March 31, 2015

Learning by Hand: Watercolors

As I mentioned last month in Craft Lack, our local homeschool group has the opportunity to take art lessons from a pro.  March's lesson was watercolors, and I paid my fee to join in officially this time. :)

First, we were taught a few techniques, which we practiced on the 3 blocks of paper you see below.  Mine is on the left, my son's on the right.  We learned washing, lifting, dry brush, gradients, wet-on-wet, stamping, splatter, and of course, color mixing.  The we got our new sheets for the tree, on which we used yellow, then blue, to let them run together into a green.  We added shading, then I started on grass and sky but it was time to go :(  I didn't want to stop!

 Next month's art class will be acrylic painting, which we have attempted successfully at home in the past.  I hope they boy feels more comfortable with that, although he has enjoyed this and the drawing class just fine for the first 30 minutes.  His attention and sensory issues just can't let him enjoy it for the full hour at this time.

March 26, 2015

Nature Study in March

March.  We had snow melting from February, then we had fresh, new snow and below zero temperatures.

February's huge snow is nearly gone, and then...
BAM!  Another oddly large snow for our area.
We had sun and 68.  We had clouds and 75.  Now its raining and 44.  Who needs the other months of the year??  March has it ALL.  Here are some photos of  our time outdoors, or the birdies at the feeders.

The beginnings of green on the tips of the trees
The first daffodil blooms, followed by...
the entire hilltop covered in the prettiest yellow blooms!
For some extra excitement, we spotted a bird we have never seen before!!  There were TWO purple finches, which our Merlin Bird ID app said was a rare find.  Go us!  My pictures aren't good, though.  The Boy tried to draw it, along with my kitchen with ants on the counter ;)  The bird is brown with a red head, as you can clearly see. *grin*

Zoomed in as far as I could get - 2 purple finches
When they got scared at the front feeder, they flew to the back.
Yes, we had ants invade the kitchen.  We checked them out closely, and attempted a drawing.

Thus concludes March, end of our unit on weather, and beginning of insects.  Since we had both this month, I would call that a success!

March 25, 2015

Wednesday with Words: Idylls of the King

We are nearing the end of this epic poem by Tennyson: Idylls of the King.  This is the story of Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot and some knights of the Round Table.  I didn't know what to expect going into this (and wouldn't have even started if not for the Book Discussion area of the AO Forum!) and I'm still unsure of how I feel about this story.  I have long loved King Arthur and Camelot, and remember my parents watching the movie "Camelot" several times as I was growing up.  I loved The Once and Future King in 7th grade Lit class, and followed that up with Stephen Lawhead's books, The Pendragon series.  I absolutely gobbled them up in high school!  They swept me into their world and away.

So, maybe its the poetry that makes me concentrate harder that keeps me from feeling as swept away in the case of Idylls.  Maybe I'm just older and have less time to concentrate on pleasure reading, even if I do count it as teacher prep, since it will come around in AO's curriculum soon enough.  Or maybe it was the older grammar and phrasing used by Tennyson to tell the story.  Regardless of my feelings about the poetry, it is interesting, full of imagery and passion in its own right.  It has given me food for thought, and here are some of the quotes that struck me along the way.

The Coming of Arthur

'The King will follow Christ, and we the King
In whom high God hath breathed a secret thing.
Fall battleaxe, and flash brand! Let the King reign.'
  So sang the knighthood, moving to their hall.
Is anyone worthy of such devotion?
The old order changeth, yielding place to new;
And we that fight for our fair father Christ,
Seeing that ye be grown too weak and old
To drive the heathen from your Roman wall,
No tribute will we pay:' so those great lords
Drew back in wrath, and Arthur strove with Rome.
 I like that this gives a time and place for the story, and a reason for the wars.

Gareth and Lynette

Seer to Gareth, before he is knighted:
For an ye heard a music, like enow
They are building still, seeing the city is built
To music, therefore never built at all,
And therefore built for ever.'

Sir Kay to Lancelot, regarding Gareth:
Sir Fine-face, Sir Fair-hands? but see thou to it
That thine own fineness, Lancelot, some fine day
Undo thee not--and leave my man to me.'

