Thursday, December 31, 2009

Final Exams were actually fun!

Z-Man took his first-ever final exam this semester. It's not what you might think. We did it "Charlotte Mason-style" even though our homeschooling style is really a combination of CM and unit studies and whatever else works. I guess that's eclectic.

The idea is to give the student a chance to show what they know, as opposed to what they don't.

Here are some of the questions:
  • Label a map of Europe with everything you can remember.
  • Tell what you know about: Galileo, Monet, Bach.
  • Who was Corrie ten Boom? What do you remember about her?
  • Read aloud for 5 minutes from The Adventure Bible.
  • Sing one of the hymns we learned this semester.
  • Choose a memory verse and recite it.
Z-Man dictated to me as I typed. Here's one of his answers:

Monet by Z-Man

Monet was an artist. A very great one, too. Though he didn’t think so. He painted water lillies sometimes. Of course, that was when he was older. When he was younger, he wasn’t very famous. He also went to war. He didn’t like that because he got sick. I’m not sure what kind of sickness it was but when the country (France) got back in war again, he went to England so that he wouldn’t have to fight and painted there.

Of course, when he was older, he was famous. When he got older, he got a lot of money so that he could buy a garden with a pond of lillies and a japanese bridge. Of course, probably most of you know about the japanese bridge. His wife, Camille, died and he remarried a woman named Alice.

But even though he wasn’t famous at one point, now people will pay thousands of dollars for one of his paintings. His style of painting was just dots of paint. Now you might think, “oh, that’s not a bright way of painting” but you are right when you step in close to the painting, but when you step back, you are wrong. When you step back, the dots make a picture!

He's a pretty funny kid.

The best part of this type of exam was that we really saw how much we had covered. It was actually quite encouraging for both of us.

For those with older students, here is a great example of this type of exam for high schoolers at Harmony Art Mom.

And now, on to South America!

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A new nativity!

We own several nativity sets, each cherished for its own unique qualities.

This one was given to us early in our marriage and shares a place of honor on the sideboard with our Christmas cards.

This stained glass set was made by a talented friend and is beautiful with lights behind it.

And our new addition, created by Z-Man and displayed proudly on the mantel! I'm sure you could figure it out, but I thought I'd put titles in, just in case.

And didn't these paper nativity scenes turn out adorable? You can print one (use card stock) at

This week: baking, grocery shopping and hopefully some caroling! I hope you are all enjoying a blessed and peaceful Christmas season.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Christmas book science

Last week was a light week here, well, school-wise anyway. We always focus on Christmas-type studies for the two or three weeks prior to Christmas. Things that aren't directly related to our study I try to tweak to make them a little more festive (such as practicing cursive by writing a Christmas list.) I also found a great download of Christmas critical thinking pages - it was only $1.99 at Curriculum Click.

But mostly we just read and do fun stuff. Yesterday, we read this:

Well, not that exactly. We read it in english. The Christmas Train by Ivan Gantschev. Apparently it's out of print and if you wish to buy it through Amazon, it will cost you $252.68 (or $98.84 if you can read German). Wow. It's good, but not two-hundred-dollars-good. I'd check the library first.

ANYway, it's based on a true story (LOVE that!) of the author's aunt in Bulgaria who, as a child, bravely and selflessly made a signal fire of her own Christmas tree on Christmas eve to warn an oncoming train of a rock slide, saving all inside. Her father always said that if there was an obstruction on the tracks, make a signal fire 400 yards ahead of it. Z-Man realized that this is the equivalent of four football fields and we got talking about momentum and why it takes a train so long to stop. Aha! Sounds like a science experiment!

We made a ramp out of a table leaf and a "brake" out of an empty box at the end of the ramp. We sent our little tykes truck down the ramp and measured how far it pushed the box (32 inches). Then we added weight - 3 heavy bolts, one at a time. Each made our truck take a little farther to stop. The most impressive result, however, was when we added speed - starting our ramp on the kitchen chair instead of the small step stool. And, you guessed it, the high ramp (speed) and the three bolts (weight) sent our truck the farthest - almost seven feet before it stopped!

I'm so thankful that we found the Five in a Row curriculum when Z-Man was younger. This book isn't in it, but I credit FIAR with enabling me to find lessons in the other childrens books we read. Before we started FIAR, I just didn't think that way. Thank you, Lamberts!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Sad Day

Our precious friends left today. They are moving to Idaho and that is a long, long way from here. They have been such a blessing to our family and we miss them terribly already.

Good bye, sweet friends!

Christmas books we love

We just read the most wonderful, inspiring book! It's moving to the top of my list of beloved Christmas books.

Through a series of God-ordained "coincidences," a pastor and his family help bring about the reunion of an elderly Jewish couple separated decades earlier in the holocaust. It really drives home the point that God is in control and that He cares about us.

Another great Christmas book we found last year is Bright Christmas: An Angel Remembers, the Christmas story told from the perspective of an angel.

One we just found this year and I'm so glad we did:

One Wintry Night by Ruth Bell Graham. A boy gets caught in a snow storm and ends up spending the night in an old woman's home. She tells him the Christmas story - from the beginning - as in Adam and Eve! This book basically summarizes the Bible up through the birth of Christ. One caution: the illustrations are very well done but a couple (Goliath in particular) might be a bit too intense for very young children.

And finally, the utterly hysterical and ultimately heart-warming The Best Christmas Pageant Ever! Oh my. We just love this book. Our whole family looks forward to reading it. Last year, we read through it twice (only 7 chapters).

Happy reading!

Countries and Cultures Lapbook

If you are doing (or planning on doing) a world geography study, I think you'll want to take a look at this. I can't believe I didn't find it sooner! It's a complete, free, printable country and culture lapbook! You can print one out for every country you study or simply print out the pages you need. She has everything: religion, famous landmarks, wild animals and plants and much, much more!

Wow! What a find!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Visiting the sheep

Sometimes the planets align and a perfect field trip opportunity just pops up at the right time. We read A New Coat for Anna this week as we studied Germany. (More on that later. I promise.) They never actually say where it takes place, but I think it's post WWII Poland. There is still no money after the war and the shops are empty but Anna desperately needs a new coat. It's a sweet story (based on a true one and you know I love that!) of a mother who, over the course of a year, trades some of her precious possessions to buy wool and then have it spun, woven and finally sewed into a new coat for her daughter.

Well, today we went to a sheep farm open house and visited the sheep, just like Anna did! How fun is that? We stood agape at the shearing. The sheep just go limp and the men who are shearing them just haul them around like a sack of potatoes. (The kids thought that was hysterical.) They don't hurt them, but still, you'd think they'd put up a little bit of a fuss. Interesting note: there are special pants made for sheep shearing. Seriously. There's a niche market for you.

The naked sheep are then put in the "naked sheep pen" (our term) and the fleeces are put on a table where debris is picked out and discarded.

After it's washed and dyed, they run it through this huge carding machine. (Anna and her mother carded theirs by hand.)

Look at those colors! Almost enough to make you want to re-learn how to knit. Almost.

The boys each received little pieces of colored wool as a souvenir. You'd think they were gold. They're storing them in the little wooden gingerbread houses they built at the Lowe's kids program this morning.

Oh, and they had the biggest angora rabbits. Chickens too - we bought some eggs.

If you can't get to a sheep open house, you can still order this wonderful, free sample booklet from Pendleton. It describes the 8 steps from sheep to fabric and gives you a little sample of the product of each stage - even a little vial of lanolin!