Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Grand Day at the Show

Yesterday was gloriously beautiful, a wonderful day for a horse show, Tiny Girl's first big show.  If you read my Weekly Wrap-Up for this past week, you know that we spent much of Friday getting ready for the show.

Saturday morning, we rose early; Tiny Girl was extremely nervous, and we prayed, which always helps.  Then we dressed Tiny Girl in her show garb (it's a complicated get-up and takes a bit of time), all freshly ironed by Himself the night before.  Tiny seemed in good spirits despite being quite nervous, but she only managed to eat half a bowl of cereal.  After a breakfast of sorts, we headed to the equestrian park in time to see a lovely pink sunrise.  It was chilly out, but as the sun rose and shone brightly, the day warmed up into the pleasant sixties.

And what a day it was.  All in all, Tiny Girl competed in two divisions of three classes each.  The first division comprised three flat classes (no jumps): hunter walk/trot/canter one at a time, equitation walk/trot/canter one at a time, and a "pleasure" walk/trot/canter one at a time.  In this division, Tiny won two first place ribbons and one second place, clinching the champion ribbon for that division.  A little later, she competed in a junior crossrails division, the first time she'd ever jumped in a show.  In this division, there were also three classes: one time around the ring jumping four crossrails, two times around the ring (for a total of eight jumps), and then an under saddle class, which was walk, trot, and canter as a group.  She won two thirds and a fifth place.  We were all happy!

Here are some photos of the flat classes.  In the first two, she's being judged at the walk.

In the next two, she's being judged at the trot.

 Waiting for the judge's decision

 Up and over the crossrails

 Giving Tappy some well-deserved love. What a good pony!

 A happy girl and her ribbons

One pooped pooch!

As proud and happy as we were of Tiny Girl's ribbons, we made sure she knew that we would have been happy with all sixth places.  We were even more proud of how she just got out there and did her best despite her fears.  Now that's success.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Weekly Wrap-Up: Not the New Normal

Last week, I told Himself that I felt like we (I) needed a break.  We did not take a week-long fall break like both public and private schools around here, nor did we have a week of half days for conferences, also like the public schools.  So I'd planned for this week to be a light one.

Also, Tiny Girl is gearing up for her first "big" horse show tomorrow.  So we've been occupied with activities such as this:

And this:

Not to mention getting everything all ready to go.  Horse shows require a lot of stuff.  Riding, period, requires a lot of stuff, never mind the shows.

So this week in our studies, we concentrated on hitting a few high points and watching a movie.  Don't worry; it's educational!  We continued Bible, piano, logic, and copywork as usual.  In math, we did some multiplication and division.  We only got to spelling and grammar twice this week.  For history, the girls read Squanto: Friend of the Pilgrims, by Clyde Robert Bulla, a book I read when I was in elementary school.  We also continued Heidi.

For history, we watched most of Desperate Crossing: The Untold Story of the Mayflower, which I ordered from Netflix.  This was recommended by another homeschooling family, and we have enjoyed it tremendously.  (Aside: Tiny Girl does not enjoy the talking heads who pop up occasionally to give their explanatory comments.  They "interrupt the movie," says she.)  A History channel production featuring actors from the Royal Shakespeare Company and filmed on location at Plimoth Plantation, England, Belgium, Maryland, and Virginia, this excellent film (two hours and 23 minutes in length) does a remarkable job of bringing to life the story of the Pilgrims, from their beginnings in Scrooby to their new home in an inhospitable and foreign land.  Look for a more in-depth review next week, when things settle down (HA!) around here.

We also spotted this hawk in our backyard.  This is not a great photo, since its head is turned away, but it was the best shot I got from my breakfast room window.

We are not sure exactly what species it is.  The wings are too dark and barred to be a red-winged hawk, and it's too large to be a red-shouldered hawk, two varieties we've seen in our yard on several occasions.  Miss Priss researched online, viewing a large number of photos, and we still were unable to make a firm identification.

