Saturday, November 25, 2017


After all the food had been eaten and all the playing had been accomplished and all the dishes had been washed, Paul and I sat down in a quiet, lamplit home and gave our kids a few minutes to write a list of things they were thankful for.  Some of them chose to write a list based on the alphabet. Others went for a free-form list. :)

Here's what our kids are thankful for this year!

Luke, age 12
Holy Bible
Jazz music
Mom, Meryn
Nerf guns

Kiryn, age 11:
Good-lookin' Dad
Itch ointment
Nadia (pen pal)
Other People

Levi, age 7:
Great Grandma
Great Grandpa

Meryn, age 6:
Abby, my stuffy
Ice Cream
Jantz Cousins
Katie Rose, Kiryn
 Luke, Levi
Orange juice
Playing outside
Quiet bedroom
Wild Kratts
(mom's e)xcellent food
(She had help with a few of these! :)

So fun to see what they are thankful for! :) 

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

End-of-Term Review and Reflections

Each year when we begin our studies, I always think I'd like to do weekly post on how we're spending our time and growing. But somehow, it seems kind of like measuring the kids' heights every single week. You do it so often its hard to see the growth. While I have managed to write about some specific things we've done so far this year, I'm going to try to do end-of-term reviews to see more significant growth. By looking back at 12 weeks of school work, maybe I'll see bigger strides of growth, more accomplished, and generally be more encouraged to keep on.

This week we are taking the week off of school, so I had planned into the week to have a day of reflection, and to walk through the Simply Convivial Homeschool Audit. That's what I'm doing today, so here's a review of the past 12 weeks of our learning!

Morning Time

We have read a lot.  We have two stacks of books: completed, and in progress. 
This is our completed stack. The kids have read these to themselves, with the exception of Of Courage Undaunted. That was a read-aloud our first six weeks. 

This is our in-progress stack.  Some we just began (like Queen Victoria and John Audubon). Others we're almost finished with (like Lord of the Rings and The Great Little Madison, and an un-pictured eBook, The Swiss Family Robinson), and others we'll be reading slowly all year (like Hearts and Hands, Easy French Reader, Abraham Lincoln's World, Story of the Great Republic, and the atlas of physiology). 

Most of our reading happens during our Morning Time.  The past twelve weeks in Morning Time, the kids have: 
-heard daily Bible readings
-learned two new hymns by heart
-listened to multiple pieces of music by Vivaldi
-read Building Poems by Michael Clay Thompson and written their own poems with what they've learned
-carefully looked at and learned to identify six paintings by Botticelli
-learned about phrases (prepositional, appositive, verbals) in grammar 
-memorized I Corinthians 13
-listened to the entire Twelfth Night play by Shakespeare

Some of Luke's poetry writing. He was given a meter and rhyme scheme and a theme. 

My Morning Time planning sheet, well-used and filled up with all that we've put nurtured our souls with together. 

Sometimes, the younger ones need things to keep them busy and hopefully quiet during Morning Time. This is a picture of one of the ways we did that. :) 

Everyone hard at work on grammar during Morning Time. 

I look back on this and can say I'm very satisfied with the ground we've covered here. :) If I will keep consistently working my plan, I will remain very satisfied with our how days are getting started and the thing we're filling our minds and hearts with together. 

Upper Grammar Kids
My older two kids have been growing in their independence this year. They are expected to read more independently, manage their time more independently, make decisions about how and where and what to work on.  Their checklists are working well.  Here's some samples from their Commonplace books and Nature journals. 

Kiryn's Commonplace. Latin to English translation of questions and answers to a Latin story she read on the left. Rough draft of one of her essays on the right. 

Kiryn is my creative kid. This is her Latin practice, complete with doodling, and an upside down monkey hanging from the top of the page. :)

The kids have been studying the human body. We've worked through several of the systems, and I've had them draw and label each one as they've learned it. I couldn't find Kiryn's skeletal or respiratory systems, because they were drawn on loose paper (instead of in her nature notebook, where they ought to have been done).  So this brain is all I have of hers so far this year. :(

We've been working on taking notes as they read history, and building their Timelines off of the notes they take.  This is a sample of Kiryn's history note-taking, with some Dictation at the top. 

