Friday, January 30, 2009

Baby Steps to a Healthier Life

Baby steps. Baby steps. That's what I keep telling myself. But I'm terrible at baby steps. I want to do it all ~ all at once. Two days later, I fall off the bandwagon. (I can only diet for 2 hours at a time. Wry grin.) Last year, though, I started taking baby steps toward a healthier life. Some things worked, some didn't, but progress was made. Here is the short list:

In 2008:

What worked:

*Spinach smoothies (with banana, OJ, and frozen berries). LOVE. Still drinking 2-4 a week.

*Air-popped popcorn (instead of microwave popcorn). Daddy and the boys enjoy making popcorn. I just received a stove-top popper so I can make kettle corn! Yum!

*Local, natural pork. We purchased 1/2 a pig from our neighbor. The pork is soooooo delicious. We'll enjoy eating it throughout this next year.

*Had water filter system installed. Finally. No more bottled water. It was so inconvenient to drink water (so I didn't very often), and I hated all the plastic. Now our tap water tastes great!

*Caught up on dental work and had silver fillings replaced.

*Replaced swiffer mop with washable terry-cloth mop covers and natural spray.

*Organic oatmeal. One more choice for breakfast and Levi and Leif love it.

*Unbleached flour (white and wheat) from Bob's Red Mill (in Oregon). Natural and fairly local. I try to use a combination of white and wheat in baked goods.

*Began adding wheat germ to banana bread (we eat often). I love my recipe. I suppose I need to share it here sometime.

*(Whispering: Taking antidepressant/anxiety meds.)

What didn't:

*Reusable shopping bags. I always forget to take them into the store!

*Apple cider vinegar. I tried drinking a couple tablespoons in a glass of water with honey or maple syrup. Didn't last. I'm not sure why.

Goals for 2009:

*Severely limit Dr. Pepper. I'm working on this one, but it is sooooooooo hard.

*Drink more water. This happens naturally when I don't drink Dr. Pepper.

*Add green tea (or white, red...). I've been having a couple cups a day. Love Good Earth Lemongrass Green Tea with a smidge of honey. (And I'm not a tea drinker.)

*Add quinoa as a staple menu item. We've had this a few times now. Delicious with a splash of olive oil.

*More extra virgin olive oil. I've used extra light olive oil almost exclusively in baking and cooking for the last year or two, but I need to use the extra virgin olive oil when possible. Even better if I have a warm, crusty loaf of French bread to dip in it. Ahhhhhh.

*Edamame. I've purchased the dry roasted stuff with a little sea salt. Not bad. Crunchy and salty. Healthier than anything else I enjoy snacking on... Nice salad topper, as well.

*Buy reusable cloths for window cleaning. Done! I had some last year, but they disappeared. Just purchased a few more.

*Try apple cider vinegar again.

*Take multi-vitamin.

*Try reusable shopping bags again.

*Find local beef.

*Shop more often at farmer's market and local produce stand.

*Eliminate HFCS in our diet.

*Use more local honey.

*Eat out less!! (Both Russ and I love to eat out.)

*(No more diapers!)

*Floss teeth.

What baby steps are you taking this year to create a healthy lifestyle for yourself and your family?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Narrations, Testing, and Budgeting, Oh My!

Carole asks: Do you do narration with any of your reading, and if so, how did you get started and do you have any suggestions for helping reluctant narrators?

Heidi answers: When I listened to Susan Wise Bauer speak last year, she gave some great suggestions. She said that for early grammar students, ask one of these questions: 'Tell me the most interesting/exciting thing you just read/heard,' or 'Tell me two things about _____.' Restate their answer in complete sentences and have them repeat it. I can't tell you how much better I felt after hearing her say that!

So far, we are only working on simple narrations for our history reading. We'll work up to more this next year.

~Do you have a strategy/approach to "playing" with your boys? I find that after getting through a morning full of "school," I have no time (or energy!) left to actually play with the boys. Besides the many demands of laundry, food preparation, etc. Any thoughts?

Heidi answers: I make an attempt to be playful in life and in the way I interact with my boys. We snuggle, wrestle, giggle, dance, make funny faces, read silly stories, go on little driving adventures, and sing like crazy people. I really hope to begin a family game night very soon. We go to the pool together. We make cookies together. The boys do projects with Dad and ride on the lawn mower with him. But I rarely PLAY with the boys, assuming you mean building something with Legos or moving trains around a wooden track. I feel like the boys need quite a bit of time without me, especially after spending time in lessons together. Providing them with independent playtime is actually high on my priority list, particularly considering the fact that I have three boys close in age, and they get along well together.

Kelsey asks: Do you test your boys at home? Or are you able to understand how well they are doing based upon what they do in day to day school?

