Weekly Wrap-Up – June 19 – End of School Year, Book-Loving Boys, and Borat

We finished the 2014-15 school year last Friday, June 12. Yay! I’m not sure who was more relieved—Grayson, or myself. We had both worked so hard to get him finished before the end of June. From March until June 12, we only took one day off, and that was the day Reagan died. He even did work on weekends (tests, review sheets). In the end, we ended up finishing two weeks earlier than I’d originally thought we would. Desmond ended up getting eight weeks into 2nd grade before we stopped for our break. Not too shabby.

This past week, our first week off of school, we did absolutely nothing! The boys loved having days completely free to do whatever they wanted. Mostly that consisted of playing outside (despite heat indices of 108 each day), playing games (I played with them a little), and a lot of reading. They built a tent in Gray’s bedroom and spent a good deal of time in there reading their new library books. P took them both to the library on Tuesday; a trip on which Des applied for and received his very own library card. They each returned with a stack of books…

Gray's Library Haul.

Gray’s Library Haul.


Des' library haul. 17 books!

Des’ library haul. 17 books!


Des has been reserving books by series. He read all the “Horrible Harry” books that our county’s library system had, and now he’s moved on to “The Time Warp Trio” series. I like these books because they teach history. He likes them because they’re fun to read, and he gets to “time travel” along with the kids in the books.

Gray has been enjoying Gordon Korman’s “Swindle” series. He’s just finishing up the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series, which I’m not as thrilled about him reading. We decided if he started displaying disrespectful or negative attitudes (which are rampant in the books), that he wouldn’t read them anymore; so far he hasn’t, so that’s good. 🙂 He’s a pretty respectful kid overall. Every now and then he’ll display a bad or disrespectful attitude, but after being sent to sit on his bed for a while, he’ll get it right with God and come apologize and tell us how he was wrong, and what he needs to do differently. His little brother has a more difficult time with his attitude, which we’re working diligently to help him overcome. The best tactic is to always point him (or them) to Jesus; I find that some time spent alone with Jesus always softens their hearts.

Our library loans out DVDs, and I’ve been using that service lately. We stopped our Netflix account a year or two ago, which makes watching movies a little more difficult. I checked out the two Elizabeth movies that star Cate Blanchett, and we enjoyed watching those. P and I did, that is. They’re not for kids. Which is sad, because they would’ve been great to go along with our history studies. Then during last week’s library haul, P checked out Borat: Cultural Learnings of America. 


Yes, they actually had this DVD at the public library!  It’s rated R (for very good reasons) and is not something I would ever expect our public library to carry. It is not for children, that’s for sure. But nevertheless, P and I have wanted to watch it for years, but have never gotten around to it. So this week P and I watched it, including all the special features, and found it to be hilarious despite the crude humor. “Borat” leaves his home country of Khazakhstan and travels the USA, meeting and interacting with regular, unsuspecting people who have no idea they’re being punk’d by Sasha Baron Cohen. The results are hysterical while at the same time, nearly unbearably uncomfortable. P and I needed a laugh this week, and Borat delivered, at no cost to us. I love the library!

The boys love the library, too. Sometimes they accompany me on my evening walks, but they don’t want to put their book down. They will literally walk and read while walking down the road.

Exercising while reading.

Exercising while reading.

Why not?

Why not?

Weekly Wrap-Up – May 15 – Equations, Bloody Mary, and Severed Heads

Desmond finished first grade this week! Yay, Des! He got a cake, a small gift from us, and lots of attention on Tuesday. The best part, though, was how proud he was of his achievements. While we were sitting at the table enjoying cake, I listed some of his main accomplishments; namely, mastering reading and having read over fifty chapter books in a span of just over two months. Also, mastering his addition and subtraction fact families, along with many other arithmetic concepts. After I’d named those things, he piped up himself and said, “And I also…”, and proceeded to name off all the awesome things he’d learned and done over the past school year. It was obvious that he’s proud of himself and how far he’s come, too. 🙂

Also this week, Gray worked on solving algebraic equations, as well as solving and computing compound measurements. In grammar, he finished his punctuation unit and made a 100 on the test. We’re now doing the final unit in his grammar text, which is on writing good sentences. Yesterday we focused on appositives, phrases which clarify nouns, for the day. (See what I did there? 😉  )

Some of Graysooooooooooon's work this week.

