Wednesday, August 31, 2011

My Resolutions for 2011.
Priorities have changed since I found out I am expecting a baby.

Run a 5k.
Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! The only exercising I am doing right now are my Kegels. I am just focusing on eating right and keeping that nutritious food on my stomach long enough to digest it. I am staying away from the junk that I used to feel justified eating while pregnant and only eating things of real nutritional value this pregnancy. Absolutely no fast foods. No fried foods. I've completely cut out soda and chocolate and candy, etc. I would like to keep my weight gain with this baby really, really low since I am already carrying extra weight.

Follow Fly Lady's Flight Plan every single day.
I had been feeling so bad, cleaning has been next to impossible. I would either gag from the smells and appearance of food particles left in the sink or manage to do dishes, but then break into cold sweats shaking all over from the exertion. But the last few days, I've been feeling more normal so I am trying to get back into the routine of doing Fly Lady's morning routine. It's taking all day to do that morning routine, but that's more than I was doing when I was feeling sick so I feel good about it.

Mend my quilts.
I am not feeling as motivated for extra projects like I was before the hormones kicked in. My energy is often sapped before I finish what is necessary from my day, let alone anything extra.

Let Norah play outside
She hasn't been outside in a while. I have no desire to be outside. The breeze may blow me a smell that makes me gag. And I also feel more vulnerable than I usually do about letting her play in the yard without me there. Again with the hormones. Pregnancy really changes my perceptions.

Read through the entire Bible.
I'm still on track with this plan.

This last week, I've had a lot of opportunity to pray for my friends as they share what's going on in their lives.

Read one book every month.
Every free minute I have had has gone to preparing for the next year of home school and unless reading Norah's spelling text or science text count or unless I can count the books I am reading out loud to Norah, I am way behind on reading one book each month.

Eat fruit and vegetables
I'm doing well with this. Pregnancy helps. I was craving fresh pineapple and carrots today and I had a big bunch of green grapes after dinner.

No late night eating.
I'm doing well with this, too. Because my system has really slowed down, I try and eat a smaller dinner and finish eating and taking supplements at least three hours before I go to bed so all my food is pretty much digested before I lie down.

Be consistent in the garden.
The weeds are taking over out there. I can't even clean the bathtub without getting the shakes, so I don't see how I could work like I need to outside without getting in big trouble physically.

Stop talking in bed.
I'm doing alright with this. But I have required a lot more attention from Dwayne during the waking hours than I normally do. We've been through this twice before and Dwayne and I both know that his dismissing me because I'm hormonal would just make it harder for me to deal with the hormones. I am so thankful for how he "lives with me in an understanding way." Okay... here come the tears of gratitude... See! I'm hormonal!

Go to be early.
I'm getting plenty of rest these days. When I need a nap, I take one when Avril takes one in the afternoon. Even though I know it's part of the deal with this stage of life, I kind of hate needing naps. Naps make me feel unproductive and then I struggle with feeling inadequate. But, the good thing is I know from experience that this season is temporary and even though it might take about a year with a full pregnancy, a birth recovery and then nursing a baby through the night, I will, eventually, go back to not needing the extra sleep. That is... unless caring for three kids is much harder than I think it will be.

An old friend came to my mind in the middle of the night last night. I'm not particularly close to this guy. I never was really. But I'd say we were friends... once.

I just wanted to go back to sleep but I could not stop thinking about this guy and his family... I just lay there... thinking.

I just found out this morning via his Facebook status that he was at the hospital emergency room with his kid at the exact same time that he and his family were on my mind.

Right now, I am blown away by the power of the Holy Spirit. I think I go about my day (and night) underestimating the power of God, at least when it comes to His power at work in me personally.

I know what the Bible says about it. "...the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you."

That's a lot of power.

I need to live more aware to the realities that that simple (yet miraculous) fact brings to my simple (yet miraculous) life. And when people come to mind like that and I need to do a better job of recognizing the Holy Spirit's direction to pray from now on!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

For Geography:

I knew we couldn't just read this First Atlas. Norah would never retain the content without something visual and interactive.

So, for Canada, I found the image of a maple leaf, a hockey player, a totem pole online. For the USA, I found the Hollywood sign, a wheat combine, the capital building, etc. I was going to make colored stickers of these images so we could cut them out and put them onto a world map as we read about the places where they are.

For a day or two, I spent all my free time downloading the images for North and South America alone. But as I was shopping for other books on Amazon, I came across this sticker atlas. It represents the exact concept of what I was trying to accomplish on my own.

So, using this book for stickers instead of making my own, we will read through our atlas like we planned, but find the stickers for that part of the world from this book. There aren't stickers for every image I would have chosen and some of the images on stickers aren't talked about in our atlas, but this book will provide plenty of colorful, ready-to-use stickers to correspond to what we will read from our First Atlas.

I am sorry I wasted the time I did preparing the images I did, but I am more than thankful for this resource because it means I won't have to do stickers for the entire world on my own!

Monday, August 29, 2011

It occurred to me that I should have some practical goals for Norah this year to go along with all the academic ones.

You know "life-skills" and all.

In the fuss of planning history and science and art I had kind of forgotten it was also my job to teach her this kind of stuff, too.

Arguably, this stuff is more important anyway.

If a straight A high school student can't wash their own laundry, how smart are they really?

