Thursday, September 30, 2010

Culmination of Ohio Study

Today we culminated our Ohio study by baking some Ohio cookies. Although we cut them out with an Ohio-shaped cookie cutter, the shape is pretty blobby. We loved them anyway and at dinner we had fun recalling lots and lots of things we've learned this month. I am amazed by all that they remember.

Here are some cookies decorated by Ray:

Here's Adam reciting the poem we learned this month, "An Ohio Pledge" by Marcia Schonberg:

Now we're ready for a new month. In October we will be studying the human body and North America.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What's round on the ends and high in the middle?

We are finishing up a fun month-long study of our home state. We are participating in some academic enrichment classes with our homeschool group on Monday afternoons. The theme for this month was Ohio. I was fortunate to be able to teach Ray and Adam's class. We made Ohio flags and learned a whole bunch about the symbols of Ohio (state seal, bird, flower, tree, motto, etc.), famous Ohioans, and Ohio wildlife. We learned about products grown, raised, and manufactured in Ohio. We made Buckeye necklaces and marched to music from the OSU marching band. We even memorized a poem called "An Ohio Pledge"by Marcia Schoenberg. (Check out The Ohio Reader, B is for Buckeye, and Cardinal Numbers all by Schoenberg.)

Ray's favorite parts of our Ohio study were learning about the Wright Brothers (who were born and raised in Ohio) and making a collage of Ohio animals and having the opportunity to touch some furs and skulls from Ohio animals.

Adam wouldn't tell me his favorite parts, but I think they were eating apples while we learned about Johnny Appleseed's journeys through Ohio and eating chocolate/peanut butter buckeyes. (He definitely takes after me!)

Today we culminated our Ohio study in a special way... with a visit to the Ohio Statehouse! My friend Kelly works across the street from the Statehouse in downtown Columbus. She also does a lot of work in the Statehouse. She invited us to take a tour of the Statehouse. Her mother and daughters met us there and I brought my nephew Carter along as he had today off school. So it was a big field trip adventure. I am embarrassed to admit that I've lived here all my life and I've never been in the Statehouse before today!

For the boys a big highlight of the tour was going through a maze of underground tunnels to get from Kelly's office to the Statehouse.

Our tour started in the map room where we got to explore this giant floor map of Ohio's 88 counties.
Before checking out the Senate and House chambers, we stopped in the beautiful rotunda where Kelly taught the children a bit about what goes on in this beautiful building.
Ray and I really loved looking up at the dome over the rotunda.Although the children are too young to really understand the significance of the Statehouse and all that goes on there, they really enjoyed the adventure of going there and exploring. We even ate lunch in the cafe! It was a great finish to a wonderful month of learning about our state.

Autumn Visitor

Ray was delighted to find this little guy chowing down on the seeds from the sunflowers we grew. The squirrel knew we were watching him from our window less than four feet away, but he didn't care. He stayed a long time and filled his belly quite full.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Happy Birthday Johnny Appleseed!

John Chapman, affectionately known as Johnny Appleseed, was born 236 years ago today. We've had a great time reading about him as part of our tall tales and Ohio studies. We've had lots of delicious fun with apples over the past few weeks.

Adam Appleseed...Ray Appleseed....
Happy birthday Johnny Appleseed!

Saturday, September 25, 2010


Today Ray played in his first soccer game. He is playing on a recreation center team along with several other homeschool boys we know. His coach is one of our friends and the league is fairly non-competitive with a focus on teaching. They don't really keep score. It's a perfect place for him to learn and get positive experience playing sports.

Ray's team is called "The Flyers." He is #5. He is the youngest boy on the team. (It's really for six through eight year olds.) He was so proud of his uniform and very excited to be playing in a real game. He really gave it his all. I was proud of him for following directions and staying in the game - running hard and trying to figure out what he was supposed to be doing each moment. The team had only practiced once. (They got rained out this week.) He did remarkably well considering his lack of experience and instruction. He had a great time. It will be interesting to see how his skills and confidence develop as the season progresses.

Go Flyers! Go Ray!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Today's Biggest Accomplishment

Are you impressed? It's a lego post office. I followed the directions exactly. Usually I like to be more creative and free-form but Ray insisted that I build this exact post office.

My efforts were not in vain. Ray was very impressed by my work and my willingness to do what he asked me to do. He made me a reward chart!

Here's what Ray's current incentive chart looks like:

When he works hard on something or is extra-good/obedient/cheerful, he gets to put a sticker on his chart. Halfway up each ladder he gets a piece of candy. When he reaches the top of each ladder he earns television or computer time. (Yes, Adam has a chart too. Yes, we've resorted to bribery at this point.)

Here's the chart Ray made me:

He informed me that when I get halfway up the ladder he and Adam will "go outside and let you be" and when I get all the way up the ladder I will earn a nap! Wow! Now THAT'S an incentive!

Happy weekend!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Saint Matthew, pray for us.

