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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Glimpses of Reality

1. Yesterday morning Camille said she wanted to go to school. This was a surprise because she loves homeschooling but what she was really saying is that she wants to have a 'girl' friend. She has much more friends here than she did before we moved but they are all boys. Oh and the whole "I want to go to school" episode escalated to the point that I told her I would drop her off at the elementary school after I dropped Danny off at preschool, which is when she explained more about what she meant.

Yes, she did think I was going to the elementary school and yes, I did think about it for a nanosecond. We ended the conversation with the fact that her dad and I decide her educational path, not her and that I would do what I can to get her a 'girl' friend.

2. On top of Camille's declaration yesterday morning, Danny had an all-out temper tantrum when I dropped him off at preschool for his second week. "I don't want to go Mommy! I want to stay with you!" Clinging, yelling, fighting, yep. A teacher helped pull him off of me and tried to talk to him to calm him down, the class was going on a field trip to the bakery and she was working to entice him. Camille and I sat in the lobby for 15 minutes while he worked out the rest of his temper tantrum which we heard loud and clear though many walls and doors.

We left and I called back 10 minutes later and he had calmed down and was actively participating with the class. When I picked him up, he had a great behavior report. Sigh.

3. I am sick, which started yesterday afternoon. I have the chest congestion crud and I want to crawl into bed heavily medicated but I can't.

4. I am dropping French as a formal subject, we'll do something each week informally- probably play Lingua Fun French card game and watch Bonjour Les Amis but I'm allowing Prima Latina to have all of our academic foreign language focus at this time. No, I don't have any solid reasons for doing this, it is just a gut feeling that this is what we should do at this time. French will resume formally after Prima Latina, I think.

5. Instead of reading Of Courage Undaunted and finishing it, we're in Part III- but instead of continuing to read- we watched Lewis & Clark Great Journey West by National Geographic.

This post is dedicated to a friend who thinks I've got it all together (ha!) and that doubts herself more often than she should!


Monday, September 29, 2008

Feed the Ducks, Study the Ducks







We watched them, took their pictures and then came home to identify and learn more about them. Camille located every single one in our bird field guide except for the muscovy ducks, which I found in DK Animal. The captions are a joint effort.


Saturday, September 27, 2008

Friday's Field Trip

We went to the UGA Aquarium on Skidaway Island, UGA stands for University of Georgia, and the kids surprised me. It is a small aquarium but the kids were finally interested in more details about the fish we looked at than ever before. To walk through the aquarium glancing at each display, it would probably take 15 minutes but we spent almost an hour and talked about each display in detail- with me following the kids' interest.

I am seeing the pay-offs of nature study more and more each day, the kids are more patient, observant and interested in learning more, even Danny so I know this is not just a maturity thing.

Here are some of the highlights of the aquarium visit

Camille explores the coral reef display, she played tour guide as she told me about the various invertebrates shown.





I thought the picture was clearer when I took it but the seahorses were beautiful and we watched them for a long time.


An interactive program where Camille selected all the invertebrates and played, "Do I know this?" To my delight, she won her own game...the program did not tell her anything that she didn't learn in the last two months.

Outside of the aquarium

Aquatic Turtles Basking

And on the Nature Trail at the Aquarium...



Yes, those are dolphins.



The trees don't seem to understand that Fall is starting, it looked more like Spring on the trail.

It is so refreshing to get out each Friday and get OUT there.


Friday, September 26, 2008

A Teaching Moment

Today's outing led us eventually to Barnes & Noble where the kids and I had coffee and hot cocoa, respectively. Camille must have seen a bi-racial couple walking by and asked me,

"Mom, is it okay for a brown skinned person and a white skinned person to be married?"

The blessed child thinks that any couple that holds hands or kisses is married... (Which is a thought that popped into my head when she asked this.)

"Why do you think it's not okay?" I asked. "Well, they have different skin color, aren't they different species?" she plainly asked while I tried not to laugh out loud....seriously.

"I have blue eyes and you have brown, right? Are we different?" I asked.
"Yes and no," she answered.
"Men are men and women are women- all humans have that in common. God made us all unique so some people have green eyes, others have brown, some have blonde hair and some have brown hair. Some people have curly hair, some have straight. The color of skin is the same as the color of our eyes and hair, it's just one way God made us all unique but the same. Men are men no matter what color their hair, skin or eyes are and women are women no matter what color their hair, skin or eyes." I explained.

She then went on to explain how people have more characteristics that are different, height and weight. Then she asked me, "but is it okay?" I told her God said he created a man and a woman and it was good, He didn't say a white man and white woman, He said MAN and WOMAN so yes, it more than is good.

