Thursday, June 23, 2016

Our Summer Morning Time Plan

As I've mentioned before, we homeschool year round. I love this approach for many reasons, but a few of them include:

--A slow and steady approach means we spend less time on schoolwork on a daily basis.  The big kids and I get through most of our learning time in less than an hour first thing in the morning. Independent work takes them another hour or so, and I'm there to help as needed.

--It's a habit.  There is virtually no complaining about Morning Time because it's expected.  It's routine and something we all look forward to.  Choosing awesome books plays a big role it that, but I think more than anything the habit is what makes it possible.  

Our Morning Time this summer looks like this:

Memory Work

We've just started using a memory work binder similar to this one, and it's been simply amazing so far.  Our binders are a little different, but the idea is very much the same.  It's simple and still so effective.  I printed out a copy of each of these things for each of us. We open up our binders and run straight through it every morning.  The problem we've had with memory work in the past is remembering to pull it out or forgetting to work on it consistently.  Now because all of the things we're memorizing are in the same place we don't have that problem.  I can't believe I didn't think of it before.

We'll change out the new items we're memorizing with each 6 week term throughout the year.  And as we add new things, we will add a short review period to the end of each days' session so we are sure not to forget the things we've memorized in the past.

This summer our Memory work includes:
  • Hymn. This term we are working on Praise to the Man.  We sing it straight through, all four verses, every single morning.  
  • Scripture Passage.  We are memorizing Doctrine and Covenants 109: 7-8
  • Articles of Faith.  We take turns reading through the Articles of Faith. We read all 13 of them every day.  Ellie and I already have these memorized, so this practice is mostly for Ethan.  He's making huge progress already.
  • One poem per person.  Each child reads through the poem they are memorizing and then I read mine.  (They love that I am memorizing a poem, too.)
All of this only takes about 15 minutes per day, but I feel like it has added so much to our homeschool.


For science this summer, we are reading the Thornton Burgess Bird Book.  So far it's been a perfect read aloud.  The chapters are short and engaging, and even humorous at times.  While I read aloud, the kids draw the bird that the chapter focuses on in their science journals. Simple and fun.

Homer Price by Robert McCloskey.  This is our current literature read aloud.  None of us have ever read it before, but we're loving it.

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  We finished this one last week. There are no better read alouds than "The Laura Books"  as we call them around here.  Ellie has read them countless times, but this is Ethan's first time through.  No matter how many times I read these books, I never grow tired of them.

I'm also hoping to get to Winnie-The-Pooh by A.A. Milne and our currently family read aloud
The Trumpet of the Swan  by E. B. White.

The thing that's made the biggest difference in our Morning Time routine lately has nothing to do with books or memory binders.  It's the fact that my crazy, crazy toddler will now sit still and watch a show.  If we had talked about this when my two older children were little, I would have had very strong feelings about not allowing a 2.5 year old to watch something while the rest of the family was together, reading and learning.  I may have even experienced a little guilt at letting him watch anything at all.  But my tune has completely changed.

Morning Time had taken on a stressful, grumpy tone because the two year old was bored.  This particular two year old cannot simply play in a room quietly or roam around the house unattended.  He is a cyclone of a two year old.  Trying to engage him in our Morning Time routine was not successful and was adding a lot of time and frustration.  A few weeks ago I set up our laptop in the living room (where I could still see him) with an episode of Daniel Tiger on Netflix.  I don't know why I thought to try this, he'd never in his life sat still through a 20 minute show before.  But I did, and it was amazing.  Incredible and life-changing.  He happily (and quietly!) watched the show and the big kids and I happily and efficiently did schoolwork in the next room.  It was everything I imagined morning time to be: poetry and music, lovely books read aloud, happy children gathered around the table.

