Wednesday, December 19, 2007

School Update and Gingerbread Fun

Wow, after Thanksgiving it seems I began to totally neglect this blog. My diligence on my homeschool blog is not always an accurate reflection of my diligence in our actual homeschooling, but in this case... it's pretty close! (Just kidding, we have been doing school.)

We used to take off the entire month of December, but for the past couple of years we haven't. While I enjoyed the ginormous break while it was happening, I found it that much harder to get "back on track" in January. Struggling to get us (well, mainly myself) back up to speed in January seemed to set me up for my annual February Freak-out all the more. So. We started maintaining at least some sort of schedule in December.

This year, however, I let them each choose a subject to not do during the month of December- a break for them and for me. I could hardly get the entire question out of my mouth before my sweet son exclaimed, "Math!!!" So, he's enjoyed a math-free December. My daughter, who is prone to feeling behind if she's not plowing ahead, decided to keep doing all of her subjects but said she would enjoy no tests. I thought that was a great choice! So she has enjoyed a test-free existence these past few weeks. Our "together subjects" that we typically do on Friday- Latin, Art and Mission Study- have fallen by the wayside since Thanksgiving. And that's okay.

All in all, it has been a lighter school month, but a productive one. Today we are officially "out". I have not updated the specifics of our school progress these past few weeks, because as I frequently say, sometimes you're just too busy doing it to post about it!

Over the break between Christmas and New Year (besides celebrating my anniversary with my cute husband) I will be refining our spring semester plans. My daughter and I are looking at adding another science course, and I will be planning their writing. (They've spent fall on grammar.) With our forthcoming adoption and accompanying uncertainty of the travel dates and plans, it looks like we may just plow ahead and do school all summer, right into next fall. (Basically continuously until the baby comes!) to build in some margin time-wise for when we are adjusting and need to take some extended time off. So, as I'm planning our spring I'll be keeping that in mind.

I'll close this "update" with some fun pictures. Every year since they were little we've always made gingerbread houses. ( When I say "made" I mean I went to Linen's N' Things and bought the pre-made houses and we decorated them. I've never gotten the homemade kind to stand up. They would always turn into a "Gingerbread lean-to," which wasn't exactly the look I was going for!) Over the weekend we had some dear "MK" friends stay with us- one of their last weekends in the states!- and they enjoyed making gingerbread houses along with us.

I love this picture because on the wall behind them is the place (a wall planter, actually) where we keep photos of people (especially overseas missionaries) for whom we are praying. Unless we are in Asia working with them, the only way we see these sweet girls is when we see them on their prayer card on our wall. And here they are, right here in our kitchen! What fun.

Kyle had to do his later because he had been on an errand with Dad...

The finished products turned out great!

A gingerbread neighborhood! I eventually moved ours to the china cabinet. We used to leave them out, but then the dogs discovered them. It wasn't pretty.

Well, that's a little of what's been going on at our house. Have a great Christmas break!

Monday, December 03, 2007

This Just In...

For those of you who primarily read this blog and not my "main" one, we've got some fun news!

Go here to read about something new and wonderful happening in our family! What a JOYous season, indeed!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Celebrating Advent with Preschoolers

A couple of people asked in the comments on a post on my other blog about what I used to do for Advent when my kids were younger. The years seem to really fly by! It's hard to believe it's been about 8 years since I had a preschooler! I thought back to what exactly we used to do, and I've been thinking about it all day. The years all seem to run together!

First, let me say that are some wonderful Advent resources on the web, such as here, here, and here. There are also blogs dedicated to Advent ideas like this one Lindsey did last year here. I certainly can't improve or add to what any of those (and many other) sites suggest. But, that wasn't the question. The question was... what did we do?

When my kids were very small, things were chaotic for me. I was involved in many, many things and had quite a few commitments. I spent way too much time feeling "overwhelmed" when my kids were that age. I bought into the "supermom" myth, big time. (By God's grace, I live much differently now!) I also had quite a difficult situation going on in my immediate family that required much of my mental energy, so those were harder years for me. I see some of the wonderful Advent ideas at the above links and I think to myself that as wonderful as they are, it just might have sent me right over the edge back then to have to make ornaments with my small children everyday, or create jars, or any of the many other creative ideas that are out there. At that point in my life what I needed was... simplicity. I don't remember there being a vast quantity of Advent materials or even "how to" books on the subject at the Christian bookstore, and the internet was pretty new. (Wow, that makes me feel old!)

SO... the answer to the question of what we did when my kids were younger was-- keep it simple. For the purpose of this post I will stick to the topic of what we did for Advent, specifically each Sunday in December. Of course, in the midst of it we read tons of children's Christmas stories, went to story times at Barnes and Noble (where Mommy could get a Gingerbread Latte and let some other nice lady read a story!), made crafts and baked cookies. But at some point when they were very small I realized that we needed to make each Sunday during Advent a little more meaningful, so the true purpose of the season didn't get lost among the rest of the activity.

I went to a nearby Christian bookstore and bought an Advent candle wreath like this one:
I bought some greenery and some angels in the floral department at a craft store, wove some ribbon around it. There are some beautiful pre-made advent candle sets now that I've seen, and you could also simply use four votives around a larger candle. Each year I buy some taper candles, sometimes the purple and pink advent candles (which I bought this year) sometimes we just use burgundy which matches our Christmas decor.

I also picked up a Nativity set that was pretty, but that I wouldn't mind the kids handling. For our advent wreath I arrange the Nativity around the wreath and put Jesus in the middle. Here is what ours looked like last year, which is pretty much what I've done each year:

I bought the middle candle last year at Target, and I like it because it has three wicks, signifying the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This year, though, I'm just using a votive holder that has a cross on it... which to me signifies that He came for the cross. See? Each year I do it differently, using whatever I have on hand.

