Friday, May 31, 2013

iSchool: Using the iPad in our HomeSchool

This is a bit of a follow-up to my post on How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the iPad



** Don't forget to go to the end of the post to leave comments with your favorite apps for school! ** 


We've been using iPads in our lessons for close to a month now.  So far, so good great!  Even in just this one month, I've been converted to an iPad lover.  It is so convenient to carry if we're on the go - but we hardly ever go anywhere, so... I'm just speaking on assumption.   It's easy to use - and that's really saying something coming from me. And it really and truly has brought enrichment to our home school.  

If you know me even a little, I'm sure you can imagine the types of apps we've been working with... they are either straight up educational, or are some type of game with educational value, or they are games which, though they may not be teaching Calculus or Chemistry, they make the user's brain chug and think and think and chug.

Some of my criteria for choosing apps have been:

- nothing pop-culture related - so no Disney, no super heroes.  It doesn't matter how good the app is, this general avoidance of licensed characters is just the way we roll around here.  (except for that Olivia shirt we got Ruth for her birthday...)

- pretty or artsy graphics are a plus if they can't be a must.  I love graphics that look like someone was thoughtful and creative about them... almost as if they were an illustration in a good book.  Apps that are outright cartoon-y have to have a spectacularly high education factor to gain my approval.

- educational apps that give you the ability to set up profiles for different users are great, especially when you have kiddos at different levels - for example, if both kids are practicing addition but need to focus on different sets of facts, you can customize what a specific player will cover.

- low cost, but not necessarily free.  I discovered fairly quickly that (most) free apps kind of stink, and if they're not stinky, they still have a lot of pop-up adds.  It's worth it to me to pay 99 cents for all three kids to play math games (high quality and add free) at the same time... cheaper than workbooks, folks!


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So, here are some of our favorites that we've been using...
Keep in mind, my school-age boys are 5 1/2 and 7.  That's the age-group we've been app-shopping for. (Apps for our pre-schooler will be in a separate post!)

MATH


Freefall Math - Lots of options for personalization for a single player - which operations/facts to cover - but does not have the option of saving your setting choices for different users. I also like the Freefall Telling Time and Freefall Coin Math.

Freefall Math 

Whacky Math - you have to "whack" the mole with the correct answer to the math equation given.  Ok, this app is borderline obnoxious... lawn vermin with mustaches popping out of the ground... but so far, I actually appreciate it because you can choose very specific facts to cover in the game - example, you could have your child just work on addition with 9's, or you could do addition facts from 1 - 9.  The kids like this "game" and I like that it's a straight up timed math drill.  


Whacky Math

Slate Math for Kids - The cool thing about this app (in addition to the fact that it's FREE!) is the scenery.  The math concepts and activities are nothing too out of the ordinary, but you get to choose your desired backdrop for practicing those facts - dozens of sweets scenes from across Europe.  For example, you can practice advanced counting through the canals of Venice, write numbers in the sand on the beaches of Greece, or work on quantitative ordering in a Swiss chocolate factory...
Slate Math for Kids
This picture does not actually convey the lovely artwork in the app... sorry.  Best I could do.

Monkey MathSchool Sunshine - this is as cartoon-y as it gets.  I probably wouldn't have chosen this app if my kids hadn't had already befriended the host monkey in a PreSchool app by the same company.  But, as it stands... the math practice is good, and they enjoy it.  Note: it's not advanced enough for my first grader; it's better suited to pre-K and Kindergarten.  Has the ability to create "accounts" for different players - a definite plus!


Monkey MathSchool Sunshine

And at the risk of going overboard in the Math Games Department... Aaron (finishing first grade) also likes Mathmateer  - answer Math problems to earn money.  Save your money to pimp out (if I may...) your custom rocket for launch.  Once you get up there, there are more Math missions to conquer.  (We haven't gotten there yet...)


Mathmateer

SPELLING

Freefall Spelling - As with their Math apps, this one is great because you can choose your game settings based on the player. For example, in the image below, "hints" are given on the bottom to help you spell apple, but the hints can be removed for older players.  This app also allows you to upload your own lists so that your child can practice words on his current spelling list. I have yet to use this feature, but will try to get back here to report on it when I do. 


