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.)