For our "readings" in those early years we used different ones. We used this one (which I just found in my filing cabinet) but there were others. When they were the youngest, we didn't read something or light a candle every night like we do now. We did it each Sunday of Advent and on Christmas morning. We simply read from the readings, read the Christmas story straight from the text of the Bible or from a children's version story book. The main focus was the Bible story. And, each time we read, I would let them hold a different piece of the nativity while they listened. One week they would each hold a shepherd, and we would talk about the shepherds. One week they would each hold an angel, and we'd talk about the angels. (That's why I bought a nativity I didn't mind them handling. I wanted them to be able to touch, feel, and "see" the story as much as possible.)

Over the years as they've gotten older, we've incorporated the Jesse Tree, the Jotham's Journey books, and now the Handel's Messiah Family Advent Reader. But it was in those early years that we developed what I think is the most important Advent "habit" of all... we stopped. We paused regularly and consistently, lit a candle, got quiet(er), and remembered what the season is all about. That's something that I hope will continue for them long after they leave our home.

So, as we begin Advent tonight, it is my prayer that no matter how your family celebrates Advent, you will be blessed by simply stopping and focusing on God's precious gift, Jesus.

Have a blessed Advent!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Keep Looking Up

As I posted on my other blog, we'll be out of town this week (starting today!) camping for Thanksgiving. Over there I mentioned some of what we'll be doing to celebrate the holiday. The above picture is one that we took last year on our trip. It was the view when I looked straight up from my favorite spot... my chair by the campfire! Every morning my sweet husband starts me a fire, and there I sit. Oh, I venture out and hike around a little bit, but then I always get back to my "home base" by the fire. Ahhhh, heaven!

When I came across this picture today, I was reminded of something my brother-in-law said to me last summer. We were in a boat on a lake in east Texas that is just thick with trees. We were cutting through this skinny area through some trees in their "mud boat" and he said "You know, at night, there's just no way to see at night when you're in these trees. The only way to know where you're going is to just look up. You just have to keep looking up." Apparently the night sky is enough of a contrast to the darkness of the tree cover to help you keep your bearings. I've thought of that a lot since then. "The only way to know where to go is to keep looking up."

Don't you know that's how it was for the Pilgrims? As the ship's crew navigated that tiny ship over such vast waters, they had to "keep looking up" at the night sky, using the position of the stars to keep their bearings. And of course the Pilgrims are a perfect example of those who really kept looking up-- up beyond the seen, to the unseen. From beyond their cramped quarters below the deck of the ship where they spent day after day dealing with limited food, inadequate space and debilitating illnesses. They had to place their faith completely in God for safety, guidance, direction and provision.

And isn't that how it is for us as we homeschool? We spend our days looking down- literally! Looking down at planbooks, school books and papers, our faces bent over little hands working to form their letters correctly or read new words, overseeing projects... or scraping the remnants of projects off of the kitchen table! But, as we navigate these waters, how important it is that we "keep looking up!" That's the only way to know where we're going!

I am so thankful that you stopped by. I hope your family has a wonderful, blessed Thanksgiving week. What a great week to spend some extra time "looking up!"

Friday, November 16, 2007

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Raising Future Leaders

Every summer my husband and I are privileged to attend a leadership summit at our church. The first couple of times I went, I felt like I was in the presence of great leaders but I didn't feel like a leader myself. Sure, I help my husband coordinate a ministry, but he's the leader... not me! About two years ago I was sitting there at the summit, having those thoughts, and it was as if the Lord broke in on my thoughts and said to me, "You are a leader. You lead not only in a small group in your church, but more importantly you lead the little souls living in your home everyday." Since that day, I have seen myself more as a leader and have even begun to apply some of the leadership principles I've learned to our homeschool.

Today I came across this article at the HSLDA website. I had never really considered that I was running a "leadership academy" at my home, but in many ways I am! And chances are, you are too!

In your homeschool, do you...

... foster "independent thinking," encouraging them not to follow the crowd doing something simply because it is popular? your part to help them cultivate a strong faith in God, and to act according to their beliefs?

...nurture your child's creative thinking by giving him situations where he must "think outside the box?"

...teach your child not to be ashamed to go against popular thought and to act in accordance with a strong code of ethics?

If so, you are raising future leaders! Whatever your name for your homeschool (if you have one), you could put the words "Leadership Academy" in the name, and it would be an accurate description.

I believe God is raising up a generation of godly men and women who will lead His people into a key period on heaven's timeline, and some of the leaders He will utilize are in enrolled in our "leadership academies" at this very moment. Isn't that an exciting thought?

Friday, November 09, 2007

A Fun Thanksgiving Song

I learned this song when my kids were preschoolers, and I pulled it out of my files this week at our little "music co-op," not just for the little ones, but for the big ones who couldn't remember the date of the first Thankgiving!

The Pilgrims Sailed Over The Ocean
(sung to the tune of "My Bonny Lies Over The Ocean")

The Pilgrims sailed over the ocean;
The Pilgrims sailed over the sea.
The Pilgrims sailed over the ocean
So they could praise God and be free.

Pilgrims, Pilgrims
They had the first Thanksgiving Day
They all wanted
To sing and to feast and to pray.

Their Indians friends were invited;
They brought some wild turkey and deer,
They ate and they sang with the Pilgrims;
Sixteen twenty-one was the year.

Pilgrims, Pilgrims
They had the first Thanksgiving Day
They all wanted
To sing and to feast and to pray.

