Saturday, December 17, 2011

Getting Ready for Christmas

We are taking about a 3 week break from school to enjoy the holidays together. Daniel is home writing and the girls and I have filled our days with field trips, play dates, and projects. We had a lot of fun outings planned for the beginning of December. The following are pictures from a few.

Here's a picture from our homeschool group's Christmas party. The kids decorated ginger bread houses. A lot of people turned out for this event--probably at least 75 people. The parents did a cookie exchange and the kids also played a few games.
Here's a picture from one of our field trips this month to a nature program led by the rangers at the Columbia Canal. The kids learned about soil composition.
Here's one of the girls' ballet classes practicing their dance from the Nutcracker. We had a parents night out at the studio where the girls read the Nutcracker story, made crafts and played games. Their class did the spanish dance for the rest of the crowd.
This was my favorite thing--free kayaking with the rangers at the Columbia Canal. They taught us a few things about how to paddle and what to do if you fall in. The water was gentle and the weather turned out perfect at 60-65 degrees and sunny for both of our trips. We are scheduled to go out on the river in the spring. We loved being on the water. It's so relaxing and the perspective from down at the level of the ground is so interesting. Can't wait for the next trip.

Oh the joys of homeschooling! Long extended breaks and fun field trips with my kids. I love it.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Practicing Instruments

The girls practice their instruments 30 minutes a day. Usually they take turns but not today. I started laughing when I walked in to the den to see them playing different songs at the same time. Watch this little video that Ellen and I put together this evening.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Congrats Daniel

Daniel was selected by his department chair at Midlands Tech to receive the Adjunct Faculty Member of the Year award. This is a great honor as he was one out of 12 of the 500 Adjunct faculty members at MTC to receive this award.

It is amazing that he is recognized for this award especially since he is juggling so many other jobs at the same time. He is teaching 5 classes at MTC and USC, writing a dissertation, and applying for jobs, in addition to being an amazing husband and father. He is working extremely hard right now trying to finish things up here at USC. Congratulations Daniel, the girls and I are so proud of you!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Napkin Pillows

My mom gave us our beautiful red couch a couple of years ago. I had an idea to use napkins to recover the pillows that came with it since they didn't match the room. I love the fabrics at World Market so I bought 3 napkins @ $1.99 each. The first time I sewed the pillows about six months ago, I used the store bought napkins for the front with some antique napkins from my grandmother for the back. Her old napkins were so soft (and thin) that they wore out in only a few weeks! I guess there is a reason that people use upholstery fabric on upholstery:) This weekend I bought some scrap upholstery fabric from Hancocks for $2.50 and this afternoon I made the pillows again. This time I'm hoping they'll last a little longer.

Notice the $10 price tag on the top of the old Singer machine. Daniel bought this for us at a garage sale years ago. He keeps it working for me and it works like a charm.

I don't do much sewing--really just halloween costumes, hems, and these. I think the pillows turned out nice and it just took less than 2 hours. More importantly, it cost only about $2.75 a pillow.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Fall Break Beach Trip

This was our 5th annual beach trip with friends from Virginia and North Carolina. This year their were 4 families (8 adults, 10 kids from 2-11). We found this beautiful house right on the beach in Emerald Isle. Besides the first day being a little windy the weather was gorgeous.

This year we gave the older kids (5+) had a lot of freedom and told them they could head out to the beach whenever they wanted. During this time of year the beaches are not very crowded so the kids had tons of space to play. As you can imagine, the big kids did not want to come inside.

Our house.
Scott and Daniel getting ready for a long day at the beach.
The kids spent a lot of time digging holes. Here's Daniel covering them up.

Brothers, Alder and Heath jamming to Dan Zanes.
Feeding the pigeons.

Kalen flying the kite.

Everyone in the water (except the moms).

Daniel and Arianna

Alder, Arianna, and Kalen inspecting the treasures.

The dads during the horse shoe marathon. That game is a lot harder than it looks. I can't even get the horseshoe anywhere near the other side!

Madelyn and Arianna. Notice the red streaks. Anna and Scott added henna coloring to all the girls' hair.

All of us.

