Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Progress Report (Installment #2)

Bible: We've been reading aloud from the DK Children's Illustrated Bible. I love this version. Levi begs for story after story, and I appreciate the informative side notes, photographs, maps, and artwork. It is simple enough for Levi to follow but not childish. We will have read through to the end by November so that we can return to and focus on the Christmas story during December. Levi has memorized the Lord's Prayer, a table blessing, and is currently working on a longer prayer-poem as well as the 10 Commandments. We also have quite a few of the verses memorized from our Bible verse CD, Sing the Word! From A to Z and hope to have all 26 memorized by the end of the year. (Luke enjoys singing along with us.) We've enjoyed 5 Minute Devotions for Kids (another book Luke joins us for). The boys also attend Sunday school.

Literature: I think the highlight of our literature studies so far has been reading the retelling of 3 of Shakespeare's plays and then seeing the live performances. We have also read Pippi Longstocking, The Cricket in Times Square, Ben and Me, The Saturdays, The Wind in the Willows, The Twenty-One Balloons, and are currently working on Little House in the Big Woods. Levi listens extensively to books, stories, and poetry on CD. We read picture books together, and are working our way through The 20th-Century Children's Book Treasury.

History: We spent the month of February reading books about presidents. Levi memorized the Preamble to the Constitution (with hand motions). We have learned a number of patriotic songs such as America and the Star Spangled Banner. Levi knows the Pledge of Allegiance and the poem inscribed on the Statue of Liberty. We read several books about Benjamin Franklin including the chapter book Ben and Me. We are reading A Pioneer Sampler (highly recommended) and completing most of the activities. Reading that and other pioneer books has helped The Little House in the Big Woods come alive for us. We even read Laura Ingalls Wilder story, Pioneer Girl. Levi also attended a Civil War Re-enactment with his dad.

Geography: We have been working on U.S. Geography. Levi can identify many of our states and the countries to the south and north of us. He often puts together a wooden puzzle of all the states (most pieces are the shape of the individual states--only a few of the smallest states are grouped), and I think this has really helped with his familiarity. (For example. Grin.) When I post the entries for 'Around the World' we read information about the location online, print one or two pictures, paste them to a large index card, enter a few facts on the back, and review them weekly. We will be working on map skills this fall, but I have already introduced continents, the equator, and he is very aware of the directions of a compass. We often look at our maps or globe and locate places that come up in books or conversation.

Science: We haven't accomplished much in the way of formal science studies, but Levi has watched 30 or more Magic School Bus episodes (usually more than once). He must be learning something because he corrected me when I stumbled over the word 'proboscis' a few months ago. Grin. Science has traditionally been my least favorite subject, so I am thrilled that Russ happens to have a biology degree in addition to his teaching degree. He patiently answers each and every question Levi poses. We will be adding in more formal science study in the fall, but until then we will garden together, enjoy spending time outside this summer, star gaze, and read and discover together. Levi also watches Dragonfly TV and finds it fascinating even though some of it goes over his head. He has been seen carrying The Berenstain Bears' Big Book of Science and Nature under his arm while grocery shopping, playing outside, or riding in the car. I highly recommend this book! Very engaging for the elementary crowd and surprisingly informative, it begins with an almanac covering holidays, seasons, weather, and more. The second section introduces many facts about animals, plants, and the earth. It finishes up with machines, matter, energy, projects, and experiments. Impressive for a fun picture book! Levi also enjoys receiving and reading Your Big Backyard magazine.

Spanish: We have been slowly progressing through La Clase Divertida, Level 1. I love being able to just 'push play' for the lessons on DVD, and it is very handy to have the CD, which we often listen to in the car. Levi knows the alphabet (and a fun alphabet chant with Spanish words corresponding to each letter), the vowels and their sounds, colors, numbers, body parts, days of the week, how to ask a few questions (name, age, favorite color, etc...), animals, the location of Mexico, and a few miscellaneous Spanish words. Many of the lessons included some Mexican history. We have completed a few activities and crafts such as frying plantains, making Mexican flag cookies, 'weaving' an 'Ojo de Dios,' and 'bark painting.' We are on lesson #9 of 15, although Levi has listened to the complete CD many times. He has also picked up a few Spanish words from watching Go! Diego, Go! with his little brother. I recently purchased a new Spanish kit with three CDs that Levi has been enjoying. (There are three workbooks with 16 activities each, so I think that we will work on those when we are done with La Clase Divertida.)

