Monday, September 24, 2007

Flight of the Bumblebee

This morning we somehow brought up "Flight of the Bumblebee" - I think dh was talking to J1 about The Green Hornet, and mentioned he heard someone play "Flight of the Bumblebee" on the trumpet, and wouldn't that be really hard? I agreed, and J1 asked what "Flight" was. I did a bit of searching, and came to one of my favorite music resources here in our homeschool, Classics for Kids. They've got fabulous information about the instruments of the orchestra, music games (including a very nice "note name game" for those learning music...), and flash versions of a lot of famous classical pieces. For some reason, though, I couldn't get the music to play there this morning, so I jumped to Wikipedia's entry, which led me to this awesome video. If you want to watch something truly funny, and admire someone's incredible talent at the same time, all while reminiscing over how "they just don't make entertainment the way they used to", please watch it! Gave me a hearty laugh this morning! In fact, let me experiment and see if I can embed this video here in my blog!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

So far, so good!

The uncertainty and stress continues in our life, with dh still unemployed and our financial situation rapidly deteriorating. (Though dh is VERY busy as he looks for work - with all the people he's talking to I have to believe something's going to come through soon.)

But, despite all that, we've gotten off to our best start ever here at Aquinas Academy! We began everything slowly, and I really think it's been to our benefit. I realized, with all the extra stress, things would never be perfect - so I relaxed and resolved to just do the best I could with the situation and materials I'd been given. Anyone who knows me well knows what a leap that was for me, lol!

At some point this week, I hope to list all of our materials, our routines, just to get it all down on "paper" for my own records. But for now, here's an overview of how the guys are doing...

J1 continues to do quite well. He's flying through pre-Algebra, I'm actually thinking about letting him accelerate a bit more. It can be hard to know when to let him push ahead and when to hold him back a bit. We'll see how next week goes, how he's feeling, and decide from there. Teaching a gifted child is such an intricate dance! He's doing pretty good in grammar, and he's really having fun and doing well in the writing assignments I've given him! We've started slowly in history, though it's still one of J1's favorite subjects and he's itching to fly. Sometimes I think I should just give him free reign in history, see what he does with it. Something to consider, definitely. He's loving his science this year, though convincing him to write neat, comprehensive lab reports is kind of a challenge. That's ok - he is just 10, after all! He's also suddenly doing really, really well in his piano lessons. If this keeps up, I'm going to have to look for an outside teacher next year - he really enjoys it, and is quite good. That's really fun for me, too, music geek that I am!

A2 is doing really, really well. Unlike his brothers, school doesn't seem to come "naturally" to him, he's a visual learner and slow to mature. But I can see a glimmer - he's finally starting to get it, he really is. He's really willing to try and work, and I just can't even begin to tell you how pleased I am with his progress so far this year. He's about 1/2 way through 100 EZ lessons, and he's finally, finally starting to really read. He isn't fluent yet, but he's actually reading the stories in 100EZ lessons with very, very little prompting from me - it is just so neat to see the light dawn with him! We've started Math-U-See with both him and S3, and at first I was concerned. A2 just didn't seem to "get" it, and given that MUS is supposed to be one of the best programs out there for visual learners, I was concerned. But, it took just two days for him to figure out what the program was asking of him, and now he's taking off. I'm so proud of him!

S3 is amazing - he just flies through his work. He is getting started on 100EZ lessons and is pretty bored - I wish I could figure out how to accelerate through that book a bit. He's almost figured out reading all on his own, he just has to make the connection between what he already knows and "sounding out" the words. Once decoding 'clicks' with S3, he'll be reading fluently - he is SO close. He LOVES Math-U-See, thinks it's the most fun thing ever and gets each lessons right away. School seems to come easily to S3, and it's great to watch him grow.

N4 is right in the thick of things - even though he's technically not even in Kindergarten yet, he's well able to handle K work and he's blazing through basic math, handwriting, and phonics. I'm about to try to start him on 100EZ lessons, because I think he might be ready. Again, school comes easily to him. He just LOVES to sit with me and work on things - he would spend hours working with me if I had the time!

