Saturday, January 31, 2009


While Math is the subject we start with each day, I think Religion is the most important. Actually, we "sort of" start with Religion since we read from the Bible or a story of a saint right after morning prayer. This is mostly for Builder and Jetter, but I'm getting ahead of myself....

The Religion program for all three of the kids contains three parts: Bible Studies, Saint Studies, and Catechism.

For Builder, this is all done through stories. Bible stories happen first thing in the morning. I do not use the Bible he is holding in the picture above, but that is one that he likes to look at. I have a beautiful set of Bible felts. I am currently organizing them by story so the kids can use them to retell the stories we read in the morning. This is a great exercise for Builder and even Jetter. It encourages them to listen carefully so they are able to retell the story later. For his Religion class, Jetter is required to either illustrate or use the Bible felts to re-tell the Bible story. Here's Social Butterfly with one of the felt scenes:

Social Butterfly also reads the Bible for part of her Religion class but she is required to read on her own. She stays with us in the morning when I read the Bible stories out loud, but she still has her own Bible study to do. After reading the required passage, she writes a summary and illustrates it if she chooses. These are all being compiled into a Bible Notebook.

For our study of the saints, I use various books of saint stories. There are also many on-line resources that make pictures of saints to color available. Sometimes we talk about the Saint's particular virtue and read a selection that goes with it from the Book of Virtues. Once again, Social Butterfly is required to read a little more in depth about the saints. At the beginning of the year we chose 5 saints that she would study. She reads chapter books about them and looks on line for other information. She then writes a report about the saint.

Finally there is Catechesis. This is where we study the Catholic Faith and how it is tied to the Bible readings and saint stories we are also reading. I use a series of text books and work books for this that the kids find interesting.

Social Butterfly is also reading and learning from a very old catechism book that my mother would have used in school!

Dad and I both believe that even with all the Religion studies I mentioned above, the most important thing we can do is live our faith. This includes church on Sundays and Holy Days of course, but there is so much more. For example, we are very open about prayer in our home. The kids see me sitting early in the morning for prayer. It is not uncommon for a Saturday morning dialog to go like this:

"Where's Dad?"

"In his office"


"Yes" (Translation - No, you may not disturb him.)

If the answer is "No", the kids know they can go in to ask him a question.

Besides Dad and I spending personal time in prayer, we also include prayer in our day. We start with prayer before Dad and Night Owl leave. The kids and I pray before lunch each day as well. We say the Angelus before we say our Blessing for Meals. Dad and I pray over each of the kids every night before they go to bed.

Another thing we stress is Christian Service. When our neighbor, who is handicapped, is in need Night Owl doesn't think twice about going to help him. If we know someone is sick, the kids take a container of home made soup to them. When we have a friend who has just had a baby, I often help organize the moms to prepare meals for that family. The kids see this and help me deliver it. We have friends that go as missionaries to the Dominican Republic and Mexico. They go there to help the poor. I love that my children hear their stories. Some day I hope they will be able to go on one of these mission trips. We also try to stress the need to be a voice politically. We are a pro-life family. We have been to our state capitol several times for pro-life rallies. We have even been to Washington DC. This year, Night Owl went with his school. I told him he was our family representative. We do not shy away from talking about politicians and why we support them or not. Any one of the kids can tell you who the pro-life candidate for President was! At the same time, we stress the importance of respecting, and praying for the President, even if we don't agree with him.

All this is done to serve others but it is also done as a lesson for our children in the hopes that they will carry on with this when they are older.
Dad and I believe that our first priority is to teach our children about God and His great love for them. We teach them, through the teachings of our Church, how to love Him with all thier hearts and how to be his light here on Earth.

Friday, January 30, 2009


I decided to start this series of posts with the subject we accomplish first each day. To me, Math and reading are the first priorities for my grade school kids. Math can be worked on independently so it works great to have Jetter and Social Butterfly get started on it while I do some school work with Builder.

Here's the lovely Social Butterfly working on her Math.