So here's a list of stuff she is going to learn how to do this year:

Clean off the stainless steel trash can.
Note: I hate this job and it's a good sized job for Norah to inherit. It will allow her practice and eventually perfect the all-important skill of using Windex without leaving streaks.

Empty and reline waste baskets.

Empty and reset the diaper champ.

Make her and Avril's breakfast.
She needs to learn to pour the cereal and milk into the bowls, microwave the oatmeal safely, etc. else she and Avril may not eat breakfast till noon once I am nursing an infant.

Make (and put away the ingredients of) her and Avril's sandwiches for lunch.

Vacuum the stairs with a hand held vac.

Sweep and quick mop the kitchen and bathroom floors.

Wash and dry a simple load of laundry.

Wipe off the bathroom counter/sink/mirror, etc.

Clean out the toilet with a toilet brush.

Looking at these goals like I am looking at our goals for school this year, it becomes clear that I am going to need to break all these tasks down into detailed parts and really be there with her, showing her and telling her how to do these things correctly and safely.

I also realize I need to buy her some tools so she can do these tasks herself... like a nice pair of petite, vinyl gloves, an apron and a few step stools positioned around the house, etc.

I think Norah is going to be thrilled with the power to do more for herself. She's always begging to help. So, I am actually looking forward to this part of our school year. I guess we should call it "home ec."

Sunday, August 28, 2011

I took some photos this afternoon after we had prepared everything and while we were just waiting around for the storm to arrive.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

You may never know
all I save you from.
Another Lord
might resent you for this,
But your growing ignorance
of all that's evil
only increases my joy.
Expect good things from me.
Rest in my love.
Remain in me
and get farther and farther
from what the enemy planned for you
and closer and closer to
who you were meant to be and
what you were meant to do.

Friday, August 26, 2011

I don't feel good so I go lie down. Avril follows me into my room. After a few minutes of tickling her and reading her the books she brings, she gets down again and after a few seconds I hear,


I look up and over to where Avril is pointing next to my bed. This book was laying open on my bedside table to this page. I turned to it after finding out that I was eight weeks pregnant today.

"Baby eye," Avril points to the black spot on the baby's face.

"Baby nine," she's pointing to the baby's foot, but she can't say the word "foot" yet.

She smiles, cocks her head to one side and picks the book up gently, holding it to her chest. There is no question in her mind what this is a picture of. And she won't give me the book back. She's carrying it around the house.

I am moved to tears. Granted. It's probably the hormones.


I know it's never that simple for women who don't want to be pregnant, but with respect, I think it ought to be.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

For logic and reasoning skills, etc:

For logic, we are starting with Logic Safari and Analogies for Beginners. We are also still working through the last of the four Developing the Early Learner books. These books came with out Sonlight Core P 4/5 a while back. Note: I really like these books. They aren't difficult. We just took our time, obviously, and treated them as extras. Our plan is to do a page or two out all these books every Friday.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Avril loves horses. She calls them "Yee haws."

For Avril I'm using:

Slow and Steady Get Me Ready- This book has just one, age-appropriate activity each week to build skills and understanding that will make learning easier later. I've stopped using this book the last few months, but at the beginning of September, I am going to start on Year 2, Week 30 and go from there.

I've got several over sized, colorful books with labels on the pictures to help build Avril's vocabulary. We'll read those again and again. She also loves stickers, so books like First 1000 Words in English sticker book will be a big hit.

To recognize A,B,Cs- We are going to use her ABC puzzle and favorite Usborne Alphabet Book.

To recognize 1,2,3s- We are going to use this toy. It's so fun to pull the Indians out, line them up, count and sing, "One little, two little, three little Indians..."

If Avril starts talking a lot, can hold up her fingers to show how many and can identify which letter is which by the end of this school year (and by the time the new baby comes), I will be content.

We finished Sarah, Plain and Tall a few days ago and now we have started reading Mr. Popper's Penguins.

Note: It's amazing how quickly we are going through books now that we are only reading ones we really enjoy.

Before, I just had to finish books that I had started because other people had said those books were great and we must be wrong about our impressions of the book, etc. etc.

But continuing to read books we didn't really like meant that I kept avoiding reading aloud to Norah because I wasn't really enjoying the book at all and therefore, Norah didn't really enjoy it, either. Reading aloud became a chore.

When I read the quote below out of Jim Trelease's The Read Aloud Handbook, I decided he was right and I had to stop insisting on finishing books we really weren't enjoying and I had commit to be okay with reading only those we like.

Doing so has made all the difference in our read-aloud experience. It's a delight again.

Jim Trelease says:

"Don't read stories that you don't enjoy yourself. Your dislike will show in the reading and that defeats your purpose. Don't continue reading a book once it is obvious that it was a poor choice. Admit the mistake and choose another."

For Music-

I'll help Norah work through The Usborne First Book of the Recorder. This book came with a recorder for Norah and I still have the recorder that I used in grade school. I think it's in one of the junk drawers I didn't get to, so she and I should both have a recorder to play on.

We'll also start reading and listening through the books:
The Story of the Orchestra by Robert Levine
The Orchestra by Ann Haynes

She'll listen to the audio recordings called:
A Child's Introduction to the Orchestra
Pan the Piper: The Reed That Grew Into an Orchestra

We'll go see the orchestra play:
The Hartford Symphony Orchestra is giving a casual, outdoor concert on September 25. We may not have finished all the selections on the orchestra listed above by then, but that concert is free and the most family-friendly option right now. If we go, it will give me insight into how well Norah may (or may not) behave for other formal symphony concerts throughout the rest of the year. If she does well, I may pay to take her to more.

