Sunday, October 30, 2011

October 30 - November 5, 2011

What we're working on this week:

  • Religion - Who Am I? Preschool Book B: God Should Come First in Our Lives; All Saints' Day (11/1): Bake soft pretzels in the shape of figure 8s to represent the saints and martyrs; All Souls' Day (11/2): Remember our deceased family members
  • Math - Saxon Math K: Lessons 25 and 26 - Creating and reading an ABB color pattern, creating a bar graph
  • Language Arts - Hooked on Phonics: letters V and W; Get Set for the Code: Complete letter j, begin letter h
  • Art - Draw Write Now Book 1: Rabbits
  • Science - Science is Simple: Exploring winter birds.
  • Music - We continue listening to our classical music station on Pandora while we do our schoolwork.
  • Good Books - The Complete Tales and Poems of Winnie the Pooh: Section 2, Chapter 6

Friday, October 28, 2011

Week in Review, Swan, Schedule


There really wasn't too much going on this week.  Henry was not very interested in school, I'll say that.  I think we're both about ready for a little break.  I have our lessons planned through November, but our semi-vacation will begin at Advent and run until Epiphany.  While we'll continue our math lessons and our religion lessons, everything else will be put on hold until the new year so we can focus on the coming Christmas season.

Looking at our remaining work, there's really not much left to preschool!  There are only five more art lessons in the level one book.  Henry's doing well, but I think he would benefit from going back and starting over at the same level.  As the pictures get more complex, his frustration at not being able to get his drawing exactly right is starting to increase.  He's doing a lot of erasing and the fun level is decreasing, so I'd like him to step back a bit and also do more freehand work where he's using his imagination and drawing things from memory.

Henry will finish up the second book in the Explode the Code primer series the day before Thanksgiving.  He has one more book left, Go for the Code.  He'll also finish up the first level of Hooked on Phonics the same week and begin the second (and last) pre-k level.  The second level is pretty much a review of the first, but the games and stories are different.  These final books will take about 13 weeks to complete.

Epiphany is on January 6th, although it's transferred to Sunday the 8th.  From there, we'll have six weeks of instruction before hitting the week of Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent.  We'll go on break again (in everything except religion and math) through the Octave of Easter on April 15th.  Seven more weeks will take us to an end date of June 2nd, which will work out very well.  The Saxon Math year ends in June; there are only four lessons that month, so we'll be done by June 8th.

During our breaks, we'll focus on the Image of God lessons that are specific to the holiday seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter.  We'll also do more Good Books reading and we'll be doing arts and crafts projects which reflect the seasons, too.


Ollie was pretty quiet in his speech therapy sessions this week.  He's also showing a lot more frustration with his inability to communicate, something his therapist said we should expect.  She requested a list of his favorite snacks and printed out a sheet of pictures of them.  However, I really wanted something more expansive and realistic than the small black and white clip art pictures.

Since I am a sucker for resources, I ordered a Picture Exchange Communication System today.  It includes 120 full-color laminated photographs that cover foods, family members, feelings, toys, activities... you name it.  It's used with ABA therapy, so if we ever get our referral for that, this will come in handy, I'm sure.  I'm hoping that this picture system will help eliminate the frustration that Oliver is showing and allow him to communicate what he wants until he's able to do so verbally.

This week, and for the rest of the month, we're focusing on the color orange.  We went through the playroom and put all of the orange toys into a bin that I've left out for Oliver to sort through.  We're doing the orange section of each day.


Jane's walking a little more, but not consistently.  Her main problem is that she starts clapping for herself as she's walking, which throws her off balance and makes her sit down. Complete goober!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Red-shouldered Hawks!

We spotted juvenile and adult Eastern Red-shouldered Hawks yesterday and managed to get a picture of both:

Maybe they're related.

I love the fall weather.  The birds are coming back and we can actually stand being outside to watch them.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

October 23 - 29, 2011

What we're working on this week:

  • Religion - Who Am I? Preschool Book B: After Death, There is Life
  • Math - Saxon Math K: Lessons 22, 23, and 24 - Creating and reading an A/B color pattern, acting out story problems, placing a tag on a pictograph, identifying the most and fewest on a graph
  • Language Arts - Hooked on Phonics: letter U, review R, S, T, U; Get Set for the Code: Letter j
  • Art - Draw Write Now Book 1: Swan
  • Science - Science is Simple: Use Marble Run to create marble drops.
  • Music - We continue listening to our classical music station on Pandora while we do our schoolwork.
  • Good Books - The Complete Tales and Poems of Winnie the Pooh: Section 2, Chapter 5

Week in Review: For the Birds


The Matrix

 Henry did very well with his lessons this week.  Math continues to be the favorite.  In our longest lesson yet, Henry sorted two shapes in two sizes and three colors into a matrix and then used the matrix to determine which piece was missing when I took it away while he had his eyes closed.  It was really neat to watch him go from randomly guessing to actually using the matrix and getting the answer right each time.

