Monday, May 28, 2012

Civil War Quilt Again..

I slept on it all night & then dashed to the craft room first thing this morning to see if I had cut enough excess in binding & batting to add the extra edge around the quilt that I'd forgotten. I did, & I was really happy about that. I suggested everyone fend for themselves over breakfast, shuffled Mr S out the door to work, & then told the kids we'd have a slight delay to starting school. Not that they cared.. after all who's gonna snub lego play for a spelling test?! I used our leftover cream pieces & used them for a border. It really helped break up that gold that was stressing me out.

Ignore all the bumps & wrinkles in the photo. A certain soon to be birthday boy was peeping out the bathroom window to see what I was up to when I snapped the photo. He knows I'm working on the quilt, but he has no idea what it looks like. I'm mean like that. I'll have to finish smoothing it out & making sure my seams are all kosher this evening. Then hopefully I can start on the hand quilting.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Civil War Quilt

Remember the Civil War quilt Jayden wanted? Well, I finally made it to the craft store with the Civil War material in it. It took me ages to find it as they'd rearranged all the material again & once I did find it, I nearly squealed because I was that excited.

The upside of waiting so long to finally get what I was after was that they had some new pieces there as well which fit in really well with our theme.

The red piece with faces on it has famous people from the Civil War on it. I'd say generals, but Abraham Lincoln is on there too. The big chunk on the far left has a variety of Military flags from the Civil war which was an awesome find for the backing! I also found a couple of pieces with various historical figures signatures on it, we can only clearly read a few of them, but it's still a cool piece!

The cutting process went along pretty quickly. I didn't have a Jelly roll or a Charm pack. For one thing, they don't sell the ones called for in the recipe in my area & the very few they do sell in my area are a, not the right colors, & b, far too pricey for me! So after a little research I figured out that my strips all needed to be 2.5" wide. They were super quick to cut out, but those stinking squares took a little longer. I needed a total of 54, & cheated by folding each color of material many times so I only had to make a few cuts. The upside is, I was done quickly, but the downside was some of the squares weren't quite the right size. Thankfully I cut extras.

By the time I started sewing the guys wanted lunch. I'm pretty convinced they wait until that moment when i'm absolutely up to my eyeballs in a project before they decide they need help. So, I told them they had to wait until I fined sewing just one part of my project, & then proceeded to sew together one flag. Ha!

Tada, thanks to a footy game I was able to tackle the entire top while the guys were busy. All though rumour has it that because I didn't watch & carry on with my normal cheering that the team they wanted to win lost. Such a shame, but hey look I got the quilt top done! I wasn't very happy with that brownish material at first, but it's grown on me a bit. It's actually golden & has cream stars on it. The original instructions called for white & tan checked material, but Mr S & I felt that the creamy colors were blending in with the flag. I think it will look even better once I get the binding on. As you can see I also skipped the extra strips around the outer edge. That was actually by accident, but by then I'd all ready cut the backing & binding. Oh well, I don't think the child will care, all though if I have enough extra backing cut I just might be tempted to "fix" it.

Excuse the blur, but that dark material is the binding. It's not floral even though it looks that way. It's actually a small start with a curving olive leaf around it. The other material is the backing. It's been fun to pour over it & see all the names of militia groups we've read about.

A few more of the flags. Some of them don't have a name on them, such as the one above, just numbers, colors & symbols. Jayden hasn't actually seen this chunk of material. By the time I got to this part of picking out material he was completely fed up with, "being in this stinking craft store! Can we please get to the birthday part now?" I had to bite my tongue pretty hard to avoid telling him it was for his birthday & he could show a tad more patience.

After dinner & a movie with the guys & cut up an old fleece blanket {one I got for free with an online order we placed a few years ago} & used it for the batting. Mr S was free to help me with the spray I use to tack the three layers together. Then I sewed between each row of flags tracing the binding material. I'm hoping to have time to quilt a star or two in each of the blue field areas of the flag & the signature of various Americans from the Civil war onto each flag. Then we'll bind it up & give it to the soon to be birthday boy.

Weekly Wrap Up: Week Thirteen

Our week started out with a whole lot of crazy rushing around, and very wet. It rained for four straight days, let up for one day, & then came back with a vengeance! Jayden spent a good deal of the week checking the sky & giving us updates on it's color as well as evidence of rainbows which are often in high demand during the rainy season here.

Monday was the only day we had a semi-normal day of school. Morgan woke up with a wicked cold on Tuesday & spent much of the day complaining he couldn't breathe through his nose while dutifully using up an entire box of tissues.

We spent the week enjoying watch the roses outside our front door too. We woke up one day & while dodging peltering rain to clamber into the car to take Mr S to work we spotted a rose that was just starting out. We decided we'd keep an eye on it to see how long it would take before it was fully opened.

Just for the record, it's not weird to have roses in bloom at this time of the year. It's also not weird to have things greener in our neck of the woods at this time of the year either. Summers are often dry & hot leaving things brown. So when the autumn rains start things tend to look a little greener around here.

I spent the week reading Across Five Aprils to the boys. We'd been reading it for the past week or two & while it's a really good book for learning about where battles took place & key historical moments it wasn't a personal in the moment kind of book. Jayden was really disappointed with it, & I think it's because it was far more factual happening then fictional. Either way, I read like crazy & we finished it up this week.

