Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Because Life is What it Is . . .

That "first" day of summer school botany has been our only one so far.

Grammie and Grampa came to visit.  We've been trying to do activities that include them  which has meant being home much of the time because their health precludes very many outings.  Just getting here was outing enough for them.

We've played at a park.  I2 hardly ever plays at parks, so the day we went there was a banner day in his little life.  We drove past the park again the other day, and he lit up like Christmas. 

We need to go back.

--With few constraints on her time, M12 spends much of the day at the piano.
--S11, J10, and E14 have read many, many, many library books--mostly fantasy.
--The 3 little ones spend long hours in our empty dining room playing make believe.
--A7 plays outdoors in the house the kids built of old bricks.  She faithfully weeds it daily and sweeps the dirt floor with a tree branch broom.
--I2 loves the swing set.
--E14 is leading all of the rest of the girls in soccer drills and running training.  They are all very serious about doing their laps and practicing their footwork.
--We celebrated Memorial Day at a church pancake breakfast (with an appropriate patriotic ceremony) and at a cook out with old friends.
--We're waiting, waiting, waiting for our public school friends to get out of school so we can play with them
--We took a bike ride with our homeschool friends.
--We're wrapping up our Explorer's Club year with hikes and nature explorations.

It feels a lot like summer around here.

And that's just fine.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Assessments 2014--E14

Language Arts:
E14 did copywork and dictation from Spelling Wisdom Book 2.  For a time we had very formal lessons in which I pre-tested her by dictating the passage, helping her find the errors, practicing specific spelling words, having her copy the passage a few times, and doing a final dictation "test."  That got cumbersome and also held all 4 older girls to working at the same pace.  After a few months I just handed them the books and said, "Copy it until you feel that you know it.  Test yourself if you feel inclined.  You'll know when you've got it."  And I think it began to work.  E14 found her own rhythm as she copied the passages as many times as would fit over an open 2 page spread in her journal.  The longer passages were copied fewer times, the shorter more. Sometimes it took her 2 weeks before she moved from one passage to another, but this slow pace was good for my oldest and (seemingly) least conscientious student.  The frequent repetition and long study of a single passage led to greater accuracy and more internalization of good writing than I've ever seen in her before.

Of all of my children, I think copywork benefits E14 the most.  I do think that E14 does need to add formal spelling and grammar instruction.  After giving both E14 and M12 a pre-test from the Words Their Way spelling program I've discovered that they are at approximately the same skill level in spelling.  I think I can call them a "class" and have them work together in direct spelling instruction.  In addition, E14 will begin work on formal grammar as well.

Partway through the year (in November) E14 picked up an old McGraw-Hill Spelling 6 (it's old enough that I can't even find a link to show what it is) workbook that was on our school shelf--something that we'd gotten free as a hand-me-down from a friend.  She asked if she could work on it.  I said yes, and she did.  I didn't see any spelling improvement as a result of using it, but at least she was exposed to prefixes and suffixes, irregular verbs, homophones, plurals and possessives, etc. in a "formal" manner.

Late this winter we found an old, begun-but-abandoned, Wordly Wise C vocabulary book from years ago when the physical act of writing was simply too hard for my girl to do.  I pulled it out, and she worked through an exercise each school day.  The vocabulary wasn't challenging, but it made her think and spell a bit in ways that will come up on the standardized test that loom all too soon in her future.

Math:
E14 abandoned the Life of Fred books some time ago--I think it was before this school year officially began, but last year and this one rather blended together, so I don't have an exact date.  E14 is a die hard fan of Math-U-See.  Because she, like her younger sisters, had never mastered her times tables while working through Life of Fred, we started with Gamma.  She worked her way through every single page in the Gamma book and then moved on to Delta.  Seeing that the concepts were clear, I began "editing" her Delta book, removing extra practice pages that she didn't need (these are the pages that I handed over to J10).  The goal we had set (at her insistence) was to work quickly through the basic skills that her peers had mastered a few years ago so that she could "catch up" and do the math that was "grade level."  E14 cares very much that she is the same as her friends. 

In addition she practiced daily drills at mathisfun.com.  (This is the only site I could find that actually drilled kids on a 12 X 12 grid instead of only up to 10 X 10.  Other features I like are how the kids can set their own time limits; it gives them a statistical breakdown of how they're doing; if they input a wrong answer it gives them the correct answer and immediately asks the same question again; and it doesn't waste time with goofy game graphics.)   E14 never liked doing these drills and it took monumental effort on my part to get her to do them.  Then when she did, she wasted much of her time staring off into space, letting her timer expire with little to no progress.  Eventually I let this exercise drop by the way for E14.  She was learning better by doing her Math-U-See pages anyway.

I also enrolled the four oldest girls in Khan Academy.  Though she resisted at first because it was extra work, seeing and hearing her sisters work at it piqued her interest.  Eventually E14 took the "pre-test" (one of the most random things I've ever witnessed) and got to work.

As E14 finished the Delta level in Math-U-See she was due to begin the Epsilon and Zeta levels next.  However, sensing that she only needed to work through about half of the pages and adding up the financial cost of purchasing both levels, I searched out another way for her to learn fractions and decimals.  At our local homeschool conference I found a second hand curriculum dealer.  As I browsed the shelves I found Developmental Mathematics.  At only $6 per book (second hand) I could get the self teaching student manual and answer guide to both concepts at a fraction of the cost of both Math-U-See programs.  I purchased them.

