Monday, January 31, 2011

My Latest FREE Kindle Downloads

I recently discovered, via the KindleKorner Yahoo group, a nifty blog called Books on the Knob, which features free and discounted books for e-readers. Through that website and messing about on, I have downloaded several free books:

For the girls:
  • The Racketty-Packetty House, by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • Flower Fables, by Louisa May Alcott, written when she was 16 years old
  • Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare, by Edith Nesbit

For me:
  • Circle of Friends Chocolate Chip Cookie Cookbook, from Gooseberry Patch
  • The Mill on the Floss, by George Eliot
  • Cranford, by Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell
  • The Phantom of the Opera, by Gaston Leroux
  • Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert
  • Goodness Gracious Green, by Judy Christie
  • The Apothecary's Daughter, by Julie Klassen
Lovin' my Kindle!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up: Surviving a Freak Out

We've been doing quite a bit around here. Both our outside activities and academic pursuits have kept us so busy that I've not been posting very much, a state I hope to remedy soon. How I'll do that I'm not sure, but I'll worry about the details later.

All our activities have swung back into action: piano lessons, our church's Wednesday night children's program, tumbling, riding lessons and practice rides, Scouts, Timothy Ministry (homeschool enrichment classes), and Jasper's new group obedience class. In Timothy, Miss Priss is again taking Irish dance and an acrylic painting class. Tiny Girl is taking a chess class and the same painting class as her sister. In Jasper's first class, he was the star; in the second class, not quite as stellar. Oh well!

In history this week, we studied Peter the Great. Diane Stanley's biography, Peter the Great, is as wonderful a resource as her other biographies that we've read. The heart and circulatory system has been our science focus for two weeks. Here is a blog post about our studies in that fascinating arena, including book suggestions and websites. And in art, we've been learning about Rembrandt. I found Mike Venezia's excellent Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists: Rembrandt DVD at the library (also available in paperback), which we all greatly enjoyed. I also checked out a few others, such as What Makes a Rembrandt a Rembrandt, by Richard Muhlberger, which provides more information than the girls need at this point, but is still useful in our studies.

In grammar, we've continued our detailed study of verbs with the free Scott Foresman Online Grammar and Writing Handbook. We also added writing as a subject, using Susan Wise Bauer's Writing with Ease, Level 4. Tiny Girl began at the beginning of the book, while I started Miss Priss about mid-way through. It's a challenging curriculum, so we're starting slowly. In literature, Miss Priss is reading Anne of Green Gables, by Lucy Maud Montgomery, and The Princess and Curdie, by George Macdonald; Tiny Girl is laughing her way through The Peterkin Papers, by Lucretia Hale.

And now for the freak out: after two weeks of comparing with ps and then freaking out (on my part) about Miss Priss's math and making us both miserable, I finally came to my senses and put her back into her Mathematical Reasoning book from The Critical Thinking Company. She has since regained what confidence I'd shaken in her when I pushed her to do more than she is developmentally ready to do. We both feel like a huge load has been lifted from our shoulders, thank the Lord! My friend, Silvia, wrote an excellent post about this sort of destructive comparison on her blog, and it really helped me to read her words.

Bible and prayer time, copywork, logic, spelling, piano practice, French, and the girls' individual project work continued, as well. More on the projects when they're complete. Miss Priss is working on a report on Theodore Roosevelt, and Tiny Girl has been exploring the oceans.

That's our week! To read more fun and fab wrap-ups, visit Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

It's All About the Heart

Wow. It's been a long time since I've written a post, and I hate to be away so long. We've been terribly busy -- the kind of busy I deplore -- running around "with our heads cut off," which Himself always says, no matter how often I remind him that it's "like chickens with their heads cut off." A gruesome image either way, frankly.


The girls and I have been studying the circulatory system these last couple of weeks. As always, I like to pass along any nifty resources we find.

First, we read A Drop of Blood, by Paul Showers.  This is an excellent book, which features easy-to-understand text and high-quality illustrations and photos. But I have to say our edition featured a boy and his dog, not a vampire. I would have eschewed the latter, since I have had it up to HERE with vampires.  We also skimmed through The Heart: Our Circulatory System, by Seymour Simon, more for the wonderful full-page color photos than anything else, although the text is also very good.

Next, we hit the 'Net. There are dozens of websites devoted to children's exploration of the human body, and it took quite a while to surf through them in an attempt to narrow down the list for my children's perusal. Here are the ones I found most useful:

Your Heart and Circulatory System, from KidsHealth, was a hit. It has a Listen feature the girls used (with headphones) while they read along. The text is engaging and informative (and includes easy pronunciation guides), and each page features some sort of graphic, either an illustration or even a video. There's a Spanish version as well.

NOVA Online's Map of the Human Heart is basic but helpful, with a handy labeled diagram.

Discovery Health's How Your Heart Works is packed with information. We didn't delve too deeply here, but I was impressed with the content. The graphics are quite good.

Anatomy of the Human Heart from Texas Heart Institute features a fab Flash illustration. Move your mouse cursor over a cross-section of the heart for handy details on major heart parts.

