Friday, September 30, 2011

Our Academic Plans for This Year

Yes, I do realize I'm a wee bit late posting about our academic plans as tomorrow begins October. But it couldn't be helped. In an effort to delay no longer, I'm sitting in front of my computer on a Friday evening, writing. The girls are reading, and Himself is planning his weekend picks for a college football pool in which he's participated for years. All is quiet.

I had big (and broadcasted, unfortunately) plans for continuing with our AO readings through the summer in an effort to finish up Year 4 before autumn. Alas, those were for naught. June was a whirlwind of activities and everyday busy-ness (two words: swim team), and, once we arrived in the haven of Maine, we settled into a routine of reading and relaxation. Could some of those book choices have been our school assignments? Admittedly, yes. But the girls were thrilled to be able to select their own books, and they read like mad. It was fabulous, really, and I couldn't squelch that particular joy.

So here were are, finishing up Year 4 and poised on the brink of Year 5.

AO's advisory board recently made some science changes to the curriculum, and, after looking over the alterations, I decided to amend our plans a bit. I didn't want us to miss certain of the new selections. Also, in some cases, I've chosen differently from the AO suggested titles. I'll note these changes below.

For our daily Bible study and prayer time, we are still enjoying Keys for Kids devotional. We all enjoy the stories, and I particularly like the "conversation" at the end of each that focuses the story's lessons on our own lives.

We're reading selections from William Wordsworth, a Year 4 poet. I wish I could say the girls love his work, because I admire much of it. But he leaves them cold. It's disappointing; they usually enjoy our poetry readings. I may leap to Rudyard Kipling, the Year 5, Term 1 poet, instead of continuing to force an appreciation for Wordsworth. For now.

Tiny Girl has begun MEP Year 5 for math. So far, much of it is review, and she's a bit bored. I've insisted on us completing both the lesson plan and workbook activities, which may be a mistake. If she's got it down, we should move on.

Last year, we used the Critical Thinking Co.'s Mathematical Reasoning for Miss Priss's math text, and she really liked it. Unfortunately, Level F is not yet available. After a few weeks of working through several lessons in that same publisher's Math Detective A1, we began Math Mammoth this week. Miss Priss enjoys Math Detective, but I felt like I was leading her too much in the lessons. Math Mammoth will provide a solid foundation for my linguistic-minded child. We'll still use Math Detective, but only on Fridays.

Also last year, we happily used Scott-Foresman's free grammar curriculum, and I'd planned to use it again. Imagine my shock when I discovered that it is NO LONGER FREE. (Turns out I was wrong and it is still free. See Comments.) After some quick research, I decided on Groovy Grammar. I'm not keen on the name, but I enjoy the lessons and links to other sites for more activities. I'm planning a separate post on this curriculum. Spelling Power is still our curriculum of choice for spelling.

Since Miss Priss abhorred Latina Christiana, we dumped it. This year, she's focusing on Latin roots in the Critical Thinking Co.'s Word Roots A1. Both girls are still working through Rosetta Stone for French.

I've selected a few titles for strengthening thinking skills. Both girls complete a few pages in their Building Thinking Skills 2 workbook every day. On Fridays, they each work through one page from their Analogies workbook and Balance Benders workbook. I've also added the fun book, The Book of Think, by Marilyn Burns, to our weekly reading assignments.

Our AO readings right now:
George Washington's World (Yr 4, finishing up)
Abigail Adams: Witness to a Revolution (Ditto)
Poor Richard (Ditto)
Gods and Heroes (a substitute for The Age of Fable)
The Story Book of Science (This is a new Year 4 book, but I'd heard about it from the Queen Homeschool catalog, so I added it to our schedule.)
The Story of King Arthur and His Knights, by Howard Pyle
A Child's Geography, Volume 1 (Actually, Volume 2 is scheduled for Year 5, but I liked this book as well. So we're reading it. We'll read volume 2 when we've completed this one.)
This Country of Ours
a biography of Isaac Newton
"Poplicola," in Plutarch's Lives, with the aid of Anne White's indispensable study guide

And then of course we have selections from AO's Year 5 free reading list!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Scribblings from Maine: Daylilies

When we bought our cabin, one of the "things" we inherited from the previous owners was mature landscaping: hostas, shrub roses, peonies, and daylilies (genus Hemerocallis). A lovely bed of lemon-colored daylilies graced the flower bed by the front door. They were brilliant in the afternoon sunlight.

