Monday, November 28, 2011

Winter Focus: Advent & Christmas Season

For the last few years I've enjoyed finishing up our first term right before Thanksgiving.  Our next term always starts after the New Year.  So what do we do for the five weeks in between?  Our math continues as routine (lighter to allow for some math drills), but all our other subjects will have a focus relating to the season with lots of baking and craft making : D  Somehow, lightening our load and shifting to a more faith filled time, really helps us welcome the Christ Child with open arms and more sincere hearts.  Our plans are pretty much finished (for now). 

Picture Book Baskets: We have two crate like baskets filled with Christmas books.  We pick one a day to enjoy.  I pretty much let this lead us on any trails.  I'll try to post what books we've read for the week.
Faith & Religion & History:  This will be our first year through a Jesse Tree.  I found a great branch tree at Michaels to hold our very simple but elegant (and free) Jesse Tree ornaments provided by the lovely Michele from Family Centered Press.  I miss doing this every year so we are excited.  I went ahead and splurged a little on these (again) simple but elegant O Antiphons ornaments for our live tree.   We'll also have weekly readings from Children's Advent and Christmas (sorry this is a hard one to find but it looks just right for my little ones). The other one we chose is certainly easily attainable One Wintry Night by Ruth Graham; the illustrations are very nice in this book.

Geography:  We used this book once a week last year too, so the girls are eager to read some different stories from it:  The Return of the Light:  Twelve Tales from Around the World for the Winter Solsitce by Carolyn M. Edwards.  The girls read a story and then will look it up on a map or even go off on a trail about the country they just read.  The stories are not too long, but they are captivating.

Poetry:  I will pick one poem per week for copywork out of O Holy Night: Masterworks of Christmas Poetry.  Each section also includes some good bible verses for copywork and/or dictation.

Art Study:  We chose The Saturday Evening Post Christmas Book by Norman Rockwell.  There are some wonderful prints and good stories in it.  Our focus is Rockwell.

Music:  Our favorites are always the Wee Sing Christmas, A Charlie Brown Christmas, Classical Kids Christmas and this year we are adding Christmas Carols for a Kids Heart.  These pretty much just get played as background for now.  We also delight in listening to the girls practice for their choir performance at the Christmas Eve Mass.

Nature Study & Science:  I was so excited when Jen posted about the books by Glenn Blough.  We bought Christmas Trees and How They Grow and will be the focus of our studies for the next five weeks or so.  Once a week the girls will also be reading from a fun scientific-like (IMO) book: Flight of the Reindeer by Robert Sullivan.

Baking & Crafts: I was excited to find on Currclick Scipture Adventures: A Christmas Adventure.  While it could stand alone as our Faith Studies; I'll be honest I liked that there is a craft or baking activity for every day in December 'till Christmas!

Independent Reading & Read Aloud:  We started this last year so this year it will be our focus; Letters from Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien.  The girls will also have some nice chapter books to choose from for independent reading.  First up is Just David by Eleanor Porter for my sixth grader, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson for my third grader and with my first grader we'll continue with Frog and Toad Treasury by Arnold Lobel skipping to Frog and Toad All Year to the Down the Hill and Christmas Eve Chapters.

It might seem like a full load but really the weekly readings don't take too long.  This leaves plenty of room to enjoy the season with each other mostly cuddled with a book of choice or in the kitchen creating.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Nature Green Fridays

We had a wonderful time with our family this Thursday.  We are fortunate enough to live near my in laws and my family.  After two deliciously turkey and all the trimming meals we have made it a tradition to go on a nature hike the day after Thanksgiving.  I'll admit we postponed it to Saturday this year but for good reasons.  No black Friday shopping here, rather, a kind God mother wanting to take her godson to the movies.  Very sweet of her!

After breakfast this morning the kids were ready to go.  While some friends have been recording in their Book of Firsts lovely white snow; my kids were ready to hit the trail in shorts and sunglasses in our sunny California 70 degree weather.