Art: Art is another subject that we haven't formally touched on. We have many picture books around our house containing fine art. Levi and I often talk about art that I post for Fine Art Friday. Probably his most consistent exposure would be when watching Little Einsteins. This is another show of which he has probably watched 30 or more episodes, each featuring a different work of art. When I was sorting through old photographs the other day, he saw a picture we took of Mona Lisa and said incredulously, "Mom, you've been to the Louvre?!"

Music: We deliberately listen to a wide variety of music. Levi has jazz, rock-n-roll, patriotic, Bible songs, old-time classic songs (such as A Bicycle Built for Two), opera, and classical CDs. He also enjoys listening to the Classical Kids CD series which incorporate a dramatized story with music by individual composers. The stories are fictional but give historical details of the composer and his life. Again, I have to praise Little Einsteins for the amount of musical detail in each episode. Composers, classical music melodies, and music theory abound. Levi often uses the words allegro or adagio when describing his running speed, and the words pianissimo or forte when describing his volume level. We will be attending as many of the free concerts in the local park as possible this summer.

Physical Activity: Since moving out to the country, the boys have enjoyed extensive outside time. They love bike riding, swinging, running, and playing. We try to attend family swim night at the pool as often as possible. At this point in Levi's life, I spend much more time telling him to be still than I do telling him to go play (grin), but we will probably be signing him up for Tae Kwon Do in the fall and increasing our swimming times.

Social Studies/Current Events: We receive a subscription to God's World News and read through the issues when the arrive. We discuss current events when they come up. Levi knows the name of our current president. We have recently enjoyed making our way through the book Things People Do. There are so many details in this book, we often just read a page or two at one sitting. Humorous, but informative, it's one of my favorites.

Other: Levi has memorized the days of the week and is working on the months as we progress through the year. When a new month begins, we create our magnetic calendar discussing seasons, holidays, and activities. We are also learning a poem about the months of the year and add the new lines at the beginning of each month. He has learned our phone number, the street we live on, his parents full names, and his birthday and year. We have memorized selected poems.

Extra Activities: We've attended a few offerings from The Children's Performing Arts series with the local parks and rec. We visited the lambing barns.

Fun Stuff: Lots of cooking together, playing at the coast, father/son camping trip, playdates and birthday parties, projects with Dad, holidays, movies, Saturday farmer's market... We are looking forward to night glow at the Art and Air Festival when a whole field of hot air balloons light up as it gets dark.

Whew! It is incredible for me to look at this list and think of all we have done in such a short time without a strict routine or schedule. I'll have to pull up this post when I'm feeling frustrated about things that are left undone!

I'll post our plans for July-December sometime this next month.

Again, if you're looking for more posts about our homeschool adventure, click here.

Progress Report (Installment #1)

Also, I'll be taking a few days off from posting. Happy Summer, everyone!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Progress Report

We are half way through Levi's Kindergarten year, so I thought I would post an update on how far we've come and where we hope to go in the second half of the year. I could spend hours on one really long post, but we have life to live so I'll spread this out over a few days.

I am so pleased with the progress we've made after starting our year part way through February. Levi and I have had a special time learning together, and 'lesson time' is one of my favorite times of the day. Usually we do our main lessons (math, reading, and writing) while both of the younger boys take a nap in the afternoon. Some days we get a lot accomplished. Some days we get nothing accomplished (particularly when nap time goes awry). We often do school on Saturdays or Sundays to keep our rhythm.

