Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Stay Tuned


We have company coming and then we leave for Chincoteague in our new van! A neighbor is watching the house and fishsitting "Rainbow"--He made me go over the instructions about ten times. I guess he doesn't want to return a belly-upper to five sad boys.

As a rule, all computers stay here. So goodbye for now.
We'll be back with pictures...


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Anatomy of an Automated Apology

I love speaker phone. Without speaker phone I wouldn't be able to make half the calls I do. I don't have time to waste being on hold, so I place the phone on speaker and tote it around the house as I get things done.

This morning I was on hold again and took the phone into the kitchen where Zachary was having breakfast...

Speaker:
THANK YOU FOR HOLDING...A REPRESENTATIVE WILL BE WITH YOU SHORTLY...

Zachary: Who is that man, Mama? Who is that man in the pocket of your robe?

Me: He's not a real man, Zachary. It's just a recording that plays while I'm waiting on hold.

Speaker: THANK YOU FOR CONTINUING TO HOLD...WE APOLOGIZE FOR THE WAIT...

Zachary: Apologize? Why, apologize? What did he do? He's not even a real man.

Very true. In Zachary's world an apology is a very personal thing. It involves the willingness to recognize that you have wronged someone else, the humility to verbalize that, and lastly, a hug to display your good will. An automated robot may be able to feign the first two, but how in the world could he possibly hug us?

Monday, August 27, 2007

And That Brings Us Back to "Do"

It's my one year Blogaversary!


I thought it might be fun to repost some of the photos from my earliest archives to remember the beginning of Blessed Among Men.


My earliest readers will remember this picture as the first I ever posted of all five boys together, and the only one of them in the buff! I posted it with our rendition of a Shel Silverstein poem, "There's too Many [boys] in this Tub."


This was our motivational poster at the start of the 2006 homeschool year. I think I'll keep the motto for this year, too.


Ah yes...this picture. My most faithful readers will remember that this happened on my birthday/anniversary. I knew I would be able to laugh about it some day. That day is finally here.

Now here are a few things I found in my drafts that never made it to publication...

I was planning to use this little bit of clip art in a post where I received the "Thinking Blogger Award." I guess I thought the better of it...

I'm not sure why I never posted this. I wrote this after the boys had wandered into the woods beyond hearing range without permission. Jeremy was out of town at the time and I think I must have been still too upset to post about it, even in humor.

GRIPING WITH PHONICS

Someone in this house has lost some privileges-- as in most of his privileges-- because he recently and unthinkingly abused them and caused his mother great anxiety. As a result, someone is griping about the great lack of things he can still do, but at least he's griping creatively...

Someone: (pretending to read his phonics cards, hoping I'd hear) /e/ as in me, /oo/ as in do, /wh/ as in what? /m/ as in I'm, /-ord/ as in bored, /-ing /as in nothing...

Me: I've got plenty of /-ors/ as in chores!

Someone smiles. He's a sweet kid. Unthinking sometimes, but sweet.

* * *

I guess I didn't think this was funny enough to post, but it is cute and so very like Jacob.

THINKING PINK

I purchased pool goggles for all the boys and tried to get different colors so they would know whose were whose. There weren't that many colors to choose from and so I had to buy a pair that was pink and purple. That was a mistake. Nobody wanted the "girly" pair. I half suggested returning them and getting another green pair or blue, but Jacob had a different idea.

"Why don't we just keep the pink goggles and get a girl?"

* * *
And this one scored too high on the gross factor to post originally. Here it is now in an effort to keep it real...

NEW HOUSE RULE

One I never thought I'd have to make. Move on if you're faint of heart...

Rule: No exchanging boogers with you brother, even if he wants to.

* * *

Thanks for reading! I love you people!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

We're Up...

...at Catholic Exchange today. And speaking of broken things, my husband and I are off to buy a new van this morning. Wish us luck.

Friday, August 24, 2007

If You Give a Mom a Mouse...

