Tuesday, November 24, 2015

So Thankful

Psalm 28:7 –The LORD is my strength and my shield; My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart exults, And with my song I shall thank Him.

So thankful...

~ for 4 amazing children with whom I love spending my days.

~ that God provides faithfully and graciously.
~ for a faithful, hardworking husband who forgives readily and loves much.
~ for other amazing young people I've grown to love from AWANA.
~ for Christian friends.
~ for continued academic progress.
~ for 4 children who love Jesus and each other.

~ for the Lord's grace and the Holy Spirit's encouragement as I battle migraines.
~ that I am a daughter of the King and in Him I have a wise, faithful, perfect Father.
~ for the transforming power of God's Holy Word.
~ for Thanksgiving blessings.
~ for Paul, who turned 12 earlier in November. He's a terrific son and Christ-follower.

Paul at 5 years old 

Paul at 12 years old

Beautiful Mary

~ for my daughters who are best friends and so imaginative and playful.

My daughters at 18 months and 3-and-a-half

My daughters at nearly 7 and 9

Psalm 95:1-6 – O Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. For the LORD is a great God, And a great King above all gods, In whose hand are the depths of the earth; The peaks of the mountains are His also. The sea is His, for it was He who made it; And His hands formed the dry land. Come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.

What are you thankful for today?

Friday, November 13, 2015

Homeschool Wrap-Up With Master Schedule

Homeschooling is a blessing. Nary a day goes by that I don't feel that to my core. But it's very busy now that I have four school-age students. Here's an overview of our first-semester readings, followed by a master schedule we follow. Mental illness (severe OCD) is a big part of our day too and the schedule reflects that. We stick to the basics and they extend their learning outside in their own time. They're natural explorers/nature observers and they enjoy PE games together, too.

An overview of recent and current readings:

Boys - Literature: Treasure Island, and now The Wide Wide World (Christian classic fiction, written in 1850; very long...600 pages). Next up for the boys is Uncle Tom's Cabin.

Boys - History: Continuing with Story of the World, which they weekly tell me how much they love. I do believe they will revisit these four volumes on their own through the years. They find them incredibly engaging and interesting. Some topics are explored further either online or from a comprehensive, youth and Christian-friendly history of the world volume produced in conjunction with Beautiful Feet books.
Girls - We've gone through several selections on extended history of the Pilgrims (Beautiful Feet Early American History, primary), a Jamestown reading, The Courage of Sarah Noble, The Matchlock Gun, and library picture books with various social studies and science themes (see this post for more on the girls' reading--especially the library selections)

A few things are reserved in the evenings after Daddy returns at seven, after which we eat dinner and congregate in the living room for family prayer and an elective, such as great composer study, or drawing with a read-aloud.

Master Schedule
Morning Chores:

~ Get dressed; make bed
~ Clothes in hamper
~ Fold clean clothes, put away

Morning Subjects:

1. Bible Whole Family – Audio Bible on Bible Gateway (Using a Through-the-Bible-in-2-Years Schedule, chronological, Old Testament and New Testaments together; Boys/Mom follow in their own Bibles; girls color in Bible coloring books while listening)
Girls Narrate Bible Readings - Tues./Thurs.
Boys Narrate Bible Readings -  Mon./Wed./Fri.

2. Peter – Math
Paul – Literature & Narration (Oral narration – Tues/Thurs.; Written Narration Wed/Fri)
Girls – Journal Writing
Mom - Start bread making

Mid-Morning Subjects:

1. Peter – Literature & Narration (Oral narration – Wed/Fri;  Written narration Tues./Thurs.
Paul – Math
Girls – Beautiful Feet History Readings with Mom; take turns narrating. Narration is an important part of both Beautiful Feet History and Apologia Science. 

Some notes about narration: Narration (oral retelling for primary, turning to written narration for upper graders) was a natural, expected part of education in former centuries, especially for the upper classes. It got lost as homeschool and/or tiny one-room school houses morphed into modern public education. If you read books like Elsie Dinsmore or The Wide Wide World, you see how prominently narration and recitation figured into formal education. 