What a waste.

They do not work for E14.  She'd read the instructions and come to me furious and frustrated because they made no sense.  I'd then try to teach her when she was in a wretched mental state of being.  It was a recipe for disaster.

We dumped the Developmental Math books after only 2 weeks.

She's been using Khan Academy to try to learn fractions and decimals, but just last week she came to me and asked if there was any way we could please, please, please return to Math-U-See and just work through the system she knows and loves.

Yes.

Literature:
E14 read and kept a journal (a summary of each chapter read) on the following books:
The Rumpelstiltskin Problem 
Beauty
The Once and Future King (section 1 only)
Mimus
Flowers for Algernon
Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry
A Day No Pigs Would Die
Mere Christianity
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass  

In addition to journaling, E14 wrote a mini-essay about Anne Frank.  It was a sort of pre-test for me to see if E14 is ready for formal writing lessons.  I think she is. 

 E14 fell in love with the Percy Jackson books this past year.  She's read the books repeatedly.  She's a voracious reader of fantasy.  She also read the marvelous book Wonder; I consider it a life-changing book of phenomenal beauty, and I hope my children read it again and again (even if the 10 year olds in the book seem a lot closer to 14!).  Other good books I've seen E14 read are by Madeleine L'Engle, Robin McKinley, Orson Scott Card and Jerry Spinelli.  Her all time favorite book is The Two Princesses of Bamarre.   Something about it speaks to her.  I need to get her some more books by the same author.  Overall, I've seen a hunger for reading in her this year that I haven't seen in the past.

In addition E14 participated in our family read aloud list for 2013-14:
Beatrix Potter: The Complete Tales
Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfield
Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink
Snow Treasure by Marie McSwigan
Mathematicians Are People, Too by Luetta and Wilber Riemer
The Remarkable and Very True Story of Lucy and Snowcap by H.M. Bouwman
The Complete Peterkin Papers by Lucretia P. Hale
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle
Milly-Molly-Mandy by Joyce Lankester Brisley
Mama's Bank Account by Kathryn Forbes
Caroline and Her Kettle Named Maud by Miriam E Mason
Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie
Cappyboppy by Bill Peet
The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
Betsy-Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace
The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes
My Father's Dragon by Ruth Gannon Stiles
Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Usborne Stories from Around the World retold by Heather Amery
Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin
Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski
January's Sparrow by Patricia Polacco
Daniel Boone by James Daugherty
The Blue Fairy Book by Andrew Lang
The Moffats by Eleanor Estes
B is for Betsy by Carolyn Haywood
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Socks by Beverly Cleary
Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann Wyss
Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

Science:
E14 participated in Explorer's Club--our homeschool science club.  I'll post details about that when our year is over (late June)

At home science took a back seat, and the only formal instruction we had consisted of beginning The Storybook of Science.  The older girls and I met around the kitchen table to read, discuss and journal interesting things we read about.  E14 was definitely a little too old for this book.  But she did grab George's Secret Key to the Universe from my family read aloud pile and devoured it on her own. 

We also took some nature walks, watched some interesting videos about animals on YouTube, and checked out library books about astronomy, earth science, and animals.  E14 got quite passionate about chihuahuas and rats for a time and read and journaled about almost every rat and chihuahua  book our library system owns--but we do not and (gulp--I hope) will not own either of these.

In addition, E14 gets to attend the church girls' camp for the third time this summer.  She's had to learn and pass off several increasingly complex first aid skills, wilderness survival skills, and campfire cooking skills.

We've already begun our summer study of botany, and we've taken a nature walk and a field trip to a botanical garden to kick off our studies.  We're going to really have a great summer of science to make up for the dearth of science fun in our past school year.

E14 loves being out in nature.  She denies it vociferously, but she's a born naturalist as evidenced by the past posts about the baby robins (1, 2, 3).  We live very near a wonderful nature center that offers a junior naturalist program.  I hope she'll let me enroll her in it.

History/Geography:
E14 participated in our brief family map studies--we practiced reading map keys and especially pored over a state road map of our home state, studying it's most interesting (to us) geographical features.

We discovered www.geoguessr.com this year.   At least once a week, we play this super fun game as a family, and along the way we've learned lots about the similarities of various country climates across the world.  We've also begun to learn about architectural differences on different continents and about different alphabets the world over.

Formally E14 has participated with her older sisters in reading and discussing The Landmark History of the American People.  We only got up to just before the Civil War, but we'll continue with this one in the coming school year.

Religion:
E14 participates in family morning devotionals in which we work on memorizing The Articles of Faith (she knows them cold), memorizing Moroni 7:45-48 (she knows it fairly well), and listen to and discuss inspiring scriptures, stories, and general conference talks.

In January we took up a Book of Mormon reading challenge, and along with her sisters and me, E14 reads and copies a favorite verse from her reading each day.  This challenge will last through the summer and into the coming school year.

The older girls and I read and journaled The Stories of the New Testament.  I used the scripture references to organize how we read the stories, but we actually read them from the KJV of the Bible. 

E14 attends church each week and she loves participating in the weekly youth lessons and activities.  She is not faithful at all about working on her Personal Progress.  We've set completing Personal Progress as a standard for her to earn the privileges of both dating and driving.  She wants to do both, but she resists doing the Personal Progress work.  I think she simply does not like being told what to do.  However, obedience is an eternal principle that we must learn regardless of age.

