Sunday, October 29, 2006

Fall Happenings

The morns are meeker than they were
The nuts are getting brown
The berry's cheek is plumper
The Rose is out of town.

The Maple wears a gayer scarf
The field a scarlet gown
Lest I should be old fashionedI'll put a trinket on.

Emily Dickinson (1830 - 1886)

The months of September and October seem to have passed by all too fast, with days and evenings full of lessons, activities, events, and visitors. We had weekend visitors nearly every weekend during this time frame, being blessed with family and friends traveling to stay with us and join us for woodland hikes, tasty meals and good conversation. I think some of the motivation behind all these visits taking place of late was so that they could experience the beauty of the fall colors here. I have always enjoyed the majesty of the fall season, but here in the woodlands it posesses a splendor of all it's own. Our family saw a variety of colors that we had never before known could paint the trees with such amazing brilliance. Every drive, even the tedious errand, was transformed into a time of wonderment at what God had done all around us. The kids spent extra time outside both in play and for school. Our family became members of the Paul Bunyan Nature Learning Center located outside the city and the kids have taken a number of classes there already, and are registered for the year long ecology series - this gives them plenty of time outdoors during school time too!

Our homeschool subjects have kept us ever busy each day and we have enjoyed the many subjects we have on board for the year. Along with the usual subjects, the kids are also enjoying their study of the Bible, Shakespeare and his work, artists & composers, ancient history, astronomy, phenology, piano, creative writing, a century notebook, current events, and French (yes, the whole gang got on board with Gabriella for this one, so they are learning it together).

In addition to our homeschool, we also belong to a small homeschool coop that we meet with twice each month. Here the moms and dads join forces to teach a number of subjects to the kids as a group. Lots of subjects and projects are planned for the year including sewing, latch hook, American Sign Language, carpentry, dissection, baking, first aid, a kid's book club and some field trips. Thus far, we have all had a fun time learning together, and it's especially enjoyable having the Dads lead out in the education once per month while the moms take a breather! On Fridays we have a special PE time where we join an area Christian school for their recess period, so the kids get to engage in some group sports which they really look forward to. The school has also included us on a field trip to the state capital (which was a great day) and we'll be participating in their November school program with them as well, which focuses on America's presidents.

The kids continue to be involved in the Pathfinder and Adventurer clubs which meet twice per month and sometimes more. The kids are working on a number of awards/patches this year. They also perform a program at the area nursing home once each month - singing songs, reading, etc. Two weeks ago the clubs were in charge of the church service and did a very nice job with the program. Each of our children had a short speaking part, sang songs with the group, and Elliot played piano during the offering while Christopher helped collect it.

Other fun activities recently included a huge bonfire supper at our friends' home, which was very cold, but still enjoyable. Other news tidbits...

We are entering Gabriella's 5th week wearing a "boot" on her foot after she fractured it jumping off her brothers top bunk... ooopppps! She has not let it slow her down though - she's till playing and hiking about, but she is frustrated she cannot play kickball during Friday PE time!

Mike and the boys have spent some time helping some friends of ours who are building their house themselves. They began work this fall and many friends from church and work, as well as family have gone over to help out on the project when they can. It may be likened to an Amish barn raising... except it's a house - and taking more than one day! Anyway God continues to bless their progress and Mike has greatly enjoyed his time helping them.

The study of spelling took a fast forward, turbo-charged leap after our family watched the film *Akeelah and the Bee. Suddenly my kids wanted spelling bees every week and we began a whole new approach to the subject, which they have loved. I cannot tell you how thrilled I am to see them LIKE spelling, ask for the new list of words for the week on Sunday (?), and spell things they see while driving in the van. I am sooooo overjoyed by all of this - especially because prior to this, spelling was a hated subject by the boys and a weak one as well. WOW, the motivation sparked from watching one inspiring film can move mountains huh!? Oh - Ruby is even trying to spell words and absolutely must get in line to participate during our home bees!

Ruby is learning more words and has taken an interest in books and school time. Every subject we study she demands to be involved in and have her workbook, notebook, and pencil in hand. She loves books read to her and to look at them on her own. She looks at all sorts of books, magazines and catalogs each day. She tags along with us to all of our outside classes and activities.

We have had a sense of adventure participating in the "Secret Family" program at church. We have a family we do special things for in secret, and someone has our family as well. The kids really enjoyed the large shoe box (boot size) full of chocolate chip cookies that was left for us last week... mmmmmm! Our recent undercover activity involved Mike and the kids going to the home of the family we have under the cloak of night with a freshly baked apple pie, cinnamon tea and card. They basically did a leave it on the doorstep, knock-knock runaway routine and sped away in the family vehicle that was parked down the road a ways. Great excitement was had by all, but in the midst of trying so hard to escape before being discovered they forgot to wait long enough to see if the family found the goodies or the raccoons had a tasty treat!

Mike continues to enjoy his job at Central Lakes College as the Director of Online Education. He has had opportunity to attend a number of workshops and trainings in other communities these past few months and is preparing to present his master's thesis at an education convention in Mississippi in November. In addition to his duties as director, he is also teaching an art class at the college which he is thankful for - he still loves teaching students.

And now enters November.....

The peasant celebrates with song and dance
the harvest safely gathered in.

The cup of Bacchus flows freely,
and many find their relief in deep slumber.

The singing and the dancing die away as cooling breezes
fan the pleasant air,
inviting all to sleep without a care.

The hunters emerge at dawn, ready for the chase,
with horns and dogs and cries.

Their quarry flees while they give chase.

-- Autumn excerpt from Vivaldi's Four Seasons

* Akeelah and the Bee film description: A precocious eleven-year-old girl, Akeelah Anderson, from south Los Angeles, is discovered to have a talent for words. In spite of the objections of her mother Wanda, Akeelah enters a spelling contest. Her gift takes her to compete in the National Spelling Bee, the most famous competition of its kind in the world. On the way, she is helped by a forthright, mysterious teacher, Dr. Larabee, and other members of her community. (don't be mislead by the name of this website - check it out!)