Friday, October 29, 2010

Our school year

I really need to post about Jake's 10th birthday, but I haven't downloaded my pics from my camera yet!

So in the meantime, I'm going to write about our school year.

The past two years we've used Tapestry of Grace. I have absolutely loved the depth and biblical focus of it. I learned a ton. However, the past two years have been the absolute craziest two of my entire homeschooling career. 2008 held 2 sick pregnancies and 2 second trimester miscarriages and 2009 was consumed with mission trips to Mexico and beginning the adoption process in Mexico. Needless to say, I just couldn't keep up with the weekly prep work that Tapestry demanded. It's a shame since it is such a wonderful curriculum, but instead of it helping me, it was making schooling harder.

So, after a lot of indecision (Tara and Mel, I'm so sorry for all my agonizing phone conversations!) I finally chose to go a simpler route.  With the upheaval of the Mexico adoption and the beginning of the Colombia adoption and knowing we will most likely travel for a month in the middle of our school year, I decided to make this year a more "independent study" type of year.

I really felt like I needed to focus on preparing my middle schoolers (7th, 6th, 5th) for the upcoming high school years by solidifying the skills they need to succeed. I did a lot of research to figure out which skills I wanted to heavily incorporate and which ones we already had a good handle on. In fact, instead listing out our yearly line up of subject curricula, I decided to list out the skills I wanted them to work on and then picked and chose our books based on that.

Our list of products we are using hasn't actually changed but I think it helped solidify in my head my purpose for each one. Maybe everyone else already does this naturally, but for some reason it all just clicked in my head this year, and school suddenly became stress free. I think I'd been allowing the curriculum to control us instead of allowing it to serve us.  It's all perspective, huh?

The older 3 are doing most of the same skills, just at the age/developmental level they are in. Makes things easy! Oh, and not everything is done every day!
So, here's our line up:

Memorization- Scripture memory, Science Facts, History Timeline, States and Capitals

Discussion, Inductive Bible Study, Logic- Morning Bible discussion time using inductive method, The Fallacy Detective with real life "debates" since 3 of them are in that phase of life!

Cait and Grant- Prepare for Pre-algebra and begin AlgebraTeaching Textbooks 7 and begin TT Pre-alg. (This has been my best purchase this year. Highly worthwhile!)
Jake- Solidify mult/div facts, grade level math- Teaching Textbooks 5

Independent Study Skills/Test taking skills/Lab Report writing- Apologia General Science for Cait

Various writing genres- IEW Student Intensive Continuation Course A (she could handle B, but we're doing it all together with the boys so she's getting her assignments beefed up)
Current Event Reports- biweekly 
Beginning Literature Analysis Essays- reading lots of classic lit from a list I compiled, weekly literature analysis papers based of the questions in Well Trained Mind, Figuratively Speaking worksheets on literary techniques.
Outlining other people's writing- Kingfisher History Encyclopedia or other books from the shelf or library
Notetaking- Apologia Elementary Anatomy and Physiology (The boys are doing this in more of a "notebooking" fun format but Cait is doing more normal bullet point notetaking)
Research-short and frequent!- Mostly on history topics. We're all listening to the Story of the World chapter on audio and then each choses a topic to research and write an essay. They do this 2-3 times a week. Each child has varying lengths the essay must be.
Diagramming, Grammar fluency, Spelling accuracy- Christian Light Language Arts (just the grammar portion- LOVE this program!) and All About Spelling, Cait- Spell to Write and Read Wise Guide

Reading Speed, Reading Accuracy, Learning to appreciate varied genre, Vocabulary- 1 hour of reading required a day from a booklist I compiled (also includes lots of discussion time!), Vocabulary from the Classical Roots

Master the Spanish language- No! Just kidding! I'll just be happy if they can introduce themselves to their new siblings!  I do think that Spanish for Children, Spanish for Adoptive Families, and living in Colombia for a month will take care of this important skill! LOL!

Wow, that looks like a TON! But it's not really! In fact we are finishing our days earlier than we ever have in the past. I think it's because I don't have a different curriculum for each subject. It's more integrated. I don't think I could manage complete integration like some curricula do, but for us, this is working really well.

We are almost 4 months into our school year (started beginning of July) and already I'm seeing tons of progress. And attitudes toward our school time have improved tenfold. They all love the research part of the day and go crazy with wanting to report on every nugget of info they find.

And, to end this super long post, Here's Quinn's line-up:

Math- Christian Light 1
Copywork/Narrations- Writing With Ease
Spelling- All About Spelling
Reading- every book he can get his hands on, and Phonics Pathways
Trickle down effect- he tags along with everything else!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Moving Fast

For the Colombia Adoption, we need to get fingerprinted and then have the FBI run a background check on the prints. From everyone we've talked to, it takes between 8-12 WEEKS to get the report back. 

