Saturday, January 13, 2018

100 Days of Homeschool

This past Wednesday marked 100 days of homeschool for our family (our state requirement is 180 days for the school year). To be honest we were actually surprised that we had already made it to 100 days. Learning is such a part of our daily lives, I know we will have no trouble meeting that target.

We decided to celebrate, last minute, by meeting Daniel downtown for dinner at Lupi's Pizza and then walking to the Moon Pie General Store for dessert. The flexibility of homeschool is one of the many things that we love about this lifestyle.

Every week I share a recap video on Facebook of what we have been up to (see below). Most of it is fun stuff and doesn't necessarily touch on the official learning portion of our school day. I wanted to take a moment to share what we have had on our plate during the last 100 days...

During the course of our Fall Semester we read aloud the following books: The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann Wyss, Charlotte's Web by E.B. White, Vile Verses by Roald Dahl, Little Wizard Stories of Oz by L. Frank Baum, Stories of the Pilgrims (audio book) by Margaret B. Pumphrey, A Boy Called Christmas (audio book) by Matt Haig, as well as many other short stories and poems.

Right now, we are wrapping up The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, and have plans to tackle Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne and the Frog and Toad Treasury by Arnold Lobel, and probably two or three pieces of literature.

Jack has been working through two different Math curriculum, one for kindergarten/first grade (Math Lessons for a Living Education) and one for first grade (Singapore), and I have made the decision to proceed with the Singapore Math one for the time being.

We have also been working through Elementary Geography by Charlotte Mason and Story of the World for history, but I think we are going to change courses a bit with that this semester and follow Ambleside's course material for Year 1 for these two subjects. I am looking forward to reading Paddle to the Sea by Holling C. Holling for geography, and Fifty Famous Stories Retold by James Baldwin for History.

We are continuing with our nature study, Exploring Nature with Children, supplementing it with the Nature Anatomy book by Julia Rothman, and other books I find at the library. I also try to take Jack out for a hike every week. Some times he complains (this week he thought it was too foggy and wet), but we are both always glad that we did it. After our hike, we record a drawing and observations from our hike in a Nature Journal.

For writing, we started out using the BrainQuest Kindergarten workbook, but have shifted gears to Handwriting without Tears, along with copywork each week.

We also rely on digital content: the Hooked on Phonics app has been a great resource for reading, and MathTango is a fun way to reinforce math facts. In the car (car-schooling), we listen to the following podcasts: BrainsOn! and Wow in the World for Science, Classics for Kids exposes us to classical music in 6-minute segments, and The Alien Adventures of Finn Caspian is rich in literary references and has a fantastic storyline (even Isaac loves it!).

So while we have a lot of time for free play including Nerf Wars and building with Legos, or playing board games, we stay plenty busy with actual book work, and it feels good to know how much Jack is learning. He will randomly reference something from a book we read and it gives me all the good feels as a mom, and as his teacher.

At dinner on our 100th day, we were discussing how we were more than halfway through our year because we are only required to compete 180 Days. Jack piped up, “100 is ten more than halfway.” I thought about it, and sure enough 90 is half of 180 and 100 is 10 more than 90. We asked how he came up with that, and he said, “I counted.”  

A look back at the last 40 days. See our first 60 days here.

Week 13 of our homeschool included discovering a new podcast, “Classics for Kids” where Jack is getting exposure to classical music. We started reading two new books, “The Care and Feeding of a Black Hole” and “Little Wizard Stories of Oz.” We made a Sonic run when swimming was cancelled on Tuesday, and Jack had two flag football practices in preparation for a tournament game on the weekend. Daniel was off on Thursday and was able to join Jack and I for a hike to Mushroom Rock where we searched for mushrooms, moss and lichen. We played in leaf piles. Rode bikes at the playground, and prepared for Jack’s 6th Birthday Party. Jack’s birthday involved a football game (his team is undefeated), his crazy Ninja and Nerf Gun Party with friends, and a family celebration with present before dinner. It’s hard to believe that thanksgiving is right around the corner!

