Monday, April 24, 2017

Old Testament Block III: Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah

We are having to speed up through the remainder of the Old Testament Stories. This last week we need to cover the entirety of Jakob Streit's third book of the OT trilogy: We Will Build a Temple.

Today, we reviewed the lesson on Solomon from Friday, read the remainder of the story of Solomon (pp.13-17), and did our watercolor pencil drawings for the Main Lesson Book of the two bouquets of identical flowers. They were stunning. Becca also chose a verse from the book of Proverbs to add to her book, at the bottom of her summaries.

Then we did Elijah (pp.19-25), Isaiah (pp.33-35), and Jeremiah (pp.37-47) all in one day! Whew! But it took us nicely in an arc from the building of the temple by King Solomon, to the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem by King Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians.

(By the way, the Child's History of the World book from the previous post handily shows how to write Nebuchadnezzar's name in cuneiform on p.99.)

The poem we have been memorizing this block is Isaiah 46:4, so this was a chance for the kids to finally learn who Isaiah was!

It's a lot for tomorrow's summary, so we are going to focus on how the temple was built, how the Israelites repeatedly turned away from the God of Abraham to worship false idols and God sent prophets to help them get back on track, and how ultimately the temple and Jerusalem were both destroyed. However, thanks to Jeremiah, the Ark of the Covenant was saved.

Today we also did some of our regular routines, like our weekly trip to the library and our circle time, including our daily math. Between the library, which I count as Hands because we go to the Homeschool Lego Challenge, and our watercolor pencil work, which is Heart, and the main lesson (summarizing yesterday's story in a rough draft, getting an edit, adding it to the MLB along with an illustration, and hearing the new story), the day flies by. It seems on each individual day that we haven't done much but when you look back at the whole week it's been very productive.

I actually want to mention here that a new routine we have been trying has worked wonders for both productivity and having the day feel balanced and relaxed. It seems counter-intuitive but it's true. My horseback riding instructor turned me onto this. When you plan your day in the morning you put everything in 50 minute blocks. Then in the ten minutes left of each hour, you drink water and stretch. Simple.

So I have a timer set for 9:50, 10:50, 11:50, 12:50, 1:50, and 2:50. Every time it goes off we stop work and drink a full cup of water and run races in the yard or do yoga or play the hokey pokey or whatever. So if you add that up, it's a full hour of every school day we spend drinking water and moving around. (The kids also get 45 minutes of recess.) It has actually increased our productivity! When we go to do MLBs, the kids are much more focused and productive. It doesn't take time away from our day. It puts time back in. So I wanted to pass that idea along. And I HAVE TO get up and drink water and move around too, which is a very good thing.

She actually told me to try to wake up a full hour before the kids each day and spend half of that time stretching and drinking water but I'm not doing that consistently yet. On the days that I have done it though I have felt amazing.

Another routine which I also really love is the daily math sheets we've started using. This is so simple but the daily nuts & bolts computation time has really helped me to see gaps in student understanding (dynamic subtraction which requires borrowing from multiple decimal places, all four of the operations with fractions) and I am more grateful than ever for the Montessori materials, even in 6th grade. The four that I find the most helpful and pull out nearly on a daily basis are the Cut-Out Labeled Fraction Circles, the Stamp Game, the Decimal Stamp Game, and the Checker Board. They are invaluable for introducing a concept correctly, or for giving kids remedial lessons to help them understand a concept which was presented too abstractly. The Decimal Stamp Game is my latest purchase and I'm thrilled to finally have one!

The next thing on my wish list is the Decimal Checker Board. You can actually get a quilted Checker Board mat, which is smaller and more convenient than the large wooden one and I will probably do that. It's also less expensive. No matter which Checker Board you have, you do need the Colored Bead Bars and Number Tiles as well in order to use it.

Tomorrow we have to do two stories, one in the AM and one in the PM. The first is Daniel in the Lion's Den and the second is Queen Esther. One AMAZING coincidence: one of the versions of the Queen Esther story actually quotes the very same chapter and verse from Isaiah which I'd been having us memorize. That made me really happy!

We also thinned out our seedlings today in the peat pots, and tomorrow a doctoral student from the university who is doing her research on WHY people grow backyard gardens, and who comes every few months to interview me and to help in our garden, is coming to help us put our straw bales into place and plant our seedlings. Hurrah!

I will also be showing the kids a very nice National Weather Service graph which I found called "Risk of Planting Too Soon - Historical Probability of Last Spring Freeze." It will help them to see that April 25 is an OK day to plant. Actually, we probably could have planted much sooner but you never know. I had an easy time starting and buying plants but I've had a hard time getting them in the straw bales. And it does help me a lot to have Aimee come around with her expertise and her enthusiasm!

