Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Busy, Busy, Busy

Sorry I haven't posted much. We finally got over our sickness and now I'm into packing mode! We're planning to leave very early Friday morning so I have today to run errands and tomorrow to pack everything. My to do list seems endless. Back to it!

Friday, March 20, 2009


We have been dealing with sickness around here for 3 weeks. Dad started the whole thing, then it went through the 3 younger boys, and finally me. Night Owl and Social Butterfly haven't had it... I hope and pray they don't! It's some sort of flu I guess. It comes with a fever, an aweful headache, general aches and pains and head cold symptoms. The killer is that it lasts about two weeks. I have been totally worthless for about 2 weeks now. Even as the other symptoms subside, the general tiredness is hard to deal with. No energy at all. So much for getting all my spring cleaning done before we go on vacation.
Speaking of vacation, we are living for it! We'll be heading to North Carolina this Friday. We will have the bonus of seeing Dad's Aunt Nettie and Uncle Bill since we will stay at their house on the way down. The kids are very excited and so am I! Normally for a trip like this I would have started packing already, but this flu has kept me from doing even that. I'm feeling a little better today so my goal is to go through the kid's clothes and see what we can take and what I will need to buy. Night Owl informs me he has grown out of all his shorts and he only has 2 pairs of jeans that fit. (Sigh. I can't keep that kid in clothes.) I have found that the really great thing about taking a vacation in the spring is that I am forced to get the spring/summer wardrobes up to date. I need to work on my own too ... I was hoping to lose about 20 lbs first but I don't think that's going to happen by next week!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Here she is! The birthday girl! She turns 10 today - yep, the big 1-0!! Dad and I are so proud of the young lady she is becomming. She is such a blessing. Happy birthday sweet-heart!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

School Subjects: Physical Education

I'm finishing the series on How We Homeschool with the kids favorite - "gym class". I've done various things over the years to ensure the kids get some sort of P.E. This is for several reasons, but it's not because I'm afraid my kids are going to turn into "couch potatoes". I was not blessed with that type of child, although, I have to admit, there are days when that might be nice... just for a while! Perhaps it has to do with the fact that we limit "screen time" which includes the comuter, television, Play Station, etc. If I allowed it, they would probably sit in front of these things for a very long time. But I don't allow it, so they find other things to do in their free time, and it usually involves physical activity! So, even if I didn't enroll my kids in classes for P.E., I'm sure they would find their own ways of getting plenty of exercise. (No, I did not take this picture. Big brother did!)

In past years the kids have played soccer, football, taken swimming lessons, and taken part in the actual "Homeschool Gym Class" that we are blessed with. It's wonderful. The students at Central Michigan University who are studying for their degree in Phys. Ed. or Elementary Education actually put a gym class on for homeschoolers twice a week. We used the beautiful facility at CMU. The kids were divided into classes by age group and we parents got to sit and watch!

There are reasons beyond the physical activity that I enroll my kids in these sorts of things. First, they learn to have a teacher or coach that they must obey and be respectful toward (someone besides mom and dad). Second, they must deal with many other children, some of them friends, some not. Third, they learn skills that I could not teach them, like basketball, volley ball, gymnastics, etc. And finally, it does give me a little break. I actually think the kids need a break from me too!

This year, the kids were enrolled in soccer in the fall. Then, instead of the homeschool gym classes, they wanted to try gymnastics. They have really enjoyed it! Social Butterfly has really improved quickly and can do many things that I would never be able to teach her. Unfortunately, all of the pictures I have of her at class show her talking to friends instead of doing back bends, flips and round-offs! Oh well, that's why I call her Social Butterfly!

The only one who doesn't seem to enjoy gymnastics is Beany, who has to stay in the toddler area and watch the big kids have fun!
Gymnastics is coming to an end and the kids are deciding what they would like to do next. For my own sanity, I only allow one sport at a time. They are currently deciding between baseball, more gymnastics and swimming lessons. I always hope they all choose the same thing, but that's not always possible. It's worth the extra time it takes to do the running though. I believe Night Owl is doing so well in highschool because we made sure he was involved in sports. I think kids NEED sports and so I will do what I have to to get them there.

Monday, March 9, 2009

School Subjects: Latin

( Social Butterfly with one of her Latin flashcards.)
I hear it occasionally - "But Latin is a dead language. Why study it?" My answer is that there are many benefits, despite the fact that nobody is going to have a conversation with my kids in Latin. The main benefit I see is the discipline involved. I feel the same way about making them memorize their math facts even in this day of calculators. It exercises the brain.

Another benefit is the vocabulary. Obviously, Night Owl is relying on some of that for the herpetology exam he'll be taking in the Science Olympiad in a few weeks. But even the younger kids can benefit from knowing Latin. An example is in defining a word, like symphony. If you know Latin, you know the word comes from the Latin syn, which means together and Phone which means sound. So if my children had never heard of a symphony, they would be able to figure out that it has something to do with sounds being played together. Finally, there is the application to grammar. When learning English grammar, knowing Latin grammar helps alot. Latin grammar is actually more simple to learn, and then can be easily applied to English grammar.

