Sunday, May 24, 2009

Family Bike Ride

I finally got my pictures to post !! HOORAY !!

On Monday evenings, one Cherubs gets to choose a family activity.
The activity must be free, and within a 20 minute drive from our home.
But otherwise, the sky is the limit.
On the first Monday (May 11) of this new adventure, Cherub 6 chose to visit the local Duck Park.
He wanted us to walk the trail and feed the ducks. We spent 2 hours walking, chatting, and feeding the ducks. A wonderful "family" evening.
And this past Monday (May 18) was Cherub 5's turn to choose -- and she chose to take all of our bikes to the Duck Park and ride on the trail. And of course we fed the ducks too.
We rode the trail several times -- we enjoyed the sunshine, the beauty of the wooded areas, the peace and serenity -- and we enjoyed a nice evening together.
DadToCherubs and I just started riding our bikes again in the last few weeks -- neither of us has ridden much since childhood. So, on Tuesday morning we were a bit stiff. ha !
Since our Duck Park ride, the Cherubs have thought of several more places where we can take our bikes and ride together. And in the mean while, DadToCherubs and I are trying to ride a little every day -- so that next time, we are not quite so uncomfortable the next day. HA !

Friday, May 15, 2009

Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival

Be sure to visit the newest edition

All A'Buzz About Farming

Cherub 6 had quite an
eventful Wednesday.
Check it out.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Planning For History 2009-2010

We used Tapestry of Grace last year to study Ancient History. And we enjoyed using it -- and I enjoyed not having so much 'foot work" to do in the planning of it all. However, buying the curriculum provides so much more material than we could ever use -- I wish there was a "basic" package with reading lists and maybe all of the notes -- we just did not use all of the worksheets and such so it was not an economical choice for us. And then the books -- buying all of the titles for each of the level (Lower Grammar, Upper Grammar, Dialectic, and Rhetoric -- we have students in each level as they are in grades 10, 8, 7, 6, 5, and K/1.) is a major expense, even if we buy the resources used, as we are still rebuilding our homeschool library.

I intended to go back to Ambleside / House of Education (nearly "as written") this year for everyone, for nearly every subject area ... well, that was the original plan.

But with the state of current events (and many curious questions from the Cherubs concerning news they hear or read), DadToCherubs and I feel that an intense study of American History is in order, so that perhaps the Cherubs can better understand our past, and so might possibly be better prepared to understand our present and our future.

So, American History (Exploration to Current Times) is the topic ... and the planning has begun.

We have chosen to use A Patriot's History of the United States as our History spine next year. It is anlarge (825 small print pages), intense book that is chock full of information, written by two history professors who profess to have tried to keep their perspective "unbiased" (is that possible ?). The book is well written and accurate, and is not "dumbed down", is not "politically correct" -- and it is a LIVING BOOK because the professor's love of American History shines through every page.

Within the website for this book is a list of Objectives for each chapter, among other resources. These objectives are followed by a list of essay-type (or discussion, perhaps ?) questions for the students. These might prove to be very handy next year ! There is also a Maps resource which has a lot of links for maps that work well with the book, and there is an Exam section available upon request from the author via email, and a large list of Bonus Materials as well.

So - we have our framework. TA DA !!

At this point, I am adding in other things to "flesh out" these studies -- mapwork / geography, biographical titles, speeches, debates, artists, music, government studies, perhaps a bit of economics, and of course historical fiction. The challenge is that I am building this subject for a wide variety of age levels and ability levels. Having 6 Cherubs is a challenge when we are planning "school". I will be assembling lists of resources and schedules by pulling titles and resources from Ambleside Online, Sonlight, My Father's World, Winter's Promise, House of Education (c/o Ambleside Online), and other "lists" and "collections" (and a dear friend is going to help out with this, which will make it a lot simpler).

