Friday, May 30, 2014

Thankful Thursday: Work & Play

We've been busy bees here... wrapping up certain school subjects, enjoying the nice weather, errands, and last sports stuff. A little bug also swept through a bit ago. I am THANKFUL that is all over with now.

I am THANKFUL for imagination and simple play and love of babies.

And for escapes into Narnia. (It's our first read-through of Narnia and the kids love it!)

I am THANKFUL for spring dandelions. Always.

And for slowly freshening up the landscaping. It's steady work and calming and satisfying.

I am THANKFUL for these silly kids, who drive me crazy more times than I ever thought possible, but then there comes that moment, that moment where it is just perfect.

I am THANKFUL for the freedom to homeschool and for local homeschooling families. And for end of the year parties.

I am THANKFUL for green. I just love new growth on fir trees.

And for ant hotels. As part of their insect study, Mr. A had to create a bug hotel. He wanted to attract ants and he certainly was successful. It also attracted a larger, four-footed, furred friend of the cat variety who has decided to make his new home here. Each morning I wake to hear the cat meowing, moving around the house, following us. He is a sweet thing aside from that.

I am THANKFUL for vegetables! For me, for the kids... They taste good, keep you full, and are healthy. I am even more THANKFUL this sweet girl had a few bites of broccoli raw. She will not eat vegetables or fruit. Have you ever heard of such a thing? So I rejoice when she actually does take a bite.

I am THANKFUL for libraries and books and reading. Mr. A checked out this book yesterday and he is nearly finished. It is a biography of the makers of the game Minecraft. Mr. A is extremely excited to start learning to code with the help of my husband (he is a computer software developer who taught himself way back when).

I am THANKFUL for sweet faces. Miss Z is certainly full of more sugar than spice, though she certainly has spunk when necessary. It is a pleasant change of pace from the last two toddlers.

I am THANKFUL for fresh paint and cleaning up. I am continuing the trim work upstairs that I started when we first moved in. It takes forever to paint trim (for me anyway). It sure looks good though, having crisp white trim instead of the yellowed, dirty-looking once-upon-a-time white trim that was there.

Do I really need to say how THANKFUL I am for this man and for big smiles? :)

I am THANKFUL for a safe and successful visit to PA for a karate tournament. It was a long day, but an interesting one, and my husband came home with a few trophies under his belt.

And lastly, I just love, love, love these curls!

Can you believe it is almost June and the end of Easter? Where is the time flying?

God bless!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Homeschool Science: Intro to Insects

I haven't blogged too much about school lately. For one reason, it takes A LOT of work to blog about school. Pictures, links, recording everything... It is simply too much to keep up with. Another reason is that school feels more like work than fun for a while now. Who wants to hear about that? Plus, I do not feel a need to keep up the Joneses on this one.

However... The kids and I started our insect study two weeks ago and I can tell it is going to be a lot of fun! I thought it would be nice to share since I do like to include homeschool stuff now and again on the blog, especially plans that actually work. And I definitely like to keep things relatively simple (for me) yet hands-on, which I am sure would appeal to many homeschool moms out there!

We have had great success using Apologia Science using the Elementary books by Jeannie Fulbright. Many are put off by the young earth point of view, but in all honesty, it rarely bugs me. We have done Astronomy, Swimming Creatures, Land Animals, and now Flying Creatures. Of these four, the young earth view point was most prominent in Land Animals. I find, however, that it is very apparent when the author is arguing her point and I could easily skip over the information. For an independent reader you would of course have to discuss. Unless of course you believe in a young earth, then you will have no issues!

FYI: As Catholics we are free to use our brains and believe whichever theory works for us as long as God initiated it all and is the creator of all, that Adam and Eve were real people, and that all humans have souls. (This is a basic way to state that. If I am in any way wrong, please correct me fellow Catholics!)

Now, for the first lesson...

Before we even began our insect study, we had a nice surprise with the accidental "birth" of a caterpillar in our basement which we released outdoors.

The next week we started our insect study (using lesson 9 in the Flying Creatures book). The kids learned about what makes an insect an insect, whether they are beneficial or not, and the body parts of an insect.

After reading, we worked on notebooks (that I create to each child's level -- see below for details), and did a few experiments.

