Saturday, November 30, 2013

10 Fun Christmas Traditions

Christmas is fast approaching, but our family always enjoys taking it slowly. We don't go with the hustle & rush, the spend until you are broke theory. We tend to go more down the line of thoughts being on giving & the greatest gift we were given, thus why we choose to celebrate.

I was recently debating adding in a new tradition for my family which got me thinking about many of our older traditions as well. Which left me thinking that I really should jot them all down for keepsake purposes. So, here's our Christmas Traditions:

1. The Jesse Tree -- We aren't Catholic, but this has been a long standing tradition since my boys were quite small. The idea was to focus on the promise that was given to man after the fall in the Garden Of Eden. I also rather liked the way it kept my children's eye on the reason we choose to celebrate. When we first started a Jesse Tree we used paper ornaments & a dowel stick tree, but eventually I made the lovely quilted wall hanging & clay ornaments. We've used the devotional {simply reading scripture} from Ann Voskamp for years, well before it was free & updated. We always start this the Sunday after Thanksgiving.

2. Cinnamon Rolls -- This tradition has been long standing since before my boys were born. I was actually heavily pregnant with Morgan the first year these made their apperance. The boys recently asked why we have them each year & the story was told. It's nothing major. I was reading one of the Dianne Mott Davidson mystery books & she had this amazing recipe inside for Monster Cinnamon Rolls, I wanted to try making them, but there were only two of us. I can't remember if I mentioned them to Mom or not, but both she & my husband said I should make them. I did. They were requested every year after.

3. Ornament Swap -- While using the Five In A Row curriculum we joined up for the annual Christmas Ornament Swap one year, & ever after we've just kept right on joining. In fact, we've been organising it the past couple of years as well. My boys really look forward to this & our pile of ornaments has certainly grown over the years.

4. Count Down Calendars -- We have a homemade one that is Reindeer heads. When I first made it my boys were considerably younger & I stuffed it with activities to do for the month. They loved it & beg for it each year. The activities we do are things we'd normally do in December, but we spread them out this way. It tells us when to decorate the tree, when they get to go shopping for each other, & so on. Last year I started putting lego in it which was a fun thing for them as they tried to work out what on earth I'd put in there!

5. Nativity Box Cookies -- One year when Morgan was still a baby I had this brilliant idea to make a box of cookies which represented each part of the Nativity. My plan didn't happen because, let's face it, when you have a baby your hands are pretty full. I tried again the following year & only got half the biscuits made, the receivers still enjoyed them. The third year I came up with a better idea. I'd have my, now toddler, help me make a cookie for the box each week starting in October. We'd pop them in the freezer & pull them all out on Christmas Eve to box them up & deliver to neighbors. This worked wonders & the neighbors were all delighted to get a lovely box of homemade goodies. We also give one box to each family we see on Christmas as well.

6. Scented Ornaments -- As a young Mom I was also a big subscriber to the Family Fun Magazine, way back before it changed hands & format. One year I saw a lovely idea to make cinnamon scented ornaments & trace your child's hand to make the ornaments more personal. That year I made a single batch of dough & had a lot left over, so I went crazy with cookie cutters. When Jayden joined the family I eventually needed a batch & a half. Over the years the amount needed has often grown & a few years ago we didn't make any at all as obtaining the right glue here is difficult. These were often used as package toppers for the grandparents & aunties. They are well loved keepsakes, & you'll often see some hanging on my own home walls.

7. Visiting the Lights -- It's not really any lights in particular, but in Australia you can't just drive down any street & see Christmas Lights. Here's the thing, in Australia in December there's still light sometimes at 9-10pm around here. Yet, there are some amazing people who don't care & go with it anyway. We love those people, & visit their homes each year. We've been in a neighborhood for the past couple of years that has two homes with fascinating displays. So much so we often don't need lights even once the sun is officially set. You can check your local papers for locations of beautiful light displays.

8. Jotham, Bartholomew, & Tabitha -- There are three completely different stories that cross over each other. They are written so you can read them over Advent, but again we read them starting from November 30th each year, one chapter a day until we reach the end of the book. We simply rotate between the three books reading first Jotham's Journey, then Bartholomew's Passage, & then Tabitha's Travels. These have been a big hit with my boys who were delighted to see there's one out for Easter as well.

9. The Christmas Mystery -- A few years ago while in the library at the end of November I noticed a book on the shelf called The Christmas Mystery. The book was broken down so you read 1 chapter every day from December 1 - December 25. Over the course of the book you meet many people from the Nativity as the mystery unfolds about a long lost little girl. The boys loved the story & now pester me each year to pick it up from the library before someone else gets t it first. I bought it this year, much to the delight, so they don't have to worry about someone else getting to it before them. After all, it's time someone else in our state had a chance to read it!

10. Christmas Chain -- We've often had countdown chains for a variety of things going around, but for Christmas we have a lovely cloth one we hang up & printed on the inside of each chain is a Bible reading for the day.

Monday, November 25, 2013


Every time we go for swim practice there's a mad scramble to use the shower afterwards. No one wants to be standing around for long in their wet clothes & generally we rotate who goes first. Jayden takes for-ev-er in the shower, if permitted. So, while giving him his 5 minutes of peace before I started attempting to hurry him along Morgan & I decided taking ridiculous photos to send to Mr S was the right thing to do. Are wet pool hair & clothes just add to the elegance of the photos, don't you think?

