November 20, 2006

Preparing for Thanksgiving

This year, getting ready for Thanksgiving has been really fun with the kids. I had checked out some books from the library weeks ago so we'd have them on hand for reading the week before Thanksgiving (and we just picked up a few more on Saturday to have for this week). One of the books depicted a class of kids getting ready for the Thanksgiving play. Each child had the role of a character from the first Thanksgiving, so it was a good introduction to Pilgrims and American Indians. Charis and Tobin remembered quite a bit from the Magic Tree House book Thanksgiving on Thursday that we read a couple of months ago, so that was good to be able to refer to as well.

Anyway, some of the children in this particular book were sporting paper sack vests and headbands for the Indian costumes, and we unanimously decided that we wanted to make them, too! My children have no idea what "Indian designs" look'll notice that Charis's vest has a princess drawn on one side of it, and both boys just colored random splotches on theirs. But they had a grand time decorating them and wearing them throughout the week. My camera batteries were dead on the day we actually made them (last Monday), so this picture was taken at the end of the week. The costumes held up surprisingly well, considering! Tobin refused to put his vest on for us, but, as you can see, Snuggle Bear is making a cameo appearance with his own Indian outfit, custom-made by Charis.

Another good book we read was called Across the Wide, Dark Sea, about the voyage of the Mayflower. The illustrations were beautiful, and I love how the author (Jean Van Leeuwen) made the story generic in one sense by using no people names to demonstrate that it could have been one of any number of journeys to America, yet the details were so rich that one could easily imagine it to have happened just as she wrote.

This week I look forward to reading the other books we checked out on Saturday. I also plan to have our whole family work on memorizing Psalm 100, and we'll learn some songs about thankfulness. When I was a resident assistant at Cedarville, our RD, Miss Taylor, taught the RAs lots of Bible verse songs, so one of the songs we'll do is the verse "In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."

We'll also continue a family tradition that we started last year, though we're changing it just a bit this year. Last year we cut out colorful leaves and wrote different things we were thankful for each night at supper and decorated our pantry door with leaves. This year we're using apples instead of leaves--much easier to cut out! I'm hoping we'll be able to get some butcher paper to make a tree for the apples to "hang" on! We look forward to doing this with Ted's family as we celebrate the season of gratefulness.

Spelling Bee

The home school co-op spelling bee was last Thursday. I was so proud of Charis! I thought she would be nervous and shy, but not when she found out she got to go on stage and talk into a microphone! Ironic that she enjoys the spotlight but sometimes has a hard time talking with other people!

She was in the first group to go. There was one first grader (Charis), 3 second graders, and 2 third graders (or maybe the other way around). Charis went through three rounds and was not the first one to sit down. The word she missed was one she knew, but, like most of the children who made mistakes, she was rushing ahead and skipped a letter. "G-V-E" instead of "GAVE." Nevertheless, I was proud of her, and she had a great time on stage. I thought it was cute that as kids had to leave the stage, a mom was in the front row handing out cookies to take their minds off their sadness! :-)

Tobin and Arden were great in the audience. Tobin camped out on the floor to color and looked up now and then to cheer for Charis out loud ("Go, Charis!"). I loved seeing him support his sister, even though he probably didn't really understand what was going on. Arden also did well, going from floor to my lap and clapping along with everyone else.

We watched the next two groups of contestants--a whole group of fourth graders by themselves, and then a combined fifth and sixth grade group. Each child got words from his or her own spelling list, so they were not competing against children in a different grade even if they were on the stage at the same time.

When it was all over, each child received a certificate of participation, and, because she was the only first grade participant, Charis got a $10 gift certificate to Barnes & Noble by default! She of course was thrilled, and so was I. A great excuse to go to the bookstore!

November 13, 2006

It's a...

GIRL! We're having a girl!

