Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Homeschool ROCKS...and minerals!

This week we had the amazing opportunity to meet with a real live rockhound! The grandfather of one of the children in our homeschool group is a member of the local Geological Society and has been collecting rocks and minerals for the last 20 years.  He graciously offered to do a presentation for our kids.  I'll be honest, I did not know what to expect when I signed Sofia up to hear about rocks...but I was so amazed to see how well he presented his material and how much the class LOVED it!

The children were in awe of his rock collection! He explained all about rocks and minerals in words they could easily understand (which was good for me as well because my knowledge of rocks was very poor!).  He even let them pass around different types of rare rocks and let them examine their differences in weight, color and texture.

A budding rockhound examines a specimen with a magnifying glass

Up close view of a sea scorpion (eurypterid) fossil

Mr R. giving the class a tour of his prized rock collection. 
 The children's mouths literally dropped open when they walked in to Mr. R's living room to see the many shelves of rare rocks and minerals.  I have never seen such a collection myself!  It was also wonderful for the children to learn from their friend's grandfather.  I can only imagine how proud his granddaughter must have been.  

As a parting gift, he gave EACH student their own rock collection!  He labeled each specimen with the name and the location where it was found.  It now has a special place on Sofia's dresser beside our fish Prince (because Sofia thought it would be a nice thing for him to look at).

What an experience! I love how homeschooling gives us opportunities to learn in this way.  When Sofia came home with her rock collection she was able to show her sisters, my husband and I what she had learned.  Her favorite stone was Apatite and the small Quartz she acquired and, this week, we will look them up and learn more about them.  Awesome!  It's true my friends...homeschool rocks!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Time flies when you're having fun!

Sofia and a fellow homeschooler enjoying a book at our local library.

I am amazed how quickly a week has gone by in our home!  I guess the statement holds true that time flies when you're having fun!

We are hooked on audiobooks at our house! Since we are in the car a lot driving to lessons and homeschool events, the girls get to go through books fairly quickly this way.  The first book we listened to was Little House in the Big Woods.  This is a book we've read before but Cherry Jones does such a good job of reading it that even Maya (my 2 year old) could follow along and enjoy! We listened to the entire book at least four times, so much so that Sofia can quote passages from it!

Our next audiobook was Henry Huggins by Beverly Cleary.  We enjoyed reading the Ramona books so we gave this a shot.  The girls loved it!  The version we have is read by Barbara Caruso but I have seen newer versions read by Neil Patrick Harris!  

In a chapter of Henry Huggins, Henry goes out searching for large worms called Night Crawlers.  Since it was such a rainy week, the girls decided they too would find their own Night Crawlers!

All dressed up and ready for action!

 Unfortunately, they could not find any "Night Crawlers" like Henry Huggins found...but they DID find five of the HUGEST slugs I have ever seen!  This was our table center piece for the week.

On the homeschooling front, we are really enjoying our Sonlight Core A history package.  Currently we are studying people who lived 350,000 to 5000 years ago.  We read about the first clothes and how they progressed from wearing animal skins to people learning how to clean the skins, stretch them out and sew them.  Since I love to sew, I decided to teach Sofia to sew an outfit for her Barbie with REAL needles!  We used printed felt that I purchased from JOANN Fabric for a little over a dollar.  We cut a pattern and Sofia traced it onto the felt and cut it out.  She then sewed the two pieces together and voila!

One can never forget modesty when dressing Barbie!
Our local YMCA has started a homeschool swim and gym program.  This is the first year they have implemented the program and they had over 60 families join!  The kids meet for a 45 minute gym class.  Coach Seth is teaching them soccer and Sofia is having a blast with it (even if she runs around the gym holding hands with people and kicking the ball).  After gym is a  30 minute swim lesson.  There are many different levels of swim ability in the class but I think they are doing a good job of getting everyone involved and interested.

We have also started our homeschool Irish dance lessons taught by a fellow homeschooling mother!  Both Maya and Sofia participated and learned the beginning steps to the Irish Jig...just about the cutest thing ever!

