Monday, March 31, 2014

Lately . . .

The weather is so odd--so full of spring confusion--that we're trying to go out on cold days and then find that we've spent a lovely day indoors. 

We're still plodding along through our school books, but we're hungry to drop it all and get out of doors.  There is much to learn--more perhaps than from our books, but we have some goals that can only be reached by sticking to our books.

We're struggling to find our balance.

But we're happy.

E14 is playing soccer.
M12 is trying to start a church choir nursery.  She's so very good.  The mothers are starting to trust her--little by little.  The children are coming.
S11 has finished her 5,000 word "book."  I'm editing it with her.  She's learning about the agonies and ecstasies of revising.
J10 is a world unto herself.  Withdrawn into her reading and introspection.  As I sang to her and kissed her good night last night I found myself thinking that I need to get to know her better.
A7 is alive in art and music.
H4 is thrilled with her new kindergarten program. 
I2 knows how to drag a stool out of the kitchen, down the hall, and into the games closet.  Most of our games are in shambles as a result.  I know what to ask Santa for this year!

And we got a piano!

I took this picture on the night we brought it home.  It is battered and bruised, but that's okay because we've had music almost non-stop ever since.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Happiest Kindergartener Ever!

We did it!

We dumped preschool at letter "V" and started kindergarten yesterday.

The box from Sonlight came on Friday evening.  I found it on our front porch while the littles were in the bath.  I carried the box into the bathroom and held it triumphantly in the air.  "It's here!"  I shouted. 

H4 nearly leapt out of the bathtub with joy.

On Saturday I found a big binder, some plastic sheet protectors (for holding drawings and art projects), and found our copy of Language and Thinking for Young Children (long ago cut and drilled for storing in a kindergarten binder).  I assembled the whole thing and showed it to H4. 

She danced a happy dance.

On Monday morning she was dressed, bed made, and teeth brushed almost before she was awake.  At the breakfast table she sat primly, with a cat-who-ate-the-canary smile on her face and raised her hand.  "Yes?  Did you have something to say?" I asked.

"I'm starting kindergarten today," she announced.

The whole family cheered.

She beamed.

She followed me around all morning until it was time to start.  When we did, she raced through 2 days' worth of of work with a zest and glee that was pure joy.  Then she fussed when I said it was time to stop. 

All day she told us, "I started kindergarten today.  I started kindergarten today."

Right now I have to go.  She's asking for help to get dressed so that we can have kindergarten again!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Early Mornings

Early mornings (before breakfast) at our house are for personal hygiene and chores.  The ideal we're working under is that we establish order first and then we have room to learn, explore, and grow.

But my 'tweens have discovered that if they get through their early morning work quickly enough, they can also get through their independent school work which gives them a vast quantity of free time.

This morning I called upstairs, "Breakfast in 2 minutes." 

I heard a chorus of, "What?  That's not fair!  We still have 5 minutes until breakfast.  We're trying to finish our school!"

*Beat*

"Okay.  You can have 5 more minutes.  That's fine by me."

Phases come and go.  I don't expect them to always be finished with all of their required work by 8:30 am, but right now it's kind of funny.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

A Day in the Life--March

Linking up with Tristan at Our Busy Homeschool.



It is Tuesday at 10:03 am.

I just finished getting dressed.  (However, in writing that sentence I realized that I still need to brush my teeth.)

I have been productive all morning in spite of my late wake up at 6:45 am.  I did wake at 5:50, but I rolled over to just rest my eyes for 10 more minutes.

Oops.

Between 6:45 and 10:03 . . .