I am exhausted and getting ready to hit the hay.  Our day will start bright and early tomorrow!  Have a great weekend!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Freaking Out About Reading

My friend, Silvia, has written a wonderful post on children's reading skills or lack thereof on her blog Homeschooling in a Biligual Home and why we shouldn't worry so much about the latter.  I remember a dear friend of mine lamenting over her son's labored efforts at reading when he was in the first grade.

"He's not reading yet," said she.

"He will," I asserted, in what I hoped was a soothing voice.

"He just doesn't seem to get it."

"He'll get it." (heartily)

"So you think I'm worrying too much about this?"


He's now a reading fiend.

When Miss Priss was in first grade in public school, I tutored (in reading) two other first graders at her school who were not "reading at grade level." But what does that mean, anyway? Reading is not age specific; one child may get it at five and another not read fluently until s/he is nine. And even though I was happy to work with these children -- volunteered for the program, in fact -- I figured they were merely later bloomers to reading. Notice I did not say "late," which implies a concerning delay, but simply "later."

But parents tend to freak out about reading, which is understandable since it's a pretty important skill.  And schools don't tend to make allowances for children who come to reading later than others, unless it's to label them as slow or "below grade level."  Even if tutoring programs are available, such as the one for which I volunteered, the oh-so-helpful grading system still penalizes these children.  No parent likes to see that on a progress report.

And homeschooling parents are under the gun, too.  If our children are "slow" to read, then what does that say about us as teachers, never mind our children's lack of reading prowess?  And there go our dreams of Harvard up in smoke.

Miss Priss took to reading like a fish to water.  Not so, Tiny Girl.  In first grade, she was a reluctant reader.  She loved my reading to her, but not reading on her own, which was too much work.  However, in second grade, she took off; and now, in fourth grade, she reads fluently, more than many of her friends, in fact.  She was "Exhibit A," right in my own home.

But I didn't take a completely hands-off approach, either.  I read daily to both my children and still do.  I severely limited media exposure.  I searched out fun and interesting "easy" readers, limiting any twaddle (My Little Pony, anyone?).  I read a lot in their presence.  We talked about books.  We listened to audio books when we folded laundry or while we were in the car.  I wanted my children to know that books and reading are important to our family.

I try to live that out every day.  It's easy for me; I'm an impassioned reader, and I strive to kindle that flame in my children.  So far, so good.

I've got to run now.  I have my book club in a little while!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Weekly Wrap-Up: Our New Addition

This week fit right in as part of our new normal.  But I am pleased to say we handled it with aplomb, which means we juggled a few assignments around to accommodate the schedule.  I don't know if this happens at your house, but sometimes things just pop up around here, and we have to go with the flow.  Thankfully, we managed to do just that with no derailments.  So far.

On Monday, we had our normal day of lessons and then spent almost three hours at the new barn so Tiny Girl could try two saddles we had out on loan from a local tack exchange.  Here is the winner, which was, of course, the more expensive of the two.  But it was also the higher quality, so I consider it a new addition to the family.

Next Saturday is Tiny Girl's second "big" show, so she and her trainer are working hard to get her and Tappy ready.  She's going up to the short stirrups level (division? group? I dunno what it's correctly called.), which will involve some jumps, and Tiny is nervous.  So am I, but I never let on!  Consequently, we're spending a good deal of time at the barn.

On the school side of things, we are in a groove with our studies.  Bible, copywork, piano, French, spelling, Latin, poetry, geography, and math are clicking along.  The new Mind Benders book, A1, ups the ante in our logic study, and the girls have worked together on the first few puzzles until they get more comfortable.  And in science, we continued with our study of bones.  The girls can name most of the major bones of the human skeleton, but a few names, like scapula and tibia, often elude them.  I've been falling down in the fine arts arena; we've not yet studied a composer or an artist this term!

