Thursday, November 20, 2014

Our Recent Read-Aloud : James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl

My favorite part of the day. After lunch read-aloud. #weekinthelife

We recently finished our latest read-aloud, James and the Giant Peach. This was in anticipation of attending the play at our local children's theater and we all declared the book a great success. Our girls had seen the movie of James, but we hadn't read the book yet, so itneeded to be rectified for that reason alone!

James is the story of an orphan who's parents were tragically killed by a rampaging rhinocerous. James was sent to live with his aunts Sponge and Spiker who were less than caring in their treatment of him. One day while out in their garden, James comes upon a strange man who offers him some magic "seeds" made from crocodile tongue. These special seeds, of course, have magical properties, but they have one use so it's IMPERATIVE that James is extremely careful with them. As expected, he drops them in the garden where they are swallowed into the ground, and coincidentally, near a sad peach tree in the yard that doesn't produce fruit.

The next morning, the aunts and James awake and to their amazement there is a giant (and I mean GIANT) peach on the tree. Large enough that the aunts are able to sell tickets for viewing the peach and have quite the productive first day raking in money to curious onlookers. Unfortunately, this prosperity last one day as the aunts reach a tragic end, at the hand of the peach, no less, and James is off on an exciting adventure inside the peach with a motley crew of supersized insects.

Confusing? You'll just have to read the book. : )

Roald Dahl manages to pull all this craziness into a likeable story and tie it up somewhat neatly at the end. I came across the following quote and thought it so appropriately describes James, as well as Dahl's writing style, that I couldn't help but share it:
... there was just something about Roald Dahl books that made everything seem like a dream. The vivid colors, the underlying darkness that sometimes hinted at despair. The ending seemed just a bit too happy to fit the rest of the book, but I wasn't one to complain about a happy ending.

- The Reading Promise by Alice Ozma
I actually have very limited experience reading Dahl's works; I think we have only read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Fantastic Mr. Fox besides this book. His quirky style as well as his poems scattered throughout his stories are worth the read though I wouldn't want a steady diet of his works. Eventually I need something with a little more meat and a little less nonsense. : )

I'll end with one of my favorite conversations in the book between James and the Ladybug, my favorite of the fantastical insects that James travels with:
"I think you're wonderful," James told her. "Can I ask you one special question?"

"Please do."

"Well, is it really true that I can tell how old a Ladybug is by counting her spots?"

"Oh no, that's just a children's story," the Ladybug said. We never change our spots. Some of us, of course, are born with more spots than others, but we never change them. The number of spots that a Ladybug has is simply a way of showing which branch of the family she belongs to. I, for example, as you can see for yourself, am a Nine-Spotted Ladybug. I am very lucky. It is a fine thing to be."

"It is indeed," said James, gazing at the beautiful scarlet shell with the nine black spots on it.

"On the other hand," the Ladybug went on, "some of my less fortunate relatives have no more than two spots atogether on their shells! Can you imagine that? They are called Two-Spotted Ladybugs, and very common and ill-mannered they are, I regret to say. And then, of course, you have the Five-Spotted Ladybugs as well. They are much nicer than the Two-Spotted ones, although I myself find them a trifle too saucy for my taste."

"But they are all of them loved?" said James.

"Yes," the Ladybug answered quietly. "They are all of them loved."

"It seems that almost everyone around here is loved!" said James. "How nice this is!" 
I'll be linking up with Amy's Read Aloud Thursday at the end of the month; it's a great place to find recommendations for books to read with your kids. I'd also recommend the Read Aloud Revivial podcast, one of my favorite finds this year and full of fantastic books to discover as well.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Continuous Line Art Drawing ::: Owls

I've been trying to make more time for art around here. Last year (or was it the year before?) we had a great system of pulling something out on Fridays after Bible study and doing a project together. My girls are getting old enough now that they do a lot of crafting on their own without assistance - which is great! - but I missed planning out little projects so that we could do something together. Any truthfully, if I didn't plan something, then *I* don't get a chance to sit down and create either!

I found this idea on Meg Deurksen's Whatever blog this summer and loved it. We visited her post first and watched the video she did on how to do a continuous line drawing of an owl. Before I watched that, I would have said, of course I couldn't draw an owl, that would be too hard! But the fact that the continuous line drawing isn't perfect, and you want it to be a little off for interest, helped with that fear.