Sunday, November 24, 2013

2013 Weekly Wrap Up: Week 37

What an exciting week we had here on the homefront! The realisation that the kids only have one more week of theme work to go, after that it's all math & spelling until either the books are completed or Christmas break arrives, whichever comes first.

It certainly was the inspiration we needed to stay the course this late in our school year. After all we've been at it for 37 weeks now, not counting the breaks we've had between terms!

We devoured a couple more books this week as well, prepared for a weekend away from home, heard back on some very exciting news, & purchased a few items for Christmas. Ahh yes, it all added to the thrill of the week around here for sure!

Mind you, the kids week would have been perfect just on the fact that I gave them both permission to play a ridiculous amount of video games on our long car ride, both ways! But I tried to top it by purchasing wheat & dairy free mint cookies to indulge in as well. Considering there were none left upon our arrival home I'm pretty sure I succeeded. As for our school week though..

Jayden is more then halfway through his math book now. He's tackled double digit multiplication, & because he know his multiplication facts so well breezed through the lesson despite his original fears. In fact, I'm pretty sure he could skip to the end of the book & just tackle those last few tougher lessons & be fine, but I'm happy to work at his pace. I'm pretty sure he'll breeze through the first half of the division book next year too. He found the lesson so easy he did two pages a couple of times without realising what he'd done which had me snickering in the background.

No idea why he looks like he's half asleep, or why there is senseless doodling in the book. I threaten to deduct points for that, clearly it makes no effect. He worked on all sorts of things from prime numbers to greatest common factors this week as well as fractions in measurement. He'll most likely breeze through the next few lessons in his book. He cracked me up by saying, "I didn't realise I knew so much about fractions!" when he saw how quickly he was making his way through the book. I pointed out that all that time I'd spent making him memorise multiplication & division facts was paying off as he can generally see the answer before he does the work to prove it.

We started the week off with work on Japan. We learned about their islands, a bit of their history, & touched on their culture as well. We read a book about Japanese puppetry which led us on a search for videos of the puppetry in action as well. Of course there was the customary filling in for the notebooking pages. There were some beautiful picture of a Japanese temple, which we'd heard a great deal about from a flight attendant on our visit to Japan many years ago. We didn't make it to visit the location ourselves, so it was fun to see the pictures.

It was interesting to see Japan in both Material World & Hungry Planet this week compared to other Asian countries. The difference was phenomenal. We also discussed the typhoon that hit Japan a few years ago as there was an article about it in the Reader's Digest this week. And after hearing reports of earthquakes in Japan one morning this week it was only fitting we learned that such things are all most a daily occurrence at some level over there. We loved our read through of Children of many Lands again this week, all about Japan of course.

We read The Cat Who Went To Heaven on Monday which was an interesting read. Morgan was quite annoyed with the ending, which if you want the book spoiled for you is that the cat dies. Then we listened to Sadako & The Thousand Paper Cranes, he didn't expect that little girl to die either. I'm not entirely sure why as the town we live in is sister cities to a town in Japan. The school children from both places sent art work back & forth & it's on display in our local library quite often. I think it was last year they had a beautiful display put up from the Japanese sister city including this book & several paper cranes. Poor child put on our family read aloud for the night & one of the main characters in the book died as well as a beloved pet. To keep him from being totally annoyed I screamed out, "Enough with the dying all ready!" which caused everyone a fit of giggles. Mission accomplished.

We spent the week reading The Master Puppeteer which had sad parts within, but was mostly a book of struggle & survival to be honest, showing the feudal system of Japan. It gave a lovely view of live during that time frame for us which will probably mean even more to Morgan next year as we travel through Ancient & Medieval times. We did not end up getting to Born In The Year Of Courage & will start that next week.

Thursday dawned ominously & we were suppose to do our read aloud & math then trot down to a nearby park to meet up with homeschool friends. Mr S sent me a message around 10am telling me to batten down the hatches horrifying weather was on it's way. He's only done this one other time, when he was attempting to outrun it on his bicycle, flew up into the house & grabbed me as we dashed to collect guinea pigs out of the yard. So I asked him how bad this time. Well a couple of towns over was getting hail, flash flooding, & so on. We put our plans to go to the park on hold to see what the weather had in store, & in the end never went. Instead as I threw dinner in the crockpot for the night we had a quick schooling meeting.

The boys wanted to do a quick revisit of China to do the notebooking pages with their World Travel Diary that we'd not done previously when we studied China. If we took an entire week to revisit China & then did our final country the following week I pointed out we'd have two weeks of full school left. I suggested that if we did China on Thursday & maybe Friday before we left town we'd only have 1 week of full school left & after that it would be about an hour or two in the mornings before they'd be done for the day. They had a quick pow-wow & decided to do their Chinese review instead of going to the park since it was now raining heavily. And we did. They dutifully sat down & filled in their notebooking pages while they bickered about who took the glue stick, why one of them had the best scissors in his pencil box, & who was going to pick up the paper scraps off the floor. Yep, we could have used to run off steam, but there was that rain & occasional thunder happening..

