Meeting my online friend!

Leslie is an online friend with whom I’ve been corresponding for over 4 years now! I met her on the Five in a Row message boards.  We started emailing when her daughter was born with Down Syndrome and have continued since then through many things. We had a meeting set up a year or so ago when Robert was working near her, but they ended up with a stomach bug so we didn’t get together. On July 4th they were on their way through on vacation and we did a very last minute visit at ChickFilA. Her sweet husband was so patient to let us visit for a while!

The kids had a great time playing and Jacob wanted to know “if these were just friends we’re going to meet once and never see again?” He doesn’t like that part of making new friends with people who don’t live here. 
 So nice to finally meet you and your clan, Leslie!

Salamander Room

We finally  rowed Salamander Room!  This is a book I’ve wanted to do for three years, but each time it is planned the week before I go to the beach and has never actually happened.  This year I finally learned the lesson about my poor planning and was determined to get it done.  I knew Jacob would be too old for it next year.   It also fit in perfectly with our camping weekend in the Smokies!
We started the week with our field trip: salamander hunting!  Did you know the the Great Smoky Mountains are the salamander capital of the world?  Thankfully, we had Robert with us to help us catch the little slimy buggars.  I will say, I did catch one and I was quite proud of it.
Of course, Mattie was all over this.  She loves to dig in the dirt, play in the water and carry around live things some of us don’t care to touch.

All of the ones we caught were Dusky Salamanders.

They must have all been at the same part in their life cycle, because they were all about 3 inches long.
It’s always more fun with Daddy!
(Um, how did he get so big?)
Mattie has always tagged along for our reading time, but she’s been joining us with some work lately in school. She loves to copy words, cut, color and of course, glue (things her brother would prefer to avoid at all costs).   
Jacob preferred to record his salamander info this way.  It was a report of sorts, and he did a great job on it! (Thanks for both of those printables!)
There is another FIAR blogging mom who has her kids copy the illustrations sometimes.  I’ve never done this before, but I thought I’d give it a shot.

Jacob complained and thought his was horrible, but I think he did a great job!
I was pretty shocked at Mattie’s!  I know she’s no Monet or anything, but I thought she did a good job noticing the details in the illustration and making an attempt.
We finished by creating and painting clay salamanders!

Five in a Row Schedule

So here are the books that remain in Volumes 1-3 for us to “row.” I’ve saved the ones that have deeper topics (like war, slavery, immigration, etc) on purpose, so some of the more mature ones are the ones we have left. We will not have rowed every single Five in a Row book after we complete this list, but the ones I’ve chosen for us to do.

Volume 1
The Rag Coat
Who Owns the Sun? (This is my favorite book of all of the FIAR ones. It’s written by a teenager and is an amazing book!)
Grandfather’s Journey
The Giraffe that Walked to Paris (This wasn’t one of my favorites, so we might skip it.)

Volume 2
A New Coat for Anna
Mirette on the Highwire
They were Strong and Good
Babar, to Duet or not to Duet
All those Secrets of the World
The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge
Follow the Drinking Gourd (I love this one too!)
When I was Young in the Mountains
Gramma’s Walk
Wild Horses of Sweetbriar

Volume 3
Daniel’s Duck
Henry the Castaway
Climbing Kansas Mountains
Little Nino’s Pizzeria
Truman’s Ant Farm
Salamander Room

Now I just have to research the topics a bit so I can plan my schedule. A trip to New Jersey would afford some great field trips for They were Strong and Good, The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge, and Grandfather’s Journey. Ellis Island is one of my favorite places to go for some odd reason. I’d love to take Jacob there, though he’ll be quite a bit older before he’ll really get it. And Salamander Room, and Henry the Castaway and some of the others are good during certain seasons, so I have a bit to think about.

I look forward to having a long term plan… it helps me feel like we’re getting somewhere! I know too though that things will come up and it will change. It always does!

And then once we’re finished with these books, I think we’ll move to the Volume 4 ones for what will be Jacob’s 3rd grade year. They are more involved and encouraged to study for 2 weeks as opposed to just one. But I have some other ideas brewing as well… we’ll see.

How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World

Our week with apples!

We started off with a visit to the Apple Orchard with some friends. At this orchard, they feed all the kids an apple fritter and some fresh cider. I think this is the first time ever I’ve let Jacob eat something where I didn’t know the ingredients. He’s been doing better with reactions lately, so I thought I’d give it a try. He wasn’t too keen on the fritter, so he just had a few bites and seemed to do just fine. I also let him have a piece of taffy where I knew corn syrup was the first ingredient. He did notice that he was having the same thing as everyone else and was very happy about that.

