Friday, December 16, 2011

Homeschool Week 16

Just a few notes on our last week of school before we head to Iowa for Christmas break!

The older three continued to journey with the Israelites in the wilderness.  We covered the stories of the 12 spies, bronze serpent, and the death of Moses and the beginnings of Joshua's leadership including sending the two spies to Jericho.    This week we also took a brief look at what types of civilizations were forming in the Americas during this time specifically reading about the Olmecs in Mexico and the Chavin in Peru.  We didn't really have any hands-on activities this week other than tracing the 40 year wilderness journey of the Israelites on a map and cutting out and placing a few more landmarks on our 3D map.

For science we did begin our Day 4 unit on the sun, moon, stars and solar system.  Some of the experiments are just not that workable for this time of year, i.e. going outside with a blanket, looking up at the stars and finding constellations.  Never mind that it rained most of the week and, therefore, not only was it cold and wet, it was obviously also cloudy.  One afternoon (Monday?) it was very nice so we did a solar system walk.  We wrote the names of the planets on note cards and starting with the sun at our house, walked off so many steps for each planet to get an idea of how big the solar system is.  It took about 3/4 of a mile to place them all!   I am sure we looked goofy, taking big giant steps down the sidewalk while counting, then stopping to place a note card on the sidewalk, anchoring it in place with rocks Lydia was keeping in the hood of her coat.    When we had finished placing them all we turned around to retrace our steps, pick up the note cards, and again get an idea on the spacing of the planets from each other and the sun.  Just as we turned around and picked up our "Neptune" card that afternoon, we met a man walking with two girls, maybe around Anna and Lydia's age.  They must have been following us for awhile because he smiled and asked, "Have you seen Neptune?  We're looking for Neptune.  Don't tell me we've come this far only to miss Neptune!."   Thought that was cute.

And of course, we continue to plug along with English, Math, and Spelling.  We didn't get to music or art this week but can catch up on that in January when we are back in a regular schedule.

Seth's week was all about "horses" for the letter "h".  We read a few factual books about horses this week and watched the movie "The Black Stallion."   Because trained horses obey right away (they don't think about if they want to obey or not) the words for this week that Seth learned were, "I obey right away."  The curriculum suggested reading the story of Jonah as an example of someone who did not obey right away.   So, this morning I asked Seth if he was familiar with the story of Jonah.  He proceeded to tell the story with remarkable detail (I may have to transcribe that one next).  When he finished I said, "That is great, buddy!  You knew that story very well."  He gave his head a quick nod and affirmed confidently,  "I nailed it."  Now if he can just "nail" the "obey right away" words we are trying to enforce this week...

The highlight of "horse" week, though, was visiting Connie Meekhof and her boys at their new home and riding her horse!   If you remember, we met Connie and her boys at BSF last year and went sledding on their hill a couple times and swimming in their pool this summer.  They started out in BSF this fall, but dropped out after a few weeks because her life got pretty hectic as they bought a new acreage and were moving the week of Thanksgiving.  I called her a few times to see if I could help, but it never worked out as her boys were extremely busy with the Lego robotics program.  So when I called her this week to see if she wanted to go the the museum with us, she invited us over to see their new home instead.  They have a beautiful big home (6000+ sq ft), still have a large in-ground pool in the backyard, and now also have a horse pasture and stables for her horse, Finer.  It was a little cool and misty on Wednesday afternoon, but Connie was more than happy to do the "horse thing" with the kids.

The boys seemed to enjoy archery more than the horse

The favorite horse books that we looked at this week were Horses by Gail Gibbons; The True or False Book of Horses by Patricia Lauber; and Why Do Horses Neigh by Joah Holub.

We did go to the GR Public Museum on Tuesday night ( instead of with the Meekhof's on Wednesday).  They had a special laser Christmas show in the planetarium that we saw and then quickly walked through their new exhibit (BIG items from storage) and the Civil War exhibit (Russ hadn't seen it yet).  We picked up a little pamphlet at the front desk that gave clues to where 15 Santas and 12 elves were hidden around the museum.  We didn't find them all, of course, but we had fun spotting the ones we did find.

