Saturday, October 04, 2014

School Plans 2014-2015


We started our 2014-2015 school year the first Monday in August--earlier than our friends but in keeping with our tradition of starting early so we can take lots of breaks. This year, with the baby coming in December, we need some extra time off between the first and second semester, so an early start was perfect.

We celebrated our first day of school with donuts and school pictures!





(click for previous school pictures: 2013, 2012, 2011)




Then we got right to work. I had plans for a really great basement school room this year, but the plans were derailed when we had a big flood in the floor of the kitchen/ceiling of the basement. So we set up in the dining room. After a little thinking and tweaking, we ended up with a shelf devoted to school stuff (books, supplies, more books, and some books), and a white board. It's simple and it's worked perfectly.





Here's a run-down of our curriculum for this year, if you're into that kind of stuff:

Iain, third grade
Math: Singapore 2b (finishing up from last year), 3a and 3b
English/Grammar: First Language Lessons this semester, First Language Lessons 3 for next semester, Explode the Code 5, 6, probably 7
Spelling: Rod and Staff
Handwriting: A Reason for Handwriting, Classical Conversations Prescript (cursive)
History: Story of the World, USA History
Reading: He reads a ton. Mostly biographies and mysteries. At least one chapter book a week, usually more.
Other: Classical Conversations Foundations. More on this in a minute, but it covers history, geography, math, Latin, English grammar, science, and fine arts.

Cory, first grade
Math: Singapore 1a and 1b, probably 2a
English/Grammar: First Language Lessons 
Handwriting: Classical Conversations Prescript (starting late this semester, or next)
History: Story of the World, USA History
Reading: Hooked On Phonics First Grade
Other: Classical Conversations Foundations.

Laina, preschool
She participates with us in history, read-alouds, and whatever else she wants. I'd like her to know all her letters and letter sounds by the end of the year. She's also learning to write her name and very proudly writes the number four.

We do a TON of read-alouds. They're everyone's favorite (well, that and history). This year our read-alouds have focused on American History. We've done four Felicity books, Pedro's Journal, A Lion to Guard Us, Arrow Over the Door, "Paul Revere's Ride," and we're currently reading The Cabin Faced West.

the boys making Nazca drawings

Classical Conversations is new to us this year. The boys and I go on Mondays and they basically spend the morning learning "new grammar"in all the different subjects they cover. It's all about tons of memorization at this age, and then as they get older, they add some more information and context. I love that the boys get to be in a class--and they do too. Apparently I need to take more pictures of Iain's class though. 

I think it'll be good for us this year as we start the second semester with a newborn. It'll help fill in some of the inevitable gaps. And we're loving getting to know other homeschoolers around here. Don't know yet if we'll continue this next year or not.



The kids do a presentation every week, which is awesome to help them learn public speaking. Cory has made a name for himself as the history guy--thanks to the cds "Your Story Hour" he and Iain know a ton of history. Iain's favorite thing is the lego trading that goes on at lunch time.

CC uses a fifteen-minute-long song called the Timeline Song to learn an overview of history from Creation to present day. It's pretty cool how much context it gives for various important historical people/events. Laina and Mason (especially Mason) LOVE it. It's hilarious to hear a one-year-old walking around singing about Babylonians or the Mayflower Compact (although that's another history song). 

We've had a rough start this year, to be sure. I was so sick this summer that we were really in survival mode and the kids just played. Way too much. Coming back to reality, to school and chores, has been quite a jarring experience for them and it's not been fun for any of us. I'm hoping now, going on ten weeks in, we're starting to see the light.



We went on an awesome family field trip a few weeks ago, to Chattanooga to see a WWII ship that was docked there. It was a lot of fun and reminded me why we homeschool.



As far as the day-to-day goes, we've found a good pattern. We divide subjects up based on what they can do alone (ETC, handwriting, spelling, maps), what we do together (CC work, history, read-alouds, FLL), and what they need my individual help on (math and reading). I write the subjects on the whiteboard and we cross them off as we go. It works pretty well. Laina and Mason color, cut, play with the toy kitchen, participate some, make hair, and basically hang out while we do school. We're done around one each day.

And there you have it. Homeschooling with a new 8, a 6, a 4, an almost-2, and a baby on the way. Phew!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Mason Says

Oh Mason. May-May. Macey. 

You guys, seriously. This dude is the funniest, smartest, silliest, loving-est baby around. 

