Tuesday, November 30, 2010

So Thankful

I didn't have a chance to post this on Thanksgiving ~ too busy spending time with those I'm thankful for! But here are just a few of the many things I am grateful for this year:

Hair color. I know it's frivolous, but it sure makes me feel less old!

My family. I love being a wife, and I love being a mom. I love being a daughter and I love being a sister. I love being a daughter in law and a sister in law and an aunt!

I so appreciate my friends. God has truly blessed me with several close friends who love me, challenge me, hold me accountable, laugh and cry with me, and continually point me to Jesus.

I am so thankful for our new, old van! It is literally fun (yes, FUN) to go grocery shopping and not wonder how I will get both the children and the food home. I am so thankful for another year in our house. Two years ago I thought it might be our last Christmas in this house, as we were behind on our mortgage and foreclosure was a distinct possibility. Yet here we are, still in our home and getting ready to decorate for another Christmas.

I am so thankful for the trials God has brought to us and brought us through the last few years. They have challenged me in ways that easier times would not. They have taught me things that easier times could not. They have been the means that pulled me closer to God, and changed my thinking to be more in line with the truth of God's Word.

I am so thankful that Jesus is God and that He's my Savior and that I have such a sure hope in Him! When you've been a christian a long time there is a danger to forget what makes christianity distinctive from all other religions. I have been reminded in a powerful way recently how rock solid God's Word is, how trustworthy God is, and how what Jesus did for me through His death and resurrection is my ONLY and very SURE hope. I'm so thankful to know Him and be known by Him!

Visit with Friends

This is my friend Guinever. She started out as an on-line friend and became a real life friend! I met her for the first time when we were room-mates at the Tapestry of Grace get-together in Dallas nearly three years ago.

She and her four children were passing through our area to attend a family event, and they stayed with us for a couple nights. It was wonderful to see her again and meet her kids! Her two older boys shared a room with my three older boys. It was definitely boy world in there!

We played board games.

And our youngest boys played with duplos!

We even watched a movie together.

One of her sons and one of mine share a name, and they are only a year apart!

Enraptured by The Incredibles.

She and I are both going to need to crash at some point, as we stayed up talking until 4:00 a.m.! But no crashing today ~ she is driving home as I type this, and I am preparing for our school day to start soon.

So, so wonderful to be with you Guinever! Thank you for stopping here so we could enjoy your beautiful family!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Saving My Sanity

I need to say at the outset that I am very thankful to have a kitchen (to have a house for that matter, after the last two years of uncertainty!) and it worked well as our schoolroom for 8 years. But after moving our schoolroom to the basement for the fall of 2009, loving having a dedicated schoolroom for a year, and then having to come back up to the kitchen for the fall of 2010, it was no longer working well. I didn't have the right organizational system. Our "stuff" didn't fit. The kitchen had to serve at least two full time functions and it was always cluttered. And I do mean always.

Here's the proof:

The yellow crate on the floor in the above picture was my teacher's "desk." All my teacher binders were in there. Purse oh so conveniently placed on top! You know, just to make getting my things out a little more challenging.

It was slowly driving me crazy. I would almost have panic attacks sometimes over all the stuff. Not a calming room or environment at all. I don't know how the children were ever able to focus. No wonder we had trouble in that department!

Then I had an epiphany. I love having epiphanies!

Why wait until the schoolroom was completely finished before moving back downstairs? We could school in the midst of construction at least as well as we had schooled in the midst of kitchen chaos.

And so, we moved our school room back downstairs. Little Man got his own area under the basement stairs (which has since moved to right next to my desk - he needed closer monitoring). :-)

He has a big playmat area for doing special activities with his brother C every morning. He has thanked me several times a day for this play mat! ($25 at Sam's Club). If you ask him at the end of the school year what his favorite thing was about kindergarten, I bet you money he will say "my playmat!" (that is, if I were a betting woman!)

There is more than adequate space for the other 4 at the table. This is looking toward the back of the room, which will become the front of the classroom when the room is finished.

