Monday, April 14, 2014

ECC: Canada

Welcome back!  We spent a couple weeks setting the stage for our year (Part 1Part 2) before learning about our own country (Part 1 and Part 2).  We decided to visit our neighbors to the north before heading south to Mexico.  That way we could study several Spanish-speaking countries at once instead of splitting them up.  We "flew" into Ottawa and spent three weeks exploring Canada.

School under the table for a mid-winter change of pace!


We listened to John 3:16 in French and read about the Garifuna in Window on the World.  We read about William and Catherine Booth in Hero Tales.  There isn't much hands-on to show you, but the kids do enjoy the readings very much!

Language Arts

Most of our language arts have been integrated in other subjects these past weeks.  We're still using the copywork pages from Mama Jenn for Hero Tales and geography terms.  Between that, spelling, and memorizing a poem, we've got it covered!  To go along with our study of caniforms and our stay in Canada, we read The Bears on Hemlock Mountain.  It was a huge hit with the kids!


The kids made Canadian flags with handprints for the maple leaf.

And we carved polar bears out of ivory soap the way the Inuit people carve from bone or soapstone.  Did you know the term Eskimo is now considered offensive?  When I was a kid we learned about Indians and Eskimos; now kids learn about Native Americans and First Nations.  It's sometimes difficult to keep up with the changes in semantics (starfish, anyone?), but it's important to make a lifetime habit of learning...even for old mamas!


In science we've nearly wrapped up our study of caniforms.  To celebrate, we took a trip to the zoo!  There we looked for as many caniforms as we could find.  Miss M even rode a caniform on the carousel!  (It was an African Wild Dog.)

Of course, the highlight of our zoo field trip was visiting Nikita and Berlin the polar bears!  Such magnificent creatures!  We're hoping along with the rest of Kansas City that sometime soon we'll have wee polar bear cubs to visit. 

Did you know that polar bears' skin is black?  God had a good reason for designing them that way.  We did an experiment to show that black is warmer than white!

To wind up our stay in Canada, we ate poutine, a dish of French fries and cheese curds with gravy. It was delicious!

We had lots of fun learning about Canada, its geography and culture, and we're looking forward to our travels South of the Border!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

ECC: USA, Part 2

We spent two weeks introducing our year (Part 1, Part 2) and shared Part 1 of our travels in the USA. Here's part two before heading off to visit our neighbors to the north.


This year we are reading through the book of Matthew.  To help us along the way, we made bookmarks featuring the name Matthew or Matthaios in ancient Greek.  This is the language the book of Matthew was originally written in.  The back of our bookmarks have the readings for the year broken down into portions with a space for checking off each one as we go.

Miss M never reads her Bible without a dry highlighter in her hand…and she highlights everything she reads.  I think she would eventually like to have her entire Bible highlighted.  Hey, if that's what it takes to get her in the Word, then it's fine by me!


Somedays when you wake up and it's bitter cold outside, you just need some fresh scones and a tea party to get ya going!

For USA we listened to some Wee Sing Around the World: a song in the language of the Omaha Tribe and the Eentsy Weentsy Spider.  (We always sing it Itsy-Bitsy though).  The kids loved them both!  Lots of good excuses to dance and prance around, going over and under, around and through.  We also studied the hymn Rescue the Perishing that we enjoyed very much!


We continued our study of Van Gogh in our final weeks of USA.  You can see our art "wall" in the kitchen where we posted our new works as we studied them.  Little Guy was particularly bothered by the red color on Van Gogh's ear in his self portrait.  He thought he must have gotten sunburned and that it looked yucky.  In fact, he repeatedly told me how much he didn't like the self portrait at first, but a few weeks later he told me that he changed his mind and he likes that one best.
We used this sunflower project as a springboard to make our own.  Miss M used acrylic paint, crayon, and chalk pastels.  I'm getting a nice frame to put her finished product in!