Heidi answers: I do feel as if I have a good idea of where the boys are in each subject, as well as what information they have mastered, but they are still very young. Many curricula include tests, which I may employ at some time. I am also one of those parents who doesn't mind having my children take standardized testing. I am well aware that the standardized tests often don't accurately assess what a child knows and wouldn't teach to the test, but I still think they are a valuable experience for children and will find the results interesting.

~ Do you have a monthly budget set aside for homeschooling purchases (supplies, project related, books) or do you have it all ready to go when you start the school year?

Heidi answers: Budget?! What's that? Bwa-ha-ha!!! Oh, seriously? Nope. Just purchase as I go along. My hubby has been a very good sport, so far. I suppose I should make up some sort of budget, though. He would probably appreciate it. (I'm not organized enough to have everything I'll need at the start of a year. I'd certainly purchase many things on a monthly basis.)

Mab asks: Do you belong to a homeschooling [support] group? Why or why not?
and... Ever feel like teaching a class about homeschooling- I am not terribly far from you.

Heidi answers: Nope. I'm an introverted control freak. (Grin). I do like to get out (and socialize on occasion), but I like to do it on my own schedule. It helps that I have a built-in support group surrounding me. My parents and younger sister are very supportive and helpful. My older sister homeschools. My best friend homeschools. Most of my friends homeschool. Most of my blog friends homeschool, a few extended family members homeschool (or have in the past).... If anything, I need to expand my world and socialize with non-homeschoolers!

A class?! Maybe I should wait until I'm a seasoned homeschooler for that one. (Grinning, again.) I was thinking, though, that it would be really fun to have an open house for blog friends that live close by. It would be nice to meet some of you in person!

Ruth asks: We are considering homeschooling our kids aged 8, 6, 4 and 9 mos. Was it a hard adjustment socially when you went from a traditional school situation to homeschooling? My oldest is an extrovert and that has been my greatest concern about homeschooling, it's really the reason why we haven't yet.

Heidi answers: We have been homeschooling from the beginning, so no transition was necessary. I completely understand your concerns about homeschooling an extrovert, though, because I happen to have three of them. My oldest, in particular, adores people. He doesn't know a stranger.

The problem with putting him in a traditional school setting is that I don't necessarily think that is the best place for him to socialize. In fact, I think it would be detrimental to his education. I know that he would have trouble focusing on his more difficult subjects (math) and staying with the class (without talking or squirming) in the subjects in which he excels (reading). I find it best that we can concentrate on the studies at his level during lesson time (fewer than traditional school hours with no homework) and have more (appropriate) time for social activities.

I would encourage you to look into other activities (church, 4-H, art or music classes, homeschool play groups, martial arts lessons, etc.) to provide the social outlet that some kids need.

The Beckoning of Lovely

Even though the thought was in the back of my mind, I couldn't seem to find the right word. Last year, finding words was easy for me. I couldn't even narrow it down to one. This year, however, nothing. A lingering, nagging voice kept saying, find your word. And still, nothing. Until yesterday. It was so clear. It shouted, even. LOVELY. And the word wouldn't go away. Lovely has grown in proportions you can't imagine.

From Merriam-Webster, these two definitions leaped out at me:

2. delightful for beauty, harmony, or grace

4. eliciting love by moral or ideal worth

I could fill pages with the thoughts of one day. It will have to wait. I promise it is coming, though. If you're curious, start with this video (below). And I leave you with this thought:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true,

whatever is noble, whatever is right,

whatever is pure, whatever is lovely,

whatever is admirable

—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—

think about such things.

~Philippians 4:8

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Haunting My Thoughts... the best way. This video clip has launched my brain into overdrive. (Thanks for sharing it, Shannon.) I have things to say (as usual), but for now I'll just let you watch it.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Boy's Been Busy

Did I mention I have a reader on my hands? This is Levi's book stack from the past month. Yep. The day after Christmas until today. 20 chapter books. Some easy, like The Family Under the Bridge. Some a little more challenging, like The Thief Lord. He finished page #345 this evening. Tomorrow is family movie night. Yes, I think we'll watch The Thief Lord to celebrate. What am I going to do with this kid?!

World Atlas Flip Chart

Since a few of you were wondering about the map flip chart that I pictured below, I thought I would see if I could find it online. I purchased mine at a bargain book store (wahoo!), but found it on Amazon. They don't have any in stock, but there are some available from independent sellers.

Also, I loved Carole's suggestion of putting up a Mr. Linky for other homeschooling moms to share their lessons schedules and other specifics. Would anyone be interested in participating? If I could figure it out, I could post some of the questions that were asked of me and let other mom's chime in as well. Maybe one a week? What say you?

Sunday, January 25, 2009


Yes, I know, it is another picture of Leif, but I just can't help myself. The weekly theme at i heart faces is JOY. And you can't tell me that Leif's reaction to running barefoot on the beach isn't pure joy.

