Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Bride of Thistleloch Castle

{This post, like most of my posts that discuss books, contains affiliate links.}

The Sisters Book Challenge has taught me a few things about my previous reading habits.  On my own, I tend to shy away from classics, and the majority of the books I choose take place from the 1940s through the present day. In the list of ten books I gave to Kati, only two of them take place in an earlier time period:  Wonderland Creekby Lynn Austin which takes place during The Depression and Peter Pan which was written in 1911 (and is incidentally also a classic!).  

My sister Kati, on the other hand, reads classics and she reads from a variety of time periods. By reading the selections she chose for me, I've been stretched beyond my normal parameters.  That's a good thing because I've been exposed to authors I never would have chosen alone...and I'm enjoying books I would have never thought to try. 

The sixth book I picked from the list Kati gave me was Bride of Thistleloch Castleby Therese Stenzel. It takes place in the days of Scottish clan warfare.  Laren is an English woman who, by a series of tragic events out of her control, finds herself caught in the rivalry between two brutal Scottish clans, both of whom lay claim to her.  As she struggles to find a way back to her homeland, she must rely on the God she grew up believing has only a casual interest in the concerns of women. As her faith grows, Laren must reconcile her desires with what God desires for her. 

It took me a day or two to get into the story, perhaps because of my hesitation about the time period (old habits die hard), but as I went deeper into the adventure, the suspense,  and the love story, I found it hard to put down and I kept reading to find what would happen next. 

Do you ever read a books that are outside of your comfort zone? 

Next week, I'll share the list of books we've read aloud this summer and how my children are pushing me to read some things I never would have chosen on my own. 

Monday, July 29, 2013

A Book Bargain

{This post contains affiliate links.}

Of all the many, many books that I've read aloud with my children, In Grandma's Attic by Arleta Richardson is one of my very favorites. In fact, I included the entire Grandma's Attic book series in my Summer Reading Guide for Families (which you can download for free here if you haven't already). 

Now through Tuesday night, you can download the Kindle edition for free from Amazon by clicking here

The next three books in the series (More Stories from Grandma's Attic, Still More Stories from Grandma's Attic, and Treasures from Grandma's Attic) are only 99 cents each! 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

It Was a Great Day to Turn Nine

Maddie's ninth birthday was today.  What made it so special? 

Was it because her birthday fell on a Sunday and Brian could be home to share it with her?  A good thing, but no. 

Was it because when she opened her presents she got a coupon allowing her to get her ears pierced?  Exciting to be sure, but no. 

Was it because she ate chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast?  Another good thing, but no. 

Was it because she blew out the candles on pink lemonade cupcakes after lunch?  Yummy, but no.  

The thing that made this 9th birthday so over-the-top better than the rest is that Maddie went out to dinner and met her penpal, Erin!

Maddie and Erin have been exchanging letters and drawings for about three years.  When we found out Erin's family would be on vacation less than an hour from our house and that their trip coincided with Maddie's birthday, both families made plans to meet for dinner. 

It took awhile for the girls to warm up and feel comfortable enough to talk.  We joked that maybe they could pass notes since they were used to communicating with pencil and paper. Once they started to talk, though, they didn't stop.  They turned sideways in their chairs and began a steady stream of happy chatter.

As an aside, how many trips to the potty do you think 2 families with 11 children between them can make during 1 mealtime?  I'm not sure either because I lost count, but it was more than 4!  We did get a great photo of all 11 children where not 1 child was crying.  Success! 

Back row left to right: Maygen (7), Ada (6), Nora (11 months), Maddie (9), Erin (9), Owen (6), and Gavin (10)
Front row left to right: Garrett (2), Ben (4), Alaine (2), and Kylie (4)

It was a lovely day to turn nine!

Friday, July 26, 2013

More on Memorizing Scripture

On Wednesday, I shared the list of scriptures we review with our memory box systemAllyson had a few more questions that I thought were worth discussing here. 