So, for now, A Patriot's Guide is my bedtime reading and my on-the-go book of choice. I read it a few years ago, but my copy (with tons of penciled in notes , referenced maps from our Atlas, ideas, tidbits, and too many to recall supplementry titles/authors from a myriad of "rabbit trails") was lost in our housefire. So I am going to reread it, making new notes as I go. And in a few weeks, I will post the full plan for every student - grades 10, 8, 7, 6, 5, and K/1.

If anyone has any favorite titles or resources that might fit in well, we would love to hear from you in the comments !! All help would be appreciated.

This is an essay by one of the authors, explaining why the Patriot's History was written:

"What’s in a name? Just 35 years ago, our book would have simply been called, "A History of the United States." Today, virtually all of the so-called "mainstream" texts range from moderately biased to completely and overwhelmingly biased against a free-market, limited-government perspective. Their slant is sometimes blunt, often clever and always varied to make absolutely certain that if one technique doesn’t work on unsuspecting students, another will.

More than a decade ago, professor Michael Allen and I became aware of how widespread and deep this bias was when we, individually, searched in vain for books that would merely present the basics of American history and report facts over interpretations. We found a huge problem of balance, largely brought about by the movement for "political correctness," whereby American heroes like George Washington, Paul Revere, Robert E. Lee and Andrew Carnegie received scant coverage, while gender and minority issues were dealt with at length.

There was also a bias of language or tone, wherein Franklin D. Roosevelt was wise and caring; Vietnam War protestors were visionary; but Ronald Reagan and Calvin Coolidge were treated as crooks or dolts in one thinly-veiled slur after another. Even the pictures of Reagan emphasized his "wealthy contributors," and not a single one gave Reagan credit for winning the Cold War.

Religion was almost entirely ignored, unless it involved the dissident Berrigan Brothers during the Vietnam War or caricatured depictions of "fundamentalists" during the Scopes Trial. No book that we found made any references whatsoever to Billy Graham or Oral Roberts, or analyzed in any positive way the rise of Pentecostal or evangelical churches in America.

Most of the textbooks, if viewed honestly and objectively, suggest that the United States killed all the Indians, destroyed the environment, busted unions, perpetuated slavery, conquered the Philippines, illegally snatched Hawaii, oppressed workers in the 1920s, dropped the atomic bomb only to impress the Soviets, forced the Japanese into concentration camps and obstructed the efforts of a peace-loving USSR. If these books have heroes, none of them is white or male — and certainly never a businessman.

Welcome to American History 101.

In "A Patriot’s History," professor Allen and I tell a story of America as a special nation — a "City on a Hill" — not because the people in America are, or were, better than anyone else, but because from the beginning those settling the New World adopted systems that embraced primarily these three elements: private property rights, religious virtues and competition at all levels, from political parties to structures of government to market activities. All three were intricately wound together. The Massachusetts Bay Colony went so far as to rest political rights (voting) on a person’s status in the Massachusetts Bay Company (economic rights), which in turn required a person to be a member of the church (religious rights). All were connected. Above all, personal character counted for a great deal.

Supposedly "irreligious" leaders like Franklin, Washington and even Jefferson all realized the significance of these connections and of character. Well into the 21st century, studies have shown that competition among Christian sects for members has produced a far more vibrant and active church than is found anywhere in Europe, where state church monopolies have prevailed.
Likewise, despite 40 years’ worth of regulatory attack, the American economic system still remains the most productive in the world, due to a higher degree of private property rights and competition. In our book, we celebrate those who created and cultivated these pillars, while at the same time deconstructing numerous myths of the Left. The result is that any student reading "A Patriot’s History" will have a hard time suppressing pride in being an American.

Our economic processes and private property rights have generated more wealth than has existed at any other time in history; our foreign policies have liberated more people than any empire that ever existed; and our internal self-criticism has resulted in a steady improvement in civil rights and tolerance — often to a fault. The history of the United States is not only inspiring; it is essentially "conservative," in that it reaffirms many of those values that conservatives (and many libertarians) today hold dear. And the best news is that one does not have to distort the evidence to tell the story of a great country.

