Walt Disney World 2017

We just returned from a wonderful trip to Walt Disney World. We stayed at The Beach Club Resort, which was especially great because it’s within walking distance to Epcot, our family’s favorite park.  We could easily walk across the “International Gateway” right into Epcot’s World Showcase. Due to our proximity, we spent a lot more time in Epcot than we ever have before. I reached my goal of trying something to eat from each of the eleven countries and the kids were able to make a pressed penny in each one as well.

 

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Around the World Showcase

 

Mexico

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Norway

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“School Bread” from Kringla Bakery (my favorite Disney treat)

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China

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Germany

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Italy

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Japan

Kakigori Shaved Ice

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Morocco

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Chicken Shawarma Platter (so good!)

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France

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United Kingdom

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Canada

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More at Epcot

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Magic Kingdom

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Hollywood Studios

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Animal Kingdom

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Fall 2016

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Camping in Arkansas

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Elliot’s growing baseball cap collection

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A random idea

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They’ve been learning about the scientific method by performing simple experiments each week and recording their hypothesis and results in their lab books.

“Does water weigh more when it’s frozen?”

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His writing has really improved as he progresses through the first level of “Writing with Skill”.

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Both kids have been very into typing up stories they write on the computer. I never would have guessed we’d have arguments over whose turn it is to type!

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Twelve Weeks

We just completed our 12th week of the school year. We’ve made necessary adjustments and have gotten into a great groove. We’re looking forward to a much needed fall break in about a week!

 

This is Caroline’s preferred position for reading.

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The kids have been learning the language of their choosing using an program called Duolingo. Elliot recently completed the “flirting” section and can now say phrases such as, “The coffee’s on me.” in German.  That’ll be useful. 🙄

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They have also been doing a cooking class with their cousins, taught by their wonderful Aunt Annie. They’ve been learning all sorts of great skills so they can be helping me more in the kitchen!

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Bring Your Bible to School (homeschool enrichment classes) Day

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Ruby never misses a day of school with us. She’s either providing support for a student…

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or helping me navigate the day’s lessons in the teacher’s manual. We love our schoolroom kitty!

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Beginner Writing

After discovering a few weeks into the school year that writing wasn’t coming quite so easy for Caroline and that my relaxed approach to creative writing for the earlier elementary grades that worked great with Elliot wasn’t a good fit for her, I started hunting for a resource that would help her.  I came across Classical Academic Press and their Writing and Rhetoric Curriculum and after seeing the first level (for grade 3 or 4) is based on fables, I knew it would be perfect.  Caroline absolutely loves Aesop’s fables.  Each lesson focuses on one fable and uses its example to teach various writing concepts such as figurative writing, amplification, etc. With each lesson there are small exercises focusing on things like adding detail or using more interesting words, as well as copywork and dictation.  At the end of the lesson (lasting one week, ideally) there’s a bigger writing exercise where the student puts their own spin on the fable they’ve been focusing on. The student might be asked to change the characters or add different details, or other changes that make the fable new and unique. Caroline is finally creating her own writing without feeling stressed or experiencing writer’s block. This curriculum gets her started, using something she already loves, and then she’s off and running once she understands what she is supposed to do.  We’re really excited about this curriculum and will probably continue using the next few levels until she’s ready to move on to Writing with Skill, around 6th grade.

 

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She’s learning how to use the thesaurus for finding lots of great word choices, as well as the dictionary to look up exact meanings of words she’s unsure of.

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Even though you can do all your writing in the book, she likes to put her big assignments on paper and create a cover with pictures.

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When life gives you fruitflies…

take out your microscope and get a closer look.

 

We’ve been experiencing a bit of a fruitfly invasion in our kitchen recently. Maybe it’s the unseasonably warm weather here in TX that’s bringing them in. We’ve been trapping them in cups of apple cider vinegar.  The other day we decided it might be interesting to take a look at one of them under our microscope. We learned they are striped like bees and are quite hairy. Josh warned me I might regret knowing what these things look like and he’s probably right. I’m not going to be able to stop thinking about it the next time one buzzes around my food.