Last walk on the beach.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Beautiful Boone

Our trip to Boone was amazing. The fall colors were spectacular and the weather was just about perfect. We stayed with some good friends that we hadn't seen in a long time. It only took the girls a few minutes to get past their shyness and become good friends. I just love how even though years can pass without seeing each other, good friends can pick up right where they left off. The weekend was nothing but pleasurable and we are very thankful to our hosts. Thanks for sharing your home with us Matt and Ginger. We love you. The first few pictures are from a walk through their neighborhood. The last few are from our hike on the Parkway near Moses Cone.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A 10 year old and a baby!

 Our Ellen turned 10 last week. Wow, 10 years old. We are so proud of our smart, beautiful, and kind little girl.
And for the big surprising news...we are pregnant! Everyone's first response is "Are you serious? or Nuh--uh!" Yes it is true and we did plan it. We decided it was just too much fun to have these beauties around and we wanted more. The baby is due in May. Yay!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Apple Picking at Sky Top Orchard

We went to Sky Top Orchard for apple picking with some friends last weekend. This is a great place to go with the family. The location is beautiful right on top of a mountain. There are acres and acres of all kinds of apples, peaches, and asian pears. We only picked apples and the kids had a blast climbing trees and running through the rows.

They also have farm animals to feed and see, hay ride, fresh apple cider and other apple treats.
Here they are playing in the bamboo maze.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Our Homeschool

Warning:  This is a long post with details about the books we use and how we use them. Read on if you are interested. There are a few pictures of the girls on their horses from this week's lesson down at the bottom is you choose to skip down!

Assignment Journal
I write out the girls' assignments in a small journal I picked up from B&N. I put very basic information since they know what they have to do in all the subjects. This helps them keep track of what they've done and will also serve as an attendance book at the end of the year. At the bottom of the page I write in the activities for the day. We usually have at least one dance class, playgroup, coop, lessons, or something and so they can see what is scheduled for the day. This is the first year they've had their own little planners and it's been great so far.

I get most of my ideas for curriculum and schedule from a book called The Well Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and Jesse Wise. The mother, Jesse, homeschooled the daughter, Susan, who homeschools her children now. The book that they wrote together is a manual of detailed instructions on how to homeschool every subject from kindergarten through high school.  I don't follow everything that they recommend but it has given me great ideas and helped me figure out what it is I do want to do.

Our homeschool focuses on math, reading, and musical instruments. We spend the most time during the day on these 3 things. For math, we use the curriculum Math U See. It is a program that comes with DVDs so the girls and I can watch the 5 minute teaching segments before each new lesson if needed. Ellen is finishing the 5th book, Epsilon, which is mainly fractions. Arianna is in the middle of the 4th book, Delta, division.

Reading consists of 30 minutes of structured reading out of a "chosen" book. I have a list of books that the girls can choose from for this portion of their school work. Daniel and I came up with the list together and they are mainly classics. Arianna is in the middle of the Chronicles of Narnia series. Ellen just finished Little Women. Other books Ellen has read include George MacDonald Fairy Tales, Tom Sawyer, and Huck Finn. Before Chronicles, Arianna was reading things to build her fluency so this is her first time reading classics by herself.

They also spend 30 minutes every morning practicing their chosen instrument. Ellen is still playing the piano and Arianna the violin.

We also spend about 3 days per week on grammar. I use First Language Lessons for the Well Trained Mind series by Susan Wise Bauer. We do the lessons all together and are on level 4.We work on diagramming sentences, memorizing definitions, lists, and poems and recognizing parts of speech, etc.

This year we are also using Bauer's writing textbooks. Arianna is on Writing with Ease level 3. Ellen is on Writing With Skill (Level 5). This text is not published yet but she offers a download of the the first 10 weeks on her blog. They do 4 lessons a week. These texts teach writing in a very structured system.  For example, Ellen is learning how to outline passages and Arianna is working on finding the main idea from a passage (4-5 paragraphs long) and summarizing it into 2-3 sentences.

We've also added some logic into our days. We use Mind Benders workbooks. It is a small workbook with only about 50 pages. The girls had so much fun with the problems that we finished it in one week. Now I've got to order some more:)

For spelling the girls each do a couple of pages (10 mins) of Spelling Workout books 4 days a week.

They are also asked to do 30-60 minutes of extra "fun reading." They can choose whatever they want for this time (except comics). Ellen's reading the Warriors series and Arianna is on the Judy Moody series. They read in most of their free time so this is not a hard thing to check off the list.

We will be starting our coop in September. This year we have a lot of new families involved and we'll be doing History, Science and Art. For History we are using the Story of the World volume 3. Science is Zoology for the first semester and engineering for second. For art we are using Artistic Pursuits.

