Friday, September 28, 2012

Weekly Happenings: Our First Project Week

Last Sunday, as I sat down to plan for the upcoming week, I hit a couple of snags:

  • The girls needed to practice their solos and monologues for upcoming auditions for their theatre troupes
  • We'd done precious little notebooking, which I'd wanted to incorporate
  • We'd also missed a few readings from the previous week, due to two unexpected trips to the ER (everything's fine; more on that later)

I had an Aha! moment (most decidedly not an epiphany) and designated this week -- the fourth in the month -- as a project week. I eliminated several subjects from our daily schedule: grammar, spelling, copywork, composition, logic, and foreign language. Family prayer, Bible study, poetry, piano, and math remained. I limited the readings to four per day (including literature and independent reads), one of which included a notebooking assignment. This left plenty of time for audition preparation.

I have to say, it was a moment of brilliance. At least for me.

In Bible, the girls studied Psalm 32 this week. We are enjoying the pre-inductive study, Young Hearts Longing for God.

Photo courtesy

Robert Frost continues to delight us. The girls both picked "Hyla Brook" as their favorite poem this week. (In case you're wondering, hyla is a genus of tree frog.) "We love the things we love for what they are." Isn't that a wonderful line? When I was a child, there was a small branch that ran near my aunt's house. My sisters, cousin, and I played in it for hours in the summertime. By August, it had dried up and left a sandy bed filled with weeds. I thought of that as I read aloud the words of this poem.

The girls are preparing for their Christmas piano recital, so Christmas music rings throughout the house. Feliz Navidad, anyone? I know; it's a bit early for me, too.

We did a bit of online research on Turkey, as part of our Explore the Holy Land selection (we're doing this a year later than the AO schedule). Here is a link to the Turkish Music Portal, where you can listen to samples of Turkish folk, classical, children's, pop, and contemporary music. The girls had a big time dancing around the school room to some of these tunes.

We also watched a few short videos about Turkey on YouTube. Here's one:

A forgotten mug of coffee milk left in the basement was the genesis of an unexpected science lesson. Have microscope, will analyze!

Everyone's working with decimals in math. Tiny Girl and I took a break this week from MasterMath to brush up on some decimal skills. We used the book Math Doesn't Suck (love the instruction; hate the title) by Danica McKellar, and the website Math Is Fun! Here's a link to their decimals menu. Next week, Tiny Girl and I will review fractions using the same resources. Then we'll be back to MasterMath.

Overall, we are really pleased with our decision to place Miss Priss at our neighborhood Mathnasium center for her math studies. She enjoys going later in the day, when kids her age are there. Sometimes she sees friends to wave to -- a fun bonus. She also likes working with the teenage tutors, especially the girls.

Story of the World: Egypt's first king and Italy's fascism
Secrets of the Universe (Liquids and Gases): Archimedes's Principle
School of the Woods: the author meets the fawns
Ordinary Genius (a bio of Albert Einstein): Chapter 3
Plutarch's Lives: "Dion," Chapter 2
Queen Victoria: Chapter 3
Age of Fable: Chapter 27, "The Iliad"
It Couldn't Just Happen: "The Law of Entropy," etc.
The Hobbit: Tiny Girl finished this and requested The Fellowship of the Ring, which I ordered from Paperback Swap. Miss Priss continues.
The Wizard of Oz: assigned reading for Tiny Girl
Jack and Jill (Alcott): assigned reading for Miss Priss

Our activities keep us busy, too. Tiny Girl and I are at the barn every day but Monday. Monday is theatre day, and, boy, am I glad to be part of a three-family carpool! Wednesday evening is middle school Bible study. And today, we travel to a nearby aquarium for an overnight adventure with our Girl Scout troop, along with a few other troops. We'll be "sleeping with the fishes" tonight!

I'll leave you with Frost's "Hyla Brook":

By June our brook's run out of song and speed.
Sought for much after that, it will be found
Either to have gone groping underground
(And taken with it all the Hyla breed
That shouted in the mist a month ago,
Like ghost of sleigh bells in a ghost of snow)—
Or flourished and come up in jewelweed,
Weak foliage that is blown upon and bent,
Even against the way its waters went.
Its bed is left a faded paper sheet
Of dead leaves stuck together by the heat—
A brook to none but who remember long.
This as it will be seen is other far
Than with brooks taken otherwhere in song.
We love the things we love for what they are.

Have a wonderful weekend with your family!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Serendipitous Science

Thanks to Miss Priss, we had a bit of unplanned science fun yesterday. On Sunday evening, Tiny Girl found a mug of week-old coffee milk in the basement, left there by Miss Priss. The entire surface was covered with mold and a gelatinous substance.

Both girls gagged and wanted to toss the contents immediately; but I swiftly intervened. "Wait! Let's look at it under the microscope!"