Luke's Commonplace book. He has been working on outlining. Here is an outline of the story of Benedict Arnold. 

Sample of Luke's history note-taking. 

Kiryn's nature journal. We found one of these caterpillars in the garden and have kept him. He cocooned within a few days, but it looks like he's going to over-winter, because he's still in there. :) 

Luke's Nature Journal. This is his free-hand drawing and labeling of the skeletal system. 

Luke's Respiratory System and Brain drawings. 

Looking back through their work has been so encouraging to me! We are really learning things, and getting to know God and His ways in the process. We are growing in knowledge and virtue together. Thank you, Lord!

Lower Grammar Kids
My lower grammar kids have also been hard at work.  We've read a lot together: 

Our completed book stack from the past 12 weeks. (Except Just So Stories. We just have another chapter or two in that!)

Here are sample of their work.  Meryn is still learning to form letters and is just beginning to do some basic sentence copy-work, so she doesn't have too much written work to show yet. :) 

Levi's reproductions of art he's been looking at. He's studied Winslow Homer, Jean-Francois Millet, and Van Gogh this year so far. 

I love this. He loved this painting so much he asked for a poster of it, which we got and hung over his bed. 

Levi's also been learning just a bit about major stars and constellations and learning to draw them. 

Levi's nature journal. Here is an entry about a golden finch. He drew this from a picture in a book, and wrote down what he remembered reading about it. It was from a story/fable, not a scientific reading. :) 

Meryn's drawing and oral narration from the same story. She dictated to me and I wrote what she said. 

Levi and Meryn playing math games together. They like to race to build the shapes. 

Levi having some quiet reading time to himself. 

Outside Activities
In addition to our home-based studies, we are part of a homeschool co-op.  This co-op meets every Friday. Twice a month we have class days together in Latin, Writing, History, and Fine Arts (and nature time for the younger kids). Twice a month we have Enrichment Days in which we do a service project, have a field trip, or have a nature day.  This has gone so amazingly well this year, and here are some scenes from the things we've done together, as well as just some family outings we've had! So many good memories here!

Family trip to see the solar eclipse!

Co-op: Lessons on Lewis & Clark and their adventures as naturalists who documented many new plant and animal species. Kids looked at L&C's journals, and had to go outside and find plant samples and make entries like Lewis & Clark did, giving detailed drawings and descriptions. 

Co-op: Field trip to Eagle Valley Raptor Center. This was an awesome field trip and the kids got up close and personal with some serious birds of prey!

Here, Meryn has just left a mouse in the fence for the vulture to come eat. 

Yes, that is a real bald eagle!

Kiryn working on Latin so happily and peacefully, I just had to capture it. :) 

Co-op: Service project at the Kansas Food Bank. We stocked shelves together for almost two hours and helped with milk, vienna sausages, pudding packs, and more!

Family field trip to the Bliss Bouldering Club to try our hand at rock climbing. Super fun!

Kiryn has really grown in her crafting skills this year. 

Co-op: Special Guest Speaker Vicki Dicks came and told our kids all about her great-great-grandfather, Chief Sequoyah, who wrote the Cherokee language. This was a special and memorable treat!

Co-op: Jacque teaching the kids about the Oregon Trail. Here they are measuring off exactly how large a wagon would have been and thinking about fitting everything a family owned or would need for that kind of journey into that amount of space. 

Co-op: Nature Day at Chaplin Nature Center. We love Mr. Shaun and the programs he puts together for the kids. This trip he took us on a 1 mile hike to investigate the different types of trees and teach the kids a bit about identification and parts of a tree. 

Home: Kiryn is really enjoying playing the violin. 

Co-op: Kids playing an Oregon Trail card game as we continue learning about the Oregon Trail. 

I am so so pleased with how our co-op is going and all the wonderful things we've experienced so far this year with our group! 

