Friday, June 28, 2013

Seven Quick Takes

1. Power outages stink.  They re-set everything in the house and the kids wake up scared because their night lights aren't working.  It's also hard for a pregnant mama to use a windowless bathroom.

2. Husbands who get up at 4:30 a.m. because the power is out and their kids are scared are awesome.

3. Husbands who figure out how to use a match to light the gas stove to make coffee are even more awesome.

4. Getting the kids out of the house so they stop being squirrelly because the TV and the toaster both aren't working seems to be the Thing To Do.

Because then you get these:

5. First strawberry picking:

6. Contented, post strawberry smiles:

7. Coming home to a house where the power is back on and all is right with the world.  

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Notes from the Trenches (Vol. 1)

So, it is late Thursday and we officially finished our school week.  Tomorrow I'm going to set up a craft and an educational show, after I go over with the kidlets what we did this week.

We're done with the hard stuff, for now.

So, this is my round-up of random information gleaned from homeschooling a 6 year old, a 4 year old, a   3 year old and a 15 month old, while being 34 weeks pregnant.  I'm calling it notes from the trenches, because, whatever else homeschooling is, it is hard.  So, for all you newbie homeschoolers and moms of many out there, have hope!  You're not alone.

My lesson plan system worked. It worked so well that this afternoon I went ahead and did my lesson planning for *next week* because, carpe diem, people!

It turns out, to my surprise, I am not a color by number syllabus person.  At least, not when my hands are so full.  It turns out that when I reach down and try to relate to each child at their own level, schooling became easier.  Rolling with the differences is actually a lot less stressful than trying to impose the same mold on the whole crowd from the top down.

So, the 15 month old spent the week playing with foam blocks and a muffin time, augmented on different days by a wooden spoon, various sippy cups, and a plastic snack container with a hinged lid.  Also, for some reason, her sibs who were waiting for their turns at different times were also interested in these things.  School time for her was an adjustment, but she's getting the hang of it.

The 3 year old spent the week learning "This little piggy went to market..." He had coloring sheets as well, but he was not interested.  He  did enjoy the group reading and poetry time, though, and felt included enough that he didn't disrupt his older learning siblings.

The 4 year old spent the week tracing letters and numbers and doing simple phonics.  She also got to color, which she thoroughly enjoyed.  I think her favorite part was getting a sticker on finished assignments, though.

The big kid, the 6 year old, started slow and gained momentum.  The first couple days it seemed like he had lost all interest in reading and all knowledge of phonics.  By this morning, however, he was buzzing through his reading and phonics so fast it was like he was playing a game.

The highlights seemed to be the end-of-the-lesson chapter of Winnie the Pooh.  They were good listeners.

This week was weak in religion and math.  Frankly, this has always seemed like a weak spot in our school, but now there is a plan on the books to improve this.  I've located the appropriate lesson in Saxon Kindergarten, so we'll be starting that and I've designed a religion lesson that covers all the weaknesses in the other religion programs I've had trouble with.  Both of those are now part of the lesson plan, so they *will* get done.  They have their own special boxes like all the other important subjects.

Designing my curriculum as I go was stressful initially, realizing all the bases I had to cover.  However, it enabled me to roll with the punches this week, taking notes, mentally re-working things in my head.  It's the last day of the school week and I don't feel burnt out.  That's a first.

And that's all from the trenches this week, folks.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Five Favorites: Homeschool Newbie Edition

So, this is my first Five Favorites post.  Thanks a bunch to Moxie Wife for hosting!

For those of you who have never met me, I have a Type A personality (I think). I like to feel in control.  I also want to homeschool my kids.  So far, hilarity has ensued as I try to get my beautiful darlings (ages 6, 4, 3, and 15 months) to fall in line with these goals.

But this week I found a system that works, you guys!

So here are five things that as a newbie homeschooler are making my week better.

Favorite 1.

A word spreadsheet.  I know, I know. It's a plain, 6 x 12 square grid.  But so far, I've been able to put everyone's (yes, the baby has a row) school stuff on there.  I've been modifying stuff in pencil as I go, so next week it's going to look different when I print it up (I know for sure I'm adding a row for notes, for example). I filled it in and saved it as a template and now it's waiting for me when I have to do lesson planning for next week.

Since my biggest challenge has been trying to figure out how to juggle work for all four kids at once, this is a big deal.  And my new favorite.

Favorite 2.

The Piano Guys.

Since one of the goals of a classically oriented education is getting kids to recognize the good, the true and the beautiful, I try to find good music to listen to during the school day.  On Monday the CD I had so carefully picked out refused to play on any of my machines, so, on a friend's recommendation, I put on these guys.  They cover all kinds of music, from classical to popular, but they are amazing to listen to.

Favorite 3.


Where else can I find print-outs and activities to incorporate into my school week that cover my entire range of students?  I'm an obsessive pinner.  And it makes my school week easier.

Favorite 4.
This book:

My six year old loves the format and the stories.  I love the fact that it's flexible and phonics-based.  Also the fact that the exercises are bite-sized, so when (not if!) we get interrupted, it's easy to get the train back on the track.  Also, each story is a bit different and comes with a picture, so my student eagerly works through the lessons to get to the "good part."  It's like dessert.  And who can argue with academic dessert?

Favorite 5.

Again, with dessert.  At the end of the school day, I'm reading a chapter from this:

I have fond memories of being read these stories as a child and now I get to pass them on to my kids.  This is one of the reasons I do what I do.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Seven Quick Takes

Seven Quick Takes: New House Edition

Last summer, in the late summer, we moved into a new house.  For the first time in our married  lives, we're in an actual house, that isn't attached to anyone else's residence and that has a yard.  Here are some of my new favorite things about our home:

1. Lilacs.  The house previous owner (the only one, the one the house was built for) was an amazing gardener.  I'm falling behind in taking care of the sheer number of flower beds and garden areas.  But she planted these amazing lilac bushes that bloom in rotation, so we have had lilacs for almost a solid month.  I can smell them everywhere and the blooms are gorgeous.

