wow, i did not mean to be away from the blog so long.
so—while i was gone--we had advent and then christmas, which i’ll tell you about sometime. then we had new year’s day and a road trip to visit family in january, which i’ll tell you about sometime. then we had groundhog day and st. valentine’s day, which i’ll tell you about sometime. that brings us up to lent.
because of various conflicts, we are not currently members of any parish or faith community. thus, we do our liturgical observances at home. for ash wednesday, ella and i had a small, private distribution of ashes in our dining room, to which we invited friends on short notice (as usual).
table prepared with service handouts for participants, a new candle, the cast iron skillet (for burning) with the palm leaf and the lighter, and sheets of paper for participants to write down the spiritual burdens they wished to offer up during lent. i realized too late that i don’t have any lenten table linens—i've just never had a need, i guess—so we used the only purple table runnerish thing we have, which is a yoga mat. :)
the service i used was one i found at a site called ashes to go. had i found it a week or so sooner, i’d have actually taken the ash service to the street as they do. but i didn’t find them in time to plan anything meaningful for this year, so i’m putting it in the file for next lent.
at the beginning of the service we cut the palm into pieces (everybody got to cut a piece to add to the pile), i lit the pieces and then we added our sheets of burdens to the flames. i had intended to do this outside but it was very windy and that didn’t seem safe, so we did it on the table inside (that’s why there are hot mats under the pan), and i had a pot lid on hand to cover it with if it got out of hand.
pieces of palm--it smelled wonderfully church-like as it burned.
ella writing the spiritual burdens she wanted to offer to god during lent.
ella included her dollies, who she is instructing in the faith.
zoe and wren in the back, dora in the front getting her ashes.
following the service we had a home retreat consisting of a lenten lunch (cranberry beans and rice), reading of the story of jesus in the wilderness from several different bibles, and a viewing of the first episode of bill moyers' “genesis: a living conversation” on netflix streaming.
we closed the retreat with a reflection on the ways in which we hope to respond to lent spiritually, physically, and communally, and committed those reflections to paper so we could encourage each other along the way.
*originally i had planned to use a child-friendly ash wednesday service i found at fresh worship, but decided to go simple, simple this year, since it was my first go at it. i’m glad i did—the service we used was plenty, and it was just right for us.
advent 2011 is well under way and that means goblins.
we made our traditional envelope pocket advent calendar, which was way more fun this year and also way more involved because now ella can cut and paste very well, she can read very well, she is well versed in the symbols of christmas, and she has developed a sense of design that is all her own. thus, the making of the advent pockets was a complex undertaking, but she loves it, we had a fantastic time (we did it while watching "scrooged"), and most importantly, it serves its purpose.
this year, the goblins are having us learn christmas carols and songs, and they are giving us longer bible passages to reflect on. but the activities they are having us do are simpler. the goblins' main goal is to see to it that unlike last year, mama is not scrambling every day to come up with materials and mama really appreciates that. ;) thus, the goblins have instituted the following craft/activity policies: one project each week has to be something to give. one project each week can make a huge mess. one project a week is something we'd already do anyway. all projects must use items that are already in the house or yard.
i'd like to take this opportunity right now to thank heaven above for the creation of pinterest, which has made advent calendar sanity possible this year.
WEEK 1 REVIEW
christmas carols: oh little town of bethlehem, away in a manger, o come all ye faithful, we wish you a merry christmas
bible passages: Isaiah 40: 3-5; Isaiah 52: 7-9; Isaiah 40: 9-11; Jeremiah 31: 31-34
activity/craft: make paper chain with names of people to pray for on each link; paint a jar to use as a star of bethlehem lantern; string popcorn and pieces of fruit to hang outside for the birds; make gourmet hot cocoa mix
each day includes a prayer written specifically for our family.
WEEK 2 PREVIEW
christmas carols: white christmas, do you hear what i hear, the first noel, angels we have heard on high, the little drummer boy, winter wonderland, over the river and thru the woods
bible passages: deuteronomy 18: 15-19; psalm 89: 1-4; isaiah 11: 1-10; Zechariah 6: 12, 13; Micah 5: 2-5; Malachi 3: 1-3; John 1: 1-8
activity/craft: draw on the windows with a sliver of soap; make caramels; make peppermint playdough; make and deliver a batch of cookies for the neighbors; make ribbon candy ornaments out of found paper; decorate and put up outdoor wreaths; make handprint craft
each day includes a prayer written specifically for our family.
the stuff on top of the mantel is an advent gift from me to ella, they are 24 individually-wrapped christmas books. she gets to choose one book each day and i will read it as many times as she asks, as often as she asks, all day long. half of them are books that she already owned, and the rest are books that i "bought" using credits i saved from trading old books at mckay used book store this past year. so far all the books she's opened are ones from her own library LOL but she doesn't mind, she is happy to have free license to snuggle any time she asks. i’ll make a separate page with a list of the books and post it later this week.