*I've read from the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants.
*I've recorded some thought-provoking scriptures and the thoughts that go with them in my journal.
*I've checked the older kids' schoolwork from yesterday.
*I've made new assignments for today.
*I've fed my three littles some graham crackers and milk.
*I've checked my email--including the daily digest from forum for our new homeschool group.  We're still trying to make some new friends in our new area, but none of the activities on the calendar have worked so far.
*I've checked craigslist for a day bed for E14. 
*I've made oatmeal with stewed apples.
*I've held morning devotional which included an article from the Ensign about living the Word of Wisdom.  We had some rather lively discussion about our current eating habits.
*I've taken away and popped a balloon that was the source of contention between my 3 littles.
*I've put on black beans to soak for dinner tonight.
*I've started bread dough for lunch today.

*I've done the first batch of dishes.
*I've cleaned my bathroom.
*I've vacuumed the bedroom hallway.
*I've visited with my husband.
*I've gotten dressed and combed my hair.

*The kids have gotten up, done their chores, gotten dressed, and have either read or played while they waited for breakfast--depending on age.  They've eaten, participated in devotional, brushed their teeth, and the older ones have headed off to start their school work while the younger ones are in the "library" playing school.

Now it is 10:12 am.  I am off to get the littles to help me clean their bathroom.

*********************
It is now 1:21 pm.  Lunch (fresh bread with butter and honey) has been prepared, consumed, and cleaned up.  The older kids have all finished their independent school, and the littles have had preschool and/or school.

Between 10:12 and 1:21 . . .

*E14 completed math, reading, vocabulary, copywork, Book of Mormon, and spelling.  She had to use the laptop to watch a Math-U-See DVD about finding the area of a trapezoid, but she didn't like how it was explained.  I worked with her for a few minutes, and she got it.  (I think it took both explanations for the lesson to stick, though.)



*M12 completed all of the same subjects as E14--minus the spelling.  She also played math games on the computer and spent time working on a new way to curl her hair without curlers or curling iron.



*S11 completed math, reading, copywork, and Book of Mormon.  She did some math drills on the computer and played Minecraft for a  little while.



*J10 did the same as S11.  She also helped out with preschool because I got called away by E14 and M12 to help them with their math.  When both S11 and J10 exhausted their daily screen time allotments, they turned to their Barbies.  They played together for a looooong time.




 *A7 played with our guinea pig, played school with H4 and I2, cleaned her room, helped me clean the bathroom, participated in our preschool craft, practiced spelling, sang "Let it Go" from Frozen about 200 times,  and read aloud to me about Balto, the sled dog from Alaska that brought the medicine to the sick children.  She also watched her sisters use the computer.



*H4 did a lot of the same things A7 did.  She didn't read aloud to me or do spelling, though.  Preschool consisted of a "U is for umbrella" multimedia craft made of cupcake liners, glitter, and pipe cleaners.




*I2 did what A7 and H4 did.  You can't see him in the picture, but he's on E14's lap as she plays at CoolMathGames.com.  During preschool he didn't like the glitter on his picture; he kept asking us to take it off.  We made a big deal out of how cool his picture was with the "rain" falling on it, but nothing we said made him feel better.  We finally gave him a new sheet of paper, but he cried.  After much effort, I finally figured out that we'd said "cupcake" when referring to the little umbrellas we'd made, so he kept thinking a cupcake was showing up.  I gave him a cupcake liner full of animal crackers, and he was mollified.


During all of the above I finished the bread, organized preschool, answered school questions, listened to A7's reading and played a synonym game with her, took pictures, found out that the day bed we liked already sold (the affordable one), looked at more day beds (not very affordable ones--that E14 loved!), set screen time timers, helped solve problems with using the laptop and/or tablet and/or computer, corrected the box of turned-in schoolwork, and generally kept everything running and more or less peaceful.


When the bread was done we gathered at the table to pray, eat, and play at www.geoguessr.com.  We played 2 rounds, scoring 9030 points in round 1 and 11253 points in round 2.  We've learned that when in doubt, guess Brazil . . . but honestly, we're learning quite a bit of geography from this fun, fun game.

It is now 1:40 pm.  I've been at the computer long enough.  The kids are all outside on the deck.  I need to call the big ones in for New Testament, Science, and History.

