Sunday, June 21, 2015

Wrapping up . . . Camp meeting

Whew! Campmeeting 2015 is over.

This year's exhaustion (for me) was different than normal. My mom got to experience my normal exhaustion of managing the kids' schedules, keeping Little Bit entertained while her sisters are off "having fun" but there's nothing for her age group. . . Figuring how how to have lunch ready as soon as meetings are over (though thankfully this year the big girls didn't want to do all the available afternoon activities and were able to arrange things so that the earliest time slot after lunch was free, meaning they didn't have to inhale their lunch, so Mom didn't have to figure out and have lunch ready the second they got back from morning meeting (seeings as how SHE was also just getting back from taking Little Bit to morning meeting).  . .

So, while Mom was handling all that, Dad and I spent our days at my house tearing a shed off the back of the garage (and doing other projects when the rain prevented us from working on that.  It was definitely more physical work than I'm used to, and more time spent out in the heat than I'm used to, but we got a lot done and I suppose it was good for me. . . re-reminded me why, when I was a kid and my mom would give my brother and me choices on which chores we were going to do each day (during summer vacation), I always chose the indoor ones! I don't do heat well. . .

But now to back up a little bit. Sunday schedule at campmeeting is different from the rest of the week. There are no meetings for the kids (except evening meeting for the bigger kids). So we decided to spend Sunday visiting a National Park instead. Hopewell Furnace was one of the early Junior Rangers the big girls earned and has always held the place of "favorite Junior Ranger" in their hearts. Little Bit was too little when we did it though, and there was a new Passport stamp there that Dad wanted. So we headed back there.  It's still a favorite. In addition to the "scavenger hunt" that Little Bit did to earn her Junior Ranger (and that the big girls remember so fondly from our first visit), they now also have a more challenging page for older kids, so the big girls got to earn another Junior Ranger there, doing different things from the first time. The girls were disappointed that the horses were too hot to come over to fence and say hi, but otherwise it was a great visit and confirmed that it's still one of our favorite National Parks :)

While I wasn't at camp meeting much, I did go up in the evenings for supper and got to hear about the girls' week. The big girls still love all the things they've always loved, though this year cemented in their minds, their feeling from 2 years ago, that Primary (age 7-9) is the most fun tent. Apparently the songs are better, the pastors give out candy, and . . . I don't remember what other reasons the girls gave for missing being in that tent. Their continued love for Primary has Little Bit anxiously looking forward to getting to go to that tent next year.

Little Bit didn't have very fond memories of her own class from 2 years ago, so we weren't sure how things would go this year. But apparently being one of the oldest instead of one of the youngest in the class (for ages 4-6) makes a big difference. Not only did she happily go to her meetings, but by part way through the week she didn't even need/want my mom to come with her (making that whole "have meals ready" thing easier . . . at least this way Mom could prep the food during meeting, then go pick Little Bit up, and then just do finishing touches while the kids all waited).

There was quite a bit of rain during camp meeting this year. I can't imagine how miserable it would have been to stay in a tent, but the motorhome made it not much of an issue for us. One evening though, it had just started to rain when Lexie and Ashlyn were ready to leave for their meeting. They decided they could walk in the rain rather than be driven to meeting by grown ups (oh the indignity!) so they set out. I wasn't paying much attention to what was going on outside, Little Bit was soundly beating her daddy and me at Sorry, when the gentle rain switched to downpour and I glanced out the window to see the trees surrounding the motorhome whipping every which way. Eek! I texted the girls to make sure they'd gotten safely to meeting before the sky opened up. Ashlyn replied that they had, and soon after getting to the tent, the leaders had moved them all to the basement of the girls' dorm (camp meeting is held on the campus of a boarding school). Whew! Rodney and I waited for the storm to pass and then headed home for the night. Later we found out that soon after they got all the kids moved out of the tents and into the dorms, the Primary tent collapsed. Thankfully nobody was hurt and they were able to get it set back up in time for the next morning's meeting.

We finished off our week, and camp meeting, with a church potluck picnic. The kids all had great fun playing on the playground before and after lunch. It was overcast, but didn't rain till we were packing everything up to go home anyway, so all worked out nicely.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Wrapping Up the Week of June 7

Hmmm . . . we had a pretty quiet week. I like quiet weeks, but they don't make for very exciting blogging :-)

Lots of baking and such getting ready for campmeeting (this week). Lexie made at least 3 different kinds of muffins and froze them for breakfasts. Ashlyn made crepes and froze THEM for breakfasts.

