Monday, January 30, 2012

Unit 1 Celebration - The Middle Ages

The Lord brought a family into our lives last year that we have spent considerable time ministering to. The time for our Unit 1 celebration came and went last fall, and we just couldn't do it. We had ideas, and plans, but no opportunity to act on them. And that's okay. Our whole family is invested in this other family, and we are having such a great opportunity to demonstrate for our children how to love others as Jesus loves. Very often loving others is inconvenient and time consuming, so I was prepared to not have a Unit 1 celebration ever.

But the children kept wanting to do one, and I admit that I wanted to "wrap up" that time period in my mind, so with about one hour of planning and about three hours of prep time (for me, all food related), we had our Unit 1 celebration! I like to do things with excellence, and I'm not proud of the small amount of time we spent throwing this together, but I share that to encourage those of you who feel that you "just don't have time" to do unit celebrations. Believe me when I say, it doesn't have to be a spectacular production (although if it is, that's great too!), and if I had time to do it, you have time too! The main thing is to have fun and make memories together!

I told the children that we had to create costumes from items we already had. No sewing this time around. I set them loose with the dress up box, and they came up with some pretty good costumes in very little time!

We displayed some of the books we used in our studies,

as well as a timeline notebook, and a history notebook open to a map of the crusades. Grandma and Grandpa were enthralled with the books, and couldn't believe that all of them were ours! :-)

We also displayed some of Little Man's lapbooks from his class at our Friday co-op. He loves his class! (and his teacher! no, it's not me) :-)

We had our program first while the stew finished cooking. First we had a Viking visit us ~ Eric the Red no less! He told about where the Vikings lived, when they lived, and what they did. He told us about his son Leif, who was an explorer and who "discovered" Vinland, what we now call Newfoundland. He was interviewed by a modern day reporter who had traveled back in time!

Next we had the legendary King Arthur share. He told us about how he was the only one who could pull the sword from the stone, fulfilling the prophecy that the one who could do that would be the rightful king of Britain. Then he shared a story about how he slew a dragon (creative writing assignment). It was tense and exciting!

Next to visit us was this Mongolian, who told us about daily life as a Mongol living under Genghis Khan.

Following closely behind the Mongol on our historical timeline was this person: Marco Polo! He shared about his journey to China when he was just 17, to meet Genghis's grandson, Kublai. He ended up becoming a trusted official of the Khan, and worked in his government for many years before eventually returning to Venice and writing a book about his travels ~ a book which a young man named Christopher Columbus almost certainly read.

Then we were graced by the modern day reporter once again, as she traveled to the time period just before the Renaissance and Reformation. She shared with us about the struggle and persecution of a few individuals who labored to translate God's Word into the languages of the common people, and about the printing press which made the Bible available to so many for the first time! What an intense, dangerous, and important time in our christian history!

She even had a field reporter who was able to report live, from the scene in Bohemia.

Her report was SO well done, I am going to reprint it here in its entirety. It's long, but worth the read. This represents several weeks of study for her during the fall, and was also her "final" (she got an A!). When we started using Tapestry of Grace, our daughter was barely an upper grammar student, and we had four lower grammar boys beneath her. I used to dream about those great socratic discussions that those with high schoolers could have, and wonder if we would ever get there. Well, we got there! While this is not a discussion, the script she wrote for our unit celebration clearly shows that she correctly analyzed and synthesized the information on these men and their role in laying the foundation for the coming reformation. She got it. Yay! This is what those early years were leading up to!

"Hello, and welcome to Christian Historical News. I am _____ and our topic today is the Foundation of the Reformation. I am here in 12th century England where a peasant revolt has just been put down. It is no secret that the Roman Catholic Church has some major issues these days. Church leaders have been involved in scandal after scandal. The Pope and many of the bishops are more concerned with their political power than fulfilling their spiritual duties. They often seem willing to sacrifice anything for their political success. As a result, the papacy and church have suffered greatly, as you can see.

