Friday, January 31, 2014

Xin Nian Kuai Le

Happy New Year - Xin Nian Kuai Le - Gong Hei Fat Choi

Having lived in Chinese places for many years and ministering to Chinese this has become one of the holidays that we celebrate in our own way. Bob did ask if he would be getting a red envelope this year.

Last weekend we went to a Lunar New Year celebration at the church here. It is a great outreach to the Asians in the community.

There was a variety type show which is typical for Chinese New Year.  There were games, Pin the Tail on the Horse, craft, and Chinese food for dinner.

The big event is the ping pong tournament. It is quite intense with single elimination and games to just 11 points.

Bob won his first game and then lost the second game to someone that made it to the semifinals.

My husband made it through three rounds and then lost. He said the competition was good.

Miss K enjoyed the games. How many gummy bears can you move to the bowl with the chopsticks. I think she got four to bring home. I guess we need to work on her chopstick skills.

It was a fun evening and a great event.

Today we will enjoy some dumplings for lunch and go to a party for the international small group at church.

Do you celebrate Chinese New Year? What is your favorite Chinese food to eat?

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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Keeping in Touch

It is always fun to get a handwritten note or letter in the mail. You reach into the mailbox and on top of the weekly sale fliers, and a bill or two is a note card with you name written in neat script and not the typed "Occupant" or "Our neighbor". A letter to read, to put in a book and remind you of that friend. I enjoy getting those notes.

I also enjoy writing those notes and sending them to someone. I enjoy being the one who brightens someone's day as they open the mailbox.

One thing that has helped me keep in touch is a pouch. One of the fun places to go in Hong Kong was the stationary stores. There were little stationary stores at the MRT (subway) stations, they were in the back alleys and along the major roads. You were never far from a stationary store. Inside the store you could find all kinds of things -- pencils, pens, little pads of paper, plastic folders, markers, toys, stickers, and lots of other things. I could easily wander in and come out with a few fun things. Staples and Office Depot are boring compared to the stationary stores in Hong Kong. One of the things that I would sometimes buy was zippered pouches. There were so many uses for these that you might need to have two or three on hand just in case you found a use. Now I am homesick and missing Hong Kong and wanting to go shop in the stationary store.

Back to my "Keep in Touch" pouch. This particular pouch that I use has two zippered sections. The one in the front is small and works great for a pen, pad of paper which at times has a list of people I am thinking of and want to write to and stamps.

There is a main section that also has a zipper. This is large enough for post cards and note cards. I can fit about 10 or more note cards in here. That will give me lots of notes to write. One of the advantages of having them in the zippered section is they don't get all bent up. The note cards don't start out wrinkled and creased or worn around the edges.

Having everything in the zippered pouch makes it easy to take with me. I can toss it into a bag as I head out for flute lesson and while I am waiting I can write a note or two.

At times I have made note cards using my stamps and other craft paper but recently I found a pack of note cards at Goodwill. I have also gotten some nice Hallmark note cards at Big Lots for $1.00. At those prices I can't make the note cards.

I have seen blogs and pins on pinterest about fun things that people mail even without an envelope but I have not yet gotten brave enough to mail those things. At the post office last week I saw someone mailing a tire though I don't think that would be called fun.

Have you ever mailed something fun without an envelope? What tips to you have for keeping in touch?

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Blogging Helps me be a Better Homeschooling Mom

Really it is true, blogging helps me be a better homeschooling mom. No, it is not a trick to keep me blogging or a way to justify my blogging though I might have to write about how to fit blogging in with all the other responsibilities of life. Seriously there are ways that blogging helps me be a better homeschooling mom.

1. My blog has given me a sense of accountability - Writing a week review or wrap-up as well as some of the link-ups has given me a bit of accountability. If I mention something we begin, then I think about how I need to report that we have finished it. One week I mentioned that we needed to start a new read aloud. I did think the next week that I need to start and let everyone reading my blog know what book we began. The weekly wrap-up posts help me be accountable.

2. Keeping the blog updated with things we do, and even some of the struggles helps me to remember and have a record. I try to keep my portfolio document updated but sometimes I forget things and so my blog helps me to remember some of the things we have done in the school year. At times I have mentioned math struggles and as I look back through I see patterns of some of our struggles. My blog helps me remember what we have done or areas we have struggled as well as ways we have improved.

