Tuesday, September 28, 2010

When God plans the lessons

 With these ant farms for kids, kids watch the ant artists in action as they transform the sand design you created into their own patterns!

My daughter got an ant farm a while back and we finally got around to sending in for the ants. Why did we wait so long? I have no idea.

They arrived, we prepped their "farm" and poured them in. They are quite the center of attention now. Of course, we did have to ponder why they carry the name "ant farm." What are they growing? Or, are they herding cattle? They aren't raising ants, so "ant farm" isn't kind of the wrong name. (Like a children's museum -- is that where you go to look at children? -- Ah well, welcome to our family dinner table discussions).

Interestingly enough, we just decided last week to jump to the insect section of our science book while bugs could still be found outside. And, we subscribe to God's World News and they have an article about insects and reinforce everything we read in science. Love when God plans the lessons, because I could never have orchestrated this so well.

I forgot how good a real life object lesson can be. Nathan cannot stay away from the ants. I get a report every five minutes about what new thing the little guys are up to. Tomorrow we'll break back open the books and put some facts behind our observation. And, of course, I have a pile of books I just picked up from the library on insects, and a DVD too!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Passport to India

We cheated. Started a week early.

Hope you heard and joined, and are getting excited as well.

Each year Sonlight spearheads an effort to raise money for a mission-oriented task. This year we are off to India, passports in hand, sort of.

The package arrived in the mail over the weekend, and I decided to open it today during Bible time. Each child has a passport and we will be learning through videos twice a week starting next week. More about India, more about missions, more about children's Bible clubs.

Every dollar we plunk in the little suitcase is one more child that can attend the club. Well, actually it is TWO more children because Sonlight matches every dollar we send in.

My kids scrambled to their rooms looking for spare change, and some not so spare change. Day one -- $22 in the suitcase. So thankful for their generosity.

Faith says, "That's 22 kids! No, wait, that's 44 kids! Radical!" (Don't know where that term comes from in this day and age, but she was clearly excited. And, yeah, this is pretty radical.)

And, we're not done yet. Six more weeks to add to the box and see where we end up. Will you join us?

Check out the fun introductory video at My Passport to India. My kids got a kick out of that and ran off to find more money to put in the box.

It may be too late to get a welcome kit sent to you, but you can still follow along and get your kids excited about giving to help other kids hear the good news. For more information, check out Sonlight's website.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Verse of the week -- II Corinthians 2:14

My one word description of Motherhood is "constantness." Google the word and aside from the references to physics, it comes up time and again related to motherhood.

Motherhood never quits. Laundry continually accumulates. Kids need to eat on a daily basis. And, eating requires dishwashing, grocery shopping, menu planning, and on and on in a vicious cycle. Homeschooling is a long-term commitment. Character doesn't grow on its own. Moms work around the clock.

It simply never ends, and the rare moment of feeling "caught up" usually is just a passing fad. Sleep merely prolongs the inevitable, another day of demands. And, if you declare a holiday for yourself, it likely just means double, or triple, the work the following day.

Obviously, I enjoy many aspects of mothering as well. The snuggles, the "I wuv oo," the closeness, the discoveries, the relationships, and much more. But, sometimes I get bogged down in the constantness of the work and challenges and forget to consider those aspects.

As I drove to church this weekend, I wallowed in the fact that we would arrive horrifically late once again. Lately that has become the pattern. I am thankful for a church with a long service, otherwise sometimes we would miss half of it. I know this is just a phase with a baby and lots of other insanity, but it still bothers me.

As I fretted, a thought struck me.

One of those God moments. He speak so much more clearly when I come to the end of myself. I bemoaned the constantness of my role, and suddenly realized that the constantness of my life is outmatched by the constantness of God.

Had to be a verse for this, and it ran me over during the service. II Corinthians 2:14 says, "But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place."

Through me! As I plod through the piles of dirty clothes and the unfolded baskets of clean ones, through the sinks of dishes and the overcooked meal I prepared, through my failures and chores, my successes and moments, God leads. And, He leads not to weariness, but to TRIUMPH!

I savored the last phrase, and especially the last two words. "Every place." Through my role as mom His aroma wafts into each situation. His knowledge overpowers the drudgery like fabric softener from the dryer vent. The steam escaping from a freshly washed load of dishes has nothing on His fragrance that is unignorable.

He's there. He's always there. His Godness outplays the constantness of life every moment. I just need to look. He's leading the way constantly.

Life has some serious competition, or maybe I need to realize that life is no competition in comparison to my God.

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.
~II Corinthians 2:14~

Enjoy more ways to Making Your Home Sing

Friday, September 17, 2010

Loving it!