Some of Graysooooooooooon’s work this week.

We focused heavily on history this week. We had some lessons that all bridged together, so we did one each day—following the great (and often ugly) reign of the Tudor family in England, as well as Mary, Queen of Scots and the hard-nosed Scottish reformer John Knox. All this took place in the mid-late 1500’s. Smack in the middle of the Great Reformation, and all the brutality waged against protestant “heretics” for their beliefs. Though, we also learned, protestant rulers did their share of persecuting and killing catholics, too. It goes without saying that it’s sad that Christians were ever persecuting and killing other Christians—or anyone at all, actually.

It all continually brought to mind (and I told the boys many times) how blessed we are to live in an era and in a country where we have no state church—and therefore freedom of religion. Catholics and other Christian denominations (I dislike the term “protestant”…I use “Christian”) live in complete freedom, peace, and harmony in our country. Other religions enjoy freedom as well. It won’t always be this way, but for now we enjoy great freedom, especially compared to 16th-century anywhere. Or even compared to most countries in the world today.  It all comes down to having a state church. Whenever that happens, you can bet that persecution is soon to follow—no matter what denomination. Catholics were the main perpetrators during the dark ages and reformation era, but once protestants got power in various places, they did their share of persecution. John Calvin, for example—he was a horrible man who tried to control everyone in his stead—to the point of imprisoning and martyring detractors. The Puritans in colonial America are another example—remember the Scarlet Letter? Putting people who’d “sinned” in stocks? Or beating, imprisoning, or killing them. The Salem Witch Trials, for yet another example. I could go on, but the point is, there’s very good reason for the separation of Church and state. I would like to think that modern Christians would do better, but history and experience says they would not.

We had lessons on Mary Tudor (aka Bloody Mary), who was a catholic queen of England; she was also Henry VIII’s daughter (with Catherine of Aragon, his first wife whom he scorned for not giving him a son). Mary was dead-set on returning England to the Roman church following her father’s switch to protestantism. So, she had hundreds of protestants burned at the stake or beheaded and caused great bloodshed and religious turmoil in England. We learned that the famous nursery rhyme, “Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary” was written for her—with heavy satire.  “Silver bells and cockleshells” were instruments of torture that she used, and “pretty maids all in a row” were the guillotines she used for putting to death many protestant Christians. Thankfully, her reign was short-lived; she ruled for only about five years before she fell ill and died.

Mary was followed in reign by her half-sister Elizabeth (also Henry VIII’s daughter; her mother was Anne Boleyn), who was a protestant queen. She had a much more peaceful reign with much less killing, though she had her moments where she signed the death warrants of a few catholics, for nothing more than their choice of religion. But overall, her reign was a long and positive one that’s still remembered fondly by the English: also known as the Elizabethan Age, which was the age that saw the great William Shakespeare. Elizabeth I never took a husband and never had children (though she had many suitors and love interests; they just never went very far). She was dubbed “The Virgin Queen” (our state of Virginia is her namesake); she said she chose to live her life for England, rather than have a family. Kind of sad, to me. Her story has interested me in watching the two Hollywood films about her, where she’s played by Cate Blanchett. Our library has them available on dvd, so the next time P goes, he’s going to check them out for me. 🙂

Mary Stuart (or Mary, Queen of Scots) was queen of Scotland for a short time, but—as she was catholic—protestant leader John Knox opposed her vehemently. She ended up involved in some major scandal, as she was pregnant with her 2nd husband’s baby (that baby would later become England’s King James—of Bible translation fame) while at the same time being very close and friendly with another man. Then, her husband ended up getting murdered, and both Mary and her man friend (whom she married just a few months after her 2nd husband’s murder) were implicated in the murder. Mary went to Queen Elizabeth I of England—who happened to be her own cousin—for help. But Elizabeth, fearing Mary would usurp her throne, refused to help her. She, in fact, had Mary locked up in castle prisons for 19 years. At the end of that 19 years, she was accused of actually plotting to de-throne Elizabeth (no one knows if this is true or not), and Elizabeth signed her death warrant. Mary was beheaded, and quite gruesomely—the executioner’s first blow sunk into the back of her head, instead of her neck! Her response was to whisper, “Sweet Jesus!”.  The executioner’s second blow hit the target, but failed to completely cut off her head. The third blow finally beheaded her. The executioner then picked up her severed head by its hair, but unbeknownst to him, Mary had been wearing a wig (she’d been in poor health from all the years of imprisonment). He was clutching only her wig, and her severed head fell loose and rolled across the ground…while her lips continued to move for nearly 15 minutes! Pretty gruesome…but of course, the boys loved these parts best of all. Boys.