*Somewhat Tongue-In-Cheek Disclaimer: I do not wish to debate or discuss the historical accuracy of the song's stated reasons for the Pilgrims "sailing over the ocean," the use of the term "Indians" rather than "Native Americans" or any perceived references to whiskey. You are, of course, free to change any of above lyrics to accomodate your personal convictions. Thank you. ;)


Taken from the Official Book of Homeschooling Cartoons

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Bi-Weekly Report

I hope you had a great week last week, and that your school year is just "falling" into place! Last weekend we were out of town, then we jumped right into school when we got back, so I haven't gotten a chance to sit down and write up what we've done (which is SO helpful for me, I'm finding!) I've missed my homeschool blog for the past week and a half, but sometimes doing something makes you too busy to post about it, which is how it should be I guess.

Here's what we've managed to accomplish the past two weeks:

Grade 8:

Literature- I think this is the longest we've ever spent on one book! She is reading Chosen By God (for Omnibus), but this is one book that I decided we would read s-l-o-w-l-y and discuss thoroughly. She has also been copying the chapter summaries and charts, as well as completing the discussion questions and writing assignments in Omnibus I.

English- Two weeks ago when I printed out her weekly assignment sheet, for some reason I didn't have English assignments on it! As the week progressed, she was so busy with her other work, I simply didn't add it. SO, she basically had a week off! She seemed to make it through, though... LOL. We went out of town last weekend and she carted her big ole English test with her for the road trip and finished it on Monday, just in time to jump into the chapter on verbs. It's been an action-packed week in English!

Math-NOW it's getting good! Order of operations, multiple operations, longer equations... THIS is the Algebra I remember! We've been having some fun (okay, I've been having fun) sitting together on the couch solving problems on the whiteboard together. God is so faithful. It's all coming back to me!!

Science- As I posted earlier, she enjoyed a bit of a break from her book work to construct a small lapbook on the planets. She worked on that on her Science days the past couple of weeks. I think it turned out great!

Geography-The chapter she just completed was so interesting! It was all about "society"; populations, demographics, different types of governments and culture regions. I am loving this course for her... it's very thorough and interesting.

History- I think she has enjoyed the transition to Story of the World 4. She reads or listens to the chapter and completes the outline. While her brother and I have been camped out in the Civil War, it's been a great chance for her to catch up to where we were so beginning this week we'll be back in history together. It'll be like old times! We're continuing our History of US readings together, so we're getting a good dose of American history, but SOTW is helping us keep it in world history perspective. I think it's a good balance for now.

Chinese- Chinese is going great. She really sticks to it, and I'm proud of her for that. She is retaining the scripture she's memorized and is adding to her vocabulary each week. She is also faithfully reviewing her workbook pages after she completes her computer and audio work. I am seeing fruit from combining the curriculum the way we have.

Grade 6:

Literature- After he finished Powder Keg, he went on to read Mr. Lincoln's Drummer, which he really enjoyed.

Geography- There always seems to be one subject in which we stay behind. This would be that subject, for now. For some reason we stalled out in Delaware! But, we're picking up there this week and then moving on to the southern states. I'm sure I'll feel more at home, LOL. Besides, down south, it's okay to move more slowly... ;)

Math- This curriculum (Teaching Textbooks Pre Algebra) is chock full of review, especially here at the beginning. So, he is enjoying the "familiar"- factoring and cancelling, prime numbers, and all the FUN that is fractions. :)

Science- We finished up the chapter on "Natural Resources" and he took his chapter test Thursday. Now we move on to cells and classification. As much as he enjoys a good oil spill, the prospect of using a microscope is even more exciting! This should be a fun chapter.

History- He finished his Civil War lapbook, which I posted about here. This week he made "Hardtack", a type of cracker or biscuit eaten by the Civil War soldiers.

It tastes pretty good, but take it from me, don't eat it if you have any loose fillings! :)

Spanish- He has about two more weeks left of his Level 2 review, so he's still practicing animal names, ordinal numbers, and restaurant words. Last week one day I just had to get some chips and salsa during a Spanish lesson. Ah, the power of suggestion!

Language- This week for his copywork he copied his Latin lesson and he also has continued on with his Switched on Schoolhouse lessons which are a nice diversion from textbooks, and I'm enjoying the fact that it combines Language and Spelling.

Combined Subjects:

We've been enjoying our small music co-op that meets at our house every other week. My mom is teaching the kids some wonderful sight-singing and the kids are singing some beautiful harmonies. The last time we met she had the kids stand on our stairway with the wood floor and the tall ceilings, and the acoustics were so great! We sounded just like the Von Trapps! We meet again this week, and the kids can't wait. We are also continuing on in our Latin exercises, and although it's definitely NOT my kids' favorite subject, they do well in it. (Plus, I think they like it more than they admit...;) I decided to count our pumpkin carving for art this week. Yes, "vegetable sculpture," that's it! In our mission study we finished our Mary Slessor biography and began Trial by Poison, a Trailblazer Book by Dave and Neta Jackson.

Well, that's the long and short of it. If you don't have a blog, or don't do "updates," I encourage you to keep a journal or somehow write it out... it makes you realize you've accomplished more than you thought!

Planets Lapbook

My daughter has been enjoying BJU's Space and Earth Science this year. I have liked it, too... it is very thorough! However, for a break from the book and activity manual, I decided to have her do a lapbook using the information in the chapter on the planets. This is what she worked on last week. I think it turned out cute!

(You can click on the pictures to make them larger.)

She used two file folders, folding one toward the center and stapling another one on the side flap.

On the left flap underneath the diagram of the sun there is a flap that says, "Pull Me Up." When you pull it up there is an accordian book of information about our sun, a chart she made using Excel. (Photo below on right.)

