Thursday, August 29

Our Back-to-School Post

For the 2013-2014 school year, Beth will be in 1st grade, Luke will be in Pre-K4, and Jack will be in Pre-K3.  We have a lot of the same activities going on this year- we've dropped a couple but added one big one.  Beth is so excited to be telling everyone she's in first grade! We started school on August 12, and just wrapped up our third full week of school.  So far it's going great, I think even better than last year!

I'll start with the boys, since they'll be easiest to write about!  Neither Luke nor Jack will be following a formal curriculum as I don't think either of them need or want that right now.  I have two brand-new workbooks for Luke: a Getty Dubay first handwriting book general math/handwriting workbook.  Since we follow Charlotte Mason's philosophy of using living books and quality literature, Luke will be able to participate in some of Beth's lessons to the extent that he wants- and I suspect he'll be very interested in her literature books. ;-)  Last year he'd participate in religion and history sometimes too, and I bet he'll also be interested in our science as it's very family-oriented.  My goals for him this year are to foster creativity and let him be little, get as much outside time as possible, learn some handicrafts, and work on good habits and virtue.  He will also be attending a Pre-K class with Jack in our new co-cop, which I know he'll LOVE! 

Jack is a new 3-year-old, and I have no expectations of him this year other than to play, learn, and grow.  His imagination makes me laugh- I hear him playing "baby" by himself with a doll and he talks to the baby and tells her what to do... It cracks me up.  At this point, he is playing generally very well with Luke- for the past 3 weeks of school the two of them have been playing nicely together for the nearly two-three hours Beth and I do school work.  AMAZING.  What a blessing- and don't I know it.  Sometimes they will quarrel or come sit and listen to what we're reading, but for the most part they're playing!

Beth has seven primary subject this year.  I am mostly following a second-grade curriculum from Mater Amabilis, making a few changes.

1. Math- She is finishing up her first grade book from Abeka, she should be done by Christmas break.  After that I'm not sure what we'll do yet, she wants to change programs so I have to do a bit of research.  She hates the repetition of  math facts, but she loves the cutesy pages and when we play games and use manipulatives.  So we'll see...

2. Religion- Each day we do something a little different.  Monday we read A Life of Christ for Children, Tuesday we do a lesson from Fath and Life 1, and Wednesday we do a saint study (right now studying Juan Diego using this book, usually 3 chapters/lesson, and supplementing with library books and coloring pages- you know she loves to color!).  She is also continuing to learn her Latin prayers- we are over halfway done with the Our Father right now- we just memorize a line/week using Pray It In Latin).  Starting in January we will begin Faith and Life 2 and First Holy Communion prep using the Baltimore Catechism and the St. Joseph First Communion Catechism.  I would like for her to receive her First Holy Communion at Easter when we have family members in town to celebrate, but I still have lots of details to work out! 

3. English- Every day the goal is 2 pages of handwriting and 3 pages of phonics from Explode the Code 2.5.  She's reading well now, so I don't have a "reading" course anymore- she reads to me now when I ask her to.  She also does dictation and copywork.  Dictation is twice a week- I am starting small while she is still learning how to do it- I write a short easy sentence down for her to study the spelling and punctuation, then I take it away and repeat the sentence to her while she writes it down.  This is basically her introduction into spelling and grammar, Charlotte Mason-style.  Copywork is usually scripture or a poem we're working on, but I haven't been as worried about this formally since she is technically doing copywork with her handwriting program.

4. Literature- We are reading Swords and Sorcerers (King Arthur!), Greek Mythology, and poetry from the Harp and Laurel Wreath.  She is memorizing poetry and narrating the other stories back to me.  I think we all enjoy this part of our school day- cuddling on the couch and reading new stories!  In the evenings Ryan usually reads a chapter from one of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books- they're on Little House on Plum Creek right now.  Sometimes he and Beth take turns reading to each other.

5. History- Okay this gets a little confusing, even for me!  The curriculum we follow uses living books to teach history, which I love and will continue to do because I have already seen the fruits of this style of learning, but our co-op is learning Early American History using a Seton textbook.  So my plan is to follow the textbook's lessons (Columbus, Pocahontas, etc.) that she'll be learning about each week, and use a day at home to supplement with a living book.  This will require some planning on my part... Which I haven't started yet since we haven't started co-op yet!  So for now in that time space we are planning a trip and studying the geography of where we will be going!  Works for me. :-)  Tuesday is Weather and Climate and Wednesday is a rotating book.  We are learning about European history, and have started with the book Vendela in Venice, which is a wonderful book about a little girl's trip to Venice with her father.  Each week we read several pages then study the maps for location, geography, and rivers, etc.  I know they're all learning something because one day she asked me if we could ride on a vaporetto and see the golden horses when we visit, just like Vendela did.  And they were all playing "gondola" one day, trying to recreate the straw hats the gondolier's wear! We have also watched a few youtube videos about Venice, to reinforce everything and present it in a different way.  We are also starting a very rough timeline on index cards, at this point the concept of chronological order of the history of the world is still forming in her little brain so it's very rough still!

