Recapping Kindergarten (2021-2022)

Tirzah Mae was a rather old kindergartener – she turned six just a couple months in. Louis has been a rather young kindergartener – he turned five a mere week before we started our school year in July of last year.

I took this into account in my plan and intended to take things very slowly in a sort of kindergarten-lite.

Since we do most of our “subject work” together as a family, Louis’s individual work was just phonics, handwriting, and math.

Phonics: American Language Series K, with supplements

Young and male as Louis was, I knew we were going to need to take it slow with phonics. So I printed some supplemental material to give us more practice than the American Language Series K provides. I appreciate The Measured Mom blog, so I went there first and found just what I’d hoped for: an alphabet letter find, a beginning sounds coloring page, and some beginning sounds clip cards. Hedging my bets, I also opted to have Louis do his workbook pages for ALS-K in a page protector with a dry erase marker so he could redo a page as many times as he needed to. Turns out, I was really glad I had.

It only took a couple of lessons to discover that the phonemic awareness Tirzah Mae had just arrived at through singing and chanting and whatever did not come quite so naturally to my brand new five year old. He could kinda-sorta isolate beginning sounds, but definitely not ending sounds. And segmenting and blending sounds? Nope.

I began to panic. Why had I gone all gung-ho purchasing the same curriculum I’d learned to read with before I’d had a chance to read up on the science of reading? I should have done my research better and gotten a good Orton-Gillingham program that could meet all my students’ needs, whatever might come. I should have gotten Logic of English.

But I hadn’t gotten another curriculum, and since he was just barely five and since I was able to identify the problem (phonemic awareness), I started him on the fast track of the Phonemic Awareness Program. We worked on it for a semester until I observed he and his younger sister playing all sorts of word games together, switching out rimes, making new rhymes, blending and segmenting like pros, and demonstrating, well, phonemic awareness.

Back to ALS-K, and this time with good success. We spent 2-3 days on each lesson, learning the sounds of each letter and the consonant digraphs and to read one-syllable short vowel words. (Yes, the printables from the Measured Mom were very helpful.)


I wanted to be really careful here to get the letter formation down without overextending my young boy’s fine motor control. So I spent two days on each letter, using chants from the Kindergarten Works blog. The first day, we formed the letter in the air with our finger and then wrote it a few times with a dry erase marker on these letter cards (I had him use his finger to erase in the exact same path that he’d used to draw the letter in the first place.) The second day, we wrote that letter in a sand tray and then completed the corresponding “letters of all sizes” worksheet from The Measured Mom (uppercase and lowercase worksheets) .

After we had finished both uppercase and lowercase letters, we started a program called Sylladot. I met Carla Cox, the author of the Sylladot phonics curriculum, at the Great Homeschool Convention in St Charles Missouri back in March. Ms. Cox gives away copies of the kindergarten book to mothers of five-year-olds – and when she discovered that I had a seven-year-old who was just now working on vowel digraphs, a five-year-old, and a four-year-old nipping on the five-year-old’s heels, she gave me three copies of the kindergarten book. When I got the book home, I was able to see that Tirzah Mae was really too advanced for it, but that it might serve Louis very well. The first 30 or so lessons focus on learning the names of the letters of the alphabet and how to write them – and I was ready for some new handwriting work, so this seemed good to me (also, I typically focus on sounds such that my kids say /F/ instead of /ef/ when they’re asked to read an eye chart so learning the letter names might be handy!)

I have really enjoyed the clever little pictures and sayings that help the kids remember the names and formations of the letters. Unfortunately, I don’t think Louis could have started with this as his phonics program last fall since his fine motor development probably wasn’t far enough along then. (Beth-Ellen, on the other hand, will likely not have any problem starting Sylladot for her Pre-K next month. I also plan to use Ms. Cox’s alphabet chart and teaching technique for the little girls’ preschool “circle time” next year.)

Mathematics: Shiller Math Kit 1

Perhaps with Louis I will finally get my money’s worth from Shiller Math. He hasn’t asked for a workbook yet, at any rate.

I personally love Shiller Math. Manipulative-based, scripted lessons for low prep, and everything is in the box. The only thing I don’t like (well, apart from the songs that I find cheesy and not particularly helpful for learning) is the log sheet for recording lessons. It’s way too difficult to decide what to do next. So what I’ve done is make a spreadsheet with lesson numbers and names on the first column, a group of columns labeled “Dates worked on”, and a final column marked “Date completed”. After we work a lesson, we mark the date in a “dates worked on” box. If Louis has clearly mastered the concept of that lesson, I mark a line through the remaining “dates worked on” boxes and write the date in the “date completed” column.

