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Friday, February 29, 2008

Weekly Report, TOG2, Week 14

We've had a tumultuous week. Dh and Danny have had the flu, I've been trying to take care of them and keep up with the house including sanitizing everything so that Camille and I don't get sick. I went to bed last night with a 102 fever but this morning I feel fine except a little congested.

But, we've had a great week again in our lessons! Unbelievable. I guess this was the true test of short lessons, whether our lessons would get done when life demanded more of me than usual. They did even though we have lessons to do today still. Please excuse how happy we are with our lessons, I think we've hit our groove and what works best for us at this time.

I cannot express how proud of Camille I am, she is reading Beginnings II: Jesus My Shepherd almost effortlessly, all on her own and she is able to answer the questions without problem. At the beginning of this year, I thought she would need another year to figure out comprehension questions, she got very frustrated when the question weren't worded exactly like the text and now it's not a problem for her to seek out the answers. Her reading level has increased too. I am still sitting with her for Bible and I think she will be ready to move into the Discovery product for 3rd grade which reads from scripture with comprehension questions.

Horizons is going well, this is the one subject that can take more time than I'd like but Camille is finally understanding that if she doesn't dwaddle with her work, it's beneficial for both of us. I feel like Camille has matured quite a bit this year and dropping the rote memorization has been a wonderful thing for her. She has breezed through her lessons this week although she has needed more teaching from me with new concepts. I expect that though.

I scheduled "Once I Saw a Little Bird" to be memorized for all of this month and she accomplished that in the first week. I've been having her review her poems to keep them fresh. Thankfully next week she'll move on to "Time to Rise". We both love her new poetry notebook although she is going to be required to write in cursive from now on.

Primary Language Lessons
This is probably the best change I could have done for us. She is absorbing the lessons very well and she's constantly amazed at how quickly she can finish them. The writing is just enough for both of us at this time and I think we'll continue to use this non-stop.

Explode the Code, book 5
She's on the last lesson! This coming week she will finish book 5 and it has been exactly what she needed, more phonetic work. She is moving more quickly through the lesson in comparison to when she first started it and she's even attempting to spell words without any help. I have her do 2 pages a day so she's able to do a lesson in 4 days because there are 8 pages of work to each lesson. The teacher's guide has been a blessing, I'm really able to help her through it's guidance, although I was concerned whether we really needed it.

Écoutez, Parlez! is a hit. It is Camille's playdoh time now. She loves listening to it while playing with playdoh and her confidence grows each time she reviews a unit. I'm having her work through 1 unit for two weeks, so this week will be the last one for unit 1 and I'll have her do the workbook pages to determine if she needs more review.

Camille is to practice everyday for 15 minutes but we've talked and I told her to play all of her songs in her books up to the new one and then practice the new one 3x. If it takes 15 minutes, so be it. If longer, so be it. Her lessons are going well but if we move in June, it will also mean finding a new teacher. Sigh. I think she started piano lessons in the fall of 2006- I need to check on that b/c if that so, this fall will mean that she has completed two years of piano lessons. There's a decision on the horizon.

This week we learned about the Aztecs and Hernan Cortes as well as the scientific advancements during the Renaissance. We really enjoyed reading about Nicolaus Copernicus. I wasn't as organized as I needed to be, what a convicting reminder! If I'm going to pick books from the supplemental area and bounce from lower to upper grammar, I really need to read the books beforehand.

Today is actually our lesson but Camille has been reading The Magic School Bus Chapter book: Space Explorers and narrating it. We did watch an "Universe: Sun" episode yesterday and today we'll complete our lesson on the sun as well as hang our "sun" from the ceiling. We're hanging our solar system as we learn. My kids love gimmicks like that, go figure. We have not done Nature Study this week b/c of our health issues and the weather. It has been thunderstorming here throughout the week, intermingle that with the flu and it's so much fun!

Camille did go outside and observe the many robins in our yard. We tried to take a picture of the 20 or so robins pecking at our yard but like I've said before- we need a better camera.

We are on schedule and our next break is April 7-11. I think we'll actually make it! Even Danny with a fever wanted to do "sckool" which meant he wanted to play Starfall.


Thursday, February 28, 2008

What's on My Desk

I've been tagged by Beth at Acorn Hill Academy

I'm not taking a picture although it's pretty clean except the two stacks of books....

1st Stack:

  1. The Book Peddler catalog
  2. Notebook
  3. A Strong Start in Language by Ruth Beechick
  4. A Literary Education by Catherine Levison
  5. a credit card bill envelope with book titles scribbled upon it
  6. Nature in a Nutshell for Kids by Jean Potter
  7. Crinkleroot's Guide to Knowing the Trees by Jim Aronsky
  8. Parents & Childen by Charlotte Mason
  9. Caroline Elementary Science catalog
  10. A Child's Introduction to the Night Sky by Michael Driscoll

In between the stacks, my keys, a stray sock that Jack was trying to eat and a Candyland man I have to put back in the box.

