Friday, January 31, 2014

Sharing What Works--General Conference Snippets

We have a devotional during breakfast each day.  I eat earlier than the kids because I get up earlier than they do, and I wake up hungry.  Because my mouth is not full, and the kids' mouths are full, breakfast is an ideal time for me to do a little preaching. :)

Right now I'm sharing highlights from General Conference.  Every day I read a story from a talk or briefly share doctrinal points that seem relevant at the moment. 

Without fail I get choked up as I read and bear testimony of the truths of the gospel.  The kids are getting used to tears with their breakfast. 

Some days I have to remind the kids to be polite.

Some days they join in and share relevant primary/church/YW/personal scripture study experiences that turn our devotional into a wonder of shared testimonies.

What will we do when we have finished all of the talks?  I'm not sure.  But I have shelves full of inspiring reading, and I'm sure I'll find something to keep the fires burning until the next General Conference (in April!).

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Mid Week--

We are nearly done with The Fellowship of the Ring--just 7 pages to go.

The kids are dying because the ring is no closer to destruction than it was 498 pages ago.  Some of them want me to read The Two Towers, and some of them want a break.

I'm on the fence.

But I have a couple of days to decide.  We'll finish the book tonight.  Tomorrow is the big Homeschool Family Dance, so we won't be reading at bedtime.  Saturday will be the day of reckoning.

Yesterday was our science club meeting.  The big kids learned about women innovators.  The little kids learned about our home state--making a poster-sized map with various pictures to represent our state bird, seal, tree, flower, animal, capital, and various other special facts.

After that we went to the library.

Then we watched Despicable Me 2 while I hemmed the curtains I still owe J10's horseback riding instructor.  I'm having to hand hem them because of the thickness of the fabric.  We've never seen Despicable Me 2, and it just came through at the library, so we took an afternoon off for fun.  It was fun!  Daddy wants to watch it with us, so we're going to watch it again for Family Night after church on Sunday.

Tuesday was a regular school day for us.  Nothing exciting or new.  Nothing bad happened either.  Just plodding along on a dreary January day. 

Today is dance practice.  We're going to cram as much school in as we can this morning before we leave.

On our way home we're stopping at a thrift store so E13 can find some fancy shoes for the dance on Friday.  She's a couple months away from being allowed to wear heels, so she's struggling with finding flats that make her feel pretty.  I'm dying to give in, but I know that if I give in she'll use it against me later when I try to hold on to other standards that are far more important than wearing high heels.  I wish it weren't so, but it is.

7:45 am  I've studied the scriptures, fed I2, sewed for an hour on the curtains, answered emails, read some blogs, and fed myself.

I2 has wreaked havoc by losing one of the borrowed bobbins I'm using to complete the curtains.

A6 is reading and drawing on the couch.

M11 has showered and is working long on her personal hygiene.

S11 is building a fire in the wood-burning stove.

E13 . . . I'm not sure what she's doing.  I hope she's up.  I turned her light on 45 minutes ago.

J10  . . . I'm not sure what she's doing either.  I also hope she's up.  She's supposed to empty the dishwasher within the next few minutes.

H4 is asleep.

My sweetheart is home from working all night on our other house.  The tenants are supposed to move in on Saturday.  He's been hauling trash to the dump, painting, patching, cleaning, and building a screen for the bedroom window.  He left at 2 pm yesterday.  He's been home for an hour, but hasn't put in an appearance upstairs yet because he's unloading the van and generally cleaning up.  He'll be quite hungry.  I hope he sleeps well today.

Time to get going . . .

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Math Lessons

E13 has struggled with math.  We've tried at least 6 different curricula over the years.  It took a year of Life of Fred to get her over her fears, but then the open-endedness and focus on higher-level thinking finally irritated her (these are natural strengths for her).  She just wants (and needs) to master the basic skills.  At her request this year we returned to Math-U-See. 

And she is making progress.

Because we home school we have the luxury of working at her own pace, so when she makes mistakes, I mark them and she reworks them until she gets them right.  We work for 100% accuracy.

But we recently encountered multiplication of triple and quadruple digit numbers.  (Like I said, we're going back to the basics.)  These problems are dreadfully hard for her--they involve skills that are her weakest weaknesses and leave her exhausted mentally and physically.

This week we combined our 100% accuracy policy with hard, hard math problems and her amazing distractability.  She ended up owing 8 pages of math in a single day--4 to be redone and 4 new ones that she'd failed to complete in a timely manner. 

It was too much.

I allowed her to take the weekend to complete the work.

It was still too much, but she did it.

And then I sat down to correct her work. 

There were so many mistakes.

I cried for her.

There was no way she could face this much math . . . again.

I kept correcting.

And correcting.

And I noticed a pattern.

She was getting better!

The last page had only 2 errors whereas the first had 24.

A light came on in my mind.  Isn't the purpose of practice problems to learn?  Didn't this pattern of increasing accuracy show that she was learning?


She'd retreated to her bedroom because the sight of me circling math errors was daunting.  I came to her and showed her her book.  Her shoulders slumped and her face sagged.

Then I told her that I believed she'd shown me how much she'd learned.  I gave her a choice:  correct the incorrect problems on 8 pages in her workbook or take the chapter test (I usually skip these because I can see what she's learned on the regular workbook pages) to prove she'd learned over the course of the chapter.

She sat up a little straighter and a light came back on in her face (I would do almost anything to see that light shine).  "Really? I can do just that one page instead of redoing all 8 pages?"

She knows a good thing when she sees it.  She took the test.

And she felt triumphant instead of defeated.

I feel that we both learned important math lessons yesterday.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Moments That Made Me Happy

I opened J10's Book of Mormon journal just to mark her most recent entry.  Though I offered the girls the choice between summarizing what they've read and copying a meaningful scripture, they've chosen the copywork every time.  J10 chooses scriptures of such majesty that my heart is lifted each time I read the ones she chooses . . . even though I've just read the same ones myself a few hours earlier.  There's something about knowing what touched her heart that touches mine as well.

