Friday, July 29, 2011

Weekly Report 2011-2012: Week 3
Following the Earthquake Bunny Trail

Junebug keeps busy during school with
our new LEGOS.
We're just moving along with school, doing our lessons and putting away the books when they're done.  It's a weird time of year for us; the weather is nice, but a little too warm for extended outdoor activities, and we enjoy that we have school to keep us busy, but sort of wish there was something else to do instead.  We're saving up our pennies in order to attend my brother's wedding later in the year, so most of our activities have been chopped from our itinerary.

Penguin loves it when we do a math lesson
that uses Geoboards!
3R's:  We keep moving ahead in Math, with Bluebird still reviewing (she stopped complaining and has finally started being grateful that everything is "just so easy right now.") and Penguin pushing ahead with learning to count by tens and using dimes.

Penguin is still doing marvelously with her penmanship and has started working on the handwriting worksheets that correspond to her math lessons.  I didn't do these with Bluebird and when we transitioned into the first grade math book, she was so unprepared for all the writing that came with the worksheets.  Not making that same mistake again.  Penguin's hand would start to hurt some days from writing, I figure she's building up her writing muscles and we'd call it good and let her hand rest.  She likes to write.  I'm so glad I don't have to fight with her over writing!

We have two weeks' worth of work left in Bluebird's Writing curriculum, which I think we'll be able to complete in this next week.

History:  We learned about the Byzantine Empire, which didn't really interest any of us.  Sorry, Justinian and Theodora.  Bluebird enjoyed thinking up scenarios about other ways the Roman Empire could have panned out, instead of becoming split up and the last part turning in the Byzantine Empire.  I wanted to make mosaics with them, but that plan never blossomed into fruition.

Science:  We studied wind--how to measure how fast it's blowing and how wind even comes to exist in the first place.  The experiments were lame and not very exciting.  So we went off on a bunny trail.

As we studied tornadoes and hurricanes, I read where those weather events take place in the world and Penguin wondered what natural disasters happened in Utah.  We read and discussed what we think could happen here in Utah, which mostly translates into flash floods and earthquakes.  We read about tectonic plates in our science encyclopedia and I took them out on the deck to point out the Wasatch Fault Line, which you can see from our house.

As you can imagine, this knowledge scared the snot out of my dear children.

So we talked about what happens during earthquakes and what you should do to stay safe--listen to Mommy, get in a doorway or under a table and stay there until the shaking stops, then go out to our Safety Spot in the front yard or over to the main parking lot in our neighborhood.

Penguin was very concerned about what would happen to our cat should an emergency arise, and we discussed the difference between human life and animal life--make sure you and your family are completely safe before attempting to rescue your pets because we can always buy a new pet, but not a new brother or sister.  (I imagine I might get a little flack from some people for that, but that's how I feel about the issue.) 

We came up with a motto for emergencies:  "Safe and Alive," to help us remember to keep ourselves safe and not do anything that could hurt ourselves during an emergency.

And then, we did earthquake drills!  We've done fire drills before, and I don't know why it hadn't occurred to me to go through earthquake drills with them as well!  We'd pretend we were playing on a normal day and then I would say, "Earthquake!" and everyone would dash to a doorfram and brace themselves until I declared the earthquake was over.  Then we filed out of the house to our safety spot and "dealt with" whatever situations the girls had decided had happened during our earthquake.  ("What do we do if Mommy's trapped inside the house?"  "What if I can pick up Quesnel as I'm going out the door?"  "What do we do if our Safety Spot is on fire?"  "What do we do if all the trees have fallen down?")

It's got me thinking about an "Emergency Preparedness" unit study.  Subjects are always more interesting if you can apply them to your life.  And we belong to a church that places heavy emphasis on emergency preparedness, so it crosses over into our religious studies as well.  I think it could be a really great idea for us.

