Saturday, August 31, 2013

Homeschool Plan 2013-2014 School Year (Part 2)

And for the other subjects...

Lia and I started the All About Reading Program this week and it is a wonderful fit for her.  We spent quite a bit of time going through Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons last year but only made it to lesson 20 or so...  Lia had a hard time with that book because there was so much print on each page.  I found that she was very distracted and couldn't focus on the items I was pointing to in the book.  To improvise, I made flash cards for the individual letter sounds and more flash cards for the words we were sounding out.  This was definitely the correct method for her but we were still not making progress very fast and she began to dread our lessons.  So this summer, I ordered the BOB books so we could keep practicing but not have to do formal lessons.  Lia loved the BOB books and we were able to progress through them slowly... eventually making it to book 7 in the first set.  I did notice however, that she seemed to memorize the story so I still wasn't confident about her sound blending skills.  So... I am thrilled with the formal lessons in All About Reading, level 1.  Each day we are spending time blending sounds with magnetic letter tiles on a gigantic magnetic board... so she is not getting distracted by pictures or words she doesn't need to be seeing at the moment.  We are cutting and coloring fun worksheets and playing a new board game for each lesson.  The program also comes with letter phonogram flash cards and word practice flash cards which I already had found work well for Lia and this time, I don't have to make them from scratch so win-win!  I was very happy with how our first week went and Lia looks forward to her lessons and putting a star on her progress chart as we finish each lesson.  It is taking us a few days to get through each lesson but she is having fun and we are practicing each day so now I just have to patient and hope everything clicks into place.

David continues to be a very strong reader.  I have him read aloud to me several times a week.  I am still loving Seton's Faith and Freedom reader series.  David is currently in the middle of the 2nd grade book, volume 2.  Last year, he would read 3 pages to me each day and complain if I had him read more.  (stamina issues?)  This year he has to complete the story which is often 6-7 pages long.  He didn't complain too much and he seems to read more comfortably the more he reads so I'm just going to go with that tactic.  The stories in these readers are so sweet and currently we are on a section about preparing for first communion so they are very appropriate for him!

We are still using Spelling Workout by Modern Curriculum Press.  David will finish up level B and start C this year.  Emily will finish up level D and start E this year.  The kids work through the exercises in each lesson and then I give them a spelling test.  If they miss any words, I just keep putting them on their next test until they spell them correctly.

David and I are picking up on First Language Lessons level 2 right where we left off last year.  I continue to like this curriculum.  It is a gentle but thorough approach to teaching grammar and David enjoys it so it works for us!  We should finish this semester and start level 3 in the spring.  Emily continues to practice her English grammar in her Latin studies so I may not implement a formal English grammar program for her this year.  She is also signed up for an online writing and grammar class starting next month which will cover some grammar... (more below)

David and I began Writing With Ease, Level 2 this week.  I love this program as well.  This year he continues to listen to quality literature passages like in level 1, but must summarize the passage in 2-3 sentences.  This will obviously take some practice because when he summarizes things, he likes to  tell me everything!  I like the way this book gently guides the students to pick out the most important aspects of a story and it is kind of like a game to do it in 2-3 sentences.  He also continues to do copywork but must also take dictation on what he copied and try to remember how to spell and punctuate the passage without having it in front of him.  Good stuff.
Emily will take her first live online class through Homeschool Connections and I am excited to see how this will work out.  The class she is taking is called Middle School Writing Essentials: Excellent Sentence and Paragraph Writing and it is 6 weeks in length.  She will see and hear her teacher through the online classroom and she will have a microphone to ask questions or can type her questions through chat.  There will be weekly assignments and she will receive a grade so I think it will be a good experience for her as she progresses in her writing ability.  We shall see!

We sit at the kitchen table as a family to read from our history text, Story of the World, Volume 2 (The Middle Ages).  The activity book has coloring pages so Lia doesn't mind listening in and it also provides map work for each chapter, which all the kids complete.  Emily takes her lessons a bit further by keeping her own time line.  We have some oversized construction paper which she has marked off 2 inches for each century.  Every time we encounter a date in our reading, she marks it on her timeline and 'googles' an appropriate image to paste on for fun.  We will also mark books we read that are set in the middle ages or saints we study so we can know what other things were going on in the time period.  She is also researching topics in our history encyclopedia, listing interesting facts, practicing outlining and preparing short written summaries about the topics she finds most interesting each week.