..she's probably going to find things she'll want to buy.

If you've finished planning for the school year and have ordered all your materials, if you've reached your budget (and maybe even gone a bit beyond) then whatever you do...

...don't go here and see Michelle's books, don't imagine all you could do with that beautiful timeline (Confession: We ordered it)...

...or here where Karen E. will have you yearning for things you already have too much of and wanting things you won't need for a few years yet...

...and be warned of Elizabeth's Waldorf post because if you follow all those inspiring links you will likely find yourself on the telephone reciting your credit card number to a helpful representative somewhere.

Click carefully around Katherine's place too. Her continent boxes are a big temptation to us. If that's not your particular weakness, you're sure to find one in her learning room.

Then there's Cay and Matilda, and Meredith, and Jennifer and...

I'd better go use the books we already have and enact the plans already made.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Coming Clean

It's bath night. My husband is in charge of bath night. That's one advantage to having a house full of children of the opposite gender--I don't have clean all those boy bodies. The mud and the saw dust, the food and the blood-- he does it. For this, I am grateful.

No, I don't have to manage the bathing of five young boys, I just have to clean the kitchen in peace and silence. When did cleaning a kitchen become such a luxury? And yet it really and truly is a luxury untold.

I sweep in peace, scrub pots uninterrupted, mop in the silent and peaceful evening with no other company than my happy thoughts.

And what are my thoughts? I think of our family life--this life we have together that has been built on love and sacrifice. I think on our dreams--our dreams to fill our lives with more of what we have and find ways to accommodate us all. I think of home education and all I hope to accomplish. I dream of happy days of learning under this small roof and how we might expand the roof and the number of learners beneath it some day--some day. I dream and think and it all seems so perfectly wonderful here in this kitchen, alone.

But as I listen I know that, at some point, all this dreaming and planning has to meet the reality that is carrying on upstairs. And you know, sometimes they can seem worlds apart.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

On the Care and Feeding of Bookworms


Simeon's bookworm is coming along. In the last five weeks he's read...

The Penderwicks, Jeanne Birdsall
Abraham Lincoln, Ingri D'aulaire
If All the Swords in England, Barbara Willard
By the Great Horn Spoon, Inc. Sid Fleischman
Stuart Little, E.B. White
St John Bosco and St. Dominic Savio, Catherine Beebe

Next up...

The Trumpet of the Swan, E.B. White
Homer Price, Robert McCloskey

Simple ideas to encourage reading (Nothing earth shaking here)...

1. Make your book lists reflect your child's interests.

2. Let your child choose what she wants to read from your lists.

3. Buy your child a special bookmark as an incentive gift, or make decorative bookmarks at home.

4. Let your child stay up for a reasonable time past bedtime to read.

5. Read with your child-- you have your book, she has hers, but you sit in the same room together reading and sharing a cold drink.

6. Once it is time to go up to bed, let your child read himself to sleep using a book light.

7. Discuss with your child what she is reading. Show interest in the story as she tells you and ask questions.

When Values Differ: Part Two

Simeon: All right! I just found the neatest termite nest in the woodpile by the garage. I hope I can find the queen. This is my lucky day!

Me: (heavy silence) (staring at ceiling and biting lip) (sighing) (looking up "Pest Control" in the yellow pages)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Real Boys...


...take their naps on rocks.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Dover Teacher's Sampler

We've always loved Dover Publications and now we love them even more. We've signed up for the Dover Teacher's Sampler weekly email and are enjoying free downloads and pages for printing from their fantastic selection of creative and educational materials.

In any one sampler you receive sample pages for downloading and printing from twelve different books. The samples are organized by grade level and are a wonderful, free, easy to use way to supplement curriculum, pass the time on a rainy day, or find Dover publications that you'll want to own.

You've Got Mail

Was it Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Alice in Wonderland, or Stuart Little? Perhaps I've been reading too much children's literature or watching too many movies like Miss Potter, Ratatouille or Pan's Labyrinth, but I just had the strangest thought sequence.

