Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Home School Weeks 23 and 24

Only 10 weeks of school left!   The last two weeks our focus was on David's life as king of Israel and  Solomon's reign.  We took two days to look at one other ancient civilization, the Phoenicians.  The city of Tyre was one of the Phoenician's major seaports, and we read about King Hiram from the city of Tyre during the reign of David.  Since the Phoenicians were known for their purple dye that they made from murex (shellfish) we decided to make our own purple dye from red cabbage and dye some of Dad's old hankies.

The kids continue to make good progress with the rest of their subjects.  We started our unit on Handel, listening to his life story on CD.  The kids like his music and are eager to listen to more over the next few weeks (he wrote some great oratorios!).    Anna and Nicolas also finished their pictures of Michael slaying the dragon from Revelation (from our study of the artist, Durer).    The girls completed their final project for our Lightning Thief unit.  They created Percy's Poseidon cabin from Camp Half-Blood from mostly recycled materials, old fabric scraps, and shells they had saved from trips to Big Sand or Lake Michigan.  Nicolas helped them make the sea shell chairs and was all-time glue-gunner.    Seth made one of his own cabins with a little help from Nicolas.   This week the girls will start a new book unit on Charlotte's Web.    We are still reading through Children's Homer as a read aloud.

Seth had "B" for butterfly and "F" for frog the last two weeks.   Activities for these two weeks included making a butterfly out of the letter "B" and gluing colorful buttons on to decorate it, creating a "stained glass" butterfly with crayon shavings, illustrating the four stages of the life cycle of a butterfly, making a craft to illustrate the life stages of a frog, and learning the difference between a frog and a toad.  The best project was watching the caterpillars that we ordered grow from little tiny things to big fat long caterpillars.  Just this weekend they transformed into pupae and now we are excited to see them change into butterflies.  I hadn't intended to order them so soon because I want the weather to be warm enough to let the butterflies go outside.  Instead of taking three weeks to arrive they took less than a week to get here.  I think it makes a huge difference if you order on-line (what I did) versus sending the little post card in to order them.

Books Seth enjoyed:  Caterpillar to Butterfly and Tadpole to Frog both by Camilla de la Bedoyene; The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, The Butterfly Collector adapted by Naomi Lewis; Terry and the Caterpillars by Millicent Selsam; Butterfly and Frog both from the Watch Me Grow series; Fancy Nancy Bonjour Butterfly by Jane O'Conner;  The Croaky Pokey by Ethan Long (loved this one!); Frog and Toad books by Arnold Lobel (Seth read these to me!); and Froggy books by Jonathan London.

Caleb continues to do well at NorthPointe according to his midterm grades for this second semester.  I can tell he is making more friends as he talks about certain guys/gals more then he did last semester.  He did have a "learning what peer pressure is all about" type incident last week that was a great learning experience for him.  On a more positive note, he participated in some of the Homecoming festivities at NorthPointe this last week.  He did most of the dress-up days, went to the games on Friday night, and the dinner on Saturday night.  He had not planned on going to the dinner, but  Kaeleigh, and senior girl from the orchestra invited him to go with her.  Her boyfriend wasn't able to go with her so she asked CJ so she didn't have to go alone.  She picked him up here and then met some of her friends to do the picture thing.   From Caleb's pictures on Facebook he seems like quite the ladies man.  Better keep an eye on him...  He has some busy weeks coming up with several quartet "gigs".  Most are school related, but he does have one wedding scheduled.  The orchestra festival is this week Thursday and the kids and I plan to attend that since his concert was cancelled due to bad weather.  He also has a violin recital on Saturday.  Last night he came home more upbeat about the St. Cecilia Orchestra than he has been.  It sounds like he actually talked to some people and made some connections about knowing mutual friends, etc. 

