Monday, October 20, 2014

A Week Briefly (#9)

Our week began on Sunday with our usual worship schedule.  That night Dad was home from work, so we were able to have Family Home Evening.  I wanted to do some sort of game reviewing what we learned the previous week in General Conference, and I found this.  It wasn't a perfect fit for our family, but it was far better than what I might have come up with on my own. :)

Lots of the questions had the kids look up and read scriptures that were quoted during conference.

This shot of I2--showing his efforts to participate in the game--makes me smile every time I see it.
 Monday was rainy.  The kids and I did school as usual . . .

Seat work is actually not usual for my 2 year old boy, but he was thrilled when I printed out the wrong sheet for H5 and gave it to him.

She took a break from her pretend play with big sister to do a little bit of handwriting practice.

. . .  while Dad worked on putting in the subfloor to the bathroom. In the afternoon I remembered my plans to get the kids (and myself) out of doors each day, so I packed up the littles and S12 (no one else was done with school) and headed off for a walk in the rain at a near by nature trail.  We looked at the fish pond and collected damp, jewel-bright autumn leaves.  We probably walked only half a mile total, but we walked slowly, savoring the day. 

It helped.

Tuesday was bright and shiny after the rain.  The littles and I watched a BBC documentary about elephants for I2's "E is for elephant" day.  H5 cried when one baby elephant died after a premature birth.  She was deeply affected by the film.  Serendipitously, we have a library book about a baby elephant right now, and she has me read it each day.  Later in the week she confided to me, "I still cry over the baby elephant that died in that movie, Mom."  I think the joyfulness of the library book is helping her deal with the harsh facts of life presented in the documentary.

We went to a local park to play that afternoon.  This time S12 and J10 both joined us in the sunshine.  We easily spent 2 hours outside and could have spent more, but Dad was at home waiting for me to take me to a movie.

After settling the kids at home with pizza and permission to watch Studio C while we were gone, Dad and I headed out to choose flooring for the kids' bathroom and then see Meet the Mormons.  I was a bit disappointed--it wasn't as professional as I expected it to be.  But the stories of the 6 people highlighted in the movie were compelling. 

And it was nice to go out with my favorite fellow.

We took the day off on Wednesday.  We drove 41 miles north to meet some friends at our favorite pumpkin patch--a.k.a  "The Kitten Farm."  We spent over 4 hours in the sunshine.  The kids needed nothing more than kittens, friends, hay bales, and space to have a glorious day.

My 7

My 7 plus our 4 friends  
Here are some pictures that E14 took:

That night was our church activity night--it was hard to go out again after being out all day, and my meeting that night ran long.  We fell into bed exhausted at the end of it all.

On Thursday we all woke up tired.  It would have been a slow day except that we had dance rehearsals in the afternoon.

For I2's "Little Kid School" I compiled a couple of ideas into one:

I got the Elmo template here,  and I got the envelope idea here.  In going back I found that both ideas were listed here.

I2 loved giving Elmo his "E" mail.  H5 played with him, too, so that doubled the fun.

 Later, A7 spent a long time decorating the folder with more Sesame Street themed drawings.  All of that attention really made I2 a happy fellow.

The big girls came home from rehearsals and went right back to academic work.  They emerged from their studying hidey-holes just in time for dinner.  We saw Dad off to work and collapsed in the living room for read-aloud time. 

E14 had to make a treat to take to seminary in the morning as the final responsibility for her week of leading morning devotionals.  She made a beautiful batch of giant gingersnaps while I read aloud from our Landmark American History book and The Mysterious Benedict Society.  Even the very oldest kids said, "Mom, can we go to bed early tonight?"  I happily cut off reading just as E14 pulled the last pan of cookies out of the oven and tucked everyone in--including myself.

On Friday the kids woke up happily to left over gingersnaps.  Through the day I saw the happy reward of my efforts to get outside more often--the kids sought the outdoors on their own.  A7 worked on jumping rope; H5, I2 and I raked leaves so they could jump into the pile; the older ones were stuck doing their regular school work, but once they were done, they, too, headed out into the fresh air.