We live in the South, we have family members that are not healthy in their attitudes and it has always been a fear of mine that the kids would pick up on this without me being able to talk to them beforehand. This was perfect, especially since we'll talk about slaves soon in history. Thank you Lord!


Week 2 Report

Science and Nature Studies this week...

Above is just one of the projects Camille did for Human Body this week. She also did projects for sight, touch, taste and smell from Easy Make & Learn Projects: Human Body by Donald Silver.


I finally got a clear photo of one of the three monarch caterpillars on our milkweed plant.


We watched this grasshopper katydid hatch Thursday morning in our yard and to save it, I put it in our habitat until I had finished mowing the yard. He was fun to observe.

Also this week in science, we added faces to the kids' My Body and Camille read Look at Your Eyes by Paul Showers and Why I Sneeze, Shiver, Hiccup and Yawn by Berger independently. Today (Friday) we're going on a field trip...destination unknown due to the weather but we'll post pictures later.

In History...
We finished reading Napoleon The Little Corporal and we're about to finish Part II in Of Courage Undaunted. I read Seeking Knowledge aloud to Camille because I felt she had enough independent reading for the week. Truthfully, I find Of Courage Undaunted a little boring but Camille is enjoying it. This week in history was light compared to what is coming next week.

Explorer's Bible Study: Discovery Genesis
These lessons are going well although we volley between answering orally and writing the answers. I know this isn't great but Camille has noticed that her Sunday School teacher is making mistakes in his teaching based on what she is learning in Explorer's. She said this week that she wants to correct him but that he's the teacher and she knows that is rude. I'm very happy with Explorer's, even more so than I thought I would be.

Prima Latina
Last week we did two lessons in a week, this week we've slowed down to one. Right now we're watching part of the DVD lesson on Monday, finishing it on Tuesday and then using Wednesday and Thursday to complete the exercises plus play games with the vocabulary. I'm having Camille make flashcards for her vocabulary, one card for the word and one card for the definition. We completed Lesson 3 this week.

Horizons Math 3
Nothing really to report other than it's going well.

Primary Language Lessons & Explode the Code Book 7
Also going well, Camille worked on singular and plurals this week. In Explode the Code 7, Camille is having a little trouble with matching syllables to make words, which is a new exercise in book 7. The exercises are like this:

Join the syllables to make a word that fits each meaning. Use your dictionary to help you.

Syllables: age, band, pack
1. A large box or present ________________. (answer is package)
2. A piece of cloth that covers a wound or sore _____________________. (answer is bandage)

Now I don't know if it she is assuming something but this has really tripped her up this week.

Camille has memorized Bird Talk by Aileen Fisher in its entirety. We videotaped her reciting it but the background noise drowned her out. Next week she will start working on Merry Sunshine.

Camille has learned the definite and indefinite articles in Unit 2, I suspect that after next week she'll be ready to move on to Unit 3.

Camille loves her new teacher, he is having her play songs like Pop Goes the Weasel and The Lion Sleeps Tonight (from Lion King). He is now on vacation, a trip to Italy (I'm so jealous) for three weeks. She is practicing 3-4x a day of her own accord.

Afternoon Tea with Fairy Tales
This week we read Hansel and Gretel and I realized that Camille is not squirmish at all. The stepmother in the story lead into a discussion about step parents though.

Drawing with Children
This week we experimented with the Prismacolor markers, next week we'll do the relaxation techniques and start with the placement exercises.

Camille LOVES this, besides piano she wants to do needlepoint whenever she can. We ran out of yarn so we're going to see if we can get some this weekend so she can finish her current project.

Composer Biography
We listened to Vivaldi 2x this week. I'm forgiving myself because this week has been very busy.

Danny started Montessori preschool this week, on top of that we had soccer twice this week, a different time for Camille's piano lesson and a harried mom trying to get used to all the changes. There are a lot of little things I have neglected to do but I'm giving myself a pass this week.

Mom's School
I read Streams of Civilization 2 about the French Revolution and Napoleon Bonaparte. I neglected to watch Teaching the Classics this week but it was a stressful week. My other books have not come in yet, I will be picking up The Grimm Brothers book from the library. Although I was to read Presenting Miss Jane Austen first, I'll read the book on the Grimm brothers because it's available first. I'm trying.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Eureka! Monarchs!

I bought a milkweed plant for $9.99 when we moved here. It has more than paid for itself in nature study! Camille has drawn it...

