Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Springtime books and nature table: Birds and eggs

I've been inspired by so many bloggers and their seasonal tables, but I'd been short-sighted as far as what space to use for our own. I finally cleared off the console behind the sofa -- how obvious! I moved some picture frames onto the t.v. cabinet, so I could put out some spring things where the boys can actually see them!

One of our favorite springtime books is An Egg Is Quiet by Dianna Aston, which my sister gave to the boys along with A Seed Is Sleepy. I found an original version of  The Burgess Bird Book for Children at the library, with its beautiful illustrations. (You can also find the first few stories for free on Amazon Kindle.) My mother lent me her copy of True Nature by Barbara Bash, an illustrated nature journal -- and she gave me the sweet bird's nest and eggs.

It's not quite this amazing nature collection, but it's a start!

Birds, Nests & Eggs 
(Take-Along Guides)We're also reading Even an Ostrich Needs a Nest: Where Birds Begin by Irene Kelly, and awaiting a few more from the library: Birds, Nests & Eggs by Mel Boring -- a take-along nature guide, Egg Drop by Mini Grey -- about an egg that wanted to fly, The Odd Egg by Emily Gravett -- the story of a drake who is feeling left out, and Eggs by Marilyn Singer.

We gave the boys Professor Noggin's Birds of North America card game for Christmas, and it's time to break it out and actually play it!

And I just love this sweet birdie sweater.

(Disclosure: Supposedly, if you follow the Amazon links and buy any of these books, I will get a few pennies, but it hasn't happened yet. ;)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Welcome, Spring!

This morning we peeked out the front door to discover the first tulip of the season had opened! Eldest planted the bulbs in early January, and here they are!

We've already had a week of warm days. Shorts and t-shirts are out, and it's time to see how much we've grown!  Hopefully, I've shrunk. It's been a lean, mean Lent for Mama. No shamrock cookies for me, *sigh*. I feel really good about keeping my promise to give up sweets, but I couldn't do it without God's help!

The grass and weeds in the garden were knee-high this weekend -- I'd already hand-weeded, push-mowed and weed-whacked whatever I could. It was Scott's turn to tackle the yard before the warm weather turned the green grass into a field of foxtails...

Well, that's done. We can't afford to water the whole lawn during the dry season, just the vegetable beds, so it'll be dry, but tidy.

The last few weeks I've been checking off little projects in the name of Spring Cleaning. So far, I've....
  • Decluttered and cleaned the bathroom cabinet.
  • Laundered the curtains in the living room, and washed windows.
  • Cleaned the mini-blinds in the dining room and bedroom.
  • Cleaned the toy area, and donated a trunkfull of toys to Goodwill.
  • Dusted the ceiling fans.
  • Cleaned door-jams and knobs.
Now I'm reorganizing our bookshelves. Did I mention the books I bought at our library's used book sale? Twenty-six books for $12!

I also put up a new corkboard next to the whiteboard. I'd been taping things to the wall and closet doors, and it was getting a bit messy. Much better. :)

Scott's off next week for spring break, so we'll be finishing up some long overdue projects around the house -- woo hoo!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Daily Homeschool Essentials

My daily to-do list....

1. Pray.

2. Read to each other.

3. Create something.

4. Put on music.

5. Move your body.

6. Do something nice for someone.

7. Go outside.

8. Spend time alone thinking.

9. Eat something healthy.

10. Enjoy the moment!

Homeschooling motto: Simple and fun gets the job done!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Are you wearing your green?

March 17 has become quite the major holiday around here. The boys look forward to it as soon as Christmas is over, counting down the days. This morning Eldest woke me up at 4 a.m. -- Littlest's coughing had woken him up and he was too excited to go back to sleep!

The Big Question: Had the Leprechaun come yet?!

Well, who else leaves green footprints in a trail to a pot of gold?!

The kids had their annual Irish jig contest... with a little bit of breakdancing?? thrown in.

Then we had our own St. Patrick's Day parade with the neighborhood homeschoolers...

How did we so lucky as to live down the street from our favorite local bakery? The second big question of the day: Rainbow or Shamrock?

Back home to play with green playdough.

And then lessons in leprechaun tracking....

No leprechaun. But we did find Papa's plum tree in bloom...

I hope you're enjoying the day, too!
"For six long years Patrick served his master, Michu, diligently and well, for all this time he was learning also to serve God. With that love in his heart, he learned to care for all helpless things, and to see what was beautiful in common things around. Years afterwards, when he was a great teacher and the heathen priests scoffed at his teaching, and asked how he could explain the Trinity "Three Persons in One God," Patrick stooped down and plucked a leaf of the little green shamrock, which had taught him one of his lessons on the lonely hillside, and, showing its three leaves in one, gave a simple illustration of the great Mystery."
--from "St. Patrick," Our Island Saints by Amy Steedman

Thursday, March 11, 2010

P is for a picnic with St. Patrick

I'm not sure if I've mentioned that we've been slowly working our way through the alphabet this year, both for handwriting and storytime ideas. How serendipitous is it that we've arrived at the letter Pp just before St. Patrick's Day?

The sun came out today, so we packed up our books and peanut butter sandwiches, and headed to the park near our local river for a picnic. On the way there we sang every song on "Party like a Preschooler"!

We're reading the dramatic and beautifully detailed story of Saint Patrick by Amy Steedman, from Our Island Saints. (Living Books Curriculum included the story in their St. Patrick's Day unit study. You can join their mailing list by creating an account on their site or requesting the Get-Aquainted Sample Pack on the bottom left side of their main page.)

Earlier in the week, I pulled out all the other P books I could find on our shelves...

