Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Saints Day Party, Saints Alive, and School. Too Busy!

Today was stressful, busy, and fun! We celebrated All Saints Day at co-op as well as with our Faith Formation at church. The kids had tons of fun, but I'm exhausted. Besides waking up and not finding Anthony's St. Francis costume, forgetting some costume accessories, leaving everyone's lunch in the refrigerator, having four kids complain about breakfast, and being late to co-op...it was a good morning! We prayed the Litany of the Saints before leaving home and it really helped lighten my mood like nothing else could.

The Saints Day party at co-op was fun for the kids. Besides being the end of my geography unit, we celebrated by singing "Siyahamba." All the kids did excellent! There was also lots of games, tons of candy, and all the kids got to introduce what saint they were dressed as. I did take off early, however, because I accidentally forgot our lunch and the kids were starving! By the time we got home, Anthony and Christian were asleep.

Isabella dressed as St. Therese of the Little Flower.


The kids starting to get ready for a group picture.


Anthony actually borrowed Christian's costume so that he could be in the picture.


Marco reading the clues to have everyone guess who is dressed as...it's St. Joseph!


Of course, I must have an endless amount of energy today because as soon as we got home and I put the little ones to nap, I made Marco finish his phonics and math lessons. It wasn't too long after we finished with school that Anthony and Christian woke up and joined us downstairs.

DH was home today so I definitely took advantage and made him entertain Christian while I moved on to doing school with Anthony and Isabella. We are still reading Yellow Ball this week and we actually did a lapbook! It was really simple and I let the kids do all the cutting and gluing. They had a great time and Anthony LOVES his lapbook! It is our first together and I'm looking forward to incorporating them into our future BFIAR activities.


Isabella working on the lapbook.



Anthony cutting out a book for the lapbook while Christian smiles for the camera!



The finished product! We also got to play with a yellow ball today!


So, I bet you are thinking that this is the end of my day??? Do you think I'm kidding about all we did today??? (Pssst....check the dates on the pictures. They are all the same!) No Way! We quickly cleaned our school mess, ate dinner, and took off for the Saints Alive party at church.

It was fun!! I decided to get out an old costume for Anthony so that Christian could wear his own and Anthony wouldn't feel left out. Christian definitely stole the show! He did so well dressed as Pope John Paul the Great and he even left his hat on!!! The kids got to announce their saint, march in a parade, and they even got a necklace with a medal of the Holy Family on it (that's the name of our church...and our homeschool!). So I guess I saved the best pictures for last!


We arrived with the Pope on the Pope-Mobile!


Christian makes a cute Pope John Paul the Great!


My four little saints!


Christian happy in his costume!


One proud and tired mom with her saintly bunch.

And that concludes my day. Days like this are made of gold and never forgotten!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Celebrations, School, etc.

Today has been an extremely busy day. We started with lessons around 7:30am and kept going until about 10:30. Since I had a few errands to run, I wanted to get as much done as possible. Once we were back from the store, we got to decorating around the house. Just setting up some spider webs and other fun stuff for Friday. What was really fun to see while I decorated, was Isabella making her own creation. "Mami, I'm working on a sculpture for Halloween." Although I would like to say that Marco and Anthony helped, it was really her creative genius who did all the work!

Isabella working on her sculpture.


Marco and Anthony get in on the picture.


Lessons continue to go well with Marco and Isabella. We are still in the review part of Saxon 2, so everything is fast and easy. Isabella is also doing extremely well with Saxon 1. Phonics and reading is a bit more of a struggle with Marco, but we are making advancements. He just doesn't like it as much as Isabella does. The word wall has definitely added a fun element to our day and Marco is responding well to it (that means he doesn't whine when I tell him it's word wall time).