2nd Stack:
  1. Another notebook
  2. Magic School Bus: Space Explorers Chapter book
  3. Women in Mining Mineral and Rock Match, teacher aid
  4. The Periodic Chart for the non-chemist teacher help
  5. Poster showing what minerals & elements are in the human body
  6. A Periodic Chart poster
  7. The Reluctant Dragon by Kenneth Grahame (I found it yesterday!)
  8. C.S. Lewis Narrative Poems (to send out via BookMooch)
  9. Prentice Hall Science Explorer Animals
  10. Prentice Hall Science Explorer Astronomy
  11. DK Readers Horse Show
  12. Heroes of America: Eleanor Roosevelt
  13. No Tooth, No Quarter by Jon Buller
  14. Chemistry in the Elementary School, college study of how to naturally approach chemistry
  15. Mama, Do You Love Me? by Barbara Joosse
  16. Renaissance Artists Who Inspired the World by Gregory Blanch
  17. Enjoying nature with you family: Look, Learn, Collect, Conserve, Explore the wildlife of town and country in fascinating projects and experiments by Michael Chinery (whew! long title)
Above the computer on a shelf:
  1. Rainbow Resource Catalog
  2. 100 Top Picks for HS Curriculum by C. Duffy
  3. Educating the WholeHearted Child by C/S Clarkson
  4. All Through the Ages by C. Miller
  5. Notebook
  6. The Well-Trained Mind
  7. Beechick's You Can Teach Your Child Successfully
  8. Designing Your Own CLassical Curriculum by Berquist
  9. Home Learning Year by Year by R. Rupp
  10. The Harp & Laurel Wreath by Berquist
  11. HTML and CSS in 24 Hours by Oliver Morrison
  12. Twin Sister French CD case
  13. Credence Clearwater Revival Greatest Hits
  14. Catch-All basket for pens
  15. Digital Camera

That's all...


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Science of Change

I've been thinking a lot about science, it is the foremost subject on my mind. It is my "pet" subject, the one I can really shape and mold to our liking without messing it up too much.

So, I've been reading what everyone thinks about science, Christine Miller of, Ruth Beechick, Laura Berquist, Elizabeth Foss, the Bluedorns, even a few online academies like Great Books Academy.

I've come to the conclusion that studying natural science without a formal curriculum is the preferred way to go. I'm still ironing out some details that I'm not ready to share but it is highly likely we will not be studying Chemistry next year or if we do it will be very brief, only for one quarter.

There are certain elements that are very important to me and have been but I haven't had the courage to break away from The Well-Trained Mind until now.

- short lessons
- nature study
- use of living books*
- scheduling our year into 4 quarters
- trivium as an organizer for subjects and depth

*Living books- what I consider living books are books that are engaging, authored by someone who has a passion for the subject in which they have written about. They are not non-fiction, just give me the facts please, books. Books that provide the same benefits as interviewing someone in their field of study, or biographies which share the passion of the person in which the biography is about.

Sometimes an author writes about many subjects and it is apparent that the actual subjects is not that person's passion, in certain cases that is deceiving. An author who is passionate about writing comes across as passionate in their writing, no matter the subject. Because this is a science post, here's the living science books that I have added to our wishlist. Most of these books are highly rated at Amazon through their review system.


Saturday, February 23, 2008

We Got Lost in the Woods

We went on an adventure today, I thought it was just going to be a nature walk. We went to a nearby State Park, went to their museum and climbed an ancient burial mound. At the burial mound, the kids went ahead of me up the stairs and I'm terrified of heights. I went up trying to go as quickly as possible because I realized the kids would be up there without me if I didn't. I ended up having vertigo and a small panic attack as I hit the middle of the stairs.

We got up there, took pictures and I panicked again when Danny kept wanting to go to the edge and look down. Thankfully, other people were there and someone carried Danny down the steps with Camille following. Holding on to both rails, I climbed down too, grateful to the strangers.

I then decided to walk one of the trails. I had seen the maps at the park store but didn't think we needed one. Ha, ha, ha. We followed a trail for a long time, probably 45 minutes only to come to a sign that said, "State Park Boundary Ends". Camille was aching, ready to go to the car and I was a little scared but knew that we could just back-track. It was 5:00 pm. So we turned around and back-tracked following the same trail that led us to the Boundary sign.

We had a great time although I had to remind Camille that it was better to be lost in the woods with Mommy than at home bored. I made the video in an attempt to lighten the mood but Camille was not enthused. When we finally emerged from the woods and headed to the car, Camille said it was a "fun day". I see this as a sign of times to come.

Pictures from our day:

My Nature Journal entry of a piece of Pine Tree bark while the kids played at a playground at the beginning of our excursion.

Walking to the burial mounds, noticing the beautiful view and Spanish Moss dripping from the winter trees.

The kids way ahead of me on the largest mound's stairs. They're going up like it's no big deal. This is the moment I realize they will reach the top unsupervised. It's only 56 feet straight up, that's all. After two days of downpour, there was not a cloud in the sky.

The view from the top of the largest mound. There's a smaller mound in the distance on the right.
This is the closest I would get to the edge.

Pictures from the walking trail

This is Trillium, I'm still working on identifying the actual scientific name of these with purple flowers and variegated leaves. I found these below a tree and took two pictures so I could identify them at home.

This last picture of the mysterious plant/flower (trillium), I found in another location on the trail. It seems to have opened.

I told Camille to be on the lookout for interesting things. She picked tree fungi and rocks. We will identify these later and I'll update this post.

I suspect this is Tyromyces Stipticus-Bitter Bracket but I may be wrong, trying to identify with DK's The Mushroom Book.

We are not at the point to be able to identify these at this time. Camille is recording them in her nature journal like this:

Place found: __________________
Time: ___________________
Color: __________________
Shape: _________________
Characteristics: _______________

Obviously, if she's going to be drawn to rocks I need to look into providing a better guide for her. I'm waiting on this to see where her interest goes.

Danny was having a ball and he felt so big being able to wear the binoculars. He's standing on bridge on the trail.

This is what I saw on our walk back, what is that?!? This is Tree Sap Resin, when a tree is diseased or an insect attacks it, the sap is the tree's way of defending itself. A little too late since this branch was on the ground.

This tree sap resin would harden and become Amber, although sources say that in order for it to be hard it has to fossilize. I had a chance to have beautiful jewelry! Lol.

This is the perfect "The End" photo. This is Camille stomping off ahead, mad at me for getting us lost in the woods. Did I say it was beautiful? I think she was more mad that I was laughing about the situation instead of actually being in the woods without a map that I "could have gotten" from the park office. She reminded me of that fact at least 3 times.


