January 27, 2008

First Lost Tooth!

Ciaran lost his first tooth tonight. Serona helped him pull it out - he was very excited.

Diving Into American History and Geography

We have been studying history chronologically since prehistoric times. I recently realized we were having a problem. Ciaran is in 1st grade and Rhiannon in 3rd. I placed him with us starting history this year in Story of the World Vol 3. - the problem is it isn't as interesting as prehistoric, Egypt and Rome. Since he had missed out on a lot of the interesting time - he was finding it hard to join in. When we got to the colonies and anything American history related he was suddenly interested so we adapted. I have paused our Story of the World probably for the reminder of the year.

Rhiannon has now had chronologically world history up into the mid 1700's. Now we are going to study American history for the rest of year then pick up next year with Rhiannon in the middle of vol 3 world history and start Ciaran and Sirah together in Story of the World Vol 1

The kids are LOVING the American Revolution. We are reading "Why America is Free" as a spine and filling in with a ton of library books, both fiction and non-fiction from and about the time period. We will continue at a pace the kids want moving as slow or quickly through a topic as we need.

I am continuing our US geography by learning the states, capitols and interesting facts about them. We do this in a simple yet engaging way. We print out maps of regions, the US and then each individual state. We begin by reading about the state in our Time for Learning States book. In addition, when available from the library (so far each state has been she reads the corresponding state book from the series Welcome to the U.S.A. These books are filled with interesting, silly, fun and useful facts and pictures from the state. They are easy to read with good pictures and follow a relatively consistent format. They really enjoy them and looks forward to this part of our lessons.

As they read them they keep pausing to share interesting facts like how many times you can make it to the moon and back with the oranges grown in Florida or carpet made in Georgia. Then they find the state on their regional map (less states to choose from and more room for writing than a plain US map) and write the state abbreviation on it. I have agreed to write the capitol for them but they need to find it in the book and spell it for me. After the capitol and state are written they need to draw or write several facts from the state. For example for Florida Rhia drew a picture of an orange, mickey mouse ears, a rocket and manatees. In Georgia she drew peanuts, carpet and a mud hole (for the games described in her book). In Kentucky she drew horses and mammoth cave. Now when she looks at her sheet she can jog her memory about what that state is known for as well as the state name and capitol.

After they finish the regional map they need to find the state on the US map and color it in. We also discuss if someone we know lives there or has lived there. On the individual state map we paste printouts of the state flower, map, bird, fish, tree and sometimes other interesting facts from the state. We also mark the capitol and any relatives or friends that live in the areas.

We are working through one region at a time. This allows us to focus on one regional map at a time and that area of the bigger US map. My plan is to discuss the region as a whole when we complete each state in a region, then we can compare and contrast the states from each other and from where we live and see if any of the interesting facts had similarities. Then after we complete two regions we can compare and contrast these regions.

In addition to the books sometimes we may look at other resources about states such as 50States.com and Enchanted Learning State Resources. This is easy and fun and offers a real visual tool in the end to jog our memories. You could make it easier for other children by just picking something yourself to have them draw to remind them of the state. Though I do think if you have readers that making them read and discover it themselves has more impact.

This parallels the American history study nicely and so far we are all enjoying history and geography this way. Part of me wishes we had started the beginning of the year with it so we had more time - we may just continue through the summer or into next year to complete the study as well.

January 19, 2008

Forecast - COLD

Don't you wish you lived here - the forecast from now until midnight

Mostly Sunny
-13°F 10% -15°F 44% From W 9 mph
Mostly Sunny
-13°F 0% -16°F 44% From W 8 mph
Sunset 5:03 pm
Mostly Clear
-13°F 0% -16°F 47% From W 7 mph
Mostly Clear
-14°F 0% -16°F 49% From W 7 mph
-16°F 0% -15°F 56% From W 7 mph
-14°F 0% -14°F 56% From W 6 mph
-17°F 0% -14°F 59% From W 6 mph
-15°F 0% -14°F 59% From W 5 mph
Sun, January 20
-17°F 0% -15°F 59% From W 5 mph

January 16, 2008

Recent Roundup

I am out of the blogging groove lately. I am having to make a lot of changes here and that has kept us busy. We are also enjoying all our new games and toys etc.

