Friday, February 28, 2014

Reading With A6--And Watching the Future Unfold

A6 and I did not get to do school together until the sausage for dinner was on the stove. 

It was just one of those days.

I thought about skipping it, but I'm so very glad we didn't.

We read the first chapter of Frog and Toad are Friends by Arnold Loebel.  We've read it before--as a fun read aloud by Mommy to the kids.  But having A6 read it to me was like hearing it for the first time . . . for both of us.

She laughed.

She laughed that belly-laugh that only the very young laugh.

As she laughed I saw that her missing front teeth are about to be not missing anymore.

It will soon be hard to categorize her as one of the very young. 

I looked deep into her eyes. 
I beheld their sparkle.
I soaked up their delight.
I basked in their youngness.

And I tried not to ache that she is leaving her little girlhood; rather, I tried to look forward to the big girl that is coming.

Oh, how I love her!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

E13 Teaches About Dragonflies

Yesterday was our science club meeting.  E13 and her friend B14 are aging out of this particular club.  This is their last year, and they get the chance to earn a special leadership patch.  Together they have to research and teach the group about two subjects of their own choice.  They chose Hine's Emerald Dragonfly--an endangered insect in our neck of the woods.

They divvied up responsibilities--B14 was in charge of a science experiment about the water pollution that has led to the dragonflies' endangered status and a game illustrating how dragonflies feed; E13 was in charge of a craft, a puzzle teaching dragonfly morphology, and a coloring page about the dragonfly lifecycle.  They were each to prepare their own lecture to go along with their activities.

They did great!!  The kids loved, loved, loved the dragonfly feeding game.  One set of kids were given plastic grocery sacks to open and run around with (this represented the dragonflies' legs that are folded together to create a sort of basket), and the other set of kids were given paper balls (representing mosquitoes).  The kids with bags ran around, and the kids with balls threw them.  It was hilarious to watch the "mosquitoes" get "caught."

E13's craft was a big hit. 

(We got this picture and the idea here.)

 We used larger googly eyes to show how large dragonfly eyes really are and provided glitter glue tubes so the kids could really decorate.  Some of the finished dragonflies were gorgeous!!

E13 enlarged a simple black and white dragonfly drawing to poster size, mounted it on cardstock, and cut it into pieces.  She had a volunteer come forward to read a description of dragonfly morphology and had the kids take turns putting the pieces of the dragonfly together according to the description.  

I think she did a great job!

And the kids learned how to tell girl dragonflies from boy dragonflies. :)

I'm proud of my girl.

She's filled with self-recrimination for not being good enough--for not living up to the ideal in her head.  We've had more than one conversation since then to help her see her way through that trouble.  I taught her the principle that helps me through my own self-doubts; you always have 3 lessons--the one you plan, the one you give, and the one you wish you'd given.  She smiled at least at that one.  I hope she feels as good about herself as I do about her.

It was a great lesson!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A Day in the Life

It is Monday morning. I am documenting this day in order to link up with Tristan at Our Busy Homeschool.

Sometime around 3 am I2 wakes up and comes into bed with Daddy and me.  It is a little bit unusual because he's been sleeping mostly through the night lately, but it is a lot unusual because he didn't fall immediately back to sleep.  He tosses and turns and says,"I hun-gee, Mama," more than once.  I don't want to feed him; he'd had a good dinner and Family Night treat the evening before, and there is no way I want to open the door to middle of the night snacks, but when he says, "I hun-gee, Mama.  P'ease, eat?" I think, "Who am I to judge?  Maybe he really needs to eat."

Once I am up, I am up.  However, my husband can get up, be fully awake, and drop effortlessly back to sleep again.  I debate for several minutes whether I am being selfish or wise to ask for his help, and eventually decide that as he would get to sleep in the afternoon before going to work today, I will go ahead and wake him.

He gets I2 a snack and a drink, and takes him off to bed.  A short time later he returns to our bed and falls right to asleep.  I am still struggling to get back to sleep, so I feel less guilty about waking him than I did at first. (Though I do wonder why I woke him if I was awake anyway . . . )

I do sleep again because the next thing I know it is 6:16 am.  Time to get up.

