Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Joys of January

I can't believe we are already a whole month into 2010! I'm barely back in the saddle and we have February vacation in 2 weeks! Not that I mind of course. I can't seem to find time lately to blog more than once a month and then I have to get a marathon blog up before the month ends so I will feel that I have things in proper order. Generally I am not all that orderly, as most of you know, so I have to hang on to the few orderly things I have.

So, diving in to 2010. The kids have become rather accomplished chess players. They even go to chess club with their daddy now. It's so cute. I'm not very into the game myself. I have enough things to think about all day long, it doesn't amuse me to concentrate so hard on a game, but I am really glad that Jason and the kids are playing often. The mental gymnastics (that are too much for me) are great for the kids!

Ian is actually too young for chess club so he stays home with me and we play some cool games. We built this Jenga tower together and Ian was very proud. I think we had 37 levels!
The first week that everyone was back to school we did a fun unit on a book called "The Quilt Maker's Gift" by Jeff Brumbeau. The kids did some neat quilt projects. The girls enjoyed sewing quilt patches together to make a pillow

Everyone also made quilt patterns for art class. They chose their paper and then had to cut their pieces to size and follow the pattern. It varied in difficulty for each age. They all did a great job and we realized that quilting is not easy! I had always thought it would be a nice hobby to take up but it, like chess, definitely takes more brainpower than I am willing to lend to a hobby right now lol!

In our story, the quilt maker had a tea party and I took the opportunity to enjoy one with the kids too. We made blueberry scones and practiced our manners as we sipped our delightful tea. I think tea parties should be a much more regular occurrence.

Ian, who loves tea, thinks so too.
Bella, Lexie and Hannah designed their own cereal boxes. We didn't actually go as far as making their cereal but their ingredients sure sounded interesting...
As we began our study of Europe I realized that we needed a better understanding of history as a whole. I made a huge time line from 4000BC to the present so that the kids could see how young America really is and how much history actually passed before our country was even a country. I wanted them to see how "old" the countries in Europe are in comparison to ours. The time line made a lot of sense to them. We've pulled it out a few times this month in relation to our studies.

The first European country we are studying is France. We started with a book called "The Butterfly" by Patricia Polacco. It took place during World War II. It was a beautiful true story of a young girl and her mother hiding a Jewish family and trying to help them escape France safely. Although I hadn't planned it, it fit so perfectly with our scripture for the week which was:
Greater love has no one than this than to lay down one's life for his friends... The story was a beautiful picture of this scripture as the main characters risked their lives to help others.

For art that week we all made butterflies and they will be sent to the Holocaust Museum in Houston TX to be displayed with 1.4 million other butterflies to represent the 1.4 million children who lost their lives in that terrible war.

On a lighter note, Isaac and Ian worked together very nicely making their Lightening McQueen Sand Art as a sensory activity.
We had a spontaneous TLC sleep over one Thursday evening and the kids all did their Friday "homework" here.
Since Ian doesn't have Friday "homework" he is inclined to find some creative way to pass his time while the other work. This day he was particularly creative while I was folding laundry. He used his undies to make a superhero mask. He's a pretty funny kid to say the least!
Another morning recently I found him wearing my scarf as pants. He had been being pulled around the house by Isaac on a "sleigh" and when I asked if he was Santa he said "No, I'm Hermie (the dentist elf from Rudolph). I stole the sleigh!" He sure keeps me laughing!
After all that Friday work I took the kids out sledding! We had a blast. The snow on the hill was a bit sparse but everything was so frozen that it didn't matter a bit. The sleds were running at top speed and they even slid down on their bellies like penguins!

I've been trying to make it a point to get outside a little more this winter than last and I have a friend who encourages me to do it by inviting me out on little winter hikes! We took a little field trip to look for animal tracks one afternoon after some fresh snow had fallen a few days before. It was so much fun! We saw a LOT of tracks. They were hard to identify because the snow was pretty deep but the kids had so much fun using their little track guides and trying to figure them out. It felt good to be out getting some fresh air. We all came home rosy cheeked and had some homemade cocoa.

In addition to being hilarious, Ian is also a hard worker and he is cruising through his phonics books! He was very proud to finish the second in his series and move on to the last one!
We had another Pajama Day the other day. That never gets old to me. It's so cozy to be all snuggled up in our jammies on a cold winter day! It makes me feel a bit lazy though so I had the girls cook lunch! They made eggs, sausage and french toast! It was delicious. We used up the last of our maple syrup that we bought in the fall before our local orchard closed up for winter...good thing March is right around the corner and we can maybe make a little of our own again!
Isabella is still swimming! She has had quite a few swim meets and she is doing very well! I am very impressed with how much she has learned and improved since she started. Most importantly, she loves it! We thought the season was over with her last meet in January but were delightfully surprised when her coach added a few more meets into February! The only thing with swimming is how difficult it is to get good pictures of my little swimmer in action! Maybe it's time for a camera upgrade...every good swimming parent needs to be able to take good pictures...
My kids and I participate in a Music and Art group once a month on one of the off days for the TLC. The kids are learning lots of songs to sing at a performace in June and my friend Amy teaches them music lessons each time we meet. She assigned them a report to do for this past meeting. They each had to do o brief report on a composer. It was really great to hear all the hard work the kids put into their reports. I was really proud of both Bella and Isaac!

After their Music lesson I led an art lesson. I am using a free curriculum available from a local library. You can check out giant laminated posters of specific pieces of art to show the kids. I give them some history and info about the piece and then I find a way for us to do some artwork that relates to the lesson. This week we viewed a photograph of the Ohio state capital building and discussed how a building can be art. This particular building's design was chosen through a contest. The kids had to create buildings to enter into the contest. I am continually amazed by everyone's creativity! They are all wonderful artists.
All month long Bella, Hannah and Lexie have been working on a book report from a historical fiction book. They had to make a diorama of a scene from their book and do a brief report on the time period that their book took place in. They had to present their reports orally and explain their diorama. They all did an incredible job. I was more than impressed with the dioramas and the reports. They all worked very hard to include special details and I think they all learned quite a bit!

Isabella's book was called "The diary of Marie Antoinette" and her diorama is a scene in which Marie is teaching her new young husband, the Dauphin of France, Louis Auguste, how to wade in a stream at a picnic.
Lexie read the story "Addy, An American Girl" and it takes place during the Civil War. Lexie's scene portrays Addy picking cotton and the slave master making her eat a worm from his whip.
Hannah read a story called "Five Smooth Stones" that took place during the Revolutionary War. Her diorama is a scene in the house of the main character just before they all come in for a meal.
This past week we have wrapped up our study of France with a book called "Marguerite Makes a Book" by Bruce Robertson. It takes place in the Middle Ages and Marguerite helps her father "illuminate" a "Book of Hours" for his patron. The kids enjoyed their brief introduction to the Middle Ages and loved "illuminating" their own names below.

For the next two weeks we are going to be learning about the Winter Olympics, celebrating our 100th day of school and Valentines Day of course! We'll have lots of fun times to share!