Friday, November 25, 2016

A Week, Briefly (In Which We Eat Too Much Pie)

We sat down together on Sunday night for Family Home Evening and wrote thank you letters--one each--to any person we felt inclined to thank.

On Monday Sir Walter Scott bought stamps and mailed them off.

Hopefully those dozen envelopes brightened the Thanksgiving celebration for a dozen people.

And if they didn't, at least our hearts were brightened as we counted our blessings and expressed our personal gratitude for part of them.

No formal school for any of us this week.

Baymax continued to explode in his language development.  Emerging talkers are some of my favorite people in the world.  My current favorite word on his list is "motorcycle" because it sounds exactly like "water bottle."

Lola's language explosion started this week.  In each of her developmental milestones (other than gross motor) she waits just until I start to worry that she's not going to get there, and then she does.  All of a sudden instead of pointing and crying, she's trying words first to express her desires.  She's tickled pink that they work.  And we're delighted that there's so much less crying in our world.

Little Brother continues to refuse to be potty-trained enough to get out of a diaper.  He uses the toilet 6-8 times a day but still has a soaking wet diaper by dinnertime (how???).  We're trying to be patient.  The awesome news is that he figured out how to put on his own coat.  His jacket still confuses him, but he can get his arms in his coat all by himself.  He's terribly proud. 

On our nature walk this week, he found an interesting hole in the ground.  He had a grand time investigating it--especially poking into it with a stick to see if anything would come out.

Nothing did. :)

Brother suddenly made a new cognitive leap.  Just a few weeks ago our ball-and-stick toys still stumped him utterly, but this very week he chose them as his quiet time toy, and he was able to build a house with an attached "porch" and "deck."  Somehow he now sees how the pieces work together, and he can make his fingers do what he asks them to.  It's wonderful to see.

Mister Man continues to learn almost faster than I can teach him.  The world is a marvelous place, and he enjoys each new revelation.

Ladybug especially enjoyed rolling out leftover pie crust dough and cutting out cookie shapes that I sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and baked up for the kids to eat.

Little Princess joined Nature  Angel in repurposing our Zingo game into a creative writing prompt.  They'd take all of the tiles, arrange them in an order that made them laugh and add verbs and prepositional phrases to create funny stories.  I think they stayed engaged in this activity for close to 3 hours.

And that's Little Princess in blue on the left, running happily across the swale on our nature walk.
Nature Angel designed, embroidered, and sewed a pillow for Mister Man.  He loves airplanes!  She manages the sewing machine all by herself these days.

She also helped make (along with the other littles who did lots of mashing) the bucket of strawberry freezer jam that we enjoyed on homemade rolls on Thanksgiving.

She also found this giant leaf.  Our internet was down most of the week, but now that it is back up and running we'll look up what kind of tree it came from.
 Belle worked almost constantly on her embroidery project.  She has to have the embroidery done in the next few days because she then has to sew the blocks together and complete the decorative quilt art piece she's making for YW in Excellence.  She paused a few times to make cranberry bread, cranberry sauce, and many Thanksgiving pies.

Checking out the recipe for the cranberry sauce
She didn't make ALL of the pies by herself, but she did work hard at pie making.
Super Star created an Oreo pie to die for.  Otherwise she rested, read, and rested some more.

Oh!  She and I finished the cookbook she's been working on for over a year now.  It was a Personal Progress Knowledge value project, and it has been such hard, focused, dedicated work on her part.  The finished book will arrive next Wednesday--just in time for YW in Excellence!

(And we finished it maybe an hour before our internet was knocked out!  What a blessing!)

Pixie completed some spelling exercises and made the most beautiful deep dish apple pie I've ever seen . . . and it was delicious.

She also made this lovely, tasty coconut cream pie!

She spent hours and hours reading library books--mostly fluffy teen romance stories that are helping her to rest from her usual hard work.

Rose Red read a lot this week.  I challenged her to finish reading and narrating Till We Have Faces.  It is now late Friday afternoon, and she's not done yet, but she's curled up on the couch with a mug of herbal tea reading luxuriously.  She's also the creator of that gorgeous cherry pie in the pie photo, and she baked up a truly decadent pumpkin cheesecake, too.

Our Thanksgiving day was filled with family, food, and gratitude.  We took a 2 mile hike before settling down to eat the sumptuous feast that will continue to feed us for another couple of days.