Today we celebrate the Feast Day of the the patron saint of our parish, Saint Matthew the Apostle. Jon has a particular devotion to Matthew because he is also the patron of accountants. After dinner Jon took the boys up to church and took their picture by this statue of Saint Matthew. He likes to joke that in this statue Matthew is holding a copy of the first tax code. That's accountant humor for you! We enjoyed learning about Matthew today and asking for his intercession. Saint Matthew, pray for us.

Gentle and Simple

"Be gentle with yourself and with your children."

My friend mentioned that quote from Charlotte Mason (I think) on Friday and it has been my mantra ever since. I need to post it on my wall, write it on my mirror, and tattoo it on my arm. Really.

As I wrote last week, we hit a bit of a wall in our homeschooling and parenting efforts. The boys, especially Ray, were frustrated and showing signs of stress. Both boys were misbehaving. I was feeling exhausted and overwhelmed. Jon and I really took some time to look at what we're doing and expecting of the boys. We changed a few things, easing up in some areas (school/schedule) and tightening the reins in others (behavior). It seems to be working. I guess that will be the continual process of parenthood.... re-evaluating and changing course as necessary.

As an over-achiever and a former school teacher, there are so many things I want the boys to learn, know, and do. I think about what the children must be doing at Kindergarten today and I want Ray to do all of that and more. I compare him to what I think Kindergarteners are and/or should be doing. That is not gentle. It is not the most loving thing I can do for him. I am trying to be better at fully embracing who he is, how he learns, and what he most needs each day. After all, that's one of the greatest benefits of homeschooling. He doesn't have to do what they are doing at school. He can learn differently.

I recently read about a study that concluded that homeschooled children of parents with degrees in education don't do as well as homeschooled children of parents with no background in education. I can really understand that dynamic. I am struggling to let go of the textbook/grades/classroom mindset so that I can be a more effective teacher. It's not that we're doing less school. It's that we're doing it a bit differently. We are spending as much time as possible outside. We are taking things in much smaller doses throughout the day instead of trying to focus all morning and "get everything done." I have changed our schedule and eased our pace and we all are feeling better this week. Interestingly, I think the boys are learning MORE and enjoying learning better. I am enjoying it more too.

Maybe many or most children struggle to adjust to new school schedules, especially once the newness and excitement die down and expectations are raised. One of the homeschool online networking groups I belong to has been filled with questions and advice about how to help resistant kindergarteners. The veterans are all encouraging moms to be gentle and keep things simple and ENJOY their children at this age.... to read, read, read.... to keep learning fun and active. I am taking that advice to heart. There will be lots of time ahead for more formal book work. I want them to love learning, not dread it.

There is a great article today at Faith and Family Live:
It's all about keeping things simple for young students. I think I'm going to go wallpaper my bathroom with the great advice it gives! Check it out!

Here are the boys enjoying some simple art time on our back porch:

Art continues to be Adam's biggest love. Look how peaceful he looks as he paints.

We are having a really fun time this week learning about American Tall Tales. The boys love these stories. In addition to an armload of library books, we've been enjoying a American Tall Tales CD by Jim Weiss and Disney's American Legends DVD versions of these great stories.
Finally, I have been wanting to share a peek at the binders we are making this school year. Each boy chose his favorite color binder and then decorated a page to slip into the cover.

They loved decorating the separator pages for each section. The sections are: Liturgical Year, Alphabeep (We are taking one letter each week and learning about all kinds of vehicles that start with that letter. We practice writing the letter and the names of the vehicles.), Nature Journal, Around the World (We're doing some basic Geography activities), and Special Projects. When we do narrations, coloring pages, and special activities, I put them in the binder. It is already becoming a nice portfolio and keepsake. The boys are so proud of their work and so am I!

Whatever you are doing this week, be gentle on yourself and keep things simple. Pray for me and I'll pray for you.

Friday, September 17, 2010

A Fun Friday Family Field Trip

Jon had today off work because they are getting a new computer server at his office. So we decided to head out to Lynd's Fruit Farm to pick apples. This was a first-time adventure for all of us. It was great!

We picked Jonagold apples. They are very delicious! We have tons of them.... so come on over and get a few if you're local. ;)

Here are some pictures ---

Ray spotted a bird nest in the tree in the following picture. Can you see it?

After we picked apples, we headed over to a play area where they have a corn maze, a barrel train, and a straw maze and sand pit for the little ones. We parked right in front of a big hill with paths for climbing and a tube for crawling through. Adam exclaimed, "Now THIS is my kind of thing!" Both boys had a blast climbing up and down as well as playing in the straw maze and sand area. There were even flecks of gold to find in the sand. They were blissfully happy and very dirty by the time we headed home.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I Can Do This!

I can do this!
I can do this.
Can I do this?
What am I doing?

Those of you who get blog envy... and who wonder if you're doing things as well as other families.... will LOVE this post.

