Destination: Denmark

Our virtual field trip this week was to the charming world of Denmark. Here we were reminded of all the fascinating aspects of history which surround this remarkable little country.

After viewing a little of Denmark’s natural landscape, the kids and I decided to refresh our knowledge of literature, with a side trip into the world of Hans Christian Anderson.

Little Mermaid CraftWe created a fun craft based on The Little Mermaid and talked about our favorite stories. (I wanted to make sure we especially covered the moral tones in each of his pieces and not the “Disneyfied” versions.)

Finally, it was off to the kitchen for some fun! Today’s cooking lesson was shortbread! Yummy! This is one of my husband’s personal favorites.

Shortbread

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups butter, softened to room temperature
  • 3/4 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. almond extract

Directions:

  • Cut sugar, butter, salt, and extract with a pastry blender (or two knives); pat into two nine-inch round cake pans. Prick the surface with a fork before baking to a golden brown at 325 degrees. Cut into serving slices while warm and dust with confectioners sugar. Shortbread

While the cookies were baking, we trekked out back to paint some trellis for our rose garden. We spent some time talking about the villages of Denmark and their architectural designs. We reminisced about our time in Solvang and the use of trellis and roses we saw.

After a hard day’s work, there is nothing quite like a warm slice of shortbread and some cold milk.

To finish off our “trip”, we made sure to take a snap-shot of our adventures and add a stamp to our passports. With our souvenirs safely stowed away, we packed our suitcases and headed out for some local fun.

Now, let’s see where next week will take us….

Off all Hans Christian Anderson’s works; which is your favorite?

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Playing With Our Food

Nothing says, “it’s back to school time” like a biology dissection. After our week of Easter break, it was time to get back into the swing of things. Starting off the week with a little fun didn’t hurt either.

My father-in-law has been keeping chickens for a few months now. It started out as a fun project to keep himself busy and quickly developed into something a bit bigger than he anticipated.

It seems he thought the chickens would grow a bit faster than they have been. They also seem to be eating quite a bit more than previously thought; they are picky about what they eat and are a great deal of work.

Because of these factors (and possibly a few more) my father-in-law has decided to call it quits and simply use the chickens he already has.

This past weekend, he thoughtfully asked if the kids would like a quick biology lesson. He thought he would cut open one of the chickens and teach them all about the inner workings of birds!

Dissection #1

Dissection #2

Yayo cutting up the bird.

Dissection #3

The stomach of the bird. Here we were able to see undigested food and the lining.

Dissection #4

The heart of the chicken.

Dissection #5

The liver and kidneys of the chicken.

Dissection #6

The backbone, ribs, and wings of the chicken.

The lesson was a lot of fun! Dad was very thorough in explaining all the different parts of the bird’s digestive system and bone structure. He answered their questions and teased them about eating the giblets as a snack.

The kids were a little squeamish at first, but they quickly got into the lesson and learned quite a bit.

Now we are back on track with our lessons, with five more weeks of school to go! It seems like the year just started and here we are, already preparing for summer.

Can anyone guess what we had for lunch? Delicious!

The Last-Minute Rush

The end of the week is here and we are ready to tackle our two final projects before starting school… printing and library!

Imagine waking up to start school; everyone is at the table ready to go. You pull out your books, ready to begin. You pray, you open up your Bible, and then… you remember that you forgot to print out the lesson you prepared! Rrrrrr….

In order to avoid this annoyance, I make sure to set aside at least a half an hour every Friday to do nothing but print any documents that I might need for school in the coming week. This will save from last-minute rushing on Monday morning and afford me the opportunity to double-check anything that might be needed.

As we are starting on Monday, this morning I made sure to do just that. Any worksheets for Spanish, Bible, and our unit study are now ready to go. I have proofread them one last time, printed them, and tucked them into their corresponding books. Come Monday, I can relax; knowing that I am as fully prepared as I can be. 

Our other project is library time! Every Friday, I make sure we head to the library and get ourselves a stack of new books. The kids are allowed to pick their own reading materials and I have the opportunity to grab literature that pertains to our current unit study.

When we are at the library, I have made it clear that books are our goal. Our library features an activity booth and computer terminals, but that is not our purpose in being there. We have computers at home. We have games and activities at home, we can play when we return. Now, is the chance for them to delve into some good reads; the rest can wait. (Every once in a while, I do let them play at the activity booth but only after they have picked some good books first.)

Today is no exception! We are ready to head out to our library, grab some awesome reads, and then perhaps enjoy some ice cream. I can’t think of a better way to prepare for the coming year!

Off we go….

 

Incoming!

Our homeschool closet is cleaned out, our portfolios are ready to go, and we are ready to tackle today’s project… putting in the new school books!