Future Irish Dancers of America!
I am really enjoying this first month of homeschooling.  I love how flexible our schedule is and how much we can learn and enjoy what we are learning together!  Don't get me wrong, by the end of the day I am tired.  As a rule, I do not do any housework while we are doing our morning school lessons.  I noticed that when I do run out to take a phone call, or change a load of laundry then the girls get off track and before you know's chaos!  So, at the end of the day there are usually still loads of laundry to fold, dishwashers to empty and lessons to plan.  But that's OK.  So far, it's worth it.  When I'm putting away the millionth book or scraping glue off the kitchen table, I get to think back at the day that the girls and I spent together and think about how great this time is.  Because we all know that time really does fly when you're having fun!

Monday, September 19, 2011

A mother's words

A disturbing thing happened when I was at the YMCA this weekend.  I was swimming with the girls and my husband, and I decided to change first to make it easier getting the girls dried off and changed.  So I went into the change room alone and overheard a conversation between a mother and her daughter.

The conversation is still haunting me today.

In the 15 minutes it took for me to change, I heard this mother call her daughter (who looked to be 4 years old)..annoying, irritating and crazy.  She said "every time you come with me anywhere you annoy the crap out of me." 

This little girl is named Lindsey.  I know this because while we were swimming, she was sitting on a bench with her mother and as I walked by she smiled at me and asked me my name.  I thought this was so sweet and I talked to her for a little bit and she told me her name was Lindsey.

I wish I wish I wish, I had spent more time with her offering her kind words...unlike the harsh ones she was going to receive from her own mother.

Back to the change room...Lindsey's brother had come back from his swim lesson and his mother said "Great job son! I'm so proud of your swimming."  Huh?  Was this coming from the same change room stall that I had heard the hurtful conversation just seconds earlier?

I guess Lindsey had left the change room because her brother asked where she was and spoke about her birthday (which was today) and his mother said "Yah, her birthday is tomorrow...if she makes it that long, I can't stand her."

I could hardly stand it.  I wish I had said something.  I just ran out to the pool deck and told my husband what had happened and when our family got into the change room Lindsey, her brother and mother were gone.

I can't stop thinking about this.

Lindsey's mothers words stung me.  I cannot imagine what they are doing to that poor girl.  Can kids be annoying, irritating and drive you crazy?  Um, yah, sure they can.  Hearing that mother, however, I could see so clearly how harmful a mothers words can be.

My daughters believe everything I say.  Really, I can tell them that I turn into a ladybug at night and ride a unicorn down the street and they would really believe me.  Hard to believe...not really.  Then how can we not think that these same kids believe every word we tell them positive or not.  If a child hears that she is annoying or can she not believe it?

The words we tell our daughters today are the words they will hear all their lives.  When my daughters grow older and think about me I want them to hear my voice echo "You are beautiful, you are kind, I love you always and I love being with you."  Because I mean it, because they deserve to hear it and because I firmly resolve to be careful with my words.

Happy Birthday dear Lindsey.  I am sorry I didn't stop the verbal abuse I heard.  I prayed for you today and I sang happy birthday to you as well.  My prayer was that someone would choose their words carefully for you to hear.  That someone would offer kind and loving words to you because you deserve to hear matter what.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Gospel in a Nutshell - But it's not fair!!!!

Matthew 20:1-16

Jesus told his disciples this parable:
"The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner
who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard.
After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage,
he sent them into his vineyard.
Going out about nine o'clock,
the landowner saw others standing idle in the marketplace,
and he said to them, 'You too go into my vineyard,
and I will give you what is just.'
So they went off.
And he went out again around noon,
and around three o'clock, and did likewise.
Going out about five o'clock,
the landowner found others standing around, and said to them,
'Why do you stand here idle all day?'
They answered, 'Because no one has hired us.'
He said to them, 'You too go into my vineyard.'
When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman,
'Summon the laborers and give them their pay,
beginning with the last and ending with the first.'
When those who had started about five o'clock came,
each received the usual daily wage.
So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more,
but each of them also got the usual wage.
And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying,
'These last ones worked only one hour,
and you have made them equal to us,
who bore the day's burden and the heat.'
He said to one of them in reply,
'My friend, I am not cheating you.
Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?
Take what is yours and go.
What if I wish to give this last one the same as you?
Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money?
Are you envious because I am generous?'
Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last."

