Tuesday, September 01, 2015

School Year 2015-16...





And we're off! First official day of 3rd, Kindergarten, and Pre-K coming right at ya! I gave them their "first day of school" presents, took pictures, and we got most of the regular school work done.

I decided to take a picture of my handwritten guidelines in case someone might be interested in that. The top picture is what I wrote out for this year. The second picture is more detail about some of the things I include in our morning time. Just click on the picture to see it larger.

The bottom picture highlights my eclectic approach to social studies. :) Here we have the $10 manual for My Father's World that I picked up at the homeschool store. I liked the activities in it, so I went through and tabbed them and made a note of which ones I wanted to use. (I may or may not attempt to to follow some of the days as written just to mix things up and see if I learn a few things to add to my teaching repertoire.)

I wanted to get more study of the natural world in, but I have found it hard to get regular about that in addition to whatever science topic we're doing. (Last year it was astronomy.) This year I picked up a Rod and Staff book called Patterns of Nature, and I've been surprised already how much they like the short, simple stories and review. They're retaining a lot more using this approach than they did reading books from the library on the same topics, so this is staying. We are also reading and narrating right now from books on simple machines, and I plan to cover that and some chemistry this year.

Paddle to the Sea was a huge hit for geography last year for all of us, so I'm continuing on with "Tree in the Trail." I think I'm going to buy the maps from Beautiful Feet for this because the journey isn't as simple to follow using our world map as Paddle was.

"Our American Heritage" was one of my favorite history books as a child, so my mom kept it. It introduces history using famous figures in history, so I plan to use the chapters as jumping off points. The simple book list in tan beside that gives me book titles with suggested grade levels and in chronological order.

I gave up on French because it's not nearly as practical as Spanish, so we're using Song School Spanish this year. Not sure how many days a week that we'll listen to the CD's and do the workbook, but so far they really like it, so I'm thinking maybe more than one day a week. This is just supposed to be a gentle introduction, so I'm OK with not pushing this.

I am taking selections from Ambleside's book list, including a children's Pilgrim's Progress for devotions and "Understood Betsy" as a read aloud. I've also got "The Courage of Sarah Noble," "Me and Ben," and "Caddie Woodlawn" on CD from the library, and I'll start playing those while we eat lunch. I have found that they listen better when it's a CD, and I get less frustrated at interruptions when I can turn up the volume. ;)

Our local once-a-month book sale has art print books for $1 a copy, and I snatched up ones of Michelangelo, Vermeer, and Durer. I'm on the hunt for Rembrandt. I cut up these books and use the pictures for picture study. I'm trying to go in chronological order for great masters.

I added Vivaldi to my Spotify list today. Seth and Evan both asked to listen longer. I think he's replacing Handel as the current favorite composer. :)




Thursday, August 20, 2015

An epic day...


The view from my parents' cabin on the sound. When I was a kid, I thought that island out there was Europe. And now my kids don't realize they're ribbing me when they call it "Europe," too. :)

Today felt epic in the worst way. I haven't had a day this bad in ages. When my husband texts me that he'll take the kids out for the evening after getting my SOS texts all day, that's DEFCON 3. 

For starters, I have allergies and feel pretty rotten. This will probably last a week or so like usual but knowing that doesn't make it much better on a daily basis. I stumbled into the kitchen this morning and popped Sudafed, and then I barreled on with the plan. 

The plan was to have another school day. Things went well during social studies time. Everybody participated, even Ben. I got a great narration on Magellan from Seth and learned a few things myself. Evan was also able to give me the basics. The small whiteboard I'm starting to put terms and names on is helping me remember, even if it never does anything for them. ;) Seth illustrated his narrations and ran upstairs to have his turn keeping Ben out of trouble/aka playing with him.

I moved to the kitchen table with Evan, and we re-watched the Math U See video from last week. I had trouble getting it to work, but I learned from that that Evan likes it because he said, "This is bad. I like watching this. I want it to work." We sat down to learn place value with the blocks, and I took it slow. I waited several beats for him to answer instead of supplying the answer. I cheered when he got the concept, and I was rewarded with an awesome Evan smile. (His smiles are the best.)

As we were finishing up, I heard banshee wailing from upstairs. I got up there to discover that Ben had been firing plastic food from the food box at Seth. Seth did what I told him to do. Instead of retaliating he called for me and ran away. He ran into my room and slammed the door... right on Ben's hand.

