Thursday, June 25, 2009

What Xavier's Reading in the New Way

Xavier is doing a ton of reading. It is more assigned reading than he has ever done before. For the most part, he enjoys it. He complains about a couple assignments, but once he sits down and starts reading, he is fine with it.

I will seperate these books into two groups, Ambleside Online and Sonlight. The Ambleside Online books are, for the most part, challenging for him. The Sonlight books are excellent books, but are right at his reading level. The great part about this is that he has books that force his reading skills to improve, as well as books that enable him to increase his reading speed. As a result, his reading skills are improving by leaps and bounds. I will update this list as he finishes reading books, with comments as to whether or not he liked the books. Asterisks indicate what he is currently reading. With no further ado, Xavier's reading list.

Ambleside Online:

*An Island Story (He is listening to this on audio. It is available as a free download here. He loves this.)
*This Country of Ours
*Discovery of New Worlds
*The Little Duke
Joan of Arc by Diane Stanley
*Tree in the Trail by Holling C. Holling (love, love, love this book)
Seabird by Holling C. Holling
*Burgess Animal Book (I cannot say enough about this book. It is available in the public domain here. Go check it out!)
*Tales From Shakespeare by Charles Lamb (Xavier loves this book.)
*Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher(Xavier's favorite book so far.)
The Wind in the Willows
Robin Hood

Sonlight Books:

Story of the USA 1
North American Indians by Douglas Gorsline He enjoyed this book. It is a picture book, and a good first book about American Indians.
Pedro's Journal Xavier gave me his first spontaneous narration after reading this book. He and Gabriel discussed it on the way to Tae Kwon Do with great enthusiasm.
*Landmark History of the American People
What's the Big Idea Ben Franklin?
Can't You Make Them Behave, King George?
And Then What Happened, Paul Revere?
The Winter at Valley Forge
Story of the USA 2
If You Were There When They Signed the Constitution
American Adventures 1
Story of Eli Whitney
The Lewis and Clark Expedition
Imprisoned in the Golden City
Erie Canal

Mother West Wind's Children Xavier loved this book. Interestingly, it was written by the author of The Burgess Animal Book, which is one of his favorite ongoing book. I'm finding that I would recommend anything by Thornton Burgess.
Vostaas: White Buffalo's Story of Plains Indian Life He really did not care for this. However, it is a good entry level chapter book about Plains Indians.
*A Lion to Guard Us
*Pocahontas and the Strangers
Squanto, Friend of the Pilgrims
The Thanksgiving Story
Courage of Sarah Noble
Bears on Hemlock Mountain
The Skippack School
Matchlock Gun
Ben Franklin of Old Philadelphia
Mr. Revere and I
Meet George Washington
Phoebe the Spy
George Washington: Young Leader
Martha Washington
The Cabin Faced West
Meet Thomas Jefferson
Sarah Whitcher's Story
Naya Nuki
Robert Fulton, Boy Craftsman
Sarah, Plain and Tall
Tikta' liktak
Stone Fox

*Walk the World's Rim
Sign of the Beaver
Witch of Blackbird Pond
Johnny Tremain
Toliver's Secret
Carry On, Mr. Bowditch
Just Morgan Had a Horse
Calico Bush
The Journeyman
Swift Rivers

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

New Blue Belts

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Dominic Turns 6

Dominic has been counting down the days to his 6th birthday for a month. When he woke up yesterday morning, his first words were, "I'm 6-years-old now." For some reason, this birthday took on gargantuan proportions for him.

He has ruthlessly gone through his things deciding what things are for babies, and what things are appropriate for 6-year-olds. He decided that he was too old to be the one to feed the cats. We helped him rethink that one.

This afternoon, he was looking at a picture of himself and said, "That's what I looked at when I was 3? I was too cute!"

Tonight, he made the comment, "I'm so big, I feel like an old man."