Social Butterfly is using the Saxon Math Curriculum. This year, fourth grade, is her first year in the program and she is doing well. Saxon is used not only by homeschoolers, but in some schools as well. It is challenging, but the lessons are very clearly explained. The thing I like about it is that it uses a "spiral approach" which means that as new concepts are taught, the older concepts are constantly being reviewed. This was the program we used with Night Owl and I was recently told by his highschool Math teacher that "he was very well prepared for Highschool Algebra". I chalk that up to Saxon, and his natural math ability (which comes from his Dad!) Social Butterfly is a little more like me so Math is a challenge. But, as I said, she is also doing quite well with this program.

Jetter is using a different program (he will switch to Saxon in 4th grade). The program he uses is called the Abecka Math Curriculum. Abecka is a curriculum company that is Christian based. The curriculum is used by homeschoolers and those in some Christian Schools. It is challenging and also uses the "spiral approach". Jetter likes is because the book is colorful and the pages have some illustrations which makes it engaging. He has no problem with Math. He has even been known to help Social Butterfly with hers!

Builder's Math is done Montessori Style. Since he's in pre-school we are covering the basics. Over the years I have collected quite a nice array of Math manipulatives. Here's Builder choosing something to work on:

I use a program for Builder that is a series of workbooks. It is quite simple and he finds it fun to do, but I think most of what he learns comes from the Montessori Materials and other manipulatives. All the kids have started with these and Jetter still often chooses something from this shelf when he is done with his other work. In this next picture, Builder is being a bit silly, but he is also working with Cuisenaire Rods.

So there's Math at the Good Shepherd Academy!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Our Schedule

Our schedule is a "thing of beauty" this year. That probably sounds odd, but in previous years I've had to adjust the schedule several times throughout the year to accomodate different things. This year we've mostly been able to follow the same routine and will continue to do so until June. Since I'm a "ducks in a row" sort of person, that's very comforting to me! (The picture above is the family of geese that live nearby. No, they're not ducks, but they do travel in a row!) The only day that is different is Monday. At 1:30 the kids all go to Social Butterfly's piano lesson then straight to gymnastics. Every other extra curricular activity, like Social Butterfly's art class or soccer, has been at 4:00 or later, so it doesn't upset the day's schedule too much.
So here's the schedule:

  • 7:00 - Prayer with Dad and Night Owl before they leave for work / school.

  • Time to get dressed, eat breakfast, make beds, etc.

  • 8:30 - Morning Meeting - the kids and I have a short meeting where we discuss any special things going on that day. If kids weren't up in time to pray with Dad and Night Owl, we have prayer at this time. I also read to them from the Bible or a story about a saint. Sometimes I add a picture book if we have time.

  • 9:00 - We head down to the classroom. Jetter and Social Butterfly get started on their Math. They are both mostly independent, although I sometimes need to explain the day's lesson.

  • While the older two work on Math, I work with Builder. We do Math, Phonics and some religion. Much of Builder's work is "Montessori inspired". Since he is in preschool, this works great for him. He usually continues his Montessori work after he and I work together for a short time.

  • 9:30 (ish) - When Builder and I are done, he has time to work quietly on something he chooses off the shelf and I move on to Jetter. Social Butterfly continues to work on her list of independent work, asking occasional questions if necessary.

  • I finish with Jetter and he chooses to stay in the classroom and work on something "off the shelf" or he and Builder can have recess in the playroom.

  • 10:30 (ish) - Finally, Social Butterfly and I have our time.

  • 12:30 - By the time I've cycled through the kids, it's time for lunch. We all come back up stairs and have a lunch / recess break.

  • 1:30 - Chore time. Everyone does their chores quickly in anticipation of the three "ee's"!

  • 2:00 - Time for the 3 "EE"s - Wii time, Tea Time and Free time.

  • 4:00 - We all leave to pick up Night Owl and do any quick errands that are necessary.

  • 4:30 - Homework time - usually only Social Butterfly has some work to catch up on. This is also a great time for Jetter to practice his reading. Night Owl usually likes to relax when he gets home from school. He saves his homework for after dinner.

  • The kids play and I finish up chores around the house and make dinner.

  • 6:30 - Dad's home - HOORAY!