He sings constantly. Happy Birthday to You, the ABCs, Rock-A-Baby (more on that in a minute), I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles, M-M-M-Mason (K-K-K-Katy), This Little Light of Mine, and on and on the list goes. He was even singing CC's Timeline song yesterday. It's amazing how recognizable his tunes are. 

He'd been asking me for a few days to sing Rock-A-Baby, which I assumed was Rockaby Baby. Then I hear him singing, to the tune of Rock of Ages, "rock-a-baby, clap for me..."

When I put him down for his nap or at night, I ask him what he wants me to sing. These days, he usually picks Bubbles. Sometimes he'll just choose a word and I will try to think of a song for it. (Ears? Do Your Ears Hang Low.) Whenever I sing a new song to him, he gets the biggest grin on his face like he's thinking, there are more songs? There's a song about THAT? 

He asks me every afternoon if he can, "jump-on-da-trampoline? Get muddy?" His two favorite things to do. 

In the morning, when he sees me, he says "good morning Mama! Happy birthday Mama!" Every single time. Then sometimes he adds, "How you doin' Mama?" And then, he asks for "more boppas?" Translated: more breakfast. Meaning cereal from my bowl. Because he never stops eating.

Honestly, more than half the time, he calls me Nom or Nama. On purpose. When I correct him, he laughs and does it again.
His favorite things are his stuffed monkey Banamana, his stuffed bunny Bonny, and his blanket Banket.

He comes into the kitchen when someone is cooking and says, "Making? Doing?" until he gets his answer.

He is the KING of silly faces. And he knows it.


He likes to list off the kids in his class at church. Randomly he'll yell out, "Max! Luke! Asher! Martin!" This is him and his buddy Max. They were born a week apart to the day, and they're so sweet together.
Just in the past two weeks or so, he's learned to say "I no like it" or "I like it," and sometimes he adds in "I love it!" These phrases usually apply to food or something he does or doesn't want to do. Or sometimes people. "I like Aunt Curtis!" "I like Karolina!"

Cucumbers are "cumbers." Bananas are still "banamanas." He still loves pretzels, which used to be called "fesh-tools" but are now ordinary pretzels.

Mason was a very early talker. And he talks a lot. But my very, very favorite is when he says "I love you too, Mama." Sometimes it's after I tell him I love him. Other times, like last night in the car, just him and me after we dropped the kids off at AWANA, he says it before I do. "I love you too, Mama," from the backseat. And all is right in the world.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

My Big Girl Turns Four

We were in Florida for Laina's birthday--went down south for my sister-in-law's baby shower, and Laina was thrilled that she got to celebrate her birthday with Grammy and Papa at the beach! She decided on a Little Mermaid party, though she hasn't seen the movie, because she felt it was beach-appropriate. :)

Last day as a three, in her new dress and ready to go to church:


And first day as a four, in another new dress! (Laina is quite the dress-wearer. She almost never wears anything else.)




Making cupcakes with Grammy.

Party time! We spent some time down by the ocean, and then found a great place for dinner, cupcakes, and presents. 






(at the party: all of us, Grammy and Papa, Phil and Kelly, and Kelly's mom) 

(Legos! A gift from Cory, and not the only Legos she got that day. Also present: lots of Tinkerbell stuff. And more dresses.)

 (bubbles!) 


Turning four is a big deal at our house. It marks and important rite of passage: being allowed to play with Legos. Laina got some great ones for her birthday, including some special ones from her brothers. The next morning, before they were even out of pajamas, Laina and Iain were trying them out. Love these sweet pictures.


Although we didn't light a candle this year (since the party was at the beach), this day in my girl's life did not pass without me thinking of and praying for her birth mama. How I wish she could see sweet, happy, full-of-life Laina turn four. 

Laina Bug, you are a delight. All it takes to make your face break into a beautiful smile is someone catching your eye and smiling at you. You are so eager to embrace life, to enjoy it, to laugh and play and have fun with your brothers. Your moods might be a little more prone to drama than the boys, but your return to joy is so fast. We are so very blessed to have you in our family. We love you, four-year-old girl!

(See Laina turn one [and here], two, [and here] and three!)

Saturday, July 05, 2014

One Word

So Jeremy and I played a little game the other night: Describe each child using only one word. It was fun and interesting, and we came up with different but similar words for each. Why one word? Because...that was the rule. 

Iain: My word was outgoing. Jeremy's word was innovative. Iain is both! He takes after his great-grandfather (my grandfather Mark, whose name Iain shares) in that he has never met a stranger. He can and does talk to anyone and he finds everyone interesting and believes they find him the same. As for innovative, he is constantly inventing things (mostly weapons or airplanes, and mostly with paper, tape, and found objects), trying to find new ways to do things, or coming up with new lego creations (again, mostly weapons or airplanes).