This is H4 "reading," marking her scriptures and taking notes.  The example of the older kids is amazing!

E13 has been giving the littles their baths at night.  She's a hilarious bath buddy--telling stories and leading the little guys into their jammies with a Pied Piper-esqe-ness that never fails to amaze me.

We received the most marvelous gift of a 1/4 size violin this week.  M11 had been teaching A6 and H4 how to play it.  A6 already had grand plans to perform in the homeschool talent show coming up in February.  She says, "Do you want to hear me play the violin?  I'm really good!"

I think it is just barely 7 am--I made her wait that long before starting to practice that first morning.

The older four love, love, love the Landmark history book we're reading.  When I tried it 5 years ago, they hated it.  I'm so glad I didn't give it away.  I'm so glad I was prompted to pull it out again.  I'm so glad to hear their exclamations of delight/horror/dismay/astonishment as I read aloud about our nation's history.

H4 learned from her Daddy how to cut out a circle from the center of  a shape without cutting through the shape.  I've showed her countless times, but she always fell apart and said, "You do it for me, Mom!"  I had to take a phone call during her preschool time yesterday, and when I came back into the room, she was happily cutting out the center of a letter "P"  "Daddy did the mommy 'P' and I'm doing the baby 'p,' " she said happily."  Whether it was quality of instruction or simply fine motor skills development, I'm quite pleased with how pleased she is with her new skill.

This series of pictures is not from cutting out letter P, but is from our two "O is for Owl" days:

And going further back in time is our "N is for Nails" activity out in the garage on a freezing cold January morning:

I2 loves to help me cook.  Yesterday he kept pulling a chair from the table, and I kept thinking it was so that he could climb up to get into the snack cupboard.  I put the chair back twice before he burst into tears.  Somehow his tears gave me pause enough to figure out that I was rolling pretzel dough and he wanted to help.  I got the chair, set him up, and . . . magic . . . we had a fine time stretching dough together.

S11 has been writing stories for a story competition.  She works in her free time and is ever so diligent.  It is time for me to help her edit and submit her story.  Win or lose, I'm quite proud of her hard work.

The kids have rediscovered BBC Dance Mat Typing.  Everyone (except E13 :( ) takes turns practicing their skills.  I love to watch A6's sweet, pudgy fingers dance carefully across the keys.

M11 has been doing hair.  I looooove to be her client. 

This is M11--she did her own hair!

But today is Saturday . . . and we have our Saturday work and play ahead. 

Time to regroup and breathe a little before a new week begins.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Day in the Life . . .

This post is part of a link invitation/challenge from Our Busy Homeschool.

Most of my posts are kind of a day in our lives.  But here goes my best effort to include some of the nitty-gritty details.

6:04  I roll over and look at the clock.  I've slept in.  I feel both the luxury of a good night's sleep and the pressure of a later start to my day.

I finished studying Preach My Gospel (such a pleasure--why did I wait so long to do it?), so on this day I gather up my new journal, my scriptures, a copy of Church History in the Fulness of Times, and the Doctrine and Covenants student manual for BYU's religion 324-25.  I'm about to start the Doctrine and Covenants for my own personal study!  Something I've wanted to do for 3 years but have had bumped aside for general, stake, and/or ward challenges to study other materials for a season.

I study for a time.  Then set these exciting new materials aside to fulfill my other exciting commitment to read the Book of Mormon every day in 2014.  My older 4 girls and I are doing this together--3 of them to fulfill Personal Progress goals (2 of them will be 12 this year)--and little J10 just because she can.

In keeping my goal to not be a clock watcher I don't have many more specifics about time.  What happens next just happens next.

Sometime during my study I2 wakes up.  He asks for animal crackers, and I give them to him.  He eats and plays next to me as I study.

I move to the computer to check emails and blog.

S11 wakes.

I hear E13 and M11 showering and dressing.

I kiss my husband good bye as he heads up north to our old house for a meeting with the insurance inspector.  We're hoping for at least a little money for repairing our finished basement in which pipes burst 2 weeks ago and into which tenants are supposed to move in 1 week.

It is time for chores and personal care.  Not many kids are working on chores.  I encourage them from my seat in front of the computer, then realize my own hypocrisy and get up to set a good example.

H4 and A6 wake at varying times.  A6 is motivated this morning.  She gets dressed, makes her bed, and cleans her room with no fussing and very little prompting.  Her efforts get H4 moving too.  They come to me with huge smiles, "We're done, Mom!"

I realize that A6's motivation is a deep desire to play with the beautiful Barbies Grandma sent us last week.  Each has on a handmade costume.  They are kept on a special shelf and are only played with once hands are washed and faces are clean.  A6 is frustrated because by the time she has done all of her morning work it is time for breakfast, so she will have to wait.

As we do our chores I find 3 little bracelets on my nightstand.  They're those linked rubber band bracelets that are all the rage these days.  I realize that my 8 year old niece gave them to me last night while I was talking with her mom, my sister.  I'd asked her to wait one moment while I heard the rest of her mom's story, but she'd gotten distracted and then never came back to me.  She just left the gifts quietly.

I run to the computer to send her an email apologizing and thanking her.

I get my bed made, my bathroom tidied, gather laundry, put water on to boil for oatmeal, and supervise kids doing chores.  I have to remind J10 that she needs to empty the dishwasher first thing in the morning because my chores depend on an empty dishwasher.  She quietly complies.

I wash some sweet potatoes so I can roast them and use them for soup that night.