Freefall Spelling

Rocket Spelling - Fun spelling/phonics practice - you earn rocket parts as you spell words correctly.  After 12 words, you get to launch your rocket and collect stars for points.  That's it.  Super simple.  Yet, my kids love it.  And I love that it has a level for my preschooler - letter hints given, a level for my Kindergartner - three and four letter words, no hints, and a level for my 1st grader - longer words, no hints.  

Rocket Speller

READING/PHONICS PRACTICE

Little Reader - word to picture match-up activities get more complicated as the child progresses.  This app also allows you to add your own pictures and words (using your own voice!) to create customized reading lists!! (this is the version with four letter words, they also have a three-letter version)



Learn to Read - Four Letter Words by Little Readers

Word Grab Phonetics - Cute graphics - they look like scrapbook pages made from textured paper.  You know I like that kind of thing!  Best for younger players, I think.  Deals a lot with beginning letter sounds, and rhyming word-endings.  (I've bought a few apps by Bellamon - all very cute graphics!)



Word Grab Phonetics, from Bellamon

POETRY and MEMORIZATION

Super Note - Allows you to easily create "notes" in which you can hold written and recorded material.  Easy to use.  


SCIENCE/NATURE STUDY

Audubon Birds a Field Guide to North American Birds - I think we'll mostly use this for learning bird calls.  The recordings are of very good quality.  I checked out the calls for the ruby-throated humming bird and you could hear the humming wings in the background, and in the background of the great blue heron you could hear pond water lapping!  Yesterday, Ruth and I sat on the deck with this app and tried to get a rise out of the local woodpeckers and cardinals.  Not much success.  Yet.



Discover Your Body HD - the "info" part of this app is fairly standard - the same stuff you'd read in an kid's anatomy encyclopedia.  The portions that we've really enjoyed are the timed games in which you have to correctly place/identify major parts of various body systems.  




HISTORY


American Presidents - This is a really neat interactive time line of the presidents.  Once you choose a president, you can view an image gallery, bullet-point lists of important events during his presidency, lots more in depth information on his life and term of office, text of speeches, related articles etc... There is also a table of contents so as to view documents, maps, events without having to go through the time line.  Easy to use, informative and fun! 

American Presidents

GEOGRAPHY 

I sort of went crazy in this area and ended up downloading some things that are over the heads of the kids, and two apps that turned out to be games with content that was definitely not appropriate for them. 

Part of the trouble I ran into is that there are some really fun geography games out there that require a pretty significant knowledge of where places are (imagine that!)and at this point, I need something that offers more instruction.  Also, many of the neat geography programs that I discovered require a lot of reading, and since my kiddos are not yet proficient readers, I'm somewhat limited to apps that offer audio information and instructions.  (Note - this is significant for me right now, because since I've been letting the kids use the iPads "independently" - I'm in the room, but not over their shoulder - I do need to make sure that they can understand and navigate the apps on their own.  Since I'm usually working on another lesson with someone else, I'm not able to pop over and read out loud about the capital city and ratio of cars:people in American Samoa.)  

Obviously, we'll use Google Earth, because it's just awesome (and free!)


Google Earth App

Kids Maps - This app is extremely simple, but it's one of the better ones I could find that suits my needs.  It allows kids to place the states into the map of the US, puzzle style.  There is minimal audio - a man (presumably the dad who created the app) says the name of the state and an easy-to-remember fact about it, like "Michigan.  Many cars are made in the state of Michigan."  You can choose to place the states in alphabetical or random order.   


Kids Maps


Barefoot Atlas - this app is pretty and it's fun to be able to navigate the globe with finger swipes!  It's easy to use and has a lot of "fun" information - all of the little pictures are items you can click on for additional info.  The actual stats  provided for each country though are very limited - much less than you'd get in any standard Kid's First Atlas book.  I think this is a good tool for learning where countries are, but I think they sort of missed the boat on providing better information on each country. 