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My “Top Faves” Booklist

I’ve been reorganizing our bookshelves and reminiscing about some of the books we’ve read and enjoyed together over the years and I thought I’d create a quick list of some of our most loved books. According to my calculations, we’ve read between ninety to one-hundred books together, but the ones I list here stand out to us as the most memorable.

1. Abel’s Island by William Steig

I absolutely love this author’s writing style. We’ve read several of his others but this one is definitely the most charming and loved by us.

 

2. Winnie the Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne

We remember giggling through these three years ago and now my youngest, who’s in third grade, is reading Winnie the Pooh again and enjoying it very much. These are the ultimate classics of children’s literature.

 

3. The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White

While Charlotte’s Web might be White’s most popular book, I’d have to choose The Trumpet of the Swan over it. We loved this story.

 

4. A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond

 

5. In Grandma’s Attic series by Arleta Richardson

These reminded me of The Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, but with a little more humor and a moral lesson you discover in every chapter. Each chapter stands alone as its own story so you can take longer breaks between readings, which is nice.

 

6. Betsy Tacy and series by Maud Hart Lovelace

Such a cute series, but probably best suited for girls.

 

7. Little Pear and Little Pear and His Friends by Eleanor Lattimore

These are super cute and reminded me a bit of Betsy Tacy, but with a boy as the main character.

 

8.The Twenty One Balloons William Pene Du Bois

This is mine and Elliot’s favorite read aloud yet. It’s just all around great.

 

9. The Cricket in Times Square by George Seldon

 

10.Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

 

11. Boy of the Pyramids by Ruth Fosdick Jones

 

12. Heidi by Johanna Spyri

 

13. A Little Princess by Francis Hodgeson Burnett

 

14. Wolf Story by William McCleery

This one is especially great for a Dad to read aloud because it’s about a Dad telling a bedtime story!

 

15. The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald

 

16. Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbit

This is a great book that provoked a lot of interesting discussion around the idea of living eternally.

 

17. The Great Wheel by Robert Lawson

 

18. Zorgamazoo by Robert Paul Weston

This book written in poetry verse was chosen for our summer book club. It’s fabulously clever and so much fun to read out loud. I’d recommend reading this to kids ages eight up because some of the vocabulary is pretty sophisticated.

 

19. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

Elliot read the entire Narnia series several years ago, but I had never read any of them until recently when I decided we’d start reading them together. It’s a beautifully written story with Christian symbolism that jumps out at you throughout the story. There’s lots of great discussion to be had with this one.

 

20. Ramona the Pest and series by Beverly Cleary

Unfortunately, Ramona sometimes gets a bad rap. I think a lot of parents are worried she’s a naughty kid who will be a bad example to their kids. Personally, I think Beverly Cleary captures the heart and mind of a child so extremely well and kids enjoy Ramona because they can relate to what she’s thinking and feeling. Any “bad attitudes” displayed serve as a great opportunity for discussion. These books were the very first chapter books I read to our kids when they were just five and two-years-old, and they got us hooked on reading books together. I can still see in my mind’s eye my fidgety little two-year-old quieting down and becoming still to listen to these being read. For that reason, they will always hold a special place in my heart.

 

And because professional narrators often read a book better than I ever could, our top favorite audiobooks are worth mentioning too.

1. Bud, Not Buddy narrated by James Avery

 

2. Nooks and Crannies narrated Susie Riddell

 

3. Peter Pan narrated by Jim Dale

 

4. The BFG narrated by David Walliams

 

5. The Great Brain narrated by Ron McClarty

 

6. Tuesdays at the Castle narrated by Suzy Jackson

 

7. Just So Stories narrated by Jim Weiss

 

8. The Penderwicks narrated by Susan Denaker

 

9.. Twenty and Ten narrated by Eve Bianco

 

10. The One and Only Ivan narrated by Adam Grupper

 

11. Fortunately, the Milk written and narrated by Neil Gaiman

 

12. Mary Poppins narrated by Sophie Thompson

 

13. Hank the Cowdog and series written and Narrated by John Erickson

(Not my personal fave, but the kids find them to be pretty funny and with sixty-eight books in the series, there’s always more where that came from!)