And the picture below is standing at the current back of the room (the future front) looking toward......

....drum roll please....

MY DESK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Yes, for the first time in 10 years of homeschooling, I have my own desk!! I am such a geek. This desk BLESSES me. Love, love, love having my own space!

And now my kitchen can be....


a kitchen.

And my sanity remains intact (for the moment!).

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Meanwhile, in the writer's class.....

I have shared what the younger children are learning each week in co-op, but have not yet shared about the writing class. We are working through another IEW product, SICC-B, which stands for Student Intensive Continuation Course, level B (which, for you IEW fans, is designed to follow SWI-B - Student Writing Intensive, level B. This was a natural progression for us since we did SWI-B last year.)

For any new readers reading this, the co-op we are in is a small, 3 family group. We have 5 students 3rd grade and younger who are in a Five In a Row class, and 6 students 5th grade and above who are in the writing class. We take turns meeting in our homes. If you can't find an IEW co-op near you, but you want to be in one, form your own like we did! Just find one or two like-minded families and plan it out. We did agree on some ground rules (which I think is very important), and it is working beautifully. It also makes IEW products more affordable for us, as we split the cost three ways and co-own them!

Each week we listen to Andrew Pudewa teach us about writing on the instructional dvd, and then we either work on our outlines for the new assignment, do a bit of grammar instruction, or both. I love how IEW has so much grammar instruction built right in ~ it sticks so well when you learn about it in the context of writing! And often, we teachers will choose something we've noticed in the students' writing that is consistently incorrect or awkward, and teach to that.

Last Friday we learned about clauses and phrases. In class we throw around phrases like "who/which clause" and "because clause" pretty frequently, but many of the students were still unsure what a clause actually was. It's important to know about clauses for several reasons, among them, knowing why and how to use punctuation correctly. So to make this a bit more interactive and hopefully, fun (!) for the students, I had them wear signs describing them as either a dependent clause, an independent clause, or a phrase. Then the "clauses" and "phrases" held sentence strips in the proper order. I started with the oldest students (8th graders) being the clauses first. This allowed the younger students to hear and see the sentences being manipulated correctly before attempting it themselves.

Here we have, "If it snows tonight, we can go sledding." Both dependent and independent clauses have subjects and verbs, but an independent clause can stand alone as a complete (simple) sentence, while a dependent clause cannot. After several sentences like this, everyone could "hear" the pause after the dependent clause, as if something else was begging to be said.

Then we moved the strips around. Could we say, "We can go sledding if it snows tonight."?

Or how about this one: "Because we are out of milk, I'm going to the store." Does it mean the same thing if we say, "I'm going to the store because we are out of milk."?

If we take off the word "because", the remainder of the sentence now becomes an independent clause that can stand alone. I took some scissors and literally cut the word "because" off. Then we called more people up and had students holding individual words and mixing them all up in different ways! We talked about the value of the who/which clause and the because clause ~ that they help us combine two shorter sentences into a longer, more interesting one. We talked about how the punctuation would change if we rearranged the clauses, and took the scissors to the strips once again.

We made lots and lots of sentences and talked about what made them correct or incorrect. We identified all the subjects and verbs and sentence openers. We had fun goofing around a bit too. :-)

Here is son G's finished work from last week. It was from lessons 8-9 of SICC-B, a report on Clara Barton taken from multiple sources. The underlined and bolded words are the prescribed way of marking required elements in the report.

How One Small Thing Can Impact Your Life
by G, age 11

The youngest of seven children, Clara was small and shy. As a child, Clara gained interest in her father’s war stories. Interestingly, she nursed her brother David when he suffered a painful accident when she was eleven. Clara, who was a tomboy, proudly owned a pet turkey. Unlike most other kids her age, Clara Barton was homeschooled. One day Clara was skating when she wasn’t supposed to. She fell and injured herself and pain bolted through her like electricity. Now she knew what it was like to be hurt. When she was fifteen, she became a teacher. Isn’t that weird? Despite all this, Clara Barton was extremely shy and small.