We learned about milkweed bugs that flocked to it, all the while I was sad that I hadn't seen ONE monarch visit. At least, we learned about something new...I figured. I was dismayed when I read that milkweed bugs are not harmful to the milkweed plant unless you're trying to cultivate them. We watched their eggs...and now we're watching as they go through their developmental stages, five in all.

Today, we went to look and lo and behold! There are THREE monarch butterfly caterpillars!

It was the whole reason I bought the milkweed plant in the first place. I just read Terry and the Caterpillars by Selsam to Danny and now Camille wants to wait until the chrysalis is formed and then move them so we can watch them inside, just like Terry from the book she overheard me reading to Danny.

She's looking at one of the caterpillars, I wish the picture would have shown it! It's there though.

There are sometimes I feel like I can't take a picture to save my life! Sigh. On the left, you can see the little yellow bugs? Those are little milkweed bugs. The yellow, white and black striped out of focus caterpillar is just one of three we saw on the plant today. I am so thrilled!


Wordless Wednesday


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Daily Routine Simplified

Here's our current daily routine


It looks great doesn't it? Very rich with tons of time devoted to different subjects. Well, those different subjects are not getting done and I've learned my lesson about trying to force something that isn't natural. I've changed it to be more natural.


Now we have a realistic daily routine on paper!


Too quiet.

Yesterday was Danny's first day at the Montessori preschool. He woke me up at 5:00 am, "Mom, wake up. I go to school." I knew it was futile to try to get him to go back to bed, just to wake him up in an hour. We had to be at his doctor's for his immunizations at 8:00 am and then preschool began at 9:00 am.

He was very brave, not crying- only scrunching up his face while he received 4 immunization shots. He exclaimed, "Owww," each time but still sat there for the next without fighting. A proud mama moment. We left the doctor's at 8:50 am, just enough time to get to preschool at precisely 9:00 am.

Excitedly, Danny was full of energy as I signed him in and took care of a little paperwork and then we walked back to his room. I watched as one of the directors talked to Danny about the rules and what is expected of him. My heart sank as I realized, I was actually dropping my child off in someone else's care. Danny gave me a hug, kiss and said, "Bye bye Mommy, I luv you." It took everything in me not to pick him up and walk out with him.

Camille was cheerful as we left, I was in tears. She asked me why I was crying...I told her that I cried when I used to drop her off too. Camille had attended daycare and preschool as well. Honestly, I thought I was past putting my children into the care of someone I don't know well. There is absolutely no reason not to trust them and I'm not saying that I don't, it's just not what I thought I would do.

I spent yesterday (Mon.) in a depressed state, the quietness around the house, the blaring obvious fact that I could keep the house clean now for more than 20 minutes. My baby wasn't there. Camille loved it and saw nothing wrong with it. "Mom, he's doing his thing, we're doing our thing and then we'll be together. I think it's nice not to be interrupted 100 million times a day." She was right but time marched on slowly.

I braced myself for his absolute enthusiasm when I picked him up. I knew he had a terrific day in the new environment, I chatted with his teacher and laid it out for her. "He'll be homeschooled next year for kindergarten, so I'm hoping this experience will prepare him for lessons at home. No pressure or anything (smile) but he's here to get what I cannot provide without pulling my hair out...predictable structure, constant activity for his age and ability and conformity. I want him to be able to focus on a task for 15 minutes at least by the end of this year." She laughed and said, "No pressure? I'm sure we'll be able to accomplish that and more." She was very nice and had the temperament I often wish I had with Danny, the nice but firm.

I know deep down I have failed my child, I am undisciplined and could do better to balance preschool and 3rd grade studies, "if only I..." ran through my head a lot yesterday. The problem is, I try to be an all or nothing type person- if I cannot give 100% is it really worth doing? It seems that no matter what I did, keep Danny at home and continue to do preschool for 30-40 minutes a day and then focus on Camille's studies...I was still losing with Danny. He is perpetual motion and if I couldn't focus on him, I felt he was getting lost at home. I don't want him watching tv and I was turning it on everyday for him to just sit still and be occupied.

I know this Montessori preschool is going to be what he needs right now. I just hate that I cannot provide that for him, I feel like I have failed but I also feel like I have done the right thing by letting go for just a little while so he can get what I feel I'm lacking. It's a huge emotional mess.

Now, I'm working on embracing the situation on my end, making the time count while he's gone and getting used to the stillness of the house. Yesterday was a rough day, I think today will be better.


