Everyone who hears these words of Mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. Matthew 7:24-25

Monday, August 25, 2014

School Days–Week 4

It’s hard to believe we’ve completed a month of school already.  I guess time does fly when you are having fun. And, indeed, the monkeys and I have had a fun time learning together this school year.

Week 4 at Arrow Academy was full of activities.  Of course, I took lots pictures to share with y’all.

In history last week we were right around 2000 B.C.  Our lessons touched on Stonehenge, Early Egypt, and the Island of Crete.  The kids were very excited about their Stonehenge lesson, mostly because I purchased this miniature replica of the site for them to build.  Who would have thought that a few rocks could be so exciting?  We learned that the construction of Stonehenge probably had something to do with the solstices, but after looking at this replica, I’m pretty sure the ancients were just attempting to build a gigantic smiley face. Ha ha.

IMG_3374 - Copy (1024x683)

After our lesson on Early Egypt, Lucy and I made a toilet paper mummy out of Ty.  It was a totally wacky activity, I know, but it got the kids excited about school that day and worked out a few of their wiggles.

IMG_3378 - Copy (682x1024)

Ty’s favorite part about the whole experience was getting to bust out of the wrapping.  Lucy was there to video him tearing through the tissue.  I don’t know about your kids, but to mine, everything is just a little bit cooler if you use your iPhone to video it.  Hmm…maybe I should video Ty writing his spelling words.

IMG_3392 - Copy (682x1024)

In honor of mummy day, Lucy and I crafted some mummy dogs for lunch – just crescent rolls, cut in strips, wrapped around hot dogs.

IMG_3410 - Copy (681x1024)

Friday is usually map day at Arrow Academy.  The kids copy, label, and color maps that correspond to their history lessons for the week.  Last week we took it one step further and distressed Ty’s map of Crete to make it look ancient.

IMG_3399 - Copy (1024x681)

Once Ty’s map was labeled, he crumpled it and dipped it in cold coffee to stain it.  After it dried Ty got to burn the map’s edges (with adult supervision, of course) to age it a little more.  I would have let Lucy do the same with hers, but after working so hard to label and color her map she wasn’t at all interested in making it look old.

IMG_3412 - Copy (1024x683)

Lucy’s theme for the week was apples.  I made an apple sensory bin for her filled with dry oatmeal, some measuring cups, plastic apples, red marbles, and a little ground cinnamon for its wonderful scent.  She loved it!

IMG_3396 - Copy (683x1024)

It wouldn’t be a complete blog post without a word about Miss Tacy.  I think I’ve mentioned it before, but she usually hangs out in her high chair, munching on pancakes, cantaloupe, or Cheerios, while I teach a lesson or two every morning. 

IMG_3403 - Copy (683x1024)

My favorite picture of the week is definitely this next one.  Tacy came right up to Ty, pointing at his book, just like she was trying to show him what to do.  She’s so sweet!

IMG_3417 - Copy (681x1024)

That about wraps it up for this time.  I’m off to tend to my household duties while the baby naps.  Not to mention I’m busy planning some extra, extra, EXTRA fun for next week!  But you’ll have to wait for the details….


Thursday, August 21, 2014

School Days–Week 3


IMG_3289 - Copy (534x800)

While I have a quick minute, I wanted to share a few highlights from our third week of school at Arrow Academy…....

Ice cream was Lucy’s theme for the week. I prepared all kinds of ice cream activities for Lucy to do.  Her two favorites were shake-n-make ice cream and DIY puffy paint.

I’ve seen lots of instructions online for how to make your own ice cream in a can.  I thought it would be fun to give it a try and serve up fresh ice cream during poetry tea time.  We pulled out some empty coffee cans, milk, sugar, and rock salt and got to work.  Once the recipe was prepared, we dumped the mixture into our cans, and the kids got busy “churning” the cream by shaking it…

And shaking it….

IMG_3244 - Copy (533x800)

And shaking it….

After a good 10 minutes of shaking like crazy, the kids were pooped and freezing and only had cold milk show for all their work.

Not to be defeated, I pulled out the ice cream machine and poured our mixture into it; five minutes later we had homemade ice cream!  Next we set the table for tea time, and the kids nibbled on cookies and ice cream while I read to them.

IMG_3247 - Copy (532x800)

I thought it might be fun for Lucy to make her own puff paint and create some 3D ice cream art.  The puff paint is actually just a pancake batter, colored with food coloring, and “painted” onto heavy paper.  The magic happens when you microwave it!  Puff! Just like pancake.

