Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Reporting on Weeks 8,9, and 10

We have been seriously busy lately, plus not feeling very motivated to do weekly reports (can you tell?) But I wanted to check in and say that we HAVE BEEN LEARNING around here.

In math, we have been cruising along, doing four to five lessons in Saxon each week (except for last week, when I think we did one lesson. Between the election and election burn out last week, our math program slipped a little.) Henry is starting to multiply by twos, which is so exciting for him. Kimball has learned about cartography, liquid measurements, and other scientific applications of math, as well as strengthening his skills at multiplying by 7s, a number that remains a bit challenging. I really need to find something that he can just memorize, some sort of visual chart. If only it had letters or words as well--he is so drawn to letters, whereas numbers seem to bore him. Ian has made pictographs and has moved up to ABB patterns. He loves our daily calendar that he works on in his meeting book.

We learned the letters G and H, then last week we reviewed all of the letters we've learned so far. It was especially fun to include Halloween themes in our letter of the week--using words like "ghost", "goblin", "haunted house," etc as we learned the sounds of the letters.

In history, we have been studying the Greeks. We have decorated vases (if you look carefully, each picture on the vase tells a story from mythology or the Odyssey), writing our names in Greek, reading about the gods and goddesses, learning about the different cultures of Sparta and Athens (we think we would have rather lived in Athens), and holding our own Olympics. We had a Greek dinner one night of homemade pita, herbed pork chops, tzasiki sauce, feta cheese, hummus, and baklava for dessert. Kimball has started transliterating everything into Greek (that kid loves a code) and they all want to know when we can start studying Greek as well as Russian. Some books that we've enjoyed have been:

In Russian, the kids have learned new words for colors, numbers, articles of clothing, and other shopping vocabulary. The sentences they use and translate are becoming more complex. I am really proud of how well they are doing. Kimball loves it most (did I mention he loves a code?) but Henry and Ian are really catching on as well, and Bronwen has picked up a few words from our conversations. When she sees me get the headphones out that we use with Rosetta Stone, she jumps up and down and yells, "Russian! Russian!"

In terms of read alouds, Jared has been reading The Princess Bride to them, which they are really loving. In addition, we have read lots of picture books (as usual). Two library books that Ian has picked a lot lately are

In week 7 we built a volcano, which we later painted and then erupted on Science Friday. Other science lessons have included blasting off a rocket (using the same principle as the eruption--an acid/base reaction,) and the sad lesson we learned that when you carve your jack-o-lanterns on Monday night, they will probably be caved in with mold by Friday morning, the day of your Halloween party. There was a bit of weeping and wailing around here when that lesson was learned. Oops.

We were very involved in the proposition on the ballot in CA to protect marriage. You can read my other blog for an account of the rally we attended together. We had lots of conversations in the month leading up to the election about the family, about tolerating those whose views were different (but that tolerate does not have to mean agree with), about the way democracy works, etc. The week before the election we could hardly leave the house without coming across street corners, congested with sign wavers in support or opposition to the amendment to our state's constitution. The day before the election, while I was busy arranging for people to help us knock doors and make phone calls to get out the vote the next day, Kimball and Henry took their homemade signs out to our front yard (we live on a corner) and waved them for a good half hour at the passing cars. I was proud of their determination to help Prop 8 pass. Even Bronwen got involved and chanted "Yes on 8" any time she heard it mentioned in conversations!

You can read here about our Halloween party. Nana helped Kimball and Henry turn their bedroom into an Egyptian tomb for the night. Kimball took great care to get the hieroglyphics completely accurate, and explained to all who "toured the tomb" each of the Egyptian gods depicted in the paintings.
Besides all of these things, we also threw a birthday party for Ian, kept up with soccer and tae kwon do, went to the library, participated in Cub Scouts, wrote in journals religiously, practiced the piano, studied the scriptures individually and as a family, prepared for our ward's Primary program (where the children share with the church congregation the things they have learned this year in their classes), and much more. I always hate ending these posts because an hour later I think of four more things we did, but it's just going to have to be good enough!

