Friday, March 27, 2015

Words of Life

I spoke of my trepidation about the next school year.  Perhaps you harbor some fear, too. 

I have been meditating on these words today from Exodus 33:

Moses said to the Lord, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.

The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.

 “Now show me your glory.”

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


Do you ever think about reading a particular book and then put it off so many times that you doubt you'll ever truly get around to reading it?

That book for me was Unbrokenby Laura Hillenbrand.  I first heard about it several years ago and considered reading it.  Then I found out it had close to 400 pages of small type and I changed my mind. But the book gained in popularity and I was intrigued again.  It was being made into a movie (a bonus!) and  the main character was a runner (though he was faster and more dedicated than I ever dream to be!).  Still, I hesitated.  History books are not my thing and this book certainly did not look like light bedtime reading.

When Kati put it on the Sisters Book Challenge, that gave me the incentive and motivation to go for it. Reading is sort of like running for me.  Sometime I have push out of my comfort zone and put forth a little more effort than is comfortable...but I'm always glad that I did it!

Unbroken is the true story of Louie Zamperini,  a member of the Army Air Force during World War II  who survived a plane crash and years in a brutal Japanese POW camp. The author shares amazing detail of Zamperini's childhood, early adulthood, and the horrific years of his capture. Knowing almost nothing about the man before I started the book, I found the handful of chapters describing Zamperini's life after the war fascinating.  What a story of forgiveness and redemption! 

The book is peppered with photos which was also a highlight for me.  I love to study photographs, illustrating and cementing what I'm reading.

Now I'm more excited than ever to see the movie.  I think we're number 22 on the library hold list so I have a few weeks to wait!

Have you read Unbroken? Have you seen the movie?  What did you think?

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Notes On Next Year

After sharing my thoughts (and fears) on our next school year, I promised to talk curriculum.  I'm in the very beginning stages of planning.  It's barely beyond the thinking stage, though some subjects are easy.  We'll simply move onto the next chronological time period or grade level.  Also, I'm only mentioning the Big Four here-- history, math, science, and English. (We incorporate Bible, music, art, health, typing, and P.E. into our days, too, though not everything in every season.)  

As a frame of reference, I will have five kids in school next year, ranging from kindergarten to eighth grade. 


We'll more than likely continue reading though Genevieve Foster's books.  We'll start with George Washington's Worldand continue on to this one, too. We'll supplement with applicable literature or explore some topics in more depth.  Since we discovered that Owen (currently eight and in third grade) learns better visually,  he will delve into the same time period with a selection of books on his reading level.  We especially enjoy the series by the d'Aulaires.


Our kids start Saxon Math at the 5th grade level (Saxon  54).  Even my math-hating kids say they hate math a little less with Saxon.  My three oldest kids are in varying levels of Saxon and will continue next year. For elementary math, I've had tremendous success with cheap grocery store workbooks so Ben (currently six and in first grade) will probably use Second Grade Big Workbook. 


I'm not a science person so when I was reviewing what we had done for science this year,  I was surprised to discover that we had done a lot.  So much that we could quit science today and have more than enough credit for the year.  Between a forensics class the kids took over the summer, our nature study text, a series of at-home chemistry science experiments Gavin organized throughout the fall (and explained and demonstrated for his brothers and sisters), a long list of books we read for health, the Wild Kratts TV show (!), and at least a book a week someone brings home from the library about animals (or planets or rocks, etc.), we have science covered.

I think next year we'll continue to let science happen as it did this year and supplement with a reproducible workbook from McDonald Publishing, both to widen our science base and to give the older kids practice in expository writing.


I generally pull together an eclectic collection of resources for English. The three oldest kids currently use Daily Grams or something comparable. (One of them actually uses a book I found at a used curriculum sale in the same format but different publisher. We like it just as well.)  We'll continue with that short, daily practice and add in writing prompts, penpal letters, pleasure reading, copywork, or poetry as the urge strikes. We go in phases and we do not study it all at the same time or even the same year!

I think Alaine (currently four-and-a-half) will soon have interest in learning to read so it's about time for me to borrow Alpha-Phonics again.  Ben  loves Explode the Code  so he'll continue moving through the series and also reading lots of library books aloud to me. (It's our special one-on-one time in the evening.)

What about you?  Want to join the curriculum talk? Have you started planning for next year?

Monday, March 16, 2015

Planning Ahead

My blogging friend (and real-life friend), Michelle, and I have a spring tradition. Sometime in February or March we start talking plans for the coming school year.  We're both planners and thinkers, plus we find inspiration through curriculum talk and trading ideas.

