A break

We've just wrapped up our last day of school before we break for the holiday season. We'll start school up again in early January, so we have lots of time to celebrate!

We've been brainstorming what to do for the next several weeks, and here is our short list (that will surely grow as new ideas get thought up!)

-work on a puzzle
-daddy make Christmas pancakes
-bake gingerbread men
-Christmas movie night!
-play and dance to Christmas music
-get our Christmas tree
-pull out our bin of Christmas books
-buy our new Christmas book
-go to a craft fair with Ella
-cut out snowflakes to hang
-put up outdoor Christmas lights
-playdates with friends
-make a birthday cake for Jesus
-buy and wrap presents
-gifts for Jesus
-make a Christmas sign
-choose gifts from the Samaritan's Purse gift catalog

Ah... such fun awaits us!

The blog will be relatively quiet as we enjoy crossing things off of that list.

I'll resume the current series on school when I return.

Blessings to you and yours for a wonderful Christmas season!

Thanksgiving tradition: changing it up

I've written before about our tradition of a Thanksgiving journal here.

I know that post is missing all the photos. Sorry about that. Here are a couple of photos to show what our Thanksgiving Journal is:

It's what we've done for the past several years as a way to record our gratitude, as a family, over the Thanksgiving season. We added pictures to a spiral-bound notebook, and then we wrote down the things we were thankful for as we reflected upon the previous year.

I love this idea, and especially the fact that we can look back on it from year to year and see, and remember~ God's faithfulness in our lives.

Last year I ordered the photos and they sat in their envelope and we simply never did it. Too busy, too pregnant, too much.

This year we scrapped the Thanksgiving-Journal idea.

I really hope to go back to it some time in the future, but now is not that time.

So this year, we did something a little different. We started with these:

and began making this:

I loved seeing this one:

(Daddy who works for us)

...and clearly someone was abundantly thankful for his


As I stapled the chain links together, I read each of them aloud. It was really encouraging for me to see how our children have grown in gratitude over the years. They loved this project, and were super excited to see the chain getting longer and longer~ and they truly delighted in coming up with all the things they were thankful for!

It's quite long, actually. We have it temporarily hanging up around our living room...

...but when we get our Christmas tree this weekend, our Thanksgiving chain will become a garland for our tree! [How much do you love that idea? I read about this creative project over at Little Birdie Secrets. We skipped the first part of their idea~ the Thankful Jar~ although it's very cute, too.]

Happy Thanksgiving, friends!

School after breakfast: English

When the chores are done and Audra is down for her nap, and if it's a Tuesday, Thursday or a Saturday, Ella and I work on an English lesson together.

We use Rod and Staff, and we really like it.

One of my favorite things about Rod and Staff is that the text and exercises are based on Bible stories and there is a focus on character traits we value: obedience, respectfulness, cheerfulness and hard work.

I usually have Ella read her lesson to me, and then we go over the instructions together. Then she works independently until she completes the exercises. (Maybe 20-30 minutes.)

After I get Ella working independently, Isaac and I do some Kindergarten work together.

This is where it gets a little tricky with Adelia (and Audra if she happens to be awake). I don't think we have a good system for this time of our day yet. All I know is that Adelia always.wants.to.do.what.the.bigger.kids.are.doing. When Ella and Isaac are at the table, she would like to be right there beside them. If they are holding a pencil, she would like to be holding a pencil, too. As a matter of fact, that very pencil Ella is holding!

We've tried different things. Sometimes I pull her onto my lap and try to school with her there. Except for the thing about Adelia is that she does not sit still for longer than 45 seconds. So then it becomes a battle to keep her there.

I've had her help me with things in the kitchen (washing dishes, cleaning up, etc) so that we can be near the table. I've had her in the Ergo at different times, but she doesn't always want to be there for long. I've set up the pack-n-play near the table, but that's usually a battle, too- and then I feel guilty for containing her when she was just strapped into her seat for all of our breakfast school time.

There are times I release her and Isaias to "go play nicely together" (which is brave of me to hope for, truly)~ but it works sometimes. The thing about that plan, though, is that they have to go downstairs because I don't want them playing in the living room because they'll get too rowdy and noisy for a napping Audra. So then they're completely out of sight so I end up being really distracted with checking in on them.

