Monday, January 13, 2014

All the social studies extras….

I've been meaning to write about this for awhile, but I just haven't, so I'm going to try and rectify that now. :) Things are going swimmingly with homeschooling this year…. soooo much less stressful than last year. I attribute this to the fact that I'm not requesting about 20 books a week and obsessing over planning the next unit study. We haven't rowed a single book from FIAR this year, and I don't regret that. We may row a few this spring, but I'm going to do it in a far more low key way if we do.

I thought I'd talk about what's working in our Morning Time portion of homeschool. When we start the morning, we do social studies and devotions first. I have a Baptist hymnal that I've had for ages, and at the beginning of the year, I made a list of hymns that I wanted to learn. I put a paperclip on that page, and I just open, and we sing. (By the way, paperclips and post it notes are the way that I mark all of my pages. I find if I don't use them, I get frustrated. So simple, yet so essential.)

We'll do a devotional reading and pray briefly. I have all kinds of devotionals that we've used, from the Jesus Storybook Bible to The Big Picture Story Bible, etc. Right now, we're using a book called "Character Trails" by Marilyn Boyer that we're all enjoying.

I have a giant laminated map of the world on the wall, and I also have a laminated circle with a boat on it from FIAR last year. I've started using my DK First Atlas for simple geography this year. Each day, I'll find the next continent in the book, and I'll have Seth or Evan move the boat to it. We talk briefly about different aspects of the continent. I point out all the different kinds of animals pictured in the atlas. The next day, there is usually a little more content about the continent that I'll read, and then I'll have them move the boat to a feature of the land. For instance, I have them move the boat to the rain forests in S. America. We learned how to use a compass rose last year, so Seth refers to that sometimes when he's looking for something.

I gave up on trying to find the perfect picture study materials, and I fell back on the Usborne Art Sticker book that I'd started last year. We put a few picture stickers in the frame, and I read the short snippets of text around them about the little paintings. This has been short and sweet and surprisingly interesting to them.

For composer study, I'm just getting picture books about the composers from our local library. Anything by Mike Venezia is usually age appropriate. I'll also make a playlist on Spotify. I've been enjoying the Classical Kids playlists for different composers. I'll play them while Seth and Evan are having table time, and I'll just briefly mention that we're listening to Mozart or Bach today.

Sometimes I'll read a silly poem by Shel Silverstein or something from A Child's Garden of Verses. We have memorized a couple of poems this year, and I've also gone over the Bible memory that we did last year to make sure they have that down. I need to add in more Bible memory this year.

Most days, we read a portion of Story of the World, and I ask the questions in the manual. (I would have Seth narrate, but it's pretty challenging because so many of the names and concepts are unfamiliar, so we narrate only for the story sections in Writing With Ease.) Most days, we also read a library book about the body system we're studying or the animal that we're studying. This week, we're reading lots of different books about the eye and sight. Last week, we read about dolphins, watched a short Youtube video on them, and answered questions about their characteristics. That takes care of history and science.

I feel like the boys are getting a well rounded education, and its not killing me. :) I can see being able to go through the summer this year doing this a lot of days without difficulty. Last year, the thought of doing school all summer made me want to put a fork through my eye, so we quit formal studies in May and started back in early September. I'm so glad I don't feel that way this year. :)

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

minutia on Tuesday...

- On my 6th day of doing Barre3. I'm mostly doing 10 minute workouts, though I threw in a 30 minute workout on Sunday. I took a day off on Saturday. I'm hoping that doing this will be more efficient and effective than the once-a-week Jazzercise class I was doing. So far, it feels that way. I'm slightly sore all over most of the time. My sock and rice hot pad has gotten lots of use already. :) Guilt powers me through if I start trying to make excuses why I can't do a 10 minute workout during nap time. Yay, guilt! :)

- A tree service sent out someone to give me a quote this morning. I got sticker shock. The rotten limbs and limbs too close to the house may be coming down, but I think the huge pine will have to stay where it is for now. $1200 to remove one tree!

- The presence of the tree guy got me thinking about how uninspired I am sometimes to want to put a lot of time and effort into keeping up this house. Though I love many, many things about living in a city- close proximity to friends and parks, etc…. I grew up on 20 acres of beautiful country. (You've seen the pictures, people.) I miss all the green space, and frankly, I miss privacy. I miss not worrying about whether or not the neighbor next door is fixing up her house to sell, and if so, who is she going to sell to?

Ok, just one example. And this is in winter even. 

What do you do when you learned growing up that "home" is not just wherever your family is? For me, home feels like a physical place, even though I know that that's not rational or even desirable. I have had nightmares that my parents sold the farm and have woken up with tears running down my cheeks. "Home" means (in my subconscious) "lots of woods and trees and a custom built home that fits your family's needs perfectly. Oh, yeah, and a 2-car garage and no close neighbors and a full basement and a utility barn for the tractor." Not that we would need the tractor or anything, even though David has learned how to drive one. :)

Anyway, I don't always feel the tension of this, but I do today. I've changed a lot since I left Oak Ridge, but some definitions in my heart don't change easily. Being suburban feels like a real stretch today.

Maybe part of it is the worry that I'm going to know less and less how to do a suburban life the older my boys get. My brother and I spent a lot of time outdoors. We did not belong to the local pool. Vance spent hours on gardening. It's probably a big part of why he's a horticulturist today. I spent hours at my horse barn, and they were hours well spent in learning responsibility and getting great exercise. I rode my horses through the back field and around my uncle's lake. We had so much space in which to be busy.