Over the years my teaching methods and curriculum picks have changed based on our kids' ages and other factors. We have definitely acquired some favorites that have helped us enjoy homeschooling and I love sharing and reading about others' favorites. If you enjoy finding what people love and why check out this week's cruise topic (all the links should be posted on Tuesday, September 21) that covers favorite resources.

Sources we loved for a season:

Konos -- One of my all time favorites, but it seemed to become unrealistic when I had more than a couple kids. Konos is a unit study approach and has lots of great book recommendations. It also overflows with hands-on ideas great for the kinesthetic learner, or even just the ordinary kid. I will never forget all we learned constructing our own beaver dam, unforgettable experiences!

Sonlight -- I love the organization of Sonlight. Great books, corresponding questions and background info. Works with an age spread of a few years. Again, once we started having more than a four year age spread I would have needed to add another core, and I barely found time in my day to do one core, so I knew that was not realistic. I love Sonlight, but it doesn't fit our family right now. I do still purchase sporadic things from them, but not the complete cores any more.

Ambleside Online --A free "curriculum." Ambleside Online follows a Charlotte Mason philosophy (short lessons, living books, lots of discussion and time out of doors). I love her approach, and this website that bears the name of Mason's hometown is a wonderful resource. We used it almost exclusively for a couple years, and then, again, I found it a struggle with so many different levels going at once. And, I found that I really like to do things together as a family, so having them all reading all over the place had us more separated than I liked. However, we have AO to thank for introducing us to dozens of amazing books that I might not have read otherwise. Also, a great resource for those on a very tight budget. Much of what they use can be found online for free.

Loving in this season:

All About Spelling -- We met last year, and I wondered immediately where this had been all my homeschooling life. While it is all about spelling, it is also about phonics, hands-on learning, and a great foundation for reading. This is one of those review products that still gets used on a daily basis around here.

Rod and Staff -- Although they offer a complete line of products, we have most appreciated their English curriculum. I tried it one year and the next year I bought the rest. This is the only subject that we use the same company's materials from start (2nd grade) to finish (8th grade). High standards, clear concepts, traditional teaching. No fluff. Love the foundation this has given each of my kids in proper grammar.

Mystery of History -- As much as I love volume 3, I am equally excited to finish it to get another volume to try out. We go through a week every two weeks so we can really spend time on the material and all the great activities, websites, and other resources that this book has to offer. We do this together as a whole school, infant through 8th grade.

Apologia's Exploring Creation -- a new one for us this year and I wish I had not balked at the price for so long. My K-4 students love this book and I also bought the complementing notebook and it is so well put together I am glad I did. It makes teaching the book even more effortless. More than I usually spend on something, but I'm glad I did.
Before Five in a Row -- another new one this year for my little ones. We just finished one book so far, Caps for Sale, and really enjoyed the addition of the activities and conversation starters in BFIAR. We also enjoyed the accompanying lapbooks we found at . . .

Homeschool Share -- While we have enjoyed the lapbooks here the most, Homeschool Share is a wealth of knowledge not to be ignored by any conscientious homeschooler. Especially in the early years, we often pull ideas and activities from this bottomless website.

I have even more to share that we are using and enjoying right now, but those are the big ones, and the rest will have to wait for another post. Until I get that together, be sure to check out what others are saying about their favorite homeschool resources.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Weekly Wrap Up

For the first time in a long time I have a few moments to spare before 11:30 at night.

And, since we near the end of a week, I figured I would wrap up what we have done with our schooling as that consumes many of our waking hours.

Tomorrow we will finish our second official week back at school. I should take a few posts and share about our new schedule, curriculum choices, and other changes we made for the brand new year, but we'll see . . .

Here are some of our highlights so far, in the order they typically appear in our daily routine:

Bible -- we continue to enjoy this book entitled Big Truths for Young Hearts. It tackles really weighty topics (like, why only Jesus can save us from our sins) in bite size chunks using kid-friendly language. It offers many Scripture passages to explore and a couple questions to check kids' comprehension. We also are working on memorizing Proverbs 3, but for some reason I keep forgetting to pull it out and work on it together.

Worship -- Nathan loves this part and won't let us miss it. He says, "Mom can we sing One Way? We have to sing it because it is my favorite and I really want to worship the Lord!" His enthusiasm and sincerity always make me smile and get the rest of us in the mood. We often sing three songs: one hymn, one contemporary worship song, and one kids praise/action song.

Faith (4th grade) -- This year I broke my day down by child so I spend a half hour or so with each one going over work from the day before, teaching new concepts, and assigning new work. Faith is especially enjoying All About Spelling level 2 and doing more independent work in her other subjects.

Blake (8th grade) -- Lots of new stuff this year. More reading, more writing, more math, more work. He's adjusting, but this has been a big challenge, for both of us. I will have to share more about the literature we are using another time -- Literary Analysis.