On Saturday our family drove to the other side of town for a "gender-guaranteed" ultrasound. A friend had recommended this guy who has worked in the medical field before and now does ultrasounds as a little side business. He was very nice and gave us quite a good discount because he found out that Ted is active duty. We also got a nice 12-minute DVD and VHS recording of the images, plus lots of great picture printouts that came out much better than the ones from base.

Funny thing is, Ted and I weren't surprised at all by the news. We knew from the beginning that this baby had to be a girl. Charis, though, had a glow on her face all day long. She's finally getting her baby sister!

Earlier that morning I had asked the children what they thought our baby was, a boy or a girl. Tobin gave the cutest answer: "I think she's a cute little baby girl!"

Tobin's Prayer

A few mornings ago Tobin offered this prayer at the breakfast table. I hurried to write it down as soon as he said amen because I thought it was so cute!

"Dear God,
Thank you that you made everything that you wanted to make.
Thank you that you will kill Satan by putting him in the fiery furnace.
Thank you that you love us so, so, so, so, so much.
Thank you that you made everything that you made very, very, very good.

Arden's Learning, Too

Each Monday we learn a new Bible verse in our home school that corresponds with one of the "21 Rules of Our House" that I mentioned in an earlier post. A couple of weeks ago our verse was 1 Corinthians 13:4, "Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud." Throughout the week, I had, as usual, many opportunities to reinforce the concepts as the children interacted with one another. "Remember, our verse says that love is PATIENT, love is KIND..."

Well. One evening the children were supposed to be cleaning up. Tobin was "helping" Arden make sure to clean instead of play and took a ball away from him. Arden was NOT happy. He shouted, "TO-BIN! Our verse says, 'Be kind, and PLAY WITH THE BALL!!!'"

At least he's hearing some of the stuff I say!

November 06, 2006

Home School Update

Last week's theme was Food & Nutrition. The kids loved all the books we got from the library. I think a favorite was The Edible Pyramid, which was a fun and easy way to introduce them to the food pyramid. Charis and I started a food journal, in which she wrote down everything she ate for all meals and snacks, and then we tallied how many servings from each part of the pyramid she ate. As I type this, I'm remembering that we probably only did about 2 or 3 days' worth instead of 5, the number of sheets I had printed out. But I guess the days don't have to be consecutive, and she had a great time filling out her chart the times we did it.

Charis began subtraction a couple of weeks ago and is doing very well with it. In fact, I've been surprised at how quickly she has picked up on the concept, and I think I've only found one mistake in all the math pages she has done in two weeks--and that was a story problem for which she switched two numbers. She got the correct answer for the problem she did, though! It makes me feel reassured that we aren't going too fast...she's about 2/3 of the way through the 1st grade math book. As long as she's comfortable with what we're covering, I guess I'll let her keep plowing ahead!

And speaking of which, she is on the last book that I have of the Bobbsey twin series (book 10). She has decided she wants to be a detective and has been on the hunt for mysteries to solve. ;-) She and her friend Hannah "found a mystery" just yesterday, in fact...they discovered the door to the garage on the side of our house. They didn't know it went to the garage, so they had to investigate. Charis proudly announced that they had "solved" a mystery when Sarah and I returned home from a ministry brunch!

Charis decided that she does want to participate in our home school co-op's spelling bee on November 16. I was a little leery about it, knowing how shy she is, but when she seemed eager to do it, I decided that we'd go ahead and sign up for it. The worst that can happen is that she'll chicken out and simply watch other kids participate. In the meantime, we're practicing with the words on her spelling lists, and I think it will be a great experience for her. There are only a small handful of 1st graders participating, so hopefully she'll have the confidence to get up there and do her thing! For me, this is more about the "performance"/public speaking aspect than the spelling...I don't really care how she does with the words themselves! I think she's a pretty good little speller, and I wouldn't be surprised if she does very well. I'm just happy she's willing (at least now) to prepare to spell words in front of other people!

