Tuesday, August 30, 2011

My Boy and His Legos

Last year for Christmas, Boop got his first set of Legos. Well, he might of gotten a little set before then. But, at Christmas he got a big airplane. Along with a big, blue, transparent box to put them in.

For the first few months, daddy or the girls had to help him put it together. It was the box that said "ages 5-12" on it. So, it was to be expected that he would need a little help.

But, over the last few weeks, he has become a Legos expert. He had a couple of gift cards left over from Christmas and we finally got around to using them. And all he bought were different types of Legos sets. Mostly from the movie Cars.

Yesterday, when he came home with two more boxes full of Legos, he sat down during quiet time and put together three cars and a boat. All by himself. Again, the box said "ages 5-12." He very methodically went from one page to the next, following the directions, exactly. And, very patiently.

When he went to bed last night, I told him how proud I was of him for being persistent and following directions and putting together his Legos, all by himself.

I was and am truly amazed by how his brain works. And, it is kind of fun having a boy . . .

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Big Difference This Year

We are day four into school and I couldn't be more pleased with our transition. I give credit to the fact that we started to easy ourselves into a routine about two weeks ago. And I think that really helped. Plus, I have been getting up every morning, early, and in my prayers just asking God to help me make His plans for our homeschool, my plans.

One thing I wished I would have done with Nature Girl and Little Mama is take a picture of us learning to read. I just think that is such a great gift for each of us. So, this past week, NG took a picture of me and Boop. He is starting out great and has a great attitude. (Always helpful.)

One of the things I have noticed this year, though, is there really doesn't seem to be any extra time during the day. The "extra" time I had last year (which I didn't feel I had any) has now been taken up by teaching Boop reading, writing, and arithmetic. This year was going to be kind of smooth and easy transition into school for him. No pressure. Not real organized or scheduled.

But, about 2 weeks before our school year started I found out that he had to be registered because he will be 6 in February. (The girls didn't have to register for Kindergarten because they were not 6 by February.) So, because he is registered, he will have to be evaluated. Which means he will actually have make some progress during the school year.

I don't worry about things like that, really. And we have a great evaluator. But, I also don't want to take advantage of the system. But, that has definitely made for very. busy. days. having school for 3 children!

We are adapting and I am sure we will do great. Just trying to relax and remember that "God will fill in the gaps!" And to remember what a blessing and honor and privilege it is to teach my own children . . .

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

My Favorite Bookcase

With all the blogs I have looked at being all about back to school and showing off school rooms, I thought I would take a picture, albeit not a very good one, of my favorite new school hutch.

We bought it over the summer for $5. And I love it. It is next to the china hutch by our kitchen table. (Eventually we will get back to using the school room as soon as I am confident enough that EG won't climb the bookshelves.)

So, this is what my hutch has on it. On the very top shelf are books of our artist for the semester (Rembrandt), our missions jar, our army doll with our family friend's picture of their son in it (we pass him around while praying in the morning), our attempt at growing herbs and a book from when we went to the Baroque exhibit over the summer. The second shelf has the girls' school books we are currently reading for the semester. Shakespeare's Henry the V, Plutarch's Lives, Understood Betsy, Burgess Animal Book, Poor Richard, Robinson Crusoe, The Little Duke, Our Island Story and This Country of Ours just to name a few. Third shelf has our Latin/Greek word index card boxes, our scripture memory boxes and the globe. The fourth shelf has notebooks and manuals and teaching helps that I hope to use through out the semester.

Of course, I still have books, notebooks, math stuff etc. in the china cabinet. But, my little hutch helps keep things a little neater and more easily accessible.

We are studying anatomy and physiology this semester so I am hoping to get a poster of a human skeleton to add to the alphabet and the liquid measurements chart that are hanging above it. Today we have added our mummified apple experiment to the top shelf and our map of Minn of the Mississippi.

When you sit down to eat a meal, there is no telling what you might be looking at. Oh well. The dining area will never make it to the cover of a decorating magazine. But I am totally OK with that. It is amazing how school just kind of takes over the whole house . . .

