Friday, February 22, 2013

Weekly Happenings: Cathedrals, Cupcakes, and Other New Things

This was my fire on Sunday night. Himself laid it for me before he left for his hockey game -- with the girls! -- and I lit it when I was ready to settle down with Downton Abbey. Perfection.

I began working in earnest this week. NEW! It's part-time but still required a schedule revamp. My best bet is to work before the girls rise in the early morning, so that's what I did. The house was quiet, no one called my name, and there were no other distractions (e.g., the telephone). When we began our lessons, I was able to focus entirely on those since I'd already worked that morning.

In our lessons this week:

Augustus Caesar's World: Antony and Octavian triumph over Brutus and Cassius
The Story of the Greeks: the Greco-Persian wars and Pericles banishes Cimon
Explore the Holy Land: Saudi Arabia
The Riddle of the Rosetta Stone: Key to Ancient Egypt: finished up
Archimedes and the Door of Science: his love of mathematics
Animal Farm: "Four legs good, two legs better!"
Plutarch's Lives: Pericles, part five

 In composition this week, the girls added descriptions of places in their historical narratives. They wrote about Ivan IV (AKA, "the Terrible") and St. Basil's Cathedral. This led to research on the cathedral, which is absolutely astounding. I'd love to go to Moscow someday and see it with my own eyes.

On Monday, Tiny Girl entered our bird counts on the GBBC website. We finished up our study of adjectives in grammar; and Tiny Girl learned about estimating with percentages in math. In science, we learned about the four states of matter and how they can change. We added information into our NEW physical science notebooks. We also made notations in our NEW books of centuries. Piano practice continued, with recital pieces in the mix.

For pleasure reading, Tiny Girl read A Good Horse by Jane Smiley; Through the Looking-Glass, by Lewis Carroll; and The White Giraffe, by Lauren St. John. Miss Priss read  Rainbow Valley, by L. M. Montgomery. I am reading Beyond the Spring, a biography of Maine naturalist Cordelia Stanwood, by Chandler S. W. Richmond.

We did other stuff, too.

Miss Priss worked on her LEGO White House.

I tried my hand at papercutting. NEW!

Tiny Girl and I spent a lot of time at the barn. Here she is doing groundwork with the ponies. Tuli is on the left, and Patrick is on the right. They are both flea-bitten greys!

I made cupcakes to take to the barn for Tiny Girl's twelfth birthday tomorrow. I ate so much of that fabulous chocolate buttercream that I feel slightly sick. It was worth it, though.

Here's one Carl Sandburg poem the girls and I enjoyed this week:

Good Night
Many ways to say good night.

Fireworks at a pier on the Fourth of July
      spell it with red wheels and yellow spokes.
They fizz in the air, touch the water and quit.
Rockets make a trajectory of gold-and-blue
      and then go out.

Railroad trains at night spell with a smokestack mushrooming a white pillar.

Steamboats turn a curve in the Mississippi crying a baritone that crosses lowland cottonfields to razorback hill.

It is easy to spell good night.
            Many ways to spell good night.

How was your week?

I'm linking up with some wonderful hostesses. Pop over for a blog-reading bonanza this weekend!

Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers
Collage Friday
No Ordinary Blog Hop
The Homeschool Mother's Journal

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A New Gig: Back to Work

Yes, I'm back to work. Although it's not like I've been sitting around eating bon-bons or anything. I'm a homeschooling mother and wife with two active adolescents. We have two ponies, for Pete's sake.

And yes, I've wanted to pursue work that will add to the family coffers. (Did you get the part about the TWO ponies above? Not to mention the two adolescents? The college-bound part was implied.)

In the past several months, I've had the privilege of editing three historical novels for older children; and I'd love to continue these types of projects, particularly in the homeschool arena. I've written articles, one for The Old Schoolhouse magazine, and the other for Impart magazine. I don't do this type of work for the income. Although I earn money for some projects, many of these I consider a lay ministry.

And then this opportunity landed in my lap: ghostwriter. Some friends of mine have a company that provides all types of marketing services for businesses, and I'm now one of their content writers. Basically, I write content for email newsletters, websites, and blogs.

I'm excited about it. I'm also aware that I need to carve out and maintain distinct boundaries between work and school. Before now, I was able to wing it, since I only wrote for two clients. But we just added two new clients to my list, and the heat is on. My first priority is the girls' education. However, close behind is the necessity to turn out quality work for our clients. To do both and do them well, I need to make some changes:

  • Plan, plan, plan. I'm fairly good and making a plan and sticking with it for our lessons. However, I've left my writing pursuits to chance, meaning I have them all up here in my brain. Scary! So I'm developing a calendar for blogging AND professional work.
  • Schedule. I must be diligent about boundaries and not let work cross over into lessons. A schedule will help me do just that. Which leads me to. . . 
  • Get up early. In order to be and feel productive, I need to get up earlier. I can attend to work duties in the early morning before the girls arise. That way, I can avoid feeling conflicted, stressed, anxious, and/or pressured.

Those are my ideas. If you have any to share, I'd love to hear them.

Wish me luck!

