Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Fine Arts ~ September

Fine Arts Bulletin Board

Our Fine Arts bulletin board is now up! I found the perfect empty wall space facing the boys' bedroom door, so they will see it every time they come out of their room. Excellent. I used an old bulletin board I had and painted the cork black. Then I used foam letter stamps to paint Poetry, Words, Music, and Art at the top. (Okay, so the words aren't perfect, but better done imperfectly than not at all....)

Fine Arts Bulletin Board 2

Artist: Francisco Goya

I printed the Goya page from the Famous Artist Wall Chart (scroll down a bit to #2) at Practical Pages. This is posted on our Fine Arts bulletin board. Then I printed the featured work by Goya at Garden of Praise along with the description at The Metropolitan Museum of Art for our picture study (which will also be posted on the bulletin board when not in use). We will do a few of the Goya activities at Garden of Praise and read Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists: Francisco Goya.

(All printed pages for the bulletin board go in page protectors. Printed worksheets are saved in the same sleeve as the picture study for easy access. Each month, we'll take down the pages and put them in a fine arts 3-ring binder with tabs each for artists, composers, and poets.)

Composer: Henry Purcell

We are reading about Henry Purcell at Wikipedia (and listening to samples of his music!). I printed his portrait with basic biography information for our bulletin board. I have the DVD of Purcell's opera, Dido and Aeneas in my collection, so we will dust it off and watch it.

Selections from YouTube:

Poet: William Shakespeare

I've posted previously about our Shakespeare studies. This time around, we'll be reading about Shakespeare in A Child's Introduction to Poetry and enjoying Poetry for Young People: William Shakespeare. I also printed his portrait (from Wikipedia) along with one of his poems for our bulletin board.

Blow, Blow, Thou Winter Wind

by William Shakespeare

Blow, blow, thou winter wind,
Thou art not so unkind
As man's ingratitude;
Thy tooth is not so keen
Because thou art not seen,
Although thy breath be rude.
Heigh-ho! sing heigh-ho! unto the green holly:
Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly:
Then, heigh-ho! the holly!
This life is most jolly.

Freeze, freeze, thou bitter sky,
Thou dost not bite so nigh
As benefits forgot:
Though thou the waters warp,
Thy sting is not so sharp
As friend remember'd not.
Heigh-ho! sing heigh-ho! unto the green holly:
Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly:
Then, heigh-ho! the holly!
This life is most jolly.

Reasonable Words:

To go with our theme quote for fine arts studies ‎("One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words." ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe), I thought I would add a few reasonable words to our bulletin board each month. I'm using Proverbs and Idioms from A First Dictionary of Cultural Literacy. (We will also use the proverbs for handwriting copy work during the month and those pages will go in the fine arts notebook.)

Necessity is the mother of invention.

Little strokes fell great oaks.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Senior Sneak Peek

Alex 2011

I managed to sneak in a senior photo session before closing down shop for baby season. {Grin} We had so much fun galavanting around the countryside. Thanks, Alex, for being such a great sport! You are gorgeous, and certainly made my job easy. I have lots of photos to finish editing, but couldn't resist sharing a few.

Alex Senior Collage

Alex Senior Collage 2

Alex Senior Collage 3

Alex 2

i heart faces ~ Beach Fun

Shoreline of Wonder

It's been a while since I've entered a weekly challenge at i heart faces, but I couldn't resist this week's theme of Beach Fun. I know y'all are probably tired of seeing this photo, but it is a recent beach photo and one of my all-time favorites. There really are faces, I promise, they're just really tiny. Grin.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Boys and Reading

Boys Reading

In the comments, recently, a reader asked:

"My son, age 4, says he WANTS to do school and wants to read but I worry he isn't ready for it. He is great with manipulatives and puzzles and building things-that seems to be his forte and I have read all sorts of things about how boys are later readers and perhaps one should wait a bit to start teaching reading (for the sanity of both teacher and student) and yet-here you are, with three boys who are already reading well and loving it and I am wondering what your thoughts are on the matter. What is your "secret"? My Andrew has expressed the desire to want to read-so I would like to utilize that, but I don't want to frustrate him either. Right now, he doesn't even know the letter sounds. I'd love to hear your input."

