Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Nature Scavenger Hunt

My friend Michele organized a Nature Scavenger Hunt today at a local park. She emailed us all a list of things to look for, such as wild iris shoots, a female cardinal, a wooden cow near a fence, Canada geese, and much much more.

We met today at 2pm. The weather was SUPPOSED to be around 50 and sunny, but was instead about 44, mostly overcast, and quite windy. Brrr!

But we had a great time walking the mile loop around the large pond (lake?) and looking at all the things God placed around us today.

I didn't get too many pictures during the hunt as I was busy making sure no one got too close to the edge of the water, but here are a few pictures of afterwards. (None of Suzy as her group was the last one back.)

[Edited 4-20-09 - I get a lot of hits on this post and I wonder if people are here looking for a list of things to find. So, I thought I'd add the list of items we hunted for. Of course, you'll have to modify this list to fit the time of year and your geographical area, but this could be a good starting point for you. All of these could be seen in SE Michigan in March. PLEASE - if this list helps you, would you leave a comment?

Just check off what you find. leave no trace, and please don't disturb nature: blooming pussy willow's, a nest as big as your fist, a nest as big as a soup pot, a dried up-dead... red oak leaf, a dried up-dead white oak leaf, wild iris (green shoots-no flowers yet), 25 canada geese, cattail with insides bursting out!, turtle on a log, a wooden cow near a fence, a blue jay, a red winged black bird, a male cardinal, a female cardinal, a male robin (has a yellow beak and yellow ring around his eye, a canada goose sitting on top of a nest, a grey squirrel, a dead carp, a birch tree, moss growing on the North side of a rock, lichen on a log, lichen on a tree, a rock shaped like a triangle, a duck, a sea gull, a dried out milkweed pod, a dried out picky thistle plant, a cumulous cloud, BONUS: a bird making a nest]

Monday, March 30, 2009

Simple Woman's Daybook - March 30

For Today... March 30, 2009

Outside my window... SNOW! Ack! Isn't it almost April?

I am thinking... about how books can be changed so drastically when they are made into movies. Recent examples are North and South, Jane Eyre and Mr. Midshipman Hornblower (Horatio Hornblower). The stories are recognizable but details and characters have been transformed, deleted, added, and just generally messed around with! If I were the author....

From the learning rooms... Back to the IEW writing and penmanship that we took a break from last month in order to focus on finishing the kids' NaNoNovels.

I am thankful for... the great time I had over the weekend with my parents and siblings and how wonderful it is that we can make Sister Weekend an annual event that everyone looks forward to!

From the kitchen... Over the weekend, I ate some yummy things OTHER people made - a great cheese omelet (thanks, Dad!), some delicious chocolate cake (Janet?), coffee cake (Janet?), yummy yummy fruit salad (wonderful, Mom!), a great breakfast burrito at the restaurant (the name of which I have forgotten already), and more more more! I ate like a piggie over the weekend, but today I'm back to counting calories.

I am wearing... the same jeans I wore yesterday, a navy t-shirt under a long-sleeved red v-neck I bought at the thrift store on Friday, white socks, black slippers, wet hair, no makeup.

I am reading... Reading Daniel Deronda by George Eliot for book club. Listening to A Thousand Splendid Suns (Khaled Hosseini) on audiobook. Also slowly perusing a book on 100 great vacations around the world. Going to start reading The Great Brain or maybe A Bear Called Paddington to the kids at lunchtime.

I am hoping... that I can work it out to go scrapbooking this weekend, but chances aren't good.

I am creating... I don't feel very creative.

I am hearing... Bob and the girls talking in the kitchen about their seedlings.

Around the house... The seeds the girls planted at their Keepers at Home meeting almost two weeks ago are peeking their tiny green heads out of the potting soil! They are excited! (the girls, not the seedlings) Also, a new hutch my sister gave me because she is moving. She and I and her husband squished it into my van and David is going to help me get it set up today in the dining room.

One of my favorite things... listening to audiobooks while I am driving or doing some other mindless task. It's odd because I never used to like to listen to audiobooks - not sure if I just matured or if I didn't have anything good to listen to before or what. lol

A few plans for the rest of the week... Lessons Mon-Thurs, working Mon-Thurs whenever else I can find time, Tuesday we are going on a Nature Walk, Wednesday is Pioneer Club, Friday is Co-op! Weekend plans are still up in the air.

