Saturday, January 28, 2012

Weeks 19 and 20

This week and last week we studied the early Greek civilizations, namely, the Minoans and the Mycenaeans.  We read the stories of Theseus and the Minotaur, the Trojan War, and many other stories of Greek mythology from D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths.  The girls also enjoyed the book The Trojan Horse:  How the Greeks Won the War.  We are actually doing two read aloud books right now, The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians) and The Children's Homer.   The Rick Riordan website has a few different teacher guides/literature units for The Lightning Thief and the girls are working through parts of a couple of them.  They are perfect for Anna, but may be a little advanced for Lydia.  She is a trooper and doing great, though!   Nicolas has been reading Black Ships Before Troy and completing a study guide that Renee loaned us from Veritas Press.  He also is working through Odysseus which is retelling of the story of the Odyssey.  We watched portions of a video on the Minoan civilization on the island of Crete.   Watching how they put the pieces of a civilization together through archeological finds was fascinating.  We will take about a ten week break from Greek civilization to look at civilizations in other parts of the world and then return to study the Golden Age of Greece.

In Bible we read the book of Ruth and the first several chapters of  I Samuel (through Saul becoming king and Samuel's speech).    We continued learning about Psalm 23 from the book I mentioned on an earlier blog, and I think everyone has it memorized now.  Seth even can say quite a bit of it from memory just from listening to us recite!

Since we hit week 20, I thought we should spend time reviewing our 20 Greek root words.   These are a little harder for Lydia to remember so we had fun thinking of creative ways to review them this week.  We began Day Five in science--birds and fish.  The first week we learned about fish, labeling diagrams of both the internal and external anatomy of a fish and discussing the function of everything we labelled.   I found a marine food web activity on-line that the girls also enjoyed.  I bookmarked the site, but my computer crashed AGAIN and I lost all that information so I can't share that with you.  This past week, we did experiments that related to birds--the importance of lift and balance for flight, etc. 

We listened to more of Bach these last two weeks as we completed our art lessons.  Our focus in art was on the artist Fra Angelico and included a lesson on how to draw clothing.  The kids drew two Biblical pictures--one of their choice from the Gospels and then they drew Fra Angelico's  The Annunciation concentrating on using three main colors, just different shades.  Nicolas is still working on his so maybe I can get a few pictures for the next blog.  

Seth had a "K" week and a "Z" week.   For "K" week we learned how joeys are kept safe in the pocket of the mommy kangaroos and memorized the words, "I am safe in God."  We studied why zebras have stripes for "Z" week, learning the words "I can't hide anything from God."  We enjoyed the following books: 

K week:   The Lam-a-roo by Diana Kimpton, Will You Take Care of Me? by Margaret Park Bridges, I Love it When You Smile by Sam McBratney, Animals Should Definitely Not Wear Clothing by Judi Barrett (a huge favorite!) , A Kangaroo Joey Grows Up by Joan Hewett, The Kangaroo by Diana Noonan, and Jumping Kangaroos by Michelle Levine.

Z week:  On Beyond Zebra by Dr. Seuss, Put Me in the Zoo by Robert Lopshire, If I Ran the Zoo by Dr. Seuss, Zebras by Jill Anderson, and Zebras by Catherine Ipcizade. Seth read My Trip To The Zoo by Mercer Mayer to me!

A zebra in the savannah for "Z" week.

Found these at the food pantry and thought they would make a great snack...after we played/learned with them first:)

Russ officially began his spring semester of classes this week.  He indicated that it would be a difficult but enjoyable semester.  His practice preaching is scheduled in February and is always more challenging in the Spring as he is assigned a text rather than choosing his own.  Russ spoke at Mel Trotter a few weekends ago, filling in for someone who had a conflict.  Tomorrow he preaches at the church in Dorr (he has been there before).   He also added a new student to tutor at NorthPointe starting next week.

