October 25, 2010

Bridgetender School Update--Kids

I talked about the curriculum and some of the fun stuff we did during our first nine weeks of school. I thought you might be interested in hearing about the individual kids.

Elizabeth, sixth grade: Elizabeth is not liking sixth grade very much. She is in what Tapestry of Grace calls the "dialectic" stage, when they expect kids to start making connections. She is used to discussing facts, not trying to make connections. She has a lot of reading and extra work to do verses the other kids. Her favorite form of non-fiction is diaries, which she decided after reading Diary of a Napoleanic Foot Soldier by Jakob Walter. I had her write about three page paper about John Watt, the "inventor/improver" of the steam engine. We both learned a lot from this process, particularly how few books there are for kids considering the man jump-started the Industrial Revolution. I will be sending out her paper to family. If you are not family and I know you, I will be happy to send it if you send me a request in the comments section. She has almost finished Epsilon in Math U See, which involved learning about fractions and everything related to fractions, like factoring, finding the greatest common factor of two numbers, etc. It also introduced some pre-algebra concepts. Her biggest challenge, this year, however, is to write legibly and follow directions. Whenever I ask her to write neatly her response is, "I am like my dad, Mom. I can't write neatly." She is taking horseback riding lessons once a week, guitar lessons and is attending a homeschool youth group once a month. She is also serving with her dad in 1st grade and has developed a knack for being able to calm a special needs kid down when he gets out of hand.

Jessi, fourth grade: Jessi worked very hard to master multiple digit multiplication to be able to graduate to the Delta book in Math-U-See. Like Elizabeth, it took her a long time to get neat enough to be able to properly add the lines without forgetting or mis-reading numbers. She is doing great remembering Spanish words and loves putting together newsletters which have been assignments for science. She is getting very talented at using Hallmark Card Studio. She is enjoying all of her reading. She is also learning to be organized, with some progress. She started her first horse-riding lessons last week and really enjoyed it and she loves playing the piano. She also participates in the church's children's choir, which leads the elementary and pre-school in worship and verse memorization once a month.

Kyle, Second grade: His biggest challenge is in writing. He writes beautifully, but it takes him a very long time to write a short sentence and his hands tire out easily. However, with all the writing he has had to do, he is making progress in this area. He loves math the most, though I think he is also enjoying learning about mammals. He has not met a book that he doesn't like. For "fun" reading, he picks books about Canada, the Mexican-American war and other wars. He is even reading long chapter books like "The Hardy Boys" series and "Percy Jackson and the Olympians" series. He is playing baseball and enjoying being a Tiger Scout. He was absolutely ecstatic when he learned how to shoot a bow and arrow and a BB gun at the last Boy Scout camp.

John, Kindergarten: He is picking up sounds of letters very quickly, knowing at least 13 different letters. We are using the Ruth Beechick method of phonics to teach him to read. It has worked for my three oldest kids and he seems to be enjoying it. He has picked up blending sounds very quickly. While we learned about the letter "L", we worked on his pronunciation so it no longer sounded a lot like the "r" sound. For math concepts, he has learned the days of the week and can count to 100. We are working on months of the year and being able to recognize numbers up to 100, mainly by dot-to-dot pictures. He also listens in on some of our group studies, like science and our history discussions. He is really good in art, IMHO. His biggest challenge is to know when to stop being "funny" or "sarcastic" and give me a serious answer. He is taking Tae Kwon Do twice a week and really enjoys it.

Our week off started with a little excitement as Kyle learned that bagels do NOT need 20 minutes in the microwave on high to defrost. I stopped the microwave much sooner than the 20 minutes mainly because the fire alarm was triggered by the yellow smoke pouring out of the microwave. After turning off the alarm, stopping the microwave and re-assuring the alarm company that we really didn't have a fire, I set up fans to send the smoke outside. The bagel was charcoal and the red, plastic, flower-shaped plate was partially melted. The kitchen still smells of smoke and we are hoping that the baking soda in the microwave will absorb the smoke that seems to have been absorbed by the microwave.