He usually watches 2 episodes of a show which allows us to do all of our memory work plus a chapter of science and a chapter of our read aloud.  And, let me tell you, I have no guilt about that.
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Thursday, June 16, 2016


A few weeks ago Ethan pointed out a bird's nest tucked into the eaves of our front porch.  Out of curiosity, Jason pulled out the ladder and took a picture of the inside of the nest.  Three bright blue eggs!  We were delighted with the little miracle occurring on our porch and as a fun experiment, Jason decided to hook up a webcam so we could live-stream the nest goings-on in the comfort of our living room. (Does that make us the nerdiest family you know?) Nearly every moment since then, the computer has been set up so we could keep an eye on our little visitors.

We've spent hours watching as the Mama Bird laid another egg and then sat on the eggs for days, the Papa Bird brought her food and stood guard while she left for a few moments to stretch her wings (Papa has never once sat on the eggs that we've seen.  But he takes his guarding role very seriously.)  Jason and I have especially loved to observe the interaction between the Mama and Papa birds, since we are in a very similar situation at the moment.  While I incubate our own little offspring, Jason brings me snacks and checks often to make sure I'm comfortable.

The excitement when we noticed the first hatched egg was palpable.  Over the next few days we watched as new siblings joined the Robin family and delighted in their arrival.   We've witnessed the every 10-20 minute feedings with a mixture of love and disgust (did you know that the babies poop out fecal sacks as soon as they eat?  Mama Bird eats the sacks immediately, which never gets less disgusting to me).   We've empathized with the parents in their tireless effort to feed and protect their young, and I imagine we'll only feel a deeper connection to them when our little girl arrives and we've got our own round-the-clock feeding schedule.

We have lots of recorded videos so we can get a broader sense of their behavior. We're hoping to turn this into an award winning science fair project in the future.  In the meantime, here's a little video of our dear Mama Bird laying her 4th egg.  Makes me a tad nervous for the labor in my future, if I'm being honest.

I may be entering into a bit of a Nesting phase myself.  I am suddenly overcome with the desire to complete unfinished projects (of which there are many).  I am really excellent at starting projects, and so is my dear husband.  Finishing is much harder for both of us.  Over the weekend, we sat down and made a list of unfinished house projects and we've been crossing them off the list as quickly as time and energy allow. 

Not only house projects are under attack.  I'm also focusing on finishing up crafty projects that have been neglected.  Such as a giant cross stitch for our monogram wall that I dreamt up a few months ago.  I thought it would be an amazing addition, and I'm sure in the end it will be.  However, it's also giant (that's a 12" hoop) and I realized very quickly that I was in over my head.  I put it away for a while to knit on some socks and baby gifts, but it's back in the forefront again. I currently have lots of motivation (hormonal and otherwise) to finish it, so I'm hoping that will continue long enough to actually happen.

I'm also eyeball deep in planning for our next school year. How I love pouring over book lists and making my own lists of books to check out from the library and to buy for the upcoming year. Because we'll have a new little one I want the year to be as simple as possible.  Planning now is helping me feel so much more at ease about our wide range of ages and the difficulty we'll face managing big kids' schedules and newborn feedings and toddler mischievousness.

Here's hoping that we can accomplish everything on our lists and be really and truly ready for the adventure that awaits us when baby arrives.  It seems so luxurious to have so long to plan and prepare.  After years of foster placements arriving with less than 24 hours notice, we hardly know what to do with so much time.  Though, I hear it goes quickly.
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Book Report: June 2016

It's book report time! So far I have read 41 of my goal of 60 books this year. According to Goodreads, that's 14 books ahead of schedule, so it looks like it's going to be an excellent reading year for me. The only reading disappointment I had this month was not being able to spend much time reading on our trip to Lake Powell.  I had big reading plans, but with a busy, busy 2 year old they didn't quite come to fruition.  Still, I was able to finish six books this month.

Check out Modern Mrs. Darcy for more quick book reviews.