Farewell USA Picnic

To wind up our stay in the USA, we had an indoor picnic!  It was much too cold to have a real picnic, but we had fun.  My mom came to visit that day and joined our festivities.  We served hamburgers with all the fixin's, carrot sticks, potato salad, grape tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese pearls, and pink lemonade!  I had a few toothpick pinwheels in patriotic colors from when we celebrated the one year anniversary of Hubby becoming a US citizen.  They added the perfect touch to our burgers!

We enjoyed learning about our own country -- Miss M said her favorite new thing she learned was about the colors of our flag, their meaning, and that Congress did not establish a meaning for them -- but we're excited to move on to another country!  We'll be "flying" to Canada soon!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

ECC: USA, Part 1

After our first two weeks (Part 1, Part 2) of introductory material, we were ready to start out on our traveling adventures! We spent the next three weeks "traveling" around the USA, learning about it's geographical significance.


One of our texts for this year is Window on the World.  In it we read about a couple different people groups in North America where Bible translation work is on-going.  The kids loved that each section includes a list of items to pray about and to praise the Lord for!  We each take turns lifting these items before the Lord.

We also started reading about Christian heroes from Hero Tales, beginning with Dwight L. Moody.  I printed the copywork pages from Mama Jenn.  Miss M enjoys illustrating these pages.  Though at times her zany sense of humor comes through rather strongly!


Miss M has been trucking along through Singapore Math 2B.  I've been faithfully remembering to have her drill her basic math facts: addition on Mondays, subtraction on Tuesdays, multiplication on Wednesdays, and division on Thursdays. Fridays we forego our Singapore lessons and play math games -- often involving dice or spinners or timers or something of that nature.  I got a set of Wrap-Ups from a deal on Zulily that have been a big hit with Miss M.  But the favorite activity of all is playing Timez Attack! (And sometimes math lessons require ensconcing oneself in a little nook somewhere!)

Language Arts

I mentioned last time that we may end formal spelling lessons when we complete Spelling Power.  Well, I was thinking about that more and decided that once we reach that point I'm going to focus more on vocabulary (including proper spelling).  Miss M is very good at reading and spelling words, but she's only 7, so she hasn't been around long enough to learn all the words in the English language. *wink*  In other words, there's plenty of material out there for her to learn even though she is an excellent speller!  I ordered this book used from Amazon and I think it'll be an excellent place to start.  If you have a vocabulary resource you love, please let me know about it in the comments section!

Read Aloud

To enhance our "travels" in the USA, I selected The Cricket in Times Square to read aloud to the kids. They *loved* it!  Even Little Guy didn't want to miss a single word as we read.  I found some interesting resources on Pinterest to go along with it:

No one ever said that only the kids are allowed to be inspired by good literature, right?  'Cause I was inspired by The Cricket in Times Square to make a Chester Cricket stuffed toy.  Cute, no?


Since we spent most of last year studying the USA and all 50 states, this was nearly all review.  I quizzed Miss M on the states by handing her a blank map of the USA.  She correctly filled in every single state! That's pretty impressive, if you ask me!  We also looked up some facts about our flag and tried some regional recipes.  The New England Pumpkin Cake we made was gone so fast I didn't even have a chance to take a picture!


To complement our study of the countries of the world, we began studying the biomes of earth as well. We started with forests.  Miss M made a large poster of the layers of a forest, did a forest vocabulary page, and pasted some pictures of forest dwellers to the layer of the forest in which they'd likely spend most of their time.  We also watched some films about forests on Netflix -- my favorite was called Moving Art: Forests because it had no talking, just pretty pictures and pretty music!


We've been slowly working through our Tagalog flashcards working our way through the family members.  The kids love it!  It feels like a snail's pace to me, but they don't seem to mind!

I'll have to share the other books we enjoyed and our studies in art and music in Part 2.  We have certainly been enjoying our travels in the good old USA, but we're getting ready to move on to other parts of the world.  But as always, "Good things come to those who wait."

Friday, February 28, 2014

Happy birthday, Zaemn!

My nephew Zaemn is having a birthday today!

It's been quite a while since we've seen him; he lives with his mom in another state.  But we think about him often and speak of him to one another.