He insists he is taller than she is and she was just wearing heels, hmm...not so sure about that:)
Russ completed his practice preaching for this semester last Thursday.  He is thankful that it went well with mostly positive comments.  The setting is always so difficult to preach in.  An elder from the FRC came to listen to him which Russ appreciated greatly.  He had the DVD of his sermon at home as he needed to critique himself and so I was able to watch part of it. I had read his sermon over several times and it was nice to see how he actually preached it.   

Russ has been offered a job (35 hours a week) this summer to work for Dr. Murray.  (Don't worry, Dad, Russ told Dr. Murray he needs at least three weeks off for Big Sand and to shingle your house:).   I also am in the process of filling out an application at Spectrum Health for a PRN PT position that they had advertised.  I don't know if they will want me at all as I can't be much help during the school year, but I thought I would give it a try for occasional summer work.   Right now, however, we are gearing up for our track coaching job.  The season starts March 12 which will be here really soon!

Last Friday was a snow day here.  We never have too much school work on that day, so we just took the day off along with Caleb (no snow day for Russ, though).  The kids played out in the snow for about 2 hours in the morning.  In the afternoon after chores/cleaning/instrument practice were all taken care of we watched Pete's Dragon together.  I haven't watched it in years, and the kids have never seen it.  I still love the movie.  Saturday morning after BSF and Caleb's violin lesson we all went to the big sledding hill for an hour or so.  We had so much fun as we the hill mostly to ourselves.

I am taking Caleb and Anna in for yearly eye appointments this afternoon.   No MWI meetings or Boys and Girls Club this week.  I also am not sure we will have Home School orchestra tomorrow morning as we are in a winter storm watch for freezing rain starting tonight into tomorrow morning.  So, other than the orchestra festival and violin recital on Saturday it should be a fairly quiet week.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

100 Day

Seth filled in the last space on his 100 chart on Monday so we celebrated our 100th day of school.    We missed filling out our chart on several Home school Building days, so we may have passed up our "real" 100 day a few weeks ago.  We started our day counting out 100 Apple Jacks for breakfast,

...making 100 Day glasses,  (Lydia really got into that)...

Doesn't she look 100% loveable for 100 Day?

...fixed a 100 piece puzzle,

...cooked up 100 mini pancakes for lunch,

...and performed 100 different exercises, counted out and stacked 100 pennies, played a game with our 100 chart, measured objects around the house with 100 paper clips attached together, colored "100 Day" color sheets, finished a 100 dot-to-dot, and best of all, went to Meijer and picked out 100 pieces of candy at their "buy in bulk" wall.  (He always begs to get candy there and the answer is always "no,"so it was fun to see his face when I took him to the back wall where they have scads of containers of candy and told him to pick out 10 of 10 different kinds of candy.)  We also read 100 Day books including Miss Bindergarten Celebrates the 100th Day; Fancy Nancy and the 100th Day of School; The Wolf's Chicken Stew; and Young Cam Jansen and the 100th Day of School Mystery.

Seth's take on 100 Day:  "It was great!"

Pastor Russ Gets Reading Glasses

See Pastor Russ.

See Pastor Russ see.

After several months of having trouble reading, especially in low light, Russ finally made a trip to the eye doctor. (He was due for a visit anyway as it had been several years).   The verdict?   "You are just getting old--pick up a pair of reading glasses at Meijer."    Even though I have a few years on him, I am not chuckling too much because I think I may be picking up my own pair soon:(

Monday, February 13, 2012

Home School Weeks 21 and 22

Although we did read about the early Russians and complete a notebook page on the Scythians our curriculum has taken a break from the study of ancient civilizations the last two weeks to concentrate on the Biblical story of David.  Along with that we have been reading and then singing the corresponding Psalms that fit with where we are in the life of David.  We also began memorizing Psalm 1.  The kids insisted on listening to Odyssey's Darien's Rise as it is basically just a retelling of the story of David.  We also are continuing with Children's Homer as our read-aloud.