In our readings, we learned about Apollo and Daphne in Bulfinch's Age of Fable; we finished Marsha Sewall's James Towne and we marveled that the colony managed to avoid utter failure; the girls continued Heidi, which they are both reading on their own, two to three chapters per week; we discussed the heights of Caesar's ambition after reading more from Plutarch's Lives for Boys and Girls; we learned about early Canadian exploration, specifically Samuel Champlain's Quebec and Henry Hudson's Hudson Bay, in SOTW; we left Jim Hawkins in Bristol with his share of the hard-won treasure when we finished Treasure Island (a book we all enjoyed very much!); and we began Washington Irving's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, which both girls think is slow to get going thus far.

I thought you might enjoy seeing Jasper.  Hasn't he grown?  He's now 10 months old, and he is a smiley, happy little man.  He loves to chase squirrels and chipmunks, and he shadows the girls everywhere they go.  However, I think he's suspicious of the camera.  Whenever I try to "pose" him or simply bring out the camera, period, he presents a serious countenance.  Perhaps he prefers a more mature look to his portraits.

How was your week?  For more fun reading and encouragement, pop over to Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers and read more Wrap-Ups.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tagged by Jackie!

My dear friend, Jackie, at Hedgerow Ways and Fireside Days, tagged me in a little question and answer game.  The rules are that you answer the eight questions posed to you, and then you send your own eight questions to eight other bloggers of your choice.  I may not get to that second part, but we'll see.

Here are Jackie's questions to me (and seven other people she selected):

Why do you blog?
I blog because my friends told me I should give it a whirl.  I blog because I'm a writer, and this is about all the writing I can cram into my life at this time.  I blog because it keeps me focused in our home education efforts.  And it's fun!

What was your proudest moment and why?
This is difficult to answer, but after thinking a few moments I've settled on a response: when I was in graduate school, I took a course in 20th century British poets -- I am not joking -- and the professor was not the most gregarious guy.  On the day he returned our graded major research papers, he and I happened to catch the same elevator after class.  It was just the two of us, and he barely acknowledged my presence.  Then, out of the blue, he said, with the minutest eye contact, "You wrote a good paper."  Later that day, when I perused my paper (on Dylan Thomas, in case you're interested) to see all his comments, I was stunned to read his full commentary at the end, in which he stated that my paper was "easily the best in the class by far."

What is the silliest thing that you have ever done?
When I was in the fourth grade, a friend and I dressed up like Dolly Parton and sang "Jolene" in the school talent show.  We won first place, too.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up, and why?
A teacher, because my mom was a teacher.  And I teach quite a bit: at home, at church, and at Girl Scouts.

Now what do you want to be when you grow up?
Rich.  Just kidding!  Although it wouldn't hurt, and I think I'd be darling at it (thanks, Dorothy Parker).  I'd really like to be a writer -- professional, not hobbyist -- and perhaps one day I'll have the time to dedicate to that dream.

If I started my perfect community, living on the land, why should I include you in it?
Why on earth wouldn't you include me in it?  I can shuck corn, shell peas, and break beans with the best of 'em.

The best book that you have read in the last five years and why?
Ooooh, hard one.  I can't recall all the books I've read in the last five years, and to pick The Best One...  I don't know if I could pick The Best One I'd read this year alone.  How about this: I'll pick two.  A Walk in the Woods, by Bill Bryson, had me howling with laughter so much that my eyes got all teary, on several different occasions.  And The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery, was unlike anything I've read in a long time; it's very memorable.  Then there are the Fairacre novels, and I can't forget Jane Austen...  See?  I told you.

What is the great truth in your life?
That Jesus Christ saved my life, and that He keeps on saving me every day.  Praise God.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Weekly Wrap-Up: Coming to Terms with the New Normal

I was whining to a friend of mine that I really want us to have a normal week, instead of the racing-around, cramming-things-in weeks we have been having lately.  Then it struck me: perhaps this ridiculous busyness is our new normal, and so-called "normal" weeks are actually abnormal.  It was a sobering thought.

