Friday, August 31, 2007

Managing our house, pt.3

The next area that I want to tackle regarding our house is getting more involvement from my children. Jessie and Violet already have the following established morning routine:
Get up and dressed
Make your bed
Brush your hair
Wash your hands
Come to the kitchen for breakfast time

Both girls are fairly good about helping with a certain task when asked to do something; however, I always have to initiate the process by calling one or both of them and making the request. In considering ways that the girls can help on a more regular basis, I came up with three different areas:
1. General after meal clean up of the kitchen and dining room area.
2. Clean up and organizing specifically in their own room.
3. Regular household chores that I feel they are capable of performing.

After meal clean up:

We don't have a separate formal dining room. Our current dining room is basically a part of the kitchen. The only differentiation between the two spaces is the flooring: linoleum in the kitchen and carpet in the dining room. While I like having a carpeted dining room, I do not wish to take time after every meal to vacuum up under the table. My goal have the table clean enough to be used, and the floor picked up enough that it only needs vacuum twice a week with the rest of the house. All three kids will be expected after each meal to help with the following clean up.

1. Clear dirty dishes to the counter
2. Check floor under chair and pickup any dropped food.
3. Cleaning up any spills and messes on the table. (Jessie and Violet only)
4. After breakfast, brush teeth. (Including helping Benny put the toothpaste on his brush)

Then once a day after dinner, I'll clean the entire table cover.

For Jessie and Violet, cleaning up / organizing their own room

When we finished building this house and moved in during January 2006, I spent a great deal of time organizing the girl's room. All the toys were divided by type and put in plastic tubs. The tubs were then assigned a space either in the crates in their walk in closet or on their bookshelf. I gave them crates for their shoes and one for their library books. It seemed like a great system at the time; however, Jessie and Violet were constantly shoving things under their bed or dumping it all in the dress up clothes box when "cleaning" their room. As a result, every couple of weeks I ended up going through the room and making a pile of toys, books, etc. in the middle of the room of things which were not being put away correctly. Then the girls have to help me put everything in the pile away. After a year and a half, I can at least say that they know where most things belong. To alleviate this problem, I thought we would try having Jessie and Violet each work on one specific part of their room each day to straighten the area up and put things in their rightful place. My goal is to teach the girls to organize their belongings, and hopefully longer term, they will realize that putting things away where they belong the first time makes finding them much easier. Here are the room chores, we going to try.

Monday - (J)Straighten wooden corner shelf, (V)Straighten plastic corner shelf
Tuesday - (J)Straighten books on bookshelf, (V) Straighten dress up clothes box and bucket
Wednesday - (J)Straighten toys on bookshelf, (V)Straighten toy tubs in closet
Thursday - (J)Clear off half of dresser top, (V)Clear off other half of dresser top
Friday - (J)Straighten books on bookshelf again, (V)Straighten up under bed
Saturday - (J)Straighten top drawer, (V) Straighten top drawer

Regular household chores for Jessie and Violet

My goal here is simply to begin involving the girls in work around the house as a first step in teaching them to someday manage their own home and as a means of serving one another within our family. Here is our first attempt at making the girls responsible for regular chores, or service, around the house:

Monday - (J)Dust, (V)Water plants
Tuesday - (J)Straighten game closet, (V)Empty bathroom trash
Wednesday - (J)Shake bathroom tugs, (V)Water plants
Thursday - (J)Gather library books, (V) Gather library books
Friday - (J)Straighten craft supplies, (V)Water plants
Saturday - (J)Clean out van, (M)Clean out van

I will expect Jessie and Violet to do both their room chore and their house chore immediately after lunch and will check behind them before can they go off to read and enjoy our afternoon quiet time.

"Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free." Galatians 6:7-8

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Revising Benny's Preschool

While the basic set up of the letter of the week preparatory program is
working well for us, I have decided to make a few changes. First, I'm
expanding the program from 26 weeks to 32 weeks so that next spring we
won't run out of things to do while Jessie and Violet are still doing a
full schedule. Second, I believe it to be wise to add some review weeks
at various intervals so that Benny isn't overloaded with information and frustrated. Third, I've deleted a few shapes and colors(parallelogram, octagon, tan, and lavender), added in a few of my own instead, and rearranged when each is introduced a bit to cover basic shapes and colors first. Scroll down to see our revised schedule starting with week 5:

13Cars, TrucksOrangeKk11
31GardensPyramidYyPenny, Nickel
32FishReviewZzDime, Quarter

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Blessed interruptions

Some days I wonder if Jessie and Violet are actually listening as I read aloud for history or literature. They are busy making signs to each other or to Benny, constantly changing seats, or staring off into space. When asked questions about what I just read, there are blank stares at me followed by pointing fingers at each other accompanied by "it's her turn to go first". Sigh.