The girls are almost finished with the Lightning Thief unit.  I just assigned a final project to them and to Nicolas, too (he read the entire series while the girls have been working through just the first book).  They have had small projects throughout the unit like making a poster of all the characters and finding pictures in magazines of what they think the characters look like, or designing character trading cards and things like that.   This project will take more time, but they seem excited about it so we'll see how it turns out.

We finished up day 5 in science--birds and fish.  We completed a few more experiments demonstrating  how a fish bladder works and also one on friction.  Now we will begin Day 6.  We are a little behind, but the first activity was to go outside and collect insects.  I think we may need to skip that one for now, and possibly return to it this summer if it has value.

We also finished up our study on Bach.  We had a little "quiz" where I played a piece on the CD and they had to identify the major instrument (harpsichord, organ, flute, violin, or clavichord).  Not too difficult, but honed their listening skills.  This week we move into our study on Handel. 

Our God and the History of Art lessons included drawing a portrait of me as we studied Durer's portrait of his mother.  We also learned a little bit about drawing dragons and are working on our own version of St. Michael Slaying the Dragon. 

Seth had "R" for rock week and "J" for jewels week.  Since these were closely related we were able to get books that covered both rocks and gems from the library.  Fun activities included making a volcano, making a rock friend, growing crystals, and making rock candy (still in process).  Seth also found several rocks outside and we worked on sorting activities: size, color, kind, etc.   Rock week fell on the same week as our trip to the museum with Grandpa and Grandma and it was interesting to see the different fossils and types of rocks that were on display.    We learned the songs, "The Wise Man Built His House Upon the Rock" and "Lord, You are More Precious than Silver."  I was surprised that Seth didn't know the wise and foolish man song.  Maybe I just sang those songs more to the other kids, or the other kids picked them up as I sang them to the babies.  If that is the case, I have lots of songs to teach him!  The words for "R" were "I listen and obey; I build my life on the Rock."  The words for "J" were "Jesus is more valuable than anything else."

Crystals growing on the rocks

More crystals

Finished product.  The crystals connected all the stones/rocks that were on the bottom of the plastic container.  It is really neat.

Just another view

Very basic volcano (mom was busy that week:)

Basic, but Seth still loved it.  We all know the baking soda/vinegar trick.  He had no idea what would happen.  Of course, I had to do it over and over again!

Caleb was home Friday and Monday for a mid-winter break this last weekend.  Friday afternoon I took him shopping for new jeans.  I thought I could just pick up some inexpensive ones at Old Navy since the kids jeans were only $10 this last weekend.  No such luck.  The boy is now in men's sizes and they just don't sell those for $10!

Friday night was the Bleeker get-together.  As I mentioned on a previous post it was nice to see everyone again since we missed the one in December.  They are always so kind to remember our kids' birthdays.  Anna now has a "Knot a Quilt" blanket to put together.  She loves that sort of thing and is excited to get started on it.  

Saturday night the Woollin's (family from England) invited us over for pizza.   I learned that they call supper "tea" and "supper" is a piece of toast or so before bedtime.  I think I already knew that from books/movies, but it still surprised me when after the pizza arrived they called their kids down for "tea".  We enjoyed our evening, but did not stay too late as I had an early morning with BSF and several of the kids were also up early which was surprising since they went to bed so late the night before.

The real excitement of the weekend started around 1:30AM Saturday night.  Both Seth and Russ were violently ill with the stomach flu.  Seth still had the dry heaves at noon on Sunday.  His stomach hurt so bad and he was just miserable.  Since he has not been sick since we have been here, except for maybe an ear infection, he has no recollection of ever having the stomach flu.  So I was slightly amused when his dramatic side came out as he tried to talk between dry heaves.  "Help me!  Somebody please help me!"  Or, "My poor tummy can't take any more of this!"  Or, "Mommy, do people die of this disease?"  When he started running a temp around noon he was feeling especially bad.  Thankfully, at that time he was able to keep some ibuprofen and a little Gatorade down.  Russ slept until 4:00, got up and showered, and headed off to preach at the church in Dorr.  Evidently, he was feeling somewhat better.  Anna took her turn late afternoon and was still going strong at bedtime.  Needless to say, we didn't make it to church on Sunday.  The Free Reformed Church does have a live video feed so we were able to watch both of Dr. Murray's sermons.