CM Schedule this Week: With Photos

I have each subject on a strip of paper and instead of everyday doing the same subjects in the same order, we're mixing it up to keep things fresh each day. I read about this in More Charlotte Mason Education by Catherine Levison and Christy does it in her homeschool at Close Academy.

I know I'm talking about "Charlotte Mason" a lot but I wouldn't be unless I saw the way I want to do things and what is on my heart in her method. I'm not looking to follow anyone blindly anymore, it is refreshing to see the items I do feel convicted about important in a useable method that doesn't necessarily mean I have to change all of our curriculum.

Next Friday will be our first Nature Study, with or without the Handbook of Nature Study. I hope it gets here before then. I know it also seems like I'm purchasing a lot of items lately, that's going to end once I have everything we need for this year and hopefully, next year other than books. I can't order books yet because the book list has not been made available for Year 4 yet.

I might come back and put more details in about our week just to document how we've changed.

Monday's Lessons:
- Read Jesus, My Shepherd, answer questions, pray
- Lesson 85 of Horizons Math 2
- Assigned Reading: I can read about Magellan
- Poetry: Once I Saw a Little Bird, copywork
- History: The Awakening of Europe, chapter 1
- Grammar: Oral narration of Aesop fable
- Phonics: 2 pages of lesson 9 in ETC 5
- French: Écoutez, Parlez! Unit 1
- Piano lesson at 3:30 pm
- Read aloud: Saint George and the Dragon
- Bedtime read aloud: Around the World in a Hundred Years

NOTES after Monday's lessons:
Amazing! Absolutely, utterly amazing. We had a slow start to our day, but once we got going we breezed through our lessons. From 8:15 to 11:45 am we have been non-stop, with only 1 break. Guess what Camille did during her break? She pulled her Bible out to work on memorizing the Old Testament, all on her OWN!

We had 1 hiccup during math but when I realized she was in a "I'm going to be difficult" mode, I told her to put it aside to we continued on. We went on with our other lessons and when she wanted a break, I told her to do her math. She finished it quickly and we kept moving on. All she has left today is piano practice and her lesson at 3:30 pm and our bedtime read-aloud. Time to clean house and eat lunch! :)

Tuesday's Lessons:
- Lesson 86 of Horizons Math 2
- continue reading I can read about Magellan
- Grammar: Picture study lesson
- Read Jesus, My Shepherd, answer questions, pray
- History: Renaissance Artists: DaVinci, narration, art project
- 2 pages of lesson 9 ETC 5
- Illustrate Once I Saw a Little Bird
- French: Écoutez, Parlez! Unit 1
- Piano practice
- Read aloud: The Awakening of Europe, Chapter 2
- Bedtime read aloud: Around the World in a Hundred Years

NOTES after Tuesday's lessons:
Camille is loving the switch around subjects. Math was first this morning and she took longer than she should have but I was taking care of Danny today so I couldn't intervene. Today was Danny's first day in underwear and we've had a couple of messes. The other subjects have gone well. Our history/art took longer but you cannot rush art, sorry. I'm really enjoying reading The Awakening of Europe aloud. It doesn't try to squeeze tons of information into one chapter like SOTW. This transition is hard for me, using living books instead of a more sequential textbook or book like SOTW. Although some would say SOTW isn't that sequential, lol!

She finished I can read about Magellan today and I'm so proud of her. She read very well, she did rush through a few words mispronouncing them but her confidence is higher. Today we've read about how the Netherlands impacted the Middle Ages, about Leonardo Da Vinci and we're reading Around the World in a Hundred Years by Jean Fritz from beginning to end. Does it all fit together nicely? Nah. Look at this week of reading from Ambleside, week 30 of Year 2:

Week 30
The Bible
An Island Story ch 56 Edward IV - The Story of Queen Margaret and the Robbers
An Island Story ch 57 Edward IV The Story of the Kingmaker
Joan of Arc by Diane Stanley
Seabird chapter 17, 18
Pagoo: ch.10, 11
Poetry of Christina Rossetti
Robin Hood - Little John goes to the Fair at Nottinghamtown
Pilgrim's Progress

It doesn't fit together all nice and neat either! Well I don't have An Island Story to know whether reading Joan Of Arc does tie in or not. Breathe, Jessica. Do not doubt this! It's going well. If I want something more sequential then I should use our Usborne History Encyclopedia, see easy fix. Sigh. I don't know how I put up with myself. Knee-slap laugh.

We're doing well. In fact Camille wants to know how a car engine works (answer found in How Things Work by Childcraft volume 7), and check out the questions she wants to answer about our nature walk in the above post. Are you kidding me? This natural learning stuff is turning out to be more work, FOR ME! I say that with a happy smile.

Wednesday's Lessons

- Reading: Francis Drake by Goodnough (shared reading)
- 2 pages of lesson 9 in ETC 5
- Recite One I Saw a Little Bird
- Lesson 87 of Horizons Math 2
- Moon lesson
- Read Jesus, My Shepherd, answer questions, pray
- Observation lesson on cats
- French: Écoutez, Parlez! Unit 1
- Piano practice
- Read aloud: The Awakening of Europe, Chapter 3
- Bedtime Read Aloud: Around the World in a Hundred Years

NOTES after Wednesday's lessons:
This week is going very well! The Francis Drake book that she is reading has 47 pages and it is a challenging read for Camille but I am so proud of her for accomplishing 25 pages today. Words like Plymouth, Mediterranean, reputation, channel, Portugal and East Indies tripped her up but only because she didn't attempt to sound them out by syllables. I'm very please however that she didn't take one look at this Troll Associates book and say, "I can't read this."

Camille is still astonished with using Primary Language Lessons, she can't believe that it is "all" we have to do because the lessons are short, sweet and focus on one element each day. I'm happy because the progression is very natural. This week she narrated a fable, did picture study of a portrait of cats and answered questions, today (Wed) she answered general questions about cats and tomorrow she'll take the same questions she answered today and write them in complete sentences.