The seminary had a few new international families arrive for the start of the new semester.  The families are from Kazakhstan, Malawi, and England, with another coming from India at a later date.  Russ and I have been asked to be a mentor family for David and Sarah Woollin from England.  David will be working for RHB while he takes classes for his MDiv.  They are from James Herriot's Yorkshire and have three lovely children, Benjamin (8), Samuel(6), and Amy(3). They arrived last week Friday night and we invited them for a meal on Saturday evening.  Since the mentor thing came up at the last minute and we were not able to even connect/invite until Saturday late morning, we decided to just order Chinese.  Two observations about the meal:  One, I am glad a remembered to put knives out at the last minute since they all (even the 3 year old!) eat with a knife in the right hand and a fork in the left (Lydia did say that one of the boys liked to pick up his lo mien noodles with his fingers, so I felt a little be better about the whole manners things), and, two, I felt very inadequate serving tea to an Englishman.  I picked Sarah up for our Ministry Wives gathering on Tuesday night and they seem to be adjusting well.   Russ is over at their home as I write this helping with a few "handyman" chores.   To round out his "handyman" work we are joining Russ at Dave and Wendy Van Brugge's home later this afternoon so Russ can help put up trim.  Our neighbor across the street loaned Russ a compound miter saw for the job.  We plan to stay and eat supper with them and let the kids play a little bit.

Caleb had a busy week completing a paper and presentation on Martin Luther.  I felt so bad for him, as he worked so hard on his paper, had it completed, and then lost it all when the computer crashed.  His teacher graciously gave him an extension so he could rewrite and hand it a few days late.   He is working hard on his pieces for solo/ensemble next weekend and will have several after school practices next week.

Weather has been cold and warm.  On cooler days we enjoyed ice skating on Brian's rink (because the ice was actually frozen), and on warmer days enjoyed just being outside.  We just received 2-3 inches of new snow last night and this morning, so the kids will enjoy being in snow again.  The snow has not stayed long enough for us to get to a sledding hill this winter.  The Boys and Girls Club at FRC keeps postponing their sledding outing because there is not enough snow by the time the date rolls around.   Those that lead B/G Club have done a great job finding crafts and activities to fill the time, though.

Nicolas made this project at B&G Club Wednesday night.

For the most part we have been pretty healthy here.  Seth had a few days/nights of a dry hacky cough and others have also had runny noses, but nothing we need to see a Dr. for so we are very thankful.   We continue to enjoy our Monday nights at BSF and our weekly visits to the YMCA.   Last night we had nothing going on so enjoyed a cozy night by the fire for family movie night.  We rented a good family movie, Dolphin Tale, with another freebie from Red Box.  Sawyer, one of the main characters in the movie reminded me a lot of Nicolas with his love for animals, and the scene with his mom and a sea slug was totally like Nicolas and me.

Next week we look forward to a visit from Grandpa and Grandma B! 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Ice Skating

Our neighbor has been trying hard to get an ice skating rink made in his backyard again this winter.  The temperatures had been too warm before Christmas to get anything going, and then we had quite a bit of snow before he could get a good ice foundation.  Russ and I saw him out on more than one occasion with cross-country skis packing down the snow so that he could get a layer of ice on top.  At any rate, with the cold temperatures this week he was finally able to have a workable rink.  The kids went out this afternoon to give it a try.  There were some areas of thin ice that caused some serious dips into the snow underneath.  Brian (neighbor) was thrilled the kids were out there and insisted that finding those weak spots will help him get a more solid rink when he waters it later today and tonight.  I am not sure how long this rink will last because the temps are supposed to be in the 40s or upper 30s next week with rain tomorrow night into Monday.

I was amazed how well Seth could skate behind this chair.  This chair has worked better than anything else we have tried like the cones and metal things they have at ice rinks.   I think he will be able to go on his own soon.  Yeah!

Anna trying out her spins.

Nice to have that chair--when you get tired you can sit right where you are!

Thursday, January 19, 2012


I finally finished the afghan for Anna that I started earlier this fall.   The only problem is that is was so popular with the other kids that I now have orders for four more!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Children's Museum

Last year about this time I was able to snag 4 free tickets to the GR Children's Museum on Groupon.  Since it expired in one year and that time was rapidly approaching, we made plans to take the family on Wednesday afternoon.  Caleb missed the fun as he was in school, but I don't think he minded since the museum really catered to the under 7 crowd.   The temps had really dropped outside so I think we ended up choosing a great day to be inside and have fun. 

