Home school: What we are doing for 2nd Grade

2nd grade lessons begin formally as of Monday, July 2nd. I had planned on starting this week, but life intervened. I had to finish a midterm exam for oceanography, Father’s diverticulitis flared up, Luna discovered the stereo system wiring and various unknown nooks and crannies in the house, James needed an attitude adjustment, so everyone required intense supervision for a few days. We were all a little cranky!

We will be doing the basics: Grammar, Spelling, writing, and math. Plus Japanese, Catholic catechism, faith building, science, history, and whatever else happens to come up that interests James.

We will be concentrating heavily on virtues and math. Character Building for families; Day by Day Devotions – 7 minute character growing devotions for kids; Contenders for the Faith – handbook covering practical skills, spiritual life studies and service to others, plus Faith and Life catholic catechism, and reading the Book of Virtues. He will also be starting a journal and be given something to write about weekly.

For Math we are using a combination of Modern Curriculum Press, Professor B Power Mathematics Cd, and lots of enchanted learning worksheet; and reading living books such as Mathematicians are People too!, Sir Cumference series by Cindy Neuschwander.

James wants to learn Japanese so we are using Before You Know it Speakmore Cd and Ah So! Japanese for Kids workbook by Little Linguists. I purchased Japanese Step by Step for myself to learn the basics. If James seriously learns the language and wants to go further, then we will hire a Japanese tutor to teach us. We will do a one month unit study on the history of Japan as well. The goal is to go to Japan when James is eleven years old, but he has to be able to carry on a conversation in Japanese before we go.

Language Arts: we are using Rod and Staff English “Preparing to Build” and Spelling by Sound and Structure for Grammar and spelling. Since James has started writing stories, I found “How to write a story” which teaches the process of writing and enjoying stories. Rod and Staff is writing intensive so we won’t be doing separate handwriting practice. I may introduce cursive later in the year using Handwriting without Tears.

We will continue to use the Five in a Row Program and Catholic Mosaic, living history and science books, and chapter books. We will continue with James Incentive list where he has to read 50 books to earn a movie. We have shelved the Godzilla movies for now (read attitude adjustment time!) so he won’t getting anymore for while. He has wanted to get The Country Bears ever since we saw it at my parents house, so that will be the movie he earns when completes the 50 books.

History and Science: we will be doing unit studies and alternating every month. For history, we will be doing studying the Middle Ages using SOTW 2 and History Odyssey’s activity guide; California; Japan; the Presidents and the Apollo Program. We are studying japan, presidents and apollo program at James request.

For science, we will be learning about the scientific method; studying energy, forces and motion; dinosaurs; and microscopes. I found a great book:How to Think like a Scientist: Answering questions by the Scientific Method by Stephen Kramer. We will use Usborne’s Energy Forces and Motion as a spine, do some projects and experiments and read lots of living science books. James and Father will be working together using Backyard Ballistics and having fun. I am still working on the science and history schedules, but will have it all figured out soon.

And include in the mix: swimming lessons, playtime, home school group functions, and general mayhem. It all sounds like a lot, but believe it or not, the planning takes up more time than the teaching. James has a photographic memory and remembers everything he reads or sees. He has reached the age where is understanding cause and effect, starting to thinking things through, plus questioning all. I am probably forgetting something, but will discuss schedules later.

Book Review: What the Bleep do We Know?

While taking a break from schedules and lesson planning, started reading

“What the Bleep Do We Know: Discovering the Endless Possibilities for Altering Everyday Reality” by William Arntz, Betsy Chasse and Mark Vicente

I recently purchased the book and the movie, plus gave one sister the movie and one sister the book for their birthdays. It is very interesting and makes you think.

A few excerpts from Chapter one:

"Let’s say a spaceship lands next to you on the coffee table (does size matter?) and inside is The Universal Book of Everything. And you get to ask one question. What is that question?"

I thought about the question and drew a complete blank. The image in my mind was of a tiny spaceship landing in my living room and thinking where they came from, instead of a great question. Instantly sidetracked. Okay, think! What do I want to know? Something Philosophical, esoteric, or maybe just silly? There isn’t just any one right question. A series of things ran through my head which immediately eliminated because I knew the answer. For example: I know God created the universe – whether it was from a tiny exploding atom or from Him creating the world in 7 days, He is responsible for us being here. Went back to reading the chapter and decided to think about the question later.