It seems all this week I have been reading posts by other homeschooling families who are getting their curriculum in place and are eagerly ready to start their school year. We, too, are getting things finalized, but with a slightly different twist. Unlike other families, I am not anxiously awaiting the arrival of our books; ours have been here since May!

I have found waiting until the middle or end of summer to order our books, to be stressful. There are several reasons why this doesn’t work for our family.

  1. I don’t enjoy summer knowing that I still have work that will need to be done.
  2. If I wait, I might not get the order in time or it might be backordered.
  3. If I wait, I will need to rush through the curriculum to set up our routine and determine how much work should be done daily.
  4. If I wait, I can’t take advantage of all the great promotions available for those who order early.

Usually, aBeka starts having demos of their curriculum around April. Once I receive their flyer in the mail, I highlight the closest location with a date that suits our schedule. I make sure to add the date to my iCal program and then I start researching. I don’t want to peruse at the demo; I might be led by impulse instead of through prayer. To ensure I am only buying what I need, I will look through aBeka’s website first. From there, I will write down any items that I know are necessary and compile a list with the item numbers and prices. If there are items that I have never seen or items of question, I will write those at the bottom of my list and highlight them. Those are the items that I will review with my husband and pray over. The day of the demo, I check out the items that I might have highlighted, sit down to fill out my form, and then check out. Because I have ordered at a demo, I will save 10% up front and avoid shipping costs. Usually, I save myself about $60 this way!

One of the main reasons I order our books so early, is because I don’t order teacher guides. (I have not found them to be necessary for the younger grades and don’t care to spend money that could be better spent elsewhere.) Due to the fact that I don’t order teacher guides, I must spend a little time planning out our year. I open each text and lay out our lessons, ensuring that everything gets covered. This is very simple but it still needs to be done. For very little work, I am saving myself a great deal of money. On average, textbooks for all four of my children run me $250 per year. Not bad, all things considered!

We usually end our school year just around the beginning of May. By the time we have finished school, our books for the next year are just coming in. I make sure they are all here, I take the time to go through each one (mapping out how many lessons get done a day), and then they get tucked away until the end of July. I am now free to enjoy my summer, knowing everything is here and we are ready to start come fall.

Now that summer is just about over, it is time to put those books on the shelf and do any last-minute reorganizing. I have double checked the books (refreshing my memory about lesson schedules), organized how I want them to be placed in our cupboard, and added any reference materials I thought would be necessary. Ah, what a beautiful sight!

Just two more projects and we will be ready to start on Monday.

When do you order your books? Do you order early? Do you wait? I would enjoy hearing when you choose to get your books and why!

The High School Handbook

Our oldest daughter is in sixth grade this coming August. Not one to wait until the last-minute, I wanted to spend some time this summer reading up on Junior and Senior High. I want to be fully prepared for what lies ahead. I want to know what I need now so that I am not panicking at the last-minute, worrying if I am doing something correctly or not.

To this end, our ISP principal highly recommended The High School Handbook by Mary Schofield. In The High School Handbook, Ms. Schofield does an excellent job of laying the groundwork for Jr. and Sr. High. She provides a helpful, step-by-step process to organizing your students workload, as well as ideas on how each can be implemented to their fullest. She explains, with clear reasoning, why each step is taken and how it benefits both your student and yourself. To further assist you with each step, Ms. Schofield has graciously placed helpful sample forms throughout the book, showing how her family has organized each area. She has also included blank forms for you to copy and use at your own disposal, making your job even easier. 

Ms. Schofield covers every area of Jr. and Sr. High that you could possibly imagine. If you are unsure of how to organize your classes, this book will help. If you are unsure which classes are needed to attend a university, this book will help. Need tips on grading, courses standards, transcripts, and college? This book is definitely the one for you. From Language Arts and Arithmetic, to Driver’s Ed and Work Permits, this book has something for everyone.

On a personal level, I am extremely grateful that I chose to read the book this summer. Our daughter is still in elementary school (being that we are not including sixth grade as part of “middle school”); had I waited until the summer before junior high, I might have stressed myself out with the amount of paperwork and organizing that needs to be done. However, having read the book a full year in advance, I have plenty of time to prepare whatever forms might be necessary. I have the time to systematically lay out classes and to talk with my daughter about where she feels the Lord is leading her. I very much appreciated the sections on Missionary Opportunities, Apprenticeship, and College at Home, as each of these areas are of particular interest to our family.

Our HS Outline

The High School Handbook is highly recommended for everyone with a child going into Jr. and/or Sr. High. Even if you don’t homeschool, it will help you to better understand what classes your child should be taking in their studies. It will help you prepare them for ACT and SAT exams, College Applications, and other areas common to all students. I highly recommend this book. Don’t wait until your child is about to start their higher education, help them now. You won’t regret it!

For those of you with children already in Junior or Senior High, was there a particular book(s) that you found helpful in organizing the chaos? I would love to delve into a few more books. The more ideas, the better!