Emily has a formal literature list this year to tie in our studies of the Middle Ages time period.  I spent some time this summer reading all of them and am excited for Emily as they are a good fit for her.  We are supposed to discuss these books and do some writing assignments.  I'm not sure exactly how I will tackle this but I'll figure it out as I go.  I think the main point in to read and enjoy (appreciate) the books.  The first book, Beowulf, A New Telling was very exciting!  She'll also read Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, The Canterbury Tales, The Inferno of Dante, Saint George and The Dragon, and The Sword in the Stone.  And if all that goes well, we will tackle Shakespeare at the end... maybe A Midsummer Night's Dream.

The kids select poems from The Harp and Laurel Wreath and try to memorize a stanza each week till they finish the poem.  This week David memorized The Little Turtle by Vachel Lindsay and Emily is working on The Destruction of Sennacherib by  George Gordon Byron.  I really enjoy hearing the kids practice their poems.  Good stuff.
Fine Arts
Emily continues choir at church on Thursdays for music and art classes on Fridays.  We will all attend classes at the nature center once a month with our catholic homeschool group.  We have done this in the past and always enjoy the lectures and nature walks but especially the hands on activities where the kids can get messy digging in the dirt or finding things in the pond. 

And I think that is it for now.  :-)  Wish us luck on another year of homeschooling.  I think we'll need it!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Homeschool Plan - 2013-2014 School Year (Part 1)

Today was our first day of school along with the rest of the world although I wasn't taking pictures of my kids in their backpacks as they headed out the door.  I didn't take any pictures though they did seem quite excited to get back in the swing of things after such a long lazy summer.  And we were very lazy this summer... and for the first time, I didn't feel a bit guilty about it because I know how hard we work the rest of the year.  So... here is our plan.  I ordered most of my books in early August though I will be quite honest and admit I needed to run out yesterday and pick up a few things we were still missing! 

1.  Classical Memory, Socialization (Ha!), Public Speaking, Fine Arts, Science, Field Trips
The kids will participate in our local Classical Conversations co-op on Tuesday mornings.  This will fill my "need" to know that my kids can sit in a classroom like setting, obey another teacher who isn't their mother, meet other kids, and get some fine art studies I will likely not be able to fit in this year even though I'd really like to.  This will be our 3rd year of Classical Conversation memory work and we will focus on the Middle Ages (c450AD - 1600AD).  Our history studies will link with our literature choices this year and I continue to enjoy piecing the history puzzle together and learning with my kiddos.  I volunteered to organize the fall field trip and we will be looking forward to a trip to the Butterfly Center at the HMNS.  I am also looking forward to not teaching this year... it will make my Monday evenings a lot more peaceful than they were last year.  We had to pay a bit more for my option not to teach, but it is worth it to me this year.

2.  Math
We will continue with Singapore Math.  Emily will complete 4B/5A.  We started with decimals today and I am quickly seeing her move into big girl math.  Even though math isn't her favorite, she continues to do very well in math and accepts that it is one of those things that isn't going away.  She still doesn't like too much discussion on the part of me being the teacher but at least has learned to be more respectful with the understanding that I won't talk at her too long... as long as she proves she understands.  David will complete 2B/3A this year and is excelling in math.  He is a full year and a half ahead of where he would be if he were enrolled in school.  With this at the back of mind, I always proceed cautiously and make sure he fully understands concepts before we move on but he just tears through it all so I guess he has a math brain.  Lia completed the first half of Singapore's Earlybird Kindergarten Math last year but struggled with the second half and understanding numbers to 20.  I wasn't confident she got the concept that 15 is the same as a ten and a 5... so we are going to spend the beginning of this year slowly reviewing numbers and trying to work our way back to that book.