Today we played board games for most of the day. Ciaran beat me and everyone else at Star Wars chess. We played Leaping Frogs, Blokus, The Ladybug game, and a new family favorite Triple Triumph.

We also spent some good time reading together and some history. It was a much needed relaxing and reconnecting day. Sirah even beat everyone at Wii bowling while I made dinner. Believe it or not Rhiannon left the Wii game to come help me cook - that was nice. We also had an interesting discussion about what spies do.

The kids have had a recent interest in all things Ancient Egypt again, especially as it relates to King Tut. Ciaran asked if we could take a family field trip to Dallas to see the King Tut exhibit when it is there. Sirah said it would be more fun to go to Cairo! Yes, yes it would. Unfortunately neither is likely. When I asked for field trip ideas for this winter and spring Rhia shared that she wanted to go to Mt. Rushmore and the caves out there. When I raised an eyebrow she said "What, I was going to say London, but I thought you would say no." Help us as we raise children who want to travel :)

We had a great school day yesterday when I let them each pick a non-fiction book they wanted to learn about and share with one another. Sirah picked up a geography book and asked to learn about Oceania (New Zealand and Australia area). That was fun because we just had dinner guests over the week before who spent the past year in New Zealand.

Rhiannon picked up our Ancient Egypt book (big surprise) and we read the story of the founding of King Tut's tomb and some of the transitional tombs of other famous pharoahs as well as the embalming process. This is particularly interesting seeing as how she could not handle hearing, seeing or reading anything remotely related to mummies, death, etc just a year ago - now she is fascinated.

Ciaran chose the human body book (also not surprising) and picked the chapter on the skeletal system. I got to make a living science example when we discussed the bones, spine and nerves. Was able to explain to the kids just what is going on with me now and we had fun feeling and finding all the different bones in our body.

Then the kids had to write/draw on the chalkboard things they remembered from each lesson. Today as part of art they had to paint or draw pictures related to our topics. The kids really enjoyed the discussions and reading time. I think I will incorporate that atleast once a week into our curriculum. The freedom of choice and sharing that with others made it more interesting and personal and fun.

We are bracing ourselves for a very cold few weeks coming up. A reminder we do indeed live in Minnesota. Driving to my prayer group yesterday I realized gloves were not optional - I could not hold the steering wheel without them it was so cold (and my car was in a garage overnight). It is what we call nosehair cold. When you walk outside the nosehair freezes. And we have not seen the worst of it yet. The temps are heading to teens BELOW zero BEFORE windchills and expected to stay that way until the end of the month. Lovely. The only thing that can make it better - yes we are in fact going to get some snow that we get to shovel in that chill.

Ciaran's snowboarding lessons are simply going to have to wait an extra few weeks I think. We want him to enjoy the sport after all, not have only freezing memories of it. Ciaran and Rhiannon are enjoying basketball right now. They are both able to play because the time is the same night at the same location - wonderful when that works out.

Stay warm,

January 7, 2008

January 3, 2008

2007 Year in Review

It't that time of year again for an annual recap of this year. It was a fun year filled with a lot of enjoyable events and memories.

We begin in January with Serona's birthday which of course involved wine. Our new homeschool cooperative classes began. Rhiannon and a friend created a fairy book.
Field trips this month included: the The Physics Circus, a visit to the Science Museum for the Vikings display , a tour of a bread company and a whole foods cooperative store, a homeschool sledding day and a trip to Pump It Up.

February was filled with a typical Minnesota nosehair chill and little snow that kept us indoors for much of it. We played a lot of board games, Sirah informed us that she has 22 babies in her heart, and Ciaran shared his personal talents. Rhiannon and I snuck away for a Mother Daughter Retreat during one of the big snowstorms. We experimented with YouTube schooling in addition to our normal coursework. Field trips this month include: Laura Ingalls Wilder class, High School Musical play, police station tour, maple syruping class and an annual favorite Mall of America Scavenger Hunt.

