Friday, March 30, 2012

Spring Break

Our school was rather short this week.  Monday we returned from the beach, and today was an awesome field trip day for nature study at Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserves, so we only had regular school three days this week.  We did some catch up work but nothing terribly exciting.

Last week we were at Atlantic Beach, NC.  We'd planned the trip months ago never dreaming spring weather would already be here.  I had visions of walking on the beach in sweatshirts, but lo and behold we had sunny skies, warm temps and children IN THE OCEAN.  It was too cold for this momma, but not too much for the children.  They also enjoyed the indoor swimming pool, building in the sand, reading An Enormous Egg, laughing, and getting to watch HGTV (since we don't have that at home).  Muffy, along with help from big brother S, did some cooking from her Paula Deen's kids and her Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade kids cookbooks.  She did two of our dinners.  Having kids and a husband who can cook is a WONDERFUL thing, and TASTY too! 

Friday, we spent most of our time on the beach.  I finally got to finish Old Fashioned Girl (Alcott).  The Cupcake thought it would be fun to wake her Daddy by playing with her Thomas the Tank Engine, Rosie, and friends in the middle of the night.  Muffy was so thoughtful to help her pack just enough track to make a circle!

On Saturday, we spent the afternoon in Beaufort, North Carolina's third oldest city.  Beaufort was having a special historical day, to commemorate the time period when the Union armies took over Beaufort.  They had lots of people in costume, free visits to the Josiah Fisher Bell house, the apothecary, and the jail.  Josiah Bell was a Confederate spy who attempted to run off the Union armies by blowing up two lighthouses.  Our children were encouraged to dress in costume in the Beaufort Historical Society Museum and pose for pictures.  The boys wore Union attire as they were not the right sizes for the Confederate attire.   This was followed by our first ever ride on a double decker bus, thankfully just after the rain stopped and the sun came out.  We sat on top and viewed many historical houses, including one believed to have been visited by Blackbeard.  Also, from the bus we were able to spot some wild ponies on an Carrot Island.  Our tour of Beaufort was not complete without a tromp through the cemetery to see graves of folks as far back as the 1700's.  Lastly, we treated ourselves with some takeout tasty treats from a local bakery.  I do think S's napoleon was the best!

Sunday, all went to church except me, as I woke with a tremendous headache.  The children informed me this particular church provided ear plugs at the door, so I was thankful dear husband had encouraged me to stay home.  E and his dad went to Fort Macon while I let the kids swim in the pool for as long as my head could stand.  Then, they had one last playtime on the beach.  E built an impressive canal in the sand.

Our lunch stop on the home was the Cliffs of the Neuse State Park, where we ate packed sandwiches, and took a short hike to stretch our legs. 

We had a great relaxing break, but as always "There is no place like home." 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Porch Time Lessons

We enjoyed beautiful weather this week.  I usually had one on one lesson times from the comforts of the front porch or the back.   The sunny skies have given great incentive to finish lessons most days by 3:00 in the afternoon. Evan and Stephen acted like... A couple of kids, as can be seen in this photo ---Mud everywhere!!

The girls both built, primed, and painted their birdhouses with Daddy on Saturday and Sunday.  Fun was had by all, and the birds are going to love them!

The Cupcake fell victim to the stomach bug on Sunday night.  I wonder why those pesky creatures invite themselves in the middle of the night.  She was puny all day Monday, but back to normal on Tuesday.  She did great learning the letters "b" and "h".  To her "h",  looks like "n", so I've been drawing pictures with a person sitting on the hump with its back facing the stem (the chair letter), which she thinks is kind of funny.  Whatever works, right?  She decorated a construction paper hat for letter "h".  For math, she's been given a big basket to fill with x number of things:  clover, dandelions, blades of grass, and rocks.   Bees have become her worst enemy.  She is terrified of them.  In the car, after Africa class, she asked, "Are there bees in Africa?"

Our Muffy girl spent some time crafting this week, making foam cookies, cakes, and chocolate bars for the American Girl dolls.   She finished A.A. Milne's Now We Are Six poetry book, as well as Rudyard Kipling's, Just So Stories this week.   I think her favorite school read this week has been Holling C. Holling's Paddle to the Sea.  We did a lot of cut and paste with our copier for a good map of the Great Lakes, U.S., and Canada, but our end product was a fail.  It is simply not big enough to write in all the things to document Paddle's exciting journey.   I'm going to order the maps from Beautiful Feet for the next ones.  She chose to do some research on the African lion for a short report to accompany a drawing from Africa class for her notebook.  The cardinal and the chickadee were her birds this week.  She says the chickadee is considered a brave bird because it will often get closer to people than other birds.

