Friday, October 28, 2011

Weekly Happenings: Freaky Busy But Keepin' On

The autumn leaves have been putting on a glorious show this week. The days are bright and clear, cool in the mornings but warming up in the afternoons. The nights are on the bracing side. What a beautiful time of year!

We've been busy, busy this week getting ready for ANOTHER horse show (thus, more time spent at the barn), doctor appointments, and our usual activities. So I considered this a week of essentials only. Spelling, French, poetry, grammar, copywork were all short-changed. While we spent some time on each of them, none got the full attention during the week that it deserves.

We kept up with our AO readings, math, piano, and Thinking Skills and Latin Roots for Miss Priss. In math, Miss Priss has been reviewing long division. I've been pleased with our choice of Math Mammoth for her; she is not as thrilled, but math is not her favorite subject, either. So I'm not surprised nor chagrined at her less than enthusiastic response. Long division has been challenging from the outset for her because she has trouble remembering all the steps of the algorithm. This week, we wrote out the steps together, and that helped some. As long as she remembered to refer to the steps.

In MEP Year 5, Tiny Girl has been working with time and measurement and plotting and interpreting data, as well as basic computations. I'm getting a bit of noise from her because her sister's math lessons are a bit shorter than hers. Injustice! (I find it interesting how quick they are to point out -- vehemently -- injustices as far as they themselves are concerned.)

We are completing our AO Year 4 readings. This week we finished George Washington's World! And what a great book it is. It's a world history spine in the Year 4 curriculum. All that remains is Abigail Adams:Witness to a Revolution.

We received from Netflix the first DVD in the PBS Liberty! series and watched the first episode one evening. Himself popped the popcorn. A combination of actor monologues, historian commentary, and vague dramatic scenes (you know, wagon wheels splashing through a creek, mist on a mountain, etc.), this documentary does a good job of bringing the era to life and explaining events, policies, and people within context. I especially like that the actor monologues are actual quotations from letters, journals, and the like. The girls, who balked at watching the DVD at first, ended up enjoying it. They often asked us to pause the DVD so they could comment or ask questions. I love it that they are learning so much about this period of history and actually making connections themselves! Caveat: there are some instances of strong language; e.g., Sam Adams says "kiss his ---" in one of his monologues. Best suited for older children.

I'm linking up with The Homeschool Mother's Journal and Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers to share our week.

The Homeschool Mother's JournalWeird Unsocialized Homeschoolers

I've also been invited to join a new link-up:

Stop by all these and have some fun, get some ideas, and find a bit of encouragement from others!

Have a great weekend!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Free Artist Studies from Concordia University

Kudos again to the Homeschool Freebie of the Day website for letting me know (via their weekly email subscription) about this resource.

Concordia University in Chicago has developed FREE monthly artist study lesson plans for grades one through six. Here's a link to the site. I looked over their offerings and selected the plans for grades two, four, and six and dowloaded the Adobe file.

Northern River, by Tom Thomson, featured artist for Lesson 2, Grade 6

Each plan provides a biography of each month's featured artist and background information on the selected artwork. The the plan suggests ways to lead students in "directed observation" of the piece, which consists of several questions and things to consider. The plan wraps up with a Things to Do section for students, offering options for their own artwork or comparisons with other pieces by the same artist.

Since picture/artist study is not my strong suit (read: I need all the help I can get), I'm looking forward to utilizing this resource in our home school.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Weekly Happenings: Finally, A Field Trip!

 The idea of field trips appeal to me, but I have a hard time finding time in our schedule to accommodate any. So it's nice when a homeschooling friend calls and invites us to one. It's especially nice when that field trip educates us on our own town.

Isn't it funny how you often know more about other places than your own?

The girls and I learned a lot about the history of our town by watching a video and listening to a speaker at the visitors center. After a picnic lunch, we hiked through an old part of town, where we saw "the Bricks," apartments built for millworkers prior to the Civil War and some of the oldest apartments in the United States. They are now lovely townhomes. Meandering past the historic sites of the old mills, which were burned during the Civil War, we hiked through woods to the antebellum-era dam and waterfall, which powered the mills.

Along the way, I snapped some photos of wildflowers we saw. The only ones I can identify are the purple morning glories, which are annuals and have to be planted each year. I wonder how these came to be alongside the trail. Birds, perhaps? Or maybe there are actually folks who plant them each spring.