For the hundredth time, I love history so much! Especially renaissance and reformation-age English history. The boys enjoy it, too. Desmond hangs on every word, and remembers things I’d never expect him to remember at his age. We have a lot of fun during these lessons. All week, I’ve found short documentaries on youtube to go along with our lessons, and we’ve watched them as supplements. It really seals the knowledge into their brains. Now the boys are wanting to act out some of their favorite scenes and video them…so we may do that next week.

In other news, we adopted some kittens last week. They were eight-week-old sisters (now they’re nine weeks old). They are so sweet, and so playful! They’ve kept us entertained (and on our toes) since the day they arrived. They play-fight constantly when they’re awake. They play with everything…constantly! Thankfully, they still sleep a lot. 😉

Our little ladies, all sweet and innocent-looking. Cricket is the tabby, and Layla is the Siamese.

Our little ladies, all sweet and innocent-looking. Cricket is the tabby, and Layla is the Siamese.

They entertain (or is it distract?) us while we do school lessons each morning.

They entertain (or is it distract?) us while we do school lessons each morning.

I'm going to go with "distract".

I’m going to go with “distract”.


Weekly Wrap-Up – May 1 – Circles, Bones, and Explorers

My update earlier this week covered what we did last week, as well as my research into next year’s curriculum. Thank goodness, I decided on what we’re using, and I got everything ordered. I found some great deals on used curriculum, and most of it is on its way—some has already arrived. So, what did we work on this week in school?

In arithmetic, Gray has been learning geometry in greater depth than he has in previous years. He’s learned about radii, diameter, and pi, and he’s used those to calculate both the circumference and the area of circles. He’s also learned how to calculate the area of triangles, parallelograms, and some other complex shapes. He’s drawing circles using a compass, and measuring & creating angles with a protractor. I’ve learned (technically re-learned, but it feels like learning anew after 27 years, which is how long it’s been since I took geometry) most of this right alongside him, and it’s kind of fun. He has an incredible ability to understand math conceptually, for which I’m grateful. He’s very easy to teach! 🙂

Sample of Gray's recent geometry work.

Sample of Gray’s recent geometry work.

Des learned to multiply this week, which is a big step here at the end of first grade. Last week, he learned to do tally marks and use those to quickly count things like points or items, which is a type of multiplying in and of itself.

Des working on a tally mark project

Des working on his tally mark project

In grammar, Gray and I are almost done with his huge Easy Grammar text…we’ve been working through it for nearly two years! He’s learned and mastered all the parts of speech, and the last chapters are on capitalization, punctuation, and sentence structure. We’ll have no problem finishing the text by the time he finishes up math for the year in June.

In phonics, Des has completed his Handbook For Reading, and we’re currently just reviewing all the special sounds together during his last week of first grade.

In anatomy, we’ve done some final projects and supplemental activities on the skeletal system. Right now, we’ve got some chicken bones soaking in vinegar. After a few days in the vinegar bath, the bones should be soft, rubbery, and bendable. This is because the acid in the vinegar removes the calcium from the bones, and they soften. One thing the boys have learned during this chapter is how important calcium is during their growing years, and how a lack of proper calcium could keep them from growing to their full height. Since both Gray and Des are obsessed with being at least 6’5″ (seriously…this is the minimum height they each want to reach! :D), they each decided to be sure to drink at least one cup of milk each day.

Dem Bones...

Dem Bones…

In history, the boys spent several days doing notebook pages on four major European explorers to the Americas in the 1500s: Ponce de Leon, Jacques Cartier, Hernando de Soto, and Francisco de Coronado. Gray wrote obituaries for each of these men, listing their accomplishments as well as their failures. Unfortunately, one thing they all had in common was their terrible mistreatment and taking advantage of the Native North Americans, who had been welcoming and friendly to them at first. It’s hard to read about these things; we were cringing at the mistreatment the Natives suffered at the hands of these explorers, who saw them only as pagan savages—in other words, they failed to see them as fully human. It led to a discussion with the boys about how—all throughout history—whenever a particular group of people is seen by another group of people as inferior or somehow less human (Native Americans, Jews during the holocaust, Blacks during slavery & up through the civil rights movement, just to name a few), it gives them license (in their own minds, at least) to do unfathomable things to those people.

