Friday, May 27, 2011

Weekly Report: May 23-27, 2011

It's Official!  We are done with the 2010-2011 school year!  Hurray!  Oh, summer vacation we have been so eager for your arrival!  I plan on doing a "Year in Review" post in the next few days, but here's a sampling of what we've done this past week.

First off, we moved our homeschool downstairs into what used to be the TV Room.  It's so nice to have a dedicated space for school that doesn't need to be cleared off every time we have a snack or meal...or anything else that requires the use of the kitchen table.  Yay!

The girls were eager to give the "new" schoolroom a go this week...productivity was up, markedly so.  We really accomplished a lot this week.

"I'm all done with first grade math FOREVER!!!"
3R's:  This picture is a little old, from a previous week or so ago, but I forgot to post it.  Bluebird finished her Saxon 1 Math book and was very happy about it.  We spent this last week going over her flashcards for extra review--which seems to have helped immensely.  We'll begin with Saxon 2 next year.

Penguin is still doing really well with her phonics.  We went over the "k" sound this week, which she grasped easily.  Yesterday we read through various combinations of words beginning with "c" and "k" and she came across the phrase "Kiss cat," which she thought was the funniest thing she had ever read:

Bluebird bulldozed through her writing assignments.  It was amazing.  I'm kind of proud of her for that one.

History & Literature:  We finished The Story of the World, Volume One.  It's kind of sad, watching Rome just diminish and die.  It's an ominous way to end the year.  Bluebird was able to find all the continents, plus Italy, Britain, China, India, the Nile River and Central America on an unmarked map.  So proud of my girl!

We also read a lot of our leftover literature books from Ancient China, as I ran out of money for new books and couldn't make it to the library this week.  Random...but it worked.  We read The Weaving of a Dream, Da Wei's Treasure, and The Dragon Prince.

And that's what we did in this last week of school.  Good-bye First Grade and Penguin Preschool!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Finished: The Wedding Shawl

PatternEcho Flower Shawl, by Jenny Johnson Johnen

Yarn:  JaggerSpun Zephyr Wool-Silk 2/18, less than one skein

Needles: AddiTurbo Lace US 4 (3.5 mm) 24"

Oh, the magic of blocking.  In the previous post I showed how teeny tiny this was when it came off the barely covered Bluebird's shoulders.  But, after blocking, it easily covers her armspan.  Lace is so weird that way.

So now I will wrap this little beauty up and send it on its merry way up north to the bride-to-be.  (This seems rather anti-climatic, given the amount of energy and thought that has been wrapped up in this project over the past few months!)

I'm so badly bitten by the lace bug.  Nothing else seems remotely interesting besides lace!  I like knitting nupps (the little balls) a lot...I think they're rather pretty in the design.

I'm very happy with how this turned out!  I hope Carly is pleased with it as well and that, should the weather require its use, it looks beautiful with her wedding dress.  It makes me so happy to have rendered this little bit of knitting service to my future sister-in-law!  Wear it often, wear it boldly!

There were requests for a post about blocking...I don't know when I'll have time for that, so here's a post from the Yarn Harlot that covers blocking in-depth.  (She used string for the straight edge, I used blocking wires.)

Just Add Cloud and Halo

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

WIP Wednesday: May 18, 2011
The Parade of Works-in-Progress!

(While it may strike one as odd to have a post about various works-in-progress shortly following a post where I denounce my time spent crafting, I spent the last week and a half with almost no or completely no voice...there were few things I could do besides reading, knitting and watching television.  As a result, much progress was made in the Brooketopian Crafting Realm.)

In Order of Importance:
WIP #1:  The Wedding Shawl
Start Date:  February 11, 2011
The Wedding Shawl came off the needles on April 28th and has since been sitting on my sewing table, awaiting blocking.  The blocking wires arrived last week, but a friend from Knit Group wants to watch the mysterious process of I'm waiting until we can find a day where we can hang out and block some lace.

Yes, it's tiny; but I wanted to give y'all a good bunch of pictures so that when I finish blocking this thing you can be absolutely amazed at the magic that is blocking.  Sheer magic.  Amazingness.  (Yes, Bluebird had fun modelling for me...)