I just want to say how grateful I am to be homeschooling. It is demanding. It requires more patience than I have some days. It does not leave me much free time. My house is never as clean as it used to be. But it is so rewarding. I love learning with my boys. I love teaching them things and seeing their eyes light up with excitement. I love that we get to spend so much time together, where other families have to spend so much time apart. I love that I can teach them secular things with a gospel perspective, in an environment where the Holy Ghost can enrich our learning. And I am so grateful to feel the Lord guiding me and helping me figure this out as we go along.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Weekly Report #7

Another week has passed and here I am on Tuesday, writing a report, which will surely be too brief and not have nearly as many pictures as I had planned. But at least I'll record what we accomplished, as I rely on this for much of my record keeping.

Our highlight this week was history (as usual.) We studied the Minoans as we prepare to start Ancient Greece next week. We learned about their shipbuilding, their love of arena sport (specifically bull jumping,) and about King Minos and the Minotaur. We built a labyrinth out of blocks, created our own mazes on paper, colored bull jumpers, wrote about Theseus conquering the Minotaur, and built a volcano. We had planned to paint it and make it erupt on Friday during science, but I had neglected to allow for the clay to dry, which has taken about 5 days. So we'll be working on the volcano this week (yes, I still have a half-finished Egyptian death mask in my closet. But this time will be different!)

We also did four lessons each of Saxon Math, four lessons of grammar, and Russian five days. We learned about King Solomon. The boys were fascinated by the story about cutting the baby in half. We also talked about the temple and the importance of the temple today, as Solomon built the temple in Jerusalem. For a read aloud, Jared is reading Gulliver's Travels to the boys right now. I also read aloud lots of library books and otherwise to the three youngest. I continue to see Henry's abilities improve, which is so exciting.

For science, since the volcano wasn't ready, Jared taught about acids and bases and they shot off a rocket that uses baking soda and vinegar reaction to blast off.

Our letter of the week was F. We read all of the Froggy books (by Jonathan London) we own, which is a lot. On Wednesday at the park after speech, we ran "fast", threw the "football" and leap-"frogged" before we had "free" play. Ian consistently picking out previous letters of the week, and although he doesn't always name them properly, he always knows the sounds they make, which is more important.

We participated in Cub Scouts, soccer, tae kwon do, and piano lessons. We rode bikes, took a walk, and read lots of books. We went to the dentist, twice, and Henry got to have what the dentist called a "baby root canal." (I guess he got my family's teeth. Or eating habits.)

It was a good week, and a busy one, and I'm not going to spend anymore time this week posting about it!:)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Weekly Report-- Our Week Off

This week was our first scheduled break. I am so glad that I planned these in, because it was really nice for all of us to take a break. I had planned on keeping our same structure in the morning: Family Devotional, breakfast, get dressed, make beds, brush teeth, journal, personal scripture study and prayer, piano practice, etc.. However, these things only happened on a couple of days. The boys took turns feeling sick, having caught the cold that I'd had the week before. We had lazier mornings.

We made cupcakes and took them to the park to celebrate cousin Isaac's b

We made bread and shared it with some people that we love.

We had some friends come over to play one morning to give their pregnant mommy a break.

We went to the library and picked out lots of new books.

We learned how to play Settlers of Catan. (It might still be a little early for this.)

We did some cleaning (but not nearly enough.)

We made invitations to Ian's birthday party and delivered them.

I also conquered the ironing pile that was threatening to take over my bedroom. I did my mom's taxes. I finished my book, Wives and Daughters, and started the Poisonwood Bible. I talked on the phone more than usual. I vacuumed in the middle of the week!:) I made whole wheat bread, banana bread, and dinner rolls. I attended an IEP for Henry's speech services. I took a nap.

