Tuesday, December 22, 2009


We are remembering our Christ this season. We rented "The Nativity Story" and watched it a couple of times with the kids. It's replaced "It's a Wonderful Life" as my favorite Christmas movie. In fact, it is one of my favorite movies, period.

I discovered this Christmas song also. I had not heard it before today. I love it.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Giving Thanks

I read today a post about Christian Thanksgiving by Albert Mohler on the Gospel Coalition Blog.

I needed that.

I have been busy thinking like Martha today instead of being Mary. Martha's work is important, but I need to remember to reflect on God's goodness foremost. And to bring my children into that reflection with me.

In light of that, I will not spend much time on this post today, but will list only five of the things I am thankful for.

1.    The Almighty Supreme Being loves ME, who deserves nothing. He loves me enough to have suffered and died  for me and for us.

2.    Love. The reflection of Him in our lives.

3.    Family. Not less than the foundation of civilization and a source of refuge and great joy.

4.    Justice. The peace in knowing that we may not have justice in this world, but it will come.   

5.    Beauty. Glimpses into the heart of God.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving as you also reflect on God's many gifts!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Pony Rides and Mittens

Sunday was a beautiful day. Perfect for pony rides. Cupcake is such a sweet pony. He is very patient and gentle. My dad's chickens (who have moved to our place) looked on.

Both kids got their turn. Daddy enjoyed himself too. Grandma and I watched and chatted. These are the kinds of days our happy memories are made of.

It's been a beautiful November, but this is Minnesota. We're getting ready for winter. I've been knitting mittens lately with bits of leftover yarn. It's a good feeling, like making something out of nothing.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Memorizing the Ten Commandments

The kids and I had been working for weeks on memorizing the Ten Commandments. I don't know what the problem was, but we just couldn't get them solidly memorized in order. Especially me.

Today I read this post:


We know them now.
What a fantastic help this was!
(Thanks Kristi!)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Baking and Trapping Gophers: My Well-Rounded Daughter

Ellie adores her Daddy. She follows him everywhere and is interested in everything he does. He has earned every bit of that adoration, as he is a loving, gentle, patient father who dotes on her. They have been trapping gophers out by the pasture this week. Tom is holding today's catch and Ellie is holding the traps. Spot the cat is waiting to see if they will share their booty with her. They did, and Spot was very pleased. Some of Tom's happiest memories are of trapping with his dad, and he is enjoying doing the same with his children.

Later, Ellie decided to bake some pumpkin bars (Daddy's favorites) all by herself today. It was the second time she had baked anything and even though I felt compelled to loosely monitor her activity, she read the ingredients and put the recipe together herself. I helped put the pan into and out of the oven, but that was all. I am so proud of my big seven year-old.

School subjects learned and practiced today?

History in the morning, her favorite subject. (Today: The ancient Phoenicians, Tyre, and the establishment of Carthage. We watched a demonstration of glass blowing and she worked on a map of the major colonies and Mediterranean trade routes and colored a drawing of a Phoenician trading vessel. Later this week we will be dyeing some fabric purple, but won't be using snails to make the dye like the ancient Phoenicians did!) I feel I owe a debt of gratitude to Susan Wise Bauer for her history books and workbooks. They are simply wonderful. Ellie and I both love history with Susan's books.

We did some work in her Explode the Code, book 4, I read aloud from their current "fun" book, Stuart Little then...

Baking was a great exercise in general math concepts as she's beginning to understand fractions and measurements without even realizing it. She also got in some great practice reading. I was surprised at how easily she read the recipe as she seems to struggle more when doing reading as "schoolwork". This type of activity is a great confidence-builder.

I'm learning to be more relaxed and deviate from our schedule when opportunities arise. I love homeschooling. There is reward and satisfaction around every corner.

Tomorrow is Tuesday, the day we have scheduled for Science. I think we'll study gophers.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Seen Enough Hats Yet?