Saturday, September 20, 2008

Mom's School Books

I've been entertaining the idea of reading higher level books than what we're studying at Camille's 3rd grade level. I just checked out The Plant Hunters by Toby Musgrave and it is an interesting read so I want to devise a reading plan for myself this year that will mirror Camille's studies. Whether or not I accomplish the challenge I'm setting for myself will remain to be seen. I don't want to set lofty goals or start out with a huge grand plan for the year so for this quarter, this is what I'll attempt:

Teaching the Classics, I will watch one night a week.

1. Streams of Civilization 2, following the schedule in TOG Year 3
- keep a history notebook in which I will answer questions presented in Streams 2 and a growing vocabulary list (too much work at this stage for the questions, I hope to build up to it)

2. To read these books as scheduled in TOG Year 3 Dialectic and Rhetoric

  • Presenting Miss Jane Austen
  • The Brothers Grimm: Two Lives, One Legacy
  • Our Living Constitution
  • A book on William Wilberforce
  • Simón Bolivar: South American Liberator
  • Adoniram Judson: Bound for Burma
  • Swiss Family Robinson

A. Human Body
1. Microbe Hunters by Paul de Kruif (as suggested by Ambleside Years 9-11)
2. Wonders of God's Creation: Human Life—Crown of Creation DVD
3. (Optional) Work through Prentice Hall Science Explorer- Human Biology and Health

I have all of these resources, Microbe Hunters is on its way from a fellow BookMoocher, the only resources I don't have are the Dialectic level books for history but I'll check those out from the library.

I may drop something if I find I've bit off more than I can chew. Lol.


Friday, September 19, 2008

Week 1 Report

Let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start. When you read you begin with A B C, when you sing you begin with Do Re Mi....

I have a song in my heart over this week's events. On one hand it has been a wonderful week homeschooling and on the other hand, I have learned a few things that have changed my mind about previous ideas I've had.

First, our daily routine. By Wednesday, I realized the daily routine was too rigid and unrealistic. So on Thursday (yesterday) I changed it and it worked beautifully! Here's our new Daily Routine.


Secondly, I realized my mistake in thinking that doing preschool at home would keep Danny busy for a longer period than what it did. He is just not interested in sitting alongside Camille and doing his own school. I've had my FIL's offer of paying for preschool hanging over my head for awhile now and I believe this would be best for both Camille and Danny this year. As a family we toured a Montessori preschool this morning and Danny will start Monday. It is everything I cannot provide for him at home at this time and I cannot say how much this saddens me in one way but on the other hand I'm grateful to be able to provide Danny an environment where he can blossom.

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My dh joked last night at Danny's soccer game that we're turned into suburb parents, Danny's in soccer and will start Montessori preschool and Camille takes piano.

Now to recap each subject for the week.

Explorer's Bible Study, Discovery level- Genesis
Camille has graduated from Bible stories to Bible study and I'm very satisfied with Explorer's approach and content. This week was an introductory week to the chapter of Genesis as a whole, here is one day's work from this week.

Horizons Math 3
So far the lessons have been a review for Camille. Page pictured, I lifted the scanner lid while it was scanning, oops.

Prima Latina
We love Mrs. Leigh as our video teacher and so far we've done Lessons 1 and 2 with only the student book and DVD. I cannot believe how much fun we're having with this!

Primary Language Lessons
This week Camille has done her first dictation exercises and learned about commas. We read the comma book from our Grammar Tales set. This has gone very well.

Explode the Code, Book 7
Camille started this week on Book 7 and is doing very well. I have the Teacher's Guide and we go through the instructions before she starts her work.

Poetry Memorization
Camille is working on Bird Talk by Aileen Fisher. I have yet to discuss metaphor with her but will next week.

Tapestry of Grace, Year 3 Redesigned - Unit 1, Week 1
So much fun! This week has been wonderful in history, we started off by reviewing geography terms and Camille labeled the continents and oceans on a world map, then located the thirteen colonies on an United States Map. She read Geography A to Z to me aloud to review geography terms and we reviewed what latitude and longitude means as well as what the Prime Meridian is.

This week Camille read on her own for history- William Carey: Bearer of Good News and My Napoleon by C. Brighton.

We read Napoleon, Little Corporal, Of Courage Undaunted Part I and did two president cards- one for George Washington and one for John Adams. Camille loved using the Yo! Millard Fillmore book for the biography information but we did have to use Our Country's Presidents get the rest of the information we needed.

Since our literature read this week was Rapunzel, I used it for our afternoon tea party. The kids loved it! The next day, Camille and discussed what the characteristics of a fairy tale are. Here's a link that was very helpful with this and we printed out the chart at this link.


For history our project this week was to make and use a quill pen, here are pictures of the kids...