This week was the weekend that our church group got together to discuss the gospel.  And boy, am I glad we did!

When I first read this passage all I could think was "But it's not fair" (imagine it in a whiny four year old voice to get my exact response!)

Is this parable really telling me that there is no difference in the reward of heaven between someone who has worked hard all their life for God and someone who just chooses God at the last minute?

Well, yes it does.  And I'm happy to say that I'm glad about it. Phew, no more whiny four year old!

As Christians, our goal should be to get ourselves and others into heaven.  My number one wish for my husband and my children is that I can help them live a life so that they can reach heaven.  We should be ecstatic if someone we know decides (even if at the last minute) to choose to love God.  This "fairness" that we find so difficult is a human difficulty.  Thank God that Jesus does not look at things this way!

Jesus looks at things differently.  His love for us is from who we are and not what or how much we have done.  It's what is in our heart while serving God that matters, not the duration or outcome of our effort!  When we think we deserve certain rewards our pride kicks in and we lose it!

The parable teaches us that eternal life is a gift freely given to us all who will receive it (so hurry and receive it because who knows when your last chance to accept will come!)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Dinosaurs, nature hunts and cave paintings...oh my!

Our first week homeschooling using Sonlight Core A has been a success! As I've mentioned previously, our days at home have not changed that much since we've started homeschooling (much to my surprise).  Sonlight is so relaxed and inclusive of the whole family, that I have not had to really entertain the other kids because they want to learn alongside their older sister...perfect!!!

In our first week of Core A our history lesson included learning about dinosaurs, the earliest people, the first clothes and the first foods.  Our girls loved learning about the dinosaurs and can now identify a number of dinos by certain prominent characteristics. 

Sofia matching her toy dinosaurs with the ones in a library book.
Of course, no dinosaur goes without a castle in our home!

When I first planned our week, I did not plan any arts or crafts to go along with the lesson plans.  I was afraid that I would overwhelm myself trying to fit in all the subjects and books to read.  The curriculum is so easy to follow that I was so happy to find out that I had a ton of extra time to add to it as I pleased.  We are reading the book Living Long Ago which is a history book that is geared towards children.  The pictures are fun to look at and the language in the book makes history easy to understand for a Kindergarten level.  The girls were fascinated by the cave drawings and how they didn't have paint brushes to make their pictures but instead used items found in nature.  So, we decided that we would do a nature hunt and find various items to use for our very own cave paintings!

Sofia and Maya ready to be let loose on their nature walk!
And they're off!

The girls gathered crab apples, leaves, dried flowers, fresh flowers, twigs, berries and rocks to use for our cave paintings.  They were so creative with their paintings and had such a good time this morning with their project!

Digging through the treasure!
Maya is all business with her cave painting.

Here is our completed work of art! You can see how quickly every art project turns into finger painting at our house!  Oh well, I can bet money that cave-kids used their fingers to paint as well!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Our first day of Kindergarten!

Yay! We made it through day one of homeschooling! It sounds funny, but it feels pretty good to have one day under my belt!

Actually, to tell you the truth it wasn't that different a day than any other day in our home.  Kindergarten schoolwork really does not take that much time.  We started at around 8:45am after we tidied up breakfast and we "ended" lessons at about 10:30am!  The rest of the day was spent reading stories about the topics we learned about and enjoying some fresh air at the park and in our backyard.

Our first subject was the Bible and we read the creation story.  The two older girls enjoyed this and were fascinated about how God made Eve from Adam's rib (they literally had their mouths wide open...hopefully my explanation wasn't too graphic!!).