Help! I can't seem to stop the hats! This particular pattern by Tienne is very rewarding and knits up so quickly, it's like almost-instant gratification. I have another one in the planning stages as well. My husband wants one in this style. I'm digging through my stash for some manly colors. I may have to get out the dye pot... Hard to picture this as a manly hat when looking at this cute little number isn't it? It can be done! I've been looking on Ravelry at this pattern (here for Ravelry members) already done for men, and some of them are really good. Of course, it will be about twice as big so it won't be quite as quick, but I will be satisfied if he likes it.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Sweet Little Baby Hat

Another project done. I was surprised it went so quickly. It was my first attempt at Fair Isle (stranded color knitting in two colors). It was also my first try at I-Cords (the ties). The pattern is the Norwegian Star Earflap Hat (pdf) by Tiennie. I knit it in Knit Picks' Andean Silk, Chocolate and Bluebell. Andean Silk is lovely yarn, made with 55% Super Fine Alpaca, 23% Silk, 22% Merino Wool.

I knitted it as a gift for the baby boy of an old friend. I am quite delinquent in sending a gift. (So what else is new?) I really hope she likes it and forgives me for ignoring her new baby.

I am a member of Ravelry, an exceptional online knitting and crochet community which has been an incredible benefit to me in learning to knit, as well as a source of inspiration and patterns. If you are a new or experienced knitter, this is a must-join site. If you join up, look for me and "friend" me! I am YellerDog (formerly CarolJumpIn) there.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Slow Going

I've been working on this shawl since July and am only about 20% done. I had hoped to be done by fall. - Missed that mark by a long shot!  The pattern is Madli's Shawl from Nancy Bush's book "Knitted Lace of Estonia". I am doing it in a silk/yak blend cobweb weight yarn that is a beautiful taupe color. Because the yarn is so fine, it is slow going and very fussy. I like the result, but it is much harder to work than laceweight yarn, which my other shawls were done in. Next time I think I'll go back to laceweight for a big project.

Lace looks clumpy and messy until it is blocked. That's the last step in the process which really brings out the beauty of the stitches. Even this last picture with the lace spread out gives only a hint of what the finished shawl will look like. The little balls of yarn you see in there are called "nupps" and are a feature of Estonian lace. They add a lot of interest and texture to the pattern.

Because I've been running out of steam on the shawl, I've been knitting socks and hats. I'm working on another hat now, my first try at stranded colorwork. (Just two colors though.) It is quick and going fine. Maybe this weekend I'll get back to the shawl for awhile. I would like to see it finished.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Thomas the Train, Hula Girl, and Socks

Once a year the kids have a great excuse to leave the house in costume. They go to a sweet little party at our church where the older kids have planned games for them with prizes of candy and small toys. Some of the games are Bible-themed with points for knowing Bible verses and such. The costumes and decorations are not scary, but fun. It is great to see the older kids interacting with the younger ones and is a good experience for both age groups. The parents sit around eating popcorn, cookies, drinking coffee or cider and chatting. This is our church's answer to Halloween, and I think it works. The kids look forward to it all year. The older kids benefit as well because they have something to engage them during this very active secular holiday. I believe this is a God-honoring way to deal with the culture, and I am grateful that our church supports this event.

I finished up a pair of (luscious Merino/Silk leftover yarn) socks for the Little Man. He likes them, which is all the thanks I could want. They are not the best pair of socks I've ever done, technically speaking, but how fussy do you get with socks for a 4 year-old?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


We had a bumper crop of pumpkins. I've never grown them before and watched this summer as they took over the garden. (!)
I made a year's worth of pumpkin puree, did a "welcome" display in the front yard and finally, we carved the last few.
I've seen enough pumpkins for this year. Maybe enough for next year too.

Pretty Socks

I finished my "Monkey Socks", pattern by Cookie A. This was a great pattern and a lot of fun to knit. So why did it take me since last February to get it done? I've been doing lace projects last spring and all summer and finally needed a break.

Well, it's October in Minnesota and I started having cold feet again so finished these up. They are made with the beautiful 70% Merino, 30% Silk Gloss Sock Yarn in the color Porcini. Lovely stuff.

When I do socks for myself, I find I generally have enough left over to do a small pair of socks for the kids too. If I do them toe-up I can use all the remaining yarn. I just weigh the ball, divide it in half and off I go. No waste, no danger of running out.

I try to keep my sock knitting low-key as they get pretty excited to have a new hand-knitted pair. Is that weird? I mean, what kind of children get excited by socks?  ...Ummm, I guess they take after their mother.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

An "Ewwwww" Moment, No Need to Thank Me.

OK, I have officially seen everything. Let's just stop right there and not go any further.