Our Moon lesson was a success, we have decided to only use The Space Book for our lesson and use the other books we have for further exploration. We are both very happy to read one text that contains the information we need plus experiments. This is simpler than the Astronomy lessons I planned out and it keeps science in perspective with a short lesson. We read about the moon phases and what the difference is between a new moon and a lunar eclipse. When we observed the lunar eclipse, I was able to easily reinforce what we had learned with what we were seeing. I'm currently in deep thought and prayer over our science studies.

French is going well with Écoutez, Parlez! each day for 15 minutes, we are listening to Unit 1 as we repeat after the audio cd and follow along in the book. Each day Camille gets better at pronouncing and more confident in what she is saying. She corrected me today! We're doing 1 unit (10 pages) each day for two weeks and doing the workbook at the end of each unit to determine if we need to keep repeating it or move on to the next unit. This is perfect for us.

I am finding that taking the focus off creating notebook pages and putting that focus on the skills she's building is working much better for both of us. She doesn't feel overwhelmed to complete notebook page after page to document her learning and I don't feel like I'm pushing her anymore. Notebook pages are nice as a representation of what we're studying but if they are getting in the way of learning, I'd rather leave them to be done at an older age. I'm still thinking and processing all of this, I'm sure reading the Original Series by Charlotte Mason will bring clarity as well as more things to be in prayer about!

Thursday's Lessons

- final 2 pages of Lesson 9, ETC 5
- Read Jesus, My Shepherd, answer questions, pray
- continue Francis Drake reading
- Composition, write answers from Observation lesson
- Moon lesson, experiment
- Recite Once I Saw a Little Bird, review last 2 poems
- Lesson 88 of Horizons Math 2
- French: Écoutez, Parlez! Unit 1
- Piano practice
- Read aloud: The Reluctant Dragon
- Bedtime Read Aloud: Around the World in a Hundred Years

NOTES after Thursday's lessons:
"Mom, is school going to be like this from now on?" Camille asked me. "Yes, I think so but I'm sure there's more changes coming too." I told her. She loves the shorter lessons and she's actually making an effort to work through her math more quickly and she's staying on task more. She absolutely loves having a different focus each day and having to check the schedule (I printed out our lessons) to see what's next.

She did very well with the Francis Drake reading, she had problems with these words: Strait, commander, whispers, Argentina, supplies, confidence, importance, disobedience, Marigold, nobleman, wounded, experience, suspicious, surrendered, and Portuguese. I did have a slip up, I couldn't find our copy of "The Reluctant Dragon"! I KNOW I put it somewhere but it evaded me.

Danny is playing and loves it and when I'm reading aloud he's coming to sit by me to see the pictures, even if it is a book for Camille. This is an improvement. For science we finished our Moon lesson by working in our nature journals to record the lunar eclipse we saw- it is rudimentary but I wanted Camille to have fun with it without comparing hers to mine so I went a little sloppy. After we finished our lessons, Camille and Danny played with playdoh while listening to Themes to Remember.

Friday's Lessons
- Read Jesus, My Shepherd, answer questions, pray
- finish Francis Drake book
- Lesson 89 of Horizons Math 2
- Renaissance Artists: Michelangelo, Raphael (art projects)
- French: Écoutez, Parlez! Unit 1
- Nature Study
- Bedtime Read Aloud: Around the World in a Hundred Years

NOTES after Friday's lessons:
Everything has been finished but the "Around the World in a Hundred Years" by Jean Fritz. We're continuing to read this. Today, Camille finished "Francis Drake" and narrated it. She said the book was too long to narrate all of it so I wrote questions on our dry erase board that I had her answer in complete sentences after she had time to think about them. We studied Michelangelo today and decided to leave Raphael and Anguissola for tomorrow (Sat.) we're going to finish reading about them in "Renaissance Artist Who Inspired the World" and do the corresponding picture study and art project in Artistic Pursuits K-3, Book 2. Today Camille sculpted a turtle out of clay as a way to understand Michelangelo, she also did a watercolor drawing of herself angry.

Danny is growing up so they are having more spats because Danny is more vocal. She asked to be able to play with playdoh while she did her French today and I didn't see a problem with that at all so I allowed it. Friday has also become our day to watch a StoryKeeper DVD and the kids watched the last one. Camille asked if there are any we don't have and I told her the only two we don't have are the Christmas and Easter one. She said that we need to look into getting them. Danny was so cute, I asked him something while they were watching and he said, "Shhh, Mommy. I'm watching Jesus." LOL!

We had thunderstorms all day today so doing nature study wasn't possible like I had hoped. I actually wanted to take the kids to a State Park nearby. Hopefully next week. I'm so proud of Camille this week, her reading is showing improvement and she has responded well to the short lessons.

This Week in Pictures


Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Lunar Eclipse

We're starting our Astronomy studies today, about the moon and how appropriate is the lunar eclipse tonight? I'm so excited and Camille doesn't know about it yet. I think we're going to have a girls' night at home tonight and watch Anne of Green Gables and I'll surprise her with the eclipse (as well as a longer bedtime)!

UPDATE 2/21/08: We saw the eclipse and stood outside from 10:00 pm to 10:30 pm, we tried to take a picture of the orange/red moon but we do not have an adequate camera to handle such task. This is my goal to work on for the rest of the year, to save for a better camera. We left the eclipsed moon at 10:30 pm because Camille was so tired but we had a clear sky.

While we were outside under the stars, we talked about how we'll learn about the constellations and we decided to learn one constellation a week and identify it as well as document it in our nature journals. I still have to think about how I'm going to keep Camille up for night sky viewing and how many times a week. The last thing I want is a cranky, sleepy 7 year old girl on my hands. With the sunlight lasting longer, keeping her up during the week is more challenging because it means she'll be up longer. Maybe naps?


