Friday, July 27, 2012

2012-2013 Weekly Report: Week 3
Sumo Wrestling

It's been a topsy-turvy week, whatwith a holiday on Tuesday (Pioneer Day) and Bluebird taking swimming lessons each school day from 12:30-1:00pm.  (It wasn't such a big deal when we signed her up, as I was planning on still being on break this week...)

Regardless, we managed to move ahead quite nicely, which says a lot for our determination in comparison to past years.

We added Latin to the schedule this week:

Bluebird took to it quite well, and I think we're going to have fun with learning a new language together.  We're using Latina Christiana I, and I purchased the instructional DVDs because I was worried about my first time teaching a new language; but, upon previewing the DVDs, I highly doubt we'll need to use them because it appears that my Spanish 102 skills will be more than enough to understand the curriculum.  (In case any of you are wondering if your limited foreign language instruction is adequate for teaching this first level.)

Language Arts are still going extremely well.  We continue to love All About Spelling (more 100% spelling tests!), and everything else is still pretty mild and "easy."  I've received my refund for returning the Institute for Excellence in Writing curriculum, and I've gone back to Writing With Ease.

I know, I know--I said that Writing With Ease was sucking the joy out of our lives in my "End of the Year" post in May, but I've gone old-school with the program and it's now working quite nicely for us.  It turns out that I really didn't like the workbook, which I bought because everyone has gone on and on about how much easier it is to already have the narration passages and copywork sentences chosen for you.

I'm adopting the original suggestion that our writing exercises be based upon what we're reading in Literature, History, and Science, and it just "feels" better.  When we used the workbook, the passages didn't match up with anything we were doing and it just felt like yet another subject to get through.  Now that our writing assignments are tied to what we're doing in other subjects, they don't seem like such a chore or so random.  Plus, it gives me a chance to read through all our stuff ahead of time because I'm scouring them for copywork and narration passages.

We're reading Pocahontas by Joseph Bruchac this week.  It's written at a higher reading level than last week's book, but the girls are hanging in there really well after I explained how Pocahontas would be describing the white men's stuff using her own interpretation.  I stop after such a passage and ask them what she's talking about, and I've been impressed with how often Bluebird and Penguin can guess correctly.

I really like how this book shows both sides of the Jamestown story (the chapters alternate between Pocahontas' voice and that of John Smith), and the girls and I have been able to have some great discussions about why this historical event was riddled with so much difficulty and conflict due to the misunderstandings of both parties.

It's a longer book that I'm planning on finishing up next week.

Math:  With Bluebird struggling so much with her basic operation drills, I went on the hunt for some sort of additional drill program, and after searching through some homeschool message boards I read about  I signed the girls up and they each now spend an additional ten minutes or so each day doing "Extra Math."  I'm hoping this will help Bluebird in this area of frustration, because something obviously needs to be done, and because the website is free.  I'd love it if we could improve in this area without having to spend extra money.

Penguin is doing quite well, "beating the teacher" thirty nine times in a row on one occasion, proclaiming her the Drill Champion of Brooketopia thus far:

We went through two chapters of history this week, one about The Northwest Passage (Samuel Champlain & Henry Hudson) and the other about Japan (Toyotomi Hideyoshi & Tokugawa Ieyasu).  Remembering how much the girls enjoyed beating the snot out of each other in last year's Celtic Battle, I prepared for a little Sumo Wrestling, which they thoroughly enjoyed:

The raucous laughter and steady thumping and yelling brought forth
a new challenger:

the unheard-of newcomer,
astounded the crowd with his unexpected ferocity in attack:

He chased the gasping competitors:

He launched ambitious assaults:

But, in the end, his youthful pride
proved his downfall:

Thus ends the story of Monkeyboyoshi's short-lived sumo success.

Have a happy weekend!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Friday, July 20, 2012

2012-2013 Weekly Report: Week 2
Figuring Out What Works for Us

Another week done!  (With only a math lesson for Bluebird to do tomorrow.)

Things aren't too exciting around here in regards to school, as we're still getting a feel for what works scheduling-wise for us.  Once we get comfortable, I'll pull out the fun extras.

We've been starting our day with Bluebird going downstairs to do her piano practicing while I work with Penguin on her phonics.  The day goes so well if Bluebird gets to start out with that "fun" assignment.  I need to remember this.  We used to start our days with Math, which can easily turn into a battle of wills and then it would just sour the rest of the day.  Now I'm leaving Math until the end of the day, so that I can say, "Just get through it and you'll be DONE for the day!"  (Instead of "Just get through it so we can then proceed to all the other work we have to do today!")

