Piano Recital & Violin

One of the things that has brought both my husband and I quite a bit of enjoyment is music. My husband plays the violin and I play the piano. We decided that having the skill to play an instrument was definitely something that we wanted to pass on to our children.

A couple of weeks ago our second child had his first music lesson. He’s learning the violin. This week he was just so proud of the affirmation that he got from his teacher. He had complained a bit about the practicing during the week, but when the teacher was happy with his performance, his face beamed for the rest of the day. Yesterday, he was struggling with his new song, but he told me that now he is determined to practice even when it’s hard. Move over Joshua Bell, your competition is on his way!

Our oldest has been making music for quite awhile. She started playing hymns and Christmas tunes by ear when she was four. When she was six, we got her a violin, and she started playing hymns and simple classical tunes by ear on her violin. The child exudes music. She walks through the living room and she cannot resist sitting at the piano and playing. I can’t wait to see what she will become. I know she has a great future in music. (Okay, if I sound too much like an overly proud mom, forgive me. Sometimes I can’t help myself.)

She also just had her first violin lesson and she is thrilled to finally be taking violin lessons. She is learning to turn music on a page into music from her violin and she’s so happy and anxious to be able to sight read hymns. Recently she, along with her cousins and some friends, had the joy of participating in accompanying the singing at a church conference that we attended. She played everything by ear, but her goal for next year is to play from the hymnal. She was quite inspired by the experience.

Zippy and friends playing violin

Zippy has been taking piano lessons for about a year and a half. She has had a few privileges to bless others with her piano. She has played special music once for church and has played a few times at a retirement center that we go to once a month. She recently had her first recital. That was both exciting and nerve racking for her. She worked really hard to make sure that she had her songs memorized. (The music on the piano was left there by other students.) I was proud of her effort.

So much of the effort that I put into educating my kids is to give them the foundation so that they will be able to get into the occupation of their choice, but the time and money that I am putting into them learning music is my gift of enjoyment to them for the rest of their lives. I hope they will find as much joy in music as I have, even more. And I hope that their music will not only bless them, but will bless many others and ultimately point to Jesus.

Botany with the Outdoor Hour Challenges

At the beginning of the summer we decided that we wanted to learn about plants and flowers. If you have followed my blog for awhile, you may remember that we decided to use the Apologia’s Botany book. Well, to make a long story short, it wasn’t for us. I think that it is geared for an older audience than what my kids are. It was too wordy or technical or something like that.

Since we were already on the flower quest and had decided to continue that for our summertime nature study, we were very thrilled when the Handbook of Nature Study blog released the ebook for studying garden flowers. This is a great and simple series of nature challenges. I highly recommend it. The ebook is very inexpensive. The depth of study was just perfect for us. Granted we didn’t learn a lot of latin terms, but we had fun playing with and learning about flowers. My kids have already decided that they want to do these challenges again next year. This is partly because, since we started them a ways into the summer, we weren’t able to do every single one. Anyway, if you’re looking to do some Botany with your family, check out the ebook here. By the way, you can find and look at the challenges for free on the Handbook of Nature Study blog, but the ebook comes with some really nice notebook pages to accompany the study.

Garden Flowers Notebook Pages

Some of the notebook pages that we did from the Garden Flower Challenges. (One of those is from the Crop Plant Challenges.)

Of course, the favorite thing for the kids out of these challenges was to grow flowers.


A close inspection of our Geranium plant.

We had quite a lot of fun looking closely at the flowers. Even my youngest really enjoyed learning about flowers.

Magnifying Glass

An exciting addition to our study was a microscope. After quite a bit of consideration and researching, I purchased this stereo microscope from Tobin’s Lab. This is one of the neatest things we’ve ever got. I was a bit afraid that the kids would bore with it quickly, so I emailed Tammy at Tobin’s Lab and asked her if my kids were too young for a microscope. She recommended this one and said that people from 3 – 93 love this one. She’s right. We keep it out and look at all kinds of things, but we really enjoyed looking at the flower parts and the pollen with the microscope.