The kids and I watched this together. I believe Isaac likes Daddy's version of manliness better. I do too.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Timberbeast Thorpe

I finished a hat for Tom. He wanted something warm for tromping through the woods and picked out this pattern: Kirsten Kapur's "Thorpe". Her blog is "Through the Loops".

This was a fun hat to knit, very easy, and even Grey liked it. (He didn't mind modeling it for me too much. - Isn't he handsome??) I increased the gauge just a bit since my husband has a large head and I wanted a fairly loose fit because the wool was a tiny bit itchy. Not too itchy at all, but loose was more comfortable. I also skipped the crocheted edge, because I liked the way it was without the finish, and it was already plenty big enough.

The wool was from Daphne, a Shetland/Icelandic/CVM mix belonging to friends who generously gave me a large batch of different varieties of wool that I could practice spinning on. Daphne was my second attempt at spinning. Since I am such a novice, it was quite uneven and I plied it into a bulky yarn that spoke "rustic hat" to me. It was a lot of fun taking this hat through the stages beginning with a wool batt, spinning it, plying it, then knitting it.

"Timberbeast" in the name refers to my dear husband who describes himself as such.

Monday, October 19, 2009


I don't really sing well but do so anyway. Songs like this thrill me down to my toes.

In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My Comforter, my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand

In Christ alone, who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless babe
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save
‘Til on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live

There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave He rose again
And as He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ

No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From life’s first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell, no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
‘til He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand

The tune is great, but it's really the lyrics that get to me. I makes me cry joyful tears. I need to memorize this one so I can walk around singing it all day. I do that with other songs. My family doesn't seem to mind too much, thankfully.

I theorize that my imperfect pitch is related to the Fall and the associated deterioration of Creation, and with new bodies things like pitch and brain capacity will be restored.

We will finally be what He created us to be. Happy Day!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Ellie does the Macarena Bones song

Ellie shows a bit of what she's been learning in homeschool. Her brother makes a cameo appearance.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Science: The Water Cycle

These two songs have made our water cycle study a boatload of fun. It runs through our heads all day. We play it outside of school time, and we want to keep reviewing and reviewing the water cycle.... We're a mite odd, I suppose, but it's fun!


I love YouTube. Too bad my satellite ISP does not. I keep bumping into the upper limits of my allowed usage. I am now cowering in anticipation of a penalty threat letter and speed reductions. I got a little carried away last week listening to various lectures and sermons. Can't blame it on the older two kids this time.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Isaac's Turn

Recently I posted a picture of little Ellie with some of her art work. Not to be outdone by his sister, Isaac determined that he would produce a work of art to display on my blog as well.

This is a deer along with a palette of paint so it can be "painted" any color you, the viewer want. I love his artistic imagination. My little guy.

Friday, October 9, 2009

God's Provision

I have made reference before to my utter sinfulness.

I thought now would be a good time to document just a few details of my life and how I've come to the place where I am now, living in Joy.

I was raised by a Christian mother but I was an unhappy child. When I was in High School, an upperclassman invited me to attend a Campus Crusade for Christ meeting. I did so and found that there was much more to faith in God than I had previously realized. I absorbed some of it. I learned a lot, prayed, but had not yet learned to give over my life to God. I understood the salvation message but He still existed in the abstract for me. I didn't know Him as a person as I do now.

When I got to college I foolishly made a conscious choice to make my own decisions and not look to God for guidance. I was at college, I wanted to have fun, and more than anything, I wanted to be a normal person. Christians just are not normal. Sometimes Christian friends can be embarrasing if you are trying to look "cool".

I will, at this point, gloss over a recounting of the depths of my depravity over the next 19 years. It is enough to say that because I knew better than others (who may be ignorant of what the Savior offers), that my sins were much worse than theirs because my sins were done with knowledge of Him.

During this time of shadows, I married and bore two beautiful children, but my life was spiraling downward. I could not find a way to make a happy home for my children. Among many other serious problems, my husband and I had financial difficulties that we could never seem to solve. Our incomes would increase, and the finances would not improve. There were many events and stresses that began to erode and finally to end my marriage, and I did not see a way to prevent it.

During that last year, in the summer of 1995, in the midst of financial chaos, I was at my wits' end. We were behind on all of our bills and I was fielding creditor calls. I sat on my sofa alone and prayed. For the first time in 19 years, I really prayed. I asked God specifically for $900 to meet our immediate need. I didn't really expect an answer, I knew I deserved nothing.

