Tuesday, May 31, 2011

May Book Reports

The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare is a wonderful book set near Galilee at the time of Jesus's ministry. It's not a "historical Jesus" book; instead, it follows the tale of young Daniel as he struggles with his anger at the Romans. Daniel encounters Jesus at key moments in the story. I love how the book brought to life many of the feelings of Jewish people at the time of Jesus.

The Children of Noisy Village by Astrid Lindgren. From the author of  Pippi Longstocking (which I have not read) comes this lovely gem describing a year of life on the farm with six children in Sweden, from three diffferent families. Lisa narrates. Her sweet nine-year-old voice is clear throughout the novel. This book is recommended in Level 1A at Mater Amabilis for People and Places. We'll be reading it together next year and I couldn't be more excited. Be aware: In the Christmas chapter, Lisa states she knows Santa Claus is not real. If your children believe, you'll want to skip a few sentences in that paragraph.

With the Best of Intentions: How Philanthropy Is Reshaping K-12 Education ed by Frederick M. Hess was an inter-library loan book I didn't have time to finish. That's the sort of thing that happens to mothers when their babies get the chicken pox. I already wrote one blurb for it that was lost in the Great Blogger Outage of 2011, so this is the condensed version. Even homeschoolers should be concerned with public education, if only because our tax dollars are funding it. I think how philanthropy may be shaping or changing public education is a fascinating topic. This scholarly (and rather dense) book tackles that very question. It's just a beginning and the challenges to answering it are addressed early in the book.

Good Words (a review for The Catholic Company)

From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg is a book I remember greatly enjoying when I was a child, but I found it a little disturbing reading it now. The cavalier attitude toward the parents, when the children think of them at all, is disturbing to me now as a parent. I'd probably put it on the allowed but not encouraged list.

The Secret Life of Germs : Observations and Lessons from a Microbe Hunter by Philip M. Tierno Jr. PhD. I do not know why I finished this book. It started out all right, pretty clear explanations and some good strategies for staying healthy in a germ-filled world, but after a while I realized this author kept recommending more bureaucracy and more technology to cure the ills of the world. If you really want to know about microbe hunters, read Microbe Hunters by Paul de Kruif, which is a fabulous book. It's quality history of science. (I should probably read it again before recommending it so highly.)

The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong

The Door in the Wall by Marguerite De Angeli is a nice story of a young boy who overcomes adversity with courage and (mostly) grace to become a hero. It's set in medieval times so I think we'll listen to it when we reach that era in our history lessons, just for fun.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Tips for Surviving Family Trips in a Van

Just after Christmas, Kansas Dad and I packed all four kids up for a twelve hour drive to my parents' house. I hate drives like that and over-prepared in the hopes of avoiding melt-downs and disasters. I couldn't have predicted I'd become horribly ill myself, but the children managed the drive there and back remarkably well. I've shared below some of the tricks I learned to entertain the children and keep all of us sane for the drives. (Again, that was twelve hours to my parents' house and twelve hours home from my parents' house.) At the time, the children were just barely 7, 4.25, 2.5 and about five months old. (You can read about a few tricks from our trip the previous year here. Many of those were still helpful this year.)

We decided against bringing a DVD player. Our portable DVD player broke a few years ago. We had been borrowing one from Grammy, but she only had one screen and with three seats in the van, we needed two or someone was going to be left out. Rather than buy one or borrow from a friend, we bravely went without...and we were just fine.

Personally, I find books mostly useless in a long drive. They simply don't entertain little ones for very long. (First Son is old enough to read chapter books, which would work better, but he tends to get a little queasy when reading in the van like that.) Even so, the older three each picked two and I brought one "new" one for each of them. They also picked two stuffed animals or dolls for the road and to sleep with at Gram and Papa's house. Also, we let them have their Kinderglo lights once it was dark. As long as they didn't hold them up above their heads, Kansas Dad didn't have any problems driving.

I saved an old shoe box for each of the older three kids. In it, I stashed new pencils, erasers, and a new box of crayons. Before we drove back home, I added a few sheets of stickers which they could use to decorate the box. They were able to store little books (like the Dover Activity books), tissues and other goodies in there as well. Second Daughter broke all of her crayons nearly right away. I had bought the triangular crayons so they wouldn't roll away from her so much, but I think the twistable ones would have been a better choice. (I took along a small rimmed cookie sheet for Second Daughter. She could hold it on her lap and use it for coloring or other fun things. Mostly she rolled her toy cars on it, which was a little annoying, but Kansas Dad said it was better than screaming. If you use a cookie sheet yourself, I recommend using an old one or buying one at Goodwill or something. My youngest sister accidentally stepped on mine and bent it.)

