Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Pieter Bruegel

During the fall session of our mini co-op, we did picture studies of Pieter Bruegel the elder. This was something new we added to the co-op this year as we are trying to gear our co-op toward Charlotte Mason.

I feel that the picture study was good to have. We started each co-op meeting with opening exercises (prayer, Pledge of Allegiance, a song and announcements). The nursery was dismissed and we began our picture study.

Each child ages 4 and up was given a copy of the picture face down. When I gave the signal, everyone turned their picture over to study it in silence. No talking is allowed at this time. They get about 90 seconds to 2 minutes to carefully examine their picture. Then I asked them what they see in the picture. Hands shoot up as everyone is eager to share what they see. I will tell them what I know about the picture. For example, Pieter Bruegel painted a work entitled "Census at Bethlehem". Kids will see so many things going on in the picture, but when I tell them the picture depicts a Bible story, I can hear the ooo's and aahh's in the room.

When our discussion is over, I dismiss the 4 to 6 year olds to their class (only because this is a non-writing group) and I pass out a notebook page along with a smaller copy of the picture we are studying and ask the kids to write whatever they want about the picture. It can be a list of words or a paragraph or anything in between, but they must write something. When they ask, I (or another parent) helps with spelling.

Here are the 4 pictures we studied this fall.

Peasant Wedding

Census at Bethlehem


Children's Games

Monday, October 4, 2010

Canning Tomatoes

As I sat down to enjoy lunch at church on Sunday, a dear friend sat next to me and asked if I had a need for tomatoes. Silly question. Due to our two moves in the last 6 months, we were not able to put a garden in and at the current time, our grocery envelope was empty with payday being 5 days away. So we were happy to take her surplus tomatoes.

I managed to get everything set up to can the tomatoes and noticed Dd(11) on the computer and Ds(6) watching mindless television. I announced that all screens needed to be shut off and much to my surprise, there was little resistance. Of course, the kids came into the kitchen where I was and became curious when they spotted the pots on the stove and the empty jars on the counter. After they asked, I invited them to join me.

DD(11) loves anything to do with homemaking. She mimics anything I do. If I get out a sewing project, she dives right in with a project of her own. So it didn't surprise me when she slipped right over to the stove to help.

However, DS(6) did surprise me. I often have this tendency to think "He's too young for this" and every time, I am wrong. He jumped right in and loved peeling the tomatoes.

We only canned 4 jars, but the experience is worth it. If nothing else, the kids need to see how to do this stuff.

I'm sure Charlotte Mason says something about kids in the kitchen, but I am unable to come up with anything at the moment. Even though I can't quote her, I still think she would approve.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Coal Mining Unit Study

In the month of August, our family became familiar with the coal mining industry. I felt it was important for two reasons:

1. It is part of our family's heritage. My grandfather was a coal miner, as well as many of my mother's uncles and cousins.

2. It is a huge industry in Pennsylvania. Although coal was associated with the steel industry when I was growing up, it is now a major component in the manufacture of electricity now.

Subject areas covered through our study:

History - (specifically Pennsylvania history) From its beginnings in the 1800's to the present day, there have been many changes with technology and mine safety.

Science - Geology - a study of rock and rock layering; the differences between anthricite coal and bituminous coal

Science - Chemistry - Coal burns! So does methane gas which can be commonly found in coal mines.

Geography - We looked at maps of the United States that mark where coal deposits are

Language Arts - We read many books from the library on the topic.

Language Arts, Living History - We interviewed a family member who was a foreman in the coal mines in Greene County and retired within recent years from the coal mines.

Uncle David worked the coal mines since 1969 and said that he would still be in the mines if he could be. He retired a few years ago for medical reasons.

Show and tell - Here Uncle David is showing us his belt and all the gadgets on it and his lunch pail. I was surprised that they still use these types of pails today for their lunches. They seem so old-fashioned, but there is a purpose for their design.