I run the compost outside and find a truck idling in our driveway.  Who?  I go over to ask if I can be of service and find that it is the insurance inspector--the same inspector who was supposed to be at our other house an hour ago.  I restrain my deep irritation at the apparent incompetence of our insurance company and send him in the right direction.  I call my husband who is equally frustrated because he has several other tasks to get done.  We commiserate for a moment.

Eventually we gather for breakfast.  E13 refuses because she doesn't like oatmeal.  We have to call her twice to come to the table anyway because of devotional.

H4 says her tummy hurts.

"Are you hungry?" I ask.  She says yes and eats.

We pray, eat, sing some Articles of Faith, discuss a General Conference talk, and recite Moroni 7:45-48.

We go over the plan for the day.

The kids point out that I haven't checked yesterday's work yet.  I am dismayed because I thought I already did it.  I immediately sit down to do that task.

I finally put the sweet potatoes in the oven.

The littles have (hopefully) brushed their teeth and washed their hands because they are in the front room playing with the special Barbies.

I find out that E13 did not understand her math assignment.  I call her up to go over it immediately and tell the other girls that their books are ready for them.

M11 is dressing H4.  What?  Wasn't she dressed already?

This makes me realize that I2 is still in his pajamas and overnight diaper.  But E13 has just arrived to go over her math, so I choose to ignore the pajama/diaper situation a few moments longer.

We quickly find the gap in her understanding.  I think we are both relieved that it was an easy fix.  She goes off to complete her work for the day.

M11 shows up and points out that I haven't checked her books yet.  I got distracted by E13's errors and never finished my work.


I check M11's work and call the littles to finish our paper plate owls.

They are so excited.  They cut one painted paper plate in half for wings and leave the other whole.  I cut out eyes and beaks and pass out glue sticks.  The kids happily assemble their owls.  I am pleasantly surprised to see that I2 even put his eyes and beak in the "right" places to make a face instead of randomly placed.  Just a month ago he couldn't have done that.  The kids are so proud of their owls!!!

It was an easy project, so I find a National Geographic documentary on owls to watch online.  Just as we get settled I realize the older girls might like to watch, too, so we pause and call them out.  E13 refuses, but the rest join us, and we ooh and aah over owls facts and videos for the next 45 minutes.  We're all fascinated.  I2 holds his owl in his lap the whole time, hooting softly when moved.

While we're watching, my husband calls with the good news that the insurance company handed him a generous check for the damage to the house.  We can definitely fix it within the budget allotted.  I offer a silent prayer of gratitude.

I have M11 turn off the oven so the sweet potatoes don't burn.
After the documentary ends I send the older girls back to their independent work.

H4 says her tummy hurts.

"Do you need to go potty?" I ask.

She says yes and goes.

I finally dress I2.

A6 joins me for her school.   She reads and narrates Amelia Bedelia, practices her spelling words, and does an alphabetizing activity that reduces her to tears.  That was not my goal.  She was happy to start it, but got stuck when 2 words started with "J."  I reassure her that she is smart and walk her through how to find out which word is next, but she is heartbroken, and the lesson that started so happily ends in ugliness.

I hate that.

She feels better when she gets another turn with the special Barbies.

S11 and E13 are outside on the deck wrapped in blankets against the cold.  They are soaking up sunshine.  S11 is waiting for math help, and I assume E13 is done with her work because she is out of her room.  Because they are having a sisterly moment, I ignore them both and start lunch.

J10 finishes her work and comes down to read and play.

We eat leftover baked potatoes, sliced, covered with cheese and few bits of leftover pepperoni, and tossed in a hot oven to warm.  I make a quick fruit salad and offer leftover green salad dressed with avocados and rice vinegar.  The kids ask me to slice some fresh avocado, and I am able to because avocados were on special last week, and they are now ripe.

After lunch M11 goes back to her room to finish her schoolwork, and E13 reveals she isn't done either.  I lecture her about responsible behavior, help S11 with her math question, and clean up the kitchen when my husband gets home.  I help him fix a quick lunch.  He heads off to shower and take a nap--he has to work tonight.

H4 says her tummy hurts.

"Do you want to rest for a while?" I ask.

She says yes and takes a book to her bed.

I call the older girls for New Testament study.  We read about Jesus calling the 12 apostles.  We find out that there is a name discrepancy in the list of the 12 between Luke's report and Mark's.  We talk about Simon Peter having two names and how people often had name changes in other cultures. 

I glance at the clock--1:54 pm.  There's time for another bit of mom-school.  I decide to start the Landmark History of the American People.  It's a book we've had for a long time and started but never finished.  I think the kids will enjoy it now.

They do.

Though they grumbled when I started reading, they are disappointed when the timer goes off and I stop reading.

"You can read that to us again, Mom," they say as we dismiss for the day.

I go downstairs to find that E13 is reading a novel and hasn't done her morning chores.  She gets another lecture about responsible behavior and goes to work.  I grind some wheat for a banana cake to go with dinner.

I make the banana cake while kids play with Legos and those special Barbies--new toys are treats!

I print out directions for my husband to the youth temple trip meeting place.

I2 is getting tired, but he's not allowed to nap because then he doesn't sleep at night.  He asks to watch Curious George and I almost say no, but then I decide that's a good idea because I really need to work on the curtains I still owe J10's horseback riding instructor in exchange for the lessons she had in December.

I measure, cut, sew, and iron as PBS Kids holds my children's attention--even the older ones.

I'm clock watching now, because dinner has to be early so that Dad can get E13 to the meeting place for tonight's temple trip and then off to work on time.

I tell the kids to turn off the computer.

I2 cries but gets distracted by following his big sisters about.

E13 reveals that her schoolwork is not done yet.  I remind her that she can only go to the temple if she's done.  Does she want to go?  She says yes and disappears to her room to finish.

H4 says her tummy hurts.  I hug her and start to wonder if something serious is wrong.  I ask her questions to see if we can narrow down what kind of hurt it is, but she can't answer well and she seems okay, so I kiss her and send her off to play. 