For me, I was a little iffy going into this lesson. I understand the importance of insects but that does not mean I want to go around catching them! But, the kids dived in whole-heartedly which helps my enthusiasm.

The most important part of this lesson is to catch a real-live insect, preferably one that you can really see all the parts! We used a large ant most days. Look at all the insect parts after you read about their function. I used a mason jar and punched some small holes in top (not too large or the insect can get out).

We did this lesson over two weeks so we had to catch various insects as we always released our insects where we found them.

After observing our insect and its parts, we put the bug jar in the refrigerator for a few hours. Guess what happened? You killed it! No, despite what my kids thought, we were simply observing what it means to be cold-blooded. The insects (a bee and a ladybug) quickly warmed up and moved around.

We also "killed" an ant by drowning it. Do you know how hard it is to drown an ant? He was a fighter. Don't worry. I didn't kill the ant either. We were simply observing how an insect has the ability to prevent drowning by closing its spiracles (the holes it uses to breathe). Mr. D poured salt on him and the kids gently blew the salt off and he started twitching. Once dry, he was off again. (The salt speeds up the drying process, no harm done.)

One of my goals this year is to have Mr. A start leading the experiments: following directions and reading aloud to the others, answering questions about what he sees and what he thinks will happen as well as recording what actually does occur. You know, sciency stuff. (We make up words in my home.)

A neat supplement the kids are having fun with is the book DK Ultimate Sticker Book: Bugs. They are eager to help each other. It is a good visualization. The younger kids can match stickers to their shapes while the older kids can read information to everyone.

We also watched the first episode of Life in the Undergrowth by David Attenborough. It includes any invertebrate, not just insects. The close-up visuals are amazing and it was informative as well. The boys were riveted.

And of course our notebooks are typically pretty fun and even hands-on at times, like our "creepy crawly moves" from Miss L's notebook.

And Mr. D's making a "bug on a log" snack for everyone as part of his notebook.

To wrap up the lesson, Mr. A, with the other kids' help, made an insect "zoo." You could do this in a variety of ways. Since we have plans to actually raise a few different insects, I suggested an "open" zoo, something to attract the insect he wanted (ants) where they could come and go as they pleased. You could make a natural spot outdoors or a container inside. Mr. A chose to use a plastic bowl filled with items he thought ants would like (dirt, rocks, leaves, food).

The morning after he set this out I checked the bowl to find all the food was gone. I am pretty sure he attracted a large, fur-covered kind of animal. ;) Mr. A added popcorn and by dinner we had an ant circus going on. The kids loved it and was amazed at the ants carrying big pieces of popcorn.

Fun Books from the Library:
**My favorites**


Miss Lilly (Pre-K/K)
  • Coloring Page (A First Look at Insects)
  • Do you like insects?
  • Make Your Own Bug (Miss L drew on a separate paper her very own bug using what she learned about insects.)
  • One neat thing I learned narration box
  • Bug action cards
  • Parts of an insect illustration (can color in)
  • The Insect Song (inspiration)
  • Make a Ladybug
  • Hands-On page (kids glue on pictures from their activities and glue here)
Mr. D (1st/2nd)
  • Coloring Page (A First Look at Insects)
  • What did I learn? (illustration/narration)
  • Parts of an Insect fill-in illustration (inspiration)
  • What do you know about insects? vocabulary fill-in
  • Pocket for insect memory game (print on cardstock)
  • Booklet "How to Make Bugs on a Log" (I printed four pages to 1 page to make it smaller)
  • "What is an Insect?" reader
  • Hands-On page (kids glue on pictures from their activities and glue here)
  • Latin/Greek words: diptera, exoskeleton
  • Coloring Page (A First Look at Insects)
  • What did I learn? (illustration/narration)
  • Vocabulary -- choose 2 words from the list to define using the book or a dictionary
  • Parts of an Insect fill-in illustration
  • I am an Insect (circle which are insects)
  • Hands-On: Insects are Cold-Blooded
  • Hands-On: Revive an Insect
  • Hands-On: My Insect Zoo
And of course I have a Flying Creatures pinterest board if you are interested in following that kind of thing.

I do not promise to blog all of our insect lessons, but I will try!

