Saturday, April 30, 2011

Week in Review - Tornados up close and personal.

This week my town was hit with an F4 tornado. I'm still in shock. How do you move on and pretend that things are normal? I dream about it, I hear about it from everyone, and every time I leave my house I'm confronted with it. It breaks my heart! In addition to my town, just about every other town within 50 miles or so was hit with one or more tornados too. It started around 9:30 am and wasn't over until late that night. It was a day of stress, prayer, and thankfulness.

In the middle of all of the destruction, its wonderful to see a few things spared. Its also wonderful to see my community pull together and help their neighbors. So many are suffering, so many homes and businesses destroyed. I praise God that my family was spared!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Happy Good Friday!

Today was a wonderful day spent with my family. We colored eggs, watch our blue bird friends and just enjoyed each other.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Happy Homeschooler

I just love homeschooling. Its such a great fit for our family. In today's world of rushing here and rushing there, over scheduled children, and lack of quality family time, we've created a relaxed, fun, family oriented life. My kids get to learn at their own pace, they get one on one attention day in and day out. We're able to sleep later in the morning, stay up later at night, enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner together every day, travel whenever we want rather than when the school systems deems its appropriate, and study math in PJ's with a furry friend in our lap.

We can go outside in the middle of the day to try out two different homemade bubble solutions after learning about bubbles and the science behind them.

We can watch videos to learn more about topics we're studying. We can spend endless hours at the library. We can sit at our dining room table and bird watch over lunch. We can take the day off and head out to our local aquarium for some hands on learning. We can go on field trips whenever we want. Most importantly, we can spend our days together. Learning through living our life. To me, there's simply nothing better!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Celebrating Palm Sunday

Every year my family attends Mass on Palm Sunday. Every year we come home with several palm fronds which end up in my bedroom tucked behind my mirror. This year I decided it was time to learn more about the palm fronds, how to properly dispose of our old ones, and how to make those cool palm frond crosses we've seen other make. we read about Palm Sunday, and found a simple yet effective way to make crosses out of our palms. Here's the tutorial we used.

How to make palm Crosses to tuck behind picture frames and hang on your wall

Take a palm that is about 2 feet long and 1/2" wide (if it tapers at the top, this is good!). Hold the palm upright, so the tapered end points toward the ceiling.
Then bend the top end down and toward you so that the bend is about 5 or 6 inches from the bottom of the palm.
About a third of the way from the bend you just made, twist the section you've pulled down to the right, forming a right angle.

About an inch and a half away from the "stem" of the cross, bend this arm of the palm back behind the palm so that it is now facing to your left. Make the bend at a good length to form the right arm of the Cross.

Folding that same section at a point that equals the length on the right side, bend it on the left side and bring the end forward over what is now the front of the cross.

From the very center of the Cross, fold that arm up and to the upper right (in a "northeast" direction) so that it can wrap around where the upright post of the Cross and the right arm intersect.
Fold this down and to the left behind the Cross...

...and then fold it toward the right so that it is parallel and under the transverse arms of the Cross.
Bring it up behind the Cross again, this time folding it up toward the "northwest" direction.

Tuck the tapered end into the transverse section you made in step 7...

...and pull through.

Turn the Cross over; this side will be the front. Trim the tapered end if necessary, remembering that the palm is a sacramental and any part you trim away should be kept and respected as a sacramental! Use that piece for burning during storms.

My son Ryan is afraid of storms. Now he's telling me he's going to burn a piece of his palm frond to keep our family safe during the next storm. Gotta love that kid! All three of them were able to make a cross for their room from the palm frond they brought home from Mass. How cool is that?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Happy day, happy day!!!

We are so excited to find that we have bluebirds successfully nesting in one of our nest boxes again this year. Last year we had an awful experience with the house sparrows in our yard. We have 4 bluebird nest boxes located on the fence around our back yard. Every year the house sparrows take over most if not all of the nest boxes. Last year the bluebirds successful fought for and won one of the nest boxes. We were so excited when we found the eggs, only to be heart broken a few weeks later when we saw the house sparrows start attacking the bluebirds and then finding the newborn baby bluebirds killed and thrown on the ground below the nest box. The house sparrows then proceeded to move in and lay eggs of their own.

My husband and I removed the house sparrow nest immediately and evicted them from the box. Shortly after that the bluebirds took the house over again and once again laid eggs. I was prepared for them this time and had done extensive research on how to help them raise their family without the house sparrows attacking them. We installed a sparrow spooker on the nest box and prayed it would work. It did!! They raised three healthy baby bluebirds last year.

This year they somehow managed to move into one of the boxes without much of a fight from the sparrows. They were too busy fighting off the resident starlings who decided they wanted the middle box that the house sparrows were nesting in. We have house sparrows in 3 of the 4 boxes, but somehow the bluebirds got one box. Sunday we took out a ladder and flashlight to look in the nest box. There were 4 little bright blue eggs in the box. So out came the sparrow spooker again to keep the sparrows at bay. This year the bluebirds went back in the box without so much as a look at the spooker attached. Don't quite know why it works, but it does. So now we're all anxiously awaiting the birth of our new bluebird babies in the next few weeks. Please keep their safety in your prayers!!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

You know spring has arrived when...

Lately, our weather has very "spring like". Gorgeous warm sunny days, clear blue skies, birds singing, and thunder storms. But, some signs that I always look for that mean spring has arrived at our house are...

Dogwoods in full bloom...

Birds fighting over our bird houses...

Mr. and Mrs. Bluebird back in residence...and one of my personal favorites...