Unfortunately, the stomach flu got Caleb at bedtime tonight.  He may extend his mid-winter break by one more day. He did attend rehearsal at St. Cecilia tonight, but didn't feel the best when he came home.   I'm just waiting for Nicolas and Lydia to take a turn--both went to bed with buckets.    I had to lead opening assembly, give the Bible lesson and lead discussion questions tonight at BSF so I am glad the bug didn't get to me!

The rest of this week doesn't look as busy as last week.  Russ has been having trouble with his eyes and will be going in to have them checked tomorrow.  I plan to enjoy fellowship with the FRC home school mom's on Wednesday night.   A pretty quiet week up ahead.  Just how I like it...

Saturday, February 11, 2012

We Have White Again and More Growing Pains

Yesterday the forecasters predicted only an inch of snow, but by the time it stopped snowing around 10:00pm  I think we had more like 6#.  The kids are excited to have snow on the ground again to play with.  The initial snow in the morning and afternoon came when the temps were in the 30s, making the snow quite packable. We saw a great fort being made in the backyard.  Around suppertime the temps dropped to the low 20s and the wind picked up making it a little dicey for everyone to make it to the Bleeker get-together.  I think most everyone was able to attend, however, and we once again had a great time of fellowship.  Today  is also quite cold with flurries on and off.  This snow may stick around for a few days!

They used the old fire pit for one of the fort walls.  Good to see it being used for something.

Russ has been incredibly busy these last few weeks.  Daily assignments and reading, as well as Logos training have forced him to put in early mornings and late nights.  Practice preaching also started this week which has given him less "free" time on Wed and Thurs afternoons.   I am so grateful that when he is home he is able to set aside his work and actually be with us through supper and bedtime routine.  I feel sorry for the wives whose husbands spend all waking hours at the seminary (and there are several like this!)

Since Russ had late days on Wed and Thurs, I picked Caleb up from school.  He had an "extra" violin lesson on Thurs after school to prepare him for chair testing for the St. Cecilia Philharmonic Orchestra.  Grand Rapids string students have two options outside their school orchestra--the Grand Rapids Youth Symphony or the St. Cecilia Philharmonic.  Most of the string students that Caleb knows play with the GRYS as tuition is quite a bit cheaper.  St. Cecilia is nice because of the beautiful old building that they play in, the quality of music, and the fact that concerts are not on Sunday (all GRYS concerts are on Sunday).   Last year his violin teacher encouraged him to participate in this orchestra stating that it would offer something the Home School Orchestra did not--a challenge.  He opted not to try out since practice was on Monday nights, our BSF night.  One of the women in my BSF class last year started to bring some "at-risk" boys to the children's program and Caleb felt it would have set a bad example for commitment for these boys.   Fast forward to this year.  We received an SOS email from Caleb's violin teacher that the orchestra was "bottom heavy" (too many violas and cellos) and in need of more violins.   After giving it much thought he agreed to try it out last week.  They had already been meeting for the semester, and, in fact, had chair testing for placement on Caleb's first night.  He, of course, did not have to test that night, but will have to have his own testing for placement in the near future.  We are still awaiting word regarding financial aid to make this venture workable in the budget.  In the meantime, Caleb will continue to practice and attend rehearsals.  Thus the extra violin lesson. 

