Chickadee Thursday

Before we started back to school after Christmas vacation, I brought our little picnic table up to the schoolroom, so that Chickadee would have her own little “desk.”


Even so, she’d still rather climb up in someone’s lap during school!



It’s adorable, but it can be a little difficult to color and/or write with a toddler in your lap!

More 2012 in Review

This has been A Year. There’s really no other way to describe it. It was, by far, the best year of my life to date, and there’s a part of me that doubts that there will ever be another year quite as good. The events that occurred, and the timing of those events, was so outstanding that all I can do is sit back and thank God for the way He arranged this year of celebrations for my family!

January was by far the quietest month of the year. We celebrated our 100th day of school, and Ladybug joined in, as she unofficially started kindergarten during that month. We finished preparing our home for Chickadee’s arrival. I was sad to see the end of One Life to Live, although, if it had to end, it certainly went the right way. We also re-subscribed to cable TV, so I spent a lot of my pregnancy-induced sleepless nights catching up on What Not to Wear!

In February, things started to get busy. Ryan rejoined the American Kantorei for the Bach at the Sem series, and we all enjoyed attending his concerts. I got to see Chickadee holding onto her umbilical cord during an ultrasound…it should come as no surprise, then, that she loves holding onto my hair now! We also made sure she’d be well-equipped for her first Opening Day and Cardinals game. Turkey had two teeth pulled, and hardly even noticed it happening. Ladybug picked out new animal print glasses. We had a fun field trip, started a new Lenten tradition, and celebrated Leap Day. Above all, we spent all of February excited knowing that Chickadee would be arriving the next month!

Without a doubt, March was the craziest, most exciting month of the year. The highlight was, of course, the birth of our little Chickadee. A few other things happened, too, though. We finally got a Dunkin’ Donuts, which was very exciting for me. We had fun celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, and even got to help Moose make a Leprechaun trap for school. I spent a lot of time baking, even though I couldn’t indulge in eating many of my creations due to gestational diabetes. Turkey turned nine. The children got to meet their new sister, and we brought her home!

April was almost as busy as March. Turkey and Bunny were confirmed on Palm Sunday, the same day Chickadee was baptized into God’s family. That was one of the most amazing, emotional days of my life. We celebrated Easter a week later. We had our traditional Opening Day food fest at home, and less than a week later, took Chickadee to her first Cardinals game. Much to Bunny’s delight, an American Girl store opened in St. Louis. We found that last year’s bird’s nest was once again in use. We also had the interesting experience of oven shopping.

Things remained busy in May. Chickadee started smiling at us–so cute! Our new oven was delivered. I got a new pair of glasses for the first time in over five years, and I must have been inspired by Ladybug, because they, too, have an animal print. The next generation of baby birds hatchedLadybug turned five. Ryan and I got to go to the Cardinals game (along with Chickadee), where Tony LaRussa’s number was retired. The following day, Ryan and I (and Chickadee, again), went to the Science Center to see Star Trek: The Exhibition. Moose graduated from kindergarten. We not only went to Art on the Square, but actually bought something for the first time ever. We spent an afternoon at Grant’s Farm, one of our very favorite places to go. Ryan and Ladybug went to a Cardinals game, just the two of them, and got to meet Fredbird and get autographs from two players. We celebrated the birthday of the church on Pentecost  Turkey started his third season of parks and rec baseball, and loved every minute of it.

Life finally slowed down a bit in June (but only a bit!). We celebrated Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee from afar. As part of our celebration, we had our first tea party of the year. This was one of my favorite non-family related parts of the year, learning all about the Queen and her reign. Turkey and Bunny finished third grade. The summer really started to heat up, making everybody miserable.

July brought an end to the slower pace we enjoyed in June. I spent my first-ever day at the spa, and hope I can go back again sometime. We celebrated the Fourth of July in our typical fashion, but sans fireworks, thanks to a ban on them due to excessive heat and drought. Turkey had his last baseball game of the summer. Bunny turned eight, and we enjoyed tea party number two of the year to celebrate. Chickadee attended her first-ever VBS at our church, along with the rest of the family, of course. She also gave up being swaddled at bedtime, which was a little bittersweet. We enjoyed the beginning of the London Olympics, which included tea party number three, and special lessons in school.