Cory: My word was thoughtful. Jeremy's was lovably cantankerous. (I know--two words. Teach that guy to play by the rules!) By thoughtful, I mean two senses of the word. Cory is full of thought. He is always, always, always thinking, pondering, running things over and over in his mind. His little brain never stops. They're deep thoughts, too, a lot of the time. He's also a thoughtful kid, looking out for his brothers and sister, and for Jeremy and me. Jeremy's words are pretty self-explanatory. Cory is lovable to the core, and can be a bit of a grump. Both and.


Laina: My word was eager. Jeremy's was effervescent. I have never met a more eager child. She's eager to play, eager to laugh, eager to love and be loved, eager to be included, eager to be in the middle of whatever is going on. And she bubbles with life and love and fun all the time. Silly, sweet, crazy girl.

Mason: My word was delightful. Jeremy's word was joyful. Again, both meanings of the word. Mason is delighted by life. Everything makes him happy. He has fun all the time. He finds everything wonderful. He smiles constantly. And he is a delightful boy, bringing joy to everyone who knows him (or sees his dimples from across the room). He is silly, lovable, smart, and full of movement all the time. And joyful--really this boy is happy. It doesn't take much to make him smile. Runner up for Jeremy was sturdily energetic. Again with the two words.

Your turn! Describe someone (your kids, your friend, yourself) in one word. It's hard and fun!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Number Five!

Has this been my longest blogging hiatus to date? Almost three months. I don't think I'm even going to try to catch up--we did stuff between then and now (school, parks, ladies' retreat, hikes, a trip to see Nan for her birthday, the end of AWANA), but if I try to document it all, I'll never get back to the present moment.

Which, for all its current troubles, is pretty special.


Baby Brannon number five is on the way, due Dec 23! We found out for sure on April 22nd, heard that sweet heartbeat on June 2nd, and entered the second trimester yesterday. We are so excited--the kids can't wait and think that Dec 23 seems really far away (we agree!). Laina is desperately hoping for a sister, and can't quite shake the idea that we get to choose.

Me: Laina, if the baby is a boy, what will we say?
Laina: Yay.
Me: And if the baby is a girl, what will we say?
Laina: YAY!!!!!!!

The boys are hoping for another boy for their team, although I think they'll be happy with a sister too.

I've been so sick. Since six weeks. It's been far worse this time than it was with the boys (does that mean girl?), and it was pretty bad with them too. I'm counting down until week 18, which is when I got better with them. End of July. End of July. End of July.

Jeremy has completely stepped up to the plate and taken on far more than his share of work around here. The kids are pretty much raising themselves as I watch from the couch. We've had friends take them swimming and have them over to play a time or two which is good, or they'd never leave the house. So much for summer vacation. We've also had friends bring food over, which has been so helpful. It gives Jeremy and the kids something to eat. I'm living on gatorade and pop tarts. Hey, whatever works.

And school? We did enough days, but we didn't finish everything I wanted to, nor did we officially end. We just stopped, because I was too sick to teach them anymore. Yay for flexibility in homeschooling.

Poor Jeremy had an unexciting birthday last month. We gave him presents, but he ordered himself pizza for dinner (his favorite) and had a candle in a donut. I told him I'm too busy working on a really awesome Christmas present for him.

We announced the big news on Facebook a few days ago. I wish we could move all the comments here because they were sweet and excited for us, but I don't think I can do that. We're thankful for friends who also believe in the more the merrier.

I'm counting down the days until Monday when we hear the heartbeat again. We love you already, sweet baby! 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

These Four

These four. I've just been thinking about them recently. What an undeserved gift from God they are to me. How very blessed and glad I am to be their mama. Four sweet faces. Four sweet voices. Four silly laughs.






(photo by Sarah Stephens)


Homeschooling has been exhausting lately, and it's good to stop and see these crazy kids. Because the days are long, but the years are short. These are precious days, when all four are little. When they can all fit on the couch with me, or play on the living room floor while I read The Long Winter. These are the days when they like nothing better than a walk and bike ride after dinner, and they beg to hear Narnia at night. They crawl around like puppies chasing Mason and tickling him. All four ask for snacks every five minutes all day long. All four like to be outside in the sunshine. All four want goodnight kisses and hugs and snuggles.

These sweet kids. These four.