Tuesday, December 31, 2013

In Which the New Year Brings Change

With the new year come new changes. A few weeks ago, I posted that I was thinking of making some changes here on my blog. Well, if you look to the right, you'll see a few of those changes already. There is a page for me to keep track of the challenges I set for myself for 2014. There is also a page with links to my homeschool reviews here on my blog. I may have missed some. I need to really look through all my posts & see if there are others I missed. Any new reviews I post will be added to that page. So, you will be able to easily find any of my reviews.

The other big change on my blog is simply that I plan to try to post more often. I'm thinking of aiming for at least 3-4 days a week. I won't be resuming my Week in Review posts, but will instead try to post throughout the week about what we are doing for school. I'm hoping to write more reviews of the materials we use and maybe also have the kids write some reviews of them as well. I will post at the end of the month all the books we read that month, or maybe just our favorites. I will continue to post at the end of each Science & History topics Jay studies, with the materials & resources we used.

There will be other changes in my life as well. I mentioned I was working on organization here at home. One of the biggest changes with that is our chore chart & how the chores are divided. Almost all of the chores will now be two-person jobs. Each room counts as chore & will be assigned to 2 people, instead of assigning each job in a room to a different person.
For example: The kitchen was set up so that I was doing dishes 4 days a week, my daughter was doing dishes 3 days a week, and my husband was to do the counters, stove, microwave, and floor daily. That didn't work, so my husband & daughter switched jobs. That still didn't work.Their dishes wouldn't get done, and if dishes weren't done the counters, stove, microwave, and floor wouldn't get done, either. My dish days were spent trying to get caught up on the kitchen. Often, on days that weren't my dish days, I could be found in the kitchen, trying to get caught up. Of course, I was the one who would get upset, annoyed, and angered by the fact that my kitchen was a disaster. I was the only who cared that the work wasn't getting done. So, I have taken the kitchen as my daily chore. Each day, one of the kids or my husband will assist me in the kitchen. If I am in there daily, I know something will actually get done & done properly.

We are also going to have weekly game night. Well, actually it will be game day. It will be Saturday after lunch each week. Some weeks, it will just be the four of us. Some weeks we will invite others to join us. This is one of the challenges I set for myself for the year. If we don't set a specific day & time, it often doesn't happen. So, if one of us has something else to do & can't play that day, the game still goes on.  

These are some of the big changes coming in the new year.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Family is More Than DNA

Family is about so much more than DNA. I've mentioned my step-mom on here before. Usually, I don't mention my dad at the same time. Some people might find that strange. My dad is still alive & healthy. He just isn't married to my step-mom any longer. Here's the story:

My mother & dad never really got along. I knew by age 6 that they were going to get divorced. They separated when I was 16. The divorce went through when I was 17. After they split up, my dad met a wonderful woman. She had two kids from a previous marriage, and my dad had two kids. It was like the Brady Bunch, except with less kids, more dysfunction, we didn't all live together, no housekeeper....Okay, it was nothing like the Brady Bunch.
From the very beginning, she welcomed me into her family & tried to get to know me. Her kids were a few years younger than me. We started hanging out, became friends, and then became siblings. As far as I was concerned, I now had 2 sisters & a brother. My step-mom's family also welcomed me. I quickly got over feeling awkward & anxious about being around them & starting feeling totally at home with my step-mom & her family. My step-mom helped my dad quit drinking & encouraged him to build a real relationship with us. I loved spending time with them. When my daughter was born, they immediately welcomed her to their family. She was their granddaughter, niece, great-granddaughter without question, even though my dad & step-mom were not yet married.
While I was pregnant with my son & staying in the hospital, my daughter stayed with my dad & step-mom. Shortly after my son was born, they informed me they were splitting up. For the first time, divorce was a bad thing to think about. For the first time, divorce meant I could lose something very important to me. When my parents split up, I wasn't losing anything. They both were biologically my parents, so they weren't likely to walk away. However, my step-mom & her family didn't have to stay in my life.

Let me see if I can explain how I feel about my step-mom. When I decided to homeschool, I knew I'd have to tell people. When I told my mother, I was not concerned at all. I wasn't expecting her to respond well. I figured she would make a few rude comments, maybe tell me how unqualified I am to teach my own kids. I figured, oh well, I'll roll my eyes, tell her to back off, and that's that. It would not have caused a second thought or a moment of doubt. I was pleasantly surprised when that's not how she responded. When it was time to tell my dad & step-mom, I got worried. Her opinion matters to me. If she had said I wasn't qualified or wasn't equipped to teach my kids, if she had said she thought I wouldn't do a good job, I would have had doubts. I would have reevaluated. I would have been crushed that she didn't think I was capable. Few people's opinions of me matter. Hers does.

She has been more of a mom & friend to me than my mother ever has been. My mother was the woman who dropped me off outside the school & went home when my class was performing 'Twas the Night Before Christmas (this was 1st or 2nd grade). She was the one who moved out when I was 12. She was the one who kicked me out before my daughter was a year old, leaving us homeless. I'm fairly certain that she wishes I had never been born. My step-mom is the one who has told me she was proud of me. She is the one who has encouraged me.

I know it was selfish, but I couldn't help worrying about losing my family. They mean so much to me & I hated the idea of them leaving my life, leaving my daughter's life, my son never knowing them. I knew they wouldn't leave my life out of spite, but I also knew it might be too difficult for them to spend time with me. My dad told me he didn't want me to cut them out of my life for him. He knew they meant a lot to me & my daughter and that we meant a lot to them. He wasn't going to try to force me to choose.

After the divorce, my step-mom needed some time. I, of course, gave it to her. After some time, we started spending time together again. Things have never gotten back to exactly how they were before the divorce. They feel just a bit different. We don't see each other as often. Though, that could be partly because of everyone's schedules. I love the time I spend with them, though. I have anxiety issues, and family get-togethers usually stress me out a lot. Getting together with that part of my family doesn't stress me out.

I would call my step-mom 'Mom,' but I've never been sure how to ask if that was ok. Plus, if I'm being totally honest, I've always been a little scared she'd say no. Though, this year on my Christmas presents, instead of saying her name & her husband's name they said from Mom & her husband's name. So maybe she would be ok with me calling her Mom.

My dad is married to his third wife. I'm not close to his current wife, though. I'm pretty sure she doesn't like me.
My step-mom is also remarried. Her husband is a wonderful man. He has two kids from a previous marriage - an amazing young woman in her early twenties, and a wonderful young man about my daughter's age.

So, whenever I've said something about my step-mom, I mean the woman who is technically my ex-step-mom, but who is far more like a mom than any other mother-figure I've ever had.

It Better be Worth It

Have you ever wished you could go back & change a decision? Nothing big. No giant regrets. Just a minor, seemingly inconsequential decision. Not long before Christmas, I made the decision to buy Pandemic as one of our family gifts. We love adding new games to our collection & try to add to it a few times a year. I chose to buy Pandemic for Christmas and put off buying Betrayal at House on the Hill until after Christmas.

Now, I am not unhappy with Pandemic, far from it. In fact, we love playing it. I simply wish that I had waited until after Christmas to buy it & purchased Betrayal at House on the Hill before Christmas.