With your current setup, you review 3 different tabs each day, right? For the weeks of the month, you review those every day?

Yes, with our current arrangement, we review 3 tabs each day.  For example, when we begin our school year on August 6, we will review the Daily scripture, the Tuesday scripture, and the Week 1 of the Month scripture. The following day, we will review the Daily scripture, the Wednesday scripture, and the Week 1 of the Month scripture.  We will work on the Week 1 of the Month scripture every day until the next Monday when we move on to Week 2 of the Month scripture.  I've found that even if we skip a school day or take off a larger block of time for sickness or vacation, it's not usually necessary to play catch up.  We simply skip the scriptures we missed and review them again the next time they roll around in the rotation. 

Do you keep those the same every month or will you move them back into a once a month rotation as you learn more verses? 
I try to stay consistent and not move the verses around too much, but I each time we begin a new daily scripture, the former daily scripture has to move out and fill a new spot in the tabs.  Daily verses move into a day of the week tab, sometimes sharing space with another short scripture if necessary.  (I tend to keep the longer scriptures in the week of the month tabs.)  We are soon going to need to employ more tab categories to make room for the scriptures we plan to learn this year.  


It is worth noting that this scripture memory system can be done less formally, too. Maybe you learn scripture verses together as a family.  After you move on to a new verse, you could review all old verses one night a week. 

My friend, Flo, shared how she has taught scripture to her son: 

We memorized Psalm 23 as part of a nightly prayer. Then, when he had that down, we did the Lord's Prayer, and we review one or the other most nights. It took a week or two of me saying them alone, but then he began to jump in on the phrases he knew, and before long he knew them in their entirety.

I've often brought our memory box in the car with us as we run errands.  One of the older kids will give us a prompt and then we can review our scriptures as we drive down the road.  No excuses for not fitting Bible memory into our day! 

Part 1: A Peek Into Our Memory Box

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A Peek Into Our Memory Box

When I shared on Monday our plans for learning together this year, I mentioned briefly that adopting scripture memory box system last year was a rousing success and that we planned to continue with it this year.  I love that the system makes it possible for us to continue to review all the scriptures we are hiding in our hearts without having to recite every one every day. 

Allyson asked to hear about the scriptures we had chosen to memorize. Before I begin listing verses, you should know that we began learning and accumulating verses years ago.  They were not all learned last year!  Even my littlest children who were not  born when we first memorized some of the verses now can recite them because we continue to review them. 

Here is a peek into our box currently:

Daily: Psalm 100:2-- "Serve the Lord with gladness!  Come into his presence with singing!"

Phillipians 2:14, 15-- "Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation in which you shine like stars in the universe."

Ephesians 4:32-- "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."

Luke 6:31-- "Do to others as you would have them do to you."

Matthew 5:44-- "But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."

names of Jesus  (found here and here)

Week 1 of the month
Luke 2:1-14 (the Christmas story)

Week 2 of the month
Psalm 23

Week 3 of the month
the books of the Old and New Testaments

Week 4 of the month
: The Lord's Prayer
As we continue to add verses, we can add new dividers like odd days, even days, and the numbered days of the month.  

Do you memorize scripture as part of your day?  Do you have a favorite scripture to suggest?

Part 2: More on Memorizing Scripture

Monday, July 22, 2013

In which I share how we learn together

{This post contains some affiliate links.}

While many of my curriculum choices came easily this year, I had a tough time with history and science-- not because I wasn't sure what to do, but because I wanted to do too much.  I needed to narrow down what was feasible and decide how to implement my ideas into our year. 