Bonus Question: Think of something that you are just plain curious about?"

"Now a question that you will add to The Universal Book of Everything: What is the one thing that you know for sure?"

Okay, I have to think about those, will get back to it.

"Why ask a great question? Asking a great question is an invitation to an adventure, a journey of discovery. Its thrilling to set out on a new adventure; there’s the bliss of freedom to explore new territory (page3)

A university professor visited Zen master Nan-in to inquire about Zen. But instead of listening to the master, the scholar kept going on about his own ideas. After listening for some time, Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full, then kept on pouring. The tea flowed over the sides of the cup, filled the saucer, spilled onto the man’s pants and onto the floor. “Don’t you see that the cup is full” the professor exploded. “You can’t get any more in.” “Just so" replied Nan-in calmly. “And like this cup, you are full of your own ideas and opinions. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?” (pg 6)

Reminds me of a few people I know!

Emptying the cup means making room for Great Questions. It means being open, reconditioning ourselves so that we can accept, for the time being, not knowing. Out of that a greater knowing will dawn. (pg 6)


Pondering the Great Question is a wonderful way to spend "quality time with your mind. When was the last time you took your mind on a wild ride of mystery? Tried to get to the other side of infinity?"

I asked James - If you could ask any question what would it be?

His response: Is there more?

I am not quite sure what he was referring to, whether is just the moment in time and wanted more of something, but it was an interesting answer. Is there more? More what? More to this day, time, food, world, universe.

1st question: In what galaxy is there other life similar to our planet Earth? Not is there other life?

 Because there must be, but where is there other life.

Bonus Question: Will we ever learn to breath underwater or fly on our own? Like when we dream that we are souring through the air or diving underwater without any equipment.

Answer that will be added to The Universal Book of Everything: (What is the one thing you know for sure?) Our lives are touched by everyone who moves through it, whether for a moment, a hour, a day, or a lifetime; minutely or infinitely; and changes it.

Right now I am pondering: Why do kitties have to chew on your pencil and sit on your notebook, preventing you from writing. Or insist on sleeping in your arms or on your shoulder, so that you have to type one handed. ATTACK!
"Asking yourself these deeper questions opens up new ways of being in the world. It brings in a breath of fresh air. It makes life more joyful. The real trick to life is not to be in the know, but to be in the mystery."

Fred Alan Wolf
How would you answer if a spaceship landed in your living room?

News of the Week: Cats and school

I am done with my English Literature Class. Finished my essay final and posted it this afternoon. Will find out my final grade in a couple weeks, plus what the professor thought of my literary analysis paper on The Giver. Thursday have to start working on my midterm essays for Oceanography. OY!

I have decided not to take more than one class at a time...it is too difficult with everything else we have going on in this household. So oceanography ends mid August and the next class will be Educational Psychology which starts first week of September.

Still working on James lesson plans and we will be starting soon. Didn't I say that last week. Oh well, it is summer and we are all enjoying the break. He wants to learn Japanese so working on acquiring and setting up lessons for that.

We are all in love. Miss Luna is such a joy and incredibly sweet and lovable. Yesterday after dinner Father and James went outside to check out his new Garmin GPS system we bought him for Father's Day. While I was doing the dishes, Luna started crying up a storm and wandering around looking for Father and James. So, the dishes got put off a bit while we cuddled. Father told me later that when James and I disappeared into his room for bedtime stories, she did the same thing. He was cleaning up the wine glasses and he heard her crying and wanting to be held. So, he put off finishing the wine glasses for some cuddle time with her. She loves attention and most certainly will get it in the household.

Today while I was working on my final, she cuddled up on the shelf under James computer to nuzzle his feet while he played games.

Did I mention this precious little girl woke me up at 6:30 a.m. and James soon appeared at our bedside 6:45. Since neither seemed in the least bit interested in going back to sleep, my day started earlier than our normal 8:00 a.m. Well, I did get a lot done, but I want a nap!

Family Life: New addition - Luna

We have a new addition to our household whom we acquired yesterday.


Yes - Luna, after Luna the moon from The Bear in the Big Blue House. We were having difficulty deciding on a name because James wanted something Japanese, Father wanted Furhead and I simply couldn't decide. The previous owner said they had been calling her Luna after Luna the moon and it struck a chord with us. Father always loved Luna the Moon, so we all agreed on Luna. Of course Father says it should be "Luna moon unit furhead".

