Thursday, September 30, 2010

I find myself wondering, "Should we be out in public at this time of day?"

   Because of my husband's work schedule and the twins nap schedule, I find that it works best for us if we wake up, eat breakfast and have bible, then kick around for a few hours. The babies go down for their nap after lunch,  then we start school. We also sometimes have to run errands, and this gets done during our "free" time, between breakfast and lunch, but lately I've been feeling a little self conscious when we're out and about.  The reason is that Anna is now unmistakably school age.  I am blessed to live in an area that is very supportive of homeschooling, and that is probably why I haven't gotten any, "Aren't you suppose to be in school?" comments yet.   But still, I wonder if we are setting a good example for homeschoolers, or if people are secretly thinking, "What are they doing at the grocery store at this time of day? Do they ever do any school work?"  Probably not; but do we as homeschoolers have an obligation to not do anything that negatively draws attention to homeschooling?
    I was homeschooled in the "early days" of homeschooling, and if I was ever seen out during traditional school hours, I always got "the question".  People were some times very rude and critical, and yes we were seen as very, very weird.  I wonder if this is making me sensitive to a situation that no longer exists, or if we need to be careful not to let down our guard. 
     So, do you avoid going out in public during certain hours of the day, or are you of the more, "That's their problem, not ours" approach?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

P is for Pumpkin Pie

    We had a volunteer pumpkin come up in my garden this year, and having never grown a pumpkin, I erroneously thought it was a zucchini that for some reason only produced round zucchini. So, we were picking and eating these round zucchini, until one escaped our notice long enough to turn into a pumpkin.  Boy, did I feel silly!  Especially since I wrote about my "zucchini" right here in my blog. 
    Anna wanted to make our lone pumpkin into a pie, and so I decided to give it a shot, even though I had never made a pie with anything but canned pumpkin puree.  Here's how it turned out.

Here's the pumpkin; rather pretty, isn't it?

 All opened up.

The kids had tons of fun getting the seeds out.

Once we had the seeds cleaned out, I cut the pumpkin in half and put it a 9 by 13 baking dish, with about a half inch of water and baked it until the pumpkin was tender.
 Samuel, always eager to help, helps me close the oven door.
While we are waiting for the pumpkin to cool, we start on the crust.
 Anna is hard at work cutting in the fat.  Abriel and Samuel want to see what's going on.

 Here's the dough all ready to be chilled.   We took a break for supper and put the babies to bed after this.
 Now that the pumpkin is cool, Anna peels the skin off and mashes it up.

 I rolled out the crust, and put it in the pan.
 Just for fun, we used the scraps to cut out leaf shapes and put them around the crust.

 Anna mixes and measures the ingredients.

 Now it ready to go in the oven.
 Finished at last!
It was delicious!  Probably one of the best tasting pumpkin pies I've ever had.
Here is the recipe for any who may wish to know.

Pumpkin Pie
  • 1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
  • 1 1/2 cups half and half
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
Whisk ingredients together in a large bowl, then pour into a crust that has been heated until hot to the touch.  Bake at 375 for 35 to 45 minutes.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Working out a schedule

     I am using Ambleside Online as my curriculum guide this year, and although AO has a great weekly schedule I found that I needed to have it broken down to a daily schedule.  After a little planing, this is what I came up with. It has worked very well for us so far, and I think we will be able to use it for the remainder of year 1.
     I have the subjects divided into periods, as oppose to time blocks since the time of day that we do things might vary a bit, but we always keep to the same sequence.  I have Bible first, since I find that this puts a good start to our day, and I read it with the twins present in hopes that they will slowly get used to listening to me read.  Math is next, because that is Anna's more challenging subject, and her brain needs to be at it's freshest to tackle that.  Literature is third to give her a break after doing math. Then we do spelling, as that is another subject she has to concentrate harder at.  Poetry is our break subject after spelling, and then on to penmanship.  Anna likes penmanship, but sometimes her hand gets tired from writing, so it's sandwiched in-between two non-writing subjects.  On T days (Tuesday and Thursday) the next subject is history, and then the last subject is something fun.  This is important, as it gives her something to work towards and puts a positive touch to the end of the day. 
     You might have noticed that Friday is extremely light, and the reason for that is because co-op takes up a large portion of our day, and when we get home I am too tired to do much.  However, I do have a slot for getting any extra reading that the AO weekly schedule might have that doesn't fit into my daily planing.  That way we have everything covered before moving into the next week.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Nature Study