To kick off Week 14 of homeschool, we started listening to the audio book “Stories of the Pilgrims” whenever we were in the car. We have had some really great conversations about why the pilgrims left their country and the hardships they faced coming to America. We had visitors from Scotland on Tuesday afternoon. And then on Wednesday I took the boys to shop for food to donate to families that are less fortunate than us and we talked about the importance of helping others. Jack and I met Daniel for lunch on Thursday and then Jack spent a birthday gift card on a bow and arrow set... which he has used non stop since his purchase. Friday we met up with friends for a Pioneer Day at Audobon Acres. The kids learned all about pioneers with lots of hands-on activities. And we wrapped up the week with a Championship Flag Football game — Jack’s team ended the season undefeated. He was really psyched about his trophy and had a great experience with his teammates. We didn’t have time for our weekly hike but the boys and I spent some time at the woods at our park, building a lean-to and pretending to be explorers. Another good week in the books for us.

Thanksgiving Week: We have so much to be thankful for. I’m thankful for family and the opportunity to be together, whether we are silly or having serious conversations around the campfire. I’m grateful for our children and the fact that they were able to spend several days together, playing nerf wars and sardines, going on hikes on our property and letting their creativity shine. I’m thankful for the blessing of good food and helping hands to make the work light. I’m thankful that we can laugh at mistakes like soupy potatoes, or my inability to buy the “right” kind of marshmallows for s’mores. I’m thankful that we had the chance to talk with my nana who is in a nursing home in Canada. I hope she was blessed as we passed the phone around. I’m thankful for a warm, safe home with enough beds and floor space to accommodate 15 people comfortably. I’m thankful for perfect weather and this chance to be with loved ones. Happy Thanksgiving!

We just completed Week 15 of our homeschool. We finished listening to the “Pilgrims Stories” audio book and started listening to “A Boy Named Christmas.” We also listened to a classical music podcast about Gershwin and started season 3 of our favorite sci-fi podcast, The Alien Adventures of Finn Caspian. These have been great for any time we are in the car. Jack didn’t have any cavities at his Monday dentist appointment, but did get to experience his first dead car battery with me while we waited to pick up groceries on Monday. The weather has been amazing all week, so we spent a significant amount of time outside with friends and at parks riding scooters and bikes. Wednesday was a big reading and library day for us. We read aloud all morning so we that could return our giant stack of library books and get new ones. For our nature day, Jack and I visited Raccoon Mountain where we learned all about the pump plant and hydroelectric power. And today the boys spent a portion of the day with their Grandpa and Abuela while I went to physical therapy. While we were on that side of town, we stopped by Harrison Bay State Park to play on the playground and throw rocks in the lake. We are enjoying these perfect days before the weather turns cold.

Nature Day: Thursday’s are my favorite. Jack and I typically spend the morning outside learning. Today we didn’t do our typical hike, instead we went to Raccoon Mountain and learned all about hydroelectric power. We did a short walk in the woods before heading home for the rest of our school day.

We kicked off Week 16 of homeschool with a little Christmas. We started the “Slow + Sacred” AdventStudy, made an Advent calendar and set up and decorated our little Christmas tree. We also continued to listen to the audio book, “A Boy Called Christmas” and we are loving it. Other Christmas activities included baking an Orange Cake, picking out our live tree, and hosting a Christmas Cookie Decorating Party for friends. Besides Christmas activities, we did school one morning at our favorite local coffee shop, complete with hot chocolate, then Jack wanted to learn how to make scrambled eggs unsupervised and also decided to count to 1,000 in one setting. We went to a pizza party to celebrate being Flag Football Champions, we read lots of books together, and Jack and I went to The Boulders at the base of Lookout Mountain for our Nature Day. As an added bonus we had a surprise dusting of snow on Friday during our cookie party! December is such a fun month to be homeschooling. Our activities all revolve around Christmas and it is a blessing to wake up slow and do the things we want to do, all while learning.

