Friday, July 30, 2010

Naughty or nice award

Thank you Gen at Girls and Sunflowers for the blog award!  I certainly don't consider myself naughty, but I don't know if I could be called nice, either.  Let's just say I'm in touch with my sin nature, but trying to obey God, which puts me even more in touch with my sin nature.  It's a viscous cycle.

Anyway, these are the questions I'm supposed to answer.

1. What is the silliest prank you ever played on someone?

I really don't think silly and Celee fit well together in the same sentence.  When I was a little kid and under the influence of the evil neighbor boys, I once pretended to be hurt on the side of the road.  And yes, I felt really bad when someone stopped to ask if I was ok.  I think that may have been my first and last prank.

2. If you could take a trip anywhere out of the country where would you go? Why?

I love to travel, despite the sardonic tone of my travel tales.  I love the adventure of it all.  Our next big trip will be to China- probably in a couple of years, Lord willing (after we finish Sonlight Core 5).  In fact, the kids and I are really excited to start learning Mandarin Chinese next summer using Rosetta Stone.

3. Who plays the most influential role in your life?

My parents and husband. 

4. Are you ok with your significant other being friends with an ex?

No, I think that's weird.  My husband and I don't hang out with people of the opposite sex. 

5. Favorite candle scent?

I have one that smells sort of like caramels.  I'm not a real candle person, I think that one's 6 or 7 yrs old, but it smells really good.

6. Next movie you're excited about seeing?

Toy Story 3.  I'm waiting til it comes out on video.

7. You must ban one word from the dictionary and all usage, to be no longer uttered or written. What word do you ban?

I would like for people not to take the Lord's name in vain.  And I don't like it when people use vulgar words.  However, I wouldn't ban any words from the dictionary.  The problem is not with the words, but with the people who mis-use them. 

8. Do you have any relatives in jail?

Not that I know of, though I may have a few who belong there.

9. What crazy fads were popular when you were a teenager.

Parachute pants and break dancing.  Friendship bracelets and flavored toothpicks.

10. Have you ever been mentioned in a newspaper or on TV?

Yes.  My picture was in the paper for swimming when I was in high school and when I got engaged and then married.  I think that's it.  Now I pretty much just have my obituary to look forward to.

I'm supposed to pass this award on to 10 of my blogging friends unless I'm feeling naughty- in that case I can just pass it on to 5. 

I can tell you right now that all these sweet ladies are nice, not naughty.  I think being nice is a pre-requisite for putting up with me as a friend :).

It's your turn...

Valerie at In Faith and Purity
Roan at Joyful Always
Amy at In Search of Normal
Snuzi at Every Captive Thought
Noelle at Triplesmiles answer the above questions and pass along the award.  Thanks for being a nice influence in my life!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Summer Goals- How are we doing?

I learned to set goals when I was an age-group swimmer.  I believe in setting goals or resolutions or whatever you want to call them.  Without goals I tend to slide toward complacency.  Some of you commented that you thought my summer goals were a little ambitious so I thought I'd give you an update on how we're doing.

Monk (11)- Original goals-  Read 1 hr+ per day, learn to type, complete Vacation Stations workbook.  Reality- 90 day Bible challenge which takes him about 1.5 hrs per day; typing progress has been slow, but steady; Vacation Stations went by the wayside early on.  Monk has also been painting fences at the ranch with his grandparents and spending lots of time with his cousin who's staying with us this summer.

Twinkle Toes (9)- Original goals- Read 1 hr per day, learn to knit, Vacation Stations workbook.  Reality- Twinkle Toes started the 90 day Bible challenge with us, but we found she was speed-reading and not retaining anything, so for the last month she's been reading 1 hr per day working her way through the Little House books.  The knitting is coming along nicely thanks to my mother-in-law who has been giving the girls knitting lessons each Tuesday.  Two of the girls' friends have even joined them in learning to knit.  Twinkle Toes conveniently lost her Vacation Stations workbook very early on this summer, but she has been learning to type along with her big brother.

Measle (7)- Original goals- Improve reading skills so she'll be ready for chapter books when we start school.  Reality- Measle has been reading 30 minutes per day and I think she's almost ready for real chapter books.  Measle has also been learning to knit along with her sister.  Vacation Stations went by the wayside, but she did do a couple of pages of Greek yesterday:).

American Boy (4)- Original goals- Learn to swim and learn to read.  Reality- I completely failed at teaching AB to swim this summer.  I haven't been in the water most of the summer and never signed him up for lessons with anyone else.  However, AB is coming right along with his reading.  He's now able to read short sentences with simple words.  I can tell it's already clicked with him and that reading is going to come easily to our AB.

Louie (21 months)- Original goal- Potty train.  Reality- I haven't started yet, but I'm sure she'll train quickly when we get back from vacation.  She's already asking to go potty and makes me change her as soon as she's wet.

Me- Original goals- 90 day Bible challenge for the second time.  Reality- I'm keeping up with my reading, loving it just as much as the first time through, and getting even more out of it this time.  I'm also a 90 day Bible mentor right now trying to encourage 14 ladies who are attempting the challenge for the first time.  I shared with you in my last post some of the other interesting books I'm reading.  And while I haven't been swimming this summer, I've been consistently walking while the big kids swim each day. 

So, all in all I'm happy with our progress this summer.  Next year I'll ditch the workbook plans.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

My summer reading prep for studying American History

The kids and I will study Sonlight's Core 3+4 American History this year so in anticipation of that I've selected a few books for myself to help me become more familiar with our nation's history.   Just a little light summer reading :).