3.  Pre-Logic
Emily would study formal logic in 7th grade if we continue to follow our classical curriculum.  During 5th and 6th grade, Emily will warm-up for the study of formal logic by learning how to reason her way through  problems rather than simply accepting solutions that I give her.  She'll do that by working through logic puzzles which I hope will shape and strengthen her ability to solve abstract problems.  This year we will work through the puzzles in Mind Benders and Building Thinking Skills.  Today was her first day in Mind Benders and she enjoyed the puzzles so I don't think this will be difficult... by the way I was already humbled today when Emily reasoned her way through these problems quicker than I could process them and in turn got frustrated with me!  Oh well, these books seem like a good fit for her so we'll just go with it.

4.  Latin
Emily continues on with Lively Latin and will start Big Book 2.  She loved this curriculum last year because of all the ancient roman history the teacher weaves into the lessons.  I love it because it combines the study of Latin with history and art appreciation of famous paintings.  She weaves in English grammar with the Latin grammar and analyzes all the derivatives to help students discover the meanings of tough English words..  And Emily does this curriculum completely by herself.  Score.  I am patiently waiting for the Song School Latin 2 DVD to come out in September so we can continue with this program.  Everyone in our family enjoyed Song School Latin 1 but it was the supplemental DVD that made this program great.  There's this Latin speaking monkey, Simeon on the DVD and the kids just ate it up.  I sure hope it comes out soon!

5.  Religion
David is preparing for his 1st Holy Communion this year so I have been investing some extra time with him each night.  We are using Faith and Life, the second grade text, Jesus Our Life for his catechism lessons.  I used the first grade text with him last year and really enjoyed our talks.  Each chapter is divided into 4 days worth of discussion and it is laid out really well.  I am really enjoying re-learning my faith with him each night and also appreciate that our little talks rarely take more than 10-15min.  There is also quite a bit of reading straight out of the bible, which we enjoy as well.
Emily is also using Faith and Life but she studies her lessons online and continues to enjoy this independent study.  Lia and Emily often listen in on David's lessons so I think the whole family is getting something out of these preparations.  David will also attend sacramental preparation activities once a month at church.  Chris was in charge of taking Emily to these sessions the year she went through it so he will plan to do the same with David unless he is travelling.  David and I will also read several books as part of his bedtime routine.  Right now we are reading First Communion Days, a collection of super-sweet stories about children receiving and preparing for their 1st Communions.

6.  Science
We selected Apologia's Exploring Creation with Zoology I, Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day and do science as a family.  Each child has a notebooking journal.  David and Lia have the junior variety with coloring sheets included while Emily has the one for older kids... but she makes copies of the coloring sheets so she can color too!  I read the chapters aloud around our coffee table and stop to ask the kid's questions or to discuss something interesting.  We often supplement with YouTube videos about the interesting topics and invested in the lab kit so my life is easier when it comes time to do the experiments.  My kids live for the experiments!  I have to say our Classical Conversations memory work served us well for Chapter 1 today when we discussed the Classification of Living Things.  My kids can chant from memory:  Kingdom, Phylum, Class and Order, Family, Genus, Species!  So they were all over it and kept nodding their heads that they already knew that stuff.

And that is enough for tonight... I'll work on the Language Arts stuff and whatever else I forgot for my next post.  It is a school night you know!  Although, I must brag that I love our school hours.  We eat breakfast about 9:30 and start by 10:00.  It is easy living for this house of night owls.  ;-)

Saturday, August 24, 2013

8 week sonogram

That's our baby in there!

Heart beating...

An amazing new life.  What a beautiful and blessed gift.

Due Date is March 21!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Happy Birthday Party Serenade

And here is the big moment.  Emily's friends and family singing Happy Birthday makes her entrance into the two digit age official.  I guess this makes her a tween?  Notice the sparkler this year.  Nice touch?  Yes, I thought so.  Happy Birthday Emily!!!!

Happy 10th Birthday Emily

We hosted Emily's party at the "butterfly" pool and were very blessed to have a beautiful day with temps in the low 90's and no rain or thunderstorms.  This pool had a great covered pavilion and we were so lucky to get both picnic tables and spread out all our stuff.  The kids had a ball and everything went wonderfully.  Here is Chris getting the cake ready.

And a great group shot!  Thank you so much Nana, Grandpa, Rebecca, Elle, Melissa, Emma, Travis, Stan, Ann, Bertha, David, Lia and Chris for helping make this number ten birthday a success!