In further implenting this idea of starting the day on a good note, Penguin asked me this morning if we could start with Spelling rather than Phonics.  So we did, and she loved it; and it made Phonics way less of a battle when it came up an hour later.  Work with your children, not against...I get tired of learning lessons like these all the time.  :)

We read Our Strange New Land: Elizabeth's Jamestown Colony Diary, by Patricia Hermes this week.  The girls loved this book and begged me to read more of it to them each day!  There are two more books in the series; and, even though we're not scheduled to read any more of them for school, I'm going to buy them so we can read them at bedtime after we're done with our latest Harry Potter book.

The girls have re-developed a fascination with knitting, and enjoyed knitting while I read aloud to them this week.  That makes this Knitting Mama oh so very happy.

Monkeyboy prefers to sneak out the stamp pads while we're doing read alouds, and use them to make toddler footprints all over the house:

I took to doing our read alouds outside after one-too-many of these sorts of incidents, in order to let Junebug and Monkeyboy run off some of that extra energy:

In history we learned about Mary, Queen of Scots, and her son, James I of England (VI of Scotland) and the establishment of Jamestown.  The girls are really enjoying history right now, they love learning about how the USA came into existence.  They are giving some excellent narrations; I really should scan some of them and post them in a Weekly Report.  I'm proud of them.  (Knitting AND narrating!  Life is good!)

Math:  Penguin's kicking some mathematical butt.  Bluebird has declared that Math is "the worst subject EVER!"  Bluebird's having a really hard time with memorizing the math facts.  The actual math lessons are completely below her level, but those darn math facts are just giving her one heck of a time.  I'm thinking about supplementing our curriculum with some sort of intense math drill program in order to get her up to speed and re-ignite her enjoyment of math.  If I could just get her to take pride in how fast she can solve math facts, we'd have no problem with this; unfortunately, she has decided that it's pointless to learn them because that's why calculators exist.  Argh.

I love All About Spelling.  Love. it.  Its multi-sensory approach is so fantastically perfect for my kids.  Penguin's asking for it first thing in the school day, and Bluebird has started proclaiming that spelling is "the funnest subject."  (This could also be due to the fact that she's back down in first grade spelling territory, so the words are way easy for her right now.)  I'm sticking to my promise of buying them a book for every 100% spelling test, and this week I had to buy THREE books.  It's wonderful to see Bluebird finally have success in this subject.  I need to buy another set of word tiles and cards because it's really difficult to have two kids working off the same set when they are in such different parts of the book.

I'm planning on Michael doing the chemistry lesson tomorrow, and I'm still lining up a sculpture lesson plan and our music appreciation selections.  Next week we're adding Latin into the mix.  Eek!

Highlights of the Week:
  • Penguin chose Bad Kitty Get a Bath for her 100% Spelling Test reward.  It arrived today and she's been laboriously reading the entire thing to herself and giggling the entire time.  For a kid who was declaring at the beginning of the week that she didn't know how to read, this is music to my ears.
  • Bluebird says that she's a spelling superstar.
  • Junebug can say the sounds that A, B & D make.  When I ask what sound C makes, she scrunches up her face and says, "I don't know, but I know it's somewhere in the word 'cookie.'"
Lowlights of the Week:
  • I had a dizzy spell yesterday.  It made the day difficult, but we still got through school.
Funnies of the Week:
  • Quesnel's not giving up on her beloved Penguin:

  • When Quesnel gets mad about being ignored, she sulks in the construction paper bins:

Friday, July 13, 2012

2012-2013 Weekly Report: Week 1, July 9-13
Easing into a New School Year

It's hard to have a big, celebratory "First Day of School!" when you school year-round.  We just finished up last year's schooling in May, and now we're starting up again just six weeks later, which doesn't give me time to plan some elaborate Back-to-School activities.  (We actually have a whole lot more fun with "Not-Back-to-School" celebrations during the week that our public school district starts school!  It works better for us.)

Yes, we have started a new school year.  I'd gauge our week at about a 75%, as I didn't want to just jump in and drown my kids in new subjects.  Penguin is entering the ranks of full-time schooling, so I went a little easier on her as she adjusts to doing more than three subjects, and Bluebird...well, the girl has a strong will, and I've learned not to poke the crazy too much in the first couple of weeks.