I've posted previously on how we approach reading in our house (you can find the post here), but I'll go over a few specific points.

You can empower your children to begin reading as soon as they are ready if you give them some basic tools to work with.

Learning the letters and their sounds can be a very simple, painless thing at a very young age.

Get a lovely alphabet book (Museum ABC or I Spy: An Alphabet in Art are two of my favorites) and snuggle up and read with your child (my boys loved Museum ABC around the age of one). When you are reading, say the letter name AND sound (or just the sound if they are quickly turning pages). My oldest knew the letter names by the age of two (I didn't figure out how easy it was to add letter sounds until boy #2). My youngest had letter names and sounds by two, as well. My middle guy took a little longer because he didn't really enjoy being read to when he was little.

Around age 2 or 3, my guys watch Leap Frog Letter Factory. This video is brilliant. I've heard so many parents swear by it (even parents who generally limit videos and television time). This is how Levi learned all of his letter sounds in less than a week at the age of 3. Once they have their basic letter sounds down, you can move on to Talking Words Factory where children learn to sound out basic consonant-vowel-consonant words. (Did I mention that this is very painless?) Many libraries carry these DVDs, but they are worth purchasing.

The next step is to have reading material on hand (out and available) that emerging readers can actually read. This means very, very simple consonant-vowel-consonant words such as cat, dig, map, run, etc.

I Can Read Books and other 'beginning readers' such as Dr. Seuss books have many sight words and advanced phonics words. It often takes a long time before kids are ready to read these books, and they'll get frustrated quickly if that is all they have to cut their reading teeth on. You need books that start at the very beginning.

My very favorite beginning readers are the phonics-based incremental readers by Nora Gaydos. All three of my boys prefered these to the better-known Bob Books. Another handy reading tool is letter magnets. Use them on the fridge or on cookie sheets.

The emerging reader stage will appear at various ages, depending on the child.

My oldest didn't hit this stage until I began reading lessons with him at the age of four-ish. I might not have even started so soon, except that he had advanced verbal skills and advanced interest in stories and literature. Learning to read was unpleasant for him (and myself) because he disliked the technical aspect of it, but I knew that he could do it and if he got past a certain point his reading would take off. It did. It was definitely worth the struggle to get there.

Some kids need direct reading instruction, beginning around age 4 or 5. Some kids stay at this stage for a short while, some much longer. Some kids pick up reading skills naturally, with very little adult help.

My second boy didn't have advanced verbal skills (he didn't talk much at all) and very little interest in stories. I would have never have known he was ready to read if I hadn't given him the basic tools at an early age. Because he knew the letter sounds and had letter magnets to play with, he was able to 'tell' me, loud and clear, that he was ready to read at 3 1/2. My husband kept telling me Luke was reading the words. I didn't believe him. But he was. And because we had the phonics-based incremental readers, his reading took off with absolutely no pressure from me. We simply sat down and enjoyed the books together. (He has always loved one-on-one time with mom.) When he had trouble with a word, I'd tell him the phonics rule, help him sound it out, and we'd move on.

I am a lucky, lucky mom. I KNOW how hard it is to teach children to read when they don't want to do lessons, when they have to sound out a word for the 100th time, when it takes them 5 minutes to read a simple sentence. So I know that I'm simply lucky (and not a brilliant reading teacher) that boy #3 also decided to read at 3 1/2. He LOVES the Nora Gaydos readers. He loves the feeling of independence and accomplishment. And he really GETS the humorous stories. He loves nothing more than to share his reading with an adult who will snuggle up with him and laugh at the silly animals doing silly things. But I never would have known that he was ready to read if I didn't teach him his letter sounds and have simple books readily available to him.

