Sunday, April 20, 2008

Ian's birthday among other things...

Here is the first beautiful flower of spring at our humble abode.. It was a few weeks ago and there are now some daffodils and other gloriously green things making their presence known. I am so glad it's spring.
We've been hard at work the past few weeks.

An ostrich lapbook...who knew they could kill a lion w/ a kick! I'm learning as much as the kids some days lol.

I have taken some time to evaluate what we've accomplished this year and what still needs to be done. Overall we are right on track, the challenge is to stay on track despite so much nice weather... We've had lots of fun playing outside this week.

We celebrated Ian's 3rd birthday this week too! Here is one of the birthday pictures that my sister Kimmy took of him at Sadie's in the Holyoke Mall. I'll be so sad when she doesn't work there anymore. I have the greatest collection of beautiful pictures of my children thanks to Kimmy.
We can never seem to get away with having just one party, much to the delight of the birthday boy/girl. First we had a party for Ian at Angela's house and then we had another one up here on Monday (his actual birthday). Both parties were a lot of fun. Its funny, in some ways I can't believe he's only 3, he's so big and he acts so mature...and in other ways, I can't believe my baby is already 3!!! Ian requested a lion theme for his parties this year so I had fun creating lion cakes and crafts and we had a wonderful time at both parties.

On Friday we went to a "curriculum fair" of sorts. The families in the homeschool group we are a part of got together to share info about their homeschool curriculums. It was really awesome to see and hear first hand about so many different resources. A lot of people came with things to give away too! Being rather new to all of this I was so excited to get so much information. We were blessed with lots of great resources that others were finished with. I am excited to plan things out for next year! A lot of what we have done this year will carry over next year. We will still plan to use our geography studies as our catalyst for other studies. This year we studied North America and Africa...we've still got 5 continents to go! We are going to add some of the rich literature units from Five In a Row to our routine. The math curriculum I bought, Shiller Math, should get Bella through the end of next year. I think we'll try Singapore math after that. We got some free second grade spelling books and I am going to look into purchasing a grammar curriculum called Easy Grammar. Bella will probably start cursive, possibly using Handwriting Without Tears. I also have a ton of resources for Isaac to start his kindergarten work. Ian should be a genius by the end of the year if he pays attention to all I am doing w/ his siblings lol.

One of the best things about going to Amy's for the curriculum fair was that she has a beautiful stream in her backyard. It cascades down the mountain behind her yard creating little waterfalls and pools. The weather was amazing and the kids had so much fun playing in the stream. There were lots and lots of kids there so we made some new friends and enjoyed exploring.

Now it's vacation week!! I am headed to a retreat in Maryland and the kids will be at my moms for a few days. I am praying it will be a refreshing and fun time for all of us.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Isabella's big accomplishment

I am proud to announce that Isabella Corbett is the 1st place winner for the first grade level of the WGBY Reading Rainbow writing competition!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
At the end of March I mentioned her story in our blog. I can't say enough about how hard she worked on her story. She brainstormed every element of the story, wrote it, revised it a few times and took 3 days to illustrate it. It was very challenging but her perseverance and hard work has certainly paid off!! On May 18th we will attend a luncheon and award ceremony at the Eric Carle Museum. I am just so excited and proud of my girl! I can't wait to see her accept her reward. It's going to be such a special day!
Her story will now go on to the national competition to be judged for a shot at the grand prize (a laptop!!).
I scanned her story before we sent it so I am posting it as large as I can below so you can see the hard work of her award winning story!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Maple syrup among other things

Our biggest accomplishment of the week was.....drumroll please.....We made our own maple syrup!!!!!!! In late February my Uncle Teddy came up and tapped two of our maple trees for us. We have been collecting sap everyday since then and boiling it down to a concentrate (almost syrup) and storing it in the fridge. On Monday the sap stopped flowing so we decided it was time to boil all of the concentrate into syrup. I don't have any fancy equipment so its sort of a hodgepodge process but we managed to get about 30 oz of syrup or so, enough for a few servings of pancakes anyway. Its not perfect (it came out a little cloudy and is crystallizing a bit) but it sure did taste good when we had a whole grain pancake feast w/ our own syrup on Tuesday morning. Next year I may invest in a thermometer for boiling down the concentrate so I can get it just right. We also might try to tap another tree or two and make some more for sharing! Overall it was a fun and rewarding process!

The kids loved checking the taps everyday. We didn't have covered buckets so we used some juice bottles. They worked great and kept the bugs and debris out very well.
After all of the boiling (good thing we don't have wallpaper we would have steamed it off the walls) and lots of waiting we finally enjoyed the fruit of our labor, and it sure was yummy!