I was so afraid something was broken. He screamed like that 2 weeks ago when he broke his leg. My heart sank. I gave him Tylenol and ice, but he didn't want it touched. I tried "Curious George" therapy. That stopped the crying, and I took deep breaths. 

I decided to dress and put on make up and consider ditching the house in favor of the thrift store. I also decided that we weren't doing any more table work until after Ben was down for nap. 

Nap time found me and Seth at the kitchen table, and I got a good look at what letting an 8-year-old boy go all summer without picking up a pencil or doing word problems will do. It ain't pretty. I can't do this again. I swear on all that is holy that I will not do this again. Someone remind me of this next June! Letter and number reversals galore! Slooooow writing! Confusion when doing math (which he is really good at!) 

This is not his fault. I should've insisted on some regular seat work. It wouldn't have killed him. And we would both feel a little less discouraged. I can tell him and myself that this is what happens when we take too long of a break, but it doesn't make either of us feel great to understand. Lesson learned, I hope.

I write this for myself so that in later years, I will look back and see how far we've come, hopefully. I want to shake my head and smile at my elementary mom self and her fears that didn't come to pass.

It's the beginning of a new year. We need much grace. All of us need much grace. The kids in the elementary school down the street do review for a month, don't they? They must, right?

Even with the epic awful, there were bright spots. Evan will get math if I'm patient with him. Seth dictated a story to me "that shows girls that boys aren't always the bad guys." (He blames you for selling that idea, American Girl book series. Shame on you.) It was awesome and funny. He wants to illustrate it and give it away for free, I'm assuming as a public service. ;) 

Well, writing it out made me feel better, as I hoped it would. I write to gain perspective, and if any of you get something out of it, then that's a nice bonus. :)








Friday, August 14, 2015

Back to work...


Seth on the last day of 5 Yesterdays day camp at Old Salem. He's standing in front of a wall he chinked. Proof that learning happened over the summer! ;)

It's Friday. I slept late this morning, and my sons watched "Rescue Bots" while I showered. They're now on their third episode, and I'm blogging. Yeah.

Ben broke his leg last Tuesday night, and we had many days when I carried him everywhere and he took a lot of Motrin and Tylenol in rotation, but at this point he's surprisingly mobile in that cast. I should've enjoyed his lack of mobility while I had it. ;) Thank God for waterproof casts! We were even able to go swimming last night!

Because of the leg breakage, I figured we might as well start school back a little early. I jettisoned my plans to de-clutter, and I got it in gear to get us started with school. Binders bought, soft cloth crates of books organized for each student, books ordered and requested from the library, etc.

We did a soft start on Wednesday this week. It was a bit of a bumpy take off. I made the mistake of trying to do too much seat work. It's a weakness of mine. And then there was the attempt to have Evan watch his math video even after friends stopped by. It would've been easy to have him do it later. Why didn't I? His distraction wouldn't have frustrated me if I'd just waited. 

And it's just not the first day of school if you don't have a 3rd grader crying because he "doesn't remember how to do these math problems."

Thursday went better. I made my goals far more modest. Seth had one sheet of (easy for him) math and one copywork page. Evan had no math and two pages of penmanship/alphabet review. We went over the voyage of Columbus together using the map. I didn't write down Seth's narration and ask him to illustrate it. No poetry, no memory work, etc. Whenever I had the urge to "add just one more thing because it's going so well," I squashed it ruthlessly. 

This will be my 4th year of homeschooling, and it's my first year adding another student. I've got a second born that doesn't have quite the same level of enthusiasm and competitiveness as his brother. I'm going to have to learn how to teach another, very different person. 

The "I-want-to-just-smell-the-new-Ticonderoga-pencils" enthusiasm has waned a bit, and I need to get it back. At this point, I'm just stressed and not sure if I want to try another school day until Mimi and Pop Pop's Preschool for Destructive 4-Year-Old Boys goes back into session. 

I don't see many homeschooling moms excited about "back to school" time in my Facebook feed. Maybe it's because some of them homeschool year round, but it also could be the same reason that I'm not seeing a lot of classroom teachers squealing about going back to work. Instead maybe some of us are thinking "That's it? That's all the vacation I get? I don't feel rested enough to back to work yet." 

I'm going to take up my extra full time job again, and though I do love this job, and I chose it, it's hard. It's nerve wracking. It involves lots of decision making and new prayers and days that no one wants to work, including me.

Give me a few days and preschool enrollment, and I'll probably be singing a more cheerful tune. :) 







Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Adapting....


