Monday, September 28, 2009

Memory Eternal

O God of spirits, and of all flesh, who hast trampled down Death, and overthrown the Devil, and given life unto thy world: Do thou, the same Lord, give rest to the soul of thy departed servant, Christopher, in a place of brightness, a place of verdure, a place of repose, whence all sickness, sorrow and sighing have fled away. Pardon every transgression which he hath committed, whether by word, or deed, or thought. For thou art a good God, and lovest mankind; because there is no man who liveth and sinneth not: for thou only art without sin, and thy righteousness is to all eternity, and thy word is true.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Getting the Most Bang for your Buck

There are so many things out there a homeschool parent could buy, and I have certainly wasted my share of dollars on the unnecessary. So, here is a list of the products I have purchased that I consider to have long term value. These are the things I find myself using frequently, and feel confident we will not outgrow.

Uncle Josh's Outline Maps - what else do you need for geography? (besides some fabulous living books of course!)

Educational Fontware - I wanted this years ago, but never bought it. I finally purchased it this year, and I will never buy another handwriting or copywork book!

Story of the World CD's- this is something my kids return to year after year, they love listening to them in the car, while playing, at lunch, anytime :)

Living Memory - a wonderful resource for memory work in all subjects - recitation at your fingertips

Practical Arithmetics - can't beat the price for no nonsense math books, similar to Ray's, only covers a few topics Ray's does not

Monday, September 21, 2009

Today's Math Lesson

1 wooden bamboo tray $5
5 finger puppets: $25
12 little baskets: $12
25 "pumpkin" seed pods $5
50 miniature pinecones: $3
20 wooden sticks $0
100 acorns: $0

hours of fun learning math skills: priceless!

Peter Rabbit's Advice on Education

" Thank goodness I was never sent to school. It would have rubbed off some of the originality."
Beatrix Potter

Thursday, September 17, 2009

N is for Nicholas

(this will be added to weekly - the newest pages are at the end)

What we will be reading:
Lesson Plans for Week 3
Monday - introduce letter with flashcard, read story of the saint, take narration and color icon
Tuesday - practice making the sound and thinking of things that start with that sound, read Bakers Dozen and make cookies, explore letter bag, begin blending the three sounds we have learned
Wednesday - practice shape of letter using play-doh and textured tracing cards
Thursday - color flower fairy alphabet, practice sounding out words from reader page
Friday - Copywork pages - "N" and first words page
I love how things tie together even when we don't plan the connections! We have been reading A Child's Geography: Holy Land over the past few weeks and have been studying Turkey, so it is fun to be able to make the connection that St. Nicholas was born in Turkey.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Peter Rabbit learns Math

Here is the Queen's birthday present.
It is also her math manipulatives for Kindergarten (shhh, I won't tell if you won't :)
Take a look at who will be joining us for math lessons this year!
As I have mentioned before, I am planning to teach the Queen her math lessons this year through Waldorf storytelling. I have been studying several resources, including Serendipity's wonderful Gnomes and Gnumbers lessons and the Christopherus math lessons. After reading these and getting a feel for the stories, I decided the Queen simply had to learn math with her favorite friends: Peter Rabbit, Squirrel Nutkin, Old Brown the Owl, Chippy Hackee, Mr, Jeremy Fisher and of course, Mrs. Tiddlemouse. I purchased the animals over the summer (these would make great stocking stuffers!). Now, our little animals needed a home for the year, and I have been in love with this fairy house for years, but could not bring myself to spend that much money. Then my mother said she would get it for the Queen's birthday. We ordered it, and it was enchanting, but a piece was broken, and it was rather large for the spot where I had envisioned keeping it in our schoolroom. As I prepared to send it back for an exchange, I just kept thinking, surely I can make something similar for a whole lot less. The next day I happened to see these pieces at H*bby Lobby - so, I sent the lovely but very expensive fairy home back, and decided to make one myself. It was not too hard - other than the hour my husband spent cutting the tree limbs (and the small argument it caused over trying to cut even lines on a curved tree branch :), I spent an hour drilling the holes and pegs to put the whole thing together - all in all - 2 hours of work, one fight and $15 - I think it was worth it :)

I added a silk we already had, glued two of the crocodile hunters tree blocks together to create a table, and spent $10 on fall leaves, flowers, a nest and a fall garland to decorate (the M*gic Cabin decorations are $40 per season :). Our fall counters are acorns from the back yard and those little seed pods that look like pumpkins. She will be getting the winter and spring decorations as a Christmas present this year.
So, now we are well supplied with those all important math manipulatives
(and I must say I rather prefer our set to these , given my great love for Sax*n).

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Sound Advice

'Mrs. Medlock,' Mr. Craven said to her, 'now I have seen the child I understand what Mrs. Sowerby meant. She must be less delicate before she begins her lessons. Give her simple, healthy food. Let her run wild in the garden. Don't look after her too much. She needs liberty and fresh air and romping about.'