Barefoot Atlas App

When the boys get a little older and have a better foundation in U.S. and world geography, I think we'll enjoy some of these games that I bought prematurely...
Stack the States
Learn the World
Learn the States


General Knowledge

Khan Academy - I haven't used this yet except in previewing excerpts of videos - it's FREE, so if it isn't useful, no harm done.  It is a collection of over 3500 videos on TONS of different school topics.  I think we'll be doing earth science/astronomy for science next year, so I started watching a video on "understanding" and appreciating the scale of the universe - 11 minutes of a chatty professor using still photos and a pen-on-screen.  It's informational, but certainly not thrilling or captivating.  We'll see if we use it as much as I thought we would when I first downloaded it...


Khan Academy

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Some of Mom's rules: an attempt at quality control and time limitations in the face of mind-bogglingly-awesome technology:

-You may only use an iPad with Mom or Dad's permission.  Obviously.

- Using an iPad is not a right.  It is a privilege that is up to you to maintain.  You can lose your privilege to this just as you could lose any other of your privileges. 

- You must stay on the activity or game that you're on until you have permission to go to something new.

- You must finish the "lessons" portion of what you're doing before going on to a game.

- You won't finish an activity or game if you aren't trying your hardest to do well or are getting incorrect answers intentionally.

- Even though there is one particular iPad in which the games are set up particularly for you (your name, your level, etc...), and it has your poems and pictures on it, it is not your iPad. I know this will be a hard concept to understand... but we will all have to try. They belong to our whole family.  

- If you "forget" any of these rules, or whine or delay when it's time to turn off the iPad, you'll lose your privilege of using it next time we get them out.  


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I think there are other homeschooling moms using iPads out there, right? I love spending time investigating apps for school! ... please leave comments with your suggestions for other great homeschool apps!  



Happy iLearning!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Summer Reading

So, do you have any plans for your summer reading yet?  I love reading on our back deck - it's got open areas for reading in sunshine and covered areas for reading in shade, cushioned chairs and a coffee table to put my feet up on (I put my coffee there too... always a little precarious when feet and coffee share the same resting place.)  

I'm trying to put together a few ideas of books I'd like to read if I ever get a calm moment out there in the back yard.  I've got a few things waiting for me on my Kindle - the old non-Fire model so it's the kind you can read in bright light!  I'm s-l-o-w-l-y working my way through the Father Brown Mysteries and I downloaded Les Miserables because I started reading it in high school and figured I should probably finish it before my own children are in high school.  I've also been itching to re-read Wuthering Heights, and I just finished a Fulton Sheen and should probably get another since I love him so much.  I recently uncovered a novel from one of my favorite authors that I haven't read before, so I'm hoping to finish Pippa Passes by Rumer Godden.  But - what else??  Do you have any great recommendations for me???  (Though you may recommend them, I'm not likely to read many books on Parenting or Planning Your Home School Curriculum this summer - I've kind of over-done it in those areas the past couple months and have finally realized you only need to read two or three and then after that you've pretty much heard it all...)

If you are interested in some of my recommendations for books to read any time of year, here you go.  (The first are books I've read recently and think they're worth passing on, though not necessarily the best thing I could ever come up with.  The last ones with lots of stars, etc... are a few of the suggestions I come back to time and again.)



Dion: the Wandered Talks Truth, Dion DiMucci - in this memoir Dion DiMucci (singer/songwriter of 1960's hits Runaround Sue and The Wanderer) candidly speaks about the negative influence he faced in the rock and roll business and how he survived (literally) by coming to Christ and eventually returning to the Catholic Church.  I really enjoyed it because I'm so familiar with a handful of his tunes and so many of the groups and tunes he referenced throughout. It might not be as entertaining for someone who has never heard of him before.  Dion's not an author, he's a rocker and a Blues man, but he still manages a fairly compelling read.  I especially liked  a bit he wrote about concerning music after his conversion: he was developing a love for the Blues, but was having a hard time reconciling that style of down-and-out music with the joy of life in Christ.  One day while reading the Psalms, he realized, Hey wait.  This David, here, is singing the Blues.  The Blues isn't complaining, it's just laying your heavy heart before the Lord.  Fun stuff like that fills the pages.  There's plenty of serious material too - lots of soul searching and questioning the meaning of it all, especially as he watched many of his friends in the rock and roll business fall prey to the lures of fame and fortune.  (If you can hum his tunes, you'll enjoy it.) 