I found the Inspector Gamache series by Louise Penny through the Modern Mrs. Darcy blog. (I have liked a lot of her recommendations, and though this mystery had an element or two that I could've done without, I think the writing is good enough that I'll read the next one.) Anyway, I marked a passage in "Still Life" that got my attention the other day.

Inspector Gamache is talking with a local bookstore owner, and they have a conversation about a book called "Loss" by Brother Albert. The author's theory is that life is loss, and Myrna gives him her thoughts about the book.

" 'I think he's right. I was a psychologist in Montreal before coming here a few years ago. Most of the people came through my door because of a crisis in their lives, and most of those crises boiled down to loss. Loss of a marriage or an important relationship. Loss of security. A job, a home, a parent. Something drove them to ask for help and to look deep inside themselves. And the catalyst was often change and loss.' "

'Are they the same thing?'

'For someone not well skilled at adapting they can be.'

'Loss of control?'

'That's a huge one, of course. Most of us are great with change, as long as it was our idea. But change imposed from the outside can send some people into a tailspin. I think Brother Albert hit it on the head. Life is loss. But out of that, as the book stresses, comes freedom. If we can accept that nothing is permanent, and change is inevitable, if we can adapt, then we're going to be happier people.' "

My toughest times have been when I've been fighting change that I don't like. As a recent example, there's been a wonderful activity that we've been involved in for a couple of years that is changing in several ways that I don't like, and I can't do anything to change that.

But I've noticed that I have some hope that it will work out OK anyway and that I'll adapt. I'm hopeful that  the changes won't be a deal breaker for my family or that improvements will be made so that the negatives don't seem so negative.

A few years ago, I would've stewed about it more. I felt less adaptable to loss. Maybe I'm growing up or maybe the basics of security are in place so that I can handle loss in small doses better. Maybe God is working in my heart to accept His will better and see that my loss isn't necessarily loss in His equation.

Either we'll find ways to adapt or we will stop doing this and look around to see what He has for us somewhere else. There will be something to gain out of the experience no matter which way it goes, and I'm hoping I will remember that when it counts. :)

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Seth explains his latest invention....


We've been looking at the Frugal Fun for Boys blog, and Seth got the idea to make this from one of their posts. I'm going to let him explain it in his own words. Take it away, Seth!

"First, you nail four nails on a square piece of wood, one in each corner."


"Second, you put four rubber bands onto the nails."



"Third, you pull the car back against the rubber bands."


"Then you let it go. So the idea is you pull two cars back and they bounce against the rubber bands, and the one that hits the other car is the winner."

Friday, July 10, 2015

Me and Leonardo....



A couple of months ago, I got a picture book called "Leonardo's Horse" from the library. We've been studying the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, and I've found some real gems there to help us in our study. 

This book was an interesting story about the massive bronze horse that Leonardo Da Vinci wanted to build and the man who tried to make his dream a reality just a few years ago. I learned a thing or two about Da Vinci that I hadn't known before, but what was most interesting to me was his obsession with this horse.

According to the book, he despaired toward the end of his life because he wasn't going to be able to build it. He talked about it on his death bed, and he worried that his life was in vain because he couldn't create his dream. This great man, who gave so much to the world, wasn't focusing on the Mona Lisa or the Last Supper or his amazing inventions. Instead, he was worried that he hadn't accomplished anything worthwhile during his full life because casting this horse was out of his reach.

This last year has been a lovely one for me, but it's also been a time of disappointment and heartache. After two years of trying, I think I'm about to give up on the idea of having another baby. This was something that we felt like God was asking us to do, and though there were times that I panicked a bit at the thought, I tried to be obedient and open. But nothing happened, and now it seems that we were wrong about what He wanted. Being so out of tune with God's direction for us is just as hard in some ways as going back into infertility.

I've struggled on and off over the years with my dream to have a daughter, and the hurt has gotten greater lately as I've realized that this desire is probably going to go unfulfilled. I can tell myself that I knew that already, but I didn't feel it like I do now.

My youngest is getting older, and we're starting to see a new phase of life that sometimes means that the guys go off and happily do guy things together and Mommy gets left behind. (There's nothing wrong with this. I want them to do guy things together, but it means I'm having to adapt.)

So, Leonardo and I have had a lot in common. Some of our desires haven't matched up with God's plans for us.

Infertility hurts. It makes you doubt your worth and whether your life is pleasing to God. It makes you wonder if He ever cared about any of your dreams. 

