Thursday, October 25, 2007

Week 11-12 Report

I am late, late, late in posting our weeks 11 and 12. I have had a hard time keeping up with reports now that I am running early in the morning again. My bedtime has moved waaaay up and cut into my blogging time. Lol! As I have thought through my schedule and considered ways to streamline (read - cut things out!) I considered not doing weekly reports. You know what though...I like these reports and here's why: It gives both Thatcher and myself a sense of accomplishment to see our week all neat and tied up with a bow (or a slide show!). It also provides me a time and a place to process what is happening at Smooth Stones Academy. Some weeks we get so busy we are just going through the motions without stopping to reflect. Here I get to reflect and process.

History is going so well and Thatcher loves it! I wish we had more time for projects but it is just not happening this year. I keep reminding myself that he is getting so much more in this area than I ever was able to do as a public school first grade teacher. We did stop and have a little fun one day because Thatcher had been begging me to make him into a "toilet paper mummy". The photo shows our third attempt because the first two times Thatcher lost his balance and fell over ripping all the tp apart!

Science is also going really well. We started off very slowly but are rapidly picking up steam! Do you like Thatcher's frog he drew on his animal profile page? It's from Ed Emberly's Big Green Drawing Book. We got such a kick out of this and Thatcher was very proud of the final product.

We love United Streaming! Just in the past two weeks, in addition to our regular Spanish lessons, we have watched a Magic School Bus video on frogs and two excellent history videos on ancient Egypt. Part of my lesson planning each Sunday night now includes checking US to see what videos might match our lessons that week. We couldn't find much on snails and worms for science this week but reptiles will be more promising I am sure! Also, I have been very pleased with the Spanish program they offer, especially considering I was about to spend $200 on a different program. Instead, we got US and all it has to offer for only $129.

Lastly, because I hardly ever mention my little Haddon I thought I would type out what I am working on with him this year. He turns three next week so have not started anything formal, yet I have many things I want to teach him through play this year. By his age Thatcher already knew all these things and more but Thatch was an only child and his memory is one of his absolute greatest strengths. Haddon is much more interested in bats, balls and climbing than anything academic, although that is changing. Here we go:
  • Colors
  • Count to 10
  • Recognize #'s to 10
  • Say his ABC's
  • Recognize all 26 letters
  • Know basic shapes: circle, square, rectangle, oval, triangle, heart, star
In addition, each day we try to make sure we: read at least 10 books together, work puzzles/shape sorters/stacking toys, read from one of our Mother Goose books, sing songs, and do finger plays. Some days we don't get it all done but we certainly try.

Next week we are going to take off since we have a Halloween Party with our other home school friends on Tuesday, Halloween is on Wednesday (won't get anything done that day if I tried!) and I will spend all day Thursday baking and decorating Haddon's cakes for his party on Friday. For Halloween Thatcher is going to be Peter Pevensie from The Chronicles of Narnia. Haddon is going to be his younger brother, Edmund Pevensie, and Beckett is going to be Aslan the Lion! All the costumes just arrived today and they are cute! Can't wait to post those pictures and see all the cute ones of your peanuts too! :)

Monday, October 22, 2007

Godspeed STS-120

Tomorrow at 10:38AM (CST) the crew of the Discovery will launch from Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida. Two of the astronauts on this mission, Doug Wheelock and George Zamka, both attend our church. Dh and I were invited to attend this launch but unfortunately were unable to go.

Please pray for these men and the entire crew as they prepare for their fourteen days in space. This mission will be to bring the Harmony module to the International Space Station which will provide attachment points for European and Japanese laboratory modules.

For our friends, Doug and George, this will be their first trip into space and what they have dreamed about since they were accepted into NASA's Astronaut Candidate Training Program in 1998. They are both daddies of some terrific kids and husbands to two great ladies.

Discovery on Liftoff

Discovery's Crew for STS-120

Monday, October 15, 2007

Week 10 Report: Reflections on Our First Quarter

We are one-fourth of the way through first grade. It started out rough (You can read about our first day here.) but has steadily gotten better as each week has progressed. I have figured out ways to get the most out of our days, but still want to do much more!

I have had to turn loose many things in this give and take: my house is messier than it has ever been; I almost never get an opportunity to spend time or even chat on the phone with girlfriends; I have less time to myself than ever; reading for pleasure is a thing of the past; my toenail polish is always chipped ;) ... But you know what? I wouldn't trade a thing. What I do have is a six year old who truly loves learning, three brothers who adore each other (although some days they do a better job of showing it than others), and days full of knowledge, exploration and fun!