More often, lately- we all move downstairs. The negatives are that we're away from the table and the dry-erase board, and we're in an area of the house that has a lot of toys, which can be super distracting for Ella and Isaac.

The positives are that my light-sleeper of a baby can have an uninterrupted nap, I'm not as frazzled trying to keep everyone quiet, and I can see and hear everyone.

It's a little crazy, though. I am increasingly aware of how patient both Ella and Isaac are. I can't tell you how many times I've said to Isaac: "Okay, I'm ready to do some Kindergarten with you now! Can you bring your pencil and book to the table?" And he scurries off excitedly to do so and then tells me he's ready and by that time I'm changing a diaper or dealing with a discipline issue with another child and then I'm answering a question of Ella's or thinking: "Oh, I have to photocopy that page from his book" so I go to do that and while I'm there I throw in a load of laundry and then I remember "Aack! I haven't taken out the meat to thaw for dinner", so I do that and I pass Isaac at the table and realize I've forgotten all about him. There he sits, patiently waiting. So I tell him, "Just a minute, budders. I'll be right there" only to hear Audra cry or Adelia yell or whatever and on it goes.

This is our life. I'm so thankful for how well the kids have adapted to this season of life with its unique challenges. I know they will be all the better for it.

Coming up: Kindergarten

The best part of my (otherwise very difficult) day

was this:

It says:

To Mommy

I love you. I am so sorry you have been sad and haveing a hard time today. Sorry Audra was being grumpy at the start of quiet time. I can't wait for it to be my birthday.

love Ella to mommy

Then she had Audra draw a picture and noted "from Audra" on the side, above Audra's scribbles.

Then she had Adelia draw this picture on the back:

(Which is labeled "motorcycle nup". Because that's what Adelia said it was and so you can't argue with that girl. She knows her stuff.)

I love being a mama.

One of the great things about having friends who blog

is that I can direct you over there to see/read about our family vacation (shared with their family, which is why they're blogging about it. But since I never did (blog about it)... it works out quite nicely. Plus, Mike takes better pictures. :))

School after breakfast: Copywork

The reason we have incorporated copywork into our school schedule is so that Ella can practice her penmanship and also learn to use proper grammar and punctuation by seeing (and copying) the written word.

We began by copying letters only. I instructed her on how to form the letter and then she would spend five minutes writing that particular letter of the alphabet. I encouraged her not to try to get as many done as she could within that five minutes but instead to try to copy as many perfect letters as she could during that time. I kept stressing that if it took her the full five minutes to write only three letters, that was okay. Once we made it through all of the letters (uppercase and lowercase), we moved on to other things.

Now she copies a poem or a verse or a short paragraph from one of her books. But if she has a book report to do, or a letter to write to her pen pal, or a thank you card to write, we utilize our "copywork" time for this, too.

I'm encouraged to see that her handwriting continues to improve. If I look through Ella's binder at the copywork she completed even a few short months ago, I can see that her writing now is much neater and her grammar much better. Great job, Ella!

Celebrating adoption

A year ago we went from being Adelia's foster parents to being her adoptive parents!

I am struck all over again how wonderful our God is: He is a Father to the fatherless and He longs to set the orphans in families.

We're so glad we got this one! :)

(Her baby sister? Also glad. Even if she gets her tummy squeezed sometimes!)

When I think of the situation Adelia was born into, and what her life could have been... it is SO evident that God plucked her from darkness and rescued her.

How I love God! His ways are good.

Birthday surprises

One of the many cute things about my Ella girl is that she loves Little House on the Prairie and all things prairie-ish. I said to Mark the other night, "How blessed am I that my daughter loves Little House as much as I do?!"

Ella regularly wears her bonnet with her hair in braids. She also wears dresses almost every day. Notice I didn't say "a dress". She wears dresses. Sometimes three of them. All at once. Sometimes three of them plus capris or pants underneath. Or a skirt. In addition to the three dresses. Her response when I've asked about all the garments? "Those are my petticoats, mommy."

Her birthday is coming up in a few weeks and she has repeatedly told me that she wants a nightcap. That's all she wants. She has a white nightgown (which was her birthday gift last year), and now she'd like a nightcap to go with it. Just like Laura and Mary Ingalls wore.