I made big folders of pre-printed pages for each of the three older kids. I used inexpensive three hole punch folders (without pockets), but wish I had brought extras when First Son got sick over First Daughter's within the first two hours. Plus, they got stepped on and generally looked pretty rough before we were done. In them, I stashed all sorts of pages I printed free online.
  • coloring pages (VeggieTales, etc.)
  • Dover sample pages
  • Dot-to-dots (I searched online for these since First Son and First Daughter particularly enjoy them.)
  • Lines and dots game - My daughter is just now beginning to understand this game, so it'll be even more fun for them next time to play with each other. This game is a great one to keep handy for those times when you're waiting for food at restaurants, too.
  • Though no one was ready for it this year, next year I'm going to make some pages for Hangman with all the letters written out and room for spaces for the word or phrase to guess.
Coloring books and activity books - I collected quite a few little surprises for our trip. I thought it would be good to have something to pull out about every hour or so. I just watched sales or grabbed inexpensive things when I was ordering something else. We did not end up using all of my surprises on the way there and the way home, so I slipped them in the closet for our next drive.
Listening - I am continually surprised and pleased at how much we all enjoy listening to audio books while in the van. For this trip, I also picked up a few other CDs as some of our surprises.
Next time I'm going to bring along some more music. The kids got tired of listening to all the talking and the radio is tricky when driving. You never know if you're going to find something appropriate and enjoyable.
    The most important trick of all -- snacks! Especially for the toddler and preschooler crowd. When the little ones are hungry, they don't understand why we must drive another thirty miles to get to an exit. It's best to come prepared. I also packed quite a few "treats" to make it easier to encourage them to get back in the van after our stops along the way.  I packed each snack in an individual bag so it would be easy to pass all the way to the back of the van without stopping or unbuckling.
    • Sippy cups - The allure of a sippy cup extends far beyond what you might expect. My seven year old still things they're fun. They minimize spills and it's easy to refill them and pass them back and forth. We mostly drank water, but once when everyone was tired, Kansas Dad bought some chocolate milk to share.
    • Smores bags - M&Ms, marshmallows and graham crackers
    • Cereal - Cheerios of various kinds mixed with whatever we had. This is a good way to use up any that might go stale while you're away from home.
    • Cheezits, Oreos and any other "stuff we never buy" that went on sale in the weeks before we left. My kids were amazed at some of the things I pulled out of the box.
    • Chocolate covered pretzels - The kids and I made these together and they were really excited when I pulled them out. Using wipes to clean up afterward was seriously part of the fun for them.
    • Hard-boiled eggs - These travel very well in a cooler if you peel them ahead of time.
    • Pumpkin muffins - Oh, how delicious!

    Bubbles - When your toddler and the driver have reached their limits, pull out some bubbles. If you trust your older children, let them blow some, too. These absolutely saved us in the last hour of the last day of driving.

    For reaching the far back seat - We picked up a grabber from Ace Hardware which has come in quite handy around the house as well. It was definitely worth it. Something like this. I also kept a little plastic container I could use to transport things I couldn't directly grab. On the way home, First Son took over the grabber duties, which worked very well. He loved it and I had one less thing to manage while turning in my seat.

    We'll be loading back in the van this summer for a little family vacation, though we won't be traveling quite so far this time. Let me know if you have any suggestions. Second Son will be about a year old for this trip and I anticipate a bit more trouble from him.

      Saturday, May 28, 2011

      Saving and Stashing Children's Clothing

      One of the comments that was deleted during the Great Blogger Outage of 2011 asked how I store and organize our children's clothing.

      So I thought I'd write a little post on what we do. I must admit: I'm not sure I'm doing this right.

      More than a year ago, I wrote a post on how we store shoes. It's still spot on. In the same vein, I moved all of our diapers into one bin, along with a copy of our inventory. These sorts of items are best left where they can be quickly pulled out and switched when the weather changes or shoes are suddenly not fitting as you're about to run out the door for Mass.

      I used to store our clothing in clear bins so I could see inside. I'd tuck a piece of paper facing outward with the main theme of the bin like "Boy Winter 12 month and smaller." That worked for a while, until we had two more babies and the amount of clothes was making the plastic bin expenses a bit outrageous.