It was a valuable discussion to have with the boys. I can tell it impacted them. I’m not one to disparage my European roots, but upon studying a balanced history of this period, it’s impossible to excuse the exploitation of almost all (if not all) the Native American tribes by European explorers and settlers. Gray was telling me how he was trying to imagine what it must’ve been like for the Native Americans, with strange men from distant lands and with much more advanced weapons and equipment coming and claiming their land, forcing them to leave their homes, stealing from them, and in some cases, kidnapping them and putting them in chains and collars. He told me he’d like to write a historical fiction story from that perspective, exploring what it might’ve felt like and been like to be them. On that note, I really hope he pursues writing as his career…he’s clearly got a writer’s mind. However, we pray regularly that God will guide Gray into the career choice that’s HIS best plan for him, and that Gray would follow that leading and God’s path for all the days of his life.

That’s it for another Arcadia Trails week. 🙂

Weekly Wrap-Up – 12/19/14

We’re on Christmas break! After a week of working with fractions of percents and other tedious related math concepts, Gray and I are certainly ready. One day we had to get P to come make sense of a poorly-explained concept (Abeka is notorious for this from 5th grade math on up, which is why we’re switching after this year). He ended up re-designing one of their conversion charts to include important parts that they’d left off of theirs. Yes, having a designer who’s also good at math comes in handy. 😉

We finished up a unit (adjectives) in grammar, and Gray took a big cumulative test, on which he scored 100%! I still haven’t done any end-of-term grade totaling yet for either of the boys, but I have all next week to do it, with no school to do each day. I can’t wait to see what grades they get. Des is pretty likely to get all A’s (he’s doing fantastic in all his subjects!), but I’m not sure if Gray will or not. He might have a couple of B’s.

We did all history this week, no anatomy. We had momentum going with the Reformation, so I didn’t want to stop. We studied John Calvin, and I was disappointed that the author of our history text was pretty biased toward him being the greatest of all the reformers (which I strongly disagree with). He was right about at least one thing, and that’s that salvation is through faith alone, in Christ alone—not through works or any merit of our own. But that’s where Calvin ceased, in my opinion, being correct in his theology & doctrine.

I think the worst part of his story is that when Calvin, as a pastor, gained some political power in Geneva, Switzerland, he drafted a set of strict moral codes and required every citizen to sign them and follow them. It banned things such as dancing, drinking alcohol, eating too much, and carousing. It put limits on how a woman could wear her hair, and how many dishes one could set at their table, just to give a couple of examples. The punishment for breaking these codes ranged from fines and jail time, to execution. Yes, he had people put to death for what he deemed as heresy. This was no different from what the Roman Catholic church had been doing to “heretics” for centuries—so how was that, in any way, “reform”? It wasn’t. Yet John Calvin is revered by many, many Christians today as the greatest reformer of the entire movement, and apparently our author is no exception. After telling how he had a man executed for heresy, she went on to say that she thinks of all the things Calvin may be guilty of, probably the worst was that he worked too hard and didn’t take enough time to rest. That surprised me. I really hope I misunderstood what she meant to say, but I read it several times and it’s stated pretty clearly. Gray said he may write a letter to ask her why she didn’t condemn Calvin’s harsh moral code, the jailings & executions he caused—and also ask her why she didn’t include anything about Jacobus Arminius in the study of the Reformation (he’s kind of one of the major reformers). I hope he does! I might just assign it as part of his history notebooking work.

We also studied the city of Venice in the Renaissance, and some of the great artist Titian’s paintings. Then the boys painted a sunset-on-water scene of Venice.

Gray's sunset-on-water scene.

Gray’s sunset-on-water scene.

Des' sunset-on-water scene.

Des’ sunset-on-water scene.

