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


holy experience

Starting the walk of gratitude that I so humbly stumbled upon in this lovely sanctuary of Ann Voskamp’s blog: A Holy Experience! Thank you, Ann, for your beautiful words of inspiration and thoughts that spur the rest of us to truly walk in HIS ways!

1. Frosted tipped branches decorating my world like a scene from Narnia.

2. Cozy blankets lovingly handmade that snuggle my girls warm against the winter chill. A very warm thank you to this beautiful lady’s talented hands!

3. A husband who encourages.

4. Cracked hands with shortened nails from use of sacrificial loving.

5. Soft cotton to wrap my baby’s bottom in.

The Learning Room

Week of January9-15

A pretty low-key week around here with Luc’s birthday disrupting a normal school day.  But the best thing about homeschooling is you get to take birthdays off…right?!?!  Pictures of the week: Luc’s amazing dinosaur birthday cake.


  • Read Tricking the Talleyman: The Great Census Shenanigans of 1790 by Jacqueline Davies (Great book – highly recommend!  Gabe read this independently on his own several times and when we read it together Lily said she wasn’t interested but continually was drawn to the story and finally ended up listening to the whole thing! Also interesting because we currently have a census coming up, which we discussed. Our discussion also included how people were counted, or partially/not at all counted in relation to slaves and Native Americans.)
  • Read the first part of Foresight: The Story of Thomas Jefferson (the kids are liking but not as much as the Benjamin Franklin story from this same series)
  • Read chapters 4-5 of Betsy Ross (generated a discussion of review over Benjamin Franklin – as characters in book visited his printing shop – and the kids actually remembered quite a bit about him. I think this may be their favorite Revolutionary figure studied so far. This also led naturally into the kids reminiscing over the Ben Franklin movie they watched and wanting to dance to music about him, which Lily informed me is how she remembers history best.)
  • Music – my compilation American History CD (especially popular: Washington’s Hat, Fifty Nifty United States, Ben Franklin, Grand Old Flag, Yankee Doodle)
  • Gabe independently started reading George Washington’s Socks by Eluira Woodruff (a serendipitous find at the Goodwill – hadn’t even had time to strew it before it got plucked up and carted off to a comfy chair!)


  • Gabe – skip counting by 6, mulitplying by 6, review of perimeters, introduction to fractions
  • Gabe also worked with Daddy on compiling numbers for Reader paper drop offs
  • Lily – addition practice, number recognition to 25

Language Arts

  • Gabe – Latin (new words: et, silva; review), Grammar (contractions), Spelling (list words and practice for the spelling bee), Cursive (O, P, Q), Independent Reading
  • Lily – Phonics, reading practice, Handwriting (capital and lowercase B), Creative Writing


  • The Digestive System discussion and experiments
  • a discussion of the seasons in relation to the equator and North and South and why the equator is hotter which took us into geology and the core of the earth (all spurred by a mistaken comment about Russia having summer right now because it is on the other side of the world)
  • a discussion on what fog is made of and what causes frost and that billowy steam from your breath in the cold, thanks to the wonderful handiwork of God on Saturday!
  • much reading and discussing of dinosaurs and plant eaters versus meat eaters, identification and physical attributes, and the difference between dinosaur name classification versus dinosaur family classification

And to end the week – Happy Birthday little guy!

Saturday’s Movie Night

With Saturday being our usual library day, the kids are excited to watch whatever new videos they picked right away. This practice has naturally turned our Saturday nights into movie nights. It is the one night where I try to stop what I’m doing (i.e. housekeeping) to just sit and spend time with them doing something together as a family.

Since Adam is working, we make this a light dinner night – pizza and popcorn. When I’m feeling really inspired then I will go to the trouble of making homemade dough, but most Saturdays find us making the cheating pizza (tortilla shells spread w/a bit of pasta sauce, sprinkled with cheese and baked at 425 for about 8 minutes).  The final touch is stove-popped popcorn, a tradition started a few years ago when we found a recipe in the back of The Popcorn Book during one of our homeschool studies. Adam and I tried it, loved it and threw every bag of chemically enhanced microwave popcorn in the trash. We haven’t looked back since!