The weather is finally getting beautiful even way up here in the Berkshires!!!! We've had so much fun getting outside. It's our first spring in our new yard and we are having so much fun cleaning up and discovering new things and planning for the future. We put the kids swing set up today and they were so so so excited. The boys have a designated spot for digging that is hidden between our two sheds. We tried to have a sand box for the last few years at our old house but it was never as appealing as real dirt. This year I gave up and decided to forget the sandbox and just give them a place to dig holes that no one would trip in. We've finished cleaning up most of the backyard and I will probably clean out the gardens in the front tomorrow. I am so excited to see what emerges in my new gardens! I have a lot of plants from Monson that I put in a holding bed at my moms so I have to figure out where to put everything! The kids are excited to help too. They love helping with yard work and gardening and its wonderful this year that everyone is old enough to actually be helpful!
Despite our outdoor adventures, which are of course learning experiences in themselves, we have still managed to get a good amount of schoolwork done. This past Friday was a neat day for the kids because they got to have a few different teachers at home. Early in the day Crystal watched them while I ran a few errands and she taught them some more Spanish. I worked on Mosaics with them and then later my sisters came for a sleep over and my sister Kimberly read to them about lion cubs. I think the naturalness of homeschooling is really interesting. I hadn't asked Crystal or Kimberly to "teach" the kids anything, yet they both accomplished things on my weekly lesson plans and added their own personal touch!
My sisters weren't the only ones who came for the sleep over. My niece Madilynn came too!!! It was her first sleep over anywhere and we were so excited. She was ridiculously adorable when she arrived in her leopard print jumper dress that of course matched our African theme perfectly.

The time together with my sisters was wonderful. It was such a refreshing time to laugh, cry, relax and scrapbook with my sisters. I wish we could do it more often and I cherish the times that we can.

So far this week has been really wonderful. We don't have any plans or commitments and have been able to accomplish a lot. We started our park explorations. I promised the children all winter that when it warmed up we would check out all of the playgrounds we could find. There are so many! Pittsfield has lots of parks and there's a bunch of elementary schools too, not to mention all of the other surrounding towns. We've got a lot of exploring to do. Saturday we went to the one closest to us at Capeless elementary. It has a little "fitness circuit" where the kids can use specific equipment to "work" different muscles or abilities. They loved it. They pretended they were at the gym working out. It was cute. On Monday we went to a small playground at Onota Lake (also very close by) and then explored the shore and threw some rocks in the water. It was just so nice to be outside enjoying God's creation with the three beautiful children He has blessed me with.

I just love playground pictures!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Galloping the Globe

We've been doing all sorts of fun things! Last week Isabella finished a story that she had been working on for almost a month! We sent the finished product off the a Reading Rainbow contest. She had brainstormed every element of the story, wrote it, and revised it to fit in the number of words for the contest and then she did some amazing illustrations. I am so proud of her hard work. Her story was called "The Tale of the Hummingbird" and it was about a hummingbird who got chased by a cat in a garden. She illustrated it by doing paper piecing for the background and drawing each character. Nothing is complete without a little glitter of course so we added some of that too. Just before we were ready to mail everything out, Isaac decided to write and illustrate a story too! His was called "Chugger and Grumpy" and was about a train and a motorcycle. Here are samples of the finished products. Bella's story...

and Isaac's.

Contest winners or not, they both did award winning work in my opinion.

We had a wonderful weekend, my niece Natalie spent a few nights, my college roommate Becky and her husband Jesse visited with their two beautiful children, Jack and Ella (but I forgot to get the camera out :( too busy catching up!) We went to a spaghetti dinner to support the missionaries to Africa that go to our church. It tied in beautifully with our study of Africa! It's a small way to help but lots of smalls put together makes a big! They raised over $1000.00 and split it between two groups, Africa Connect and Operation Nehemiah.

This week we took a short break from Africa on Monday morning and turned our attention to Japan. Our homeschooling group has a "Travel Day" once a month and families come together and take turns "bringing" us to different places. This month we "traveled" to Japan thanks to Wendy (and Nancy because she lets us come and trash her house every month). There were 35 people in attendance, 28 of whom were kids (or teens). So much for unsocialized homeschoolers! We had a blast. Isabella made an origami Samurai hat and all three kids made paper stuffed fish (which they love and haven't stopped playing with). We also ate sticky rice and seaweed with chopsticks! After, we took Ziah home with us for lunch and took a trip to the library. It was a pretty busy day overall. Hard to believe we packed all of our regular school lessons and a mini snowstorm in there too!

Today it was back to Africa. This week we are focusing on Morocco and African arts. Yesterday we learned a bit about music in Africa and today we learned how to play Kigogo (or Mancala). Bella and Hannah got the hang of it quick and Isabella challenged (and beat) me and her daddy too.

We also worked on making beaded bracelets in pretty patterns like the women of the South African Ndele tribe. At first it was just Isabella and Hannah working hard at their craft but soon Isaac and Ian came to join as well! I was amazed at what a great job everyone did. Isabella and Hannah made wonderful color choices and created some really beautiful pieces. Isaac also did a great job trying out patterns and Ian demonstrated amazing focus as he filled up his entire string with beads! They were all proud of their beautiful work and I am too, of course.

As we study Morocco I am planning to create my first lapbook on my own. I have done a few now and have gotten most of them for free from Homeschoolshare so I am trying to make one of my own to contribute to their site. Surprisingly I am just in time for a curriculum drive contest that they are having. It's going to be a lot of work but I am so thankful for all of the people who have put together the ones we've used so far, I am compelled to give back. Hopefully I will have it done before we are done with our Africa study lol.

So it snowed on Monday and we traveled to Japan and today it was 60 with thunderstorms as we traveled to Africa...I wonder what tomorrow will bring in the Berkshires...I'll keep you posted.