      Then we moved to our house. It was a good move. We had more space inside and a lot more space outside, but almost no storage space. All the stored clothes, diapers, shoes, coats, toys and other paraphernalia are living in the master bedroom closet. That would be the same closet that holds all of Kansas Dad's clothes and all of my clothes, along with (currently) our corn and bean planter, a backpack child carrier and all of my childhood papers (awesome stuff like my college scrapbook where you can find the letter Kansas Dad sent out when he was my RA and some less awesome stuff as well). It was getting too crowded in there.

      So I spent a long time going through every single piece of children's clothes. I gathered a bunch of boxes from our move that were all the same size and shape. They're a medium size moving box, I think, smaller than most of the typical plastic bins. I labeled each one with a gender and a size and limited myself to only what would fit in that box for that category.

      I first sorted all the clothes into the proper categories, which created a lot of piles that rose far above the box tops. I tackled each pile separately, sorting each of those into the long pants, shorts, long-sleeve shirts, short-sleeve shirts, pajamas, etc. Then I tried to select my favorites and the most useful of each of them so we would have enough for each season in each size.

      They look rough, but they were cheap and they do the job.

      I made a few notes on the outside for specific things like winter coats, summer jackets, and swimsuits which could possibly be used by a child slightly larger or smaller. I also noted if those items were gender-neutral.

      Everything that didn't fit in the boxes I sold or gave away. I'd like to say I still do, but I happen to know the 4T girl clothes are filling two different boxes right now. There's a good chance Second Daughter will be able to wear them in the fall, so I decided to bend my rule a little.

      After much consideration, Kansas Dad and I decided to save significantly fewer clothes when Second Son (and Second Daughter, for the purely girl things) outgrow them. Many of the clothes we have saved for Second Daughter and Second Son have been the wrong size for the season. Often, stains will appear in storage. We have always had generous friends and family pass down gently used clothing or purchase new clothes that we need.

      We have not decided against having more children, but we are trying to be more protective of our space. I was running out of room for new boxes, not to mention my clothes. Also, we can now be as generous with our clothes as others have been. I am saving a few of my very favorite outfits and a few selected items like our Woombies. Everything else is either donated, given to friends or sold.

      Also, and this is an important rule on the Range, if something is stained, do not keep it for the next child. I used to think, "Oh, I should keep this for wearing around the house or in the garden." I have realized, though, that there are always newly stained clothes to wear around the house or in the garden. There are also a few stains the mysteriously appear while clothes are stored. No need to save something just for play.

      If it's something I truly loved, I will sometimes cut swatches or strips to keep for crafts projects. If it's the right kind of material, I'll cut it up for rags. If it's cotton, hemp, wool, or other natural fiber, I'll compost it. Did you know you could do that? Otherwise, I throw it out. Charities do not want your stained clothing. (I suppose you could freecycle it, if you think it might be good for sewing into something else or rag carpets or something. Hmm...maybe someday I'll learn to make rag carpets. Sounds interesting, but I digress.)

      One last tip: If you hope to save socks for future children, or if you think you may someday be sorting socks for similarly sized children, invest in socks with the sizes printed right on the bottom. I'm sure there are others, but I know Old Navy and Baby Gap sell socks like that. I think Target might as well.

      Friday, May 27, 2011

      Memorizing the Tribes of Israel

      As we were studying our Bible history, I decided to add the tribes of Israel to our memory work. I'm not sure it's the sort of information that will be useful on a daily basis, but I think it's nice to have a working knowledge of such things. I wanted an easy way to remember them, something along the lines of MVEMJSUNP (for the order of the planets), but I couldn't find anything online. So I made up my own and I'll share it here in the hopes that someone else finds it useful.

      Mr. Judah is bringing real Legos. Now go and share Dan's zebras.
      • Manasseh and Ephraim (the sons of Joseph)
      • Judah
      • Issachar
      • Benjamin
      • Reuben
      • Levi
      • Naphtali
      • Gad
      • Asher
      • Simeon
      • Dan
      • Zebulon (or Zebulun)
      It doesn't make sense, but it's not supposed to make sense. It's supposed to be memorable. It worked for First Son!

      Also, a lovely mom at my parish taught me a mnemonic for the thirteen disciples. I thought I'd share it here, in case there was anyone else out there who hadn't heard it.