My Sisters, the Saints, Colleen Carroll Campbell - a lovely spiritual memoir in which Colleen writes about the relationships she developed with several Saints throughout her adult life.  She often relied on the wisdom of St. Teresa of Avila, St. Therese of Liseux, Bl. Mother Teresa, St. Edith Stein (Teresa Benedicta of the Cross), and Our Blessed Mother, to carry her through difficult times and to appreciate life's blessings.  


(haha - this Amazon image (2009) is very different from the 1970 edition I got from the library...)
Children and Parents, Rev. Fulton Sheen - I read the first half and skimmed the second half as it was mostly about teens and I'm not going to get worked up about all that until it's time.  Much of the first half was about parenting with authority because we ourselves are under the authority of God the Father.  It was a good read - reminders of stuff that you probably already know but need to have someone like Sheen whack you over the head with... in that one-liner style that only he is capable of, of course!  I have a lot of it underlined and dog eared... even though it it a library book.  (Even as she reads this, my librarian mother is planning a special reprimand for the next time we meet... that is, if she's not already typing it here......)



Who Gets the Drumstick?, Helen North Beardsly - this was a reread  from my childhood that I actually read again a couple months ago.  It is the true story of widow Helen North and widower Frank Beardsly and how they met through his sister, a Catholic nun.  When they eventually married they had a combined family of 18 children!  I love this book for Helen's supernatural perspective on love, marriage, second-round marriage, and large family life. And of course, it's always fun to hear what it's like managing a home of that many people (they had two more of their own!)  Read it!  It's quick, easy, and fun!



The Pope and the CEO: John Paul II's Leadership Lessons to a Young Swiss Guard, by Andreas Widmer.  This was a fun read because you get a little insider scoop on life as a Swiss Guard... that's really why I chose it.  But the "Lessons," though geared toward corporate leadership are worth reading as anyone can certainly apply them no matter what his/her vocation.  I certainly appreciated them... after all, a mother is CEO, CFO,  COO, and much more!  (just ask my husband... he doesn't want my job!)  

A Guide to Raising a Child with Type One Diabetes, and 101 Questions and Answer about your Child's Type Diabetes  - not necessarily your standard fare, but very informative if you're in the market for that sort of thing.



****** Books that are so captivating you'll want to read them a second time ******


Shadow Divers: The True Adventure of Two American Who Risked Everything To Solve One of the Last Mysteries of World War II, by Robert Kurson.  A seat on the edge of your seat biting your nails true story.  Sooooo good!  (doesn't that sound like an intelligent endorsement...)


Unbroken: a World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, by Laura Hillenbrand.  Wow.  This story is difficult to read because of the trials faced by former Olympian Louis Zamperini after his bomber plane crashed in the Pacific Ocean, but it's a fascinating story of survival and a life redeemed. Another one that's tricky to put down.   


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Don't forget to leave me some recommendations!  Or else I really might be stuck slogging through Victor Hugo... :)  

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the iPad

We don't do a lot of "technology" around here.  So far as I can tell, it's a partially a combination of ignorance, technological incompetence, and cost.  But it's mostly a preference for reading books, family game nights, playing chase outside, puzzles and Legos inside, and a fear of glassy-eyed zombie kids who whine when the screen goes dark (I'm speaking from experience on that last one.) 

Like many families, screen time for our children is very limited and is carefully monitored.  If they're watching something on the computer (our TV is usually packed away... it comes out for football season and the occasional golf tournament...) it's usually something educational (or it's Shaun the Sheep, which is about animals so it falls into the realm of bio... ok forget it.  It's just entertainment.)  The most advanced "video game" they've ever played is Math bowling on Starfall and in terms of handheld devices... well, we do have an electronic Yahtzee that gets passed around a lot (in fact, Clare once rolled a Yahtzee just by randomly chewing on the buttons) but I think even that is about  to die on us...