WIP #2:  Cherry Blossom Baby Blanket
Start Date:  May 13, 2011
Michael and I will soon become the proud uncle and aunt of a new niece, set to arrive in the July/August period.  I've been missing knitting baby things, so I'm totally excited to make a widdle baby bwankie.  I've had this color scheme in my mind for a little while now, just waiting for a special little girl to decide to join our (extended) family.

WIP #3:  Circus of Colors Scarf
Start Date:  July 12, 2010
Oh thank heavens, it's finally done!  I go back and forth between "This scarf is so outrageously awesome!" and "This scarf is hideously obnoxious!"  I think it will easily accomplish its task of cheering me up during the gray winter months.  I'm not counting this as "finished" because it needs some blocking to look its best. shoot!  I'll see if I can book Bluebird...but she's highly-in-demand these days.

WIP #4:  Pink Percy Shawl
Start Date:  January 31, 2011
This project is technically "hibernating," but I did put in five rows on it in the last week.  I started this while I was impatiently waiting for the yarn to arrive for The Wedding Shawl and put it in hibernation once the black yarn came through the door.  I really like this shawl because it's a gorgeous color; and wait until you see it when it's finished and blocked!  But...a lace shawl...for the mother of four young children?  Motivation is low, despite having developed a strong affinity for my Charlotte's Web Shawl in past months and wearing it all the time.  Perhaps it just takes me a while to warm up to some projects.  I dunno.

On My Mind:
  1. A Little Whiskey Capelet for Bluebird, who has gotten a little green-eyed with all the fuss over shawls lately.  I have the yarn and the pattern, but apparently I've morphed from a tight knitter into a slightly loose knitter (don't make the joke...) and so while I originally thought I had the right sized needles, it turns out that I actually do not have the correct sizes to match the pattern gauge.
  2. I've struck some absolutely adorable Robot Mittens from my queue because I could not get them to come out as small as I needed them to be (for Bluebird), even on size 000 (1.5 mm) needles.  I don't want to knit on needles smaller than that!  Click.  Click.  Deleted.  [insert disappointment]
  3. Rock Island Shawl--I've been drooling over this pattern since it came out last month, and Kirsten gifted me with some gorgeous laceweight yarn for my birthday that would be absolutely perfect!
  4. Peacock Feathers Stole--I swatched for this a few years ago and I still plan to make it...someday.  The problem is, I swatched while battling morning sickness with Monkeyboy; so now whenever I look at the pattern or the yarn I'm overcome with waves of nausea.  Once I get up the courage to take on the psychosomatic nausea, I will give this another go.
  5. Baby Chalice Blanket--I have to make this because it's beautiful and we're supposed to encourage beauty in our lives.  It was on the list for our new niece, but I think it will take me much longer to complete than I have time for at the moment.  Michael and I were discussing the wisdom in having some handknit baby items on-hand for gifting purposes, so perhaps I'll just make one in the future and gift it when the occasion presents itself.
  6. Socks--seriously, I'm going to learn how to make them.  It is my hope that I will make a pair for Michael and that he'll love handknit socks so much that he'll never want to go back to storebought socks and therefore more firmly cement the need for knitting in my life.  Mwa ha ha ha ha!
  7. Renaissance Faire Clothing--there's another Ren Faire in Utah coming up in July, but I have decided not to attend this year in order to save money for our travelling expenses to my brother's wedding.  I hope to outfit the Little Brooketopians for next year's festival.
  8. Quilting is on my mind.  I have a handful of unfinished quilts stashed on the top shelves of my closet, and I have some seriously cute color themes a-brewing in the ol' noggin.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Failure at being Scary

The girls and I are eating lunch and their newest fascination is telling "scary stories" in which they list various characters from "How to Train Your Dragon" pre-fixed with "dark, dark."

Example:  "It was dark, dark night and there was a dark, dark Stoic, and a dark, dark Astrid and a dark, dark Hiccup.  Then they saw a dark, dark DRAGON!!!"  Then all three of them scream with gleeful terror.

I thought I'd give it a try.  As Junebug was rattling off her list of dark, dark characters I inserted "There was a dark, dark alien toilet."  (I don't just came to me.)