The dam and waterfall, which powered the mills more than 150 years ago 

Besides our field trip, we've enjoyed other activities, too. Last weekend, we attended a UKC dog show in another state. In the photo below, breeder extraordinaire, Leslie Reed, and the girls are showing the three amigos (and siblings) in the puppy match. Charity, the pup on the far right, won! That's our precious Georgette in the middle, and Tony's on the left.

This weekend, Tiny Girl competed in horse shows both Saturday and Sunday. Himself was Super Special Show Dad on Saturday, as I was attended Girl Scout training all day at a facility about 1 1/2 hours away from home. On Sunday, I took over equestrian pursuits, while Himself and Miss Priss attended both church services for Music Dedication Sunday. Miss Priss's middle school choir sang.

Tiny Girl and Tappy

Educational highlights:
Inspired by the name cards exchange in Little Town on the Prairie, the girls made their own out of colored cardstock.

Miss Priss is making great strides with the Math Mammoth curriculum, new for us this year. It's really boosted her math confidence, which had been lacking.

"Poplicola" from Plutarch's Lives and Gods and Heroes continue to be favorite readings. Miss Priss also cheers when it's time for Abigail Adams: Witness to a Revolution. Tiny Girl's response is a tad less enthusiastic, but at least she doesn't gag. Right?

Here's a quote that caught my eye in the book Im reading, A Little House Sampler, by Laura Ingalls Wilder and Rose Wilder Lane. The quote comes from one of Laura's Missouri Ruralist columns, from 1919:

"Why should we need extra time to in which to enjoy ourselves? If we expect to enjoy our life we will have to learn to be joyful in all of it, not just at slated intervals, when we can get tijme, or when we have nothing else to do."

I need to remember this every day. Now here are two who enjoy life every day!

Jasper and Georgette, taking a break from rough-housing at the dog show.

I'm linking up with The Homeschool Mother's Journal. Pop over and read some blogs! And have a fabulous week!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Keeping the Sabbath

Last week, I started a new Bible study called Brave, by Angela Thomas. It's my neighborhood study, which I've attended for years. Whatever Carol, the teacher (and one of my dearest friends) chooses as the curriculum is fine by me. Who wouldn't want to be brave, right?

So I was surprised when I delved into the first week's work and found that the topic was weariness. Actually, I wasn't surprised as much as I was struck. I've been weary for a while now, not just in body but in spirit, too. It really couldn't be a coincidence. Could it?

Well, in a word, no. There are no coincidences with God.

But just so you know, I am not one of those women who can say with confidence, "God told me to... (fill in the blank)." God doesn't really tell me anything. I sort of baby-step along, and if a red flag pops up or I feel miserable about something, then I pretty much know that's a NO from God. It's all very What About Bob? in my life. (Aside: What About Bob? is a funny movie if you haven't seen it. Very quotable, which in my house, makes it a good thing. Bob baby-steps a lot.)

Back to Brave. And weariness.

One of many excellent points Angela makes in this study is the importance of a Sabbath rest: "The Sabbath rest is God's gift to us" (p. 23). She goes on to say, "To observe the Sabbath we should worship the Lord and rest from our work. . . . On the Sabbath I rest from my work and all the words and studying. To make dinner for my family is a joy for me. It restores me. I believe I have permission from God to enjoy what feels like rest for me" (ibid.).

In years past, I've had more of a Sabbath attitude than I do now. Saturdays were usually errand and work days, and I left Sundays for reading or crocheting while Himself watched sports on TV or (yes!) even napping. All after church, of course.

But things have changed. My Saturdays are often busy with my children's activities, which leaves Sundays for school planning, errands, work around the house, etc. This is clearly not working for me. Why have I ignored God's gift to me?

Caught up in the busy-ness of our lives, I have viewed the day of rest as another day in which to get things done. And instead of feeling a sense of accomplishment, I've felt exhausted.

I need to get back into a Sabbath mindset. But what does that look like in my life? After a bit of thought, I believe it means a day of no planning, no schoolwork, no computer. I'd also like for it to be a day of low cooking and housekeeping responsibilities.

What about you? Do you need to establish a Sabbath practice in your life? Or, if you already do, what are your thoughts? Care to share?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Adventures in Frugality: Freezer Soup

Today, I felt it was time to clean out the freezer, dump lots of stuff into the Crock Pot, and have soup for supper. This is really a no-brainer, but I can't tell you how many times I've had to throw away tidbits of frozen leftovers -- earmarked for soup -- that ended up freezer burned and useless. So I'm pretty proud I remembered this time.