I'm just wary of kids and screens.  (It's how I was raised - nearly screen free - a little Square One on PBS here and there and "Pepper's Adventures in Time" on our 1980's computer!)  I don't even have to explain why we limit it because I'm fairly certain you've heard it all before.  It's not as if they don't like screen time... my children ask for "movie nights" as much as the next kid, but I love that when we say "no" they have an easy time finding something else enjoyable to do.  They have some serious imaginations working over time - forced to fabricate their own fun because they're certainly not getting it from a screen.  We hardly even use the computer for school - we have books, maps, books, colored pencils, books, a few cd's, and more books.  And that's the way I like it.  

You can imagine I had a little crisis when we were gifted three refurbished iPads for educational purposes.  (Thank you, Mom and Dad!  We love you!)  Ummmmm... the crisis was short-lived.  Very short-lived.  I was super excited to check out the possibilities and to explore apps that would fit into our lessons.  And I wondered if I was caving in to the electronic side of education (the near equivalent of the Dark Side, in my mind), turning my back on my philosophy of education through reading and real-world exposure and experience.  After taking a week to explore the wonder that is the App Store before even telling the kids that we owned iPads, I'd laid my worries to rest.  Wow!  There's some fabulous stuff out there (and I'm quickly learning how to avoid the garbage!)


my very intelligent and lovely mother helping me set up the iPads and assuring me that they won't ruin my children!
She's the greatest!  (I love you, Mom!)
In a way, having an iPad perfectly compliments one of my personal methods of education: use a variety of materials and types of resources to fill in and round out a topic.  We have a tendency to dive into a topic and hunt down related books, puzzles, movies, cd's, events, activities, etc... to add to the educational experience.  Our iPads won't take over our lessons, they will augment them, and their addition will be in keeping with my methods.  

Here's how I imagine (and plan) that we'll use the iPad for homeschool:

* First and foremost, it's my intention that it will be an additional resource to "fill out" much of what we already do.  It allows us to have a variety of resources right at our fingertips.  For example, we've been studying the human body and have been able to use an interactive body program to learn more and drill the names/locations of different organs and bones.  Or - I'm planning on working with the kids on learning some U.S. and world geography this summer and have found apps that we'll use (along with songs, wall maps, books, etc...) to start memorizing the names and locations of states and countries.  Or - We already regularly use our field guides to try to identify birds we see, but with the iPad, we can bring it with us and identify bird calls! 





* We will also use it to reinforce things we've already learned - mostly through math drills and phonics/spelling practice disguised as games.  




* We will use it to help the kids learn poetry and other memorization items.  We'll also use it to keep a record of those things.  For example, I used a voice notes program to record the poems that the kids were responsible for memorizing for our recent poetry night.  When I wasn't immediately available to review the poems with them, they listened to them (using headphones) and were able to recite along with my recording.  As they learn new poems, or speeches, or lists, or whatever, they will be permitted to record themselves so that each child will have an audio collection of the memorization work he/she did throughout the year.  



* We also plan to use the camera feature to help us gather our nature photos into one easy-to-study place.  We currently use the family camera to photograph our nature finds and the pix often get lumped into a file called something like Summer 2012, and then when it's time to find the picture of the praying mantis we found it takes forever to sift through and find it.  I'm hoping that whatever we photograph close to home will be on the iPad so that we immediately put it into a "nature" folder and find it quickly when we're ready to examine it further.  I'm still not sure if we'll take the iPad with us on nature walks... or just stick with the camera...

* This isn't super educational, but I am also going to allow the kids to use the camera feature to take pictures of the stuff that they create - block cities they construct, marble tracks, Lego trucks, paintings and drawings, sandcastles, 3-D models of Native American villages, industrial shredders made out of old oatmeal canisters, etc...  Then, we all won't feel too badly when it's time for them to be disassembled or to "leave the home" with the Thursday trash.  I think it will be really special for each child to have his/her own folder of photos of things that they built or created - especially to show out-of-town relatives when they come to visit! 