Admittedly, when she brought up the topic last week I had to say, "I haven't thought much about it yet." 

That's not really true.  I've given it plenty of thought, but I feel uninspired and a little scared so my thoughts have not transformed into plans on paper.  I have time-- months worth of time, really.  There are at least two months left before  this school year is complete and the next one doesn't start until August, but it's unusual for me.  Most of the time, I'm excitedly sketching out a plan in advance because there are so many fascinating topics I want to cover and books I want my kids to read.

Why the fear this year?  Next year, I will have 5 kids in school-- ranging from Alaine entering kindergarten all the way up to Gavin in eighth grade.  That's more than a little overwhelming to me.  I already feel a little stretched with four, juggling pre-algebra and phonics on a daily basis.  I want to do this homeschooling thing well, but I constantly question whether I'm giving each child the attention and help they need.  I worry about this every year.  Yes, every year.  I'm a type-A personality times ten!

I also worry about gaps in my kids' education.  Gavin only has five years of school left.  What if he gets to twelfth grade and we realize we forgot something?! I know that is a largely irrational thought.  Learning is a lifetime pursuit.  But, I still have a kid who struggles to spell our last name (let alone the words of a spelling test) and another several who very slowly do their math facts on their fingers.  Gaps in their education is a very real fear.

It comes down to trust-- trust in the Father who is leading us this year and will continue to lead us on our homeschool and life journey.  I know I am not adequate on my own, but He knows what is best for each one of my children.  He will give wisdom and strength, patience and guidance.

have started compiling a few ideas in my head, considering some learning topics that might work for us.  Also I have tentatively started looking up some new products (to us), so I'll be back later this week or next to share a few.

Have you started thinking about your next homeschool year? How many kids will you be teaching? 

Do you have any homeschool fears?  I'd love to pray for you!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

It's Binge-worthy!

Spring is surely around the corner and we anticipate (warmer?) fresh air and outside play.  Anything above freezing is going to feel balmy! In the meantime, the snow, ice, and wind have kept us inside more days than not since mid-February.

You, too, perhaps?

My kids are growing stir crazy, especially since at least four of their activities have been cancelled because of of weather. I'm a bit of a homebody myself so I've contented myself by staying home and binging on the things I love.

Here are a few things I enjoy binging on and maybe you will, too:

Now that season 5 is over {sniff}, it might be time to re-watch the previous seasons of  Downton Abbey.  I watched all four seasons last summer and loved the flow of the story without needing to wait a week between episodes.

Or...there is time to get caught up on the first three seasons of Call the Midwifebefore the fourth season premiers in the United States on March 29.  Binge on one season a week and you'll be done just in time!

Maddie and I are finishing up the last of five books in the All-of-a-Kind Family seriesby Sydney Taylor.  We've probably been progressing too slowly to call it a true binge, but I've certainly appreciated seeing the series through to its end, even if I did like the first book better than any of the books that followed.  Our next series will be The Melendy Quartetby Elizabeth Enright.

With little more than chocolate, butter, sugar, and 5 (yes, 5!) eggs, this chocolate cake  is worth every delectable bite. 

It's not only junk food we've binged on this winter, though.  I've experimented with a variety of  roasted veggies like cabbage, cauliflower, and tomatoes. Warm from the oven or eaten chilled the next day, it's all good!

tomatoes ready to go into the oven to be slow-roasted
6 hours @ 200 degrees

Why not binge on more soup before spring arrives? My favorite this winter was Thai coconut soup with chicken and rice or you could try this more traditional whole-grain chicken soup with rice.

I've been on a  food book binge since I wrote about it at the end of last year. After I published that post, I kept reading more, including a few favorites: A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Tableand Bread and  Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipeswhich had a recipe for the dark chocolate sea-salted toffee I made this afternoon. From the size of the pan, it appears we'll be binging on pieces of this for days on end.

dark chocolate sea-salted toffee


Note: When I first considered writing about this topic, I had just downloaded the Serial podcast to my iPod and thought I might include it in my binge list. I turned the first episode on during a long weekend run, but it left me uneasy.  Though there were houses and people all within view, the subject matter was unsettling while I was essentially alone.

I have been known to binge-listen to a few other podcasts, though, particularly while changing the sheets on our two sets of bunk beds! Do you know how long it takes to wrangle sheets onto a top bunk?!


Have you been binging on anything during these last cold weeks of winter?

Have you listened to
I did eventually finish the series, but only when I was safely and securely inside my house!

Any tips on changing bunk bed sheets?

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