Thursday, April 26, 2007

Piano practicing

I finally figured out how to handle piano practicing in our day. The boys no longer are required to practice their whole lesson. They must practice 1/2 hour and do whatever they can in that time. Then if they want to practice more in the afternoon, they are most welcome to, but 80 minute practice sessions are ***over***! I can't do it anymore!

The other thing I have found is that piano has to happen first thing in the morning which causes a major conflict with breakfast. So.......I am going to have to break down and buy cold cereal for the mornings. I detest doing that, but it beats starving! I think soda crackers would be a good purchase too. When I get up early, everything comes together okay, but when I get up late, I run out of time! Then I don't have to put much effort into breakfast or lunch so schoolwork doesn't get interrupted.

I am hoping to get over to the homeschool conference tonight after the boys get their awards at pack meeting. I really want to peruse some of the science curriculums. There has to be something out there that would click for us.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

We are done!

Today was Geology Day! We finished the requirements for the Webelos geology activity badge. Woohoo!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We are done! That was the last badge they had to earn to receive all their compass points. The final hurrah is the April pack meeting because their birthdays are coming up soon!

For their geology pin, the boys researched all kinds of minerals (love you, Wikipedia!), learned about the Mohs hardness scale, guesstimated where the minerals that were used to build our house fall on the hardness scale, learned about the 4 precious gemstones (not required), and drew pictures of volcanoes with an explanation of what makes them erupt.

Did you know that the 4 precious gemstones are diamond (of course!), ruby, sapphire, and emerald? And that emerald is the softest of the four? It falls on about 7.5 - 8 on the Mohs hardness scale, ruby and sapphire are at 9, and diamonds are something like 9 times harder than anything else at a 10. A fingernail is harder than talc. Sometimes I think the things you learn on the way to the things you are supposed to learn are the most fun! (I just learned that using an encyclopedia as your "only" source will often earn you a failing grade! Maybe that's why I rarely used encyclopedia's! Wikipedia includes color pictures though which is very helpful to those of us who are not geologists! And we didn't use it at all for things like the Mohs hardness scale although I just found some sources in it.)

Here's a quick definition of how hardness of minerals is rated:
"The hardness of a mineral is a measure of its ability to resist abrasion or scratching by other minerals or by an object of known hardness. A simple scale based on empirical tests has been developed and is called the Mohs Hardness Scale. The scale consists of 10 minerals arranged in increasing hardness with 1 being the softest. The 10 minerals selected to form the scale of comparison are listed above. Objects with higher values on Mohs' scale are capable of scratching objects with lower values. For example, a rock specimen that can be scratched by a copper coin but not by the fingernail is said to have a hardness of about 3. A rock specimen with a hardness of 5 or more is considered hard." (from here)

Dog Lover was mostly bored through all the geology studies. She asked to use the picnic hamper and went out back for a picnic. Then she did her own schoolwork. No piano practicing happened today. I think Monkey and I needed a break! Monkey did some of his regular schoolwork, and Dragon finished up his Artist requirements. (He wanted to redo two pictures he created on the computer.)

Monday, April 23, 2007


I went to the dentist and my teeth checked out strong. Woohoo! Big relief! I feel like a wet noodle; I am literally exhausted from my worry. It has been three years since I last went to a dentist so I am grateful there were no surprises. The only bad part is that my gums have been receding more so I'm going to need some skin grafts as soon as I can save up the money. In the meantime, I need to be a little kinder in my brushing.

The other great thing was that my kids made all kinds of crafts from various countries today. They ran across an art book in the bookcase and started (and finished) one project after another. We now have Vietnamese lanterns, Indian candles, and I can't remember what all else. Wonderful! I love my kids. They are so resourceful!

As for cooking, I didn't have to make dinner. We went over to Palmer's for Elder Hicken's last dinner there, and I just had to make rolls. Wonderful!!!

Slow start

I'm dreading today. Lots of have tos. Have to cook. Have to supervise piano practicing. Have to make sure school work gets done. Need to change to I am so grateful I have food to cook. I am so grateful the kids are learning to play the piano. I am so grateful for the freedom to homeschool. Have to go to the dentist. Positive spin? I am grateful I have dental insurance and that the dentist's office is close to our home.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

We cleaned the yard today!

