Finishing up the school year

It’s taken us a while to get used to this business of school finishing right in the middle of the calendar year and the starting again in August/September when we are so used to the school year following the calendar year. We have now pretty much slotted into the US school calendar and are starting up again with homeschooling in a couple of weeks. But in the mean time, let me share some photos of the kids finishing up their last school year. Esther just finished 1st grade (Year 2 for NZers), Marica finished 3rd grade (Year 4), and Laurelin finished being a 2-year-old, ha. She’s recently  started preschool for 3 mornings a week, so that will hopefully free me up a bit so the two older girls and I can get some more work done. Look who lost her two front teeth!

DSC_0396 (Large)DSC_0393 (Large)DSC_0401 (Large)DSC_0404 (Large)

The girls also took part in their piano teacher’s end of year recital and did so well. They made their parents proud! Their friend, Elijah, has the same piano teacher and also played very well in the recital.

DSC_0559 (Large)DSC_0562 (Large)DSC_0566 (Large)DSC_0568 (Large)

There was also a co-op concert where the kids took part, but I have no photos of that, unfortunately.

Last semester, Esther did ballet which is something she has wanted to do for years. We found a place nearby and signed her up. It wasn’t quite as traditional a ballet school as I was hoping for, and she didn’t enjoy it as much as she thought she would, so we might rethink the whole ballet thing. But we’ll see. Either way, she did really well with the little dance her class did and loved getting all dolled up for the event!

The rehearsal:

 

The the big concert:

 

And while we’re on the theme of end-of-school, I should include Abby in here too. She’s our pastor’s daughter and the great love and big-girl friend of my girls. This year she graduated from high school. She was a member of the NJHSA (North Jersey Home Schoolers’ Association) and was part of their beautiful and grand graduation ceremony. I attended with Marica. It was so encouraging for me as a homeschool parent to see so may other homeschooling parents come to the end of a race well done. As each student crossed the stage, it gave a little bio of what their high school interests and accomplishments were and what they were planning on doing in the fall. What an impressive bunch of students! Then the students thanked their parents and gave their mothers a rose, which I thought was a touching gesture. We also got treated to listening to the NJHSA choir — wow! They were fantastic, and I don’t easily say that about a high school choir.  We’re proud of you, Abby!

Random thoughts

The last couple of months have looked a little different to our usual routines. I’ve had a relapse of the Epstein-Barr virus which wiped me out but I seem to be feeling a fair bit better the last week or so; Ben’s been looking at different job options and has had multiple interviews with several different companies (no decision yet, though). Summer is upon us (hooray!) and I’m getting less and less inclined to do anything that resembles regular duties around here. The combination of the above three things have made for a rather unusual and unpredictable spring.

The girls are all doing well — in good health and spirits (most of the time), for which we’re thankful. Marica and Esther are now both voracious readers, and Laurelin, like a typical youngest sibling, wants to do everything they do. I wouldn’t be surprised if she starts reading at 3 — and not because I’m pushing her!

We’ve got 1 more week of homeschooling before we stop for the summer. Marica and I are looking forward to the break. Esther would like to do school all the way through! I’ve enrolled Laurelin in a preschool for 3 mornings a week starting in July. I’m hoping this will help the two older girls and me get some more focused schoolwork done.

I planted a veggie garden in the spring. It’s been really satisfying to see things sprout and grow. I keep going out there and thinking I should go get my camera to document it… but I haven’t. Gardening is such a nice chore, especially when you get to eat the fruit of your labor. We’ve had quite a few nice salads and herbs already, and look forward to a good crop of tomatoes, beans and more.

Politics is of course one of those topics that you can’t get away from these days. The general sentiment among the people I mix with is one of despondency — having to choose between bad and worse does not fill one with warm fuzzies. My main thought through all this has been: “How did it get to this?!” Ben and I have really appreciated this article written by Andrew Sullivan for New York Magazine that basically answers that question. It’s long, but well worth the read.