I'm hitting a wall this week. I do believe that we are called to homeschool our boys. I know I have the skills to do it. It's fun and interesting and exciting.... AND HARD!

I knew it would be challenging, but I'm really feeling that as we are getting settled into the rhythm of the school year. The newness is wearing off for the boys. We've had lots of whining and frustration.

I'm wondering if my expectations are too high or if I haven't expected enough of the boys and now we are all paying the consequences. I am trying to be with them where they are and lovingly teach them and challenge them. I am trying not to let my expectations and worries and frustrations take hold of me and affect them.

I'm trying to find a rhythm and balance to our days. I'm trying to teach the boys that there are times for free play and there are times for learning and work... that sometimes we need to use self-control and do things we don't really want to do. This has been painful for them and it makes me worry that I'm squashing their love for learning. I am trying to make it hands-on and adventurous and fun.... but sometimes they just need to sit down and listen and complete a task that they don't want to do. They are quite resistant to that.

We are at a crossroads and I want to handle this transition well. I want to help the boys embrace some "big boy" responsibilities in a healthy and happy way. I fear we've coddled them too much. We're trying some new discipline/motivation plans and hoping to see some good results and some happier boys (and parents).

This whole parenting thing - not just homeschooling - is so very humbling and challenging. But it is my monastery. This is the place, the community, where I am learning holiness and practicing the virtues. God has brought me here and gifted me with a loving husband and amazing children.... and all of the laundry, dishes, dirt, whining, worrying, and crying that go with it. Thank you God for all of that.... for all of these opportunities to learn patience, perseverance, humility, and selfless love. Thank you too for all of the laughter, joy, hugs, smiles, dandelion bouquets, love notes, and surprises that go along with it. Thank you mostly for your faithful presence through it all.... for your patience with me when I am not patient with them. Help me, Lord, to grow in love.... to serve you by serving them. I lay my worries at the foot of your cross. I place all my efforts under your guidance. I know you will shape, teach, and form all of us each day if we place our trust in you. Amen.

Last night Jon and I went to a parent meeting for a Montessori / Catechesis of the Good Shepherd class the boys will be attending. One of the moms spoke about some work the older children will doing. She mentioned Hammurabi and Jon and I both cracked up. I felt a fleeting second of panic... (Who is Hammurabi? Was I absent that day? HOW WILL I EVER TEACH ALL THAT IF I AM STRESSED OUT ABOUT KINDERGARTEN?!?!?!?) But then I really felt God laughing with us. I felt that He was patting me on the shoulder and telling me that it's ok... that He will be there to help me when we get there.... that I will have the awesome opportunity to learn what I missed the first time. My initial panic gave way to awe and excitement about all of the possibilities... about the wonderful methods and materials that the boys are (and will be) using to learn. It's so different from the way I learned in school. It's going to be great.

I can't do this...not my way and not on my own.
God CAN do this and is doing this.
With God first.... hand-in-hand with Jon.... with the support and help of family and friends.... with awesome resources and opportunities....
I am doing this.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Celebrating the Blessed Mother's Birthday

We enjoyed celebrating the Blessed Mother's Birthday this past week. Her birthday is celebrated on September 8th. Hers is one of only three birthdays celebrated by the church. (Jesus and John the Baptist are the others.)

We gathered on Friday with our Little Saints Club to celebrate. We started with prayer and then passed around a big wrapped box that was topped with lots of bows. Everyone got to take a bow and then we unwrapped the gift and found one of the greatest gifts that God has given us --- Mary (a statue and a sticker for everyone).

We talked about Mary and what she must have been like as a little girl. We talked about the ways we want to be like Mary. Then each family made a Mary poster to take home.

Somehow I didn't get a picture of a finished poster, but the idea was this: We glued on letters to spell out Mary. We either colored a picture of Mary or chose a printed image of her to glue on as well. Then we made a garden scene with grass at the bottom. We had lots of cut out roses to add to Mary's garden. We glued a few on, but took the rest home in baggies. The idea is that families will add roses to their garden each time they pray a prayer/devotion to Mary. By the time we reach the Feast of the Holy Rosary (October 7th), we will have beautiful gardens in bloom in honor of our Blessed Mother.

Here's a picture of Ray working on our poster:
Just to keep things real.... here's a picture of what Adam was doing during this process:

Of course there were snacks involved: blue and white cupcakes and blueberries.

We also decorated coloring sheets of Saints Anne and Joachim, Mary's parents and Jesus' grandparents. We prayed for our grandparents and talked about ways to celebrate Grandparents' Day (today).
On Wednesday, Mary's actual birthday, we had dinner at my sister's house. My mom came too. We brought a special dessert --- blue jello (the boys' choice!). We sang Happy Birthday to Mary.

Here's a much more "angelic" shot of Adam.... celebrating Mary in his own way.... eating a treat!

Mary, Mother of God, Queen of the Saints, pray for us.