We are members of a homeschool support group called REACH. This year I'm on the administrative board and work as the webmaster. Check out the new website These new responsibilities are the main reason I haven't been blogging as much over the past few months. The blog may continue to suffer as I spend my computer time on REACH. I don't want to spend any extra time behind this screen than I have to.

The girls have been taking horse back riding lessons after getting a great deal from a Groupon over the summer. They will get a total of 10 lessons each. Today we had our 5th lesson and Ellen trotted off the lead rope with no hands on the saddle for the first time. Arianna got her hands off the saddle in a trot but the instructor is still leading the horse. The girls are learning how to be more assertive. It's hard to get "Big Ugly" (that's the name of that beautiful horse) to do what they want him to do. :)

Ellen off the lead

Arianna trotting

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Our tour of the Southeast

The girls and I took a road trip in mid-July. After spending the night in Montgomery, AL to break up the drive, our official first stop was my dad's house in Baton Rouge. We spent the night there and then packed up again the next morning to go out to dad's camp in the Atchafalaya Swamp. It was a 30 min drive from his house (the house I grew up in).

The camp is only accessible by boat, so we packed our stuff onto the boat and headed into the swamp.
Dad and I

Pure Beauty

Old oil rigs along the canals
This area is simply beautiful, and one of the best things about it is that there is no one around. There are a few other hunting camps scattered here and there, and a handful of fishing boats quietly strolling the water,  but we hardly saw anyone on this beautiful Saturday afternoon. Dad took us on a long boat ride. Then my step brothers (Daniel and Chris) and dad helped the girls fish for the first time. Here's Ellen and Arianna with their first catches. They caught a few more right off the pier.

The alligators were not afraid to show their heads right around the pier also. These guys were all over the place and would swim straight towards us while we were out. Maybe they are used to being fed or catching leftovers from fishermen?

One of the best parts of our day/night in the swamp was my experience froggin. Daniel (brother not husband) had told me about how they go out at night with spot lights and catch bullfrogs with their hands. He, his wife, daughter, and Chris took me out at about 9:30pm in his mud boat to catch some frogs. We rode to the lake where they spotted and grabbed about 15 bullfrogs. We also saw tons and tons of baby alligators. They were everywhere! Daniel grabbed one and handed it to me. Can you tell I'm in shock but having a blast? These guys were great swamp tour guides. It was unforgettable.
The next morning they drove us out to the same spot so the girls could see this part of the swamp. It's an area that my dad's boat can't get to. There is shallow water with tons of lily pads and grass that has a small trail carved out. I'm not sure how they saw this trail in the middle of the night! I couldn't see it.
My camera lens was foggy because of the temperature change from the inside of the camp (very cold) to outside (very hot) not because of fog. I didn't get many pictures because of it. Below is the area where we were frogging. Again, very shallow lake with lots of wildlife. 

We want to go back very soon. My Daniel (husband, not brother) wants to catch some frogs!

The next day we drove to Gulf Shores, AL and stayed a week at the beach with more family (mom's side this time). This resort had huge swimming pools with slides, a lazy river, and all kinds of family games. We rode to the beach on a trolly but couldn't stay out much because the jelly fish were everywhere. The cousins played sweetly the entire time. We had a wonderful time. It was so nice to be with family and especially since my grandmother had been very sick and actually passed away during our trip. She was 99 1/2 so we were prepared for it, but that doesn't make losing her any easier.
Othermommy and girls Christmas 2010

We were all sad to leave but we went our separate ways on Sunday. The girls and I made the long trip home in one day. We arrived completely exhausted but we didn't have much time to relax because we had to use up our free tickets to Six Flags over Georgia that were going to expire the next weekend! (Tickets were won by the girls for a reading program that they participated in. I, as the teacher, also got a free ticket. Daniel's was half price.)

This past Sunday we took Daniel with us this time and drove to Atlanta for the day. We spent 7 hours walking around the park and rode 17 rides. The crowds were low so we hardly had any waiting. We spent half the day drenched from the river and splash rides, we were having a blast. The girls were thrilled to see so many huge rides. Daniel and I love them too, as long as they don't spin. We let the girls do those alone.

We returned home late Sunday night, exhausted again. Summers are full and so fun. Now back to real life. We have already returned to doing school work but I only have one more week off before my full teaching starts back. We will stay put for a while and it'll be so nice to be home!