This summer is promising to be a lovely one. We’re looking forward to another Hoyt reunion in Georgia; a trip to Tennessee for cousin Hannah’s wedding; a trip to Vermont; several visitors — Ben’s parents, his brother and family, cousins, and some friends; the girls are all doing some sort of ‘summer camp’ — Marica to an overnight one, Esther to a daytime art camp, and Laurelin is doing a special programme at her new preschool. Add to that a plan to have many relaxing days at our friends’ pool, playdates with friends, picnics, ice pops, an abundance of summer fruit and sprinkler fun, and we’ve got ourselves a great summer to look forward to!

And on that note, if the posting on here becomes a little sporadic over the next few months, just imagine I’m trying to learn what ‘relax’ means again after a busy year. (Truth is I’ll probably be trying to get all the things done that don’t get done during the year like clearing out trash drawers and mending clothes and planning school for next year. But those things, when done, bring a certain kind of satisfaction that helps the whole relaxing thing!)

Co-op class pizza night

 

I teach a Narnia literature class at our homeschool co-op, which has been really fun. For me, anyway. Not quite sure what the kids think, seeing that it’s a discussion class and I make them talk. Which is such a hassle, don’t you think? :-)

In our class we’ve been reading all 7 chronicles and discussing them in light of Michael Ward’s book Planet Narnia. Actually, Planet Narnia is the adult version and is quite thick, we’ve been working through the simplified version called The Narnia Code. It’s a thoroughly Christian approach looking at (in a nutshell) how each chronicle is related to one of the medieval planets (Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, Mars and Saturn). Lewis was fascinated with astronomy and with medieval cosmology (no, it’s not New Age, and no, it has nothing to do with the modern understanding of astrology). Basically, in medieval cosmology, each planet has a certain character and qualities that then forms the atmosphere for its associated chronicle. It’s a theory, and that’s how we’ve been studying it, but it seems pretty plausible to me. I’ve really enjoyed teaching it!

Earlier this spring I hosted a movie night of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe at our house. The class is mostly made up of boys, so I decided that there’d have to be some sort of food magnet. What better food magnet for young teens than homemade pizza and ice cream sandwiches? They made their own pizzas. No surprise that the first topping to go was the bacon, right? I enjoyed hosting them — they’re a fun bunch!

What we’re doing in homeschooling this year

We’ve been back in the full swing of the regular school year for a few months now, and I must admit that I find it hard to make the time to blog. It’s great to have the routines of school, but it does leave very little time for extra things, like blogging and other fun stuff.

This post will probably not interest most of you, but for those of you who homeschool, or are interested in doing it, or have an interest in education in general might find it interesting!

DSC_0494 (Large)

 

* Bible — We use Leading Little Ones to God,  and we memorize Scripture passages and hymns. I hope to soon add in some of these character building topics too.
* Math — Singapore Math. Marica is doing Grade 3, and Esther is doing Grade 1. To enforce what they learn, they play NumberShark on the computer.
* Grammar/Writing — Esther is doing the Sing, Spell, Read and Write program which also includes spelling and comprehension; and Marica is doing Shurley English, supplemented with some writing from the Logos curriculum. They also write in their Thankfulness  Journals every day.
* Reading and comprehension from the Logos curriculum (for Marica).
* Stories and an appreciation for literature is important to us, so I read to the kids from a wide range of books: I pick books from the Sonlight Read-Aloud lists;  and every time we drive somewhere we listen to audio books (so far since the summer we’ve covered Ralph Mouse, The BFG, Little House on the Prairie, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, and a couple other ones I can’t remember!)
* Spelling from the Logos curriculum.
* Handwriting — Zaner-Bloser. Marica is doing Grade 4 cursive, and Esther is doing Grade 1.
* Typing — The kids do a touch-typing program called English Type, but we haven’t done that for a while.
* History — Story of the World. We all love it. I’ve learned more history doing this with the kids than ever before!
* Science — Noeo Science, Biology 1
* Spanish — Rosetta Stone Homeschool Edition
* Art — Lessons from Deep Space Sparkle
* Music — Weekly piano lessons and daily practice. Marica is quite likely going to start on violin next year too.
* P.E. —  Running outside, jumping on the trampoline, and weekly homeschool gymnastics classes (in which all three girls are progressing very well! I keep being impressed with their various jumps and contortions.) Esther will be adding ballet to the mix after Christmas.
* Socialization (the ever-present worry of outsiders!): Our bi-weekly co-op where they are in classes with peers, and a weekly lunch date with friends after gymnastics class, plus playdates. On top of that we host a lot of people for meals and through that and church the kids get to interact with people of all ages. No, they’re not in a group with peers for 6 hours a day, and that is one of the big reasons why we homeschool! :-)