From my bedroom upstairs I overheard a conversation between Zachary and Nicholas. "Nicholas, Nicholas, can you see me?" Zachary was asking in a tin-canny voice. Nicholas responded between giggles, "[Where] are you, Zacky? [Where] are you?"

Thinking it strange that both voices came from the foyer, but one child wasn't able to see the other-- and wondering why the voice of this invisible child seemed to echo, I went downstairs to investigate. I found Nicholas circling the foyer and Zachary greeted me from every direction at once "Hello Mama" but he was nowhere to be seen. "Where are you, Zachary?" I asked myself aloud.

"Right here," he said as my eyes fell on the coat closet. "Oh, you're in here," I laughed and opened the door to end the game, but when I swept the coats aside I was surprised to find the closet empty. My first thought at this point--and yes, I do know this is crazy--but it truly was my very first thought and even seemed to make a kind of tragic sense at the time, my first thought was that he had been shrunk. Maybe he was a mouse or maybe not but he was somehow very, very small and hiding behind the umbrella tip or shouting to me from a pocket of a coat in this closet.

Now, I'm not really crazy and so I didn't stay with this line of thinking very long. I stepped back and tried to consider, if not the closet, where? I scanned the small foyer and wondered, could he have discovered some secret doorway or passage through the walls? But that seemed almost as crazy as my shrinking theory. "I'm right here," he said again and my heart jumped to my throat because I'd thought of the heating vent. Now, that was not an entirely impossible scenario and it frightened me. "Are you in there, Zachary?" I asked in the direction of the grate.

That's when Nicholas tugged my pants and pointed, "Zacky right dere" he said. I turned and saw this...


Zachary was speaking to us through the mail slot in the front door that I hardly ever think about because it isn't used and I usually have it stuffed with cloth to keep out the draft. Mystery solved...and now I'm off to read some non-fiction or watch a documentary or do some math or something disciplined, logical and very left brained.

Friday, August 17, 2007

School's In

Well, not really. And yet, every day new orders arrive with wonderfully exciting books and the boys beg me to use them so we've had a few language lessons and we've done some phonics, we had an informal art class and today we had our first Math U See lesson. We're not on a schedule--I haven't even written one yet-- and I'm not pushing any of this. This is child led learning and it's fun.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Lifesaving Device

Someone in this house has developed a habit of whining through most of the late afternoon and having willful bouts of anger when he doesn't get his way. I won't mention his name, but it begins with a Z, and these days--it ends with a sigh. I'm sure the heat isn't helping any, or our crazy summer schedulessness that keeps little ones up long past regular bedtimes. He's hot, he's tired and he's cranky. Poor kid.

I've noticed, too, that he isn't enjoying it any more than we are. He's a smart boy and usually cheerful-- I think he's just as put out and surprised by his own emotional upheavals as the rest of us. It seems to me, too, that after he starts a fit he actually reaches a point where he wants to stop, but it has so escalated that he isn't sure how to make up and be pleasant again, so I taught him a trick. I gently pushed the sides of his mouth up to a smile. "That smile," I told him, "makes everything better. If you just come to me with that smile, you won't have to cry anymore and everything will be fine again." He smiled for me weakly and I made a big deal of it, kissing him all over. Then I set him up with a coloring book and some pencils and went off to make dinner and feel very pleased with myself.

I didn't know if it would ever work again, but I frequently reminded him of his magical smile that has the power to make everything better. Then today, when he became enraged that I wouldn't give him a sixth piece of gum he dropped to the floor writhing and screeching. This landed him in his room with the door closed. From the hall, I could hear him kicking the floor and screaming into the carpet. Then suddenly it stopped.

It was quiet for a moment, then the doorknob turned and the door opened. Emerging from his lair was this puffy-eyed, red-faced toddler with sweaty, matted hair sticking up in every direction. His shirt was twisted, his pants wrinkled, and his forehead indented with carpet prints. But most importantly, plastered to this child's face was the biggest, phoniest, forced grin I have ever seen and you can believe it made everything better.

