Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Thinking Ahead: Resources for Summer Break

There is something about an approaching Spring that always makes me start in on lists for the upcoming months.  Yes, I know that we're on break right now and we've still got until June to finish up Henry's preschool year.  And I know the whole point of finishing up by June is so we could have a nice summer break to welcome little Peter or Violet to the family before getting back to work in September.  I just think that three months is an awfully long stretch of time where we could be doing something, even if it's not terribly structured.

So, I flipped through the resource sections of a few classical education books and came up with some materials that should be helpful over the summer (and in the years to come).


We'll continue with the second book of the Draw Write Now series in the fall, but these looked like great books to explore over the summer:
  •  Ed Emberley's Picture Pie (Ed Emberley Drawing Books) - This one will be fun for Oliver and maybe Jane, too!  It's not so much a drawing book as a cut and paste book.  I cut out basic shapes from colored paper and they use them to create pictures.  I'll probably get a few craft paper punches to help out with this one.  It's art plus color and shapes review rolled into one.
  •  Classical Music for Dummies - While the kids doodle and color, we can listen to this book's accompanying CD.  Yes, we listen to our Pandora classical music station all the time, but this installment of the "Dummies" series has a sort of guided listening experience.  As we listen to the music, I can read aloud from the book's explanation of what exactly we're hearing.
Language Arts
Finally, there's nothing like looking ahead to make you realize where your own education is... lacking.  So, I'll be picking up a copy of  Warriner's English Composition and Grammar : Complete Course for my own review.  I vaguely remember using this book in 7th grade, although "using" is probably a bit much.  More like we touched on it briefly and then scurried away.

Sound like a fun summer?  We'll have plenty of free play time, too.  No worries there. I just want to avoid that back-to-work shock in the fall.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

February 26 - March 3, 2012: Schedule, Lent, and Glorious Sleep

We are settling into our Lenten routine very nicely thus far.  The crown of thorns is a huge hit.  Henry is really proud of every thorn that he's gotten to remove.  He's doing a great job on his Stations of the Cross coloring pages and is enjoying the nightly ceremony of ornament-hanging, readings, and our family Way of the Cross.  His reading is coming along in leaps and bounds.  Henry tries to read everything he sees now and he's overjoyed when he can figure out a word on his own.  The entire process is just amazing to me.

It seems like Oliver has learned some of his letters.  He's actually said a few of them (m, o, d, e, h) while pointing to them and he's developed a sudden interest in playing with our alphabet puzzle.  It's very encouraging, especially combined with his more consistent use of a few words. He's saying "yesh" quite often when we ask him questions, "uuup" and "din" when we go up and down the stairs, and "mmmm" for milk.  He's also listening better and following simple directions.  We are still in the process of getting signed up for in-home therapy.  We'll just keep working with him ourselves and see what happens in the meantime.

One big Oliver issue that seems to be resolved is his sleep trouble.  Starting in January, Oliver began having a lot of sleep disturbances.  He'd go to bed at 8:30, but wake up screaming and crying at 11:30.  He'd be inconsolable for ten to fifteen minutes, then be wide awake and wanting to play until around 4:00AM.  Of course, most nights he'd wake up Henry or Jane (or both).  And since my husband's wake-up time is around 5:30, I'd try to handle Oliver all night so he could get some sleep before heading off to work.  Which meant I was getting about an hour of sleep in the evening before the fun began and another three or four hours in the early morning between the times when Oliver went back to sleep and the other kids woke up for the day.

Things have not been fun.

"Dr. Ferber?  I need help.  Stat."
We tried melatonin supplements to help smooth out his sleep cycles and it seemed to help a little bit.  He certainly fell asleep more easily and he didn't have the confusional arousals anymore.  However, he'd still want a few hours of nocturnal playtime before going back to sleep.  Finally, in desperation, we decided that if he was getting up at 11:30 every night to play, we'd just keep him awake until 11:00 before putting him down for bed.

And it worked.  Really well.  The first night, he fell asleep on his own at 11:00 and slept until 9:00AM the next morning.  I woke up in a panic because I got more than three hours of continuous sleep and thought everyone had been kidnapped or something.  He's kept it up, too.  He goes to bed around 10:30 now and sleeps until 8:30 or so each morning.  Henry and Jane are getting full nights of sleep, Matt and I are getting full nights of sleep... I feel like a sentient being again.

This is one of those times when I seriously thank God for being able to be a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom.  We don't have to get up early to get everyone out the door on time.  I can let each child get the sleep he or she needs without worrying about everyone else's schedule.  And I really think the good sleeping is helping Oliver during the day with his attentiveness.  It's certainly cutting down on the whining from Henry and Jane (and, I'll admit, me).  Of course, we'll have our new arrival in about 4 months or so and then the fun begins anew!