* For now, I've made the decision to not use the iPAd for books. Maybe I over-think things, but I think there's something important about a physical book - seeing a complete work in front of you, being able to page through it, and to visually track your progress as you read through it.  I'm hoping, for now at least, to avoid interactive stories and animated books because I feel so strongly about maintaining the appreciation we've begun to foster for good literature - which has merits that don't hinge on graphics or multiple choice outcomes for the reader.  Good books are good, in part, because they have the power to change us for the better, or to instill values in us, or to challenge our minds to a deeper discernment of life.  Animated books, in my opinion, detract from that power, making the reader think, "well, what else can this book do?" even after having absorbed the text.  Interactive stories, or stories where kids choose the outcomes, minimize the power of a work of literature and emphasize the whims of children... which might not always tend toward the good, true, and beautiful!  Animation and "choosing" which direction to take a story in are appropriate for games, but the purpose of games and the purpose of books are very different, and I'd like to not confuse the two at this point.  I suppose my opinions on this may change (thought I sort of doubt it) but for now, we'll leave books off the iPad and leave the animation and interaction to the games.  


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We've been using the iPads for a few weeks now... the kids have had access to them about three times each week - so I'm still doing my controlling and limiting.  I've been extremely particular about the apps I've downloaded - just because something is educational doesn't mean I'm going to abandon all my old standards and suddenly start to be ok with stuff that's obnoxious, inappropriate, or unattractive.  I've stayed away from pop-culture, cartoony, ultra-animated-with-annoying-sounds stuff.  Obviously, there's a lot of animation in apps out there, so I've tried to stick with things are "lovely" or "artsy" or at the very least "unobjectionable."  And, as with everything else (!), I have an opinion!!!  Some apps I've previewed have been immediately deleted and I'm gearing up to write my first reviews in the App Store.  As far as the App Store itself... couldn't they PLEASE give some indication of the age-appropriateness of an app.  Please?  And also, I wish that they had a feature where you could "tag" (?) an App to buy later - there have been some that I've seen that will be great for future use - multiplication tables or learning ancient cultures, etc... but I don't need them yet, and I haven't figured out a way to mark them so that I don't forget about them (Pinterest, I guess?)  

So, as you can see... I've stopped worrying and we've embraced the iPad here in our home and school.  As far as school is concerned, we primarily take a Classical + a little Charlotte Mason approach around here, but I think it's safe to say that now we're Classical Charlotte Mason-ers with a little iSchool thrown in :)  

Posts Coming Soon: 

A Crazed Mom Who Controls and Limits What her Children Consume Via Screen Lays Out the Family iPad Rules

-and-

Our Best-Find Homeschool Apps So Far (in Case You're Wondering What We're Using and Loving)

... or maybe I'll just combine the two because who really wants to read a list of rules (ugh.)  Actually, I would... but that's just me :) 



Friday, May 24, 2013

Popcorn and Poetry Night

Yesterday, I helped the kids host their first Popcorn and Poetry Night.  The guest list was limited to our immediate family and local grandparents.  Perhaps next year, we will expand it to include some friends, but for for the first year, we kept it low key!  ("Family only" means it's ok if we make fools of ourselves!  But, no one did.)

Here are the invitations.  
In the interest of time, I created them and the boys colored them.  Hopefully they'll be writing their own invitations for future events.  
Aaron, Dominic, and Ruth all memorized several short poems this past year so it was hard to choose what they would recite for the event.  We finally decided that everyone would learn one new poem and part of a Psalm.  Then each child could also recite a couple of the "old" poems learned some time in the past year.    

Here was the program of events...