Let a joy keep you.
Reach out your hands
and take it when it runs by.
~Carl Sandburg

Putting It All Together

So, we've discussed curriculum and resource choices, and basic planning for each subject, but how does one put it all together? This is what my next step looks like:

(ETA: Click on each subject below to read details about curriculum, resources, and planning.)

Grammar: 15 minutes/ 3x per week
Latin: 15 minutes/ 4x per week
Handwriting: 15 minutes/ 4x per week
Geography: 15 minutes/ 4x per week
Music: 15 minutes/ 2x per week
Art: 15 minutes/ 2x per week
Math: 45 minutes/ 4x per week
History/Literature: 1+ hour/ 2x per week
Science: 1+ hour/ 2x per week
Bible Reading: 15 minutes/ 4x per week
Piano Practice: 15-30 minutes/ 4-6x per week
Poetry and Bible Memorization: 10 minutes/ 4-6x per week
Singing Hymns: 5 minutes/ 4x per week
Family Chapter Book: 15-20 minutes/ 4+x per week
Free Reading: 45+ minutes/ 4-7x per week
Reading Aloud (Luke): 15 minutes/ 4-6x per week
(Spelling and Spanish to be worked in at a later time.)

I know that looks like a lot, but stay with me. I promise I am going to share with you a 'getting it all done' daily schedule soon (not that I can follow it...), but we'll start with this very simple lesson schedule:

*Educational video for boys while I finish getting ready in the morning. (Science, geography, Spanish, etc.)

*Review memory work during breakfast time. (Levi read aloud.)

* 1 1/2 hour morning lessons with all 3 boys (have books and small bin of toys for Leif to play with or send him to playroom when he gets crazy):

Monday: Handwriting and drawing at kitchen table. Give Leif paper and crayons. Work with Luke while Levi completes copywork. Do drawing project together. 45 minutes. Move to living room. Sing hymn, listen to geography song and look at flip chart atlas, Latin lesson (roughly 15 minutes each). 45 minutes.

Tuesday: Handwriting at kitchen table (same M.O. {grin}). 15 minutes. Move to living room. Sing hymn, listen to geography song while coloring map (using clipboard), read book for music, Latin review, grammar lesson (15 minutes each). 1 hour 15 minutes.

Wednesday: Handwriting at kitchen table. Living room: hymn, geography picture book, art picture book, Latin review, grammar lesson. (15 minutes each.) 1 1/2 hours.

Thursday: Handwriting at kitchen table. Living room: hymn, geography song and mapwork, Latin review, grammar lesson, watch music clip on You Tube (on computer in school room) or listen to CD. (15 minutes each.) 1 1/2 hours.

Friday: Free for errands, appointments, library trips, field trips, or catch-up work.

(We'll work spelling into our morning lessons later this year.)

*45 minutes for Bible reading and piano practice. Levi and Luke alternate. Leif wrecks havoc.


*2 hours of afternoon lessons with Levi and Luke. (Leif at grandma's house or in quiet time (ha!)at least during math.)

Monday: Math at kitchen table with Levi (and Luke) 30 minutes then 15 minutes with Luke while Levi completes worksheet or other activity. Spend remaining time on history (read history chapter while coloring, narration, mapwork; read related picture book or literature if time).

Tuesday: Math (same M.O.). Remaining time on science (read lesson, any writing activity, color page or diagram, additional picture book, etc.).

Wednesday: Math. Remaining time on extra history reading and/or project.

Thursday: Math. Remaining time on extra science reading and/or project.

Friday: Free for activities, etc.

*Keep copies of CDs (geography songs, Bible songs, poetry memorization, Classical Kids, Spanish) in car for listening convenience. Play CDs at home during playtime and on weekends.

*2-3 evenings per week: Swim lessons or Tae Kwon Do. (P.E.!)

*Bedtime reading: Luke read aloud (to me or Daddy) 15 minutes. Read from family chapter book 15-30 minutes. Levi read independently (free reading) 30-60 minutes.

*Weekend (Friday-Sunday): Bible reading, piano practice, free reading, family chapter book, picture books, field trips, outside play, games, listen to music, family movie night, chores and projects, visit friends, Sunday school...


Planning and Plotting

Anonymous asks: How much time do you spend planning at the beginning of a school year, and how much planning to you do each week/month?

Heidi answers: My planning routine is outlined in my post, Homeschool Planning the Heidi Way, but I'll go through some basics and an idea of time spent here in this post. (Keep in mind that times can vary widely (or would that be wildly?) depending on how much one is enjoying herself.)

Yearly: Review educational goals and philosophy. Choose subjects and curriculum. Make resource purchases. Plan basic yearly outline. Decide on weekly goals. Create and print weekly goal sheets for lesson planning notebook. 1 hour daily for a week.