Currently I'm reading George Washington's Sacred Fire by Peter A. Lillback (of course I'm also reading RC Sproul's new commentary on John, The Edge of Evolution by Michael Behe, and doing the 90 Day Bible Challenge- so I'm going at a snail's pace.)  Sacred Fire is a massive tome dedicated to disproving the 20th century myth that George Washington was a Deist.  I'm only on page 111 and I'm already convinced.  Either George Washington was a reverant, orthodox Christian who truly endorsed the beliefs of the Anglican church including the doctrines of the Sovereignty and Providence of God (which hard Diests deny) and the doctrine of theTrinity (which all Deists deny) or he purposefully deceived those around him by pretending to be the above.  In other words, Washington's recent biographers can't have it both ways- claiming he was a Deist and an honest man of integrity.  Close examination of Washington's personal correspondence, speeches, and the testimony of those who knew him best reveal a humble, godly man who saw himself first and foremost as a Christian and secondly as a soldier and then public servant.

Other books on my reading list include Founding Brothers by Joseph J. Ellis, Washington's Spies by Alexander Rose, Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose (about Lewis and Clark), and Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin (about Lincoln and his cabinet).

Books I've read in the last year or two pertaining to some period of American History include:  Unknown Shore by Robert Ruby (more history of the exploration of the North American coastline), Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick, The Captured by Scott Zesch (about Indian abductions on the Texas frontier), The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan (about the Dust Bowl), The Forgotten Man by Amity Shlaes (about the Great Depression), and New Deal or Raw Deal by Burton Folsom, Jr.

I honestly don't think I learned anything about the history of our great country while I was in school.  I love that by using Sonlight my kids and I learn history through real books and not boring, politically correct textbooks.

What are you reading this summer?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Homeschool Planning

My friend Roan at Joyful Always has inspired me to do a little more in depth planning for the upcoming school year.  We're both using Sonlight and I really liked some of her ideas, especially having to do with reorganizing the Sonlight binder.  Those of you who use Sonlight probably do so because it practically eliminates the need for planning- and it does- so that begs the question of why I felt I needed to micro-plan our school year.  Here's what I've done and why.

1.  I bought 36 colorful tabs and divided our school year into eight week increments.  Behind each week's tab is everything I need to smoothly manage our homeshcool for that week.

2.  I love Sonlight's instructor's guides!  This is largely why I switched to Sonlight.  They are very structured, but at the same time leave room for customization.  Because I have two advanced readers doing Core 3+4 this year, I've added readers and read alouds to our curriculum.  (I added these from the individual Cores 3 and 4 so that we will have a more complete American History experience.)  The instructor's guide provides room for me to write in our reading schedule for these books plus I was able to add our Science and Art schedules in the "other notes" section.  By the way, thank you Roan for introducing me to Donna Young homeschool resources.  I had been going through the Apologia Exploring Creation with General Science textbook making myself crazy trying to break it down into daily lessons when I discovered someone more experienced than myself has already done this!   Twinkle Toes will be studying Nutrition 101:  Choose Life next year and each weekly lesson can be easily divided into two days.

(Our school schedule is heavy on Mondays and Tuesdays since we have no outside activities on those days.) 

I also printed the Apologia General Science schedule from Donna Young and placed it in Monk's folder.  So, why did I feel the need to also write it in our Sonlight binder?  I want to have a master schedule that the kids and I can check for all their subjects.  I love that their Grammar Ace and Wordly Wise assignments are already included in the Language Arts instructor's guide.  And it was easy to add in their Spelling Wisdom since Sonlight provides a space for Spelling already. 

The only subjects not covered in our Sonlight binder are Math and Greek.  I didn't feel the need to add these because they are so straight forward.  The kids do one lesson in Math each day until test time.  The kids work two pages of Greek each morning at breakfast.  It's that simple!

3.  My crazy friend Roan also convinced me to move all the wonderful study notes included in our Sonlight instructor's guide up to the weekly tab that the book will first be utilized.  This was a tough decision for me and half-way through I was regretting it.  Now I think I'm glad I did it.  Here's why:  Sonlight has provided incredible notes and resources that I didn't fully take advantage of last year.  Whenever my kids would read a book that I hadn't read, I would use their discussion questions to test reading comprehension, but I didn't use the notes Sonlight provides for the books that we read aloud together.  I also didn't use their maps since I found it hard to thumb through and find the appropriate map at the end of the study notes for each book.  I ended up using a book of historical maps that I already had and could keep within easy reach.  This year I want to take full advantage of all that Sonlight has to offer including all notes and maps.  I think if everything I need for the week is right there behind its tab, I'll be more likely to make sure my kids are getting the most out of each reading session.

And finally, with a new baby on the way in October (or I can always hope for September), I want our school days to be so streamlined that the kids can figure out what they're supposed to do next without me.  I'll be here, but I may not always be available, if you know what I mean. 

I also took advantage of Donna Young's wide selection of planners to write out a daily schedule for each day of our week (they're different because we have piano on Thursdays, Bible study on Wednesdays, etc.).  I've placed these schedules at the beginning of our Sonlight binder and also in each child's folder.  Hopefully with our weekly and daily schedules, we'll always know what we're supposed to be doing when!

Thanks, Roan for inspiring me to plan ahead.  I've had so much fun going over everything we're going to study next year that I'm ready to start school right now!  I really can't wait!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Nesting again. This time it's the closet under the stairs.