The Secret Garden

Practical Math

I just want to update you on our math progress. It has been a long road, but I must say I absolutely love Practical Arithmetics! We are still using Math on the Level drills to learn our math facts, and I am using Math on the Level's concepts chart list to track our progress, and to come up with some fun ways to teach a concept, but overall, I could be totally happy using just the Strayor Upton book. The first book is designed for 3rd and 4th grades. It is a great pick up and go book. Our procedure is simple - I put the book and a dry erase board into the little princess' workbox along with a "work with mom" notice. When she is ready, she comes to me and we sit down and work through a page or two together. Most of the work is oral, with a few problems we work out on the dry erase board. Occasionally there is a list of 15-20 problems for her to write out - those are done in a small composition notebook then turned in to me.
The crocodile hunter is also working through this book. I decided not to jump into book two with him because I felt like he does not have his facts down well enough, and there are plenty of concepts in book one that he has not learned. I started him in the middle of the book, and we follow the same procedure - we work together for a few minutes, then he does any exercises as needed. It is a relief to have something so simple and so thorough. This book, combined with the 9's Down math drills have become our daily math routine for the older ones. A no nonsense approach without too much repetition - just what this home school needed!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Fairy Celebration

I won't say we are completely recovered from the fairy fete this weekend (I am not sure I will ever get ALL of the glitter off my floors :) but it was certainly a birthday to remember for my little fairy queen! Fairy foods included cucumber sandwiches, chicken salad croissants, lemon curd tarts topped with raspberries, and yummy, sparkly fairy punch.
The easiest decorations for a fairy table: plant wheat grass a week or two before the party - in baskets, trays, even tea cups!
Here is the fairy bower, awaiting the arrival of all the sweet little fairy princesses.

First came a dusting of fairy glitter, followed by lots of fun with bubbles, silks and fairy wings. Then it was time to eat!

A plate fit for a fairy meal.

A local artist I found at an event this summer came and painted big beautiful butterflies on each little fairy's arm. Here is the queen getting her wings.

And of course, a sweet sugar fairy, sleeping on a chocolate tree stump to end this event.

I think she had fun :)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Happy Birthday

There was a fairy in our garden this morning - and not just any fairy - a birthday fairy!

Today in our house we celebrate two birthdays. One, our little fairy queen, and the other, our blessed Queen of heaven, the Theotokos. I love that one of my little girls gets to celebrate her birthday with the Mother of our Lord! Many Years (and stay tuned for pix of the fairy party celebration coming this weekend :)

Monday, September 7, 2009

Simplifying your Household: Laundry

Laundry always seems to be one of those areas where you can never stay ahead. I spent the first 4 years of our marriage going to the laundromat - so I did laundry once a week. Then we got our washer and dryer, and I continued with the habit of doing all the laundry once a week. That works (if you own enough underwear :) when there are only two of you, not so much when babies come along :) , but I still have a hard time being consistent with daily laundry. This summer I have been able to fall into a routine of 2 loads of laundry each day. I have also been working on making sure the kids learn to put their own clean laundry away. The problem with that of course, is that often I clutter the school room floor or kitchen counter with folded clothes, waiting for them to come get them. My solution - which has worked really well so far - is one of those hanging closet organizers. It cost about $15 and hangs from the bar in my laundry "room". I get the laundry out of the dryer, fold it on top of the dryer, then sort it into compartments for the kids. Each morning when they bring their dirty laundry down, they take the clean clothes from their shelves and put them away. It keeps the clean laundry from taking up my counter space, and it helps them become responsible for putting their clothes away.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Going on an Expedition

Our trunk is packed, and we are heading to Africa this year! Here is a look at our geography/continents box - don't you just love that trunk? I feel sorry for anyone who doesn't live within 30 minutes of an Old Time P*ottery Store - can't beat the price on the coolest boxes and baskets! What kid wouldn't be excited about exploring a trunk like that?
So, are you curious? Want to peek inside?

Here is a look at much of what our box contains. The crocodile hunter graciously loaned us a selection of animals from his zoo, and I pulled books from our shelves (plus a few new purchases :). I found African textile design paper at a school supply store, with directions for creating paper doll clothes. I also included an Ancient Egypt T*ob, and picked up a hand carved gourd from Kenya at TJM*xx. Not in this picture, but included in our studies will be the lives of several saints of Africa - St. Moses the Ethiopian, St. Tekla, St. Anthony the Great, St. Mary of Egypt . We will also spend some time exploring St. Catherine's Monastery in Egypt. We will have a heavy emphasis on Egypt because we are studying Ancient history, but plan to explore other parts of Africa too. I also do not store our maps and general geopgraphy books in the trunk - but the crocodile hunter is learning to identify all of the countries of Africa right now. To see what others put in their boxes, check out these sites:

Close Academy's North America Box
Serendipity's Continents and Cultures
LaPaz - entire collection of continents boxes

