Sunday, March 22, 2009

Life and Death and an Extended Field Trip

This has been a rough couple of weeks for us. My grandmother in south Mississippi passed away after several days of struggle in the hospital. I am thankful, though, for the chance to see her and to speak to her a last time. I tried to leave Cullen here while I travelled, but he was insistent on seeing his MawMaw before she died. My sister, Windee, and her son, Walker, rode with us to the gulf coast.

As difficult as it was to see my grandmother struggling so hard just to breathe, I actually think it helped the boys accept her passing a little easier. No one wanted her to have to continue suffering that way. Cullen asked a million and a half questions, so we had some lengthy discussions about life and death and heaven. He also wanted to know if his Dad and brother and sister would be driving down for the reuinion after MawMaw passed away. (Of course, they did.) Reunion is actually a good name for a funeral in some ways. We did get talk to cousins that we've gone years without seeing, some of whom Cullen was meeting for the first time ever.

One of the days we were there, we took the boys for a much-needed outing to the Explorium Science Museum in Mobile. The hands-on exhibits were really impressive; Windee and I played as much as the boys did. Here Cullen and Walker are testing how much strength is required with different placements of the fulcrum in a giant lever set-up.

A table of different microscopes with a variety of slides caught Walker's interest.

Virtual heart surgery was one of the hands-on activities that Cullen enjoyed, though he was a little squeamish at some of the graphics!

A life-size puzzle of basic anatomy was a good way for Cullen to get an idea of the size of his own brain, lungs, etc.

We watched an IMAX movie on the Colorado River that was absolutely wonderful, though it made me a little dizzy. :o) There were so many things to do here. These few pictures show such a small part of this museum. We hope to go again next time we are down that way to visit.

After the museum, we drove by the USS Alabama park. It was too late to buy tickets for a tour of the ship, but there are plenty of old military craft out on display. We let the boys run around in the late afternoon sun looking at all of them. This ship's bell turned out to be much louder than either of them expected!

This old Soviet tank was not bordered by chain to prevent touching, so the boys climbed up and played soldier for a few minutes. As they climbed down, we did notice a rather small and very faded "No Climbing" sign. Oooops!

Cullen considered the peephole in the hotel room door that evening just as interesting as anything else he had seen that day.

While waiting a day or so for the funeral, we drove over to my grandparents old home in south Mississippi, in which my aunt and uncle now live, and spent a little time with extended family. Way behind the house, past the old fishing pond, is a large area of swamp. The kids managed to get into the little creek that feeds into it before any of the parents really had time to stop it. They all required showers when they got out to get the smell of swamp mud off of them!
Cullen didn't care so much for the slimy mud between his toes when it was time to climb out!

Of formal school work, there was absolutely none the entire week and most of the week we returned home and recovered from travelling. This time was filled with learning life lessons, with spending time getting to know distant family and with seeing how people who love each other can help make even the worst hurts a little easier to bear for each other. These are lessons even more critical than adjectives or fractions.

This last photo is of Cullen, Walker and my daughter, Taylor, in the little town park in Lucedale, MS. Spring was so evident in the warmth, in the blossoms and bees. It was a beautiful reminder to me of the promises and the hope that we hold dear from our Father - of the reason we can laugh sometimes in the midst of grief, knowing and trusting the One who holds our future.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Recap of the Past Four Weeks or So

I can barely believe that it's been so long since my last weekly report! What a slacker! Life has been moving along at warp speed lately, so I guess I shouldn't really be surprised at myself.

Here's a quick run-down of what's been happening lately with our schoolwork:

Math has been cruising along well with some work from Horizons and some from Singapore, which I am liking more and more. Cullen has the whole regrouping thing down and is enjoying the beginning concepts of multiplication and division. I am trying to offer more word problems, which he usually loves. Addition/subtration facts are almost completely firm; we're still drilling those some.

Cullen has been reading through 2 or 3 books a week. Here is what he's finished lately:

He helped me read much of The Magic Treehouse Book, Hour of the Olympics, too. He likes to take turns page by page.

He completed the last lesson in Spelling Workout A this week. I plan to have him study the days of the week and the months, then we'll take a break from formal spelling for a little while.

I wish I could say we've made giant leaps of progress with writing, but I will just have to be thankful for smaller, but consistent, steps in the right direction. Cullen was most proud of last week's assignment which was to write a dialog between two of any characters, complete with correct punctuation. He came up with a funny little exchange between a Coke bottle and its cap!

Our memory work hasn't been as consistent as it could be, but he's managed a few verses and poems in spite of my lack of organization. We listened to some Bach at my insistence, but according to Cullen, no one comes close to Beethoven. (grin)

Our history focus has been Ancient Greece, with a little reading from Story of the World and a few other resources, a terrific video from the library and some work on History Pockets projects. I have a handful of crafts lined up to go along with this, too.

Between other things, Cullen's been learning a little about our own state. Here is a giant book he's still working on. We do just a little every week or two.

We've just begun a study of biology that should take us through next fall. I rearranged a little of the R.E.A.L. Life Science curriculum so that learning about insects, worms, etc. and plants could be done during the spring and summer months. We'll begin the human body next September.

Cullen watched a couple of dvd's on dinosaurs and on rocks to prep for an incredibly fun museum trip. We went to the Tellus Museum not far from us along with our cousins, who happen to be friends, Jamie and Kathryn. (See Jamie's post on this trip here. She took all photos because I forgot my camera.) Dinosaur and other prehistoric creatures, an impressive collection of rocks, gems and minerals, a fossil dig and a gem-panning area for the kids, as well as a gallery of science and technology that lead up to our current space program -we didn't even get to the planetarium show. Cullen had such a great time, I'm considering a membership.

Here, the two of them are watching tiny creatures in a biosphere. (I want one of these so badly!)

Panning for gems paid off for each of the kids with a little bag of tiny but real gem stones. They also got to each keep a single fossil from the dig area.

In addition to gymnastics and cub scouts, baseball began last week. (Yes, the schedule is full now.) Here is his first at-bat in a real game. He got a hit! It was funny to see that he cannot help but dance on the field when he realizes that he's done something right! I really wish I had taken video of that!

I have to say that one of my favorite moments of the past few weeks was just last Sunday morning. As I sat down with a cup of coffee, Cullen picked up a book, settled into the sofa across from me and said, "Let me read you some poems." Then he read a dozen or so as I just sat and listened, thinking about how much I like this little boy of mine. And the camera was right beside me, so you get a peek.