To alleviate this problem, I decided this year that we simply needed more interesting books to read. For history, we have started using Truthquest AHYS1. Some of our literature selections will also come from Truthquest with a few more carefully chosen titles (some still to be determined) added in by me.

I was thrilled today to be interrupted not once but twice during history by Jessie. We were finishing up the last chapter in a biography of Balboa. I read, "One of the men sent to Acla was jealous of Balboa. He told Pedrarias that Balboa was plotting to become king of a new kingdom on the South Sea." Suddenly, Jessie's head pops up from behind the laundry basket where she is coloring and blurts out, "That's a lie". She was equally horrified exclaiming "No" when Balboa was arrested, tried, and executed. I'm just glad to know she got into the story and enjoyed it.

For literature, I needed to fill in about a month or so of time while we finish the explorers until we get to Jamestown for our next Truthquest literature selection. We are reading Little Pilgrim's Progress by Helen L. Taylor. At two 3 page chapters a day, we can finish Christian's journey in the next month and still have extra time each day to sit and talk about the book. This time both Jessie and Violet chimed in. Jessie asked if God was the king mentioned in chapter one. When I answered yes, Violet chimed in that the Celestial City must be talking about heaven. With a few questions from mom, they figured out that the book mentioned was the Bible, and I explained that the burden on his back was his sin.

Thank you Lord for these little moments.

"I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all of my heart; I will glorify your name forever." Psalm 86:12

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Benny's Preschool Time

I have never run an actual "preschool" type program before this year. I think Jessie and Violet had both by ages 3 1/2 learned their letters, numbers, shapes, and colors just by reading books with me. Benny, however, prefers books that tell a story over alphabet, counting, shape, or color books. We used M&Ms to teach him several colors, and he has listened to sisters count enough that he can count fairly well (at least when no one is listening). So as I thought about some goals for him, I realized we needed to work on some basic preschool stuff this year.

Not having time to put together my own program, I went looking on the web and found Letter of the Week. Their preparatory program became the basis of our preschool time. It has only required a few changes and additions on my part.

For teaching letters, they suggest a letter coloring page, posting the letters on the wall, and tracing the letters in something like pudding, finger paint, or rice. Benny doesn't really like to color or hates getting his hands dirty in food or paint. We also don't have wall space for letters. I also wanted him to learn both the capital and lowercase letters. Instead of the wall, we put letter magnets up on the refrigerator each week. Since Benny likes puzzles, I thought that some way to match the capital letter to the lowercase letter might work well. I found an egg matching game at on the internet that I printed on card stock and cut out. (It doesn't seem to be available anymore, so I'll try to put my file up and link to it later this week.) We also start each time singing the alphabet song. Benny always wants to skip the song and just read but has resigned himself to sit and listen to mom sing (except for one day last week when he VERY quietly sang along parts of it).

For teaching numbers, I have a game I made last year from an Evan-Moor book I believe. It has 10 frogs with the numbers 1-10 and 10 lily pads with 1-10 flies on them. The first day Benny wanted to do more frogs than just the 1 and 2 so I put out the pieces up to 5. All I had to do was tell him what the number was for 3, 4, and 5, and he knew right away which lily pad it belonged on.

We also have and use whenever Benny is interested a few Kumon books. The titles are Let's Color!, Let's Cut!, and Let's Sticker & Paste! Benny loves the latter 2 and thinks the coloring book is just OK. It is the only coloring book he will actually use though. I find the books to be cute, colorful, easy to use, and thankfully not very expensive. These books say for ages 2 and up. I might try some of the books for the 3-5 age in the spring. Here are a couple of his cutting pages from our first week of preschool.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Meditations on Genesis 1

Somehow I thought that by now, I had learned all that this first chapter of the Bible has to offer. After all, I've taught it in Sunday school and to my children at least a half dozen times, studied it a few years back in our Bible study at church, and begun reading at this point more times than I can count determined to read through the Bible in the year only to become bogged down somewhere between Leviticus and Deuteronomy. I knew God was the good, powerful, intelligent Creator speaking into existence all that He desired and that all things were made for his glory. What makes this time different? I guess the difference is inside of me.

This past year was extremely stressful and difficult. Part of it was my own fault for overloading my schedule with outside commitments. Part of it was beyond my control. I certainly didn't plan to miscarry at 12 weeks right before Christmas or again at 6 weeks in April. I was unprepared for the grief and sorrow, unprepared for the unanswered prayers and questions. The times for me were very hard and felt very dark indeed.

