December 30, 2005

Home School Report

Now that Christmas is over and we are nearly finished with our "vacation" (which has consisted of Ted's being off work all week this week and working short days last week), it's time to start thinking about home school again! I decided it would be good to give ourselves a general assessment of where we are and how we are doing.

I think perhaps the most telling thing is that Charis has been begging me this week to start school again! We did a light school schedule last week--just Sonlight reading, no math or handwriting. This week, while I had thought we could go ahead and do the Sonlight reading, we have been doing so many other fun things that I decided to just skip a week completely. We've enjoyed putting together new puzzles from Christmas, reading new books (both Christmas presents and new selections from the library), playing new games as a family, and generally relaxing while the kids construct some new creation out of their various toys. So, all in all, we have still had educational experiences throughout the week--but we have not done a thing as far as continuing our "official" curriculum, and that's just fine with me!

So, here is our report card:

Charis is on lesson 28 out of 30 lessons in the Math-U-See primer book. I'm so glad I got the Alpha book when I placed our order, as it looks like we will be starting it sometime in January. However, we will be taking some time to thoroughly review what she has gone through, since it has been 2 weeks since we've done any lessons or practice pages. Plus, we kind of left off in the middle of the telling-time lesson, and she still gets the hours and minutes mixed up. There's no need to rush her through anything, especially when I think this math book was supposed to last during the whole kindergarten year! Other than a few problems with telling time, Charis can now do the following:

* Count by 2's
* Count by 5's
* Count by 10's
* Determine area of a figure by skip counting by 2's, 5's, or 10's
* Convert a numeral to tally marks and vice versa
* Determine place value--units, tens, and hundreds--and even do simple adding (no carrying yet, though!)
* Add tens and hundreds (40 + 40 = 80, 200 + 300 = 500)
* Solve for an unknown (What plus 3 equals 10?)

Her adding is coming along well. She uses the manipulatives, so it is self-correcting. This level does not get into memorizing addition facts, though she has picked some up on her own just through the practice.

So, all in all, math is coming along well. It is one of Charis' favorite things to do, and we begin our home school day by doing math. The boys both love to play with the math blocks as well, but they aren't allowed to play during Charis' lessons!

Charis is nearly finished with the kindergarten level of A Reason for Handwriting. This book focuses on one letter per day, with periodic review pages. After practicing the letter on one side of the page, Charis colors a picture on the back side that begins with the focus letter. The emphasis for this year is God's creation, and we get to read a short paragraph about whatever animal or part of nature she is coloring that day. Since Charis has previously learned to write her letters, she is going through this book faster than she would if she were starting from scratch. But I don't mind her doing a lesson every day, and I already have the next level of book when she's ready. However, the next book takes a big jump as far as the line spacing...the kindergarten book has nice, wide lines, and the next book has the lines about half the distance from top to bottom as the ones she is working on now! It seems a big jump to expect her to begin writing such small letters so soon, so I think we will do some transitional activities using practice manuscript paper before going on to the next book.

We finished Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons back in October, and I didn't start anything else after that. When we had time, I would just have Charis read some stories to me that she picked out or that I picked out for her. However, I recently purchased Phonics Pathways and just today read through the introduction and skimmed through the first part of the book to get a feel for how it is laid out. It was recommended as something to use following 100 EZ Lessons, though it will take some getting used to on my part. I plan to start at the beginning, even though it will be very elementary for Charis. But it will soon begin giving her practice with blends, and we can work as quickly or as slowly as we want to. I've noticed that since we have stopped the 100 EZ Lessons book, she can get kind of lazy with sounding out new words, instead relying on Ted or me to tell her what a word is. I'm not opposed to doing that, but there are definitely words that I think she should be able to sound out on her own! This book also introduces spelling rules and incorporates dictation exercises into the instruction. I think this will be helpful (and will double as handwriting practice), as she is into writing letters and notes (and "lists" like Mommy does!) and asks us how to spell things all the time, words that I know she would easily be able to read and can probably spell if she just takes the time to think about the sounds. So, I look forward to seeing how this will enhance her reading skills and introduce her to new concepts. She does read quite fluently, and I must confess that we are not so surprised anymore when she sits down and reads us a new library book for the first time! But proud, oh, yes!