We haven't really gotten off the ground with history yet, I'm tossing around some ideas in that regard - mostly that involve letting the kids just follow their interests and using a big time line to tie everything together. I'll keep you posted on what I decide - no matter what, it promises to be another great adventure!

Really, everything's going well. We have a nice, relaxed rhythm to our days, and life, despite it's stresses, is Good!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Ember Days

Now that we've been attending our traditional Latin Mass parish (run by the FSSP) for a full year, we're delving a bit more deeply into the traditional church calender. Today marks the beginning of the autumn Ember Days. These days, set aside for fasting, abstinence, and prayer, are set in the early part of each of the four seasons. Please do visit this page for an awesome summary of what Ember Days are all about:

and here is a good page with pictures, poems, and fun things to do with your kids during this autumn "Michaelmas Ember Days".

Today we'll read some autumn themed poems, draw some fall-ish pictures, and talk about how things are changing this season. I will show my kids the awesome picture over here - isn't that cool? (I wanted to insert the picture itself, but I'm having some blogger trouble - I'll try again later!) I'm also particular fascinated with the folk lore that each day of Embertide can predict the general weather of each month of the year. We are going to keep track and see if the folk tales are true this year!

I'll leave you with these words of Blessed Jacopo de Voragine (AD 1230-1298), which I found at the main Ember Days page at How wise our Saints and Blesseds are!

The fasting of the Quatretemps, called in English Ember days, the Pope Calixtus ordained them. And this fast is kept four times in the year, and for divers reasons.

For the first time, which is in March, is hot and moist. The second, in summer, is hot and dry. The third, in harvest, is cold and dry. The fourth in winter is cold and moist. Then let us fast in March which is printemps for to repress the heat of the flesh boiling, and to quench luxury or to temper it. In summer we ought to fast to the end that we chastise the burning and ardour of avarice. In harvest for to repress the drought of pride, and in winter for to chastise the coldness of untruth and of malice.

The second reason why we fast four times; for these fastings here begin in March in the first week of the Lent, to the end that vices wax dry in us, for they may not all be quenched; or because that we cast them away, and the boughs and herbs of virtues may grow in us. And in summer also, in the Whitsun week, for then cometh the Holy Ghost, and therefore we ought to be fervent and esprised in the love of the Holy Ghost. They be fasted also in September tofore Michaelmas, and these be the third fastings, because that in this time the fruits be gathered and we should render to God the fruits of good works. In December they be also, and they be the fourth fastings, and in this time the herbs die, and we ought to be mortified to the world.

The third reason is for to ensue the Jews. For the Jews fasted four times in the year, that is to wit, tofore Easter, tofore Whitsunside, tofore the setting of the tabernacle in the temple in September, and tofore the dedication of the temple in December.

The fourth reason is because the man is composed of four elements touching the body, and of three virtues or powers in his soul: that is to wit, the understanding, the will, and the mind. To this then that this fasting may attemper in us four times in the year, at each time we fast three days, to the end that the number of four may be reported to the body, and the number of three to the soul. These be the reasons of Master Beleth.

The fifth reason, as saith John Damascenus: in March and in printemps the blood groweth and augmenteth, and in summer coler, in September melancholy, and in winter phlegm. Then we fast in March for to attemper and depress the blood of concupiscence disordinate, for sanguine of his nature is full of fleshly concupiscence. In summer we fast because that coler should be lessened and refrained, of which cometh wrath. And then is he full naturally of ire. In harvest we fast for to refrain melancholy. The melancholious man naturally is cold, covetous and heavy. In winter we fast for to daunt and to make feeble the phlegm of lightness and forgetting, for such is he that is phlegmatic.

The sixth reason is for the printemps is likened to the air, the summer to fire, harvest to the earth, and the winter to water. Then we fast in March to the end that the air of pride be attempered to us. In summer the fire of concupiscence and of avarice. In September the earth of coldness and of the darkness of ignorance. In winter the water of lightness and inconstancy.