When we added our upstairs a few years ago, one of the bonus perks was getting a closet under the stairs.  We use it to store everything from vacuum cleaners and mops to jackets and backpacks and oodles and oodles of kids' clothes.  I'm a terrible packrat and just can't let go of my kids' clothes or shoes unless they are really worn or stained.  I must have a little hoarder in me:).  Here's what our schoolroom looked like after I unloaded the closet.

(Yes, I'm one of the idiots that believed the informercial on space bags.)

It spilled over into the living room.

And shoe chaos.  On the bench means second hand store.  In the box means keep for next kid in line.  On the floor means missing it's match so trash-bound.  What happens to those missing shoes, anyway?


Ok, I know this closet isn't perfect.  It is awfully full of stuff, but it's a bit more orderly now.

This is one of those closets that turns a corner.  Way back in the dark, remote recesses is where I'm keeping the (sniff, sniff) baby girl clothes.  That's right, I'm expecting a baby boy, our sixth child, and I still can't get rid of my baby girl things.  Yes, I do hope to have another baby girl.  Crazy, I know.

Here we have the trusty hand-me-down shoe box.  These are the shoes and boots that were in good shape and costly enough that I deemed them irreplaceable.

And the next layer of the onion provides easy access to cleaning supplies.

When you open the closet door you see these four hooks and the vacuum chargers.  I would so love two more hooks.  Maybe next to the dustbuster?

And on the left side of the closet:  shelves. 

This part of the floor is a little messy.  I have a basket full of protective gear (why I have this I don't know- my kids never wear it), two ice skating bags (and now my girls say they want to go back to gymnastics next year instead of ice skating!), and a row of roller blades and ice skates (3 pairs of roller blades, one pair of roller skates, and three pairs of outgrown ice skates).

The next shelf has bike helmets (more protective gear that goes unused) and swimming paraphernalia.

Boy clothes 12-24 months.  (I hung all the 0-12 m clothes in baby Calvin's closet.)

And on the top shelf:  Girl sz 4-5.  I have a big bag of sz 3 clothes that I need to hang in Louie's closet since it won't be long before she's in those.  The clothes that are too small for Twinkle Toes, but too big for Measle I'm putting in their closet since Measle will be wearing them next year.

So, that's it for now.  Next project= laundry room.  Maybe I should ditch all that protective wear.  What do you think?  My kids literally NEVER wear it.  Why do I hold onto it?  I seriously have a bike helmet in every size and color.  Why?  I have no idea.  This closet is a little like my life.  Not terribly out of control and not incredibly with-it either.  It's basically controlled chaos.  That pretty much sums us up.

How to suffer well- What Job got right and his friends got wrong part II

I don't have a lot of personal experience with suffering and certainly not of Job-like proportions, but truth is truth and God has made it known to us through His Word.  These observations on suffering come from my recent reading of the book of Job.  While Job was reprimanded by God for his pride, it seems to me that Job did at least 6 things right in the midst of his suffering.

1.  Job refused to blame God or curse Him.  In fact, Job says his only comfort in his circumstances is that he has not sinned by cursing God.  (1:22, 2:8-10, 6:10) 

2.  Job acknowledged God's sovereignty- over nature (9:5, 26:7-14), nations (12:23), the length of our lives (12:10, 14:5), and even over the details of our lives including suffering (7:17-20, 12:9, 13:27, 19:8, 23:13-14, 30:19).  Job realizes that his suffering is not an accident, but that it was ordained by God for some reason such as to test him.  On the surface, it may seem like acknowledging God's sovereignty over suffering is the same as blaming God for your suffering, but I think there's a difference.  Job 1:22 says that in all his suffering "Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong."  So Job realized his suffering was from God, he was unhappy about it, he didn't understand it, but he didn't charge God with wrong.

3.  Job acknowleged his own sin and that no one is innocent before God.  This principle is almost hidden since Job spends so much time protesting his innocence to his friends- in other words he says compared to you guys I didn't do anything wrong.  He's saying his sin can't explain his particular suffering (although it certainly explains suffering in general)- or else everyone on earth would be suffering to the degree to which they sin. But a closer inspection of Job's words show that he realizes he is not innocent and has no right to question God.  Job is in touch with his own sin nature, unlike his self-righteous friends.  (7:21, 9:2, 9:14-15 & 28-31, 31:33)  In fact, Job cries out to God for forgiveness.  "Why then do you not pardon my transgression, and take away my iniquity?" (7:21a)

4.  Job acknowledged God's wisdom in the midst of his suffering.  (21:22, 28:28, 12:13, 16)  So although Job doesn't understand why God has caused him to suffer, he knows God is all-wise.  Job struggles with his own perplexity, not with God's. 

5.  Job acknowledged God as a just judge.  (23:6-7, 24:23-24)

6.  Job also acknowledged God as his creator and redeemer.  (10:8, 19:25)

In summary, Job had a right view of God.  He understood that life is all about God's glory and His working everything out to that end.  He understood that somehow even his suffering was wrapped up in God's glory, though he didn't like it or know why. 

My favorite part of Job is that he realized our need for a mediator between God and man.  "Surely even now my witness is in heaven, and my evidence is on high.  My friends scorn me, my eyes pour out tears to God.  Oh, that one might plead for a man with God, as a man pleads for his neighbor!" (16:19-21 emphasis mine) Job understood that priests were of limited value (where were they when he needed them?).  His ardent cry for someone to plead his case before God is answered in Christ.

"Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need."  (Hebrews 4:14-16)

"Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intecession for them."  (Hebrews 7:25)

Perhaps even then the second member of the Trinity was pleading to God the Father for Job.  But Job didn't know this.  What a comfort it is for us to rest in the intercessory work of Christ.  We know that no matter what trials befall us, we are not alone.  We have an Advocate who is seated at the right hand of God in heaven making intercession for us.  And Job is one in the "cloud of witnesses" encouraging us to suffer well for the glory of God.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Read-aloud time activities

Last year was our first year for an extended read-aloud time each day.  An hour and a half is a long time for my kids to sit still and I don't tolerate fidgeting very well.  So, after reading that Kimberly at Raising Olives allows her kids to do hand-work during read-aloud time I decided to test it out.  The only problem was my kids don't do any hand-work!  After some experimenting I learned that tracing and drawing something appropriate to our lesson did not interfere with the listening comprehension of my 10 and 8 year olds.  In fact, this really allowed us to kill two birds with one stone since I decided half-way through the school year that each child would make a portfolio.  So while I was reading Master Cornhill, my kids might be drawing the life-cycle of the plague virus (from The Story of the World Activity Book) or tracing and coloring a picture of the Old London Bridge (found on the internet).  This helped my kids to sit quietly and still during read-aloud time and it gave them material for their portfolios.  This year we're studying American History and so far I've just purchased one drawing book.  I'm on the lookout for additional activity books though if you know of any good ones.

Remember the Alamo?

And since Twinkle Toes and Measle are learning to knit this summer, they will also be able to do hand-work during read-aloud this year.  With a little brother coming in October they should be quite busy with baby knitting projects until then.

Last year Louie (21 months) was napping during read-aloud time, but this year she'll only nap in the afternoons.  So I've been brainstorming about how to keep Louie and AB (4) quietly while we read.  Louie is blanket-trained, but I've never tried keeping her in one place for an hour and a half!  Last year AB was allowed to quietly work puzzles or play learning games.  This year I'm wondering if I need to set up stations as other multi-level homeschooling moms have done.  I'm not sure yet how formal these "stations" will be, but I wanted to show you some of the games.  Tara at Too Many Kids in the Bathtub made these games and my little kids love them!

Louie needs to work on her counting skills.  She kept going along behind AB and adding feathers.

I'm sure there are many ways you can play this game.  I just put all the pictures in a pile and
let the kids choose pictures to cover up the shapes on their shape cards. 

Another shape game.  The pictures go from easy to difficult and show how rearranging shapes makes different designs.

This is supposed to be a color sorting game, but Louie wasn't quite following it. 
You could also sort the buttons by shape.

This is a variation of the picnic game.  What is it about play food that kids love?

Pattern making is fun with rainbow road.

Who needs 9?  At least they'll know their numbers through 8 with these nifty number puzzles.

Here's the picnic game as it was meant to be played.  Match the foods
to their corresponding picnic blankets.

And here they are- all the little kid games, puzzles, and activities tucked away in the cabinet under our read-aloud shelf.  When Louie has blanket time she gets to have a game or puzzle on her blanket with her.  Maybe we'll have to break every 30 minutes or so to change out the activity. 

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Our read-aloud area

Those of us who use Sonlight or another literature-rich homeschool curriculum need an area for reading aloud that has comfortable seating, a place for books, and if you have little ones around a place for little kid activities. 

We use our living room.  This is the same space we use for family worship, for my ladies Bible study, and for just about every other gathering in our home. 

This is my chair.  Doesn't it look comfortable?  It is!  The little black shelf to your right holds our devotional, Scripture memory, and character training materials so they're within reach during morning devotions.  I use the lower shelf of our built-ins for current or semi-current homeschool read-alouds or accessory materials like my Instructor's guide, current history books, collection of maps, and even art reference books (I've noticed Sonlight books contain a lot of references to art and it's nice to be able to show the kids what's being described.)  The cabinet beneath the built-in shelves contains the little kids' games and puzzles.

Of course my chair usually looks more like this...

I try to clear off the ottoman for the weekend, or at least by Christmas break:).  I usually even stack the books in the order in which I read them each day.  This makes it super-easy to know what to read without having to search around for the right book.

In the next post I'll talk about what my kids do during read-aloud and what we're planning new for this year. 

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Noble Savage

I do not buy makeup for my girls.  There are many reasons for that.  This is one of them.  Our neighbor evidently brought over some makeup Friday and the girls left red lipstick on the bathroom counter.  Louie must have thought it was war paint.

Then yesterday Measle left the lid off the cream and Louie decided it was time to moisterize.  Her whole body.  And her pajamas.  Her skin was really smooth afterwards.

Is this a 5th child thing?  I don't remember the other kids experimenting quite so much.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Leftover madness

I've shared with you that Big D and I are producers in training, but I have to confess that the old me was equal parts consumer and waster- especially when it comes to food.  I threw away LOTS of food.  Ok, I still throw away some food.  But I'm trying to become a better manager of our resources, including leftovers.

Here are some of my recent exploits with leftovers: 

My mom gave us some leftover honeycrust ham earlier in the week that we used to make a few sandwhiches, but it was kind of gooey and just sitting in our fridge for the last few days.  I found this fabulous recipe for ham and broccoli shells at joy in my kitchen and doubled it, making enough hearty mac-n-cheese to feed an army.  Thanks for that HUGE frying pan you bought me for Christmas, Mom!  The family loved it and I felt so pleased at having used up the leftover ham and broccoli taking up space in my fridge.  And if you've been following my recent posts on food, you know what we ate with our ham and broccoli shells. 

