All Girls School


Quick update
October 2, 2008, 9:42 pm
Filed under: art, Bubba, curriculum, games, history, math, reading, science, writing

We’ve been studying the respiratory system. I’m a little disappointed because the curriculum that we’re using for science is a little too superficial for Bubba’s level. I find myself quickly scrounging for supplementary items online or in our book and DVD collection to feel that she’s getting something out of the lessons.

Our printer is broken, so we’ve been doing a lot of online math games. Bubba told me that she felt weak on her analog time-telling skills. We found a few games that dealt with that and within thirty minutes or so she was getting all of the questions correct. She needed a refresher from last year and I had no idea. I guess we have mostly digital clocks in the house because I felt like her time-telling was great. I’m glad she was able to tell me that she felt weak in an area and we were able to work on it together. She also requested that we play more games with math, so we’ve been playing cards and Yahtzee lately.

In history we’re hitting Ancient Greece. This is one of my favorite periods in history, especially coming from an art history background, so there are lots of tangents to hit. We’re gearing up to read a bunch of the Greek Myths, but I’m having a hard time putting our regular reading book aside. We’ve been reading The Mysterious Benedict Society. It has been a lot of fun for us as we guess the solutions to the different puzzles. Some of them are over Bubba’s head, but so far she has either been able to figure them out or understand them after we find the answer(s). We’re only about a fourth of the way in, though, and any of the negative reviews state that this is where it starts slowing down. I already see what they say about it needing some editing as there are a lot of passages that are unnecessary and some feel redundant, but the story has been intriguing and fun. We’ll see where it goes from here.

We’ve been doing a little handwriting because she has this block about the number 4 and the number 9. She always makes them backwards. It’s like she knows that she always writes them the wrong way so she overthinks them when she writes them and they are consistently wrong. I have to remind her to use clear and legible handwriting whenever we have written assignments. She hates taking the time to make her letters correctly. I wouldn’t mind if she used a quicker and more comfortable style of writing, but she really never mastered correct writing in the first place. You have to know the rules in order to break them. For our more structured writing lessons we’ve been discussing how to research a topic. We’ve been over the Dewey Decimal System at the library and I’ve been working with her on how to find things on the internet. We’ve also discussed the importance of making sure your sources are legitimate and that she never decides to just go Googling without her dad or I there with her.

In art we are working on shape. Bubba finished the line section two weeks ago. I like the curriculum that we draw from because there are a couple of projects that deal with the technical aspects of the element followed by a couple of really creative projects that incorporate the same element. We have a new project every Monday and then she has the week to complete it. This way she’s been able to take her time and not rush through any of them and the results are much more finished-looking pieces than when we tried to complete them all in one day.



Wizard of Oz
September 25, 2008, 5:20 am
Filed under: Bubba, exploring, fall, history, math, reading, science

Bubba and I finished reading the Wizard of Oz on Tuesday. It was my old copy of the book from when I was a child. I had never actually read it, though, so it was new to both of us. After we finished reading it, we borrowed the movie from a friend and watched it together. After that, Bubba prepared a list of contrasts between the book and the movie. There are so many as the book has tons of other little plots and storylines that the movie leaves out. At one point I feared the book was never going to end as we had already killed the witch and Oz had floated away without Dorothy and we still had three or four chapters to go.

Yesterday I introduced subtraction with borrowing. She caught on very quickly, but it’s easy to see that this is not her favorite activity. Bubba much prefers addition to subtraction and there was a lot of prodding on my part to get her to refocus and finish her work. (does anyone really prefer subtraction, though?)

Also, on Monday, seeing as it was the first day of autumn and all, we took a nature walk through the park and brought home a bag of fall goodies. We set up a nature table in the living room. There isn’t any blank table top space in our house, but there was a lower shelf of a plant stand that sat bare, so we used that. About five minutes after taking this photo, Baby was spinning around and knocked into the stand and scattered everything off of it. So, it doesn’t look like this any more. It looks like a pile of debris shoved on the bottom shelf of a plant stand. But the thought was there.

We also incorporated a homemade “volcano” into our history lesson. We didn’t have a good bottle to use, so we used a glass instead. There was no height acheived from the spew this way, but the kids were sufficiently impressed anyway.



Current Activities
September 4, 2008, 10:18 pm
Filed under: art, baby, Bubba, curriculum, guitar, history, math, music, phonics, preschool, reading, schedule, science, sewing, spelling, writing

Spelling – a list without a pretest. Bubba was struggling with the pretests last year as she’s such a perfectionist and there’s really no point in testing her on things that she hasn’t been taught yet. I almost feel like we should let our spelling instruction come naturally through our writing tasks. When I thought about that more, though, I really want the writing tasks to focus on content and structure and I don’t want to point out every misspelled word and distract from the actual writing. So, structured spelling lists it is. There are supplementing pages that are actually kind of fun and a little bit challenging, so she doesn’t HATE spelling this year. (four days per week)

Phonics – I detest this subject as I think it is super super boring. So does she. I think we’re going to nix phonics or at least skip to the few items in the book that would be instructional and useful to her. I’m going to have to look through our book a little more to weed out the busy work. (once per week, but maybe not at all.)