Things I had meant to do this week and never got around to:
  • Lesson plans for the next 6 weeks (oops!)
  • Plant a fall garden
  • Wash all the windows in the house
  • Decorate for Halloween
  • Bake rolls and freeze them for an upcoming business event
  • Go to lunch with some girlfriends
  • Play soccer with the boys (since they didn't have soccer this week)
  • Buy and wrap some Christmas gifts
I got up extra early this morning and got my lesson plans done for the coming week. I'm going to have to make time this week to get our plans done until Thanksgiving. But we had a great time being productive and being lazy and being together. And we (especially the kids) were ready by the end of the week for the structure of school again!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Weekly Report #6

These past six weeks have gone by so quickly. I am really happy with what we've been able to accomplish and how we've been able to mostly keep to our lesson plans as scheduled. I am glad that I planned in pencil, though, as things have had to shift a little here and there. We are in a good routine and enjoying learning together. And we are looking forward to relaxing our schedule next week, taking the week "off", and preparing to jump back in the following week. I'm hoping that these one-week breaks that I've scheduled after six weeks of school will allow us to stay fresh and excited (and to get caught up on deep cleaning).

We studied the rise (again) of Babylon this week under Nebuchadnezzar. How is it that in all my life of reading and listening to Bible stories, I had never heard the story of Nebuchadnezzar's madness? The boys found it to be so fascinating. I was tempted to jump ahead in our Old Testament studies to Daniel, as he was king N's contemporary, but the boys already seemed to know that about him and I decided we'd just stick with our plan. They were so interested in the tale of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, which King N built for his homesick Persian wife, and they were quite enthusiastic about drawing the gardens as they imagined them. We also looked in the Great Wonders book we got at the library, which spent a few pages speculating about what those gardens were like.

It's too bad they were completely destroyed. Looking at how powerful and beautiful Babylon was at that time, it caused me to reflect on the pattern of pride and destruction. Babylon wasn't just powerful and beautiful, the Bible also tells us that it was very wicked and that is the reason for it's eventual fall. As I look around the world we live in today, I see a few things that might be familiar to the ancient Babylonians and I wonder when our city walls will come crashing down. (I guess the stock market is an example of how they already are.)

Each of the boys did four math lessons this week. I only have 3 per week scheduled for Ian, but he loves doing it and feels slighted if he notices that we skip a day, so he did four this week as well. Kimball learned how to divide by 1 and 10, and continues to work on his 7s on the multiplication table. Does anyone know a good resource for memorizing those? A fun game or strategy to recommend?

We did two grammar lessons and then incorporated copywork. This was the first time we've done copywork since week 2. I just got tired of the boys fighting me on it. However, Kimball needs to be more proficient in cursive--it is still so much work for him. And Henry didn't learn how to form the letters properly and needs to be taught all over again. He draws his letters instead of writing, if that makes any sense. So in grammar, we talked about proper names and how each member of our family has three proper names. Their copywork for the week was to write out the names of everyone in our family in their best writing. They took great pains to do it and were interested in it. So maybe I just need to have them copy things that are interesting to them instead of things I want them to memorize.

Our letter of the week was E. We worked in our Letter of the Week Journal every day and read books about elephants, elves, and eels. Just when I was starting to think that none of this was really sinking in for Ian, this week he started pointing out when he recognized letters and telling me the sounds they make when I'm reading to him. Hurray!

For our read aloud, I read to them different stories from Tales of the Arabian Nights. We are all really enjoying them, although they are a bit brutal. We finished listening to A Little Princess in the car, and when we were making bread for some friends a few days later, Henry said, "This is something that Sarah would do." "In what way?" I asked. "She's always thinking about how she can make other people happy," he said. I was so glad that he was thinking about that.

Russian is coming along, albeit slowly. But they are interested in it and learning. I probably need to do more to use it beyond when we use the Rosetta Stone program. We've only done so inconsistently.

Henry's team actually won their first soccer game this week! Both he and Kimball did much better on the soccer field this week. We are still working with Kimball on being a good sport (he likes to trash talk the other team.) Tae Kwon Do is also going well--I think that I am the only one who is tired of it.

Kimball is reading Harriet the Spy, one of my favorite books as a kid. He doesn't seem to stick to one book, though. He reads a couple of chapters of one, then picks up another, then another all in the same day. I think he can't stand to have a book in his room that he hasn't read, so if there are library books there, no matter what the reading level, he feels compelled to read them.