The only picture I took all week (and technically I didn't take it, Lexie did) was of the "cell" Lexie and Little Bit made for science. I have to say, I like "hands on" alot better now that I can just turn the kids loose with it LOL. Lexie mixed up the gelatin and then Little Bit "helped" her put it in a ziplock (cell membrane) and add the neucleus and . . . whatever the pinto beans represent, then they laid it in a box to represent the cell wall. Fun stuff :)

The other big excitement this week was getting cell phones for Lexie and Ashlyn. Sigh . . . somehow this feels like a big milestone, even though I know many kids have phones much younger than 12. They're finally to the point where there are times it would be nice for them to have phones so Rodney shopped around and found a prepaid plan that is very reasonably priced. I had suggested they get one phone and share it, and we could always get a second one if we needed to, but Rodney apparently wasn't paying attention when I suggested that, so he ordered 2. So, they each have their own. The phones came on Friday, just in time for us to head to camp meeting, so the timing was perfect (and jumping ahead just a tad, I was beyond thankful they had phones when, last night, just as their evening meeting, that they had walked to, was supposed to start, a thunderstorm with high winds whipped up. Was sooo reassuring to be able to text them and confirm they'd made it to the meeting (and that the meeting, normally in a large tent, had been moved indoors).

So, that brings us to the fun of the last part of the week. . . camp meeting. . . My parents brought their motorhome up and parked it on campus on Thursday. Friday we packed the kids' stuff and headed over there. I wasn't sure how things were going to work for Little Bit. She was very unsure she even wanted to try going to meetings (remembers NOT enjoying them last time we were there), but she seemed to enjoy it on Sabbath, so we shall see how the week progresses (today my mom was going to take her, since Dad and I are busy working on projects at my house). Sabbath afternoon we enjoyed a potluck picnic with people from church, and then that evening, Little Bit played with friends on playground (with my parents keeping an eye on her) while Rodney & I got to actually sit down and listen to vespers :)

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

'Tis the Season . . . for Curriculum Planning

We school year round, but it seems to work out that spring is the time of year that we plan curriculum for the next year or so. We tweak things as we go, and sometimes plan to "figure it out when we get there", but with homeschool convention and our state-required evaluations that makes it an easy time to file away last year's stuff and start fresh. . . this seems to be the "schedule" that we've fallen into.

Since I know many people are curriculum planning in the summer to start back in the fall, I thought I'd share what our current plans are for the next year or so:

We recently started year 3 of Bible Road Trip. I'm not expecting this one to take a full year (even a school year). It's designed so that (for the twins' grade level) with a larger book, we read 2 chapters per day, which is a good pace. However, when a book is less than 10 chapters, it's still given a full week. I can understand how, for some people, maintaining the rhythm of focusing on the same book in a given week would be valuable but with our eclectic schedule, we rarely stay on "track" to have our weeks line up with the curriculum's weeks anyway, so, when there are less chapters we stick with our 2 chapter per day pace and just have shorter "weeks", which means, considering how many short books there are in the last part of the New Testament, I'm guessing this "year" won't take us a full year, and obviously, even if it did, we're getting an early start . . . we are adding in a few more days because we'll also be using the Picture Smart Bible at the end of each book to recap/review that book. This is one of those subjects that we're planning to plan later. When we are approaching the end of BRT we'll figure out what we want to use for Bible for the rest of the year. Our current thought is to find something to fit the time left until July 2016, and then start back with year 1 of Bible Road Trip at that point.  For now we are using the 7th grade level for Lexie and Ashlyn. I ask Little Bit to listen in to the chapter(s) that are also included in the 1st grade level.

