Tuesday, August 28, 2012

New School Year!

Hello!  We are still alive!  Obviously life has been very busy.  I have been traveling around a lot this year, which has definitely moved us off our usual routine.  I actually calculated that from Oct 2011-Oct 2012, I will have been gone from the house for 15 weeks!  That's a lot!  However, despite all our traveling, the boys and I managed to put in a really good school year last year.  We mostly took a summer break and are now fully back into the school routine (except that we'll be away for most of the next three weeks, SO, yeah...)

Here are the boys yesterday on the Loudoun County 1st Day of School.  It was our 17th day of school, but that's a good thing since we'll be missing much of the next three weeks!

3rd Grade!  Can you believe it??

New 2nd Grader!

We are beginning our 5th year of homeschooling!  The first year (ok, first two) were pretty casual and we didn't accomplish a whole lot, but I think the kids have turned out fine. :)  We are still using the Sonlight Curriculum for the majority of our learning.  This year we are going to be starting Core D, which is American History, Part 1.  I'm excited about studying this core, especially since we live in Virginia, home to so much early American History.  We're actually starting the year by finishing last year's core, which I intentionally caused to run into the new school year, and by doing short unit study on Virginia.

This year we're going to be using Apologia for the first time.  I know so many people who just love this science curriculum, so we picked Astronomy and the boys are SO excited about spending a whole year learning about that, as they both already love the subject.  We're going to do it in addition to Sonlight's Science C, which will cover several other topics, but be less in-depth.

This year we're going to be focusing heavily on phonics and spelling.  Since both the older boys learned to read without really ever learning phonics, there are some gaps in their knowledge!  So, we're all going to learn this together....I hope.

Caleb is also going to be taking a writing class with other 3rd-5th grade home school boys.  He wanted to do it, so hopefully he will really enjoy it.  It's every Wednesday afternoon.  Wednesday mornings we'll all be participating in Community Bible Study (CBS) at CFC again.

And then we've got this little guy, who's 4 now.  He and I are working on learning the rest of the letters that he doesn't know and beginning phonics and letter writing basics.  He loves to listen in on the reading I do with the other boys and asks me often to define words he doesn't know, so he's learning right along with the rest of us!

Here's to a great school year!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Pacific Northwest Trip Part 1: Mt Rainer

The first two weeks of August were spent in the Pacific Northwest, as Philip returned to his roots.  We flew to Seattle, via Los Angeles, which was a delight to the boys since we got to go to an extra state.  It also meant that they were able to see the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam and Lake Mead out of the windows of the plane.
This is how the boys were for much of the flights.  So much to see!

We spent our first night at Philip's grandma's house, then as the weather was perfect the next day, we decided to go to Mt Rainier on the way down to the Oregon coast.  It was the right choice and the highlight of the trip for me!  I have been to Rainier two other times, but never on a day like this!

Snowfields in August.  The boys were pretty thrilled to get snow and beach on the same day!

What a sight, huh?

The three hikers.  We hiked up about a mile, but we all wanted to go further.  Time and lunch demanded that we come back down when we did though.

This is Mt Adams, another very tall Washington peak.  As we were hiking, Andrew kept saying 
"Wow...this  is amazing!"

This is where we turned around.  We were very high up!  To the right of Philip's head is Mt St Helens.

We descended on a different trail.  This side was very green and reminded me of the Alps

We had a great time!  Fortunately, while the hike up took 1:45, coming back down was only 30 minutes.  Good thing since it was 1:00 and we were all hungry!  After this we drove the 3.5 or so hours to get to Seaside, OR, where we spent the next week.

Pacific Northwest Trip Part 2 - Oregon Coast

The original inspiration for this trip came from Philip who wanted to take us to the beach where he and his extended family used to vacation when he was a kid.  It turned into quite the family reunion.

We had great weather while we were there, but it was still COLD for the beach...as in low 70's or high 60's with wind.  Brrr....  But this didn't deter the kids!  They built sandcastles for hours every chance they got.

There was also lots of kite flying involved.  Joshua especially liked to help relaunch the kites.

Happy digger!

We went a few miles south to Cannon Beach a couple of times.  Here the boys are at the base of iconic Haystack Rock, which is home to all kinds of marine life, which you can see in low tide.

Haystack Rock

More sandcastle building at the base of the Rock.  Notice the attire.  It was COLD that day!

All the great-grands of Philip's grandma

We had a beach bonfire, thanks to Uncle Paul and Aunt Vanessa.  And of course, s'mores were involved!

Seaside, OR is considered the end of the Lewis and Clark trail.

This picture doesn't accurately show the color of the hydrangeas, but they were the most incredible dark blue/purple color.  Just gorgeous!

Crazy kids!

Great Grandma with the kiddos

Most of the family - Hines, Jones and Noble

We had a wonderful time with all the family!  There were even a couple of members of my mother-in-law's family who dropped by to join the fun!  We're so happy this trip worked out so well and are dreaming of what we might all do on our next big Hines adventure...Alaska?  Nova Scotia?  We'll see!

Pacific Northwest Trip Part 3 - Seattle and Vancouver

The last leg of our trip was going back up to the Seattle area, where we spent a few days with some dear friends, but on the way, we stopped at the recreation of Fort Clatsop, OR, where the Lewis and Clark Expedition stayed during the winter of 1805-1806.

 Writing with quill pens.  Harder than it looks!

 Then we drove a little further north to visit the Astoria Column, which quite high above the city of Astoria and provides quite the view.  Of course, there's no elevator, so we all took the 164 step spiral staircase.  It was not so much difficult as slightly scary, especially the up part!

One of the views from the top

Our dear friends, the Morrisseys, hosted us for a few days.  On Sunday, we took a trip in Seattle and visited the SPU campus, where Mayson, Laura and Philip met...and were I was later introduced to Philip while visiting Laura.  Here are the SPU-ites with their progeny.

Next we went to Discovery Park, which is my favorite place in Seattle.  You get a beautiful view of the Olympic Mountains over part of the Puget Sound.

We then headed downtown to the Pike Place Market to cruise around.  The boys were not impressed.

The next day we hopped back into the car and drove to Vancouver.  It's a very pretty city.  We spent most of our time in Stanley Park.  This is the Borckton Lighthouse, which is there in the Park.

After spending a lazy afternoon in the Park, we headed off the find the 2010 Winter Olympic Torch.  It was pretty cool to get to see it and it's certainly set on an incredible backdrop.

 The next day we went to the Vancouver Aquarium, our first ever trip to an aquarium.  Caleb was particularly thrilled to see Beluga Whales (behind him) for the first time.  We also saw a native kind of Dolphin, seal lion, sea otter, and African Penguins.  We spent several hours just watching the shows and presentations on each of these animals.

Then back to Seattle for two more nights.  Laura and I have been friends now for 17 years!

The Morrisseys currently have a one-eyed frog named Rocky that one of their daughters found outside of Costco.  He was apparently very entertaining.  I think they are all hoping he's going to eat a fly.

On our last morning, we went to a local park and met up with an old friend of the Hines family who really wanted to meet the boys.  It was a lovely visit!  
Then off to the airport we went for the most hectic and stressful two hours of the whole trip.  Bottom line: Sea-Tac needs more fast food restaurants and needs to better label where they are located for families traveling with four hungry boys.  Oh yeah, and we should have allowed ourselves 30 more minutes.

However, on the flight home the boys got to see the incredible mountains of Montana, Glacier National Park, the Badlands of North Dakota, Lake Michigan and Green Bay, Wisconsin.  Then, I am happy to say, it got dark and everyone just stayed in their seats. :)