Henry read library books aloud to me this week and is improving all the time. He still is not very content to read to himself for very long, so his comprehension probably needs more work.

For Science, Jared taught them about how televisions work (their request.) He said that he had to study and learn about it before he could teach it to them, since that's really not his area of expertise. But they all had fun and learned a lot. I'm still contemplating buying a real science curriculum instead of the grab-bag science lessons we've been doing. The good thing is that they are all engaged, interested, and learning about science with their dad. There's just not much order to it all.

We learned about King David this week. A big lesson that we can learn from David is that even the righteous can commit great sins if they start with small ones. David went from looking on a woman he shouldn't have, to lusting, to adultery, to murder. And then he spent the rest of his life repenting and sorrowing for what he had done, which could not be taken back. We talked about how the atonement is for all of us, even when we make such terrible choices as David did, but that those terrible choices still bring painful consequences. We can be made clean and worthy again through Christ, but he will not take away all the consequences of our actions.

Our Hymn of the Week was "Do What is Right". We were excited to hear it sung in General Conference this weekend. We also wrote in our journals and practiced the piano, but I dropped the ball on spelling.

All in all, it was a good week. And since I'm writing this days and days too late, it's hard to remember as many details as I'd like. I have got to start posting these sooner. Perhaps I need to start writing the post early in the week.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Weekly Report #5

Another week gone. We only have one more week to go until our first scheduled week off! I will admit that I am looking forward to it. I think it is good that we have a week off scheduled before any of us hits burnout. I haven't told the boys about it yet. Let them be surprised.
This week I am going to focus on one kid at a time instead of subjects. Ian especially is enjoying our math lessons. His kinder math program consists of brief lessons that use manipulatives--perfect for a four-year-old kid. We also spend time together every day on the calendar and building and recognizing patterns. Here is his workbook with September's calendar nearly completed. I'm trying to not get discouraged that he can't seem to remember the name of the month. He's a preschooler, after all. (He also loves our letter-of-the-week time and seems to grasp it well, but on Thursday he couldn't tell his aunt what the letter of the week was. Sigh. We learned the letter D this week. Here is a page from his Letter-of-the-Week journal:

We read Diary of Worm this week, all of our dinosaur and duck books, and picked out the D sound words in every other book we read together. We had apple cider donuts on Friday at Apple Hill, and and colored pictures of dolphins , dinosaurs (included Dimetridon), and dogs. Ian is going through a phase where he wants me to color for him after about 5 seconds. I'm not sure if it's attention related or his perfectionist tendencies (which seem to run in the family.) Any suggestions? For now, I'm just trying to encourage him to do the things but not pushing him too hard-- so as to avoid having him lose his taste for schoolwork.

Ian also had a lot of fun on Friday and Saturday with his same-age cousin, Talmage. Talmage and his baby sister, Audrey, are visiting from Utah. The boys are two days apart in age and really connect well. Here they are at Apple Hill, being cowboys (with Bronwen.) Ian also got to go (without the rest of us) with Grammy and Papa and Talmage's family to Fairy Tale Land on Saturday. He felt very grown up to be going without his big brothers. Henry told me that he "felt jealous of Ian." I reminded him gently that there are lots of times when Henry and Kimball get to go do something fun and Ian has to stay home because he's "too little." This was Ian's turn.

Henry is continues to eat up his math. Here is one of his worksheet
sfrom this week:

He is also making great progress in his reading. He does so well when we read the Book of Mormon aloud together with Daddy in the morning. He also reads aloud on his own each morning for personal study. He can usually read most of the words by himself, which is not an easy task. I truly believe that this practice of reading the Book of Mormon with our kids has improved their reading skills greatly. I didn't push him a lot this week to read on his own, since he had been resistant, but I did catch him reading plenty. Perhaps I need to relax a little on that--all of my kids eat up books as long as we have plenty around. Maybe I'm taking the fun out of it by telling them: Go read a book right now. What do you think?

