Back to School {The First Week}

In my Back to School – Planning post I talked a little about what we were doing for the year and how we were fitting it all in. In this post I’d like to just recap our week. I’m not always good about doing this weekly but the first week is always important to me, even if I’m finally finished writing about it 3 weeks later! It is my way of scrapbooking digitally our year and there is just something indescribably special about the first week. The kids are excited for what’s to come. I’m excited for what’s to come. Everything is ripe with possibility even as we stumble through getting the daily rhythm down.

So how was our first week?

Math and Art were our biggest hits for the week.


For math we’ve switched to Khan Academy this year for our oldest son. His dad started using it to sharpen his own Algebra skills over the summer and Gabe started sitting down beside him and helping him work out problems. He absolutely loves it. Khan is self-paced, independent, and FREE! We had already been using Khan for history, science, art, and math supplementation (they have great videos and now they’ve teamed up with the guys who do Crash Course whom my kids LOVE and we use for history and science) so this was a natural carryover for him. Since Gabe is already a year ahead in math, using Khan will give him the independence to move ahead at his own pace. He may end up doing two years in one this year and be into Algebra by year’s end. We also allowed the other kids to try it since Khan does have math all the way down to an early elementary level, but we found after a few days of trying that they still preferred their Teaching Textbooks for math.



Although Teaching Textbooks is very pricey, I LOVE their program. It is set up tutorial-style so each kid is completely 100% taught on the computer without me. It is great for auditory and visual learners or for those that need someone to sit with them step by step through each problem. It does automatic grading and my kids love it. That is enough for me to spend the hefty price tag. Plus, we discovered that the book is actually just a repeat of what they are already doing during the lessons and a needless piece so we’ve eliminated that this year and gave each kid their own spiral notebook to use for working out math problems. That saves us $30 for each program. And you can use them with more than one child so we are only buying one year at a time and by next year won’t have to buy any. While the 2nd and 3rd grader are doing their math independently on the computer, it frees me up to work with Ivy and Eli with their Pre-K math and phonics.




Art was also well received this week. Mainly, because we actually did it! Every year I have these great intentions for art and music and every year life gets in the way and then they get bumped for the more “important” subjects that are required. So this year I decided no more. Creativity is a must for me to flourish and it is extremely important for my ten year old girl as well. This year we bought everyone their own sketch pad and we labeled them all pretty and are keeping them organized in an inexpensive tote from Michael’s. For the two littles, I used a primary composition notebook and  covered it in pretty scrapbook paper and then laminated the covers to keep them sturdy for the whole year. This allowed them to be cheaper (twenty five cents back to school sale!) and keeps them accessible for their age range.

Our first week of art we read the Drawing Rules in Drawing in Color and talked about how their is no wrong way to draw. We read ish and Dot, which the littles especially loved and imitated immediately in their notebooks. Our first assignment was to draw whatever we liked. Each child shared their picture and everyone said one thing they really liked about each picture as well as one thing they would like to improve upon for the year. The kids did not want the afternoon to end and it has inspired Lily to check out several drawing books at the library and she has been practicing every night. This year we will be focused on learning to draw animals in pencil using a combination of youtube tutorials and Drawing Animals in Nature with Lee Hammond . This will mesh very well with our zoology science course.

Zoology, unfortunately, started off a little rocky. I was so excited to start the lesson with a great hands-on, visible way for them to understand the concept of classification through classifying legos. This ended up with mostly fighting over said legos and Norah ended up teething and crying for a huge chunk of our time. It was a bit of a letdown for me because I have such huge expectations for this year’s zoology lineup. Our second week fared way better after a trip to Fontenelle Forest to pick up our Vertebrate/Invertebrate Educator’s Trunk and the kids got to handle and feel all kinds of bones and animal skins. My favorite was the owl skull and bobcat skull. After examining everything, the older two got to dip into their first experiment and the littles played an online classification game, all was right again in our science world.




We kicked off our first week of history by diving into Columbus and the Age of Exploration. The younger ones listened to me read from A Child’s History of the World, which I just adore, while they happily constructed ships out of our magformers. They colored and notebooked and then finished off their time playing an online game about Christopher Columbus.