6. Science- We do science every day, because it's something we all enjoy for the most part.  We are using Natural Science Through the Seasons supplemented with the Handbook of Nature Study.  Each week includes a little experiment that have been easy enough for us all to do together at home- right now the first few chapters have been about plants so we've made clippings and are trying to root new geraniums, setting white carnations in dyed water, and even made flower arrangements!  We do these lessons two days a week, and the other day we are reading from the Burgess Bird Book for Children.  We listen to bird calls from and have learned about their nesting and migration habits, along with the temperaments of some of the birds.  Either I read this or I have Beth listen to it from  She is really enjoying this book, and also the Animal Book which we've been listening to on long car trips.  LOVE that website!  We will also be going on weekly nature walks in the co-op, and attending a once-a-month nature class at a local nature center.

7. Arts- We are studying the life of an artist per term, using living books of course, and doing picture studies on his/her art.  Right now we're studying Monet and I can't tell you how much she (and I!) have both learned already.  We have already finished Linnea in Monet's Garden and picked up a biography or two on him.  We have Katie Meets the Impressionists and after studying Degas and some Renoir last year, I think she has a good understanding of Impressionist art.  But she's actually getting to know Monet and his family- which is more important to me than her memorizing facts and dates.  We're also reading about Vivaldi and learning his music, though there are not many living books on him as there are Monet!  She is taking a twice-a-month art class, and will be starting piano lessons at the end of September.

We do all of this in about 2.5-3 hours, have lunch, then have rest time.  After rest time, we usually read a short story during snack time, a story about virtue... Or being nice to each other, or obeying mommy, or whatever the issue of the day might be... Heh.  Afternoons will be spent on handicrafts- my goal is to start something on Monday so Beth can pick it up during the week whenever she wants to.  We will be sewing, crocheting, embroidering, making clothes for our new gnomes/fairies people, and baking.  And doing chores, and playing with friends... Honestly we've stayed pleasantly busy so far that we're not feeling rushed and crazy, the house is actually staying in pretty decent shape, and I've been able to keep good meals on the table.  I'm going to enjoy it while I can, because I know it won't be this easy for much longer!

The big thing we're adding to our schedule this year is our once-a-week co-op.  I am so excited about this!  Every Thursday, we will start our day by attending mass, then Beth will go to class with K-2 graders and Luke and Jack will go to a preschool room.  I stay and help out as I'm needed, as I am not a teacher this year.  Beth will have classes in US Geography, Bible History, PE, Art, Language Arts, Nature Study, and American History.  We all come together for an hour of lunch and playtime in the middle of the day, and they're going to wear uniforms!  They're all excited about it but they really have no idea what's going to happen.  I'm hoping Jack will enjoy the preschool program as much as I KNOW Luke will!

I know some might look at our list and just gawk!  But it works for us at this moment.  And our plan for school is one year at a time.  I have a day planner that I've done my lesson planning in, so we are set to go for the whole fall semester. Overall, as I continue to read through Charlotte Mason's writings,  I am trying to stick to her idea that education is an atmosphere, and continue to create a beautiful home filled with beautiful art and music, an understanding of virtue and good habits.  It's still pretty chaotic most of the time, but we're all working on it and we're all getting better at it.  We are educating the children for eternity, to recognize the beauty in our world, and to have a relationship with the material that they learn.  Please pray for us this year!  Good luck to all the other back-to-schoolers out there!

Baby N.

Another perk to birthday week last week was it also happened to be the time for our 20-week ultrasound!  Baby checked out fine, healthy and beautiful, and honestly I think I see a bit of family resemblance already!  As planned, we are not finding out the gender of this baby ahead of time- gender remains a secret from the world!  I am so excited that we were strong enough to wait!

I was almost 22 weeks when we had this ultrasound, and here's my belly pic.  I am so proud of it!  I can't believe I'm already halfway done, that I'm gestating a healthy baby, and having a relatively easy pregnancy so far.  The only tricky part- which is really more of an inconvenience than a health problem I think- is that my varicose veins on my left leg flared up pretty badly as I hit my second trimester.  I ordered some new prescription-strength compression hose and have been experiencing some relief, though I won't have complete relief till the pregnancy is over and my blood volume goes back to normal.  I am not sure if I'll have to have another (or choose to have) another vein procedure- I guess we will see how it goes after baby is born!

