And the winner is…

We are back and the kiddos did great! Lily got a participation ribbon and went further rounds then she or we thought she would. We were really proud of her for being brave enough to get up in front of such a large crowd. I don’t know if I would’ve had the guts at that age! And the first graders were a tough group this year! The final two winners went through all their list and up into the 5th grade spelling list!

Gabe did well too, coming in second place again for his third grade group. His face was so happy when he realized he was in the top two and would place with a medal! He wanted the gold but there is always next year!

Down to three...

We celebrated and went out to lunch, Lily’s choice, to Arby’s…a special treat for us! It is the end of the night and as everyone is wearing down, the excitement is settling into a weariness that will have us all sleeping soundly until the morn. And I believe we will be taking a bit of a spelling break now.

Signatures and Important People

As you may have read (click here) yesterday, we are NOT schooling this week – officially anyway! So while reading to the children during lunch (a thing I do often as they are sitting still with their mouths too full to interrupt – very much anyway!) the rest of the Thomas Jefferson book we started but got sidetracked from last week, I was surprised by the rabbit trails that flowed from our story.

The kids remembered much more then I expected, having been over a week since we last read from it. Lily even remembered the name of the girl whom Jefferson had married, while Gabe merely groaned at the sappiness of yet another man falling over a girl. As we read more they became interested in Monticello (the house he built) and were fascinated by seeing pictures of The University of Virginia and realizing that was still the same building Jefferson helped to build and that people still went to school there today, and that – perhaps – they might even have a chance to go there too someday.

And, while looking something up (not even sure what that something was now) in this wonderful America book, we ran into a secret compartment in the back. Gabe suddenly shouted, “It’s the Declaration of Independence!!!” as loud as he could, excited that maybe it was right here in our very dining room. We carefully unwound the cord and pulled the poster out and unfolded it. Right there, before fresh patriotic eyes, was the Declaration in all it’s glory full of swirls and swishes of handwriting from another era.

They were mesmerized. We read a bit – until I couldn’t quite make out the cursive anymore – and then we hunted. For what you ask? Why signatures of course! Gabe and I recently had a discussion over signatures as he sternly informed me at the grocery store, while signing for my debit card, that that WAS NOT cursive…it was just a bunch of scribbles. I tried explaining but had no real way of communicating it in an understandable format…until now! Here was this plethora of scribbles before him of important men – real men – who did important things. You could see it click for him.

They quickly found Thomas Jefferson’s and Ben Franklin’s signatures. We hunted and hunted for George Washington’s and googled an image of his signature only to find out he never signed the Declaration of Independence. (Do you see how I am not really the teacher in this schooling thing, but merely a student learning right along with them in our inquisitiveness together?)

This segued into Gabe wanting to practice his name in cursive and Lily wanting to draw her own picture of Monticello then sign with her own flourishes as long as she could add a heart to dot her ‘i’ and a flower on the end of her swirls.

So much for NOT schooling today!

The Spelling Bee

We are ramping up again to participate in the 2010 HEN (Home Educators Network) Spelling Bee for homeschoolers of the Omaha area. I found out about this event last year through my Christian homeschooling support group: The Discovery Group. Gabe, who is a natural speller, was interested in trying out. Since it was his idea, he had the motivation to study the word list and finally our subject of spelling (a subject he used to hate) became a self-motivated subject of interest – one he excelled in.

We downloaded the spelling bee list for the appropriate grade last year and used that as our study guide. He studied about 500 words in a two month period. We watched Akeelah and the Bee as an encouragement and so he could model how  to actually participate in a bee. Not only did he practice spelling words, but he practiced how to stand properly and how to say the word, spell the word, say the word. We also went over rules such as when to ask for a sentence or a definition.

The experience was well worth it. It was the best unschooling experience we’ve had! He came in second place for the Second Grade category and – that same week – got to actually see The Scripps National Spelling Bee on television – a serendipituous coincidence (or God moment as I like to call them!) that it happened to be the same week! Gabe and Lily spent the rest of the evening “playing” spelling bee and this motivated Lily to want to enter the First Grade category this year.