At the beginning of August, we managed to tear ourselves away from the Olympics long enough to go to Build a Bear day at Busch Stadium, which also included a walk along the warning track. It was also a “turn back the clock” night…I loved the throwback uniforms and high socks! We had our own family Olympics, in which “Team Markel” won. We got rid of cable TV–again. I got ready for the start of our fifth year of homeschooling by rearranging the school room–again. Moose started first grade, Ladybug officially started kindergarten, and Turkey and Bunny began fourth grade. We went apple picking and got 12 pounds of apples. Chickadee was our little tagalong in school, and constantly kept the whole family amused with her antics.

At the beginning of September, I worked on creating a logo for our school, with help from the children. We were quite happy with the results. I discovered that one of my favorite books ever had finally been reprinted. Chickadee started crawling. We saw the Thunderbirds perform at the Scott Air Force Base air show. We took in another baseball game, and had a kind usher take the best picture of the seven of us to that date. Chickadee reluctantly started eating solid foods. We had fun making handprint angels on Michaelmas.

We spent the month of October learning about the Reformation and enjoying the beautiful fall colors. We had our annual trip to the pumpkin patch, where we picked over 40 pounds of pumpkins. Moose lost three top teeth…eating became a very interesting activity for him! Ryan and I enjoyed the “Kozmania” that overtook Cardinal Nation, especially since we had seen his very-first major league at-bat the year before. I finally found a hat to wear to church. We watched Felix Baumgartner’s incredible, insane skydive from practically outer-space, some of us with morbid curiosity.

In November, Chickadee figured out how to pull herself up to a standing position. Moose turned seven. I had my best-ever game in Bookworm, and promptly stopped playing so I could go out on top. We started Thanksgiving school, and a “Thankful Tree.” We had a nice Thanksgiving…it was especially fun to share Chickadee’s first Thanksgiving with her! We went to our town’s tree lighting, and then went back downtown on a nicer day to look at all of the gingerbread houses. I rearranged our schoolroom–yet again. I think it will stay this way for quite a while! We started our Christmas celebrations a little early by taking the children to their first Boar’s Head Festival, in preparation for our “Christmas in England” theme in school this year.

December brought our favorite time of the year…the Advent and Christmas seasons! Many of our favorite activities take place in December…Christmas on the Hill, Tuba Christmas, and going to St. Charles for the Christmas Traditions festival. In school, we continued making banners for the church year, and learned about Christmas throughout England’s history, which included reading some great books, such as A Christmas Carol. We had a Christmas tea party (number four for the year!), and an English Christmas dinner to accompany our lessons. It was great fun being so very British this whole year! We added readings for the Great “O” Antiphons to our Advent traditions. We spent a lot of time baking, decorating, and delivering cookies and other treats, and basically kept busy right up until Christmas. It was especially fun to get to celebrate a first Christmas again! We even had a white Christmas, although a few days late…but it was still during the season of Christmas, so it counts! I did a lot of work on my blog this month, too, adding pages for liturgical year things such as feasts, festivals, and commemorations, the Jesse Tree, the Great “O” Antiphons, and the Jesus Tree, that are important to our family.

I can’t wait to see what 2013 holds for our family…I know that there will be lots more holidays and celebrations to look forward to sharing together. I pray that God blesses all of your families as greatly as He has blessed mine!

Third Grade: Week Twenty-Two Wrap-Up

I’d like to say that we accomplished a lot this week, especially in light of the fact that we only have one more week of school before we take off for a good month for Chickadee’s arrival. In actuality, however, this week was all about the bare minimum. Between doctor’s appointments and errands that need to be taken care of before I’m in the hospital, it was hard enough just getting through the stuff I consider mandatory–namely religion, math, spelling, handwriting, grammar, Latin, read-alouds, and reading. We did manage to squeeze in history, too, (although none of the fun extras), and some fun games, but electives and science? Well, they’re just a fond memory at this point. I’d like to think we’ll do better next week, but to be honest, between more doctor’s appointments and more errands, plus the St. Patrick’s Day activities I want to do, we’ll probably just be covering the basics again. Oh well…that’s one of the perks of homeschooling, right? And I still think my children are learning a lot more than their public school counterparts, even with my slacking.