We had 2 swim practices this week as well, but no lessons. Those were canceled, & the boys fingers are crossed it's not because the pool heater is on the fritz again. I'm pretty sure Jayden has swimming withdrawals anytime he's actually dried out & has more then 24 hours before he can get back in the pool. It was still a lighter week for them as writing was shelved, we'll pick up creative writing once our theme work is done for the year. They spelling this week, but only reviews of previous lessons as both were hung on one word that was keeping them from moving forward. I think they both conquered that issue! Science was also on hold this week, unintentionally I might add, all though Jayden brought enough bugs & beasts in the house this week to keep us all jumping. He spend a good chunk of his weekend attempting to catch seagulls too. And, while I'm really glad he didn't entirely succeed there at least he wasn't attempting to catch mice, right?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Oh So Random

Pictures like the one above are a good reason to never leave a camera lying around my home. Oh the assortment of photos I've found on both my phone & my camera can certainly cause a hysteria of laughter around here. I have no idea what he was doing, but I'm pretty sure it was random.

Considering he used the camera & you can't see yourself when you take the photo I'm wondering if he accidentally had the flash on, but knowing Jayden he was aiming for something crazy & funny to see if I'd notice. In fact, he could ask me days from now if I've noticed anything funny about my camera & I'll have to guess exactly what he meant.

The leg, which I think belongs to Mr S? Or the back of my head? Perhaps the blurry photo of a 6 month old footy match? Hmm, the video he took of himself beating up his stuffed rabbit, the one who always gets stuck being the bad guy so you'd think he didn't like it except that he once freaked out when he handcuffed it to a chair & couldn't get it loose! He might even mean the picture of Morgan glaring at him while he's got his hands on his hips, a good indication he asked him to stop taking the photo to no avail. It could really be anything, there were a few photos so blurry I'm not even sure what he was doing, most likely snapping the shutter while he spun really fast in a circle to see what kind of effect he'd come up with.

I'm saving all these crazy pictures though. I told him I was going to play the best slide show ever at his birthday, you know his 18th or maybe his 21st & then again at his wedding. And then I was going to save them all up so that when he brought his children to visit I could pull out all the photos to show them. His reply was pretty quick, "Who said I'm going to have children?" Ahh yes, well this is the child who said he wanted to name his child Shut-Up so he could scream up the stairs, "Shut-Up get down here right now!" He also debated the name Bilbo Baggins to he could scream, "I Love You Bilbo Baggins!" without anyone thinking he was too utterly weird. I tried to assure him that could never happen because we all knew he was weird, but he didn't find that as comforting as I'd intended it to be.

And now you've probably begun to see the crux of my problem. It's not the absurd photos he takes or the crazy names he thinks up, not at all. He's taken much sillier photos & come up with even crazier names that have had us laughing for days. It's the fact that I have to keep a straight face while he does all these things & take ever little bit of it seriously.

Like when he came to the school table with a cow on his head? Yeah, I haven't. Nor have I forgotten the day he screamed, in the middle of a busy department store in America, "Don't call me Jayden, my name is Wendy!" Ahh yes, we have his big brother to thank for that one. They were playing Bob The Builder prior to our shopping expedition.. Or how about the time I had to take him seriously while he had pick-up sticks jammed up his nose while we were trying to do school? And then there was the time I walked in to find him dressed in his cousin's old gymnastic outfit.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Gearing Up

Even though our current, 2013, school year isn't over yet I'm starting to gear up for next year. The rest of our current year is all mapped out for us which leaves me plenty of time to pour over the school supplies for next year that have all ready arrived at our front door.  When they first arrived I verified that everything from the packages was within the boxes & then quickly shelved items or put them in their prospective homes in order to keep us all on track for our current year. It's so hard when new items come not to be distracted by them or want to dig into them straight away, isn't it?

This past weekend I pulled out the basket of books, which only houses some of the literature that we'll be using next year, & decided to start looking through it. Some of these books I'll read aloud to one or the other of the boys. Some they'll read or listen to on their own & we'll discuss it afterwards.

I'm actually looking forward to reading through lots of these books, & my biggest dilemma was which one to start with! The Book that won out isn't even in the picture, go figure! There's also a heap more that need to be added to the basket which I tried to disguise by adding all sorts of funny things on the top of. It didn't work, the kids still found it & decided to dig through the books begging to know when we could read various ones. Let's hope they are still that excited & anxious next year when it's time for them to dig in!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

2013 Week In Review: Week 36

Only a few more weeks before our school year officially comes to a close, but for this week we were reading away. We've finished all our poetry books except Read Me. We're finished another chapter in Return Of The Word Spy, which leaves us with only one more chapter to go! We've still got a bit to go with Nanberry, but should be done with it by the end of the month. We're really enjoying the story & I think it gives a lovely perspective of more then one side of the story in regards to the first colony. We're just over three-quarters of the way through the book.

We visited India this week & the boys fell in love with the idea of rickshaws which probably had a lot to do with the fact that we read Rickshaw Girl on Monday & Tuesday. A sweet & simple story that shares the life of a less fortunate family in India. We read about a few other things common to India, but of course the boys were still really smitten with the whole idea of rickshaws.

We had a 3D puzzle for India, the Taj Mahal which lent itself well to our lessons this week as we read about that as well. The boys were a bit shocked to learn it was a tomb & not something more fancy. The dome was the most difficult part of this puzzle, all though once we realised the pieces had a top & bottom it became considerably easier to put together. Jayden did one as well but the only photo I could find was rather blurry. It was from Abu Dhabi & is an amazing hotel. We were so intrigued by it we had to google it as it wasn't part of our actual lessons. I don't think I could ever fathom staying there for a vast amount of reasons, but my it's pretty to look at.