The middle of the main folder has some facts and definitions distinguishing planets, dwarf planets, and small solar system bodies. She also included information about how we classify planets and a wheel book with information about each of the planets in our solar system. There is also a 3D "pop up" section explaining why Pluto is no longer considered a planet.

In the second folder she included photos of each planet typed up information about each one.

She enjoyed this week and a half long break from her science book. It was a fun assignment!

Civil War Lapbook

This was a fun one! I downloaded it from Knowledge Box Central. My sixth grader and I have spent the past 3 weeks camped out in the Civil War, and he's had plenty of time to complete it. (Like I say every time I post a picture of one of our lapbooks, it's not elaborate at all compared to others you see around blogland.!)

The first folder has the map of the states, color coded according to Union, Confederate or "neutral." We also studied Civil War food and made some Hard Tack (pictured beside the "Civil War Foods" booklet. He also made mini-books of the causes of the Civil War and the uniforms (left.) On the right is the list of medical supplies and a medical chest.

(You can click on a picture to make it larger.)

In the second folder, he copied part of the Gettysburg Address, made cards with Civil War trivia on them, made a flip book of each battle in chronological order, and wrote about amputations (fun!) In the yellow booklet on the left, he illustrated each type of weapon.

The third folder contains a Grant and Lee Tic Tac Toe game (there are little cards with Grant's and Lee's faces on them for the game pieces- I thought that was cute!) The folded white paper is a Civil War wordsearch, and on the right are the major leaders.
This picture shows how they are attached.

It's been a nice "hands on" way to learn more about the Civil War. We both learned some new things!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

"Book Bending"

"For some children and for some of the time, certain books will happen to be just right. But if you find yourself struggling to mold your child to a book, try reversing priorities. It's the child you are teaching, not the book. Bend the book, or find another; make the studies fit the child."

Ruth Beechick, You Can Teach Your Child Successfully

Sunday, October 21, 2007


Another week completed. Wow! Time does fly. At least sitting down for periodic updates helps me think through what we've gotten done and where we're headed...

Grade 8

Literature- Lots of reading this week. We are enjoying curling up together and reading through her Omnibus assigned reading. This means a lot to me... she's growing up so much, and I know our years of reading together on the couch or my bed are fewer and fewer. We kept on in chapters of Chosen By God this week.

English- I've begun assigning her to do the odd/even exercises based on the page number. We finished up her chapter on pronouns this week. I had forgotten there were so many types- demontrative, relative, interrogative, reflexive... She really does well in this area. Maybe she'll be a writer. Or a greek scholar. Or a homeschool mom.

Math- We wrapped up her "negative" chapter with a positive test grade. Woo-hoo! Now we move on to "longer equations." Yes, they get l-o-n-g-e-r. Oh, the joys of algebra! LOL.

Science- With our newfound love for lapbooks, I have assigned her to construct one on the planets, using her text as well as "living books" and the internet. She has been working on that this week. It is due November 1. I can't wait to see it!

Geography- She studied world industries, which was actually quite interesting. Primary, secondary and tertiary industries. Free trade vs. fair trade. Embargos. Fun! Next week we move on to "cultures" which I know will interest her, because she has such a heart for the nations and for different cultures.

History- I have transitioned her to Story of the World 4, with brief readings from her American history text. She's a bit behind where her brother and I are, but she'll be catching up, and then we just might all do it together. Something else I started this summer, which I picked up again this past week, is reading aloud from Hakim's Story of US books. Each chapter is the perfect length to read each day at lunch. History is one subject I've always enjoyed doing all together.

Chinese- In addition to her workbook, audio and computer exercises, this week she successfully memorized John 3:16. I just love hearing her say it!

Grade 6

Literature- He finished Powder Keg this week. He really liked this book and wrote a great summary of it.

Geography- He studied the Mid-Atlantic states of Pennsylvania and West Virgina. He mapped them and studied the coal industry.

Math- Fractions. Just, fractions. He is enjoying it about as much as he always has, LOL. Thus my cartoon choice for the week. :)

Science- One fun activity we did this week was one suggested in the TM, and it was to hide checkers all around and see how many you could find in 20 seconds. Then the next person had to see how many they could find in 20 seconds... progressively harder to find. This demonstrated how it is with our non-renewable resources, such as oil. It was an interesting study, and he likes this chapter.

History- We continued on with his Civil War lapbook. I didn't get to snap any pictures, but it's coming along nicely.

Spanish- He's about halfway through the review of Level 2. He's been working on weather words, seasons, and telling time. Most times he checks the clock he can tell me the time in Spanish. It's habit now for him to ask me "Que hora es?" instead of "What time is it?" Of course, I always answer him in French, which doesn't really help I suppose...

Language- This week I incorporated copywork back into his life. After he stopped jumping for joy (!!) he copied a chunk of the Gettysburg Address. I know this will help both his handwriting, and his writing. He's been copying outlines for history as well. On alternate days he does typing. He's still enjoying his SOS language lessons, and this week I finally took out the quizzes because they were tedious. That made up for the Gettysburg Address thing.


Mission study- We are LOVING reading about Mary Slessor. Loving it. We are almost to the end, and Bethany has already said she's going to leave the room when it gets to the part where she dies. We always hate that part, even though we realize that whomever we're reading about lived in the 1800's and couldn't possibly still be with us... :::sigh:::: We should finish the book this week and then start on our lapbook projects.

Art- They each needed to finish up their previous mission study lapbooks, which involved a fair amount of glitter glue and artsy-ness, so that was our "art" for the week.