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tea Party

One of the things I have had on my homeschool to do list is have a weekly, or at least bi-weekly, tea party. I think I remember doing something with NG in Kindergarten. If I remember correctly we had snack and read out of the Blue Fairy Book.

At some point, though, it went by the wayside. Like so many other things I want to do. Last year I remember putting it on our calendar, for the first two months. And then, when it never happened, I just stopped putting it on.

This year, with my goal to make school funner, I am once again bound and determined to have "Tea Time." Only this time it is going to be a real party. Eventually.

I told the kids, if we continue to have a weekly, or at least bi-weekly tea time, I would buy the stuff to make real tea and maybe we could even make scones. But, in the meantime Goldfish and grape juice will have to do.

They each picked a tea cup they liked. (The cups we have were given to us from a wonderful family friend!) Even EG got in on the action when she woke up from her nap. I even had a chance to read one of the books I have been meaning to get to. It is calledWisdom and the Millers. Cute, short but meaningful chapters.

I think our tea party was a success. Now if we can just do it again. . .

Sunday, August 21, 2011

I Hate Housekeeping

Sshhh. . . don't tell anybody! Ha, ha. When people use the phrase "you could eat out of her toilet" I think to myself "big deal who wants to eat out of a toilet bowl anyway."

Housekeeping is the part of my domestic engineering job that I have struggled with my entire career. That and cooking and grocery shopping and . . . well I guess I had better stop there.

Anyway, as I finished up my Saturday housekeeping duties, I just felt led to share that I hate housekeeping! When I was childless, I could easily avoid it by reading or horseback riding or some other fun thing. But, now, considering my job description clearly reads "housekeeping" I can not avoid it any longer.

I have plugged along at a "need to do" pace for as long as I can. Awhile ago, hubby finally acquiesced in allowing me a cleaning lady. But, we finally reached a point where I felt it was a luxury for me and not a necessity. So, now half of the money I save by not having a cleaning lady goes to support a child in Ethiopia. Which makes my "sacrifice" a little easier to bare.

But, that still didn't/doesn't get my floors mopped. So, this summer I decided it was time to make a plan. Not some over reaching cleaning plan that I could never keep up with. But one I actually felt was doable.

I don't really use Flylady at the moment. Just too overwhelming to get started. But, I suppose, I do use some of her ideas. The kids help and over the summer they have been working on making a habit of their chores. Every morning NG is responsible for washing breakfast dishes and wiping down my bathroom. LM vacuums the floor around and wipes down the kitchen table. Boop sorts the day's laundry and empties garbage cans. EG is just responsible for getting dressed. With underwear.

On Thursdays, the girls vacuum and dust. For money chores, LM, once a week, cleans the windows and, theoretically Boop is suppose to clean the back porch. NG, every other week, cleans our wooden blinds and I am still working on something else for her. She, in the meantime is ironing every week to pay for jazz/tap class. Fifty cents a shirt, a dollar for a pair of pants, etc. When I was a little older than her, I would spend time during the summer ironing dress shirts for my stepdad and getting paid. I actually love to iron but it just doesn't get to the top of my to-do list often enough.

The only daily chore I do is laundry and of course cleaning up after meals etc. (And teach, of course.) I tried to work in other chores as well, but it never really seemed to work. I just had trouble getting done what needed to be done such as school and meals and tidying up etc.

The kids daily chores have to be done by the time we leave the house for afternoon activities (or 5 if we stay home.) Their rooms need to be clean, all schoolwork done and the living room picked up. (We want to have a relaxed and organized and less chaotic house for hubby to come home to.)

We do all our major chores on Saturdays. Cleaning bathrooms, mopping all the floors, washing kids sheets (ours are done on Tuesdays). I clean both baths, NG vacuums all the floors and LMdelights in mopping them. She even does the little bathroom floor on her hands and knees like her Grandma.

Major chores are pulled out of a major chore jar when time permits. Ha, ha! And also can be used a punishment for disobedience correction. (This one is a work in progress.) Actually, it all is a work in progress. The rubber hits the road come Monday when school starts and the time I felt I didn't have to do housework shrinks by about 2/3rds of the day!