I haven't ever had the luxury of feeling like my fertility was a gift from God especially for me. Having to fight to get pregnant (twice) and never having it happen when I thought it would has meant that I've had to face the fact that these children are God's plan and not my plan. They aren't ultimately for me; they're for Him. The fact that none of them are the girl that I prayed for amplifies that fact. 

These aren't my only plans that haven't come to fruition in the last year. At this point, I feel confused and frustrated and sad and sometimes, yes, unloved. 

But I don't really want to be like Leonardo. We all think it's ridiculous that he's staring out the window in longing while the Mona Lisa sits behind him in shadows, right? Why can't he see the beauty of his life instead of what he didn't accomplish?

I keep a Bible verse on the windowsill above my kitchen sink where I will see it when I'm doing dishes. Right now, it's a favorite since I was a teen:

"Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup, you have made my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance."- Psalm 16: 5-6

Sometimes you just have to pray and study through the hurt and ask Him to heal it in His own time and in His own way. And be determined to look for the Mona Lisa's in your life that are hiding right in plain sight. 


Monday, June 15, 2015

Summer....


 

We're into the happiest part of summer. This is the part when the days stretch in front of us full of promise, the smell of sunscreen and chlorine still make me smile, and my kitchen has never been cleaner because we're eating so many meals at the pool.

Almost every evening finds us at swim practice. My little band of swim suited men follow me past the ping pong table and the concessions stand, dragging pool noodles and an assortment of lethal water guns.

Seth has practice first. I watch his skinny frame glide through the water, mostly identifiable by his bright green goggles. I see the improvement that he's made since last summer, and, more importantly, he does, too. "I passed someone tonight. And I passed someone last night, too, Mommy." ;)

While Seth swims, the little boys play and then come over to me to eat whatever dinner I've managed to scrounge together before it's their turn. We're feasting on the best of summer produce, peaches, watermelon, big, juicy grapes. They eat trail mix and lunch meat and cheese and bread and pizza I've picked up at Little Caesar's on the way, and tonight, I even managed to bring taco salad (and keep the taco meat hot!)

Then it's Ben and Evan's turn. They're swimming in the 6 and under group, so they're mostly getting carried through the water. Ben is the baby of the team. I picked up his black swim trunks tonight. They're impossibly small. Yes, he's on the team, but he wears his puddle jumper as he runs fearlessly off the diving board, crowing loudly all the way down.

David has started joining us after work. It's so hot that we're in the water just for relief from the heat. Though I avoid water gun battles, I am often caught in the crossfire. Sometimes I turn on them with a gun of my own, and they giggle and jump away, delighted.

We come home, and I drape suits and towels over the chairs and the swing on the back porch. Naked little boys play with Legos and Magnatiles instead of heading up to bed like they should. I put a few things in the washing machine.

I know that tomorrow morning will find me sitting with a book after breakfast is over instead of getting ready to start school. Maybe I'll be listening in the background to this book on CD for the thousandth time. They put it in the CD player near our kitchen table and press play while they build and create. Seth tells me that I'll be doing summer school to learn about droids. They pull out games and blocks that have been neglected all year. I am recruited to play table tennis.

Sweet, sweet summer....

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Stitch Fix, no. 3....

This was my third Stitch Fix, and I think they really hit it out of the park with this one. Nothing in this selection made me look chunky or hugged my mummy tummy, and that is really saying something. I've been out shopping for spring clothes, and it's been hard for me to find flattering fits.

I think it probably made a difference this time that I linked my previous blog posts to the note I gave to the stylist and begged her to please look at them. Then she could see what my body type really looked like, my coloring, etc. She told me that she did look at them in the note she included with the box, so I know the effort wasn't in vain. :) I am not tech savvy, but if you don't have a blog, you still might be able to figure out how to send a picture or pin pictures of yourself to your style pinboard. 

In this box, I asked for some casual summer dresses and tops. I was sent 2 tops and 3 dresses. 


Top No. 1- A little blousier looking from the side than from head on. I might've considered keeping it if it wasn't for the highly unfortunately placement of certain oval shaped pattern elements. Ahem. I looked at the styling card, and the fabric pattern on that did not have this problem. I think they need to take this particular blouse out of circulation.


Top. No. 2- When I pulled this out of the box, I thought it was definitely too loud. I wouldn't have picked this up in the store and tried it on, but it looked surprisingly good on. I'm thinking I may keep this one. Also, it's pretty season-less, so I could see wearing it in the fall as well. It wasn't see through, so I think I can get by without wearing a cami underneath, and that's always a plus in my book.