The older two are doing history with daddy again this year. He is a huge history buff and has a wonderful conversational Socratic method style of teaching that our kids just love. They are watching the Crash Course World History and US History videos in conjunction with their reading and then join me on another day of the week for fun history where we get to watch the Horrible History videos, watch fun songs and do map work. Favorite song of the week: Fifty Nifty United States. I learned this song in fifth grade and it has stayed with me to this day. I am giddy passing it on to my children. They are song nerds in the same way I am. Okay, maybe I’m a bit more of a song nerd but they really do love this song. This has been our constant car-schooling anthem for the past couple of weeks to go with our geography study for the year.






I’ve been most impressed with Ivy this week. Being 5 and “officially” starting kindergarten, I wasn’t sure how involved she’d be for the multi-age taught subjects like history, science, and geography. We always have stuff planned for the littles but beyond their basic 3 R’s in the morning, we don’t require them to do school. They are free to play or watch an educational video. But she’s stuck with us through much more then I thought she would. She played the Columbus history game like her older siblings, she’s colored history sheets while listening to the stories and she’s even picked up on the Latin we’ve been studying. And her coloring has taken a dramatic turn for the better since school has started. I perceive that she will show the most overall growth this year.




Latin was by far the most unexpected successful subject of the week. We discovered Classical Academic Press by accident last year through their sister site which is full of fun, free latin videos!!! (Check out our fave…The Three Little Pigs!) The older two have totally resonated with the DVD chants in the Latin for Children, Primer A. They love doing the activities and discussing everything with their dad over coffee. And the younger 2-4, depending on if the two littles join us, are throughougly enjoying SongSchool Latin. It is SO kid-friendly and fun that the kids can’t wait to do Latin and have told all their friends they should too. Even I have awoken in the middle of the night with a catchy Latin song stuck in my head. Makes me want to check out their SongSchool Latin Spanish.

I also enjoyed doing Bible with the littles this week. We read out of Vos’s Child’s Story Bible starting again at the beginning. And I was once again captivated by the way she conversationally draws the little ones into the story while simultaneously weaving Christ’s redemption story in from the very beginning pages of Genesis. This is by far the BEST story Bible I’ve ever read. The children sat and listened spellbound and asked for more when I was done. Can’t ask for more than that!


Some other fun highlights of our first week…

The girls temporarily dying their hair purple and pink.

Enjoying playing golf during recess time.

Building nanoblocks during free time.

Watching caterpillars emerge as butterflies!

Taking care of pet toads.









I’m so excited to see how the rest of our year unfolds.

How was your first week of school?

The First Snow

Don’t you just LOVE the first snow? It’s always so exciting especially with little ones in the house! This is Eli’s first year comprehending what snow is and Ivy (3) is extra excited this year about this white sparkly stuff.

“Mom, mom, mom…..come quick! There’s white puffy sparkles coming down from the sky!”

Can’t beat that!

Even better, since we homeschool this sort of thing weaves perfectly into our day. I quickly grabbed a few well-chosen books and my camera as they gazed out the window and had an impromptu science lesson for the littles while the older two worked on math and history.



We read “Why Does It Snow?”  (a Just Ask series) and talked about snow crystals all having six points but each being unique unto itself. We discussed and narrated how snow forms in the clouds and comes to fall here. Next we read “In the Snow: Who’s Been Here?” by Lindsay Barrett George which is a fun little book that takes kids through an exploratory adventure through the snowy woods. Each page has a clue of an animal visiting and then asks the reader to guess which animal it was. I let each child take turns guessing then turning the page to see if they were right.

After that we suited up and headed outside with some dark felt to catch snow crystals. I’m pretty sure more snow was eaten than captured but the thought was there. The snowflakes were too small this time to really see the distinction of crystal patterns and my kids lost all our good magnifying glasses. Still, they had a fun 15 minutes running all their energy off.

Now, lest you think this day was shrouded in warm fuzziness because of these beautiful pictures, (And aren’t they beautiful? Just look at that magnolia bud frosted in snow!) just know that we still had our share of school battles today. I spent over an hour arguing and standing my ground on making a six year old little boy finish a phonics lesson that he could’ve finished in five minutes. It was as if his memory was suddenly erased on everything he’d learned phonics-wise so far this year. And his poor five year old sister was every-so patiently sitting next to us waiting her turn while helping me clean flash cards and did finish her’s in less than five minutes when we finally got to her. So never let the pretty pics fool you into thinking our day was something other than what it was…just a day. Beautiful moments captured between ordinary, trying times! In other words, life!