(I'd kind of like to leave them outside, but there will still be time to roam free when we do what's on our syllabus)

***********************
It is now 4:29 pm.  The older kids and I worked on organizing our New Testament journals, read about wool, hemp, and flax (and considered buying a raw wool fleece for a little while . . . just for the experience of it . . . people sell it on ebay! . . . but decided against it because we have no combs for carding, no wheel for spinning, no knowledge . . . but I still want to . . . to gain some knowledge!), and read about the Louisiana Purchase.

I honestly don't know at all what the littles did while we older ones worked.  They came in and out of the kitchen, and sometimes sat on my lap, so I know they were around.  Doing things.  I just don't know what!

Though I do have this picture of them typing on the laptop--so they must have been here for at least a little while!
Everyone scattered to the 4 winds.

E14 and A7 to their building.




J10, H4 and I2 to their computer screen time.



M12 to more beautification rituals.







S11 to the hammock with a library book.



I tidied up the kitchen, did some school planning, worked on dinner, and considered digging a new garden bed.  The garden bed will not be dug today because it is too close to dinner time--and dinner must be on time because Daddy has to work tonight.

Before . . .

After!

So I'm updating this journal.

Now I must wash some lettuce--taco salad tonight!

***************************
It is now 9:00 pm.  We have been home from church activities for 10 minutes.  I transferred a sleeping I2 to his bed (I took jammies to the church because I knew he'd fall asleep on the way home), helped the little girls change and brush their teeth.  They're giving Percy (the guinea pig) his bedtime treat of lettuce and a carrot.

We had our family dinner, prayer, and scripture study before Daddy left for work.

The kids all split to get another quick half hour outside after dinner while I cleaned up and packed Daddy's lunch.  Once I kissed him goodbye and listened to the chorus of, "Good bye, Daddy!" that came from the yard as he pulled out of the garage, I called everyone in to wash hands, faces, and feet and put on shoes and socks to head to the church.

Only the teens and scouts had activities, but the rest of us hung out in the gym with several other mothers and siblings of teens and scouts.  Kids raced from one end of the room to the other.  Mothers talked.  The time passed pleasantly.

My visiting teacher caught me and made an appointment to come tomorrow morning at 11:00 am.  That will be fine because it is then that we usually have preschool, and my H4 is "best friends" with her S4.  M12 will pause in her studies to play with the baby.  I2 spends his Sundays with her little K2 in the church nursery with me.  It will be a refreshing break in our day and we will not miss any school essentials.  Rather I hope the visit will enrich our day.

I believe it will.

Percy is almost done with his snack.
It is time to tuck my smallest girls into bed.
I will follow that with tucking in my big girls.
After that I will get ready for bed, too.
I'll secure the house.
I'll walk through the rooms one last time.

I'll see if I can stay awake long enough to read for a bit, but we'll see . . .

Monday, March 17, 2014

Reading Lessons

My H4 is ready to learn to read.

But I've been putting her off:
--We are not done creating her preschool ABC book. 
--I'm in no hurry to push her.
--It's the end of a "school year."
--I'm busy helping E14 get ready to start high school academics this fall.
--I'm busy helping everyone paint/redecorate bedrooms so we can move kids around to make room for the adoptions we hope are in our future this year.

She's been practicing on her own.  "What does this letter say, Mom?"  "How do you spell 'Happy Birthday,' Mom?"  "C-C-C-Cat.  Does 'cat' start with 'k,' Mom?" 

All of it is endearing.

All of it equals clear signs that she is ready.

But still I've put her off . . . there's plenty of time . . . she's just a very small girl.

My conscience is getting the better of me, though.

Why do we need to finish the ABC book?  So I can say we've done it?  So we can have a keepsake that we'll never look at?
 Poor choice.

Why do I fear pushing her when she's so ready?  Because I'm busy with other concerns?
Poor choice.

Why does it matter when she starts?  Because I'd rather wait for a calendar to dictate our learning?
Poor choice.