We did a day’s study on women of the Renaissance, too, which we all found interesting. Especially Anne Askew—she’s a courageous woman worth reading about. She was a vocal English Protestant who refused to stop speaking the truth—and the Roman church had her arrested time after time, until they finally racked her so badly she couldn’t walk afterwards, and then burned her at the stake as a heretic. 😦  Such a sadness. This year I’ve done much study and thinking on the history of the Church and how & when things went so wrong after that glorious, Spirit-filled time of the early Church as chronicled in the book of Acts. Philip has, too, and he & I have discussed these things late into the night and even into the early morning, at times.

I just have so many ponderings and questions…but that’s another blog post for another time. Our history studies lately are just bringing me back to wanting to get answers to those questions, as well as inspiring me even more to be a part of bringing the Church back to what it was originally, and always, meant to be.

And with that, we’re off for our break! Merry Christmas!

Weekly Wrap-Up 12/12/14

Yes, it’s been a while. I took a couple of months off of social media—which included blogging, also. But I’m back and refreshed, and I highly recommend taking periodic media fasts. Facebook, especially, really takes a toll on me. There’s so much negativity and things that annoy me or challenge my commitment to being positive. I’ve done my best to keep my newsfeed positive (I also highly recommend the social fixer app! You can input particular keywords, and have posts that contain those words blocked. It makes football & other sports seasons bearable for me, because once I block out all team names, mascots, and sports terms, I don’t see any of those types of posts anymore. This is just one example. You can block anything you want. Lots of people use it to block political posts, for example. It’s fantastic! It does other helpful things, too).  But despite all the improvements I’ve made to the Facebook experience, periodically taking a nice, long fast is good for my soul.

We took most of the month of October off from school, as usual. We’ve been back to work these past few weeks, and have been progressing through our curriculum at a good pace. We finished our Botany study! We just started our new Apologia science course: Human Anatomy & Physiology. It’s been fun & interesting so far, for all three of us. We’ve already covered a brief history of anatomy, and this week they learned the anatomy of a cell: the names of all the organelles and their functions. It required Gray to draw & label each part as we covered it, which perked him up immediately, because he loves any opportunity to draw. He said didn’t want the lesson to end. He wishes all subjects could be taught using drawing and notebooking. 😉 (So do I!)

In preparation for learning all the different organs & systems of the body, the boys each made their own “personal person”. They’ll be drawing each organ on there directly, as they learn about it.

Their "personal person" cut-outs.

Their “personal person” cut-outs.


Des has been joining us for history lessons, for the first time ever. Amazingly, he’s paying good attention, and though some things go over his head, he’s understanding a surprising amount. We’ve reached the 16th century and the Reformation, and we’ve been spending a lot of time studying the various reformers and those who opposed them. Before Mystery of History, I never realized just how corrupt the Roman church had become throughout the Dark Ages (which has spawned some personal research on the side, for me) and I never realized what a hero Martin Luther was or why he was moved to do what he did. Through his willingness to stand up to corruption in the church (which basically ran the governments at the time), he changed everything for Christendom. We’ve studied a few more of Luther’s contemporaries who joined the Reformation (Menno Simons, the Anabaptists/Swiss Brethren, Sir Thomas More), and while Gray & I find it all very fascinating, even Des has been getting into it, as much as he can understand it. I’m glad I decided to include him!

We’ve also studied other 16th-century people & events, like Suleiman and the Ottoman Empire, Akbar the Great and the Mughal Dynasty, the building of the Taj Mahal, and Henry VIII of England (and his many wives and their fates). It’s been fun. We look forward to history more than any other subject. The notebooking activities given after each lesson in MOH are almost always something Gray enjoys doing.

They built a model of the Taj Mahal. Everything about the Taj Mahal is symmetrical.

They built a model of the Taj Mahal. Everything about the Taj Mahal is symmetrical.


Gray is in the throes of percents, decimals, ratios, and proportions in math, which he’s grasping so well—thankfully for me. Once again, I’m enjoying the lessons and gaining an understanding of how these things truly work, after having struggled with math all my life. I’m a classic case of a “good” student who slipped through the cracks in school, especially in math. I managed to struggle through and keep a B average, but I didn’t truly understand what I was doing. Re-learning some of these more complicated things along with Gray has given me true understanding. I’m looking forward to starting higher math with him, because we’ll both be learning it.