Luna is 7 weeks old and the runt of the litter. She is adorable with the most remarkable markings. She bears a striking resemblance to the pure bred bengal cat that I had wanted but was too expensive. Luna was given to us by a gal who works at the coffee shop by our business.

We decided to keep her in our bedroom until she gets adjusted. As soon as I got in bed and turned out the light, she started mewing and then suddenly there she was by my side. She had managed to climb up the bedspread. So we have a new sleeping buddy - she just isn't allowed to sleep on my pillow.

News of the Day: Catholic and Limbo and Unbaptized Infants

Read an interesting article in the Catholic Newspaper this week.

The Catholic Church has finally reversed its thinking regarding limbo for unbaptized infants.

“In a document published April 20, the commission said the traditional concept of limbo -- as a place where unbaptized infants spend eternity but without communion with God -- seemed to reflect an "unduly restrictive view of salvation."The church continues to teach that, because of original sin, baptism is the ordinary way of salvation for all people and urges parents to baptize infants, the document said.But there is greater theological awareness today that God is merciful and "wants all human beings to be saved," it said. Grace has priority over sin, and the exclusion of innocent babies from heaven does not seem to reflect Christ's special love for "the little ones," it said."Our conclusion is that the many factors that we have considered ... give serious theological and liturgical grounds for hope that unbaptized infants who die will be saved and enjoy the beatific vision," the document said."We emphasize that these are reasons for prayerful hope, rather than grounds for sure knowledge," it added.The 41-page document, titled "The Hope of Salvation for Infants Who Die Without Being Baptized," was published in Origins, the documentary service of Catholic News Service. Pope Benedict XVI authorized its publication earlier this year."

I personally never believed that when a baby dies in infancy before he or she was baptized, that the baby would go into a state of limbo and be denied heaven.

When I was 16 and attending Montgomery Catholic High School in Alabama, I took a world religions course which was taught by a priest. My classmates and I got into a rather heated debate with a Catholic Priest about the subject of limbo. The priest more or less stuck to teaching what the church said and refused to give his personal opinion.

I was being rather argumentative and he cut the argument short when he looked at me and asked “Are you military or real?” (my father was in the Air Force and attending the Air War College) Speechless, I looked at him, trying to figure out what he was getting at. Finally, I said “both, of course”. And his response was “No, you are either military or real and if you were real, you would know the answer.” Up until that point, I had always held the utmost respect for priests, but he lost my respect. I couldn’t take him seriously after that.

Anyway, I am happy to see that the Catholic church agrees with me.

News of the Day: Flying Spiders ala Charlotte's Web

Have you ever seen a spider fly? It is the most amazing thing. We had read about aeronautic spiders in Charlotte’s Web and just passed off that part of the story as fiction. Well! After reading Charlotte’s Web a couple years ago, I was sitting in the kitchen gazing out at the backyard. I noticed the sun glistening off the spiders webs between the laurel bushes, when all of a sudden, spider webs were flying up into the air. Then I noticed strands going up from the top of the fence. Later that afternoon we were outside when we noticed masses of webs floating through the sky. Amazing, the story was true.

What’s odd is that when we were living in Georgia, I used to encounter spider webs all the time. They would float by or into us and we basically wouldn’t think anything of it, (except that it was yucky) just a floating piece of spider web. Now, I realize what was really happening and we had been completely blind to it.

Recently we watched the remake of Charlotte’s Web with Dakota Fanning. At the end of the movie, we watched the bonus material in which the director was talking about making the movie. The Director started explaining that a miracle occurred during filming. While they were in the middle of filming around the barn, somebody looked up and exclaimed “Oh my God, look at that.” All eyes turned toward the top of the barn, where spiders were floating away on their strands of silk. 

Even though each and every person on the crew had read the book, not one of them had believed the story true. The camera man had presence of mind to keep filming, plus the documentary camera man filming the crew. The look of amazement on the face of the director and the others was priceless. It was a good 2 or 3 minutes before he suddenly realized they should be filming this…. “Are you getting this, are you getting this?” he asks.

Isn’t it remarkable when a simple children’s book about a talking pig can open your eyes to a whole new world?