Grandma Gatewood's Walk by Ben Montgomery

I am so drawn to true adventure/survival stories.  Grandma Gatewood falls firmly into both categories.  She was the mother of 11, survived a brutally abusive marriage and was the first woman to walk the 2000+ mile Appalachian Trail in its entirety.  And she did so when she was 67 years old, with very few supplies. She went on to hike the trail in full 2 more times as well as several other remarkably long trails. I was inspired by her tenacity, her humility and humor and her ability to overcome both the trail and her trials.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple

I still have mixed feelings about Where'd You Go, Bernadette?.  On one hand, it was a light, funny, entertaining read with enjoyable and quirky characters. I really enjoyed that it was told through a series of emails back and forth amongst the main characters, police reports, newspaper articles, and other documents. However, the ending left me disappointed.  I felt like it was too rushed and left lots of unresolved loose ends. All in all, it's a fun beach read for your summer adventures.

For The Love by Jen Hatmaker

I've never read anything by Jen Hatmaker before, though I've heard a lot about her and the inspiring work she does.  I picked this up on a whim when I saw it at the library and I'm happy I did.  Jen expertly mixes hilarious essays and deeper faith-filled topics in this book.  She talks about everything from spanx to the loss of faith young Christians face and blends it seamlessly.  I loved her advice on friendship, on finding your purpose and working hard to achieve it (even if you don't get paid) and on loving and accepting others.

Take Me With You by Catherine Ryan Hyde

A grieving father, through a strange turn of events, ends up taking two children he hardly knows on a three month long epic camping adventure across the Western United States. While the storyline was interesting, and I cared about the characters what I loved most about this book was the descriptions of their trip.  The trio travels through southern Utah, to some of my favorite places on earth, and they hike trails I've been on many times in my life.  I loved reading the descriptions of their adventures and knowing exactly what the terrain looked like and feeling like I was right there with them.

The BFG by Roald Dahl

This has been our family read-aloud for the past little while.  I had never read it before, so it was fun to experience it for the first time as a family.  As you'd expect from Roald Dahl, it's quirky and silly and a tiny bit scary at times.  We all loved the BFG's take on language and have already begun to incorporate some of his words into our family vocabulary.  Ethan has been calling me "Your Magister" for days. It's a fun, outlandish tale, best experienced with children. One part, having to do with bodily functions, is especially meant for boys around 7 or 8 years old.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling

I read the Harry Potter series for the first time as they came out.  Aside from rereading the first book with each of my older children, I haven't read them again since then.  This third book was released in 2001, so it's been a good long while since I experienced it. I've decided to work my way through the series again.  I feel like I'm reading them in a different way this time than I did the first time around.  The first time I devoured the books, dying to know what would happen and to experience the incredible magical world Rowling created. This time I am savoring them much more.  The writing is masterful, the story incredibly detailed without losing any of its believability.  There is a reason these books are so beloved and I'm excited to read them all again.

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Thursday, June 9, 2016

Summer Reading Challenge Printable (+ Our Reading Lists for the Summer)

I am so excited to share a Summer Reading Printable AND my kids' Summer Reading Lists with you today. But first, a little background:

We homeschool year round with a 6 weeks on, one week off schedule.  I've found that I love this arrangement for many reasons, some of which include: we spend less time doing school on a day-to-day basis because we're making steady progress; there is no "summer slide", no need to review stuff we've learned and then forgotten over the summer; school is part of our daily structure, it's expected and routine and much easier to follow through on because we all know it's going to happen.

We do have less formal school time during the summer months (thanks to morning swim team practice) and a little extra time for reading.   In an effort to inspire my children to pick up and enjoy beautiful books, I've complied a summer book list for each of them.  The idea is that they each spend time every day reading a book from the list.  I wanted to give them lots of really great options across many genres.  Books that they may not have chosen otherwise.  We own some of these books and every week I add a few books from these lists to our holds at the library so they are available at home. I've included a spot for assigned reading on my kids' daily checklists, so they must finish their reading before they play with friends or have screen time. They get to choose the books they read from this list and when they read them, and I certainly don't expect them to finish all the books this summer. They both have many more options than they'll probably get to this summer.

In order to inspire you and your young readers to branch out of your typical reading habits, I created a free Summer Reading Printable. Color in each doodle as you read a book from that category and see how quickly you can fill them all in.  Maybe offer a prize for those who complete all the categories?  I'm not above bribery at all!   To grab the free download, click Add to Cart below.

Add to Cart

And now, for the book lists!

