Friday, November 30, 2012


For our geography studies, we have been visiting Europe. Here are a couple of the fun activities we have done: Stonehenge in the UK

The Greek Parthenon

Here is my own Greek sculpture, I was highly impressed with my abilities. Isaac was not, however, and he laughed at it.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

On Diligence

If I had to sum up my theme for this school year in one word, it would be "Diligence."  I know what the word means to me, but I wanted to look up the word to find it's exact meaning.  According to, the word "diligence" means: "constant and earnest effort to accomplish what is undertaken; persistent exertion of body or mind."
To me, diligence is that thing that makes me crawl out of my warm bed every.single.morning to educate my boys.  It is what makes me look tirelessly for new and creative ways to help them learn.  It is the characteristic that makes me keep doing what I am doing even though every part of me wants to quit some days.  When the apathy wants to overtake me, diligence is what makes me push it down so that we can be successful.
I want to take a closer look at the definition above:
(1) Diligence is constant. 
There are always days where the discipline of diligence takes a back-burner to other things. But diligence itself is what makes me pick right back up where I left off. My natural tendency is to completely give up if I cannot do something 100%. Because of my focus on diligence, I don't have to be at 100%. The key for me has been consistency. If something gets me off course one day, I get back on course the next.
(2) Diligence and accomplishment go hand in hand.
I may not always be able to see the results of what I do with the boys on a daily basis, but I know that there is tremendous accomplishment in what I am doing with them. The diligence of our daily efforts is what gives us accomplishment in the long-term.
(3) Diligence is not only something I utilize with my mind, but it is physical.
On those days I don't "feel" like doing school with the boys (and there are many of those days!), I make my physical self get up off the couch and walk downstairs to the school room to begin our day. Often times, overcoming my apathy is as simple as taking those few short steps to the basement. I pray diligence will be my constant companion in the years to come. Our success depends upon it.

October Unit Study: Elections, Presidents, and Voting

Our October unit study was all-things election! We really packed a TON into this unit study. Although most of my monthly unit studies will be focused on Graham, this one also involved Isaac. Here are a few of the things we did this month:
*Patriotic art projects: Uncle Sam mask, Popsicle stick flag, 3-D White House
*Wrote Essays on "What I would do if I were President"
*Participated in a mock election (photos below)
*Read facts about each president during calendar time every day
*Learned about the branches of government, the electoral college, and the women's suffrage movement
*Went on a field trip to vote on election day!

Here is Graham looking adorable in his Uncle Sam mask:
Here are a few of our other art projects:
For our mock election, we read from three books: (1) "Duck for President, (2) "Grace for President" and (3) "My Teacher for President."  The election we held was between these three "candidates."  We spent some time a couple of weeks before our mock election talking about campaigning.  We made some campaign posters.  I thought it was hilarious when Graham excitedly had me come outside to see that he had proudly stuck his poster to the bumper of his car as a bumper sticker!

Here's Graham on our mock election day:
Our Voting station was equipped with a ballot box, "I Voted" stickers and a laminated photo ID for both of the boys to present before voting.  I assigned electoral votes to myself, Isaac and Graham based on age (guess who had the most electoral votes?) prior to our election.
Isaac casting his vote:
Graham casting his vote:
Proudly wearing their "I Voted" stickers!
The election break-down: Grace won!
Here we are on the REAL election day!

Even though this election didn't quite turn out how we had hoped, we learned a TON this month, and it was so fun to be learning about things that were unfolding in real life.  There are SO many great election-themed and patriotic children's books out there.  Below are a few of the books we read this month.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Loy Krathong

photo of authentic Loy Krathong boats made by the Thai people
For our studies of Thailand in World Geography, we studied Loy Krathong. Loy Krathong is a traditional Thai festival in which the people celebrate water and worship light. The people of Thailand celebrate this by gathering on the banks of bodies of water (in mid-November on the night of a full moon) and launching hand made boats illuminated by candles. The boats also contain offerings to make up for wrongs committed during the past year. We made our Loy Krathong boats, but because we do not worship light (We worship the one who MADE the light!), we wrote "Jesus is the light" on the boats. We took them down to a nearby pond and launched them. We wanted to light them, but the candles wouldn't stay lit in the wind.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Fall Unit Study Wrap-up

For the month of September, our unit study was "fall." Graham did lots of fun activities and projects to go along with our unit study. Among them were:
*Made fall tree cupcakes
*Made a fall "wreath" out of leaves and acorns collected outside
*Completed a "Leaf" booklet
*Made a picture frame out of acorns
*Did a science experiment to help us understand why leaves change color
*Made "Bountiful Beauty Baskets" and went on a nature walk.
Here is Graham on our nature walk:
And here is little guy along for the ride!