Continuous line drawing for art Friday today. Idea from @megduerksen blog and seemed appropriate for this last rainy day of October. #weekinthelife

This was my owl that I drew after watching her video. I wish I had though to get photos of the girls' owls before, but I didn't. (N1 and N2 did this craft with me. B started out drawing owls and then moved on to hearts and pictures of her family. : ))

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Progress. #weekinthelife

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The finished product! #weekinthelife

My finished owl. I'm almost wishing I had left him uncolored because he looked super cool in black and white, but I like him colored as well.

Big girls' finished owls. #weekinthelife

N1's is on the left; N2 on the right. Both of these girls even took paper and markers to our last Classical Conversations and for their presentations did a demonstration of how to do a continuous line drawing of an owl. I have an idea percolating for Thanksgiving to do a drawing of a turkey along these lines - wouldn't that be fun to draw and color while watching holiday movies. : )

A fun return to crafting for us and the owl seemed particularly appropriate for a fall project.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Soccer Summary

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Another season of fall soccer is under our belts and this was a good one. We tried a few new things this year - some that were good and some that were amazing growing experiences for our girls.

For the first time, our little girls (who are only 15 months apart in age) played on the same team. We were able to age B (who turned 7 in May) up to play on the same team as N2 (who will be 9 in January). There were a couple reasons that we decided to do this. One, as any parent with multiple kids playing multiple sports on multiple teams knows, there are a lot of games and practices to juggle. Now we were down to one team to keep up with - so much better. Two, B is a good soccer player. Really good. She did great with the team for her age group, but could definitely stand to be challenged a bit more and we though would do well with a more aggressive coach (which N2's coach was).  

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It went great for the first few practices until B had to get out onto the field for the first time. All of a sudden she was out there with girls that were quite a bit bigger than her and it was very intimidating for her. She was overwhelmed. For at least the first three games (maybe 4?) she wouldn't go in at all. She would be fine up until she was standing on the side line and then as she waited for the whistle to blow so she could sub in, she would just crumble. It was heartbreaking to watch. This was the kid that smiled constantly when she played soccer in previous years and to not see her out there enjoying what she loved was hard.

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Her coach was so patient with her. She worked her hard in practice, and soon figured out where B's strength were now that she was playing with the bigger girls / older team. When B played with her own age group, she was a great offensive played and usually one of the top scorers on the team. However, running with the ball all the way down the field (which doubled in size for her this year) and with girls a lot bigger charging at her, was a bit more than she could process.

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It finally just came down to getting her over the hurdle of getting in the game. She was psyching herself out of playing and working herself up when she would sit on the sidelines. It came down to a bribe - a trip to the dollar store if she could get in the game and stay in for ten minutes. I guess that was enough incentive. Her coach put her in at half-time and she ended up playing the entire half without ever stopping. Her grin was back on her face and she didn't let any balls get past her, even with those big 9 year olds running full steam towards her. Her confidence was back and she remembered that she really did know how to play. She finished the final half of her season strong and owning defense for her team. Nothing gets past her!

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It's been such a blessing to watch her overcome this hurdle and fear and realize the she can do hard things. She is my one that has her own struggles in learning in school, but sports has been her thing to shine in. To have that be a struggle for her this fall has been hard to watch, but to see her succeed has been that much more sweet.

PS. And not to leave out the other girl ... N2 had a great, GREAT season as well. She is so consistent out there on the field. She runs and runs and plays steady and constant. She even scored the final goal for her team's season in their last game yesterday which was a super fun way to end her season. So proud of her as well for how she put 110% into this fall season.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Because it's Friday



Because the sun is shining...



Because a girl dusted the family room...



Because the kitchen table was almost completely cleared off...



Because there is only one girl that is sick at the moment as opposed to multiple sicklings...



There were oatmeal-on-the-go bars baked...



And enjoyed ...

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And photographed.

Because that's what mama's do when they get a little stir-crazy after a couple weeks taking care of sick little people and the sun is shining in so beautifully.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

It's a New Month



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I am excited that November is here. Cooler temps. Falling leaves. Hot tea and pumpkin everything. It looks to be a good month.