His art lesson this week was birds.  This was the first time that he had to draw more than one subject and it's also the first time that his lesson was presented as a tableau.  He's had other ones that show background in the completed picture, but in order for his drawings to make sense, he really needed to include the tree and branches.


In the Fortress of Solitude
Oliver had two speech therapy sessions this week.  The last one was his first time going back to the office on his own because it was the first time I had to bring Henry and Jane along by myself.  He gave two looks back at me as he walked through the door to make sure it was okay, but was just fine other than that.  His therapist said that he said "no" and "out" during the session and that it seemed like he was using them appropriately.

At home, we've heard him say "all done," or maybe more like "aw dn."  The first time he said it, he was at the table and pushing his plate away.  The second time he said it was when I was trying to get Matt to agree that's what he said (Matt was talking to Henry and didn't hear it the first time).  So the conversation went like this:
Oliver: Aw dn.
Me: Yes!  You're all done!  Good job, Ollie!... Matt, did you hear him say "all done?"
Matt: Are you sure that's what he said?  Maybe you're imagining it.  I don't think he-
Oliver: Aw dn!
So, then we both agreed that he actually said it.


Daddy's Girl
Still a little goober.  Still waving and saying "hello!"  And she's definitely calling Matt "Dada" now.  She only says something that sounds like "Maaaaaaaaaaaa" when she's wailing, but that's par for the course.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Making Apple Butter

Last year, I made apple butter for the first time.  I'd never really had it before, but I came across a recipe that convinced me to try it.  I'm so glad that I did, because I think the apple butter is the main reason my husband remains married to me (other than his eternal love and our kids and all of that stuff).  We ran out of the last of the batch a month ago and I've endured mournful faces from Matt every morning that I've made biscuits since.

Well, this week, Publix had Honeycrisps on sale, so it was Apple Butter Making Time 2011.

We begin with 12 pounds of apples.  You can use whatever you like, but Honeycrisps are the best apple ever created.  Quarter them, core them, and plop them in a big stockpot.  Pour 3 quarts of apple juice or cider on top.  Last year, I used regular old apple juice, but this year I went for the Ziegler's Honeycrisp Blend apple cider (also at Publix).

As you can see, this process started around 0800.  In the picture to the right, the apples had been simmering for about 20 minutes.
When the apples started to get mushy, I took out my 7 quart cast iron Dutch oven and poured in 6 cups of sugar (use 7 for tart apples), 2 tablespoons of cinnamon, 1 teaspoon of ground cloves, and just a touch of ground nutmeg.

The cast iron is well-suited for this, since it distributes the heat so evenly.  The apple/cider mixture starts out pretty soupy, but it's a thick and bubbly mess by the end that has to be stirred constantly.  Cast iron helps keep the butter from accumulating hot spots when you have to fill a sippy cup or change a diaper.

Here is the apple and cider mixture transferred to the Dutch oven.  As you can see, many of the apples are already falling apart.  If you like a chunky apple butter, you can just keep it as is.  The larger pieces will keep breaking up as you cook, but you still wind up with some bits in your final product.

You can see that the mixture fills the 7 quart pot to the brim.  A few inches of cider remained in the stockpot, but that's fine.  The point of this is to cook the liquid out anyway.

Since we prefer a smooth butter, I use a stick or immersion blender and puree everything right in the pot.  If you don't have an immersion blender (and you should, because they are so convenient!) and you like smooth butter, you can ladle the apple/cider mixture into a blender in batches.  Blend each portion, then add it to the pot with your sugar and spices.

Now begins the long, slow process of evaporating the water from the mixture.  This isn't something you can do haphazardly or inattentively.  Fortunately, my dear husband took the boys to an RC airfield for the morning to watch a mini airshow.  Jane was content playing and watching videos while I stirred.  And stirred.  And stirred.

You can see how much lower the mixture has gotten in the pot.  And this still wasn't done yet.

How do you know when it's done?

Well, some instructions say it's done when the mixture "mounds on a spoon."  I seek further clarification because maybe what somebody else sees as a mound, I see as a plateau.

So, instead I use the saucer test.  Plop some butter on a cold saucer.  If liquid pools, it's not done.  If it doesn't, it's good to go.

Not done

See?  Much easier to determine.

Once you get pretty close to done, fill your canning pot with water and start heating it to a boil.  Do yourself a big favor and run your tap until the water is hot before filling the pot.  You'll cut a good half hour off your wait time.
Wash your jars with hot soapy water and rinse well.  There's really no need to sterilize the jars since you're going to be filling them with apple butter that is the approximate temperature of molten lava.