Giant Lite Brite

Magnetic table

Making a car with giant tinker toys

The house that Jack, I mean Seth, built.  Didn't realize until we were at the museum that Seth was wearing part of his yogurt he had for lunch.  Oh well...

Back at the magnetic table trying to fix up a castle

Russ and Nicolas each made a ball run and had contests to see who's ball reached the bottom first.   Both had winning runs.

Spinning wheel

Ball bath

Gathering eggs at Aunt Daisy's farm

This area was overrun with a busload of kids (literally), and when they left, this area was virtually empty.  The kids had fun organizing the cafe, grocery store, and post office.  I even ordered a hot dog, banana, and dessert at the cafe because the owner had such cute brown eyes.

Anna and Nicolas had more fun putting shapes together than playing in the cafe, etc.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Snow Day!

This may look like a picture of Anna snuggled up by the fire in her jammies before she goes to bed one night.  But actually this is in the morning of our first snow day.  The electricity went off at 6:15 or so and by 7:30 the house was freezing.  It was still snowing, the temps had dropped, and the wind picked up.  Russ started the fire and the kids huddled around with blankets.  Since it was still dark in the house the kids all used flashlights (bingo table--thanks, mom!) to read their books.     The electricity went on again around 8:45 or so, but the temps in the house had already dropped to 59 degrees!   Russ did have class at the seminary, but we enjoyed having Caleb home for the day.

The snow was beautiful, though.   It seemed as if we were looking outside at our own big snow globe.  Since the snow was a little wet and heavy at first it clung to the trees/bushes making a beautiful snowscape.

Thought this was so neat

The birds love this big bush

Anna loved this little walkway made by the branches of these bushes.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Homeschool Weeks 17 and 18

It was not easy getting back into the groove after Christmas breakSince I was sick a few days the first week we started back, I was thankful the library had videos in some of the subjects we were covering!  Nicolas and Seth were both under the weather a little this week, but seem to be on the mend as I write this.

The older three covered the fall of Jericho, the conquest of Canaan, the death of Joshua, and the Judges Gideon and Samson in Bible.  We also began memorizing Psalm 23.  This is pretty easy for Nicolas and Anna as they had already memorized it at OCCS, but this is the first time for Lydia so we are all studying it together with the help of the book A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by W. Phillip Keller.

The first week in social studies we finished up our study of Ancient Egypt as we reached the end of the New Kingdom with the Pharaohs Akhenaten and his wife Nefertiti and Ramses II.  We also studied the discovery of King Tutankhamen's tomb and the mystery surrounding his death.  The girls did a mini-book unit using the book Tut's Mummy...Lost and Found by Judy Donnelly.   The video we watched on the mystery of King Tut was quite recent and informative.   The second week we began looking at some of the other civilizations in the area including the Canaanites, the Hittites, and the Philistines.  Nicolas is currently reading the book Hittite Warrior by Joanne Williamson which takes place in the time of the Judges and incorporates Biblical facts with what we have been studying in these ancient civilizations.

We continue to make progress in English, math, writing, handwriting, and science.  We finished up creation Day 4 (Sun, Moon and Stars) in science.  The last few lessons were on the moon, and we didn't have much for experimentation.  We did go to the planetarium at the GR Public Museum on Tuesday night this week to see "Solar System Safari" which was a great review of the planets, sun, and moon.  A fun way to finish out the unit!

I did help Nicolas put together a DNA model

Art lessons focused on learning about complimentary colors and learning how to shade with color.  We were also thankful for good weather as the kids were to go outside several days and draw things from God's creation, practicing blending colors and shading.   Once again, we listened to the music of Bach while doing our art.  This time we tuned our ears to three of Bach's Brandenburg Concertos and some of his violin Concertos. 

Seth had "E" for elephant and "P" for penguin these last two weeks.  The first week was pretty minimal as mom wasn't feeling so well.  I did find an interesting documentary on Echo the elephant on the PBS website that the kids and I watched.  Since elephants are known for their good memories, the words for the week were "I will remember what God has done for me."   We enjoyed the following books:  Elephants by Kate Riggs, Elephants of Africa by Gail Gibbons, Elephants by Sydnie Meltzer Kleinhenz, Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr. Seuss, and The Elephant Who Couldn't Forget by Faith McNulty.