Here We Are

I was working on the post about Jetter's Day and I decided to change it to include all the kids. I'll go subject by subject instead of child by child. So here's the student body of the Academy of the Good Shepherd homeschool. (Looking a bit rugged I must admit!)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Here's "Beany". The nickname fits for a couple of reasons. First, we sometimes call him "little beaner", for no reason except that he's little! Second, the kid loves beans!! All kinds. If he's hungry he's completely thrilled if I just open a can of black, pinto, or navy beans!

Saturday, January 24, 2009


Just a few things to note:

  • Night Owl will be returning from Washington DC today. I'm anxious to talk to him about the trip. He's probably anxious to get some sleep!

  • We have a new nickname for little guy - "Beany". I almost took a picture of him last night after he ate his black bean soup for dinner. He thoroughly enjoyed it. He managed to eat most of it too, despite the fact that he looked as though he just bathed in it! If I ever need a quick snack for this little guy, I just open a can of beans and he is quite happy.

  • I'm still working on that post about Jetter's day. I've actually decided to combine it and give you a glimpse of everybody's day. I'm going to take it subject by subject instead of person by person.

  • I had my consultation with my consultant from Mother of Divine Grace yesterday. This is a quarterly consultation. I fill her in on what we're doing for school, where we are in the syllabus, what struggles we are having, etc. She gives me advice and encouragement. I'm happy to say we're doing great. I love the support I receive from her and it's so reassuring to know we are on the right track and the kid's are getting "all the right stuff" in their education. I guess it's normal for a homeschool mom to worry sometimes. I really shouldn't stress so much about it though. Night Owl was so well prepared for highschool. I need to remember that.

  • Dad is on his "tax season / end of year" schedule which means he is working Saturdays. It's no fun but it's become a part of life.

I guess that's all for now. Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Headed to DC

Night Owl is on his way to Washington DC to be a voice for the unborn at the Right to Life March. His bus left this morning at 6:00. He will be with 70 other students. First they are headed to Saginaw where they will board the big busses that are going from our Diocese. Say a prayer for him, and for all of them. Say a prayer also for our new president. We are praying that he has a change of heart regarding the sanctity of human life and that FOCA is defeated.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Jetter's Day

If you read the post below on Saturday it probably made no sense to you. That's because early Saturday morning I tried to fix the post about Jetter's Day and I lost the whole thing. I tried to make the pictures bigger and now I've lost all the pictures! I'm going to try again...

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Corrections and additions!

I should proof read my posts more carefully! A few things came to mind as I read the post about Jetter's day:
  • The pictures are tiny! I need to find out how to post pictures better.
  • I talked about how manipulatives are a distraction to Jetter for Math, then went right into how I like the writing program because of the manipulatives. Let me clarify... The manipulatives for handwriting are much more teacher controlled. When Jetter uses the wooden pieces to form the letters he is only given the pieces he will need. I'm sure if I gave him the whole set they would become guns or bow and arrow sets, or swords. We also move pretty quickly so I don't allow alot of time for him to play.
  • I talked about the little smiley face at the top left corner of the small slate. I took a picture of it upside down so in the picture, the smiley face is at the bottom!
  • Finally, I completely left out two subjects, geography and history. For geography, Jetter is memorizing the states and capitols. We are also doing a tour of other countries which is actually part of his math program. Each lesson features a different country. We look up the country in our atlas and read about it. Then we find it on our world map. Finally, some of his math word problems are directly related to facts about the country.
  • History involves reading about famous Americans. We recently finished Davey Crockett which led to a mini lesson on the Alamo. Next up for history reading is Daniel Boone. Yes, they are out of order historically, but we put each person's picture on our timeline in the classroom (I'll include a picture in a future post) so Jetter understands the order.

