Thursday, November 29, 2007

Concerning Gorilla Glue

For the past few after-schoolwork afternoons, we have been busy making crafts that will serve as ornaments for our Christmas Tree this year. (photos to come later).

I prefer "art" to "crafts", but admit that these creations are adorable and seem to be getting more and more creative as time passes. The children's ideas seem endless. They are very involved, and are extremely enthusaistic - so far we have made God's Eyes with yarn, Snowmen and Santa's with tongue depressors & felt, snowflakes with popcicle sticks ...

So, we are all sticky with glue and glitter - the children are using Tacky Glue nearly by the gallon, and I am occassionally using a bit of Gorilla glue when additional hold-power is needed (all the while saying, please children do not touch the Gorilla glue because it is very sticky, is permenant, and will stain your hands).

So ... this having gone on for several hours each afternoon lately, as we craft together ...

On Monday afternoon ...

Cherub 6 (age 4yo) looks at me with a very puzzled look on his little face, and I can clearly see him mentally preparing the words in his mind that he is going to say .... UH, MOMMY, EXACTLY (prounounced ee-zack-wee) WHAT PART OF THE GORILLA DOES THE GORILLA GLUE COME FROM ? (Gorilla is prounounced gurl-will-wa)

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Christmas Count Down

There are officially 29 days and 6 hours left until Christmas Eve.
We are all very excited ... of course, I am sure no one can tell how excited we are because we are being quiet about it. (hee hee hee !)
We have so much to do ... we have photos to be taken, gifts to make, crafts to complete, cookies to bake ... sewing to work on ... service projects .... visits to make ... carols to sing ...
There are now 23 days, 4 hours, and 10 minutes until Christmas Eve.

Memory Work

As part of our Memory Work for the Winter Term, we will be memorizing this poem:

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with wornout tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on";

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run -
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man my son!

By: Rudyard Kipling

A Baby Dolphin

Cherub 2 has a favorite animal - the Bottle Nosed Dolphin. And we are blessed to have a family member who is a Marine Biologist, and who shares Cherub 2's special interest.
She sent Cherub 2 this photo (above) and this link for an article on CNN announcing the birth of this calf at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, Maryland. Actually the calf was born in September, but the Aquarium staff waited to make the official announcement because they wanted to be sure all would go well with the first-time Mom and her calf.
Isn't it ADORABLE ??
Here is the official article announing the arrival of this little one, and the story of his "three Mom's" ....

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

On Heating A Big Old House

Photo 1: School room fireplace with heater and cover panel removed - it is HUGE !!

Photo 2: Chimney Professional cleaning up his tools after the insert was installed.

The Maiden Fire in the insert - tools and wood at the ready. We cannot believe how pretty the fireplace looks with the insert, and without the old gas heater. WOW ! And we also were shocked at how toasty warm this room was in just a short while !!

We are blessed to live in a beautiful OLD house with a lot of history (used as a hospital during the Civil War). And it is a GIANT house with plenty of outside space as well, which is great for our large family .... until HEAT becomes necessary.

When we moved in, there was a 15-20yo vented gas heater (vented through one of the fireplaces) in our school room. On a few chilly days earlier this month, we fired it up after spending $$ for a 1/4 tank of propane (YIKES !) ... and it BARELY kept the front 2 rooms warm, warm being an understatement. Friends who lived in this house for quite a few years previously heated with kerosene, but I am too afraid to use that because I have a relative who was nearly killed as a result of a malfunctioning kerosene heater in the middle of the night. Then we tried a few models of electric heaters, but none made even a "dent" in these big rooms.

So the search was on for a warmer, more efficient, less expensive way to keep this house warm.

We decided on a woodburning insert as STEP 1, and then of course we spoke to the owners of the house to gain permission. Then we started getting estimates from a few Chimney companies, and started researching woodburning insert options.

Next - the "ordering" began ...

We had 2 1/2 cords of good firewood delivered last Wednesday, to be stored in the old unused barn behind our house (another 2 1/2 cord load is coming early next week). And then the woodburning insert and chimney liner arrived last Thursday. Finally, the Chimney Professional we selected came on Tuesday (yesterday) to seal/repair the chimney, line it with steel, and to install our woodburning insert. It took nearly all day, but at last it was finished.

The Chimney Guy talked to all of us - about cleaning the chimney, safe woodburning, and such. He showed each child his trade-tools and explained his methods, and even talked to them about the history of the Chimney Sweep profession. It was very educational, to say the least !

