Monday, March 21, 2011

A Glimpse of Spring

When my friend, Blossom, from North Laurel Home & School, commented on my green grass in a photo for a Weekly Wrap-Up, I thought I'd post a few photos of spring in my neck of the woods.

Daffodils are Blossom's favorites, and a favorite of mine as well.

I love this periwinkle-colored phlox at the foot of my driveway. Notice all the buds? They have now burst into bloom.

Just a few weeks ago, I severely pruned my six red Knock-Out rosebushes, and they put out new growth almost immediately. Another rosebush of mine, a yellow one, already has buds on it.

Some trees' new leaves start out red, which looks sensational mixed in with the white flowers of ornamental pear trees, the pink of ornamental cherry trees, and the bright lavender of redbuds.

This is one of two ornamental cherries that grace the parking area of our neighborhood pool and tennis courts. Not only do I love their flowers, which are actually pinker up close, but I also love their shape.

Another spring favorite of mine is forsythia. But I don't have any, nor are any close enough to my house to photograph. So I have to content myself with catching sight of them while I drive around town.

About to enter the spring scene big-time are the dogwoods, which are beginning to bloom, and the azaleas. I have two large white azalea bushes in my back yard, and one has just started blooming. Blossom (and everyone), I'll post photos of that when it's in its full glory.

I hope you are seeing signs of spring where you live!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up: Colonial Tempers and the Weather Are Heating Up

 I was a slug-a-bed this week, as was Tiny Girl. The time change, which has never bothered me before, cooked my goose this week! But education continued apace, thank goodness! And so did the arrival of spring. Ah, books and spring. Two of my favorite things!

In many of our subjects, we are clicking along smoothly, e.g., Bible study, poetry, copywork, piano, and French. Once the girls complete their current Spelling Power levels in a couple of weeks, we'll wrap up spelling for the year. We focused on pronouns and their referents in grammar. In math, Miss Priss worked on long division, with and without remainders, graphs and charts, and basic operations. Tiny Girl practiced basic operations and word problems, as well as more fraction work.

The weather's not the only thing heating up. It was excitement galore in our readings this week. In George Washington's World, we read about the French and Indian War, the Seven Years' War in Europe, and Britain's strong presence in India. Abigail Adams: Witness to a Revolution painted a vivid picture of colonial discontent with the mother country. What with the Stamp Act and the Townsend Acts -- taxes, all -- tempers are running high. And in This Country of Ours, we learned about the French exploration of the mighty Mississippi River and the many trials, struggles, and heartbreaks the early explorers endured. I appreciated how this particular chapter underscores the difference between the French and British attitudes toward the New World: for the French, America loomed large as a land for exploration and adventure; but for the British, America was a new homeland.

To accent our readings, we began the Daily Life pocket from History Pockets. We focused this week on colonial dress:

Each paper doll featured separate articles of clothing, such as a shift, petticoat, gown, apron, pockets, and coif for the colonial woman.

Once colored and cut out, the clothing could be placed atop the doll in order and glued at the top only. That way, you can see all the articles of clothing. It looked to me like they would have been sweltering in the summer!

In our literature readings, Miss Priss finished Anne of Green Gables and is halfway through with an adapted version of The Last of the Mohicans, by James Fenimore Cooper, which is set during the French and Indian War. She continues to enjoy Redwall, by Brian Jacques, and The Peterkin Papers. Tiny Girl finished The Borrowers and continues The Princess and Curdie. I reserved Calico Captive at the library; it's also set in the French and Indian War. You can read my earlier review of this book here, if you are so inclined.

Together we are reading Robinson Crusoe, which the girls are enjoying more now that I'm reading it aloud. they know there are cannibals in the story, and Tiny Girl anxiously awaits their arrival on the scene. I'm wondering if that should worry me. . . .

And of course there were tumbling class, Wednesday night activities at church, and horseback riding going on this week as well. This weekend are two sleepovers, World Thinking Day with the Girls Scouts (our troop is hosting a booth on Ireland), and a birthday party. Whew!

Pop over toe Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers to read more fab Wrap-Ups!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Wrestling with Daylight Savings Time

Is anyone else having a problem with the time change? This has never been an issue for us, even when the girls were very young. We just rolled with it, baby.

No longer. I have barely been able to drag myself out of bed at a decent time this week. This morning, I gave up and stayed in bed til after nine. Nine! So did Tiny Girl. Fortunately, our schedule is such that we are still able to get our work done.

