Friday, May 26, 2017

A Week, Briefly (Very)

I was already away from the table giving baths to other kids when this happened.

It has been a dark week mentally and emotionally for me.

The same blessings and joys surround me as always do, but I have not been able to comprehend them.

I'm pretty sure it's hormones.  I celebrated my 45th birthday fairly recently, and my body is changing.

I don't like it.

But I have to accept it . . . and figure out how to cope with it.

One step I've taken is to work extra hard on keeping a (private) gratitude journal. A second step has been listening to General Conference talks while I make dinner--this is in addition to my regular daily scripture study.

I'm going to need some more plans, but these are what I have so far.

Picture by Little Princess--the tree that guards our back deck.

Stuff we've accomplished:
*Pixie finally finished her final English essay, and she is officially done with 9th grade.
*Nature Angel has worked like a demon on math and now she has only 6 lessons left to finish Saxon 5/4.
*We've done what we have to in order to complete review obligations in Whistlefritz Spanish, YWAM Publications, Apologia Internship for High School, and Memoria Press Second Form Latin.
*We've read a lot of library books.  Mister Man discovered The Magic Treehouse series, and he's been devouring them for a couple of weeks now.
*Rose Red is continuing her American Lit CLEP work.
*Super Star has done math and CompuScholar every day.  She's mentally finished, though, and I think this might be her last week of such work.

Nothing stops her!  Lola believes she can do all things, and apparently she can--even washing her hands by herself before meals.

*We've been reading a Rush Revere book we got for free at a homeschool convention some time in the past.  It's got a lot of lame modern humor, and there are more holes in the construction of the story than seems possible, but we've stuck it out because it's prompted so much research to verify the truth of the story's claims.  We read with the computer open and ready to search.  And there are really good pictures.  Nonetheless, we won't be picking up any more of the books in the series.
*The littles and I are now reading The Secret Garden.  Mister Man loves it, but I'm trying to figure out a way to get Brother and Little Brother back together reading picture books before bedtime.  Brother is just not handling chapter books well. 

Another picture by Little Princess of our ripening strawberries.  The kids have taken turns eating 1 or 2 each day.

It was COLD this week, so we huddled indoors a lot.  Today is Friday, though, and the weather is warm and humid.  We had breakfast at the park this morning, and we'll be cleaning out the wading pools for some water play after quiet time this afternoon. 

As I tucked in one batch of little kids, this crew watched funny pet videos.  They laughed until their sides hurt.

Sir Walter Scott and the older girls will spend several hours delivering flags (church fund raiser) for the Memorial Day holiday, and Pixie will work from 2-9. 

The kids are riding bikes, playing in the sand pit, and climbing the apple tree right now.

Nature Angel has the first signs of a summer cold, and Mister Man says his throat hurts . . . we may be in for a quiet weekend.

I won't complain.

(linking here)

Friday, May 19, 2017

A Week, Briefly (In Which We Get a Larger Wading Pool)

The amazing thunder storms of last night are on pause right now, but they're due back this afternoon, so we've sent kids outside to run off some energy . . .

Oops, I spoke too soon.

The rain is back, and the kids came pouring in.

We have no problem with playing outside in the rain, but this rain has major lightning with it, and that's cause to hide indoors.

It's been a low key week.

We started the older girls on their summer morning schedule, and that has slowed all of us down.  I still make breakfast for everyone 10 and under at 7:30 or so in the morning, but the kitchen remains open to the older girls until 9:00 am, at which time we gather for Morning Meeting.

Everyone small wanted to sit with me--as close as possible.  Lola and Baymax are both sulking because they are having to share my lap.  Across the room are several more small people who were also sulking because they couldn't find space next to me.  I think the appropriate reaction is to be glad I'm loved.
We've had school for littles 2 or 3 times this week.  I am seeing a clear decline in retention for Ladybug and Brother in having less consistent school work.  As their school is only 20-ish minutes each, I'm considering keeping it up over the summer.

Little Princess finished The Good and the Beautiful grade 2.  She's kept up her personal Chinese studies, though, and proudly showed off how she's memorized the pronunciations of the words on the first 4 pages of the Usborne book she's enjoying.

Rose Red finished her final Economics essay, so she's down to just math and American Literature each day, and those are likely to stick around all summer--barring vacations and camps.

Random photo of my littlest boys playing with sticker books together.

Pixie should have been done with her English final essay, but she's officially started working, and she's been lax in her daily work.  She's been so faithful through the year that it is hard for me to get on her now, but we will need to have a little conference about this final project.