Visual learners don't learn as well through oral narration, and I take that into account in my homeschool, even if Charlotte Mason would disagree. The more the child groans about narration-- especially later in the year after they've had practice--the more you can take that whining as an indicator of learning-style preference. At first narration is hard for most of us, but auditory learners catch on more quickly. 

My Mary, age 8, can narrate like nobody's business; she amazes us all. Paul finds it akin to torture, but he's getting better and I don't push. His tendency is to try to include too much.

Mid-Morning Subjects Cont.:

2. Peter – Writing/Grammar
Paul – Apologia Science & Notebook
Girls – Free time

After-Lunch Subjects:

1. Peter – Apologia Science & Notebook
Paul – Writing/Grammar
BethAll About Reading Level 2 with Mom
Mary – Saxon 2 Math Practice w/ Paul nearby (Mary will start Teaching Textbooks Math 3 in December or January)

2. Peter – History Reading
Paul – History Reading
MaryAll About Reading Level 3 with Mom
Beth – Saxon 1 Math Practice

3. Peter – Apologia Science W/Primary Notebook Reading to Girls; Girls narrate; sometimes hands-on work
Paul – Computer Programming
Mom – Prepare Hands-on Saxon Math lesson for girls (combining the girls)

4. Boys – Online Geography on Kindle (to start Northstar Geography in Feb)
Girls – Saxon Hands-on Math Lesson with Mom

AWANA - I record their individual verses on my LG flip phone, which has better sound quality than our Kindle, and during the day they take turns listening to their verses with headphones. After about three days of this, they can usually recite the verses well with the reference. Paul prefers studying on his own, as oral work isn't as beneficial for him.

How has your semester been going? What readings have you enjoyed? 

Have a blessed weekend and thank you for reading here!

Weekly Wrap-Up

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Educational Picture Books 2015 (and Thanksgiving books)

Here are some great educational selections for the whole family to enjoy together. Happy Reading!

by Brenda Z. Guiberson
 published June, 2015

Synopsis: Which sea creature is the greatest? Is it the one with the most venom, the greatest diver, the one with blue blood, or the best rotating eyes? Or is it the master of disguise, the one with the best light, the most slime, or the most eggs? Fascinating facts and spectacular illustrations will inspire young readers to choose their own favorite sea creatures!

Lives of the Explorers: Discoveries, Disasters (and What the Neighbors Thought)

by Kathleen Drull and Kathryn Hewitt
Published August, 2015

SynopsisYou might know that Columbus discovered America, Lewis and Clark headed west with Sacajawea, and Sally Ride blasted into space. But what do you really know about these bold explorers? What were they like as kids? What pets or bad habits did they have? And what drove their passion to explore unknown parts of the world? With juicy tidbits about everything from favorite foods to first loves, Lives of the Explorers reveals these fascinating adventurers as both world-changers and real people.
The entertaining style and solid research of the Lives of . . . series of biographies have made it a favorite with families and educators for twenty years. This new volume takes readers through the centuries and across the globe, profiling the men and women whose curiosity and courage have led them to discover our world.

by Nikki Bruno Clapper
Published October, 2015

Synopsis: What is a primary source? How does it compare to other types of sources? Even the youngest learners need to know the difference. Straightforward text and clear photographs give readers the tools they need to learn about primary sources and media literacy.

by Patricia Polacco
Published September, 2015

Synopsis: Friendship, loyalty, and kindness stand the test of time in this heartwarming World War II–era picture book based on a true story from the beloved author-illustrator of Pink and Say and The Keeping Quilt.

Tucky Jo was known as the “kid from Kentucky” when he enlisted in the army at age fifteen. Being the youngest recruit in the Pacific during World War II was tough. But he finds a friend in a little girl who helps him soothe his bug bites, and he gets to know her family and gives them some of his rations. Although the little girl doesn’t speak English, Tucky Jo and Little Heart share the language of kindness. Many years later, Tucky Jo and Little Heart meet again, and an act of kindness is returned when it’s needed the most in this touching picture book based on a true story.