     This week's nature study was on an enormous fungus that seemed to spring up over night in my rock garden.  I couldn't find out what it was, which is frustrating when you're doing a nature study, but I read the section in Handbook of Nature Study on shelf fungus, and then we cut it apart and looked at it.  However, I am still trying to find out what this is.  Any ideas?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Is cursive disappearing?

     I don't remember when I learned to write in cursive, but I do know that around eleven it became my preferred mode of writing because it's faster, easier on my hand, and just looks a lot better than my print.  I had thought that this was pretty much the way it was with everybody. 
     Last year Anna saw me writing in my journal, and begged me to teach her "how to write all squiggly". I felt her small motor skills had to improve a little, so I told her I would teach her next year.  Well, now it's next year, and I have been getting ready to teach her cursive, but as I was looking around for teaching resources I found out something else; just as I am about to teach my daughter cursive there is a debate going on as to weather or not it should be taught.  Apparently most young Americans are not like me, in that they prefer cursive to print, but rather, they find writing in cursive tedious or difficult, or even (gasp!) don't even know how to. The big question is: What's the point? 
     So that got me thinking; what are my reasons for teaching cursive? (Other than that Anna wants to learn)  Here they are:
#1 If you can write cursive, than you can read it, and reading cursive will always be an important skill, for no other reason than reading historical documents.
#2 Cursive is artistic, and you can put more of your personal self into cursive than print.
#3 Once mastered, it is quicker and more efficient.
#4 It is just simply not true that computers are completely taking over the need for hand writing. I write things by hand all the time, and I really don't think I am alone in this.
     That being said, we just had our first cursive lesson today.  She learned how to write "A" which is the first letter in her name and the alphabet. It took maybe 10 minutes, and we had fun. How can you not have time for that?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Trying not to go crazy (but going there anyways)

     The other day we were stocking up on huge giant boxes of diapers at Babies R Us, when my husband says, "Hey, look at that guy with twins!" We see twins all the time; that wasn't the remarkable thing.  What was remarkable was the fact that he was holding one, while the other one toddled obediently behind.  I knew that his twins were about the same age as ours, because I had seen him with his pregnant wife at my OB office when I was pregnant.  (His full beard and yarmulke made him memorable) While we are standing there gaping at him, he finishes checking out, sets down the daughter he was holding, grabs his bags, and then tells her in Hebrew, (which I don't understand, but the meaning was clear) to hold her sister's hand. The girls grab hands, and follow their father obediently out the door. Hubby and I look at each other in shock; our guys would never do that.  It was a revealing and humbling experience.  Obviously, one year old twins can be made to listen and obey, so why don't ours?  I'm working on it, and working, and working, but something isn't working.  Lately Samuel's antics have been driving me more than a little bit batty.  He gets into the markers and colors on himself, then passes them down to Abriel so she can to the same. He gets into the kitchen cabinets and sprays Windex on the floor, then climbs up on the changing table and pulls out all the wipes. He puts toys in the diaper pail, and burrows in the trash. Next he's in another cabinet (all of these have child locks, of course) and sprinkles the floor with oats.  And on and on and on it goes- all day. 
     So when I asked Hubby, what do you think is the Jewish father's secret, he said, "He doesn't have Samuel."   Well, that's encouraging. (note sarcasm)  By the way, the little ornery one pictured above is Abriel, who can also be handful all to herself.  I used to pray for patients; now I pray for wisdom, and think I should add perseverance to the list.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

What you can see on a short nature walk.