The Old Piano Roll Blues

My husband very much wanted our kids to learn piano. Unfortunately our budget couldn’t afford sending four children to piano lessons. I was also a little hesitant to add another outside activity to our list. My guy, very sweetly, suggested that I was “smart enough to do this on my own”. Off I went to conquer the unknown…

I knew how to read music, as I had played flute for several years and sang in high school, but knowing how that relates to a piano is entirely different. I needed a program that would start off with the very basics.

Teaching Little Fingers To Play by John Thompson worked wonders! This curriculum started with the most basic instructions of all; finger placement, hand position, and posture. From there, the children learned to identify basic notes on the piano and to play them, first with the right hand and then with the left. Once the notes and their corresponding keys were learned, songs were introduced. I found that I liked this curriculum for getting started and for teaching them the basics.

John Thompson’s curriculum goes far beyond Teaching Little Fingers To Play; there is also Modern Course for Piano. For those interested, they also have music for Christmas, Disney fans, and more!

Joining the ISP we are apart of now, I noticed that several of the other kids were taking piano lessons. Their progress was quickly achieved and they played more advanced pieces than our children had been exposed to. I asked around and was told that all of the other kids were taking lessons using the Suzuki Method of piano. I was highly impressed with the program and wanted to try it out for ourselves.

We still were not able to afford classes, but having already learned the basics from Teaching Little Fingers to Play, I felt confident that we would pick things up with this new curriculum. I was right! Our kids took to it immediately.

I appreciate that the Suzuki Method teaches children to focus on playing the music by ear and not relying on the sheet music itself. I also appreciated that the curriculum came with a CD so that we could listen to the pieces as our children played, teaching them to keep time and play along with someone else.

So far, we are more than halfway done with Book #1 and going strong. The kids are loving the program and enjoy learning new songs. I am loving the fact that we are learning without having to leave the house, spending time and money we don’t have. I enjoy the Suzuki Method greatly, but I am very glad we started off with Teaching Little Fingers to Play first. I believe it gave us a strong foundation for what we are now learning.

Do you have a piano lesson you do from home? I always love learning about new curriculum and would love to hear what you use!

And Their “Off”…

Learning about lightbulbs

Literally!… We had no electricity from 9am till 3pm this afternoon, due to the fact that someone was working on something in our neighborhood. One day without power doesn’t seem like that big of a deal until you consider that we live in Southern California, home of eternal sunshine and temperatures of 100˚ or more, and we work from home.

 

We weren’t sure what do with a whole day lacking electricity, but it turns out the Lord did! It seems we needed to learn appreciation for and the importance of electricity!

I got up a little earlier than the kiddos and made sure to pack our cooler with water bottles, a little milk, eggs, and some sandwich makings. I loaded it with ice and then (because kids tend to forget) snagged a couple of my husband’s zip ties and “locked” the fridge.

Electricity, E-lectricity
(School House Rock)

When our babies got up, the lessons began. We learned that you can’t open the fridge… no electricity! We learned you can’t use your appliances (other than our stove)… no electricity! When we finally decided we could eat potatoes and the eggs mommy put in the cooler, along with some fresh fruit, we learned that you can’t start the stove like usual. You have to light the pilot yourself, because without electricity, the mechanism won’t work. There were no lights to use the restroom… electricity! No fans to cool the house… electricity! Worst of all, no air-conditioning… electricity!

When my hubby woke up (he tends to sleep in late as he works until the wee hours of the morning), we all decided it was too hot to stay in the house. It was time to find something else to do. We decided to head over to the library, as it was our usual day, and were given a wonderful surprise. As a treat for finishing the summer reading program, the kids all received free ice cream from Cold Stone! Oh, yeah; we needed that! In addition to the ice cream, they all received a free video rental and a book to keep. We grabbed our ice cream, headed out to the splash pad, and spent the afternoon enjoying being cool.

What we resort to when we have no electricity!

Before we knew it, it was 3 o’clock and we were ready to head back home. The kids were excited to watch their rentals and the hubby and I needed to get some work done. Walking into our air-conditioned, electricity filled home was such a blessing.

Today we learned some valuable lessons. Our kids were able to see how much electricity affects our lives. They learned how to function in an electricity free environment. Most of all, we learned to appreciate a blessing we often take for granted.

 

¿Usted Habla Español?

I am part Puerto Rican, but my father (the Spanish blood in my genes) left when I was a child and never looked back; thus, I don’t speak Spanish. My mother-in-law is Mexican by birth and my father-in-law Spaniard by birth. Coming to America they wanted to become fluent and so they only spoke English in their home, therefore my husband doesn’t speak Spanish well.