So here is our famous stove-top popcorn recipe (after much fiddling for just the right pop!):

  1. Heat a large pot over medium-high heat (a 7 on our dial) with enough veg/canola oil to cover bottom of pan (about 2-3 T).
  2. Place 2 kernals in oil to heat along with oil. You will know oil is hot enough when both kernals pop.
  3. Cover bottom of pan with single layer of kernals (about 1/2 cup) and cover with lid.
  4. Use pot holders to hold on to pan and, every once in a while, shake the pan to cover kernals with oil and allow popping corn to rise to surface.
  5. When you hear popping slowing down almost to a stop, pull pot off heat and place lid in sink, quickly pour popcorn into large bowl.
  6. Salt to taste.

There is nothing like the taste of freshly popped popcorn! With all the warnings coming out about how bad microwave popcorn is for you, I am glad my family made the switch! And now with our microwave broken – with no plans to buy a new one – it will be a necessity…a happy necessity! Enjoy your weekend dear readers!

An Unschooling Moment…The Digestive System

We are sitting here eating breakfast when the discussion of swallowing gum comes up. I’m trying to remember how exactly but, for the life of me, can’t.  All I know is suddenly we are talking digestion, where our food goes, what happens to the gum.  I remembered the old child-hood myth about it staying in your stomach for years. Luc mentioned how it would make you sick to swallow gum, ironic considering he swallows his fair share.  The kids talked extensively about the Magic School Bus episode they had seen numerous times from the library about being inside Arnold’s stomach and what happens to the food in intestines.  This brought up even more questions and suddenly we found ourselves at the computer, searching for the answers. We discovered a lot of science, history and math – even some Spanish!

In a Snopes ariticle we discovered that gum, as we know it, was invented in America…Maine, in fact…by John Curtis in 1848 when he experimented with spruce resin after seeing loggers chew it.  This led to a discussion on why someone would chew a tree followed by the “eewwwhhhss”…a must when your discovering the good science!.  We discussed ancient history, the Egyptians, using bark as toothbrushes…all of which seemed terribly funny to my kids.  Then we discovered that the same General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna of the Alamo introduced chicle (a resin from rainforest trees) to an inventor in New York, Thomas Adams as a rubber substitute that ended up as a gum-base (remember Chiclets?) to which Gabe excitedly shouted, “Hey, chicle means gum in Spanish!”  – a fact I didn’t even know!

We found the myth was a bust. So…if gum doesn’t stay in your system – being indigestible fiber – where does it go? (Now I’m sure you readers know the answer to that and I must say my children enjoyed yelling at the top of their lungs the potty word we only refer to with diapers and potty training!) So off we went to look into the intestines.  We couldn’t find any good sites (in our short amount of time looking) but I did get a few tips from snippets here and there which made me throw together 2 quick science experiments.

Experiment One: Where the Gum goes

Mission: Set up an experiment that shows what happens to food in intestines and how fiber (and gum) is separated out from food nutrients.

Lab ingredients: tea strainer (to represent intestines – may use wire mesh strainer or coffee filter and glass), breakfast food, drink, gum, a spoon, a cup, lemon juice

First: chew up what we ate for breakfast (pancakes and syrup), spit in tea strainer.

Second: spit what we drank for breakfast (milk, some coffee and grounds) into tea strainer

Third: chew up some bubble gum, spit in with food

Fourth: pour on some stomach acid (lemon juice) and mash down with spoon

And – voila! – fiber rich leftover food and gum ready to be passed through the bowels, leaving the liquid (or that other bodily fluid) to be flushed out of system and our invisible nutrients passed on through to enter the bloodstream.  The kids weren’t sure about chewing and spitting food, but once they got the hang of it the game was quite fun and interesting to watch!  An experiment not for the squeamish at heart!

Experiment Two: The Length of Intestines

When we read that the intestines are over 25 feet in length, I challenged the kids to figure out how long that was.  First we reviewed measuring a foot.  Then they made predictions on how many feet tall they were.  We got out the rulers and measured.  Then pulled out some ribbon from the handy dandy craft desk and set about measuring that.  Lily participated at the math level she knew and Gabe helped with multiplication and yards.  Once we had the right length of ribbon they spread it out to the end of the hallway, which delighted Lily.  They were able to visually see how much longer the intestines were then they were tall.  So how did it fit in our belly?  We talked about coiling and wrapping and practiced with our ribbon, which delighted Gabe.

Our Intestines!