Photo credit: zen / / CC BY-NC-SA

Monday, February 18, 2013

New Bird Sighting! Hermit Thrush

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Last week, the girls and I noticed a new feathered visitor to our tray feeder. It looked a little similar to a brown thrasher, except the eyes, tail, and size were different. We researched the bird in our bird books, hoping for a firm identification, but the closest we could surmise was the fox sparrow. Too bad our friend didn't sport the grey areas on its head, like a fox sparrow does. So our mystery guest remained a mystery.

So I was delighted when I opened an email from Audubon about the Great Backyard Bird Count, and there it was! A photo of our bird AND a positive i.d. It's a hermit thrush!

The photo above really doesn't do Catharus guttatus justice. Its back feathers are a lovely reddish brown (think auburn), and the white ring around its round, dark eye is particularly vivid. Smaller than a robin and larger that most of the songbirds that dine here, hermit thrushes are in our area in the winter only, like dark-eyed juncos.

We are always excited to identify a new bird variety!

Don't let this year's GBBC (Great Backyard Bird Count) slip by without joining in! Today's the last day. And you can count for as little as 15 minutes. Yesterday, I counted for that length of time while I worked at my computer in the study. I face a picture window that overlooks my back yard -- and feeders!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

My Article in Impart Magazine: Releasing the Dream of a Normal Life

If you're like me, the idea of a normal life is a teasing, tempting one -- and always just out of reach. Perhaps, though, chasing this particular dream keeps us from living the life we're really meant to live.

I have an article about this very thing in this month's Impart magazine, a particularly lovely digital publication. I hope you'll pop over and have a read. And I'd love to hear your thoughts afterward!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Need Some Encouragement?

Sometimes we need a little boost along the way, don't we? Kind words to cheer us on (or up!). A nudge to reconsider our focus.

I recently reviewed a lovely source of all these things: Homeschooling with Purpose, by Amy Roberts of To read my review and get a glimpse of this ebook, pop over to the Curriculum Choice....

Friday, February 8, 2013

Weekly Happenings: A Week of Quiet

 We took it easy this week. The last two weeks were a flurry of activity, mainly due to Miss Priss's theater production. This week, she was hit with a bad cold (and actually napped twice one day -- unheard of!), and I have the winter blahs. It seemed a good time to take a little break.

But we weren't slugs by any means. Unless you count the fact that we stayed in our jammies until we absolutely HAD to get dressed.

On Tuesday, we celebrated National Pancake Day at our closest IHOP. Who can beat a free short stack of pancakes? While we were there, we talked about the positive identification of Richard III's skeleton in Leicester.

We listened to the chatter of the cedar waxwings, stopping for a few days on their annual visit. They and the robins stripped our large holly tree of its berries. I loved watching them swoop to and fro outside the picture window in my study. They were easy to distinguish from the robins because they are smaller and, when they fly, their tails flash yellow. They've now moved on, and we won't see them again until next February.

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

We listened to Bach and explored a new art project, which I wrote about in detail yesterday:

The girls did quite a few art projects. They both worked on friendship bracelets. And Tiny Girl drew a picture in pastels for the upcoming Sketch Tuesday event hosted by Barb, something she hadn't done in a while.

We read nice books and drank lots of tea. I read The Tutor's Daughter, by Julie Klassen. Miss Priss read Anne of Windy Poplars, Anne's House of Dreams, and Anne of Ingleside, all by L.M. Montgomery. Tiny Girl read Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll, and, for even more fun, Tongue Twisters for Kids. One of the gifts she received at her birthday party last Saturday (her actual birthday is yet to come) was a Kindle! She adores it.

We're also reading The Riddle of the Rosetta Stone: Key to Ancient Egypt, by James Cross Giblin. AO's Year 6 history is light on ancient Egypt, so I added in a few resources. This is one. I want the girls to be properly informed in preparation for our trip to England. We're in the nascent stages of planning it. I've seen the stone on a previous trip and can't wait for them to have that opportunity, too.

The girls are now practicing their piano pieces for the recital in May. Each has one piece that's a bit of a challenge, so we're working through the angst of "I'll never be able to play this!" But of course they will. I'm often called to the piano during their practice time to work out a measure or two so they can hear what it should (ostensibly) sound like. And that's the extent of my piano prowess, I assure you.

It's almost time to say good-bye to Max, one of our ponies. Our lease is up, and his owners plan to send him to Kentucky to sell. We are hoping and praying that he gets another little girl who will love him as much as we have.

The girls and I both needed this week of quiet. Also, it gave me some time to research and plan some other materials we're about to pick up. In our "regular" weeks, I don't have much time to do this.

How was your week?

I'm linking up with:
Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers
No Ordinary Blog Hop
Collage Friday
The Homeschool Mother's Journal

Spend some time perusing the blogs on these wonderful link-ups for some new ideas, encouragement, and fun!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

A Day for Art!

This week, we decided to devote most of one day to educational pursuits we sometimes neglect or often can't fit in. An art project was one of these.