Monday, February 18, 2008

Green Hour Assignment #1

Our first intended Nature Walk, Danny is on the left, Devin is in the middle and Camille is on the right. Devin is a neighbor that the children have recently made friends with. We were glad he chose to join us! We walked around our 3 acre yard today.

I need a new camera. This ant pile has black ash intertwined in it, it looked black in person. The kids thought it was neat how the ants would use ash from the burn pile to build their home.

A squirrel's nest.

This is a hole left by an old tree stump, you can't see the deep dimensions. I was afraid to go near it because of snakes or whatever else I didn't want to observe today.

This is one of the many tree stumps in our yard. A few years ago, a storm made 5 tall pine trees fall. This one is rotted out but I showed the kids the rings on top and explained a little about how a tree ages. We then took a piece off and saw termites or ants crawling inside, they ran for cover quickly.


Banana shaped dried leaves on what looked to be a vine. Hmmm.

The creek at the end of our property, it is a run-off ditch and I don't allow the kids to play here.

Algae in the ditch.

Tomorrow Camille will pick two things she saw today to learn more about. She did find a leaf curled up and asked me why it does that. The picture didn't turn out. I need a better camera. I'll update this post with what we learned. Hopefully our copy of The Handbook of Nature Study will get here to help us out.

TWO focuses for this week as dictated by Camille:

1. "I want to learn all about pinecones. I want to know about why they close/open and what type of moisture is inside."
Answers found in Eyewitness Books: Tree by David Burnie, pg. 44-45

2. "How does a pecan tree work? Why does the pecan tree in our yard have wooden flowers on it?"

Once a pecan tree is mature, it will go through different stages throughout the year. The growth stages are:

  • The Dormant Stage: Pecan trees are dormant during the winter months. This is kind of like a rest period for the tree. During dormancy, the tree doesn't appear to be growing, but many important things are happening. In order for pecan trees to produce pecans during the next year they need at least 200 chill hours during this period. (A chill hour is an hour where the temperature is between 32F and 45F.)
  • Bud-break/Pollination: During late April and early May, pecan trees pollinate. Pecan trees are monoecious, which means they have separate male structures (catkins,) and female flowers (pistillates). The catkins are long, golden tassels and produce pollen. The female flowers receive the pollen and nut growth begins.
  • Nutlet Stage: The young pecans continue to grow in June and July and are called nutlets.
  • Nut-Fill Stage: Pecans mature during the nut-fill stage in September and early October. Some varieties of pecan trees produce many small clusters of pecans, and others produce fewer large clusters.
  • Shuck-Split Stage: After a 200-day growing period, the pecan shuck opens, allowing the nut to drop.
The wooden flowers Camille saw on the pecan tree were the empty pecan shucks. How cool is that?

Join us in the Green Hour Challenge hosted by Barb of Harmony Fine Arts!


CM Inspired Blogs to Explore

"Friends have all things in common." - Plato

I actually arrived at these blogs through SiteMeter, because someone looked for CM Curriculum and these links were included. SiteMeter is very neat at times. Anyways, here are some blogs I found interesting:

Freedom Academy

Water into Wine

Living, Learning and ...Loving

House at My Corner

And a great post by One Lesson at A Time

I thought these posts were good reads and I'm interested in reading more, when I find the time!


Saturday, February 16, 2008

About the trees...

I changed the blog a little, I really wanted to reflect that we are growing and what better way than with a tree to symbolize that growth?

- Growing roots with faith studies and family mentoring, teaching & reaching with our shepherding the heart philosophy
- Goal to raise strong, whole persons can withstand a bit of weather and changing of seasons
- the branches to symbolize our task of providing a liberal arts education, reaching out to learn in all areas
- our never-ending love of nature, beauty and God's glorious creation

This tree is actually in our backyard, I took the picture this morning as the sun was shining through the branches. It gives me such a peaceful, filled with love and joy feeling.


Friday, February 15, 2008

The Mail Came!

I received our Queen Homeschool products today:

- Language Lessons for the Very Young
- Habit Revisited
- Twelve Bright Trumpets by Leighton
- The Nature Study Idea Book

My Review of LL for the Very Young- it is based on the same premise as Primary Language Lessons which includes picture study with artwork, narration, copywork, punctuation and beginning composition exercises. I feel this is an excellent product for first grade but I do have a few things I wish were different.

It is a consumable product, which means the author intends for the child to write directly on the pages. I hope this is the reason for the large text, which as a former graphic designer, I cannot stand. The dark heavy lines either. I will not be using it as a consumable product, I will have my children write all of their work on separate piece of paper. I also wish there was a table of contents and index so I could quickly see where all the different types of lessons are for reference if I need to.

I will have to take some time with this to get to know it well enough to know if I will use each exercise due to the fact there is not a table of contents, index or a list concepts at either the beginning or end of the book. Primary Language Lessons by Lingua Mater does contain a table of contents, including poem titles, there is also a section in the front entitled "suggestions to teachers" from the original 1911 edition which I have very helpful. Language Lessons may have a little more direction for each lesson, which is helpful but I prefer the format of Primary Language Lessons much more. I would give Language Lessons for the Very Young an
B / for content
A- /for ease of use for student/teacher
B- /for format.

I want to explain a little further because I've been thinking about this ever since I've received it. I want to make it clear that I LOVE the concept in which these products resonate in. I am actually considering reformatting this product for our own family's use, that is how much it bothers me. If it makes my eyes go buggy, what about my children's?

Here's the reasons why I am not 100% thrilled with Language Lessons for the Very Young by Sandi Queen:

1. The size and typestyle of the font used in the book, it is at least 18 pt which is too large, the average person prefers to read 11 pt. text with normal line spacing so for children, the type size would preferably be set to 14 pt. at the largest and with a clear font. The font used is clear but is more vertical than usual text, it also contains serifs which are distracting. This is a font that is non-serif. Using a non-serif font also reduces letter formation mistakes, just to be fair to Queen Homeschool, I can't stand products that use a childish font like Comic Sans either, like Writing Tales does. I love Writing Tales and its content but like I said, I was a graphic designer and therefore this stuff bugs me.

