Monday, March 26, 2012

Homeschool Weeks 27 and 28

Enjoying a glass of lemonade in the shade of their "tent".

In week 27 we read several chapters in 2 Kings about the life of Elisha:  Naaman, Elisha's greedy servant, and the story of Elisha and the Syrians.   Last week we studied the Assyrian empire and then in conjunction with that read the book of Jonah (Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian empire), Isaiah 6 (the call and message of Isaiah) and 2 Kings 17 when Israel is taken into captivity by the Assyrians.  It is so much fun to study the culture of a nation like Assyria and then put what you know about them into the context of the Bible story.  We get a better understanding of why Assyria was so feared, why they settled Samaria like they did, and how amazing that God did not allow Judah to be taken by the Assyrians.  He had other plans for them which we will get into the next few weeks as we study the rise of Babylon, Hezekiah, Josiah, and Jeremiah.   No major projects were completed these two weeks--just some map work and a couple notebooking pages to summarize what we learned.

We started memorizing Isaiah 40:21-31 last week.  I think we are pretty good through verse 24.  This is our memory work for the rest of the year, so we will just slowly work through it the next several weeks.

The girls are still working through Charlotte's Web and we have just one more week in the Children's Homer.  We have been tempted to read ahead in order to find out how Odysseus shows himself to his wife, Penelope, since he is currently in disguise, and how he deals with the wooers that have invaded his home.  But we need to get our other work done too...

The kids started a unit on Greek art.  They studied different Greek sculptures and made a pencil drawing of one of them concentrating on our shading technique.  They also drew an object/toy of our choice three different times, each time from a different perspective.  While drawing we continued to listen to more Handel favorites including the Chorus and March from Judas Maccabaeus. 

Seth finished up his formal curriculum with his last two letters, "Q" and "Y".  "Q" was for Quail and we read about the Israelites grumbling in the desert because they didn't have meat; they were not content.  We read books that dealt with being content with how God made us and the circumstances he has placed us in.  We also just read books on birds in general and made a nesting bag full of yarn and string to hang outside for the birds to use to make nests.  "Y" was for yellow and we marveled at God's colorful creation.  We looked at black and white pictures of nature and then looked at colored ones and decided we were thankful God gave us colors.   Seth can now recognize and read most color words, as we reviewed those every day this week.    I remembered that Seth had gotten a color experiment kit from the Michigan Bleekers for his birthday last year.  We had done a few of them right away, but still had several experiments to do.  This week was a perfect week to get it back out and experiment with mixing colors, making color crystals, and lots of other fun activities.  I knew he had really gotten into the mixing of colors when he came out of the bathroom on Saturday after I had cleaned the toilets with blue bowl cleaner.  "I know what color you get when you mix blue and yellow!  Green!"   Made me laugh. 

Seth's nesting bag

Track update:  We had another very hot week of practice.  Every day was 80+ degrees.  On Wednesday I brought popsicles for the team to enjoy after a tough workout.   It was nice to have a few more kids show up so our numbers have improved a little.  We did lose one girl to an after school job, so currently only have six girls on the team.  Our first meet was an indoor meet at Grand Valley State University on Friday afternoon.  What a nice facility!  The track was 300m with artificial turf in the middle in which the athletes could set up camp.   Since we had had only two weeks of practice, some events were a little ugly.  I wasn't able to do much coaching since the kids (as in Nicolas, Lydia, Anna, and Seth) really couldn't be down on the infield, but I helped time events in the stands and acted as Russ' second pair of eyes, texting him when I saw kids weren't where they were supposed to be, etc.   Overall, it was a good meet and now look to our first outdoor meet on Tuesday, weather permitting.

Enjoying popsicles after track practice.

At the GVSU meet last Friday.

A couple of our junior track coaches

Russ update:  Russ completed his 30 page exegetical paper on Exodus 3:1-12 and presented it this past week and also finished another 20 page exegetical paper on Exodus 19:3-6.  With those behind him he can work on his counseling manual and other sermons, papers, and projects that are due later in the semester.  I think he looks forward to spring break next week.