Moreover, Miss Priss is having a hard time settling down at night. For two nights now, she's been up past ten, reading. Ergo, she is tired in the mornings. Unlike Tiny Girl and myself, Miss Priss has trouble "sleeping in" no matter how late she retires the night before. She always has. Friends with older children tell me she'll get over this hang-up and will sleep in with the best of them in a year or so, but I'm beginning to doubt it.

So our mornings have been slow. We eat brunch instead of breakfast, although we're all ready for lunch around one. We've claimed victory over our to-do lists thus far, but it's only Tuesday.

I just hope our bodies get used to the time change by tomorrow...

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up: Vats of Tea Required

I'm a tad late writing my Wrap-Up for this past week. Yesterday was too crazy-busy, and this morning we were bike shopping for the girls. They'd outgrown their other bikes quite some time ago. Now they are happily tooling about the neighborhood with their friends.

We had an odd week, but in a mostly welcome way. Due to weather two days this week, our regularly scheduled activities were cancelled. Another day, we spent the morning doing chores, since we were overdue for a cleaning and straightening up detail, and we did our lessons in the afternoon. On one of the rainy days, I awoke with a headache, took some medicine, and went back to sleep until almost 10 AM! Our Wednesday evening church activities were cancelled for the Ash Wednesday service, which I blogged about here, and last night was our church's Big Event for fourth and fifth graders: capture the flag, pizza, and ice cream sundaes with 53 nine-, ten-, and eleven-year-olds.

When we were at home, the girls stayed in their pajamas and we all drank copious amounts of hot tea all week long. Miss Priss favored a chai mate/white tea mixture we bought recently at Teavana; Tiny Girl opted for peppermint most days; and I sipped (on different occasions) both PG Tips and another Teavana blend, Lemon Lime Kampai and Blueberry Bliss rooibos.

Despite the unusual aspects of the week, our lessons clicked along smoothly. Here are some highlights:

- To add another element to our study of Emily Dickinson, we watched Act One of The Belle of Amherst, a one-act play starring Julie Christie from 1976. Tiny Girl was diasppointed that it was not a real movie; but both girls enjoyed it when they recognized lines from poems we've read.

- Both girls began practicing their two new piano recital pieces. These are typically longer and wee bit more challenging than their weekly pieces; but we are all pleased with the selections.

- I stood over their shoulders a couple of times while they did their Rosetta Stone French. Since this is independent work, I wanted to check their progress. Tiny Girl still needs my help with the writing portions, but other than that I am amazed at how well they are doing.

- They spent about an hour one day with their card-making kits from American Girl, which I found for 40 percent off at Michaels. Tiny Girl wrote thank-you cards for her recent birthday gifts...

... and Miss Priss made a birthday card for an upcoming party.

As you can see, this was on a pajama day. Note the blue Fiesta teacup on the table. In Tiny Girl's photo above, you may be able to catch sight of her orange Fiesta teacup behind one of the cards.

- We did a lot of bird-watching. I attempt many photos during the week, but only a few do I deem worthy of sharing. Here's a brown thrasher I caught on "film":

Brown thrashers are very shy and don't typically visit feeders; however, this one feeds from our tray feeder, suet feeder, and on the ground. I suppose s/he feels safe in our yard! The goldfinches are still prolific, and the males are beginning to show their brighter yellow coloring. I can't wait til they are all decked out, black facemask included. We often see pine siskins in amongst the goldfinches.

Other birds that escaped my camera lens but not our study this week: dark-eyed juncos, cardinals, Carolina wrens, Carolina chickadees, downy woodpeckers, titmice, white-throated sparrows, a song sparrow, and robins. On two occasions, we also watched with our binoculars a red-tailed hawk.
That wraps up our week! To read more, swing by Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, March 10, 2011


I grew up in a denomination that doesn't formally recognize Ash Wednesday, and even though I am now part of a denomination that does, I'd never been to this particular worship service. Miss Priss had expressed a desire to attend. She was intrigued with the idea of ashes marked on her forehead, and she longed to celebrate communion by intinction, an ancient custom in which worshipers come forward to the altar, take a piece of bread, dip it in a cup of wine/grape juice, and then partake.

But she vacillated. It was raining hard. The thought of a game of Clue with the family in front of a nice fire was appealing. So I changed my plans also. Instead of showering, I took a nap, something I love to do on rainy afternoons, and put off supper plans until later.

Imagine my irritation when she announced, an hour and a half before the service was to begin, that she'd decided she'd really like to go. No argument from me about how this was now a difficulty made a difference to her. Muttering with frustration, I jumped into the shower, and an hour later we departed, leaving Himself and Tiny Girl at home, everyone supperless.