Music- We didn't have a music "class" at our house this week, but both of them noodled around on various musical instruments during the week. So I checked that box. :)

"PE"- They take a homeschool gymnastics class each week, and this week they also went to an open gym, which they loved. One other fun thing we started this week was that each of us takes turns (on the days they don't have a gym class) leading all of us in "exercises." Of some sort. Any kind. To music. A fast song and a slow song. It was so fun! On the first day, my fun son picked "Here It Goes Again" by OK Go, and we jumped around doing whatever "moves" he came up with. Then we stretched out to "Waiting on the World to Change" by John Mayer. It was a really fun mid-morning exercise break and got us all moving. My turn's Tuesday, so I've got to get in my iTunes and pick my songs...

Well, that was week 7 at our house! I hope you had a wonderful week, whatever your week held for you. Another one starts tomorrow, let's make it great!

George Mueller Lapbooks

This year is our first year to attempt lapbooks. In fact, though I had read the term in recent years online in homeschool forums and blogs, I truly had never paid any attention to what they were because my kids were "older" (and I pictured them being for younger kids), and also because it rhymes with "scrap book" which I don't have the time or inclination to do in this season of my life. So there. Case File folder closed.

But this year, lapbooks began to interest me when I actually began to see what they are... scrap-booky, yes, but in a file folder, and a neat way to put projects on a certain topic together in a non-threatening, small, easy-to-store way. And the fact that my kids are "older" means I'm not the one doing it, they are. So, we decided to give it a go. Last week I posted pictures of my son's Civil War lapbook that is still in progress, but this week I decided I'd post the pictures of the George Mueller lapbooks we did a few weeks ago (and just now put the final touches on this week).

If you are a lap-booker, (or a scrap-booker!) these will not be impressive in the least. We didn't spend a whole lot of time on them for "looks." I have scrap-booked in the past and am artsy enough to know how all-encompassing a project like this can be, so I tried to keep it in perspective with the rest of our curriculum and not let us get out of hand with it. I kept it simple and let them come up with their own ideas.

There are three of us who are reading some of the same missionary biographies this year and meeting every six weeks or so to make lapbooks of them. Our first one was George Mueller, so we read George Mueller: Guardian of Bristol's Orphans with our kids on our own and made some projects on our own at home (whatever we came up with.) My friend (at whose house we met and compiled our lapbooks) had made a timeline and copied off some pictures for the kids to use as well, and each of us brought a couple of additional ideas for the kids to add to their books if they wished.

Here is my son's finished product:

The top flap is a map he colored of the United Kingdom. On the left he did an acrostic of the word "faith" with some of George Mueller's characteristics. In the middle is the timeline, and on the right he made a collage of some things representing Mr. Mueller's "breakfast club" he had for the orphan children- a tea bag because he served tea, oatmeal because they always had oatmeal, and an apple crate made out of toothpicks because the children sat on overturned apple crates instead of chairs.
He made a photo album (seen on the left with George's picture on the front) from pictures he found on the internet, and on the right is a "prayer wheel" wheel book of some of the things that George prayed for (he was known for his expectant prayer. We learned SO much in this area!)

Underneath the acrostic "faith" flap book, he sewed a small gown out of some fabric and stuck it in his book, representing a nightgown/dress that had to be sewn for the orphan girls.

Here is the inside of his "memory" book. He made some of the pictures pop up.

Here is the inside of my daughter's book. She did a "faith" acrostic, too, and her map is cut off at the top, but she colored one as well. She did some things on the computer, including researching modern-day Bristol.

As well as researching fashions of the 1800's (George Mueller's time period.)

She also made a page with a little window, raised using some accordion-folded paper, then some pictures of the girls of the orphanage. I thought this was a cute idea. This picture doesn't really show the 3-D aspect of it, but it turned out neat, I thought.

She used some parchment paper and tore the edges for her photo album to make it look aged.

It was a fun project, and most of all we learned some great lessons from this wonderful man of faith. My husband and I read his biography two years ago on the plane to Ghana one summer. He read it on the way there and I read it on the way back. We have learned so much about praying in faith about EVERYTHING and expecting God's provision. I have learned to simply trust God in certain areas and pray fervently without necessarily telling everyone what I'm praying about, to see God's provision for myself. I have learned that even if I haven't always been faithful in the area of finances (if in fact it has been a weakness for me!) that can be an area of overwhelming victory when placed in God's hands and used for His glory alone.

John Piper has written an excellent article about George Mueller's life here, and I would encourage you to read Mueller's biography written by the Benges with your kids. This is also a great site to check out.

"Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world." --James 1:27

"The love of money was gone, the love of place was gone, the love of position was gone, the love of worldly pleasures and engagements was gone. God, God alone became my portion. I found my all in Him; I wanted nothing else. And by the grace of God this has remained, and has made me a happy man, an exceedingly happy man, and it led me to care only about the things of God. I ask affectionately, my beloved brethren, have you fully surrendered the heart to God, or is there this thing or that thing with which you are taken up irrespective of God?"-- George Mueller

Friday, October 19, 2007


Taken from the Official Book of Homeschooling Cartoons

Am I Listening?

"Whether they are homeschooled or not, our children need us to listen to their lives."

Michael Card, The Homeschool Journey

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Just Say No!

**Originally posted last year after our first six weeks. I was thinking about this again yesterday, so I decided to post it again... :)

Has it really been six weeks since we started our school year? A quick look at my "year-at-a-glance" schedule in my planbook says it has. Wow. I look at how infrequently I have blogged lately and I can see evidence of how school has "taken over" for now. But, it's as it should be, and we are really clicking along. Everything that needs to get done is getting done, and look at me... even having time to blog after all!

