Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Spring Break!

Tomorrow morning the boys and I are heading to the gorgeous Texas Hill Country for a spring get-a-way! Our official Spring Break wasn't supposed to begin until next week but we doubled up on lessons today and yesterday so that we could get a head start on all the fun.

I will get to meet my brand new nephew, Sam, and spend time with his big brother, Luke. My bil, sil and in-laws will be there as well. I will post more when I get back along with some (hopefully) great photos.

I have been working on a post to show all our curriculum choices for next year. It was supposed to be a quickie but as I started typing I realized how many decisions I need to solidify before getting ready to order. I have made up my mind 90% on so many things. Next week I will spend time doing the research I haven't had the time to do and hopefully finalize our plans for second grade. I want to be 100% sure before ordering anything (Is that realistic? Lol!).

I hope all of you have an amazing week and I'll "see" you when we get back as we have no phone, no tv and only an old radio out there. It's wonderful to have a technology break sometimes.

Friday, March 7, 2008

I need a Liz!

My children, my precious darling children!
What I want them to become, I must become myself.

- Elizabeth Prentiss, Stepping Heavenward

I mentioned this quote awhile back in a previous post. I first saw it on Rachel's blog, Keep the Way, and now it seems to keep popping up again and again. You know how once you learn a new word it seems you come across it everywhere? It's been like that for me with this quote. Is God trying to get my attention?

I have wondered about this woman, Elizabeth Prentiss, since I first read it. I finally spent some time reading about her and was more intrigued than ever. She is the author of the famous hymn, "More Love to Thee, O Christ", a pastor's wife, a writer and a mother. You can even read some of her letters at Project Gutenberg for free!

I have often reflected that in this day and age we live such isolated lives. In years past, not so long ago, it was common to have multiple generations living together or at least in very close proximity. Young mothers could learn from their mothers, grandmothers, aunts as well as other family members all around her. Not so for most of us nowadays.

Let me digress for just a moment here: I graduated college at 21 and started teaching first grade. That first day I had 22 bright-eyed six year olds expecting me to lead and guide them to truth and knowledge. I almost had a panic attack realizing the depth of that calling! Fast forward three years and I was looking into becoming a flight attendant. I was disillusioned and burned out. I worked so hard yet something was not quite clicking. I loved my students and worked insane hours to be the best I could be. Instead of quitting, I decided to change grade levels and give it one more try. Then Liz entered the picture, a seasoned teacher with a PhD in elementary education! That time was one of amazing growth for me and is the year I really learned how to teach. I learned how to raise the bar and help my students rise to that and manage my classroom from the heart side of things - the head side (organization, grades, planning) always came naturally.

This shift all happened just by being near Liz. She knew how to inspire her students to greatness. She could manage her class, keeping them quiet and focused, without ever raising her voice even a tiny bit - no easy task with 24 wiggly second graders! So gentle but so strong comes to mind when I think of her. She never tried to mentor me; she just did by being who she was. And I was lucky enough to teach across the hall from her and absorb it all. What a difference that one year made in my life. It inspired me and changed the trajectory of my teaching career. I only had the opportunity to teach with her for one year before we moved to Houston, but I am so thankful for our time together.

Why did I mention Liz? I have many times wished that I had a mentor like her in the parenting department. The head side of managing a house and homeschooling comes naturally to me - just like it did in the classroom: planning and preparing meals, paying bills, keeping the home organized and running smoothly, researching and planning for school...those types of things. It's sometimes the heart side where I need help.

Isn't that how God created us? He knew we would need mentors when he led Paul to instruct older women in Titus 2:3-5 telling them to "train the young women..." It seems from what I have read about Elizabeth Prentiss she (through her writings) may become that mentor. I don't know how she did with the head side of managing a home but she definitely was a remarkable wife and mother on the heart side of things.