Planning Reflections
So this past summer, I spent a lot of time in planning and creating a planning system I thought would save me a lot of time. Has it worked? I'm glad to say that I am very happy with how my planner is working.  It does save me significant time each week to already have an idea of the broad strokes of the year in our major courses. I have been able to read widely in the free time I've had the past twelve weeks. I've read: 

-Norms and Nobility (half of it so far)
-Robinson Crusoe
-The Black Moon (A Poldark novel, light read)
-Consider This (half so far)
-Life Under Compulsion by Anthony Esolen

I've also been able to complete two classes on Classical U (Essential Latin, and Teaching Math Classically), and get about halfway through another (How to Teach History with Wes Callihan). I've also been able to spend significant time researching and planning a long-range 7-12th grade brain storm for what our co-op could look like for those grades, since we have a group of kids moving into 7th grade next year. I don't think I'd have had the margin to do all this in the afternoons and on weekends if I hadn't planned well over the summer. It was time well-spent.  Here's a peek into how my planner is working for me: 

A filled-in Morning Time sheet.

My memory keeping page. Anything fun we do I try to write a little note here so we can look back at this and remember what we've done!

A complete week spread with assignments filled in and checked off, notes made, etc. (One day I had to call and schedule a chimney cleaning, so there are notes about that totally un-related to school.) :)

My co-op lesson plan sheets. These have worked really well for me to plan out how our classes will go each time we get together. 

It's been so encouraging for me to reflect back on the past twelve weeks! I still have some time to sit down and work through the questions in the homeschool audit and see if there are areas I could tweak and improve. I know we have areas that need improvement. One of my children is severely lacking in discipline and is always dragging their feet to get their reading work done.  One of my children is a bit hasty and rushes through their work, especially math.  I struggle to get up early enough to begin at a decent time, which ends up cutting the kids time too short to accomplish what I'd like for them to do.  I need to be more diligent and consistent in getting up and being ready to go by 8:30. When I'm slow in the morning and we don't get started till 9 (or 9:30, let's be honest), we inevitably cannot complete all I've set out to do in a day. The needs of the four different kids mixed with making lunch and the older two going and coming for their orchestra classes everyday leaves us with about 2.5-3 hours for school if I'm an hour late.  This is an area I've struggled with the past 3-4 weeks, and I know I need to improve in my diligence to give them the appropriate amount of time so our learning is not rushed and they feel their time matches the expected work.  So those are the things I'm looking to improve as begin a new term next week! :)  

Friday, October 6, 2017

Commonplace Essays with Writing & Rhetoric

It bears repeating.  The Writing & Rhetoric series by Classical Academic Press is really amazing.  My 5th and 6th graders are in Ch. 5 of the sixth book. They are learning to write commonplace essays, which are six paragraph essays refuting bad character traits.  They wrote their first essay this week.  We were behind schedule, and weren't going to finish for class. I was fine with that and wasn't rushing them, but they both wanted to finish their essays for class so badly they stayed up late Thursday night in order to finish it. This is their first attempt at a commonplace essay. I was SO pleased with the results. They had minimal help with these! :) (These were typed as they were written. Any mistakes are not typos, but the kids' grammar and spelling errors.) :)

Against Boasters
by Kiryn Preedy (10 years old)

Boasters cover up weakness by puffing up their deeds and can cause real harm. When boasters exaggerate things they have done, they don’t know some people can see through them, proving the boaster untrustworthy. A boaster will also take credit for something their friend has done, hurting the other person. Humility shows trustworthiness, while boasters can’t be trusted with anything.

We can see how awful a boaster is by comparing him to a humble, modest person. Take George Washington for example. He was one of the most humble people American has seen. He was made Commander-in-cheif of the U.S. army during the War of Independence. He felt “it was a trust to great for [his] capacity.” Later, after the war ended, George Washington became the first president of the United States. Yet, he never did any of it out of his own ambition. Washington never submitted to his desire to lead a quiet life on Mt. Vernon, but faithfully served his country for many years. A boaster would seek fame and glory for doing as little as possible. 

