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Our unit study on Europe in the Middle Ages is going very well. Brody is retaining so much of what we have been covering. He has really jumped headlong into the unit. He is tearing through the historical fiction books I selected for him, such as Adam of the RoadThe Door in the WallThe Castle in the Attic, and Cathedral: The Story of Its Construction. He is building castles and cathedrals out of legos and blocks, playing nobles and knights with action figures, and interjecting random medieval facts into conversations. In addition to that, we are all enjoying our schoolwork so much more. I didn’t plan on involving Adelyn in the lessons and activities because I felt like five years was too large of a gap to bridge, but she is so interested and practically insisting on being included that we are finding a way!

Recently we have been focusing on the art of the period and studying Madonnas, tapestries, illustrated manuscripts, Gothic architecture, cathedrals, and Gregorian chant. We primarily relied on the Core Knowledge Teacher’s Handbook and Art Resources for these, but we supplemented the illuminated manuscripts section with Jonathan Hunt’s Illuminations and our own illuminated letter activity using foil and sharpie markers.

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We also had a lot of fun creating cathedrals. (Brody’s will be a part of a larger project about The Four Alls from the book Knights & Castles: 50 Hands-On Activities to Explore the Middle Ages.)

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Tonight we enjoyed a monastic inspired meal to complement our recent reading. We have been making our way through Kathryn Hinds’ The Church (Life in the Middle Ages) and found this idea on her website. Silence doesn’t really exist in our house, so we did skip out on that part. But we still had fun using our hands to sign “pass the bread” as is mentioned in the book! It was a great experience, the littles had fun and were very curious about why we were eating something so different than usual. Brody did a great job explaining to them about what he’s been learning, and we even assigned monastic roles to everyone in the family.

I only snapped one quick picture before everyone started digging in, but we also had fruit flavored water kefir as our wine and baked apples with honey for dessert. The main course was a loaf of fresh bread, a big hunk of cheese, green beans (two ways, roasted and steamed), carrots (two ways, roasted and steamed), and peas. It was a lot of fun, and I think we may have to continue to eat our way through history as we learn!

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We have been immersing ourselves in the Middle Ages for a little over a week now, and I am really loving how it is growing and evolving. Not only have we been learning about the history of Europe, but we have picked up on a few other learning opportunities as well. We started out with a huge stack of books, which was a little intimidating at first, but is turning out to be a great experience.

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We began with an overview of the time period of the Middle Ages, the general state of the world as a whole at that time, and the geography of Europe both during that time and present day. Brody started off his journal with a fun illustration, what he already know about the topic, and a map.

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We are beginning our study with the history of the church in Europe by reading Kathryn Hinds’ The Church (Life in the Middle Ages). Each day we read from it together and then utilize what we have read about for a journal entry (or two, or none, depending on the content and the day).

Here is an example of a dictation exercise. I selected a passage from our reading and reread it aloud to Brody while he wrote it down (in print). Then we looked back over it and made any spelling, punctuation, or grammar corrections that were necessary. Any misspelled words got circled, and any punctuation or grammar errors were discussed. Then he re-wrote the corrected passage in cursive, and we used the misspelled words (plus a few extra words that he chose from the text) as spelling and vocabulary words.

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On these pages he wrote out a meat pie recipe that he researched (and then insisted that we make and eat!) and jotted down information about an impromptu lesson on Roman numerals that we decided to do when Brody’s interest was piqued.

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And lastly, we have a vocabulary page with words that we took note of during our reading (so that we can work on spelling and vocabulary without being tied to dictation) and a little study on personification in poetry from the lyrics of a hymn that were a part of our reading (in relation to St. Francis of Assisi).

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That is it for this week, but I look forward to what is to come and I am glad you are following along with our little journey!

After our last baby was born, we took a break from our schooling activities to get settled in as a family of six. Since we started back up again, I had been feeling disenchanted with how it was going. We were getting things done, checking off what needed to be, but not living or loving our learning.

