Thursday, May 31, 2007

A fun little diversion...

I am Marianne Dashwood!

Take the Quiz here!

I'm reading Pride and Prejudice right now, I guess I'll put Sense and Sensibility next on my list. Dh and I love the movie, though!

I can't sing, but other than that, yeah, I guess the shoe fits! How about you??

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Good Dog!

Monday was an eventful day at Aquinas Academy. A2 had an emergency dental appointment which revealed an abscessed tooth (no, we aren't that lax about our dental hygiene, he had a crack in this tooth which meant he needed a crown put in about a year ago - so bacteria got in around the crown). He's got antibiotics to clear up the infection, he'll have the tooth pulled in 2 weeks, then 2 weeks after that a spacer put in. The dentist said we caught it in time and there isn't too much pain for him. Poor baby!

Anyway, during the day, I noticed that our dogs spent a lot of time under our deck, and Biscuit (our 1 1/2 year old English Pointer) came in the house with nice orange feet, courtesy of our red Georgia clay. When A2 and dh got home from the dentist, the kids started telling him about the big hole under the deck. Oh, great, I thought, the dogs are going to undermine the foundation of the house...(yes I tend to think in worst-case scenarios!) So dh went out and checked it out, told everyone it was just fine, they were just digging a hole to cool off in, and we should leave it alone.

A little while later, he took me aside and told me what actually happened.

The dogs killed a snake. It was just a small rat snake, a baby, probably (which dh tossed over the fence before we could see - mostly for my sake!) Our neighbor told us his dogs had killed 2 in his yard recently, so there must have been a nest nearby (remember our snakeskin of last year? Probably mom!) Now, rat snakes are non-venemous, and are certainly helping keep our rodent population down, which I really do appreciate. And I'm definitely glad it's a rat snake and not a copperhead, which also live around here. But, still - there was a snake in our yard where my babies play!!!

And so, late at night, I snuggled with my dogs and cried cuz they're such good dogs! Especially Biscuit (Daisy is probably too young to do much more than watch older male dog kill the snake - and learn!). We rescued Biscuit from a shelter, and he is, quite literally the best dog we've ever had. Daisy is an absolutely adorable puppy, and she will grow into her personality and maybe end up tied for best - but right now, Biscuit reigns supreme! Good dog!!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Tragedy of the most minor sort!

I've seen tragedy, I've even experienced tragedy, and no, this isn't it - but it makes a nice post title! What's really going on is just a minor annoyance. See, my laptop died here at Aquinas Academy. Just as I was getting into the groove of regular posting again, too - I am so bummed! Thankfully, the poor computer is still under warranty. Unfortunately, it will take at least a week and a half, maybe up to a month, before I get my laptop back. In the meantime, I have to share time on our workhorse PC with the dh who works from home once a week or so and uses it all day, and the 4 boys who use it for games and some school-related tasks. I'll have computer time, but not the free access, send an email or write a post anytime I have a free 10 minutes or so kind of time. Bear with me for a few weeks as my posting becomes, yet again, irregular.

Monday, May 14, 2007

More pictures of the cutest puppy in the world!

Well, it was quite the week of adjustment with our new pup, but things are starting to settle down a bit now. Daisy is feeling much more comfortable, she knows her place in the family better (low man/dog in the pack!) and she is just a joy to have around. She's starting to sleep through the night more often than not - or at least, from the time I go to bed around midnight until dh gets up for work around 5:30am. She wakes up *hungry*, and boy she's growing like a weed! When we got her, she weighed 12.9 lbs. By the time we took her to the vet just 4 days later, she was up to 14lbs. She is small for a lab, the vet predicts she'll be about 50lbs, which will be a nice size with our 45lb English Pointer, Biscuit. Here are just a few of the adorable pictures we have of our sweetie, Daisy!

Biscuit and Daisy LOVE to play together! (and yes, we've mowed the lawn since we took this picture!) Hard to believe that Daisy will be a bit bigger than Biscuit in about 10 months or so!

It is awesome to see the boys with the puppy - they take good care of her, and she adores them!

She is just so absolutely adorable!!