It's possible I could have been in a mood even further from worshipful than I actually was, but I have trouble imagining it.

Sitting in the darkened sanctuary, surrounded by friends and strangers, I found myself untangling on the inside. I breathed more freely. I relaxed. I smiled at Miss Priss when she caught my eye and returned my smile. We held hands.

The service began, and together the congregation heard again the old story of Abram and Sarai on a journey from Ur to Haran and from there to Canaan. We considered God's faithfulness along their journey. And we connected that particular journey to our personal journey through Lent toward Easter. We joined our voices in hymns of praise.

When it was our turn to go forward and receive the sacrament and marks of ashes, I stood behind my little girl, my hands on her shoulders and my heart full. We smiled at each other as we walked back to our pew; she knows intinction is my favorite way to celebrate communion. And I was so thankful for the grace that flooded through me during worship and changed me.

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,

because the LORD has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
               Isaiah 61:1-3a

Friday, March 4, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up: High Octane Cruise Control

Remember how I've moaned and groused about the speed at which our lives are now moving? How I prefer a quiet life? How we need to make some changes around here?


Changes have been made, but not to our schedule. Wonder of wonders, I think I'm getting the hang of this plate-spinning gig. It's still not my preferred way to live, but at least I'm no longer grouchy or miserable. And here's what's keeping me going:
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
                 -- Matthew 6:34
Ain't it the truth? So we're cruising at high speed around here, and I'm not worrying about tomorrow.

Anyway, this week was a good one. The usual things went on as they should, and here are a few highlights.

- Miss Priss and I worked on fractions (again) for a part of the week, equivalencies and simplifying fractions. Here's a snippet of our real conversation:

Me (excitedly): You're really getting this!
Her (off-handedly): No. I just play along.

Ah, well.

 - We also continued our study of the brain. This great mini-video from Discovery Health helped us out.

 - Our History Pockets project for the week was a diagram of a Southern plantation. They are not quite complete -- hence, no photos. We also enjoyed reading George Washington's World; Abigail Adams: Witness to a Revolution; and This Country of Ours. Due to my education hand-wringing earlier in the year, we're behind; but I'm not going to let that bother me. Much.

-The girls are enjoying Robinson Crusoe more now that I'm reading it aloud.

- In our artist study, we considered Jacob Blessing the Sons of Joseph and Woman with a Pink, in our What Makes a Rembrandt a Rembrandt? book.

We also sat at a mall for a few hours selling Girl Scout cookies; we watched a lot of bird activity; Miss Priss tumbled, Tiny Girl rode her pony, they both had piano, and we all had fun at church Wednesday night; we admired spring as it burst upon us, in the form of daffodils, flowering trees with white and lavender-pink blossoms, and a thunderstorm; and today we fasted, as part of our hunger badge for Scouts. We went to IHOP for supper with friends to break our fast. Pancakes never tasted so good.

How was your week? Pop over the Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers for more encouragement and ideas from other blogs, and have a great weekend!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

FREE Today: U.S. Constitution Resource

Here's another FREE resource for you: Creative Learning Connection is offering an e-book, Understanding the U.S. Constitution, by Catherine Jaime. I learned about this from Homeschool Freebie of the Day, a site and service I heartily recommend.

This is usually $12, but is free today only. So hurry and click to get yours!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Education Resource:

As you know, I love to read. I love holding books (or my Kindle!), lingering over particularly eloquent, meaningful, or humorous passages, and thumbing back to read favorite parts. But I also enjoy audiobooks, and so does the rest of the family. Perfect for passing the time on car rides or while doing chores at home, audiobooks can be a mama's good friend, whether a home educator or not.

Thanks to my friend, Blossom, who pointed me to a wonderful resource, LearnOutLoud. Claiming to be "the Net's largest Catalog of educational audio books, podcasts, downloads, & free audio & video [with] over 25,000 titles from hundreds of authors and publishers," LearnOutLoud is impressive. I was especially enamored with their FREE audio downloads, but LearnOutLoud also offers other features, e.g., you can listen to a sample before you buy. LearnOutLoud's catalog highlights titles from many publishers, one of which is LibriVox, a familiar resource to many of us.

The website boasts an extensive Kids section, which you can browse by age range or topic. You can also click the Free Stuff tab (as I immediately did) to discover the treasure trove there. Many a title on homeschooling lists is awaiting you.

I visited the site and downloaded February's freebie, a dramatization of Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest. I can't wait to listen to it!

I also can't wait until I can sit down with a cup of tea to peruse LearnOutLoud's catalog at my leisure. I know I'll be downloading lots more.