Sunday, August 29, 2010

First Week of School

We began school on August 23rd, but we took it easy this week.  We are learning a new program, so I wanted to ease into it.  Since this is my first post about Tapestry of Grace, let me explain it.  This year we have converted to a classical, Christian homeschool and to the unit study approach.  I am so glad that my research led me to this program!  All of our students will be studying the same topics, but at their own levels.  This program encompasses History, Literature, and Writing.  What they read about for History will become what they write about, and what they read for Literature is also based in what they are studying for History.  I love this integrated approach and it will save me so much work!  Before, I was preparing lessons about Ancient Rome, Venezuela and the fire department for three different students' Social Studies lessons, and it was too much!  Tapestry starts at Year 1 with Creation and Ancient Egypt and covers world history chronologically, so we will get as far as the Fall of Rome this year.  All of history takes 4 years.  Then we will do Year 1 again but everyone will be at a different level so their material is more advanced but familiar.

Oh, and they have hands-on art projects too, related to what they are studying.  When we tried a sample of this curriculum I found out I had really been short-changing my kids, and that they loved that aspect of it.  I think of it as a hassle, messy and expensive, but after seeing how they got into it last Spring, I told my husband not to let me blow off that part of the experience!

So, this week we did cookie dough maps.  We could have done salt dough, but that just means I have a house full of nifty projects and nowhere, I mean nowhere, to keep them (see photo of home, below).  So...cookie dough maps, of course, get eaten!  Much wiser choice.  The middle two did a sugar cookie dough map of an imaginary country.  They were supposed to include a variety of geographical features:  an isthmus, peninsula, mesa, fjords, bay, etc...some of which melted in the baking process but were restored with buttercream frosting.

Our oldest student did her map of the Nile River valley. 

You may notice the Nile Delta is missing, so it must be the dry season.  Actually, she just thought it would melt.  This map is gluten free, to be eaten by her brother and youngest sister.  The dessert sands are yellow frosting sprinkled with cocoa powder.  Green frosting represents the Black lands, fertile areas.  We actually made the cookie dough and baked it on Saturday, then decorated it during school on Monday.  And we had a neighbor helping with the dictionary to look up some of the geography terms for the imaginary land.

On Tuesday, we had project time in the morning.  Oldest worked on an Egyptian Model Garden, and once again surprised me with how absorbed she became.  The results were impressive:

It is a little smooshed now, sadly, but you get the idea:  trees from index cards, columns and a grand doorway to the palace, and a jumping fish on a bent paperclip.  There are broken jewelry flowers on the aluminum foil pond.  The younger two began paddle dolls, but due to the need to let paint dry, they are not done yet.  This week, we will be building pyramids out of legos.  I'd like to do sugar cubes but can't find them; we may try mini marshmallows or just stick with the legos.

Here's what we're doing for the rest of our studies, for those curious minds:
Math:  Saxon 3, 54 and 87.
Grammar:  Rod and Staff 2, 5, and 7
Spelling Power
Prima Latina and Latina Christiana
Science:  Apologia Botany for 2nd and 5th graders, Apologia General Science for 7th grade
and we are using Tapestry's Writing Aids program, which is much needed because I have really let writing slide.  Looking forward to a great year!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Kicking off our Botany Studies

Our middle two students are studying Botany with Apologia materials this year, or at least the first half of this year.  My goal is to complete it by January but we'll see how it goes.  It's a bit of a challenge to study Botany North of the 40th parallel in the fall/winter.

But to get the year off to a great start, we visited the Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, PA yesterday. I had gotten half-price tickets for adults on back in July that had to be used this month, by the way, so that's a site I now keep my eye on.  Or at least I will as long as we are living in or visiting PA periodically.  But I digress.  The Gardens are little less than an hour away and traffic was agreeable, so we made it there at about 9:30a.m., watched the little introductory movie, and off we went.  I had downloaded and printed a project on pollination for two of the kids, and one on field journaling for the oldest.  Someone made fun of me for this, just because I got the idea from eavesdropping on someone when we were at the National Zoo in DC last Spring.  But I'm glad I did, because the project gave us a sense of purpose and slowed down our progress enough to get the kids to digest what they were seeing a little instead of rushing through.  For pollination, they had to find three "perfect flowers" in each of four areas in the garden.  (That's a flower with both pollen-bearing anthers and a female stigma, FYI).  Like this one:

That's why we had nerds walking around the gardens with clipboards- and nerd is a compliment in our family, so don't get all upset on behalf of my children, please.  :-)

I really think there's no better way to describe a garden than to take some good pictures.  We also tracked pollinators, and since the child here has the middle name Butterfly, we photographed a few of those. 
I love this one, because it looks so cooperative and quintessentially homeschooley:  the plants are Neptuna or (something like that) and they live on the pond.  They react to touch by closing up on appearing to wilt.  They'd seen this before at their cousins' house, but not in a huge carpet like that.  They also had platters- lily-pad like plants that can grow up to 7ft in diameter and can hold about 100 pounds!