You see, I could actually find Betrayal at House on the Hill before Christmas. Now however, it is out of stock everywhere. Everywhere online says it is out of stock. Every store in town says they don't have it. The Barnes & Noble website said that the store in our local mall had it in stock. So, we went to the mall.

Let me digress a moment here. I hate the mall, with a passion. People in the mall cannot walk at normal human speed. I don't know if it is a fault they always have or if entering the mall just makes them lose the ability to walk like people. At any rate, they walk at the speed of a turtle who had a leg cut off. In addition to their unbelievably slow pace, they feel the need to walk 5 abreast, so nobody can get past them. Then, there are the pungent smells pouring from almost every store, assaulting my (rather sensitive) nose. Walking past the food court is almost enough to make me ill, due to the odor of greasy, disgusting food. The mall is loud, crowded, overly hot. Too many parents don't bother to pay attention to their children, children who are running all over screaming, shrieking, running into people, and playing on the escalators & stairs. That's not even counting the horribly high prices in all mall stores, due to the high rent they have to pay.
When our city's only Barnes & Noble (it is so pathetic that we have only 1 Barnes & Noble) moved into the mall, I was not happy. Allegedly, the move was to provide them with more room, but there is no way that the store in the mall has more room than the previous one did. The kids' area, which is mostly full of toys, is larger. The cafe area is quite large. There are more games, puzzles, and toys now then there were before. However, this has come at the price of space for freaking books. It's more like a Toys'R'Us than a book store. There are fewer comfy chairs to sit in while perusing books, and they are awkwardly placed. Who the hell wants to sit facing the cashiers & door with the cafe directly at their back while perusing a book? The wonderful smell of books (you know, the smell a book store should have) can barely be sensed under the stench of bitter coffee & cheap, overly sweetened pastries. The selection has decreased, as has the quality of customer service.  

Anyway, back to the issue at hand. We went to the dreaded mall to visit Barnes & Noble, because their site said the game was in stock there. We looked at all the games & did not find it. We finally found an employee asked her to see if they had it. She told us to go to the Customer Service desk & ask there. If there had been someone at the customer service desk, I wouldn't have needed to go to the cashier to ask. We went to the CS desk, where an employee finally asked what we needed. When I told her what we were looking for & that I had not been able to find it, she walked over to the shelves with games & looked for it. Since my husband, both kids, and myself had already done this (and we all remember the name, which she kept having to ask me to repeat), it was rather pointless. Eventually, she went to look it up, only to tell me that they do not have it in stock, do not have it in the warehouse to order, and do not have it in the marketplace. In other words, completely wasted trip.

There is a comic shop not too far away (though technically in another town), that may have the game. I have sent an email inquiring about it & hope to hear back tomorrow. I have also put in a request to at least one online shop to be informed when the game is in stock again.

After all the trouble I'm having finding this game so I can buy it, it had better be one of the best games we've ever played. That is, of course, assuming we ever actually get to buy it.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

2014 The Year of Organization

I am constantly trying to get my family organized. They are constantly fighting against it. 2014 is the year I will make it stick. I'm most concerned with the kids getting organized. They will be out on their own at some point & need to be able to organize themselves. Dea has learned organizational skills for years. I just need to get her to apply them. Jay hasn't learned many organizational skills, yet. So, I will have to start a bit easier/lighter with him.
I'm not certain exactly how I'm going to do it, yet. I'm working on a plan, though, and picking up what I need. I do know that some of the things we've already been using will continue to be used. I will just have to make sure that everyone is more consistent about using them.

I'm thinking of revamping our chore chart & the chore distribution. I'm testing out different ways, trying to find what works best. I think I've found the way we'll use. I have already purchased the calendars & day planners for next year, and filled in all the birthdays & holidays.

Dea is starting to use binders more, which is good. She is setting up her own binders, asking me for dividers & page protectors, and creating pages for binders that she has decided she needs. Now, I just need to get her to use her school binder to store her schoolwork in so it doesn't keep getting lost. Jay doesn't really use his school binder at all, which is something we need to work on. I'm also thinking of letting him have more control of his schedule for 5th grade. Hopefully, by the time 5th grade starts, he'll be using organizational tools more consistently.

I think the problem is that both kids want to be organized; they just don't want to have to work at it. Unfortunately, their ADHD means they will have to work at it, as organization is not something that comes naturally to those of us with ADHD. I'm thinking maybe explaining how much work I put into staying organized might help, as they seem to think it is effortless for me (and it is definitely not effortless). I hope that if they realize that I also have to work at it, they will be more willing to work at it themselves.

I will be posting the things we try(& how well they work), throughout the coming months.

Review - Life of Fred

I LOVE Life of Fred! I wish that it had been around (and in public schools) when I was in school. Maybe then, I would have actually enjoyed Math, instead of hating it due to it being boring.

Luckily, it is around now, so I can use it for my son. My son adores this program. He started it with the Fractions and Decimals & Percents books. We had him do those books along side the Fractions and Decimals & Percents books from Mastering Mathematics, which was the program he had been using. We did it that way, not because we saw Fred as a supplement, but so we could get a feel for how he liked Fred before transitioning him into it as his sole Math program. That way, if he didn't like Fred or it wasn't the right fit, we still had a little time to find something else. We knew right away that he enjoyed LOF. We already owned Beginning Algebra - Trig. He was not only reading the LOF books that he was actually doing for Math, but was reading the rest of those we owned at bedtime. I also saw right away that he was learning from them. He would come into the room to tell me something he learned from one of them, so happy to share his new knowledge, so proud of how much he was learning.

So far this year, he has finished Elementary Physics, Pre-Algebra 1 with Biology, & Pre-Algebra 2 with Economics. Despite how quickly he is moving through the program, I have no concerns about his retention. He still loves to tell me new things he'e learning from them. He scored 100% on almost every Bridge.  Plus, he is still enjoying the books greatly. In just about a week, he'll start Beginning Algebra.

Using this program is helping more than just his Math. It is helping him become more independent in his school work. He not only can use this program almost entirely independently, but he enjoys using it independently. He loves checking his answers and seeing how many he got right. He loves moving through it at his own pace, and he loves the story. All I've been doing is checking the answers to the Bridges or sitting with him while he checks the answers.

In case you don't know about Life of Fred, let me enlighten you. Life of Fred is a fun, story-based Math program. Fred is a 5 year old Math professor at Kittens University. He teaches the reader Math, not through dull lectures, endless drills, and tiresome worksheets, but through the entertaining story of his life and the uses of Math in it.

There are not worksheets to accompany the chapters. Instead, each chapter has one (or more) Your Turn to Play. These have a few problems for the student to work through on their own. I say a few problems, and I mean a few. Some of them have but one or two problems, while others have as many as five (ok, I have not read through all the books & some have more than 5 problems, but they are mostly rather short). Each Your Turn to Play is followed by the answers, fully worked out. In the books he has so far used, there is a Bridge every 5 chapters or so. The Bridge is basically a test. There are 5 tries for each Bridge, so if they do not pass (they need 9 out of 10 correct to pass), they have another chance. Starting in Beginning Algebra, there are Cities, not Bridges. Cities are at the end of every chapter, as the chapters are longer than in previous books, and there are 6 Cities. The Cities, much like the Bridges in earlier books, determine whether or not the student is ready to move on.