     It's wonderful what you can see when your eyes are open to the world around you.  We didn't have time for a very long walk today, as my husband was with us, and he has to leave for work in the afternoon.  But that didn't stop us from seeing some amazing things!
     This was really neat- a whole cluster of spicebush swallowtails just sitting in the grass.  They were so still, and they let me get right up on them without moving.  I once came across a group of butterflies that had been eating the fermented juice from some windfall pears, and were quite drunk!  Unable to fly or even walk strait, they were just wandering around in crooked little circles. 
     These butterflies reminded me of that, but they weren't drunk; just completely absorbed in what they were doing.
     Canadian Geese have become so common that it's not a big deal to see one anymore, but I still got a thrill to see a gaggle of these stately birds walk right past us.  They weren't bothered by us in the least.

I had put away my camera, and decided not to take any more pictures, when I see an enormous snapping turtle coming out of the water, and then this turtle sitting on a log.  I run and get my camera out of the diaper bag, but it was too late for the snapping turtle- he had disappeared. I aimed the camera at this guy just in time to see him slip into the water, but I did manage to get a picture of him swimming away.  Next step- identify him!

                               "Nature is but a name for an effect whose cause is God"  --Cowper

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Tangram Fun

     This is mine and Anna's new favorite past time.  We are both puzzle fanatics, but the problem with jig saw puzzles is once you've completed it; your done. I mean, who wants to rework the same puzzle over and over? (Other than Anna that is)  So, when I found out about tangrams, it was love.  I actually owned some for a year before I bothered to find out what their purpose was.  They were included in the Saxon Math manipulative's kit, but were not needed for first grade, so I never took them out of the package.  Then I stumbled on a book about tangrams, and my first thought was, this is something mathematical that Anna might actually like.  Turns out I like them too, maybe even more than she does.
    The point of the puzzle is to try to figure out how to make a copy of a silhouetted pattern shape. You have to use all seven pieces, and they can't overlap.  It seems easy, but it's not, and the simpler the shape, the harder it is to figure out.  With just these seven little shapes, you can make thousands of objects. People, plants, animals, objects, letters, you name it.  It's also educational, and can be used to help teach geometry and fractions. Most of all, it's fun!!

Monday, September 13, 2010


     I love gardening, and not just flower gardens, but produce as well.  We don't have very much space right now, but I try to grow a few vegetables every year.  Not only because home grown produce tastes better, but because there is something very valuable about watching your food grow, and then being able to out and pick it and eat it in one day. 

     This year, Anna grew an enormous sunflower, (it measured 10 ft!) and some pole beans to climb up it, and I grew my customary tomato plants. We also had a surprise this year. A zucchini plant, that appeared on it's own.  I don't normally grow any type of squash, since they take up too much space, but I left this one alone just to see what it would do, and what it was.  It turned out to be a zucchini, but a strange round type that I had never seen before.  It was fun watching it grow, and grow(!), and finally start producing.  I'm not sure where it came from.

We did nature studies on squash, and learned to appreciate the short lived, but very beautiful squash flower. 
   Anna recorded it in it's various stages, in her nature journal.

Friday, September 10, 2010


     Having children narrate, or "tell back" , is one of the main things that drew me to Charlotte Mason.  If you put something into your own words, you will remember it so much better than just being a passive listener.  As easy as it seems, however, narrating has been difficult to implement.  When I first started having Anna narrate her readings, she didn't seem to be able to remember anything that was just read to her.  I started stopping after every paragraph, and asking her what I had just read.  She couldn't remember.  It was frustrating, but I kept trying, because I felt that narrating would help Anna not only be able to remember her school work better, but would help her be able to organize her thoughts.  She seems to have trouble telling stories in successive order. It's like she knows what she wants to say, but it comes out so jumbled, it's difficult to understand her.  So, we  continued struggling through narrations without much success, until I finally started praying about it. Then voila, she started remembering, and being able to tell me back a comprehensible story! We still have bad days, but we are getting there, and even on her bad days she is still improving.                                                                                                                                      

