Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Ultimate Field Trip: Warwick Castle, England

At the end of September, Indy and I flew to England for a few days to visit Warwick Castle in Warwickshire, England. We had just learned about castles and their uses and construction. It was the perfect time to take a field trip to one of the best preserved Medieval castles in Europe.

Indy was fascinated by this HUGE tree in the castle entrance.

The original outer bailey walls and towers.

This is what happens when you don't listen to your mom!

The castle gate.  Indy was fascinated when a lady explained to him about the "murder holes."

Of course he loved all the weapons and armor.

This is up at the oldest part of the original castle on top of the motte, founded in the late 900's.

We climbed over 550 very tight spiraling stairs.

A view from the top of the battlements looking to the bailey and the motte.

This archer was amazing!  He demonstrated the long bow and a crossbow with amazing accuracy.

The birds of prey show was amazing.  This is Sid, a type of vulture.

We had a great time and learned a lot about Medieval castles.  Indy had a great time and came home with loads of stories about things that had gone on at the castle he'd been told by costumed workers.  It was the "best field trip ever."

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Celebrating NOT going to "regular" school

The schools started here yesterday and for the 3rd year in a row we celebrated NOT going.  Everyone makes a big deal about the first day of school (we do, but not to the extent of public/private school), so we decided to celebrate the day the other kids go and we get to stay home.  We go get milkshakes!  What a way to celebrate.  This year we took James Bond with us and we had lunch in addition to our milkshakes.  Of course we forgot the camera.  There is a train car diner just up the road from us (it's made from 2 train cars put together to make it wider) that serves American style diner food.  It's not as greasy though, so it's not completely authentic, but still, it's good and they make the best milkshakes I've ever had.  Seriously.  They use the most delicious ice cream and add milk.  And that is all!  No syrups, no extra stuff, just ice cream and milk, the way they should be.  The strawberry shakes have huge hunks of strawberries in them.  YUMMY!  I got strawberry and Indy and James Bond both got chocolate (they were made with dark chocolate ice cream.  Indy loved it.  He said he can't wait for the kids to start school next year so we can do it again!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Two weeks down, thrity four to go!

Whew!  We made it through the first 2 weeks and I still have (most of) my sanity!  Huzzah!!!  I have to say it's actually gone really well.  Last week we studied the fall of Rome (which marks the beginning of the Middle Ages) and I learned things I didn't know!  Actually, I probably learned them, but forgot, so this was a nice refresher for me.  The Roman Emperor Diocletian decided to split the Empire into 2 sections,  the Western and Eastern Roman Empire come from.  The Emperor of  each half was called Augustus, and they picked a junior Emperor, called Caesar, which meant that there were a total of 4 Emperors at a time!  Crazy.  This was called the Tetrarch period.  We learned how Rome was sacked by the Gauls, the Visigoths, the Vandals and the Ostrogoths.  Indy found this very interesting.

This week we studied the Byzantine Empire, which was what was left of the Western Roman Empire.  Indy was fascinated by the Emperor Justinian and his wife Theodora (who was a circus performer, actress-courtesean, though I left that out-and wool merchant before marrying Justinian, who was in the Army at the time of their marriage).  We learned all about the Justinian Laws, and Indy found them extremely interesting.  He thought some of the laws were very fair, while others weren't.  We also learned about the split of the Catholic church into the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox churches. 

Indy's math is done on the computer (with some writing in a workbook), but and he loooooves it.  He begs me to do math every day!  I've discovered that if I hold math off until last he'll get through his other work faster to get to his math.  I'm so clever.

Language arts is still his least favorite subject, but after the Davis therapy, it's going much better and easier.  He's actually asked me several times if he can read to me!  He's still reading simple books and I have to help him with some of the bigger words, but he wants to read and it's much easier than it was before.  Yay!

We've done 4 science labs in the last two weeks and he loves it.  We learned about atoms and molecules and how they move and how temperature affects them.  He really enjoys doing the labs, but honestly, while they're fun, I kind of dread them.  The prep and the clean up do me in. 

Indy's hands down favorite subject is languages.  He loves to do his German (on the computer) because he hears it on a daily basis.  He gets excited when he recognizes words.  Latin though, this is his absolute favorite thing.  He loves Latin.  He's learned a few basic words and likes to pepper his sentences with them.  He calls me mater (mother) at every turn.  Silly boy.  The program we're using is based around a real family that lived at the Roman Fort in Vindolanda (in northern England) during the 100's AD.  Their home has been excavated and the author of the books has included real bits of their daily life.   Indy really likes this. Roman Numerals were a huge hit with him.  He was excited because the next time we go to Rome he will be able to decipher dates on buildings.  :)   We did a quiz every day where I wrote a number on the board in Roman Numerals and he had to decipher it.  He really liked it and was quite good at it, even when I went to really high and complicated numbers.  I can see why the system of Roman Numerals fell out of favor, it takes an awful lot to write some of the numbers.  Yikes.