Menu Plan Monday

Hi, all! Busy day - I made bagels! Homemade bagels are just the best, and quite honestly pretty easy - check out Tammy's blog for details. I've made them twice now, and I'll post some pictures and a few details on my cinnamon-raisin bagels soon. In the meantime, here's the menu for this week:

Monday: Pork chops, mixed greens, cheese grits

Tuesday: Lentil Chili, corn chips, salad

Wednesday: Beef Stroganoff, peas, salad

Thursday: Grilled chicken, rice, a vegie

Friday: Crockpot BBQ beef (didn't get to that last week!), onion rolls, coleslaw

Saturday: Grilled pizza, salad

Sunday: Hamburgers, chips, vegies&dip

Make sure to check out Organizing Junkie for more great ideas! Have a great week!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Piano Lessons and Music Appreciation Part I

I've been wanting to write this post for a long time. I have some very definite ideas about music, and thought I'd record them here.

First, a little background. When I was younger, I was a fairly accomplished musician. I can say, with humbleness, that I have true gift from the Lord for music. I always loved music, and playing musical instruments came so naturally to me, it's still is a bit eerie. I never could sing, but I could play just about any instrument I picked up. My main instruments were piano and trombone, and I could also play flute, a little clarinet, and some oboe and baritone. I was a total "band nerd" in high school, and I even made a little money acccompanying soloists, playing in pit orchestras, at weddings, and in a small jazz band.

For whatever reason, I quit playing so much in college, and dropped it all almost completely once I got married. I always had plans to get a piano, give the boys lessons, maybe take up violin with them, and one of my long-time "life" goals is to learn to play the cello. However, our life has been so tumultuous the last 6-7 years or so, I hadn't given it much thought. Then, when we bought our house last summer, we had the opportunity to keep the previous owners' piano, and I have had SO much fun playing again, I can't believe I ever stopped! I've started piano lessons with J1 this year, and we have both had a great time. I'll detail our experiences more in Part 11.

Someone recently asked, on an email list I'm on, about music lessons, and when they should begin. I'm all for "kindermusic" type programs, if you and your toddler want to do that (with an emphasis on the *and your toddler" part of wanting it - I tried that back when J1 was little, and he cried the whole time - I only took him twice. Hard to believe my little social butterfly was once a very shy, reserved toddler!) But I'm speaking of formal lessons. Personally, I think that unless a child demonstrates a passion and/or a gift, formal instruction shouldn't begin until at least age 8 years old, probably closer to 10 or even 12. If your child has a gift from God the way that I do, you will know it. I begged my parents for lessons from a very young age, and they finally let me begin when I was about 7 years old, but I wish I had started at 5 or 6. If you don't sense a gift or passion for music, just wait! Forced instruction is a sure way to kill a love for learning of all kinds, but especially in music.

That said, I also believe that every person deserves an understanding of music. I think piano is particularly beneficial because it provides a basis for so much else that you might want to do with music, and because it involves both hands it is really awesome at building your brain in new ways. I think all kids should have 1-2 years of piano instruction, when they are old enough to be self-motivated.

Now, music lessons can be expensive, especially with multiple children. I know we couldn't afford it! But, if you've had at least 2-3 years of piano instruction yourself in the past, you could teach your child. Or, you might know someone, (like me!), who doesn't have enough formal instruction to be a "professional piano teacher", but knows enough to give your kids the basics for a year or two and would do it for a reasonable price, or for barter (piano lessons for babysitting or housecleaning, anyone?) If you live near a college, call up the music department and ask if they have any students who would teach - college students will often teach cheaply, or even barter for, say, access to a laundry machine! You should also have a piano, obviously. It doesn't have to be an expensive new one, I've only ever had beat-up old pianos, and they're great! You can usually find a used piano via word of mouth - tell everyone you know you're looking for a piano, say a prayer, and you'll be amazed at what turns up! If you just can't find a piano, or lack space for one, even just an electric keyboard could work (though in my opinion it's just not the same, it would be adequate for the kind of basic instruction I'm talking about).

In Part II, I'll detail what we're doing in our lessons, and also share some music appreciation hints and tips.

Book Meme

Ok, I'll bite - saw this a couple of places, including here, at my friend's new blog (gotta get that blog roll thing going!), I'll give it a try!

Grab the nearest book.