Last night we attended Nicolas' home school Christmas concert.  I think it ran a little more smoothly this year, but it is still a lo-o-o-ong concert.  It started at 7:00 and when we ducked out at 9:00 they still had 4-5 more groups that had to perform.  I know, concert etiquette says you should stay to the end, but not all my kids (or husband!) are home schooled.  Russ and Caleb both had to take a final this morning.  We had promised the kids that we could run to Applebees afterwards for 1/2 price appetizers like we did last year.  Once you've done it twice is it an official tradition?   We were home by 10:00 and Russ and Caleb reviewed for their tests while I put the other four to bed.  Caleb quickly followed, but Russ was up until almost 1:00.  I kept him company by dipping pretzels in the kitchen while watching Return to Cranford.  

I think that is all the news from the week.  The Lord willing tomorrow evening we will be in Sioux Center enjoying time with family and taking a much needed break from school!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Homeschool Weeks 14 and 15

The last two weeks we focused primarily on the historical, biblical account of the Exodus including the crossing of the Red Sea, the giving of the Law, and the building of the Tabernacle.  Activities and crafts included:

Anna's Red Sea diorama

Our 3D Exodus/wilderness map

10 Commandment tablets

Construction of our own tabernacle

Anna and Lydia worked on a "Wilderness Menu" using only quail and manna and water as ingredients.  They came up with a few cute ideas such as Water from Elam:  Choose cool water from one of the 12 springs for only $1.85 and $4.00 Manna Waffles for breakfast.

We also learned our 15th Greek root word this week, finished listening to the story of Bach's life and began listening to some of his more famous works.  This week we listened to three organ pieces:  two different sounding Toccatas and Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring.   We usually do our art while listening to the music pieces.  The last two weeks have been focusing on the color wheel and filling in our own primary, secondary, and tertiary colors.  We used just the three primary colored pencils to shade the secondary and tertiary colors on the wheel and then colored a few small pictures using the same technique. 

In science we finished up our third day of creation unit with a few more experiments on plants and the sea.  Specifically, we had one experiment on growing bacteria in beef broth in three different containers:  one containing vinegar/broth, one salt/broth, and one nothing but the beef broth.  We then discussed how food was preserved with pickling and drying or salting prior to refrigerators, etc.  Another day we fed yeast corn syrup, corn starch, and sugar and saw which one the yeast "ate" first.  We also looked at the difference in density between salt and fresh water with a couple of experiments.  We were supposed to start the 4th Day of creation--sun, moon and stars--but we didn't get to it this week and will do more with that next week...hopefully.

One book for the other kids that I got from the library that they enjoyed was Exodus by Brian Wildsmith.  Anna had read Tirzah by Lucille Travis earlier this year.  This was a story about an Israelite girl during the time of the Exodus--from slavery through the giving of the law.  I think it really helped Anna see the biblical story as a real event as she made reference to some aspect of the book several times the past couple of weeks. 

The kids also watched this video several times.  Not a real clear video, but like Nicolas said, "You can really sense God's power."  I think Nicolas really liked the music, too:)  (Conquest of Paradise by Vangelis)


Seth studied "G" for goat and "C" for cow the last two weeks.  Most of our books and activities focused on farms and farm animals.   I was supposed to get goat milk to try, but never did get around to finding any.  We did talk about the two goats on the Day of Atonement so that when we see the goat picture we remember the words, "Jesus died for my sins."   For the cow unit this week, we really wished we were still in Iowa so we could visit Uncle Greg's dairy farm!  We read about cows and dairy farms and cut out pictures in magazines of all the different things that are made from milk.  We made our own butter one day by shaking a jar containing whipping cream.  We finished our unit yesterday by reading the Story of Ferdinand.  Seth then drew and painted a picture of Ferdinand under the tree smelling the flowers.  I love 1-2-3 Draw books!  For the Bible lesson this week we discussed how milk helps us to grow strong and that the Bible is like milk for our Spirit.  So, the words for "C" week were "God's Word helps me grow."   

Other activities this week included Caleb's NPHS Christmas concert.  The Symphonic Choir and Symphony Orchestra performed some wonderful songs together including the Hallelujah Chorus, Sleigh Ride (love those sound effects!) and Vivaldi's Gloria (I, VIII, and X).  Nicolas'  WMHSFA orchestra concert is next week and I am looking forward to that as well.   I had a MWI committee meeting this week to map out a three year course pattern for the future, and then also had a MWI gathering at Michelle Bilkes' house last night for a time of Q/A and fellowship to wrap up this semester's classes.   I also spent quite a bit of time in the kitchen doing some baking to make goodies for music teachers.  I had hoped to freeze some to take back to Iowa, but by the time the kids eat a few fresh and then I package up the rest, there just isn't much left!