All 3 children get pretty much the same Bible instruction every day. During breakfast we read a Bible story from a Ken Taylor book (we have several!) and discuss it. Actually, we usually read 2 stories, though we "cut back" to one story during December when we were also doing our advent calendar and daily Christmas story readings. In addition, Charis memorizes at least one verse a week for her AWANA program, and there is also a memory verse each week through the Sonlight program. We recently began a book called Right Choices, which has a reading once a week that teaches a moral choice and incorporates the memory verse. Recent concepts have included the importance of telling the truth, not stealing, and giving thanks.

Social Studies, Science, and Literature--
Sonlight's curriculum gives us the rest of the "stuff!" We have readings every day from a wonderful variety of books. We are nearly finished with the Berenstain Bears' Big Book of Science and Nature, so soon we will begin reading other science books. Likewise, we are almost finished with Usborne's delightful Things People Do book that has introduced the children to a variety of occupations. (I've even learned a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff with various careers!) Literature readings include pages from The Real Mother Goose, a Treasury of Children's Literature, a Treasury of 20th Century Children's Literature, and a Treasury of Little Golden Books. We recently started looking at pages from an art book for children, too, and that has been pretty neat. All in all, I am very pleased with the selections we have received from Sonlight! Next year I'll be going through them again with Tobin, though I will probably follow a different schedule, one that is themed each week, just so we have some variety.

Well, that's an update, for the bravehearted who were interested in our home school progress for the year!

December 26, 2005

Merry Christmas to All!

Our family enjoyed a wonderful Christmas! On Friday evening we went to the Ethel M. Chocolate Factory and Cactus Gardens for an amazing light display (about a half million lights, draped about 300 varieties of cacti...not something you see any old place at Christmas time!). It was so warm out Ted only wore short sleeves! The kids and I still wore light jackets, but it was nice to enjoy strolling about the garden without shivering. We went inside for a brief tour of the chocolate factory, but as it was past operating hours, we could only read the displays on the walls. It looks like a fun place to go back and visit, and based on the free samples we enjoyed, I'm sure we could pack away a few extra pounds if we visited too often!

Our church did not have services on Christmas Day, holding instead one service Friday evening and six--yes, SIX--services on Christmas Eve. I volunteered in the pre-school department at the 6:30 p.m. service, and Ted and the children, along with some neighbor friends from down the street, joined me for the 8 p.m. service. Ted and I had wrapped all the remaining presents Friday evening, so all we had left to do when we got the kids in bed was assemble the Radio Flyer wagon my aunt Judith sent for the kids, stuff the stockings, and set the table for breakfast.

We allowed ourselves to sleep until about 6:45 a.m. on Christmas Day, then both showered and did our quiet times while the house was still quiet! At about 8:15 we decided we were ready to wake the children up. As we don't expect they will stay asleep on Christmas morning for too many more years, we enjoyed waking them with a Merry Christmas and watching the realization dawn on their faces--yes, TODAY is CHRISTMAS!!

As has always been the tradition at my house growing up, we allowed the children to open their stockings first. Charis, in her excitement, gave her stocking a great yank, not thinking about the fact that the stocking holder just might not stay in place. So she began her day with a few tears and a couple of scratches on her chin, but that was forgotten as she discovered the goodies tucked away in her sock.

Next we enjoyed a simple breakfast with homemade crockpot applesauce and toast, followed by the final reading of our Christmas advent calendar. The kids had been looking forward to putting Baby Jesus in the manger, the final of the 25 figures on the calendar. However, now that the Big Day had arrived, Tobin found himself much more interested in the colorful packages under the tree, and it was all we could do to keep him from tearing into them. Charis and Arden took turns putting Baby Jesus in the manger, and then we handed out the presents.