What's in this soup, you ask?

Assume everything was frozen first: chicken broth, chicken, ham, tomato, tomato puree, limas, black-eyed peas, corn, potatoes, green beans, and yellow rice. It smells wonderful!

I'm about to toss into the bread machine the makings for onion, garlic, and cheese bread, too.

Sounds promising!

UPDATE: the soup was quite good, but the bread was excellent. Here's where I got the recipe. I altered the recipe a bit by adding in the garlic, onion, and cheese at the beginning instead of halfway through. Makes fabulous buttered toast!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Weekly Happenings: Blurred, Wet, Silvery Days

Last week's weather was autumn glorious; this week it rained. But that's okay. We need the rain. And there's something lovely about being cozy inside on rainy days. When my mother was a child, one of her teachers called rainy days "blurred, wet, silvery days," and I think that is a perfect description.

A few highlights:

R. E. Francillon's Gods and Heroes continues to be a favorite with the girls. I schedule two readings per week, but they both tend to read two at a time! Their narrations are quite good, so I don't deter them. Most of the stories are quite short. They've read Rick Riordan's novels, so they enjoy comparing what they recall from those novels with the more traditional myths they read in Gods and Heroes.

We're also reading a biography of Isaac Newton excerpted from Great Astronomers by Sir Robert S. Ball. This is a well-written selection, despite the author's hero worship of Newton, and we're enjoying it. I knew very little of Newton prior to this, so I'm finding it fascinating.

The girls are relieved that we've left Wordsworth behind for the moment and moved on to Kipling. His poetry is more accessible for their ages, so they appreciate it much more. I'd hoped to find online a recording of Kipling reading some of his work; however, I learned that very few of his recordings survive. Apparently, the most accessible is the CD The Spoken Word: Poets, produced by The British Library Sound Archive. Many other famous poets are included. Here's a link if you're interested.

A hit with the girls is a new one for us, The Book of Think, by Marilyn Burns. One of the Brown Paper School books from the 1970s, this is a fantastic and fun book about critical thinking. The children enjoy the activities, and they want to read more than what's scheduled. Since I want them to absorb the material, I have them stick to the plan. But it's a joy to see them so engaged!

On a culinary note, I made homemade crescent rolls! I found this wonderful, super-easy recipe online. I mixed the dough up after supper and let it sit overnight. In the morning, I divided the dough in half, rolled each half into a circle (okay, it wasn't perfect), smeared it with butter, cut it into eight triangles using a pizza cutter, rolled them up, and let rise before baking. One half of the dough I merely rolled into crescents and then froze to bake later. They were delectable with honey butter.

Right now, we're getting packed up for an overnight trip. We're headed for a UKC dog show, our second. Tiny Girl is showing Jasper in the altered class with hopes of winning his second championship point; and Miss Priss is showing Georgette in the puppy fun match. We'll be seeing the dogs' breeder and our good friend, Leslie Reed from KeelMtn, at the show, too. We're excited!

I read a wonderful quote this week I'll share with you:

The value of life, to me, is that it is so big, and we are so small, that we can never get hold of all of it: there is forever something more, still unknown.
--Rose Wilder Lane

I'm linking up with Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers and The Homeschool Mother's Journal. Have a great October weekend!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Review: The Gazebo, By Ethel Pochocki

I am drawn to gazebos. One summer evening, Himself and I pledged our vows to one another in a gazebo, our family seated inside and our friends gathered around us. I am also drawn to charming, quality children's literature, so I was as pleased as pleased could be when, several years ago, I acquired an autographed copy of Ethel Pochocki's treasure of a book, The Gazebo.

This is the story of Mary Rose, a wealthy child growing up in the city a long time ago, and her lifelong love affair with gazebos. As an adult, she works as a diplomat, but when she retires, she builds for herself the perfect gazebo. Mary Beth Owens' delightful period watercolors perfectly complement Ethel Pochocki's elegant prose. Moreover, I admire the quiet message that lingers just below the surface of the story: our life stories have many chapters.

Although this is a picture book, it's written for older children (and adults!) and is best shared with someone you love and a cup of tea.

