Friday, January 30, 2015

FIAR: Papa Piccolo and Gabrielle's Song

Since we just did Clown of God, which takes place in Italy, we decided to continue with Papa Piccolo, which is set in Venice. 
 Papa Piccolo is about a tomcat in Venice who enjoys his nights of freedom along the canals, but then finds a pair of kittens on their own and winds up taking them under his wing. Not having cats ourselves, the kids were very happy to learn more about them and absolutely loved the antics of Piccolo and his proteges, Marco and Polo. 
 They also got to learn more about Venice and its landmarks like the Grand Canal, The Piazzo San Marco and the city's famous gondoliers.
 Ezra has been learning his letters and so was happy to be able to do a simple copywork page for the notebook. He declined to color the picture, tho. :)
 To get up close and personal with some cats, we went to our friends' farm where they have several barn cats who are friendly to an extreme. Gabe walked out the back door and sat down and was immediately approached by one, then two, the five cats, all begging for his attention. He then stood out in the barn and watched them while the cow was being milked nearby and he reported to us on how they acted. He said they all watched and waited while Mr Ezra milked and then quickly gathered around their pan for him to pour a little of the fresh milk in for them. He noticed that they didn't fight and got along very well with each other.
 We didn't end our tour of venice with Papa Piccolo. We found a recommendation for another book, Gabriella's Song, also set in Venice.  Gabriella is a little girl who listens to the everyday noises of the city and hums a simple tune that is picked up by the baker, passed to a widow, a gondolier and then the whole city through a composer who gives credit to "whomever it was that was singing the tune in the streets." All eyes eventually turn toward Gabriella. 
 As we read the book, we talked about musical terms, what a composer does, played an orchestra memory game and learned about compound words. We also talked specifically about Vivaldi, who is one of Venice's famous composers. 

Both of these books were a pure delight to us all and we really recommend you check them out. You won't be disappointed. Sadly, Papa Piccolo is out of print, so it's only available through used-book sellers. Our library had a copy, so we just checked it out there. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Silly Children

It's truly a joy to have children. Sometimes I say that sarcastically, but most of the time, I mean it with all my heart. Never moreso than when they are being the silly kids that they are. 

 Emma thought the measuring bowls made a good hat.
 Gabe needed something from the play kitchen. The cabinet door in the front works just fine, but sometimes the easy way isn't the fun way.
 This is how Irene was "reading" her book the other day. she gets a kick out of looking through the holes in the blanket.
Ezra was outside playing by himself and found some fun ways to pass the time. He pulled that basketball around on the hand truck for a good 20 minutes. 

Sometimes it's really hard to catch them candidly because they tend to play to the camera, so when I do manage to get a picture, I'm usually not disappointed with the results. 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

FIAR: The Clown of God

This month we got back to doing Five In A Row, which we hadn't done in a long time. We chose to do The Clown of God, which is about a juggler who, at the end of his life, gives his greatest performance for God. (As an aside, the difference between Rebecca and I is illustrated very well with this book. SPOILER ALERT! He dies at the end. Rebecca struggles not to cry whenever she reads it to the kids. I, however, struggle not to laugh because the illustration is so melodramatic. I think I've seen too many Monty Python sketches.)

For those who have never done FIAR, you read the book each day for 5 days and do a different activity related to some aspect of the book. For example, for Geography, they had to find Italy on a map, and color an Italian flag and learned some Italian words. 
Giovanni was an orphan and later in life, he meets some monks, so we learned about what those two things mean. Giovanni was encouraged that he gives glory to God through his juggling, so we made a short list of things we do to give glory to God.
We learned about juggling and attempted (rather poorly) to juggle ourselves.

 The kids also looked at stained glass, since the ending takes place in a church.
They made "stained glass" cookies
  Then they painted their own "stained glass" to hang in their windows. We combined this project with part of their art curriculum where they had to blend primary colors to make the colors they wanted in their pictures.  They started with red, blue and yellow and then created the greens and purples to complete their projects. 
 The boys worked together and created "Blue Star"
 We got some 8"x10" acrylic sheets, traced a simple pattern we searched out on Google in puffy fabric paint and used acrylic paint to fill in the spaces. 
 Olivia called her "The Rose of Light" because the red center looks like a rose when the light shines through it.
This is a wonderful book and the kids would beg to have it read every day.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Kids' Art

The last few art lessons in Artistic Pursuits have recalled one of the artists we've studied as part of the Renaissance, Michelangelo and touched on Rafael, who was one we hadn't studied.