  1. Open it to page 161.
  2. Find the fifth full sentence.
  3. Post the text of the sentence along with these instructions.
  4. Don't search around looking for the coolest book you can find. Do what's actually next to you.
"The idea generally received is that this, as well as three smaller vortices among the Ferroe islands, 'have no other cause than the coolision of waves rising and falling, at flux and reflux, against a ridge of rocks and shelves, which confines the water so that it precipitates itself like a cataract; and thus the higher the flood rises, the depper must the fall be, and the natural result of all is a whirpool or vortex, the prodigious suction of which is sifficiently known by lesser experiments'." The Raven and Other Writings, Edgar Allen Poe (Can anyone guess the story this sentence is from?)

(And boy! That Poe fella - he writes *llooooonnnnnggggg* sentences!)

J1 was reading Poe, not me - no scary stories for me, no sirree. I read The Tell-Tale Heart back in highschool, and that was more than enough for me!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

A kid funny...

So, S3 and A2 were in the kitchen, and suddenly A2 comes in and says, "Hey! He kicked me!" So I call S3 in and ask him why he kicked A2.

S3 looks at me earnestly, with his big brown eyes, and said, "Cuz he was trying to tell me something I didn't want to hear!"

More school stuff

Ok, yesterday I wrote about J1 and his current scholarly progress, today I'll write about A2.

A2 is becoming, in my humble opinion, a case study in the value of waiting for formal schoolwork until a child is ready.

I've written before here and here about some of the difficulties I've had teaching A2 up to this point. He is an intensely unique child, and does just about everything his own way, in his own time. I am certain that in a traditional school setting, he would be "labelled" in some way, with a learning or behavioral disability, and his spirit would be crushed. Of all my kids, he is the one that will benefit the most from homeschooling, in my opinion.

As a baby, he was intensely physical. He crawled at 5 months of age, walked at 11 months, and just ran, jumped, kicked and stomped with abandon through toddlerhood. But he didn't talk hardly at all until he was well over 3 years of age. He didn't really talk well until he was almost 5. Now, at 7.5 years of age, he can out-talk all of us (which is saying a lot in our family!) He has absolutely no problems with diction or construction (well, except for all the boys having problems with feminine pronouns - they just have no experience using them, lol!), etc. He has some interesting ways of looking at things (his infamous "He's a lady baby, mom!" is just the tip of the ice berg), and I do think he *processes* language differently than most - but I don't think he has any true problems.

I always thought - and my dh and mom agreed with me - that his approach to schoolwork would be much the same way as his approach to talking. He would wait till he was ready, refuse to do anything until that point, and then he would take off. And that is exactly what I've seen, and now, at 7.5 years of age, he is starting to really fly.

So, here is what we're doing. Alex is 7.5 years old - age-wise, he is technically at the end of 2nd grade, but because of his very late July birthday, and his way of approaching things I talked about above, he is doing first grade work. I believe that I would have "held him back" if he went to a traditional school, anyway, and I believe that he will start to "catch up" over the next few years, now that he's ready.

Religion: I am alternating the first grade Faith and Life book and The Catholic Children's Bible. I read about two chapters a week in Faith and Life, then ask questions and talk about it with him. I also try to read about 2 chapters in the bible story book each week, hoping to finish up the entire book by next fall. After I read, we discuss the story. This is going well, A2 is interested and engaged and I believe it is helping his listening skills, too.

: We're in the middle of MCP Math book A - I don't know that we'll finish the whole book by the end of the year, but I think we'll cover enough of it that he will be ready to begin the MCP Math book B next year. I'm not overly fond of the MCP math program, but it is working for A2, so we'll stick with it for now. As I did with J1, I do a lot of his writing for him. We do 2-4 pages a day, and he tells me the answers and I write them down. I periodically make sure he can write these numbers, but for now, writing is too laborous for him and I don't want it to interfere with his learning the math that he is ready for. His older brother was exactly the same way at this age, and he's absolutely fine now, so this doesn't worry me. I think he'll be ready to do his own math writing next fall.