When Clara Barton got older, she was appointed clerk of the patent office in Washington, D.C. She was deeply touched by all the wounded soldiers she noticed and wanted badly to help in some way. She became a nurse, serving often on the front lines, which was dangerous work. After learning that much of the fatal suffering was because of the scarcity of supplies on the front lines, she single handedly organized supply depots. Incredibly, Clara was appointed superintendent of nurses in 1864. All this happened because she worked in the patent office and discovered the horrible conditions of war.

One day, when the war was over, Clara Barton received a vehement letter, which was from her hometown, that read: “Miss Barton, I haven’t heard from my son in weeks. The government believes he’s missing.” Immediately Clara began to vigorously hunt for missing soldiers. After everyone else went home, Clara didn’t lose confidence. She kept searching. She found men. She succeeded. Clara Barton’s nursing and searching eventually led to the Red Cross, but that’s another story. See how one letter can impact your entire life?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

You know your children are enjoying history when....

You hear them whispering about the greek gods Zeus and Hera an hour after they were tucked in.


It has begun....

The daily onslaught of Christmas catalogs.

And the endless making of wish lists.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Just a hodge podge of daily stuff lately....

Our daughter's pet mouse died this morning. I think this is mouse number 7 or 8 in the last four years since she started keeping mice. Our memorial flower bed is getting pretty full of shoe boxes, so I cut a shoe box down to make a small mouse sized casket. When G was laying her mouse on soft bedding inside the casket, she asked that we not seal it shut with tape yet because, "I want to have a viewing first, before the funeral." She seemed okay, but Little Man cried and cried. It's hard to learn about death, and yet it's so much a part of life.

I have an appointment to talk with two Jehovah's Witnesses next week about whether or not Jesus is God. They have come to the door three times already and we have had brief conversations. If it were up to me I wouldn't do this, but both my husband and the Holy Spirit have urged me to do it. I can argue with my husband, but it's pretty hard to argue with the Holy Spirit!

The main lady asked if I would give her a few minutes to show me scriptures that prove Jesus was not God, and I told her I'd be willing to listen to her proof attempt as long as I got equal time. She loves to talk and is a bit of a railroader, so I will have to be assertive with getting my equal time in. Really not looking forward to it. The practical side of me thinks that since I will not be persuaded, and she will likely not be persuaded, we are just wasting our time. But the Holy Spirit chided me ~ how do I know she will not be persuaded? And it's not a waste of time for the five young children who will be watching and listening and learning how to defend their faith without fear. Please pray for me! My husband is much better at this type of thing than I am, yet the Holy Spirit has given it to me to do.

One of my husband's two contract jobs ends this week. We have not yet heard back from the company that my husband interviewed with twice. "I trust you, Lord. Help me to trust You more."

I paid my daughter to scrub the kitchen floor last Saturday. On her hands and knees. Every corner and crevice. The water was black when she was done, and I am so happy that the floor is so clean! Just looking at it makes me smile. She also washed the doorwall. Need her to do the windows next. :-)

Thanksgiving is next week, and I love Thanksgiving!!!!

Three days after Thanksgiving I get to visit with a dear online friend who has become a real life friend. She and her four children will be passing through and are going to stay with us for a couple nights. Can't wait to see you Guinever! I even figured out where you are all going to sleep!

REAL moms is tomorrow night and it's our fall craft night. We will be making beautiful Christmas ornaments and I'm really looking forward to it! Craft night is a good opportunity to visit with the ladies as we work on our craft, and I love building friendships with so many interesting women.

The children and I went to a Veteran's Day ceremony at a local Memorial Park last Thursday. It's the same one we went to last year. My plan is to make it an annual event for our family, as I really want to be intentional about building in to the children an attitude of gratitude for our veterans and all they have been willing to sacrifice in order to obtain and secure our freedom. The more we feel the weight of all that has gone before, the more we appreciate what we have and are willing to do our part in preserving it. I almost didn't go, but I'm really glad we did.