A piece of advice I read a few years ago in a homeschooling book has struck a new chord with me this year. (Actually, it started resonating with me last year.) It was honestly a new thought to me when I read it. It was this: "Stay home." Hm. "Well, that must be for people who don't really have many involvements or who can't handle too many outside commitments," I thought at the time. I went along, continuing our fully-scheduled, frequently-mobile, gone-most-days life for a couple more years. At the beginning of last year I realized that God was impressing on my heart that WE needed to "stay home." As in HOMEschooling. At home. We have, over the years, enjoyed various co-ops, frequent field trips, and getting together with friends at a moment's notice. Mostly, if I am honest with myself, because of the "s" word. (Homeschoolers know this is the word "socialization." As in, "are they getting enough.") Last school year I took every single one of our organizations, co-ops, teams, social commitments, etc. off of our plate. Then I prayed for the Lord's guidance as to what to put back on. No co-ops went back on. That was a hard one, and I made difficult phone calls to some friends with whom I had enjoyed several years of "co-op"ing. (And who totally understood our decision!) We opted to not do sports teams for a time. (Note that we didn't opt not to play sports or enjoy physical activity-- just no organized teams and all that they entail.) Those were the two biggies. No Girl Scouts. (Okay, that was a big "whew" for me. Just being honest here.) Then I decided not to sign up for too many field trips. As I reflect back on last year, I realize that although I felt behind, mostly because of traveling, we were academically on our way back on track, and covered more ground than I could've dreamed. And the kids both had full social lives and plenty of outside experiences. It worked! Imagine!

This year is much the same story. We've been at it about six weeks, and I have closely guarded our days at home. It struck me this week that each day we spend at home is a "no" to something else. Literally. Every single day there is something else we have been invited to do, or an outside opportunity or class is offered somewhere. Even when we are at home, the phone will ring. There is an opportunity right there for at least one of us (usually me) to become involved, at least momentarily, in something other than school. That's not to say that we spend our days chained to our desks. In fact, time on task actually affords us some margin to say "yes" when I feel like it or have a lighter day. It reminds me of Psalm 16:6, "The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places." It's nice. There's freedom.

It's hard, though! I remember reading a few years ago in Genesis 15 about when God was about to make His covenant with Abraham. Abraham carefully prepared his sacrifice according to God's instructions, exactly the animals God had specified, cut exactly the way God had said, laid out just as God had directed... and then "birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away." (Gen. 15:11) It wasn't the birds' fault, they were just doing what birds of prey do, looking for a meal! But it was Abram's job to carefully guard what he had set before the Lord. It reminded me of my life, in a way. So often I can be seen, flailing away (usually figuratively, but sometimes literally!) at the "birds of prey." God has directed me to set aside this time with my children. Like Abram, I was asked to leave the familiar. I have left the familiar territory of a career and of public school life, and ventured into this land of stay-at-home-momhood and homeschooling. In preparation I have meticulously prepared our days, to the best of my understanding, according to God's instructions. But I must carefully guard what I have brought before the Lord. If someone plans a park day or a field trip, that's great! For someone. But not necessarily for me. Or not necessarily today. If my phone rings I am certainly free to talk to that person, but maybe not right now. Today's technology actually affords me the opportunity to find out who it was, what they needed, and call them back at a more opportune time. The co-ops, classes and teams that are available are wonderful opportunities for many families, but maybe not for our family. None of it is inherently bad or wrong, most of it is good, in fact. But not all of it is best. My "birds of prey" are not necessarily someone else's "birds of prey." What might be a distraction now might be a welcome diversion another time.

So, we have our school days at home. We have 2 days per week when we do have outside involvements- afternoons only. Currently if we are gone one day, we stay home the next. If I'm out one night (for a meeting or whatever) I'm home the next night. We spend more days home each week than out. The subjects that I feel are "key" are touched on every single day. There is much more consistency and predictablilty, and I am... calmer (though frequently flailing and flapping at those birds!) The kids are thriving, social, learning, and happy.

A "no" to something good is often a "yes" to something better. Don't be afraid to say "Just say no!"

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Our Week

Another week has gone by. Wow!! It seems we just got started, and now we've finished week 6. How can that be?? I remember when I taught school, each "six weeks" was a marker... time to average grades, report cards, etc.I'm not sure who started this "weekly homeschool update" on the blogs, but I like it! As a homeschooler, the weeks and months flow together so fluidly. It's nice to stop, though, weekly or periodically (like on a blog or in a journal) and reflect on what we've done. I feel like I put all sorts of time into planning in the summer, and then once our school year gets going it sort of takes on a life of its own and takes off without me. Once we add in activities, ministries, and commitments, school can get rushed or pushed off to the side, and I forget that it is one of my primary callings right now. Seeing what others are up to sort of spurs me on.

This week I didn't have time to post anything on this blog, and only posted a couple of things on my other blog because sometimes you're too busy livin' it to post about it, you know what I mean? Now it's early Saturday morning, I'm the only one in the house who's up... My cute husband and son have headed out the door early to go hunting, (I typed it really small, in case it offends anyone, LOL) and my beautiful teenager is still snoozing away in my bed. She and I had a "sleepover" in our room last night, and my husband and son had a "camp out" in my son's room since they would be leaving so early. (They konked out early, and we stayed up watching "What Not To Wear." So fun! And, I need to go on that show desperately...) So now I have time for a bit of reflecting about our school week. I'll divide it up by grade. (Note, it turned into my Six Weeks report. Which means, it may take you six weeks to read it!)