Dress No. 1- When I put this on, I smiled pretty widely. I love it. It's very comfortable. The color is actually a lot more wine than red. I think it's flattering up top, and I don't mind the bell shape to the skirt because it's a bell all the way around and doesn't highlight the pooch. At $38, it's about the same as I would pay for a dress at Target, and Target has nothing like this right now. I've looked.


Dress No. 2- Meh. A little more retro than I'm going for. I don't love the white detailing. The short sleeves weren't that flattering, and neither was the waistline. This is going back. It was my least favorite piece in the box. 


Dress No. 3- I've been looking in the stores for a maxi dress to love, and I've had no luck. I am so pleased with this dress. It touches the top of my feet, but I think I can also gather it up a little more and make it a bit higher. Since the ones in the store are apparently for women 5'8" or above, this was a winner from a length standpoint, and that's a big deal. Definitely keeping this. It was the most expensive item in the box at $78.

The more fixes I get, the more pleased I am with them. They suggested that that might be the case, and I'm finding it to be true! I ordered some items from Lands End, and that box came in the same day as Stitch Fix. I am so pleased with this box, though, that almost everything in that box is probably going back, and even with a sale from Lands End, it looks like these items will be cheaper overall.

If you want to try this for yourself, please consider using my referral link. I get a little off the next box if you do, and since I seem to be getting a box about once or twice a year, that definitely helps my clothing budget.

As you can see, I'm not a model, nor am I pencil thin. ;) I wear a size 8-10 in the typical brands from places like Target, Gap, and Old Navy. If this can work for me, it can work for a lot of women I know. Give it a try! You might be pleasantly surprised!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Good things...


- A cool, rainy day to stay inside and snuggle on the couch with new books. 
- The kind employee at the Dollar Book Exchange who "hid" a nice Star Wars book in a big bin of kid's books and convinced Evan to "look again." :) 
- Evan asking all day if it was time for him to make a Star Wars Lego kit for Ben.
- "I'll wait here while you wake Ben up, Mommy," and he stayed on the bottom of the stairs, itching with anticipation of the big reveal.
- Ben's spontaneous and muffled "thank you" from around his passy after Evan unveiled his treasure.


- A 3-year-old wandering around in a scrounged toboggan and one glove.
- The new card system for deciding who gets to pick a Netflix show next. Their names written on an index card with a paper clip next to the current picker. So easy. So wonderful for avoiding fights.
- Purple lupine in my neighbor's yard. And my plans to see if I can get it to come up in a spot in mine.
- Remembering before getting late fees that the library books need to be renewed online today.


- A simple way to get back to the blog after being away for too long. And pictures finally uploaded to the computer to share.
- A successful camping trip with the boys. And the downed tree at our campsite that they bounced on, giggling like nuts. Playground equipment provided by God. 
- Chuck roast braising in the oven for dinner. And the pure joy that will inevitable appear on Seth's face when I announce mashed potatoes to go with it. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Leaving the books out...


I think Evan made Ben this awesome plane. At least, I think it's a plane. Could be a tractor. Maybe.

There's this super simple thing I've started doing lately that's making a difference in our homeschool. I'm guessing probably everybody does it already, and I'm the last one walking into the party with my maracas, but just in case somebody else here has not yet arrived in their sombrero... here goes.

I leave out unfinished work. 

Yep, that's it. Told ya it was bonehead simple.

I shall expound, however. So, at morning time, I take out all the books I will be using, and I put them in a pile next to me on the floor by the sofa. Said sofa is in the picture above. As we use each one, it goes into one of the many small cloth crates I have lying around (also pictured in the left hand corner of the picture above.) We sing a hymn, hymnal goes into crate, read SOTW, it goes into the crate, etc. But I often forget to do Seth's reading lesson for the day (we're finishing up Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading), so I leave that one out. It may be lying on the arm of the sofa, or it may be on the floor, but I DO NOT put it away.

This way, when I walk by it over and over again, I will remember that we haven't done that yet. Its presence is like a flashing red beacon saying, "Your son doesn't know enough about compound words yet. Use me! Love me!" 

Same goes for the pile of books for tablework on the kitchen table. I put out a stack for Seth and a stack for Evan. Seth's stack got done early in the day, but Evan's didn't. It was still sitting there after lunch, mocking me. "Get to me. You know you'll feel better if you do, even if he is just in pre-K. Ahh. Doesn't that feel good?" 

You're welcome. I'm just here to make you feel better about yourself.