Next week, & hopefully everyone will be healthy by then, we are starting Behind Rebel Lines & The Periolous Road. We were suppose to start the latter this week, but with Morgan feeling icky I decided to simply concentrate on just reading Across Five Aprils. I'm really eager to read Behind Rebel Lines, & I'm hoping the boys will equally enjoy the book. This is a story about Emma Edmonds who wanted so desperately to help she disguised herself as a man & enlisted in the army. Like Deborah Sampson, from the Revolutionary War, no one was the wiser that Emma was a female. Emma actually turns spy for the Union which has Jayden really excited to read about too.

By Friday our rose was in full bloom & I was next in line to be knocked out by the cold which astounded the household. In fact, if either child had said, "I can't believe Mom caught the cold!" one more time I might have risked telling them to be quiet despite the scalding pain that was coming from my throat. Thankfully we'd finished up our book the day before I spent the day reading my own book & making a pot of chicken soup. The boys entertained me with a mock karate fight which was followed up by quizzing each other on mathematical word problems. Some of which were far more logic based them math!

All in all, not exactly a stellar week here. In fact Morgan was really upset we didn't start our Biology as he's desperate to make an edible cell, but it wasn't a wasted week either.  Mr S is coming down with the cold now & I'm praying Jayden has just managed to escape it all together, all though I strongly suspect he'll wake up with it on Monday morning just to throw me for a whole new loop.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Saxon Math

We decided to switch from Teaching Textbooks to Saxon Math for the year. I just felt that the boys needed something a bit more challenging, especially Morgan & I wasn't interested in bumping him a few grade levels ahead with the former programme. I was hesitant at first knowing that we weren't as keen with Saxon at the younger levels.

We've used the K-2 levels before, or at least parts of them, & I just wasn't as impressed with them as I wanted to be. Not to mention that at the time they didn't fit the needs of my children. However, after much research the choice to move back to Saxon was really the one that best fit my needs, & honestly I'm quite glad we did.

The lessons can be rumoured to take quite a long time though, & that did concern me a little bit. However, as is the case with many things you adapt them to fit your needs. We don't actually do all the varying steps. Somedays we do the 100 Fact sheet, somedays we don't. I base it on needs or what I'm working on the most with the child at the time. I do some of the mental math problems to help encourage certain learners that they don't need paper to do math all the time.

One of the big things I do though is doing a considerable amount of the problems orally with the boys. I also won't have them do lots of problems of the same kind, I prefer to give them only a few of each kind unless they are struggling in a certain area. 

All of this usually helps keep our lessons reasonably short averaging about 30 minutes or so, even with the hands on aspects of the lessons. I find that this really keeps things moving without boring anyone. So far we're really enjoying the change in the curriculum.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

More Language Arts

While in town the other day we finally found a copy of The Word Spy to go with our copy of Return Of The Word Spy. Not only did the shop have The Word Spy on hand, they also had The Word Spy Activity Book which has various things to do based on topics in both books! It was a very exciting find for us & will match up perfectly with what I'm reading in The Writer's Jungle. It's the only official grammar books the boys will use... for now anyway.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Phone Dump

The back of the PB Jar. I was dumbfounded to see that it's allergy advise was in regards to peanuts. Cause, i'm just not sure anyone with a peanut allergy would have even been near the stuff, but hey!, you never know do you?!

Weekends around here consist of sleeping in until children bounce on the bed & then move forward to games of chess played while breakfast is often consumed. Chess & Checkers have been go-to games for our boys since they were 3. This beginners game of chess is what they learned on, but you know it's still their favourite playing pieces.

My sandwich toaster which rarely toasts sandwiches. I use it to cook burgers, steak, or chicken for quick lunches around here. Morgan likes to use it to cook bacon on. It gets a lot of work around our house!

The boy & I popped into the bookshop in town this week, one Mr S use to pop into from time to time & bring us home a fun surprise. We were oogling over all the fun books & couldn't resist taking a snap shot of the Classic Aussie books on the shelf. Those copies of The Muddle Headed Wombat, The Magic Pudding, Blinky Bill, & Snuggle Pot & Cuddle Pie were beautiful. I'd have loved to purchase all four of them, but I didn't. In fact, I didn't purchase any of them. Frankly, I think it was a sign of great restraint.

The Apple peeler was in use when we discovered the bag of apples we'd been given was a tad mushy. Rather then cry about it, I made a small apple pie & then told the guys we were having it for supper. They were delighted when I actually game through, even if there wasn't any cream for it. I did, however, serve them something a bit more proper later. We actually purchased this crazy thing many years ago when we had a half dozen apple trees on our property. Even with it, it took a good week to get all the apples processed & stored up so none went to waste.

The boys were delighted to get a package in the mail this week which contained many goodies including one of my old board games with a Harry Potter theme. They sat down & read the instructions themselves & set straight to work playing it. I've no idea if they were playing it correctly or not, but it kept them busy for several hours & they didn't hesitate to pick right back up again in the morning either.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Sunday Evenings

We've been enjoying traipsing around our old beach on Sunday evenings. Even the crazy dog gets really excited when we pull up. The boys decided to take a footy with them this time & kick it around. We watched a plane take off from the small airport not far from the beach, & wished we had the ability to kick a footy high enough for them to see it, which of course led to wondering if the pros could have. Wishes were made upon the first star which popped out & by the time we headed back to the car it was dark enough that a few more stars had joined it.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Weekly Wrap Up: Week 12

Another busy week is behind us, & we seem to be flying along with another two books polished off this week. We're really enjoying our reads, I'd say this year but the truth is we really seem to love whatever book we're reading!

