Greatly Blessed

Greatly Blessed

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Moon Watching


Did you watch the lunar eclipse?  When we first went out, the moon was behind the clouds, and we couldn't see anything at all, but I sat and watched, and eventually, it showed up.


The kids came out sporadically to see what was happening.


It's always fun to get to hang out outside in the dark, right?  


We took some silly pictures.  Eli is about to pluck the moon from the sky and eat it.


A blurry Sam is holding the moon.


I played with the camera settings a little and got some interesting shots.  Some glowing red...


And other shots more monochrome looking.


Brianna "hearts" the moon.  We all wanted to turn off that street light.


As the kids came and went, I continued to take pictures every so often.


We ended up with a nice progression.


These gray moon shots are my favorite.


The glowing ones are not as nice.


The detail in the gray shots was a nice surprise.  Jack said it looked like there were roads on the moon.


So nice of nature to provide us with such a fun and interesting homeschool opportunity only a few months after we studied astronomy!


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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Middlebury Interactive Languages - Mandarin


Those of you who've been reading here for a while know that my heart wishes Hannah and Katie could have retained their native languages.  This review opportunity gave Hannah the chance to re-familiarize herself with some Mandarin.  One of the beautiful things about online learning is that parents do not need to speak the language their child is learning.  While China is dear to my heart, I know I will never be fluent in Mandarin or Cantonese.  However, that does not mean that my girls can't learn to speak passable Mandarin.  My hope is that when they are a bit older, I can take them to visit China.  I would love for them to be able to communicate while we are there.

 Middlebury Interactive Languages Review

We were given a six month access to Middlebury Interactive Languages for review purposes.  I chose to place her in Elementary Chinese 1: Grades K-2, the most basic of the options.  There are also Chinese courses for 3-5 grade, middle school, and level 1 and 2 high school courses.  Each level is a one semester course.


This online program is made up of videos and interactive computer games.  There are printables, as well as quizzes and section tests, to track progress.  It's user friendly, and easy to navigate, for both student and parent.


At any point, you can check their Grade Report to see how they're doing.  


And you can find out how they did on specific quizzes and tests, as well.  As you can see from Hannah's scores, she's not doing terrific at it, but honestly, that's okay with me.  My goal here is to provide familiarization, and Middlebury does that, and does it in a fun and engaging way.


You can see here, Hannah is listening carefully to a portion of a song in Chinese, which she then sings into the microphone.  We needed to purchase a microphone to use the program, but it was less than $10 bucks, and is easy to use, once I explained to Hannah that she had to make sure it was plugged in!  (She went through a lesson wondering why it wouldn't play back what she was saying into the microphone.)


Hannah looks forward to doing her Mandarin lesson each day, and often reminds me, "Mom, can I do my computer time now?"  When she reaches the end of the program, which is 35 lessons for this age group, I'm planning to have her go back and re-do the sections she did not score well on.  I think sometimes she went on to the next thing without clicking the button to record that she'd completed the activity.  Either way, the additional practice will be good for her.  Once she has mastered this course, I look forward to checking out the 3rd to 5th grade level so she can continue her learning.

You can connect with Middlebury Interactive Languages on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and G+.  Read what other families had to say about Middlebury's Spanish, Chinese, French and German language learning programs by clicking the box below:

 Middlebury Interactive Languages Review

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Saturday, September 26, 2015

Our Week with Homeschool Picture Day


This week was a short week for my high schoolers.  They had Friday off, which means the routine is different than a typical school day.  I had high hopes of getting significant homeschooling done, but with family pictures to prepare for, we didn't do as much as I would have liked to.


I have to say, I'm starting to appreciate online learning more in this time of not being able to get our typical style of schoolwork done.  Hannah does Mandarin and math drills online.


Jack is doing a reading program and math drills.  Between computer time, and the 3 subjects they work on largely on their own during nap time (math, handwriting, and English), we're limping along.


Jack has also been reading more in the evenings at bedtime.  I had several new books tucked away for him, and over the past week or so, he's read 2 and started a third.  I am so delighted by this that I ordered some of the YWAM books for younger kids for Jack and Hannah to try out.


This week we passed the 3 month milestone hosting the Little Ones.