By the next day I promptly forgot about the prayer and went about my life. Four days later I received a check in the mail. From the IRS. Apparently they had been checking their books and found that we had overpaid our taxes once two years previously and they were reimbursing us $905. I was stunned. It could not have been a clearer message. God was telling me "I am here. I have been waiting for you."

My life changed. I turned back to God. I then prayed for my marriage to continue, for the changes that needed to happen, but that prayer was not answered the way I hoped. My husband and I divorced.

But God's provision continued. That year, I had begun working a temporary clerical job making $6.50 an hour. I needed to find someplace for my kids and I and our little dog to live. After cashing out my half of our small retirement account and dividing it and the remaining bills, I was $250 dollars in the hole. My parents offered their basement. They lived an hour north of my job, but you can't beat free rent! We made plans to move in and continued to search for someplace to rent. Just before moving, on a housing search trip with my kids, we saw a beautiful double rainbow from the car window. I had never seen a double rainbow before. I felt sure it was a sign encouraging me to be confident in His provision and shared that assurance with my children. I pictured us being held in God's cupped hand.

I could not find a rental that would allow me to bring our little dog. After separating from their father,  I could not bear to separate my children from our dog too. My employer had decided for some reason (Some reason? GOD was the reason!) to increase my pay to $8.50 an hour and my parents broached the preposterous idea that I might be able to buy something instead of rent. Was it possible? I thought I might be able to buy an old farmhouse or a couple of acres out in the country with a mobile home on it. I wasn't picky, I just needed a roof over our heads. I spoke to a banker who said she thought I could look at building  instead of buying since there were not a lot of cheap houses available at that time. I wondered just how clearly she had seen my loan application! I proceeded forward, seeing only one step at a time, but always knowing I was in His care.

In the meantime, my employer offered me a permanent clerical job. It was more money, with benefits, and much more secure. I knew I was not well-suited for it and I was confident this was not where God was leading me. I turned them down. My parents were aghast that I would refuse it. I remained an office temp, but my employer later instructed the temp agency to increase my wages to $10.00 an hour, just because. (They didn't know it, but I knew they were an instrument of God, providing for us.)

It is hard to portray the feeling I had all through this time. I made my decisions confidently, feeling securely held in God's hands.

I found some beautiful land to buy (40 acres!) in February 1996 and obtained my loan for it while I was still working as an Office Temporary. In June I was offered another kind of job by the same employer.

I had discovered in the early 1990s that I enjoyed playing with computers and databases and spent personal time learning about them. In my temporary job, this fact had become evident to my employer. I was offered a job (Thank you Kevin R. and Chris B.!!) to do some application programming - to assist in setting up a new lab management system (database). I happily accepted the position. I received a nice wage increase and I really enjoyed my new job. (I had no experience and no training for this type of work, but God arranges things!)

At home in my parents' basement, I was designing my house and finding a builder. And in July 1996 an old love/new love stepped into my life.

The last thing in the world I wanted was a man. Tom, however, wasn't just any man. He and his younger brother, my younger brother and I were friends all through our teen-aged years. He was a farm boy that lived near my parents' cabin and we spent our happiest times there on various adventures, shooting, working, swimming, fishing, and playing card games. I adored him. He was no ordinary boy. He was Honorable and Silly, Gentle and Strong. I was always totally at ease with him. I trusted him completely. I also had a secret passion for him as a teen, but a romance had never occurred to him. I was not the kind of girl to bring up the subject, so we went our separate ways as we grew into adulthood. My passion for him mellowed into a platonic love, which stayed with me through the years.

He never married and I would see him occasionally when we were at the cabin. After my marriage ended I saw him at the cabin and I could tell that now, after all these years, he was interested in romance. We were both now 39 years old. He came by the cabin to visit a few times when we were there, and finally awkwardly asked me for a date. I still loved him, but was not interested in dating anyone. But this was Tom! I accepted. I knew within two dates that I would marry him if given the chance. It took him a full year to decide that he loved me and another six months to ask me to marry him. We married in August 1998.

In the meantime, my new house had been built and finished in May 1997. The first week the kids and I were in the house I looked out my new bedroom window and what did I see? A double rainbow. The second one I'd ever seen. God was reminding me that He was providing for me. All my needs.