Here are a couple of pages in Henry's journal this week:

Henry and Kimball enjoyed history this week. We studied the Assyrian Empire under Asherbanipal. We learned about how the Assyrians conquered everyone in Mesopotamia up to the Tigris River, over into Canaan, down into Egypt--a massive empire. We built this Assyrian Siege Tower to mimic those used (on wheels) to allow the Assyrians to ram down city walls and to attack from above as well.

We also learned about the world's first library, built by Asherbanipal in Nineveh. We got busy working on books to put in our own library. These boys have been writing their own books for years, but we are witnessing something of a revival at the moment. Henry wants to work on his book instead of coming to dinner, play outside, or play Sorry! with Kimball. Here are some samples of their books. As you can tell, I am not interfering on content or spelling.

Other subjects we covered together included a discussion on young David and David & Goliath; learning the hymn, "My Redeemer Lives", and a grammar lesson. We listened to A Little Princess in the van and studied Russian all week long. I'm sure we did more than that, but I am so tired of writing this post and it's already my third sitting since I started it!:)

In math this week, Kimball learned about the temperatures (Fahrenheit) where water freezes and boils, plus normal body temperature for humans. He learned about rounding to the nearest 10th, and we did some money work. We reviewed horizontal, vertical, and oblique. We are gradually adding in his multiplication tables. Here is a worksheet from this week:

Here is one of Kimball's journal pages this week. He obviously spent some time thinking about the Assyrians, since this was written a day or two after our first history lesson of the week.
Kimball also finished reading The Voyages of Dr. Dolittle, which he has worked on for a few weeks, while getting distracted with the bounty of library books in the basket in his bedroom. One of these days I'll remember to take pictures of some of the library books when the kids aren't sleeping. Off the top of my head, I know he/we read Forty Fortunes, an Iranian fairy tale; Great Wonders of the World (non-fiction),The Legend of the Flying Carpet, several books about Koko, the chimpanzee (which he checks out regularly), Mara, Daughter of the Nile, The Seven Voyages of Sinbad the Sailor, and lots more.

Bronwen worked hard at being a mommy to her babies, singing songs with us, looking at books, demanding that we sing more songs, and climbing up into every place she doesn't belong (like on top of the bar and in the middle of the dining room table, for instance.) She woke up so happy from her nap on Sunday that I snapped this photo. She has started saying, "cheese" as soon as she sees a camera. I didn't teach her that, did I?

We finished out our week going to one of our favorite autumn places, Apple Hill, with our cousins, grandparents, aunt, and uncle. We ate apples, apple cider donuts, played in the dirt, rode a tire swing, offered our fingers to goats for nibbling, wandered through pumpkin patches, loitered in apple orchards, and rolled down a big hill with Grammy. Here are a few shots from the fun we had there:

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Weekly Report #4

Why is it so hard to write these reports, especially in a timely manner? For one thing, they take a long time. For another, I feel so busy since school started. You may have noticed on my other blog that I'm not spending much time blogging lately. I feel that if I'm lucky I get an hour or so to myself in the evening before bed--and I have to choose between reading, blogging, spending time with my husband, ironing, and calling a friend. Yikes! I'm trying to use my afternoons more efficiently so that at least I don't have to do laundry or ironing between 8:00 pm and my bedtime (9:30).

But enough about me. Here's a quick glimpse at our week:

I just want to say that our littlest student is growing up so fast. I love watching her mother her babies, read her books, and mimic the sounds we make when we're talking about the alphabet. I love how she lights up when it's time for Morning Meeting and runs to sit down first. She claps her hands and can't wait to sing together and pray. And she has been so good at playing happily in her playpen while we do math (she kept climbing up on the table to get at the manipulatives, pencils, crayons, etc.)

In math, I decided that we weren't moving quickly enough. The lessons are too easy for my boys. I have heard that many people choose to work a year ahead in Saxon Math, but I have been nervous to skip some fundamental building block. A silly fear, I am sure, but real nonetheless. Anyhow, I went through the lessons again and we skipped lots of lessons that were simply too basic. Don't worry, Mom--I did the assessments on them to make sure that we hadn't skipped too far! For Ian we are just going one lesson at a time. I'm not worried about it being basic for him, I think it's appropriate for someone who is nearly 4. I'm glad I didn't wait until his kinder year to start this math, though.