Grade 8

Continued plugging away through Chosen By God. We are loving this book. Okay, I am loving this book. She is reading it, as assigned, and appreciating Dr. Sproul's insights. She says he gives too many illustrations and examples. She likes things very cut and dried... just tell her the point! In addition to the discussions and writing assignments in the Omnibus book, I've been having her do something very "elementary" and copy the chapter summaries in her notebook. It's been very helpful.

English is, well, English. We've delved into demonstrative, interrogative, reflexive and intensive pronouns. But wait, next week we'll hit indefinite and relative pronouns... and then it gets exciting! Actually, this week I was talking to my brother and (I'm not sure how it came up, because our conversations are usually not about English grammar, LOL) and he said he didn't learn most of this until his Greek classes in seminary. Well, that's all I needed to hear. I'm preparing her for seminary, LOL!

Math (algebra) was pretty negative this week. Okay, it was because she's in the chapter on "Negatives" but she's stayed pretty positive about it anyway...

She had a pretty massive 68-question Geography test this week . Whoa! She said, "Why can't you just take my word for it that I know it?" :) She did get to finish painting and labeling her landform salt map this week. I think it turned out great!

For science she finished her study of "the sun" and had a lovely test on that subject as well. And we ate lots of candy corn.

She's plugging her way through her chosen American History text. I get dry-mouth just looking at it, and I think now she understands why. History's never really been her "thing" anyway, but I think adding a dry textbook to it makes it really not her thing. This summer we read some of the Hakim "History of US" books together (which she liked) so I'd love for her to transition over to those or join her brother and I in the Story of the World book. Another week of textbook assignments and she just might be there... The point, for me, is how much she is retaining and actually learning, so next week I plan to sit down with her and see what she "knows" (probably a "narration" of sorts) and we'll go from there.

Chinese is going great for her. The combination of curriculum we've chosen seems to really be working, aided by her great enthusiasm for it. She has some Chinese music ("pop" music) in her iPod, and last week she came bounding out of her room exclaiming, "I know what she's saying!!!!" (By the way, she was saying "You don't love me, You don't love me, You don't love me..." which is kind of funny, since the music is really upbeat and danc-y. Apparently Chinese pop music is just as sad and desperate as American pop music, LOL. I told her if she ever figures out it's saying something inappropriate, it's leaving our iTunes! ;) She also found a website that translates the Bible into pin yin, so she's been memorizing scripture as well. Very, very fun.

Grade 6

What can you say about a very active 11-year-old boy with a locker full of school and beautiful fall weather outside? This week was a good school week, but he longed to be outside. Which we did, especially at the end of the week. He has hung in there for a good first six weeks. He's becoming more and more disciplined in his work, and that is an answer to prayer.

Math- He finished up chapter two of his Pre Algebra and took the test this week. He likes test days because it's not a lesson and practice problems... it's tell-all-you-know and then get on with things!

We got behind last week in Geography, so this week was a bit of catch up. He finished New York and New Jersey. He did an interesting report on Niagra Falls, and I learned some new things, too. There sure have been lots of folks brave enough to go over it! Including one guy who was trying to retrieve his cell phone. Hello???? And guess who owns Niagra Falls? I didn't know! (I'll let you discover it on your own... I don't want to ruin the surprise...)

Here is his finished landform salt map, which he painted and labeled this week:

For Science he finished up his chapter on weathering and erosion, and moved on to natural resources. He is really enjoying science, as he always has. Of course, he really likes doing the experiments and demonstrations:

Here he is analyzing soil samples. My little "pedologist."

This week we also studied the Civil War. Here is the beginning of his Civil War lapbook.

I downloaded the template from Knowledge Box Central, and we are adapting it. He is very process-oriented rather than product-oriented. (Which is a good thing, really!) But, the upshot is that the final product isn't always the most snazzy. I've seen some lapbooks out there that are UNbelievable! Ours will be very... believable. :) We're going to continue making the lapbook next week and perhaps the following week if we are enjoying it.

In Literature he finished reading Perilous Road and began Powder Keg, another Civil War book.

For Spanish, (since he had a brief foray into French last year) we have been reviewing the first two levels of La Clase Divertida, before we begin level 3. He is a third of the way through Level 2 right now, and really retaining more than I thought he would. (We did the first two levels when he was in 1st grade through about 4th grade). I'm very pleased, and he seems very motivated to learn Spanish. Level 3 teaches them how to share the gospel in Spanish, which he is very excited about (and I am too, as our family is looking at a possible mission trip to Mexico.)

He is enjoying Switched on Schoolhouse Language (which combines English grammar with Spelling). It's a change of pace for him, not book-workish, and just the right amount per lesson. Next year I'm sure we'll switch back to either Abeka or BJU, which I think are very strong grammar programs, but this year it's been nice to have something different.

Combined Subjects

Music- My mom came over for another wonderful music co-op this week with our friends. The kids are continuing to practice the Solfege scale and read music using the hand signs. Very, very cool. Their hymn for this month is "A Mighty Fortress," and we had a glorious time around the piano while my mom played it wonderfully and we all sang. Every word. Every stanza. Loved it! Perfect for the month of Reformation Day! She is also teaching them the sign language for the song "Shine on Us." SO beautiful. So worshipful.

I gave us a break in Latin this week. They rose up and called me blessed.

Our current mission study is Mary Slessor, a biography we have read before but are thoroughly enjoying again through the eyes of a different author. I just love, love, LOVE studying about great heroes of the faith. Slessor is such an inspiration to us, and since she worked in West Africa, and she and my son share the same hero (David Livingstone), we feel a "bond." It's a neat study. Besides, we've been to Nigeria. (Okay, for one hour. Sitting on the runway at the airport. But still. LOL.)