IMG_3308 - Copy (1024x682)

This activity made us all hungry, because it had our house smelling like breakfast.

IMG_3311 - Copy (683x1024)

I also managed to incorporate a little ice cream fun into Lucy’s math lessons.  Here she is painting the correct number of scoops onto cones.  Since our study of Noah a couple of weeks ago, Lucy has been very concerned about the order of the colors of the rainbow.  Everything she paints or colors must be done in that order.

IMG_3279 - Copy (532x800)

A few things Lucy has been working on in arithmetic include counting by 10’s, greater than- and less than-, before and after, telling time to the nearest hour, and identifying numbers up to 50.

Lucy has also been working hard on her phonics and is sounding out bigger and bigger words every day.  Last week she read the word classic” on a Coke machine!  She’s already mastered all consonant and vowel sounds and has quickly breezed through her first chart of special sounds (-ck, tr-, st-, bl-, cl-, pl-, etc.)  At the rate she is going in her studies, I am considering starting her on first grade material sometime mid-year.

Our Mystery of History lessons this week focused on the ancient people of Sumer.  We learned that this early civilization was responsible for developing the first known written language – cuneiform.  The kids got a chance to try their hands at a simplified version of cuneiform.  First they rolled small tablets out of air-dry clay.  Then we made styluses from small twigs, and the kids “wrote” messages using cuneiform inspired symbols.

IMG_3221 - Copy (533x800)

IMG_3226 - Copy (533x800)

Writing cuneiform was definitely a favorite activity of the week.

IMG_3291 - Copy (533x800)

I’m thrilled that Ty and Lucy are enjoying our new history curriculum so much.  We are all learning a lot about ancient civilizations.  It’s been very refreshing to break away from Christopher Columbus and friends for a while.

One other fun thing we did in history this week was build a model of a ziggurat using sugar cubes.  This activity tied in with two of our lessons – the Sumerian civilization and the Tower of Babel. 

IMG_3258 - Copy (800x533)

The sugar cube tower was definitely a lesson in the importance of verbal communication.  Ty and Lucy got to see firsthand how difficult it would have been to try to build something without being able to talk to one another.

IMG_3265 - Copy (800x534)

These two also got a lesson in cooperation.  This project began as I imagined it would – lots of arguing and fighting about who was gluing which cube where.  But to my surprise, as construction progressed, Ty and Lucy somehow ironed out their kinks and began working together. 

IMG_3283 - Copy (534x800)

Ty is having a terrific school year so far.  I can really tell he’s been trying hard to concentrate and get his work done in a timely manner.  I think he’s finally realized that the sooner he finishes his work, the sooner he’s free to be my little slave play.  He’s also complaining a lot less about his schoolwork this year.  I suspect this has something to do with our new curriculum.  Ty is particularly enjoying history and science.  He begs to start with those subjects everyday.

I am most surprised about Ty’s attitude toward writing and language this year.  He is really having fun with our new Brave Writer curriculum.  In the past, Ty always grumbled and complained when I asked him to write a paragraph.  But this year he actually asks me if he gets to write something each day.  As part of the Brave Writer lessons this month, Ty is experimenting with writing in code.  (Which, by the way, tied in perfectly with our study of cuneiform.)  I had him take the first two verses of Psalm 23 and rewrite them using symbols.  Ty did very well at this activity.  Not only did he come up with some good symbols for concrete words like Shepherd and waters, but he impressed me with his pictorial interpretations of abstract words like want and in.  I tell you, the boy may not be able to spell the word “cat” correctly, but he’s a wizard when it comes to expressing his thoughts and ideas through drawings.

IMG_3306 - Copy (800x534)

I feel so blessed that my “job” is to stay here with my monkeys and train them up in the Truth.  For all the days that I want to give up or feel that I could pull out all my hair, there’s still nothing else in the world that I would rather be doing!


Monday, August 18, 2014

Crazy Cat Lady

Sometimes I have a difficult time coming up with ideas for what to write about on this blog.  It seems like there’s just nothing that interesting going on around here.

Nothing to take pictures of.

Nothing worth documenting.

But other times…

Other times, the ideas just seem to fall into my lap, and I can’t get to my computer fast enough to edit pictures and post them for y’all to see.

This was one of those times.

