Thursday, February 11, 2016

An Update

Here is what has been happening lately in my neck of the woods.

In January David and I hiked or snowshoed a total of 30.29 miles. So far in the first 10 days of February we have hiked or snowshoed 13.62 miles. We are in love with getting outside and breathing the fresh cold air. We much prefer the snowshoeing to the hiking, but when time or lack of decent snow or weather dictates a walk on the streets, we have taken that option. We challenged ourselves to walk between 5 and 6 days each week. So far we have been able to meet that challenge and are rewarding ourselves with a little overnight get away to a nearby Bed and Breakfast. We chose one near a favorite state park where we can go snowshoeing.

Our oldest two daughters have entered the dating world. Both are dating "nice Lutheran boys" but who live three states away. Interesting to note that these two boys are best friends, live in the same state, but not the same town. The world of the internet is small and there is lots of chatting and texting and Skype conversations going on amongst them. Our oldest has a long weekend and will take the opportunity to hit the road for a visit with her beau and his family. A plus is that she is able to take her Grandpa for a visit to his son and family who live right on the way, and we don't have to worry about her making the nine hour trip alone.

The other three kids are chugging along with their schoolwork, instrument practicing, and doing all they can to convince us to watch movies each night and sleep late each morning. Sometimes we let them. Nathan and Sam are currently in swim lessons. Nathan's are geared for passing the Lifeguard test. His summer job is now needing certified Lifeguards and he has his eyes set upon earning that title. We thought lessons designed towards making sure he can pass is a good thing. Sam's lessons are so he can finally learn the strokes. Being the youngest, he often gets the short end of the stick, and swim lessons is one I never followed through on with him. Fortunately private swim lessons aren't too expensive, therefore we can correct our error and Sam can be a more confident swimmer come summertime pool fun.

Abby moved up into the full youth orchestra this semester and is enjoying the challenge. I am enjoying hearing her practice her piano pieces which includes the "Dawn" by Dario Marianelli which is the theme song to Pride and Prejudice (the Keira Knightley movie). It makes me want to watch the movie again and again and again. She is also now learning Latin from Hannah. Her father just doesn't have the time and it kept getting pushed till tomorrow. Now, two days a week she and her sister FaceTime to learn Latin.

Hannah is in her last semester of college. Full of practicing and working on her senior recital, she is looking forward to graduating in May with a music degree.  Ellie is in her junior year and enjoying working towards her English degree, despite some of the books she is required to read. She decided to switch from a Philosophy minor to a Music minor and began organ lessons this semester.

Nathan, Abby, and Sam are doing well working on things I assign them. I've gone to a greater number of books, both historical fiction and non-fiction, for them to read. Add that to our memory work and they are getting a pretty good idea of the era of history we are covering.

Speaking of memory work, it is going quite well. I changed some things. One of the biggest was that now on Even days, instead of going over Latin vocabulary and phrases, we are going instead through the Six Chief Parts of the Catechism. We recite one each even day and this has been a good thing. Nathan, Abby, and Sam are much better at Memory Work than I am. I am the only one continually flubbing the new line of the Latin Apostle's Creed, or forgetting which element comes next in the Periodic Table song or getting the date wrong in our History sentences. Oh well, I'm trying and they can say they know more than their mother.

Here are the books I've read since this year began.
Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child by Anthony Esolen finished Jan. 21: excellent book. I would recommend this to everyone. He doesn't give solutions, but he sure gives lots to think about and therefore how one can change things in their own lives.

Echoes by Maeve Binchy finished Jan. 24: a very good book. I enjoy Binchy novels and her ability to write such intriguing character based stories. They are novels I turn to when I need something easy and quick.

The 17 Day Diet: A Doctor's Plan Designed for Rapid Results by Mike Moreno finished Jan. 27: recommended by a friend who, along with her husband, have been doing this for almost a year. I found it interesting and it showed me and my husband how lazy we had gotten with the food we put in our mouths (too much). It isn't one, though, that we could use as our ongoing way of eating. For that, we much prefer a low-carb way of thinking. This book did remind us of that and therefore that is a good thing.

House of Living Stones by Katie Schuermann finished Jan. 29th: very good book about Lutherans. An engaging tale and set-up for her next book:

The Choir Immortal by Katie Schuermann finished Jan. 31st: excellent! I loved this one more than the first. I hope we get another installment or two. Mrs. Schuermann has done a great job bringing to life real people, their faults, their strengths, and what living together in a church family is all about. Be prepared to shed some tears.