During the months of June and July, we  ambled through world geography with Thriving Family's Around the World in 60 Days.  I decided to move straight into U.S. geography at the beginning of our school year.  Since the kids already have a grasp on United States culture, history, symbols, and landmarks, we are focusing on location and memorization of the states and capitals.  We'll be using  States & Capitals Book and CDand  Yo Sacramento! (and all those other State Capitals you don't know)Since I want and need to incorporate all five kids, I've already begun to work with Ben and Alaine on state memory after being inspired by How to Teach Your Toddler All 50 States at Breakfast.  I found a great source of free printable maps that I'm using for a variety of learning activities, including a group project where the kids will interview family members and visually record the states they have visited (original idea here). 

map that accompanied our study of world geography

I'm tentatively setting aside our first 2 months of school to study geography before we switch back to ancient medieval history.  We finished  The Mystery of History Volume I: Creation to the Resurrectionin May so we will review what we learned by reading Augustus Caesar's Worldby Genevieve Foster.  The book is told in story form and is rich with information.  I want to take it slow so we can savor it and not feel rushed.  

When we finish-- whether it be November or February-- we will begin reading our way through medieval history with a literature book list that I'm compiling myself. 

Gavin, 6th grade & Owen, 2nd grade

Over a year ago, when I chose to study astronomy for the 2012-2013 school year, Maddie asked if we could study mammals next.  I kept that request filed away so now the time has come.  We'll be using  The Burgess Animal Book for Children.  (The link provided is for the edition currently in print.  We are borrowing an older edition which includes the original watercolor illustrations.)  I'm planning to take time for science twice a week, one day for reading the text and another day for sketching.  I'll be using The Burgess Animal Book Companion, free online and compiled by a homeschool mom! It is a wealth of supplemental information and it includes links to coloring pages that will help keep the youngest kids involved. 

Alaine, pre-pre-school

There are
3 more subjects that we learn together.  Bible is the easiest.  We will continue the daily Bible plan for children, moving on to section 2 this year.  We will also continue using our scripture memory box system for Bible memory after the tremendous success of last year!


For music, we will use Stories of the Great Composers (Book & CD).  We will study the first 6 composers this year and save the last 6 for next year. I plan to spend the first Monday of each month reading the short text in the book and listerning to the selection and then spending the rest of the month listening to that composer's work from CDs we'll borrow from the library. 

Maddie, 4th grade & Ben, kindergarten

I wanted to try something new for art this year.  I discovered over the past two school years that when we study famous works of art, my children enjoy trying to replicate them.  They will sketch their interpretation of the whole painting or mimic a small section. Now we can do that all year.  The three oldest kids will be working their way through art workbooks.  Gavin will be using All My Own Work: Adventures in Art which includes use of colored pencils, scraps of colored and metallic paper, tracing paper, paint, and markers while Maddie and Owen will use Create Your Own Masterpiece: On a Journey Through Art which concentrates solely on sketching.  There are 22 lessons in each so I plan to have them do art 2-3 times a month. 

Are you beginning anything new this year or are you sticking with old favorites?

Friday, July 19, 2013

In which I talk about reading and writing and 'rithmetic

The school planning continues.  My goals for this week were to formulate a basic weekly plan (history/geography daily, science twice a week, music once a week, P.E. class once a week, etc.) and to lay out a basic plan for the year (complete 6 units in music, complete a study of US geography before easing back into ancient/medieval history, etc.) I'm starting to get a feel for our year. 

I'm reminding myself constantly that schedules are only helpful if I am open to tweaking them as needed.  If math is too demanding or everyone hates our science book or the schedule doesn't leave enough time finish art without rushing or we get bored with something, it is okay to make a change!  

I promised to share more of our curriculum this week. The majority of our school day is spent together, but each child is given their own independent work in math and English that we call pencil time.  We used to call it table time, but since one kid always works in my bedroom and other kids sprawl out on the living room floor, we changed it to pencil time. 

{Many of the links are affiliate links.}

Gavin (age 10-11, 6th grade)
Daily: Saxon Math 76&  Grammar Practice Book
Monday/Wednesday: spelling dictation
Tuesday/Thursday:  Cursive Writing Practice: Jokes and Riddles (fall term), Typing Instructor for Kids Platinum** (spring term)

*For all of Gavin's elementary career, I searched for a math curriculum.  We sampled a few that were okay, but never found one we loved.  Last year I felt his reading comprehension was adequate enough to begin Saxon math which is largely self-taught.  I love it and he likes it as well as he would like any math.