Mattie LOVES these two little friends!


We spent a day painting at home which of course was a hit. Jacob used the apples to make apple prints. Mattie used the apples to paint her hands. Go figure!

And Jacob wanted to make his own apple tree as well.


Our Taste Test

This was part of dinner one night. I’d never heard of some of these varieties, but we enjoyed them all!


And of course, you can’t do this unit without making apple pie! (Why did I assume apple pie was hard??) Ours was delicious, though Jacob wasn’t much of a fan. He said, “Um, Mom? This isn’t as good as I thought it was going to be.” Oh well, more for us!

This was our first week back to organized unit studies after a crazy summer of unschooling like units. It was good to be organized again (though I have no idea what we’re starting tomorrow!) and have something to show for our learning.


I realized I stopped before I added our applesauce pictures!

I’ve never made applesauce before, so we went to Grandmama’s and she helped us out.

It was very yummy!

Our week with Lentil

We studied Lentil the week around July 4th. This was a favorite of both of my kids! We had checked it out form the library, and by the end of our study, I found out I had won this book in a drawing of sorts (thank you!!) so we’d have our own copy. Jacob was very excited!

We used Lentil to kick off a bit of a whirlwind US History unit. While we were reading this, we began History for Little Pilgrims (again) and reading one chapter a day, are only one chapter away from the revolution. Then this week we’ll study Paul Revere. I have been feeling like Jacob needed some sort of US History concept fairly soon, so this has been perfect.

This week we learned about our flag’s history, patriotism, and choosing cheerfulness.

Then one of our most fun activities was a study on taste buds and sweet, sour, bitter, salty. We set up potato chips, raw sugar, vanilla, and lemons.

All three boys loved the sugar, of course!

This little guy obviously isn’t ours (he’s one of Jacob’s favorite playmates), but I couldn’t resist posting this one! In spite of the taste bud reaction causing his facial expression, he kept sucking on his lemon!

Then we talked about how we put vanilla in all of our cookies, cakes, homemade ice cream, etc and how good it makes all of our baked goods! Each boy had a spoon of vanilla (just a few drops) that they were quite eager to taste!

Here’s their immediate reaction! I guess they didn’t like “bitter” after all!

Peter Rabbit Watercolor

Just in case you wonder why I don’t post much about school lately… ummmmmm… we’ve really been enjoying Spring! We’ve been doing a lot of spontaneous things outside: discovering what kinds of trees we have in our yard, looking the different seeds, finding worms, noticing all the different flowers, learning about native trees. Lots of stuff that I’m not planning!

Over a three week period we completed our Peter Rabbit unit from FIAR. We took it nice and slow, because we started it the day after I counted our school days and realized I only had 25 left. Anyway, this was our second time with Peter Rabbit and it was great fun! We focused n different things this year. Last year we focused on botany and gardening. This year we focused on rabbits, art, England, and consequences. This is a great site with a lot of Beatrix Potter fun! And we read almost all the way through the beautiful Beatrix Potter The Complete Tales Mattie received as a gift this Christmas. That was very fun to do together – Mattie listened to a lot of the stories as well! Beatrix Potter is definitely a favorite of ours.

Jacob working hard on his painting

Since Beatrix Potter’s illustrations were done in watercolor, one day we pulled out our watercolors. Jacob drew his picture first using the I Can Draw Animals book. (Little shameless plug for my Usborne-selling SIL there!) Then he painted it with his watercolors. I coached him and reminded him about being neat, try to stay in the lines, and painted one little bunny’s mouth to show him what to do, but this is his work. He really enjoyed it.

Peter Rabbit, Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and Mrs. Rabbit in front of their fir tree

Very Last First Time

This is the Five in a Row book we did this past week. I think it was one of our favorites; it was one of mine anyway. We read many books about the Inuit (an Eskimo people group) people and focused on the Canadian arctic.

We looked at the Inuit language and figured out (as best I could) what Jacob’s name would look like. We also found a website where we listened to a young boy say some words in the Inuit language.

We also learned about which animals live in the Canadian Arctic and how they relate to each other (nice way of writing “which ones eat each other”). Jacob said, “Mom, isn’t that just called the food chain?”