At this point I was single with two children and facing house payments that were daunting. Before I made my first payment, my employer, (remember they were headquartered in California) was looking for a Network Administrator in Minnesota. They had been unsuccessful in finding one. Someone suggested to me that I should apply for the job. I laughed. Me?? I knew nothing about networks! I applied anyway, admitted how little I knew, but was willing to learn, and was hired with a substantial pay increase. (Thanks Joe M. and Tim T.!) No one was more surprised than me. My boss Tim later told me they "would have hired a monkey for the job" they were so desperate. (LOL!) Not very flattering to me, but I was happy they found their monkey. I learned how to administer a network "on the job" and three months later they decided I wasn't making enough money, so I got a nice raise, and a few months later got another big one. I never asked for any of it. It was all a gift. God proved Himself over and over to me. I worked there in the IT department for nine more years. It was a great gift.

Businesses were booming in 1999. Especially High-Tech. The company stock options we received began to dramatically increase in value. In 2000, they increased enough that Tom and I were able to cash in enough stock to completely pay off the mortgage on the house I had built. It was a gift to all of my co-workers as well. (I held the secret opinion that they were all benefiting from God's continued provision for me!) Tom and I were thrilled and thankful. We were free from any debt. This was a short three years after the house had been built. This meant we were free.

Because of one small prayer in 1995, God brought me from desperate circumstances to peace and joy. His love carried me through the most traumatic time of my life. There are many other side stories from these years. My children suffered through their parents' divorce because of my sins and their adjustment was not easy. Everything wasn't always rosy. I am still a sinner. But I have learned through those times, and understood clearly and without the slightest doubt that God will care for us. He will always provide what we need.

Luke 12: 22-26
Then Jesus said to his disciples: "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Artist

Ellie drew a picture on the marker board before school today. I decided to photograph it before I erased it, as I thought it was cute. (Digital cameras are wonderful, aren't they?) Ellie saw me with the camera and wanted me to take a picture for my blog. So, here she is.

She'll be pleased to see this tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Salsa and Me

Yes, I am a novice canner. Yes, I am of mostly Scandinavian descent, therefore I am not familiar with the preparation of "hot" foods. Eaten them? Yes. I have eaten salsa many times before.

This was the first time I'd ever made it.

Now, I do seem to recall that I read somewhere that fresh jalapenos are hot. The seeds are hot. They burn the tongue and can be uncomfortable on the skin.


I did not refresh my memory in that regard and went ahead to prepare several fresh jalapenos for the salsa I made this morning. (18 half-pints worth) I began by slicing one up, seeds and all and dumped it into the mix. Then I thought "Hmmmm... maybe I should taste one just to see how hot it really is?" I popped about an 1/8 teaspoon-sized piece of pepper with 2 seeds into my mouth. BURN! Drank a glass of water and decided I would strip the innards out, since my memory was clearing (probably activated by my overheated mouth) and telling me that the seeds were the hottest part of the pepper. I prepared the rest sans guts.

Gradually I began to notice a burning sensation on my hands. I washed up very carefully and it kept getting worse, started creeping up my arms. OUCH! The dim recesses of my mind pulled up a mental file .. something about wearing gloves when preparing hot peppers. OUCH!-OUCH!-OUCH! At one point my entire left arm felt numb, like I was having a stroke. I asked my husband if I was whining too much. He gave me "that look". You know what I mean.

Anyway, the salsa is done, it's good, and my hands and arms feel much better. Next time: gloves!

Monday, September 28, 2009

A Few Topics

Here is a shot of our follow-up assignment from the zoo visit. It's not pretty. At all. I took all the photos I had accumulated of the animals we saw and made stickers out of them. Then I had the kids place the stickers in the correct group on the very-quick-and-ugly-but-functional poster I whipped up. I quizzed the kids as we went along about the characteristics that determined the classification of each animal. Unfortunately I did not get any amphibian photos and only one fish photo so we just discussed the ones we saw. This project was a lot of fun and the kids now know these classifications backwards and forwards.

Sweet little Ellie made herself a paperdoll set a couple of weeks ago. At her request I took a picture of her and printed it. We have a small light box that has been around since I was a child and she used that to trace outfits over the photo. She colored them and cut everything out. I thought this was really cute. She did a good job on it but she gets so impatient with coloring!