This is probably where I should mention that you can't walk 2 feet in our house without tripping over books. They are in the living room, in the car, in the bedroom, in the bathroom, in the kitchen... When we go somewhere, the boys always have books to take along.

If you want your kids to love to read, show them that you value books, give them time to read (beginning with looking at board books and picture books), read aloud to them, let them see you reading for pleasure, and give them basic reading tools at an early age. Reading won't come easily for all children, but this gives them the best start possible!!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Leif @ 4

My littlest man turns four today. How did that happen, exactly?

Just yesterday he was two:

Leif @ 2

Monday, August 16, 2010

Ivy, Drake, and Ilex

Holly (& Ivy)

While we are on the subject of homeschool students, let me introduce you to my partner in crime. {Grin} My stupendously amazing sister, Holly, also homeschools her children. Her two oldest kids went to private school for a few years. She pulled them out and began homeschooling them in grades three and five.

Four years of world history (ancients to modern), literature, science (biology, earth and space, chemistry, and physics), math, writing, grammar, Latin, Spanish, and logic are now under their belts. I can't believe how much they've learned and grown!!! Holly has a new-found passion for history and literature. She will also tell you that if she can teach Latin and grammar, you can too.

Holly's youngest, Ivy, along with her cousin, Jacob (whom Holly watches 3 days a week), joined the ranks this past year as Kindergarteners. Jacob's mom, Christina, put a huge amount of work into their K curricula and planning and taught them one day a week, while Holly followed the plans the other days. (Christina, a veterinarian with a passion for science, also taught science class for Ilex and Drake.) (Our Dad taught Spanish this past year.)

This year brings a few changes. Ilex, Drake, Ivy, and Jacob will all attend Classical Conversations (with my boys!). Holly is tutoring a 6-7 year old CC class. Christina will continue to plan Ivy and Jake's school lessons and teach one day a week. Holly will teach the other days as well as monitor Drake and Ilex's progress with CC and supplement with additional history studies.

Well, I'll just be quiet and let Holly tell you about them.....

Ivy ~ 1st Grade

Ivy, Miss Kitten, will be turning 6 and starting 1st grade in a couple weeks. She is jabbery at home, but very quiet and shy around others and often in her own kitty world. When she isn't in her own world, she enjoys playing with her cousin Jake (who is at her house 4 days a week and is sometimes in that same kitty world with her), coloring, drawing or taking care of her baby dolls.

Ivy will also be participating in CC classes. She knows how to read and will be working on math, spelling, grammar, history, literature, Latin, science, art, and Bible. Her teacher will attempt to bring her out of her kitty world long enough to concentrate on the task at hand.

Drake ~ 7th Grade

Drake, Mr. Independent, is 12 1/2 and going into 7th grade. He doesn't say much, but his mind is constantly (yes, even during grammar) thinking up or researching new contraptions to make or modify. He usually gets his schoolwork done quickly for the express purpose of having plenty of time to read Back Yard Ballistics, visit the instructing YouTube videos on creating, rewiring or modifying some gadget or another, make a list of supplies needed at the store, or build a contraption that shoots, blows up, or makes noise. He is Mr. Fix-it and Mr. Helpful (especially if it will assist him getting out of schoolwork for the moment).

Drake is reluctantly pursuing his 5th year of piano and periodically taking guitar lessons. As long as he is playing The Pink Panther (on piano) he is slightly willing to practice. He loves his shooting practice and matches with a wonderful instructor at the Rifle and Pistol Club every Saturday he is available.

Drake will also be attending the same Classical Conversation classes as Ilex once a week. His teacher has hopes that he will be able to keep his mind on his school work until it is completed, while keeping his skills of quietly riling up his older sister under great restraint.

Ilex ~ 9th Grade

Ilex, Miss Imagination, is officially beginning her first year of high school. She loves debating with her teacher, playing outside with her animals and the dogs at the animal shelter where she volunteers, and using her imagination while playing with or directing the young children in her life.