Ever since John Wycliffe wrote his first two treatises in 1374 on Divine Dominion and Civil Dominion, arguing that all human authority is derived directly from God and is conditional on God's approval, he has been seen as an enemy of the church and a friend to the common people. In fact, the peasants even asked him prior to the uprising to join them in their revolt, which I have just learned was spurred on by his ideas. However, Wycliffe told me he had never intended for violence to be a result of his teaching, and he politely refused their offer, although he was sympathetic to their cause. His beliefs consist of believing that God and the Bible hold the ultimate authority, not the pope. He spends his spare time studying the Bible, comparing its teaching with that of the church, and urging the church leaders to return to the standards of behavior and doctrine based on the Bible alone. His writings have been transmitted to the University of Prague in Bohemia, where one of the prominent students, Jan Hus, read them and has gone from a devoted follower to a leader himself. We will now hear from our field reporter there. Mike?

(she puts on sunglasses and a cap to look like a boy reporter)

Yes, I have the privilege of observing a church council here in Constance, in the year 1415, where Jan Hus has just been summoned to appear before them. I believe the council members want him to renounce his beliefs. He has found himself strongly attracted to the views of John Wycliffe. In particular, he believes Wycliffe's view that the Bible, as well as the prayers and readings at the worship services, ought to be in the language of the people, not in Latin, which nobody understands anymore. He also believes strongly that both the bread and the cup should be given to all. It is currently the practice of the church to give only the consecrated bread to the people during communion. Drinking the consecrated wine is reserved for the priests only.

In 1410 the Archbishop of Prague ordered all of Wycliffe's writings to be burned. When Hus refused, he was excommunicated from the church. Eventually he was summoned to answer the charges against him, which brings us up to the present. Jan Hus has arrived, and..... oh my. He has refused to renounce his faith and..... he is being dragged off to jail. This is not good. I'm going to see if I can help at all. Back to you.

(she takes off sunglasses and cap to be the girl reporter again)

Oh dear. I hope things turn out okay for you, Mike, and for Jan. But at least he was not arrested for nothing. Now, both Hus and Wycliffe have left a legacy and their beliefs have quickly caught on. I am now standing in front of Johann Gutenberg's first printing shop in the town of Mainz, Germany. Gutenberg invented the printing press in 1455, which was no easy task and took years to accomplish.

I am holding in my hand one of the first books he ever printed with his new press: the Bible. He first experimented with some grammar books, but the first actual book he finished was the Biblia Latina. It was in Latin, but eventually was translated into other languages. As you can imagine, printing was so much easier, faster, and cheaper than copying by hand. Before the printing press was invented all the books had to be copied down by hand, which was much more expensive and resulted in countless errors. Thanks to Gutenberg, the Bible is now available to everyone in his native language. The common people can now read God's Word for themselves, which before had been unimaginable!

Though the fight is not over yet, and the people who have begun to follow this new belief are being persecuted, Wycliffe, Hus, and others have opened up the door for the reformers. Blooming from the progress of those early protestant leaders, people such as Martin Luther and John Calvin will arise and push the Protestant Reformation into action. John Wycliffe, John Hus, and Johann Gutenberg have set off a spark that will burst into an unstoppable fire. Until next time, this is Christian Historical News wishing you a good night."

After this well crafted report we had our dinner of stew in bread bowls, and fruit.

It was a fun and informative unit celebration, and the important thing is that it got done! We are having our unit 2 celebration in three weeks when my parents are here visiting (since they live far away and normally miss them), and six weeks after that we will be wrapping up unit 3 already! Unbelievable how this year is flying by!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Our Week In Review

For extra credit in her Spanish class, our daughter made reprochetas for dinner one night. These are two corn tortillas with special cheese in the middle, fried on both sides and topped with chopped tomatoes and onions. This dish is originally from Honduras, and they were really good! Since she fried them one at a time, it took our daughter a looooong time to make enough for the whole family! She got a taste of what it's like to spend a good chunk of time in the kitchen! ;-)

You all are going to get sick of me saying how much I enjoy using our schoolroom, but I DO!!! So, so, so, so much!!! Here is Little Man listening to a story on tape, this time at his special "listening station." I have had this antique school desk for years, and it finally has a home. Close to the tape player and the tub full of stories on tape. LOVE being able to be more organized!

Our daily practice of book time together in the family room. The big boys are taking a break from reading their own books to help Little Man find some items in his "The Great History Search" book.