As I read through Genesis 1 for my first grade Sunday School lessons, my thoughts stopped on that first day. "Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters." Gen. 1:2 God started with complete and utter darkness. That was how I had felt: the formlessness as if my life had been plunged into chaos and confusion, the darkness of pain and grief, and the emptiness that comes with loss. Into that first darkness, God brought light, order, and a multitude of good things. Likewise into my life God has been moving in, restoring order and peace, joy and hope, and faith in His goodness and sovereignty.

I've always loved to see the sunbeams shining through a cloud because it reminded me how God reaches out to us in His love and mercy. Today it also reminds me that God can break through the darkest, hardest, or even scariest of times to light our way back home to Him. I pray we always remember to look for His light and to trust in His love as we each walk on our journey home.

"For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ." 2 Corinthians 4:6

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Creating our timeline books

After spending time reading through suggestions of different ways to make timelines on the Homeschool in the Woods website, I decided to follow their suggestions for making a horizontal timeline for each girl. I made a word document of the entire timeline with a dark line running across the middle of the page and lighter lines on either side for writing or placement of images. It is very similar to the formating of HitW's Record of Time pages.

The lines are color coded to correspond to the WTM history sequence: purple for ancients (4000BC - 400AD), blue for middle ages (400AD - 1600AD), red for early modern (1600AD - 1850AD), and green for modern (1850AD - present). I followed the time increments listed on the Homeschool in the Wood's website page since we will be filling the timeline with their HTTA figures. The pages are printed one-sided on white cardstock, three hole punched, and placed in a 1 1/2" binder. Here is a picture:

The best part is the whole timeline is one big Word document so when Benny is ready for one all I have to do is load the printer with cardstock and make sure the ink cartridges are ready.

The girls were so excited over their new timelines that they insisted on putting in the figures from our first 2 weeks of history last night. Lesson 1 - It was a really long time from Leif Eriksson to Christopher Columbus. Lesson for mom when I wait for God's time, He brings everything together according to His plan , and it all falls in place. Here is a picture of their completed timelines from last night.

"This is what the Lord says-- your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: 'I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.'" Isaiah 48:17

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Our First 2 Full Weeks

We haven't quite finished everything on the schedule for both weeks, but overall we've had a pretty good start to the school year.


Both girls have already memorized our first poem. Jessie says she loves the poetry and prefers to sing the poem to her own tune, and Violet was very proud of herself on Friday when she finally put all the pieces in the correct order without my help.

God Hath Not Promised
by Annie Johnson Flint

God hath not promised
Skies always blue
Flower-strewn pathways
All our lives through.
God hath not promised
Sun without rain,
Joy without sorrow,
Peace without pain.

But God hath promised
Strength for the day,
Rest for the labor,
Light for the way,
Grace for the trials,
Help from above,
Unfailing sympathy,
Undying love.

History and Geography

I'm happy to say history and geography have both been deemed "fun" this year. Hopefully all the planning and prereading will continue to pay off. Both Jessie and Violet love lapbooking so we have separate lapbooks for each activity. New this year for Violet, she gets to tell me her own narration, which then gets typed and printed off the computer to glue into the lapbook.

Week one in history covered reasons for exploration, Prince Henry the Navigator, and Leif the Lucky. Week 2 included Christopher Columbus, Vasco de Gama, John Cabot, and directions on a compass (mainly for Violet). We still have a few booklets to put together. Since the girl's consider that fun we may do them this evening since it's way too hot to be outside.

Week 1 Geography Topics: the continents, the oceans, the equator, northern and southern hemisphere, and a lesson on latitude and longitude. This is all new for Violet so I helped her more in putting together the map. I was glad to see Jessie remembered most of this information from the last time we covered it.


We had some struggles both weeks in math. The girls yo-yoed from either "This is easy. I love math." with bright smiles to "This is too hard. I don't want to do math today."and tears. There wasn't really much in between. Jessie picked up part way through Singapore 3A and is working on long division. Violet started at the beginning of Singapore 1B. We have yet to finish math in the one hour of time alloted partly because this year I'm not in the hovering around the table making them stay on task and answering questions. Sigh.. We'll give it a couple of more weeks and then see if we need to make some adjustments. Both girls did fine with their Miquon assignments, and Violet loves doing her Time and Money book on Fridays.