Today we're going to eat pie in his honor…and sing "Happy Birthday" too!

Happy birthday, Zaemn!  We love you and pray for you always!  And we look forward to the day when we will see you again!  Miss M always says she misses you -- you two are best buds!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

ECC: Introduction weeks, Part 2

Part 1 of our first two weeks of ECC can be found here.


This week we started reading Kingdom Tales and I was immediately floored at how amazing it is! I even went so far as to message my cousin and tell her she has to get her hands on a copy by hook or by crook because I just know she's going to love it as much as I do! (She herself is an author of Christian allegory.)  The kids are enjoying it too and though they're only seven and four, they easily caught onto and understood the symbolism and message of each chapter.


This week in geography was a continuation of basic map skills.  We talked about how cartographers draw scale maps of large landforms and Miss M copied an outline of her hand from 1:1 scale to 1:2 scale.  She did fine, but I think this is definitely an activity better suited for older students.

To facilitate our study of map symbols and keys, I pulled up our neighborhood on Google Earth and sketched out the major streets.  Then Miss M filled in the details, labeled it all, and got busy drawing and placing symbols.

The kids' relationships with each other have blossomed in the past weeks. They are the best of playmates and really enjoy doing everything together.  Even when I set Miss M a task to do alone, she almost invariably invites her little brother to join her.  One of their favorite times each day is Book Basket time.

Enjoying a pull-out minibook from The Complete Book of Animals.
As a finale to our week, Miss M made a world cake from scratch all. by. herself!  The only thing I did was put it in and out of the oven for her since she can't reach, ration the food coloring drops, and tape little signs to toothpicks. The rest was all her! I'm impressed!!  I'm not a big fan of cake, but any from-scratch cake is usually okay by me!


As we embark on a journey to study the ecosystems of the world, we decided to build a self-contained ecosystem to observe right here in our house.  I thought this was especially important since it's the dead of winter and there isn't much to observe outdoors right now.

This 2-gallon jar was less than $10 at Walmart and I already had the supplies for the layers on hand from a terrarium I built a couple years ago.  Thankfully, the Walmart we were at had some little plants too (the one we usually go to didn't have any the last time I was there).

Miss M also colored a map showing the biomes of the world.

Our last science experiment of the week was a predator-prey camouflage experiment using Skittles that delighted the kids to no end!  We prepared a "habitat" and scattered 30 Skittles of each color around it.  Some of the Skittles' colors matched their environment and some did not.

Preparing our Skittle habitat.

I required Miss M to pick up only one Skittle at a time with each hand to encourage her to actually look for them rather than just blindly scooping them from the bottom of the container.  And our results were just as expected; she found more of the Skittles that did not blend into their environment than the ones that did.

We discussed how this mimics the process of natural selection; the Skittles that were not caught by hunters would be able to live out their life cycle and reproduce more Skittles like themselves.  The ones that stood out from their environment would soon become extinct.  Anything that includes a stopwatch or candy is usually a hit with the kids, and this experiment used both!


As we've been studying the works of Van Gogh (or Vaingo as Little Guy keeps calling him), the kids have observed his use of bold brush strokes and intense colors.  We decided to "copy" The Starry Night using crayon resist and watercolor pencils. (We used the printable found here.)
Even Little Guy joined in the fun.  He took an extra day to get his just how he wanted it.  He's never one to overlook the details.  I think before we finish our Van Gogh study, we'll do one of the fun Sunflowers projects I've seen on Pinterest before finishing with a Van Gogh-inspired original on canvas.  The kids'll love that!

I'm still working on a post about Little Guy's progress with My Father's World Kindergarten.  We're moving slowly as planned, so it takes a bit to have anything of interest to say or show!

After this final week of introduction, we're ready to head off on our exploration of North America!  First stop, our very own U.S. of A.  Maybe we'll see ya around?

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Leftover Oatmeal Bread {for the bread machine}

I've been trying to introduce more whole grains to my family. The problem is they're quite picky when it comes to the bread they'll eat.  I've tried making my Country Buttermilk Bread with half whole wheat flour before, but unfortunately it was a no-go with Hubby and the munchkins.