Des is doing great in 1st grade math. Grammar (for Gray) and Phonics (for Des) are going smoothly, also. Not a lot worth sharing there, or this post will get even more boring than it already is. Really, everything is going well. They’re both good students and have been working hard this year. Gray’s study habits have improved immensely, and I’m so thankful. I no longer have to stay on him constantly in order for him to get all his work done in a timely, neat manner. He’s growing up.

Speaking of him growing up, a while back, we bought him a Moleskine notebook to use for his nature journal. He wanted to keep a detailed nature journal, but the lines on regular notebook paper ruin the artist’s mojo. 😉 I decided he was old enough to have his very first Moleskine, which thrilled him to no end. He could hardly wait the two days it took for Amazon to get it here, and since then, he’s gone out regularly to sit and observe nature and make entries. I love that boy and this part of him…he’d better find a worthy wife who appreciates this sensitive, artsy side of him. 😉

I’ve got everything timed out for our last day of school before our Christmas break to be this coming Friday, the 19th. We’ll have two weeks off and then start back Jan. 5th. During that time, I’m going to do grades for each of the boys, based on the weeks we’ve worked so far this year. This is my first year giving grades, and I haven’t worked out exactly how I’m going to do it, but it’s something we needed to start doing.

I’m not linking up with the official Weekly Wrap-Up this past week, because I’m very late. Hopefully I’ll get done on time this coming week.

Weekly Wrap-up 8/29

It’s my first Weekly Wrap-Up in a while! We sorta started school the week before last, but we’ve been going slow and easy. I’ve only really started Gray on math, since that’s our only must-finish-within-a-school-year subject. I’ve had him doing two lessons per day, since early on in the course it’s all review (Abeka Arithmetic kindly marks repetitive problems in a different color, so I have him skip all those, permitting he gets all the other problems in that section correct). We’re 20 lessons in so far, which gets us four weeks into the school year, in just two weeks! We’re quickly getting to the part where I’ll have to sit down and do lessons with him, though, so next week will look different.

We’ve continued intensive study of botany, in order to finish out our botany book before fall arrives— it’s hard to do experiments on leaf transpiration, flower observation, etc. once fall gets here. 😉 I can say honestly that I’ve learned something new almost every single day in our study of botany. I’m a plant, flower, and tree person, so I’ve been enjoying learning lots along with the boys. I just can’t believe I haven’t learned some of these things already! It’s really true that you can learn something new every day, no matter your age or how educated you think you already are on a particular subject.

Over the past couple of weeks in botany, we’ve learned about phototropism (it’s what causes plants and trees to grow & reach for the sun), stems, and tree trunks. We studied the various parts of a tree stem from our yard, and Gray diagrammed the anatomy of the inside of a tree trunk. We went looking around the neighborhood for trees with trunks twisted and curved due to phototropism— when we found one, we took a picture and Gray drew it for his notebook when he got back home. We put a piece of cut celery into red-colored water, and got to see how the xylem (the veins in a stem that carry water up to the top of a plant) suck up that water:


See the red dots? And the red veins going up the stem…and the red all in the leaves? All that got there from simply having the bottom couple of inches of the stem submerged in red water for a couple of days. The boys thought it was a pretty cool experiment (so did I)!

And finally, Desmond received his new spiral notebook (Angry Birds Pigs, of course- one of his favorites!) this week and began his very first journal entries. He was wary at first, having never written anything formally for school, but I’m pleased with his work so far.


He needs to be conscious of his sentence capitalization, and there are some spelling errors (then again, he’s only 6), but I’m so excited at how far he’s come. I just can’t rave enough about Abeka’s phonics program. It produced a complete turnaround in him. This time last year he wrote absolutely nothing on his own, ever, and was barely reading anything. Now he can write (and spell!) pretty well, and he’s an exceptional reader. For his journal entries, I started very easy and am requiring him to write at least three sentences per day, and he can write on any subject he wants.

And so ends another quiet, easy week to ease us into our new school year. Next week, we’ll start having full math & language/phonics lessons, in addition to botany. Then we’ll start easing back into history, writing, handwriting, and everything else that makes a full load for all of us.

I’m linking with the Weekly Wrap-Up at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. If you’re a homeschool blogger and would like to participate, it’s open to all!

Weekly Wrap-Up