The kids looked at the plants through the microscope over and over.

Looking at Cotyledon

Bean Seed

Another fun thing we did was to soak beans and look at the cotyledon. My daughter liked to look at the bean through the magnifying glass. The rest of us just used our naked eye.

Learning about pollen was fun too. As per the instructions of the Garden Flower Challenges, we took Q’tips and gathered pollen with them and then rubbed the pollen on notebook pages to have a closer look.

Garden Flowers Notebook Pages

You can’t really see the pollen in this picture, but it’s in the upper right hand corner. We also spent some time watching the bees–the master pollinators.

Blackberry Bee

Then we did one plant experiment was not part of the challenges, because we’d seen somebody else do it and my kids were very intrigued by it.

White Carnation/Food Coloring Experiment

White Carnation/Food Coloring Experiment

We put various amounts of food coloring in the water for these white carnations and then waited to see what happened. You can see what happened: Our carnations began changing colors. We did notice that the carnations with the higher concentration of food coloring had a bit more red in them. And as for the green food coloring, we couldn’t see any green in that carnation.

And last but not least, we just really enjoyed the flowers around our house. Here are a few of my favorite shots.



We have hydrangeas all around our house. I love that they still have flowers on them, this late in the summer.


We have a whole row of these pink rhododendrons behind our house. When they’re in bloom, it’s like our patio is on fire.


We don’t have many azaleas, but we appreciate them, because they are the flowers that announce that summer is about here.

I should have posted about our flower studies as we did them, because we did so much more and I’ve got a long post now and don’t think I should add another thing. We sure did enjoy learning about flowers and we hope to cultivate even more flowers next summer than we did this summer. And don’t forget to check out the Garden Flower Ourdoor Hour Challenges.

Kitchen Math

Well, we finally officially started back to school on Tuesday. We had a fun and full week.

One of the new things we are trying this year is a new math program, called Math on the Level. It is a very unique math program which I am quite excited about, partly because the editor of it is an electrical engineer (like me!) This program is set up in such a way to help parents (or teachers, but it is written for homeschoolers) teach math without workbooks. The reason that I was attracted to this program is that my son declared last year that he hated math, but in a different conversation, he told me that he spends his time in the shower figuring out different kinds of math problems. I started quizzing him and realized that his math skills had surpassed his textbook significantly. Before I even heard of Math on the Level, I put away his math book and I just printed off a scope and sequence from the internet and started teaching him the concepts on my own. I had intended to keep that up until I found Math on the Level. But I really love it when somebody has invented the wheel before me. This program has a very systematic way of recording so that you can keep track of the areas in math that your child(ren) need to work on. It has several books to teach from: Geometry, Operations, Activities, and Money. There might be more. My only concern with this program over a textbook math program is how parent intensive it will be. Math was the one subject last year that I told my kids to do and I went and made lunch, but this requires my time too, at least right now. Perhaps, once the kids and I understand the program better, it will become a bit more independent.

So what did we do for math this week? Well, my first grader needed to learn the definition and measurements for volume. My fourth grader needs to work on her multiplication and she needed to learn the difference between the English and Metric systems. So we went out to the garden and picked this:

Zuchini from the garden

That is one very overgrown zucchini. Not all of them we pick are this big, but the ones that are get turned into zucchini bread.

Then we chopped this zucchini into all kinds of fractions to run it through the food processor and we practiced our addition and subtraction of fractions with our mammoth zucchini.

Cutting the Zucchini into fractions

After we had it run through the food processor, we had eight cups of zucchini, which translated to eight recipes of zucchini bread. So my daughter got out the recipe book and started her calculations.

Kitchen math class

I’m not quite sure why, and not sure if you can tell, but she felt that the best place to work on this math, was standing on the counter. I promise she didn’t get that idea from me. I have never stood on the counter to look at recipe books.