For Michelangelo, the kids did more frescoes 

and then tried their hand at apple carving.
They carved the apples about 8 weeks ago and we left them on the windowsill to dry. 

After 8 weeks, they're quite wrinkly and kinda cute. 
Next we looked a Rafael and his use of colors. They did one project where they layered the paints to create a scene. Each layer had to dry before the next was put on to prevent blending.

Then they did one where they had to blend primary colors to make the colors they wanted to use. we combined this with a project for our FIAR book, Clown of God, so go there to see the results! :)

Monday, January 12, 2015

Fall Term 2014

Well, we finished up the third term of Middle Ages, Renaissance, Reformation, and Epistles right at the end of 2014 and did our exams in the first week on 2015. It's impressive just how much our kids are able to retain after weeks of information are crammed into their little heads.

We spent the majority of the term on Martin Luther and William Tyndale and their struggles to get the Bible printed in the common languages of their respective homelands. It's staggering the persecution that these men, along with many others like Zwingli, Calvin and Knox, faced just for wanting the common folk to be able to read God's Word. It's because they chose to stand firm and face death that we are a able to hold our own Bible in our hands every day without fear. For resources, we read Thunderstorm in the Church, which was about Luther's trials and tribulations from the point of view of his son. Then we read The Bible Smuggler, which was about William Tyndale and told from the perspective of his young assistant. Both books were written by Louise Vernon and really brought the work of these two great men to life for the kids. We also added a third Louise Vernon book, The Night Preacher, which was about Menno Simons and the start of the Anabaptist  movement.

For math, Olivia switched back to Life of Fred and did Honey, Ice Cream and Jelly Beans before continuing with Book 4 of  Queen Homeschooling's Math Lessons for a Living Education. Personally, while she liked the LoF books, I felt like she lost a little ground with her basic math facts that she had been doing with the Kumon books, particularly when it came to long division. As a result of this, we decided to have her do some math drill sheets to improve her retention of math facts. It has been helping quite a bit. I think she needs that kind of repetition to help her retain the information.

For Science, Olivia started on the Human Body. We did it just over a year ago, but she enjoyed it so much and wanted to do a more in-depth study. We are doing this with two curricula, Queen Homeschooling's Fearfully and Wonderfully Made and Apologia's Exploring Creation. What we did was let Olivia do a lesson in the Queen's book, which lays a strong foundation in a CM/storybook format and gets her interested and excited about the subject. Queen's has her doing research to find things like the names of bones, muscles and organs or figure out how a muscle contracts and write a small paragraph on it. She usually has to draw whichever body system she's focusing on. Then she moves to the corresponding chapters in Apologia for a more textbook-ish, fact-filled lesson. Apologia's book has "Try This!" sections throughout the lessons that often have different quick experiments that she can try on her own and the end of each lesson has one or two larger experiments that we will help her with, if she needs it. Occasionally some of the smaller experiments are duplicated, but there is always enough variety that we will just skip the duplicated ones in the Apologia book. This is a subject that Olivia has successfully become largely self-directed in. We will help her access the internet to research topics and check her work, but for the most part, she will read, research and complete assignments independently.

A brain with the different regions in different colors.

 A nerve cell

 Olivia made a clay figure, but it was too soft to stand.
 She then put toothpicks in its body like a skeleton and it could stand fine. :)

For the Bible, we read through 2 Corinthians. It was a difficult book to read with the kids because Paul uses a surprising amount of sarcasm and hyperbole when telling the believers in Corinth that they're foolish for believing false teachings when they've already heard the Truth from him. Apparently the people listened and believed Paul, who asked and took nothing from them while he was there, but then they inexplicably paid other men who claimed to have the real gospel when it was really false. While most of the content was went over the boys' heads, Olivia did grasp that Paul was telling them "that they shouldn't be so easily fooled by people who look smart."

In Geography, Olivia has mastered the map of Europe and is nearly perfect in remembering the countries of Asia. It's been pretty cool seeing her work to memorize the names and locations of all the tiny middle-European nations.  Olivia's main focus in exploration was Balboa, who discovered the Pacific, and Magellan, whose expedition was the first to circumnavigate the Earth.