We will learn about the composers:
Available free of charge, I've found the audio and the text and illustrations of all Thomas Tapper's books in the series Stories of the Great Composers for Children. We will work through this series one composer at a time. Norah will look at the text and pictures of the books on the computer screen as these stories are read to her through the computer's speakers.

We will listen to classical music:
After we listen to a composer's story, we will listen to a compilation of his most famous works while Norah colors coloring pages of his portrait, pictures from his life, etc. that I print off the internet or get out of coloring books like this one. We'll keep these coloring pages in a special notebook so she can review them.

For some of the composers, we have an extra book or audio recording that we will read or listen to. In addition to what we do for Beethoven, for example, we will also listen to "Beethoven Lives Upstairs" and we will read the book "The Heroic Symphony" by Anna Celenza, the story behind one of Beethoven's works. We don't have extra resources like this for every composer on our list, but we will use them for the composer's we have them for.

We'll go on another field trip:
Sometime in December, Norah will listen to the audio recording of Swan Lake on Kiddie during her music class and then we will go see Swan Lake at the Palace Theater in Waterbury. This isn't just a symphony; it's also a ballet, so I think Norah will be entertained well enough to sit through the entire performance with no problems.

If we finish all the composer's in Stories of the Great Composers and listen to their works, etc. by the end of second grade, I'll have to think of something else. But, with learning the recorder and reading and listening to all of the above, we have enough content to work through for now and make a solid start for this year.

For Art- We're going to start by using Discovering The Great Artists this year.

I think we will really enjoy this book, but I'm only planning to do it once a week on Fridays, since the projects sound like they may require a lot of extra time and patience.

For example, after reading about one of the artists, we have to grind colored chalk into powder and then mix it with egg yolks to actually make paint for Norah to then use to paint a picture. This will demonstrate to Norah how determined early artists like the one we study had to be to do what they did. They couldn't just go to the store and buy what they needed like we can, but no doubt, this kind of thing will also be really messy and tedious, thus we are planning to do art from this book only once a week.

With each artist, we'll also print, label and collect show some of their most famous works in a notebook so Norah can look them over again and again as a means of reviewing what we have read in this book and so that she can become familiar with famous artists and their work at a glance.

Note: We may end up doing more than one chapter in this book each week. I think Norah may be begging to do just that. Perhaps we'll have time in the afternoons after we are done with other subjects, especially during the long winter indoors, but I am only planning on doing it once a week. If it takes more than a year for us finish this book, I think that'll be fine. We can work through the second half of the book when Norah starts the third grade.

Tentative Schedule for 2nd Grade-

Everyday- Silent Reading and Read Alouds

Monday - Thursday: Bible, Math, Handwriting, Grammar, Writing, Spelling, Memory Work

Monday and Wednesday- We'll add History to the list above.

Tuesday and Thursday- We'll study Science on these days, along with all the subjects we study Monday-Thursday.

Friday- Friday will be dedicated to subjects that require a slower, more casual pace: Geography, Music, Art, Logic, picture books, puzzles, etc. This will be the day we take field trips if we can, the day we go to the library, the day I try and schedule my appointments.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

I took the girls blueberry picking today. We we're only there for about thirty minutes and the picking was slow since it is late in the season, but we still managed to bring home a few pounds.

Avril was looking into the sun and biting into a sour berry at the moment I took this photo. She ate most of the berries she picked. Norah was a real help, managing to pick more than me faster than me.

Monday, August 22, 2011

I've started buying and collecting the supplies for Norah's history projects. We've chosen one or two projects for each chapter of The Story of the World, Volume 1: Ancient Times.

Notice the dragon, the Sphinx and the pyramids. Those are extra. They aren't recommended in the activity guide, but they were very affordable, so I decide to add them. We will do the dragon when we study Ancient China, the pyramids and the Sphinx when we study more about Ancient Egypt.

Notice the fake apple. That will be painted gold and labeled "For the Most Beautiful" to go along with our chapter on the Greek gods. I don't know the story yet, but I think Zeus must have caused some trouble with that apple. The activity guide actually recommended making an apple out of paper mache. I just skipped the mess and effort and bought a fake apple that I don't mind Norah painting gold.

Notice the terra cotta pot. I'll draw a traditional Roman design on it with a permanent marker and the help of images off the internet, then smash it with a hammer and Norah will have put it back together with fast drying glue, pretending that she's an archeologist.

The yarn is for more than one project, actually. One project we're using yarn for will be to make Roman hair piece. Romans used to wear hair pieces to make their hair look thicker like some people do today.

The brown bags, plastic eyes and craft foam will be to make Medes and Persian puppets so Norah can put on a puppet show retelling all she learned in that chapter.

I can't afford to buy everything I need for the whole school year this month. That's no big surprise, really. I've already spent a small fortune on our textbooks and another small fortune on science project supplies.

So I am planning carefully and I will make another order in November to get the rest of the history supplies that we will need later in the school year (like the Great Wall of China puzzle). But I am happy to say that what I have managed to get us thus far will get us through the next twelve or more weeks of our history book, so that is good.