Afterward I struck up a conversation with an elderly WWII veteran, and after I thanked him for his service to our country he began sharing memories with me. He talked and talked and talked. The children climbed on all the statutes until they got tired of climbing and wanted to go. Still he talked. I began to inch toward the parking lot, he followed me. He is a widow and misses his dear wife terribly. His children don't live nearby. His house is very quiet. I felt sad for him. He obviously needed a listening ear that day, and I was happy to provide it. Listening to the stories of the old is a way to honor them. And man, do they have some stories!

I love my church. Love our new teaching pastor. Love the people. Oh, the people! So many of them special to me in different ways. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Lord, for my church.

I have a new tutor student (now I have two) who met with me for the first time this afternoon. We had a GREAT start to our working relationship! I'm so thankful.

The kitchen is clean and I am going to bed.

See how random this is?

Good night!

Oh Happy Day!

I am so happy for my friend Targetshopper, who got to pick up her precious, sweet, adorable, chubby, cute foster-to-adopt daughter today!!!!!!!!!

TS, I've been thinking of you all afternoon and continue to rejoice with you!

Monday, November 15, 2010

FIAR Co-op - A Pair of Red Clogs, Part 1

I had looked forward all fall to teaching this book! Some of you may not know that I lived in Japan for 2.5 years many moons ago (pre-marriage). It was an amazing and unforgettable chapter of my life, that I am so grateful for! And since A Pair of Red Clogs takes place in Japan, I quickly volunteered to teach it!

You have seen many pictures like this one, on this very couch, all of us reading together. But I never get tired of them (sorry if you do!), since reading with children has been one of my favorite things to do since I was barely a teenager, and it yields so many wonderful benefits!

We thoroughly enjoyed the book together and then discussed some of the cultural aspects of Japan, just whatever the children asked and what stood out to me as a memory that I wanted to share.

In the story, the main character, Masako, and her friends play a weather-telling game. So we talked about weather words and used this old chart from my days as a classroom teacher to describe what the weather that day was like. Each of the children took home a weather picture sheet to fill out during the week and bring back the following Friday.

A big part of the story is how Masako initially makes a decision to be deceitful in an effort to get a new pair of clogs, but how she becomes ashamed of her deceit and purposes to always be honest. We looked up verses in the Bible that talk about honesty, and then put the references in our FIAR notebooks.

We also played a clog-matching card game (similar to Go Fish) and looked at a few of my Japanese souvenir type things I had brought. It was a fun morning!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Fun Weekend

We had lots of fun family time last weekend, starting with our end of season soccer awards ceremony and the wildly popular "coaches vs. players" soccer match. There were 9 adults playing against about 40 children, no refs, and virtually no strategy on the part of the kids, who forgot everything they ever learned about playing their position and just chased the ball all over the field! It was pretty hilarious to see this long string of kids running across the field one way and then the next. Normal matches have two 35 minute halves. This game had no halftime and they just played until the coaches' legs gave out, which turned out to be an hour and a half. My husband came home very sore! (technically I think the coaches won, but they say it was a tie)

After church the next day we went on a family date to a corn maze! We enjoyed the hayride out to the corn field because there was actually HAY involved in this hayride! (most "hayrides" we have been on were really "bare wagon rides"). Isn't this a beautiful picture of our daughter?

And all of our handsome boys!

Our whole family, before starting out.

For most of our time there we were the only ones in the maze and it was a blast to have the whole thing to ourselves! We played Marco Polo in the maze and it was SO much fun! The boys paired up in twos, daughter G got to go by herself, and hubby and I were the seekers. We gave them about a minute to go hide and then we began looking for them, calling out "Marco". They had to respond with "Polo" and then we followed their voices to find them. I will say that Little Man is an excellent hider! So good in fact, that a couple times his mama got a little nervous. :-)

All five of the children are in this picture. Can you spot them?

I'm so thankful for the fun that we had and the memories that we made. And for the beautiful sunny weather!! We are having such a glorious fall!

Update to the Job Interview Update!