My Notes: Loved this. Incredible true story and a tear-jerker, as so many of Patricia Polacco's books are. It realistically depicts the horrors of war, however it was not too much for my 6 or 9 year olds. I highly recommend it.

by Catherine O'Neill Grace and Margaret M. Bruchac With Plimoth Plantation
Published 2001

Synopsis: Countering the prevailing, traditional story of the first Thanksgiving, with its black-hatted, silver-buckled Pilgrims; blanket-clad, be-feathered Indians; cranberry sauce; pumpkin pie; and turkey, this lushly illustrated photo-essay presents a more measured, balanced, and historically accurate version of the three-day harvest celebration in 1621.

My notes: As part of my girls' Beautiful Feet History this year, we read a number of more accurate accounts of the first thanksgiving and the events leading up to it. This featured book also presents an accurate account, drawing from the primary sources we have available.

by Kathleen Krull
Published June, 2015

Synopsis: Many awe-inspiring women have changed the course of history. From fighting for social justice and women's rights to discovering and shaping our amazing country, women have left an indelible mark on our past, present, and future. But it's not easy to affect change, and these women didn't always play by the rules to make a difference! Kathleen Krull blends history and humor in this accessible young biography series.

Sacajawea was only sixteen when she made one of the most remarkable journeys in American history. She traveled over four thousand miles by foot, canoe, and horse-all while carrying a baby on her back! Without her, the Lewis and Clark expedition might have failed. Two hundred years later, we still can see how her unique journey demonstrated the strength and value of women.

by Kate Waters
Published 2001 

Synopsis: Sometime between September 21 and November 9, 1621, the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag people shared a harvest celebration that has become known as the First Thanksgiving. This is the story of what happened during those days, as told by dancing Moccasins, a fourteen-year-old Wampanoag boy, and Resolved White, a six-year-old English boy. Photographed in full color at the Plimoth Plantation, this accurate reenactment will let you experience a time when early English colonists settled on the rich and fertile land of the Wampanoag people.

By Marcia Sewall

Synopsis:  In a text that mirrors their language and thoughts, Marcia Sewall has masterfully recreated the coming of the pilgrims to the New World, and the daily flow of their days during the first years in the colony they called Plimoth.

Aye, Governor Bradford calls us pilgrims. We are English and England was our home...But our lives were ruled by King James, and for many years it seemed as though our very hearts were in prison in England...
September, 1620, our lives changed. We were seventy menfolk and womenfolk, thirty-two good children, a handful of cocks and hens, and two dogs, gathered together on a dock in Plymouth, England, ready to set sail for America in a small ship called the Mayflower...

After an abundance of prayers and tears we made farewells at dockside and boarded our small ship. Our voyage across the Atlantic Ocean "began with a prosperous wind," but the sea soon became "sharp and violent" and storms howled about us.

When the pilgrims set out for America, they brought with them a dream for the future. Sickness, hardship, and heartache stood in the way of that dream. But the pilgrims worked hard, keeping their dream close to their hearts, until they were finally able to make it come true.

A Turkey for Thanksgiving
by Eve Bunting

Synopsis: Mr. and Mrs. Moose invite all their animal friends for Thanksgiving dinner and the only one missing is Turkey. When they set out to find him, Turkey is quaking with fear because he doesn't realize that his hosts want him at their table, not on it.

My notes: One of my all-time favorite picture books. So cute! I love Eve Bunting.

by Margaret Pumphrey

Synopsis: This 1910 publication has been newly edited and expanded to include a horizontal history of the world of the Pilgrims of the early 17th century. This replaces the formerly titled Stories of the Pilgrims used in our Early American History Primary Study Guide. Now children will learn not only the faithful saga of the Separatist's struggle for religious freedom, but also that young Rembrandt was just learning to walk when the Pilgrims arrived in Leiden, that Galileo was fighting his own battle for religious and scientific freedom, and that William Brewster served as clerk to Queen Elizabeth's secretary until the ill-fated execution of Elizabeth's half sister, Mary. Historical figures from around the world will see the Pilgrim's heroic struggle in a more meaningful context. With whimsical illustrations by Christen Blechschmid, children and parents alike will see the world as the Pilgrims saw and lived it.

My Notes: Available from Beautiful Feet books, this is the most comprehensive history of the Pilgrims I've ever encountered. An excellent choice! I'm so glad we read it.

by Clyde R. Bulla

Synopsis: This biography for young readers tells of the adventurous life of the Wampanoag Indian who befriended the Pilgrims at Plymouth.