She goes back to bed and falls asleep, but I don't know this at the time because I am sauteing onions and celery, mashing roasted sweet potatoes, whipping up lemon glaze for the banana cake, and calling kids to help with afternoon tidy up time.

The house is mostly straightened.
E13 finally turns in her schoolwork.
Dinner is ready.
Dad is awake.
The family is gathered around the table when I learn that H4 is sleeping.

How sick is she?

We fold our arms to pray, but H4 cries out.  I leave the family to Dad's care and find H4 crying and pointing to vomit all over her bed, "I threw up, Mom!" she wails.

I am relieved to find throw up.  Now I don't have to worry about appendicitis or something else wretched.

I soothe her and clean her up.  I put her in her jammies for the night.  I make her a little nest on the floor in her room so she can sleep while I strip her bed, disinfect her mattress, and wash her bedding.

In the kitchen Dad and the rest of the kids eat, have family prayer, and read the scriptures.

I scoop up a bowl of soup only to see H4 come into the living room.  She's lonely.  I fix her up a little bed on the living room floor so she can be close to the rest of the family.

E13 gets ready for the temple.
Dad gets ready for work.
Between bites I beg E13 to find a ride home tonight so that I don't have to leave the rest of the kids.  I don't know who else might be getting ready to be sick next.
I fix my husband's lunch.
I co-sign the insurance check.
I make sure E13 has her cell phone and reassure her that I will pick her up if she needs me to, but to please ask for a ride.
They leave.

It is 5:38 pm

The other kids point out that E13 is gone and H4 is sick so can they please, please, please watch Minnesota Cuke and the Search for Noah's Umbrella if they get ready for bed really fast and help me clean up?

I say yes.

We all get to work.
M11 bathes and dressed I2 and A6.
J10 and S11 shower then help me clean up.
I text E13 "Do you have a ride?"
She replies, "Yeah."  It isn't very informative, but at least she'll get home.
I change into my pajamas.
We all settle in to watch the movie.
H4 throws up 2 more times.
I2 falls asleep in M11's arms.  I realize I missed praying with him and singing him to sleep; I am sad.
I gather H4's clean laundry out of the dryer and remake her bed.

I tuck the littles in bed without stories because H4 is wiped out and A6 says she's really tired.  We manage to pray and sing songs though.

I come back to the older girls and tell them we can't read aloud tonight because E13 and A6 are missing.  They'd be heartbroken to miss The Fellowship of the Ring.  S11 asks me to read aloud from Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle.  I decline, informing the girls that we can read silently together tonight for a change.  They're disappointed, but I'm so tired that I curl up on the couch next to M11 and fall asleep reading Birdwing by Rafe Martin.  I wake when J10 says she's tired of reading and is going upstairs to knit.  S11 follows shortly thereafter.

I doze again.

I wake to my responsibilities when S11 comes back downstairs to ask when E13 is coming home.  It is 8:50.  I answer that I expect her sometime between 9 and 9:30 and tell all three girls to get ready to be tucked in.

Just then we hear the garage door open--E13 is home.

I go downstairs to visit with her.  She's happy and had a good experience.   I'm glad.
I tuck in the 3 upstairs.
I go back down to say goodnight to my eldest.
I check all of the doors.
I set the house alarm.
I realize I am very, very hungry so I eat a piece of banana cake.
I pray.
I get up and check on my youngest 3.
I fall into bed.

It is 9:43 pm.

I get up 7 or 8 times before midnight to answer calls from H4, I2, and a frightened A6 who had a bad dream.  But no one throws up.  Everyone is safe.  I pull I2 into bed with me so that I don't have to get up with him again.

We sleep.


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

On Monday We Learned about the Ballet Folclorico

I feel utterly unmotivated to write about our days of late. 

They've been good days.

I have no complaints.

And there have been sweet and tender moments.

But the journaling of what we do and when is terribly dull.  I need to journal what we do and when because this is where I complete my legal requirements for my state.

But . . . it is so boring!


It was a good day. 

Formal school for the older kids in the morning. 

The littles painted paper plates.  They painted some brown in preparation for an O is for owl project we're doing today, and then they painted whatever they wanted after that.  A6 painted a monkey in the desert.  I2 experimented with squashing colors together with his hands, his brush, his face, whatever he could.  H4 tried very hard to copy what A6 did, but mostly ended up squashing colors together like I2 did before I could get hold of her pictures and set them aside for safe-keeping.

We had leftover chicken noodle soup and sourdough toast for lunch.

Then A6 had her language arts lesson with me.

The older girls and I read about Jesus reading and proclaiming Himself the Christ in the synagogue in Nazareth.  They were delightfully appalled to read about how they tried to pitch Him headfirst off a cliff.  We had a bit of a conversation about faith.

Then we turned to the computer to find The Friend magazine's article on Mexico--an idea that was recommended on Latter-Day Homeschooling.  We printed the passports and armadillo "stickers."  We googled a world map and found Mexico and the United States.  We found an audio pronunciation guide for a few simple words in Spanish.  We read the articles in The Friend.  We found a simple fact sheet for kids about Mexico, and this is where it got good.  The fact sheet mentioned the Ballet Folclorico. 

I remember the Ballet Folclorico!  I grew up in LA.  Taking trips to Olvera Street and watching dancers was a frequent tradition. 

We hopped on over to YouTube and watched several videos of fabulous dancing.  Even though the picture quality was poor, and the feed was so bad we had to watch the small screen versions, we were all glued to the dancing. 

I had to watch the clock because my sister's family was coming over for dinner last night, and I had to get up and start dinner preparations, so I turned off the computer to agonized groans.  (I do not leave my kids unsupervised on YouTube!)