As I’m sure it is for every homeschooling family, our journey has been a bit of an evolutionary process. We have tried different techniques and approaches, some which have been more or less successful than others, and have varied the way that we learn while sticking with the Core Knowledge curriculum. I love Core Knowledge, I feel like the quality and quantity of information that it has to offer is exactly what our family is looking for in a curriculum. In addition, they have a very content rich website to support their products as well as many resources (both free and paid) available. All that said, something just wasn’t working right for us. And then it hit me. We weren’t homeschooling in the way that I had imagined it when we began this journey. We were doing school at home. I felt like we were just mimicking what the kids would be experiencing in a classroom environment, and it wasn’t benefiting any of us (despite all of the checking of boxes that was happening). Then I realized that I wanted to transform how we were learning, and come at it from an entirely new angle.

I wanted to move away from the textbook and worksheet feel of what we were doing. I wanted to immerse ourselves in what we were learning, not just to learn it but to feel it and experience it and open ourselves up to whatever opportunities that may bring. So I shifted my focus to literature (which was an easy choice because Brody is a voracious reader), and the concept of unit studies (with some loosely adapted Charlotte Mason ideas and techniques). It was a eureka moment for me. It just made so much sense for us to look at each topic as a whole and explore every aspect of it (history, art, science, language arts, music, grammar, etc.) at a time. Then that would afford us the opportunity to take our time to experience and absorb it all together, which I expect will help with both comprehension and retention.

I did some research and wasn’t able to find any information linking Core Knowledge and unit studies, so I figured I would just need go from the ground up. Using the Core Knowledge Sequence as a backbone, I determined where we needed to go next. I chose to use a chronological rearrangement of the history topics (fully realizing this will throw off what “grade” we’re in, but I’m ok with that–although three years ago me would not be!). The next step was to explore all of the cross curricular connections within the topics, so we could tie the unit together as a whole. I found resource lists in the Core Knowledge Teacher’s Handbook, as well as E.D. Hirsch’s Books To Build On. A search of each book on Goodreads and Amazon opened the door to many more related resources, and I was able to build a solid list of quality literature for us to explore. From there, I was able to search for activity ideas to complement aspects of what we’d be covering. Instead of worksheets and pre-made activities, I wanted something open ended and creative. I decided to use a composition book to document our journey (I realize I have used that word many times already, but it just feels so fitting for the process). We can fill it with anything and everything as we progress, and at the end have a tangible resource that the kids can thumb back through or use for reference later on down the road (like those handy lapbooks that they still love!). And that brought me to the point where I felt like I had a solid plan to move forward with.

We are currently beginning our exploration of Europe during the Middle Ages, and I will post more on that soon!

We just finished up our human body unit, and had a great time lapbooking about it.  There was so much information to cover (we spent a solid two weeks working on this one), and I think the lapbook was great for helping Brody retain what all we were covering, as well as to serve as a reference for looking back on things in the future.  Plus, now we have two lapbooks in our nifty storage binder so it’s much more fun to flip through now.  ;o)

Without further ado, here is our creation!  It mostly adheres to the Core Knowledge curriculum, but I did add a few extra systems beyond what was listed because I felt they were relevant.  We covered the body as a whole, and then the following systems: skeletal, muscular, digestive, excretory, circulatory, respiratory, nervous, and reproductive (I included this one because there have been lots of questions about the baby I’m currently baking!).  Oh, and I definitely must mention our brain hat that we made during the nervous system unit, it currently lives on the dining room table and is often placed on someone’s head when they need a little extra help with a difficult task.  :oD

Here is my proud student showing off his creation

Look mom, it’s GIGANTIC!!

and of course little sister had to get in on the fun (she’s never far away when there’s a camera around)

And here is a link to a pdf document of all the printouts I used: human_body_lapbook

Please keep in mind that all of the photos are snagged from the internet or scanned in from our textbook, and the information is from our textbooks and other resource books, so please just use them for personal use and not mass reproduction.  Here are a few images showing the layout of our book, but of course you are free to use the minibooks to suit your personal needs. (click to enlarge)

skeletal and muscular systems

digestive and excretory systems

human body, health, and senses

circulatory and respiratory systems

nervous and reproductive systems

A friend of ours recently introduced us to a fun concept called lapbooking.  The basic idea is to take a plain ol’ file folder and re-fold it to make a little booklet and then fill it with information, drawings, activities, and pictures related to a particular subject.  There are pre-made kits and templates available all over the internet, but I decided to make ours from scratch using some of the ideas but by applying the information from our Core Knowledge curriculum so that the information went along with what we were already learning.  I scoured the internet for images and activities, then made them into minibooks (which is the technical term for the little booklets and things inside the folder).