Caleb update:  Caleb has been working hard in track, but is having quite a bit of pain in both of his ankle joints.  This is something Anna also complains of after being active so I wonder if it is related to growth spurts.  A little ice and some Ibuprofen seems to help until after practice the next day.  He ran the 1600m on Friday at the meet and did a great job.  I think he surprised himself at how well he did.  Saturday morning Russ took him to Holland, MI to State solo/ensemble festival.   The string quintet played well and received a Division I rating.  Caleb opted not to play his violin solo at State because the rules are different for 9th graders and his violin teacher told him that it really isn't worth all the practice and time.   CJ is also growing like a weed and needed a wardrobe overhaul for this summer.  Thankfully, God provided a 30% off Kohl's coupon with bonus bucks so we could outfit him in clothes that fit!  Caleb will leave this coming Saturday for a mission trip to West Virginia with the FRC youth group.  They will be gone the entire week of spring break.  We will miss him horribly, but I know this will be a good experience for him.

Nicolas update:  Nicolas started his spring soccer season on Tuesday with practice.  Games do not start until after spring break in April.  He is in a new age bracket this spring (13-17 year olds) so that could be interesting.

Anna update:  We picked up Anna's new glasses on Monday.  She marveled at how much better she could see!  Glad we took her in for the yearly check-up!

Lydia update:  Lydia is finishing up her second bout of antibiotics for a recurrent staph infection causing large pimple/boils under her right arm.  I hope this does the trick along with antibacterial soap, and more frequent washing of bedding and towels.   Since I always think in terms of zebras instead of horses when I hear hoof beats, I have a tendency to obsess about the possibility of  MRSA.    I am so thankful I am married to someone who is NOT hooked up like I am and can help keep my mind from racing to the worst possible scenarios.  At any rate, the two boils she has are clearing up and no new ones have appeared.

Seth update:  Seth just continues to entertain us with his dramatics using words and phrases like, "This is the worst day of my life!"  or, "I am going to die! I am so hot (or thirsty, or tired or...)!"  or "This is tragical!  I wore the wrong flip-flops outside!"  He could have been kindred spirits with Anne Shirley (Green Gables).

Smokey update:  Smokey is enjoying the nice weather and being outside more.  She likes to hang out in the shed where we stored some wood this winter and keep an eye out for chipmunks.  Her other favorite place to hang out is on a pillow in front of Nicolas' open window.

 Since the weather has been so warm, our pear trees have started to blossom.  They predict light frost some mornings this week.  I hope our blossoms survive.  Tomorrow's high is only 46.  Quite a change from the 80 degree temperatures last week Monday!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

A Beautiful First Week of Track!

Granted, track starts later here in Michigan than it did in Iowa, but I certainly cannot remember a first week of track practice that was sunny and in the 70s every day!   The season started off a little rocky at times, but I think we are finally going to see a little stability in numbers/attitudes/work ethic starting next week.   Russ gave his "I'm in charge and you're not" speech to one athlete this week who seemed to be testing Russ' authority (those who have coached with him I'm sure would have appreciated the talk).  Russ has also gained the respect of the football coach who has sent us several good football athletes which seems to have raised the bar for the other boys and improved the overall legitimacy of going out for track.  I think Russ has somewhere between 15-20 boys out right now.  Last year only one girl was out for track; this year we have seven.  Both Russ and I have had to give a little talk on modesty; no shirts off for guys, no open shirts that show sports bras for girls.   Although the athletes always grumble a little, they seem to respect the "rule". 