So there you have it.  Next week it's on to Charlemagne!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

First Day of 3rd Grade and School Room Photos

School has started!!! I can't believe it. We had a short summer break, but since we take long breaks throughout the year, that was okay. To be honest, we were both kind of ready to get back into a routine. Plus, we were just bored.  Doing nothing all day sounds good, but in reality, it's kind of dull.  The first day started off with a special "Back to School Breakfast."  Indy wanted waffles, so I drug the waffle iron out from the cabinet (and dusted it off, it's been in there a long time) and whipped up a plain waffle for Indy, a blackberry waffle for James Bond (he picked a ton of delicious blackberries the other day) and a blueberry waffle for me.  Yummy!  We also had turkey bacon.  Indy was very excited by the waffles.  Probably because he doesn't get them very often.

After we cleaned up, it was time for first day photos.  Indy is a ham when it comes to photos, so getting something relatively normal takes some work.  I think we did pretty well though.  Isn't he handsome?

Then it was finally time for school!  We had a really great day.  This year we are studying Medieval history, geography of the middle ages, chemistry, math, spelling/language arts, Latin, German, and chess. It's all rather ambitious, but I think we'll do fine.  We don't do every subject every day (because we'd never finish) so that helps.  On the first day we did history, spelling, language arts (Indy's least favorite), Latin and math (which is on the computer so he loves it).  We also did some of our Davis dyslexia therapy words in clay.  He really likes to do these.  We had some issues getting Indy back into the swing of writing (he's PAINFULLY slow), but that will come back in a few days (I hope).

At dinner that night, Indy told James Bond all about his day and how awesome it was and how lucky he is to be homeschooled where he can learn fun stuff and not "regular" school where it's boring.  Hurrah!  We also verbally went over our Latin words, which impressed James Bond mightily.  :)  I think we're in for a great year.

I've never posted our school room, but thought now is as good a time as any.  Our school room is our 3rd bedroom and also doubles as our guest room (I won't be showing you that half though as it's still in the works-almost done, but not quite ready to be revealed).  Our third bedroom is really weird because it has 2 doors which makes furniture placement difficult.  One of the doors (the one we use most) leads to the hall (Indy's bedroom door is opposite) and the other door leads to our bedroom.  It's very odd considering the room we're in isn't technically the master, though it's bigger.  Indy is in the master because the bedroom we're in is close to the front door and I didn't want James Bond waking Indy up every morning at 5:30am when he goes to PT.    I've tried to make the room as functional as possible and it was set up this way most of last school year, so I guess I did okay.

Since it does double as a guest room, I didn't want to put too much cutesy school stuff up (plus, we find all that rather distracting), so I kept it to a world map, a framed wipe board (I spray painted a hideous gold frame that was 75% off at Hobby Lobby red) and found 2 beautifully framed chalk boards at Home Goods.  The bookcase as desk attachment are from my favorite place in the world, IKEA!  The chair with its back to the chalk and wipe boards is mine.  It was a hideous brown chair that someone threw out.  A coat of the same paint I used on the frame and it's as good as new.  The chair opposite came from IKEA and was already red.  It was in the Fundgrube section (scratch and dent/display models) and I picked it up for about $15, which isn't bad considering it started off at almost $65. 

Another view.  The walls are actually a very bright yellow that Indy and I both love.  I chose yellow because I read somewhere along time ago that kids learn better in yellow rooms.  I went with red accents because, well, I love red and the combination is really pretty.

This photo is much closer to showing the true color of the walls.  You can also see how we start our morning.  On the large chalk board we write the day (also in German), date, and do the weather (also in German).  Indy loves this part. I also use the space under the chalk board on the door to hang posters or charts if we need them.

I keep all the books we'll need for the week in the cubby next to my chair, which is much easier than going to the shelves in the closet every time I need something.

The guest half of the room is on the other side of the bookcase.  I used it to divide the room so we can focus on the school half and so guests don't have to stare at all our school stuff.  We use the daybed to sit together and do our reading.  There's also a black and white checked chair that I love (also a steal from the Fundgrube section at IKEA) and a TV that Indy can watch movies on and play the Wii (but the Wii is reserved only for weekends).

I hope you've enjoyed hearing about our first day back and touring our school room. I'm linking this post up to the Not Back to School Blog. Click to see other school rooms.

