Monday, August 29, 2011

First nature walk (not quite worthy of nature "study" status)

Our first nature study, on our first official day of our first 100% schedule-following, checklist-checking day of school...

Did not go as planned...

But it was very cute, and a simply sweet way to start a new year of learning and discovering. 

Janie was acting very tired, and crying about "nature walk" because she knew it was coming, and thought it was taking entirely too long to come about!  I could tell she wasn't going to make it to nature walk time if I put her down for her nap when she really needed it.  So Janie, Tessa, and I left our puzzles and books, and headed out the front door to do our own quick, mini nature study.

We found this fallen nest, and tried to look closely to see what Mommy Bird used to build it out of.  We also chased grasshoppers, followed ants, and listened to the sounds coming out of the woods.  Tessa tried to catch a butterfly, too.
Andrew and Macy had been having their "together" break time, and found us, so our mini nature walk turned into the official nature study of the day.  Our nature study bag remained inside, neglected and unused, along with everyone's shoes!  And the first order of business once they joined us was a lesson in tree climbing from big brother.

She's still a tired girl, she just doesn't know it.  

Friday, August 26, 2011

Smile and wave, girls!

I'm just not quite sure why my otherwise brilliant husband, who doesn't prefer to have piles of candy in the house, told the girls to smile and wave REAL BIG, so candy would be thrown their way during a parade this month.

They did smile and wave real big.

They did look cute!

They did have candy thrown their way.

They did end up coming home with entirely too much candy.

Their daddy did admit that maybe he shouldn't have coached them so well.

And they did make their mommy and daddy's hearts glad... darling girls!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Thoughts about Motherhood

Yesterday was a thoughtful day for me. I was thinking so much about the challenges my children and grandchildren will face in their lifetimes. When I think about the changing world, and how quickly things progress and change in this day and age, instead of being discouraged, I become energized!

I say this over and over again...
God made me for now!

God made my children to serve a purpose in their generation!

We are here for His glory in THIS moment in history!

So, these thoughtful days remind me of the HUGE role I play as a mother in this epic story of our world. (The word epic is really overused lately, I know!)

But when it comes to God's supernatural plan for His children and the way He chose to let His story play out on this "natural" sphere of water and land, the perspective of considering timeless eternity causes me to feel the responsibility that comes with being a mother. The lives of my children are so greatly affected by mine... I can feel the awesome weight of that influential position!

I am responsible for teaching my children about the God of creation.

I am responsible to train my children to trust God's Word.

I am responsible to be an example of godliness.

I am responsible to disciple my children like Jesus disciples.

I am responsible to prepare them to defend their faith in this world.

I am responsible to point out God's handiwork all around them, so they will see and know Him.

I am responsible to show them what God's love looks like coming through a human vessel.

Ultimately, God calls them and draws them, but I have a very important job to do! Creator God gives his creation a chance to glorify Him by affecting GENERATIONS!!!


...Toward the end of my thoughtful day, I was able to have a wonderful conversation with my own mother. Thank you, Lord, for the gift You gave me in a powerfully godly influence!

What a gift, to have the chance to be encouraged by my mother...

Encouraged to stay strong... not grow weary!

Encouraged to teach my children God's truth, so they can stand up for what they believe in.

Encouraged to equip without overwhelming.

Encouraged to keep praying and believing when the days are long.

Encouraged to remember God's grace and mercy when I can see my human limits.

And thank you, Mother, for your witness in faithfulness. I love you! Thank you for ending my evening with a conversation that reminded me of the blessing that is passed from generation to generation... down from mother, to mother, to mother. As we train our little ones, we are training them to train their little ones, and on and on.

... And then my day ended with bittersweet tears, as I read another's blog article about saying goodbye to her own mother. Oh my...

...what a way to end my thoughtful day- sad for a sister in Christ, but more than that-

reminded deeply of the influence of a mother. How greatly the heart is affected by the relationship of mother and child! This is God's plan... His way.

Oh, that I can be faithful in my calling...