There's something special about daylilies -- each bloom's lifetime of just one day literally ephemeral. I take time to look at a daylily bloom, to notice how its color changes with the light at different times of the day. By nightfall, that same bloom will have withered, a fleeting state of grace.

Sadly, my daylilies did not survive our recent construction project. I saw nary a bloom this summer, and I missed them.

All was not quite lost, however. I'd noticed a newspaper ad for daylilies for sale the summer before, and now I noticed a small sign at the top of my road and in front of a farmhouse where a Mennonite family had moved in two years ago. Perhaps I should stop in to look around.

But I have a thing about driving down someone's driveway for commercial purposes. It seems so intrusive. What if it's not a convenient time? What if they're closed, and someone is forced to come outside to tell you so? What if I interrupt a heated argument? What if they're in the bathroom? (All of them, Ellen? Come on.)

One afternoon, I somehow overcame all these (ridiculous) misgivings, and the girls and I turned down the drive. The sign read OPEN. That seemed promising. When we parked the car, a little girl, dressed Plainly in a long calico dress, white cap, and bare feet, opened the screen door and obligingly asked, "Are you here for the daylilies?"

Yes, indeed, we were.

She led us back behind the house, past the vegetable garden, the chickens, and a pen of little goats, to a field full of daylilies. Our arrival must have started something; moments later three more customers arrived, prompting the lady of the house and several other daughters to join us in the daylily field.

It was a gorgeous afternoon, sunshine in a cerulean sky. We meandered around the garden, following the straw-covered paths between each row. Some flowers were still blooming and others were finished; but the family showed us a small photo album of all their offerings, so we could see each variety in all its glory.

On my price list, I marked each one that interested us, the girls calling out names of varieties that caught their eye. We narrowed down our selections. A few I vetoed due to their price. Miss Priss, especially, has expensive tastes. Finally, the girls each chose one variety, and then went off with the two youngest daughters of the house to chase Bandy chicks and pet the baby goats.

Since I'm the mama, I allowed myself to choose two varieties. It's one of the perks of being the mama. Right?

Our selections were carefully and generously dug up and bagged. Once we got back to the cabin, I planted them quickly just to get them in the ground. They are not where I want them to live permanently, but I'll make adjustments next summer.

And I hope they thrive. I hope that, years from now, the girls and I will admire them and say to each other, "Remember the day we bought these? Remember how nervous Mama was just to drive down the driveway?"

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Perfect Match: Iced Coffee and Middle School Girls

Today was mission Sunday at church, and many of our youth led worship. The middle school choir, to which Miss Priss now belongs (Did I just type middle school? Yikes! But that's material for another post.), sang at two of our morning services. A few days ago, the choir director asked choir parents to bring in some breakfast things for the kids to snack on between services, so I signed up to bring pumpkin muffins and, in a moment of misplaced inspiration, iced coffee. The middle school choir is made up entirely of girls, and iced coffee is so sophisticated, so Starbucks, I thought they'd enjoy it.

I say "misplaced inspiration" for two reasons. One, this was also a horse show weekend. But since I am Superwoman, I can do all things. Two, simply making coffee and serving it with milk and sugar over ice wasn't going to cut it. I had to go all out. Which is why I was surfing the Internet yesterday afternoon, buying the ingredients, and making the stuff last night AND this morning at 7 AM.

I prefer to try completely new recipes at the eleventh hour. I live on the edge.