And here is the love of my life carving the turkey.  He's far better looking in person. :)  He just hates having his picture taken. (And I can hardly wait for No-Shave-November to be over!)
The "triplet" cousins were to-die-for cute!
All three of them were born within 7 weeks of one another.
On Wednesday night we traveled north to see Uncle M-- in a play called The Savior of the World.  All of us but Rose Red went (she had to work).  It was quite enjoyable, but also quite long.  I had 3 sleeping boys on my lap by the end of the show, Little Princess fell asleep on top of Cousin E--, and Lola was asleep in Pixie's arms.

Then Baymax sat up and vomited all over me and the theater floor.

But he was fine on Thanksgiving.

On Friday I conducted school interviews with each of the teens.

Belle and I agreed that she will need a new project to challenge her starting in January.  We decided to pray and ponder until simultaneously we realized that she could take control of next year's garden!  She'll use The Encyclopedia of Country Living as a reference, and she'll study planting times, decide what we'll grow, and design how the garden will be planted.

Super Star committed to working more faithfully at her math assignments.  She and I also spent at least an hour making plans for her to complete her Personal Progress by this coming spring.  She's feeling highly motivated.  She asked me to provide her with some creative writing prompts to inspire her daily writing.

Pixie proved how focused and dedicated she is.  I did find that she could be a little bit more thorough in her science answers, and she agreed to work on them.  She also forgot to print out the final drafts of her essays (I read them on the computer), so I asked her to do that and save them in her binder for future portfolio purposes.  Recently she needed to revamp her geography studies (she works with us during Symposium, but that's not high school level work), so we pulled out Mapping the World by Heart, and she's been working through a few of the "appetizer" exercises so far.

Rose Red and I have been talking  a lot about school lately, so we just firmed up what we'd already been talking about--mainly to complete more math each week and read with scholarly dedication.

While I was busy with the interviews, I gave the babies each a roll of toilet paper to play with.  I thought they'd have a grand time unrolling and shredding to their hearts' content, but it turned out that the big kids got in on the action!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Review: Creative Nature Study

Having been invited to write a review for Schoolhouse Review Crew, I was tickled to find Creative Nature Study available from The Old Schoolhouse Magazine.  The forecast for our area last week was perfect autumn weather--high 40s over night and reaching 70 or so each afternoon.  Knowing I'd feel compelled to get outside and make the most of these last autumn days, I requested a copy of the ebook and began reading immediately.

photo credit: Pixie

I am not a natural at taking my kids outside to study and learn.  I was a bookworm who, as a kid, only went outside to walk to school or the library.  I'd come home laden with books from either location and curl up in the overstuffed armchair in the living room and not come up for air until forced.

I have a couple of kids like this, but a good number of my kids need to learn with their hands and bodies.  I also have kids with special emotional, physical, and cognitive needs, and research shows that kids learn and grow best just like plants do--in the sunshine, wind, rain, and dirt.  As a result I've spent a great deal of time trying to learn how to make the most of the great outdoors.

Bookworm that I am, the key for me is to read, read, read--to read until my head is so stuffed with ideas that I have to act.

photo credit: Pixie

Creative Nature Study helped fill my head to bursting.

It is a brief (just barely 100 pages) collection of essays by homeschool moms who've gotten good at nature study over the years.  They write of their individual experiences, sharing how they started, how they grew, and a few favorite tips and tricks learned along the way.  Some of the essays are really practical--for example the "I See God . . ." essay that details how to to take and document nature walks focusing on the wonder of God in all things.  Some of the essays are more nostalgic, intended to inspire the reader to study further and make long term plans for nature study.

Journal entry by Nature Angel

Mister Man's narration and picture

Super Star's poem inspired by the "I See God" walk
Following the essays is a list that is a treasure trove of favorite nature book titles that the many authors of the essays have loved over the years.  From Handbook of Nature Study to Peterson's Field Guides to One Small Square, there's a great variety to choose from.  Several titles immediately made it to my Christmas giving list this year.

Then at the very end are a dozen or more different types of scavenger hunt printables.  From the very simplest ("I saw animals with this many legs") to more complex "(I saw these types of soil erosion . . ."), the variety is quite good.  They're all ready to print and take with you, and the graphics are simple and effective.

We did not use the leaf scavenger hunt as printed.  Instead we adjusted to our family needs, and simply used the sheet to tally the types of leaves we found.  At first we found only single leaves.

But then we walked up to the corner and counted fallen maple leaves.  :)

Before receiving Creative Nature Study, we'd already been studying leaf shapes.  This scavenger hunt was just right for us to tally the leaf shapes we found in our yard and on our walk.