I've known for a while that Ethel Pochocki hails from Maine, the town of Brooks, to be exact, which we drive through on our way to the coast. I think of her every time, Wouldn't it be marvelous to meet her? I learned today, however, that she passed away less than a year ago, in December, at the age of 85, the author of more than 30 books. She lived a long, lovely life and left a legacy of literature for us to savor.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Malevolent Genes and a Bit of Chopin

Miss Priss suffered her first migraine headache this past Saturday. Despite our hopes that that particular gene would pass over our children, we were fairly certain one or both would suffer. Himself and I both do; his mother does, and both my parents do. Our gene pool is full of it. This is how I picture the hateful things swimming around:

 Photo from Ugly Animals.

Nice, huh?

Himself only gets a very few per year, but they are the BIG CLASSIC variety when they hit. I suffer from cluster headaches mostly, with only a few horrid episodes per year and no vomiting. Poor Miss Priss was struck with a classic. Bless her sweet heart.

Regarding the Chopin: This afternoon, I plunked down in front of the piano and opened My First Book of Chopin: 23 Favorite Pieces in Easy Piano Arrangements, which I ordered from Dover Publications.

I've picked through a few of these, and today my piece of choice was "First Ballade," a kid-friendly theme from "Ballade No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 23," transposed to C major. I was pleased I was able to stumble through it.

My interest piqued, I hopped on YouTube to see what this piece really sounds like.

Well. What can one say after that, besides Brava!

If you're interested you can download a FREE score here. But I assure you it is very different from the arrangement I played today. If your skill level is along the lines of mine, here's an option for you. Yes, there's a drawing of a young girl playing the piano on the cover. I don't let that bother me.

I just play for the joy of it.

Friday, October 7, 2011

A Week in the Life: Perfect Days

When the girls were younger, they adored the videos from the World of Peter Rabbit and Friends collection, a BBC production. Each video featured a live action segment followed by an animated story. Each detail of the entire series is marvelous. Some episodes are available on YouTube. However, the title song is what tends to come to my mind every now and then, "Perfect Day," sung by Miriam Stockley.

We've had a series of perfect days here. The nights were pleasantly cool, and the days were lovely, with temps in the high seventies to very low eighties and the sun shining in an October blue sky. The word "blue" just doesn't do it justice. Azure seems more fitting. Or cerulean.

Our work has progressed well, too. The girls are especially enjoying The Story of King Arthur and His Knights, by Howard Pyle; Miss Priss remarked this week, "I like the way they talked then." She's her mama's girl, that one!

In history, we're learning about the troubles and crises that led to the making of the Constitution (to replace the weak Articles of Confederation). One of our resources helping us is the DVD A More Perfect Union: America Becomes a Nation, which I picked up for a buck at a homeschool used curriculum sale a few years ago. I'm planning to write a review of it in a couple of weeks, so be on the lookout!

We also began a serious study of Plutarch's Lives, delving into "Poplicola." Thank heavens for Anne White's marvelous study guides! To prepare for the first lesson, the girls read the chapter "Rome Kicks Out Her Kings" from Hillyer's A Child's History of the World, as Anne suggests. I was happy with the girls' understanding of the material; I'm looking forward to continuing our Plutarch studies!

After much thought, I decided to replace the reading of Shakespeare's plays with actually seeing Shakespeare's plays. Our city has more than one Shakespearean company, so opportunities abound to see those scripts come alive onstage. One company even offers productions aimed at school-aged audiences where they tone down any bawdiness.

Tiny Girl and I made applesauce this week. It was tasty (it's all gone now!), but seemed almost like apple butter instead of sauce. But I consider it a culinary success, still and all.

We also sipped our fair share of homemade iced coffee, that elixir of the gods.

Oh, and Tiny Girl stepped on a nail at a friend's house, which pierced her Croc and her foot. Thank goodness she was wearing shoes! I shudder to think what could have happened had she not. She was almost due (a few months) for her DTP booster, so we went on to the doc for that and got a flu shot as well. We made a list of things to be thankful for even in such circumstances, but these sorts of adventures are not my favorite.

Pizza delivery tonight! Ham, pineapple, and black olive was the request. Hope the weekend is lovely where you live!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Of Apples and Homemade Applesauce

"Surely the apple is the noblest of fruits." -- Henry David Thoreau, Wild Apples

Apples are a mainstay at our house. Only Himself is not a fan. My year-round stand-by is Gala. It's crisp (never mealy -- I detest a mealy apple), sweet with a hint of tart, and pretty to look at, with its rosy yellow skin. In the fall, however, there is an abundance of varieties to be found, and we like to sample the more exotic of the grocers' bounty: Honeycrisp, Cripp's Pink, Jonathan....
I bought a small bag of Jonathan apples at Trader Joe's last week and determined to make applesauce in my Crock Pot. Last night, Tiny Girl and I began to work.