I can't say we learned a whole lot about Mexico, but I'm quite positive that curiosity has been piqued, and a favorable impression made.  When the opportunity to learn more about Mexico arises, the kids are going to be willing.

There was lots of chaos and fun when cousins came over.

My favorite part was listening in as my nephew K12 was looking through our library basket to see if there was anything good to read.  E13 saw a book in his hand--Birdwing.  She ran over, "That is the best book!  There's one inappropriate part, but that is the best book!  It is so good.  You should read it!"

I love that she was so enthusiastic, and I'm glad that she's warning her cousins about sex/violence/profanity.  So far when she's warned someone about "inappropriate parts" they've concerned kissing and/or mild profanity.  She hasn't yet finished a book that got truly inappropriate.  I hope it stays that way.

Then when everyone extra left and we came back to just our own selves, we opened our folktale book to find that the very next story we were reading was from Mexico! 


Daddy was in the living room recovering from his perfectly dreadful day, and the girls all began chattering away about the Mexican dancers.   Several fabulous narrations later we were ready to read.

So we did.

The Fellowship of the Ring is getting rather exciting.  A6 is hooked.  So are most of the other kids, but M11 is not a Tolkien fan.

Then we went to bed.

Now we're up again.

Time to start another day.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

First Dance Practice and Squirrel Follow-Up

On Thursday we got started right away with our formal school--except for the little ones.  It seemed to be one of those days when the littles simply wouldn't focus and I couldn't get anything done in a timely manner.  Ultimately they got to play while I did my best to get some chores done--including cleaning the kitchen twice!  One after breakfast and again after I2 got into the leftover apple cake.

We headed out to our first dance practice of the new year.  We were so excited to see friends again!

We were early.


Time change.

So we ran over to a nearby thrift store and found a load of darling, sturdy shoes for A6 to choose from! 


We also found a lamp for our too-dark living room, and a shirt to turn into a shrug for M11's dress for the homeschool dance.

E13 found a beautiful strapless dress that she wanted more than anything in the world. 

No strapless dresses.


She's quite disappointed, but is doing a very good job trying to find the bright side.

Dancing was fun!  And there are some new old  friends to love, too, now.

On Friday I was so very happy to just stay home.  We'd gone out Tuesday night for church activities, Wednesday for our science club and E13's planning meeting, and Thursday for dance rehearsals.  I was almost giddy with happiness at the prospect of a whole day at home.

The littles made toilet paper tube octopi for O is for Octopus day.  Then we read about octopi in an animal encyclopedia.  The kids loved hearing about tentacles and ink and beaky mouths hidden under their suckery legs.

The older kids did a solid day's independent work then gathered with me after lunch to study the New Testament and discuss squirrels. 

I found some squirrel fact sheets that I printed.  We talked about animal classification, matched squirrel body parts to their functions, discussed the time of day squirrels are usually active (giving my kids some much needed practice with analog clocks!), and tried some squirrel observations. 

But it was cold.

Cold enough that even with coats on we were really happy to retreat indoors.

Even though it was well within the time frame the fact sheets gave for usual squirrel activity, we didn't see any squirrels, so we we checked off observations we've made in the past.  Then I had the kids fill in the map space with a description of the most interesting squirrel activity they've ever seen.

It was quite low key, but I'm willing to be that the kids pay more attention to squirrels than they ever have before.

I've already been called by A6 and H4 to "Come see the funny squirrels, Mom!" on more than one occasion since our nature walk.  We're not suddenly fabulous naturalists, but I feel blessed by their increased observation.

Time for another nature walk and another focus.  I'd like to study blue jays or cardinals--they feed from our bird feeder almost daily and we watch them often!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Wednesday Was an Outing Day

We had a science club meeting yesterday, but it wasn't science themed.  We do a few service projects each year, and yesterday we made valentines for Meals on Wheels recipients.

When 180 was revealed as the goal for the number of valentines to make, the littles were unaffected.  They set to work making wonderful works of art one precious project at a time.  The older kids, however, got together and set up an assembly line. 

One person folded the paper.
Another placed stickers.
Two more did hand-drawn decorations.
Another wrote "Happy Valentine's Day!"
And yet another added a little bling to make them sparkle.

Last year a few kids formed an assembly line, but they produced inferior quality products which had to be altered by some of this year's assembly line members.  The kids were very concerned that the cards were lovely as well as quickly produced.

I'm proud of them for caring.

Later we headed to Salvation Army to look for shoes for A6.  However, as we walked in we found 3 sequined cocktail dresses just begging to be purchased (and altered for modesty) for the upcoming homeschool association winter family dance themed "HOLLYWOOD."  So we spent time trying on dresses, buying accessories and making plans. 

Then we searched for shoes.

We found shoes for H4 and S11,who needed shoes too, but none for A6--who is my main concern.  I may have to break down and buy her new shoes if I can't find any in the thrift stores soon.

Then we headed off to a meeting for E13 and her friend B14 to plan their session for teaching our science club.  They're just past the age of being interested in participating, so they're getting to sit in dual roles this year--as members of the club and as leaders, too.  They'll earn a leadership badge in addition to the regular science and service badges, and that will be their "graduation."

They chose to teach about the endangered Hine's Emerald Dragonfly. 

They're going to do a great job. :)

My favorite memory of the afternoon was when E13 and B14 had settled what they wanted to accomplish and were quietly studying their fact sheets--highlighting, making notes, and otherwise being very focused on learning.  The two moms were busy jumping all over the internet finding teaching ideas and exclaiming, "Ooh!  This would be fun!"  "What do you think of this?"  "What about that?"

Eventually we got a clue and settled down so the kids could work.

The afternoon wound down to dinner, scriptures, prayers, tidying the house, baths, jammies, and evening reading. 