So I decided to make one. And I decided to sweeten the gift a little and make her a petticoat. I haven't begun the petticoat yet but I did try my hand at the nightcap.

I have no pattern and took no measurements of her head (because she'd know something was up) so I guessed.

I guessed too small. And I am positive it won't fit Ella because it fits this girl quite nicely:

Not that she'll ever be wearing it. The only reason she wasn't pulling it off her head for this picture was because I bribed her with my latte cup.

I tried it on Adelia, too:

but it doesn't quite fit over her hair.

Oh well. We'll hang onto it in case Ella wants to try it on one of her dolls.

In the meantime, I'm making a bigger nightcap and still planning out my petticoat strategy.

School after breakfast: History

Usually by the time our breakfast is done and our chores are completed, Audra is ready to go down for her nap, and Adelia is ready to get out of her seat. [More accurately, Adelia is beyond ready, and has been persistently saying, "Done, done" for a bit already. But she's a good girl and truly very patient with us while we try to get as much school in at the table as we can.]

Okay, here's what is on our schedule after breakfast:


-Kindergarten for Isaac (on Tuesdays and Thursdays only)

Every day
-Read-aloud with mommy
-Read-aloud with daddy
-Bible with daddy
-Character training (not actually officially on the schedule, but it sure does happen a lot!)

Occasionally (at least once a week, though not officially on the schedule)
-Speech with Isaias

I'll just start at the top and work my way down.

For history, we use Mystery of History and I love it. A couple of years ago we began with Hillyer's A Child's History of the World and I was trying to edit that text as well as incorporate biblical history into it's proper place, and I became frustrated with all the work that required of me. Thankfully, the author of Mystery of History has already done all of that footwork and I am so glad she did.

What we do:

I read the section from the book for the day while the kids listen (and Adelia wanders as I try to keep her as quiet as humanly possible so that Audra can actually sleep!) Sometimes we pull out the globe or an atlas or I look up something on the internet for a visual. Often we do an activity from the book, and then the kids do a card for our timeline based on what we've read. (The timeline card is required for Ella, but optional for the boys. However, Isaac almost always opts to do one, and occasionally Isaias does, too.)

This visual timeline of history happens to be my favorite part. We put up a strip of paper around the top of our living room walls and began with Creation on one end:

...getting a little squishy here above our door!

and finishing with the kids' birth dates:

I love having a very tangible sequence of historical events in a visible place for the kids. The only thing I wish is that we had the space available so that it could be more on the kids' eye-level. But this is the only place in our whole house that it would fit in one long continuous strip, and that's what we wanted~ so we decided to go with it!

A few weeks ago Mark quizzed all of us (yes, I played, too!) on our dates, asking us to stand beneath where we thought a particular event was on the timeline, and to point if necessary. I was impressed at how well the kids remembered these dates, even if it was kind of funny that we kept saying: "I know that one is above the front window", or "That one is above the door!"

Next up: Copywork

Free Printable Chore Chart. And it's cute!

I stumbled across this tonight in my blog hopping, and I just have to pass along this link.

See this?

You can customize it for your child(ren). Did I mention that it's free?

Click on over to ModEco Kids and make one for your little helpers.

At the breakfast table: literally

With every single one of the "School during breakfast" posts, I had hoped to take a picture of us actually at the breakfast table. So, as an addendum to the series, a photo:

See? Our memory box sits right there on the table in front of my chair, ready to go. Our Bible story book and hymn book sit on the floor next to my chair. Our list of Monday school subjects- written the night before- is up on the dry erase board.

Things may look nice and mellow in this photo, but don't be fooled.

What happened a few minutes before this picture was taken is that I was nursing Audra at the table. Then, while still nursing, I tried to cut and butter the muffins for the other kids with my left hand. Oh, and my plan for fresh-out-of-the-oven muffins wasn't to be: by the time we ate them, they were no longer warm. Oh, well. Such is life.

What happened right after this picture was taken is that Adelia, who had last night's dinner on her tray instead of the muffins we were all eating, began wailing about her plight. And the rest of our school-at-the-breakfast-table time was interrupted with her cries followed by my reminders. Twice, I got up and moved her crying self and chair into the living room and reminded her to please eat and that when she was ready to be happy and stop crying she could join us again. She obeyed, finally, and by the time we moved to chore time, her dinner from the previous night was finished and she was able to eat a muffin.