I generally have her narrate every reading, but I want more thorough narrations for Bible and history.  I don't even have to ask her to tell me back the story any more; she starts as soon as I pause in my reading.  There has been a few times I just paused for a breath, and she's started narrating!  I don't stop her, I'm just so glad she likes to narrate now.     The Copy of Our Island Story that we own does not have illustrations, so I have Anna do picture narrations for that as well as oral.  This is a picture of Brutus conquering Albion.  I was surprised she drew Brutus for this story, as I was sure she would draw a mermaid, but I think Brutus was the only person she could remember in the story.  The next chapter was of Julius conquering Britain.  I think this one illustrates the story better, as the roman solder grabbing the standard, and leaping into the water is a climatic moment in the story.  We looked at pictures of Roman solders and galleys on the Internet to give her an idea of how they looked.


Wednesday, September 8, 2010


    I love organizing!   My house might be a wreck, but my closets look fabulous, and there is nothing I love organizing better than school stuff.  One of the reasons for this is because everything goes so much smoother when they are organized, and for me it makes the difference in homeschooling effectively or not.  It also makes things easier to keep up and out of reach, which is really important here.  If something is left out for more than a second, it will either be torn, chewed, or colored on before you even realize what's happening.  Yes, I have twins.
     This picture shows our school area, which also happens to be our dining room.  Since it is our dining room, I wanted the school area to be attractive as well as functional.  Last year I was able to keep pretty much all school related stuff in the dresser, but I knew I wasn't going to be able to do that this year, so shelves became a must.  I sanded, stained, lacquered, and hung these shelves all by my self, and it wasn't that hard. It wasn't expensive either, which is always a big plus for us. 

     When I first started planning how much shelf space I would need, I first decided what would be more convenient left in the drawers.  Coloring books, composition notebooks, etc. go in one drawer, paper in another. I have a drawer with folders like a filing cabinet, that I keep Anna's art work in, ( she has copious amounts) and of course a very messy supply drawer. 
I have tried to keep it organized, but it never lasts longer that a few hours, so I have decided to let it be for now. One of these days I'll think of a really great way of keeping it all strait. 
     The library book bin and and the tub of math manipulatives are kept 
    on top of the dresser.  I made the library book bin in an attempt to keep from having to pay another $40 library fine.  (partially due to a book ending up in the laundry hamper, and then being washed...) Now all books are kept in the box, and we haven't had a over-due book since.   :)                                                     
  The only things on shelves are things that can be kept tidy.  Basically books, boxes, and cans.  The boxes are mostly the babies activity boxes, but I also keep Anna's handicraft stuff and flash cards in boxes. 
     All year 1 books are kept together, and ALWAYS put back   immediately after they are read.  

No more hunting around for books!  I keep Anna's math meeting book and worksheets in a binder, so that it is on the shelf too, along with my scheduling binder.  
     I keep pencils, pens, markers, and school coins in cans.  I used old formula cans and wrapped them in scrap booking paper to make them pretty, then wrapped clear package tape around them to make the cans durable.  They've been great, and they look pretty too!  I also keep my bug and bone collection up there. 
      No complaints thus far with my new system.  Everything is in reach and accessible, and easy to put back.  Now if I could just do something with that supply drawer...

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

This Month's Field Trip

     We are a part of a homeschool co-op that meets once a week for classes, and also organizes monthly field trips.  This month's field trip was to a local Air Museum.  It was neat getting to see all the old planes, especially seeing how small and precarious most of them were.  Lets just say, early pilots had to either be insane or suicidal! 

      I own a book about the Spirit of Saint Louis and Charles Lindbergh, that I have read to Anna many times, and I think this field trip helped bring that to life for her.  I showed her a newspaper clipping of Lindbergh's flight that they had displayed at the museum, and that excited her interest even more than the planes.  It just goes to show that when you have built a connection with something through books, it becomes meaningful to you.