2. The heavy lines on the pages for where a child aged 5-9 would write answers. This is why we will not write in the book and will use a separate piece of handwriting paper. If you're going to create a consumable product for an age group that is still working on mastering handwriting, it needs to be formatted so. In first grade, Camille would have gotten upset because she wouldn't be able to fit all her letters/words on the lines provided or I wouldn't have accepted sloppy handwriting which in this case, the lack of handwriting guidelines does not promote Charlotte Mason's method of developing a habit of excellence.

3. I object to some of the content. For example, Lesson Eighteen is about using capital letters. The sample that a child is to circle every capital letter they see is:

My favorite food is pizza. I like cheese on mine, and also mushrooms. Some of my brothers like peppers on theirs. My sister is the only one who prefers hers plain.

Then in Lesson Twenty-One:

Yesterday, we went to the zoo. We saw lots of different animals. My sister, Haley, liked the monkeys best. They made funny faces at us as they swung from tree to tree.

Don't get me wrong, I see the connection to children with these sentences but from a Charlotte Mason product, I was expecting something from literature, a fable excerpt or even something involving nature. The trite sentences are not what I would consider "exposing children to the very best". I also dislike the mention of other Queen Homeschool products within the text of the lessons, I don't mind the excerpts of other product they sell but don't say "published by Queen Homeschool Supplies" in the instructions of a lesson.

I also don't understand why the titles of the poems are underlined. Poem are short pieces of work, which require quotation marks. Here's a link that supports my concern.

I am only speaking about Language Lessons for the Very Young by Sandi Queen, I have not seen any other of the Language Lessons series and do not intend to use them. I only wanted a first grade level product that was of the same caliber as Primary Language Lessons which is intended for 2nd-3rd grade. I am in prayerful consideration on whether to reformat Language Lessons for the Very Young for our own family use. My only other option is to use white-out on the poem titles and supply alternative samples for the punctuation exercises.

We will use LL for the Very Young for first grade, follow it with Primary Language Lessons (Lingua Mater) and possibly Intermediate Language Lessons (Lingua Mater).

I need more time with the other books to offer an opinion. With Habit Revisited, I plan to read what Charlotte Mason said about Habits before I offer an opinion. I am disappointed with the size of the text and line spacing, it makes my eyes go buggy. Sigh. I'm also disappointed with the formatting of The Nature Study Idea Book, as well as the content upon first look. Once The Handbook of Nature Study comes in, I'll reassess it for value.

Twelve Bright Trumpets by Leighton, this seems to be an excellent living book for Medieval times.

By the way, I love the offerings at Queen Homeschool but it is a family business which means the shipping may take a little longer than larger companies. It also means that returning items are not ideal because they have a 15% restocking fee plus the customer pays for the item to be shipped back to them, which they may refuse to accept as a return. I do wish I would have waited to read the Original Series first before purchasing Habit Revisited and waited for The Handbook of Nature Study before purchasing The Nature Study Idea Book- that is why patience is a virtue!


Weekly Report: TOG2, Week 12

We are in transition, I'm reading all about Charlotte Mason so my mind is completely occupied and our lessons are a little lighter until I figure everything out. I have general items that need more prayer and consideration before I'm ready to put them on paper and make them a part of our lives.

Here are the kids reading Usborne's First Encyclopedia of Our World after I read to both of them, we have finished our earth science lessons and will be moving onto astronomy next week. Right on schedule!

History books we've read this week: Camille read the Christopher Columbus book on the right all by herself and narrated it well, with enthusiasm! History is very light right now because I'm doing minimal planning and preparation as I digest Charlotte Mason ideas and philosophies.

Math is going so much better now, I am teaching in between these activities and eliminating where I feel it is beneficial. I told Camille that if she did all of the purple addition problems and got them right, she wouldn't have to do the green ones. She was so thrilled to hear that!! Horizons says not to eliminate any exercises but I think this is best for Camille at this time.

This is our newest French program and I say newest because I've tried a lot of them. This one only takes 15 minutes daily and it reviews the lesson 9 times before you're to move on to the next one. We also have the workbook, which I'm using at the end of the lesson to determine whether moving on is the right action to take or if more review is needed.
It is called Écoutez, Parlez! (Listen, Speak), you look at the book while an audio cd plays with instructions in French and English. No fuss, get 'er done! Lol. (It's at

This is our poetry notebook that I've reformatted for Camille. I want all of her poems that she memorizes in one place, when it gets to be too big, we'll get a bigger notebook. Each poem is copied and illustrated by her. We have poems to put in from first grade and I plan on tabbing it- First Grade, Second Grade, Third Grade. That way she can see her growth through the years and we can use it as an easy review of previous memorized poems.

What it looks like before she does any work.

These two pictures show two poems she has copied and illustrated (with my help).

The picture below is of a page within Comprehension Quickies. I have Camille do 1 page a week to practice formulating her own sentences which I feel is practice she needs. Explode the Code is going well, especially after using the Teacher's Manual this week. She is getting the phonics reinforcement that she needs and she's reading and spelling better. We have dropped Spelling Workout completely. Primary Language Lessons is going well, Camille did her first dictation exercise this week, she realized she needed to study the selection more before attempting to write it from dictation.

Jack and one of the kids' Valentine's Day balloons.
This picture took awhile to take because he was chasing me through the house!
The kids taking a break in-between lessons by watercoloring.
This would be what Charlotte Mason calls "Masterly Inactivity"

I am very relaxed in demeanor about our lessons and gaining confidence about doing things the way I've felt I should instead of following what someone else says we should be doing. It's a mixture of learning how to teach, and gaining confidence in my own knowledge and instincts. I think this is a MAJOR milestone in our journey. It's not that I will have it all figured out but I will feel much more confident listening to my heart and assessing what we need to do when hiccups occur instead of feeling like a complete and utter failure. I'll be able to talk about this more later.