This entire decision was difficult for me for a couple reasons.    First, it is not that we consider BSF a sacred thing, but as we've witnessed families getting sucked into all the busyness and activities that send everyone flying different directions, we have tried to guard our family BSF nights pretty religiously.   I struggled with whether this activity was worthy of having one of us go a different direction on that night.   Second, but closely related to the first, I like having Caleb be a part of something the rest of us are doing.  After having all the kids home last year and doing all our activities together, I had a hard time adjusting to planning activities without Caleb.  We really miss him.  So, it was nice walking to BSF together on Monday nights and have both Caleb and Nicolas in my class.   His absence left a big hole in our BSF class last week.  I know this is part of "letting go" and I will have to endure more and more of this as my kids get older, but it is still painful.   No doubt I will be a basket case when I send my first off to college.   I am already dreading sending Nicolas to school if he so chooses in a few years.  I will miss his messy little work table, his whistling while he does his work, and all of his projects that he keeps himself busy with.

This is what I would miss if/when he goes to school...

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Anna Turns 10 and Grandpa and Grandma B's Visit

This blog post is a little belated, but we were just having too much fun with Grandpa and Grandma B. to take time to write anything.  The fact that we are down to one reliable computer since the laptop we use at home has been sent in for repair (again!) has not helped either.  Both Caleb and Russ use the other one extensively for their school work so it is not readily available for the rest of us.

Last Tuesday, Anna Grace celebrated her 10th birthday.  How different the weather was from the day she was born!  I remember driving from Orange City to the Sioux Center hospital while it was snowing buckets.  I think it snowed 4-5# that day.  On Tuesday, however, the sun was shining and temperatures here in Grand Rapids were in the 50s.   After I looked at the forecast last Sunday, I told the kids that if they wanted to go sledding we had to do in Monday morning because we wouldn't have much snow after Tuesday.  (We had probably 5-6# on the ground).  So, we were up early Monday morning and worked hard to get the bulk of our schoolwork done in order to be on the sledding hill by 10:30.  We had a great time, but missed Russ and Caleb.  I am so glad we decided to go because by the end of the day on Tuesday, we were seeing all bare lawns and green (yes, green) grass.

Anyway, even though Tuesday was a busy day with the food pantry run, a Meijer shopping trip, Nicolas' cello lesson, and last minute cleaning and laundry for Grandpa and Grandma B's visit, Anna said she had a great day.  The highlight, of course, was that Grandpa and Grandma arrived in time for her birthday supper, opening of gifts, and cake and ice cream.

Thanks Grandma and Grandpa!

New warm jammie pants

As usual, we loved having Grandpa and Grandma here.  Being able to leave the younger three at home on Wednesday morning instead of hauling them to the Homeschool Building for Nicolas' orchestra was such a treat.  Wednesday afternoon we rented Dolphin Tale again and this time watched it with Grandpa and Grandma.  Thursday morning they visited with Aunt Alyda and that afternoon we went to the GR Public Museum.  Grandma had been there on a previous trip without Grandpa, so this time it was fun to include him and show him all our favorite exhibits.  That night Grandpa took us out to eat at Russ' Restaurant.  (That is the name of the restaurant.  Russ didn't actually get into the restaurant business). Mom and I enjoyed a little shopping time Friday morning while Dad stayed back with the kids. Saturday afternoon was so beautiful that we took Grandma to the Blandford Nature Center.  Unfortunately, Grandpa was at his mission committee meeting so he couldn't join us.  We'll have to take him there on his next trip!  Russ gave his monthly sermon at the assisted living center on Sunday afternoon, and once again it was nice to go with him and the boys (who played a violin/cello duet) and leave the three youngest at home.  Three services a Sunday doesn't always work so well for the three youngest.  But most of all it was just wonderful having Grandpa and Grandma here to share meals, coffee, walks, and conversation.   Now that they have left, we are all feeling a little blue.  I am thankful for a busy week this week to get me up and going.  Let's see...we have BSF and St Cecilia Orchestra on Monday night (more on the orchestra later), MWI on Tuesday night, B & G Club on Wednesday night, and the Bleeker birthday get-together on Friday night.  Glad all weeks are not like that!

Reading letters written during the Civil War

Dress up as a Union soldier

Too shy to give a puppet show, but they tried briefly...

Watching the river by the blue bridge right outside the museum.