And that was our week.  It was rather low-key, but we got a lot done and learned about some things that the girls found very interesting.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Rock Island Shawl

Pattern:  Rock Island Shawl by Jared Flood
Yarn:  KnitPick's Shadow Kettle-Dyed in "Jay" colorway  (a birthday gift from the lovely Kirstin)
Needles:  US 6--29" circular

This week in Utah we celebrated Pioneer Day, a state-wide holiday that commemorates the anniversary of Brigham Young and the first wagonload of Latter-day Saints entering the Salt Lake Valley after their long journey across the American Plains.  We didn't have any school that day in observance of the holiday, and I figured that it was probably going to be my only chance at getting this shawl blocked.  After getting all the munchkins fed and dressed and starting up the ravenous washing machine, I soaked this puppy up and pinned the life out of it on my mattress.

This is a rather new pattern, only coming out this spring.  I saw it within the first few days of its release and I could not stop talking about it afterwards.  I had to have it.  However, I was heavily-entrenched in the creation of The Wedding Honeymoon Shawl, and could not squeeze this fabulous make into my queue.  Fortune smiled her loving gaze upon me and inspired the folks at Blazing Needles to offer a class on this very pattern, for which Kit and I signed up to attend.

I'm quite pleased with it!  Jared Flood loves knitters, the design of this is just lovely!  This was the first time I've ever attached an edging and it was super simple, given the YO edges on the entire length of the edging.  And it's all done in garter stitch, no purling whatsoever!  AND it's worked from the bottom up--that's right, it gets smaller as you go!

The parts that were not my favorites:
  1. Edgings are nice and all, but this one took forever to make.  Since I had to have the edging done within two weeks before the start of my next class, it was very stressful for me to knit like a maniac for that entire two weeks.  Had I done this at my own pace, I don't think the edging would have bothered me as much.  (But, hey, I finished the edging in two weeks!  Who can hold a grudge against that?)
  2. Garter stitch is easy, but also pretty boring.  There's a lot of garter stitch at the end and it drove me a little bonkers, but it blocked out prettily and I'm over the negativity now.
This shawl was originally "ordered" in white.  It was supposed to be the replacement Wedding Shawl for Carly after she picked out a new wedding dress.  However, I couldn't find any white lace-weight locally (and still haven't found any since!) and so I went ahead and made this in its originally-intended color.

When and where am I going to wear this?  I dunno.  I'm sure I'll think of something.  It would be criminal to just let this beauty sit around in my closet!

Monday, July 25, 2011

First Pair of Knitted Socks Ever.

Pattern#216 Beginner's Lightweight Socks, by Diane Soucy
YarnMisti Alpaca's Hand Paint Sock Yarn, Colorway #08 "Marino."
Needles:  US 2 DPN

Oh, the high of finishing your first pair of hand-knit socks!

In Knitter World, socks seem to be one of those projects that you have to try.  A true knitter doesn't NOT knit socks.  But all that jargon--gussets, heel flaps, insteps--has intimidated me for years and I have only looked on wistfully at other knitters' beautifully-crafted foot encasements.

"Someday," I would say, "after I'm finished with my current project, I'm going to give socks a go."

But "Someday" kept getting pushed back in favor of projects that had to be finished immediately.

I bought the yarn for these socks in September of 2009, after lamenting about my sock fears to an understanding yarn shop owner.  She placed a beginner's sock pattern in my hands and inflated my knitting confidences with assurances of socks "being super easy" and sent me on my merry way, only pausing to swipe the ol' debit card to pay her for her enabling guidance.

The yarn is lovely.  It's alpaca, merino and silk, with a little nylon thrown in for strength.  Wearing these socks is like walking on kitten tummies.  Oh, the deliciousness of the feel!

I should have knit these on US 1 sized needles.  They're a touch baggy.  (That's what you get for not doing a gauge swatch!)  But I love them anyway.  I'm now on the hunt for some sort of shoe that will frame my beautiful socks this autumn.  And I'm always on the hunt for some more gorgeous sock yarn!  (Curse you, Budget!)