We're officially in the throws of the US Civil War. We're reading through Across Five Aprils, which doesn't have, at this point, battle scenes as Jayden had hoped for & gives more of a personal reflection of how the war effects a family.

We polished off The Great Turkey Walk which was a fun read but also quite interesting at the same time. We also wrapped up Thee Hannah! which was the story of a quaker family who happened to help runaway slaves. All though the main theme of the story was more about the youngest girl in the family, Hannah, coming to understand what being a Friend was all about.

We're still plucking away with our Photobiography of Abraham Lincoln. It's been an interesting read, for sure! I had no idea that Lincoln suffered with depression on such a large scale. Mind you, the poor man had an awful lot of sadness in his life which probably didn't help him one little bit. It was also interesting to see pictures of him in his younger years, I'm not sure I would have recognised him, & to learn that his height was all in his legs. Thus, when he sat he looked the same size as most men in the room. Did you know that Lincoln didn't grow his whiskers until he was officially elected president?

We only added a few notebooking bits & bobs this week. The boys added two more books to their collection of leaders: Lee & Grant. We also discovered in one a couple of our books that Robert E Lee was often called Bobby Lee, which drove Jayden absolutely insane. We learned about the Monitor & The Merrimack, two firsts for boats. The boys colored various woman of the Civil War & will write on the backside of each woman as we learn about them. We also learned about the Antietam, which turned out to be the bloodiest battle/day of the entire Civil War. In fact, the stats of men that died that day turned out to be greater then in any other time in US history including September 11. That was a rather startling fact. The easiest way for me to explain the staggering amount of people that died to the boys was to point out everyone in the Footy Stadium when we were there this weekend & say, "More then this, double in fact." It put things into perspective for them.  We also updated our map of battles, something they are really enjoying keeping track of.

Jayden tackled borrowing for the first time this week. I like to work on carrying & borrowing separately for a long time so that each method is well grounded in their mind. Jayden & I enjoyed playing What's The Difference to give him a little grounding with borrowing. He didn't do too bad as long as he remembered we weren't adding.

Morgan's flying through his math book this year, which is fun to see. His confidence with math made the leap to living math worth overcoming my own fear of it. I'm so glad he has that much confidence & excels so well with this subject. This week most of it was a lot of review, but he did learn some new terms & has been gleefully using them on everyone he can. He also played with percentages again this week which are done in a hands on way with fractional pieces. We also worked on adding different fractions with differing denominators thanks to these fun fractional pieces. It was fun to see him guess & then put it into action to see if he was right. And no, he wasn't still in pj's, he just deems it necessary to wear a pj shirt all day long. It drives me insane, but I pretend not to care.

Midweek we took the afternoon & ran by the library to collect some books, then headed over to the park. The boys were delighted to find that it was vacant & they could enjoy whichever swing they wanted. Morgan's plan was originally to sit on that hideous swing & try to read the book he'd checked out, but his fear of heights kicked in & he soon gave up that idea. Can you see the boat going out? It's on it's way to the mainland with a variety of goods upon it. Sometimes it carries livestock, but we didn't see or hear any on that particular day.

We officially started recorder lessons this week. The boys were pleased as punch. Lessons are happening at home, I felt confident enough to teach recorder thanks to the clarinet lessons. Course, it brought back some really funny memories of my first ever lesson where, thanks to a C reed, I managed to make the teacher's dog howl. In fact, I'm pretty sure I managed to make her poor dog howl as I learned some of the higher notes on my clarinet. I'm pretty sure I didn't do much for my family's ears considering I recall being sent to the backyard to practice a few times, but I was successful enough not to be kicked out of the homeschool band so surely that must count for something.. you know, even if there were only four of us plus our teacher.

We're working on a scientist a month or something like that alongside our Apologia Science, & we got so wrapped up learning about Archimedes this week we never got to our Apologia Science which really disappointed Morgan. This little book {above} we checked out of the library & it was really a fantastic read without being boring. We matched up with The Way Things Work so the boys could see pictures of the various inventions that were spoken about. We also watched this video which helped the boys visualise the way Archimedes solved the issue with the crowns. In fact, I was amazed to see that Morgan wasn't at all afraid to tackle what he thought would be the math to get the answer. He was on the right track too, which was even more impressive.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Mother's Day

... and now for the annual Mother's Day Interview.. 

I really love it when my mom.. makes my bed for me.

My mom always tells me.. to do school

The Best Thing she does is.. loves me.

It makes her happy when.. I behave.

My mom likes to relax by.. putting her feet up & icing them.

I like it when she.. 
helps me.

The best thing she cooks is .. roast potato.

When my mom shops she likes to buy..  
Flowers, um no that wouldn't be it. What on earth does she buy besides things we need?

My mom's favourite tv show is... 

If she could go on a trip she would go .. 
What's the name of that places she's always wanted to go.. California?

I love my mom because .. 
Because she loves me back!

I really love it when my mom.. 
Gives me fresh clothing so I don't have to go um.. nude.

My mom always tells me.. Nurture the animals.

The Best Thing she does is.. 
takes me places that are surprises for me.

It makes her happy when.. I tell her a joke. 

My mom likes to relax by.. 
putting her feet up, using the computer, & icing her knee.

I like it when she.. 
buys me presents.