Handwriting: This is the most amazing thing of all to me! A2 has never been interested in writing. All my other boys were interested in writing and learning letter forms by about age 4-5. Not A2. He doesn't like to draw, he doesn't doodle, he doesn't try to write. In the past, as recently as just after Christmas, whenever I tried to teach him handwriting, he balked, cried, and just didn't seem to "get" how to form the letters using the lines on the paper. I was really starting to get worried. As we started back to school after our brief Easter break, I decided to try using the used Seton 1 handwriting book I'd picked up at our church's Christmas bazarre. I've been so impressed with Seton's handwriting with J1, I thought, why not try it. The first day he complained a bit, but he was doing it! The second day, he complained a bit less. By the third day, he was actually enjoying it, and doing great. Now, suddenly, he is just absolutely amazing. Holding his pencil correctly, tracing the letters with ease and making good-looking letters on his own. Using the lines completely appropriately, everything proportional (something his older brother still struggles with), just - beautiful. Ok, he still has beginner's handwriting - but I am just truly amazed. I think in another year he is going to have really, truly good handwriting, and you could knock me over with a feather over that realization! The other thing is, Seton handwriting books contain beautiful artwork, and we spend some time discussing each picture, which A2 really enjoys. He has a much greater appreciation for art than his brothers seem to - he is truly interested in composition, etc, which I find very interesting. Perhaps another sign of his visual-spatial learner tendencies?

Phonics: We tried to continue with Explode the Code, and I just didn't really feel that he was learning anything. He needed too much prompting from me, and nothing seemed to be sinking in. So, I switched to a used copy of MCP phonics (1st grade book) just last week, and it is going *much* better. MCP phonics is much more visually appealing than Expode the Code, which seems to be important to him (again with the visual-spatial learner thing?) He is a little bit bored with some of it - I think he would be comfortable more in the middle of the book, but he needs to cover a bit more of the basics before we can get there. I'm skipping a few things, just trying to feel my way through what he needs to know. He is also having great fun coloring the pictures when that's part of the lesson. He is very interested in chosing the proper color for things - again, very different from his brothers. Intriguing!

Reading: We are really, truly making progress, which is making both of us really happy. We're on Lesson 30 in 100 Easy Lessons. It is somewhat slow going - like I said, it just doesn't seem to come naturally to him. Reading hasn't "clicked" with him yet - but he's getting close, I can tell. In teaching 2 children how to read, I see some "readiness" signs, and I think there is a "click", a mental shift that occurs when it finally all makes sense. A2 is showing all the "readiness" signs that come just before that "click". He is playing with language - word games, rhyming games, laughing at funny words, alliterative words, etc. He has never played with language the way his oldest brother did almost from birth - not until recently. So, I now believe that A2 really will read. A few people have asked me if I think he might be dyslexic and no, I really don't. He doesn't seem to have problems with reversals, or writing/sounding out the letters out of order, just nothing that would indicate dyslexia. Like I said, I do think he processes language differently than most in some way - but I don't see it as a big problem, I really don't. I expect that in about 2-4 months, he will be reading real books and enjoying it. That will make us both very, very happy!

Because I am focused on his reading, (w)riting, religion and 'ritmetic (the "big 4" in my opinion), we don't have any formal study in history or science. I am planning to change that in the fall, though, as the whole family will start ancient history again, and I might have everyone do science together, too, I'm still pondering that one.

I'm excited. I really feel like I *will* be able to teach A2, and he *will* be able to - *is* - learning.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Back to school stuff...

Ok, I have been woefully negligent in talking about the main subject of this blog - our homeschooling! Quite honestly, we've been so busy doing stuff I haven't had time to write about it all! Any ideas on how to make time for blogging? Any ideas on how to make time for stuff like laundry and housework? ;-)

Anyway, I thought I'd start with J1, since he's our oldest. He is 10 years old, and traditionally, he'd be in the last part of fourth grade. For my own record-keeping, let me just list what we've been doing the last couple of months:

Religion: We read and discuss one chapter from the Baltimore Catechism and one chapter from Faith and Life each week. This is a big "dinner table" school topic. Dinner table school is my inner moniker for the great discussions we have around the dinner table. History, current events, religion, and even science are big dinner table school subjects around here.

Math: J1 continues to do well in Saxon 7/6. We are accelerating quite a bit, he's more than half way through the book and we've only been working on it for about 2 months. We only work about half the problems in each lesson (odds or evens, usually), and about once every 10 lessons or so, I assign no review problems ("Mixed practice", for those of you familiar with Saxon) but two lessons of new concepts ("lesson practice") only.