In the meantime...

This week, Henry only has one math lesson, Lesson 72: graphing a picture on a pictograph and handwriting master 11.  Saxon only does 12 lessons per month, so it's the final February lesson.  We don't start the March lessons until the following week.  He'll also color two more Stations of the Cross.  We're enjoying the break.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ash Wednesday and the Chair of St. Peter

It's been one craft project after another today and Henry is loving every minute of it!

We started off this morning by redecorating our little kitchen altar.  Out came the purple felt we cut to fit a few days ago, one of the votive candle holders we decorated over the weekend, and our purple glass filler and flowers.  I really like the felt on top of the shelf.  I think I'll pick up some more in red, green, white, and blue so we can decorate in the liturgical colors.

Here, Henry is coloring in his printable of the first Station of the Cross.  These are downloadable from St. John the Baptist Catholic Church's religious education department website.  We did the same thing that we did for the St. Valentine printable; I colored and laminated one sheet, then gave it to Henry to reproduce.  He likes putting his own spin on it, while still having a guide.

 Our Lent table is all set up and ready for this evening.  We've got our Jesus Tree on the left with tonight's ornament on the table in front of it, ready to hang.  Our Lent calendar is on the wall with the other votive candle holder below.  Our family Bible is open to tonight's reading.  On the wall, to the right, we have our first Station of the Cross poster mounted on white felt.  We do two stations this week; as we move through Lent, the ones we've already done will be put on the stairwell wall.  We've also got Henry's crown of thorns and our Lenten Essentials handbook.

Here's a close-up of Henry's crown of thorns, a project from Catholic Icing.  Obviously, our crown was made of fresher thorny vines since it's a little more green than brown.  We blended together some red, blue, and yellow play-dough, twisted two ropes of it together, and stuck it full of toothpick pieces.  For each good deed or sacrifice that Henry makes during Lent, he gets to remove one thorn with the goal being to have them all gone by Good Friday.

I think the votive candleholders came out very nicely.  They're quite pretty all lit up.  This was a nice and easy project and something that we can save to use year after year.

And our last project of the day, the stained glass window from St. Peter's Basilica in honor of the Chair of St. Peter.  I wish it were sunnier out, but I think you get the idea.  Henry's really happy with this one.

Well, I've got a pot of pinto beans on the stove that will be made into bean and cheese burritos for dinner.  We are so excited to begin our Lenten journey this year and we hope you all are too!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

February 19 - 25, 2012: Lent Begins

We drop everything except math and religion beginning this week, although the little ones will keep up their speech and language activities.

Henry will complete lessons 69, 70, and 71 in Saxon Math K: Covering a design in more than one way, handwriting master 10; paying for items to $1.00 using dimes; assessment #7 - identifying ordinal position.

The rest of the week:

Sometime before Wednesday: Henry and I will sit down and create our "stained glass" votive candle holders to use during Lent.  It's a pretty simple project, just tissue paper scraps and watered-down glue.  I think it will make decorating our Lent table more special, though.

Tuesday: It's Mardi Gras and that means it's time to make a King Cake.  I'll use this recipe again.  I can't cheat and use cinnamon rolls on Shrove Tuesday!

Wednesday: Ash Wednesday.  Lent begins!  I'm not sure if we'll go to Mass or not.  For the past couple of years, we've done our own ceremony at home.  It's not a Holy Day of Obligation, so we'll see. 

Our Lenten activities will begin this night.  That includes hanging the Jesus Tree ornaments, our family Way of the Cross (along with the appropriate coloring pages), and this neat Lent calendar I came across a couple of days ago.  Henry will also complete his Ash Wednesday workbook page from Who Am I?.

Wednesday is also the Solemnity of the Chair of St. Peter.  We're going to do this neat little stained glass window project that I found on By Sun and Candlelight.  It's a simple replica of the image of the Holy Spirit above the altar in St. Peter's Basilica.

I'm going to download the center image in advance and color it in.  Henry will be responsible for the stained glass surround (made of tissue paper on clear contact paper).

This will be our first year of really doing Lent.  I'm looking forward to sharing this as a family and I hope that we all get the same meaningful experiences that we did through all of our Advent activities.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Saint Valentine's Day!

I must confess that I've never been really big on celebrating Valentine's Day.  It always seemed like a pretty worthless "holiday."  Hey, let's buy a bunch of candy!  Or, how about a 4 1/2 foot tall teddy bear?  That should come in handy, right?

Still, now that Henry's getting older, it is nice to have a little fun on days like this.  Add in the real history of Saint Valentine and we actually wind up with a real holiday!