Lord Baron to Gareth:
'Friend, whether thou be kitchen-knave, or not,
Or whether it be the maiden's fantasy,
And whether she be mad, or else the King,
Or both or neither, or thyself be mad,
I ask not: but thou strikes a strong stroke,
For strong thou art and goodly therewithal,
And saver of my life; and therefore now,
For here be mighty men to joust with, weigh
Whether thou wilt not with the damsel back
To crave again Sir Lancelot of the King.

The Marriage of Geraint

Geraint leaves to defend his own land...
Where, thinking, that if ever yet was wife
True to her lord, mine shall be so to me,
He compassed her with sweet observances
And worship, never leaving her, and grew
Forgetful of his promise to the King,
Forgetful of the falcon and the hunt,
Forgetful of the tilt and tournament,
Forgetful of his glory and his name,
Forgetful of his princedom and its cares.
And this forgetfulness was hateful to her.

Take note, men! Haha. There can be too much of a good thing.

I'll take up Geraint and Enid and the next few Idylls soon!  Enjoy your reading!

March 18, 2015

Random Quotes

I'll take a break from Stepping Heavenward quotes and give you a pick at a few other words I've been pondering.
"The cure for anything is saltwater: sweat, tears, or the sea." -isak dinesen
Isn't that great?!  I love it.  Found that on Facebook. :)  As you can see from the next quote, I have been doing some reading on minimalism as I declutter.  Its such a good feeling to see clear, flat spaces  again, and to get rid of things I no longer need or even want.
"It's ironic but true: a minimalist lifestyle leads to a broader, more varied life." - The Minimalist Lifestyle
First signs of spring - bit of green on the trees along the creek

I don't remember where I found this one, but it was said by Micael Leunig.
"Love one another and you will be happy.  It's as simple and as difficult as that."
Jump into spring ;)
My own pastor, a couple of Sunday's ago was preaching on prayer and came up with this one, from Exodus 33:12-23.  Yes, it pretty much covers it all!
"Lord, help me to know You; help me to walk in Your presence; reveal to me Your glory."
First daffodils of the year
Over at the AO Forums, we completed reading Charlotte Mason's second volume, Parents and Children.  I have so many highlights and notes from this reading!  Here are a few of my favorites from chapter 25.
"...the Divine Spirit does not work with nouns of multitude, but with each single child." pg. 273
"...let her [the mother/teacher] never contemplate any kind of instruction for her child, except under the sense of the divine cooperation." -pg. 274
"...children must have books, giving books; the best are not too good for them; anything less than the best is not good enough; and if it be needful to exercise economy, let go everything that belongs to soft and luxurious living before letting go they duty of supplying the books, which are necessary for the constant stimulation of the child's intellectual life." -pg. 280

March 11, 2015

Stepping Heavenward, Again

Last week I shared my favorite quotes from Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss, but only got to chapter 4 before it got long so am continuing on.  I have been busily copying down more of my Kindle highlights into my commonplace book, as you can see here.

This book not only fills my commonplace, but it fills my mind with good thoughts and feeds my soul.  Sometimes, you find the right book at the right time.

From chapter 4, Katy's pastor speaking:
"You have tried living for yourself a good many years, and the result is great weariness and heaviness of soul.  Try now to live for others."
From chapter 5, a nice bit on habits that Charlotte Mason might have loved:
How much work, badly done, I am now having to undo!  If I had begun in earnest to serve God when I was as young as these children are, how many wrong habits I should have avoided, habits that entangle me now as in so many nets.
And these next two quotes seems to capture the entire premise of the book:
The truth is, the journey heavenward is all uphill.  I have to force myself to keep on. 
I see that if I would be happy in God, I must give Him all.  And there is a wicked reluctance to do that.  I want Him but I want to have my own way, too.  I want to walk humbly and softly before Him, and I want to go where I shall be admired and applauded.  To whom shall I yield?  To God?  Or to myself?
Wow - Doesn't that just boil down our every day struggles?  Chapters 5 and 6 were full of such great passages.  I think I could have copied the chapter 6 in its entirety - it is well worth reading more than once!
Remember that it is His will that you should be sanctified and that the work of making you holy is His, not yours.  At the same time, you are not to sit with folded hands, waiting for this blessing.  You are to avoid laying hinderances in His way, and you are to exercise faith in Him as just as able and just as willing to give you sanctification as He was to give you redemption.
She writes again of Bible study, and this time adds her thoughts on other devotional reading.  I admit that just doing Bible study itself is the extent of my efforts, so I am considering which devotional authors I should try.  I can't read my favorites until I *have* some favorites, after all.
   In reading the Bible I advise you to choose detached passages, or even one verse a day, rather than whole chapters.  Study ever word; ponder and pray over it till you have got from it all the truth it contains.
   As to the other devotional reading, it is better to settle down on a few favorite authors and read their works over and over and over until you have digested their thoughts and made them your own.
Who are your favorite devotional authors?  Have you tried doing Bible study in that way?