We had a major ice storm last January that caused quite a lot of havoc in our yard. Our neighbors had it much worse, but we got enough! We had branches crash down on the roof, and we had to cut down some trees that were damaged. We have been slowly working through the clean up. We got most of the big stuff out to the road for the city to remove, but there have been a thousand sticks on the ground, plus the big branches that fell that Jim has/will cut up for firewood.

There has been enough "litter" of that stuff on the ground that we have not wanted to risk damaging our lawn mower by trying to mow the lawn. However, we have had so much rain that the lawn has been growing abundantly and needs a mow.

This morning, we had planned to go to the Springfield Art Museum with a lady in our ward who is quite the artist. After we got home, I felt tired so I took a half hour nap after lunch. Afterward, the boys were working on the computer art pieces for the Webelos Artist badge so I went up and starting picking up the piles of sticks the kids raked up a couple of weeks ago. Monkey came out awhile later and started moving logs to the woodpile.

After picking up the backyard pile, I headed to the front with Dog Lover and started raking up the sticks up there. She started helping me when I was loading sticks in the wheelbarrow by raking the sticks in tighter piles. Finally the clean up was done, and I brought out the lawn mower. It was a big job, and I was exhausted after doing it, but the front yard is done and part of the backyard is also completed. While I was mowing the front yard, Dragon went out back and finished stacking the logs he could handle so now the only logs out are the ones that need to be cut smaller.

I was relieved to have that done. I hate having a messy yard!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

It's been a few days. . . .

It occurred to me that I probably need to continue my paper method of keeping track of hours. Especially since getting on the computer to log the hours is sometimes lethal to my homeschooling day! :-) There are always things to do on the computer so it is better to keep it off sometimes! So maybe I'll just write about high points.

Today was a valuable reminder to one son that respect must come first. Then privileges happen. The "lesson" was painful and the consequence stunk, but he finally accepted it with a happy face and dealt with it. Hopefully next time he will not lose privilege. He's a champ, and he is learning! I am very grateful for that!

I have purchased a used copy of Writing Strands, and I hope it will be a good thing for us. Worksheets, i.e., Abeka, are not working for us very well. It's boring to work on just grammar. Hopefully it will seem more germane to the kids if they are writing fun things and getting grammar lessons along the way. I am not saying grammar is not important---I'm a stickler for those details---just that my main objective is to get the kids comfortable with communicating effectively with the written word. If you know how to make the plural of fox, that's great, but if you can't write about foxes, that's bad. Likewise, if you can use apostrophes appropriately but can't string three words together in a sentence, that's kucky. So. . . here we come with Writing Strands! I'll let you know how it goes.

Friday, April 13, 2007


We did about 1 1/2 hours of music, 3 hours of P.E., and 1 1/2 hours of drama, and some seatwork.

I worked on our tax return and tried to find paperwork for our Kentucky home.


Wednesday, April 11, 2007


I'm not sure how today went. Ever had days like that? We began a unit in the Spectrum 6th grade Geography text on straits. We reviewed it, checked Dragon and Monkey's answers, discussed them, and expanded on them. It was interesting.

The kids did their math from MasterPak today. Monkey completed his Singapore Math workbook. Where were those when the boys were younger?! The workbooks are marvelous! Since we began at the beginning (probably far too simple), we haven't really used the textbooks. I bought one textbook for the first level, mostly for Dog Lover, and accidentally bought the textbooks instead of the workbooks for the 2nd one. Dragon tested out of the 1b level so we'll move on. Monkey needs to take the test, but I think he'll pass it too. I'll probably buy one 1b workbook for Dog Lover because that is more her level. (It's actually 2nd grade.) It's a good opportunity to catch what we overlooked for the boys (like fractions). However, for right now I'm using the MasterPak worksheets supplemented by me. I have the CD, and I don't want to buy any more workbooks. By fall, I will, but we will be at grade level by then. I am really impressed with how Singapore Math forces the kids to use their reasoning skills. Apparently, they are known for their story problems, and that is why I'm not totally sure we are going to skip workbooks. I have been very impressed with the reasoning ability they are developing in my kids.