*a little self-promotion: i have written an advent book for mothers and wives, called “an everyday advent: meditations from the heart of a homemaker”, that is now available for purchase as a PDF, or for the kindle or the nook! it might not be your cup of tea but if you know someone who would enjoy it, i’d appreciate your help in sharing the links. thank you!
every fall we host an open house to celebrate the beginning of another year of homeschool. normally we hold the open house on the last weekend of august but this year, we did a little switcheroo and held it a few weeks later, which allowed us to treat our guests to a little surprise.
when they arrived for the open house, this is what they saw:
but when they came inside, this is what they saw:
that's right, we surprised our guests by holding a birthday party!
the reason for making it a surprise was simple: we didn't want our guests to feel obligated to bring gifts, and we didn't want to discourage friends we knew would stay away if they couldn't afford to bring a gift--we just wanted friends to come and celebrate with us.
as you can see, the theme was angry birds, our new family obsession. we made angry birds bean bags and paper mache’ pigs and set up our blocks on a table for the kids to play:
and we had a cool bird craft that i neglected to get pictures of before dark (tomorrow, i promise).
this was one of the funnest parties we've ever had, it was so wonderful to get to yell “SURPRISE!” over and over all afternoon! i wish we could do it every year.
*i always enjoy hosting parties but getting them ready wears me out! i did one thing that made it go a little more smoothly—i put single scoops of ice cream in paper cupcake liners and had them in the freezer ready to serve. how do you make kids parties easier?
this was the first study unit we did under the new "plan" i put together for ella this year. it was an unconditional HIT.
the story she was most interested in when we were choosing was the myth of daedalus and icarus, which is actually from the 2nd grade core knowledge book, but we had not covered it yet. as always, there were more possibilities than we could fit into a single week! editing is always my weak point :) so i made a list of everything we COULD do, then each day i chose what we WOULD do based on what appealed to her most or what seemed appropriate given the weather, our existing schedule, our energy level that day, etc.--trusting that that the story and the activities themselves were rich enough to provide plenty of learning without any additional "enrichment".
the story of daedalus and icarus from bulfinch's mythology (a little past the middle of the page, beginning at the part titled "Daedalus", and ending "and hung up his wings, an offering to the god."). i read the story to her once a day, and sometimes more upon request, for five days.
also available in downloadable format for various reading devices at the gutenburg project.
social studies: ella wanted to know about the land that was named for icarus--ikaria (sometimes spelled "icaria"). after quite a search we finally located the island of ikaria on the map, learned some history, and made a small flag to start our flag bunting.
ella's embellishment is on the back--a prayer for the people of ikaria. this has become a tradition for her with each flag we've made.
vocabulary: on a printout of the story from bulfinch i let ella mark each word that she was not familiar with.
next i let her choose a word to look up in the dictionary, i showed her how to look things up alphabetically, and had her make a file card for that word. she figured out how to look up words with just one demonstration, and enjoyed this project so much that she worked for almost THREE HOURS the first time, just writing out vocabulary cards.
then i showed her how to file them in the card box, so now she has her own custom vocabulary list. on the back of each card i made note of where she first encountered that word, and my hope is that as she finds each one in other stories she will remember and be able to add to the list of stories and books on the back.
math: i think this is where this belongs. :) we learned to make a labyrinth! mystery labyrinth has a brilliant explanation of how to make a simple classical labyrinth, which we practiced on paper several times.
and most fun of all, we made our own labyrinth in the yard! (hint: one, 5-lb. bag of flour is not enough). ella and i are considering how we can make this a permanent feature of our home landscape.
sprinkling flour to make the path:
walking the labyrinth:
visual art: bruegal's painting "landscape with the fall of icarus" (seen at the top of this post). an excellent printable image of this painting is available by clicking the image at the wikipedia site.
another good printable is available at the artchive website (click the image viewer).
question ella came away with after studying the picture: " how come icarus' wings melted and he fell into the sea but the sun was so low in the sky?"
music: we listened to reconstructions of ancient greek music using reconstructed instruments, and to examples of homeric singing, both available online from the commission for ancient literature and latin tradition.
we don't "study" music, we listen to it and think about it and spend some deliberate time with it but we don't "do" a lot with it. appreciating it seems worthy enough a goal to me.
science: we have a small collection of bird feathers that i had ella sort according to whatever made sense to her, then had her explain the various arrangements she had chosen (the purpose here is to observe, sort, categorize, describe, reexamine, and reinterpret). her categories were:
size and shape:
and animal--they all come from birds!:
ella's principle science question: "how come if you go high up on mountains it is cold enough to snow, but if you fly high up in the sky it is hot enough to melt wax?".
thus offering us a chance to investigate issues of temperature at different altitudes.
science stuff we looked at but didn’t “study”:
serendipity: there is always serendipity. :)
all in all, this was a fun, easy unit and i am thrilled to have found something so simple that so readily meets her needs and desires!