Here's one of my favorites, just because of it's name:  Old Man Cactus.  Genius!  Looking a little frazzled there, Gramps!
Here's one for my fellow TOG Year 1 users:  Papyrus!

And one for Aunt Julie.   All of the bonsai were at least as old as me, and there were some about 100 years old.  I never knew! 

I could probably share dozens more, but I'll just say that it was a beautiful day, a great trip, and a wonderful start to our school year.  I'm glad I got this one in before we leave town again, and I would certainly recommend it to anyone, schooling or not. 

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

All about us

I snapped this picture because it struck me as the perfect "This is my life."  Yup, we live in there- all six of us, and have for the last 10 weeks, and the two summers before that.  It's an existence I can't say I'd recommend, but we've adapted to our circumstances and it's not as miserable as it might seem.  Especially when we are parked in a place where kids can roam.  We spent several weeks at my parents' house in Northeastern New York State, so kids could always go inside Nana's house for a little room to spread out.  Someone was always at camp or "Grandma camp," which took the pressure off.  Now, we're at our agency's campus in Pennsylvania, and there's all sorts of room to explore.  That makes it easier, but we're also doing school now, and that makes it harder.

Note also the Taco Bell logo in the background.  That's not an accident, but it's part of what we do!  Many, many of our journeys have included a stop at one Taco Bell or another- it's the cheapest way we have found to feed a gluten-free, vegetarian family on the road!  So when we pulled in there, taking up 8 parking spaces, I just had to snap this pic!  The only thing missing is our big-as-they-come red fiberglass Coleman canoe, which was up there for every other transition this year.

Now, we'd love to get out of this rig at the end of this month, so we'll probably be heading back to NENY in a few weeks.  We're so thankful to have husband's parents' house available to us, with a schoolroom!  But, we would much rather be moving on than moving back, and moving on would mean being able to go to the mission field.  God has been doing some interesting things this week:  we lost a supporter and got notice that another would stop soon, but we also gained at least one later the same day.  Husband got an offer of some paid work while we wait.  We're always on a roller-coaster of high hopes and unknowns, encouragement and discouragement.  So we just keep doing what we are doing, hoping, and praying.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

So, how did you meet?

A few nights ago, Todd and I presented our ministry to a group of new friends.   We had just a few minutes to get acquainted with the host couple before others started to arrive.  They asked how we met, so I thought that would be a fun story to start out with here, too.  So here goes:

Todd and I both grew up at different United Methodist Churches not too far from one another in Upstate/Northern NY.  We were both in Junior High when a bunch of my church friends went to Creativity Camp at Skye Farm Camp.   They camp home raving about this great guy who was at Clown Camp that same week.   They all had crushes on him, and one of them had snagged him as her boyfriend, so she brought him to a friend's birthday party.  I was unimpressed, actually.

We continued to see each other long after that romance fizzled, because we were both involved in regional youth events held by the church.  We became good friends.  He was my sponsor for an event called Chrysalis, which is a four-day retreat for youth.  There was never anything like romantic interest there; he always had a girlfriend, and I was never much of a boy-chaser.  I remember spending a good portion of an evening at one retreat comforting the girl he had just broken up with, while she sat on a bathroom floor and cried.  Yup, he was a heart-breaker!

It was at one of those retreats that we were talking late one night, on a sanctuary floor in Saranac Lake, NY.  I had a boyfriend with me that weekend, and I think he had a girl chasing him.  We were talking as friends about girls and guys, and he must have said something like, "...she's not the kind of girl I would marry...."  I thought, as if for the first time, I wonder what kind of guy I will marry.  And just like that, I heard it:  "You will marry Todd."  It was the voice of God speaking to my heart, not audibly, but unmistakably not my own idea.  I asked whether it was to mean someone like Todd, but no, it was Todd.  Then I understood that we would be apart for a while first, then find each other again.  I didn't say a word to him about it, but got out of that sanctuary fast.

Now, you may know that United Methodists are not raging Pentecostals for whom that type of thing happens all the time.  But I took it at face value.  I told some friends, and I dumped the boyfriend (sorry, Marc!).  Never had another boyfriend.  I was 17 and he was 16.  That Spring, I tried to make sure that even though I would be going to college, he would always know where to find me when he had his own revelation.  It turned out that my freshman year of college at Brandeis University near Boston, was our time apart.  At the end of the year, I hadn't heard from him at all.  I got a summer internship in Minnesota, and now I can't remember how he heard that.  I may have sent him an old-fashioned letter!

Apparently the threat of not knowing where I was finally motivated him to get in touch.  I got a letter from him in Minnesota, and he had actually called my parents to find out how to get in touch with me.  (I now know how rare a thing a letter is!)  We reconnected that summer,hiked a mountain together, and by October we had a long-distance relationship going over internet "talk", a 1994 precursor to IM.  We saw each other once after we started "dating," as his college was 2 hours away.  Neither of us had cars.  By the end of October, I finally told him that I thought God wanted us married.  He basically said, "Okay, sure." 
Yes, everyone thought we were crazy.
Three years later, on August 8, 1997, we were married. 
Many people are now even more convinced we are crazy.