It's a Year 3 for us, which means:

Religion:  Book of Mormon
History:  Colonial (1600-1850 AD)
Science:  Chemistry
Art:  Sculpture
Music Appreciation:  Baroque through Classical

As mentioned before, Penguin is starting in on full-time school, which means that, in addition to her regular Math, Penmanship & Phonics, she now also studies Spelling, Grammar, Writing, History & Science.  (And all the extracurriculars, but she was already participating in those subjects to some degree.)

Bluebird is starting the third grade, which means Latin!  Our curriculum won't arrive until this next week, and then I'm going to spend a few days getting familiar with it, so we'll start actual Latin lessons in Week 3.

This week, we read a children's adaptation of Don Quixote; which we didn't really enjoy, but didn't hate either.  It was just something we read.  I've tried to read the original a couple of times now and just get overwhelmed by the length.  It was nice to finally read the stories inside that tome.

Penguin's draw-up of the Spanish mining for gold
in South America.
We studied the Spanish conquistadores and their glutting of gold from South America, and we're also scheduled to do a read-through on Mary, Queen of Scots this afternoon.

Science will be done tomorrow.  It will just be a brief introduction to the history of chemistry, no experiment scheduled.

Highlights of the Week:
  • I am loving our new spelling program!  It's "clicking" for Bluebird and she is zooming through her lessons.  Penguin is coming along as well; it's nothing like it was the last time I did First Grade spelling.  Love. it.
  • Bluebird is a dictation champ.  I hear all these complaints about how hard it is to do dictation from so many people, so I am very thankful that I do not have to handle that sort of struggle (so far).
Lowlights of the Week:
  • Dear goodness, my eldest was particularly stubborn today.  I decided to adopt the practice of knitting when she starts getting grumpy, as it disengages my temper quite nicely.  Plus, it packs the bonus of allowing me to do something I thoroughly enjoy while waiting out a stubborn "I'm not going to do it" streak from Bluebird.  I just tell her that I can sit here all day just knitting while she wastes away her free time with her heel-pricking.  After about two hours, she calmed down considerably and just dug into her work and got 'er done.  So, technically, that's a highlight...but it's not fun to deal with that and I consider it a low.
  • My new, shiny writing curriculum that I had placed so much hope and exalted expectations upon has failed to rise to my expectations.  I am a deflated balloon.  But don't worry, I've figured something else out.
Funnies of the Week:

Quesnel is jealous of Penguin's full-time schooling.  The two share some weird spiritual connection and are always together, and this week marked the beginning of Penguin being unable to cuddle with Quesnel for most of the day.  Quesnel has taken to sitting on the homeschool table in front of Penguin and just staring at her while she does her schoolwork.  It is one of the weirdest things to witness.  Quesnel has also become very whiny whenever Penguin goes outside to play in the backyard, and she just sits at the back door mewing pitifully.  She's lost her monopoly on her best friend to the inevitable responsibilites that accompany growing-up.  I include it here as a funny, but it's actually sort of sad to watch this poor cat's world turn upside down.
Sorry, Quesnel.  At least Penguin is still home each day, instead of away at public school.  (I imagine the cat would OD on catnip if it came to that.)

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Yarn Along: Rustic Baby Cozies & The White Queen

Happened across a neat little link-up called the Yarn Along, in which you just post what you're working on and what you're reading.  After seeing it, I felt motivated to read more and stitch more, so perhaps it will become a regular event in which I participate.

This week saw me finish Philippa Gregory's The White Queen, which is a fantastic telling of Elizabeth Woodville's story.  She was the wife of Edward IV (usurper king of War of the Roses fame), and eventual grandmother of Henry VIII.  I love to read historical fiction, as it "sets" historical persons more firmly in my mind.  It will be so much easier to keep the Yorks and the Plantagenets in correct order in my mind now.  I'm a huge fan of Phillipa Gregory's writings--she's also the author of The Other Boleyn Girl (which I haven't actually read), and I've read a few of her other books.  I look forward to reading more of the titles from "The Cousins' War" series.

The blanket is for my little nephew or niece-to-be.  I saw the material hemstitched at a local quilting shop and it made me think of my brother and his love of woodland wildlife, so I caved and went completely backwards on my intent to not gift any sort of blanket.  My contribution to the article is the crocheted edging.  I'm not worried about gender neutrality on this--if the Little turns out to be a girl, I have no doubt that she'll like woodland beasts to some extent.  I'm a girl, and I like bears, deer and moose myself.