My boys are going to be a different kind of busy, and its going to involve less nature and probably more bike riding. It's going to be a more social kind of busy. They'll have more classes, probably, and more service projects.

But I wonder if they will have less rest and beauty in their lives because they're missing out on running through fields and woods anytime they want.

One thing is for sure… when Daddy calls to tell me that they're mowing hay out back the next day, I'm dropping everything, and we're going. :)

Sunday, January 05, 2014


David and the big boys are at church this morning, and I'm home with Ben. He's been really crabby the last few days, and I think its a combination of teething and lingering stomach trouble. Anyhoo, we couldn't justify leaving him with the poor children's teachers at church, so here I am.

Now, I had big plans for how to redeem the morning. I was going to go out and get things for Seth's birthday and party and so use my time productively to make myself feel ahead of the game. (Notice the words "my time" and "make myself.")

So when I discovered after breakfast that David hadn't put the baby's car seat in his car, I was angry. All my plans were ruined. A made a couple of attempts to see if I could get a seat, and when those didn't work, I did something that I probably wouldn't have done a few years ago. Instead of stewing, I tried to figure out what God wanted me to be doing instead. I remembered that this wasn't David's fault because we hadn't really talked through logistics last night when we decided that I was staying home with Ben.

I decided maybe I needed to think about what would enhance our family's comfort (read: David's mostly) instead of my failed agenda. So I emptied the dishwasher, cleaned out the old food in the fridge, washed dishes, made some Russian tea for everyone to enjoy, and vacuumed upstairs. Ben helped me by toddling around and bringing me things to look at. (And by watching the '70s version of "Winnie the Pooh" which he likes and nobody else but me thinks is quite as amazing.)

I'll make lunch for them for when they walk in the door, starving after a long morning, and it'll hopefully be better and more relaxed than when we ALL stumble in the door after church and throw some lunch together.

I pulled out my current favorite devotional reading this morning, "Mere Christianity," and I happened to be reading where Lewis is talking about developing Christlike habits and motivations, so I thought I'd type a bit in here from p. 68.

"There is a difference between doing some particular just or temperate action and being a just or temperate man. A man who perseveres in doing just actions gets in the end a certain quality of character. Now it is that quality rather than the particular actions which we mean when we talk of virtue.

We might think that, provided you did the right thing, it did not matter how or why you did it- whether you did it willingly or unwillingly, sulkily or cheerfully, through fear of public opinion or for its own sake. But the truth is that right actions done for the wrong reason do not help to build the internal quality or character called a "virtue," and it is this quality or character that really matters. (If the bad tennis player hits very hard, not because he sees that a very hard stroke is required, but because he has lost his temper, his stroke might possibly, by luck, help him win that particular game; but it will not be helping him to become a reliable player.)"

I tend to navel gaze, and often when I do, I focus on all the ways that I'm not growing in Christlike character. So when I actually do decide not to sulk, its awfully nice for God to remind me that there is some Christlike character growing somewhere in me deep down. Ok, enough of this. Gotta go read Ben a book. :)

Thursday, January 02, 2014

a new year...

Most recent family photo. Pretend Evan's eyes are open. They're a pretty blue color.

The big boys are playing with water beads, and Ben is still napping, so I have a few minutes here. Maybe. :) Anyway, Happy New Year and all that.

Like many people, I made a list of New Year's Resolutions. David strongly encouraged me to make them highly specific and realistic. Since his advice mirrored this book called "Switch" by the Heath brothers, I was even more likely to heed it. (He's a brilliant man. And I recommend the book.)

I started on item no. 1 on my list today- exercise 3 times a week. After getting plantar fasciitis from Jazzercise in the summer, I was forced to take a long break from my exercise routine. It was a bummer. But now I'm finally back to normal enough to exercise again, and Jazzercise and I have broken up. It is dead to me. My new love is… Barre3. I did my first workout today, and I am so glad I decided that a 10 minute one was the smartest move to start. By the time that 10 minutes was up, I was shaking, sweating, and my heart rate was definitely up. I loved it. I could feel it working, and its low impact. And I can do it in my kitchen after the boys are down for naps. I figured if the homeschooling mom of 6 from Vitafamilae could make it work, so can I.

I need to eat better and exercise regularly because I'm hoping that it will help with some unpleasant symptoms I have been having that I think are related to the hormonal dysfunction that comes with polycystic ovaries. Exercise seemed to help with PCOS when I got pregnant with Ben, so I'm going to see if I can "cure" this without medicine.

Other resolutions include:

- Having somebody over for dinner at least once a month. This will probably include pizza because if I don't order pizza, I might chicken out. And there will be no expectation of reciprocity because the average American does not want to invite a family of 5 with 3 young boys over for dinner. And I can definitely sympathize with that average American. :)

- Making a point to be more positive and less of a bellyacher with my long suffering friends. Ahem.

- Becoming more proficient at putting together a Star Wars Lego kit. (Who am I kidding? That's not a resolution; that's just reality. :)

- Do some sort of Bible study that doesn't feel like something to check off my to do list, even if it isn't my CBS study this year. Or buckle down, dig deep, and find a way to be more invested in my CBS study. ;)