I make a cup of my favorite herbal tea, grab a cookie left over from Family Night, pull out my scriptures and journals and start the day with prayer.  I read 2 Nephi chapter 8 as part of my Personal Progress reading (I'm going to earn the award right along with my daughters) and journal my reaction to it.  I then turn to Doctrine and Covenants section 45, read it, journal it, and follow that up with reading from the student manual left over from my college days.

By this time I am hungry for something better than a cookie, so I make some toast.  I sit down at the computer to start keeping track of this day, but first I check out what other bloggers have written over the weekend.   M12 wakes up as I began writing and reads over my shoulder.  Shortly after than S11 joins us.

Good morning, girls!

I check out the clock--7:23 am--time for me to get moving.

M12 and S11 start their chores.  I start my favorite chore of the day--opening the window blinds to let in . . . whatever light there is on this cloudy Monday.   Oh, well, some light is better than no light.

I realize that I forgot to start the dishwasher last night because we were in a hurry to have Family Night.  I load in a few more dishes and start it.

While I am checking the last of Friday's schoolwork in preparation for school today, I2 wakes up.  After good morning hugs he says he's hungry.  I set him up with graham crackers and milk.  Then I finish checking schoolwork. 

The next hour and half is a flurry of chores and personal hygiene for the whole family.  Daddy also gets up, eats, and heads up north to our old house.  The carpet is being installed today--the very last of the repairs from the incident of the burst pipes in January.   He wants to make sure that the work is being done correctly and see if the renters are satisfied.

We finally sit down to the breakfast table at 9:08.  Toast and cold cereal with milk, blueberries, and bananas. We pray before then have devotional while we eat.  We review the day ahead.

I sit down at the computer to help E13 with the dragonfly lesson she is co-teaching with a friend for our science club meeting on Wednesday.  We find an image that will work to help her teach the morphology of dragonflies and turn it into a poster with this site.  Later today she'll use the poster sized image to make puzzle pieces that the kids will put together as she lectures.

The older 4 disperse to their independent school work while I clean up breakfast.  I find that I cannot face making a fresh batch of bread for lunch, so I scrub some potatoes and put them in the oven to bake through the morning.

Time to help the littles with their chores.

We cleaned and vacuumed their rooms and gave their bathroom a complete scrubbing down!!

I also peek in on the older girls to take some pictures of them working; I hardly ever do that anymore.  I am very disappointed to find J10 and M11 playing games on the tablet instead of working.  I silently confiscate it, and they get to work.

However, I find E13 perusing a bookshelf in search of  "something good."

At 11 am Daddy is already home.  He's full of news of how the renters are upgrading and giving the house much love and many upgrades. (they're under contract to purchase the home in 24 months so the upgrades are for their own benefit).  We're happy to see that they are happy and settling in for the long haul. 

I move some laundry.

The littles and I are making snakes out of paper plates today because it is "S is for snake" day.  I have to leave because Daddy calls for my attention to ask my advice about the vanity he is making for the older girls, but I am back quickly and we settle into decorating our snakes and giving them cool forked tongues.

I find S11 done with her school and curled up next to the warm oven.

It is cold outside today, and our house is drafty.

A6 reads from Dolphin by Robert A. Morris.  She and H4 laugh loudly at finding out that dolphin babies are called calves, the mothers are called cows, and the fathers are called bulls.  They shout with joy at each new fact they learn.  A6 is disappointed to stop reading half way through the book, but I want her to narrate back to me about what she has learned.  I'm glad we stopped; by the time she has narrated, copied spelling words, and done some copywork, she is ready to be done with formal school.

In the mean time, S11 does her multiplication drills and keyboarding practice on the computer while I2 alternates between watching her and playing with tangrams.

At noon, and after I have moved some laundry, we gather for lunch--baked potatoes with cheese and plain yogurt.   Daddy and I add great big plates full of chopped salad to our menu, but none of the kids join us.

After lunch the little girls head off to the land of make believe.  They turn their room into a camping ground--horse, tents, a campfire, marshmallows, and even snakes curled up near by.
Daddy heads off to shower and take a nap.  He will work from after dinner tonight through to breakfast tomorrow morning, so his nap is well-deserved.