The extras (anything other than math, reading, and writing) happen whenever we can fit them in. Sometimes that means reviewing memory work, Spanish, or math while driving in the car. Sometimes it means staying up later at night and reading together. Often, Levi listens to CDs (music, stories, lessons) while playing or eating or resting. The boys watch educational shows such as Between the Lions or Magic School bus.

My main goal at this stage is to create an atmosphere of learning in our lives. The more structured routine will come in time. That will be one of my priorities in the fall, after our summer chaos has settled. We will continue with our loose lesson schedule throughout the summer so that we don't lose valuable progress and spend too much time reviewing in the fall. Levi wouldn't have entered public school until September as he didn't turn five until this past January, so I have felt confident in our relaxed approach thus far.

Math: We have been steadily progressing through RightStart Math level A, a couple lessons each week (often doing half of a lesson each day). Levi is gaining a terrific foundation in math. I am thrilled with the RightStart program. It uses several different ways to look, feel, and even hear numbers. It is hands-on, interactive, and solid. We are on lesson #50 of 77. We will have no problem finishing by November with time for games and review. Levi recently wrote his own 100s chart, can add single digit numbers and add ten (or a multiple of ten) to single digit numbers in his head. He knows odd and even numbers. He is learning money values.

Phonics: Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading is a basic, complete, and easy to use phonics program. (We also love the Nora Gaydos phonics readers and sight words flash cards.) Levi's reading is coming along nicely. I try to have him do 2-3 lessons a week. We are currently working on section 11, common spellings for the long-o sound. He has finished common spellings for the long-a, long-i, and long-e sounds. Following is a sample paragraph from a recent reading lesson:

The kind man will take the string off the bag of limes.
He will wind the string on his hand so it will not fly off in the wind.
The kind man will take a lime to the shy child.
The child will peel the rind off the lime.
The lime tastes quite mild.

Writing: I started Levi last year with Handwriting Without Tears. It was an excellent curriculum choice for him. He has finished the kindergarten book, Letters and Numbers for Me. Currently he copies a short sentence from a poem, a short Bible verse, or another selection onto the Handwriting Without Tears paper daily. We will continue this for some time, helping him develop control and speed.

I'll continue the progress report for Bible, history, science, memory work, and other subjects later in the week. I hope to list specific plans for September some time in the next month.

Previous posts regarding homeschooling can be found here. (More links at the end of that post.)

Monday, June 25, 2007

Read Together

Jennifer at Snapshot is hostessing a 'Read Together' mission:

"All I ask is that you try. Select a book together. Read it together (out loud or independently). Discuss it (chapter by chapter or all at once at the end)."

I think Levi and I can probably handle that. Grin. We are finishing up Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder and then will read The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall for our 'Read Together' project. Jennifer has been kind enough to send me a list of discussion questions that she created, so we will add those in to our regular discussion. I'll keep you posted.

The Moffats by Eleanor Estes and The Borrowers by Mary Norton are the next two books up on the to-be-read list, so if we manage to get that far with all of our summer activities, we'll participate in 'Read Together' with those books as well.

Feel free to join in!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Journey Home

Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.

Matsuo Basho

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Art Around the World

The Louvre Museum is the most visited art museum in the world and holds possibly the most famous painting, da Vinci's Mona Lisa. Russ and I were privileged to be two of the millions of visitors the museum received in 2003. Highly recognizable with its glass pyramid, the museum is also the most visited monument in Paris, France.

We saw many paintings, but Repenting Magdalene was strangely one of the most memorable for me, as I have mentioned, although I was mistaken in thinking it was the same painting. Apparently George de la Tour was fascinated with Mary Magdalene, creating at least five different versions of the repenting Magdalene over the course of 15 years. Not all of our photographs inside the museum turned out, but I was thrilled that we were able to get a decent one of this:

It would have taken days and days to see all of the artwork and antiquities displayed at the Louvre. We had to pick and choose. We visited Venus de Milo, Mona Lisa, Psyche Revived by Cupid's Kiss, and my favorite sculpture the Winged Victory of Samothrace.