So that has been our spelling for the year. We do not work out of a workbook or follow a specific program. I print out their specific grade list for the year and break it down into sizeable chunks (smaller for Lil – about 10-15 words per week, larger for Gabe – about 30-60 words per week). They work on these at – a wonderful FREE resource on the computer where they practice their words. They type all their words in, thus reinforcing the spelling, and press the Teach Me button to have the words spelled aloud to them and used properly in a sentence (vocabulary practice). They play two games of their choice to practice using the words, seeing the words by repitition, and never seeing the words spelled incorrectly (a Charlotte Mason technique) which helps firmly set the picture of the word in their mind to recall later. Last they take a test to see if they’ve mastered their list of words. This takes about a half hour to do (a little longer for Lily who is a slower typer and needs more time to think about the answers in a game) and the kids LOVE it. They look forward to spelling.  We never have to spend any money on curriculum for this subject and they get to practice spelling, vocabulary, typing, and other various computer skills all at the same time.

I am excited to see how they fare this year. Gabe is going for the gold. The time  and day for anyone who is interested (hint, hint aunts and uncles!) is Friday, January 30 at Sorenson Library (48th & Cass) at 10:30 AM. Here’s a pic from last’s year competition.

Our favorite Spelling links…go check them out!

of Pancake Art and other such things

holy experience

As I awoke this morning, finally having slept due to a new feeding schedule for the baby, sleeping in till nine-ish wrapped in my husband’s arms, knowing it would be a light school day, I felt blessed. Some days feel so overwhelming that I can barely stay afloat of all the needs and wants of the day. But I love when the Lord refreshes with these days of Pancake Art and other such things! May you each have a blessed week. Don’t forget to look for the special touches that refresh you in the little ways…they might not turn out to be so little after all!

6. Flannel sheets softly warming cold and tired feet.

7. Time for making pancakes for breakfast.

8. A new blanket of snow covering the dirty slush of a polluted world, reminding me of Jesus blanket of snow covering my own dirt and being SO thankful for the cross!

9. The dark, velvety richness of my favorite Cafe Verona coffee beans French Pressed to perfection.

10. Homemade whipping cream that can top my coffee making it taste even more delectable as I recall mornings of dating and the Garden Cafe.

11. A daddy who is willing to love his children extra special by making Pancake Art.

12. The smiling faces of children filling their bellies with their Favorite and Best mouses and bears!

13. Time to work on Spelling Bees, tangram puzzles, and other lovely child-led interests.

14. A baby who is napping on schedule and asleep through the night (again!) due to upgrading to granola pears and plum apples.

15. The clapping hands of “I did it Mommy!!!” as a little girl successfully uses the potty for the first time…twice!!!

The Learning Room

Week of January 16-22

Taking more time then I thought through our colonial and Revolutionary jaunt of history. I had a plan (don’t we all!) and we are suppose to be finishing up Thomas Jefferson and moving on to Lewis and Clark. But I figure with the weather as it is, Lewis and Clark will be much more fun to study as spring is approaching. Right now we are enjoying really letting our book reading settle in through music.  And I am fine with that. I suppose the Constitution should not be rushed over. I know there will be a lot they won’t retain just because they can’t possibly have a perspective yet, but there is much to be exposed to – beautiful words and ideas in the Constitution and Preamble – that can be soaked in now through memory and recalled later as the understanding clicks into place. I may actually segue into a civics rabbit trail as we finish out the winter quarter.


  • Matthew 2 – story of wise men and King Herod
  • Psalm 139 – along with a theological discussion on how big God is and can we keep secrets from him

