Where are we?

We are on vacation! Vacation always provides some really wonderful learning opportunities that just don’t pop up when you are at home. Just think of some the things that are perfect to study when you are away from home: geography, social studies, history and nature studies, etc. We are having so many great opportunities to learn. (Besides that we are soaking up some much needed sun!)

I hope to post several of the things we are learning over the next few days, but today, I thought your kids might like to guess where we are. Have your kid(s) look at the picture below and figure out where we are. If they leave me a comment before I make my next post telling me where we are, I will get a postcard for them and mail it when I get home. I would mail it from here, but I’m not sure that they have mail here. I don’t think they’ve got that system quite figured out yet.


Music Study–Hymns for a Kid's Heart

We recently finished two excellent books called Hymns for a Kid’s Heart vol. 1 & 2. These books each come with a CD with exceptional arrangements of the hymns. The music is beautiful and is appropriate for people with more conservative music taste, like myself. The singing is done by Bobbie Wolgemuth and Joni Eareckson Tada and a kids’ choir. We listen to them several times a week. I loaded the music on to my iPod and Zippy’s so we can listen to them in the car anytime. We also listen to them while we are working together in the kitchen. It’s a great time to sing and to memorize the songs.

We are currently working on memorizing "Like a River Glorious" from vol. 2. We’ve already memorized "Fairest Lord Jesus" and sung it for special music at two churches. The kids memorized "Onward Christian Soldiers" on their own (because of encouragement from friends.) Even my two year old memorized the first verse of "Fairest Lord Jesus" and is making good strides on "Like a River Glorious".

The books have a story about the hymn writer and then one about the meaning of the hymn and then the music for the corresponding hymn. You can sing along with the CD after you read the story about the corresponding author. The kids enjoy so much singing a song by somebody that they now "know". We found these were really great for our evening family worship time.

I also think that the illustrations are beautiful too. If I was asked to rate these books I think I’d give them 6 stars on a 5 star scale!

These may be few and far between, because I noticed that Amazon only has one volume available, other than used. And Christian Book doesn’t have them anymore. I did find them at BooksChristian.com. If this is something that you are interested in, you’d better grab them while supplies last. If you love hymns, you will not be disappointed, I promise. You can also download the sheet music for free and the background tracks for free here.

Storytime with Grandparents

My children love stories. I personally believe that reading books is a very important part of their education. I have even read studies that indicate that parents should be reading to their children when they are as young as 6 months old. I have tried to read to them since they were in utero. They have been very privileged the last month or so as they have been able to spend a little time with both sets of grandparents and who is better to have read a story to you than a grandparent.

Storytime with Papa

G’tums settles on Papa’s lap for a good story. (As you can tell he really likes his new bicycle helmet.) We all enjoy listening to stories by Papa, because he embellishes them a little and leaves at least the adults laughing with his word twists.

Storytime with Nana

The big kids cuddle with Nana in her bed for a good story. Nana is one of the best readers in the world. She loves reading stories to people. She’s even taken the time to record some chapter books on to CD for us to listen to. We all love them.

Storytime with Grandpa

Even Grandma enjoys listening to Grandpa’s reading. Grandpa took the time to read a whole book to the whole family. Grandpa is the best at making strange noises and heavy accents for the different people or animals that he’s reading about. You can’t help but take time to listen to Grandpa read a story.

Respiratory System

We love being able to really study what interests us. That is one of the blessings of being able to homeschool. Today we have been studying about the respiratory system. That goes well with our last study about the circulatory system.

For this one we didn’t find any Moody videos just on this topic, but we enjoyed watching Wonders of God’s Creation: Human Life and remembering how amazing the human machine really is. We also didn’t find any amazing 3-D models online this time, but we did get to do a couple of really fun experiments.

For the first one, we lit a candle and then put it under a jar and waited to see what would happen. The kids thought that it was going to explode in their face. It didn’t. The candle just burned out. We did that over and over, because everybody needed a turn to blow out the match. Then Zippy breathed into the jar several times before capping the burning candle. This time, the flame went out instantly. Next we took our jar outside, to make sure it was full of oxygen again then we repeated the first experiment until the flame started to diminish on the candle, at which point we removed the jar. The flame returned to it’s full size immediately. We repeated that one several times as well. The moral is that fire needs oxygen–just like us.

Burning Candle

Candle burning.

Burned Out Candle

Candle burned-out.

The second experiment that we did was to see how the lungs expand when the chest cavity expands. You can see this apparatus that we have to demonstrate this. If you press on the bottom of the apparatus all of the air in the balloons is forced out through the straw. If you put a little tape on the rubber that is on the bottom of the jar so that you can pull slightly, you will fill the balloons with a little air.

Balloon/Lung Model Balloon/Lung Model

Left: By doing nothing the balloons are filled with a little air. Right: By pressing on the bottom, the air is forced out of the balloons.

