Monthly Archives: August 2006

Ethan’s Schedule PDF — first 4 weeks of 4th Grade

I thought I’d post this, in case it could be of any use to anyone.  We’ve made it through the first week (tomorrow is a nature outing/field trip), and the schedule is do-able.  On top of it, we are also going through Core 2 of Sonlight .  For today, that included reading two pages of Window on the World, and another chapter in The Little Princess.  (Note on TLP:  I told the boys that we’d take it for a test run, to see if it has any redeeming features for three boys.  We’re only on chapter 2.  I thought we’d do at least 5 chapters, and then see if the boys want to progress.  I must admit that we’ve gotten way more out of books that I was initally uncertain about, but this might be pushing it.  😀 )

The books/abbreviations on the schedule are (and I’m not going to hot link them here, b/c that is time consuming, but I did so in this post):

Journal = From Heart to Page idea booklet
Typing = Type It!
Handwriting = A Reason for Handwriting Cursive
NR4 = Christian Liberty Nature Reader Book 4
Sing 4A = Singapore Math/Primary Mathematics 4A
R&S Eng = Rod & Staff Building With Diligence English 4
R&S Reader = Rod & Staff Exploring With God (Bible Nurture and Reader Series)
Latin = Latina Christiana Book 1
(ETA:  Spelling = Spelling Power) 

Note on Latin — Since it is new to me, too, we’re not starting immediately with the Lessons, but reviewing the pronunciation rules, a couple of Latin prayers, three songs, and some conversational phrases, all on the Pronunciation CD.  Today was our first day of it (since E was sick on Tuesday).

Ethan’s 4th Grade Homeschooling Schedule

Delight in babies, and, well… not so much

It’s ironic (or something) how I can see improvements in my mothering yet it leads me to stress b/c I then question my attitudes/behaviors in the past, and how it may have affected my dc.

For instance…  the babyhood of 4mo Audrey, in which we are currently delighting, is by far and away the best baby months I have experienced, as a mother. 

Ethan was my first, and before him, I knew everything about being a mother.  I read several books, I had already decided what I would toss from my own parents’ approach, etc.  Plus, I felt like families are a gift from God, and whatever I lacked, He would surely just magically bestow upon me. [insert loud buzzer sound here]  Well, it turned out, that at age 24, as a new mother, I discovered that there’s nothing that will so greatly humble a young woman than becoming a mother.  Things did not go smoothly.  I was shocked at my lack of mothering intuition.  I became dependent upon phone calls to other mothers who seemed to be doing things way better than I was.  It was just hard.  Every time he cried, I stressed out, b/c I was sure that it stemmed from something I wasn’t doing right.  And, he cried a lot, so that, in turn, spoke to me that I was doing a lot of wrong things.  Hearing him cry did not really stir up any tender, motherly feelings in me.

Then, both Grant & Wes were planned in the heart of God, but not in my own.  It turned out that God, in his sovereingty, knew exactly what He was doing, and both became an immense blessing to me.  Grant was a very peaceful baby, while Ethan was firmly entrenched in his two-year-old-ness.  Grant, by the grace of God, really didn’t cry much at all.  [OT, that was likely a result of his Nonverbal Learning Disorder, unknown at that time.  Folks w/ NLD have a really hard time understanding cause & effect.  So, it’s not like Grant was never in want or need;  he just didn’t “get” that innate thing that “every” baby gets, that first form of communication of, “If I cry, Mom responds and I’m likely to have my needs met.”  Very sad, in retrospect.]

Wes was very sick his first year of life, but he was *very* cute and a very good sport…  He would often wake at night, crying & in pain.  I often wonder how we got through that first year of Wes’ life when Grant was 2yo and Ethan was 4yo.  I loved Wes so dearly, and Grant, as well, but I can’t say that their babyhoods were a delight to me.
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The Caterpillar/First Language Lessons

(I posted this, and the content disappeared.  Let’s try it again.)

We are only on the second lesson of First Language Lessons, but I must say that I love the author’s tone.  Jessie Wise is both tender and firm, talking to children w/o talking down to them.