A side note: One thing that J1 has always struggled with is carelessness in his work. For the most part, I've ignored it. As a homeschool mom, I know that he understands the concept, even though he made 6 careless mistakes, know what I mean? It got marginally better when we skipped ahead a year in math back after our Christmas break. I thought, correctly, that part of the problem was that he was just so bored. However, the last few weeks things got pretty bad again. The day he scored just a 75% on test (all but 5% was careless mistakes), I got kind of upset. I have a whole other post running through my brain about this sort of thing - should we use school to address character issues, like diligence and patience, etc? I'm not sure of the answer, though I have lots of thoughts I'll share soon. For now, I'll simply tell you what we did. I considered slowing down, making him do all the problems in every lesson for awhile...but I just didn't think that would help. He was consistently getting all the "Lesson practice"/new concept problems all correct, just getting careless in his review work. So I didn't think that assigning *more* problems would neccessarily help. I talked it over with him, and he admitted that he was very distracted while he was doing his work. Thinking about games, and fiction books, and his own imaginary goings-on. Dh said that was pretty typical for a 10 year old boy. So we talked about the importance of what he was doing, and we came to an agreement. He no longer gets to play any computer or board games in the morning before school (I know, bad habit, huh?), and if he doesn't get at least 85% on his work that day (at mom's discretion - I would let up a bit over honest mistakes that he learns from), he doesn't get to play computer or board games after schoolwork, either. I don't think I would do this with every child, or a struggling child, but I know that J1 is capable of this work. In fact, even though he's almost 2 full years "ahead" in math, he is still only barely challenged. To prove my point, after our agreement, he is now averaging 93% on all his work.

Handwriting: He's on track to finish Seton Handwriting 4. I have a funny anecdote about why his handwriting has suddenly gotten better over the last week or so, but I'll save that for it's own post. Handwriting continues to be one of his weakest subjects. Again, pretty typical for a 10 year old boy!

Spelling/vocabularly: We started the Seton 7 spelling book a few weeks ago, and it seems to be a good fit for him. Because he is such a voracious reader, spelling and vocab come very easily to him. In fact, he told me last night that he still finds spelling easy and boring (he's only gotten 3 spelling words wrong in the first 4 lessons). He says he knows almost all the words already. We'll keep going, though, because I want to reinforce his good spelling, and he enjoys the stories and artwork in the book.

Science: We've completed our study of the human body, and starting, ever so slowly, on our survival skills unit (more on that soon over at dh's blog). J1 admits that he has been really bored with our science this year. He's always had a love for science, and in making sure the basics are covered, I have bored him to tears this year. Poor kid! Hopefully we can remedy that next year.

History: We're on track to finish our first run-through of American History. J1 tells me he loves history, and we're both satisfied with what he's learning, though J1 craves even more depth and detail. We're using "How American Grew" as our spine, and lots of living books (He just finished "Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry", then he'll read "The Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson" and "Tom Sawyer") to flesh things out.

Art: We're using CHC's "Learning to Appreciate Art", which is an *awesome* introduction to art and art history. J1 is really enjoying it, and I think we'll expand our art history study next year. We continue to do not so well with the actual *doing* art - drawing, etc. I am going to look into what we can do next year to get some basic drawing skills.

Music: He's started piano lessons with me, and we've done some music appreciation - it's a whole other post, but we're having a *great* time and it's going really well.

Latin: We started using "Our Roman Roots", as Henle Latin was just a touch too advanced for him (primarily because he needed a lot of input from me or dh, and we weren't being diligent about making time for it). I like Our Roman Roots, it seems like it will be a good intermediary step for him. He loves Latin, and it helps that we hear it every week at our Latin Mass parish.

Geography: We're going through CHC's US Catholic Geography Bee program, and it's going well. J1 enjoys doing his assingments, and I think he'll have a good grasp of US geography by the time we're through.

Which leaves us, I believe with the subject we're struggling most with this year.