Here is a picture thought I am sharing with you...
Suzy made this at lunch one day. (Notice one of my "new" plates already has a chip. This is why I buy my plates at the thrift store for 50 cents each. lol)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

But What About Prom? Homeschooling through High School

It's amazing to me that prom is one of the first things people think about when the topic of homeschooling high school is discussed.

I went to public high school and I didn't go to prom. Know what? I survived.

Other things that come up often in these discussions of what a homeschooled child will miss in high school? Sports, letter jackets, class rings, yearbooks. Do ANY of these things have the least relevance to the actual purpose of school? An education is, of course, what I mean.

If education is mentioned, it's usually in the context of "how will you (the homeschool mom) ever teach chemistry?"

So, many people give up before homeschool high school ever begins. But for me, those social events are not important enough to change our goals as a family. And there are ways around the seeming inability to teach an advanced subject.

Last night, I joined a gathering of homeschool parents sharing ideas about homeschooling through high school. My son David will be entering ninth grade in the fall, so this is a very relevant topic for me. So much information was shared that we decided to make this the first of a series of meetings on the subject. I'll attempt here to give a brief overview of the discussion.

The speaker, Connie, is a local woman who has 2 daughters in college and one son still being homeschooled for high school. She began with a reminder to take our children's learning styles into consideration when designing their course of study. Something else important is to pray for wisdom and for God to remove any fear regarding the issue. She gave us a long list of things to do, such as set goals, keep good records, help students become self-learners, and many more.

Many options are available to homeschooled highschoolers beyond the typical mom-teaching model - pre-packaged curriculum, online academies, community college, private tutors, courses on DVD, co-ops, and more. Don't forget to use Dad as a resource also. And yes, you can learn along with your student, but the most important thing to remember is that you are teaching your child HOW to learn.

Take time to plan out your child's course of study before high school begins. Outline the classes before making any purchases. Stay organized. Connie showed us a binder she had kept for one of her daughters. Every time she received anything to do with her education, she put it in the binder in a page protector - letters thanking the girl for volunteer work, newspaper clippings, transcripts from classes, certificates from outside organizations, etc...

Recordkeeping is essential. Write everything down. Keep up with your grading and gradebook.Eleventh grade is a time for college applications, so you'll need complete records then. Don't wait for senior year. Start out right and things will go smoothly.Remember to keep track of ALL extracurricular activities. Colleges want well-rounded students.

We talked a lot about testing - MME/ACT, SAT, AP, CLEP, Iowa, Stanford - but I am not going to go into that here, at least not now. Those things change a lot, and some things are state-specific. Others vary according to what college you want to enter. The best recommendation about testing is to check with the colleges or trade schools your child is considering and find out THEIR desires regarding test scores, as well as other attributes they are looking for in applicants. Also remember that some tests can be taken more than once for a better score.

Transcripts are important. You will create your own. There is software available for this, but you can use a form you create or modify. It should be ONE PAGE. Put the GPA (grade point average) on it. List the classes your child took and the credits earned. Have the transcript notarized. (usually free at your bank)

The meeting lasted about two hours and there were lots of questions. We plan to have more meetings delving into different areas of this huge topic, so stay tuned for more information! I'm sure I've forgotten some of the most important information, so go check out the handouts.

Hand Outs passed out at the meeting:
MI Dept of Education New High School Grad Requirements (Class of 2011), 2 pages
Connie's great notes (4 pages)
A No Nonsense Conversation (2 pages),
Resources: Web Sites and Books for Homeschooling Through High School (1 page),
Sample Transcripts & Report Card:
1 Sample Transcript:
1 Sample Report Card:
Excel Spreadsheet Transcripts - plug in the numbers & it will calculate for you!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Simple Woman's Daybook - March 23

For Today... March 23, 2009

Outside my window... Sunshine, dead grass, bare trees, not a soul in sight.

I am thinking... about buying the movie Bolt. We adored it in the theater!

From the learning rooms... I bought James a new Explode the Code book at the book fair.

I am thankful for... a husband who prays and reads God's Word.

From the kitchen... Going to make pork chops and brown rice for dinner. I am thinking about making chocolate chip cookies, or maybe Emily will want to!

I am wearing... Jeans, black long-sleeved shirt, green flannel shirt buttoned over it and a long-sleeved pink sweatshirt over THAT. Hair up in a clip.