I have been continually reminded that this season is short. Soon I will turn around and my boys will be heading off to college. Until then, my main job is to be a wife to their Daddy and a disciple-maker of them. I will have years after they are gone to catch up on all the good books I've set aside, take classes at the culinary school, learn to quilt and I suspect I will have more than enough time to myself. Nope, this is the better thing. Not easier, but better. Now someone remind me of this in a few weeks when I am worn-out and frustrated. Lol!

I have been thinking through some of the things I still want to add into our days and here's what I have come up with:

  • Problem: I desire for them to daily listen to classical music from our "Composer of the Month" so they will have a better grasp of that artist's work before we proceed on to the next.
  • Solution: I will have music playing when the boys come down in the morning. We will listen as we do our morning routines. The music will go off after breakfast when we start our morning devotional. I will turn it back on when Thatcher has his 30 minute morning break.
  • Problem: I still have yet to do any art instruction.
  • Solution: I am not going to stress about it this year. I am seriously considering a video based art curriculum for next year. Thatcher is *such* a visual learner that I think this would be a great for him. (I am fully aware that I may simply be wimping out here and I am okay with that!) He watched a Veggie Tale's "Bonus Feature" on a DVD we checked out from the library that showed how to draw Goliath. I was truly amazed at what Thatcher did after seeing that short video segment. Unfortunately, any future purchases - big ones at least - will have to wait until the next year. Art instruction (formal at least) is on hold for now.
  • Problem: Beckett is *so* demanding as he gets older. He amazes us with his ability to communicate his desires so young. Unfortunately this results in many tantrums as he throws himself backwards anytime he doesn't get exactly what he wants! You would think he would clue in after the 100th time of us not giving in that this method is not effective but alas, he hasn't gotten that memo yet! Working with him is a huge reason that some days we don't get nearly as much done as we could.
  • Solution: Hang in there and don't sell him on eBay yet ;)! Haddon was much the same at his age and has turned out to be such a kind-hearted, tender little boy. Also, I have seen glimpses (albeit short) of the joys of having two so close together - Haddon and Beckett are starting to play together!!! Haddon will have Beckett follow him into the playroom and they have stayed there together playing for up to 20 minutes! I am looking forward to seeing their friendship blossom.
  • Other Misc: I need to come up with a better system for our memory work. We have not been listening to our VP Old Testament Card CD since the second week of school. I want to have a library day twice a month for the boys to go and pick books of their own. I need to start thinking about next year and what curriculum we will use. I also want to make a plan for the remainder of elementary in regards to Language Arts - reading, grammar, writing and spelling.
So this is what you get instead of pictures of Thatcher's work this week - my ramblings. I just needed a place to think it all through. Thanks for indulging me!

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Week 9 Report

I can hardly believe we are one week away from completing our first quarter! It's gone by so quickly. Here are some of the things we did in Week 9...

Here is a photo of the books Thatcher read independently this week. He reads each book on his own and a short (or long, depending on his interest) discussion ensues to be certain he understood what he read. It's not at all unusual for him to disappear into a room to be found reading an hour later. It is also not unusual for him to be staring at the ceiling or playing with his matchbox cars an hour later either! A quick few (& fun) questions and I know whether he read the entire book or not! :) He is really enjoying non-fiction but the Henry and Mudge series is a big hit here, too!

We are still reading one Magic Tree House book together each week, too. We alternate reading chapters and we read two to three chapters a day. He could read these independently but he gets overwhelmed with all the words on the page (ADHD kicking in for sure!). At bedtime we are still reading The Last Battle. I think we will read Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling next and then move onto Favorite Thornton Burgess Animal Stories after that. They will nicely compliment our animal studies in science.

As a side note, I almost always link to Amazon in my blog because you can often see "inside" the book and I love that feature. It doesn't always mean that it's the cheapest place to buy though. Do your research before you buy. You can save some serious money if you do!!! :)

Here is a photo of one of Thatcher's math lessons. I was much encouraged by a mom who shared that her child also used to take about as much time to complete each lesson as Thatcher but has steadily improved each year with maturity and familiarity. Oh I do hope so!

