Apparently it hit 100 degrees this afternoon. I wouldn’t know. I’ve spent the entire afternoon indoors in air-conditioned comfort surfing the internet and eating baby carrots.
The boys are counting down to the end of school. I’m not. Not really. Because I’ve been extremely lazy lately and I kind of like it! Somewhere around the middle of May, probably right after my last orchestra concert and the final book club and history club meetings, I had had it. I was done. Done with nursing wounded patients. Done with practicing. Done with school. Well, almost. Unfortunately the curriculum wasn’t done, so we’ve soldiered on, but aside from school (which has been very short and to the point lately) I have done nothing! Well, not nothing. Let’s just say we’ve been getting our money’s worth out of Netflix lately!
I’ve taken very little downtime for me this entire school year what with packing and trying to move (or not) and taking care of DH and surgery plus all the things he normally does that he hasn’t been able to that have fallen on me, not to mention my full time job of educating the children. And I’ve been feeling it.
While DH was home recuperating from surgery for four weeks, he pretty much sat in his recliner all day long and watched Netflix movies on his ipad. That quashed all of my motivation to get anything productive done, let me tell you! So once I got all the necessary extracurricular activities out of my life for the summer, I started doing almost the same thing! Not quite though, I still have to be the mom and the homeschooler, but boy do I look forward to bedtime! That’s when DH and I sit down and watch something, anything! Well, not just anything, we’re always open to suggestions for good new series. Right now, we’re hooked on Foyle’s War, about a Detective Chief Inspector in Hastings, England, during WWII. It’s fascinating.
And I usually sit and try to untangle some of my family history lines, because I still can’t just sit and watch tv and do nothing else. That’s just too lazy, even for me right now. And I have the feeling the time is coming when I won’t get too much done on family history for a while, so I’m working while I can.
So that’s been my life for the last little while. I told DH I wasn’t adding anything else to my life or my brain until school is over. Unfortunately, we’re down to our last history chapter and grammar exercises this week, so Wednesday will be our final day of school. Thursday we’re going to Lagoon amusement park with Grandma and Poppa, then on Friday we’re going to deep clean the music room. Saturday we have the choice of at least 3 different activities we’re interested in. (Why does everything happen at once?) Then on Monday we get back to packing and scrubbing and house hunting again. End of August–that’s my goal. I want to be out of here and settled somewhere.
We’ve been in a homeschool book club with four or five other families. It originally started out as a boys’ book club where they would read the books themselves, but reading abilities were all over the place and one little sister wanted to be involved so moms generally ended up reading the books out loud. Then this year another family was invited to join which has all girls save a 1-year-old boy so the “boys’ book club” club has evolved a bit. I think it’s been a good thing though. We have many more options for books if the children don’t have to be able to read them by themselves and we’ve had some really outstanding picks this year.
I think our family’s overall favorite was The Hobbit, but here are some of our other favorite books from this past year:
The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin–I remember loving this book when I was about twelve. It’s a great mystery. Some others in our book club had a hard time keeping track of the 16 or so characters who have to solve a mystery in order to get some of old Mr. Westing’s fortune after he is apparently found dead in his mansion. We listened to it on audio though so that helped us keep everyone straight with the different voice inflections by the reader. Now I see that Raskin has written several other mysteries that I should read with the boys.
Wonder by R. J. Palacio–This was our last book club read for the year and brought about a lot of good discussion in our book club meeting. It’s about a 5th-grade boy with a severe facial deformity that is going to public school for the first time after being homeschooled, and just how that turns out. It’s broken down into sections that are told from different characters’ points of view, which I really liked, so at the end you weren’t wishing you could read the story again but from another perspective. I thought the author did a really great job of telling a very complete story, and brought up some really good points about friendship, acceptance, and not judging others on first impressions. I did have a hard time believing that Augie and his friends were just 5th-graders with all of their talk about dating and some of their behaviors. They felt a lot older to me, and all the social drama of public school really made me awfully glad I’m homeschooling! But we still liked the book!
Another book that we liked that wasn’t for book club was The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs. Eben, an 11-year-old boys in 1920s Missouri, is fascinated by the Seven Wonders of the World. His pa challenges him to find seven wonders in his own small town and promises him a ride to Colorado on the train if he can find them. We loved reading about Eben and his quest to find the wonders that are right under his nose.