Here are a couple of pictures of Brody with his Ancient Egypt lapbook! — it was our first attempt, so easy on the critique ;o)

Brody really had a lot of fun creating his book, and I think it is a great tool for enhancing our curriculum.  It gives him a chance to express himself on the subject (which I think really helps with retaining the information), as well as providing a resource that we can put on the bookshelf and he can refer back to whenever he’d like.

While I was digging for lapbook templates, I also stumbled across a concept called “Tot Books” which is a toddler version of the big kid lapbooks!  Adelyn is always excited to “do what Bubba doing” so I plan on making many many of these to keep her little mind and hands busy during school time.  Here are a couple pictures of her using her Farm lapbook that I downloaded from the 1+1+1=1 blog.  I just printed it off and laminated the pieces so hopefully they will last a little bit longer.

If you would like to use some (or all!) of the minibooks I made for your own lapbook, you are welcome to.  All of the photos are snagged from the internet or scanned in from our textbook, and the information is from our textbooks, so please just use them for personal use and not mass reproduction.  Here are a couple of images showing the layout, as well as the minibooks opened up with the information inside displayed.

And now for the good stuff, here’s the pdf for our Ancient Egypt Lapbook:  CK_Ancient_Egypt_lapbook

This is a little bit of a catch-up post since we went earlier this year, but I really wanted to share the adorable pictures and fun story.  We had the opportunity to tag along with some friends on a field trip that was sponsored by the local homeschool group (San Angelo Christian Home School Association – SACHSA) to the The Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center here in San Angelo.

They took us around and introduced us to the sheep they were raising to test out different feed and breeding programs.  They have figured out that different feeding programs can actually affect the number of babies conceived when breeding; and since some breeds are naturally more likely to have multiples, the richer feed encouraged this to happen more often.  One mama actually gave birth to twins during our tour!  We walked by and she was cleaning a newborn baby, and when we came back around she was nursing that one and cleaning another ♥

And here’s another gratuitous picture of adorable baby sheep, just because.

And later on in the tour the kids got to hold and pet some lambs that were a little older.

I don’t know how much the kids really absorbed about the programs and studies Agrilife was working on, but we all had fun seeing and interacting with the animals!  :o)

First of all, I’d like to apologize to my devoted readers for disappearing for a few months.  ;o)  We are doing well, and most definitely staying busy.  We found out that we are expecting baby #3, and he or she should be joining us around mid-October!  I’m about 20 weeks along right now and am very happy that my appetite and energy level are returning to more “normal” levels, hopefully it stays that way for the next 20 weeks.  :o)  Here’s a picture of our little one (we’re calling him or her Baby C, since we have an A and a B it seemed like the most logical choice!)

We’re going to wait until the birthday to find out if it’s a baby boy or baby girl, so we’ll have to have a fun guessing game for that as the date approaches.  I think the profile picture looks a little different that the other two kiddos, so I’m wondering if we’re going to have a little dark haired mini-daddy on our hands this time!

In other things; school is going well, we did have to take a little break at the beginning of the pregnancy when I wasn’t feeling well but we’re back on track now and plan on working through the summer so we can take our break to welcome the new baby this fall.  I do have some fun things to post about as I get caught up on the past few months, we took a field trip to the Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center as well as discovered a few exciting new ways to learn and use what we’re learning.

Our greenhouse is complete, but the weather around here has been much hotter than normal (we hit 110° –which is just 1° shy of the all-time high for our city– a couple of weeks ago!) so unfortunately it’s too hot to grow anything in there even with a shade cover and the windows opened up.  :o(  We do have quite a few things battling the heat and doing relatively well out at the community garden, including tomatoes, sweet and bell peppers, squash, zucchini, cucumbers, scallions, onions, carrots, green beans, and a watermelon vine!

The kids are growing like weeds, and doing great.  Adelyn knows all of her ABC’s and numbers, can count to eleven, and recognizes all of the basic shapes!  We’re working on potty training and making a little progress here and there, hopefully we can get that figured out before the baby comes.  Brody is devouring chapter books as fast as he can get his hands on them, he just finished up the Chronicles of Narnia series and is starting on Harry Potter, as well as making great strides in math (which has been a little bit of a struggle for him so far), and even graduated up to the top bunk!  We’re all healthy, happy, and making the most of the summer so far.  :oD  I’m glad to be back online and can’t wait to share more of our adventures with y’all.