Then the kids set out to measure and measure. JD Boy learned the difference between tablespoons and teaspoons and Zippy learned the difference between cups and milliliters.

Learning Volume Measurement the Messy Way

And, if you couldn’t already tell from that picture, they made a mess. I took on the job of cleaning the whole time they were cooking (and answering questions). I probably should have taken a picture of how high and carefully I had dishes stacked in the drying rack by the time they were finished. That was my math lesson for the evening: how many layers of dishes can be stacked in a drying rack at once.

Messy Math

I’m ashamed to say that I did not take pictures of the bread after it got out of the oven. Everybody else was in bed when it was finally done baking and I was a bit anxious to get there myself. But, they must have done their math well, because the zucchini bread was delicious and we ate the whole lot of it up before the week was over (and before I got the battery on my camera recharged.) I had planned to freeze it, but we ate it. So I guess, we’d better head back out to the garden and see if there are any more over grown zucchini.

So did I need Math on the Level to turn this into a math lesson? No. I had already discovered that the kitchen is the yummiest and messiest place for math class. We are however, excited, to try a new approach where we learn math with real stuff. Even my fourth grader will be doing minimal written work with this program. She will mostly be doing hands-on activities to learn her math. I hope to one day soon give a more thorough review of the program, but after the zucchini-bread math class, my kids are totally sold on the program, at least for the time being.

We also did some geometry this week and even my preschooler thought that was fun. One of the neat things about this program, is that it gives you lots of ideas for teaching multiple ages. So you can teach names of 3-D objects to one age, while at the same time, you’re teaching something more technical about the 3-D objects to the older students. One lesson plan, but multiple levels at once, makes for a less stressed mama.

Last but not least, I have to share one more little math lesson that my preschooler did this week all on his own. I didn’t prompt him to do this at all. I don’t think kids usually need prompted for this math lesson, but it is the best lesson we’ve found around our house to teach the one-to-one relationship to preschoolers.

G'tums learning one-to-one ratio with olives

Yep! Olives on the fingers! He counted out his olives and put them on his plate before he put them on his fingers and he got it right. I just watched the whole process and didn’t say a word, well that is, except, "Can I take your picture?"

Now, I’m getting hungry. Guess it’s time to work on some more lesson planning for math class!

Canning Peaches

Well, I didn’t finish my list, and my husband gave me two days of work that must be done now, and I looked at the weather and saw that it was supposed to start raining the middle of this week and then rain indefinitely. (That might give my location away.) So I decided to start school when it starts raining, and let the kids enjoy what’s left of sunny weather.

My sister and I did get all the windows washed inside and out and tracks vacuumed and frames wiped down. Yeah! Check! And bless my sister’s heart, she repainted all the gutters around the house and did a bunch of other touch-up painting. I cleaned out one last closet and have more to take to Goodwill now. My kids and I cleaned out two fireplaces. Don’t know why I waited until it’s about to get cold before I did that. Hmmm… Now I’m down to computer work for my husband and typing up my schedule for school. I do have all my books though and my month-by-month plans done. It’s just trying to figure out how to make everything fit in the day that still has me mystified.

We also canned forty-nine quarts of peaches and froze thirty-plus quarts. Yummy! We saved twenty pounds to eat. Here are some pictures of our canning process.

Canning Peaches

Top Left: A dozen empty but clean jars ready to be filled. Bottom Left: Seven of nine boxes of peaches. Right: Peeling peaches and filling jars. We did it in the garage, so that we could hose off the floor when we were finished. The peaches were just right and we decided not to blanch them.

Canning Peaches

Left: Jars full of Peaches. Right: Canning in my steam canner. (I love it. It’s so much lighter to haul it around than my waterbath canner.)

Canned Peaches

Rows of canned peaches! I just think they’re pretty. I don’t know if it’s sentimentalism or what!

Since we consider work and service an integral part of school, I think my kids have been getting a fine education the last week, even if we haven’t "hit the books" yet.