Despite the fact that neither of their parents speak Spanish, our children grew up becoming more and more interested in their hispanic heritage. They love listening to their yaya and yayo (grandma and grandpa) speak fluently and try to figure out what they are saying. They love listening to Spanish music and learning to dance. They even have dresses, brought over from Spain, which they wear as often as possible when they are having play dates at my in-laws. They love Spanish and Mexican cuisine, paella and tacos being the top picks, which makes my in-laws very proud.

It seemed natural when at some point my kids asked if we could start learning Spanish. Always willing to give a learning area a shot, I quickly looked up some good Spanish curriculum for young kid.

The curriculum that best met our families needs was Teach Them Spanish! This curriculum starts as early as PreK and covers a lot of ground. I like the fact that it starts off with everyday items that the children will use; colors, numbers, family members, and parts of their body, are just a few topics covered in PreK. Each new grade level stars off with reviewing what has already been taught and then builds upon it. If you learned 10 colors in PreK, you will review those 10 and add 5 more in K.

The best part of the curriculum, in my opinion, is the fun activity list that accompanies each lesson. Not only does the curriculum offer workbook pages to help you with learning, but it has Bingo games and other ideas to help make learning fun!

For those absolutely new to Spanish, like myself, there are also very helpful teacher pages. These pages follow each lesson, offering suggested questions to ask your student. For example: When studying colors, the teacher pages will teach you how to ask your student what color their shirt is, in Spanish with the English translation next to it. It will then teach you how your students should respond, in Spanish with the English translation beside.

This curriculum has been a lot of fun and we are learning a lot. Come high school, we are going to have to go with a more formal program, but for now this is working for us. The kids are having a blast and my in-laws are having fun supplementing what we are learning.

Do you have a Spanish lesson that you enjoy? I would love to hear suggestions.

A Reason for Writing

(Wow, two posts in one day! I had thought to originally just post this review today, but felt the Lord compelling me to write Grace Abused as well. So, two it is.)

Besides reading, I also mentioned that writing is another of our core areas of study. I believe our children should know how to write properly on any given topic.

In order to set out on the right foot, I wanted to start off with a solid penmanship lesson; one that would not only teach them to write their letters, but help make their writing legible. A Reason for Handwriting did the job wonderfully. Each week, the children are given specific words from a Bible verse that they are to practice writing. At the end of the week, they write out the complete verse on a separate sheet of paper. The bonus was that you can also purchase Border Sheets to write your verses on. The Border Sheets are coloring pages with lines in the center. This way the children can write their verse and then color the corresponding image.

Once good penmanship was achieved, the children were also encouraged to practice good typing skills. Using FREE Typing Game, our children were able to practice their typing skills and learn to increase their speed. This will help them in higher levels of learning when they are writing papers.

Once the children started into elementary levels, it seemed appropriate to start them off on a formal Grammar and Composition curriculum. Abeka was the answer for us. Their curriculum is thorough, challenging, and well laid out.

On top of continued practice in penmanship, typing, and their usual grammar and composition lessons, we also like to make sure they are getting good practice in creative writing. To do this, a weekly creative writing assignment is given. Common everyday topics are all tossed in a bowl, one is picked every Monday, and on Friday the assignment is due. Through this exercise our children have learned to think outside the box and reach the audience through their paper. At times, my husband and I have gotten in on the fun and written a paper ourselves.

Good writing skills should never be overlooked. You never know where the Lord is going to use you. When you look at life through that perspective, you realize… there is a reason for writing.c

A Matter of Chocolate

Last week the kiddos and I attempted to conduct a science experiment in which we learned how to change a substance from one state of matter to another. I figured we might as well make it tasty as well; right?! So, we decided to experiment with chocolate! Yum! Unfortunately, our chocolate appeared to a bit old (heaven forbid) and the experiment was a flop.

Not to be put off, I bought more chocolate this week and we tried the experiment again, with much better results. In the mood for chocolate? Try this out….

Matter is expressed in one or more of these forms; Solid, Liquid or Gas.  The air around us, for example, is gas. Some matter can be changed from one state into another, like a solid to a liquid or a liquid to a gas.

Steps:

1.  Gather a few rose leaves
2.  Wash the leaves and dry them carefully.
3.  Ask an adult to pour the hot water into the pan.
4.  Carefully place the bowl inside the pan (make sure that the water does not get in the bowl).
5.  Place some of the chocolate in the bowl (the heat from the water will melt the chocolate; it turns into a thick liquid).
6.  Have an adult remove the bowl of chocolate from the pan (with the pot holder) and place it on the table.
7.  Paint the chocolate onto the top of the leaves using the paintbrush

When the chocolate starts to cool, it turns back into a solid and takes on the shape of the leaves.  Peel away the real leaves to reveal the new chocolate leaves.

Easy, right? They turned out to be so beautiful and delicious! For more exciting (and tasty) experiments like this one, make sure to check out Kids Science Experiments.

Okay… now its time to eat some chocolate!