If you guessed zucchini, you're right!  Amy at the finer things in life actually has a tab at the top of her blog for zucchini recipes.  I've been frequenting Amy's zucchini recipe collection and trying a different one almost daily.  Last night I made cheesy zucchini crisps.   I love that last night's dinner was not only tasty, but economical what with using leftover ham and zucchini from Big D's garden.  Four kids finished off the shells and cheese for lunch today (the others ate frozen homemade pizza pockets).

That's not all.  Last night I threw together some crockpot oatmeal for this morning and overestimated how much our family would eat- by a bunch!  So after breakfast while cleaning the kitchen I had a producer's in training inspired thought:  I wonder what I could do with all this leftover oatmeal?  I was surprised to find a ton of recipes online for leftover oatmeal.  I decided to try leftover oatmeal bread and leftover oatmeal cookies.  I only know how to make bread in my bread machine so I used about 2/3 of the amounts listed for the ingredients so my bread machine could handle all the mixing.  Also, I added the flour gradually, allowing a couple of cups to be mixed into the dough at a time.  It still made two good sized loaves.  And the cookies went so fast that I didn't get the chance to snap a photo first. 

What else have I been doing?  I learned you can freeze shredded zucchini so I've been freezing lots of it.  This way I can bake our favorite zucchini breads and cakes even after zucchini season is past.  (You just have to try the cinnamon raisin zucchini cake recipe on Amy's zucchini recipes page.  It's to die for!)

And Big D is once again making his famous cucumber tomato salad with his garden produce.  He mixes his cucumbers and tomatoes with chickpeas, black beans, onion, and balsamic vinagarette.  It's delicious!

What have you been making with garden produce and leftovers at your house?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Sonlight Review and Giveaway at Raising Olives

Kimberly at Raising Olives has a great review of Sonlight core homeschool curriculum and how it can be used in multi-level homeschooling.  She's also offering a $50 Sonlight giftcard giveaway!  Simply follow the link to her blog to read her review and enter for a change to win the giftcard.

I can't improve upon Kimberly's review, but I'll add what we love about Sonlight.

1.    Family read-aloud time.  This is something I've always loved doing with my kids.  My dad read to me every night of my childhood.  But, unfortunately through the years this fun time with my children is something that got squeezed out of our daily schedule.  Sonlight allows me to homeschool my kids by incorporating quality family time doing something I love.  I believe it not only fosters a love for books in my children, but a love of being together as a family. 

2.  Fewer Workbooks.  I love the idea of teaching Bible, History, Geography, Literature, and even Language Arts through reading and discussion.  It keeps my kids more interested and means less grading for me!  We do supplement with Wordly Wise, but that's a far cry from the many workbook-intensive homeschool curricula on the market.

3.  Multi-level homeschooling.  This is something I've only recently learned about and Kimberly at Raising Olives has devoted several posts to the whys and hows of multi-level homeschooling.  I love that Sonlight allows my 3 school-age children (11, 9, and 7) to study the same thing.  Multi-level homeschooling has practical advantages such as getting to purchase fewer homeschool resources and streamlining my school prep time and scheduling, but even more importantly my kids do school together for the majority of our subjects.  

So head on over to Kimberly's Sonlight review and $50 giftcard giveaway and enter for a chance to win. 

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Recipe and spice cabinet organization

As Twinkle Toes and I were making pizza pockets today we realized that it was time to organize the spice cabinet.  Twinkle Toes took it on as her little project.  I showed her where to find the expiration dates and I'm embarassed to say we had spices that were best used by 1999!  After the expired spice purge (Do spices really expire or is this a conspiracy?) we bought a couple of three-tiered shelves at Walmart and organized the remaining spices so that we could read the labels.  I realize many of you organizing junkies would have placed them in alphabetical order, but we were more concerned about size and just being able to see what we have.

The other realization that came to me as I was making pizza pockets from memory today is that I really need a new system for storing the many online and magazine recipes I've collected.  My current system is:  print off recipe then stuff in cookbook shelf.  Unfortunately I've amassed too many recipes for that haphazard system, thus having to resort to making pizza pockets from memory today.  It almost isn't worth diving into the 3 inch stack of papers for a recipe.  So I decided to make a cookbook of sorts out of all these recipes.  Now I've told you before that I am not creative at all.  Let's just call this my pragmatic recipe notebook.

Can I confess something to you?  Most of my cookbooks are on display above my kitchen cabinets, which reminds me that I need to dust up there.  Anyway, I rarely crack a cookbook, except for Betty Crocker- she's my lifeline.   Other than Betty Crocker, all of my recipes come from my blog friends, google searches, or magazines.  I'm so excited to have a more user-friendly way of storing and keeping track of my recipes!  Now, what will I make tomorrow?

Zucchini recipes

Zucchini side dish (though I mix in yellow squash, too)

1 sm onion, chopped
2 or 3 sm. zucchini, cut in pieces (I use 3 or 4 larger squash)
1/4 c. grated cheese (I use parmesan)
1/4 c. sour cream
1 T butter
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp paprika
1 beaten egg

Saute onion and zucchini in butter until tender; set aside.  Stir next 5 ingredients over low heat until cheese melts then add beaten egg.  Put all ingredients in casserole dish.  Sprinkle with bread crumbs and bake at 375 for 20 minutes. 