Wes and Grant are now memorizing The Caterpillar by Christina Rossetti.  After spending some time online looking for an illustrated copy of the poem, and finding a lot about caterpillars, but not exactly what I wanted, it dawned on my that I could create my own.

I made it on the semi-decrepit Printshop 15.

I uploaded it the pdf, and had some difficulty seeing it, but now it’s there, and actually works, as a pdf. 

The Caterpillar PDF

Emergent cr@p

I had been exposed to the really bad, bad, bad theology of the “emergent church” on the Lifelong Learners board at the Sonlight Forums.  When I first heard of it, I just could NOT believe that anyone calling themself an actual Christian could espouse such swill.  Well, it appears that it continues to be widespread.  IMO, as in “in my observation,” although I am by no means an “emergent” expert, the core of this movement is to take the sovereignty out of God, as if one could actually do so.

Uncle Steve, of the Careful Thought blog in my blogroll, has posted something on this topic in his blog today, and it’s worth a peep.

Wild Seed Rocks! (mostly)

Last Monday, I was searching different online sources for the seed that I want to grow in my year-round-color native plants garden.  See this post.  The source I found that had the most seeds — S&S Seeds in CA, turned out to be a wholesale-only operation.  Bummer.  The next-best source is a place called Native Seeds/SEARCH based out of Tucson.  However, they’re mostly devoted to native edibles, and actually didn’t have a ton of flowers.  When I’m ready for edibles, I’ll be giving that place a holler, though.  Then, on the resouce page of the Arizona Native Plant Society, I found the phone number for Wild Seed, Inc., based out of Tempe.  The info was sketchy, though, saying that Wild Seed might be wholesale only.  I called them, though, and spoke w/ a very helpful lady named Rita.  She said that they do mostly wholesale, but retail, too, for people like me!  I asked for a seed list.  That was Monday.  Tuesday, the list shows up in my mailbox!!

The amazing thing is, out of my 61 possible plants, Wild Seed had 21!  Yay!  I have been busy, now, planning out the layout for my 6’4″x16’6″ garden plot.  I called Rita yesterday (which you should do, too — 602.276.3536 ) and asked her some questions regarding a few plants.  She was very helpful, and very encouraging of both the garden and our homeschool efforts.  The *only* thing that I profoundly disagreed w/ her was this:  I was asking if the lovely, purple-flowered Oxytropis lambertii, which is toxic to sheep & cattle, is also toxic to people.  She didn’t know.  That was a tad surprising.  But, then she proceeded to say that for her own son, who is 13, and has been seed-gathering in the wild with her since he could walk (very cool), she has advocated a near hands-off policy for all plants.  Well, not hands-off, but mouth-off.  She doesn’t let him put anything in his mouth, and makes him wash his hands after handling any plant.  So, Rita suggested that I go ahead and plant it, but make sure my kids don’t put it in their mouths.  Well…. it seems questionable to me, at best, to plant a plant that *may* be toxic to my kids in my garden.  Also, it goes against some of my core purposes for this garden!!  I don’t want to further propogate the city mentality of “hands-off, nature is scary!”  I VERY much want this to be a hands-on garden.  It’s my goal to find out as much as we can about every plant we grow, including its traditional medicinal and edible uses.  [An author who is very much into the interaction of child-and-garden is Robin C. Moore.  I haven’t read any of his books, but hope to, when I’m done w/ Last Child in the Woods.] 

I’m still working on the layout and grouping of the plants in the garden, but when I’m done, I’ll post it here.

In related news, in my recent research, I had discovered that the leaves of purslane and the blooms of  chuparosa were edible.  This morning, I found some purslane growing as a weed in our back lawn, and sampled it.  It was a bit slimy, but pleasant-tasting.  Then, I found a few blooms on one of my chuparosa bushes, the first of the Fall, and tasted it, too!  I had read that chuparosa blooms taste like cucumber and are a good addition to salad.  I think I may try the salad thing, b/c they do indeed taste like cucumber!!       