M12 chose, as a personal progress goal, to learn how to operate our new, computerized sewing machine that was an anonymous gift from friends.  

She spent a happy 2+ hours immersed in the manual, and learned how to operate the machine quite well.  She's planning several fun projects!

It was another early night to bed for us all.

We filled Saturday with chores, errands (We got a new vacuum that actually sucks up dirt!  The kids fought for the right to vacuum various rooms, emptying the dirt-catcher, marveling that we could collect so much dirt in such a short time!), and a birthday party for our 9-year-old cousin.  That night E14 attended her first church dance--actually a dinner/devotional/concert/dance event rolled into one.  She came home glowing.

Time for a new week to begin!

Monday, October 13, 2014

A Week, Briefly (#8)

I was sick with a cold.  I felt wretched.  I took not a single picture.  We limped through the week.


I2 got to make a "D" out of construction paper diamonds.  We also read the story of David and Goliath.  Through the week, whenever I'd ask him what David said when he saw Goliath he'd crow, "I trust God!"

H5 and A7 did their book work.

So did the big girls.

It was sunny and warm in the afternoon, so the kids played outside for a long time.  I crashed on the couch.  That evening Dad read aloud to the kids so I could rest.


I2 colored pictures of animals whose names start with "D."

H5 and A7 did their book work.

So did the big girls.

That night was poetry night, so everyone recited a poem before going to bed.  I didn't make a note about who read to the kids.  I can't remember reading aloud or tucking them in that night, but I also didn't note that Dad did it.


I was feeling human enough to take the kids to science club and then out shopping for pants at the thrift store afterward.  At science club we learned about spiders--big kids worked on taxonomy and little kids made webs and talked about spider trapping techniques.

It was our turn to bring snacks.

That was a blessing, because we spent 2 hours searching out pants for everyone (the temps were predicted to drop severely in the next day or so).  We found lots for H5--everyone else got 1 new pair.  We'll have to shop again. 

We were very hungry afterward and ever so glad that we had leftover snacks.  We all munched on the way home.

I was exhausted by the time we got home, but then I had to make dinner, see Dad off to work, and take all of the kids to youth activities at the church.  All I wanted was to put everyone to bed early and tuck myself into bed with a good book, but the youth activities ran late, and it was well past 9 before they were all settled.  Then I was too wound up to rest.  I got to read, but it took a couple of hours for me to truly sleep.


The kids were all tired after a busy Wednesday, and all of a sudden I had adoption stuff to handle.  We've found a sibling set of 5 that might (if the powers that be will cooperate) become ours.  The little guys used all of their stuffed animals to play make-believe in the dining room.  I let them because I was on the computer trying to get various social workers to communicate with one another until it was time for lunch and time to leave for dance rehearsals.

(So far the communication has not worked, but I'm still trying.  At least the workers on the kids' end are communicating quite well.  I'm praying over the one on our end.)

The terrible rain let up just in time for us to drive safely to rehearsals and back.  While the kids danced, I worked on mending/tailoring costumes.

We went to bed early that night; some of the kids were having stuffy noses and feeling tired.


I2, H5, and A7 sewed their letter "D" quilt blocks.

Everyone did book work.

E14 made a real breakthrough in understanding how to manipulate fractions.  We've been feeling as if we were beating our heads against a brick wall for quite some time, but the wall seems to have broken!

It was very cold.  We made homemade pizza, saw Dad off to work, read aloud and went to bed early, again.


This is not usually part of our school week, but I received an answer to one of my nagging concerns, so I want it recorded. 

We did chores in the morning. 
I prepped some freezer meals with J10. 
I was exhausted and sat down to read. 
The littles were restless. 
The sun was shining, so I told them to put on their jackets and play outside.  They asked me to come watch them.  I sighed and took my book out to the deck to sit in the sunshine.

It was nice.

The older kids all had library books that they were lost in, but these little guys just stayed restless.  The sun and breeze refreshed me enough to say, "Meet me at the van in 2 minutes!"  I grabbed my wallet and keys and drove the littles and S12 (who needed a reading break) to the park.  We only had 40 minutes but we made the most of it.