May the Lord continue to empower me and other mothers like me who hear your call, and long to touch the hearts of generations!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Schoolroom 2011

The schoolroom is ready for action! It will only be this clean and organized once, so take notice!

The right side of the schoolroom:
Left bookcase-
Landmarks, Trailblazers, and other history
Sydney's shelf (bottom shelf)

Right bookcase (top to bottom)-
Extra curriculum
1828 Dictionary, 5 in a Row books, lapbook supplies
Macy's shelf
Austin's shelf
Andrew's shelf
Tessa's shelf

Left side of the schoolroom:
Far left bookcase (top to bottom)-
Previous years' binders, National Endowment for the Arts freebies
Bible/Character/Inspirational picture books and study guides
3 1/2 shelves of fiction
Anthologies and Poetry
Childcraft books

Middle bookcase (top to bottom)-
Trixie Belden set and misc
Boxed sets (Little House, A.A. Milne, Homer, etc)
DVDs (Moody Science, Vision Forum, Diana Waring) and Audio Books
2 shelves of Science readers and reference
Picture books
Board books
Misc bulky books and empty boxes ready for girls to fill

Far right bookcase (top to bottom)-
First 3 shelves History and Biographies
Little Golden books and Dr. Suess
Last 3 shelves Preschool (puzzles, leap pads, blocks, etc)

Preschool area

Bulletin board
My desk
Pick up/drop off station (blanket time baskets, binders, and shelves for finished work, craft box and Handwriting Without Tears box underneath)

Incomplete schedule (still working on afternoons)

The bookshelves usually stay fairly organized. The greatest potential for quick mess are the preschool shelves and picture books shelves that the little girls use. And then, there's the fact that my desk is usually piled with "stuff" by the end of the day. The table collects stuff also. And the girls leave books all over the floor. Besides working more with the girls on putting things away when they're done, I'm hoping having a "Librarian of the week" will help keep the books on the shelves.

It feels good to have the room ready. The kids have started somewhat of a school schedule today, while I continue to work on printing out their school checklists, chore lists, and reward charts. By next Monday, we should be running like a machine! At least, as much as that is possible with six kids' worth of unpredictability! Let the learning begin!
(This blog post was a little early for Living Well Wednesdays, but I couldn't help but link to it... hope that's OK!)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Our Bible study tools this year

We will be beginning our first week of school tomorrow. This week will be a simplified version of our schedule and studies, but will be gettting back into the grove of all things schooly. I love this part!

So, here's a peek at our Bible study tools for this year...

The little girls will be read to from The Child's Story Bible by Catherine Vos and the Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones. Even though these books are officially for the small set, it certainly never hurts to have the big kids listen in on these too. So, I will use The Child's Story Bible as part of our family's morning devotions. My two favorite homeschool speakers, Sally Clarkson and Carole Joy Seid, recommend this story Bible. And it really is worth buying and using over and over! There are so many junky story Bibles out there, so it's nice to know which one is worth purchasing.

For the older kids, I've got a lot I want to go through this year. They will be watching the DVD series of Francis Schaeffer's How Should We Then Live. I'm very excited about this, since it's been on my list of things to buy and do for a couple years now. Since Austin is a Junior this year, and Sydney is a Freshman, I think it will be perfect timing for them to watch it together. I'm hoping I can fit in it to watch with them. Good stuff! It comes so highly recommended.

I'm also very excited about going through What Jesus Demands from the World (John Piper) together. The book is laid out in small chapters, each one being a demand of Jesus; from "you must be born again" to "make disciples of all nations, for the mission cannot fail". This will be a lot of fun to go through together and talk about. The chapters are just a few pages each, and Piper gives permission to skip around without reading from front to back. I think we will go in order, but leave room for flexibility if a reason comes up to look at a chapter out of order. I'll probably read this one to the kids while they're eating lunch.