Ilex will be continuing the violin lessons she began this summer while hopefully maintaining her piano skills at her present level.

Ilex will be attending Classical Conversation classes once a week and then completing the given assignments in Latin, Writing and Newberry Literature, Geography, Biology and Natural Science, Clear Reasoning and Apologetics, and Math at home under her mother's direction. She is looking forward to learning how to draw a world map, including countries, capitals and major rivers, cities and geographical features, free hand as that is the goal of her geography class this year. She will also be adding in typing and a review of World History as time allows. Ilex is most excited about spending the day at CC with her best friends Adelaine and Chrissy. And her teacher hopes that, unless she is in debate class, she will keep her debating practice to a minimum.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Because the World Is Our Classroom

Leif K4

Leif, Mr. Exuberant/Emphatic, is the youngest official student at Mt. Hope Academy. He is turning 4 (on Wednesday!) so it's K4 for him! He is determined, competitive, and eager.... always keeping up with his older brothers. He is also rambunctious, loud (a non-stop talker), and often disruptive. But he is so cute, he is always forgiven.

He is a whiz at reading, writing, and math. He will be in class at Classical Conversations this year, working through his own handwriting workbook, having fun with numbers, and reading, reading, reading aloud and independently. Leif will join in on other lessons with his big brothers as much as possible. His teacher is hopeful that he will work on his ability to be quiet while she is reading and talking.

Luke 1st Grade

Luke, Mr. Earnest, turned 6 just a few months ago and is now starting 1st grade. He is a natural with math and is a fabulous reader. He loves projects, games, and one-on-one attention.

This year he will work on perfecting his handwriting, breeze through math, spend time reading independently, and continue piano lessons. He will participate in Classical Conversations, Bible, Latin, grammar, science, geography, art, music, and poetry (in varying degrees). Luke will also join his older brother for history and literature, increasing and applying (his teacher hopes) what little attention span he has. His teacher also plans to keep him very, very busy so that he stays out of Curious George trouble.

Levi 3rd Grade

Levi, Mr. Effervescent, is 8 1/2 going on either 2 or 20 (depends on what minute you ask his teacher). He is officially a 3rd grader, though he reads on an 8th+ grade level and math (sigh)... Well, maybe we won't talk about math. He is sure he knows everything, and sometimes one almost believes it. Almost. He is constantly talking or humming, which must help his head stay clear, but doesn't have the same effect on those around him. He excells in any subject with words, such as debate.

This year he will begin Classical Conversations and continue with math, cursive handwriting, spelling, grammar, Latin, Bible, science (chemistry then physics), history (Early Modern), literature (tied in with history), geography, piano review (taking a break from lessons), music, poetry, and art. He will read hundreds of books in his free time. His teacher hopes that he will develop an ability to work independently on occasion without getting distracted in the first three seconds, as well as develop a pleasant attitude toward work, instruction, and those in authority.

Russ and Heidi

Heidi, Mrs. Expectant (Exhausted? Enormous?) (pictured with the newest student, Miss Enchanting), will be teaching her children this year, in between baby feedings and naps. Occasionally, baby will BE the lesson.

Russ, Mr. Enduring, will work long hours to support his family. He will overlook a disasterous house. He will bring home pizza for dinner so the boys don't starve. He will love us like crazy.

Boy, oh boy (pun intended), the student-teacher ratio is getting a little overwhelming...

Be careful to leave your sons well instructed rather than rich,
for the hopes of the instructed are better than the wealth of the ignorant.


Our theme for this year:

Shoreline of Wonder

I've linked this post over at Heart of the Matter's (Not) Back to School Blog Hop.
Come join the fun!

Saturday Seven ~ Week 32

Blackberry Gingerbread

1:: In case anyone wonders how long until baby-doll arrives... the week of the Saturday Seven matches up with my pregnancy. So, I hit week 32 on Tuesday. Less than 8 weeks to go (more like 6 would be nice.) I feel 10 months pregnant, but I'm in no way ready for a newborn around here. Sooooooo many things left to do on the project list. At least I got a few things done this week!!