And sometimes, like today, it works out fabulously.

The recipe, Perfect Iced Coffee, comes from The Pioneer Woman website. Since she's a much funnier and better writer than I, I direct you to her post and recipe. (I opted for decaf coffee: Cafe Bustelo dark roast for espresso, to be specific.) Read her whole post; it's a hoot.

But of course I had to kick it up a notch. So I brought a gallon of the coffee base, a half gallon of half and half, and three bottles of Coffee Mate's all-new Natural Bliss creamers: vanilla, caramel, and sweet cream. To serve each girl, I filled a glass (okay, a styrofoam coffee cup, because that's what was available) half full of ice cubes, poured in the coffee base til the cup was half full, splashed in some half and half, and then added the chosen creamer flavor to each girl's desired level of sweetness, which was, shockingly (not!), pretty sweet. Surprisingly, only one went with caramel; everyone else chose vanilla. (Note: to serve adults, I'd fill each glass about 3/4 full of coffee base.)

If you follow Ree's recipe, you're going to end up with a vat of the coffee base, as I did. I now have a pitcher in my fridge, a half-full gallon jug in my freezer, and another half-full gallon jug in my garage fridge to take to my sister on Tuesday. If you'd like, you could make coffee ice cubes to use in your libation so it won't get all watery from regular ice cubes. Ree also offers a wonderful-sounding variation, Vietnamese Iced Coffee, made with sweetened condensed milk. Now that I've got to try.

The choir girls loved their individualized iced coffees so much that I was elevated to rock-star status for about three minutes. Then everything went back to normal, and I was just another minivan-driving mom.

But since I was sipping my own cup of perfection, I was okay with that.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Sound and the Flurry

Well, at least the flurry (of my life) of my life this week. I can't produce the sound here.

Here goes:

Himself out of town, middle school choir, riding lesson, drama troupe, parent meeting, prayer group meeting, orthodontist, piano lessons, sick dog, practice ride, pony bath, Wednesday night church, practice ride, shopping for new horse show clothes suddenly needed for weekend horse show (ch-ching!), another practice ride, another pony bath, sick child, re-check for sick dog, doc-in-the-box appointment for quick strep test for sick child (negative; just a virus), library visit, equestrian center for schooling to prep for horse show, ANOTHER pony bath, cleaning tack, Himself returns home (yay!), awake at 4:30 AM today, up at 5:20 to get ready for horse show, horse show (3rd place overall in division), nap, grocery, make pumpkin muffins for church tomorrow, get things ready for second day of horse show tomorrow, get other girl ready for church tomorrow (singing at two services)....

Oh, and we did school, too, in the midst of all that.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Our First Dog Show!

Last weekend, we traveled to our first UKC dog show. Our primary reason for going was to pick up our newest family member, puppy Georgette. Breeder Leslie Gene Reed, from KeelMtn Kennels, and husband extraordinaire, Bob, were going to be showing their corgis, so we opted to meet them at the show. Secondly, the UKC offers classes for altered dogs (spayed or neutered) in conformation, and Leslie suggested that one of my girls might want to show Jasper. Tiny Girl jumped at the chance. Here they are!

Jasper won Best of Breed in his class and later competed for Best in Show - Altered. Exciting! (They were in the last show of the day, so there weren't many spectators left. But they still got a rousing round of applause from those who remained.)

Adding to the experience, Tiny Girl, Miss Priss, and Himself (along with another young girl) showed Leslie's four puppies -- Georgette and three of her littermates, whom Leslie is keeping as show prospects -- in the puppy match. Miss Priss was nervous; we had to cajole her into giving it a try. But it was so cute and fun that she loved it.

Keeping the corgis in line was quite a challenge. Himself and the girls had their hands full! "Chaotic cuteness" is the best way to describe the puppy match.