Generally speaking, we did one new lesson and one review lesson daily, which took around 20 minutes (hello, Charlotte Mason). For review, I started with the oldest incomplete lesson and did the next incomplete lesson the next day and so on until we were reviewing the lesson we had just done the day before. Then we’d start again at the beginning with the earliest incomplete lesson. So far, I’ve really enjoyed this approach and feel like Louis also appreciates it.

So What’s Next?

We’re planning a pretty boring first grade year – it’s pretty much kindergarten redux. I plan to continue with ALS-K and Sylladot both, using Sylladot as supplemental work while we’re keeping our progress through ALS-K slow. The next part of Sylladot does not have a lot of handwriting, so I’ll be having him do copywork to practice his script. We will continue with Shiller Math, but I did have Math Mammoth 1 printed just in case we need to supplement with some workbook-type work. Louis and Tirzah Mae will also be working together through Core Knowledge’s What Your 1st Grader Needs to Know.

Music that doesn’t follow the rules

When we were in elementary school, our pastor’s wife took my sister and I to see a University orchestra perform.

It was my first experience seeing a live orchestra (we listened to orchestra music all the time at home though!) and I don’t remember a terrible lot about the performance itself. What I do remember was that our pastor’s wife clearly enjoyed the first work – and clearly didn’t enjoy the second.

Did she talk about why she didn’t like the second half of the performance? Is that where I got the impression that the composer of the final piece was a modern (or postmodern) fellow who she wasn’t a fan of?

I have no idea.

But as the kids and I work our way through the library’s collection of music, we’ve listened to several albums of John Cage’s work.

And I’m almost certain that John Cage composed the second half of the performance our pastor’s wife despised.

At least, I feel the same tightness in my lips that I saw in hers, the same “let’s just get through this” expression in my eyes.

I explained to Tirzah Mae: “The reason we aren’t really enjoying this music we’re listening to is because John Cage didn’t want to follow the rules of music – and it’s the rules that make music beautiful.”

Back then, I was too engrossed in the novelty of the live orchestra, or maybe I just didn’t have words to articulate the sounds I was hearing. At any rate, I didn’t take conscious note of the lack of melodiousness in that second bit of music. But I know in my bones that this is that. And now I have words to describe it.

Music that tries to ignore the rules is no music at all. It’s just noise.

Reading Lucy Maud

It’s that most wonderful time of the year – time to read Lucy Maud Montgomery with Carrie at Reading to Know.

Carrie has been hosting the Lucy Maud Montgomery Reading Challenge for the past 10 years – and I’ve had the pleasure of participating for at least 4 years (how is it possible it’s only that many?)

L. M. Montgomery Reading Challenge

As usual, the rule is to read as much Maud as possible during the month of January and to let the world know we’re participating (with a link to Carrie’s site).

Carrie includes a list of items that do NOT count toward the challenge (namely, the book Before Green Gables and the movies/shows Anne of Green Gables: The Continuing Story and Anne with an E. )

I’m going to push the limits of the challenge by reading a graphic novel version of Anne of Green Gables by Mariah Marsden, watching Tales from Avonlea, reading a couple of board books based on the Anne books (all from my library) – and reading one other of the Anne books (in original form). I haven’t decided which Anne book to read because I hate to start in the middle, but I think I’ve read Anne of Green Gables without reading the rest three or four times in a row now :-)

I’m looking forward to seeing what everyone else is reading!

Take heart

“What’s this song about?”

It’s a question Tirzah Mae asks me a half dozen times a day.

It’s a question I love to answer because it forces me to listen to the music that’s on, forces me to articulate the message in simple terms.

But this time, the question discomposed me. We were in the car listening to a random “Christian” CD we’d borrowed from the library. A “Christian” CD that was basically the prosperity gospel set to music.

I blustered a bit. “Well, this song has bad theology. It’s saying that if we trust in Jesus, we won’t have any problems.”

And as the song promised believers would be “on top of the world” and as the singer ad libbed what sorts of things believers would be “on top” in (money, physical health, possessions, families, fame, more money, more possessions…) As the song pushed on with its false promises, I was reminded of – and told my daughter of – a true promise Jesus made:

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
~John 16:33 (NIV)

I told my daughter that God promised that we would have hard times, but that those who believe in Jesus have Jesus to walk with them during the hard times on this earth – and that those who believe in Jesus have the promise that God will set everything right in the end.

And then I had to stop lest the tears obstruct my ability to drive.

But I kept thinking on the promise of God for a good long while. I was moved to worship the God who has overcome this world – even though all has not yet been put to right. And I was moved to pray for those pitiful souls who are clinging to a false promise of ease in this life and do not know the joy of trusting Christ for what HE has promised (and will surely bring to pass).