She also participates in our evening family prayer and scripture reading/discussions.

She prays with our family and on her own.

E14 is frequently seen welcoming teens that are less active and/or more unsure in their church participation.  Though she likes to be seen as tough and cool on the outside, I can tell that my girl has a good heart. 

Handicrafts:
E14 hates handicrafts with a passion, but she loves to cook.  If she's allowed to bumble her own way through a recipe, she makes good food.  Her fine motor skills are a terrible struggle for her.  I'd like to see her get out and build large projects--like the treehouse she's started but given up on.  She's a good designer with an artist's eye for beauty, and the large projects that require gross motor skills are right up her alley.

My favorite story about E14's designer's eye is from her church leader from before we moved.  E14 was early for an activity held at this leader's home.  The leader was trying to move some furniture around in her living room after repainting it.  She asked E14's advice.  E14 spent a few minutes studying the space and made 2 or 3 recommendations citing her reasons which included the following, "You see how the light comes through the window in the front door?  If you put the shelf here and position the flowers like this, the natural light will highlight the flowers creating a focal point."  The leader was astounded--it was a solution she'd never thought of, but it was a perfectly lovely solution, and she followed E14's advice.

Music:
E14 has fought against every music lesson she's ever had.  She had guitar lessons early in the school year, until her young teacher left to serve a church mission.  I let the matter drop after that.

At the acquisition of our piano after our move, E14 has begun to play it.  She picks out songs by ear.  She plays with composing her own bits of music, too.  She's asked me for lessons, "Mom, help me make the piano sing!"  I've offered a pointer here and there, but have held back for fear of driving her away from the piano again.   Instead I've begun using flashcards for 2 or 3 minutes at a time to teach her how to read music on her own. 

The older 4 girls and I attended a performance of La Boheme this school year.  It was a joyful exposure to classic opera beyond that of The Magic Flute.  E14 enjoyed it and wants to hear more!  She was also able to watch video recordings of The Magic Flute and Handel's Messiah.  She's talked and talked about the music for a long time after each experience.

Art:
See handicrafts description--E14 resists most forms of art, though she does appreciate looking at it.  

Physical Education:
E14 got to join a formal homeschool soccer team this year.  She had a good time and learned a lot.  She's aggressive (in a good, sporty way), and coach says that if she will work on her footwork she could be a fine forward. 

She was a member of our American Rhythm dance group this year.  She was in the "oldest" group, and as such did some of the hardest and most physically demanding dances.  Her rehearsals were 2 hours long or longer, and those clogging numbers are high energy!

She also completed a 5K run/walk in May, and she does go with us on nature walks and hikes with Explorer's Club. 

Foreign Language:
E14 needs to learn a foreign language.  She's shown no interest in any languages thus far, though she did do some Latin lessons a year or so ago, and she has plans to work on it again

In General:
My E14 is so terribly, terribly smart, and she is so terribly, terribly unsure of herself.  Her early delays in reading, writing, math, and fine motor skills have left scars.  She is a far better reader than most of her peers, but she doesn't think so.  She's covered more math skills in a year than most kids cover in 2, and she's worked out a plan with me to get all the way through calculus before she goes to college, but she still worries that she's "stupid."  Her writing is intuitively fluid and beautiful from her lifelong exposure to good literature, but she resists writing because her mechanical skills are delayed.  She's a beautiful athlete, moving with a grace and style that most of us only dream of, but she resists the hard work of skill drills that could allow her to achieve true excellence.  She has the heart of an artist but refuses to practice because in the past she's failed to make her hands do what her mind sees.  If only my girl could see herself as I do . . . or better yet as God does--a beloved daughter of infinite potential.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Big Sister/Little Brother

Linking up with Heidi at A Lively Hope . . .



To quote Heidi:

"A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember."

Assessments 2014--M12

Language Arts:
M12 did copywork and dictation from Spelling Wisdom Book 1.  For a time we had very formal lessons in which I pre-tested her by dictating the passage, helping her find the errors, practicing specific spelling words, having her copy the passage a few times, and doing a final dictation "test."  That got cumbersome and also held all 4 older girls to working at the same pace.  After a few months I just handed them the books and said, "Copy it until you feel that you know it.  Test yourself if you feel inclined.  You'll know when you've got it."  And I think it began to work.  M12 moved through the passages at a moderate pace of 1-2 per week. Each day I checked her copybook to see where she was and find any errors that she might have missed on her own.  I also checked for efforts at best handwriting.  She's not an excellent speller, but she has made great strides this year.  I think this program is working because she is a conscientious child who looks carefully over her past mistakes and tries not to repeat them.

Because M12 does copywork when she reads from the scriptures, this system feels redundant in our homeschool.  Next year we'll be dropping this activity in favor of a Language Arts program with more direct grammar instruction.  In addition, after giving both E14 and M12 a pre-test from the Words Their Way spelling program I've discovered that they are at approximately the same skill level in spelling.  I think I can call them a "class" and have them work together in direct spelling instruction.