I am reading... Just finished Handle With Care by Jodi Picoult and just started reading Daniel Deronda by George Eliot for book club. I have quite a few other choices including one of the Horatio Hornblower novels. Also perusing a book on 100 great vacations around the world. I just read the last chapter of Soup and Me by Robert Newton Peck to the kids at lunchtime.

I am hoping... that my friend Marla's recovery goes smoothly and quickly. (She had a pacemaker put in today.)

I am creating... proposals to submit on elance.com.

I am hearing... David answering his history questions out loud as I ask them.

Around the house... David has removed all the floorboards on the back porch and Bob and David will be rebuilding it. I am trying to get up enough courage to buy some paint to repaint the dining room a pale yellow. Every room of the house needs to be repainted, as well as the EXTERIOR of the house needing another coat of "Melted Butter" as soon as it gets warm enough.

One of my favorite things... Quaker Quakes Cheddar flavor (I actually like the Meijer brand the best.) My replacement for chips. Crunchy, salty, tasty. Yum.

A few plans for the rest of the week... Lessons Mon-Thurs, querying and editing Mon-Thurs afternoon and whenever else I can find time, I have a homeschool meeting Tuesday night, Wednesday is Pioneer Club, Thursday I have a soccer coaches meeting, Friday is Fun Day and I am heading out for Sister Weekend!

Here is a picture thought I am sharing with you...
Emily washing the dishes.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Finding the Babies videos

Here are a couple videos of the "finding the babies" science experiment we did last week.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Friday Fill-in #116


And...here we go!

1. Why do we have to sleep? I could get so much more done if I didn't.

2. Counting calories and exercising regularly are now habits.

3. I have a few books around here somewhere. (LOL)

4. I had never heard the phrase "might could" (in real life) and it turned up in a movie I was watching (Fireproof). (It's a Southern thing, I'm told.)

5. I got caught up in the details again the way I always do.

6. How was I to know that things would turn out like that?

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to watching Australia on DVD, tomorrow my plans include going to a homeschool convention and then going to BOOK CLUB and Sunday, I want to relax and read!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Weekly Highlights - Week 28

Sticking with the weekly HIGHLIGHTS plan, lesseeee....

The younger three learned about bats this week - microbats and megabats. Do YOU know the difference? My kids should be able to tell you. Did you know a mama bat can find her baby by smell even amidst thousands of other babies? We practiced identifying our "babies" by smell. (OK, so the babies were cotton balls soaked with various scents. Cut us some slack.) I am going to post a couple videos separately for your viewing pleasure.

David has been working on the physics of motion. See my earlier post for some specifics. He's also been continuing his study of the Civil War. A local storyteller visited one of "our" libraries to talk about The Underground Railroad in Michigan, so David and Emily and I went to hear her speak. (All the kids in the admittedly small audience were homeschooled!) David finished his book
The Red Badge of Courage (on audio).

Emily finished her book
Hero Tales. Harriet Tubman was one of the heroes, thus Em's interest in attending the Underground Railroad presentation. She is working on her new level in Math-U-See and doing very very well in Spelling! I have the movie Anne of Green Gables that I hope she'll like since she recently read that novel.

James is plugging away at
Pilgrim's Progress. He remembers the movie version we saw a while back (starring Liam Neeson) and that's helping him get through it. I have a Pilgrim's Progress game that we've never played that he's asked for, so I'll drag that out. James has memorized all his multiplication facts! Go James! He also amazed me by using the art techniques he's been learning at his monthly art class. I had assigned the 3 younger children to write or draw the differences between microbats and megabats and James worked very hard on his picture, using a pencil lead "smudging" technique. That's what you see in the picture of him at the table; off to the left is the pencil scribble that he's smearing the cotton balls in.

Suzy has been reading little books that came along with her Alphabet Island phonics - practicing her short vowel sounds. She's working on long vowel sounds in Explode the Code and in Alphabet Island, she's working on beginning blends. Doing well, but she gets frustrated OH-so-easily.

Monday's weather was nice but Tuesday's was just lovely and we took some reading outside on Tuesday afternoon. I'm reading aloud from
Soup and Me by Robert Newton Peck (the sequel to Soup, which I read to them just a couple weeks ago). They laugh uproariously throughout! I fear nothing else will compare!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Eggs in Motion (Apologia Physical Science)

Eggs, cardboard, 2 stacks of books, and a video camera were David's supplies on Monday as he did one of his first physics of motion experiments from his Apologia Physical Science textbook. He's working his way through the book independently for the most part, although I of course check his questions and tests. I also like to watch his experiments and this one promised to be quite cool.