These bristle blocks were a Christmas present for Luke last year.  At that time, he was not grasping toys, only food, so I put them up for a rainy day.  This week, I came across them, and the Little Ones had a great time exploring a new toy.


I mentioned last week that we were going to be doing pictures this week.  It was nice to see our friends who have moved out of state, but it was really hot!  We should get the finished images back in 2-3 weeks.  I'm really looking forward to seeing what we got.  We did individual photos of all the kids not in classroom school so I can update my picture wall.  We also did some group pictures and I did a shot of my "class" this year.


We're spending more time in the play room than the school room these days.  I know I said last week that the Little Ones would be leaving, but now it's looking like beginning of October.


Now that Luke is showing more interest in toys, we've hung a baby toy from the strap on the back of one of the Little Ones' feeding chairs.  Luke was so vigorous in his play that he knocked the chair over on top of himself.  He looked up at me like, "What just happened here?" but didn't cry.  I was impressed.

finishing up our 3rd week of Spelling

Last week, I mentioned that in 4 weeks time, we'd finished 2 weeks curriculum.  The good news is we're SO close to being done with Week 3 this week (which is week 5 of school).  A friend is going to start helping out with the Little Ones during school hours so that I can get my little class back on track.

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Monday, September 21, 2015

Our Study of Columbus with YWAM Publishing


When we got the opportunity to review for YWAM Publishing, I was overwhelmed at the choices!  I selected Christopher Columbus:  Across The Ocean Sea from their Heroes of History line.  I received the 208 page paperback book, which is also available in Kindle and ebook versions.  Along with the book, we received the Christopher Columbus Unit Study Curriculum Guide on CD.  YWAM Publishing is phasing out the CD versions of the study guides, and switching to digital downloads instead.


As it happens, we were already familiar with the Heroes of History series, as we own some of the books, being that they were suggested reading in our base curriculum.  I also have my eye on several other titles about missionaries to China that I will be adding to our library as the girls get a little older.


Christopher Columber:  Across The Ocean Sea was perfect for us, since our base curriculum starts with the Age of Exploration this year, and few explorers could be more well known than Columbus.

I read the book aloud to Jack and Hannah, and we held our breath as Columbus experienced setbacks, hardships, and dangers in this reader friendly version of Columbus' story, designed for kids age 10 and up.  There were many words I had to stop and explain, especially to Hannah, who is only 8, but she was able to get the general gist of the account.  We all found it highly amusing that Columbus kept thinking he had hit Asia, when we could look at our maps and clearly see that wasn't possible.


The Unit Study guide contains 2 .pdf files of suggestions, including all sorts of things beyond just discussion questions for the book.  There are quotes that can be used for copywork, display ideas, links, and more.

The chapter questions were a little advanced for my students (grades 3 and 6).  Students are asked to define words and use them in sentences, as well as grasping ideas at a higher reasoning level than where my kids are currently at.

One of the hands on suggestions was to build a model of one of the three ships, the Nina, the Pinta, or the Santa Maria.  This would, of course, be a more costly option than serving a meal of salted or pickled foods (what the crew would have eaten, without refrigeration).  But it seems like it would be an easier option than creating the Caribbean from paper mache, another idea from the hands on section.

We had several interesting discussions that popped up organically during our reading, such as what coral reefs are, why it would be bad to run into one, and what sorts of animals live in them.  Not to mention slavery, astronomy, ocean currents, and other things that we talked about.  We even looked up Columbus' coat of arms that was given to him by Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain.  However, the Study Guide suggest many "related themes" that you could bird walk into, if such discussions do not come up spontaneously.


Honestly, some bits of the Study Guide seemed better suited to a classroom than a homeschool, but I did appreciate the reproducible pages in the second part of the files.  The printout in the photo above became a "research project" that Josiah helped Jack with.

YWAM Publishing Review

In addition to the books featured in the Crew reviews, YWAM Publishing offers much more, including an entire Spanish section, and small amounts of books in several other languages.  There is an impressive array of audiobooks, and they even offer some of the Heroes of History books for a younger age group.  I'm seriously considering some of the Christian Heroes for Young Readers, as I think the 5-10 age range listed would make them perfect reading for Jack and Hannah (ages 11 and 8).  Most of my kids have gone through a phase of wanting to be a missionary, and these stories of heroes of our faith are important for our kids to know.