Not sure what the scowl on his face is all about, he's busy copying the pattern from a tile in the Taj Mahal on his notebook page. He absolutely loves the ones where he gets to try his hand at making something similar to what the actual item is.

Both boys tackled more math this week. Jayden is still plucking along with his multiplication. He was so utterly convinced he didn't know his facts, yet again, that I put together an incentive plan to put an end to the "I don't think I know!" nonsense. It worked a charm this week.

Morgan paused for a bit on Lesson 12 in his faction book as he just needed time to digest all the previous information. He was also feeling overwhelmed with not knowing {or so he thought} Greatest Common Factors. Interestingly enough once the manipulatives were removed he was able to look at the problem & know the answers which was a lovely boost of confidence for him.

After wrapping up Rickshaw Girl we settled in for The Horse & His Boy, but thanks to Audible we listened to it. I can tell my phone to play my audible books through our television, thanks to the compatibility with the apple tv box. It's actually really nice because I can push play on my phone & we can listen through the tv meaning there's no more kids screaming, "I'm not close enough I can't hear!" Instead they can each work on their own thing while they listen. 

Morgan wrapped up another chapter in his science. He's really aiming to be done with it before the end of the year, which would be lovely because done or not we'll simply move on to his book for next year. He doesn't hate it, but he's really struggling with the lack of hands on experiments. They are in there but most of them we've either done before or seen done, & because he learns best by hearing, seeing, doing he's feeling a little frustrated with the lack of "do". 

We had another 3 days of swim this week. The boys are still needing to work on their form with diving, but have come a long way on all of it. I'm looking forward to a summer break from it though, to be honest. We're debating what they'll each decide to take up for next year, be it continuing with swimming or moving on to another sport.

Our home school group put on a lovely Sports Carnival that the boys absolutely loved. One of the Mum's went all out with it & did a fantastic job setting it all up. Morgan really excelled at High Jump which impressed Mr S who could never quite tackle that one. The boys loved that the Mum's did a relay race in the end as well, all though perhaps they missed that some of us also helped with one of the team relay races. Which was more like me running madly towards a line screaming, "Which line? WHICH LINE?!" Pretty awkward when you turn around & realise the person you thought was running behind you hasn't even headed your way yet. We all came back exhausted, happy, & a bit too pink from the sun. Such a lovely way to wrap up our week!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Another Quilt

I've been battling one of those dreadful migraines, on & off, for the past week. We've had whacky weather with that Typhoon out there & with the varying air pressures it can often effect my head. Sometimes the best medicine is keeping myself distracted from the misery of the headache. Which led me to the craft room last week to tackle one of many projects I've had flagged to do for a while.

I thumbed through my Audible Library for some of the books I've been meaning to listen to & discovered that they finally fixed the problems that were going on with the final instalment of the Beatrix Potter Cottage Tales story. I was absolutely delighted! The series follows Beatrix through her life in the Lake District where, in the stories, she often solves mysteries. Sometimes with the help of the little animals she drew in her stories.  They make a lovely listen to, especially when you've waited a good 2 years to hear how on earth she & Mr Heelis finally come to be married!

While I listened I dug through the scrap material basket & found myself cutting out one tiny rectangle after another. I need quite a few for the scrap zig-zag quilt I'm making. I spotted it a while back & thought it would be a great way to use up lots of the little bits left over from other projects, but of course I spotted it after I'd finally gotten rid of a bunch of the scraps that had been in the basket for ages. I might have to dig through the baskets of other material & see what I can find.

The instructions suggested no more then 10 from each type of material to help it carry on with the scrap feel, but I've seen other zig-zag scrap quilts where they didn't even blend up the colours & it still looked beautiful. So we'll see what comes of what we've got. I've cut out even more since I took the picture, & considering my head is still pretty iffy on the dizzy & pain side I might end up with a considerable amount more done before the month is up.

The upside is I'll finally find out if Miss Potter solves her current conundrum or not. Surely she will, she's yet to let one slip under nose yet! And when I finish that book up I have the latest Goldie Locks Catering book to read too. I'd nearly forgotten about that, is it possible?! Until I debated hunting down a book at the library while I was waiting on the kids this week. I always do a mental inventory of what books I'm currently reading before I hunt things down there. Surely I'm not the only one? Mind you, my mental inventory isn't always spot on when I'm migrainal, after all I did go to the Mystery section & hunt down the A section of authors to find the Miss Potter book I'm currently listening to!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Story Of A Baby..

Many months ago we were having some work done on our garden. By garden I simply mean our entire yard. When we moved in to our current abode the garden was a mess & the only way to keep up with the various beds around the yard was to have them mulched. So, we hired a fellow, who if you're local is extremely good at his job, to weed & mulch our garden beds.

The only thing was that I never knew for sure when he'd show up. This wasn't an issue because he was content to work away if we were home or not, but if we were home he liked to let us know he was out & about in the yard.  So each day when I'd go off to have a morning shower, should I not get one in before the boys were up, I'd tell them that if the fellow came just to tell him I was busy & they'd let me know he was here.