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Building Critical Thinking Skills aka Informal Logic
Camille loves this and I wish I had gotten this for her in 2nd grade! I've given her 30 minutes on Monday to be able to focus on this but she has asked to do 2 more times this week- she has done a few pages on her own time. *Smile*

Life Science - Head to Toe by Jim Wiese, our own lessons
Another HIT! We've had so much fun this week, it doesn't even feel like 'school'. We made outlines of the kids' bodies and learned about the brain (images are from My Body by Teacher Created Resources). Camille read The Brain What It Is, What It Does independently and we did the experiments in Head to Toe. Here are pictures of the kids' outlines with their brains plus Camille's Brain Hat. Camille's outline is on the left, Danny's on the right.

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and now Camille's Brain Hat (from Easy Make & Learn Projects, Human Body by Donald Silver and Patricia Wynne)

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And this is where our day would fall apart, I kept forgetting to put the composer cd on while we ate lunch. Camille did her piano practice every day without fail and she's doing very well with her new piano teacher. What a blessing! I felt that Camille did so much independent reading in her subjects that we didn't need an independent reading time designated this week, and we haven't started our needlepoint (crafts), art or exercise time yet. We only had afternoon tea once this week.

I think all in all, it was a FABULOUS first week back but I really contribute that to the fact we've been doing light lessons for a while so we were ready for a full day again. Next week, Danny will be starting at the Montessori preschool so we will have an adjustment - it's never been quiet in our home, unless the kids are sleeping, lol!

Last but not least, a friend's daughter drew a picture of Danny and I just wanted to say Thank you Dylan, this is a WONDERFUL picture of Danny and he looks just like it! It looks like he's playing soccer!


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Human Body Lessons

These are 10 weeks long using Head to Toe Science by Jim Wiese as the main spine and Christian Liberty Nature Reader Book 5 as a secondary spine. Instead we're using Human Body by Donald Silver and Patricia Wynne (Easy Make and Learn Projects).

We studied human anatomy in first grade but after revamping our science scope and sequence, I decided it should be done again but with a bit more depth. These lessons are intended for a 3rd-4th grade student, at least in my opinion.


If you're using Head to Toe Science by Jim Wiese, please feel free to use this in any way that may help your lessons. Any books can be substituted, these are books we own. I know that I neglected to include specific books on touch and smell during the five senses study but they are covered in the other books. I allotted two weeks to the senses and nervous system due to the reading load, it could be shortened.

To see the rest of our 3rd grade science studies, click here.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

This is the President I Voted For

I know President George Bush has been ridiculed, belittled and put under tremendous pressure but this article reminded me again of why I have unfailingly supported him since voting for him in 2000 and 2004. I just wish this was the man that the media would show the world at large.

Thank you Lisa for sharing this with me. :)


Wordless Wednesday


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A decision

I have been so torn as to what is best for the kids, the idea of sending Danny to preschool leaves me sad but I'm starting to believe it is what is best for him right now. He just wants to be his age and upon finding out that preschool with him at home only takes 20-30 minutes - I know he needs more.

He needs more than I can provide without sacrificing what Camille needs at this time. Camille is doing so well with her lessons, we've barely had any hiccups today and yesterday and they only difficult parts have been when Danny has been disruptive. I just cannot keep up with him and her at the same time. He loses interest in anything unless I'm involved and he wants me involved in everything he does. I don't want to sit him in front of the tv when the alternative is that he could be playing with other kids his age.

A friend told me not to feel too guilty because she knows mothers who stay at home without homeschooling and send their children to preschool, just to get something done around the house. Tomorrow, we'll be checking out a nearby church preschool and get more information. I think this is going to be best for all of us for this year, so I pretty sure I've decided to expel Danny from Trivium Academy for one year. Lol. I say that but he'll still get what I'm providing for him now plus what he gets at preschool so he's not really losing anything. We will probably continue with Horizons Preschool at home, depending on how things go.

This decision has been very hard. I've been praying about this for months and just because I'm making the decision- it doesn't mean it's in stone. I can change my mind later and pull him out, at any time. He will not go to kindergarten, if he goes to preschool this year, he will be home next year. That's non-negotiable.


Monday, September 15, 2008

Our First Day!

"...Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you..." 1 Chronicles 28:20
I was up at 6:15 am, showered and dressed by 6:30 am and then I had my cup of sweet Danny awoke at that time while Camille slept. I allowed Camille to sleep for a little while to give Danny some individual time. At 7:00 am, I awoke Camille and filled my nectar cup and checked my email. At 7:15 am, I told the kids the bus would arrive at 7:55 am to take them to school and they needed to eat breakfast, brush their teeth, get dressed and make their beds.

