Today marks day 64 of the school year for my oldest boy.  This is his 9th grade year, his first year of high school and his first year of keeping grades for a transcript.

Some parts of planning for this year were difficult.  Others not so much.  You see, I've been through this before and have sent my daughter off to college already.  She is in her first year and doing quite well! I'm really proud of her.

My other boy is only 3!  There's not so much planning for the three-year old...though my eagerness has kept me exploring and I have peeked at several preschool and kindergarten curriculums but am heavily leaning towards a Charlotte Mason approach for him.

But back to my oldest!

This year we determined to start with 5 major classes:  English 9, Biology with a Lab, American History, Algebra II, and Russian.

English is always my favorite subject to plan!  I love reading and I love writing so what's not to love about planning English?  I do not like curriculums that lay everything out for English because I like to fiddle with things too much and make it more personable and meeting the needs of my child.  But I have dealt with such curriculums in the past for various reasons.  This year, I again chose a mixture.  For Literature, we are using the Gold Book of the Learning Language Arts through Literature Curriculum.    I chose the Gold Book because it ties into American History.  In the beginning, I was all for having him do the whole book and was excited about him being introduced to short stories.  But then I read some of them....   🙁     I knew darn well these were not going to be his cup of tea.  Classic literature or not, if he wasn't going to enjoy it at all, he wasn't going to learn.  So I fairly quickly ditched that part of the set-up.  (We'll try short stories another time, perhaps, if I can find some modern stories that he could relate to.)  Instead, I made a book list (oh how I LOVE creating book lists!).  In addition to the three books that the Gold Book incorporates (The Pearl, The Old Man and the Sea, and The Red Badge of Courage), I decided to introduce him to at least one Shakespeare.  We will be reading The Tempest.

Selecting which Shakespeare play to begin with was probably the hardest part of the book list!  But with much researching and asking of friend's opinions, The Tempest it will be! I'm looking forward to it as this is one I actually have not read myself yet. Additional required books on his list are:  Rifles for Waite, The Outsiders, Johnny Tremain (we read this one a long time ago as a read-aloud but I felt it fit with his American History and he may enjoy it more now that he's older), and My Side of the Mountain.  In addition to these, he gets to choose 8 for himself with the only rules that one must be about our Orthodox faith and they all must be pre-approved by myself.  I have a feeling he will be reading the new Diary of a Wimpy Kid book soon since it was just released, but this one will NOT count towards the required reading!!  The Gold Book, in addition to providing background information and questions for the three books it covers, also has a poetry unit.  Three poems are assigned for reading for each poet the book covers along with comprehension type questions.  It seems to give a good overall view of the elements of poetry and develops skill for analyzing literature.

For the writing part of English, we are using IEW.  My son watches the video lessons presented by Andrew Pudewa and follows through with the assignments.  I think his writing has improved a great deal.  We are also using IEW's Fix It Grammar program as a nice review.  My son completed the Analytical Grammar program last year and,quite frankly, that program covered things so well that I truly  don't think he will ever need much in grammar ever again!

Biology was another easy choice.  It's his 9th grade year and the local co-op provides a lab for biology every few years....this being the year for it!  The course is through the Apologia Curriculum.  I love Apologia. It truly prepares the student for college level science but keeps the Christian worldview focus.  Science does NOT have to be all evolution.

American History was a little bit trickier to choose.  My son is not a lover of history.  He doesn't hate it.  But it's not a huge interest.  So I wanted something that may present things differently... not a typical dry textbook and not something that was only going to quickly go over the basics without grabbing any interest.  After much debate, we chose Exploring America by the Notgrass Company.  Of course, we've done some adapting.  The curriculum is cumulative in that it incorporates reading and bible into the history.  We are only using it for the history.  This means he's not doing the literature books they recommend, primarily because I knew they would never be books he would choose for himself and it wouldn't have left room for me to select books I felt he should read.  In addition to skipping the literature, we skip the bible lessons as well - they are of a protestant nature and I don't feel they are necessary to comprehend the history lessons.  We are Orthodox Christians and we read plenty of bible and faith related material without adding this aspect to it.  I here that part of the curriculum is actually done quite well.  I just decided there wasn't a need for it for our particular needs. We are actually reading the history lessons together and I am enjoying this.  We then answer the questions orally together and I help him study for the quiz that he takes every 5 lessons. I like the detail that the author put into the history lessons.  I've covered more American history in the past 2 months I've been reading with him than I think I covered in all my history years in the public schools.  And it's interesting... not just boring factual stuff.  I like it.