A pair of handknit dress socks will soon be in-the-works for Michael.  Yay for socks!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Weekly Report 2010-2011: Week 2
When Good Girls Go Celtic

Oh, it was a crazy week here at Brooketopia Academy, full of interesting studies and a puking baby brother.  We managed to complete a surprising amount of work despite having to focus my attentions on cleaning up aforementioned sick baby, and he was all smiles and happiness by the end of the week.  Perserverance!

The new school year is still quite the novelty and my students are exhibiting wonderful behavior.  Yay!

Math:  Penguin enjoyed her lesson on graphing this week.  She picked out ten different shoes from the shoe closet and then we sorted them.  (The categories she was using in this picture were Boots, Sandals and Shoes.)

Bluebird is sailing along with her new Saxon 2.  It's still just review stuff from last year.  She had to start up with the flashcards again, but she knew all the answers so it wasn't so bad.  The drill worksheets were re-instated this week, but with an element of surprise:  they are now timed.  Bluebird seemed to enjoy trying to beat the clock...hopefully the trend isn't short-lived.

Language Arts:  Bluebird is still plugging away in Writing With Ease 1, trying to finish up what should have been done by the end of last year.  We're getting close to the end of it.  She's so good about copywork now, nothing like it used to be last year!  (Can I get a "Hurray!"?)

I spent the week watching Penguin with hawk-eyes, trying to figure out why her penmanship is so erratic.  Somedays it looks really great, other days it seems like she no control over the pencil at all.  It finally became apparent to me:  she doesn't lay her writing arm on the table!  She's been writing with her elbow slightly elevated into the air, making it near impossible to draw smooth lines.  I've been pushing her arm down to the table in an effort to train her out of her bad habit.  It's always so nice when you figure out how to fix something!

I don't know, I think we may need to find a different Spelling program.  Bluebird is just not "fixing" the words into her memory like she's supposed to be doing.  We do a Warm-up test at the beginning of the week, just to see what she can spell already from the week's list, and when she takes the final test at the end of the week she spells everything exactly as she did on the first test, not correcting herself at all.  Maybe I'll post the week's spelling list on the wall so she can see more often?

Science:  We made a rain gauge.  The girls enjoyed the activity immensely and (hopefully) learned about precipitation.

History & Literature:  We studied the Celts.  I had been aware of the activity of dressing up like Celtic warriors since I saw Carrie's post from last year, but I dismissed the idea because I figured my three little girly-girls would not be interested at all.  Then, a few days before we began our study, Bluebird mentioned that she wanted to learn more about tanks and fighter jets.  I figured if she was interested in learning more about weapons, she might want to do some battle.  I was enormously surpised by the enthusiasm that all three of them displayed at the mere mention of dressing up like warriors and whacking each other with axes.  Alright, let's be Celts!

I could not get my hands on blue face paint, so I was going to whip up some homemade face paint; but then Bluebird asked why we just didn't use washable markers.  Hey, that would be tons easier, have at it!

We made the axes in the morning and the girls drew on their war markings and I gooed-up their hair after lunch.  We waited until Monkeyboy fell asleep, and then we tip-toed out into the front yard...after making a quick detour to "scare" our next-door neighbor.

I cannot believe my girls ran screaming around our yard, thrashing each other with such ferocity.  (I think Junebug enjoyed it the most...I purposely made her ax bigger and more durable, so she'd have some fighting chance at besting her bigger sisters.)

In the arena of Literature, we read selections from a book of Celtic Myths and Folktales.  Bluebird found the stories to be quite entertaining.