Interested in visiting? Check out the virtual tours.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

And Summer Follows

Then followed that beautiful season... Summer....
Filled was the air with a dreamy and magical light;
and the landscape
Lay as if new created in all the freshness of childhood.
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Strawberries, Oh My!

On icecream:
On pancakes (with pure maple syrup and whipped cream):
In fruit smoothies:
In jars of freezer jam:
(in fruit salad, stirred into yogurt...)

We are bound by a small, sometimes magical fruit called the strawberry. This fruit has the power to make tears dry up, make friends with enemies, make sick people feel better, make the elderly feel younger by bringing back pleasant memories of days gone by, make acquaintances of strangers, and above all make little children smile. What other fruit has that power? --Marvin Brown

Monday, June 18, 2007

A Dad and His Boys

We headed over to the coast for our annual Father's Day outing. My Dad, Mom, sister Shan, and her husband Ben joined in the fun. In the words of my eloquent 3 year old, "We have good day."

Saturday, June 16, 2007


My father used to play with my brother and me in the yard. Mother would come out and say, "You're tearing up the grass." "We're not raising grass," Dad would reply. "We're raising boys."
~Harmon Killebrew


You are an amazing father to our three boys--even more than I could have imagined. You play with them, wrestle with them, snuggle with them, let them help with tasks, patiently explain things to them, kiss them, take them on adventures, teach them, and even take them to work with you.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Love, Me.

Friday, June 15, 2007

The Potager Garden

I had been interested in reading All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew when I saw it recommended (not sure where, or by whom) some time ago. In April, I spied the book at Costco and threw it in the cart. (Somehow it doesn't feel like spending money when it magically appears among the groceries.) Russ stole it out from under my nose and had it read by that evening. He sounded at least a little interested, which was terrific. I needed him on board.

Reading through the book in the next few days, the method sounded startlingly simple. The drawing of my amazing new vegetable garden--not so simple. That might have been when Russ started to go cross-eyed. Nevertheless, he has been a great sport, and I have simplified my expectations for the garden (for this year, anyway. Grin.)

The All New Square Foot Gardening method involvs a special soil mixture, 4'x4' raised beds made out of untreated 2"x6"x8' boards. No tilling, no soil treatments, very little weeding, minimal watering. Sounds good to me.

The book has many helpful references including charts of vegetables--when to plant, weeks to harvest, how long to keep seeds, etc... I would definitely recommend taking a look to see if this is something you might be interested in. The raised beds can be made on patios or porches, so there is no excuse not to have a few fresh vegetables to harvest! It would be a wonderful project to share with kids.

I was additionally inspired by seeing pictures of a wonderful and, in my humble opinion, successful attempt at 'square foot gardening' over at Homeschooling the Doctorate? Check out her progress!

Our project has begun in earnest:

Levi helps dad form the box frames.

Russ attatched weed barrier to the bottom of each box.
He made a fancy hinged wire cage for one of the boxes.
We're not sure if we'll have deer checking out the garden,
but we know we have a rabbit friend in the vicinity.

Our soil mixture.
(Amazon reviews of All New Square Foot Gardening
complain that vermiculite is very hard to find.
We must be lucky. It is available at two local garden supply stores.)

It looks awful, but mint compost is the greatest stuff.
It's readily available here in the Willamette Valley, Oregon.
I've been known to put it on my birthday wish list.
(And I've been gifted a load or two by those who know me best.)

We started a compost pile, but won't be able to make use of it
for quite some time.

Box ready for planting.

Bell peppers, jalapeno peppers, French style beans,
and carrots (red, purple, orange, yellow, and white!).

One box for herbs: rosemary, lavender, parsley, basil, thyme, thyme-oregano, and chives!

(Other two boxes were planted with four tomato plants and zucchini. More will be added soon.)

I'll keep you posted as the garden progresses!

Garden as Art

Eight years ago, my sisters, mother, and I embarked on a journey. It was a dream finally coming to fruition for my sister, Shannon, and myself. After years of hoping and planning, we opened up shop. Poet's Garden was born.

