Saturday, August 30, 2008

Bruster's Subway Story Contest Entry

Bruster completed the story that began "Everyone gathered in the center of town for the start of the race except..."

for Butter who was at home eating a bag of chocolate chip cookies. “I don’t care about the race,” said Butter, as he stuffed cookies in his mouth. “I just want to eat cookies because running is very boring, but cookies are delicious.”
Back at the starting line, Coach Potato yelled, “On your mustard, get ketchup, g---. Wait a minute,” he yelled. “Where’s Butter? We can’t start the race without Butter.” The crowd all moaned, “Aww.”
“Let’s start. He always slows us down,” complained Wheat Bread.
“He’s too slow,” said Dill Pickle.
“He never finishes anyway. Can’t we just leave him out?” asked Pepper.
“NO! We have to start with him here,” said Coach Potato.
“Why?” asked Pepper Jack Cheese.
“He needs to be healthy. He can’t stay at home and eat cookies all the time. We need to tell him that racing is healthy because it gets your muscles pumped up. Butter needs our help. Let’s go get him!”
“Okay,” everybody said.
They all ran to Butter’s house, and Coach Potato knocked on the door. “Hey, Butter! It’s me, Coach Potato.” Butter went to the door and opened it to see the whole crowd standing there. “Why did you bring them here? All they ever do is tease me,” Butter said.
“They all came with me to get you for the race. We won’t start without you.”
“I don’t want to go to the race. It’s not fun, and I’ll just get made fun of.”
“I am really sorry for teasing you,” said Wheat Bread.
“I am sorry for laughing at you. It wasn’t right,” said Dill Pickle.
“We didn’t know we were hurting your feelings,” said Pepper.
“I forgive you,” said Butter. “It is hard for me to run because I have short legs and slippery feet. I am always falling down.”
“We won’t tease you any more. Instead, we will help you,” said Pepper Jack Cheese.
“That’s great! We should get back to the race now. Let’s go,” said Coach Potato.
They all ran to the center of town and helped Butter along the way. Back at the starting line, Coach Potato yelled, “on your mustard, get ketchup, go!” This time everyone ran as fast as they could, including Butter.
“Now this is fun!” said Butter. He ran so fast that not only did he finish, he won the race!
Now instead of eating cookies, Butter runs with his new friends and enjoys being healthy.

BT's Subway Story Contest Entry

Well, I wrote last week that, Lord willing, I would post the boys' entries for the Subway, Every Sandwich Has a Story Contest. They each had to choose one of five different writing prompts and create a 500-word or less story from it. BT chose "There was a loud knock at the door, but when Salami Sam opened it..."

there was Dennis Lettuce, bouncing up and down! “Ken Turkey moved!” he screamed. Salami asked, “Why did…?” Just then, Dennis slammed the door and bounced away.
Sam was bothered by Ken’s disappearance, so he went to his thinking spot. He could not think of a reason for Ken to move, so he decided to investigate.
He rode his bike to Ken’s house, and when he got there, a car was in the driveway. “Dennis must be mistaken. Why would Ken leave and not take his car?” Sam thought. He knocked on the door, and there was no answer, so he went inside. Everything was gone except for one picture frame. Sam decided to go talk to some friends and find out what they knew.
“Well,” said Tom Pickle, Ken’s best friend, “I don’t understand what happened. Ken got on his bike earlier today and took off. He went toward Potato-town. Maybe you could go there and talk to a friend of ours named Jacques Fishstow.”
In Potato-town, Sam found 1850 Maple Street, the home of Jacques. “Have you seen Ken Turkey lately?”
“Funny you would ask, but he came zooming by my house earlier today on his bicycle. When I said ‘hi,’ he told me he had no time to talk and just kept on peddling. He was heading north, though, so if you keep on this road, maybe you’ll find him.”
Sam rode his bike for hours and thought he would never find his friend Ken. Then he saw a sign ahead that read “Kun- Turkey.”
“That’s it!” said Sam. “Kun-Turkey is where all the turkeys live!”
Sam asked around and had no trouble finding his turkey friend.
“I wanted to visit my relatives,” Ken explained, “and didn’t want to use my car. I decided it would be much healthier to ride my bike. When I got here, all the residents of Kun-Turkey were so impressed with my bike that they elected me President.”
“That’s great,” said Sam. “We should all make healthier choices. That’s why I always ride my bike. Let’s go celebrate your becoming president!” Ken and Sam rode their bikes back to Ken’s house and had a veggie-sandwich party.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Funny Story

With hurricanes/tropical storms moving across Florida, we have had numerous storms, tornado watches, and flood warnings here in Georgia. I knew we were under different advisories yesterday as Fay made her way up the coast, so I kept the t.v. on during the day to stay apprised of the weather situation.
At some point, the weatherman announced that our county was under a "flash flood warning." BT is a little skittish when there is bad weather. He heard this announcement and wanted to know exactly what that meant. Knowing that he probably had a Noah-and-the-ark mental image, I was quick to downplay the situation.
"Flash flooding is no real danger to us. They make that announcement when large puddles are forming, especially when they are forming on the roads," I said. "Drivers need to know that these puddles may be deeper than they think," I continued, "and they could get stuck if they are not careful."
"Oh," he said. "If that is the case, then they should just call them puddle watches."