3. I have been encouraged through comments of readers as they share ideas of what has helped them or their child. Those comments at times give me a community, others that understand, are doing the same thing. While I have been encouraged, I hope that you are encouraged as well reading my blog.

See there are a number of ways that blogging helps me be a better homeschooler. What ways has blogging helped you be a better homeschooler.

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Sunday, January 26, 2014

Word for the Year

I know. I know it is January 25 and I am just now posting my word for the year.

In case you have not heard of the word for the year, the idea is to pick a word that you want to be a goal, a guide, a reminder for the year. There are so many words that you could pick -- simplify, intentional, joyful, laugh, risk, and another 100 words in the dictionary. The word is supposed to be meaningful to you.

Last year my word was faith. I even had a bracelet made with faith stamped on the tag. I picked that word because we were stepping out in faith trusting that God would provide what we needed so that we could minister overseas.

As I thought about my word for this year, there were two words in the running. Hope was one of the words which was fitting as we are in the time of waiting and so I am putting my hope in the Lord that he will finish the work that he has begun. The other word was disciplined. I like to think that I am a disciplined person -- drink my 64 oz of water every day, exercise regularly, and do all those other things that disciplined people do but I know that I am not as disciplined as I like to think.

Which word would win and become the word of the year for 2014? Would it be hope to remind me to put my hope in the Lord or would it be disciplined to work on the life of discipline.

The word for the year is resilient. I know that word wasn't even one that was in the running. It came out of the blue. Actually it came out of the sermon at the beginning of the year -- A Simple Call to a Resilient Life.

I love dictionary definitions, maybe that goes back to growing up when my dad paid me to read the dictionary. Anyway, the dictionary defines resilient as "able to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens, able to return to an original shape after being pulled, stretched, pressed, bent, etc."

Resilient people are committed to finishing well. Quitting is not an option and building strength is a daily pursuit. There have been times I just want to give up and quit trying to lose weight but then I remember that I don't allow my kids to quit because it is hard so I need to keep going.

Resilient people live free of the weight of the past. They practice repentance not blowing it off or denying it or even accepting it and getting used to it but repenting when necessary. They also are quick to forgive. Forgiving myself is probably one of the persons that I have to forgive the most.

Resilient people train to go the distance. This is a pursuit that will continue for a long time.

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." Hebrews 12:1-2

So what does this mean to me? My desire is that when the bad things happen, when I fail to live the disciplined life I desire, when I spend the afternoon eating chocolate, I will bounce back and do what needs to be done. I will come out stronger and healthier. I will run the distance and not give up. My prayer is that in 2014 I will be resilient.

Even though it is the 25th of January writing this now is part of being resilient. The thoughts have been floating in my head but didn't happen but I am going to do it now even though January is almost over.

Do you have a word for the year?

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Saturday, January 25, 2014

Weekly Wrap--Up January 24, 2014

Here in the Northwest we are enjoying an unusual sight -- the sun. It was so bright I wished I had my sunglasses. I know some of my family spent time this week shoveling snow.

We are continuing along in Mystery of History Vol. 2 and enjoying it. This week we read about Vladimer I of Russia. I had seen a Russia Lapbook on Pinterest and thought that might be fun to do. We did have to spend a bit of time look through our photos from Kiev as that is the closest thing to Russia that we have here (my husband's photos are pre-digital and packed).

To add a bit to our Russian study we enjoyed pelmeni (Russian dumplings) for lunch. We bought them at the International Deli nearby.

Then we moved to another part of the world, China. We read about the Song Dynasty. We had already eaten fried rice and Chinese dumplings on Monday so we didn't repeat that though I doubt my family would have complained.

We touched on places where both of the kids were born this week.

We finished history this week reading about St. Simon and the Coptic Orthodox Church. I learned something new in this lesson.

I made a decision that I needed to pull Latin back to something that we do together. I just wasn't sure how thorough it was being done when I allowed it to be done without me around. We are adding Latin after history. Miss K does join us for this. She has Song School Latin but right now we are not using that as much.

We studied Pakistan this week in geography. We are almost done with the Middle East and then will move to northern Africa. I do have a Middle East review game planned.

