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

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Arrow Academy – Catching Up

Hey, y’all.  Today I thought I’d share some of highlights from the past month or so of school.  I know I started the year by doing weekly wrap-ups of school news, but I soon realized I wouldn’t be able to keep up that pace.  So now my plan is this:  whenever I think I’ve collected enough pictures, I’ll try to sit down and fill y’all in on our academic progress.  Sound like a good plan??

Perhaps the best way for me to plough through 6 weeks worth of scholastic information is to tackle it one subject at a time.  I’ll throw in some pictures where applicable.

Let’s start with math, shall we?  Math is my favorite!  Maybe because it’s full of rules, and it’s so straight forward.  Only one right answer.  No wishy-washy stuff.  Lol.  Anyway, Ty is making great strides in arithmetic this year.  I’m sure it’s because he has such a wonderful teacher.  Wink, wink.  Seriously, though, I think he’s breezing through the material so quickly because aBeka 5th grade arithmetic seems to be a repeat of aBeka 4th grade arithmetic.  With the exception of negative numbers and percent, Ty’s already been introduced to all of the information we’ve covered this year:  fractions, decimals, long division, geometry, and metrics.  Like Yogi Bera says, “It’s deja vu all over again.”  And because it’s been one big review this year, I’ve felt the freedom to skip around in the text - which is part of the beauty of homeschooling.  I can spend more time on things Ty needs the most help with and hurry through the things he can do in his sleep.

And what about Lucy’s numbers?  Here’s a list of what’s she has been working on:

  • addition facts - through the 7’s family
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  • counting by 5’s & 10’s
  • counting money - pennies, nickels, & dimes
  • before and after numbers up to 100
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  • measuring to the nearest inch
  • recognizing and spelling number words 1-10

In the realm of the English language, Ty has covered all eight parts of speech and has just begun a quick review of punctuation & capitalization rules.  He should be able to finish up all the language mechanics before Christmas break.  That means the second half of the year will be entirely devoted to honing his writing skills.  Ordinarily, Ty might not be too thrilled with that idea, but since implementing our new Brave Writer curriculum, Ty has been a little more receptive to his writing assignments.

Moving along, Lucy has been steadily improving in phonics and reading.  She continues to drill blends and special sounds, and she is doing a lot of work differentiating short- and long- vowel words.  I will say that she finds all this practicing of sounds very mundane.  Not a day goes by that she doesn’t complain when I pull out her phonics workbook,  which is why I’m constantly looking for new ways to do the same old schoolwork.

Enter window writing.  Thanks for the idea, Auntie Angel!  What a great way to trick the monkeys into doing their work without complaining.  Even Tacy Mae loves to get in on the action.  Ty and Lucy actually beg me to do work on the windows.

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Lucy also continues to make advancements in penmanship.  She is only a couple of letters away from knowing how to write the entire lowercase alphabet.  She just needs to keep practicing her strokes until it all becomes second nature to her.

Lucy asked me to take this picture of her writing, but not because she was proud of her work.  No, it was because she was proud of her outfit.  For some reason, last week, Lucy decided she had to get dressed up for school everyday.  She’d come downstairs each morning wearing her Sunday best and declare that she was ready to, “go to high school.”  She even packed her backpack!  One day while working in her phonics notebook she blurted out, “Why am I doing a kindergarten book?  I’m 16 years old for Pete’s sake!”  Geez!  What am I going to do with her when she really is 16?

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Let’s talk history.  It’s definitely one of our favorite subjects this year thanks to the fact that we made the switch to The Mystery of History. We are only a handful of lessons away from completing the first half of Volume 1.  In the past few weeks we’ve talked mainly about the history of Israel:  its judges, its first few kings, its division, its prophets, and its fall to the Assyrians.

Our history timeline is progressing nicely.  Timeline time is one of the most anticipated activities of our week, but it’s also a time that results in much arguing between the monkeys.

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I try to divide things up so that Ty and Lucy get to create an equal number of figures to add to our board, but I also have to be mindful which figures I assign to whom, since Lucy usually creates her characters with pink and rainbow outfits, rock star hairdo’s, and long eyelashes.  As you might imagine, Lucy’s fashion sense drives Ty bonkers, but it does yield quite an interesting timeline.

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Finally, let’s talk science.  Without a doubt, it’s the monkeys favorite part of our school day.  This year we’ve been studying human anatomy one body system at a time.  Most recently we’ve covered the cardiovascular system and the nervous and endocrine systems.  Lemme tell ya’, the monkeys have learned a ton regarding these topics.  Even Lucy can tell you the in’s and out’s of the heart and blood vessels.

I try to work in some hands-on learning whenever possible.  The monkeys love it so much, and it really helps them learn.  Here we were discussing diffusion and how oxygen in the body moves from areas of high concentration to low concentration.  I think the visual really helped Ty and Lucy understand the concept.

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Sweet Tacy Mae was content to munch on pancakes while we were doing our oxygen demonstration.