Other books we’re planning on reading today ~


An unexpected surprise…

Here we are again!

Bun number seven in the oven warming. As if my life wasn’t blessed enough {wink, wink}, we are adding joy to our numbers. Expected to be here mid June of next year, already the kids are spending every evening meal fighting and voting over names.  So far, Rauga (from Bay Blade) is top pick for boys and Dora is top pick for girls. Ummmm….no?

Names aside, the kids are super excited. Our dinner converstion the week before (I am NOT making this up):

Them: “Mommy, when are we going to have another baby?”

Me: “Why?”

Them: “Because Eli isn’t anyone’s big brother and he needs to be a big brother too.”

Me: “We are NOT having another baby just so Eli can be a big brother!”

Guess the jokes on me!

Because sometimes you just have to say yes!

Even though you know there is bound to be paint somewhere that needs scrubbing despite ALL the paint already tucked up and away on the highest shelf.

Even though little hands will not follow ever-so-carefully demonstrated directions of how to keep colors seperated and beautiful.

Even though it takes way longer to prepare to paint then it does to actually partake in painting.

Even though the very thought of allowing paints out makes you cringe in absolute fear and terror.

Sometimes you just have to say yes because there will never be a right time and you can’t imagine any other project that brings such intense joy and concentration to their sweet faces.

This is the mantra I’m still telling myself. I took pictures to prove to me how right I was to say yes. I knew I had to because tomorrow when I do find that mysterious paint spill somewhere other than where they painted, I will need to look at the pictures and remind myself all over again why I said yes as I alternate breathing and counting to ten and scrubbing.


~ Taking a Breather ~

Chrrp chrrp chrrp…

Do you hear that? That’s the sound of the crickets chirping in this lonely cyber space.

In the midst of getting ready to close on our new house (Don’tcha love the sold sign?), I’ve been a busy busy beaver around here and haven’t had much time to post.

We are packing, packing, packing.

Still homeschooling among the boxes. (Hope to backtrack when I get some time and post all the great living World War I books we used!)

It looks so empty with all our books packed up. Sniff sniff…

And painting…can’t forget the painting. It’s easy lunches in the living room so that parts of bunk beds can get painted white  on our dining room table (way too cold to do outside!) to be all ready for this wonderful princess space. Can’t wait to show off the final product!

Still to do:

  • Pack coat closet.
  • Pack bathroom closet.
  • Pack kitchen.
  • Finish packing scrapbook supplies.
  • Clean desk (a.k.a. file the HUGE stack of papers and find homes for random stuff that’s been dropped off here) and finish packing office supplies.
  • Finish painting.

And the littles? 

They are merrily jumping on beds…with permission this time! We broke down bunk beds (i.e. see painting) and piled all mattresses in one room. They are “camping out” for the next 2 weeks. This makes a great space for daddy, his guitar and our nightly devos!

All the dressers have been moved into the other bedroom along with the toys. So we now have a designated toy space so I have room to pack. At least, that is how it works in theory! I must say I do like having all their clothes in one room. We paired them down quite a bit so all 6 children’s hanging clothes fit in one double closet. It is nice doing laundry and then putting everything away in one space. It makes me think that Michelle Duggar was on to something!

But today?

Well, today is no chores day. We had pop tarts for breakfast (Did I mention how we are on the easy convenience meal plan right now? My kiddos love it.) on paper napkins. No dishes. Laundry caught up yesterday. Most packing done. So this morning I will enjoy a cup of coffee and have a guilt-free morning blogging around and pinning stuff to my boards. Oh how I have house love right now!

Where I am visiting this morning:


The First Snow

I love it when the first snow is big, soft downy flakes that fall like soft pillows on the grass and are perfect for catching on your tongue! This was Eli’s first time in the snow since he was born. Oh they are so cute! Our trip into town has obviously been cancelled. Instead we will be enjoying hot cocoa and maybe a movie…Harriet the Spy anyone? Good thing I had a thawed chicken that I could throw in the crockpot last minute to braise since our dinner plans were also cancelled!


How Was Your Day, Dear?

Want to inspire your children to write?