Quarterly (or Every So Often): Make sure that scheduled lessons (grammar, math, history, science, and Latin) are about on target. Re-evaluate if not. Review what is getting done and what is not. Re-evaluate. Reflect on triumphs and struggles. Think about changes that could be made to improve weaknesses. 1 hour.

Monthly: Look through lesson books and make list of books, movies, and craft supplies needed for history, science, geography, art, and music. Purchase or borrow from library. This is my favorite part of planning, so I take my time searching for books online, etc. Maybe a couple hours.

Weekly: Make any copies of maps and coloring pages (etc.) for history, science, and geography. Set out books (and DVDs) to read (or watch) for history, science, art, music, and geography. Make sure that supplies are on hand if planning any activities. Write up 4-5 pages for daily copywork. Make sure that supplies/manipulatives are on hand for math lessons. Quickly scan Latin and grammar lessons. (Look up You Tube clip for music lesson or make sure a CD/DVD is handy.) Double check the calender for any appointments or activities. Make any relevant notes on the weekly goal sheet in the lesson planning notebook. This doesn't take as long as it sounds like it might. Half hour to an hour.

Around the World

Geography: Geography happens to be one of my favorite subjects. Although we are learning some geography through our history studies, we enjoy learning about our world as a separate subject in its own right. My absolute favorite resource has to be our Geography Songs CD. The tunes are very catchy and easy to sing along with. The last two songs on the CD are Continents/Oceans and Planets, which the boys have memorized.

Last year, I worked with Levi to learn the points of the compass, latitude and longitude, the equator, continents and oceans. Now we are working our way through the countries of the world using the Geography Songs CD and workbook. I am thrilled to have found the flip chart atlas (pictured above) to view while singing the songs and to use for review.

Also last year, I printed off pictures of landmarks around the world and pasted them to large index cards, writing information about the location on the back of the card. The boys and I enjoyed learning about these places and locating them on the map or globe. We will continue to add to our collection with landmarks relating to the area we are learning about in our current studies.

Our library happens to have a complete collection of Schlessinger Media's Countries Around the World DVDs. What a gold mine! We have watched (and will continue to utilize) these DVDs to learn more about the countries of the world.

Planning for geography might look something like this:

Day 1: Listen to geography song 2x while looking at area on flip chart atlas.
Day 2: Listen to geography song 2x while coloring black-line map from workbook.
Day 3: Read picture book relating to geographical area or add landmark card to collection. (Listen to song in car while running errands.)
Day 4: Have child point out countries on map and sing song.
Day 5: Watch travel video during TV time. Sing song.

(Repeat for as many weeks as necessary to learn song and locations of countries. Move on to next song when ready. No rush.)

Time allotted: 10-15 minutes daily.

Just for the fun of it, we may occasionally cook foods from our current geographical location using The Usborne Little Round the World Cookbook. It is indeed little, but has wonderful photographs, descriptions of food, and recipes... fascinating to look through, even if one doesn't use the recipes!

You can find more about our 'Around the World' studies here.

Art and Music

Art: Art has been the easiest subject to incorporate into our days. Our shelves are full of books of beautiful art, and we've borrowed additional titles from the library. You can find many of my recommendations here in my Amazon book store, or by clicking on the Fine Art Friday label.

Very simply, I try to read/view at least one book weekly with the boys. Sometimes our art book selection corresponds with other studies such as geography or science. More often, though, I just grab a book, and we enjoy it while sitting on the couch together. Occasionally, we'll view additional masterpieces by an artist on the computer, possibly printing a favorite for our collection.

Don't skip art because it is too overwhelming to plan for (when added to everything else on the list)! Add an art book to your library list and just make a point to look at it with your children sometime during the week. Stock your shelves with a few quality books of art and let your children gaze at them during quiet time.

We began reading Cave Paintings to Picasso this past year in conjunction with our history studies and will continue using it as a resource in the coming years. This book features 50 masterpieces from around the world, arranged chronologically with descriptions and historical information.

I also hope to begin drawing (very informally) with the boys every week or two using the Draw Write Now series.

(Art updates will be posted with the Fine Art Friday label.)

Music: I wrote a little about our music studies here, but I'll summarize again for you. I like to read a book once a week, either a picture book about a musician or a page or two from books such as Story of the Orchestra (a terrific introduction to instruments and famous composers), A Child's Introduction to Ballet, or Bravo! Brava! A Night at the Opera. Either at that time or later in the week we listen to a CD, watch a performance on DVD, watch a You Tube clip, or learn more about a composer at Classics for Kids. I don't put much (or any) time into planning for these lessons and keep the atmosphere very casual.