For penguin week we did a few more crafty things.  Seth traced a penguin all on his own one afternoon, and later in the week he drew and painted one free-hand.  Anna, Nicolas, and I also helped him make a little family of penguins.  They are made from toilet paper tubes, and since Seth wants to make more he has been on toilet paper tube patrol in the bathrooms.   When studying about penguins we focused mainly on the Emperor Penguin and how the mom and dad both take such good care of the egg and baby penguin.  The words to remember this week were " I will show love to others, especially my family."   Along with the books listed below we also watched "March of the Penguins".    I could tell the movie was a good review for Seth because he kept saying, "I already know that," or "We already read about that."  Glad he is listening.   He also continues to do a great job with sounding out words and sight-reading.  We add a group of five sight words to his list each week, and are now on our eighth group.  We just need to make more time for him to practice his reading.  I think that is a great job for dad when he comes home from seminary...

Traced penguin

Penguin family.  Looks like Dad is missing a foot.

Painted penguin. 

Penguin books we liked:  Face to Face Penguins by Scholastic, Penguins by Alice Twine, March of the Penguins: The official Children's Companion to the Movie, and some fun books about Penguin Pete and Tacky the Penguin.  We also rummaged through our magazine stash and found issues in both Ranger Rick and Your Big Backyard devoted to penguins that we read through.

BSF, piano, cello and violin lessons all resumed this week.  Nicolas had homeschool orchestra both weeks.  This semester I have to fulfill my volunteer duties at the Homeschool Building  (HSB) by sitting at the information table from 8:30-10:00.  The younger three have been doing a good job of getting school work done on their own in the gym area.  The girls help Seth with some of his, but fun coloring books and library books also keep him busy.

Wednesday night was the first Boys and Girls Club of the new year at the FRC.  The kids were looking forward to a sledding outing, but, alas, there was no snow.  They had a gym night instead.    Wouldn't you know, one night later we are watching the snow come down in buckets.  We expect to get about 5-6 inches of lake effect snow before all is said and done. 

Nothing new on Russ and Caleb.  Caleb is back in the swing of "normal" classes and Russ still has one more week of this "easy" schedule.   When the new semester starts he will be in OT Exegesis, Greek II, OT Theology, Foundations of Biblical Counseling, Homiletics II--Experiential Preaching, and Practice Preaching.   Right now he has been busy comparing prices on the books he needs for this semester to try to keep book costs down.   

I realize I am a little late in mentioning that Russ joined me in the "40s" on January 2nd.   Since this was such a milestone I, as the wife, was probably supposed to plan a big shindig and invite a bunch of friends over for a 40th birthday party.   Or, I was probably supposed to post a blog on his birthday telling everyone what a great guy he is and why I love him.  But he would have hated a party and, well,  I've already told him the other.  So, he just gets a little addendum at the end of "Homeschool Weeks 17 and 18."   Since his actual birthday was on the day after we came home from our holiday trip, we were in recovery mode and didn't do anything special.  Russ did receive a free birthday rental at Redbox and rented a movie of his choice (i.e. not a chick-flick) that night for me to watch with him.  In the middle of the week Caleb and I went out clearance shopping and found a few items to give Russ to help out his wardrobe.   Over the weekend when I made his favorite--strawberry cupcakes--I joked that this extended birthday was better than having just one day.  The kids picked up on that and have had lots of fun "extending" dad's birthday.  When we went to the planetarium on Tuesday was for dad's birthday.  When we went skating downtown at Rosa Parks Circle on Wednesday was for dad's birthday.  And when Russ took them swimming at the YMCA on Thursday, you guessed it, it was for dad's birthday.  They promised him he could have the entire month up to Anna Grace's birthday on the 31st.  Wonder what else is in store for the birthday boy?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

One of the more poignant moments of our trip to Iowa was our visit to Coon Rapids, IA, where Russ spent his growing up years.    The town offers just enough "extras" to make it interesting.  I guess it doesn't just seem like "another small town in Iowa".    