Technically this was our week off history, as we are between units, but we used it to dig a little deeper into Elizabethan England before moving on to the time of the colonists next week. Our lower grammar boys and I spent a lot of time reading about William Shakespeare, and talking about some of his plays. We even listened to an abridged version of "Macbeth" on CD. All of the children enjoyed this book, William Shakespeare and The Globe, and after we read it son C made a lapbook, writing down what he had learned.

We also made Elizabethan masks, the kind that would have been worn to masquerade balls during the time of Queen Elizabeth. We will be using these in our unit 2 celebration coming up in a few weeks. More on how to make the masks in another post!

Tonight we are finally having our Unit 1 celebration (Middle Ages). It was delayed for a variety of reasons, but tonight's the night! Check back tomorrow for pictures!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

God is Good!

The transmission on our hulk of a van began slipping last Friday, on our way home from co-op. By Sunday morning it was gasping its last breath. We had to drive 20 mph all the way to church and back. We called the shop Monday morning and they confirmed that we shouldn't drive it any more, and that the repair would be close to $2000. It's really not wise to continue pouring money into such an old vehicle, but we are not sure we can qualify for a loan to purchase a newer one (still repairing our whole financial picture from the unemployment). So we've been praying about what to do, and meanwhile the children and I have been car-less.

Today we were offered a loaner minivan for up to 8 weeks while we figure out what to do!!!!

Whoo-hooo!!!! Thank you, God! This relieves the pressure we were feeling to make an immediate decision, and gives us transportation to our weekly commitments. We are so, so, so grateful.

God is good!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Christmas Piano Recital

Okay, it wasn't really a recital. I think our piano teacher called it a "Christmas studio party" or something like that. But it was like a recital! It was an opportunity for some of her students to play in front of their peers before the big spring recital when they will be playing in front of everyone's families. :-)

Our son C adores the piano, and he adores his piano teacher. She is really gifted at what she does, and it blesses me no end to see how son C is progressing. He has not even been playing for one year yet, but he is doing well playing with both hands together, and is now learning some trickier rhythms. What is even better is that his love for playing has not dimmed at all over these several months, if anything it has only grown! Here is his teacher with some of her students (son C on far right in red shirt).

Thank you for your diligent and patient instruction Miss Emma!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Our Week In Review

It was SUCH a delight to do school in our new school room this week! I am one happy, happy, happy, HAPPY, HAPPY homeschool mama. We schooled for nine years in our kitchen, and I know many families do not have the option of a dedicated school room, so I am extremely grateful to now have a place and a space that only has to be devoted to school and not other functions as well. I finally have a space that "fits" the way I like to teach. I am so very thankful!

In Bible we have been learning about the attributes of God for the last few weeks. I vividly remember being taught about the attributes of God when I was in middle school Sunday school. I was blown away back then, and I was blown away now! What an awesome, matchless, completely unique, powerful, and amazing God we serve. How can we have any other response to who God is than worship? I am so grateful for the privilege of showing my children, from Scripture, who God is. Once we had covered the attributes individually, the four older children all used their Bibles to look up various verses and match the verses with an attribute. Such a joy to see our children all searching God's Word together!

Here is Little Man's "cave" under the stairs. He has been enjoying it all week!

And here is a shot of daughter G also sitting in the new school room. She has an appointment with an eye Dr coming up, but in the meantime I got her a cheap pair of reading glasses, as she was constantly borrowing mine!

We spent this past week learning about Elizabethan England. Yes, we started our school year learning about the fall of Rome at about 400 A.D., and we are already to the late 1600's! So much happened between 1400 and 1700. I am constantly astounded as I continue learning history for myself. In recent weeks we have studied the Reformation and the counter Reformation in some detail, as well as learned about the noble lines of European monarchs, and King Henry VIII's split with the Catholic Church. Son C and Little Man colored these maps showing what parts of Europe were Catholic, what parts were Protestant, what parts were the Church of England, and what parts were specifically Lutheran. We had a good conversation about it as they colored.

One of Little Man's activities this week was finding hidden objects on this page from a history picture book (which I can actually find and get to now that the school room is completed!!)