And then we have one more of our health songs from the Janice’s Attic Songs for Kids CD. Only problem is that G’tums was jumping all over, so this is just part of it.


Circulatory System

We are in the process of learning about the most wonderful piece of machinery ever made–the human body. I’m not going to share every single thing that we’ve studied, but I want to share with you the part that we just finished–our heart and our circulatory system. We should all take some time to learn about our hearts and how to keep them healthy, after all the Bible says: "For the life of the flesh is in the blood." Leviticus 17:11.

Video coverWe found some fun resources for studying about our circulation. We watched a very good DVD: "Red River of Life" from the Moody Science Classics. It was made a long time ago, but it truly is a classic. We watched it several times and every time were amazed by the things we learned. On it We got to watch a real heart being pumped and see how the blood rushes in and out. We love the Moody Science Videos. We always learn amazing things when we watch them.

We found a couple of really neat websites from wikipedia. The first one, The Virtual Heart, has a 3-D model that you can manipulate. You can twist it any direction you want and you can even take it apart so that you can learn the different parts of the heart as pieces and learn their names. The second one, National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, has an animation where you can see how the blood is pumped through the heart. It is a simple diagram and easy to understand even for young minds. If you have a few minutes to just learn a little about how your heart works, I highly recommend taking a look at those two sites. They’re just really great.

Nothing excites my children like hands-on activities. Their favorite for the study of the heart was using a stethoscope. First they listened to my heart to see if I was alive. They weren’t sure. Then they listened to themselves. They were definitely alive! (Maybe because they weren’t wearing heavy sweaters.) Then they submitted the puppy to a thorough heart examine. She had to roll over and let each one of them, even the toddler, listen to her heart. She’s alive too!

Listening with a stethoscope
Listening with a stethoscope

We also found a few fun songs about the heart. Two of them were from a CD called Janice’s Attic Songs for Kids. This CD has several health related songs as well as songs about obedience, thoughtfulness, dependability and many more important characteristics that we all want to teach our children. Here is a video of the kids  singing along with the CD.


The Outdoor Hour and The Handbook of Nature Study

A couple of months ago  I discovered a really great blog called The Outdoor Hour by Harmony Art Mom. Each week she has a new challenge posted for you and your children to do to learn more about nature.

The Outdoor Hour blog is based on The Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Comtock. I already had this book. I had picked it up on sale when my oldest was an infant, but I had only looked at a few times clear back then. It’s so thick I didn’t know where to start. With the help of The Outdoor Hour blog, I learned how the book works and that I didn’t need to read the whole thing. So I read the beginning section and than have started referring to the parts as I need them. This book seems really great, even though I don’t feel like we’ve dug into yet.

This week’s challenge was to see what colors can be seen in the winter. My children thought that would be fun so they took my camera and took some pictures of what interested them. We are still working on challenge #2 though about learning how to describe what they see in their own words. So we’ve combined the two challenges into one for us.

They each decided that they wanted to post about this on their own blogs. So you’ll have to visit their blogs to see what they found: ZippyArt, JohnDeere Boy.

John Deere Boy

I do have to wonder though how they were able to see as much as they did. This is a picture of what John Deere Boy was caught doing while we were on our nature walk. He’s working on a paper airplane. Boys!! Guess he needed something to work on while his sister had the camera.

Natural Remedies

All three of my kids started sneezing and snuffling yesterday. That seems to happen to us after vacations are over too often. I’m very much interested in natural remedies, so I thought you might be interested in some of the things that I’ve found effective for colds.

Contrast showers: Some kids fight on this, but it will often bring about immediate signs of improvement. What I do is stand in a very warm shower for 3 minutes and then switch the water to cold for 30 seconds and repeat this process a few times. I do it three times on the kids and seven times on myself. Always end with the cold. Try it! Even if you’re not sick, you’ll feel so invigorated!

The wool sock: For sore throats, I often wrap a wool sock over a cold wet piece of cotton (torn up old pillowcases are my favorite) and wrap the neck with this “neck warmer”. I put this on right before bedtime. By morning the sock will be hot. The cold draws extra blood to the throat area and improves the circulation there so that sore throat can get more attention from that wonderful blood.

Herb Tea: At Fred Meyers (our local grocer) we can purchase a tea called “Throat Coat”. It is really good. Works especially well when a sore throat is looming. I love it. I drink it even when I’m not sick sometimes. I add a little sweetener to it though. Honey is my preference for it.

Steam: For plugged noses, I have found that vaporizers are really good. I live in a fairly humid area, but it still helps. I add Eucalyptus to the water and it will clear you out even if you weren’t stuffed up. And when the kids are really, really stuffed up I boil water and Eucalyptus in the tea kettle and have them put their nose by the spout (not too close though). They get it concentrated that way.

