Winter Term Ending

gate in snow

I got on Facebook yesterday to ask a local homeschool group about driving schools, and Facebook informed me that it had been fifteen days since my last blog post.  “Write another post?” it said, and so, sure, here I am.  I’ve been meaning to show you a little bit from our winter term, which we wrapped up a week or so ago — although when I said so, the kids asked me, “What’s a term?” So you see, these “terms”, I guess they are really just figments of my imagination.

Anyway, we’ve reached that point in the school year when it is increasingly hard for me organize the kids and myself to do much of anything formal.  (“Low tide”, I guess.)  The first half of February was somewhat spring-like, with bluets and even a daffodil or two.  On the day our first daffodil bloomed, we had an ice storm, and that was the beginning of the end.  We got two or three ice storms in a row, and then two snow… I don’t want to call them storms exactly, so maybe we’ll just say events? Two snow events in a row! This is a big deal here, where we can go several winters without having any snow lay on the ground.  The boys even got to go sledding down the hill in the backyard, build snowmen, and — of course — have a few snowball fights.

barn in snow

building a snowman

playing with dog in snow

snowball fight

JM in snow


(JM wasn’t too sure about the snow.  He’d never seen it before. How different is this from these snow pictures of five years ago? I do miss those big nor’easters, in a way… but I don’t miss the long weeks it took all that snow to melt! )

We did take the opportunity to read all our picture books about snow, which was fun because the winter-themed picture books so rarely relate to our weather down here.

Blizzard was a Christmas present for Chipmunk this year; I was surprised to see that it was about the Blizzard of ’78, which I actually lived through, too.  I was five years old and my family still lived in northeastern Ohio then, and what I remember about it was that our power went out and my grandpa had to come through the snow to get my mom, my baby sister, and me to take us to his house.  There’s a picture somewhere of my little sister being bathed in a little pink plastic tub on their kitchen table.  I regaled the boys with my stories, but I’m sure they found the book much more interesting.

We read Snowflake Bentley during one of our snow “events” and Huck wanted to get out the microscope to see if we could look at snowflakes, too.  So we did, and we couldn’t get the snowflakes to stay on the stage without melting, but the microscope itself was a big hit and we spent a long time looking at almost everything else.


(We own both a dissecting scope and a microscope, both from Home Science Tools.  Huck is using the dissecting scope here to look at a mandarin.)

I also finally finished reading Paddington Helps Out to Chipmunk (and anybody else who would listen) and then I started Along Comes a Dog by Meindert de Jong.  We’re almost done with it now — one chapter left — and my seven year old and my four year old have both been riveted by this book.  Myself, I thought it ought to come with a few warning stickers for sensitive readers. (Like me.)  Having kept chickens, the boys didn’t flinch too much at the amount of chicken violence in the book, but sheesh… the thing about the chicken’s toes made us all sit up and blink a little. (I won’t tell you exactly what because that would be a spoiler, but… wow.)  This is an AO recommended free read in… Year 3, I think?… but I would recommend that if you have a sensitive reader, you just stay away.  If you’re raising farm kids, though, it’s a good book.  De Jong obviously spent a lot of time around chickens.

George blew through a truly impressive list of books this winter… but I didn’t write them all down.  He finished the modern history section of The Story of Mankind, and we were going to start on the next two-thirds of AO Year 6, but then he decided he really didn’t want to do ancients, so he’s reading the remaining Landmark 20th century history books that I bought at the beginning of the year and Winston Churchill: Soldier, Statesman, Artist. I also handed him Watership Down, and he read that in a matter of days. So much for keeping that until AO Year 7.  He does have books that he reads slowly, but — not too many.

Dennis and Huck also finished up the books that they had been reading for a while — some of the books on AO’s Year 3.5 booklist for Dennis and some Landmarks and a Christian Liberty Nature Reader for Huck — and so we decided to have an exam week while the teenagers had a spring break from their Memoria Press classes. (Celeste makes detailed posts about their Charlotte Mason style exams if you’d like to see a good example of a Charlotte Mason style exam. Ours are similar.  We have been doing these for about five years now, and they’re a good way to wrap things up, to see what the kids remember .  Gareth actually sent one of his answers from our ancient history course along with his college applications.) I had George write (type) some of his answers, which was his first foray into the written narration.  If you were to meet George now and see all the books he reads, you would never know that he was dyslexic.  His spelling and language mechanics might therefore come as a surprise.  Last spring when I asked him to try typing a narration, he could barely figure out how to write a sentence.  (This stands in direct contradiction to the way — and the amount — he talks, by the way.)  When I asked him to write a few answers to his exam questions this year, I got whole paragraphs with punctuation and not too many spelling mistakes or missing words.  Progress is always nice to see.

Dennis and Huck are also making progress.  Our schedule change as well as clear expectations (no choices) turned out to be exactly what they needed.  Also, they are doing well with their separate math programs — Saxon 5/4 for Dennis and Beast Academy 3 for Huck.  (For reference, they are both technically third graders this year.)  Huck has been steadily chugging through the 3B book.  He does all of it independently with very little help from me.  Occasionally (very occasionally) he runs into a problem with double stars which apparently means that you will possibly need help from more than one adult in order to solve the problem and then he has to ask his non-mathy mother for assistance.  The last one I did with him I had to cheat and use long division, which he hasn’t covered yet.  Then we looked up the answer in the back of the book to see the way you were supposed to do it (by making lists of factors), something that probably wouldn’t have occurred to me in a million years.  Huck likes this level of challenge and does well at it, but there is absolutely no way he could finish all four workbooks in one academic year.