Bob is continuing to work through his subjects. I am working to be on top of grading and reviewing what he is doing so it can be reworked if necessary. We finished Analytical Grammar Mechanics and so now we are focusing on writing a bit more than we have. I am using Writing Strands.

One of the frustrations with Miss K is getting her to do school. She would rather spend her day in her room dancing and telling stories. Any ideas for motivation would be welcome.

Here she is with Focus looking on. I told her to teach Focus (you can read about Focus here) how to do the math.

Miss K did learn a new skill this week.

She peeled her mandarin herself. We enjoy those and usually have a basket full to snack on. They are easy to peel and this week she worked at it and did it.

The sad news in our school this week is the death of the printer. Most people list a printer as one of those things that are essential for homeschooling. Now I am thinking twice about copying and printing as I have to run to Staples to do it.

We have a Chinese New Year celebration this weekend.

We have to return library books this weekend.

That wraps up our week here. I trust that you had a good week.

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Friday, January 24, 2014

Art Appreciation

Some days I feel overwhelmed at all I could and a bit of what I should be teaching my children. I do a good job most days at getting the core items completed, but it seems that art is one of those that just doesn't happen as regularly at our house. Both pursuing and practicing artistic activities as well as studying artists and famous paintings tends to happen when we have time.

Both children have taken art in co-op and Bob took lessons last spring at a local art store. I am glad that they have had those opportunities. That covers giving them some drawing basics. We also have various drawing books to use.

As I think about my goals and desires for art appreciation, I want my children to recognize major artists and works of art. There is so much that we can do that at times that can make you feel overwhelmed. We went to the Philadelphia Art Museum the other year for a special exhibit. I would like them to be able to enjoy an art museum.

Here are a few resources that I have found that help us.

Memoria Press has some Art Cards sets that include 33 pieces of art on one side and on the other side is just a bit about the art piece. Sometimes we pick a picture, look at, talk about it, tell what we see, and talk about the artist.

I did get a Metropolitan Museum of Art art gallery calendar. The interesting thing is this is not just pairings but we have seen a dress, shoes, and armor. That makes it a bit interesting.

We have read a number of Mike Venezia books and these do give a short story. One other resource that I recently discovered is a series of books by Laurence Anholt. I read Camille and the Sunflowers to Miss K. It told a story a Camille and Vincent van Gogh. This was short story but sometimes short stories are good as it gives exposure and some understanding. After reading the book, I wanted to learn a bit more about van Gogh.

In our shipment we have some other art resources which I will share later.

What are your favorite art appreciation books?

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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Art - the creative side

An Owl made in art class.

Miss K has been taking an art class in co-op. All the reviews about the teacher and the class prior to her being in the class were excellent. I have to say that I have been impressed it the projects that she has done. In the fall they made an owl with class and then painted it.

Before Christmas they made a nativity. You might have to look close to see Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus. J did ask if she made another owl.

The class also painted trees in the fall. They went outside and did some painting like artists.

Miss K does like to draw but sometimes we don't know what she is drawing. I have collected most of the Draw Write Now books. These are great books for beginning to learn to draw. I decided to slowly teach Miss K to draw the various farm animals. We began with a hen.

Then a few days later we draw another hen. Progress! Improvement that is really the goal.

It was also fun to see her transfer what she was learning to her own drawing and free time. I found this drawing in her sketch book.

I found this drawing in her notebook. Maybe we need to learn to draw a dog. It does have the look of a dog in Go Dog, Go.

I doubt that she will even be paid for her drawings but it is still a skill to learn and gives her a creative outlet.

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Monday, January 20, 2014

School Buddies

We generally have a no toys rule when we are doing school. Sometimes toys come and join as part of the school but for the most part we keep toys away when we are doing school. It just helps and keeps both kids of bringing things to the table. That works for us.

The other week I thought maybe a school buddy would help. Someone that could give them encouragement, somebody to hold, somebody special that was only for school. I went to a basket that had some beanie babies and found in there Focus and Excellence.

 Focus and Excellence as they have been named are Hallmark Love 'Em, Bug 'Em animals. I had them in a basket with plans for Valentine's Day. No, I didn't buy them for this year they were from last year and I hadn't done anything with them.

I decided these would be perfect for study buddies.