Hummingbirds back from their winter migrations!! What makes you really think spring at your house?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Science Experiment Time - Sour or Not?

This week we ended up doing the science experiment from last week's lesson on Monday. We simply had too many things going on last Friday to fit it in. We also had to get lots of different items from the grocery store to use in our experiment. So, here's what we did...

We had a bunch of cups labeled with various types of liquids. Milk, white grape juice, grape fruit juice, distilled water, mineral water, baking soda water, and antacid water. The kids took turns tasting the various cups to determine whether they were sour, sweet or salty. Grape fruit juice is really sour!

Next, we separated everything into which ones were sour and which ones weren't. Most everything was on the not sour side.

Lastly, we used our red cabbage dyed purple water we made to test for acidity in our various cups. We got some really cool colors!! One ever turned green! How fun is that?

If you're wondering where we're getting all of these neat experiments we're doing from, they are all from Real Science 4 Kids, Chemistry, Pre-Level 1. I absolutely LOVE this science program!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Week in Review - Busy days!

This week was a super busy week for us. I decided to plan out our days for the rest of the month. I'm one of those people who love planning books, and the thought of being that organized, but have a terrible time with the follow through. I've tried doing my planning sheets on the computer, but it just takes too long. I'm using a spiral bound planning book that has room for nine subjects plus room for notes. I use one planner for all three kids. I do lots of abbreviations in order to get everything to fit. I love having my day planned in that it tends to make me more accountable. I am notorious for getting sidetracked and not doing what I planned to do that day. Although I've never been officially diagnosed, I'm quite sure that I have ADD. I always have a million things going at the same time.

Using my lesson plan book, I managed to stay on track until Friday. We didn't accomplish everything on Friday and had to finish up a few things on Saturday. I am bound and determined to keep to the plan for once in my life! I'll let you know how that works for me.

Monday we had choir, and then Haley had a friend over for a playdate. We began reading Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I am now positive that I would have starved had I lived like they did. The things they had to do for food. The things they ate!! GROSS!!! Despite all of the rather interesting food choices, my kids are enjoying the book as much as I did as a child. I'm reading one chapter per day.

Tuesday was spent at home doing some housework and lots of school work. We're buckling down for the final few weeks until we're through. I'm not planning on taking the full summer off this year though. We will just have a much lighter schedule.

Wednesday was another busy school day, then off to run a few errands and visit with my grandmother-in-law for dinner.

Thursday was more of the same. School work, house work, blah, blah, blah.

Friday we had a fun Easter egg hunt with my homeschool group. We went to one of their friends house and all of the kids spent about 30 minutes chasing down plastic, candy filled eggs. After the hunt, we walked to nearby creek so the kids could wade in the water. While there the owner the property we were on told me that if we looked closely along the shore, we might find fossils. I love interesting rocks and find fossils fascinating. I found four fossils, along with a couple pieces of petrified wood. When we got home I did some research on the computer and determined that the fossils are most likely crinoids. They went extinct 250 million years ago. How cool is that? They were also called sea lillies and were actually living creatures similar to coral of today.

Saturday morning was spent at our church getting everything ready for a First Communion Retreat on Sunday. We have 90 children receiving their First Communion this year! Then it was home for yard work and a play date with a friend that Haley met while we were doing the play A Christmas Story at the theater.

We had a very busy but extremely productive week. How was your week?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Works for Me Wednesday - Times Tales

This week, I found what I believe will be the solution to my daughter's multiplication memorization problems. I saw a link on a website I was visiting and found a program called Times Tales. They offered a free trial of their multiplication memorization product. Having struggled with multiplication daily lately, I'm game for just about anything at the moment.

I read through the program, and then excitedly showed it to Haley. She loved it! I explained the characters, read through the stories, discussed them, and poof...just like that she knew her upper nine multiplication facts. It took less than 10 minutes. Never in my entire life have I seen anything that was this effective. She is now begging me to buy the program. She likes it that well. Here's a picture of what's included in the Times Tales program.

Times Tales is a creative, innovative mnemonic-based program that makes it
fun and easy to memorize the upper multiplication facts. Times Tales uses
cute, simple stories to provide students with a "memory peg", allowing them to
quickly recall otherwise abstract facts.

- Covers the most difficult to memorize times tables:

- FAST - most children learn in two 45 minute sessions!

- Non-consumable - can be used by the whole family.

- FUN - kids love this learning method and ask for more!

So, if you've got a child who's struggling with the times tables, do yourself a favor and download the free trial. You will not be disappointed. In my opinion this program is a real bargain at just $29.95. If you download the trial first you will even receive a $3.00 off coupon code. This product has received rave reviews, and is even endorsed by Cathy Duffy & Jeannie Fulbright of Apologia. You'll find literally hundreds of glowing reviews on the website.

We'll be using this product over the next week or so to see how fast she learns them, but so far it really works for me!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Science Fun...Chemical Reactions!!

We finished up our chapter on chemical reactions today and had some science experiment fun. We are currently using Real Science 4 Kids by Gravitas Publications. We started out with Chemistry Pre-level 1. So far, we are all absolutely loving it. The best program we've used yet. Short, sweet, very informative, and lots of fun experiments. We're currently doing science twice a week. We read the text on Tuesday, and then do the experiment on either Thursday or Friday depending on time. The student texts are books that my kids would probably enjoy having hard copies of in our library. They are engaging, and the graphics are very child friendly. They have really enjoyed learning about molecules and atoms. When we finish this text we'll move on to physics and then biology. I highly recommend taking a look at this science program. Enjoy!