Math:
M12 started the year in Life of Fred: Edgewood and moved through the elementary series until she got to Life of Fred: Honey  Along the way she got so frustrated with the open-ended thinking that she was in tears each lesson.  It wasn't too hard for her--she just hated never being sure of what she was doing. Life of Fred math is all about playing with numbers and figuring out solutions on your own, then applying those solutions to "real" math problems.  M12's brain does not work well that way.  (And truly, I understand, because I'm not much of a puzzle fan myself.)  We changed her over to Saxon math 5/4.   We only have the textbook--no "meeting book," no answer key, no test book.  Each day she'd read the lesson and do the math.  She began to thrive.  Math changed from a nightmare to a pleasure.  It is now one of her strengths.  She doesn't feel stupid anymore, and she can really solve math problems!  Eventually we realized just how much review there is in each lesson, and I began to sort through the problems, assigning her 2 lessons each day, and only doing selected review problems.  Sometimes she even did 3 lessons at a time.  She finished all of Math 5/4 in about 4 months, and she knows her stuff.

We don't have Math 6/5 in our current math library, but we do have Math 8/7.  I spent some time studying a Saxon intermediate math scope and sequence and found out that not very many new topics are introduced in Math 6/5 that are not already covered in Math 5/4, and any that are will be covered again in Math 8/7.  After looking carefully over our Math 8/7 book, we've decided that M12 is going to to straight to Math 8/7 this fall. 

In addition she practiced daily drills at mathisfun.com.  (This is the only site I could find that actually drilled kids on a 12 X 12 grid instead of only up to 10 X 10.  Other features I like are how the kids can set their own time limits; it gives them a statistical breakdown of how they're doing; if they input a wrong answer it gives them the correct answer and immediately asks the same question again; and it doesn't waste time with goofy game graphics.)   She successfully passed off 300 questions answered correctly in 15 minutes after about 2 months of practice.

I also enrolled the four oldest girls in Khan Academy.  M12 took the "pre-test" (one of the most random things I've ever witnessed) and got to work. I don't require M12 to work at Khan Academy, but sometimes she does just for fun--reviewing old concepts and being introduced to new ones.

Literature:
M12 read and kept a journal (a summary of each chapter read) on all seven Chronicles of Narnia.  Her reading journals were detailed and a joy to read because she picked up on C.S. Lewis' writing style and began mimicking his way of phrasing and describing scenes.

There ought to have been more, but we had quite a gap in our school year because of the move.  M12 fell in love with Harry Potter and the Percy Jackson books this past year.  She's read each series at least once, and some of the books 2 or 3 times each.  She's a voracious reader of fantasy.  She also read the marvelous book Wonder; I consider it a life-changing book of phenomenal beauty, and I hope my children read it again and again (even if the 10 year olds in the book seem a lot closer to 14!).  In addition M12 worked hard at reading Little Women.  She's a slow, careful reader (like her dad), and the book had to go back to the library before she could finish it, and then her momentum was lost.  I think I'll put it on her list for next year.

In addition M12 participated in our family read aloud list for 2013-14:
Beatrix Potter: The Complete Tales
Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfield
Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink
Snow Treasure by Marie McSwigan
Mathematicians Are People, Too by Luetta and Wilber Riemer
The Remarkable and Very True Story of Lucy and Snowcap by H.M. Bouwman
The Complete Peterkin Papers by Lucretia P. Hale
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle
Milly-Molly-Mandy by Joyce Lankester Brisley
Mama's Bank Account by Kathryn Forbes
Caroline and Her Kettle Named Maud by Miriam E Mason
Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie
Cappyboppy by Bill Peet
The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
Betsy-Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace
The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes
My Father's Dragon by Ruth Gannon Stiles
Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Usborne Stories from Around the World retold by Heather Amery
Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin
Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski
January's Sparrow by Patricia Polacco
Daniel Boone by James Daugherty
The Blue Fairy Book by Andrew Lang
The Moffats by Eleanor Estes
B is for Betsy by Carolyn Haywood
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Socks by Beverly Cleary
Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann Wyss
Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

Science:
M12 participated in Explorer's Club--our homeschool science club.  I'll post details about that when our year is over (late June)

At home science took a back seat, and the only formal instruction we had consisted of beginning The Storybook of Science.  The older girls and I met around the kitchen table to read, discuss and journal interesting things we read about.  I think M12 might have been a little too old for this book.

We also took some nature walks, watched some interesting videos about animals on YouTube, and checked out library books about astronomy, earth science, and animals.  M12 got quite passionate about guinea pigs for a time and read and journaled about (along with her sisters) almost every guinea pig book our library system owns--which is why we now own a guinea pig.

M12 had a season of preparing herself to be a babysitter.  She checked out every book and video about infant/child CPR and first aid that was available to her.  She spent countless hours studying them and taking notes.  I'm confident that she knows how to deal with medical emergencies.

In addition, M12 gets to attend the church girls' camp this summer.  She's had to learn and pass off several basic first aid skills (a repeat of what she taught herself), wilderness survival skills, and campfire cooking skills.

We've already begun our summer study of botany, and we've taken a nature walk and a field trip to a botanical garden to kick off our studies.  We're going to really have a great summer of science to make up for the dearth of science fun in our past school year.

History/Geography:
M12 participated in our brief family map studies--we practiced reading map keys and especially pored over a state road map of our home state, studying it's most interesting (to us) geographical features.

We discovered www.geoguessr.com this year.   At least once a week, we play this super fun game as a family, and along the way we've learned lots about the similarities of various country climates across the world.  We've also begun to learn about architectural differences on different continents and about different alphabets the world over.