See for yourself.

IMG_2948 - Copy (532x800)

I don’t even know where to begin.  Lucy never ceases to surprise me with her antics.  It’s certainly not unusual for Lucy to go around in a princess dress and tiara or a dance leotard and ballet slippers, but this outfit was ridiculous, even for her!

IMG_2946 - Copy (800x534)

The cowboy hat and jaguar costume were Ty’s when he was just a little squirt.  The colorful, felt headband was a fun piece I made for Lucy.  On their own, each item lends itself well to fanciful, make-believe play.

But put them all together with, not one but two pairs of princess shoes, and you get the ultimate crazy cat lady.

IMG_2955 - Copy (800x533)

She’s going to hate me for this one day, but this was just too funny not to share.


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

School Days–Week 2

Hello there!  Just wanted to share a few words today about our second week of school.  Things are moving along quite nicely.  The monkeys really seem to be enjoying the new school year, and they’ve already learned lots of new things.

In our history lessons last week we studied Noah’s flood, the Ice Age, dinosaurs.  I decided to tailor Lucy’s learning activities for the week around an ocean theme to go along with our discussion of Noah.

I whipped up a batch of glittery, moon sand for some sensory play.  (Who knew you could make your own moon sand with only flour and baby oil??)  Both Ty and Lucy had fun sculpting sand castles and digging in the sand for hidden seashells.  I incorporated a little Brave Writer fun into this activity, by having the monkeys do a keen observation of their shells, then use interesting words to give detailed descriptions.  This exercise gave us a chance to discuss using comparisons, such as metaphors and similes, to describe objects.  Ty came up with a great simile for one of his shells.  He said it was holey like Swiss cheese.

IMG_3169 - Copy (800x533)

IMG_3174 - Copy (533x800)

Here Ty was trying to sculpt the leaning Tower of Pisa.  His tower leaned a little too far.

IMG_3167 - Copy (800x533)

At poetry teatime last week we were fortunate enough to have a princess stop by to read us a story.  Then we read to each other poems by Shel Silverstein.  I just love his ridiculous rhymes.

IMG_3190 - Copy (533x800)

In addition to poems, I’ve also been reading to the kids from Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories.  These stories are a lot of fun and lend themselves well to discussions about literary elements like alliteration, repetition, imagery, and made up words.  What’s surprising to me is how the stories have alluded to the same topics we’ve been studying in history – creation, Noah’s ark, cuneiform… it’s neat the way things have been working out across all subjects!

For a fun, inane activity during our Ice Age lesson, I had Ty see how long he could keep a cube of ice on his belly. 

IMG_3182 - Copy (800x532)

The answer?  Not very long.

He toughed it out for one minute (mostly because I was taunting him), but he didn’t like it.  That ice was cold!  I tried to get Lucy to give it a try, but she was way too smart for that.

I also froze some tiny trinkets in a big block of ice and had the monkeys try their hands at “excavating fossils” – a good activity for a hot, summer day.

Lucy is most excited this year about getting to learn cursive writing.  Last week she began by learning lowercase i, u, and e.  She has really impressed me with her strokes, and she is quite proud of her progress.

 IMG_3196 - Copy (533x800)

One other ocean themed activity I put together for Lucy was Sizzling Shells.  Basically I formed “seashells” from a mixture of baking soda and water.  Once the shells were dry I mixed up a bottle of vinegar with a few drops of blue food coloring and let Lucy squirt the shells.  The shells fizzed and sputtered to reveal pearls (buttons) I had hidden inside them.

IMG_3205 - Copy (800x533)

Lucy enjoyed the activity and once all the shells were dissolved, I added some water to the plastic tub and just let her play with the glass beads and rocks.  It doesn’t take much to keep a five-year-old entertained.

IMG_3211 - Copy (800x532)

IMG_3213 - Copy (533x800)

I thought I’d better include a little something about Tacy Mae.  She kept an eye on all the sizzling seashell activity from the safety of her walker.  The girl can really get around in that thing.

IMG_3180 - Copy (533x800)

I almost forgot about the ocean inspired lunch we had last week.  Some folks call them Octopus Dogs, but I like to think of them as Redneck Caviar.  Yes, I agree they do look disgusting.

IMG_3217 - Copy (533x800)

Well, that about wraps up week 2 here at Arrow Academy.  Hope you’ll check back again soon for another update.