I've been making hot cereal for breakfasts since it's such a nice way to warm up on cold winter mornings, but I invariably have leftovers, so I've tried my hand at making oatmeal bread.  I've played with ratios and flours and sugars and have finally come up with what we consider to be a stellar loaf of bread!  For the past few weeks it has even replaced our staple Country Buttermilk!

Leftover Oatmeal Bread (yield: 2 loaves)


2 1/2 cups leftover oatmeal*
1/2 cups warm water
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup whole wheat flour
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
1/4 cup brown sugar
3-4 teaspoons yeast


Add all ingredients to the bread machine bowl. I add them in the order listed even though my manual says to add dry ingredients first; this way just works out better.

Set it to "Dough" and press start. I usually check on it about 10 minutes in because sometimes the paddle doesn't dislodge pockets of flour in the very corners of the bowl. A quick swipe with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula usually does the trick and then it's safe to be left to the end of the cycle.

When the timer signaling the end of the Dough Cycle goes off, remove the dough from the machine onto a lightly floured surface.

Divide dough into two more-or-less equal portions and shape into loaves.

Drop into two greased loaf pans.

Preheat the oven to 350° F.

Cover the loaf pans with a damp tea towel and allow the two loaves to rise 30-45 minutes in a warm place.

Bake for 30 minutes.

When done, turn out onto a wire rack to cool.

I really like what vital wheat gluten does for my bread, but it is not strictly necessary to make this recipe work. You can also play around with the flour ratios. I'm trying to ease my way up to 2 cups whole wheat and 3 1/2 cups white flour, but I'm not positive my picky eaters culinary experts will go for that.

* When I make oatmeal I use either Quick Oats or Old Fashioned Oats. I boil 5 3/4 cups of water and add 3 cups of oats (or 1 3/4 cups water and 1 cup oats).  When the oatmeal is cooked, I melt 3 tablespoons (or 1 1/2 tablespoons) of butter into it.  Any sweetener or milk we add to our oatmeal is not added to the main pot.  The leftover is what I use to make this bread.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

ECC: Introduction weeks, Part 1

It's a new school year at Sycamore Hill Academy!  Miss M is now in 3rd grade and Little Guy is beginning the first of two years of kindergarten (K4 this year and a slightly more rigorous K5 next year).

I found these cute printables via Pinterest and we had a little photo shoot on our first day!

We are starting each morning with My Daily Learning Notebooks from Confessions of a Homeschooler.  The PreK one for Little Guy and the cursive variant for Miss M.  This has been hugely popular!  Both kids have gotten started on them before I'm even ready to begin school most days! And they work together on the so sweetly, Miss M lending a hand to Little Guy and he hanging on her every word. I love it!


To start off our year, we systematically went through some important concepts: where the world came from, how it got to be the way it is now (the Fall), how different languages began, and the gospel is for all the peoples of the world.  We memorized John 3:16 and were introduced to the basics of Christianity and Judaism.


Singapore Math 2B jumped right into subtraction of three digit numbers employing mental math techniques. Miss M got into the swing of things pretty quickly.  We're also drilling addition on Mondays, subtraction on Tuesdays, multiplication on Wednesdays, and  division on Thursdays.  Memorization of the basic math facts is one of our main goals for math this year.

Drilling facts doesn't have to be boring! Miss M used dominoes to practice addition facts one day and played a dice game for subtraction practice another day.

Language Arts

Our lessons from PLL have included topics such as the plural form of nouns, the possessive, prepositions, and some interesting information about silk production.

The word lists at the start of Level F in Spelling Power have had quite a few review words. So far Miss M has aced them all, but I've pulled a few additional words she misspelled in other work for her to practice. I foresee spelling being discontinued as a subject once she finishes Spelling Power.  I've also noticed she tends to misspell words more frequently when printing and less frequently when using cursive. Telling, no?