Lastly, also on our own, we’ve been enjoying the Green Knowe series by L. M. Boston. First we read The Children of Green Knowe together about a boy, Tolly, who goes to live with his grandmother and eventually comes to meet the other children that live on (or rather, haunt) the estate. I guess there are six or seven books in the series and the boys have read the few of them that our library has. We recently watched From Time to Time which is based on The Chimneys of Green Knowe, which is the one book we haven’t been able to find. In it Tolly is again at his grandmother’s during WWII and finds that he is able to move between centuries as easily as walking between rooms. He gets caught up in the Oldknow family’s drama and here too, there is a mystery to be solved. We must really like mysteries!
Julian Fellowes of Downton Abbey fame wrote and directed it, and there are several familiar faces, most notably Hugh Bonneville and Maggie Smith. The boys really enjoyed it, but be forewarned that Tolly’s first encounter with a ghost was rather scary and there is a rather dramatic house fire at one point.
At the end of every year when I look back at what I’ve read, my favorites always seem to be of the non-fiction variety. I’ve hardly read anything but fluff lately, but there were some really good non-fiction books that I am looking forward to reading soon.
One of my favorite recent reads was Operation Mincemeat by Ben Macintyre about two British Intelligence officers’ efforts to fool the Nazis into thinking there would be an invasion of Greece rather than Sicily in 1943. That’s just my kind of book! And now he’s written a new one: Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies. It came out last summer and somehow I missed it then, but I just picked it up at the library this afternoon.
I’ve already got Susan Wise Bauer’s new book, The History of the Renaissance World, on pre-order (despite the fact I still haven’t finished her Ancient World or the Medieval World histories.) It should get here sometime in August, which is probably good as I’ve got several other fat books to delve into now. It got a great review last weekend from Alan Caruba, and in that same post I found several more books I really want to read. I may have to subscribe to his blog!
At the top of the list is 1913: In Search of the World Before the Great War. I’m fascinated by World War I lately. Downton Abbey influence , perhaps? Anyway, I like books with years as titles. McCullough’s 1776 and 1066: The Year of the Conquest by David Howarth are two of my other favorites.
We’re coming up on American history next fall and I’m so excited! The colonial period is one of my favorites to study so I was excited to see that Nathaniel Philbrick’s latest book is Bunker Hill. I’ve almost made it through the hold list at the library and should get it in another few weeks or so. I’m planning to read through his adaptation for younger students of his book Mayflower with the boys as well.
Speaking of Philbrick, one of the best books I read last year was In the heart of the sea : the tragedy of the whaleship Essex. This was a fabulous read, hard to stomach in places, but terribly fascinating. The whaleship Essex was rammed by an 85-ft sperm whale in 1819. The boat sank, leaving the 20 survivors stranded in 3 small whaleboats in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. This tragedy inspired the climax in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, but I thought what happened after the ship sank was the more interesting story. We have a personal connection as well, the cabin boy on the Essex is a distant cousin on DH’s mother’s Nickerson line.
My other favorite books of late (ok, last year because I’ve only been reading fluff lately) were The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara and Stand Firm, Ye Boys From Maine by Thomas A. Desjardin. I’ve always been fascinated by Gettysburg and finally sat down to read The Killer Angels. Then of course we had to watch the movie Gettysburg, and then I wanted to know even more about the 20th Maine Regiment so read the Desjardin book which follows the 20th Maine from before Gettysburg through the aftermath of that battle and goes on to give short accounts of the military history and personal history of the major figures of the regiment.
I’ll be back soon to write about good books I’ve read with the boys recently.
What are you reading and loving?
I still need to add up my days (not that anyone ever checks up on us) but we’re close to hitting 180 days. Regardless, our major goal is to get through Story of the World 2 and the boys’ sentence analysis books. We’re kind of in the middle of everything else right now and will just stop for a time and pick it back up after a summer break.
We’ve been fairly consistent with math even with our normal books packed away in our storage unit. A finished Life of Fred Decimals and Percents and is now cruising through Challenging Word Problems 5. And they are a challenge, but so far none have completely stumped me! So I’ve at least been able to help him see how to best solve them. D is also working through Challenging Word Problems 2, mostly without me, and has even started drawing his own bar graphs without help! C, with no book, has been doing general review with multiplication tables printed off the internet, and various pages of arithmetic from Scholastic ebooks I’ve accumulated from their Dollar Days sales over the years. Here’s a kaleidoscope page he completed:
As the boys get older, I find I don’t take nearly as many pictures of schoolwork as I used to. We must need to do some good photogenic projects again!
C and D are both continuing to work on their cursive. C has come so far! Here’s a beautiful page of Zs:
C has just four sentences left in his analysis book. A has ten, so should finish in the next two weeks. I’ve really loved these books and the accompanying grammar text. That is one thing we’re definitely keeping on next year’s schedule. (Just don’t ask me about anything else yet! I’ve got some serious research to do and decisions to make.)