The best thing she cooks is .. 
Triangle Things & tacos

When my mom shops she likes to buy..  
Stuffs that she's out of or stuffs she's all most out of.

My mom's favourite tv show is... 
The Zoo & the Tabitha Movie.

If she could go on a trip she would go .. 

I love my mom because .. 
duh, because she's so nice!

Aren't you so jealous you don't have a crazy brood of boys like this?! Okay, Morgan's idea of relaxing cracked me up, but he's right, generally if I'm sitting down I'm icing a body part, just not my feet. It generally happens when Bewitched happens to be on tv so I watch it, I presume that is why they've claimed it as "my fav." tv show. He really does love it when I make his bed, when he makes it he doesn't get his quilt down far enough to cover his toes. Flowers, that really made me laugh, I don't think I've ever bought flowers. Ever! Mr S buys them, or use to buy them, regularly though. As for California, I can only presume he said this because he found out recently I went there by myself as a teen. But, I can't confess it to being top notch on my places to go. The boys on the hand want a trip to CA to visit Fisherman's Wharf, fill up on Ben & Jerry's, & to visit Lego Land.

Oh Jayden, how you make me laugh. I have threatened that he'd go nude before when I spent an entire day washing & drying only his laundry then found the dog curled up in the laundry basket. The same dog that is too big for said laundry basket. The same dog that was in dire need of bathing. It wasn't a pretty moment. I have no idea where on earth he got the whole Nurture Animals thing from, I can only presume that's what he walks away with when I say things like, "Don't tease the dog" or "Don't pat the wombats" or "Please, but the echidna down right now!" 

I have yet to find a single Jayden joke truly funny, but I'm working on hard on getting my "phony" laugh as good as my bil's, so it proves interesting opportunities to practice it. Yes, he does adore it when I surprise him with presents, you know as long as they aren't items to help assist him in chores. Triangle things are chicken veggie quesadillas & the child goes absolutely ga-ga for anything mexican, but especially the two items listed. His favourite show is The Zoo, which is recorded in Auckland & involves watching the staff care for animals. I'm usually aghast by things like the staff being unaware their lioness was pregnant until she gave birth. 

He is correct, however, on Britain. Morgan was certain that was wrong because he knows it's Jayden's top place to go, but Jayden & I are holding out together for that trip in our someday book. Ahh, this years interview made me laugh more then the others that's for sure!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

2012 Curriculum

Third Grade Curriculum {8.5}

  • Saxon 5/4 Homeschool Third Edition
  • Spellwell  A, Aa, & B {if we get to all of it}
  • Sonlight 3rd Grade Readers & LA programme
  • Copywork {varies}
  • Recorder 1
  • Artistic Pursuits
  • Apologia Biology 
  • Sonlight Core E
  • Picturesmart Bible
  • Grapevine O.T. Level 2

Jayden is officially in Grade 3 this year, and his load is still reasonably light. We also do daily memorisation with our nifty Memory Box. He's also learning various songs this year. The main song, to go along with our US history study is The Star Spangled Banner, but we're also aiming to work on a hymn of traditional Bible song each week.

Spellwell might be graded, but we chose to put him the first book. It was actually his request to do spelling this year, & I was happy to indulge him as we really do love the Spellwell Curriculum. He's nearly done with book A, so I suspect if I keep him in spelling, or at least this programme, that he'll easily make it to book B or beyond before the end of the year.

The boys chose to do Zoology 1, which is birds & insects, but we had to put it on hold as the chillier autumn weather rolled in. With a wet winter also fast approaching I decided to put the kids into Biology to keep us going & we'll return to Zoology come summer.

We're also attempting to study a famous scientist each month, but that's not firm so if it doesn't happen no panic. We also aim for a nature walk on Fridays, which can range in locations & is also very dependant on our weather.

Jayden had hopped to play Aussie Rules this year, but he really put the request in {officially} too late to play this particular season. We're looking for swim lessons & gymnastics instead. He's not keen to do Scouts, so we may give that a big miss. 

Fifth Grade Curriculum {11}

  • Saxon 6/7 Homeschool Third Edition
  • Sequential Spelling 
  • Selected Books by Mom & Dad
  • Copywork {varies}
  • Dictation
  • Recorder 1
  • Artistic Pursuits
  • Apologia Biology 
  • Sonlight Core E
  • Sonlight Core E LA
  • Picturesmart Bible
  • Grapevine O.T. Level 2
Wow, where did the time go with this formerly little boy?! I spend my days worrying & fussing now on if I have everything lined up to teach him "in time". School runs a little differently here then it does most places & children can be done with highschool come 10th grade. At this point we're choosing to keep that option open for the boys. As in, they can choose to be done & get a job, they can choose to go on to university, or they can choose to stay at home. I want to be sure all my "have tos" are covered before we get to that point with him.

His load is, I think, still light. We're still debating a foreign language which is not mandatory here, but Morgan has high hopes of learning several foreign languages in his lifetime. I love his enthusiasm! In the mean time he's torn between Korean, French, & Japanese. All good choices considering where we live. He also has a few other minor things we're hoping to work on this year, but we'll see what unfolds for him.

Both boys work together on many subjects, & I'm cherishing this final year of that with them. Next year with Morgan entering 6th grade & his work load gradually increasing the need to separate them has at long last risen. They will, most likely, still do a few of the minor things together. For now, though, both boys are wrapping up our final year of US History together with Sonlight Core E.