Apparently, turning six is a momentous occasion, and he's the only one who knew. Fortunately, he made sure we all knew, and we took proper measures to celebrate this fantastic event. We went to Chuck E. Cheese, during the summer! We never go there when school is out. Then, we opened presents. He is now a cowboy with boots, hat, vest, spurs, a water gun 6-shooter and holster, a water gun rifle, and a hunting knife with a sheath that goes on his belt. He is feeling pretty spiffy. We had an ice cream cake and he used the 'Celebrate' plate. Of course, in his opinion, the most important part of his birthday was making sure he got enough pinches. Unfortunately, it looks like he'll only be growing 4 inches this year. Ah well, he went to bed happy.

Monday, June 22, 2009


Gabriel: I have a better mental picture of Bellatrix LaStrange than the movie.

Dominic: You have mental picture? Can I see it?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Home Improvements

When we moved into our house, one of the things we had big plans for remodeling. Unfortunately, Gary has been gone a lot, and the only thing done, before now, was adding a small deck. With the advent of Tae Kwon Do in our lives, it became obvious that we would need some place to work out. Previously, we had a small area in the huge shop that we used to workout. However, it was not sufficient to do our forms or sparring. So, Gary and I decided that we could take the space that we had originally planned to make a 'man room' and transform it into a workout area. This particular project would be fairly inexpensive and easy to accomplish. We had to remove two doors and two walls, cut a new door through the laundry room into the shop, put a door in a new spot for the workout area, and add a wall between the shop and the workout area. Gary started working on it within a week of being home.

The area designated as our future workout area consisted of about half the shop, part of the basement hallway, and our old schoolroom. Our basement is cut up into small rooms and hallways. It included a long, unfinished portion under our kitchen and dining room. We were using this portion as a shop and for storage. It was approximately 30' by 18'. Since Gary does not do as much woodwork as he would like to, he really did not need the entire thing for a shop. Then, there was a small room that was 8' by 7', a long hallway that ran almost the length of the basement, another room that is 14' by 17', a bathroom in the middle of the finished side, a laundry room (with the furnace and water heater) in the middle of the basement with the stairs running down the back of that. There is also a family room that is approximately 24' by 15'. It is quite a large basement. It just was not cut up in a good way. So, we are starting to re cut it. :) Eventually, it will be much better.

Right now, this is what we've got going on. Gary tore the walls out of the room that was 8' by 7'.

And used the wood he took from those walls to build a wall halfway through the shop.
That left him with two doors. He cut a whole for a door in the laundry room, which backs up to the shop. This set up is much better than it was before, since it allows a straight shot out the basement door for larger woodworking projects.

He will be adding the other door at the bottom of the stairs to enclose the workout room.

We got used mats from our dojang. All we really have left to do is add the sheet rock, paint, and hang the door. It is already usable. And, it is being used every day. Thanks, Gary!

Thursday, June 18, 2009


A couple weeks ago, I was quizzing Dominic on things to see what I need to teach him. Here were a few of the questions and answers:

Q: What do you do when you call 911?

A: Tell them there's a fire and that I'm not the cause of it.

Q: Should you have electronics near water?

A: No, because water is a conductor.

Q: What should you do about strangers? (note: I'm thinking, be polite, but don't go anywhere with them. Don't get close enough for them to grab you, if you're alone. Never get in a car with anyone...)

A (at the top of his lungs) : Break the hold! Defend yourself! Fighting stance!

Q: How do you locate a stud?

A: What's a stud?

W: How do you pump gasoline?

A: I'm only 5, Mom.

Q: Do you know how to iron a shirt?

A: Of course not, I'm too little!

Q: How do you get a job?

A: Well, first, I have to get older.