Language Arts and Latin

Spelling went fine. In grammar, Jessie isn't too thrilled to be doing Rod & Staff alone. I ended up working with her a few of the days, which meant the laundry didn't get done. We'll see how it goes next week. Classical writing and Latin both got a big thumbs up from Jessie. Violet liked the poem The Catepillar in FLL and memorized it as well. In copywork, we mainly focused on hand position and how they hold their pencil. Violet is left-handed, and I can't quite figure out how she can write with her hand laying on its side and the pencil pointing out to the right. I gave up telling her to turn her palm down more and actually held her arm in place a couple of days to try to show her what I meant.


We've been enjoying Red Sails to Capri. We didn't finish it last week as I had hoped, but I'm that's probably for the best. I had scheduled Secret of the Andes as the next read aloud, and after finishing prereading it on Wednesday, I have decided against reading it this time. I'm not sure the girls would really understand or enjoy it. Hmm... I'll have to find a replacement tomorrow.

I think that covered everything except Benny's preschool time. More to come on that later.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Considering Our Timeline

To have a timeline, to not have a timeline.

While I did consider doing a timeline for Jessie in first and second grade, I decided against it for three reasons:
1) I didn't have the time to spend looking for all the figures on google, especially with dial up and an infant
2) I didn't have the money available for purchasing any figures
3) I just didn't have the time and energy to put the timeline together and then keep up with using it on a regular basis during school time.

Fast forward to this year. I've spent a lot of time looking over the Veritas Press curriculum over the summer, specifically in history. I am intrigued by their memory cards and how they memorize the cards in order to create a mental timeline; however, I also know that Jessie is a very visual learner. When Violet memorizes anything, she seems to learn the words to all the lines or sentences first and then needs some extra time to sequence them in the correct order. What I sense is that it is time to create a frame for history to fit the pieces into, so that the girls don't end up with a huge jumble of information like a pile of puzzle pieces with no idea how to place things together. It is my hope that a written timeline will form just such a frame, and God will fill it in over time to show the girl's His story and His hand at work in the fabric of history.

"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the sun." Ecclesiastes 3:1

Friday, August 17, 2007

Our Poetry Lessons

In making these lessons, I had two goals in mind. I wanted beautiful poems for the girls to memorize and a variety of poetry to read daily as part of our literature time.

For memorizing, I started with the following goals in mind. First, I believe the girls can memorize about 20 lines a month for a total of 180 lines for the school year. Second, I wanted a mix of thoughtful God-centered poetry as well as some more secular poetry. Finally, I decided not too include any poems over 20 lines because I didn't want to overload them the first year. Here are the poems that I selected:

What God Hath Promised by Annie Johnson Flint
Who Has Seen the Wind?
by Christina G. Rossetti
An Evening Hymn by Thomas Ken
The Arrow and the Song by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Against Quarreling and Fighting by Isaac Watts
Time to Rise by Robert Louis Stevenson
My Gift by Christina Rossetti
Try Again by William Hickson
Loving Jesus by Charles Wesley
Rain by Robert Louis Stevenson
A Child's Prayer by Margaret Bethan-Edwards
The Swing by Robert Louis Stevenson
True Nobility by Edgar Guest
The Coin by Sara Teasdale

I tried to alternate christian and secular prose and vary the length so we didn't tackle two 20 line poems in a row. We'll also use these selections for copywork when the poem is introduced.

For poetry reading, I found a huge collection of online poems at Ambleside Online in their year one section. I copied the poems into a 2 column word document and rearranged them to run August through July. We're reading 1 or 2 poems a day depending on their length.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Why Study and Memorize Poetry?

I must confess that I have never been a big fan of poetry. I'm a math and science person. Give me problems to solve, logic puzzles, or a good hypothesis to test; and I'll be perfectly happy. Poetry is something that I never quite understood. It was just too intangible to me. I didn't really understand it's purpose or usefulness. Slowly God has been changing my heart.

Last spring at church, our women's Bible study worked through several of the Psalms. I had volunteered to teach a couple of lessons the previous year not knowing what the topic would be. When I found out we would be studying the Psalms, I groaned. Give me a narrative or a letter of Paul. I'll even tackle a book of prophesy. Anything but the Psalms, not poetry. I can't teach poetry. Still, I had already given my word that I would teach. So with lots of prayer and trepidation, I began to study Psalms 49 and 103.

I was blown away not only the depth of these 2 psalms but also by how much I learned from them. They seemed so simple, but they were packed with theology and beautiful imagery. Taking time to live with them and meditate on them was a huge blessing to me.

As I started my school planning this summer, I began to research and consider adding poetry into our school. I read an article by Michael Knox Beran entitled In Defense of Memorization. I also found a wonderful blog post entitled Why Poetry by Jessica at Trivium Academy which included quotes from several different sources on the importance of poetry.