My Education: The Giver versus the Thunderbirds

Did you hear that sigh of relief? My literary analysis paper on THE GIVER is complete and submitted. I'll post it after it's graded. All that is left for my English Literature Class is the final which will be due at the end of the week. Do you know how difficult it is to write and type a paper while an air show is taking place? Every hour during the week from Thursday through Sunday, we had planes zooming over the house. James was very amped all weekend by all the excitement. We got to see a F-22 Raptor which is absolutely amazing. The Raptor flew directly over our house and I don't have to tell you how loud that was.

A Flying wing which I digitally video taped and don't know how to add at this moment, the Thunder birds which were amazing as well and an assortment of other planes. At a certain point, we just stopped taking pictures and watched.

The rest of our week will be spent working on lesson plans, gardening and whatnot.

News of the day: Thunderbirds are Go!

The skies of Sacramento have been abuzz this weekend with the sound of aircraft engines racing around. The California Capital Airshow is being held this weekend at Mather Field.

My son called me at work yesterday (Daddy Day) very excited because he and Father had just been outside watching the Thunderbirds practicing in the skies over our neighborhood. Father was all excited because he also saw an f-22 airplane. They neglected to get pictures, so I will be out there this afternoon to try to catch the buggers as they fly by. Hopefully I will have some pix to post later.

We went to the airshow last year. It was fun but......they didn't anticipate how many people would show up and it was a mess getting in and out of the airfield. We won't be going this year. We will just enjoy it from afar as the planes buzz our neighborhood.

News of the Day: What's happening this week

Currently reading:

The Other Parent: The Inside Story of the Media's Effect on our Children by James Steyer.

Very interesting read so far. Makes me want to get rid of the TV entirely. However, we are very picky about what James is allowed to watch. Today just happens to be an attitude adjustment day so no TV/DVD/Video viewing.

My mom gave it to me when we were visiting. Thanks Mom!

Currently working on

This is the last week of my English Literature class and the final is next week. I am working on finishing my literary analysis paper on The Giver which is due at the end of the week. Have done the research, reread the book, figured out what elements want to cover and know what I want to say. Now I just have to write it.

Going into Week 5 of my Oceanography class and have to say it is very interesting and learning something new every week.

2nd Grade

I had planned on starting James' lessons this week, but decided to put it off another week or two. We need a couple more weeks off. The past month has just flown by. So, I will be working on lesson plans and schedules for the next few days as well.

What is Father doing?

He is working on the redesign of the Warmenfat amplifier and also coming up with new designs for other products. He spent yesterday upgrading our desk top computer and now it is worker more quietly and faster. The old hard drive's fan was going out and it was noisy as heck. Plus had a few other problems. So now James is enjoying playing "cars" and the computer isn't crashing on him.

Father's next item on his "honey do" list: Plant marigolds in the front yard. Maybe he and James will do that on a daddy day. :)

Family Vacation: Illness and family time.

Tuesday morning James woke up sick. Generally when he gets sick, he throws up a lot for about 24 hours, then is okay. Well, the poor kid was pretty miserable and we weren't sure if he had caught a germ from somewhere, having a reaction to something he ate or was just exhausted from all our traveling. Generally when he gets sick, I will give him lots of water so he won’t get dehydrated, but since we had a two hour drive ahead of us, decided to back off the liquids. Grandpa and father packed up the car and we checked out at the last possible moment. 

Father prepared a barf box for the car and we headed back to Bull Head City. Fortunately James slept most of the time and only had to throw up a couple times. Grandpa made the drive in record time – 2 hours and 5 minutes exactly. He had expected the drive to be 3 ½ hours but that is because he and grandma generally stop for lunch and a break and shopping and whatever to break up their drives.

I put James to bed and we unpacked the car. While he slept, Grandpa drove me over to Safeway to get some medicine for James and I also did a little grocery shopping. We were all looking forward to a home made meal (except for James – he wasn’t eating).

We relaxed for the rest of the day, in between trips to the bathroom to assist James. James slept off and on, but continued to throw up throughout the night. This is standard fare for us, when he gets sick. When we are at home, we will camp out in the living room on a blow up mattress. That way we don’t wake up dad every time I get up to help James. However, since we were at Grandma’s, we didn’t have that option. I gave Father the choice of sleeping on the couch, so he could sleep. However, he wasn’t feeling well either and hoped into bed with us. He didn’t get much sleep either.

