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The Time of Our Lives…

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DSC_0632 home

We’ve just spent a magical couple of weeks back home in Northern Ireland.  This photo was taken the day before we left, and we all found it hard to leave such a beautiful country and the equally beautiful people who live there.

Thank you all so much for all the lovely comments you have left over the past two weeks.  I’ll be answering them all as soon as we’ve returned to some sort of normality and look forward to catching up on all your blogs.

T12’s Electives For the 2014-15 school Year

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T12 is by far my most studious child.  Whilst he hates writing with a passion he truly loves to learn, and because of this is highly self motivated.  He would love to unschool and I suspect would thrive quite well learning independently anything that caught his interest.  However, he is certain he wants to go to university and is certain he will do it without getting into debt.  He is serious about his future and very willing to put in the hours to make it happen.

Elective wise he really had to try hard to limit himself to just a few subjects!  He has a lot of interests and a lot of learning he wants to do.   His problem is one of time or lack thereof .  Here is his (shortened) list of electives:

Photography

He has been interested in taking photos ever since his grand parents bought him a camera a few years ago.  He often asks to go for a walk so he can take pictures of all things nature related.  He wants to have some time each week to photograph and has asked to have a blog to showcase his pictures.  He also wants to begin entering competitions and so his goal is to improve both his knowledge and technique.  We did a lot of research between us to find something that would fit his needs.  The result is a hodgepodge of ideas, links and pins from which he will choose each time he does his photography each week.  The hodgepodge includes investigating these links and this pinterest board:

Space

T's display

I’m fairly certain his interest in space comes from all he is learning in his physics.  We have already completed the Apologia Astronomy course a few years ago, this time he wanted something much more in-depth.

T's demonstration

I found two sources of courses (!) which he will work his way through in tandem.  The first is this course which uses lots of information from NASA.  The second is a downloadable program of study especially designed for home schoolers containing photos which will go very well with the first course mentioned.  T will work through this course during his elective time at his own speed.  He has asked for it to be an interest led course, whereby he learns in the best way possible for him and I won’t be requiring any writing out of him, only what he wishes to produce.  As he will be doing a lot of writing in other studies I am happy to give him free rein on this.

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Cooking/Home skills

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T wants to learn how to cook and how to do so frugally, so that if he chooses to study at university away from home he will be able to produce large amounts of healthy food within his budget.  He has also asked to learn skills he may need around the house.  For this we are using the male version of the girls’ home making book:

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This looks like a really helpful book, and whilst he already has certain skills mentioned I think it will help make sure we cover the most important ones.  I took a photo of the contents for anyone who is interested:

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For his cooking, he wants to learn how to cook proper meals not baking.  For this we will be using a couple of Delia Smith’s books, although not the same ones his sister is using:

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Gardening

T12 and the girls worked on making room in our log pile for the new logs to be stored and seasoned

His last two options are gardening and finance.  We have already made the decision to garden together as a family and I think this will suit T really well.

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Last year he made elaborate plans for our garden and began but soon became overwhelmed by the tasks he had set himself.  This year he will have the whole family working with him and so hopefully he will feel like the garden is more manageable than he did when he was out on his own.  He has always enjoyed being out in the garden and has found it so helpful to counteract the effects of the ups and downs which accompany these hormonal years he is now in.  I am excited about working in our garden this year and learning alongside my son.

We will be covering finances in a unit study which incorporates the entire family.  I’ll be posting about that later on in the week.

L11’s Electives for the 2014-2015 School Year

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L11 is my calmer twin, who essentially takes after my mum.  She likes things to be just so and adores being in a strict routine.  She does not enjoy having her routine changed.  That said she is much better than she used to be and, with A6, is probably my most easy-going child.  L11 likes to know what her day holds, what our expectations of her are, and thrives when she is tootling along under her own steam but within the boundaries a routine gives her.  She is loving, patient and incredibly cuddly.  She will often turn so her back faces me and lean gently on me, asking me silently to wrap my arms around her.  She loves anything which requires her to use her hands – art, loom bands, jewellery making and drawing.  She and her sister spend hours drawing pictures with a constant dialogue flowing between them describing what is happening in their drawings, what each character is saying and doing, creating absorbing picture worlds.  They have done this since they could talk, the other almost always finishing off the sentence of her twin.  L11 is also incredibly sensitive, both in herself and towards other’s feelings.  She does not enjoy being teased and T, who is a natural tease, is very sensitive to how his words and actions affect her.  She enjoys a close relationship with all her siblings.