2:: Made it to the last concert of the Monday evening series in the park. Sadly, only the second one we made it to this season! It was a lovely evening, though, as we snacked on Blackberry Gingerbread and enjoyed the local concert band (perfect addition to our instruments study, not that the boys were paying attention....).

3:: My best friend, Char, took my boys to the water park/pool for the afternoon so I could have some quiet time. The boys had an incredible time. My friend is a saint.

4:: Had to-die-for corn on the cob from the local farmer's stand. {SWOON!} Then breads and cheese from the Saturday farmers' market. I really love to eat. Have I mentioned that?

5:: Triple digit temps this weekend. I shouldn't complain, since we've had such a mild summer, but GOLLY!! I'm more of a 73 degrees sort of person, not 103.

6:: I'm such a slacker. We've done almost nothing in the way of school lessons, despite my best intentions (not much of a surprise). And I didn't read ONE book last month {GASP!!} (though I skimmed and reviewed a couple). This month doesn't look much better. At least Mockingjay will be delivered on August 24th, so I'll be sure to have read one book.

7:: And in case anyone would like to actually THINK: From Why Are Parents So Unhappy? And Who Would Settle for Happiness, Anyway? at in response to All Joy and No Fun: Why Parents Hate Parenting from New York Magazine:

Christians must see children as gifts from God, not as projects. We should see marriage and parenthood as a stewardship and privilege, not as a mere lifestyle choice. We must resist the cultural seductions and raise children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, and understand family life as a crucible for holiness, not an experiment in happiness.

"It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men."

~Frederick Douglass

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Orchestra and Poetry

Another month of warming up for our fine arts studies.

I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to review the instruments of the orchestra before diving into our monthly composers.

There are several books about instruments of the orchestra, but I like Story of the Orchestra since we have it on hand and will be using it for many of the composers, as well.

I remember learning about the instruments with Levi at San Francisco Symphony Kids when he was only two years old. He loved looking and listening to them and could name them all! This is a great interactive site for older kids, as well.

Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin is a fun, classic picture book (and was also a Reading Rainbow episode if you can get your hands on it!).

The Philharmonic Gets Dressed is a unique way of looking at the instruments of the orchestra and the people who play them!

For your listening pleasure, try The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra. There are various recordings, but I happen to love our version narrated by Sean Connery. (Or you can listen and learn about Benjamin Britten and The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra with activity sheet and quizzes at Classics for Kids.)

Our recording of The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra includes Peter and the Wolf (also narrated by Sean Connery). Peter and the Wolf is a necessary part of cultural literacy for children (in my not so humble opinion).
There are several picture book versions of Peter and the Wolf such as Sergei Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf: With a Fully-Orchestrated and Narrated CD . Be sure to check your library!

My boys have enjoyed the DVD Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf / Royal Ballet School (which is available through Netflix).

For an animated (unnarrated and darker) version, try Peter and the Wolf (available on Netflix Instant Play).

Don't forget YouTube videos of The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra, Peter and the Wolf, and various instruments!! Here are a few (slightly cheesy) selections for you:

For poetry this month, we're enjoying our new book and CD, Poetry Speaks to Children.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Sunday Seven ~ Week 31

Shoreline of Wonder

1:: I shouldn't have used the words 'perfect storm' when describing what I hoped for this past week. Instead of a perfect storm of energy, well-behaved boys, and self-discipline, I got a perfect storm of nasty cold for Luke, Leif, and myself. Did you know that your immune system is suppressed during pregnancy so that your body doesn't reject your baby? (I didn't either, but I read it here. And everything you read on the internet is true.) That explains why I was on the couch, dead to the world, for a couple days. Sigh.