As for Anthony, today we revisited Yellow Ball. It is such a simple book, that he practically has it memorized. I was afraid that with the lack of words, he wasn't going to enjoy it; but he actually really does like it and likes to make comments on the pictures as we go along. Our activities for today were painting a yellow ball and an ocean scene. I used white construction paper and drew ocean animals with white crayon. When he started painting with his watercolors, the images appeared. It was lots of fun for him (and the other kids!).

Anthony painting an ocean scene.


The kids really love painting!


And since we'll be celebrating All Saints Day on Wednesday both at co-op and faith formation, we've been reading a little about each one of the saints that the children will be dressing up as. Today we concentrated on St. Therese of the Little Flower. We read some stories from Catholic Treasure Box and we made good deed beads. It was a simple enough craft that both Isabella and Marco did it with little assistance. I do think, however, that Marco liked that craft the best and has spent all day carrying around his beads trying make his presents for God.

Marco working on his sacrifice beads.


The finished product!


Sacrifice or good deed beads.


To further help us celebrate All Saints Day we also colored pictures of some saints and posted them on the kids' bedroom door. We'll be saying the Litany of the Saints every morning instead of our regular devotionals. I thought it was a good idea and a good way to celebrate All Saints Day.

So today really was a full and busy day. Tomorrow doesn't look to be any easier since I'll be squeezing in swimming lessons at 1pm and 6:30pm. I'll be doing history during Isabella and Anthony's 1pm class. For Marco's evening swim, I just need to drop him off with dad. We'll see how this new schedule goes!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Halloween Carnival.

Today we enjoyed an afternoon at our church's Halloween Carnival. I figured the kids would get good use out of their costumes as opposed to just wearing them for one night. It was lots of fun and the kids had a really good time playing all the games. I'm starting to really look forward to Halloween night!


Anthony bobbing for apples.



Practicing for Halloween!

I'm not sure what the weather is going to be like for Halloween night, but I think the kids will be sufficiently warm in their costumes. We have been having quintessential fall weather and I'm expecting a chilly night, a light breeze, and bit of scary mist in the air!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

More on Soccer.

I am posting this because I never got a chance to do it earlier. Marco and Isabella finally finished their soccer season last Saturday. It was fun to see them play in their final games and for them to receive their trophies. Unfortunately, I missed most of Marco's game because I was at home with Christian who was napping, so DH got to get up early and take the kids. After soccer, we went to the little celebration that the YMCA hosts and the kids jumped on the bouncy castle and ate hot dogs.


Marco after his last game.



Sitting at the sidelines.


Huddled with the team.


Isabella with soccer trophy.

BFIAR Revisited.

Anthony has been doing so well with BFIAR! When we started earlier in the school year, he was still so immature in terms of following directions and sitting still with the activities. Reading the books were never a problem, but he would lose it when it came to actually doing something. Running around is always so much more fun than listening to mom telling you what to do! I decided to revisit some of the books and basically start over because we never really enjoyed the activities.

I'm really glad I decided to go back and redo some activities! Maybe it was the whole turning 3 thing or he just had a mental growth spurt; but he has completely changed! This past week we did Jesse Bear, What Will You Wear? and it couldn't have gone better. We completed our scheduled activities and even added a couple. If you are curious to what our activity schedule is, you can find it here. The activities we added were dressing up an actual teddy bear, using pattern blocks to make a bear figure (and other figures as well), and making a bear mask. It's amazing to see all the kids in on the projects and working together. I think it is also a nice break for Marco from his more hectic school work.


Working with pattern blocks.


Anthony has gotten really good with his scissors!


All the kids working on their masks with our book as a centerpiece!


The final product!! Anthony wore his mask all day!

I used Word to print out the mask. I cut and pasted from the Black Bear Conservation Committee and then just sized it to fit the page. You can also read the story of the teddy bear on the same site as well as other interesting facts about bears. The kids enjoyed clicking through the site!



Friday, October 24, 2008

Halloween Buzz.