So this is a bit different then what we shared at the start of the year, don't you love how that happens? The best laid plans & all that hoopla, it happens, right. We opted to change Morgan's spelling programme as well as his math & science. All were good changes & we're really happy with what we're doing right now, & so is he. All though, admittedly, he wasn't happy with the spelling change at first, but he's warmed up to it now.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Writer's Jungle

I know I'm behind on my crazy Week In Review school updates, they are fun for us to write because it helps us see what we've been up to each week. I'm not writing one right now though either. We've actually been kinda busy this week between accidentally consuming something with milk in it {I'm allergic and milk gives me horrible headaches & adverse allergy issues} & Mother's Day.

Anyway, I have something a little bit more exciting to share at the moment. You know those moments when you're homeschooling & you think to yourself, "am I doing enough?" or "am I doing it right?" I had one of those moments this week. My concern this week was over Language Arts.

I've never taught this as a formal subject with my kids. That's never bothered me either. In fact, I will never forget the first time I totally dissected a sentence for my husband. You know the whole milk bottle diagramming thing going on with prepositional phrases teetering off the bottom or top & all that. Poor Mr S was somewhere between horror & shock. I'm not sure which was more appalling to him: that I took a perfectly good sentence & put it inside of all sorts of shapes & lines, or the fact that I actually knew how to do it & insisted it would make perfect sense to many other people.

"And you did this on a regular basis?" he inquired.
"Well, yeah. It was required in my English class, & I'm pretty sure if I hadn't done it my teacher would have had me speaking the the principle."
"So, your Mom actually sent you to the principle."

Which is where our entire conversation ended because the crazy man had tears streaming down his face as he rolled with laughter. You know, until I poked him in the ribs & told him that someday his kids wives might be laughing just as hard when they stated their Mum sent them to the principle..

The point was, though, that as an Australian student he'd never once taken the time to diagram a sentence. This seemed odd to me, after all most US students have pulled their hair out at one time or another as they attempted to make each & ever word of a sentence fit into one of these odd & unusual conformities that were, in our home, dubbed "milk bottles". I won't lie here, I went and ran a poll with other Australians to see if they knew what I was speaking of.

Some of them did, but had never done it on a first hand basis. They'd seen it done, heard about it, seen it in US based curriculum, but as a whole not one of them could ever recall having done it before. Not in gradeschool, not in highschool, not in college, & most certainly not in university. What?! How could this be?!

Thanks to that crazy little moment all those years ago, & the poll that later followed {more then once I might add},   I never felt the need or pressure to teach my children how to diagram a sentence. In fact, I still don't. So why was I all shook up about Language Arts, which, let's be honest, is a very vague subject to be concerned about. Do you have any idea what kinda topics are thrown into that heading? Spelling, phonics, grammar, writing, handwriting, the list could go on!

For me, I was worried more about the writing aspect & what I had, or hadn't, taught my children in regards to grammar. You see, both my boys learned about the most common parts of speech {verbs, adverbs, adjectives, nouns, articles, & prepositions} thanks to their infatuation with Madlibs. In fact, Madlibs can put any sane person to the test when they are suddenly thrown on the spot with four people staring at them waiting for the magical words that will help them know exactly what kind of word they should say when they are suppose to select something from the adverb catagory. Talk about a quick & fast brush up for me!

Mechanics came from their years with Five In A Row. We learned about things like metaphors, simile, alliteration, onomatopoeia, & so on. Jayden could probably use a grand refreshed in some of the later, but Morgan has really got an amazing grasp on all of it. I wasn't convinced of this & handed him a paper recently that put him to the test for all sorts of basic things like capital letters & simple punctuation. He aced it & asked if I had anything harder. It amazed me, because neither of the boys have had any formal training in this area.

Everything they know they've learned from copywork, dictation, & lots & lots of good books that I've read aloud to them. Yet, here I was having a freak-out moment. Was it enough? Was I missing anything? I've had my eye on The Writer's Jungle for a while now & was delighted to hear that it was on special.

After asking around about it a bit more I decided it was exactly what I was looking for. The inspiration & final hand holding I needed to encourage me down the rest of the road to help me help my children become outstanding writers. After all, most university students don't need to diagram a single sentence to pass classes, but all of them have to be able to write outstanding papers for good grades!

I'm so glad I spent the money on the book. I've spent the last two days {after printing & binding the book} reading it & I have to admit I've not made it very far through it yet. Yet, as you can see in the photo above, I've been highlighting & making notes like crazy. Much of it is just confirmation that I'm walking the right path, not necessarily new information, but just what I needed to hear. There has been some new information which will help me start filling in the gaps or concerns that I had.  So far it's been a really awesome read, not to mention inspiring in just the way I needed!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Birthday Wishes

Jayden has been wistfully wondering why his birthday takes so long to come around. Each year we don't hear "how long till my birthday?" we hear, "Who's birthday's next?" He's known for years there's a procession of birthdays we must get through before we arrive at his. Now that his birthday is all most next on the list {save a cousin who comes first} he's started to give a little thought to what he wants for his birthday. Actually, I'm pretty sure he's known for a long while.

1. Union Jack quilt -- No, seriously he has a deep fetish for all things English. In fact, that's his dream vacation destination spot, which has recently been thrown to second over visiting the US. Either way, when he saw me looking through my stash of "craft ideas" he saw that Union Jack flag, which I'd long since bookmarked for him & asked, "If I wanted that for my birthday would you make it?" I even have some material with typical English things on it hidden away.. Who knows, maybe..