A social day.
A busy day.
A good day.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Sun is Still Shining

So, that weather forecast that predicted wind and clouds and falling temperatures for today?

Not true.

It is clear and brisk and beautiful.

Last night my sweetheart asked, "I'd really like to watch It's a Wonderful Life with the kids before it has to go back to the library.  When do you think we could do that?"

My brain buzzed with possibility.

"How about tomorrow morning when they usually are doing school?  I can do the grocery shopping that I blew off today, and you guys can have a date!"

So that's what we did.

After lunch, when I was supposed to send them off to their rooms to do some schoolwork, I offered the kids a deal, "You can do regular school or you can go up to the soccer field with me and play for an hour."

They chose to play.

But we only made it 45 minutes. 

We're winter weak right now.

The girls actually said, "I think I'll go in and do some school now."


But I'm tired, too.  So I understand where they're coming from.

It was really fun to play soccer with the kids.  They're fast, but I have better endurance.  They have better footwork and are gutsier than I am.  Endurance didn't mean squat in our games today. 

They loved to kick the ball and watch me run after it. 
They loved stealing it from me. 
They howled with laughter when I tried to block them from taking the ball from me.
They schemed to get me to play goalie (and then were shocked when I blocked 4 goals in a row!)
I2 laughed when I scooped him up in my arms and ran after the ball with him--though he's a big boy, and I didn't run far!

Days like this feed my soul.

We Had a Party

The plan for Monday was:


What happened on Monday was:

 The little ones got up and planned a party in the dining room.  Cranium Hullaballo, a book nook (for those tired of noisy play, tug of war (spelled tug-a-war), I-Spy, pin the arrow on the target, prizes (pick a piece of a tea set from the box) and treats (homemade pretzels by Mom).

They worked for 3 hours setting it up.  There was no earthly way I was interrupting that activity for any pre-planned school I had on the schedule.  But the older girls did their independent school work as I did chores and the littles prepared.

They even had admission tickets cut with fancy scissors.

We timed the party so that it would end at lunch time (I was caterer).

We ate off our tea-party prize dishes.

After lunch I called the older girls to work together on our New Testament studies.  From my seat at the table I could see the blue sky and flittering birds.  I got very itchy to ditch the errands and get out!  As the girls finished their summaries of the story of the woman at the well, I checked out the weather forecast--would this weather hold for a few days?


Temperatures are to drop and the sky is to get cloudy.

At 2:36 I informed the kids they had exactly 9 minutes to get on boots and coats and get in the van.

H4 had a tantrum.

We made it to the car and were on our way in 19 minutes.

Not bad for 8 people--one of whom threw a tantrum.

We set out with light hearts (and some sniffling).

The hiking trails were closed.
We decided to go to the nature center.
We got lost on the way to the nature center.
We found our way to the nature center.
The nature center was closed.
The nature center hiking trails were not.

We hiked.

Not very far.  Just far enough to find the giant limestone rock outcropping that is a favorite place to play.  I watched as a darkness fell from my children's faces revealing their sweet inner light again. 

Tension drained. 
Laughter rang. 
Bodies worked.

All too soon the sun got low in the sky and we headed home.

Pancakes for supper.

I made them as E13 finished her math at the kitchen island, J10 started a fire in the wood-burning stove, the littles played a game comprehensible only to the very young, and M11 and S11 painted their nails while talking girly talk to one another.

I'm glad we went with plan B today.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Saving the Family Mission Statement

Last night was family night for us.  Though I am not a Stephen Covey fan, one time I picked up a copy of his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families at a thrift store.  It was a better read than I'd anticipated.  I let the concepts he shared percolate for a few years.

Yes, a few years.

Then this January seemed to be just the right time to implement one of his recommendations and write a family mission statement. 

My brother-in-law sells beautiful pre-made family mission statements.  I considered supporting his endeavor, but decided not to because I wanted something into which we'd all invested ourselves.  I knew that a lovely piece of art would look good on the wall and would probably inspire me and maybe my husband, but it would still be nothing more to my kids than a lovely piece of art.  I wanted something messy, less than poetic, and really ours.

Last week we got to work--with the promise of brownies, made and decorated by H4, sitting in the background, luring the kids into cooperation.  We had a productive discussion.

This week we picked up where we left off, but it was a disaster. I2's "choice" of fresh butterscotch oatmeal cookies did not inspire the kids enough to cooperate.  Side discussions, elbow digs, falling off chairs, and tantrums prompted me to give up almost before we got started.  In addition I was having some sort of belly pain that did nothing toward helping me to lead and inspire discussion of our family goals. 

At 7:23 I looked at the clock and debated just closing immediately or starting one new strand of thought.

I decided to go for it.

I hated ending the evening feeling like a failure.

I opened a new document, chose a new font, and typed out the header for the kids to see:  "What are the individual strengths, talents, and abilities of each family member?"  Then I typed "Dad."

The kids jumped all over it.  We banged out a list of Dad's wonderful skills in no time. 

I tentatively typed out "Mom" next.  In spite of my impatience and frustration that evening the kids (and Dad) were quick and happy to respond.

We moved name by name through the rest of the family, calling out qualities and talents we admire about each person. 

Well before the end we were laughing, encouraging, happy and focused. 

As I typed the last word for I2 (the youngest) I asked the kids, "How are you feeling right now?"



"Great!" they answered.

"Do you know why?"

"Because people said nice things about us."

"I don't think so, " I countered.  "I think it is because you were focused on saying nice things about others.  When we look for the good, we find it, and we feel happy.  Wouldn't you like to feel like this all of the time?"

"Yes!" they chorused.

My husband and I were ready to keep talking about how to encourage good family feelings, but we quickly checked ourselves and let the spirit of love do its own work.  It was enough that we drew attention to it.  So we closed with prayer and ate cookies.

Then I stumbled off to bed early and let Dad run the bedtime show.

