Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 ~ NOT in Review

It's the day for the 2012 Review posts. But I just can't come up with anything clever. And with the skewed way Google Stats works, actually identifying my "most popular" posts for the year is kind of a waste of time and isn't even truly accurate. Do I really want to re-read my whole blog to choose MY favorite posts from 2012? Nope. I know there is some value to identifying what's been done in the past to improve what will be done in the future. But that just tends to make me feel like I haven't done things good enough. And that's an emotional trap!

So I have decided not to review 2012 and, instead, just think ahead to 2013. We will start back to school lightly on Thursday and then get back into the full swing of things in one week. We still have some relaxing to do!

What will our homeschool look like in 2013?
  • We will continue to start each day around 10 a.m. and end each day by 3 p.m. My day will start at 6:30 a.m. with my quiet time, my bike ride and walk with my mom and friends, and getting ready for the day before the kids start school.
  • We will start our day with Bible and then choose sticks to determine what subject is next.
  • We will continue doing unit studies with a primary focus being geography. In fact, we will be starting on an Arctic unit next week, along with my friends Erin at The Usual Mayhem and Andrea at No Doubt Learning. I have also heard a couple of other ladies will be joining us, so that should be fun!
  • We will concentrate on multiplication in math for the remainder of the year. And we will temporarily replace formal grammar with cursive handwriting. Our grammar will continue to come in the form of LOTS of reading and writing!
  • The kids will continue to work toward their goals of reading 100 picture books this year (they are halfway there) while also reading chapter books.
  • We will continually try to throw in nature and art although they have, again, been pushed to the back burner anytime we get busy.
  • We will be starting a new homeschool co-op on Thursdays, so our Thursdays will be changing in their content and form. I haven't figured that all out yet.
So, in summary, we will be doing pretty much the same things we did last semester, with our focuses being reading, writing, cursive handwriting, multiplication, and geography unit studies. Literature will continue to be at the forefront of all we do. Hopefully with our new co-op we will make some new friends and go on some great field trips. We will also be doing our reviews for the Schoolhouse Review Crew. And there are some GOOD ones coming up!

Here's to a successful 2013 school year!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Week BEFORE Christmas

Our week before Christmas was moving along perfectly! It was just what I had planned ... lots of baking and reading.

And then ... WHAM! The flu hit Brynne. And everything came to a screeching halt!

We got our first snow storm, and Eli spent a small amount of time enjoying it. But, it just wasn't the same without his sidekick (and it was FREEZING) so he didn't last long.

We did read one special book that I'd like to recommend. I read that there is a reprint with updated illustrations. But, there was something special about that old book with it's old illustrations, that I highly recommend it.

Brynne recovered from the flu right in the nick of time, so she was able to celebrate Christmas Eve and Christmas with us (although she was moving a little slow). It ended up being a very Merry Christmas and we were happy celebrating it in our new home and new town.

Journey to Excellence will be back in full swing on January 1st, so stop back by! Until then, enjoy the rest of your Christmas break. I know we are!!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Weekly Wrap-up ~ Activities Galore!

Thoughts about the Week ... 

With such a great week of homeschooling to end with such tragedy in Connecticut, it makes it really hard to carry on about how great things are here. However, the possibility of these types of tragedies, among other things, is one of the reasons why we homeschool in the first place. After my husband and I discussed the shooting, he sent me a text that said, "Thank you for homeschooling." There are so many arguments for and against, but I know that I cannot depend on others to protect and care for my children. It's my job, and I am grateful that I have the opportunity to do that on a daily basis. My prayers are most certainly with the families of those precious babies.

I think this is going to be one of those weeks that when I get done typing this wrap-up, I will say, "Wow! We really did do a lot!" We have cut a couple of things out here and there because of some life events, like my grandma going back into the hospital and today's tragedy that made me just want to concentrate on cuddling up on the couch with my kids. But, it was a full week of learning, so I am pleased.

Advent Activities ...