The Salamander Room


















The Salamander Room
by Anne Mazer and illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher, 1991, Dragonfly Books published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 12 pages.

The Salamander Room is a beautifully illustrated picture book that is sure to captivate the nature-loving child. Brian finds a salamander and asks his mother to keep him as a pet. Rather than saying "no" his mother asks leading questions as to where the salamander will sleep, what he will eat, where he will play and if he'll be lonely.

Eager to keep his new pet, but also desiring to give him a happy home, Brian reassures his mother that he will bring moss into his room, wet leaves, boulders and insects to make the salamander happy.

Brian's mother continues to question, and Brian continues to imagine bringing the out of doors--in. He says he will bring trees into his room and birds... and by the end, Brian has lifted the roof off his room in order to let in the sun and rain. In fact, so much of the salamander's home has found its way into Brian's room that the only thing recognizable about Brian's room is Brian's bed where he hopes to sleep under the stars beside his new pet salamander.

A charming story with poetic dialogue and stunning illustrations. I am considering buying an extra copy of this book to frame some of these pictures. Thanks Melanie B. for telling me about this book in the comments section of my post, Baking With Amphibians, where the boys had hoped to keep a frog in our house.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Feast of the Assumption


On this day the sacred and life-filled Ark of the living god, she who conceived her Creator in her womb, rests in the Temple of the Lord that is not made with hands. David her Ancestor leaps, and with him the angels lead the dance.

--St John Damascene, (d. 749)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

When there's a whole lot of make believe going on...

...it is good to make clear which world you are operating in.

Zachary: Mama, Mama, Mama... I want some gum. In real life.

Monday, August 13, 2007

One Woman's Trash is Five Boys' Arsenal

About two weeks ago, I threw away a chair that looked very much like the one pictured above, but with broken spindles. By "threw away" I mean that I placed it in the garage near where the boys keep all their tools expecting my husband to take it out to the street that Friday. Before the end of the week, I noticed that a dozen nails or so had been hammered into its seat. The chair didn't go out with the trash that Friday.

Sometime in the middle of the following week I noticed someone had sawed the legs off the chair and removed the back entirely. These chair parts didn't go out with last Friday's trash either. The boys were pretty busy in the garage over the weekend and today they showed me the arsenal they had been building. These names are theirs. Believe me, I don't know anything about weapons.

Simeon models the Panzerfaust.


Jacob and Alex with Machine Guns


This is some sort of hand held automatic weapon, where that one piece rotates completely around.

Last, but not least, the Thompson.

And all I ever saw was a broken chair.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Gender Divide

Zachary: Mamas cook on ovens and Papas cook on grills.

And Our Fish's Name is...

RAINBOW

Thanks for all the great suggestions. You people are really creative. I wrote out every suggestion in a note book and we had a lively discussion over dinner as to which it would be. Nicholas was big on "Bam Bam" and "Elmo." Bam Bam is a popular onimonipea with two-year-old boys, I find. And "Elmo" is a reddish puppet that Nicholas has seen on lunch boxes at Walmart.

"George" and "Shark" were pretty popular all around.

We all thought "Mars" was clever, too, being the god of war and the Beta being a fighting fish and all that.

"Zip," "Flash," "Dart," and "Comet" were favorites with Alex, but Simeon objected that the fish mostly just floats quietly in one spot, for which reason "Racecar" was also out of the running. Alex agreed, but counter objected that the fish does "Dart" for food-- at which point I suggested we name him "Glutton."

We couldn't use "Finny" because that's what Zachary used to call Simeon back when he pronounced his S's like Fs and his Ms like Ns. Simeon became Fineon, or "Fini" for short. Zachary laughed at himself when I explained this to him. Now that he's all grown up, wearing 3T clothes and Bob the Builder underwear he can hardly believe he ever made such silly mistakes.