Nature Day: We had The Boulders to ourselves this morning (another perk of doing stuff during the week!). As we were leaving a couple showed up with matts and climbing gear. We observed quite a few birds, which was great because our nature study this week is “Winter Birds.” So thankful for this one-on-one time with my oldest. We plan to take Daniel Moore and Isaac back soon

We ended Week 17 of our homeschool with a trip to the North Georgia mountains to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary. We did a hike to the Toccoa River Swinging Bridge — the biggest suspension bridge east of the Mississippi, and also hiked to Amicalola Falls — the tallest waterfall in Georgia at 729 feet. On the way to Toccoa, we stopped to take a look at the Blue Ridge Dam (it’s one of the TVA dams that Daniel’s department oversees). We also saw Christmas lights, and Jack became enamored with nutcrackers when visiting his first Irish pub. We started the week slowly, with a focus on Advent. Jack and I finished listening to the audio book, “A Boy Called Christmas,” which we both enjoyed and would recommend. We strung popcorn and cranberries for our live Christmas tree and would have made gingerbread cookie ornaments but I was out of molasses🙄 We had taken a hiatus from our math curriculum for a couple of weeks because I felt like Jack needed time to learn his math facts better, in place of our typical math we started using an app called Math Tango — a Math game on my phone. We came back to our math curriculum this week and Jack surprised me by really knowing his math facts. The game and having a Break seemed to be the right solution. We started reading “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” and Jack has really taken to it and wants to know what will happen next. On Thursday, Jack helped me make cute snowmen juice boxes and reindeer pudding cups for Isaac’s preschool Christmas party, then Jack went to a friends house while I went to Isaac’s party. Daniel had extra long hours at work all of last week, so we ended up watching more movies than usual including Boss Baby (Isaac’s favorite) and Sing. There was also lots of playtime outside for the kids, and they enjoyed making a gingerbread house with their aunts and nana this weekend. This week we are doing a light version of school, but we won’t truly break. I find that everyone does better if we keep our routines. It’s hard to believe Christmas is just six days away!

For Week 18 of our homeschool we baked and decorated Christmas cookies with friends, made bird seed ornaments and garlands to hang outside, and finally got around to making our traditional gingerbread cookie ornaments for our live tree. We also did our Slow and Sacred Advent Study, and continued reading “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe” which Jack calls “The Narnicles of Narnia.” And we visited Santa at Bass Pro Shop as a family. Not a bad way to get through a light week of homeschooling.

Week 19 We have been easing our way back into school this week. It’s hard to believe that it is already 2018 and we are almost 100 Days into our school year. We began the week with a chilly New Year’s Eve Hike as a family in Green Gorge. On New Years Day we visited with Grandparents and the kid’s Abuela gave them traditional panetonne to celebrate. The kids have spent a lot of time building and playing with Magic Tracks, Lincoln Logs, K’Nex, Legos, a building robots. STEM all week thanks to Christmas presents! They have also played with play-do and painted window art (another Christmas present). We took down all of our Christmas stuff and hung our garlands of popcorn and cookies outside for the birds and observed animal tracks at our playground. The kids have hauled firewood with their daddy and been to The Creative Discovery Museum with friends. We had a silly string war in the freezing cold and Skyped grandparents and cousins. Jack had a good week in reading and math, but we need to spend more time focusing on writing. We ended our week with pizza and a movie, introducing the kids to “Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey.” Another good week of learning for the kids.

What homeschool is like with a toddler.🙄 Regardless of the chaos that Isaac is creating, Jack has been making great progress with his reading.