The kids got to chew some gum (Lily accidentally swallowed hers – a firsthand object lesson) while watching Arnold’s gum chewing experience on the Magic School Bus: Inside the Human Body on YouTube (since we can’t get out to the library till Saturday) and delighted in watching the process in action.  It was one of those mornings that, if you had planned it, NEVER would’ve happened as it did.  The spontaneity of it sparked from the natural curiousity of children and drove this delightful study.  I wasn’t planning on school today on account of celebrating Luc’s birthday, but God had other plans.  It is that leading that I want to remain aware and responsive to with my kids!

Other questions this has brought up (after much thought and downtime doing own things):

1) Do carrots really make you see better? (Discussed beta caratene and what other foods contain it.)

2)Why does cheese smell bad but tastes so good? (Didn’t really have an answer to why it smells like dirty feet but tastes like a slice of heaven!)


First narrations of the new year.  Every good Charlotte Mason homeschooler knows that narrations are key.

How do my children feel, though?  Lily doesn’t mind a bit.  In fact, when she was four and first started “doing” narrations (not because I made her but because she wanted to do school with Gabe) she thought a narration was adding onto the story.  We would read and then she would tell me back some of the things she remembered but mainly she would embellish and add to whatever the story had been. She had quite the imagination and this used to drive Gabe crazy!

But Gabe…well, Gabe hates (and I mean hate with a capital H, A, T, E) narrations.  When I first read about using this wonderful tool I was smitten.  I wanted my children to be as excited as I was.  And then Gabe quickly burst my bubble.  He would just sit there staring at me blankly.  His eyes would glaze over.  He seemed to remember nothing.  And then it turned into him not even wanting to hear the word story for fear he would have to narrate back.  I spent a year in complete frustration wondering if somehow I was messing up this simple tool of having a child retell back what they learned.  Did he really learn nothing??? But I see him reading ALL the time.  Does he not remember any of it?

I read and reread everything on narrations I could…the Charlotte Mason style and modern twists that other homeschoolers came up with.  Nothing seemed to work.  I was ready to chuck my style in the trash and figure out something else for history.  I just told myself I would at least finish out the year and see where we were.  Now I am SO glad I persevered!!!

The next year I noticed something…and, NO, it was not that Gabe embraced narrations and finally got why we did them. What I did notice was how much better his narrations were…how much more detailed…how he started reading them over my shoulder…how he started correcting me on little things and wanting to participate in the spelling, grammar, and punctuation.  It was turning into a natural grammar lesson…a natural composition.  My heart soared.  We did it!  We made it!  So this is what Ms. Mason was talking about!

So at the end of our first week back to school, as Gabe was whining – again – about how he just knew he couldn’t narrate for me, I was patient.  I reasoned, cajoled, and persevered until it came out of him.  And I am so glad I did.  I couldn’t be prouder!  Here’s to you, Ms. Mason!

An example of a "living book".

Gabe Payson – Age 8 – Third Grade – January 8, 2010

Betsy Ross: Designer of Our Flag by Ann Well

Chapter One – The story is about Betsy Ross and her mother and father and her friends.  George had said throughout the book that Betsy was a girl and she couldn’t make anything ever.  Betsy was trying to make doll furniture and the wooden part of the saw fell on her head and it landed on the floor and it crashed down and it made a sound like “gggrrrr”.  When it made that sound it made her think of George and how he always said that she was a girl and couldn’t make anything.  And then when she was trying to use it she accidentally cut herself when she was trying to saw though the wood.  She ran up quickly to her mother and her mother gave her a bandage and the bandage was not like ours today.  It was a thin piece of cloth and she wrapped it around her wound.

Chapter Three – It was Betsy’s first day of school and the store person said to stop by after school and I’ll give you a peppermint stick on your first day of school.  And Betsy agreed that it was a good idea.  And so they walked out to the school (her and her sisters) and Betsy felt like she was walking in the air but really her sisters were holding her up and she was making walking movements.  They were doing it so they would not be late for school.  Betsy had ran home to give the candy cane to her brother before school because she knew he had been sad inside and left alone.

Chapter Two – When it was baking day Betsy helped her mother bake bread and they had made it out of sourdough and yeast and they had used it in their family for generation after generation.  On baking day they couldn’t find the sourdough after Betsy had rolled the dough into a ball.  They thought George might have took it but really it was stuck to the bottom of the baking trough.

It made Betsy feel really sad that they’d never get to use it again and her mom said they could use Mrs. Adam’s.  She didn’t want to use it because she thought the bread wouldn’t be the same and her mom said the bread would taste just as good but Betsy didn’t  believe her.