This post contains affiliate links to the materials I actually use for homeschooling. I hope you find them helpful. Thank you for your support!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Old Testament Block III: Saul, David, Solomon

Finishing up an exciting week! Becca's Young Poets' Workshop series, led by Saluki Writers Project, came to its conclusion and she had a really nice reading with her poetry group. All the families and the children's librarian had a pizza party on Thursday and we listened to each child share one or two favorite pieces of poetry. This was the one that Becca wrote and shared:

    Should I run
    Should I be
    the president
    what would I do?
    Cake every day!
    Bubble baths
    feather pillows

    But wait!
    what about

    What about
    Global Warming?

    What to do?

    take a bubble
    bath read
    a book take a nap?

    I don't want
    to be the

We also had Farm Day Field Trip on Wednesday (a great driving tour of Southern IL history), SWI on Friday (words studied this week were "friend" and "violent"), and a field trip on Sunday to the Trail of Tears State Park, where we visited the visitor center for a long time and then did a short hike to a spot overlooking the Mississippi River.

One of the most profound quotes on display was from an unidentified soldier who wrote years later, "I fought through the Civil War and have seen men shot to pieces and slaughtered by thousands, but the Cherokee removal was the cruelest work I ever knew." A lot of the signage in the building was in Cherokee as well as English.

We also walked as a family in the All-Species Puppet Parade on Saturday. It was lightly misting but not too bad. And the variety of puppets was amazing! I was in love with the yellow jacket and the virus (although Leah and I had a lively debate as to whether viruses even count as living beings). Natalie and Leah went to a puppetmaking workshop last week and collaborated on a purple Cat (the girls were excited to be on the workshop's Facebook page). Becca wore her Jellyfish hat and Zac was sporting the Elephant headpiece from his Halloween costume. So fun. It's a great Earth Day event!

We started the first Module of the NVC workbook (The No-Fault Classroom: Tools to Resolve Conflict & Foster Relationship Intelligence). The first Power is The Power to Get to Calm Alert. (Calm Alert is the center point on your Feelings Thermometer and it is the state in which you function best.) We will be doing Mindfulness exercises and learning some Energy Shifters next.

Tadpoles are still going strong. We call the aquarium "baby frog water" for Zac, which he has cheerfully abbreviated to "babee wa." We all love watching them! Every time we get them more plant life we scoop up some lake or pond water, and so we've gotten some other things too. Three snails, a cool diving beetle, larva of some kind of insect... it's fascinating! It would be a good transition to go from here into helping collect data for some kind of study on water health locally. I wish I had my macroinvertebrate identification sheets from the stream study we did at my last school!

One of the fun things we did for Math Homework this week was the Mean, Median, Mode, and Range Easter Egg Activity. This was fun and simple and a great use for those 500 Easter eggs leftover from our Puzzle Piece Egg Hunt. You can easily individualize it by giving each child 30 eggs and 30 slips of paper and letting the kids choose what numbers they want to put in their eggs. Make sure they repeat some numbers or there won't be a mode.

In Main Lesson Books, we added the stories of "Saul and David" and "Solomon."

Saul and David

Beatrice Schenk de Regniers did a beautiful retelling of David and Goliath. Her work is wonderful... but that's the only part of the story she tells. I really needed my students to know all of what happened between Saul and David, so we used Jakob Streit's book, Journey to the Promised Land: The Path of the People of Israel from Abraham's Calling to David's Dream. The story of David concludes this book.

I had wanted to have us make rock slings but I couldn't find the material for the leather pouches (the last time I made one, I used a piece of leather from the side of an old portfolio, but it was too stiff). So Becca just put a drawing of the sling and the directions on how to make one in her MLB as the illustration.

The next day, we read two beautifully illustrated version of Psalm 23 -- one by Tim Ladwig and the other by Barry Moser -- and compared which one resonated most with us. We also looked at the Psalms section of the Bible.

I will also freely admit that I showed Becca the video for a rap song (Gangsta's Paradise) which begins with a line from the twenty-third Psalm. I wanted her to see the context which Tim Ladwig was attempting to portray, and which is so foreign to her. I am only doing this because she's doing this block as a twelve year old. I wouldn't do that if she was actually in third grade. But it did help her to see how powerful the words are.


Although Jakob Streit begins his third book with Solomon's story, We Will Build a Temple: The Path of Israel from King Solomon to John the Baptist, I had other preferences. I read my group two stories.

