Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Outdoor School Week

This week has been one of those weeks. One of those I-am-not-wanting-to-sit-down-to-schoolwork weeks and quite frankly, neither do the kids.

Do you ever have those weeks? Just those days when school seems to be the last thing on the list.

However, this is the job. So I got up Monday and pushed through,not yet hearing my instincts to change things up. I can be slow that way. I was pulling teeth all around the table, my own included. Tuesday started the same way. I let up mid-school and finally shifted gears to be the teacher I want to be.

So I dug through some old books and pulled out new material. Then I took school outside. The best move I've made in awhile.

With a lot of encouragement from a blogging friend Barb, I've been teaching my boys just about enjoying nature through observation and art. So I was thrilled today, the boys and I took a hike into the canyon. Every few minutes the boys were excitedly calling out "Mom! Look, it's yellow lichen! And red!" They identified dandelions by their leaves alone and we observed that the dandy's we saw in the canyon weren't blooming, in fact there weren't flowers at all, just leaves. We looked for wildflowers (tough to come by in the desert) and treasured each tiny bloom.

So we'll get past this funk (would-rather-do-anything-but-paper-school) yet. In the meantime we'll hike, we'll read, we'll play games and learn...away from the desk.

And I really, really want to hear....what do you do when you just don't want to do paper school? School proper?

Yet Another Reason I Love to Teach my boys at home

Oh, you all know why I love to homeschool right? I'm needing to post that story, but for tonight you'll get this reason.

Reason #289 that I love to homeschool:

Keeping up with the brains.

Tonight the boys and I played Pictionary together. They thought of their own words, and we had a wonderful time guessing what Eli's circles and lines together were- various dinosaurs, of course. But I was floored when Joe drew a man with a NASA shirt...then insisted that I had to keep guessing after "astronaut." What? I'm thinking? So I guessed a "Neil Armstrong." Yup, he said.

Ok, so that may not sound like much.
THEN he drew an octopus and a snail and a line connecting the two. "Invertebrates" I knew to guess...remember, I went to school this year too. But alas, I was still not close enough. "Mollusks, Mom!" Oh good gravy! Seriously!

Then it was Babe Ruth and on and on....and I decided I will not stop teaching my boys lest they pass me up and I'm out of the game, entirely.

Joe has his Encyclopedia Brown series sorted out on his bookshelf in his room. Piles sorted by "read," "partly read," and to be read. This is the eight-year old who totally fooled me on April 1st by telling me some random fact whilst reading his encyclopedia. I absolutely believed him.

I'd better read those books too, quick.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Now & Then...

...I get all sentimental. Missing my sweet, squashy little babies. And loving my sweet, boy-loving dad.

Dandy, just Dandy

The boys and I went out today in spite of the rain and cumulonimbus-coated skies. We went out in search for dandelions. Thanks to some neighbors, we have the perfect yard in the neighborhood for studying a variety of dandys.

Nate had spotted the yard full of flowers earlier this week so we hopped down there with tape measure, ruler & observation skills in hand.

The boys took turns measuring to find the tallest dandelion. Nate won (because it's all a competition amongst boys) with a whopping 15" flower. Because it's just too hard not to win, we also measured the diameter of the flowers, and Joe found a flower with a 2" diameter, no small flower.

Then we looked at the flowers in their different stages. Some of the flowers were in the first stage, just a bud. We looked at the blooming flowers, then at the seeding flowers (the fun part).

My boys did their part in spreading the dandelion love.

Something we found that I didn't know is that the flowers fold into a bud while they change from flower to seed. At home we opened these buds to find the seeds, green and wet preparing to open and let the seeds loose.

The boys observered that the stems of the dandelions are hollow, therefore making great little straws. They also observed that the stems tasted awful and proceeded to do a lot of spitting in the yard.

At home we did a little sketching in our Nature Journals, seeds and flowers, leaves and the like.
Join us on our nature adventures over at the Handbook of Nature Study for weekly nature challenges.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Easter 2010

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Reesie: 7 weeks old

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A Deck!!

Ralph has been thinkinh of adding a deck to your house for years....I can say that nhow because we've been here for nearly four. So this spring he's doing it!
It's a nice sized deck but because it covers a cement pad and just extends a bit beyond that it doesn't eat up too much of the yard.
It's nice being married to a handy guy. :)

Now some of the deck is done, we are really enjoying the progress!
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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Where the rubber meets the road

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. ~Proverbs 22:6
Last night when I tucked in my sweet Scooter, we prayed together like always. Not unusually, bedtime is a time when hearts are softened and the deepest thoughts flow to the nearest ear. So I wasn't surprised when Joe started to talk about some concerns. But then he said something that took me by surprise:

"Mom, I'm only 8 years old. And most people live to be about 90 so I have at least 80 more years of pain and discomfort and temptations to do the wrong thing."