We have had a good groove going on the last couple of weeks as we were able to have a couple solid weeks of school without interruption. Amazing what that can do for moral and the ever-present checklist of what needs to be accomplished. On the other hand, we have also been fighting several various and sundry bugs that we've been passing around the house. Two of the girls had horrible coughs and congestion last week leaving us with a couple nights of very little sleep for the sickies. We stayed home from CBS last Friday and just rested. I don't think anyone was contagious but they sounded awful. We had one day of all being well on Saturday and squeezed in a soccer game and church bonfire and then we jumped into round two of germs keeping me and the boy home from church on Sunday and CC on Tuesday as well as a sick day today now that two of the girls are down with high fevers and upset tummies. While I'm sad my munchkins have been sick, I can't help but think that God knew we needed our own respite from the busy schedule we've been keeping. We've been staying home from events left and right just to rest and get well and although I'm missing our activities, I can't help but say it's been delightful to just be home. Books have been read. Laundry has been caught up. Movies have been watched. I'll take more of that, please.

However, over the next month, we do have some neat plans for school. For the first time, we are going to dive into the Civil War and learn what we can about it during the month of November. I've been reserved books at the library like crazy, along with a few Amazon purchases and we've got quite a selection of books to pick from over the next 3+ weeks. Lots of picture books (because we all still love picture books in this house) as well as a few age appropriate chapter(ish) books for the girls at their different ages and stages.



Picture books for all of us.



N1's (age 11) pile, to start with. I've not read Freedom Train so we may read that together. If you have any suggestions for great Civil War / age appropriate read alouds I'd love to hear them in the comments!



N2's (age 8 1/2) pile. She has recently discovered the "who was" series and has already read the one that I bought on Harriet Tubman which is why you don't see it in the picture. She had already taken it off to her room. 



B's (age 7) pile. We'll be reading most of these together, and probably with the other girls as well.



The other night at dinner we also made up a list of questions that we want to answer about the Civil War. I had them come up with the list for the most part and we have some good starting off points for our digging in our books. These, our library books, plus some unit study materials on the Civil War from Homeschool Share, and our next few weeks will be full of historical exploration. I'm looking forward to it immensely.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Currently :: October 2014

Eating ... pimento cheese and crackers. One of my favorite comfort foods of all time (and something that I don't let into the house very often at all ... no willpower!)

Drinking ... at this moment, an evening cup of coffee with a little sugar free pumpkin cream in it. Tasty.



Dealing with ... yes, that picture is what you think it is. Super annoying and so. much. laundry. but at the same time I'm thankful we don't have chicken pox or the flu or something!



Studying ... 2 Peter (with She Reads Truth) and Romans (with Community Bible Study). I'm not always up to speed on either of them, but just get what I can done in my early morning alone time. I'm loving Romans (but it's very thinkerly for early in the morning), and 2 Peter has been so good as well.

Reading ... maybe a separate blog posts for books? I'll come back to this question.



Reading Aloud ... unusually for us, we have several read-alouds going right now. We're reading Little House in the Big Woods. A re-read for us; N2 and B are working through a lapbook on this story and, naturally, I don't need a excuse to read Laura and Mary. : ) We're also reading James and the Giant Peach in anticipation of seeing the play at the local children's theater next month. The boy and I are reading A Mouse Called Wolf together as well.

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Making ... butter! To go along with our Little House reading, the girls and I made real butter out of whipping cream on Sunday night! It took about 20 minutes of mama shaking a jar (the girls pooped out on their jar well before then) but we got butter!

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Celebrating ... a new library card owner in the house. The boy thought he was BIG STUFF getting his own card at the library this week.

Plotting ... the next eight weeks of school. With paper and pencil, I counted out and we only have EIGHT weeks until our Christmas break. That's crazy! The last eight weeks have not been our smoothest in the homeschool department by a long shot so I've got some plans to redeem the rest of 2014 and get us back on track. Thankfully, we're not behind; our days have just been so fractured and fragmented that some days we spend more time fussing instead of focusing. (Alliteration! I've been paying attention in N1's Essentials class at least.) : ) I've been thoroughly enjoying this 31 days series by Alicia over at Investing Love on simplifying homeschooling. Many of her suggestions I already implement, but a fresh voice can be nice and encouraging and her series has been that for me.

Sharing ... that our period of fostering a 14 year old girl has ended. Again, too many details to share online, but those of you that have sent notes and encouragement via emails and comments have been so appreciated. The last eight weeks have been some of the hardest weeks of my life, and I'm leaving them so thankful that God has foreknowledge of the events in our lives before we do. I'm resting in that.



Quoting ... this girl. Upon showing her a new book, she asks: "Is that book full of adventure? I don't like books that aren't adventure-y." She rocks.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Bedtime Reading :: Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne

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Sometimes it's hard to capture a serious picture when you are reading aloud to Spiderman.