"Bubbles" was out of the question because they have a cousin named "Bubbles"... or at least that what she told us her name was when we asked her once recently and it sort of stuck with the boys.

I just loved "Radius," but the cleverness of it was lost on my children.

"Pirate" was also popular and I tried to get them to accept "Indigo" in lieu of "Purply" and it very nearly worked, but everything lost out to the ever popular "Rainbow."

Thanks, Barbara, for a great name. I guess you are a better namer than you thought.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

How Do you Get...

...quiet time alone with your husband on a Friday night before bedtime-- on a rainy day mind you, when the kids haven't gotten out?

In a word: Astro boy

Ask Jacob, he'll tell you that Artro boy is "bwave, and gentoo, and wise."

Go Fish

We have a new pet. He is hairless and he doesn't eat flies, but he is a "him." Male Beta fish are more beautiful than females and the whole point of owning one of these is for their beautiful colors and long fins. This fish certainly has those things, but what he doesn't have is a name. Jacob tried to name him "Purply" because of his purple shimmer, but the others aren't going for it. Neither are they coming up with names of their own. Can you help us name our fish? Anyone? Please leave your suggestions in the combox. Thanks!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Hindsight is 20/20

I often wish heresight were as sharp, but that just isn't possible. Still, it helps to find others who have done what you are doing now and listen to what they have to say about it when they look back. That's why I was delighted to read a reflection by Stephanie over at Recollected Life about the years she spent homeschooling her children. Her reflection, oddly enough, was inspired by my last post concerning home schooling resources.

Both Stephanie's posts are worth reading in entirety, but here are two of my favorite paragraphs,

From Time to Remember:
...[Homeschooling] sounds more idyllic than it turns out to be, but could never sound as profoundly formational as it turns out to be. I wondered if it would be true - so many days it felt like a long and laborious exercise in futility. But now, years later, I don't regret a single hour of it...
From Why it Worked and What it Couldn't Do:
Home schooling didn't give us days of unmarred Paradise. But it did give us three new adults in the world who live for more than themselves, who are unafraid to try new things and question convention while respecting tradition, and who sometimes say things like, "Remember that book? Yes, I remember that book! Scenes from that book are in my dreams sometimes!"
* * *

Thanks Stephanie, for a little insight into how all this effort eventually looks in the rear view mirror. Much of this strikes a chord with me and I find it very encouraging.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

A Window into Our Schoolroom

Well, the school year is beginning to take shape in my mind's eye. We have signed up for most of the activities we will be starting in the fall and I have an outline of goals for each child and the resources I plan to use to achieve those goals. Many veteran homeschoolers will have heard of these, but I thought I would share some of our favorite books and resources as well as some that we are looking forward to using for the first time this year. This is not a complete list, but a sampling of our home education...

Language Arts:

English From the Roots Up is a wonderful resource for building vocabulary and sharpening reading skills by teaching the meanings of Latin and Greek roots found in language. My husband will be working through the first volume of this program with the boys this year.

Wordly Wise is a terrific resource for building vocabulary as well.

We will be using Simply Grammar for the first time this year, too. I'm looking forward to that.

For the younger ones, we like the Abeka phonics program. It is brightly colored and not overly complicated and seems to work. We also use Montessori sandpaper letters and tracing insets. These just seem to give my little kinesthetic learners the boost they need.

For read alouds, my husband is always reading something to the boys, usually Tolkein's Lord of the Rings or C.S. Lewis' Narnia series and I am always reading them something else. I have a long list of read alouds that I keep handy for myself at Amazon. I love Amazon lists! Now that Simeon reads chapter books by himself, I keep a list there for him as well.

N.B: The best search engine on the web for used books is www.campusi.com. This search engine will give you information about the book you are looking for (including the list price) and then link to every place the web that offers this book for sale in order from least to most expensive--including shipping! You can't ask for more than that.