"...and I believe in God and everything, but how can I really know who He is? There are so many religions out do I know this is the right one? What if this is the wrong one? When I lay in bed at night I pray and sometimes I hear a voice in my mind talking to me...but is that God? How do I know if it's God?"

Whoa. Again.

Now I was floored. Not because Joe is questioning God, whether He's real...all those things, but because this kid is just eight years old & I was surprised to hear such heavy thoughts come out of such a small boy.

This is unchartered territory for us, except for our own experiences of coming to believe in and know God, having understanding of who He is. I started this journey myself when I was 10 or 11, and I lived years of a process of choosing God to be my God, believing in Him...that Christ is truly the only Way to the Father and that the God we believe in is the only one who reached down to us, rather than people trying to reach their gods.

So I gave Joe a few simple answers. Why Ralph & I believe that our God is the one true God. Ralph and I tucked him in and then left, knowing that this is the beginning of a journey Joe will make with God alone. I cannot be the one to answer all of His questions. He'll have to get in the Word and learn and decide on his own.

But Ralph and I have so much peace knowing that Joe (and all our boys) has always belonged to God first. Iif we love that little boy so, so dearly, God loves him a million times more and will take care of him all the days of his life. We entrust Joe to God. After all, it was God's kindness that drew us into Himself, our awareness of our need for Him and His grace when we came. We know our boys will find that grace awaiting too.


For school Joe has a notebook in which he and I volley question and answers. I asked him:
"When you see God and can ask Him questions, what three questions will you ask?"

His answer:

Dear Mom,

When I see God, I'll ask Him how long is forever, how it is that He was never born and what is true.

Oh, rich, rich little minds we are teaching, Lord. Only You can show what is true. I look forward to the unfolding of these truths, Lord. Show my little boys who you are and how they need You. And show me how to gently lead them. Draw them in the way you drew me. Speak to them and let them hear your voice. Meet them, Abba.

Deuteronomy 11:9
Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Sketchy Tuesday

(Eli's very Rainbow Chinook Salmon. I love how he saw the salmon and just saw color)

The boys have started up with Sketchy Tuesday with Barb over at Harmony Arts. Each week, the kids get an assignment...something to sketch.

It's a great challenge. A few weeks the topic was "something that blows in the wind." Last week was "draw something you find in a First Aid kid." This week the boys got to study the images of our state fish and then translate into their own art.
(Chinook Salmon by Joe)
When the boys are done with their art, I take photos or scan it. Then I send the art over to Barb who kindly creates a slide show of all the art submitted.

The second favorite part of the week is watching the weeks slide show. We get to look over the entries of other kids around and be inspired.
(Nate's Chinook Salmon with shark teeth, of course)
It's very fun, come join us over at Harmony Arts, let me know & we'll look for your art next Tuesday!!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Lichen it.

Saturday morning, sleep in.
Get up, putz around a little...
throw in a load of laundry and pick up the house a little. Now it's decision time: should I clean the bathrooms or should I take my boys for a little exploration hike on this beautiful spring day.

Hike wins.

The boys and I had a wonderful time on our hike. I planned this hike as an exploration type...lots of times Ralph and I have destination in mind over exploration. We like to get where we're going and really, the boys just want to look at every.little. thing they see on the ground, climb every rock, every tree they can. So for this hike I took a book of poetry, a camera and plants to have fun with photography. Joey brought a book too. Well, he doesn't really go anywhere without one these days. Nate brought his little notebook to sketch the nature around him, a favorite past time for him.

We walked about 100 yards into the canyon and found a nice spot to flop.

Upon my sister, Hazel's suggestion I decided to check out the lichen in the area. The boys and I made our lichen observations:
  • lichen is very colorful. It can be bright, bright in color. Also, it can be plain old black, brown or white
  • lichen has many textures. It all feels different. Some is as hard as the rock it's on, some soft enough to sleep on.
  • some lichens are flat like paint, some bumpy enough to pick up and carry it home
  • lichen seems to live well on rocks & trees both
  • lichen faces North, South, East and West. It lives in the shade and full sun.
I took a gazillion photos of lichen, I have a few to share. I've come home, now that I'm "seeing" lichen I'm finding it in the backyard too.