We just finished Volume 2 of Story of the World and are beginning Volume 3. As we've done for the last couple of years, we add in lots of living books, videos, some crafts, etc. I'm hopeful that Little Bit will be more involved for Volume 3, and am planning some crafts and things just for her (not that the older girls aren't allowed to join in, but I'm including them because I think Little Bit will enjoy them). I also pulled out the History Pockets books that we used with American History when the big girls were 5 and 8 to see if she enjoys them. I'm anticipating that we may take abit more than a year on this volume. It includes the early American history that we love so much, and have so many great field trip opportunities nearby for, I don't think I'll be able to "skim over" the American history in this volume, especially if our excitement is contagious and Little Bit catches the history bug :)

Lexie and Little Bit are using science from Answers in Genesis. It seems to be working as we'd hoped, with Lexie "teaching" the 1st grade level to Little Bit, and working independently on the 7th grade level.
Ashlyn is using a Botany curriculum we got from SchoolhouseTeachers she's combining this with using the Handbook of Nature Study, and the gardening and other plant studies as her interest inspire her. Little Bit will be joining with her some as well, at least for the gardening and other hands-on type things.
I need to ask Little Bit if she wants to listen through Herb Fairies again this year too. We listened to the first one in April, but I forgot to do the second one in May, if she wants to go through them again this year, I need to get us caught back up.

Lexie is continuing with Life of Fred. She is currently learning Pre-Algebra and Physics.

Ashlyn is switching to Teaching Textbooks. She's hoping to still read the stories in Life of Fred but she wants the more detailed explanations of Teaching Textbooks. As a bonus, it's all presented as audio which is perfect for her! I really wish it was available as an online thing or a download so we didn't have to set up one of the old laptops that has a DVD drive for her to do it on, but we'll manage, while keeping fingers crossed that they will realize that in today's world of chromebooks, netbooks, tablets, and half tablet/half laptop things, having to insert a CD to use the program is rather old fashioned.

We continue to use Spelling Wisdom. Ashlyn loves it, Lexie hates it, but she just generally hates the very idea of spelling, I'm pretty sure there's no other spelling curriculum that she'd like any better. She's holding out hope for technology to make spelling obsolete LOL. I definitely feel like it's a more "real life" way to learn spelling than the spelling lists I had in school.

Grammar/Language Arts:
Ashlyn is continuing with Fix It Grammar, at least for now. Once she finishes the book she's using, we'll decide if she wants to do the next book or feels comfortable with where she's at. She does still have the Grammar of Poetry that we reviewed, but didn't have time to finish (because she reviewed Fix It Grammar immediately after that review) so I would guess she'll finish that up before going on to another Fix It Grammar even if she decides to continue that series.

Lexie was still pretty adamant that she was NOT doing grammar at the time of the homeschool convention and then, as we were browsing at Rainbow Resources, she noticed an unfamiliar Life of Fred book . . . Life of Fred Australia. She had to check it out . . . and discovered that it was a language arts book. She read through part of the first lesson before we moved on. When I looked it up online we discovered that yes, it's a language art series (4 books) but is intended to be high school level. Lexie insisted that it was easy enough for her, so we have ordered that first book and we'll see how it goes. . .

The big girls continue to get their "reading" in the form of reading whatever they want as long as they are reading regularly.

Little Bit goes in spurts of wanting to read. At the Homeschool convention I picked up some early readers with a nature theme and some weeks she wants to read them, some weeks she doesn't. I'm not pushing it, but have asked, after some "false starts" that she wait until she's ready to commit to being consistent about it, so we shall see. . .

Both girls continue with the music lessons.

Ashlyn is continuing with Artistic Pursuits. We were able to get another book at a good price at the used curriculum sale at the homeschool convention so that should keep her busy for most of this year. If not, there's an art curriculum on SchoolhouseTeachers and there were also some interesting looking art options in the "bundles" we got at the recent Bundle sale, so she has lots of art options available.

Lexie has decided to take more of an "art appreciation" approach to art this year. She found a series of books on various artists at the homeschool convention and will be using those this year.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Wrapping up the First Week of June

We began our week with Lexie's violin recital. She has completed Suzuki Book 1. Normally her teacher has her violin students play 4 or 5 songs from Book 1 for their graduation recital. But, she has her piano students play all the songs in the piano book 1 and has a cute little story that incorporates all the titles. When Ashlyn had her graduation recital Lexie decided she wanted to play all her songs for her graduation recital as well, and promptly sat down and wrote her own story, a sequel to the piano story. So Lexie's violin recital was an exercise in arm stamina as well. Rodney recorded her recital.

Monday was our end of year evaluation for homeschool, so the 2014-2015 school year is now officially complete.

We were worried this week about Little Bit's cat, Joy. He had been gone for a few days and when he came back he wouldn't eat or drink much and was limping. The vet couldn't really find anything wrong. His best guess was some sort of infection or abscess on Joy's back. He gave him antibiotics for that and sent us home with pain medicine and and appetite stimulant. We gave him one pain pill and one appetite stimulant and between that and the antibiotic he was walking close-to-normal by the next morning, and eating ravenously. Now he's back to normal but extremely annoyed at us for not letting him back outside yet. Whew!