Lily Payson – Age 6 – First Grade – January 8, 2010

Betsy Ross: Designer of Our Flag by Ann Well

Chapter Three Betsy had a candy cane and she gave the candy cane to her little brother, George because he was feeling sad because he couldn’t go to school.  She thought she was running in the air but really her sisters were holding her up in the air because they were late to go to school.

Chapter Two – Betsy was baking with her mother with the dough and they lost their sourdough.  It got squished on the pad.  It made Betsy sad.

Chapter One – George said Betsy was too little to make a new table and she cut herself on a knife.  She was trying to build a dollhouse.  She put on a band-aid.  The thing that cut her hand sounded like “gggrrrllll”.  When George said to go out and play outside Betsy said, “No, I’m gonna build a dollhouse!”  And her dad said they needed to make a new table because they had new sisters coming.  So they had to make it bigger because their table wasn’t big enough.

(I know Lil’s is out of order…this is how she narrated back to me and I always try to be true to what they actually said and the order they actually remembered.)

The Learning Room

Week of January 4 – 9, 2009

Our week was a little shaky getting started but, for the most, we accomplished everything I had wanted to get done – school-wise anyway.  I am still in the process of reading “Managers of Their Homes” when I can (mainly while nursing and eating) and I am starting to realize just how much we DO need a schedule (no matter how much I buck against such systems with my innate hippie unschooling ways).  It is not that I’ve been against scheduling.  I see the need – even typed up a school schedule to use for the week.  It just seems the moment that I put it onto paper then everything goes wrong to sabotage the plan. I have suspicions as to why this is but I digress…scheduling is a post for another day.  On to our week.

Family Time

  • Read daily from The Children’s Bible (Golden Guide) and discussed obedience and consequences.
  • Practiced memory verse: Matthew 7:12 “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
  • Worked on learning the calendar year and seasons, especially for Lily and Luc (see reading listed below).



  • Discussed Betsy Ross, the Colonial Flag, the American Flag, the Pledge of Allegiance, the 13 colonies, what a colonial school was like
  • Worked on memorizing: The Pledge of Allegiance (inluding Pledge etiquette) and 13 colonies
  • Mapwork – 13 colonies
  • Reading – See Above.  I wasn’t sure about our topic of choice this week as the kids showed very little interest (perceived by me from the throwing themselves dramatically on the floor, rolling eyes, swaying arms while sighing loudly).  I was discouraged until we started the Betsy Ross chapter book.  It starts with Betsy, at age 6, being taunted by her 5 year old brother.  THIS got their attention.  Ever since they’ve been captivated by the story and much more interested in the activties.  Have I mentioned how much I LOVE living books?
  • Narrations – did narrations of first three chapters of Betsy Ross (will be posting soon about how narration works in our homeschool)
  • Watched an episode of Liberty Kids (kids were disappointed because the new library DVD edits out the games which is their favorite part of this series – will have to return to the old school VHS tapes)
  • Watched This is America Charlie Brown: The Birth of the Constitution (the kids loved this – may have to own this series)
  • Art – made colonial flags and attempted (rather poorly I’m afraid to say – even my attempts) trying to make a simple Betsy Ross 5-pointed paper star
  • Music – listened to the Pledge of Allegiance and the Grand Old Flag (Kids loved this one – made me play it over and over again while marching around the living room.  Guess this will have to be added to the history compilation CD mix.)

Lily’s Formal Work

  • Phonics – long a/silent e, ‘ai’ and ‘ay’ words; ‘m’ sounds; reading practice; Kumon flashcards
  • Spelling – at, ate, mad, made, hat, hate, tap, tape, back, bake
  • Penmanship – capital and lowercase A (proper strokes); copywork in Language Lessons book
  • Reading Practice – read Bob books, Fox’s Best Trick Ever (a We Both Read Book), Bear Hugs (a Step-Into-Reading book)
  • Reading Comprehension – history narration of Betsy Ross
  • Composition – history narration of Betsy Ross
  • Math – number recognition 1-25, addition work with flashcards and abacus
  • Science – using blubber to insulate heat
  • Practical Life – tying shoelaces

