Sunday, August 21, 2016

Wrapping Up the First Half of August

I think I like these twice a month wrap-ups . . . so we'll go with that for now.  Starting off with a cut picture of Little Bit and Tracy.  Just because, it's a cute picture. Tracy, other than having an obsession with peeing places other than the litter boxes (which I sincerely hope will be "cured" when we get her spayed next month . . . according to the almighty google, some intact cats, even females, "mark" by peeing. And since most of her peeing has been on piles of dirty clothes, I am hoping that's what this is about. . . Incidentally, "rustic" wood floors, with cracks between some planks, are not so great when a cat pees (or a kid spills water) upstairs . . . just sayin . . . ) BUT . . . other than the peeing, she's a super loving cat! She lets Little Bit "love on her" nonstop. And the thing that can make dog-sitting challenging is that, unlike our other cats, she's not willing to just disappear for the week, she insists on being where people are! She also randomly will decide she needs to sleep on my chest at night. 

So, the first couple of weeks were pretty quiet. Music lessons, playdates, park days, Mama and Papa were here doing some more stuff on our old house, that is under contract, but the buyer is using an FHA loan so we're jumping through hoops, sigh . . . hopefully the hoBops are all jumped through and closing will go as scheduled in a couple of weeks! 

This past week has been busier again. . . a local water garden store does a live butterfly exhibit in the summers, so we decided to check it out.  It's all butterflies native to PA so much less variety than the one in Maryland that we first went to when  Lexie and Ashlyn were itty bitty babies (2 or 3 months old), and have gone to many times since. BUT for a close to home, less expensive, option this one was nice!
This place had "feeding sticks" that you could buy for $1, which is a great money maker for them, since it was literally a cotton swab (the long, wooden stick kind) dipped in colored sugar water. So it probably costs them about $0.01 LOL. BUT it was so worth it, because you could "pick up" the butterflies that way and carry them around. The kids, even the big kids, loved it!  We met friends there, and played on a little playground there after we were done at the butterflies. 

For bedtime we're reading the Little House books. I'm so excited to finally be able to read books to all the kids at once :) One night this week, after reading about Pa playing some specific song on his fiddle, Lexie brought out her violin and played the song for us :) 
Also, the big girls and I have been fighting a cold all week. Conveniently we were all "staggered" by at least a day or two, so we at least had different symptoms at any given time. Which meant that, the nights where I had no voice to read, at least one of the big girls felt up to reading. They weren't willing to read as long as I usually do, but we could at least keep moving forward with Little House on the Prairie, despite me being sick. 

AND we're dog sitting again :) Jakey is here for a long weekend.  I am always amazed at how much he reminds me of Precious :) Plus he's my favorite because he climbs up on MY lap instead of just snuggling with the girls :)  He's also, apparently, learning Algebra with Lexie!
Also this week, we tried out an idea I read about in Sally and Sarah Clarkson's book The Life Giving Home. The idea is to take one day each year to think about and talk about how we've seen God working in our life over the past year. The Clarksons start their discussion by reading Joshua 4 (when Joshua tells the leaders of the tribes to each pick up a rock from the Jordan as they cross over, and pile them on the shore as a memorial of what God has done for them) so my PLAN was that we would have our first "Family Day" on Monday, when we read Joshua 4 for Bible anyway. BUT I was too sick to get everything together for it, so we postponed it until Wednesday.  We started our day with cinnamon rolls for breakfast (which is, of course, a wonderful thing to eat when we're all fighting colds, sigh . . . but I'd already talked to them about the idea BEFORE we were fighting colds). . . then we talked about God's leading in our life over the past year and started our notebook to collect these memories each year.
I was trying to think of a fun, easy, lunch that was something out of the ordinary and remembered the raw veggie pizza that was one of our foods at our wedding. So hunted down a recipe, bought crescent rolls, and that's what we had. It was a hit! AND it occurred to me that we could do the same thing with homemade, whole wheat, biscuit dough as the crust instead of crescent rolls and it would then be a healthy lunch too :) So . . . Lexie tried that yesterday and it worked great. Meaning that, as an added bonus from it all, we added a new lunch to our menus. The Clarksons include going hiking in the mountains in their Family day, but we don't have mountains to hike in and it was horrendously hot all week, so doing ANYTHING outside was pretty much out of the question, even if we hadn't been sick. Instead, we decided that since it was so hot, going for ice cream was a better option. YUM!!! Overall it was definitely a hit. And a fun way to remind ourselves of God's working in our lives.
As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, Tracy the cat is not willing to hide when we have a dog visiting. Thankfully, now that her kittens are gone, she at least doesn't ATTACK dogs that visit (poor Maggie). But she does hold her ground. Jake is so funny. He's smart enough to stay out of her reach, but he's soo intrigued by her. . . Stare-downs like this are pretty common. The other thing he does that is SO funny, is he either thinks she's going to hurt "his people" (and yes, for this week, we are "his people") OR he's jealous that "his people" are giving her attention. So if she's sitting with one of us, or we're holding her, he barks at her and looks at us like "why aren't you worried about this?!?!?" Even more amusing, Lexie said that when I was gone one afternoon, Tracy was sleeping in "my recliner" and Jake was VERY disturbed about that. Apparently he was sure that was MY chair and Tracy shouldn't be there.