Collecting all the project supplies ahead of time has been really rewarding. It is causing me to focus less on the stress of doing so many crafts with Norah since I am handling all the tedious work and planning now and I it is allowing me to focus more on the fun of what we get to do this year. I am not very crafty but seeing everything in one place is actually making me excited about the stuff we will get to make this year in history!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Lord, I want your heart for my enemies, for those who have been the cause of great wounding to my soul. I am whole because of your healing. Now I want to be capable of compassion for those who have hurt me. I don't want to glory in their misfortune, even if their misfortune could actually be your loving discipline. I do not know what your intentions are for them. I do know you are kind and full of grace and perhaps you withhold your full judgment on their deeds in order to show them the same grace you have showed me so many times before. I want to be able to ask and really desire the favor of God to fill their lives. So, Lord, please make it so! Take this wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting!

For Reading-

These are the books I will assign Norah to read this year. After were done with everything else for the day, I will have her read in one of these books for thirty minutes. If she wants to keep reading (and I think she will) then I will probably let her keep going till she gets tired or finishes the book, whichever comes first.

A Question of Yams
Keep the Lights Burning Abby
Clara and the Bookwagon
The Chalk Box Kid
Riding the Pony Express
The Littles
Jake Drake Bully Buster
Third Grade Detectives: Mystery of the Left Handed Envelope
Mystery of the Stolen Statue
The Last Little Cat
The House on Walenska Street
Secret Valley
Cora Frear
Tippy Lemmy
The Paint Brush Kid
Prairie School
The Long Way Westward
The Long Way to a New Land
Clues in the Woods
Owls in the Family
The Sword in the Tree
In Grandma's Attic
Encyclopedia Brown #1-7

Up to this point, I've hesitated to assign or require Norah to read specific books. I've only put books like this on her shelves and encouraged her to read them, letting her stay up late if she agrees to choose a book from a stack of books that I make for her, etc. It's bribery, but it has worked pretty well.

However, she's such a joyful, independent reader, I don't think assigning books will cause her to dislike reading. In fact, I know she will enjoy these titles. She isn't drawn to their covers on her own which is part of the reason she hasn't read most of these books already but they are some of the best stories out there for kids at her reading level.

I've collected the titles we already own from around the house, but I still need to order some of these books online. The ones I can get from the library, I won't buy. When we get near the end of this list, I will make another, more advanced list and assign those.

Most of these books are on Sonlight's Readers 3rd grade list. For that reason, I think I will buy their readers schedule so I will have some ready made questions to use to test Norah's reading comprehension.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Today I am working on my final "History Project Supply List." I am neatly listing the chapter, the project we're doing for that chapter and the materials I will need to purchase or collect for Norah to do them.

In some cases, I am choosing to do my own project instead of one of the projects recommended in The Story of the World's Activity Guide. For example, instead of making the Great Wall of China out of craft sticks and glue which just sounds like torture, we're going to buy a 3D puzzle of the Great Wall and put that together instead.

Here's a peek at what the final version of this list looks like so far. It's tedious work, but having a nice list like this will make it much quicker for me to reference and easier for me collect and shop for supplies. We will still need to refer to the Activity Guide for instructions on how to do many of the projects specifically, but that will only be after we have been able to set up our work space, once we sit down to work.

Chapter 10: Make a Ming Bowl-

White air drying clay

Blue Paint

White Glue

Paint Brushes

Plastic Bowl

Plastic wrap

Rolling Pin

Chapter 11- Make a paper necklace-


Magazine pages


Glue stick


Chapter 12-Make a golden bracelet-

Toilet paper tube

Gold paint


Paint brushes

Chapter 13- Make a model of one of Hatshepsut's monuments-

Plenty of sand colored air dry clay

Chapter 14- Make Ten Plagues Stickerbook-

Laminate Paper

Photocopy on card stock-Student page 41

Photocopy on sticker paper- Student pages 42-44

Colored pencils

Chapter 15- Make colored glass-

wax paper

old crayons- red, blue and yellow

hand held pencil sharpener

Chapter 16- Build a siege tower-


Chapter 17- Build the Hanging Gardens of Babylon-


Chapter 18- Make an Erupting Volcano-

8 oz. Drink bottle

brown self hardening clay

rimmed baking sheet

baking soda


red and yellow food coloring


Thursday, August 18, 2011

I've finished the rough draft of what I am calling my "history library list." At this point, I am going back and trying to make it look perfect before I print it and put it in the front of my history folder.

The Story of the World's Activity Guide recommends hundreds of books to go along with all the chapters in The Story of the World, but my library doesn't have every single title. My "history library list" is a list of the recommended books that my particular library has on its shelves. This way, I will only go looking for the books that I know my library has and I save myself serious time and headache.

Here's a peek at what the final list looks like so far. Note: The books I own have an asterisk next to them so I will know I should look for them on my book shelves at home. And to make it even more complicated, I also added a few titles that weren't on the recommended list but that my library had in stock and that looked good to me.

History Library List

(Completed August 2011)

Chapter 10: The Far East, Ancient China-

Cloud Weavers: Ancient Chinese Legends by Rena Krasno

The Gods and Goddesses of Ancient China by Leonard Everett Fisher

*The Story of Ping by Majorie Flack

Chapter 11: Ancient Africa-

Anansi the Spider: A Tale from the Ashanti and Zomo the Rabbit: A Trickster from West by Gerald McDermott

Anansi and the Magic Stick by Eric Kimmel

Chapter 12: The Middle Kingdom of Egypt-

*Life in Ancient Egypt Coloring Book by John Green

Chapter 13: The New Kingdom of Egypt-

*Pharaohs and Pyramids (Usborne Time Traveler) by Tony Allan and Philippa Wingate

Hatsheputset: The Princess Who Became King

Look What Came From Egypt by Miles Harvey

Tutankhamen's Gift by Robert Sabuda

Tut, Tut by Jon Scieszka

Chapter 14: The Israelites Leave Egypt-

*Eyewitness: Bible Lands by Brian Wildsmith

Exodus by Brian Wildsmith

The Moses Basket by Jenny Koralek

I've got several chapters to go before this final list is final.