2. Open windows.  We can keep our windows open most of the time starting in May.  We get a great cross breeze that keeps our house cool and let in the amazing scents of the garden, newly-mown grass, summer bonfires.  From my open bedroom window, I can hear the rainfall and hear the wind whisper in the trees.  I can also hear cranes, crickets, frogs and more birds than I can name.  We've never had "open window season" for a number of reasons, but I love it.

3. Our swing. We have an old porch swing in the back yard you can see a bunch of the garden areas and trees from.  It's one of my kids' favorite places in the world now.

4. Our big garden.  In addition to flower beds, we now have a huge vegetable garden with lots of sun and good drainage.  My mom is an enthusiastic gardener and thanks to her efforts we have gotten lettuce, spinach, radishes, dill, asparagus, garlic scapes, and wonder of wonders, strawberries!  I've never successfully grown anything before, so this bumper crop is overwhelming in the best possible way.

5. Our flower garden.  There are perennials everywhere! Right now it's irises, but I've seen alliums, bleeding hearts, lilies of the valley, flowers I don't know the names of, herbs I know but can't remember.  Crab grass has become my nemesis as it tries to choke out my pretty blossoms, but it can't lower my spirits.

6. The pool.  Yeah.  We have a pool now.  It's a big one.

7. The fire pit.  The biggest social draw has been our firepit.  Husband and kids love gathering burn material, getting the fire started, and cooking brats and marshmallows over an open flame.  We have cookouts a lot.

Bonus: 8.  My family lives a mile away.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Gypsy Week: a retrospective

Last week was our family vacation.  Traditionally, my parents rent a house on the beach for the week and we hang around, doing fun, often tourist-y things.  This year, for a number of reasons, we didn't stay at the house with my folks and sibs, but opted to drive back and forth every day.  This resulted in a grand total of 4+ hours in the car every day with four toddlers and a very pregnant mama (me).

Here's what I learned.

What didn't work:

Arts and crafts in the car, unless we're talking about coloring with crayons, are not a big thing for the under 7 crowd.

My three year old learned quickly that if he was bored, he should ask for food.  The car snacks were types of junk food he doesn't get at home.  He got to the point where he was "hungry" every five minutes, even if the last snack was two minutes ago. After the first treat, we learned that if we offered him something boring, like a plain graham cracker, he would stop asking.

Sometimes, when you're pregnant and tired, you're just not going to be comfortable in the car, no matter how many little luxuries (chocolate almonds) you packed.

What did work:

Command centers. Each child had a back pack with necessities (blanket, coloring book, clip board for a lap desk, snacks, etc.).  Since car seats keep kids from being able to reach the floor under most circumstances, I used carabiner clips (from the Dollar Tree), to clip each child's pack to the back of the chair in front of them.  Had we been hiking or camping, each back could be zipped up and detached in seconds to allow the child to take the backpack with them.

Audio books. We listened to "The Fellowship of the Ring" read by Robert Inglis for much of the trip.  Great stuff.  My little geeklings are learning so much!

Car snacks.  I know, I know.  I complained about the three year old.  But, truly, breakfast in the car with the kids every day was less of a disaster than I imagined it would be. They had fresh grapes and frozen gogurts every morning and the real junk snacks didn't start til later.  We also made sure to fill water bottles with ice and water in the morning, so the sugar was kept to a minimum.

Family time.  The driving was hard, no doubt about it.  But the quality time with family was priceless.  If I had to do it again, I would.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day

Today we honor the great men in our lives.  The ones who go by the title, not of "hero" or "general" or whatever grandiose titles people covet.  But I think that the best, hardest-earned, most precious title in the world is "Daddy".

I have been so incredibly blessed to have two great men in my life.

The one I have known longest is the one my siblings and I still call "Daddy."  He taught me what virtues men are capable of and taught me how to spot the good ones.  He taught me a lot of other things, too.  He taught me there was more to life than being pretty, that I could do anything and that I was infinitely valuable.  These lessons and so many more are the legacy I got from my Daddy, who raised and is still raising strong, independent, smart kids.

The man I know best is the one my kids call Daddy.  I thank God for him every day.  We have been through a lot together, both the "better" and the "worse" we promised almost seven years ago.  Through all this time we have grown together and also had some growing up to do (especially me).  Today, he is a man I am proud and grateful to share children with. He teaches them kindness and patience, love and joy, honesty and diligence.  We lean on his strength and he shelters us.  He is gentle and strong and the love he has for his family is beautiful and deep-rooted. Some of my favorite memories are his lullabies to our babies, hearing him read aloud to our kids, seeing him working in the yard with the little ones and playing with them.  He calms and distracts them when they are distressed and laughs with them when they are happy.  He is a wonderful husband and father.

Happy Father's Day to my two favorite men.  Thank you for all you do.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Dusting off my blogging shoes

So, it has been a hectic year for us in many ways.  My motto has been "If you want God to laugh, tell Him your plans."

So, as I am planning on resuming blogging soon, no doubt He is having a hearty chuckle.  But that's okay.

Anyhow, as blessings #1 and #2 are now school age (sort of), I'm going to start posting reviews of homeschooling stuff in addition to the usual cheery updates.  I'll probably also be posting book reviews for learning age books.  And when I say "learning age" I don't mean "school age" because, really, who ever out-grows learning?  I'm pretty sure when you stop learning, you die.  Like sharks with swimming. Don't stop.

So, for new readers, hello!  I'm happy to see you!

For old subscribers, hello! I didn't die, I swear.

I'm back!