Science – We’re doing a unit on the human body with lots of activities thrown in. She’s also doing quite a bit of writing by logging our daily tasks and making little booklets and stuff. We’ve checked out a bunch of human body books from the library and she has been reading them with and to her little sisters and taking them in the car when we go pick up Mimi from school. The other day she was reading about the heart and we ended up having a great conversation about the relationship between the size of an animal and how quickly its heart beats. We’re planning on a trip down to the Science Museum to see the human body exhibit before it leaves next month. (twice a week)

Math – Right now we’re doing mostly review of addition and subtraction of multiple numbers. I’ve found lots of fun activities that incorporate these. I’m going to work with her on a sewing project to work on our measuring skills (and estimating skills, as I am a laaaaazy sewer). We’ve also done some cooking and we practice our fractions. I expect that the cooking will increase as the holiday season gets nearer and we’ll do a lot of practical math like doubling recipes and figuring out the metric system and equivalencies. She really wants to move on in math and get to multiplication and stuff, but I am feeling that we should ease back into the subject. (three times per week)

History – We tried to do an entire year of history over the summer, but burned out on it. We got about a third of the way through it before we shelved it until the school year. We are still in ancient history, but Bubba loves it. She really gets into most of the stories and we have some fun discussions after reading them. It is always amazing to me the details and names she remembers after reading. There are some that I have to go back and look up that she rattles off really quickly. This is one of our favorite subjects as we always learn something new and there is always some sort of fun project to go with it and reinforce the lesson. (twice a week)

Writing – Most of our writing is done within our other subjects as Bubba balks at having to sit down and write just for the sake of writing. One day per week we do do some sort of writing task. Lately we have been working on different brainstorming techniques. At first she was lazy and bored with it until she ended up coming up with a really fun and creative story based on some of her brainstorming. Every Friday is poetry day and we do something different. Last week we had a book from the library about rocks (her current passion) and it was a long poem about different types. We read it and then she chose her favorite type of rock from the poem and copied out that page in her best writing. We have a book of Roald Dahl poems for tomorrow that I’m very excited about.

Reading – Every day I read a chapter of The Wizard of Oz outloud to her. When we’re finished with the book we’re going to watch the movie and compare and contrast it to the book. I think we’ll do it orally or I’ll have her write down the main points and present it to Dad or something. I’ve been thinking about all of the different books we could read and then watch the movie to compare and the options are huge. I think it will give her a better idea of how much better the books typically are, too, and promote more reading. She also reads for half an hour to herself or to her sisters outloud.

Music – She practices her guitar every day except for lesson days. She was given two new songs to practice at her last lesson. We were also informed of her first recital coming up in October. I can’t wait to watch her play in front of everyone.

Art – At the beginning of every week we start a new art project. She then has the entire week to work on it and refine it in order to have a very thoughtfully and thoroughly finished piece. The first few projects in each unit are more technical, exploring each element (line, texture, etc.). Then there are a few really creative projects that incorporate the techniques previously studied.

(On a side note, Baby started preschool today, but I haven’t had time to get the photos off of the camera yet. I’ll write about it when I have them on the computer. Suffice it to say that she had a blast and it sounds like the day went really well.)



South Dakota Wrap Up
July 31, 2008, 9:00 am
Filed under: baby, Bubba, camping, family, girlies, history, mimi, summer, swimming, vacation

Be warned, this will likely be very photo heavy. For any family and friends that want to look at all the photos from the trip, they can be found here.

We started out well and the drive up was uneventful and loooooong. It took about twelve hours to get to our campsite.

For the last hour we started driving toward some weather that our friend in the other van referred to as the “Black Doom of Death”. The photos don’t really do the darkness of it all justice.

Then something amazing happened. As we crossed the state border from Nebraska into South Dakota, there was a bend in the road. As we rounded it, the sky looked like…

It was all very dramatic and we took it as a good sign. We finally arrived at our first campsite and checked in. As soon as we had both paid in full, we turned to go out to the cars and saw a sign on the doors stating that there were no wood fires allowed in their campsite. That was a shock to us since it hadn’t been mentioned anywhere on their website or anywhere else. We opened the door and found that it was not only pouring down icy rain, but hailing, too. Luckily, by the time we drove over to our spots it had subsided and we set up camp. It went much better than last time. The girls passes out pretty quickly and Dad and I and our friends sat around in the dark with no fire until it started to sprinkle again. It was great to fall asleep to the sound of the light rain on our tent.

