Joy at home

Dear friends,

I was wondering today how many times in the last couple of weeks I've started a post, typed a sentence or two, and then have been interrupted with either the kids waking up or with one of them needing me for something. Lots of times.

Such is life, and I'm enjoying the living of it. There are moments when I feel incredibly overwhelmed with the amount of people in our home who need me for something-- and often all at once!-- or with the sheer amount of noise that comes from five little people. [I have been studying something and I am now certain of it: whenever Mark, myself or one of the older kids talks at meal times, both little girls have an automatic switch that turns up their volume so they instantly become louder than whoever is speaking.]

But oh, they're a delight! Just yesterday we went to the bank and used the drive-through feature-- where I talk to the teller via a speaker and send checks through the air-tube-chute-thingy-- and Adelia was trying to peer around me from her car seat. She asked, "Mommy? Is that lady talking?" I said no, not yet. Then she asked if the lady was going to stick her head out of 'that thing'. We all burst into laughter at the image of the teller sticking her head out of the chute! I guess she just thought that's what happened-- all she hears is some lady talking to me and I'm always looking towards the chute because the speaker is there.

Adelia (a rare photo of her hair not in braids/beads!)

Or... also yesterday, Audra and Isaac were being buddies and playing in the girls' room with all sorts of babies and stuffed animals: they were tucking them into bed and pretending to go to sleep, too and singing songs. It was so sweet. I went in to check on them at one point and Isaac was sitting on the floor, cross-legged, and Audra was standing behind him with a comb. I was thinking that Isaac is such a good big brother, playing so sweetly with Audra on her level and even letting her comb his hair. Isaac looked up at me and grinned and said, "She says there's a mouse in there." :) And we laughed together because we knew she said that because Mark and I are always telling her that she has a "rat's nest" in her hair because it gets so easily tangled.

Isaac is making a crayon structure or maze or something, here.

I love these kids so much and we have so much fun around here. I am so very blessed to have the privilege of being home with them-- there are so many rewards!

Hope you are all having a wonderful week,


ps I've decided to stop linking up to my blog from Facebook. I think I prefer the 'obscurity' of regular-ole'-blogging without the networking through Facebook. I don't know if that makes a difference to anyone that reads here but I thought I'd tell you in case it does.

2010-11 Year in Review: History/Math/English

Last month I shared about our year of History, in Changing my mind about our history selection, so say much more about that, other than this: the change been good.

This year we continued with our use of Rod & Staff for Math (for Ella and Isaac). What I learned last year is this important lesson: my children do not need to do every single problem on every single page of their math workbooks. (But because I was a little late in learning that, we began this year with Ella still only about halfway through her 2nd grade Math workbook. And I'm perfectly fine with that. She's into the 3rd grade book now, but next year we'll be doing the same thing, unless I do a major push to complete one book and be "caught up".)

*The kids love it when Mark or I wrote notes to them in their math books, and we received lots of cute notes from them in return.
*I learned this year that the glee over a scratch-and-sniff sticker has not faded since I was a child. (These are already on my t0-buy list for next year. :))
*We tried to be creative in the choosing of the problems they were to complete on a page. Sometimes it was just the basic "do every other problem" or "choose ___ problems to do", but more often than not we'd either draw a shape (a balloon, a heart, a bee, a flower, a butterfly, etc) and have them do only the math problems within the shape. Or we'd put a math problem on the top of the page and the answer to that problem equaled how many they needed to complete on the page. (Add up all the ages of all the kids and do that many, add your age and your birth date and complete that many problems, etc).

Same lesson learned here with the English book from Rod & Staff, and this year, Ella's 3rd grade year, we spent finishing her 2nd grade book. (We're a little laid back about stuff like this.)

The latter part of this year I spent more hands-on time doing English with Ella: sitting with her to get her started, reading some things aloud and doing some of the work orally with her-- rather than just assigning her pages and allowing her to work independently. This made a huge difference not only in her understanding, but in our relationship. I really came to value this time with her. And, truly- that's the GOAL with all of her work, but it hadn't really been happening consistently simply because it was not really possible with the little girls. This year it became possible, and I was grateful for the opportunity to be more available to Ella during this time.

2010-11 Year in Review: Copywork

I am really pleased with our system for copywork this year... it was simple and very hands-off for me because I had most of Ella's copywork for the year selected ahead of time. (I did refill the jar once, during our December break.)