L’s electives for this year are: first aid, cookery, home making, art and learning more about money and finances (both of which I will share about in another separate post).

First Aid

L is a natural care giver.  She offers me cups of tea throughout the day, loves to prepare simple lunches for everyone, and is always the first to offer to cover someone else’s chores if they are ill.  Her choice of learning more about first aid did not surprise me.  She has shown an interest in nursing since a very young age and that was what she wanted to do until she discovered baking, and then art.  I was at a loss for a while what to use to fulfil this requirement.  Eventually I found this:

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The first is a DVD for basic first aid.  This DVD is used widely in the work place to teach first aid to workers when it is hard for the workers to get to courses.  The book is a DK book and looks very good.  My degree is in nursing, so I am particularly looking forward to seeing how she does with this (quite expensive) ‘curriculum’.

Cookery

This was of no surprise at all.  L is nothing if not consistent in her loves.  She enjoys baking thing the best and so she and A6 will be baking together each morning to make a snack for our morning meeting.  Whilst she is very willing to work alongside A6, she prefers to be in the kitchen alone.  She sees it as her domain and is not one she particularly likes sharing.  I think working with her little sister, who adores baking almost as much as she does, will be good character training for her!

In addition to her baking sessions each day with A6, she will also be using one afternoon a week to work her way through this series:

DSC_0403electivesShe has enjoyed making many recipes from this set of books but this time wants to work her way through them systematically.  The books really are fabulous and full to the brim of helpful tips for beginner cooks.  What we all particularly like about them is that the recipes are ‘grown up’ ones.  She will choose the recipe she wants to do, write a list of ingredients, cost them, buy them and then cook for the family with them.

Home Making

She and C11 will be doing this together.  I have bought them a set of these books each:

DSC_0396electivesI think if L had a different mother she would find this area much more natural than she does.  Sometimes more is caught than taught and I’m not good enough to have thrown very much her way which will be useful in this area.  However, I am always looking to improve and am quite looking forward to learning along side them.

Art

L already has water-colour lessons with a friend of ours (thank you Pat!), which she thoroughly enjoys.  I spent a long time coming up with something.  I am very creative, but not necessarily good enough at the drawing/ painting aspect of art to be able to pass anything on.  We had talked about her taking more formal art classes but they are very expensive where we live and therefore out of our budget.  I have found a video course which looks incredibly good and is usable for a year from the date of purchase.  It is fall based but I’m guessing we could modify it to fit with other seasons.  I showed L11 and she was very excited:

The Art of Fall: Mixed Media Art Course for Kids | Flourish | alishagratehouse.com
Source

And that’s it.  L is so looking forward to the year ahead, and rightly so!

C11’s Electives For the 2014-2015 School Year

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C11 is my vivacious, very quirky twin.  She is a lovely mixture of both Gary and myself.  She has her head permanently in the clouds (me), enjoys anything which includes yarn and material (me), is very musical with a really beautiful voice (Gary) and is really wonderful with young children, especially her little siblings who absolutely think the sun shines out from her.  She has kind of grown into herself this past year, as both she and L11 attempt to find their own identity away from each other.  L11 had found this much easier and in many ways C11 felt a little left behind.  This year, I believe primarily due to the singing lessons our talented friend gives her, she has found her niche apart from L11.  Over the following months she will be studying musical theatre during her lessons, which she is very excited about.

Apart from singing she also goes to another wonderful lady at our church once a week to learn how to patchwork.  She has already made pot holder and gorgeous pillow for me.  Currently she is making a runner for our table.  Again we are so blessed by the ladies in our community who are willing to give up their free time to sow into the lives of the next generation.  Thank you Pat and Leah!