I will say Night Owl did not care much for studying Latin. He struggled, whined, and tried all ways to get out of it. It was part of our homeschool day that I dreaded. Social Butterfly, on the other hand, doesn't seem to mind as much. She enjoys reciting the verb conjugations and noun declensions. Jetter hasn't started a formal study of Latin yet, but if I say "Amo" he'll chime in with "Amo, amas, amat, amamus, amatis, amant". this comes from hearing his big sister over and over again. When he begins Latin next year, he'll find out what all this means and he'll already have it memorized.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

School Subjects: Geography

For Geography this year, both Social Butterfly and Jetter are learning about the United States. The main objective for Jetter is the memorization of the states and capitols as well as map skills. We do this primarily by using flash cards and a map skills book. Jetter loves looking at maps, following roads with his finger, comparing this map to that, etc. He's not real big on his map skills book though. I think it might be too simple. Here he is studying his flash cards:

Social Butterfly's main objective is to finish memorizing her states and capitols (ahem!) and learn the locations of each state. She also has a map skills book which is more advanced and more interesting. She learns the locations of the states by working on 3 different things. Above, you see Builder working at a map that is made of felt. This is actually one of the things Social Butterfly uses. She places each felt piece on it's corresponding space, like a puzzle, studying that state's name (and capitol!) and location. It's fairly easy, but it builds familiarity with the state's shape and position, helping her to remember. She is assigned to do this every Monday. Then on Tuesday, she moves to another activity. This is a pin map which I made when Night Owl was in 4th grade. It is actually a Montessori activity that works wonderfully in helping the kids learn state's and even capitols.

It is simply a blank map of the United States mounted to cork board. There are 50 pins, one for each state. Each pin has a tiny flag that gives the state's name and capitol. She puts the pin into the state on her map. Here she is working with the level 1 map. Above, is the key. The Level 1 map is color coded like the key, so she can check easily. The flags on each pin are also color coded. The level 2 map is all white. She doesn't normally have the key right there, but I put it in for the picture. She is assigned to do this once a week as well. Finally, she is given a blank map on which she must write the names of each state. This is like a weekly quiz. She is able to fill in more and more states each time she does it, which is the goal.

Builder is in the first picture above, but his geography studies right now are mostly just for fun. He likes doing the felt map like a puzzle and we also have 3 or 4 other puzzles around here in the shape of the United States. I'm hoping my kids know their geography more than I did at their age! My husband will vouch for the fact that I must have been sleeping during geography when I was in school.

Friday, March 6, 2009

School Subjects: Science

Science is one of our favorite subjects around here. I think it's because we study science in so many different ways. We observe the natural world through nature hikes, read about science topics in good textbooks and lots of supplemental books, and we do experiments and hands on activities that help the kids grasp a concept.

I'm disappointed to say we just haven't gotten out to do our nature hikes like we've done in years passed. I have to admit, I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that Night Owl isn't with us this year. He is such a huge help on outings! I was a little nervous about heading to the woods with 4 little ones. Eventually we came to the realization though, that there was plenty of wildlife to see right here at home. We can see dear, wild turkeys, many kinds of birds, squirrels, chipmunks, ducks, muskrats, racoons, ground hogs and even a couple of red foxes right here at home.

Yesterday the weather was absolutely beautiful so we headed out into our backyard for a hike. We discovered buds on the trees which was a hopeful sign of spring even though a lot of the snow hasn't melted yet.

We had lots of fun, got some fresh air, and reminded ourselves of the importance of quietly observing God's creation and learning all that we can from it. And gosh, we even found an old ball we thought we had lost forever!

The textbook we are using this year is wonderful. It is actually Social Butterfly's book but it is written in a way that it hold's Jetter's attention as well. Because of this we have Science class in the afternoon and I read the book to the kids. They all listen, and then we do further reading in other books about the same topic, or we do some sort of worksheet, or workbook page. We're currently doing a unit on birds and the kids will build bird feeders and make observations regarding what types of food different birds prefer. They've enjoyed finding the birds they see in the field guide and learning the names of some that they didn't already know.

Finally, we do hands on investigations and science experiments. This has to be Builder's favorite thing! Here is a picture of a recent study we did on density.

We filled a jar with three different liquids; corn syrup, colored water and vegetable oil. The kids had to find small objects to drop into the jar guessing when they would float and when they would sink. The only item they could find that would float on the oil is a corn chip! A lego and an army guy fell through the oil but floated on the water, a cashew sank through the oil andwater but floated on the corn syrup, and a marble and a popcorn kernal sank to the bottom. They had fun, and learned a little about the concept of density while they were doing it.
Besides experiments that we all do together, I have lots of activities set up in the classroom that the kids can use to explore scientific concepts on their own. Magnetism, force and motion, magnification and rock formation are just a sampling of the materials the kids can choose from. These are the things that they turn to when they are done with their school work, so I try to keep the shelves stocked and inviting!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Spring Cleaning

I just ordered a new window cleaning kit (click here to check out the fancy new squeegee!)http://

and I'm ready for action! Speaking of cleaning, look who needs a good cleaning! This boy LOVES red beets!!