2. Zooku Pop Maker -- As I understand it these clever little devices are quite the rage right now, little does Jayden know. However, he saw me looking at one the other day & got all excited wondering if it was an okay thing he could ask for having on his birthday. This child is a popsicle addict, & the thought that he can make 9 popsicles in less then a half hour excites him to no end. I gotta say it kinda excites me too because I get so tired of hearing him ask me a million times a day if his popsicles are frozen enough yet. 

3. Zooku Character Kit -- What beats 9 popsicles in less then a half hour? Popsicles with funny faces on them. Yeah, really. He saw the kit while I was looking at the machine & started giggling in his uncontrollable giggle that causes everyone else around him to start laughing. "With this too, I'd need this to make my popsicles look funny!" 

4. Hot Wheels Video Camera -- Both of the boys are a tad weird when we get out the video camera, so if I want something that actually resembles the semi-normal them I have to be sneaky. Jayden has been using a "hand-me-down" ipod for a while now & he discovered the video camera on it much to everyone else's horror. We had to lay down some strict rules, you know.. No videoing Mom telling you off. No sneaking up on your brother while he's getting dress.. Absolutely no videotaping anyone you do not know. Yeah, I had a spelling lesson interrupted to he could "rewind". We found him throwing himself all over the backyard making some kinda video that had involved beating himself up, screaming, & other hideous things that finally caused his mother to open the door & declare, "Enough! If you're driving me crazy I can't imagine what the neighbours are suffering through!" I'm pretty sure the family to our left was snickering. When Jayden spotted this in a local electronics store his eyes glazed over & we nearly lost him as he, "was just dreaming of all the videos I could make! You'd really laugh then Dad!"

5. Union Civil War Hat -- Everything right now is about the Civil War around here due to school, but also due to absolute obsession. He's up to his eyeballs in the Magic Tree House book about the Civil War, begged us to read Across Five Aprils, & is giddy that I have another half dozen books lined up on the topic.. which is nothing compared to the many long drawn out battles I've been watching him reinact. When he asked if they had Civil War uniforms still I said they did, & that to my knowledge hats were pretty easy to come by, "Wow,  can one get here in time for my birthday?!"

6. Civil War Soldiers -- This little boy has always had a fascination for little toy soldiers. Give him the choice of purchasing anything he wanted & he's often intent to add another set to his collection. Unlike the lego population, I've yet to step on one of these toy soldiers! I've always wanted to buy him pewter ones, but they are excessively expensive considering he'd play with them for years to come & not care too much that they were hand painted. I spotted a few different Civil War ones that are actually in color compared to the normal run of the mill soldiers he has, & while he's content with the ones I did find, "I really wish you could find those cool wooden ones you showed me before!" I spotted a cute tin of wooden ones I thought I'd ordered for Christmas, a month after Christmas when they still hadn't arrived I couldn't find any proof that I'd actually purchased them nor could I locate the item online anymore either..

7. Uncle Sam Quilt -- Once in a blue moon I get lucky enough to trek through a craft store. This happened recently while I was trying to procure a piece of decent clear vinyl for the top of our school table. While in the craft shop I trekked through the material section & was oogling over one thing or another when Jayden asked me to look at some America material. I turned around and found myself staring at material covered with people like Robert E. Lee, Abraham Lincoln, & the likes. I was shocked, but Jayden wasn't. "Can you make something out of this for me?" Which reminded me of another quilt I had in my pile of to make someday. If I get lucky enough to hit the craft store before the next blue moon arrives, he might get lucky enough to see exactly what I can make out of that material.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Lift The Tab Books

Last week the boys created a little Lift The Flap Book marking different spots on the Runaway Slave map they created with the Civil War Time Traveler cd from Homeschool In The Woods.

We don't follow the instructions for making this little book because we have a slightly easier way that works for us.

First, we print it all out, then the boys cut out the main parts of the map. In this particular one there were two large pieces you had to tape together to make an even larger map.

Instead of using a nifty exacto knife, I use my centipede cutter with the normal blade on it, but I take the blade off the actual base to make it easier to line up with my paper. I don't let the boys do this part simply because I'm always worried they'll run a finger over.

While I cut the flaps on the map the kids cut out whatever goes in the flaps. This time it was about different things, places, or people that would have been along the Underground Railroad. Next we tape the map together lining it up on the provided line, &  then we mount it on colored cardstock. The boys need help with the taping, but can often do the mounting part themselves if desired.

After that they fold the slips of paper to be glued in the book in half, then glue them in! If the flaps or your book wave in the wind just use a thumb nail, bone folder, or other flat object to grease the fold of the book flap again & it will all lay flat.