Next, we did math.  For Kindergarten we are using Horizons Math and are enjoying it so far.  Sofia is on lesson 19 and today we learned how to tell time on an analog and digital clock. She is also reviewing counting, writing numbers, shapes, and ordering of the days of the week.  Maya entertained herself nicely with the busy bags!

Actually, it was harder to keep Sofia from playing with the busy bags herself than it was to occupy Maya during school time!

For handwriting, we are using Handwriting without Tears.  It was developed by an occupational therapist and is a great way of teaching children to print using different strategies that really engage the student.  For instance to learn a letter you trace it in the air, build it from wood pieces, draw it big on a slate and write it in a notebook.  Writing that all down sounded more complicated than it is.  Really, it is a no preparation, easy way to teach neat handwriting.

Here is Sofia building the letter N with her workbook open to the page.  After finishing the workbook page, she loves coloring in the pictures in the book!

This is the slate that comes with the package.  I had to cover the wood edges in duct tape because it splintered so badly.  Aside from that, it works very well.  It is a great way to teach size and proportions of letters.  The small pieces of chalk are easy for Sofia to hold and makes her letters a lot neater than if we use a large pencil.

For language arts, we are also using Sonlight with Grade 1 readers.  I'm not sure I love this program, it is very very simple right now and Sofia flies through the lesson.  We are also using Explode the Code Book 3 and she is doing well with it.  It is also an easy workbook for her to do independent work when I have to attend to the other kids!

Wondering what Emmy was up to this morning during school?  She mostly played in the family room with blocks and her exersaucer and took her regular morning nap.  When she woke up she stayed on my lap until she found a dry erase crayon on the floor and went to town!

For the Sonlight part of the day we read aloud from the Boxcar Children and a Mother Goose nursery rhyme book.  For history we learned about dinosaurs and were able to visit websites provided by the internet linked children's encyclopedia.  Finally, for science we learned about the planet Earth!

The kids really enjoyed reading about the dinosaurs and they were asking me questions that I didn't know the answers to to the library we went and got out a ton of books on the subject.  Sofia actually chose one to read for her bedtime story...lets see how often she wakes up with nightmares tonight!

The day was relaxed and fun.  I didn't plan any crafts or songs or activities to go along with this weeks lessons..I really just wanted to be able to get through them comfortably before I add the bells and whistles.  Here's hoping tomorrow is just as much fun!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Our homeschool classroom (Or where the magic happens!)

Aside from purchasing new curriculum, nothing gets the school year going like a nice homeschool classroom!  Most bloggers have already posted their pictures but ours were a little late coming together which is OK because our school doesn't start until next week.

Although we have a great finished basement, we have decided to homeschool around the kitchen table (a la Duggers!)  I figure it's the place we gravitate to the most and it lets me keep an eye on the kitchen, family room and dining room from one place (very important with a curious crawling baby around!).

It's simple but I love it! We started decorating our wall with our eeboo animal cards which I blogged about here.  My newest addition was the awesome chalkboard from New York Blackboard.  I bought it unstained and stained it myself.  We use the chalkboard for writing down questions that come up during the day and for going over math lessons or copy work.  We also write messages to Dad when he comes home!

 Our learning calendar is from Learning Resources but I purchased it for the best price at  Every morning Sofia is in charge of changing the date, and changing the days of the week.  Maya is in charge of the weather, and she takes it very seriously!!  Included with the wall chart are many calendar add ons like birthdays, holidays, appointments etc.  You can see ours has a little tear on the middle pocket from Emmy using it to hold on to help her stand.  We'll have to work on that :)

Our Melissa & Doug easel was a gift for the girls from their Aunt Erica and Uncle Ev.  The girls have used this every single day since we put it together!  The one side is chalkboard and the other side is a whiteboard which we use with washable dry-erase crayons (best invention ever).  The chalkboard that came with it was tough to write on, so I painted over it with chalkboard paint and it works really well now.  Every morning the girls find a message from me on their easel and it tells them what we're doing for the day and gives them their morning chores.  They get a kick out of checking off what they have completed and try to get them done as soon as they wake up.