Instead of gleeful terror, I incited a riot of hysterical laughter.

As Bluebird held her sides through her laughter, she managed to gasp out, "That must be a moving blackhole!  FLUSH!"

Friday, May 13, 2011

Weekly Report: May 9-13, 2011
*blank stare*

What?  It's Friday?  I'm supposed to do a Weekly Report?

But we didn't do anything this week.

Oh, wait...there were those two writing lessons that I made Bluebird do at the beginning of the week.

I got sick.  From the allergies.  Again.  Lost my voice on Monday and it's still not back.  (Not exactly compatible with "scripted lessons.")

Not much you can do about the situation except to ride it out.  When my voice returns, we'll do school.  Until then it's all about resting and recuperating for me.

A favorite quote of mine, from famed knitter Elizabeth Zimmerman, is "Knit on through all crises, with confidence and hope."  That's been my motto for this week.  While losing one's voice isn't exactly a "crisis," it has affected all areas of our daily lives, so it's been important to remind myself that it's only temporary and we're going to get through it and move on with our lives.  Just knit some more, rest some more, heal some more.  Everything will turn out alright in the end.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Big Two-Nine
Happy Birthday to Me!

With the invention of social media sites, I feel like my birthday is this crazy circus of well-wishes!  The "pings" start at daybreak as my phone alerts me to new messages left on my Facebook page, text messages and emails wishing me a Happy Birthday.  It's totally crazy, but rather enjoyable!  Hee hee.

I turned 29 this week, the beginning of my thirtieth year.  I celebrated the tenth anniversary of my baptism into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints back in February, so this year has been one of contemplation for me.  I look back on who and where I was ten years ago, compare it to who and where I am today, and then look ahead ten years and try to ascertain who and where I want to be in the future.

Accomplishments in the past ten years:
  • I graduated from college, the first one in my family!
  • I made a great choice in the selection of my spouse...what a blessing he is to me.
  • We've had four beautiful children.
  • I taught one of those kids to read and another one will soon be added to the ranks of "readers" in this house.
There are other things that could be added to the list, but none of them compare in importance, so I will leave them off.  I have no "career" accolades to list, nor impressive feats of performance or charitable contributions.  The 19 year old version of myself would have been apalled, but the 29 year old version of myself is totally fine with it.  I'm glad I spent my twenties in establishing our family and nurturing my children.  My marriage and my children are the most important parts of my life.

Items of Importance for the Next Ten Years (Or, what I hope happens before I turn 39):
  • Work off the extra weight I am carrying so that I can be healthy.
  • Self-education--it won't be too long from now when I approach the point where I'll no longer be able to "wing it" when it comes to teaching my kids.  I need to prepare myself for the "tough" conversations I will have with them when they are adolescents.
  • Building up the relationships I have with my husband and my children--I want to be best friends with my husband, and a trusted mentor to each of my children.  If I fail in this area, then my life's work will be largely wasted.  (Ten years from now, Bluebird will be seventeen and almost done with her years in my really don't get a lot of time to train up your children.)
  • Ten years from now, I want to be wiser.  I would like to be able to look back at my 29 year old self and be embarassed for her and her ignorance.  If I can't do that, I haven't grown enough.
Nothing spectacular in the eyes of the world; but, for myself, of the utmost importance.  I'm scrutinizing how I'm spending my days right now and asking if my current choice of activities support my vision for the 39 year old version of myself.  For the most part, I'm satisfied with the direction I am heading.  There are a few interests that I participate in that do not support my vision--namely, my obsession with crafting.

Crafting does not support my goal of a healthier weight; in fact, it probably contributes to my unhealthy weight.  Crafting does not support my goal of self-education; I spend time knitting and sewing that could be better spent in nourishing my mind.  Crafting does not support my vision of stronger family relationships; true, it's fun to make things for my children, but the making requires me to largely ignore the people I'm crafting for.  I don't think crafting will help me along the path to wisdom, either.

So yes, I am going to drastically cut back on the crafting pursuits.  And before anyone raises their arms in alarm to warn me of the downfall of not having enough "me time," let me explain that I will have more than enough "me time" as I study my scriptures, write in my journal and schedule in the time to further my own education and weight loss goals.