There's also two burp cloths made from the same material and I plan to crochet an edging on them as well, but it will probably be more of a procrastination thing (ie. finished at the last minute).  I'm not a big fan of thread crochet.

Monday, July 9, 2012

First Day of the New School Year

Because it seemed like a good idea a couple of weeks ago.

Because it wasn't stifling hot back then.

Because our air conditioner worked back then.

Today was an exercise in "priming the pump."  We didn't do any real school work, but we got up at the time we were supposed to get up, we ate breakfast at the time we were supposed to eat breakfast on a school day, we did our chores before school started and we then sat around the school table and did various different things, like filling out "All About Me" booklets and listening to the third Harry Potter book, read aloud by yours truly.

It was a "soft" First Day of School.

We'll build up to hardcore as the week progresses; which will hopefully be aided by a fully-functioning air conditioner.

(I sent my kids to bed in bicycle shorts.  Because our house is 85 fantastic degrees Fahrenheit.  We had ice cream for dinner because the thought of boiling water or turning on any sort of appliance made me crazy over how much hotter our house would become as a result.)

Thursday, July 5, 2012

36 Week Book of Mormon Lesson Plan

I figured that I'd share my lesson plan for reading through The Book of Mormon during our morning devotionals during this next school year.  I adapted the schedule from the "Read The Book of Mormon in 100 Days" schedules that are floating around en masse online.  I've also included suggestions for adding music and hymn memorization to daily scripture study.

If you'd like to view the PDF file, click here.

I like to read from the actual scriptures on Monday, Wednesday & Friday, and from the Stories on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  I haven't found it to confuse my children and it keeps the scriptural language accessible to the younger children when they hear it "re-told" so soon after hearing the original.  On weeks where there is only one (or no) chapter from Stories, we read from the actual scriptures on the days with no corresponding Stories readings.

I'm also planning on printing out progress sheets that my children can color as we read through each chapter in The Book of Mormon.  There's an especially cute chart over at Sugar Doodle.  I love the quote:

"If you don't have time to pray and read your scriptures,
you are busier than God ever intended you to be."

I have found, through the years, that on the mornings that I choose to skip our devotional before school because we're running behind schedule or we have a big day ahead that needs extra minutes, that our day goes either completely out-the-window-crazy or just has this hollow feeling at the core of our activities.  When I choose to start our school day with (or pause our school day in order accomodate) our reading of the scriptures, there is a very different, very peaceful feeling attending the rest of our day.  Reading the scriptures doesn't place us in a bubble that keeps away interruptions or conflicts, but it does give each of us an added measure of patience and compassion that helps make our days go smoother.  It's one of the most important elements of ensuring that we complete a full, productive day of work.

May you be blessed in your scripture studies and may the Holy Spirit of our loving Heavenly Father be with you always.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Independence Day!

A Happy American Independence Day to you and yours!  We've done a bit of gardening, a bit of barbecue-ing, and we'll join some friends after dark to light a few fireworks in the street.  Nice and peaceful.

On a day where we celebrate the birth of a new country, I thought it fitting to work away on this:

"This" being a cute little cardigan, awaiting the birth of my brother's first child!  Carly's due in September, they have not found out the gender, and so I'm working away on wee bitty items in the general color categories of brown and green, as per Carly's preferences.

I was going to crank out a blanket, but upon contemplating the idea I realized that they're going to be inundated with blankets (simply due to the fact that it's their first and blankets are such an easy thing to give), so I asked Carly if she wanted more blankets or if she harbored a desire for some other sort of handmade baby paraphernalia.  She thought for a moment and confessed that she was rather partial to cardigans.

I still need to figure out how this thing will close in front--buttons, toggles or ties--and if I want to add any other embellishment to the tiny garment.  I think it's adorable as is, so it will probably join its comrades in "The Baby Box" in my closet once I attach the closures.

A holiday and knitted baby wear; it doesn't get much better than that, eh?  ;)

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


We've got a lot of wildfires burning their way throughout Utah.  I spent last week anxiously keeping tabs on the Wood Hollow Fire to the south of us once it approached the county line, and twenty minutes ago I glanced out the back door and saw this lovely sight:

An area thirty miles north of us is now ablaze, going into its third hour.

Please be careful with your fireworks tomorrow, Utah.