We are still bouncing around name ideas.  I have a couple of girl names that I love, and we're still stuck on those tough boy names.  Luckily we still have a while to figure it all out.  But if you ask Ryan, he's likely to tell you some outlandish silly name with a straight face, so whether or not you choose to believe him- you've been warned!

This baby is so active.  Which is funny because I didn't feel any definite movement until the baby I was 18 weeks and 6 days- then that day, all of the sudden, baby went WILD and has not stopped.  I suspected I had an anterior placenta because of the lack of fetal movement I was feeling, and the fact that we always had such a hard time finding the heartbeat using the doppler.  It was confirmed at the ultrasound that the placenta is in fact anterior, but that really means very little except that we might have a hard time hearing the heartbeat.  And frankly that doesn't worry me anymore since I'm having my guts constantly kicked- I know s/he is active and well in there!

Birthday Week!

Ryan and I celebrated our birthdays last week- both were pretty casual since they weren't "milestone" birthdays for either of us!  Ryan's was on a Monday, so after work I made Ryan one of his favorite dinners (lemon chicken with butternut squash fries and lemon parmesean broccoli), and we had baked peaches with vanilla ice cream for dessert!  He ate till his heart was content, then read his birthday cards from the kids, and then we gave him his gift- some cologne he'd been no-so-subtly hinting about.  I had a secret gift for him- my neighbor has a vinyl laser cutting machine and offered to help me make a sign for above our bed.  It's been an odd space to fill so I had the idea to custom-make something- I'm so happy she helped me!  I love the way it turned out- and he loved it too. :-)

(This was before we hung it on the wall!)
My birthday was on a Friday and we had a pretty quiet day at home.  I asked Ryan to grill some hamburgers, and he added sauteed onions as a special treat. ;-)  He also made some grilled jalapeno poppers and brownies!  Yummy.  We had planned a dinner date the night before to go shop for a birthday gift for me, but I had a birth to attend so I took a rain check!    Mama needs a couple of new pairs of shoes and maybe a new mixing bowl!

Wednesday, August 7

Summer According to Instagram

art camp
Beth started her summer with an art camp at a local art league.  She went three days for two hours each day, and was in a "class" with one other girl her age.  They focused on jungle animals and learned different techniques.  She had fun and I could see her employing the techniques at home after her camp was over.  It's nice to know she had fun AND learned something. :)

stealing tomatoes from my garden
We had an abundant crop of small tomatoes this year, orange grape tomatoes.  Once the kids figured out they liked them, I couldn't keep them from sneaking outside to pull tomatoes and eat them in the backyard.  They even picked the ones that weren't ripe yet and ate those too.  Ryan and I couldn't complain... After all, they were eating tomatoes, and getting to them before the cardinals found them and started stealing the rest.

hunting lizards in the garden
Even though it was a million degrees, since it hardly rained the mosquitoes were practically nonexistent this year.  We can handle the heat, so most afternoons the kids donned swimsuits and headed outside for playtime in our plastic baby pool.

refinishing a pew for the house

We haven't had too many house projects- I think we were still a little burnt out from the kitchen remodel- but we have a few things in mind.  This pew came to us from a neighbor, and though Ryan has fixed it up I have yet to paint it!

a staple in her head
Beth, our stunt girl, was standing on a moving swing at a friend's house and tripped on her skirt, falling and hitting her head on the fort.  After a few minutes of lots and lots of blood, I decided to take her to the emergency room.  Sure enough, she had a gash big enough to warrant a single staple, or some stitches- and the ER doctor gave her the option of what she wanted.  She chose a staple, I think partly because Finley had had surgery a few days prior and he himself had a few staples!

riding on two wheels!
He just took off one day!  Ryan spray painted Beth's old bike, which is really small and low to the ground, I think the lower center of gravity helped! 

summer reading program and trips to the library
The kids participated in the summer reading program at the library, and it really boosted Beth's interest in reading as much as she could and recording everything on her reading log.  Their prize pack was a bunch of coupons to places we'll never eat, but they each got a certificate that that all treasured!

18 weeks pregnant with Baby Gumbo
My pregnancy is going well.  Every day we are feeling so blessed!  The kids are loving watching my belly grow, asking me if the baby can hear them yet, if he's reading books, and if he's wearing clothes.  It's so cute to watch them be so curious!
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