I am a HUGE fan of Teaching Textbooks!  We've been using it for our math since my daughter was in 6th grade!  It is AMAZING!!!!!!!  I am not a math expert.  While I got through math and actually got an A in my last semester of high school Algebra, it is not a subject I prefer teaching.  Teaching Textbooks does it all for me.  It's a computerized program and every single problem is on the computer.  If the student plugs in a wrong answer, they can watch the entire problem worked out step by step and see exactly where they made their mistake...and NO arguments with Momma!!  🙂  How can you not love it?? So this year he is doing Algebra II. He knows that he is to watch the explanation of any problem he misses.  If he scores below an 80, I delete the lesson and he does a do-over.  This way, we meet mastery before going on to the next lesson.

My son chose the language he wanted to learn.  My husband's heritage is Russian so it seemed a no-brainer to him to pick Russian.  While my husband recalls a few words and phrases taught to him by his grandparents in his youth, he is not ready to teach the language and I know nothing....sooooo......    CurrClick.Com offers a variety of online courses for homeschoolers and one of them is Russian!!  Mr. G does a fabulous job and my son really loves the course.

Well, that's the main courses.  In addition to these, he practices typing with a Mavis Beacon program as well as types out his final papers for IEW and Fix-It-Grammar.  We haven't seen dramatic results yet, but there are signs of improvement! He also uses Vocabulary.Com to practice SAT vocabulary and does the SAT question of the day two times a week to help prepare himself for that test in the future.

We've also added a bit of geography to the day.  I've been reading a lot about that Charlotte Mason approach and have learned a bit of how she approached geography with outline maps.  I liked the idea and thought it would be a really easy thing to start covering with him.  There's actually no set law that a course HAS to be completed in the same year it's started, so we decided to start out slow and add to it bit by bit like it's presented by the CM Approach... so right now we are covering North America since that's what he is most familiar with.  He did a bigger course last year that covered land forms, environments, etc.  so right now we are only focusing on learning names and locations of countries, major cities, bodies of water, etc.  It's only North America and I've already added to my own geography knowledge!! We'll see how we do the rest of this year before deciding whether to add to it and actually make it worth a partial or whole credit course.

Well, that wraps up what we are doing this year for my son's 9th grade year.  It's actually been a good year so far.  He seems to be doing well.  It's been an adjustment getting used to the amount of reading material and higher level questions and balancing that with Boy Scouts, hunting and pretty soon the ski season will start.  But for a 15-year-old boy who also helps out with chores and is a great big brother, I'd say he's doing a really good job!

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That's the title of a book I read a few months back. The author is Byron Katie. She's not orthodox. That's saying something because I rarely pick up self help books anymore as I worry about reading things by non-orthodox authors and how they may not be teaching something that is right or truth in relation to The Church. But this particular book was recommended to me by my homeopath during a very trying time for me.

The book did help me. I have to look past the fact that she's not a Christian, not my definition of Christian anyway. And not Orthodox for sure. But her four questions that she poses as questions that can change your life... well, they do change how one looks at things. The four questions are:

Is It True?
Can You Absolutely Know That It's True?
How Do You React When You Think That Thought?
Who Would You Be Without The Thought?

I tell you, when you are wrapped up in anger, judgement, and negative feelings, those four questions can really help set a better perspective. So it has helped me in those situations. Especially in dealing with my thoughts about other people or myself.

It doesn't help in terms of spiritual questions. One shouldn't be asking God if something is true or doubting whether our faith is true. YES. It is True. And it doesn't matter what I think in terms of that.

But for those everyday things in life when your thoughts are making you stir crazy... it's not God putting those thoughts there and these questions, if used well, can certainly help put a stop to the demons within.

I haven't exactly explained the whole process here very well. One would have to read the book, listen to the book or at the very least, explore the Katie Byron website... I think it's called The Work? I still haven't figured out how to put links on here. I think I did it once but it's been months. If I start writing regularly (hey, this is two days in a row now... woot!) I will spend time learning to do that.

I had a few moments to spare so I took it. This book is on my mind because I think I need to revisit it and I want to loan it to a friend that may benefit from it. Anyone else ever read it?

1

Well, it's been awhile since I posted anything. This past week has been rather busy with our Church schedule during Holy Week and Pascha. And we all seemed to come down with some minor cold symptoms (which is rare but then I realized we have slacked off on our vitamins and then had more contact with the outside world than we usually do so ......) But it wasn't anything major and didn't stop us from attending services so that's good.

I finished my books that I was reading towards the end of Lent. Now I have FINALLY read Twisted, a book by Laurie Halse Anderson that I've had on my Amazon wishlist for over two years. So I finally bought it for myself and read it in just over a day. It is my third book to have read by her and I am a huge fan. Her characters totally pull you in. I have also started a book about anger. I think, after this Lenten season especially, that I have dealt with a lot of my anger issues - and boy did I use to have a lot of them - but someone close to me was reading this book and expressed a lot of interest in it (Dancing With Anger) and so I thought, why not. I always cringe at self-help books because they can sort of go against a lot of Orthodox Teachings and obviously stress too much SELF SELF SELF....but I thought I'd give this one a shot and I try to just glide over the whole part of putting yourself completely ahead of others part of it and see what she has to say about dealing with anger.....I'm only into the second chapter so far, so we'll see. I'm also reading One Thousand Gifts...it's written by a woman with some sort of protestant background but is being read by a lot of Orthodox people. She seems to have some major Orthodox percepetions and I can't help but wonder how her life would be even more complete if she were to find the Orthodox Faith. Besides, these two books I have a huge stack of books in my room that I have not read yet of all varities and it's so hard to choose which is next. Which is why I'm usually reading at least three if not 4 or 5 books at a time. Sometimes even more. Nuts, I know, but it works for me most of the time. I haven't decided on what my current Orthodox book will be yet....I have several calling my name...

