Wednesday, October 28

A Snow Day Book

From the kitchen: Mulled apple cider and peanut butter paisley brownies.

From the learning time: Our Read Aloud, Math, Colorado History, Poetry, Reading.

From the children: "Can we go out again?"

From the calendar: We had to put the axe to Tae Kwon Do, Swimming, Tae Bo and Chess.

From the bookshelf: Finn by John Clinch, Cowboy Small by Lois Lenski, and Star Wars graphic novels.

From the weatherman: 12 inches currently with more to come.

Tuesday, October 27


1. At home we are studying Colorado History (now that we are in a state that we think we'll stay in for a while. Fourth try is a charm).

2. B has been playing Colorado Trivia Jeopardy at his Friday Classes the past two weeks.

3. Guess who won?

Thursday, October 22

A Glimpse into our Space

Our school space is predominantly in the basement. It's our family room (the side of the room you don't see are the bookshelves and television). There is a bathroom nearby so they don't have to go upstairs and get lost on their way to it. The laundry room is down there too so if it's safe to do so, I can leave them to think on their own a few minutes while I put in another load. Additionally the basement contains the master bedroom (a nice alternative work space for someone who needs quiet) and the 3 year old's bedroom. I had hoped that he'd be more likely to play in his room when we were working on our studies, but that rarely happens.

This is how we transform it when we're working on learning activities. The curtain reveals our whiteboard (and one of these days, our cork board). The other curtain is actually a window. The table unfolds to give us more workspace. The drawers in the table contain our whiteboard markers, our pencils/colored pencils/markers, and there is a drawer of things for S to do as well. If we have to move locations we can pull the drawers completely out and take the stuff with us. Having two couches is also a great plus. These kids have no idea what sitting at a desk all day feels like.

The downside is that this space is also our company space (one couch is a hide-a-bed) so we have to move our study space around when we have guests. No problem. With the exception of the whiteboard we are portable.

We store three containers in our laundry room and bring them out when we get started. First, our supply box. Stuff that we usually go looking for, glue, tape, hole punch, stapler, index cards, timer, etc.

Second, our books. This magazine rack contains their notebooks and any library or reference books we're currently using.

Third, our station box. This is where they find their assignments. All workbooks, instruction sheets, read alouds, spelling words, etc. are in here as well as blank paper and a space for my stuff.

When we're done for the day we close up shop, put the containers back in the laundry room, fold down the table and close the curtain. I don't want to live in a school room. But I do want to have everything close by (there is a ton of storage for everything else in the laundry room). This does the job nicely.

Saturday, October 10

Readus Interruptus

I posted my fall reading list in August and intentionally left some space for new things to pop up. Well, look what popped up.

1. Overcoming Dyslexia. I was pretty curious to see if B was dyslexic. Now, after reading about 2/3rd of this book, I'm fairly certain that he is. I've contacted an "educational psychologist" in the area and will consult with her next week about the next steps to help B along in his journey toward reading.

2. Scouting the Divine. The only book that dh brought home from the Catalyst conference -- and he gave it to me! Margaret came to TNL several weeks ago and gave us a taste of what she wrote about. Can't wait to see what's inside.

From my original list I've finished Catcher in the Rye (which is even more gritty than I remember, but I still understand why it was an influential book in my high school years), and Outliers. After all the hype and the wait I had to endure to read Outliers it wasn't the mindblowing experience that everyone made it out to be. Maybe I personalized it too much because I don't see J spending 10,000 hours doing ANY one thing and although Gladwell claims that B is born at the right time of year to play professional hockey, it doesn't seem to be on his radar of aspirations. It was interesting though.

Off to enjoy learning about dyslexia.

(Those of you who've wondered, "What's wrong with my child?" and then had that question answered will understand that learning more about how to REALLY help them IS enjoyment).