2:: A friend (thanks, Cheris!) invited us to another VBS this week. Levi and Luke made it 4 days. Leif was able to go and was well enough 3 days. I was so thankful to have some quiet (nap) time in the mornings while nursing my cold. The boys were in heaven. Levi decided that is what he wants to do for the rest of the summer. Awesome. There is one just around the corner from us in another week. Who needs elaborate family vacations? (Not us, obviously.)

3:: After accomplishing NOTHING all week, Russ and I worked like crazy to make progress on Saturday. I feel like I can finally breathe. Still a looooong way to go, though. (I have high hopes for this next week, but I refuse to use the words 'perfect storm' again.)

4:: Blackberries galore. Just sayin'.

5:: Yes, we should have kept the ball rolling on the to-do list. Yes, the day dawned cool and drizzly. BUT, Russ suggested we get out of Dodge. And we needed to get out of Dodge. I'm so very glad we got out of Dodge. (See above photo.)

6:: On our way out of Dodge, we sang at the top of our lungs to the CD we purchased from the VBS the boys attended this past week. The songs were terrific, and I didn't feel quite as heathenish for missing church this morning. On the way back to Dodge, we listened to our new poetry CD, Peter and the Wolf, and The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra for our fine arts study. (Must post about those this next week.) See? We did accomplish something today. Oh, and the boys explored tide pools with Dad...

7:: Because I have to have a link for you in here somewhere, I really enjoyed a fellow homeschooling mom's thoughts on Classical Conversations here and here.

Have a lovely week!!!!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Five Favorites

I'm just in the mood to share five favorite books off the top of my head, today. (What a strange combination I came up with!) Ask me tomorrow, and I'll give you five different books. {Grin} And these are much more personal than my list of seven books every school child should read.

Perelandra by C.S. Lewis

The Little French Girl by Anne Douglas Sedgwick
(review here)

You know I want to know your five favorites, too. Do share!!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Sharing a Love of Reading: Book Clubs for Young People

Luke with Book

Have you ever finished reading a book and craved to share the experience with someone? Maybe you wanted to find out if they loved the same characters, if they identified with the emotional theme, if they were frustrated by certain events, or if they understood why the author chose to weave the story in a certain way.

My most favorite way to treat myself socially, emotionally, and intellectually is to attend a monthly book club. I’ve been involved with the same wonderful group of ladies for over six years. We each anticipate the evenings of sharing our love of reading. Through this connection, we deepen our understanding not only of the books we read, but also ourselves.

Our children can benefit in the same ways when they are regularly involved with friends, family members, or mentors who encourage their appetite for books and the ideas within.

For homeschooling families, book clubs may also be a valuable way for children to gain experience and confidence sharing their thoughts and ideas within a group atmosphere.

The possibilities for book clubs are as endless as one’s imagination, but I’d like to share a few spring-board ideas for organizing groups for young people.

I'm over at Simple Homeschool, today. Head on over to read the rest!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Sweet Shot Tuesday


Sweet Shot Day


We warmed up for our monthly fine arts studies with a mini unit on Mozart. The boys were already familiar with these resources from our own shelves:

Mozart: The Wonder Child
(Another beautiful picture book biography from Diane Stanley.)

Mozart's Magnificent Voyage
Part of the stellar Classical Kids series (I think we own them all, and my boys LOVE them), this CD combines a fictional story about three dream children from Mozart's opera, biographical information about Mozart's life, and excerpts of Mozart's music.)

Mozart's Magic Fantasy
(Also from the Classical Kids audio series, this is a wonderful introduction to Mozart's opera, 'The Magic Flute.')

(This picture book is also a great way to familiarize children with the story of The Magic Flute.)

The Magic Flute performed by The Metropolitan Opera
(This is a mesmerizing performance of The Magic Flute. The fantastical costuming, abridged story, and English translation make it a wonderful introduction to opera for children. Especially if they have listened to the above CD to whet their appetite.)

As always, don't forget to check out the radio programs about Mozart at Classics for Kids, as well as the printable activity sheet corresponding with the radio show!!