We started March with a big snowstorm and my homeschool moms retreat. Here are some samples of the months artwork from Rhiannon, Sirah, and Ciaran. I used a lot of web resources to supplement curriculm. We began nature walks and study and wrote my history in Five Year Glimpses. Serona and I hosted a We celebrated Ciaran’s birthday with a Board Game Party. Field Trips this month included: a day at the MN capitol with other homeschoolers, pump it up, feed my starving children and a visit to the planetarium.

We entered April with more freezing 4 degree windchill MN weather and ended with a spontaneous family camping trip that included the infamous 8 mile walk we accidentally made the kids take. In between my life was filled with Easter and all our family Easter traditionsforts and bugs, trees, reading, and lots of other random facts I learn in a day. Field trips this month included: the MN history center to study immigration, an arboretum class on botany, Feed my Starving Children, Fort Snelling and a few Lowry Nature Center classes.

May is one of my favorite months in Minnesota as the weather is beautiful and the bugs have not yet arrived. We typically finish school within the first two weeks and this year we finished on May 11th the second Friday of May!!! Hooray. The day before was a joyous one for Ciaran as the first toad of the season was found. Mothers day was a very special day as we planted trees together, I blogged about my Mother and .my other mothers. May was a service month for our family. Rhiannon donated her hair to Locks of Love. We created and mailed care packages for the soldiers, and our last Feed my starving children for a few months. The kids participated in their first ever spelling bee and we began our Young Nature Explorers summer group. Field trips this month included: railroad museum, como zoo, gale woods farm, the arboretum and lowry nature center classes.
The month ended with the 30 year anniversary of Star Wars, a perfect weekend and my 33rd birthday.

The summer takes a more laid back and fun rhythm for us. We had a wealth of beach days and days to explore the parks and nature, our young nature explorers group continued strong. We played in our yard and with friends, went to the pool and the beach frequently and just relaxed and enjoyed ourselves. We also took up geocaching as a family. This was the main rhythm of the months of June –August (and even some of May) for us.

June also saw a lovely tea party with Sirah. I wrote all about my father. Grandma joined us on a nature walk and found the first frogs of the season. I took a knitting class to learn how to knit socks and have not stopped yet. The end of June saw an extended visit from grandma and grandpa from Maine who watched the kids as Serona and I headed to IRELAND to celebrate our 10 year anniversary.

Ireland was amazing. I have always wanted to go and it lived up to the expectations and hopes I had for it. I would love to go back and explore all the places we did not get to see. Serona surprised me on Valentines Day sharing with me that he was taking me to Ireland in the summer. I was so excited! I was also thankful to have some time to plan as I knew our time there would be limited. Our time there was wonderful! It was great to be away with just Serona for such a long time for the first time since we had children. And to such a beautiful albeit rainy place. If you are interested in hearing much more about our visit to Ireland you can read all the lengthy blog posts I wrote about our time in rainy Dublin, exploring the history of Dublin together (including seeing the Book of Kells), New Grange and Knowth, the abbeys and high crosses, travelling the country by car, the Aran Island of Inishmore, Galway, and hear more about why I love to travel. Ireland was obviously the highlight of the year for me as it was a place I always wanted to visit and we loved every minute of our time there. In case you are wondering the kids loved being with grandma and grandpa too. Rhiannon said it was one of the best weeks of her life.

Coming back to reality we continued with our summer rhythm with the month of July – now with unwelcome Minnesota visitors. This fourth of July we took some time to reflect. We played some new fun water games, began Weight Watchers together. We celebrated Rhiannon’s 8th birthday with a day at the Mall of America and a gift of horse back riding lessons.

August rounded out our summer nicely. We continued with the beach, nature hikes, horseback riding and had a garage sale in order to purchase a GPS unit so we could begin geocaching. I wrote up a review about some of my special retreat places. The kids surprised me by asking if they could start school soon. I laid out our third grade and first grade curriculum for the upcoming school year and I reluctantly began homeschooling the last week of August (I usually wait until mid to end of September) and got ready to start another semester of book recording. Serona spent three weeks in Asia visiting China and Japan for work. The highlights of the month were celebrating Sirah’s 4th birthday and having a dress up tea party with her little friends. Rhiannon and I also took a short trip away with one of her good friends and her mother to visit Plum Creek. We waded in Plum Creek right by Laura’s sod house, we stayed in a sod house (not the original one) and spent hours in the museum and small building exhibits the town had to offer. We had a great time running through the tall prairie grass, waking to birds and experiencing just a glimpse of what Laura’s life might have been like. . The four of us had a wonderful time all dressed up and enjoying the time together. It was really cool to stand where she stood and have that connection with history.