Language Arts, Living History - We are still waiting to interview the pastor from our church who grew up in a coal mining camp.

Resources used:

Books - there are way more books out there than what I have listed here. These are just our 3 favorites.

This book is a favorite. It gives first hand accounts of miner's experiences in the mines.

Even though this is a Christmas book, it has lots of good information in it. Very Charlotte Mason.

Another living book as it is an account of everything that happened in the mine and is told by the miners themselves. Since it is told by the miners, I would advise parents to review the book first. There is some swearing in it. I read it out loud to my family and "edited" the swear words.

Field trips
Quecreek Mine, Somerset, Pa
In 2005, 9 miners were trapped underground for 77 hours. Miraculously, they all made it out alive. The site where the men were brought out of the earth has a monument of the event as well as a visitor's center with lots of information about the incident and the coal mining industry in general.

Tour Ed Mine, Tarentum, Pa
This was a great hands-on field trip that took us 1/2 mile underground into an old mine. Once inside, we walked through time as we explored coal mining in it's earliest days through the technological changes over about 100 years. Outside of the mine is a museum with artifacts from the company store and

King Coal Festival, Carmichaels, Pa
Here, we were able to see the Coal parade that included many floats about the history of coal as well as all the regular local marching bands. At the end of the parade was the Bitumonous Coal Queen and her court. Afterward, we went to the local firehall where there were displays of artifacts from the coal industry.

At the King Coal Festival, we had the opportunity to talk with old coal miners. The man in the blue shirt started in the coal mine when he was 12 years old back in 1939. He was full of information and took the time to explain the artifacts and share his experiences with us.

Online resources

Oracle Thinkquest - Mining Fun: This website is loaded with coloring pages, games and activities that went well with our study.

American Coal Foundation - This resource helped us to get into the science of coal.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Visit to Quecreek Mine

On July 28, 2002, 9 miners were lifted out of the earth where they were trapped for 77 hours. It is an incredible story of how they all made it out alive.

On our way to Pittsburgh to visit my mom, we stopped at the Quecreek Mine rescue site in Somerset, Pa for a few moments.

If you have the opportunity to study this story, I encourage you to research it and share it with your children. It is a story of how these men came together and survived. It is also a story about the sanctity of life. There are a few books written and the book I appreciate the most is Our Story: 77 Hours That Tested Our Friendship and Our Faith as told to Jeff Goodell (see link below). I will warn you that there is some swearing in the book because it is a book of first-hand accounts of what happened.

This goes along with our study of the coal industry, the history of coal mining, and the science of coal. In the next couple of days, I plan to create a post of the resources I have found on this topic.

For now, here are some pictures from our visit.

This is the actual shaft that the miners were brought back to the surface through.

The shuttle.

The inscription on the book reads:
"They who work the mines
And they who read great books
Are but one, their name is human...
By the labor of their hands,
through the exercise of their minds
And in the strength of their spirit,
They will prevail."
7 May 2002

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Quilting Handicrafts

I first fell in love with quilting when I was pregnant with my first. I had borrowed some Quilt in a Day videos from the library and was hooked. As with any other skill, I made some mistakes in the beginning, but quickly learned that anything worthwhile doesn't include shortcuts. So even with the Quilt in a Day, it takes me several so that I am sure to do it right. This particular quilt requires 4 different square patterns and I want the quilt to be large enough to cover my king-sized bed when it's finished.

Recently, I have been itching to make a quilt. I had this project in a drawer that I started about 5 years ago, but didn't get past the first stages. I was thrilled to find out that through both of our recent moves, the quilt pieces still lay in a bag in a bottom drawer of an old dresser. It was like finding an old friend.

So I picked up right where I left off. The beautiful part of it is that DD11 sits in the room with me and knits while I quilt. She often reminds me of the book by Beverly Lewis "Just Like Mama" and I love it, savor it, and pray these days last a long, long time.
I also believe this is what Charlotte Mason meant by "masterly inactivity". It's a time during the day that is not structured, but something worthwhile is going on.