We did do one fun craft this week, in anticipation of St. Patrick’s Day.

We talked about the legend of St. Patrick driving the snakes out of Ireland as we made paper plate snakes. (What would I do without paper plate crafts?) I was especially impressed with Turkey’s snake, as it is quite detailed. He labored over it for quite some time to get it right. The children’s only sorrow is the fact that the weather has been so mild, there hasn’t been any air (heat) coming out of the vents to turn their snakes when suspended from the ceiling…but that’s a first world problem if I ever heard one!

When we went errand-running, one of our stops was at a fantastic local bakery, to order cakes for Turkey and Bunny’s Confirmation on Palm Sunday, as well as Chickadee’s Baptism that same day. Normally I would make the cakes myself, but ten days after major abdominal surgery…well, that’s just not happening! Anyway, while we were there, we noticed that they had green, snake-shaped donuts in honor of our favorite Irish holiday, so we splurged and got some, (none for me…I had my donut last week!). Another chance to discuss Irish legends, and have some delicious fun to boot!

Leap Day!

Somewhat surprisingly, (to me, at least), this is our first Leap Day since we started homeschooling back in 2008. I guess it just seems like we’ve doing this so long, I had a hard time believing at first that we’ve never had school on this “holiday” before. I knew I wanted to do something fun and special, but I wasn’t really sure what–there aren’t too many dedicated Leap Day crafts/activities out there, at least not that I could find.

I decided that since I couldn’t find Leap Day specific activities, we’d go with a frog theme…after all, frogs are known for leaping, right?

At first, I thought we’d make those origami frogs that actually hop. But paper-folding is not one of my strengths, so instead, we made paper plate frog puppets. Paper plate crafts I can handle!

We also read a favorite story, “The Determined Frog,” from one of our favorite story books: The Lion Storyteller Bedtime Book. It’s a cute, funny, story, with a good message about not giving up.

Of course, we couldn’t celebrate Leap Day without playing a game of leapfrog. And we even got to play outside, because it’s unbelievably nice outside for February!

Leap Day was a huge hit here…too bad we have to wait four more years to enjoy it again!

Mammoths and Mastodons: Titans of the Ice Age

Today, we had the chance to go to one of the few museums in the St. Louis area that we’ve never visited–the Missouri History Museum.

The reason for our trip? To see a special traveling exhibit, on loan from the Field Museum in Chicago–Mammoths and Mastodons: Titans of the Ice Age.

For some inexplicable reason, I have always loved wooly mammoths. Maybe it’s because they found a skeleton of one near where I grew up, so I heard a lot about them. Or maybe it’s because they’re just so darn cute. But when I heard that this was going to be a featured exhibit at the museum, I knew I really wanted to go, even if it didn’t directly tie in to anything we’re learning about this year. The only problem? While admission to the museum is free, admission to the exhibit is most definitely not. And let’s face it…when you have a family of six, (soon to be seven), admission costs are a big obstacle to going to this kind of thing.

But then I learned about “Homeschool Days” at the Missouri History Museum. They run one such day every month from September to May, featuring a variety of topics and exhibits. The best part? Free admission when you pre-register. I’ve been planning this field trip for months, and praying that I wouldn’t have any pregnancy complications that would prevent us from attending. Thankfully, we were able to go, and we had a great time. I, especially, was impressed with the activities that they had scheduled to go along with the gallery visit.

I was also very impressed with how they handled registration/distribution of materials. One week before the scheduled event, they open up registrations online. And, as I’m always up at four a.m. these days anyway, I’m guessing I was one of the first to register, which was actually a good thing, as space is limited, and it was very crowded, even early in the day. When you get to the museum, you’re directed to a specific room to pick up your (free!) tickets, as well as a packet of information, including a map showing all of the scheduled activities for the day, and additional activities to do at home, including some fun mammoth role-playing games.