Ethan and I finished our first chapter-book-at-bedtime read-aloud this week. A few weeks ago he asked if I would read Winnie-the-Pooh to him and, when looking around our bookshelves, it seemed that we no longer had any WtP picture books to speak of. Remembering that the chapter book has little illustrations scattered throughout, I picked that up and over the course of 2-3 weeks, on nights that he and I had the stamina to stay awake, we read about a half a chapter. Bedtime with this boy has always been my most consistent (and sacred!) time to read to him - we usually have a good 15 minutes of picture books that we roll through most nights - and this was our first attempt at something that continued. While we definitely aren't abandoning picture books, I think this is the start of something new for his bedtime routine. He is ready for a shorter chapter book and, of course, what mama turns down snuggling with her boy at bedtime to read. Not me. : )

He's already picked out that next one that we're going to read together: Dick King Smith's A Mouse Called Wolf. I'm pretty sure he's picked it solely based on the cover picture, but that's okay. I've been known to do that myself sometimes. : )
"When you wake up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet at last, "what's the first thing you say to yourself?"

"What's for breakfast?" said Pooh. "What do you say, Piglet?"

"I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?" said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully.

"It's the same thing," he said.
- Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Quoted :: The 13 Clocks by James Thurber

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I know it's no shock that we are constantly on the hunt for new-to-us authors and books to try out for our read-aloud time. I would be remiss if I didn't make sure that the twelve people that read my blog didn't know about The Read-Aloud Revival Podcast put together by Sarah at Amongst Lovely Things. She has had a wonderful crew of writers and educators come through - Andrew Pudewa, Melissa Wiley, Heidi from Mt. Hope Academy - and my wish list on Amazon as well as my library hold list has grown considerably due to the book recommendations dished out on each episodes.

The book above, The 13 Clocks, was one recommended by Heidi and we recently picked it up at the library. We're about half-way through the book - the jury is still out on what I think of it. It's definitely odd. However, there have been some quotable gems from the book that I have flagged as we've read. One such in the first chapter describing the problem the Duke had with his clocks not working goes something like:
The clocks were dead, and in the end, brooding on it, the Duke decided he had murdered time, slain it with his sword, and wiped his bloody blade upon its beard and left it lying there, bleeding hours and minutes, its springs uncoiled and sprawling, its pendulum disintegrating.
And the alliteration in this sentence - something that came up just this week in N1's essentials class at Classical Conversations:
At the sign of the Silver Swan, in the town below the castle, where taverners, travelers, taletellers, tosspots, troublemakers, and other townspeople were gathered, he heard of Saralinda, loveliest princess on all the thousand islands of the ocean seas.
More word play and alliteration that I just loved:
The brambles and the thorns grew thick and thicker in a ticking thicket of bickering crickets. Farther along and stronger, bonged the gongs of a throng of frogs, green and vivid on their lily pads. From the sky came the crying of flies, and the pilgrims leaped over a bleating sheep creeping knee-deep in a sleepy stream, in which swift and slippery snakes slid and slithered silkily, whispering sinful secrets.
And a simile that just made me laugh:
The traveler vanished, like a fly in the mouth of a frog...
: )

Hopefully I remember to report back on whether this book was a winner or not, but some of these quotes were too good not to write down to remember.

And as a bonus, a photo of a studious girl working on her math test. We do do other things besides just read aloud here. : )

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Thursday, October 09, 2014

The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald

Coffee and the current read aloud. Latergram from yesterday. The story is getting good so I'm eager to get back to it later today!

Here I should like to remark, for the sake of princes and princesses in general, that it is a low and contemptible thing to refuse to confess a fault, or even an error. If a true princess has done wrong, she is always uneasy until she has had an opportunity of throwing the wrongness away from her by saying: 'I did it; and I wish I had not; and I am sorry for having done it.' So you see there is some ground for supposing that Curdie was not a miner only, but a prince as well. Many such instances have been known in the world's history.
The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald

A favorite quote from our recently finished read-aloud, read in conjunction with the Reading to Know Bookclub. It's been YEARS since I've spent time with George MacDonald and I have to say diving into one of his fairy tales has been delightful.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

October is My Favorite

Where to start.

The last five weeks have been ones of big BIG change for our family. The addition of a 14 year old girl has been such a blessing but there have also been some big hurdles and bumps that we have (and are) experiencing as we fit her into the family, as well as helping her overcome her own personal hurdles. (I hate the vagueness that life has to be right now in some areas. Please forgive the lack of specifics).