Aside: In the interest of full disclosure, I must add that no one was as interested in this activity as much as I was. We did it anyway.

I was elected to lift the mold off the coffee surface and place it in a petri dish. (More disclosure: it smelled fairly gross.)

Our microscope is a 3D stereo model, and we got some really neat views of the growths. Unfortunately, I can't show you. You'll just have to imagine the awesomeness.

Tiny Girl held her breath while she viewed our sample. When she ran out of air, she'd run out of the kitchen, inhale deeply, and run back in to see more.

The girls were more impressed that they'd expected to be. The 3D effect made the white mold look like hills of snow, and we could really appreciate (if that's the right word to use) the gooey gelatinous look of the oozy substance.

But I was still the most excited about the whole thing.

So if your kids leave plates of food or cups of drinks sitting around forgotten, capitalize on the opportunity for an impromptu science lesson. As an added benefit, your children may never forget their plates or cups again. I'm certain the experience made an impression on Miss Priss!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Had An Epiphany Lately?

According to people who study such things -- (let's stop right there. Do people actually study these things, or do computers just spit out data? That's what I'd like to know.)

Anyhow, according to people who study such things, true epiphanies are very rare. Here's Wikipedia (that font of all knowledge) on the matter:

An epiphany ... is an experience of sudden and striking realization. Generally the term is used to describe breakthrough scientific, religious or philosophical discoveries, but it can apply in any situation in which an enlightening realization allows a problem or situation to be understood from a new and deeper perspective. 

The girls and I have been studying Archimedes's principle. His Eureka! moment is considered a scientific epiphany.

Back to Wikipedia:

Epiphanies are relatively rare occurrences and generally following [sic] a process of significant thought about a problem. Often they are triggered by a new and key piece of information, but importantly, a depth of prior knowledge is required to allow the leap of understanding.

I'm considering the very real possibility that epiphanies are God in disguise. Perhaps when it's time for someone to know something, God makes it happen.

If you're wondering what got me on to this subject, I'll tell you. I was thinking about literary epiphanies, sudden realizations that occur in literature. (Yes, I really was. This is just what I do. Now do you understand why Himself calls me weird?) Wikipedia mentions James Joyce's use of epiphany, and that put me in mind of his short story "Araby." But the one that always comes back to haunt me is the grandmother's epiphany in Flannery O'Connor's short story "A Good Man Is Hard to Find." Have you read that one? Like most of O'Connor's work, it's strange and highly unsettling. But memorable.

So I thought I'd do a bit of research on epiphanies. And I learned something.

I love it when that happens.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Where Are Your Manners?

Or: "Were you raised in a barn?"

Look around you. It's sweeping the nation, this new epidemic called bad manners.

I could go on for days about this, since it's a particular peeve of mine. Instead, I offer you this: a marvelous review by Tricia over on the Curriculum Choice site, wherein she tells us of two fabulous resources, Manners Made Easy and Manners Made Easy for Teens, both by June Hines Moore.

You might also chuckle over Bernard Salt's lament, which I found both entertaining and true.

Thank you for reading my blog!

And thank you for waving in acknowledgement when I let your car out in front of mine whilst we're embroiled in traffic.

Monday, September 17, 2012

September is Library Card Sign-Up Month

My children and I are proud possessors of our library cards and have been for years. In fact, Miss Priss was delighted when her first card expired after several years because her signature on it was wobbly and childish. New card, new signature!

If you and your children don't have library cards, get thee to a library (with kids in tow)!

And if you do have a library card, do you know all you can do with it? Check out the American Library Association's (ALA) slide show, "60 Way to Use Your Library Card" for inspiration. (Scroll down the page a bit. I tried to embed the code, but it does not work correctly.)

A library card puts the world within your reach!

A family movie night at the library. Photo courtesy of ALA.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Robert Frost: Fragmentary Blue

We began our term study of Robert Frost, one of my favorite poets. Much to my delight, the girls enjoy his work, too.

One of the most wondrous things about Ambleside Online is that it introduces us to literature we might otherwise have missed. For example, all three of us were happy to have "met" poet Paul Laurence Dunbar last year. But I am also pleased to acquaint my girls with old friends, such as Frost.

And my heart goes pitter-pat when I learn more than I thought I knew. I love to be surprised like that.

Images courtesy of Foter.

Here's a Frost poem that was new to me (perhaps not to you, though).

Fragmentary Blue

Why make so much of fragmentary blue
In here and there a bird, or butterfly,
Or flower, or wearing-stone, or open eye,
When heaven presents in sheets the solid hue?