We'll see how this pans out.  Maybe it will mean removing crafting 100% from my life, maybe it will mean crafting only on the weekends or something else like that.  I don't know.  I'm just going to go with what I feel is the best choice for me.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Curriculum Plans for the 2011-2012 School Year

I love planning out the next school year.

I love thinking about all the fun things we're going to do together; all the books we're going to read, all the activities we're going to try to do.  I get to escape to this wonderful little land of idealism for a few weeks, in which I plan out a perfect year of intellectual stimulation and creative pursuits for my wee little chicks.  Oh, warm and fuzzy homeschooling.

The reality of the situation:  The first week will go well, and then my kids will...well, act like children.  The warm and fuzzy stage is very short.  But it's nice to pretend that it has the possibility of being perpetual.

So, keeping in mind my idealistic state of mind, here are the plans for next year:

Bluebird will be in the Second Grade, Penguin will be in Kindergarten.

Math:  We're going to stick with Saxon.  I get a lot of pressure to switch to Singapore when I mention that Bluebird doesn't particularly like worksheets, but after glancing through the Singapore books I just don't like 'em. 

I like the structured, cumulative aspect of Saxon.  Singapore doesn't give off that vibe to me.  In my opinion, Math isn't supposed to FUN!  There are enjoyable lessons, but the purpose of Math isn't to entertain.  It's to think, rationally, and find the answer to the problem.  I think Saxon does the best job at teaching students the skills they need to accomplish that goal.
  • Bluebird will continue on to Saxon 2.
  • Penguin will continue with Saxon K and upgrade to Saxon 1 when she finishes K at some point during the school year.
Penmanship:  We'll stick with Zaner-Bloser.
  • Bluebird will continue with Level 2M and move into 2C (cursive!) at some point in the year.
  • Penguin will continue to work in the K level book.  If she finishes early, I'm leaning towards doing copywork before bumping up into the first grade book.
Phonics:  We'll stick with Phonics Pathways for Penguin.  I'll try to introduce Junebug to some phonics work.

Spelling:  I've considered switching programs, but haven't been able to get my hands on physical copies of other spelling programs.  It feels like Spelling Workout isn't "enough," but everyone else assures that it is enough.
  • Bluebird will continue with Spelling Workout B (2nd Grade).  I think she'll finish it shortly before the end of the school year and then bump up into Spelling Workout C (3rd Grade).
  • I will start Penguin on Spelling Workout A (1st Grade) once she reaches the middle of Phonics Pathways, whether it's in Kindergarten or First Grade.
Grammar:  I am loving First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind.  We'll continue with this, but Bluebird will get to the end of Book Two by the end of the third quarter.  I've read a lot of people's comments that they don't like the third and fourth books in the series, so I'd like to get my hands on physical copies of them so I can check them out before making any further decisions.

Writing:  Oh, I fought it, but eventually started using Writing With Ease this year.  I didn't want to be construed as a Well-Trained Mind "zombie" who just used everything that Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer published because I was in love with them or something, so I resisted WWE until it became obvious that I couldn't find a writing program that did what I was looking for.  (I actually won WWE at a homeschool curriculum swap night, which was right around the time I had come to the conclusion that I wanted to use WWE as our writing curriculum.) 

We'll have to spend a few weeks at the beginning of the school year to finish up WWE #1, but will then head into WWE #2.

History & Literature:  I'm going to stay true to those Well-Trained Mind roots and continue to use Susan Wise Bauer's Story of the World series.  We'll move into Volume 2, which covers the Middle Ages.  Oh my goodness, I love this curriculum.  The Activity Guide is awesome!  I use the literature lists, the review question, the narration suggestions, the map work and the activity suggestions.  I cannot recommend this enough.

I just finished reading The Latin-Centered Curriculum this weekend and I'm intrigued by the literature list for Kindergarteners.  I may implement this list for Penguin, if only to give us more of an excuse to have reading time together.  It feels like I spend a ton of time with Bluebird each day for school, so I want to carve out some "individual attention" times for my other children in the year to come.  (I'm also planning on implementing a "Preschool Read Aloud Time" for Junebug, with the hope that Monkeyboy may enjoy some of the selections, despite his young age.)