Not Back to School Blog Hop

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Davis Dyslexia Therapy

So, last week we went to Stuttgart for Indy's dyslexia therapy.  I researched for a long time to find something that I thought would work for him and after reading The Gift of Dyslexia, I decided the Davis method was the way to go.  Finding a provider in Germany proved a bit more difficult, but we were fortunate enough to find someone who offers it in English (very important) and who could fit us in.  Actually, we could only get 3 days this time and will finish it up in Sept.  In just 3 days though, we saw amazing results.

One of the big things for picture thinking dyslexics (which both Indy and Mr. HH James Bond are) is that letters don't really mean much and "trigger" words like a, the, and, in, with, etc. have no no meaning to them.  Think about it, can you picture "the?"  Part of the therapy involves making the alphabet out of clay so he can hold the letter, flip it over, and see it in 3D.  Here he is making his upper case letters.

After making both upper and lower case, he starts to work on making models of trigger words.  The idea is that they look up the word to get a definition, then make something in clay that to them represents the definition (for children we simplify the definition).  The word "make" is defined as creating or building something from other materials.  He then has to come up with at least 5 sentences using the word.  Once the model is built, the word is then made out of clay and an arrow points from the word to the model.  Here is Indy's MAKE:

It's 2 boys making a wall out of blocks.  He points to the model and says "You are MAKE, meaning something created or built from other materials."  He then points to the word and says "You say MAKE."  He spells the word, touching each letter, then closes his eyes and spells is forwards and backwards (again touching each letter) and describes the model.

Here is MADE:

He used the same original model, but put a thought bubble around it with a person thinking about MAKE in the past tense.

Here is MAKES:

The idea here is that two figures talk about someone else, as in "He makes a good wall."

 There was more to the therapy, including setting the "mind's eye" which I did not get at all, but James Bond totally understood.  Indy really got the most out of defining trigger words with pictures.  He was reading the first night of his own volitionReading!  I almost cried.  The next day he begged to bring the book he had been reading to lunch.  Sure it was a Spongebob graphic novel (like a comic, but in book form and longer), but still, he was reading the word bubbles! Out loud to me and James Bond.  It was amazing.  This is an expensive therapy, but thus far it has been worth every penny.
We have exercises to do every day and he's super excited about reading now.  I can't tell you what a relief this is.  Hopefully this will make school a whole lot easier.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

2010-2011 Curriculum

We're gearing up for next year!  School starts August 9.  I can't believe it.  Didn't we just finish?  Oh, wait, we did.  It was the middle of June.  Sigh.  We don't take long summer breaks because we take lots of breaks during the school year, which is nice because we can vacation while everyone else is still in school.  Indy starts 3rd grade this year!  Third!  He'll be 8 in a week and a half!  Where has the time gone? 

This year we're going back on the Trivium cycle, but because we went off it last year we're now a year behind.  D'oh!  That's okay though, we'll catch up.  This year we'll be studying the Middle Ages!  Indy is very excited.  Knights and castles, what could be better?

Here are the programs we're using:

History Odyssey-The Middle Ages, level 1  What I really like about this is that it covers not only medieval Europe, but also the East, Africa, South America, North America and the Pacific Islands. 

The main books that go along with the program are:

A Child's History of the World
Days of Knights and Damsels

The other books (readers and read alouds) that go along with this are fantastic:

Robin Hood
King Aurthur and the Knights of the Round Table
The Sword in the Tree
The Door in the Wall
The Samurai's Tale
Margerite Makes a Book
The Marvelous Blue Mouse
The Great and Terrible Quest
The Making of a Knight
Beowulf: A new telling for children
The Minstrel in the Tower
Son of Charlemagne
The Red Keep: The Story of Burgundy in 1165
Meet Christopher Columbus
The Trolley To Yesterday (Constantinople)
Stories of the Caliphs: The Early Rulers of Islam
Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves
Viking Ships at Sunrise
The Smashing Saxons
Joan of Arc
Castle Diary: The Journal of Tobias Burgess, Page
Canterbury Tales for Children
Richard III (Shakespeare Children's Series)
Ghingis Kahn
Prince Ivan and the Firebird
El Cid
Good Morning Gorillas
Lions at Lunch Time
Tales From India
Silent Lotus
The Master Swordsman and the Magic Doorway
The Travels of Marco Polo
The Singing Snake (Aboriginal Folk Tales)
Arctic People
Coyote and the Fire Stick
Arrow to the Sun
Lost Temple of the Aztec
The Boy Who Wouldn't Obey: A Mayan Tale
Lost City: The Discovery of Machu Pichu
Suleyman the Magnificent and the Ottoman Empire
Fine Print: The Story of Gutenberg
Forgotten Voyager: The Story of Amerigo Vaspuci
Explorers of North America
Explorers Who Got Lost
The Mughal Empire
The Boy, The Bear, The Baron, and The Bard
Elizabeth I

That's a lot of books!  Some of them are simple chapter books and others are books that we will only read part of.

