Friday, August 27, 2010

Weekly Wrap-Up: And We're Off!

A nip of fall is in the air here in Maine. A few mornings this week were downright chilly. And some trees are changing color, too.  We began school lessons this week, sticking with the basics: grammar and spelling, math, history, and, a new one of us, logic/critical thinking, literature. We’ll add more when we get back home.

With Miss Priss entering the logic phase as described in the trivium, I added logic as a separate subject this year. Both girls are using the Mind Benders Warm Up book, as suggested in TWTM. They are flying through it. Then we’ll be on to Beginning Book 2, which introduces the logic chart. Although Tiny Girl is technically still in the grammar stage, she has a naturally analytical mind (evidenced by her strong mathematical bent), so I decided to begin her in logic as well. Miss Priss’s study delves a bit deeper; she has also begun the Building Thinking Skills Level 2 (for grades four through six) book. But we’re treading lightly. We do a few Mind Benders puzzles a day, and then one page in Building Thinking Skills.

Over the past two years, I’ve been more relaxed about grammar, allowing the girls to absorb ideas and information about language through reading excellent literature and copywork from the same. However, this year I’ve chosen to more intentional about our grammar study. My goal is for the girls to have a firm grasp of grammatical structure at the end of the middle years.

In history, we read about Sir Walter Raleigh and the lost colony in Virginia.  And even though I'd planned to begin science, it didn't happen this week.  We had to work around a few other calendar items, seeing friends and volunteering at the library one last time before we leave Maine for home.

Here's was a highlight of the week: we are big winners! Miss Priss won Portland Sea Dogs (farm team for the Boston Red Sox) baseball tickets in the library summer reading program drawing, and we are going to the game Monday evening. Woo hoo! I love minor league baseball. It has a hometown Americana feel that professional baseball just lacks.  We're looking forward to it.

Himself arrives later today, and we are driving to Portland to pick him up at the airport.  Next week, we have a field trip planned to visit Pemaquid Point lighthouse, and the we'll start the gargantuan job of packing up.

Wish us luck!

End of Summer Joys

We have one more week in Maine, and, as usual, I am melancholy.  We enjoy our time here so much, and the pace of life is much more suited to me than our life down South, that I always hate to see it end.  But this year, I determined not to focus on the loss but celebrate the joys.  In the past few days, we've visited friends for a last hurrah and had a blast.  The girls helped with their last of the summer storytime at the library.  Jasper and I have taken late night, moonlit constitutionals down by the lake.  We'll see more friends this weekend, and we will eat ice cream one last time at the dairy bar.

This past week, I hit upon a delightful summer libation that I'll share with you.  Our neighbors gave us at least half a large watermelon on Sunday afternoon, leftover from the weekend. We ate some of it, and then I started thinking of beverages that could be made from the rest. A little Googling later, and I found the one at SmittenKitchen: watermelon lemonade. However, since I didn’t have any fresh lemons to juice, but I did have a 12-ounce container of frozen pink lemonade concentrate, I decided to improvise. The results were lip-smackingly fabulous. Tiny Girl opted for a sweeter version (what a shock), so I whipped up some simple syrup to add to hers. Haven’t made simple syrup before? It’s so easy and the best way to add sweetness to cold drinks. You can also use it as a base for homemade hummingbird food.

Watermelon Lemonade
(makes four decent-sized servings)

2 cups cubed and seeded watermelon
6 ounces frozen pink lemonade concentrate (half a 12-ounce can, for those of you mathematically challenged, as I am)
Water, either sparkling or still

Process the watermelon in a blender until liquefied. Add concentrate and process again til well mixed. This is your base.  To serve, fill a glass half full with the base. Top off with water, either still or sparkling. We used the latter, since life is sometimes better when it’s bubbly. If you like things sweeter, add a dab of simple syrup. A sprig of mint is a nice touch.

Simple Syrup
The ratio for simple syrup is one part water to one part sugar. To make it cooler faster (great if you’re about to use it in a beverage), use half as much water and then add the other half after the sugar has dissolved.

Bring half a cup of water to a boil. Add one cup sugar and stir til it’s dissolved. Stir in half a cup of cold water. Store in the fridge.

To use as hummingbird food, mix a half cup of simple syrup with a half cup of water.

Enjoy the end of your summer!

Friday, August 20, 2010

She's Much Too Fond of Books: What We've Been Reading Lately

As I've reported before, it's been the Wonderful Summer of Books for us.  Miss Priss has been reading from the Royal Diaries series, specifically the volumes on Elizabeth I and Isabella of Castile. She'd previously read the story fo Eleanor of Aquitaine.  These intriguing and well-written books are styled as journals and written in first-person voice, with each main character around the ages of twelve to fourteen.  Each volume also contains a detailed Historical Note in the back matter.  She has learned a lot from reading these, not nonly about the main character and her life, but also about the times in which she lived.  She’s also recently enjoyed The Horse and His Boy and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, both by C. S. Lewis.  Right now, she’s reading the second in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. Waiting in the wings are A Wrinkle in Time, The Prophet of Yonwood (the third Book of Ember), and The Mysterious Benedict Society.