Ultimately, learning "just the facts" of the American past leads a student to inevitably conclude that the United States is the best place on earth, and that it has acted, for the most part, far better than any other nation at any other time. If that generates a feeling of patriotism — or makes one a patriot — so be it.

Larry Schweikart, University of Dayton"
(Larry Schweikart, an adjunct scholar with the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, is a professor of history at the University of Dayton and co-author with University of Washington professor Michael Patrick Allen of the recently published “A Patriot's History of the United States: From Columbus's Great Discovery to the War on Terror.” Schweikart wrote this essay for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a research and educational institute headquartered in Midland, Mich. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the Center are properly cited.)

New Members Of The Family

When I was a freshman in highschool, I was given a 4week old orange tabby kitten with an "M" on his forehead. I named him MoonBeam. He slept right next to me for many years. He lived to be 18yo. And he has been dearly missed ever since ....

I thought I would get another orange kitten, although I never found another one with an M on it's forehead like Beam's. We adopted Oliver from some friends, but he disappeared shortly after our move here (after our housefire) and has not been seen since.

So, since then, we have not had another orange kitten / cat. We would look from time to time, in the newspaper and at the pound .... there weren't any to be had.

That is, until someone dumped a box containing 6 kittens at the door of the milking barn in the pouring rain (ARGGG - how can someone be so mean ?!?!) on Wednesday. There were two orange tabby kittens in the box ... and both had an "M" on their forehead. (Two other neighbors adopted all of the others.)

So --- of course we adopted them immediately.

After drying off and a good meal of kitten-formula soaked Kitten Chow, it appears they are healthy. One is a boy and one is a girl. And it appears that they are approximately 4 weeks old. We are working on litter training them, so they are limited to a small area of the house right now.

The next question --- what shall we name them ?
We decided on biblical names.

Miriam means "one who is longed for". She is lighter in color, and is very calm. She is also very verbal -- she "talks" whenever her eyes are open.
And Moses means "taken from the water". He is slight darker orange than his sister.
And he is the most adventurous.

Miriam and Moses are thriving -- they are loved, petted, cuddled, and pampered. It is difficult for the Cherubs to leave them alone when they are asleep -- they sleep A LOT. But in between those naps, well, they are so much fun !

Friday, May 08, 2009

This Week's Fun

Money does not stretch very far these days !

But,on a whim, I splurged lately,
spending $12 total on a
few clearance items that I spotted ... ... and it was money well spent.
That $12 has provided
a full week's fun already.
And it's not over yet.
We have had many many rainy days
in the last month or more.
And with each approaching system,
the Cherubs would GRUMBLE ....
They were grumbling A LOT because
of the lack of nice weather.
But that has changed now ....
because with all of the weather systems
coming and going,
there has also been a lot of wind !!
Wind means KITE WEATHER !!
The Cherubs have spent
every free non-rainy moment
outside flying kites this week.
And what a grand time they've had !
I think next week we might try making
some kites of our own.

Monday, May 04, 2009

On Growing Sunflowers

We have a new project this year that the Cherubs are very excited about, and they asked me to share it here incase other families might like to try something like this too.

Last week the Cherubs and I built a raised 8x8 bed, and filled it full of good soil mixed with well-composted cow manure and mushroom compost. (We have terrible dirt here so we usually need to mix something with the clay before planting to help the plants succeed.) However, you can usually grow sunflowers in any loose healthy dirt that has at least 8 hours of bright sun exposure each day. You do not have to build a special "bed" for them. They are quite hearty and pretty adaptable. (Oh, and the seeds are really easy to locate and are usually very inexpensive !)

Then, we planted a wide variety of Sunflowers (multiple colors, multiple size blooms, multiple "types, including of sourse some Mammoth sunflowers which grow to be 12 feet tall). We also planted some free seeds sent to us by Hunt For The Bees -- The Great Sunflower Project.