A is on week 22 in Writing with Skill and his writing seems to have matured somewhat. He doesn’t love it, but doesn’t hate it either, which is more than I can say for D. We’ve really let writing fall for C and D this year. There were just too many complaints and I finally decided I didn’t want to deal with it anymore. I know, such a great attitude for a classical homeschooler. I hereby resolve to do better next year!
C and D are doing well at spelling. I couldn’t seem to keep up with both of them, so finally just put them together and we’ve been very consistent ever since. A’s a natural speller and I don’t even have to worry about spelling with him, although I would like him to learn more of the spelling rules. I never knew a lot of the spelling rules; I could just spell words correctly because of my good
visual memory, and I can see the same thing in A. Since learning more of the rules, I now understand why certain words are spelled the way they are and I like the logic of it, so I want him to have that same understanding even though spelling’s not really a priority or a need for him.
Latin is however. He finished First Form!!! We haven’t been nearly as diligent as we should have been lately with flashcards and chants, but he still only missed three on his final exam. And . . . now that I’m looking back at it, I realize that wasn’t the final final exam, only the final review of the verb sections. So I guess technically we’re not done with First Form! One more giant 7-page test to go!
Regardless, I pulled out Second Form this week and had all the parts and pieces except for the dvd. I’m pretty sure I bought it, so it must be in our storage unit too. On Monday I’m going to go search through my boxes to see what I can find, although maybe it would be best to wait until fall to start a new Latin program! (Give the kid a little break!)
We’ve had a really great time with history the last month or so. When C was at the doctor for his sprained wrist, the doctor was asking him how school was going and what his favorite subject is. C said he loved history and that we’ve been learning about ” Martin Luther, and the Reformation, oh, and the counter Reformation,” in the most matter of fact tone like that’s what every 4th grader is learning, and once again I was struck by how rich an education we’re trying to give these boys, especially in history and literature. They know so many things that I never remember studying, even when I was in college.
So let’s see, recently we’ve studied Martin Luther, Henry VIII, the Reformation and counter Reformation, the Renaissance, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Copernicus, Galileo, Gutenberg, Shakespeare, and Queen Elizabeth I. I’m sure we could have spent a month or more on almost every one of those topics, I’m not sure we did them justice, but we’ve all really enjoyed what reading we’ve done and everything we’ve learned. I really want to start studying artists and musicians apart from when they come up in our history cycle so we can spend more on them.
We’ve done a ton of history reading, which has been good. The last time we went through this time period, I was pregnant and horribly sick and we just read through Story of the World and called it good for the year.
I wish we’d done more projects, but I haven’t been a project-y kind of mom this entire school year. D did color this beautiful picture of Elizabeth I going on progress to share for history club:
We had our last history club of the year last week. We haven’t done anything terribly amazing the rest of the year (and we’ve had a few flops) so we went all out in the kitchen this time. I found a great website with medieval recipes in their original old English, translated into modern English, then converted to a doable recipe with measurements. We debated over lots of them, but finally ended up making a mushroom and cheese pasty and a chicken and rice dish with almonds. It was a little odd, but we really enjoyed the mushroom pasty. Here’s A sauteing the mushrooms:
I was surprised that it had ginger in it, but it was really yummy. One of the other moms at history club commented on the fact that she’s tried a few weird historical recipes over the years and they all seem to mix their sweet and savory flavors. Foods weren’t as defined as one or the other like we tend to classify them today. Her son made rosewater cookies. I did not like them. I just don’t like anything that tastes like flowers smell.
Apart from the food and presentations, the kids got to experiment with block prints letters cut into potato chunks and we made up sentences and stories using some of Shakespeare’s words and phrases. We also read through the witches’ chant “Double, double, toil and trouble” from Macbeth and made witches’ brew (from Story of the World activity book.) Here’s A adding his “wing of bat.”
And the final (yummy!) mix:
Aside from school, the boys passed their swimming levels and will move up to the next, depending on when I can get them into lessons again. And DH finally got his sling off after his shoulder surgery. Now the trick is remembering that he’s not back to full strength yet and can’t do all that you think he can, or ask him to do. The sling was at least a nice visual reminder. It was good to get the bill in the mail today and see a big fat zero at the bottom! You get hurt at work, work pays! That’s a nice $13,000 bill we don’t have to worry about.
And we’re still enjoying weekends with him at home. Today, after getting haircuts and attending a baptism in our ward, we went to Ogden to see a B-17. The boys (all 5 of them!) love to see these old planes. E wanted to climb up in it, he really did, but just couldn’t get up the courage. On his third try he made it all the way to the top of the ladder to climb in, before chickening out. He loved looking up into the bomb bays though and was fascinated by the ball turret.