This is what I learned:  Being outside lightened my heart and refreshed me in mind and body.  When the older kids were little and wanted to play outside I had to go out with them.  Now I send an older sister out to watch the littles.  I rarely leave the house except to run errands.  Also, in past years, outings were an important part of our homeschool.   A hard winter, followed by a spring of morning sickness, which was then followed by summer insects broke us of our outdoorsy habits.  In addition, we don't have near neighbors who are kids to draw us out.  I need to get outside!  I need trees and sunshine and fresh air.  So do the kids. 

We're off to a pumpkin patch this week.  It is not a spend-lots-of-money-and-ride-the-rides sort of patch--it's just a big farm with a barn and a bunch of kittens and lots of room to play outside.

I have to learn to go outside again.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A Week, Briefly (#7)

J10 on a rainy afternoon . . .

But the picture rather describes how we all felt all week.  We are having a hard homeschool year.  We can't seem to find a joyful rhythm that refreshes and inspires us instead of leaving us exhausted and flat.

In our quest for inspiration we made two changes this week:
*We dumped E14's grammar book (Rod and Staff--it looked perfect for her, but looks can be deceiving) in favor of Fix It! Grammar based on a review I read here.  It's a gamble, but at least it's only a $19 gamble.  With Rod and Staff E14 was learning, but the learning was killing us.
*We shortened M12's math lessons.  She's still working in Saxon (which she still loves), but I've cut in half the number of math problems she needs to do each day.  It means I spend a good amount of time picking and choosing appropriate problems out of each lesson, but she was working for 2 hours a day just on math, and the whole family felt the negative effects.

We've tried taking a day off to assess, but we've found that we want and need the order of a school day.  Though they are quite capable of self-directed activity, the kids themselves tell me that the days are too long without structure and assignments.  It is clear that they enjoy working . . . we just haven't found the work that brings us joy. 

At least for the oldest ones.

The littler ones and I have a grand time each day.

J10 spent some time turning the ice cream cone box into a unicorn-driven sleigh.  It got much more intricate and beautiful over the course of the day.

I2 and I did "C is for cutting" one morning.  In the afternoon, a bunch of the other kids wanted to do the same.

These two littles love to help.  They cleared and wiped the whole table off after lunch one day so we could play a game together.

"C is for crayon art"--we chopped up crayons and melted them to make swirly art projects.

Waiting for the crayons to melt.


A7 was disappointed that the crayons didn't swirl around more--I think it is because we used very absorbent construction paper instead of something less absorbent.  The wax really soaked through, leaving the colors on top.  (So it was kind of a science project, too.)

A7 reading, reading, reading

More waiting in front of the oven on "C is for cookie" day.

S12 set a personal goal to practice being more patient and gentle for two weeks.  Here she is practicing.  :)

One day I ran some duct tape down a hall and into our furniture-less dining room.  The kids built an entire village out of blocks, bristle blocks, books, and a our wooden train set.  Then they drove their cars through the village until Hurricane I2 leveled it all.

J10 is working on a self-designed embroidery project.

And one day Dad was home and in the mood to play, so everyone got a good wrestle!

The highlight of the week was A7's accomplishment of finishing the Book of  Mormon!
I2 fell and hit his head on Wednesday just before church youth activities.  It was terribly scary because he didn't breathe for long enough to actually turn blue.   When he finally did breathe again, he was fine, but it left me weak and shaky into the next day.

The rain was so hard and dangerous on Thursday that even though we tried to get to dance practice we couldn't.  We were able to turn around and get safely home, but only after pulling off to the side of the road and uttering some fervent prayers. 

We were ever so thankful to get to the end of the week and gather together as a family for General Conference.  It was refreshing and uplifting in every way possible.

I am genuinely searching for the balance between work and play and rest.  I don't mean to be complaining or bitter or project misery.  We're pretty good at Kid School, but we're still learning and finding our way into real scholarship for the older kids.  They don't want to retreat into Kid School--all of them are asking for new challenges; we just haven't found the answer to finding the challenges that inspire us.  I want to be honest about how we find them, and record for our family our  real struggles and triumphs and simple joys.