That's Ella's Copywork Binder. The first page of the binder was a page of instructions/reminders from me, things like: print as neatly as you can, leave space between your words, use good punctuation, use a pencil so that you can erase if you need to, and date the top of each page. The rest of the binder was filled with clear protective sleeves, which she filled throughout the year.

A couple of other things Ella did during her "Copywork" time slot this year: she kept up on her letter-writing (she corresponds with two pen-pals), she used that time to write thank you cards or birthday cards, and about once a week she did her copywork in cursive.

Note to self: Some of the copywork selections I chose were too long. I either need to choose shorter ones or add a day for "finishing" into the schedule.

C.S. Lewis copywork selection

I was just reminded all over again this morning how much I love C.S. Lewis, with Ella's copywork selection today:

"I was the lion."
And as Shasta gaped with open mouth and said nothing, the Voice continued.
"I was the lion who forced you to join Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept. I was the lion who gave the horses the new strength of fear for the last mile so that you could reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you."

~The Horse and His Boy, C.S. Lewis

And now I'm off to help my 3-year-old control her temper and talk with my 6-year-old boy, who is sitting on his bed on a timeout, right after I check in with Ella to make sure she is doing okay as she does school at the table. (The other two are contentedly being buddies. :)) Thank you, Jesus, for the gift of motherhood. Now, please HELP me! :)

2010-11 Year in Review: Picture Study

Picture Study

Sheesh. Now that I have a whole blog post devoted to what we did for Picture Study this year, I realize that I don't have much to say* other than:

We studied Norman Rockwell this year.

We have a couple of oversized books on Norman Rockwell and I just went through and selected several of his paintings and we studied them. (You can read more about how we do Picture Study here and here.)

Norman Rockwell has literally thousands of paintings-- I didn't realize just how substantial his body of work is until we started studying him. This man was putting out a brand-new painting weekly for the Saturday Evening Post. That's an astounding accomplishment for a painter.

No Swimming, 1921

What I liked: Norman Rockwell is an incredible artist, and his paintings have a photographic quality that I love. His attention to detail is so realistic that some of his paintings almost appear to actually be a photo. His paintings are like a snapshot capturing an ordinary moment in time: parents tucking their children into bed at night, a grown son home from the war, peeling potatoes with his mother working beside him, a family piled into the car. Rockwell had a gift for capturing the joys and adventures of childhood. (My kids loved his work.) I liked the fact that I was able to easily select paintings for different seasons of the year.

Freedom From Want, 1943

The Problem We All Live With, 1964

Oh! I almost forgot to tell you about my favorite addition to our Picture Study this year:

This cookbook holder-stand-thingamajig. (I don't actually know the appropriate term for this tool.) I spotted this one day at Target and knew it was the perfect thing to hold our picture study books.

See? So handy! No more trying to hold these large books open to the right page while trying to hold a squirmy child or having to continually prop the book up only to have it fall right over again. Loved this. On the days we did Picture Study (once a week. That's for you, Michelle!), it sat on our table, and on other days I set it top of our piano~ open to the most recent painting we'd studied or another one in the book that we weren't going to study, just so that the kids could see more of Rockwell's work.

*clearly I didn't have much of a problem coming up with something to say, now, did I?

I want to add that when I was planning for this year, I only selected Norman Rockwell works through the month of February. At the time I figured I would simply select another artist sometime before the end our Rockwell study (or take a few weeks break and then resume) and we'd finish out the year with another artist. Not so. It just never happened. (Note to self: plan ahead.)

2010-11 Year in Review: Composer Study

We are super low-key about Composer Study, as you'll soon find out. If you want some more in-depth suggestions, click on over to Ambleside and do what they say. :)

I began the year with a plan to listen to Mr. Bach Comes to Call and one other CD~ the Beethoven one, I think. It's a dramatized story with some history thrown in and, of course: the music of the composers. We did listen to Mr. Bach Comes to Call, but for some reason we don't do audio CDs well here. I don't know what it is-- we listen to music just fine but for some reason it always seems too distracting in our home to tune into dialogue on a CD. (Maybe it's because I don't personally love the additional noise it creates or maybe it's because when we quieted to listen, the little girls decided that was the time to get louder. :)) I ended up setting up the CD in another room with the older three kids and entertained the little girls away from them, but that sort of defeated the purpose of doing this part of school all together. And then- I wasn't able to hear it, so I couldn't follow up on what they had heard. So I scrapped this plan and moved to Plan B, which was *really* simple:

I simply checked out various classical music CDs at the library and we listened to them. We did that for awhile~ we'd fold laundry together and listen to classical music, or I'd play it while the kids were doing their schoolwork at the table. That's it. So not really Composer *Study*, then, more like Composer Listening. ;)

Then. Mark discovered a gem of a book at a thrift store and I was (still am) over-the-moon about it. He actually found four composer biographies for about $1.99 apiece. Neither of us had never heard of these, but he showed them to me and after a quick perusal, I knew they were a find! It appears there are several more in the set, and now I'm on the lookout for them because we love them so much. I took some photos of the Peter Tschaikowsky book for you:

This is what we settled into, and it just suits us so well. The kids loved this book! Each week I read a portion of the book, and as we read, we listened to Tschaikowsky on Pandora. Easy-peasy. :)

So that's that. Next year I plan to simply delve into the other biographies we have collected.

Note: If you're interested, Zeezok Publishing has republished these Opal Wheeler biographies, and you can find them here.


Click here for an earlier post detailing another season of Composer Study in our home.

Next post: Picture Study

2010-11 Year in Review: Memory Work

Memory work (catechism, Ten Verses cards, theme passage, sign language, Apostles Creed, review)

Mondays we worked through our catechism questions. I never learned a catechism as a child, so this has been a huge blessing to me as well. Even Adelia, at 3- pipes in with the answers to some of the questions, and I love that. :)

Tuesdays we worked on the Ten Verses cards. The kids loved this concept but I think I was a little overly ambitious, for two reasons:

1) I have five children. Four of them were learning verses this year. That's four *different* verses to go over in one relatively small time-frame. It just always seemed a little crazy come Tuesday mornings when we pulled out the verses.

2) Several of the verses I selected were actually passages of Scripture, not just one verse. For instance, right now Isaac is working on Revelation 5:11-13 for his verse #5. He's been working on it for several weeks, and has gotten a little bogged down with the length of it. I wish now that I had given only a single verse. (Then, if I wanted them to learn a passage, I could have just broken it down into single verses: so, Isaac could have been working on Revelation 5:11 for verse #5, Revelation 5:12 for his verse #6, and Revelation 5:13 for his verse #7.) Lesson learned.

That said, Ella has made it to verse #8 (so far... five weeks left and I bet she'll do it!) Isaac is on verse #5 (but SO close to finishing that and four out of his next five verses *are* single verses!) Isaias is on verse #6. Adelia (and Audra, sometimes, too) is on verse #7. They all love saying their verses to daddy and they love choosing a sticker and putting it on their cards.

Wednesdays we memorized our theme passage for the year (it is so much easier memorizing something all together), and then we moved on to implementing it (which they LOVE.) Now, every Wednesday morning we draw a name and then spend the day honoring the person whose name we drew. They have done each others' chores, made cards, made each others' beds, helped a little one get ready, invited a little one to do something with them, made a special effort to play whatever that child likes to play, and generally have been especially kind to that person on that day. :) It's been fun to watch what they've come up with.

Thursdays we learned the alphabet in Sign Language, and this was something else the kids really enjoyed- I think largely because it was different than our other memory work (because it involved their hands and their minds!) They learned this pretty early on in the year, so then we spent our time practicing. Sometimes we'd just sing through the ABC song and sign as we sang. Other times I'd write a few words up on the board and we'd all "spell" the words using sign language. Other times I would spell something to them and have them tell me what letters/words I was forming.

Fridays we learned the Apostles Creed, and then we played Rich Mullins' song and Third Day's version of it. When we had learned that- just a few weeks into the year- I used our time on Fridays to review our memory work from previous years (OT & NT books of the Bible, Landmark cards, verses). I think reviewing previous memory work is really important for retention, and next year I plan to start the year devoting one weekday to *just* this.

On Saturdays it was always my plan to read poetry during this circle/table/breakfast time... and then have the kids choose one poem to memorize and recite, but... we read poetry only a handful of times and never memorized any of it. Oh, well. Maybe another year...

Next up: Composer study/Classical music