After I perfect this "history library list," I'll go on to finalize my "history project list" that will tell me at a glance what project I am doing with each history chapter next year and what materials I will need to grab for those.

We finished two read-alouds this week.

We finished A Dog Called Kitty by Bill Wallace-

This book had Norah and I weeping at several points. When I was too choked up to read, Norah would rub my back and put her head on my shoulder till I was strong enough to read again.

The narrator goes from being terrified of dogs because he was attacked when he was a little boy to saving the life of a starving stray pup who wanders onto his farm and even growing to love this dog, Kitty, for his very own. It's very heartwarming.

But, it's very gritty. Very gritty.

At one point, the narrator breaks a wild dog's back by slamming it with a large stick. You feel the dog's back crunch right along with the narrator. Keep in mind, the wild dog had his teeth sunk into the narrator's dog's leg at the time. And the wild dog was the leader of the pack of several wild dogs who were close to tearing the narrator's dog and new born baby calf to pieces in the struggle.

In other scenes, the narrator fist fights with a very angry and aggressive bully who is friends with some of his school friends. The narrator also ends up throwing this bully's very aggressive dog into a barn wall in another scene (to keep him from torturing another starving puppy.)

I spent my elementary years in rural Oklahoma and Texas. This story is set in rural Oklahoma. My mom was a public school teacher there and the author of this book was one of the nearby school principals. My teacher read it out loud to my class one year. That's how I knew about it to begin with.

This book is written to kids in that culture, kids who are free to roam all over town and country and who are required to contribute to the family by working on the farm. In roaming, they have to be aware of dangers suburban kids grow up totally ignorant of (like avoiding dangerous animals traps with poison all over the pastures) and in working the farm, kids also have to be capable of serious challenges (like protecting a baby calf from wild animals).

Anyway, all this to say that this book ain't for sissies. It also isn't a book every parent would choose to read to their kids for the reasons I mentioned above and I get that.

We also read The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes.

This story is about a poor, little, immigrant girl who wears the same dress to school every day and gets picked on by the wealthier girls in her class for telling them that she has "one hundred dresses" in her closet at home.

The little girl doesn't speak English as well as the other kids. What they and you as a reader don't realize is that the little girl means she has drawn one hundred dresses and hung the pictures up in her closet "all lined up in a row."

The narrator and main characters realize too late, because the poor little girl and her family move away due to prejudice, that all the fun and laughs they had at this poor girl's expense was really cruelty, even if it was subtle and even if the girl appeared to be lying. They resolve to stop picking on people and even to stand up to those who do.

Norah and I had a very long conversation about treating others they way we want to be treated sparked by this book. It's a good read for little girls, especially those who are going to school or going into any environment where the clothes a person wears are often valued above a person's inner character.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The way you love them,
that's how I love you.
All day long,
I delight to be near you.

I smile when you say something wise.
When you say anything funny, I laugh.
Really laugh, too.

As small as you are,
you bless me with your affection.
When you lean in, I close my eyes and breath in, too.

I take the time to plan good things for you.
I call myself Father to reflect my heart to you.

And you can love them as much as you do
because that's how I first loved you.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

I've been working to collect all the items we are going to need to do Norah's science experiments this year. After several months of working through Norah's history book with her, I've realized that we are doing far less of the history projects (hardly any at this point) because I don't have the stuff I need for the projects already collected in one place. It's too hard to find this thing or that, too much trouble to run to the store for something, and far too easy to just skip the project and move on to the next chapter, etc. So, I am collecting all her science stuff now. This way, everything we need for every science project will be on hand. I also plan to go back through her history book within the next few days and make a list of supplies for the projects in the chapters we have yet to cover and collect those supplies, too. To do this up front is a tedious and expensive endeavor, but I feel confident it will be worth the effort.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Today my thoughts dwell on the old lady who used to pick me up from school and take me to an old country church to tell a group of us Bible stories with puppets and felt boards.

I thought about the people who worked at all those Vacation Bible Schools I attended as a kid.

I thought about the bus driver who picked me and several other kids up for Sunday School and then brought us home.

I thought about my Girls in Action leader, whoever she was the one and only year I got to go.

These people remain faceless in my memories. I can't even remember anything specific they said to me.

But when I was looking for a way to live my life, the compass of my soul was pulled toward the direction they pointed. I came to love the Jesus I don't even remember them telling me about and I imagine that some of them have already received their reward in heaven for the part they played in my now deep, abiding faith.

And as I serve the children who come to camp this week and as they jump around and run in every direction while they are being told the greatest story of all: God's creation of them, His love and devotion to them and His work of redemption for their souls, the Holy Spirit whispers to my heart that,

"Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe."
The girls in their Camp Wanna Hugga Squirrel t-shirts one morning this week.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The girls and I are spending every single day this week at church for Camp-Wanna-Hugga-Squirrel. Norah is attending camp, I am volunteering and Avril will be in a special class with other volunteer's toddlers. I have a strong suspicion that I might be too tired when I get home to do anything but bathe the girls, shower myself, do our laundry and prepare our sack lunches for the next day. Dwayne has even volunteered to take care of dinner every night, bless him. I will see you all at the end of the week.