We have our first honest-to-goodness Bible curriculum workbook, Practical Proverbs. I usually shy away from workbooks and packaged homeschool curriculum, especially for Bible, BUT... We met the homeschool mom who put this study together at our local homeschool curriculum fair. She was a wonderful lady, who took seven years to put the study together. I have to say, I have tried, unsuccessfully, to go through Proverbs with the kids so many times over the years. I planned on going through Proverbs, pulling out all the examples of the fool versus the wise man and other things like that. I've also done the "read one chapter of Proverbs for each day of the month" thing. It was OK, but it was hard for me to be content with that. It's better than nothing, for sure! And keeps one reading the Bible on a schedule. But just about each verse is independent, so when you just read a whole chapter through without stopping, you can barely internalize a thought about one verse before the reader has moved on and is halfway through the next verse. That's a little bit frustrating for me. When we have tried that method, we have to keep stopping, because we are a discussion type family. We can't help ourselves, and we stop to discuss a verse at least every three verses. Before you know it, we have spent way too much time talking and are only 1/3 of the way through the chapter.

Keep in mind, I have not used Practical Proverbs yet, and have only looked through it, but I think it will be a really nice change to take a lesson (1-2 pages) on a particular verse, or verses that compliment each other, and pull from other books of the Bible to reinforce the proverb. I'm not yet sure whether I will assign the lessons to be done independently and discuss them together during our morning devotions, or whether I will read the lesson aloud during devotions and discuss it.

We've got a lot ahead of us this year! But because so much of the last two years has been more "hands on" and real life learning, which has it's place, I'm looking forward to spending quite a bit of planned time digging into some structure when it comes to our Bible lessons this year.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Ketchup & Jelly

Back when we did The Maker's Diet, my pantry looked like something out of The Waltons. Since then, we have added back in more "average American pantry" items than not. It is regrettable, but it's reality. My dream is to have my kitchen 100 percent healthy again someday, but the realist in me would really be happy with MOSTLY healthy.

I am so excited that the local grocery stores are making it cheaper and easier for me to buy healthy. Just a year ago, I had to pay big bucks for jelly and ketchup that have no high fructose corn syrup. But here is my pantry today... stocked with jelly that cost under two dollars and ketchup that was on sale for under two also! (With NO hfcs!) When food prices are rising, and people are trying to make the right choices AND save money, these are exciting changes!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Beginning Reading with Phonics

Just about every homeschool curriculum company is going to have a phonics program as part of their package. Since I'm not a big fan of following a certain set of curriculum (school in a box), I like to use a variety of fun ways to learn phonics. Here I will let you in on what I like to use to teach phonics at our house.

If I use any actual curriculum with my children, it is ABeka. If you did not learn to read with the phonics method, or if you just want to make sure you are teaching the phonetic sounds properly, it may be a help to you to get the cd of phonics sounds for yourself. As much as I don't like curriculum and work books, for most of my kids who enjoy getting to do something "schooly" looking when they are little, it turns out to be pretty fun to go through those colorful phonics workbooks in K and 1st grade. You may have to open an account on ABeka's website to see these links. Don't worry, there are no strings attached to do that. Their website is the only place you can purchase their curriculum, unless you are looking for used.

A lot of people like Explode the Code. I've bought it in the past and like the format, but it doesn't seem quite as organized and systematic as ABeka. It is made up of many smaller workbooks, which makes for a lot of repetition and practice for a child who may be starting young (preschool), and needs that. The inside of the workbooks is black and white, so it's also not as colorful as ABeka. But, like I said, if you want to start "workbook" phonics with them before Kindergarten, you will probably need something like ETC, or you may go too fast, which could lead to a frustrated little one. Personally, I recommend using the DVD's and games I will list below with a preschooler.

Apart from actual workbooks and a reading program, the best thing in the world that I have found to teach phonics is a card game. As far as I can tell, the Hooked on Phonics company no longer makes The Phonics Game. But it would be well worth your effort to find one used via amazon or ebay. This is an incredible way to learn to read! I can't say enough good about it, really. If you did not know one thing about phonics or how to teach it, you would learn right along with your child. The game comes with cassettes, VHS tapes, books, and sets of playing cards. The only potential drawback is making a way to watch VHS and listen to cassettes if you don't have the "older" technology to play them on.