R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey-Chemistry-level 1

Teaching Textbooks Math-3

First Language Lessons-level 3

Minimus:  Starting Out In Latin

Instant Immersion German

Map Trek: Medieval World Geography

We are going to have a fun and busy year.  Only 3 weeks until it start!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


School is on summer break!  Hurrah!  I'm not sure who's more excited, Indy or me (probably me).  One of the good things about homeschooling is that as a parent, I get to see what works, what doesn't and what, if any problems there might be with Indy's learning.  For a while I suspected Indy had a reading problem.  He wanted to read so badly, but it just wasn't coming together for him.  He struggled, he cried, I cried.  It was awful.  At first It thought there might be a problem with his eyes, so we went to the eye doctor for a check up.  His eyes were perfect.  I then started taking note of the specific issues and took to the internet to research what they could mean.  Over and over I came up with dyslexia.  It shouldn't have been  a surprise really, as Mr. HH is dyslexic. I did not want Indy to struggle the way Mr. HH has and started researching methods to help.  We went to his ped for advice (she verified the dyslexia, even though I already knew) and finally found the Davis Method.  Mr. Davis is dyslexic himself and devised this method on his own.  I picked up a copy of his book, The Gift of Dyslexia, which, if you're not dyslexic is a fascinating read.  I had no idea how it worked.  After reading this book, I knew this was the method that would work best for Indy.  On the main page of the website, they list the Davis Providers in the US and around the world.  There happens to be one about an hour and a half from us that works in English.  I contacted her and set up a consultation.  We spent a few hours with her so she could evaluate Indy and see if she thought this would work for him.  I already knew it would (I'm a mom, I know these kinds of things), and she agreed.  Of course our insurance won't pay for it, but we decided that any amount of money was worth it to help Indy read.  Mr. HH, who still struggles, would have paid twice the fee if it meant Indy wouldn't have the same issues he had while growing up.  We are going to Stuttgart in 2 weeks for Indy's therapy sessions.  I so hope this works.  Indy is crazy excited because he too is convinced (he concluded this all on his own) that he will be able to read better afterward.  Cross your fingers.  I'll let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Oh goodness!

I can't believe I have let this poor little blog languish for so long!  We've had a busy year.  That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.
Since we did our little raclette dinner for Switzerland, we've studied Spain, Italy, Germany, France, Russia, Poland, Japan, China, Korea, India, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, The UAE, Egypt, Kenya, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Brazil, Chile, Peru, Columbia, Mexico, Canada, Cuba and the US.  Whew!  It's been a whirl wind trip.  Indy has loved it.  He really likes learning about other people and how they live.  He also really enjoys getting to sample the native foods.

His math skills are amazing.  He's been doing 3rd grad math since Jan (including multiplication and division) and I think we'll be doing 4th grade math next year.   Numbers seem to come fairly easily to him.  Lucky duck.

His reading is, well, if not exactly on grade level, getting better.  We discovered that he is dyslexic and are working the Davis method to help and we seem to be making progress.  I'm looking into going to a Davis therapist (we have a consultation next week), but it will depend on the cost and if Tricare will cover it.  Cross your fingers on that!  He's trying so hard and is so proud of himself when he get something right.  On the down side he gets so frustrated when he can't figure it out.  It's heartbreaking to watch.  I want so much to be able to help him, but there are some things I can't do.  

We're still working hard.  We will officially finish school next week, but will continue to work on reading and fun stuff during the summer.  Our next school year, 3rd grade, (which I am about to lose my mind over) will start the first week of Aug, just after Indy turns 8.  8!  How on earth is my baby already 8?

Friday, January 8, 2010


Oh, it's been so long! We've been busy little bees in the last 2 months. We've studied England, Ireland, Scotland, Christmas around the world and this week we've been studying Switzerland. Chocolate and cheese! Yummy! Tonight, as part of our cultural study, we did Raclette for dinner. If you're not familiar with it, click the link (after you read this) to find out more.

Indy with the raclette grill and all the fixings.

Throwing some duck on the grill. Fun!

Waiting! We cooked duck, beef and pork, potatoes (pre-boiled), mushrooms and pepper strips. And of course bread and the raclette cheese!

Indy pouring cheese over his food.

I now love Switzerland! An entire meal based on cheese! Heaven.

After dinner we had Toblerone for dessert. Dark chocolate with almond and honey. See how excited he is?

Oh, so good!

Is it wrong that we are having just as much fun with the food as we are with learning about the country? Next week we're studying Spain. Paella!