Friday, August 5, 2011

We captured this little frog at the river and brought him home in our cooler (dumped of the ice and drinks and filled with fresh river water, of corse.)

We've been feeding him house flies and crickets. We've had to clean his tank once. We refilled it with fresh rain water that we collected from the seats of our camping chairs. (It's amazing how much rain water those seats will hold if we leave them outside during a storm.)

In the photo above, our frog had just eaten a cricket, a cricket that was as long as he is, mind you. He did this by biting him and letting the cricket swim, biting him again and letting him swim... this went on till he'd worn the cricket down and gotten him face to face. That's when he proceeded to swallow the cricket and swallow him some more and swallow him some more and more and more till the whole cricket had disappeared head first down into the frog's body (save the leg you see sticking out the side of his mouth in the photo above.)

The frog isn't chewing. He's just sitting there. From what we read, the juices in his body will digest the cricket for him.

We captured a praying mantis last year. And this year, we brought home a frog. I have to say that no amount of reading or videos on insects or frogs can teach what these animals teach us watching them for a mere thirty seconds every other day. It's awe inspiring.

I saw this in the bathroom at Silus Bronson and I just had to take a photo of it. I was thrilled. I remember going to Waterbury's library for the first time when Norah was still in diapers (over four years ago now). Among a few other disasters that occurred while we were there that first day, Norah pooped and started to cry and after waiting in a long line upstairs to ask the librarian to unlock the bathroom door for me so I could change my baby, the librarian proceeded to open the bathroom door and let me look in to find that there was no changing table at all.

When I saw that there was no changing table, I looked at the librarian with a question. The librarian didn't seemed surprised. I asked him what I should do. I was thinking, "Isn't it his responsibility to offer a solution? Aren't librarians supposed to be helpful? Doesn't every library have a changing table standard?" The librarian gave me a blank stare.

So while the librarian watched, I acted decisively. I took off my fluffy, winter coat and laid it on the carpet floor in front of this bathroom, the door still standing wide open and I changed Norah there. I threw the diaper away in the bathroom trash can. The empty trash can under the sink was all the use that bathroom was to me then.

The librarian looked at me like I was crazy, not so much for laying a baby on a coat on the floor to change her as for bringing her to the library at all. I remember thinking to myself, "I can't be the only mom with a baby who comes to this library to get herself books... Right??" I may not have been the only one who ever went there. But, because of their policies and practices, I wouldn't be surprised to find that I was the only mom who ever went back.

That was then and that was years ago. When I talk about this library to my friends, I tell them that I continue to go to there even though they aren't always family friendly because I think that over time a place will actually change little by little to fit the people who frequent it.

And now, after years of asking them to unlock this door for me and my kids: a potty training three year old who has to go... now!!! who eventually grew into a four year old who doesn't stop talking and who asks the librarian to go and who says "Thanks" when he opens the door for her, who grew into a six year old that they know by name with a cute baby sister who is still in diapers... I am thrilled to see that the library has installed a changing table!!

So if you think I'm saying that they installed this changing table just because of me and my kids... no, I don't think it was just because of me and kids... or... well,


For Spelling (and Phonics review):

We're using All About Spelling. The spelling program that we had wasn't working for Norah, even with bribes. I really wanted it to work because that is how I learned to spell and how her dad learned to spell and most importantly... I had already paid for it. The program we had encouraged Norah to spell by just gaining enough familiarity with the way the words look to so she could copy them back out for the test, etc. This program, on the other hand, is supposed to be effective at getting kids to understand the sounds that make up the words, so effective that kids begin to spell words after hearing them without even seeing them first. How is that even possible? I don't know. But, I plan to find out!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

For Writing:

We're going to use The Complete Writer: Writing With Ease Workbook 1. I bought the printed and bound workbook so I'll have a real book to hold and I won't have to read off the computer screen or print the pages myself and put them in a three binder. (I am reading off the screen for The Story of the World's Activity Book and I am using a three ring binder with First Language Lessons. I don't love either.)

But I did purchase the .pdf version for the Student Pages because those need to be handed to Norah separately anyway, I can print them before school starts with all the other pre-school printing I am doing and just keep them in a binder till she needs them. Having the .pdf means that I can print them as many times as Norah needs them if she happens to mess up really badly or spill milk on her page and I can also print the pages again in a few years when Avril is ready for this book!

I did NOT choose to buy Strong Fundamentals or the Writing With Ease Instructor Text because I have no time to read these books and transform myself into the expert Susan Wise Bauer already is on the topic of teaching kids to write. I don't even have the time to pick out my own literature passages for Norah to copy. Susan Wise Bauer is much smarter than I am and she's already read a lot more children's literature than I have so I will just go with her literature choices in the workbook, thank you and Amen.

For Math:

We're going to finish Math U See's Alpha book. Norah has about six lessons to go till she can move on. Then Norah should start and finish the Beta book by the end of second grade.

We're using Math U See's Songbook and CD to help memorize our math facts.

Norah uses addition and subtraction Learning Wrap Up's to practice her facts.

And, once she is ready for it, Norah will use Ravensburger's Number Race to practice addition and subtraction.