      B A P T I S M
      B is for Bartholomew
      A is for Andrew
      P is for Phillip and Peter
      T is for Thomas and Thaddeus (also called Jude)
      I* is for James the Greater, James the Lesser, John, and Judas (the Betrayer)
      S is for Simon
      M is for Matthew and Matthias (after Judas)

      * I believe there is no J in the Latin alphabet. I was used instead.

      Thursday, May 26, 2011

      Homeschool Review: Song School Latin

      Song School LatinSong School Latin at Amazon You can also find it at the publisher, Classical Academic Press.

      Kansas Dad was excited for First Son to begin learning Latin. He's always wished he'd learned it earlier as it would have been very useful in his philosophy and theology studies. Of course, Latin is useful for all sorts of studies. I believe Charlotte Mason would have us wait to start Latin, but we'll consider ourselves Classical for this subject. I wanted to start in first grade, but I was a little nervous about Prima Latina. It seemed like it might be a lot of work and writing for First Son.

      Then, Brandy at Afterthoughts mentioned they were using Song School Latin. It looked like much more fun, so I picked it up to try for first grade.

      First Son loves it. He says every lesson would be better if there were more pictures of monkeys. What can I say? He's probably right.

      You definitely do not need the teacher's manual. I purchased only the student book, which comes with the CD. The CD contains songs for each lesson recorded in both Classical and Ecclesiastical pronunciations. The lyrics are printed in every lesson which I found quite helpful. Even so, it was a little difficult to understand the pronunciation. I would have appreciated some tracks for that. (I checked; the teacher's manual did not provide more nuanced pronunciations than the student text.)

      Kansas Dad was a little disappointed in some of the translations for the songs; he thought they were a bit weak. I thought they were alright considering they were for children's songs. The translations in the book always seemed accurate.

      Each lesson begins with a vocabulary list, mainly nouns. The lyrics for the chapter's song are included. Most of the lyrics are in English, with the Latin words mixed in.There's a short lesson, which I usually read aloud for First Son, though he could probably read it himself. About midway through the book, they introduce a "Famous Latin Saying" in each lesson as well. Some of these were more famous than others. I really liked the "Grow Your English" section which shows how one of the lesson's words is used to build modern English words.

      The exercises always start with tracing the Latin vocabulary words. I liked this start. When I was in college, I learned writing out Spanish vocabulary words was a great way to reinforce my own lessons. Other exercises might be matching, circling the correct word to finish a sentence or more active exercises like playing Simon Says. Most of the active ones seem to be best suited for a classroom setting. We did alright on those by including First Daughter.

      Each lesson includes at least one little review exercise. Additionally, there are whole review lessons after every three or four that introduce new words. The review lessons include a "Chapter Story," often a fairy tale with some of Latin vocabulary words appearing in the text. (The picture is from the first lesson, back in August. First Son drew his magistra, me. Don't I look lovely?)

      The book is definitely Christian, as there are a couple of lessons with Christmas vocabulary and Christmas stories. I think they would be fine for any family that's comfortable with the Christmas story of Jesus's birth, though.

      So, has First Son learned how to speak Latin? Not really, but that's not too surprising. Though there are some lessons that teach a little grammar, the vast majority of the vocabulary words are nouns. First Son learned a few verbs and phrases, but he can't really carry on a conversation. His vocabulary is a little shaky, too, but I think that could have been improved by listening to the songs more often. I plan to continue playing the songs for the kids over the summer.

      I think this book is great for a family that's interested in starting Latin but not anxious to be too stressed by it. Latin is one of First Son's favorite subjects and I'm sure this book is one of the reasons. In the most recent catalog from Classical Academic Press mentions a Song School Latin Book 2. It's not listed on their website, though. I might consider it for second grade if it were available. Instead, we'll be moving on to Prima Latina next year.

      This review is my honest opinion. I purchased the book myself.

      Wednesday, May 25, 2011

      Book Review: The Wheel on the School

      The Wheel on the School
      The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong

      I had never read this book. Can you believe that? (Kansas Dad can; he'd never heard of it before.) I decided to read it in preparation for our studies next year. Mater Amabilis recommends reading a book set in Europe each term during second grade (level1A) for People and Places. This book was one of the suggestions. Once a week during the term, we'll study a map of the Netherlands for about five minutes, hoping to learn some of the geography. Then, we'll read this book together.