Thursday night was parents night and Russ and I were able to meet several of the athletes' parents.  A couple of moms expressed a concern regarding nutrition, especially for the girls, so I plan to give a little "nutrition" talk on Wednesday before practice.   I pray the talk goes well, that I can express what I want to say clearly, and that it is well received by the athletes.   I also saw someone at the meeting that I probably haven't seen in 25 years--Chuck Willekes.  His son, Kenny, is a recent transfer from Plymouth HS and is thinking about joining the track team.    I imagine he will show up for practice starting next week along with those that have not been with us due to the school play. 

We ordered inexpensive stopwatches for the youngest three so they could also "coach".  They have been a huge hit during practice.  Seth was such a cutey with his stopwatch and baseball cap.  He looks just like Caleb did 10 years ago when he wanted to be "just like Dad" and wore a baseball cap and carried a stop watch around his neck all the time.

We have our first meet, an indoor one, next week Friday already.  Russ has already told parents and athletes that we will treat it like a glorified practice.    Should be interesting as we haven't even started field events yet.

Oh, and if you are going out for your walk or run this spring be sure to check the bushes that you run past.  Russ found a $100 bill on his run.   I have faith that God will always provide for our family during these "transition" years, but I am always amazed at the means by which he chooses to do so!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Homeschool weeks 25 and 26

Just a quick school update.  I am growing weary of the school year as I imagine teachers everywhere do this time of year.  We will begin to compete with beautiful weather soon which makes keeping the kids interest even more difficult.  I have definitely decided that we will take a spring break when Russ and Caleb have theirs.   I think we will plan to do our Christian Passover celebration that week. 

The last two weeks we saw the end of Solomon's reign and the decline and fall of Israel.  We looked at how the kingdom was divided and the ministry of Elijah.   We studied the people who settled in the Indus Valley who moved to the Ganges Valley--the Indian Vedic Ages.  Along with that we read about India's caste system as well as the origins of Hinduism and Buddhism.   We also finished our memorization of Psalm 1.  We are still reading the Children's Homer as a read-aloud, but have moved on from the Iliad to the Odyssey.  The girls continue with their Charlotte's Web reading unit, and all continue to progress in spelling, math and English.

In art the kids learned more about painting with acrylic paints.  The focus of the lessons they did these two weeks was on mixing the paints to achieve the color you want.   They finished out this little section by painting Albrecht Durer's Stag Beetle, working hard to mix the paints to get the "right" color and also using a little of what they learned about shading.  We enjoyed listening to Handel, including some of his Messiah pieces and also a few movements from his Water Music.

Stag Beetle pictures (they just needed to paint, the picture was already drawn for them)

This is the paint card that they had to match colors to.

Seth had "F" for fox and "V" for vegetable.   We learned from our stories that foxes can be wily and deceitful but, "God's Word makes me wiser than my enemies."  I found an age appropriate lapbook on foxes at that he was very excited to complete.  That was our only activity for the week.  For vegetable week we did not plant seeds as the curriculum recommended.  I figured we will plant a garden this spring and can look at the various seeds then.  We did buy and eat lots of fresh vegetables in honor of the week and even tried one we had never had before...brussel sprouts.  We all agreed that they are actually pretty good as long as you remove the bitter core before you eat them.  Seth would just peel and eat the leaves down to the core.  On another "vegetable" day we used vegetables as our paint brush and experimented with mixing colors, i.e. what happens when you mix red and blue?  I don't know if he remembered how to make all the secondary colors because down the stretch he was making some pretty strange mixes which all eventually looked brown.    But we had fun!  The words for vegetable week were, "God gives me all that I need."  Seth only has two weeks left in his curriculum, but I got some great ideas to continue with him in reading and math from our friend Lori who teaches Kindergarten at MOC-FV.   I am so grateful for her advice and input and taking time to guide this home school mom!

Lapbook cover

Inside of lapbook

Vegetable painting

Fox books:  Fox by Kate Banks, Rosie's Walk by Pat Hutchins, The Fox and the Stork by Gerald McDermott, Arctic Fox by Stephen Person, Fox by Caroline Arnold, and various Aesop's Fables that had a wily fox in the story.