C’s other electives are childcare, writing, blogging, home making, finances and she also asked to learn more about the bible.

Child Care

We had a chat about this and have decided that she will study the following book during her elective study periods:

child development

This was given to us by her babysitter, Emma.  In addition to this book she will also be teaching her youngest sister for half an hour each day.  She will research, plan and carry out her school based on the letter of the week.  She and B3 are very close and I think B will enjoy this time 1-2-1 with her sister hugely.

Writing/Blogging

She has decided to combine her love of writing with a blog and her interest in teaching youngsters.  I will be allowing her to start her own blog.  It is her plan to write stories for children and publish them on her blog.  She will also document all her learning she does with B3.  I am unsure whether to make this a public blog or not.  She is certain she wants it public because it will give her an audience for her writing, which is of course very important.  We shall see.  I think she probably has matured sufficiently this past year that the idea now doesn’t send chills or worry through me!

Homemaking

Both she and L11 were adamant they wanted to learn more home making skills.  I am all for this, especially as it will mean I can learn beside them.  On the recommendation of my friend across the seas, Donna, we bought a couple of the following books:

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I thought these would probably be a good fit simply because Donna and I seem to have similar ideas on lots of things.  I wasn’t disappointed either!  These are real treasures which outline the sorts of skills girls need to learn to one day run their own house (Shhhh, don’t tell anyone but I have hardly any of the skills mentioned!).  I’ll give you a peek into the contents of book:

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Bible Study

To meet C’s almost voracious need to learn more about the bible, we have (as you already know) begun the Who is God? Curriculum during our morning meeting.  We also try to have a bible study each Wednesday based on Proverbs 31 with Lorna (my badminton pal) and her lovely daughter Kelsey.  But the biggest change has been to use the older one’s quiet time to read some Christian books.  These aren’t traditional bible study books but are useful books to read, mull over and discuss:

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This has worked particularly well for C as she is able to read and chat over the books with both her sister and myself because L reads them as well, and I have already read them.  We have a huge selection of books for the girls to choose from and they are really enjoying this half an hour each day (plus all the other half an hours I catch them sneaking the book into the loo!)

So, there you have it.  C has an incredibly interesting, busy year ahead of her!

Angelicscalliwags Frugal Challenge: September sum Up

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Welcome to the September sum for our financial goal of paying of our mortgage in five years.  If you’ve been reading this blog for some time you will know that right now we are focusing on increasing our savings rather than paying off our mortgage.  We did this because we had a few bills come in at the end of last year/ beginning of this year for which we were totally unprepared (having thrown all our extra money into the mortgage).  We are currently trying to save up a few months worth of salary as a buffer.  And I am so glad we did manage to save some.

BREAD

This time of the year tends to be expensive with MOT, insurance and tax as well as everyone’s birthday falling between September and February, and then there is Christmas….  However, this year although the car cost more than we had in our car account (again) and we bought a year’s worth of unplanned curriculum for the children (needed thanks to the doctor sorting out my life long insomnia resulting in less hours in the day to do school planning than before when I had an extra six hours in my day/night), we have not needed to go into debt.  Sure our savings account does not look very, very cheerful at the moment but we are in an infinitely better position than we were this time last year.

First he made a fence around a small area of our garden, to partition some space off for picnics and the such.  An area the children will not be allowed to play in.

I began my squirrel account for squirreling away any extra money.  It’s only got £50 in so far, but it is open which was one of my goals last month.  We have decided this account will be for collecting money for our 0.1% challenge.  Our mortgage is thousands of pounds, and when Gary and I consider those thousands as a bulk amount they are enough to put us off even trying to pay off.  I read somewhere (I think mortgage free in three??) about saving up for just one thousandth of it.  The idea is you work out what one thousandth of your mortgage is (ie – for a mortgage of £50000 a thousandth is £50).  You then challenge yourself to come up with 1000 ways to make or save £50.  Suddenly paying off large amounts become doable.  This works for much, much larger mortgages as well.  Take a mortgage of £200000.  In order to pay the mortgage off in full you would need to find 1000 ways of making/saving £200.  Suddenly paying off the mortgage becomes eminently more doable, because of course £200 is far easier to find than £200000.  So this is what we are going to do.  By choosing not to buy something, or to go without something, or to earn something extra either by work or by selling an item and putting the money in our squirrel account we will be inching our way towards financial freedom.  Little amounts now mean big things to Gary and I.  In the future I will be looking for ways to save or make our very own 1/1000th!