They did no English today except they began their books that they will be writing reports on. That took about an hour. Music took about 2 hours. Dog Lover did her language arts and then read her Clifford books to us. Once again, why didn't I buy those many years ago?! She absolutely adores Clifford--after all, he's a dog! The first day she got them, she would not be separated from them. They come in a cardboard case with a handle--they're the Phonics Fun series. I checked the grade level and it says Baby-Preschool. Interestingly, most babies would probably tear the books because they are just paper. It made me feel badly and really condemn myself for not jumping on it back when the boys were little! They loved Clifford too. The Clifford books are a lot more interesting and engaging than the Bob Books which I used for the boys and somewhat for Dog Lover. She has read the books so many times that it has gotten much faster for her. Yet she doesn't just read them by rote. She sounds out the words. In fact, the words she has to learn by sight still trip her up. So...she is doing preschool reading, 6th grade geography, 4th-5th grade history, and 1st-2nd grade math. I actually think she can handle multiplication but her books are not there yet. (She keeps up with her brothers though.)

Monday, April 9, 2007

Easter Sunday and Easter Bunny Monday

For Sunday dinner, we had a simple meal as I had planned. We had Whiting fish. It was not good. Monkey made multiple trips to the bathroom because his stomach hurt, and the rest of us were afflicted with terrible gas within 15 minutes of eating the fish. I threw away the leftovers and counted our blessings that no one got any sicker than we did.

We have truly been blessed. Dragon slipped in the shower last Wednesday before Cub Scouts and bit through his lip. Literally. It appeared that he chomped down on the outside under his lip where the skin was totally cut in a solid line about 1/2 inch long. He bit through to the inside where two teeth marks showed through.

We immediately started giving him homeopathic tablets, Arnica and Hypericum. One is for bruising and swelling of tissues, and the other is for nerve damage. We took him over to the church where Jim and the missionaries administered to him and gave him a priesthood blessing. Dragon was blessed that the pain would begin to subside that night and the lip would totally heal. It had mostly begun to scab up when he went to bed, except for a little teeny bit of weeping. The next day, we continued giving him the homeopathic tablets, but the blessing did the job. The wound mended very quickly (Jim's opinion had been that James needed stitches and normally we would have taken him in.) By Friday, he decided to participate in tae kwon do, and it has been fine ever since. While the scab is still there, it is rapidly healing.

We also had the unpleasant surprise of having our insurance (home owners and car) raise. I learned that as I balanced the checkbook today. All together, they went up about $50. When the mail arrived, however, it included a letter notifying us that May's premium would be reduced the same amount. When I called the office, they said it appeared the premium would return to the same amount after May. Jim heard the news and said very matter of factly, "That's what happens because we pay tithing."

Sunday was also the commemoration of the Saviour's resurrection. We had Easter buns that were hollow inside. They worked even though the Easter story cookies from Friday night did not. The buns were actually rolls wrapped around a marshmallow and then baked at about 300 degrees. The marshmallows melted, leaving a hollow space. Mmm, mmm! We had french toast from the 2nd loaf of Challah bread and snacked on the remains of the first loaf after church.

Last night, we decorated Easter eggs. Jim and I hid them before going to bed, along with a dozen plastic eggs filled with Dove chocolate eggs. My favorite! I had also picked up some rabbit ear headbands and bubbles as a last minute treat on Saturday night at the grocery store. (They were cleaned out of everything but candy!)

This morning, the kids had a ball looking for the eggs which I had limited to two rooms. Jim was going to put them all over the house, but I reminded him that we have a dog that might also go for them and what if we forgot where they all were? The kids hunted for them in a very cooperative manner. All looked and made sure the "owner" of the egg found theirs. Very cool!

After we did some of the usual academia, I ran down to Barnes and Noble for a Geography book and came back with two 6th grade world history geography books for the boys and a box of Clifford's Level 1 easy readers for Dog Lover. The 6th grade books coincide with what we are doing in geography and history so it made sense. Dog Lover has carried her box of booklets everywhere she has gone today! She has always wanted them, and I decided to get them to see if it would spur her on to reading more. She is doing the grade 1 Abeka Language Arts curriculum (which is what finally taught the boys to read), and she is doing very well with it but she still doesn't "read" much on her own. She was very pleased to read the first 6 booklets to me as I prepared dinner. There are 12 in the set. She loves Clifford anyway so this was really cool for her to get! I should have bought them a year ago!!!