Grammar/English: We are really struggling with this subject. Which is funny, because J1 has always been *such* a verbal kid, he really has an amazing facility with language (he is *definitely* my dh's son in that regard, as anyone who knows dh can attest! :-) So I'm not sure why he struggles so much with grammar and writing. I think that I just haven't found the right approach. Intermediate Language Lessons was a dismal failure - many tears, which distresses me, because I don't want him to cry over learning! So, we're dropping it for now, going back and skimming over CHC's 4th grade grammar to cover some basics. But, we're in discussions about what we're going to do next year to further our study of the English language. My main concern is to get him writing. He has such a wonderful "voice" when he tells stories out loud, but he struggles to get it down on paper. I haven't had much success with anything we've done so far, though I might re-visit Bravewriter. I might actually get the book if finances allow for it, and I might even try to sign him up for an on-line class next spring (again, depending on finances!) We've had some good discussions about this, and I think next year we'll be able to improve - more details soon!

I feel like I've forgotten something, but I think I'm going to go ahead and hit "publish" now, just to get this out there. Soon I'll write about A2!

Monday, May 07, 2007

Menu Plan Monday

Ok - it's been awhile! For those of you who have really missed it (Hi, Jenn!), I hope to start doing a Menu Plan Monday every week again! Make sure to check out I'm an Organizing Junkie for lots more great ideas!

Monday: Easy Shepherd's Pie (brown 2lbs ground beef, cook 1-2 packages frozen mixed vegies, add 1 can cream of mushroom soup, 1 can beef broth or beef gravy, mix it all together, throw it in a pan, top with leftover mashed potatoes, bake till bubbly and warmed through), small side salad, bread and butter for the kids

Tuesday: Grilled chicken, homemade mac&cheese (my mom said Emeril's recipe was really good, so I'm going to try something similiar), brocoli, cauiflour and carrots on the side

Wednesday: Jen's Easy Taco Salad (make a salad with lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, brown 1-2lbs ground beef and add taco seasoning, put meat, shredded cheese, and crushed taco chips over salad. Pour catalina dressing over all, or use salsa and/or sour cream as a dressing)

Thursday: BBQ Shredded Beef (I'll make this in the crockpot, and use this awesome homemade BBQ Sauce), with onion rolls, vegies & dip

Friday: BBQ Pizza (we just make small pizzas for everyone, put them on tin foil and throw them on the grill), salad

Saturday: mom&dad dinner - steak, baked potato, salad and kid dinner - chicken nuggets, french fries, celery & carrot sticks

Sunday: roast, mashed potatoes & gravy, green beans & carrots, blueberry pie for dessert

Have a great week!

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Our new addition!

Today we got a new puppy!! We are so very excited! We worked with Atlanta Dog Squad to adopt an 8.5 week old lab mix puppy, and we've had a wonderful experience. Her name was Jersey, but because she might be the only girl baby I ever have :-), we wanted to give her a more "girl-y" name, and have decided to call her "Daisy". This fits in with the other female in the house, our cat, Rosie. We also got her a pink collar to further satisfy my girl needs! :-)

So far things are going well. We need to work on the housetraining a bit, and she needs some encouragement in not nipping or jumping on the kids - nothing unexpected in such a young puppy. But she has been so relaxed, so at ease around us and our pets, I know that her foster family did a fabulous job with her. She is going to be a wonderful addition to our family. Here are a few pictures of our new baby!

Meeting her new friend, Biscuit:

With A2:

She's going to fit right in with the crew!

The grill is oh so interesting!

Looking absolutely adorable...

I'm sure you'll see many more pictures of our new cutie in the days to come!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

A great new link!

My hubby has decided to start his own homeschool blog, and I am so excited! I would love to see more "daddy blogs". If your dh blogs, send him over to my dh's blog and they can do the link exchange thing!

Check out Aquinas Academy Dad!

Before and after, flowers or stripes?

So, we finished (mostly) painting our kitchen. A few touch-ups remain, but it's looking good, if I do say so myself. Drastically different from the bland white walls we've lived with since we moved in 9 months ago. Here is before:

And here's after:

Now, here's the burning question - I have reversable curtains (thank you Wal-Mart!). Which should I put up with the new paint color - the flowers (above) or the stripes (below)?

Here's a close-up of both:


I the pictures, the flowers (IMO) look better - but in real life, the stripes look a bit better. What do you think?

As if I - and you! - have nothing better to do than obsess over curtains! Must go get to schoolwork! More soon....