Here's a superb short video (about three minutes long) on the circulatory system.

Enchanted Learning offers a printable heart diagram to label, but my girls preferred this drag-and-drop Flash version on Science Learning. I liked that they could work at it until the parts were correctly labeled.

These are merely a sampling of what's available, of course, and you may find via links or at your library other sources to better suit you or your children's learning styles. In just a short while, your children will be entertaining dinner guests with their knowledge of how scabs form.

Or perhaps you'll fare better than I in that regard. We can always hope!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up: A Week Unlike All Others

What a fantastic week! In case you didn't see my post earlier this week (though I encourage to take a look at the photos), we had more than six inches of snow this past Sunday night. That might not seem a lot to some of you, but since I live in the American Deep South, it threw us for a loop. Moreover, extremely low temps caused slush and snow to refreeze several days in a row, which made driving treacherous, to say the least. Public school and all activities were cancelled.

Himself was home from work for three days, so we had a fire blazing all day on those days. Bliss! To the girls' disgust, we still had lessons most days, but there was still plenty of time for sledding galore, snow cream, reading in front of the fire, and playing all about the neighborhood.

After reading so many Facebook posts about cabin fever, I discovered that I'm in the minority. I loved being at home this week. I planned and cooked several nice suppers, including a homemade peach cobbler one night. I was able to putter and get a few things done without flying about in a frenzy. I read. I drank a lot of tea. It's amazing what one can do when one has the time to do it! I really do prefer a quiet life.

Speaking of lessons, Miss Priss tackled fractions this week: adding and subtracting, simplifying, and finding equivalent fractions. Tiny Girl studied geometric concepts in MEP. In history, we studied conflict in the New World colonies, such as King Philip's War and wars between French Canadians and the Iroquois. SOTW briefly mentions Mary Rowlandson, who was taken captive by the Wampanoag during King Philip's War and later wrote a book about her experiences. I studied captivity narratives in graduate school and actually wrote a paper about Rowlandson, so I was excited to be able to expand on the topic with my children. In grammar, both studied verbs (action, linking, and helping), and we began our study of the heart and circulatory system. I'm going to post helpful resources for this particular subject very soon. Keep a lookout!

Also, Miss Priss, influenced by a homeschooled friend, told me she'd like to do a report, and Tiny Girl opted for a project. After a bit of discussion, Miss Priss selected Theodore Roosevelt and Tiny Girl chose to create a poster (with a lapbook feel to it) about the ocean. A stop at the library yielded several books on both topics, and the girls spent a large part of this week reading and researching. I did some net surfing and located some great resources for Tiny Girl's poster. I'll let you know what they are in the next few days, in case your child develops a taste for a project.

I hope you had a great week! To read more Wrap-Ups, visit Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Grace in the Face of Disaster

Two days ago, Himself and I watched with horror TV broadcasts of Queensland's floods.  You've probably seen footage as well.  If not, and if even so, below is a short news video that gives basic but thorough information; it's one of many videos I watched this morning, and I thought it best encapsulated events.

The good news is that the floodwaters' peak was lower in Brisbane than predicted.  But four Australian states are under flood warning.  I read this morning that the La Nina weather patterns are the cause of the massive amounts of rainfall in Australia.  I pray that Queensland's fooding is the extent of the damage.

My dear friend, Jeanne, who lives in Victoria, writes eloquently -- as ever -- about this disaster on her blog, A Peaceful Day.  I encourage you to visit and read her thoughts, fears, and prayers.

Watching video footage, reading newspaper articles, and reading Jeanne's post hit me hard.  A year ago this past September, my own city was subject to 100-year flooding.  And several years ago, I was part of a church group that traveled to Ocean Springs, Mississippi, to help in the hurricane clean-up.  I saw things there I could never have dreamed.  So when I see videos of Brisbane, my imagination extrapolates those images.

We think we grasp a situation merely by seeing photos or videos.  Our innate empathy takes over, and we think we can relate.  But that's impossible.  Until you've experienced something similar in person, there's no way to appreciate the magnitude of the devastation, the loss, the shock.  Or the awesome power of nature, for that matter.

And then you consider the people faced with the clean-up.  I recall seeing people in Mississippi living in tents next to their damaged houses (our homesites, if the house was gone), doing what they could to salvage their lives.  In fact, my group helped a family dig out from under the mess.  All the houses were gone save for their foundations.  Sand covered everything, and we dug into the sand, unearthing fragments from these families' lives.

I remember digging out a large rectangular Pyrex dish.  "My lasagna pan!" the woman cried out joyfully.  "I just bought that a few days before the hurricane hit."  So much happiness over something that had been quotidian just short weeks before.

And that, I think now, was a glimpse of God's wonderful mercy.  Shimmers of something beautiful in the midst of waste.

So I pray for Queensland and the people there.  I pray that God's grace will be so fully revealed that it transcends every sign of bleakness and despair; that what seems impossible, overwhelming even, will pale in comparison to the evidence of his mercy and love.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011 A Fab Site for Worksheets, Games, and More

While Googling for greatest common factor worksheets for Miss Priss, I came upon this wonderful site, which was new to me. offers games, projects, worksheets, and quizzes for a variety of subjects.  Click on a grade-level link (pre-K through middle school) at the top of the home page and you're connected to a page that groups worksheets and activities by subject for that particular grade level.  Or click on subject links on the left side of the page.