When a boaster is feeling down, here is something he might say to himself. “I didn’t fail that, they were just bad judges. I always do everything perfectly the first time without even trying. I did that performance much better than the other kid. I bet the judges favored him and that’s why he won. Yeah, I did things no one else can.” This kind of thinking could lead to broken relationships, hurt feelings, and all kinds of stuff like that. 

Boasters and gossipers can both hurt people with words. Gossipers are people who spread rumors about a person that they heard from someone else. Spreading rumors about someone can hurt that person and break a relationship. Then that person could take revenge and start spreading rumors about them. As bad as this is, boasting hurts even more, it breaks relationships, hurts feelings, causes gossip, and can even lead to physical harm. 

When a boaster gets hurt from his own doing, you shouldn’t pity him. he got what was coming to him, and although his friends may pity him, we still shouldn’t. Think of all the people he could hurt with his words. Take General Braddock for example. He was so boastful “that nearly all of Washington’s troops were killed, and a great many English as well,” during the battle of Monongahela. 

Ask yourself, what effect does boasting have on others? What might be dangerous about a boaster? Take this, General Braddock received a mortal wound during the battle of Monongahela because he was to prideful to listen to Washington. So saying, this is my commonplace essay against boasters. 

Against Boasters
by Luke Preedy (12 years old)

Boasters not only are unpleasant to be around, but can also be dangerous.  They can be unpleasant to be around because they blab on and on about themselves and never give anybody else credit. They are dangerous because their words provoke other people which can lead to physical quarrels. Humility leads to friendship, whereas boasting leads to loneliness. 

George Washington was commander-in Chief of the American army. He was the First President of the United States of America. Even though he made many accomplishments in his life he never took them for granted and continued to be humble throughout the rest of his life. He never intended to be President or Commander-in-Chief. While Washington deserves a lot of credit for the deeds he did he never looked for any attention. Whereas a boaster is constantly looking for attention and credit for things they didn’t do. 

A boaster wants to put himself higher than anybody else. This is what a boaster will think: “I am awesome. I deserve all the credit for my totally successful deeds. I can do things nobody else can do.” Always avoid boasters because you can’t trust them. 

There are other types of wrongdoers, take for example, a critical person. Critical people correct everybody on everything, they are always finding fault tin other people, but no in themselves.  It makes people feel hurt, and to not want to be around them. Both boasters and critical people make people have hurt feelings, but boasters are worse because their words can lead to harm not just to other people but to themselves as well. 

You shouldn’t have pity for a boaster. Take General Braddock for example. He went into a forest filled with Indians he didn’t know anything about. his consequence ended up being the death of his army and himself. Not only did he get in trouble, but he led General Washington into it. He nearly killed Washington, and he killed Washington’s whole army. 

Finnaly, I appeal to justice. For example, the story of Falstaff and Prince Harry. Harry played a trick on Falstaff to see his true character. When Falstaff got to Harry, he exaggerated the whole story. And Prince Harry saw Falstaff’s character was boastful. Prince Harry caught his friend lying and found out he was untrustworthy. This proves that all boasters are untrustworthy. 

Thursday, September 7, 2017

A Day in the Life of *This* Homeschool Mom

I always find other people's daily routines fascinating and helpful for me. I've gotten some great and lasting habits from posts like this: Morning Time, chore cards, reading aloud.  I love how the homeschool community inspires each other! So it is in that spirit which I write a post about a typical day in our home.

7:00 - I wake up to a quiet house. I sit in my favorite place reading until 7:30. My husband works from home, and some days, he's here all day. This morning though, he left a couple of hours before I woke up. About three mornings a week I get up and go for a nice long walk while I listen to a podcast. Starting my day with a walk or reading time in this chair is good for my soul.

7:30: Shower time for me. Some of the kids are now stirring, laying in bed reading themselves, quietly playing in their rooms.

8:15: Breakfast. This is one of those rare days that I made breakfast the night before: banana bread. So we quickly gather around the table and get to eating.