Now, off to learn about how insects make babies!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Our Lady of Fatima

Most holy Virgin, who hast deigned to come to Fatima, to reveal the treasures of graces hidden in the recitation of the Rosary, inspire our hearts with a sincere love of this devotion, that meditating on the Mysteries of Our Redemption recalled therein, we may obtain the conversion of Russia. And (here name other favors you are praying for); which we ask you in this Novena, for greater glory of God, for your own honor, and for the good of souls. Amen.

My parish has a traveling Our Lady of Fatima statue and this week it is our turn to have her in our home, which fits perfectly with today's feast day.

Yesterday, the kids watched The Day the Sun Danced: The True Story of Fatima. It was part of the bag of prayers and rosaries and aids that travel along with the statue. The kids enjoyed the show.

I am putting into place something that has been on my wish list for a few years. Each month on the 13th the kids and I are going to specifically remember the events of Fatima, pray specifically for world peace on that day, learn a new prayer given to us by Mary during those visitations, and do a little something special. In October, we will do something a little bigger to wrap up the story of Fatima.

We are praying a Rosary decade daily. Today we added the Rosary Decade Prayer that the prayer book we were using does not include:

O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell. Lead all souls to Heaven, especially those most in need of Thy mercy.

We were going to color a page (like this one) but Mr. A spiked another fever, the day turned out middle-of-the-summer hot, and we just vegged. Hey, it was a birthday present to myself. :)

Monday, May 12, 2014

Mary, My Example

Earlier today, I read a simple post from Catholic Sistas: Mary Helps Me Mother by Allison H. and found it thought-provoking. It is a simple read so even if it's been a long day, check out the post. Trust me, your brain can handle it. :)

And that's perfect. Being a mom is messy. It's exhausting. It's exhilarating and beautiful and full of worry and anxiety. At the end of the day, we need to look back in thanks, in forgiveness, and look to something more to inspire us to wake for another round.

Sometimes it feels as if everyone and the world are against motherhood. Sometimes it feels as if we have plenty of problems just with our own kids, let alone strangers!

I know that for me, in the midst of the craziness of raising young children, I often feel alone (even when I know I have support) and at times, even God in whatever form (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) feels at a distance. Intellectually, I know He is there and I am thankful for that, but these moments are more and more when I look to Mary. I allow Mary to draw me closer to her Son. Jesus understands suffering, but Mary understands being a mother.

Mary, help me to let go. There are circumstances and personalities I will never be able to change.

Mary, help me to follow in your example: "Let it be done to me according to Thy word."

Mary, help me to raise my children in the Catholic faith.

Mary, help me to realize my children's God-given talents, and to push them along if necessary.

Mary, help me to allow my children to grow up.

Mary, help me to continue to pray for my children always, from this life into the next.

Mary, take my mother's heart to your Son, Jesus. You know my desires, my needs, my sufferings.

Hail Mary, hello, how are you?
I greet you with love,
And I thank you for being available.
Deeply, I breathe your roses,
The twelve fresh roses you place in my spirit
Every morning when I say hello to you.

Full of grace are you,
Grace spilling over Heaven's boundaries
Into my world, living water, bread and wine,
The unmerited favor of God
That you come carrying to me,
Your arms always full of gifts.

The Lord is with thee,
Jesus Christ the Messiah is with you,
And you teach me how to recognize
That the Lord is with me.

Blessed art thou amoung women,
Glowing with love for Jesus,
Pure blessedness never tainted
But alive with holy beauty.

And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus,
The most blessed of humanity,
Delivered through you, Virgin Mary.
Jesus, the most cursed of humanity,
Who became a curse for me
So that I might be blessed
With his resurrection life.

Holy Mary, Mother of God,
Teach me to value motherhood,
Help me pray for mothers and fathers
To love and support each other.
Show me how God loves you.

Pray for us sinners now
And at the hour of our death.
Pray that I can live each moment
Consecrated to love, to Christ,
That I recognize each now
As the moment of salvation
So that I die prepared for eternal life.
Pray that I can crucify my passions,
Those passions that make me a sinner,
And that I can die to sin on the cross with Jesus
As you look on weeping and praying
But joyous, knowing that resurrection follows.

Hail Mary, full of grace,
The Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women
And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
Pray for us sinners
Now and at the hour of our death.