Sunday, September 29, 2013

Playing Catch Up

Once again I am quite late updating my blog!  However I have a good excuse.  We moved into our new house on August 23rd, however it took over 3 weeks to get any internet.  So uploading any photos and posting anything on a blog was not possible.  However I have lots to share and I am very excited to do so!

When we moved in, we had none of our furniture but we had lender furniture from the US government.  They lent us 5 beds, 7 wardrobes (still serving as our closets as German homes have no closets), a microwave, two refrigerator/freezer units, a dining room table, 6 chairs, a desk and chair, 2 lounge chairs, end tables, and a couch.  We did however receive a small household goods shipment that contained the rest of our clothes, some kitchenware, bedding, towels, and our bicycles!

Teddy and Patrick started school the Monday after we moved in.  The boys went to school for almost the first two weeks.  However many things started to arise that made us question the environment they were in.   Without getting too in depth, we contacted the school regarding some difficulties we were experiencing and concerns we had.  After much research on the Vogelweh school, their testing scores, and the environment, we started looking into other options.  Honestly, for two English speaking children who are performing above their grade level there is no option outside of the DOD schools.  We did however learn of a large homeschool community (over 300 families) here in the Ramstein area.  Many families choose to go this route while here so they have the freedom to work in their travels as well.  As we all know, homeschooling does not come without its stigmas.  However after much consideration, we feel it is the best option available to us.

I started homeschooling the three oldest 2 weeks ago.  I purchased a 3rd grade curriculum for Patrick, 1st grade for Rowan, and 5th grade for Teddy.  In Math, Teddy is learning pre-algebra.  This week he learned exponents, standard notation, and the order of operations.  Patrick is working geometric shapes and measuring.  Rowan is learning place values.  We do not intend to homeschool the children for the duration of their school years.  However for right now, this is what we feel is our best (and only) option.  I feel thankful to have this opportunity to grow and learn with the kids and we are all very optimistic about the school year.  Patrick is gaining great confidence in his reading skills, the first I have seen since he has started reading.  He is a child that quite often compares himself to his peers.  In his last class, there were many children reading well above their grade levels.  He held himself to that standard.  It seems now he is performing quite well at his grade level and thriving.

Next week, I am taking Rowan and Liam to a German Kindergarten in Rodenbach, the next village over.  German Kindergartens take children from age 3-6.   My hope is to enroll them in a class together in the mornings.  I intend to work with Rowan in the afternoons at home on her Math and Reading.  We are optimistic with this plan as I am sure they will master the German language quickly, and soon be able to teach all of us!

Teddy and Patrick are participating in an all German speaking soccer school.  It is incredible to watch.  Teddy and Patrick do not speak any German, however they are learning how to say header, pass, shoot, along with many other soccer phrases!  Their coach speaks German to them.  It is so fun to watch the coach yell from the sideline to them.  I am sure all they understand most of the time is the name he is yelling!  The kids seem to overcome any language barrier and call for passes to one another, and even congratulate each other and high five.  It is incredible to watch them go through this transition.

Rowan is participating in a once a week ballet class as well as girl scouts.  She is in an all homeschooled troop.  It is a small troop of about 15 really sweet girls.  It is ideal for Rowan as she is not crazy about incredibly large groups.  She is already making plenty of friends.

The boys will also be starting martial arts this week.  They are very excited as this has been something they have wanted to do for quite some time.

There are plenty of opportunities for socialization outside of school.  There are more sports than we know what to do with, art classes, music classes, homeschool co-ops, even individual classes they can take through the school.  Although in a perfect world homeschooling would not necessarily be our first choice, we feel it is quite honestly an ideal situation for having to do so.

The top floor of our house is now set up as a classroom.  In these photos you can see we have a computer workstation set up for the children to work on projects, online coursework, and play educational games.  We also have a TV up here for the children to watch videos on.  This has been a fabulous space for us to use our new school year curriculum in.  We also have our own computer network up here courtesy of our IT specialist, Daniel Finley.  The children will be learning American History, Math, Earth Science, Grammar, Spelling, Writing, Computer Technology (to include basic programming), and Typing in this space.  We are so excited about it.  Patrick has already given a presentation on dinosaurs and Teddy is finishing up one on the Inca Empire.  Today, Teddy got up on a Sunday and completed an entire lesson from his curriculum on his own and Rowan flew through 6 pages in her workbook.  I love the self motivation!