One day, however, Jayden was in a right bother about the whole thing. Why couldn't he just tell this fellow I was in the shower? What difference did it make if he thought I was in the shower or just "busy". So he asked if he could tell the man something else entirely, like exactly what I was doing. To which I said absolutely not because I didn't want people wandering up to the door knowing exactly what I was busy doing. This went on for a few days until I finally said, "Fine, if he comes to the door you can tell him I'm feeding the baby." Jayden was delighted with this new plan. Unfortunately, for him, he never had to use the excuse.

Now, if you know Jayden you'll understand how deeply disappointed he was, & so it happened one day that while I was in the shower Nana called. Now, I confess I don't always answer the phone when Nana calls. This is not because I am ignoring my mother-in-law, but because often times I like to keep the forward rolling movement happening & I can return calls at a later time. However, one day while I was busy Jayden decided to answer the phone when Nana called.

He gave her a long song & dance all about how I was very busy feeding the baby. What baby could Mummy be feeding? Oh the little 2 year old she looks after, it's a bit naughty at times because it's a baby, but Mummy is very good at making the baby behave. Oh his story went on & on. He did everything but name this imaginary child he'd created. He told Nana what I was feeding the baby, which parts of the meal it liked, which parts it tried to throw, etc. He even went so far as to say, "Hold on Nana.." & pull the phone away from his face long enough to make a funny baby sound.

At which point I'd walked into the room & thought he was clowning around with the phone so I yanked it away from him & said, "Hello?" Nana told me she didn't want to keep me long as she knew I was very busy with the little one & understood how I'd probably be happy to get it laid down for a nap. My head was spinning because I had absolutely no idea what she meant. Jayden, however, knew exactly what she meant & was laughing so hard we couldn't get a word out of him.

Over the many months {a year actually now} that this happened "the baby" has been the excuse of a great many things going awry. Who used the last of the Peanut Butter? The baby. Who drank the last of the milk? The Baby, obviously. Who dropped legos all over the hall? Only a baby would do that! And on the list goes, it's quite lengthy this stuff the baby gets up to. I'm pretty sure it's on par with their imaginary friend Jimmy who's not made an appearance in a god 3 years now.

I'd like to say I'm glad Jimmy no longer shows face, but the last time he did was so hilarious I laughed for a week.  Jimmy called Jayden while we were on a walk & asked him to do all sorts of naughty things from giving his brother a wedgie to throwing rocks at the birds. Jayden told Jimmy, quite pointedly, how naughty he was & that he wouldn't let him come over to play anymore if he tried that kind of nonsense as Jayden was quite sure Mummy would get very angry. To which Jimmy, caught in the act, said, "It was my cousin, Jerry! He made me do it! I'd never do those horrible awful things. Please let me come over & play again!"

Now, you'd think all this nonsense about Baby & Jimmy would have been over & done with by now wouldn't you? After all Jayden is 10 now & he doesn't do the whole imaginary friend thing. But Jayden is, after all, Jayden. Except when he demands we call him Jack, because his initials spell out: JAC. I digress.. The point is while Jimmy & Jerry have gone off to help some other child along through dull & dreary days Baby has not.

This afternoon, after nursing a migraine, jotting down school plans for next year, & watching the umpteenth, rather corny, stop motion video the kids had made I confiscated the ipod. This always causes angst until I firmly say, "It is mine you know. Daddy did give it to me as a Christmas gift." Of course I pretend not to hear the, "But you gave it back to him when he gave you an iphone!" or the, "But you said it could be ours now!" Instead I generally slip it in my pocket to put an end to all craziness.

Not today. Today I decided to peek at it. For you see, there is always a heap of videos on the crazy thing because at least one of my children happens to think they are a lovely director of films. Are they? I really couldn't comment or Jimmy might come & get me & then i'd have to blame Baby for all the things that would unfold. The point is my children are incredibly naughty, at times, when they think no one is watching. Scarier yet, I sit there giving no heed to any of it.

What?! You don't believe me? Ahh, well I found so many films upon the ipod I decided to sort through them. Jayden had at least 3 tours of the house on it, he screamed CUT each time he entered the bathroom & realised no one had cleaned it up. I didn't check the dates, but I'm willing to be it was a M, W, or F, thus his day to take on said duty. I discovered that instead of saying rude things he just screams BLEEEEEEEP or makes a high pitched squeal. It doesn't matter if all he was going to say was "Shut up" or "stupid".  I discovered he's quite adept at sneaking up on his older brother who is, I discovered, often entombed in a pile of lego deep enough to be consider a choking hazard.

But the top of the iceburg was a video from only a few days ago when he'd decided to give a tour of the home. I'd share it here, but honestly he'd probably be highly embaressed & there's a few of those annoying BLEEEEPS or the camera shakes like mad, is tipped upside down, & in general made me seasick. Instead I shall attempt to do it justice by describing it.

It starts out in his own room where he offers a tour of our home. He claims it's the room where the director of all amazing films lives. He gets a close up of his brother on the floor surrounded by lego & says, "Except for this filthy horrible SCREECH lego mess."

He dashes down the hall & shows you the room I quilt in & Nana stays in when she visits. Upside down, of course. Then twirls the camera so fast I can't decide if my quilt blocks are falling off the ironing board or if I'm falling off my chair. Before I can decide he's running down the hallway again showing you the bathroom. It was my day to clean it & it's in beautiful shape complete with a freshly moped floor. He tells us it's the bathroom, his bathroom. He forgets he shares it with company & his brother. He flips the camera upside down to avoid putting a toilet clip in the film, thankfully. We've got enough videos with a filthy toilet in it to last us a life time. All though again I have the feeling I'm falling out of my chair.