On our nature walk, we found these fuzzy balls on the backs of leaves.  We (I) assumed them to be caterpillar eggs of some kind.

Here's Graham looking over his "eggs" a little more closely back at the house.
We decided to put our cute little eggs in our butterfly observatory.
After a few days, nothing happened so I decided to do a little investigation.  It turns out they were actually unfertilized wasp eggs.  YUCK!  Back outside they went.
With all of our collected things from our nature walk, we made a giant graph on the cement.  First we graphed by leaf color, and then we graphed by type of item.
For this unit study, here are some of the fall-themed books Graham and I read:

Our next unit study will be on voting, elections and presidents.  Although most of my monthly units are for Graham,  this one will also involve Isaac.  I am so excited to teach the boys about our great nation and help them learn a bit more about our upcoming election!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

First two weeks of school 2012

We have the first couple of weeks of school done! I am excited about how the year is going so far, but I am WELL aware that a million different things can happen to throw off all of our progress and plans. Here's Isaac on the first day of school. He always gets that weird, crazed look on his face when he doesn't want me to take his picture.
Here's my sweet Graham on our first day.
For something new this year, Isaac has an "Independent Research" time.  Isaac will choose a topic from a master list we have compiled together, and then spend at least a half an hour every day researching this topic.  He can use the internet, our books, library books or netflix.  He has to use two sources per topic, and then he will write a brief summary of what he learned.  Here he is researching Steve Jobs.
We have been having lots of fun for World Geography so far this year.  Isaac and Graham both made paper mache globes.
The second week of geography, we visited China.  We made the Great Wall of China. 
I was proud of the boys, they pretty much did it on their own with minimal guidance from me.

Graham is totally enjoying his school time this year.  In addition to our regular activities, we have a monthly theme and will be doing all sorts of fun things to go along with our theme.  For September, the theme is "fall."  We made fall-tree cupcakes.  After we got done, Graham said, "mom, that doesn't look ANYTHING like the picture we saw."  Oh well.  Cupcake goddess I am not.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Our Homeschool Room 2012-13

I'm so excited for this year's homeschool room. This year, instead of trying to pretend I still had a basement family room, I now have decided to make the entire area a dedicated homeschooling space. Here's the details: New shelf from IKEA. I really love the fact that I can add to this unit throughout the next few years. It is so versatile (you can place it horizontally or vertically), and even Dave was impressed with how well put together it was. I have SO much more storage now for all sorts of things that were homeless before. My Pottery Barn bookshelf I have had since Isaac was a baby has a new home here too! This will feature our favorite books.
I found the "Color Outside the Lines" wall art piece the other day and LOVE it's message for the boys and for homeschooling in general.  You have to be a little "outside the box" to do what we are doing!  I also love my "READ" letters!  The globes are collected pieces from the past few years. (I have more throughout the room).
Double click on photos to enlarge

Because my Graham LOVES this sort of thing, we will have a "theme" shelf which will change with each month's new theme. September's theme is "fall". I have another shelf to utilize some other fall-related things.
This part of the room is almost the same as last year.  This year, I painted our table with chalkboard paint (see closer picture below).  I also acquired a fun old chalkboard which was Dave's grandma's.
This is our reading area.  I love having somewhere to read to the boys or have somewhere they can plop down and read their own books.  I love my art line and used it TONS last year.  The boys love seeing their art featured on the wall.  I leave it up for a few days and then put the more memorable pieces in a storage tote.  The not-so-memorable-pieces get secretly taken to the garbage.
My work area.  We are doing World Geography this year, so we have a world map for Isaac to be able to locate countries, continents and such.  This is also where I keep all of our active curriculum.  One basket on the wall is for working files and things I need to refer to often, the other is for Isaac's work that needs to be corrected.
Here is Graham's work area.  We will have calendar time this year.  The white board will be used for Bible verses for AWANA that he needs to memorize each week.
My chalkboard table!
My behavior plan for the boys this year entails them earning coins that they will be able to save up for items in our "store."
Overall, I am super excited for this year.  Isaac will begin each day with independent seatwork while I finish up breakfast, get the baby down for a nap and begin working with Graham.  After his independent time, we will work together on Bible and World Geography.  Lastly, Isaac will end his school day with independent research and report writing time.  He has a list of different topics of interest he can choose from (I am sure we will be adding to the list frequently throughout the year).  He will spend a half an hour each day researching his topic of choice (using the Internet, books we have or library books).  When he has completed each research topic, he will write a brief summary of what he learned in his report notebook.  I hope for this to become a way for him to increase his self-motivation and independence.
Graham will be working with me on All About Reading, Five in a Row and BOB books.  More updates soon!