Highlights of the Week:
  • Definitely the Celtic Warrior makings.  The girls were excited about every single thing it entailed.  They had such a blast!
  • Penguin is doing so well with her Phonics!  She graduated from three-letter words to four-letter words this week and she was totally fine with it.  I'm so proud of her.
  • Bluebird thinks Math is easy again.  It's a nice break.
Lowlights of the Week:
  • How hard it was to do school while Monkeyboy was sick.  We weren't able to accomplish everything that was on this week's checklist, but that's life.  We'll get to it in the weeks to come.
Funnies of the Week:
  • The Celt pictures crack me up.  Do I need to add anything more?  We had people stopping on our street, just staring with wide eyes at our battle.  It was awesome.
Overall, a great week.  Even with the puking toddler.  That says something.  :)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Flag Retirement Ceremony

The Spanish Fork Fiesta Days kick off with a Flag Retirement Ceremony, in which old and damaged American Flags are retired in a respectful manner.  I read that Girl Scouts in full uniform were welcome to attend and actually help with the ceremony, so I marked it down on the calendar and took Bluebird to participate.  (Penguin came along too, so she could see what some of her duties as a Girl Scout will entail when she officially joins their ranks in September.)

If you haven't been to a Flag Retirement Ceremony, I highly recommend the experience.  The speakers spoke about the conception of the American Flag and tribute was given to veterans.  It was so neat to see various members of the audience, citizens of our very community, stand when their military branch's song was played by the band.  There were wrinkled veterans and veterans holding new babies and toddlers.  I brushed away tears many times as I thought about all the sacrifices that have been made by the people I walk by on the street everyday to keep this country safe for my family and myself.

(Purposely blurred to try and protect the identity of the various other children in the photo.)
This is Utah, home to the LDS Church (Mormons), where Boy Scouting is, literally, part of our religion.  Since Scouts were invited to help with the ceremony, the troops came out in full force.  Hundreds of Boy Scouts were out on the ground!  And then there was one little flash of bright blue--Bluebird, the only Girl Scout in attendance.  She was stopped by a lot of people in the stands who said it was so nice to see a Girl Scout there.  (I'll need to notify our Service Unit next year about this event so we can be better represented!)

The Macey's Grocery Store chain flies enormous American Flags outside each of their locations, one of which is in Spanish Fork.  It is the first flag to be "retired" at the ceremony.  Prior to the ceremony, anyone can drop off their tattered flags with the Utah National Guard in the arena and they fold them up and those flags are what the Scouts carry out to the fire, to hand off to the soldiers who actually place them in the fire.

Carrying flags out to the soldiers.

A new flag is hoisted up the flag pole following the burning of the old flags, and when it reaches the top they fire off many rounds of field artillery, which Bluebird described as "the second worst part of the whole thing."

The "worst part" of the evening for Bluebird was when she stood up to get in line to go out onto the rodeo grounds:  she got stung by a wasp on her face.  I saw it happen; saw her grab the injured site next to her eye and look back at me with that worried expression on her face where she's trying to decide what to do, and I said, "Did you get stung by a bee?"
She nodded and answered with a shaky "Yes."
"Are you going to be OK?" I asked.
She paused for a moment, glanced at all the Boy Scouts pushing around her, then straightened up and tried to smile and said, "I'll try," as she turned and strode off with her comrades.  (Another moment of me brushing away tears followed.)

Penguin enjoyed the ceremony too, and is eagerly awaiting next year's ceremony when she'll get to participate with her big sister.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Makin' Jam!

I am having so much fun with Bluebird as she gets older and is able to assist me in more and more tasks.  Yesterday we tackled some jam-making, preparing a batch of spiced peach butter and a batch of cherry jam.  She loved helping me out and proved to be quite valuable in her assistance.  Many hands make light work, even when the second set of hands measure about half the size of your own hands!

She can peel peaches, stir jam, ladle jam into jars and pit cherries like a pro!

Her favorite parts of making jam were peeling the peaches and pitting the cherries.

In between performing her jam-making duties, she did schoolwork at the kitchen table.  Win-win all around!

Peeling peaches...all I had to slice them up because she was so quick!

She pitted four pounds of cherries all by herself!
She's the most conscientious cherry pitter I've ever met,
checking each individual cherry for residual pits.

Ladling the peach butter into jars.
It was such a nice way to spend time together!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Weekly Report 2011-2012: Week 1
A Brand New School Year!