Levi has now been taking piano lessons for almost a year (thank you, Lynn, for being a wonderful instructor!!), and I am considering starting Luke this year, as well. I very much love the beginning piano books that Levi is using. Simple classical melodies, hymns, and jazz tunes enhance our music studies. I try to have Levi practice daily.

(Music updates will be posted with the Music label.)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

As An Aside...

I just wanted to let my dear non-homeschooling readers/friends know that I do plan to post something other than educational information very soon. I'm sorry that the blog has been so one-dimensional lately! Thanks for being patient. Please don't leave. {Grin}

I also know that I have so many more questions to answer. I promise I will get to each one eventually!


Latin: I've spent the last two years eager to begin Prima Latina, but holding myself back, knowing that the next step (Latina Christiana) would be difficult to tackle if I started too early with Levi. I could hold out no longer, and Levi and I are thrilled to be learning Latin. (Prima Latina is recommended by The Well-Trained Mind for Latin study in the elementary years.)

Some of you are asking, 'Why Latin?' Here is your answer. 'Why study Latin in second grade?' Here is your answer. 'Don't young children find it difficult and boring?' Here is your answer. See how easy that was? {Grin}

Prima Latina makes learning Latin simple and engaging, even for the parent with no Latin experience (me). Though we've only completed three weeks, Levi, Luke, and I find it fascinating. Each weekly lesson contains a practical Latin phrase (One out of many, stand up, Where are you going?, hello/goodbye), a Latin lesson, five vocabulary words, English derivatives, and one line of a Latin prayer. The Student Book contains exercises for practice and review to complete during the week.

Prima Latina contains 25 lessons and 5 review lessons, combined to create a 30-week program. In the end, the student will have learned 125 Latin vocabulary words, numbers 1 through 10, basic constellations, 25 practical Latin phrases, four Latin prayers, seven parts of speech, and simple introductions to tenses, derivatives, conjugations and declensions. Not bad for second grade.

My sister was completely intimidated by the thought of teaching Latin when she was planning her homeschooling materials three years ago. It turned out that Latin was one of her and her children's favorite subjects that year, and they have continued on into Latina Christiana.

While we are on the subject of languages, I'll mention that I would really like to add in some Spanish practice this year. We may review previous lessons (from La Clase Divertida), listen to CDs or watch Spanish DVDs. What I would like to do, though, is have Levi begin using Rosetta Stone. I haven't settled on a course of action at present, and we may not have time to fit it in just yet.

(Any language updates will be posted with the Latin and Spanish label.)

The Subject of Religion

Bible/Religion: One of the many benefits of homeschooling is the ability to teach our children from our family's worldview. The subject of religion will look different in each home, whether a family is homeschooling or not. Most of our teaching and discussions are woven into the fabric of our days and other lessons, but I do have a few specific recommendations.

Levi is reading the above Day by Day Kid's Bible. It is a simplified text, written in chronological order, divided into 365 daily readings. I am thrilled that he is able to get a feel for reading through the Bible independently. Luke is making his way through The Early Reader's Bible. He loves reading the simple stories aloud to me and prefers to read his Bible above any other book.

For Bible memory, we are still working our way through A New Commandment. I highly recommend the CDs from Sing the Word. Bible verses and passages are set to music performed with excellence. We love to listen to these CDs in the car.

We desire to communicate the Word with music that is artfully written, performed with excellence, and age-appropriate. We strive to create music that:

*expresses the meaning of the Word
*enables people of all ages to memorize scripture quickly and permanently
*provides an aesthetically pleasing and enriching experience for kids
*appeals to adults (we don’t want mom and dad groaning every time Suzie asks for that song again!)
*cultivates an appreciation for excellent music of diverse styles
*encourages and edifies the listener in the faith
Speaking of music, we have enjoyed incorporating hymns into our days. I posted more on that subject here.

I mentioned the next Children's Bible in my post on history studies, but I thought I would mention it here, as well.
The Illustrated Children's Bible is a wonderful Bible for the whole family to share together. Perfect for integrating with the study of ancient history, this story Bible includes photographs and illustrations of geographical locations, people, animals, food, artwork, artifacts, maps, lineage, and so much more. I love the tasteful pastel illustrations.

In our history studies this year (medieval and early Renaissance), we will be using the Usborne Encyclopedia of World Religions to learn more about the faiths of other cultures and historical eras.

(All religion and Bible lesson updates will be posted with the Bible label.)

Friday, January 23, 2009


Mab asks: Who inspires you?

If we are talking blogs, this is what I look for:

An appreciation for a simple and beautiful life presented in artistic images (lets say photography for convenience), parenting (boys in particular), homeschooling (classical in particular), creativity, nature, Christian faith, literature and/or poetry.