We read many, many good books. Here are some of them:

Our absolute favorite was this one, called The Queen's Progress. It's an alphabet book that chronicles Queen Elizabeth's habit of an annual "progress" through the English country every summer, through informative text and absolutely gorgeous pictures. Even our high schooler loved it!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Thursday's Thankful Things

Today I am so thankful for:

beautiful snow!

my husband

my children ~ they are not perfect, but they are delightful

our lovely school room that I have loved working in all week!



lots of good food, and money enough to buy more

the exciting book I'm reading (a suspense novel by Jake Thoene)

my husband's job

the fact that my parents are coming to visit us NEXT MONTH!!!!

Monday, January 16, 2012

WONDERFUL anniversary trip!

We had a fabulous 29 hours away on our anniversary trip! It was so, so, so, so, so worth the hard work of getting ready to go. We have done several anniversaries "at home" in recent years, and while those are special in their own way, there is something to be said for getting away from the normal rhythms of life and being able to focus on just each other. I am so thankful for the means to be able to do that this year.

We stayed in an asian-themed hotel and ate dinner at a wonderful Japanese steakhouse. We took naps, talked and laughed, cried and prayed, saw a movie (Mission Impossible, Ghost Protocol ~ we really enjoyed it!), ate out, did a bit of shopping. So relaxing and so fun. We came home refreshed and ready to take up the mantle of daily life once again.

I'm thankful to my mother-in-law, some friends, and our daughter, for covering child care and transportation while we were away. And so thankful for my man and the opportunity to focus on him and on our marriage.

Saturday, January 14, 2012


It took lots of work and arranging, but anniversary overnight trip, here we come!!!!!!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The New School Room - JOY!

Nothing quite warms the cockles of a homeschooling mom's heart than an organized space in which to learn. Especially when that organized space has been more than two years in the making! After a marathon re-arranging, desk building, re-organizing session all day Wed and late into the night, our "new" school room was finally ready for use today. We were all practically giddy with excitement! (and my late night was totally worth it!!)

This is the area under the stairs where the couch did not quite fit. Now it is the desk area for two of our boys. Way back on the left, behind Little Man, is what we call "the cave." It is a perfect little hidey hole under the stairs, and will get used now that the couch is not blocking off that little space. Our daughter also sits at this desk when she is downstairs. She does the majority of her work up in her bedroom.

My own desk is slightly in front of the younger boys' desk.

And look! Watching a math lesson on dvd. Do you know what that means????? Working outlets where there did not used to be working outlets!!!!!

Directly in front of my desk is the desk for the two older boys, and behind them the offending couch. ;-)

I actually think this plan will work even better than the one I had in my brain for so many years. The couch marks a distinct line between "school room" and "toy room", and our desks are closer together rather than strung out in a long line. We got SO MUCH done today ~ it was an awesome school day, and we have not had one of those in a while (at least from my perspective). The boys love, love, love their desks. Their work space is much bigger than it was when we were all at one table.

There are a couple minor things still to be done, but they are aesthetic and do not affect the functionality at all. We are DONE moving furniture away from the walls and covering my desk with tools! So, so happy. Thank you, Lord.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Twenty Years Ago


I made a new plan for the schoolroom, got approval for the plan from my better half, and began rearranging furniture

Felt hopeful about being able to use the schoolroom sooner rather than later!

Took my two oldest boys to their first guitar lesson

While waiting for said lesson to be over, read several books to Little Man, assuaging some of my guilt at not spending much time with him lately

Did some work for the women's group at church that I'm in, and made some arrangements for this weekend.

But twenty years ago......

I excitedly put on a beautiful white dress with my mom, sisters, and closest girlfriends helping me.

Tried to eat something but had a hard time with that because I was so excited and nervous.

Asked my sisters and girlfriends to check the auditorium to make sure that people were actually showing up.

Knew in my gut that it was so much more than the fun of getting ready in a room full of excited females, and that I was about to take a permanent, life altering step.

When I was ready in my wedding finery, I joined my husband-to-be in the sanctuary for picture taking before the ceremony. I was thrilled that my man seemed to be completely overcome with my beauty! haha We kissed briefly, had a few private moments together, and then gave ourselves over to the photographer to work his magic.

Later I walked down the aisle on the arm of my dad, who until this day had been my number one male hero, and pledged my life, love, and loyalty to my new number one hero.

Honestly, I've glanced back once or twice since then, but by God's grace have never turned from the covenant we made together that day.

