School Plans, 2014-5

Several of you have reminded me that I never posted this year’s lesson plans.  Sorry to be tardy.

But hey– this is no pinterest page. Don’t start thinking we’re actually going to get all this done.  At the end of the year, I will share where we ended up isn’t what I planned.

“The life of every man is a diary in which he means to write one story, and writes another; and his humblest hour is when he compares the volume as it is with what he vowed to make it.” –J.M. Barrie, The Little Minister

Here goes:

Daily Subjects


  • Jonah (9th grade) Teaching Textbooks Pre-Calculus
  • Owen (6th grade) Singapore New Elementary Math, Book 1
  • Moriah (5th grade) Singapore Primary Mathematics 5B, 6A
  • Phoebe (1st grade) Singapore Primary Mathematics 1B, 2A


  • Owen/Moriah: Writing Prompts 1x/week, Simply Grammar 1x/week, Copywork 1x, Dictation x1 (this will flow more than this list suggests)
  • Phoebe: Copywork x3, and beginning later in the year Dictation x 1
  • Jonah’s writing will include journaling, essays for his English class (see below), and poetry

Foreign Language     

  • Jonah, Owen & Moriah will do Rosetta Stone Spanish 3-4 days/week and Grammar x 1/week (though I still haven’t found what I want for a grammar supplement)
  • Jonah will continue in Henle Latin and will take the National Latin Exam (year 2) this winter
  • Phoebe will read books in Spanish with me and continue to learn random vocabulary I throw at her
  • I keep saying we’re going to have a weekly Spanish immersion meal, but [because I'm lazy] it never happens. Maybe this year…


  • Owen Game programming 1x/week, scratch 1x/week


  • Moriah Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing 1-2x/ week

Learning to Read

  • Phoebe Study Dog (level 2) 1-2x/week, Explode the Code levels 1 1/2 and 2, and daily reading (a page at a time of easy readers)



  • Jonah, Owen & Moriah all will be reading from our history list (late 19th and 20th centuries) and from a selection of other good books I’ve chosen.  I’m shooting for 30 to 90 min/day, depending on the child
  • The older three each read independently in the Bible as well, and Phoebe and I read as many picture books as we can fit in the day (which is fewer than I’d like but more than zero)
  • Read alouds planned include selections from our history list as well as The Mysterious Benedict Society (2 & 3), The Penderwicks (2-4), How to Train Your Dragon (we have a few road trips planned, and the books on CD are so good!), Flora and Ulysses (di Camillo), Number the Stars (Lowry), The Trumpet of the Swan (White), By the Shores of Silver Lake and Little Town on the Prairie (Wilder),

Weekly Subjects


  • Jonah chose Apologia Chemistry (at home) and Physics (at his enrichment school)
  • Owen, Moriah and Phoebe are doing Apologia’s Exploring Creation with Chemistry and Physics (Young Explorer Series)


  • I have both a selection of high school books and elementary school books (both picture books and chapter books) spanning the 20th century
  • We’ll begin with a review of the 19th century (making timeline figures) and then add to the timeline as we read.  We haven’t done a timeline before, and I’m hoping it helps with retention
  • We will do regular narration to help us with pulling together the threads of history and how they interlock.

High School English

  • Fall: What Makes a Hero?  Jonah will read at his own pace through a selection of books (I don’t in any way expect him to read them all) including The Odyssey (Homer), Jane Eyre (C. Bronte), Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage (Lansing), Code Name Verity (Wein), The Doomsday Book (Willis), Antigone (Sophocles), Beowulf, To Kill a Mockingbird (Lee), Unbroken (Hillenbrand), Blackout and All Clear (Willis), Amazing Grace (Metaxas).
  • Spring: Revenge v. Mercy Our book list for Spring will include The Tempest (Shakespeare), Les Miserables (Hugo), The Count of Monte Cristo (Dumas), Wuthering Heights (E. Bronte), The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (A. Bronte), The Iliad (Homer), The Hunger Games (Collins), Cry, the Beloved Country (Paton), Baking Cakes in Kigali (Parkin), and A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens).
  • Most of our “class time” will be in the form of one-on-one discussions (hopefully involving tea) with Sam or me to discuss questions such as [in the fall]  Is a hero born or made?, What about “fatal flaws”?, and How do a hero’s circumstances affect his or her legacy? or What made someone choose Mercy (or revenge)? What were the consequences?  How do we become people who choose mercy? How do we form a society where mercy plays a great role than revenge?  What about justice? 
  • My hope is that we can pull his other readings from history into our discussions.


Picture Study

  • I have all the prints I made last year and didn’t get to because of time, and because other exhibits at the Denver Art Museum guided the limited study we did.
  • Hopefully we’ll get to some of these, as well as jumping in with the DAM’s exhibits.