*how is school (home or other place) going for your children? what particularly is working for them or for you?
our schoolroom hasn't changed much since we set it up last year. we've added a few things, edited a few things out, rearranged a bit. but essentially it is the same and for one reason: we don't spend much time in there. :) we kind of learn wherever we are, and the schoolroom should rightly be called a resource area.
can you believe it? it’s already that time of year again—the NOT back-to-school blog hop has begun and it’s curriculum week.
as anybody who has read any of my blogs knows, i’m not much of a planner. i like to wing it, and that has been mostly our way thru homeschooling thus far. but toward the end of second grade ella told me that she wanted to do formal work. so i’m trying to honor that by introducing more structure to our learning.
over the past years i’ve heard lots of good things about nearly every homeschooling system and format and philosophy, but none of them was completely right for us so as usual i’m piecing together a “curriculum” but it is more intentional than in the past.
as in previous years i’m using the core knowledge series “what your ___ grader needs to know” as the foundation and reference point for our work. mostly we’ll be in the book for third graders but with forays into grades two and four as needed or as desirable.
for structure i’m going with something akin to five in a row, with the literature recommendations in the core knowledge books instead of the FIAR book lists. the core knowledge books are designed to meet about half of a school’s curriculum needs, allowing room to accommodate personal interests and local requirements. so we’ll have plenty of flexibility to follow other paths of inquiry as they come along.
for “planning” i found a great blank weekly lesson plan form at donna young’s homeschool printables site. i fill in the top with each week’s literature selection and fill in the sides with each subject area that we will cover. i use the lined section to note what we will do for that subject area. what i will not do is direct in advance which day we do any particular subject—we’ll play that part by ear, then i’ll record later when and how we did it.
this system allows me to brainstorm ideas without getting hung up on orchestration. i can know in advance that i want to have specific supplies ready but i don’t have to know in advance that on tuesday we won’t have a pet emergency that will take up the entire morning. :)
subjects i’m planning to include each week are: social studies (which to me includes history, geography, cultures); language arts (vocabulary, literary forms, grammar); science (um…science stuff); “arts and crafts” (music, dance, static arts, etc); applied math (um…math that applies to the thing we’re studying—i’ll work on this definition).
we’ve been testing this system informally this summer and have found it works very well for us! i’m excited that i’ve discovered a means to meet my need for flexibility and ella’s desire for structure. this could be the year that ms. mama becomes ORGANIZED!
*we get nearly all our books from the local mckay’s used bookstore, which is where i found all the core knowledge books—combined, the entire series cost less at mckays than just a single book costs new! my editions are older but hey, classical knowledge kind of holds its own over time. as always, i welcome suggestions, recommendations, warnings. :)
while looking for instructions on how to make my own gong (i know), i found a website that describes a meditation aid for children, using a jar with some sand in it.
ella and i made our own version, using a pickle jar with a painted lid, a 50/50 mixture of water and corn syrup, some food coloring, and that most magical of craft supplies, GLITTER.
this picture doesn’t do it justice—it is so beautiful—when you shake it, the glitter sparkles in the sunlight and gently floats down just like falling snow.
we use it to help us take real, honest-to-goodness breaks—we sit quietly and just watch the sparkles shimmer and swirl, we just do nothing but rest until all (or most) of the glitter has settled to the bottom. it is so peaceful, so restorative.
we’re planning to make a few more—i’d like to figure out how to make them with a light inside—for quiet bedtime meditations.
*this would make a terrific time-out jar. it only takes about 5 minutes for the glitter to settle—and it gives a young child something specific and focused to do while taking a break to cool down. in the future when i take a meal to a family during stressful or chaotic life events, i’ll be making them a meditation jar to bring along too.
thank you, bass pro shops!
*we have a strict "free activities only" policy for summer. all these workshops fit the bill and we learned a ton of valuable and interesting information about nature and enjoying the great outdoors safely. what are you doing this summer?
but we did manage to do the most important thing on the list: we finished 2nd grade with honors, dignity, grace, and good fun.
ella decided on the last day of june--which was the last day of the school year--that she wanted to have a graduation. she made a hat out of cardboard, a little yarn, and a button from her button stash.
she set up a podium using the stepstool from the kitchen and the ottoman from the living room.
she practiced what she would say, i printed out a certificate, and when her daddy got home that night we had a graduation.
*we’re trying something new this school year—a hybrid kind of “curriculum”—because ella has decided she wants more school. LOL what are you planning for your homeschool this year?