These are a few favorites:

Short On Words. Photography (to the tenth power!), parenting (3 boys!), homeschooling (classical!), gorgeous nature photos, Christian faith (meaningful scripture passages every Sunday accompanied by her gorgeous nature photos), and literature.

Prairie Prologue. Photography, parenting (3 boys, 2 girls!), homeschooling, nature (farm life), Christian faith, and poetry (she posts poetry with accompanying photos that make magic together!).

Bella Art Girl. Photography (her collages fill me with joy), parenting, homeschooling (classical), nature, Christian faith.

Blue Yonder. Photography, parenting (3 boys!), homeschooling, creativity, and nature.

Soule Mama. Photography, parenting, homeschooling, creativity, and nature.

Holy Experience. Photography, parenting (6 kiddos!), homeschooling, nature, and an emphasis on Christian faith.

Planted by Streams. I think Jennifer's blog has absolutely blossomed in the last six months! Photography, parenting, homeschooling, nature, and Christian faith.

Simple Mom. An excellent blog full of content. She chooses great photos to compliment her articles on making your home a haven, taking care of yourself, money management, productivity, kids, and so much more.

If we are talking about people whom we look up to, I would have to say that Susan Wise Bauer is my idea of a brilliant woman who has accomplished amazing things!

If we are talking inspiring people in our own life, I am lucky to have three wonderful women in my life who serve as support and inspiration:

My mom and I are very close, and I look to her for inspiration and advice in parenting and life. My younger sister and I share a brain. She has the right half, I have the left. We finish each other's sentences. She inspires in me creativity, audaciousness, and a desire to see outside the box. My older sister and I have been very close friends since high school. She is a super-mom and she inspires me to 'just do it.' Her homeschooing journey the past two years has been a blast to watch. I want to be just like her when I grow up.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


Science: Science was another curriculum I couldn't decide on right away, but I'm glad I took my time, because I am very pleased with my final choice. For me, the Christian Kids Explore Science series is for science what The Story of the World is for history. As an added bonus, the narrative lessons are combined with the activities and resources in one handy volume.

My sister began using the series and recommended it to me. I'm so very glad she did. What I like about this program:

*There are four volumes in the series, corresponding with the science rotation recommended in The Well-Trained Mind.

*The series is geared toward grades 3-8, but is easily adapted for younger students. (We will probably use the series a second time during the logic stage, covering the subjects more in-depth.)

*The books are written in a narrative style and from a Christian perspective.

*The lessons are well-organized and cover the information recommended in The Well-Trained Mind.

*The book is self-explanatory and easy to use (especially important as science is not one of my better subjects).

*Lessons include a narrative 'Teaching Time,' related Bible verses, diagrams, review questions, hands-on projects, coloring pages, and some writing and memory work. Each unit lists vocabulary words and materials needed for projects. Resources in the back of the book include reproducible forms and maps, memorization and reference lists, and book lists for further reading.

The only thing I would mention as a negative is the short time spent on the human body. You may want to plan for extra time to delve a little deeper in human anatomy.

While planning for this program could look almost identical to the planning involved for history studies, we did 'science light' this past year. We read all of the lessons, reviewed orally, did just a few projects, watched a related science video on almost every subject (Eyewitness, Bill Nye, Planet Earth, Blue Planet, Magic School Bus, etc.), and enjoyed related science books with great visual components.

Field trips are a fun way to enhance science studies. We went to a zoo, enjoyed nature hikes, planted a garden, and will end our biology unit with a trip to a local aquarium.

We start the second book in the series, Christian Kids Explore Earth and Space, next month. I am hoping to visit a planetarium, Crater Lake, The Oregon Caves, Mt. St. Helens and more during the year.

Levi is attending his second 'Super Science Saturday' at a local school next month with classes on chemistry, our solar system, microscopes, and states of matter. We have a membership at a local children's museum and will most likely participate in a workshop or two this summer. We also plan to visit the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry at least once or twice this year. Both Levi and Luke have subscriptions to Ranger Rick and Your Big Backyard.

(All science updates will be posted with the Science label.)

History and Literature

(Nile River model from The Story of the World I Activity Guide)

History and Literature: I know I've sung the praises of The Story of the World before, but you'll hear it again today (and again in the future, I'm sure). The Story of the World is a four-volume chronological history of the world in a narrative style written for children. The author, Susan Wise Bauer (yes, of The Well-Trained Mind fame), has brilliantly managed to make world history accessible to elementary-aged students without sacrificing substance and style.

Having never studied ancient history in school, I was enthusiastic about this past year's studies for my own sake. Levi and I both learned a great deal, more than I could have imagined packing into a first grade study of history. The Story of the World is engaging for a variety of ages, including adults with a minimal background in history studies.

The book is divided into forty-two chapters, many of the chapters include two or three shorter stories. Line drawings and simple maps are interspersed throughout the book.