Since we started on our homeschool journey, one of the most common questions I’m asked is “How are you going to find the time for all of that??”.  Realistically I had no earthly idea since I can’t rely on past experience, so I just went with my gut and responded, “We’re just going to have to make time”.

Ironically, that statement has held true!  This past week has been a crazy mess of meetings, AJ starting a new semester, and then topped off with a trip out of town for the weekend…phew.  But through it all, we managed to stay on top of most things (dishes and laundry don’t really count anyway, right??).  It also helps that we’re getting into our groove, it feels like the kids know what’s expected and are ready to participate when it’s ‘school time’.

I’ve figured out a few tricks for keeping Brody’s attention, and involving Adelyn to keep her busy.  Brody likes to have something to fiddle with while he’s listening, at first I thought it would just be distracting but it seems like it keeps his little hands busy so his mind can focus.  Adelyn just likes to be involved…she likes to sit at the table and write when Brody’s writing, or pipe in with random words from our conversation while we’re discussing something (but you have to be sure to acknowledge her by responding!).  My main responsibility is to be prepared.  As long as I take the time to prepare my lesson plans and have our materials ready to go ahead of time, we can transition smoothly from subject to subject and move through things with few disturbances.

On that note, I have to follow my own advice and sign off…as much as I’d like to dream about vegging out on the couch for a while and then going to bed a little early, or maybe getting caught up on the clean laundry that’s overtaking the living room, I’ll be heading to the table to plan our week and familiarize myself with our new math curriculum.  Wish me luck!  ;o)

Treat the earth well,

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

– Native American proverb

This was shared at our 4H meeting this weekend, and it really struck a chord with me.  It sums up the main idea that motivates our family to be conscious about how we live.  We’re not perfect by any stretch of the definition, but we constantly try to improve where we can.  Sometimes it’s so easy to get caught up in consumerism or old lazy habits and just waste, waste, waste.  Coincidentally, Brody’s science lesson today was about caring for the earth and how we can preserve our resources.  It had a great way of explaining how our environment is damaged by our actions, it sums it up and says that when we do things, sometimes we make messes.  Just like when we cook in the kitchen and it makes a mess, the way we live our lives can make messes in the environment.  So then all we need to do is try to not make such a big mess, and then clean up whatever mess we do make…so simple!

We all know the three R’s of conservation: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle…everyone chant with me now!  ;o)  But some people have expanded it to include a fourth R: Rethink.  Rethink the way you do things, just because it’s always been that way doesn’t mean it’s the best way.  For instance, having a different chemical in the cabinet to clean every different surface in the house isn’t necessary, it’s much safer (and cheaper) to go back to some basic elements that do a great job in many areas.  You can clean just about everything with baking soda and/or white vinegar.  Baking soda is great for scouring (pots & pans, counters, sinks, showers, etc) and vinegar works well for breaking up sticky or greasy messes, as well as disinfecting, and polishing (dishes, windows, counters, etc).  It’s true that vinegar doesn’t smell as fantastic as all of the chemically scented options, but the vinegar smell will disappear when it dries and it doesn’t leave you and your family inhaling dangerous fumes.  Here is a link to test results from a study by the Environmental Working Group that can give you a basic idea of the dangers in some cleaning products.  (The study is based on cleaners commonly used in schools, but many are also used in households as well.)

We can also rethink the way we buy things (used vs. new, new isn’t always necessary!), what we do with things after we’re done (donate, freecycle, compost, recycle, yard sale, etc — everything doesn’t have to go in the trash), how the products we use impact the environment (reusable, multi-purpose, renewable resources, responsible companies, etc).  There are little steps you can take, like printing on both sides of a page and then recycling used papers, using towels or cloth napkins instead of paper, avoiding harsh chemical products (cleaners, air fresheners, antibacterial soaps, etc) and using cloth diapers instead of disposable (there are some nasty chemicals and processes used to manufacture disposable diapers, not to mention how many billions of them go into landfills every year).

In order to reduce the messes our family makes, we’ll be starting a compost pile (will also benefit our garden!), switching to homemade laundry detergent (without phosphates), as well as replacing more household cleaners with natural/lower impact options.  And after lunch, Brody will be turning these bits of old construction paper and comics into paper we can use for other crafts!

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