Then he shows his brothers room & says, "I'm not suppose to be in here." At which point I hide a snicker. Then his lips are touching the camera screen & he says, "Shh, I'll show you where baby sleeps, but you must not tell anyone I showed you. You can't see the baby, that would be wrong as we might wake baby up. Mom would not appreciate that. I will show you where baby sleeps though."

He tiptoes into the spare room. trips over a couple of bicycles & then spins the camera as he attempts to move the giant Christmas star we never hung up last year. Then he leans forward points to a gaudy beanbag chair & says, "She's under there!" Then he backs up slowly & says, "Don't wake her up!"

Then a rather realistic baby cry starts & he stops dead, flashes to his face which is a look of horror & says, "We're in trouble now! It's okay though, I have an idea." He flashes away from his face & a horrific baby crying sound starts." He dashes all the way up our mile long hallway flashes the camera upon me, I was reading my Bible & totally ignoring him, & says, "Mom, the baby woke up! I'm really sorry about that, I know you are busy. I can tell you how it happened. It all begins with Morgan.." I never flinch. I never move. He gives up & shows my room to the camera instead.

And so I am left with only one thing to do.. I make a video myself & leave it upon the ipod. It doesn't take much effort. I simply tell them all I need their help with a little job & before I know it I have the house to myself where I can sneak off to my walk in closet & record a video. T

When he's all settled down in the lounge room reading his latest library book & he thinks he's safe I flip on the apple tv. I slip out & sync the ipod with the tv & allow my video to play. Moments later he's rolling on the floor screaming with laughter. I figure it's a complete success as I stand around the corner watching him. And then, just as I'm blowing the biggest nosiest raspberry at him I can, Mr S walks in the door looks around & says, "Ah, I see Mummy finally lost it then, huh?"

Monday, November 11, 2013

Language Arts

My boys have never done an official Language Arts curriculum before. In the early years they learned a variety of "language arts" skills through the Five In A Row Curriculum. They didn't learn the run of the mill typical things you tend to teach children at that age either. We learned parts of speech through Mad Libs, even if they did come out in generally funny ways. Punctuation was learned, mostly, through a lot of copywork.

The past year or two we've been reading The Word Spy & Return Of The Word Spy which my boys are totally crazy about. We've learned a lot about the history of the English Language, had lots of refreshers on parts of speech, enjoyed trying our hands at Pig Latin, & learned a plethora of other incredible stuff.

Next year I thought it might be good to put everything my kids have learned into practice. Or is it that I'm testing their knowledge now?  Either way I thought they'd enjoy the Language Arts programmes from Winter Promise where you solve a mystery all year long. The idea being that as they apply what they know to their lessons they'll gather clues to solve various mysteries.

Aside from math this will the boys first experience with workbooks, all though because we've got the digital versions it'll look more like a bound notebook. I like that the programme is broken down into 4 workbooks that are filled with 9 weeks worth of work. That's perfect for our family as we do a 4 term school year, & regardless of how long each term is it'll be pretty easy for the boys to see how much they need to accomplish each term.

I'm pretty keen to see how the boys go with it. And, in case you're wondering they'll each be using a different level. I've just happened to select the two levels that are year long mysteries even though they aren't quite on the kids grade level. I'm not entirely worried about that aspect of it as much as seeing how much they've retained over the years & filling in any blanks we might have.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

My Bible

Earlier this year Morgan lamented that he was struggling to read his Bible on his own. It wasn't the words or the size of the print, but understanding what some of the words meant. I had to really stop & think about this for a while & what my plan of action would be. I wanted him to want to read his Bible, I wanted him to be able to do it on his own, but when one can read a book without understanding a words inside it doesn't become something you enjoy.

So I did something that was rather new & unheard of for me. I decided to investigate Bible versions. In the end I settled on getting the boys each a Holman Bible, but considering I didn't own one that was going to make things difficult for me to read along with them. I also thought it might be wiser if I had the same version as them so that if we were each reading a book of the Bible on our own & discussing it later if there was a questions based on words used or whatever I'd know what they meant.

Upon searching through what was available I settled on a lovely Holman Study Bible. I was debating between it & another Holman when I had the opportunity to view the other one in a local shop. I wasn't at all pleased with it & thus went for the study version. Of course the fact that the study version came in my very favourite colour was pretty cool too, I've never had a Bible in my favourite colour. It's just one of those things, like trying to find my name on a personalised item. They don't exist. Needless to say I was pretty excited!

At the start of each book there's a timeline running along the introductory pages that tell you about the book itself, the author, & the outline of the book. We all enjoy peeking at the timeline seeing where certain things fell in time with others. I think this will be even more significant next year with Morgan's Ancient History studies.

Like most Bibles it has maps in it as well, but these maps are right there within the texts where you're reading so you can see where the people you're reading about were traveling to & from. Whenever I'm reading & there's a map I usually get swarmed by children who want to see the map, know exactly what each symbol means & before I know it they've taken my Bible away to explore it for themselves!

Then there's the pictures on the same page as the text as well. These are often locations that you are reading about, suspected locations that you are reading about, or pictures of ancient artefacts pertaining to the timeframe you are reading about. I really love the visuals, & it has quite a few sprinkle throughout it. In fact it also has an oil lamp in it which didn't look at all as we'd envisioned!