If you are getting tired of homeschool updates, rest assured, this is


October 23, 2010

Bridgetender School Update--pictures

In case you missed it, I gave a general update of the first quarter of our homeschool. However, I started writing it, then added a link to a worship song that I liked and posted that before I finished the update. Therefore, the Bridgetender school update is below the worship song link. So go here to read it before you continue. Below are pictures of the kids showing off their geology creations. One of the things that Tapestry of Grace had our kids do is create geographic land forms like peninsulas, isthmus, island, mountain, precipices, etc. We used salt-dough clay, which took a while to dry and then painted them. The blue construction paper represents water. Before we destroyed them, I took a picture of each child in front of their creation : John, Jessi, Kyle, and Elizabeth.

I have also included a collage of pictures. Three pictures have kids showing off the paintings they made of a specific mug as part of our art class at home. I don't know why I didn't include Elizabeth's painting. The other pictures are pictures of a hike we took at Papago peak, a collection of "cute, little" mountains separating Phoenix from Tempe. The idea was to try and mimick a Lewis and Clark hike by having the kids carry a backpack full of water, clothes, drawing materials for their journal, and some "provisions". It was perfect because we had never been on this particular trail. Then we talked about the differences between our hike and their exploration, like the fact that we have a restroom nearby, marked trails, a playground, packing a small snack vs. packing food for a month or more with camping provisions, which makes packs a LOT heavier than what they carried. The hike also only took about ten minutes to climb up vs. spending a whole day walking. And if we decided that we were hungry, we had the choice of going to a fast food restaurant to get more victuals. Since the hike and the playground didn't take very long, we drove to a nearby tomb in the form of a pyramid for one of Arizona's former governors and his wife. All this is very close to the Phoenix Zoo and the Phoenix Botannical Gardens.

This month, our homeschooling group had a field trip to Mother Nature's farm. It is not necessarily a place that I would recommend, although it did have a cow that would "moo" on demand and it had a small hay maze that they kids liked and a bounce-n-play. It is primarily is a tourist farm located in the middle of Gilbert suburbia with a clear view of an empty businesss park. They were able to "decorate" pumpkin with foam shapes. Kyle refused to decorate his, however, so we don't have a picture of it. I think Elizabeth would win for most area covered. Last year, the kids and I went to a farm that had a "pizza garden" and an awesome corn maze, which we might re-visit if I can remember the name of the place.

We have a week of rest from school while I get ready for the next unit and we have some fun times together.
Next Post: Bridgetender School Update--The Students.

October 17, 2010

To Know Your Name

I am providing a link to a song we sung today at church that really affected me. We have sung it before, but the words seemed more alive today, for some reason. It might have something to do with the fact that I have been reading Randy Alcorn's book, _Safely Home_.

"For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge--that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen."
Ephesians 3:14-21

P.S. Special thanks to my wonderful husband, who showed me how to embed a video into my blog. He is awesome!

October 15, 2010

Bridgetender School First Quarter Update--Curriculum

This posting is for the benefit of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, who I want to thank for their encouragement in so many ways. Homeschooling is more difficult than I ever imagined and, even though I still have a much better teacher-to-student ratio than any public school classroom, it is a huge challenge to teach four children in a one-room schoolhouse environment. Every year, I pray, asking God if He wants me to continue homeschooling and if so, what He wants me to do for the coming year. So far, I still am getting the message to keep them at home. Over time, I am learning that the most important lessons I can teach my kids do not involve history, math, or language arts, but interpersonal communication because I am realizing that the two job objectives given to all humans by God is to "Love the Lord God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind" and "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:37). I feel like the blind leading the blind in these two areas, sometimes.

Having said that, I having included a character development skill in our school. Our focus for this year is "listening" and that isn't just in the context of "obeying", it includes knowing when to speak and when to hold our tongues. Our key verse is James 1:19-20. This is an excellent chance for me to improve my listening skills, too. I am finding that they do excellent work when we are practicing as part of school, but aren't so great at applying it to "real world" situations, so I expect it will take a full year to work on it and a lifetime to get really good at it. :-) We are also studying the book of James, using Kay Aurthur's "Precepts for Kids" series.