Emily's 10th birthday Cake

The countdown began.  It was Saturday morning and Emily's party was to be held Sunday afternoon.  Lot's to do!  But most important:  the cake.  Last year, we studied Astronomy as our homeschool science curriculum and Emily noticed that the biggest meteor shower of the year, the Perseids, had its peak day on her birthday.  So, she decided she wanted a star theme for her 10th birthday and planned everything around that.  While, the Perseids meteor shower was a let down for us. her birthday celebration was not.

 Emily selected a chocolate cake mix and took great pride in making the cake all by herself... with the exception of breaking the 3 eggs.  I stepped in for that.  Her siblings wanted to watch the action and would have helped if Emily would have let them.  David, in pure David form, provided plenty of annoying little brother antics.  Yes, this is what happens when the camera comes out.  I'm not fighting it anymore.  This is how he is.

The frosting was dyed blue (for the sky) and lots of fun star sprinkles and candles were added for decoration.  Again, David and Lia are very interested in this process.

I also noticed Lia has been making big funny eyes when I take her picture, so here are both my girls doing their silly big eye routine.

And the final product.  Chris wrote EMILY and added the big exclamation point and underlining.  He was having so much fun I wondered if he might like to decorate his own birthday cake next year.

Daddy home from Russia!

Chris got home from Russia last Friday and it was a very happy homecoming for him.  The kids stayed up waiting for him and as soon as they heard the garage door opening, they got in their  hiding places so they could jump out when he came in the door and shout, "Daddy Home!"

David isn't too self conscience about his head gear but I don't think he realized he had it on while I was taking these pictures.  It is good family documentation though... this is what he looks like at night!  You can also see Chris brought back some Russian Dolls for Lia.  She was through the moon about these dolls.

So glad to have him home!

Swan Lake Videos

Here are the little video snippets I took from Lia's little recital.  As you can see, the little girls dance along with the big girls and do the best they can to mimic them.  It is really sweet as they try really hard and Lia was just so excited to be a part of it all.

Saturday, August 17, 2013


Here is your geography challenge for the day.  Find Nizhniy Novgorod on the map.  It is east and a little north of Moscow.  Crazy huh?  Chris travelled here for business last week and sent us some pictures.  This is the airport:

And this is the local kremlin or fortress.

I'm glad my husband had a few moments to take some pictures!  It's nice to see the world vicariously...
Edited to add one more from Moscow! 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Pop Pop Serenades Emily

Emily got phone calls from both her grandparents on her 10th birthday, making her feel very special indeed. This year I was ready with the video camera to get Pop Pop's annual birthday serenade on film.

Lia's Swan Lake Performance

Lia finished up her summer ballet class at the YMCA last week with a little performance for the parents.  The older girls had the little girls follow them in a Swan Lake ballet and the fact they all got to wear costumes, made it really special.  We had thought Chris would be travelling and would miss her little recital but due to some trip delays he got to see his baby girl perform.  Here she is with her teachers.

I had a difficult time getting her to smile.  Unfortunately, she tripped in the parking lot and tore her tights at her knee.  She was really upset about it and I gathered that it hurt a little bit but I was really proud that she was able to pull herself together.  Here she is in her costume and a little bit of makeup too!  She got to keep the hair piece... and was really excited about that.  It has feathers!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Lia Ballerina

Lia started a little ballet class at the YMCA last month and has loved it.  We've been observing this class in action for a while because they used to practice right before David's Tae Kwon Do class.  Lia's been asking me for at least a year if she can take ballet and I have been putting her off and telling her maybe she could when she's older...  Emily took this ballet class when she was 3 years old and it wasn't easy because she liked the idea of ballet but hated to put on her tights and after a few classes started to complain about going.  When we decided to let Lia start ballet, I told her very clearly that if she complained about going, we would quit.  She must have really wanted it because she has never complained and eagerly puts on her tights and leotard when it is time to go.  And for a little girl who hates to have her hair brushed, she grins and bears it when it come to putting her hair back.  So once we got her signed up, she wanted to know when we could go to the dance shop... because she couldn't wait to pick out her gear.
I took her to Jazz Rags and I swear this little girl must have thought she had died and gone to ballerina heaven.  There was a huge rack of skirted pink leotards for her to choose from.  She very diligently went through all of them and narrowed her choices down to two.  Once in the dressing room, the above contender was a hands down winner for her.  The skirt and ruffles have shiny little sequins on them.  She was in love.  While there, we had her fitted in her ballet slippers and were given the run-down on the different kinds of tights.  You have footed, cropped and convertible.  After hearing the convertible tights could be flipped up so she could wear flip flops, she was sold.