It was great. Yes, I know some of the questions were ridiculous. It was worth hearing his responses. I just wish I had been recording it. I can't remember most of them. My favorite was his 911 answer, though. Of course, he would think of that. After all, he already has a record.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

What Gabriel's Reading for School

The question might be better asked, "What isn't Gabriel reading?" Here is a book list for what we are doing right now. Since we did not start this until March, and we've had a lot of time off since then, we are still in the first trimester of the 7th year. I have cut out some of the books, either because I didn't like them, or because they were too hard to find (out of print, etc). For more information, please check out Ambleside Online. They have links to a lot of the books online, as well as a weekly schedule. (Strikethrough represents what Gabriel has finished. + represents what he is currently reading.)

* Used during the first trimester
** Used during the second trimester
*** Used during the third trimester.


* + Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People
* William of Malmesbury's account of the Battle of Hastings
** The Magna Carta
** In Freedom's Cause by G.A. Henty
*** History of Deeds Done Beyond the Sea by William Tyre
*** The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey


* The Life of King Alfred by Asser
** *** Joan of Arc by Mark Twain


* ** + The Brendan Voyage by Tim Severin Gabriel just made the comment, "It's getting really interesting. I'm learning a lot about sailing! It's the most non-non-fiction book I've ever read."
*** How the Heather Looks by Joan Bodger


*Whatever Happened to Penny Candy by Richard Maybury This was a really good book. I learned a lot from it. Gabriel talked about this book constantly.


+Ourselves by Charlotte Mason
Plutarch's Lives (We've decided to wait until September to start these.)


+The Once and Future King by T.H. White Gabriel is reading book 1, right now. That is more commonly known as The Sword in the Stone He really likes this.
+The History of English Literature for Girls and Boys by H.E. Marshall (Gabriel really enjoys this!)
+The Age of Chivalry by Thomas Bulfinch Gabriel thinks this is boring.
*Watership Down by Richard Adams (Gabriel's favorite book this term.)
* ** +Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott
** *** A Taste of Chaucer by Ann Malcolmson


** *** The Life of the Spider by Henri Fabre

Nature Study:

*+Lay of the Land by Dallas Lore Sharp


+How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler

Drawing and Art:

The Story of Painting (Gabriel really enjoyed this and has finished all the readings he is supposed to do for the entire year.)

American History: (from Sonlight- Xavier is reading these same books.)
* ** *** The Story of the USA, books 1 & 2
* North American Indians
* Pedro's Journal
* ** ***The Landmark History of the American People, Volume 1
* Mother West Wind's Children
* Vostaas: White Buffalo's Story
* + A Lion to Guard Us
* + Pocahontas and the Strangers
* Squanto, Friend of the Pilgrims
* The Thanksgiving Story
* The Courage of Sarah Noble
* The Bears on Hemlock Mountain
* + Walk the World's Rim
* The Sign of the Beaver
* ** The Witch of Blackbird Pond
** What's the Big Idea, Ben Franklin?
** Can't You Make Them Behave, King George?
** And Then What Happened, Paul Revere?
** The Winter at Valley Forge
** If You Were There When They Signed the Constitution
** *** American Adventures 1
** *** The Story of Eli Whitney
* The Skippack School
** The Matchlock Gun
** Ben Franklin of Old Philadelphia
** Mr. Revere and I
** Meet George Washington
** Phoebe the Spy
** George Washington: Young Leader
** Martha Washington
** The Cabin Faced West
** Johnny Tremain
** Toliver's Secret
** Carry On, Mr. Bowditch One of my favorite books.
*** The Lewis & Clark Expedition
*** Imprisoned in the Golden City
*** The Erie Canal
*** Om-kas-toe
*** Meet Thomas Jefferson
*** Sarah Whitcher's Story
*** Naya Nuki
*** Robert Fulton, Boy Craftsman
*** Sarah, Plain and Tall
*** Tikta'liktak
*** Stone Fox
*** Paddle-to-the-Sea (Xavier is reading some of Holling C. Holling's books right now. They are AMAZING!)
*** Justin Morgan Had a Horse
*** Calico Bush
*** The Journeyman
*** Swift Rivers

Monday, June 15, 2009

The New Way

Back in March, I suddenly announced to our children that we would have a new way of doing school, starting the next morning. Gabriel looked at me and said, "Are you ever going to settle on one way of doing things?"