T11's herb 'patch'

I wrote yesterday about our new group effort towards our garden becoming a veritable hotel for incoming insects and wildlife, but another goal is to grow even more next year than we did this year.

C10 herding her chickens in

All seven of us are enthusiastically on board and are hoping just a few hours each week will accomplish great things between us.  It’s always good to do things en masse and I think this will encourage the return of our enthusiasm for our Frugal challenge.  The ebb and flow of life dictates somewhat that one can’t be in a constant state of excitement over any given project but that is the state I prefer to be in.  I can’t bear apathy and lethargy in myself, and thrive when feelings and life are running strong!  I have begun a pinterest board of ideas for our garden.  I do find pinterest to be ever so motivating.  Of course I am unable to do about 99% of the things I pin but I enjoy the challenge of redesigning something to fit in our budget or circumstances.  It would be no fun at all if all the ideas were easily attainable.

Are they not just so beautiful, just like my girl.

Our 2015 One Year Nature Study Plans

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During 2013 and the beginning of 2014 we spent a whole 12 months carrying out a pond study.  It was a huge success and we found it so useful to be able to compare our pond from month to month; we also got to know the bird life so well they became like friends:

And proceeded to put on a magnificent show for us

We have watched the pond renovations take place and were able to compare before and after; we phoned for help when one of the ducks had been in a nasty fight; we watched the birds molt their feathers post mating and had the pleasure of watching two sets of moorhen chicks grow to adulthood and fly the nest.  It was all really rather special:

Our pond on a glorious summer's day

Over the past six months we have taken a break from formal nature study but still periodically visit the pond to visit with our old friends.

I had been wondering what to do for our next nature study.  I knew we all wanted to do something over the course of the year again, but where?  Near to our leisure centre is the most gorgeous river, which again has much bird life including a family of swans and five cygnet chicks.  We discussed it and decided the river it was….after which I completely changed my mind!  My family are used to my fickleness when it comes to making decisions.  My mind is so busy that it is inevitably onto the next thing before it has thought the first thing out to its proper conclusion.  In this case, I had simply come up with a better idea.

First he made a fence around a small area of our garden, to partition some space off for picnics and the such.  An area the children will not be allowed to play in.

We live in what is essentially a two bedroomed cottage, a large one, but nevertheless it probably wasn’t built to house seven of us with our three indoor pets.  We love our house and I rather like the challenge of looking for better ways to use the small amount of space we do have.  However, there is one area which is not space-challenged – our garden.  This is a garden which has so much potential.  Potential to play in, eat in, grow things in and so much more.  Thing is, it has been neglected these past few years.  Gary may enjoy spending his days tending to huge expanses of grass but once he gets home he quite understandably loses his enthusiasm for all things green and growing.  And our garden reflects that.  Even T, who really does love growing things, feels a little overwhelmed.

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My idea was simple and just plain good (even if I do say so myself!).  We would do a one year nature study in our back garden.  We would plan and plant up our garden with insect and nature loving plants.  We would create log piles, wormeries, bird tables, nesting boxes, butterfly gardens, edible gardens…..the ideas are endless.  We have so many books about this subject, and about organic gardening and the like, and a fabulous space to try out our ideas.  We already have a resident hedgehog family, as well as regular nightly visits from foxes (well, we do have chickens!) and lots and lots of bats.