On Tuesday evening we had our Maiden Fire .... to season the insert and to "learn" how to use it properly (with the windows open - it was warm, and the seasoning puts off some minor "fumes" as the paint cures on the insert). We have heated solely with wood before for a number of years, but with an actual woodstove rather than with an insert. So there is a minor learning curve.

Ahhhhhhhhhh - the heat - the house is definately warmer, and has that "toasty" feeling that only comes with wood heat. The children are thrilled, as is Mom who can now run the heat on HIGH 24/7 without concerns over "the bill". We will have to be careful when the weather is really cold, to keep the USED rooms warm and the UNUSED rooms closed off with the doors - but we are pretty sure that this insert will keep the temperature pretty pleasant in most of this HUGE house through the winter.

STEP 2: We plan to install a second woodburning appliance (probably an actual woodstove) next spring or summer into the second fireplace, but that project will have to wait for our savings to build a bit more first.

So, at last we are ready and we are thankful to God for sending warm temperatures until our project was finished. And now that everything is ready --- come on cold, come on snow --- we are "ready" now for winter.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Jesse Tree

Advent is something our family looks very forward to each year. It is a time of reflection, and a time for tradition. We have just realized (a little late) that we are going to have to replace all of our supplies for Advent and for Christmas as they too were lost in our housefire last March. YIKES !!
Ten years ago, my friend Miss JP gave to us a wonderful kit for the making of a Jesse Tree - it was an early Christmas gift to our family. The kit included instructions for making each symbol, and a Bible reading for each day of Advent - and we SO loved the addition of the Jesse Tree to our Advent Season. (the above photo is of the completed kit for the Jesse Tree Banner - the exact one we had before)

So, tomorrow we will begin making a new Jesse Tree. Thankfully I was able to find the exact kit available online here: It will take more than just a few days to create, but should be finished in plenty of time.

Next on our "to do" list, after the Jesse Tree is completed, is to make a new Advent Wreath for the table. We generally use pillar candles in regular holders (they seem more stable during table use in our large family), and then incorporate the candles into a Centerpiece of fresh-cut greenery (pine, holly, etc).

It's almost Thanksgiving .... then will come the beginning of Advent .... and soon after it will be Christmas. Can you believe it ?!?!?

Friday, November 16, 2007

A Wonderful Story

Beginning Monday, our seasonal Family Read-Aloud will be An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving by Louisa May Alcott. We read it every year just before Thanksgiving, as it is an old favorite.

This lovely story is available here for free. It can be read on the screen, or can be printed with a simple select all / copy / paste into Word.

Enjoy !!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

A Birthday Girl

Cherub 5 turned 8yo today !! HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHERUB 5 !!!
We took a holiday from school today in honor of this special day ... and we had homemade whole-wheat Belgian Waffles for Brunch ... and are having Cream of Beef and Brocolli soup for dinner with garlic bread. This was the exact day Cherub 5 had planned, except for the bitter cold temperatures (44 with a windchill feeling like 38 - YIKES !). "Oh well," she said "that just means I get to finally wear the sparkly butterfly hat and my purple coat !" The day was saved ....

For her birthday, Cherub 5 asked for a new doll. Well, here "she" is - she is a Madame Alexander doll and is lovely, right down to the pink streaks in her hair and funky boots. Cherub 5 is VERY excited with her gift !!

In this photo the girls were just preparing to go on a walk-about on the farm so that the doll could have a tour of her new home. Perhaps they will come up with a good name for this lovely doll --- choosing names and such decisions take quite a bit of time for Cherub 5 because she has to pick the PERFECT one, of course.

Cherub 5 also received a giftcard to Toys R Us and a little money, so she is planning a shopping trip VERY soon ...

UPDATE: The doll has a name !!

Her name is Maddie Kate (Maddie for short).

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Cold Front

There is a very powerful cold front that is moving through our area this evening, and as a result we are getting storms. LOTS of rain (no complaints here !), lots of wind, and nearly constant lightening (no thunder though). And these storms brought something more ....

The storms brought THIS ....

The children broke out the Game Cube, and all 3 of our dogs moved indoors for the night. Daisy (our elderly Golden Retriever) is always inside and is quite annoyed that the other two dogs are in HER living room. Queenie (Cherub 6's 6mo old black Lab-Boxer mix puppy) generally prefers to be outside, but willingly came inside after Cherub 6 did some some coaxing with treats. And our nearly 3yo Great Pyrenees named Bella absolutely HATES to be inside, unless there is a lot of wind and lightening, in which case she will literally knock you down to get inside the door before you close it (and as soon as the "noise" stops she makes the same bee-line only in reverse without fail).

Monday, November 12, 2007

Lizzie Palmer's YouTube Program

Lizzie Palmer who put this YouTube program together is 15 years old.