A great way to spend a Saturday afternoon!
For a while there, we were filling up the van with gas every Friday whether it needed it or not. But for several weeks in a row now, I’ve been surprised by the “low gas” warning light on days that were decidedly not Fridays. All these quick little trips must add up.
We have a rental house in Ogden that we’ve had to do some repairs on this month for our annual inspection by the Ogden housing office. DH’s not the fastest at DIY home repairs, plus he’s been working with only one arm so it’s taken several trips, even with helpers, to get all the jobs done. Plus our tenants were burglarized a few weeks back and we had to make another trip up there to inspect after that. (Why do we have a rental so far from home? That’s a really good question.)
Then E had Kindermusik classes every Friday, but they are over now so one weekly trip is off my schedule. Homeschool park days have started up though, but at least that’s every other week. I’ve also switched to teaching cello lessons every other week in the summer, so I’ll have some off weeks without the 120-mile roundtrip drive. I’d really love to be at home for a while with nowhere to go, or else have somewhere fabulous to go away to for more than a day. Even our “vacations” seem to be quick trips.
Last Saturday we drove to Idaho. And then back again. We did the same last fall for my grandpa’s funeral due to it falling right in the middle of a dress rehearsal and concert in Salt Lake City that I was committed to. This time we went up for a memorial service just with the family the day after what would have been his 93rd birthday.
My parents were going up on Friday so they gave us their Utah Symphony tickets for Friday night. I wasn’t about to turn down an evening of Dvorak and Brahms (and really we couldn’t afford to stay overnight anyway and DH wasn’t up to the cheap overnight stay of camping out with his arm still in a sling) and I had to be back to do Primary on Sunday morning (I was one of just three adults in the entire Primary in town last weekend) so we drove up Saturday morning and came back Saturday night. Late. That was my choice though.
After sitting outside in very windy weather for a couple hours for a very nice memorial time and picture-taking, then a trip to the cemetery to see Grandpa’s new headstone, DH was ready to come back home and sleep. The boys were very tired of sitting though, especially buckled into a car, so I offered to be the one to drive us home instead so we could stay in Idaho a few hours longer. And I was really glad we did.
Most of my cousins and all of my aunts and uncles were there and we had a big campfire in my grandma’s backyard and the boys roasted hotdogs for dinner, while trying all manner of positions to not get too close to the heat. E had a fabulous time running around the backyard with all his cousins.
But we still managed to get some food in him.
I should have taken more pictures. I don’t think I have a single one of C, but I was probably a little too busy eating s’mores! I can’t resist roasted marshmallows!
Then the boys wanted a turn cranking the ice cream machine. Then of course we had to stay for ice cream . . . which turned out to be more like thick milkshake after someone finally realized the handle was on backwards and all that hand-cranking was not doing much to make ice cream.
It was still delicious though. Finally we corralled all four boys into the car so we could hit the road. At one point I said we should have brought E’s pajamas along for the ride home. In fact we should have brought a lot more clothing than we did. The boys were rather cold all afternoon due to not bringing their jackets, even after I reminded them to grab them. And then E’s water bottle leaked all over my jacket in the car. Luckily my mother had an extra fleece jacket and some blankets in her trunk that she kindly shared with us. I can’t count the number of times we’ve been surprised by weather on some of our quick little trips. Really, you’d think I’d learn.
But as I was saying, when I mentioned pjs to E, he actually suggested that we drive home and get them and then, “We come back!” He really didn’t want to leave all the fun, but I reluctantly had to tell him that driving back to Pocatello after going home for pajamas really wouldn’t work out too well. He wasn’t ready for sleep anyway. He’d had a good nap in the car during the drive to the cemetery and then back to Grandma’s, and therefore was awake all the way home.
He did the same thing Sunday. Somebody let him fall asleep on the couch in the late afternoon and then he wouldn’t go to sleep until after 10 p.m. again.
Then we had another quick trip on Memorial Day. Not as far as Idaho though–just down to see my brothers’ and sisters’ graves and to have lunch with Grandma and Poppa. It was really nice to relax there and not have to worry about music students coming for a change.
And now I don’t know what day of the week it is. Monday holidays always mess me up that way. I just know the boys have swimming every day at 4:30. More driving . . . yay!
For weeks now I’ve been looking forward to May 18. May 18, I just have to get through May 18, then life will slow down a bit.