We built (or, I should say, the husbands, built) two little cottages on the family property where our childhood vegetable garden previously took up residence. Mom, Shannon, and I spent a week at the Seattle Gift Show picking out treasures to fill the shop. We painted, planted, and created.

Poet's Garden opened in June when the roses were in full bloom. Everything looked magical. We served tea and delicious treats. It was a success! The years rolled along. I had my first son and brought him with me to the shop a few days a week. Shannon started working even harder. We were featured in Victoria magazine. (Absolutely, unimaginably, stupendously amazing for us!) I had my second son. Gone were the days when I could work at the shop. I helped from home as much as I could. (Which wasn't much.) Shannon worked harder (if that was possible). My third son was born last year, and Shannon gave up on me.

My little sister was born to own her own shop. She started her own dried flower business at the age of 11. Poet's Garden is her baby. The gardens have prospered under her care. The roses are currently in full bloom. I took advantage of an overcast day to capture the sights on film. These are my favorites. (More pictures can be found at Poet's Garden Girl.)

Nothing is more completely the child of Art than a garden.
Sir Walter Scott

Gardening is the art that uses flowers and plants as paint,
and the soil and sky as canvas.
Elizabeth Murray

(I love this picture because the hill way in the background is the backdrop to our new home.)

I need not print a line, nor conjure with the painter's tools to prove myself an artist . . . Whilst in other spheres of labor the greater part of our life's toil and moil will of a surety end, as the wise man predicted, in vanity and vexation of spirit, here is instant physical refreshment in the work the garden entails, and, in the end, our labor will be crowned with flowers.
---John D. Sedding

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Flag Day

Let it be borne on the flag under which we rally in every exigency,
that we have one country, one constitution, one destiny.
Daniel Webster

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Strawberries and Memory Lane

Throughout my childhood, I wandered up and down this road countless times, but during a short season each year a treat awaited me at the end. Each June, the strawberry stand would appear (I never knew exactly how), and my sisters and I would make a bee-line for the little white building...change jingling in our pockets. We would painstakingly pick out the perfect pint box full of the reddest, most beautiful strawberries we could find.

My sister, Shannon, often rode her bike down to the stand to 'help' the owners sell strawberries. I'm sure she chatted up a storm and charmed each customer into buying even more.

As we grew older, the time came to pick strawberries in the fields. We did acquire some spending money, but I'm not sure it was worth it. A few times, after a tiring day of bending down to pick strawberries for hours in the hot sun, we'd hitch a ride with the truck taking flats of fruit to the strawberry stand. Then we would walk the road home. It was a gravel and tar road. During the hot weather, small bubbles of tar would form on the surface. I can still hear the tiny little 'crackle' sound they would make as we stepped on them. I can feel the hot road under my bare feet.

So, call it 'buying local' or 'buying the best' (which fresh-picked Oregon strawberries certainly are!), I call it 'buying sentimental.'

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

San Francisco

Levi and I spent some time last week looking up information about San Francisco after reading Maybelle the Cable Car by one of my favorite authors, Virginia Lee Burton. All of her stories and illustrations are wonderful, but I really enjoyed the history she wove into this delightful story.

It begins with a simple description of how the cable cars work (complete with charming illustrations) and continues with a short history of San Francisco in lyrical prose. The story then centers on the decision to end the cable car services and the citizen movement to save them.

Home went Maybelle...clingety clang...Ringing her gong and singing her song. Good news...ting ting...good news she sang. Our day's not's just begun.

Virginia Lee Burton's stories have captured the attention and love of so many children since Choo Choo was published in 1937. With two sons of her own, she knew just what sort of story would enchant a little boy.

It all started from watching the engines at Rockport Station. Almost every day we had to go down and see the trains come in and go out...and the engines switching the coaches and freight cars around. I always try my stories on the boys first. If they like them, I feel sure other children will.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Dirty and Clean

Whose idea was it to let these little children ride on the
leveling grate behind the tractor?

Getting dirty is so much fun.
(Thanks, Dad.)
But getting clean is even better.

Except for mom, who is getting tired
of looking at piles like this.