Sunday, June 27, 2010

the school year

We are officially on our summer break. Have been for a few weeks now. We all are enjoying the different (not necessarily slower) pace which allows us to do more of what we want and less of the to-do's on our check list.

This blog is a family scrapbook. We only write about and post things that we think we will care to read in the future. With that in mind, I think we will want to remember some of what our school days were like. I had better document it a little bit before I forget it all entirely.

This year we waited to start our school schedule until October. It was all because of this guy.

I wanted Justus to be on a somewhat predictable schedule and allowing me to get full nights of sleep before we started into the thick of it. It worked out splendidly and as a result of no teacher workdays, snow-days, and very few random holidays we were able to put in a full year and still end by June!

Once we began, Aidan enjoyed a terrific third grade year. I think "The Year of Independence" would be a good label for it. This year, I could count on him to follow his checklist and accomplish many tasks without me. He would see what subjects were required for that day, work on them, check them off and leave the work on the counter for me to go over when I had time. This independence was such a wonderful thing to see because in the past three years Aidan has needed much from me in order to move on to the next thing without loosing a bunch of time, focus, papers, pencils, books and oomph! Maturity and personality go hand in hand to bring about this change.

Aidan has been moving along nicely in math never having trouble with the concepts. The only speed bumps he encountered has to do with diligence and attention to details. For instance, long division would get tedious and he would begin to make errors. A problem both Mike and I empathized with and were able to steer him successfully away from.

Aidan cruised through cursive, beginning Latin, logic (mind-benders), literature, spelling, Spanish, typing and Bible/memory work without a hitch. Our grammar and writing book did not work for us and that is one ball that I dropped; I know what the problem is/was and I have a plan to remedy that for next year. Aidan says his favorite subject this past year was reading (I had him read books that I picked out during this time rather than the usual fare that he reads on his own.)

For history, science and read alouds Aidan, Luke and I would work together. This is for sure my favorite part of homeschooling. I started four years ago with creation and we have worked our way chronologically through the pilgrims (we will pick up with them in the fall). We worked on maps and geography, a few projects and enjoyed many books (historical fiction and non-fiction) written about our current time period. In science we focused on astronomy this year and enjoyed all that we read. I intended for us to do a lot of observing but this is something that we just never got around to. Thankfully our school is not closing and my students are not moving on to another teacher so that we can look forward to more in the future.

These two subjects were made even more fun because we did them together. Luke, Aidan and I were all equally learning together and we would take turns "teaching" Mike and the other kids at the dinner table. Good times.

(Aidan, Luke and friends with Ken Ham)
Luke's year of first grade required a lot of intense one on one instruction from me and thankfully Ava and Ethan made this possible by playing so nicely together on their own or doing one of the many activities I made available for them (think: really, really big mess). I would reserve these times to happen during Justus' naps and as a result Luke accomplished a wonderful year of reading practice (reading out loud to me books of increasing difficulty), phonics, grammar, spelling, and math. On his own he worked on handwriting, Spanish and Bible/memory and I have to mention that his handwriting is already much neater than that of his family members!

It has been fun to grow to understand the way Luke learns best. Luke is much more particular about details and really cares about getting things right (I have no idea where he gets that). He and I learned a lot this year about how to accomplish all of our goals with each subject we tackled. I am really pleased with the progress Luke made and the confidence he has gained in his abilities.

I completely loved observing Luke hold his own in subjects that we did together with Aidan. He did well learning side by side with a brother two years older. Luke seems to have a special affinity for science and he says his favorite subject was sometimes math, sometimes spelling and sometimes reading.

The nature of our homeschool requires a bit of patience from the students. If Justus needed a diaper change or woke early from a nap, if Ava and Ethan needed some help or discipline, etc., etc., and etc, Aidan and Luke would be put on hold, asked to do something else for a few minutes or were required to keep on working despite interruption. They are used to this. They don't know it any other way. But this year I am especially thankful for how flexible Luke was in this regard. Near the end of the year, Luke often would read to me standing near the sink while I did the breakfast dishes so that I did not get too far behind on my work but could still look over his shoulder and help him with difficult words. He would receive spelling tests while I was making lunch and would have to remind me over and over that he was ready for the next word. And he would often receive his grammar/math/phonics lesson from me while I was nursing Justus who would be happily kicking him as he sat beside me. I am thankful for Luke's adaptability this year and I look forward to seeing how the Lord uses the strength this "grew" in him in the future.

Those are the nuts and bolts. The notes that I feel like making after a few weeks break. There were many days that I felt it was impossible (true with many jobs/teachers/students), many days that did not run smoothly, and many days that were almost euphoric as I saw my students grow in their understanding. Taken as a whole, I am so glad we do it this way.