We chose to go to the main exhibit hall right away, and I’m thankful we did, because by the time we were done looking at everything, there was a 40 minute wait due to the exhibit being filled to capacity. The only drawback to the exhibit was that there was no photography of any kind allowed…I would love to share some pictures of the cool things we saw and did, but descriptions will just have to suffice.

I was most impressed with all of the hands-on activities. While there were plenty of “do not touch” signs, as you would expect, there were also plenty of places with signs that said “please touch me,” which the children loved. They got to feel a replica mammoth tooth and fur, for example. There were also lots of interactive activities, such as a mechanical tusk which the children got to operate, (with a joystick), to pick up “dinner” and “feed” themselves. There was also a lifting station, to see if you could pick up one of the many bales of hay worth of food a mammoth would have eaten in a day–we needed Daddy’s help for that one! Another cool display demonstrated the difference between the sound of elephants, (and mammoths), trumpeting, and the feeling of the vibrations from their “rumbling,” which is another way they communicate with each other, but humans can’t hear. We were also very interested in all of the size comparisons between the different kinds of mammoths, (from the seriously giant Columbian mammoth to the relatively small pygmy mammoth), mastodons, and modern-day elephants. There was so much to see and do in the gallery, it was a great way to spend a morning!

After looking at another of the museum’s permanent exhibits, we went in search of one of the activities the museum was presenting. We decided on making mammoth masks and/or puppets. And, for the record, I joined in myself, and made a puppet. No big surprise there…like I was going to come home without having made a mammoth craft!

By that time, we were ready for lunch, so we cut our losses and left. But there were plenty of other activities in which we could have participated had we so desired, and they all sounded really cool! They had a math workshop, split up by ages, dealing with the big numbers that are encountered when talking about big animals. I thought this activity, in particular, really sounded worthwhile, but unfortunately, it was scheduled right at lunchtime. They also had a play in their theater, as well as a story time for smaller children. There was even an opportunity for children to talk with one of the museum curators.

There are four more cities scheduled to host this exhibit, and two additional blocks of time scheduled for potential other cities. If it’s coming to an area near you, I highly recommend you take some time and visit–it’s a great, interactive learning experience, appropriate for all ages!

Third Grade: Week Nineteen Wrap-Up

This was a kind of screwy week, with a doctor’s appointment for me one morning, and a dentist visit for the children another. We still managed to get our work done, however–we just had to be a little creative in when we did things. For example, one morning, we started a good hour, if not hour and a half, earlier than usual, to get things done before one appointment. We’ve also been saving a lot of our reading for the evenings, which isn’t even weird, just different for us. But we’re flexible, and as long as we get our work done, I’m not too particular as to when.

The one subject that I really had to tweak this week was Latin. We’re at a review lesson in Latin Christiana I, and I wanted to make sure we didn’t gloss over it too much, so I decided we’d just take two weeks for this lesson, and make sure we, (and I mean we, because my Latin is coming along more slowly than Turkey and Bunny’s!), really know it. I think this is a good thing, regardless of doctor’s appointments, and feeling crunched for time, because extra review, particularly of vocabulary, is never a bad thing. I think we also need to work a bit more on our noun declensions and verb conjugations, before we add any new words and/or concepts. Fortunately, there are more weeks in our school year than there are lessons in the Latin book, so we’ll still be done with the full curriculum before the end of the school year!

Another thing that messed with our schedule a bit this week was Valentine’s Day, but that was a welcome distraction. We needed extra time for crafts on Tuesday, so that was another day when we didn’t stick to our regular schedule. We had a great time making woven hearts and sparkle critters, and handing out Valentines, though–I like anything that breaks up the monotony of winter. Even though February is the shortest month of the year, it’s also the month where it’s the hardest to really buckle down and work, (for us, anyway), so we really welcome a holiday, and an excuse to make fun crafts and read extra stories, of any kind!

Third Grade: Week Seventeen Wrap-Up

We’re still chugging along with our school work. Have I mentioned how much we’re loving Adventures in My Father’s World? Turkey and Bunny really look forward to the daily activities, way more than they did with Sonlight. I think they really need worksheets and activities to round out their school experience!