He's pretty excellent that way. 

(And I'm fine this morning.)

Friday, January 10, 2014

Nature Walk #1--Squirrels

On Wednesday afternoon we bundled up and took a walk in the snow. 

The kids resisted mightily, but I held firm, and we succeeded in walking perhaps half of a mile.

I assigned each person to find one item of interest to share with the family when we got home.   (I am trying very hard to follow some of the advice and inspiration I find here.)  Rather than take everyone inside and run the risk of having them stay inside we held our sharing session at our picnic table on the back porch.

H4 shared a skeleton of an autumn flower that still had tufts and puff of seed heads on it.
A6 shared a very interesting seed head to a flower.  We have no idea how to find out what it is short of waiting for the seasons to pass and watching carefully.
J10 shared her fascination with how snow packs together.
S11 shared a piece of an evergreen tree.
M11 shared the deer tracks we saw in the snow.
E13 shared a hive she saw hanging from a tree branch.

Then the kids turned to me and asked, "What are you sharing?"  I was nonplussed.  I'd spent so much time helping the others find interesting things that I hadn't made note of anything for myself.  I wracked my brain and remembered--a squirrel's nest!

I had the kids vote:  What would you like to study further?

They chose squirrels; it was the only subject that kept the kids from feeling that one child was favored over the others.

(I'd been hoping to study deer . . . or snowflakes.)

Yesterday I googled squirrels.  Most of the informational pages/worksheets/activities about squirrels are geared toward littles.  I kept searching.  I finally found this page that had some interesting suggestions for older kids.

I opened a video link to preview, and the kids gathered around.  For half an hour we sat watching videos of flying squirrels, funny squirrels, and boring squirrels.  We learned a few things together, quite informally.

Today we have friends coming over in the afternoon.  The weekend follows.  I'm hoping to do share a few facts and have the kids do some observations and drawings in the week to come--more formal learning together.  But if we don't (if the old house repairs take precedence) at least we've shared some educational moments together.

Thoughts of Faith

I woke up this morning with swirling, churning thoughts.

My personal devotional is continuing my study of faith.

As I read the first scripture on my list I remembered another scripture:
And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.  

--Matthew 17:20

Then a story I heard in church recently came to mind.  I do not know who told it, but it goes as follows:
There was a woman of little faith, a skeptic, who encountered a believer.  She was told about this scripture and challenged to try her faith.  There was a hill in front of her house that blocked her view of the countryside.  She prayed for it to be moved so that she could see.  When she woke in the morning she looked out her window.  The hill was still there.  She turned away, disgusted, saying, "I knew it wouldn't work."

I think I have acted like that woman.

We have a mountain to move--getting our old house cleaned up and properly repaired for our tenants while caring for and educating our children.

If we have "faith as a grain of mustard seed" we can move a mountain.

But faith is hard work.  

My husband has been out working hard.  I need to do the same.

Thursday, January 9, 2014


I don't know.

I don't know how we're going to keep doing "school."

Three pipes in our old house burst sometime today or yesterday.  We were just there on Tuesday, and everything was fine, so we know it was yesterday or today.  Our good neighbor noticed the sound of water trickling as she walked out to her car.  She went over to investigate and found water dripping out of the exterior walls of the house. 

She called us immediately.

My husband has been up at the house for 10 hours tearing up sodden carpet, cutting out soaked drywall, and using a couple of borrowed shop-vacs to get up the water.

We're supposed to have the house ready for our tenants in 2 weeks. 

We're under contract.

We were on track to have the work done in the nick of time, but now . . .

I don't know when my husband will actually go to his job (he had to call in tonight).  I don't know when he will sleep (he's been up for over 28 hours straight).  I don't know how we will afford the repairs.  I don't know how we will get the extra work done on time.

I don't know anything right now.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

More Moving

On Saturday my husband and I worked on cleaning out the "blue room" in the basement.  It is currently our temporary holding place for boxes we've yet to take care of.  Eventually it will be a guest room.  It is a very small, strangely configured room, so we spent several minutes discussing options for its best use.  We finally decided that a hide-a-bed sofa would be wise.

On Monday morning we found an ad on our homeschool forum for a free hide-a-bed sofa.

Not wanting to ignore miracles staring us in the face, we went to work rearranging our day so that we could get the sofa and finish emptying our old house and yard of the odds and ends remaining there.

This means that though we just started school on Monday, on Tuesday we had a sort of break while the older 3 kids helped Daddy.

Sort of. 

Because we accomplished:
*preschool with H4, I2, and A6--they colored pictures of words that start with "n" like nurse, newt, nightingale, and nest
*independent school for the older 4--they just fit it in when they could
*bringing home the couch, picnic table, 6 potted blueberry bushes, the big ladders, more firewood, and other "stuff"
*morning devotional
*family scripture study and prayer
*outdoor play in the snow--the temperature skyrocketed 30 degrees to hover right at freezing.  The sun shone.  The sky was blue, blue, blue.  Perfect sledding weather!  I played, too.
*The older kids went to the church for Tuesday night activities.  Daddy took them, and they started out playing basketball, but were eventually adopted by the scouts to fill out their handball game.  Everyone came home tired, happy, and a little sore from a lot of exercise.
*The littles and I had a quiet evening at home with stories near the fire and going to bed on time.

It was a satisfying day.

Even if it wasn't a "proper school day."

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Turning My Back on the Clock

At 11:30 am I2 crawled onto the table, took the box of ziti noodles and dumped them--the entire pound . . . minus the 30 or so A6 and H4 had used to make their first necklaces.

I smiled.

I smiled because no one at the table even batted an eyelash.  We all just kept on working, drawing our noodles from the table instead of the box.

That's life in a big, busy family.

My goal is to gather the family together by 8:30 for breakfast.  We gathered at 9:45 yesterday, our first day back. 