Our first water break stop would be near the lonely maple on the hilltop among the lush green shrubs and trees.  Clearly a sign that this is fall, right?  Those are yellow falling leaves on it, just a little too much sun to make them out I guess ; )

The kids ran into some great stuff along the way.  Our favorite was a bloom that we haven't seen on our trails so far.  We're having a hard time identifying it.  We've been looking at CA wildflower sites all day.  I need to put something together for a study of California flowers and plants.  I know the kids would really enjoy it.  This is what it initially looks like:

But then the little silk like fibers start looking like this:

We're still trying to read more about it.  We've learned more about inflorescence flower clusters and the more common plants in this group than when we started our hike.  I'll keep you posted when we discover what it is.  If you're familiar with it, please give us a hint. 

We also saw several animal tracks, including some horses:

My son started poking some pellets and could make out a few bones (I know a little ugh, but he demanded the picture be included):

Some very festive Bearberries still around:

Bearberry or Kinnikinnick ( Arstostaphylos uva-ursi)
And the wonderful view from the top:

Yes, we much prefer Nature Green Fridays' after Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

One More Turkey (or Five)

One of our books arrived in time!  I've been wanting to add this one for a few year's now.  Time always gets away from me or I order something else.  I read Dalgliesh's The Thanksgiving Story to the boys this morning.  They really enjoyed it and it was just one of those well written books that they could understand.  How do you explain history to four little boys without getting lost and getting that complete blank stare?  This is always a challenge for me.  The book had plenty to keep their attention and plenty of good historical information about the holiday.  There was just enough for this younger age group.  I did break the book into two morning readings, but it was worth going through the book slowly.  They digest more and can tell me more about it with detail.  I wasn't requiring narrations from them, however, just like anything we read; they want to tell me about it ; ) Once again, just another example of a well written book.  I'm so glad it's part of our collection now.

To round up our Thanksgiving month here are some of our Little Keepers at Home club creative turkey mosaics that we worked on last week (so sorry for the blurriness in some):

 And now, we are off to bowling with our small home school group for our annual Turkey Bowl. (The kids just love saying that.)  I hope you all have a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving.  I know we have a lot to be grateful for this year!  God is great.  From our reading today:

Perhaps they sang the hymn they had brought to the New World with them:
 "Praise God from whom all blessings flow, Praise Him all creatures here below..."

Friday, November 11, 2011

A Month of Thanksgiving

Inspired by Silvia's Thanksgiving book posts; I thought I'd share some of our favorites this time of the year.  Needless to say there is always a pile of library books we enjoy, but there are just those few that make it to our shelves.  These get brought out and enjoyed this month.

There is the very adored Cranberry Thanksgiving by Wende and Harry Devlin from our Before Five in a Row days ; )  We make Grandmother's Famous Cranberry Bread every year and boy is it yummy (1/4 cup of butter and all its sweets!)  Which reminds me I need to go buy some cranberries soon.  I'm sure that most libraries carry this series; I know ours has it.  I hope yours does too.

These two titles we rather enjoy because it takes you through the year, its seasons, the coming & goings, and then back to November.  A month that wonderfully reminds us of why we are grateful and give thanks.  Sometimes its Turkey - Sometimes its Feathers by Lorna Balian. We just think Mrs. Gumm is so cute.  Let me tell you: we always have a sigh of relief at the end : ) The other we just discovered this year, but I've been told by my kids that we should own it: The Thanksgiving Bowl by Virginia Kroll (it had to be mentioned.)

My very little ones like counting with This First Thanksgiving Day: A Counting Story by Laura Krauss Melmed.  She is one of our favorites so I'm not surprised they liked this one right away.  My girls demanded that I add Squanto Friend of the Pilgrims by Clyde Robert Bulla to our table.  They both have enjoyed this book as independent reading.  They both have been about 2nd grade when they've read it, but it could make for a nice month long read aloud.