With only a few hiccups, we completed our first day of the new year of school.  Every year gets a bit more complicated:  this year brings more intense subject-matter and a greater volume of work for Ethan, some new/different material for Grant, and introduces Wesley to “real” school, as he’s now an official kindergartener.

For preschool, we do what I guess might be considered unschooling.  Just from having an education-oriented environment, all three of the boys have picked up knowledge regarding shapes, colors, numbers, letters, etc.

I have been a tad concerned about Wesley’s fine motor skills, and have been thinking that perhaps he has some delays in that area, like Grant did/does.  He really cannot color proficiently, nor even grasp a pencil effectively.  But, I think it has, up until now, fallen into the “I’d rather be doing something else” category, rather than an actual delay.  I got him ReadyWriter, and although last night he was saying that he didn’t want to do it… when I showed it to him this morning, he got very excited, and wanted to do it immediately, before breakfast.  I had also gotten him some inexpensive RoseArt pencil grippers that I found at Target:

Pencil Grips  by Moon 

These worked GREAT, and saved me the $$ and the extra trip to *another* store, because the only ones I’ve found similar to these were 4-buck-a-pop ones sold at a local teacher’s supply store. (Teaching Stuff on the SE corner of 51st Ave & Bell Rd — very nice couple that owns it, very homeschooling-friendly!)  Anyways, these cheapie ones have a little star where you put your thumb, and then molded spots for your first two fingers.  Highly recommended.

So, Wes hit the ReadyWriter, and was *thrilled* about the little certificates that come with the book for each completed level.  And he totally bought the story about cutting the pans of brownies, using his pencil as a knife, cutting top to bottom, left to right.  He even wanted to do a second page, but his little finger muscles gave out early into it.

We also re-started Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons which we had worked on vveeeeerrrrrryyyyy slowly last year, at his own pace, completing only 8 lessons.  Wes actually already knows how to read, but much of it is just from “osmosis” in being in a hs’ing family, and much of his reading is sight-recognition.  I want to get a good phonics core of understanding in him.  Plus, it’s encouraging to kids when something is easy for them, so I thought it to be a good plan to start 100 EZ Lessons over.

He also sat in while we continued to read The Twenty-One Balloons (almost done w/ it!), and he and Grant did First Language Lessons together with me.  I was hoping that Grant wouldn’t see that the section we’re starting on is actually 1st Grade, but, of course, he saw it.  Grant is behind in some areas, since his writing skills were so lacking for so long, that it kept us from doing many workbook-like activities, and slowed much of his school pace in general.  But, he’s pretty much up to speed now, so we have to catch up.  FLL is actually a 1st Grade then 2nd Grade manual, but after reviewing it, I thought it would be very adaptable to use for both Grant & Wes silmultaneously.

And Ethan…  He’s starting a new math program this year, after completing Miquon.  We’re doing Singapore, and he caught on to it no problem.  I was sort of wishing for one publisher’s math curric that I could stay with forever… but now I’m thinking that each program has its own strengths, and it’s not really a drawback that he learned math one way, through one publisher, and is now learning a “new” way.  It makes for more all-around-balanced math instruction, I think.

He also started Type It!  and was tickled that I wrote on the backs of his lower fingers in red Sharpie the appropriate home-row letters.  He did surprisingly well, and was surprisingly quick.  I’ve told him that I want him to do his journalling and typing every morning w/o being asked, before breakfast.  We’ll see how that pans out. 

Shellie/RCG mentioned about perhaps not doing a separate writing program, but you should see what her kids write!  I think they’re naturally talented and creative.  Ethan is not.  At all.  Getting him to use an adjective is like pulling teeth.  So, I thought I’d let his writing, this year, be more relaxed, hence the journal idea.  We are using the little booklet From Heart to Page, which has 120 starter ideas, grouped by season, starting with Autumn.  Ethan’s eyes lit up when I told him that I would probably be reading what he writes, but I wouldn’t be correcting grammar or spelling.