When we got home we did a little homework. We found that lichen:
  • is very pollution sensitive. Lichen is liken' clean air.
  • people used to use colorful lichen to dye wool.
  • at times people have eaten lichen or fed it to pets when times were tough and no other food was available. But some lichens are poisonous.
  • is created when a certain fungus meets up with alga. When the two meet, lichen grows. No alga, no fungus. It has been compared to a marriage relationship.
It's interesting little stuff, and it sure colors up our canyon. I have noticed that the colors brighten seasonally, so I'm sure we'll be watching it more closely from now on.

Otherwise, we also saw a couple of horses with their people riding in the canyon, a sly little lizard who hid in a crack until we got oh-so-quiet. The most fun was seeing a killdeer (Eli calls it a dead deer, or killed dear) which is a bird. She was nesting on the ground. When Juneau got close she flew away, looking wounded and low to the ground. The first time this happened I just called Juneau off her trail so he wouldn't injure her futher. The second time, I suddenly remembered about the bird that would fly off looking wounded in order to distract a predator from her nest. The boys and I poked around for a minute trying to spot a nest of eggs but then we just tip toed away hanging out the do-not-disturb sign lest we squash the eggies with one of our 12 feet.

All in all, it was a wonderful time. We enjoyed our exploratory time, and I love the we-finally-get-to-get-out-in-the-Central-Oregon-spring feeling. Horray!

Learn some interesting facts and take a short quiz to help you identify lichens here in Lichenland.

Twas the day before Easter...

Rewind a week or so....last Saturday we made a family trip to Home Depot for a store Easter Egg hunt which promised candy for the boys and discounts for the grown ups. We had a lovely time, looking for eggs young and old. Then we hit the monthly kids workshop and Eli and I made a butterfly house together. Ralph worked with Joey, and Nate wandered up and down the aisle looking for more eggs. It was a fantastic family time. I highly recommend Home Depots workshops for the kids. We brought the butterfly houses home and plan to paint them soon.
Eli, digging the work goggles.
This next picture makes me laugh every time I look at it. A great picture of our perfect little family....Eli slumping off down the Eli aisle, pouty because he didn't find an egg (in this aisle.)
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Alright, the Puppy Story

Alright, alright already!! You're all dying to to answer some questions, yes...we got a puppy.

Her name is Reesie, and she's 1/2 lab and 1/2 Australian Kelpie. So far she's wonderful and amazingly easier to take care of than Juneau was as a puppy. Two reasons for that...the boys are so loving on her and playing with her a lot & Juneau is teaching her a lot about where to go potty and how to play nicely. Other than that she's busy flipping over rugs and keeping us laughing. So far, so good.
I took this photo for scale. The black spots on the carpet, by the way, are tufts of Juneau's shedding coat. Ever present, until he gets kicked out. Which was today. Anyhow, Reesie is 5 weeks old in this photo. She was young to be adopted, but with a little love and TLC she's really happy and content without her mama.
Oh, but she does love to snuggle. It's nice she's so tiny, it's easy to keep her off the couch otherwise she'd be on it all the time . She just wants to be snuggly. We love little Reesie already.
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Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Finished Product

You may remember me posting earlier photos of the tranformation of our spare room into a study/homeschool room. We have a nice sized house but our downstairs space needed the spare/guest room that was not useful for us at all. My husband had this idea to add a door that would provide access through our dining area to this room, and it's been a perfect change. I started painting it over Christmas break and finished it over Spring break. I love the color, I think it makes the room cozy and welcoming. What do you think?
This room now is home to my computer station, our homeschool books and another bookshelf. We got a sweet deal just after Christmas on two leather chairs that provide a cozy spot to sit and read or for Ralph and I to sit and chat whilt the boys are bouncing around the living room. The room has a large window that looks out over the backyard, and the trampoline which is a great place for me to sit and watch while the kids bounce away. I love, love, love this room.
While we store all of our school supplies and things in this room (Ralph put awesome shelves in the closet) I've come to realize that I simply love doing our bookwork in the cozy space of our kitchen . We like to do our memory work in this study room, but we do all our other work at the kitchen table. You can see it a little through the doorway to the right there. I use magazine boxes to keep the kids books together and portable. You can see them also in the photo above. All I want to do now is get some fun curtins up, and I'm not in a huge hurry to get that done but that will make the room finished. I'm so impressed with the work Ralph did to add this double doorway and the vision he had for it.
So yes, we no longer have a guest room, but please go ahead and come visit and we have plenty of room for you yet. You can come and cozy up in our study, have a cup of tea with me.
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