The Fred books my son is looking forward to using are Beginning Algebra, Advanced Algebra, Geometry, Trig., Calculus, Statistics, and Linear Algebra. There are also elementary level books in the series. However, we never used those. They were not out when my son started elementary level Math.

Now, the author of the Life of Fred series tells you that your child should not start the Fractions book until at least 5th grade & should have hair under their arms before starting Beginning Algebra. Well, I kind of ignored this advice. My son is far too advanced in Math & enjoys the subject far too much for me to force him to wait to move on. If, upon starting Beginning Algebra, I find that he is not yet ready to handle the "abstractions that algebra contains" I will reconsider and possibly have him reread the previous books. Otherwise, I am content to allow him to proceed at his own pace, however fast that may be, until and unless I believe there is a problem with his comprehension & retention.

These books are shorter than most Math books. Each of the three books he's finished so far this year had less than 50 lessons. Beginning Algebra has only a little over 100 lessons. Some of the books are a full year, such as Geometry & Calculus. Don't let the shorter length fool you, though. There is a lot of content in these books. They are shorter because they do not contain the filler and extensive review & repetition found in most Math books. These are more condensed than other books.

Now, generally, I prefer our materials to be completely Secular. This program is written by a Christian, but it is not what I would call a Christian program. I have seen no direct Bible quotes or attempts to tie Math to the Bible. Really, I can't remember anything specifically catching my attention. Small things like mentioning saying prayers at bed or being a church-goer often escape my notice. So, I'm not saying that there are absolutely no references to religion, just that I have seen none that are glaring or offensive.

This is a program that I would highly recommend. The story component would be great for a child who dislikes Math, as it makes it more fun. The way he explains Math is clear & concise, great for a student who is struggling or a student doesn't need really long, drawn out explanations. The fast pace & lack of review & repetition are great for a student strong in Math, who grasps the concepts easily & masters them quickly. The two Algebra books now have books to go with them full of extra practice problems. These provide extra practice for a child who might need more practice than what the Algebra books & Home Companions (or the extended edition Algebra books that combine the Algebra books & their Home Companions) provide. We picked up the book of practice problems for Beginning Algebra (Zillions of Practice Problems for Beginning Algebra), just in case my son does have some trouble with the transition to Algebra and needs some extra practice. All in all, this is a great program. One of my favorite things about it, though, is that is goes to a higher level than any other homeschool Math program. Other Math programs go to Calculus, at the highest. Some don't even go that far. Fred goes all the way to Linear Algebra. This is by far my favorite Math program out of all those we've tried.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Homeschooling - It's Work

This will not be a post about how homeschooling is for everyone. It is not meant to convince anyone to homeschool or not to homeschool. It is simply an honest look at what homeschooling is.

Homeschooling is work. It is a full-time job. Actually, depending on how involved you are, it could be more like 2 full-time jobs (or at least a full-time & a part-time job). Think about it. You are providing an education for your children. Whether you think of yourself as a teacher, a facilitator, or tutor, part of what you do is helping your child learn. Depending on your child's age, interests, & abilities, this could include teaching them to read, Calculus, Music Theory, Chemistry, or Computer Programming, all of which are subjects that often send parents to the nearest homeschool forums looking for advice or looking for co-ops or online schools to find someone else to teach them. The less independent your child is, the more work this part involves. This part could be hours of each day. The more a child struggles with a subject, the more time you spend working on it with them.

The time spent working directly with your child on their subjects is only a fraction of the time & work involved in homeschooling, though. You also have to take into consideration all the research to refresh your memory or learn subjects yourself so you can help your child with them. Plus, there's the time researching materials, co-ops, outside classes, and/or online classes. Don't forget driving them to & from those co-op & other outside classes, as well as activities and volunteer opportunities.

There's also the planning & scheduling of their school year. The more kids you have, the more work this is. Some say it isn't much more work to plan for 2+ kids, but those people usually have kids that are very close in age and/or use the same materials for their kids regardless of learning styles. However, when your kids are too far apart in age or ability to plan very similar work, reuse plans, or use the same materials, this is a lot more work. Let's not forget keeping records for your state or at least transcripts for them to get into college.

When one or more of your kids have special needs, all of that work increases infinitely. So, what I'm saying here is that homeschooling is work. It isn't just sitting around the house all day watching tv in your pajamas. It isn't like helping your public or private school kids with homework. It isn't like entertaining your kids on weekends & school breaks. It is work. It is a job.

I homeschool two 2E kids. For me, homeschooling is hours each day of working with the kids, checking their work, encouraging them, calming them when they get frustrated or annoyed, getting their attention back on work when it strays, keeping them on schedule, reminding them that education comes before socialization, and mediating the utterly ridiculous arguments they have. It also means hours researching materials for courses such as Serial Killers 101, Native American Cultures, Gaelic, and Aliens & Monsters, in addition to the regular courses. It means materials for hands-on projects in History and labs for Science. It means hours of planning a high school book list for my daughter, who read most of the books typically assigned in high school by jr high. It means figuring out what we'll do for my son for Math when he finishes Life of Fred, because at the rate he's going, he'll be done with all the LOF books by the end of what would be 9th grade.

It means a lot of bargain hunting to find the best deals on materials so I can afford everything we need for both kids on a limited budget. It means reworking our plans again and again, as the kids change their minds about the subjects they get to choose or surpass where I thought they'd be in a subject. It means adding to the list of required reading for my son, who devours books. It means an endless supply of Art supplies for my daughter who always has some new creative endeavor.

I know that all homeschools are not the same, but homeschooling is always work. Even if you unschool, you still have to help find the materials & resources your kids want. You may still have to drive them to volunteer opportunities, outside classes, and activities. You still need to plan a budget & figure out how to stay within that budget, unless you have unlimited funds (in which case, most of us wish we were you). You may still need to keep records for college applications or your state.

Now, is homeschooling worth the time, effort, money, and work it involves? Yes, yes it is. At least, it is for my family & me. All the hours I spend researching, planning, scheduling, learning, and record keeping, all the energy I expend working with the kids, all the times I have to bite my tongue & walk out of the room to keep from yelling at them over the stupid, petty argument they are having, all the money spent to buy the materials & pay for any outside classes is all worth it. It's worth it because I know my kids are getting an education that far exceeds what they would get in public or private school, for far less money than we would have to pay to have them in private school. For us, it is worth it.