I've noticed that I'm not taking many pictures these days. I miss that. My plate is so full of what has to be done next that I'm not slowing down and being observant and thankful. I'm too busy focusing on the next meeting, the next school assignment, the next bathroom that must be cleaned, the next meal to be made. Those things are all very true and it's definitely helping me to be more focused and on task, but I'm drained when I don't take a little time to emotionally (creatively) recharge!)

October IS one of my favorite months. The changing leaves, all our family birthdays, the crisp weather ... I could go on and on. I've made myself a little photo challenge called #Octoberismyfavorite and I'm trying to remember to take a photo a day solely for the beauty that I am noticing that comes in the month of October and post it to Instagram. I'm not going for perfection ... I already missed posting yesterday ... but I'm slowly reminding myself to pause, look for beauty, and remember to be thankful that it is there even when the days are long and hard.

A glimpse at what I've captured since Wednesday:

Day 1: October means pumpkin in all the things ... pumpkin waffles for breakfast. (Also, in honesty, we are a cereal eating family at breakfast and we were out of all of it ... ergo, I had to actually MAKE breakfast!) Recipe from weelicious.

October means pumpkin in all the things. Pumpkin waffles this morning! Recipe from @weelicious

Day 2: take yesterday's pumpkin waffles. Add brown sugar cream cheese. You're welcome.

Yesterday's @weelicious pumpkin waffles with @jessicagfisher brown sugar cream cheese. #octoberismyfavorite

Day 2 (bonus): pre-birthday celebrating the night before.

Birthday-eve celebrating.

Day 3: Eleven is my new favorite. She's already great at being eleven.

Eleven is pretty fantastic.

Day 3 (bonus): also, ten is my favorite. (All the ages are my favorite!) Celebrating the one and only nephew with a fantastic photobomb by my dad in the background.

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Day 4: Soccer on cool, crisp Saturday mornings. And the fact that this girl played ... that's a whole post in itself that I need to write up to remember. So proud of her yesterday and definitely an October favorite.

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To be continued...

Friday, September 19, 2014

American History Reading, September 2014

American Historical fiction is one of my favorite things to read with my kids. There are just so many options out there that I admit to being a bit paralyzed when I've been trying to come up with reading lists for this year. As of right now, I've just given up on the actual list (unheard of for my normal nature!) and am just picking books as we need them and as they tie in with our studies.

Of late:

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I've read Sam the Minuteman and Paul Revere's Ride with the littler girls. I am (slightly embarrassed) to say this might be the first time I have read the Paul Revere poem in it's entirety. I would have thought I had read it before as familiar as I was with the famous first lines
Listen, my children, and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.
And then there's a line about one if by land, two if by sea and my memories stop there. : ) We'll be giving this a re-read before shelving it for the year. I've also found a reading on YouTube I'll have the whole crew listen to as well. (See also: Andy Griffith telling the tale of Paul Revere. Definitely checking this one out as well). : )

Afternoon coffee with pumpkin spice creamer (oh, yes) and the current read-aloud. Trying to find our homeschool groove after the last couple of crazy weeks.

Pedro's Journal was our first back-to-school read-aloud, following our fun summer of sequels. This is the story of Columbus' journey as told through the journal of young Pedro, a young boy chosen for the journey because of his ability to read and write. With short chapters, this book gave a great feel for what it would have been like to travel with Columbus - the stressful sea voyage, first impressions of the natives they encounters (and Pedro's thoughts of Columbus' treatments of them), and a myriad of other details related to sea travel and exploration.

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I've also pulled this resource off my shelf and am planning to utilize it quite frequently this year. I bought this at a homeschool seminar well before N1 was even in kindergarten and we dog-eared the pages of this little guide most of her K through 2nd grade years. I was hunting for an age appropriate book for N1 for independent reading - one that neither of us had read - and just needed some inspiration and help with the decision making.

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We settled on Johnny Tremain and we'll be reading it together on our respective Kindles. N1 is a big fan of audiobooks as well so I splurged the extra $3+ and bought the accompanying Audible recording which she can listen to on my Kindle. I've never read this Newberry winner and am excited to read it with her. N2 is currently engrossed in all things Roald Dahl and is reading Matilda. Not exactly a tie-in with our American History studies, but I'm okay with that. : )