Anyway, I hate housework. Glad my kids can help me with it, all the while gaining good life skills and hopefully a positive attitude toward cleaning toilet bowls. I know one thing that has really help me put housecleaning in perspective is, first, my husband deserves to have a clean and tidy house. He works very hard, so it is the least I can do for him. Also, I need to remember that whatever I do, I am doing for the glory of the Lord.

I believe God enjoys seeing me, us, taking care of where we live. And serving each other in this way. A desire for our school year is a home that is warm, inviting, friendly and ready to receive anyone at anytime. We are on a roll and I hope it continues. It is kind of nice have a relatively clean house . . . .

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Read Alouds

I am following this Homeschool Conference, I guess you would call it, on some one's blog that was recommended to me. If I understand what is going on, the moderator or hostess posts a topic and then everyone kind of chimes in with comments, tips, etc.

Last night's post was about Read Alouds, books that the parent is to read to their children during school. Certain books, near as I can tell, are designated RAs because they maybe a littler harder to read or have a little bit more teachable substance to them.

When the hostess asked for introductions from all of us who were participating in the "conference", one of her questions was basically "What do you look forward to the most in starting school?" My response was Read Alouds, Read Alouds, Read Alouds. Because I love to read, because I love to read my kids' school books, because I LOVE to read to my kids and because I want them to grow up loving to read.

So, when the hostess posted last night's blog topic about RAs, I couldn't wait to comment. I started to, then I stopped. I am not sure I will comment there, but I figured I would say what I have to say here about how we do RAs.

Every school day we have scheduled in Bible, History, Literature and Science RAs. (Because we use Ambleside we read a lot.) Bible and Science we read together. But, for History and Literature I read to each girl (and eventually Boop) individually. While I am reading with one girl the other girl entertains EG. And then at some point they switch. That way we have uninterrupted reading time.

We have been reading together at night for almost as long as I can remember. Before I even decided to homeschool I just knew I wanted to end the day reading to the kids. I envisioned sitting by the fire, all of us curled up together, reading the latest book. Honestly, there have been one or two times it has actually looked like that. But, we do read together, on the couch almost every night after the baby goes to bed.

It has been a great way for me to reconnect with the kids, especially after a hard day. And we can have plenty of those. We all (minus EG) get on the couch and just relax. I read, Boop grabs a pillow and blanket and usually falls asleep before I am done. LM and NG take turns sitting next to me. Sometimes when daddy is home, he finds his place on the couch as well.

We have read some really fabulous books this way. We just finished Otto of the Silver Hand and we are starting the second book in the Saturday's series. Almost all of our books come from Ambleside recommendations. So there isn't much in the way of twaddle.

I look forward to reading a lot more books to the kids again this year. . .

Monday, August 15, 2011

Weekend Getaway

We went to Grandma's this past weekend. Of course the minute we got there it was swim time. And even EG got in on the action. Both Boop and EG have improved greatly in their swimming. Especially EG. We couldn't turn our back on her for a moment. She would be in the water, scooting around the edge of the pool!

Unfortunately my mom had to work majority of the time we were there, so we had to find ways to entertain ourselves. Sissy painted fingernails. And my toenails!

We had dinner ready for my mom when she got home. And the kids spent the evening swimming.

Saturday morning we went to the beach early. To avoid the hottest sun and to find good shells. The water was really rough. So none of us got in very far. We had an "up to the knee" limit. Because the water was so rough, it made a real quick dropoff real near the shore line. The kids were a little disappointed. But, had no trouble finding other things to do.

Little Mama loves playing in the sand and getting covered from head to toe!

The kids found lots of periwinkles and would try to catch them and then watch them dig back into the sand.

Hubby spent most of his time finding shells. He has decided, when he retires, he is going to make picture frames and planters and other such things using all the shells he has collected. He walked for quite some time, up and down the beach, choosing just the right shells.

Quiet time, watching a movie, waiting for Grandma to get home.

We had a great surprise Saturday night, my mom's neighbor and long time family friend, came over and made homemade ice cream with the kids and stayed for dinner. We had a great time and the ice cream was fabulous. We enjoyed it so much, we are now looking into an ice cream maker for ourselves!

After dinner, our friends invited the whole family over to their hot tub. What a great, great way to end a busy, fun filled day. It was dark and breezy and the water was fabulous. The kids had a blast too, jumping from the hot water to the cold.

When we got home everyone crashed in front of the T.V. watching another movie.

My sister and I are reading the same book. And we just so happened to be in about the same spots the whole weekend. We had a blast talking about the book together. Almost like we were talking about real friends we have. "Can you believe what Hilly just said?!?!" The book is The Help and it is a really great, thought provoking, entertaining book.

We left Sunday morning after Grandma left for work. As always, the time went by way too fast. But, we all had a really good time. The kids are already asking when are we going back . . .

Thursday, August 11, 2011

So Many Choices

I have spent some of the summer contemplating what we are doing in our home education. If I am picking the right curriculum. If I am using the right tools to educate. I went to a massive homeschooling conference with tons of curriculum all claiming to be the best.

It made me think. It made me question. It made me wonder. Just a little. I have a bunch of homeschooling friends and most of them are doing something different than me. Some parts are the same but others are different. When we discuss what we are doing, I do sometimes have a fleeting thought if I am making the right choices. Teaching the right things. In the way they need to be taught.

We discuss school because we want to make the best choices for our kids. For our families. We want to know what works and what doesn't. Is a certain workbook or story worth the cost? Homeschooling moms are a wealth of information and are very willing to share their thoughts.

I have questioned what I am doing. I have thought "should I be doing something different?" I think that thought every time I hear something cool that someone else is doing. But, then I realize I can't do everything that sounds cool. Because there is A LOT of cool stuff out there!

So, then I start running different teaching techniques and tools through a sieve in my brain. How do I like to teach? How do I enjoy teaching? How do I want them to learn? What do I feel is important for them to learn? What is my ultimate goal for education? What am I willing to do during the week to get school done? What are our weeks like with a hubby that works shift work? How does service to each other and others outside our home fit in? What do I want the kids to do for extra curricular activities? What do they enjoy learning? How does each one learn? What do they want to do for fun?

It can be a challenge, not getting caught up in what everyone else is doing. I think it is human nature to question what we do. It is important, because it allows assessment and change. When necessary. All my homeschooling friends do something different from me. And from each other. Homeschooling is as unique in each family as each family themselves.

I got a timely email from a site called Simply Charlotte Mason and there have been two very applicable quotes that have solidified my choice for the way we do school. Here they are:

"The mind is capable of dealing with only one kind of food; it lives, grows and is nourished upon ideas only; mere information is to it as a meal of sawdust to the body" (Vol. 6, p. 105).

"The mind feeds on ideas, and therefore children should have a generous curriculum" (Vol. 6, Preface).

In a nutshell, this is how we do school. This is the path I have taken. And it works for us. For today. . .

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Sweet Victory

My second oldest daughter is sitting in the easy chair. Reading. She is my late bloomer in developing that skill. She is as smart as a whip. And loves school as much as any soon to be third grader. But, the skill of reading just took her a little longer.

And I am thankful to God that I have had her home. To be able to nurture that skill and help her to develop it into a life time of loving to read and learning through great books!

I will not tell a lie, I was a little concerned at one point. And just a little bit frustrated. What was I doing wrong? Was there a hindrance on her part? But, thankfully for a great homeschool group and a great evaluator, I knew I was on the right path. It was just taking her and I a little longer to travel it.

I knew not to rush it. I knew it was a skill she needed to develop at her own pace. I knew if I pushed it or started to stress, it would backfire. The last thing I wanted was a child who hated to read!

Have I mentioned she is smart?! She catches on to patterns and solutions so quick. She is observant and, oh yeah, sweet as molasses. With a heart about as big as the grand canyon!

Have I ever mentioned how blessed I feel to be able to teach my children to read? To see her sitting in the chair, reading, on her own, because she wants to, brings tears to my eyes. Oh how the world is going to open up to her . . .

Saturday, August 6, 2011


I am not a fun mom. I don't really like to do things just to do things. There usually has to be a reason behind a field trip or something. The trip has to have some redeeming value. ;)

So, yesterday, when I took the kids to Zoink's, a local indoor jumpy house place, even hubby was wondering what I was thinking!

About two months ago, a fellow homeschooler had bought one of those Groupon things for the jumpy house place. But, she thought it was the one where it had go-karts and things to do for older kids. She posted it for sale on our homeschool network for an even lower price then what she had paid for it.

It was at the beginning of the summer and I thought "wow, this is my chance, at some point to be a fun mom." So, I bought her coupon for less than half the price it was worth. And, yesterday, I surprised the kids with a trip to Zoink's. Just for fun!

I thought it would mostly be for EG and Boop. But, it turned out that everyone had a great time! We stayed for a couple of hours and had snacks, played the games, won tickets and jumped in the half dozen jump houses. All for a total of $17. (It would have cost us over $40 to do all of that.)

Anyway, the kids were impressed with my surprise. And, when I explained it all to hubby he was impressed as well. I think everyone enjoyed my little "end of summer" fun. Kind of fun to be a "fun" mom . . .

Friday, August 5, 2011

First Day of School

Oh boy!

Little Mama's favorite school book for the upcoming year: Understood Betsy

Nature Girl's: Poor Richard (about Benjamin Franklin)

Boop's favorite: Math (for now)

Pictures of our first day of school. Sort of. We have unofficially, officially started back to school. But, don't tell the kids. Ha, ha. Just kidding. They know of course.

I decided to "start back" August 1st. It is the dog days of summer. It is hot outside. We have done just about everything that we are going to do. And, if we haven't, we have other days we can do other things.

We still are volunteering with reading up at the church, so we can't officially start our full days yet. So, instead of not doing anything, I just decided to start back slowly. With things that I knew might be hard to get into a routine.

So, this past Monday we start our quiet time routine and are continuing with Math. We have started, again, reading our Heroes book at breakfast. And, at snack time or lunch or whenever everyone is sitting at the table we have started our art study of Rembrandt.

Next week I hope to add a little Science and maybe even some Geography. I am just going to take it slow. By the time everyone else is back at school, we will hopefully be in the swing of things. And, maybe, just maybe, able to already take a day off . . .

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Big Blue Chair, Part 2

So, after much discussion and a few wet eyes, we have decided to keep the chair. I have asked the person I promised it to, to please forgive me.

I guess I am not that ready to move on. And neither is anyone else in the family . . .

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Dress

Today the girls have one of their very good friends over. They are in the school room drawing dresses. And there has been some talk about wedding gowns.

A few minutes later NG or LM asked to see my wedding dress. My first thought was "no." I wasn't even sure where it was or how it was packed away. Then I got to thinking about it. I don't think they have ever asked to see it before, so I said "sure" and I went about trying to find it.

It really wasn't all that hard. It was on the top shelf of our walk-in closet. All I needed was the kid's stool to get it down. So I did. When I took it out of the plastic they all "ooooed" and "aahhed". I did too, in my mind. I had forgotten how truly beautiful it was.

Well, of course they asked me to put it on. I haven't had it on since the day I got married, I don't think. I figured "what the heck." NG helped me zip it up. It was a little snug around my rib cage and a little big through the shoulders. But, other than that it was beautiful! They tried to put the veil on and they hooked up the train, which was very long and heavy.

I had to tell them the story of how the dress came about. I had seen the exact same dress in a bridal magazine. And fell in love. But, we had a very, very, very small budget and the dress probably would have taken all of it. I showed the picture to my mom and then mentally moved on to find something else more affordable.

One weekend, before the wedding, I went home to visit my mom. She had a surprise for me. She had bought a wedding dress that someone had been selling. It might have even been out of the paper. Anyway, it turned out to be the exact same dress for one tenth the cost. It needed a little TLC but I was in love with it. Lace, pearls, sequins and it fit me just right. Yay Mom!!

A friend fixed it up and it was the most beautiful thing I have ever worn. I was delighted to tell the girls my story of the wedding dress. Of course they nodded and smiled and went back to their drawing. But, when the time is right, many years from now, I am sure I will tell that story to each of them, again and again. How God truly does provide. For everything . . .