Week 20 of school started with an ice day on Monday, a celebration of 100 Days of school on Wednesday, and ended with a sick mommy on Friday. This week Jack finished up a building project that he started a couple of weeks ago. He constructed a doll house for a friend from Daniel’s wood scraps. He designed, built, and painted it before giving it as a gift. The boys spent lots of time building with K’Nex, Legos, and Lincoln Logs. They also constructed cushion forts and designed their own robot costumes. Daniel took them to the Main Terrain Art Park and also to Missionary Ridge on Wednesday. We celebrated💯 Days of School with pizza at Lupi’s and Moon Pies from th Moon Pie General Store downtown. Jack started PeeWee Basketball on Tuesday and we completed a nature hike at Green Gorge on Thursday. We also had a library day and have plenty of new books to read including “A Child’s Anthology of Poetry” and a book of traditional tales from around the world. We are almost finished reading “The Lion, The With, and The Wardrobe” and will watch the movie as soon as we are done. Even though we were cooped up for several days, we still had a productive week full of learning and creativity.

Monday, January 01, 2018

Word for the Year: Healing

In keeping with a tradition I began in 2010, I am using this space to share a word that I hope will hold significance for the coming year. Often the word I choose has to do with something I have gone through, or something that I am in the midst of going through, that I would like to improve on in the coming year. This year is no different.

As I thought about where I am at, the word that kept coming to me was healing.
verb (used with object)
1. to make healthy, whole, or sound; restore to health; free from ailment. 
2. to bring to an end or conclusion, as conflicts between people or groups, usually with the strong implication of restoring former amity; settle; reconcile:
3. to free from evil; cleanse; purify
In a very physical sense, over the course of the last several months I have been seeking treatment for pain that doesn't seem to have a cause, and won't go away. When you are managing pain for a prolonged period, you begin to notice that it affects all areas of your life. And it is time I stop letting my pain do that. 

The only things that seem to be the root of my primary pain are 1) an undiagnosed injury from playing soccer in the spring, and 2) carrying around my toddler for so long. Currently, I can really only pick him up when necessary, and that has been hard for both of us. A secondary pain I'm dealing with is in my foot/shin which never truly healed from a nasty fall I took while hiking back in September.

I have had X-rays, been to physical therapy, stopped exercising, tried deep water aerobics and tai chi and a stationery bike, used a TENs unit, taken herbs like turmeric for the inflammation, started massage, and finally cautiously restarted my exercise program. In the new year I will be meeting with a Sports Medicine practice to try to pinpoint what is going on in an effort to improve my quality of life. Also, I am praying for kids that sleep through the night which will allow me to try to get caught up on rest, and also focusing on things like improving my water intake and the kinds of foods I eat.

Outside of the physical, I think there is always room to heal relationships, meaning making changes in myself that may have driven any wedges between me and others over the years. It means making an effort on my attitude with my kids and Daniel, specially by working to have more patience and grace, and to show kindness regardless of how I am feeling physically

And finally I think taking stock of where I am at spiritually is never a bad way to start the new year. 

So, for this year I am focusing on my personal health and how it affects me and those closest to me, as well as the relationships that are secondary in my life.

A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. 
Proverbs 17:22

Words from previous years: 
Fortitude {2010}Adaptation {2011}Patience {2012}Deliberate {2013}
 Joy {2014}Peace {2015} │  Release {2016}Savor {2017}

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Amicalola Falls

We visited Amicalola Falls back in 2012 when Jack had just turned one. It's the highest cascade in the southeast, and certainly worth the stop.

Five years later we were back at this same trail, and Jack was more than capable of walking the entire strenuous set of stairs to the very top of the falls.

We also had another kid in tow, but no backpack carrier this time.

We began this visit by driving to the Lodge at the top of the mountain. Since we visited on a Monday, it was not particularly busy. Daniel inquired about reserving rooms, and the lady said we better do it now... for next year! It is definitely a beautiful spot. We ate lunch in the dining room and enjoyed scenic views of the valley below us.

Jack was pumped about the ginormous Christmas tree and the nutcracker display they had set up in the lobby of the lodge.