Paige (6th grade) -- Loving to read on her own. Great memory and perception as we read and discuss our readings. Ready to start Saxon 8/7 after taking the final test in 7/6 this week. She is also teaching Nathan to read which saves me some time and gives them some good time together. He was already over a third of the way through Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, so she is just picking it up from there.

Brooke and Nathan (1st and K) -- I find it easier to work with them together since they are fairly close in age and ability. The are both amazing readers compared to my other kids which makes teaching them much easier. We use All About Spelling Level 1 and they have caught on much quicker than I expected. We all love, love, love this curriculum. They have also spent a lot of time typing lately with Talking Fingers. This is a review product right now (reviews are getting posted on my other website, the Chicagoland Homeschool Network), and they are having a great time with it. Wish that was around when my oldest was learning to read.

PE -- This has often fallen by the wayside in previous years, so this year I turned over some of the planning to my son. He comes up with ideas, and I flesh them out and implement them. We take walks, jog a bit, play soccer, and practice Presidential Fitness tests. We all need the activity and having him help in the idea searching has made this a more practical part of our day.

Study time -- I love this time of day. :-) I never had this specifically in our schedule, but now the kids have two times when the older ones need to determine their own course of action and tackle their assignments. This has worked well and gives me time to help little ones, nurse the baby, or pop around to each of the kids to answer questions as needed.

History -- Continuing with Mystery of History 3, which we started part way through last year, we are spending two weeks on each week. This gives us a week to really review and dig into the information. We studied Mary Tudor, Elizabeth I, and John Knox these weeks. We are loosely related to Lady Jane Grey, so of course we needed to learn a bit about the "Nine Day Queen." We took a pretest to see what we already knew. Blake quipped, "So, if the pretest comes before hand, then the protest comes after?"

Science -- Apologia's Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day has given us a great jump into the school year. I splurged and bought their notebooks as well. Zoology, conversations about dinosaurs and extinction. A great year so far for all the kids together.

Nature walk -- Great time of year for this. We found caterpillars, lots of plants and bugs to identify, ripe soybeans (in the farmer's field) an interesting feather, and more. We check it out, talk about it, compare it to other creatures we've seen, and go home and look it up on the computer to find out even more.

Drama club -- we have started a drama club that meets once a month. Our first meeting seemed to go well. Using scripts adapted from Christian Scripts, and ice breakers and games from here, here and here.

In evenings right now we have soccer and AWANA which keeps us plenty busy, but still gives us time together as a family a few nights a week. Busy, but wouldn't have it any other way. Full, blessed, and enjoying my six amazing kids that keep life interesting.

Amazed at how well this year is rolling along already. Even as I type this at 9:00 at night I realize that I will need to tear Brooke and Nathan away from their Language workbooks soon and send them to bed. They love working together and helping each other when they get stuck. I feel like I hardly need to teach them!

That's the way to wrap up a couple good weeks of schooling, more wrap ups at Weird Unsocialized Homeschooling.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Verse of the week -- Psalm 144:1,2

This is not something I normally do, but it happened to me and in spite of me, so I couldn't really help it.

In prepping for the upcoming school year I have tried to spend some extra time in prayer and Scripture reading. As I got going recently I had my Bible open to Psalm 144. I started reading, not really feeling settled in. Suddenly I realized that this was my chapter.

The words started leaping off the page saying, "Build on this, hold on to it."

We start school tomorrow. We have never taken such a break from school and never had such an official start day as this year. I need something to cling to because I feel the weight of all we need to get done this year bearing down on me. Five kids now officially school age, a newborn needing love and snuggles, and anything else that life feels like throwing at us.

I started to read, "1Blessed be the LORD my strength which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight: 2My goodness, and my fortress; my high tower, and my deliverer; my shield, and he in whom I trust; who subdueth my people under me."

Everyday I enter the battle field for my children's minds, for their souls. God's strength sustains me. He teaches me how to master the enemies of laziness, indulgence, and worldliness. I do not face the day alone. And, succeed or fail, He is there again the next day to do it all again.

Through His strong defenses I find the ability to "subdue" my children and help them to thrive, nurtured and protected.

He protects us from the lies and false teaching that have become so prevalent in modern times. He helps me to work so "That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; that our daughters may be as corner stones, polished after the similitude of a palace."

The end result brings happiness, "Happy is that people, that is in such a case: yea, happy is that people, whose God is the LORD." What a rich psalm, and though I have never claimed a chapter for a new school year, I don't think it would be a bad habit to start, and I have definitely found the one we will cling to this year. Psalm 144

1Blessed be the LORD my strength which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight: 2My goodness, and my fortress; my high tower, and my deliverer; my shield, and he in whom I trust; who subdueth my people under me.

~Psalm 144:1,2~