The Light in the Forest by Conrad Richter finished Feb. 2: Excellent book I picked up at the library for Nathan and Abby to read for history. It is about a young American boy who is kidnapped at age 4 by Indians, raised by them and at age 15 is forced by the American soldiers to return to his biological family. All three of us really enjoyed this novel.

April Morning by Howard Fast finished Feb. 6th: A very good book, not as gripping as The Light in the Forest. It is also a book I found on the library shelves for Nathan and Abby to read for history. It tells the story of twenty-four hours in the life of a fifteen year old boy who lives in Massachusetts in 1775. The twenty-four hours happen to be April 19th, and he lives near Lexington and Concord. A story about turning into a man, at times you don't like the boy and other times you feel sorry for him.

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf finished Feb. 8th: Not so good of a book. This was for my book club and we all agreed that it was dull and hard to follow. A stream of conscious book that takes place over twenty-four hours in the life of Mrs. Dalloway which we found hard to follow and were it not for reading Spark Notes, we wouldn't have been able to come up with the themes of the book. To us it seemed like the perfect "English teacher" book that is used to torment the student and keep the love of reading from them.

I'm currently reading:
LadyLike: Living Biblically by Rebekah Curtis and Rose Adle: I read this one aloud to my husband last year, but am reading it again with a Ladies' group at church. It is very good and am enjoying my re-read.

Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It by Gary Taubes: This is a requirement for my Health class which Nathan and Abby are working through. Since I haven't read it since Hannah and Ellie went through this class, I decided to re-read it and I'm glad I am.

The Puritan Dilemma:The Story of John Winthrop by Edmund S. Morgan: A biography I picked up on the recommendation of a homeschool friend for Nathan and Abby to read. I am finding it very interesting and enlightening. We should finish it by the end of the week.

1776 by David McCullough: Another book I'm having Nathan and Abby read for history. We just began this book and currently are reading a chapter a day.

Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions: A Reader's Edition of the Book of Concord: David and I are following a guide to try and read through this during the forty days of Lent.

The Martian by Andy Weir: This is a book a friend loaned to me and I am just starting it today.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Outdoors Whenever Possible

After David's pair of hiking boots arrived, you could find us about four or five nights per week walking outside. Sometimes we went to a trail, sometimes we hiked after dark on the streets of our town, and sometimes we didn't use our hiking boots at all and instead walked laps around the inside of our church building due to extremely cold temperatures or a schedule which didn't allow us to walk till late into the night.

We loved the boots. We loved hiking outside. Who needs snowshoes? Apparently, we did, which we found out real quick when we decided to try hiking on a trail in a state park near our home. It was not packed down and we realized with each, slow, prodding, step, that snowshoes would make it much more enjoyable.

So look what we did!
It is even in one of my favorite colors!
The first day we bought them we went to a trail near the store. Figuring out how to tighten the straps was much easier thanks to a fellow hiker who kindly offered us advice. Strapped on, poles set to the right length, off we marched. It was loud. Clomp. Clomp. Clomp. But it was fun and we were glad to get them.

The very next day we decided to try again the trail near our home which originally made us aware that the money should be spent on snowshoes.

At the trail head waiting for me to stop taking pictures

We had gotten another inch of powdery snow during the night and we quickly fell in love with snowshoeing. Wow! Easy, smooth, and more quiet, hiking on fresh snow as opposed to packed snow was fun. Off we hiked and often commented on how much easier it was to hike this trail than the last time.

At one point we reached the junction where the first time we chose to turn and go back to the car, but should we go straight and hike longer this time was the question. I said yes as quickly as a child who is asked if they would like some ice-cream.

On and on and on we hiked, enjoying the quiet woods, the trail to ourselves, and making connections on where we were in relation to the lake near-by.

We started to get hot. Hats off, scarves untucked, sometimes gloves removed as we continued down the trail wondering just how far this went before it turned to the left and wandered back toward the car.

It began to snow lightly and I thought this was the most magical experience. On we hiked, not meeting another soul. David's app told us we had now hiked 2 miles. We were tired. Realizing that we were out there longer than I anticipated, we stopped so I could call the kids and give directions on finishing supper. We also took a selfie.