When we got back, Monkey reminded me that we had gotten Seven Brides for Seven Brothers for working on their Showman activity badge in Cub Scouts so they sat down and watched that while I balanced the checkbook. After lunch, we sat down again to watch Romeo and Juliet. I realize that there are "adult" and sometimes very rude and bawdy scenes in it, but since most of it is couched in more-difficult verse, I figured most of it would go over the kids' heads. It did. They found most of it to be boring. The boys really enjoyed the sword fighting, Dog Lover was very relieved to notice the tricks like the blood actually dripped down from Juliet's hand onto her gown instead of up from her chest. She was very concerned and happy to realize that Juliet wasn't real, and the actress was very much alive. (Between you and me, I think the boys were relieved to learn that too!) She wasn't very impressed with the fashions of the day either; she wanted to know why they didn't ever change their clothes and thought their pants were weird. Remember, the men wore skin-tight leotards back in the Shakespearean era. Amazingly, they were all able to tell me the story line with some interesting points that stuck with them most. They had to do that much for their badge. I had interjected explanations along the way during the play when I thought it was needed, and they only requested one fast forward during the show (when Romeo is in bed with Juliet). I fast forwarded about 5 minutes worth of the play, and missed a chunk of stuff so apparently that scene was over in less than a minute. We also learned a bit about Shakespeare and the Globe Theatre (including pictures of the modern Globe Theatre) before viewing Romeo and Juliet.

I had been toying with showing them West Side Story, and they were relieved to learn that I changed my mind. The relief was obvious when I told them it was a modern-day rewrite of Romeo and Juliet. They didn't enjoy it enough to sit through it twice! LOL! My reason for scratching West Side Story was different than theirs. It is written in modern-day American English so they probably would understand far more than I am prepared to have them catch. I think we'll stick with Sound of Music, perhaps My Fair Lady. I actually have requested My Fair Lady from the library. I think I'd like to show them Oklahoma! too. They really enjoy musicals! Especially those with fast-paced action in them. I think Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is probably their all-time favorite one so far! It has really caught their attention, and they do all their movements (esp. the fighting scenes) with the actors. I have also requested some children's opera videos from the library as well. They haven't ever seen an opera to date although they are familiar with soundracks from Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera. Those are some of dh's favorite scores.

So all in all, you could say we had a "cultural" and theatrical repast today, taking about 6 hours in total. That includes viewing the play and musical and discussing them and Shakespeare. We learned about grand opera vs. light or comic opera as well. Add another hour and a half for other subjects, and that was our school day.

If it isn't already obvious, I don't particularly understand the people who think that we should teach Shakespeare while children are very young. Somebody is always brutally murdered (at least in the plays I remember), and the thoughts expressed are often baudy, to use a Shakespearean term. While it is worth reading and even attending a play, it isn't something I'll push on my kids for a few more years! Scripture stories are better suited to young minds, I believe.

Saturday, April 7, 2007


We celebrated the 6th day of the day before the Resurrection, or the Jewish Sabbath today with a meal with lamb leg, challah bread, beets, corn, and parsleyed potatoes. Okay, so I'm not sure how traditional it was, but it was good. Tomorrow it will be simple with fish.

Otherwise, it was a Saturday for us since we hold our Sabbath on Sunday. The boys raked up the back yard and piled the sticks and spiny things from the sweet gum trees in piles. It is lovely to be able to go outside without tripping! The sticks and spinies were from the ice storm last January. We are still trying to clear everything out! Jim did a lot of cutting with the chain saw too.

Dog Lover and I worked inside making strawberry jam. We got a flat of strawberries put up in 5 batches of jam. I cut up the last pound and froze those for fruit smoothies. I had run out of pectin. I wanted some frozen anyway so those last few got used that way! Two days ago, I put up another flat of strawberries in 5 batches of jam. Dog Lover was heartily glad to be done mashing the berries too although she was very patient about it!

I made the challah bread after finishing the jam. The loaves were beautiful and very tasty too! Jim roasted the lamb, and then we finished it in the slow cooker while he took the kids to the library.