Sunday, August 10, 2014

Grossology 101

Warning!  The following post is not for those with weak stomachs.

Just kidding.  Well, kinda.

IMG_3128 - Copy (800x533)

A couple of weekends ago the Tool Man and I took the monkeys over to Jackson to visit the Mississippi Museum of Natural History.  We’d driven by it a few times recently and talked about taking the kids for a field trip.  When the Tool Man discovered the museum was hosting a special presentation by children’s book author Sylvia Branzei, we decided it would be a good time to make the trip.

Until this visit, I’d never heard of Sylvia Branzei, but apparently she is the self-proclaimed Queen of Grossness.  She has authored a series of children’s books entitled Grossology that teach science by way of all things disgusting.

We made it to the museum just in time to grab second row seats to the Grossology demonstration.  Guess who was selected as the first volunteer.


aka “Dr. Barf”

Yep, Ty’s job was to make fake, edible barf.  (I don’t know about you, but I don’t think those three words should be used in the same sentence.)  Here he is getting his instructions from the Queen of Grossness.

IMG_3091 - Copy (534x800)

IMG_3097 - Copy (533x800)

Ty stirred and simmered a crazy concoction of jello, cereal, fruit gummies and such.  Then he showed his creation to the audience.

IMG_3105 - Copy (534x800)

After the Grossology presentation (during which we learned about more disgusting things like blood and poop), we toured the rest of the museum.

IMG_3112 - Copy (533x800)

The monkeys got to try their hands at sculpting scat.  Yuck!

IMG_3119 - Copy (533x800)

IMG_3126 - Copy (800x533)

Lucy found a lovely surprise when she lifted the lid on this exhibit.

IMG_3135 - Copy (533x800)

We had a great time on our little educational outing.  It’s nice for the kids to get to do some hands-on learning once in a while.  After the museum visit, we ate lunch at Olive Garden.  We’ve been craving O.G. since our local one was destroyed by fire.  Then we made a quick shopping stop (you gotta hit at least one store while you’re in Jackson) before heading back across the river.

Lucky us!  Ty got to bring home his edible barf.  How do you like that just-tossed-my-cookies face he’s making?

IMG_3164 - Copy (800x533)

I told y’all it wasn’t going to be a pretty post today.  Can’t say I didn’t warn you.


Friday, August 8, 2014

School Days, School Days…

I know what you’re thinking.

Mean Mama.  Mean, mean mama.

Surely she didn’t make those poor monkeys start back to school in July.

Well, I did.

Now before you report me to the meanness police, just remember that homeschooling is hard on the mama too.  There’s a ton of work involved in planning a school year for two kiddos in different grades.  There’s curriculum to select, supplies to purchase, materials to organize, and lessons to plan.  And I have to figure out a way to simultaneously be a serious, school marm and a fun, loving mom. Quite a challenge!

I figure the best way to achieve a good mix of education and fun is to get my kids excited about learning.  I need to pique their curiosity, engage their little minds, sprinkle in surprises, and trick them into learning.

That’s a tall order!

So this year I’m shakings things up a bit.  Translation:  I’m ditching my go-to curriculum (for the most part) and trying new things.

Since 2010 I’ve been using Abeka curriculum for all subjects.  It’s very good material, but lately, both Ty and I have found it to be, well, boring.  Time for a change.

After talking with some homeschooling friends, I decided to branch out and try new textbooks for science, history, and language arts.

This year for science we are using Apologia: Human Anatomy and Physiology.  The great thing about Apologia is that you can use the same material for multiple ages.  Exactly what I need – a way to kill two birds with one stone.  I teach one science lesson, and Ty and Lucy each work in their own, age-appropriate notebooks.  Yes, the content is rather advanced.  For example, we are learning about things like myofibrils and anaerobic respiration in our study of the muscular system.  But it sure beats boring, shallow discussions like, “Muscles help us move.”  I figure that my kids will pick up the basics, and if they retain some of the more challenging material, well hey, that’s just icing on the cake.

Apologia also includes great activities and experiments that help my monkeys really understand what we are reading.  Since beginning the book we’ve made an edible cell, rubberized a chicken bone, mummified a turtle, and built a model of the tendons in a human hand.  Currently we are conducting an experiment trying to build muscles in Ty’s hand.