I found these completely cute how was your day printables over at Silverbox Creative Studio. Can’t wait to print these out for my oldest two. I think my scrapper girlie girl will especially love them! Great for a journal or just to tuck into a book bag with an after school note to say mom loves you.

Courtesy of Silverbox Creative Studio

Pinned this. Don’t forget to check out my other pins!

Fall in the Meadow

It’s been rainy and dreary all week but the cool air is refreshing from the summer heat. Our windows are open. Our cinnamon candles are lit. And we are playing outside more. Even if it means having to clean the carpets of dragged in mud!!! Because, at the end of the day, who can resist a little girl in a red riding hood? Or grass turning burgundy wine? Or sun gold flowers dappling the countryside with the last bit of bright summer color? And then there is exploring and homemade maps…

Less Screen Time

So I have in my head this great weekly wrap up on the rocks and minerals unit study we are doing right now. (Sorry, you’ll have to check back next week! 😉 But instead I spent much more time doing this…

and this…

and much less time on my computer.

Life is good!

The Homeschool Mother's Journal

Berry Picking in Nebraska

It wouldn’t be summer without strawberries. And as I am contemplating real food and where our grocery money is allocated to, I felt like we just had to experience picking our own berries from the farm.

Where we went: Bellevue Berry Farm in Nebraska

Where you can also go: Martin’s Hillside Orchard and Fontanelle Orchards

Lessons learned ~

  • Go earlier in the morning. This was a spur of the moment trip so that part couldn’t be helped but we would’ve gotten a whole lot more berries if an overheated 2 year old were not having a melt down!
  • Farm strawberries are MUCH smaller then store bought. Not sure if that is because people pick them before they are mature enough or (as I suspect) we’ve got a warped perspective on the size a strawberry should be based on the ubber-giant supermarket variety. I’ve heard smaller is better when it comes to berries, especially blueberries.
  • Kids will eat fruit right out of the field. I am going to have to try this theory out with vegetables. Some of my kids won’t touch a strawberry if it’s on their plate for lunch next to their PB& J sandwich. But put one on a plant and suddenly it becomes eve’s temptation…it will be picked!
  • Sun-ripened is oh so much sweeter. Need I say more?
The haul ~ just over 5 pounds of strawberries
Price ~ $6.75
Bye bye Berry Bitty City!
What to do with all those itty bitty strawberries? Serve them up with a dollop of cream on some shortcakes. Mmmm mmm good!

First Feedings and Other Musings

It’s quiet here tonight. Everyone is in bed snuggled deep in sleep. Even husband has turned in early in order to rise early feeding hungry teenage mouths. I find myself relishing this little piece of time. It is mine alone. There is no agenda. I am free to play or plan or work as I choose. I dabble a bit in the online library catalog requesting some stories that have been rattling in my head but that I keep forgetting to write down. I wish list a few more good picks from a pleasantly-stumbled-upon blog lushly titled Farmbrarian. I sip my Verona which has been out of stock for over a month and my taste buds delight in reacquaintenance. I listen to an NPR interview with Kirstin Kimball over her book The Dirty Life of which I am reading and laughing over. I am dreaming of a family cow and have pangings similar to baby fever.

And now I am here thinking of my littlest one.

He started solids this week.

And he is loving it.

I am a bit saddened. I waited until 6 months…long enough to build up my milk supply and get a few teethers in. I know I could go a full 12 with only breastmilk. I did with Ivy. Not by my choice but hers. She refused any sort of solid food whatsover whether it was rice cereal or applesauce. She wanted only mom’s milk and food did not interest her in the slightest till she was about a year old and then she went straight to table food. I worried and fretted for nothing. She was a fat little butterball getting all the nutrients she needed with plenty of cushion on her. But I would’ve liked a little more freedom. Freedom for daddy or grandma to feed her some solids so mom could do a grocery shopping trip or library trip alone. And with the annual garage sale outing coming up I started with this little guy. He takes to the spoon like duck to water.

Still, he had his first non-breastfeeding poop yesterday and a part of me cried a bit on the inside. No more cinnamon-yogurt-yeasty smelling diapers. Sniff sniff. I will spare you the picture! But the thought turns my attention back to cloth diapering and finding a detergent that works for hard country water. So I am all ears if anyone has any suggestions. Until then, I will enjoy a little me time.