For History:

We're adding a time line to our history studies this year. This is another thing I stalled on for lack of not wanting to spend the money on it. I chose History Oddessey's Timeline and the corresponding stickers. I plan to have it laminated so we can write on it with dry erase markers, too.

We're continuing with The Story of the World, Volume One: Ancient Times. We use the corresponding activity book and student pages as well.

We got started on history late in the first grade, so we have a long way to go into second grade before we finish ancient times. However, I feel confident we can still finish all four Story of the World books by the time Norah goes into middle school. We may need to do history through a summer, but I think we can catch up.

At some point (maybe with the forth book on Modern Times), Norah may choose to read and study through the whole book on her own. That would certainly catch us up quickly! We will see.

I usually try and do the bulk of our history work in only one day each week. I prefer devoting a whole afternoon to the same subject. This way, we don't feel rushed and we can really get into the subject matter.

We usually listen to the chapter we're on first. I have the audio version.

While Norah listens, she colors the corresponding student page. I have the digital version of this book, so I will often print Avril a copy of the page and she colors, too.

I always have Norah answer the comprehension questions listed in the activity pages to check her understanding, but I don't always have her narrate the chapter back to me.

If I do have Norah do a narration, we do it right after we hear the chapter. Norah's narrations tend to be long. I've been helping her pull out the most important points to make them shorter. But, for the first several weeks of the new school year, I believe I may have her copy the suggested narrations in the activity guide word for word until she gets the idea that her narrations should be just about that long, only one or two sentences. I think this will help her come around to shortening her own narrations.

We always do the map work and we also take time to find the ancient location of the map on the modern globe.

We put the student pages Norah colored, the maps and any narrations she did into her history notebook at that point.

If we are going to read any extra books that the student activity guide suggests, we do that next. I try and get these books from the library at least one week ahead of time. If the library doesn't have the book, I will often try and find one that is similar.

Many of the corresponding literature suggestions are longer than what we can read in one sitting, so that often means we will devote another afternoon to history later in the week. We usually listen to the chapter again on those days and then pick up where we left off on our extra reading.

If we do any of the history projects suggested in the activity guide for the chapter we are on, we usually wait until another day of the week when we have a big block of free time. The day we do the project, Norah will usually ask to listen to the chapter again. I say, "Sure!" and while she listens, I set up the project materials in another room. This serves to distract her long enough for me to prepare without her under my feet and it also serves as a review of the material for Norah.

But, even if we don't do a project or even if the extra reading is done on the same day as everything else, Norah will often beg to listen to he history chapter for that week again sometimes. So, by listening to the chapter again, she usually gets a review for every chapter.

For Science:

Norah had a thorough introduction to plant and animal life last year. There's no way I could even list the books she read and reread on these topics. There were hundreds! In fact, she is still reading new books about insects and plants every day.

But she has done very little reading on the human body this year, interestingly enough. I think this is because there aren't as many books on this topic for young readers. At least, I find it much harder to find real books on this topic. For all the books we have purchased or come across at the library, it seems like probably only one in ten is about the human body.

Therefore, we are going to use Apologia's Human Anatomy and Physiology as our next main book for science in second grade. We are also using their Junior Notebooking Journal to go along with the textbook. This book should give Norah a comprehensive understanding of her body parts, body systems, etc. I would rather let Norah read the same content through real books, but like I said, I just can't find enough real books that cover the content in the amount of detail that we desire.

This book may take us a full school year to complete. It's designed to take that long. But we may find we want to go through the lessons in double time. I think we will just have to see. I will probably base it on Norah's desires. If we finish with one section and she's asks for more, we will do more. I plan to let Norah do the bulk of the reading. (She learns more when she's the reader.) I think she will also enjoy all the experiments. I just hope the text isn't too dull and that there are enough pictures to awe her visually. She's gotten used to real books filled with vivid photographs.

The Well Trained Mind recommends several resources for studying the human body such as Human Anatomy Floor Puzzle, Somebody: Five Human Anatomy Board Games and Rookie Read About Health books, so we plan to use those to supplement our study.

This year will also be a test to see whether or not I like using textbooks, something I have avoided till now. If I do, I will probably use some of Apologia's other science books in the future (like their elementary level Astronomy). But, I've found several real books on Astronomy already, so we may not find that we need to use a textbook to cover that content.

I am not thrilled with the prospect of getting off The Well Trained Mind's four year schedule for the sciences by taking so much time to do an intensive study of the human body. But, I feel confident that we can still cover all the sciences we need to cover before middle school and use all The Well Trained Mind's resources we want to use by incorporating these things into Norah's free reading, our free time, our evenings together as a family, our lazy weekends and even our summers.

I'm counting on the fact that home school provides time and freedom and opportunity to do all things well, so that's why we're taking extra time to study the human body for the next several months.

For Handwriting:

Norah is done with Zanier Bloser's Manuscript 1. (Well, she has four or five lessons left.) So I ordered Zanier Bloser 2C for next year. It will provide her a review of manuscript and an introduction to cursive.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

My Resolutions for 2011.
Just checking in to see how I am doing.

Run a 5k.
I wanted to run the Ninantic Bay Half Marathon and 5K. I am supposed to be using this plan to train, but I am not training like I should. My biggest problem: I have been going to bed too late to get up early and get my exercise done before the day begins.