It's got quite a bit of other fun stuff in it such as some Hebrew Word studies for various words used throughout the Bible. The idea being to help you see how & why they translated it as they did. There's a lot of nitty gritty included with that as well. There's also definitions of names of various people & places within as well which we always find pretty interesting too.

The only downer about it is that the pages are, like most Bibles, pretty thin for writing with some pens on. I'd also love this Bible without all the excess study notes for each verse, but there's some good info there too if you needed/wanted it. All in all I'm pleased with the choice & of even though it's not my children's Bible they seem to get a good kick out of looking through it too! You can't really complain about that can you?

If you live in the US you can get this Bible at CBD a bit cheaper then Book Depository, all though I don't know how much once you calculate shipping in to it.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

2013 Week In Review: Week 34

We've reached the point in our school year where the boys are keeping track of exactly how many weeks of school they have left. I feel it with them, that longing to be done & spend the day doing other things. So much going on around us & we're quickly waning.

We're down to 4 more weeks of our main theme for the year & then the boys will continue with a bit of math & science until it's either finished or they reach Christmas Holidays. Both are pretty keen to wrap up their books before the end of the year. I don't know if either of them will reach that goal, but they can most certainly reach the goal of finishing them before next school year.

In the mean time we seem to be wrapping up a new book each week & filing it back on our shelf. It's a lovely feeling to see so many goals & accomplishments being met at this point in our year. We've wrapped up a few more books this week as well which was very exciting for all involved.

Tuesday our car was in the shop thanks to some pesky leaks in a couple of the hoses. The boys & I dropped off the car & walked down to the water front to spread out & do school. Our library doesn't open until 930 & we wanted to get cracking on our studies. We might have taken the day off had it not been that we had Monday off thanks to a public holiday. We spent the morning reading lots of our books down by the water before the needs for a bathroom break & lunch drove us up into town.

After lunch we hit the library for math. I brought my laptop along so Morgan could watch his math lecture. We'd scoped out a nice quite corner of the library & apparently it was so lovely & quiet everyone else who came in to study & watch movies joined our area. There was a girl with green hair behind us who kept bursting out at odd moments with laughter due to something she was watching on her ipad. Jayden kept focus long enough to do math & then I let him go find a couple of books before roping him into a writing assignment. Morgan managed another 3 lessons in math this week. When he can easily blow through a few pages of new information without hesitating I let him move right into a new lesson the next day. In general MUS lessons take a week so that you watch your lecture & practice on Monday, have more practice on Tuesday & Wednesday, & then review past

Jayden is only doing one lesson per week still in his math book which is right where he needs to be. He actually needs to keep brushing up on his multiplication facts, which he's been doing. He looks at the book & complains he can't do the work & when I ask why he says silly things like, "I don't know what 7x4 is!" & I say, "That's odd because you've always remembered the fire truck story before." Those are clues to the story associated with the math fact which then triggers what the answer is. So he's back to using the flash cards from our lovely Times Alive programme & I encouraged him to make sure I do them with him at least 1x before he sits down with his math.

Bible for us from now through the end of our school year will just be our devotional, Keys For Kids, & reading Proverbs. We picked up a free Bible study for Christmas that we'll do as well, most likely starting the first week of December.  If you're interested we found it here. I've printed it out & will bind up the boys papers into books for them.

We wrapped up Jayden's animal poetry book this week as well. I think we'll miss this one with it's lovely art work & fun animal poems. We'll continue with the Read Me book which has a poem per day in it. I'm debating starting another one that I found free for Kindle, or downloadable as a pdf, but I haven't decided if I'll wait till next year for it or not.

We're still using our Memory box each day, all though someone has lost our Daily divider. Our box had a spill recently when the guys were playing a rambunctious game of morning chess. Someone's pawn dramatically removed their opponent's piece from the board with the sweeping motion along went the memory box! Everything slipped back into place except the illusive Daily card. So strange.. Those are the flash cards that go along with our Times Alive! programme. The pictures on those cards are clues to stories. All I have to do is mention any portion of the story, even just a character, & the kids instantly recall the missing numbers. This is especially helpful when they from the multiplication to division transfer.

Both boys were back to writing & spelling this week. All be it not as much spelling as I wanted considering Monday was a holiday & our programme is a bit hard to take on the road so we didn't do it on Tuesday either. Writing however, was done! They both were using some new books we were given to review & both loved them very much. Morgan is writing his written narration down. He tells me about it first & I write it all down for him, then we go through it together adding in punctuation & editing it to a few sentence summary. Then he copies it down in his own handwriting & pops it in his notebook. Jayden requested a story with action & war in it, so we delivered. He was delighted!

We studied Iraq this week which triggered a bit of information on Babylon, which makes them all eager to pop on more of their Drive Thru history dvds to see if they can find anything in them about what we learned. Morgan is counting bricks in a picture that shows a relief that was made for King Nebuchadnezzar II. The bricks were specially made to form a mythical create, which at first we thought was a giraffe, but then noticed it had bird like feet & a lion like tail. I like that a lot of this information they are learning geographically this year will be revisited next year in a historical way as Morgan hits Ancients.