Friday, August 22, 2008

Congratulations BT and Bruster!

I calculated the boys grades today. Both earned all A's except for one B. Good work guys.
They also get paid at the end of each six-week grading period for test grades, pages read, and final grades. They earned enough money today to buy two toys they have been wanting and put some in savings for next time.
I have enjoyed this six weeks with you, BT and Bruster. I am praying that the next six weeks will be just as profitable for you. I love you!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Year-Round School

We finished our first six weeks of school last Friday. During the first six weeks, the boys created a pop-up book about the first five judges of Israel, created maps for 12 U.S. states, and negotiated a compromise similar to America's Missouri Compromise among their Birdieland residents (see previous post on government project to better understand this). They completed the first half of their Grammar All-Stars tasks, wrote a short-story for the Subway writing contest (I will post these stories next week, Lord willing), and read 25 chapters of Little Pilgrim's Progress. They also learned about bodies of water and general information about aquatic creatures and more specific lessons on whales and created an ocean-life box. Plus there were many math skills, Spelling, Art, Latin, and Japanese. It was a really productive six weeks, and we met our goals in every area except for the study on Around the World in Eighty Days. I kept struggling to make time for it and had to re-evaluate, deciding it would have to wait for another unit.
Now we are enjoying a two week break. I have had time to give my house a thorough cleaning and close out the "business" end of the six-week unit. I have completed grades and calculating the money that I owe the boys for completing assignments and reaching goals. I have also had time to attend to responsibilities I hold within my local home school association. We even had a day to spend with our Nohnie (that's my mom's grandma name... long story) on a field trip. Next week I will use my days to get prepared for the next six-week unit.
I am really glad that I decided to start school in July and try the six-weeks-on, two-weeks-off approach. About week five we started to feel the burn but were able to see the light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak, and found it easier to persevere through the next week knowing a break was in sight. I am really glad to have this time off to regroup. I think we have found the school schedule that best suits our needs. I will post more on our year-round approach throughout the year.
I have added a poll about when everyone is starting or has started school. Scroll to the bottom of this page to find it and add your answer. There are 2 days left to answer. Have fun!

2008 Youth Birding Competition

I started this blog with many purposes, one of which is keeping a record of the birds we spot. this is a list of the birds the boys and their teamates identified in the Youth Birding Competiton in May.

Canada Goose

Brown-headed Nuthatch

Wood Duck

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher


Eastern Bluebird

Northern Bobwhite

Wood Thrush

American Bittern

American Robin

Great Blue Heron

Northern Mockingbird

Black Vulture

Brown Thrasher

Turkey Vulture

European Starling

Red-shouldered Hawk

Golden-winged Warbler

Red-tailed Hawk

Tennessee Warbler

American Kestrel

Northern Parula


Cape May Warbler

Spotted Sandpiper

Black-throated Blue Warbler

Rock Pigeon

Yellow-throated Warbler

Mourning Dove

Pine Warbler

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Prairie Warbler

Barred Owl

Black and White Warbler

Common Nighthawk

American Redstart


Prothonotary Warbler


Worm-eating Warbler

Chimney Swift


Belted Kingfisher

Louisiana Waterthrush

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Kentucky Warbler

Downy Woodpecker

Common Yellowthroat

Eastern Wood-pewee

Hooded Warbler

Great-crested Flycatcher

Yellow-breasted Chat

Eastern Kingbird

Scarlet Tanager

White-eyed Vireo

Eastern Towhee

Blue-headed Vireo

Chipping Sparrow

Blue Jay

Field Sparrow

American Crow

Grasshopper Sparrow

Fish Crow

Northern Cardinal

Purple Martin

Indigo Bunting

Tree Swallow


N. Rough-winged Swallow

Red-winged Blackbird

Bank Swallow

Eastern Meadowlark

Barn Swallow

Common Grackle

Carolina Chickadee

House Finch

Tufted Titmouse

House Sparrow

White-breasted Nuthatch

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Yellow Warbler

Black-throated Green Warbler

Thursday, August 14, 2008

101 Project Ideas

Below is a list of 101 ideas for your family to use in planning for our local home school association's annual Spotlight Night. A few of the ideas involve the use of technology. If anyone plans to go this route, please let me know so that I can confirm we will have the needed equipment available.