Science:  We will begin using R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey's Earth & Space, Level 1.  I chose this program because it boasted of its immense amount of experiments.  Kids like experiments.

The Space units look a little too easy for Miss Bluebird the Future Astronaut, so I've also acquired Astronomy for All Ages and 40 Nights to Knowing the Night Sky to use as supplements.  I'd also like to re-instate our membership in the Salt Lake Astronomical Society so that Bluebird can pursue earning the "Sky Puppy" observation award.

ArtI don't know.  We quit ARTistic Pursuits because it was just a little too much for the girls...they're not into learning the mechanics of drawing just yet.  We've had fun doing the projects in Usborne Art Treasury, so I'm trying to find another book similar to that.  (I do plan to bring out ARTistic Pursuits again in about three years.)

I'm finding that Art curriculum is tough for me.  We didn't like Drawing with Children either.  I'd really like to just find a big ol' encyclopedia of different art techniques that also include an appropriately-levelled art project to implement the technique.  That's all I want.  No biggie.

Music Appreciation:  This would go a whole lot better if I could actually remember to do it.  We need more Play-Doh for it to work, as our current stock is getting rather dry and crumbly.  It's hard to get them to sit still and listen if the Play-Doh doesn't hold their attention.

Girl Scouts:  I'm still recovering from selling cookies, and the idea of doing anything Girl Scout-related almost makes me nauseated.  Michael and I were discussing the possibility of NOT doing Girl Scout cookies next year.  It's a whole lotta work for not a lotta pay.
  • Bluebird will be a Brownie Scout!  She's very excited about earning Try-It awards.  I tried to match them up to things we would be studying, but that's a rather overwhelming task.  A number of badges will be retired before the beginning of the new Girl Scout year in October, so those badges are the first priority for us over the summer.  I'm putting effort into the Space Explorer and Wave the Flag badges first.
  • Penguin will become a Daisy Scout!  She cannot wait to wear that uniform.  It will be a special time, taking her to her first overnighters at the Trefoil Lodge.  I'm excited for her.
Religion:  We'll continue with our daily devotionals, which include singing the Primary song of the month, memorizing the scripture of the month, reading a chapter from whichever "Book of Scripture" Stories we're in at the moment, and reading a story from The Friend.  We'll also keep reading through the scriptures as a family in the evenings; and, of course, attending our Sabbath meetings.
  • Bluebird will be old enough to make the choice to be baptized when her birthday rolls around in February; Michael is planning to sit down with her a few weeks beforehand and systematically go through the missionary discussions with her to make sure she understands what this decision truly entails.
  • Junebug will become a Sunbean in January--officially a member of Primary!  I imagine some training in sitting still would aid her immensely.
Life Skills:
  • Bluebird:  Needs to learn to take full responsibility for her hygiene.  I'd like to start introducing her to cooking simple foods and cleaning up the dishes.  She's already sorting the clean clothes and folding her own clothes and putting them away in her dresser.  (Oh, it's nice!)  She also sweeps under the kitchen table after meals.  It'd be nice to teach her how to vacuum.
  • Penguin:  Will learn to sort clothes better and fold towels and rags.  I'd like to start teaching her how to sweep under the table so she can relieve Bluebird of that chore.  I'd like her to learn how to make her own bed.
  • Junebug:  It'd be nice if she could learn to dress herself.  We're still working on cleaning up toys, which will be the main focus throughout the next year as well.
So there it is.  I can't be bothered too much with it anymore, as I am completely wrapped up in Spring Fever.  I've got enough of the beginning of the school year mapped out to get us started, but I'll finish the specific year-long plans over the next few months.


I've been suffering through a particularly bad bout of allergies the past few days and was looking forward to some decent shut-eye, only to be yanked from sleep by the realization that Art Camp registration started at midnight.

So here I am at 5:00 am with my running nose, congested lungs and streaming eyes, sitting at the computer and trying to make sense of all the words that normally make sense on the computer screen, wishing I could just head back to my bed so I could just launch myself back into my blankets and re-enter unconsciousness.