Today is Saturday and it's snowing again (surprise, surprise)! I need to get to the grocery, work on lessons for next week, and try to chip away at a few of the items on my "TO DO" list (which never seems to get any shorter!). Have a great weekend!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Gluten Free, Dairy Free eating

Finding out that Little Guy requires a diet that is gluten and dairy free sure caused us to make some changes around here. Then, hearing that Builder, Jetter and even Night Owl have the same sensitivities made me realize we needed to make major changes, not just for Little Guy. After about 2 weeks of shopping for ready made gluten and dairy free foods, I decided I needed to do something different. Many of them really don't taste all that great and they are EXPENSIVE! I guess it would be okay if it was just Little Guy, but when a $5.00 bag of gluten free pretzels disappears into the mouths of three hungry boys in minutes, it's obvious this isn't going to work. So, I ordered some gluten free cassein (dairy) free cookbooks, shopped for the special ingredients and decided to start cooking this stuff from scratch. This past weekend we had pizza on Friday and even doughnuts on Sunday. They were both made here at home and the kids loved them! I have to admit, I did say "Pretend you're in a different country and these are treats there. It might not taste exactly like what you are used to, but it will be good anyway." That must have worked. If they were expecting Pizza Hut pizza and Tim Horton's doughnuts, they would have been disappointed. But, they liked these treats that would have been forbidden and we had happy kids. (Which makes a happy mom!)
One blessing that I think has come from all of this is a renewed interest for me in cooking. I was really in a rut, making the same things over and over and really dreading that time of day when I had to cook dinner. New cookbooks, methods and ingredients have sort of sparked my enthusiasm again! It's sort of like the gourmet cooking I used to do when it was just Wes and I.
Well now it's 6:45 and time to make the smoothies! (I'm glad they all like them!!)

Friday, January 9, 2009

About Those Pictures

I just quickly wanted to explain why the pictures in the sidebar are mostly ornaments! First of all, I was playing with my new camera but I couldn't get the kids to sit still long enough to get some good pictures of them. So, I took the pictures of the ornaments they received this year. Every year Wes and I get the kids each a new ornament. We try to find something to suit their personality or to represent something they've been doing. Night Owl received the football. We were actually looking for something more serious, but that's what we found. Social Butterfly received the piano since she has been doing such a great job and taking her piano lessons very seriously. Jetter's ornament is the snowman that also happens to be a bell. He had made several snowmen in the yard this year and has worked so hard at making them perfect. Maybe he will be a sculptor some day! Builder received the cup of hot coco with the marshmallows exploding out of it. It seemed to look like lots of energy and excitement which reminds me of him! Little Guy received the nut cracker. It's not really representative of his personality but just something more traditional. So there you have it!

The Academy in 2009

Along with some of the dietary changes we're making this year, our school environment is changing too. We started the year doing our school work at the dining room table. This is because I didn't have the classroom ready in time and after a summer of kids playing down there, it was a disaster. I also needed to make some changes to simplify things a bit and I just didn't get to it. So, school was in the dining room for the first semester. It was okay, but not the best. There are many distractions up here and it was hard to keep order. The school books ended up on the kitchen counter, on the china hutch, on the floor, etc. The papers were everywhere as well. It was quite frustrating. So, back down to the classroom we went. It's been much better. I still don't have it in perfect condition but the kids seem more peaceful down there and that's important.
Recently, a neighbor was talking to me about how I homeschool my kids. She said she couldn't possibly have homeschooled when her kids were younger. She knows Jetter has some learning difficulties and was concerned that he wasn't getting help from a "professional". I'm not sure she knows that I have my degree in elementary education and 10 years of classroom experience, but I decided not to even mention that. The fact is, I'm Jetter's mom and I know about his quirks, his feelings, his difficulties, his frustrations, etc. way more than a teacher could. (I'm saying this from experience. I cared deeply for the children in the classroom, but I couldn't know or love them like a mother. My time with Jetter has to be rather intensive as well, and it's just not possible to spend that kind of time or energy on one student in a classroom when there are others that need help too.) I also didn't share with her the amount of research I have been doing on ADHD, Dyslexia and Dysgraphia. I did however, explain to her that nowadays the resources available to homeschoolers is vast and I have an excellent curriculum that I use. One of the best things about homeschooling Jetter is that I can use the special resources he requires, but he doesn't have to leave a classroom to receive the help he needs. He knows he has some special difficulties to overcome but he is doing quite well.