Let’s back up a little:
Last Saturday was my final symphony concert with its accompanying two nights of 3-hour rehearsals. Plus my usual night of teaching lessons an hour away and travelling back home. Then some weeks ago my friend called to ask if I could play the cello parts for her piano students’ chamber music recital 45 minutes away. Of course I said yes, and only after that did I realize that meant I would be gone every night last week. Can I say thank goodness C sprained his wrist and we didn’t go roller skating on Monday after all? (Don’t tell him I said that!) And after the recital and my lessons were over, I still had to come home and practice more for my concert. There were a few more notes in Verdi than I was expecting!
It was one of those weeks I was bemoaning the hours musicians keep. I mean we just don’t work 9 to 5! But by the end of the week, I was thinking this is one of those times I love being a musician!
The concert was fabulous! 2013 marks the 200th anniversary of Verdi’s birth so we collaborated with the Utah Voices choir (which is always a great experience, we did Beethoven’s 9th last year with them and it was a highlight of my musical life!) and did an all Verdi program. When I first heard about it, I was really hoping we would do the Verdi Requiem which is on my musical bucket list, but instead we did the Four Sacred Pieces or Quattro Pezzi Sacri (it sounds so much cooler in Italian) for the first half and operatic pieces on the second half. The Four Pieces were beautiful, although the Stabat Mater and Te Deum were what I’ve been losing sleep over!
One of my cello students was complaining about a piece she had for school last week saying it “was, like, written in ten sharps or something.” I had to tell her a key signature of ten sharps wasn’t possible (there are only seven) but I’ve done my share of complaining over six sharps and five flats. Why is nothing for singers ever written in C Major???
I was glad we got the Te Deum out of the way on the first half so we could just have fun on the second half. We began with the overture to La Forza del Destino, which I still have stuck in my head, and then a soprano aria from the same. It was a night of “Bravo”s from the audience, and can I just say it is so satisfying to play a concert that is so pleasing to the listeners. It’s certainly fun to play and rehearse (mostly) but in the end, being able to give our music to an audience is why we do what we do. It makes all the hard work worth it.
The choir joined us for “Va Pensiero,” with its six sharps in the key signature again, and then the “Anvil Chorus” from Il Trovatore, which if you think you don’t know it, you do–Think “Used, used, this book gets used, it is the one that we use.” Yes, I’ll forever associate this particular Verdi with the Yellow Pages commercial of years ago. In place of an anvil, a choir member provided us with some rail. Struck with a hammer, it made a convincing anvil. C and D were sitting in the balcony just behind the percussion section and they were so surprised the first time they heard it. They both had to lean over to see what was making that sound!
We ended with the big finale from Act II of Aida, minus the elephants as they wouldn’t have fit through the stage door. It was quite the crowd-pleaser. For my part I just love big choral/orchestral concerts. I’m sure it’s part of my genetic makeup. The big combined choir and orchestra projects we did every year at BYU were always my favorites.
And now I’m glad that the May 18 concert is over! We didn’t have very many rehearsals and I missed the very first one due to taking care of B after his surgery so I’ve felt like I’ve been running to catch up ever since and there were some really hard spots in there!
Every summer DH tells me that I should keep thinking of Tuesday nights as my own. Even though symphony is done until fall, Tuesday nights are mine to go out or do whatever I wish. So I was really looking forward to escaping last night. I’ve been in need of a break for a while yet. But somewhere last week, DH said, “Now you remember I’m going to Denver on Monday, right???” No. In all my thinking, I was just trying to get through May 18! I hadn’t even looked ahead to realize that yes, even though last week was done, I still had to get through this week! Which meant 48 hours without DH and being on my own with a 3-year-old who is really trying my patience lately getting up at night 47 times after I first put him to bed.
Of course now that DH is back home safe tonight, E hasn’t gotten up . . . ok, maybe once. So I don’t know if Daddy is the charm, or if E could tell Mommy was about to snap and decided to give me that break I’ve been looking for!
Life is slowing down a bit though, despite the fact I just started the boys on two weeks of swimming lessons. Book club is over for the summer, history club is over, and E’s last day of Kindermusik was last Friday which was a huge relief. DH really wanted E to experience a music class since all of his brothers got to go through the program. He was originally going to be the parent who would go with E, but two weeks into the class, he fell on the ice and well, you’ve heard the whole surgery story already. He’s usually had physical therapy on Fridays so I ended up taking E to class, which meant the other three were basically on their own for school on Friday mornings, which was . . . not my ideal. I’ve given up on a lot of my ideals this year though, so it’s ok, but I’m really looking forward to the next three weeks of focusing on school and not much else. Maybe we can have a strong finish to the year yet.