Fall is here. The weather is suddenly colder. We harvested the rest of the tomatoes and the pumpkins this week. This is the first year I've canned anything. So far I've done 5 pts of apple jelly, 17 pts of applesauce, 17 half-pts of grape jelly, 32 half-pts plum jelly, 9 quarts of spaghetti sauce with lots more to go. I'm also planning on canning pumpkin, salsa, and more spaghetti sauce. I'm pleased with my first foray into canning. To quote Isaac: "Holey Macaroni!"

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Curriculum and Schedules

I thought I would list what we are doing for homeschool this year. This was the first year I used a mix of my own curriculum choices. In previous years I borrowed a complete Sonlight curriculum package from a friend. I liked it, but now that I have "gotten my feet wet" I enjoyed selecting the individual components, since I am nothing if not opinionated! I am using a modified classical approach.

I will focus this post mainly on Ellie, since Isaac's work in PreK is much less involved and he tends to ride on her coat-tails. He has some workbooks of his own and participates in memorization, science, and listens to all the reading.

In the morning I send out the siren song, calling school to order with some music that I compiled from various sources. They are mainly fun songs that the kids like, which includes silly songs and educational jingles.

Here's one of our favorites:

We open with The Lord's Prayer. Since we attend an Evangelical Free church, there is not a lot of corporate recitation like you would find in other older denominations. I miss that and feel some of it is helpful and important, so I include some recitations in our school setting. We are also doing the Apostles' Creed, the Ten Commandments and the 23rd Psalm. Some of it we may switch out for other foundational passages when I am sure these are embedded in their hearts and minds.

We also recite the Pledge of Allegience and other things we are memorizing, which is currently the books of the Bible (in song form) and a poem by Robert Louis Stevenson.
This sounds like a lot, but we really enjoy this part of the day together and it goes very quickly.

Then, depending on the day of the week, we open the rest of our studies. Language Arts and Math are daily, the rest are between one to three days a week. We have classes four times a week, with the fifth day (Thursdays) for shopping, field trips, or as a "wild card" in case we need to rearrange the week.

Here, in a nutshell, is the rest:

Bible: We are just finishing Grapevine's Birth of Jesus. The concept of stick figures to illustrate the story seemed so simplistic, I wasn't sure about it. Well, the kids LOVED this study, and I expect we will continue with more when I can get it ordered.

Bible/History: We use 106 Days of Creation Studies as a supplement to our Bible and History studies. I wanted to be sure and tie the two together.

History: We use Story of the World: Volume 1 (Ancient Times), both the text and the activity book, which I find indispensible. I love this curriculum. It's very interesting for me and the kids, and the activity book really is wonderful too. Since I started this a year later that I would prefer, I am going to continue on with Volume 2 this summer so I can catch us up. I expect this to make following the classical model of education easier over the next ten years.

Geography: A Child's Geography, Explore His Earth! adds emphasis to our world geography studies, and it has a lot of interesting overview information that is not covered as completely elsewhere.

Reading: We are currently finishing up Book 3 of Explode the Code. We do about 1 lesson a week, two pages a day.  This program keeps Ellie's interest and has worked well for us, as long as I keep it down to 2-3 pages.

Grammar: Easy Grammar: Daily Guided Teaching and Review for Grade 2 is working well, is easy for Ellie to follow, and is just one worksheet a day. I supplement this with catchy grammer songs that I downloaded from YouTube, and she writes more examples herself on the white board, which makes it fun.

Writing: I use the Instructor Text guide only for The Complete Writer: Writing with Ease. I like the manuscript practice and the narration practice. I believe I can see the improvement in her mental processes as a direct result of this.

Math: We began Math-U-See with the primer and are continuing with the Alpha book now pretty aggressively. We are about 1/2 way through and expect to get through the Beta workbook book this year as well. The DVD that comes with this is a terrific help for both mother and daughter.

Science: Handbook of Nature Study with The Outdoor Hour Challenge once a week. We also include various Science studies as they come up in tangent with Geography, Creation, and History (ala Charlotte Mason).

Art: We just started Art Adventures at Home, Level 1 as it was backordered for quite awhile, but so far so good.

Music: Gilbert DeBenedetti's free Music Theory workbooks are going very well so far too. I liked that they were free, and Ellie is enjoying the lessons on our large electronic keyboard.