       Lina starts the whole thing. She starts wondering about storks and writes an essay for school...wondering why there are storks nesting in all the villages around Shora, but not in Shora. Suddenly, all the school children are wondering about storks. With the support of their teacher, they begin a quest to bring storks to Shora. In the course of their adventures (eventually nearly all the children face a surprising amount of danger), they bring the town together, forge new friendships and dramatically change lives.

      If you managed to get through school yourself without reading this book, please do so now.

      If you, like me, will be reading this book aloud with your children, I found this page that helps a bit on pronouncing the names.

      Tuesday, May 24, 2011

      Second Son Is Ten Months

      Oh, double digits! How we love you!

      Second Son is ten months old now. He's an absolute darling.

      He sits up or pulls himself in his crib every time we lay him down. For a while, Kansas Dad or I had to go in a few minutes later and lay him down again. Now he seems to have figured out how to get himself back into position to sleep.

      He just started crawling on Sunday night. He spent most of Monday practicing his new skills and showing us all the places we need to baby-proof better. He delights in getting to something he wants.

      He finally enjoys taking a bath.

      He says "da da da da da da da da" and "ma ma ma ma ma."

      He always wants to eat what we eat. He'll look right at our food as we're putting it in our mouths and screech. Most of the time, we share, but the boy only has two teeth! It's not like he can crunch on raw carrots. We're also still trying to be careful about nuts, shellfish and strawberries. I think there's a good chance he's been exposed to all of them, though.

      He's still working on pincer grasp, but he already prefers to feed himself everything. Even oatmeal with his fingers. Kansas Dad didn't think that was such a great idea, though: Second Son needed a bath after that meal.

      He had the chicken pox and survived. In fact, it wasn't bad at all. If he's lucky, he'll now have lifelong immunity.

      We switched to disposables during the infection. The diaper area was the worst hit and I thought he might be more comfortable than in cloth.

      His hair might be getting lighter. What do you think? Will he be a blond like Second Daughter? (This is one of our portraits from May 8th. My grandmother keeps pictures of all the kids on her wall. I also used them for our new sidebar pictures.)

      Oh, how he sleeps! Nights are wonderful! Except for two nights when he had the chicken pox, he usually sleeps from bedtime around 8 pm to 4:30 am or later. A few nights...he slept until 7 am. It's not unusual for me to wake earlier and wonder if he's alright.

      Without further ado, here are the official "ten months old on the couch with Mr. Giraffe pictures."

      Practicing his crawling. It was much harder to get his picture this month!

      Monday, May 23, 2011

      Second Daughter Swimming

      Second Daughter was pretending to be a whale. She would belly crawl across the floor saying "Mwim! Mwim!" (That's "swim" in Second-Daughter-ese.) Though I didn't catch it on the video, she was also yelling "Pash! Pash!" as she hit her feet on the floor. "That's my dail!" ("Splash" and "That's my tail," also in Second-Daughter-ese.)

      Do you like her outfit? She's sporting a lovely top, a Christmas gift selected by my sister-in-law with excellent taste. She found it at The Children's Place. She's wearing a fitted diaper covered by the lovely Thirsties Duo Cover. I have no idea where the sock is from, nor can I explain why she is only wearing one except to say that she often wears only one sock. It's a mystery.

      This video was recorded on May 7th, so it's not too old.

      Saturday, May 21, 2011

      I Predicted It

      Back when I posted about my cold-brewed iced tea, I mentioned I wanted to buy a plain glass pitcher when my iced tea jar broke.

      Well, that day has come.

      Kansas Dad was putting something away and just bumped the jar, while it was sitting in the fridge full of tea. It cracked and broke in two, spilling tea all through the fridge.

      So now I get a new pitcher and I have a gleaming fridge!

      Friday, May 20, 2011

      Seven Quick Takes Vol 1

      I've never posted with Seven Quick Takes before, and haven't even read much of them as I don't normally follow Jen's blog, but I have often enjoyed reading them at testosterhome (who has a new blog design - very nice!) so I was finally inspired enough to give them a try.

      1. Last week, when we were stuck home with Second Son's chicken pox (he had a mild case), I decided to try potty training Second Daughter. It did not go well. Despite bribery with her favorite candy, many cajolings and taking her to the bathroom every twenty minutes (seriously, I set a timer), she would go to the bathroom wherever she happened to be. I am not good at potty training children. My strategy has been to just wait a long time before even trying. I let First Daughter wear underwear outside one day and she trained herself after one accident. Kansas Dad encouraged me to put the diapers back on and wait. Sigh. So I did, but I think I'm going to need a few more diapers or covers or something. With Second Son and Second Daughter wearing the same size (yes, they are two years apart), I find myself running out of diapers far too often.