Notice our red faces glowing from the exercise and being outside
Finally after another half mile we arrived at the car. We took off our snowshoes, loaded them and ourselves into the vehicle and drove the short distance home. For the rest of the night, we sat in our chairs drinking water wondering why we had gone such a long distance. Whose idea was it to go straight? But we both agree, this, to us, beats any indoor exercise, and our mantra has become outdoors whenever possible!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Off My Tush

Walking during the spring, summer, and fall has been a great joy of mine. Putting on my tennis shoes, starting one of my favorite albums on my iPod, and hitting the streets or trails around my house has done wonders for my heart, legs, and especially my peace of mind. I also had walking partners the last two summers, David in 2014 and Hannah in 2015 which was a nice way to pass the time and chat with two of my favorite people.

Unfortunately winter has interrupted these enjoyable conversations and walks. Although I knew that I needed to do something to continue this heart-healthy, mind-saving activity, I had yet to hit upon a winning idea. In the past treadmills and elliptical machines have tried to keep me going through the long winter months. The winter of 2014-2015 I bought and used the PiYo dvd's from Beach Body. None of these lasted, I came to dread them and easily found excuses to not do them each and every day.

Last winter during Christmas break, we went once again to camp with our good friends. We've done this in years past, but this one was the best week ever. The snow was perfect for daily enjoying the tubing runs, walking around outside, enjoying the fireplace, plus our friends and family and of course the food. One day we all tramped down to put on skis and tried cross-country skiing. It was marvelous. Easy to learn, invigorating to do, I couldn't get enough. I was hooked. Coming home from camp we were ready to go buy ourselves skies and hit the trails in the state parks around our area. But we didn't. Not much snow the rest of the winter, plus the cost, led us to wait.

Along came summer and I was back to my daily walks with tennis shoes, my daughter, and forgetting winter would come around again. Winter finally arrived in late December. David and I spent New Year's day trying snow-shoeing in a state park where we could rent the shoes and see what we thought. It was great fun. We were hooked. Let's buy some we said.

David began his research and although we have good, heavy, snow boots, which hooked onto the snowshoes at the state trail, there are better, lighter, hiking boots that would be easier. Plus, we could use them just as hiking boots around the streets of town when we couldn't get to the trail. Off to the store we went and I came home with a pair. David came home with an order slip since the store didn't have his size in stock.

I couldn't wait to use mine. Friday found me hiking down the trail among freshly fallen snow. Perfect temperature of about 32 degrees which meant I could wear only fleece pants and not my snow pants and I found my winter happy place.

My new hiking boots

Me - happy hiking

Great traction, easy to walk-in, and warm to -25 (yet to be tested by me)

Even shoveled or non-shoveled sidewalks or sloppy streets will be hike-able in my new shoes

Two miles later I was glowing from the walk and knew hubby had hit on how to keep me happy and walking in the winter. His should arrive in the next day or two and he is looking forward to joining me on the trail. Amazing to me is how much I am excited by being outside enjoying the cold weather and the snow. It makes me as happy as my walking all through the summer. Fortunately a benefit is that I am now motivated to get off my tush and keep active during the winter.

Friday, January 08, 2016


I have decided to arrange my book challenge for 2016 different from past years. Having really enjoyed my Year of the Re-Read, I knew I wanted to add other books to that list for this year, and instead of listing books I plan to read or sign-up for any specific challenges, I am simply picking a number.

52, on average one per week. Since that is the number I read in 2015, I know it is doable. If it is more, than I'll be thrilled!

Here are what I have on my list so far.

Vince Flynn novels: 13 total
C.S. Lewis - The Space Trilogy
Why We Get Fat - Gary Taubes
Little Women - Louisa May Alcott

Friends (mainly my kids):
Mysterious Benedict Society books
The Book Thief
Gregor the Overlander

Vince Flynn's latest, which was my Christmas gift from the children
Katie Shcuermann, "House of Living Stones" and "The Choir Immortal"
Maeve Binchy: "Mindy Frankie," "Full House," "Echoes"
Jane Austin: as many of the following as strikes my fancy this year: "Mansfield Park," "Northanger Abbey," "Persuasion," "Lady Susan"
C. S. Lewis: "Till We Have Faces"

There will be book club books picked for me as well. The first will be Virginia Woolfe's "Mrs. Dalloway."

Already I'm reading "Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child" by Anthony Esolen which is part of my responsibility as a board member liaison on the Curriculum and Instruction Committee for Wittenberg Academy.