We woke up dry and I called around to other local campsites to see if they allowed campfires. We found one two miles away that did, so we packed up camp and got our prepaid nights refunded to us. Bubba shot this one of us saying goodbye to our first site.

This was the view right at our new site.


After we got our new site set up, we headed out to the Mammoth Site. It is a live dig site and was fascinating to find out about how all of the Mammoths died in that site and see them being dug out.

Next we headed down to road to Cascade Falls. It is a simple little roadside park. When we walked down a short set of stairs, we saw a cascading waterfall that made three separate pools. There were a bunch of people already swimming and we hopped in. Mimi had been talking about swimming in the waterfall for months, so I was thrilled to watch her finally get to do it.








That evening, after a super windy storm roared through, we cooked some dogs and brats on our crackling fire, followed up by s’mores made with Reese’s Peanut Butter cups and chocolate marshmallows.

The next day we decided to go to Mount Rushmore. As we were driving through one area, we came around a corner to see

After that we drove past Crazy Horse and saw it from the highway. After that, the next stop was Mount Rushmore.

We stayed there for a long time, reading exhibits, watching films and eating ice cream. Bubba was in heaven and telling us fact after fact that she had previously learned in her book and that she read off of the exhibits.After that we went into town a bit and rode the alpine slides. Everyone had fun on them even though many were fearful of the old chair lift that we rode to the top.

We headed back through a park that had a super windy road that zig zagged up a high hill. At some points, we had to sound our horns going through tunnels because the road went down to one lane. It was a big adventure, but worth it when we got to the lookout at the top.

That night the rain held off until after supper, but it poured for a good hour. Our campsite turned into a muddy swamp. The kiddos fell asleep during the storm, but after it stopped, we grown ups got out, started the fire back up and sat around it until the wee hours, enjoying the stars and lack of bugs for a change.

The next day was cave day. We drove down the road just a little bit to the Wind Cave. It was in the mid to high 90s outside, but a refreshingly cool 53 degrees down in the cave. We went down about 200 ft. at the lowest point of our tour and walked down about 300 steps. The younger two girls were nervous about the whole cave thing at first, and were a little nervous when they turned out all of the lights at one point, but other than that they loved it.


Once we finished walking the cave tour, we headed to Evan’s Plunge. It’s an indoor water park that’s fed by the hot spring. I think “hot” is a relative term. It was not hot, but more lukewarm. There were slides and floating crocodiles and swinging rings and sprinklers and the kids all had a blast playing in the water for hours.

As we were pulling back into the campsite, we saw this.

The guys ran up the road and borrowed some wifi from our previous campsite to check the weather as it was looking very bad and the lightning was pretty intense. They came back with a forecast full of hail, high winds and lightning. We decided to pack it up and hit the hotel so that we wouldn’t be stuck in our tents evening and night. Suddenly we heard the storm sirens from the town going off, so we decided against packing up neatly and just tore it all down and threw it in the vans. Here’s the empty site about ten minutes later and the sight inside our van (which was a disaster).

Would you like to know the irony of it all? It rained less that night than the other nights we had toughed it out. In fact, I’m not certain it ever really did more than sprinkle on us. Oh well, it was nice to sleep in a bed and have a shower that I didn’t need to wear shoes in.

We decided that there weren’t any other must sees on our list the next day, so we decided to head south a bit and find some fun stuff along the way. We stopped at Carhenge, which I was so hoping we would get to see.

We ended up in North Platte, NE. We were going to go to a go kart track, but ended up going out to our one really nice meal and swimming in the hotel pool instead. The next morning, after a big breakfast, we headed home. We were all very glad that we had gone a few hours south the day before, as we ended up at home around 5:30 that evening instead of closer to 10 or 11. We drove 1600 miles, had a blast and miss our friends a lot, but have plans for a camping trip closer to home with them next summer.



July 22, 2008, 6:39 pm
Filed under: Bubba, family, girlies, history, reading, summer, vacation

We’re getting the last bits and pieces put together so we can hit the road early tomorrow. So begins Summer Vacation ’08. The girls are so excited they can hardly stand it. They’ve been telling everyone we’ve come in contact with today that we’re going to South Dakota tomorrow. This will be the first time that we’ve gone camping since Mimi was a baby. That’s the time that Dad affectionately calls, “The time we almost got divorced over a tent”. It wasn’t our best moment (or week, for that matter). But now we look back and only remember the fun stuff, so even though this week will be full of stressful times, all we’re going to remember is how much fun we had.