S11 and I2 soak up some sunshine out of doors (the sun has deigned to make an appearance today).  Look at I2's bare feet!  It is barely 40 degrees out there!  He doesn't last long.

As I clean up the kitchen J10 asks for some math help.  I stop sweeping so that I can answer her questions.  Then she is done with her independent work, and she plays with I2 for a few minutes.

M12 comes down to ask a math question.

E13 is working quietly in her room.

I pause to make notes, update this blog post, and fold some laundry.

At about 1:15 or so I gather the older 4 girls for New Testament Study, History, and Science.  We read, discuss and write about the transfiguration; we read and discuss the differing relationships the colonies had with England in the 18th century; we read and take notes about exponential population growth in insects and how the lower on the food chain an organism is the more rapidly it reproduces--an odd topic, but equally oddly interesting.

We're done by 2:40.  I return to folding laundry as I send E13 and M12 back to their schoolwork and release the others to play.  The littles spend a few minutes enjoying some music videos for kids.  Just before 3:00 pm M12 finishes and offers to pick up the living room before my visiting teachers come over.  I accept her offer and make a big deal of how thankful I am for her act of voluntary service.

Right on time my visiting teachers arrive.  One of the daughters is in H4's primary class.  They are delighted to see each other.  They pick up A6 and disappear into the bedroom to play princess-y games.  One little boy is in my nursery with I2 (I'm nursery leader).  I2 gets clingy and the other little boy disappears into I2's room to play.  It's a good arrangement for them both.  There's a baby girl, too.  M12 is disappointed when she fusses as M12 approaches her.  Her mother apologizes and says the baby is tired.  M12 settles for just staying near so that she can slowly make friends with the baby.

The mothers have a nice visit.  My visiting teachers ask how they can help us settle in.  I answer that we are fine, but I remember too late that I'd like to borrow a sewing machine.  I'll ask them both on Sunday if either has one I can use for a few weeks.

I find out during our visit that a woman I am assigned to visit needs help.  She has not returned any of my calls, and we do not know one another--I am still so new to this congregation.  I am told she is shy and so new to the church that she probably feels overwhelmed in more ways than one.  I pick the brains of my visiting teachers about how I can best reach out to her.  I need to call my visiting teaching companion and work with her, but we will probably fall back on the age-old (but effective) plan of taking her a home-cooked meal. 

At 4:00 I start dinner.  Kids are scattered all over the house playing various games, reading various materials. 

 A few kids still have to finish math drills on the computer.  After she's finished, M12 spends a few minutes looking up pretty hairstyles to try out.
 Dinner, family prayer, and family scripture reading are at 5:15.  We eat spaghetti and salad as we listen to Daddy read about Nephi and his dastardly brothers.  Nephi sure loved them, though.

As it turns out E13 has not been completing her schoolwork all day.  She's been reading Enchantment by Orson Scott Card.  No wonder she hardly came out of her room at all today!  It is one of my favorite books, and I cannot fault her for her single-mindedness;  however, she must finish her schoolwork before she has dinner.  She joins us late, but does not miss family prayer.  She is good natured about her consequence for self-indulgence.  Her pleasant attitude makes it easier for me to be gentle and understanding.

Kids put laundry away, read, wrestle, and play imaginative games as I clean the kitchen.  M12, S11, and J10 help with evening clean up.  I make a note to remember to give E13 an assignment later.

Daddy leaves for work.

I pause to update this post before washing the pots and pans.

I2 comes to me moaning as if he's never been fed before that he's starving and must have graham crackers and milk immediately.  Is he growing?  My goodness!  I give him the treat he asks for, and he inhales it even though less than an hour ago he ate 3 plates full of spaghetti with meat sauce and at least one serving of green salad.

We move into our bedtime preparation--baths for some, showers for others, jammies and brushed teeth for all.  A6 utterly melts down because she and J10 and H4 were in the middle of a game played with toy horses and their imaginations.  I remind her that tomorrow will come ever so fast, but it is time to do what we do every night.

She doesn't care.