24 hours after James got sick he started feeling better. Wednesday was a recovery day and we relaxed and did absolutely nothing except watched TV, slept and read. Thursday we packed up and headed home.

We had a wonderful time with my parents and going to the Grand Canyon. And that ends the saga of our vacation. We were happy to be home and spent Memorial Day weekend doing absolutely nothing. Bliss!!!!

Family Vacation: May 21 Monday - Grand Canyon

We had breakfast and checked out of our rooms. Fortunately, we didn't need to worry about our luggage. It was taken care of by the hotel and transported to the train station for our return trip at 4:00 p.m.

We meandered about for a while, trying to decide what to do. Next to the Shrine of the Ages, was the Grand Canyon Cemetery . We wandered through the cemetery looking at all the headstones and learning about the lives of the deceased. Old cemeteries are always fascinating. Then we went down to the train station for the rim tour.

We were going to take the rim tour that came with our package, but it had been for the day before. We really hadn't felt like hopping on a bus, right from the train. So a nice, but misinformed, person on the train told us "oh no problem, if you want to switch days, just show up. You will be accommodated." So, when we showed up for the rim tour the next day, it turned into a "you will have to wait and see who shows up, then maybe you can get on" attitude from the bus drivers, so we decided to skip it and take the free shuttle bus up to Hermits Rest.

We hopped off at different stops, taking pictures and then met up with my parents at Hermits Rest. After lunch, we got back on the bus and headed back down to the village.

Our train departed at 4:00 p.m. On the return trip, there was a wild west train robbery. There was a young boy on the train sponsored by Make a Wish Foundation.

His wish was to be a train robber, so he joined up with the gang and robbed the passengers.

We were saved by the Marshall just in time.

We arrived back in Williams around 6:30, checked back in to the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel, then went to dinner at Max and Thelma's. While my folks rested in their room, Father, James and I went to the game room and played Ms. Pacman, Galaga and Hockey. I bought a few souvenirs from the gift shop, then it was time to turn in for the night.

Family Vacation: May 20 Sunday - off to the Grand Canyon

When we had decided to go to the Grand Canyon, we booked a package through the Grand Canyon Railway. They have packages for two days, three days and four days which include staying at the grand canyon railway hotel, train ride to and from the Grand Canyon and meals at Max and Thelma’s Restaurant. We had learned about the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel from watching “Trains and Locomotives” on RFDTV (one of James favorite shows for a while). So we booked the Canyon Limited Plus for 4 days and three nights for the weekend of May 19th which happened to coincide with “Day out with Thomas”. Thanks to my father, we chose to travel in one of the first class cars on the train.

After breakfast at Max and Thelma’s, we were ready to board the train which departed at 10:00 a.m. We were provided with fresh fruit, pastries, coffee, juice and other snacks as we traveled in air conditioned comfort. James meet a delightful little boy named Gabriel and the two of them had fun throughout the train ride. We were entertained by Clarence Clearwater, who sang Indian songs and told us about his life. We arrived at the Grand Canyon and hopped on a bus which took us to the Maswik lodge.

From the Maswik lodge, we walked down to see our first sight of the Grand Canyon.

My two guys were as awestruck as I was

We set off on the rim trail along the Hermits rest route which is approximately 7 miles. We didn't plan of going very far, but just kept walking slowly, adjusting to elevation which was about 7000 feet and enjoying the view. The trail was a little tough for my folks, so they turned back and explored on their own, taking the shuttle bus to Hermits rest instead.

We ended up walking .7 of a mile up to the first trail view overlook. As we reached the overlook, the shuttle bus was just arriving and letting off a load of people. We turned around and headed back down.

While we rested, James found something to do. Boys will be boys! He cleaned up rather nicely though.

We went to dinner at Bright Angel Lodge, explored some more and took more pictures of course.

It was now dark and time to head back to our rooms. On the way to our room, we saw a deer standing under a light. At first I thought it was a statue, until it moved. Other than birds, this was the only deer we saw the whole time. Other than birds, we didn't see much in the way of wildlife. I am sure that if we had wandered down into the canyon, we would have. However, that is an experience we will save for another time.