We started Volume 3 of Story of the World for history this week. One of the suggested activities I'd found for chapter 1 (talking about the Spaniards mining for gold and silver in South America) was gold mining. I figured Little Bit would have fun with that, so handed Lexie the link and had her set it up for Little Bit. Much mess, much fun!

The big girls were very willing to help eat the "gold" (lemon heads) when Little Bit was done mining :)

Sabbath was a busy day. After church, instead of potluck, everyone brought picnic lunches and lawn chairs and we all picnicked together on the lawn by the church. It worked out really well because after we ate the kids played with bubbles (Lexie took some awesome pictures of that, but they're on Rodney's phone and he hasn't sent them to me yet) and played tag and just generally ran around and had fun while the adults could sit around and talk and still keep the kids in sight.

When we got home, the girls wanted to go see our neighbor's puppy so we went over and hung out at their house the rest of the day. They recently got a "double" hammock (that is HUGE), so everyone had to try that out.

Then Lexie and Ashlyn decided to see how it worked to actually use a double hammock like it's "supposed" to be used. They completely disappeared inside it LOL. And then had a horrible time getting OUT of it.

We stayed at their house for supper and didn't get home till bedtime. So, long day, but fun.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Wrapping Up the Week of May 23

Summer is here! I really wish spring had lasted longer, but we're enjoying summer too.

Our neighbors invited us over a couple times this week to play in their sprinkler. Little Bit loved the sprinkler, Ashlyn spent her time cuddling with their puppy and Lexie's always happy to have people other than her family to talk to :)

We did more gardening this week. We finished up the second bed and Ashlyn planted peppers and more tomatoes. She still needs to plant cucumbers and dill (why yes, we ARE hoping to make pickles this summer, why do you ask?) There were apparently some pumpkin (or other squash-like thing) seeds in the compost layer that we added to one of the beds, so those are growing nicely. Ashlyn's letting them grow for now to figure out what they are then we'll decide if we want to leave them be (but the bed is small for vines), get rid of most/all of them, or move them somewhere that can handle the vines better.

While the days tended to be hot, and we were very glad for air conditioning, the evenings were still cool. With it staying light later, that worked out perfectly to allow us to do bedtime stories outside. We set up lawn chairs near the swingset and Little Bit played while I read to the girls. Moccasin liked to listen too, and pretty thoroughly took over Little Bit's chair :)

Lexie spent lots of time practicing violin for her end of book 1 recital that was yesterday.

We finally received Lexie and Ashlyn's standardized test scores. I have to say, I have been extremely unimpressed with Seton testing! Both in 3rd grade and now in 5th grade, we did NOT receive the scores when they initially sent them. I don't know if their post office has a problem or what, I find it hard to believe that it's OUR post office/mail carrier since it's only been from this one place. So last week, after waiting 3 weeks from when I received e-mail notification that the tests had been scored, I contacted them and finally got their scores, at least via e-mail. They also said they mailed "a second copy" of the scores and I did receive two envelopes but when I opened the second envelope to put the scores in my folder of portfolio information, I discovered that they had sent me 2 copies of Ashlyn's scores and no copies of Lexie's, sigh . . . Doesn't really matter, I can just print out the e-mailed copy, but just another indication that something is not working smoothly. I think I'll be using a different testing vendor for 8th grade!

I'm excited (and 2/3 of my children seem to be excited) about a new product I discovered while shopping the Build-a-Bundle sale (which ends today! so go check it out ASAP if you're interested).  The Middle School bundle includes the New Testament Picture Smart Bible. Conveniently, this week we finished the book of Matthew for Bible Road Trip so it seemed like perfect timing to start including this new resource. I personally don't see it working as a stand-alone Bible curriculum, but I love how it works WITH Bible Road Trip. After using BRT to study a book of the Bible, we can take a couple days to do that book's picture and review/reinforce the highlight's of that book.

I also handed the Pre-algebra from the Middle School Bundle over to Lexie to use as additional practice along with Life of Fred. We actually reviewed Math Essentials 3 years ago and I was impressed with it then, especially to reinforce or provide extra practice as needed, so I was happy to get some more of these in the Bundles (I also got the High School bundle which includes the Geometry from Math Essentials).