Coon Rapids is notable for its seed company.  The Garst & Thomas Hybrid Corn Company was founded in 1930.  It has since been bought by a Syngenta (2004), and a new production area was recently built.  The town reminded me of Mitford with its own "Miss Sadie Baxtor."  They didn't have just one rich woman benefactor of the town, but a couple of families who owned the seed company that gave back to the community.    In the middle of town among all the "normal" small-town houses sits one house and yard alone on an entire block.  Although no longer owned by the Thomas family, the quaint brick house and matching side building (office?) as well as the stone edged garden and huge yard really stand out in stark contrast to all the other homes in the area.   In this day of huge homes, big cars, and elaborate landscaping/yards it probably doesn't seem like much.  But if you consider when it was built and compare it to the surrounding homes it must have stood out previously as a sort of "rich people" estate.   

Along with its notable industry Coon Rapids also has historic significance.  The town was visited by Khrushchev in 1959 to fulfill a promise made to Elizabeth Garst to visit their farm.  The visit was important in helping open agricultural/grain trade with the Soviet Union.
Coon Rapids also offers a somewhat picturesque beauty as it sits among the hills right on the Raccoon River.   We enjoyed walking over the bridges and in the wooded area along the river.

The town is progressive.  The whole school complex area is quite nice with the fairly new town pool in the same area.  A new biking/walking trail runs along the river and then all the way out of town to the Garst farm.  I was also impressed with how large the library was for the size of the town.

Although progressive, it has that small-town charm that makes so many of Iowa towns neat.  It has a cafe/diner where I am sure everyone knows everyone else.  The family owned grocery store has also been around for years, still managing even though a Walmart, HyVee, etc are all in nearby Carroll, IA.

But most of all, it has memories.  On that beautiful afternoon Russ was able to show the kids and I the house he grew up in, the route he walked to school (and it really is up hill both ways!), and where he went to elementary school.   Russ pointed out where the preschool playground once stood, as he fondly remembered his preschool years with his mom as his teacher.  I tried to imagine what he must have been like, or looked like as a little guy walking to school, playing football in the street, running desperately home from the neighbor's house as he was late for supper yet again, mowing the neighbor's lawn, or visiting the elderly ladies at his mother's insistence.    I guess I don't have to imagine too hard.  I can just imagine Nicolas with bigger and uglier glasses (although Russ insists his Battlestar Galactica glasses were all the rage).   

I wished I had gotten my camera out sooner and taken more pictures of the house Russ grew up in, and just of the town in general.  I guess that means we just have to go back.  Maybe Russ will even share a few more stories!

Dairy Tour

It was a couple of weeks delayed, but Seth did get his dairy tour for "C--Cow" week!  We stopped at Greg's dairy in Kirkman on our way to Glidden (Russ' parents) as we were making our slow trek back to Michigan.  Cora and Marlon met us at the dairy on their way home from Ankeny.  Most of the pictures are courtesy of Cora since I left my camera in the van for most of the tour.    This is what the kids enjoyed:

Seth--watching the cows get milked
Lydia--standing in the middle watching the cows go around and seeing the calves
Anna--the calf pen
Nicolas--just appreciated how the whole operation worked
Caleb--enjoyed it all, but didn't see himself as a dairy farmer--too dirty.  (Not surprising coming from Mr. Clean himself).

And here are the photo highlights:

Watching the cows go around on their carousel from the viewing window.

Walking between the carousels.

Putting on the milking machine.

Our tour guide--he was so patient with all our questions!

Nicolas was interested in all the information stored in the computer on each cow.

I thought I could catch a drink of fresh milk, but wasn't flexible enough to get down that far!

I don't remember what Greg was explaining here, but Nicolas and I were riveted at the time.

In the cow barns

Cows getting a pedicure
In the calf pen with all the newborns

Isn't this beautiful...the Iowa farmland and all that sky, I mean.

Thank-you Greg for taking time to take us around.  We all learned a little bit more about dairy farming and enjoyed seeing/sharing this part of your life.