Tobin is nearly finished with his reading lessons from the 100 EZ Lessons book. He continues to improve his fluency and enjoys reading to himself now. He seems to be ready for some more structured handwriting practice, so I plan to order a book for him soon. He's taken some practice sheets and written his own little sentences, such as "I love Momme" and "I love God." When I saw what he had done on his own, of his own free will, I thought, yeah, this kid is ready to learn how to write! I haven't wanted to push it, since he only seemed to want to write his name for a really long time and I could tell that his motor skills weren't where Charis's were at that age--though he's an amazing color-er! :-) I'm excited to have him do the kindergarten handwriting book that Charis did last year. I know he'll love it--it has pictures to color in addition to what I think will be just the right amount of writing practice for each lesson.

I guess those are the highlights of what we've been doing in school lately. The kids are doing very well with the routine, and I'm thankful for that. It has been a very enjoyable year so far, and I look forward to more fun times cuddling on the couch and reading as we get into more read-alouds. (We're over halfway through The Little House in the Big Woods!)

Autumn Activities

I won't spend as much time on this post as I did on the last one, but I'll share a few activities we've done since I last wrote.

October 28 was a squadron BBQ, and the kids were encouraged to dress up. Since we were planning to take our kids to King's Faire, a huge event at our church, that night, we decided it would work for us to take them to base, enjoy the picnic and activities, and head straight to church from there...all of which made for a VERY long day! But we loved it. Charis wore her cowgirl outfit that she purchased with a birthday gift card; Tobin wore the knight costume that Arden got for his birthday; and Arden wore the pirate costume that he got for his birthday. The boys had great fun wielding their swords and showing off for the other kids who were there. The kids all enjoyed some games and--their favorite--a pinata, and we came home with little goodie bags for each of them.

Then we drove to church, arriving about 10 minutes before King's Faire opened, which was perfect. The kids did a few of the bounce houses before we discovered the pre-school only section. My friend Sarah and I hung out with our pre-schoolers while Ted took Charis and Hannah to do something else, since they had passed the age 5 limit for the other area. Oh, my, did the kids enjoy their play time! King's Faire was much bigger than I had anticipated, even though I expected great things, having been told that last year's turnout was about 10,000 people. This year I believe the number was well over 11,000. We ate dinner there and got loaded with giant bags of candy for each kid, then headed home at 6:30 and put the kiddos straight to bed. They were exhausted!

The next day we drove in the late afternoon to Spring Mountain Ranch to see Civil War Days. We JUST missed one of the battle reenactments, which was sorely disappointing, as the next one wasn't due to start until 6 p.m. We wandered around the little village areas and the Union Army camp, but it wasn't as exciting as it would have been if we had been able to see the battle beforehand. Ted and I decided it was just not worth hanging out for so long to see a battle that wouldn't start for several hours, especially since the kids had had such a big day before. So we went home, ordered pizza, and enjoyed a movie night (Over the Hedge).

This year, we decided (officially) that our family will not "do" Halloween. I have fond memories of dressing up and trick or treating, but these days the decorations and costumes seem much less innocent than I remember. I'm all for kids dressing up and enjoying their costumes, but it always seems there are so many other opportunities for them to do this outside of Halloween. Not to mention we got a truckload of candy from the squadron BBQ and King's Faire. :-) This is, of course, not to say participating in Halloween is necessarily right or wrong--just a choice that Ted and I have made for our own family.

So on the evening of October 31 we headed for Coldstone Creamery to use Charis and Arden's birthday coupons. The Coldstone Creations that they were able to get for free were so huge that Charis and Arden shared a strawberry shortcake kind of concoction, while Tobin and I shared a mint Oreo fudge bowl of goodness. Ted got his own ice cream for 50% off, so we all enjoyed a calorie-laden splurge for a grand total of $2.25.

I guess the only other autumn activity I can think of is that we've visited the orchard a few times to gather apples for homemade applesauce and apple cake. More yummy treats! The weather has been great, and we're trying to get out and enjoy it as much as we can.