In terms of academics for the three older kids, we are using Tapestry of Grace for history, geography, and literature; Math U See for math; Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) for a combination of grammer and writing skills; Apologia...Land Animals... for science; reading Spanish-English books for Spanish, and occasionally doing dictation and copywork for penmanship, writing, and listening skills development. We are doing art at home, using Drawing for the Absolute and Utter Beginner to work on their drawing skills as well as suggestions from the Tapestry of Grace arts & activities sections. The kids are attending SportskidzAZ for one day of P.E. a week and they are involved in outside sports activities. John, my kindergartner is currently studying numbers and the calendar for math concepts, is learning letter sounds, and plays or doodles nearby during the group studies for "osmosis" learning.

Tapestry of Grace has required a huge adjustment. It is a curriculum involving books, writing and other activities for a specific period of history that is divided into four different age levels--lower grammer (Kyle), uppper grammer (Jessi) and dialectic (Elizabeth). And it has reading for me so that I know what my kids are learning. I have provided a link if you want more information about it.

The IEW course for writing teaches children to write by giving them a paragraph, teaching them how to create an outline the paragraph and then re-write the paragraph based on their notes. As they improved, you introduce, one at a time, "dress-ups" like a "who-which" clause, participles, and work on developing a list of synonyms for overused words like "small", "nice", "good", etc. You let them play with the different "dress ups" in re-writing. So far, I am using what we are reading in the Apologia science book for source material, though I may include history, too.

I am very thankful to God, who continues to show me ways to improve the schedule and gives me great ideas to make studies more fun, like having the kids "ride the rapids" like Lewis and Clark in a laundry basket down our hallway. It involved me pushing the kids as fast as I could and then releasing them to see how far they would slide. I was half tempted to oil the bottom of the basket if the clean up wouldn't have been so difficult and if there hadn't been a distinct possibility of damaging walls. I am also thankful that we were able to experiment with the schedule for the first month or so before the outside activities began. I am also thankful to my husband, who is such a great encourager when I need it most.

Next post: Children's Progress at Bridgetender School

October 10, 2010

A Little Like a Jane Austen Trip Part III: The Last of the Journey

Since I have dragged this out a bit, let me start by re-capping our summer adventures that I have already documented. We left on July 16 for Memphis, where my family was staying--just me and the kids. Eric stayed home to work for two weeks before joining us at our "final destination." We spent six wonderful days with my family before traveling a day to Chicago to visit family and friends for four days. We left early on Thursday, July 29 to drive up an hour north of the Twin Cities to spend 24 hours with my brother-in-law and his wife and four kids who are, roughly the same age as my kids.

My very short visit with them was wonderful. The cousins get along pretty well, especially the first day and my kids were able to attend their church's last VBS night with their three oldest. It meant that I was able to enjoy "girl time" with my sister-in-law as we walked around the small city near their home. We had some plans to do shopping, but, like most small towns in which I have lived, most businesses were closed by 6 p.m. Therefore, we found the local Dairy Queen and then walked off one tenth of the calories that we consumed. The kids were sufficiently worn out and sugared up from VBS. My sister-in-law had already volunteered to watch my kids for a day so that I could meet Eric and have alone time with him for 24 hours before we all met up to get ready for the big event that intiated this long trek--my sister-in-law's wedding. I do believe that this officially qualifies them for sainthood.

Words cannot express how glad I was to see Eric again. Sure we talked on the phone several times a day while I was gone, but touch is one of my "love languages" and I had been starved for two weeks. I felt like I was on my honeymoon again, which is wonderful. It was also the first time we had been alone together on an overnight since we went looking for homes over a year ago, which didn't count much because most of the time, we had a real estate agent with us. We walked around a lake the next day and basically rested in each other's company until it was time to meet up with our brother's family, their kids, and our kids to get ready for the wedding.

The wedding was lovely. For several years, my sister-in-law knew that she wanted to have her wedding in her father's backyard and I don't blame her. Eric's dad lives on several acres with tall trees surrounding the beautifully restored farmhouse. Some of the unique touches to her wedding was having a "unity tree." They both added soil and water to the tree, which represented their living, growing love. They also read a children's book called A Lovely Love Story by Edward Monkton to the 25 kids that were invited to the ceremony. After the ceremony, everyone grazed on all sorts of appetizers--marinated meat on a stick, piles of veggie trays, fruit trays and all sorts of delicious, filling creations. They had beer and wine from places where they had visited and, instead of a wedding cake, they had Girl Scout cookies and cake "shots." All the while, the 25 or so kids played in the grass, in the driveway, drew chalk pictures, on the play equipment and in the playhouse near the trees. There was no dancing, but there was a bonfire later that night where hot dogs could be roasted and s'mores made. And because there was no DJ or dancing, it meant that we could all spend time catching up with family that we hadn't seen in a while, which was VERY nice. It was pretty late at night when we dragged our kids back to the hotel room, where we were going to stay for a night before moving into his dad and step-mom's house for a few days. Then, we spent a few days with his mom and step-dad and his daughter and her family. It was all relaxingAll too soon, it was time for a final load of laundry before heading home.