New Poems:

The Little Turtle, by Vachel Lindsay (Ruth)
Sunflakes, by Frank Asch (Dominic)
The Sea's Treasures, by Daphne Lister (Aaron)

Recitations by guests

Psalm 24 (Ruth, Aaron, Dominic)

Poems from the past year:

As I Was Going Up the Stair, anonymous (Ruth)
Infant Innocence, by A.E. Housman (Ruth)

The New Colossus, by Emma Lazarus (Aaron) 
The Goops, by Gelett Burgess (Aaron)

Bed in Summer, Robert Louis Stevenson (Dominic)
How Doth the Little Crocodile, by Lewis Carrol (Dominic)


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In case you're interested: most of the poems came from The New Oxford Treasury of Children's Poems. The Goops we got from First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind, Level 2, the text for Bed in Summer and The New Colossus we got online. (Aaron only recited the last bit, the part that's on the Statue of Liberty.)  

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The evening was a success!  The photos of the evening were not so great.  I don't who the kids hired as their photographer, but they've got to go with a different outfit in the future.  Ok, I admit, it was me.  But it was difficult to listen and appreciate poetry while taking artful photos at the same time.  I've included the best of the worst here... and I edited them with a little "vintage" glow to mask some of the poor quality.  





video video






video


video


We divided up Psalm 24 into three parts and they recited it as a "team."  

Both Russ and my Dad wrote original poems for the occasion!  They were the best poems of all.  My mom and I also recited, but there are no pictures for proof.  We're planning another poetry night for next Fall, so perhaps then we'll get some pics of the ladies.  

The popcorn was delicious, but next time I think I won't bring it out until after the recitations!  It's a little tricky to be eloquent with kernels in your teeth.  And it's hard to focus on the reciter when the reciters-in-waiting are sneaking popcorn on the side!  

Because I loved it so much, I leave you with Russ' original poem:


My Family: An attempt at humor and profound thinking 

Once upon a time a Dad loved two boys
He dealt with the angst and he cherished the joys
He wrestled and tickled and bought lots of toys
(And mother, dear mother, put up with the noise)
But then something happened, I think you might know
Two girls joined the crowd and it made quite a show.
I'll sum it all up with a brief blow by blow...
Dominic, Aaron, Ruthie and Clare
Construction trucks, soccer balls, dollies to share
Marble tracks, Legos, and barrettes for her hair
Books and more books flying ev-er-y-where
And speaking of books, in our house you can look
And you'll find a book hidden in every nook
Fill up every book shelf by hook or by crook!
Well, back to this family of mine
Did I mention the mother is one of a kind?
And her parents, not bad, I can say I don't mind...
Now back to the kids and oh what a delight
To snuggle and huggle with all of my might
So much love in this family my heart knows it is right.
So when the naysayers say "surely you'll stop.
More kids and the earth is most surely to pop,
Or the ozone will weaken or the ice caps go plop."
After fighting temptation to think terribly mean
And resisting a chuckle at those who go green
I will look in the eyes of my children and wife
And thank God for every minute of life!


* When I emailed Russ to see if I could include his poem here he wrote back, "Of course! I'm proud of it.  Not because it's "good"  but because I am proud of my family and love you all above anything."  (please excuse me *sniff* while I wipe a tear from my eye)  Isn't he the greatest!

* Don't fret.  He loves my parents more than the poem lets on!

* And don't stew over "going green" or not.  We appreciate, and participate in, ecological conservation activities, and are helping to preserve God's green earth by adding responsible caretakers to its numbers :) 

************

Wasn't it Simon and Garfunkel that said, "I've got my books and my poetry to protect me" ????  In light of my book collecting skills and our family's foray into recitations, we have naught to fear!  
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Here's to the weekend!
Bye!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Spring is So Distracting...

... because it's road construction season.  The distraction factor is at an all-time high - the street in front of our very home (which also happens to be our school) is the object of said roadwork.   

We didn't get many lessons done yesterday or today.  My kids have been a little distracted.  In all fairness though, I admit it's by design.  One of the reasons we home school is so that we don't ever have to miss a garbage day, or recycling pickup, or neighborhood construction event, or any possible big machine that may be passing by.  (You do remember that we will wake our boys up in the middle of the night just to see a truck, right?)

So, here are some photos of the distraction.  I'd say my kids are the luckiest kids on the block, but... they're the only kids on the block.  















In case your're interested, you (or the men and boys in your life) can learn about the CAT PM 201 cold Planer here.





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