We had a fabulous time, and now Tiny Girl has the dog show bug. Now that Jasper has one win under his belt, he has only to win three more times to earn his UKC championship. There's another UKC show in October that's about three hours away from home, and I have a feeling we'll be there. And Miss Priss says she may show Georgette in the puppy match.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Introducing Georgette!

Last Saturday, we traveled to a UKC dog show in the central part of our state to collect our new puppy, Georgette (KeelMtn My Fair Lady) from breeder Leslie Gene Reed. (Tiny Girl also showed Jasper [KeelMtn I Do Declare] in conformation at the show, but that report is in another post.) Georgette had been hanging out at Leslie's with three of her littermates -- whom Leslie is keeping as show prospects -- and the rest of Leslie's gang, patiently awaiting us to return home from Maine.

She is a darling!

Jasper and Georgette have the same dam, Cheery-O, but different sires. Whereas Jasper is a red-headed tri-color, Georgette is a sable, like our Lily was.

They have really hit it off! The play together, often drink out of the same water bowl at the same time, and have even been caught chewing their bones next to one another on the same bed. However, Jasper is not averse to putting Georgette in her place if she needs it, though he often capitulates. He has such a sweet temperament.

It's been hilarious watching the dogs interact. They chase each other around the coffee table and then into the kitchen, often colliding with the water bowls and splashing water everywhere. They roughhouse for quite a while and then collapse for naps near one another. If Jasper has something Georgette wants -- which happens a LOT -- she sidles up near him and watches him closely. As soon as something else catches his attention, she nabs the desired item and prances away triumphantly.

She is perky and confident and loving. And we are in love with her.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Homeschooling Meme

Thank you, Jeanne, at A Peaceful Day, for including me in your homeschooling meme! These are always fun, and I enjoy reading others' responses to glean encouragement and ideas. Perhaps my answers will help someone else. Who knows? So here we go...

1. One homeschooling book you have enjoyed
I've read quite a few homeschooling books through the years, some of which I reach for again and again. So I really can't narrow it down to one. Here are some I continue to consult: A Charlotte Mason Education and More Charlotte Mason Education, both by Catherine Levison; When Children Love to Learn, by Elaine Cooper; and The Well-Trained Mind, by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise.

2. One resource you wouldn't be without
Our computer + online access. We use it for subjects, like Rosetta Stone French; for research; and to access AO Yahoo groups and blogs (including my own), to name a few uses. Our research opportunities would be limited to library trips without the computer and online access. We can't jump in the car and head for the library every time someone has a question. Moreover, as a homeschooling parent, I would feel isolated without my computer.

3. One resource you wish you had never bought
I've bought a few things I wished later that I had not bought. Some I've been able to resell. Others sit on my shelves, mocking me. To wit: boxes of educational card games that we either played once or did not play at all.

4. One resource you enjoyed last year
Spelling Power has turned out to be a wonderful fit for my children. One is a natural speller, and the other needs more practice. This curriculum works well with both.

5. One resource you will be using next year
We'll be using Ann Voskamp's A Child's Geography, volumes 1 and 2. I've perused these and am really pleased with the content and how it's presented.

6. One resource you would like to buy
At this moment, nothing leaps to mind. I'm always buying books, though!

7. One resource you wish existed
A special balm I could use that would magically erase all doubts, anxieties, and worries peculiar to the homeschooling mother and household manager. Prayer, of course, is good, but it usually requires work on my part, i.e., I have to work through things. I would really prefer it if yuckiness just goes away. Okay?

8. One homeschool catalogue you enjoy reading
I love Rainbow Resource and consider it invaluable. I also enjoy thumbing through the Winter Promise catalog for literature ideas.

9. One homeschooling website you use regularly
Ambleside Online, MEP math, Groovy Grammar (more substantial that it sounds, trust me), and Heart of the Matter. I also read a number of homeschooling blogs for ideas and encouragement. See why my computer is indispensable?

I'm supposed to tag other homeschoolers to play, but I think I'd rather just rhow it out there to anyone who'd like to play along. I would love to hear from you all!