Tiny Girl has caught the reading bug, too, much to her other's delight.  She recently finished White Fang and the first in the Percy Jackson series; she loved both of them. On her TBR shelf sit The Call of the Wild, Justin Morgan Had a Horse, The Cricket in Times Square, and The Horse and His Boy.  Just a few moments ago, she foundEdward Eager's Magic by the Lake here at the library.  If you haven't discovered Eager's fabulous books, you are in for a treat! We loved Knight's Castle and Half Magic.

I took a break from Anna Karenina (it’s a really lo-o-o-ong book) to read Red Hook Road, by Ayelet Waldman, and I’m glad I did. An engrossing read, this story relates the tale of two families, reluctantly intertwined by marriage, and their disparate methods of coping with an ensuing tragedy. Waldman writes with great depth, and I appreciated her style, a perfect example of “excess within control.”* Moreover, her skillful characterization of several distinct personalities is spot on; these people are real. That being said, I didn’t love everything about the book. The climax seemed a tad over the top to me, and a few other plot particulars I found far-fetched. But the majority of scenes are perfectly in tune with the rest of the narrative; any discrepancies, even the climax, did not detract from my overall enjoyment of the story. Recommended, with a red flag for language.

Now back to A. K.!

*I stole this quote from a favorite movie of mine, Somewhere in Time.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Weekly Wrap-Up: Failing to Plan Equals Planning to Fail

So with that adage in mind, I've been spending time pulling together the notes I’d made earlier this summer and finalizing our plans for the coming year. I’m going a bit more out on my own this year, pulling from Ambleside Online, TWTM, and other sources, such as Catherine Levison's books. This will be our fourth year homeschooling, and I feel like I have a better handle on what works for us and how to best mesh CM and classical philosophies into an eclecticism all our own.

So here are some of our plans thus far:

- Language Arts will include copywork, spelling with Spelling Power (thanks, Jennifer, for the recommendation!), and possibly Rod & Staff grammar. Since Miss Priss will be in fifth (ACK! When did THAT happen??) grade, she’ll have one written narration per week, which we’ll edit together.

- Our family literature selections are Treasure Island, Heidi, The Age of Fable, Paul Revere’s Ride, Rip Van Winkle, and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. If need be, I can certainly add to these. We’ll also read two or three more Shakespeare stories from Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare.

- Individual assigned literature includes selections for Tiny Girl: The Princess and the Goblin, Alice in Wonderland, and Lassie Come Home; and for Miss Priss: The Witch of Blackbird Pond and Calico Captive thus far. Both girls are also reading the Chronicles of Narnia. These assigned readings will be further fleshed out as we go along.

- I also have a list for our family nighttime books: Return to Gone Away Lake, The Borrowers, The Complete Peterkin Papers, The Little White Horse, Pollyanna, and Justin Morgan Had a Horse. We’re reading The Secret Garden now.

- The poets we’ll be reading this coming year are Dickinson, Tennyson, and Wordsworth.

- In math, we are going to change tack.  I found a curriculum entitled Mathematical Reasoning in the Critical Thinking Co. catalog.  After perusing sample pages on their website, I decided to give it a try.
- We’ve read biographies of Elizabeth I and William Shakespeare already. Michelangelo is on the list as well.

- In foreign languages, the girls will continue Rosetta Stone French; Miss Priss and I will continue Latina Christiana; and Tiny Girl will be studying Latin at Timothy Ministry (classes for homeschoolers offered at a nearby church) this fall.

- Our geography selection is Minn of the Mississippi, and our natural history book is Madam How and Lady Why.

- Anatomy begins our scientific exploration, and we’re using Uncover the Human Body as our text. After that, we’re going to study rocks and seashells with some kits I inherited from my mom when she retired from teaching. Also, Tiny Girl will be studying astronomy at Timothy Ministry.

- Miss Priss and I are beginning a formal study of logic, and we’re using the MindBenders books from The Critical Thinking Co., as suggested in TWTM.

- We just keep marching through history. This year, I’m going to use Story of the World as our spine, with narrations and mapwork. Right now, we are learning about Elizabethan England. For further study, we’re going to read The Shakespeare Stealer and Mary Queen of Scots, from the Royal Diaries series. (Miss Pris just finished Elizabeth I: The Red Rose of the Tudors from that same series and loved it.) Other additional works as the year progresses are Squanto, My America: Our Strange New Land, Stories of the Pilgrims, and the Colonial America History Pockets. I also recently purchased Philbrick's book, The Mayflower, an adaptation of his longer work, Mayflower.  I’ll add in others as we travel on.

- For artist study, I'll pick and choose.  We often use AO's suggestions.  I also see what our city's museums have to offer for upcoming exhibits, so we can see works in person.

- I think it will be fun for us to study Elizabethan music and composers to bring to life our study of that time period. Here's a website I found to help us.

After reading this over, I see that we will be reading a mountain of books.  Yippee!

Wish us luck!