I always enjoy A Time To Keep The Tasha Tudor Book of Holidays this time of the year and I know the kids do too.  It is just so warm and has such wonderful illustrations about these holidays.

Enjoy your November reading!  I'm always up to adding to our list.  I've already gotten some ideas for new, to me, titles I just ordered ; )

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Fairy Tales & Lego Narrations

A little background first:  My 8 year old was given some movie tickets for her birthday, so last Friday night we made it a girls night out.  The girls and I went to Michael's bought a few things we needed before the start of Advent and then headed to the movie theater.  Yes, going to Michael's with my girls is a treat ; ) Now, keep in mind the movie was an eight year old's choice; we watched Puss in Boots and had lots of buttered popcorn.

I guess the fact that this started a flurry of fairy tale narrations this week is a good thing.  I had chosen Hans Christian Anderson, Aesop and the Brothers Grimm as our fairy tale read alouds last year.  Again, I choose something for the little boys and quickly the girls want to be a part of it.  We had many favorites. 

My six year old disappeared into his room earlier this week after doing his table school work.  I figured he was just off with his legos and toys.  Well, he certainly was.  That evening he proudly displayed and retold some of his favorite tales. That's narrating...right? ; )

Jack and the Beanstalk (the little red lego in the middle is Jack)
Rapunzel (the extra layer of yellow legos coming out the window are hair)
And I am so sorry to say that Thumbelina got destroyed before I could get a picture of it. (sigh) We do have little brothers ready to pounce.  The retelling by kids is always wonderful.  My son continues to impress me with his creativity and humbles me:  by reminding me that narrations don't always have to be verbal.  His little mind spent a lot of time placing details into his Lego displays and he was more than willing to tell us about them.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Let Your Vote Be Counted!!

Isn't that a catchy title?  I popped over to the Homeschool Post with the intent to vote for some great Charlotte Mason blogs that I enjoy very much.  Really, pop over there and check out the other 1,186 blogs mentioned... including my own with a NEW Homeschool blog nomination ; ) 

I'm not sure I'll get through all of them, but the voting does end November 18th.  The intent of my post (besides getting you to discover some other great CM blogs) is to give thanks to whomever was the lovely person that put in the nomination.  Very sweet of you and once again I am humbled that some of you enjoy a glimpse of our living education.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

On All Saints Day


All Saint’s Day
by Ada Cambridge

Blessed are they whose baby-souls are bright,
Whose brows are seal├Ęd with the cross of light,
Whom God Himself has deign'd to robe in white—
Blessed are they!

Blessed are they who follow through the wild
His sacred footprints, as a little child;
Who strive to keep their garments undefiled—
Blessed are they!

Blessed are they who commune with the Christ,
Midst holy angels, at the Eucharist—
Who aye seek sunlight through the rain and mist—
Blessed are they!

Blessed are they—the strong in faith and grace—
Who humbly fill their own appointed place;
They who with steadfast patience run the race—
Blessed are they!

Blessed are they who suffer and endure—
They who through thorns and briars walk safe and sure;
Gold in the fire made beautiful and pure!—
Blessed are they!

Blessed are they on whom the angels wait,
To keep them facing the celestial gate,
To help them keep their vows inviolate—
Blessed are they!

Blessed are they to whom, at dead of night,—
In work, in prayer—though veiled from mortal sight,
The great King's messengers bring love and light—
Blessed are they!

Blessed are they whose labours only cease
When God decrees the quiet, sweet release;
Who lie down calmly in the sleep of peace—
Blessed are they!
Whose dust is angel-guarded, where the flowers
And soft moss cover it, in this earth of ours;
Whose souls are roaming in celestial bowers—
Blessed are they!

Blessed are they—our precious ones—who trod
A pathway for us o’er the rock-strewn sod.
How are they number'd with the saints of God!
Blessed are they!

Blessed are they, elected to sit down
With Christ, in that day of supreme renown,
When His own Bride shall wear her bridal crown—
Blessed are they!
All Soul's Cakes