I think I just convinced myself to start reading lessons with her.

Now.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

La Boheme

Thursday night we went to the opera!

Just the 4 big girls and me.

It was the final dress rehearsal, so the tickets were super-duper cheap, and we got to see a working rehearsal in action.  The conductor stopped the performance several times, gave instruction, repeated scenes, and generally kept us fascinated.

The bummer was that Mimi, the star soprano, didn't sing because she had a cold.  She was saving her voice for opening night.  It was very odd to watch love scenes in which Rodolfo sang his heart out and Mimi only mouthed the words.

(What was even funnier was when we could hear the conductor singing along to keep everyone's place in the music.  Her face, his voice.  It was hilarious.)

It was sung in Italian, but the theater had tiny screens for each seat on which were shown English translations.  Sometimes the music was powerful and soaring and gorgeous, and the singers' voices were powerful, soaring, and gorgeous, too, but the lyrics were mundane.  I laughed over and over again and the bizarre juxtaposition of music and meaning.

It's supposed to be tragic, but it was hilarious!

My favorite line?  "They call me Mimi.  I don't know why."

Perhaps I'm not giving proper operatic respect, but that's just a goofy line, and it still makes me laugh to think about it.

My girls had a blast.  Their favorite scene was when the 4 bohemian men are dueling, playing, and dancing in their apartment just before the dying Mimi shows up. 

I have to agree--it was a very fun scene.

And as Mimi actually died, then as Rodolfo and the others showed their grief, I teared up a bit.

We left the theater both satisfied and hungry for more opera!

We'll have to do this again (but maybe at a real performance so we're sure to hear everyone sing).

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Activity Night at Church

Activities ran long.

The teen girls wrote letters to recently called missionaries.  My girls wrote their letters ahead of time so that they could just copy them when they were in a group setting.  This helped them settle on spelling, punctuation, line spacing, and grammar in private, so they could laugh and talk and be comfortable in a group.

The tweens sewed aprons.  Enough sewing machines and helpers were found so that every girl had her own machine and helper.  S11's helper made sure that S11 put in every stitch of her apron herself.  I'm so thankful, especially because it took a full 2 hours that way.  Other girls, whose helpers "helped" more, were done in an hour.  Though it was hard to stay for so long, and I2 was begging me to take him home and put him to bed, I consider S11 the most blessed of the girls. 

J10 had a helper with a fancy sewing machine that did embroidery stitches.  Her apron is finished with swirls and curlicues and flowers.  She finished only minutes before S11 did, even though she did less of the actual work herself.  Those fancy stitches take a long time. :)

The three littles and I hung out in the gym.  They ran around with their friends.  I talked to another mother about homeschooling.

By the time we were ready to leave the church it was hailing.

Hard.

And almost horizontally.

We waited for a lull, raced to the van, and drove home at 45 miles per hour on the interstate.  It was white-knuckle driving for me.  My back hurt so much from the tension.  Interestingly enough I couldn't fall asleep even after tucking all of the kids in and kissing the last child goodnight at 10:00 pm.  I read and prayed and counted sheep, but it was nearly midnight before I unwound enough to really rest.

I'm still glad we were there, and I'm thankful for the good people of the church who donate their time to my children.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Impromptu--Spring Break

We haven't had "school" this week.

Instead we painted E14's new room--she's doing much of it in order to accomplish a Personal Progress Project.  Patching, sanding, cleaning, taping, priming, sanding again and so forth and so on . . . she's learning a lot about household projects.  Her ability to stick to the job is growing, and she's proud of what she's accomplished.

I'm proud of her, too.

There is still some work left to go--2 more coats of paint on the shelves and the wall-mounted clipboard, lots of clean up, curtains to make, closet rods to install, electrical covers to remount.  She still has much to learn, and she'll have more than enough hours credit.

If only she'll write about it in her journal!