This year I made an Advent Activity Countdown Chain. Each day we have torn off the chain and done a fun activity. They have included seeing Santa, going to see a huge light display, decorating a gingerbread house, watching some movies, making pinecone birdfeeders for our feathered friends, making paper snowflakes, making reindeer food, and several other things. We have made some special memories this week, for sure! Here are some picture highlights.

The Basics ...

 As far as real school goes? It's been pretty steady despite all of the holiday excitement! We completed our Stick Figuring of the life of Joseph, worked on writing rhyming five sentence paragraphs, built some sentences, identified sentence parts, finished Stuart Little, and did some reading comprehension and personal reading.

Math Fun ...

We have taken a Living Math approach to measurements this week by using several of the Math Monsters books and Study Jams. It's been fun!

A Science Unit Study ...

We will be reviewing a product by Susan Kilbride soon on Electricity, so I followed her advice from that unit study and did the unit on Atoms and Molecules from her Science Unit Studies for Homeschoolers and Teachers. (You should go read my review on this fabulous product. It was our Favorite Resource this week!) We had a great week learning about atoms and molecules with lots of hands on activities! I think I even understand what they are after all these years! We built models out of marshmallows and toothpicks, learned about how to determine how many elements of each atom certain molecules have, and made both salt and sugar crystals. I also thought it was great to be able to explain to the kids, while we were making paper snowflakes, that snowflakes are crystals! I even heard my children use spontaneous words and phrases in our studies such as "evaporation" and "breaking down the molecule". Astounding!

After molecule building was completed, Brynne spent the better part of two days (and all of my marshmallows and toothpicks) making creations. The robot was just one of them.

Our Friday Out and About ...

The weather warmed up so we were able to get outside and get some exercise. We made a trip to the library and checked out tons of books. Each of the kids has about 15 books to read to meet their mid-year goals of 50 books (these are picture books, of course.) While we were there they took some time playing geography games on the computer and chose a chapter book to read over Christmas break.

Our Friday also consisted of a trip to the park for some nature study. By the time we went the weather was turning colder, so we just sat on the bank of the pond and observed. We listened to the leaves rustling in the trees, watched the waves coming in, and listened to the water bubbling under the rocks.

All-in-all it was a fabulous week of school. We are going to put in one more hard and heavy week, and then we are taking two weeks off. We need a break!

BTW ... I have noticed that no one is really following our Rediscovering Christmas unit, so I have decided it is something that we will just do privately. Don't forget to spend some time with your family remembering why we celebrate Christmas.

Linking up ...

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Rediscovering Christmas ~ with Butterfly Wishes Wonderland Dreams

I will post our Rediscovering Christmas activities and thoughts on Friday. But, Shannon at Butterfly Wishes Wonderland Dreams already has her's posted. And, she has some great ideas! Hop over there to see what her and her girls did this week.

I did some personal meditation this morning about the Journey to Bethlehem, and it was good!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Rediscovering Christmas ~ Week 2: The Journey

If you are reading along with me in The Christmas Story by G.A. Myers, spend some time this week reading Chapter 4 on "The Journey to Bethlehem" and meditating on Luke 2:1-7.

My children will be reading "Little Donkey's Tale" in The First Christmas by Francine M. O'Connor, and I will be reading to them out of First Christmas by Alastair MacDonald.

We will be making a hand print donkey craft found at Planet of the Apels.

For this craft you will need construction paper, gray paint, a black sharpie marker, little hands, and lots of baby wipes.

Enjoy your time with your children reflecting on the journey to the birth of Christ. I will post all of our activities on Friday.

I Apparently NEED to Rediscover Christmas

Remember my Rediscovering Christmas series? Remember the reason for it ... to put Christ at the center of this Christmas season? Remember how I was going to post supply lists on Fridays to prepare you for the next week's lesson?

Well. Last Friday you didn't get a supply list. Why? Because I was busy celebrating the "other" parts of Christmas, and I forgot. Not only that, but I had planned for us to do our lessons on Tuesdays so I could share what we did with you on Wednesdays. And, today is Tuesday, and I haven't planned for it. In fact, in planning our week, I didn't even include it.

I need a large dose of Rediscovering Christmas. How about you?

I was going to fake it and do a fabulous post tomorrow about what we did today just so you could see how on top of this I am. But, that's wrong. Just wrong.

