Friday, May 27, 2016

Gabe's First Birthday 2008--Nautical Theme

Gabriel's first birthday fell right on Memorial Day, so we went with a bit of a nautical theme. I ordered these easy-to-do, blank invitations, printed them myself, tied the ribbons on, and voila!

There were cousins.

And Daddy's famous fish 'n chips wrapped in newspaper cones (lined with freezer paper).

There was cake. (My favorite cake of all my parties to date.)

And there were cupcakes.



And fun.

Party guests received a sailor hat and a plastic sailboat.

Baby boy enjoyed his smash cake.

 It was such a sweet time. All our little babies! (And one 'little bun' in the oven...yes, I was pregnant with #4 WHILE giving my #3 his first birthday party.)

But nothing could be any sweeter than this little guy in his sailor suit.

Happy 1st Birthday, Gabriel Isaiah!

The BITTERsweet part? This scrumptious baby boy JUST turned 9 on me!

Oh. oh. oh.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

What Our Homeschool Has Been Like This School Year 2015-2016

Most people do these posts at the beginning of the school year. Ahem...I'm not most people.

For this school year we transitioned more fully to Ambleside Online curriculum. Admittedly, I still have much learning to do with regard to Charlotte Mason and her methods, and I still have unhealthy attachments to various and sundry curricula. (It's a sickness.) But I do have a good working foundation, thanks to all the meetings I had with a little CM group in North Little Rock between 2011 and 2014. If it weren't for those ladies and Charlotte Mason's writings through which we were reading, I might never have found my way as far as I did. I am also thankful that my friend Holly invited me to a Teach Them Diligently conference in 2014, where I was blessed to hear Sonya Shafer speak. Her talk solidified my decision to school in this way. That didn't mean I had it all figured out, mind you, but it was a start and helped me give up some of the aforementioned attachments. Since then, just by knowing my new Dallas friend, Joel, and then attending a CM Gathering with immersion in northwest Arkansas last spring, I made leaps and bounds of improvement in my understanding of Miss Mason's pedagogy and resulting practice of her methodology, and I love it all the more.

However, having four kids and attempting at 100% the rigorous workload of Ambleside Online, as written, is not something I am willing or capable of doing, as each kiddo would ideally be in a separate year of study. There simply aren't enough hours in the day for that. So I spent a lot of time over the summer making modifications, choosing literature with a realist's outlook, gathering supplies, etc. And many of the things you will see here are not new to us exactly; implementing them on a regular basis is what's new. 

This school year, as a family, we have followed the Year 2 plan of study at Ambleside Online. A few of our texts for history, geography, biography, and science have been This Country of Ours, A Child's History of the World, The Burgess Book of Wild Animals, and The Little Duke, among others. Continuing from our Year 1, we also have readings from An Island Story, Trial and Triumph (church history), and Parables from Nature. Of course, we have spent time in Shakespeare and poetry and have enjoyed some more Holling C. Holling books and plenty of other wonderful literature. Plus, there has been the occasional music and drawing lesson. It is so hard to get it all in!

One thing we've been doing differently this year is separating the bigs from the littles some as well, to provide a bit more challenge to the former. I intended to have the bigs explore geography with Halliburton's Book of Marvels while the littles continued in their phonics studies. But the littles ended up being around for the geography, which is just as well. And, I had hoped to try Delightful Reading for phonics this year, but I have struggled to make time for it all, honestly. Charlotte, I sincerely hope that your copywork and dictation will come through for us. I am trusting the process, as they say. But while things didn't exactly go as I had planned, Noah and Saylor have both become increasingly independent. I write individual assignments in their own personal plan books. These items are generally taken care of once our family time is over.

During their independent time, Noah and Saylor complete extra readings in the areas of science, literature, Bible, and character development. I am also hoping to incorporate some typing lessons for them both in the next month or so. And as I mentioned before, we all spend time each week doing dictation exercises and working in our copybooks. And we have added map work to the mix as well.

One of the best parts of a Charlotte Mason education is the keeping of notebooks. We are still a work in progress when it comes to doing that well, but eventually we hope to spend regular time in our family Book of Firsts, Book of Centuries (for the bigs), Nature Notebooks for all, Book of Words (for the bigs), Copybooks for all, and several Books of Commonplace. 

Our afternoons are IDEALLY filled with nature study, handicrafts, free reading, and taking turns on the computer doing our CTC Math. But most often, afternoons look a whole lot like neighborhood kids coming and going and a whole lot of loud, messy, blessed chaos.

We also attend a Charlotte Mason Fine Arts Co-op every two weeks with four other CM families, where we focus on composers, artists, poetry, Shakespeare, and the like. Weird, unsocialized homeschoolers we are not. Well, not entirely weird.

And now for the portraits, taken September 8, 2015 :

Noah Paul
Age 13
7th grade

Saylor Kathryn
Age 10
5th grade

Gabriel Isaiah
Age 8
2nd grade

Atticus Joseph
Age 6
1st grade

My intention is to school more in the summer than we have in the past, as we have learned that Texas summers are brutal. So we took off nearly the whole month of December and then much of April and May (while the weather has been pleasant), opting to leave the third term for the summer months. As I type this, we are only a couple of weeks away from heading into our third trimester. I'm thankful we chose to school through the upcoming summer this year and take off more in the spring, because if you could've seen our spring calendar--
with all the homeschool days and field trips to various locales...

Let's just say, there's been no TIME for school; we're just too busy LIVING! 
(Which is probably fine with these four.) 

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