 8:30: After breakfast chores. Kiryn clears and wipes the table...(and everyone gets dressed and brushes teeth and makes beds)

 Luke unloads and then loads the dishwasher.

 I go upstairs to grab my calendar and a few things, and find Charlie (our dog) has gotten into the shower. Ick! So five minutes escapes to clean that. Note to self: close the shower door.

8:50: Everyone heads to the basement for Morning Time! We were in a leisurely mood this morning, so Morning Time lasted until 10:05.  It varies from 30-60 minutes usually.

Grammar during morning time with Michael Clay Thompson's Grammar Voyage. Notice there *is* a table and chairs directly behind them. But they prefer to sit awkwardly on the floor....

10:05: Independent work for the Upper Grammars. We go over their checklists, and they stack up their books, find a quiet spot, and get busy!

10:10: Seat work with my Lower Grammar kids. We'll spend the next hour and fifteen minutes here working on math, spelling, handwriting, phonics/reading, and beginning writing.

11:20: Lower Grammars get a break outside. I sit down with Luke for twenty minutes of math on the couch. Mostly we're checking over what he's already done.

11:40: I drop Luke off a couple of blocks away at the local middle school for his orchestra class. He's here till 12:40.

Meanwhile, at home, the Lower Grammars are called in from the trampoline for their read aloud time.  Today we read from two volumes of My Book House, Milly Molly Mandy, How We Crossed the West: The Adventures of Lewis & Clark, Christian Liberty Nature Reader Book 1, and each of them read from their phonics readers.

12:40: I pick up Luke and come home to make lunch. We're eating by a little after 1. Everyone has the same chores after lunch as breakfast, and we're cleaned up and moving on by 1:30.

1:30: The littles are done for the day, and are having quiet time in their rooms. My Upper Grammars gather in the living room with books for Writing & Rhetoric, history, spelling, and Latin (or French, depending on the week). From 1:30 -3:00, we talk through the writing exercises, I read history aloud and we discuss their independent readings, we do map work, spelling dictation, and watch our Latin lesson, practice our chants. This wraps up our day.

At 3:00, everyone heads to what I call the command center to get their chore pack.  There are three daily chores, plus one special chore assigned to each day. This was Thursday. So everyone tidies their rooms, common areas, feeds the dog, takes our recycling, etc. Luke vacuums his room, Kiryn cleans the back glass doors and french doors, Levi empties all trash cans, and Meryn brings up her laundry.  While the kids do this, I do any checking over independent work, like math work or science the older kids did in the morning.

By 4:00, it's porch time for me. I have gotten into the habit of sitting on the porch for some quiet reading and thinking time about 4 in the afternoons. Its usually beautiful, and let's be honest. By 4:00, I need a mental sanity break and some quiet time. :)  I don't really know or care what the kids are doing for this hour. They're on their own. Ha! Not really. They are *supposed* to be rotating in and out of the music room for piano and instrument practice for 20 minutes each (Meryn's not in lessons yet). The rest of the hour is free time for them, until dinner actually, which usually means riding bikes outside, trampoline, playing with neighbors. Right now, I'm reading Norms & Nobility and Robinson Crusoe. Both equally slowly it seems...

5:00: Inside for more chores, laundry, dinner prep. Luke also has soccer practice at 5:30, so he gets ready for that and takes off on his bike. I have dinner ready at 7 when he returns. Dad is out of town tonight, so we eat without him.

After dinner, everyone gets pajamas on, brushes teeth, and gathers in the living room for bedtime stories.  Tonight, we are nearing the end of The Hobbit. We read until about 8:30, and everyone heads off to bed.

This really is quite a typical day for us! This year we are just about four weeks in, and I am loving our daily routine.  It does not feel rushed, finally! We seem to have plenty of time most days to get in everything and get it done peacefully and well. I am having plenty of one-on-one time with each of the kids, and we are all just really doing well with our schedule and subjects this year so far... for which I'm thankful to God, because He is truly the one who has ordered our days...