She and H4 fight over who sits where in the bathtub.  I have to intervene.  I2 gets frightened and cries.  H4 gets angry and cries.  A6 hasn't stopped crying in quite a while.  The big kids start showing up to see what on earth is going on.  I send J10 off to shower, but accept M12's offer of help.  Between us we get the littles calmed, bathed, lotioned, jammied, and teeth brushed.

I slip away to pray and read and sing with I2.  He is asleep before I can even sing 2 full verses of "I Am a Child of God."  I sing an extra verse just for the excuse of holding him close.

The rest of the kids and I gather for evening reading time.  I read aloud for over an hour from The Blue Fairy Book by Andrew Lang and Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski.  I stop a little earlier than usual because the little girls are drooping, and I did a lot of reading aloud earlier during formal school hours.  Most of them color in coloring books or draw pictures as they listen.  H4 draws pictures to give as gifts to me and each sister in the room.  She is conscientious about remembering each person.

I send everyone off to go potty and say prayers before I tuck them in.  I listen to the little girls' prayers and sing a song to each one before kissing them good night.  I make the rounds of the older girls' rooms singing to and kissing each one in turn.  I remind them to turn out their lights at 9:00 pm, but to enjoy their books until then.  Four for four, their eyes and minds are consumed by their books as I turn out the overhead lights and shut their doors.

I set the house alarm.
I make myself a snack.
I finish writing this post--adding the pictures can wait until tomorrow morning when I am fresh instead of wiped out.

It has been a good day.

(Even though when I read this post over I realized I never followed through with giving E13 an after-dinner chore . . . there's always something!)

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Satisfying Work

I cleaned the kitchen as the girls finished their colony reports.  They were all working right in the kitchen, so I was there to answer questions and offer guidance.

It was rather a win-win situation.

So is the fact that A6 reads to her younger siblings.

I had to run errands this morning.  They were supposed to be done on Monday when my husband could have run them while I stayed home to run our school day, but the delivery day for my food co-op was changed to today which left me having to leave home at a critical time of day. 

It was okay, though.

A few kids stayed home--E13 (who did schoolwork), J10 (who also did schoolwork), and H4 and A6 who watched sign language videos and practiced with each other.  The ones who came with me fit their schoolwork into any gaps in the day that could be found.

After the colony reports were done,

I cancelled a formal science lesson in favor of preschool with the littles.  They made rainbows out of store brand Froot Loops.  The older kids' faces were priceless when they opened the grocery bag containing that box of cereal.  :) 

We don't eat that stuff.

They thought I'd changed some fundamental rule of the house, but when I told them that it was a craft supply instead of tomorrow's breakfast they shrugged and said, "Figures."

But lots of "cereal" was eaten in the process.

Right now our too-wonderful-for-words deck is getting a work out.  Kids are scootering, tricycling, swinging, talking, playing, and generally enjoying the relatively mild weather and staying out of the absolutely treacherous mud all around.  It's supposed to rain tonight . . . and get cold again soon. 

Carpe diem is a lesson my young ones don't need to learn.

Moments That Made Me Smile

H4 came to me twice saying, "Look what I can do, Mom."  She then proceeded to sign, "My name is  (H4).  What's your name?"  After I responded appropriately, she threw her arms around me.

E13 tried really, really hard to be mad at me when I assigned her a full week's worth of math review in one day.  (It took her 20 minutes to complete.  It really was review, and I knew she didn't need to spend a week on it.)  I made a silly face at her as she yelled, and she dissolved into laughter.  Then she got mad at me for making her laugh when she was trying to be mad.  She stomped off, but I could see that the corners of her mouth were quirking.

S11 and M12 were spotlighted at the New Beginnings program at church last night.  They were welcomed so sweetly to the Young Women's program.  They will be much loved and will make true friends.  I'm so thankful!

A6 read aloud a story from Mouse Tales for her "school reading."  Every other sentence she good-naturedly pointed out the foolish logic and impossibilities of the events in the story.  I didn't get the sense that she was complaining at all--only reveling in the fact that her brain could see the silliness.