That's okay.

We just did each activity in order.

Actually, not even in order. 

H4 refused to get dressed.
I2 was waiting for his pre-preschool. 
I started to watch the clock.  \
I took a breath and regrouped.
I took I2 into his room and offered to play blocks with him while H4 ran naked up and down the hallway.
A6 asked if she could play, too.
Of course.
Eventually H4 got bored and got her clothes.
I helped her dress while we built towers.

And later we moved on to doing chores and school with the little girls.

The noodle necklaces were part of H4's preschool.  But I2, A6, and even S11 joined in.  It was almost a family project. 

I2 wore his proudly almost all day.

(I wonder if his was the one I stepped on and had to sweep up after dinner last night.)

A6 is much happier reading "real" books instead of the readers.  We're doing the Sonlight grade 1 spelling and writing activities, but reading, narrating, and doing copywork out of real books.  Her first one for this year is Mercy Watson: Princess in Disguise by Kate DiCamillo.

The older girls dove right back into their independent work with hardly a ripple.  I say hardly a ripple because S11 forgot how to do long division.  Interestingly enough she remembered sigma notation.  Go figure!

We resumed our study of the New Testament and then did a bit of map study for our afternoon "Mom School" session.  J10 loved, loved, loved it.  M11 and S11 were quite interested, but E13 feigned boredom with the whole thing.  I don't think she was actually bored, because I'm positive she was learning new skills, and when she got the map to herself for a moment she really studied it.  I think she's just not a fan of group learning.

We studied the legend to a map of our home state and then found places on the map that corresponded to the legend.  We studied how to find a city on the index and then find the corresponding section on the map.  E13 exclaimed, "D-7?  You mean like playing Battleship?" 

Yes, just like playing Battleship!

J10 had the opportunity to respond to an email from a friend, so she did some "real" writing.

M11 and I had to call Geek Squad to take advantage of the warranty she bought for her tablet (it's the second one she's managed to sit on!) so we had some life lessons in math and stewardship.

Overall, I feel very good about our first day back.  We had enough scheduled for me to be accountable; we did a reasonable amount of housework without being either overwhelmed with work or leaving too many messes to function; the kids both worked and had free time; we handled attitude problems and behavior issues without worrying about how long it took to feel better and return to the family circle; we ate good food (which means I had ample time to prepare the food); and we had a morning devotional that worked!

I can do this!!

We can do this.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Schedules--Now What?!?!

Local schools are cancelled because of extreme cold.  We, however, are building a rip-roaring fire and getting down to business.

But how?

I've tried hard-core scheduling--a place for everything and everything in its place.

We accomplished a lot.  I consider it a failure because I lost my ability to be flexible, and I was hurrying kids through activities just to stay on schedule. 

I've tried having a very open these-things-happen-in-this-general-time-frame schedule.

I didn't feel the terrible pressure I did when we had a formal schedule, which made for happier, more relaxed days, but it was loose enough that I failed to keep some of my promises.  The kids' feelings were hurt, and they felt the loss of accomplishment.

I need enough accountability to do what needs to be done and enough flexibility to not lose it when my toddler empties the water jug--again.

We're in year 11 of homeschooling.  You'd think I'd be better at this by now!!!


I'm making a list of what should be done and the order in which we'll do it.  The stuff we must do to keep from losing our minds will be early in the schedule, meals will give us a framework, and good stuff will be in the afternoon when we're kind of tired.

Here's a tentative schedule for me:

Early mornings--personal devotional time, exercise, computer time, personal hygiene, supervise older kids' chores
Breakfast and family devotional
Send older kids off to do independent schoolwork
Help little kids get dressed and do their chores
Pre-preschool with I2 (approx 15 minutes)
Preschool with H4 (approx 30 minutes--I2 and A6 often join us)
Reading/writing with A6
Choose 1 or 2 family learning activities: 
     Nature outing
     Science lesson
     History lesson
     Community service
     Geography lesson
     Piano lessons (we're getting a piano again--soon!)
     Thursdays: we'll attend our song/dance group rehearsals
Free time for kids, afternoon chores for me (laundry, dinner prep, etc) and/or personal study time for me
Quick house pick up
Dinner and family devotional
Kitchen clean up and/or evening church activities
Get ready for bed
Evening read aloud time

Twice a month we have our science club that meets in the mornings, so this schedule is interrupted, but reading this makes me breathe a little easier. 

We can do this.
We can do this.
We can do this . . .

Friday, January 3, 2014


I specifically got up early this morning to catch up on homeschooling blog posts written by other mothers that I admire and by whom I am inspired.

I felt the need for inspiration.

Though a few days ago my brain was busily working out problems and goals for the rest of our academic year, I'm now having panic attacks.

I feel so incompetent.

And reading about other people's goals and accomplishments didn't lift or inspire me the way I'd hoped. I had to STOP reading and just breathe.

We've only lived in this house for a month--not quite a month actually.  Though I've been intentionally watching and making notes about what housekeeping needs to be done and when and how to establish routines that work for us, we're still climbing the learning curve.  The idea of adding school is overwhelming.

But the kids need it!

They're asking for it!

I want to climb into bed and pull the covers over my head.

Even though I love my family, love my new house, love learning with my children.

The older ones know how to work independently.  The little ones just want some attention from me.  We have devotional supplies already on hand.

It should be easy!

It feels so hard.

Today is our second day of practicing with our new chore chart.  That's all we really have to do.  Then the day is open for us to fill as we see fit.  (I'm sewing sit-upons for my new calling as Nursery Leader in our ward and making homemade pizzas because we really, really, really want to reestablish our old tradition of Friday Night Pizza Night).

Maybe it's just because so many of our school supplies are still missing in boxes.

I'll bet if I spent 2 hours today doing some organizing I'd feel better . . .