The first was chapter 12 of my favorite book from my childhood, the 1951 edition of A Child's History of the World.

I followed it with "The Wise King and the Little Bee" retold by Rose Dobbs in Once Upon a Time: Twenty Cheerful Tales to Read and Tell.

Tomorrow we will be reviewing the story of Solomon, as Streit tells it, by reading pages 13-17 of his book. Then we will use our beautiful new Derwent Inktense Ink Pencils, 72-Pack and watercolor paper to draw two identical bouquets of flowers. This will be our illustration for the MLB.

This post contains affiliate links to the materials I actually use for homeschooling. I hope you find them helpful. Thank you for your support!

Friday, April 21, 2017

Fun Friday Dinner: Art Theme

I just want to send out a HUGE THANK YOU to my friend, Leslie, who donated so many amazing art supplies to the homeschool co-op!

In her honor, we made Art the theme of Fun Friday Dinner. (This is a weekly themed costume contest. The winner gets no actual prize... just prestige.)

Natalie, age 15
She came in sporting an adorable vintage apron, flour spilled all over her clothing, an enormous yellow mixing bowl, a metal whisk, and a huge patch of flour on the tip of her nose. "Don't you know that Cooking is an Art?"

Leah, age 13
She came in with black heeled shoes, opaque black tights, a lovely pale pink lace dress, and a black coat with an asymmetrical zipper closure. And rouge! And she was carrying a long mailing tube (presumably with a world-famous painting in it). Pure glamour. "I heard that there's an Art show here tonight?"

Becca, age 12
She came as a free-spirited girl named Art... with flowers face painted on her cheeks and chin, the word Art in yellow face paint across her forehead, layers of headwear (a crocheted headband, a dyed bandanna, a felted wool hat), plus a lively pink flowered dress and colorful polka-dotted rainboots.

Renee, age 41
I wore extremely silly slippers made entirely of adhesive bubble wrap. (Zac's new enamelware dishes from Nova Natural came wrapped in the stuff. At first I just wanted to get him the little creamer so that he could pour his own milk on his cereal, but I gave in and got the entire set.) I carried a tube of orange fluorescent acrylic paint in one hand and a paintbrush in the other. I told the children that I was an artist who squirted paint on the ground and then walked in it. So Becca said, "What is the brush for?" I replied calmly, "It's ART, Dahhhhling."

(By the way, there's a very cool picture book about the invention of day-glo paint. We read it when we learned about Famous Inventors.)

The Day-Glo Brothers: The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer's Bright Ideas and Brand-New Colors

Anyway, back to the family dinnertime costume contest. Natalie won!

Here is a list of the new goodies we got from Leslie. I'm so inspired! And positively giddy. It was great timing because my birthday was Tuesday; my friend didn't even know that when she brought the supplies to my door. Golly, my head is swimming with great new art ideas for my Summer Camp!

    set of 72 Derwent Inktense pencils

    8 inch round gel printing plate

    watercolor paper:
    9 x 12 inch watercolor block
    10 1/2 x 14 1/2 inch watercolor paper sampler
    12 inch x 16 inch watercolor block

    acrylic paints:
    fluorescent orange-yellow, grass green, cobalt green, veridian, iridescent copper, red-violet, caribbean, cadmium orange, aqua, sweet mint, ultramarine blue, titanium white, light buttermilk, buttermilk, pistachio mint, raw umber, sap green, lake, cloud, interference blue, interference green-blue

    Liquitex acrylic iridescent medium

    paint markers:
    yellow, red, titanium white

    two boxes of washable kids paint, 10 bottles each box

    set of 6 Grumbacher brushes
    Winsor & Newton Wilton fan brush
    plus 13 more assorted bristle brushes
    plus an assortment of foam brushes

    1 lb scrap pack of assorted cardstock pieces

    9 x 12 tracing paper

    box of carbon paper

    9 x 12 construction paper
    white, orange, red, blue

    8 bottles of glitter glue
    shamrock, silver, icicle, Christmas red, gold, aquamarine, emerald, confetti

    12 gel pens (these went in the Easter baskets!)

    box of 50 Cray-Pas student oil pastels

She also brought some rocks and minerals from her collection for us, which was fantastic! And they'll go really well with our Summer Camp topic too.