Mom's Zucchini bread

3 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
3 tsp ground cinnamon
3 eggs
1 c vegetable oil (we used olive oil)
2 1/4 c white sugar (we used a little less than 2 c)
3 tsp vanilla extract
2 c grated zucchini (we found this was equal to one large zucchini)
1 c chopped walnuts (we used pecans)

Grease and flour 2 loaf pans and preheat oven to 325.
Sift flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon together. (We didn't sift, just stirred.)
Beat eggs, oil, vanilla, and sugar together in large bowl.  Add sifted ingredients to the creamed mixture and beat well.  Stir in zucchini and nuts until well combined.  Pour batter into prepared pans.
Bake 40-60 minutes (I found it was closer to 60) or until tester (toothpick) inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool in pan on rack for 20 minutes.  Remove bread from pan, and completely cool (we like to eat hot:).

Hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Our 2010-2011 Homeschool Schedule- take one

Knowing that I have a baby coming the beginning of October has made me all the more determined to set our new homeschool schedule in stone.  I want us to get off to a great start in August so that when baby arrives we'll be firmly entrenched in our schedule and less likely to be swayed by minor inconveniences like lack of sleep or incessant nursing.

Here's what I've come up with for our 2010-2011 schedule:

7-7:30 Morning devotions/Scripture memory review
7:30-8 Breakfast and Greek (They do their Greek while I'm making breakfast.  They have time for about 2 pages per day or 10 pages per week at this pace.)
8-8:30 Morning chores and practice music
8:30-9:30 Independent study block 1 (Monk- Math, Twinkle Toes- Reading, Measle- Math)
9:30-11 Sonlight read-aloud (Bible, History, Lit., Geography, LA, and learning stations for pre-K kids)
11-12 Lunch and discussion/narration of read-aloud selection
12-1 Independent study block 2 (Monk- Science and LA- each should take around 30 minutes or we may decided to spend 2 1/2 days on each during this period, Twinkle Toes- Math, Measle- Reading)
1-2 Independent study block 3 (Monk- Reading, Twinkle Toes- Science and LA, and Measle- LA)
2-3 Complete any unfinished work for the day and do afternoon chores

Revised Schedule for Wednesday

(Before 10 as usual)
10-12:30 Community Bible study- Divided Kingdom and Minor Prophets
12:30-1 Lunch
1-2 Sonlight read-aloud
2-3 Independent study block 2
3-4 Independent study block 3
(So shortened read-aloud and lunch periods and the kids get finished 1-1.5 hrs later on Wednesdays due to Community Bible study.)

We've actually been getting up before 7 this summer so we may back up our schedule by 30 minutes, but I do want the kids to be awake during morning devotions!  And hopefully our new baby will have no problem synchronizing his schedule with ours:).

I plan on writing up individual schedules for each of the kids with Colossians 3:23 printed at the bottom in bold!  Once lamenated their schedules will go in the left pocket of their folders in their personal school drawer.   Hopefully this way they'll all know what they're supposed to be doing when they're supposed to be doing it! 

Monday, July 12, 2010

Rich with squash!

Here's BigD's garden a couple of weeks ago. 

We've had beets for supper several times and squash on a daily basis.  What are we doing with all that squash, you might ask?  I found a great squash casserole recipe that has sour cream, parmesan cheese, egg, and breadcrumbs.  It's very popular with all the kids!  And zucchini bread, of course, lots of it.

Big D is disappointed with the variety of cucumbers he planted this year and his tomatoe plants have not been producing like last year.  Maybe it's the heat.  But in addition to the squash and beets we've had onions and even a few strawberries.  And we're looking forward to lots of red cabbage!  Now, if only we could plant some wheat! 

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Our 6th grade curriculum

I can't believe our Mr. Monk would be going to middle school this year!  I'm so glad we homeschool!

Here's our 6th grade curriculum thus far (I'm always tweaking):

Math- Teaching Textbooks Algebra I- I decided to make the switch from Saxon, though it's served us well these many years.

History/Literature/Language Arts- Sonlight Core 3/4 American History-  We'll be reading about 20 books together and he'll read about another 20 on his own.  Rather than primarily using workbooks for LA as in previous years, we're trying Sonlight's integrated LA this year.   I love how it sounds so we'll see how it works.  We'll also supplement with Wordly Wise 6 and Spelling Wisdom

Bible-  Last year we did Sonlight's Bible curriculum and loved it, but I found we were spread too thin so we're dropping it this year (except we will do the daily chapter readings and Scripture memory work- ok so we're doing most of it, but not all).  We'll be studying The Divided Kingdom and Minor Prophets in Community Bible Study and I'd like them to have more time for their CBS this year.  Last year they struggled to get their lessons done each week, which is silly since we do Bible every day.  I also want the older (9 and 11 yr olds) kids to spend a little time in their TAG books each day on their own.  We already review Scripture memory and catechism as a family, but it's time the older kids start doing this on their own, too. 

Foreign Language- Hey Andrew, Teach Me Some Greek- Monk's about half-way through book 3 right now.  Hopefully he'll get through book 4 this year and at least started in book 5.  There are 8 books in all and we're trying to get through them in 3 years.  This is our second year for Greek, but we got a bit of a late start last year- December, I think.

Science- Apologia's Exploring Creation with General Science.  This is our first year for a formal science curriculum.  I'm so excited I've already written a schedule of study for the first 4 modules.  