So, Kimball did SM 22, 23, 32, 33, and 38. Henry did SM 31, 35, 36, and 38. I figure we'll work a little faster and start the next level in the spring or late winter. Ian did SM Kinder 7-9. He is so cute when we do math, and he really loves it. He really has changed so much from the problems we were having this summer, and I'm sure it's largely because I am doing one-on-one schoolwork with him now.

Russian continues. They are in lesson 2 now, learning to say things like, "the men eat the sandwiches" and "the girls swim," and "the woman eats rice and an apple." They are loving it. I finally remembered to pull out the accompanying CD for the car and we listen to it and practice our pronunciation and vocabulary when we have short errands to run. Longer rides require our book on CD,
The Little Princess.

Thank goodness we are listening to that because I only read one chapter last week from our read-aloud chapter book. We've been reading lots of library picture books this week. The one that gets chosen over and over is Me and My Cat? If I've read it once, I've read it forty times already. But it is entertaining and I love the illustrations.

I decided to tackle a writing assignment this week, since all we've been doing so far is journal writing. The boys each wrote a letter to Grammy and Papa, thanking them for the fun weekend they had together while Jared & I were away. We started with a web and planned out the letter ahead of time. They spent a couple of days writing it. I didn't think to take the picture until they had already folded them up 100 times and put them in the envelope, so they may be tricky to read. I felt good about what they accomplished, their grandparents were thrilled, and Kimball even checked off a Faith in God requirement.

We did three grammar lessons this week, which is actually what I plan but rarely accomplish. The lessons are short but always get put off if we are running behind. We continue to focus on common vs. proper nouns.

For letter of the week, we focused on letter C. We've started talking about our letter of the week at the morning meeting to get everyone involved. Then, Ian and I work in his letter of the week journal together each morning, reviewing previous weeks' entries. This week we spent the first two days just on the "k" sound, then I introduced situations in which c makes the "s" and "ch" sounds. We colored pictures of cows, camels, crocodiles, and chickens.
We looked for Cs in every book we read. We made carrot cupcakes and cinnamon rolls with cream cheese icing (notice the latter had all three kinds of c sounds.)
We took these treats to people, since I can't have them sitting around the house or I accidentally eat them. Plus, I am really trying to incorporate service into our week. So we shared with a friend whom I visit teach, a friend whose husband loves my carrot cake, a new couple in the ward, our piano teacher, and Aunt Alli and Isaac.
As far as history goes, I thought we'd spend another week on Egypt, since we still had work to do on the death mask and a chapter book to read on Egypt. But alas, we didn't get very far. I think I've realized that the novelty of these things has worn off a bit for all of us and it kept getting pushed to last and then until tomorrow. We'll eventually finish that death mask, but it's time to move on to a new civilization.

In Old Testament we read about King Saul. We talked about how the Lord warned the people against having a king and they asked for one anyway. We talked about why we should always listen to the Lord's counsel. We also talked about the principle learned through Saul, "to obey is better than to sacrifice."

For our Hymn of the Week, we learned, "A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief". Kimball also gave an excellent FHE lesson, planned entirely on his own, comparing three prophets: Lehi, Noah, and Abinadai, each of whom was called to warn the people of coming destruction if they would not repent.

We practiced tying shoes, a skill which has yet to be mastered by anyone under the age of 30 in our home. We played at the park. We attended speech, tae kwon do, soccer, piano lessons, and Cub Scouts. Kimball's Cub Scout den visited the fire station and he learned a lot about what fire fighters do, as well as how to fold a flag. We played with our cousins, Cooper and Catelyn. We went to a swim party, a birthday party, and a ward party (all on the same day.) So I think we got our social stuff in!
All in all, I am so grateful for this experience. I feel so blessed to be able to do this for my kids. I can feel it strengthening our family. I can feel it pushing me to improve. I can see it helping my kids individually. I can feel the Lord's hand in our lives. If only the ironing fairy would visit me this week!