Russ has now finished up one book review and a ministry "maxims" assignment.  He is targeted to finish an OT project this weekend (he has to do sample teaching lessons overviewing each of the OT books up to Psalms--kind of like a Dust to Glory) and then has a paper for Systematics to complete by Friday.   He also has three exams next week:  Greek, New Testament, and Systematics.  Thankfully, he is feeling better--just a lingering cough. 

The kids enjoyed finally being able to play in snow yesterday.  We woke up to about 2" of snow on the ground and the younger kids actually went out to play before we started school.    The forecasters predict most of our snow this year will come after the new year.  Should be something to look forward to!

Anna and Lydia took these pictures of us at the Homeschool building this week: 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Week's Highlights

Just a quick run-down of our week's highlights:

1.  The first one has to do with Nicolas.  I don't want to say too much on the blog because it is his story/experience to share, but suffice it to say that one night this week we had a blessed time of prayer and spiritual conversation with him.

2.  The Friday of Thanksgiving Mr. Frederik Meijer passed away.  He was the founder of the Meijer stores. (similar to Walmart, but founded before Walmart).  The front page of the GR Press this week featured several stories of him and his life with special focus on his philanthropic activities.  He was a generous man.

3.  On Tuesday evening, areas very close to GR experienced 8-9 inches of snow.  We didn't even have a  snowflake.  I was trying to figure out where all the chunks of snow came from on the bottom of the minivans and cars in the Homeschool Building parking lot on Wednesday morning.  I think Kevin DY had a cute blog about snow days this week which was inspired by all the snow Lansing received.  Of course, our kids were disappointed.   We did have several sunny days this week, but the last few have just been wet and rainy.  Brian (next door neighbor) is all set up for his ice skating rink, but it hasn't stayed below freezing enough for him to get it started!

4.  One of the kids' highlights of the week was watching Smokey catch a mouse in the homeschool room Wednesday morning while I was in the room trying to gather up materials to take to the Homeschool Building.  I am not what they enjoyed more:  watching me stand on the chair shrieking or Smokey actually catching the mouse.  I hate to admit this, but this is the 3rd mouse she has caught in the house in not very much time.  We thought we knew where they were coming in, but this old house has lots of secrets. 

5.  Another highlight for the kids this week was putting up Christmas decorations.  (No big tree, though, as we will be gone for a couple weeks over Christmas).  We usually put on Christmas music and have apple cider or hot chocolate and go through the boxes together.  I do have several decorations that I can't get rid of because of sentimental reasons, but I don't usually put them out because they are gaudy or dated.  Lydia loved them all, though, and when I went to bed that night I found that she had decorated our bedroom with all the "leftovers" and had put an adorable pop-up Christmas card she had made on our pillow.  What a sweetie!  Seth whispered in my ear while we were decorating, "I have so much joy in my heart.  Christmas is coming and we get to celebrate Jesus' birth and go to Orange City!"  Too cute. 

6.  Saturday night we shared a meal with Dr. and Mary Beeke and family.  It was fun to visit with them and their kids in a more relaxed atmosphere.

7.   Russ and I met with the athletic director at NorthPointe HS on Tuesday afternoon.   They would like Russ to coach their track team this spring, so we were finding out more information.  I told Russ I would assist him if needed so they wanted to talk to me as well.  If Russ wants the job, it is his.  The seminary professors are all supportive if he decides to take the job.  Caleb would love to have him as his track coach, too!

8.  Russ ate pumpkin pie.   This was the pumpkin pie I made for Thanksgiving, but forgot to add the sugar.  (I found via several cooking incidents that I do not cook/bake well while carrying on conversations with my sister Cora!)  I did not take it to the Bleeker's for that reason, but Anna loves pumpkin pie and wanted to try to eat it anyway.  We found that with plenty of whipped cream it actually wasn't that bad.  Anyway, I took the leftover pie out on Monday or Tuesday and the kids said something about Russ eating it.   "Daddy ate some of this pie?"  "Yep, one or two pieces."  "But it has two eggs in it."  Since we figured out that eggs were the source of all Russ' stomach discomfort earlier this fall, he has avoided anything cooked/baked with eggs.  Since he would be so miserable, he was extremely vigilant about reading labels or asking me if something had eggs.  So, when he came home from seminary, I asked him to confirm the rumors.  He affirmed that, yes, he had indeed had at least two pieces of pie without incident!  (He forgot to ask if they had eggs; he thought the pie looked so good, he just ate a piece without thinking).  Since that time he has had a couple of cookies and a bowl of custard, all containing eggs, all without incident.  Someone had told us that often if you take a complete break from the offending food, your body may "reset" and you can return to the food in a few months.  It seems that this may be the case for Russ.

