Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

This little guy lives in the bushes beside our front porch and comes out to sit in the sun some mornings. He's becoming a little less fearful of me as long as I'm quiet.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Weekly Report - Taking It Easy

This past week was a break of sorts for Cullen. I had a few doctor appointments and wasn't feeling altogether all together, so we did no formal lessons. Not a single one. There were plenty of the impromptu discussions and life-lessons that are part of everyday life around here, however, and he was a great help with the laundry! Other than his chess and art classes and the weekly gymnastics class, he was able to play as he liked. (With the exception of video games this week.)

Of course, he spent a great deal of time with the usual action figures and in cartwheeling through the house, but I was really pleased that he decided to write two letters to his cousins. I was absolutely thrilled to see that they were composed of more than two sentences each! He edited for spelling and clarity with a little help, and the handwriting, though not neat by any stretch, was legible - mostly!

Friday evening, my husband left work early, my daughter joined us, and we drove across town to Medieval Times for dinner and the show. Cullen was so excited, he had a hard time keeping his feet on the ground!

I couldn't help but grin when his Dad said something about Cullen being a knight, and his response was, "I can't be a knight! I'm not even old enough to be a squire!"

The sword fights sent sparks flying, the jousting was impressive with lances splintering left and right, and the good guys won in the end. Of course, my own favorite part of the evening was seeing the horses show their stuff. Beautiful!

We were seated in the Green Knight's section and were told to cheer for him, which we did heartily, but Cullen was a little bit distressed when he figured out that the Green Knight was the bad guy! The knight was really good at being the bad guy, though, and he also flirted a little with Cullen's big sister, so we managed to get past any moral dilemma in a way that I hope never happens in real life!

Before the show began, we killed some time walking around the Discover Mills mall where Medieval Times is located and found a Lego store. If you've read many of our posts here recently, you can imagine Cullen's face when he saw it. To make the surprise even better, there was a life-sized Lego statue of Darth Vader right at the entry.

We almost didn't get him out of there!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

Cullen took plenty of photos entirely on his own during our recent trip to Florida. There were the usual dozens of nostril shots and photos of my Mom's dog with a plastic pirate gun, etc. These few surprised me a little.

Monday, October 19, 2009


My pencil-phobic child just asked me if I would teach him drawing lessons every day! Well, he actually asked for every day at 2:14 PM. He has always been a nut for a schedule!

This borders on the miraculous!

I do know that some boys take a little longer to really get into written expression, but my oldest was so into writing and drawing from such an early age, that I have not been entirely sure how to best handle Cullen. I kept reading to just allow him time. Apparently, that was good advice. In the past two weeks, he has produced at least 50 pages of drawings and lists all on his own.

Can you tell I'm excited?!?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Weekly Report

We are still enjoying the Middle Ages in our history reading. Here are a few of our favorite resources from the past week or so. The Minstrel in the Tower is only halfway done. We're reading this one together!

As far as reading on his own, Cullen finished up the Magic Treehouse book, Knight Before Dawn, as well as a couple of Star Wars titles - all pretty light reading, I know. I don't want to only and always have him read this type of book, but a few choices that are easier to read, yet still interesting, seem to help Cullen's reading speed and fluency. I try to challenge him most of the time, but also to toss some easy and fun things into the mix.

The basic subjects are all moving along pretty well. I am guilty of slacking in the area of writing instruction, mostly because he has a history of resisting in this. He will compose all day long if I am the one dictating, but he does not want to write. Seriously, there have been tears before over my request for a little drawing and two or three sentences in response to something we've read or learned. This past week, though, Cullen has been writing and drawing like crazy on his own. I'm not sure what triggered this, but I am so glad to see his enthusiasm! I've tried to just let him do whatever he's motivated to do in order to keep it fun. My challenge next week will be to gently pull some of that into an intentional exercise or practice.

Math has focused on mental calculations and shortcuts in addition and subtraction. Cullen considers this more fun than work, so no problems here this week. In science, we've read about and watched videos on reptiles and birds. The session of clay classes came to an end, but he begins a multi-media art class next week.