Formally M12 has participated with her older sisters in reading and discussing The Landmark History of the American People.  We only got up to just before the Civil War, but we'll continue with this one in the coming school year.

Religion:
M12 participates in family morning devotionals in which we work on memorizing The Articles of Faith (she knows them cold), memorizing Moroni 7:45-48 (she knows it fairly well), and listen to and discuss inspiring scriptures, stories, and general conference talks.

In January we took up a Book of Mormon reading challenge, and along with her sisters and me,M12 reads and copies a favorite verse from her reading each day.  This challenge will last through the summer and into the coming school year.

The older girls and I read and journaled The Stories of the New Testament.  I used the scripture references to organize how we read the stories, but we actually read them from the KJV of the Bible. 

M12 attends church each week and now that she is 12 has graduated from the children's program to the youth program.  She loves participating in the weekly youth lessons and activities.  She is most faithful about working on her Personal Progress.

She also participates in our evening family prayer and scripture reading/discussions.

She prays with our family and on her own.

Before church, during choir practice, M12 is trying to run a nursery for the choir members' children.  We haven't found a room for her to use regularly, so she's stuck with the foyer or sometimes the overflow section of the chapel, but she comes prepared each week with small toys and books to share with the children.  Sometimes no one brings their children, and sometimes her hands are full with half a dozen or more, but she is faithful in her service.

Handicrafts:
M12 loves, loves, loves handicrafts.  She has a collection of darling baby flannel and faithfully sews baby blankets for every expectant mother we know.  It is one of her greatest joys to see the new babies wrapped in the blankets she makes.  She's worked on weaving with a simple lap loom, knitting, crocheting, and knitting with a circle loom.  She's made hats and scarves that we use throughout the winter months.  She's knitted dolly clothes that are a treasured part of little A7's and H4's collections.

For the most part, M12 is a faithful assistant in keeping our home.   She knows how to do a job right--from cleaning the kitchen to vacuuming a floor.  She sometimes gets lazy in the implementation, but if I tell her to do it right, she can and she will. 

M12 is also very capable in the kitchen.  She intuitively understands recipes, and rarely makes a mistake in cooking.

Music:
M12 loves music!

She took formal violin lessons weekly until we moved.  She was making good progress and even performed at our homeschool group's January talent show.  It broke both of our hearts to have to give up those lessons, but she has picked up the violin often on her own, and at our local homeschool conference I bought her some "teach yourself at home" books to tide her over until we can find an affordable teacher again.  She's used the new books to help teach A7 some early lessons as well. 

Because she reads music she can sit at the piano or pick up the recorder and play them, too.  She uses a simplified hymn book, the children's songbook, and a simplified book of songs by Mozart.  She practices several times a day on all 3 instruments.

The older 4 girls and I attended a performance of La Boheme this school year.  It was a joyful exposure to classic opera beyond that of The Magic Flute.  M12 loved it and wants to hear more!  She was also able to watch video recordings of The Magic Flute and Handel's Messiah.  She's talked and talked about the music for a long time after each experience.

Art:
M12 is an artist at heart.  She does not draw as much as she did when she was small, but she sinks her heart into creating tangible art in what she sews.  She has an artists' eye for creating cute outfits, hairstyles (she faithfully checks out hairstyling blogs), party decorations, and handmade cards.   

Physical Education:
M12  hasn't gotten to participate in any organized sports this year.  She seems to like going running with me, but as that has been hit and miss, she's been stuck without much PE.  

She was a member of our American Rhythm dance group this year.  She was in the "oldest" group, and as such did some of the hardest and most physically demanding dances.  Her rehearsals were 2 hours long or longer, and those clogging numbers are high energy!

She also completed a 5K run/walk in May, and she does go with us on nature walks and hikes with Explorer's Club. 

Foreign Language:
M12 needs to learn a foreign language.  She's a natural at ASL.  She's grown beyond the early instructional videos we have, though.  I'm trying to find an affordable class situation for her.

In General:
I think that if M12 took a consumer/stewardship math class so that she knew how to manage a bank account, she'd be ready to run a household of her own.  She's so good at childcare that new mothers at church hand over their fussy babies to her for calming.  She can cook, sew, clean, organize, and love.  She's not terribly academically inclined, but she's bright and capable.  She takes joy in learning.  She has a heart of gold.  She loves to make beautiful things.  She's faithful, diligent, and obedient.  She's a glowing gem in our home!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Baby Robins--The (Joke's On Us) Conclusion

We put little Mac in the guinea pig cage at first light on Tuesday morning.  We hoped half-heartedly that if he cheeped a lot Roni would be drawn to him, but we really  figured Roni had become someone else's dinner in the night.

Mac was desperate to get out of that cage.  His Monday of freedom was prime in his memory, and he had no desire to stay trapped.  I called the nature center at the moment they opened, but I had to leave a message. 

The day passed quickly as the kids had slept in dramatically after our late night at the ball game.  I got no return call, and I began to think I'd need to just pack up Mac and take him in.  He was fluttering around the edges of the cage so unhappily, and there was an adult robin on the grass near him.  The adult was pulling worms and insects out of the ground--I wondered if it was the mama or papa from the apple tree or a robin responding to Mac's calls.  I put together a grocery list, and started gathering my wallet, keys, and phone.