I had several "ah-ha!" moments while reading and applying what I learned from Creative Nature Study.  The most important for me was while reading the essay about nature study and asthma/allergies.  The author's story and advice opened my eyes to how very, very simple nature study can be.  I'd been feeling inadequate in my walks and journaling (or lack thereof), but this essay talked about nature study from a car window!  As I pondered the significance of her family's behind-a-window studies, my mind opened up to the significance of our small efforts.

The awesome effect was to free me up to get us out more often, more simply, and more joyfully.

I found myself opening the book several times just to review or study further a concept taught in one essay or another in quiet moments while rocking babies or stirring pasta sauce for dinner.  I can see myself opening it frequently in days, weeks, months, and years to come.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

A Week, Briefly (In Which We Forget and Then Remember to Look at the Moon)

We read about it.
We talked about it.
We planned on it.
We set alarms on our phones for it.

And we still managed to NOT go out to experience the awesome astronomical event of Sunday night.

Nothing went wrong.
We just forgot.
And didn't notice the alarms that were supposed to remind us.

C'est la vie.

Preschool book of the week:  Gracias*Thanks

We dove into our usual routine easily.  Mondays are our review days for The Living Christ.  I love watching Mister Man, Ladybug, and Brother get into singing.  Their little voices get big, and the expressions on their faces as they hit the high notes deserves a photograph to appreciate--perhaps I'll put that on my priority list next week.

We've finished the first quarter of lessons from The Mystery of History 2.  We had a blast running through the review questions included in the text.  It turns out that Nature Angel remembers Roman emperors quite well, while Super Star really absorbed the material about the Jewish revolts.  And all of us got to know the 4 saints covered in these lessons quite well.

We're learning Te Damos Gracias, Senor, Por Las Manos for Spanish right now.  It's always agony for Pixie to be introduced to new words and phrases, but as it has always gotten better with experience, I trust the same will be true this time.

I was invited by Schoolhouse Review Crew to submit a sample product review as a step in the selection process for their 2017 crew, and I chose a nature study guide.  I dove into reading it while I put the babies down for naps, and in the afternoon, the littles and I headed out for a nature walk.  That walk was so simple, so brief, so rewarding.

We stopped to study this poison ivy so that we'd recognize it in all seasons.  I snapped the picture for a future nature journal activity.

The kids loved, loved, loved crawling and slithering through the leaves . . . practically bathing in them at times. :)

Rose Red is trying a new system to getting her schoolwork done; she's choosing to focus on one subject each day (other than Seminary and Spanish).  Monday was writing day.  She wrote a funny little moral story last week, and she spent the afternoon turning it into a play for Girls' Camp next summer.   She also went with Sir Walter Scott to renew her driver's permit--she's determined to get her license this time.

Pixie, Super Star, and Belle took a long bike ride in the afternoon.

We remembered to look at the moon!  It may not have been at maximum fullness, but we marveled at its brightness nonetheless.  Pixie tried so hard to get a good photograph of it, but she didn't have the right equipment.  (There's a note to self for Christmas!)

photo credit:  Pixie

In Morning Meeting we only read one verse of Alma 42 for our Book of Mormon reading!  Our conversation was so rich and so long that one verse was enough.

Later, during Symposium, we dove into our study of Asia.  We started by watching this video just to get a feel for the vast variety of the continent, and we tried to fill out blank maps of Asia.

Ha!  We have a lot to learn!

We got interested in the Dead Sea, so we watched this video.

Then we spent time studying random facts about Asia as a whole--highest, lowest, largest, smallest sort of facts.  And we studied a proper map so that the next time we try to fill in a blank map we'll do better than today!

Nature Angel is writing a new story.

Rose Red focused on US geography for her personal studies.  She also had an orientation meeting for her new job at Freddy's.

Pixie whipped through her individual schoolwork quite easily, then babysat and made dinner while I ran errands.

Super Star learned how to make a book at Shutterfly; she's completing a cookbook for a Personal Progress project.

Little Princess completed the boring, boring assignment (sheesh!  who thinks up an assignment like this?) of writing out the numbers from 901-1000 for math.  I'd have let her skip it, but she sometimes still reverses her 3's and 6's, so I figured the practice wouldn't hurt.  She eventually got into the assignment and showed me her completed work proudly.

Ladybug keeps sabotaging her opportunities for personal freedom.  It was a rough day for her.

Mister Man is quite enjoying The Storybook of Science.  He's delighted with the heft of the book and with the fact that it is going to take us several months to finish it together.  He finished reading And Then What Happened, Paul Revere?  He's still working on Farmer Boy.  He's mostly enjoying a library book we borrowed last week, Richard Scarry's Funniest Storybook Ever.