Here is a mural Jacob did this week too. (It’s 5 feet x 2 feet!) We printed the pictures from Jan Brett’s website, then Jacob colored them the appropriate colors. We also took this opportunity to learn about shading and perspective. Then Jacob glued them all where he thought they should go.

One of the fun things about this book is that several of the illustrations contain hidden animals. So Jacob and I went to a local restaurant (edited to add: Captain’s Galley for you local folks) and looked at the mural in their entryway that also contained hidden animals. We found them all! (And yes, I think the hostesses and nearby customers thought I was quite strange taking pictures of the mural and Jacob. I’m sure they thought I was really wierd when we left without eating!) This was also a great time to look at this artist’s perspective and shading since I don’t see us in an art museum anytime soon. We tried that once…

The story line of Very Last First Time is a young Inuit girl going under the ice to look for mussels for the first time without her mother. At the climax of the story, her candles burn out and she can’t find her way back to the hole in the ice, but the tide is coming in. Jacob could not understand why she would be afraid, so we finally made this to demonstrate that when the tide came in, she’d either drown or freeze to death in the water. Pretty grim, but he finally got it.

And at the end of the book, Eva finds the hole in the ice and dances in the moon’s rays shining through it. Right as we read that we glanced outside and saw this in the clouds! It was the only hole in the clouds thickly covering the entire sky, and it was perfect just for us!

And Jacob has been using the How To Draw books lately. (This one actually came in a recent magazine.) He’s really enjoying these and building his drawing confidence this way. And yes, polar bears actually appear a very light yellow. Their hair is actually hollow… never knew that!

This was just a sweet book we read along this week.

And another great book that Mattie received as a gift for Christmas! This is a new book of Jan Brett’s. Jan and her husband actually visited a Canadian Inuit village that became the inspiration to retell and illustrate this book. Read about her trip here!

Our Day with the Sheep

Another pioneer activity… a field trip to some sheep! We spent quite a bit of time learning about sheep and their importance to pioneer families. We rowed the book Warm as Wool. This was one of my favorite Five in a Row books so far, I believe. Several months ago when I checked out all of the Five in a Row books to read through, it was one of my favorites.

I have a friend who has done a lot with animals and now works at a vet’s office, so she set us up with an up close and personal field trip to see some sheep. We weren’t quite sure what to expect, but it turned out one of the most hands on field trips we’ve had yet! And when we got there, we were surprised to see chickens and pigs as well!

A senior in high school, Thomas, was our host. He got into sheep breeding and showing through 4-H, and it has made him quite a bit of money! (It’s paying his way through college & vet school and has provided him a very nice truck!) Who knew?? He has about 50 sheep, 30 chickens, 2 pigs and sheepdogs. I decided this is the way to keep your high school boys out of trouble. He can’t possibly have any free time! (He goes to public school, so this is not part of his schooling.) Thomas breeds sheep, sells them for slaughter, shows sheep and pigs, raises chickens, breeds sheepdogs for sale, travels to other farms to shear sheep (he can shear 25 in a day). He says in the summer he works 18 hours a day.

The ewes just hanging out.

This is one seriously bad hair day, but I’m sure she was a lot warmer than any of the rest of us!

One of the rams. One interesting point Thomas made… He said, “If you have good rams, you have good lambs. The ewes don’t matter nearly as much.” Not to be self-depreciating, but it goes along with the Lord’s metaphor quite well. And I think we’ve all seen very clearly that a Godly, strong, man of integrity will make a huge difference in a child’s life.

Two little lambs who certainly deserve a good ram in their life.

The newest baby on the farm with his momma.

Mattie thoroughly enjoying Sampson. She would have stayed there all day!

All the kids getting their hands on the black sheep Thomas had. Thomas also showed us how he sheared the sheep, invited us back to watch him shear in the spring, and let us have some handfuls of wool to bring home!

Mattie loving the pigs. Thomas informed us (not thinking about the 5 year olds in our crew) that these pigs had a short life ahead of them. They were to be killed the following week. Apparently in Tennessee, you have to kill a pig within one week of showing it. Where’s Charlotte when we need her?? (Well, she’s dead, I know, but how about Joy or Aurania??)

Here’s the famous rooster that apparently models for all the kitchen decor.

That seems to be one big rooster!

Our happy girl! Lots of pics of her this time, I know, but she loves animals!! And, hey, she’s cute!

And Jacob in his 100% wool sweater. Thankfully it was cold enough to wear it this day; he was insistent!