I've decided to write up a post on Jetter and the special things he uses for my own benefit (as a record) but I thought maybe his grandparents might be interested in seeing what we use as well. I hope to add some pictures too, so I'll work on that today.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

New Gadget

I've add this new gadget to the side bar that plays a slideshow of pictures. They are very small but if you click on the picture I believe it will open in a new window that is bigger. Try it out and let me know what you think!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

A Trip to Grand Rapids for a Healthy New Year

Yesterday the kids and I all loaded into the van for a trip to Grand Rapids. We went to see Dr. Stacey which isn't her official name but good enough for the blog. This is the doctor who has been so helpful with Jetter and Little Guy. This was Night Owl's and Social Butterfly's first visit. For the new year we have some new guidelines for healthy eating around here. It will be a challenge, but as Jetter, Builder and Little Guy have shown, I think it will be beneficial.

Night Owl had a few more tests done than the others. This is because he is almost an adult and because of his interest in sports nutrition. One of the tests run was the BMI which showed his overall body fat vs. muscle. He's healthy but could increase his muscle and decrease his fat a little. I really mean it when I say "a little". He doesn't have much fat at all (lucky guy). The doctor did say he should go gluten and dairy free for a while. This was very difficult news to the boy whose favorite foods are pizza and fettucine alfredo. She said it wouldn't have to be forever though. He just needs to clean out his system a bit. She also told him that it would help him gain the muscle mass he needs for football. Like "Little Guy", cutting out the foods that his body is not digesting properly will help him gain good, healthy weight. I think it helps Night Owl to see how it has worked for Little Guy. Dr. Stacey also stressed that he should really be eating something healthy for breakfast and recommended the high protein smoothie that the younger boys drink.

Social Butterfly is generally healthy, but the doctor gave her a homeopathic supplement which should help her leg pain. The doctor said her body doesn't "metholate" efficiently which could be the cause of the cracks in her tongue as well as the leg pain. I don't know what metholate means, but if this helps that will be a good thing. Social Butterfly has put up with these leg aches for quite some time. Dr. Stacey also recommended fish oil which Social Butterfly has a really hard time taking. I think we'll try the capsules. Finally, Social Butterfly needs to cut out dairy but the gluten is okay.

For the three younger boys we just need to keep on with what we are already doing which is fish oil, bifodulpholus, and zinc along with the high protein smoothie. (Little Guy's is a different formulation since he's still a baby, but they are all rice based so they fit with the no gluten, no dairy rule.He also has extra Vitamin D added to help build up his immune system.) The doctor was a little disappointed to see the dark circles, ear wax build up, puffy glands and obvious hyper activity level in Jetter and Builder. I confessed that they have been eating a lot of junk food since Thanksgiving. Dairy, gluten, high fructose corn syrup and food colorings have abounded in these wonderful holiday treats we've had. Of course that's common but we really need to get back on the program. It was really helpful for all the younger boys when we followed it strictly. Now that Night Owl will be joining them for the no dairy no gluten aspect of the diet I think it will be easier. AS a matter of fact, I told Dad that I think we should all follow it for the sake of simplicity. I just have to figure out how to make it more financially manageable. The food is quite expensive and these boys are big eaters!

Speaking of which, it's time to sign off because I have some lunch-hungry kiddos!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

Welcome 2009! I haven't blogged since before Christmas which is a sign of how busy we've been! The kids had a wonderful Christmas. It was quiet since we didn't have any family with us, but very peaceful. The favorite gift was the Wii given to all of them from their grandparents. Other than that, they each seem to choose one thing that is especially dear to them. Joel likes his cell phone. Sarah likes her Ipod. Daniel likes his remote control helicopter. Matt likes (and wears constantly) his military uniform. Isaac likes the boxes everything came in! Well, actually, he seems to like the toy that Daniel chose for him which is a little barn with animals that sing. It's rather obnoxious, but I think the batteries might not last too much longer! My special gift was a new camera!! I'm going to figure it out soon, I promise, and get some pictures posted.
Blessings to all in 2009!