We’re working really hard on grammar right now. In addition to using Primary Language Lessons, as recommended by My Father’s World, I also bought a workbook–English Grade 3. This gives us an opportunity to really practice what we’re learning, and helps me make sure we’re not missing anything. I made some flashcards to go along with the lessons, particularly for the parts of speech. Ever since prepositions were introduced in Latin last year, Turkey and Bunny have had some kind of mental block as what they actually are. So we review that almost daily, and I think it’s just about drilled into their heads. We’ve just started working on subject/predicate, which is a big part of the back half of the book, and so far, that’s been going well.

In this week’s post, I want to focus a bit on supplementing. I know many homeschoolers, like myself, use a “boxed curriculum,” so that they have everything they need, and don’t need to worry about having gaps in their materials. But even with a boxed curriculum, supplementing, either to the subject, or the child’s particular interest, can be very beneficial.

This week, I’ve supplemented in two ways, (three, if you count adding some of my own selections to the My Father’s World book basket). First of all, I was able to use ideas from the children’s worship folder my children received in church last Sunday to supplement our religious instruction. This year, our daily religion usually consists of reading through at least one part of Luther’s Small Catechism, reading from the Treasury of Daily Prayer, (if not the Bible readings, at least the biographies for any commemorations/feasts/festivals that may be taking place), and reading through Concordia’s Complete Bible Handbook for Students, (with which Turkey and Bunny are completely fascinated!). So, no workbooks this year, and also not many crafts. So, when Turkey pointed out a project making a shield with the Word and Sacraments on it that was meant to be completed over several days, I figured it would be a great addition to our religion lessons for the week. It was fun to do, didn’t take too much time, and fit in nicely with the things we’re already doing.

Another thing I’ve been using to supplement this year, in light of the focus on the 50 states in Adventures in My Father’s World, is the Which Way USA club offered by Highlights magazine. Every six weeks or so, we receive two different state puzzle books, along with state maps. These books have all kinds of puzzles–word searches, crosswords, hidden pictures, math puzzles, etc. And in solving each puzzle, the child learns some interesting facts about whatever state the book is about, and completes part of the final puzzles in the book. Is this a necessary supplement? Of course not! It’s mostly for fun. But, I think the wide variety of puzzles are good for Turkey and Bunny’s brains, and helping them think in different ways, and they’re also learning weird facts while they’re having fun. I think this is one of the best “extras” I’ve bought for our homeschool, and the price is reasonable, especially given how much use we’re getting out of it. I’m thinking we may try Top Secret Adventures when we’re done with all 50 states!

There are lots of different ways to supplement your regular homeschool materials. It can be as simple as adding some different, extra books for quiet reading time, finding craft projects, going on extra field trips, or getting a subscription to something, whether a magazine or puzzle club. Supplementing doesn’t have to be expensive, either–there are plenty of free ideas available online. But, however you get it, extra enrichment is always a good thing, so look into adding something extra to your school, even if it’s something you only do one day a week!

Third Grade: Week Fifteen Wrap-up

This week, (today, actually), we celebrated our 100th day of school! The children are very excited, because I made them each a bag with 100 m&ms, which they are allowed to eat at their discretion. Plus, we completed our countdown “doodlebug,” which everyone looks forward to every year, although at this point, it’s more for Ladybug’s benefit than anything else.

It was a fun, busy week. It felt like we had more schoolwork to do than normal, but I don’t think that was actually the case. We’ve just had so many good conversations in regards to what we’ve been learning that school has been taking a bit longer, which is not a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination!

One of our favorite things about returning to our regular Adventures in My Father’s World studies has been our daily read-aloud. Actually, all of the read-aloud books have been excellent so far, but I have to admit to having a certain bias toward our current book–Farmer Boy. I really loved the Laura Ingalls Wilder books as a child…except for Farmer Boy. I’m not really sure I ever actually read it, or if I just skipped over it every time I read through the series, (which was often!). I guess I assumed that because the main character was a boy, it would be boring to me, and therefore not worth my time.