My husband thinks the second interview went well. He was especially thankful that he felt at ease and was able to be himself, and represent himself honestly (tough sometimes to be true to who you are while at the same time trying to sell yourself). So we continue to wait and watch to see what God's plans are!

Thank you for your prayers!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Another Job Interview Update

My husband received a call back from the company he interviewed with last week! He goes in tomorrow to meet and talk with more people. It is an encouraging sign! Please pray for God to go before him, for clarity of thought, and that God's will would be very clear. Thanks so much!

Our Week in Review - Ancient China

This past week we learned about the Ancient Chinese civilization that flourished at the same time as the Ancient Egyptian civilization. Amazing to think about the different people groups at that time that didn't even know each other existed!

We learned a lot about China's geography, and a bit about her ancient history, the dynasties that eventually were united into an empire ~ the longest lasting empire in history! We learned about Chinese inventions, language and writing, religious traditions, homes and daily life. All of the children really enjoyed their literature books for the week ~ I read a Chinese Cinderella story to C and Little Man (Yeh-Shen), L read about Fa-Mulan, a female warrior, and G&G read a collection of short fable-like stories from Ancient China. I love when there is a great lit book for every learning level! We all ended up reading them all!

On Friday afternoon we busily made paper lanterns and colored pictures of dragons to decorate our family room.

(concentrating so hard on cutting!)

We strung up the lanterns with Christmas lights, settled on the floor with Chinese food, and watched the Disney movie: Mulan!

It was a fun week! This week we have turned our attention to ancient civilizations that flourished in the Americas. This will complete our whirlwind tour of ancient civilizations throughout the world!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Third Grade - what son C is doing this fall

First of all, a big shout out and thank you to my parents for this wonderful book they sent C recently. The Boy Who Changed the World, by Andy Andrews, is a story of how four boys' lives intertwine to make a difference in the world, and it's even more wonderful because it's true! The first time I read this book it gave me goosebumps, and I loved reading it out loud to all the children with son C front and center on my lap. Thanks mom and dad!

A couple of weeks ago C finished reading through The Beginner's Bible. This has been his daily reading practice with me for about a year, ever since he finished 100 EZ lessons and had his reading party. He read two stories to me nearly every day, and felt a huge sense of accomplishment when he got to the end! (it was worth TEN leaves on our reading tree!)

I have been including him a bit more in our Tapestry of Grace history studies this year, partly because he's ready for more and partly because so far, Year 1 of Tapestry has lent itself well to doing things all together as a family. Which I love! This was a chart that all the children but Little Man made as we read through the latter part of Exodus. It showed where all the furniture for the Tabernacle was placed and what it was used for.

We both love what he's doing for writing this year. Though I am sold on IEW as a writing program, I am waiting until next year to start C on it. This year he is using this All About Me composition book from Love to Learn. Each of his older siblings has also done this in third grade.

Each page asks a series of questions about the student's life ~ so by the end of the year you have a lovely keepsake of this period in your child's life. On Monday C writes his answers to the questions, a rough draft, in a separate notebook. I am working with him on double spacing in his rough draft notebook, to help prepare him for that requirement when he starts IEW next year.

I correct his rough draft, and on Tuesday he copies the corrected version in his All About Me notebook. On Wednesday he draws a picture to go with his writing, and on Thursday he colors his picture. Each week he has a finished page like this:

It is working out very well, and is a nice segue to writing every day with IEW next year.

He is steadily working on math, and recently went through another lesson that taught how to tell time. He has worked on the minutes before. This time he worked on learning the hours, and how to put the whole thing together in order to read an analog clock. I love how Math U See teaches time, because it's completely visual and logical. The circle of blue blocks are the minutes, that can be skip counted by fives or counted individually. The blocks outside the blue circle are the hours, the one block for one o'clock, the two block for two o'clock, and so on. It was a bit of a struggle at first, but when the light came on it was a wonderful moment! (and I love that I get to see and experience these lightbulb moments myself because we homeschool!)

I have not started C on any formal grammar yet this year, but that is coming in January. All in all, he is having a great third grade year!