Friday, October 9

4 on Our Own -- Day 2 & 3

We had a late start to the day yesterday but we managed to accomplish all the learning activities, rebuild the fort, clean up a little, fold some laundry, prepare their backpacks for their day of classes tomorrow, watch Monsters v. Aliens again and venture out in the snow flurries to get another movie.
We rented Soccer Dog this time and none of us recommends it.

S remained the same yesterday... hard coughing (he's noticeably skinnier today), feverish, lethargic and not hungry.

Last night he started off rocky: coughing, crying out, disoriented, peeing in his bed again, and just needing something from me every 20 minutes or so. He was miserable. And then around midnight he settled and we slept through until 5 a.m. I settled him again and he slept until I had to wake him at 8 to take the boys to class. So, it was a much better night last night. I don't know if it's because I added the humidifier to his room (moisture + white noise helps) or if his body is winning the war on the virus. At least his body had a respite from the coughing.

Today J&B are at their classes all day and S is parked on the couch in front of PBS. I think he'll be fine to just stay there all day. Poor guy.

Thursday, October 8

Review: The Little Pilgrim's Progress

We just finished a unit that was infused with the character of God. The read aloud I chose was The Little Pilgrim's Progress by Helen L. Taylor. It's my understanding that she took the original work by John Bunyan and wrote it for children. I can't compare it to the original because I've never read it, but this book is beautifully written, has extremely short chapters, and is filled with line drawings to give the kids a visual. It's really a nice piece of work.

But I ditched it.

We got through Christian's story and stopped before Christiana's story due to allegorical issues -- ideas that are quite adverse to the faith I'm instilling in my boys:

1. Vanity Fair. Christian leaves this horrible experience with NO sign of grief, no visible show of change as a result of what he experienced. If it were me, my very next chapter would have been about how Christian threw himself upon the ground at the outskirts of the city and mourned for Vanity Fair, eating the grass and pouring dirt over his head. Does one really witness martyrdom and then brush it off?

2. Ignorance. As is true for practically everyone met along the way, Ignorance is greeted coldly by Christian and his companion, held at arms length and essentially written off because his journey looks differently than theirs does. They engage in a debate and decide that he is not worth waiting for. I find myself actually holding Christian responsible for the wicked end that Ignorance meets. If he had invested in him, shown him some compassion, asked more probing questions, walked beside him... If little Christian were taking seriously his call to be salt and light to the world wouldn't Ignorance be one of his most interesting and fulfilling relationships? Oh, that's right -- he never is called to be salt and light. It is evident that his only calling is to the Celestial City. Selfish tunnel vision fills this book and compassion for others is non-existent.

3. The Shining One. [The Christ Figure] And I quote, "But although the King had sent His servant to seek for the lost children and to bring them back into the right path, He was not pleased with them, and He had commanded the Shining One to punish them for their foolishness." Oh, there's more..."I shall be obliged to punish you, because you have now been pilgrims for a long time, and you would not have lost your way if you had done as the Shepherds told you." And then he beats them with a whip. No joke. Jesus comes down and beats his servants with a whip. What Bible is this from? [Now you could say that the Shining One is an angel, but there's too many similarities to The Angel of the Lord for me to agree.]

4. The Journey. The point of the journey is to get to the Celestial City [Heaven]. And that's IT. There is no desire to transform the lives of people around them. The only people they seem to be interested in influencing are those whom they chose to leave behind at home. There is no care for any other person's pain or sense of loss regarding their direction in life. No counseling, no healing of any kind. It's all about their own, individual journey. Anyone who seems to be a hindrance is left behind and truly forgotten. Please, don't let me teach my boys to be this kind of Christian.

5. The Celestial City. To Christian, Heaven is the end, the point, the goal of life. It seems that getting to the place of Heaven is even more important than being in the presence of the King who loves him. Oh, for many years, I thought this too. But God is at work to rescue and redeem all of creation on our behalf through the work of Jesus Christ. This whole journey is NOT just about Heaven. It's about life now, transforming, redeeming, communing, blessing and leading. It's also about a new heaven and a new earth later. Heaven is not the end-all of life after death. There is much more to come after that.