Tomorrow is our last day of Easter festivities. We are not doing the Easter bunny and baskets this year. We decided to focus on the Saviour, and it has been a wonderful week! Tonight we wrapped up with a treasure hunt about the plan of salvation. The treasure was ice cream and a discussion about D&C 138. I have been using the book A Christ-Centered Easter, by Janet and Joe Hales, for this week's activities.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Thursday and Friday

Oops! I didn't post yesterday's hours so I'm having to do that by memory.

Reading: Bible scriptures related to Jesus Christ's last week before he was crucified and resurrected.
Social studies: Prepared and ate foods that Jesus would have eaten in that day.
Math: Singapore math. Built Knex forms such as a carousel, 3-D house, and other items.
Drama: Reenacted the Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem (as is normally celebrated on Palm Sunday).

Science: Watched video on sound.
Math: Singapore math
Reading: completed
Social studies: Learned about events of the last supper and teachings thereof.
P.E.: includes tae kwon do

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Late start

We got a late start today; late night last night!

Reading: Read scriptures pertaining to Palm Sunday.
Language arts
Learned the meaning of Hosanna! and palm leaves; discussed scriptures for comprehension. Alphabetized geographic terms. Also made up original story.
Geography: Vocabulary worksheet, crossword puzzle. Took test. Dragon missed 1, scoring 90%. Monkey earned 100%.
Art: Draw pictures, make frames. (Points toward Art and Craftsman.)
Math: Singapore math,
Social Studies: Find lack of security or hazards in our home.
History: Ancient Africa: Read stories

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Drawing house plans

Math: Measuring the house's outside diameter, drawing up blueprints, and now adding the interior measurements.
Reading circle: Book of Mormon, Mosiah 11
Geography: Defined and found several peninsulas in the world, such as Italy, Greece, part of Turkey, etc.

Monday, April 2, 2007


So far today, the kids have all practiced the piano, we have learned a little Bible history, and the kids have made "art constructions." Dragon and Monkey are earning their Artist badge, and this was a requirement.

Dragon has also drawn an outdoor scene for his Artist badge. Monkey is working on his. Dog Lover did one, but she drew it on another picture's page so she is redoing hers. (We're going to frame these pictures so they need their own page.) We'll make frames tomorrow for Craftsman. I think we'll turn it into a measuring activity so it will count for math.

Tonight, Jim went over the blueprint for his company's new offices with the kids and explained each page of it to them. They were fascinated and had a lot of questions. Then he reviewed occupational options for various types of engineers and architects. That satisfied our Science element and also accomplished two more goals in the Engineer requirements for Webelos. He used to be an architectural draftsman so he was qualified to do it for the Webelos badge.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

General Conference Sunday

We just got through with General Conference. It was wonderful---different somehow. The love and peace and joy literally streamed off the speakers' faces as they taught us how to attain that same peace. It was like they were trying to prepare us spiritually for what is coming. We went to the church for all 4 sessions instead of getting it on the internet. Then, of course, Jim went in for the Priesthood session on Saturday night.

I have been thinking of changing my way of being in homeschooling lately. I'm tossing Abeka. It isn't accomplishing what I want to accomplish. The kids need to learn to communicate better, both orally and in writing. So we are going to go back to reading the Book of Mormon, memorizing Bible verses, and learning Primary songs and then going into Math, History, Geography, and Science. I think we will start earlier with piano practicing too, and the kids are going to be more responsible for their own practicing with me listening from the kitchen as I prepare breakfast. Life and school have to become much more compatible than they have been lately. We have lost a lot of love and peace in trying to become more cookie cutterish. More than anything, I want my children to be confident in their abilities, and mostly know with an absolute surety that they are children of our Father in Heaven, beloved by Him. If they know that, math and writing, careers, and family become cake.

Yesterday during some of the apostles' talks, I became sure that is the way we need to go. They must have total, unconditional love in order for optimal learning to happen. That's hard when I'm so focused on tests, and teaching them to use an apostrophe to show possession instead of teaching them to write coherently to express their deepest convictions. (And sometimes passing fancies.) I know learning happens more smoothly and easily when we read the Book of Mormon.