So, anyways, I won’t detail our every subject, but suffice it to say that, other than the latest installment of Window on the World (which we will now do tomorrow), and Ethan’s Handwriting (which he will do after his quiet time), we got everything done!!!  At least until we get totally into the swing of things, though, I think I won’t even be checking e-mail until the kids are in quiet time, so that we can get established…  Something’s gotta give, you know?

The Latest Gem from Mr. Louv

In Chapter 11 of Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv speaks mournfully of the disappearing knowledge of natural sciences.  As science study in the US morphs to fields such as microbiology and genetic studies, much of the “-ology” studies (like “invertebrate zoology, ichthyology, mammalogy, ornithology, and herpetology”) are being neglected.  He wraps up the chapter with this:

“If education and other forces, intentionally or unintentionally, continue to push the young away from direct experience in nature, the cost to science itself will be high.  Most scientists today began their careers as children, chasing bugs and snakes, collecting spiders, and feeling awe in the presence of nature.  Since such untidy activities are fast disappearing, how, then, will our future scientists learn about nature?”

Well, Mr. Louv, I believe that our future scientists will likely come from the pool of homeschooled children, especially those whose mothers approached schooling with a Charlotte Mason-like mindset.  I’m not even quite in that category (since I’ve never read her works), but I’m basically aware of her ideals, and I would say that more and more, I’m tending towards them.

I started out homeschooling, five years ago, with the mindset that I was going to feed my children’s intellect, so that they would be well-learned, well-read, and just well-educated.  I still want to do that, but more and more, I’m seeing that one of the Platinum Values of homeschooling is that I can foster a love of learning in them.  I want to encourage things that are interesting to them, and of long-term value.

I’m not into unschooling, and I still believe that structure is necessary, especially with little boys, who, given their ‘druthers’ would just rot in front of the TV, or, at best, lay in their beds and read all day.  IOW, do anything that does not require discipline, self-control, and thinking.

But, I am increasingly seeing the value in doing something like taking their love for romping in the woods and turning it into something that is both educational and memorable, rather than saying, “THIS is our science curriculum this year.”  Or, rather than just simply trying to boost their intellect.

I hope that makes sense.

I am realizing that, if I were a child, I would have LOVED a classical education.  I would have eaten up everything from Veritas Press and Well-Trained Mind, etc.  I’m very internal, very bookish, very much about learning for learning’s sake.  But, my kids are not like that.  (I’m holding out hope for Audrey, though! ;o) )  So, my next best hope is to just keep their love for learning alive.  Or, rekindle it.  Or something.  I want them to have an internal value for learning, not just force my own ideal education upon them.  I want to balance structure with their own interests, their own strengths, and their own weaknesses.

It’s hard sometimes.  It’s hard to figure out what to do, which curric to use, where to spend our time and our efforts.  I stress about it.  I’m trying not to, though.  I’m trying to assure myself (and my dh assures me, bless him 🙂 ) that they’re getting a much better education, in spite of my faults and stops and starts, than they would in the public school system.


Aargh. How are we gonna fit it all in????

Well, I’m slightly embarrassed that it has taken more than 18 months for us to go through Sonlight’s Core 2.  However, as write up schedules for my sons, it is apparent why we’re going so slowly.  I write more about our curric plans here. 

For instance, for Ethan, my 9yo, on Mondays & Wednesdays, he’ll have his

  • Journalling (which will replace copywork — Queen Homeschool Supplies’ Copywork for Boys is really a wonderful program, and I wish we could fit it in, but I just don’t see us doing that this year.  Seven-year-old Grant will still be doing Copywork for Little Boys, though)
  • typing
  • handwriting
  • Nature Reader
  • Plus, Math and Reading and Grammar — I haven’t yet received our Reading & Grammar books in the mail yet;  we’ll have to start the year w/o them
  • Then, there’s Science… we do have SL Science, but I’m thinking our natural sciences projects (native plants garden and in-the-wild flower ident & pressing project) will perhaps need to replace this.  I hate not completing something.  I hate spending the $$ on something that we end up not using… so I think I’ll just let them have at the box of supplies for the experiments, and let them do them on their free time.  And they’ve already read through the texts of Sci 2.  So, I guess it won’t be a total waste.