That's us. Keeping it real on a Monday morning. :)

The perk of this particular Monday is that we got an early start. We were eating a little after 8 o'clock! So we were able to finish most of school by 10:30, and then the kids all headed outside to play while Audra finished up her nap and I prepped for dinner.

School during breakfast, Part 4: Classical music

To review, here's what we do as part of our school time over breakfast:

Mon | Hymn practice
Tues | Art: Picture Study
Wed | Poetry
Thurs | Habits/Manners
Fri | Classical music
Sat | Silly songs/camp songs/choruses

I'm going to wrap up the final two today.

On Friday we have Classical music. This is new to us this year, and this is what we've done.

I purchased Stories of the Great Composers, which is a book/cd set, and- over twelve (short) units, covers twelve composers. Each unit has a picture of the composer with a short biography, a story based on fact about an event in the composer's life, a list of three of that composer's important compositions, and a word search or matching game to review the information learned in that unit.

As we move to our after-breakfast chores, I pop in the CD and we listen to one track while we clean up. We make comments about it as we listen, and then when that track is done, I tell them who we just listened to, and what the name of that particular composition is. I often write the name of the composer on the board and we practice saying it a few times together. Sometimes I read the short bio.

The following week we review the previous weeks composer by listening to a snippet of his work. And then I introduce the next composer.

We're about halfway through the book, now- so for the past few weeks I began by playing snippets of compositions we've previously heard and quizzing the kids: "Who can tell me who this is?"

I admit that I was surprised at how much our children love listening to classical music. They genuinely look forward to it, and enjoy listening, and they really have developed an ear for each composer's sound. They all have their favorites, and it has been really fun for all of us.

My favorite memory of our study so far is this one:

One of the things we learned about Franz Joseph Haydn in regards to his Symphony No. 94 in G Major, "The Surprise":

Hadyn had noticed that the London audiences "slept peacefully during the slow movements" of his symphonies. To correct this situation Hadyn wrote this symphony, which became very popular. There is a quiet section of the slow movement, and then, suddenly, the full orchestra with all the big drums plays a very loud chord. All those who were sleeping awakened with a jerk! Surprise!

[Excerpted from the book Stories of the Great Composers]

We had a grand time imagining all these proper gentlemen and ladies sitting in the symphony and nodding off only to be suddenly startled awake! So while we listened to Hadyn's composition I had the kids break from their chores and lie down on the kitchen floor, pretending to be asleep. Then when the music got louder they all pretended to wake suddenly, then doze off again as the music quieted down. We had such fun listening to "The Surprise" and Hadyn happens to be one of our favorites because of it. (Don't you agree he had a fine sense of humor?)

I'm not really sure where to go from here in our "study" of classical music- once we've finished the book, I mean. I think I'll start purchasing songs or CDs [or, more likely: checking them out at the library] of the artists we've already studied and become familiar with more of their compositions. I'd like all of us to develop an ear for each composer, based on a larger body of their work, as opposed to the one song we're getting in the CD that accompanies the book.

I'd love to hear ideas others of you have on this topic. What have you done?

On Saturdays I let the kids choose what they'd like to sing. Usually they're songs with motions and lots of laughter.

And that's it for breakfast at the table.

In looking back over the last several posts, it seems like we do a lot at the table. But remember: we don't do all of these things every day. We do them only once a week. Daily we do Bible reading and memory verses. And then we rotate in our other memory work each day along with the things I've been posting about.

So, our at-the-breakfast-table work looks like this for the week:

Mon | Bible, Memory verses, Old Testament books of the Bible, Hymn Practice
Tues | Bible, Memory verses, Ten Commandments, Picture Study
Wed | Bible, Memory verses, New Testament books of the Bible, Poetry
Thurs | Bible, Memory verses, Landmark cards, Habits/manners
Fri | Bible, Memory verses, President cards, Classical music
Sat | Bible, Memory verses, Rules/Manners for Gentlemen/Ladies, Silly songs

See? Really doable!

There's still lots to cover once we move away from the breakfast table. If you're not all positively bored by now, I'll post more about our other subjects as time allows over the next couple of weeks.