To which, I replied, "Just as soon as we're all happy with the way we're doing things."

I think we've finally found that way. Sure, we'll tweak things here and there as we go. But, for the most part, we're all happy with this way.

The first book I read about homeschooling was The Well Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise. I loved, and still love, this book. I like the idea behind this book. The things I like best about the 'classical' method, as described in The Well Trained Mind, are chronological history, foreign languages at an early age, good literature from the beginning, and narration/copywork/dictation. There were a few things I didn't like. Mostly, I didn't like the way they were doing history. I want them to read good books about history. However, Gabriel was getting bogged down in outlining his history lessons, and didn't have time to read other books about history. This was unfortunate, since the history encyclopedia was only supposed to be a history spine. It was killing his love of history. Also, the science was just not working for us. So, I started searching for other ways of doing things.

We tried unschooling. Over the past two years, I have made my peace with unschooling. I think unschooling could be a wonderful way of doing school. The idea of a child being able to study whatever he wants to is wonderful. The main reason I like this idea is that the children are wholly engaged when they are interested in something. However, Gabriel went to school for 4 years. He was very interested in being able to study whatever he wanted to, but he did not feel comfortable being in control. So, we abandoned that idea fairly quickly.

We went back to The Well Trained Mind, while I searched through other ideas. My mom, who had planned to homeschool my nephew again this year, but had to send him back to school, sent me the things she had purchased for my nephew. I had recommended that she try Sonlight, based on my nephew's personality, and the way my mom liked to do things. I liked the idea, and I loved the books Sonlight had chosen, but I did not like the fact that they separate American History from World History. I wanted to do it all together, and I was struggling to do that. So, I abandoned combining The Well Trained Mind with Sonlight. There just wasn't enough time in the day to do both.

Then, one day, I got around to reading a website that I had bookmarked 6 months previously. I ended up printing about 70 pages worth of reading material from the website, so that I could read it at my leisure. I was hooked. Ambleside Online introduced me to Charolotte Mason. There is a lot about Charlotte Mason that I like. There is almost nothing that I don't like. I think the one thing I don't like is their approach to spelling, and I will continue a formal spelling program.

Charlotte Mason has the components of classical education that I love, and none of the components that I hated. Here are the things that I love about what we are doing now:

The boys are all reading great literature about each subject. In between each quiet reading time, they have an active time. They do both 'science' and 'nature study'. They are studying Spanish. They are doing copywork. They are doing narrations. They are doing history chronologically, which helps it make sense. They utilize a 'book of centuries', which is similar to a timeline, only easier to write in.

One of the best parts about it is that the moms who run Ambleside Online have made their schedule available for free. This has taken the work of creating a schedule off my shoulders.

The one thing I didn't like about Ambleside Online is that it is light on American History. I have struggled with my need to balance chronologically ordered history with my need for the boys to study American History now. So, I have just added the Sonlight Core schedule that my mom gave me to the Ambleside schedule that the boys were using. This is especially light for Gabriel. These are excellent books, but books that are way below his reading level. However, that is okay. These particular books are not meant to challenge his reading ability. They are meant to inform him about American history. I believe they are accomplishing that. This particular year is the first half of American history (for 3rd graders), and they will read the second half next year.

I plan to have Gabriel do the Core 100 from Sonlight next year, in addition to Ambleside Online. Xavier will do the Core 4, in addition to Ambleside Online. Really, Ambleside Online is not for slouchers. It is not an easy course. However, my boys are readers. For them, it is not a difficult course, either. If they were not such good readers, it could cause some struggles, but they are good readers. Plus, I have cut some of the books out, since they are religious books. We do not do any of the Bible study, plus a few of the other books have proven to be a little on the religious side. For the most part, though, I have found their selections to be stellar.