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Monday, August 15, 2016

Not-Back-to-School . . . Learning Spaces . . .

I'm continuing my own Not-Back-to-School Blog series with Learning Spaces week . . . We aren't "sit at desks (or the dining room table) and do school kind of homeschoolers. We have learning spaces throughout our house, so I thought I'd share, in no particular order, a few of the places we learn, or store learning stuff, in our house . . . 

Right now Little Bit's reading program requires a white board, so we've been using the easel, set up in the sun room. The reading program came with cardboard letter tiles, but Little Bit decided letter magnets are more fun, so we use them on the white board as well as writing the words. 
She wanted a way to keep her magnets organized, but when she had them all organized ON the easel, it didn't leave any room to actually use the white board, so we re-purposed an old cookie sheet to be her magnet tray. I didn't realize until I started editing pictures, that her hair had gotten in the picture of the magnet tray, and I'm too lazy to go take a new one. So there you have, proof that we really do use these learning spaces LOL.
I have maps hanging in the sunroom, so we can easily reference them if we want to.

In the living room, I have a basket for library books on the hearth. The extra supplies for Little Bit's reading program live under that basket, so I don't lose them. The little white board has the current items Lexie and Ashlyn are supposed to be adding to their book of centuries. And my temperature blanket knitting project sits next to it. One of our cats thinks the rocks under the gas log are her litter box, so for now I keep "stuff" blocking the whole fireplace to keep her out of it. 
My tote usually sits down beside my recliner, but you can't SEE it there, so I set it on the coffee table for the picture. It holds basic office supplies, my planner, scrap paper, new paper, the stuff I'm currently using for Little Bit's school, paper work I'm currently using, and a folder of "to be filed" paperwork waiting for me to take it down to the file cabinet. The basic idea is that, with only a few minutes "warning" I can add anything specific I need that day, and grab my tote and be ready to do school anywhere.
Ashlyn does most of her school in her room. She has her desk all set up for art, and has our old laptop up there so she can do Teaching Textbooks and ArtAchieve. She also uses the laptop to watch the Grammar of Poetry DVDs so she can watch them without all the distractions and interruptions she'd have in the living room. 

Little Bit is much more likely to want to "do school" when she sees it sitting out ready for her. And I'm more likely to find time to do it with her if everything is all together ready to go. So we set up some "work boxes" of sorts for her in the front entry. Which isn't an ideal spot, but it's where the little white shelving unit happened to be sitting, so I just went with it.

She has a plastic bin for each day of the week. The "apple basket" to the left is where she puts things she's done with. Then I can either put them back in the correct bin for next week, file them, or put books we're done with back on the shelf. The purple canvas bin on the bottom shelf is where I stash things I'm going to want to put in her bins soon, but not this week and the white canvas bin has her school supplies in it. The basket to the right has some games that I switch out randomly from the shelves in the sunroom, to try to catch her attention and get her choosing different games instead of playing the same ones over and over. On the shelves next to the Thursday & Friday bins are things like a container of salt/glitter that she can trace letters in, and some extra art supplies I think are what's in the blue basket next to the Friday bin.