At 7:55 am, the bus driver (me) called out "All aboard the bus for school!!!" and the kids quickly got on board (lined up behind me) and the bus was off. The bus stopped for a pretend train (with noises) and then proceeded to school (our learning room).

Once in the learning room, then the headache from not having enough sleep started, Danny wanted his Batman, and Jack (our dog) wanted to play, on the other hand, Camille just wanted to start her lessons. Sigh. So at 8:10 am, Camille and I did her Explorer's Bible Study lesson and that went VERY well, unless you count the fact that Camille can not just put short answers, I've ingrained in her the need to answer in complete sentences so much that even though I told her she could just put the short answers, she still tried to write complete sentences. I'm not siree - it just took her 20 minutes to finish something we could have done orally in 5-10 minutes.
To think about:
Will it be better to answer orally the questions in Bible?
Will answering orally take away from her absorbing the concept?
At this time, I decided to ignore the time schedule (8:00 Bible, 8:15 Math, etc.) in order to preserve some sanity! Danny and I did preschool in 20 minutes- letter A, letter A worksheet, reading How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World, coloring the world, talking about God, the world and daddies. I didn't expect that to go so fast!

Camille finished her math well while I read aloud to Danny in another room.

All of us sat and watched Mrs. Lee (Prima Latina DVD) through the introduction and first lesson. Tomorrow we'll do the exercises. After Latin, I put on Letter Factory by LeapFrog for Danny.
To think about:
Will it be possible to do Latin 2x a week with daily review and French 2x a week?
If we do this, will it be effective?
The time may change for Latin from 15 minutes to 30 minutes, possibly 2x a week with daily review of vocabulary.
While Danny was going over his alphabet sounds with Letter Factory, Camille did her Primary Language Lessons work. The phone rang and I spoke to another homeschool mom we're meeting next week for a social visit. I gave Camille a break after she completed her PLL lesson and then she worked on her first poem for the quarter, Bird Talk by Aileen Fisher. She read it aloud 3x and illustrated the poem for her poetry notebook. This was at 11:00 am.

French went well, we reviewed Unit 1 today and I had Camille write some French vocabulary, a spur of the moment type thing. Then we reviewed the American Revolution before reading Napoleon, The Little Corporal. Camille colored a picture, did some geography work and history was done for the day.

Building Critical Thinking Skills Book 1- Camille did 3 pages before telling me she was done and I told her she can do the book any time she wants but on Mondays, she has 1/2 hour to do as much as she wants/can.

We did not have lunch with a composer today, Camille did her piano practice, we're not doing craft time but the kids do want to do yoga today. I'm done, cooked with a fork. Now I have to do my chores. Danny has been running amok since 9:30 am when we finished his preschool stuff. I don't want to think about It was a struggle but Camille is glad to have her lessons again, I'm glad too but I see room for improvement, mostly on my part.


Friday, September 12, 2008

Lessons from Fairy Tales

I received this in Circe's e-newsletter, which can be subscribed to at

Lessons from a Fairy Tale
by Erin Linton (Guest Writer)

Fairy tales are an invaluable resource for our children - even beyond the enjoyment, heritage, cultural literacy and examples of superb writing and story telling they provide. Without posing the difficulties of analyzing Tolstoy or Augustine, fairy tales like those written by the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Anderson and Margery Williams deal with literary technique and questions of life in a simple and instructive way. Margery Williams’ The Velveteen Rabbit is such a fairy tale.

Fairy tales are able to create categories that enable children to make moral judgments about people and situations, and then to assess where they themselves fit into the story. Margery Williams divides those who can become real and those who cannot. The arrogant, modern, plastic toys in The Velveteen Rabbit cannot become real even though they try their hardest to imitate reality with their gears, cranks, and beeps. The soft, forgiving toys, however, such as the rabbit and the Skin horse, can become real. The child is presented with the question, “Who are you more like?”

These fairy stories also raise and answer some of our deepest existential and theological questions. What does it mean to be real? The velveteen rabbit desperately wants to be real, but he does not know exactly what "real" is or how to “become real.” Williams resolves this by saying that it is a long and physically wearing process through the continuing love of and service to the master. The rabbit is loved by the little boy and is eventually called “real” after playing in the garden. He then later serves the boy amidst scarlet fever, bringing about a second “reality.” All of a sudden, the doctrines of justification and sanctification are not so difficult for a ten year old to understand.