**For less than $10 on Amazon, this typing program was a great deal for us.  Each child can sign in under his own name and set his own word-per-minute goals that are saved on the computer.  It can be used for multiple children and multiple years. 

Maddie (age 9, 4th grade)
Total Math, Grade 4A Reason For Handwriting: Cursive E

Owen (age 7, 2nd grade)
Daily: Total Math, Grade 4*,  Explode the Code 6**, and handwriting/copywork of US state names***

*Owen and Maddie are on the same level in math so I teach the lesson and they help each other understand the concepts. 

**He has been reading for about a year, but he needs confidence so I'm having him review with this workbook because the lessons are short and great "boy" fun. 

***I'm designing the copywork practice sheets myself and I plan to share when they are finished.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

In which I ramble...and share my kindergarten plans for next year

After sharing some of my thoughts on the coming school year last week, several people asked if I had chosen curriculum yet.  It has been a slow process this year.  For many of our homeschool years, I've known well before a school year ended what I was going to be doing the following year! This year I craved a change and so proceeded to do more research and scouring before making curriculum choices.  

I'm adding a student this year, and though he has been learning along with us since he was a baby, having him officially a part of our learning adventures adds another element.  He is on the cusp of reading and yet he does not like to sit still for more than a few minutes.  He loves to color and he colors well but he hates to hold a pencil.  He's a climber and a jumper and a talker. I did not take my task of choosing curriculum for him lightly. 

After three years in our  small Charlotte Mason style co-op, we're going it alone this year.  Though I love the Charlotte Mason style of learning, I am feeling more free to do what works for us without conforming to a "method."    As a fun aside, I took this short (and free) teaching assessment online.  I scored 25 points on Charlotte Mason, 25 on Unit Study, 15 on Classical, 10 on Unschooling, and 8 on Traditional.  (You should take it, too, and share your score in the comments!)

I spent a good chunk of time on Thursday planning for next year.  I counted out how many weeks we have in our first term which lasts until Christmas break. I penciled in planned days off and special events that will affect the school day. I also looked through each book I want to use and put away a few for later.  Next year for us begins on August 6 so I have about three weeks to get my thoughts in order.  In our seven years of homeschooling,  I have never needed to spend so much time planning.  Usually I jot a loose daily schedule down on an index card, formulate a few yearly goals in my head, and dive in. 

Brian worked on Saturday so I spent more time at the table.  (Maybe I wouldn't need so much time if I didn't have interruptions about every 30 seconds.  Anyone relate?) I focused on planning specifically for Benjamin who is entering kindergarten.  I covered his nature notebook with colorful paper and familiarized myself with his workbooks.  The majority of our homeschool work is completed together as a family. We learn Bible, history, geography, science, art, and music together, but each child gets their own math and English work, based on skill level.  

Because Benjamin is ready to read but so full of energy, I am focusing on short lessons that challenge his mind without boring him.  Here is my tentative plan:

(Some links are affiliate links, though some books were given to us and are no longer in print.)

Starting to Measure (by Usborne) which should only take a week or two and then moving on to Counting With Numbers (by Rod and Staff) which goes beyond pencil work and  includes cutting, gluing, matching, and coloring

Monday/Wednesday: Fun to Learn About Letters and Words With Winnie the Pooh workbook
Tuesday/Thursday: Explode the Code 1-- short, simple, silly lessons that introduce phonics

Friday FUN Day: He and Alaine (almost 3) will enjoy  a variety of busy bag activities, including Number Gobbling Busy Bag, Build a Rainbow Busy Bag, Duplo and Lego Patterns Busy Bag, and Simple Shapes Busy Bag

As I continue to sketch out our plans, I plan to share what the older kids will learn in math and English this year and what we will be learning as a family. 

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