9.  Today was a busy Sunday.  I know they are not supposed to be, but I think that God is getting our family ready for that!  We had church both a.m. and p.m., and we also went with Russ to Sheldon Meadows, the nursing facility that he preaches at the first Sunday of every month.  The kids usually prepare a few musical numbers.  This week the girls both played a Christmas carol on the piano and Caleb, Nicolas and I played a piece together (violin, cello, piano) and then Caleb and I played a duet (violin and piano).   We rushed back to get Caleb to youth group at 4:00.  It was an especially busy day for him.

Those are the "non-school" related highlights of the week.  Russ is also battling a nasty cold/cough.  Not a good time to be under the weather as he has lots of work to complete the next few weeks.  He has been burning the candle on both ends, so maybe that is part of the problem.  He is officially done with Hebrew; no more class this year, and no more Hebrew courses to take.   Although the class was difficult, he found he really enjoyed the professor and the challenge.   Now if he can get just get through the rest of the courses on Greek...

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


This is a slightly belated post...

At the BSF Leader's Meeting fellowship the Saturday before Thanksgiving we were asked to share one blessing that we are especially thankful for this year.  (One?  Only one?)   I gave this some thought as I listened to my fellow leaders share, and decided that I was so very thankful for the blessing of God's provision for our family.  Yes, I am thankful for how he has provided for us financially through the generosity of churches, family, and other brothers and sisters in Christ, but I am also thankful for his provision in other areas as well.  I am thankful he provided a school for Caleb, music teachers for the kids, the seminary food pantry to offset the grocery bill, a fun home school group, supportive families, and doctors and dentists for the kids.  I am especially thankful for His provision of a Savior who rules and guards as king, atoned and intercedes as priest, and teaches and reveals as a prophet.

When Cora first wrote me that she and Marlon were planning to visit for the holiday I tried to hard to keep it a secret from the kids.    I succeeded with all but one (I had an obvious slip-up with Caleb) and it was fun to see their faces when the cousins walked through the door.  We celebrated Thanksgiving at Jim and Lisa Bleeker's house with Linda, Steve, Aunt Alyda, and Mark and Laura's family.  The weather was so beautiful that day, and actually all weekend.  The kids loved playing with Cody the Bleeker's dog.  After we left the Bleeker's we headed to Grand Haven to see Lake Michigan.  The waves were like ocean waves as it was incredibly cold and windy right by the lake.  The kids still had fun looking for shells and running around on the beach.  I didn't even get my camera out, but I know Cora took a few pictures. 

On Friday Cora and I went to Blok's Orchard and bought a few apples for her to take home and for me to make some more sauce or pies.   We met the rest of the crew at the seminary for a quick tour and then headed down to the river.  We parked by the fish ladder, but unfortunately, no fish were jumping.  We enjoyed a nice river walk to the Ford Museum and back.  Jet's Pizza cooked for us that night.  Cora and Marlon left late Saturday morning and the house was entirely too quiet.  Glad it is only a few weeks until Christmas break.

These two were in charge of the pancakes Saturday morning.

Seth Story

A quick Seth story to affirm my gratefulness for intercession for my children. I have told this story to some of you so this will be a repeat.  One night last week Seth was overtired going to bed.  When this occurs he has absolutely no filters on what he says.  He is downright ornery and disrespectful.  He was laying in bed angry with me for calling him on his behavior when I invited him to say his prayers, specifically praying about what just occurred.

"No, thank-you," he replied curtly. 

"I think it would be a good idea, buddy." 

He glared at me for a few seconds before replying in a clipped tone, "Fine."  And this is how his prayer started.  "Lord God in heaven.  My mom is being a knucklehead right now..." 