I purposefully did not make a whole list of 52 books. It is my hope that having freedom to pick things amongst the ones I need to read will help me keep interest in reading and not only reach but exceed my goal of 52 in 2016.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

What I Read in 2015

Edited for corrections. I realized I forgot to add the one I read this summer with Bible Class at church, which brings my total to 52! I made it Lamb! Also, it was brought to my attention that the original post didn't include when I had finished Sarum, one of my books on my Friends challenge. These corrections have been made.

I finished the last book I'm reading in 2015 today, so I thought it time to finally return to my neglected blog with a list of all I read this year.

The total number was 52 books, which is low to some of my friends, and seems awfully high to me as I didn't think I had been reading all that much. There were so many lulls this year and I just couldn't get into a reading state of mind for much of this fall.

Here are the categories of books based on the reading challenges I chose to do.

Year of the Re-Read: 23 books
Overall I am happy with all I re-read this year, my self-proclaimed Year of the Re-Read. Like old friends, I enjoyed curling up with these books and re-living the magic and deepening my understanding of the stories. Since I loved re-reading all these books I have decided to make a list each year of books I want to re-read.

J.R.R. Tolkien:
The Hobbit
The Lord of the Rings

C.S. Lewis:
The Chronicles of Narnia

Jane Austin:
Pride and Prejudice
Sense and Sensibility

J.K. Rowling:
The Harry Potter Series

Lemony Snickett:
Only 2 from The Series of Unfortunate Events

2015 Help From My Friends (Jane's challenge): A total of 11 books
I listed 10 books and 5 alternates. I was afraid at the start of the year that I wouldn't find time to finish this one, but I surprised myself and succeeded. This year's list had some really good books and some real duds. Following is the list, when I finished, and if I thought they were good or a dud.

1. The Wreath (Kristin Lavransdatter, #1) by Sigrid Undset
Finished on March 31st. Good

2. The Wife (Kristin Lavransdatter, #2) by Sigrid Undset
Finished on April 9th. Good

3. The Cross (Kristin Lavransdatter, #3) by Sigrid Undset
Finished on May 17th. Good

4. A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, #1) by George R. R. Martin
Finished July 24th. Good, but not enough to make me want to read the rest of the series.

5. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
Finished on January 11th. Good

6. Sarum: The Novel of England by Edward Rutherford
Finished on December 3rd. Although I thought it was good, it was hard to keep reading.Because this was the whole history of England, every section was like starting over with new characters in a new novel. Yes, it wove together past families and events, but frankly I became bored half-way through and I had to force myself to finish.

7. The Pillars of the Earth (The Pillars of the Earth, #1) by Ken Follett
Finished June 18th. Really Good

8. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
Finished June 10th. Started out with lots of potential, but in the end, a dud

9. Faith, Hope, and Ivy June by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Finished May 29th. Good

10. Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell Jr.
Finished June 26th. Really Good. Loved this interesting story
1. The Tenant of Wldfell Hall by Anne Brontë

2. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco and William Weaver

3. In the Presence of My Enemies by Gracia Turnham and Dean Merill
Finished July 8th. Very interesting and made me wonder about the people I know who are missionaries.

4. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
Started on September 26th but never finished. It seemed way to contrived and projecting today's feelings and attitudes on a former time.

5.Wolf Hall (Thomas Cromwell, #1) by Hilary Mantel

Book Club: 8 books
This is a group of my homeschool moms who started reading through Susan Wise Bauer's list in "A Well-Educated Mind." I finally joined them and haven't regretted it for a single moment. Three of these I have read before, but I didn't count them in my Year of the Re-Read Challenge. Following is what we read.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy: finished March 24th
The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy: finished May 17th
The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James: finished July 11th
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain: finished August 11th
The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane: finished August 31st
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad: finished September 8th
The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton: finished October 17th
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald: finished November 16th

The remaining books I read included 1 I read with Nathan and Abby for schoolwork,
Le Morte d'Arthur by Thomas Malory: finished March 17th

1 I read as a Board member for Wittenberg Academy,
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni

1 I read for Bible Class at church this summer
The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

and 7 I picked up just on my own:
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
LadyLike: Living Biblically by Rebekah Curtis and Rose Adel
The Core: Teaching Your Child the Foundations of Classical Education by Leigh A. Bortins
The Question: Teaching Your Child the Essentials of Classical Education by Leigh A. Bortins
Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, Sugar--Your Brains' Silent Killers by David Perlmutter
Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James
Heat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany by Bill Buford

Overall, not to bad for a year I felt like I was never in the mood for reading. As I think ahead to challenges for 2016, I hope there will be more that make me love to read and not want to do anything else and fewer that I am just trying to get through. And maybe I should aim for a total of 52 books (could I do more?), on average, one per week, which I just made this year.