There were 2 messages on my phone.

Huh?  How'd that happen?

Then I looked and realized I'd forgotten to take it off "silent" after church on Sunday.

One message was a happy birthday wish (Thank you, Wendy!), and the other was from the nature center informing me that if the bird could fly, the parents were still looking for it because they're used to having to search for their babies in the fledgling state!

Hah!  That robin on the lawn?--probably Mac's mom or dad!

I called the nature center back immediately to make sure that 6 days really wasn't long enough for the parents to have given up.  I was reassured by a bird rehabilitation professional that the parents would, indeed, still be looking for their babies.  All we had to do was put Mac as near the original nest site as possible and his parents would find him and take care of him!

So with joyful heart I relayed the information to E14.

It took less than a minute to do the right thing for Mac. 

The hilarious part is that the parents probably would have found Mac and Roni on Monday if we'd just let them alone!  We spent that whole long day worrying and worrying and worrying about the birdies dying, but their parents were probably in the area the whole time just waiting for the foolish humans to get out of the way so that they could feed their babies.

Those robins I wrote about who were kind of hovering around on Monday, and I wondered what they were up to--probably they were the parents!

I'll bet Roni is safe and sound with his mom and dad.  I'm guessing Mac is, too.

So the joke's on use!  Scott and I didn't find out about the robins until late Saturday night.  The nature center was closed through the weekend and on Monday.  Our first chance to get this information was on Tuesday, so really it all happened in a timely manner, but oh! what a lot of worrying and fussing and work we went through in the mean time!

Lesson 1--Don't mess with wildlife. 
Lesson learned.

Lesson 2--Feathered baby robins will be found and cared for by their parents even after an extended period of time. 
Lesson learned.

What a week! 
And it's only Wednesday.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A Day in the Life--May

Linking up today with Tristan at Our Busy Homeschool.


I had no intention of using today for our monthly post, but this day is going so catterwampus as important real life education happens to us that I think it is wise to do my best.

The day started rather Monday boringly and blessedly.  I woke on time after a good night's sleep and had complete quiet in which to do my personal scripture study.  Kids woke, got dressed, did chores, and generally got going.  I wrote this post about the baby robins that E14 adopted.  (You should pause to read it, because today's is going to be full of follow up to that back story).

Breakfast was on time at 8:30 am, and we had a nice little devotional--nothing exciting, nothing dreadful.  We're done with formal school for the summer, so the kids were sent from the breakfast table to brush their teeth and read scriptures. 

According to this site, it is illegal to capture and keep wild birds, but we knew that.  Obviously people keep doing it (like our E14), so there's lots of advice about what to do if you've already crossed the line.  E14's been doing a remarkably good job raising these little ones, and we've tentatively decided to let her see it through--the natural consequence of messing around with wildlife is seeing what happens when you mess around with wildlife.  Our birdies are fledglings and need to be free outside as much as possible while still having the security of being fed by their parents.  After reading the following:

"You will quickly find that as he masters finding berries and worms for himself, he will grow less and less dependent on the food you offer, so don't worry about making him dependent, as long as you give him the freedom that his own parents would give during his critical time of learning and exploration. If you trust him to learn natural skills while you protect him, little by little he's going to get more wild. He will start associating with robins on his own, grow restless in fall, instinctively join up with other robins, and take his cues from them about migration."

We decided to take Mac and Roni outdoors to let them eat, explore, fly a bit, and generally get ready to be independent, all while being supervised by E14.  

I took a birthday phone call from my mom (who has diligently been trying to call me since even before my birthday) and ate a piece of toast while the kids followed E14 and the robins outside like a parade.

But while I was telling Grandma about the birds, the adventure took a turn.  Mac flew to the top of our house roof.  He stayed there for a long time--face into the wind, seemingly very happy to be there.  Roni flew up to a power line, doing the same as Mac.  They're obviously strong and happy because they're able to stay perched even with the wind buffeting them.  

I ran inside to get the camera and start documenting our adventures.

Mac flew off to a stand of trees and disappeared from view.  We cannot find him.

Our dejected J10 walking sadly away after not finding Mac.
Roni flew to a nearby tree.  We can see him.  



In the mean time there is a nest full of brand-new-just-hatched-yesterday baby robins in our apple tree.  The parents are trying madly to feed their babies and keep us distracted because we are spending the day outside--too near the apple tree--and they feel threatened.  They are also flying wildly around Roni; we think they feel threatened by his presence as well.

You can't see them, but this nest is full of tiny robin hatchlings.  Their parents work from dawn to dusk keeping them fed.


10:11 am

E14 has fed Mac and Roni out of the same pink and orange pail for 5 days.  We've set it in plain sight, hoping that the little guys will get hungry and fly down to that familiar pail.  However, we're not sure because fledgling robins are fed on location by their faithful parents.  Parent robins know how to find their babies and can get to them wherever they are.  We cannot.  

We had no idea the babies could fly this well.   
We thought they'd stick closer than this at first. 
We don't know what we are doing.
We are learning first hand about what happens when you mess with wildlife.
We are waiting, waiting, waiting. 

E14 keeps a careful eye on Roni.  Sometimes she clicks the tweezers on the side of the pail, hoping Roni will recognize the sound and come down to be fed.

This the last place we saw Mac.  J10 scans the tree branches for any sign of him.