Not exactly what I had in mind for praying about the situation.  Tedd Tripp never described it like that in Shepherding a Child's Heart either.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Home School Weeks 12 and 13

 The last two weeks of home school have been slightly abbreviated.  The first week we took some time to go to a theater production of Ben and Me and to tour the Ben Franklin exhibit at the Ford Museum.  That week we also went ice skating with the FRC home-school group.   Last week, of course, was Thanksgiving and we only had three days of school. 

The older kids (and Seth by osmosis) have been studying the call of Moses and the Ten Plagues.  We made a booklet with each page describing the plague with pictures and then giving the name of the Egyptian god that God was showing his power over.   The girls had fun making construction paper frogs and putting them all over the house--in the beds, in the fridge, in the showers, on Dad's razor, etc.  They also took red food coloring and colored all the toilet bowl water, Smokey's water dish, etc.  Pretty cute to see them planning their "plagues".

We continued on the third day of creation for our science unit, learning more about molecules.  We learned about chemicals and acids and bases.  We made our own acid/base indicator from red cabbage and were able to test various substances (water, lemon juice, buttermilk, vinegar, baking soda, etc.)

In art we looked at how the Egyptians changed from etching pictures on the walls of tombs, to painting them on the walls of the caves in the Valley of the Kings.  The walls were too rocky to etch pictures so they painted instead.  So, one afternoon we painted our own rocks.  We also just had some "free" drawing time. 

We began a unit on Bach for our fine arts/music appreciation since we finished our Vivaldi unit.  So far, we have just talked about and listened to part of his life story, but will soon move into listening to some of his more famous works.

Seth completed his units on "w" for "water" and "i" for "insect".  In the water unit we had lots of fun (i.e. experiments!) looking at the water cycle.  Seth also learned the difference between a solid, liquid, and gas and made the cutest little chart where he drew pictures of examples from each category.   Seth also learned about "living water" and memorized the words, "Jesus gives my spirit living water to drink."  For insects we got our ants and set up our ant farm.  So far, they are thriving and the kids are enjoying watching them work hard and make their tunnels.  We learned that many insects work hard and the Bible uses them as examples for us to be diligent in our work as well.  Seth memorized the words, "I am a wise child, so I work hard."

Seth's "water" books:  A Drop of Water by Walter Wick; Squirts and Spurts:  Science Fun with Water by Vicki Cobb; Water Everywhere by Jill Atkins; and All the Water in the World by George Lyon. 

Seth's "insect" books:  Ask a Bug (DK); Bugs are Insects by Anne Rockwell; Insect Detective by Steve Voake; Don't Squash That Bug!  The Curious Kid's Guide to Insects by Natalie Rompella; Insects by Sandra Markle; On Beyond Bugs by Tish Rabe; Have You Seen Bugs? by Joanne Oppenheim.

Last week Saturday we had a nice afternoon and were able to go pick up the walnuts we had been unable to get to earlier.  Sharon overpaid my kids, but I couldn't talk her into anything less.  The kids enjoyed working hard and getting paid (they even had fun!) and I enjoyed watching them try to figure out how much to tithe and what to do with the rest.  Seth took most of the pictures that afternoon--all except the ones he is in. 

Russ is getting close to the end of his semester and will have quite a bit of crunch time getting all his papers in.  He did purchase a new "toy" that will save him quite bit of time.  This C-pen allows him to scan the words from a book or article right into a Word document.    He preached both services at a small OPC church in Kalamazoo last week Sunday, and this week he preached at another small church in Dorr, MI (about 25 minutes away).   The first opportunity came through the seminary, and the second came from the church itself.  A member of the first church he preached in had a brother in the second church and when that church was in a bind for Sunday night he recommended Russ.  The rest of us worshiped at the FRC to keep continuity in Sunday school and for Caleb's youth group.  Tonight, however, I decided to take the family to Harvest OPC and realized after we sat down and looked at the bulletin that Pastor Dale and Kevin DeYoung did a pulpit swap.  The best part (other than hearing Kevin preach) was that Trisha and family joined him.  We were able to visit briefly with Trisha and see their newest addition--Mary--for the first time. 

We had a great Thanksgiving as Cora and Marlon and family came up for a visit.  More about that in the next post.  I also had a wonderful surprise phone call on Saturday night from my sister Lynn in Haiti.  How awesome it was to hear her voice and listen to her laugh! 

We look forward to a busy few weeks and then getting ready to head to Iowa for the next holiday.  Weather permitting we plan to leave on Dec 17 and make the drive straight through.