And to finish, she really wanted the sparkly bun cover to complete her ensemble.  I have to admit it was really pretty.  And... I still had the bun-maker tool from Emily's dance days so I was good to go to make her first bun.  Luckily, the bun cover is very forgiving if your bun isn't perfect and mine are rarely perfect!

Convertible tights!
The last thing I love about this class is that it is taught by the sweetest teenage girls ever.  These girls are beautiful ballerinas no doubt and the little girls totally look up to them, but they are also super encouraging, patient and kind.  The girls go through this little mini-ballet where they act out Cinderella receiving the invitation to the ball, getting ready, dancing, running home, changing into pajamas and going to sleep.  The little girls love this so much and ask to do it every class.  These sweet teenage girls run through it with the same enthusiasm every single time and I am just in awe.  Love it!

Bathroom Updates Complete!

We purchased our house in the spring of 2005 before David was born.  While functional, there were many things I didn't like about our bathroom:  the floral wallpaper, the gold trim, the carpet leading up to linoleum, the maroon accent tiles, carpet around the toilet, the etched shower doors I could never get clean, the mold under the caulking and oh yes, the shower leaked onto the floor.  But by golly, 7 years later... we finally got around to it!  And no more complaining!  Out with the old.

The before...

 A good start!
I picked out 13x13 tiles at Ditco.  They are called Breccia Cappuccino by Porcellana Di Rocca (PDR) and they have the look of the frothed milk... to remind me of coffee.  (I really love coffee)  I really liked the coordinating mosaic tiles for the shower floor which was the deciding factor... and that they were affordable compared to my other options.  I used the same tile for the shower and the floor.  At this point in the project, the tile guy asked me what kind of border I wanted.  I had not really thought about a border so this really took me by surprise.  I took my tile sample to Home Depot and looked at a lot of options but in the end, I had the guy cut the existing tiles into the same border my next door neighbor used in her bathroom.  Picking out a border made of different materials was way too overwhelming of a choice to make at this point and I am really happy with the way it turned out.  Later, after some research I found some coordinating deco tiles in the same line that had a kind of floral design carved out and I think a few of those would have been nice... but I would have had to put the project on hold to order them and we just wanted to get it done!
At this point, the shower, tub and floor were all coming together.  I love the way the border came out and was thankful our tile guy was so talented.  I thought it looked kind of funny without the grout, but once the grouting process began, it really started to look finished.

Before glass shower doors...

And here, all the tile work was complete.  And look!  All that ugly wallpaper was replaced with new paint.  The color?  Latte, of course, to remind me of coffee.  :-)  Of note, several years ago, I noticed some of our wallpaper was starting to peel off and I was curious what was underneath it.  So I peeled a little back by the tub and guess what I found?  Yes, equally ugly floral wallpaper underneath.  A blue and pink pattern.  I was a little nervous about our painter just texturing over the old wallpaper but he promised me it would work and I have to say it came out beautiful.  So at this point, the glass company came out and measured for our new glass shower doors.  I splurged a bit and got the frameless because I love the way it looks.  The glass is 5/8 of an inch thick and gorgeous!

One week later, the glass is in!
And then pause... most of our bathroom was done but we weren't sure what to do with the countertops.  I had originally picked out a Ceasarstone quartz called Dreamy Marfil but ran into a myriad of issues.  First, it is sold by the slab and you can purchase it in a half slab.  Unfortunately, one half slab did not leave enough material for the backsplash.  My sales rep at Ditco offered to help me pick out coordinating mosaic tile for the backsplash but the choices were infinite and my husband and I couldn't agree and once we finally did agree the cost just got our of hand.  And to further make things difficult, Ditco wanted us to remove the enormous mirror before they could do an install... which again was expensive to the tune of $300 if it didn't break and we were offered no guarantees that it wouldn't break.  If it did break, I would be forced to repair the wall, re-texture and re-paint and find new mirrors we could hang which again, overwhelmed me.  So we just sat on it till August and puzzled about it because we weren't in a hurry and frankly, I had just gotten tired of the project.  Once again, the counters were functional and it worked.