Nature Study

  • My goals here are few: to get outside every day and to pay attention.
  • If we put anything in our nature journals, it’s a plus.


  • Everyone takes piano lessons.
  • We listen to music.


  • The kids want to do Chopped at home, but they have very few cooking skills
  • So I’ve designed a cooking “class” based on our favorites, in which I teach them knife and stove safety, basic kitchen skills, and two of our favorite breakfasts and dinners.  Once they’ve mastered those, we can talk about Chopped.


  • The younger three joined swim team.  The girls take weekly dance classes. Jonah is riding his bike and beginning to run a little.
  • I’m teaching them Frisbee.  We play soccer and volleyball.  Please say that’s enough.

It’s a lot.  Right now I’m having trouble keeping up with my end of the reading, but Sam’s engagement totally helps.

If you’re looking for more on school planning, here are my thoughts on high school at home and keeping track of lesson plans, how to get school done with toddlers around, and what your preschooler can be doing while your older child is having math tantrums.  Also, our lessons plans year-by-year are always available in the the pages at the top (by year), and these plans will be logged there eventually, too.

7 Quick Takes as I pack for Guatemala

1. So I’m leaving tomorrow and still haven’t packed anything.  I am a packing procrastinator, and this time I’m glad I waited because LAST NIGHT I found out that we will be staying at the banana plantation where the clinic is (think 90 degrees F and 95% humidity with no breeze) instead of at the coffee farm (50 degrees with misty rain at night).  I need a totally different set of accoutrements.

Where I thought we’d be staying:

2. Like a mosquito net soaked in DEET.  I don’t want malaria. Or dengue.

3. When we lived in Cairo, the mosquitoes loved me.  Once I slept outside my net and half my face was so covered in mosquito bites that I looked like I’d had an accident.  I hate mosquitoes.

4. It’s 32 degrees and threatening snow in Denver right now.  It’s a good thing I believe that germs are what make us sick and not going through a shocking temperature change or going out with my hair wet.  (And my hair will be dripping wet with sweat in Guatemala.)

5. Normally when I’m leaving imminently, I spend the day sewing a piece of clothing I don’t really need.  Or something for our house.  When I was going to Haiti with no idea what treating cholera was going to look like, I made a skirt.  When I was heading to Thailand, I made this cute quilt.  (The quilt was a winner, if I say so myself.)  But my sewing machine is totally, completely dead.  I thought it was just mostly dead and took it to the shop, but the repairman called me to say that I’d have to replace the foot pedal and plug ($60) first so that he could replace the motherboard ($130 without labor).  I’m pretty sure I can get a new sewing machine for that.  But anyway, no new skirt.

6.  I am completely addicted to black tea.  With sugar and milk (or preferably, half and half).  Now I’m not even sure I’ll have access to a refrigerator.  How am I going to keep my milk cold?  And really, if this is my biggest problem, it’s going to be a good trip.

7. I am traveling with my friend Pam who worked with me in Chicago for five years, was with us as a doula during my labor with Owen, and traveled to Haiti with me the first time.  Let’s just say she’s seen me at my worst.  Last night she reminded me of the our first night in Haiti.  We had taken the red-eye from Denver and got to the compound around noon, where they greeted us and told us to take a nap because we’d be working the night shift that night.  I got up at five and found there was no milk, no way to heat the water for my tea, and no Pepsi as the truck couldn’t get through because of the riots.  Night shift minus caffeine equals no good.

The next morning, after a harrowing night of trying to keep children from dying of cholera, the chaplains asked us what we wanted to pray for.  I said I needed a NICU nurse who could put an IV in a rock, and I needed the Pepsi truck to come.  The chaplain blinked at me for a minute and then prayed that God would hear our requests, no matter how frivolous they seemed.  I went to bed.  When I got up at six, they introduced me to Theresa, the NICU nurse who had just landed and would be working the night shift with us, and Pam told me that the Pepsi truck had gotten through.

So anyway, if you need me today, I’ll be busy praying for a refrigerator.

7 Quick Takes is Jen’s idea and her blog is so fun– go check her out!

Daybook: Sept 8


Out my window: it smells like fall.  I LOVE that.

In the garden: last week Sam and I bought some new plants for our garden as an anniversary gift. (How lucky am I that my husband wants to GARDEN for our anniversary!)  We also put in two trellises so that the clematis and sweet peas that have been languishing in the mulch all summer can stand up.  It made a huge difference.


That’s the front garden.  The back has been decimated by the chickens.  Actually, my unpruned tomatoes are so dense that the chickens can’t really get in to destroy them, but the cucumbers and chives are completely gone.