There have been over 3,000,000 hits as of this morning.

In case you missed it, here it is.

Watch all of it.......and, pass it on!!

A Trip To Salem

This past weekend, my mother and I drove north to Salem, Virginia, to meet my sister for the weekend. We decided to meet halfway because visiting is difficult when we all live so far apart. My sister is currently living in Pennsylvania, my mother lives in Georgia, and of course we are in Tennessee.

Salem looked like a cute little town when we were searching online for a good meeting place, and it was cute indeed. We went to dinner and visited, stayed overnight, and headed back to our homes after a delicious breakfast.

The scenery was incredible along the drive in Virginia - the mountains were gorgeous in every direction. Even with the fall color being faded (from the drought ?), the smattering of reds and golds on the moutains were breathtaking.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Happy Are The Families And Children Who Faithfully Fulfill These ...

**The above photo of our home was taken this past August.

This "title" is a line found in the conclusion of the article I have linked to below. It is this same article that begins:

The family should be the first school of civility. Everything in it is sacred and therefore worthy of respect, not only the parents, representatives and depositaries of divine authority, but also the dwelling itself, the paternal home, the place where one lives and sleeps.

HOW INCREDIBLE !! The rest of this wonderful article can be found here It is my humble opinion that this should be read by all Christian parents, regardless of denomination. I personally wish I could read this aloud over and over again in the Public Square (so to speak) for all to hear (loudly !).

It is time for rest of the world to hear this much needed instruction ... we need to reclaim our homes and reclaim our families, reclaim our nation and our future ....

(stepping down from my Soap Box now)

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

A New Plan

I have assembled a NEW learn-to-read plan for Cherub 5, comprised of books I have used in the past but did not have on my bookshelves currently. So they are now printed and we used them for the first time today with a tiny bit of success. She was pleased with the new materials (and I was pleased that they were free, less ink and paper use.)
Remedial Reading Drills By: Hegge, Kirk, & Kirk 1965 (c/o Don Potter FREE online 2005)
Word Mastery By: Akin 1913, 1941 (c/o Don Potter FREE online)

And while I was hunting, I found some FREE Primers as well to use with her once things get going --- to keep some "variety and interest" to her read aloud time with me (and to prevent so much memorization).
A Primary Reader By: Smythe
Reading Literature THE PRIMER By: Harriette Taylor Treadwell
Reading Literature THE FIRST READER By: Harriette Taylor Treadwell
Fairy Stories and Fables By: James Baldwin

And finally, this is a site where I found even more FREE primers, early-reading instruction resources, and phonics materials --- just in case someone else is looking for resources.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

I Found This Just This Morning ...

.... and just HAD to share it because it is just too funny (as I am sitting, waiting for my coffee maker to finish brewing).

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Oops !!

I am so glad we went to Mass on Saturday evening, because it is now 12:41p and we JUST realized that we forgot to set all of our clocks back last night. Oops !! We would have arrived at church a full hour early (having then to wait in the car with 7 ANTI-MORNING people for a longggg time) had we planned to go this morning. Yikes !!

The good news about this mistake is that we have just added another full hour to our Sunday afternoon, and perhaps our day can be even more productive with some extra time left over for fun.

Just to be safe, I am going to mark my calendar NOW for the spring clock change.

Concerning Learning To Read

Are there any lessons more essential in the beginning of "school" instruction than learning to read ?? And fostering a true LOVE of reading ?? The key, at least for this homeschool Mom, is to teach each child in such a way that he / she is best able to learn - and finding that wildly varied method for each child has been a bit of a challege for me !

We were blessed with 3 very strong readers who did not struggle in their early learning at all. They used Abeka with the Christian school they were then attending. They quickly learned letters, and in less than one year of instruction were reading on 6-7-8-9th grade levels with minimal assistance. It was amazing, and caused me to grossly underestimate the difficulty that can be faced for learning to read (for the child and the teacher).

Just a few years later, I was humbled and came to see "learning to read" in a whole new light. This new lesson came when Cherub 4 was first beginning to learn to read (he was 5yo). It is just now (age 9 1/2yo) that he is finally reading well after years of hard work (and TOO MUCH of his own frustration). And now, just this year, our 5th child is beginning (or trying, at least) to read. And waiting in the wings, we have yet one remaining non-reader (he is 4 1/2 yo).