Writing and Spelling:

The motivational techniques in Spelling Workout really work on my kids. We're happy with this program.

We love Seton Handwriting. The religious artwork is just lovely and the copywork is spiritual as well. I've always thought of handwriting as a meditative activity. Play a little chant in the background and you have a complete monastic atmosphere for your manuscription work.

N.B: You must take traditionally bound handwriting books to an office store, cut off the restrictive binding and make them spiral bound so that they lay flat on the table. We did this with great success for our left handers last year and Cheryl posted about the benefits of doing this recently.

Math:

We will be trying Math U See out for the first time this year and are very excited about it. Thanks, Lissa and Alicia for encouraging me in this decision. I have a feeling I won't regret it.

Here's another kinesthetic math resource we'll be using for the first time this year, Family Math.

Science Resources:

We love, love, so very much love the DK Eye Wonder science series. These books have just the right amount of information on every page. They are perfect for teaching science essentials without overwhelming the student, and the pictures are just captivating. Love, love these books! I think we have them all.

This is a collection of three Bereinstein Bears science books. We actually only have one of the books in this complete collection, The Berenstein Bears' Almanac, which was a favorite book of mine as a child and now it is a favorite for my children. I love that!

This is our favorite Animal Encyclopedia. We like this one too, and this one and this one also are great for coordinating Science with Geography studies, which we try to do as often as possible.

An interesting game that blends language skills with zoology is the Alpha Animals game. Thank you, Aunt Phylis for this popular pastime!That version is fairly sophisticated, though not too much for us. Here's a newer? junior? version of the same.

The Discovery Channel's Planet Earth series is a wonderful resource for exploring the world in the comfort of your own home. Fascinating stuff!

Also the Blue Planet series! David Attenborough, we love you!

N.B: Both these wonderful collections are available from netflix. Netflix, we love you!

Geography Resources:

National Geographic is hard to beat for quality geography materials. Our boys read The National Geographic Pictoral Atlas of Our Fifty States for fun. It is a fascinating book filled with vivid photographs. The Atlas for Young Explorers is also wonderful. A new addition to our library this year combines History and Geography in a unique way. The National Geographic Almanac of American History answers the question, "How was the land responsible for the way America developed?" The Barnes and Noble Children's World Atlas is pretty good, too. Lastly, this book is a real find for young explorers!

The Complete Book of Maps and Geography is terrific fun, brightly colored, and teaches a wide array of map reading and graph skills through creative methods. This is the sort of thing my kids beg me for. I have to say things like, "No, no, no...you can't do any more geography skills today. That's enough for now. Go play."

For kinesthetic learning, we like to play geography board games and use fandexes. We love this map and this globe and can't praise this wooden puzzle highly enough--or Small World Toys, for that matter. *

*Would you believe that when we moved from Michigan to Connecticut, we lost Texas and New Mexico? I don't know how it happened. I email Small World Toys asking to purchase the two states separately because my children so love this puzzle and I wanted it complete. Well, within 24 hours of my hitting "send" UPS showed up on my doorstep with a complete new replacement puzzle. For free!

History:

We had been reading the Susan Wise Bauer Story of the World series (and enjoying it) but I think we need a focused and formal American History unit this year. Though it is intended as a fifth grade text, we will be starting From Sea to Shining Sea this year. I've heard rave reviews of this text--one reviewer at Amazon say it is the closest thing to a living book a textbook can get. I am excited about this unique textbook and used Laura Berquist's Designing your own Classical Curriculum book list as well as some books from the 4Reallearning Booklist and other sources to compile relevant literature and biographies for Simeon to read alongside this History text.

We will continue with The Story of the World series, but on audio (a total of 30 plus CDs) and the boys can listen to it during quiet times of the day. They will listen to it, too. This is "homeschool candy" for them. I see Jim Weiss' name on these. Is this the Jim Weiss we know and love? Is he reading these or did he co-author parts of these books? I do hope he is the voice reading these. What a perfect combo that would be--like coffee and chocolate!