Anyway.  Excelsior!  And here are some highlights:

We began reading James Towne: Struggle for Survival, by Marcia Sewall, this week, which is a suggested literary reading in the SOTW 3 Activity Book.  Our library didn't have it, so I bought a used copy from Amazon, and I am so glad I did.  Not only does the text richly depict the beginnings of the first permanent English colony, each page features a quote from the colonists' writings and instructions, creative spellings and all.  Also, the girls are both reading Our Strange New Land: Elizabeth's Jamestown Colony Diary, by Patricia Hermes, part of the My America series.  Miss Priss enjoyed it greatly and read it in one day.  Tiny Girl, not a fan of the journal format in books, is taking a bit longer.

I know I have been touting Spelling Power so much one would think I'm getting a kickback (for the record, I am not).  But I had been a tad anxious about the spelling abilities of one of my dear children, who couldn't spell to save her life.  Enter Spelling Power.  Both children have shown remarkable improvement, and it is gratifying to see my spelling-challenged one catching on to spelling conventions.  (I won't use the word "rules" since for every "rule" there are myriad exceptions.)

We enjoyed watching the slideshow at Harmony Art Mom for Sketch Tuesday.  The girls thought it was a hoot to see their own sketches on display.  This week, Barb's challenge was to sketch something you'd see at an art museum.  Both children selected Monet as their inspiration, and they chose to use their oil pastels for a vibrant look.

In science, we continued our study of the skeleton.  We learned about joints and how many different joints there are in our arms, for instance.  Also, the girls labeled a skeleton with the names of the bones.  Notice that Tiny Girl opted for "skull" rather than "cranium."  She said she likes the word "skull" better.

As you might remember, I am pulling together a math curriculum for Miss Priss this year that I think is better suited to her learning style.  Using Mathematical Reasoning from the Critical Thinking Company as our spine, I'm also using other workbooks from Kumon, Sylvan Learning, and Dorling Kindersley.  We've been studying multi-digit multiplication and plane geometry for three weeks now, as well as times table drills.  This week, she learned about measuring perimeter and area.  She asked me to feature a photo of one of her worksheets (see below).  Tiny Girl continues to thrive with MEP Year 4.

We began reading about Julius Caesar in Plutarch's Lives for Boys and Girls.  AO scheduled Caesar for this term, and the girls are glad because they remember quite a bit about Caesar from studying him two years ago.  I selected this version because it was an option on AO, but I need to do a bit more research to make sure this is the best version for us.

We are moving right along in our other studies: poetry (Tennyson), literature (Heidi, Age of Fable, and Treasure Island), French, Latin, geography (Minn of the Mississippi), copywork, grammar and writing, piano, and logic.  We completed the second Mind Benders book, and the next, A1, came in the mail yesterday, much to the girls' delight.

Our file folder system, which I introduced last week, is still working fairly well.  One child works more independently, so it's a great fit for her; and she enjoys completing her work on her own as much as possible.  The other child still needs quite a bit of prodding reminding from me to keep her on task in a timely manner.  I live in hope that a bit more maturity will help in this area.

That's our week!  How was yours?  For a peek into the lives of other homeschoolers, pop over to Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Weekly Wrap-Up: Mixin' It Up

It's 7:23 on a Friday evening, supper (chicken pot pie) is in the oven (so we'll be eating late), and I am just now sitting down to write my Wrap-Up.  That gives you a smidgen of an idea of how our week has been thus far.  Here are some highlights:

First off, both girls have been sick and at the doctor's for separate strep tests this week.  Both were negative, thankfully.  However, Tiny Girl has been on breathing treatments with the nebulizer for a wheezy cough all week, and Miss Priss started feeling ill herself yesterday, so a couple of days were not as smooth or regular as I would have liked.  But we managed to end up just where we needed to be, since I cracked the whip on other days.  Just kidding!  Sort of.

Also, if you read my Wrap-Up last Friday, you may recall that we were in a bit of a "situation" at the barn where Tiny Girl rides and we lease a pony.  We have since moved to another barn with our pony and our trainer.  It was a difficult week in that regard; Tiny Girl had been riding at that barn since she was in kindergarten.  So I had to have some difficult conversations with others about our decision.  But now we are glad it's behind us, and we feel good about where we are.