Belle faithfully works each day.  She finished The Windy Hill, and I gave her All Creatures Great and Small to read.  If she likes it (and I believe she will), there's the rest of the series for her to delve into.

We brought home 58 new library books, but we returned 50, so the increase isn't too bad.

"Whatcha doing?"  we'll ask.  " 'Coo' " he answers. (School)

Everyone's score on labeling the countries of Asia improved, and we began reading about life in the early Middle Ages in Europe.  The kids drew pictures as a way of narrating what I read aloud, and I laughed over and over again at their funny, clever drawings.

Rose Red focused on grammar for her school, but then she also worked on writing her play.

It was a good day for Ladybug.  She was helpful, cooperative, happy, and got to do school!

Mister Man and I read The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere together.  He liked it!  The art knocked his socks off, and we had great conversations about poetic language.

The littles and I gathered then compared leaves to a couple of scavenger hunt sheets I printed out from Creative Nature Study.  We simply tallied what we found, and they all so enjoyed finding leaves and bringing them to me and deciding where the tally mark should go.  Eventually they put the leaves in my hair and threw them in the air and slid and jumped and simply . . . frolicked.

photo credit:  Pixie

photo credit:  Pixie

Nature Angel's sharp eyes picked out this bit of fox fur on the ground.  We've seen the fox several times crossing into our woods.

Little Princess was thrilled with how large this wild ginger leaf was.  It tore, but she still wanted a record that she found it.  We had a lot of fun finding the tiniest and biggest leaves we could. (Nature Angel found the smallest one--perhaps only 3 mm across!)

It was the kind of joy that goes beyond words.

Then I had to pick grass seeds out of Ladybug's hair because the kids ran through some tall grasses and the seeds stuck to her like they were magnetized.

But that was fine.

Church activities took the oldest 5 and Sir Walter Scott away for the evening.  The littles and I had a sweet evening at home reading stories (once our exhausted and grumpy Baymax was asleep [he's getting over a cold]).

The morning was hectic because some of our dance clothes disappeared in the laundry.  Six of us hunted high and low for the missing items, but they never turned up.  Fortunately we had alternate clothing that could be worn.

Once that problem was solved we gathered for Symposium.  We had our usual start, but for our main lesson we took everyone (except Rose Red who stayed home to focus on starting Til We Have Faces for her next literature project) on an "I See God" nature walk.  When we got home the older ones wrote poems about their experiences, and I helped the littles with their journals.
Little Princess carefully drew the beautiful maple tree.
Here's Brother illustrating his journal entry.
Belle's poem
Then we quickly ate some peanut butter sandwiches and got ready and out the door.

We had to turn around twice(!) for forgotten shoes.

Seriously, I am usually so much more organized than this.

Then the show was great!

The dancers all introduce themselves to the audience, and there was an audible sigh of delight when Pixie brought Brother and Little Brother forward to say hi.

They danced hard in Mountain Music.

Pixie, Super Star, and Belle danced in Sweetheart of the Rodeo.

All ready for Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend.

Nature Angel is holding a corner of the blanket, and Little Princess is just coming out from under it in Bicycle Built for Two.

Super Star has a lovely singing voice, and she had a chance to let it shine in Bie Mir Bist Du Schoon.

No one fainted!!!

Little Brother captures this lady's heart when he hugged her instead of shaking her hand.

This woman took hold of Pixie's hand and wouldn't let go.  She couldn't talk, but she clearly wanted to communicate something and be in touch with the dancers.

Some popcorn, drinks of water, outside play, and a lovely dinner later we read aloud and headed off to bed early--exhausted by the exertions of the day.

Whoa!  A cold front arrived!  We went from short sleeves to coats and gloves overnight!

That didn't deter the littles from riding their bikes, though, and I'm glad.  They need the physical exercise, and the challenge of riding in the windy cold brought a sparkle to their eyes.

We had a quiet morning, filled with the usual routine--just a bit later than usual because everyone was so tired from Thursday.  For our main lesson during Symposium, we watched this video about the middle ages.  It gave us lots of food for thought.  Our main conversation centered around how historical "facts" are often actually best guesses based on evidence.

Our afternoon was slow and peaceful, too.

The littles played with playdough.

 I spent a long time helping Rose Red with math.

In the evening I drove most of the big girls off to the homeschool Thanksgiving Dinner/Game Night activity.  Traffic was terrible, and I was gone for almost 2 hours, but I had the babies with me, and Rose Red was a good babysitter to the others.  We'd finished Ramona the Pest on Thursday evening, so she started Winnie the Pooh with them.  They LOVE it!

 (Linking here)