Follow Fly Lady's Flight Plan every single day.
I am doing well with this. My house looks great and it is getting more and more organized.

Mend my quilts.
I have added a few other sewing projects to my mental to-do list including mending the cushion of our antique rocking chair and making the girls' Halloween costumes. But I haven't started on any of projects yet. Typical.

Let Norah play outside
She didn't go outside today at all unless you count walking through the parking lots while we ran errands. I will have to remedy that tomorrow.

Read through the entire Bible.
I'm still on track with this plan. This is one thing I really don't ever forget at this point.

I've been praying for my dad a lot. I have not been praying about much else. But I hope that's understandable.

Read one book every month.
I finished Oliver Twist and I have read a few more chapters of King's Cross by Tim Keller. I am reading a lot of The Well Trained Mind and other things to prepared for Norah's school year next year, but I don't have time for much else. If I had read two books in July, I would have been on track to read one book each month this year. But now I need to read three books this month to be on track. I am not sure that will happen.

Eat fruit and vegetables
This is another habit that fell out of mind with the distraction of company and the constraints of our food budget.

No late night eating.
I'm doing well with this.

Be consistent in the garden.
With company here last week and the fact that I am not waking up early enough to get out there before the heat, I haven't worked in the garden in over a week.

Stop talking in bed.
I'm doing alright with this, but mostly because Dwayne has been going to bed a few hours before me.

Go to be early.
Seems like this is the key to helping me with at least two or three of my other resolutions. So even though I really want to read what The Well Trained Mind says about art programs, I think I ought to go to bed. Maybe I should take a second a put out my exercise clothes first, though.
So much planning!

It's like I'm a full time teacher planning a full year of school or something!

I was planning on doing a week of "Camp Boulden!" this week, but it isn't working out that way.

I've been traveling and entertaining company and dealing with my dad and now the summer is almost gone and I realized that I really should order Norah's school books now so they will have plenty of time to arrive before September 1 (when I want to start school with her). So, I am having to do some serious research, reading and organizing. I am researching, reading and organizing all the time, but now I am having to make those final decisions and that's taking time, time, time.

I am still letting Norah paint with watercolors for an hour or more every afternoon while Avril naps. Today I even got her a book about watercolors from the library with several sample projects to do. And we are still reading "A Dog Called Kitty." But the outdoor activities are no longer on the agenda. Maybe, given a full day of work on school tomorrow, I can take them swimming Thursday and Friday. We will have to see.

I just wasn't realistic about how much planning I would need to do for this school year. But, I feel confident that if I can decide things now and do things like pick which symphonies we will go see and where and order the tickets now, then we will actually go do those things.

I am also finding that as I organize my books and supplies, I have so many real books on certain topics that I may not even have to order a program or a curriculum to teach Norah those things. Case in point: I have at least ten excellent books about the world, it's cultures, maps, etc. so I think I could probably just read through those with Norah and call that our geography and social studies for second grade.

I am torn between my desire to enjoy the last days of summer and my desire to ensure that we will be able to make the most of our fall and winter with some definite school plans. I haven't gotten as much done in years past because of a lack of decisiveness and planning (and a hesitation to spend so much money at one time), but now I find that I am behind schedule because of it.

I think all this planning and deciding and spending I do during this one week of the summer will pay serious dividends in what we will be able to accomplish for months and months ahead.

Monday, August 1, 2011

While I read and look up things online and make plans for the next school year, the girls sit next to me on the couch. Norah reads and holds the books so that Avril sees the pages and every now and then, Norah talks to Avril about things Avril points to. All the while, Avril feeds and kisses her baby doll and Avril rests her chilly, little feet on Norah's long legs for warmth. They make a beautiful picture, so I get my camera.

I am very aware of the Lord's presence with us at that moment. I'm waiting on the results of my dad's x rays. I have reason to be anxious, but I'm not. I'm not anxious at all and it makes me wonder. I feel an overwhelming peace, so much peace that I pause and look up from what I am doing. It's almost like joy is being poured into the room from above our heads. I wonder about it. The Scripture below pops into my mind, so I look it up.

Is God singing over us?! I think He may being singing over us right now. Because it really feels as if God may actually be singing over us right now!! I close my eyes and smile.

I think about our home. It's a peaceful one, usually. I thank God for that. I know God is always with us because of my faith in His Son. He brings His presence and we dwell there. We aren't living in a home as much as we are dwelling in His presence. We get to enjoy the priceless gifts of peace and joy here because God is here with us.

"For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with singing."

The other day, I found Norah the right sized bike at the thrift store for only $8. I'm not an expert, but the only thing that appeared to be wrong with the bike was the thick layer of dust and the cobwebs on it. I figured I'd waste eight dollars on a bag of hamburgers, so it was worth a try. (Plus I could return it within a week if something was wrong.)

We dusted off the cobwebs and took her up to the neighborhood park so she could try riding in the grass without training wheels. It took several tries. She and her dad were both winded and dripping sweat from the effort, but she ended up riding for a few long stretches on her own. We let the girls play on the playground and then we all walked home to settle in before dark.

Avril trailed along with Norah carrying her "Yee haw!" When Norah stopped, Avril would catch up to her and then get in the way when Norah tried to take off on her bike again and then she would be scolded by Daddy. I should have tried to do a better job keeping Avril occupied and distracted, but she really only wanted to be where Norah was so that was probably impossible anyway. Avril picked this clover herself and I managed to get a picture when she showed it to me.