M12 is getting credit for helping E14 with the work--she's not doing a project yet, just a value experience, but she's next in line for home repairs and will complete her first project when she helps build a set of triple bunk beds with her dad.

That same great dad, husband to me, offered to do the grocery shopping today.

I love him.

He took 3 happy pre-teen helpers with him.  They're familiar with the grocery stores and know what to buy.  They're so good that when I forgot to put apples, bananas, and oranges on the list they told him to get them.

Too bad he stuck to the list. :)

 He gets lots of credit for sticking to it.  It sure will be easy for me to pick up some produce one afternoon when we're out.  It is the long, huge shops that are hard for me, and he carried that burden willingly.

When the pre-teen pack got home, they helped watch the little guys who had watched Signing Time all morning while E14 and I worked.  The littles sure are learning to sign--I2's favorite sign right now is "hippopotamus."

A6 got bored and came down to help paint.  Because it is E14's room I told her she'd have to wait for a special project that would be easier for me to include her.  She was heartbroken.  But she found Daddy's collection of souvenir spoons.  As E14 and I painted, she organized and studied the spoons, asking questions about where they came from.  It turned into a geography and family history lesson.

As I cleaned out paint brushes and rollers (yes, E14 should have been helping, but she'd cleaned out so many brushes and rollers the day before that I felt justified in doing that small service), A7 pointed out that Daddy's car was dirty. 

So we washed it.

H4 and I2 helped.

They're so proud of themselves.  They can't wait for Daddy to wake up to go to work and see his shiny clean car.

The sun has been out.

The children have spent hours and hours out of doors.  E14 hung Daddy's 2 hammocks, and I can't hardly get the kids out of them. 

Not that I'm trying very hard.

Tomorrow is supposed to be cold . . . let the children play while their hearts and light and the temperatures are mild.
 

Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Gem and Mineral Show

Yesterday was a field trip day.  We went to a gem and mineral show at the expo center.  It was fun!

We had to leave I2 home with Daddy because he wasn't feeling well.  But the rest of us hurried out the door early in the morning to make the drive to meet our homeschool group on time. 

There was an educational room set up for anyone who wanted to explore it.  We found information about rocks, gems, minerals, fossils, earthquakes, volcanoes, dinosaurs, and more.  My two little girls so enjoyed touching the beautifully polished examples of quartz, agates, amethysts, and iron pyrite.  They laughed at the fossilized dinosaur poop.  We spent a long time at the table that had dinosaur jokes. 

Their favorite was:  What do you call a dinosaur than never gives up? 

A try-try-try-ceratops. :)

Of course there was an abundance of opportunity to spend money. 

They each chose a polished rock for $.50.  A6 got a moss agate.  We're not sure what H4 got, but it's pretty. 

We went over to the geode table where I forked over $4 for them to choose a closed geode and watch it be cracked for them.  Ours produced a "duck your head" crack--very satisfying.  It was full of clear quartz, but because it wasn't really hollow with pretty crystal formations, the man at the table let them choose a pre-cracked geode that actually was pretty.  They got one with both quartz and  pyrite crystals.  They are keeping half of each geode, and they are incredibly proud of their possessions. 

The older kids found buddies in the group and wandered the show with their peers.  They checked in occasionally.

So the little girls and I continued our explorations and found that a local university had a display about paleo-pathology.  We saw a model dinosaur skull with a big hole in it where she'd been killed by something with a large horn.  I don't know that the girls cared so much, but I was fascinated.  I loved the kind, and knowledgeable volunteers who told stories geared right to their tiny audience and who offered free fossils for the girls to take home. 

I just wish I'd written down the name of the fossils because I can't remember now.

Neither can the girls.

There were life-sized dinosaur skeleton puppets "walking" around the room.  The operator of the puppets was kind.  His puppets pretended to eat the heads off fearless children, but either steered clear of or spoke gently to the ones who were terrified.  Eventually he got my frightened little girls to give one of the dinosaurs a "low five" and a "high two," pointing out that there were only 2 fingers on the front legs.