“If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.”
~1 Corinthians 5:19 (ESV)

Tirzah Mae’s question was a simple one – and one I didn’t really know how to answer – but the process of attempting to answer it turned what had been background noise (and theologically incorrect background noise at that!) into an opportunity to worship God and pray for the lost.

Take heart, dear believers, who feel on the bottom of the world – whether because of a job you hate, an income that doesn’t seem to make ends meet, relationships that are broken, health problems that seem insurmountable, or any other thing. Take heart, Christ has overcome the world.

And, if you have been placing your hope in this world – in the pursuit of fame and fortune and comfort and family or in any other thing – know this, those things will never satisfy. All the hope this world offers is hollow. Place your trust in Christ – he has overcome this world.

What we did over summer break

As students stream back to school this fall, they’re getting busy writing the ubiquitous “what we did over summer break” essays.

And as the Garcias ease back into something of a routine (I’m hoping!), I too will be writing what we did over summer break.

It wasn’t intentional, this summer blogging break – but it wasn’t unintentional either.

With the Tetons in the background

We were busy this summer. We spent a week in Yellowstone National Park with my family at the beginning of July. We spent a week in Colorado with Daniel’s family at the beginning of August. And I jumped right into teaching Sunday School a couple days after we got back from Colorado. In the in-between-time, we packed and did home improvements and took a first aid/CPR class for foster care and cleaned and tried (fruitlessly, it seems) to keep up with the yard and garden. And I gestated. I’m still gestating – and hoping to be for several more months.

Reading it now, I can’t decide whether to be overwhelmed by what we’ve accomplished this summer or whether to feel like it isn’t that much now that I’ve got it on paper.

At the beginning of the Alpine Trail with Daniel's mom

But in the moment it felt like a lot. Flitting and flying, planning and packing and catching up from being gone.

There was barely enough time to process one trip before we left on the next – and I really want to process those trips and preserve those memories.

Which is why I plan a protracted narrative/photo essay here on bekahcubed, detailing just exactly what we did over our summer break.

A Tale of Three [First] Trimesters

I was a working woman in my first first trimester. I remember being exhausted and nauseous. Daniel made me eggs and toast every morning and I dutifully choked them down before heading to work. I’d come home for lunch and eat mulberries straight from the tree – I’m so thankful we found that tree while my brother and sister-in-law were down helping us in the yard Memorial Day weekend three years ago when I was pregnant with Tirzah Mae. I generally did eventually go inside and eat leftovers or something – but the mulberries were what really sounded great. When I got home from work in the evening, I’d eat more mulberries and go inside to eat potato chips or Swiss Cake rolls or something else that required nothing more than opening a package and inserting food into my mouth. I was SO. INCREDIBLY. TIRED.

My second first trimester happened to coincide with Tirzah Mae starting to sleep through the night at last. I remember thinking how amazing it was that I had SO. MUCH. ENERGY. Not working outside the home was amazing. I had energy to cook – and cook I did. I was determined to have a successful home birth VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean section), which meant keeping my midwife happy. So I dutifully consumed at least 100 grams of protein daily (just to keep my midwife happy – there is no evidence that increased protein intake actually prevents preeclampsia). I also consumed 7 servings of vegetables, 5 of fruits, and 3 of whole grains daily (since there is a correlation between high fiber intake and decreased risk of preeclampsia.) And I did 35 minutes of aerobic interval exercises six days a week. Plus 5 minutes of deep squats, 75 pelvic tilts, and 50 Kegels daily. And stretching. I was on top of my game. I didn’t realize until my energy level was suddenly increased when I entered the second trimester that the “amazing” energy I had during the first was probably more due to finally sleeping through the night rather than to some magical first trimester energy.

And then came my third first trimester.

Louis is NOT sleeping through the night. I do NOT have so much energy. Nor do I have any appetite. I force myself to eat breakfast and lunch because I have to make something for the kids anyway. I try in the evening, but more often than not I let Daniel feed himself and the kids while I retreat to my room with my phone for a few moments of alone time. I don’t have nausea – and I’m incredibly thankful for that. But I’m tired of going to the grocery store and spending far more than I’ve budgeted on something that sounded good while I was looking at it but that feels disgusting to me once I finally get it home. I’m tired of making a menu, purchasing what’s needed to make it, prepping a bit in advance, and then feeling like there is absolutely no way I could stomach even a bite when the time comes to actually cook it. And I’m tired of being tired by ten in the morning every single morning. I’m tired of dragging through each and every day.

I’m ready for this third first trimester to be over.

Thankfully, it should be soon.

[Then maybe Louis can start sleeping through the night too.]