So, while this old classic has a place, it won't be in the hearts of my guys.

4 on Our Own -- Night 1

My poor little S had a horrible time last night. I think, I took five little 35 minute naps all night long between listening to him cough (and cough, and cough), getting him more Gatorade, more water, more medicine (alternating cough medicine and ibuprophin every few hours), changing his clothes because he'd peed out all that water, changing his bedsheets and pillow because he threw up from coughing, taking his temperature (highest was 102.6) holding him tight and rubbing his back. Oi.

And then around 5 a.m. he stopped coughing and is now sleeping soundly. I hope he sleeps all morning. Why do we only cough through the heart of the night?

Since I was awake, I did my own hour of Tae Bo this morning to get my adrenaline pumping because that's probably the only thing that will get me through today. That and caffeinated tea. O.K. That and caffeinated tea and the promise that we can do another Red Box movie again because Monsters v. Aliens was pretty good!

Other than school work (and that laundry) we have nothing else we have to do today. That's a good thing.

Wednesday, October 7

4 on Our Own -- Day 1

When Chip goes away it's my habit to blog every day so that he can see what we're up to. You all just get to eavesdrop and comment so I don't go stir crazy. So here is where we stand so far:

S was diagnosed yesterday with the flu and an ear infection. The ear pain is what drove us to the dr. yesterday afternoon -- the flu will probably take care of itself. However, the rest of the world around me is sick and if they are not sick, they don't want to get sick. So, we are staying home and we're not inviting anyone over to play. He'll miss his last day of swim lessons as a result.

J&B finished school today in a pretty timely manner. We did light/shadow experiments, exponents, fractions, multiplication through sixes, created a newspaper cartoon feature, read about Kit Carson and the Cheyenne Indians in Colorado, learned more about the life of Albert Einstein, wrote problem statements and hypothesis statements for their science fair projects, looked up verses about shadows, read a few more pages in Keep the Lights Burning, Abbie, studied different kinds of sentences, and studied the Sumerians.

Here is a shadow project B did using light sensitive paper, leaves and a pinecone:

Here is what they are doing right now using the living room furniture and blankets. B is eating the candy they earned for getting their work done yesterday and he's installed a "mailbox" in the front of the fort so that I can send him messages:

Here is the scariest picture of all. This is my oldest DS leaving on his bike to to get the Red Box movie for tonight. He has to ride across a large parking lot, cross one not-very-busy-street and go into McDonalds WITH MY CREDIT CARD. Fortunately, he made it home with Monsters vs. Aliens AND my card:
We're off to drop off J for Taekwon Do and return a host of overdue library books before we go back and get him. After dinner I'll bathe the troops, we'll watch the movie and they're off to snoozeland. Me too. Hopefully I'll be tired tonight.

Tuesday, October 6


The KWL introduction/summation exercise has been floating around teaching circles for a looong time. A few years ago I picked up on it and thought, though it seems a bit canned and programmish, I'd give it a try. It's been one of the kids' favorite ways to start a unit. (It's amazing how they chime in when they know their answer will matter).

KWL stands for "What do you Know about [the topic]?" "What do you Want to know about [the topic]?" "What did you Learn about [the topic]?" Obviously, you do K and W when you begin the topic and L when you're done. I never do L, because if I'm teaching the way I think I should I'm not going to ignore their W and teach my own agenda to them. If they want to know some stuff then, of course, by the end of our study that's what they're going to know. Plus, I forget to do L. Just keeping it real for ya.

We began a unit study on Light yesterday. Here is what they Want to know. I have a second grader and a sixth grader and these are their actual responses.
  • How fast does light travel?
  • Can you measure the brightness of light?
  • What is the size and shape of light?
  • How do we measure heat from light?
  • What did Einstein learn about light?
  • When was the light bulb invented?
  • Why does light from the sun burn your eyes?
I should be a specialist in Optics by the end of next week.