Geography and Science are going to be our two most time consuming subjects this year.  Because of that, I plan to start block-scheduling them on mutually exclusive days.  For a year focused on geography, there's only one logical place to begin…with map skills!

We started out discussing why it's difficult to accurately portray a round world on a flat map.

We discussed scale and made a scale map of the kids' bedroom. They both loved measuring all the furniture and converting the measurements to squares on our graph paper!  Miss M also drew a poster sized map of our town and created a map key with symbols for the significant locations on the map. It was quite time consuming and she really put her heart into it.

We discussed latitude and longitude and sent Pinkie Pie on a journey around the globe, investigating all seven continents and five oceans (did you know there are now five oceans?)

She had a blast and finally perched herself in pretty pink Canada!


Our science program this year is two-fold. We will be learning all about ecosystems and the biomes of the world as well as about the different animals that dwell in those biomes.  Our work started off a wee bit dry as we learned what an ecosystem is, what a biome is, and what a habitat is, plus took a look at the account of Creation in Genesis.  Luckily, both portions of our curriculum incorporate great hands-on ideas to keep the kids engaged and really bring the science alive!

The kids braving the frigid weather to explore a one-square-yard habitat in our own backyard.
Oh look! A there was a friendly cat in our habitat!

Music and Art

Our music this week consisted of an old hymn and a song from Wee Sing Around the World.

For art, we began our first Charlotte Mason style artist study of Van Gogh.  More on this in Part 2!


Our theme for the next several weeks is pamilya, the family.  Miss M reviewed flash cards, sang songs, answered questions about a family tree, and drew and labeled a filipino family.  Her favorite part of her drawing is "the kooky lolo!"

I'll write more about what Little Guy has been doing later, but have no fear, he's been tagging along in all the fun!

Books We Read (and enjoyed!)

We started reading The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett before starting back to school and the kids are loving it, so we've kept right on with our reading of that at lunchtime.

Other books we loved:

I was very tempted to go ahead and purchase a copy of Janice VanCleave's Geography for Every Kid for our home library! It's not one that my kids cared much about (no colorful pictures), but it's just the sort of book I would have enjoyed when I was a kid! The text is written in such a friendly, matter-of-fact tone that manages to make geography and maps very exciting and interesting.  I think it would be especially appropriate if you are doing ECC with upper elementary students versus my early elementary kiddos.

How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World is an over-the-top adventurous book just the way my kids like 'em!  If we weren't already making a world cake and birthday cake this week, I'd have made apple pie from the recipe in the back.  We might just have to revisit this one for the plain fun of it in the future!

Miss M got very excited when we sat down to read Me on the Map together because she remembered it being included in her Reading text from Calvert 1st grade.  (She has a better memory than I do!)  I loved the colorful, detailed artwork and the concept of each person having a place that is theirs represented on the map.

Peter Spier's People kept the kids entertained for hours of book basket time!  Honestly, I don't even know all the things they were looking at and learning about people in the world (all the different types of noses was a particular hit!) since I was taking advantage of the time to do housework, but they were just thrilled with it and were terribly disappointed when it came time to take it back to the library.  I can see this one being another that eventually gets added to our home library.

When I picked up What a Wonderful World from the library I didn't realize it was actually the lyrics from the famous song sung by Louis Armstrong.  Of course, when I sat down with the kids to read it and made that discovery, I quickly hopped on iTunes and downloaded Mr. Armstrong's song for the kids to listen to.  It became an instant favorite and even Little Guy has been going around singing it to himself all week!  The book is absolutely gorgeous in its own right, but coupled with the song…not something you should miss!
The first two weeks will be the only two weeks of Exploring Countries and Cultures that we are taking as written in the teacher's manual.  The rest of the year (which for us will be two years) will be spaced out -- every two-week unit as three and every three-week unit as four -- with several other weeks/countries added in.  I'm glad, because these two weeks have been a bit intense with each day taking far longer than our school days last year.  It's been a blessing too though because this time of year the kids aren't able to be outside playing and they need something to keep them occupied.  Still I know if we tried to keep up this pace all year long we'd get burned out pretty quickly.