In the kitchen: I need to do a little planning ahead so that while I’m gone next week, my parents aren’t scrambling for meals.  I think I’ll marinate some beef and chicken to grill (or throw in the crockpot) that they can serve with the vegetables from the farm.  But tonight, a friend is cooking for us.  Grateful!

In the schoolroom: I don’t have anything extraordinary planned this week.  We did read a lovely book on women’s suffrage in Wyoming for history: I Could Do That! by Linda Arms White. Like all the best history books, it managed to display the history in the greater context and in the microcosm of one individual’s life.  Loved it.


And as a part of our college prep curriculum, we are trying to have Frisbee class at least twice a week, because we all know that playing Frisbee is a very important part of college.

On the Needles: no photos since it’s a gift, but I managed to finish knitting the dreadful second sleeve on a baby sweater gift that’s a year late.  Now I can work on the dreadful second sleeve of my own sweater that’s been on the needles for a year and a half. Maybe longer.  If I didn’t love the yarn so much I’d just chuck it.  I’ve got my fingers crossed it will be worth it in the end (which of course may be part of why it’s been so hard to knit…)

On my mind: I leave Saturday (yeah,5 days from now) for another trip to Guatemala.  This time I’m traveling with friends and colleagues while Sam holds down the fort.  Continuing with the project I worked on last fall, I’ll be teaching group prenatal care, and I’m really excited about it. But there are a bunch of gaps in my planning (like what to pack and school planning for while I’m gone) that have to happen this week.  Really important stuff, like what I’m going to read on the plane.  (Two planes! A layover!  Imagine how much I could read.)  God worked out the harder part of this project when that looked impossible, so I’m trusting he’ll handle the rest of it, too.

Grateful: for the opportunity to travel with friends.  For the privilege of teaching my children at home. For Sam’s brother & family’s visit last week and brunch Saturday with friends (our kids all played, and we actually got to have a conversation! Imagine!!)  For my friend Mary’s success.  For God’s ability to make all things new.


Praying: for the Neals and Simons as they minister across cultures (and that I will be able to do the same next week). Mandy. Judy. Kathie. Clare. For all those risking their lives to treat ebola victims, and to minister to those who can’t be saved.

In case you wanted to catch my other posts about last fall’s trip to Guatemala with the kids, you can find them here: Sam’s work in Guatemala, the children’s perspective, my thoughts on traveling internationally with kids.

Invisible Victories: a link-up

Did you have an invisible victory this week?  I did.

I rode my bike to work (and back).

There are so many reasons why I mightn’t have: I didn’t want to get to work all sweaty.  The path disappears for a bit, and I wasn’t quite sure where it came out.  I’m lazy.  I’d have to leave twenty minutes earlier.  I might be late…

But my friend Sarah rode to work last week, and she inspired me.  So I got up twenty minutes earlier, packed my deodorant, and hopped on my bike before I could talk myself out of it.  On the way home, I stopped at the post office and then, when I got a flat tire, at target to buy a bike pump. I made it home. Smiling.

I’m sure no one whizzing past me in a car had any idea of my triumph, but it meant a lot to me. #invisiblevictory

Would you share your invisible victory from this week?  Maybe it was cooking at home instead of picking up take-out on the way home.  Or turning off facebook because your child wanted to spend some time with you. Or choosing to hold your tongue when it would have been more satisfying to shout.

I’d love to cheer you on.  To be inspired. Drop a comment on facebook or the blog or link to your own invisible victory, and we’ll share a glass of virtual champagne.
invisible victories

phfr: first week of school

Pretty: Last Monday was our first day of school.  We also threw a celebratory dinner for some friends.  We had steak and warm spinach bacon salad and a fruit salad and potatoes, but the highlight was this cake.
One of Sam’s hospital colleagues LOVES this cake and brings it from the Market at Larimer every time there is something to celebrate. Then Sam comes home and says, “She brought Special Cake again. It’s so good…” and goes on for ten minutes about how great was the cake [that he ate and I did not].

Anyway, my friend Kristina is an incredible baker, and she posted the recipe for this cake, actually known as Spring Fling Cake, on her blog. It’s not as hard as it looks, but it does have a lot of steps. It was worth it, but let’s just say that maybe next year it won’t be a whip-it-up-on-the-first-day-of-school cake.

Happy: SweetP’s cast came off last Monday morning (hooray!) which made a bike ride possible. So on day two of school, we hopped on our bikes and, with only moderate weeping and gnashing of teeth, rode to a new-to-us park for a picnic lunch. Why was there weeping and gnashing of teeth? I’m not really sure. There was something about how we shouldn’t eat outside. Bees, maybe? (For the record, the bees hadn’t fond the new park yet.) Once we got there, though, the new equipment and the workers replanting trees and the novelty of each person having his own bag of popcorn won the day.