Vegetable/Garden books:  The Vegetables We Eat by Gail Gibbons, Busy in the Garden by George Shannon, No More Vegetables by Nicole Rubel, A Green, Green Garden by Mercer Mayer, The Ugly Vegetables by Grace Lin, The Surprise Garden by Zoe Hall.

As I mentioned in a previous blog, the NorthPointe orchestra played at the District Festival in Holland, MI.   Since the pre-festival concert was cancelled due to bad weather, I decided make the trek with the other kids to listen to and support the orchestra and then just take a quick detour to the Lake for an hour or so.  The orchestra sounded great; it was a treat to listen to them.  They played Egyptian Legacy, Fantasia on a 17th Century Tune (Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent), and a Vivaldi piece.  They received Division I ratings in every area and plan to head to state in May sometime.  The St. Cecilia Orchestra seems to be going well for Caleb too.  CJ also had a violin recital a couple Saturdays ago and played what his teacher described as being in the "showpiece" category for violin music, Introduction in Polanaise.  It is a fun piece and he did a great job with it.  His violin teacher has many talented string students, and it was humbling to have him be a part of that group.  I enjoy seeing the progress he has made even just over the last year.  Caleb has mentioned that it is hard to find time to practice all his music,though!   He is running track this Spring as he heard NorthPointe hired a great coaching team:).  

Russ is pretty busy this week as papers and projects are coming due.  Currently he is working on two exegetical papers and writing up a counseling manual that he could give to elders in his church someday.  Next week he has a confession statement due on covenant theology vs. dispensationalism.   Track also started this week at NorthPointe which adds a little to his (and mine!) workload.  I think it will be a good outlet for him, though, since the program is not very large.   I'll try to write more on track later as we get to know the kids and get a little further into the season.    At this time he does not have any preaching scheduled which may be a good thing as he will be busier with track.  

I just continue to be teacher, cook, cleaner, launderer, grocery shopper, chauffeur to lessons and eye/dental appts. and all those other things moms do.  I still enjoy my evenings with the Ministry Wives group.  We finished up our video series by Pastor Al Martin and the last time we met heard from Mrs. Linda Lanning on how to deal with crises in the ministry.   I am always amazed at all the nationalities represented at those meetings.    One night I counted 25 women and the following countries:  Brazil, Netherlands, Korea, Scotland, Canada, Ethiopia, Malawi, South Africa, Nigeria, England, Kazakhstan, and the US.    This afternoon I have a meeting with the MWI committee to try to hammer out a schedule of topics for the next school year.  Then it is off to track practice...

Monday, March 12, 2012

We Have Butterflies!

We are so excited we went five for five with our butterflies!  We were a little worried since Lydia accidentally dropped the jar with the pupae in them.    Hopefully, the weather will be warm enough that we can let them go outside in a few days.  This is a great, fairly inexpensive home project and I highly recommend it. 

Our Butterfly House

On a different note...

We haven't noticed mice for several months.  No droppings on the counter, no noises in the kitchen during the night, no special gifts from Smokey, and no chewed through bread bags.    So imagine our horror Sunday morning when we drained dishwater that had been setting in the sink all night (which is gross, anyway) and were looking at a dead, drowned mouse lying in the bottom of the sink.  I can not put into words how disgusted I was.  I mean, this is something that happens in Oliver Twist or something, not in my kitchen.    And to think the kids all felt sorry for the mouse...

Saturday, March 10, 2012


Yesterday we joined the FRC home school group at the Blandford Nature Center for instruction and a tour of the sugar bush.   We started our tour with a slide show, and learned "sugarbush" refers to the forest or woods that contain the sugar maples that are tapped for maple sugar.