Garlic & Elderberry:
I also give my kids garlic and elderberry supplements as soon as one gets sick. I know from experimentation that the garlic works. I haven’t verified the elderberry, but have friends that believe in it, so I do it too. I often can keep the sickness limited to one or two by treating the others as soon as the one gets sick. But this time they all got it at once.

No sugar:
I don’t allow my children any refined sugar when they are sick. Sugar weakens the immune system, so that is the last thing they need when they are sick.

Sleep & water: Of all the remedies, I’ve tried, sleep and plenty of water seem to have wonderful results. (And sleeping kids, gives mommy a break too!)

Pray: I know this may be obvious for some, but I’ve found that sometimes, I’ll get so busy trying to fight off a cold that I’ll forget to ask the Master Physician to heal us.

Anyway, off to make some tea for my daughter.

Reality Check

I decided it was time for a reality check as to how my year is going in homeschool. When I look through my list of goals from August and look at what we’ve done, I wish we would have done more. Maybe I’ll always wish that. I’m very glad for what we have done. The accomplishment that I’m the very happiest about is lapbooking. We’ve learned to use lapbooking very well in conjunction with our studies, especially history. The second thing that I’m very happy about is all the read-a-louds that we did together.

Here is a review of what we actually did August – December 2008.
Bible: Covered the Death of Jesus through the death of the Apostle John and also the first five centuries of church history (My Bible Says lessons.) Two lessons of memory verses from Sealing Touch Jr.
History/Geography: Columbus through Plymouth, four lapbooks each child, lots of read-a-louds from the Truth-Quest American History 1 guide.
Science: a little nature study and what came along with our history studies–animals seen by Explorers, how a compass works, a bit about stars
Math: 1/2 of our Math-U-See books
Language: Lots of copywork and narration in our lapbooks, as well as a few Bible verses
Nature Study: this is an area we need to work on a little more, but we did some random nature study.
Music: Read Hymns for a Kid’s Heart vols. 1 & 2 and memorized Fairest Lord Jesus and Onward Christian Soldiers as well as parts of several other hymns. Also piano lessons.
Art: Another area we need to work on, but we did do some art that made it’s way into the lapbooks.
Service: participated in nursing home program, helped with putting on a vegan cooking school (Zippy even demonstrated.)
Chores worked on: mostly kitchen clean-up

So here’s what I wish we would have done:
more Bible memorization
more Nature study
more Art
more Science (may be mostly nature study)
cooking with my children–I know that doesn’t sound school related, but think of all the things learned while cooking together, not to mention the memories made.

These are the things I want to work harder on in the next few months:
Music: start studying classical composers as well as learn more hymns
Art: I still don’t really know where to start, but I’ve been reading harmonyartmom’s blog and her squiddo lens on drawing and trying to learn from that,
Bible memorization
Nature Study: I’m very interested in harmonyartmom’s blog about nature study and am trying to figure out how to incorporate that into our lives as well. We also plan to be participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count.

Well those are my goals. Wish me the best!

December at our Home

This has been an unusual December for us. We live in an area, where snow is rare. When we do get it, often the limbs start breaking off of the trees and landing on power lines and then we spend days without power. A couple of years ago, when we had quite a bit of snow, we were without power for 10 days. Our problem is that we live in a semi-rural area, near a large metropolitan area and so we are served last.

This December has been different though. We have had snow—lots of snow—more snow than we’ve ever had before. It’s been beautiful—lots of photo ops. It’s been slick—bad driving conditions. It’s been cold—I’ve been wearing my coat in the house. And we haven’t lost our electricity yet for even five minutes.

The kids love snow. They have been sledding and sledding and sledding.

Pulling Sled up the hill

Zippy and Uncles Sledding

Boys sledding

My husband loves snow. He has been taking pictures and more pictures and more pictures. Here are some of my favorites that he took.

Snow Covered Apples

Barn in Snow

Bluebirds in Snow

I don’t love snow. I have been trying to stay warm, but I did go sledding a little and I’ve taken a few pictures too.

I’m glad we’ve had all this snow and I’ll also be glad when it’s gone. But it’s made for a fun December.

Economic Christmas

If you had the chance to look under our tree this year, you would have been concerned for the retailers in America. There were fewer and smaller presents. Parents and grandparents alike took the economic situation into consideration when doing their shopping. Just as I suspected though, the kids were just as thrilled with their presents as if they had cost ten times as much.

Here are a few pictures of my kids with their Christmas presents.

New book and pencils.

Zippy with Christmas presents

New watch and puzzles.

JDBoy with new watch

New tractor and puzzles.

G'tums with Christmas presents

New bicycle helmets.

New bicycle helmets

Children love surprises. They love expensive surprises and they love cheap surprises. They love full-price surprises and they love marked-down surprises. They just love surprises and that’s what makes Christmas so special.

As you may know, the best surprise for our children this year was a puppy. I’ve already posted about her, but here’s another picture of our adorable little Sadie.

JDboy and Sadie