Every year for the past five years, we have hosted a Halloween Open House Party. It's loads of fun and people come and go. Our neighborhood gets pretty packed with trick-or-treaters and we love taking the kids around the block. The first year we hosted, the kids were so little! Marco was only 2 and Isabella was not even a year old. But we made some great friends and had a blast. I cooked my favorite chili recipe and made loads of treats.

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays for the simple reason that it is just a fun holiday. It gives everyone (even me!) a reason to dress up and eat candy!! I've always been a fan of spooky things, so it also gives me a perfect excuse to blast some scary music and make corny comments and jokes ("you look booo-tiful!").

Today has been my Halloween prep day. I rearranged all the outdoor decorations and started planning my Halloween party menu. Every year I make chili with cornbread and this year is no exception! Following is my Halloween menu. I can't wait to get started in the kitchen!!

Halloween Menu
Appetizers
Mummy Dogs (pigs in a blanket)
Chocolate Fondue Fountain with fruits to dip
Veggie Tray with dip
Chips & Salsa

Main Course
Chili with Cornbread
Vegetarian Baked Ziti

Treats
Popcorn Balls
Chocolate & Caramel Covered Pretzels
Candy Apples
Spooky Cupcakes

Drinks
Halloween Punch
Assorted drinks

I'm never sure how many people will show up, but leftovers have never been a problem! I'm also hoping to get the house in order this weekend. I don't want to worry about cleaning the house during the week, so I'm doing as much as I can now and then getting the house cleaner to come a day or two before Friday. This will free up my time for cooking and baking.

I also have some game ideas for the kids that I have to decide on. If anything, our get togethers are always kid friendly. Besides trick-or-treating, I like the kids to be able to do something fun. Usually, I set out a table with Halloween craft projects that the kids can do mostly on their own. This year I'm thinking of adding musical chairs, a pinata, bobbing for apples, or some other fun games. We'll see how it goes!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Choosing Saints.

Next week, we'll be celebrating All Saints Day both at our current Catholic co-op and at our church. The kids are especially excited this year and I've been working at helping them learn a little more about the saints they have chosen.

Marco will be dressing up as St. Joseph. He says that he is a good pick because St. Joseph takes care of all families. I though it was an excellent reason!

Isabella chose St. Therese of the Little Flower. She seems to be popular around here because of the Good Deed Beads I purchased at convention for the kids over the summer. In fact, we are planning on making our own sacrifice beads this week. St. Therese is also a featured saint in our Catholic Treasure Box books and we have been reading all about her this past month.

Anthony doesn't seem to have a good grasp about All Saints Day so far, although he does talk about being one of God's heroes. I imagine because that's how I describe saints to him...as heroes that defend our faith. With all that said, I decided to dress him as St. Francis.

Christian, my little guy, obviously doesn't care either way about anything but Mommy nowadays. He'll be joining the crew as well, however, in his own Pope John Paul II costume. I'm sure he'll find a way to fidget his way out of it, but as long as I get a quick picture of him in it...I don't mind.

I will most definitely post pictures of the kids. Mind you that I don't have great sewing abilities at all and the costumes are merely made up of sheets and fabric remnants. In all, it's always fun to get the kids involved in their costume making. Just a few more finishing touches and we'll all be ready for next week!!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Word Wall. Dolch Word List.

I am starting something new this week...a word wall. Word walls are so popular among teachers and are a great way to introduce kids to new vocabulary. I decided that using a word wall would be a great way to introduce the Dolch words to both Marco and Isabella. Using SSRW is going well and they also incorporate sight words. But sometimes I think the pace is a little slow, so this can make up for that.

I am following the word wall from abcteach.com. They provide easy instructions and offer a week by week list of words and word wall activities. I will be mixing it up a bit since the kids can read many of the words on their list. We'll see how it goes. I'm organizing the words by using a little file box. I wrote the words on word strips (I'll be alternating colors each week), and then put the words into envelopes. I'll be printing out the activities at the beginning of each week.