Ashlyn's piano is in the living room. And the picture also shows the corner of the TV which does get quite a bit of use in our homeschooling. In addition to Little Bit watching shows like Wild Kratts and Magic Schoolbus, we watch some YouTube shows for history (LOVE Crash Course History), and use the DVD player to listen to audiobooks. I also cast mp3 files up onto the TV using Chromecast so we can use the volume on the TV instead of being limited to the volume on my laptop. Under the TV are DVDS, CDs, and some games.

There are also a couple bookcases in the living room, and some books on the living room windowsills, but I didn't take pictures of those.

The sunroom has more shelves with some of Little Bit's toys, more games, and educational things like the Globe and some manipulatives.

The big green chair in the sunroom is a favorite place to read and Lexie can generally be found there, or on the sofa in the living room when she's doing her school. She has a desk in her room too, but rarely wants to be alone. She does go to her room to practice violin, and sometimes has the sewing machine set up on her desk, but otherwise, it's more of a "storage surface". She wants people around even if she's reading and telling us not to talk to her LOL.

One thing I was very excited about when we got this house was the room in the basement to have all my books together and organized. This is only some of them, it turns a corner and goes along another wall, forming a guest bedroom space in behind all the shelves, but you get the idea! Lots and lots of books, and I can actually find what I'm looking for. We don't generally "do school" in the basement, but it's where the books live when we're not using them :)

The other half of the basement is for active play. We have the trampoline down there as well as things like bilibos, bean bags (the kind you sit in and the kind you toss), etc. It's where I can send Little Bit if the weather is bad and she's getting too hyper.  The gray couch thing behind her folds out to be a queen size foam mattress, so it can be additional sleeping space when needed and also sometimes gets folded out to be used as a tumbling mat. When it's folded into a couch it gets used for reading when someone goes down to choose a new book and can't wait till they're back upstairs to start reading it :)

Tucked into the corner by the electrical panel and such in the basement are my file cabinets. They're messy, but more organized than I've been able to be in our other houses.  This is where I have various kinds of art paper, the kids old school papers and Junior ranger books and such, as well as household files. On top are some extra school supplies, and stacked next to the cabinet are more stuff that I found while unpacking and need to get filed but haven't taken the time yet.

In our last house we didn't have a place for a kitchen table. We had a drop leaf table that could be set up when we needed a table, but there wasn't really room to keep it up all the time. I didn't think that would be a big problem, since we don't tend to eat our meals at the table anyway, but what I didn't think about was how much the kids like doing art, and how necessary a table is for that. It's nice to have our nice big table in this house, with a water proof table cloth on it, so messes don't matter, so Little Bit can paint pretty much whenever she wants. I have one small cupboard in the kitchen designated for painting stuff so it's convenient to get out when she wants it.

And finally, the cedar chest/coffee table in the sunroom, for a little bit of everything. We have it on a rug so it slides easily so that it can pull up to the sofa when needed, like right now, when Lexie's using it to build something or other. Or it can push out into the middle of the room, or all the way over against a wall if we want the open space.

I'm sure I'm forgetting some places, and today it's beastly hot out so I didn't include the outside spaces that are nice when the weather is good . . . like the garden that Ashlyn maintains and the porch swing on the front porch and the tree where Little Bit tucked a "bug hotel" to be able to watch for different kinds of bugs. But you get the idea . . . :)

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Not Back to School . . . Curriculum!

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For the last several years I've participated in a "Not Back to School" blog hop in August. But I'm not finding any indication that anyone is doing one this year. I like having the "assignment" to write on the topics in this blog hop, so I'm gong to pretend it's still happening, and write about the topics once a week in August anyway . . .

And so, without further ado . . . Not-Back-to-School Week 1:  Curriculum!

I feel like finally, after 9 (ish ?!?) years of homeschooling . . . we have hit our groove . . . we know what works for us, and we're happy to just kind of keep moving forward. So here's what we're doing right now:


Bible: Bible Road Trip Year 1 this is our second time through Bible Road Trip, and we're not following it exactly. In theory, Lexie and Ashlyn are doing the Dialectic level, but in some cases, we're doing all chapters instead of just those suggested in the curriculum, and since they're not a fan of "research papers", we're skipping those. We enjoy listening to Rabbi Lutton's sermons, so for the books where we can find recordings of her sermons, we listen to all chapters. Also, for Genesis and Exodus we read through the entire books, along with looking at select sections of the commentary in the Chumash and in the NASB study Bible.