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When I mentioned it to the children they were quite excited.  T rejoiced at having some support out there and maybe, possibly getting his freebie green house erected.  C was thrilled because it meant redesigning her hen area and getting some more hens.  L is kind of easy-going and I suspect if I suggested a nature study pertaining to the Tundra’s in outer Mongolia she would reply with a grin, a shrug of the shoulders and a ‘Sure, when do we leave!’.

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We spent one of Gary’s days off last week in the garden just clearing it.  Everybody groaned before I dragged them out (!), yet everyone, without exception commented how much they had enjoyed all seven of us being out there together and how much fun they were having.  Even I helped (I’m not known for my green fingered-ness) and I agreed – it was fun.  Hard work but it felt really, really good.  Best of all we got SO much done because we were working together as a team.  Since then we’ve begun to make our plans.

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We will be swapping our Monday afternoon foray to the leisure centre (one of their busiest times and therefore there are less activities available for the children to do) with a few hours in the garden, in addition to working most of Thursday after lunch, when Gary will be off work in lieu of working each weekend.  This really will be a proper family nature study, with the added benefits of being able to design our garden almost from scratch and beautify it in the process.  I just know this will be a time of building relationships, swapping ideas, giggling together and working hard towards a common goal which will benefit not only us directly, but neighbours, friends and of course the wildlife who will come to share our beautiful spot in the world.

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2014-2015 School Year: 11-13 year olds – The Three R’s

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Before Christmas: End of 2014

This side of Christmas we will be finishing off our study of the Ojibwe Nation.  So far we are enjoying the very comfortable route of typical Angelicscalliwags Homeschool.  We all really love how we naturally school: DSC_0326dollsclothes The main problem is that I don’t have the same amount of time to school plan since I started to sleep better.  I have needed to look at how I home school and choose some curricula to help me along, and hopefully reduce the amount of school planning I am required to do.

After Christmas: 2015

I put a great deal of thought and time into choosing curriculum which will help us meet our academic needs as well as decrease the planning time required for me.  The thing is I still want to remain a huge part of the older ones school work.  After much discussion with them and with Gary I think we have found something which meets all our needs and requirements.  And I really am quite excited (yes, I know – not much change there!).  So without further ado, here are my plans for each child each morning.

Session One: 9-930am

T 12 will be doing his maths.  He will be working through the last few chapters of Galore Park Book Two and beginning Book Three.  We had taken him back a book to cover some algebra that his Saxon maths hadn’t covered.  He really likes this curriculum and being British I know he is on the right track for his exams.  Once he has finished Book Three we will begin him on a GCSE curriculum.

L 11 will be spending the first session with A6 in the kitchen making a (hopefully healthy) snack for our morning meeting.  It will either be a Letter of the Week snack or a Cat in the Hat themed snack.  L will allow her to be as independent as possible and they will both tidy up after themselves.  L11 will be planning, writing a shopping list, costing and shopping for the snack herself during her free time.

C11 will be doing her maths.  The two girls are working their way very slowly through Galore Park Book One.  They both find maths hard but now understand there is no pressure.  Taking off any pressure has stopped maths being this huge thing.  It is now a small thing, just for half an hour each day and they will both plough away until they are ready to take their GCSE.

Session Two: 930-10 am

T12 will continue with his maths.  He is hoping to take his maths GCSE a little early and so has chosen to do one hour of maths each day.

L11 will now do her half hour of maths using the same book as her sister.

C11 has asked to be allowed to spend half an hour teaching her youngest sibling.  She is very interested in child care.  She will plan and teach the lesson, which will be chosen from Letter of the Week curriculum.  One day per week she will venture into the kitchen with B3 and make the same Cat in the Hat snack L11 and A6 made just before them.