I don't say this to try to scare away those thinking about homeschooling. I say it because it's true and those considering homeschooling should know the truth before making their decision. Homeschooling is not always fun. It is not always easy. It can be frustrating & tiring. It can try your patience. The days can be long and stressful. However, it can also be wonderful. It can be tremendous fun. The days can seem so short. It is fantastic to see your kids' desire for learning be so prominent, to see their eyes light up as they work on a project, hear the joyful laughter as they do Science experiments, watch the sense of pride in them as they master a concept. Homeschooling is a job, but it does have the most wonderful rewards.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

I'm Thankful For

Earlier this month, I was contacted by an amazing woman named Heather. Eight years ago, she was diagnosed with Mesothelioma, mere months after giving birth to a beautiful baby girl. Obviously, she beat it, which is apparently not easy to do. Mesothelioma is a rare cancer most often caused by exposure to asbestos. It has become more well-known in recent years (I remember seeing commercials about it on tv, a few years ago when we still watched regular tv), but most people still don't know much about it.
I visited Heather's site and read some about her experience. I can't imagine how hard it must have been for her to get such a difficult diagnosis, especially so soon after having a baby.  She was strong, brave, and full of hope. She had a lung removed and didn't let it stop her. She fought & beat this horrible diagnosis.
As often happens when a person comes so close to death, she is very thankful for the things & people in her life. She wants to spread her message of hope, her story of survival, and her spirit of thankfulness to as many people as she can reach. She asked that I share a bit of her story & share something for which I am thankful. I am more than happy to do this for her.

To read more of Heather's story and learn more about mesothelioma click here.

I am thankful for...........

Homeschooling. I'm not one of those homeschoolers that thinks everyone should homeschool. I am thankful, though, that it is an option. For my family, it is the right option. My kids are so curious, brilliant, and hungry for knowledge. I would hate to have to send them to a public school that would not encourage, but instead crush, those traits. I would hate to miss the excitement when they start learning something new, or the pride when they master something, the joy when they get something they've been struggling with.

The people in my life. I'm not always the easiest person to get along with or to love. I have anxiety issues. I don't like large groups. I'm awkward around strangers. I have trust issues. I have rather insane 'quirks' that sometimes impact more than just myself. I hate talking on the phone. I often repeat myself. I don't like driving, especially at night (my eyes are very photosensitive & headlights are near blinding). I honestly don't know how people put up with me. Some don't. Some choose not to stick around, and I fully understand that & don't blame them for leaving. Those that stay, though, they  mean so much to me. I have some definite hermit-like tendencies, bit it is nice to know that, when I want/need to be around others, there are some wonderful, loving people who are always there for me.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

12 Days of Christmas - Day 12

For my last Christmas post, I'm including some traditions.

Our Traditions:

  • Christmas brunch. This was a big one whenever we did Christmas with my dad. Unfortunately, we haven't celebrated Christmas with my dad for a few years. Though, I keep this up on whichever day we do our Christmas, just us & the kids. It usually involves crepes or blintzes, bacon & sausage, hashbrowns, cornmeal mush, etc. My dad would always bring quiche & often made really great omelets.
  • Reusable Gift boxes. During my dad's 2nd marriage, my step-mom started the tradition of reusing gift boxes. She went out & bought these really nice boxes. If you got a gift in one, the next year you had to use that box to give a gift to someone else. They got circulated through the family for years.
  • Clues on the gifts. This was another tradition my step-mom started. On the wrapping paper, she would write clues to what the gift was, and you had to try to guess what it was before you opened it.
  • Christmas read-alouds. Throughout the month of December, we read aloud several Christmas books. We do one or two chapter books, reading a chapter a day. We do lots of picture books, though. We aim for one a day.
  • Pick out a tree. I've never actually done this. My step-mom goes out to a tree farm each year to pick out a tree & cut it down. My kids have both gone with & had a great time. It's generally an all day event.
  • Advent party. My husband's parents have the family come over on the first Sunday of Advent every year. They decorate the tree, have a big meal, and do a MadLib version of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas.
  • Christmas movies. We have a few movies we watch every December. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation is my husband's favorite. How the Grinch Stole Christmas and our favorite version of A Christmas Carol are also staples of our December. When we're alone, my husband & I watch Love Actually.
  • Our favorite Christmas tradition is our Activity Tree. We come up a list of things to do from December 1st - 25th, 20 - 25 things that we want to do. The list includes things like buying a toy to donate to Toys for Tots, some of the books we read & movies we watch, donate food to the local food pantry, and go see the light display our city does each year.
  • Play games. Each year we play games at my step-mom's house while we're there for Christmas. We often play some games during our Christmas, too.  
  • Gingerbread House. My aunt used to make a beautiful gingerbread house every year for the Christmas at my grandparents' house. 
  • A family gift. Each year, I buy us a family gift. It is one thing that's for all of us. It's usually a board game. Though occasionally it's a movie we've all been wanting.
Other Traditions:

  • Open one gift each on Christmas Eve. 
  • Bake cookies for Santa.
  • Go caroling.
  • Attend Midnight Mass. My mother decided we should do this one year. We went to a Polish church on Christmas Eve. 
  • Christmas pajamas. Buy each person a new pair of pajamas for Christmas. Have them open them on Christmas Eve, so they can wear them to bed that night & on Christmas morning.
  • Annual ornaments. Get special ornaments for each person, every year. An alternative is to get a personalized family ornament each year.
  • Adopt a family. This is one we haven't had the extra cash to do, but are planning on doing next year. Many cities have places where you can "adopt" a family. They give you ages & genders of the family members, and you buy them gifts for Christmas. It's a nice way to give to those who have less.
Some ideas:

  • One of the things I'm planning to do next year is to buy 10 $10 gift cards & give them out to random people through the month of December.
  • This year, I'm thinking of doing a Christmas scavenger hunt. I'll hide the family gift & leave clues for the kids to follow to find it.
  • Do a themed Christmas. Choose another era or culture & celebrate the way people there or then would.

This year:
These are our plans for this year.
Our Christmas will be Christmas Eve. We are going to spend the day playing games & watching a marathon of TableTop. We will do a special brunch. Our family gifts this year are 2 games - Pandemic & Zombie Dice. They will be among the games we play on Christmas Eve. I will spend part of the day baking breads for Christmas. It will actually be rather quiet & relaxing. On Christmas Day, we will be at my step-mom's house.

Well, that's it for my 12 Days of Christmas posts. I hope you enjoyed them & found some new resources or got some ideas. Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

12 Days of Christmas - Day 11

12 more books today.

Dave Cooks the Turkey
Description from Goodreads:
Hapless Dave is at it again, promising his beloved wife Morley that he will take care of the Christmas turkey while she takes the kids to work at the food bank. Dave fails to realize quite what's involved, and the result is a Homeresque struggle to beat all the odds and somehow get an unappetizing, frozen, and slightly scarred bird home and roasted in time for Christmas dinner—before Morley cooks Dave's goose.

Description from Goodreads:
"Whatever the reason, I find that with each passing Christmas the story of the christmas box is told less and needed more. So I record it now for all future generations to accept or dismiss, as seems them good. As for me, I believe. And it is, after all, my story." So begins "The Christmas Box", the touching story of a widow and the young family who moves in with her. Together they discover the first gift of Christmas and learn what Christmas is really all about. "The Christmas Box" is a Christmas story unlike any other.

Description from Goodreads:
In this charming, often hilarious collection of letters to Santa, a wide range of feisty felines makes very specific Christmas demands of Santa--from Garfield books to taking back the dog. Delightfully illustrated throughout with whimsical cartoons.