One of the best and most unexpected side effects of this vacation is Bubba’s self-led learning spree that she’s taken on this week. She researched and checked out a book on Mount Rushmore. After she read it she was so excited to tell me what she had learned that she talked to me for about half an hour about it, highlighting the main points and relaying the interesting anecdotes she had read. Then today, at her art lesson, she was working with clay and designed a Mount Rushmore replica. It was great. She’s been inspired to learn more about each of the presidents represented, too. We’ve had many talks about the Revolutionary War, the Declaration of Independence, the Civil War and the Panama Canal.

I am hoping that we find more topics like this that spark her interest this year and inspire her to take the reins in finding out about them. That’s what I’m striving for this year. Last year was really about finding our groove together and figuring out what works best for us. This year, I want to lead her into topics far enough to give her a basic understanding, then following her lead on further exploration on the ones that she’s more curious about.

Anyway, we’re off until next week. We got a new camera, so I expect I’ll be back next week with way too many photos and a deep desire to hole up in my house with electricity, indoor plumbing and central air.



Field Trip and Guitar Lessons
May 8, 2008, 10:06 pm
Filed under: Bubba, field trip, guitar, history, math, mimi, science, soccer, sports

Yesterday was designated “Put in as much of the new flooring as possible day”, so I decided to take the kiddos out of the house. We decided to go to the hands on Science Museum and spend the day there. I rounded up our friend and her boys and we set out to arrive as the museum opened. We happened to pick the day that five separate schools were taking field trips there, so there were a few chaotic areas, but for the most part we had a lovely time. There was a terrible movie that we were told was geared toward preschoolers. It was about ten minutes long and so short and void of any substance that I can’t believe someone actually took the time to create it. It ended abruptly and we just kind of looked at each other, not understanding why we had just paid two dollars per head to see it.

After that we spent a long time in the castle area. There was an interesting moment when Mimi felt the dress up clothes would fit better without her regular clothing on underneath. (Why does one of my children ALWAYS do this at a museum?) Then there was the issue of the ten minute shoe hunt to figure out where she left them. Then we moved to the toddler area where they always play with the water feature. I told them five or six times to play with it as much as they wanted, but to do their best not to get their shirts and pants all wet, as the temperature is always a little cool in there. Inevitably, they came away soaking and were later complaining about how cold they were. While I had the smaller two in the toddler area, Bubba went over to a math exhibit that explored things like measuring volume and folding paper incorporating geometry principles. She wasn’t happy to leave that area, but lunch was next, so she didn’t protest too long.

The next area was all about the flight and airplanes and animal and insects and the principles of aerodynamics that govern them. There were lots of fun hands on activities to see how these forces interact on different wing shapes. The last area held lots of examples of our local ecosystems, with many plants and animals, as well as a 12 foot tall tornado that the kids can climb up to and stick their hands in.

We were wiped out by that point and had made it through all the exhibits, so we left. We’ll be returning again next month as this exhibit was being unpacked there and we’re interested in seeing it in person. Maybe I’ll remember my camera, too, so I can put some photos up.

We had a quick ice cream stop on the way home, and then rested for a bit and looked at the flooring progress. Then it was off to Bubba’s first guitar lesson with her new instructor, Ms. J. I think she learned more in that single lesson than in all of her previous lessons with the college kid combined. I am really not exaggerating. At all. Not even a little.

In other homeschooling, we’re wrapping up on Ancient Egypt. Bubba listened to the unit, but wasn’t thoroughly engaged as we exhausted this topic about a year ago when she was interested in it. We learned plenty of new info, though, that we hadn’t read about before. We are also working on teaching Mimi how to play Crazy 8s and Uno. Mimi’s getting a stronger grasp on numbers and matching and colors and following rules, and Bubba is working on her patience and trying to keep a younger child engaged by letting her win every so often. I think it will help their relationship a lot when they can play games together without needing adult intervention.

Other than that, we’ve been outside a lot, watching the garden turn green and grow taller and taller. Soccer has proven to be lots of fun. Mimi cut her own practice short today due to her coach stepping on her hand by accident. Bubba’s team has set up a traveling match in the next town over, so it will be fun to watch them compete.

Tomorrow is Mimi’s preschool graduation. I’m likely going to cry. There will be pictures.



Ancient Writings
April 29, 2008, 10:16 am
Filed under: art, baby, Bubba, history, photography, writing

We learned about ancient hieroglyphics and cuneiform today. Bubba practiced the latter on a clay tablet that she made. The top one is hers and spells her name. The bottom one is Baby’s.

She is heading out to the Botanical Gardens today with some family and is taking her camera with her. I can’t wait to see some of her photographs. She is finishing up her series on texture and we skipped ahead to color for the next series because it wouldn’t be any fun to take all black and white photos at a botanical garden.

Yesterday’s art project involved markers, crayons and linoleum.

And then today that same floor looks like this…

Tearing up linoleum now ranks as high on my list as tearing down wallpaper. It will be so worth it when we get the new floors in, though. For now, we have a mandated shoes on policy in the house.