History: We are in our 4th year of The Story of the World. Now that the girls are older, we are doing less read alouds and more independent reading. Each month I compile a list of independent reading options for the next 4 chapters in Story of the World. They choose which books they want to read and I get them from the library or, if the library doesn't have them, we decide if we should buy it, or if there's a different book they can choose instead. We listen to the Story of the World together in the car, one chapter per week. We also listen to Diana Waring's CDs when they correlate with SotW. I also choose picture books and short chapter books to read to Little Bit each week. At bedtime, we are trying to choose books that all 3 girls enjoy for our longer read aloud then.

Health/PE: We are trying to be more intentional about making sure to do something active and outdoors regularly. The girls aren't thrilled about it, but we're working on it. . . when we've had dogs here it makes it easy. They're happy to play ball with the dog. Ashlyn is generally happy to work in her garden this time of year. Lexie is more at lose ends . . . Lina is more than happy to have someone to play with her, if her sisters would just play :) Sometimes we'll turn the sprinkler on or get the wading pool out for her and then she's happy to play on her own while we garden, etc. outside.

Lexie (8th Grade):
Math: Life of Fred Algebra I

Science: She wants to study genetics. We found MIT's course online, but she found it a bit advanced (being college level, and intended to be taught by a teacher, not self-taught by a 13 year old . . .) I just realized I have the .pdf of My Name is Gene and it's workbook so this week she is checking that out to see if it's a better fit.

Language Arts: Mostly focusing on literature this year. Otherwise known as reading plenty of good books :)

Music: Violin lessons

Art Appreciation: We got a series of books on various artists last year that she continues to work through.

Fiber Arts: Sewing

Ashlyn (8th Grade):
Math: Teaching Textbooks

Science: For this summer, gardening, including maintaining records of what has and hasn't worked, things to try differently next year, etc. Once we're past gardening season she will re-evaluate if she wants to continue to focus on botany, or switch to a different science for the winter.

Language Arts: In addition to the on-going literature focus, she's also doing Grammar of Poetry.

Music: Piano lessons

Art: Art Achieve Level IV

Little Bit (1st Grade):
Reading: Delightful Reading Level 3 from Simply Charlotte Mason she is LOVING this program!!! When I first looked at it, I printed out the sample lesson to do with her to see if it was worth buying. Not only did she love it, but she begged to do the next lesson the next day. I ended up e-mailing the company (after I'd ordered the curriculum and was just waiting for it to arrive) and they send me a .pdf of the teacher manual to use while we waited because she was impatient! :)

Jesus Storybook Bible: Technically we all do Bible together using Bible Road Trip, as mentioned above. But sometimes the discussions are over her head and she tends to wander off to do her own thing. So in addition, we have been reading one story in the Jesus Storybook Bible each week, and then doing at least one hands-on activity or craft to go with it. I recently "created" a Sabbath School Curriculum to use with the Jesus Storybook Bible, so this also functions as my "guinea pig" to see what activities do and don't work well before I add them into the curriculum. I honestly can't say enough good about this book! It is by far my most favoritest Bible story book EVER!!!!

Gnomes and Gnumbers: This is so fun! I'm a strong believer in delaying formal math until age 9 or 10, but these fun stories introduce some basic math concepts in a low key way AND my art-lover gets to draw pictures every week, so she's happy as a clam :) We do roughly one lesson per week.

Science/Nature: Burgess Bird Book - my original plan was to read one story per week, have a coloring page of one of the birds highlighted in that week's story, and look that bird up in a field guide so she could color it accurately. But she prefers to listen to the stories, often 4 or 5 in a row, on librivox, while she's working on other school work (like copying words for reading, or drawing pictures for Gnomes and Gnumbers. So we go with it. . . She's almost through the whole book. When she finishes it, we'll move on to the Burgess Animal Book.