When Santa Fell to Earth
Description from Goodreads:
What would happen if Santa fell to Earth? Christmas through the eyes of Cornelia Funke: quirky, funny, ultimately heartwarming, and packaged in a collectible format. A new holiday classic!

Scared by a storm, Twinklestar, the least reliable reindeer, bolts--causing Santa and his sleigh to crash-land. And though Santa has dropped into a friendly neighborhood, he's not safe: Jeremiah Goblynch, the ruthless new leader of the Council of Yuleland, is determind to put an end to children's wishes and turn the holiday season into his own personal moneymaking scheme. As the last REAL St. Nick around, only Santa stands between Goblynch and his grinchlike plan. With the help and hope of kids Charlotte and Ben, Santa must face Goblynch and his Nutcracker goons to save Christmas!

Description from Goodreads:
Edward Gorey s off-kilter depictions of Yuletide mayhem and John Updike's wryly jaundiced text examine a dozen Christmas traditions with a decidedly wheezy ho-ho-ho.

1. Santa: The Man
Loose-fitting nylon beard, fake optical twinkle, cheap red suit, funny rummy smell when you sit on his lap. If he s such a big shot, why is he drawing unemployment for eleven months of the year? Something scary and off-key about him, like one of those Stephen King clowns . . .

This long out-of-print classic is the perfect stocking-stuffer for any bah humbug.

Description from Goodreads:
12 leaping lords,
22 dancing ladies,
30 fiddlers,
36 drummers,
40 milkmaids,
42 swans,
42 geese,
40 gold rings,
36 calling birds,
30 French hens,
22 turtle doves,
and 12 partridges in pear trees?

In this playful companion to Hilary Knight's The Owl and the Pussy-catthe presents never stop. When Bedelia Bear is faced with an accumulation of holiday offerings from her sweetheart, Benjamin, she turns her gifts into a very special event that everyone is able to share.

Description from Goodreads:
Barry Laverty, M.B., is looking forward to his first Christmas in the cozy village of Ballybucklebo, at least until he learns that his sweetheart, Patricia, might not be coming home for the holidays. That unhappy prospect dampens his spirits somewhat, but Barry has little time to dwell on his romantic disappointments. Christmas may be drawing nigh, but there is little peace to be found on earth, especially for a young doctor plying his trade in the emerald hills and glens of rural Ireland.

Along with his senior partner, Doctor Fingal Flahertie O’Reilly, Barry has his hands full dealing with seasonal coughs and colds, as well as the occasional medical emergency. To add to the doctors’ worries, competition arrives in the form of a patient-poaching new physician whose quackery threatens the health and well-being of the good people of Ballybucklebo. Can one territory support three hungry doctors? Barry has his doubts.

But the wintry days and nights are not without a few tidings of comfort and joy. Between their hectic medical practice, Rugby Club parties, and the kiddies’ Christmas Pageant, the two doctors still find time to play Santa Claus to a struggling single mother with a sick child and not enough money in the bank. Snow is rare in Ulster, and so are miracles, but that doesn’t mean they never happen. . .

Description from Goodreads:
This is the delightfully warm and enjoyable story of an old Parisian named Armand, who relished his solitary life. Children, he said, were like starlings, and one was better off without them.
But the children who lived under the bridge recognized a true friend when they met one, even if the friend seemed a trifle unwilling at the start. And it did not take Armand very long to realize that he had gotten himself ready-made family; one that he loved with all his heart, and one for whom he would have to find a better home than the bridge.

Armand and the children's adventures around Paris -- complete with gypsies and a Santa Claus -- make a story which children will treasure.

Description from Goodreads:
First recorded in 1952, " A Child's Christmas in Wales" is the nostalgic recollection of Dylan Thomas' childhood that has become a classic among Christmas tales. With powerful grace, Thomas here performs this renowned work along with five of his best-known poems-- "Fern Hill, Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night, In the White Giants Thigh, Ballad of the Long-legged Bait, and Ceremony After a Fire Raid.

Description from Goodreads:
David Sedaris’s beloved holiday collection is new again with six more pieces, including a never before published story. Along with such favorites as the diaries of a Macy’s elf and the annals of two very competitive families, are Sedaris’s tales of tardy trick-or-treaters (“Us and Them”); the difficulties of explaining the Easter Bunny to the French (“Jesus Shaves”); what to do when you’ve been locked out in a snowstorm (“Let It Snow”); the puzzling Christmas traditions of other nations (“Six to Eight Black Men”); what Halloween at the medical examiner’s looks like (“The Monster Mash”); and a barnyard secret Santa scheme gone awry (“Cow and Turkey”).

No matter what your favorite holiday, you won’t want to miss celebrating it with the author who has been called “one of the funniest writers alive” (Economist).

How Do Dinosaurs Say Merry Christmas?
Description from Goodreads:
Ho! Ho! Ho! With more than 9 million books in print, America's favorite dinosaurs can't wait to celebrate Christmas!

From decorating the tree to wrapping presents, little dinosaurs love to celebrate Christmas-and everything about it. With ornaments on the branches and carolers singing at the door, the spirit of Christmas is finally here and filling the hearts of families everywhere. But when the stockings are hung on the chimney, and the cookies are left out for Santa, how can little dinosaurs go to sleep? It's so exciting! How can they possibly calm down and behave?

Children will laugh out loud as dinosaurs secretly lick candy canes, take sneaky peeks at gifts, and disrupt the traditional family feast.

With holiday surprises around every corner, the award-winning team of Jane Yolen and Mark Teague create an engaging, fun gift sure to be read again and again, year after year. How do dinosaurs say Merry Christmas? The same way they say Happy Chanukah: With an abundance of love, joy, memory, and gratitude.

Description from Goodreads:
The Berenstain Bears celebrate Christmas in this heartwarming, nostalgic picture book.

The Berenstain Bears want to celebrate Christmas just like in the olden days, but how will they have fun without all of their modern toys and gadgets?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

12 Days of Christmas - Day 10

Today I have 12 more books for you. For today's selection, I searched for non-fiction books for Christmas. These aren't ones I've personally read, but they sounded like they might be interesting.

Best of Christmas Ideas by Better Homes & Gardens
Description from Goodreads:
Deck the halls with tons of ideas and projects that help make the season bright Whether you incorporate handmade items as part of your decor, celebrations, or gift giving, adding a personal touch to Christmas makes the holiday season even more special. Christmas Ideasis packed with easy and inspirational ways to help beautify and personalize your holiday season. You'll get ideas for festive decorating schemes, stunning themed trees, quick-to-make ornaments and cards, appealing gifts, and easy crafts. So before you adorn your home or begin penning your Christmas cards, turn to this gorgeous book for

Projects that bring a handmade touch to holiday d¿cor, gifts, and celebrations
Step-by-step instructions for craft projects
Ideas for holiday entertaining including kitchen-tested recipes
Gorgeous color photos that offer inspiration and guidance

Christmas Ideas is a treasure-trove of holiday merriment—a perfect source for creating unforgettable Christmas celebrations and traditions you'll be proud to share with family and friends.