Word wall activities include:
  • Writing words out when they are introduced.
  • Making new words (can becomes man, etc.)
  • Finding words that rhyme.
  • Using the word in a sentence.
  • Word search.
  • Build a word using Unifix cubes.
  • Test at the end of the week.
I'm hoping that using a word wall will create a fun new element in learning sight words.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Random Pictures.

I was cleaning out my picture file and came across some pictures of the kids. I thought I'd post them up, just to give everyone some updates of their whereabouts! Some are more recent than others.



Isabella singing and dancing.


Bella earned her soccer patch at the first game of the season!!


Isabella is the star player of the team!!



My mom and Anthony enjoying a train ride.



Marco & Isabella on the train ride.



The kids got together with some friends to do a "Joseph's Coat of Many Colors" craft for history.


Marco getting ready to score a goal.



Anthony taking a break from the jumping pillow.



Christian ready for Halloween.



Marco picked a nice pumpkin!



Panning for gems with friends.



A little pumpkin for my little pun'kin!

Parenting and Virtue Studies.

"If you don't discipline your kids, someone else will." Today really got me thinking of how my own kids behave for others when I am not around. Do they listen? Do they use their manners? Are they pleasant to have around? All these behaviors reflect how they behave at home and whether or not they are disciplined correctly.

Being a homeschool parent is difficult. Adding to the difficulty is the fact that we are around our kids 24/7. We don't send them off to school, where another adult gets to do the disciplining for 6-8 hours out of the day. We don't get that break. Being around our kids all the time is a sacrifice. It takes patience, dedication, and love. Not that parents who send their kids to school don't have these qualities. Homeschool parents just get to practice them ALL THE TIME! And I don't want to start a riot with homeschool vs. non-homeschool; I'm just trying to state the facts.

One of the main responses that I get from others in regards to my homeschooling is this..."I could never do that. My kids wouldn't listen to me." OR "I would never be able to get my kids to do their work." This sounds like a BIG excuse. But more so, it sounds like a MAJOR discipline problem. Your kids don't listen to you?? Your kids won't do what they are told?? Yup...it's a parenting and discipline problem. If your kids don't listen to you or do what you tell them...how are they going to listen to another adult?? Granted, many of these responses are said to hide what they are really thinking..."Me homeschool? No Way!! I need my time away from my kids!" And that's OK! Everyone's family is different!! I don't look down on those who send their kids to school, just like I don't want others to look down on me for homeschooling.

Now back to the nitty gritty. Discipline and virtues.

I have been having a little problem lately with establishing guidelines for how to behave. Discipline is not that big of problem around here. I have expectations and there are consequences to not meeting those expectations. I actually DEMAND certain behavior and hold high standards. Why shouldn't I expect the BEST from my children??

But there are certain behaviors that are difficult to teach. Sure, I can teach my 3 year old not to climb on the furniture...but how do I teach him to be charitable? How do I teach Marco and Isabella faithfulness? These are all virtues given to us by God. These virtues make up our character and are formed along with our morals. It is difficult to learn these behaviors. Even I have problems showing some of these virtues.

So I have devised a plan to teach my kids the following virtues.
  • Peace
  • Kindness
  • Charity
  • Goodness
  • Patience
  • Joy
  • Self-Control
  • Faithfulness
  • Generosity
  • Gentleness
  • Modesty
My plan is to conquer a new virtue each week (since my kids are young, I'm omitting chastity). I'm planning on reading stories from the following books: Children's Book of Virtues, Everyday Graces, The Bible, Devotional Stories for Little Folks, and any others I find along the way. I also printed out some really nice virtue cards that are put out by Living My Faith. I'll be laminating these and giving them to the kids. If I catch a child displaying a behavior that reflects the virtue we are studying, then they get a star put on their card. I'm planning on rotating the cards until we have studied them 3 times each. That's 33 weeks of virtue study.