J10 discovered that she has a talent for writing reports.  While E13 and S11 labored in tears over their 1 paragraph reports about an American colony, J10 produced 3.  We have 8 more to write today, and J10 wants to write them all.  I told her she can't.  (I do want the others to struggle on and master this small skill.)  But I found joy in her joy.  She probably ought to be assigned to produce some other sorts of reports.

M12 did everyone's hair fancy for the New Beginnings program.  It was just a Tuesday night, but when we arrived so did the glamor!  Some were straightened, some were curled, some sported homemade tulle bows, some had updos.  I2 and I were looking rather boring compared to our fancy family.

I2 rode his tiny tricycle on our deck because the deck has a gate that locks and the sun was out.  Heaven!  He got to be as physical as his little body needed while I did the housework and schoolwork that filled my day.  I could keep an eye on him through the windows.  I fell asleep last night still happy about that boy on the tricycle on the deck.

The day warmed to over 50 degrees.  It will be cold again today, but just that break yesterday lifted my spirits.  I can face today because I was nourished yesterday.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

First Afternoon at the Zoo

The weather forecast was delightfully wrong!

My older kids got through their core school subjects in the morning; I cleaned my bathroom; the little guys practiced sign language with their Signing Time videos and showed me what they know.  I cannot describe how cute their pudgy little hands are as they fingerspell their names.  It makes my heart squishy.

My sister's family did come down to the zoo; we went to the zoo; we had a sweet and happy afternoon.

I2 loved the polar bears so much that had we done nothing else that afternoon he'd have been happy.  Though he was momentarily distracted by the new penguin exhibit, he longed for the polar bears.

H4 braved major personal fears and rode the carousel not once but twice.  She held the pole with an unbreakable grip and even managed to smile a couple of times. 

A6 was in 7th heaven tagging along with a pack of "big girl" cousins.  The highlight of her day was the sea lion show. 

The older girls are being closed-mouthed about their experiences.  I think I shall have them write a paragraph or two in their science journals this afternoon. :)

I'm glad we went.

The sunlight began to heal the winter-weary spots in my soul.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Holiday Weekend X2

We celebrated Valentine's Day with our traditional scavenger hunt and sharing of homemade valentines.

The scavenger hunt prize was an annual pass to our local zoo.

Our really local zoo--less than 3 miles away!

Later that day we had friends over.  Keeping friends.  A good way to spend Valentine's Day.

That night Daddy had to work, so the kids and I kept our evening rituals of tidying up, family reading, prayers, and bed.

Saturday was busy with cleaning and errands.

Sunday held church and family night (we wrote letters to a cousin away at college).

Now it is Monday.  I want to stay home and have school.  I want to stay warm and snuggle up with A6 while she reads and then paste horrible sugary, chemically cereal onto a paper rainbow outline for "R" is for rainbow day with H4.  I want to hold I2 on my lap in the rocking chair and read Katy and the Big Snow for the umpteenth time.  I want to help J10 with long division, counsel with E13 about her goals for high school, listen to M12 practice the violin, and read S11's novel-in-progress. 

But I think we are going to bundle up, brave the chill, and meet our cousins at the zoo because their daddy is off work today for the holiday and they live far away and an opportunity like this should not be missed.

I'd better put some beans on to soak . . .

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Getting Ready for Valentine's Day

After our science club meeting yesterday morning (which the littles did not attend because they needed a slow, quiet morning in the face of a busy afternoon) we went to a local craft store and bought a bunch of stuff.  Then we came home and spent over 3 hours making valentines for one another.

No need for "formal" school on an afternoon like this.  A6 is working hard writing her messages of love.

E13 said at the start that she was just going to make the same valentine for everyone, but slowly the spirit of the occasion seeped in to her heart and she spent a long time creating individual valentines for each person.

Rats!  He looked away.  He'd been smiling a split second earlier.

Though I signed his name for him, I2 took his writing very seriously.

M11 and S11 particularly liked sewing beads onto their cards.

I2 got tired and needed some animal crackers to keep him going.  

I love H4's thoughtful contemplation in this picture.