      2. Second Son loves to destroy books. Seriously. He can't crawl yet but often manages to get where he's going by accident. He squirms to bookshelves, pulls the books off one by one and then systematically pours his almost-ten-month-old energy into destroying them. I hope this is a phase, a short phase. I simply do not have the bookshelf space to clear the bottom two shelves of books on every bookshelf in the living room. I'd have to stack the books on my bed, which would be inconvenient.

      3. The irises are almost done blooming. That means they'll be ready for transplanting just about any time. Not that we have time for such things. If anyone local wants some irises, please let me know. We can arrange a trade - a bit of work transplanting some with us in exchange for some irises to take home for your garden. They are truly lovely, grow wonderfully with almost no care, and are extremely tenacious.  Here are some pictures to lure you in. The yellow ones are not available, though. I only have a few of those and I'm not ready to share them. This year, they started blooming on Easter Sunday. We've had different varieties blooming steadily since then and have at least a few more days to go.

      4. Second Son is over the chicken pox! It was traumatic at first for me because another family in our parish had some tough cases recently. He was fine, though. It was a very mild case and hopefully now he won't need the vaccine. (As an aside, we vaccinate on the Range. We vaccinate on the recommended schedule. Every so often we look at all the arguments again and decide to continue on this path. Kansas Dad is a theologian who teaches ethics classes, among others, at a Catholic university. We believe this is the right decision for our family. I am not angry or upset at the particular circumstances that exposed Second Son to the chicken pox and I have every intention to continue socializing with families who do not vaccinate. The risk of infection is small compared to the joys of our friendships.)

      5. My love/hate relationship with CathSwap continues. I have found a few things used on forums for our homeschool next year, some at great discounts even compared to used ones on Amazon. But all of them have been purchased with "just a few other things" the seller had available that seemed interesting or were on my "maybe if I have the money in the fall list." Only I bought them in the spring. Sigh. I have a problem.

      I have also been pre-reading a few and am so excited to share these with the kids, especially The Wheel on the School. I don't know how I managed to escape childhood without reading this book; it's a tragedy, one my children will not experience. I can barely wait until fall! (Only I can, because I'm tired.)

      6. We're listening to The Secret Garden in the van. The one review at Amazon is disappointing, but we've been enjoying it. The narrator does a much better job with the accents than I would! Just for fun, I played The Secret Garden (1991 Original Broadway Cast) for First Son. I've never seen the musical myself, but I like the CD. First Son adores the CD! We have been listening to it nearly every day. I'm starting to hear it in my head when I shower, when I wash dishes, when I feed the baby, when I dream. It's fun to listen to something besides Cat.Chat, though. I need to start thinking of other musicals he might enjoy. Suggestions?

      7. In the next week or so, we're going to transition to our "summer lessons." We'll be doing memory work, a little math, a little handwriting and a little reading together. First Daughter has finally started her reading lessons. I think she's excited about reading, but she may just be excited to officially have "lessons."

      It's raining and the children are playing some Wii Fit for Kids game, but the time is nearly up so I'm off to start my day. Read more 7 Quick Takes at Jen's Conversion Diary.

      Our Memory Book

      Before the school year started, I made a little box for our memory verses based on the system at Simply Charlotte Mason. It has worked really well for us, though I still haven't gotten into the habit of reading our verses or doing any memory work on the weekends.

      After a conversation over at Afterthoughts (which I thoughtlessly did not bookmark), I was inspired to make a memory book for all of our other memory work (in addition to our memory verses).

      Daily, we read through a poem, catechism questions and "other stuff." As First Son memorizes them, I move them behind the other tabs and place new sheets at the front.

      So far this year, First Son has memorized these poems:
      I have other selections ready to go for the summer and into the fall.

      For those that are interested, the poems above were found in:
      I typed out the catechism questions from First Son's first grade catechism book, Faith and Life's Our Heavenly Father. Next year, we'll use the questions from Jesus Our Life. I haven't decided if I'll keep the first year questions in the review pages. Any thoughts? First Daughter has already learned most of them as well.

      The "other stuff" category (which really needs a more impressive name) started with First Son's address and phone number. We've moved on to some more exciting lists like the Ten Commandments, the tribes of Israel and the names of all the apostles.