 

14. All of the books written by Beverly Clearly, including by not limited to The Mouse and the Motorcycle and series, Henry Huggins and series, Ribsy and series, Ramona the Pest and series, Ellen Tebbits, and Otis Spofford.

 

First Day of School 2016

Our first day of school was really fantastic. Both kids were eager to see what new things they’d be doing and they had great attitudes about the tasks that might be challenging or would take them more time.

My main concern was how we would like the stuff we were trying for the first time. When you’ve invested in new curriculum, there’s always the concern that you’ll discover you hate it on the first day, but we were successful with everything that was new to us and I feel really good about using it all long-term.  I’m breathing a big sigh of relief!

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Middle School Antics

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“I see you taking pictures of us.”

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He did a massive amount of note-taking while listening to our history audios.  After telling him my expectation that he’d be taking notes, I was secretly a bit worried he’d tell me he didn’t know what to write and that we’d end up with a blank page at the end, but he literally never stopped writing. We all found the audios to be very easy to listen to and full of interesting facts. Caroline kept turning to me and winking when she heard something that caught her attention!  I loved getting the affirmation that she was following along.

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What’s New for the 2016-2017 School Year

It’s so hard to believe we are about to begin our 7th year of homeschooling.  When I tell people that, I find myself re-counting the years just to be sure because I can’t believe it’s been that long already.  But yep, I have a sixth grader this year, so the math all adds up!  Seems like just yesterday he was approaching Kindergrten and we attended the registration at the local elementary school where we began the process of enrolling him. I remember telling Josh that life was about to change so much and that we’d be spending the next eight years with a child at that school. Just weeks later, the thought that maybe I should look into the idea of homeschooling seemed to come out of nowhere. Before I knew it I was un-enrolling him and buying books and researching curriculum.  Since then, neither of our kids have set foot in the school that I thought our lives were going to be revolving around. Instead, our life and our learning has all happened at home.

The years of Five in a Row, phonics workbooks, and readers are behind us now. To be honest, I’m excited to have two big kids who are ready to tackle more challenging and interesting stuff.

We’re sticking with the math, grammar, and spelling programs we’ve used for years. Both kids will have a generous amount of assigned reading throughout the year and will keep a reading response journal.  In addition we’ll be doing the following:

Elliot will be starting Susan Wise Bauer’s Writing with Skill.  Up until this year I’ve created my own writing instruction and assignments for him but I’m looking for a bit more structure this year for middle school.

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For History we’re going to continue with a not-so-traditional approach, using a variety of resources instead of the typical textbook/workbook.  We finished U.S. history last year so we’re starting World History again, beginning with Ancient History.  We’re going to listen to audio CDs from Diana Waring’s history series, read books and listen to audiobooks that take place in the ancient world, watch Khan Academy videos, have great conversations, and do plenty of map work. We’ll also use my Keynote slideshow timeline that will assist the kids in filling in their own timeline of events.

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For science, Elliot is going to work through John Tiner’s Biology book along with the comprehension questions that go with it from Memoria Press.  Additionally, both kids will be doing a short 10-week astronomy unit, also from Memoria Press.

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Typically for third and fourth grade, I let my kids choose what interests them from our stash of science books and magazines in addition to giving them a few selections I want them to read.  So this year, Caroline will often be doing her own choosing for science, but she’ll also be reading a few books I’ve chosen from the Super Smart Science series, as well as the first book in the Sassafras Science series.

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And these are a few on our list for reading aloud together this year (in addition to the books that fit with our history).

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Our school room also got a bit of a refresher for the new school year.  We’ve traded in their separate desks for one big table. I got two drawer units that each have ten drawers, more than enough to keep all their subjects nicely organized and separated with a few to spare for them to store their creative protects.

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And I’m super excited about this idea that I snagged from Sarah Mackenzie at the Read Aloud Revival.  No more writing the day’s assignments on a dry erase board (that would get accidentally eased too often).  I love that we’ll be able to look back on everything they accomplished each day of the entire school year.

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We’re looking forward another great year!

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