet is straight ahead (I need to find another one of those curtains to hide that mess):

The school room is on the left. It also doubles as our "guest room" thanks to an aerobed.

I haven't done much up here yet, mostly just set stuff on the shelves. Eventually I want to sort through things and only keep things we use OFTEN on the shelves (there are more shelves on the opposite wall, and some on the wall by the door). There's storage space under the "eaves" so things we don't use often, I can store there, leaving most of the shelves available for books. The cedar chest needs to move under the window and we'll use it as a "window seat" of sorts. I'm still trying to decide if I want to leave the floor open or have a table of some sort up there. We shall see . . .

And finally, the girls's bedroom . . . not alot to see yet:
The plan is to get (or have Dad make, but Ikea has one that I'm hoping will work) a double bed that the twin mattress can slide under as a trundle. that will give them more room during the day. Little Bit always wants to sleep with one of the big girls anyway, so this should work well. For now we just have the double mattress and twin mattress on the floor, so that takes up a good bit of the room. The rest of the room is pretty much a jumble of boxes for now. I've turned the girls loose unpacking and sorting the toys for now. Once I get more of the house under control, I'll help them finish up upstairs.

So that's our new house, and on that note, I better get some sleep. . .

Friday, January 11, 2013

Book Review: 10 Christians Everyone Should Know by John Perry

10 Christians Everyone Should Know by John Perry is a book offering brief biographies of 10 notable Christians, including such diverse people as Jane Austen, Sergeant York, and Saint Patrick.

I've loved biographies since I was old enough to read, so I was excited to read this book. What I realized, once I dug into it however, is that this book appears to actually be abridged versions of "real" biographies of each of these 10 people. Now maybe this makes me a book snob, but I am NOT a fan of abridged . . . anything. Things are left out, and the abridged is almost never, in my experience, as good as the original.

I suspect that this is what happens with this book. I tried, over and over to get into this book and I just could NOT. I had hopes of using this book in our homeschool to teach my children about these notable Christians, but as I struggled to stay interested, reading it to myself, I realized that this would not be the best choice for sparking their interest in these amazing men and women.

That said, if you are looking to quickly get a general idea of what each of these notable Christians did, and what happened in their lives, this book does accomplish that. Also, at the end of each story, it lists the book that this person's story is taken from, so you could probably hunt down the original books for the people that interest you, and get a more complete, and hopefully more interesting, picture of their lives.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Weekly Wrap-Up - Jan 8

So the big news of last week was, obviously, that we closed on the house, whew!!!

We closed on Wednesday, then my parents and I (and the girls) spend Thurs and Friday taking stuff over to the house. My arm muscles should definitely be stronger by the time this is all done LOL.

I kept meaning to take pictures, but the only time I thought about when I was AT the house, hubby had my phone with him, sigh . . . so you'll have to settle for a few pictures I took when we first looked at the house (there was some trimwork and such that the then-owner was still working on, it's all done now, and now OUR mess is starting to take over LOL).

The front of the house.

Bathroom sink, with handmade cabinet

Clawfoot tub! I love it, BUT at the moment, that's ALL that's there, adding a shower is top priority LOL.

Kitchen - appliances didn't stay (that was another project for last week, ordering appliances), neither did the egg cartons LOL. We have a butcherblock "island" that we had in our townhouse when we first were married, it's been stored ever since, it fits PERFECTLY in the space where they had the butcher block.

Great room - there's no dining room per se, we have a drop-leaf table that we'll keep folded out of the way most of the time and put up when needed, so this space will be our living room. Valances didn't stay, shutters did. Random furniture didn't stay LOL. I'm so excited to have wood floors throughout the main floor!!! Woo-hoo!

Back (side) porch, with detached garage in the background. Former owner was completely smitten with Little Bit and loved playing with her whenever we came to look at the house. I think in this picture he was helping her walk on the railings and then jump off LOL.

Gazebo (as soon from the school room window). The neighbor on that side has since put a row of evergreens along the edge of their cornfield, which will make a nice hedge between our yards.

None of the pictures of the bedrooms really turned out, and really a bedroom w/ no furniture isn't a very exciting picture LOL. The main floor also has a pantry and the master bedroom. Upstairs is 2 bedrooms, one will be shared by all 3 girls, the other will be our "school room". There's also a full, unfinished basement with the laundry in it. 

So that pretty much consumed our week. While I'm holding off on the main parts of Little Bit's Waldorf Preschool until we get moved, we did start "circle time" on Jan 1, and have tried to do that most days. We are learning about the calendar by stringing beads, one per day, I hope to keep it up all year, using a different color for each month.

The big girls are continuing with Bible and History, we are listening to Jonathan Park in the car, so that gives us science, and more history, depending on the episode, and of course, their own reading as they choose. We're reading The Lord of the Rings trilogy for bedtime so that should count as literature class too right? And we're using Read Hebrew Today to learn Hebrew during our evening Bible time.

And that was our week.  This week will be more of the same, and we're planning to move the furniture, and start living in the new house on Sunday.