This is quite an expansive site.  Subjects include math (topics up through algebra, geometry, and -- gasp! -- graphing calculators); grammar, phonics, and handwriting; science (including life sciences, the human body, rocks, volanoes, and earthquakes); social studies (history and geography); French; Spanish; themes (holidays); and seasonal worksheets.  Each subject or grade level offers a plethora of worksheets, online quizzes and games, and activities.  Some of the worksheets are generated to your specifications and printable, while others are online only.

I tried the triangle quiz (see below) and am pleased to report that I scored 10 out of 10 correct.  So I guess I recall a bit of geometry after all!  Just don't whip out a graphing calculator.  I promised myself, never again.

Types of Triangles is now on my Favorites bar, and I plan to use the site extensively for extra practice for the girls.  The games alone, like the identification games for major human-body systems, are worth many visits.

A Silent Loveliness

All beautiful the march of days, as seasons come and go;

The hand that shaped the rose hath wrought the crystal of the snow;
Hath sent the hoary frost of heaven, the flowing waters sealed,
And laid a silent loveliness on hill and wood and field.

-- from the hymn "All Beautiful the March of Days," by Frances W. Wile, 1912

Monday, January 10, 2011

Snow Blankets the South

Ah, blessed peace.  The girls are playing with friends, Himself is out and about, and Jasper and I are relaxing in front of a fire.  He has a bone; I have some tea.  We are cozy.

Several hours ago, it was another story.  It snowed here last night, which is quite a phenomenon where we live.  We have more than five inches.  Everything is closed.  Before breakfast, we "hit the slopes" with our sleds.  For once I am glad our house is atop a hill.  All was frenetic fun.

 Tiny Girl promptly flopped down and made snow angel.  Jasper trounced over her first, so she happily made another.

 This snowfall is quite deep for a short-legged little guy!

 Our steep hill is perfect for sledding.

Jasper loves the snow! And he suffers no ill effects that plague the rest of us.

School, of course, was cancelled, and most likely will be cancelled tomorrow as well.  The girls were a bit peeved when I insisted on math lessons (albeit shortened), but we're on a tight schedule.  In fact, they have a bit more today when they return.  And I'm guessing warm baths may be necessary as well!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

For Epiphany

I found a poem that perfectly expresses the way I feel and the way things are going around our home right now.  I hope you enjoy it.

Well, so that is that.

Now we must dismantle the tree,
Putting the decorations back into their cardboard boxes -
Some have got broken – and carrying them up to the attic.
The holly and the mistletoe must be taken down and burnt,
And the children got ready for school. There are enough
Left-overs to do, warmed-up, for the rest of the week -
Not that we have much appetite, having drunk such a lot,
Stayed up so late, attempted – quite unsuccessfully -
To love all of our relatives, and in general
Grossly overestimated our powers. Once again
As in previous years we have seen the actual Vision and failed
To do more than entertain it as an agreeable
Possibility, once again we have sent Him away,
Begging though to remain His disobedient servant,
The promising child who cannot keep His word for long.
The Christmas Feast is already a fading memory,
And already the mind begins to be vaguely aware
Of an unpleasant whiff of apprehension at the thought
Of Lent and Good Friday which cannot, after all, now
Be very far off. But, for the time being, here we all are,
Back in the moderate Aristotelian city
Of darning and the Eight-Fifteen, where Euclid’s geometry
And Newton’s mechanics would account for our experience,
And the kitchen table exists because I scrub it.
It seems to have shrunk during the holidays. The streets
Are much narrower than we remembered; we had forgotten
The office was as depressing as this. To those who have seen
The Child, however dimly, however incredulously,
The Time Being is, in a sense, the most trying time of all.
For the innocent children who whispered so excitedly
Outside the locked door where they knew the presents to be
Grew up when it opened. Now, recollecting that moment
We can repress the joy, but the guilt remains conscious;
Remembering the stable where for once in our lives
Everything became a You and nothing was an It.
And craving the sensation but ignoring the cause,
We look round for something, no matter what, to inhibit
Our self-reflection, and the obvious thing for that purpose
Would be some great suffering. So, once we have met the Son,
We are tempted ever after to pray to the Father;
“Lead us into temptation and evil for our sake.”
They will come, all right, don’t worry; probably in a form
That we do not expect, and certainly with a force
More dreadful than we can imagine. In the meantime
There are bills to be paid, machines to keep in repair,
Irregular verbs to learn, the Time Being to redeem
From insignificance. The happy morning is over,
The night of agony still to come; the time is noon:
When the Spirit must practice his scales of rejoicing
Without even a hostile audience, and the Soul endure
A silence that is neither for nor against her faith
That God’s Will will be done,
That, in spite of her prayers,
God will cheat no one, not even the world of its triumph.
        -- from "Christmas Oratorio," by W. H. Auden