Friday, September 04, 2015

In Only Two Steps

1. Always be willing to admit you do not know the answer.
2. Always be willing to learn.

That's it. Two steps to being an educated adult. Whether you homeschool your children or not, whether you work outside the home or not, follow those two steps and you'll see your knowledge ever growing.

Go ahead, try it. It is only two simple steps.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

It is Never to Late

A dedicated Memory Work Time. This is the new-to-us item for this year's schoolwork. I have thought about it over the summer and discussed it with my good friend Amy, looked at blog posts on the Charlotte Mason Memory Work system and Classical Conversations memory work as well as read and watched a video on a "loop" system. Two difficulties I've encountered is that I haven't done this from the beginning and my kids are older plus I don't do Classical Conversations, which many, many, many of the posts I read do follow.

Regardless of those difficulties I have determined that it necessary for us to actively be working and reviewing memory work daily. Following is how I am going to arrange our "Memory Work" time together.

I will have a binder with 8 tabs labeled Daily, Odd, Even, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday. Behind each tab will be what we are to say aloud and review that day. Each day I will use three tabs, the Daily, either Odd or Even depending on the number of the day, and the day of the week.

This will be what we are currently working on learning to memorize. The new things in History, Latin, Geography, and Science we are working on for the year.

Odd Days:
We will review our Latin prayers and the verb conjugations and noun declensions we already know.
Lord's Prayer
Gloria Patri
Table Prayer
Conjugations 1, 2, 3
Declensions 1, 2, 3

Even Days:
We will review our Latin sayings and vocabulary, currently the first 8 chapters of Wheelock

Tuesdays: History Review
Old timeline songs from years 1, 2, and 3
Kings and Queens of England poem (to where we are currently learning)
Timeline Tips and Tricks
Presidents (to where we are currently learning)

Wednesdays: Grammar Review
Sentence Jingle
Types of Sentences
Noun Jingle
Verb Jingle
Helping Verb List
Linking Verb List
Adjective Jingle
Adverb Jingle
Article Adjective Jingle
Pronoun Chant (Subject, Object, Possessive)
Parts of Speech Chant
Preposition Poem
Sentence Patterns

Thursdays: Geography Review (Geography Songs Around the World)
States and Capitals
Southeast Asia
South Asia
Western Europe

Fridays: Science Review* and Music Review
Note names
*This is still a work in progress as I think about what I would like them to learn by heart. We will be studying Astronomy and Chemistry this year, so in our daily work things like the order of the planets and the periodic table will be memorized and then moved to this slot for review.

Saturdays: Spelling Review (Writing Road to Reading)*
Page 1
Page 3
Page 5
Page 6
Rule 4
Rule 12
Rule 20
Rule 24
*I chose certain pages and rules that I know my kids need help remembering. If I discover that they have forgotten the ones I thought they knew, I will add those to this list.

I think I will schedule 30 minutes to do this each day. We will begin with the Daily work, move to either the Odd or Even tab and then the Day of the Week tab. Only in the daily work will I strive to do everything every day. With all the others I will utilize the "loop." That is, we will get as far down my list as we can that day and then when it is time to do it the next week, we'll start where we left off.

I did not add any Bible memory work nor catechism or hymn review. That is done with Dad at the table after meals, following the Congregation at Prayer he puts together for his flock based on what he learned from Pastor Bender at Peace (click on the Congregation at Prayer tab under Weekly Downloads) The only new thing to this time will be taking one day each week and reviewing one of the chief parts of the catechism, six chief parts, six days review. Susan had recommended this a long time ago and I'm finally getting around to putting it into practice.

Since this is new to me, I'm sure this will change and grow as we figure out how best to do this in our daily life. I'm okay with that. One of the big things I tell all sorts of homeschool moms is that it is never to late to learn. Just start where the kids are and go from there. I really believe that and therefore I'm now applying it to myself and my own kids. We are starting where we are and we'll go from there. Here's to a good year, really learning and growing in our knowledge!