Nature Angel has been doing 2-3 math lessons a day--voluntarily!  I offered to let her just stop, but she said, "There's something about finishing a book that I just really like."  (I must admit that I understand.)  At this rate she'll be done with math next week or early the week after.  She's also still working daily on a review product, and she's liking so much all that she's learning about George Washington Carver.  It will take her deep into summer to finish all of the elements of this study, so we're debating whether to keep working on it or to put it away when our review obligation is complete and pick it back up in the new school year.  She quite likes the work, so odds are that she'll work on it rather than put it away. :)

Nature Angel and Little Princess spent time identifying some birds and bird calls.  We're pretty sure we saw a Bell's Vireo this week, and a pair of House Finches have been at our feeder lately.

As a family we finished Egermeier's Bible Storybook on Friday!  I think we'll do a bit of church history reading before diving back into Bible stories again.

We had another breakfast at the park, and at this one we spent some time observing the small flock of Canada Geese that found our picnic interesting.

They'd just been laughing like crazy, but when the picture finally took, they had these funny, suspicious faces. :)

The kids still really enjoy Whistlefritz Spanish, and we're daily watching an DVD episode while completing one lesson each week.  This week's lesson was about counting.

Wednesday night I got to go with Nature Angel to a mother/daughter fashion show for Activity Days.  First we had a lesson about dressing modestly, then all the girls and moms headed into the gym where paper, scissors, and tape were ready and waiting.  Each girl designed a paper dress for her mom, and when they were finished, the moms walked a lighted runway as the girls read short presentations about their creations.  It was crazy fun--even if I am so inhibited that I blushed and cringed while I was on the runway instead of vamping like the other moms.  

We brought accessories, so I've got an apron, bows, a necklace, and a flowered wreath to go with my puff sleeves and long gown with a train.

Girls' Camp for the older girls is in the very near future, and Little Princess and Nature Angel have lots of fabulous "summer camp at home" plans for the littles.  Crafts, stories, games, treats--all are outlined in delightful lesson plans handcrafted by these two darling girls.  While the big girls are away the little kids will play!

Everyone seems to constantly have his/her nose in a library book of late, and the heat has arrived, so we've been playing with water often.

Otherwise we're kind of losing ourselves in individual passions, and nothing makes me happier than to tuck into bed children who are physically tired and content after a full day of outdoor play.

(linking here)

Saturday, May 13, 2017

A Week, Briefly (In Which We Watch Things Grow)

As May advances, I can feel a drive to rest.

Sounds funny.

How could I feel driven to rest?

Seems contradictory.

But it is what it is, and I feel a pushing, aggressive, compelling drive to rest.

I've begun to honor that drive by sitting still in the afternoon for a few minutes at least twice this week.


And because seminary ended this week, we are beginning to work our our summer schedule.

Hurrah for seminary!  Hurrah for the end of seminary!

The kids' tire gardens are thriving.  The kids are faithful about watering and tending to their sunflowers and peas. 

Today (Saturday) is our end of season dance performance.  Pixie spent the week sewing and crafting, and now she has 4 darling circle skirts and 2 no-sew bow ties (I've asked her to make a set for our little boys) all ready for the swing number she choreographed to "Jumpin' Jack" and the "Callin' Baton Rouge" clogging number she, Belle, Super Star, and Nature Angel are dancing.

Our sand pit has seen constant use this week; I think Lola has about half of the pit in her hair.  No matter how hard I work at it, I can't get all of the sand out!

We've done a lot of wildlife watching--just informally.  Baymax likes watching insects; he thinks beetles are super interesting.  Ladybug spent a whole afternoon watching a snail work its way across our sidewalk.  Nature Angel and Little Princess found a robin on her nest on the edge of our woods, and now we're hoping for a sight of baby robins soon.  Little Brother stopped often in his play to run into the house and tell me, "I hear a cardinal singing!"  Nature Angel and I have singled out a new bird call from the masses of calls all around, but we have yet to match the call to the bird.

Pixie caught me braiding Lola's hair while I waited for Brother to go potty and wash up before his school session.

We all spent inordinate amounts of time getting Baymax and Lola out of mischief.  Lola knows how to unlock and open all of the doors, all of the baby gates, all of the cupboards, all of the drawers, all of the lids in the house.  Nothing can stop her but her high chair seat belt.  She can also dress and undress herself completely.  Baymax isn't so coordinated, but he's strong and he's a tease.  He knows how to make kids scream, and he takes great pleasure in it.  He learned how to moon us this week.  When he does it he sings, "Poopy bum!  Poopy bum!  Poopy bum!" over and over, cackling with glee when his siblings run away screaming.