The seventh reason is because that March is reported to infancy, summer to youth, September to steadfast age and virtuous, and winter to ancienty or old age. We fast then in March that we may be in the infancy of innocency. In summer for to be young by virtue and constancy. In harvest that we may be ripe by attemperance. In winter that we may be ancient and old by prudence and honest life, or at least that we may be satisfied to God of that which in these four seasons we have offended him.

The eighth reason is of Master William of Auxerre. We fast, saith he, in these four times of the year to the end that we make amends for all that we have failed in all these four times, and they be done in three days each time, to the end that we satisfy in one day that which we have failed in a month; and that which is the fourth day, that is Wednesday, is the day in which our Lord was betrayed of Judas; and the Friday because our Lord was crucified; and the Saturday because he lay in the sepulchre, and the apostles were sore of heart and in great sorrow.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

We have one, too!

Horray? Or not!! I've been horrifically fascinated with these pictures over at Deogratias (she takes far better pictures than I do!) We live in the same general area, and since we've had lots of spiders over at our house, I was kinda wondering if we'd see one of these lovely (!?) yellow creatures here a the AAA house. Well, wonder no longer, because this is what we saw today!

While it WAS kinda cool to see this large, brilliantly colored spider build her very cool web, my feelings can be perfectly seen in the expression on my eldest son's face!

Since this spider is (so far) on the outside of our house, we will leave it in peace, and I will squelch my need for chemicals! We might even try to get outside to do some nature journaling of all the various spiders around our house this week - as long as dad's home! :-)

My monkey boy

Not to be confused with my favorite Monkey Children (and say a prayer for them while you're over there, they really need it!), but we've always referred to our #3 son as our "Monkey boy". And yes, there's a reason for that. Way back when, when he was not yet 2 1/2, we got great chuckles out of him climbing our fridge.

A couple of years ago, when we lived in an apartment, he often climbed the doorframes - I thought I had a picture of that, but can't find it, sad to say.

Now, though, he gets taller and taller every day. And of late, he has discovered, he's tall enough to do this:

Yes, S3 got almost up to the ceiling all by himself, no A2 is not holding him up, just pretending to! What an amazingly athletic child! I can't decide if it's a good thing, or a bad thing, that we've never had money for martial arts or gymanstics training! I shudder to think of what he might do with a little knowledge, lol!

Friday, September 14, 2007

My "fifth son"

My dog thinks he's one of the boys. For instance, the boys have a game where they call for a "super hug". They all come and hug me both individually and finally as a big group, before pulling apart and tumbling everywhere as they yell, "Atomic Boy Bomb!" (they are SUCH boys!) Biscuit will usually come over and try to "hug" me, too - one time actually jumping up and putting his paws on my shoulders. Very sweet! Until recently, it was kind of a joke about how much Biscuit wants to be "one of the boys" - but then I saw this picture, and I'm starting to think he really believes he's a Real Boy!

Biscuit sleeps on the couch at night, but the minute someone leaves their bed space, he crawls in their place. Used to be, when dh left for work early, the dog would wait till the garage door opened as dh left, then hop up into bed with me. Sometimes, though, if N4 has ended up in bed with mom & dad for some reason, Biscuit likes to jump into the boys' bed and sleep with S3.

The other morning, dh woke up early and took a picture of this scene in the boy's (messy) room:

The dog with his head on the pillow is just TOO funny - the sleeping boys are pretty cute, too! :-)

My studious children...

Too bad this one's blurry - J1 looks so serious as he works on his first lab report...

And my younger guys looked so cute today, all working on their handwriting at the table. Awww...

It wasn't all perfectly studious all the time around here, that's for sure, but we've had a good week. I'll try to post more details tomorrow!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Where were you??

It's 9/11 - wow! Can you believe it's been 6 years since the terrorist attacks? I just can't fathom it. We've been watching some shows on the History Channel tonight about that day. And I remember, so vividly, what it was like. I thought I'd share - and I'd love to hear what you were doing that day...