Homeschooling may not be the easiest way to pour information into my kid's heads but it is the easiest way to know exactly what facts and whose worldview they are getting. We feel it is the best way to ensure that their character is being molded in truth and righteousness one day at a time, one hour at a time. I am so thankful to have so many hours to spend with these kids learning with them, about them, and teaching them exactly what Mike and I want them to be taught. The academics are not the end goal of our choice to homeschool but I sure am delighted to see that (so far) we have been able to be really successful in this area!

Now if I could just stop shaking in my boots as I consider the challenges of adding Kindergarten with Ethan (aka the wild one) to our year of second and fourth grade! I will be praying for a lot of wisdom!

Friday, June 25, 2010

a visit to the civil war

Mike took the boys on a field trip to learn about the Civil War a few months ago.

They had a blast going from station to station with a group of homeschoolers learning all about that time in history.

They of course loved all things weapons.

As I was looking trough the pictures of the many field trips we took this year, I loved seeing how many of them had Aidan raising his hand. He is just like Mike when it comes to asking questions in order to fully learn about a subject.

While standing at this station, Ethan raised his hand to ask, "How big are your guns?" That, my friends is an example of wanting to hear yourself talk more than needing an answer to a question!
They also learned about sending secret messages using quilt patterns, make-shift hospitals and some of the complexities of the conflict.

It is field trips like this one that make me so thankful that we live in an area with such a large homeschooling community. So many opportunities. And we love that we get to learn all together. What a treat!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

my scouts

It has been a good year of cub scouts for Aidan and Luke.

Luke completed his first year with a lot of which to be proud. Aidan accomplished all that he needed to now be a webelo. I am pleased with the group we are a part of and all that my boys have received from their involvement.

Many opportunities for fun, learning, exercise and field trips.

It has also been neat to become closer with friends.

Luke is excited to start his second scout year as a wolf.

And Aidan looks forward to the many adventures planned for webelos.

Great job boys!

Friday, June 18, 2010

happy birthday justus beric

This is what I was doing a year ago today. Waiting to meet my sweet Justus.

Even beautiful scenery could not hide the fact that I was done providing a home for this baby (not to mention bloated and uncomfortable). Every day of those nine months was worth it because this boy is such a treat.

We love you j-bear!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

friends for a year

These two. The pictures in which our friend's daughter Xochi and Justus are wearing green were taken three months ago. I can't believe how much their personalities have changed in just three months!

Being able to get around changes things a lot for a baby.

Justus and Xochi have been friends from birth. Cutzi and I love to compare and contrast their bodies and personalities, something we've had a lot of experience at with our girls.

The non-green set of pictures are from Xochi's one year birthday party. They sure did interact with one another differently. It is like they finally noticed each other. Xochi, in true girl style is interested in communicating.

Justus on the other hand, as most boys I know, is more interested in wrestling!

Sorry about that Xochi.

Monday, June 14, 2010

what we did on our summer vacation

We decided a long time ago that May is the best time for a homeschooling family to have a "summer" vacation. We love the lack of crowds and really summer is the most fun time to play at home when you live in the pacific northwest.

However, our week in Bend made us re-think this opinion. It rained almost every day we were there, the indoor pool was not open for the first couple of days we were there, the go-kart place was only open on the weekend and almost all of our fun-things-to-do list included outdoor activities. But we had fun anyway, how can you not while on vacation with your favorite people!

Highlights include: a super long bike ride (our first time with Justus & Ava in the trailer behind Mike's bike), hiking (our first time with all five kids), enjoying some time with our Aunt Sarah and cousin Keegan, relishing time with our grandma and papa (why do we not have any pictures of them?!), racquetball & other sports, and swimming in the pool as much as we possibly could.

(A few pictures of sweet Keegan and Sarah)

One of the hikes we did was a couple miles down into the earth via a lava tunnel. It was pretty neat to use the lanterns to see where we were going and to hike into a cave like that. (Oh and there is Grandma & Papa!)

This was taken at the end of the lava tube, about a mile into the earth.

We went geocaching and this was what Ava choose to take out of the box.

Hilariously, one activity which was enjoyed by all (especially Sarah and Papa but no pictures of them) was seeing how long one could hold an L-sit on the parallettes. Good times.

One last thing to share. We made it home from our 8 hour drive (not including many stops) late Friday night. After putting the kids to bed, Mike and I began to unload the car. All of a sudden a big, wet (it was raining), dog came up the driveway and followed us right into the garage. We chased him out of the garage and he went straight into the backseat of the car. He sampled each and every seat of our car a-la-Goldilocks and would not get out no matter how firmly we prodded, pleaded and cajoled. It was comical at first. But by the end I was pretty ticked at the wet, stinky, (at least two of us are allergic to) dog and the hair that he was getting everywhere. Once he had sullied the entire car he ambled out and headed for our house (we are convinced he would have headed straight to our bed had we not locked him out). We never found out his origin nor have we heard from him again. Pretty funny cap on a great week away.