Monday, January 11, 2016

Every time I climb a tree....

Every time I climb a tree
Every time I climb a tree
Every time I climb a tree
I scrape a leg
Or skin a knee
And every time I climb a tree
I find some ants
Or dodge a bee
And get the ants all over me

And every time I climb a tree
Where have you been?
They say to me
But don't they know that I am free
Every time I climb a tree?
I like it best
To spot a nest
That has an egg
or maybe three

And then I skin
The other leg
But every time I climb a tree
I see a lot of things to see
Swallows rooftops and TV
And all the fields and farms there be
Every time I climb a tree
Though climbing may be good for ants
It isn't awfully good for pants
But still it's pretty good for me
Every time I climb a tree.

- David McCord

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Hand blasting mushrooms and stars are we. :)

Halloween 2015

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Loving bugs...

Hey, bug, stay!
Don't run away.
I know a game that we can play.

I'll hold my fingers very still
and you can climb a finger hill.

No, no.
Don't go.

Here's a wall- a tower, too,
a tiny bug town, just for you.
I've a cookie. You have some.
Take this oatmeal cookie crumb.

Hey, bug, stay!
Hey, bug! 

                        Lilian Moore

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

I think it's working....

Planting corn with Papa to discover whether corn planted with little fish grows faster than corn planted without them. The verdict is in, and Squanto had something going for him...

I am guilty of writing when I'm processing stress but not coming back to Ye Olde Blog when pulling out of the nosedive. :)

The first week of school was rough for all. BUT, we are getting into a good routine. I was too quick to throw my hands up in despair. (Ain't that the way it always goes when you're a recovering perfectionist?)

I'm often most in awe of the growth in my oldest child. After all, he's the first one to walk this far on this journey with me. 

I reminded him today that I want a good part of his rest time to be reading time, and he told me excitedly that it definitely would be. "I have this AWESOME book called, "Two Bad Pilgrims," Mommy. I read it all yesterday, but it was so good that I want to read it again. They nearly blew up the Mayflower!" 

I have been putting new books in his library book basket in his room... and he's READING THEM! :) No coaxing, no begging, no half-hearted mumbling about how he "looked at" them during rest time. He told me the whole story of a Graphic Library telling of Marco Polo the other day because he couldn't contain himself. He was leaning on my bed as I was sitting there with a sleepy Ben and talking fast because he couldn't wait to get it all out. 

He's asking to re-do Spanish exercises from our Spanish book that he wants to understand better. He wants to build molecules from atoms. He's learning to take more ownership of his own work. "Can I come back and finish my school work? I've been on break for awhile now." I can even sit at the table and answer a question here or there from him and work with my kindergartener at the same time! 

And my 6-year-old son? The one that I was setting a 10 minute timer on our reading work so that I wouldn't explode in frustration from his unwillingness to attempt to sound out the word "mad"? (Yes, I did see the irony at the time.) He's sounding out three letter words like a champ and giving me high fives. Today he discovered that he could use his math blocks to get the answer in more than one way. "Look, Mommy, it's not just 3 and 3 that make 6! I can make 6 with 5 and 1, too!" 

I couldn't have imagined being where I am today when I had a kindergartener and 2 wild preschoolers. 

I went to a workshop at the homeschool conference the spring we were wrapping up kindergarten, and the speaker said that if you had no students that could work independently, you were likely to suffer from burnout. A light bulb went off in my exhausted brain. "Hey, that's me. That is very much me." I felt guilty that I was suffering from burn out only one year in. How was I going to make it if I was suffering from burn out only one year in? 

Well, now I know how. The secret is students who get older and more independent/responsible and actually excited about learning! Very few things are more wonderful to me than seeing their enthusiasm. (Good French chocolate and coffee with lots of half and half and vacation in the mountains, yes, but also their enthusiasm.)

Without a vision, the homeschooling mothers perish. My own vision on the hard days is sustained because of the beauty of my own homeschooled childhood. I keep it by reading encouraging blogs, and finding things to include in our morning basket that inspire me, and by asking those who are ahead of me on the trail to give me a sip from their water bottle of increased perspective. I find it again by running across books that I read as a child that I loved and want to read again with my children. I expand it in the library stacks when I see what new treasures there are to be explored.

I have learned to have affection for things that I didn't love because I knew they were things worth trying to love. I have learned to love lesson planning (at times) and gross science and even some things about teaching math because God has helped me learn to love them. I'm thankful that He has helped me not to give up and set my heart to appreciate beautiful and hard things that are serving us all well. 

I wanted to share that. I am not who I was when I started homeschooling, and I'm not now who I hope to become. I was shaped by my homeschooled childhood, and I see that I will be changed again by the process of becoming a homeschooling mother. 

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

A homeschooling morning...

Today was pretty representative of what a lot of mornings look like when Ben is off having adventures with Mimi and Pop Pop. It ended up being mostly what I'd like Morning Time to look like, so I thought I'd write about it.

I read some from Understood Betsy from the Ambleside reading list at breakfast. I made sure to stop at an exciting point so they'd beg me to keep going. (Insert evil cackle. ;) 

We started Morning Time after he walked out the door, and we spent about an hour on it. We started with saying together one of the poems from my Memory Work binder, "Little Drops of Water, Little Grains of Sand." (I haven't added much new memory work yet, so each day I move the sticky tab to the next thing under the "Review" section in the binder.) We also sang through our new 50 states song, but I slowed it down and had Seth read along instead of using the video. (Evan complained. It's a fun video.)

Then we read the story of the Rich Young Ruler in a new kid favorite around here, Favorite Parables from the Bible by Butterworth and Inkpen. I wouldn't have known a thing about this book if we hadn't gotten one of the stories from a yard sale. We discussed what it meant briefly, and then everyone gave prayer requests. ("Hot soup" has made someone's prayer request list a lot lately. We're deep here. ;)

On to singing two verses of "Praise to the Lord, the Almighty." I explained the meaning of the complicated vocabulary when we first started learning it a week or two ago, and I ask if they remember what a word means as a refresher from time to time.

I have a collection of poetry books from when I was a child, and right now we're reading a couple of poems a day from The Random House Book of Poetry for Children. They liked the ways that different poems describe the wind.

My goal is to read a chapter from Tree in the Trail once a week, and I also bought the expensive maps for it from Beautiful Feet. We have ours up on the wall, and I'm using colored pencils to add the details. Today we added the Santa Fe Trail (and it ain't easy to do based on the map at the back of the book, y'all.) There are bloggers that I've found that help with this, and I've got their sites bookmarked.

I pulled out Patterns of Nature and we read about wild flowers and weeds and answered the questions. I had Seth color in the illustrations while I was working with Evan on his kindergarten table work. Maybe he'll have half a shot of identifying goldenrod and queen anne's lace now. 

We did a capillary action experiment last week, and I called my brother to ask him to explain it to me in detail. (When your brother has a doctorate in horticulture, you call him, and he tells you because you're his sister. ;) I explained what he'd told me and had Seth tell it back to me. I had them both repeat key phrases a few times, and then I wrote the definition of capillary action on the white board. I also cut and pasted it into a word document, printed it out, and then handwrote Seth's definition underneath it. He drew a picture of our experiment underneath that.

We read a few more pages in Leif the Lucky, and they narrated those back to me. I'd written down their narration on that a few days ago, and I had Seth illustrate that page (also while I worked with Evan.) We talked about when he lived and explored and how it was long before the Age of Exploration.

Seth read me a few pages of a short chapter book on Ferdinand Magellan from our library. I narrated it back to him. Evan sat nearby and listened. We checked the location of Magellan's ship on our world map on the wall, just like we do for a lot of our readings when locations come up. Reading about explorers has meant a lot of referring to the map lately. 

This is Morning Time, a work in progress, a rich buffet on some days and skimpy fare on others. I feel like I'm getting an education from Morning Time, and I have hope that they are, too. :)

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." Holling Clancy Holling has grown on me big time.

"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 sometimes at meals when it's a CD instead of my voice, 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


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."