He prepared the area and then set up the video camera on the tripod and proceeded to shoot eight short videos of his egg rolling. I've posted one here for you. (It's short!)

We didn't waste the eggs. lol

Glitter Shoes

Here is a craft we did in the Glass Slipper class I am teaching at our homeschool co-op.

My creative friend Michele saw these shoes at co-op being given away free and suggested I nab them for my class. I thought, "Excellent idea!" So, I went to Walmart looking for something to embellish the shoes. Found some spray-on glitter and doused the shoes with it, making them very very sparkly. I bought some stick-on gems and let the girls go to town! It seemed like all the girls enjoyed this craft and afterwards they tried walking in the heels, which was a challenge! lol

Here's Suzy (green shirt) with her shoe.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Simple Woman Daybook - March 16

For Today... March 16, 2009

Outside my window... It's SUNNY! and in the 50's today!

I am thinking... about going outside. I've been working on the computer most of the afternoon, although I did sneak outside earlier to hang up a couple loads of laundry (although it was chilly then) and I stood on the back porch in the sun to chat on the phone for about 20 minutes. After dinner, a walk!?

From the learning rooms... David did an egg experiment in Science today. He's studying the physics of motion.

I am thankful for... Kids who aren't afraid of work and who like to help (some of them more than others, lol).

From the kitchen... Making sweet potato fries (new recipe, hope it goes over well) and oven-friend chicken tenders for dinner. [UPDATE - David, of all people, ate the fries without complaint. I thought they were good. The rest did not like them. I didn't tell anyone what they were. Just said "special potatoes". ROFL. Bob then commented, after eating, "They're almost like sweet potatoes." Um. Yeah.]

I am wearing... Jeans, grey sweatshirt, short sleeved "America" tee (SHORT sleeves!), white socks, slippers, hair scrunched today, no makeup.

I am reading... North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell (for book club, 100 pages to go). Also a book on 100 great vacations around the world. To the kids, I am reading Soup and Me by Robert Newton Peck.

I am hoping... that Bob can find a job soon, although he is not finding much to apply for.

I am creating... my historical inspirational romance, working title Mystery Valley Ranch

I am hearing... Cars going by, Kids coming in and going out. Doors opening and shutting. Some kind of odd buzzing sound outside. Someone playing with a wagon or something wheeled.

Around the house... Bob has David breaking apart the back steps. They were crumbling and Bob is going to replace them. We've raked the yard and Bob is working on the ditch so that it drains. He's also working installing a permanent sump pump. There is so much to do on the house and yard. It's overwhelming to look at it all.

One of my favorite things... DAFFODILS! They'll be here soon. Can't wait!

A few plans for the rest of the week... Lessons Mon-Thurs, querying and editing Mon-Wed afternoon and whenever else I can find time, J has soccer clinic Tuesday night and the girls have Keepers at Home, Wednesday is Pioneer Club, Thursday I have a homeschool group leaders meeting and a library program, Friday is co-op, and Saturday is a homeschool book fair/convention AND BOOK CLUB (North and South!)

Here is a picture thought I am sharing with you...
Suzy, the afternoon AFTER Emily's sleepover

"Boy-friendly" Books

Maybe you were wondering what I meant in my Adaptation post when I mentioned my fourteen-year-old son not being thrilled to read books with girls on the covers. Here's an example of four of the Sonlight 100 titles that he's not thrilled about reading.

Do any of these look like they'd scream READ ME to a teen boy?

I actually skipped 3 of these books already, and I just may require him to read Christy.

To be fair to Sonlight 100, there are plenty of "boy-friendly" books in the reading list: My Side of the Mountain, The Red Badge of Courage, Amos Fortune, Maniac Magee, The Call of the Wild, The Cross and the Switchblade, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. That's just a sampling of titles.

No shortage of good literature choices, that's certain. Plenty to choose from, even if I decide to skip a few. And my daughters will certainly enjoy these four books even if my sons don't find them intriguing.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Weekly Review - Week 27

This was quite an average week - lessons-wise - here at Cornerstone Academy. Five days of lessons, nothing unusual except Chess Club and a Friday afternoon visit with Michele to break the monotony of the days. The weather was rainy, really really rainy, for the first couple days and then COLD, quite quite cold for a couple more. Next week is supposed to warm up a bit! That'll be nice.