S11 was creating a pop-up card.  She looked up at the last second--I got a lot of, "Don't look, Mom!" exclamations at various times.  Though we create them all in the same room, we still try to have an element of surprise.
The valentines are done and stashed away in paper sacks to await Valentine's Day.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

We Never Did Find the Answer

I got online during lunch to find an answer to a question a child asked.  I do not remember the question nor which child asked, because as my email inbox popped up I saw the title to an email from my sister.

Her son has melanoma.

And it's not in the early stages either. 

It is rare enough in a youth (he's 14) that no one in their area is equipped to deal with it.  They've been sent to a cancer center for surgery and further lab work.  It's on his head.  One of the tasks ahead is to see if it has metastasized into his brain.

It is terrifying.

I counted my own children--sniffling from the illness that has plagued them for the past 2 weeks--and thanked God for their health.  Then I pleaded for my nephew to be healed.  Then I thought of all of the mothers who are dealing with serious illnesses in their children and I petitioned heaven on their behalf as well.

And I wonder . . . what can I do to help?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Still Sick But Still Learning

I2 is better. 
H4 is almost better--in the sleeping-constantly-while-recuperating stage.
A6 is a mess.  Her fever is gone, but she's still coughing violently enough that she throws up (it is much like whooping cough but not enough like it to make me think that's what's going on--I remember all to vividly what that was like to miss it now), and she's been crying with ear pain for over 2 days now.  I treated the first ear with garlic-infused olive oil, and though it took many hours, she says that ear is better.  The other ear started hurting yesterday.  I've been treating it, and she has periods of time that are pain-free and make me think she's over it, but it keeps coming back.

We may have to find a doctor and have her treated conventionally.

I haven't done school with her or preschool with H4 in nearly a week.  They've just been too ill to work.

I have done school with the older kids quite faithfully, though.  Our practice of independent work in the morning and group activities in the afternoon is working.  They've asked for it to be switched, but I need the mornings to take care of the littles and life in general.  I'm ready for them in the afternoons, and they're ready for some direction (though they'll deny it to the day they die), and the extra activities are easier to cancel in favor of other activities that will bless us.  I like having a core that can get done no matter what happens.

The older girls and I have finished section one of the Landmark history book we're reading.  Before moving on we're going to make an oversized map of the 13 colonies and write mini reports about each one--creating an educational wall mural that we can refer to as we next read about the events of the Revolutionary War.

I hope it will be joyful.

We had a blast using this site to memorize the 13 colonies--that is everyone but E13.  She thought it was juvenile.  The rest of us laughed our heads off!  I had the girls illustrate the stories themselves as I read the story to them.  I figured the drawing/writing/listening/repeating would cover most learning modalities and really help them learn. 

I know I did.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Snow Day Indoors

I love being home!
I love being home!
I love being home!

The snow began just as forecasted and fell all day long.

Church activities were cancelled.
We had our groceries.
We had our craft supplies.
Daddy didn't have to work.

The world was silent, cocooned as the snow fell and fell and fell.

No one even asked to go anywhere or complained about being "stuck at home" the way they usually do.

We were content to be at home.

We were lazy getting up.
We did chores slowly.
We ate breakfast rather late.
We moved gently through our school day, accomplishing each item on our list with no thought to deadlines.
We ate homemade bread, fresh from the oven, slathered with melting butter and honey.
We cuddled our sick I2.
We fed the fire.
We read, read, read, read, read!

We went to bed early.

Now we are awake. 
The energy in this house is electric! 
The snow is thick! 
Play clothes await!
The sleds sit idle in the garage!
They must be put to good use!

Yesterday was a rest.
A pause.
A blessing.

I love being home.

For preschool we played 'Q' is for queen.  We made these little puppets with hand prints (minus the thumbs).  I do not know to whom to give credit for this delightful idea, because I found it over a year ago and failed to source it before sticking it in an actual paper file, but I am most sincerely thankful!

I2 made princes instead of queens because what can you do with only queens?

H4 with her queen and 2 princesses.  The queen is the one with the buns, and the princesses have their ages written on their crowns--17 and 19 "because the 19 year old is old enough to dye her hair." 

A6 was practicing the violin with M11 when I had the camera out, but here are her queen and 2 princesses as well.

A close up of the queen.  I love her buns . . . and lips!