Physical Education: OK, I thought about this one, but the kids are already so active outside that I didn't pursue anything formal in this area at this time. I did write down some skills goals for this year and we are doing things like timing races. That's about it.

I have schedules I update every week to keep me on track. I like having things to check off, and it gives me a formal record of what we've covered. I created an Excel spreadsheet form with hyperlinks to the static data (because I'm a nerd) so it's quite easy to update. Here's what it looks like, in my large teacher notebook.

I have a schedule for each of the two, but you can see that Ellie's on the right is much more involved.

This is an example of my goals section. I have goals for each child in each subject area. I have also noted which part of the curriculum is expected to address that goal. We review progress on the first of each month. I just started doing this and have some things to catch up on that I should have covered last year. There is not much checked off in this section yet, as we have only had one review, and I want to be sure that the goal is completely accomplished before checking it off.

Well, I know this has been a very long post, so that's enough for now.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Field Trip

Sooo.... Carol...
How did the field trip go yesterday?........

Let's just say THIS is how I felt this morning.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Many-Colored Coat

The Cutie-Pies did a life-sized (Isaac-sized) coloring of Joseph and his coat today as part of their History studies. We read about the beginning of the Jewish people this week, just some basics from Abram to Joseph. Isaac enjoys hearing his name mentioned in this context, but I suspect he's just a tiny bit confused, knowing he has a story from a life before he came to us. I need to remember to continue to clarify that this was a different Isaac. Especially when we dig in deeper and get to the story of Abraham's almost-sacrifice of his son....

School is moving along very well this year. We made a working thermometer with a bottle and a straw for Science today, worked more with maps and directions, and are plowing through Language Arts and Math. We had some really good Art and Music lessons today as well.

Tomorrow we have our first homeschool field trip to the Minnesota zoo. We will be classifying vertebrates, so we will keep a log of what we see and get pictures so we can make a poster/chart when we get home.

We are all excited for the trip. Daddy will be sleeping in the car on the way down, since he will have only had about 2 hours of sleep when we leave - that, after a 72-hour work week. I don't know how he manages. I would be just a tad bit grumpy, I'm quite sure.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Wild Grapes

My husband has done a lot of "beating back nature" along a few hundred feet of our driveway in the last two years or so. There were some dead trees and some noxious weeds that needed to be cleared out.  In the process, he began to notice that there was a lot more wild fruit growing there than we realized. A lot more. The more he trimmed, the happier those fruit bushes, vines, and trees became. They were getting a bit of light and began to bear their fruit. We found wild apple, chokecherries, thorn apples, wild grapes, plus some others which have not yet been identified. Very cool! I have longed for some more fruit-bearing plants and had been planning for some planting areas, but there they were all along! We didn't have to plant them, weed them, trim them, or spray them. What a gift from God! I can feel His delight in our discovery of this gift to us.
On Thursday my dear husband picked 2 1/2 gallons of wild grapes along our driveway before he went to work. There's more to be had, but it's a good start. The kids and I cleaned them carefully, picked over them, then threw them, small stems and all along with a couple of cups of water into my 8 quart stockpot. It was heaping full.

I cooked them down then strained out the seeds, stems and pulp. I added sugar to the juice and a few pinches of salt and some pectin, boiled it for a minute or so, then canned it up. This batch made 17 half-pints of jelly.
Luscious grape jelly. Rich and full-bodied flavor with a little "wild" tang. Not at all like the cheap jelly we usually buy in the store. Women have been making wild grape jelly for many generations, but it's new to me.