Summer Camp Theme: From Lava to Life
June 12 - 23, 2017

From Lava to Life: The Universe Tells Our Earth Story

This post contains affiliate links to the materials I actually use for homeschooling. I hope you find them helpful. Thank you for your support!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Old Testament Block III: Joseph, Moses

We are finishing the Old Testament Stories and I found teaching Joseph and Moses pretty overwhelming. They are LONG and rich stories, and it seems hard to sort through and decide between all the great retellings and art ideas. I made an extensive list on my website and then found it didn't really help me too much because it had so many ideas! Jakob Streit's book is great, and it's free, but it is soooo long (for these two stories) that it would be three days apiece to tell them, and I just didn't have that much time.

So, here is what we did:


    We read Joseph, retold and illustrated by Brian Wildsmith. This introduced the story.

    We watched the second half of The Story of Jacob and Joseph.

    For artwork, I really wanted to do a coat of many colors fabric collage art piece, but I couldn't find my fat quarters so we did a collage of textured scrapbook papers instead. Happily, I had a great collection! Becca even used Sparkle Mod Podge to give it that extra special touch (make it worth killing a brother over).


    We read Brian Wildsmith's companion volume, Exodus. This introduced the story.

    The next day, we read Miriam's Cup for review.

    We made matzo pizzas (be careful with these... the fire dept. had to come to my house because they caught on fire under the broiler) and watched the 1923 silent movie version of The Ten Commandments. It was my first-ever silent movie, so I was very excited.

    Then my own daughters begged and begged me, so we also watched the 1956 version over the weekend (and we lay in bed and ate sushi because I was taking a break from using the kitchen after that fire).

    The next day, we read The Four Questions for review, and to see if the children had been paying enough attention to the story that they could figure out some of the answers to the questions -- and the symbolism of different components of the Seder -- without being told in advance. They did well!

    Finally, I read them a story about the death of Moses, The Shadow of a Flying Bird by Mordecai Gerstein, and we added Moses to our MLBs.

    For her illustration, Becca picked Moses parting the Red Sea, but if you divided this up over more days, you would obviously have more illustrations.

I did not have us do the chapter on Joshua, although I told the children about Joshua being the next leader, and that there was a long line of judges, and then we went ahead to Saul and David. I did read Streit's description of the Ark of the Covenant.

In other homeschool news from last week, we had SWI and Farm Day, as always.

We started a new Philosophy topic, Courage, and our first philosopher is Epictetus. He will take us through the end of the year, because I'm tying him in with lessons on NVC (and using The No-Fault Classroom: Tools to Resolve Conflict & Foster Relationship Intelligence). We did our Classroom Vision Statement, as well as our Group Agreements. We needle felted our aliens, Michi and Nao, and drew our iOS Power Panels. Yes, it seems a little hokey but it is a step-by-step way to teach nonviolent communication to children, so I'm willing to give it a trial run.

I came up with the tie-in with Epictetus because they have a quote from him in the margin of the No-Fault Classrom book. It was perfect! Then it wasn't like, you guys aren't getting along and we have to do something about it. It was like, let's learn about Epictetus.

Some links we used for Math Homework last week:

We decorated eggs for Easter (Sharpie dot silhouette eggs and shaving cream eggs) and made a ton of Easter baskets and I pulled an all-nighter and went to bed at 5 am trying to make Easter perfect and then proceeded to spend most of Easter Sunday either sleeping or sobbing. I stamped Zac's feet with white paint on burlap and turned it into little Easter bunnies and made one for us and one for each grandmother. I hid 500 puzzle pieces in 500 plastic Easter eggs in my yard. Then the older girls had to find all the eggs and assemble the pieces... and it was one of those puzzles which you color after you put it together, so that made it even more challenging. And, yes, one puzzle piece fell out of an egg and we never did find it and then it rained. It was an edge piece too!

We did a sweet little egg hunt with Zac. I used 20 lbs of cornmeal to draw a line in the yard, in a long windy trail, and then we hid his eggs along the line. He got 7 little hard-cooked dyed eggs. He took his little red metal pail (with two dish towels folded inside to keep the eggs from breaking when he dropped them in) and he walked along the line and found them all!

We also went on Saturday to the farm pond and got a load of pond water and tadpoles and set up an aquarium in our living room. We have an air stone bubbling away in it (the pump and tubing and air stone are leftover from the hydroponics system) and little Tadpole Observation Journals for everyone to drawn and write in (I didn't use her front cover... prefer the kids to make their own... but I liked the inside pages and having them be half-sheets). We also saw deer and raccoon tracks in the mud!

wading in the pond and watching the tadpoles

happily throwing rocks in the water

This post contains affiliate links to the materials I actually use for homeschooling. I hope you find them helpful. Thank you for your support!