This post is linked to A Mother's Feast @ Stronghaven, Keeping Company @ Joyous Lesson, and Wednesdays with Words @ Ladydusk.

March 10, 2015

Best Kid Ever

Two weeks ago, on the drive home from OT, the Boy told me that his therapist told him he was "very good, easy to work with, and the  Best Kid Ever." Haha!!  I said, "That's great, I'm glad you work so hard for them.  Why don't you work that hard at home?"  And he said.....wait for it..... "because I know you are paying a lot of money and I don't want to waste it."  Very considerate, son.

One of these days, I'll convince him it will save even more money just to work hard for me at home, then we don't have to go to therapy at all!  Ah, he makes me laugh.

My cool Creeper
So, therapy is going well.  He is on week 19 of Minds in Motion (I'm not sure how many there are left), and has very little trouble doing the prescribed exercises.  He does more handwriting for his therapist BY FAR than what he does for me at home.  He does matching games, word finds, mazes, puzzles and more to work his eye coordination and hand strength.  We have started taking his cursive copywork book to OT, so he can continue with school work while there.  They actually did some dictation last week, which is encouraging, as when we start AO4, that's on the list of new things.

They still do feeding therapy, about every other week, and I'm seeing less progress in that area.  He dreads trying foods more than he hates handwriting, and that's saying something!  Progress, not perfection.  Progress, not perfection, Mama.  We'll get there.
Cats - Great for learning responsibility and for sensory input!
Today is a big day.  After regular OT this morning, we are heading an hour and a half the opposite direction (read: we'll be in the car at least 4 hours today) for another evaluation.  This time, he will see a lady who specializes in autism, and will do preliminary testing on that front, and for dyslexia as well.  I don't know how much will get done in one appointment, but it would be great if thorough and accurate evaluation could be done for both issues, as well as ADHD, which often accompanies both autism and dyslexia.  Its going to be a long day, so send us prayers and kind wishes!

March 9, 2015

Spring Break means Spring Clean

With exams completed for year 3.5, we are taking a spring break before beginning year 4. This week includes various appointments and evaluations, decluttering and spring cleaning.  The weather is warmer (50's at last!) and the snow will disappear with Tuesday's rain.  Below are pictures of our record-breaking snow in central Kentucky, courtesy of Winter Storm Thor.

I love the feeling of decluttering and spring cleaning.  The idea of making a fresh start is vitalizing!  I'm clearing out clothes, dishes, toys, books, music, movies, games, and home decor a little at a time and loading it in the car to take to my friend's house.  She is having a huge adoption fundraising yard sale in a couple of months, so its the perfect change to help her out, clear the house of things we no longer need, and help others find some good deals.

While I'm at it, I'm going to declutter digitally - getting rid of apps that waste my time.  Those time-sucking games, ugh!  I would be better off reading books, magazines and blogs then playing those silly games.  I've given up specific games in the past for Lent, and while its a late start for this year, I am going to do so again.  I usually find that once I'm out of the habit of playing a particular game, I rarely ever want to go back to it.  And that time will be given to more worthy pursuits...until its not and I have to reassess myself again.

Snow nearly gone!
So I'll be freeing up space in my home, my mind, and finding margin for my day!  What are you doing to declutter your life?

If you feel like you need help freeing up space in your mind so you can just focus, Mystie Winckler has a free email course on how to do a Brain Dump.  I just completed it myself, and its another way of finding a fresh start!
(You can also sign-up for her Simplified Organization course - I have an affiliate banner on the right.)