And today, after 2+ days of rain, we noticed that our baby sunflowers have sprouted. All over the raised bed are little sprouts with 2 "tell tale" green leaves. It's hard to believe that those tiny sprouts will grow to be beautiful flowers ranging from 4 feet to 12 feet tall !!

Sunflowers are easy to grow most anywhere, are delightful to watch, and are beautiful to see.

Our plan is to participate in Hunt For The Bees -- The Great Sunflower Project by counting bees once the sunflowers bloom, and then to submit our data online. You can still sign up if you would like to participate ! And when you sign up, they will send you a packet of free sunflower seeds for planting complete with instructions and a sheet of paper for data keeping.

Ultimately, we plan to save the sunflower heads in the fall, when the seeds are dry and the flower heads are ready for harvesting -- these seed heads will be given to the birds that we love to watch as they come to visit our bird feeders. We will simply hang the whole cut sunflower heads outside near our other bird feeders -- providing our bird friends with a delicious buffet during the chilly monthes, and our family with hours of birdwatching for Nature Journal time when it is too cold or too wet to head outside.

For plenty of how-to information on growing sunflowers, check out The Sunflower Guide.

(photo above borrowed from The Sunflower Guide site)

Friday, May 01, 2009

Summer Vacation

Our school year is finished !!
Yahooo !!
Our Field Trip week did not go
quite as planned (DadToCherubs had to work a lot)
but we intend to get those missed trips in shortly.
(Hopefully before it gets too hot !) And as promised, DadToCherubs
announced his Summer Vacation Rules ....
much to the displeasure of certain
Cherubs who will remain unnamed.
No video games
No computer playing.

No television.
(except for an occassional Family Movie night.)
DadToCherubs & I suggested a new idea -- to assemble a Plan Of The Day.
A Daily To-Do List for each Cherub that must be completed before 12noon.
Things such as gardening, canning, projects, errands, housework, baking, etc .
And if they get finished earlier, that's even better !
Some Cherubs LOVED this idea ....
and some Cherubs were not so pleased.
(the irritated parties shall remain nameless)
Then, after lunchtime (at 12noon), the Cherubs will
be "free" (assuming their jobs are finished) for the
remainder of the day, until dinnertime at 7pm.
Seven hours of free time is A LOT of FREE time.
A lot of potential-lazy-dog-day time, for the unmotivated.
It is our hope that this "plan" will minimize some family members working their whole summer away while the others do nothing but play, play, play. And we also hope it will minimize the "I'm bored" issues, and the boredom-inspired bickering episodes. Spreading the work (not the wealth - ha !) and getting accomplished what needs to be done every day -
with some peace, hard work, creativity, and fun added in.
And of course we will continue our Before Bedtime Reading, as always.
Everyone here loves Before Bedtime Reading !
Also, DadToCherub said that the Cherubs are expected to work on and finish a new project each week (more time of course is ok if it is needed) during some of their free time-- the project is their choice. We have several old Scout handbooks, the Daring Book for Girls, and the Dangerous Book for Boys for ideas, plus several other resources. And we visit the library weekly too if more ideas or resources are required. The idea is to encourage the Cherubs to use these "vacation weeks" to do some new things -- building things, creating useful things, general tinkering, sports, outdoor games, sports, fishing, art projects, forts, sky watching, more nature discoveries, making swings, hikes, wild food identification -- essentially trying new hobbies and acquiring other useful skills.
The goal is to have no "lazy dog days" here
(or at least very few of them).
To be honest, it seems that some Cherubs
find and do these sorts of "projects" on their own,
and that others need to be pushed a bit to do
"new" things or necessary things.
Does this happen in your family too ?? (Just curious !)
We also have some day trips, weekend activities,
and some short-distance traveling planned.
Mountains, lakes, fairs, museums, hikes, picnics, etc.
And of course swimming in the pool ...
and perhaps on the summer swim team to ??
Those summer-only activities
are almost the best part
of Summer Vacation, aren't they ?!?!
So --- that's the plan.
What's your plan ?