If, by chance, some stray bacterium manages to survive the apple butter scalding and boiling water processing, well, I think it deserves to live.

Fill the jars almost to the top.  You need to leave 1/4" of headspace in order to get a good seal.  

After they're filled, take a clean, damp cloth and wipe the rim of each jar.  If there's any butter on them, the lids won't be able to seal properly.

Place your clean and unused lids on top and then lightly screw on the bands.  You should turn them just until you feel resistance.  Think benevolent dictator.  Firm, but not overbearing.

This allows the steam to exit the jars.  If the bands and lids are too tight, you won't get a seal because you won't create a big enough pressure difference.

When the water is boiling, use a jar lifter to place the jars in the rack in the pot.  Make sure they're standing up straight and covered by at least an inch of water.

The water will probably stop boiling when you add the jars in.  You need to process the butter for 20 minutes, so don't start your timer until the water begins boiling again.

This gives you plenty of time to scrub apple butter off your stove, counter tops, surrounding appliances, overhead vent grating, cabinets, and floor.

Also, scrub out your pots and ladles and spoons before the apple butter hardens.  Much easier that way.

Treat any burns received from spattering apple butter at this time, too.

In the end, it's all worth it.  Seven glorious pints of apple butter!  This should be enough to make it until next fall as long as my husband doesn't go crazy after a month of withdrawal.

These bad boys will sit out overnight to cool down.  I'll check the lids to make sure they all sealed in the morning.  They should be fine, though.  I counted seven audible pops as each lid vacuum-sealed.


Friday, October 21, 2011

Another Day in St. Augustine

With the weather changing, we needed to finish up shopping for the kids' cool-weather clothing.  We made a trip down to the outlet mall in St. Augustine, then headed to the fort so the boys could blow off some steam.

Top row: Henry pretending to be a statue, the fort, the bay (inlet?  I don't know), Henry running next to the fort
Middle row: The coquina wall of the fort, Oliver checking out said coquina, Oliver watching a plane fly by
Bottom row: Henry racing up the sidewalk, Matt and Oliver looking at the boats, Henry making sure the cannon isn't loaded

Sunday, October 16, 2011

October 16 - 22, 2011

What we're working on this week:

  • Religion - Who Am I? Preschool Book B: Faith and Trust
  • Math - Saxon Math K: Lessons 19, 20, and 21 - Placing an object on a real graph, identify the most and the fewest on a graph, naming a shape piece using three attributes: shape, color, and size, creating and reading an A/B color pattern
  • Language Arts - Hooked on Phonics: letters S and T; Get Set for the Code: Letter n
  • Art - Draw Write Now Book 1: Birds
  • Science - Science is Simple: Complete "Test the Hypotheses" (Newton's Cradle)
  • Music - We continue listening to our classical music station on Pandora while we do our schoolwork.
  • Good Books - The Complete Tales and Poems of Winnie the Pooh: Section 2, Chapter 4

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Week in Review: Walking, Talking, and Drawing a Dog

Busy week, but rewarding.  I'm seeing so much progress with each kid.  It's great, but it also makes me realize how fast they're growing up.

My husband was out of town for the first twelve days of the month for an exercise out on the West Coast.  My sister and her boys came down for the first six days for a visit, so we had plenty to keep us all busy.  Once they left last week, it was back to work.  With just me and the three, it was a few days before we got everything back under control again.  Then Matt came home on the 12th and it's taken a few more days to get everybody back on schedule (and on East Coast time) and content again. 

Suffice to say, we're all a little tired.  Still, we persevere.



Henry did great this week with his assignments.  We are focusing more and more on Explode the Code and less on Hooked on Phonics.  The HoP is just not keeping his attention enough.  He prefers the EtC activities and workbook.  Even there, I think he may be getting ahead of the material.  Other than practicing his penmanship, he knows all of his upper and lower case letters already.  He knows the sounds they make, what they look like... he's started some sight reading also (just a few words like stop and milk, also his, Oliver's, and Jane's names).  I'm going to continue with our current schedule, but I think Henry will be ready to go straight into the kindergarten level language arts program when we're done with his current materials.

Saxon Math continues to engage him.  He loves the manipulatives, loves the graphing, the Meeting Book, everything.  Math is what he wants to do first every day.  Which means we do it last.  It certainly keeps him on point through his other lessons.

Art this week was drawing a dog.  Love it.


Oliver began speech therapy this week, attending two half-sessions.  His speech therapist is already building a good rapport with him and he reacts well to her.  At the second session, she opened the door to the waiting room and he ran right past her and straight to her office.  So, he seems to be enjoying it!

Each week, she'll give us some things to work on at home with him to reinforce what she does during therapy.  This week, they were encouraging eye contact, sharing, and taking turns.  He's doing very well.  I'm taking advantage of Jane's naps to have a good amount of one-on-one time with him, as well as emphasizing our "homework" throughout the day.