A friend of mine had the coloring page to the left on a Pinterest board.  I printed it out last night and colored it in nicely after the kids were asleep.  I also printed out the site's information on Saint Valentine and made a worksheet with it.  They'll be laminated together today so we can bring them out each year.  Each of the kids got their own coloring page sheet to work on today and listened to the story of Saint Valentine this morning before breakfast.

To make things fun, the bedroom doors were decorated with cut-out hearts last night.  We had heart-shaped biscuits at breakfast, and each child got a little candy afterwards as a special treat.

Today is also the anniversary of Oliver's baptism, so we're going to make a heart-shaped cake later on to celebrate.  And, of course, we've got our regular schoolwork to complete along with a speech therapy appointment this afternoon.  I'm sure we'll wind up cutting out a few construction paper hearts, too!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Getting Ready for Lent

So, Ash Wednesday is next week.  Next week.  As in 9 days from today.  Kind of snuck up on me.  I was all lulled into the the routine of ordinary time and now I need to get rolling on our plans for Lent.

First things first.  The Jesse Tree was such a huge joy during Advent.  It really made the season meaningful to have the ornaments and readings every day.  I was so happy to see that there already exists the Jesus Tree for Lent!  Our lighted willow branch got a little crowded with 28 ornaments, so I'm ordering another one to put in our vase to hold all 43 of these ornaments.  I'm also heading to Michael's this week to pick up a few bags of purple glass vase fillers (is that the technical term?).  I think those will look a little nicer than the crumpled tissue paper I had in there before.  I'm once again going to send the printables to our local UPS store to have printed in color and on cardstock.  I'm going to laminate them at home, though, since I picked up one of these a while back when it was on sale.

So, that's one daily activity for Lent.  What else?

I picked up The Essential Lenten Handbook last month (I was thinking ahead a little, at least) and there is a nice section on family devotions, specifically "a family-centered Way of the Cross."  Every evening of Lent, you gather around a lit candle and reflect on one of the Stations of the Cross.  Stations one and two are during the week of Ash Wednesday, three and four are during the first week of Lent, and so on through the season.  To prepare, next weekend Henry and I are going to make a "stained glass" votive candle holder.  I have a bunch of those Glade Wisp candle holders that I stuck in a closet way back when.  We'll use one of those as a holder and use a glue wash to apply layers of purple tissue paper to the exterior.  Then, we can just use plain tea light or votive candles inside instead of trying to find enough purple candles to make it through Lent.  Purple, it seems, is not a very popular candle color.

To go along with this activity, I'm also getting this Stations of the Cross poster set.  Unfortunately, I have no idea what the dimensions for this are.  It's not listed anywhere on the product description.  I'm hoping they're letter-sized or smaller so I can laminate these also and save them for future use.  For $9.95, it's probably a safe bet that they are not ginormous.

Daily ornament, daily Station of the Cross reflection... The Lenten Handbook also has a Lenten Family Graces section with reflections and prayers for Ash Wednesday, all of the Fridays of Lent, the Triduum, Easter Sunday, and the feasts of the Chair of St. Peter, the Annunciation, Saint Joseph, and St. Patrick.  We'll do these also.

Our last activity will be to engage in the practice of covering our crucifixes with purple cloths on Palm Sunday.  Those will stay in place until Easter Sunday.  We'll also be completing activities in Henry's religion workbook and downloading printables to color throughout Lent.

Okay!  In a few weeks, I'll start pulling together resources for celebrating Easter.

February 12 - 18, 2012

What we're working on this week:
  • Religion - Daily readings, rosary, prayers
  • Math - Saxon Math K: Lessons 66, 67, and 68 - Identifying the numbers 0-20, ordering the numbers 0-20, handwriting master 9; Identifying a one-cup measuring cup, following a recipe; Identifying full, half-full, and empty containers, identifying a quart container
  • Language Arts - Hooked on Phonics Learn to Read Kindergarten Level 1: Unit 6 (-ix, -ill, and adding -s to words) and review.  This completes level 1!; Go for the Code: letter y
  • Art - Freehand drawing and coloring
  • Music - Pandora classical music station
  • Good Books - Andrew Lang's Fairy books

Sunday, February 5, 2012

February 5 - 11, 2012

What we're working on this week:
  • Religion - Daily readings, rosary, prayers
  • Math - Saxon Math K: Lessons 63, 64, and 65 - Paying for items to $.50 using dimes, handwriting master 8; Assessment #6 - Copying and extending patterns; Identifying the numbers 0-20, ordering the numbers 0-20
  • Language Arts - Hooked on Phonics Learn to Read Kindergarten Level 1: Unit 5 (-ip, -im, and -in words) and review; Go for the Code: letter w
  • Art - Freehand drawing and coloring
  • Music - Pandora classical music station
  • Good Books - Andrew Lang's Fairy books