On this women’s day

Facebook tells me this is Women’s Day. My Feedly newsreader tells me it is the “Day without Women” – where women go on strike to demand recognition of their disenfranchisement.

On this Women’s Day, having just struggled over the question of “how do you divide chores in your household” in our foster care packet, I want to do the opposite of going on strike.

Because while some women may want to complain that their work is underpaid and underappreciated, I do not.

I have the gig I’ve always dreamed of.

My husband is gone from our home eight hours a day, working for his company. He enjoys his work, yes, but he also works because he’s our breadwinner. He trades forty hours a week for money. Money that we use to pay our mortgage, buy our food, keep the lights on and the heat or air conditioner running.

I’m at home. I read to our children, sing songs with them, dance about with them. I change their diapers, I feed them meals and snacks, I breastfeed them whenever I need to (without having to hook myself up to a pump.)

I’m at home. I make the meals, wash the dishes, sweep the floor (sometimes.) I rinse the diapers, wash the laundry, fold it and put it away. I organize and rearrange and decorate.

I buy or make clothes for our children. I mend the clothes that I or my husband or our children tear. I clothe the children in the morning.

This is what I’ve always wanted to do.

On this women’s day, I want women and men to receive equal pay for equal work. I want women to be valued in their workplaces.

But even more, I want women to have the freedom to make the choices I have.

My dream is that every mother would be married to a man who recognizes the value she provides in raising their children, who works hard to give her the option of staying at home should she desire that.

My dream is to live in a world where two incomes are an option, not a necessity – where value isn’t determined by how much money a person makes or how many possessions they have. My dream is that there’d be an end to the arms race of ever bigger houses and cars and vacations, where women could opt out without fearing their children would fall behind.

My dream is that every woman can do what they’ve always dreamed of, whether or not that includes making money.

And on this women’s day, I’m going to keep doing what I do every hour of every day. I’m going to keep doing this job I’ve always dreamed of.

Heavy heart, wordless petitions

My heart is heavy.

A classmate of Daniel’s (an acquaintance of mine) from high school got married just a little after we did, pregnant just a little after we did.

Their daughter was born early last month, went home with her parents, was readmitted to the hospital not long after, where she fought for her life.

Their daughter lost that fight.

My heart is heavy as I snuggle my infant daughter close. We had a tough start, but I never feared for her life. I can’t even imagine what Daniel’s classmate must be going through.

So with heavy heart, I pray mostly wordless petitions, entreating God for this grieving family.

Crazy Car Lady

I was trying to figure out what the gal in the car in front of me was doing today.

My best guesses?

Either she was a cell-phone driver who communicates entirely by sign language
or she was a charismatic getting some prayer time in.

I’m not gonna judge. I’ve been known to do some pretty crazy things while driving.

Still, I really wish I knew what had her hands moving with such animated gestures.

Have you ever seen someone doing something unusual while driving and wondered what exactly they were up to? What’s the craziest thing you’ve done while driving?

Singing through life’s trials

In our preaching through Ephesians, our pastor preached today on the importance of singing from Ephesians 5:15-21.

He spoke of how our singing is directed in two directions: to others (addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs) and to God (singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart.)

Daniel and I discussed the sermon on our way home, and I was reminded of the great grace of God in giving me a husband who sing to me with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. When I’m inconsolable and he doesn’t know what to say, oftentimes, he’ll just begin to sing:

“Praise God from whom all blessings flow
Praise Him all creatures here below
Praise Him above ye heavenly hosts
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost”

I don’t always appreciate it in the moment. Sometimes I resent his focusing on God when I want him to be focusing on me. But once I stop, I thank God for a man who always sets the glory of God before my eyes–and who sings to me in (heretofore unwitting) obedience to Paul’s teaching.

Just now, I was blessed as I saw Barbara H’s post on new lyrics to “So Send I You.”

Barbara wasn’t physically singing to me, but she was as she recounted the story behind the hymn and how the hymn-writer rewrote her lyrics later in life.

The second verse of the new lyrics brought me such edification:

“So send I you-my strength to know in weakness,
My joy in grief, my perfect peace in pain,
To prove My power, My grace, My promised presence-
So send I you, eternal fruit to gain.”

We must acknowledge that our call involves weakness, grief, and pain. But we are not called to suffering for suffering’s sake. This pain is not the end result. I am sent not simply to be weak, but to know God’s strength in weakness. I am sent not simply to experience grief but to know God’s joy in grief. I am sent not to have pain, but to know God’s peace in pain. Ultimately, my suffering is that I may know Christ and that I may show Christ.

In which case, my suffering is worth it.

May I know Him and show Him still better with every passing day.

And thank you, Barbara, for singing truth today.