S- continues to dream of his elaborate mountain home.  The boy looks at house plans and cars during his free time.    He did quite a bit to help me get ready for teaching the Africa class this week, making copies and gathering supplies.  When time is of the essence, he knows how to get the job done!  He's still reading through the Narnia series.  It looks like it will take a while.  It just isn't really his cup of tea.  We began the portion after World War I in The Story of The World for AO Pre-7 history.  He worked at doing written narrations for that subject this week.  The older he gets, the more he sounds like and looks like Matt.

E- when not at the I-Pad, has enjoyed swinging with the girls.  Unfortunately, he's WAY too tall to zip-line with them.  He's a good big brother.  His grass mowing skills are much improved this year, maybe coordination being better now.   I greatly appreciate fresh cut grass!  He's plodding away through Narnia too, and began the same history book with me.  On his own, he's been listening to Gulliver's Travels for fun.

We finished our joint Ancient Egypt study this week.  We have a few videos we might watch, and I have one read-aloud that we might do, but I think we've had about enough.  Ending it early, will give them more time to read the history books on the AO list to be ready for next year.

In Bible this week, we studied Elisha and the miracles God used him to perform.  Then we compared and contrasted them with Elijah's miracles.  We also looked at some NT verses about miracles.  We determined that most of Elisha's miracles were to help people with their physical needs.  Our study book pointed out that perhaps miracles still happen today, but people are always going to point to a scientific reason or another to explain away God's part.

Other than helping the girls with the birdhouses, Matt made doors for our shed.  I'm impressed with them.  The previous doors (put on before we got our house) were interior doors that had pretty much rotted through.  He's also had to help me with powerpoint this week for my Africa class.  Too bad he has a technologically challenged wife.

All my free time and more has gone to preparing for our monthly homeschool co-op Africa class.  This month I taught the kids about the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the rainforest.  Next week, we are going to take some time off so I'm hoping to get to some sewing projects and reading something my children aren't reading.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

P.S.  Muddy pictures are brought to you by my husband who allowed the mess!!!  Amazingly, the mud came out of the Cupcake's green knit dress, but the boy's shirts went in the garbage after a failed washing attempt.  I really should change the title of this post to "Mud" after his contribution, but, I like the other better.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Birds, Goldfish, & More

This week did not bring nearly as much excitement as last week.   However, it is never dull at our house.  I don't think we'll have a "dull" moment until all the little birdies leave their nest.

Muffy's Sketch Tuesday--Something that Hums
Speaking of birds, Thornton Burgess has made a bird lover out of Muffy. You can find her with a camera set to zoom in her free time.  She read about several varieties of blackbirds and the ruby-throated hummingbird.  We are all working through some nature lessons from Handbook of Nature Study, so she was excited to find out the blackbird likes to sit upon mullein, the weed we learned about last week.  Another homeschool mom over at the blog Satori Smiles has links set up for every chapter of the Burgess Bird Book, including photos, more information, and coloring pages to which the little miss takes advantage.  She has the audio linked for each chapter as well, but for now Muffy is reading it since we own the book.  For "Sketch Tuesday" she drew a hummingbird and submitted it to the slideshow over at  I also introduced Muffy to the world of Shakespeare with Bruce Colville's beautifully illustrated picture book,   A Winter's Tale, which she loved.

Cupcake and the Fish
Cupcake had a themed lesson to go with the Dr. Seuss book, One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.  We graphed goldfish crackers according to color, as well as counted groups of goldfish.  We began our Hooked-On-Phonics program, learning the letters "m", "n", and "p".  It is so simple and cheesy, but she likes it.  She was thrilled I located her battery-operated Thomas the Tank Engine.  He's been missing for a few days.  Sometimes she drives them into the kitchen.  Apparently, Thomas was hiding from Sir Topham in the box of clean garbage bags in the island.  He wasn't alone though.  Oliver was keeping him company.

S-- has hit another milestone.  He's outgrown his 3/4 violin!    So, today we got a rental with the intent to purchase in a few months.  The owner of the violin shop was out of the usual rentals in full size, so he rented him one of the more expensive ones.  My eyes about popped out of my head when he told me the price value for it.  Needless to say,  he will be taking extra good care of it, but it won't be the one we purchase.  It sure has a rich beautiful sound.  He might need to get a job!  

Both boys are working at their Ambleside Pre-7 lists, essentially prerequisites for next year to begin Ambleside Online House of Education (middle and high school years).  So, this week they are both reading various books from The Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis.  E-- had already read a couple of them this past summer, but they are new for S--.   