Seeing Green

~ Breakfast ~

Buttermilk Coffeecake with Green Buttercream Frosting

(in the shape of a shamrock, of course!)

Green Milk

(drunk in our cool new St. Patty’s shirts)

~ Lunch ~

Green Mac N Cheese

Grahams with Green Buttermilk Frosting and Gold Sprinkles

~ Dinner ~

Slow Roasted Corn Beef

Roasted Cabbage, Potatoes, and Carrots

Irish Soda Bread

(And no pictures because my battery ran low!)

Baby Bjorn and the Spewing Adventure

Have you ever tried to nurse a baby while simultaneously making sure a 3 year old’s stomach contents land in the bowl? It is a superwomen-like ability and I am pleased to say I had the pleasure of fielding that hurdle today. I also had the pleasure of nursing the baby and NOT catching it in the bowl but instead looking down at my baby’s shocked expression and quivering lips as his whole head and body is covered in someone else’s puke…as is my shirt, my pants, the couch, the floor, my socks, and the 3 year old. Did I mention we are having a sick day in our neck of the woods?

Well, not technically I guess. The older two are still over in the learning room doing their school thing. And I am gritting my teeth and trying to be ever so patient as my 9 year old is freaking out about a do-over in his lapbook because he messed up on the coloring. I try to kindly explain how mommy is a tad busy in clean up duties at the moment and he will just have to lump it or figure it out for himself. I have a baby to bathe, a 3 year old scared little girl to bathe, a couch to clean, clothes to change and I think my toddler might be poopy.

Our saving grace today? The Baby Bjorn potty. I have two of them in addition to our traditional potty chair. These little babies are small enough to take with in a van trip or to tuck away in every room of the house. It is a one-piece  potty, all rounded and smooth-like making it a breeze to clean and sanitize. I love this potty. And today I found it can also be used for the official “puke bowl”. I know this because it has been the thing I’ve grabbed in a pinch at least 5 times today and saved me from cleaning the floor, the bed, the couch (again), and our clothes.

I am having the first five minutes of peace right now as the baby is finally asleep and so is our precious sick girl. And she sleeps soundly with her new puke bucket tucked safely on her head…you know, just in case!

Potty Training Mommy

We started potty training Ivy today. A two-fold reason, the first being that she is 21 months and showing all the cues (telling us when she pees and poos her diapers, showing an interest in sitting on a potty when her big sis does, etc.) and the second being that our hard water is rendering our waterproof diaper covers useless. I found a wonderful soap to use on cloth diapers formulated specifically for our hard water except that it’s expensive, well the shipping and handling anyway, and it makes Ivy break out. So my choices, diapers that work and make her break out versus diapers that don’t work and leak through all her clothes but leave her bottom rash-free. I took the third road of chucking the diapers and potty training early. By early I mean earlier then I was planning which was when the weather warmed up and she can casually run around in her undies without me doing 50 million loads of laundry from beginning pee accidents in pants.

I’ve discovered that I am not good at the potty training thing. All of my children are late, late potty trainers with very stubborn wills and all have had a history of regression that takes at least a year or more to pull out of. So, this being my fifth round, I’ve decided to take a different tactic.

  • Pray, pray, and pray some more! Not for common sense or the how-to’s (I’ve read a million books on those), but on keeping my patience, using a gentle tone, not getting frustrated too early, not giving up too soon, and staying consistent.
  • Use this as a positive reinforcement for Delilah (3 – still potty training) and Luc (5 – finally just finished potty training!!!) by including them in the process and making it about all three of them.
  • Mommy training. I don’t expect Ivy to get it in the two weeks we will be concentrating on it, I more expect me to habit-train myself on taking her and being consistent with the work so that when the two weeks are up and my normal schedule resumes we don’t fall off the bandwagon.
  • Set reasonable expectations. For Ivy, stick to practicing sitting on the potty and making it positive and the transition to big girl panties. For Delilah, getting consistent potty use and practicing getting pants back on in a timely manner. For Luc, continuing with encouragement for jobs well done.
  • Maintain the schedule.