In our lessons this week, I implemented a new folder system based loosely on the workbox idea.  Each child has a daily work folder, and each morning I put in that day's independent work and also any supplies each might need for other subjects, such as our daily test sheets for spelling.  It's worked really well so far.  The girls like being able to blow through some of their independent work instead of having to wait for me to direct them, and I like the fact that it gives them some self-government.

We also participated in Harmony art Mom's Sketch Tuesday project for the first time.  The girls enjoyed making a sketch, scanning it, and emailing it for inclusion in next week's slide show.  We can't wait to see their work on display!

Also this week, we slo-o-o-o-o-wwwed down in some of our subjects instead of speeding on ahead.  In history, we've been camping out in the Tudor period.  Miss Priss read (in two days) Mary, Bloody Mary, by Carolyn Meyer, a book about Mary Tudor's younger years.  I'm not crazy about the title, but Miss Priss really enjoyed the book and learned a lot.  Both girls are reading Mary, Queen of Scots: Queen Without a Country, by Kathryn Lasky, a selection from The Royal Diaries series.  We also learned more about Mary Stuart's needlework, specifically the Marian Hanging.  Click here to read my post about that and see a photo of the Mary Stuart octagon.

A moment that made my heart sing: while reading Mary, Bloody Mary, Miss Priss gasped aloud and said excitedly: "Remember Charles, the Holy Roman Emperor?"  Why, yes, I did.  "He was Katherine of Aragon's cousin!"  Isn't it wonderful when they begin to see and appreciate connections all on their own?

We spent more time studying grammatical concepts, focusing on particulars for a few days instead of one or two.  This week, we continued with the four types of sentences: declarative, interrogative, imperative, and exclamatory.  We also considered how to vary sentences to add interest to our writing.

Even in math, we hung out with a few concepts this week.  Tiny Girl's lessons in MEP Year 4 focused on some of the same ideas and computations as last week, which gave her more time to play around with them and really understand more fully.  With Miss Priss, I intentionally planned her lessons to do the same thing.  She worked on multi-digit multiplication and different types of angles.  She learned to measure angles with a protractor and pronounced that activity "fun."  For her, to say math is fun is a giant step in the right direction!

We ditched Madam How and Lady Why, an AO Year 4 selection.  The girls were not enjoying it, and I did not like the idea the author presents in chapter two: that God caused an earthquake to occur as a punishment to those people.  This particular theory does not fit with our family's beliefs, so I decided the book is not right for us.  Another great thing about homeschooling: we get to choose what fits our family best!

And Christmas music is resounding through our house!  Yes, it's (too) early, but the girls have begun practicing their pieces for the Christmas piano recital.

There goes the oven timer; my pot pie is done!

That's how we mixed things up around here this past week.  Have a blessed and wonderful weekend!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Mary, Queen of Scots: The Marian Hanging

Last week, we began learning about Mary, Queen of Scots.  The girls read the chapter about her in SOTW, which made very little mention of her life in France, surprisingly enough.  Since I think these years of her life are very important, we're also going to be reading her story in the Royal Diaries series.  However, the SOTW Activity Book Three includes a coloring page of one of her works of embroidery from the Marian Hanging.

My curiosity piqued, I Googled "Marian Hanging" and found this website about her embroidery.  I had no idea that Mary Stuart had been such an accomplished needleworker, despite having read several biographies over the years.  I suppose I shouldnb't have been surprised, though, since embroidery was a prime occupation of the aristocratic woman. The hanging (created between 1570 and 1585) comprises 37 panels of "canvas work (stitching over the threads of a coarsely woven linen) in coloured silks, silver and silver-gilt thread, mounted on green velvet."  Here's the Mary Stuart panel of the hanging:

This octagon represents the name Mary Stuart (Mary S) superimposed with the queen’s cipher, the royal crown, the thistle (her favorite flower), and the anagram motto “Sa virtu m’atire.”  Many of her works contain anagrams and secret messages.