At the awards day for this session of chess classes, Cullen's coach told me that he has definitely been improving and learning as far as chess skills go, but that the most remarkable progress has been in his sportsmanship. This was terrific news! His extreme competitiveness and intensity makes being a good sport something that Cullen has had to intentionally cultivate. It's the primary reason I signed him up for these classes to begin with.

We've had Cullen go with no video games this week (for reasons I will not detail to protect his feelings) and very limited TV time. He has been surprised at the number of things he has enjoyed instead! We've agreed that it is a very good idea to limit screen time more than we've done in the past. Cullen's response was surprisingly positive - Good! I can make more drawings!

He also dug out the playmobil castle, knights and pirates. You can tell by listening that he knows a great deal more about the era than he used to, especially when he moans about not having a proper seige tower. Maybe we can make one with cardboard this week.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

End of Summer in St. Augustine

It's been crazy busy the past few weeks! I'm hoping very much to settle down and stay that way a while.

Toward the end of September, Cullen and I, along with my Mom and her little doggy, too, went to Jacksonville, FL, for my cousin's wedding. This was Cullen's first wedding, and he was very taken with the whole idea. His cousin Kathryn, who was beautiful as a flower girl, taught him a little of how to dance with a girl at the reception. Her mom, (another of my cousins) Jamie, and her husband, Ken, did the photography. If you love weddings or photography, check out their blog here: There are some gorgeous photos, including a session of bride and groom in full wedding attire in the ocean at sunrise the next morning! Scroll down enough and you can see Cullen and Kathryn dancing like crazy!

After the wedding, we stayed a few extra days visiting with my aunt and uncle and enjoying South Ponte Vedre Beach. Here is Cullen with his grandmother, Ma (my Mom!) I just realized that they both have their eyes closed in this pic!

This area of beach was unlike anything I've ever seen! There was very little sand, but there were millions of shells. Most were crushed, but quite a number whole and intact. Cullen collected pocketfuls and bucketfuls, and he had a blast doing it.

We took two days to explore nearby St. Augustine, which wasn't really enough time to see everything. I let Cullen choose the places he wanted most to see. Of course, first on the list was the Castillo de San Marcos, the old fort. There were re-enacters working on cleaning muskets that were very patient in answering Cullen's questions and in posing for photos.

The structure is constructed of coquina, which is a natural limestone composite of crushed shells, sand and calcite. Cullen got a kick out of finding coquina in buildings and walls throughout St. Augustine.

Our visit was on a Monday and the fort was not at all crowded. Cullen had plenty of room to pretend, and I just sat back and let him have fun.

Looking at this photo, I can't believe I let him sit on the wall like that! It was quite a drop to the ground!

A little train tour was fun and informative, if a terribly bumpy ride. Maybe that made it more fun for the little guy, though. He wanted to see the Old Jail from the 1800's, so we took the tour and learned quite a bit - most of it more gory and morbid than I really would've chosen for him if I'd thought about it more ahead of time. Nothing seemed to upset him, so I guess it's all right. He is all boy, after all!

Ponce de Leon's Fountain of Youth Archaeology Park was another highlight for us. We both drank a little of the sulfer-smelling water. I'm hoping to look younger any day now!

The talks and presentations here were outstanding - very informative, yet engaging even to a 7 year-old boy! The planetarium showed us how the Spanish explorers navigated by the night skies. Cullen was fascinated. (He took plenty of pictures, but I really need to give him a lesson how to let the camera's auto-focus do its job.) He wanted specifically to get a photo of this little wall made of "tabby" - a mixture of lime, water, oyster shells and ash. Think of it as man-made coquina. Who knew a he would be so enamored with building materials?

Within the park's 15 acres, there are quite a few ducks, peacocks, squirrels and other assorted creatures. Cullen learned the hard way to never let a peacock take food right out of your hand. Their beaks are sharp! He tossed cracker crumbs out on the ground after that, but this way the squirrels had chance to get in on the munchies.

We spent time just enjoying the beauty of the place and talking about what life must have been like for the Spanish settlers and the Native Americans that had once lived there.

This was a perfect close to summer.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

Cullen and his cousin, Walker, on Stone Mountain's Sky Hike. Conquering this was a huge confidence-builder!