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After talking a bit about the blood itself, we moved on to the heart.  I admit I had forgotten so much of this information from my own years of school, and I was just as interested in learning the material as the kids were.

As we learn more and more about the intricacies of the human body, I am more amazed at how wonderfully we are created.  This is the thing that I try to stress to the monkeys as we are studying the facts:  God made them perfectly on purpose and with a plan.

During our heart unit, we constructed a very simple model of the heart using graham crackers, colored icing, and straws.

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As you might have guessed, there was a lot of “licking the spoon” going on during this activity.  The blue lips and blue hair prove it.

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After spending several weeks on the heart and blood we moved on to the nervous system.  I am particularly excited to teach this unit to the kids because I have a degree in psychology.  For once I actually feel qualified to teach them!  I love studying the brain and how people store and process information, and I am happy to see that Ty is intrigued by it too.

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In studying the anatomy of the nervous system, the kids used play dough to build models of the brain and neurons. 

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It was a simple activity really, but it drove home the point, and all three monkeys had fun with it.  I’m pretty sure Ty and Lucy can now draw and label neurons in their sleep.

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For another fun activity on the brain, I had Ty take a brain hemisphere test online.  And the results?  No surprise, really.  Ty is definitely right-brained.  You know, the creative, thinks-in-pictures type.  Then I decided to test myself.  Most people I know would probably characterize me as right-brained, but no, no.  I tested overwhelmingly left-brained.  Analytical, orderly, rule-oriented, aware of consequences, good speller.

I’m the complete opposite of my pupil.  No wonder we butt heads so often when it comes to school.  I expect him to sit still, copy spelling words from top to bottom, complete worksheets in an organized and timely manner, and be happy about it all.  It’s what I would do!  But not Ty.  He’s going to answer questions by drawing pictures.  He copies his spelling words from side to side or bottom to top (and spell them incorrectly.)  He’s notoriously bad at math facts and timed tests, but he’s never had trouble grasping any arithmetic concept I’ve thrown his way.

What’s a teacher to do?  Get creative!  Luckily there is a ton of helpful ideas and information out there on how to best teach right-brained kids.  Most importantly, they need to see things.  We’ve already implemented some strategies in our spelling lessons.  Besides window writing of course, Ty and I have made some colorful, illustrated flashcards for his spelling lists.  The simple, quirky pictures we’ve drawn really have helped Ty see the words in his mind.  I think maybe, just maybe, we have finally found the key to Ty’s spelling heart. 

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Well, that about wraps things up for now.  As you can see we’ve been super busy around here, so we really did enjoy our Thanksgiving break.  And to think, we’ve only three weeks until Christmas break.  Woo hoo!!!!  I love Christmas break now even more than when I was a student.


Friday, November 14, 2014

Oh Lawdy, Pick a Bale of Cotton

I’m not sure who here at Arrow Academy enjoys field trips more, the students or the teacher.  The kids love it when we take school on the road for obvious reasons:  relaxed atmosphere, no boring worksheets, freedom to wiggle, getting out of the house...

But believe it or not, I love field trips for much the same reasons:  relaxed atmosphere, no paperwork,  kinesthetic learning, and getting out of the house.

So when my sister-in-law called me a couple of weeks ago inviting us to visit a local cotton plantation with her, you know I jumped at the chance.

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Funny how you can live in the same place all your life and not be aware of the opportunities that surround you.  For thirty-plus years I’ve lived not 70 miles from the jewel that is Frogmore Plantation and have never even heard of the place until the other day.  Honestly, I didn’t have very high expectations regarding this historic site, but luckily I was in for a treat! 

The owners of Frogmore have done a wonderful job preserving the integrity of the grounds.  During our tour which lasted over an hour, we visited a smoke house, mercantile, slave cabin, washroom, “kitchen”, cotton field, a share cropper cabin, the overseer’s dogtrot, barn, and the historical cotton gin.  The kids heard about things like spinning cotton yarn, tatting, pig slaughtering, making apple butter, white washing, pressing sugar cane, the “Northern Aggression,” and of course picking and ginning cotton.

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Our tour guide did a marvelous job leading us around the grounds.  She was very knowledgeable about the history of the plantation.  I only wish I could paid a little closer attention to her.  Instead, I spent most of my time chasing Tacy Mae in and out, in and out, in and out of these 150 year old cabins.  Yes, even Tacy was enjoying our day out of the house.

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After touring the buildings we got to go into the field and pick some cotton.

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Bless her little cotton-pickin’ heart!  Even though Lucy looked so forlorn she really was enjoying herself.

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You know the monkeys couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit the outhouse.  Thankfully it was a two-seater!

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Ah, the cotton sack.  So thankful I never had to pull one of these babies on my back!  When I see these I am tempted to think, “1800’s,” but it really wasn’t all that long ago that these cotton sacks were still being used.  In fact, my dad tells a story of his grandmother dragging him through the fields on her sack when he was a baby, only to abandon him and the sack when she ran up on a snake in the field.  Yikes!