Of course, I know that just reading about being virtuous is not enough. I need to teach by holding them responsible for their actions, while rewarding them for displaying good judgment and behavior. I need to teach them by setting an example and by following the rules consistently...not just some of the time. I'm hoping that by the end of it all, I will have instilled a little bit of Godly behavior in my kids and in myself as a parent.



Prayer to the Holy Family

O most loving Jesus, Who by Thy sublime and beautiful virtues of humility, obedience, poverty, modesty, charity, patience and gentleness, and by the example of Thy domestic life, didst bless with peace and happiness the family Thou didst choose on earth, in Thy clemency look down upon this household, humbly prostrate before Thee and imploring Thy mercy. Remember that this family belongs to Thee; for to Thee we have in a special way dedicated and devoted ourselves. Look upon us in Thy loving kindness; preserve us from danger; give us help in time of need, and grant us the grace to persevere to the end in the imitation of Thy Holy Family; that having revered Thee and loved Thee faithfully on earth, we may bless and praise Thee eternally in heaven.

O Mary, most sweet Mother, to thy intercession we have recourse, knowing that thy Divine Son will hear thy prayers.

And do thou, O glorious Patriarch, St. Joseph, assist us by thy powerful mediation, and offer, by the hands of Mary, our prayers to Jesus. Amen.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Collection Complete. Before Five in a Row.

Today I completed my collection of books for Before Five in a Row. I figured that these books are worth having since all my kids enjoy them so much. I initially wanted to do the program with Anthony, but am now having Isabella join in. Marco still loves the stories as well and I plan to revisit them all again when Christian is old enough to start "school."

Searching for many of these books is like going on a treasure hunt. Since there are 5 books that are out of print, you really have to be diligent about searching. My final book purchase was My Blue Boat by Chris L. Demarest. Now that I'm done collecting, I'll just guard the books with my life!

Following is a list of all the wonderful books that make up the curriculum of Before Five in a Row.


Jesse Bear, What Will You Wear? by Nancy W. Carlstrom
Yellow Ball, by Molly Bang
My Blue Boat, by Chris L. Demarest
The Little Rabbit, by Judy Dunn
Ask Mr. Bear, by Marjorie Flack
Blueberries for Sal, by Robert McCloskey
Goodnight Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown
The Big Green Pocketbook, by Candice Ransom
The Runaway Bunny, by Margaret Wise Brown
The ABC Bunny, by Wanda Gag
If Jesus Came to My House, by Joan Gale Thomas
Caps for Sale, by Esphyr Slobodkina
The Carrot Seed, by Ruth Krauss
The Snowy Day, by Ezra Jack Keats
The Quiet Way Home, by Bonny Becker
Play With Me, by Marie Hall Ets
Prayer for a Child, by Rachel Field
I Am an Artist, by Pat L. Collins
Angus Lost, by Marjorie Flack
Katy No-Pocket, by Emmy Payne
We're Going on a Bear Hunt, by Michael Rosen
The Red Carpet, by Rex Parkin
Corduroy, by Don Freeman
Jenny's Surprise Summer, by Eugenie

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Back to Nature.

This past weekend was the NWF's Make Tracks! Family Trail Weekend. We were lucky to have planned a weekend getaway in the mountains with some friends, so it worked out that we were also able to enjoy a few hikes. The weather was great and the leaves were beautiful! It was a weekend that went by too fast. Luckily, we were able to tie in the weekend events with our planned nature activity for the week.

There were so many great pictures! I decided to make a slide show and then post some favorites.




Yup. It's 65 degrees outside and there is DH & Marco in the cold water. Sliding Rock is located near Asheville, NC.


Looks cold!!


Isabella was not left behind on the adventure. A friend took her down the slippery rock.



Hugging my Little Guy.



Enjoying some free time!



5 out of 7 kids...not bad!


The kids admire a living statue in downtown Asheville.


Exploring downtown Asheville.