DSC_0495 (Large)

Of course, we don’t do all of these things every single day! We generally do school from about 8.30/9am till about 1.30/2pm, with a short break for morning tea. By lunchtime I’m DONE and need a break! During the afternoon we take an hour of quiet time for reading or playing or crafts and after that the kids have free time to play, create, put on shows (Ben and I are regularly invited to shows of their creation, and they’re usually hilarious), etc.

DSC_0496 (Large)

Marica making her own flashcards now that she knows all of her times tables

Some days we get a lot done, sometimes not so much — largely dependent on how Laurelin is doing and whether she’s entertaining herself or making a nuisance of herself!

DSC_0491 (Large)

For someone who said that she’d NEVER homeschool, I’m grateful for the journey God has brought me on. I’m loving it (most days!), and so are the kids. Of course, there are days we all just want to quit, but that happens with kids who go to school too! For us, this is a year-by-year thing that we’ll keep evaluating, but for as long as this suits us and our kids, we will keep doing it. :-)

A Medieval Feast

Back in January, the homeschool co-op we attend put on a Medieval Feast. The organizers did a most spectacular job with the decorations, food and everything else that goes into organizing a big event like this. Most people came to co-op that day in costume, which made everything way more fun!

Entering the ‘castle’. Look, there’s even a moat!

DSC_0007They transformed the gym into a royal medieval banquet hall, and it really looked the part. The photos don’t do it justice at all!

DSC_0009DSC_0014Most people contributed food, and it was all so tasty. They did this really neat thing where you used a pita bread for your plate. Then eventually, you’d sop up the juices of the meal with it and have some hummus too. My mouth is watering just remembering it all.

DSC_0012DSC_0017

DSC_0013

They got some guys from a local fencing club in to tell us a bit about the sport. A couple of kids got to have a go, and I was just itching to have a go too and relive a bit of my past. I guess it is not exactly a well-known fact that I did fencing for two years in high school. I even took part in competitions… and failed miserably! :-)

DSC_0019

Just look at this cake! (Much better than a real boar’s head, in my humble opinion.)

DSC_0015

Here are the four of us in costume. Marica was adamant that she was not going to go as something girly. No, she went as “A pleasant (male) peasant.” Esther was very pleased with her princess costume, especially the hat — concocted in a hurry the night before — and I wore my Eowyn costume from Ben’s LOTR party back in August.

DSC_0021

The Entrepreneurial Fair

The Co-op that we attend had an Entrepreneurial Fair early in December, and as much as I would have liked to just be a spectator, my kids were burning to sell stuff (surprise, surprise). So, we made Christmas ornaments, some chocolates and gingerbread men. The girls made a pretty good effort at helping, and at selling on the day too. I was so proud of them!

DSC_0228 (Large)

 

DSC_0230 (Large)

 

DSC_0234 (Large)

DSC_0238 (Large)

DSC_0231 (Large)

DSC_0232 (Large)

The girls made $36 and sold all their cookies — good work, Marica and Esther!

Mr Rubik’s back

Marica and I went to the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City last Saturday to see their new Rubik’s Cube exhibition, which was being opened by Ernő Rubik, the inventor of the cube. I own a cube, but still have no idea how to solve it…

Mr Rubik seemed like a fairly unassuming guy with a mild Eastern European accent. We are more or less celebrities by association now, as we got to see his back — he’s the guy in the blue shirt:

Erno Rubik's backFranci said, “At least you got a good photo of the paparazzi!” Well, I did also get this photo:

Erno Rubik's sideThe guy to the left of him is Anthony Brooks, a world-record “speedcuber”, who solved seven cubes in under a minute while we watched:

Anthony Brooks solving cubes

Reuters has a short article and video clip in case you’re interested in further info.

Marica wasn’t fussed on Mr Rubik and the crowds, but she did enjoy some of the rest of the exhibit, including “programming” a robot to follow a line:

Marica programming a robot

Marica by the fake cubeMarica in front of the giant cube