Danny is doing well with read alouds, playing with Camille like above and playing at, which he absolutely loves. I'm not big on computer learning so this is a struggle for me but he's enjoying it right now and developing hand/eye coordination as well as enthusiastically repeating whatever Starfall says. A happy sigh.


Thursday, February 14, 2008

"Mom, I know why kids don't get headaches."

Scene: We're in the car, on our monthly grocery trip excursion (6-8 hour day) and Danny screams an ear-piercing squeal because Camille has done something that he disagrees with.

"Mom, I know why kids don't get headaches," Camille said seriously.
"Why is that honey?" I ask.
"Because kids cause headaches, that's why they don't get them," she said matter-of-factly.

"Oh yeah, why do you think that?" I ask.
"God let me have a headache and now I know how you feel when you say your head is hurting. God wanted to let me know that it hurts when you say you have a headache," she said, again very matter-of-fact.
"That was very nice of God to reveal that to you, wasn't it?" I'm trying so hard not to laugh!

"Yes, maybe God will give Danny a headache so he can realize it too," she said.
"Yes, honey." I said and switched the subject.
I am very careful to not put down the kids even indirectly, like saying "Danny is giving me a headache." I say, "What Danny is doing is giving me a headache." So when she wanted to report to me, I was very hesitant to allow her to think that I meant Danny IS a headache. I'm so glad she understood the difference.


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Wordless Wednesday


Currently on my mind

  • My Duties as a Homeschooling Mom

1. Schedule vs. Routine:
a. What are the bad habits I have that are preventing my children from being more productive?
b. Is it crucial to follow a timed schedule for my little ones? Why do I feel choked at times?
c. How to relax enough but not become too relaxed with our time?

2. With a 3 year old, 7 year old and 5 month old puppy- how do I:
- keep up with the house
- provide ample time for each individually
- stop myself from feeling run-down at the end of the day
- prioritize my own learning without overwhelming myself
- stop myself from becoming complacent

  • Prioritizing Our Time Better
- I'm asking myself what is important right now? (Answer: Math, Phonics, Reading, Bible and Writing)
- Am I keeping the focus on what is important or adding more than is needed or able to be done?
- If we study history, science and other subjects- at what point is does it start hindering us?
- How can I make our time more efficient and enjoyable during the day?

  • Charlotte Mason
- Currently reading More Charlotte Mason Education by Levison (love it); Language Wars by Beechick
- How much of CM's philosophy do I want to adopt and how to implement.
- Where is my comfort zone regarding CM and Classical philosophy? (still discovering this)

  • The Hows & Whys of Learning
- Why are we using the products that we are?
- Why are we studying the subjects we are at this time? Are there subjects that would be worth waiting for?
- Educational philosophy for younger years: is there a balance to be obtained between academic and developmental?
- How to become confident about the approach I decide to take: able to discuss it intelligently and with my research done.
- Writing path: Writing Aids with TOG or Progymnasmata, or a mixture of both? ...and why.

  • Getting & STAYING Organized
- In every area, I'm great at developing systems and following them for a week or two and then they fall by the wayside.
- How to stop feeling overwhelmed at all I have to do!
- How much to purge/what to keep

  • Nature Journaling/Study
- Educating myself on how to approach
- Getting the kids involved
- Making it enjoyable for everyone but educationally effective
- WTM science cycles vs. Ambleside/Mater Amabilis


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Wanted: CM/Classical Mentor


-Passionate but gentle homeschooler needed to aid in philosophical and academic implementation with years' experience to draw knowledge from.
- Must have working knowledge of Charlotte Mason and classical education
- Possess patience, subtlety and a warm heart
- Must be able to tell me when I'm full of it
- Be willing to have weekly conference calls
- Someone who has taught themselves before/during the upper academic levels.

- Praise and compliments
- Occasional gifts
- Witness of fruits
- Everlasting appreciation

I'm thrilled to say the position has been filled. Now excuse me while I do the happy-dance and make my children think I'm weird.


Finds & Thoughts for K-4 Science

I had chosen Living Learning Chemistry for 3rd grade but when it arrived, I was a little disappointed. I had hoped it contained a 'living' books list to read from but found out it didn't. The plans are simple and easy to use but that really isn't what I was looking for. I created my own book list to accompany the curriculum to create more of what I was looking for and I am content to use it knowing that it will provide what I was looking to provide academics-wise.

I started wondering if there was something out there that I had missed somehow that was closer to what I had in mind, plus Danny's science for K and 1st are on my mind while I wait for books to get here through the library about Charlotte Mason and nature study (field guides). I had to order some art supplies because we're running low and Camille's interest has increased so while I was shopping the sales (end 2/29) at Jerry's Artarama and, I discovered a great nature study tool.

The Sketch Folio allows you to carry your sketch book (all-media one included), pencils and drawing tools and possibly a field guide could fit in the right pocket inside. I saw this and thought, how practical and unique to have our own nature journals! With little ones it seems they want me to carry everything on a nature walk, this way we can each carry our own load if we're on a long walk or just take these if it's going to be a short walk. I bought 2 on clearance but I guess I bought the last ones or they've been selling well. I figure I'll use one until Danny is old enough to have his own. Grin. Honestly, a part of me wants to be as artistic as Lee and Barb are, I want to be able draw like that and a nature journal (paired with Drawing With Children) seems like a natural place to start.