After lunch, we drove down to the parking lot just below the lodge to view the falls from the very top (we had missed this view in 2012). 

After getting a dizzying view of the 759-foot cascade from above, we drove down a little further to do the West Ridge Access Trail – a short hike to the base of the main cascade.

Once we reached the bridge, we decided to walk down the staircase a bit for a better view. The boys and Sophie were troopers, following us down 150 steps to a lower platform for a photo.

Since we went down, we had to come back up. Isaac did not like this plan and laid down on the staircase after about 10 steps, so I carried him in my arms for a bit.

When I caught up to Jack and Daniel, Daniel carried Isaac up the rest of the way.

As we continued back to the car, Jack decided that he wanted to attempt the 475 steps all the way to the top. We decided to split up to do this.

Daniel took Sophie and Isaac back to the car with plans to drive up to pick us up, while Jack and I continued on.

I'm pretty sure Jack would have run all the way up these steps without a thought. Too bad he had to stop and wait for his slow mama.

We made it to the top in 10 minutes, and had to wait another 10 for Daniel to show up with the car. 

I continue to be impressed with Jack's stamina on the trails. I think he takes after me in that he lovess the statistics of our adventures, and that he can tell people concrete details like the fact that he climbed 475 steps (a total of 775 steps), or that he has hiked 4.5 miles, and biked 21 miles.

We have been encouraging Isaac to hike longer on our excursions and he is starting to build up his hiking legs.  

Every adventure we have brings us closer together as a family. I can't wait to see what the coming years have in store for us.

If you visit Ellijay or the Northwest Georgia Mountains, I would definitely recommend a stop at Amicalola Falls park. 

If you are up for the whole, strenuous hike, it's not long but there are a ton of steps (you can start at the very top or the bottom on the AT approach trail). 

If you want an easy, the West Ridge Access Trail is super easy and gets you to a bridge at the bottom of the largest cascade.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Dahlonega Christmas Lights

As part of our Anniversary weekend, we were able to spend some time with some of Daniel's family, who were also staying in Ellijay.

Our boys were able to hang out with them on the evening of our anniversary so we could go out by ourselves for our anniversary dinner.

They enjoyed lots of games, and the boy's aunts helped them make gingerbread houses. I think Jack did most of the gingerbread building.

Isaac had fun being pulled around in a wagon by his Nana, and playing with two stuffed moose he discovered.

Then we spent all of Sunday with the family as well.

Our original plan had been to go together to Amicalola Falls, but Sunday turned out to be rainy, which was not ideal weather for navigating hundreds of stairs.

Instead we hung out at their cabin, watched speed skating and other winter sports, and then decided to head to Dahlonega, GA for dinner and a stroll around the downtown square to view the Christmas lights.

Our restaurant of choice was Shenanigans, an Irish Pub downtown. We were able to sit on the enclosed patio (with more heat lamps). It wasn't quite as cold on this night, and everyone was quite toasty.

Daniel had Fish and Chips, while I tried a Greuben which was a Reuben Sandwich with Blackened Grouper, which was amazing! I think everyone was happy with their selections.

The kids shared a pizza, and afterward Daniel, Jack, Isaac and I split a piece of Guinness Chocolate Cake with Black Raspberry Ganache, which was fantastic and reminded us of Daniel's Grandmother who used to make delicious chocolate raspberry brownies.

After our bellies were full, we wandered around the square to take in the lights. It was drizzling out, but not too cold. We arrived too late to visit Santa, but the kids enjoyed playing on Santa's sleight outside the visitor's center.

It was a lovely way to spend the evening with family. On the drive back to our cabin we stumbled by a neighborhood with a pretty great light display. See video above. We are thankful for this opportunity we had to spend time with family.

100 Days of Homeschool

This past Wednesday marked 100 days of homeschool for our family (our state requirement is 180 days for the school year). To be honest we...