It's insane what we parents will put ourselves through just so our kids can have a little fun.

And yes, I am kicking myself for "waking up late" at 5am because my original plan was to register the girls for classes at the same time, but Penguin's class was full.  So now I'll have to make two trips every day during camp in order to drop off and pick up the girls.  (But Junebug will be in a performance at the end of it all, so I'm looking forward to that...)

Friday, May 6, 2011

Weekly Report: May 2-6, 2011

Is my head still on straight?

We've been speeding through all sorts of stuff and I feel like I haven't quite caught up to my body yet.

We're changing our school year schedule a little bit, so we'll be done with this year on May 26th--that means some squishing and cramming in a few subjects in order to finish up on time.  I sat down with Bluebird and informed her on the plan and asked if she'd rather work really hard these last few weeks and not have any work over our summer break, or keep going as planned and have to do some work over break to catch up.  She chose the "fast & furious" route.  (That girl loves her breaks to be uninterrupted.)

3 R's:  Something amazing happened this week:  both Bluebird and Penguin just hunkered down and started doing their work without complaint.  It was, and still is, rather disconcerting.  There was absolutely no contention regarding penmanship, math worksheets or copywork.  I'm reluctant to trust this new development and believe that it may be the course of our lives for a while.

History & Literature:  Something amazing happened this week:  I realized that Bluebird could read.  Not just "Hurray, you've finished your phonics primer and are technically able to read" reading, but actual reading, where she can take a book or a history chapter and go read by herself and understand it well.  It's wonderful!  She can answer the review and comprehension questions without batting an eye...what in the world?!?!

I have a reader?  When did that happen?  (I actually think it's come about as a result of the implementation of a hard-and-fast hour-long "Free Reading" time in the afternoon these past few months, coupled with regular evenings sessions of me reading chapter books out loud to her for the same amount of time...some action had to be taken and I think we're starting to see the fruits of those decisions.)

Unfortunately...or fortunately, the judgment is still out on this issue...Bluebird is now devouring every book in sight.  I sent her to read Chapter 31 of her history book yesterday and she came back a while later and informed me that "The rest of this book is pretty good!"

I responded with, "Oh, did you flip through the rest of it?  What pictures looked interesting to you?"

She looked at me for a moment like I was hard of hearing and then said, "I didn't look at the pictures, I read the words."

[Blank look on my face...]  "Are you telling me that you read the rest of that book?"

[Bluebird's face erupts into a big grin and she starts squealing with laughter]  "I tricked you!  You said to read ONE chapter, but I read TEN!"

I then proceeded to ask her random comprehension questions from the various chapters and she answered them all, correctly.

I guess I don't have to worry about history for the rest of the school year.

Science:  Blargh.  I'm just done with this subject for now.  I don't want to grow any more stuff.  I don't want to raise bullfrogs, butterflies or ladybugs.

So we went on a nature hike.  It counts as science quite nicely.

(Bluebird snuck the science book into her room and finished reading the rest of it too.)

Field Trip:
I took them to a Renaissance Faire, partly because I like that kind of stuff and partly because they had a "Homeschooling Discount Day" where the tickets were only $2.  It was greatly enjoyed.  I figured it worked as a great segway into our studies of Medieval history next year.

My friend, Kirsten, came along for the fun
and added an appreciated extra pair of hands to our excursion!

So, all in all, I guess this was a really great week for us.  Huh.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Return of Good Weather = Nature Hikes!

It's May!  In Utah, that means we finally get to have some good weather!  (For the most part...don't get me started about the year it snowed on May 24th!)  I decided to dust off the ol' baby backpack and dig out the girls' walking shoes and we set out for the campground near our house this morning.

There was no agenda.  I just wanted us to get out and start getting used to walking up hills and on uneven surfaces once again.  The sun felt nice and we were surrounded by the "Phee-bee" calls of's just not spring to me until I hear the chickadees!

The girls have requested that we return to the "Red Rock" area next week for our next hike.

If you're interested in planning your own nature hikes, I highly recommend Handbook of Nature Study.  It's the blog that motivated me to incorporate nature study into our routine!