We lived in St. Paul, MN at the time, and we had 3 children under 5 years old then. When I first became aware of what was happening, I was in our dining room, feeding my children breakfast - it was oatmeal, I remember so clearly! Around 9am, my mom called me, "Have you heard? A plane flew into the World Trade Center in NYC!" I turned on the radio - the big Christian radio station in the Twin Cities - just in time to hear the second plane hit the towers. I listened to the news on the radio, and once the kids were done with breakfast, we went downstairs into our basement, where we kept our only TV. I turned on CNN, and I remember being absolutely hysterical as I watched the news coverage. I vividly remember looking at J1, my oldest, who was just 4.5 at the time (younger than my youngest now!) and I told him, "We have to pray. We have to pray really hard. You need to try to remember this, because this is just terrible and will be remembered forever. We need to pray, there's nothing else we can do." I remember A2, just 2 years old, with his big dark eyes, so aware of my stress, and S1, not quite a year old yet, being his normal, happy self. I called my dh, who at the time was a manager with a large computer firm that did computer back-ups and storage. He knew many people who were either travelling in the air or were in NYC at the time. I talked more with my mom, and called a friend here in Atlanta - her father worked in Washington DC (thankfully, he was fine). I watched the towers fall, and just cried. My husband had had a massive stroke less than 6 months earlier. He was still very sick and very weak. I remember thinking, "If it's really bad, and we have to evacuate or something - what will we do? I can't carry all 3 children by myself, and my husband can't help me - what will I do??" It was so confusing for those first few hours, as a plane hit the Pentagon, and another one went down in PA. Not knowing what would come next...It was a very vulnerable time for me, for all of us, and just such a horrific tragedy. I finally turned off the news, because the kids were so upset...And then I remember, later that day, after my dh came home, and we went outside - how quiet it was. We lived over a flight path to the airport, and with all the planes grounded, it was just so darn quiet, so eerie...

I still can't believe it happened. Can't believe it's been 6 years. My prayers are with all the victims, and the survivors, of that day. May we never forget!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Still stressed - another silly quiz!

You Are a Red Crayon

Your world is colored with bright, vivid, wild colors.
You have a deep, complex personality - and you are always expressing something about yourself.
Bold and dominant, you are a natural leader. You have an energy that is intense... and sometimes overwhelming.
Your reaction to everything tends to be strong. You are the master of love-hate relationships.

Your color wheel opposite is green. Green people are way too mellow to understand what drives your energy.

I just don't think this sounds like me, though the men in my life (dh, oldest son) say it is!

h/t Lapaz Home Learning - though she's a green, to my red, I promise to try not to "shake things up"!! :-)

Stressed out, so why not take a silly quiz? says I'm an Uber Cool High Nerd.  What are you?  Click here!

For more fun, somewhat more related to school stuff, see this: The Apostrophe Protection Society. Isn't that totally cool? (Now I *know* I'm a nerd! ;-)

h/t to my friend, Rational Jenn! Thanks for the laundry distraction, Jenn!

Friday, September 07, 2007

Poor Daisy!

Our poor pup - she was spayed on Tuesday, and is miserable with stitches and a big cone collar. She obviously feels fine, wants to jump and play and run, and is so upset that we're not letting her. A couple more days and she should be good. I had a Traumatic Childhood Moment when I was around 4, and my dog split her stitches after her surgery, so I'm a little bit extra cautious!

Our puppy's plight provided rich fodder for our paragraph writing exercise this week with J1. We started out by picking a topic. I asked questions such as: what are you interested in, what has happened lately in your life, what about the weather, or your favorite book...He immediately talked about Daisy and her cone. So, I asked him to talk about it a bit, and I wrote down the sentences for him. After we got those ideas down on paper, he put them in a somewhat more appropriate order, like this:

3. Cone is funny!
5. Daisy thinks it's a creature.
4. Biscuit is confused.
1. Daisy had to go to the vet.
2. She had to get spayed.
3. She shouldn't nip at her stitches.