Ellie (11) is a voracious reader, but often sticks to the same genre of books (or re-reads her favorites until she has them memorized) and I'd like to challenge her a little. She reads these books on her own (20 minutes per day) and we talk about them a little bit when she's done.  No book reports, no assignments, no verification questions.  I talk to her like I'd talk to a friend of mine who is also a reader.

Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome
The Black Stallion by Walter Farley
Bully for You, Teddy Roosevelt! by Jean Fritz
Chasing Vermeer by Blue Baillett
Children's Homer by Padraic Colum
Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary
Enchanted Castle by Edith Nesbitt
The Golden Goblet by Eloise Jarvis McGraw
Grimms' Fairy Tales by the Brothers Grimm
Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
Journey to Topaz by Yoshiko Uchida
Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C O'Brien
Pilgrim Stories by Margaret Pumphrey
Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World by Jennifer Armstrong
Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski
Swiss Family Robinson by Johann D. Wyss

Ethan (7) is still emerging as a reader.  He's not comfortable reading entirely on his own yet, so he reads aloud to me each day.  I am there to help him with words he doesn't know and we enjoy the books together. Ellie was a very early reader, reading chapter books by the age of 5, and I missed this phase with her. She just took off and wanted to do her own thing, so it's been fun to really soak up this reading time with Ethan and to see the incremental progress he's making.

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst
Apples to Oregon by Deborah Hopkinson
A Bargain for Frances by Russell and Lillian Hoban

Best Friends for Frances by Russell and Lillian Hoban

The Biggest Bear by Lynd Ward
Billy and Blaze by C. W. Anderson
Blaze and the Forest Fire by C. W. Anderson
Bored--Nothing To Do by Peter Spier
Chanticleer and the Fox by Geoffrey Chaucer
Crow Boy by Taro Yashima
Days with Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel
Frog and Toad are Friends by Arnold Lobel
Frog and Toad Together by Arnold Lobel
Doctor De Soto by William Steig
Little Bear Series by Else Holmelund Minarik
Grasshopper on the Road by Arnold Lobel
Happy Birthday, Moon by Frank Asch
Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson
Harry by the Sea by Gene Zion
Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile by Bernard Waber
Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney
Mysterious Tadpole by Steven Kellogg
Owl and the Pussycat by Edward Lear
Ox-Cart Man by Donald Hall
Paul Bunyan by Steven Kellogg
Roxaboxen by Alice McLerran
Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf
Thy Friend, Obadiah by Brinton Turkle
Tops and Bottoms by Janet Stevens
What Do You Do, Dear? by Sesyle Joslin

What are you planning to read this summer?
Happy Reading!

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Saturday, June 4, 2016

Snapshots from Lake Powell

The kids and I just returned from a week at beautiful Lake Powell with extended family (for more glimpses at this annual family trip see here, here, here, here and here).  I look forward to this unplugged time away every year.  And while there was very little time for the things I imagined I'd be doing: reading, knitting, working in my sketchbook; I had plenty of time for other things: kayaking around our little bay, talking and laughing, cousin playtime, countless tube rides (two of which Elijah fell asleep on), enjoying some of the most beautiful surroundings on earth, swimming, wishing I was water-skiing (not for this pregnant mama, thanks), hearing fishing tales from my enthusiastic 7 year old fisherman, slinging rocks, lizard hunting, sharing meals and exploring.

I came to the realization on this trip that my vacation days may not look like I've envisioned at this point in my life. Just like my days at home, they are interrupted by squabbling siblings, a rambunctious and curious toddler, a sick child, or a someone who needs comfort or help or extra attention.  Rather than be discouraged by my lack of time to do the things I'd planned (the aforementioned knitting, reading and sketchbooking), I chose to focus on the foundation we are building.  I want to have an adventurous family and my little ones are learning how to travel long distances, eat new foods, entertain themselves without technology and sleep beneath the stars. In time I can see that the effort we have to put into camping trips now will pay off in the future with kids who love to be outside, who value travel and the rich experiences it brings and who are excited to set off on our next adventure.
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