We finished reading Shadow Spinner this week which is pretty high action & cliff hanger'ish' with each chapter. I will pre-warn that the story takes place, mostly, in a Harem. There's no discussion of what that is or what takes place within one. It's simply the story of how Shaharazad saved the women & introduces a girl name Marjan & how she helped Shaharazad. My boys were on the edge of their seats the entire time & 3 days later are still discussing the outcome of the book.

Children Of Many Lands was our spine about Iraq this week & lent itself well to giving the kids a rounded view of what Iraq is like in the aftermaths of war. Unfortunately, Hungry Planet & Material World showed a better more glossy view of life in Iraq & Saudi Arabia. In fact the family in Hungry Planet had an elevator within their home. This made the task of writing what children in war torn Iraq are struggling with a tad hard when the children really just wondered why we didn't have an elevator in our home.. Never mind that we have a one story house, but anyway..

The boys are so excited to see how full their Travel Diaries are becoming as we are down to 4 final stops along our path this year. They want to bind their notebooks up at the end of the year to have a proper bound book of their studies, which I'm all for. Jayden's will have a few less countries as he didn't join Morgan until after Morgan had half crossed Europe. As a total aside there was a programme on the other night with 3 geographical questions in it. The fact that the contestants couldn't answer them was extremely disturbing as they were not difficult questions. I looked at Mr S & said, "That's really quite sad, your children could answer those questions!" So, I put the boys to it the next morning, & they did, indeed, answer all three questions. I'm glad to know at least they are remembering that which they learn.

Swim practice x2 & swim lessons were on this week. Morgan struggled a little with swim lessons as he has a lingering barking cough from his cold that his effected when he runs or moves quickly or with great exertion. His cough is normal to us in regards to sound, but it's very asthmatic sounding & has had Drs worried for a while. I guess I didn't consider how awful it sounded until he started hacking & everyone at the pool got quiet & turned to find the child who sounded like he was incapable of breathing. Whoops!

The boys were made to work pretty hard at lessons this week putting all their skills to the test as they worked on more survival stuff. Above, Jayden is suppose to be doing the back float while keeping the ball between his knees. He was the only student who made it the entire way around the pool without losing the ball, but then Jayden is so incredibly relaxed in a back float that normally his legs are crossed & his arms are behind his head.

Next week we stop off in India & the boys have a big sports day coming up with our homeschool group. Here's hoping Morgan's cough has subsided by then!

Friday, November 8, 2013

A Peek At Winter Promise

I've been busy looking through some of our curriculum for next year & marking things within our guides that is pertinent to us in some way. Next year Jayden will be using Winter Promise's Adventure In Sea & Sky. This was completely his choice. Actually he wanted to do it this year but he changed his mind to Animal Worlds which was a wee bit below him all though he enjoyed his time with it.

He's really taking to crafting lately & wanting to build things that relate to whatever passion or game he's into at that moment. I know he'll enjoy a lot of the hands on experiences he'll get next year & I'm always pleased to see the lists in the front of the guides that will help us gather up the materials we'll need for the upcoming year. It also provides a lovely check-list for choosing which activities you want to do. Because I'm gearing my children more & more towards total independence with their schooling I prefer to pick activities I know he'll have little trouble completing mostly on his own.

The guides are always chock full of information relating to a wide variety of information, all of which I enjoy reading through & highlighting. All though, chances are I'm probably highlighting some of the stuff in each guide.. when my highlighter works.

The beginning of your guides are really worth the read & explain the reason & methods behind Winter Promise. There's a lot of lovely quotes up there in the front information, like the fact that they didn't include the vast amount of projects, hands on learning experiences, & reading for you to do everything. Rather they provide it so that regardless of what way your child{ren} learns best you can easily find something that suits, & you know, that's been very true for our family. When we used our very first Winter Promise Theme I had one who was very hands on while the the other was super content to just listen & record.

There's typical things in the front of your guide as well like the book list you'll need to get the most out of your year, a variety of ways to arrange your guide and/or student pages, info about the resources you'll be using, & a section all on getting prepared for your upcoming study. There's even a section about ideas for field trips for the year.

There's an entire section in the front of your guides, as well, all about teaching using Charlotte Mason Ideals. Suggestions for adapting those philosophies that work with the Winter Promise Curriculum, & a our modern time period. Another section about ideas for grading if you live in an area where it's mandatory, or simply want to do it, & a section about Multiple Intelligences.

There's a section, one of my favourite, about helping adapt the curriculum to your needs, be it because your children have different learning styles or because you've had, what I now call, an "Aunt Lucy" moment.  Why? Because there's a really awesome quote that I love reading each time I open up a WP Theme. It goes a little something like this: "Did Great Aunt Lucy send you a simply marvellous book that your child can't wait to read? Schedule them in even if it means you have to pass up on an assignment. It's worth missing an assignment now & again to pursue something that caught your child's fancy."

One of my favourite new resources in the new or updated guides is the list of Timeline Figures so you know which ones you need & when you'll need them. It's also helpful so I can tick off ones we might have all ready added into our nifty Timeline Notebooks in prior studies.

I bind my whole thing up, as I mentioned above, & use Erasable Post-It tabs to divide it into sections. I like to keep the index tab clearly marked, thus it's often a different colour then the rest. Other things I choose to mark with my tabs are: grading info, CM info, narration ideas, timeline dates, & of course a weekly tab for where ever we are within the lovely guide.