We left fairly early with Eric driving the whole way. We drove to Sterling, Colorado that first day. In case you were wondering, yes, it was a long day of driving. Our goal was to drive to Arizona from the Twin Cities area in two days with a rest day in between. Sterling is not a town I would recommend. We had a lovely view of the mixed level prison, which was within walking distance. There was also a Travelodge nearby and one of our kids confused the prison with the Travelodge, even though they have never stayed in either. We ate a restaurant that offered "fried macaroni and cheese" on the kids menu, which is as gross as it sounds. The next day, we spent time at Focus on the Family checking out their play area, which is designed after their "Adventures in Odyssey" area. The kids had a great time, though it didn't hold their attention for that long, as is the case with most play structures. We ate at "Whit's End" cafe, which is supposed to be like the soda shop featured in the radio/book/video series, but felt more like an amusement park experience in terms of food quality and prices. After lunch, we drove through a downpour to Garden of the Gods and attended a multimedia presentation and browsed through their book store hoping that the rain would stop soon. In desperation and a bit of boredom, we decided that driving around the park in the thunderstorm would be better than looking at all sorts of overpriced kitch. Just as we were about to leave, the sun suddenly appeared, driving the rain away and enticing us to hike. Within thirty minutes, the only evidence of rain were streams running alongside the trail and some streaks along the rocks as water had fallen. Even those eventually disappeared. Garden of the Gods is incredibly beautiful. I wish we could have spent more time hiking. That night, we stayed at Pueblo, Colorado, which was also chosen for no other reason than it didn't require a long drive and it was further south, bringing us closer to home. We ate at the children's favorite restaurant since hearing a Tim Hawkin's monologue: Cracker Barrell. The last day of travel, which also was a long drive, was pretty dreary, even with entertainment. There were a LOT of pit stops, for some reason, as if our kids didn't really want to be home. Unfortunately, it extended the time in our car to almost beyond patience. I almost cried when, an hour from our house, a child mentioned that they had to go to the bathroom--again. The biggest problem is that because of the route we took, there is nothing within the two hour drive between Payson and Mesa with the exception of a casino that is twenty minutes from our home. It always seems as if the last half our of any excursion is the most painful, whether it is a place where you were visiting or your home. Hearing occasional whining about having to go to the bathroom only made the situation worse. I was so relieved when we finally got home and I was able to get out of the car and into the warm, musty smelling home that I hadn't seen in 25 days. It was dinner time, however, which meant getting back in the car and getting a pizza that we could throw in the oven as well as other basic supplies. Eric and the kids worked at unloading the van of suitcases, sleeping bags, pillows, activity bags, garbage that hadn't been properly disposed of, DVDs and CDs, electronics equipment and a host of other things that we had accumulated.

In some respects, each segment of my trip seemed too short and yet, I don't know if I would make such an oddysey again. Living out of suitcases became very tiresome after the first week, especially when you are sharing a suitcase with four other people who happen to be children that rummage through to find their clothes, mixing the rest of the clothes in a heap. Do you realize how well socks and underwear can hide in big suitcase? If I had been like Elizabeth Bennett and actually stayed a month in one place, it might have been a little less stressful and the kids and I might have been given a more permanent place to put our clothes, maybe even a cabinet as stylish as the one that Lady Catherine deBurgh suggested to Mr. Collins! I also missed my husband's company for two weeks. I missed my dog, Jacques and our daily walks together. I also missed the rhythm of being home, even if that rhythm did not involved going outdoors because it was too hot. The trip did, however, give me a deep appreciation for my kids, who, though not perfect, were perfectly wonderful through all the long car rides here, there and everywhere.