As I said, Cherub 4 struggled VERY much with learning to read and with phonics, no matter which program or style of learning we selected (Abeka, Rod & Staff, 100 EZ Lessons, Bob Jones, Seton, and more). We worked orally, with workbooks and worksheets, with games, with computer programs and DVD / Videos ... NOTHING WORKED. And he sooooo wanted to read - he was filled with pure desparation (his own) !! In the end, what worked best for him FINALLY was the McGuffey's Readers (which we are still using even now - we will have worked through the whole series by next summer). Tried and true for many many years past, these "did the trick" for him, so much so that he advanced three "grade levels" of reading in less than one calendar year. HOORAY !! He was nearly 9yo before his actual reading finally began. He is now reading "on grade level" with great enthusiasm and quickly moving ahead of even that level. He is finishing up the next-to-last book in Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House series (which he has loved !). Privately, as his mother, my biggest worry through all of those struggles past was that somewhere in the learning-to-read process he would grow to hate reading. We all thank God every day that Cherub 4's heart did not turn this way, and that at long last he loves to read despite the enourmous difficulties he faced. It is interesting now to see - he is extremely encouraging of others who are learning to read, and is the most patient "helper" we have ever had. He will sit for hours and listen to Cherub 5 work out word after word, or will sit and work with letter tiles trying to make words (all the while trying to show her how to :sound out" and trying to teach her the "rules" to reading). He will also read story book after story book to Cherub 6 during his free time, and will often be the first to volunteer to read aloud when all of the children are working together. It seems after all he went through, he has the "patience of a saint", to borrow the phrase. Praise the Lord !!

Now, our current challenge is Cherub 5 who started with McGuffey's as well, mostly because it is what we had on hand when we started on our school work again after our housefire, and she said she wanted to learn to read (and had the necessary "skills" to indicate readiness). She appeared to be making consistant progress until recently .... when we realized that she had "stalled out". So -- what was the problem ?? Well, it seems she is greatly determined to "memorize" ALL of the words she "reads" (which may help a little now, but will undermine her reading ability greatly eventually if it continues only by memorization - my opinion). It has become very clear that she is having great difficulty working through how words and letters actually work (phonics). So, we are back to the drawing board ... again.

I found this post along with two sepatate Yahoo Groups. Each of these pertain to Charlotte Mason's methods for teaching reading. WHAT A BLESSING !! I have already learned so much !! Cherub 5 has begun (just this past week) to RELAX and is saying that she is ready to try "something new" (again).

Charlotte Mason was truly gifted - she had an incredible understanding of children and education. I wish I could thank her personally, on behalf of our little family, for all that her wisdom has been for us throughout our homeschooling (and our lives too !). I wonder if, back then, she had even a hint of the many many lives her methods would teach well beyond her own lifetime ??

In the mean while, please pray for Cherub 5. She is by far the MOST impatient child we have (so far) ... her sheer determination to learn to read is at this point defeating her. She is unable to use "phonics skills" and is too proud (yet) to admit that on most days, so much so that she nearly refuses to work on "baby lessons" to build these skills. (We are aware that this is a heart AND discipline issue, and we are working on it with much dedication.) All of this is happening even though she KNOWS in her heart of these difficulties and has said as much in weakened tearful moments of frustration. And to add to this, she is very proud, a bit stubborn, and fiercely competative. She will say very bolding if asked (publicly) that she CAN read ... and will turn to a page in her McGuffey reader and will begin "reading" .... often without even looking at the words, and sometimes while "reading" words on a page that are actually printed on the next. Oh yes - we have a challenging bit of work ahead of us - and I am very concerned again that the process will create a hate of reading.

And finally, I am left to wonder ... wil Cherub 6 have any difficulties ?? Or will he "breeze" through as our first three children did ?? And what will be THE method by which he learns to read ??

The heart-felt questions seem endless for THIS homeschool Mom ....

Friday, November 02, 2007

Square Dancing

This evening we attended the Homeschool Harvest Hoe-Down held at a park in the next town. This was an event for homeschool families and their friends - a potluck dinner followed by beginner square dancing. The volunteer caller came in all the way from Crossville (over an hour away) and did such a wonderful job instructing, encouraging, and then "calling" - he was so patient and was a great deal of fun to learn from.

We all had a grand time. DadToCherubs and I danced, as did Cherub 1, Cherub 2, Cherub 3, and Cherub 5. (Cherub 4 and Cherub 6 were willing, but there were not enough people to form a complete "square" to accomidate them too - so they played on the playground instead.) There was A LOT of laughing and smiling. At the end, everyone in our family was in agreement that "this was a lot of fun" (exact words of Cherub 3). We do need to spend a bit of time focused on faster recall of RIGHT and LEFT. (children AND parents alike - ha ha ha !)