 Here's where I store all our books.  This piece of furniture has been in the house for a while, it was a Pier 1 entertainment stand.  For us, it is a perfect bookshelf!  The doors open and inside are two deep shelves to store supplies.  Can you spot our huge Sonlight binder?

Well, that's it so far!  I'm sure things will come and go as the year progresses.  Who knows, maybe one day we'll end up homeschooling in our basement...but for now, this is where the magic will happen!

We're off to a Catholic Homeschool opening mass tomorrow to celebrate the feast of the nativity of Mary.  The children were asked to bring something to offer to Mary during the procession and here is what my girls came up with.  Sofia cut the flowers and Maya cut the stems, both girls glued which is why it is still drying!

 Happy birthday Mary! Please bless our homeschool today and everyday!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The first day jitters


Tomorrow is the first day of school.

Nope, not for us...for the rest of the world (or what seems like it anyways).

And I have the first day jitters.

Tonight, the families on our street are packing lunches, getting clothes ready and trying to get the kids to bed early.  And we're not.  Don't get me wrong, our night was magical today, the sky was an awesome purple and pink and the kids were amazed at it.  But tomorrow, the bus won't come for my daughter, and she won't dress up in new clothes or sport a new princess backpack.

I've been hearing the little girls talking about their first day of Kindergarten, and I've secretly been feeling a little bad that Sofia will miss this.  I also wonder if this is normal.  Do other homeschoolers have this last little bit of anxiety before their first year of homeschooling begins? 

What makes this just the jitters and not a last minute bolt to the school to register her for Kindergarten is that it's just the first day jitters.  Not the entire school year jitters.  I feel sad that Sofia will "miss out" on the typical first day events...picture with the kids on the street lining up for the bus, little hand written note from mom in the lunch box, waving and crying as the bus pulls away....

What I don't feel bad about is the awesome adventure we are going to have this year together as a family..the way we work best in the Religioso household.  Our school year is going to start on September 12th and heck, we can eat lunch out of lunch boxes and carry books in backpacks if it makes me feel better!

Glad I got that off my chest.

So tonight I think I'll cuddle with the girls a bit longer before bed, because they don't have to be up early for a bus!  My husband is off tomorrow morning so we are going to have a family day together to start our "not-back-to-school" week.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Gospel in a Nutshell - The Catholic Tattletale

Matthew 18: 15-20

Jesus said to his disciples:
"If your brother sins against you,
go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.
If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.
If he does not listen,
take one or two others along with you,
so that 'every fact may be established
on the testimony of two or three witnesses.'
If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church.
If he refuses to listen even to the church,
then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.
Amen, I say to you,
whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven,
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
Again, amen, I say to you,
if two of you agree on earth
about anything for which they are to pray,
it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father.
For where two or three are gathered together in my name,

there am I in the midst of them."

Ok, it may be because I am constantly correcting my 4 year old when she incessantly tells on her sister...but this gospel got me thinking that God wants me to be a tattle tale!

I've read this passage many times before, but today it really got me thinking.  Basically, it is telling us that if we KNOW that someone is sinning, it is our duty to confront them about their sin.  If we do not, we are also at fault.  Seems easy enough, right?

But is it?

I have no problem going to members of my family and talking to them about different choices they may be making, but I don't want to be that person who is confronting everyone about their sins!

This is my struggle.

I remember once having a friend in highschool who's mother would not attend their cousins wedding because it wasn't in a Catholic church.  I thought that this was absurd and was a sure way to burn bridges for good.  The mother, on the other hand, thought that she was doing more for the couple by her protest.  How could she support something that was against the couples faith?

Now according to the gospel, I'm in the wrong.

Is it really my responsibility to approach people (in private like the gospel says) and tell them that their lifestyle is sinful according to the Church? Would people even listen?  Or think it is insulting? If anyone has advice on this, I would love to hear it.

I wasn't kidding when I said I struggle with this one.