We didn't take any early morning walks.  The seminary ride difficulties of the past two weeks bumped us out of our work of forming that habit, and it was easy to let it fall by the way.  Instead we've been getting an earlier start on chores and breakfast, and we've had slightly longer mornings for school--which has been nice because I've spent a sizable number of hours helping kids with projects in the mornings.  Poor Little Brother only got preschool twice this week because of all of the time the older kids needed from me.

Little Princess is teaching herself Chinese.  She's using an Usborne internet linked book to learn how to pronounce the words.  She's really faithful about it!  Her passion for all things Chinese started with Andrea Cheng books.

We did get to have a lovely breakfast at the park on Wednesday.  We had no great wildlife rescues, but the sky was so blue, and the breeze was so fresh, and the sun was so warm, and the trees were so green that we reveled in the beauty of it all and had a hard time making ourselves leave when it was time for Ladybug and Brother to go to therapy.

We spent some time watching birds build this nest . . . seems they have some organizing to do. :)

I hit the mother lode at the thrift store when I went shopping for summer clothes for Nature Angel and Little Princess.  By chance I overheard one lady say to another, "Those Legos really hurt when you step on them, don't they?"  I looked up to see 7 bags of Legos marked at $3 and $4 each.  The ladies had moved on, so I grabbed all 7 bags.  We went from about 3/4 of a gallon of Legos to over 9 gallons for under $30.  The kids have played endlessly!

Bookwork is seeming to be a less and less valuable part of the day.  We're still doing it because the kids still like that one-on-one time with me, and because it lends comfort to my small ones who count on routines, but I'm slowly reducing the number of minutes each child spends at the table with pencil in hand.

Nature Angel helped Baymax make our family with marbles.  He chose who would be each size and color and then named us all off perfectly.

I'm seeing the same surge in negative behaviors in Ladybug, Brother, and Little Brother that I saw last summer.  They really don't like change.  However, I'm also seeing increased stamina for coping with change.  Last year at this time they'd collapse into tantrums immediately; this year they have delayed reactions of passive-aggressive behaviors, and their tantrums are of shorter duration.  That feels hopeful to me.

I'm off to sort costumes, do some Saturday chores, and work on a summer chore schedule.

Monday morning comes so soon!!

(linking here)

Monday, May 8, 2017

Review: IEW High School Essay Intensive

According to Pixie, my 15 year old high school freshman, the High School Essay Intensive by Institute for Excellence in Writing is very helpful.

She's never been a confident writer, and this year's freshman English essays have been a real challenge for her.  Add in the fact that she's chosen a highly competitive university as her dream goal, and she how has to prepare for major standardized exam stress.

On my end, though I've always been a confident writer, I've felt frustrated as her teacher because of the conflicting information about essay writing that's available these days.  Should I teach the basic 5-paragraph essay that got me through my standardized exams?  Or are those passé, and I should teach something more in vogue? . . . but what's in vogue enough to help her do well on her exams?

Enter the High School Essay Intensive.

Of course, IEW has been the gold-standard in teaching writing for a long time, but though I've attended homeschool conference presentations, and I've used a number of other products by IEW, I've managed to somehow not use any of their writing programs.

So this was a totally new experience for us both.

The box arrived, and it had so apparently little in it--just a case with a few DVDs  (though the case is fancy) and a 3-fold-cardstock folder with a set of stapled pages in it.

I liked the writing tips printed all over the folder, but I still kind of began to wonder . . . "What's the big deal?"

Then we put in the first disk and found out.

Yes, she is studying on our kitchen floor.  Apparently, that was the best place she could find to both watch our toddlers and do some schoolwork while I was bathing the rest of the little kids.  She told me when I came in the room that I'd just missed seeing the toddlers taking turns sitting on her head as she took notes. :)

We figured out that the stapled pages are an outline for note-taking.  The DVDs consist of taped footage of a live writing intensive session led by Andrew Pudewa himself.  Pixie simply set to work taking notes as she watched the lectures.

There is a detailed table of contents on the IEW website under the High School Essay Intensive description (click the "overview" tab if you don't see it right away).  Clicking on the "sample" tab will give you a taste of the first several pages of the handout.