Session Three: 10-11 am

This will be the time for our morning meeting.  We usually have tea and toast, but this year L11 and A6 will be making some delicious easy peasy snacks.  We’ll probably all still have a cup of steaming tea though! I will be reading aloud a fiction and non fiction book based on our current studies.  I will have the children narrate back to me what I have read and we will discuss whatever needs to be discussed as it comes up. I will also be reading through the Who is God? Curriculum and the children will be filling in their own note books which I bought from the same company: DSC_0066mm

Session Four: 11-12 noon

I think this is the session both the children and I are looking forward to the most – writing.  I bet that surprised you, didn’t it?  Yes, even T with his aversion for all things which require a pencil, is quite excited about this.  And what has caused this transformation?  Well, take a look: DSC_0378olderoneschool Our new curriculum.  For those of you who have never heard of Cover Story, it is the prelude to the One Year Adventure Novel, where the student writes an adventure novel in one year.  Cover story takes the students through the process of writing all the articles required to write a magazine.  It is video taught, with a gorgeous journal AND a student notebook, all included.  It comes with a grammar program attached. The children will work through three lessons a week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday) and we will be studying Shakespeare on a Thursday.

Each lesson takes a varying amount of time so if the children have any time left during this session, they will be using it to begin All About Spelling.  I am a bit late coming to this curriculum but I decided it is probably time to give the children a more solid grounding in spelling rules.  They will start from Level One and hopefully work their way quickly through each level.  In general they are good spellers but T is missing one or two rules so always spells certain words incorrectly.  I am hoping following a systematic program from the start will be helpful.

Lunch Time/ Chores and Quiet Time: 12-1 pm

The children eat lunch, do a quick kitchen tidy and then have quiet time.  I will be writing a post about the books they are reading, but basically this is a time for some bible based learning, although primarily through devotional books, sometimes fiction, sometimes general teaching books or autobiographical books and other times more question and answer books.  It has been a good opportunity to learn more about our faith in a relaxed, alone time.  T in particular enjoys having this time for mulling over what he has read and will often reread a book until he is certain he understands its message.

Afternoon school

This will be changing each day and I will be doing a separate post on our history plans, the children’s electives and our nature study plans.

Extracurricular Activities

T12 goes to  morning Sunday school and is on the rota to serve at church in the evening services by setting up and running the AV system.  He usually goes to the gym three times a week, swims every day, twice on a Wednesday, plays badminton with friends on a Wednesday and fences later on Wednesday evening.  He also walks the dog each morning.  This excessive activity is done with the purpose of balancing out his hormones.   He knows if he exercises heaps he sleeps better, feels calmer and generally able to face the world with a huge smile rather than a huge frown! He also sings with a youth choir on a Tuesday evening, after which he does a couple of hours of Physics GCSE with a friend and her rather wonderful dad.  Physics also features for a couple of hours Saturday morning and he then goes with the rest of the family (bar me) to the fun inflatables at the swimming pool.

L11 goes to morning Sunday school and serves in the evening service by making sure the band are well served with teas and coffees.  Gary usually leads and he is particularly grateful for being looked after.  She also goes to the gym a couple of times a week, swims most mornings and does an hour and a half of gymnastics on a Wednesday.  She sings in the youth choir and goes to the fun inflatable time with the rest of the family on a Saturday.

C11 goes to morning Sunday school and serves in the evening service by looking after a disabled lady who is wheel chair bound.  She serves her in any which way she can.  She also sings in the youth choir and in addition has singing lessons in musical theatre and basic singing.  She loves to sing and can’t wait to be invited up to join her Daddy in the band at church.  C11 plays badminton with friends on a Wednesday, swims every morning and twice on a Wednesday, goes to the gym a couple of times a week as well as joining the rest of the family in the pool on Saturday for fun inflatable time.

On Wednesday evening the girls have a friend and her mummy round for bible study.  This seems a misnomer at the moment because since the summer they have been playing more than studying the bible, but we will get back to our bible study which in the past has included art journaling our way through Proverbs 31: DSC_0379olderonesschool The children, in addition to daily chores, are responsible for cleaning out the rabbits each week (L11), the hens each week (C11) and cleaning the car each week (T12).  This happens on a Saturday.  Saturday evenings tend to be family film night along with a treat to eat, and this year we will also have a family games night on a Thursday (we have tried this before but it has never been done with any regularity- maybe this is our year?).  The purpose of this is to give the older ones some undisturbed time with Gary and myself without the littles around, thereby giving them opportunities to discuss things that we or they may not want little ears to hear.

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