While learning to judge the world around them, children also learn how to correctly judge and understand good literature by reading fairy tales. Literary techniques like symbolism, metaphor, allusion, the pathetic fallacy, etc., are vital to fairy tales. A reader of fairy tales must broaden his mind beyond the merely literal to grasp the depths of these stories, which prepares him to read every type of literature. The symbolism of names, for example, is evident in The Velveteen Rabbit; the only two creatures who understand reality are the rabbit, filled with “dust,” and the “Skin” horse, symbolizing that it is mankind who is meant to be real. There is also important symbolism wrapped in times and seasons. In this story, new life comes at Christmas, in the Spring, or in the morning; sickness and death come in autumn or at night.

Even more striking are the literary symbols of water, garden, and darkness. Water is almost always a literary metaphor for cleansing or baptism. It is no surprise then that the velveteen rabbit is left outside to be drenched with dew right before he is “christened” by the boy with the name “real.” It is also fitting that this baptism scene takes place in the garden, a common picture of the church, the new Eden . After the rabbit has received this first reality in his baptism, he lives by faith that he is real, but knows that he is not complete. There are bunnies still more real than he is. After faithfully serving his master, the rabbit symbolically dies. On an autumn night, the unclean rabbit is placed outside the camp/house among the rubbish. There the rabbit dies and is eventually raised and given his second reality by the magic of the nursery fairy. An understanding of these symbols is vital to the understanding of the deeper meaning in Margery Williams’ story, just as it is in all literature.

A last noted benefit of fairy tales is that, unlike “realistic” stories that strip all unnecessary fantasy from the mundane aspects of life, fairy tales strip away the mundane to show us the fantastical, which is usually the most simple and realistic view of the world. From man’s perspective, what else is history but the fantastical transformation of the harlot of Israel into a virgin church bride? What, other than magic, could raise the dead? It’s the same sort of magic that turns a puppet into a real boy, and turns a stuffed bunny with no hind legs into a real bunny that can jump with joy. Our children need to know this magic, need to look for it and realize that this life is not as mundane as the culture would have them believe. This world was created gloriously by the Master and it makes a good deal more sense when viewed through the lenses of fairy tales.

Erin Linton is a graduate of New St. Andrews College and teaches at New Covenant Schools in Lynchburg, VA.


3rd Grade Science

This is what we've chosen to study this year, in chronological order.

I. Human Body, my lesson plans
- Head to Toe Science by Jim Wiese
-My Body by Teacher Created Resources
-Easy Make & Learn Projects Human Body by Donald M. Silver
-Christian Liberty Nature Reader Book 5

  1. The Brain- What It Is, What It Does by Dr. Ruth Dowling Bruun
  2. The Magic School Bus- Inside the Human Body by Joanna Cole
  3. Why I Sneeze, Shiver, Hiccup and Yawn by Melvin Berger
  4. Look at Your Eyes by Paul Showers
  5. Body Detectives: A Book About the Five Senses by Rita Golden Gelman
  6. Inside Your Outside! All About The Human Body by Tish Rabe (for Danny)
  7. Enjoy Your Cells by Dr. Fran Balkwill and Mic Rolph
  8. Cells and Systems by Holly Wallace
  9. Cells of Plants and Animals (microscope slides)
II. Germs
  1. The Magic School Bus kit: The World of Germs
  2. What are Germs? by Dr. Alvin Silverstein, Virginian Silverstein and Laura Silverstein Nunn
  3. Magic School Bus- Inside Ralphie: A Book about Germs
  4. Cell Wars by Dr. Fran Balkwill
  5. The Giant Germ (Magic School Bus Chapter Book) by Anne Capeci

III. Medicine
  1. The History of Medicine by John Tiner
  2. Spotlight on Science Famous Experiments

IV. Botany (cells, classification, scientists biographies included)
  1. God's Design for Life-The World of Plants by Debbie and Richard Lawrence
  2. Cells and Systems by Holly Wallace
  3. Cells of Plants and Animals (microscope slides)
We will learn about the human body down to DNA and cells then learn about germs and scientists who made a difference in the world of medicine before moving on to botany which will start with comparing animal and plant cells. I will update this resource list as it changes.

Living books will be added to our botany studies, nature studies will continue and I think it's going to be a fabulous year!


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Studying Botany - Finding Resources

Before re-inventing the wheel, I always search high and low for curriculum. For botany, this is what I have found so far (I may forget to list something):

Complete Curriculum Options

1. Apologia Elementary Science- Exploring Creation with Botany
2. God's Design for Life- The World of Plants
3. Lyrical Life Science Volume 1- Bacteria to Birds
4. Great Science Adventures- The World of Plants
5. Botany Adventure! Unit Study by Kym Wright

Activity Workbooks
1. Scienceworks Plants
2. Investigating Science - Plants Grades 1-3
3. Investigating Science Plants Grades 4-6
4. Teacher Created Resources- Plants

Experiment Based Books
1. Janice VanCleave Plants
2. Green Thumbs*
...and many others

*I already have 501 Science Experiments and Giant Science K-6 which provide many worksheet activities.
* Also notates books that we already own.