The teenagers are just keeping up with their classes.  They took the National Latin Exam, went to their new creative writing group, and translated a lot of Cicero.  Gareth had an interview for a full tuition scholarship at his first choice college, which we should hear about this week (prayers appreciated), and then I hope that — with his permission — I can share some of the whole college application/scholarship process that we went through.  It turns out that relaxed homeschooling did not actually ruin his life.  But I’ll write more about that later hopefully.

There were more things that we did this winter — Chipmunk drew quite a bit and there was much discussion (and argument) about wolves — but this is it in a nutshell.  The sun came out this weekend for three whole days (!) and it was warm and beautiful.  Now it’s raining again and chilly, but the pears and forsythia have all burst into bloom, and I think spring is finally here.  We made a few changes for our spring term — and hopefully (also !) we’ll be going on vacation in April — but I’ll tell you about that in my spring learning in review notes.

draw write now





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  1. Love all the pictures Angela and I can’t believe your kids are looking so grown up – the twins at least 😉 We are getting around to doing our term exams too – so glad we started doing these as well, was it that long ago?? I must be getting old >.< So happy to see all those wonderful snow picture books!! We had nothing this year, so had to pretend LOL!
    Meredith recently posted…Saint Joseph’s Day Giveaway | Prayer PillowcasesMy Profile

    • I know, the twins make me feel old, too! I’ve been blogging for ten years now, but it feels like I just blinked and here we are! (And we usually just have to pretend with the snow books, too… The big kids regale their younger siblings with stories of upstate New York 😉

  2. I enjoyed the updates, Angela. I was wondering if George was doing any maintenance work on phonics/reading/spelling besides reading a ton, now? It is so encouraging that in so short a time he has overcome his dyslexia to such an extent. Karl is improving steadily as he has finished vision therapy and we use Dancing Bears/Apples and Pears, but I’m trying to think ahead a little.

    • Well, the reading is definitely what helps the most, I think, and it’s what helped my oldest the most as well. That said, he still does need some help with the spelling. Phonics isn’t an issue so much, because his biggest problem with spelling is actually that he spells too many words phonetically. Right now he’s using the workbook Spell of Words. You can get it at Rainbow Resource; it’s not expensive. It was designed for older dyslexics, so it’s not embarrassing for older kids to use, and it focuses mainly on spelling rules. My two older kids used it at about the same age (11 or 12… although I guess my dd was a little younger, but then she’s always been a pretty good speller.) My oldest says it helped him, and I can say that his spelling did improve. However, he is still the kind of person who will always rely on spell check, so it wasn’t like it miraculously made it so he could spell perfectly. It just improved his spelling from indecipherable to sort of average, and the reading took it the rest of the way. Language mechanics is something I haven’t found a really good resource for… but voluntary story writing on the computer and programming (he’s learning Java) seem to be helping with that.

  3. George and his reading gulping continues to make me beam:):)
    Looking forward to hearing more about Gareth’s college application.
    And well done to the twins and their maths progress
    Erin recently posted…This Week in Learning: March 20th, 2015My Profile

    • George amazes me, he really does. I had been mentally preparing myself for doing mostly audio books in high school, and now… he reads more than his older brother and sister!

  4. I grew up in NE Ohio, too….Warren. Near Akron and Youngstown? I enjoy your updates. They make me think of how we could slide towards the “relaxed” side of things a bit…always a struggle for me.
    Melanie recently posted…On DietingMy Profile

    • I know where Warren is! My family is from the Akron area; my mom is from Stow and my dad is from Barberton. We moved south (Alabama and TN) when I was about 5, so my memories of living there are dim, but most of my relatives still live there.

  5. Ok, you said, “It turns out that relaxed homeschooling did not actually ruin his life.” and I need you to keep telling me that! And Angela- HOWHOWHOW did you survive homeschooling with twin toddler boys? (sigh) (been a rough month). Love updates like these from you. :)
    Sarah recently posted…RAR #24: From Picture Books to Chapter Books & NovelsMy Profile

    • I *am* going to write that post on the end result of relaxed homeschooling, I promise! It will be a reminder for me as much for me as for anybody else, trust me. Here’s the short version, though: Relaxed homeschooling gave my oldest more time to pursue his own interests, and those interests– along with his ACT scores — made him stand out to the colleges he applied to (all Newman guide schools). They didn’t bat an eye at my lists of books in place of textbooks. More importantly, though, I think relaxed homeschooling gave him the time to figure out what it is that he really wants to do with his life, so he’s starting out ahead of where I was at that age in a lot of ways. In the end all those weeks we lost to the doctor’s office and babies and toddlers (etc., etc.) along the way seemed to get smoothed over. Looking back, I think I would make some other choices — I wouldn’t have swung as wildly between wondering if we ought to be unschooling or sticking to lesson plans to the letter, for instance — because the happy medium is what seemed to work best.

      As far as surviving the toddler twin boys goes… those memories are fuzzy, Sarah. LOL I don’t think I was getting a lot of sleep at the time. I think that’s why I started doing Montessori-ish stuff with them, though; it was self-defense! They needed SOMETHING to do because the stuff they were inventing themselves was NOT good! 😉

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