Bible- Besides their own Awana work, we have been reading through The Jesus Storybook Bible, which I highly recommend. It wasn't around when my kids were small, but it's so good I want them to hear it. Lloyd-Jones does a masterful job of weaving Jesus into every story in the Bible. Every story does "whisper His name!" Oh, it's so good. We've had some great discussions. We also listened to some John MacArthur this week and some PodTask podcasts (produced by the IMB.)

Thursday the weather was so pretty we couldn't stand it, so we loaded up our books and did school at the park, then we enjoyed a picnic and the kids fished. Some other friends joined us and it was a great afternoon!

(The fish is turned sideways, but he's there. Just skinny. And small.)

Friday after we finished our school, we played at another park with some other fun friends. I have found that even though my kids are older, they still enjoy play dates at the park. (We just don't call it that!) And they need the fresh air and sunshine just as much.

Well, that's our week! I hope you've had a great week, too (and I apologize if you spent it reading this post. I know it was long!)

Have a great weekend!

Friday, October 05, 2007


Taken from the Official Book of Homeschooling Cartoons

Keeping them Thinking

...Or at least guessing!

You can take the teacher out of the classroom, but sometimes you can't take the classroom out of the teacher. For a homeschooler, that can be good and bad I suppose!

One thing I used to do as a ps teacher, and have continued to do at home, is to have a board in my classroom where I would have various things to "make them think." When I started homeschooling I wanted to continue this idea, and I came across E.D. Hirsch's Dictionary of Cultural Literacy. It contains all kinds of facts (which are interesting in and of themselves) but two things it has are comprehensive lists of English idioms ("get up on the wrong side of the bed", "as the crow flies," etc.) as well as proverbs ("Don't look a gift horse in the mouth", "Don't count your chickens before they hatch", etc) along with the explanations of each. When I came across this, I thought it would be fun to put those in the school room to see if they can guess what they mean, making it a fun way to learn the meanings and be "culturally literate." Another thing I found a couple of years ago is Object Mysteries, cards with pictures of random items that they have to guess. My son, especially, loves to guess what these are. I change them out as they figure out what the sayings mean, or figure out the mystery object... or if they finally give up. :)

It's been a fun way to keep us all thinking!


... seems to be my "posting day" lately! I just posted on my other blog about our family events and our 80's party (TOO fun), but I thought I'd post some school updates over here.

We are ending another great week of school. We haven't had as many projects this week, and much of what we have been doing is with our noses in books, but it's been fun. My son started Perilous Road for literature this week, and is absolutely devouring it. We hit the Civil War in our Story of the World book this week, so we will be taking a week or so to camp out there. I downloaded the Civil War lapbook (in ebook format) from Knowledge Box Central, and we'll be working on that next week.

One of my daughter's favorite subjects this year is World Geography. Today she will be painting the landform salt map she did last week, but one project she enjoyed this week was making a collage of the "climates of the world" on the computer. She loves exploring with different fonts and wordart, so researching pictures on the internet of the different world climates was a fun way for her to be techno-artsy. And, now it's posted in the schoolroom for a "learning chart" of sorts for us to all enjoy.

We are also still working slowly through Chosen By God in her Omnibus I. It is so, so good. This week she had some outside commitments and needed to get caught up in some of her other subjects, I had her pause in her reading and copy the chapter summaries and some of the diagrams in her notebook. This book is fostering some great discussions. I haven't decided if I am going to go straight into Till We Have Faces immediately following this, or choose something off of the Sonlight 100 list. I'm leaning toward letting her read something a little "lighter" for a few weeks. ("Son"lighter, as it were, LOL. Oh, I think I need more coffee. Or maybe less.)

In science this week she's been studying the sun. She is SO my child. We were reading together earlier in the week, studying the up-close pictures of the sun and discussing the "granules" that make up its surface (see picture). She looked at it while I talked about it, then opened her mouth to say what I supposed was going to be a thoughtful observation about what we had just read. She said, "Hm. I'm in the mood for some candy corn." I looked at the picture and knew just what she meant, and suddenly I was in the mood for some, too. And just in time for October! So, I've got "candy corn" on my grocery list for next week... And we just might use some to make a collage of the sun!

It's hard to believe we're ending our first six weeks next week. Time flies when you're having fun!

I hope you have had a fun week, too. Have a blessed weekend!

Friday, September 28, 2007


Taken from the Official Book of Homeschooling Cartoons

Making Maple Candy

Last Friday we enjoyed making maple candy, to correspond with our study of Vermont. We made it according to the recipe found in Eat Your Way Through The USA by Lori Pettit. We've really been enjoying the recipes in this book! I highly recommend this as a resource if you are studying US Geography.

We started with a bottle of Grade A Medium Amber Maple Syrup. Then we boiled some water with the candy thermometer in it, so we would know the boiling point (which varies at different altitudes.)

We poured the syrup into a tall pot, because I wasn't sure how high it would boil up.

It didn't boil as high as we thought it would, so I could've used a smaller pot and perhaps gotten a more accurate reading on the candy thermometer. We buttered the top of the pot in case it boiled up to that point. We boiled it until it was 28 degrees above the boiling point of the water.

We removed it from the heat after boiled, and let it cool for about 5 minutes. Then we stirred it until it became opaque.

It was easy to tell when it started to "set up" and our time was limited to pour it off. I didn't have any candy molds, so...

we just poured it onto a cookie pan and let it harden into a not-so-pretty lump.

After a few hourse we broke it up, wrapped each piece individually, and put it in a pretty fall basket. Presentation is everything, you know!
It was a yummy, fun, and easy project. Maybe you could try it for part of your "fall" study, to correspond with the changing fall leaves. (Perhaps that's a stretch, but any excuse to eat straight sugar is good enough for me...)


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