He is still loving the Hooked on Phonics videos and games, as well as the expanded  He seems to very much the visual learner, something I'll have to keep in mind down the road.


Oh, Jane.  Jane has developed quite a temper.  She is a feisty little thing.  I had images in my head of a sweet, quiet little girl à la Ingalls, but I think it is not to be.  I don't know if it comes from having two older brothers or what, but she is something else. 

She started taking a few steps this week!  I wish I could get it on film, but the little stinker instantly drops to the floor whenever she sees the camera.  She also started saying something that sounds pretty close to "hello."  At first, it seemed random.  Now, she's waving as she says it, so I think this one will go in the baby book as her official first word.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

October 9 - 15, 2011

What we're working on this week:

  • Religion - Who Am I? Preschool Book B: Jesus Says, "Come Follow Me"
  • Math - Saxon Math K: Lessons 16, 17, and 18 - Sorting by color, creating a real graph, acting out story problems, identify circles and rectangles
  • Language Arts - Hooked on Phonics: Rhyming, letter R; Get Set for the Code: Complete letter s, begin letter n
  • Art - Draw Write Now Book 1: Dog
  • Science - Science is Simple: Complete "Relate Gravity to Car Seat Safety" and "Put on a Seat Belt"
  • Music - We continue listening to our classical music station on Pandora while we do our schoolwork.
  • Good Books - The Complete Tales and Poems of Winnie the Pooh: Section 2, Chapter 3

Friday, October 7, 2011

Cousins, Angels, and Cats

This week was a busy one! On Saturday, we welcomed my sister and her two boys for a nice visit. It's always good to see them.  Henry loves having his cousins here to play.  Around lesson time, it's a little taste of the future for me to see what it's like to have multilevel instruction going on.  My sister home educates her children also, so they come armed with their workbooks and lessons for the week.  The boys are using Explode the Code and it was interesting to see what the later books cover.

Sunday was the feast day of the Guardian Angels.  To celebrate, I ordered Guardian Angel medals for each of the kids' beds.  We blessed them and tied them on securely to each bed and crib.  Of course, Henry immediately wanted to know if the medal itself would protect him from bad dreams.  I explained the idea of a sacramental as simply as possible so he could understand that the medal is there to help him remember that his Guardian Angel is always there with him.

Henry learned his Guardian Angel prayer last year during his nursery level.  It's one of the prayers he recites each night before bedtime.

The rest of the week was full of playtime, our regular lessons, and a trip to a local play place so the boys could expel some energy.  There was plenty of outside exploration (the weather has been fantastic) as well as the indulgence of some video game time with his cousins.

My sister was interested in seeing how her boys would take to Saxon Math, so we had an impromptu co-op on the days Henry had his math lessons.  It was funny watching Henry have a little competition with his work.  While the lessons were low-level for the cousins, all three boys enjoyed using the pattern blocks and the meeting book.

Today's art lesson was a cat.  Henry requested a picture of him working on the drawing, as well as a scan of the picture itself, so here it goes:

We'll finish today by saying a rosary together in honor of the feast day of Our Lady of the Rosary.

Tomorrow, we officially begin our science unit on objects in motion.  Henry, Oliver, and Jane have been playing with the Marble Run non-stop, as well as the Newton's Cradle.  I'm glad I went with the sturdier model, because little hands tend to get the strings tangled up.  Pricier, yes, but it's something they should be able to enjoy for years to come.

Angelicum puts physics at the 11th grade level; we'll see if it survives until then!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

October 2 - 8, 2011

(We're transitioning to a Sunday through Saturday school week this week.  Our religion lesson and Good Books selection from last week are included in this week because of this.)

What we're working on this week:

  • Religion - Who Am I? Preschool Book B: Miracles of Jesus; October 2nd is the feast day of the Guardian Angels.  Each child will receive a special little gift.  October 7th is the feast day of Our Lady of the Rosary.  Henry has a hard time making it past one decade, but we'll try for a whole one and see what happens.
  • Math - Saxon Math K: Lessons 13, 14, and 15 - Creating and reading an A/B color pattern, covering designs using pattern blocks, and sorting by color.
  • Language Arts - Hooked on Phonics: Letters M, N, O, P, Q review, The Letter Hunt storybook, Unit 2 letter songs and videos, Get Set for the Code: letter s
  • Art - Draw Write Now Book 1: Cat
  • Science - Science is Simple: Complete "Tell a Ball to Move," "Move the Ball," and "Put the Attention on Gravity."
  • Music - We continue listening to our classical music station on Pandora while we do our schoolwork.
  • Good Books - The Complete Tales and Poems of Winnie the Pooh: Section 2, Chapter 2