The selflessness of Squanto is a good starting point for a discussion about this pivotal time in American history, during which the Indians had to make room for the new, white culture. The story is simply, yet engagingly told, and will inspire many questions about the customs and lifestyles of two very different societies.

Eyewitness Tree: Discover the Fascinating World of Trees--From Tiny Seed to Mighty Forest Giants
by David Burnie
Published September, 2015

Synopsis: In this updated and revised edition of Tree, readers can follow a seed grow into a sapling, the changing colors of fall leaves, and the tiny insects that live in rotting leaves on the forest floor, plus learn why deciduous trees lose their leaves in the fall, how a tree breathes, how bark defends trees from attack by animals, and more.

Each revised Eyewitness book retains the stunning artwork and photography from the groundbreaking original series, but the text has been reduced and reworked to speak more clearly to younger readers. Still on every colorful page: Vibrant annotated photographs and the integrated text-and-pictures approach that makes Eyewitness a perennial favorite of parents, teachers, and school-age kids.

by Jessica Loy
Published April, 2015

Synopsis: There are lots of fascinating animals throughout the world with unusual characteristics. But you may be surprised to learn that many common animals may also have some uncommon characteristics For example, did you know that:

A giraffe can clean its own ears with its tongue?

Or that a hippo has teeth as long as a child's arm?

So come read facts about fourteen special animals who are less "normal" than we may think at first look.

by Chris Butterworth
Published August, 2015

Synopsis: Did you know that the cotton for your jeans was picked from a bush? How did the colorful wool in your sweater get from a sheep’s back to a ball of yarn? Where did your soccer uniform, your rain boots, and your fleece jacket come from? And what does recycling plastic bottles have to do with anything? Visit farms, forests, and factories all over the world to find out how everything you wear has a story behind it. Back matter includes an author’s note, an illustrator’s note, a bibliography, and an index.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Parenting: A Dance of Self-Sacrifice

James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

Right now I'm full of joy, but earlier today misery visited. It's not Mother's Day or anything, but my gratitude spills over as I think about my four sleeping children.

The boys’ OCD continues to be a monumental challenge. A few times a week my hands go up to my hair in frustration; a good hair tug is just what I need. You know that expression “pulling out my hair”? I don’t exactly pull it out, but screaming in frustration would be too stressful to my housemates, and I can’t get in the car without my children and just drive off the stress, so hair pulling works. Tension is released and at the same time I remember that we are on this earth as pilgrims for a nano-second, passing through. OCD is a temporary problem.

It's a testimony to God's grace that I sit here and declare my gratitude...because this is a hard road we're on.

But back to parenting joy…I just love these precious ones so much. They are such good company, so warm and delightful and funny and sweet. The greatest privilege in life besides serving the Lord, is serving one’s children. Watching them spread their wings, guiding them with love and scripture, honoring them with my time and attention and devotion…it’s all so rich.

The longer I do this, the more I realize that a great parent is a selfless parent. We make little decisions all day long about the extent to which we’ll deny ourselves. Each little decision matters and together they influence the content of a child's memories. A self-denying parent sows fond memories, while a self-involved parent sows neglect and eventual disdain.

Will I forgo a few minutes of reading to peel apples for the kids? Will I set the 600-page classic novel aside to do a hands-on lesson my girls need, rather than just giving a math worksheet? Will I set aside the messy house to read library books to my kids, even though what I’d rather do is send the children outside so I can vacuum, sweep and dust—something which makes me feel better, even though the books make them feel better? Will I keep going forward with the next important thing, using my time wisely, or will I go to the computer to check my email and then get distracted with that news story about Marco Rubio's supposedly-disastrous finances?

All these decisions matter for eternity. My parenting matters for eternity.  I can model self-sacrifice or self-indulgence, a love for God or a love for myself.  I can have lofty ideas and goals, but what really matters is my behavior, not my intentions.

Good intentions don’t rear spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually well-balanced young people. Self-sacrifice does.

Lay down your life. Fade to the background. Be the wind their wings crave. 

Fill up on God, not self. Give from the abundance God provides, for the Christian is never empty-hearted. The Living Water is ours to drink from. We need not ever thirst again.