So now I thought I'd post a few more random things about me:

1. We just celebrated PASCHA. Pascha, to give an understanding, is Eastern ‘Easter”. I don’t really like giving it the name Easter because it does have some pagan connotations but I do use the term among my Catholic and Protestant terms simply so they understand what I’m talking about. We stayed up all night…or should I say morning? The service starts at 10:30 and ends around 2:30 with lots and lots of feasting afterwards. I’ve had a sleep deprivation headache most of the week but it is so TOTALLY worth it! I love the way we worship our Lord. The way we go all out for Him. The way we understand Salvation and Theosis!. I am so thrilled to have found Orthodoxy.

2. I LOVE LOVE LOVE to read. I read a vast array of materials too. I’m thrilled to have a toddler again so I have an even bigger excuse to read picture books and classic fairy tales and nursery rhymes again. And I’m looking forward to reading the Junie B. Jones series again someday. But I also love middle grade, young adult, and of course adult fiction as well. I love reading about Orthodoxy and learning more and more about my faith and its history, its saints and its perspective on today’s worldview. I also, of course, love reading Holy Scripture, though I prefer reading it with Orthodox Commentary so I have a better apostolic understanding of what I’m reading. I also read things on whole foods, natural living, and things that pretty much go against the usual American Diet. I sometimes read things related to history and science, but those are usually connected to our home schooling rather than a random book I select on my own. There’s other things too….but I’ve realized I could make this a whole blog piece on its own! LOL

3. I don’t do well with dairy. During the fast we gave up dairy of course. I was the most ‘congestion free’ that I have been in the last two years - since the last time I gave up dairy completely. This week already, after just three days of non-fasting, I have already awoken with some congestion and , I’m afraid, been having more digestive issues. I really should let the dairy go, but….it’s so yummy.

4. I have freckles. I use to hate my freckles. I mean, they are like, all over and I used to get picked on about them so I hated them. But then my sister got me this mug that says ‘These aren’t freckles, they’re just a whole bunch of teeny tiny tans.” I just love that mug and I love that freckle philosophy. So I’ve adopted it as my own and shrug off my freckles now with a chuckle.

5. Our dog is a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog. She is a cousin to the Burmese....most people know that one if they are a dog lover. But the Greater Swiss has shorter hair and, supposedly, sheds less. HAHA. She's a good dog, but is very hyper when people visit, which makes her not so popular with some of our friends. She's not mean, just jumpy and wants to be in their face. We have tried several tactics. But since we live in the country and don't have visitors so often, its sort of hard to do any type of real training method consistently. Well, we love her. She is a devoted animal, that's for sure. 🙂

That's all for today. I really need to figure out a schedule for me again and try sticking to it. I do much better with a schedule. There's just too many things pulling me in all kinds of directions and I really need to find a balance. I don't want to give up on the blogging. I love it so. But I need to find a way to fit it into a bunch of other things too.

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I believe this is year five or six of my family doing Pysanky during Holy Week. (We belong to the Orthodox Christian Church and this is our holy week). By family, I mean my two oldest children and myself. My husband occasionally does one but is usually busy with other things (like baking Pascha - a traditional Russian sweet bread for Pascha, which is our Easter) so does not take part in it as much as the children and I do. Though he does love seeing our accomplishments.

Pysanky became a Christian tradition in the Ukraine and surrounding areas. But they did start in pre-Christian times and there are many traditions and legends linked to the eggs. Once the egg became a symbol for the resurrection of Christ, people began decorating the eggs with Christian symbols. My kids and I like to try to use as many of the Christian symbols as possible. Many of our eggs have crosses on them, butterflies which symbolize the resurrection and triangles which symbolize the trinity.

They are made using a wax resist method and special dyes. The word 'pysaty' means 'to write' as the designs are not painted but 'written' on with wax. More information can be read here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pysanka

We are by no means experts. We are certainly not at the point of being good enough to sell our wares as some Pysanky artists do. But each year we see improvement and become more and more delighted in what we produce. And we learn more about the symbolism and the tradition, which is an important aspect of our lives and faith.

We started this year's eggs today. Perhaps I will write more about them as the week goes on. Perhaps I'll figure out how to load pictures on here and post some! (Wish me luck on that one....I am not a computer genius by any means)