I2 is aware of the drama, but small enough to be fascinated by his "toesies" as seen through the binoculars--backwards.

S11 points out the baby apples growing on our tree.

J10 and A7 are delighted at the sight of the purple clover flowers.

A7 shows me an interesting flower she found. 

Inside the house, I2 is playing with our National Geographic geography game, while Daddy deals with clogged toilets and tries to finish assembling the triple bunk beds. 


"Dis owr house.  Wight herwe."

It's sure not boring around here. 

12:00 noon

E14 has waited patiently outside for over 2 hours for her babies to come home.  

Waiting  . . . waiting . . .

They've moved about a bit--Mac from one branch to another and Roni from one tree to another.  They're cheeping more.  They still seem strong, holding tightly to their perches as the wind tosses them about.  They have neither looked for nor found any food on their own.  Other robins seems to be responding to their presence.  None are directly interacting with them, but I wonder what will happen over time.

I've been cleaning desultorily, working on lunch, helping small people get what they need in order to play.  I haven't seen M12 in hours.  I think she's reading . . . or doing her hair.  Kids are just being kids both in and out of the house.


Oops.  That's big sister's toy set.  She learns she ought to put her toys away!  But I2 is not destructive today, and plays nicely with the tiny toys.
H4 uses a rope to help her swing in the hammock--S11 set up the rope originally.




Once Daddy got the bathroom cleaned up he headed down to the garage to get the bikes mended and cleaned up for the season.  We have a homeschool bike ride we'd like to attend tomorrow.  


Daddy uses the car battery to run an electric pump for all of those bike tires.  I2 takes advantage of the open car and plays there.

H4 helps by washing bikes and checking the tires.

That's Grampa helping out.

Daddy fixes some errant bike brakes.

The baby robins are still outside the bounds of our reach.

Mac is at the very, very top of this tree.  He's probably 70 or 80 feet up.
 We continue to wait.  Hoping they will return to E14 and her pink and orange feeding pail. 

1:18 pm

The babies are gone.  

I have a thousand "if onlys" in my brain right now.  But they are worthless because the opportunity to behave intelligently is past, and the babies are gone.  They will probably starve to death because we didn't know what we were doing and I was not responsible enough to just make the right decision and take them to the nature center.

They got so close that we tried to get them, but our efforts actually drove them off and they are gone.

Mac drops to a lower branch.  Daddy comes to see if we can get him down.  E14 looks across the street at Roni perched in another tree, making sure he's still there.

Daddy pulls out our tallest ladder to show E14 that Mac is still beyond our reach.  The ladder is just barely too short to reach the branch he's perched on.

But because he's the best dad ever, and E14 is so sure we can get him, and Mac is cheeping and cheeping so hungrily, Daddy goes up.

S11 runs for her first aid kit when she sees her dad in a tree, but she hides it behind her back when she sees the camera in my hands.

Daddy realizes this tree is not easy to climb, so he takes off his shoes for better purchase. But even his best efforts are to no avail.  Mac flutters further and further out along the tree branch, and eventually flies off into a nearby thicket.

I hold the ladder at the bottom while M12 tries to throw Daddy's shoes up to him, so he can jump/slither/slide down.

E14 find Mac and thinks she can reach him, so she climbs up.  He's just not as tame outside as he is in her room, and instead of flying to her he flies away and is lost.  In the mean time, Roni disappears, too.
E14's impulsiveness can be forgiven--she is only 14 and impulsive.  

But I am 42 and careful.  I am the mother.  I know better.  I knew better.  I should have followed directions, stuck to my guns, set the example for correct behavior.  I can defend myself--I didn't know the babies could fly so well; I thought they'd stay closer; I was trying to show my girl I trusted her; I thought it would be a good opportunity for her to learn; I thought . . . I thought . . . I thought . . .

and now I want to weep.

J10 is mourning.

E14 is outside with her dad--she says she's kind of relieved that they're gone because the responsibility was heavy, but she also says she's sad because they don't know how to feed themselves.  I could feel the tears in her throat even though she did not cry openly as she answered my questions.  I give her much credit for not accusing me of killing them.  

Lunch is ready.  We're having homemade soft pretzels.  They're delicious and warm and buttery and salty and chewy and soooooo gooooooood.  My family will be nourished and happy.

Those poor babies!

Lesson learned.

2:34 pm

The babies are still around!  During lunch one suddenly landed on our deck railing, right next to the bird feeder!  E14 went out to see if it would come to her.  She moved ever so slowly and carefully, but it flew off into a tree.  At least it is a tree full of berries and is located within our yard. 

As I checked to see if Daddy had ever gotten any lunch (he's still trying to get the bikes in good condition --two have bad brakes), E14 yelled from the street in front of the neighbor's house, "Get Dad!  I need someone tall!"  Daddy went running.

I left them trying to get the other baby robin out of another tree.

You can't see it, but they have a butterfly net attached to a piece of PVC pipe, and they're trying to get one of the babies down.

Even if we don't catch them, I'm taking heart that they're at least close by . . . close enough that I can hear them cheeping madly through open windows even as I'm typing.

I2 is napping so he can enjoy the ball game we're going to tonight.
M12 practiced the piano and is reading again.  I found out that she's rereading The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey. 
A7 is learning how to ride a bigger bike.
H4 is being a little sister--happy to be wherever someone bigger is.
S11 keeps disappearing.  Where is she again?
For that matter, where on earth is J10? 