Nigella Christmas
Description from Goodreads:
Nigella Christmas comprises reliable, practical, easy-to-follow recipes and inspiring and reassuring advice, presented in a gorgeous package that will make this the ultimate gift to yourself, your family and friends.
Nigella Christmas will surely become an all-time perennial favourite, the book we will all reach for – for minimum stress and maximum enjoyment – at holiday season.

Recipes include everything from Christmas cakes and puddings to quick homemade presents (cookies and chutneys); food to cook and freeze ahead; oven slow-cooking; “hero” ingredients; as well as party food and drinks. And, of course, exciting and inspiring variations for the Main Event – from traditional turkey, festive ham and special trimmings; to a Swedish or Polish Christmas à la Nigella; to a vegetarian Christmas feast.
Pagan Christmas
A look at he Pagan origins of the modern day Christmas celebrations & symbols.

When Santa was a Shaman
Description from Goodreads:
Yes, there is a Santa Claus -- and this provocative book will tell you who he really is! Travel back in time to view Santa's pagan origins -- and his fascinating connections to the Horned Shaman, the Greek God Pan, the Norse god Wodan, and Robin Hood. Learn how we are influenced by this ancient myth everyday. Based on ten years of extensive research.

Christmas Crafts
Description from Goodreads:
Grab your glitter and glue, and get ready for some frosty fun! Deck the halls with darling decorations. Make spirits bright with clever wrapping ideas. Find comfort and joy making holiday recipes. Best of all, create a sleigh full of sparkling, glimmering gifts!

Handknit Holidays
Description from Goodreads:
For many people, the best part of the winter holidays is the anticipation: planning the perfect gifts, decorating the house, looking forward to seeing family and friends. Holidays can be particularly special for knitters, whose preparations often start months in advance and involve their own creations. In "Handknit Holidays" best-selling knitting author Melanie Falick presents an eclectic collection of more than 50 original gifts, decorations, and clothing pieces for Christmas, Hanukkah, and the winter solstice, providing year-round inspiration for knitters of all levels.
Created by top knitwear designers, the projects include colorful ornaments; funky and classic Christmas stockings; a wire-and-bead menorah; sparkly ribbon scarves; a poncho and matching dog sweater; and a range of super-quick projects for that last-minute holiday rush, from a Santa hat, to elf caps, to flower pins. Rounding out the volume are a few grand projects-an Aran tree skirt, a patchwork afghan, a lace shawl-destined to become family heirlooms, plus features on such topics as the origin of the Christmas stocking, the meaning of the winter solstice, knitting for charities, strategies for finishing holiday knitting (on schedule!), and even a delicious recipe for festive crescent cookies.
Beautifully photographed by Susan Pittard, "Handknit Holidays" is a creative celebration of the holiday season and a treasure for all knitters who seek to bring more of their own handwork-and artistry-into their daily lives and their holiday festivities.
Vintage Christmas Crafts
Description from Goodreads:
Go back in time and add charm to the holidays with these four unique decorative crafting styles: Victorian Vintage, Shabby Chic, Country, and Personal Vintage. For each, you'll find directions for projects, ideas for decorating, and enticing pictures to inspire and evoke nostalgia. Craft cardboard villages just like Grandma used to. Make new ornaments look antique and aged, as if they were passed down through the generations. From a gathering of lighted tapes glowing on the floor, to red ribbons tied around the banister, to wreaths, Santa Claus figurines, and food heaped everywhere, each design is glorious.

Christmas All Through the House
Description from Goodreads:
Gooseberry Patch is famous for its 10-year series of Christmas books, and in "Christmas All Through the House," we've compiled the very best from those books into this collector's edition. In the largest Christmas book every published by Gooseberry Patch, readers will find the best of their reader-shared homespun ideas for food, fun, easy crafts, and gifts in one easy-to-use collection. The book's grand size and bountiful content put this all-in-one Christmas book in a league of its own.
You'll enjoy:
* Over 400 tried & true reader recipes for meals, desserts, snacks, drinks, and more, plus over 200 gifts from the heart--Gooseberry Patch style!
* Over 200 craft ideas that include patterns and step-by-step instructions entice you to stitch, glue, and paint to your heart's content.
* Over 400 see & do color photos and spiral binding make it easy to use.

We Knit You a Merry Christmas
Description from Goodreads:
Christmas is a time for sharing, and there's no better way to share the joy of the season than with hand-knitted gifts for friends and family! The 20 delightful patterns in We Knit You a Merry Christmas run the gamut from traditional characters such as angels, Father Christmas, and the Three Kings to knitted animals like kangaroos (“Hoppy Christmas”) and sheep (“Baa Humbug”), as well as quirkier items like chilies, mushrooms, and of course the famous Ha Pea.

Old-Fashioned Christmas Favorites
Description from Goodreads:
Nobody does Christmas like the folks at Gooseberry Patch, whose catalogs and books are beloved by families across America for bringing a "country store to your mailbox". Enjoy the festive warmth of the traditional homespun Noel, with the best-loved recipes, crafts, and memories Gooseberry Patch has to offer -- all gathered in one magnificent full-color volume.

A Swedish Christmas
Description from Goodreads:
Bake tasty festive treats, from savory breadsticks to delicious gingerbread men. Add Scandinavian flair to your home with cushions, wreaths and crocheted Santas. Decorate a Christmas tree the Swedish way, with frozen angels, knitted baubles, and icing snowflakes. Share the festive cheer with perfect gifts like cookie jars and cute caramel crackers. This wonderful book is packed with wonderful festive projects using all kinds of materials and techniques. Each project comes with simple, easy-to-follow instructions and beautiful photographs.

Welcome Home for the Holidays
Description from Goodreads:
You'll want to keep this holiday classic close at hand from the first falling leaf all the way through the year's end. Welcome Home for the Holidays Cookbook shares our favorite recipes like chicken-rosemary casserole and 14-layer (really!) chocolate cake. You'll also find clever ideas for gingerbread cookie bowls and handprint aprons, lots of family traditions, tips and, of course, memories. Just the gift for everyone on your list!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Thinking About my Blog

You may have noticed that I haven't posted much about homeschooling lately. This is partly due to being so busy with the holidays. However, it's also because I've been thinking about making some changes to my blog & how I post. I'm trying to decide the way to best utilize my blog. I'm trying to figure out what makes it most useful to other homeschoolers, as well as is a truly comfortable way for me to write & share. I won't go into details yet about my thoughts. I will wait until I have made some kind of decision to do that.

12 Days of Christmas - Day 9

I have another 12 books for you today.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Description from Goodreads:
In picturesque nineteenth-century New England, tomboyish Jo, beautiful Meg, fragile Beth, and romantic Amy come of age while their father is off to war.

The Nutcracker by E.T.A. Hoffmann
Description from Goodreads:
The tale of Nutcracker, written by E.T.A. Hoffmann in 1816, has fascinated and inspired artists, composers, and audiences for almost two hundred years. It has retained its freshness because it appeals to the sense of wonder we all share.