It is this first and last point that has made the biggest difference today. Giving it over to God constantly has made me keep an even keel (#321). And the gentle nudgings of the Holy Spirit have helped me encourage in places I wouldn’t otherwise, especially with the older two. It is easy for me to ignore little things with them because they should already know better (i.e. wiping themselves, washing hands, flushing, etc.) but I have treated them both as if they are training for the first time in order to keep it positive for Ivy and the praise is totally lifting them up, making them feel included, and keeping them on track (#322). Praying has also helped keep me from distraction (#323). As I am tempted to just do a quick kitchen cleanup the Holy Spirit reminds me that we have a schedule of chores and let’s just let that be enough. When I am tempted to hop on the computer because the baby needs to nurse the Holy Spirit whispers in my ear that I will just let time slip away and then that one-on-one interaction with Ivy will be broken.

Before in training I had taken book reccomendations on completely clearing my schedule and devoting all my attention to the trainee. That sounds great in theory (and may be with a first child) but is not practical with trainee number five! When I’ve tried this in the past then chaos ensued. The littles would make messes everywhere because they had unlimited freedom with no boundaries. And the older children would make messes everywhere with their well-meaning crafting and negligence of chores. I would end up frustrated and potty training would be derailed as I tried to pull some semblence of order back into our lives. 

I’ve also tried the maintain-current-schedule theory with little success as well. I would spend the whole day answering school questions or keeping toddlers out of trouble or getting laundry, dishes, meals done and the poor trainee would have an inconsistent trainer.

So, what to do?

In my brilliance (okay, not mine but the Lords!), I came up with two solutions. The first I’ve already touched on ~ keeping the other two toddlers/preschoolers involved in the training process right by my side. This has left my house reasonable clean all day (#324)! No messy playroom to pick up (#325). No toys strewed everywhere (#326). No food snuck and left sticky on tables and walls (#327). It has been wonderful and an eye opener on how our school days should go.

The second solution is guided project learning for the older ones. I needed a way to still school them without them needing me to be there. We’ve done project weeks before and the biggest challenge for me is the huge mess it creates as they “work”. The biggest challenge for them has been staying on track or not abandoning it as they are distracted by other play. I knew I could easily assign basic school work that they could independently work on but I also know their personalities and that would’ve turned into drudgery for them really fast which, in turn, would’ve led to daydreaming and getting distracted which would’ve led to me constantly nagging reminding them to get back to work and me not being focused on my trainee. I needed to keep them engaged for their 2-hour morning school block while allowing them to work independently. So I thought and planned ahead. I allowed them to check out library books that they wanted. Then I took those same books and turned them into a schoolish project that they could work on but would appeal to their individual interests and keep them going all week. It worked wonderfully (#328)! (I will post on that tomorrow!)

Both solutions allowed us to maintain our schedule better then we’ve been doing for weeks (#329). (Again, giving me great food for thought about how we “do” school.) And the best part, laundry got done (#330), dishes got done (#331), chores stayed on track (#332), I did very little yelling (#333), and my littlest ones had lots and lots and lots of mommy time (#334). And now as Ivy naps I have this incredible free time – an hour or so – before dinner needs to be made where my house is cleaned, chores are caught up, and the kids are happily playing in the playroom after all working together as a team to make sock puppets (#335-337). We have sticker charts that are being happily filled in (#338 – thank you for your customization for each child!) and I have a moment to breathe (#339). It has been a very, very good day again reminding me that when I sacrifice my own needs to meet the needs of others, my needs end up getting met exactly how I need! And all the glory goes to Him who sustained me!

Edited Addition ~ Ivy went in the potty!!!!! At exactly 8:04 her 4 older siblings started dancing joyfully around the room and she looked perplexed at the pee, perplexed at their dancing and then got it and danced joyfully herself around the room. A thrilling moment in our mundane household! (#340)


Spelling Bees, Junie B.’s, and the ride home…

Today was the official day of the Omaha HEN Spelling Bee. Gabe’s last year participating in the junior division. And he was thrilled to walk home with a gold medal! Lily almost placed second and might have placed higher had they actually used the spelling list she worked so hard on. Instead, they used the secondary overflow list first. But not once did she blame me for spending all that time studying the wrong list or blame them for using the wrong list. No, she quietly, with natural grace, accepted her ribbon with a smile on her face.

I would love to show you a picture but you’ve already heard that sob story we shall have to be content to wait for regular photo processing. Next week maybe?