I will be providing you with your supply list for this week's activity today. And, instead of cramming in some kind of lesson today, just to say we did it, I will, instead, spend some time today planning and meditating on the this week's topic (which is the donkey in the Christmas story) so that we can have some meaningful time as a family on Friday. I will post the results of our day on Friday, along with your supply list for next week.

Grant me some grace, if you would. I apparently need this series more than my kids. Sigh.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Charlie Needs a Cloak ~ Tomie de Paola {Virtual Book Club for Kids}

For Virtual Book Club for Kids this month, we were to read a book by Tomie de Paola and do some activities.

I was excited to read another book by de Paola because he is the author of one of my favorite books that prompted a phenomenal Christmas for us a couple of years ago. For Christmas 2010, we read the book An Old Fashioned Christmas and then decided that we were going to replicate it the best we could for our own Christmas celebrations. We bought a ball and burlap tree, made all of our decorations (popcorn garlands, paper ornaments, crystal ornaments, salt dough ornaments, orange pomanders), ordered and burned authentic bayberry candles on Christmas Eve, made luminaries, and made our own candles. Our kitchen table was covered for two weeks with all of our crafts and activities. It gave us a true appreciation for how important Christmas was for the originators of the holiday in America and how their whole family invested in preparation for it. It was so special!

For the Virtual Book Club blog hop, we chose Charlie Needs a Cloak.

For our activities, we made yarn dolls.

We then watched a couple of Youtube videos showing how to shear sheep and how to spin wool into fiber. Then we discussed the next step of using a loom to turn fiber into fabric, and then how to use patterns to make a garment and how to dye fabric.

The next step was to dye some "wool" to make a cloak. We took white felt (pretending it was wool) and dyed it "red" with boiled cranberries and white vinegar.

We used the fabric to make cloaks for our dolls.

Again, this book showed us and gave us an opportunity to experience how before our modern times, folks actually had to WORK for what they had. They didn't just go to the store to buy it. Dying the fabric took work. Fitting it to our dolls took work. And we didn't even have to spin the fibers into the fabric before we dyed it. (I was hoping that making the dolls from yarn would give us a similar appreciation for the work involved.) We were also able to discuss and see how these processes still take place today, but on a grander scale, to give us the clothing that we have. Our clothes start somewhere.

This was a great book with great lessons. We are linking up with Virtual Book Club for Kids at Toddler Approved and Read Aloud Thursday with Hope is the Word.

Next month ... a book by Jan Brett. And we have chosen a Christmas one!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Rediscovering Christmas ~ The Angel and Mary

On Monday, the kids and I started our Rediscovering Christmas activities. As promised, we read in The First Christmas by Francine M. O'Connor about Isaiah's prophecy and Mary's encounter with the angel(s) and how they related to the birth of Christ. Then we read the account of Gabriel's visit to Mary in the One Year Children's Bible.

Our activity for the day was making "stained glass" angels. I drew a pattern on black construction paper and cut it out. Then I put a sheet of clear contact paper on the cutout, with the sticky side UP. The kids and I tore tissue paper into small pieces and they stuck it to the contact paper. When they were done, we added another piece of contact paper to that side and trimmed around the circle. With a hole punch and a piece of yarn we made it into a hanging stained glass work of art.

We are going to give these to my two grandmothers who will LOVE them!

To end our time together, I printed off a color by sight word lesson from Enchanted Homeschooling Mom. The kids colored the pictures according to the key. Yesterday they wrote sentences using those sight words (it was also part of the printable).


I also spent some time meditating on the encounter between Mary and Gabriel. I am reading out of The Christmas Story by G.A. Myers.

Little 'ol ordinary Mary gets shocking news from the angel that she will bear the Son of God. But, if you read scripture, it doesn't say WHEN it will happen. How did Mary know that it would be now? How did she know to immediately put two and two together that she was a virgin and was not capable of conceiving a child yet. How did she know?