Maurice Sendak designed brilliant sets and costumes for the Pacific Northwest Ballet's Christmas production of Nutcracker and created even more magnificent pictures especially for this book. He joined with the eminent translator Ralph Manheim to produce this illustrated edition of Hoffmann's wonderful tale, destined to become a classic for all ages.

The world of Nutcracker is a world of pleasures. Maurice Sendak's art illuminates the delights of Hoffmann's story in this rich and tantalizing treasure.

The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen
Description from Goodreads:
Reprinted here for the first time since the 19th century, these color illustrations by T. Pym make the classic Andersen fairy tale even more magical.

One of Andersen's best-beloved tales, The Snow Queen is a story about the strength and endurance of childhood friendship. Gerda's search for her playmate Kay–who was abducted by the Snow Queen and taken to her frozen palace–is brought to life in delicate and evocative illustrations.

Letters From Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien
Description from Goodreads:
Every December an envelope bearing a stamp from the North Pole would arrive for J.R.R. Tolkien’s children. Inside would be a letter in a strange, spidery handwriting and a beautiful colored drawing or some sketches.

The letters were from Father Christmas.

They told wonderful tales of life at the North Pole: how the reindeer got loose and scattered presents everywhere; how the accident-prone North Polar Bear climbed the North Pole and fell through the roof of Father Christmas’s house; how he broke the Moon into four pieces and made the Man in it fall into the back garden; how there were wars with the troublesome horde of goblins who lived in the caves beneath the house.

Sometimes the Polar Bear would scrawl a note, and sometimes Ilbereth the Elf would write in his elegant flowing script, adding yet more life and humor to the stories.

This updated version contains a wealth of new material, including letters and pictures missing from early editions. No No reader, young or old, can fail to be charmed by the inventiveness and "authenticity" of J.R.R. Tolkien's Letters from Father Christmas

A Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg
Description from Goodreads:
With the same incomparable style and warm, inviting voice that have made her beloved by millions of readers far and wide, "New York Times" bestselling author Fannie Flagg has written an enchanting Christmas story of faith and hope for all ages that is sure to become a classic.
Deep in the southernmost part of Alabama, along the banks of a lazy winding river, lies the sleepy little community known as Lost River, a place that time itself seems to have forgotten. After a startling diagnosis from his doctor, Oswald T. Campbell leaves behind the cold and damp of the oncoming Chicago winter to spend what he believes will be his last Christmas in the warm and welcoming town of Lost River. There he meets the postman who delivers mail by boat, the store owner who nurses a broken heart, the ladies of the Mystic Order of the Royal Polka Dots Secret Society, who do clandestine good works. And he meets a little redbird named Jack, who is at the center of this tale of a magical Christmas when something so amazing happened that those who witnessed it have never forgotten it. Once you experience the wonder, you too will never forget "A Redbird Christmas." "From the Hardcover edition."

Norman Rockwell's Christmas Book
Christmas comes but once a year: a Christmas book like this comes but once in a lifetime. First, the illustrations are by America's best-loved artist, Norman Rockwell, and the book, like Rockwell himself, is made up of equal parts of love, good cheer, gentleness, and humor. Then, this rich Yuletide feast includes not only stories and poems but the words "and" music of many songs--and they run the full gamut of Christmas moods, from tender reminiscence to rollicking jollity.The pictures--83 plates in full color and 12 in black-and-white--have been chosen from Rockwell's entire body of work to illustrate the many varied Christmas themes. Some lucky readers will come to these marvelously human and true-to-life pictures afresh; others, equally fortunate, will come to them with remembrance and affection.

Rhymes invite the reader to find hidden objects in photographs of Christmas items.

Description from Goodreads:
Little Teeka thought she had to be firm with the reindeer to get them ready for Santa's important flight, but when her bossy yelling only got their antlers tangled up, she knew she had to try something different. "Beautifully conceived and finely wrought." -- Booklist (starred review) "Brett's precise, glowing illustrations, drawing on Swedish folk art, make this a beguiling Advent calendar of a book." -- Kirkus Reviews "AA? sweet Christmas fantasy that shows Brett at her best." -- Publishers Weekly "This tale with its humorous close-ups of stubborn reindeer and a sharp child protagonist should prove popular at story hours." -- School Library Journal

Description from Goodreads:
An English country house at Christmas time, with its crackling log fires and fine food, may seem an incongruous setting for a crime—but a sinister note left on his pillow tells Hercule Poirot everything is not as it seems.

The great detective plays his cards close to his chest—until the discovery of a young woman lying in the snow, a Kurdish knife in the centre of a crimson stain on her white wrap, spurs Poirot into revealing his hand.

Seven cases in which Hercule Poirot and Jane Marple prove conclusively that their powers of detection take the cake…

Collected within: The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding, The Mystery of the Spanish Chest, The Under Dog, Four and Twenty Blackbirds, The Dream, and a Miss Marple mystery, Greenshaw's Folly.

The Lump of Coal by Lemony Snicket
Description from Goodreads:
This is a story about a lump of coal who can think, talk, and move itself around.

Is there a more charming holiday tale to behold? Probably, but Lemony Snicket has not written one.

Description from Goodreads:
It all started when Jeff Guinn was assigned to write a piece full of little-known facts about Christmas for his paper, The Fort Worth Star-Telegram. A few months later, he received a call from a gentleman who told him that he showed the story to an important friend who didn’t think much of it. And who might that be? asked Jeff. The next thing he knew, he was whisked off to the North Pole to meet with this “very important friend,” and the rest is, well, as they say, history.

An enchanting holiday treasure, The Autobiography of Santa Clauscombines solid historical fact with legend to deliver the definitive story of Santa Claus. And who better to lead us through seventeen centuries of Christmas magic than good ol’ Saint Nick himself? Families will delight in each chapter of this new Christmas classic—one per each cold December night leading up to Christmas!

Description from Goodreads:
For many centuries young and old alike have been singing about the maids a- milking, the lords a-leaping, and a partridge in a pear tree. A Christmas carol, a parlor game, and a delightful counting song-The Twelve Days of Christmas- is indeed a favorite of the holiday season.
In this book, sumptuously illustrated by Jan Brett, all the splendid images of The Twelve Days of Christmas come joyously alive. Look closely and you'll see not only the extravagant gifts given by a suitor to his lady, but a love story, a family's busy Christmas preparations, "Merry Christmas" in eleven languages, and a veritable menagerie of charming creatures.
Jan Brett's exquisitely detailed illustrations so rich in traditional folk motifs, make this book a visual treat to be enjoyed over and over again.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Christmas Break is Almost Here

Since it's mid-December, we have only one week left of school before our Christmas break. As I always do just before a break, I've been looking at our plans to see how we're coming along with our work.

Her current term is up at the end of January. She will have to do some work during Christmas break to be done with everything by term's end. She only has 3 chapters left in Geometry. She's still continuing with ASL. She is currently in book 8 (out of 10) for Accounting. She is reading To Kill a Mockingbird, and still has to read The Count of Monte Cristo, as well as do some Grammar for English. She has finished her Econ class & the online class she used as the Writing portion of English. So, just 4 subjects left for the term. She's not too far behind, though she could be further along in Geometry if she didn't fight about it so much. I had also hoped she'd be done with To Kill a Mockingbird by the beginning of December, to allow her 2 whole months to read The Count of Monte Cristo. She fell a bit behind with her English, though, probably due to fighting about the books she had to read.