Friday, September 4, 2009


I thought I would show what we're doing with school these days. Ellie is in second grade and Isaac is in PreK. I have a spare bedroom this year to use for school, so that helps a lot with keeping my sanity intact.
I organized subject notebooks with folders, subject matter, extra papers, pockets with pencils, glue sticks and erasers (in case we take things outside). Isaac has just one notebook. Ellie's Reading, Grammar and Writing notebook was in use when this picture was taken.
I had lots of idea helps from reading homeschooler blogs this year. I really like this idea. Drawers for coloring supplies. We just pull out a drawer when it's needed. Colored pencils, markers, and crayons. It's all ready to go and always in the exact same place. No more hunting for boxes or bins, and the kids are less inclined to make off with them.
Here's our reading area. After switching bedrooms around we ended up with an extra mattress so plopped it on the floor, threw a couple of beanbag chairs on it and we have a comfy spot for reading. I freely admit that I am the one who was looking for more reading comfort, since at this stage, there is a lot of reading done by Mom.
This is one end of the table we work at, complete with a recent pyramid project from our study of ancient Egypt.
Flash cards. Who knew?
I never dreamed they would be so  helpful. I used templates generously provided by Donna Young at her wonderful website and made my own.
I have alphabet cards with no pictures (which are hard to find) so we can practice sounds along with letters without the picture hints. I have numbers. Isaac can count, but is not yet recognizing some numbers. Ellie has Addition math facts to memorize, and Dolche words, which are words to learn by sight along with phonetics.
The Dolche words are separated into different piles right now. Words Ellie has mastered, words she is working on, and words she has not yet started. She really enjoys the "competition" of flash cards. I was surprised at how well they work.
Here is our fabulous 4' x 8' whiteboard. We looked at Menards and Home Depot without finding what we needed. Turns out our local building store keeps them in stock to supply the public school. Neat deal. And they are cheap too.
The kids like to do their figuring on the whiteboard. Here Ellie was reviewing part of the day's Grammar lesson. I am really looking forward to improving my own grammar skills while educating my children. Another wonderful benefit of homeschooling.
When not doing school, we sometimes play fun games, such as the one suggested in a book. Draw a picture and see how quickly the subject can be guessed. Mom was the guesser.
Ellie was very pleased with her baby drawing. Mom guessed it very quickly and then Ellie finished her drawing.
This is Isaac with his caterpillar. Mom guessed that one right too. 
Here's our classroom mascot. His name is Bubbles.  

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Remember I mentioned Deja Vu?

I knew there was a memory there somewhere. It's why I snapped the picture of Isaac.
My two sons.
Isaac at 4, Greyson at about 9.
Warms the cockles of my heart!
Little cutie-pies.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

My Kids and Fun

Isaac learned to shower last month. He climbs in along with Ellie for moral support, but needs to be properly equipped to deal with the water on his face. He came up with this idea all on his own.
We spent last Saturday at "The Point" with Jess and Tyler. Tyler brought his boat and gave us a spin around the lake. That was so much fun. Reminded me of when I was in my early teens, when I could take the boat out by myself. What a thrill that was for me then. I was not yet old enough to drive, and the feeling of independence, power, and speed was intoxicating.
Little Isaac was anxious to get some fishing in. He and Daddy dug for worms in the garden the day before, so they were well prepared. Isaac and Ellie did very well, baiting their own hooks and reeling in those fishies. We had "miniature crappie" dinner the next day.
Jess and Grey were happy to see each other. They have a strong sibling bond. I've always been grateful for that. Grey wanted this picture with his Jess. I am so proud of them both.
We went to the fair a few weeks ago. The kids have their expectations which include cotton candy (in pink and blue) and a few carnival rides. Mom expects to see the animals. I never get tired of looking at sleeping pigs and the rear ends of cows.
A rainy summer day. I don't know what they would do without each other. I often have deja vu with these two. It's like Jess and Grey all over again. What a blessing to be able to do this twice!
I'll leave with a sweet shot of the newlyweds at the lake. It was great to see them.

Friday, August 14, 2009


I have made many mistakes and used poor judgement in my life. I have sinned against God willfully, repeatedly, and often. I really do deserve the worst that this life has to offer. Instead, God has blessed me. Not just with ordinary small blessings, but with abundant, joyful blessings. Here are two of them.
Is there anything sweeter than a man loving up his little son?

(I love those manly, hard-working hands and forearms too! ...sorry, can't help myself.)

Monday, July 20, 2009

Progress Reports

My Wave Petunias have filled out a lot more in their pots. I love the bright, welcoming color that greets me when I pull up in our driveway. Every year I have an inward struggle about the pruning of these plants. I know that if I sacrificed a few blooms and snipped off the long leggy growth, I would have a nice compact mound over each pot. I can't bring myself to do that. I like the wild, wayward "wild-child" growth. I don't want to remove a single bloom before it's exhausted. Can't help it. So, it gives me pleasure the way it is. Working on my new Estonian lace shawl, made with a yak and silk cobweb weight blend. This will be a VERY lightweight shawl. It will be a "wedding-ring" shawl in the sense that it will easily be able to fit through a ring when complete. I like the fussiness. I am excited to see how it turns out.