I think it was trust. I think Mary was so engrossed in God that she just KNEW that when He spoke to her, He was calling her NOW. She knew Him well enough that she knew what He wanted from her and when. She didn't take the time to justify the timing, to try to talk herself out of it, or (worse yet) to try to talk God out of it.

Oftentimes in my life I think I hear from God, but am unsure what to do with the information I receive. Perhaps if I trusted God fully, and knew his ways completely, then I would act immediately upon His words knowing they were for me, for now. If I trusted him completely, maybe I would just do what He wants, when He says to do it, instead of trying (and usually succeeding) in talking myself out of it, or (worse yet) trying to talk God out of it.

Mary's ordinary life was what revealed to her this extraordinary calling from God. Am I humble and pure enough to really hear God when He is talking to me? Or have I elevated myself to a place where I really can't hear Him for the noise I am creating for myself? Something to think about this week. The humbleness, purity, simplicity, and willingness of Mary is something to ponder.


Did you do a Rediscovering Christmas activity this week? If so, feel free to link up below. Or if you have a comment about the adult meditation, or something else, feel free to comment on this blog post. Also go to Shannon's blog to see what her and her girls have been up to. I'll be back on Friday with the supply list for next week's activity.

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Saturday, December 1, 2012

Weekly Wrap-up ~ Steady

This has been a wonderful, steady week. We have sat down each morning with our books and just worked through our lessons without a hitch. After a crazy Thanksgiving break, it felt good to sit down and learn some new spelling rules. Know what I mean?

The Three R's

Reading. We are about mid-way through Stuart Little. As happens with a lot of books, we are getting much more into it now. After talking with another mom, I was inspired to start a monthly book club with a couple of moms and our 7 and 9 year olds. We have decided to start with Paddle to the Sea by Holling C. Holling. WOW! What a book! There is SO MUCH to learn about while reading it! I have decided to make it our main focus of literature starting after Christmas break. I have found some amazing resources and I will be sharing those with you soon.

wRiting. Writing continues to be a favorite subject (of mine). WriteShop Primary is a great curriculum, and I love it's style. This week Eli and Brynne finished their five-sentence paragraphs on color. Brynne wrote about blue water and Eli wrote about red cherries. They also each wrote a Haiku, since we are studying Japan. We read a great book, Basho and the Fox that reinforced what a "good" haiku is.

aRithmetic. I always feel like we are just slugging along in math. I still love Math Enhancement Programme, and it certainly is my math program of choice. It really stretches them. Sometimes there are tears, but then they realize that they really can do it, so it's rewarding! The only thing I do not like about the program is that, because it's a Hungarian program, it uses the metric system. Next week we start measurements. So, I decided to build our own math unit using living books (Monster Math), Study Jams by Scholastic (Have you ever seen this? It's my Favorite Resource I stumbled across this week!), and printable worksheets to reinforce the concepts. We will also be breaking from MEP briefly after Christmas to start multiplication. I plan to use Multiplication Teaching and Learning Made Easy by Glenda Brown James. Then we'll get back into MEP and finish the second grade level by the end of the year.

The Others

Grammar, spelling and personal reading are moving along nicely. We are just continuing to do a combination of All About Spelling, Reading Rainbow (on the iPad) and Samson's Classroom (for reading comprehension).

We finished up our unit on Japan by doing some origami and learning to count to 10 in Japanese. We also read some picture books: The Girls Who Loved Caterpillars, Nighttime Ninja, and Grandfather's Journey.

We have been doing Family Time Fitness lessons every day. But Thursday the weather was so pretty that we rode bikes and scooters up the library. Then the kids did world geography scavenger hunts on the computer while I picked out our books for next week.

Thursday night was Kyndal's fall athletic banquet at her school. (She was finally well enough to go back to school this week!) She received her varsity letter for cheering.

Next week we are changing things up just a little bit. We are going to replace our geographical study with a mini-unit on Atoms and Molecules (found under "Science Freebies"). We will also be starting our Rediscovering Christmas series, and will be taking a day to read a book by Tomie DePaola for our Virtual Book Club for Kids. And it will be a short week because we have to head back to Oklahoma for a couple of days. We are looking forward to seeing our Co-op friends from there on Friday!

Linking up ...