H4 fell in love with some tumbled agates.  She bought two at $.25 each--purchased with her own allowance money.  But A6 fell in love with a cross-cut piece of a mineral priced at $4.  I tried to point out some of the beautiful samples that had lower price tags, but her heart was set.  Something about the swirls feel of that rock spoke to her.  I said it would have to come out of her saved money at home, and she happily agreed.  The salesperson at the table witnessed the conversation and carefully wrapped A6's treasure so it would be safe.  He handed the package to her courteously, wishing her enjoyment of her purchase.  I think she floated the rest of the way through the day.

We found our older girls, and I told them that if they had a treasure that they really, really, really wanted I'd pay for $1 of it, and I'd advance them the rest if they paid me back at home.  They immediately asked for "rock candy." 

"No," I said.  "It should be a memento of the day."

I'd have taken them to get geodes, but none of them were interested.  I can't understand; I think geodes are cool!

M12 managed to find a commercial jewelry table and buy a necklace.  I tried to steer her toward a lovely polished mineral at a fraction of the price, but she was enamored of the glitz and sparkle she could have gotten at any local shop.

It's her money, and her love, and she's satisfied.

I guess I can't complain.

E14 chose a tiny jug of amethyst fragments for $1 and was content, but only because what she wanted was beyond her price range.  She has an eye for true beauty.

S11 chose a gorgeous cross-cut piece of rose quartz for $1 and was not actually content but willing to try to be.  I offered to advance her the money to buy something that really spoke to her heart, but when she stopped to listen to her heart, she realized she was just buying to buy, and she decided to enjoy her quartz.

I have to say, I'm impressed with her choice.

J10 found cut, polished, loose amethysts at $1 each.  She decided she needed 3 of them.  I could see how rich she felt holding those gems in her hands. 

In the car I asked, "Is anyone ready to study geology now?"

M12, A6 and H4 say yes.
S11 says she already has (and she's right--she's read lots of books on the subject on her own).
J10 and E14 say no--the show was interesting, but only because there were so many sparkly things there.

We'll see.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Unwitting Service

I grew unusually irritable as we finished preschool yesterday.  It was a bigger-than-usual project (making cardboard box turtle shells the kids could really wear) for "T is for Turtle" day.   H4 threw at least 2 full scale tantrums at the end, and I was unable (unwilling?) to put on a happy face. 

I growled my way through lunch time, recognizing that this would not be a good way to continue the day, but still stuck.

As I cleaned up the lunch mess (I did not make the children stay to help as I was actually trying not to scold them unnecessarily) I had to go downstairs to put something way or find something--I'm not really sure.  Either way I walked past the "library" and caught a glimpse of J10. 

She was curled up on the couch poring over The Encyclopedia of Country Living.

I don't know what she was reading about. 

She was just silently reading . . .

that's nothing earth-shattering--she's a good reader--she reads often.

But something in my heart and mind clicked into place.

I was ruffled, irritated, angry no longer.

Her serenity flooded my heart.

And I was healed.

Monday, March 3, 2014

A Little Kinesthetic Action Pays Big

A6, H4 and I2 have been into Signing Time lately.  It it their current love.

I'm encouraging it.

Today A6 had a spelling "test."  It is part of her Sonlight Language Arts 1 program.  Honestly we don't treat it as a test at all.  We just have fun seeing what she can remember.

Today she spontaneously asked, "Is it okay if I spell the words with my fingers?"

"Okay," I answered.

She then proceeded to practice fingerspelling every word on her list as she read and spelled the words aloud.  After that she wrote the words down.

She had 100% recall.

It was amazing.

I've known about visual-audio-kinesthetic learning modes for a long time.  I  know that the more of these we use the more likely we are to remember something.

I know this.

But watching A6 today blew my mind.

My oldest struggles, struggles, struggles with spelling.  I wonder if she'll try fingerspelling . . .