Photos of our family classroom

Several weeks ago we took a day trip to a Celtic Ringwall dating back to the 1st or 2nd century BC, called Otzenhausen.  It is one of the biggest fortifications ever constructed by the Celts.  In the middle of this massive fortification was a settlement.  We were able to view archeological dig sites and see how the research is conducted.  There were also some amazing forest trails overlooking a lake.  It was a picture perfect day for exploring.

On top of the Celtic Ring.  Gorgeous view!

This boy is irresistible!

Hiking through the woods.  

Teddy always finds something to climb.

My reasons for getting out of bed each morning!

The kids and I were able to make a quick visit to the Kaiserslautern Zoo.  They had quite a few animals ranging from monkeys, buffalo, camels, baby goats (which the kids adored) and even a colony of bees to observe.  Our favorites were the goats and the bees.

Baby goat love!

The goat is almost as sweet as the boy.

Last weekend, September 21st and September 22nd, we took an overnight trip to Luxembourg City and Bastogne Belgium.  When arriving in Luxembourg, our first stop was to the American Battle Monument and Cemetery where General Patton is buried.  Teddy and Patrick were hanging on Daniel's every word with the stories he was sharing from WWII.  It was incredibly eery to walk the rows of these brave soldiers.  Teddy said, "I did not realize there were this many soldiers in WWII."  Little did he know this is just one of the American Cemeteries.  Since our return the family has also watched the movie, Patton.  There is also a tribute to those soldiers buried here unidentified, and those who were never found.

The crew in front of Patton's grave.  This is as good as it gets.

So sad how many crosses/stars here represent the lives lost.

                                                          The map of the battles fought

Next, we went to our hotel which sits right next door to a fortress dating back to the year 900.  Once again, the children could not get enough time making their way up and down the stairways and through the tunnels of this fortress.  We even saw our very first moat!

A lovely girl and a lovely view.

The kids & Daniel on the wall of the moat!

A better view of this beautiful castle

                                                        Strolling through Luxembourg

We made our way through the small cobblestone streets and gorgeous bridges to the town square, where we sat outside to get a bite to eat.  The kids played in a small outdoor area with a group of children seemingly all visiting from different places, speaking a variety of languages.  Children all seem to speak the same language.

We had an assortment of frog legs, lamb, escargot, and of course some spaghetti for the children.  The boys loved the escargot and had great fun trying to dig the snails out of their shells.

Having a beer and a frog leg

                                        Gorgeous walk home at sunset.  This is a view of the
                                                        catacombs we tour tomorrow!


 Quaint city streets

                                            Teddy as we made our way to the city center.

The next day we toured the Luxembourg Casements, Bock, dating back to 963.  This entire city is incredible as it is all seemingly built inside this large fortification. It served as one of Europe's most strategic strongholds.  The first casements were first dug out by the Spanish in 1644.  They kept these tunnels stocked with everything from bakeries, blacksmiths, dungeons, cannons, and basic necessities so if they ever needed to bunker down for a long period of time they would not be missing a thing.  Thank you for recommending these Jackie!

                                                                  Inside the casements

Down we go, where we stop
no one knows!

Ready, aim, fire!

                                                Could not even see the bottom on this drop!

Daniel & kiddos in casements

Oh beautiful Luxembourg

Have you ever seen such beauty?!

Me and my bambinos taking in the scenery.

After touring the casements, we loaded up and headed onto Bastogne Belgium.  If you are a history buff such as Daniel, this is a must see on the list!  In this town, 76,890 of soldiers died here in war and as a result of exposure to the elements in The Battle of The Bulge.  The monument is built into the shape of a 5 pointed star.  A Sherman tank still sits on the grounds.   On the memorial it reads, "The Belgian people remember their American liberators."

We saw a cemetery where thousands of German soldiers still rest, ranging in age from 52 to 17.  On the outskirts of this town, you can still find foxholes dug out from the soldiers.  We visited the 101st Airborne Division museum which the kids were completely absorbed in.  I cannot think of a better example of living history than having the experience to tour here in Europe.  This is truly something they will carry with them forever.

We headed into downtown Bastogne where we grabbed a pizza as well as a few Belgium waffles from street vendors. The kids said they were the best waffles they ever had.

Daniel & the kids experiencing some history!

Now this I just had to include.  How could 
you resist those faces?!

Full steam ahead.

Daniel and the kids checking out the Sherman tank.

Go Teddy!

                                                                       A bite to eat.

                                             Enjoying a hot waffle on the streets of Bastogne.
                                                            Very first Belgian waffles!

                                              Once again, an incredible weekend reported!

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