For a new approach to history this year, I am trying out The Mystery of HistoryWe are in our second week of the course, and both the kids and I love it!  What I really love about the Mystery of History (MOH) is it’s focus on Jesus.  He’s the “Mystery” that ties all of human history together.  Volume I of MOH begins with the true story of creation (the Biblical account, of course) and proceeds from there to the resurrection of Christ.  I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I’ll probably be learning just as much my kids throughout this study.  The book covers many eras and cultures that I never studied in all my years of schooling.  We’ll be learning about everything from the ancient Chinese dynasties, to the Israelites and the Exodus, to the mound-building tribes of North America.

I’ve spent quite a lot of time planning activities to go along with our history lessons.  A few things I have lined up are:  writing cuneiform on clay tablets, constructing a miniature replica of Stonehenge, building a ziggurat out of sugar cubes, and reading the ancient Epic of Gilgamesh.  It’s going to be fun!

The MOH involves a year-long timeline project to help us keep everything in perspective as we travel through history.  Here’s the beginning of our timeline.

IMG_3081 - Copy (800x534)

We will add a figure or two to represent each lesson in the book.  The timeline should be a wonderful sight to behold once we make it through all 108 lessons!

IMG_3085 - Copy (800x534)

For Lesson 1, Creation,  I challenged the kids to make their own unique creatures using play-dough.  Ty’s creature cracked me up.  He called it a Nosy Eye Worm.

IMG_3078 - Copy (533x800)

The kids also decorated these Creation Cubes.  Once we colored and assembled the cubes, we took turns rolling them to help us review the six days of creation.

IMG_3041 - Copy (533x800)

The last major curriculum change I made this year was in the area of language and writing.  I am now using Brave Writer, which was recommended by my sister-in-law.  Brave Writer focuses less on the technical aspects of grammar and more on the creative process of writing.  In other words, we won’t be sitting down diagramming sentences and memorizing punctuation rules.  Instead we’ll be doing daily exercises and working on monthly projects that will help the kids learn how to put their thoughts down on paper.  A few of the weekly activities we’ll be doing include oral reading, copy work, dictation, free writing, observation exercises, and…

Poetry Teatime.

IMG_3069 - Copy (800x534)

When I first read about Poetry Teatime, I thought (in my best sarcastic, inner voice), “Really?  Sit around a fancy table once a week, sipping tea, and reading poems?  Yeah, Ty ought to love this.”

But I decided I would try teatime at least once.  I knew it would be a hit with Lucy.  So I threw a lacy tablecloth onto our school table, plopped some silk flowers into a crystal vase, lit a candle (because all kids love fire), and served up some refreshments.

Before I go on, I should be clear about something.  This was a redneck tea party, not to be confused with an English tea party.  We drank sweet, iced tea, not Earl Grey.  Instead of scones and crumpets, we nibbled on animal crackers, fruit, and muffins leftover from breakfast.

We all three took turns reading from poetry anthologies.  Well, two of us “read.”   Lucy narrated a book to us by looking at the pictures.  I think it’s wonderful that she is so excited about getting to “read” aloud.  I hope it’s a sign of good things to come.

Much to my surprise, Ty actually liked teatime – once he got over the initial embarrassment.  At first he couldn’t even make eye contact with me.  The lace and crystal almost put him over the edge.  But after a while he relaxed a bit.  I think I won him over with the fruit and fire.  Here he is getting all fancy wiping the corners of his mouth.

IMG_3076 - Copy (535x800)

Just as I predicted, teatime was a hit with Lucy.  Lace and crystal are right up Miss Fancy-Pants’ alley.  She’s asked to have teatime every day since then.

IMG_3074 - Copy (800x533)

There’s one last thing I haven’t mentioned about school this year, and that’s Miss Tacy Mae.  She really hasn’t been as much trouble as I had anticipated.  In the mornings she will sit in her highchair munching on Cheerios while we have a lesson.  She also likes to crawl around under our table and chairs, perfectly content to play by herself.  Her favorite pastime, though, is getting into this cabinet and pulling out all the books on the bottom shelf.  While this drives Lucy nuts, I’m ok with it.  It keeps Tacy occupied, and she’s not in any danger.

IMG_3051 - Copy (533x800)

Most afternoons Tacy takes a 3 hour nap, so whatever school work we don’t finish before lunch, we wrap up during her nap time.

Whew!  That was quite a lengthy post, but we are all so excited about the new school year that I just had to share.  I hope to keep y’all updated (somewhat regularly) on our studies, so check back again soon to see what’s going on.