We did pretty well the first few rounds, starting with Arden and taking turns watching each other unwrap gifts. Then Arden unwrapped what was probably the least expensive gift he received--a package of 3 little nerf-like balls--and he was finished! He is a ball fanatic and spent the rest of the time running around the house happily announcing, "I got football!" "I throw the ball!" and so on. So we continued in our opening, losing Tobin when he got to the Bob the Builder Leap Pad book. (Insert Bob the Builder theme music here.)
Charis, Ted and I continued unwrapping, asking the boys now and then if they were ready to join us. Tobin eventually did, and we ended up "helping" Arden unwrap his remaining presents. He did leave the balls for awhile so he could work a new puzzle, but then went right back to his running, kicking, and throwing.

Having gone through 5 Christmases with children now, we were prepared for that to happen--losing interest in unwrapping presents because of the excitement of one just opened. I remember a couple years ago I was so stressed out because Tobin was not feeling well and didn't want to open any presents at all. I've learned a lot about children since then, and I was prepared for us to open presents all day if necessary, or to not even worry about opening them. And so it was a much more enjoyable experience, and I honestly feel that I delighted more in watching the children with their new treasures than in the receiving, though I must say that I am thankful for the gifts that I did get. Still, I can't help but think that the best gift is that the children have some NEW activities, including a plethora of puzzles (ranging from 24-piece to 100-piece), books, building-type blocks, and family games. This is a lifesaver for a home schooling mother, especially with pre-schoolers to keep busy!

I just have to include this picture here--Tobin went through a lion-roaring phase back in Maryland, about the time that Ted's brother Joel and his wife Sarah were visiting us. When Joel and Sarah took a trip to Las Vegas (long before we moved here), they spent some time at MGM Grand and found this lion hat. Of course they had to get it for Tobin, who loves it even though he hasn't been on his roaring kick in awhile.

After some of the noise and excitement had waned, we popped in a new Veggie Tales DVD, The Lord of the Beans, and enjoyed watching that as our ham finished baking and the make-ahead potatoes were heating. As HUGE LOTR fans, Ted and I got many a chuckle out of the parody, and the kids seemed to enjoy the episode too, though Charis got a little upset at seeing the evil sporks. When she realized that they were simply utensils, AND that they became nice in the end, she was satisfied.

We enjoyed a wonderful dinner of ham, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, and dressing. Too bad the kids only liked the ham! Actually, Tobin did say he liked the green bean casserole, though he didn't completely finish it. Still, he was the only one to eat any! After dinner we set out for a walk with the boys in the new wagon (Charis wanted to ride her bike), only to come back when Arden threw a screaming fit because I wasn't carrying him. Ted had been pulling the wagon, and Arden seems to think that if my hands are empty, he needs to remedy that. The whole point of a walk was NOT to wear myself out carrying a toddler, so we decided that Ted should stay home and put Arden down for his nap while I went out with Charis and Tobin. The weather was sunny and beautiful, probably 65 degrees or so, and the exercise was nice.

When we returned home, I enjoyed a 2 1/2 hour nap!! Didn't think I was so tired, but obviously I was! Ted had fun with a computer game, the boys napped, and Charis colored happily in a Nativity coloring book the kids got at church on Christmas Eve. Then our neighbors down the street invited us to come over for munchies, so we headed down there to help them eat up some finger foods and enjoyed dessert and conversation as well. Before putting the kids to bed, we read the entire Advent Book, opening up ALL of the 25 doors. It put the finishing touch on the Day as we remembered together that Baby Jesus came into the world because GOD so loved us that He sent His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. [You can see Charis here with her special gift from Mom and Dad, her very own Bible!]

So, all in all, it was a very full, fun, blessed Christmas Day! We hope you all had as much of a wonderful celebration as we did.

December 22, 2005

Peace on Earth

This afternoon the children were playing outside. (Yes, outside on December 22...winter in Las Vegas is a good thing, unless one is hoping for a white Christmas!) Several times they came bursting into the kitchen to tattle on one another. I finally said, "Look, you guys need to be peacemakers. You need to learn to work things out with one another. Be kind to each other and please stop tattling!"

Awhile later I heard voices through the open window. Charis was shouting at her brothers, "You MUST have peace on earth!" I guess they are taking our words to heart! Plus, the words of the Christmas story that we've been reading daily!!