Inspired by Tricia at Hodgepodge's Mixed Media Valentine project, the girls created their own canvases. Only Tiny Girl's is actually mixed media; Miss Priss opted to stick with paper. Also the girls wanted to make the creations non-holiday specific. While we worked, Bach played in the background.

Just like Tricia, we selected verses from 1 Corinthians 13 (Msg). I copied their verses from BibleGateway into Word, and then the girls played around with different fonts. I printed these out and the girls cut them into strips. You could select different verses to go along with your own collage theme, if you'd like.

We have a large stash of decorative papers. The girls picked a few sheets and then tore pieces for their collages. Then they played around with placement on their canvases. You could also use cardstock, construction paper, cardboard, etc., in place of a canvas. Our Michaels had a sale around Christmas, and I stocked up on some canvases then (70% off!).

Once they found a pleasing arrangement, the girls glued everything in place with Tacky Glue. Tiny Girl also Modge Podged hers.

Miss Priss chose to cover her canvas in paper. When the glue dried, she sprayed it with high-gloss acrylic sealer. She's going to give it to one of her close friends.

Tiny Girl liked the idea of using paint as well. She used a teal paint to go over the bare areas of canvas. When that dried, she spatted a few drops of gold metallic paint over the entire thing.

Aren't they nice? We are very pleased with the way they turned out. And I was happy to carve out some time for such an enjoyable activity. Thanks, Tricia!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Confessions of a Mediocre Cook: Cinnamon Roll Waffles

Okay, I can't take credit for this one; I pinned it and then tried it. Yum! And it's easy peasy. Lemon squeezy.

I used Pillsbury canned cinnamon rolls. Spray your iron well with cooking spray.

I cooked them for three minutes.

Then I used the frosting that came in the package. Ta da!

Monday, February 4, 2013

A Charm of Finches

The Great Backyard Bird Count is next month, and we've already begun luring our quarry (to count!) to our feeders.

We've had finches in abundance: goldfinches and house finches, to be precise. Did you know that the most often used collective noun for finches is a charm? I love that. A charm of finches. How perfect.

Here are six female house finches dining at our tray feeder. They love the black oil sunflower seeds and the suet cake. Can you see them? It's a little tricky, but this was the best I could do. I took the photo from my breakfast room window.

They also cluster around the thistle seed feeder alongside the goldfinches, but I couldn't get a decent shot of that. I'll keep trying!

We are still seeing the bluebirds several times a day. But it won't be long before they move along to search out bluebird houses to their family nests. We don't have a bluebird house (nor an ideal place to put one), so we'll bid them adieu til next winter.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Weekly Happenings: It's Showtime!

The last two weeks have been both harried and fun. Miss Priss has been in crunch for her troupe's performance of Willy Wonka, so we've been on a reduced school schedule. She's been at the theater for rehearsals from 4:30 PM until 10:30 PM weeknights and from noon til five last Saturday. Midnight has been our bedtime for several nights now. So we've been sleeping in. And staying in our jammies until we have to get dressed.

I've been involved, too. I worked the green room one evening; I provided the staff meal with another parent; I proofread the program for two evenings; I worked with props, hot gluing bagels and pastries to platters; I ran a couple of errands; and I picked up the staff meal last night and will again tonight before the performance. Oh, and I'm working concessions with another parent.

It's been exhausting and wonderful, all at the same time. The cast members are aged between 12 and 17 years old, and they have worked really hard. So has the backstage crew and the staff. I've had an up-close and personal look at all the work that goes on behind the scenes, and it is considerable!

Thursday night was opening night, and the show was fabulous. Last night was great, too. Two shows today, and then we can all collapse! Until the end of February, when Tiny Girl's production swings into high gear.

As far as school goes, we've stayed on top of our scheduled readings and math. Grammar, spelling, composition, logic, and a few extras fell to the wayside for a couple of weeks. We'll get back to them this coming week.

  • Plutarch's "Pericles": Lesson 4, in which Pericles one-ups his political rival by throwing a bunch of parties for the masses
  • Augustus Caesar's World: Octavian runs Marc Antony out of Rome, takes a consulship by force, and then joins up with Antony and Lepidus to form a triumvirate. Senseless bloodshed and murder, including the death of Cicero
  • Story of the Greeks: athletic games; the birth of the theatre; Draco and his (Draconian) laws; Solon's better laws
  • Explore the Holy Land: Iraq
  • Animal Farm: Chapter 7
  • Archimedes and the Door of Science: Chapter 5, in which Archimedes shouts "Eureka!" and solves the mystery of King Heiro's (or is it Hiero?)  crown
  • In math, Tiny Girl worked on dividing decimals, and Miss Priss reviewed fractions

Miss Priss is reading and enjoying Kiss the Dust, a novel about a Kurdish family forced to flee Iraq during Saddam Hussein's regime. Tiny Girl will read it next.

Today, Saturday, we are celebrating Tiny's 12th birthday. The actual date is February 23, but she wanted to take some friends to see her sister's play, so we're partying today. I made cupcakes with a delicious chocolate buttercream frosting. I'll share the recipes later.

Happy weekend!

I'm linking up with:
Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers
No Ordinary Blog Hop