I have grouped the ideas by subjects of study. The last grouping is "General." These projects could be used to report on a variety of topics and could fit almost every subject.

Feel free to use the ideas in your homeschooling, even if it is not for spotlight night or if you are not a part of our local association. Also, feel free to ask questions or contact me through the comment option that follows this post.

I hope to see many of you on April 17. I anticipate a great night, filled with fellowship and fun. May God bless you all this school year.

Language Arts:
1. Write a book report.
2. Complete an author study.
3. Write an original poem.
4. Write an alternate ending for your favorite story.
5. Write and illustrate your own short story.
6. Recite a famous poem.
7. Compare and contrast two stories.
8. Write a short play.
9. Write a letter of reference for a fictional character.
10. Retell a story in your own words.
11. Write a biography.
12. Create a comic book or cartoon strip.

Visual and Performing Arts
13. Adapt a short story in dramatic form.
14. Perform a reader’s theater.
15. Play a piece of music on the piano or other musical instrument.
16. Perform a dance.
17. Display a painting.
18. Create a “Peter and the Wolf”-type adaptation of a children’s story using rhythm instruments.
19. Sing your favorite song.
20. Compose an original song and perform it.
21. Create a quilt and display it.
22. Display an outfit you have sewn.
23. Display a handicraft you have made.
24. Write in calligraphy and display your piece.
25. Perform a puppet show.
26. Paint a mural on a large piece of cardboard and display it.
27. Create an origami piece.
28. Create a pottery piece for display.
29. Perform pantomime.

30. Give a demonstration of a scientific principle.
31. Draw a nature sketch for display.
32. Propose and describe an idea for an invention. Create a model if possible.
33. Create a nature box.
34. Photograph images of nature and create a journal.
35. Make a model of a molecule, cell, or DNA.
36. Perform a science fair experiment and create a display.
37. Recreate a famous experiment.
38. Demonstrate an optical illusion.
39. Create a model of a volcano or plate tectonics.
40. Explain how a telephone, computer, or other equipment works.

Social Studies
41. Adapt a historical event in dramatic form.
42. Create a timeline.
43. Recite a famous speech.
44. Write a letter to a famous person.
45. Write a letter to an elected official and share it with the group.
46. Create a family history scrapbook and display it.
47. Paint a family tree.
48. Create a travel brochure for a city, country, or region.
49. Imagine that you are a travel guide. Prepare a simulated tour of a destination.
50. Pick a current event and conduct an opinion poll. Chart your results and present them.
51. Create a display for a history fair.
52. Write an interview for a person of historical significance. Have a friend portrait this person as you conduct the interview.
53. Perform a mock trial.
54. Draw a map or create an atlas.
55. Create a time capsule for the year 2008. Share the items you place in the capsule.
56. Carve a 3-D topographical map.
57. Demonstrate a procedure widely used by a particular cultural group (present day or historically). The teens did a great job of this at last year’s international festival demonstrating the embalming methods of ancient Egypt.

58. Write an original word problem. Demonstrate two different solutions to it.
59. Teach a math concept.
60. Draw a floor plan.
61. Create a sculpture or model using only geometric solids.
62. Create a math project display board.
63. Make a model of an instrument used in mathematics or science, for example, a pantograph or a telescope.
64. Research and give a presentation on the stock market. Try investing and give an annual report.

Foreign Language
65. Write and perform a dialogue in a foreign language.
66. Sing a song in a foreign language.
67. Perform a song in sign language.

68. Give a report on a mission project in which you have participated
or give a report on missionaries you support.
69. Give a report on a famous pastor, theologian, or missionary.

Physical Education and Health
70. Create a personal fitness plan.
71. Demonstrate a first aid procedure.
72. Create a recipe and bring samples of your delicacy.
73. Give a presentation on your favorite sport.
74. Present a cheerleading or team dance routine. NOTE: uniforms must be modest and routines must be in good taste

75. Create a lapbook.
76. Give a report using Power Point.
77. Demonstrate a two-man or Lincoln-Douglas debate.
78. Create a Venn diagram.
79. Create a portfolio of your best school work.
80. Build a model.
81. Teach a lesson.
82. Present a show and tell.
83. Create a research project.
84. Create a puzzle.
85. Create a board game.
86. Write a newspaper article.
87. Create a short movie.
88. Create a video report.
89. Create a news report.
90. Create an interactive game that teaches new information to the group.
91. Identify a problem and suggest a solution.
92. Create a video advertisement.
93. Create a print advertisement.
94. Give a presentation on your favorite extra-curricular activity.
95. Research a profession of your choice. Interview someone in the career-field and create a presentation on your findings.
96. Report on volunteer work you have completed.
97. Show pictures of your most recent vacation and describe your experiences to the group.
98. Present your favorite collection. (stamps, shells, etc.)
99. Create a diorama.
100. Create a chalk drawing.
101. Create a collage.