Old countertops, sinks and fixtures.
So once August rolled around, I was finally ready to get this bathroom finished and had a new idea:  marble!  Marble is more affordable than quartz but of course comes with some risks.  It is natural stone and requires sealing and runs the chance of etching or staining but it is very beautiful and classic, which appealed to me.  Again, after talking to my neighbor who has had marble countertops for several years now, we went with the marble countertops!  Etching and stains may occur but we will just have to call it character.  The stone is already naturally flawed in some places so it isn't like we are starting with something pristine.  It's a natural stone, created by God and has a story to tell.  Though it is a very clean piece of crema marfil, it does have some fissures and a few fillings to add to its charm.  I love the smoothness of it and how it is cool to the touch and all in all, I am very happy with it.  We will do our best to care for it and see what stories it has to tell in the coming years.  Long story short, I found a new contractor who gave me a great price (Transatlantic Granite).  The contractor put a lot of effort in to remove my existing backsplash without damaging the mirror and was successful!  He did say it was a lucky break though.  It wasn't easy.

The install of the counters took about 4 hours.  The next day, our plumber came and connected everything with flexible hosing... it was all rusted out hard piping before... and he also installed my pretty new fixtures.  I love it.  I may have the cabinets painted at some point and maybe get some window coverings but for now.... I'm just going to enjoy all that has been done so far.  It is really nice to have a pretty bathroom!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Cousin Camp - Discovery Place

After Pinocchio and lunch, we went to the Discovery Museum in Charlotte.  This light display at the entrance is one of my favorite parts of the museum.  I have gotten better pictures in previous years, but here is Lia and what you are seeing on the screen is the tail end of a turtle swimming off the screen.  I'm thinking she didn't want to stay for more pictures or I could have gotten a better shot.  And you know, the shots without the kids are no fun.

Clowning around.  I think Olivia, who is holding the iphone, got the better picture.


This water wheel play area is fantastic.  If this was the only exhibit in the whole museum, David, Lia and Anthony would have been completely happy.  I love the area on the left where you can manipulate the gates to get the boats to flow through the current.  Brilliant.

Emma is helping Anthony look at the microscope.  The invention of the microscope that displays to a video screen is brilliant.  That way all the kids can see at the same time and you don't have to re-focus for each kid.

These shapes sit on a table that lights up... You can't see it here but you can build 3-dimensionally with these as well... I think they were magnetic.

And look, I was at the museum too!  Lia, my personal photographer, wanted to take Mommy's picture with the funny 3-D glasses.  Fun!

Cousin Camp - Pinocchio!

Pop Pop arranged for us to see a youth theater production of Pinocchio this year.  This was our first day of cousin camp and a wonderful start to the week.  Here we are outside the theater waiting to go in.

Anthony was all about hugs this year.  He can give hugs all day!  In fact, he might grow up to be a professional hugger.

See, he's got his Lia Bear!

And this cracks me up.  Not only does he give sweet hugs, he even goes in for the cheek caress!  Now that is a boy who means business.

Here are the kids clowning around after the show.  We were waiting for Stacey and Chris to go and get the cars.  Emily's holding Anthony up for some reason.

And I told them to be super-safe and hold hands as we headed back to the steps.

Don't they look small next to that building?

Ugh... steps!
And David with downtown Charlotte behind him.  He's sporting his Nelli t-shirt too.  He won't wear them at home for some silly reason that everyone at home already knows he's a Nelli.  But wearing them at cousin camp and Nelli beach week seems to make sense to him... I won't pretend to understand.  I'm just glad to see him wear them.  We've had these since he was 2 years old and I have been waiting for years for him to grow into them.  It's also cool that Dad has matching big ones and wears his at the beach too.