Gabe is moving up in his schoolwork, finishing Book 1 of Queen's Math Lessons for a Living Education. He's picked up pretty quickly on telling time and skip counting, though he did have a little trouble grasping place values. Queen's uses a "Place Value Village" (which we talked about here) and it seemed like his head and mouth were getting ahead of his hands and so he would get confused.We had to go over it with him and get him to slow down and think about what he was doing before he finally grasped the concept.  In his reading, he's really come a long way. He's not the fastest reader, but he's much more confident and has taken to actually reading for fun and not just flipping through looking at pictures. I've found that if we give him a break from the proscribed reader and let him choose a suitably difficult book on his own, he attacks it with gusto and does very well. now that he's putting sentences together consistently, he's starting to have much better comprehension and enjoying the books more. There have been a few times that he's asked to continue so he can find out what's going to happen next! :)

Ezra has started his own reading curriculum, Simple Charlotte Mason's Delightful Reading. We have started out doing letter families. He knows the sounds each letter makes so we take a simple word ending like -et and have him place each letter of the alphabet in front of it and determine what are real words like bet, get, jet, let, pet, and set. We've been doing it 5 days a week and changing the vowel associated with the last letter (-at, -et, -it, -ot, -ut). Some days he's gung-ho about it and others you would think we'd asked him to cut off a toe. He can be rather dramatic at times, like someone we know...

We have continued in our breakfast routine of reading part of the Torah portion, some poetry, a chapter from a read-aloud book and our memory verses. Recently, Irene "helped" me reshuffle our verses in the box and as I picked them all up off the floor, I counted 125 verses/portions that the kids have memorized, including the whole of Genesis 1:1-2:3 and 1 Corinthians 13! Even Emma chimes in most days and is able to recite along with the older kids. For a read-aloud, we have been going through the Thornton Burgess books, this time doing The Adventures of Happy Jack and The Adventures of Chatterer the Red Squirrel. The kids have absolutely loved these books, but sadly these are the last ones in our box set. However, we're going to be starting The Trumpet of the Swan next, which is one none of us has read, so we're very excited.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Emma's 3!

Our sweet Emma is now 3! In the last year, she's grown so much, but stayed very loving and cuddly. She's talking more now using full sentences, but she's still a pretty quiet girl. Sometimes she surprises me with the things she has to say. She has gotten much braver and is more willing to try new things. She can be very cautious, but other times she's gung ho about climbing, running and wrestling right along with the other kids. She loves to go outside and play with the older kids; climbing on the outdoor chairs, throwing balls, trying to pet the chickens (though they do scare her sometimes, still), riding scooters and bicycles, and making up stories and games. She hates the thought of being left behind and will freak out of she thinks someone's going somewhere without her. One big challenge we have with her is that she tends to revert back to the moaning and whining instead of using her words to communicate what she wants. We're hoping that reminding her to use her words will prevent that, but so far it's looking like 3 might be more trying than 2 was for us. 
 Mama got her a very cute outfit for this chilly winter birthday.
 As a gift, we took her to a free, introductory class at the little gym (hey, free is still a gift!) and she absolutely loved it! She jumped right in to explore. She let the teacher do things with her, like jumps, tumbles, bear-crawling on the bars, hanging and swinging on a bar, throwing ball through a hoop and ringing bells. She participated very well in the interactive songs where she had to stomp her feet, clap her hands, do a wheelbarrow and turn in circles. We're really thinking hard about signing her up for a class this spring. We think she'd really benefit physically from the activity.
 When she got home she found a "Winter Wonderland" in the dining room. The other kids and I decorated while she was out at class with Mama. 

 Olivia made her a crown and we dubbed her the "Birthday Queen"

The other kids made her this beautiful banner.
God luck trying to find winter themed balloons after the new year... apparently that's when winter ends, too. She was still very excited about her Olaf balloon, tho. :)

 We drew a winter scene on the windows and Olivia made the beautiful snowflakes.

 The inspiration for the winter theme actually came from these cupcakes from A Sweet Success Bakery (via Harris Teeter) that Emma went crazy over. She saw them, pointed, and screamed "SNOWMAN!" and "PENGUIN!", so we decided that would be a fun January birthday theme.
The Queen got first pick of cupcakes...
 and was not pleased with the wait. "Just one picture, baby!"
 Once the candles were lit, we got a smile.
She blew out 2 on her first try. She got the third candle on the second try. That other thing on the plate is an Ice Cream Snowball with silver and pearl sprinkles.
 The cupcakes were very good, but none of them could finish them. Irene certainly gave it a good try.
Yes, honey, even Birthday Queens have to use the potty. I tried to engage her in conversation to pass her time there and get her to tell me about her class at the Little Gym. She told me a couple of things and then denied some other things that Rebecca said she did. I asked, "Are you telling me tales?" and she pointed to her bottom and replied, "I don't have any tails, Daddy." She cracks me up. Happy Birthday, Little Love.