Then, I finally picked up the book as an adult. And I loved it! It’s fascinating to see the differences between Almanzo’s childhood and Laura’s. Almanzo’s family was obviously better off, financially, and it shows. They ate massive amounts of food, their house was huge, they had tons of livestock. When you contrast that with Laura’s very modest upbringing, it really makes their relationship all the more complex. The children have loved listening to this book, as well…like me, they really like the descriptions of the food. They’ve also been astounded at how often Almanzo eats donuts, (and apple pie!), for breakfast.

Reading aloud is one of my favorite parts of homeschooling. Yes, I’m sure I’d still be reading to them even if they were in public school, but I’ve been introduced to many new, wonderful books I otherwise never would have known about. There’s something very fun about sharing a book that even I’ve never read before, (like The Hundred Dresses),  with the children. And it’s even more fun to share my old favorites with them, and see their reactions to the story!


We’re still working on getting back into our school routine following Christmas. It can be kind of a rough transition!

Last week, as Moose had off Monday and Tuesday, we all decided not to start back to school until Wednesday. And since we were only having three days of school, I decided that we wouldn’t do our full schedule, but ease back in, doing religion, math, and Latin only. Oh, and reading. There’s always reading going on here.

This week, however, means a return to our full school routine. Five full days, and full subjects. So, we’re doing the above, plus handwriting, grammar, spelling, copywork/dictation, history, science, and electives. Did I forget anything? It seems like a lot after having Thanksgiving and Christmas school, and then vacation. I can’t believe we were getting all of this done on a regular basis earlier in the school year!

I think that this is almost harder on me as a teacher than it is on my students. I’d gotten accustomed to having time for laundry and dishes and cleaning and whatever else during the day. Now I’m having to remember how to fit it all in around our schoolwork, and I’ve increased Ladybug’s school time on top of it! I’m remembering why I was having a hard time keeping up with the folding prior to Christmas…maybe even prior to Thanksgiving! And I’m also wondering when I’m ever going to get around to taking down the Christmas decorations!

Routines are good, for teachers and students. And once we’re used to our routine again, (hopefully sometime before Chickadee is born, at which point, all routines will be shot all to heck anyway!), it will be a great benefit to us in getting everything done. Until then, however, there’s a struggle of trying to figure out how to get everything done, and in an efficient manner, if possible.

Christmas Crafts–Ornaments

Our favorite kind of Christmas craft every year is making Christmas ornaments. These are particularly good, because they’re so keepable, unlike pictures and other paper crafts, which often get wrinkled or torn and have to be thrown away. Over the last few years, we’ve made many different ornaments, some variations on the same theme, but all of them different in some way. They also make great Christmas gifts for special people like grandparents, pastors, and Sunday School teachers!

We’ve done very basic candy cane and wreath ornaments with beads on pipe cleaners…I think every child in America has made one of these at some point!

Glitter ornaments are another standard, and they look so pretty in the lights on the tree:


Pipe cleaners are useful in so many ways…these came from a pattern I found in a book about Christmas during World War II. Super easy, but the metallic stems make them so sparkly and pretty on the tree!

We’ve made a lot of stars/snowflakes…it can be difficult to tell the difference! Some have come from craft kits, and some are simply done following a pattern, and strung on wire or pipe cleaners.

We’ve made other things from kits, too, including one attempt at foam. I really don’t care for foam projects in general, but the penguins we made did turn out really cute!



This year, for something new, we made wreath ornaments using buttons. For some reason, the buttons, as opposed to the beads used in years past, were particularly entertaining to the children!

We’ve also made ornaments using bells:


We even made jointed Nutcracker ornaments. These look really cool, but due to some, uh…teacher error…they didn’t turn out quite as planned. They’re still fun, though, and they’re even posable! Turkey designed his to look like the San Francisco Ballet’s Nutcracker Prince.

Of course, sometimes it’s fun to let children design and create their own ornaments, too!

Next year, I want to make jingle bell ornaments, glitter ball ornaments, and maybe a paper ball ornament, (even though I was terrible at making those as a child!), but after that, I’m out of ideas! That’s OK, though, because other than this year’s wreath, Ladybug hasn’t made any of the other ornaments, so I can just start the whole cycle over again with her!