Honey, this year has been rough in ways that the previous two years of financial hardship were not. Sometimes the pain and struggle of our loved ones has been so hard to bear, and I know there were times that you and I both wished we could sortof walk away for a while, not necessarily from each other, but from life. For a short break. It is in this testing that I have come to more fully appreciate your integrity. Your unwavering commitment to do and be what God wants you to do and be. You are wise, unselfish, compassionate, and so so generous. I love you so much more today than I did twenty years ago, and I'm so glad that we both said "I will." I would marry you all over again!

Happy Anniversary sweetheart.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Setback in the Schoolroom

The couch won't fit in its allotted space under the stairs. :-(

Room is completely disorganized and I am very discouraged and exhausted.

But at least the painting is done!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Still Painting....

at midnight on Monday. But the schoolroom is so close to being done!! Pictures coming soon!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Back to School

Well, our first week back to school was kinda rough. But we did it. And made it through. We only did a few subjects, yet they took us well into the evening to finish every day. Could be starting at 10 or 11 had something to do with it.... ;-)

During Christmas break we shoved our school table up against the bookcase, and turned my desk into tool central to once again try and completely finish the schoolroom makeover. The room was unusable this past week, which helped make the week a little more frustrating. We are working rather frantically today to try and finish the last sanding so that I can paint the other three walls this evening. That is the goal anyway. Once the paint dries we can hang a shelf, move the couch to its new home under the stairs, and then the fun part. ORGANIZING! :0)

Putting the Christmas decorations away, grocery shopping, and preparing for school next week round out this day. As well as watching wild card football tonight!! I am so looking forward to that. Seriously! I may have to try and paint during commercials. ;-)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Books I read in 2011

I read just 23 books in 2011, down significantly from my 39 of last year. There is still a long list of books to be read! So many of them challenged me, encouraged me, and made me think. Some made me laugh or cry (or both). Some led to great discussions with my husband and/or children.

I am currently reading The Hunger Games, partly to see what all the fuss is about, and partly to preview it for possible reading by our daughter. It is a compelling story ~ I am enjoying it ("enjoy" may not be the right word. For those of you who have read it, you'll understand what I mean!) I have always desired to teach our children to be discerning about the books they read and the movies or TV shows they watch, but I sense it urgently now. All too soon our children may be out of our home and deciding for themselves what they will allow into their minds. That is as it should be, but it will be disastrous for them if they have not learned how to be both discerning and self controlled. I had an excellent conversation with our daughter last week about this. I told her that she already knew very well the difference between things that were "good" and "bad", but I wanted her to learn the difference between "good" and "best". That elicited some great comments.

Anyway, here is the list of books I read this year. I bolded my favorites.

Shaiton's Fire, by Jake Thoene
White, by Ted Dekker
Red, by Ted Dekker
Black, by Ted Dekker
The Killer Angels, by Michael Shaara
Stowaway to the Mushroom Planet, by Eleanor Cameron)
Eagle of the Ninth, by Rosemary Sutcliffe
Men of Iron, by Howard Pyle
Lineage of Grace, by Francine Rivers
The Help, by Kathryn Stockett
Red Rock Mysteries Books 1-4, by Jerry Jenkins and Chris Fabry
Among the Gods, by Lynn Austin
Faith of My Fathers, by Lynn Austin
The Strength of His Hand, by Lynn Austin
Song of Redemption, by Lynn Austin
Gods and Kings, by Lynn Austin
Adara, by Beatrice Gormley
Eleventh Guest, by Brock and Bodie Thoene
Hittite Warrior, by Joanne Williamson
Tenth Stone, by Brock and Bodie Thoene

Happy New Year!

Hope your 2012 has gotten off to a great start! On New Year's Eve we had our TX relatives and some friends over for dinner and a game night. We had multiple games going in two different rooms. It was loud and crazy and fun!

We started a Settlers of Catan game with our TX cousins, that our family finished the next day. Son L ultimately won!

My husband with his TX sister.

Everyone else left earlier, so on the stroke of midnight our family of seven toasted the new year with sparkling cider and cheers!

And then we collapsed into bed. :-)

No doubt 2012 will hold its share of heartache as well as joys. Knowing that God knows the future, and holds both it and us in His strong and loving arms gives me such confidence and strength.