Since the spelling bee was held at the library, my kids finally had a chance to check out some books. (And I had a chance to pay off some fines….yeah! Can you hear the sarcasm?) After being cooped up with only the hubby getting out to do necessity shopping, we’ve not had the chance to grace the library steps in a while. Lily was thrilled to pick out a bunch of Fancy Nancy books and Gabe got some much-favorite math books and a few new science books with some new titles on carving wood.

But our best find was Junie B. Jones on audio and a few books to supplement. Lily is just now turning the corner on wanting to tackle some chapter books. Most are still intimidating to her. So when she picked up the Junie B. CD and begged me to get it, I found a librarian and we learned where the books were kept. Junie B. is in first grade – same as Lily – and I thought these would be perfect starter books. Although, I have to admit, I was a bit skeptical on whether I was making the right decision as the first book was titled a flagrant Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus. Should I be condoning this language and attitude I said to myself while checking it out? We popped in a CD on our very long ride home (due to having to drive to another city to drop off our very badly broken Kirby vacuum). The girl narrating the story did a FANTASTIC job. Before long we were all enthralled at the innocent happenings of this Junie B. girl. Even Gabe, at the time completely engrossed in his own reading and willing himself to ignore anything that made Lily happy book-wise, soon found himself putting his book down. Then came the laughter and the the snickers and the looks at me to see if I found it as funny (which I did) and then the, “Aaawwwhhhhh, mom, do we have to turn it off?” when we got home. I even found him carrying around the book and reading it before supper. Hmmm.

The six-year old Junie B. has captured our hearts and I just know we will be seeing much more of her around here in the days to come!

Linked with Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers at:

Unschooling, New Friends, and a Broken Camera

I’m sobbing as I’m looking at my camera and trying to ~ over and over ~ press a button to make anything work at all. It’s fried. Kaput. I have no idea what happened to it. One day it worked beautifully and the next I tried to turn it on, heard a bzzzing sound and then nothing. It’s stuck in the open position with no power. Battery works. Memory card works. Camera ~ sadly ~ does NOT work!!! I’m heartbroken. How will I live without a camera for the next two months until we can replace it? How will I blog effectively without it? I didn’t realize how much I’ve come to rely on this blog as a scrapbook of our life, capturing it in photos as well as words.

That said, we had a great day today. We met some new friends. Thanks to my new ladies bible class I was introduced to the one other homeschooling mom in Ashland who happens to have 4 kids my kids same ages. After class today we had our first meet & greet playdate. It was loud and chaotic filled with happy noises of playing and promises of being best friends. My house is in shambles but they left at a still reasonable time, Gabe is practicing for the spelling bee, the littles are both down for naps and the other three decided to spend the afternoon drawing with markers at the learning table. (Would love to show you pics of their beautiful drawings but, you know, that whole camera thing and all.)

It is quiet around here. That good kind of quiet where everyone is completely absorbed and involved in their thing. I am happily spending a bit of free time catching up on blog reading and feeling really comfortable that my kids are learning just fine without me for the time being. I love this aspect of unschooling. The ebb and flow of learning and playing, of scheduling and unscheduling, of doing and just being.

And, on that note, I will share a few pics (because honestly, what is a post without pics?) of the kids in their “play” this week. Very imaginative using the cardboard insert from my new mop box to set up a labryinth Mario land for their Mario figurines and Zoobles.

(Don’tcha just love the Mario cut-out pieces?)

Living Math

Today started out not quite as serene as yesterday…ironic considering I actually got the most amount of sleep last night then all other nights combined. I still woke up feeling like a train had run over me…head hurting, body aching, hip bones moving back together, sore throat. Maybe last’s night trip to the grocery store was a little premature on my part! Guess I still have some healing to do.

Yesterday we focused on language arts, today we focused on math. I had our two hour block all planned out but God had other plans. Gabe decided to do his workbook early so he would have time to play his new lego brickmaster kit. Adam came home from work unexpectedly when his lunch got canceled. Doing school while dad is home is always a chaotic struggle at best. But I was determined that we would forge ahead. I couldn’t give up on day two! Luckily, daddy set to giving kids baths and allowing for me to have a bath, much needed all around. This gave the older two time to get morning chores done while I was still groggily moving around trying to get things together and nurse the baby. Our two hour block turned in to a little here and a little there. But get done it did and I feel good about our day overall!