Also, I don't put a number or letter grade on Thatcher's math assignments but I do put how many problems he missed at the top of the page and we correct all mistakes off to the side before proceeding to the next lesson. Recently he missed 15 problems on one page and made the comment, "That's a lot of problems wrong mom." He was so discouraged until I counted that he had 15 wrong but 92 correct! He brightened tremendously. Now I write how many he got wrong and right at the top of each page. It just feels like we not focusing so much on the negative that way! :)

He's doing so much better now that I am taking the time to really sit with him as we introduce
the rule and also make a point to review the rule(s) each day. Here's one of his "tests" this week. If it's difficult to read (insert drumroll....) he made 100%! I was so proud of him.

We are really using this as more of a spelling program than a true phonics program, so I really want him to understand the rules. I have said all along I would switch to Spelling Workout when we finish ETC but I just found out about SpellWell, a spelling program by the authors of ETC that I want to take a look at, too!

Here is a photo of Thatcher's copywork from The Epic of Gilgamesh this week. I had never even heard of the Epic of Gilgamesh until just a few months ago when I was pre-reading SOTW1. Dh was shocked. I still wonder, "Was I truly never introduced to this material or did it just not stick?" I have referred to it before but it's worth repeating...I love the quote on Mater Magistra's blog, "To teach is to learn twice." It's so very true! I have learned so much already and we've been on this journey such a short time.

Also since we are studying the ancients this year I have been reading one story from Aesop's
Fables each week to Thatcher. One of my biggest goals for this year is character development so these stories serve a dual purpose: supplemental history readings and character building. The language is rich and beautiful in the classic version I chose so we read the same story each day at lunch M-Th. By Thursday the lights are really coming on for him.

This week we read The Lion and the Mouse and we discussed the moral, "A kindness is never wasted." There is a coloring book that I considered ordering but decided against it at the start of the year. Now that Thatcher has grown to love coloring I may just need to order it! It's called Aesop's Fables Coloring Book and it would be a great thing for Thatcher to do while I was reading to him.

Art Appreciation:
Someday I hope for this subject to list Art Appreciation & Art but I have not made time to sit down with my copy of Mona Brooke's Drawing with Children yet...although I did find another mom's generously shared plans for using this book on Paula's Archives. This is another one of those subjects I feel I know so little about and that makes me hesitant to teach it. Plus, I can wing a lesson in just about any other subject right now, but I definitely cannot wing this one! I need to sit down and decide if I can really use this book or if I would be better off with another program like Atelier or Draw Squad.

We did cover Rembrandt this week though. It was short meeting with this great man, but next week I am introducing a new artist and composer so that we can stay on track and cover all 10 artists and composers I chose for this year. This picture shows the books we read this week and the Dover Art Postcards ($1.25 per artist at Rainbow Resources) we used to help discuss the man and his works. I laminated the cards and will post the ones from the artist we are studying each month.

Be back next week with our Week 10 Report!

PS. I just viewed this post and I don't like how it formatted the text around some of the photos. I am not certain how to fix it and too tired to try! Oh well, that's what I get for trying something new! :)

Friday, October 5, 2007

Tag You're It!

Lisa at Koinonia Academy tagged anyone who read her blog to answer the following questions. You can read her responses here!

If you are reading this, you too have been tagged. Leave a comment when you post the answers at your blog so everyone will know where to go and see!

Two names you go by:
1. Jen
2. Jenne

Two things you are wearing right now:
1. my favorite Lucky Jeans
2. t-shirt from Fossil

Two of your favorite things to do:
1. read (by myself or to my children)
2. scrapbook

Two things you want very badly at the moment:
1. a remodeled kitchen complete with granite counter tops, double ovens and hardwood floors
2. more patience

Two favorite pets you have had/have:
1. Cheetoh (the 20 lb orange cat) - he was the first and only pet dh and I have had
2. Layla - my Doberman pincher growing up

Two things you ate (or drank) today:
1. caramel latte and peanut butter crunch pie from Seattle's Best
2. honey crisp apple (my new favorite apple)

Two people you last talked to:
1. Dh
2. my small group (sorry that's a bunch of people!)

Two things you're doing tomorrow:
1. watching Thatcher's soccer game
2. grocery shopping

Two longest car rides:
1. Houston to Panama City Beach Florida in 1992
2. Dallas to Colorado on a bus every year in high school with church's youth group to snow ski

Two favorite holidays:
1. Christmas
2. Easter

Two favorite beverages:
1. caffeine free diet coke
2. coffee, hot tea, hot cocoa on a cold winter morning

Can't wait to read your responses!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

How to Become a Runner: A Guide for Non-Runners

In advance let me say this post is more about my experience than any true expertise. Having said that, I was 110% a non-athletic person prior to training for my first race. I have always said, and truly believe, that if I can do it, anyone can! And just to prove the point, some of my best friends from high school thought I was joking about having run 26.2 miles. They didn't believe I had actually run a marathon until they saw my race results online! Hopefully sharing my experience can help spur someone to go for their goal as well, be it running around the block, a 5K, 10K, half-marathon or full!