Leap Frog has made some phonics DVD's that practically teach your phonics for you. The kids love to watch them, and since all of the letters sounds are easily memorized because of the songs in The Letter Factory, your kids have them memorized in a matter of days! The next step is the Talking Words Factory, where they put the sounds together to make words. I would just make sure that the child has mastered the sounds before trying to put the sounds together to make words, with any program you use. If the child forgets the sounds they learned from the first DVD after taking a break from it for a couple weeks, they have not internalized it enough yet to move on to the next DVD. I bought mine at Walmart, so they can be found just about anywhere.

Bob Books are great first readers. They are easy to find. I got mine at Barnes & Noble. The order each sound is introduced makes sense, and nicely accompanies any of the other phonics tools I've mentioned. The books come in sets, and if you are moving along with your phonics studies, you should only need the first two sets, and then the child will be able to start reading regular books. I have a Bob Books Magic Lite free app on my iPad that the girls play too. That's fun!

From what I've studied, I've come to feel very strongly that sight words should not be introduced until the child has begun to make sense of putting some short vowel sound words together and understanding how to sound out some three letter words, like those that would be introduced in the initial phase of any phonics program. Learning words as a picture verses sounding the word out are two completely different skills, and it makes most sense to me that sight words introduced before an understanding of sounds is present, can lead to confusion down the road.
I do not advocate teaching a child to read too early. In fact, here is an article I've come across lately that explains some of the reasons why. I've read much more than this on the subject, but haven't kept track of the data, so I am referencing the latest thing I've come across. And here is an article that references Dr. Raymond Moore's philosophy on not rushing into learning too much, too early.

Teaching reading can be the most rewarding and most fun part of homeschooling, especially if you have found a good phonics program and watch your child's cues for readiness to avoid frustration. Enjoy those precious "learning to read" moments!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Janie's Birthday

Sweet little baby, Janie Kate, turned two on the 12th!

She had been singing "happy birthday" to herself for a few days, and had been practicing blowing out imaginary candles for days too... BUT she had not expected to be sitting so close to a FIRE! She was pretty scared. I'm not sure she heard any of us singing Happy Birthday to her.

Daddy and big brother had places to go, and we didn't want to wait until evening to sing to her and give her her presents, so we celebrated when we first got up in the morning. I had sent the girls upstairs to get out of their jammies and into something pretty so we could take pictures. Big sister Macy helped the two smaller girls pick out dresses and fix their hair. Janie came down in this dress that had a big messy drip (of yogurt?) right on the front. Too precious! As you can see from the above pictures, I got a replacement dress on her. But the photographing had already begun in the dress she selected!

Priceless picture! Three adorable and sweet little sisters... all so excited to be celebrating Janie's birthday! And you just can't beat the yogurt drip on Janie's dress, and Tessa's hair! The big kids couldn't be coaxed into dressing for pics that quickly, after being called out of bed to attend a bright and early party.

Happy Birthday, darling Janie! You bring such joy to each person in our family!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Hi there, August, my friend!

This HAS to be my favorite time of the year! There's still summer fun to be enjoyed, but my heart is excitedly anticipating the start of our school year!

What happens during the next two weeks will determine exactly which day we will officially start our school year. Because of how busy this summer has been, I definitely want to make sure I get at least two weeks of some quiet time with less activity to rest, plan, and get our school room and supplies completely organized and ready. And, of course, August brings that slow transition to earlier bedtimes! ...(that always sounds SO much easier than it really is to do!)

I still have a few friends that I would love to see before school gets into gear, so I am anxious to squeeze that last bit of freedom out of the month. But I can hear the end of the month calling my name! BACK TO SCHOOL TIME!!!

The public schools in our state have moved the beginning of the school year to the very middle of August instead of the usual end of the month. That's nice for me, since my kids will be aware of that, and will be excited that we're starting our school year "late".

Enjoy your August, friends!
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