Here is what we did:

Formal Math

Gabe – Math U See Delta chapter 8 (video, 3 practice pages, and the test) over division

LilyKumon My Book of Time Minutes book and Kumon Counting Coins book (about 3 pages in each)

Informal Math

Living Books – Read first two chapters of Fractals, Googols and Other Mathematical Tales by Theoni Pappas over lunch. The first chapter was on two dimensional objects and the second chapter was on decimals. The kids loved listening to these stories and begged for more. This is an excellent living book on math – one of the best I have ever seen! And the story on decimals sparked a learning moment conversation between Lily and I. She loved the story but had trouble understanding what it was about. We visually worked it out on paper together. I will be ordering his other two books this spring for the upcoming year!

Memory & Music – Listened to a compilation of math songs. Some of the songs came off the Best of Schoolhouse Rock while most of them were downloaded from the Counting Songs CD through Amazon. The kids absolutely LOVE these songs. They concentrate on skip counting and all ages love to dance and count to the rap-style beats.

Games/Spacial/Logic – Gabe played the flashcards game at Math Fact Cafe. All the kids played legos at the kitchen table. This carried over into most of the day for all of them.

Each week we will do one day of math with formal work first then a sensory break with the memory work through music, settling down with a living book and then free time spent playing a different math game either on the computer or physically with mom. I figure this gives us a wide variety of math choices and topics to pick from without tiring the kids while still focusing on math concepts for one whole day. We are working on this one subject a day thing (my husband’s idea). So far I like it. It is more easy going and is giving me a chance to do those things I always mean to do but always get pushed aside for what has to be done like the music and the games.

Saint Nicholas Day

It is back to the grindstone…back to school. And it feels, well, refreshing. The baby sleeps during our two hours of morning work. Spelling lists are downloaded for the HEN spelling bee and the kids are excited to practice spelling. Lily squeals in delight over her phonics II book. We read on the couch while muffins are baking. And we only concentrate on language arts today. No trying to squeeze in too much per dad’s request. There is order and it’s like a little slice of heaven!

We ease into structure on the perfect day ~ Saint Nicholas Day. The kids put out shoes by the fireplace the night before anticipating a treat as a new tradition is started!

We read about the true history of Santa Claus (okay…maybe there is some history thrown in! Go here for some great links and info!) and tied it in with the legend of the candy cane (fun site here and here). This afternoon we will decorate our tree and make paper snowflakes (here and here). There is activity and it motions the day forward…the momentum carrying us past many discipline issues that have been cropping up due to idle hands and too much freedom while mommy is trying to cope with a new house and new baby.

The day is far from perfect. Chocolate ends up on bed sheets and extra laundry is created. Two little kids still need to be quieted numerous times during the stories. A muffin ends up in a trillion pieces all over the couch and just-vacuumed living floor. A poopy diaper comes off prematurely due to eager toddler hands. There is still sibling squabbling and reminders to quiet down. Chores are still slow-going despite the numerous proddings from me. But overall there is normalcy and that is huge in my book right now! It is a light at the end of the tunnel and I get excited just thinking of sharing an actual learning day with you!

Language Arts Day

  • Phonics: Lily works on silent ‘e’ and ‘ing’ words; I work with Luc on reading some Bob books
  • Grammar & Mechanics: Gabe shows Lily how to look up the word ‘ridiculous‘ in the dictionary (from our morning reading at their request) and introduces her how to use guide words; Lily works on a Christmas worksheet on alphabetizing words
  • Latin: Gabe reviews flashcards from Volumes I & II of workbooks
  • Spelling: Both review the wordlist for the spelling bee and practice spelling words for me. We dot (with red pen) the words they hesitate over or get wrong. Dotted words are practiced at until mastery is achieved.
  • Literature: read Saint Nicholas: The Real Story of the Christmas Legend and The Legend of Saint Nicholas and The Legend of the Candy Cane and (just for fun) The Christmas Troll by Eugene Peterson (author of The Message ~ and by far the fave of today’s reading for the kids)


Happy 7th Birthday, baby girl!

You are getting so big and we couldn’t be more proud of you.

Reading the card all by yourself.

The coveted homemade wooly bear caterpillar, Daisy.

The long-awaited American Girl doll, Molly.

...and clothes to go with!

The special birthday breakfast.

And don't forget the slumber party cake!

May this day be special and blessed for you!

Love you,

Mom and Dad