One thing that was different was the lack of any Bible study. I just couldn't muster the gumption to push everyone through it this week. Bible time often ends up being the time of the most complaining and unpleasant attitudes and I just wasn't interested in facing it. Isn't it odd that the time should be about praising the Lord and learning about his Word, but instead it ends up being CHARACTER BUILDING for all? :::chuckles, somewhat bitterly:::: Anyway, we'll do it next week. I promise.

Suzy is working on an art book. Several years ago, James did this art book at co-op. My friend Sarah is teaching it this year at co-op, but Suzy didn't end up taking the class for whatever reason. So, I decided to have her complete it here at home. She is enjoying it, perhaps just the attention from Mom and the opportunity to do "Art". Anyway, some of these pictures are of her mixing colors for one of the pages.

In History this week, the littles learned about St. Boniface, the Iconoclast Conspiracy, and Charles "Martel". I knew nothing about ANY of these before. One of the projects was to make crosses and decorate them, "icon" style. So I have some pictures for you of that.

David's been studying the Civil War this month and I found some DVD's at the library for him to watch. Emily sat and watched them all too, which surprised me, as I personally found them a tad dry - at least the parts I watched. They watched them in the afternoons while I worked on my writing.Civil War Journals: The Conflict Begins (from the History Channel) are the DVD's. I plan to have him watch some Civil War movies too - I had in mind Glory, Gods and Generals, and maybe Gettysburg. I'm not big on war movies, so anyone with suggestions there, please leave them in my comments.

Man, I DETEST working with pictures in blogger! Why don't they go where I want them? Argh!!!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Friday Fill-in #115


And...here we go!

1. When I look to the left, I see the insulated curtain that keeps me from freezing to death. It's tan with fish all over it.

2. The dining room is the room that has the best view in my home. (This is a hard one. We don't really HAVE any great views. lol)

3. Let it work itself out.

4. Good writing done dirt cheap!

5. Caring for the poor is a responsibility that all qualified citizens must share.

6. If you have any influence with a publisher or literary agent, feel free to promote me shamelessly.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to something I haven't figured out yet, tomorrow my plans include cleaning house and more unknown fun and Sunday, I want to talk to Jennifer!!

Thursday, March 12, 2009


I was recently given a mostly unused Spelling Power test booklet and Emily chose to use it for her spelling work. I have not used a booklet for SP for a couple years at least, preferring instead to use an alternate study sheet I found online and plain notebook paper.

While giving Emily her words today, I was reminded of all the reasons why I stopped using the booklet originally. This led me to think about all the ways I adapt our curriculum from its original design.

Some examples?

Mystery of History is a solid and informative curriculum with a Christian perspective. Many extras are included in each lesson. Do I use them all? No. One thing I no longer require is the memory cards, although we did them throughout the whole first volume. We painstakingly (and often painfully!) wrote them out, inserted them in the special binders purchased for that exact purpose, and then... never looked at them again! Why did I put us through this? Well, the book said to! I also don't assign most of the mapwork that's included in Volume 2. To my mind, it's overly complex for the elementary crowd and time-intensive. Another way we modify MOH is to do the pretests and review pages all together, usually as a "quiz" using the white board.

With Spelling Power, the most obvious change from the program is to not do the "activities" that are recommended. We test the previous day's five words, and then go on through the lists to identify the five words for the day. The students go through the 10 step study process and write sentences for each word. It's effective and takes just the right amount of time. I like the alternate sheet because it includes some modifications from the original study sheet.

Let's see. What else? Oh yes, Sonlight. David is doing Sonlight 100. I went to great pains in the summer to obtain most of the books and locate where the others could be found at short notice. Am I using them all? No. Some of them are clearly "girl" books - girls on the cover prejudice David against the book. I don't always take his opinions into consideration, but our goal is, after all, that he learn to ENJOY his reading. So, I'd prefer to offer him reading selections that will further that end. So, we skip some books. Some books he'd already read. Do I do the books in the order they are in the curriculum? Not necessarily. Do I follow the lesson plans exactly as written? No. I feel no compunction to do the program exactly as written, but rather what works best for us.

So, let me encourage you - feel free to alter, modify, fine-tune, convert, improve, vary, adapt, accomodate, realign, adjust or revamp your curriculum choices to better suit the children you are educating!