Gardening and the Home School

Home educating my children has been a lot like gardening. The first year I tried to "landscape," I was determined to match Martha Stewart's skill. I tried to plant at least thirty different varieties of plants, many that require experience and skill to grow. Can you guess what happened? Within a month, I had a yard full of brown, dried-up, bloom-less stems. I have taken this approach to my home schooling too... trying to cover too many subjects too quickly, stretching the boys and me to our limits. When I get caught in this mode, we always end up frazzled. I feel sucked dry, and the boys feel wilted.

In later years, my vision for my planters became more realistic. I filled them with easier-to-grow varieties and learned to pay attention to the best practices for growing them. I would carefully plant in the right spots in the yard, careful to give them just the right amount of sunlight. However, over the course of a few weeks, my interest would wain, and I would begin to neglect my poor plants. They would go days without water, and once again, my yard looked like the Addams family's. Likewise with home schooling, I can get bored, distracted, or over-committed to other activities and neglect my responsibilities. Once I get behind in my planner, I begin to feel like I will never catch up. Feelings of failure and guilt can overtake me.

At times I have felt so frustrated with my inability to garden that I have nearly given up on the idea altogether. I have seen other people's pristine, landscaped yards and wondered why I don't just give in and let a professional handle the job. What home schooler hasn't had this thought, "What was I thinking? I can't do this. Why don't I just send these kids to school?" I have a degree in education and three years professional teaching experience, and yet my thinking goes there from time to time.

This year I took a different approach to my flower garden. I kept it simple, planted impatiens (easy to grow), paid attention to my gardening methods, and committed to a watering schedule. All of the techniques I used to plant and to care for my flowers were learned over time, through my mistakes. Also, due to my new-found love of bird watching, I had a purpose for gardening, something I had not had in previous years. I wanted flowers to grow so that they would attract birds to our backyard. It is mid-August, and my planters are in full-bloom. For once, I have had success! Today, a hummingbird even visited, hovering over the pink blooms and diving in occasionally for a sip of nectar.

Isn't that what we long for in our homeschooling... our children growing and blooming, covered in the sweetness of Christ so that others would be drawn to Him like the hummingbird that visited us was to the nectar? This doesn't happen in the shadow of misguided goals or over-extended schedules. It doesn't happen when I beat myself up over mistakes or doubt my God-given abilities. Instead, I pray for grace and strive to "continue to live in Him. Keeping my roots deep in Him and having my life (and school) built on Him. Be strong in the faith, just as I was taught. And always be thankful." Col. 2:6-7

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Family Worship

During a prayer meeting at our church last week, I was surprised to hear my eight-year-old take a turn to pray for world missions. When I was his age, I am not sure that I even knew what a missionary was. I know that I would not have felt confident to pray among a group of adults for the Lord to "open the eyes of the blind and the ears of the deaf" as he did that night. The sweetness and honesty of his prayer was humbling for me and nearly moved me to tears. No doubt the Lord is at work in his young life, and I believe the source of this particular growth has been the practice of family worship.

One year ago, Michael and I committed to set aside a time each day for this, admitting that we needed to have a daily practice of seeking the Lord as a family. We wanted to do more than pray together at meals and read a short, scratch-the-surface devotion. We chose to meet in the evenings after dinner, as the mornings are too rushed and we thought this would be a good way to refresh ourselves from a tiring day.

We begin with a short prayer, asking the Lord to help us to understand his Word, to focus and to be well-behaved. We follow by working for about 10 minutes on scripture memory. We use Fighter Verses, a Desiring God publication. This mini-three-ring binder contains several hundred notecards with verses selected with the purpose of arming us with the Sword of the Spirit printed on each side. When my older son can state a verse by memory, I place a small sticker in the upper-left corner of the card. The upper-right is designated for my younger son, and the two bottom corners are reserved for Michael and for me. Whenever someone completes ten verses, the family is rewarded with a miniature soldier, also available from Desiring God Ministries.

Next, we sing two Psalms. We take turns picking which ones will be sung. If we need help with a tune, we go to Once or twice a week, we also sing a hymn (the same one throughout the month). Then, Michael teaches a lesson from the Gospels using the Veritas Bible curriculum. He follows their five-day format.

Finally, we take turns picking a country, and I read about the country of the night from Operation World by Johnstone and Mandryk. We color the country on an outline map and restate the prayer needs we read about, helping the boys state ways that they can pray. We then take turns praying for those needs and for anything else on our personal prayer request list.

We are really glad we made this commitment. There are nights that it is hard to be faithful, and there are nights that we have to shorten the lessons or reschedule. However, the Lord is maturing us, parents and children alike. I pray the Lord will continue to increase the Hays family's faithfulness and draw us closer to each other and to himself through the practice of family worship.