Well, last Thursday I Fed Ex'd our prints to FBI and this past Friday we received the reports! In ONE WEEK! This truly is a miracle from the Lord.

Also, I had been under the impression that after our homestudy update was complete, we would send away for our immigration reapproval (we have to tell them we are changing countries) and after that we could find out about a sibling group to adopt and become matched with them. Kind of like how we were matched with F, A, and B in Mexico.

Well, in a phone conversation with the social worker, she said that all we need to have finished in order to be matched it our homestudy update! This is a big deal since the immigration update can take up to 8 weeks.

Well, in addition to this news, she also said that the immigration update should only take about 3 weeks!

I don't understand why everything is happening so fast. But, it does feel like confirmation that the Lord wants us to move in this direction to Colombia. He is making things happen that don't normally happen! So we will just follow His leading! Right now, the social worker is projecting that we will travel between March and May of 2011. That's pretty fast! But, we'll see!!!

Thankfully, I don't feel any anxiety or stress over the quickness. I feel a huge peace to just take each milestone as it comes- whenever it comes.

It is funny, though, because we are so used to the process being HARD for the past year that it feels like everything now is too good to be true!


This week Caitlin turned 13! She has been so excited for this day to come!

I have to honestly say that she is such a wonderful young lady! We are so proud of her!

Brent and I have seen sooo much growth and maturity in her over the past few years and noticeably in the past 6 months.

She has a sweet spirit mingled with a bit of spunk. I love it! She has learned how to be hysterically funny in her dry humor, but just as quickly has a tender heart for the underdog.

She is an avid reader, loves to learn (well, except for Math!), and can run the home as well as I can. She cooks a mean baked ziti and tres leche cake! She has a vivid imagination and I love to see her leading her brothers in an imaginary playtime.

This year she has learned to try new things and step out of her comfort zone. It has done a wonder in building her confidence and maturity. She loves her family and thankfully is not dependent on her peers for her acceptance. I'm so thankful for this!

She is quick to repent when corrected and is growing in humility. I love that she is transparent and openly admits to her struggles. I learn a lot from her!  I am so excited to see how she is developing her own personal walk with the Lord. She doesn't need prodding and reminding to read her Bible. And the questions she asks sometimes stump me!

She still has not wavered in her desire to serve the Lord on the mission field one day, which, whether the Lord allows her to do that or not, still warms my heart. She is passionate about our adoption and has had her eyes opened to the plight of the orphan and is charging full steam ahead with helping to advocate for them.

So many parents grumble and moan over the upcoming teen years, but after seeing the treasure that we already have in Cait, we are looking with anticipation and excitement at the years ahead. She is paving the way for our family and we couldn't be prouder.

Happy 13th Birthday, my Catydid!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Psychologist Update

If any of you remember our first psychologist appointment for our Mexico adoption, you'll remember how slap happy and silly we felt taking the MMPI personality test. Well, we never actually found out the results of them- just that we'd passed, and that was good enough for me.

Today we had to meet with the Psychologist again to do a new report for the Colombian adoption. He is a sweet older man who is doing his best to help us get this done fast. He asked us to write down our answers to the questions ahead of time in order to save us from spending 4 hours at an appointment.

I was struggling with coming up with words to describe our "personalities", so I asked him for the results of our old MMPI so I could get some ideas on wording. He pulled it out of our file, told us that we had done just fine on the test... well,...except for one thing for Brent....He apparently is slightly controlling and hostile! LOL! I was cracking up! I was remembering how we felt like we were ready to go crazy taking that miserable test and that YES, we were both feeling a little HOSTILE as we answered those questions.

Then he explained that it just means you have to bite your tongue and not say what you are thinking....That made me laugh even more! Hmmm...could the test actually be more accurate than we thought? HAHAHAHA!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Summer 2010- Almost done catching up!

Steppingstone Museum had Medieval Days this year which we were finally able to attend. It was so fun! Jake loved the armor.
Quite a helmet!
We got to watch a REAL duel!
Er, um...yes, my hubby got a tatoo. Airbrushed, though. Crazy man!

Spring 2010 Catch up

Cait and Daddy went out with her girlfriends and their daddies for a nice dinner and a browse through the bookstore. They are all getting so grown up. I pray that she sees her daddy's example when she looks for a Godly husband one day.
Being silly!
Caitlin learned how to make the famous Mexican dessert- Tres Leche Cake. Mmmm deliciouso!
We had fun fishing in the neighbor pond and catching frogs and other critters!
There is a dilapidated old farmhouse with barns and outbuildings on the same property. We had fun going exploring in the buildings and traipsing through the fields around the farm.
Presentation Night display
A trip to the Washington Zoo was full of fun!
The Panda bear entertained us for quite a while- up close!