On Tuesdays & Thursdays, he’ll do

  • Journalling
  • Spelling
  • typing
  • Latin
  • Math, Reading & Grammar

Fridays we reserve for library, park, hiking, nature walks, “field trips” etc. 

They read all the time, too.  (E’s read the first five or six books in the Redwall series, and after reading The Hobbit, he’s now halfway through The Fellowship of the Ring.)  So, I’m semi-considering NOT doing Core 2’s readers.  ~sigh~  You know, just letting them join our “regular” books in the bookcase for “free” reading.  So…  that leaves the Readalouds and the History books.  I just can’t give those up.  My own education was history-deficient, and I want to study it!! 😀  And, there’s so much about Readaloud time that is valuable, even if it’s way time-consuming.  ~another sigh~

It’s just that I was hoping to rip through the last 10 weeks of material that we have left in Core 2, and move on to 3+4 by December.  But, I can’t see us completing that and all the material I have listed above.  And there’s nothing that I want to give up, either.  In fact, there are things I’d like to add, but I know that just isn’t possible.

So, I’ll just humbly admit that it’s going to take us a good, solid 2 years total to go through Core 2.  Oh, well. 

Oh, by the way…

… the post below about our adventures in the Hassayampa River Valley — I picked that particular spot to explore b/c it is ALL Federal land.  No state land.  If you’ve read further down my blog, you’d see all what sorts of research gyrations I’ve gone through to make sure that our outings, and what we do on them, are legal.

So, hmph.  We’re legal.

The Hassayampa Non-River Valley

So…  I knew that the Hassayampa River flows mostly underground.  I knew that one of the only places that its waters rise to the actual bed of the river is by the Nature Conservancy’s Hassayampa River Preserve.  However, I didn’t really want to pay the $5 pp admission, and it had been raining all day Thursday, so I thought there might be water to find in the river.

So, after gathering our assorted field guides, water, snacks, binoculars and camera, we all loaded up into the 4WD and headed out.

Now, I live in a 4 mile long cul-de-sac.  To the North and West of our housing development is the flood plain for a river that has been dammed to make a lake nearby.  To the East is the CAP canal and some foothills.  By road, the only way out is to the South-ish, and it’s a 4 mile drive to the nearest stoplight.  Then, if you want to head North, you have to route another five miles East to get to a road that takes you North, or another 3 miles South and then another 3-ish miles West.

But, if you have off-road capabilities, it’s a quick 1.5 mile jaunt NW across the desert, a.k.a., the aforementioned flood plain.

Like I said, we have a 4WD, and I’m not afraid to use it.

So, we took that path across the desert, and met up with a road that took us to the Carefree Hwy.  Thirty-five miles West of there, roughly, is Wickenburg, AZ.  We found our turnoff at Rincon Road, and headed North, hoping for that river.  A river with water, that is.  Well, we found the river, but we didn’t find the water.  We saw, on the riverbed, that the sand was still wet with tracks from where the water *had* flowed, but we missed it.

Determined to find the river, still, I insisted that we keep driving.  According to the boys, I should not have done that, b/c we wasted valuable time that they could have been playing in the mostly-dry riverbed.  We took a rather precarious road that made me hope that the tires were in good-enough shape to handle what I was putting them through.  I think if I would have kept on that road, we would have ended up in the Hassayampa River Canyon (National) Wilderness.  Well, after checking a few links, maybe I would not have ended up there.  It seems one needs to take Constellation Road to get there.  But, there WAS road heading north of where we were, roughly following the Hassayampa River, and it looked newly-graded.  Now, I’m curious as to where that road leads.  I’ll have to see if it’s on Google Maps.