September is my second favorite month in Minnesota. The bugs are dying and the weather is still lovely, the trees change color and it is the perfect time to be outdoors. Since the kids had us start school early this year we went into full swing school with the following field trips: Canterbury horse race track, Theodore Wirth park and quaking bog, apple orchard, feed my starving children Alexander and the terrible horrible no good very bad day play. Serona and Ciaran took a boys camping trip and had a great time. We had our annual homeschool coop kickoff picnic, a favorite event. Serona and I hosted a couples wine tasting. Serona’s sister and her youngest son came out for a wonderful week long visit. The month saw us enjoy some fun lesson moments and read the Giving Tree to very mixed results from our kids. Homeschool coop started up again. This semester I am teaching a nature notebook class and a Star Wars Character study class. The younger two continue in Five in a row style and Rhiannon took classes in K’nex engineering, cooking, and a class about the ocean. We continued to be outside as much as possible knowing what was coming all too soon in Minnesota.

October was a very busy month for our family. The month opened with the start of a new moms prayer and encouragement group with some lovely ladies, our homeschool family bonfire, a field trip to a clay and pottery studio, and a tour of the fire department. Then I headed to California to visit my brother, his wife and my new niece. Being in sunny California, walking on Laguna beach and seeing my cousins and brothers was wonderful. It was a fun getaway and enjoyable to get some last sunny and 75 degree days in. Serona and the kids enjoyed being together, daddy school and all the things they did together, including these amazing pumpkins. I arrived home and my parents arrived nearly immediately after I returned for a lovely two week stay. They helped out at Feed my Starving children, apple cider class and horseback riding. We enjoyed being all together and the fun things we did including the zoo and of course the Mall of America rides. After they left the month was nearly over, Serona and I hosted a Star wars trivia night for my coop class that was fun and we went to a professional unicyclist show.

November seemed to come and go in a flash. Serona went paintballing for the first time and recovered just in time for his big week long conference in California. The kids and I went to the Raptor Center, probably Sirah’s favorite field trip this year since she loves owls so much. The kids had their annual testing and we went to visit some friends about an hour away. Spent a quiet Thanksgiving at home with just us and went on a tour of a local Christian radio station. Our house started to have “issues”, a new range microwave, garage door and opener, and water heater and car repairs – lets just say it wasn’t a cheap month. In addition I had some testing and began physical therapy for some back, leg and foot problems I had been having since September. I have a pinched nerve but am on the road to recovery. Rhiannon had a major highlight this month as she rode in her first ever horseback riding show. She took third place in both of her classes and seemed to really enjoy the experience. Horseback riding is a hit and here to stay for her. Sirah also had a big month as she began reading this month. We have started Bob books with her at her request and she is doing wonderfully. Ciaran also had a memorable moment this month.

The year ended with December and two plays, Serona and Sirah went to see Madeline and the kids and I saw Frog and Toad all Year – both were hits all around. We began a two month long series of field trips learning about different pieces of art and spent an afternoon at the art museum. I updated our family bio on our blog and the kids enjoyed lots of playdates in the snow with friends as I went from doctor to PT appointments. We headed to Maine a week before Christmas for a wonderful 16 day vacation to end up our year. The time in Maine has been awesome. Christmas was special with the grandparents and I surprised the family with a Wii. Our days have been filled with snow boarding and sledding, family games and movies, relaxing with the grandparents and playing some Wii.

Quite a year filled with lots of good memories and moments. If you made it this long thanks for reading. Hope you and your families have a wonderful new year filled with the memories and moments that are important to you. Hug your kids, read to them and treasure all these moments as you make memories for years to come.