March 6, 2015

Time for Exams!!

I don't think I've written about our school exams before.  Ambleside Online posted exam questions for each term of each year a couple of years ago, and I hadn't gotten my head wrapped around this whole CM education thing well enough before that do try it on my own, so he had no exams in year 1 and part of year 2.  The first time we did exams was a learning experience for us both, but he has learned to look forward to these light days.  The excitement of seeing what he remembers, getting to draw it, record himself and show it to Daddy makes for smooth and easy days. :)

Here is AO's suggested exam questions for yr 3.5, term 2, which we will be doing this afternoon and Monday (you can spread it out over a whole week, but at this age, it doesn't seem necessary).  As I rearranged some of the books, mine won't look just like that, but I am SO thankful that the initial work has been done.  Even when I followed the plan in year 3 exactly, I still had to tweak a few of the questions and simplify some things, so don't be afraid to make these exams your own, just as you do the curriculum.  One size does not fit all!

Here is our Year 3 Term 2 exam, from right about a year ago.

Here are his exam questions and results from term 1 of his 4th grade.  There was quite a bit improvement between this and the one linked above.  The thing to remember about doing an exam the Charlotte Mason way is that it isn't about getting everything right.  Its about seeing what is retained, and I as the teacher determining what can be changed in order for him to remember more.  Answering open-ended types of questions if much more difficult than multiple choice and true or false.  Starting at a young age means the mental strength for essay questions is developed all along, making speaking and writing more fluent in later years.
Example of a drawn narration, which he then describes aloud
In addition to what I transcribed in those files, I also recorded, or at least listened to, his read-aloud and recitation (poetry, Bible verses).  I keep it as light and fun as we can, and so far it has been amazing how different his attitude is towards exams verses those of public school (dread, eye-rolling, stress).  Let's hope it stays positive for many more years.

So how do you do exam time in your home?  Do the kids love it or loathe it?

March 4, 2015

Wednesday with Words: Stepping Heavenward

I'm trying to be more intentional about blogging, and one way to do so is to keep myself accountable. I'm joining more blog hops, link-ups, and carnivals in hopes that the day those are posted will be a loose schedule for me.  So far, it seems to be working! :)

Wednesday with Words has been going on a long time, and the host is Lady Dusk.  She has a great blog, so check it out!  To participate, each Wednesday (or thereabout) I will post some words I have found that have struck a chord in my life.  Many of those words will have found a home in my commonplace book.

I finished reading Stepping Heavenward (by Elizabeth Prentiss) last night.  I highlighted gobs of this book, which is a journal written in the early to  mid-1950's by a young lady, who becomes a wife, then a mother.  Throughout her life, she struggles with her God, her Christianity, and how best to live.  It chronicles her fight against her own sins, her acceptance of God's will in her life, her joys and her pains.  If you want to be inspired and amazed, you should read this book.  (Thanks to my Daddy for the Kindle version as my Christmas gift!)

I'll try to narrow my highlights down to just a few quotes for today!

From chapter one, on how to do Bible study:
"A few verses," she said, "carefully read and pondered, instead of a chapter or two read for mere form's sake."

From chapter 4, in a conversation with her pastor:
"You are as yet but a babe in Christ," Dr. Cabot continued.  "You love your God and Savior because He first loved you.  The time will come when the character of your love will become changed into one, which sees and feels the beauty and the perfection of its object; and if you could be assured that He no longer looked on you with favor, you would still cling to Him with devoted affection."

Later in the same conversation, on her struggles with living at home with her mother:
"Then, dear Katy, suppose your first act of heroism tomorrow should be gratifying your mother in these little things, little though they are.  Surely your first duty, next to pleasing God, is to please your mother and in every possible way to sweeten and beautify her life.  You may depend upon it that a life of real heroism and self-sacrifice must begin and lay its foundation in this little world wherein it learns its first lesson and takes its first steps."

See?!  Such wisdom in this book.  I may have to share more of it next week!  For now, here is my take-away lesson.  Start where you are and love whom with God has placed you, wherever you may be.  Continue to learn and grow!