Montessori Blog - another look at a North America Box

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Baby Steps

Both Dave Ramsey and FlyLady use the term "baby steps" in describing how to make progress in your life. They preach taking small steps towards seemingly overwhelming goals. That concept is a hard one for a perfectionist personality - we want it all done at once, and done perfectly. I find as I fall behind in house cleaning, I can let the house go for weeks, but when I decide to clean it, I get caught up in not just washing sinks and toilets, but reorganizing drawers and wiping down walls. All of those things need to be done, but it becomes overwhelming trying to do it all at once. So I have tried to learn to take baby steps. My household binder is designed to help me break chores up, but I have also found that I need time to build habits just like my kids. This summer, we have chosen a chore/job every three weeks. We started with getting up every morning and making beds. For three weeks the kids (and mommy :) got up and made beds, then marked a sticker on the calendar. At the end of the three weeks, I rewarded them with a small prize. Then we added emptying the trash each morning. We have now established a very nice list of chores that get done every morning without a lot of complaining. I give them the option of earning a small reward for the end of the three weeks of a new chore, or they can earn Chucky E. Cheese tokens on a weekly basis (if you clip the coupons, these end up costing about 10 cents each - far cheaping than an allowance/commission system though it does require me to suffer through that horrible place every so often, unless I can convince the grandparents to take them :) I took most of the chores from this list, which came from this very helpful and practical site. It is sort of a FlyLady streamlined approach.

1: Make Beds Right Away
2: Do One Complete Load of Laundry
3: Empty All Garbage Cans
4: Keep Your Kitchen Sink Empty
5: Clean Up After Yourself and Help Children Do the Same
6: Bathroom Wipe-Down
7: Before Bed 10-Minute Clean Up

We have not established all of these (obviously if we could do number 5 every day there would not be much cleaning up to do!), but many of them are becoming habits, both for me and the kids. I even have my son wiping down his toilet each day! Now, when I look at the house and think about cleaning it for company, it is far less overwhelming.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Book of Numbers

The Queen is beginning her math lessons this week, and we will be following a very simple Waldorf inspired plan.

Our topics will include:
Book of Numbers - to introduce the numbers 1-12
All About Zero - learning about the concept of zero
The Four Processes - using simple stories that feature her favorite characters from Peter Rabbit, we will learn about addition, subtraction, multiplication and division

The Book of Numbers may seem silly to some, especially if your child has been counting things for years, but often a child can count or identify numerals, without any real understanding of what "one" or "three" really means. A book of numbers allows you to spend a few weeks looking at each number and helping your child grasp these more difficult concepts and gain a deeper understanding of numbers. You may use anything you like to create your book of numbers, loose paper that can be bound together when completed or slid into page protectors, or you could use a Waldorf style main lesson book. We are using these scrapbooks, because I have a large supply of them (they make wonderful nature journals). They are half off at Hobby Lobby this week, so they are cheap ($5 each), the paper is nice and heavy, and they have plenty of pages (36), so we can only use one side of the paper to prevent smearing.

the Queen's Number One page
One: God, me, sun, nose, mouth, earth

Our reading for this day is Designed by God, So I Must be Special, which uses childlike stick drawn illustrations and cute rhymes to talk about all the things God created, focusing on the 5 senses He gave us and how we can experience His creation through them (dovetails nicely with our creation studies :)

A great thank you to both Katherine and Serendipity for many of the ideas from this post!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Practice Makes Perfect

A few weeks ago I came across some notes from a talk titled "Practice Makes Perfect" that my priest gave years ago. In it, he outlines 8 things we should aggressively practice on a daily basis in order to draw closer to God. It was such a powerful list, and I found myself thinking about it constantly. I wanted to find a practical and concrete way to remind myself of these things each morning, in hopes of making progress. What I came up with was a small journal listing each practice and an appropriate scripture or prayer. Then, each morning when I awoke, I could read through and dedicate my day to the practice of these things. Some of them I can do as I read through (forgiveness), others are a reminder for how to approach others throughout the day. So, here is how my journal turned out - and it sits next to my bed so I can pick it up and look through it before I even get out of bed each morning.
The cover - found it in the scrapbook aisle of Hobby Lobby - under $5.
This scripture is a reminder of the purpose of this book - trying to grow closer to God, allowing Him to make me new. It is also a reminder that I need not dwell on yesterday's failings, but remember that each day begins new.

Thankfulness: our first concious thought of the day should be to thank God for life.

Acceptance: not as fatalism, but as trust in God that He has placed us where He wants us.

Cherishing Life: slow down, appreciate life. Don't take for granted the moment by moment experiences.
Forgiveness: start each morning by taking an inventory - forgive and let it go!

Compassion: do not try to shield ourselves or our children from the suffering of others, cultivate true compassion.

Kindness: speak and be courteous to those we meet throughout the day, for we are all made in the image of God.

Joy: externals and feelings are not validators of our life, we choose how we react to all circumstances, choose to be joyful.

Peace: Pursue peace, not strife. Speak kind words, and intercede on behalf of the world
"In peace let us pray to the Lord."

Another passage on peace and a verse from a favorite hymn from my non-Orthodox past :)
Finally, I completed my book with one of my favorite morning prayers.
I chose the butterfly stickers because of their link to the resurrection and renewal of life - a reminder that each of us will be made new in Christ - and because they make me smile when I look at them!
(a note for non-Orthodox readers, all verse references are according to the Orthodox Study Bible, in other Bibles the Psalms will be one Psalm number higher)