Tada! Because we are working on several Civil War time period things we're slipping everything into a page protector in the beginning of the boys timeline notebook. When we're done with this time period we'll fit everything into the timeline notebook! We choose to wait because many things we'll be glued to paper, waiting allows us to fit it all on one or two sheets!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Reading Aloud

I was recently asked how we found so much time to read the amount of books we do. I really wanted to answer the question, & decided to do so here. There is, as always a short answer: We make time. I didn’t figure that would be helpful despite being simple. 
I have been reading aloud to my children since before they were born. It’s not that I was one of those ladies who though I’d give birth to a more intelligent child if I read to them before birth, it’s more that I’ve always been reading & often aloud to someone so my children were also exposed to it. At times, though, I was also intentionally reading children’s books to them before they were born.
Bedtime stories are a standard around here. Sometimes Mr S read a quick picture book to them while standing in the middle of their bedroom & making insane sounds that drive the dog crazy. Other times I’ve been known to sit on a bean bag in their room & read a chapter or two aloud. Heaven help me if one them falls asleep before realizing they heard the end of the chapter or there will be heaps of tears in the morning!
Reading is also now a normal part of our day. We’ve been using literature based curriculum since Morgan first started school some six years ago. Back then we used picture books & read the same picture book each day for five days. We learned a different lesson each day, & then often spent the rest of the month reading that same book at bedtime due to requests from one child or another. To this day, many of the books we used with that curriculum, Five In A Row, are still favourties. 
Jayden always joined us for the reading of those books, & when old enough the lessons as well. He still speaks of Peter Rabbit, whom he first met at the ripe old age of 3, as a fond & favourite friend. So much so that when his brother bought him a stuffed Peter Rabbit this spring there was much whooping & laughter over the gift.
The characters our family has met in those books are still fond friends & spoken of often as if they were family members in far away places that we only get to visit rather infrequently. “Do you think Amber daughter her daughter how to read Mom?” “Do you think Mike Mulligan ever got tired of living in the basement?” “Does Madeline have a Mum?” “Does Grandfather’s daughter feel the same way he did about two countries?”
I didn’t rush into chapter books with my boys. It’s not that I wasn’t eager to introduce them to a whole new world of literature, it’s that we were happy & cozy where we were. Picture Books, while often thought of as for children, are full of many wonderful stories & lessons for big people too. So we took our time about progressing up to chapter books, & even though we may be into them now we aren’t ever above the desire to pick up a picture book & fall in love with it too.
I really think, for my boys chapter books were a gradual thing. Morgan was more then happy to sit & listen for hours on end of the many places hidden between the covers of books. He’s a tinkerer, & sitting on the floor tinkering, inventing, & building were things he enjoyed doing while listening. It took a little more time for Jayden to be truly ready for that jump, especially if it didn’t come with pictures!
I don’t remember the exact moment he decided chapter books were awesome, but I remember very clearly that his favourite one was Heidi. He fell very in love with her plot in life. Her desire to be outside instead of cooped up inside. Her desire to be with her grandfather who allowed her to be outside, where learning came in what she saw & did, no in books & closed rooms. He empathized deeply with her, & when our book was over he couldn’t stop asking questions about little Heidi.

“Did she marry Peter?” “Did Grandfather & Grandmother get married?” “Did she go back up the mountain & enjoy it just as much in the spring?” The list could go on. When I told him there were two more books in the Heidi series his questions died away & were replaced with the desire, no the need, that we should obtain those books & see if they could answer his questions.
From Heidi we moved to Ramona, another favourite for him. Oh how he could relate to the  naughty things Ramona often did, the unintentional habit of getting into trouble while simply trying to do something entirely different. He didn’t find her to be a truly naughty person, but a completely misunderstood person, perhaps stemming from the fact that he too once sat upon the kitchen table & took one bite from every apple in the fruit bowl well before he ever heard of Ramona. He too once told the entire library he was having a party, which he wasn’t, but thankfully didn’t invite any of them. He too has a deep desire for rain boots, all though his are usually blue not red.
After that picking books were pretty simple. We moved into the Nim’s Island series, & bounced to books based on upcoming holidays. We wove our way through early Australian history, & stopped abruptly at the foot of early New World explorers.
It was here that we made the choice to switch to a different literature rich curriculum. Morgan had, at long last, outgrown our original choice. This time daily reading in slightly larger quantities was part of our normal day. We might read a chapter from two or three books, & a few pages from smaller books.
It paved a new path in our day that had us sketching out a specific amount of time each day to read. This was something we kept up even in the summer months. 
Every day after breakfast, once Mr S had left for work we’d grab the book of the day/week & we’d curl up in the living room & I’d read for an hour to the boys. Sometimes we’d go a little longer, & sometimes we’d go a little less it simply depended on the day. After we were done reading the day was ours, but there were many times in the afternoon the kids would ask for more.
Now, it’s habit to start our day with an hour or so of reading every day. Again, we are using a literature rich programme, this time Sonlight. Like the one we used last year our days require a bit of reading. A chapter or two from several different books, a few pages here or there from smaller books; sometimes all on the same day, sometimes not.
We start each morning in the living room while I read aloud for an hour or so to the boys from the books we’re currently using. After that the boys are granted a fifteen to twenty minute break before we move into the rest of our school day.
By lunch time they are ready for more adventure & have taken to asking to listen to their current audio book at lunch time. Which means we often eat while listening to another great adventure. At the end of our school day the boys are required to pull out their current assigned book & read for either a specific length of time or a specific amount of pages/chapters.
None of this happened overnight. It was all a gradual. There was a time, when the boys were younger, I thought our days would be full of The Squeaky Door & Madeline, that we’d never progress to anything longer. That the books lining up on our book shelf back then would forever collect dust.
There was no trick to progressing, it was simply waiting for the right time & being patient enough to get there. Of course, sometimes it’s the right book with a story that they not only love, but can understand too. We’ve read plenty of books that have been fantastic & we’ve all loved, other’s we plodded carefully through because while one or two of us loved them the other did not. Or there’ve been books we’ve started & for one reason or another laid them aside, either for a later time or forever.
So yes, the simple answer is simply that we make time. That time is a required part of our day, a part we love & look forward to. You don’t have to start with an hour a day, you could start with 10 or 15 minutes. Whatever time you have. You don’t have to start in the morning if that’s inconvenient for you, but it’s less likely to be forgotten that way. You won’t be tired & worn out either.
Don’t think just because it’s an audio book it’s not time together reading! Our family loves audio books. Before the boys were old enough to appreciate them Mr S & I use to check a few out of the library each week & once the children were tucked into bed we’d stay up listening to the stories.
We still listen to audio books with our children. In the car, in the house, while out camping, & everywhere in between. A well written book can be brought to life with a great narrator! One of our top notch favourite narrators is Jim Dale, but there are many more that are great to listen to as well.
I also think, personally, that listening to well narrated audio books only helps to encourage the way you read a book aloud! You get into the habit of hearing different voices for different characters, it doesn’t matter if your’e reading narration or dialogue you tend to try & help inflict the feelings of the story with what you’re reading.
Interestingly enough, my boys have picked that up too. They couldn’t wait to pass around a recent chapter book we were rereading for the third or fourth time just so they could read parts of it aloud, preferably pieces with dialogue so they could make up voices to fit the characters!
For us, it’s been a long, but fun, traveled road to get to where we are. Reading & story telling are simply a part of our family. When we stay away from home, be it in a tent or a hotel room, my children beg for a story. Sometimes I’ve forgotten to bring whatever our current book is & we’ve plunged head long into crazy stories of our own making. Long walks are often filled with story telling, be it well known stories we’ve heard many times or the stories we make up on a whim.