Another AO Pre-7 book is the unabridged Pilgrim's Progress.  S-- and I began it yesterday. The dictionary sits very close as we take it slowly.  The language of it is amazing.

S-- also began Algebra this week.  He's completely independent with it and so far he's doing fine.  

E-- continues his interest in geology, paleontology, etc.  I never have to ask him to do his science.  He likes to listen to the audio version of the textbook on his Ipad.  He's spent some time this week daredevil climbing outside and reading the latest Our State magazine.    

In history, we finished up Ahknaton (aka Amenhotep IV) and Queen Nefertiti.  He believed there was only one true god, but unfortunately did not know the ONE TRUE GOD.  Writing assignments this week focused on history.  S-- chose Amenhotep IV, Egyptian king; E-- chose Thutmose IV, Egyptian king; and Muffy chose Howard Carter, Egyptologist.   

In Bible, Elijah showed God's power against the prophets of Baal.   Our workbook had an interesting map lesson to review the main points of Elijah's life and ministry.  

We finally finished our missionary biography of David Livingstone to coordinate with our geography studies of Africa.  We also came to the end of  Lois Lenski's Prairie School, our for fun read-a-loud over the winter months.  The story line, although fiction, takes place during extreme blizzards of the 50's in a town quite close to where Matt grew up in South Dakota.   Lenski did quite a bit of research and interviews to write the book.  She's also known for her more popular book Strawberry Girl.

I've gotten to 40% on the Charlotte Mason's volume one, mainly so far about nature study and habits.  Oh habit training would be so much easier if instilled from itty bitty!!  As for my just for fun book, An Old-Fashioned Girl, I'm only at 14%.    

Matt put up a whole wall of cabinets to replace the shelf that fell last week and yes, most of them are full already.  He has been careful to wear only his clothes this week.  Plans are in the works to help the girls (and maybe the boys) build some birdhouses.  

Well, that is what we did get done, and what didn't will be a okay sitting on the shelves until Monday.

Friday is here!

Saturday, March 3, 2012


Special Bow like she wore in Russia
For those of you that aren't familiar with adoption specific vocabulary, Gotcha Day is the day adoptive parents celebrate the day they are officially given custody of their child.  In other words, the day they leave the orphanage doors for good.

Yesterday marked the second year for Cupcake as part of our family.  Last year, we had just returned from Florida, after the sudden death of Matt's brother.  We were too exhausted and it was just too sad a time to celebrate.  So, this year we made sure to celebrate her coming from Russia.  She did not understand the words "Gotcha Day" so we simplified this day to be her "Special Day".  In time, hopefully setting aside this day will help her understand her roots, her importance to her family, and our love for her.

Muffin's Gifts to Cupcake
Some parents serve cuisine from the birth country.  However, serving the kids borscht on Russian Christmas (Jan. 6) might be all the Russian their American palettes can handle per year.  So, we did the next best thing-- SPAGHETTI!  It has always been the Cupcake's favorite meal.  I also served a white Texas sheet cake with chocolate ice cream.  The Muffin secretly made Cupcake a bracelet to give on the occasion, and composed a song (words and music all by herself).  She also wrote down a list of cute Cupcake quotes for us all to remember.  Grandma, Grandpa, Aunt Missy, Aunt Courtney, and Uncle Caleb also came to make it extra special.  I think she felt very loved from the tips of her toes to the top of her head.  She had smiles and hugs for all.

Muffin's list of Cupcake quotes:  When a plate broke, C said "Look mommy, it a twiangle!"  C said to the Muffin often, "Let's play doggies.  I Cleo, you Clifford."  C says to Daddy, "Let's go in niskyi car (russian- little), and one from this week because she seriously wants me to change the color of our house, "I get married.  I have blue house.  While they painting we go on cation (vacation) whole family  Daddy will pay vacation."

Even though she left her birth country at almost four, she still refers to being a baby in my tummy.  We went over it again this week, as I told her she was in another lady's tummy.  I told her that person gave her life, and what a wonderful thing that is, but I'm her Momma and always will be, and that I gave her love and a family, and how glad I am that God showed her daddy and me where to find her and bring her home to be with her family.  Of course, as I get all misty-eyed about the miracle of it all, she joyfully moves on to something else.  I know I'll need to repeat it many times, but one day she will get it, and I pray she will accept all that it means, and as her daddy prayed tonight, may she grow to be a godly young woman someday, a true Christ follower.  May her identity be found not in the missing baby pictures and stories that can never be recreated, but in Christ alone, our only hope.