I will talk, in another post, about what books they are reading, and what they think of them, plus our plans for the coming year. Of course, if you want to look now, you can certainly head on over to Ambleside Online. Xavier is doing the 2nd year course, and Gabriel is doing the 7th grade course. Dominic will begin the 1st year course in September.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Back in the Saddle

Wow! I've been gone a long time. It's been a busy, but happy, time for us. Gary got home May 9th. That is the main reason we've been busy, and I've been absent.

Gary arrived in Florida (where the command he deployed with is located), and we made the decision to go pick him up the day before he arrived. So, we spent all of Saturday driving to Florida. We got there about 2 hours before he did. We spent Sunday there, and drove back Monday.

After we arrived home, Gary immediately started tearing down walls in the basement. We now have a workout room. It only needs sheet rock and hang the doors. It already has the mats down, so we can work out in there. This is great because we really needed a place that was dedicated to Tae Kwon Do practice. The higher forms can get really long, and we were having to practice them outside. Gary was able to use all the lumber from the old walls to build the new walls, and we'll reuse the doors. So far, we haven't had to pay for anything except the mats, and we got those used. We'll have to buy the sheet rock, but we only have to sheet rock one half a wall, right now. So, it's a pretty cheap project that will get a lot of use.

The second week after Gary got back was the culmination of a year's worth of drama. The boys were going to be in a play on the 23rd, and had practice an hour and a half away twice that week. That was a busy week because of the play. We had last minute costume things to do. I was in charge of the costumes. Saturday, the 23rd, was the play. It turned out great. The boys did great. All the kids did a great job. There was a lot of ad libbing, which turned up some really great lines. This particular play, the kids all wrote, edited, produced, and performed, themselves. They did a great job. Of course, they had adult help, and a lot of it, but they still did a great job. Xavier lost his costume. Fortunately, he had on shorts underneath it. So, he won't get slapped with a public indecency charge.

The day after the play, we drove down to Pigeon Forge, TN. We rented a cabin there for 5 days. We had a really good time. It rained every day we were there. But, that was okay. It didn't rain when we wanted to be outside, so the rain didn't hurt anything. We played a lot of darts. The boys played a lot of pool. We spent time in the hot tub, and I whipped everybody at Monopoly. We went for a walk in a creek. We also went to the Star Cars Museum in Gatlinburg. Our favorite attraction was the aquarium. Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies was awesome. They have a ton of sharks. Plus, they gave a great military discount!

After returning home, Gabriel and I started working on organizing and cataloging the library. I think this is funny, because it seems a common theme, right now. Unlike Michelle, though, I catalog all our books. We are still not done with this project. Dominic and I are reading through all the picture books to decide which ones to keep, get rid of, and box up for future generations. Right now, we don't have enough room on our shelves for all our books. I completely reorganized the library. It is now categorized. It was amazing to me how few books we have about the ocean and water animals. We have a large selection on land animals, a descent selection on geography, a good selection on ancient and medieval history, a descent biography section, and a huge historical fiction section. We could use some more science fiction and good novels for kids. It's been interesting, but I'm ready to get the library back to normal.

Then, last week, Gary started back to work, and we started back to school. It's been crazy. I have to say that we are all happy with our school play. We switched to a Charlotte Mason type approach, using a modified Ambleside Online, in March. It has turned out to be a really good fit for us. I am very pleased with it. It incorporates all the things I like about classical education, and cuts out most of the things I didn't like about it. So, it all works out well. We've actually been supplementing with Son Light's year 3 for American History. This works out well, since the boys are such good readers. The Ambleside was very easy for them. This schedule is still much lighter than what we were doing before, but includes American History more in depth, which I was missing for them.

Now that we are back in the swing of things, I should be able to visit here more often. We shall see. The demands of a husband are different than those of children. I can't be online after the boys are in bed, because that is couple time. So, I'll have to figure out a new blogging schedule.


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