Along the “wrong” road, we saw a Loggerhead Shrike.  I’ve seen one before, but not in AZ.  They’re quite a vicious predator that skewers its kill on a handy thorn, or the like, to eat it like a Popsicle.  You’d never guess from looking at him:  (I didn’t take this pic.) 
Lanius ludovicianus, Loggerhead Shrike Stock Photograph

The guys still don’t appreciate the beauty of this, but that’s (mostly) all right;  I hated the desert until I was at least 25 or so.  This was taken on the crest of a hill that heads north from the Rincon Road scenic loop:
Hassayampa River Valley, above Rincon Road - 2

Anyways, after all that driving, which included a fair amount of backtracking, we made our way down to the river bed.  I had to nurse Baby Bitsy, so I parked, nose-in to the river, and I let the boys run, as long as they kept the truck in view.  It was a *GORGEOUS* day, the kind that only happens when it has rained in the summer.  Temp was probably in the high 70’s, a strong breeze was blowing…  Just lovely.

This wasn’t an “official” nature outing, so I wasn’t pressing the boys to find flowers & stuff, but I did find one very ugly specimen, that turned out to be Nicotiana trigonophylla.  It contains nicotine.  I pressed it in my Sibley’s guide.  (Don’t let that link fool ya.  It is one ugly, sticky plant.)

We only stayed 45 min, much to all of our disappointment.  But, we had to get home.  I had meat marinating and dinner to make.

We packed it up, and retraced our tracks along the lovely Carefree Hwy.  Along the way, it rained off and on.  We got caught in a major BUG STORM, where some sort of bug just kept coming and coming and coming, mixed in with sprinkled rain, splatting against the windshield.  Unwisely, I turned on the wipers, and proceeded to watch them smear bug guts in two arcs, completely obscuring my view.  I kept hoping the rain would wash it off.  Not.  However, we did see an amazing rainbow, whose end vividly fell to the desert floor, about five miles west of Lake Pleasant.
Rainbow over the desert north of the Carefree Hwy  

We got back to our desert flood plain, described above.  About a half mile from the “real” road, and a mile from home, we discovered that the normally-dry wash that we cross was a raging flood of water.

Here’s a pic from March of my three handsome young men, in that same wash:
 Desert Boys

Now, imagine roiling, muddy water over the head of my oldest.

I have to say, as much as I realize how absolutely stupid it would have been to do so, I was tempted to try to ford the water.  I knew it would be at least 30 minutes to take another route, and only five minutes home if I could cross the river.  But visions danced in my head of:  after every rainstorm, there’s some dodo on the nightly news, getting air-lifted from the top of their SUV, b/c they thought their truck was strong enough.  And, sure enough, I saw it that night on both the local news and CNN — though not from that exact location.

However, knowing I had a fairly long drive to get home, I *HAD* to do something about those bugs on the windshield.  I had literally been slouching low in my seat, peering out through a not-as-smeary patch, and that just wasn’t going to cut it on the real road, especially as it was starting to get dark.  The Holy Spirit reminded me of how, as I was preparing to leave, He prompted me to grab a roll of paper towels.  I, not thinking that it was really the Holy Spirit, blew him off. 

Well, I knew there was my 4yo’s vest he calls his Command Ops vest, shoved under the middle seat.  I grabbed that, along with a bucket we had brought for harvesting prickly pear fruit (the prickly pear in Wickenburg had apparently already borne their fruit, or someone harvested ’em all.  There were none to be found.).  I scooped up some muddy water, and washed the window with it, as my 4yo fought back tears that I was using his vest.  I thanked him profusely for being “helpful” in our efforts to get home safely… 😉

Forty-five minutes later, we were home.  Forty-five dumb minutes.  I was a stressed-out ball of nerves when we got home, worrying about my dh worrying about us.  I am the last SAHM in the US w/ no cell phone, so I hadn’t been able to call.  I had searched my wallet for change, even though we weren’t in an area where there were any pay phones.  No change.  (He found some the next morning, cleaning out the truck.  Doh!)  He was worried, of course, but not frantic.  It took me a good several hours to calm down.  Once I get wound-up/nervous about something, it takes a *long* time for my heart to stop thumping, and my stomach to settle.  Martin made some omelets for the boys, and we ate “real” dinner much later.

ANYways…  Not the most successful outing ever.  But, other than the being-late part, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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