Saturday morning I splurged on a scroll saw and we spent the entire weekend making our own wooden toys. Elon, in particular, showed immediate talent for the work and cut out piece after piece almost flawlessly. He didn't even break any blades!

I drew the patterns, he cut them out and we all took turns sanding. I experimented with both wood burning (hated it!) and a water color wash on a few pieces, but will need to play around with some other paint ideas this week. It's definitely an addicting new hobby!

As I mentioned in this week's weekly report, we will be adding a study of Shakespeare to our Fine Art Fridays schedule this year. The basic lesson plans are posted at Serendipity, but I've made a few adjustments to better suit our needs. Our schedule will be as follows:

September: Biography of Shakespeare
October: The Globe Theatre
November: Macbeth
December: Twelfth Night
January: The Winter's Tale
February: Romeo and Juliet
March: Hamlet
April: The Tempest
May: A Midsummer Night's Dream

Here are a few helpful general resources:

This week marked the beginning of a new school year in our home. Because we've all been eagerly awaiting the start of school, I had naively anticipated a smooth, relatively "easy" week of learning. The reality, I'm afraid, was quite a bit different!

First day of school schultuete

Here's what we accomplished...

Every morning we began with a reading from Saints for Young Readers for Every Day, and the corresponding art from Saints: A Year in Faith and Art. Since we're new to the Catholic church this year, on Monday morning I also had to give the children a brief lesson on saints and why they're important to us.

I realized at the last minute that in all of my earnest planning for the month of September, I'd completely neglected this last week of August. Oops! So, there was no further morning basket work prepared, but I compensated for this by reading the story of Grimble from Noisy Outlaws, Unfriendly Blobs, and Some Other Things... This actually worked out perfectly since the story recounts Grimble's adventures every day during a week, so on Monday we read "Monday," Tuesday we read "Tuesday," etc. We all loved the story, and I've since ordered copies of the complete Grimble and Grimble's Christmas.

Each morning after I read, we completed a lesson from Spelling Wisdom and Catholic Heritage Handwriting, followed by some additional language arts work (worksheets and review). I realized on Wednesday that Rod & Staff will no longer work for us, so placed an order for Hillside Education's Intermediate Language Lessons (for the 4th/5th graders) and Lingua Mater (for the 7th grader). I'll be supplementing these with Imitation in Writing: Fairy Tales, Easy Grammar 5 (for the 4th/5th graders) and Easy Grammar Plus (for the 7th grader) We'll also be taking a much needed "time out" to read Grammar-Land and brush up on the parts of speech.

In math, everyone picked right up where they had left off last year except Dominic. He's in seventh grade this year and seems to have totally and completely forgotten how to do fractions. I, unfortunately, was not much help because I was in such a state of total exhaustion this week, between working full-time and homeschooling, I couldn't think clearly enough to explain it in a way that made sense to him. So...we'll be looking into a supplement for fraction review before proceeding with his math. Thankfully there was a post about this very topic on the Well-Trained Mind forums this morning!

We did not start on Latin this week because the kids will be going on a trip with their great grandparents next week and will miss several days of school over the next two weeks. I figured it would be easier to start after their trip to minimize disruption.

Hard at work!

For our Tapestry of Grace work (Year 1, Unit 4, Week 28), I ran into a major snag with scheduling, though I didn't realize it until after we started. Essentially, we wound up doing all of our history and Bible reading, map work and time line work on the first three days of school. I suppose this would normally be okay, but I also heavily supplemented this week because I found the first week's materials to be lacking. So the kids ended up doing a ton of work for three days (working well into the evening!), and by Thursday, we had little to do except discuss and review and assemble this Roman arch set. This week we learned about the geography of Italy and Rome, the Etruscans and read the accounts of Jesus' birth in both Matthew and Luke.

Thursday evening I sat down and began work on a new schedule for TOG, dividing the reading out over the entire week (as Sonlight would). I'm not sure why it didn't occur to me to do that in the first place, but after nearly killing the kids with reading, research work and everything else, I think the new schedule will be much more user-friendly!