The accompanying Activity Book is an absolute treasure and well worth the cost, even if one only uses half of the resources. For each chapter, the activity book provides review questions, sample narrations, black-line maps and map work instructions, coloring pages, additional reading suggestions for related history and literature (the book lists alone are worth the cost of the activity book), and instructions for multiple (and varied) crafts and activities (ranging from very simple to complex). I cannot imagine trying to accomplish everything in the book, but it is wonderful to have so many things to choose from to add to our history studies.

I enjoy having our literature selections tied in with our history studies. Both are enhanced as we relate them to one another. (We do read other children's fiction, which I mentioned in the Language Arts post.)

The Story of the World: Volume 1 does contain some Biblical history (stories of Abraham, Joseph, Moses, and Jesus), but is not specifically a 'Christian' resource. The book does not address creation (it begins with nomadic life in 6000 BC), leaving it up to the parents to teach their own family beliefs. For those wishing to incorporate more Biblical foundations in their history studies, I very highly recommend The Children's Illustrated Bible.

This gorgeous, detailed Children's Bible contains an abundance of historical information and maps; drawings and photographs of artwork, geographical locations, artifacts, foods, people, animals; and so much more!! The stories are illustrated with tasteful pastel drawings. It is the perfect Biblical supplement to The Story of the World: Volume 1 for elementary students.

For those wondering how to pull together a history and literature curriculum, rest assured that The Story of the World (and Activity Book) does the hard part for you! Planning and scheduling might look something like this:

Monthly Planning: Look over suggestions for the next few chapters in Activity Book. Make a list of additional reading titles to check out at library or purchase. Add any activity supplies to shopping list.

Weekly Planning: Make sure you have books for additional reading and supplies for any crafts or activities. Make copies of maps or coloring pages.

Monday: Read next chapter in SOTW. (Let child work on coloring page while parent reads.) Review questions or narration. Map work. (45 minutes)

Tuesday: Read an additional history or literature selection* (either together or independently). (30 minutes)

Wednesday: Activity or craft. (30-45 minutes)

Thursday: Additional reading*. (30 minutes)

(* If we are reading a longer literature selection, I often read it in place of our fiction read-aloud rather than just reading during scheduled history time.)

You could plan less or more time depending on interests and abilities. You could also plan to do two longer sessions of an hour or more, rather than break it up in smaller chunks of time. (The revised edition of The Well-Trained Mind also has specific planning and scheduling ideas.)

We have finished The Story of the World: Ancient Times, and have moved on to The Story of the World: Medieval Times. I would have to say that History and Literature are our favorite subjects!

(All current history updates with be posted with the History label.)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Life's a Picnic

Our weather has been fabulous the last few days. A respite in the middle of a rainy, gray winter. The boys have been soaking up the sunshine. Why is it that sunshine = picnic? Levi got out the picnic blanket and came in for snacks. He told me they were riding their bikes to {our last name} Park, would I like to come? The sight of their three bikes lined up against the fence made my day.

Shoes were discarded because sunshine also = bare feet. Who cares if it is still cold outside?
This is the life, folks, this is the life.

A Celebrity in the House

(blurry photo compliments of my 4 year old photographer)

Y'all are never going to guess with whom I spent the afternoon! Tsh, aka Simple Mom! We spent a few hours chatting while her daughter played good naturedly with my three crazy boys. I feel as if I should have asked for her autograph. {Grin}

I've been following Tsh's Simple Mom from the beginning (a year ago), watching it grow and grow and grow. The content on her site is incredible, from money management to making your home a haven (and everything in between). She has been kind enough to link to a few of my posts from time to time, as well as asking me to be a guest blogger.

When I found out that Tsh was going to be in my neck of the woods, I was hoping we would be able to get together. Well, today was that day. In case any of you were wondering, she is just as wonderful in person as she is on her blog. The only times we stopped chatting long enough to take a breath are the times I had to run and catch my two-year-old to keep him from escaping down the driveway. So much to talk about and so little time.

I love the way blogging can make the world seem oh, so small! Anyone else plan to be in Oregon (Willamette Valley) anytime soon? {Big grin}

Monday, January 19, 2009


Our next core subject is Mathematics. I chose RightStart Math after a long deliberation. There are so many math programs available, and I had no desire to jump around from program to program trying to find the best fit.

The Well-Trained Mind recommends Saxon Math. I chose not to use this program because my niece (very similar in personality to Levi) struggled with Saxon (and math in general). I looked at Horizons Math which would have suited my learning style as a child and teaching style as an adult, but decided against a workbook-style program.

In the end, I chose RightStart Math for its ability to introduce math concepts in a variety of ways (visual, tactile, auditory) with little writing in the beginning stages. (I started Levi with RightStart A when he was four and not yet writing.) In general, I liked the RightStart approach and learning goals, feeling that it would best give Levi (and his brothers) a strong start in math.