Art:

We will continue with the art projects we do at home and add to our resources as the year goes around. We may, or may not sign up for formal art classes this year. We'll have to see what our schedule allows.

Religion:

Alex will be making his first communion this year so we will be using the St Joseph's First Communion Catechism. Simeon will continue serving as an altar boy and continue using the Faith and Life Series, Jacob starts the kindergarten Catholic Picture Bible stories and all the children will be practicing prayers in Latin and living the Liturgical Year through our own art projects, cooking and baking, and through storybooks.

Practical Life:

I always loved the Montessori approach that considers practical life skills an integral part of a complete education for the child. So many kids grow up without ever learning basic life skills because nobody ever taught them. I have a goal plan for each child. Some of us will be learning to tie our shoes, others to answer the phone, and we always need to brush up on table manners. Then there's cooking skills, social skills, posture, and developing organizational habits as well as habits of personal hygiene.

N. B: I won't say who is learning what, but I just want it to be perfectly clear that I already know how to tie my own shoes.

Physical Education:

Young boys have large stores of energy. It is important to help them find healthy outlets for this energy. Regular exercise removes impediments to concentration and allows for better sleep at night which is important for learning, mood, and behavior the next day. Trust me, I know. I'm no expert... but just trust me. Since we have many boys here, homeschool, and live in a region that has winter for four or five months out of the year, we're joining a gym. The boys will also start attending a Catholic boys club this year that has sports activities.

Odds and Ends:

Some subscriptions we enjoy here are Ranger Rick and My Big Back Yard.

Magnifikid! is also a hit with us, Thanks Grandmama and Grandpapa for these neat magazines! We learn so much from them.

Highlights is pretty terrific, too, of course. I like to buy old Highlights magazines on ebay. I prefer the old ones for some reason, maybe because I remember those issues from when I was a kid?

Which Way USA is also a great geography subscription, by Highlights. If you don't think your child needs state maps for all fifty states, you can purchase many of the individual magazines and state maps on ebay as well. We've found some in local consignment stores.

Schoolhouse Rock is wonderful resource, too, for many subjects. These are a favorite here. In fact, the kids are breathing down my neck waiting for me to finish this post so they watch these on my computer.
* * *
That's all for now. I hope you've enjoyed this little peek into our home education. You might have noticed that we don't have much to say about poetry. That would be because the only poetry my children can bear is the Shel Silverstein variety. The way they see it, rhyming isn't an element of beautiful language (something they have a hard time appreciating) but rather, an element of humor (which they certainly appreciate). So it is.

I have to work with the material God gave me. So far, He's given me these good natured, energetic, curious little boys with a natural inclination toward science, history and geography.
Spelling is a drag and so is handwriting-- they'll put up with a Language Arts lesson, too, but that's about all they can take of disciplined work they don't particularly enjoy. I won't make them memorize poems on top of it.

Though they aren't poets, they still love a good story. They'll happily listen to a good book about a boy and his adventures, or a boy and his horse, or a boy and his farm, or just about a boy... or the farm. They will work hard to learn to read, not because they love language for its own sake, but because they know it holds the key to wonderful stories and to all the information in those non-fiction history and science and geography books they've been drooling over since they they were old enough to get one open on their lap.

These are the little persons and minds that God has asked me to form and for that, I thank Him. I love to watch these children learn. I can feel their excitement-- It's contagious and it makes a wonderful life for us all.


Wednesday, August 08, 2007

A Moth by Any Other Name

This is a Sphingidae Moth the boys found buzzing around our Butterfly bush. We discovered this unusual family of moths for the first time last year by our Lilac bush and were surprised to read up on them and learn they are called "Hummingbird," "Sphinx" or "Hawk" moths. The unifying characteristic of these moths is the way they hover with blurringly rapid wing motions like the Hummingbird while drinking nectar with a long proboscis. We've spotted many varieties since, including some that look remarkably like bees or hornets, others that are dead ringers for the beautiful Hummingbird, and then there is this one...