Literature & Poetry

Language Arts

  • Latin – Gabe practiced flashcards and new words: insula, sunt, laudo
  • Spelling – Gabe is going above and beyond this week preparing words on (our fave spelling site!) for the upcoming spelling bee (post coming soon); Lily has also been working at it (mainly phonetic words and the etiquette of participating – the two biggest concerns for her first year) but more slowly then Gabe
  • Grammar – Gabe worked on creative writing this week (harder for him then Lil) with picture study narrations and working contractions into his story; practiced breaking down poetry to a basic understanding; and worked with the proper use of its and it’s
  • Phonics – Lily did a lot of reading practice (including a lot on her own) and we worked on b/d recognition through a phonics game; read from the We Both Read Book series: The New Red Bed and The Well Mannered Monster
  • Penmanship – Gabe: cursive letters R, S, T; Lily capital and lowercase C, D and b/d recognition practice
  • The Letter Factory – Luc and Lilah have been craving this video and I couldn’t be more thrilled. This series is what taught Gabe to read at age 3 without any help from me! Lily wasn’t interested in it at all (which is why we have a heavy emphasis on phonics practice with her) but Luc and Lilah have wanted to watch it every day this week and are now going around singing “The A says ‘aahhh’, The A says ‘aahhh’, Every letter makes a sound, The A says ‘aahhh’!” Luc is also picking up books around the house pointing out letters and practicing their sounds. He is asking about words on pages as we are reading. I am so happy  that we are traveling down this road. Now…if we could just get the potty training conquered!


  • Music – listened to my America: Revolutionary Freedoms CD with an emphasis on memorizing states and the Preamble of the Constitution
  • Read We the Kids: The Preamble to the Constitution of the United States by David Catrow
  • Gabe is working on memorizing the Preamble and Lily is working on memorizing Jonathon Sprout’s song Washington’s Hat (click here to listen) – both of their own accord – and both are memorizing Fifty Nifty United States
  • Read more of Betsy Ross (chapters 4-6)
  • A discussion between Gabe and Dad on Indians and what happened to them (based on a picture study done in Gabe’s Grammar book)
  • A discussion between Lily and Pop on what actually happened with Washington at Delaware’s Crossing (based on Lily’s singing the song and Pop’s recent viewing of a Discovery Channel special on that event)


  • Gabe – worked on chapter 14 of Math U See (still working w/multiplication of 6) and took Unit Test
  • Lily – worked again with Math-terpieces and regrouping addition; finished learning to count to 100 and practiced number recognition and ordering to 100; practiced addition with Math U See manipulative blocks
  • Luc – practiced counting using How To Dinosaurs Count to Ten book


  • Gabe – reading through all the Magic School Bus series again
  • Watched Magic School Bus: Creepy Crawly Fun (discovering sound waves, nocturnal creatures, spiders and web spinning)
  • Everyone watched Here Comes Science – a wonderful DVD full of songs (much like School House Rock) that goes over all kinds of science topics from the elements to cell function and photosynthesis to learning the planets. We only had to skip 2 songs (about being the brothers of monkeys). This watching spurred the kids into listening to our wonderful old school collection of Science Songs (click here to listen – especially to the kids favorite of the Ballad of Sir Isaac Newton!).
  • Dinosaurs galore!!! Some of our wonderful reading for the week:
  1. Brachiosaurus by Rupert Oliver (may have to own this series!)
  2. Pteranodon: The Life Story of a Pterosaur by Ruth Ashby (a great living book!!!)
  3. Usborne Beginners: Dinosaurs (Luc’s favorite recheck at the library due to the Parasauralophus pictured on the front cover!)
  4. Jane Yolen’s series: How Do Dinosaurs… (the only kid fiction dinosaur books Luc will read and only because they are illustrated realistically and have the actual dinosaur name listed in tiny print by every picture)



  • Dad bought a 24 pack of playdo (every color of the rainbow) and gave the kids a mission of making something w/their imagination and then telling him a story about it later. This turned into a lesson about what colors mix to make what other colors (after a toddler disaster), which gave us a nice unschooling moment about primary colors and black and white and how they function in this scenario. The older two had quite a good time finding out what made what. I may actually let them continue this study next week (since we’ve accomplished daddy’s mission) and then further that with actual paints down the road.
  • Luc and Lily practicing drawing dinosaurs. All I can say about this is see the picture below. A picture says a thousand words right???

The rendering of a Brachiosaurus drawn on flannel sheet.

Poetry that speaks

A treasured gem we stumbled upon today…wise words to an eight year old boy’s growing ears:


Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with wornout tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”;

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run –
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!

And if you want to hear it beautifully read as you are meditating on these lovely words of wisdom written by that favorite author of The Jungle Book and the Just So stories , listen here:

IF – Rudyard Kipling