Typing- Mavis Beacon typing- He enjoys this program and has been making progress this summer.  Depending on how well his typing has progressed by the end of the summer, I may just have him spend a few minutes reviewing over the weekend and not daily.

Music- This will be Monk's second year to take piano lessons.  He's really doing well and trying hard to catch up to his sister.  Monk loves learning to play the theme songs from video games.  Strange, I know. 

Art- Artistic Pursuits 4th-6th grade Book 1- I'm not sure to what degree we'll utilize this curriculum, yet.  Monk loves to draw so hopefully this program will help get him to the next level.

Computer graphics- Blender.  Don't ask.  His older cousin uses Blender to create video games.  It's a free download so I'm going to use it to motivate Monk to get all his other work done in a timely manner.  His free time can be used playing around with Blender, which as I understand it, is a cool computer graphics tool.

PE-  Monk is a great swimmer!  He swims 5 times a week on a USS club team and also does dryland training a couple of times a week.

Extracurricular- Monk will be a Boy Scout as of September.  He and his dad have really enjoyed doing Webelos together.  We're blessed to be part of a wonderful Christian homeschool pack.  They do Scouts on Tuesday night while I have my ladies Bible study.  This has worked well for us.

Wow, Monk's going to be busy this year!  He's just so smart and I'm so proud of him.  Monk went to public school a few years ago (3rd grade) and did you know he didn't miss one question on either of his TAKS tests?  He was definitely his teacher's pet and now he's all mine!

Friday, July 9, 2010

How NOT to comfort your suffering friend! Thoughts on Job- part I

Don't forget to enter to win an attributes of God devotional in English and Spanish by joining in the family worship discussion on my blogfrog community.

The book of Job is hard for me to understand. I've never studied it and last spring while reading through Job as part of the 90 day Bible challenge I struggled to make much sense of it. I got the whole sovereignty of God thing, but that's about all I got.  The reason the book of Job is so hard for me is that his friends say many things that are true and Job does complain a lot. In other words, I have a hard time clearly seeing where Job's friends go wrong and Job goes right. None of them are a paragon of virtue, they all show their humanity. And at times it seems as if they're saying the same things to one another.  So... this time as I read through Job I determined to pay closer attention and take notes. I know I may be a little late in coming to this, but I think I have a better handle now on what Job got right and his friends got wrong. I'll break my observations into two posts and focus today on what I think are five places Job's friends (Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar) go wrong in their handling of Job's suffering.

Five errors of Job's friends:

1. They assume that Job's suffering is discipline from God, that it is a result of unconfessed sin. This may seem perfectly obvious to you, but the tricky part is that sometimes God does discipline his children in order to correct them. (Hebrews 12:5-12) The thing is, we don't know the mind of God and neither do Job's friends. They just assume that Job's calamity is correction from God and they get progressively more aggressive in their accusations.

“But consider the joy of those corrected by God! Do not despise the discipline of the Almighty when you sin.” (5:17)

“Is it because you are so pious that He accuses you and brings judgement against you?  No, it's because of your wickedness!  There's no limit to your sins."  (22:4-5  Eliphaz goes on to give hypothetical sins that Job may have committed to bring this judgement from God.)

Of course we have the benefit of knowing what took place in heaven that brought on Job’s testing. We know it wasn’t Job’s sin, but an opportunity for God to show His glory. Job’s friends were wrong. What’s worse, they based their assumption not on the Word of God, but on personal experience.

My experience shows that those who plant trouble and cultivate evil will harvest the same.” (4:7, emphasis mine)

“If you listen, I will show you. I will answer you from my own experience.” (15:17, emphasis mine)

I think we can learn a couple of things from this first mistake of Job's friends. For starters, we have to humbly acknowledge that we do not EVER know the whole story. It is so tempting for us to judge based only on what we have experienced or what we think we know. And while there is a time and place for judging believers in sin (Mathew 18, 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 among others) we should do so only when their unrepentant sin is apparent, not suspected or presumed.

2. Job’s friends assume that Job hasn't already been praying about his tragic circumstances and if he would only get right with God and pray, God would fix his life. This is related to their first mistake, but slightly different. Here, they are not only wrong about Job (assuming his sins have brought about his suffering), but also about God. They grossly underestimate the God of the Universe and His purposes. They reduce God to an angry Genie in the sky that must be appeased and once He’s appeased then He’s compelled to answer our every beck and call. They make God into a vending machine- as long as you put the right stuff in (confession, submission, obedience), you get the right stuff out (a peaceful, blessed life devoid of suffering).

“If I were you, I would go to God and present my case to Him.” (5:8)

"But if you pray to God and seek the favor of the Almighty, and if you are pure and live with integrity, He will surely rise up and restore your happy home."  (8:5)

“Submit to God, and you will have peace; then things will go well for you. Listen to His instructions, and store them in your heart. If you return to the Almighty, you will be restored- so clean up your life.” (22:21-23)

God condemns Job’s friends later by saying twice that they had not spoken accurately about Him. (42:7 and 42:8) Job’s friends said many things about God that are true, but they missed the big picture of God’s glory. They saw only a formulaic view of how to get God to move on their behalf. They did not have an accurate view of God and therefore their advice to Job was not only unhelpful, but sinful. Sadly, there are many today who still hold this inaccurate view of God. 

Where did Job's friends go wrong?  Job's friends got it backwards.  They were thinking somehow that God exists for us instead of the other way around.  They were not privy to the reason behind Job's testing.  They didn't know that it was all about God getting the glory when one righteous man proved faithful in the midst of unbearable circumstances.   There was much praising of God and rejoicing in heaven over the fact that Job endured his suffering and didn't curse God.  Job's friends were not only wrong about Job, they were wrong about God.