I'm reconsidering the science path for K-4 for Danny. I'm reading Ambleside's outline for these years and while their suggestions satisfy a few wants like using the Thorton Burgess books about animals and birds, they don't really cover the topics that Camille and I have. My dream curriculum for 1-4 (life, earth, astronomy, chemistry and physical) science has children's literature to read, easy but engaging projects for the teacher, extension activities that use language arts skills, possibly even contain poetry and multi-media suggestions. I can provide the field trips and other details such as nature walks.

I think I've found it for physical science for 4th grade. Terrific Science has an Integrated Science line and I think Teaching Physical Science Through Children's Literature is what I've been looking for!

Integrate science and language arts while emphasizing the process skills common to both areas.

  • Inspired by favorite stories
  • 20 complete lessons
  • Connects science and language arts
  • Reproducible pages
  • National Science Education Standards
  • Easy-to-understand explanations
  • 244 pages
  • Grades K–4
I'm very thrilled with this find because it uses picture books which will entice Danny to read with us, plus there are writing activities and strong science. The picture books themselves also serve as multicultural learning and it's neat how reading The Rainbow Fish can be for science since "Students observe examples of the three states of matter and identify matter in each of these states." I am so excited to find this!

Terrific Science also has a TOY based science product! Are you kidding me? This is great but I already have my Chemistry curriculum and I'm not changing although this looks very (aaahem) cool!

Teaching Chemistry with TOYS
1-883822-29-7 • Price: $23.95

Exciting projects use ordinary toys and play materials to demonstrate chemistry principles.
  • 42 activities grouped separately for grades K–3, 4–6, and 7–9
  • 296 pages
  • Grades K–9

Terrific Science has wonderful inside views of all their products so you can explore them to see if they may be right for you. I'm not affiliated with them, it's just something I found that I'm excited about. No, I haven't ordered anything and I'm not going to until January 2008. A lot of things change in a year.

I went off on this science tangent because Danny is manageable right now and if I'm going to redo life science lessons, I'd like to do them before September, plus who couldn't get excited about science seeing these products? C'mon! I care about science a great deal especially in the early years. I'm re-evaluating a lot of decisions I made for Camille and I'm trying to find a path that I think will accomplish all of my goals (teach and reach) for Danny's younger years. Of course, I'll write more about this as the decisions are made.

I forgot to mention the books that I want to read no matter what we use as a curriculum: All are available online for free at various websites, just google their titles.
  1. - The Fairy-Land of Science by Buckley
  2. - Burgess Animal Book for Children and Burgess Bird Book for Children by Thornton Burgess
  3. - The Story of Inventions by Frank Bachman
  4. - The Storybook of Science by Jean Henri Fabre (maybe)
  5. - James Herriots's Animal Stories for Children
If I can find a storybook for learning about the human body, I think I'll be set for K-4. Hmm.


Sunday, February 10, 2008

Weekly Report, TOG2, Week 11

Do you know how hard it is to relax? It is so hard! This week in TOG we studied art and the Renaissance and I yo-yo'd between feeling like, "Yes, this is how I should be approaching history for the first cycle" to "My goodness, I didn't read this book or that book and aaaahhhhh!" Lol. It's not just about what books we did or didn't read, I'm a little unsettled right now. I'm caught between trying to figure out what is actually best for Camille and my expectations and personal goals for her and whether or not I'm completely off the mark or close to the target. I'm patiently waiting for some Charlotte Mason books to come in through interlibrary loan, that may take a while.

We did receive Simply Spelling Grades 3-12 by Laurie Hicks today, and I'm impressed. I read through the lessons and levels and I was blown away because right in front of me is something that appears to be so simple, yet it's thorough and advances in the higher levels with goals I am comfortable with. Hard academics can be gentle? Whoa! Lol.

Let me share our week by subject.

This week we dove back into our Explorer's Bible Study, Beginnings II, New Testament and Camille is now able to read the story and answer the questions on her own! This is a huge improvement from the beginning of the year. Her reading is progressing but so is her comprehension and retention. She doesn't blink at having to answer the questions.

Oh dear, math. She is doing well with the concepts but it takes her an hour to do a two-sided page (pictured). She told me that she tries to find the easiest way to do the work and will even do 2-3 problems in the first activity and then switch to the second activity to do 3 problems and switch again. She also said that she daydreams or gets distracted. We're going to sit together a little longer, she has also said she wants me to verbalize the problem, sort of hold her hand. I'm torn about this actually. I've told her that 3rd grade (next year) will be a year of transitioning more towards being able to do the work on her own after a teaching session. She has a test Monday, I'll see how well she has retained the concepts and see if there needs to be more teaching or practice.

We went a little light this week on history, I really wanted to focus on reading and writing. We read about the Renaissance and Leonardo Da Vinci, including Leonardo's Horse by Jean Fritz (amazing story) and Camille did some art. We studied Da Vinci's paintings and without reading about his technique or seeing the actual painting, Camille tried to color The Lady With a Jewel, guessing how Da Vinci's version looked based on his other paintings. This was fun for both of us, she really enjoyed working on it.

The other coloring page is a painting by Raphael and Camille added clouds to the background. "It needed something," she said. Lol! We didn't do any mapwork other than locating where Italy is, but she knows that already. It was a light week in history.

Magic School Bus and a little nature study was it for us this week. It's my fault, I'm in a funk. My balance is a little off. There is absolutely no reason for us not doing science this week, even if my head isn't where it should be. Camille and Danny both examined an oak tree in our yard and I discovered we need a book to help us identify trees! We have the DK Eyewitness Tree book but it doesn't cover every tree, especially in our area. We have art supplies coming and we're going to start nature journaling again, this time with a better idea of HOW to. Barb will be proud, lol.

Primary Language Lessons is a HIT, Camille loves it and wants to do it everyday. She has asked if she can do "grammar" (what we call it) first, ever since Monday when we started it. I feel so encouraged by this, and I personally love Primary Language Lessons too. I feel so efficient and confident that this is what we both needed. Which is why I'm in a funk- what other areas could be like this?