For science, we unintentionally spent quite a bit of time outside every morning and evening, observing nature in our own backyard. We've had such unseasonably cool weather the past few weeks, it's been great! As a result of our observations, we learned a number of things.

1) The pumpkins have started! This year we planted only heirloom varieties: Long Island Cheese, Musquee de Provence, Rouge Vif d'Etampes, Fairy Tale, and Galeux d'Eysines. As usual, we planted way too many seeds, way too close together, but they seem to be doing okay so far:

Elon thinks we should distribute pumpkins to all of our neighbors if we wind up with too many (which we very well may!).

2) On Monday, we observed a hawk circling over the forest behind our house and read a little about them online.

3) On Tuesday, we found this differential grasshopper on the sunflowers and brought him indoors to spend the day with us. We named him "Henry" (because he seemed quite distinguished) and spent the entire day observing him. We also read all about grasshoppers online and in the Handbook of Nature Study.

4) When we released Henry back to his sunflower home Tuesday evening, Elon caught a cicada. We kept the cicada overnight, and read about them as well. Sadly, we had to release it before we got a picture Wednesday morning. The boys were using it to terrorize Maddie and she's deathly afraid of them!

5) Thursday we found this on our parsley plant:

Unfortunately I couldn't get a macro picture of her (him?) because my camera was recently dropped in a cup of coffee and no longer works, and my husband's camera is super fancy & impossible for me to master. Anyway, we identified her as a Black Swallowtail Caterpillar (aka "parsleyworm"). She was promptly named "Cornelia" and put in a jar with a bunch of parsley.

This morning Maddie found the jar with the lid screwed on tight and a seemingly lifeless caterpillar inside. Much drama ensued until we realized that the caterpillar wasn't dead, but transforming into a chrysalis.

When we returned from our nature walk today, mere hours later, the transformation was complete! I guess we'll stick it in the fridge until spring and see what happens. Naturally, we then had to learn about black swallowtail butterflies, in addition to a number of things we discovered on our nature walk.

Today, we got very little school work done since our nature walk lasted all morning. I foolishly allowed myself to be talked into the walk before our lessons were done; never again! We finished up "Grimble" and spent some time reading about Tasha Tudor for Tasha Tudor Day. I had planned an elaborate dinner and an art lesson in her honor, but after soccer practice everyone was much too tired. In the future, we will be on a four day schedule and reserving Fridays for our nature explorations, field trips, fine art, and Shakespeare Fridays.

So, that was our week ~ not as horrible as it could've been, though not as wonderful as I'd hoped. I'm greatly looking forward to a fresh start next week!

After our break, we started on the second trail...

The second trail had a lot of spider webs!

They were instructed to observe the logs that we found (looking for signs of life), and in particular, to look for fungi:

Eventually we found a clearing, and the road back to the car...

On the way back, the boys found a mud puddle full of tiny frogs:

And Elon spotted some deer tracks:

Finally, we were happy to return to the car after a very full morning of exploring!

For our first Friday nature walk, we chose a spot close to home. It's a well-hidden area that few people are aware of, which makes it the perfect location to observe nature.

Before hitting the trail, we explored a portion of the beach along the Arkansas River. Elon was quick to spot these badger tracks:

Next we started on the first of two trails through the woods...

We observed bark patterns on trees...

And marveled over these huge hairy vines, which we later found out were poison ivy (the "hairs" being the vines' aerial roots):

We mostly slid down this hill (which is much steeper than it looks!) to get to the beach again...

Maddie collected shells:

And we spotted more animal tracks:

Elon was also thrilled to find a few holey rocks. We climbed back up to the trail and resumed our walk...

I challenged the kids to find some wildflowers (though we couldn't identify these):

Soon we came to a clearing...

And found two more types of wildflower:

We also found this:

Plains Prickly Pear (I had no idea there were cactus on the prairie!)

We took a quick break before starting on the second trail...

To be continued...