There are not many assignments given.   This is not a full writing class (and it is not labeled as such).  It is mostly lecture with a few brief assignments given.  The first section includes writing a timed (20 minutes) essay before the lecture material begins in earnest (which does need to be written as the students will refer to it again later in the section), practicing outlining, and writing a paragraph at the end of the section that utilizes several of the techniques covered in the lecture.

 As yet, she has completed neither the test-prep portions nor the personal essay portion of the course, but we've looked those sections over, and we are both kind of freaked out about how challenging those essays are going to be.  However, after completing the first section of this Intensive, I can tell Pixie feels optimistic about learning solid techniques that will help her learn how to cope and how to write clearly.

Just being forewarned and forearmed is half the battle.

Going into the tests confident and prepared and with a plan will give her an edge that will help her succeed.

At approximately 6.5 hours of lecture, there are not enough hours for me to give Pixie a separate writing credit for high school, but the disk is paused while the student writes, so that is additional time.  She and I have also spent time going over her notes and having teacher-student conferences about the brief practice assignments and how to apply what she's learned to her regular writing assignments.  Based on the time we've spent so far, I estimate that by the time she finishes we can either give her a .25 writing credit or simply add the the time we've spent to her current language arts classes.

I asked Pixie if she feels the High School Essay Intensive has been useful, and she gave a resounding yes as her answer.  In her own words:

"I will definitely use what I've learned from this class in essays that I need to write.  I felt really nervous about organizing an essay before this--like I just didn't know how to put my ideas together.  Now I feel more like I can tackle an assignment without drowning.  I'll save the notes I took from this class and use them a lot."

To read more about Institute for Excellence in Writing's High School Essay Intensive, click here or on the banner below.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

A Week, Briefly (In Which We Make Sock Puppets)

It's Saturday morning, and I only made 2 notes about this week.  I spent so much time behind the wheel that my brain is fuzzy.  Car troubles have been paramount on the non-school list of things to deal with. 

Later this morning, we should be picking up our van from the shop where we had major repairs done to the brakes (the fact that we didn't have an accident is truly a miracle, and I'm thanking Heavenly Father hourly for protecting us and the people driving around us).

We found out that the repairs we thought we could do to keep our van up and going for the next decade before we can downsize to a Suburban or mini-van will cost more than double what we anticipated.  We are back in the market for a new van . . . praying for help in finding something affordable and reliable.

On the school front, we had a good week--getting lots of things done. 

On the rainy days we put on boots and raincoats and took walks, then we came indoors for creative play.  One day I pulled the costume bins out, and the littles had a fine time engaging in several hours of make believe.  I didn't take any pictures, but these two:

 Apparently the tiger suit was the hot commodity of the day. :)

Little Brother is very much enjoying his preschool.  One day we made peanut butter cookies together.  He was very proud to share the finished product with his siblings.

Wednesday was an exceptionally full day.  Highlights of the day include:

1.  Funniest history moment
We were doing our Week 27 quiz, and one of the questions was, "I murdered another king to become the king of Scotland.  Who am I?"

As Nature Angel and Belle yelled out, "Macbeth!" Pixie muttered, "Only every guy ever."

I laughed so hard I couldn't read the next question.

2.  Awesomest news--
Super Star wrote a story that was accepted by an online magazine called Bumple Buds.  She's supposed to get paid for it, and it is scheduled to appear in their Christmas issue.

How exciting is that?!?!?!?

3.  Fabulous Field Trip
We gathered some favorite friends and took a van load of kids to see the BYU Living Legends dance presentation.  Seriously, the program was amazing!!!  The dances were all Polynesian, Native American, and Latin American.  The costumes were to die for, the dancing was breath-taking, and Little Princess kept whispering to me, "This is my favorite dance in the show!"

Thursday was dance day for us, but in the morning Pixie helped me help the middles and littles make sock puppets for our Whistlefritz Spanish program.  The lesson only called for paper bag puppets, but I'd been looking for an excuse to make something cooler than that, and we have a ton of these fuzzy socks in our mismatched sock basket, so with zero outside cost, we had a grand time making these darling new friends.

Friday was another day of finishing!!

Little Princess finished Life of Fred: Liver!

We finished Symposium for the year when we completed the final lessons and exam for Mystery of History II! 

And the sun was out, so the littles spent hours and hours and hours outside.  Burying one another and building a mountain in the sand pit held their attention for most of the day.

Such good sensory therapy!!

I love our sand pit!

Only 1 more week of Economics for Rose Red, and only 1 English essay left for Pixie.

We're really winding down our school year, and I'm starting to wonder how to best enjoy the summer.

(linking here)