M12 at the piano.

A bigger bike for A7 is a challenge--a good one!



4:28 pm

A while ago I was visiting with my husband while he mended the front storm door the best he could to tide us over until we can replace the broken latch.  As I leaned against the door frame with my eyes facing the field across the street, I saw a low fluttering motion.

"I think that's one of the babies!"  I said as I bolted across the lawn--eyes firmly fixed on the last spot I saw the little brown shadow.  

Sure enough it was!  I stood guard 2 feet from it while Daddy ran to get a basket.  He came back and pinned our small friend under the basket while I ran for E14.  She flew out of her seat, grabbing the pink and orange food pail as she ran.  She offered Mac (that's who it is) a bite to eat and caught him in her hand.  Daddy ran and and brought the guinea pig cage to the front porch while E14 offered bite after bite of food to the hungry baby bird.






J10 appeared out of nowhere and helped find worms.
H4 stayed close.
A7 came to watch, too.

We could see and hear Roni cheeping from the tree in the front yard (just learned today that it is an Osage tree).  Mac cheeped back.  The two cheeped at each other for a long time.  We're hoping that if we give Roni enough room, he'll come join his brother (or she'll join her sister?).  J10 has been sitting on the porch reading quietly (and no one is as quiet as J10) as she watches and waits.

E14 looked sheepishly at me, "I want to keep them again."

I grinned and understood.

Later she came in, "Can we take them to the nature center tomorrow?"  

"I'll check it out," I replied.

Daddy spent some time figuring out how to get Grammie a comfortable and accessible seat at the ball park because she was thinking about not going to the game with us.  Once he ascertained that her real concern was having hand rails to help her climb up or down, he took off to purchase tickets. 

I've been making no bake cookies and slicing up a cantaloupe.   Next up is slicing sweet pepper strips and carrot sticks.  I already have a dozen leftover soft pretzels to take for snacks as well.

Grammie has spent the afternoon reading a Rick Riordan Tres Navarre mystery.
Grampa took a nap after helping with the bikes. 
M12 did H4's hair.
A7 played with Percy the guinea pig.
E14 read.
S11 read.
I2 napped . . . and is napping still.

I'll wake him, but first I'll get that snack slicing done. 

A quiet moment just before dinner.



6:24 pm

Dinner's over; the kitchen is reasonably tidy.  Daddy made a giant batch of popcorn; I've packed the snacks I prepared.  I didn't have to wake I2; he woke ever so cheerfully on his own.  Everyone's putting on shoes, going potty one last time, and getting into the van.

We're off to a baseball game!

But before we go I must mention that Daddy was late to dinner because he was out trying to catch Roni one more time.  Roni's close, but just won't be caught.  He hasn't eaten all day; he must be so tired.  We're thankful for the miracle of Mac's safety, but we can't help wanting a second miracle.

11:16 pm

Game's over.  Our team lost, but it was fun nevertheless.  I had the privilege of sitting next to A7 who is curious and sweet and willing to learn.  I taught her about batters, pitchers, catchers, balls, strikes, outs, runs, bases, and fly balls.  I showed her how to track the score on the big scoreboard.  She was all ears and eyes and smiles.  Daddy bought a score card and used it to teach the older ones about more of the details of a baseball game.  I am boggled to think that I could actually use this outing as educational hours because of how much learning was going on--I thought we were just going out to play!



It was I2's first major league game, so it was kind of his special night.
 

H4 was off to the side of S11, so she got missed in these selfies.  Oh well, Grammie's face is cut off, and only part of Grampa's shirt can be seen, so she's in good company. :)

I2 loves H4's hat and wears it at any opportunity.  Here he and Daddy are dancing in hopes that a camera will focus on them.
The 3 little guys were delighted to sit and watch (quite unlike our older 4 at the same ages), but when they got restless I took them for a walk over to the playground.  It was frighteningly crowded, so A7 asked to leave, and I was more than ready to acquiesce because I2 had already taken a dangerous fall (I'd managed to catch him, though).  H4 was happy to leave as long as she had wide open vistas to skip ahead of me; fortunately she mostly got her wish.

H4 and A7 managed to fall asleep on the 10 minute drive home.  I2 had that wonderful nap, so he's actually still raring to go.  I read to him and tucked him in, but Daddy's in with him now because he just can't quite settle as usual.

The older girls brought up the subject of modesty in dress and appearance.  "Mom, did you see how many girls were wearing really short shorts and tank tops?!" asked S11 with goggling eyes and slightly boggled voice.  The other girls chimed in about what they'd noticed in the women around us.  We talked very briefly about the blessings of choosing to be modest, but I got the sense that the girls felt the visual lessons so powerfully that not much discussion was needed at that point.

E14 took Mac back into her room with her.  I wanted to tell her to leave him outside overnight, but I bit my tongue--my advice today hasn't been good.  She needs to decide for herself what's happening with the babies.

Our hearts ache for little Roni.  He'll probably become someone's midnight meal tonight.  We know baby birds have a high mortality rate, and we're usually happy with the circle of life, but knowing this little guy is a victim of our ignorance makes his likely end terribly, terribly hard.

******************
This day has not been a regular school day.  It has, however, been a day packed with education of the most vivid kind.