December 21, 2005

Cute Charis

A couple of cute things Charis said yesterday:

After listening to the sounds of Bing Crosby singing "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" on the radio in the van, Charis decided, "That must be Santa!" (Note that our children do not believe in Santa...I guess she decided that even though he doesn't bring us presents, he obviously records Christmas songs!)

Tobin asked, "Charis, do you want to be a princess when you grow up?"

Charis replied, "NO! A MOMMY!" (This said with a look that clearly indicated Tobin was silly for forgetting her one ambition in life!)

December 20, 2005

Christmas Is Comin'!'s been over 2 weeks since I last posted anything on here. We are past the mad whirlwind of baking, shopping, wrapping, and mailing--at least, we are for the most part--and so far this week has been a welcome change to the hectic activity of the last 2 weeks. I vow that next year I will at least finish stamping our Christmas cards by the end of November! Getting our cards out is the last major Christmas project (unless you count wrapping the children's presents, which will probably happen Christmas Eve...we don't yet trust them to leave gifts alone until the big day!), and I am working on those in small batches throughout the week. At 148 names, our mailing list just keeps getting longer with each place we move to!

One of the joys of this season has been having children old enough to remember Christmases past--their enthusiasm started the evening of Thanksgiving when we went to the Magical Forest Christmas display at Opportunity Village and hasn't waned since. We have begun two new Christmas traditions this year. The first is a special advent calendar we got from Desiring God ministries. It is burlap with velcro for placing the nativity figures on, one figure per day. It comes with a story written out that you read every day--beginning with Day 1, you read the first paragraph, then Day 2 you begin again and add the next sentence, etc. It is brief enough that the children's attention stays rapt, and they love shouting out the words of the figures we have put up on the calendar already, kind of like a fill-in-the-blank story. It's been fun to watch them progress from following my lead to following Charis (who could probably quote the whole story by now), and now the boys don't even need to wait for her before chiming in. They all, even Arden, shout out the words on cue! (Although Arden is about 2 beats behind on the more recent words, which is also very cute.) We do the calendar activity after breakfast in the mornings, and the kids always know whose turn it is to put up the day's figurine!

The other new tradition we have begun is the Advent Book. It is similar to the calendar in that the story begins from Day 1 every day, adding a new part at the end. The book has beautiful illustrations, with doors to open each day that reveal the illustration for that part of the story. The language for the storyline is beautiful and rich--taken directly from Scripture for the most part--whereas the calendar story is geared more toward young children. We gather on the couch after dinner in the evening to read in the Advent Book, and the children take turns opening the doors and turning the pages. This has become a treasured time as a family and helps us center our celebration on Christ, the reason for Christmas!

December 05, 2005

More Cute Quotes

OK, I have to type this out before I forget it, because it is too precious. I was tucking Tobin into bed for his nap (praise God, he has been doing extremely well with naps lately...I'm so glad I didn't give up!) just a little while ago. He always wants me to give him "hugs from the people," which means a hug from Mommy and Daddy, Grandma and Grandpa K, Grandma and Grandpa J, Grandma and Grandpa F (never mind that two of the grandpas are in heaven already), Uncle Joel and Auntie Sarah, Uncle John and Auntie Beth, and Uncle Clint and Auntie Ski. I've learned to say these names really fast, by the way. :-) Today we chatted a little bit more after our hug session. I asked him who loved him most of all, and he said, "God!"

"That's right! Because God made you, and He has a special plan for your life."

"Really? What is it?"

"We don't know, sweetie! We just have to wait and see what God wants to do in your life."

He gasped, and his eyes got very big. "Is it a surprise?!"

I laughed. "Yes, I guess you could say it is!"


Another cute thing said recently, but I forgot until I was typing out all the names above...this one is a Charis quote. We were making Christmas presents for her to give to the grandmas, and she said she wanted to make one for Grandpa K. I told her that was fine, but to be aware that our materials were not going to last if she wanted to make a present for EVERYONE she knows. (I could just see her wanting to make something for everyone on our mailing list.) She said, "I know, 'cuz Grandpa J and Grandpa F are in heaven."