      Lest you think we concentrate overly much on our memory work, we really do just read through the poems and catechism questions. After he seems to have mastered each a bit, I ask him to attempt to recite them on his own. Now I often ask First Daughter some of the questions or to recite some of the poems as well. She's learned them simply by listening in. The memory of children truly astounds me.

      Thursday, May 19, 2011

      My Small Successes XLI

      I'm a little late for Small Successes, but thought I'd try to jot down three things anyway.

      1. Second Son is fully recovered from the chicken pox. It was not that bad. I think it's almost easier to deal with babies in this situation because he couldn't scratch. Still, I hope the vaccinations hold the others so they don't catch it. (Or should I say "catch them?")

      2. We had our last faith formation class this week. It's a bit like a co-op with other homeschooling families in the area. I ended up with a little more responsibility than I had planned at the beginning of the year, but it all turned out well in the end. My kids are already looking forward to next year.

      3. I went to my first homeschool used book sale. I bought a used copy of The King of the Golden City, which is great because I'm not sure I want to use it next year so I was debating a lot with myself about purchasing it. (I particularly like this copy because of the illustrations. First Son and First Daughter like everything better if it has illustrations.) I also found, thanks my good friend over at House of Brungardt, a used copy of the teacher's guide for Jesus Our Life. A new one including the changes for the mass comes out this summer. I really wanted to buy that one, but this is much better. I already had the old version of the student text. Now they'll match and I spent hardly any money. (I then promptly spent much more than that on a few orders last night. I do so love buying books. It's one of the benefits of homeschooling. Expensive, though.)

      Read more Small Successes at Chocolate for Your Brain.

      Wednesday, May 18, 2011

      Learning About Rocks

      Yesterday, we ate the results of one of our science experiments: rock candy.

      First Daughter: "Mommy, I like rocks, but I don't like rock candy."

      Tuesday, May 17, 2011

      Through Their Eyes

      I happened to look through our old camera and discovered over 300 pictures on the memory card. A few of them were ones Kansas Dad or I took when we were in two different places or couldn't find the new camera, but the vast majority were ones the kids took when we let them play with the camera. Here are a few of the most amusing pictures.

      There were some good ones as well, but they're not quite as fun to share on the blog.

      Monday, May 16, 2011

      Charlotte Mason Study for Mother

      I followed a couple of links to this article on teaching in the Charlotte Mason style: Becoming a Charlotte Mason Teacher. I was particularly convicted on the point on narration. I have been far too lax with narrations because they are so painful for First Son (and therefore myself). It's not that we never did narration; he did some every day, but not every lesson. That must change.

      I've also been inspired to read another volume of Charlotte Mason's writings this summer. I'm considering A Philosophy of Education. I've read only her first one (Home Education). Those who have read them...is this a good choice?

      Book Review: Dover Little Activity Books

      I have discovered a new tool for my arsenal to keep the kids occupied while waiting somewhere. Actually, I discovered them last fall but haven't had a chance before to share my secret weapon: Dover Little Activity books.

      These are little books, just as the name says. They are just 5.6" by 4". That's what I love about them. They fit perfectly in a pocket and a handful can fit in the diaper bag. A few little books and a couple of pencils and I'm ready to entertain anywhere. We don't have any smartphones or handheld games here on the Range, but these little books go far to engage the kids while we're waiting at a restaurant or a the doctor's office.

      I also used them extensively when we were traveling to and from my parents' house. I put together shoe boxes for each of the kids with crayons, pencils, and an eraser. I'd give them a new activity book now and then as we drove. These books fit perfectly into the shoe boxes so they could keep everything together.

      They have a wide variety of activities, themes, and skill levels available, all for $1.50 each. If you're looking to buy a large bunch, be sure to get on Dover's email list because there are often specials like $20 off a $40 purchase. You can buy a lot of little activity books for $40! (Not that I did; I incorporated them into an order along with some homeschooling books.) There are also weekly emails from Dover with samples from a varying selection of their books. Here are some of the ones we tried, but there are books for just about any theme:
      At first I was concerned they wouldn't last very long, but they have quite a few pages. I always collect them as soon as our food arrives or the kids are otherwise occupied. I also usually have two or three books for each child in the rotation so they don't tire quickly of them. Most of the ones I bought for our trip home still have pages ready for fun.

      I bought all of these books myself and have received nothing in exchange for this review.