Gabe’s Formal Work

  • Grammar – adjectives, adverbs, homophones, proper use of ‘to, too, two’
  • Penmanship – cursive work on letters L, M, N
  • Spelling -unable, until, unusual, unlucky, unfair, unkind, unknown, unlock, unlikely, unhappy, unwilling, unload, burlar, popular, similar, calendar, grammar, familiar, nickel, angel, level, dislike, disuse, disgust, disobey, disorder, distrust, discover, distance, disease, dishonest, disappear, discourage (had trouble only with the word unusual this week)
  • Reading Comprehension – history narration on Betsy Ross
  • Composition – acrostic poem, history narration on Betsy Ross
  • Latin – new words: aqua, est, femina; practiced flashcards
  • Math – multiplication of 3 family
  • Science – using blubber to insulate heat
  • Mentoring – reading to Luc and Lilah


  • Math/Logic – Lily worked through the Math-terpieces book with dad; Gabe worked on drawing fractals in triangles and read several books on math; everyone played with Magformers to build different geometric shapes
  • Language Arts – Lily and Gabe wrote, illustrated, and bound stories; Lily wrote an additional story about Pippi Longstocking which lent to lots of extra spelling practice (which I find amusing because she was sure she was going to NOT be interested in hearing Pippi at first when I introduced the audio CD!); Spelling Bee practice for both Gabe and Lily; vocabulary asked about this week (that I can remember – maybe need to write this down during the week): usher, liberty, pledge, unto, sup and dine (referring a supper versus dinner discussion – actually pulled out the dictionary on this one and discussed Old English), sourdough, thee and thy,
  • Science – everyone read lots of Magic School Bus books, Gabe spent time working on his new Snap Circuits (electricity)
  • Lily’s Independent ReadingPish and Posh, The Scariest Monster, Fancy Nancy book series, Dancers
  • Gabe’s Independent ReadingG is for Google (math), Go Figure (math), Mathemagic (math), Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great, SuperfudgeRamona and Her Mother, Ramona and Her Father, Ramona Forever, Henry and Beezus, Harriet the Spy, Magic School Bus: Gets Programmed (science & technology)
  • Practical Life Skills – cooking with dad; manners (specifically saying “Yes M’am” and “Yes Sir” and obeying first time asked)
  • Art – drawing with dad, Lily worked on scrapbooking, Gabe made own gameboard

The Littles

  • Luc – played number matching game with mom, painted, colored, discussed how dinosaurs differ with mom, reading time with mom and Gabe, watched Leap Frog phonics series
  • Delilah – played number matching game with mom, painted, colored, watched Leap Frog phonics DVD series, reading time with mom and Gabe and Lily
  • Ivy – can now sit up on her own; practicing having each of the older three take turns playing with her

Additional Notes – Looking back over the week it looks like we accomplished quite a bit.  I guess sometimes I don’t realize how much we actually got done until it gets written out.  This is encouraging!

Schedules…Getting on Track

The beginning of January…a fresh start…a new beginning…this time things will be different.  That’s what most of us think. Why shouldn’t we homeschool moms be any different? I spent last week organizing fussing over all the school shelves.  I spent the past two nights tweaking a schedule I had already planned out extensively over the summer.  “We must have a place for everything with everything in it’s place before we begin!” I emphatically shouted to myself.  This time things will be different.  This time we will stay on track.  This time I will make a plan.  This time my plan will go accordingly. This time my kids will sit patiently, shout hooray when I announce it’s time for school, come running excitedly when I call, and quietly color as I read great literature and teach them about our founding fathers.

Just got interrupted in the middle of this post by a 2 year old dumping toilet water all over the laundry room floor.  Which, I’m pretty sure, just made my statement for me about our first day back in school!

Maybe tonight I will get a bit of peace and quiet to read this book:

Oh…who am I kidding?  Maybe will get a post in about our school week by the end of the week.  Obviously daily isn’t going to work!

A Fresh Start

Thought I would sneak in here for a moment and wish everyone Happy New Year!  The day is sunny, sparkles bouncing off the snow, giving me just the faintest hope of spring as I stare at all the garden seed catalogs pouring in and sitting in my “too read” basket.  Last night, sipping a bit of champagne with my dear husband, we reflected over the past year.  Such tragedies seemed to want to move in on our life.  But God is good.  HIS plan prevails and the year poured out blessings instead.  We counted them.  A new baby.  Souls restored.  Money blessings.  A bounty of food.  Garden lessons.  Children bearing fruit.  All good.  All blessed.  All us.  Soul-feeding.  So here is a bit of reminiscing on my part with a picture story of our year.  Enjoy!









HAPPY 2010!