I used my Pampered Chef apple-corer-slicer thingamajig to core and slice 10 apples. Tiny Girl peeled them. We dumped them into my slow cooker and added 3/4 cup sugar, a tablespoon of cinnamon, and a teaspoon of vanilla. I stirred it all up and cooked everything on low overnight. Fast forward to this morning.

Our resulting applesauce smelled heavenly and was a dark red, thanks to the cinnamon. It was also more liquidy than I like, so I drained some of the juice off (and saved it to drink, of course!) After a taste test, we added quite a bit more sugar. Those tart Jonathans didn't mellow -- they cooked up mouth-puckering tart! I then dished up a small bowl for Tiny Girl. Miss Priss declined an offer to taste.

Tiny Girl cautiously sampled a bite, shuddered slightly -- the tartness, you know -- and then ate a bit more. She's the sort of person who really wants to like new things, so she ate her miniscule helping. Then came her pronouncement, which I overheard her make to Miss Priss at the breakfast table:

"Once you get used to the weird taste, it's actually really good."

And there you have it. A true success.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Icing on the Cake: Activities and Pursuits

When I posted about our academic plans, I neglected to include our activities. Granted, activities may not fall under the academic umbrella, but they do add to our enjoyment of life, provide learning opportunities, and encourage personal growth. So what's not to love?

(Maybe the hectic schedule they help to create? Can I get an amen?)

Mondays: Tiny Girl has her riding lesson, and Miss Priss has her (new for us) drama troupe.
Tuesdays: Piano lessons
Wednesdays: Practice ride for Tiny Girl; onCore (our program for elementary-aged children) for Tiny Girl and me (I teach 4th and 5th-grade girls in Bible class); Bible study for Miss Priss
Thursdays: FREE
Fridays: Practice ride for Tiny Girl
Saturdays: Free or another practice ride
Sundays: Church and then late-afternoon choir practice for Miss Priss. Girl Scout meetings MAY meet on Sunday evenings as well (once a month), since that time slot works best for our troop.

Those of you well-versed in equine activities will know that any trip to the barn takes at the very least two hours and quite often more. So we're there a lot. I like it best when the temperature is not freezing cold or blistering hot.

Compared to many of our neighbors, this is an easy activity schedule. Only on one day do we rush from one activity to another (Monday), and there's even an hour of breathing room between! For me, our schedule is just busy enough. One more thing, and I'd be pushed to the breaking point. Or crazy point.

What about you? What's a balanced schedule to your way of thinking?

By the way, as far as icing goes: my new personal favorite is salted caramel frosting. I'm having palpitations just thinking about it.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Personal Within the Mystery

Today we observed World Communion Sunday at my church. The music was inspiring, the hymns meaningful, and we celebrated communion in my most favorite way: intinction. In case this is unfamiliar to you, I give you these words from:

Wikipedia: "Intinction is the Eucharistic practice of partly dipping the consecrated bread, or host, into the consecrated wine before consumption by the communicant."

Merriam-Webster Dictionary: "the administration of the sacrament of Communion by dipping bread in wine and giving both together to the communicant"

I realize that some faith traditions have a problem with intinction theologically, but I try not to get bogged down in questions such as these. Instead, I immerse myself in the moment. Here's what happened this morning.

I stand with my pew row and walk to the front of the church with my family while the choir sings You Satisfy the Hungry Heart. I'm directed to a station where two ministers stand holding the elements. I select a piece of bread from the basket.

This is the body of Christ...

I dip it into the cup.

The blood of Christ shed for you, Ellen.

I partake and return to my pew.

There was no lightning bolt, no mystic vision, no epiphany. I was merely one of hundreds in worship this morning who came forward to dip bread into cup. And yet...

And yet.

For me, intinction as a means of celebrating the sacrament of the Lord's Supper is much more personal than the pass-the-tray-along-the-pew method. It's more active, requiring commitment on my part. I stand. I come forward. I take the elements. Then, those beautiful words.

The blood of Christ. Shed for me.

And since the ministers know me by name, I am called by name. No longer just one of the crowd, I am known. And it means so much to me that I am known -- not by the ministers, you understand -- but known by Jesus.

This is for you, Ellen, all for you.

It's all for you, too.