Flying Penguins and Misplaced Shirts- Friday

Muffy took this picture
On Sunday, we had a great day of worship and fellowship.  We had our pastor, his wife, their son and his wife, and their children over for lunch.  It was a wee bit chilly but the children (combined total of 10!) had a great time zip lining, biking, etc.  We were blessed by our time with them.

Shorts weather on Thursday made for a perfect day of outdoor playtime with good friends.  We also went in search for mullein (a weed), but were unable to be 100% certain we'd identified it.  However, we found plenty of other things to look at for nature study.

School was not as productive as I'd have liked this week.  When I loose momentum, so does everyone else.  I was quite tired this week, and just dragging.   Matt says I probably put the bar too high to reach, but that can be a good thing as well.  If I set it too low, then maybe even less would get done.  

In Bible, our studies took us to 1 Kings, where the five bad kings of Israel (Nadab, Baasha, Elah, Zimri, and Omri)  followed  "in the ways of Jeroboam," during the time Asa was king over Judah.  It was interesting to see the progressive downfall and similarities of these kings.  We ended the week with the more familiar King Ahab. 

In history, we've camped out in Ancient Egypt.  We've been amazed at the skill the ancient Egyptians possessed with such intricate carvings, laborious pyramids, sculptures, and ships.  The Muffin has declared several times that it is sad and such a waste that they spent so much time creating things for the afterlife, things they could never use once they died.  It makes us appreciate all the more the assurance of the hope we have in Christ.

S-- finished The Adventures in Tom Sawyer, reading some of it late into the evening and reached for it when he woke in the morning.  It brings a smile to my face when a "school" book is picked up during free time hours.  S moved to level 3 of Alfred's in piano this week.  He's so excited to move along.  He's taken on a project of removing vines, weeds, and an pieces of wire fencing from the side yard for his dad.

E- finished Captains Courageous, filling us in with many a detail in his adventure.  He's been devouring the latest issue of Our State magazine in his spare time, and enjoying time in his tree house.

The Muffin was so thrilled to learn about microbes in a book about Louis Pasteur.  She keeps telling me how much she loves science and apparently the microbes were quite a hit.  She was also excited to add adverbs to her diagramming abilities.

The Cupcake has spent one more week working on activities to reinforce the upper and lower case letters of the alphabet.  I think she's got "u" and "v" straight now.  I've been saving a Hooked-On-Phonics boxed set I found at Ollies for $9, originally $60, to teach the sounds.  She knows we are going to start something new so she said, "Now I be reading."  Well, I told her we'd be getting a start to it, but it would still be awhile.  Bless her heart, this week the top shelf that sits over the desk dividers, came crashing down on her, disconnecting and messing up two of the computers.  She wasn't hurt but it scared her so bad.  The Muffin wrapped protective arms around the shaking one, while I grabbed the offending wood piece from doing further damage.  The Muffin told the Cupcake, "Even the penguins on your gown are scared", to which I replied, "Yeah, I think they flew off the gown in their fright."  So, then we had a laugh, and the Muffin drew a comic strip of the incident.  (And yes, sometimes we homeschool in our jammies.)

In the car, the Cupcake was listening to a kid's song about doubting Thomas needing to touch Jesus' side.  This provided an interesting discussion.  I could tell she was a bit confused, especially when she said, "Thomas the Tank Engine was with Jesus?"  No, darling, a very different Thomas!

There have been lots of Thomas the Tank Engine Uno games played this week with the Cupcake. You play it the same as regular Uno, so it is a good one I can rope even the boys into playing it with her.  She thinks it rather fun to give people the plus 2 card.  Also, the Muffin and I played her new wooden color Soduko game this week, with a little help from our logic expert, S.  The fun in this though was that S is so color blind, even he found it a challenge.

I got a minor amount of sewing done this week.  The Muffin's purse had broken, so I've been wanting to make her a new one.  She was so pleased with how this one turned out.  I've promised the Cupcake one as well.  

Matt has many projects going.  He has learned this week that just because something is in your closet does not mean it is yours.  I couldn't for the life of me figure out the other night why his shirt was so snug, a new shirt, then I realized the problem.  I said, "Matt, why are you wearing Stephen's new shirt?"  He said, "Well that explains a lot."  Stephen does wear men size shirts now, but not quite Matt's size.  We all had such a chuckle over that one, especially since he had no idea the whole day wearing it why it was so snug.

Today was Gotcha Day, so stayed tuned because it deserves it's very own extra special post.