Funny: I was out and about running errands one day last week, and I finally snapped a photo of a building I pass with some frequency. It always has me laughing. On the grass in front are little individual signs, too: Wedding Chapel! Reception Hall! Crematorium!

Real: This is what my house looks like:

I turn around, and the girls have opened a new Doll Hospital in my bathroom. Why in the bathroom? “Because the other hospital is full, Mommy.”

For more every day contentment, go check out Like Mother, Like Daughter!

First week of school


So there are both advantages and disadvantages of schooling at home for years and years.  I’m not talking about the obvious (you can wear your pajamas, you don’t have to pack a lunch, you can wear your pajamas…)

No, I mean the habit of schooling at home is both a boon and a challenge.

Jonah is in ninth grade, and his last full-time, out-of-home schooling was in Chicago ten years ago.  Since that, we’ve been learning at home.  The advantages:

  • my kids know the drill.  They get up in the morning, grab their assignment sheets and go to work, often even before breakfast.
  • we can take up in the fall (almost) right where we left off.  Thursday we jumped right back into the middle of By the Shores of Silver Lake. I asked the kids to recap where the Ingalls family was, and they summed it up in a few sentences before we started reading.  Phoebe was in the middle of a math book, and she just hopped right to it and did an exercise before I got out of the shower.
  • you can keep using the same supplies.  We have a bin of hundreds of colored pencils, all somewhere between almost-new and too-short-to-sharpen.  I didn’t feel compelled to spend  $20 on four sets of eight new pencils, a different set for each child’s classroom.
  • no one brings teacher-notes home.  Each of my kids has at least one annoying school habit: one likes to hang upside down while I read aloud, one interrupts a lot, one starts side conversations, and one is sometimes too busy drawing to listen.  But we know this already, and I’m not waiting each afternoon for the backpack containing the note from the teacher who just discovered how annoying a talking, disruptive, artistic opossum can be during class.

The disadvantages:

  • my kids know the drill.  We may change up a few things, but there’s aren’t any new faces in our class this year.  No one is quietly sitting in their seats on their best behavior lest this year’s teacher is secretly an ogre.
  • we can take up right where we left off.  There’s something fun about new books that do things differently.  There’s always a chance they’ll go over something you already know, and then you’ll get a bye for two weeks while everyone studies the pilgrims or the water cycle yet again.
  • no (or few) new school supplies.  Who doesn’t love new markers?
  • no notes home.  Wait… um, that’s not a disadvantage.

The kids did start a new one-day-a-week homeschool school this week. (Enrichment school? I never know what to call it.)  My parents called the night before to talk to the kids before they “started their new school.”  The children had the butterflies of “Will I make new friends?” and “What if I can’t find my classes?” and “What if my teacher doesn’t like me?”  We had to buy new dividers and pencils and markers and water bottles. The kids thought carefully about what to wear (well, most of them did).  It’s fun.  New things are fun.  They made new friends and re-discovered old ones.  They are going to have some interesting classes and some new teachers.  It’s good.  But it’s not where the majority of our learning happens.

I’m grateful for new opportunities.  I’m grateful for new faces and different teaching styles and that my kids have the chance to learn from other teachers.  But their first day of school was Monday.  No one had to pack a lunch, but they all chose to stay in their pajamas till noon.

Further developments in air conditioning

You may recall our air conditioning has been broken.  It was broken in June when our friends turned it on for the first time.  It was broken in July.  The first time HVAC guy came to fix it, he started by telling me that I didn’t understand how to use it properly.  “See,” he said, “you  can’t wait until the house is 90 degrees and expect it to cool down just like that.” He snapped his fingers.

I said when I turned it on, I expected to have cold air pumping through the vents, regardless of whether the house was 88 or 90 degrees.

He asked if I had changed the filter recently.

Two hours later, he said that the coolant had frozen into a block of ice because of a shortage of coolant.  He had “topped it off.  It should work fine now,” he said.

Two weeks later, I turned it on, and there was almost no cold air running through the vents. Again, there was a ring of condensation on the floor around the furnace.  I youtubed it this time to see what else could be wrong.

Enter HVAC man #2 (same company).  I explained how the first time the system had been low on coolant and since the same thing happened again, I suspected a leak in the system.

“Have you changed your filter?” he asked.


Two hours later, he came to explain to me that there wasn’t a leak, precisely, but that the system thought there was a leak.  “The air conditioner is like a heart,” he said.  “You know a heart is like a pump?”

Yeah, I said, I know about how the heart is like a pump.

Anyway, he’s gone again.  The pseudo-leak has been fixed [he says] and “it should all work fine now.”  Of course, today it’s 72 degrees and there’s no way I’m running the system to find out.  But I may go change the filter just for fun.