The next step, for us, is to get the kids writing. The more stories my boys listen to the more eager they become to write their own. They’ve spent many dutiful afternoons writing their own comic books, because after all there’s much less dialogue to fill in there! Recently, though, they’ve expanded to a spiral notebook & are working away at writing their own little stories.
What impresses me the most about what they are doing isn’t just the fact that they’ve chosen to write it on their own, but the content that is in the notebooks. Morgan’s story is full of so many amazingly wonderful words that are exciting to read. He doesn’t use the word said every time someone speaks. He uses whispered, screamed, shouted, thought, & so on. He’s not at all frightened to use words that he’s heard read to him over & over again.
It’s honestly just another side effect of reading. Even as preschoolers the boys have had quite the vocabulary on them, & not just in speech but also in knowledge. I will never forget Morgan’s soccer coach being floored because Morgan not only knew the word reflection but could use it correctly in a sentence & then went a step further to explain it to the entire group of 3 year olds that were suppose to be playing a game of soccer. 
Jayden once asked Mr S for a refreshment. Once Mr S got over laughing at the request he said, “Would you like a biscuit?” & Jayden’s prompt reply was, “I was hoping for something like a liquid refreshment!” He was 4 at the time. If you were to ask either of the boys where they’d learned the words from they would have most likely shrugged & carried on. Yet, it’s true. They probably have no specific memory for words that they hear often. Reading good books with a brilliant vocabulary helps them build their own awesome vocabulary.
I could go on about the side effects.. the imaginative play it creates, the discussions we’ve had, the need to know more about a certain time, place, or person. All of it, it’s simply side effects from being read to which is why we’ve never hesitated to make time to read.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Civil War Soldiers

Late last year while purchasing books for the new school year I saw a book of Civil War Paper Soldiers that I scooped up. Jayden loves playing with toy soldiers & I thought he'd really love being able to have a set of these guys to play with.

Of course, I didn't realize until this afternoon that it was a book of the various Confederate Soldiers. I know, a little slow right? In my defence I quickly hid it away when it arrived & put it on the shelf highest out of the children's view because I knew if Jayden saw the book he'd be desperate to dig into it.

Yesterday, after a long day at a local festival, Jayden wanted something to do & quite honestly I didn't feel like moving out from under the blanket I was under. I was balancing heat & ice packs between my shoulder & knees & pretty glad a footy game was on thinking no one would need any help. I was so glad I remembered the book sitting on our shelf!

I pulled it out & was able to resume my position under the blanket while I used a pair of scissors to cut a few soldiers out for the kids. I finished the rest off today. They were pretty eager to cut them out themselves until they opened up the book & saw that they needed to be really careful around some of the soldiers.

Each page sported 4 soldiers on some really nice quality card stock! I loved that they were printed front & back because at first I thought we were going to have to pull out the glue. The directions said to cut everything out & then fold the numbered section under the soldiers back & glue it to the matching oval. The other side of the ovals match the same dirt path that the soldiers are all standing on. What you see pictured above is the bottom so you can tell what each soldier is after assembling them!

We decided to tape them down instead. We put a piece of tape on the front & back which worked a charm! Plus, no waiting on the glue to dry which always frustrates the boys to no end when it comes to something they are hoping to use before bedtime.

A basketful of soldiers! The boys did the math before choosing who would get which soldier which really cracked me up. We put a small black dot on the bottom of the soldiers Jayden claimed as his own so that they could all be stored in the same basket without any fighting when they pulled them back out. All though, I strongly suspect that Jayden will be the only one using these long after we've wrapped up our study with on the Civil War. He's all ready requested a set of Civil War soldiers & a Civil War hat for his birthday. Not to mention a Civil War birthday party..