Finally, I prayerfully looked at the three beautiful and unique children with whom God has blessed us. Neither Jessie or Violet will ever probably major in math or science. The verdict is still out on Benny, but he is highly verbal. I imagine they will all grow up with a far better vocabulary than I did. So this year, I've decided to take a step out of my comfort zone adding poetry into our curriculum. I'm not sure where the path will lead, but I'm sure it is a path the Lord would have us walk together with Him.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight." Proverbs 3:5

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Managing our house, pt. 2

A few things. Hmm...

Complaint: I should be able to walk through my house at night without stepping on something in the dark. Similarly, my husband would like to see the floor and be able to walk when he comes home in the evening.

Solution: We bought a small laundry basket for the living room. At 4:30, everyone helps to clean up the house. All the toys and children's books from the living room, dining room, and kitchen get put in the basket and taken back to the bedrooms to put away.

Complaint: Now that I can see the floor, it's not looking so good.

Solution: I vacuum on Mondays and Thursdays as a part of clean up time.

Complaint: Who left all this toothpaste in the sink? Which one of you forgot to flush the toilet?

Solution: For the sake of sanity and the smell in my house, I reinstated FlyLady's Swish and Swipe Routine every morning for both bathrooms. This worked really well the last time I tried it. Now I just have to consistently remember to use it.

It didn't work miracles overnight, but it was a start.

"I can do all things through him who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13

Monday, August 13, 2007

Starting school

It started in June...
"When are we going to start school?"
--Not until August.

Halfway through July it became...
"It's almost August. What day are we going to start?"
--I don't know. We'll see.

The last week of July I heard...
"Are we starting next Wednesday? It's August 1st and you did say we were starting in August."
--We're not starting on a Wednesday. You'll have to wait until Monday the 6th. I'm not ready yet. Why did I ever teach them to read a calendar?

August 6th came...
"What are we doing first? History? Math? Grammar?"
--We're just doing math this week. Violet still has swimming lessons, and I'm still finishing up planning. The printer's still broken, so I can't print out some of our lessons. We'll start the rest of the schedule next week.

Fast forward to August 13th...
Ready or not. Here we go... My new printer's installed. I have enough lesson plans to get us through a month or so. My kids are now very happy. We're back on a schedule. There is order to the day, which both Jessie and Benny thrive on. Who knew starting school could be such fun and make life so much less stressful?

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Managing our house, pt.1

I've tried FlyLady. It's a good program, but I'm not very good at stopping after 15 minutes. I had to modify the zones and weekly plan to the point that the system didn't work for me. All the email was driving me nuts.

I've used an index card system, but it was too easy to just move the card to the next day and say maybe I'll get a chance to do it next time.

I've made lists, but the size of the lists could sometimes be very discouraging. Then of course there's the problem of losing the list and having to start all over and remake it again. Soon you have 5 different lists to keep up with and no time to do anything on the list.

I've tried just clean it up when you see the mess, and it felt like I spent the entire day cleaning. I had stayed home to spend time with my kids, but every time they came to me I was too busy.
I read the chapter in MOTH when I first got the book. Well, I could never get past step 1. "Start a list of the chores you feel need to be done daily, weekly, monthly, and infrequently." The task just seemed insurmountable.

I needed a balance: time to clean the house and time to school and enjoy my kids during the days plus time to clean the house and time with my husband alone and as a family on evenings and weekends. Somewhere in there, I needed to carve out some consisent time alone with God. The question remained. Where do I start? There was just too much for me to handle.

The words of Matthew 25:21 began to echo in my mind. "His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness.'" A few things. Just a few things. There was my problem. I had been trying to solve the entire problem at once. Instead, I just needed to focus on a few things.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Scheduling a new school year

"When are we going to start school again?"

Only one month after we finished school, my girls were ready to start again. Hmm. Only one problem. Mom wasn't ready to start yet. I needed a schedule. We were going to have a 4 day school week again and have a free day for errands, appointments, and maybe a few fun things. At least that was my plan. After two weeks of trying to create a 4 day schedule for school, I finally gave up and decided to give a 5 day schedule a try. In less than an hour, there it was: 3rd grade for Jessie, 1st grade for Violet, Preschool for Benny, and even a little laundry/cleaning time for me. Why had I fought so hard to make a 4 day schedule? What made me think that was the "right way" for things to be done? I don't know. Even my kids know that God's way is always the best way (thanks to Junior Aspasragus). I may have started with prayer, but thankfully I finally got around to listening for an answer. "Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails." Proverbs 19:21

Here is the morning portion of our schedule: