Tuesday, December 17, 2013

new camera...

Ok, so, I have this love for taking good pictures. I also do not have mad photography skills. Sooo after Seth was born, we paid big money (for us) for one of the first Nikon DSLR's on the market. I had to capture the best photos I possibly could of my long prayed for baby, right? :)

Nearly 7 years later, and that Nikon was showing it's age and its limits. My mom and dad (who spoil me so rotten with birthday presents that its a little ridiculous) gave me money for another camera. Now, my birthday is in February. This is December. I held onto that money for quite awhile waiting for a good sale. I think it was worth the wait.

Behold what the Canon EOS Rebel T3i can do! (Especially when you get a fixed 50mm lens to go with it.) I am so excited. These are a few I gathered from around the house after the first couple of days of playing with it a little bit.

The reason I haven't had much time? 3 Christmas musical performances and many rehearsals before that for Seth. Christmas feels like it came on fast and furious after Thanksgiving this year. It's been a little hard to get into the Christmas spirit for me. I feel like I started out the gate behind, and I'm not going to catch up. I'm hoping that cleaning up and resting some at my parents' for our annual before Christmas visit will help get me in the right frame of mind.

I love the peace and anticipation of our Savior's birth every year. I need to find a way to grab hold of that soul deep joy like I have in past years. The rush of Christmas events shouldn't drown it out. I'll get there… :)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Sitting down for lunch...

I've decided that I really need to sit and eat breakfast and lunch with my boys. I've discovered that it brightens my morning and my afternoon when I do.

It's easy to justify just standing at the kitchen counter to eat. Someone is going to need something, and I'll just have to get up anyway. Ben will want down from his high chair, so I'll just have to stand up and get him down. I'll just have to stand up to reach the cereal and milk anyway. Or worse, "I can just check Facebook real quick while they finish up."

But when I sit down, I see that little face above sitting across from me. I see Evan breaking his pretzels into little pieces while he tells me about dinosaurs. Seth looks up from his plate to tell me about the ice frozen in the bucket outside and how its breaking up. We get a minute to talk about how water doesn't freeze unless its below 32 degrees Farenheit while eating mac n' cheese.

I look full on into the faces of my little ones without distraction. I do it for longer than a frantic minute at a time. And I'm realizing that this face time connects me to them far more than I realize.

When I sit down to eat with my boys, I see them in their wonder and quirkiness. They talk to me, knowing that I'm not going to spin away to load the dishwasher. I get up from the table wanting to snuggle with them, wanting to talk more, wanting to read a book, realizing there isn't anything more important to do than be with them.

I won't always have that baby face in the high chair. He's growing up far too fast and talking far too much. But at least when I say, "I need a baby to kiss. Do I have one of those?," he says, "I the baby, Mommy!" Frankly, they'd all admit to being my baby right now. That's not going to last forever.

Yep, its past time to make time for table sitting.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

a night drive...

It was after dinner, and I'd just dropped Seth and Ben off to play at Mimi and Pop Pop's before going to the grocery store. Evan wanted to come with me to help, so I loaded him up. As we drove through their neighborhood, a contented, little voice came from the back seat.

"I'm happy."

"Why are you happy, Evan?"

"Because there are Christmas lights."


Monday, November 25, 2013

The drawbridge...

Playing with Legos together in the loft of the mountain cabin on vacation...

It's Saturday night. Baths are done, and boys are listening to the sounds of "Encyclopedia Brown Solves Them All" upstairs in their bunk beds. Ben has a horrible cough, cold, and fever, so I was glad to get him to bed a bit early.

(Life happened, and I didn't finish this over the weekend. C'est la vie. :)

Anyway, I've been thinking about winter evenings. Well, winter evenings and the tired that comes with busy schedules and how they mesh together well. The fall schedule has had me running tired. We've got Bible study and kid's choir practice and park playdates and, and, and...

Winter evenings and early darkness are working for me in that. David comes home, and not long after he comes in, I lock the door and turn off the outside light. It feels a little like pulling up the drawbridge on the castle. Oh sure, its not really. But there's a little feeling of retreat from the world in early winter evenings, cozy under blankets, reading stories, lighting candles at dinner.

Summer is for flinging the doors wide open, kids running around the house, late bedtimes... But winter? Winter is for cocooning and resting and feeling the tired in your bones and embracing it a little. It's for laying down in the bed at night, your head on your husband's shoulder, and thinking, "This may just be in the best part of the day."

It's for a big tray of Legos on the kitchen table after lunch instead of chasing them all outside. It's for listening to the littlest one say, "Eggo? Eggo?", and watching him grin as he drops a piece and attempts to crawl on my lap. It's for smelling his hair while we all watch the "Charlie Brown Mayflower Voyage" before nap.

I finally figured out how to slow cook beef stew without either burning or rubberizing the meat in the process, and Seth and I came home from choir practice last night to a delicious smell and two freshly scrubbed little boys in their pj's. Ben came running for me to give me a hug, and I got dinner going.

Whenever I'm tempted to wish we had a gas fireplace because it would be so much easier, I need to remember their excitement last night at carrying in the kindling they have gathered and the logs from the wood box. I need to remember that we can't roast marshmallows over a gas fireplace. I should remember that I read a little bit of "Farmer Boy" around the fireplace after they had plenty of hot, burnt sugar in their tummies. It was the part about tapping the trees for maple syrup and collecting wintergreen berries in the snow.

We cut off the lights, and we used nothing but a few candles and the firelight for awhile. We talked about the past, about the cold and the lack of electricity and the blessings of light bulbs. It was good. It was slow and as quiet as it ever gets with little boys climbing up and over the sofas and chairs.

So I'm not feeling guilty about pulling in and not going anywhere for a few cold days before Thanksgiving. We'll paint with watercolors, play with play dough, make Goody O'Grumpity's spice cake, wait for the new dishwasher to be delivered, and make Indian headdresses.

We'll be thankful for winter. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Family in town...

This is my back yard. (Taken by Seth, my budding photographer.)

And this is my in-laws new house.

And this is the distance between the two.

1.33 miles.

As of a few weeks ago, we now have family in town. My father-in-law retired, and they moved here from the Norfolk area. I've been hesitant to say much about this, but I figured I should come clean. See, we haven't lived near family since before Seth was born. It's been 7 years of juggling babysitting with friends, making do when I'm sick and David is in trial, and making the best of it. 

Frankly, that's what most of our friends do. So I honestly feel guilty at my abundance of riches. I suspect that many of you are throwing a shoe at your computer monitors right now and gnashing your teeth in my direction. And I wouldn't blame you a bit. That's probably what I would be doing. "She has great parents only an hour and a half away and NOW she has in laws who love to babysit less than 2 miles away? A pox upon her!" 

Yesterday, I woke up at 4:00 a.m. and knew that I was sick and would have to go to the doctor in the morning. I also knew that David was leaving for trial, and what that means is that he can't do a single thing for me because he'll get a contempt of court citation if he does. I remembered the time in the middle of a local trial when he came home for one evening when I was stuck in the bathroom for a couple of hours, and it was the only evening he could've possibly done anything like that during two weeks. God got us all through, but I lay on the bed that night and cried because I'd have to figure out a way to go on by myself the next day. 

But yesterday morning, I called my in laws. They dropped all their plans and came over to watch my boys so I could go to the doctor. And I was grateful because I have more backup now. 

I could say more about all the wonderful ways they've helped out in the short time they've been here, but once again, shoes at computer monitors, so I won't. So that's my story. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

One Pot Sausage, Potatoes, and Green Beans..

It's Cub Scouts night, and I'm thankful that another blogger turned me on to a great man-pleasing one pot meal.

1 Pot Sausage, Potatoes, and Green Beans

1 link andouille or smoked sausage, sliced
several red potatoes, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1-2 c. frozen green beans
2-3 c. water w/ chicken bouillon, enough to barely cover the other ingredients
2-3 t. cajun seasoning, etc.

Throw it all in a stock pot and bring to a boil. Turn it down and let simmer for 30 minutes or so. Feed it to your hungry people, with or without biscuits or cornbread. Feel Southern. The end.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Friday, 5 minutes post boys down for nap...

One possible ending to Seth's "video game." The superhero loses his legs. 

Ahhh, Friday. We're at the end of a hard week. I'm throwing in the towel for the dinner I was going to make. I told the boys that if they cleaned up the playroom before nap that I'd take them to the children's museum after nap, and then we'd meet Daddy for Mexican. I don't even care that I'm on my third day without a shower. Note to self: must find cute baseball cap, stat. 

Seth has had some attitude issues this week, and they've all been full of wild energy. I don't know what it is. Seth and Evan chase each other around the house, Evan dumps out a whole crate of fake food and chases Seth around with the plastic box, attempting to hit him in the head, they fall to the ground wrestling. I've been making them go outside to play rough. (The dumping of the fake food makes me want to scream because getting my 4-year-old to clean up is pure torture these days. It involves lots of punishment and very little progress. Ahem.) Ben has a sense of when I'm going to try and sit down to read with the boys, and he makes sure to take that time to get into whatever mischief he can find. Yes, he's deliberate about that these days. Baby timeout has been getting a lot of use.


- They love the little book on tadpoles that I bought from the thrift store this week. They ask to read it over and over and over again. 

-We've learned a lot about bones, and Seth has made his own bone models out of q-tips. He pulled out a book of animal skeletons and cut and taped them to replicate a turtle. And this was all completely on his own initiative. He figured out to use the q-tips without any hints from me. 

- We crafted this week, and I even put up their q-tip painted fall trees on the hall wall.

- The house may be dusty, but I pulled out my November decorations... acorn salt and pepper shakers, paper squirrels taped to blocks that I printed off Martha Stewart Living 3 years ago, plates of a fall leaf and turkey, the chalkboard platter I was given at Holidays Fit for a King (loved it!)..

- Seth created his own "video game." This involved me taking pictures of his hand drawn scenes and posting them in order on Picasa. He "plays" the game by using the arrow keys on the keyboard to scroll through. If you go too far, all the way to the last frame, you lose. Your superhero loses his legs. The game is called, "Don't Go Too Far." I couldn't figure out why until I watched him play.  

- The game is a huge hit with the preschool set. His friend, Anna, wanted to play it over and over when she came over. Evan is also intrigued. Watch out, XBox, there's a new guy in town. 

- Despite the crazy, we're getting into a school routine that works for me. Or maybe its that I've let go of having a time schedule to get things done in and have become ok with it being out of order on a lot of days. 

- I've found a Charlotte Mason reading group that I like, and I'm going to go back. Experienced moms talk about how to implement parts of her original homeschooling volume, and last meeting, we got a sample lesson or two of how to do a Bible lesson Charlotte Mason style. One of the moms brought crates of books that she has picked up at used bookstores that are "twaddle free" or specific to Ambleside for the moms to pick through. It was great! 

- Seth is marching in his first parade tomorrow with his Tiger Cub den. I hope someone takes pictures for me. (We've decided that I'll spend the morning with the little boys because they wouldn't enjoy the parade, we suspect). I think that he'll LOVE it. Since I despise downtown traffic on a parade day, it's probably best that I stay far away anyway.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

from the daybook...


Outside my window...  beautiful orange and red leaves on the tree in the front yard. I can see them from the schoolroom window, and every glimpse makes me smile.

I am thinking... that we moved into this house almost 5 years ago when this tree was aflame. It was Halloween weekend. Seth was 2, and Evan was making himself known in utero. I had just started showing when we moved in. 

I am thankful... for a working washer and dryer. I have a lot of sheets and towels and coats to clean from our wonderful week in the mountains. And that I have enough leftovers in the fridge to keep me going for another night's dinner while I re-enter regular life and school days.

In the kitchen... loving all the great soups I made while we were in the mountains. I made beef daube provencal from Cooking Light (it's amazing!), minestrone, and potato soup. I even hauled the breadmaker along for fresh rolls. I've decided that eating really well on vacation makes a vacation more special to me. :)

I am wearing... old gray maternity lounge pants that I bought 7 years ago (that I will never stop wearing because they're so comfy), brown boot bedroom slippers, a workout shirt, and a random cream colored jacket I got at a yard sale. I'm stylin.' 

I am creating... hmmm, does the model of teeth that I created with mini marshmallows and toothpicks count? Seth lost his first tooth a couple of days ago, so I decided to strike while the iron was hot and make it into a science lesson. He's asked to read his books on teeth over and over today.

I am going... to "Holidays Fit for the King" at my church this Saturday. I enlisted a sweet friend to come with me. I haven't been to a women's event at my church yet, so I'm a little nervous. 

I am reading... "Emma" by Jane Austen. I realized that I hadn't re-read some of Austen's works in years, so I downloaded a cheap collection from Amazon onto my Kindle. I started with "Sense and Sensibility," and I realized I'd never read it. I've heard that it's nothing like the movie, and since I haven't watched the movie, I may do that to compare while its still fresh. 

I am hoping... for many things, but most of all, for God to answer my prayers for the patience that I think He's trying to teach me in just about every area of my life. It couldn't be more clear that this is the big thing He wants to teach me if He hired a skywriter, so here we go. :) 

I am looking forward to... dressing the kids up in their adorable Halloween costumes and going through the neighborhood tomorrow night. I think I'll have 2 pirates and a dinosaur this year. 

I am learning... to grab the moments when Seth is pleased about the progress he's making with reading and shows initiative to read signs, words, whatever and to sear them in my memory. It helps when he complains that he "hates reading." He's 6. He appears to dislike a lot more things in name this year than he did last year, but I find that him saying that he dislikes something may not mean much.

One of my favorite things... lit candles on the counter while I cut up vegetables for dinner. 

Friday, October 18, 2013


Wearing homemade "pirate hats." While creating race tracks. Wearing underwear.

Sometimes the end of the week comes, and I feel pretty good about it. And other times I feel shakier than I'd like. "Did we do enough school? Maybe we were at the park and rushing through assignments too much this week. I think Evan is left handed. What am I going to do about that? I know nothing about being left handed. We can't go to the mountains with the "SRS" light on in the van because that means the airbags won't deploy if we hurtle over a hill to our doom. Oh, that's going to be a bijillion dollars to fix? Fine, just fix it. The dog. Oh, the dog. Why won't you boys stop harassing the dog. You're going to deserve it if he bites you. I can't wait for Mom and Dad to pick up their dog. Ben, please don't dump out the entire contents of the stick vacuum cleaner container while I read about humpback whales to Seth and Evan. Too late." 

That's when it comes in handy to make a list of all the good from today. And there is so much good from today and from the whole week, really. This is one of those "think on the good, the just, and the beautiful" times, and I realize again why the Bible has to ask this from us. It's all too easy to focus on the worrisome, the frustrating, the icky....

So, good things....

- Playdates at the park with friends
- The joys of stick finding
- A boy who wants to carefully copy a sentence from his alligator book to make his own "alligator book", complete with illustrations.
- Evan's treasures from outside- the tiniest, most delicate of pine cones, rocks with "mica, Mommy!", an intricate, hollowed out insect skeleton that we are going to have to take to a scientist for ID... and that he wants to bring them to me and use them to create his own "museum." 
- We read many books this morning, and they asked many questions about what we read. 
- Ben begging for two readings of "The Adventures of Awesome Man," calming my fears that he wouldn't be as interested in reading as his brothers because I let the TV become a regular part of life upon his arrival. (It's a long book for a 2-year-old.) 
- Excited outside play with sticks and rocks and found things to make forts and houses and beaver traps.
- Brothers who run to bounce the littlest on the trampoline.
- "Mom, can we keep reading?" when we stop at an exciting spot in "Benjamin West." 
- That a box of macaroni and cheese can keep the toddler sitting happily at the lunch table long enough to get a few short chapters read.
- Folded laundry. 
- The power of "I'm sorry. Will you forgive me?" 
- Grace.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Fall in the country...

I'm typing this listening to the sounds of my mom finishing up a pumpkin pie in the kitchen with my oldest. Papa took the littles to the park this morning so I could get some school done with him.

We're at my homeplace for what is becoming a fall tradition. Yesterday we took them all to the local fair. I tucked Seth and Evan under my arms and walked them to the ferris wheel for their first ride. "Oooh, Mommy, the people look like dolls." They watched the chainsaw artist while munching on kettle corn. They cheered on the racing pigs.

And then, we came home to a blustery day in what Seth still calls, "The Hundred Acre Wood." My dad, wearing the heavy leather boots he always wears to walk the property, took the boys exploring. They gathered hickory nuts and berries, mushrooms and pinecones. They leaped into gullies. He told them what they'd found as they roamed hill and dale. Plant identification? Check. (And done with the best, I might add.)

This is generational wisdom passed on in the most natural of ways. It's a way for us to enjoy different "teachers" and fun extra activities.

But really, there's nothing for me like fall at home...

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Dude, homeschooling with a toddler is hard...

Sooo, David and I went to a wedding this weekend. We handed the kiddies off to grandparents at a McDonalds on the side of I-95 and then proceeded to enjoy 2 days of sleeping in, afternoon naps, meals not bolted down in 5 minutes flat, and some sitting and talking in nature. Oh, yeah, and a wedding. :)

And in the process of having some quiet to think and the contentment that comes with having clean hair and a daily shower, this earth shattering thought came to me:

"I have never done anything harder than trying to teach 1st grade with a toddler on the loose."

And I've done some hard things.

I got a 4.0 in my master's degree in History, and this involved lots of long papers involving primary research as well as comps to finish me off.

I was the student body vice-president at Campbell, this involving lots of coup busting and meeting running and budget haggling and running Homecoming with teams of committees and a golf cart and a megaphone...

I have moved from state to state to state on an average of every couple of years for the first 6 years of our marriage....

The point of all these examples is just to say...trying to teach your son about hieroglyphics while his little brother sneaks out the back door and sticks his hands into a bucket of paint and water left by the painters working on the house? And having these kinds of moments repeated over and over for the last month?

Harder. I don't know why, but... harder. (Ok, maybe I know why. Maybe it's because I care more deeply about succeeding at this than I have about anything else I've done. So, yeah... that.)

So I'm trying to grab onto contentment with a desperate iron grip this week as I clean up streaked windows the power washer left behind, a month's worth of thick dust on furniture, and walls covered in crayon from the 4-year-old's "rest time."

Anything worth doing is worth doing with everything I've got... and it may take all I've got. And whenever I sit and read to them while they eat their PB&J's, I decide its still worth it. Even if the hand not holding the book has to shoot out and clothesline the toddler running by...

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Church life...

Our sweet Seth became a Christian a little over a year ago. It's his story to tell, so I'm not going to share all the details on this blog, but we believe his understanding of Christ and His sacrifice for him is genuine. We see growth in his life and a genuine desire to learn and apply what he's learning. He regularly prays for God's help when he's frustrated or angry or feeling selfish. He's also quite zealous for everyone to know about and love Jesus, as some of our friends and relatives can attest. :) 

In our church, the rising 1st graders have a special day called 1st Grade Bible Day. On that day, they get their very own children's Bible. They're told that they are going to need to carry it to Sunday School and church service. 

The older gentleman in the picture above was Seth's kindergarten Sunday School teacher. We LOVE him. Seth likes to memorize, and he would come home singing the Bible memory songs that Mr. Mancini taught him. One day he started reciting "The Lord's Prayer" in the back seat of the van. I hadn't taught him that, so I asked how he knew it. "Oh, Mr. Mancini taught it to me." He also learned the 10 Commandments and a couple of songs about the books of the Bible. I'm planning to bribe our children's ministry director to get Evan in his class in a couple of years. :) 

David and I serve once a month in a nursery class at church. Our service and Life Class schedules shifted around, and so now we go to service with Seth and then go to Life Class. Our nursery is now during the hour we'd normally go to service, so we needed to figure out what we were going to do with Seth. I asked our children's director if Seth could serve with us on that Sunday, and she was very enthusiastic. I LOVE that our church is so willing to get children involved in helping out... even at 6 years old!

We are in a class of children that are about two years old. There was a decent amount of crying because these are all new classes for the kids. Seth walked over to the chair where David was reading to 2 crying kids. This little girl reached over and grabbed him around the waist and wouldn't let go! Seth felt so important and needed. Eventually David gave up the chair, and he and the little girl sat there, hugging, for at least 20 minutes. Seth would say, "She really likes me, Mommy! I'm helping her feel better!"

We found out later that she has two older brothers. Maybe she just needed a little big brother love... and it was a great introduction to Seth of how he can serve children younger than he is.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

When your science plans go awry...

So I had this grand plan for easy science this year. I'd bought a book from Queen Homeschool, and I thought that "Our Animal Friends" would be an easy way to learn about various animals without me having to trek to the library over and over on weeks when I'd rather focus on other things.

I thought that this was a simple Charlotte Mason style notebook where we'd read a story about a little girl visiting her veterinarian uncle, and he'd tell her stories about the animals that were chock full of facts about the animals. I thought that we'd use the facts in the stories to answer the questions and do the worksheets that followed each story.

I bought the book in May. I sat down to look at it in more detail a couple of nights ago. I discovered with horror that 98% of the answers to the questions asked in the book were not included in the story. And suggestions of books or websites where I could find the answers to these questions were also not included. And this is supposed to be for elementary students? Crazy town. I am angry that I didn't look more closely at the book fair. I couldn't imagine that anyone would possibly create something for elementary students that would require that much research with that little guidance. I was wrong. So I lost my basic science plan for the year. Gahhh!

I panicked for a bit, and I started frantically hunting the internet for alternatives. And then I remembered that this is a Peace Hill Press kinda year. Most of my social studies materials and my reading curriculum are by either a Wise or a Bauer or both, so I might as well give her a chance to weigh in here.

All I really wanted was some guidance for good children's books and experiments to do with my 1st grader and my 4-year-old... an outline, if you will. I found part of this at Little Otter's Science. This will give me the reading lists and science experiments for learning about the human body, along with some links to printables.

Then I pulled out my copy of "The Well Trained Mind." On p. 161, I found a simple science plan for first grade. She recommends picking about 20 animals to study and just reading books about them and answering questions to get used to using the scientific method. I typed up all the questions in a 1 page document, and I printed out multiple copies. Now we can read and answer questions, and that will cover science on a basic level. If we discover a neat animal outside, I can use one of these sheets as well. They can draw a picture of the animal, and we're done.

The way that the classical educators do science makes sense to me. They want to link history and science somewhat. For the ancient history year, you study the human body, animals, and plants in science because those were things that the ancients could see and were learning about. Next year, we're supposed to learn astronomy because medieval scientists were learning a lot about those. It's interesting, and its not the way I learned science. I'm wondering if the boys will notice the link if I do it this way. But even if they don't, it gives me a broad outline to follow to try and cover the basics, and I do like that.

Science crisis averted. :)

Thursday, September 05, 2013

taking it all together...

We've had some lovely moments this first week of school. We've also had some ugly ones. I've got to take it all together, because that's what life is, a mixture of the hard and the beautiful and the beautifully hard.

From the good and lovely files:

- Boys laughing over Pippi Longstocking. And a mommy who stopped barking at her boys long enough to laugh with them.

- Seth and Evan wanting to do extra on their history work. Seth wanted to label and catalog his dig finds, and Evan wanted to draw his own family tree for this year's Wonder Book.

- Beautiful memory retention. Seth told Daddy about his timeline at dinner, and he actually remembered the word. I know he's heard the word "timeline" about twice in his life, and both of those times were earlier in the day. I need to remember this for the many times he can't remember what we did that day at all.

- "Daddy, I didn't even need to use my 2 complaints during my reading lesson!" (He gets 2. Reading is hard, but I'm not going to let him complain and whine through the whole thing. Grace based parenting? :)

From the frustrating files:

- A bad outbreak of plantar fasciitis that's had me hobbling around and drove me to the store last night for orthotic inserts and better shoes.

- Some crabbiness for all with the upheaval of schedule changes.

- Ben acting out more because he's not getting as much attention, and when that ends with 2 bookshelves worth of books on the floor, Mommy wants to cry. (The picture above is of another set of bookshelves that he emptied during naptime because of unfortunate pack n' play placement.)

- Haven't been able to wear my contacts for about a month now, and I would really prefer my glasses. My eyes sting, burn, and weep. And the allergist said I don't have allergies. Sure. Right.

This blog doesn't make my life look like nothing but peaches and cream. It never has. So I just gave you a plate of brussels sprouts with the dessert. You're welcome. :)

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Beginning ancients...

We're beginning "Story of the World- Ancients" this week. The introduction explains how historians learn about what happens in the past, and of course, one of those very important ways is through archaeological digs. I read the chapter from the book and asked the narration questions yesterday.

Today, we read "Archaeologists Dig for Clues," and then we headed out for our very own dig. (This dig had been set up by their teacher the night before in a local friend's sandbox, but they didn't know that. :) They were soooo excited. We noted that the sandbox was a square grid, just like archaeologist's use. We had a sieve and 2 shovels. And a toddler that ran off a few times.

"Look, Mommy! It's a noodle!" "What does that tell us about this people?" "They ate noodles!" "What did they eat with?" "This fork!"

We took a box to put our artifacts and "midden" (ancient garbage) in, and Seth helped me catalog each item when we got it home.

Then we watched the archaeology episode from "The Magic Schoolbus" called "Show and Tell" before moving on to regular work.

I'm so glad they enjoyed this. Although Seth did say, "Mommy, did you bury that stuff in the sandbox?" as we were leaving. He said he was disappointed that it wasn't real, and we talked about why it couldn't be real, and he cheered up after that.

He also said, "Mommy, I love school! I want to do school all day long, Mommy!" Yay for the 2nd day of school! It's only going to get more boring from here out, most likely, but we might as well start off with a bang. :)

1st day...

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Switching reading curriculums...

Ok, so.... I switched reading curriculums. I know, I know, stop the presses. BUT, this is a big deal for me. I'm the girl (so far) who starts a curriculum and finishes it unless its a total disaster. And this wasn't a total disaster. It just wasn't the fit that I was hoping for, and we got bogged down, and I got frustrated because Seth was frustrated.

We started out with All About Reading- Level 1. I did the pre-reading curriculum with him, and I loved the well scripted lessons, and the zebra puppet, and all the little games. Those were fun, and doing it with him gave me confidence that I could teach him to read.

AAR is not a bad curriculum. It has lots of games and is well scripted and moves in a logical progression. It's a solid, phonics based, reading curriculum. We both learned a lot while using it last year. But I think that Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading is going to help us progress with less frustration.

Honestly, AAR is so thorough that we both felt like we weren't making much progress. And I blame the blankity blank fluency practice sheets. Every other lesson teaches a new concept and gives you a fluency practice sheet to practice reading words using that concept and some review words.

I counted on Lesson 24 (yes, we only made it up to Lesson 24 in an entire year of kindergarten, and you'll find out why in a second), and there are 104 words to read. Yes. 104. I had to break up every other lesson into several 15-20 minute sessions to get through, and I was skipping every other word. It was just too much. And he and I felt stalled out.

We would spend several teaching sessions reading words. And then, after we struggled through that, the next lesson he would get to read a story in his reader. Finally! This was a problem. It motivates Seth to be able to read real stories... not just words and random sentences. He was not getting to read enough stories to feel like he was really becoming a reader.

I also discovered that he was using the pictures in the reader to try and guess the words of the stories. The pictures were a distraction for him because he's a visual kid. What I thought was playing to his interest actually backfired here.

So now we're on to OPGTR, and I'm breathing a sigh of relief. Every lesson involves reading a story at the level where we're starting. There are not a million words to read before you can get to it. There are no pictures to distract him, and the stories are interesting. Review involves just underlining a few words in pencil that he had trouble with in the stories, and we go back over them the next day for a minute or two before starting the next lesson.

The way that the author set up the lessons is genius in getting a child to feel like they are really learning to read. No bells and whistles and not as many games. Just steady, meaningful progress.

It took time and prayer for me to admit that AAR wasn't working for us and move on, but I'm glad that I did. Homeschooling requires so much listening to your child and revising and begging God to show you the next step. It's hard stuff, but I feel like I'm growing through this. Hopefully. :)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Our School Curriculum- 2013-14

After all the wailing and the gnashing of teeth at the NCHE conference in May.... and after the summer rest for my obsessive planning brain... and after extended conversations with friends and the hubby about all things History... and after changing my mind and changing it back again and buying stuff and taking it back and then re-buying it...

I present to you... Our 1st Grade/Pre-K/Toddler Crazy School Curriculum for 2013-14! :)

Seth- 1st Grade

History- Story of the World- Ancients with Activity Guide
Science- Little Otter's Science for the human body, switching off every other week with books on animals using the observation questions from p. 161 of the Well Trained Mind.
Handwriting/Grammar/Narration- Writing with Ease with some Handwriting Without Tears
Grammar- First Language Lessons for the Well Trained Mind
Math- Math U See
Reading- The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading
Unit Studies- Five in a Row- Handbook 2

As you can see, I decided to deviate from just doing FIAR unit studies, and David talked me into starting with Ancients for History. (He made the valid point that we'd have more fun with field trips with American History if I waited until Seth was in 3rd grade.) I hope to do an activity from the activity guide, the comprehension questions, and some of the map work for each chapter.

Little Otter's Science is just going to be a guideline for me for teaching different body parts and systems in a systematic manner. Hah! :) I'll request the books they suggest from the library, but if they don't have those, we'll get other books on the same subject. For our animal weeks, I'll just pick out books on whatever animal interests the boys at the moment.

I am really excited about Writing with Ease. I think it'll be a gentle introduction to grammar and narration. I like that all the copywork comes from great children's literature, and I really love that I don't have to use brain cells to pick out copywork every day. Also, the lessons supposedly go along with First Language Lessons. I won't be doing everything in First Language Lessons, but I want to hit the high points with Seth.

I don't know how FIAR is going to fit in with all this right now. I am planning on "planning" some books to row, but not too many. I want to see how much interest in STOW the big boys show me. It's possible we'll just read SOTW at meal times and not do too much extra if they don't seem really interested. I will also buy SOTW on CD so that David can listen to it in the car, and they can re-listen to it in the evenings during their before bed "books on CD" time at some point.

Ok, Morning Time stuff.... We'll probably do our Community Bible Study reading during breakfast. (Seth is joining the homeschool class there, and he'll actually have homework every day, plus a memory verse every 2 weeks.) After breakfast, we'll do our weather calendar and regular calendar, song for the day/week/whatever, and I'll throw a little picture study and composer study in there occasionally, and then there's poem memorization, etc. Then we'll get into whatever social studies we're doing for the day, be it FIAR or SOTW.

After that we'll have Table Time. Seth will do his math and english with me, and Evan will be working on some workbooks from Rod and Staff, cutting practice (Kumon books), upper and lowercase letters, puzzles, etc. Read aloud books will be during lunch and whenever else I can fit them in. Seth will do his reading lesson with me during afternoon rest time.

I'm really wanting to add in Picture Study and Composer Study this year. Basically, we'll learn a little about an artist, and I'll put up 6 of his pictures on the wall for us to observe for about 8 weeks. I really, really want to figure out how to print out some Google images of pictures by Benjamin West at Kinkos that will be high quality. (Can't find a good book of his works anywhere.) I figured we'd read "Benjamin West and His Cat Grimalkin" to kick that off. I made a playlist of Bach's works on Spotify, and I plan to use Opal Wheeler's Sebastian Bach book to tie that in. Hopefully adding in this will be painless.

Still have to figure out how to get writing to our Compassion kids, regular creative writing dictation, some learning about the 50 states, etc., in there. But I will. Somehow. :)

I have an active toddler this year that no longer takes a morning nap, and I didn't last year. I expect that Morning Time may drive us all batty for the first 6 months. I expect that I'll be taking a crying toddler to time out over and over again. (He knows what I mean when I say, "Ben, I cannot read to you right now, and if you stand there and hold out a book and cry, I will put you in time out.") I expect that I'll have to lower my expectations quite a bit. We may have to change the times that we do a lot of things. It ought to be interesting. :)

We're on the Virginia schedule. That's a fancy way of saying that we start our school year on Labor Day. :) Bring it!

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Random bits...

A "dragon"... clearly.

- The back yard looks like Sanford and Son moved in. David and I are trying to see the torn up cardboard boxes, cinderblocks, and leftover decking boards as symbols of creativity and free expression. The key word is "trying." David is wondering how long it will take him to pick up the yard before he mows. I'm glad he wears eye protection because who knows what could be lurking in the (crab)grass.

- Seth fashioned a "tow truck" out of a plastic clothes hanger and some paper strips. He showed me how he can attach it to the front of the "broken down" dump truck and haul it around.

- Seth puts on his clothes backwards almost every day. If you see him not wearing his shorts and shirt backwards, you've caught him on a rare day. I smile at it most of the time. He'll stop doing it one day, and I'll miss it. BUT... he's teaching Evan to do it. I don't know if I want to let this mildly endearing little boy thing go that far...

- Ben is my first to figure out what soda is before the age of 2. He is always on the lookout for an unguarded soda can/fountain drink, etc. He's a complete nuisance at any gathering where there are drinks. He also loves water bottles. He decided that he would rather spend his time at the inflatable jumping place this morning trying to scavenge sugar water from every mom there than actually jump. Drove. me. craz- zeeeeee...

- The fighting and whining around here have really ramped up in the last couple of weeks. When I pray every night before bed that God will let Seth wake up in the morning in a kind and less than argumentative mood, we're not in a great place. 

- Ben has also turned into a clingy, crying, piece of work. If he's not bringing me a book and yelling "Bookie! Bookie!" around his passy, he's going to the fridge and pulling on it and yelling, "Milkie! Milkie!" If I don't oblige in 2.5 seconds, he melts down in a big way. It's been a lot of fun. 

- Hmmm... something positive, something positive... I'm back at the gym again since I gave it up for Ben's pregnancy. Since I found out that Jazzercise is conveniently located across the street from my house, I ran out of excuses not to work out. And I'm actually enjoying it! (Will wonders never cease? God is in the miracle working business still, people.) I'm even trying to figure out if its possible for me to go twice a week. (Mom? Mom? Dad, throw some cold water on her. I know she'll come to in a minute.) 

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Thursday, August 01, 2013

My first experience with Stitch Fix...

Ok, so enough of my friends have been curious about my experiment with Stitch Fix that I thought I should post about it. :) I saw it on some mommy blogs that I read, and I decided that I'd throw a little of my fun money at it.

So this is how it works... you go to the website and answer an extensive questionnaire... height, weight,  bra size, typical sizes, what you want to hide or flaunt, the colors you like and want to avoid, jewelry tone preferences, etc. At the end of this, you can leave a personal note AND give a link to a style board on Pinterest. (I had to create a style board because I have no style, but I just re-pinned from friends who have style, so there ya go.)

Then you request a fix. (You can do this whenever you'd like; its not like a club where they make you have a "fix" whether you'd like one or not.) You can make a personal request to your stylist. I asked for  a cardigan, a casual top, and a necklace that go together that I would wear with jeans. I also told them nothing that had to be dry cleaned.

I selected a price point of "as cheap as possible." The next price point up was $50-100 per item. Most of the items that came in my fix were between $30-$60. Now, that's higher than I usually pay for my clothes, but keep in mind, my clothes come from Old Navy and Target, and they're trashed after about 6 months most of the time. I'm tired of this, and I wanted some slightly higher quality stuff because I have no time to replace my ratty clothes.

You pay a $20 styling fee. It's not refundable, but you can apply it toward whatever you keep from your box.

I've got to say, I was pleasantly impressed. I didn't expect to like anything in my box, honestly. (I'm a pessimist from a long line of pessimists.) Almost everything fit and did not accentuate the negatives. And I found one item that I really like and am going to keep.

This is keepin' it real. Notice the pile of clean sheets in the corner and my head chopped off 'cause I'm not wearing any make up and my hair is wet from my post work out shower.

Item no. 1- dress and belt. Price point? $68. I would have to LOVE this dress to keep it. I didn't, so its going back. But the fit was good, and I would consider another dress of this style. Just didn't like the colors or the weird front pockets.

Items 2, 3, and 4- Shirt, cardigan, and necklace. The shirt was thin and wrinkled easily, and I have other things in this color. I LOVED the cardy, but alas, it was too small. (You can't ask for a change in size.) I would've kept it if it had been the right size. It was $34. The pink shirt was about that, too. And so was the necklace. I'm not keeping a $40 necklace unless its made of sterling silver, so that's going back, too. But it's a cute look, and I was pleased that she included it.

Item 5- Tunic top. This is the keeper. You probably can't see it, but there are brass studs around the neck and around the edges of the sleeves. I think it'll go with everything, is season less, and is something I probably wouldn't have thought would work had I seen it in the store. I can wear it to church all year long, and it looked great with the too small cardigan and would look good with lots of different colors of sweaters. At $58, I wouldn't have tried it on in the store BUT that's kind of the point.  I've already sunk $20 in, so I just had to decide if it was worth $40.

At this point in my life, people, time is worth more than money. I'm gonna be honest. I have no time to shop because that's the choice I have made. I homeschool my children, I like spending weekends together as a family, and I have to use naptime on weekends when Daddy is home to get necessary errands done that usually are not for me. (Or napping. Napping usually wins.) Spending whole days shopping isn't a possibility much anymore. And shopping doesn't sound that appealing when there are so many other things to be done.

If I do this a few times a year, and if the clothes hold up well, I will have some items to wear to church and my Bible study that don't make me want to cringe. And that made this experiment feel worth it to me.

If you're in my boat, you might want to give it a try! And if you do, please use my referral link. (I don't remember exactly what I get if you do, but it's something. :) And if you're reading this and are cleaning out your closet, remember me. Since most of my closet is faded maternity stuff. Thank you and the end. :)

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


These are Seth's Mother's Day presents to me. I can't remember what the one on the left was, but the pouch on the right was "perfume" for me. He'd stuffed clover in there and sealed it. And it smelled very much like clover when I opened it. I was surprised how much like perfume it smelled. 

It's a tired Tuesday here. I dragged myself downstairs this morning and let the big boys sleep late. The toddler has been fussy, and I've probably done too much. Finished the last of the Hunger Games books this afternoon.

It's also been a day of invention around here. It started early with Evan and Seth creating a tank from a cardboard box and attaching a piece of cardboard to the front of it to make a "gun." Evan would sit in it, then touch the piece and make a blasting noise, and Seth had to fall down. Over and over again. To much giggling.

Seth is our inventor. He has been for at least a year. At first, we thought he liked to draw. For several months, he would spend hours each day drawing. He used "how to draw" books, and his drawings really improved with all that work. (We also saw his ability to write his name improve.)

But the thing was, he wasn't drawing just to draw. We figured out that he was drawing in order to create new toys to play with. One day, he drew a picture of a fish, and the he drew some fish food. He cut out the fish, and then he cut out the food. Then he pretended to feed the food to the fish. Aha! He did this with a lot of things.

He stopped doing much drawing when he figured out how to make multi-dimensional objects with tape and paper and whatever else he could get his hands on from the recycling bin. He's been spending his afternoon rest time for the last six months "inventing" things in his room. I moved out a small bookcase and got him a small desk with a couple of drawers at a yard sale. And then I filled a plastic box with materials to help in his inventing- colored pencils, scissors, stickers, felt scraps, construction paper, a large roll of brown craft paper.... and tape. Lots and lots of tape. (It's a good thing a large roll of generic Scotch is only .99 at Walmart.)

The other day, he asked me if he could take my picture. And then he picked up this tiny pouch of paper that he'd made with tape. One side of the pouch had a little square cut in the center. Inside the pouch were small squares of paper. He pulled out a blue pencil (because my dress was blue), colored inside the square cut out, and then pulled my "picture" out and handed it to me. 

He also recently made a paper "glove." I really need to get a picture of it because it fit him far better than we'd ever imagined he could do. It's one piece of paper that fits in the palm of his hand with small rings of paper extending from it for his fingers. It really does look like a white fingerless glove.

Today, Evan started to get in on the action more than he ever has before. He wanted to invent, too. He asked for his own roll of tape at rest time, and he wanted some scissors and crayons and paper, too. (He can't be trusted yet with scissors out of my sight, but I gave him the rest.) And I see how observing the things that Seth is interested in ignites his interest. It's pretty neat.

This is one of the reasons that I'm glad to homeschool. I want Seth and Evan to have the time to invent, and it makes it easier because we all have more un-hurried time at home. Where will it lead? I have no idea. I'm not really expecting them to become the next Thomas Edison or Steve Jobs, but I'm glad to see the stretching and growing in their problem solving skills and creativity...

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Kindergarten books we've enjoyed...

So, now to step it up with a post about actual homeschooling stuff. =) Our library system is just so awesome. It really is. I need to make the children's librarians those cookies I keep threatening to make (and then never do) because they soooo deserve them.

I rely heavily on the library for the books that I get to supplement our Five in a Row reads. Come to think of it, I have only bought one of the Five in a Row books. And they actually have a category in the catalog there for "Five in a Row." I swooned when I saw it pop up.

Anyway, I request books online every week or so, and then I go to pick them up, and the librarians give me ideas for books that I might not have thought about when I was requesting.

As I've gotten to know the non-fiction stacks at our library better, I've discovered some books and series that are just better written and more accessible for kindgergarters than others.

My favorite series so far is "Let's Read and Find Out about Science." I'm linking to this one on Amazon because the boys couldn't stop talking about it, but we have loved their books on ducks, flying, clouds, muscles, etc. These are well written, and they often have simple experiments in them for the kids to do. For example, in the book on flying, they had the kids stand up and hold their arms out while spinning to illustrate the principle of drag.

We have also enjoyed a simple series of books on individual countries. Our library has several of them, but I wish they had more. Basically, the titles are "Insert Name of Country In Colors." We've read China in Colors and Russia in Colors and some others. They're simple and have beautiful, large illustrations. The boys have remembered more from these books than they have from other, more complicated books we've read on the same countries.

And I turned up my nose at this series in the beginning, but I've decided that being a snob was in bad taste. Yes, they're not original Dr. Seuss, but the books from the Cat in the Hat Learning Library are great fun... and they provide a lot of details for the preschool and kindergarten set. "Clam I Am" is one of our favorites, but they're all good.

And if you don't have these in your local library, and you'd like to see them, I suggest using interlibrary loan. I do it all the time, and then I can see the book so I can decide if I want to invest in the purchase for our personal library.

P.S. I started this post ages ago when we were computerless in January and just now finished it up. :)

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

When you give a mom a Nerf gun....

So, when you buy the wrong Nerf gun bullets, you will then get them jammed in the chamber by loading too many, and then you will be prying them out with a pencil while your 6-year-old son and your 4-year-old son cry... And then you will be on Youtube, trying to find a video of somebody using said gun (which you got from a yard sale for $1), and then you will be very grateful to the hordes of teenage boys who post "how to" videos on using Nerf guns. After that, you will wonder exactly how you got from that tiny infant in the pale blue sleep sack to where you are today. And you will scratch your head and smile. And then you'll grab that gun, do some fierce pump action, fire at the wall, and blow pretend smoke from the end of the gun. And smile again....

Monday, June 17, 2013

summer joys...

I don't know how we got to the end of June so quickly. The end of May found me worn out and ready for a break, and the end of this month finds me feeling rested and like I've gotten one. I'm thankful.

We're full into the swing of summertime, and how sweet it is... Weekly swim lessons, summer day camp, mornings at the pool, last minute picnics and park playdates, lots of uninterrupted time to be lazy and read books and play with Legos, summer evening women's Bible study with friends (which is why I'm up typing this. I had coffee.)

This is Coach Marie, otherwise known as the "Swim Nazi." Evan has spent some time crying and hanging onto the side of the pool, and Mommy has been banished from the pool area because of it, but he's learning that she means business when she says he has to learn to float on his back. She's tough, but she's teaching me that my kids can do more than I think that they're capable of sometimes. Having another teacher's perspective on them is a good thing from time to time, and I'm glad we have a variety of opportunities to get that through extracurriculars...

Both big boys spent a week at tae kwon do camp! A local church has this as a ministry, and they LOVED it. We'll be going back next year. Each day they were eager to share their Bible memory verse AND show me the cool blocking moves that they'd learned. On the last day of camp, they both got to break a board. (I think the boards were made of balsa wood with grooves in them for easier breakage, but that didn't make it any less cool in their eyes.) I have video footage for posterity.

Ben and I spent their week of camp running errands together mostly. I'd come home, and he'd run around and bring me cars to look at, and I'd make their lunches before we went to pick them up. Just normal stuff. And I confess that I didn't wash their uniforms all week. It was air conditioned! They didn't smell. (Those pants were so white. I was afraid I'd somehow make them look dingier than the other kids' if I washed them.)

At the end of this week, I'm heading to my parent's house for a few days of R&R, visiting with friends, and taking the boys fishing and for a boat ride with Papa. (David has some work he needs to catch up on, and we're going to get out of his hair.)

So far I'm realizing how much I need this season of sun and rest and a different routine. It's a happy, happy thing...

Monday, June 03, 2013

rolls and spice rubs...

We're getting into the swing of things with summer vacation. Our mornings are lazy, and I think that Seth has completely forgotten that he ever used to do math worksheets, and that's the way it should be in early June. I've bought a pass for our city pool, and the boys are taking swim lessons once a week. We've even pulled out the fire pit for s'mores already!

I'm enjoying the summer menu options. It seems like all I ever want to make these days is stuff that involves flatbread, hot dog buns, hamburger buns, etc. It's the season, right? So I thought I'd pull out my trusty bread maker and start making rolls and buns for us on weeks when bread is on the menu.

This week, I have planned to have BBQ chicken sandwiches and philly cheesesteak sandwiches, so I made this recipe this morning. I made half of the recipe into these buns. (Really, watch her on the video. My buns look so much fancier now, and its easy.) And I made the other half into hoagie rolls. And I think it might've cost me about $.35 or less and a little time.

I think this recipe is a good all purpose one for bread. I could shape it into a loaf and bake it to go with dinner. And I'm wondering if I could make it into flatbread if I omitted the first rise in the bread maker. I substituted 1 cup of the bread flour with white whole wheat. It doesn't change the flavor at all in that small of an amount.

As usual, I've now got bags of the dry mix in my pantry. :) If I could convince all of you to try that once, you might not go back. It's worth the few minutes it takes... It's why I could load the bread maker this morning while refereeing boy play time.

Summer is a great time to try rubs and spice mixes, too. I rubbed the chicken breasts with this spicy chicken rub before I put them in the crockpot with some BBQ sauce. They smell fantastic right now. And I used this hamburger rub when I made burgers last week. It was great! (Oh, the picture for the spice rub is the buns made with the twisty method, though mine don't usually look that good because I don't remember to wash them with egg white.)

Happy Summer Menu Planning to you!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

on a rainy spring saturday...

Camping when it's raining, and ya can't camp...

"These aren't marshmallows? I've been robbed..."

Creating a fire hazard for our sons' pleasure. (P.S. Ben got a real marshmallow. Or 2. Or 12.)

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

birthday boy...

4 years ago today, I was so excited to finally hold my second son in my arms. He was such a beautiful baby. He's still a beautiful baby, just much dirtier and scabbier, but still pretty snuggly. :)

I totally wimped out on the cake this time around. I didn't have it in me to make the dino cake that I made in January for Seth, but Evan wanted a dino cake, too. Enter Dollar Tree. That's possibly an alligator hat (which we're calling a t-rex head), and he's chomping down on a stegosaurus while another t-rex and his friend the triceratops run in terror. I smashed some red jellybeans and laid the steggy on top of them for bloody authenticity. The end. (My mom insisted on making the cake. Well, if you twist my arm....)

I LOVE having a party where I grew up. (We go to do that this year because we were staying with my parents for the homeschool conference.) There are still some times when I wish we could've built a house in the back 40. I grew up on 20 acres, and the house is 500 feet off the road. I can let the big boys go outside and ride their bikes without stress that they'll get run over. I love a lot of things about living in the city, but the lack of privacy and green space isn't one of them.

My friend, Rachel, was homeschooled with me. We graduated the same year. She has 4 kids and one on the way, and we're both homeschooling the second generation. She lives about 5 minutes from my parents. You add in their family and a bunch of riding toys, and you've got a party. :)

Hay ride, courtesy of Papa....

Monday, May 27, 2013

reflections on the homeschool conference....

... my view as we bike and walk on the local greenway trail.

This past week was our state's homeschool conference. We went last year, and David LOVED it. (I liked it, but remember, I used to go as a kid, so it wasn't really new to me. :) Last year, I was able to keep perspective. I bought very little at the gigantic book fair. I said to myself, "It's just kindergarten," over and over and over again....

This year? Not so much. I can't say "It's just kindergarten," this year. So all of a sudden, I started panicking. The workshop on burnout that suggested that the reason I'm overwhelmed is that all my students are currently very dependent on me gave me some perspective, but it didn't help enough. There were times when I felt like if I didn't start making a plan and mapping out our homeschool career for all 3 of my sons, I would be doomed. 

Yes, I said doomed. Because I'm nothing if not a type A, over- reacting stress ball at times.

I would think I was all calm and being rational about it, and then I would crack open my new copy of "A Well Trained Mind," and I would spaz. I would tell myself that I'd only bought it for some broad guidelines toward a classical Charlotte Mason education, but that didn't always help. Apparently, I have no business reading "The Well Trained Mind" right now. :)

David picked it up and read several pages in the beginning, and he was stressed out. He came to me and said, "Well, we're already behind. We didn't teach Seth to read when he was 4. He was supposed to be reading chapter books right now." And all of a sudden, he had some perspective on why he came in the kitchen after finishing his novel to find me moaning and gnashing my teeth to my mom. "You read "The Well Trained Mind" right before that? That totally explains it. You were fine when I left you to start reading an hour before..." 

Here's the thing: The Classical People have it all laid out for you. It's far too much detail, and its nutso amounts of work, and you look at it and think, "If I do all this, eventually they will have to put me in a rubber room. I'll be mumbling, 'Must follow the trivium,' and singing Latin declensions when they put me in the straight jacket." BUT, they give you a plan. They tell you if you teach history in a 4 year cycle, then eventually all your students will have gone through it 4 times, and you'll be set.

The Charlotte Mason people are so concerned about not limiting your freedom to pick living books and implement them, that they don't give you enough of a plan. They talk about how Charlotte did it, and they suggest Ambleside Online, but they're not giving to give you a 4 year plan for exactly how to do science. 

So I'm mad at both of them. And thrown back on myself to figure out what I should do for history. I bought "Story of the World," and then I returned it the second day of the conference. I couldn't get behind doing ancient history for 1st grade. I just couldn't. I know how many great children's books there are for early American history, and I had a sense of how hard it would be to find good stuff on the ancients for this age, and I couldn't do it. Now I'm considering a curriculum guide for American history from Beautiful Feet. Since my local library has almost all the titles, I wouldn't have to buy much.

I'm realizing that this year of homeschooling needs to look different. I need to plan more but differently over the summer. And I need to do less hands on stuff. The boys LOVED Five in a Row, and I  loved a lot about it, too. BUT, it required a lot of planning on my part every week to do it the way I wanted to. I spent a lot of time running back and forth to the library, and we did things like make butter and paint pictures of canals and bee dancing. And I just don't want to try and put that much effort into it every week.

So I think I'm going to try and go back and forth between "rowing" a book and doing a pre-planned literature based curriculum for history with a simple animals science curriculum for social studies on the off weeks. This way I won't have to think about or plan that. I'll have the books already, and that will be enough. I'll have a very active toddler that won't be napping in the morning this year. I'm going to have to be creative anyway because of that with when we have school. 


Not following the 4 year history cycle will not kill us. All the boys will somehow get American history and Ancient History and Medieval history, even though I don't know how right now. I don't have to know how right now. It's ok. 

But sometimes one of the hardest parts of homeschooling is knowing that its me having to pray about it and figure out what they need and when. That is hard. It's beautiful and rewarding and a way that God is working in my heart and life, but yes, its hard. 

Thanks for letting me work that out on "paper." I figured there might be some others out there struggling with the same thing or something similar, so I thought I'd blog about it tonight.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Minutia and the end of the school year...

A little Gator action. All the neighbor kids climb on when they go tooling through the cul de sac, especially the curly headed girl from next door.

I'm sitting here alone this morning. It's so quiet that I can hear the fridge running. I had heavy whipping cream left, so I made coffee to so I'd have an excuse to drink it. I slept ridiculously late for me (8:30!!!), and I'm going up for a shower soon.

David took the boys up to VA with him on Thursday for a work trip and dropped them off with his parents on the way. They're spending the weekend there, and I'm leaving today for the first girls weekend I've had in oh, I don't know, 7 years? I'm packing up the strawberries and brie and books and girlie movies and facial masks and nail polish in a bit. 

If it wasn't for grandparents, I don't know what I'd do. (Well, I might slowly go insane.) I got to eat lunch with a friend, go shopping for shorts and sandals for Evan, and wander through Target quietly. This meant that I actually got to think about the things we're out of that are the "extras" that don't make the grocery list sometimes. Oh yeah, we need more sunscreen. Oooh, more ponytail holders! 

The times without kids are a chance for my brain to play catch up, and it feels good. I clean and fold laundry while watching Netflix. I watched a movie and a comedy special and an episode of The Office, all in a row. I haven't watched that much tv in a very, very, very long time. But since I actually can't remember the last time I watched tv (maybe last month?), I think I just made up for it all at once and got  to see things that David isn't as interested in watching. It was fun! I love Netflix. :) (We don't have cable, and we don't use our antenna, but we get our $7.99 a month's worth out of streaming.)

The last time I went on a weekend with just me and my bestie, I'm sure I took books. I probably took a couple of novels, maybe a magazine? This time, I've got a Lord Peter Wimsey that I've already read. (Why did Dorothy Sayers die? I want more Lord Peter Wimsey!!!!) But I've also got two books on the Charlotte Mason method of homeschooling. And I'm just as excited about reading those as the other. Times have really changed.

I refresh and recharge myself now to prepare myself better for this job that I have. I prep a little for the coming school year just as this one is ending, and I'm ok with that.

I declared Wednesday our last day of Kindergarten. In N.C., you don't have to count 180 days of school for the kindergarten year. Although I suspect we got that many in because I didn't take random teacher work days or spring break, I'm not worried if we didn't. We'll be having "Summer Learning" all summer long. We'll read books like we always do, and I'm going to do math, reading lessons, and handwriting with Seth a few days a week. BUT 1st Grade doesn't start until the fall. :)

On our last day, we went to the local city park that has a train, kiddie boats, and a carousel. They got to ride all of them. I gave them ice cream for breakfast. We picnicked with friends and discovered an awesome play area under a huge magnolia tree near the picnic shelter. Of course, it was the ice cream for breakfast that they're still talking about.

It was a blessed 1st year of homeschooling. I am really peaceful and content with how it all went, and I'm very thankful to God for a pleasant first step into this new phase of life. We looked through our Wonder Book together in the last few days, and Seth asked me often if we could do this activity again or that one. When I asked him when he liked best about Kindergarten, he said, "I liked all of it, Mommy!"