You can connect with YWAM Publishing on Facebook, and Twitter.  To hear what other Crew families have to say about the books and study guides they reviewed, 40 titles altogether, please click the box below:

YWAM Publishing Review

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Saturday, September 19, 2015

Our Week with a visit to Apple Hill


It's mid September already, can you believe it?  I'm starting to grab a hoodie as I dash out the door in the morning to take the big kids to school.  Autumn means trips to Apple Hill and the pumpkin patch!


My mom came up to visit last Friday, and she and I took 4 of the kids to Apple Hill, while Paul stayed home with Luke and the Little Ones.  (The big kids were in school.)  No trip with Grammy is complete without a stop at Taco Bell.


Josiah is camera shy, so he took this picture for me at our first farm.


However, I managed to catch him enjoying the misters on the balcony at another farm.


At one farm, we ran into a preying mantis!  That makes it a science field trip, right?


I got suckered into buying a rubber band gun from the woodcraft booth.


High Hill is a favorite of ours, but unfortunately, it's too early in the season for the hay rides to be going on a weekday.  It was really nice that it was not crowded, but they also didn't have as many apple varieties out as what they will in a couple weeks.  I had been hoping to bring home a box of honeycrisps, but was disappointed.


My mom and I


My cute girls!

See that pink box?  There are apple donuts in there.  They were amazing.  I also brought home flavored honey sticks.


This was shot about 3 pm on our way home.  The sky is full of smoke and ash from the nearby wildfire.  The sun was a pinkish orange.


Here at home, Jack and Hannah are both working on computer programs for upcoming reviews.  They are also using XtraMath, which is a free program for drilling basic math facts.


In our reading this week, Panama was mentioned, and I told the kids it was between North and South America.  Hannah and Jack both found it quickly on the world map.


Watch for a review next week about some Columbus resources!


While we were at Apple Hill, I picked up a bag of Lego candy.  Sorting, counting, classifying, and building are all good STEM skills, right?  This kept them busy for a good long while, and when Hannah asked for a ziplock bag, I showed her how to hold an envelope from her paper "placemat" instead.  Jack and Katie wanted me to fold them envelopes, too, and I noticed them playing "mail" later that day.


Miss Katie had an appointment at Shriners this week, and I brought Hannah along in the hopes of getting a new foot, since the toe broke off her old one recently.

The hand doctor took a look at both girls' hands and decided to send Hannah for an xray, since her prior one was from 2011.  In the end, we decided that we're going to continue to leave her xiao hand (xiao means "little" in Mandarin) alone, but it was good to take a peek and make sure that was still the best choice.  The xray tech gave Hannah her choice of books to keep, and she chose a Magic Tree House book.  Silly me.  I hadn't realized that she is now capable of chapter books.  Turns out, she's been reading the series here at home during nap time (the older kids used to love MTH books!).  We're now at the awkward place where Hannah's reading skills have surpassed Jack's, but it hasn't been An Issue so far.


While we were with the hand doctor, I mentioned that Katie is turning 5 soon, and would be starting some K type work, but is having a hard time holding a pencil and making a firm mark with it.  They brought in an OT, who said, "Get her a 504 plan."  Gee, thanks, dude.  *I* am the one teaching her, so I'll be happy to make whatever modifications needed, I just need to know what those might be.  He didn't seem very supportive of homeschooling, but he did give us a special pencil and 3 different pencil grips for regular pencils, so we're giving those a go to see if it helps.


The Little Ones have gotten over whatever bug they had.  It's looking like they'll be leaving us next week.

We're doing "school pictures" for the kids who are not in school next week.  One of our former photographers is back in town, doing photoshoots, so we'll be having individual pictures done of most of the family.  The high schoolers had picture day this week, so they're all set.

She took this picture for us in 2013, and it's still one of my favorites.

As far as actual homeschooling goes, our big accomplishment was finishing Week 2 of our curriculum.  Pathetic, when you consider that this was our 4th week of school.  We're planning to catch up after the Little Ones go home.  Fridays are usually assigned as light days, with minimal work, so we'll be able to fit in more on those days.  I'm confident that by the end of October we'll be on track.

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