One more thing before beginning...why running? Why not another sport? Here are my reasons:

1. Running is one of the cheapest forms of exercise out there-good running shoes (non-optional to avoid strain and injury) and some performance apparel (optional but highly recommended) and you're set.

2. It is good to be outside - even with Houston's bugs and humidity!

3. Cardio! We all need cardio (getting up to your target heart-rate for at least 20 minutes a minimum of 3x per week) and strength-training exercises in our workout regimen. Not many exercises have the heart benefit that running does. Cross-country skiing, swimming and the elliptical trainer are a few others, but I don't have access to mountain or a pool and an elliptical trainer is expensive.

4. Nothing will help you lose weight, change your body and make you lean like running.

5. Ever heard of a runner's high? Let me just say, it's awesome! (The blog linked here is a little salty but it's truly the best explanation of this phenomenon I found.)

Here is how I became a runner. It worked for me and hopefully it will work for you, too. First pick out a three mile path and start walking. Depending on your current level of fitness you may want to walk for a month or more trying to increase your speed as the month progresses. Once you can walk the path with ease it's time to start running. At first just don't worry about running the entire path. Don't worry about running even a mile. Just run for a few minutes until you are out of breath. Then walk until you feel like running again. Each time you run push yourself just a tiny bit more. If you do this for another month or so, you'll be able to run the entire course in another four to six weeks. Believe me!

Too many people just try to go out there and run. No wonder they get discouraged. Running to a body that is hardly used to any form of exercise is like giving Red Bull to a body that has never tasted caffeine. Talk about a jolt! You need to give your heart time to build the endurance to run, your muscles the time to tone and strengthen to support that run and (this is especially true for me) your knees and hips the time to acclimate to pounding on the pavement.

I am suggesting giving yourself eight to twelve weeks (again, depending on your current level of fitness it may take more or less time) to run three miles. That may seem like a lot of time to our "I want it now!" culture where we get frustrated if we have to wait more than two minutes for anything. Here's the reality though - if you are like me, it took you awhile to get to your current level of "unfitness" and it's going to take some time to become fit. It's not automatic and the sooner we Americans accept that, the better off we'll be IMHO.

Then, from there you build. Once you run can three miles four times a week for a month or more you can start training for a race. Again, this is all my opinion so you may want to consult some "real" experts before beginning. Now you're ready; pick a race and pay for it! There's nothing more motivating that the thought if you don't get out there, you're throwing away $25 or $50 (or more). Start with a 5K (3.1 miles) then move up to a 10K (6.2 miles) and so on. Bring some friends along and have fun!

Four more thoughts before closing this marathon (pun intended) post...

First, do not (and I repeat do not) worry about how fast you run. It doesn't matter. Just keep moving. In almost every article that addresses this issue they will tell you that a long slow run does more to burn fat reserves, get you in shape and change your body than a quicker run of the same distance. Go slow and if you feel like stopping just slow your pace. My rule is that I don't stop - ever - I just plod along as slow as a snail but I keep moving all the time. It is too hard for me to start back once I've stopped and I know many runners who feel the same.

Second, listen to your body. If you've never done any endurance-type exercise this can take some getting used to for sure. Learn the difference between your body saying, "Hey, I don't like this because you're making me work too hard. I'd rather go home and chill on the couch!" and , "Hey, I am in true pain here!" For the former you push on and for the latter you stop and possibly even seek medical attention. In training for my first marathon I had to go to a sport's medicine doc for IT Band Syndrome. If you listen to your body when it's trying to convince you to go home, you'll never reach your goal. If you don't listen to your body when you are experiencing pain, you'll never reach your goal because an injury will sideline you. Don't let either scenario happen to you. One more thing, if you do experience some pain or a mild injury, don't get discouraged. It happens to almost all runners at some point. Cross-train while you are healing if you are able and then get right back to running!

Third, try to find a group of more experienced runners to join. I was absolutely terrified the first time I ran with what I considered to be "real runners". I knew I would be too slow, not have the right shoes, the right stride, hold my arms properly...but you know what I learned? The running community is amazing. They are just waiting to help newbies experience the same success and triumph they have (Kinda sounds like the homeschooling community, doesn't it?!) Jump in and go for it!