Once all the squares are done and put together, I will begin hand quilting the entire project. Yes, it takes a long time, but there is something theraputic about stitching each quilt. It's a time to reflect and a time to pray and a time to be still and know He is God. All the while, we are making useful things - handicrafts - that will become a part of our home.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

What Grade Are You In?

My youngest is now 6. I guess that means he's not in Kindergarten any more. He's had it in his mind that he has been in 1st grade since about April.

My oldest is 13. I guess that means she's entering 8th grade.

My "middlest" is nearly 12 and that would mean she is entering 7th grade.

All along, grade level really meant nothing to me. Once the children reached a certain age, people began to ask them, "What grade are you in?" At first the girls would give me a bewildered look. I would then have to calculate on my fingers - "Okay, subtract 5 from their age and that gives you grade level. 7 minus 5 is 2. So I guess that means you're in Second Grade."

Does it matter? Really? When registering for VBS (or any of the other multitude of activities we register for), why can't they go by age?

At various times we would have a scenario like this - 9 year old in Math-U-See Gamma level (What's Gamma????? It's the third book so is that 3rd grade?????), while completing Language Lessons for Intermediate grades, while reading Ivanhoe (unabridged). So just looking at curriculum, what grade would that be?

Again I ask, does it matter? Really?

High school is a whole different ball game and the grade level needs to be more defined. At that point we are creating transcripts that will be necessary for post-secondary education and/or employment*. So that starts at about age 14. In the meantime, according to Pa homeschool law, grade level is determined by the home educating parent. If it doesn't matter to the parent, then what?

*I am not saying here that the law requires transcripts. However, I do highly recommend creating transcripts for your child during the high school years for reasons I mentioned in this post.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Even Though Life is Happening, Learning Continues

My daughters' standardized test scores came in the mail yesterday.

Let me back up for a moment here.

The last 12 months have not been the greatest. Due to many things going on in our personal lives, "school" was shoved to the side many times. About 2 months ago, I began fretting over it and was talking to a dear friend. She set me straight by asking me, "What would you tell another mom who called you and was fretting like this?" She stopped me in my tracks. I do evaluations for homeschoolers in Pennsylvania and I see many parents who are worried to death. Typically, I encourage them because I know that not all learning comes from textbooks. So my response to her was "I'd tell them to relax." She then informed me that I need to take my own advice and she was right.

The scores came today and it looks like we didn't miss a beat. Both of my girls scored right where they should. I say this because their scores are consistent with previous years' scores. So now DD13 is definitley ready for 8th grade and DD11 is ready for 7th. I didn't test DS6 yet because I truly don't think it's necessary.

So all of this to say that I think a Charlotte Mason Edcuation works! On the days we don't do "school", we are still learning and thinking.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Geography Club

Our first Geography Club meeting for the year will be this Friday. Geography Club meetings will be 3 hours long with a short break in the middle. Each month we will have a different focus based on the 5 themes of geography and activities are found through the National Council for Geographic Education.

This Friday we will be looking at state quarters and license plates. Once we take a close look at them, we will then divide the quarters into regions to see if there are any similiarities. During the meeting we will also do a scrap map activity and at this moment I am trying to decide if I should have the kids identify the 50 states on a blank outline map. We did that two years ago. Each meeting started with that and each month they could see how many more they knew. It was an activity that was well recieved which is why I'm considering it again this year.

Monday, June 14, 2010

And Now We Are 6

Happy Birthday

January 19, 2004

Fall 2004

May 2005

Christmas 2006

Christmas Program 2007

May 2009 with his best buddy

First summer on the dirt bike!!! He has waited FOREVER for this moment!