Here's a link to the Victoria & Albert Museum's page on the hanging, which gives a very interesting account of its history.  You can also view each panel of the hanging -- make sure to click the close-up button for a better look. Although donated to the V&A, the Marian Hanging is on permanent loan to Oxburgh Hall in Norfolk, per the National Art Collections Fund's instructions.

One of my favorite things about homeschooling is how I get to learn things along with the children!  This discovery gave us a glimpse into Mary Stuart's complicated life and enriched my understanding of her as a person.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

First Blogographers Meet-Up

We had a most glorious day for it, too!  The weather was perfect, the setting fun, and the other bloggin' mamas were as lovely as you could hope to meet.  The one hitch?  We had a minor mix-up about our meeting place and completely missed our wonderful coordinator, Jamie from See Jamie Blog.  Aaccck!

When I found out later that she had actually been nearby, I thought it seemed Twilight Zone-like.  Perhaps Jamie had been sucked into an alternate universe and had met up with some other blogographers and was completely out of our reach. . . .

We're going it give it another go sometime in the very near future.  And this time we're going to wear carnations on our lapels or something.  Himself suggested meeting under a large banner emblazoned with Blogographers, Unite!

He might be on to something, at that.

From the left, we have Shelley from The Three Morrisketeers; me; Tricia from Hodgepodge; and Kim from littlesanctuary.  All we need to do is Photoshop Jamie in, and we'll be all set!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Weekly Wrap-Up: The Topsy-Turvy Week

It's been an up and down week around here.  On the lessons front, we've made progress.  (Better than sliding backwards, I always say.)

The girls are loving Spelling Power, and I am so glad.  It's been challenging in a good way for my natural speller, and it's been empowering for my not-so-natural speller -- news that just warms a homeschooling mama's heart.  In grammar, they both studied types of sentences; Tiny Girl focused on declarative and interrogative sentences, and Miss Priss learned about those two types as well as imperative and and exclamatory. We continued with a survey of Tennyson's poetry; Heidi, which they read independently and then narrated; The Age of Fable; and Treasure Island.

We are clicking along in math and logic, with times tables drills in addition to their lessons.  Miss Priss worked with plane shapes and polygons this week, and Tiny Girl continued estimation and calculation.  The Mind Benders grid puzzles continue to be a favorite activity.

In sciences, we began our study of the skeletal system, read chapter four of Minn of the Mississippi, and finished chapter one of Madam How and Lady Why.  The girls enjoyed learning about our bones, but are still not enamored with the latter book.  As for Minn, they each read the chapter independently and then narrated for me.

In history, we learned about Mary, Queen of Scots, in SOTW.  They both read independently and then narrated.  Bible study, copywork, Latin, French, and piano continued as ever.  The Keys for Kids devotion book has been a huge blessing for us!

This was our first week with independent readings followed by narration.  To be honest, their narrations were a trifle weak, quite a bit weaker than when I read aloud.  However, if I asked them to describe or tell me about (fill in the blank), they were able to do so in more detail.  So I'm hoping this "weakness" is merely transitional.

On the activities side of things, we had some fun and then some not-so-fabulous excitement and drama.  Our Girl Scout troop met for the first time this school year, and we had a great meeting.  That, I classify as fun.  However, at the barn where our leased pony resides and Tiny Girl takes lessons, there have been upheavals and changes.  That, I classify as decidedly not fun, especially when it makes me sleepless and slightly nauseated.  It's one of those situations where there are no easy resolutions, and whatever choice you make that's best for your family, you'll end up disappointing (at the very least) or even angering other people.  Since I like confrontation about as much as I like having my toenails ripped out (gross image and I apologize, but it really is an accurate analogy), this has been wearing me down all week.  We are only involved indirectly (thank the Lord), but we are the ones having to make the difficult decisions.  Ain't that always the way, I ask you?

The flowers pictured above are my black-eyed Susans in Maine.  They were especially lovely this summer.  I thought you might enjoy them.

How was your week?