This year we decided to celebrate Passover as a way of finding symbols of Christ in the celebration. It was a wonderful learning experience for all of us. We found a Christian version of the Haggadah to follow which helped us to see how each element of the meal pointed to the coming Christ. We really loved this and can't wait to do it again.

Winter of 2010 Sampling

Brent taught a lesson on land navigation skills when we were studying Columbus.
They all understood it, but I was completely lost!
They all found all their plotted points! Even in the dark!
We had SO MUCH SNOW this winter!
Look at those walls of snow!
Studying volcanos was fun!
Our volcano before being painted....
Grant and Jake both found half frozen birds at different times this winter. We brought them in, warmed them up, fed them, identified them and sent them on their way.
The kids love it when we shop at grocery stores where they pack stuff in boxes. The boxes are always good for some crafts!
Some divers at the aquarium were feeding the rays and let Jake and Quinn help. Poor Quinn almost threw up looking at the clams! Jake wasn't too fond of them either.
We love to bring our nature journals to the aquarium. Quinn had a good seat!
A trip with the co-op to learn about early American history was tons of fun!
What a paradox! Everlasting snow on the ground but hot enough to be in shorts and tshirt!

Welcoming 2010- still catching up

For the past several years we've had Dave and Melanie's family over to spend the night for New Years' Eve. We always have tons of food (junk food only), lots of noise, great deep conversation and lots of KIDS!

Still Catching Up- Christmas 2009

Our annual trip to chop down our Christmas tree.
We had a great time going to Hamton to see the streets full of lights!
I Love this shot of my guys!
Cait got a chest full of sewing material and supplies!
Jake was so excited to get climbing with a real grappling hook and climbing shoes and gloves! Right up his alley!
Grant wanted this foldable shovel to add to his important gear bag!
Quinn was so excited to have a Despereaux lunchbox. He loves that movie!
Cait was SUPER surprised to get.....
A Wii!  We had told the kids that there was NO WAY we were getting one, but boy did they get surprised!

Christmas morning was spent differently this year. We really felt God calling us to celebrate with greater purpose. So before we opened gifts, we packed up a couple food bags, jumped in the car and drove around until God told us to stop. He stopped us at a stranger's home where we delivered the food and visited with her and prayed with her. It was an amazing time and impacted the children and us greatly. In fact, they didn't want to go home so soon, so they begged us to go to the local nursing home and find someone who wouldn't have family to visit with on Christmas. We weren't sure if they would let the kids in since swine flu was circling through hospitals, but they did! We talked and sang and prayed with a very sick elderly man who hadn't had family visit in 10 years. We are so glad we obeyed God's prompting to spend this Christmas differently!

Family Mexico Mission Trip

There is SO much to tell about this wonderful trip to Mexico that our family took in September '09. We felt that God put a burden on our hearts to serve Him as a whole family. It was a life-changing trip in so many ways. Each of us grew and were convicted in new areas that God, in His mercy, revealed to us. We traveled with our precious friends, the Bynions, and had a fantastic time. Here are just a FEW pics of this trip....

Getting our visas!
The LONG ride to Chihuahua
Divisidero Hotel built into the edge of the canyon in the Copper Canyon
Grant brought a bike repair kit and flashlight for Luis, his penpal.
Jake and Isaia making Taco Serpientes out of play doh. These two became best buddies!
Ceci, Cait's penpal, spent a while trying to learn words in each other's languages.
Playing Uno with the kids at the orphanage. This was an incredible time for all of us. Life-changing.

Our sponsor daughter, Valentina (in front of me holding the doll) with just a few of her family members. This is in the doorway of their house. We were very blessed to be in a Tarahumaran home. They don't often let others come in.
Rogelio witnessing to a local Tarahumaran boy in the Sierra (mountains). He is such a natural with children. He and his wife Claudia have a special place in our hearts.
Ivan is our sponsor son. His mom had just had a baby so Brent and I took him (with Hector and Gloria) to see her in the hospital. Unfortunately, the baby did not survive and the mom has been so sad ever since. We are so thankful that we were able to minister to her and her son during this sad time. Ivan is a sweetie-pie!
Hector is a phenomenal minister of the gospel. We were so blessed to be at Lightshine the week that the gospel story was told! 

 We have TONS more photos, and MANY more memories of this incredible trip. Each one of us has gone through periodic "Chihuahua withdrawl" since we've come home. God was so good to allow us to serve Him in Mexico.