Want to know a neat thing I realized while typing...I wonder if anyone called her "Liz" for short? :)

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Weekly Report - Weeks 23, 24 & 25

It's been three weeks since my last weekly report. Even though they have become less frequent they are just as important for me. Thatcher loves seeing his work online; it gives him a great sense of satisfaction! I love having a place to "think out loud" and process. That said, here is our (multi)weekly report:

Math : Horizons is still going well, and I'm happy to say we finally started our supplemental math program (I will link to it soon. Right now their site is down). I love it! It only takes five minutes a day but it encourages a different kind of thinking. Thatcher has really enjoyed it, too. We've only done the first four lessons, so I'll keep you updated on how it's going as we continue to work through it. One of the best things...this program is free! :)

In the past few weeks on the WTM Curriculum Board there have been very encouraging threads about how well dc are prepared after working through Horizons from beginning to end. All of the moms who have used it K-6 said their children were more than ready for higher levels of math, and most added that they didn't supplement Horizons at all. You can read all the reviews in the world from "experts" but for me there's nothing like a "It's worked for me and my dc." from a respected mom who has been there, done that!

Spelling: This week we started Spelling Workout B. Thatcher has been so excited to have a change from ETC after 3 years. SWO B starts out very easy but increases in complexity pretty rapidly. I want Thatch to experience success to build confidence with a new program. One of the things I like best is the new skills he is learning: ABC order and editing were introduced just in Lesson 1.
Grammar: Here is what we have been doing for Grammar since we dropped FLL -

Each day I write two new sentences on the board ~ usually something that will be of high interest to Thatcher. These sentences were about his Daddy coming home from Washington. :) First he recites the required definitions to me and then he underlines all nouns and circles all verbs. This is working well for us.

Poetry Memorization: Now that we are not doing FLL I also had to come up with a way not to forget poetry memorization each day, too. I went through FLL and The Harp and Laurel Wreath and chose poems I wanted Thatch to learn for the remainder of this year. I wrote them on our "Memory Work Chart" and we review that week's poem each day. Right now Thatcher is learning "The Whole Duty of Children" by Robert Louis Stevenson.

Logic: We also started Mind Benders this week. To say that Thatch loves it is an understatement. He has always loved detective stories and, to him, this is just like solving a mystery!

History: We are still learning about Ancient Greece. Thatcher loves this period in history. Here are the two books we finished this week and Thatcher wearing a toga (admittedly not a very good one but Thatcher loved it nonetheless).

Science: We finished our unit on animals a few weeks ago and we have yet to start our human body study (my fault - can't get it all prepared with everything else going on lately). We did enjoy some nature study this week at our local nature trails.

We wondered what all has called this place home!

Thatch was fascinated with the idea of termites eating this tree. He asked me,
"Will you put this on your blog, please?"

My personal favorite of the day: West Indian Lantana
Yahoo! My first flower to identify all by myself thanks to this site!

This is from a beautiful garden someone planted behind their fence that
backed up to the trail we were on. Not sure what this one is.

From the same garden but couldn't identify this one either.
I made the assumption it was a type of daisy???

We enjoyed a picnic lunch and some playtime at the park before we started our hike. I had to include these photos just for the sake of a mommy brag!

Spanish: United Streaming continues to go well but like with several things I needed to step it up a notch (even if all I can manage is a tiny notch right now. Lol!) Here is a copy of the letter Thatcher sent to his Spanish penpal, Grace. I met her mom, Tammy, through the WTM board and learned they would be using US for Spanish too.

The other thing I am doing is being more deliberate to use the things we already own on the days we are not watching Sra. Cano on US. You can see some of these things in an old post about Spanish. Here Thatch is playing with Spanish matching cards ~ while balancing a lid on his head!

One more thing: These past few weeks I have gotten back to writing a checklist of all we need to accomplish each day on our dry erase board. I did this at the start of the year but dropped it because it seemed redundant and tedious. Recently, as I though of ways to speed up our days this came back to me. I can really tell how much Thatcher has matured this year because of how well he is using this tool to help him navigate his day. He loves to check those boxes and move on to the next thing! You can see, it's nothing fancy - just very practical (at least for us!).

And one last photo, just to make you smile. Here is my sweet Haddon dressed up like "Super Batman" (notice the cape and the mask!) while holding his favorite bear. How cute is that?!