Various art and craft projects each week.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Wrapping up the Last Half of July

Hey look, I'm getting caught up!!! And apparently I forgot my camera existed these last few weeks LOL (that, and the kittens had gone to their new home, so I don't have a gazillion kitten pictures to bore you with).

The weekend of the 24th, Lexie and Ashlyn went to the beach with friends. Little Bit had a taste of being an only child, and wasn't overly impressed. Tracy the cat seemed to miss Lexie and Ashlyn too. She slept on top of me most nights. I was surprised at how much less dishes, and laundry there was with only one kid.

Despite Little Bit's declaration that she didn't like being an only child, she wasn't exactly lonely. Her friend, K came over to play for a few hours on Friday. On Sunday, my parents came up and met us at Chipotle. I told Little Bit I was taking her someplace for supper but wouldn't tell her where. We got there and my parents got out of their car, her reaction was priceless :) And on Monday, we dropped something off at K's house, and her mom and I got to talking, so Little Bit and K got to play for another hour or so.

Lexie and Ashlyn got home from the beach on Monday, and, at the same time, Nina (standard poodle) came to visit for a week. Tracy was much more laid back (for her) about having a dog in the house now that her kittens are gone, but Nina simply could not comprehend that this small furry thing didn't want to be her friend. She did become slightly more wary after Tracy swiped her nose a couple times, but her memory was short, so after a day or so of keeping her distance (Tracy didn't hunt her down, like she had Maggie, but she did stand her ground), Nina would try to make friends again, silly dog. Still as long as we kept an eye on them, Tracy didn't have to spend as much time locked in the bedroom as she did when Maggie was here. I had ASSUMED that the easy solution would be to just let Tracy outside. She spent most of the time the kittens were here, trying to sneak out, but we wouldn't let her for fear she wouldn't come back to her kittens. But silly cat, now that I WANTED her outside, had no interest in being outside. When we DID put her out, she'd sit right outside the sliding door, and Nina would stand right INSIDE the sliding door barking and jumping and trying to figure out how to play with her through the glass (while Tracy did her best to swat Nina through the glass). And Tracy'd come back in as soon as we let her.

And that pretty much sums up the rest of our month. We spent a day helping friends get ready to move. . . Stopped by a friend's house to meet the dog she was dog-sitting (because Ashlyn can never meet too many dogs). . . Enjoyed park days with play days with friends. . .

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Wrapping Up the First Half of July . . .

More catch-up . . . when the weather cooperates, we've been meeting homeschool friends at a park on Fridays. The teenagers tend to do things like play board games. I think Lexie and Ashlyn's favorite has been Harry Potter Trivia. While the rest of the kids play on the playgrounds. Little Bit loves playgrounds, but complains that her sisters won't play with her, so having other kids to play with is PERFECT!!!

I kind of went overboard on kitten pictures the first part of July. They were such a fun age, and we had to take lots of pictures before they left. So now you'll just have to humor me while I share some of those pictures :)

We got to take care of Maggie the dog for a week. On the day that her owners brought her to us, we had the wading pool set up, so all the kids, and Maggie, had fun in the pool. Though the younger kids didn't like having Maggie in the pool, so most of her pool time came after the rest of the kids went home.

But she enjoyed plenty of pool time with Little Bit while she was staying with us. I'm pretty sure she figured nothing could be better than getting to play frisbee and jump into the pool to cool off every time she brought the frisbee back.

Needless to say, Ashlyn was happy to have "her Maggie" back with us. And Maggie was happy to make herself at home on Ashlyn's bed again :)

At church, we've started having the 4-6 yr old class combine with the 7-10 yr old class for song service a couple times a month. I love all the energy when all the kids are enthusiastically "Makin' Melodies" :)


Tracy (the mama cat) has always been a "people cat", in fact, that's what made her not a very good mama cat, she'd rather be with people than with her kittens when they were little. Once they were big enough to play with her, she seemed to like them better. And when they left, she obviously missed them AND apparently thought we must miss them too, so she decided she should comfort us, and/or herself, by spending as much time as possible in our laps. I don't mind that so much, but waking me up in the middle of the night to rub against my face doesn't go over so well LOL.

One day when we were all busy with other things, Little Bit kept wanting us to play Uno with her. Finally she gave up on us, and decided to play Uno with her stuffed monkey :)