4th grade started mid-April, and 5th won't start until mid-April 2014. So, we still have a few months to finish the work for this year.
He has already finished the 3 Math books we had planned for the year - LOF Elementary Physics, LOF Pre-Algebra 1 with Biology, and LOF Pre-Algebra 2 with Economics. He will take a break from Math until after Christmas break, when he will start LOF Beginning Algebra.
For Grammar, we've been using Grammar Land & Grammar worksheets I print for free online. He only has 6 chapters left of Grammar Land. We're also about halfway through AAS5 & more than halfway through his Required Reading list.
He's less than halfway through LFC C, and we may not finish it by the end of the year. It's fine if we don't, as we can finish it next year. He's still continuing with ASL, as well.
He is making his way through Perplexors A & is really enjoying them. He will definitely finish it before the end of the year. Luckily, he still has some pages left in Advancing Through Analogies. He's really enjoying analogies, too. We started with just one analogy a day. Now, he's doing two a day. After break, I'll see about bumping it to 4 a day. I'm not sure if he'll finish this book by the end of the year or not. It's fine either way.
We haven't been as diligent about Art or Music as I would like. We're only on our 2nd artist of the year. He has been doing work for both subjects, just not every week. These are both less structured subjects, anyway, so it isn't a huge deal if he skips some weeks.
In Geography, we are on his 4th of 6 trips to plan. This one is China. He is really enjoying doing Geography this way, instead of the boring textbook way. We will probably finish all 6 trips by the end of the year.
In History, we have been studying early U.S. History, up through the Civil War. We are currently only at the American Revolution. I don't think we will make it through the Civil War this year. That is fine. 5th grade will also be U.S. History, so we will just continue form wherever we leave off.
In Science, he's working on Marine Biology, and I'm sure we'll be done by the end of the year. His study of herbs has been moving along, though somewhat slowly. He wants to continue with it after this year, though, so I'm not really concerned about whether or not we get through all the resources this year.
He isn't really behind schedule in much, so I'm not concerned with the few areas where he is.

12 Days of Christmas - Day 8

I have 12 Christmas books for you today.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
We all know the story, so I don't need to actually give a description for this one. I love this book. My kids love this book. It's a classic, and I truly believe that everyone should read it at some point.

Miracle on 34th Street by Valentine Davies

I'm betting you all know this story, as well. 
Description from book jacket:
A white-beared gentleman who appears at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade fills in for an unfit Santa Claus - and is asked to become the store's resident Santa. This Kris Kringle believes he is Santa, as do children from all over the city, and reindeer at the zoo nearby. A few skeptical souls try to have him declared insane, but miraculously, the State of New York, with the help of the U.S. Postal Service, comes to the gent's rescue by declaring that he is indeed Santa Claus.

Skipping Christmas by John Grisham
This is the book the movie Christmas with the Kranks is based on.
The Kranks' daughter has joined the Peace Corps and gone to Peru for a year. She left the weekend after Thanksgiving. The Kranks decide that they should skip Christmas this year. They agree to skip all the regular trappings of the holiday, which last year cost them over $6000, and go on a cruise instead. No decorations, no tree purchased from the Boy Scouts, no Police Department calendar, no cards, no Christmas Eve party, no gifts or office parties, and no snowman on their roof . Their friends & neighbors aren't all accepting of their decision to skip Christmas. On Christmas Eve, as they pack for their cruise, their daughter calls to tell them she is coming home for Christmas, will be home for the annual Christmas Eve party, and is bringing her fiancee. They have mere hours to throw together a complete Christmas and a big party.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
Description from Goodreads:
The Herdmans are the worst kids in the history of the world. They lie, steal, smoke cigars, swear, and hit little kids. So no one is prepared when this outlaw family invades church one Sunday and decides to take over the annual Christmas pageant.

None of the Herdmans has ever heard the Christmas story before. Their interpretation of the tale -- the Wise Men are a bunch of dirty spies and Herod needs a good beating -- has a lot of people up in arms. But it will make this year's pageant the most unusual anyone has seen and, just possibly, the best one ever.

The Stupidest Angel by Christopher Moore
When a boy sees Santa Claus killed, he prays to God asking that Santa be brought back to life. Archangel Raziel is sent to answer the boy's prayer. However, Raziel isn't that bright. Instead of bringing Santa back to life, he accidentally reanimates an entire graveyard. Soon, the town Christmas party is attacked by zombies who are very hungry for brains.

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
Description form Goodreads:
Late on Christmas Eve, after the town has gone to sleep, a boy boards a mysterious train that waits for him: the Polar Express bound for the North Pole. When he arrives there, Santa offers him any gift he desires. The boy modestly asks for one bell from the reindeer's harness. It turns out to be a very special gift, for only believers in Santa can hear it ring.

This is another I shouldn't have to describe. Everybody knows the story of the Grinch, the Whos, & Whoville.

The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Andersen 
From the book jacket:
It is a bitterly cold night in December. Horse-drawn carriages rumble past, carrying people home to warm fires & roast-goose suppers. But one little girl cannot go home, not until she has sold her bundle of matches. 
As she lights one after another to keep warm, her cold grey world changes magically before her eyes. Flames as bright as candles illuminate her visions, each one more beautiful than the last...... As the night goes on, each new vision seems more real than the dark streets around her.

The Berenstain Bears' Christmas Tree by Stan & Jan Berenstain

It's Christmas in Bear Country, and Papa Bear & the cubs are hunting for the perfect Christmas tree. Each tree they find, however, is home to some wildlife. hey can't cut down a tree if it will make someone else homeless. They decide to just buy a tree & head home only to find the tree lot is empty. Will they have to go without a tree this Christmas? 

'Twas the Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore Illustrated by Matt Tavares
Everyone knows the story, so no description is necessary. This is one of my favorite editions of this story. The black & white illustrations are absolutely gorgeous. 

Description from Goodreads:
Scenes from Clement Moore's 'Twas the Night Before Christmas inspire twelve elegant and fascinating compositions where readers search for dozens of intriguing hidden objects.

The first photograph, "The Night Before Christmas," features a gingerbread house, Christmas cookies, candles, bulbs, and more. "Visions of Sugarplums" is an abstract composition of Christmas confections; and "Such a Clatter!" is a dynamic explosion of objects. In "It Must Be Saint Nick," Santa is shown in shadow; and in "A Bundle of Toys," the presents in Santa's sack are revealed as a magnificent jumble. The final photograph, "Happy Christmas to All" is a beautiful, pastoral landscape, lustrous under new-fallen snow.

The original poem is printed on the endpapers.


This beautiful short story is about a married couple who don't have the money to buy each other Christmas presents. They each sell the possession most important to them in order to get the money to buy the other the perfect gift. She cuts & sells her hair to buy him a fob for his watch, and he sells his watch to buy her a beautiful set of hair combs.