June 2010
Yesterday, he made his birthday cake. It was from a mix, but he cracked the eggs and put in the water and oil. After it cooled, he iced it as well. Today, he will place a Transformer on top of it with the candles. He is such a big boy.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Another Way We Are Saving Money

This is a neat little gadget that my mother gave my husband for Christmas. Since he is the only coffee drinker in our house, it was the perfect gift. Until the K Cups ran out. We went to purchase more and cannot find them for less than 50 cents per cup. That seems expensive to us since you can brew a whole pot of coffee for less than that. So for a while we used the coffee "tea bags" with it. That worked, but was still a little pricey.

When we are out and about, we will often stop to get a cold drink at some point. It became cost prohibitive when our financial crisis hit at the end of last summer. So we stopped doing that as much. We still did it though (every time we were looking over our shoulders for Dave Ramsey - eek!).

Earlier this spring I found a little cooler at a church rummage sale. Perfect! I started taking drinks with us when we went out. Usually bottled water, but sometimes tea or other drinks that I purchased at the store. It was cheaper than going to a convenience store, but still not cheap.

Then one day, I was looking at my husband's Christmas gift and I thought I'd try to brew iced tea with it. At that moment, I started a new trend in our house.

Now I am brewing the tea we take with us when we go out and about. There are many benefits here. #1 being cost. A tea bag costs pennies compared to the $1.50 to $2 we were spending on drinks at convenience stores.
The side benefit is that I know what is in that bottle now. I don't use corn syrup or artificial sweetners or chemical preservatives. I use tea and honey or raw sugar and sometimes I squeeze lemon juice in. Labeling the bottles is very important. When I brew fruit teas for the kids, it can sometimes be a hard sell if the children don't know what's in the bottle.

I haven't calculated costs, yet. However, I know this is just better.

I brew the tea right in the bottle with the water from our Kreurig machine. When it's finished brewing, I add water to fill the bottle and stick it in the refrigerator. Hubby likes having the individual servings in bottles to grab and go.

Laundry Soap update

The laundry soap that Lucy and I made is working out great. Our clothes are clean and we are paying a fraction of the cost of commercial laundry detergent. I'm thrilled with it.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Our Property

Through the unfolding of events over the last year, we have found ourselves on a piece of property that is about 12 acres and wooded. Some think we are doing well because we got this big house on this big piece of property when in reality we are renting. The rent is less than half of what our mortgage was in our previous house. Despite several efforts over the last 4 or 5 years, our house didn't sell. It has come to a point where the house is in foreclosure. I won't go into great detail here, but let's just say we are feeling the economic crunch with many others right now. I publish these things so the truth will be out there.

Nonetheless, we are making the best of our current situation. Through the woods we have cut a walking trail. The trail is rough right now, but walkable. It has been a wonderful bonding experience for our family to have a project such as this in front of us. The nice part is that it really didn't cost us much money. My husband had to purchase a new chainsaw blade. Other than that, we have a lot of "sweat equity" in it.

We are estimating that the trail is about 1/3 to 1/2 mile long. It starts near the house and ends near the house. Every day we find footprints left by the wildlife that wanders the woods at night. Talk about an excellent opportunity for nature study!

We are looking forward to many, many adventures on a trail that we can call our own.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Laundry Soap

While at the Tractor Supply Store purchasing pullets this spring, I noticed this issue of Mary Janes Farm magazine on the rack near the check out. It caught my attention and I thought "What the heck". (Truth be known, I'm a sucker for magazines. Don't know why. I just love them.)

I found a recipe for laundry soap and was intrigued. After doing more research, I found that making your own laundry detergent is economical. Hmmmmmm....

So tonight, we made laundry detergent. I haven't done the calculations yet and I'm waiting to see if this actually works. In the meantime, I'll share pictures.

These are the ingredients. I found these items at the grocery store in the laundry aisle. (Confession: As much as I hate that place, I checked "Wally World" first. They did not have all of these items. So much for one-stop shopping.)

My husband even got in on the action. He likes the saving money part.