We named them Focus and Excellence as reminders to the kids on what they need to do. Focus is Miss K's and you might hear us often say, "focus on what you are doing." Bob needs to be reminded to work with excellence. His is a bee and he was going to name him zero because buzz ends in z and zero just fit. I wanted him to strive for 100% not zero so I changed his name.

One of the fun things about these is the zipper pocket in the back. This is a nice place to put a treat for enjoying after school is finished. One of the first treats that they had were cans of sardines. My kids love them. Miss K calls it, "dead fish."

I have put sardines, Christmas candy, seaweed, fruit snacks or whatever I have around. Some days they have nothing.

The front has a clip where you can clip notes. That is where I put their names but I have also used this for other notes.

Focus and Excellence stay on my desk when they are not at school. That is one way that they are a bit special and don't get dragged to tea parties and other events around the house and lose some specialness.

The kids have enjoyed them. I have heard Miss K say, "I need Focus" as she gets her and brings her to the table.

Excellence is watching Bob do his work. Maybe Excellence will help check his work before he finishes.

Do your children have a study buddy?

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Friday, January 17, 2014

Weekly Wrap-Up - January 17, 2014

We were away for the first part of the week, visiting family. We enjoyed our time together and made lots of memories including tea party, a "eat all grandma's food before she goes on a trip" party, time with cousins, going to the theater to see Frozen, and eating lots of the food we miss.

We had a girls outing while we were visiting family and all the girls went to see Frozen. That was the first time that Miss K has been to the theater. She loved it. Every now and then you could hear her say, "I love it."

On our return flight Miss K was asked if she wanted to meet the captain. I think Bob was more excited that he was able to sit in the co-pilot's seat. He still dreams of being a pilot. Miss K wants to be the "cocoa pilot".

Miss K was up bright and early. I think she is still on east coast time. The kids did have a tea party this morning with all their animals. She really enjoyed the tea party at grandmas and was asking to have another one.

Friday, we did a bit of school to ease back into school. We read Marguerite makes a Book. That is a wonderful story about a young girl who helps her father, a famous manuscript illuminator, make a book. The book gives all the details of what is needed and how to make the paint.

We then illuminated a letter. I just had them use Sharpies because that was easy and what we had around the house to grab.

Miss K talked the whole time she was drawing. She said she was drawing a flower and then an eagle.

I thought Bob had a creative page when he was done. He said he decided to draw a dragon as that was something different.

We don't have much planned for our weekend. I need to go grocery shopping. My husband has some writing that he needs to do so the kids and I will find something to do. I can guess that cleaning the house is not on their list.

I did buy a 5 pound bag of lentils so we will continue the Lentil Challenge. I did rip with my mom's permission a recipe out of one of her magazines for lentil burgers.

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Monday, January 13, 2014

Teaching Etiquette

It might have been teaching a little etiquette but it was more having fun and making memories.

My niece decided she wanted a tea party this afternoon. It seemed like a perfect time to use all the fancy dishes that have been sitting in the china cabinet for years. So Grandma and E went to work and found all kinds of treats for the tea party.

The littlest attendees were able to use their great aunt's tea set from when she was growing up. The rest of us used a set that my mom said was my grandmother's.

We had clothing to wear -- some hats that were nana's, some gloves, a fur wrap, and some pearls. We each had something special to wear.

We enjoyed tea, crackers, biscuits, and a few other things that Grandma found to serve. We talked and used our manners and British accents.

Well, the boys didn't want to be left of the fun. I really think they wanted the food and the snacks. We decided to give a tea party for the boys. We hurried to the kitchen to see what we could food we could find for them -- some clementines, a few carrots, some biscuits, cheese, and crackers.

This was a time that the boys needed to dress us as well. Grandma keeps everything including all the ties that Grandma no longer wears as well as the ties that my brothers left at the house when they moved out.

There were reminders to not put her arms or elbows on the table. There were words of advice on how to ask for things to be passed. What do you do when you want something that is not on the table. That came as a result of one boy wanting Coke at a tea party. We were kind and served them but some of that was to make sure that everyone got some of the food. We had to remind them that this was tea and not a meal.

My husband and son drank all their tea -- it must be the Asian or British in them. Bob asked for more tea and I heard my niece say, "for real?"

I think we created some fun memories and I know one brother that was glad he went home for the afternoon and missed the event.

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