Then she thought a minute. "Is Grandpa K going to heaven soon?" I guess she thought that because 2 grandpas (Ted's dad and grandpa) are in heaven already, obviously the other grandpa may be headed there soon, too!

At any rate, how does one answer this?! "I hope not?" The children know we look forward to being with Jesus and our loved ones in heaven some day, but I'm not ready to lose my dad yet! I don't exactly remember what I told her, but I think it was along the lines of God knows, and we don't, so let's not worry about it!!

December 02, 2005

Kid Funnies

I've been wanting to start a notebook with cute things the kids say, but it hasn't happened yet. I thought I'd share a few funnies that have come out of the kids' mouths over the last few days...

Ted, looking at a painting Charis did of our family in which the Daddy figure has three long strands of hair sticking up from his head, observes, "Oh, my, it looks like Daddy has a red mohawk."

Charis, who has no idea what a mohawk is, corrects him: "No, it's orange like Mommy's."

Driving in unfamiliar territory, I spot a Cheesecake Factory. When I murmer "Oh, yum," Tobin asks me what I'm saying. "Oh, I just saw one of my favorite restaurants."

He gasps. "Burger King?!" OK, just 'cuz it makes your top 3 list doesn't mean it's even ON my list of favorites, Sweetie! I think Tobin is just enamoured with the paper crowns he can get from BK.

Wednesday evening Arden had a cold, and I didn't want to put him in the nursery. I took him to the service with me (Ted just started helping with the youth group on Wednesdays), and he was awed by the church experience. I don't believe he has ever been in a service, other than when he was a newborn, and he was fascinated with the music and lights. When the music began, however, he turned to me and said with a very concerned look, "LOUD!" Is this really Ted's son?!

He was also interested in the lights--when they would dim, he would shout, "Lights off!" When they came back up, he informed us, "Lights on!"

The last song we sang, which was during communion, repeated the chorus several times. By now Arden had gotten the hang of things, and with each repetition he looked at me and grinned, "Do it again!" Yup, kiddo, we will do this again several times before all is said and done! Probably more times than your Grandpa K would like, but hey, we're worshipping here!

Last night I took the older 2 kids to a friend's house for a gingerbread-house decorating party. I've never made one before, and I was very excited to share this new experience with the kids. Tobin and Charis had "helped" (or at least watched with oohs and aahs) as I "glued" the house together the day before, and I had been prepping them for our decorating party by explaining what we would be doing. However, at Julie's house Tobin was off in his own little world. I pulled him aside and asked him, "Aren't you going to help us decorate our house?"


"Then why did I bring you?"

His absolutely serious reply: "So I could eat candy!"

And eat candy he did...when he realized Mom was no longer allowing goodies, he discovered the plates in the kitchen with various treats we all brought to share for the decorating. Who knows HOW much sugar the child consumed when I wasn't looking!!

I'll post a picture of our masterpiece after I get around to taking one. It turned out very nice, and Charis at least had a grand time helping me. :-)

December 01, 2005

Encouragement from Paul

A couple of days ago I read 1 Timothy 5-6 as part of my devotions. The Bible reading program Ted and I use goes through the Scriptures in one year, with the New Testament repeated. I remember back in May or June stumbling across a verse that was very encouraging and sort of forgot about it until I read it again this time.

It's funny how you can read something numerous times and it won't strike you until you are in a different life phase or circumstance. Such is the case with this verse, 1 Tim. 5:10. The context involves exhortations and advice written by Paul to Timothy regarding widows, elders, and slaves--so no wonder I didn't exactly jump on this in my younger days. :-) If you back up to verse 9, actually, here is what the NIV says: "No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband, and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the saints, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds" (emphasis added).

Did you catch that?! Bringing up children is a good deed! And it's at the top of the list!!

Never mind the fact that I'm not a widow--this passage speaks to me loudly and clearly. I am doing what God wants me to do: I am being faithful to my husband and bringing up children. If, like me, you have days when you wonder how your life can possibly matter when all it seems to consist of is laundry, groceries, and whining, take heart! You are doing a good thing...WE are doing a good thing!