We love Sandra Boyton books, and the "If You Give a..." series (although I can't figure out what happened to our copy of If You Give a Pig a Pancake!) Eldest is really enjoying The Periodic Table: Elements with Style.

Most of our alphabet-themed plans have come together rather spontaneously. (And not always very well!) This was one of those lovely, very needed days when it just worked.

Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."
--Luke 23:43

Friday, March 05, 2010

Book review: One Million Arrows

Sometimes, when bedtime arrives and we're all extra tired, we replace our usual nighttime prayers with this simple one my husband taught the boys:

"Lord Jesus, help us to change the world."

It's a simple prayer. But it's not always so simple to know how to raise our children to be world-changers.

Fortunately, we're not talking to ourselves. If we ask the Lord for help, He's going to send help! And so it seems, Julie Ferwerda's book, One Million Arrows: Raising Your Children to Change the World, is an answer to prayer.

To be honest, when I received the book (after agreeing to review it for the blog tour), I hesitated to begin it. From the first glance, I could tell it would be soul-reaching. Be careful what you pray for.

What does it mean to be a world-changer? What does it mean to be an arrow in the hands of God?

As Christians, we are called to share the Good News of Christ with the whole world. As Christian parents, we are called to train our children for that mission -- to shape arrows for Christ's bow. We know that His Love can change the world, and He will use His sharpened arrows to reach those who do not yet know Him.

The responsibility to share Christ's love beyond our own community can be overwhelming at times -- it's a GOD-sized mission! But the message of One Million Arrows, while certainly challenging in its call, is told with enthusiastic grace and love, and is full of inspiring examples and practical ideas.

Julie joyfully introduces us to parents who have successfully raised their children to be servants of Christ in a bigger-than-average way, and how those children have reached countless more -- specifically those with no parents of their own. Through Scripture and personal stories, she makes the way clear to open our hearts to orphans, widows, and others in need even if we don't have children of our own.

One Million Arrows is an inspired, encouraging vision of the amazing work that is already being done by arrow-shapers across the world, and a practical, Biblical vision of why and how we can join their ranks.
"Listen, far-flung islands, pay attention, faraway people:
God put me to work from the day I was born. The moment I entered the world he named me. He gave me speech that would cut and penetrate. He kept his hand on me to protect me. He made me his straight arrow and hid me in his quiver. He said to me, "You're my dear servant, Israel, through whom I'll shine."

--Isaiah 49: 1-3 (The Message)
You can find more information about the mission of One Million Arrows at the website. All proceeds from the book will go to international orphan ministry.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

The C Word, part two

Please forgive me for spending the last three days in bed instead of fulfilling my promise to educate you on all things curriculum. For the record, I will NEVER, EVER take antibiotics again, no matter how bad my head hurts. At least I was semi-functional with a sinus infection.

Lest you presume that I have abandoned my faith in natural learning principles... I assure you that I do not believe one needs the "right" curriculum, or any specific curriculum at all, to homeschool.

For me, this is about "spreading a feast" -- or intentional strewing, if you like. There are some awesome resources out there -- and if you're like me, you need all the help you can get.

Now, where was I?

Oh, yes, I was being tempted by the complex beauty of Tapestry of Grace -- and wondering how I was going to get through ancient history without a map.

Forget that, how was I going to get through history curriculum without a map?!

First, I got lost in an old Veritas Press catalogue, and spent hours poring through the wonderful book selections for each grade.

Then I got stuck at the crossroads of The Story of the World and The Mystery of History. The boys enjoyed listening to SotW on CD from the library, but MoH integrates Biblical history with the rest of ancient history more thoroughly. And the activity suggestions all come in the same book, not separate like SotW.

I bought both, continued our SCM Bible readings, and mixed in a little Usborne Encyclopedia of World History and Victor Journey Through the Bible. I finally felt like we were getting somewhere -- if a bit awkwardly. If only I'd known about Biblioplan! For another $25, I would have had a fully coordinated schedule for all those resources!

I also found myself reading Susan Wise Bauer's classical education bible, The Well-Trained Mind, a book I'd successfully avoided for seven years. And, I actually liked it.

I appreciated her points about the importance of learning history, the benefits of Latin, the reason for grammar, and the stages of the Trivium. I couldn't imagine sitting my wiggly, talkative boys down every day and having them do every workbook on that list. That just seemed crazy.

But they do want to learn Latin, and they actually enjoy study questions. I still appreciate the concept of narration, and the reasons behind it, but sometimes my little fact-gatherers like a little prompting.

Fast forward... We finished reading through Genesis, Exodus, et al -- thanks to the discovery of The Golden Children's Bible, which illustrates and simplifies the rest of the Pentateuch into story form. We're going to try out Memoria Press's Christian Studies II for the rest of the Old Testament.

I've mostly dropped the "spines" in order to dive more deeply into a few living books. Most of which I found via other bloggers. We're happily engrossed in the stories and history of Ancient Greece. We visit the library so frequently, the librarian actually let me check out one book over the limit last week!

So, what's next? I've looked hard at the Charlotte Mason-style Living Books Curriculum. I've considered the simplicity of TruthQuest History.

And, I've been surprised at how similar our recent studies have been to My Father's World's Creation to the Greeks year. Only MFW's is less haphazard, more organized, and padded with lots of hands-on activities that I don't have to plan!

At this point, I'm planning to order MFW's Rome to the Reformation for the fall. I'll probably add Lively Latin or Song School Latin, and Muzzy for Spanish. I would say that's a lot of foreign language, but the boys also want to learn French, German and Gaelic, so we'd better get started!

In the meantime, I made up this very general, bound-to-change lesson plan for the rest of the term.
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