Next, he took those sentences and wrote a rough draft on his own. (I made no editing corrections or suggestions to this first draft.)

"Yesterday Daisy went to the vet, I wasn't awake for it but dad brought her home today. Daisy went to the vet for surgery so she couldn't have puppies. Daisy started nipping her stitches at the vets'. They gave her a cone, it's very funny how she keeps slipping. Biscuit does not know what it is and is having trouble figuring it out. Daisy is also confused, she thinks it's a creature trying to dominate her."

Then, we talked about how it might be a stranger reading this, and they might have questions, like - who is Daisy? Who is Biscuit? What kind of cone? We also talked a bit about run-on sentences, and proper tenses, etc. I wrote for him for this last draft (he talked, I wrote - good for handwriting-challenged, yet verbal, children!), and offered a few prompts as to how to make things clearer. This is the second draft.

"Daisy is our 7 month black lab puppy. She had to go to the vet yesterday. She had to have surgery so she can't have puppies. Daisy started nipping her stitches at the vet's. They gave her a cone collar, and it's very funny how she keeps slipping over the collar. Our older dog, an English Pointer with lots of brown spots named Biscuit, is confused. He doesn't know what the cone is and is having trouble figuring it out. Daisy is also confused. She's acting like it's a creature trying to dominate her!"

Next week we'll talk about more descriptive, vivid language, and a strong opening sentence. I'll also have J1 copy it and correct his grammar and punctuation. I feel much better now that we're addressing his writing skills.

If only Daisy felt better!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

First day...

I'll post pictures soon, though probably not till this weekend!

We had a good first day. Dad got donuts to start the morning, which was a big hit. J1 admitted that it was very "relaxing" to go on a break, but it was also nice to come back and start work again. So, he's ready for school, and did quite well his first day. He flew through the first lesson in pre-algebra (a side note: I simply can't believe I'm mentioning "algebra" and my child in the same sentence!), his handwriting is, well, the same messy 10 year old boy handwriting, and his weakest subject is still English grammar (which still cracks me up, because he's one of the most verbal children I've ever met, always has been - how can he struggle with grammar when he has such a facility with the spoken language??) Our focus this year is going to be on English grammar and composition. He's at ease in all other subjects, and while he doesn't do badly in Language Arts by any means (I have him working in a 7th grade text, 2 grades "above" his age level...) he just doesn't have the ease that he does in all other subjects. My goal, in particular, this year, is to work on his writing and communication skills. As grandma and grandpa, who on rare occassions receive emails from their oldest grandson, can attest - his writing needs a bit of work, lol!

J1 was disappointed that we're not starting science and history for another week or two, so I pulled out his science books and stuff to give him a bit of a preview. Which led to the memorable quote of the day. We were looking at the equipment lists for his science experiments:

"Eye protection? That's disturbing!"

LOL! He's going to love it!

Monday, September 03, 2007

Getting Ready...

Tomorrow's the day! I'm still not ready, but that's ok. We're going to have a nice, slow, "rolling" start. This first week, a short one anyway, we'll start with Religion, Math, English (includes grammar/phonics, spelling, and composition), Handwriting, Music, and Physical Education. Next week we'll add in Latin and Science, and finally, in the third week, History. Tomorrow I'll get J1 started, the next day add in A2, then Thursday S3 will join in, and finally, on Friday, N4 will get his start.

I've pretty much got everything all set to go for J1, and a great deal of my own organizational stuff is done. I've got a very nice binder for my own school stuff, I'll post pictures tomorrow! Speaking of pictures, we took "school pictures" today.

Our students...

J1, age 10.5, "5th" grade:

A2, age 8, "2nd" grade:

S3, age 6.5, "1st" grade:

N4, age 4.5, "PreK"

I have to say - even though I am feeling pretty stressed out, and mostly unready for school this year...I just love all the organizing and planning, the excitement of the kids, the anticipation of a new year. I am so very, very happy and blessed to be able to homeschool my beautiful, wonderful children!