Nonfiction Spines
1. Eyewitness Plant*
2. Eyewitness Tree*
3. DK e-guide Plants by David Burnie
4. Life of Plants Series
5. Childcraft The Green Kingdom*
6. Usborne The World of Plants

I wish that Ellen Doris had already published her Botany book for the Real Kids/Real Science series, this would end my search for a nonfiction spine to use.

Living Books
1. Read and Find Out about Science titles that pertain to botany
2. Trees and Shrubs by Arabella Buckley and Plant Life in Field and Garden by Arabella Buckley
3. The Plant Hunters (unsure about reading level & content on this, waiting for library copy)
4. Books from botanical artist Anne Dowden- Look at a Flower; From Flower to Fruit (coming from library for preview)
5. Shanleya's Quest & Game (I love the looks of the game, I'm unsure about the book and it's not available through the library)
6. Seed-Babies by Margaret Morley* (printed out already from Google Books)
7. Collecting and Preserving Plants by MacFarlane

Stand-Alone Experiments & Kits
1. Little Labs-Plants
2. Leaf Identification Kit (this one is a little pricey but I want something similar) Cheaper version with less leaves.
3. or the Leaf and Seed Identification Games kit (which is the same price as the Leaf kit above)
4. Botanical Discoveries Kit
5. Tree Ring Kit

1. The Garden Game
2. The Wild Seed Game
3. see Leaf and Seed Identification Games link under Kits above

My ideal course of study involves a nonfiction spine for informational purposes, living books for internalization, experiments to illustrate concepts or teach new skills, worksheets to reinforce concepts learned, biographies of scientists in the field we're studying and the overall experience to be educational, fun and worth our time.


Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Monday's Nature Walk

We went to Skidaway Island State Park yesterday and there are two story lines to this tale. One, we were going to meet another homeschooler and her child and two, I wanted to check out Skidaway because of the Sensory Hikes they have on Fridays from 8-9pm and because I haven't been there.

The hsler we were to meet got lost on the way there so after waiting 45 minutes, we started the trail. Of course, I didn't have her cell number with me and I neglected to give her mine and yada, yada, yada. I'm finding out that I'm pretty horrible at making new friends! Anyways, we walked the trail and as we were ending our walk, we met up with her and her adorable 5yo girl and decided to go to the playground to let the kids play. That is the short version of the day, here's the more detailed version with pictures...

I just want to say that all these pictures that I've been posting may make walking trails look easy and fun. It's not all the time but it is worth trekking through heat and sweating a good clean sweat to see your kids being observant and curious. When I suspect a trail is long, I carry a backpack with insulated water bottles, first-aid kit, binoculars, magnifying glass, bug spray, sunscreen and our nature journals with pencils. Carrying a backpack is no fun but with younger kids, I don't wish to take any unnecessary risks.

On the Skidaway State Park Sandpiper Nature Trail there were signs that provided a key to identifying animal tracks, on the sign was opossum, squirrel, bobcat, deer, and raccoon examples. Camille took to this immediately and all through the trail was looking for tracks. I need to make sure we carry our book, Animal Tracks of Florida, Georgia and Alabama with us when we venture out.

Camille is pointing at white-tailed deer tracks.

When we study Botany later this year, I plan to use Botany in a Day for myself because I enjoy learning about different plants I see while we're out walking. My nursery specialist mother would be pleased. I suspect this is from the Aster family. I can't decide if I just need to learn more about identification or if I need a better field guide for flora and fauna.

A feather we saw on the trail, we just looked at it. I'm always a bit worried about picking up stuff.

These tracks could be opossum tracks but I suspect they are armadillo tracks based on our book.

This is why a Saw Palmetto is called a 'saw' palmetto, at the base of the palm leaves they have a saw toothed edge.

Hi, Mr. Skink, I see you!

Camille has a vivid interest in holey trees. I'm keeping this in mind for our botany studies later and I'm glad we'll be studying botany from April to August of 2009, plenty of time to explore different concepts.

I can't help but take pictures of the scenery.

This track confused us, and still does. Either it is a double print of a white-tailed deer or it is a track of a feral pig. It could be a double register (I'm learning!) We're still unsure but we're looking it up in our books.

Another deer track.

Ending our day at the playground with another homeschooler & her daughter (not pictured).