Hello, hello!  Welcome to our new school year here at The Brooketopia Academy!  It was a good week, my students were perfectly happy to start up with their schoolwork--especially Bluebird, who started up with all sorts of new second grade books.  I enjoyed having our regular routine back after six weeks' worth of doing whatever our day revealed to us.  The break was good, and refreshing--but it's always nice to get "back to normal."

This year is Bluebird's Second Grade year.  Piano will be added to her studies, and I'll start some introductory work in the Latin language beginning in the second quarter of the school year.  The goals for Second Grade this year are to:
  • Finish the Saxon 2 Math book.
  • Finish both the Level 2 Manual Printing and Level 2 Cursive penmanship books.
  • Finish Spelling Workout B and begin working on Level C.
  • Finish First Language Lessons 2.
  • Finish Writing with Ease 2.
  • Work through the entire Prima Latina book.
  • Complete The Story of the World 2: The Middle Ages, and accompanying literature suggestions.
  • Complete R.E.A.L Science Odyssey's Earth and Space Science, and do some activities out of Astronomy for All Ages.
  • Complete 15 badges for Brownie Girl Scouts.
I'm still not sure what we're doing for Art and Music Appreciation just yet, which is rather normal for me.

This year is Penguin's Kindergarten year.  "Kindergarten" in our home means that you do Math, Phonics, Penmanship and Literature every day, which differs from Preschool in that I generally split the subjects in half and alternate them each day.

The goals for Kindergarten this year are to:
  • Finish Saxon K Math and begin working in Saxon 1 Math.
  • Finish Phonics Pathways.
  • Finish the K Level penmanship book and begin working in the Level 1 book.
  • Start Spelling Workout A when she's halfway through Phonics Pathways.
  • Read out loud to her:  Mother Goose and The Aesop for Children.
  • Maybe work through A Child's History of the World.
Junebug is still a year away from beginning Preschool, but I do have the goal of making our homeschooling hours more enjoyable for her by making more activities and toys available to her in the schoolroom.  I might do some basic phonics work and some counting with her if I find myself with some spare minutes througout the year.

Monkeyboy will nap through most of school this year, but we still love him.  :)  I'm hoping to read out loud to him more this year.

We started back up where we left off at the end of last year and the girls did just fine jumping back into their studies.  Penguin is having a little bit of a hard time remembering what sounds a few of the letters make, but that's the only "learning loss" that I have witnessed.

Math:  We moved ahead in K and Bluebird started 2.  Bluebird likes it that everything is "so easy" right now because it's just a bunch of review.  I was tempted to skip over the review and start working when new stuff started showing up in the lessons, but then I had a conscious realization that I chose the Saxon series because I think it's awesome that it goes over previously learned material in order to really "set" it into the child's mind.  Skimming the review works precisely against the reasons I chose this math curriculum in the first place!  So we are happily reviewing.

Language Arts:  Penguin started with four letter words and was fine.  Penmanship is going fine for both girls; there's some marked improvement in Penguin's penmanship already.  I'm still a little apprehensive over our spelling curriculum, but after much research and prayer I have come to the conclusion that it's just as good as anything else and really just needs me to work the curriculum.  I'm considering buying the (generally unnecessary) Teacher's Manual to see if it gives any extra advice on how to really get these words into my kids' heads.  Grammar is going well, and we're working on finishing up Writing with Ease 1, which did not get completed last year.

History & Literature:  We reviewed the Fall of Rome.  It was kind of boring and Bluebird kept asking me why we were reading about it again.  But now it's done and I appreciated the ease of this week's history lesson in conjunction with the beginning of the year.

Science:  We learned about thermometers and temperature.  We learned how to read a thermometer and record the temperature on an observation sheet.  I gave everyone their own thermometer and they had great fun "doing science" outside!

Recording our findings.

Monkeyboy wanted to write down temperatures like his big sister!

And that was our first week.  Nice and easy, a great way to start any new school year!