3. Job’s friends are critical in spirit instead of compassionate and encouraging. Even if Job’s friends had been right about Job, they approached him with a critical heart and lack of compassion. They were cold. Though they formally mourned with him in outward ritual tearing their robes and placing dust on their heads, their words show that their hearts did not match their outward display. Their advice reads more like theological discourse than heartfelt encouragement. Even if they had been right, they would have been wrong.

“How long will you go on like this? You sound like a blustering wind.” (8:2, Bildad in response to Job’s complaints and depression)

“God is doubtless punishing you far less than you deserve.” (11:6b) Again, even if his friends knew Job was being punished for his sins, which they don’t, they’re cold instead of loving in their words to Job.

Job was not fooled by the outward mourning of his friends- he recognized their harsh words as the mocking and critical insults they were. (12:5, 16:4) And we won’t fool our friends either with our "take it from me's" in their times of distress.  Job would have preferred some kind words and a prayer to their "comfort" as is evidenced by the following verses.

"I have heard all this before.  What miserable comforters you are!  Won't you ever stop blowing hot air?  What makes you keep on talking?  I could say the same things if you were in my place.  I could spout off criticism and shake my head at you.  But if it were me, I would encourage you.  I would try to take away your grief."  (16:1-5)

4. Job's friends falsely infer from his complaints and depression that Job has forgotten God. They accuse him of behaving like the godless who have no hope.

"The same happens to all who forget God.  The hopes of the godless evaporate."  (8:13)

"Is God's comfort too little for you?  Is His gentle word not enough?  What has taken away your reason?  What has taken away your vision, that you turn against God and say all these evil things?" (15:11-13)

This is tempting, isn’t it? To think in our hearts that Christians who are depressed about their circumstances are being short-sighted and not remembering their hope in the Lord. Having an eternal perspective certainly does help our attitude, but God made us to have emotions and even the sinless Christ displayed emotional anguish during His time of suffering.

5. They are self-righteous. This really explains why Job’s friends make the other mistakes they do in assessing Job’s situation and handing out advice. Here's their faulty logic:  God always rewards the righteous now and God always punishes the wicked now; therefore since Job is suffering and they aren’t, they assume that they are more righteous than he. This in turn explains their lack of compassion for Job and why they are so critical of him. Job exposes their self-righteousness for what it is, false.

"Teach me, and I will keep quiet.  Show me what I have done wrong.  Honest words can be painful, but what do your criticisms amount to?  Do you think your words are convincing when you disregard my cry of desperation?  You would even send an orphan into slavery or sell a friend."  (6:24-27)

"These men claim that night is day; they claim that the darkness is light."  (17:12)

"Even if I have sinned, that is my concern, not yours.  You think you're better than I am, using my humiliation as evidence of my sin."  (19:4-5)

We must be careful not to fall into the same trap as Job's friends.  If we follow the same faulty reasoning, we'll end up self-righteous, as well.  We must remember that it is only by God's grace that He blesses us and by His mercy that He witholds the punishment we deserve.  And of course the main error in their logic is the now part.  God will reward the righteous and punish the wicked, but He will do so on His own timetable.

Job wasn't without fault either.  He complained.  He asked why.  He gave up on the life God had for him and wanted to die.  He never blamed or cursed God, but He doubted God's lovingkindess.  And God accused him of being prideful.  But... in the end, God's anger is directed at Job's friends, not at Job.

"My wrath is aroused against you and your two friends, for you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has."  (42:7- spoken by God to Eliphaz)

So Job is exonerated and Job's friends are condemned.  It's a great comfort to me that even though Job was human and reacted to his suffering with complaining and depression, that God exonerates him in the end in front of his friends.  Job is called the servant of God.  So next time I want to look at what Job did right in the midst of his suffering.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Our devotional shelf and a giveaway

Since we have family worship in our living room, we've naturally begun collecting a few devotionals there to guide us.  I love this little shelf that sits between BigD's chair and mine.  It's just perfect for housing our Bible, hymn book, Bible storybook and devotionals.  Now they're right at our fingertips when we need them!

(No, she's not supposed to be drinking that in the living room.)

Speaking of devotionals, I've got a wonderful book on the attributes of God that's written in both English and Spanish.  Our friend illustrated the book in the Spanish style with bright colors.  This is a great little devotional on the attributes of God, but it would be especially helpful for kids who are studying Spanish. 

As you can see, the English is on one side with Spanish on the opposite page.  The attribute is briefly defined at the top of the page in italics, followed by an easy to understand description given in several paragraphs, and one or two verses at the bottom for memory or study.

Here's how you can win this devotional book:

Hop on over to my blogfrog community and join in the discussion on family worship.  Each comment gets one entry.  It's that simple.  I'll pick a winner after we've had a good discussion.

Thanks for joining in the conversation!  I know you won't leave me talking to myself- those conversations are always so one-sided!


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I'm an on-the-run mom to 6 kids who studied and taught exercise science in a previous life. I love all things running, nutrition, and health-related. I usually run at zero dark thirty in the morning and am often quite hungry before, during, and after my run, but I live a rich, full, blessed life with my children, family, and friends. My faith in God is my anchor, and looking to Him and His promises allows me to live fully even when life circumstances are difficult. While running gives me an appetite, my desire is to hunger and thirst for righteousness more than for physical food.