The emphasis on groupings of five, both with tally sticks and beads on the abacus is brilliant. The math games make learning fun. The variety of manipulatives is terrific. Lessons are scripted (they tell you exactly what to do and say). Each lesson lists objectives, materials needed, warm-up, and activities. RightStart is teacher-intensive, which is fine with me as Levi does not do math well independently.

Planning is straight-forward. You decided how quickly you want to move through the program, plan a certain number of weekly lessons accordingly, schedule time to do math (plan extra time for catch-up, math games, and review), and spend time at the beginning of each week to look over the lessons and set aside materials that you will need.

Having a copier available is necessary for reproducing worksheets and other patterns, etc. from the spiral-bound lesson book.

Here is where I admit that math is the toughest subject for me to maintain consistency in. We are only half way through Level B (first grade), which technically is right on target for Levi's age, but I had hoped to finish the book by this time.

Math takes complete focus for both Levi and myself, more than any other subject. It also requires that we have the materials out and ready. Both Leif and Luke are incredibly distracting, and Luke begs to do math with us.

Lately, I've been working on making math our priority. My mom has been watching Leif a couple afternoons each week, so that is an incredible help. I also gathered all our supplies into a 'mobile math' bin, so that it is easy to grab and take to the table.

Luke usually sits on my lap and listens in, as well as being my partner in any math games. It is his favorite subject. I desperately need to get out Level A and start at the beginning with him (I want him to have the correct foundation, and he will pick it up quickly), but I will wait until Levi and I have found our math groove.
(Any math updates will be posted with the Math label.)


In answer to a few of your questions about our school room: I purchased the above book rack at Pottery Barn. It is a great way to display picture books so that children can see the covers. I originally had it mounted in Levi's room before we moved, and it now lives in the school room.

For by-the-bed book storage, I purchased the collector's shelves below (also from Pottery Barn). Luke and Levi each have a shelf mounted by their headboard (particularly convenient for bunk beds). The shelves are just deep enough to hold a water bottle and a favorite toy or two along with bed-time reading material.
And Tera asks if she needs an all-in-one printer/copier/fax machine. Short answer: I don't know how I would live without the printer/flat bed copier. We do a lot of copying around here. The fax machine aspect is rarely or never used, but it is nice to have it just in case. We purchased it at Costco. My hubby handles all those purchases, maybe he'll chime in about the cost in the comments section. Grin.

ETA: I finally answered the spelling and Phonics Pathways questions in the language arts comments below. Very un-brilliantly, though. Short version: I don't know and Because I'm lazy.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Anything Goes

It is Week 2 over at i heart faces. Their first week of competition was a huge success, and I cannot wait to view all the new photographs. The theme is Anything Goes and Susan at Short on Words is the guest judge!

I spent some time this past week going through all the face shots in my photo archives. It is obvious that I need to have a few more photo sessions with new friends. (In particular, I need some adult models!) You all are going to get real tired of seeing my boys' faces over and over. And over. And over. Oh, wait. Most of you probably already are. Grin.

For this week, I've chosen to enter the above photo of Leif. He is about seven months old. I love his baby cheeks and baby mouth and baby blue eyes. Now that he is two-going-on-twelve, I am missing his baby-ness! There is no holding him back. With two big brothers, he won't be left behind.

Saturday, January 17, 2009


I have never been aware before

how many faces there are.

There are quantities of human beings,

but there are many more faces,

for each person has several.

~Rainer Maria Rilke, Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge

Heavens Above

You heavens above,

rain down righteousness;

let the clouds shower it down.

Let the earth open wide,

let salvation spring up,

let righteousness grow with it;

I, the Lord, have created it.

Isaiah 45:8

Friday, January 16, 2009

I Won!!!

I can't believe it!! I've won best photo in the adult category at i heart faces with the picture of my Dad! Thanks, Angie, Amy, and Miz Booshay! I'm honored. And scouring my photos for next week's entries. Wink.

And congrats, Susan at Short on Words, for fourth place in the kids category. There was some serious competition over there! Whew!!

Our Library/School Room/Office

Come on in!

The following picture is slightly chaotic, but I'm so thankful for this wall of storage! On the left is the computer desk. On the right is a bookshelf for miscellaneous books and resources. In the center, we have an 8-drawer unit that holds games, science stuff, craft supplies, manipulatives, beginning phonics books, and other goodies. Our printer/copier/fax sits on top along with our CD folder, and my lesson plan binder. Above, we have a bulletin board and book display shelves which hold some of our current history and science books.
These book shelves hold school-related books. (Children's fiction and picture books are on a large shelf in the boys' room.) I'm running out of space! The hanging file cabinet is another well-used item.
Thanks for visiting!