Fourth, hydrate! It will make a huge difference in how you feel during and even after your run. I have found that if I drink 8-8oz glasses of water plus decaffeinated coffee/tea in the morning and decaffeinated green tea during the day I stay properly hydrated. Remember too that for every one cup of caffeinated beverage you drink you must subtract one glass from your drink total for the day (ex. if you drink 10 cups of water in the day but also 2 cups of coffee and 2 diet cokes then your total beverage intake is only 6 cups of fluid.) If you feel crummy during your run, it may be your body telling you it needs more H20!

Good luck and let me know how it goes!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Have you seen that girl...

This post has nothing to do with homeschooling proper but everything to do with one mom trying to maintain a sense of balance in the journey. I just thought I should warn you in advance in case you want to skip this one! :)

...who used to run five days a week, who liked the way she looked in her favorite jeans, who ate healthy almost all the time (minus some really good dark chocolate a few times a week)? I haven't seen her lately either!

I have briefly mentioned running a few times. I am a runner. I love it. It's no longer what I do, but it is an important part of who I am. Passions are like that; they grip us. People who have met me in recent years assume because I am so zealous about running I have been athletic all my life. HA!

I never played sports growing up except one very embarrassing attempt at co-ed softball in high school. I was a girly-girl through and through. I don't really even remember sweating as a child! I walked regularly in college but during my final semester of student teaching I had limited time to exercise. So for the first time in my life I tried to run a little. I ran off and on for the next six years but never more than two-and-a-half miles at any one time.

In the fall of 2003 I had just experienced my second miscarriage in less than a year and I was tired of being sad and tired of feeling sorry for myself. I decided to train with a friend for a half-marathon to get my mind focused on something positive. I figured I could walk 13 miles if nothing else. My first "long run" was a five-miler and I threw up afterward. I was so discouraged but my friend kept telling me, "Don't give up. Your body will respond."

Well, she dropped out and I kept running. She was right; your body does respond. You just have to give it time. I am slow as a snail when I run but I can run all day long. I actually look forward to getting up for a good 10+ mile run on a cool Saturday morning.

These past four months I have hardly run at all because I have been all-consumed with our school. I love homeschooling and truly desire to create the best learning environment for Thatcher (and later his brothers) I possibly can. But here's the truth, as I have come to see it: I could spend all day every day on homeschool endeavors - researching curriculums, writing lesson plans, checking message boards...and still not be exactly where I want to be. There's just too much out there to even attempt to know it all - which is my natural inclination.

Why not take some time out and do something for me which in turn blesses my family because they have a happier mommy? Here's why I need to run:

1. Every female in my family except me is on or has been on anti-depressants. Running releases hormones that stabilize moods and I truly see the difference when I run. It is a lot cheaper than getting a prescription filled every month (I am not anti anti-depressants, but this is how it works for me).

2. I am a small-framed Caucasian female with a strong family history of osteoporosis. Running is great for building bone-density and helping to prevent bone fractures later in life - and hip fractures are some of the most common.

3. I have a blood-clotting disorder that caused me to be on blood thinners in my last two pregnancies. Blood thinners leech calcium from your bones (and btw, so does caffeine ladies!) further increasing my risk of osteoporosis. Running, along with a daily aspirin, helps prevent blood clots from forming.

4. When I am regularly running I experience almost no effects from PMS (homeschool dads who may possibly be reading this, I apologize). I have no bloating, cramps, headaches or mood swings. That in and of itself is worth it for me! ;)

5. It is time away everyday to myself: time to pray, think, process, and reflect. These are all things hard to do with three shadows (no matter how adorable) on me at all times of the day.

This is just one mommy's opinion, so take it for what's it worth, but if you are a homeschool mom - or dad- and you are not taking enough time for yourself...DO IT! I would strongly encourage exercise but doing anything that will get you out of the homeschool mode for a few hours a week can be a huge blessing for you and your entire family!

Oh by the way, the girl I was looking for, I saw her tonight. She was running slow as Christmas but she was movin'!

P.S. My next post will be, "How to become a runner: A guide for non-runners!" if anyone is interested. This is me (on the right) crossing the finish line of my very first, and so far only, marathon with my friend, Shay. I hope it inspires someone to go for a goal they have always thought they could never really accomplish because that is what crossing this finish line was for me!