We then went outside and learned how to identify a sugar maple from the other trees in the sugarbush.    Three important things to look at are the leaves, the opposing twigs, the buds, and the bark.
She is showing the kids a sugar maple branch with opposing twigs

Once we find the sugar maple tree we have to make sure it is big enough to tap.  A tree that is 10 inches in diameter can have one tap, 18 inches can have two taps, and 25 inches can have three taps.   A tree that is 10 inches in diameter is usually 40 years old, just to give an idea of how long it takes to have a "tappable" tree.

What they use to measure the tree's diameter

Next we learned how to drill a hole in the tree, insert a spout, and hang the bucket.  (We practiced on a dead tree).  But then we went to the trees that had already been tapped and got to watch the sap run and even let it drip on our finger so we could taste it.  What does it taste like?  Water!  96-97% of sap is water, the rest is sugar.   We also learned that sap runs best when it freezes at night and warms up during the day--freeze up, run down; freeze up, run down...

Everyone gets a chance to crank the drill in to "tap" the tree.

Hammering in the spout
Getting a taste of the running sap

One of the many, many buckets of sap

In order to concentrate the sugar we have to boil the water off.  We first saw how the Native Americans that lived in Michigan first must have done it, then went to the sugarhouse to watch how they do it today.  Both places burned firewood for their heat.   It was so cold yesterday that it was nice to be by the fire!

As we entered the sugarhouse we saw/looked in the big storage vats for sap.

It was hard to see in the sugarhouse because of all the steam leaving the sap.   The sugarhouse worker showed us the various stages of syrup as it has been heated, and we could see the color changes that occurred.  He said that they can't rely on color change alone and use a hydrometer to measure the density of the syrup.  If the hydrometer floats than the syrup is ready to be poured out of the heating vat.
Kind of hard to see the various sections in the heating vat for the various stages of syrup because of the steam.
Pouring the "almost done" syrup in a container with the hydrometer to see if it floats.
From there it is essential that the syrup is filtered as it contains lots of sugar sand.  The worker said the sugar sand looks and tastes just like the sand that you would find on the beach at Lake Michigan and we wouldn't want that on our pancakes!  After that the syrup is rewarmed and put in storage containers.

An example of the filter is on top of the 40 gallon barrel (the side of the metal container is cut away to see the white filter)
Note the barrels on the above picture.  The large one holds 40 gallons, the small one is a one gallon barrel.  This was a great visual for us to see that for every 40 gallons of sap, only one gallon of maple syrup is produced!

Anna in front of the sugarhouse
 The last thing we did was taste the syrup.  After tasting it the kids were begging for pancakes and maple syrup for supper!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Can You Read This?

Seth proudly handed a piece of paper to me after church last night asking me not only to read what he wrote, but to answer the questions that went with it.   I so wanted to be a good mom and read what he wrote, but it was a struggle.   I think the no spaces between words was the hardest for me.  I typed it up below just as he wrote it.  How would you do? 

JesusAndHisdisciples (Russ helped him spell disciples)





Translation with the correct answers (per Seth) in parentheses after the questions.

Jesus and his disciples went to the Passover and ate.
What did they eat?  (bread and wine)
What did they see? (the soldiers coming)
What did they cut off?  (ear)
What did Jesus say?  (Father forgive them, or It is finished)

Just love that phonetic spelling!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Lake Michigan

On Michigan's sandy shore
I saw shells more and more.
I pick them up one by one
Under the warm and burning sun.

The water crashes on the rocks;
The boats are tied to the docks.
Seagulls fly through the air
On the same wind that ruffles my hair.

Lighthouses shine for boats;
In the summer we don't wear coats.

When I dig in the sand
I find rocks that look like a band.
Sometimes I make sand caves
that are broken by the waves.

I like to swim way out deep;
Every shell I find I keep.
Lake Michigan is so much fun;
Now the wonderful day is done!

By Anna Herman, Age 10
Inspired by a trip to Lake Michigan on March 1
while in Holland, MI listening to Caleb's orchestra perform for 
festival.  She was imagining a warm day in summer, not the 
cold day she experienced in the pictures!