Those who know him would be AMAZED to know that DadToCherubs can really cut a rug with square dancing - he not only participated willingly but was very enthusiastic the whole time. It was quite a sight to watch !!

What a nice evening we had - dancing together, laughing together, and trying something new that none of the children had ever done before (and DadToCherubs and I have done done since grade school) ... all while seeing old friends (Thanks O-Tribe !) and meeting some new friends, young and old.

I only wish I had remembered to bring my camera (can you believe I forgot ??). Apparently one lady was taking photos and is going to put them on CDs for everyone present - so maybe soon I will have actual photos to share (although DadToCherubs might kill me for posting them - HA !).

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Our New Look

We thought it was time for a SLIGHT new look for our blog --- and thought that with cooler weather coming, some nice cozy warm colors were in order.

This color scheme reminded us of hot chocolate .... before and after the marshmallows melt. YUMMY !!


It comes at the same time every year, and every year at this time I am concerned because I am left wondering "where did the time go ?" Wasn't it JUST Easter ?? Memorial Day ?? Independence Day ?? Labor Day ?? The first day of Autumn ??

Tomorrow is November 2 .... and that means .... there are only 53 days until Christmas Day. YIKES !!

I am not so much concerned with the holiday itself as it is one of my favorites (the TRUE Christmas - with the actual meaning and celebration intact, and the festivities we all enjoy) - but the SHOPPING - did I mention that I HATE shopping with a passion, no matter what time of the year ?? Even grocery shopping is stressful for me ... I like to go in ONE store, get exactly what I came for quickly, and leave ... even more quickly. So actually wandering through toy isles and toy stores and endless other retailers (with or without a list) is just truly angonizing for me.

One story from a few years ago - I was VERY pregnant with Cherub 6 (who was due in early Dec but was 1 week late on this particular day) DadToCherubs and I went to Toys R Us together to get a few last minute toys .... there were grown adults using walkie-talkies for efficiency, shreiking and squalking from all over the store to such a degree that the overhead intercom could not be heard .... there were adults literally THROWING toys over top of isles into the arms of a waiting shopping companion, both barking orders to one another while furiously scanning the shelves (and suspiciously eyeing the carts of passers-by) .... and one lady (I use the term LADY loosely here) actually was physically violent with another lady over a remote control vehincle of some kind of which there was 1 left on the shelf and both "grabbed" it at the same time. GOODNESS GRACIOUS !!

Christmas ... only 53 days left ... and the World Wide Web is at my fingertips (with a highspeed connection to boot). I think this year we are going to try to do the bulk of our shopping online - we did that several years ago, and our quality of life in November and December improved significantly as a result. The main benefit is that shopping online will limit the number of trips we have to make into the stores, having to encounter people who are in their best "holiday spirit" (NOT !!).

What ever happened to the PEACE of Christmas time ?? And where in the world did the GOOD WILL TO MEN go ?? I know ... they have gone completely out the window !! I suppose they disappeared when large-scale shopping centers and stores began, and when Christmas became so focused on material goods.

Yep - I think we shall shop online this year - and while UPS, USPS, and FexEx sweat the details, we will spend some more time working at the Food Pantry in town (volunteering), maybe visit a nursing home or two, make some ornaments for our tree, bake some cookies, maybe sing some carols ...

Hummm ... I can feel my stress-level dropping as I type. HA !

IT IS NOW 949p ON NOVEMBER 14th ... SO THE COUNTDOWN IS NOW (drumroll please)....
40 Days
3 Hours
11 Minutes

Our Shakespeare Study

We have only used Lamb's Shakespeare for all of our Shakespeare studies past. We love Lamb's version, which works well - it gives a basic understanding without stripping all of the details and beauty.
But this time, we struck a new path concerning our Shakespeare study -- we first read Lamb's version of Shakespeare's Macbeth. Next we read (slowly but surely) the actual play itself (and occassionally used a study guide similar to Cliff Notes for help). And since this was first actual Shakespeare play we have read "as written", it was quite a challenge to say the least.
Tomorrow (Friday) we will finish our reading of the actual play Macbeth, and so our conclusion to this study will come this weekend. We have all been anticipating this "finale" since the beginning, so we are excited !!
We will be watching Shakespeare's Macbeth (on DVD from Netflix).
Here is the excerpt from the cover of the DVD:
Shakespeare's most heinous villian gets the royal treatment in director Roman Polanski's avocative 1971 version of one of literature's greatest dramas. Jon Finch plays the Thane of Cawdor, and Francesca Annis matches him step for conniving step as the scheming Lady Macbeth. All in all, this version of Macbeth ranks as a worthy addition to the Bard's cinematic canon.