Alex has named it, quite aptly I think...

"The Hummingbird Lobster Moth."

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Irish Twins

Well, they aren't technically Irish Twins as they are thirteen months apart, but since the younger one is so tall we are always asked if they are twins. They are joined at the hip. One is hardly ever seen without the other. To be perfectly honest they can be the worst of enemies on occasion, but in the way that only best friends know how.

Well, of Course he Does...

...Why else would he be so concerned about keeping the place clean?

The maintenance man at our pool is very friendly and likes to chat with the boys sometimes when we pass. Today, he checked in to see how our summer was going and each boy had something of interest to share. After he moved on the boys started in on a debate...

Alex: He's a nice man. I think he lives here.

Jacob: I don't think he lives here. I think the pool owns him.

Simeon: No, he doesn't live here and the pool doesn't own him. He owns the pool, right Mama?

Monday, August 06, 2007

Planning for the New School Year

I'll be sure to check in when I surface again.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Denial Stinks

Nicholas: I not poopy.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Baking With Amphibians

I had to share my baking space with nine new household amphibians, yesterday. The local parent-teacher store holds "Kidtivities" throughout the summer and I had signed the three oldest up for this "Make Your Own Pet" class. Really cute. The boys used various paint and marker and water techniques to make these sand-filled "pets" their own. They were pretty wet by the end and so we set them here to dry.

The pets even came with their own adoption papers to make the experience all the more real. Here's Jacob demonstrating how to properly hold "Colors," his new pet lizard.

I am hoping this makes up for the real frog the boys lost last week. Last week, a neighbor had found a frog in his front yard water fountain. While I was out, this neighbor, my husband, and all the boys conspired against me and built the frog a habitarium in one of my Tupperware dishes and had plans to keep this thing in my house.

"What will he eat?" I asked with a taut expression.

"We will bring in flies or you could buy him meal worms," Simeon suggested.

Oh, the horror of it. Anyway, the little frog did escape that very day when he was left unattended and without a cover in the front yard. I should say, too, that he had no assistance from me whatsoever, except that I was the only one who rejoiced inwardly when we discovered that he had reacquired his freedom. (Notice how I call him a "he." For all I know it could have been a girl frog, but somehow I doubt it.)

I really dislike instances like the frog one where I am made to feel like it is me against them in some kind of gender clash right under my own roof, but I suppose it isn't completely avoidable. To my credit, I did get excited with the boys the other day when we discovered a sac of baby spiders had hatched in the sun room. Gross, hu? Well baby spiders aren't so bad. They are about the size of a period on this screen and they move around together en mass giving the impression of a mobile mildew stain. So, though there were hundreds upon hundreds of spiders crawling around in my lovely sun room, I didn't lose it. In fact, I joined the excited throng of observers and OOhed and Ahhhed with the best of them.

Only later, when the boys were outside playing did I spray the spiders with bleach and wipe their tiny new lives away because, as I understand it, baby spiders never grow up to be anything other than nasty big spiders.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

How Many Feet in the Bed?


How Many Feet in the Bed? by Diane Johnston Hamm and illustrated by Kate Salley Palmer is Nicholas' new favorite book ever. This whimsical counting book takes as its setting a comfortable, though boisterous family morning routine where children crawl into the parents' bed and parents jump out.

Nicholas recommends that you read this book with your family on Saturday morning, as that is the time when your father's feet are most likely to be counted among all those in the bed. The more feet the better when it comes to counting and family fun.

Nicholas also recommends that you place this book in a handy spot before you go to bed at night so you can just bring it in to your parents' room or go back and fetch it if you had already climbed into their bed in the middle of the night.


Lastly, the above illustration on the left is Nicholas' favorite character in this book. The picture on the right is of our guest literary critic, Nicholas himself.