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This is definitely the prissiest cotton picker I’ve ever seen.

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Before heading out to the barn, Ty tried his hand at pressing sugar cane.

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I found the tour of the old cotton gin to be very educational.  How did I grow up in the lower Mississippi Delta and not know how one of these things works??  I was surprised when I saw the replica of Eli Whitney’s first gin.  I had no idea I could carry the thing under my arm.  I’d always pictured it as some huge machine.  Even Tacy Mae found it to be quite interesting.

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Pop quiz time:

Q:  Where does the term “cotton gin” come from?

(Insert Jeopardy music here.)

A:  It’s short for “cotton engine.”  Who knew?!

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After leaving the plantation we drove through the modern cotton gin at Frogmore.  Luckily, we visited Frogmore during picking season, so we got to see the gin in action.  The monkeys loved watching the cotton bales coming off the line.  White gold hot off the presses!

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What a fun day!  Here’s a shot of all the cousins at the dogtrot.  The kids enjoyed their day at Frogmore, but just getting to see each other is what they loved best.  These kids always have the best time when they are together.

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Thursday, November 6, 2014

No Tricks, Just Treats!

Hey, y’all!  When I sat down to blog this week I didn’t quite realize how long it had been since I last posted something.  I know you poor dears must be brimming with anticipation, waiting for the latest news from down here on the creek!  (At least that’s what I’d like to think.  Wink. Wink.)

So what’s been going on with the Allen’s these last couple of weeks?  Lots!  Of course you know school occupies the majority of our time, but we manage to squeeze in other things too.  We’ve travelled clear across the state to business meetings, visiting family while on the road.  The kids and I toured a historical cotton plantation.   Inspired by the cooler temps, the Tool Man and I have completed various home improvement projects.  I’ve begun a furniture makeover of my grandmother’s old bookcase.  (Which, working at a rate of one hour per week, could take 2 years to complete!)  My dear, sweet mother graciously came over and spent 7 hours helping clean out and organize the monkeys’ closets.  Whew!  And last but not least we’ve dipped our toes in the lake that is politics, spending election night at the headquarters of a local candidate.

Oh, yeah.  I almost forgot about Halloween.  The monkeys would die if I didn’t share their Halloween pictures with y’all.  Both Ty and Lucy knew months ago how they were going to dress up.  Ty chose to be sorcerer Mickey from Fantasia, and Lucy wanted to be Rainbow Horse from the Baby First TV channel.

I’m a little confused about something.  Somewhere between my childhood and present day, Halloween morphed from Tootsie Rolls and lollipops to entire gift-wrapped packages of toys, candy, and cookies galore!  Is it that way in your neck of the woods, or have my kids’ grandparents just gone nuts?  It’s almost like a mini Christmas!

I’m pretty sure Ty received the most annoying gift from his Pappaw.  It’s called, “iFart.”  No further explanation needed.

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Rainbow Horse got a slightly more sophisticated present in her bag – DIY stained glass ornaments.

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Don’t worry.  I haven’t forgotten about Tacy Mae.  She dressed up in purple and gold as an LSU cheerleader.  Go Tigers!  Here she is with her mermaid bath toy.

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Over at Papa’s and Sandy’s, Lucy hit the jackpot with an entire bag of Oreo’s.  Double Stuft!

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Ty’s wishes came true with this Magic 8 Ball, which quickly became the second most annoying toy ever.

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Tacy Mae got an old school See ‘n Say.  I love these!  However, I was perplexed to find a rabbit pictured on this thing.  Apparently the See ‘n Say people think rabbits say, “Boing, boing.”  I think that’s a stretch.

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Cousin Caroline came over dressed as a bumble bee.  She was so good to leave her antennae on all night, but Tacy Mae found them terribly distracting.

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Lucy was kind enough to give us a side view of her costume.  I know Rainbow Horse is not a well-known cartoon character, but Lucy couldn’t pass up the opportunity to wear both pink and rainbow!

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Here’s a quick flashback to last Halloween.  My, how the babies have changed!

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And here’s the whole gang this year.  What a treat!

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Now that Halloween is behind us I’ve officially begun decorating my house for Christmas.  No, you did not read that wrong.  I said Christmas, my favorite time of year!  I figure it will probably take me weeks to get my decorating done since I can’t work on it for more than 20-30 minutes at a time.  I don’t want to be decorating last minute – it makes me crazy!

So far, Lucy and I have set out a few mini trees, added some sparkle to the dining room, and replaced pumpkins and acorns with glass ornaments and glittery pinecones.  It’s baby steps, I know, but our home is gradually transforming into a winter wonderland.

I suppose the big Christmas tree will be the last thing I tackle.  I’m more than a little nervous about how Tacy is going to react to the tree (meaning I think she’s going to climb it and pull down every last ornament.)  I sure do wish there was some way I could install an electric fence around the tree!