Since earth is earth, perhaps, not heaven (as yet)--
Though some savants make earth include the sky;
And blue so far above us comes so high,
It only gives our wish for blue a whet.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Unveiling Our 2012-2013 School Year (Finally)

Since we got home from our extended trip to Maine (lots of related posts on that; check them out by clicking the Summer label on the list at the right!), I've been a busy girl. I spent a few days and nights making final plans and gathering all our materials for this, our sixth homeschooling year. Miss Priss is now in seventh grade, and Tiny Girl is in sixth. We are thoroughly entrenched in the middle school years. (Aside: When and how did that happen?? They keep growing, yet I'm still as youthful, dewy, and wittily charming as ever....)

Some background: we use Ambleside Online's fabulous and rigorous FREE curriculum as our foundation. Since I am a rebel, I amend AO's schedule, adding and subtracting to create a unique plan for my family, one that fits us best. This year, we are beginning AO Year 6. And we're trying our hand at notebooking in a few areas, which I think will be wonderful.

Spiritual Growth
The girls have begun a pre-inductive study of the Psalms called Young Hearts Longing for God, which I purchased during CurrClick's recent sale. This year, they prefer to work on this independently, which is a new thing, and one I'm not so sure about. But I'm willing to give it a try. If I notice any slap-dash work, I'll be back at the helm.

After much curriculum-switching, we decided to enroll Miss Priss at our neighborhood Mathnasium center for her math studies this year. She goes to the center Monday through Thursday for 1.5 hours each day. So far we've all been pleased, and we have high hopes for this year. Tiny Girl opted for a change as well, and we went with MasterMath, a free online middle school math website with video lessons. (For more info, read my review at Curriculum Choice.)

Miss Priss has begun a new course, Critical Thinking, by Anita Harnadek. Both girls will continue with the MindBenders series, which they love, and the BalanceBenders series. All of these are from the Critical Thinking Company.

English Mechanics
For spelling, we're staying with Spelling Power. Three days a week, we spend a bit of time on grammar with Daily Grammar. You can read my reviews of both here. Copywork continues as well. However, we are taking a more formal approach to composition this year and using Susan Wise Bauer's Writing With Skill, book 5 in her writing series.

AO's poet for Year 6 fall term is Robert Frost. To my great joy, Miss Priss is already entranced. We will be incorporating memory work and recitation this year, which we've done in the past but let slide the last two years.

Both girls are reading The Hobbit independently this term. We are STILL reading Oliver Twist as a family read-aloud. Now that we are home and on a more regular and predictable schedule, I'm hoping to move a little more quickly through this one. Tiny Girl and I enjoy it; Miss Priss does not and strongly voices her opinion every time I crack open the Kindle. Also, AO's list of Year 6 free reads is packed with some wonderful selections.

Now that my girls are older, we are returning to Bulfinch's Age of Fable, beginning with chapter 27, the Trojan War and the Iliad. This fits in well with our geography study (see below). I love serendipity!

As for Shakespeare, we will attend a few theatre productions this year. Macbeth is first -- in October, of course. Later, I have in mind Much Ado About Nothing; Julius Caesar; and Romeo and Juliet. Tiny Girl was much put out that A Midsummer Night's Dream is not on the theatre's schedule this year.

Foreign Languages
I had a hard time deciding on a French study. We're beginning with Child's Illustrated First Book in French, by J. G. Keetels (in the public domain; I found it on Google Books). This will be somewhat of a review. Miss Priss wants to continue her German studies via PowerSpeak on our library's website, and I have no intention of dissuading her. Tiny Girl will begin -- and Miss Priss continue -- Latin and Greek roots later in the year.

Readings: History, Geography, Science, Natural History, and Biography
Story of the World, volume 4, by Susan Wise Bauer
Exploring the Holy Land, by Ann Voskamp and Tonia Peckover
Secrets of the Universe (selections), by Paul Fleisher
It Couldn't Just Happen, by Lawrence Richards
School of the Woods, by William J. Long
Ordinary Genius: The Story of Albert Einstein, by Stephanie Sammartino McPherson
"Dion," from Plutarch's Lives
Queen Victoria, by Noel Streatfeild (a Tanglewood selection)

Artist and Composer Studies (Fall Term)
Renoir and Debussy

Outside Activities
Theatre, both girls this year
Riding, Tiny Girl
Piano, both girls
Mid-week small group Bible study at church, both girls
Girl Scout Cadettes, all of us

So there you have it! Our 2012-2013 year. Some titles will change as we finish them, of course, and new ones will be added. But this is the basic framework.

Let the learning begin!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Service Learning: Hands-On Opportunities to Reach Out to Others

Service projects. Community outreach. Service learning.

We all know these are good things. We want to make a difference. We're called to make a difference. But where do we start? And how do we go beyond the canned food drive?

Help is here! Read my review of The Complete Guide to Service Learning at Curriculum Choice!